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    Thursday, August 31, 2006

    Strange Dreams

    Very strange dreams of late.

    Last night, for exmaple, I found myself at the theatre in Sheffield, or maybe it was a lecture hall. One of the staff from my department, Takeda Sensei, was there, speaking fluently in Greek. Her friend had just opened a Greek restaurant, and asked her to announce to us, in Japanese, that we would now be watching a short video about how to prepare a fish without turning it over more than once - preserves the flavour you see.

    Earlier in the evening I'd been at a cafe with friends, when William, the old tramp who used to live in a ditch near our school (he really did, had a little tarpaulin home in this great culvert type thing. He was a bit scary to us children as he had a dog that liked to bark and look vicious. When I worked at Wormelow Stores my boss would sigh whenever he entered - as he never washed he stank the place out; I seem to recall he lived on Baked Beans which can't have helped much), er, anyway, he came in to this cafe and started to dip his filthy fingrs in my cup of tea. I was reluctant to scold him, scared that he might turn his dog on me. Eventually, when he'd had enough of his little game, I went and got another cuppa.

    The other night I went away with all my classmates. I guess this was connected with the fact that we're all off to Japan over the next couple of weeks! In my dream, we all went together, and ended up in this chalet-type place. It was all a bit summer-camp-esque. I remember one (now ex-) classmate kept on prodding me with a Squirrel finger puppet. I always did think of them as a wee child!

    Speaking of classmates, I note that we now number only 16 or 17, having started off with about 47 in September 2004. So that's, let me see, a 63% drop-out rate. Hmmm.

    Phoned KLM yesterday to confirm a few bits and bobs. We DO get 30kg of checked-in luggage allowance for some reason, although the woman said she doesn't know why as most pasengers with our sort of ticket only get 20kg (could be thanks to Gendai Travel?). Regarding hand-luggage, a particularly sensitive issue following the revelations earlier this month that a group of terrorists were planning to bring down a load of planes by forcing the pilots to consume vast quantities of gone-off semi-skimmed milk, which would then give them the runs meaning that both pilots would have to spend hours on the loo thus resulting in planes falling out of the sky due to a lack of people at the controls, we are limited to 10kg. This is ok, except for the fact that the dimensions of said carry-on luggage must be no greater than those of a laptop carrying case. We're talking 16cm x 35cm x 45cm. How one is supposed to get 10kg in something that size I don't know, but boy will I try!

    Rather bizarrely, apart from baby milk and window cleaner, the only other thing you aren't allowed to take on board is key fobs - the type you unlock your car with. Laptop computers are no problem. A little odd, me thinks. Still, this is a good thing of course, as it means I need not be parted from my baby during the flight.

    If I can't fill that bag with items that have a combined weight of 10kg, I shall add a couple of lumps of lead.

    Check-in for us begins in Orcop, via the old wind-up internet, at 5.15am on Sunday, the second that e-Checkin opens! Having consulted a diagram of the plane, we have chosen our seats (11D and 11E). Ideally we'd like to be in row 77, but those are First Class Executive with a complimentary masseur and a celebrity of your choice for company, so it's unlikely we'll be able to nab them with our economy status.

    I've decided to take the precautionary step of upping my intake of Epilim over the next couple of weeks. Tiredness and stress are what trigger my epilepsy, and I want to make sure that I don't end up fitting all over the place. Wouldn't make a great impression upon *Twinkle's* family (whom I meet in, er, under 96 hours) if the first thing I did upon entering the house was to fall to the floor, flash around breaking various precious objects, then bite my tongue off, thus not have the abilty to apologise post-epi. The last time I had a major series of minor seizures was last summer, upon my return from Japan. It seems that my body is not too keen on crossing time zones.

    It's very weird to think that by this time next week I will have already been back in Japan for 2 days. *Twinkle* and I have established an agreement that we will not use English to communicate with one another as of halfway across Siberia. It's going to be so tricky to break my habit of giving up on trying to use Japanese when it's so much easier to use a language that we are both essentially fluent in. I need to get over my fear of making mistakes and sounding stupid, the curse of millions of language-learners worldwide.

