Getting an iPad

It’s been about three weeks now since I started using the iPad. It’s not the first time I’ve used one of course – with friends like @SteveNagata I was guaranteed to be one of the first few people in the country to try one out (which I was).

I must admit, before I got one, i wasn’t all that excited about the iPad. Sure, there were some cool games, and it seemed like a great device to watch videos on, but ultimately it didn’t strike me as being all that useful. I don’t play games, and I don’t have much time for watching videos or reading online news. As such, i thought that if I were to get an iPad it would end up on the coffee table, as friends of mine had reported had happened to them.

That was before I changed my job. I went from being a full time employee at a publishing company, to being a freelancer working in online marketing.

No longer tied to a specific desk, my ‘office’ is now everywhere and anywhere. I work at home, in clients’ offices, in Starbucks, on trains and even at Disneyland (which is where I am right now). I’m needing to do more travelling, have more meetings, be more flexible.

Prior to getting an iPad I took my 17″ MacBook Pro with me everywhere. But getting this out in meetings or on the subway was a real pain …and sometimes quite rude too. Complete overkill.

Oh, and there was also my desire for a third, mini-monitor at home (as pictured above).

Three weeks ago I finally picked up a 64GB WIFI iPad from the Apple Store (I already had a pocket wifi dongle which gives me unlimited data, so no need for another 3G data contract).

Determined that this thing would not become a coffee table item, I then invested about 25,000 yen (£200/US$300) in some of the best iPad apps available (listed in an upcoming blog post) essentially turning it into a truly versatile mobile computer – one that could be stroked.

I also bought the Apple Bluetooth keyboard, which manages to hit the sweet spot in terms of size vs. ease of use/functionality. It’s super lightweight, compact enough to carry around with it being a pain, yet large enough to hold a full-size set of keys (that is, the layout is identical to the MacBook). It can also be paired with the iPhone 4 (or any other similarly enabled device), although as with many Bluetooth devices, pairing with more than one device is a little fiddly.

If you’re going to get the keyboard, you’ll also want some kind of stand. The regular Apple iPad case (which I also bought) not only protects, but works as a two-way stand too. Lie it down with the front cover folded back and tucked into the little flap (thus turning the cover into a triangle) and you can work with it an an angle of about 30 degrees. Turn it the other way around and balance it on the ‘spine’ of the cover and you have it near-vertical. I’m not too keen on that second option though – it’s just too unstable, and requires a completely flat surface.

Enter the Twelve South Compass for iPad. Available in Apple Stores and at many iPad accessory retailers, this is by far the best stand I’ve yet seen for the iPad (I liked it so much I bought two). At 200g, this beautiful mini tripod is one of the heaviest on the market – but that’s a feature, what with the iPad itself weighing a fair bit – you want a sturdy base. The compass design is ingenious, allowing it be folded up so it’s small enough to slip in your pocket (inside its very cute cloth case). As well as making a great easel for near-vertical use, it also has a mini-leg that flips out of the back for 30 degree use. You can use it in combination with the regular Apple iPad case, and there’s sufficient clearance at the bottom to charge the iPad via the standard USB dock connector without the cable being squished against the table top. It also comes in stylish packaging that matches the whole Apple experience.

Additionally I picked up the iPad> VGA adapter, and the was the grateful recipient of an iPad> component/USB adapter from a friend. I’ll be picking up the camera connector kit shortly.

Over the past few weeks I’ve found myself using the iPad on a daily basis. Long train journeys are now very productive, and find me editing documents, dealing with email, doing a lot of the reading that i never had time for before.

It’s freeing up my time. For example, today we’re at Tokyo DisneySea (*Twinkle* has been wanting to come here again for a long time… ok, I love it too!). It’s a trip I couldn’t have made without the iPad, as I have a video that I have to get online as soon as possible. The export process, done on my MacBook Pro at home that’s attached to a 6TB raid, takes about 8 hours – although there’s not much work on my part other than moving it to the next stage every few hours. With the iPad I’ve been able to do that remotely from this Italian style restaurant overlooking DisneySea harbour (more on remotely controlling your computer from your iPad in my next blog).

