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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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Friday, December 26, 2008

Plans for 2009

Meet your teachers: George and I warm up for our telephone English lessons

George and I at work

Just one more day of work at the office remains this year. Whilst I usually work alone on Saturdays, taking calls from those students of mine who are unable to call during the week, tomorrow the rest of the office crew will join me. They'll be turning up in their casual clothes for the annual oosouji - cleanup - traditionally carried out at the end of the year in all homes and workplaces in Japan.

I've chosen to work much of my week off at a private school in order to scrape together the rest of the money needed for moving house - we've decided that we'll definitely be leaving our apartment in February. With our current place being very old and not insulated in any way we'd rather not stay here. Had there been no costs involved in staying, we'd put up with it, but with a contract renewal fee of 180,000 yen (approximately £1000) it just doesn't make sense. It's an absolute con, and encourages us further in our mission to become property owners (to create a passive income, and provide a comfortable place for people to stay when visiting Tokyo / temporarily homeless. It's partly inspired by dear John John who always had an open-door policy).

I'm really looking forward to my few days off work next week, as it means I can put some serious time and effort into working on the two web-based projects I'm feeling really fired up about. One is the online publishing company that we started last year, the other is a podcast which I've desperately wanted to create ever since I got back, but have been lacking in a podcast partner. I found the ideal person in the phone booth next to me at work. He's crazy. Crazy George.

I'd also like to redesign The Daily Mumble - move it over to Wordpress 2.7 - but that's going to have to wait. I'm seriously considering using some paid holiday to work on this and the other projects.

Next month will see planning / work commence on a new website (and hopefully podcast) for the company - an idea long discussed but never acted upon, until myself and crazy George got all hyped up it a couple of days ago. I'm excited about that. Another great opportunity to be creative, learn a lot, and have something to show for our efforts at the end of the day.

It also happens to be exactly what I have long-envisioned doing.

I'm getting real excited about 2009. I feel it's going to be a great year.

2008 has been a pretty spectacular though, personally speaking. I got married, graduated from uni, returned to Japan with a proper visa thus successfully completing a five year plan. I've started exercising regularly, I've got a fulfilling job, and earlier in the year I had some big successes in my work at the University of Sheffield.

I've continued to read, courtesy of Audible.co.uk.

I've also got my procrastination under control. This year, I learnt that procrastination can actually be used to increase one's productivity. Realising this, I actively sought to make my procrastination the good sort. This not only resulted in me being able to get a lot more done in the limited time I had, but also relieved me of the feelings of guilt and stress that tended to accompany my procrastination sessions.

I think finishing uni helped too...!

Looking to the year ahead, I aim to make real progress in bringing the projects I mentioned above to fruition, in addition to working more to support *Twinkle* with the further growth of our Amway business. I will avoid doing overtime at the office, but instead be very productive in my allotted hours there. I will also work to be a less grumpy husband - when I'm tired I sometimes turn into a big baby. *Twinkle* is very patient, but she shouldn't have to be.

I also plan to take the Japanese Language Proficiency Test, and run a quarter marathon, an ekiden and a half marathon too. I want to run the Honolulu marathon in 2010.

I don't really have any goals in terms of ownership - it's experiences and personal development that matter, not owning 'things'. (Having said that, I would like a Macbook pro and a mid-range Nikon DSLR, but I think they'll have to wait until 2010).

I see the year ahead as being pretty intense, quite tiring, but with little stress - and a lot of fun and satisfaction. I see myself growing in confidence, being less concerned by the opinions of others, and more understanding of ways of communicating in these parts. I'll be continuing to work on living in alignment with what is 'right', and resisting attempted coups by my ego.

Hmmm, it's all pretty exciting really!

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Friday, December 19, 2008

Purpose



My sister Jessie (left) and I, age: quite young

Personally, I'm yet to feel the effects of the global economic slowdown. I've not been made redundant, my salary has not been cut, overtime is still allowed.