    Am I allowed to talk about my Mac again? Well, considering this is MY Mumle I don't see why not. Well, just a shorty:
    I can't quite get over how clever Mac's are. I am staggered by the gulf that seems to get wider every day between the dinosaur that is Windows XP, and this beautiful Mac operating system. Spotlight, the built-in search engine is amazing, and the way it integrates into the system (through things like smart folders) changes the whole way you work. I thought Google Desktop Search was good - until I bought my Mac. Automator also knocks my socks off, by allowing me to create my own workflows (like macros), I have been able to carry out tasks in seconds that on Windows XP would have literally taken hours. I love the way you can attach actions to folders - no more tedious resizing of images depending on their destination (TGW / Flickr / Photo library etc), it's all done automatically when the camera is plugged in. Of course, all these things are possible on Windows if you have the software and the patience (and at times, programming knowledge) to set up the systems, but with a Mac, it' so quick, and it's so easy that even I can do it!

    It also has a very nice screensaver that makes you feel high and happy without the need for the intake of drugs.

    Basically, if you need a new computer, buy a Mac!

    Anyway, I'd best get on. A million and one things to do before I pop on down to Bristol this afternoon.


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    Wednesday, August 30, 2006

    in the middle of the night

    What clever things our bodies are!

    I was awoken, at 4.40am, by what at first I thought to be nothing. I carried out an IBS (Initial Body Scan, a program run every time I wake), and noted that it was not time to wake up properly yet, as sleep timer was yet to reach 8 hours. Hmm, why had I woken up? A mystery.

    I decided to run an SBS (Second Body Scan), this time covering areas such as my Outer-Room Audio Detection Program, and Do I Need The Loo? service. And there we had it - a full bladder! Happy that I had found the cause of my awakening, I rolled over, shut my eyes, and wet the bed.

    So now here we are, 70 minutes later, still awake. Thing is, it's all so EXCITING at the moment!! Japan in what, er, 5 days ish. Cripes O'reilly. And I still have sooooo much to do, like learn 150 kanji, go to Bristol for a night, strim the brambles, chop the wood, pack my bags, oggle over my beautiful mac... (I lye in bed and gaze across the room at the desk where it lies sleeping. If I were a Windows PC I would be desperate to insert my floppy, no, hard drive into its USB port, and download my data. The results would be, no doubt, the most beautiful halfcast handheld you could ever wish to create).

    Speaking of which, check out these SHOCKING STATISTICS from Japan!!

    Were *Twinkle* and I married it seems we would be in the top, er, 0%!! Most of the marital population being green with envy. No wonder they have a population crisis. Its not for me to say, but from what I've heard over the years I've spent in the trade it's all down to the size of their willies (I can't spell the plural version of "Penis").

    Having said all that, one should bear in mind that these statistics are the product of a survey carried out on behalf of a Viagra manufacturer, so one suspects they may have employed leading questions to make japan's performance appear to be even worse than it did in the Durex Global Sex Survey, which you will remember ranked Japan at the bottom of the league table, at once every 8 days (although bear in mind that that wasn't restricted to married couples).

    Well, whatever, if the Japanese government is really serious about tackling the population crisis they really should start demanding that convenience stores sell energy drinks containing Viagra, or encourage Toto (Japan's largest toilet manufacturer) to quit trying to sell people loos with built in bum-washers & Dryers, and instead install penis-enlargement devices.



    Hmm, well you never know.

    And with that, having offended 64 million men in the country I'm just about to go and live in, I think I'll go back to bed.

    Night Night.

    Sunday, August 27, 2006

    my mac, and pre-departure images of japan

    phew. the migration is complete.

    I'm told that the average length of time spent setting up a new computer is 5 days. based on past experience, I'd say that's about right. Thus, I'm mightily happy to say that this switch, from my old Toshiba to this shiney new MacBook, is done, only 60 hours after I took delivery of it. Not bad eh, considering how thick i am.

    I tell you what though, I am NEVER going back to Windows. I'd been starting to get the feeling that my old computer wasn't actually mine, that it was just leased from Microsoft, what with their genuine advantage crap and all. Hundreds of processes going on in the background, endless security alerts about this that or the other. All history now. I like the simplicity of it all. For example, if you want to uninstall a program on Windows, you have to faff about with Add or Remove programs. Takes forever to delete all those files, leaves empty folders lying around the place, and a right mess in the basement. With a Mac, it's simply a case of dragging the program icon out of the Applications folder and into the rubbish bin. Done. Originally, I was intending to install Windows on it too, but just don't see the point now.