Whilst here I’ve also tied up a new advertising deal for a couple of my websites, accepted the contract, implemented the code for the ads, put them live and created/ sent the invoice.

The great thing is of course, this is just the beginning for the iPad. It still runs the older version of iOS (until next month), meaning no backgrounding of apps, no folders, no unified inbox etc. When we finally get those functions and apps are updated to make use of them, it’ll make things a lot easier – especially processes that require you to rapidly switch between multiple apps.

Complaints? I don’t think I have any. I expected and accept the limits of iOS – it would be pointless to compare this to a MacBook or other ‘computer’, as it’s not trying to be one. As a tablet device this thing is just amazing.

If all you use computers for is consuming media, playing games, simple Word processing /Excelling/ Powerpointing, emailing and web browsing, I think the iPad can function well as your solitary device (although to be honest I’d probably go for the new MacBook Air unless I was only going to be consuming media). For anything more complex than that it would have to be a secondary device – you’re not going to be using Final Cut Pro on this thing anytime soon!

For heavy users who are often on the go (like me) the iPad is a godsend (Jobssend). Combined with the power of the best productivity apps on the market (e.g. Evernote – see my upcoming post on apps) it’s a tremendously powerful tool that can make you more productive, whilst simultaneously giving you more freedom in terms of how, when and where you work.

Also, and far more important than any of the above, it’s damn sexy.

I love my iPad.

Gaijin Bubble – Being a good husband – Taking action

himonya sunset _2475

Sunset from our front door

The intense feeling of ‘being a foreigner’ is starting to fade. These past few weeks there have been several occasions when I’ve been out and about, and completely forgotten that I’m a member of the 2%(ish) minority population of non-Japanese residents in Japan.

Upon arrival back in Japan last September I often found myself thinking about how the Japanese person serving me at the supermarket might be perceiving me, or wondering whether I was being spoken to in deliberately gaijin-friendly Japanese at the bank. Having been away from the islands for over a year I found I’d regressed to those times when I didn’t understand Japanese at all, when I perceived myself as a nail sticking out. I was very much in Japan, and I felt it keenly whenever I stepped outside the door.

It would seem though that after about 4 months I’m becoming acclimatised. The areas of Tokyo I frequent (mostly Gakugeidaigaku, Shibuya and Kudanshita) and those areas outside Tokyo I infrequent (Saitama to see my in-laws) are no longer overwhelmingly ‘Japan’, they’re just ‘home’.

I think part of the reason for this is I can now get by with very little effort in any of these places. Initially, going from A to B, buying such-and-such in such-and-such a shop required planning, thought, and conscious effort. Now I can walk and shop in these places without thinking. I usually use my time spent walking checking blogs, writing emails and studying Kanji. Unless I’m somewhere that will stimulate my senses (such as a park or an area of notable architecture/interesting people) I don’t like to not be doing something else whilst walking.

I appreciate that this must seem a bit sad. Walking around eyes glued to the screen. But I don’t see it like this. Not only do I get enourmous pleasure from following the antics of my friends, acquaintances and role models around the world, but I also give myself the freedom to use my time at home (when I would otherwise be checking blogs etc) to do things that are far more constructive. I’m the kind of person that can waste hours and hours watching mindless crap on YouTube – I know I have this weakness and so have created a web usage technique for myself that prevents my doing this – it’s called using an RSS reader (NetNewsWire to be precise) on the iPhone. It discourages endless link-clicking, thus I limit myself to about 250 web-based stories a day (over half of which I only read the first line of).

Hmm, seem to have gone down a rathole there. The magnetism of the iPhone. It draws you in no matter how far away you started off. All Mumbles lead to the iPhone…

Anyway back to my gaijin bubble then, that thing that makes the difference between being in Japan surrounded by Japanese people and being on planet Earth surrounded by human people.

My gaijin bubble is thinning out. Gaps are appearing in its liquid walls. I’m finding myself interacting directly with the people around me without any awareness of there being any difference / barrier between us.

And it’s awareness that’s the key. When I recently spoke to someone about the fading of the film, I found that in that instant, just by voicing this ‘fact’, the film became even more translucent.

It’s all my perception.

