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Matuyama


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I am currently on vacation. Tomoe and I are riding our bikes around Shikoku so I am taking the opportunity to use Mfop2 to post photos of the journey from my mobile phone.
Matuyama


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I am currently on vacation. Tomoe and I are riding our bikes around Shikoku so I am taking the opportunity to use Mfop2 to post photos of the journey from my mobile phone.
Nap outside Matuyama


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I am currently on vacation. Tomoe and I are riding our bikes around Shikoku so I am taking the opportunity to use Mfop2 to post photos of the journey from my mobile phone.
Snack outside Matuyama


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I am currently on vacation. Tomoe and I are riding our bikes around Shikoku so I am taking the opportunity to use Mfop2 to post photos of the journey from my mobile phone.
Kikuma


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I am currently on vacation. Tomoe and I are riding our bikes around Shikoku so I am taking the opportunity to use Mfop2 to post photos of the journey from my mobile phone.
Break at Kikuma


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I am currently on vacation. Tomoe and I are riding our bikes around Shikoku so I am taking the opportunity to use Mfop2 to post photos of the journey from my mobile phone.
Ferry to Imabari


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I am currently on vacation. Tomoe and I are riding our bikes around Shikoku so I am taking the opportunity to use Mfop2 to post photos of the journey from my mobile phone.
Morning in Oshima


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I am currently on vacation. Tomoe and I are riding our bikes around Shikoku so I am taking the opportunity to use Mfop2 to post photos of the journey from my mobile phone.
Morning in Oshima


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I am currently on vacation. Tomoe and I are riding our bikes around Shikoku so I am taking the opportunity to use Mfop2 to post photos of the journey from my mobile phone.
Morning in Oshima


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I am currently on vacation. Tomoe and I are riding our bikes around Shikoku so I am taking the opportunity to use Mfop2 to post photos of the journey from my mobile phone.
Dinner Oshima


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I am currently on vacation. Tomoe and I are riding our bikes around Shikoku so I am taking the opportunity to use Mfop2 to post photos of the journey from my mobile phone.
Snack on Hakata


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I am currently on vacation. Tomoe and I are riding our bikes around Shikoku so I am taking the opportunity to use Mfop2 to post photos of the journey from my mobile phone.
Seitonoda


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I am currently on vacation. Tomoe and I are riding our bikes around Shikoku so I am taking the opportunity to use Mfop2 to post photos of the journey from my mobile phone.
Seitonoda


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I am currently on vacation. Tomoe and I are riding our bikes around Shikoku so I am taking the opportunity to use Mfop2 to post photos of the journey from my mobile phone.
Seitonoda


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I am currently on vacation. Tomoe and I are riding our bikes around Shikoku so I am taking the opportunity to use Mfop2 to post photos of the journey from my mobile phone.
Seitonoda


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I am currently on vacation. Tomoe and I are riding our bikes around Shikoku so I am taking the opportunity to use Mfop2 to post photos of the journey from my mobile phone.
Inoshima


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I am currently on vacation. Tomoe and I are riding our bikes around Shikoku so I am taking the opportunity to use Mfop2 to post photos of the journey from my mobile phone.
Ferry Shinonomichi


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I am currently on vacation. Tomoe and I are riding our bikes around Shikoku so I am taking the opportunity to use Mfop2 to post photos of the journey from my mobile phone.
Arrive in Shinonomichi


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I am currently on vacation. Tomoe and I are riding our bikes around Shikoku so I am taking the opportunity to use Mfop2 to post photos of the journey from my mobile phone.
Enoshima

Last month the I went out to Enoshima with some members of the Japan Photography Mailing List living around Tokyo.

More of the photos can be seen at the japanphotography.com web-site. I hope that soon some of the others who were there will be ready to post some photos.

Two Days

Two days till I get to head out by bike around Shikoku. Can't wait, but I saaw on the news today that Kochi (a city we planned to stop by on the southern coast of Shikoku) is getting 160 cm of rain per hour now. I hope that doesn't happen when we're there. Although, on the other hand, it would add a touch of adventure.

Now that I think about it, I guess we are getting soft. A couple of years ago we rode our bikes from Tokyo to Nagoya (give or take a few kilometers). One of the days was pouring rain all day. It was the most unatractive part of the trip as well, passing through the factory fields of Fuji. Can't say it was all that fun, but it sure did give us a sense of accomplishment.

