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The Dilemma

So this is the dilemma.

As you may have figured out if you read between the lines, I'm a little unsatisfied with my job. I have been for some time, and finally decided to take the plunge and quit. I even set a date (which I haven't told the boss yet) of Oct 31.

Why wait that long? Bonus is in September (or so we are told... but to what extent I actually expect one is another story), and I figure for the sake of the bonus, I shouldn't tell him till after... right?

Problem: That only leaves one month to find a replacement for me. Sure under my contract, I only have to give two week notice, just like everyone else, but if I did that they would be totally screwed. Actually even just one month will leave them totally screwed, but being the good guy that I am, I will offer to be "on call" for at least November.

Recently I have been thinking that perhaps I have to give them even more time... as in tell the boss next week. That leaves two months to replace me, or at least scale down on any jobs that require my help.

So far so good I guess. I tell him next week, I loose the bonus, but maybe he's less pissed and will write me a nice reference letter.

Did I forget to mention that one of the remaining three production people is pregnant and will be going on leave at the end of September? So then there will be three of us. Everyone's skill-set is varied, but mine is by far the most techincal and broad, I can fill in for them, but they can't readily fill in for me.

So am I a jerk for quitting a month after one of the other four production folk are scheduled to be on leave for six months? The good part of me says yes, but the cold-hearted part says "Hey, it's business. The company should have been managed so it wouldn't in this situation anyway". So I still have a relatively clear conscience.

Then came yesterday. The other html slave doesn't show up for work, and finally calls around noon from the hospital. She has something wrong, and will be out for the rest of this week at least. The president told her to take a month or so off and get better. Now what?

Assuming she is back on the job by the end of October, I guess there is really no bigger of a problem than before she got sick, except that now, I will be doing all the copy pasting myself and not have time to get the others up to speed on such things as... oh, how to ssh to the server.

Although, if we look at it from another stand point, it might be the perfect time to hire someone new... they would certainly get a crash course, and it might light a fire under the butts of the others so they start to learn new skills. I know it sure helped me when the previous server guy quit a month or so after I started, and there was not backup server guy. It forced me, supposedly there as a marketing consultant, to pick up a book about Linux and learn to manage the thing.

Actually come to think about it, I'm not really afraid that the company will be in trouble if I leave... there are a million people that can do what I do, and a few can even do it better. What I am really afraid of it the President's perception of my actions. If he feels I screwed them over, there goes a reference. And having been stuck in an office behind a computer for three years, with very little contact with people I would consider as a good reference, that's a big deal for me. I certainly don't want to burn any bridges.

So let's recap. The question is:

Am I "bad" if I quit now, even though I am giving them two figgin' months notice?
What should my responsibilities be to the company? Does the fact that it's a small company (7 people) mean I have more responsibility than if it was a large corporation and I was a nameless drone? If so, why? I certainly paid the price in loss of benefits by staying with a small company where the pay is low, and the vacations scarce, and the number of co-workers I wish to socialize with... low, and peers to learn from and find solutions for problems non-existent.
Should I even worry about the reference?
Should I actually wait till after I get the possible bonus, and give less notice?

What's right?

Too Much Stuff

It often seems that the whole world is thinking the same thing at the same time as I am. A discussion on Margin Walker about real value and the nature of work, a show on NPR's The Connection entitled Storing the Selfabout accumulating stuff... Both are issues which, although always somewhere in the back of my mind, have moved front and center in the past year / months.

Adam, of Marginwalker, willfully unemployed and slowly depleting his rainy-day fund writes

not only am I personally almost infinitely better off (emotionally, physically, psychically) not working, but I feel, and believe the results will bear me out, as if I have contributed far more to the world I live in while not formally employed.

I'm sure Adam's feelings that he is more productive outside the confines of the "company" ring true to many. It certainly does to me, as I sit here writing on my web site on company time.

I didn't always feel that way, in fact when I first started working here, I actually enjoyed many hours of overtime, and would leave the office at night only because I had to go home to eat... and then I took my work home. I was producing value then. Sure I produced value for the client, in the form of an application to make their job easier, or coordinating a web project with the home office in America, but more importantly, I was creating value for myself in the form of learning and personal growth.

Now, although I still produce value for the client, the personal value is all but gone (and this of course is reflected in the output I am able to give the client). Now I can't wait to get off at night, because that is when I can work on the too numerous personal projects, be it Mfop, one of the many other tragically ever-incomplete killer apps I have begun, a web-site for someone else, a web site for me, a painting, or learning photography, the value of my personal projects has far outgrown that of my work projects... to me that is.

