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Friday, January 30, 2009

Earthquakes and iPhoto09

joseph at Zieteil
Random image: me at Zietal, the highest monastery in Europe (nr Savognin, Switzerland), age 10-ish. I was in a real strop that day, running off ahead and refusing to speak to mum and dad!

Earthquakes really do give me the jeepers. I think the fact that I'm currently listening to Bill Bryson's A Short History of Nearly Everything doesn't help - in that he talks of the earthquakes that are way overdue in Japan, including the one centred on Tokyo which will no doubt see a lot of people killed and injured.

It got me thinking though. I tend to have this idea that great cataclysmic events (ice ages, meteor strikes, earthquakes, volcano eruptions etc) are all in the past, a part of Earth's history before it settled down and enabled the current eco-system to develop.

But listening to Bryson reminds me that the Earth is no less active now than it ever has been. It still has a molten core that lets off steam now and then, it still has an atmosphere that's changing in its composition (now more than ever of course), it still suffers from tectonic shifts. We're still in this 'historical era of cataclysmic events' - it's just one of those little quiet periods at the moment.

I find this fact useful. It reminds me how important it is to live for today, and to not focus on how much 'stuff' I own. If our house comes down in rubble and goes up in smoke, the only thing that will be left is relationships with others (and a backup of my hard drive that I have permanently attached to my inner thigh, updated hourly by bluetooth). Ultimately, nothing else will matter but preserving life itself. And when life itself is finally extinguished, as it surely will be, there won't even be relationships with others to get hung up about. Best not be overly obsessed with them either then.

On a sidenote, and I forget whether I blogged this before, when we were re-negotiating our contract on this apartment, we voiced our concerns about its age and earthquake-proofness. With a smile, the agent told us:

"Well, when the big one strikes most apartments will come down anyway, so I wouldn't worry about that".


Well, that's reassuring.

The two blessing we do have is that we have a park in front of us with a huge lake (useful in case of fire), and no buildings immediately to the east or south of us, thus reducing the risk of fire and giving us soft ground to jump on should we need to. In fact we're kind of ideally situated, as the park compost heaps are directly below our balcony - perfect for soft landings.




I do love being married. Things are really good. *Twinkle* is such a blessing in my life.




As I write, iPhoto 09 - one of the applications contained in Apple's brand new iLife suite - is trawling my collection of 30,000 photos searching for faces. It's been at it for over 6 hours now, and apparently will take at least another 3 hours to pick everyone out. (That includes YOU if I've ever taken a photo of you!).

It'll then ask me to name people, and will 'learn' what people look like, the idea being that when I add new photos in the future, it will automatically identify whose in them, and apply the appropriate tags. These can be synced to and from facebook - clever huh? If someone out there tags a photo of me in Facebook, my photo library on my Macbook will be automatically updated to include it.

[Update: The facial recognition thing is pretty damn good. Having labelled about 10 photos of *Twinkle* it came up with another 900 images that it thought contained her face - and was only wrong about 30 times. Not bad for a beginner!]

The ability to group photos based on their location is also pretty nifty. If your camera is not GPS equipped, you can tag your images by searching for a place name, or by dropping a pin on the built-in Google Map. The place index is a bit too US-centered for my liking, with tonnes of results coming up for American cities, but only the 'big places' listed for other countries. No doubt that will change.

Anyway, best get on. The earthquake has inspired me to look for an Earthquake app for the iPhone, which I now need to blog about.

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Wednesday, January 28, 2009

After one week out, MacBook goes back in for surgery

I don't really know what I do to my MacBook to cause it so much damage. It's already had 2 new displays, a new keyboard, new bottom case, new dvd drive, a new hard drive and a new fan - the last repair having been completed last week.

Tonight the DVD drive that was replaced last spring packed up (just as I was about to install iLife09, grrrr!), so tomorrow lunchtime it's off to Apple once again to drop it off.

At least I'm getting the most out of my extended warranty...

[Update]

I made a mad dash to the Apple Store (Shibuya) at lunchtime, and was assured that the drive would be replaced by 7pm - which it was. iLife09 now installing :-)

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Monday, January 26, 2009

Taking positive action to bring about change

As many of you may know, I'm an audiobook junkie. Due to my attitude towards the use of time, reading physical paper and ink books is difficult. I feel uncomfortable using my time in that way. If friends give me books, I start to read them, but usually by the time I reach page twenty I've either decided that the book is not worth my time, or that the book is worth getting on Audible. If an audio version is not available, I either pass the book on, or keep it for those rare occasions when I feel comfortable with the idea of reading.

