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    Wednesday, April 30, 2008

    Notification from the Embassy

    Well well well. Just got a phone call from Mother to let me know that I didn't get the job as CIR on the JET program. The letter finally arrived this morning.

    Initial reaction is of course one of disappointment. They don't disclose why they turn people down, but I'm guessing it's either because I'm delusional in thinking that I was up for the job, or because of my insistence that being near Tokyo (where *Twinkle* is) is important to me (and there are very few positions available in that region). I knew this was a gamble, and it was recommended that I not do that by friends currently on the scheme as it makes them nervous of offering you a position in case you turn it down - but I didn't think it fair on them to lie.

    It was in any case a very worthwhile experience, having had to attend that interview and all. I learnt a fair bit through that and am grateful for it. And, whatever the reason for it, I'm sure they made the right decision. I've emailed the program director to thank her for considering my application in any case (I know her through having done some advertising for them).

    The next reaction is one of excitement. I now have this big blank canvas that is my life after July 25th. Ok, so it's going to be Tokyo-centred, but other than that...?

    One issue now is actually getting to Tokyo - having no savings and a wedding to pay for means I'm going to be pretty broke. Well, very broke actually.

    Looking at job vacancies in Tokyo most specify that the applicant must currently reside in Japan. That's not really an excuse to not update my CV and get on with looking though, although it'll have to wait a few weeks until my dissertation is out the way.

    Hmm. I'm intrigued to hear how this story will unfold. I guess I'll just have to watch this space.

    Tuesday, April 29, 2008

    Final assignment received

    Things are happening.

    We were given our final assignment today. A translation piece. Thus, all I have to do now is that story (by the end of May), finish my dissertation (by mid-May), perform a drama (Thursday), take an exam (4th June).

    I feel pretty motivated and will work hard to get these done as soon as possible.

    I emailed the embassy this morning enquiring about my application. They tell me that notification was sent two weeks ago, to my home address and to my flat here in Sheffield. Hmm, that's strange. I wonder what the reason for that happening is...

    Anyway, this means that I should get a second notification tomorrow.

    It's funny, I've long thought that things happen for a reason ...but reading Murakami novels does make you see huge life-changing consequences lurking beneath every little thing that happens!

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    Monday, April 28, 2008

    Wondering what's around the corner

    I'm about a third of a way through the 27-hour audio version Murakami's The Wind-up Bird Chronicles.

    Murakami is the first fiction author whose books I've read more than one of - this is my third (following Kafka on the Shore & Norwegian Wood).

    I'm finding this one as involving as the previous two, and I'm wondering, is it now reaching that point where it start to teach me whatever it is I need to learn from it?

    If I think of Kafka working in the library, I'm back there on the carpeted floor of the Mongolian Yurt on day two of my stay last summer- thankfully not being skinned alive (not the most relaxing bedtime story. I could hardly bear to listen to it). If I move on a bit to Hoshino trying to open the stone I'm bumping along on that 9-hour car journey back to the capital, Ulaanbatar. I almost feel like I wouldn't have survived that journey without sharing in Nakata's own journey.

    Norwegian Wood (which sees me clearing the path on the Welsh Garden Project site) led me, I realised afterwards, to finally come to understand an old Japanese friend of mine. I'd lost contact with her, abruptly, and I never figured out why. When listening to Norwegian Wood, she popped into my head once or twice, and i recognised her in the characters portrayed. It felt good to have closure on that.

    As I listen to Toru tell the story of his marriage to Kumiko, I can't help but think of my own marriage. It's something I've been thinking about quite a lot in any case, as is only natural. What does it actually mean to me? This feeling of responsibility it contains - is that coming from within me, I mean really within me, or is it more a product of outside influence?

    How will our life differ this time from last time we lived together? Then, I was a student, on a temporary stay. This time it will be very different. There will be an element of ...permanentness.

    How will this affect my attitude towards life in general? In a way I have had it easy for the past 8 years. Ever since I split up with my ex in fact, and left Torquay for Switzerland. But even then,despite the fact that we'd bought a house together, deep down we knew that it was only temporary. Since then, I've lived knowing that even if I made absolutely no effort at instigating change myself, my life would change in a big way anyway, all by itself, within a maximum of 12 months.

    Switzerland: I was on seasonal contracts.
    Japan: My visa would expire
    Bristol (UK): My Access course would come to an end
    Sheffield: I would graduate

    And now, as of August 2008, I will not have this safety net of prescribed change. If I want things to happen in my life, it will be entirely up to me. If I let myself drift along (as is only to easy to do), I may be happy in the short term, I will get things done, change will occur ...but I'll feel somehow unfulfilled. I don't think I'm the kind of person cut out for that. Many people are, and that's great, I'm not knocking them for that, but I feel like I am so absolutely packed full of energy just bursting to be channelled into 'stuff' that I'd be stifled by having no prospect of guaranteed change or progression.

    In a way, this is another reason why i want the CIR job in Japan. With an annual contract (renewable up to 5 years) there's that time limit. It would push me to make the most of today, every day, and never put off trying to realise dreams for some tomorrow that will never come.

    I sometimes wonder where this excitement has come from. Did I always have it? According to my beliefs, yes, I did. I have always been a little hyper; "OTT" was how I was described to my parents by my teacher as a teenager (I felt terrible about that at the time, like I'd really let them al down).


    I hope to get a reply from the embassy this coming week. It's nearing a month since everyone else was informed. I can only assume that my application is continuing to give them grief due to my request to be near *Twinkle*. In a way though, I feel the longer I wait, the better the chances that this will all work out for the best.

    It feels a bit like sitting in the bottom of a well though, waiting for a line to be cast down. It's not a well of doom and despair, just a well of contemplation and nervous tension, wondering what the view is going to be like when I get out.

    Ho hum. Start of a brand new week in the morning.

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    Sunday, April 27, 2008

    Dissertation dilemmas

    The experiment two nights ago worked.

    I created a new user account on my Macbook with access only to my word-processor (Scrivener), then reset my admin password to something like 673hdhsa568fdje8sosjyr8jdhs7si which I wrote down on a piece of paper and put in my sock drawer. I then went to the library, and could do nothing but write.

    I have a deadline of Monday to turn this thing around. I'll do it.

    This morning I was listening to Macbreak weekly, when Andy Ihnatko gave his pick of the week: Freedom.

    It is the most wonderful piece of Mac software in the whole world. Basically, you launch it, and then tell it how long you want it to block all Internet connections.

    It then shuts down your wireless and Ethernet, and there's no way to turn it back on unless you do a restart. I really don't like restarts so this suits me very well.

    I've spent about 11 hours in the library today. Just came home for beans on toast, then will go back to write another chapter.

    A lot of my time has been spent reformulating my question, and then rewriting what I have already written to suit my new argument. I'd started off by seeking to show how wonderful the 1998 Non Profit Organisation Law was. After doing that for a bit, I discovered that actually, it had been a bit of a flop. So then I switched to showing why it had failed. But I didn't like that, it was negative, and I was getting increasingly frustrated by the lack of reliable data on which to base my argument (civil society is notoriously difficult to define, let along quantify).

    Finally, in despair I emailed my tutor - and got the green light to change my title again. I'm now assessing the changes that have occurred since 1995 in Japan's third sector, including the effects of the NPO law, and many other factors that have brought civil society to where it is today. I'm happy with that.