Adam poses the obvious question of how to make other people realize the value, and compensate him enough, for the work he is doing outside of work. In his words, "My challenge, from here on in, is going to be to invent situations that allow me to do what I do best and still put food on the table.".

This is where his post, and the Connection show start to come together. The most obvious answer to how to still put food on the table, is to think hard and realize how large of a table you need, how large of a kitchen is it in, and how rich is the food? In other words, how much stuff do you need to be satisfied? Obviously the less stuff you need, the easier it is to acquire it.

Monday's Connection was a program about how storage facilities are a booming business in the US. People are renting more and more space, to store more and more useless stuff. Sure it all has memories, and this is something I understand. I have box loads of memories at my parents house in Michigan. But even memories have a price. Last year, my brother suggested we (the three children, all moved out now) rent a storage facility to move our memories out of the house. My suggestion was that if the house really is too crowded, we just sell the junk...

And that is what I am doing now with the junk in my Tokyo apartment. Some how, in the four years I have lived here, I went from one suitcase full of clothes and a guitar, to a ten tatami-mat apartment with only about five tatami-mats of remaining space. For a few months now, I have been planning a method to forcibly teach myself to live without accumulating stuff, and as a result, allow me to have more time to do what I value (and hopefully some others will value as well).

The biggest overhead in my life is currently my apartment and the utilities that come with it. It is part of what keeps me in fear of quitting my job. Sure I could live off my savings for a while, longer if I am able to curtail some of my other expensive habits such as the bi-weekly night out, and buying the good natto, but nothing would really change, and I'd still be a slave to this apartment no matter how much I might enjoy my new job. And what makes me a slave to this tiny little hole (besides the fact that it is relatively cheap and has a great location in a quite neighborhood, with a great view out of a south-facing window over a river lined with trees) is that I need someplace to put my stuff. Gone are the days when moving meant a train ride instead of a moving truck.

I'm getting rid of it all (well, most of it). I'm selling or giving away most of the books I have accumulated over the past four years, trashing the moldy futons and rank pillows, saying sayonara to the kotatsu (table with a heater underneath) and donating the shelves of ragged clothes and t-shirts I have bought or received through the years as a display of my affinity with a certain club or event I know longer participate in or remember. The noisy hot water heater goes back in the trash where I found it, and I've begun looking for someone with eight extra feet for the shoes I don't need.

Yes, I'm Krazy Kevin, and everything must go! The few things that I do use, I will keep, either temporarily stashed in Tomoe's soon to be overcrowded apartment, or shipped home to mom and dad. And in the end (hopefully of November) when I get rid of the apartment, I will have everything I need (which inevitably include a camera, an ultra-light laptop, and an Air-H wireless Internet card) to live and produce value for me tucked neatly into a pair of saddle bags for my bike and a backpack.

And after a trip home for Christmas, the only overcrowding I will have to worry about for the next six months will be if I can somehow forage enough to eat that I no longer fit into my two-man tent as I ride my bike around Japan in search of value for my life, and learning to be free of stuff.

I have no illusions that being homeless and on the road will be near as easy or enjoyable as I have, for the past six monthes, been prone to fantasize as I am sitting at my desk answering valueless emails about this schedule, or that broken link and whose fault it was. I don't know if I will be able to off-set some of the poverty with an ocassional freelance job here and there, and I'm scared as hell about how such a blithe irresponsibility will reflect on me and my work ethic, or effect my attempts to get into a decent graduate program, but I know that until I do it, and love it or hate it, I will never be free from the fantasy.

Taxistand


More photos of a Tokyo taxistand
More photos of Kichijyouji

Rescue 119

Running to the gym this morning (6:30am), I passed by a young woman passed out on the side of the street. I gave her a gentle shake to see if she was OK, but there was absolutely no reaction, so, inspired by James Luckett's vivid description of when he used to develop crime-scene photos, I pulled out my camera. Oh yeah... I also called 119 (yes, here it's 119).

More photos of Rescue 119

As I was waiting, another foreigner pulled up in his truck. He had passed by earlier and came back because he was worried. It had been several minutes since he passed by, and the rode is already pretty busy by this time, which really makes me wonder. What does it say about Japan that the only two who stop to help are foreigners?

