Tokyo CGM Night Volume 4

Last night saw the fourth installment of Tokyo CGM Night, a night hosted by Danny Choo and Andrew Shuttleworth to celebrate Japan’s Consumer Generated Media producers.

It’s a chance for Japan’s top bloggers, YouTubers and podcasters to gather and talk about past achievements, and make plans for future collaborations.

This was my second CGM, and looking around I was staggered by just how many people I counted as ‘friends’, when, just three months back I knew virtually no one in this arena. It’s a good demonstration of just how easy it is to get on with folks round here – they’re all so bloomin’ nice.

Here’s an experimental video I shot on a row boat in which I talk about last night. The video undergoes a big change 4 minutes in…

Saying RAAAAAA to life

SistersA week between Mumbles…. how about that?! I think Twitter‘s to blame. I wonder what the global impact of Twitter has been upon blogging? If my performance is anything to go by it’s not insubstantial.

Is this a good thing? I’m inclined to think it is, and it isn’t.

The nature of Twitter means it can be done on the road, no need to sit down in front of the computer – thus providing us with more time to do stuff out there in real life.

However, it also means that there’s less motivation for us to think things through. Big decisions get compacted down to a single line of text, responded to in kind.

For me personally, whilst I am now posting here less regularly, I’m not thinking that this marks the demise of the blog. Far from it. Thanks to Twitter, blogs are far more likely to be read – if you write something of interest! (I’ll have to figure out how to do that 🙂


With only a few minutes to spare before I head off to do my regular bit of voluntary work at the town hall, this post will also be a little twitter-like.

The pace has really picked up. For the past couple of weeks I’ve had every day pretty much fully booked, going from work at 7pm to meet someone / attend an event – weekends have also been filled with ‘stuff’.

Work too has suddenly become a lot busier, with the departure of a colleague leading to a whole new area of responsibility – and a whole new area ripe for improvement. As I’m taught the new systems, I’m finding myself constantly looking for ways in which processes can be streamlined – as with many SMEs in Japan, there is so much room for improvement. I like to work in an environment where people say things like ‘Hey! That might work, let’s give it a try!” instead of what is often heard in Japan, “oh, you’d have to speak to so and so about that …but we’ve always done it like this so I don’t think it can be changed”. I’m fortunate in that there is a degree of the former in my workplace.

PigeonThe bird table / window ledge I made last week (of which this isn’t a picture, this is a pigeon that was unimpressed by the cherry blossom) is now sporting a wealth of vegetation, with lavender, parsley and assorted flowers now bringing a great splash of delicious green to our bedroom / winter workspace. The birds remain happy, devouring all the food I put out for them. It’s not uncommon for up to 14 sparrows to be seen fighting over the seed. I was going to live-stream some video from it yesterday, but it seems the birds realised that – and boycotted the event. I guess they’re not happy with being paid peanuts.

My efforts to create a large network of friends in Tokyo continues to be a great success. This week I was fortunate to attend a party at the Appliya offices – Appliya being a rising star amongst iPhone / iPod touch developers. It was inspiring to hear about their culture of creativity, and to meet so many individuals who are doing what their passion inspires them to do. (I also got an interview for the upcoming podcast with Genkii, who were all over the news earlier this week with their 3D virtual world for the iPhone).

I also met up with Karamoon, an online acquaintance of several years who, until now, I’d never met. He’s working hard to bring about a Tokyo BarCamp [@tokyobarcamp – this is a very exciting project and I’m sure will be a great success. I’d encourage others interested in technology in Tokyo to attend, especially those who’ve not been to a Barcamp before now.

Cherry BlossomYesterday *Twinkle* and I hosted a little cherry blossom party – unfortunately we were a week early so the cherry blossoms that fill the entire glass-doored wall to our East were yet to bloom (although as can be seen it’s only going to be a couple of days before they do). Yesterday also so saw the Himonya Park Cherry Blossom festival take place – all around the pond were groups eating and drinking on the traditional blue tarps. There was dancing, a display by the fire brigade, food stalls, drumming, and a plant sale.