    The thing is, 3 new laws come into force in December, and the whole situation will be turned on its head, meaning that my dissertation will only be current for about 6 months! Well, at least I'll have graduated by then!

    Ok,better heat up the beans.

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    Thursday, April 24, 2008

    Wanted: No Internet

    It's reached the stage with this dissertation writing where drastic action is called for. I need to go on retreat this weekend to write it.

    The only problem is finding somewhere that is affordable, quiet, and has no Internet access. Hotels are out on both counts. I've found a camp site, but it lacks a desk.

    If I hadn't got Broadband put in at mum and dad's I could have gone there. Any ideas?

    There is another 3-step option, which is looking more and more like the only option:
    1) Set up parental controls on my Macbook's second user account so that it will not allow any Internet access, and will only allow me to use my word-processing application, then...

    2) Ask my class mate to reset my Macbook's admin password, and not tell me the new password until Monday. Then...

    3) Spend the weekend in Western bank library, which has very few PCs with Internet access.
    Sounds like a plan.

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    Competition Winners!

    I don't have classes on Wednesdays. It's useful to have a weekday free, as it gives one a chance to do all those non-academic things that can't be done at weekends. Like, visit the dentist for the last time here in the UK.

    This particular dentist has dealt with my cavities for about 4 years now. He's a nice guy, friendly, and quick. As I stood up and put my coat on to leave, I felt it important that I thank him for looking after my teeth. But what does one say to a dentist when seeing them for the last time? I was at a loss for words, and ended up blurting out, "It's been good, thank you".

    "It's been good"? What was I saying? I'd only seen him about 6 times in 3 years, and every time I had seen him he'd stuck a drill or polisher in my mouth, causing me discomfort. As I walked down the corridor back to the reception, I couldn't help but think I'd given him the impression that I felt as if I was having to regretfully leave a lover. Not say goodbye to my dentist.

    Walking back to uni I passed by Starbucks. I've always associated Starbucks with Japan, having never seen one until I went to live there. As far as I was concerned it was a Japanese brand with a Western name, and I liked sitting and watching people in that one in Shinjuku South, next to the train tracks. It was a safe haven for me back then, when I didn't know the place and looked for comfort in familiarity wherever I could find it.

    These days, I try not to support the company, as I feel they are like a Tesco of the cafe-industry, causing the loss of privately owned businesses with character, driving up unemployment and destroying diversity. But sometimes, like today, my desire to back in Japan drives me through the door and up to the counter next to the 4 trays of coloured plastic coffee beans.

    I took my Flapalatterino (?!) back out into the Spring sunshine, crossed the road and sat in Weston Park, a fairly large public garden that's now nearing the end of its grand makeover. I watched the boys playing football as they nearly got run over by a dumper truck, a young mother with a child in the pushchair having a tantrum ...and then decided to focus upon the cherry trees instead.

    Back in the IC (library), I was delighted to read an email from my tutor telling me that she'd just received a phone call from the head of CILASS to let her know that she'd won £2000 worth of 'stuff' in a university-run competition, a prize that will help further develop our language course over the next year. This was great news!

    Myself and a few classmates had nominated her for the category of "Most effective use of technology for Inquiry Based Learning", in recognition of the incredible amount of work and effort she'd put in to developing a new approach to teaching Japanese to final year students. It involved videoing interviews with Japanese people in Japan last summer (I remember her talking about it when we met in Tokyo, and wondering what this 'IBL thing' was all about), creating a "Virtual Language Laboratory" and devising lesson plans integrating the materials. In a way we have been the guinea pigs, but I don't see that as any bad thing. It's good to be out there, beating a path (did it for years at the Steiner School!).

    It's turning out to be a good week for awards!

    Anyway, best get on learning my lines for our Japanese drama highlighting the issues involved in euthanasia. It's been difficult to reach any conclusions as to whether it should or should not be legalised, as there seems to be a valid counter-argument for particular point. However, in line with the stance I'm adopting for the in-class debate and drama, I'm beginning to feel that fundamentally, it should not be legalised. Leave things as they are, that's what I say.

    (I won't go into the debate here. It would go on forever...)

    tarra xxx

    Wednesday, April 23, 2008

    Up in smoke

    Caw blimey gov it's been one hell of a day. Just got back form the library (2am) where I've spent the last 7 hours trying to finish off this website for my employer. I'm always astonished by how long it takes. It was all working fine in Safari and Firefox, but then I made the mistake of testing it for compatibility with Microsoft Internet Explorer, and it all went horribly wrong...

    Still, glad I got it done. Eventually.

    It was a funny old day. Started with a chap coming to see my darling 17-year-old Claud Butler mountain bike which I'm selling to hope pay for the move to Japan - every penny counts. He said he'd let me know... Then it was off to uni for a Japanese class. Crikey, my speaking ability really has dived this year. This is through no fault of my course, I don't see my coursemates experiencing the same thing. If I chose to make the time to speak japanese outside class, and if I chose to put the effort into my course that I know i should, then I'd be improving, but I don't, and thus I probably only talk japanese for about 30 minutes a week. I feel a little bad about this as I don't want to let my teacher down, but she knows me well, and I think understands my situation.

    My listening is Ok though, and my writing not too hopeless, when I use a keyboard!

    It's reached the stage now where I know that I'll be back in Japan soon, so I'm not too concerned about this brief interlude of crapness. In the long term I will be fluent. Now though, it's a matter of just trying to scrape by.

    I was delighted yesterday to be presented with three Third Prizes and one First Prize at the Photo Soc Awards ceremony. It almost seemed like one of those Bafta situations where the film of the moment sweeps everything up ... which made me feel a little uncomfortable, as it would have been nicer if the prizes had been spread around a bit. Hmm, I left quite quickly after I'd spoken to the judges about my photos (taken in Mongolia last summer).

    i received an email today to let me know that one or some of my photos have gone though to the final or another university photo competition. The awards ceremony is Thursday, but unfortunately I'll be in class at that time.

    My Macbook power adapter went up in smoke today, literally! Prolonged wear and tear and over-zealous winding of the cord caused the outer insulation to break, and the thing short-circuited. I didn't realise though until I actually saw this whiff of smoke cross my screen - I thought it was a feather and tried to grab hold of it!

    Off to the Apple Store I went, and was shocked by the cost of the replacement - £60! Just as I was about to pay, one of the staff asked me if my Macbook was under warranty. Yes, it was ...and 20 minutes later I was given a new adapter for free. I asked if the battery would have been harmed by the incident - no it should be fine. But how old is the battery? 21 months - Ancient! Did I know that Apple have a free replacement policy for that model? No, i didn't ...but moments later I was delighted to be presented with a brand new battery, which retails at £100!

    Oh, then I mentioned the loose screws on the side of my macbook. That prompted the ordering of a new bottom case for it, to be delivered soon.

    With this latest incident, in 6 months I would have had the hard drive, optical drive, keyboard, screen, power adapter, battery, bottom case and fan replaced- all 'free of charge'. I say free, but in fact I paid £50 for a 3-year warranty, which I would strongly recommend to anyone buying an Apple product. That's not because they break down more often than any other hardware, it's that the service you get for your money is so superb. Outside of Tokyo, I know of no place where you can just walk in with your computer and get it fixed on the spot, and I've never heard of a warranty covering a battery or power adapter before (both of which were victims of wear-and-tear, although apparently my battery was especially crap, not that I ever noticed, thus the new one).