Hamaguri
Overdone

Peole ask me a lot if I touch up my photos before posting them. I don't try to make it a secret, but I do apply a liberal amount of Photoshop magic to them. Sometimes, such as with these, I may overdo it a bit.

First, thanks to all the people who commented about my dilemma on and off-line. I feel a little guilty that people are actually spending time reading that when there are so many other sites that people should be reading instead. I also feel guilty because I'm not so sure that I was really as undecided as I may have seemed. Basically, I am sure I am going, but it's a big decision so I wanted to argue the other way and see how it feels. If I could convince myself that it might be better not to go, then I would have to make a tough decision.

I still don't know about buying a new camera yet though. On one hand, I think buying the camera would let me move forward in terms of my photography and learning more about photography. The negatives are, of course, the price, and the fact that I already have a camera. But then I have to think about how much of this is simply a selfish desire to have more stuff. How much do I really need this camera to keep me happy?

Considering the evironmental costs of buying a new computers and high-tech gagetry just for the sake of having the latest version, I wonder if I should wait until my current camera is broken beyond repair.

Of course, as Kelly (my sister) mentions, I can give my old one to her, or, more likely, let Tomoe use my old one so that when we are walking she doesn't have to get so imaptient when I stop to snap a photo every few meters. My parent's were thinking about getting a digi-cam as well, so I'm sure this one would fulfill their needs as much as buying a new one would. Either way would certainly keep the old camera from being wasted.

Looking Back

Recently I have been itching to buy a new camera, one of the lower priced DSLRs. I was thinking maybe I should do it this weekend, before going on our bike trip next week around Shikoku. It's a big investment, and I am not really sure why I wanted it, other than to have access to manual controls so I can do what those pro folk do.

I was looking through my old photos today trying to find some examples of night-photography that turned out nicely, trying to see what I did so I could leave a semi-coherent comment on Dave Pollard's request for some night-time photography advice.

It's been a while since I looked through my archives. I really should do it more often. They gave me a million ideas, memories, and changed my thoughts on some things I am contemplating today.

Storm Brewing
Should I Stay or Should I Go?

I got a few good comments in response to my grad-school choice. First, I have to say that I am pretty sure I'll go. If for nothing else, just so I don't regret not doing it later. Of course I have been thinking more about it, and it was nice to hear other people's thoughts and views.

Gen wrote:

To me, change is almost always a positive force, forcing you to do things differently, live differently, think differently, learn, grow, etc. Change is even better when you are the one deciding upon the changes (rather when they are forced upon you.)

I agree. I used to be all for choosing the path that brought more change. Five years ago I wouldn't even be wondering if I should go or not. Of course five years ago I didn't have such a comfortable and settled life. Ever since graduating high-school, when everyone is forced to make change, I have not been in the same place for as long as I have been here. In the six years between high-school and Tokyo I lived in seven different cities, in two different countries, two states, and two prefectures. Change was the norm then and easier.

Now though, I have lived in Tokyo for almost five years, and I've been in this apartment for over four of them. When I think about it, this is the most settled I have been for a long time. Is that just something that makes change scarier, or is finally being settled a goal. I obviously want to get settled sometime, and I feel more ready now than I ever did before.

Also, consider the opportunity costs of school. That time could be very valuable if you used it wisely in another way. That's the main challenge for grad school- justifying the time away from "life."

The opportunity costs are hard to figure out. I am confident that no matter where I go, or what I do I am able to find opportunities. Going to school would give me some more opportunities, and staying here would give me different opportunities. In my mind though, the monetary cost of those opportunities plays a role. If I go to Sweden, I am paying $1000 / month in living costs for those opportunities, but if I stay here, I can work and get payed, while still finding other opportunities, and keeping some change in my pocket so I don't miss out on any future opportunities I may not be able to afford.

Martine says:

and you know the old saying.... THINKING about doing something is always harder than just DOING it.

But thinking about it doesn't bring any of the negative side-effects that will come with doing it.


Andy says:

When I was a kid I went fishing with my dad and a friend. After a few hours they had caught lots of fish, and I had none. I spent the whole time wandering around the lake looking for a better spot, while they stayed put and fished.

It's nice to hear a voice in favor of staying put as well. When I applied for the school it was because I wasn't happy with the fishing spot I was in. I decided to go to the other side of the lake. On the way there though, I found a nice fishing spot. If I want to make it to the other side of the lake (my original goal) by sundown, I have to leave this good spot in a few minutes. Or, I can stay here until the fish leave, but I don't know when that will be.