Anyhow, I'm lucky to have a fellow audiobook junkie here in Tokyo - someone with whom I can swap recommended listens. Recently, he recommended 'Manage your tune, Master your life' by Robin Sharma, a very short audiobook that had helped him make some positive changes. I downloaded it this morning (in addition to Obama's speech which is available for free), and listened to it whilst on the train to the city office.

In brief, Robin points out just how precious our time is, and how important it is that we do not postpone the things that matter most to us. He gives practical advice - one suggestion being to join the 5am club. Having started my own 6am club last week, I can vouch for the amazing difference it makes to have an extra hour in the morning. Whereas many people wake up and find that they are chasing their day before it's even started, if you get up that little bit earlier, you will find that not only can you get a ton of stuff done before the daily routine begins, but also that you entire day will be more orderly and productive. From experience, I'd say that's very true.

Listening to Robin's session today, I was finally compelled to do something that I've been wanting to do for about a month now but have been lacking in courage to face - quit one of my part-time teaching jobs. I love the students (and judging by the emotional scenes tonight the feeling was mutual), and found myself learning a lot through working there. But (as I mentioned last night) I've got other projects that represent my passion, and the feeling of frustration in not being able to make time to pursue them has reached epic proportions.

It was funny though. When I gave them notice this afternoon, I felt compelled to re-write my email and explain why I was quitting, and pass on some of the advice from the audiobook. I talked about 2009 being the Year of Change. I wasn't entirely sure why, I'd only ever exchanged very short emails with them about scheduling. But next thing I knew, the member of staff who deals with foreign teachers was asking me to come in a bit early - they needed to talk to me. It turned out they since last week they have been at exactly the same crossroads as me. There were further emotional scenes.

I think we humans are pretty good at knowing when we're not acting in harmony with spirit. If we practice being in touch, we can tell if a job is no longer in congruence with our true paths. But taking that next step - causing inconvenience and possibly upset, stepping into the unknown in the face of (sometimes strong) opposition from those around us, is incredibly hard sometimes. But it has to be taken if we're to move forward.

I'm glad I took that step today. In the grand scheme of things it was insignificant, but carries a lot of meaning for me as I continue on my journey.

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Sunday, January 25, 2009

Tiltshift Sunday

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It's been a great day, during which I've been fortunate to spend time with my two best mates in Tokyo.

Whilst I've managed to get up at 6am every day this week, last night's ridiculous experiment to see if I could run four operating systems at the same time on my old MacBook made sure that I had no chance of making it a full house. (Yes, it can run 4 at the same time. Very slowly).

Still, I was up by 7am, met Tom on platform 2 at 7.30am - destination Tokyo Station.

It wasn't really planned, but we ended up jogging 15km (9 miles) around the emperor's cabbage patch (otherwise known as the Imperial Palace). Having not exercised all week (mainly due to the cold in the mornings and my woosyness) I was a little sceptical as to my ability to complete the last lap - so as we entered the final 3km and my hips began to hurt, I just kept on telling myself that this was only the first lap, and I felt as fresh as a daisy that had just eaten a Freshness Burger. The result - a very strong finish!

Back home, bath, then out to Shibuya for a lunchtime English lesson. That done, I headed south to Ebisu to meet Stu, my kiwi mate from the Niseko years. Having arrived a bit early, I sat on a step beside some coin lockers and played with some photos on my MacBook to pass the time.
"Hey! Wass your name?"
It was a boy in his early twenties. He looked Korean. Guide book in hand, he was probably on holiday.
"I'm Joe! I'm from the Korean Navy, in charge of look-out for 168mm gun."
I was happy to have someone to talk to. We chatted for 15 minutes until Stu arrived. It was funny - when talking with Joe I found myself coming out with all the questions I ask my students on the phone (Ok, so I missed the one where I ask for directions to a fictional sushi shop). Nice guy. Reminded me of me on my first trip to Japan, except that I wasn't in the army, and don't like guns.

Stu and I spent the best part of 4 hours talking, drinking coffee, eating ramen. It was good.

Like myself, he'll be taking the Japanese Language Proficiency Test this year - good to know that others will be going through the same pain :-p

Back home tonight I processed a few of the tilt shift shots I tried to take earlier in the week. I've loved tiltshift photography (or more accurately, Tilt-shift minature facking) ever since I first saw some examples on NHK (TV), but have only recently learnt how it's done.