    Anyway, I've got a meeting with a local web design company tomorrow, er, today, in 6 hours time, to discuss getting our publishing site made (again). Best get some sleep!


    p.s. Liking Murakami's Wind-Up Bird Chronicles. The 24 hour audiobook is about £50 from Amazon - only £7.99 on subscription from Audible!

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    Tuesday, April 22, 2008

    tied up

    But quiet round here lately eh?

    Pretty tied up with 'stuff'.

    I can almost smell the freedom though.


    Sunday, April 20, 2008

    Photo fest: International Cultural Evening

    I went to the International Cultural Evening tonight to film the Japan Soc dance troupe do their great Soran Bushi routine. I arrived ten minutes before they were due on stage, only to find that the program I had was wrong, and they weren't to perform for another 90 minutes. 

    Initially, I was bit stressed about this, as I have so much on this weekend, but then as the other international societies came on stage one by one, so I began to recall what this whole international cultural evening thing was all about, and I smiled. 

    I loved it.

    I am always amazed at just how talented the student body is. There were some fantastic performances of traditional songs and dances from all over the world ...which led me to forget about the wars and terrorist threats, and instead to feel overwhelmed by how, at the end of the day, no matter where we come from, we are all essentially one and the same, celebrating in much the same way, despite outward appearances.

    The outward appearances tonight were stunning, and I took about 400 photos over the course of the evening. It was difficult though. The lighting in the Octagon Centre is truly appalling, with the stage more backlit than anything else. Also, I was standing right at the other side of the room, about 40 foot from the stage. I had no tripod, and my 55-200mm zoom is pretty slow (doesn't let so much light through).

    There was only one thing for it - crank the iso up to 1600. Whilst this did mean I could capture the action on stage, it had the usual downside of making the images so grainy they can't really be used - unless turned into B&W's. Which is what I've done with some (and put up with the grain on others). 

    On with the show.

    My friends in Japan Soc do the Soran Bushi

    Ali G featured prominently in the Romanian Societies Performance. We never quite figured out why, and he didn't explain either when I met him outside buying octopus balls.

    Along with Ali G in the Romanian presentation was Dracula - a little more logical seeing as he does actually come from Romania. 

    But the girl stuck in the wall...?

    Wednesday, April 16, 2008

    Pedalling my police car

    Today, I'd like to spend the day pedalling my police car around and having meals made for me.

    A Whizz Boing Pop day

    I find it astonishing (and at times disturbing!) how much detail my camera lens can pick up. My hand doesn't look so wrinkly to the naked eye, but an adjustment of the levels in the raw file shows the prints and lines in all their glory. I guess this is where photography is going now, especially with the advent of Nikon's incredible D3.

    Got back into the daily exercise thing today. Up at 6.30am, out to the park to jog (and, er, take photos of the blossom. and my hand. that was a spur of the moment thing).

    Then, at nine I took part in presenting for a CILASS IBL cafe (IBL = Inquiry based learning), a weekly event open to staff and students in which we present / discuss IBL related topics. Today we focused upon 'Being a CILASS Student Ambassador and Employability'. I won't say more about it here as I'll be blogging about it on the SA Network blog ...and I get paid to blog there! (I'll link to it when it's up). Really enjoyed that though. Lovely people I work with, wonderful start to the day.

    Following that I popped along to the SEAS office having been summoned by email - they had a bottle of wine for me (and a timesheet!) to fill in following this year's open days, bless them. They are so kind. Only two weeks until a core member of the family leaves - I wonder how that will effect things?

    Next it was on to a writing class, then translating literature from the 1950s. I am absolutely terrible at this, and for my last piece of coursework got my first ever 2:2 - with some of the categories seeing me down as far as a third. Whilst I enjoy reading the stories, when it comes to precise translation I am hopeless. The thing is, whist we have always had precise translation classes (at which I have always done pretty poorly) the general rule in everyday life is to go for the general meaning - and that's what I do. I think that's what we all do as humans really when we are unable to catch it all: we listen for familiarities and then fill in the blanks with our context-based knowledge. But you can't do that with precise translation. Whilst I was shocked when I got my feedback, I'm not upset about it at all. I just accept that this is not my strong point, appreciate that I have to try better next time, and move on (and not get a job which requires precise translations of 1950s Japanese novels).

    Following that I went up to the healthfood shop Beanies to pick up my organic vegee box. I was in for a bit of a surprise there too as when I told the lady behind the counter my name so she could tick my box off, she said,
    Oh, I know your name! My daughter was doing some research for something and found your blog. She told me about it as you'd mentioned us - and when I had a look I saw it was you!"

    Back down the road and I discovered I'd accidentally kept hold of a key for some of the classrooms in the IC. I was a little bemused by this, why I had I done that? It all became clear when I got back to CILASS though, as Dr. N who runs the Case Studies project I participated in had just finished a meeting, and there was a fair bit of lovely italian food left over. Well, it would have been a shame to let it go to waste..!

    Plate loaded down with the finest cheeses, pasta and pizza, I returned to a room in the bowels of the Octagon Centre where Japan soc was to meet a couple of hours later. No sooner had I sat down than *Twinkle* skyped me, and we talked, and talked.

    It is such a treat to talk with her, makes me so happy. What I especially like is the way in which many conversations (like today's) become learning experiences. We really are pushing one another, each using our personal strengths to challenge one another's thinking. Makes it all so real, engaging, fun ...and makes me feel that I can't wait to be back together with her! 17th July is the day. Heathrow the place. She's so good for me; good job she's not seen through me yet...

    Anyway, I've just realised that I've not written those two mini-japanese essays that are due in last week. I was going to write them this evening, but got carried away preparing the budget and other documents for Japan society - we hand over next week, and that will be it - my three years with them over :-(

    It's been great though, what a fantastic learning experience. Thank you Japan soc.

    so, er, yes, must sleep.

    night night xxx

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    Magical Jiggery Pokery

    The random image thing on the right of this page is supposedly, er, random - so how can one account for things like the above happening? Here, I blogged about my mum's painting, and hey presto! It randomly appears on the right too! It's not as if it's unusual either, I've seen matches like that in the past, but the odds should be 14,762 to 1 (the number of images I have on Flickr).

    Also, I know of friends who have reported random pictures of themselves showing up when they've checked the mumble, the chances of which are almost as slim as the above!

    Is there magical jiggery pokery going on around here?

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    The Sun Sets

    Right, everyday at around this time, the sun sets.

    Funny that.


    Monday, April 14, 2008

    My Life Purpose

    One benefit of committing the story of one’s life to a blog powered by Google, hosted by some other company and then sent to you by email (and then burnt to DVD) is that when one turns 90, the chances are there will still be a copy of it somewhere. Why should that be important? I’d like to be able to look back on my life at the age of 90 and see if I can draw lines between developments in my thoughts, feelings and decisions early on in life (now) and later occurrences.

    For many years, I kept *real* diaries. I have about 49 of them in a big box that will soon be sailing to Japan. They span some 15 years of my life from the age of about 12. There’s only one copy of them, and should the boat go down, they will go down too.

