Archive for June, 2011

Audio Diary: Running, Freelance Projects, Diet, Tomatoes

Sunset over Tokyo, taken from our balcony

Finally, after 9 years online, the Daily Mumble is becoming just that – a daily mumble! Below are a number of audio diary entries I’ve recorded over the past few days, and all are very mumble-esque in nature.

They cover a wide range of topics that are at the forefront of my mind these days.

Do I have to keep moving? (mp3)

Good morning from Tokyo (mp3)

Life Update: Projects (mp3)

Early morning run (mp3)

ピーマンがいっぱい!How about this for a pepper crop!


Delighted with how productive this balcony is turning out to be!


The last 6 months have been pretty hardcore, with overlapping projects meaning no time for a break. However, we did finally manage to take a few days off (3!) and get away to Hokkaido, one place I’ve been wanting to get back to since the summer of 2002 when I spent three months there working at a Bed and Breakfast.


ハロー北海道 Hello Hokkaido

Day 1 saw us catch a flight from Tokyo at 6.30am, arrive Sapporo about 75 mins later, drop our stuff off the at the hotel before heading into the city centre for sushi and sightseeing. I’ll let the pictures do the talking.

Plane lands in potato field_3703

Sapporo Odori Koen_3115
Odori Park marks the heart of the city

twinkle, tulips and pepe_3196

Joseph in Odori Koen_5817
Eating a jacket potato with butter – one of Hokkaido’s ‘traditional’ foods, being a huge potato producer.


The clock tower_5842
Japan’s oldest clock tower, featuring a 19th century clock bought from the US that continues to keep time to this day.

After jumbo ramen, how about a ¥12,600 (£100) dessert?
A ¥12,600 (£100) dessert! Apparently, this display has been here for over 10 years.

The following day we headed up to Asahiyama Zoo. Now, I’m not usually a big fan of zoos, having seen too many with tiny enclosures and bored animals pacing the same route over and over. When it comes to Japanese zoos however, this one seems to be doing things right – a bit like London Zoo in the UK. They’ve gone to a lot of effort to make the enclosures more comfortable for the animals, whilst also making it an unforgettable experience for human visitors. Additionally, there’s strong emphasis upon educating the public about the problems the animals are facing in the wild, and what we can do to help.

It’s not ideal of course – two of the polar bears and one of the brown bears were showing signs of intense boredom, pacing back and forth.

Whilst there I took quite a few photos…

hello boys_3594


don't argue_3509



Woops, I woke the pussy cat_3527





asahiyama_zoo-penguins _5982


asahiyama_zoo-penguins _5910

appreciate freedom_6154


On our final day we hired a car and headed out to Lake Shikotsu. very peaceful, just beautiful. We rented a duck and went for a paddle.


On a boat_3741

Ducks can wear bowler hats too_3724







Peddle-powered voyage_3789



Twinkle Self-Portrait_3795
Twinkle’s self-portrait (above, not below!)





Hokkaido River_6432


Whilst the holiday was too short to truly relax, it served as a good taster for Twinkle who’d not been there before, and I was happy to have to check my emails for a few hours!

…and I thoroughly enjoyed taking all these photos!


TEDxTokyo 2011

I first got involved with TEDxTokyo in early 2010, invited by a friend to lead a backstage live stream team. The two of us had been doing quite a bit of livestreaming over the previous 6 months, and through that (well, through the Tokyo Marathon project to be precise) had established contact with Ustream’s US office. At that time TED hadn’t officially partnered with ustream, but they were happy to help, and agreed to feature us on their top page, as well as providing a software license to enable us to broadcast a higher quality stream.

Through them we were able to set up a meeting with the head of Ustream Asia, based here in Tokyo, who like the US office agreed to help promote our feed.

May 15th came around, the event went well – I was happy that we hit about 13,000 viewers.

In late 2010 I was asked if I would step up to take a leading role in 2011 heading two interconnected teams – Social Media and Live streaming. This would involve assembling a star lineup of specialists in these fields, working with them to develop strategy, identify necessary tools/services/hardware, setting them all up, testing, creating / translating content, feeding it into publishing platforms and scheduling delivery, then actively engaging with our audiences once the campaign began.

Backstage at TEDxTokyo 2011Recruitment of volunteers took place by twitter, email and then subsequent meetings/ informal interviews. With the increase awareness of TEDxTokyo this year we had a far higher calibre of volunteers apply, so I was able to select only those who had a proven track record in the relevant fields. This was one of the key factors in this year’s success: having specialists whom I could trust to take care of certain parts of the campaign, without my having to be constantly checking that it was being done correctly (last year I was so taken up with technical aspects of the live stream that I was unable to effectively manage content).

This year wasn’t without it’s challenges though: 10 days before the event it became apparent to me that I was going to be the one who had to create all of the speaker profile pages on the website (30 English, 30 Japanese). This hadn’t been part of the plan; there followed a few nights with little sleep and a fair but of stress as I tried to take care of both that task and the rollout of the social media campaign.

Despite this, I was confident that when we did get going, it would all work out well – and it did. Thanks to the efforts of a couple of key members of the social media team, working in partnership with the TxT translation team, the twitter and Facebook campaigns were a big success. Our core content – scheduled tweets and posts linking back to speak profiles – was backed up by interaction with our audience (responding to questions, RTing enthusiastic responses etc). Meanwhile the replacement of simple text links with the official twitter and Facebook buttons on both the event page and all speaker profile pages on our website led to a lot more publicity – the Japanese twitter community being particularly active.

Backstage at TEDxTokyo 2011For the live stream, we opted for a three-way split: HD channel with English simultaneous interpretation, HD with Japanese simultaneous interpretation, SD with no interpretation (switching between English and Japanese depending whatever language the speak was using). The former two were embedded directly on our website, the latter was a ustream channel.