Seeing us hovering over the girl, a third passer-by (this time Japanese) stopped and had the great idea to use her own cell phone to contact some of her friends. After calling a few of the numbers in her phones memory, he finally got ahold of the friend she had been drinking with, and after a few minutes this friend showed up to "take care of her" which meant shaking and slapping her so hard we almost had to pull him off. It did work though, and by now she was breathing a bit (I could swear she totally stopped breathing for a few minutes earlier).

The other two good Samaritans went on their way, and I slowly began walking toward the gym, not wanting to leave before the ambulance arrived. I was afraid the "friend" would take off with her body and when hey had my phone number on record at 119 headquarters. (I don't know if there as serious about pranking 119 here as they are in the US, but I didn't want to find out.)

Tokyo Trash


More pigeons in Tokyo
More trash and night streets of Tokyo

2003 Tokyo Jazz Festival


Before I start ranting, let me just say we had a good time Sunday at the 2003 Tokyo Jazz Festival.

Of course, we would have had just as good or better of a time had we rode our bikes through a park for free, or rented a couple of videos for 300 yen. It's not that Diana Krall sucked. It's that she didn't even show up. Even if she had though, I suspect there would have been little difference.

This is actually only the fourth concert I have ever been to in a stadium or concert hall of this size, so you may think I have no excuse for not realizing that the sound and screen at the local movie theater would provide an experience hundreds of times more enjoyable... and it's air-conditioned and cheaper. In my defense however, of those previous three, two were extraordinary experiences.

  1. Pink Floyd in Ann Arbor, where I was actually working as a ticket checker, 12 rows from the stage... by the time anyone made it as far as me they had already been checked 15 times, so there was very little for me to do other than confiscate whatever anyone happened to be smoking. I spent the entire concert standing in the isle facing the stage. The guy next to me paid $250 for his seat. I got paid $60 for the same view.
  2. Eric Clapton in Oosaka. This sucked. And having had this experience I should have known better what to expect from the Jazz Festival.
  3. Jimmy Buffet. Outdoors in the rain in Wisconsin. This was the greatest concert I could ever imagine. With courage gleaned from the hours of tailgating before the concert with thousands of parrotheads, we managed to mamba our way from way out in a field where we couldn't even hear the speakers, right past the ticket checkers and into position less than 30 rows from stage.

    By the time our bladders began to complain, the ticket checkers had gotten things in order, and we realized that if we left to the port-a-pot, there is no way we could get back. Fortunately everyone was wearing rain gear. Unfortunately my brother decided to pee on the foot of the guy in front of us, instead of on his rain-coat. Fortunately it was a Jimmy Buffet concert, and everyone was in a laid back mood.

    Leaving the concert was another great adventure, as the rain had turned the parking field into a mud-hole. Everyone spent the night pushing each other's cars out and getting caked in mud.

Back to Diana Krall. It was hot. Hot. Hot. Hot. We were far away. Far. Far. Far. And it was hot. When we arrived at the stadium, they announced that Diana wouldn't be performing because of a flu. Our first thought was to return the tickets. After all, the only reason we shelled out $60 each was to see Diana Krall. The man at the gate told us we probably can't get our money back, but there is a booth set up where they will listen to us whine.

We decided not to whine, and try to make the best of it anyway. After all, Shaka Kan was the replacement, and we figured it can't be too bad.

It wasn't bad. It just wasn't worth $60. What really ticks me off though, is the fact that we can't get our money back. I was under the impression that these concerts insured the show, so that if the main star is a no show, they can refund the tickets. So what's the deal? It really makes me wonder if Diana was even actually ever going to appear. Were they just using her name to draw more people?

More photos from the 2003 Tokyo Jazz Festival

Tribe Of Wild Parrots

There is a tribe of wild parrots living in the trees of the temple nearby my house. One of these days I will catch one. Last weekend however, I was out walking early in the morning and ran into a pair eating out of the sunflowers in my neighbor's yard. I scared them away, but decided to check back in a few minutes, and found one had come back.

Guri escaped once, and I imagined her joining the tribe, knowing she was way to small, but there's something exciting about the whole idea of Guri becoming one of these rebels.

I wonder who was the founder of this gang. The birds I see are huge, so I find it hard to believe that someone released a parrot this large, let alone a breeding pair... they must fetch $1,000 or more at the pet shop. Did they start off as normal little parakeets like Guri, gradually growing larger over the generations, adapting themselves to fight against the evil Tokyo crows?