I know this. I’ve always known it, only a lot of the time I choose not to acknowledge it.


Recently I’ve been pretty down on myself regarding my Japanese ability. It was just before New Year that it hit me hardest. I’m not sure what brought it on, but it’s likely to have been my experience at the office, as that’s where I struggle the most with clear communication. Thus, New Year at the in-laws saw a pretty quiet Joseph, a passive participant. I surprised myself.

I decided to stop that this morning. I decided that I could speak Japanese, and that I was actually pretty good at it. It shouldn’t have come as any surprise then when a couple of hours later I found myself watching Joseph explain to a colleague, in Japanese, the workings of the new database (new as of this morning when I completed phase one of the merger of my new Access database with an existing Access databases – the two miraculously agreed to talk with each other).

Hey, I’m not that bad at Japanese after all. I just thought I was pants. That’s pretty cool. What else can I think into existence?

Ah yes, the problematic relationship with that colleague. How about a resolution? Hey presto! at 3.30pm it was solved, the problematic relationship made a 360 degree turn. It wouldn’t have happened had I not decided that there was ultimately no problem between us.

I’m currently on my second listen of The New Psycho-cybernetics, which I’m finding very inspiring [what is psycho-cybernetics?]. I’ve Mumbled about it before, and I’ll say again what I said then: there’s nothing in this book that you haven’t read in The Secret or any of Anthony Robbins’ books. Nonetheless, I like the approach, and it motivates me to act. It’s this book that has encouraged me to shift my perception of things like my gaijin bubble or ‘lack of Japanese language skills’.


This past week has (not unsurprisingly) seen an abundance of blog posts containing reviews of 2008. I considered writing one myself, but decided that it’ll be easier to get someone else to do that for me when I can afford to outsource the revamp of my website and the drafting of my autobiography 🙂 But still, I found other people’s reviews pretty thought provoking. Some were in the form of meme’s, encouraging the authors to not only list what they had achieved, but also to detail how they thought they’d changed over the previous 12 months (for example, see this one by my friend the talking orchid).

This got me thinking about how I’ve grown over the past 12 months. Of course, marriage has been the biggy for me, and I must say the last 4 months since the wedding have taught me a lot about myself that I didn’t necessarily want to know. I’m fortunate to live in an age in which emotional intelligence is considered a great asset and not some feminine weakness, and thus I am encouraged to act on bringing my behaviour back in alignment with what I know is ultimately right, rather than what is merely considered ‘ok’ by society at large. *Twinkle* has no complaints, I’ve not been a bad husband, but I know I can be a better husband. There have been times when I have held my love back when I have (unreasonably) felt threatened or undermined by her behaviour. She deserves my love and support at all times, no exceptions.

I’m also glad I had a few ‘serious’ relationships before meeting her. I recall times when, if challenged, I would only be able to rest when my partner was feeling thoroughly wretched.

How horrendous is that?

However, whilst of course I am very sorry to have hurt my partners I am also grateful to have had the opportunity to learn in situations where the stakes weren’t quite so high, thus *Twinkle* doesn’t have to put up with all that kind of crap (it’s not a path I recommend though. If possible just be perfect from birth).

Anyway, It’s taken New Year to make me act on this one. It’s only too easy to get into sloppy patterns of behaviour. Once in that rut one can forget what life was like when one was free, acting in accordance with high-energy spirit. The effort required to ‘be nice’ when one really doesn’t want to be nice isn’t actually an effort at all, as the benefits (which are soon felt) are so great they act like helium balloons, pulling you up. The only effort is in making that initial decision.

This reminds me of Wayne Dyer’s work – he often speaks of high and low energy cycles. (There is a Spiritual Solution to Every Problem is one I often mention – I reccomend the audio from Audible)

Going back to changes seen during 2008, I’m also happy to have seen a considerable progress in my dealing with fear, although I don’t see last year as having been the real milestone – that’s this year when I begin to act with courage in the light of firmer foundations. My self-image still needs considerable work. I’m far too fearful down on myself if I really want to realise many of the dreams I have.

Ironically, by stating these things I’m only making the situation worse. It’s time for an end to ‘recognising’ things. Whilst recognition is the first step, it alone will not bring about any change.