International boat race - the German / Japanese teamOh, and an International Boat Race: England vs. Germany vs. Japan! Germany, represented by our good friend Daniel, won by a mile. Well, by about 300 metres. England (me) were second, and Japan (our neighbours) took a relaxing detour around the fountain.

Last night I attended the sayonara (goodbye) party of a good friend @papadimitriou, someone whom in a very short space of time I’ve found to be a great source of inspiration. Whilst at the party we remembered that we were supposed to be taking part in the weekly podcast Japan Tech Talk – kudos to our host Robert in Nagoya for dealing with the drunken rabble that called in! [photo courtesy Andrew Shuttleworth]

The podcast is coming on. I’ve uploaded the first mp3 file – it’s not an episode in itself, just a kind of promo – although it’s real purpose is actually to establish the feeds and entry in the iTunes podcast directory. I’ll let you know what it is when Apple are done reviewing it.

The live-streaming marathon all went very well. I’ll be posting a video review of that once I, er, well, hang on, I think we need a new section…


MAC / PC CORNER

…manage to edit the video.

Don’t tell my old MacBook, but it’s soon to be replaced.

I say ‘old’, but actually the only old bit about it is the motherboard – virtually every other part has been replaced at least once during the last 18 months. I’m replacing it as a) the small screen makes audio / video editing difficult, and b) it just doesn’t have the power I need for editing videos – the other morning I spent a good deal of time editing a multi-track video in Screenflow, only to lose all my work when my macbook ran out of memory and panicked. Even editing RAW files from my Nikon DSLR in Adobe Lightroom has been causing problems lately, with regular hangs when processing those that I uploaded to Flickr yesterday. With over 20,000 photos in my iPhoto09 library, loading that takes forever too (just since the upgrade from 08) – meaning I’m reluctant to look at my photos.

Macbook ProMy new baby will be a bit of beast: the 17″ Macbook pro. I’ll be going for the default 4GB of RAM etc. They claim the battery lasts up to 7 hours – I’ll be putting that to the test when it arrives next month. My current MacBook will be passed on to *Twinkle*. She doesn’t seem all that thrilled, even though I insist that it’s basically ‘new’ due to all the repairs it’s had!

We also have another new Mac in the family (inherited from my sister-in-law) – an old iBook G4 (1Ghz/640mb) with a broken DVD drive. Having bought an external DVD drive for it I’ve been able to install Leopard – it runs no problem, although admittedly we’re only using it for the internet and iTunes. I plan to use that as our live stream server when the birds are feeling co-operative.

This means we now have a spare Toshiba laptop …which has just found a new home following an accident my friend had yesterday with a cup of water and their own laptop.

Anyway, I’ve long wanted to get into video production, but without a powerful-enough computer for anything other than the simplest of edits it’s something I’ve held back on. I look forward to branching out into this field with the arrival of the new one.


Another field I’ll be branching out into is singing jazz.

Yes, I know, I can’t sing (I’ll be making a point of this in our podcast).

Yesterday, one of our cherry-blossom guests, a chap in his early 50s, spotted my Samson Condenser Mic and became interested in what I was doing. Turns out he has a ton of studio gear, and regularly produces CDs for local jazz bands. For some reason he asked me to go along to the next session and see what it was like – and then (following practice) to record a song myself!

I’ve often wanted to be a singer, despite not being able to sing. I’d like to take lessons – but it’s not enough of a priority at the moment.

Oh, one final thing – I’m currently listening to Miracle In The Andes. It’s a powerful story. Shocking, gripping, inspiring.

Anyway, I’d best be off. Since I started writing this post I’ve actually cancelled my voluntary work, need to focus.

Incidentally, we have beautiful blue skies in Tokyo today, it is just glorious.

tarra.

A new study set-up

My old study-setup

I’m very much an advocate of taking action to change one’s surroundings should they not be conducive to feeling at ease. For example, a friend of mine has been having issues at work involving smoke from an adjoining (smoking) room filling her office, but rather than just complain about it she went out and bought some plastic sheets and a couple of heaters, in order to seal the gap between above the partition wall and deal with the resulting lack of hot air that was blow through by the air conditioner. She is now going to be happier in the short term, and live longer too.