    And all those clever things it does... and it's so shiney...!

    The move has not been without problems. I've lost all the postal addresses and phone numbers from my address book. Not too fussed there as I only ever really use email these days. I have lost 25% of my music; before the migration I backed it all up onto 18 DVDs. Turns out all 18 DVDs were faulty, thus rendering vast swathes of them unreadable. The rather bizarre thing is that it seems to have chosen every single 4 star and 5 star rated track. Luckily I have another backup copy back a few hundred miles south of here, so shall be retreiving the music at the weekend. Emails: can't import my emails from Outlook into Mac Mail without a lot of hassle. I intend to use the imap method (courtesy of my university email account) but need a windows system to upload from first. That'll have to wait till Japan.

    Apart from that, it's all good. Oh, and the Podcast software - fantastic! Can't wait to try and do something with it rather than just look at it!


    So, I'm feeling kinda jetlagged. Only had 5 hours sleep these past two nights, thanks to wanting to get the migration over and done with so I can learn my last 200 kanji! I must be careful, if I have a epileptic wooptommony this week I'll be in big poo. Smelly poo at that. Speaking of which, Shit! Does it really say 9 days to go up there? I think I'm all sorted now. I've ordered my Japanese yen, sent a big wadge of cash from my UK bank to my Japanese bank account - I just hope it's still open as I've not used it for years! Accomodation is STILL not confirmed. Ce la vie. Have just spent the last 2 days, inbetween looking for the non-existant delete and hash keys on my keyboard, proofreading Twinkle's 14,000 word (40 page) dissertation. For the second time this week. It's great, but I can honestly say I won't be that sorry if I never read it again!!

    We're really moving into the floaty world that is Between World's now. Always happens, when it's about a week before some significant departure. My heart starts to make its was over ahead of me (flight was fully booked you see), leaving me utterly ungrounded.

    If you'll permit me to use the word "Shit" for the second time in this post I's just like to say SHIT! I'm really going back to Japan! What is it about Tokyo that I love so much? The smell of rain on tarmac, the looks of disinterest on people's faces as someone falls off a motorbike, the packed trains full of professors with cameras or mirrors attached to their toes...

    I love the little backstreets. Not dirty, just untidy, with their telegraph poles and aircon units everywhere, flowerpots mingled with bottles of water that allegedly stop the cats pissing on your beautiful concrete wall. I'll have to get a bike pretty soon. In theory, I could cycle to uni from home, but I get the impression that I wo't want to give up so much time for that excercise. I once did the 9-minute subway route from my home to my office in Nishi-Shinjuku, by bike, and wondered how the hell the road managed to be so long. Took me over an hour!

    The closer I get to going back, the more I'm taken back to March 2003, when I came back to the UK after almost 2 years in Japan. I remember thinking how alien thewhole place seemed, and worrying that I would never fit in. I had felt so at home in Japan.

    The housing, that's another thing. It may be cramped by Western standards (although not by Western Student standards if my university accomodation is anything to go by!), but I love it. I like that fake wooden flooring, I love tatami, and the cold - there is something about houses with absolutely no insulation (i.e. 90% of those found in Japan) which just gets me going. I remember waking up and the room being so cold there was no way I could get out of bed and make it to the heater switch on the opposite wall without my feet freezing to the floor first. I love the fruit and veg shops, the stationary stores, the jingles played at the railway stations (each station, and in some cases each platform, having its own unique song).

    And of course, I love being a gaijin. But how thick will the walls of my bubble be this time? The language barrier will be considerably less, but I'll still be a gaijin, and there will be no getting away from that. But oh! What a joy to be a gaijin! All that discrimination! Both good and bad, it's makes for a very exciting time! Watermelons given to me in supermarkets, estate agents refusing to do business with me, strangers asking me how long I have been in Japan (think of that bundle of stereotypical waffle which makes me long to return to Shinjuku, Lost in Translation, when he's in the hospital).

