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April 30, 2006

Biking in Nagano

(click on images for a larger version, or downlaod the kmz file.)


Google earth almost ruined my Golden Week (a national week-long holiday here in Japan).

Tomoe and I have been planning to make another one of our usual epic bike tours this week. I use the word planning loosely because, until today, we had really only "planned" that we will do it somewhere in Nagano, and a few key places we want to stop at for some research purposes.

Looking at my mapple books, I decided that we should start in Chichibu and head over the mountains for two days toward Chino, where I want to check out a down-hill bike touring company.

All was going well. As I described the course with mapple in hand, Tomoe nodded in agreement, only half-listening.

Then I decided to get fancy and plot the trip on Google earth so we can review it in 3D. Bad idea.

The more excited Tomoe saw me getting, the more worried Tomoe got, causing her to take a closer look, at which point she realized that I had us riding over the "rooftop of Japan". One of the passes would be at 2,127 meters, which is higher than any of the mountains we have crossed in the past. The hight isn't the problem though. The problem was when we decided to look up the road conditions and found that it had only opened a few days ago, and that there were still avalanches in the area.

While that just made me all the more excited, it pretty much guaranteed that Tomoe would not be joining me there.

So, after much plotting and checking of road conditions, I had come up with another plan that would have been great if I had never seen the Rooftop route. I envisioned myself riding by fresh spring growth and old-fashioned farm houses, but unable to enjoy their beauty as I stare into the horizon at the mountains we should have been crossing.

As luck would have it though, the change in plans meant that we also had to change our reservation with the downhill-touring company to avoid having to hang around the area (which we have visited several times in the past). This is lucky because they were all booked up and could not change - forcing us to rethink our plans yet again.

Kobuchizawa-Matsubarako.jpg Matsubarako-Chino.jpg

This time, after seeing the virtual run-through of us safely making our way of mountain passes only a little lower. Tomoe must have either forgotten about the avalanche, or built up her confidence through mental visualization. By simply changing the starting point of the trip, I was somehow able to sneak in a crossing of "The Roof Top of Japan". Although it won't sound as impressive, when people we meet along the way ask us where we have come from, to say "Kobuchizawa - but we took the 'long way'" (there is a much more direct path from Kobuchizawa to Chino that does not require any ups and downs, as seen in the images above) as it would to casually reply "Chichibu" (image below), at least we still get to cross the rooftop of Japan.

Chichibu-Matsubarako.jpg

I wish I could somehow show my mom how to download and install Google Earth, because I think she would enjoy being able to zoom in and out and change the perspective and angle of our planned trip, but I'm pretty sure it would be impossible for her to figure out.

For anyone else who may like to see, you can downlaod the kmz file. (the notes are not very descriptive, but I plan to make a much more impressive one when we get back, with photos and what-not).

Now, just for mom, here are the images in order:

Overview

Entire-Trip3.jpg

Overview of entire trip, starting at the bottom left placemark, following them up to the top right corner placemark. We expect it to take about 6 mostly easy days, with many less kilmeters to cover than the last trip in Kyushyu. The third day will be spent riding off-road trails in the same spot.

You can see two more overview images here and here.


Originally Planned Day 1

Chichibu-Matsubarako.jpg

It was supposed to be from Chichibu to Matsubarako. It would have been great.


Currently Planned Day 1

Kobuchizawa-Matsubarako.jpg

Leaving from Kobuchizawa at 9:30. Spend some time hanging around there, check out a building Tomoe's dad has been offered free use of for summers (i.e. see if Tomoe and I can use it)

Head up to Matsubarako, which is at the base of the "Roof of Japan". The same place we would have ended up after the first day of the original plan as well.

Day 2

Matsubarako-Chino.jpg

Heading over the "Roof of japan". Atover 2,100 meters it will be the biggest mountaing we have ridden over so far. The really cool part though is that it is still winter up there.

The other cool part will be the long cruise down to our destination in Chino.


Day 3

Riding in Chino and checking out a few "eco" type places.

