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Happy New Year!

Three months have now passed since my last blog entry. Facebook friends and Twitter followers will have also noticed that I have not been posting so frequently on those platforms either.

Whilst this has been partly a reflection of my schedule (having less time to post), it’s also been a semi-conscious decision.

Life has changed quite a bit these last few months. The big change of course has been the arrival of Ricky, who is doing really well. He’s growing so fast, developing new skills every week (he did his first tummy-time head-lift a couple of days ago!). He’s also had his nappy changed no less than 893 times, and has spent almost 120 hours feeding (and that’s pretty accurate thanks to the tracking app Twinkle and I use). He’s sleeping through from 8.30pm to 4am most nights, and looking very cute whilst doing so.

It’s hard to tell if there’s any character traits emerging yet – and I’m not sure what we’d be looking for if we were being obsessive – but his temperament (so far!) is generally calm and quiet (aside from when his digestive system is giving him grief as it does fairly regularly, not uncommon in babies).

He’s smiling now when we play simple games with him (tickling, touching noses etc), and seems to have grasped that it’s not just mummy who’s important, but that I am someone to be liked and laughed with/at (since 2 weeks ago).

We’re very excited to see him continue to develop, to see his personality emerge, to be his guides as he discovers the wonders of the world.

Another big change was around the same time as his birth – I switched my work pattern from carrying out multiple smaller video projects as Wild Tame Co., Ltd to joining a startup founded by friends – IMPACT Japan – (connected with TEDxTokyo). As a founding team member (although technically I’m a consultant provided by Wild Tame Co., Ltd; having our own business remains a core part of our life plan) I work out of the organisation’s new shared office, and am helping build the entire business / program from scratch. It’s a really interesting and valuable project supporting post-disaster Tohoku – you can read more about it here.

This shift of my resources was something that had been on the cards for several months. With Twinkle having left her full time job at the start of the year, Wild Tame was the sole employer of the family, providing video production / web streaming services to a number of Tokyo-based clients big and small.

My timing to enter the market (and specifically the SME/Governmental segment of that market) was not ideal – recent years have seen the web/ event video market become saturated, with some Japanese outlets able to charge ridiculously small sums for their services. Thus, whilst I was able to make enough to pay the bills, it was extremely time-consuming, and without capital available I was limited when it came to expansion options.

More importantly though, my heart wasn’t really in it. Yes, I was happy to be doing something somewhat creative, being my own boss, able to provide friends with employment, having a very flexible schedule, working from home …but ultimately, anyone could have done what I was doing.

I think that it was this realisation, coupled with the impending arrival of Ricky, that was the key to making me reconsider all that I was working 7-days-a-week for. Over the summer, Twinkle and I did a lot of thinking, mapped out various options, consulted with friends in relevant industries who had years of experience behind them. We listened, we thought, we developed rough business outlines, we scrapped them and went through the process again. We would settle upon a plan and keep that in our minds, and then see how we felt about our decision a couple of weeks later.

The most valuable part of this process was that it made it clear what we didn’t want to be doing (such as taking on investment and buiding our own creative agency).

Over time though, we found ourselves coming back again and again to something I knew in my gut – that a big part of our future was connected to my being some kind of performance artist. The successes I’ve had over the past few years with projects revolving around running, windmills and technology have been real highlights, indeed our greatest successes (bear in mind that Twinkle has been an important part of all of these behind the scenes). We see that these kind of projects also have the greatest potential in terms of enjoyment, creative contentment, self-improvement, health and the opportunity to travel; they are also the hardest to replicate in that they have to be original and are tied to my persona.

It was around the time of reaching this conclusion that I was approached by the IMPACT Japan team. I recognised the value in that project for the community (both in Tohoku and here in Tokyo), and saw that I was a good fit for the needs of a lean startup, being a jack-of-all-tech-trades. Having a repeat client that offered some flexibility (including flexible employment for Twinkle when the time is right, which is pretty soon) but a regular payment also gave us some security – something we’d like for the time being as this whole parenthood thing is full of unknowns!

Thus the decision was made.

Being in startup mode and having Ricky on the scene has meant that since October I’ve not actually spent any time on further developing my/our own projects (this is reflected in the lack of public posts). That’s OK. I needed some time to adjust to the new reality. However, with the new year, I feel it’s time to pick back up and put in consistent effort to make our dreams a reality.

So what does that mean in reality? Well, there’s plenty of practical steps to be taken, such as: get fit (not only for the marathon on Feb 23rd but also as fitness is a key part of my image of myself); spend time developing my contraptions (as I have done this week, see the video below); spend time thinking up, drawing, prototyping new ideas; instead of reading news sites read design, tech and art related sites; learn the basics of OpenFrameworks to at least understand the potential, buy a RaspberryPi and make something simple with it…

But hang on, where’s the time going to come from to do this?