    I pretty much stopped writing my *real* diary when I met *Twinkle*, who became the one I talked to about things that mattered. As time has passed, so I’ve grown more confident about writing about my feelings here on the Internet, which has been especially useful this past year with those friends who are happy to talk about such things being some distance away. It took me a while to develop the confidence to open up, and I know that without the inner work, I wouldn’t have been able to do this. It’s only though learning to trust my heart / spirit that I can feel confident in what I write. Confident in that I am being honest with myself (as opposed to confident in my being ‘right’, a view I don’t subscribe to. How can I be ‘right’ when things have no intrinsic ‘rightness’? Don’t they only have the rightness or wrongness we as individuals choose to assign to them?).
    So there’s my long-winded preamble about why I’m writing this.

    Things have been happening in my life this week. Well, actually, it’s more a case of things have always been happening all my life, but I feel that now is a critical period, like some kind of climax. There’s all these things that are happening. I feel like there’s some role being shaped for me, but I have no idea what it is. I’m getting this message that I have some kind of responsibility to do something. But not just an everyday something, but a something that is going to make a big difference. I don’t know what it is.

    You know there’s that quote of Gandhi’s, “You must be the change you wish to see in the world”. I can’t say I can recall ever hearing it before this week, and suddenly, it’s everywhere. It was on a website I stumbled across the other day in bold letters. Then, it popped up on an audiobook I was listening too (quite the highlight actually - if you’re after self-development books give Brian Tracy a miss!), then the other night I was suddenly moved to pick a book off my shelf that had been there since January, untouched. It’s called “Be the change”, and is a product of the organisation of the same name, based in my second home town of Bristol. There on the front page is the quote by Gandhi.

    Then there was the person I met in the pub the other night. Well, I say ‘met’. All I actually did was shake his hand and then talk to someone else on the other side of the table for 20 minutes, but the following day I received an email from his partner (my good friend) passing on a message for me, talking about my future. It was a reflection of the feelings I am writing about here.

    Then there was that person who warned me, “Don’t hide behind *Twinkle’s* success”. Now that was a well-placed kick up the backside, and a very timely one at that. Likewise, I can’t hide behind the name of any company or government I might work for in the short term. I might want to, and no doubt I will do so at times due to my ego demanding a stroke, but it will be fatal if I subscribe to such a practice long term.

    It’s not these superficial happenings that are overwhelming me though, it’s this feeling that growing inside me that I have a responsibility to use the immense fortune that I have to make a difference. I’m not talking any financial fortune, I’m talking being born in the UK in the late 20th century to loving parents who sent me to a Steiner School, and have always supported me emotionally in all that I have ever chosen to do. In having loving siblings and friends who share my positive outlook upon life and also believe that we can do great things.

    Sometimes, the feeling is positively palpable. Like tonight. I had to lie down on my bed and hide under my duvet, hugging my teddy as I felt all these things happening, all this energy surrounding me (if only I could channel it into pressing the appropriate keys on my Macbook to write a dissertation on NGOs in Japan!). I’ve been reading these incredibly inspiring stories in the Be The Change book about individuals who have done the most amazing things and are changing lives. In some cases, just a few lives, and in other cases, many. There’s no fundamental difference between these people and anyone else, except that they have made a decision to make things happen, and then acted. They didn’t know how they were going to do it, but that is not important when one first embarks upon a project.

    So, I’m not quite sure what to do. I don’t think the time is right to act yet as I need more clarity, and it may be a case of waiting some years before I do know. That’s not to say that I have to “wait until everything is in place” - the biggest excuse in the book that, things will never be ‘just right’! But I do know that it’s vital that I continue to study, study my passions, study others, study those things in life that present themselves to me with a label on saying “study me” (sometimes need an ultraviolet light to see the writing though).

    I also know that living in accordance with what my heart tells me is right, is working. It must be almost a year now since I started that ‘experiment’, and the results in terms of being at ease with decisions made, not attaching importance to the subjective opinions of others who are acting out of a perceived necessity for defensiveness, and my ability to love others for who they, are wonderful to experience.

    It’s pretty difficult for me to tell even a white lie now. Although I did the other day, first time in a very long time. I can’t remember exactly where I was. It was somewhere on campus, I remember that, and it was someone who I didn’t know too well, and they asked me an awkward question. I told them the answer they wanted to hear, and boy oh boy did I feel bad. I almost burst out laughing I was so amused by my inability to lie. If the person had known me they’d have spotted it right away, but they didn’t.

    In a way I can comfort myself with the knowledge that the publishing company we are establishing is essentially a social enterprise, helping others to help themselves without heavy emphasis on profit. If my energy is directed into that, I can feel happy knowing that I am doing a good thing. Perhaps I’ll get the Jet job. If I do I know I’m going to have to use every opportunity within that to make myself a better person, in order that I can make things happen in an area where my true passions lie in the future.

    If I don't get it, that’s great too as it means that there’s some other exciting path waiting for me.

    So, 90-year-old Joseph, do the lines join up?

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    Saturday, April 12, 2008

    Spanners, deadlines, and night-time inspiration

    Email from the parents:
    "No post for you from the embassy today either. They must be sorting out necessary changes in law for you to be made emperor"

    Having had a very long day, it was a great relief to get home last night. Managed to finalise the business plan and actually submit it 6 hours before the competition deadline. It was just a shame that only thirty minutes later we had a meeting with the company responsible for developing our website in which we were informed that they had suffered a major breakdown in internal communication, and thus were unable to proceed with development under the current contract, the quote having been based upon a hopelessly optimistic timescale.

    That was quite a shock, as we'd previously been informed that the coding was proceeding smoothly; this puts us two months behind schedule, two months we don't really 'have'. Still, ultimately this is a good thing as the project has now been transferred to another somewhat more professional team within the organisation, thus meaning we are more likely to get a robust, good-looking site (provided we can afford it!).

    It's good that we learn this lesson now with a business that we are not relying upon to put bread on the table in the immediate future. Whilst of course we very much want it to be up and running and successful as soon as possible, were that not to happen it would not put our 'families' under duress as we each have other income streams. A couple of years down the line the story might be different, with a delay of several months in the commencement of trading for whatever other businesses we may be running then having a huge impact our daily lives.

    It reminds me once again of what a great learning experience this is: I'd urge any university student who is considering setting up their own business in the future to do so whilst at uni - there is so much support available, and ultimately if things don't work out you can write it off as good lesson that could not have been attended in a classroom. And remember, as only one in ten businesses is 'successful', it's a good idea to start up at least ten businesses in your lifetime!

    I also met the deadline for applications for further CILASS funding - although I later realised that the CD that I had meticulously prepared the night before (used pretty blue pen to write the label, found a case for it in cupboard) actually contained no data! I'd postponed burning it until I'd had the OK from my department on the wording of the application. Silly boy! The judges meet next Friday - Fingers crossed.

    I then submitted 12 photos to the International Office for a competition being run to help them increase their stock of publicity shots. I like the idea of contributing to this campaign, not just because I might win a digital photo frame, but also because it's nice to give back to the uni, and especially this department as they were instrumental in bringing *Twinkle* into my life!

