End of week thinkings

Twinkle at Yamaki Organic Farm(Today’s photo was taken on our trip to Yamaki Organic Soy farm last month)

Morning.

You find me on the train to work. It’s a Saturday. About 8am. Not too crowded. I got a seat. It’s 30 minutes to my stop from here, no changes.

It’s been a challenging week. It started with my working on Monday, which I would usually have as a day off – occasionally I’m asked to go out and teach one or two-day intensive English course at client offices. I must admit I find these exhausting – they also serve to remind me that whilst I am perfectly capable of teaching, it’s not my forte. I’m more suited to planning, organsing, arranging for things to happen, then motivating people (through example etc) to carry them out. Still, I don’t mind teaching now and then. It’s good to have a change of scenery.

I do best at work when I’m presented with a problem which needs a radical solution – I’m thinking of multi-stage processes that until now have been carried out piecemeal – lacking a workflow. I like to analyse the stages and see where connections can be made, where waste can be cut, where duplication can be avoided. Unfortunately, it looks like it will be increasingly difficult to devote much time to this kind of thing as the recession sinks its teeth into our industry, resulting in more work for fewer people.

Due to my not having Monday daytime off, I had several very late nights as I attempted to do the misplaced podcast editing. Thus, from Wednesday on I found myself absolutely exhausted, and had a couple of early nights. This meant that I was unable to do anything on those days but my day job (and a Japanese lesson on Wednesday night) – something I always find immensely frustrating, as it feels that I have simply sold a whole day of my life just for the sake of money. I know that this is the way that our economy works, and I know that the sum of money I receive in exchange for my time is infinitely more than so many people on the planet, but it still makes me feel a little sick.

These feelings are exacerbated when I watch incredible films such as Home, which I highly recommend you make 90 minutes to watch. It features some stunning ariel photography shot over a period of many years, telling the story of the development of the Earth, highlighting the challenges we now face, and attempting to inspire us to do something about it (hat-tip to Bastish.net, one of my all-time favourite Japan photo-blogs, for the link)

I found myself feeling pretty upset and frustrated by the middle section of the film – not due to the film itself, but due to the things it was telling me about what we have done to the planet. It also made me think about what I am doing here. Well actually, to be honest it made me feel that I am completely wasting my life by devoting my time to earning enough money to pay the bills so that I have enough money to go to work …and pay the bills again. I should be doing something to make a difference.

But this is why I try to make use of every hour outside of my day-job to work on my portfolio. One of my medium-term goals is to be making English-language environmental documentaries, which are linked in with online resources that allow people to get involved and make a difference themselves, locally. If we’re going to sort this problem out we need to empower everyone to do their bit. What Yann Arthus-Bertrand has created is absolutely phenomenal, but it would be even better with a little postscript of actions one could take.

Incidentally, I’m not pretending I’m any great film-maker – as you can see from my YouTube channel I’m not. But there are great film-makers out there, and I would seek to work with them. Likewise with the online side of things – I’d always seek to team up with those with expert knowledge / resources.

I’d also love to be doing something like this:

Extreme Ice Survey in Action from Extreme Ice Survey on Vimeo.

It’s early days.

I find it comforting to remember that it’s early days. If I look at people around me who are doing some great stuff in Japan, I see that on the whole they have been here for a good length of time. Say, 7-10 years. This gives me hope – I’ve only been back 10 months. If I can achieve what I have so far in 10 months with a full time job, what will I be able to achieve in 10-years (much of which will be spent without the distraction of a day job, although with the distraction of children)?

The podcast experiment is going well, with a doubling of subscriptions in the last 10 days (thanks to the Debito interview), and approximately 4000 downloads. This week marks the halfway point too (we agreed to make 12 main episodes for series one, and are now at number 6) – that feels good. I’m glad to be on the Metpod too (Thursday edition, about 3/4 of the way in); it’s good practice in being concise.

Transformers

Last night I made a mad dash from work down to the new digi-IMAX (uses standard film instead of IMAX film) in Kawasaki for the first showing of Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen – a great film for little boys like me. The gathering had been arranged by my good friend Steve Nagata, who had kindly sorted out the tickets and stuff in advance.

It struck me that this was the first time I’d hung out with a bunch of people from the Tokyo tech scene for a non-tech event – that made me smile. It’s nice to have friends.

I was given a lift back by Danny who blogged it at (www.dannychoo.com) – this was no ordinary lift home though as he provided Transformer sound effects for us as we drove, transforming the Nissan into a huge Autobot. The film had obviously infiltrated his sub-conscious as (to my alarm) upon leaving the car park, whilst concentrating on the GPS he attempted some off-road driving, mounting the central reservation! The thing that amused me was that as we headed for the kerb I was actually expecting the car to detect the side of the road and somehow stop of its own accord – clearly I’ve been hanging out with tech geeks too much.

I’m planning on registering as a sole trader on Monday to help offset some of the costs of our extra-curricular businesses. Podcasting doesn’t exactly require require a lot of investment in expensive equipment, but it does involve a lot of travel and so forth. It would be good at least to get the tax back.

The rainy season has begun in Japan – it will last for another month or so. I’ve decided that I quite like it, what with it being a natural part of the cycle.

Anyways, we’ve long since passed my stop, so I’d best be off.

tarra.

Video blog: Edogawa Ekiden (relay race) and more

It’s been a looong day.

In the morning I joined Tom, Nami and Phil to run the Edogawa Ekiden (relay race). Things didn’t quite work out as planned for us personally, so I thought instead of focusing on our story I’d share with you some footage of the various characters we met throughout the event.

You can also get an idea of just how appalling my taiko drumming skills are!

