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    Tuesday, October 30, 2007

    Time Management Part 2

    One thing that today's session highlighted for me was just how difficult I find it to say 'No'. This results in my becoming involved in many different projects - spreading my resources thinly, leading to an overall net loss in effectiveness.

    I've been trying hard to say No more often. In meetings, where volunteers are called for, I've started keeping quiet, instead of feeling bad that this person is going to have to do whatever it is by themselves. I've got my commitments, it's not an act of selfishness, it's pragmatism.

    The real trouble starts though when it's things I really want to do. Take for example my postcard business. This is something I would love to start (more for a sense of personal satisfaction than to make money), and here is Sheffield, if you have a business idea you'll find start-up funds being thrown at you left right and centre (some of which we've already been beneficiaries of). Once I graduate and leave Sheffield these opportunities will pass - would it be stupid for me to not take advantage of them while I can?

    Perhaps if I had no other goals that were more important to me than (for example) my postcard business, then yes, I think it would be. But of course, I do have other goals, the most importnat one being obtaining a degree in Japanese Studies. I really do feel like I'm on a knife edge with this one. My kanji recognition is very poor, as are my speaking skills (at least in the classroom. I'm fine afterwards having daily conversations. My listening skills are good too). My range of vocab has plummeted; I find this somewhat worrying.

    So when a friend of mine from Bristol phones up tonight, tremendously excited with a business idea that also appeals to me, I feel bad. I really want to say yes - after all, if we don't seize the moment it will pass! - but no, I don't want to do that as much as I want to succeed in my degree course. It hurts doing so, but I force myself to not voice enthusiasm when it comes to discussing my part in things. I can't live my life for other people! They would never expect me to in any case. They'll be just fine without me. They always have been, they always will be. Yes, maybe I am missing the opportunity of a lifetime, but they'll be plenty more.

    The battle between living for today and making adequate provisions for the future is a vicious one, and not one that I enjoy.

    But, my decision has been made. This year it's my degree that takes priority. I must work hard to not feel guilty about letting others down, and to not make myself feel that I'm 'wasting' my university years by studying. This is what I came here to do. I just have to do it.

    Time Management

    So, I went to my Time Management session today - a two hour workshop run by PriceWaterhouseCoopers, delivered for free thanks to the university's Life Skills program.

    I thought it pretty ironic when, on leaving the session, I looked at my watch and realised that I'd just missed my 3pm lecture! (A lecture given by a charming, charismatic man who has written a few fantastic books which are available here for you to purchase right now. Make sure you tell him that Joseph sent you).

    The presentation itself wasn't all that helpful. It was all common sense stuff: make lists, have long-term objectives etc. (For a copy of the PDFs text "TIME youremailaddress" to 85792 (UK only)). Some of the most innovative and practical tips actually came from other participants. I think the disappointment primarily stemmed from the fact that at the beginning of the session they asked for aspects of time management that we wanted to deal with. "Yep, they're all great suggestions, and I think we'll cover them all this afternoon" we were told. And then we didn't. Perhaps the most useful thing I learnt was 'Time management is 99% self-discipline', which is of course a made-up statistic, but it's been made up for a reason.

    Despite this, it was a good kick up the bum. My time management will probably be great this week, and then disappear altogether at the weekend when I get my Mac back.

    As you may have guessed, we're on a bit of a downer today. Poor *Twinkle* has had a
    very high temperature for several days now, and being barely able to eat has lost over a kilo since she became ill last Friday.

    Then there's having no music, no phone, no ability to look at photos. The sound works fine on this laptop when it comes to voicing Windows error messages, but other than that not a peep.

    Anyway, I guess I'd best make use of this opportunity. I think I might go back to the library, it'll stop me moping.


    Monday, October 29, 2007


    Recently what with all these data backups and so on, I've been thinking,

    "It's a shame I never kept copies of my original website. All that time I put in to writing my first bits of code... That ghastly light blue colour scheme..."

    And then tonight, completely by chance, I stumbled across an archive of old web pages - and look what they had in there...

    Tame Goes Wild - when it was still in December 2001, just a few months after I first published it.


    Incidentally, it was a few years back when I accidentally let slip. It was then bought by some some company that tried to sell it back to me for a million pounds. I said no, and waited. Until today, when I got it back - for 5 pounds. Hurrah! It should be pointing this way within 24 hours.

    Accepting me for me

    It's been a good weekend. Got lots done. I think it was a good thing that I didn't have my Mac this weekend.

    The nervous tension brought on by the knowledge that next week I will get it back with a new screen, new keyboard, new optical drive, new Operating system, new iLife suite and double the RAM it had before has been enough to send me into a study frenzy! I spent another 10 hours in the library Information Commons today, and as a result of that completed virtually all of basic homework for the coming week. In addition to the two translations, the (Japanese) self-intro for the job application, the research into the immigration system in Japan (have you seen the new measures they're introducing this month?! They think we're all crimnials!) and the newspaper article, I also managed to finish off two text books on Work in Japan and turn them into a few pages of notes. Then, encouraged by my homework, I wrote the first draft of my real life application for the JET program, having downloaded the 52 page guidance manual. With competition so stiff nothing can be taken for granted, it's going to be tough. I've sent my referees the guidelines that need to be followed for their contributions (includes the seal of the envelopes being signed!), and initiated the getting-copies-of-my-transcripts process.

    Wow, it's all happening!

    Whilst doing some of that translation homework today, I observed an interesting attitude revealing itself within me.

    I often talk about bettering oneself, and how important I think it is to push oneself beyond one's comfort zone whenever possible. Thus, I was a little taken aback when I found myself saying,
    "Hmm, it's not great Joseph. But it'll do.'s very you!"
    And thinking back on events last week, notably the presentations I gave, I recall feeling similar feelings there. I didn't really follow the regular academic presentation pattern (although come to think of it I doubt there is such a thing). I was more a Labrador on steroids. In fact in one of the presentations I left out most of what I'd planned to say as I was too hyper to look at my notes. I ended up just going with what it said on my Keynote presentation, and adding chunks of stuff that flew into my head along the way. Thus, it wasn't quite as academic as it could have been. I missed out on the clever vocab, and got rather emotionally involved. Despite this, it went down very well.

    Where does this feeling stem from? It's not laziness is it?

    I don't think so.

    No, I think it's more to do with the fact that I seem to be trusting myself a lot more lately. If I am just me, if I am true to myself, things will all work out. There will be no room for regret, as I am just 'myself', and that's who I am. There's no point in worrying.

    Yes, I know I've been saying these things in a repetitive manner for several months, but as this is the first time I've seen the attitude and the results manifested in an academic situation, it feels all new all over again.

    I want to do well in my degree, but at the same time I feel it's not helpful to overburden myself. Still, if I continue having weekends such as this one (which I have really enjoyed actually) I think I will do well. Whatever 'well' means.

    Anyway, bed time for me. I have to be up bright and early for a time-management course. It's being run by some professional advisers from a large corporation, the name of which escapes me, so I'm hoping that I may be able to learn a thing or two from it!

    Sunday, October 28, 2007

    Under the sea

    I think if it was just a case of having to put up with the very loud prostitute outside my window I wouldn't feel that stressed.

    But combine that with having to use Windows XP and it's enough to make one want to live in a submarine. For about 10 years. Without oxygen.

    p.s. Excellent news from Google - Gmail now offers IMAP support! They're rolling it out over the next few days, just go to your settings and select the IMAP option.


    It was about 10am when I heard the crash. Jumping up from my bouncy ball I pulled the net curtain back, and peered out onto the main road. There were a lot of stationary cars, a motorbike on its side, and in their midst, a guy lying on his back.

    Seeing this, I dialled 999 and was put through to a man who asked me what the situation was. I briefly explained, asking for both police and an ambulance; at the same time I was trying to clear my head enough so figure out where my jeans and jacket were.

    Name, address, phone number, number plates of vehicles involved, description of victim, is he conscious and breathing? Your name? Oh, sorry, I asked you that before.

    By this time I was squatting in the road with the biker, David. Beside him, his bike, with the front totally scrunched up, lay bleeding petrol. With me was a man who’s witnessed the accident and parked his van diagonally across the road so as to stop oncoming traffic, and a doctor who’d been passing by (those medical folks really do come out of the woodwork when there’s an accident you know: in the 10 minutes we were waiting for the ambulance, no less that seven people stopped and introduced themselves as either doctors or nurses!).

    Dave himself was alright, apart from what seemed to be a broken arm, and shock. The driver whose fault it was was not in such a good space. Pacing up and down the road, repeating “I have to go pick up me nan!” …and sure enough, a few minutes later he made his decision; despite our telling him that he could get in even more trouble for leaving the scene, back into his car he jumped and off he sped. We had his name and number plate though, and when the police finally arrived they seemed to be only too familiar with RTA scenes which were lacking in a culprit.

    It was great to see how incidents like that can instantly being people together from very different walks of life. There was Dave, myself, the lady doctor and the van driver, all feeling very team-like. The van driver had also called the police, and seemed to be the only witness remaining. A skinhead, covered in tattoos of the Union Jack and sporting a thick local accent, I thought how much he reminded me of the people who attacked me a couple of years back in the city centre. Yet here he was, kind, concerned, and non-judgemental. I was ashamed by my own stereotyping.

    Eventually the emergency services arrived. Once Dave was being treated in the ambulance, and after the Police had taken a look at the mess, we picked his big bike up and wheeled it to the side of the road. I fetched a dustpan and brush, and together we swept up the wingmirrors, speedo and lights. Statements were taken, the traffic moved on.

    I was glad that the injuries sustained by Dave were not anything like as serious as those suffered by the chap who was attacked outside our house a week ago. I wasn’t in at the time, so it was only when the police came round yesterday morning that I heard anything about it. Apparently, a single man had been attacked by four other men in the middle of the road. Cars swerving to avoid the fight, the victim ended up with a fractured skull and many other bones broken all the way down to his waist. It sounded like a vicious assault. Despite the fact that it actually took place right outside my window, I still don’t consider where I live to be all that dangerous. Still, I will bear in mind what happened a week ago, and keep my wits about me when making the short walk home from the library late at night.

    Anyhow, I’d best get on with the study.

    Friday, October 26, 2007

    Hello Leopard

    The countdown to the launch of Leopard on Apple's front page currently reads 3 hours 16 minutes 36 seconds. At that time, Apple shops will open their doors after a few hours of secretive preparation, and allow people to get their first glimpse of Leopard.

    Unless of course those people happen to already have it installed...

    The look on the face of the Apple member of staff who turned my MacBook on to check it before it went in for repair this morning was an absolute classic.