Day 4

Chino-Azumino.jpg

Moving on from chino (bottom right) we head up to Azumino (top left). There we will check out an organic farm that does some presentations and what not, keeping an eye out for anything else of interest.


Day 5

Azumino-Ueda.jpg

Heading over the mountains to Ueno. Don't know what to expect there, but pretty sure it will be nice.

Day 6

Ueno-Nagano.jpg

The final leg is a short jog over the mountains to Nagano city (where the Olympics were a few years ago). From there we will catch a bus home and I begin working on all the photos.

April 29, 2006

Brutish

a stroll in Nakano

With my newest big dream I have wasted a lot of one of my mentor's time. You too can get free consulting here.

I only know three people (other than Tomoe) that I can really rely on to give me blunt, brutally honest, and (usually) correct feedback for unfocused ideas. I wish I had more people like them.

This is just a big thanks to her and the others. (they know who they are.)

April 27, 2006

Multi-Dreaming my Life

a stroll in Nakano

So I often think of myself as lacking focus. Anyone who knows me knows that I jump from one idea to another, never really seeming to make headway on any of them. A frustrated friend once told me I am like a shotgun.

I was thinking about that last night and this morning as I lay in bed.

On the surface, it seems like it is true. I have come to the point where I hate to share my latest "This is what I want to do" idea with anyone because they have already heard me saying that I want to do something different just a few days earlier.

And yet, when I think about it, I wonder if I am not really just doing a big multi-task of my life.

It is obviously not the most efficient way to live or work - to jump back and forth between projects or tasks. But it does allow one to finish several things in one day (although at lower levels of quality) whereas focusing on doing one thing well means just that - at the end of the day you have done one thing well.

As zoom out and look at my life, I see that even though I seem to have different ideas of "I'm gonna do this" every week, they are all related to some basic themes that have been constant over the years. And what's more encouraging, is that when I step back, I see that I am actually making progress on each of those themes. (my current work included)

Granted, if I were to focus on any one, I would have made a lot more progress on it, but the reason I can't focus is that I can't forget about the others. Subconsciously, if I notice that one of the dreams is falling behind, I jump over and focus on it a bit (usually a very little bit). Not enough to "make it happen" then and there, but just enough that it doesn't get left behind and influences my daily choices in a way that I am making progress that is all but undetectable when I look at it in terms of days, weeks, or months (as I too often do). Yet, somehow, I am slowly building the life I want. I am definitly always getting closer.

Just as I was thinking this, I got to work today and was talking to a co-worker. What we talked about led quickly into the Open Space for Sustainability dream I mentioned a few days ago as "yet another failed or incomplete project". And while we didn't decide anything, or make any plans, but I feel so much more closer to realizing it than I did then.

If I wasn't such a dreamer - someone who can't focus or let go of my fantasies - maybe I would have dropped that idea from my to-do list long ago and buried it.

I noticed also, as I was explaining the concept of OS to that co-worker, that an OS-ish principle for my life is to quit worrying if I am making progress, and just accept that "whenever it happens is the right time". Maybe the OS idea will suddenly be realized in the next few months... maybe it will sleep again for a year or two or three. Maybe it will morph into something else. Maybe I will loose interest and it will die.

The only thing I really have to do is stop worrying about it and never forget to jump from dream to dream. But also realize that even if I decide not to follow the "big dream" now, or if I decide to follow it and temporarily take myself of the track toward realizing the current-work-related dream, niether of them will have failed nor be out of reach.

My Life Rocks

a stroll in Nakano

More later.

April 25, 2006

Fork in the road

a stroll in Nakano

*The following is an un-edited (excpet for spell chekcing) stream of thought post*

What should I do with my life?

It's what I have been asking myself since (at least) way back in *********.

The quest to figure it out led me to quit my job as a web-geek in order to go back to school to learn about saving the world. In actuality, I was never able to quit that job. While the act of saying "I quit" caused me stress, quitting itself was a non-event. I continued to work for the same company on a contract basis for the months before I went to school, and then while I was at school. And wouldn't you know it, I am still doing odd jobs for them today.

At my new job I have learned something important.