OK. so let’s make 2009 the year of Action Without Fear.

You might think it silly to have to label a year like that. But I’m greatly encouraged by such statements. I love words. I love quotes. I even have an online collection of them at http://thanks.tumblr.com (although I’ve not added to it recently).

I only have one excuse left now.

I haven’t got time.

That’s a load of rubbish too though. Look at me, I’ve just spent two hours sitting at the kitchen table mumbling.

Many of my goals are related to online ventures. In the past week I’ve taken positive steps towards establishing 3 of them, doing things like purchasing domain names, contacting web hosts, and building a prototype site.

I’ve also taken action towards resurrecting the student of Japanese within me, by sorting out my various Anki databases.

Today, I made enquiries about taking time off work in order that I can dedicate a day or two a month to making these things happen, and that’s a distinct possibility.

I’m going to keep a record of action taken, and review it on a weekly basis. I need to do this to keep myself moving forward.

Anyway, I’d best be off to bed, I’m doing another photo shoot at the nail salon in Shibuya tomorrow night, and need to figure out what I’ll be doing for backdrops.

tatta.

Plans for 2009

Meet your teachers: George and I warm up for our telephone English lessons

George and I at work

Just one more day of work at the office remains this year. Whilst I usually work alone on Saturdays, taking calls from those students of mine who are unable to call during the week, tomorrow the rest of the office crew will join me. They’ll be turning up in their casual clothes for the annual oosouji – cleanup – traditionally carried out at the end of the year in all homes and workplaces in Japan.

I’ve chosen to work much of my week off at a private school in order to scrape together the rest of the money needed for moving house – we’ve decided that we’ll definitely be leaving our apartment in February. With our current place being very old and not insulated in any way we’d rather not stay here. Had there been no costs involved in staying, we’d put up with it, but with a contract renewal fee of 180,000 yen (approximately £1000) it just doesn’t make sense. It’s an absolute con, and encourages us further in our mission to become property owners (to create a passive income, and provide a comfortable place for people to stay when visiting Tokyo / temporarily homeless. It’s partly inspired by dear John John who always had an open-door policy).

I’m really looking forward to my few days off work next week, as it means I can put some serious time and effort into working on the two web-based projects I’m feeling really fired up about. One is the online publishing company that we started last year, the other is a podcast which I’ve desperately wanted to create ever since I got back, but have been lacking in a podcast partner. I found the ideal person in the phone booth next to me at work. He’s crazy. Crazy George.

I’d also like to redesign The Daily Mumble – move it over to WordPress 2.7 – but that’s going to have to wait. I’m seriously considering using some paid holiday to work on this and the other projects.

Next month will see planning / work commence on a new website (and hopefully podcast) for the company – an idea long discussed but never acted upon, until myself and crazy George got all hyped up it a couple of days ago. I’m excited about that. Another great opportunity to be creative, learn a lot, and have something to show for our efforts at the end of the day.

It also happens to be exactly what I have long-envisioned doing.

I’m getting real excited about 2009. I feel it’s going to be a great year.

2008 has been a pretty spectacular though, personally speaking. I got married, graduated from uni, returned to Japan with a proper visa thus successfully completing a five year plan. I’ve started exercising regularly, I’ve got a fulfilling job, and earlier in the year I had some big successes in my work at the University of Sheffield.

I’ve continued to read, courtesy of Audible.co.uk.

I’ve also got my procrastination under control. This year, I learnt that procrastination can actually be used to increase one’s productivity. Realising this, I actively sought to make my procrastination the good sort. This not only resulted in me being able to get a lot more done in the limited time I had, but also relieved me of the feelings of guilt and stress that tended to accompany my procrastination sessions.

I think finishing uni helped too…!

Looking to the year ahead, I aim to make real progress in bringing the projects I mentioned above to fruition, in addition to working more to support *Twinkle* with the further growth of our Amway business. I will avoid doing overtime at the office, but instead be very productive in my allotted hours there. I will also work to be a less grumpy husband – when I’m tired I sometimes turn into a big baby. *Twinkle* is very patient, but she shouldn’t have to be.