More photos of the tribe of wild parrots living in Tokyo


Photos of Japanese perverts drooling over a model in a school girl uniform.
Photos of wheelbarrows and constrction workers.


Off to see Diana Krall Sunday. Tomoe and I have been wanting to see her in concert for a long time. The last time she was in Tokyo was around our birthday, but being as cheap as we are, we chickened out on buying tickets that time. The seats would have been in the back of some huge hall os we just couldn't justify it. This time however, she is playing last at the outdoor Tokyo Jazz Festival, so we get to sit on the lawn, have a jazz-picnic lunch, and finish off with the amazing Diana Krall. Can't wait.

Remembering me

Photos of dogs on trains in Japan, Peaches sold on the street.
Photos of Japanese cowboy and security guys.
More photos of Harajyuku shop window.
Photos of people in Japan.
More photos of people in Japan.

I Met with K, a photographer / ex-pro mountain biker / ex-pro kayaker / ex-ski patrol guy. Learned some things about my camera, like the fact that despite the message that appears on the screen telling me to turn on the flash when I use "night" mode, I actually don't need the flash to take a photo. All this time my one big complaint about this camera was that I couldn't keep the shutter open for longer exposer times... Ooooh what kind of blurry masterpieces await us now!

More than that though, it was nice to hear from someone who had overcome the fears that most of us have about a life without stability, and not knowing what will happen in a year or even three months. It was nice to hear from someone who first picked up a camera a little over a year ago, and is now looking forward to a job in Africa, paid by the employer. It was nice to hear that being 30, and having no extraordinary skill, which has been honed by years of practice since I was a child, there is still a chance that I can make something interesting of my life.

Although I have known all these things all along, there are so few examples in the world of people really taking chances and doing what they love, that it's so easy to believe that the people who sell out to a job they don't like, just for the sake of stability, are in the right. It's amazing how few people I know, read about, or see on TV, that I can look at and say "Yeah, he/she's got a life I would like to have". Without those examples, I tend to forget my own dreams and my entire approach to life. It's nice to meet someone that helps me to remember who I was, and hopefully still am.

Unoriginal


Because I wrote yesterday that I couldn't find anything original on the trains, I forced myself to take some photos today on the train today which you can find in the gallery. I wouldn't say any of this is original. They're just the same old photos of people sleeping, but I didn't erase them... I was still a little "shy" about taking them, and resisted the urge to walk around the train, which might have given me more to shoot, and access to some more intreresting angles... I'll have to do that tomorrow.

More photos of Tokyo today

Piece of work

One of the employees, we'll call him X, from the US office of a client is leaving his position. I don't know the reasons why, though I do know he was going to school, so I like to think he left of his own will. Today however, after asking his boss (because I thought X was already gone) to do something for me which I had originally asked X to do, I received an email from him saying something like "politics to the end huh? You're some piece of work." For the first time in a long time, I can't figure out how I feel.

The relationship had always been strained, a "Japan" vs. "home office" type of war. With X as the sole US representative for a long time, he took most of the hits. Any small mistake, which anybody could make, and certain people on the Japan side would jump at the chance to stack "our" collection of "X screwed up again" incidents. I was asked several times on different occasions to go through all past emails and print out anything that indicated a mistake he made. I spent countless wasted hours in meetings listening to people plot against him.

I can't say I have always been pleased with him, when he retaliated, I, being a vendor, and not in any position to disagree with him, took the brunt of his attacks. The whole situation quickly grew tiresome, and I have long since taken myself out of the frey as much as possible, though I keep getting dragged back in because others want to fight (their eyes literally light up), and I am the one who knows the situation on both sides best.

Through it all though, I was the only advocate he had in Japan. I was the only one who would stick up for him as he was being beaten up (behind his back) for something that is really just part of the process... mistakes that we all make. I even felt a strange type of bond with him... or so I thought. I imagined he wasn't any too happy with the situation, and I wasn't. We were both techies, while the rest of the "players" weren't. As techies, I think we were more focused on problem solving than problem making and power playing, we seemed to be the two people most interested in actually doing work.

I was going to write a response to his mail, but after several attempts, I realized there is nothing I can write that will not sound more like the conniving ladder climber that I appear to be to him. Yet, I feel so unsettled leaving it the way it is. I try very hard to make sure I don't get caught up in bull crap, and instead am someone that the client can rely on to get the job done. His comment makes me really wonder how I look to everyone else. Am I really a piece of work? Dang.