    I submitted another 5 photos to the Photosoc (photo) competition, the deadline of which was Thursday. I'd wanted to be a lot more involved with Photosoc this year, but ultimately, it had to take a back seat due to things like CILASS (although I don't regret that). I doubt I'll win that as I had few striking images that could be bent to fit the available categories, and decided not to make time to shoot some specifically for the competition.

    In the afternoon myself, Tom and Mark went about recording our 'Unlocking IBL Technology session" (IBL = Inquiry Based Learning, as promoted by CILASS) . That was fun, a good chance to practice talking to the camera. It once again highlighted my tendency to sway back and forth when giving a talk, something I'll continue to work on as I'm sure that public speaking will be one of my things in the future. ...if i can just find something to talk about. (I recommend Presentation Zen for anyone else interested in how to deliver effective presentations. And no, I don't subscribe to his blog just because he gives regular presentations at Japan's Apple Stores!).

    When I got home at 6pm it hit me. The exhaustion. I was done in. I just managed to prepare a big organic salad, before collapsing onto my bed. I could do nothing but lie their dazed, staring at the ceiling, half-listening to the latest episode of TWiP. After an hour or so I felt I wanted to do some sewing, and so got my patchwork trousers out and worked on some recent holes. For background noise I'd put on the trashy yet mildly entertaining Azumi, one of those films that requires no attention whatsoever and that you forget seconds after it's finished.

    Fast forward to 2am, and I'm now awake and alert. Been thinking about what I'm going to do after I graduate. I've been encouraged recently to seriously think about where my passions lie, and thus where I would be best directing my energy for maximum results. I can sense a path opening up. Hmm, there could be a future here. I get out of bed, turn my mac on, and buy 5 new domain names.

    Today, I wake up and for a change, the domain names bought in the middle of the night (and the idea that they represent) still seem to hold genuine potential. This is a good sign. Usually, I check the emails from the domain registrar and wonder what on earth I was thinking.

    But anyway, more on that in the future. For now, I need to get this dissertation out of the way.

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    Friday, April 11, 2008

    Joe in Japan: Day one

    Joseph in Hirosaki, 8 years ago. Somehow I don't think I was very happy that day.

    Yay, business plan complete!

    Even if we don't make it through to the final, it will all have been worthwhile, as I now have a very nice template to work from for any future start-up!

    Forgot to mention earlier: These past few weeks I've been following Joe, an American guy whose been preparing for a 5 month stay as an exchange student in Hirosaki, northern Honshu. He finally arrived there last week, and tonight updated his blog for the first time.

    Boy oh boy have I enjoyed reading it. He's a great writer. It takes me straight back to my first trip to Japan 8 years ago (when I did actually go to Hirosaki myself, although it was only by looking at Joe's photos tonight that I realised this, having completely forgotten the name of the place). It's so refreshing to see Japan through fresh eyes, and without prejudice or disdain.

    Reading that Day One entry of his I couldn't help but feel it was the beginning of an epic Murakami novel.

    Hmm, anyway, time for bed.


    Time for an all-nighter?

    caw blimey gov it's gonna be one of those loooooong nights.

    It's ten to one, but I've still got a tonne of stuff to do for tomorrow. What's best: late night, or up early? The danger with going to bed now is that I won't have time tomorrow morning to prepare for the afternoon. Hmmm.

    Tomorrow sees the deadline for the CILASS IBL Awards Scheme. Myself and a classmate decided to put in an entry in recognition of the work that our tutor has put in to creating our Virtual Language Lab, and embracing technology. It's pretty amazing: 4 years ago the most hi-tech we got was a cassette tape of basic Japanese conversations - this year we've had classes where everyone has been equipped with brand new Sony laptops to carry out live in-class research. Quite a change.

    Anyway, quite a few of my classmates have kindly submitted 'evidence' saying how they have benefited, and I've also got some photos, a video and some other documents to back up our case. Fingers crossed!

    The other deadline tomorrow is for round two of the Business Creation Competition, which has a first prize of £5000. We feel pretty positive about this, having put an awful lot of work into what is now a decent 20-page business plan (even if we do say so ourselves). After classes today I had a meeting with our business advisor who absolutely loved it. Just needs a bit of tweeking...

    We also finally submitted our application for Arts Council funding. We seem to fit exactly into one of their specified categories, so feel pretty good about this as well (turns out we have a connection with the person who oversees the fund too!).

    When waiting in the line at the post office to send the big package that was the application form and supporting evidence, a lady walked in and started telling everyone her happy story of how she had been saved. She blessed us all, and then proceeded to tell us that God had taught her to sing and play the guitar in 15 minutes.

    It was soon pretty clear why God had only spent 15 minutes trying to teach her to sing and play the guitar. Clearly, he'd given up trying, knowing a lost cause when he saw one. Her 'singing' and 'playing' were pretty atrocious, I mean, comically so. I was half expecting there to be hidden cameras recording our reaction to the 'noise'. As it was, she caused a few chuckles, and the lady behind the counter started to sing along. When she finished, we all clapped, grinning at one another.

    She thanked us, blessed us once more and left.

    Walking back to the office, an unshaven man in his 60s asked if my friend James would marry him.

    I also attended a Student Ambassador meeting this morning. That was fun, if somewhat surreal with a baby googling around and my carrying next year's SEAS ambassador Ryan around in my hands. He was on Skype, so I thought I'd try and introduce him to everyone. Unfortunately neither his mic nor webcam were working, so it was a surreal one-way conversation. He said (typed) that he felt like a baby, unable to communicate (and in fact he was happiest when my macbook was just pointing at the baby in the room!)

    Japan soc election is also underway, with the votes pouring in. Last time I'll ever have to do this (although I do enjoy it!). It will soon be time to say bye bye to that baby.

    Oh, sign the contract for the website tomorrow morning as well, crumbs, I'd forgotten about that. We'll also be negotiating a contract for future upgrades to the site - although I don't think we'll be accepting the offer made this morning - consultation at £1250 a DAY! (that's the business I need to be in).

    Oh crap, I forgot, we're filming that tech presentation tomorrow too and I've not prepared yet. Maybe I scrap the sleep thing and just work through. Not good though.

    Ho hum. It's been a good day overall. I even had time to go to the park and photograph the beautiful cherry blossom. Oh, and listened to some of CS Lewis' Prince Caspian - the original BBC audiobook featuring those fantastic actors that we all know and love for their inability to act convincingly. (It wouldn't be the same if they could). I still remember when Aslan visited the Blue Peter studios and pooed all over the floor - or was that an elephant?

    Ok, on with the business plan.

    I'll be mightily relived when tomorrow is over. Then it'll just be a case of writing an entire dissertation in a week.

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    Thursday, April 10, 2008

    Tech Talk: the power of feeds (and an IC video)

    The CILASS tech group had a really interesting meeting today. Started out with planning for Friday's technology session that we'll be filming for upload to the website, then went on to discuss the recent developments in web platforms / streaming services etc. I find this kind of thing very exciting as I see enormous potential in it.

    I'm really looking forward to picking up my podcast again and producing something a lot more interesting. Despite being pretty crappy at the moment and my posting no new episodes, I'm getting about 500 new subscribers every month, sustained growth. Imagine if this was a business - how much would I be paying to attract this kind of attention? I don't see myself as making money out of listeners, but rather, I see it as a case of using the podcast to promote whatever other projects I'm involved in which people may be interested in.