Do I stay here and catch as many as I can in the short time before moving on, not knowing if the other side of the lake even has any fish? Or, do I stay here and fish as long as I can while the fishing is good, not knowing how long that will be, but giving up the chance to make it to the other side?

Kelly writes:

I have classes for 4 hours per week. Because it is an international course and there are varying levels of English, we don't have nearly as much reading or as many papers as I had as an undergrad. For me, I have enough time to do all the work for the course well and then I'm also taking a Japanese course full-time, Swedish courses, and still have plenty of time left over. I have heard that the Swedish system not set up to force students to sit in classrooms listening to lecturers but rather for them to do the work outside of class. So, my point is, even if you join the program, if it is anything like what i've experienced, you will still have plenty of time to self-study...and some supplementary lectures and guidance. And a Master's Degree at the end.

That's not very encouraging. I'm not so worried about not having time to self-study if I go there. In fact, I would hope I don't have that much time if I go there. It seems like a real waste to do the same self study there that I could do here, but without all the benefits. I may be better suited for self-study, but if I sure wouldn't go to a University to do total self-study.

Also, having only 4 hours / week would mean my life is pretty much like it is now, except I wouldn't have the work, I wouldn't have the comfy apartment, Tomoe wouldn't be there... instead of sitting here overlooking my bright sunny river, I would be spending most of my time in a crappy dorm doing the same things I can do here?

Also, The reason I applied to the schools in Sweden is that

a) It's cheaper than schools in the US. I'm not sure that I would be able to justify the monetary costs of a degree from an expensive American University.

b) It's not the US. I have lived in the US for a long time, and now Japan for a while as well. If I am going to go to school again, I wanted it to be someplace I have never been, to give me some new perspectives.

While I figured it would not be as challenging scholastically as an American University, I didn't expect it would be as bad as Kelly has described. If I'm going to go there, I want to get something out of it that I can't get on my own. I sure don't want to be held back by it.

everyone here goes out to clubs and parties everyday but i hope you weren't referring to me cause i hardly think that going to a quiet pub once or twice a month is too much.

I wasn't referring to you, which is why I wrote "all the people around her".

I think that if I lived in an apartment I wouldn't feel so old but everyone hereiin my corridor is an undergrad and look at me with pity when i tell them i'm not going to the BIG PARTY in town or, frankly, i don't care what theme they choose for the next corridor party.

But how much is an apartment? Again though, this is discouraging. Either I can live in an apartment for less social contact, or I can have social contact with party-hearty teenagers? So I'm not getting anything out of class, because there are only four hours and no course-work, I'm not getting anything out of the people around me because they are the same people I avoided when I was an undergrad, and would like to avoid even more now... what is the benefit again?

but let me tell you that it will disappear quicker than you think.

How much is it costing you? According to the literature I should be getting by on $1000 /month, but I am always cheaper than most people, so if that is average, I will be lower.

i complained about my life and my job more than not and one more year would have made me a very bitter, angry person. Let's say you pass up this chance and a week later something happens (or like you say, Tomoe leaves Tokyo)...wouldn't you regret it then? And always wonder 'what if...?'

If I was complaining about my life it would be a different story. But I am not right now. I love it. And there is a 90% chance that Tomoe will be in Tokyo again for her next rotation. If not, chances are she would be sent to America, in which case I would join her probably. I'm not so afraid that I will not like life if I don't go, I am just wondering if it will really be as bad as I am imagining.

Which city is this program you were accepted to?

Linkoping, just southwest of Stockholm. map of sweden.

Jonah says:

These kinds of experiences don't come around every day and the older you get the farther away the chances to do something like this will get.

This seems to be the number one reason to go there. The fact that I have to opportunity now, so I feel I might as well take it. These opportunities wont come around so often, but I can always come back after a year and kind-of pick off where I left off. Of course I will have less money, and will have missed out on a great year...

Klaudia writes:

You will decide as You wish, but I would not leave Japan...if I there.

Putting this into a different perspective... I am looking at not going as if it were giving up a unique opportunity, but living in Japan is a unique opportunity too.


