Archive for December, 2009

Thoughts on this and that

Thoughts on: Christmas Cards

It’s a little late, but I have a card for all you Mumblers!

Home-made elephant don’t you know!

Thoughts on: Twitter

Is is just me, or has Twitter use by English speakers in Japan peaked? I get the feeling we’ve seen a drop off in updates this past month.

I know my usage has plummeted since I started my new job, as shown in the bar chart – only 251 in December vs. 431 in October 2009. I was thinking that for me this year, my Tweet stats can be approximately correlated with how I felt in my day job. That is, the less satisfied I was with my job, the more I tweeted (November saw a drop as that was when I decided to move on).

Thoughts on: Christmas in Japan

This year I decided to work Christmas day. It was a normal work day for *Twinkle* anyway, so there was no reason for me to take the day off. It was interesting embracing the mindset that it wasn’t a special day. I was in contact with a number of other non-Japanese during the day, and the feeling seemed to be mutual. Initial sadness at this situation soon faded as I was enjoying what I was doing, and was not alone in this.

Once home though (at about 9.30pm) I decided to create my own Christmas – this was a good excuse to rent a James Bond film (The World is Not Enough) and get through half a bottle of Baileys. Yum! *Twinkle* came home a little later, saying that she had a lot to do, but was soon seduced by my magnetic charm 007, and settled down with me to watch it. We rarely spend time together watching movies, so that was really very nice.

We had a second Christmas yesterday (Boxing Day) with family in Saitama (an hour north of here). I really enjoy visiting the in-laws; it’s very relaxing, there’s good food and no need to be anyone but myself. *Twinkle*s dad and I finished off a very nice bottle of champagne between us, then there was sake, beer and Baileys! I got quite drunk, but it was a really nice drunkness what with the kotatsu (heated table) and surprisingly entertaining Japanese TV (miracles do happen).

Mind you, for the final hour I drunk nothing but water, accompanied by a cocktail of 22 organic supplement tablets, meaning that today I had virtually no hangover.

Thoughts on: Christmas presents

For the past few years I’ve got into giving gifts such as cows, goats and chickens as presents at Christmas and on birthdays. I usually do this via Oxfam. The thing is, virtually everyone who I’d give presents have enough money to buy stuff that they *need* to live, and I don’t like the idea of increasing the amount of ‘stuff’ consumed in this world just for the sake of fulfilling a desire to give.

Instead, I’d rather my money went to helping people who really struggle to live. People without the essentials. Thus, this year we bought a cow for family in the UK, a goat for one in-law family here and an education pack for the second.

Some people object to such gifts because ‘the charities don’t really buy a cow or goat with your money – it just goes into the big pot.’ Well, these days you can choose whether or not they do: personally I’d rather trust the charity to use the money in the way that best supports its work.

Now having said all of that, I was very happy to receive a Sony digital photo frame. It’s a gadget I’ve wanted for a while (in order to actually appreciate more of the thousands of photos I’ve taken over the years), but couldn’t justify the outlay. It’s pretty good really, comes with 1 GB of internal memory and plenty of settings to, er, set.

I’m also delighted by the socks from ma and pa :-)

*Twinkle* and I didn’t even consider buying presents for each other. I don’t think we even talked about it. Ah, oh, yes, that’s not quite true, I made the executive decision to buy a present for me from her – a 2,000 yen twin-rotor radio-controlled helicopter. It is very cool. I’ll have to blog it at some point.

So now I have completely succeeded in criticising mindless consumerism, and then thoroughly endorsing it, all in a few paragraphs.

Thoughts on: *Twinkle*s Birthday & Michael Jackson

Christmas Eve in Omotesando*Twinkle* turned 27 on Christmas Eve. Once again, it was a normal workday, but in the evening we met up in Omotesando to see the Christmas lights. They were, erm, lighty, but nothing to really shout about. What was groovy though was the giant snowman that had been imported from Niigata – it was there to encourage people to buy a cup of Amazake – sweet rice wine (delicious!).

Following that we walked hand-in-hand to Shibuya, buying takoyaki on the way and generally delighting in one another’s company. *Twinkle* had booked tickets for us to see the Michael Jackson documentary ‘This is It’. I’ve never been a big Michael Jackson fan, but on hearing good reviews wanted to see this, and I’m glad I did. I was really struck by how talented he was, knowing his songs inside out, having such a keen artistic sense for what worked, for how to get the music to convey the message he wanted to convey.