    "WHERE...?!!" he started out in a rather loud voice, then regaining composure, continuing, "Where did you get this?!" pointing at the freshly installed Leopard Desktop. I thought about telling him that Steve always sends me a copy of a new OS ahead of time, but thought he might punch me, so instead told him the truth: TNT had ignored the request to not deliver it before 6pm. Thus, it had arrived at 8.30am, and I'd installed it immediately (most of the installation actually took place whilst I was on the tram to the Shopping Centre; I was just completing the registration process as they unlocked the front door). The idea was that if I got in installed before I dropped it off, not only would that erase the personal data I hadn't already manually removed, but also, if I had problems with the install I could get it sorted whilst I was there.

    "That's really not right! It doesn't go on sale until tonight! We'd get in serious trouble if we even showed it before then, you know what Apple's like with secrecy ...and here's a customer running it! You know, we weren't even allowed a preview of it, not even for training. I only saw it myself for the first time an hour ago.

    Thinking that he might 'accidentally' drop my Mac on the floor in revenge, I asked him about his holiday. He'd mentioned that he'd been away, and was looking mightily tanned. With the initiation of that conversation, he instantly brightened up. "Yeah, Spain, it was so nice..."

    Back in good humour, he said they'd get it fixed asap.

    So there we have it - my claim to fame is that I was running Leopard 8 hours in advance of its official launch.

    (For about 2 minutes. Until I handed over my MacBook for surgery)

    Now, I'm using this incredible OS, "Windows XP" I think it's called. Comes complete with a Large Hammer pre-installed.

    Anyway, initial thoughts on Leopard?

    Very nice. The changeover was painless, and only took 58 minutes. Whilst the default option upon insertion of the disk is 'Upgrade', I went for 'Erase and Install' as a simple Upgrade will always leave some cack behind. I was impressed by the way it didn't even have to restart to format the hard drive - I think it 'reinitiates' the HD rather than formatting it as such. So yes, just a couple of clicks, and 58 minutes later it's up and running.

    Having handed it over to the Genius Bar staff, I had a play with the other Macs in store that had just had 10.5 Installed. Unfortunately they were yet to be linked up to a backup drive, so no chance of playing with Time Machine.

    Looking at the new Finder, with coverflow and all, I couldn't help but feel disappointed that it is still pants when compared with Pathfinder. It really is a lame program (in the same way that Windows Explorer is), so limited in functionality, despite the enhancements in 10.5.

    There are some practical improvements I'm happy about, like the built-in Japanese dictionary and the way that Automator can now record any action. There's some great new networking options too, although these only really come into their own when you have several macs in the house.

    One of the features I especially like is the new Parental Controls - great idea. I guess I'm thinking about that time when I buy my twin baby girls their first Macs at the age of 7 days.

    Anyway, I'll let you know how I get on with it when my Mac comes back shiney and new next week.

    Till then, it's ctrl-alt-delete all the way!

    Bye bye Tiger

    I had serious doubts last night as to whether I'd be able to attend all my classes today. I don't like missing lectures, as we have relatively few, so any missed tend to have quite a big impact on one's overall understanding of what's going on.

    It was after 1am, and I still hadn't finished my Keynote presentation for the Work and Society module, a presentation that was due to be made 16 hours later.

    Then there was the Japanese newspaper article homework - read the two pieces and find the 3 connections. Going to that 10am class would cost me precious preparation time - should I skip it, or attend and just blag it without preparing?

    Then at 1pm was our spoken class, which required research into the drugs scene in Japan. But I wouldn't have time for that - at 2pm was our translation class, and a lack of prep for that would leave me in the poo. It was following that class that I had to give the presentation, then after that and another class on population issues in China, I'd need to do a final bit of prep for my 9000 Miles presentation at 8pm for Photo soc... surely I couldn't fit all of this in...?

    It's now 10.44pm. I'm back home.

    Work and Society presentation prep? Done.
    Prep for Newspaper class? Squeezed in 30 minutes before class.
    Drugs research? 30 minutes during lunch.
    Translation of UN piece? First section done in 45 minutes after the newspaper class.
    Work and Soc presentation - done, and done well apparently. Thank you Peter.
    Photo soc presentation? Went down well. Got to know folks better after the meeting as we chatted about travel photography.

    Just goes to show, when I stop messing around, I can actually get quite a lot done!

    I feel very grateful towards everyone who watched / listened to my presentations today, they were very kind audiences.

    Now it's on to my dissertation, construction of a website for CILASS, and a small matter of a 3000 page job application!

    My Mac goes in for surgery tomorrow morning. Its perfect timing, as tonight the CD/DVD drive well and truly packed up, refusing to acknowledge that it had a disk in it - it wouldn't even spit it out!

    It's not just the DVD drive, screen and keyboard surround that's being replaced - upon its return I shall be formatting the hard drive and installing OS 10.5, a.k.a. Leopard.

    Thus, tonight I am backing everything up onto three external drives - one can never be too careful! Tomorrow morning I shall delete all my files, and bid my Mac good luck as it has some of its most prominent components replaced.

    I hope I don't forget anything. It's the things like transferring calendar events and address book to Google that are fiddly. Backing up my secure password database (I'd be stuffed if I lost that!), Bookmarks from Firefox, preference files, flagged emails and so forth.

    I'm looking forward to giving Time Machine a whizz. Oh, and the new dictionary has Japanese as standard.

    Meanwhile, I've been preparing the Windows laptop I've been leant. Ouch. It's a painful process. Have already had one forced shutdown, when the installation of Skype went awry. Perhaps it's just me. I never used to find Windows so cumbersome. Perhaps it's my Mac-tinted spectacles.

    So yep, that's it from me on Tiger. Thank you Tiger. You have been mightily sexy these past 15 months. May you Roar In Peace.

    Thursday, October 25, 2007

    Life without a computer? Impossible.

    So, following today's Planning Your Dissertation meeting, I've decided to give up eating. There clearly isn't time for it this year.

    Spent an hour on the phone to Hiroshima this morning (cost me all of 25 pence). It wasn't the whole city mind you, 'cause I wouldn't have understood what they were saying, just one person. (Reminds me though, the other day I had a problem with Skype and as a result had 14 messages played back to me simultaneously. It was almost musical). The person I spoke to is a Sheffield graduate who went on to become a CIR, the job that I'm now very interested in. Two things stick out: no two CIR's ever have the same job; it's a great experience.

    My MacBook is going in for major surgery on Friday morning. No Mac for up to a week - How will I survive? I was thinking, I just can't go without a computer at home for that long, not now when there's so much going on, so I asked a friendly department at uni if they'd lend me one - and they did! I am very grateful. Thank you to them.

    It's a Windows computer though - an Acer I think. I must be prepared for frustration. Back to the dark days of BSODs (Blue Screen of Death), and restarts between program installs. My blogs over the weekend may just consist of endless combinations of swear words, and pictures of Bill Gates with his willy caught in a DVD drive.

    With the imminent arrival of Apple's new OS, Leopard, I'm thinking I might as well format my MacBook's hard drive before I drop it off. That would also eliminate the risk of being arrested for harbouring abusive data, that being all the lude messages I've received from readers of The Daily Mumble over the past 5 years.

    Anyway, it's chilly, I need to put my hat on.

    xxx joseph

    Wednesday, October 24, 2007

    Stress and hair loss - an experiment

    I thought I'd conduct an experiment today.

    The idea was to induce extreme stress for a short period of time, and see if my hair fell out.

    I concentrated hard, inducing stressful thoughts for about 30 minutes, and then waited.

    Sure enough, about 35 minutes later, a huge swathe of hair fell out. It was a dramatic result.

    Thing then was to even it out. This meant concentrating my stressful thoughts in certain areas of my head, namely the sides.

    A couple of hours of intense cerebral activity later, I got the result I needed to prove once and for all the connection between stress and hair loss.

    The next phase is to demonstrate the influence that positive thinking has upon hair growth. This will demonstrate to those non-believers out there that the answers all lie within.

    I think this part of the demonstration may take a little longer though. Say, 6 weeks.

    Monday, October 22, 2007

    The travels of my Mongolian Phrasebook

    I received the following email a few moments ago. Made me smile!

    Just thought I'd update you on the progress of your Mongolian phrasebook which is travelling the world without you. I had a great time in Mongolia whihc has to be one of the most empty and beautiful countries in the world - nearly got caught in the bubonic plague outbreak and survived a snow storm.

    The phrasebook is now in the company of a NZ guy called Justin who has bought a jeep to travel the countryside - so will definitely need it.

    I am now in Pingyao in China. I went straight to Erlian on the train and then the bus to Beijing and in the company of a lovely Chinese woman who was on holiday so went very smoothly. Then I got here via Datong and Wutai Shan. I am enjoying it, but finding the pollution tough.

    Hope you had an interesting journey home

    Ruth (from Sheffield to whom you lent the said phrasebook in Irkutsk, Siberia)

    Anton in Tibet

    Checking my RSS feeds, I found that Anton, the young chap I met in Moscow who shares my passion for adventurous travel and photography, has finally reached Tibet.

    He's been taking some stunning shots, which I invite you to take a look at.

    I have a You Tube recommendation too, which brought a few tears to my eyes when I watched it.

    Perhaps you already know of them - Team Hoyt.

    Just goes to show, we all have so much potential, if we'd only just do it.


    At those times when one does something well, and receives recognition for having done it well, it can be difficult to prevent one's ego from going out and feasting on chocolate-covered organic pineapple (my favourite food). Doing so can cause one to believe that one's legs have grown and that one is now at least three foot taller than everyone else. Above the crowd, with a clear view of all around.

    Of course, this is absolute rubbish. One is not taller than anyone else. It's just that one's ego has become so overgrown that it has put a distance between one's Self and those around. One can blindly, and quite incorrectly, see this distance, and think "gosh, aren't I superior!", when in fact one is just overweight in the ego department.

    I wrote about guarding against becoming ego-centric just last week, but in the light of my comments in the previous post, I feel I want to make another disclaimer. Yes, there is a part of me that questions the necessity of justifying oneself on one's own blog, but a greater part of me feels uneasy in that what was written could be taken as a sign of arrogance, a trait that I abhor. And, part of this experiment is to go with what feels right, thus, here I am writing this.

    My celebrations, as depicted on the Mumble, are not those of someone who feels he has risen above the crowd, they are those of someone who feels he understands just a teeny weeny bit more about things than he did before, which was and remains much much less than the majority of people in this world. In his heart he remains humble, aware that he is just taking his first baby steps, and is constantly seeking advice, guidance, and feedback. Everyone has a valuable lesson to teach him.