Tokyo two days ago


Tokyo 2003.08.16
Hip hop rap-dance party & Harajyuku
Trouble with the police

Did I say no more photos of blurry umbrellas in rainy streets? Yeah, well... It has been raining almost every day since the end of the rainy season here in Tokyo. I think we have had about 3 clear days this summer, and summer is almost over. I'm not upset at all. The rain is cooler, and as I am finding, interesting to photograph.

Before the summer even began, we were hearing Doomsday predictions about a great blackout that would engulf the city as temperatures soar and people retreat inside to their refrigerated apartments. I think most people are still using their air conditioning, but the relative coolness we have been having lately must have been just enough to save us. I myself am rooting for a blackout here too. I have my batteries charged, and my memory sticks emptied, ready for two days of blackout photography.

Train Windows

More shots from the train window

Bored and riding the train I often look around at my surroundings through the view-finder on my camera, though I rarely take pictures at these times. I suppose this is a little bit out of respect for the other passengers, more because I can't really run away if anyone gets mad, and mostly because I can't seem to find anything original on the trains. This weekend I happened to peer out the window with the viewfinder instead of around the inside of the train. I was surprised and pleased with what I saw. These are probably just the first in my latest photo fad. Last week it was wheelbarrows, this week I am taking photos out the window of the moving train.

It's ugly head

Envy is an ugly thing. But these pictures (found at 28mm.org) by fourteen-year-old Nick Feder of ferociouscheese are beautiful and I want to be the one who took them!

Also on his site, this great photo of Wisconsin.

Kichijyoji Streets II

More street photography from Kichijyoji

I missed the gym today because it was raining even harder when I woke up. No way I'm running to the gym in that. Oh yeah, I also woke up two hours late. Anyway, I think I have had my fill of rain induced "mood" for a while. I'll be happy if the sun is out tomorrow.

I've been playing around with my camera lately, trying to capture more "motion". All I get is out of focus photos, but I'm still happy with some of them. The problem is there are only so many pictures you can post of a blurry person, carrying a blurry umbrella, walking down a wet street with blurry reflections from neon signs, before it gets just a little old. But then again, what else is there besides that, wheelbarrows, and birds?

By the way, the old man in the photo isn't angry. He's enthusiastically asking me every single gaijin question in the book. He fit them all into just three minutes. Never even waited for an answer, just fired them off one by one.

"Where are you from?"
"How long have you been in Japan?"
"Does it rain where you are from?"
"Can you eat Japanese food?"
"What kind of Japanese food?"
"Do you eat lots of cattle?"
"Do you like sushi?"
"Do you like to drink?"
"Have you ever had Sake?"
"Did anything surprise you when you came to Japan?"
"Do you like fish?"
"Do you like it in Japan?"
"Do people ride bikes where you are from?" (He is the man that straightens out the bikes parked on the street)
"Do you like to take pictures?"
"Is that a Japanese camera?"
"Japanese cameras are very good!"
"Can you speak Japanese?" (yes this was one of the last questions he asked me)
"Have you ever been to Okinawa?"
"Do you like Tokyo?"
"Tokyo is very crowded no?"
"Are you a student?"

I think there were some more, but I wasn't taking notes.

Rain & Games

I love it when it rains. Everything just looks that much moodier. Today it rained. We lost a semi-big job that we thought we had, and so we went out to drown our sorrows in the local pool hall.

I hate pool. No, actually I like pool. I like to hit the ball and make it hit other balls. I like it if it goes in the hole sometimes. I hate it though when I am playing with someone else. It's just so hard to take something so silly seriously, or even to pretend like I am taking it seriously... I imagine this frustrates the others players who probably are trying to win to no end.

If only silly competitions didn't involve any competition. It would be so much more fun.

Kichijyoji Streets

More street photography from Kichijyoji

New Traffic Light

See the entire changing of the light

I stumbled onto a group of workers changing the traffic light on the corner next to my office. I knew those lights were big, but I never really had a sense of how huge they were until I saw this. It took nine people (that I saw) to do this. There are the workers you see here, and then there are the guys holding the orange sticks to direct traffic and pedestrians.

Crowds in Tokyo

As much as I hated being in Tokyo only a few months ago, I wonder now what I would do without so much diversity to take pictures of. If I lived in the country, would there be as much? Of course it's not like most of my photos can't be lumped into a few categories... wheelbarrows, people, buildings, etc... but in the country it would be reduced to wheelbarrows, plants, weeds, grass, sky, grass.