I find it fascinating how our brains can tricked into thinking that we are looking at a miniature scene by having an extremely shallow depth of focus. I'm now wondering though, if I look at enough Tiltshift photos, will their effect wear off on me, will my brain learn to associate them primarily with tiltshift and not miniature models? I guess I'll just have to wait ten years and see.

I thought that producing tiltshift photos would be relatively easy, and in a way it is, but producing really effective shots is difficult. The examples on this page are testament to that - they're not very good.

tiltshift tokyo_3153

First off you need to find a good candidate out there in the wild. Then, you need to choose an appropriate depth of focus, and place it well. The latter two stages I find pretty challenging. Still, it's early days, and I have a lifetime over which to improve.




*Twinkle*s been busy today. She and a professional p√Ętissier hosted a Valentine's Planning event, and, with a group of 15 or so friends who are also building Amway businesses, created a whole load of (what were apparently) delicious homemade chocolate delicacies. Unfortunately, no men were allowed entry.

She also gave a (light-hearted) talk on How to Find the Ideal Partner! Why she didn't follow her own advice I don't know...

Our Amway business is doing pretty well. The worsening economy has resulted in a lot of people looking for the means to create a second or third income. With so many redundancies over the past few months it seems that the awareness of the importance of having multiple income streams is growing, and people are starting to look seriously at using their own skills and talents to build their own businesses.

In some ways it's not a bad time to start a new business, as a lot of companies that provide a poor service are going under, making way for new entrepreneurs who are determined to offer exceptional products / services.

In addition to our full time jobs and our Amway business, *Twinkle* continues to do translation work, and I'm working on creating a new Internet-based media company, about which I don't want to say too much at the moment. Let's just say it's at the cross-section of a lot of my passions - I'm very excited! It won't make money for some time, but I see a lot of potential in it. I just have to Believe, and Act. More on that in due course.

Anyways, it's time for me to make a cup of tea.

tatta.

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Friday, January 23, 2009

A new study set-up



My old study-setup

I'm very much an advocate of taking action to change one's surroundings should they not be conducive to feeling at ease. For example, a friend of mine has been having issues at work involving smoke from an adjoining (smoking) room filling her office, but rather than just complain about it she went out and bought some plastic sheets and a couple of heaters, in order to seal the gap between above the partition wall and deal with the resulting lack of hot air that was blow through by the air conditioner. She is now going to be happier in the short term, and live longer too.

My new getting-up-at-6am routine is going really well - I love it, and manage to get a tonne of stuff done in the 90 minutes extra that I have each day. Studying Japanese is the main activity. This involves me going through my electronic dictionary's history to review words I'd looked up the previous day, and transferring them to Anki and paper flash cards (sometimes an iPhone interface is just too distracting). I've also got a couple of text books to work through, oh, and I've restarted my Japanese blog.

It's appalling how much I've forgotten since I stopped studying, so the entries you'll find on there are more reminiscent of the stuff I was writing at the end of my first year at uni than what you might expect from a graduate. I'm not embarrassed about this. I know I can do better, and I know that given frequent practice I will do better.

I've decided to use my photos as the theme, writing about where / why they were taken. Simple, yet very personal to me. I like that.

It also prevents me from using the excuse that "I have nothing to write about".



Another thing I've done to encourage study is buy myself a proper desk. The Japanese-style coffee table was doing my knees / legs no good at all, and left me in quite a bit of pain if I sat there too long. Thus, I popped down to the local department store and bought a fairly cheap table, and two metres of cloth for a table cloth. I love it!

The storage shelf thing that was in this room has been moved next door, although the two sets of stationary drawers remain close at hand under the two tables.

I've also decided to stop using my MacBook as a laptop at home. By plugging in an external monitor and keyboard it's possible to use Mac laptops when they're closed - I keep it under the desk out of the way.

There are a few reasons I've done this:
  1. It gives me more space on the desk for study materials;
  2. I don't have to look at all the trailing wires emerging from my Macbook;
  3. My mind associates this monitor / keyboard with study / 'work' and not all the stuff I associate my Macbook with.


It really makes a big difference. I'm far more productive now I have a space designed for what I need to do. Kind of no-brainer really.

Anyway, it's bath-time now, then muesli, then off to the office to continue work on the new website for students. I'm using Joomla in order to ensure that the site can be updated for many years to come by people other than myself. As with Wordpress, I am staggered by the improvements Joomla has seen in recent years. A world away from the thing I dabbled with a while back!

Have a productive day!

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Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Epic B&W Tokyo Sunset


I've decided to re-post the black and white shot of yesterday's sunset over Tokyo, and also upload a much bigger version should people want to try and find their houses :-)

View / download the Big Picture here.