It also struck me me of how much he resembled George Bush. Maybe it was just the accent, but I couldn’t shake off this idea that he was similarly childlike, and only able to be who he was due to the support system around him.

Thoughts on: The *Elite* and their non-existence

One thing that’s really struck me this year is just how wrong I was when (up to a few years ago) I believed that some people are better than others (I don’t mean in a fundamental sense, I’ve always believed in equality when it comes to the value of human life… I mean in a superficial career-related sense). I used to look at people and then judge if they were ‘better’ than me or not. This was an ego thing; I looked for flaws in order to elevate myself. Whilst I wouldn’t necessarily vocalise my thoughts (that is, I wouldn’t go around badmouthing people), I was still doing this internally. It’s been interesting to see what is now a ‘truth’ for me reinforced again and again as I’ve come to know a lot of new people in Tokyo. They’re all ‘only human’!

I think this is tied in to ageing. As I grow older (I’ll be 32 in a couple of weeks) so ‘adults’ are increasingly likely to be in a similar age range to me. This helps remove any preconceptions I may have in terms of life-experience-related-superiority, and I’m able to see them more for who they are.

Thoughts on: The Game of Life

Accompanying this is the reinforcement of the idea that this is all a game, and we’re all just making it up as we go, playing. There’s been a few times this year when people I know have made decisions that have surprised me a great deal. Career changes, abandonment of projects that had filled their lives up until that point, dropping off social maps, changing partners, making other surprise announcements. Whilst sometimes a bit shocking, this changes are ultimately high points in people’s lives. Abandonment of old ways and embarkation on new unmapped paths are what make life so fun. For many of us fortunate enough to be living comfortable lives, it really is a game. It’s important we make the most of our throw of the dice.

Thoughts on: Learning Japanese

If I’m going to be effective at White Rabbit Press, I need to really understand what it is we’re producing. I’m fortunate in that I’ve used a lot of different methods to study the language in the past, and am aware of some of the difficulties that might be faced along the way. I’ve also come to appreciate just how key the kanji are to getting to grips with the language – and I don’t just mean the written language. Understanding kanji helps you decipher new words that you hear when out and about – using context and the bank of kanji readings you have in your head it’s possible to make educated guesses at the meanings of totally new words, even if you’ve never heard them before.

Anyways, because of this I’m going to re-start regular Japanese study using the WRP kanji flash cards (volume 2). I’ve already learnt all of the ones in this set …but have forgotten many of the readings. Also each card has 6 vocab words / phrases on, so there’s a way to increase my vocabulary too. 頑張ります!

Thoughts on: The local fire patrol

Tonight I was invited to take part in our local fire patrol – something I wouldn’t normally have the chance to do.

I blogged about it for DannyChoo.com – if you need a work-safe version the original is on Flickr. ぜひぜひ。

Thoughts on: My upcoming birthday

*Twinkle* is giving me a great present for my birthday on January 13th: She’s getting an iPhone! This will really help her become more productive and us more communicative when not together.

Okey dokey, time for bed.

Joseph

Sitting in Cafes and watching DVDs in bed

What on earth is happening to the Tame Gone Wild?

You know what he did yesterday? He got up late (it was a Saturday), then he went to a spa and soaked in an outdoor pool. Then he said in a comfy chair for a whole HOUR doing ABSOLUTELY NOTHING! except looking down at the people 6 storeys below on the street.

THEN he went home and watched movie trailers on the Apple site for about an hour-and-a-half. Then he went to Starbucks, bought a huge cinnamon coffee type thing and drew pictures of tigers.

Then he went home, and phoned all his family; he talked for two hours. Then he got in his futon and watched a DVD.

Today, he got up late, went for a run and then watched CASABLANCA – the first time he’d ever seen the film. He thought it was ACE.

He did a bit of work, then went to the pub and met some Twitter friends in REAL LIFE, and also met one guy who had come from Finland and was a fan of Japan Podshow. He talked business a bit and then talked about pepe the penguin.

He came home. He’s making hot cocoa. His darling *Twinkle* is on a bus home from Osaka, she’ll arrive in the morning. He missed her this weekend.

You see, this is what happens when you enjoy your day job! You become dangerously content with sitting in cafes and watching DVDs in bed at weekends.

I love it!

Japanese Maples

Japanese Maples

Nature never ceases to amaze. Autumn may come every year, but every year I can be found in a hypnotic daze staring at the beauty that it brings.