But I can feel it's just around the corner. Local redundancies are being announced on a daily basis, and the thinking is that it's just going to get worse. One of my private students was telling me how her company, once reluctant to fire anyone (something that is admittedly pretty difficult to do in Japan - the common method seems to be to bully and pressure people into quitting) has just announced 2000 cuts, with more to come in due course. Whilst the nature of the client base that the English & Chinese education company I work for means that we are not suffering so much from this initial phase of the slowdown, this past week there have been some hints that next year is going to be a tough one.

I'm very much a subscriber to Robert Kiyosaki's idea of there being four main types of people when it comes to income, who together make up the 'Cashflow Quadrant'. They are: E - employees, S - self-employed, B - business owners and I - investors.

(For more on the Cashflow Quadrant get hold of a copy of Kiyosaki's incredibly easy to read bestseller Rich Dad Poor Dad)

I've long had a gut feeling that I don't belong in the 'employee' quadrant, and in such economic conditions as these I find this gut feeling being exceptionally noisy. Seeing people in 'secure' jobs being left high and dry makes me question the sense of placing my future in the hands of an organisation that could let go of its staff at any time, for any number of reasons.

If I was working for the satisfaction that the day-to-day work brings, then it would be no big deal. Whilst I do feel real satisfaction in my day job (and before I go any further, I'd just like to state that as well as enjoying my day job a great deal, I see it as performing a very important and necessary role in my development, and I have no intention of leaving), I have a strong feeling that I'm heading towards a very different role in this world, of which I have only a vague picture at present) (this is aside from any purpose I have to become a better person in a spiritual sense, a journey that continues no matter what I do).

Whilst I am happy that I am able to make a positive impact upon the lives of my students and (to a certain extent) my colleagues, I can't get away from the idea that ultimately, the main purpose of most companies is to provide a good return to the shareholders. These are shareholders of which I know nothing. Who knows what they might choose to invest the profits of my labour in.

Some people might think this is taking things a bit too far, but I don't feel it is. I have a limited time on Earth this time around, and I want to make the most of it. I am happy to invest a few years in doing such things as working for my present company as I'm learning a lot, and teaching is a worthy cause, but I believe that I would feel that I had somehow wasted the precious gift of life were I to remain working for someone else for the rest of my life.

So then there's the S quadrant - self-employed. One thing I've been fortunate to learn second-hand over the past few years is that being self-employed isn't necessarily all it's cracked up to be. For one thing, there's the fact that (for most one-man-show enterprises) if you stop working, your income stops. Then there's the hours. I forget what the stats are, but self-employed people usually work a lot more hours than those in the E quadrant. Having said that, the chances are that the self-employed business owner will get a great deal more satisfaction out of their work than an E. Every hour of work they put in is an hour invested in their own enterprise - an idea which appeals to me a great deal. They are also more likely to be doing what they love (or they probably wouldn't have started that business in the first place!). However, ultimately, the lack of time freedom in the S quadrant does not appeal to me.

Then we move across to the B quadrant - the business owners. These are people whose businesses continue to operate even when they are physically absent. This is where I want to be. This is where I feel I should be putting my energy ...but find the ease with which I can invest in the E quadrant too seductive. Striking out is tough. It's easier to just be told what to do.

The final quadrant - our ultimate financial goal, is the Investment quadrant, whereby the wealth we have created will continue to generate an income in perpetuity, for the causes that we choose. Being socially conditioned, I used to think that people in this quadrant had only got where they were by trampling on others. However, the more wealthy people I meet (here in Japan), the more this stereotype is revealed as being a load of crap. They are by far the most generous, caring and 'normal' people you could hope to meet, and don't give a poop about keeping up appearances. They are generous with both their time and money, and in my book are worthy role models.




These past few weeks I've been making my way through The New Psycho-Cybernetics by Maxwell Maltz, an updated version of the classic self-development book. It's very good. Informative, and inspirational. Whilst there's not much in it that you haven't heard somewhere else, the scientific angle is refreshing and convincing.

...and it really gets you thinking - "If I could be the person I really wanted to be, would I be the person I am today?" If the answer is no (as it is with me), then there's clearly a need for action.

It's compelling. Real change doesn't take months of years, it takes a split second - the split second it takes to make the decision to be that person. That person who is fit (or on the road to fitness), that person who owns their own successful business (or is in the process of setting it up), that person who has rich, loving and trusting relationships with all those around them (or is making a concerted effort to build such bonds).