    This feeling of wide-eyed wonder is a result of the excitement of knowing that one knows so little! "Hurray! It's morning! Another whole day of learning about life! What will I be taught today, and what can I pass on that I learnt yesterday?" Waking up and thinking that makes even the grimmest of days tremendously exciting. As it happens, I have a sticky situation to deal with in about 12 hours. I've thought about how it might go, and appreciate that I may misjudge someone quite badly, and cause myself and others considerable grief. None the less, it needs to be attempted, and already I'm looking forward to watching myself blunder through it, observing the outcome for future reference. For me, this kind of detached thinking makes even the most dreaded of tasks positively fun!

    Anyway, that's my disclaimer. No matter how excited I may get at how happy I am with life, I remain humbly yours, whoever 'you' may be.

    Andy Goldsworthy makes me happy

    Today, I had a real treat - a visit to Yorkshire Sculpture Park, which is currently host to a number of Andy Goldsworthy installations.

    It was absolutely magical. Standing before his huge wall of leaf stems I had shivers running down my spine. Surrounded by his cracked mud-walls, I was glowing, this was the real thing!

    Sculpture parks can be incredibly dull, and I must admit, many of the permanent installations at YSP don't interest me in the slightest. But Andy's work really connects with me, perhaps because it so strongly rooted in nature.

    Here's a few photos I took today. We'll start with an Andy Goldsworthy piece (most were not photographable!).


    spying on the cow

    Wall in focus

    the nose

    the cage

    running away from mummy and daddy who are shouting at me

    llama pose


    We had a pretty dramatic coach crash on the way back. Us passengers were OK, poor woman in front got whiplash, and the dog in the back went into shock. I think I would too if the back of the car collapsed on me.

    It's been a great weekend. My business presentation yesterday to a group of 35 or so went down a real treat, despite my having prepared nothing but a few bullet points. I guess that's what happens when you speak from the heart. It's funny, I don't know why, but public speaking is something that I'm increasingly attracted to.

    Crikey, so much has changed in me since I started university in 2004. These days really are the best days of my life far!

    It's a real shame *Twinkle* is so far away. I want to share this excitement with her.

    I'm so so happy to be 'here'.

    Sunday, October 21, 2007

    It's that time again!

    Saturday, October 20, 2007

    An intelligent universe

    I've been listening to Alan Watts' lectures this morning, thoroughly recommended. They're pretty short, easy to digest ...and make sense for me. Available as a podcast too.

    "You cannot get an intelligent organism such as a human being out of an unintelligent universe."

    Hmm. I guess that means I must be intelligent...?

    Comments have been disabled for this post.

    Those received between the time of first publishing and the removal of the comments include the following:

    Thomas Hurst said...

    That comment reminds me of a couple of Jehovas Witnesses we had visit us a few times, years ago. They attempted to convince me that life can't come from non-life because of the second law of thermodynamics; that the entropy (disorder) of a closed system always increases.

    When I explained that the entropy of the universe overall is most certainly increasing even while life might reduce it locally, just as tidying a desk might reduce entropy on the desk but increase it everywhere else by expending that energy, he agreed with me, but seemed to think I was agreeing with him. Maybe I should have explained it to him using smaller words, but he swiftly moved on to the similarly flawed "a hurricane can't build a 747" analogy.

    "Intelligence can't come from non-intelligence" sounds much the same. How the hell would he know (does he have any peer reviewed papers?), and how do you solve things like the infinite-regress problem of an intelligent universe not being able to come from a non-intelligent one.. is it smrt universe all the way down?

    Joseph Said...

    Thanks for your comment Thomas.

    I won't try and argue my case based on any scientific theory, because I'm not educated enough in that field.

    However, I would say that for me personally, there is so much sense and interconnectivity in all that is and all that happens around me, that it feels far less probable that this is a result of coincidences occurring within a disordered universe, than the results of some form of action carried out by some form of intelligent energy.

    Anonymous said...

    My word Joseph…this sounds remarkably like you subscribe to the concept of “intelligent design” (ugh…)…next thing you’ll be telling us you’ve “found God”.

    I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, we are programmed to try to make sense of what is happening around us…we look for patterns, things that are familiar, things that we can hold onto, so we don’t get overwhelmed by the infinite randomness and complexity of life. It is a strength but also a weakness. Questions we can never know the answers to need to be explained somehow…thus, you end up with religion and various other ideologies that serve no purpose but to put our minds at rest. To allow ourselves to relax and to stop searching for an answer that may/will never come.

    Strangely enough, this links in with the entry below. Why can we not be happy that this is all there is? Why can we not be happy that we will, live, love and die and nothing more? Why do we have to believe we are special in some otherworldly way, are we not special enough to the people we love already? It is this dissatisfaction with is what we already have, the lives we already lead, that frustrates me. All this stuff about life-force and stuff…in the end, does it really matter? The here and now is all that matters…and even if there is anything after, well, let’s just say you won’t be in a position to blog about it!

    I am also beginning to get a little concerned all these “motivational” tapes/books you seem to be consuming. Admittedly, you seem pretty happy at the moment…perhaps deliriously so. The only problem I have with them (putting aside the fact I think most of it is woolly-minded clap-trap) is that many of them have exactly the same amorphous messages just put in slightly different way. More often than not their messages are hopelessly indistinct…like a cloud or a Rorschach inkblot…or a politician. Politicians try to be all things to all people. That requires them to say nothing, but to sound like they are saying something. They toss in a little spin to try to get all those people with those different views to see in the politician things that they like. Many of the slogans Nightingale/Kiyosaki et al spew forth are amorphous and generic in their actual meaning, but have the effect of making people think they have just gotten good advice. This is also why horoscopes often appear to be so “apt”. Their aptness is self-provided. In effect, their cryptic obscurity provides a random set of ‘answers’ that the reader fabricates into something seemingly appropriate and useful. Perhaps these motivational tapes are filling some spiritual void…? Who knows. After all, we all have an overwhelming desire to believe in something, anything…and these tapes are always vague but full of promise, emphasising enthusiasm/devotion over rationality and clear thinking…sounds a bit like organised religion, no?

    Additionally, if you keep listening to stuff that reaffirms beliefs you already hold – it becomes less a process of self-improvement but a process of self-stagnation - your opinions become brittle, unbending and blinkered. You lose the ability to look at situations from a different perspective, so deeply entrenched become these views. Reliable decisions are only made if based on the clash of conflicting views.

    I can’t understand this latest entry…we gain satisfaction when we know we’ve done our best. Disappointment comes when you know you could’ve/can do better – in turn, this dissatisfaction is the fuel from which determination comes. Determination is how progress in any area of our lives, in society in general, is made. The desire to succeed this is what you need. Of course as long as you are clear of your definition of success. Maybe Darren is dissatisfied because he knows he can achieve more. If he just sat back and rested on his laurels he may never be truly fulfilled…he’d always have that niggling thought that he could do more. In this situation the idea of writing down your goals is a good one - if you know what you where you want to be you won’t be constantly striving for some unspecified goal. You’re confusing determination with undeserved self-satisfaction.

    [this comment has had the final paragraph removed]

    Joseph said...

    ...quite a lot, but it's not fit for publishing.

    My apologies, anon, for inferring that you are "stupid", which of course I do not believe to be the case. As a result of that I had a very restless night, forgot to feed the dog and woke up in a sweat!

    My apologies also for removing your final paragraph, and your next comment in its entirety - I do not wish to have that conversation here, although I shall keep the comment for when the book comes out :-) Clearly, you have strong negative views on the subject, just as I did. There is much evidence to support your argument.

    However, there is also much evidence to the contrary. I'm now making a conscious choice to go with the latter school. Ultimately, none of it matters, so if I am proved wrong in the long term we can smile and move on.

    Perhaps I am naive in believing that people are fundamentally good.


    Further comments on this post may be submitted via my contact form. Fake email addresses may be used. Alternatively please use the comment facility on any other post and I will manually add it here.

    Striking a balance

    It's been quite interesting for me learning about the Tao in the light of the other reading I've been doing this year.

    Many of the books I read at the beginning of the year had messages such as

    "Step outside your comfort zone!"

    "Dream, and then chase that dream!"

    "Live everyday as if it were your last!"

    "Don't put off for tomorrow what you can do today!"

    "Strive to better yourself every day!"

    Whilst I wholeheartedly subscribe to the notion of striving to better yourself every day, I also find myself in agreement with the Tao, that teaches

    "Accept everything as it is, everyone for who they are".

    "Trust that when the time is right, whatever it is you are seeking will come into your life."

    "Be happy with what you have now. After all, you are OK now - so why subscribe to the idea that you will only be happy 'when X happens'"

    "Don't pursue some label of 'success' - by living in harmony with your source / self, you are successful already"
    That final point reminds me of my brother's email signature:

    "If at first you don't succeed, change your definition of success!"

    There was a time when I couldn't agree with that (although I did find it funny). It was an easy way out. Now though, I think he was quite right.

    By subscribing to a notion that 'success' will only be attained when we have X amount of income, when we know X number of kanji, when our chocolate cakes are as delicious as those made by X cake shop, we are offering ourselves up for a life of disappointment, frustration, and general feelings of inadequacy.

    I've seen it in action, and find it both alarming and sad.

    A non-Mumbling friend of mine, we'll call him Darren for anonymity's sake (and because that's his real name), started a property management company in April 2006. Over the past 18 months he's built up an impressive portfolio of apartments that he rents out on the south coast, which generate a substantial monthly income.

    However, Darren is not happy. Why? One of his closest friends, who doubles as his role model, started a similar business not long before he did, but due to the fact that everyone's circumstances differ, his friend has done much better - he has quite a few more apartments than Darren, who tells me that his income is a lot higher.

    Because of this, Darren has feelings of frustration, anger and worthlessness - why can't he do as well as his friend? Whats wrong with him? Why is he such a failure?

    ...when of course the truth is, he's not. He's achieved incredible things in a short space of time. He should be patting himself on the back, congratulating himself for what he's achieved, not beating himself up for not hitting some target that he'd set himself based on his friend's performance.

    The same idea could be applied to me on my language course. Compared to some of my coursemates, my ability to read Japanese is pretty bad. The traditional self-development approach might tell me to strive to do better (which I am), but the Tao teaches me to accept things as they are, without frustration or anger.

    Finding a balance between the two is something I've been trying to do of late. Yes, I will push myself to improve my language skills, but no, I will not become too despondent when I don't live up to some external measure. I mean, I've done alright so far with the skills I have - would it really be so bad if I carried on like this?

    This naturally links in with Being Happy Today - for there is no tomorrow.

    I will also not pay too much attention to the BIG goals that other people have for me (as I know some fairly influential people do!).

    "Don't let others confine you or define you".

    Whilst this quote may have been intended for people who have at times felt restricted by others' small ideas of what they are capable of, it could also be applied to those of us who can at times feel suffocated by others' BIG ideas of what we are expected to achieve.

    By adopting this approach, one avoids setting oneself up for disappointment, whilst improving in whatever area of one is concentrating on. There is no frustration caused by slow progress, and no feelings of inferiority when one sees others doing better.