That’s a question I asked myself as I was being inspired by Give It 100. Initially I was thinking of setting myself a whole bunch of mini-projects using that platform to keep me on track with each, but then I drilled down, and realised that the main habit I need to develop is one of actively tackling procrastination.

I’ve come to realise that procrastination has become a bit of a problem, and is holding me back from realising my full potential (something that is important to me). Whether it’s reading all the news on the BBC site late at night, or not putting something back where it belongs at home (leading to a messy environment and a messy mind), I see it occurring on a daily basis.

I’ve been aware of my tendency to procrastinate for many years now, and have sought to turn it on itself by doing other things that need to be done when I see myself avoiding some particular task (which I really don’t want to do). But, that in itself is not tackling the fundamental issue, and I see now that it’s starting to cause pain in my life (and is a pain for Twinkle at times too!). This is pain that is totally unnecessary.

So, I’ve decided to Actively Beat Procrastination for 100 days. Basically, whenever I sense that I am procrastinating, I will act to do the thing that I am avoiding.

Coupled with this I am going to Actively Not Get Distracted. When it comes to computer work, I am a multitasker, and frequently flit between emails and other work, usually having multiple apps open on multiple monitors. I understand that multitasking does have it benefits, but for someone like myself I think it does more harm than good (just laughing at myself as I’ve just caught myself attempting to update another wordpress site whilst writing this paragraph!).

Because of how easily I get distracted I don’t think it would be a good idea to use the 100 Days site – recording and uploading a daily video is an invitation to divert my attention! Instead, I’m going to use Audioboo to track my progress.

So there we go.

Well, I think I’ll leave it there for this update. Thanks for reading.

Joseph

The arrival of Ricky

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It’s now 6 days since we were blessed with the arrival of Ricky. Although his due date was October 11th, we expected him to arrive early, and sure enough, one week after reaching full term (37 weeks) Twinkle’s contractions began.

What we weren’t expecting was such a protracted labour: in the end Twinkle endured 34 hours of contractions, the first 16 hours of which were at home, the last 18 of which were at the hospital. The reason for this was probably because for the final 3 months of the pregnancy Twinkle hadn’t been allowed out of the house / to exercise, due to the risk of a premature delivery. Because of that it seems the muscles needed for delivery were a little weak. In the end she had an IV drip that triggered stronger contractions, and 6 hours later Ricky was born.

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I stayed with Twinkle throughout the process, massaging her lower back to help relieve the extreme pain she felt as Ricky slowly descended. This, and the actual delivery itself, left me in absolute awe of her – she really was incredible, remaining determined throughout despite her obvious exhaustion.

The final stage of delivery was relatively quick, but completely mind-blowing. As the father, seeing Ricky emerge and within a few seconds give his first hearty cry brought tears to my eyes – tears of joy, tears of relief.

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The hospital staff were fantastic. Professional, reassuring, caring. Within a couple of minutes they had the umbilical cord cut and clamped, Ricky cleaned up and in mummy’s arms. Following that they carried out all the usual checks to make sure he had everything he was supposed to have (he does!), measured him, gave him a quick bath, weighed him and returned him to mummy and daddy.

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It’s standard procedure in Japan to keep mums and babies in for 5 or 6 days, which for us, as first-time parents, was a huge help. As well as ensuring that both Ricky and mummy could fully recover from the marathon delivery, they also provided a lot of help and advice when it came everyday care, including feeding, bathing and so forth. With the hospital just a short walk from home it was easy for me to visit each day.

This morning they were finally ready to come home. Having just had a feed, Ricky slept throughout the journey, and once home settled into his new mini-futon without complaint.

Today there’s been a steady stream of deliveries; gifts from generous friends, a dedicated nappy bin complete with 720 bin bags (enough for several years!), a child savings-plan certificate… pretty much everything is in place. Next week we’ll register his birth with our local city hall, and following that the British Embassy.

It’s a delight to have him home. So far he has been angelic, doing nothing but eat, sleep, poo and wee. I think he’s only cried for a total of 5 seconds, and was quickly subdued with the offer of a drink! Long may this angelic streak continue to dominate!

Some observations: it’s remarkable how strong his arms and legs are considering he’s only 6 days old. He’s started to have fun with them too, waving them about all over the place (especially when having his nappy changed). Also, he seems to have very good hearing, as he jumps at even relatively quiet ‘sharp’ sounds (thus we’re grateful to have a very quiet house).

I’m very grateful that his arrival and first week in this world have gone so smoothly. He seems content, and is both feeding and pooing well, which is the main thing. I’m very much looking forward to see him grow, and feel privileged to be tasked with being his daddy and helping him explore the many wonders this world has to offer.

Joseph

The Art of Running: 385km (240 mile) Tokyo 2020

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This is a repost of the blog I originally posted here.