    Ahh it's gonna be exciting, that's for sure. Can't wait to see me mates too. Mr.Tkob, Stu san, to name but two.

    Well, I'm bushwhacked. I have a huge pile of logs to split tomorrow, so I'd better go and sleep.

    much love xxx

    My nephew Edward, who has just this week started to stand up!

    Thursday, August 24, 2006


    You find me stranded in the Herefordian outback, a long, long way from civilisation, broadband and mobile phone signals. The only way out of here is by donkey and trap (due to the passing of a law last month aimed at helping alleviate the pressure on the local donkey sanctury ...which is now empty, resulting in permenant residency being the only option for those of us still here). Passport control, which can be found all around the rim of this picturesque valley, demand that anyone entering strips themselves of their Levis and Gap sweatshirts, and replaces them with calf-length hesian sacks. The electric supply comes and goes; Channel 5 is not available, although I'm unsure as to whether or not this is something to be upset about.

    Mum and dad are being remarkably tolerant. I find being around people with high-anxiety levels immensly stressful, and unfortunately, when I am comfortably familiar with such people, my reaction tends to be one of avoiding-eye-contact-and-running-away. I don't feel good about having permenant PMT. It's not all bad though; dad and I spent a very constructive day together in the back garden, smashing up concrete, digging a trench and pouring concrete in it. The foundations for the mini-extension have been laid. I had promised them that I'd help all week, but the kanji are pressing: I'm up to about 1850 now, and want to cover the remaining 200 before my MacBook arrives, as I know after then I'll have trouble concentrating! It's been terrible this week, cranking up the old pay-as-you-go dialup internet connection 3 times a day to track the package as it makes its way from Shanghai. Apparently, it left China at the weekend, although checking the status today it sems to have decided that it didn't like the West, as the "Truck has arrived at final destination: Shanghai". The delay in delivery really is a blessing though, as it means I can concentrate on my studies. Heaven help me, I really am Gadget Boy.

    I can't quite get over what a busy social life the folks have. They seem to be invited out almost every day of the week. Mind you, they don't always make it. A couple of weeks ago dad borrowed a book from the local vicar, and it was agreed that he would return this important hardback last Friday night, when he and mother joined said vicar and husband for drinks and nibbles. Friday night came, dad went swimming, mum watched a film - they clean forgot. The following morning a phone call came through from a rather agitated vicar, wondering what had happened to my parents, and when the book, vital for her sermon the following day, would be returned. Dad, being somewhat like his youngest son, was mortified at having let them down and causing such bother. Thus, he immidiately jumped in the car and drove to the vicarage. He rang the doorbell, got down on his knees, and put his hands together in the manner of one asking for the Father's forgiveness.

    The door opened.

    It wasn't the vicar.

    It was the vicar's husband who was not in the least bit amused, having cancelled an engagement the night before specifically for my parent's benefit. Dad tried to weedle his way out of the horrendously embarrasing situation through the employment of humour. Vicar's husband remained fuming. Father left quickly.

    That wasn't the only incient of its kind of late. Three weeks ago dad forgot to go to the Much Dewchurch Gardening Club AGM, despite the fact that he was the only one who had been put forward in the committee elections to be held that night for the position of Chairman. He was informed on the phone the following day that the entire club had waited about twenty minutes for him to turn up, before voting him in as Chairman in his absence.

    Tonight they're off at a BBQ down the road, and will no doubt return rather drunk. As lomg as they don't try anything funny whilst I'm in the house. There may be two walls between my room and theirs, but sound does travel.

    In I'm-Going-To-Japan-in-OH-SHIT-12-days news, I can report that everything seems to be proceeding smoothly. All paperwork is now in place, still waiting for confirmation on housing though, and haven't yet figured out how to distract the air-hostesses in order to gain entry to the mile-high club yet. Textbooks are in the post. I hope all the money I sent to my Japanese bank appears on the screen of the ATM when I get there. Recording has begun for (the podcast), and the website / feeds are almost complete. I'll be adding an email notification service to it as soon as I get back onto the internet proper. I've had a bit of feedback from a couple of folks in the year below me at uni, both of whom have just spent the summer WWOOFing in Japan. Their reports are pretty positive, and I'll be meeting up with one of them upon my arrival in Tokyo; have to find the loyal mumbler a shag before he returns to the UK mid-September. He needs to know about the extra muscle.