    I feel that the Tao has brought a bit of balance back into my life. I have my goals, and I strive to achieve them, but I won't turn over happiness to their achievement.

    Writing about this reminds me of something Earl Nightingale once said: it's not achieving our goals that brings us the greatest satisfaction - it's the process of working towards them. As soon as we have achieved that goal we often set another; this once again reinforces how important it is to be happy or satisfied with where we are today.

    With that said, I am now going to do my daily Japanese letter writing. The current script details an epic adventure in the Mongolian outback. Good job I know what "herdsman", "curd" and "constipation" are in Japanese!


    Are you an Amazon shopper?

    The loss of Google Adwords was a bit of a shock - I'd been using it to pay for bandwidth and server space, as well as raising money for Oxfam earlier this year.

    Still, the ending of that contract forced me to explore other avenues, one of which has been Amazon.

    I've not been too impressed with their adverts so far - they're not that responsive to the content of the Mumble, but none the less they have resulted in two sales since last week.

    I know a couple of Mumblers who are regular users of /, so I thought I'd set up an easy link that they may like to use - it takes them straight to Amazon, but by using this link a portion of Amazon's profits will be redirected to The Daily Mumble.

    The links are on the right hand side of the page. It's easy to remember too:

    For those in Japan, the address is

    As with the Audible ads, 20% of any profits made after the bandwidth is paid for will be donated to charity.

    Let's sing and dance!

    I blogged this not all that long ago, but the link was buried amongst others, and I don't think I did it justice.

    Imagine if everyone lived in the spirit of this message! Wow, what an amazing place this world would be!

    CLICK ON ME!!! "The Big Hoax".

    Being a final year student I'm now being bombarded with 'career opportunities' ...ooohhh it makes me wince! It takes me back to my sixth form days when working for some big company was what it was all about, at least according to the Careers Service.

    Let's sing and dance all the way along!

    Getting on board with Audiobooks

    It struck me this afternoon that I have been doing rather a lot of advertising around here for Audible of late ...and not getting paid for it!

    So let's change that!

    Whilst the following may sound like a sleazy sales talk, I do mean every word of it: the positive impact that this company has had upon my life in terms of sheer listening pleasure and knowledge acquisition is not something to be sniffed at.

    Anyway, where were we?

    Ah, yes, Audible.

    (Audible are of course that fantastic web-based company that leads the world when it comes to audio books).

    So yes, it all started for me earlier this year when I really really wanted to read a particular book, but was 'too busy' to read it. I'd heard Audible mentioned on the TWIT network, so thought I'd take a peek.

    A quick search in their library of thousands resulted in my finding a non-abridged version of the book in question. It was a lot cheaper than the rrp, but still, at £20, not cheap.

    Then I found a link to a free trial - sign up for one of their monthly subscription packages (which entitles you to 1 or 2 audiobooks per month) and you get two books free. Being a free trial I ended up paying nothing for the £20 audiobook, and got another one free.

    The service was so good I stuck with them. When leaving Japan for London I decided to cancel the subscription whilst on the train in case I never made it back - cancellation was easy and there were no hidden costs. Once back in the UK, I reactivated my subscription. (I have since deactivated it as I have a backlog of books which I just can't wait to listen to!).

    Last month I accidentally deleted one of my audiobooks - one by Deepak Chopra - without having transferred it to my iPod. No problem though, it was still in my personal online library, available to download as many times as I wanted.

    Basically, I think they're great - if there's anything you want to read or learn about but 'don't have the time', give Audible a go.

    By clicking on the picture below, you'll qualify for two free audiobooks when you subscribe. And of course, it's a free trial, cancel any time, no questions asked.

    Audiobook Downloads at

    Whilst I don't agree with encouraging consumption / shopping, I am perfectly happy to encourage people to invest in Audiobooks. For a start, the carbon footprint of a downloadable audiobook is significantly lower that that of a real book. Also, I find they encourage me to learn more, and as anyone who has been round here for a while will know, my listening has had a significant positive impact upon my life.

    Thus, hurrah for Audible! Join me and sign up today!

    Friday, October 19, 2007

    A huge THANKYOU!!!

    You see, there I was just wondering how I was going to cope with the next couple of weeks, when, when I entered the kitchen to put the kettle on what did I find? A surprise package for me!

    And look what was in it!

    A huge THANKYOU to Mum #2 for your generosity. I shall dig EXTRA DEEP when I'm back on the Welsh Garden Project this Christmas!

    Happy Happy Happy!

    Busy Busy Busy

    This past week I have constantly been thinking, "What can I let go of? Where can I make some extra time?"

    Yet now I find myself with a few new errands, all of which I find very hard to say no to as I want to do them.

    For a start, there's the Japanese Embassy in London who are paying me by the hour to advertise their presentation on Monday about the Jet scheme (which I'll be attending, and the lecture by the Minister of Commerce following it). Then there's dinner with the Cultural Secretary on Monday night, certainly something to look forward to. I'll really have to push the limits of my Polite Japanese speaking ability!

    Then there's the business meeting on Saturday in MK at which I will be talking about my year in Japan, then Sunday is a trip to Yorkshire Sculpture Park with Photo Soc to get some shots of the work of my hero, the legendary artist Andy Goldsworthy. I'm very excited about that! Wednesday I'll be working for CILASS on the Information Commons Treasure Trail, then off to a SEAS meeting about the year abroad (for the benefit of next year's 3rd-year students), and following on from that a lecture on our dissertations.

    Thursday I have two presentations: one on Lean Production for my work and soc module, the other for Photosoc about 9000 miles.

    Friday there's a business meeting, and of course, the launch of Apple Mac OS 10.5, something else I am mightily excited about. That's going to result in a full format and reinstall, and we all know what fun that can be (although on a Mac it is about 3 billion times easier than on Windows, basically being a case of drag and drop).

    Oh, and there's lectures, a tonne of kanji, and translations on top of that.

    Does anyone know of a spare Joseph I can borrow?

    Thursday, October 18, 2007

    Fire Drill

    We had our annual fire alarm test this morning. I always think it's an interesting excercise, as it demonstrates differing attitudes towards life.

    You know, like that of people who clearly don't like their course, and so take ten minutes to evacuate their flats.

    Standing in the courtyard in the freezing cold, you're exposed to all sorts of attitudes. For a start there's the first-year males who haven't got laid yet, who see it as the perfect opportunity to strut their stuff, appearing in the freezing cold Yorskshire night in nothing but a tight pair of boxer shorts.

    Then there's the young girls who cannot be seen without their make-up, trying to wrap their heads up in their laps as they sit on a bench, cursing the "F*cking half-six-in-the-morning fire alarm".

    As we stand there, being told that we really do need to be quicker (and next time, bring a coat), the older men start to shout;

    "If you want us to be quicker you should have set it off later"

    "How would you like it having to get up at f*ckin' 6.30am?" says another chap, clearly unable to think straight at this early hour.

    Having been told to "Put a sock in it! The longer you go on the longer it'll take me to get through this 90-second bit I have to tell you, and the longer you'll be keeping everyone out here", they quietened down, smarting from this blow delivered right before their mates. Grumble mumble... until we're dismissed. They try to get the last laugh by delivering a final insult to the Fire Officer, but it's lost over the eruption of voices as we head back in.

    Anyway, time for my morning exercises.

    Jogger in Weston Park

    It Doesn't Matter

    It wasn't that bad a day for me personally. It was a bit disquieting though towards the end.

    Took my Mac to Apple shop this morning, as it has't been able to finish burning DVDs lately. Also, the screen got scratched during 9000 miles. And the keyboard surround has split when the lid makes contact.

    All will be replaced free of charge next week. It'll only take them a couple of hours - they'll fix it in-store.

    (Name me a UK Windows vendor that will do that...)

    Following that a bit of work for CILASS, a meeting with a tutor, then Japan Soc's Tandem Learning. I guess I should start to think about adapting to the circumstances: *Twinkle*s here, and that's a fact. It does throw me though.

    Tonight I needed to make a few phone calls, write a couple of emails, and now it's bedtime. I feel somewhat frustrated that I haven't studied all that much today.

    It's at times like this that I just have to tell myself, "It does't matter". Because, ultimately, it doesn't. None of it.

    I gave all my love, and I am loved. That's all that matters.

    That and the fact that Apple agreed to fix my Mac for free.

    Wednesday, October 17, 2007

    Today I learnt that I have a temporomandibular disorder - Hurray!! 

    Now I get to add yet another section to my healthy-living routine, this one involving me opening and closing my mouth like a relaxing frog.

    This afternoon I carried out my most ambitious experiment yet into 'mind over matter' - in the dentist's chair.

    I was told that I needed a filling replacing - thus quite bit of drilling would be necessary. 

    As I sat there, the noise of the drill going straight through my jaw and into my brain, I thought of the nicest possible things I could think of, which for reasons of decency I won't share with you here. 

    Well, it was so relaxing that I nearly fell alseep, THAT'S how good it was!  

    Anyhow, yes, I was told that I have temporomandibular disorder, which is treated by doing regular jaw exercises.

    I'm told that I should see results in three weeks - watch this space.

    Tuesday, October 16, 2007

    Washing Day

    Is it normal to be so economical with clothes usage that one only has to put a single wash on once every three weeks?

    Monday, October 15, 2007

    In the press (just twice this week)

    Just two mentions in the press this week - a double-page spread in a Japanese magazine, and a single page in the internationally unrenowned student newspaper, Sheffield Steel.

    I can't quite remember why I gave them that terrible photo of me kissing a Mongolian herdsman. However, I am delighted that Pepe the Peguin has made it into print - in the hands of the guard in the Forbidden City.

    Anyone wishing to see the online version of this story about *Twinkle* and I, do a Google search for

    "Joseph & Twinkle" - replacing the word 'Twinkle' with another name she sometimes goes by.

    You may need your sick bag though and must be prepared for cheese.

    Blog Action Day: The environment

    Today, as you may or may not know, is Blog Action Day. The theme? The Environment.

    As you know, I could ramble on and on for hours about this ...but you'll be happy to know that I've decided not to do this. Partly because I have to go and pick up my organic vegee box in a minute. And partly because I want to take a sort of Appreciative Inquiry line.

    Instead, I would like to direct you to the website of a couple who are living the Good Life, a Good Life which one day when I return to Japan I would like to emulate.

    This is our life, it rocks!

    (Incidentally, these are the lovely people who run One Life Japan Bike Tours.)

    I just can't get over the size of those carrots.


    Sunday, October 14, 2007

    cliff edge

    I spent a couple of hours in a team of 8 this morning, shovelling 6 tonnes of coconut fibre into sacks. I then helped with the carrying of what was quite possibly the largest round table in the whole world, across town. This was followed by a lovely thank you meal; thank you Panni and Lee, and congrats on your success this week.