I also plan to take the Japanese Language Proficiency Test, and run a quarter marathon, an ekiden and a half marathon too. I want to run the Honolulu marathon in 2010.

I don’t really have any goals in terms of ownership – it’s experiences and personal development that matter, not owning ‘things’. (Having said that, I would like a Macbook pro and a mid-range Nikon DSLR, but I think they’ll have to wait until 2010).

I see the year ahead as being pretty intense, quite tiring, but with little stress – and a lot of fun and satisfaction. I see myself growing in confidence, being less concerned by the opinions of others, and more understanding of ways of communicating in these parts. I’ll be continuing to work on living in alignment with what is ‘right’, and resisting attempted coups by my ego.

Hmmm, it’s all pretty exciting really!

Purpose

My sister Jessie (left) and I, age: quite young

Personally, I’m yet to feel the effects of the global economic slowdown. I’ve not been made redundant, my salary has not been cut, overtime is still allowed.

But I can feel it’s just around the corner. Local redundancies are being announced on a daily basis, and the thinking is that it’s just going to get worse. One of my private students was telling me how her company, once reluctant to fire anyone (something that is admittedly pretty difficult to do in Japan – the common method seems to be to bully and pressure people into quitting) has just announced 2000 cuts, with more to come in due course. Whilst the nature of the client base that the English & Chinese education company I work for means that we are not suffering so much from this initial phase of the slowdown, this past week there have been some hints that next year is going to be a tough one.

I’m very much a subscriber to Robert Kiyosaki’s idea of there being four main types of people when it comes to income, who together make up the ‘Cashflow Quadrant’. They are: E – employees, S – self-employed, B – business owners and I – investors.

(For more on the Cashflow Quadrant get hold of a copy of Kiyosaki’s incredibly easy to read bestseller Rich Dad Poor Dad)

I’ve long had a gut feeling that I don’t belong in the ’employee’ quadrant, and in such economic conditions as these I find this gut feeling being exceptionally noisy. Seeing people in ‘secure’ jobs being left high and dry makes me question the sense of placing my future in the hands of an organisation that could let go of its staff at any time, for any number of reasons.

If I was working for the satisfaction that the day-to-day work brings, then it would be no big deal. Whilst I do feel real satisfaction in my day job (and before I go any further, I’d just like to state that as well as enjoying my day job a great deal, I see it as performing a very important and necessary role in my development, and I have no intention of leaving), I have a strong feeling that I’m heading towards a very different role in this world, of which I have only a vague picture at present) (this is aside from any purpose I have to become a better person in a spiritual sense, a journey that continues no matter what I do).

Whilst I am happy that I am able to make a positive impact upon the lives of my students and (to a certain extent) my colleagues, I can’t get away from the idea that ultimately, the main purpose of most companies is to provide a good return to the shareholders. These are shareholders of which I know nothing. Who knows what they might choose to invest the profits of my labour in.

Some people might think this is taking things a bit too far, but I don’t feel it is. I have a limited time on Earth this time around, and I want to make the most of it. I am happy to invest a few years in doing such things as working for my present company as I’m learning a lot, and teaching is a worthy cause, but I believe that I would feel that I had somehow wasted the precious gift of life were I to remain working for someone else for the rest of my life.

So then there’s the S quadrant – self-employed. One thing I’ve been fortunate to learn second-hand over the past few years is that being self-employed isn’t necessarily all it’s cracked up to be. For one thing, there’s the fact that (for most one-man-show enterprises) if you stop working, your income stops. Then there’s the hours. I forget what the stats are, but self-employed people usually work a lot more hours than those in the E quadrant. Having said that, the chances are that the self-employed business owner will get a great deal more satisfaction out of their work than an E. Every hour of work they put in is an hour invested in their own enterprise – an idea which appeals to me a great deal. They are also more likely to be doing what they love (or they probably wouldn’t have started that business in the first place!). However, ultimately, the lack of time freedom in the S quadrant does not appeal to me.

Then we move across to the B quadrant – the business owners. These are people whose businesses continue to operate even when they are physically absent. This is where I want to be. This is where I feel I should be putting my energy …but find the ease with which I can invest in the E quadrant too seductive. Striking out is tough. It’s easier to just be told what to do.