    Spent the weekend with *Twinkle* who has now finished her 14,000 word dissertation on intercultural marriage. Boy oh boy was it great to be with her when neither of us were stressed. Caw blimey I'm a lucky lad, despite being the target of silent abuse by her neighbours. Probably. In addition to proof-reading and 'appreciating one another', we spent a fascinating evening learning about the huge benefits of financial cooperation, something that had never even occured to me before. We also had an equisite Sunday lunch with someone towards whom I will always feel utterly indebted (identity withheld for reasons involving an olympic swimmer's bid to represent England in 2012).

    My little sis visited yesterday with my two well-groovy nephews. I was mighty proud of Jamie, now almost three years old, when he marched into the bathroom where I was washing concrete off my hands, and proceeded to do a proper grown-up wee standing in front of the loo. I wasn't so impressed when he later wee'd on a chair in front of me, but I suppose it was my fault for being so funny. He's really talking now, which is well groovy. Conversations about socialism and all. Amazing. Edward, at 15 months-ish, is also ultra-coolio, with his scowls, co-ordination and chucking matchbox cars on the floor. Jessie's going to be getting broadband soon too, which means video chats with my nephews from nippon! I look forward to the day that *Twinkle* and I have children. As long as it's not for another 5 years.

    So yeah, life is good.

    Anyway, food is calling. Till next time

    Wednesday, August 16, 2006

    2 weeks 5 days

    argle argle argle. The excitement of everything is almost too much to bear!

    Tuesday, August 15, 2006

    You lookin' at me?

    Yes, mr. caterpillar. I am.

    He was bloomin' impressive I must say. Pretty fierce looking, but didn't bite.

    Anyway anyway what have I been up to? Well, been very busy as ususal. Kanji (up to 1,550 now, 492 to go), preparing data and downloading programs in anticipation of migration to the Mac (ordered this morning, due for delivery next week - can't wait!), gravelling a section of garden, strimming, bought my travel insurance (special "year abroad" policy covers me for the brief trip back to the UK next summer for the wedding), sorted out accomodation in Tokyo (Ogikubo) (many thanks to *Twinkle* for finding it for me and David for paying the deposit in my absence), stockpiled more epilepsy drugs - and I pick up another 22 boxes (2,200 tablets) tomorrow - hurrah for free prescriptions! Let's hope the authorities don't accuse me of drug smuggling or the such like...

    Today marks official entry into the legendry Three Week Time Zone. Time spent in such a time zone has been proven by scientists to go Extra Fast, especially if one still has 492 kanji to learn and one is going to be receiving a MacBook (and a 2GB Ipod nano for free incidentally). Believe me, from here on it's one great big rollercoaster.

    I hope time stands still at the weekend as that's when I'll be visiting *Twinkle*. If time doesn't stand still, at least the Earth Will Move ;-) Something very special is happening on Sunday, about which I am forbidden from commenting, but which I'm soooo happy about.

    Following a weekend up in Sheffield it's back to my folks' place for a few days to help them start building a porch - concrete smashing and the such like. Should be fun, I quite enjoyed helping them put the greenhouse up a couple of years back. Bonding and all that stuff you know.

    Anyway, as you have probably gathered by now, I don't really have anything of interest to tell you at the moment you, but hold onto your hats because the ride is about to begin!

    what a cutey!

    Sunday, August 13, 2006

    Goodbye Bill, Hello Steve

    (Gadget boy speech ahead)

    Ahh, I have finally succumbed.

    After years of mocking those 'pretend' computers known as Macs, whilst secretly always wanting one, I have decided it's time to make the switch.

    Thing is, my current laptop, now in it's third year of daily use, really is on it's way out. Broken hinges, missing key, hard drive completely full and - most serious of all - CD/DVD drive broken, it is becoming more and more stressful to use. The main problem is this: without a working internal CD ROM drive it is impossible to format and reinstall. Thus, 3 years of gunk have piled within the confines of the C drive, gunk that will not shift no matter how many times one deletes files manually, runs clean-up programs or defrags. The only thing that will clean this baby (other than a working internal CD ROM drive that will cost over 300 pounds to have installed) is Mr. Muscle Oven Cleaner. But I don't like the smell.