When I wrote yesterday, and started this today, I was pretty sure I would be going, but now I'm not anymore... mainly because of what Kelly said about the possible caliber of the program... Although, as I said yesterday, this program is six months in Sweden and six months someplace else in Europe, so the "newness" of the surroundings might make up for any boredom I feel from a less-than engaging learning experience... if indeed it is as bad as Kelly says.


UPDATE:

I have been reading the Universities program literature again, and have to admit, it does sound fascinating, and although this program is not strcitly environmental, I can take it in that direction myself...

I have also been snopping around their Swedish language site again, and the old "love to learn foreign language" feeling is coursing through my veins again. it's really a thrill to be able to understand half of it, (as I said before, I studied Swedish on my own, and later at the Unicversity of Michigan) and know that if I go there and study some more, I will be able to read most of it...

If I take the studies down an environmental route, it looks like I will wind up in Norway or Denmark for the second semester.

Looking through the list of partner Universities reminded me of the great poem, NAMES ARE SHIPS by Don Blanding, the Vagabond Poet.

To many dang choices

Just as I am getting used to love my new lifestyle, I get accepted to one of the grad-schools in Sweden which I have applied for.

I am waiting for a reply from a second school, which is actually my first choice, studying a subject more in-line with what I want to do (environmental sustainability related), rather than this school, which is more in-line with what I am doing now (more tech related).

If I get accepted by the first choice, there is really no question, since I am convinced that I want to go to move my career more into an environmental direction, rather than follow a pure technology course, which is interesting, but that interest may be waning.

As I have been writing recently, life is going well for me now, I enjoy where I am, I am making some lifestyle changes that are more comfortable for me than the situations that drove me crazy and led me to apply to the school more as an escape than a real goal.

I was half-hoping that I get rejected by both of them so I wouldn't have to choose, but having found out last night that I am accepted, I have some contemplating to do. Though it is fairly obvious to me already what the answer will be, I still have to go through the steps to rationalize it. Although, it's strange. Usually when making a choice like this, I feel afraid for "logical" reasons, but my gut-feeling is always totally one-sided, telling me the right decision. This time, my gut seems to be divided also.

Pros:
  1. Get to go to Sweden for six months An old dream, in high-school / early university years was to study in Sweden. I'm not sure, but I think it may have had something to do with my junior-year girlfriend in high-school who was from Sweden. I spent a good deal of my free time studying Swedish, and soon came to love studying foreign languages, which is actually why I am in Japan now.
  2. Get to go to some other European country for six months Depending on what I decide on for the thesis topic, I have the option to study in one of many European universities for the second half of the program. A chance like that doesn't come around often I suppose.
  3. Having a Master's Degree is better than not having one Although the school is not exactly Harvard, having a degree is better than not having one.
  4. Meet new people, make new connections This will give me a chance to get out of my Japan box, meet some other interesting people.
  5. Tuition is free God bless socialism.
  6. Gives me a goal I have been floating around seemingly goal-less for a while here it seems... well, actually, too goal-full. Going to school would force me to focus on one thing for a while at least.
Cons:
  1. I like my life right now See my previous posts. I like this lifestyle. I work for myself, I own my time... I received a request to do some professional photography work the other day!... I have finding more time to spend on myself... this is a great life.
  2. I like my life right now Tomoe and I are both enjoying seeing each other more now, not having to talk on the phone every night.
  3. I like my life right now Waking up early to walk the birds...
  4. I don't really see myself as an academic. Although the topics are interesting for sure, in the past I have generally always done better with self-study. Should I treat this as self study as well? If I am really so interested in learning this stuff, why not just take on less work and spend more time studying on my own?
  5. I don't see any job path (for the second choice) I don't see how I will be better off should I ever feel I need to get a "real" job. Since it's not really teaching a skill, I am not sure what it will do for me in regards to being self-employed either.
  6. I'll loose my three year visa Right now I have three years of freedom before I have to find another sponsor for my visa. If I leave now, when I get back I'll either have to get a "real" job, or marry Tomoe.
  7. I'll loose momentum I'll loose any momentum I have now in regards to finding my own clients. Not only that, but even though the school if free, living expenses will slowly drain my rainy-day funds the ones I was going to use to ride my bike around the world if worst came to worst and I hit a dry spell in terms of finding jobs.
  8. I'm too old I would have never thought so, but looking at my sister's life in her University in Sweden (yes, I stole the idea from her) all the people around her do is go out to clubs and party. I guess I can't say I'm too old for it, but I can say I don't enjoy it. If I go to this school will I be surrounded by teenagers out to get trashed every night?
Consolations:
  1. I don't really have that much momentum anyway I'm sure it's nothing that can't be made-up for with the new people I meet there, and the new experiences I gain.
  2. Tomoe may not even be in Tokyo after Sept Tomoe's last six-month rotation at work may take her out of Tokyo. The ideal lifestyle would be destroyed anyway, and I would have nothing to show for it.
  3. It's only a year It's pretty hard to make a wrong decision either way... I mean, it's only a year, not enough to have a long-term negative impact.
  4. It wont leave me broke Even if I use up the rainy-day fund, I wont be broke, which is one of the reason I didn't apply for the schools in the US that I was thinking about... I'm not sure that those schools would have been worth the money. But with free tuition... if I don't spend my money to do things like this, what good is it? (of course, we may find a nice house on the side of a mountain, facing the ocean on our bike trip to the Shikoku country-side next week)