I still despise Tokyo, but having a camera sure makes it a lot more tolerable.

Also see:

Veggie Stand

One of the most stressful parts of my day is shopping for my greens. Every night between 6:30-7:00, the vegetable shop in the basement of kichijyoji Lon-Lon starts selling their discount goods. Tonight I bought a package of (red) radishes, five ears of corn, and a package of leafy things for the birds all for only 500 yen.

Several times last week they had five packages of grapes (normally 350 yen each) for 500 yen. I'm not sure if it's because I'm a gaijin, because I'm patient and don't push like the crazy old ladies, or because I always use exact change, but for some reason the guy likes me. Last time I bought 5 packages of grapes for 500 yen, he threw in six more packs for free.

The fish store next door to the green store also has great end of the day deals. Last night I bought 4,300 yen (sticker price) worth of various seafood for only 1,000 yen.

Be forewarned however, it's not as good a deal as it sounds. What we save in yen, we pay for in personal safety. It's so discouraging to think that I am almost 30, and I have to look forward to becoming a crazy old person with no manners pushing and shoving anyone and anything out of the way for a chance to squeeze every single frikin' tuna.

More Photos of Japanese people shopping for veggies

No Peeing Zone

The sign says it is forbidden to pee standing up here.

Published!

I've been published! Nadine at Tokyo Shoes saw fit to publish one of my "kimono in the window" photos. She sent out a request today for photos of shoes, or other fashionable items. As luck would have it, i had just posted the kimono shots on my own site less than twenty-four hours earlier.

I ventured out over lunch feeling like a real photographer "on assignment", but this is all I came up with.

Photos Of Tokyo Japan

Some miscellaneous photos from around Tokyo this past week.

You know there are more and I'm trying to figure out a good way to navigate the photos. Of course I would love to have everyone simply click through every photo in the gallery, but if you think your too busy or some reason, I'll try to pike some interest by telling you what lies in store... (and inspired by a thread on the Japan Photography Mailing List today about how to promote your photo site, I have decided to do some shameless search engine trolling.)

Umbrella Boat

Kurt Easterwood did a post about umbrellas and the Typhoon. I have seen quite a few other umbrella posts as well. I'm not sure exactly what the fascination is with umbrellas. But I have my fair share of umbrella shots too, and not wanting to miss out on the umbrella boat, I figured this is the perfect time to post some of my umbrella photos.

The first photo shows people lining up to catch a bus outside Kichijyouji station.

The second photo was taken the day after the typhoon. Tomoe's umbrella was in good shape to protect her from the hot hot sun on our three hour walk.

Of course I have to mention the new advertising scheme by Keio. They have a rack full of free umbrellas in each station now. I don't have a photo of it open (I haven't even seen it open actually), but it is supposed to have an advertisement on top. (The sign with red letters is a solicitation for more sponsors.

I'm sure these would come in handy if I didn't feel so guilty about the incredible waste and harm to the environment disposable umbrellas like this do. When it starts to rain without warning and no one brought an umbrella with them when they left the house, a small station like mine can get pretty crowded.

Sora

The days after the typhoon are always some of the clearest. Today was no exception, so Tomoe and I went for a three or four hour hike through Tokyo. It was also around 35 degrees. I have no idea what that is in American, but it's HOT.

SORA is Japanese for Sky. It's also the name of the new drink advertised on this billboard atop a Shimo Kitazawa building.

Gittin' it done

I was just about to go to bed when I realized it's been a while since I have written anything substantial about what's going on with me.

I'm feeling quite content that, although I have not finished anything on my to-do list this weekend, I have made noticeable progress on a few of the large items and still had time to take a three hour walk under the post-typhoon clear skies, were are unfortunately joined by incredible heat. It is also unfortunate that (for me at least) clear and sunny days such as today are far from ideal days for taking hundreds of photos as I am prone to. Besides the heat and uncomfortableness which accompanies stopping for more than 30 seconds at a time, I have not yet mastered high-light photography. Perhaps my camera simply doesn't have the gadgetry needed to adjust for brightness and still keep the colors of the subject, but I'm guessing I just haven't figured it out yet.