    Consulted one of my life mentors today about yesterday's decision, and received further reassurance. Tonight, I watched a couple of DVDs of the Japanese Speech contest held in London every year, something I will be entering (hopefully along with a load more people from SEAS). Just watching the DVD was terrifying ...but I have to enter at least.

    Feeling shockingly appaling at Japanese gives me further strength to let go of other 'priorities'.

    Thus, I shall now record my daily Japanese video diary.

    bai bai

    Saturday, October 13, 2007

    Facing the truth

    It's been another of those "landmark days" today.

    The focal point was our comprehension class, in which we were given back the scraps of paper with last week's translation attempts on.

    I did pretty appallingly. It was quite depressing, although it took some time to sink in.

    The next few hours were spent with a Japanese friend. It was interesting observing my confidence slipping away, my voice becoming quieter, the ends of my sentences never making it beyond the thought stage, verb conjugation attempts stopping as I reached the extremity of the masu stem.

    Tonight then has seen me indulge in a little consideration of where I want to take this. I mean, I've already made a good start in terms of establishing a daily routine of study and so forth, but as was demonstrated today, I readily set that aside when other 'more important' things crop up.

    I have a list of other projects to be carried out at weekends - what will be the cost of pursuing them this year? Is it a case of all or nothing? What are the hidden costs of not socialising as much as I might?

    [And what will be the cost of me sticking my head out of my window and shouting at that bloomin noisy prostitute! Crikey o'riley! She seems to be of the opinion that the whole world is interested in what she has to say!]

    Well, I've made my decision. I am going to claw back lost ground. I'm going to stop putting myself in the position of class-idiot, and make every effort I can to excel. I've informed two of the most influential people of this decision as well (the people who mark our papers!) in order to increase my determination that I will get back on track.

    I've re-arranged the projects in my GTD program, dragging 13 of them into a new category labelled 'long term'. I've emailed the newspaper editor and told them that I won't be able to take photos for them, and have given myself permission to say no to any new 'unreasonable' demands upon my time.

    It's getting the balance right that's the difficult thing. I have to be careful to not fall into a trap of selfishness, caring only for my own needs. But, at the same time, if I don't put the effort into my study that I feel it deserves, I think I will be doing both myself, and my family in Japan, a great dis-service.

    Autumnal Siblings - shame that the web-browser robs it of so much of its vitality

    I know that university is not just about academia, but when am I next going to be in a position to learn such a lot from so many talented professionals? I'm being given a golden opportunity here, and to pass it off for the sake of other projects which ultimately are not dependent upon any such fixed environment would possibly be a little daft.

    So how about I class this as 'an experiment'. It can be carried out alongside the Daily Routine experiment, phase one of which is set to run until Christmas. In this experiment I shall work very hard on my studies, with ambitious study targets to hit. A review will be carried out in late December.

    As talked about yesterday, by classing it as 'an experiment', I am increasing the likelihood that I stick to it.

    If there is anyone out there who would care to comment on this decision, I would welcome your ideas. I know you're a quiet bunch though, so no pressure.

    Friday, October 12, 2007

    The Experiment ...and the future

    This one's been brewing. I hope you're ready for a long one. Subjects separated by horizontal rules.

    I'm loving this music sharing stuff. Tonight I have an additional FIVE music libraries to choose from, thanks to the university computer network to which lots of people's computers are connected. Currently we are listening to Dvorak's New World Symphony.

    The Experiment
    (those in search of 'real' news may wish to skip this section...!)

    I'm still feeling remarkably good. Last year, when I started reading about the power of our thoughts and so forth, I was pretty skeptical, and didn't think that all that much would come of it. I mean, come on, self-help, self-development, self-improvement books?! But I gave it a go, and a year on, the 'experiment' continues.

    I've only recently started thinking of it as an 'experiment'. I think it was our good friend anonymous who used that word to refer to what I've been doing through reading, listening to audio books and putting the lessons I learn into practice. Initially, I was a put out, I mean, this was more than an 'experiment', this was my life, this was me we were talking about. By referring to my new belief system as an 'experiment' was to deny its roots, to imply that it is just a fad, some mask temporarily adopted in a in a bid to fool myself and the world that things were different - whilst underneath there was the same old Joseph.

    I cast that thought to the back of my mind, and left it there to do whatever it wished. It didn't waste its time: when I wasn't looking, it infiltrated my subconscious, and through that worked its way back into my conscious mind. Until one day, I woke up and found that yes, I was living an experiment.

    Situations arise, prompting a reaction from me. I am faced with a choice: to behave 'naturally' as I would have done in the past in that situation, or to give a very different reaction - one that is more in line with my new set of beliefs. It's a conscious decision. When someone tells me they've had a terrible day because of this that and the other, in the past I would have joined them in celebrating the misery and harshness of life, but now, I find myself actively considering my reaction - what can I say to turn this conversation around?

    It's this very 'conscious' nature that makes me feel that yes, this is an experiment.

    It's like breathing - most of the time we don't give a second thought to the process, it's just a natural thing that the body does (which is kind of handy really..!). However, we do have the choice to make it a very conscious process, to regulate our intake of air in whatever way we wish. But, if we do that (e.g. take a series of short, sharp breaths) we make the process into an artificial one, an artificial one which, when we stop paying attention to it, will return to the natural rhythm that our bodies have 'built-in'.

    And it's a bit like that with this positive attitude stuff. I'm consciously interrupting my 'natural' thought processes and choosing to process ideas in a new and different manner, resulting in different decisions and (therefore) different actions.

    It's an experiment, as there's a strong sense of "I wonder what will happen if I do this..." whenever I stray from the established path.

    ...and yet, these past few weeks spent in a familiar environment have begun to show me that no, it's more than that. It's gone beyond being just some experiment - some fundamental changes have occurred. I can think of several instances this week (such as in lectures and other group situations) in which I have behaved in an extrovert manner. These 'outbursts' have not come about following close scrutiny of the situation before me and then a conscious decision to act in a certain way, they have simply 'happened'. Sometimes, they have left me feeling somewhat surprised - did I really just say that? (by the way, these aren't offensive outbursts...!). Seconds later it's "Well yes, I did, and that's great, it was a positive contribution, well done!". It seems I may have learnt something from my initial 'experiments', and taken whatever that learnt thing is on board as a core belief.

    The natural rhythm of my breathing has started to change.

    As a parent, one may not notice just how much one's child has grown, after all, you see them every day and they don't look all that different today from last week. But when Aunty comes to visit, what does she say to little Jimmy? "My! Haven't you grown!" ...and that's how I'm feeling here. The last time I saw Joseph in Sheffield he was pretty extrovert (the photos from those Christmas parties are all the proof one needs), but I recall that at those times he felt that he was stepping quite a long way out of his comfort zone. There was an awareness that this was 'not normal', and a concern for the opinions of others. This caused a good deal of stress, but he continued none-the-less, desperate to break out of the (self-imposed?) shackles of society.

    It doesn't feel like that anymore. I feel OK with whatever I'm feeling, and OK with not being overly concerned about the opinions of others. It's no longer a struggle for some distant goal (whether that be 'joy', 'self-belief', 'confidence' or whatever) - there is no unreachable happiness in the form of a pot of gold at the end of this rainbow; rather, I'm walking along the rainbow, and the path beneath my feet is giving me all the gold I need.

    The cynics may read the above and say "What a load of bollox, I think we've lost him", but that's OK. Perhaps I'll read this myself in 10 years time, when on the maximum hourly dose of Prozac, banned from approaching high bridges and prevented from going diving with sharks by friends, and say, "Crikey, what the hell was I on then? Were those vitamin tablets really 100% organic...?", but I don't think that will be the case. Why? Because personally, it feels very right living like this. It's the first time I've really handed over control of my life to my self, damn hard though that is with such an hyperactive ego trying to make its voice heard at all times.

    So, the journey continues.

    Oh, as a sidenote, if anyone has any recommended reading, something that's available in audio format, do let me know. My thanks to Bibi for the audiobook you sent me out of the blue: I listened to the intro this morning and am very much looking forward to listening to the rest of it and putting the tecniques described into practice.

    My study plan, as outlined a few posts ago, has been hugely beneficial. I have a spreadsheet on the wall with a column for each activity along the Y axis, and days of the week along the X axis. It's working in two ways: firstly it prompts me to cover those areas of study that I may have forgotten (or neglected out of fear), and secondly, it reassures me that yes, I am studying, I am getting through the material. Having this sheet brings me peace of mid - I have proof that I have actually been studying, even if I feel I have learnt very little (which is probably not true, it's just that being so close to the study I can't see the outcome). (Is 'learnt' a real word? My spell-checker says it should be 'learned', but I think that's just US English...?)

    I'm really having trouble meditating though. My mind just wanders. Part of the problem may be the guide that I'm using, which is a little too intrusive. Still, I shall persevere as meditation is something that comes up again and again in all sorts of texts by all sorts of people, as something that can have a big (positive) impact upon one's life.

    The exercise is fun too! It's only been a few days so I'm not feeling any real differences yet (although I can do 5 more press-ups than last week!), but it's certainly helping me feel energetic in the mornings. And this ball - it's great! Everyone should have one! The most comfy chair I've ever used!

    Went for a cholesterol test earlier this week - results next Monday. I used to hate blood tests (I think the time that Japanese nurse punctured my artery, sending a samurai film-like arch of blood across the room, might have something to do with that), but this was no problem at all. Really interesting talking to the nurse too who was all all for alternative medicine. Made me want to try acupuncture, something that still strikes me as being a legal form or torture.

    Leaving the doctors I passed by my opticians. On the spur of the moment I decided to pop in and ask about getting a spare pair of specs, in case my current ones get broken at some point in Japan. On hearing that I'd not been in for 3 years the secretary told me I was overdue for a sight test - something that had never even occurred to me. After a short wait spent discussing her beautiful Mac and my time in Japan, I was ushered into the optician's den at the back of the building, and subjected to all manner of bizarre tests.

    Eyeballs back in their sockets, the optician looked at me and smiled, "You have the least deterioration over three years in anyone I have ever seen! Whatever you've been doing, keep on doing it!"

    So, that's more sitting in front of the computer for me then.

    Photosoc's great. We have an amazing president, who copes remarkably well with a somewhat unresponsive bunch of members. There's plans in the pipeline for a trip to see some of Andy Goldsworthy's artwork in the Yorkshire Sculpture Park - that will be a dream come true for me.

    Before that though, at the next meeting we have Joseph's amazing presentation about his trans-Siberian voyage. I can just see it now, introducing Pepé the penguin to a bunch of folks who sit there in a stony silence, wondering when this idiot is going to shut up so can all head down to the bar.