    Other services I'm using and recommend for people interested in building up a web presence

    I forget if I've mentioned it before but I've also started experimenting with Live Video Streaming via uStream (, something else I'd like to use professionally in the future. Then there's Twitter (, which I have mentioned before - essentially it's micro blogging, up to 140 characters per post.  Really been enjoying using that. It has tremendous potential, as when used with something like Twitterific it can also notify Facebook and update your Skype Status, meaning that you can get something out in seconds to hundreds (or thousands) of people. It's also really interesting observing how other people are using it, and how it affects ones own attitude towards being open to the world.

    I also use tumblr, which is more than micro-blogging, but less than standard blogging. I have that reserved for quotes and things to be thankful for - updated via a dashboard widget for ease of use.

    Finally, I've recently started using Friendfeed, which brings together all of the above and my YouTube Channel, and Flickr posts, into one single feed that is displayed on my facebook profile page (or can itself be subscribed to via RSS).

    What I've come to appreciate is that these tools can be used as key elements of a marketing strategy. Yes, they require sustained input, but they needn't be all that disruptive and they are ultra-low cost, and, based on my exposure to other users, they're pretty effective in creating a buzz.

    Another thing we were discussing was the idea that university should really be introducing students to things like RSS feeds (what is RSS?). RSS feeds can be such powerful learning tools, yet if you ask the average student what an RSS feed is, they probably wouldn't be able to tell you, (and through no fault of their own). 

    I think I'm a bit of an RSS junkie though. I currently have 61 feeds in my reader, although about 40 of those are friend's blogs and other sites that are updated about once a month. The remainder focus upon: news from Japan; digital photography (that's how I'm learning Adobe Lightroom); business, inspiration and Lifehacks.

    The great thing with RSS is it's so simple to subscribe and unsubscribe. Unlike email subscriptions you don't have that fear of being spammed - you can trial something, and if you don't like it you just remove the feed from your reader. YOU are in control. It's also good for producers, as you get a good idea of what size your audience is.

    Aside from RSS, I think it would be good if the university made more use of 3rd party technologies, rather than relying upon expensive in-house development. 

    Take the Catsters for example - here YouTube is being used to teach some pretty complex mathematics. Just looking at the comments on their channel shows how welcome this is.

    Hmm, YouTube excites me, even when it's a mathematics channel.

    Anyway, I reckon all this stuff is going to play a big part in my future. Quite how I don't know.

    To finish off then I bring you a great little video of the Information Commons. If you're a Sheffield student the first minute or so is well worth a watch! 

    I reckon we need a song like that for the Arts Tower - not just a video of how to get on the roof!

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    Tuesday, April 08, 2008

    A day in the life of Joseph Tame

    Crikey O'reily. Talk about busy!

    Not a bad list of accomplishments for the day:
    • 65 meaningful emails received
    • 60 fairly meaningful emails sent
    • Hair cut (meditation time as she wasn't very talkative)
    • Wedding invites redesigned & ordered
    • Provided technical support for the folks having problems with Firefox
    • Euthanasia Vocab learnt
    • Enrolled on coaching course
    • Had meeting to prepare for next week's presentation on being a student ambassador and employability
    • Had consultation and arranged meeting to prepare for Friday's technology training session for staff
    • Spent half an hour spent trying to scan document required for us to marry
    • Attended Japanese speaking class
    • Meeting with teacher to discuss entering department into competition to win more money for IBL projects
    • Tried (and failed) to sort out wordpress blog used for 2nd year Japanese students
    • Attended birthday party
    • Finished 'Market Overview" section of business plan
    Phew. Time for bed. It all starts again in 6 hours.

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    Sunday, April 06, 2008

    Heading North, one last time

    So this is it. I’m on the train for my last trip back to Sheffield. In seven weeks, it’ll all be over (that is, apart from one exam and my graduation).

    Just seven weeks. It’ll fly by. That’s kind of comforting, because I know that no matter how many things I have on my to do list for this final stint, in seven weeks, they won’t be on it any more.

    The challenge is to stay motivated. It’s harder now than ever before as these past few weeks my mind has steadily marched ahead of me. It’s now looking towards the wedding, starting a new life with Twinkle, leaving the UK, working. What makes it a little more difficult is that no matter what my results this semester, my final degree classification is unlikely to change. If my calculations are correct, it’s either a 2:1, or a fail (I’m not prepared to bust a gut for an unlikely first).

    I should hear next week one way or another whether I got the local government job in Japan. I know three of my friends have received job offers (congrats!), but I’m yet to hear a thing. The embassy tell me that they send them out over a period of a month, so it could be anytime. Whilst the interview went well, I was very honest about my feelings re. Twinkle and thus am not going to be the most desirable of candidates: fancy putting a relationship before a job!

    [an hour or so later…]

    It’s been a difficult last few days as I have battled with myself over this dissertation. With my interest in the topic (NGOs in Japan) having peaked about 2 months too soon it is now a real slog to get the words out. In fact, I gave up writing anything half-decent and resorted to just typing up what I knew, almost in spoken form. I know I’ll need to rewrite it all, but if I don’t get something down they’ll be no progress at all.

    With this frustration has come late nights, tiredness, and a short temper. I’ve been snapping at my parents, which I’m sorry about. I feel very hypocritical, but at the same time appreciate that I wouldn’t be human if I was always able to live in harmony with my core beliefs. It’s just a shame I chose them as my victims.

    On a slightly more upbeat note, I had a lovely evening last night. Went over to see some old school friends who I’ve remained pretty close to since leaving. We sat around, talked, ate a delicious supper, talked some more. I felt so happy. They are one of the nicest families I know. So kind, so easy to be with, so welcoming. It's spending time with people like that really reinforce what a precious gift friendship is. What would we do without it?

    Anyway, bus motion is making me feel a bit sick, so I’ll toddle along. Must get to sleep as soon as I get home, we have a meeting at 8am for our publishing business!


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    A great week for photographers

    [apologies for lack of links - written from train to Sheffield on which internet is not too reliable (i.e. non-existent.) Google is your friend]

    It’s been a productive journey so far. I’ve removed the yellow testicle from my patchwork jeans, after it was pointed out to me that it could also be mistaken for a urine stain. I’ve replaced it with some elephants, sewn on whilst listening to the latest episode of This Week in Photography (TWIP). I’m loving it, and I can feel myself progressing up the same learning curve as I did when I started listening to MacBreak Weekly last year. Before I started listening to TWIP I didn’t fully appreciate the flexibility offered by RAW, I never thought about my camera’s ISO settings, I was lax in my use of tags, and also assumed that when it came to megapixels, more = better (not necessarily true. To get more megapixels, the original sensor is simply divided up into smaller pixels, thus increasing the number of them but actually decreasing the overall surface area available for actively sensing the light due to there being more space given over to necessary gaps between the individual pixels).

    It’s been a great couple of weeks for digital photographers, first with the release of Apple’s Aperture 2, and then shortly afterwards Adobe’s Photoshop Lightroom 2 (Beta). Personally, I’m a Lightroom user, and I tell you, this new version is just lovely, I am so excited by it. Finally, we have completely non-destructive local editing, a real breakthrough.