I have learned that just because I feel strongly about the whole "not frickin up the world" bit, that doesn't mean that I will be happy doing *any* job in the "don't frick up the world" industry. That is to say, sitting in an office, in front of a computer and making power-point presentations about how I wish the world was so that I could live the life that I *really* want to live. Although the actual project I am working on is interesting, and related to something I had spent a lot of time dreaming about, it ties me to a life that falls short of what I believe is possible. (of course the problem is no focus - too many things I want to do, but that aren't compatible with each other)

So I have realized that I have to find a good combination of the things I am interested in doing on a personal level (such as creating web crap, photography, bike riding, design/art) in combination with things I am interested in doing on a more societal-betterness level - I can't just choose one or the other and be happy with it.

This has, in fact, been the topic of some thought for me in the past. I even went so far to imagine how I might be able to find a way to have others help me to put my own personal interests to good use to further my social interests. Of course, I haven't had the administrative skills to pull that little project off yet, but now that I realize there are not many places for me in the real world, it's pretty good motivation to focus on the admin stuff enough to make my own place in this world, or to make the world more like the fantasy world in my head.

. . .

I was sleepless last night because I was worried about an upcoming decision of wether or not to stay at my current job, where I have security and can maybe help people not-screw-up the world as I do *some* work I like. But as much as interesting as it is, every minute I spend on that is another minute I can't spend on something else. I will be sacrificing my own desires to some extent to do it, or I can take a big scary leap and try (again) to get myself motivated to do something that requires a bit of administrative skills and networking skills- two skills I don't have.

I know there is something big out there... I know it and feel it... it is sooo close.

and yet.. .

How can I grab it?

How much am I willing to risk to really make the effort?

When I got back from Sweden I spent a few months unemployed. I had some of the same ideas then, but they were always thought of as "side projects" as I look for a job that pays. Well, now I have a job that pays and the side projects, the projects that I felt most interested in, are all but forgotten.

How much is trying to achieve a dream worth? How much is the peace of mind of having given it a real go worth?

Is it worth $15,000 or $20,000 plus lost income? What if I was out of work and agreed to myself, up-front, that I am going to spend the next year without worrying about the money going out and the lack of money coming in?

How much is it worth to try to figure out what I really want to do with my life? The scared Kevin says "No! you could use up all your savings and still not know what the hell to do with your life!". The drunk Kevin says "Even if it takes you two or three years and you end up using *all* of your savings, but you find what you *really* want to do with your life, it will be worth it."

I have to say that I tend to agree with the drunk Kevin.

I mean, it took me how many years to save what I have now? (about five). If I worry about loosing that, I may spend the rest of my life in misery. Think about it.... forty more years wishing i had done something different just to save five years worth of savings.

On the other hand, even if I completely wipe out five years worth of savings (of course it is inevitable that I also make money along the way - maybe just not as much) but find something that will make me so much happier for the rest of my life, is it not worth it?

Practically thinking, it would take me a long time to wipe out five years of savings, and I would definitely know if I am making progress before it is all gone, giving me time to rethink and once again pick up my current life-style of living to save, so I would never loose *all* of my savings unless i really find what I want to do and it doesn't work. In which case I will at least be happy that I tried.

Oh what to do with my life...

I guess I should follow my rule from when I was young, the rule that led me to take a strange job as a "personal assistant" for two famous dot-com entrepenuers (before they were famous) who were later forced out of their company and the country for molesting young lads (only a little younger than myself (though they never tired anything with me as far as I was able to recognize at 20 years of age, and I quit when I began to feel uncomfortable that they might), the same rule that made me leave my comgy life in the US to come to the great unknown in Japan, and the same rule that allowed me to go to Maine to be a sea-kayak instrcutor after graduation, and later allowed me to quit that and move to Japan again because I felt there was something *real* about Tomoe (who I had dated for a few months before going to Maine but neither of us expected it to be longer than that)

"When faced with a fork in the road, always take the one that scares you the most."

I can't believe I was smart enough, when I was so young, to make that rule (I don't remember hearing it anywhere so I assume it was my own). But then, maybe only someone as young as I was could be free enough to make such as rule....