    I got some more prints done of some recent shots, and boy-oh-boy, what a difference it makes to have them on paper as opposed to on the screen.

    The Minidisc Auction (3 MD players / recorders plus 150+ discs) continues to go well. With two days left we're up to £72. Feel free to take part in the battle for my entire music collection as of 2003ish.

    At the beginning of our Work and Society in Japan lecture today, we were told about a visit by officials from the Japanese Embassy in London on the 22nd October. I think the ambassador might be coming too.

    Their mission is to promote the Jet Program, which everyone familiar with Japan is probably aware of. Jet is a common way in to Japan for foreigners - stay there for any length of time and you'll bump into someone working as a teacher's assistant in one of the public schools.

    Whilst I'm not interested in teaching children, the CIR posts do appeal. CIRs are essentially program co-coordinators, working in government departments acting as the bridge between the foreign workers on the ground, and the local / national offices that run the program. Unlike the teaching assistants, "CIR Applicants must have a sufficient command of Japanese for daily work in a Japanese environment."

    I asked a member of staff who knows me very well what they thought of this program, and whether it would suit me. Their response backed up what I was thinking - it was just the kind of thing for me. Working with people, problem solving, providing support.

    Not only this, but as pointed out today, it would do wonders for my Japanese skills. At present, one option I have for when I return to Tokyo is to apply for a job with a training company, training Japanese business men in Western business skills. Whilst this does appeal to me, and I am very grateful for being told about the possible opportunity, it does lack one element: Japanese language use. For me, this is pretty important, as I really want to become fluent in Japanese within three years. I feel that I owe it to *Twinkle* to learn her language, to put as much into our relationship as I can. Thus, ideally, I want to work in a Japanese-speaking environment.

    Looking at the Jet website tonight, I saw one requirement that troubled me:
    "Applicants must not have lived in Japan for 3 or more of the last 8 years"
    I tend to assume that I have lived there three years... have I? Let's see.

    • Oct - Nov 2000: 6 weeks (1.5 months)
    • Oct 01 - August 02: 11 months
    • Nov 02 - Mar 03: 5 months
    • Jun 05 - August 05: 2 months
    • Sep 06 - Aug 07: 12 months

    TOTAL: 31.5 months = 2 years 7.5 months!!

    HURRAHHH!!!!! I'm eligible!

    We're told that the embassy is especially keen to recruit Sheffield graduates this year as we have been under-represented in the past.

    Whilst the wage is way below what I could earn elsewhere (300,000 yen p/m, which at today's rate translates as £15,000 p/a) I'm not really fussed. It's the experience I want, and being a dual income family we won't have any money issues.

    So, I'm excited about this. The initial meeting is 10 days from now - I'll keep you posted.

    Anyhow, by blogging tonight I have taken myself way beyond my bedtime. But it's OK, I have a late start tomorrow.

    Tuesday, October 09, 2007

    Two Years

    Happy Anniversary to Us!

    Woopy wee woodaloo

    I'm so bloomin excited about life I can barely sleep. I just feel so damn good! I want to get up now before I've gone to sleep (but not go down mill or live int shoebox int middle a road).

    What on Earth is going on?!!

    p.s. this is not one of my two weekly blog posts. Nor was the last one.

    Monday, October 08, 2007

    Joseph causes a storm at the BBC

    "BBC Weather Pictures of the Week" - remember the one I took of the rainstorm over Japan's Inland Sea? Fourth along from the left.

    "Joseph caught this cumulonimbus cloud and rainbow while sailing to China from Osaka."


    If I carry on like this I am not going to get the grade I want, so, inspired by JimJamJenny, tonight I am making the decision to impose some harsh rules on how I spend my time - phase one begins now, and finishes next Sunday, when the situation will be reviewed.

    The plan involves daily targets, 48-hour targets (which are expansions of Daily targets to allow flexibility when necessary) and weekly targets.

    For example:

    Every day:
    • meditate for 20 mins
    • exercise for 20 mins
    • Write Japanese for 20 mins (minimum)
    • Read Japanese for 20 mins (minimum)
    • Kanji: 30 mins (minimum)
    • (Eat properly, drink water, sleep by 11.30pm, up 6am)

    Every 2 Days
    • 3 hours kanji
    • 1 hour writing Japanese
    • 1 hour reading Japanese
    • 30 mins grammar
    • 2 hours on Society and Culture module
    • 2 hours on Chinese environment module

    Every week

    • Cycle for at least 90 mins
    • Website work (not including Blog): 3 hours max
    • CILASS 1 ~ 4 hours per week

    In addition to this
    • Only check emails twice a day, max email session 30 mins (includes japansoc email writing)
    • Maximum of 2 blogs per week, not more than 45 minutes writing a mumble.
    Wish me luck!


    On me bike / photography

    I went for my weekly trip to the Peak District this morning. I still can't quite believe how close it is - it took me just twenty minutes on my bicycle to get back home from the reservoirs today.

    Having bought a map of the Peak District 4 years back (and then never used it) I sort of knew where I was going, somewhere over to the left where there were no houses. It looked pretty.

    Shame I hadn't paid any attention to the contours!

    Once I had made the massive climb out of the city, I was hit by the autumnal beauty of Yorkshire - just gorgeous - and when I turned off the main road it just got better, as I found myself in a nature reserve, complete with bike tracks.

    Fast-flowing stream

    At one point along the route I came across a bunch of horses at a horse-hair dresser. It seems that bleach blonde is the in-thing in the equine world at the moment.

    Sharon is particularly pleased with her shocking new look

    Debbie, meanwhile, has gone for the sulky-teenager style

    Mind you, there was one horse there who seemed pretty exasperated by the rebellious nature of the young-uns. He was easy to spot, galloping around the field at full pelt, trying to relieve himself of the stress of modern life. When he finally slowed down, I called out and suggested that he try meditating - which he then did.

    A couple of hours later I was back in town - time for a trip to Beanies, the healthfood shop. There I set up a standing order for a weekly organic fruit and veg shop, and an organic loaf of wholemeal bread. This will ensure that I eat properly this year, and also save time as I won't have to wait in the the very long queues that they often have there. Hurrah!

    Back home I started to develop my new photo workflow. Now I'm shooting in RAW+Jpeg (the camera creates two files for every shot, one is the huge uncompressed original, the other is a 1mb jpeg), I've started using Adobe Light Room, which I like, a lot. It's very intuitive, great for doing the basics before passing those images that need any further tweaks on to Photoshop. I had one minor problem - when exporting from Light Room it would set the ppi to 72, no matter what I specified in the options. Turns out that this happens when it compresses the metadata, deselecting that option fixed the issue.

    It's funny how a simple switch like that (from taking photos in JPEG to RAW (or NEF in the case of Nikon)) changes one's relationship with one's camera. It feels new all over again, as it starts producing stuff it's never produced before.

    Hard drive space is a bit of an issue. Always has been actually - that was one of the reasons I never shot in RAW before. Now I'm having to accept that I can't carry round a copy of all my photos on my laptop - only the really old ones (with file sizes of 2mb or less) and the most recent. The rest have to go onto a couple of external drives, a data DVD, and a remote server too just in case. I think I'm a bit obsessed when it comes to backing-up. Still, you do hear horror stories, such a that of one of my classmates. They made three backups of all their photos when they came back to the UK this summer - and all three backups failed, leaving them with just a few shots on Facebook. Ouch.

    With hard disk failure it's never a case of IF, it's always WHEN.

    Flibberdy dee. Must be time to study some kanji.

    xxx josephine

    Sunday, October 07, 2007

    A new partner

    It's bye-bye Google, and hello Amazon as TGW's preferred partner.

    It seems Google weren't too impressed by the extreme interest that Mumble readers had in their ads, and decided to withdraw their services. Something to do with overly regular clicks. Glad I learnt the lesson now and not 10 years down the line when I depended upon the income.

    It was a good thing actually, as it prompted me to make the switch to Amazon that I've been meaning to make for a while. If I'm going to have advertising on TGW I'd prefer to have stuff that's relevant, and books are far more relevant that a lot of the stuff advertised via Google Adsense. I like the idea of promoting the book industry, as it helps people. The good thing with Amazon is that if people don't like what they buy, they can simply sell it again, on Amazon, at not much of a loss.

    Also, Amazon have this rather groovy flying tool thing, best demonstrated if I mention a classic book on my shelf, Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway. Make sure you put your seatbelt on before hovering over that one.

    Hurrah for books! What wonderful things they are!

    Today I met up with a couple of friends who, like me are only too keen to try out new ideas. The result was a decision to go ahead with a cunning plan, codenamed 'E'. More information will follow over the coming few months as things progress. Terribly exciting though, a kind of synthesis of lots of plans I've had this year.

    Started uploading my photos to a proper photo site today - I honestly can't remember why I didn't do this before. Just need to give them keywords and wait for approval - then they'll be ready to be downloaded 4 billion times a day.

    I appreciate that selling via my own site is not really going to generate any revenue at this point (although I did sell one Chipmunk!), that'll have to wait till I'm famous.

    Anyway, best get on. Big pot of Green Tea to be drunk.

    xxx love joseph

    Saturday, October 06, 2007


    I just sold a Japanese grammar dictionary on Amazon for £37 - prices are always high at this time of year.

    I was a little shocked when I read the email from Amazon though - the buyer was one of my coursemates!

    That put me in a bit of a dilemma.

    I've made the decision to put a tenner inside the front cover, and deliver it by hand (avoiding the Royal Mail strikes). They can always sell it on Amazon when they're done with it, like I have.

    Attended the opening of our friend Panni's exhibition tonight. Great stuff, all about climate change and spirituality, and featuring 6 tonnes of earth (which I'll be helping clear up next week!) Right up my street - it was very inspiring. Met the Lord Mayor too, nice chap, quite a fan of Japanese food.

    The exhibition space caught my eye, and Will's too - possibly a joint exhibition next year? I'm sure we could get the university to pay the rent...

    Really enjoying my CILASS role. The more exciting things I do the less I want to concentrate on my degree - yet I'm loving that, as it too is exciting!

    Anyway, must finish cramming these 9000 miles into fifteen hundred words!


    p.s. I LOVE life.

    p.p.s. Did I mention that yesterday I took the symbolic (and practical) step of switching my camera from JPEG to RAW mode? Well, I did, and you can almost hear the ground shaking (and my mac's fan whirring at full speed...!)