In other news, I have begun the process to get Mfop up on sourceforge. I've been feeling quite guilty lately that the level of support for people having problems has dropped dramatically. One user has been waiting forever for me to add some new functionality, which despite my best efforts, I just can't get to work correctly. Perhaps putting it up there on sourceforge will encourage someone else to take over and beef it up a bit.

I'm also looking for a new place to host it. If anyone knows a hosting company that will allow me to run procmail, or some other method of passing the email to the Mfop program, let me know. I've written to several asking, but haven't received any replies. Having a catch-all email address so that I could give each user their own email, such as mfop.user1@mfop.com or mfop.user2@mfop.com, would be a plus as well.

I splurged and bought the mfop.com domain a while back, so I can get it off of bastish.net, and not worry about disrupting everyones service if I ever have to move hosts for my own domain, which I am also looking into for various reasons. I'm a little afraid of the cost though. My site is now about 1.5 GB. (I have free hosting on the server I maintain at work). Part of the preparation for that has been to re-upload all the 2 MB photos from before I used Gallery, which re-sizes them for me (something I was always too lazy to do in the past). I'm hoping that by doing this I can get the site down to about 800 MB. Still quite expensive though...

Just as I have started exercising my body again recently, I have also started exercising my brain again by reviewing all the basics that I have not had cause to use since high-school. Mainly I'm just trying to remember all the basic math and algebra that only shows up on tests. Then, once I have gotten that GRE out of the way, I can forget it all again, and start concentrating on more important things.

I'm hoping to go back to school again in the fall. I haven't figured out where yet, though I've recently branched out and started looking at schools in Europe as well (I was originally focusing on schools back home in the US). I don't know if I'm already too old to be going back to school, but if you have read any of this site before you know I'm pretty miserably discontent with where I am now.

Last year I was pretty set on being in school this fall, but started to feel that I was just quitting and running away from a situation I didn't like, rather than facing it and trying to make it better. Now I have no problem with running away. Other than feeling that I'm too old already (which I know is not true) I'm glad I did wait, as I have a clearer idea of what I want to study. Hopefully I'll become a smarty pants in something related to Human Computer Interface / Interaction Design.

In the past I have contemplated returning to school for things computer related, but sometimes that seems like what I least want to pursue. I often think that computers are the devil. I waste so much time and life because of them, and desperately long for the day when I can move to some country house with no electricity. Unfortunately I know that ain't gonna happen, and since I have spent some time working with computers the last couple years, and am quite good at it, and despite my loathing, I do also enjoy creating with them.

What I never paid much attention to in the past however, was how much I really want the "design" aspect to be involved in whatever I wind up doing with the computer. Wile I like the back-end design, logic, problem-solving and trouble-shooting, involved in my job now, I find that what I really enjoy the most (and probably need the most work in) is designing the interface, seeing how people use it, and how it should be changed. I've also really just started exploring my "artistic" side in this last year, and I've been investigating graduate programs that would allow me to integrate that with the logic scientific aspects of HCI.

Of course, I find what I am interested in changes quite frequently... we'll see what I'm saying next week.

Now it's already 1:30 and I have to be up at 6:30 to go to the gym, so I guess you'll never get to hear about all the other things I accomplished this weekend.

Last Weekend

And this is all I have time for tonight. I haven't slept much this week, so tonight I go to bed early.

Sunflower

More Sunflowers

More to Love

Wow, I look and feel great! This working out thing sure has it's benefits! I never dreamed i could have a body like this! Today I managed to get up and run to the gym despite the terrible pains I felt in my stomach. At first I too thought I was pregnant, but it turns out it's just a side effect of eating a half of watermelon. (We'll just use these as the before photos.)

Corner Bar

In most Japanese bars, regulars can buy a bottle and keep it at the bar. The bottles in these photos are from my favorite izakaya (bar-restaurant) in Kichijyouji. The wood tags on each bottle have the names of people who own that bottle.

The funky chef is working at Iseya, the famous yakitori (chicken skewers) bar in Kichijyoji. The yakitori is some of the worst I have ever had, but it's cheap, and has a down-town atmosphere. I assume the latter is was makes it famous enough that no one thinks twice about eating there after seeing that kitchen area.

More photos from the latest gallery.

Slacker

How much play is too much play? Why do I feel guilty about spending an entire Sunday (and a good hunk of Saturday) doing only things that I enjoy? Am I just lazy and irresponsible for saying "screw obligations!". Am I screwing up my future by not doing things that have a somewhat measurable effect on an immediate goal?