My new getting-up-at-6am routine is going really well – I love it, and manage to get a tonne of stuff done in the 90 minutes extra that I have each day. Studying Japanese is the main activity. This involves me going through my electronic dictionary’s history to review words I’d looked up the previous day, and transferring them to Anki and paper flash cards (sometimes an iPhone interface is just too distracting). I’ve also got a couple of text books to work through, oh, and I’ve restarted my Japanese blog.

It’s appalling how much I’ve forgotten since I stopped studying, so the entries you’ll find on there are more reminiscent of the stuff I was writing at the end of my first year at uni than what you might expect from a graduate. I’m not embarrassed about this. I know I can do better, and I know that given frequent practice I will do better.

I’ve decided to use my photos as the theme, writing about where / why they were taken. Simple, yet very personal to me. I like that.

It also prevents me from using the excuse that “I have nothing to write about”.

Another thing I’ve done to encourage study is buy myself a proper desk. The Japanese-style coffee table was doing my knees / legs no good at all, and left me in quite a bit of pain if I sat there too long. Thus, I popped down to the local department store and bought a fairly cheap table, and two metres of cloth for a table cloth. I love it!

The storage shelf thing that was in this room has been moved next door, although the two sets of stationary drawers remain close at hand under the two tables.

I’ve also decided to stop using my MacBook as a laptop at home. By plugging in an external monitor and keyboard it’s possible to use Mac laptops when they’re closed – I keep it under the desk out of the way.

There are a few reasons I’ve done this:

  1. It gives me more space on the desk for study materials;
  2. I don’t have to look at all the trailing wires emerging from my Macbook;
  3. My mind associates this monitor / keyboard with study / ‘work’ and not all the stuff I associate my Macbook with.

It really makes a big difference. I’m far more productive now I have a space designed for what I need to do. Kind of no-brainer really.

Anyway, it’s bath-time now, then muesli, then off to the office to continue work on the new website for students. I’m using Joomla in order to ensure that the site can be updated for many years to come by people other than myself. As with WordPress, I am staggered by the improvements Joomla has seen in recent years. A world away from the thing I dabbled with a while back!

Have a productive day!

Magical Jiggery Pokery

The random image thing on the right of this page is supposedly, er, random – so how can one account for things like the above happening? Here, I blogged about my mum’s painting, and hey presto! It randomly appears on the right too! It’s not as if it’s unusual either, I’ve seen matches like that in the past, but the odds should be 14,762 to 1 (the number of images I have on Flickr).

Also, I know of friends who have reported random pictures of themselves showing up when they’ve checked the mumble, the chances of which are almost as slim as the above!

Is there magical jiggery pokery going on around here?

My Life Purpose


One benefit of committing the story of one’s life to a blog powered by Google, hosted by some other company and then sent to you by email (and then burnt to DVD) is that when one turns 90, the chances are there will still be a copy of it somewhere. Why should that be important? I’d like to be able to look back on my life at the age of 90 and see if I can draw lines between developments in my thoughts, feelings and decisions early on in life (now) and later occurrences.

For many years, I kept *real* diaries. I have about 49 of them in a big box that will soon be sailing to Japan. They span some 15 years of my life from the age of about 12. There’s only one copy of them, and should the boat go down, they will go down too.

I pretty much stopped writing my *real* diary when I met *Twinkle*, who became the one I talked to about things that mattered. As time has passed, so I’ve grown more confident about writing about my feelings here on the Internet, which has been especially useful this past year with those friends who are happy to talk about such things being some distance away. It took me a while to develop the confidence to open up, and I know that without the inner work, I wouldn’t have been able to do this. It’s only though learning to trust my heart / spirit that I can feel confident in what I write. Confident in that I am being honest with myself (as opposed to confident in my being ‘right’, a view I don’t subscribe to. How can I be ‘right’ when things have no intrinsic ‘rightness’? Don’t they only have the rightness or wrongness we as individuals choose to assign to them?).
So there’s my long-winded preamble about why I’m writing this.