The girls take on the Edogawa Ekiden

All sorts of people run Ekidens. There tend to be a lot of men wearing dresses.

edogawa_ekiden_17

Here’s our team in full

edogawa_ekiden_15

Phil

edogawa_ekiden_16

Tom

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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…

Tiltshift Sunday

tiltshift tokyo_2930

It’s been a great day, during which I’ve been fortunate to spend time with my two best mates in Tokyo.

Whilst I’ve managed to get up at 6am every day this week, last night’s ridiculous experiment to see if I could run four operating systems at the same time on my old MacBook made sure that I had no chance of making it a full house. (Yes, it can run 4 at the same time. Very slowly).

Still, I was up by 7am, met Tom on platform 2 at 7.30am – destination Tokyo Station.

It wasn’t really planned, but we ended up jogging 15km (9 miles) around the emperor’s cabbage patch (otherwise known as the Imperial Palace). Having not exercised all week (mainly due to the cold in the mornings and my woosyness) I was a little sceptical as to my ability to complete the last lap – so as we entered the final 3km and my hips began to hurt, I just kept on telling myself that this was only the first lap, and I felt as fresh as a daisy that had just eaten a Freshness Burger. The result – a very strong finish!

Back home, bath, then out to Shibuya for a lunchtime English lesson. That done, I headed south to Ebisu to meet Stu, my kiwi mate from the Niseko years. Having arrived a bit early, I sat on a step beside some coin lockers and played with some photos on my MacBook to pass the time.

“Hey! Wass your name?”

It was a boy in his early twenties. He looked Korean. Guide book in hand, he was probably on holiday.

“I’m Joe! I’m from the Korean Navy, in charge of look-out for 168mm gun.”

I was happy to have someone to talk to. We chatted for 15 minutes until Stu arrived. It was funny – when talking with Joe I found myself coming out with all the questions I ask my students on the phone (Ok, so I missed the one where I ask for directions to a fictional sushi shop). Nice guy. Reminded me of me on my first trip to Japan, except that I wasn’t in the army, and don’t like guns.

Stu and I spent the best part of 4 hours talking, drinking coffee, eating ramen. It was good.

Like myself, he’ll be taking the Japanese Language Proficiency Test this year – good to know that others will be going through the same pain :-p

Back home tonight I processed a few of the tilt shift shots I tried to take earlier in the week. I’ve loved tiltshift photography (or more accurately, Tilt-shift minature facking) ever since I first saw some examples on NHK (TV), but have only recently learnt how it’s done.

I find it fascinating how our brains can tricked into thinking that we are looking at a miniature scene by having an extremely shallow depth of focus. I’m now wondering though, if I look at enough Tiltshift photos, will their effect wear off on me, will my brain learn to associate them primarily with tiltshift and not miniature models? I guess I’ll just have to wait ten years and see.

I thought that producing tiltshift photos would be relatively easy, and in a way it is, but producing really effective shots is difficult. The examples on this page are testament to that – they’re not very good.

tiltshift tokyo_3153

First off you need to find a good candidate out there in the wild. Then, you need to choose an appropriate depth of focus, and place it well. The latter two stages I find pretty challenging. Still, it’s early days, and I have a lifetime over which to improve.


*Twinkle*s been busy today. She and a professional pâtissier hosted a Valentine’s Planning event, and, with a group of 15 or so friends who are also building Amway businesses, created a whole load of (what were apparently) delicious homemade chocolate delicacies. Unfortunately, no men were allowed entry.

She also gave a (light-hearted) talk on How to Find the Ideal Partner! Why she didn’t follow her own advice I don’t know…

Our Amway business is doing pretty well. The worsening economy has resulted in a lot of people looking for the means to create a second or third income. With so many redundancies over the past few months it seems that the awareness of the importance of having multiple income streams is growing, and people are starting to look seriously at using their own skills and talents to build their own businesses.

In some ways it’s not a bad time to start a new business, as a lot of companies that provide a poor service are going under, making way for new entrepreneurs who are determined to offer exceptional products / services.

In addition to our full time jobs and our Amway business, *Twinkle* continues to do translation work, and I’m working on creating a new Internet-based media company, about which I don’t want to say too much at the moment. Let’s just say it’s at the cross-section of a lot of my passions – I’m very excited! It won’t make money for some time, but I see a lot of potential in it. I just have to Believe, and Act. More on that in due course.

Anyways, it’s time for me to make a cup of tea.

tatta.

Cats and choppers

Today, following a 9.3km run with Tom at 7am, I headed out to see Bibi and his wife (and cat), who live up in the mountains of Western Saitama.

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One of the reasons for the visit was that I wanted to play with Bibi’s big chopper, which some mumblers may recall me talking about a year or so ago.

Here’s Bibi in action:

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…and me looking, er, manly?

joseph and his chopper_1681

It was lovely to see them both, eat some delicious homemade food, breath in some fresh countryside air. Thank you, may the ankle-healing continue 🙂

The journey there had been a good one too – I played “spot mount Fuji” with the two oba-chans (grannies) sitting opposite me on the train, and had a long conversation with a third obachan about my patchwork jeans, which I spent much of the journey working on, patch, needle and thread in hand.

This evening our friends S&M came round for dinner. S&M are a great source of inspiration and encouragement for me, and it was lovely to be able to invite them into our home – although in the presence of such experienced hosts I started to realise just how much practice I need. Thank you both for coming.

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Tomorrow morning I’m off again for a run around the palace at 7am, this time with the Tokyo Vegan Runners – a group I found on www.meetup.com. Two lessons in the evening, and hopefully some time to breathe during the day.

oyasumi xxx