    (Local editing carried out in Photoshop on Jpegs etc actually changes the original image, meaning that if at a later date you want to undo what you’ve done in the past, you can’t. Also, you will get progressive deterioration of the quality of your image with every edit carried out. The beauty of working with RAW files is that the original data as seen by the camera sensor is never touched; changes are simply recorded in the form of meta data that is bolted on to the image. When you subsequently open the image, the computer refers to that meta data to see how it should interpret and display the original image. Until now, when it came to editing RAW files in Lightroom it was only possible to make changes to an entire image, such as increase exposure or contrast. Now, with local editing, we can apply such changes to specific areas of an image, thus, for example, shots which have a well-exposed foreground but a blow-out sky are no longer necessarily write-offs).

    Both Aperture and Lightroom are available as 30-day trials – if you enjoy photography and have a camera that can shoot in RAW, you may want to give them a try. (As for which one to go for, it’s a matter of personal taste. Note that the Lightroom 2 is a REAL Beta version, and you may not be able to use that library once the Beta expires in August, so it’s just for playing, so you may want to download Lightroom 1.3 instead).

    People who shoot in Jpeg haven’t missed out either, as last week Adobe launched Photoshop Express – the online version of Photoshop. It’s pretty good, a great example of the kind of slick online apps we’re likely to see a lot more of in the next few years. It’s works beautifully with Facebook albums (it had mine loaded in seconds), and will shortly be able to interact with Flickr too.

    And now you can take photos in the past! Earlier today I watched David Pogue’s video report on the new Casio digital camera: it can shoot up to 60 frames a second – and will even take photos in the past if you happen to press the shutter just a bit too late! It sounds like science fiction, but it ain’t.

    With these developments, and other cameras like Nikon’s D3 being released, it really is a tremendously exciting time to be getting into digital photography. The best thing however is that even the cheapest digital cameras are now capable of capturing great shots, meaning that anyone who wants to partake, can.

    Anyway, the train is now approaching Derby where I catch a bus for Sheffield. Time for me to gather my stuff, and make the final leg of my journey to university, the last time I do so as a student.

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    Friday, April 04, 2008

    Japan swoons as Joseph makes his national TV debut

    The first grainy images are coming through following Joseph Tame's debut on national Japanese TV. In a deliberate ploy by Fuji TV producers, his grand entry was saved for the dramatic climax, only 6 minutes before the ending of the 2-hour drama.

    Statistics released shortly after the prime-time airing of 'Bizan' showed that 97% of the population had tuned in for this long-awaited debut, and at 9.54pm when Joseph, known for wearing his Tilley hat in order to cover up his manly hair-loss, finally made his entry, there was a sudden rush on mains water supplies as women across the nation were forced to cool themselves following the rapid onset of hot flushes.

    Photos © A.N., Tokyo

    In the first image Joseph can be seen at Ueno park, just behind Tokiwa Takako as they admire the statue of that famous chap. The second shot sees him delicately perusing some souvenir stands in Yoyogi park.

    Joseph's debut comes on the back of a wave of interest in his acting style, and no doubt over the next few days there will be intense media scrutiny of his performance. In particular, the manner in which he moved his legs so as to walk, and the adoption of a devastatingly meaningful gaijin expression which summed up the feelings of a 1000 years, will attract the critic's attention. The dramatic, death-defying hat-clutching technique he employed in the Yoyogi park scenes was said to have moved millions of Japanese nationwide to tears.

    It is thought that the tape of Bizan will become available online in the near future, and will at that point be shared with Daily Mumble regulars.


    Thursday, April 03, 2008

    National TV debut (Japan): Friday 4th April 2008, Channel 8


    Brief note to say that I'll be on Fuji TV tomorrow night, for my national Japanese TV debut. Channel 8, 9pm to 11pm. I play "stereotypical western tourist" in the drama "BIZAN"(眉山) (more info here).

    You should see me alongside Tokiwa Takako as she goes on a Hato Bus tour of Tokyo. Watch out for me in Ueno Park, pointing to that big statue, then later in Yoyogi koen - and I'm sitting opposite Tokiwa Takako on the bus too. When you see the shot of the bus going past the diet building, please appreciate it as it involved what seemed like hours of driving round and round in circles to get that (click here for the relevant mumble)

    Based on past experience when I spent a whole day in the NHK studios only to find that our scene was cut entirely from the final program, you will probably only catch sight of the end of my nose, for about 3 seconds.

    The stifling bus


    Wednesday, April 02, 2008

    A Day of Wedding Planning, and King Cats

    Met this Cat King this morning. Never met a Cat King before. He was pretty extraordinary, had these piercing pink ears that pierced.

    Having a cat seizure

    Very productive day. Got a fair bit of translation homework done first thing. Then it was on to wedding planning: found a beautiful converted barn for myself and *Twinkle*, and then when they arrive *Twinkle's* parents and sister to stay. It'll be nice for the two of us to have a few days in a guest house alone in the week leading up to the wedding. Good location too - one field away from my parent's place (you can see the roof of the barn from mum and dad's bedroom window). And, the price has just been reduced by £75, making it highly affordable. I love staying in guest houses / hotels. It's such a treat, especially when one is with one's loving partner.

    Then it was time for a Japanese grammar lesson - mum and dad are learning the basics in preparation for meeting *Twinkle's* family. They'll be using the excellent BBC Talk Japanese book and CDs, the same course I used 8 years ago. They know how to say "Good Morning" now, and understand basic sentence structure. What clever pensioners they are.

    Next, it was off to the church where we'll be having our blessing, to check out how many people it can hold. Lovely place.

    Following that I paid a visit to the home of the church warden. She was great, very helpful. Interested in international weddings too - my good friend and ex-steiner pupil Lorien and his Russian wife were married there not long ago, "Most beautiful wedding I've ever seen! She was so beautiful, I could hardly believe it!"

    I've since booked the bar, confirmed the village hall, and found a good friend to help co-ordinate food. Oh, also visited a fantastic B&B (The Lawns) down the road where other guests can stay. Lovely lady. And, they have a glass-topped well in their house, floodlit inside so you can see the water flowing in 50 foot below - what a bonus! The final stop was a neighbour's house to check out their field which we hope to use for friends / family who'd like to camp.

    This evening I attended an informal meditation session at the church. There were quite a few people there that I knew - including my parents. It was lovely. The church was dark except for a couple of candles and a light in the alter bit (that's the technical term). The vicar (who I'll be seeing tomorrow about the wedding) read a little story, and then played some relaxing music. It was not in the slightest bit 'religious' as such, rather, it reminded me of my CD by Andrew Weil (he of the World's Best Beard!

    I'm not too well practised when it comes to meditation. Find it difficult to clear my mind. I tried tonight, but after 10 minutes I gave up, the image of *Twinkle* in her wedding dress was just too persistent in its knocking at the door to my mind. So, instead I spent the next twenty minutes reflecting on all that I had to be thankful for. A little risky in a church full of people that is absolutely silent (you could clearly hear when someone swallowed, and should someone have dropped a pin, I'm sure we would all have jumped out of our skins!). Thus, it's dangerous for me to think thoughts of thankfulness, as they tend to make me smile and laugh rather a lot.