    It's got to the stage whereby if I want to read emails in my email application, I have to click on the icon, then go away for up to ten minutes whilst it launches. That is no exaggeration! Image the temptation to hit it with a hammer!

    So, the decision was made some time ago that I needed a replacement at some point within the next six months. Money was set aside for it ...and I thought I'd probably get another Windows system. However, I've become increasingly disenchanted with what Microsoft have to offer - and all these Genuine Advantage spyware programs bug me. Only this morning my laptop restarted whilst I was out of the room because Microsoft told it to. Severed my download of the 007 podcast! Vista, the new MS operating system due out next year is sounding increasingly blahhhh; all in all, time for a change. I love my iPod, it has made a huge difference to my summer, and has provided me with education and entertainment through Podcasts and so forth. AND it's so sexy I sleep with it. Speaking of Podcasts, I think it was looking into the requirements for making Advanced Podcasts that really got me thinking about buying a Mac. Thing is, you just can't make an Advanced podcast (i.e. one that includes chapters/different photos/clickable links - see the Q Magazine music review podcast for an example) on a Windows system - you need Apple's Garage Band software and a special plugin.

    The software issue (i.e. Windows software not working on a mac) is proving to not be such a big deal. Turns out that both Mac and Windows use the same version of Dreamweaver. There's some good cheap image-editing software that can replace Photoshop (I rarely used its advanced features anyway), and I can live without Office. And of course, I could partition the 100GB hard drive and install Windows on the other bit if push came to shove. Speaking of specs, I've opted for a 1GB memory, and 2GHz Intel Core Duo. That should be plenty to cope with the huge images from the Sony Alpha 100 I'll be getting when I land (the pound is so expensive at the moment, great for us going on our year abroad).

    As you can tell, I'm excited. I am Gadget Boy. I know that this does not fit comfortably with my anti-consumerist beliefs, but I am prepared to be a hypocrite when it comes to computers. My apologies, Earth and People.

    The only thing is - will it arrive in time? It takes them 3 days to make it, 7 days to ship. That's ten days from Monday when I order it, which takes us up to the 24th, only ten days before I leave. Hmm, it should be enough time I spose.

    Will my kanji study dissapear out of the window? I hope not.

    Anyway, I'd best be off. Have to try to figure out how to transfer over 6,000 emails from Outlook to Apple Mail. There appears to be no direct route, so I may have to type them all again, one by one...


    Friday, August 11, 2006

    TGW outage

    I know TGW went down for much of yesterday, and I'm pretty sure it'll disappear again at some point in the next few days, for anything up to 3 days. Once it's back up it should be fair sailing for as far as the eye can see, and a bit further than that too, even if you are using binoculars.

    It's all part of my global domination plan.

    UPDATE: Ok, all done. We have sucessfully made the transatlantic voyage despite the grounding of passenger flights to the US. We can now enjoy 25 times the bandwith we had previously, at about a third of the price. Hurrah!

    Thursday, August 10, 2006

    The podcast is coming

    Well well well what a busy boy I have been.

    I've spent the past couple of days - in-between digging clay out from beneath a polytunnel that is undergoing a resurection - creating all the gubbins behind the podcast I plan to launch next month.

    There was me thinking it would take five minutes. But oh no... First there's the logo and all in Photoshop (it's very basic, but I like it), then hours wrestling with the CSS to try and get the layout right, then there's the server on which I'm testing it crashing, then there's the myriad of RSS feeds to tie up, iTunes to submit it to blah dee blah dee blah. Anyway, it's all done, and I've even uploaded my pilot episode, which thankfully, iTunes managed to pick up. In fact I've just received an email from them telling me that it is now officially listed in the iTunes music store, picture and all! The first episode is 13 seconds long, saying "please come back next month". Exciting stuff.

    Oh, while I think of it, sometime in the next week Tame Goes Wild will be moving, from Canary Wharf in London, to some server in the US. In theory this will not result in any downtime, but knowing how these things usually go, it may dissapear from your screens for a while. The end result will hopefully mean no more crashes, and less money going out of my pocket. Go Daddy have amazing customer service, thoroughly reccommend them.