The final quadrant – our ultimate financial goal, is the Investment quadrant, whereby the wealth we have created will continue to generate an income in perpetuity, for the causes that we choose. Being socially conditioned, I used to think that people in this quadrant had only got where they were by trampling on others. However, the more wealthy people I meet (here in Japan), the more this stereotype is revealed as being a load of crap. They are by far the most generous, caring and ‘normal’ people you could hope to meet, and don’t give a poop about keeping up appearances. They are generous with both their time and money, and in my book are worthy role models.


These past few weeks I’ve been making my way through The New Psycho-Cybernetics by Maxwell Maltz, an updated version of the classic self-development book. It’s very good. Informative, and inspirational. Whilst there’s not much in it that you haven’t heard somewhere else, the scientific angle is refreshing and convincing.

…and it really gets you thinking – “If I could be the person I really wanted to be, would I be the person I am today?” If the answer is no (as it is with me), then there’s clearly a need for action.

It’s compelling. Real change doesn’t take months of years, it takes a split second – the split second it takes to make the decision to be that person. That person who is fit (or on the road to fitness), that person who owns their own successful business (or is in the process of setting it up), that person who has rich, loving and trusting relationships with all those around them (or is making a concerted effort to build such bonds).

I’m in an incredibly fertile environment that is brimming with opportunity. It’s called life, and it’s time I took the next step (even if it’s only a small step). I’ll write about it in due course.

night.

Dissertation: The benefits of procrastination

I was in the library just after 9am this morning; it’s now 1.45am, and I got home 15 minutes ago. A 16.5 hour day, not bad. It was punctuated by an hour spent with my classmates, first year and second students on our course, in a meeting about the Year Abroad. That was fun. It was also really nice to see so many of us Japanese studies students together, you know, like one big family. Even making it through the first year is quite an accomplishment – so in a way we were all survivors.

I think Angela (joint head of Japanese language) does a fantastic job in co-ordinating our year abroad placements. It’s one of those things you take for granted, but she must put in an awful lot of work to make it all happen. Thanks Angela.

…But anyway, apart from that interlude I was in the library, or the basement of the Arts Tower, working on my dissertation. It’s nearly done. I just have to check over my referencing and insert a Table of Contents, then that’s it.

Unfortunately there isn’t really all that much of a sense of achievement. The reason for this is that originally, it was what I felt was a pretty good study of Japan’s NGO sector. That was when it was 13,000 words long. But the limit, imposed on the department by the powers that be (who require uniformity across the faculty), is 7,700 (that’s including the 10% leeway), which means I have basically had to hack it to bits. What I’m left with is a footnote-heavy scribble, jam-packed with only the essential information, and lacking in context – I feel it’s rather a dull read.

I tried to get it down to the prescribed length, but it won’t go. Thus, I’ll have 2% knocked off my final mark for exceeding the word count, but I’d lose more if I tried to cut anything else out, and in a way I think its important to lose the marks – a vain attempt to make a point – you can’t really write a ‘dissertation’ with multiple chapters etc in 7,700 words. Extended essay yes, dissertation no. How about we are told “Between 7,000 and 10,000”. That would make more sense.

Perhaps I should just treat it as an exercise in being Concise.

But anyway, it’s not really about the final mark, it’s about the process, right? No, seriously, it is, and despite the stress and writer’s block, it’s been a really good module, and I’m glad that we’re required to do it. I’m also very grateful for the support I’ve received from my tutors, who saved me from a couple of nervous breakdowns.

And yeah, this procrastination thing: In a bid to avoid this dissertation, I have been very busy over the past few months getting all sorts of things done that would otherwise have gone undone. And now, with so much work to do on the piece and so little time to do it in, I’m forced to be highly productive for hours on end (like today). So, the overall effect is high productivity, high productivity. Win Win.

Must do this productive procrastination thing more often.

Anyway, best get off to bed. I have a team bonding session at 10am for an exciting new project I’m involved with at uni aiming to bring Web 2.0 tools into the learning process. I’m guessing it will mainly involve hugging and things, which is nice for a Thursday morning.