I particularly like the way the new skyscraper in Naka Meguro stands out, with its two little ears (which are actually cranes).

Thanks to Orchid64 and CherrySherbet for the kind comments that prompted me to do this!

n.b the 'Epic' in the title refers to the sunset and not the photo... :-)

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Sunset over Tokyo

Tokyo from Mori Tower_2941

Note Mount Fuji rising above the Kanto horizon

Tokyo from Mori Tower_3027

These were taken from the roof of the 53-storey Mori Tower, Roppongi Hills.

The skydeck reminded me of a ship. Big sky, and a huge sea of buildings. Admittedly you don't tend to get many buildings in the sea, but nonetheless...

You can just see Mount Fuji poking up above the horizon in this one.

Tokyo from Mori Tower_3159

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No Foreigners

Tokyo from Mori Tower_3270

Yesterday was a pretty good day. My MacBook was returned after its third major operation, and late in the afternoon I was able to spend a couple of hours on the roof of the 53-storey Mori Tower in Roppongi, watching the sun set.

It was marred by two things though, the first of which was my being told by the local pensions office that I need to pay all contributions that I missed whilst I was not working in Japan (between 2002 and and 2008). This is for a pension that I won't even be claiming due to my not being here at that age.

The second was my being told to leave a barber shop because I'm a foreigner. This took me completely by surprise. I'd gone in and asked the owner (in Japanese) if he could cut my hair despite my not having a reservation. His reaction was simply to point to the door and tell me to leave.

Confused, I asked him "Oh, aren't you open?", to which he mumbled something under his breath ...before gesturing for me to leave again.

I left. Standing outside I looked at all the signs - no, they were open. There was one customer inside, and three staff - the owner and the second staff member were sitting watching TV - waiting for customers.

So I went back in. "I'm very sorry, but could you tell me exactly why you can't cut my hair?"

The owner wouldn't look me in the eye, and just said "Please leave". I turned to the woman beside him, and asked politely, "what's the problem here?" She seemed to feel a bit awkward. Gesturing towards the owner she told me, in English (and bear in mind that I had used no English whatsoever) "We no English". Thinking that she must have learnt that line for situations such as this, I replied, in Japanese, that that wasn't an issue, as I could speak Japanese.

Silence. Then the owner told me to leave again, this time kindly opening the door to facilitate my quick exit.

Walking towards home I felt pretty pissed about this. I considered reporting them to the police, but looking at the time I decided I didn't want to waste my afternoon trying to change the opinions of others.

Since I twittered about this I've had a few comments (mostly on facebook) from others who've experienced such discrimination themselves. Whilst of course I was aware that this is by no means unknown in Japan (and think of the famous Otaru hot spring law suit in which the Supreme Court, i.e. the highest court in Japan, ruled in favour of the owner of a spa who banned customers that didn't look Japanese), I am still very surprised to find the no-foreigner policy being practiced here in the centre of Tokyo.

Tonight, I'm going to get my hair cut by a friend. He is not afraid of gaijin lice.

[Update] A recent article on this subject in the Japan Times has gained widespread attention. Check it out here.

Also, see Black Tokyo's take on the article.

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Friday, January 16, 2009

Six-week time management and productivity course

Last night's weekly tandem learning session, in which I teach my friend English for an hour in exchange for her (a qulaified teacher) teaching me for an hour tunred into a session for us to express our mutual frustration at not being self-disciplined enough to make much progress in our studies.

For me, the main issue is not that I am inherantly lazy, but that I have so many other things I want to do more. Japanese study often gets pushed to the back burner, only coming into focus in those situations when I find myself struggling to communicate some idea and become 'angry' at myself for not trying harder.

Learning Japanese is Important but not urgent, and thus tends toget sidelined by things that I perceive to be urgent, but that in the long term are not all that important [Time management matrix].

My friend, having recently returned from the UK to visit my classmate Phil, had already decided to take action. She will be going to work a little earlier every morning to study.

I've decided to do something similar. I'm going to get up at 6am every day between now and February 28th. The 2 or 3 hours I have between then and when I leave to work (it differs depending on the day) will be filled with a combination of study, exercise, and time spent on my projects.

Every night I take out the beautuful little handmade notebook given to me by a friend, and write down all that I've acomplished that day. I then write down my goals for the next day.

Whilst today is only day one, I:m already delighted by the results. This morning, I spent an hour studying the text books I bought ages ago, I transferred the acompanying CD onto my iPod, did a good workout (pressup and situp reps), and then had a relaxing bath. I've had time to eat breakfast, and am even able to get a quick blogpost out.