So you see, my life has too many problems and things to worry about... should I stay or should I go? It seems foolish not to go simply because I am comfortable now. In a year or so I will be just as fed-up with not moving as I was a couple months ago when I applied.

The Hood

Everyone else posted their cherry blossom photos ages ago. The season has been over for alomst two weeks now, but I just got around to "developing" mine.

Actually, these are probably not so much cherry-blossom photos, as they are bragging about what a great apartment I have. This is the river that runs outside my window (you can actually see my building on the left hand side of the last photo). Many mornings we take the birds for walks here, I jog here semi-often, I stare out the window quite often. There are no cars, just lots of people walking by. At night the only sound are the copulating carp an the ocassional bike whizzing by.

Since I have been working at the table facing that window most days, I find myself being overwhelmed and taking the same photo out the window every day around twighlight (those photos are yet to come). Of course it's always the same photo, but for some reason I get the urge to take it agian and again. The photos never turn out so great, so you may never realize, but I gotta say, I have one of the best apartments in Tokyo. If I gotta live in Tokto, I'm glad I live here.

Making Friends

I couldn't believe how scared these kids were of the birds. A little later another girl, probably around twelve years old, came by and she was afraid to touch them as well.

I'm pretty sure they weren't worried about the avian flu, so what was it? When I was a kid I never got many chances to touch a bird, but I don't think I would have hesitated if given one.

The photo of the little boy touching Klee's head is a little deceptive. The kid touch Klee for a split second and jumped back. Later Klee flew up and tried to land on him. That was a lot of fun.

I made a mental note to myself to make sure that when I have kids they are going to have exposure to many kinds of animals from a very young age. I feel bad about my lack of experience with nature when I grew up in Michigan, but I can't imagine growing up in Tokyo where the only wildlife are crows and pigeons.

Invasion
Remembering Dreams

I wrote a few days ago about how often I give up my recurring dream to learn the basics of sketching and painting. I suppose I could chalk it up to "not enough time", but that's just taking the easy way out. If I cut back on the time I spend playing with this computer I could do so many productive things. Unfortunately, my current finances are tied to playing with the computer more than I like them to be. While a few weeks ago I was enjoying the freedoms that come with working from home, a tight schedule recently got me into the habit of turning on the computer first thing in the morning, and spending most of the day in front of it. The schedule is not so tight anymore, but sitting in front of this thing sure is easy. It's great for tricking myself into thinking I am being productive.

It's time to get serious about making changes in my life again. It seems that I am getting serious about it every other week, yet despite the fact that my life now in no way resembles my life only six months ago, I never feel that anything is changing. Maybe it's because I didn't set any clear goals about what I really want to do with my time, and, as importantly, what I don't want to do with my time.

I guess a good place to start would be to re-describe my ideal lifestyle, take a serious look at how much of it I have come close to already, how much can be accomplished within the given time restraints, and just get to it. The thing is, I have little confidence that that will work any better this time than it has in the past. Generally what happens is I make a list of things I want to get done, things I want to practice and study, and then something else captures my interest. I spend too much time on it, and feeling guilty decide to cut back. Of course then I have one more thing added to my "want to do" list, which is always too long anyway. Cutting things off makes me feel like I have failed, and generally I still want to do almost everything that was on my list a year ago, and everything I have added since then.