In a few days

a stroll in Nakano

The knots in his stomach are getting tighter as the moment of truth approaches. What will kevin do? Risk "loosing" a year and some income (and expenses) to a not-well-thought-out dreamy idea?

Or, will he return to the land of comfortable income and little risk?

We will know in a few days.

I should be clear though, that the fear is not really that it is a bad idea - Tomoe and I both agree that it is probably the most realistic idea I have had, and it is fits me better than anything else. The real fear is that no matter how good of an idea it is, and no matter how much more realistic it suddenly became when Tomoe switched jobs, I will just end up sitting in front of the computer piddling around instead of making it happen.

April 24, 2006

Something Big

ruma

It feels like something is big is happening. I don't know what. I don't know why it feels that way, but it feels like there is something brewing, some big change, some decision I am (or will be) facing that will change my life forever -if I am brave enough.

It's scary and exciting. I just hope I figure out what it is soon.

April 19, 2006

To Click... or no?

Protection

The following is geek stuff. Oh how I (strangely) miss geek talk.

I don't understand. I am attempting to transfer my domain registration from NetSol to a more competitively priced option, and in an attempt to keep me as their customer, they have (in addition to locking my account to make transfer harder) sent me an email saying

Attention: Kevin Cameron Re: Transfer of BASTISH.NET

We received notification on April 18, 2006 7:01:29 AM EDT that you have requested to transfer to another domain name registrar. If you would like to proceed with this transfer you do not need to respond to this message. If you wish to cancel the transfer please contact us before April 22, 2006 7:01:29 AM EDT by visiting our secure website https://registrar-transfers.com/?h=e2a327bXXXXXXXXXXXXX.

The LAST thing I want to do is use a link supposedly from NetSol that does not even go to the NetSol.com domain. - I get enough emails from fake netsol people asking me "confirm my login credentials". Who thought of the idea to use a non-netsol domain for this?

Fire that person.

- no wait, I am trying to be a kinder, gentler Kevin. First ask them why they did it, consider their answer, and move them to the bottom of the promotion list.

Of course, maybe this really is some malicious thief. If that is the case, NetSol has a security problem because this mail showed up within an hour after attempting to transfer my domain.

April 17, 2006

Alone

Perpole tree

I spent two hours walking around the hood today taking photos. I haven't done that for a loooong time. In fact, I have only picked up my camera once in the past few weeks until today.

Part of my new-found motivation to take photos might be due to the fact that Tomoe is off for the weekend at a over-night meeting with her new company, the company I have been working with for the past few months.

She is, as of tomorrow, an official employee. It's going to be interesting (assuming my contract is renued) to be working in the same office with the same people. It is getting closer to the dream I have had for many years now to be working together with Tomoe running our own business. I just don't know right now what that business might be, but this is a step.

April 15, 2006

Stumped

Dilbert

I usually love Dilbert, and Tomoe always knows when I am reading it because I am laughing. But some of them I just don't get. I'm stumped.

Why would the prospect of becoming a "regular employee" (or seishyainn in Japan) ever be a motivator? I have to say that I am actually motivated most now by the fear that my current client will say "We only want you if you agree to become an employee". It motivates me to do extra-good work so that I will be too valuable to turn away when I say "No thank you. Let's just keep a contract/client relationship."

The last contract talk we had they said they wanted me to join and I declined, on the basis that I would love to work with them, but not for them. So for now it is "trial period II". And if all goes well there will be a trial period III.

I think I have a commitment problem.

Of course, in Japan I can get health insurance without a job.

April 11, 2006

Survive

Berries

Survive.

April 06, 2006

Pissing

Painted Chipmonk

Have you ever awoke in the morning, looked at your life, and wondered how it got so off-track so quickly?

Just a month or so ago I was so close to living my goal of only working 30 or fewer hours per week, and then something, I don't know what, but something happened, and for the past three weeks I have been working morning to night with only an hour or two break to have dinner with Tomoe (all the while thinking about the deadlines I am potentially missing).