The sense of accomplishment and satisfaction is delicious.

I'm giving this routine the label 'experiment' and setting an end date of February 28th . It's important that that I have a time limit, a goal to work towards, to prevent my trailing off.

Anyway, time for work.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Economic downturn hits pushchair industry

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Any excuse to play with fire

himonya burning new year charms_2735

After a session at the Gym with Tom this morning it was back home, get changed, then out again for the English lesson I have every Sunday (I'm the teacher, not the student). On my way through the park in front I couldn't help but notice a gathering of hundreds of local residents, all of whom had brought the kadomatsu ("gate pine") from outside of their front doors.

himonya burning new year charms_2753

These are placed outside the front door to welcome ancestral spirits, and to keep a thriving pine decoration industry going.

himonya burning new year charms_2758

Playing with fire is a popular pastime in Japan, and mad festivals involving naked people doing crazy things with fireballs are not uncommon. I asked a few people if burning kadomatsu is a an old Japanese tradition, but they said no.

So it would seem that this is a new invention, a good excuse for the local pyromaniacs to have a bit of fun.

himonya burning new year charms_2770

This chap with the hose pipe was very amusing, happily squirting the fire in a bid to, er, well, get it wet I suppose. He then decided to soak the pagodas that had been set up along the side of the park ("they might catch fire!") and under which a group of cute little grannyies sat. They were not best pleased as he wasn't very good with his aim and ended up squirting them in the face! He was eventually relieved of hose duties by a little child who knew better.

himonya burning new year charms_2780

himonya burning new year charms_2789

All in all, it was jolly good fun, and another reason to stay in this area. Negotiations re. the contract start next week.

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Saturday, January 10, 2009

Nail Job

I used to think that having fake nails was a sure sign that you had finally become a slave to modern fashions, sacrificing your ability to do practical things like pick loose change up off a table, or scratch your arse without the necessity of thought.

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However, having now spent several hours looking at fake nails, first in reality, then though a lens and now finally in Adobe Lightroom, I'm starting to think that actually, they're pretty damn groovy.

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The only question is, which ones should I get?

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All of the nails on this page have been hand-painted by the talented folks at Shibuya's www.cknail.jp.

More fake nails over on my Flickr account.

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Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Gaijin Bubble - Being a good husband - Taking action

himonya sunset _2475

Sunset from our front door

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It's all my perception.

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



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

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

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

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

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




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


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

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

How horrendous is that?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I only have one excuse left now.

I haven't got time.

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

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

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

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

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

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

tatta.

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Saturday, January 03, 2009

Breaking news: Apple launches laptop with no keyboard

Friday, January 02, 2009

Cafe de Twinkle



Today is a day to be remembered. *Twinkle* and I have a whole day off together. It's a rare thing.

We stayed up pretty late last night (about 3am), planning and working on our goals in our cosy little bedroom - with the heated carpet warming our tootsies (had a little switch-on ceremony). This morning we woke up at 9am, had muesli for breakfast, and then set about continuing on our projects, *Twinkle* on her Apple-branded Toshiba, me on my Mac. Listening to the beautiful Kate Rusby.

It's a beautiful day. The sun is streaming in on our 'office' through the park.

We were thinking of going to a cafe to work this afternoon to avoid distraction, but then unbeknownst to me, *Twinkle* decided to create her own cafe. I heard her pottering around the other side of the sliding doors that divide our two rooms, but didn't peek in. Then, just after two I was invited to dine at the Cafe de Twinkle, where freshly dutch-oven baked (homemade) raisin-and-walnut bread, potato and seaweed salad were served, accompanied by chai tea.

I'm grateful for today not just for the immediate happiness we're feeling relaxing together in our home, but also for the memory it will provide us with, which can be used as a powerful tool to encourage us in the future.

Today is representative of one of our dreams: to be working from home together, free to choose the hours that suit us. Pursuing our passions as opposed to working for the sake of creating an income.




We've decided to stay in this apartment come March, as despite the cost of renewing the contract, the heat in the summer and the cold in the winter, we are unlikely to find another place in such a nice location for so little. The sounds of birdsong and running water are not something you find comes with a lot of apartments in Tokyo. It seems a shame to turn our backs on such a gift.

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Thursday, January 01, 2009

Happy New Year of the Cow!

Happy New Year of the Cow!

Twinkle and I wish all Mumblers a very Happy New Year of the Cow. xxx