    Ok, enough tech talk. So, the podcast... I'm thinking one 30-minute episode per week. Am yet to think of what to include - IDEAS PLEASE!! I'm thinking general updates on how life is going over there, gaijin alert incident reports (ooooooooohh), phone-in messages (arghh that means publishing my Skype i.d.) (not that it's exactly tricky to find me as it is), interviews with ...people? Dogs in tracksuits? (either face-to-face or via Skype, although I'm not sure how good dogs are at using Skype). Reviews of the best electronics stores ...and 101 other ways to spend your scholarship. I'll have to get *Twinkle* in on the action too, for a weekly Japanese lesson. Then of course there's music, lots of free and legal tunes available on the podsafe music network...

    Any more ideas?

    It could of course be a pile of crap, but ultimately, this does not matter in the slightest. The fact is is that this is primarily an exercise in the development of confidence, a voyage into the world of broadcasting (albeit in a very small way). Whether or not I get an audience is not of great concern. Too big an audience would actually be a problem as my bandwidth is limited! Having said that, it would be delightful if I could entertain a few souls upon the way, as it does make me smile when I see others moving their facial muscles to perform such an action. That one too.

    Anyway anyway if anyone has any idea of what you would like to hear on the podcast do let me know, as I'm clueless.

    thankin you.


    Sunday, August 06, 2006

    Weather Permitting, I'll have somewhere to live


    Today, The Daily Mumble finds me riding a Virgin.
    The view is spectacular.

    I'm on the line between Newton Abbot and Exeter, a journey which provides stunning scenery if one looks out to one's right, out onto the Atlantic ocean. At least I think it's the Atlantic – the one that blobs up and down off the south coast of England whilst looking blue. To my left, the estate surrounding Powderham Castle. A herd of deer, a bunch of moo moos, a flock of silage bales twinkling black and white in the bright sunshine, blackberry pickers lining the hedgerows, eating more than they put in their recycled ice-cream containers, a scrap metal yard with stacks of semi-crushed cars balanced precariously up to the sky. Cotton wool clouds and Lance Bros. Logistics.

    I've just spent the weekend with my brother and his lady, enjoying a real holiday which for me involves watching TV, eating bacon, drinking San Miguel and taking photos of the Devonshire outback. It's so nice sometimes to be a complete lazy git and do nothing. Startrek, Startrek The Next Generation, The Flintstones, all had me enthralled, glued to the box. A real treat was provided by Friday's showing of Trainspotting, which I've not seen for at least 8 years. A genuinely great film in my opinion, and one that rounded off a really nice day, the majority of the latter half of which was spent on the beach at Weather Permitting, the greatest festival to hit the south coast in the last 7 days.

    A few of the revellers around the washing machine

    The turnout was good, both in terms of numbers and in terms of quality. A fire-filled washing machine drum provided the heat for the BBQ, whilst the sea provided wetness for paddling. One of our number had her foot nibbled by a seal, something that would have induced jaws-like panic in me, but which she took in her stride. Mind you, I do have a great fear of the sea, possibly stemming from the time when I was swept out by the rip current and had to be rescued by lifeguards, combined with last summer's Japanese Jellyfish incident in which I found myself surrounded by the things. Thus, when the Aerobie thrown by my brother sailed over my head and into the sea, I hesitated – dare I enter the water to retrieve the costly article before it sank? That beach had a habit of suddenly dropping away, and I didn't have my swimming gear on. And it was bloody freezing!

    As you can see, I did eventually brave the depths of the Atlantic, wading in as the red rubber ring sank to the shifting sands below. After a brief struggle I managed to fetch it from its watery resting place, and thankfully lived to tell the tale.

    Stephen returns from washing the washing machine in the sea

    This weekend I also received some somewhat disconcerting news – my accommodation in Japan has fallen through, four weeks before arrival. It's not so much the practical implications of this that I find upsetting – I'm sure I'll be able to sort something out for when I get there – it's more the emotional significance. It had been John John's wish that his apartment in Tokyo, where he had been based for many many years, be 'kept in the family' in the event that he was not able to return there. We had been planning my stay there since last year, as he’d been planning to take a 'year out of Japan' in any case, long before his health began to fail. Thus, when he began his further travels on the non-Earthly plain, it was decided that it would be appropriate for us to proceed as planned.