In the end, to avoid having to decide what dreams to forget, I wind up sitting in front of the computer, doing something that appears to be worth the time. It's so easy to read a tutorial about something programming related, and because I can see immediate applications, feel that I have made progress. It's just not progress that leads to results I value.

I'll get cracking on that ideal lifestyle just as soon as I get back from my first early morning jog in over a week and seriously practice the speed-reading for the first time since Thursday (leisure reading before going to bed doesn't count). It makes me feel sick just thinking about the fact that I woke up over an hour ago, and have done nothing but check email and write this.

Update:

9:45 - An hour running along the river just now makes me feel a little better. Of course most of what I did was think about the other things that I wasn't getting done because I was spending my time running.

Running is such an inefficient use of time, it takes at least an hour each day for me to start feeling the effects. That doesn't sound like much I guess, but it makes for 7 boring hours each week in which I can not work, I can not read, I can not take photos unless I stop. I have to find some way to make it more efficient, some way to multi-task while running.

I used to be a member of the Tokyo Ladies Hash, a group of drinkers who get together and run every week. I guess that combines networking with running, and I haven't been there for over a year so there are probably some new people to meet. Maybe I'll give that a shot again this week.

Next time before I run, I'm going to make a list of issues I have to think about. Without the list, my mind tends to wander, and I ponder the same things again and again... mostly pondering how boring it is. Maybe a little hand-held recorder to record whatever great ideas I come up with...

What does anyone else do when they jog? Aside from loving the physical rewards, how do people make the time spent feel "worthy"?

Anyway, it's time for some stretching (that I can do while I read) and a half-hour's worth of push-ups and sit-ups. This too I can do while I read, so that aint bad.


10:45 - People keep calling me, asking me to help them out, drawing me back to this evil machine. I keep caving in and helping when I know I have more important things to do. I haven't gotten the push-ups done yet. Maybe my problem is that I sacrifice too much. Gotta stop being nice.


11:55 - I realize readers are not interested in a run-down of my daily life, but I'm just trying to get grasp on where my time goes each day. By now I've handled a few frantic phone-calls, pushed-up, sat-up, and showered-up. The tea is hot, the bread is baked, the news is read and I'm back in front of my computer, hoping to make a buck or two.

NPR is on the radio, and my emails are downloading. I'm going to shoot for a three hour no distractions workathon. Let's see how this goes.


3:30 - That went well, got some stuff knocked off the list, but it was pretty much only in-box items... answering emails and the phone, doing minor maintenance tasks, no real interesting work. Take a pee break, chat a bit on irc, soon I should be ready for another 3 hours. In the afternoon the number of calls and emails tends to die down, so I should be able to dedicate these next three to a single project, getting deep into it.


7:10 - Not bad. Got a good start on a new project. Of course I was supposed to have started this a week ago.

I also have one of the headaches I have been getting lately. This gives me an excuse to close the computer and do something else... maybe dinner, maybe wash the dishes... maybe run to the booze shop for a beer...


9:10 - Ok, The dishes are washed, so as to avoid the wrath of Tomoe. A fresh blob of bread dough is rising, waiting to be cooked up for tomorrow's breakfast. The living-room/bed-room/den/office/rec-room is vacuumed (it's all one room so don't be too impressed). Tea is brewing, and I'm refreshed and ready for another two hours of work.


Breaking Thumbs

I vividly remember one day when I was a kid, maybe eight or nine, I was in my room trying to close the door, but it just wouldn't close. On the other side I could hear my little sister screaming, but for some reason I didn't put one and one together, and I just kept pushing, trying to close that door. After a few seconds of leaning against it, pushing, opening it and attempting to slam it shut, I realized that my sister's finger was wedged in between the door and the wall near the hinges.

At that time what should I have done? Thinking back, I guess I had two choices. I could have either opened the door to let her get her finger out, or I could keep right on trying to close the door. After all, I wanted that door closed!

Not a taught choice as you can see, and even at that age I realized the right thing was to open the door and let her get her fingers out. Of course I could blame myself for not noticing the fact that she had her fingers in there in the first place, it was pretty ignorant of me, but at least I didn't just keep on pushing.

* * *

A while back I posted some photos and a price list of a typical trip to the grocery store ( It makes me sick to look at it now.... [shudder] ). Since then, I have learned quite a bit about the effects my choices as a consumer have on the environment. Despite fear that being a responsible consumer meant doubling my monthly bills, and loosing out on a lot of the foods that I thought I loved, I have made some changes.