Thanks to the success of last year’s event and the Tokyo Marathon project, Ustream were happy to promote us on both their US and Japanese top pages. Meanwhile, one of our speakers just happened to be the country manager for Twitter in Japan – James very kindly arranged for the official Japan twitter account (@twj) to tweet out about it.

Finally, the big day arrived. Having spent most of the previous day setting up there wasn’t too much to do – except sort out the obligatory last minute loss of sound, which happens every year without fail. Come 8.45am the first tweet team took their seats in the auditorium, with the rest of the crew monitoring proceedings and prepping for interviews in the break times.

Backstage at TEDxTokyo 2011As those of you who tuned in to watch on the day will know, it went very well. We had some great speakers, and a very enthusiastic audience (read more about it here and here). I myself didn’t have time to see more than a couple of talks, but with the tech team taking care of all the switching from wired broadband to pocket wifi, and a superb twitter team tapping away, I was able to focus upon and enjoy directing social media proceedings.

By the end of the day we knew we’d done pretty well, but it wouldn’t be until a couple of days later that the full stats would be available. We’d been aiming for 20,000 viewers – had we managed to hit that?

Thanks to the combined effort of everyone involved in the event, we ended up smashing through this target: we reached over 50,000 unique viewers (accounting for 98,000+ views and approximately 10,000 viewer hours), and received over 5,000 comments on our live stream via Twitter. We’d successfully covered all the talks (Virgin Earth Inc and Gotcha Media providing their usual first-rate service for that) and also managed to interview speakers, sponsors, participants and volunteers. We’d fielded questions via twitter, and given viewers a chance to see behind the scenes.

All boxes ticked.

The TEDxTokyo 2011 Social Media and Backstage Livestream Team

Of course, as with any event there were quite a few things we could improve upon, and a number of lessons learnt for future projects.

Backstage at TEDxTokyo 2011Whilst some friends thought that I was a bit crazy to put so many hours into a voluntary project, I knew all along that it would be worth it. Aside from the satisfaction of doing a good job, it’s confirmation for me that the skills I’ve acquired over the past few years really are a valuable asset – it’s not just a ‘waste-of-time’ twitter / live stream addiction I have! It was a great opportunity to put it all to the test, taking the many elements to the next level. It was also a genuine privilege to be able to do this at such a high calibre event, under a respected brand, with a great speaker lineup, an enthusiastic community and the support of many sponsors – plus, not forgetting, being able to work alongside over 120 amazing volunteers.

It was actually partly thanks to last year’s TEDxTokyo that I was able to leave my full time job and go freelance – you get what you give!

If you’d like to learn more about TED/TEDx/TEDxTokyo, check out the site at


Penguins! The real thing

アメリカンサイズの焼きそば Sapporo ramen restaurant embraces US-size portions


Bank staff forgot to give me my receipt, comes to our home to deliver it + freezer bag, soap, tissues, kitchen foil, towel as apology


Gotta love Japanese service…

Tokyo Metro Poster: The power of an avalanche


Saw this poster published by Tokyo Metro in our local station today. The caption reads “Don’t take it lightly – the energy of soil and stones”. An interesting choice, considering how unlikely landslides are in the metropolitan area. It’s probably one in a series focusing on natural disasters.

I’ve not been back to Tohoku since just after the quake happened, but that will be changing in the next couple of months. One of my clients may soon be running football clinics for children in affected areas, whilst I’m working with another friend on a project that may see us cycling over 1,000km to highlight the ongoing hardship in the region. Whether that goes ahead or not depends on our ability to get partners on board – there are a lot of companies wanting to help improve the lives of people affected by the disaster, but are unsure how to go about doing that. Also, as time goes by so people’s interest in the ‘story’ wanes – and the number of volunteers drops.

The fact is that whilst over 310,000 volunteers have helped with the recovery effort in Tohoku so far, thousands more are needed on an ongoing basis – some esimates say 5m over 5yrs. We need programs in place to attract people to the region even when the power cuts in Tokyo are over and, as far as the majority of the population are concerned, life is back to normal.

The bicycle project that I referred to above is just one element in a much broader project that we’re working on.

I hope to be able to make time soon to reflect upon the many projects that I’ve been involved in these past few months. I’ve not yet had a chance to finish off the Tokyo Marathon project – it was left hanging when the quake struck. There’s TEDxTokyo (still ongoing to a certain extent with backstage videos to edit and put out there) to summarise, plus a number of smaller projects that I’d love to share.

Almost a year into my freelance lifestyle and I’ve yet to truly get on top of all the to-dos. I’m not complaining – this is a good thing, albeit a little overwhelming at times. (Thinking about it, the picture above strikes me as being a suitable illustration for summarising how things have been lately!)

Rather than stand and wait to be engulfed, I’m working hard to plough through it all. I remind myself that life happens in phases, and it’s important to value each phase for the benefits it brings. And I do.

A symbol of this particular phase is the house we now live in – I love it more every day, even after being here for two months. I’m very much enjoying the garden – this morning I harvested our first 3 peppers. The 3 clematis plants that all suffered from an appalling attack of clematis wilt are recovering with incredible vitality, whilst the tomato plants have exceeded all expectations. The cherry tree is looking very happy, whilst I’ve never seen parsley look so good in my care.

Anyhow, that’s enough tapping on an iPhone for now. The washing up needs doing before *Twinkle* gets home!


Amaryllis time-lapse in the making


We’re on day 4 of the time-lapse. All I have to do is change the camera battery every couple of days. Over 1300 photos in the series now. Looking forward to seeing the result.