I loooooooovvvvvvveeeee sleep now, because it is the only time I am not anxious about my impossible To-Do list - and this is not a personal "life" To-Do list, it is a "contracted" To-Do list... more of a "Have-To-Do-Or-Else-You-Will-Never-Work-In-This-Town-Again-List".

And just when it seems that I knock one thing off, something else pops up, and I am right back where I started.

But for now, even if I feel like a wave is about to crash over me, I am somehow ahead of it. Just by a nose. So much so that I found time to go order new glasses today to replace the scratched-up lenses that make my vision almost worse than without glasses at all.

On the way I stopped into the sporting goods store to check on the price of new tent-poles (which idiot me left on the train when Tomoe and I were on our way back from Kyushu a few months ago). It's pretty pissing to think about spending $150 just to use the tent (the best tent I have ever seen in the WORLD! -it goes up in exactly 30 seconds IN THE DARK!) I already own, but there are only a few weeks until a five-day holiday, and we need that tent for our next bike trip.

Another thing that is pissing, ("pissing" is a word Tomoe invented meaning "Something that makes one pissed off; Something irritating") is that three months ago I spent $50 (and made the trek to the embassy) to have a certified notary sign some papers so Tomoe and I can get married, and the three-month expiration date on those papers is almost up. We haven't gotten around to getting married, so that was $50 down the drain.

I want to spend more time learning to draw, learning to photograph, learning to design (please ignore the design and photos of my own site-that's why I have to LEARN!!!). Yet, somehow I find myself agreeing to work I don't need because I feel as though I am somehow irresponsible if I don't do it, or that it will give me a "connection" for the future. How can I teach myself that a connection is no-good unless I have had the time to build the skills to use the connection as I really want to?

April 03, 2006

A Parakeet Named Bob

A Pair of Keets

Every day I'm closer and closer to throwing it all away and heading out with my bike and my camera....and a parakeet named "bob".

bird

April 02, 2006

How NOT to use the web for marketing

Boys at Play

In other news, I really really love this. It seems that Chevy has a new gimmick on their website that allows people to make their own advert for the Chevy Thahoe using Chevy's own video clips and soundtracks. A lot of people have been making their own, but it's probably not what Chevy had in mind. There are now a lot touting it's extraordinary contributions to global warming and destruction.

I wonder if the guy in charge of this is in any trouble now that videos like this and this and this, and these are hosted and promoted on the Chevy's own website. (I can't wait to see their reason when they decide to take them down).

I guess the lesson is that no matter how enticing it is to "harness the marketing power of the social web", you had better think twice if you are the kind of company that has, until now, had to hide behind well-crafted (and well-controlled) PR B.S. to cover up your lack of reposibility.

* * *

In other news... I Just can't get it out of my head.

Boys at Play

April 01, 2006

Walk-a-walk-a-walk-a-walk-a-walk

Old(er) Lady

Ok, this isn't supposed to be a music site, but it just happens that there are a lot of albums coming out recently that I like (spring time?)

Anyway, if you like Rufus Wainright (I used to like him more, but his latest album left me wanting some) you may like to hear Regina Spektor, who in some way reminds me of Rufus, just a little more feminine -maybe.

If you listen to Pavlov's Daughter on the 11:11 album, she sounds like what I imagine Rufus and Nelly McKay's daughter would sound like - if anyone could ever get Rufus to XXX with Nelly that is...

Go to her site.

Click on "music"

Click on the "Soviet Kitsch" cassette tape.

Now, that is not what reminded me of Rufus, but it is the song that turned me on to her. For the Rufus reminder:

Click on "Video"

Click the "play" button on the video player.

When you are done listening to that, don't forget to keep watching (or click the fast forward button to see the next video) the "Survival Guide to Soviet Kitsch - Intro" is also kinda Rufus.

The third video is so cool is so cool is so cool.

Great stuff.

So am I wrong to be reminded of Rufus when he was good?

UPDATE:

That was rude of me. After listening to more of her (you can hear a lot on her site) I realize she is *many times greater* then Rufus. I should never have compared them. I appologize, Regina.

UPDATE 2:
And listen to "Consequence of Sounds" on the Songs album. Wow this excites me.