The more I learned about what I personally was doing to contribute to the degradation of our earth, it was hard not to change. Like learning that I was about the break my sister's fingers, I learned that I was helping to break the world, and only because of what I wanted.

Although no one would have suggested that I ignore the screams and the knowledge that my sister's finger was in the door, I am clueless as to why so many people who seem to know better continue to ignore the fact that their own consumption is just not sustainable. I'm not even talking about people who disagree with the overwhelming scientific evidence, I'm talking about people who are well read and intelligent... yet are somehow able to ignore the screams, simply because they want the door closed.

I was one of these people, and I didn't like that fact. I, however, was lucky to have Tomoe, who has a masters degree in environmental studies, around me all the time to answer my questions and point me on the right track. It's one thing to know that what we are doing is just plain selfish, and frankly sucks, but It's another thing finding good reliable information about what we can do differently.

I've been working on a little personal project which should be launched soon that will hopefully help myself, and any other people who care, make heads or tails out of their lifestyle choices, but for now I will leave you with last week's shopping list. What I bought, why, and most importantly, how affordable it was. Being responsible doesn't mean being poor.

* * *

Just some background about what goes through my mind when I decide what to buy. I am basically trying to make the best decision, considering some of the following factors:

Unfortunately, thinking about these things might have lead to a starving Bastish, were it not for the Tokyou seikatsu Kyoudo Sougou (THOTO), a co-op group in Tokyo which pays attention to what they stock on their shelves, offering domestic, often local products from small to medium sized producers using sustainable, as-chemical-free-as-possible growing methods. The co-op also offers regular field-trips to the farms, so the consumers can meet the producers, and get a better idea about where there food is actually coming from. The picture below is from one of those trips (I didn't go on the trip myself, though I hope to some time this summer... this photo is hanging on the wall of the co-op)

Best of all, although there is a small mark-up, thanks to dropping meat, poultry (except for an occasional egg) and most fish products, I actually spend less than I used to when I shopped at my old supermarket, and I eat and feel much better. I am able to eat healthier than anyone I know, and yet my monthly expenses are less than 90,000 yen, including rent and utilities.

There is a branch of the co-op about 10 minutes from my apartment, so I'm lucky enough to visit there once or twice a week to do my own shopping, and so far this year, I have not needed to go to any other supermarkets. If there is none near you, have no fear. They also deliver. If anyone is interested in ordering from them, leave me a comment and I can check to see where is closest to you.

Below is a run-down of our weekly grocery purchases and bill. ( Our staple is rice and various beans which we buy bulk online. )

Item Yen USD Note
Milk (1L) 198 1.88

Produced by milk cows in Chiba fed with locally grown feeds.

Pasteurized with 75-degree heat for 15 seconds. Normally milk is pasteurized at 120 degree for 3 seconds. Generally leads to better flavour (or so Tomoe says. I generally only have a bit of milk in my tea, so don't notice the difference)

Natto (135g X 2) 156 1.48

Small cups used to make my own natto.

Made with domestic, non-GM soy beans. (less than 10% of soy beans consumed in Japan are domestic.)

Domestic Flour (900g X 2) 296 2.81

Locally grown, no post-harvest chemicals. (Imported flours use lots of chemicals to keep pests away during transport.)

These two bags of flour will last for about a week's worth of bread.

Domestic Whole Wheat (1kg) 260 2.47

Cheaper than white rice, but much healthier. Tastes great mixed with the gen-mai (brown rice) we buy bulk online.

Despite the health benefits, great taste, price, and texture of this, it is often frowned upon as being for "poor" people. This view comes mostly as a result of the rice shortages after the war, when only "successful" rich people could afford rice. Now it's just a fashion thing.

Because I always mix it with brown-rice and beans when I cook it, this should last for well over a month.

Grahm Crackers (2 pkg) 284 2.70

This is one of the convenience foods we allow ourselves, but have been phasing out by making our own bread in the mornings to eat with hummus and jam.

Onions 180 1.71

Organically grown in Hokkaido

Ganmodoki (2pkg) 336 3.20

These are round spongy things often found in oden. Made with donmestic soy-beans, and vegetables.

Carrots 180 1.71

Organically grown in Chiba.

Cucumbers 336 3.20

Organically grown in Saitama.

Eggplants 208 1.98

Reduced-checmical from Chiba.