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CAT TREADS ON MAPLE LEAVES

The end of the Livestreaming in Beta era – Marathon update

Japanese Maples
(Momiji montage created by the iPhone)

The release of the uStream live video broadcasting app for the iPhone (followed by Qik’s own version for non-jailbroken phones) has me me to rethink my plans for the Tokyo marathon 2010, as Mumbled about here. The thing is, now that everyone has the ability to stream live video from their iPhone (as opposed to those willing to jailbreak their iPhones and possibly violate the terms of their phone contracts, live streaming is not so newsworthy. Merely live streaming the marathon would not be all that interesting (much like the vast majority of stuff on uStream). Really, we need a crew to co-ordinate multiple feeds and filter the live feedback from our audience, to run with us at certain points to hear how we’re getting on etc… Having run a half marathon a couple of weeks back I feel that this would all be a bit much on the day itself for the runners involved, who would just be trying to reach the finish line.

I’m thinking that I did it once, and maybe that once was enough. I don’t have the means to do it again in a significantly better way, so it’s perhaps best I don’t do it at all.

That doesn’t mean no live streaming. I can switch the stream on at any time and do a quick broadcast, alerting people via Twitter and Facebook. I imagine people would quite enjoy a few updates along the way – it is a pretty spectacular event.

I’m also feeling less inclined to spend time doing these things that don’t necessarily contribute to wider goals. I think this is partly a result of my new job, in which I need to consider the net benefit of my actions. My recent reduction in Tweets could be thought of a side-effect of this mentality, as is my new reluctance to get involved in other people’s projects.

It’s also a result of having had the immense frustration of a dull day job taken away at the end of November – I tell you, without that driving me on I would NEVER have played Susan Boyle, live-streamed the marathon, starting podcasting or started making videos… crap jobs really are a blessing! I mean, look at me now, I’m content to simply relax at weekends! What an idle layabout! I went to a party last night and I’m going to another today! Unbelievable!

From the futon, this is Joseph signing off.

The line between work and personal life in an online world

The White Rabbit Press Kanji posterThe more involved I get with my work over at White Rabbit Press, the more I find myself wondering where the line should be drawn between my online-work and my (non-work) online-life. Being responsible for marketing means that of course, I’m doing a lot online for the company. My goal is to spread the word about our products in order that we can further increase sales, and therefore invest even more in new / even better products that our customers are asking for / that we feel are a good idea.

The thing is, I’m finding myself feeling increasingly passionate about what we produce, as the feedback from left right and centre is virtually always extremely positive (I think this is due to a) the fact that so much effort went into making sure that the products were better than all the competition) b) the governing attitude towards customer service within the company). I don’t feel that reluctance to spread the word about my company’s goods / services that I have done in the past, when paid to promote something I didn’t entirely believe in.

I’ve been looking around (online) for examples of others in my situation that I might follow, and see that:

1) The vast majority of people don’t talk about their work at all. If I look through my Twitter friends list, I only know the occupations of a very small minority.

2) There are notable exceptions to this rule, where people have actually taken their company brand and made it a part of their personal brand. There’s a few people on my list working for a certain well-known digital business card company. Their online avatars contain their company logo, they often tweet about their products / company events, and when I meet them they (jokingly) tell me off for not having my digital business card with them.

Now I happen to like and respect these people a lot. I don’t feel in the slightest that they have sold themselves. I admire the marketing work that they are doing, and I don’t feel pressured in any way by them. I applaud their efforts and hope that they carry on as they have been doing (if that’s working for them, which I believe it is because there’s little chance I’ll ever forget about their product!)

Why is this, when usually I might feel antagonistic towards such marketing campaigns?

I think primarily it’s because I know these people in real life, and I know that they are amongst the kindest, most helpful, interesting people I know in Tokyo. I trust that they are good people. therefore I accept what they are doing without hesitation.

So what do I do? Well, I think it would be difficult for me to seperate my online work life and online non-work life entirely, as there is so much cross-over in real life. My employer is also my friend, his friends are my friends, we’re members of this pretty well connected gaijin community.

The company I work for sells materials to help you learn Japanese – many of my friends have an interest in learning Japanese, many already know of White Rabbit Press, many of them already own some of the products!

I think that ultimately, if my motives are good, if I remain true to myself and don’t put myself in situations whereby I feel obliged to sacrifice personal values for the sake of gain, then I can happily operate in both spheres simultaneously.

I think it’ll take a little getting used to and I’ll probably make some slips upon the way, but provided I remain a fundamentally ‘good’ person, everyone should benefit.

Joseph

p.s. I made a new Facebook page tonight for White Rabbit Press – want to help me in my efforts by joining it?!!!

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