I'm in an incredibly fertile environment that is brimming with opportunity. It's called life, and it's time I took the next step (even if it's only a small step). I'll write about it in due course.

night.

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Thursday, May 15, 2008

Dissertation: The benefits of procrastination

I was in the library just after 9am this morning; it's now 1.45am, and I got home 15 minutes ago. A 16.5 hour day, not bad. It was punctuated by an hour spent with my classmates, first year and second students on our course, in a meeting about the Year Abroad. That was fun. It was also really nice to see so many of us Japanese studies students together, you know, like one big family. Even making it through the first year is quite an accomplishment - so in a way we were all survivors.

I think Angela (joint head of Japanese language) does a fantastic job in co-ordinating our year abroad placements. It's one of those things you take for granted, but she must put in an awful lot of work to make it all happen. Thanks Angela.

...But anyway, apart from that interlude I was in the library, or the basement of the Arts Tower, working on my dissertation. It's nearly done. I just have to check over my referencing and insert a Table of Contents, then that's it.

Unfortunately there isn't really all that much of a sense of achievement. The reason for this is that originally, it was what I felt was a pretty good study of Japan's NGO sector. That was when it was 13,000 words long. But the limit, imposed on the department by the powers that be (who require uniformity across the faculty), is 7,700 (that's including the 10% leeway), which means I have basically had to hack it to bits. What I'm left with is a footnote-heavy scribble, jam-packed with only the essential information, and lacking in context - I feel it's rather a dull read.

I tried to get it down to the prescribed length, but it won't go. Thus, I'll have 2% knocked off my final mark for exceeding the word count, but I'd lose more if I tried to cut anything else out, and in a way I think its important to lose the marks - a vain attempt to make a point - you can't really write a 'dissertation' with multiple chapters etc in 7,700 words. Extended essay yes, dissertation no. How about we are told "Between 7,000 and 10,000". That would make more sense.

Perhaps I should just treat it as an exercise in being Concise.

But anyway, it's not really about the final mark, it's about the process, right? No, seriously, it is, and despite the stress and writer's block, it's been a really good module, and I'm glad that we're required to do it. I'm also very grateful for the support I've received from my tutors, who saved me from a couple of nervous breakdowns.

And yeah, this procrastination thing: In a bid to avoid this dissertation, I have been very busy over the past few months getting all sorts of things done that would otherwise have gone undone. And now, with so much work to do on the piece and so little time to do it in, I'm forced to be highly productive for hours on end (like today). So, the overall effect is high productivity, high productivity. Win Win.

Must do this productive procrastination thing more often.

Anyway, best get off to bed. I have a team bonding session at 10am for an exciting new project I'm involved with at uni aiming to bring Web 2.0 tools into the learning process. I'm guessing it will mainly involve hugging and things, which is nice for a Thursday 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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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!

xxx

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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Friday, April 11, 2008

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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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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Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Coping

As fresh as a Greek daisy. One of the first ever flower-shots I took, back in 1996

I'm glad I don't usually have a car. Two parking tickets, a blow-out, and now today a section of the front bumper missing after someone reversed into me in the car park. I really am glad that on the whole, cars don't excite me.

It's been a pretty full-on few days. I was a photographer at a business seminar down south on Saturday - that was in-between the trouser-patch sewing, which incidentally when very well, although when I got home I realised that one of the patches was unintentionally shaped and positioned to look like a big testicle...

Having had the major Sheffield Graduate Award deadline on Friday, I'd spent much of the week getting my portfolio together. Thus, it was only on Sunday that I dared to finally re-open my to-do database.

Gulp. It was rather full.

One major to-do is my dissertation; I've got a deadline of Wednesday lunchtime to get the next section in, but it's not going to happen. I felt very weary on Sunday, and it soon became apparent that I wasn't going to do any work on it, as I was too busy hoovering, tidying up the noticeboard etc. Realising that this wasn't a good situation to be in, I gave myself permission to procrastinate for the rest of the day - provided I procrastinated by doing stuff that was on my to-do list (but required less emotional input). That turned out to be a good decision, as I managed to deal with a whole bunch of emails that demanded responses, I wrote a journal article (1 down, 3 to go!), sorted out some wedding stuff, spoke to *Twinkle*, processed some outstanding RAW images, changed the wheel on the car again, and dealt with the huge bunch of paperwork that has been gathering on my table with the legs sawn off.