Cabbage (1/2 head) 180 1.71

Organically grown in Chiba.

Daikon (big white radish) 188 1.79

Reduced chemical from Ibaraki.

Green Onions 198 1.88

Reduced chemical from Tokyo.

Coconut Crackers 180 1.71

Another convenience weakness we really should cut out... We needed something sweat to eat with tea.

TOTAL 2,994 28.51


Oft Abandoned Dreams

In grade-school and high-school I had dreams to become good at drawing. Those dreams were forgotten, until about two years ago, when a friend introduced me to her sketch-club, meeting every Friday night. I started going, and really got into it, spending much of my free time sketching. I was learning to paint, and loving it.

Somehow I forgot that dream again, and for the past year I have rarely picked up a pencil or brush.

A couple weeks ago I went to an art exhibition by the sketch-club. After going there to see a friends painting, I had the urge to start sketching and painting again. I went back to the club once, three weeks ago, but somehow I haven't been back since.

Maybe, if I try real hard though, and make an effort to start participating again, next year I'll have a painting in the show again... Or maybe I'll just forget that dream again like I have so many times before.

One would think that the fact that I keep abandoning that dream means it's not really a high-priority dream. So why do I hang onto it?

Ogawamachi

A little more from last weekend's trip to Ogawamachi in Saitama.

Walking Klee

I know I said before that I would cut back on posting bird shots, but lately it seems that I don't have much else in the camera. I think I overdid it this past year, taking photos of everything and anything. Now I tend to take a lot less because I already shot the obvious things.

Anyway, the last post I made with photos of us walking the birds seemed to generate some interest. So here's more.

Awii still doesn't like the leash much, so we are debating if we should continue walking her or not. Klee is fine with it now. Sometimes she even likes to get on the ground and walk next to us down the sidewalk, just like a little dag with very short legs.

Vacation Snap-shots

I was planning to take a few days off from posting to the site so I can get some other work done, then Jeremy at the immensely popular blog Antipixel went and put a link to my site on his top page. Now I have pressure to get more photos up there in case anyone coming from his site ever decides to come back... I can't be looking like a slacker now can I?

(My appologies to those with narrow-band connections. In the interest of saving my time, I have decided to post all the photos from the trip at once...)

To add to the pressure, the context of his post was based on a comment I had made at his site about how he made a cliche temple look cool, and that I try to stay away from those shots. Yet, the only photos I have on hand for the site are from this weekend's bike trip with Tomoe to Ogawamachi in Saitama. They're full of blossoms and temples, and other tourist-in-Japan snap-shots.

We had planned to ride all day saturday, camp near Chichibu, ride a bit Sunday and take the train back from Chichibu. Unfortunately we made a bad decision along the way, thinking that the road to the middle of Saitama looked just as nice (and less mountains to cross) so we went that way. By the end of the day we were already back into civilization, riding on dirty, busy roads through crowded neighborhoods. To top it off, it was getting cloudy, and the forecast called fro rain on Sunday, so we called it quits, packed up the bikes, and made it home in time for some midnight blossom viewing along the river by my apartment.

Moments after we arrived the station was swarmed by retired folk in full mountain climbing gear. In Japan, that includes a plaid flannel shirt, maybe a fisherman's type vest, a backpack, walking stick, boots, and a bird-watching book stuffed in the front shirt-pocket. Some people even wear those swiss-style yodeling pants.

*Now let's take a break for some nice cliche cherry blossom / temple shots*

We got on the road soon, and you soon realize that 9 out of 10 trees in Japan are cherry blossom trees. Anywhere you go, country village or city park, every tree is a cherry blossom tree. They put so much time and effort into only two weeks each year. It's really amazing.

Just as we came out of the golf-course (which you see a photo of at the top of this post) we realized we were no longer in Kansas, so we took a break to get some really great freshly made tea and shiso flavored tofu, and hopped on a train back home.

I was looking at the map the entire way home, and realized our folly. we are planning another trip back there for a whole weekend, but this time we will be taking another route which should turn out a little better. It may have to wait until after our upcoming Golden Week bike trip around Shikoku (if Tomoe can get off of work).

More photos of Ogawamachi, Saitama

Did I Say No More Birds?

I guess I lied.

Walls
Cloak & Dagger

I think I liked this photo because it seems very spyish.

Even Photographers Have to Pee

If I ever get around to adding photos to the mirror project, this will be one of them.

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