    Friday, October 05, 2007

    Appreciative Inquiry

    Had a fascinating intro to Appreciative Inquiry today. I'd not heard of it before this morning's meeting, but it sounds super duper to me, right up my street. Let's have a summary of it shall we.
    Appreciative Inquiry (AI) is a way of being and seeing. It is both a worldview and a process for facilitating positive change in human systems, e.g., organizations, groups, and communities. Its assumption is simple: Every human system has something that works right--things that give it life when it is vital, effective, and successful. AI begins by identifying this positive core and connecting to it in ways that heighten energy, sharpen vision, and inspire action for change. As AI consultant Bernard J. Mohr says, "Problems get replaced with innovation as conversations increasingly shift toward uncovering the organization's (or group's, or community's) positive core."

    The Center for Appreciative Inquiry

    Great to see this kind of attitude infiltrating the corporate world.

    Want to know more?

    The Power of Appreciative Inquiry - A Practical Guide to Positive Change

    Task Explosion

    Ah, this must be the one I was looking for...

    "15 tips for surviving a task explosion"

    I see they accidentally missed the one that said "Blog about it before actually taking any action"...


    Got my results from the second semester of uni in Japan today.

    1 x 90% - 100%
    2 x 80% - 89%
    1 x 70% - 79%

    It's a shame that these results don't mean what they'd mean if they were awarded bu a British university. In Japan it seems just turning up to class is enough to get you at least 60%... and if you stay awake in class, a mark of 65% is yours! Pick up a pen and it rockets up to 70%; actually write something and 75% is what the Golden Star you receive represents...

    One of Those Meetings

    This post may jump around a bit. Forgive me - I am absolutely buzzing!

    The further along this path I tread, the more convinced I am that it is the right way for me. Things keep happening, it's just amazing.

    I don't think I've ever really been pessimistic by nature, and I have, on the whole, had a fairly positive outlook on life as far back as I can remember. It's not been something I've ever really thought about (at least not until last year), it's just the way it's been. If I found myself with people who were complaining about how 'it wasn't fair', or 'so and so really pisses me off' I never thought twice - and joined in, strengthening the consensus. It never seemed to do any harm, and after all, if I was to say "I can't say I agree with you there, and I don't feel comfortable talking about them in that way behind their back", they'd look at me funny, right?

    I too have, like many people, been plagued by self-doubt. Ah, the cursed self-doubt!

    If only I had put Marianne Williamson's Our Deepest Fear on my wall 10 years ago:
    Our Deepest Fear...
    is not that we are inadequate,
    our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.
    It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.
    We ask ourselves, "Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented and fabulous?"
    Actually, who are you not to be?

    You are a child of God.
    Your playing small does not serve the world.
    There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you.

    We were born to make manifest the glory of God within us.
    It is not just in some of us,
    it is in everyone.

    And as we let our own light shine,
    we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.
    As we are liberated from our own fear,
    our presence automatically liberates others.

    Many of you know how it began - forgive me as I indulge in briefly recounting the story so far. It began with a book about Finance. A bestselling book called 'Rich Dad Poor Dad' by Robert Kiyosaki

    That was a bit of an eye-opener. I'd never had a financial education before - this was all very new to me. And yet somehow it wasn't. I'd voiced my opinion that participation in the Rat Race was optional several years beforhand, but never been able to offer a coherent alternative. This book offered that.

    I turned back to my friend who had leant me Rich Dad Poor Dad and asked them if they had any more recommendations. It just so happened that they did, and thus before long I was reading The Magic of Thinking Big. I laughed at the examples used in the text, written as it was for an era long passed - yet the underlying message was plain - there is nothing to stop you from becoming the person you want to be, it's just a question of adjusting your thinking and behavior - something that we are all capable of.

    I think it was then that I bought an audio copy of Earl Nightingale's "Lead the Field", Jim Rohn's "The Art of Inspirational Living", and a Tony Robbins CD too. I still remember listening to those for the first time in the kitchen in Kami Itabashi, and having to keep on stopping cooking and running into the other room to write down yet another line that struck me as something I just could not afford to forget. I could barely sleep those nights after listening to them.

    I'd tried listening to these kinds of things before, about ten years back, but just wasn't ready for them. Back then, they had 'stupid American accents' (ok, so Jim Rohn does take a bit of getting used to!), and yeah, I knew it all already. It's not as if they were saying anything new after all.

    But it was different this time. OK, so the messages were all very similar, and I had heard them all before - but this time I was willing to accept these ideas without prejudice and give them a go in real life.

    Next was 'What to say when you talk to yourself''What to say when you talk to yourself' (Chad Helm-wots-his-name) - now that was a bit of a shocker. Here was a plain and simple step-by-step method that if put into practice could change my thinking, my beliefs, my actions, my outcomes! Although I did not use the method explained in the book, just the knowledge of the process was enough to open me up for further reading.

    I think it was then that someone mentioned the hundreds of hours of downloadable material from HayHouse Radio (established by Louise L. Hay, of 'You can hear your life' fame) - in particular my friend recommended Dr. Wayne Dyer - she had found him to be very helpful.

    I was later to discover that this chap was pretty well known in the US, a personality in fact - but I would have never guessed it from the programs of his I listened to. It wasn't really about him. His identity was irrelevant. He never pretended to be anything more than anyone else. It was only others that promoted him as anything out of the ordinary. He never labeled himself as some special messenger. He was just a regular guy who shared all the problems that the rest of us had.

    A couple of months later I bought a download of his audio book 'There is a spiritual solution to every problem'.

    Listening to that I was confronted with my negative feelings towards "God", which at that time I associated with organised religion - not spirituality, or anything that was relevant to me.

    But over the space of a few months, and with help from my friends (including some of you, thank you) I started to appreciate that actually it wasn't the Guy in the Sky with the big beard that was being talked about here - it was something within me, something within us all. The label was irrelevant. Leave the limited thinking to Richard Dawkins.

    Then mum chipped in - was I aware that much of my writing could be referring to anthroposophy, the philosophy of Rudolf Steiner, founder of Waldorf Schools (one of which I attended.)? No, I wasn't aware, but should I really be surprised? No, I think not, as the majority of the different schools of thought all seemed to be saying the same thing, only using different words.

    More recently I have been listening to Dyer's interpretation of the 81 verses of the Tao. Is there anything new here? No, of course not, because the thing is, we know it all already! We just choose to keep it out of our conscious minds, like some ideal that can never be achieved, the pursuit of it is bound to be fruitless for the time being we'll stick with these rules and these goals that have been given to us by Society etc.

    The joy I feel at having made what little progress I have down this path is profound. The sense of freedom is almost overwhelming at times. Yes, there are those down times, but its OK, it's all part of the perfection, and I know that, and I find reassurance and peace in that knowledge. I say Yes to the challenges, and trust that things will work out, and they do.

    I guess it's coming on for a year now since I actively began practicing positive thinking and pursuing knowledge of myself. I wonder, have I been more 'lucky' since I first started to say Yes? Would things have been as good as they have been if I hadn't changed my thinking at all?

    Who knows? ...And who cares? It doesn't matter, because things have happened as they have, and that's just great.

    However, I would say that I feel happier than ever before. Whilst this could partly be attributed to practical things that have happened (such as the engagement to the cutest babe in the whole world... tee hee), I think it can ultimately be attributed to a stronger connection with my, er, what shall we call it - 'Spirit'? 'Inner self'? 'Core being'? 'Love'?

    Trusting that everything will work out does have a profound effect upon the way in which I live my life. It enables me to concentrate on the here and now and not worry about the tomorrow that will never come in any case. That's not to say that long-term plans are a pointless waste of time - A captain will focus his attention on making a safe exit from the port - but he won't have set sail without deciding upon his next destination!

    Tonight something rather special happened. I met someone who clearly I have been meant to meet for some time. It's just been in the pipeline, and finally tonight, the time was right.

    Tonight was the Photography Society's first social. I'd met a couple of them momentarily at the intro fair the other day, but other than those two there were no other familiar faces. 40p pint of Blackcurrant and Soda in hand (this no-alcohol thing is incredible - why is it not more popular?!) I introduced myself, and broke the ice with my Moo cards. I also had my portfolio with me, fresh from its success of seducing the editor of the newspaper (must write that article tomorrow! How do you fit 9000 miles in 1500 words?!), and Pepé too, who was quick to befriend some guy with a pint of real ale.

    It was such a thrill to be surrounded by people who shared my passion. And all those lovely cameras too... dribble dribble...!

    An hour passed. I got to know quite a few people including the lovely president (who has roped me into giving a talk in a fortnight - where did that ability of mine to say "no" disappear to?!), we played a bit of musical chairs, until a chap a little further down the table came into focus, and asked if he could have a look at my shots.

    Chris is a very nice man. He's a few years older than me, and has a wealth of experience as a cameraman in the TV industry. He also happens to be a stills photographer, and is incredibly knowledgeable when it comes to what makes a good shot. He has all those skills I currently lack (having forgotten everything I learned on my photography course some 15 years ago). He knows what settings to use on his equipment to get the perfect shot, whereas I tend to simply twiddle the dials and just keep on shooting until I get the semi-desired result.

    Chris gave me two great gifts tonight. One was strictly practical - the name of a process that, if I use (which I will), will enable me to submit my photos to photo libraries that until now wouldn't accept them as they haven't meet their minimum technical specs.

    The other gift was one of encouragement, confidence and confirmation of something I felt yet needed to hear from someone else. (Now what would the Tao say about that...?!).

    It was even more of a joy to meet Chris as he too is one to embrace life in all of its ups and downs. He has had some very very difficult times (such as when he was paralysed from the chest down), but has come through them a far stronger person, and is grateful for those 'times in hell'. Chris is also one of those who, like me, do not believe in life being about the final note of the symphony.

    So all in all, it has been another splendid day. And, oh bollox, I have a meeting at 9am, I'd better go to bed...

    tee hee


    Thursday, October 04, 2007

    Going, Going, (not quite gone)

    ...And we'll start the bidding at 20 pounds. 20 pounds anyone? Do I see a bid there sir?

    I've just put my entire minidisc collection on eBay. 2 Minidisc players/recorders, another player, over 150 discs, cables, batteries and all.

    Click here to pick up an absolute bargain and pay for my food next week.


    Thoughts on returning home from the party

    1) It kinda sucks having one's partner the other side of the world. You look around you at the the other 150 people from Japan Society (3/4 of all members, not bad turnout at all), and you see people getting 'friendly', and you think,

    "I wish she was here".

    The more old routines I go through that I used to go through with her (such as attending a Japan soc party) the more I miss her.

    2) Isn't it nice to not stink of cigarettes when you get home.

    3) This no-alcohol thing is a bloody good idea. Well done for making that decision Joseph.

    I know that had I not made the decision to avoid alcohol this year I would be drunk right now. I would be looking forward to a precious tomorrow spent feeling pretty crap, and unable to get as much done as I have set myself a target of doing.