At the end of the day I felt quite happy with how I'd turned it around.

Today is the first day in the past week that I've not taken a potent cocktail consisting of a large dose of Vitamin B and Caffeine to keep me going. As a result of this, my body has finally had a chance to reassert itself, by sending me to sleep in the library at lunchtime. To be fair though, I was up at 6am again today for the usual (if temporary) morning routine: This involves picking up food from a community centre with a scary alarm, delivering it to the university shop, processing returns, picking up the catering trailer from up the hill, setting that up on campus, and fetching water. I love challenging myself to apply Lean Production tecniques to cut down the amount of time it takes me to get this done. I've now got it down from 2.5 hours to 90 minutes. I like looking out of the window when I'm back home at 8am, seeing the traffic queues and thinking, "wasn't like that when I got up!"

With these temporary responsibilities I've 'not had time' for my daily exercise: the negative impact this loss has upon my energy levels is staggering.

Today has been semi-productive. I was in the library for about 8 hours, reading books when I wasn't dozing off. But I have felt under considerable pressure.

Indeed, tonight it did all get to be a bit too much for me. Absolute exhaustion, and a desire to say 'sod it all'. To ease things, I went and bought a big tub of ice cream, a bar of chocolate, and some stationary. I now feel somewhat better, and very fat.

More helpful than the consumption of 3 million calories though has been the recollection of a fundamental truth,

It Doesn't Matter.

None of it does. Journals will still be published without my input, life will carry on without my emails, I will graduate (with a 2:1) even if I only get 40% on all my modules. Just pass, that's enough.

As a treat, I gave myself an hour off my dissertation today and used it to look for jobs. That's something else that has been on my to-do list. It wasn't all that positive really, just tonnes of teaching jobs, but I'm not worried. I have a strong feeling that everything is going to work out for the best. I trust that when the time comes for me to act, I will know it.

I realised today that it's actually going to be another 4 months before I see *Twinkle*. That brought me down a bit. I've been missing her so much recently, probably partly due to the fact that she would really benefit from my support at the moment. I miss being very much in touch with how she is feeling today, emotionally, and I miss her physical warmth.

Hmm, still, the way things are going these four months will fly by, and before you know it we'll be back off to Japan. I am so looking forward to living with her again.

Well, it's now 10pm, and time for me to go to sleep. Tomorrow will be another long day, bu a productive and enjoyable one too, and thus I look forward to it.

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Saturday, March 15, 2008

My affinity with rubber

As enormous relief as the first five weeks of my final semester come to an end, and we begin three weeks of Easter Holiday. The break will give me a chance to catch up on the many tasks that have been put to one side, victims of the constant onslaught of daily homework. Things like funding applications, newsletter articles, competition entries, wedding planning, video editing. Oh, and that dissertation.

The catch up starts today then. I'll be spending about 4 hours in a car - this really troubled me at first as I dislike being unproductive when I have a lot on, and much of what I need to do necessitates use of my laptop, which makes me feel very sick when travelling.

Then, this morning whilst out for my morning jog, it struck me - Jeans Repair! My patchwork jeans have needed attention for a couple of months now, but I haven't felt able to justify putting time into sewing up the holes, an activity I enjoy to a ridiculous extent.

Yesterday I came across a photo taken 6 years ago in my cell in Asagaya, Tokyo, showing the same jeans as they were originally.

Does my bum look big in these?





This week's car fun continues with a blow-out. Fortunately, I was travelling very slowly at the time and thus was able to pull over without a problem.

The 'funny thing' was, I'd been thinking about this puncture for a few days. That is, the few days leading up to its dramatic popping occurrence. I'd consciously thought through what I was going to do when it happened, where the car jack was etc. Thus, when it did happen, right outside the tyre-specialist's forecourt, I wasn't so much surprised as grateful that it had finally blown - and just in the right place too!

Psychic connections with tyres ...whatever next? Would anyone else like some of these drugs?

tarra

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