    Tomorrow will also be a good day. In addition to wedding planning, I'll be going to visit a dear friend who was my boss when I was aged 13 to 19. In a way she was a mother figure to me, and with her husband taught me a lot. He sadly passed away recently, and I was sorry to have not been able to see him to thank him for all that he had given me. I hope tomorrow to be able to express just how much she, and her late husband, mean to me.


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    Tuesday, April 01, 2008

    Penguins, Mars and dance steps

    I found some amazing footage today of a colony of flying penguins on the BBC iPlayer. (sadly only available to UK viewers, I think, or if you're my Facebook friend you can see it there)

    Meanwhile, Virgin and Google have teamed up to launch Project Virgle - they're establishing a colony on Mars! Thing is though, we can apply to join it! Start a new life over, be a pioneer! It's really tempting.

    In other news, I note that Gmail users can now send emails in the past! This is great news, I can now reply to emails before I've even received them - talk about being efficient!

    Oh oh oh and check this out - Interview with Steve Jobs on Mahola daily!


    Total Success Institute

    Great day today. Got that video submitted to the competition - I've had that lingering on my to do list for several months now. Then, it was wedding planning. Phone calls made, meetings arranged, all very exciting!

    Following that it was congrats to my *Twinkle*, who in the month of March saw sales in excess of 1.8 million yen (about £9,200) - a new record for her (our) relatively young direct marketing business (organic food, organic supplements, eco-consumables etc). Says a lot about her character, and what she expects out of life. Good to have a successful partner, keeps you on your toes. If you get too lazy they bring a millionaire home to replace you.

    A bit of Japanese homework, and then finally, the call I'd been waiting for.

    A few days back I blogged about a call I'd had with a life coach. It was interesting, inspiring, but not especially life-changing. A bit like the latest audiobook on personal development I'm listening to. You find after you've read the ten or fifteen core texts there's not much but rehashing, people just jumping on the bandwagon to make money, lacking any real creativity or insight themselves. I've been pretty fortunate in that I've only found myself stuck with two such duds. And last week's coaching call.

    But today was a bit different. I'd mentioned that previous phone call to my sister, who then recalled a one-day seminar she'd been to a year ago run by the Total Success Institute (new website on the way). She'd been really impressed, and personally knew of two people who had taken their courses - I should contact them. I did, and got prompt replies from both of them.
    "Everyone should take this course, it makes for an all-round better life".

    "It will definitely be a worthwhile investment".

    So, the next step was to get a taste of what they offered. I listened to an interview with the founder, it sounded good. I read some of the information on their website, and signed up for a free coaching call.

    Why do I feel I need coaching?

    In the next few months, several things are going to happen:

    1) I'm going to graduate
    2) I'm going to marry my *Twinkle* and thus have my own family (includes baby mac)
    3) I'm going to be faced with the choice of where I direct the bulk of my energy for the first time in 5 years

    These are pretty mega changes, and I want to make sure I make the most of this huge opportunity to steer my life in the direction I want it to go in.

    I don't have much experience of marketing myself in the professional field. Sure, I have a popular website (thank the horse cocks for that; they remain at No.1 in the Search Query Report for the 6th year running), I have language skills, computer skills, people/communication skills ...but when it comes to the marketplace I'm lost, and don't know how to position myself to utilise my full potential. I lack the necessary confidence. I lack these skills.

    Books can only give you so much. At some point, you have to put them down and act, otherwise they only have as much of an impact as one hand clapping loudly against the air. A book doesn't know my specific skills set, and a book can't set me specific targets to help me motivate myself and move forward. Coaching can do that.

    I've invested over £20,000 in my BA Japanese Studies degree. It's been money very well spent. Thinking of that, it seems only prudent to invest a little in learning how to take these skills and turn them into something that generates an income.

    If I was the type destined to enter a big company and then leave my development/future in the hands of their HR department, well, perhaps I'd be alright as I am. But I'm not. I love being creative, making things happen, making a difference. I want to generate my own income stream doing the things I love to do, whether that be consulting, speaking, writing, teaching or whatever.

    (Incidentally, this is one reason why I am keen to work as a CIR on the JET scheme - annual contract with not a sniff of a pre-determined career in sight. It's like an internship. Opens doors.)

    So, this is why I would like to have some coaching. It feels like natural progression (especially considering the way I was introduced to it). Like a logical next step in this 18-month journey.

    Some may scoff and say "you don't need coaching! what a waste of money!" I wonder, would these people say the same to a wannabe singer who has a fabulous voice but is yet to learn how to control it?

    I called Cliff at the agreed time (although it took a bit of thinking to figure out what the 'agreed time' was, as the clocks have just changed here and he's in the USA!) and was soon struck by the homework he'd done. He'd been reading some website called Tame Goes Wild, and knew all about me. He even knew I'd spent some time this afternoon preparing for my wedding. How does this information get out there?

    I was pretty staggered to learn that he knew what a Steiner education was; this of course meant he had a better idea of what kind of person I was, what with the (good?!) reputation us Steiner / Waldorf kids have! I also found he was open to my ideas on spirituality, which served to help build my trust in him.

    As we talked so I found myself wondering at his intuition. He was incredibly observant and picked up on a lot of stuff that I hadn't mentioned during the call and wasn't posted online. "Have you got a brother called Wayne Dyer?!" I asked at one point, laughing.

    In the end we were talking for an hour and a quarter. Having got a pretty good idea of where I was in life, he made some concrete suggestions regarding how I approach the opportunity on the horizon, one of which had never even occurred to me, yet fits my skill set perfectly. I was impressed, and realised that were I to agree to work with this coach, 'things would happen'.

    There was no high-pressure sell, and there has been no high-pressure sell in the follow up. Just demonstrations of professionalism and integrity.

    I can't say I recommend the coaching that TSI offer yet, because apart from today's phone call, I've had none. Still, I'll be signing up for an introductory course when my student loan comes through, and keep you posted so you can laugh with me, or at me (whichever suits your personal opinion the best). I hope in the long term to take it further with 1 on 1 coaching. I have nothing to lose, and everything to gain.

    I would say though, that if anyone is already seriously considering coaching, consider TSI. It was in a totally different league from my last coaching experience, real big-picture yet pragmatic life changing stuff.

    Oh, and if you do contact them, do mention TameGoesWild!

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    Real World Awards

    I finally submitted my video entry for the Real World Awards today. This annual competition sees students recognised for their extra-curricular activities: I've chosen to focus upon those things I've done that fall into the "Socially Responsible" category.

    It was very difficult to edit this video down to 3 minutes - the original was over three times that. Thus, it's a bit jumpy and I have to miss stuff out, but nevermind, I'm still me.  I quite enjoyed filming it, despite the fact that our office door was being painted at the time and thus the room stank of solvents. Come to think of it, that might be why I enjoyed it so much...

    It's a blatant bit of self-promotion, but that's what they want!

    I think the idea now is to ask people to vote for me. The prize is £5000, a portion of which I'll donate to charity, and the remainder of which I'll put in a fund for our two baby girls (yet to be conceived). 
    The only snag is, you have to be a UK university student to vote! The company running the awards is a graduate recruitment company, and they require you to register using a UK university email address.

    If you have one of those, please do vote for me! Think of it as a wedding present for myself and *Twinkle* if you like...!

    Thank you!