Today I did nothing. Nothing that was on my to-do list at least. I didn't work on user support for Mfop. I didn't help any of the people I have told I would help out with a web-site. I didn't study any programming, CSS, or anything else that will help me do my job better. I didn't research any grad-school options. I didn't answer some emails that have been waiting in my inbox for the past week.

I did have a great Saturday walking through unexplored neighborhoods with Tomoe, taking hundreds of photos.

I did have a great Saturday evening browsing through the photography magazines in Book-first while Tomoe spent the hours browsing through the cookbook section.

I did have a great Saturday night watching a so-so video with movie (something with Billy Crystal and John Cusack).

I did have a great Sunday morning playing with the birds and going through some of the photos from Saturday.

I did have a great Sunday afternoon going with Tomoe to Okubo to shop at the largest Korean supermarket in Japan, where she bought all the goodies she needed to make her first Kim-chee. (she has been excited about this ever since she first saw a Korean cookbook a while back. She bought that book Saturday night.)

I did have a great Sunday late afternoon rescuing a sickly sparrow from the mean streets of Yoyogi Uehara.

I did have a great evening just sitting in the kitchen and talking with Tomoe while she tired out the new cookbook.

Why, do I feel guilty? I feel as though I am throwing away my future by not constantly doing something that may be valuable to it. Isn't the reason I want to have some kind of future, so that I can give myself the freedom to have weekends like this? By taking one of the weekends now, am I forfeiting three weekends in the future, in which I will have to work extra-hard because I slacked off today?

These thoughts plague me everyday. Not only when I am slacking, but also when I am working. Am I working the right project, or am I just doing this because I enjoy it more? What's going to happen when all the little to-dos that I am avoiding finally catch up to me?

Dang.

Rescue

While walking through Yoyogi-Uehara, Tomoe almost stepped on this ailing sparrow. Despite having no apparent broken bones, the sparrow didn't seem to be able to fly or walk. Being the good samaritans that we are, we scooped him up and took him to Tomoe's apartment to nurse him back to health. In return for our kindness, he agreed to become a captive subject for the latest in my wildlife photo series.

He quickly regained (apparent) health after we fed him a worm that was crawling around Tomoe's apartment. After about an hour of exploring his new surroundings, he flew out the open window. Despite his brave show of strength in flying away into the sunset, these photos show a very sickly little sparrow who will surely die soon.

We could have kept him and tried to save him, but in the end we decided the problem was just old age, so opened the windows and let him die in peace. Besides, my camera batteries needed re-charging.

More photos of the sparrow.

Overpopulation

The baby swallows we found a few days ago are growing up and it seems to be getting a little crowded in the nest.

More of the latest baby swallow photos.

All Dried Up

The outcry caused by my post last week about Yomiuri-land's pornographic advertisement poster in the train stations seems to have been enough to force Yomiuri-land to replace the poster with something a little less suggestive.

This time it says:
A) Student discount in the middle of the summer "Pool Yippi[1]".
B) Get ready to get wet when you ride please!
C) The fear of three times a day will get you.


1.Actual I have no idea what WAI means. The only thing I can think of is the Japanese Wai, which is an expression of pleasure or fun, like Yippi!

In other news, I saw this very disturbing advertisement for men's(?) underwear.

Mr. Olympia

I made it to the first morning workout today. I'm pleased to find that it is only a 30 minute jog from my apartment to the gym. I'm also happy to find that despite spending all day sitting, and all night sitting, my physical shape is "subarashii*". It may not look that way when I have the shirt off, but looking at the numbers which the scary (I thought it was going to give me some kind of shock treatment) machine spat out, I don't even need to go to the gym. The health consultant told me just staying in the same shape I am in is a good enough goal... I know how to do that! And it doesn't require waking up at 6am, and 5,000 yen/month.

Anyway, let's see if I can keep it up until next month.

In a desperate attempt to waste more time before I tackle a pain-in-my butt server issue, I will post links to maps which show my apartment and the gym. Although mom has been to my apartment, I doubt she knows anything about where it is situated in Tokyo. (links are in Japanese)

My Apartment | The Gym | My Work

*(adj) wonderful; splendid; magnificent;

galleries

2003.08.04
2003.08.02
2003.04.21
2003.07.21
2003.07.19
2003.07.13
2003.07.08
2003.07.07
2003.07.05
2003.06.23
2003.06.21
2003.06.08