    I would also be feeling even more needy than I currently do, which wouldn't really help my overall happiness levels which are, despite the wanting to be with *Twinkle*, pretty good. I tell you, this 10 ~ 15 minutes of exercise every day, this healthy diet, this going to bed before midnight, this routine of trying to meditate but failing - it's working absolute wonders. I have never felt so good. It's what all the experts recommend, it's what I've sometimes thought about doing but never done, it's what works.

    Another advantage of the no-alcohol thing is that it's cheap. Tonight's party actually cost me nothing at all, as the girl behind the bar said that my drink (a blackcurrant and soda) was so cheap I could have it for free! Wasn't that kind?

    Although my Japanese is perhaps not at the excellent standard that I wanted it to be at when a couple of years ago I thought of myself returning from Japan, now I am back in the UK I am finding myself surprised by how good it actually is. I mean, normal everyday conversation doesn't really require any effort at all now. Sure, I make mistakes all the time, but of course that's only an issue if one chooses for it to be so.

    Written Japanese is of course a different kettle of fish - but I have a plan in action to deal with that, another part of my daily routine which for secret reasons can't be revealed here. I'll tell you about it in a couple of weeks.

    Tonight I met a guy who has the same camera as me. We got talking, and it turned out that he's been to the first place I ever went in Japan seven years ago - Shin Shizen Juku in Eastern Hokkaido. It's a tiny place, no-one ever goes there, yet here he was. Initial shock over with, he gestures to his friend who it turns out has also been there - You'll never believe this, this guy Joseph has been to SSJ!!!" His friend looks at me a moment and says, "I knew it! I knew I recognised you! When I saw you at the intro meeting last week I knew I recognised you, but couldn't remember where I'd seen you... Now I know! There's a photo of you on the wall of SSJ, that's where I've seen you!"


    One could say "what a coincidence!", but of course its not. Nor is the fact that only yesterday I got an email from a stranger via this website asking me what I thought of SSJ - the first time I've had an email about the place in seven years.

    And you're telling me there's no 'intelligence' out there? I reckon the real nature of the world would make the film "The Matrix" look as animated as a piece of rock-hard playdoh.

    ...So yeah, coming home from the party it's a case of mixed feelings. Sadness to be alone, happiness that everything is just so good.

    4) The prostitues are bloomin' noisy tonight.

    Every Second Counts

    It's all happening. Very rushed entry ahead:

    This morning I saw my doctor. She's lovely, and was so helpful re. my epilepsy and having enough medication to get through a Year in Japan when I saw her in 2004/05.

    She was pretty surprised though when I walked in with a few thousand tablets.

    Her reaction, when I told her that I had replaced my medication with natural nutritional supplements was initially one of alarm. She though I was crazy to come off my medication without consulting my doctor, but as I explained to her how it all came about she became more and more interested.

    "Oooh, now where was it? I had a leaflet about some special diet for young children with epilepsy - all to do with nutrition, but only works with young children... And theer was a program on TV, one of the receptionists gave me a DVD of this one boy who's epilepsy was ruining his life - and he changed it all through diet and lifestyle adjustments..."

    She was pretty delighted really, and seemed to take great pleasure in entering my story into her database - no doubt that will be one to be recounted at her next meeting with the specialists.

    Then it was off to the pharmacy to return the drugs. The pharmacist was lost for words, "...but how did you get hold of so much Epilim? Why aren't you taking it?"

    As I recounted my tale again the other staff all gathered around, huge smiles spreading across their faces. I thought that they were suddenly going to burst into applause!

    Moving swiftly on, next was the Fresher's Fair, when hundreds of companies give out bags of free crap to impressionable first years. I was there in my capacity of CILASS student ambassador - it was great to get to know the team better, I really felt at home amongst them and think it's going to be great fun working with them this year.

    Then off to my department to find someone willing to discuss SEAS' Information Based Learning Programs. Nice to catch up with a teacher I've not seen for a long time. I do like the SEAS staff, they are so nice (that includes you Dr. D!). One of them has grown a couple of lemon trees from seed for me after they killed off a baby one that I'd left in their care a couple of years ago! (Perhaps I mentioned that the other day, I forget).

    After the meeting I found myself in the paternoster (doorless lift) with someone who looked pretty Japanese. I initiated a conversation, and it turned out she knew who I was alredy. She's an exchange student from the uni I attended last year in Tokyo - that was quite a surprise as I didn't think there were any Rikkyosei coming to Sheffield this year.

    Finally, I attended a lecture given by an Australia Professor who's a bit of a hero of mine - Gavan McCormack. Interesting talk in which he explained his reasons for declaring Japan a Client State (of the US). I loved his previous book (which unfortunately I sold on Monday so was unable to get it signed to sell for a lot more!!), great to see him in the flesh.

    And then tonight we have the Japan soc intro party, just along the road from where I live (I nipped home for a bite to eat and a blog!). Lots of members this year - no less than 213 actually. A lot of Japanese too which is good for my language acquisition.

    Spose I'd better get back down there!

    much love

    joseph xxx

    Wednesday, October 03, 2007

    Would you buy a chipmunk for 99 pence?

    I can now add Newspaper Photographer and Writer to my list of responsibilities this year, thanks to that portfolio I created yesterday. I'm just wondering though - is it voluntary? Oh, and somehow I have ended up being responsible for the Japan soc email account again... That's three out of three years!

    Student Finance have been a bit crap this year - my £1700 payment was due in on Monday, but never showed up. Problems with their system apparently. This means my rent is now 10 days overdue... and I have 20p to my name! Lucky I have a load of food in the cupboard.

    In other good news, my website was threatened with closure yesterday unless i stumped up $80 (£40) for deluxe webhosting. I was exceeding my disk quota. Gulp. That was a bit of a surprise, but I had no choice but to pay it.

    This initial student loans payment - when it does come through - has to last me until mid-January. After rent and mini-loans are paid back (taken out to keep me going this far) I will have a staggering £500 to last me until the next year. That's, er, £30 a week!!! It really is a joke, especially as I have to pay for my vitamins now (I reckon I should get them on the NHS as they are doing exactly what my Epilim was doing, only naturally).

    I'm being pretty good with my budget now though. No more chocolate, no more snacks at uni, and no going out either! At least, not to anywhere that requires the spending of money.

    I know I'll be alright, I know things will work out, but I must admit I do find it quite stressful when things are so tight.

    Oh, I was wondering, would anyone spent 99 pence (50 cents) on one of my photos? I was thinking of setting up a gallery of desktop images to help me survive this semester.

    Here's the kind of thing I was thinking of (it's a fully-automatic instant download thing, credit / debit cards and paypal accepted. Click below for more info).

    99 pence for a lovely little chipmunk:

    I'd be grateful for any feedback on this idea actually.

    Apologies for the tone of this entry. Things weighing down on me a little. It's important to be down sometimes, otherwise one can't appreciate the up times.

    Love, Joseph

    Tuesday, October 02, 2007

    Back to school

    A genuinely great day today.

    I must admit, I was a bit nervous going in to that first class this morning. It's been what, 16 months since I was last had to do any work for SEAS, where effort really matters. There was also this fear that everyone else would be streets ahead of me, and I'd be left floundering like a harpooned whale - thankfully I wasn't the only that was constantly reaching for the dictionary to check the kanji! The essay I wrote may have been incredibly childlike, but I took great pleasure in just managing to write one-and-a-half sides in the time we had about "My year in Japan".

    This afternoon, after turning 4 Japanese history text books into an A3 portfolio of some of my better photography of late (sold textbooks for £25, spent £20 on printing, £5 on a folder to put them in), it was time for our speaking lesson, in the brand spanking new sci-fi 'Information Commons' (as pictured below), an incredibly high-tech library of sorts which is more computer generated than the image which is this web page.

    Once again, we were nervous. This was to be our first discussion in Japanese together. What if Edward had become fluent in his year abroad? What if everyone laughed when I asked what a yama was...?

    As it happens though, it seems that everyone is pretty much at the same level. In fact, it was actually FUN talking together in Japanese! There wasn't this need to pronounce words in question form to check that people understood. They just did. And I understood them too, every word! How exciting is that?!! It still surprises me - I can understand Japanese, and even speak it to a certain extent! It feels great, and reminds me of why I started to learn it in the first place. Very different from the feeling I have when speaking in Japan (where I feel somewhat limited in ability) - here it becomes a special gift that we share. We can be clever together, and that's nice.

    The other nice thing today was simply being with my classmates. It reminded me just how much I like them, everyone without exception, they are all so nice (I was banned from using that word at school). Our year apart has somehow brought us closer. Old quarrels have been forgotten, and there's a feeling of comradery (sp?) - we've survived this far together, and together we shall conquer the beast that is BA Japanese Studies!

    I can see the workload is going to weigh down on me pretty soon. Already I have 2 presentations next week, and deadlines for essays. Then there's that pile of books about environmental issues in China that I got out of the library last week and am yet to look at... Must do that tonight.

    Finally made it up to the healthfood shop tonight, great to get some organic fruit after a year without. Green & Black's chocolate too. yum yum.

    Anyway, best get on.

    Yep, it's good to be back.


    p.s. Today's link for a more positive approach to life is "One word that can change your reality..."

    Monday, October 01, 2007


    The following is a message from the internationally respected campaign group Avaaz.

    "Dear friends,

    Burma's generals have brought their brutal iron hand down on peaceful monks and protesters -- but in response, a massive global outcry is gathering pace. The roar of global public opinion is being heard in hundreds of protests outside Chinese and Burmese embassies, people round the world wearing the monks' color red, and on the internet-- where our petition has exploded to over 200,000 signers in just 72 hours.

    People power can win this. Burma's powerful sponsor China can halt the crackdown, if it believes that its international reputation and the 2008 Olympics in Beijing depend on it. To convince the Chinese government and other key countries, Avaaz is launching a major global and Asian ad campaign on Wednesday, including full page ads in the Financial Times and other newspapers, that will deliver our message and the number of signers. We need 1 million voices to be the global roar that will get China's attention. If every one of us forwards this email to just 20 friends, we'll reach our target in the next 72 hours. Please sign the petition at the link below -if you haven't already- and forward this email to everyone you care about:

    The pressure is working - already, there are signs of splits in the Burmese Army, as some soldiers refuse to attack their own people. The brutal top General, Than Shwe, has reportedly moved his family out of the country – he must fear his rule may crumble.

    The Burmese people are showing incredible courage in the face of horror. We're broadcasting updates on our effort over the radio into Burma itself – telling the people that growing numbers of us stand with them. Let's do everything we can to help them – we have hours, not days, to do it. Please sign the petition and forward this email to at least 20 friends right now. Scroll down our petition page for details of times and events to join in the massive wave of demonstrations happening around the world at Burmese and Chinese embassies.

    With hope and determination,

    Ricken, Paul, Pascal, Graziela, Galit, Ben, Milena and the whole Avaaz Team