    Unfortunately, the situation has now changed, and it will now not be viable for us to 'keep it in the family' as John John had wished. Whilst this is no-one's fault, I do feel somewhat guilty, guilty for letting JJ down, being unable to keep my promise. Still, these things happen,. It just requires a bit of a shift of thinking on my part. The thing is, my heart had already began to move to its new home in Kichijoji – an example of that can be seen in the map of the local park that I published a few days back.

    Despite all this, I now feel quite positive about the situation. I am a firm believer that there is a reason for everything, no matter how unfair it may seem at first. I am sure that what had happened will ultimately result in a situation which works for the benefit of all. Indeed, the first signs of this are already producing buds, as I consider this new set of circumstances, and think of possible solutions, solutions which fundamentally shift how my year in Japan may pan out.

    Anyhow, my Virgin is just about to pull into Bristol Temple Meads where I need to change, so I must depart.


    Wednesday, August 02, 2006


    GAHHH! I'm too excited!!

    Kanji, and letters from my LEA have that effect upon me.

    PLUS the fact that I have yet another WHOLE DAY AHEAD OF ME!

    a very satisfying day

    Another amazingly productive day.

    Woke up at 6.15am ready to go gardening. fell asleep again five minutes later and woke up two hours later, alarm clock down the side of the bed.

    I went for my morning jog. I did my stretchy-exercises: I want to be able to get my leg behind my neck, so that *Twinkle* and I can do synchronised leg-behind-neck-whilst-brushing-teeth routines. (?) There is currently 23cm between the tips of my fingers and the ground when I try to touch my toes with knees locked. Watch this space.

    Speaking of *Twinkle*, a Google search revealed today that she is famous, with her photograph and story on two websites, and her name mentioned on a further two. What's more, these are no ordainary websites, oh no. I can't be too specific, but the two with her photo on are UK Government websites in the UK and the USA, whilst the mentions of her name are on a Canadian govenment website, and the homepage of NASA! I kid you not!

    (Incidentally, the appearances on those government sites are NOT in the "WANTED" sections, although if they were, they would read, "WANTED, for being Too Damn Sexy")

    Anyway, where was I? Ah yes, stretching. Following that, I shredded 5 ash trees (far too many of them at the WGP, bad for the ecosystem), including one great big Whopper. These chippings are now lining the paths between the vegee beds. Split some logs with my mighty axe, stacked said logs, came in for lunch. Did some kanji, read my book on investing, and then had my afternoon nap. Afternoon naps are so under-rated here in the UK, but do you the world of good.

    I was woken up by 2 tonnes of pea gravel, and a grumpy delivery driver. That's one of my next jobs now the two sets of steps are complete - levelling the land and spreading the peas. Mushy mushy mushy.

    I then did something else, what was it? Oh yes, I played a great game which teaches you how to get out of the rat race, and basic financial literacy. Great stuff. I lost miserably the first time, won within 30 minutes the second. Hurrah for me! Then listened to the final episode of Start The Week, love that program, shame the series has now come to an end. Also listened to a very inspirational story about a German couple whose turned their lives around following the deaths of two of their children. Incredible stuff. Really makes you realise that life really is too precious to waste on bullshit (like working in an office etc).

    I then went for my evening jog, and even broke into a sweat!! I'm starting off gently - training you see. It's connected with dear John John: the first time I went to japan, one of the first things we did was go out for a jog in his local park. I can still remember it, around the pond again and again - he just kept going (despite being over 30 years my senior) when I collapsed on a bench. It is my intention to give JJ's spirit company should he decide to revisit his earthly haunts, by jogging along his favourite route around the local park (thanks to TKob for inspiration).

    This evening I have been trying to unsucessfully convince one of my old classmates who dropped out last year to start the course again. He has a plan though which is mightily good, so he should be in Japan next year too.

    And now, having mumbled, it is time for a shower, video chat with *Twinkle*, kanji and bed, so I can be up bright and early at either 6.15am or 8.15am depending on how tired I am!

    A very satisfying day.