Things have been happening in my life this week. Well, actually, it’s more a case of things have always been happening all my life, but I feel that now is a critical period, like some kind of climax. There’s all these things that are happening. I feel like there’s some role being shaped for me, but I have no idea what it is. I’m getting this message that I have some kind of responsibility to do something. But not just an everyday something, but a something that is going to make a big difference. I don’t know what it is.

You know there’s that quote of Gandhi’s, “You must be the change you wish to see in the world”. I can’t say I can recall ever hearing it before this week, and suddenly, it’s everywhere. It was on a website I stumbled across the other day in bold letters. Then, it popped up on an audiobook I was listening too (quite the highlight actually – if you’re after self-development books give Brian Tracy a miss!), then the other night I was suddenly moved to pick a book off my shelf that had been there since January, untouched. It’s called “Be the change”, and is a product of the organisation of the same name, based in my second home town of Bristol. There on the front page is the quote by Gandhi.

Then there was the person I met in the pub the other night. Well, I say ‘met’. All I actually did was shake his hand and then talk to someone else on the other side of the table for 20 minutes, but the following day I received an email from his partner (my good friend) passing on a message for me, talking about my future. It was a reflection of the feelings I am writing about here.

Then there was that person who warned me, “Don’t hide behind *Twinkle’s* success”. Now that was a well-placed kick up the backside, and a very timely one at that. Likewise, I can’t hide behind the name of any company or government I might work for in the short term. I might want to, and no doubt I will do so at times due to my ego demanding a stroke, but it will be fatal if I subscribe to such a practice long term.

It’s not these superficial happenings that are overwhelming me though, it’s this feeling that growing inside me that I have a responsibility to use the immense fortune that I have to make a difference. I’m not talking any financial fortune, I’m talking being born in the UK in the late 20th century to loving parents who sent me to a Steiner School, and have always supported me emotionally in all that I have ever chosen to do. In having loving siblings and friends who share my positive outlook upon life and also believe that we can do great things.

Sometimes, the feeling is positively palpable. Like tonight. I had to lie down on my bed and hide under my duvet, hugging my teddy as I felt all these things happening, all this energy surrounding me (if only I could channel it into pressing the appropriate keys on my Macbook to write a dissertation on NGOs in Japan!). I’ve been reading these incredibly inspiring stories in the Be The Change book about individuals who have done the most amazing things and are changing lives. In some cases, just a few lives, and in other cases, many. There’s no fundamental difference between these people and anyone else, except that they have made a decision to make things happen, and then acted. They didn’t know how they were going to do it, but that is not important when one first embarks upon a project.

So, I’m not quite sure what to do. I don’t think the time is right to act yet as I need more clarity, and it may be a case of waiting some years before I do know. That’s not to say that I have to “wait until everything is in place” – the biggest excuse in the book that, things will never be ‘just right’! But I do know that it’s vital that I continue to study, study my passions, study others, study those things in life that present themselves to me with a label on saying “study me” (sometimes need an ultraviolet light to see the writing though).

I also know that living in accordance with what my heart tells me is right, is working. It must be almost a year now since I started that ‘experiment’, and the results in terms of being at ease with decisions made, not attaching importance to the subjective opinions of others who are acting out of a perceived necessity for defensiveness, and my ability to love others for who they, are wonderful to experience.

It’s pretty difficult for me to tell even a white lie now. Although I did the other day, first time in a very long time. I can’t remember exactly where I was. It was somewhere on campus, I remember that, and it was someone who I didn’t know too well, and they asked me an awkward question. I told them the answer they wanted to hear, and boy oh boy did I feel bad. I almost burst out laughing I was so amused by my inability to lie. If the person had known me they’d have spotted it right away, but they didn’t.

In a way I can comfort myself with the knowledge that the publishing company we are establishing is essentially a social enterprise, helping others to help themselves without heavy emphasis on profit. If my energy is directed into that, I can feel happy knowing that I am doing a good thing. Perhaps I’ll get the Jet job. If I do I know I’m going to have to use every opportunity within that to make myself a better person, in order that I can make things happen in an area where my true passions lie in the future.

If I don’t get it, that’s great too as it means that there’s some other exciting path waiting for me.


So, 90-year-old Joseph, do the lines join up?