With just hours to go before the host city of the 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games is chosen, I’m delighted to share my latest Art of Running project, completed late this afternoon. I ran this in support of the Tokyo 2020 campaign: having seen the positive impact that the London games had on my home country last year, I would love for the Games to come to Japan.

route-exampleThis was by far the most ambitious piece I’ve done to date, and saw me run 385km of Tokyo streets. The design, that of the emblem of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic campaign, features 83 petals, the outlines of which are between 2km and 8km each. I chose to place the design in the heart of the city, with the Imperial Palace as the centrepiece around which the flowers bloom.

This project was unlike any other I’ve attempted. For a start, the detail and scale of the picture meant that my usual method of ‘painting’ the picture wouldn’t work – there were too many uncrossable rivers, roads and other obstacles in the way. So, I experimented, and came up with a new method, similar to join-the-dots. This brought with it the necessity to use two GPS trackers (an iPhone and a Galaxy S4 running Runkeeper) …and to run a lot further than I usually would, what with all the running around obstacles.

It was also unlike any other I’ve attempted in that the course was incredibly diverse. In addition to the well-known shopping / entertainment districts, there were many quiet residential areas hidden away in places you’d never expect. Little lanes without lighting, tiny shrines tucked behind skyscrapers, incredibly steep hills that really should be serviced by ropeways, parks that have been left to grow wild with an abundance of meadow flowers.

joseph_supporting_tokyo2020My route took me into hospitals and hotels, across university campuses, through tunnels, and across countless bridges. Three petals required me to run around Tsukiji fish market, another two saw me running around the Russian Embassy no less than 8 times (leaving some bemused policemen). During another run I was stopped twice by police, the second time, a couple of hours after the first, was for encouragement by a policeman who’d heard what I was doing over the police radio.

I was shouted at by a baseball team manger and laughed at by the players for running across a baseball pitch during a game at Meiji Jingu (!). I was cheered on my way several times by people who recognised me from my other projects and asked what I was drawing.

In fact, wherever I went, the people I met were welcoming; smiling, laughing, asking questions, encouraging – regardless of their age or occupation.

Through this project I feel I’ve come to know Tokyo a lot better, and I’ve also come to feel a lot more at home here. It’s a very special city, with incredible diversity, and great warmth too.

It’s my hope that Tokyo is chosen as the host city for the 2020 Olympics – it would be a huge boost for the city and country – and I have no doubt it would also result in a very memorable games for people coming from across the globe.

If you’d like to check out the route in more detail, download the GPS data here and open all files in Google Earth.

UPDATE: IT WORKED!
I’m delighted that this project had the desired effect – bringing the Olympics to Tokyo! Tremendously excited already – it’s going to be a great 7 years!

Discovery Channel

This is a repost of an article first posted here.

Discovery Channel’s Daily Planet was in Japan recently as part of an Asia Tech Week, covering robots, Tokyo-style skyscraper demolition… and an artistic tech runner with a thing for LEDs.

We spent a couple of days with the crew, first at our home office planning the route we were to run (a 22km Canadian Maple leaf as Daily Planet is Canada-based) and prepping the gear, and a second day out on the streets shooting.

This was really fun to film, with a lot of interaction with folks on the streets. I’m glad that TwinkleTame was able to be a part of it too.

Discovery Channel Maple Leaf

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Any excuse for a bit of make-up

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Parenting Class

Parenting Class

Yesterday, Twinkle and I waddled along to the hospital for a parenting class. I say waddled, as Twinkle isn’t allowed to walk. An examination a couple of weeks back showed that there’s a risk of premature delivery, and she needs to avoid any exercise that might encourage the little chappy to make an early entrance. If the situation worsens she’ll be hospitalised until October, which of course is something we want to avoid if possible, thus she is essentially under house arrest, but without police involvement.

Anyhow, back to the hospital, where we were treated to a lesson on the various stages of labour, hospital check-in procedures, guidance on creating a birthing plan, complications that can occur and how they’ll be dealt with – plus a tour of the maternity unit.

The highlight however was a superb performance by the staff of a typical birthing process, from the first contractions to the point after the delivery where the extended family can be invited in to meet the new addition. Our midwife played the role of the panicking husband trying his best (very funny!), with the other staff playing the roles of the short-tempered wife and the doctor.

The photo above was taken seconds after the birth (made somewhat more real by an elaborate costume), with the umbilical cord still attached to the placenta which was yet to be removed.

Another memorable part of the session was when the fathers were taught how to help their wives deal with early labour pains, by shoving their fists up their bottoms (not actually inside!); we were told that if we got tired we could actually use a tennis ball instead.

Overall I was reassured by the session; I now have a much clearer idea of what to expect when the time comes.

In other news: I completed the Anpanman running art project, and am continuing work on developing my new wearable computer.

…and continuing to work through my thoughts and feelings re. long term goals.

We’re getting there.

Joseph