2008 March❮❮prevnext❯❯

time marches on

Get it, time MARCHes on? Oh I slay me.

Paradox of the Moment
In Zeno's dichotomy paradox, you run toward a wall. As you run, you halve the distance to the wall, then halve it again, and so on. But if you continue to subdivide space forever, how can you ever actually reach the wall? (The answer is that you can't: Once you're within a few nanometers, atomic repulsion forces become too strong for you to get any closer.)
I never thought about how modern science and atomic theory has such a good answer for Zeno! The article is also worthwhile for its final bit, a speculation about what life would really be like if electricity HAD become "too cheap to meter" as predicted by Atomic Energy Commission chief Lewis Strauss

that gamey taste

Not too sound too much like I'm boasting, but sweet jimminy crickets do I need to get on the ball for this trip to Japan. Nothing is really looming about it; but wanting to get my apartment a bit tidied and then just the normal "do I have everything? what kind of suitcase should I use?" etc etc.

Speaking of what kind of suitcase should I use... what kind of suitcase should I use? My first plan was trying to get by with a small suitcase (on the high side of domestic carry-on-able) and then my courier bag. I have a medium suitcase I can use instead, and now I'm wondering if I should buy a more touristy/hiker backpack, or if that would just clash with the Japanese street style, which I know I'm already going to be at the low, low end of.

I do want to pack lightly, and have a certain small amount of giftage to bring there and back...

Link of the Moment
NEStography -- kind of like a geekier, less harsh a softer world. Melancholy and painfully self-aware in parts. With Nintendo games, so obviously it's perfect for me.

Game of the Moment
--Dessgeega et al. graced us with a perfect and appropriate "Leap Day" gift -- an original oldschool game Mighty Jill Off. It's a mildly-kink-themed tribute to "Mighty Bomb Jack", an old NES classic. A very playable and satisfying short story of a game.

tall and tan and young and lovely

When I am king of the world, I will make this law:

Every movie with a prolonged scene on an elevator - especially ones where the characters are awkwardly standing and waiting - must have the elevator playing an instrumental version "Girl from Ipanema". Plus, every movie made after 1970 or so that does NOT have music playing, this song will be added to the sound track of all existing prints. (Individual directors of existing films may apply for an exemption, but have to write an essay explaining why they want one.)

"Lost in Translation", I'm looking at you.

Movie Secret of the Moment
I love you. Don't forget to always tell the truth.
Supposedly what Bill Murray's character whispers to Scarlett Johansson's at the end of "Lost in Translation".
Watched that movie again with cmg the other night; it really is lovely. I wonder how Bill Murray-esque I might be in my interactions with new and unfamiliar parts of Japan...

Video of the Moment

--How People Count Cash. Supposedly. (Take it with a big grain of salt.)

parallels and perpendicularities

Why is "parallels" such a more popular word than "perpendicularities"?

Oddly, I suppose you could probably substitute "one point of intersection is" for "one parallel is"

This is probably not as profound as I first thought.

Costume of the Moment
--Been watching "Project Runway" again. Was bummed to see Chris March, the snarky, queeny rotund costume genius with a huge laugh just miss the final four... cmg used some of her googlemojo to dig up his website that has TONS of fabulous design fun.

thoughts on art

(1 comment)
I know I've rambled on about my Theory of Multiple Intelligences for Art before, but in a recent online discussion I realized that I can put it much more succinctly than I usually do, without all the backstory I usually give it:
A. art needs to judged in a multidimensional away--
B. to the extent that there's "good art" it will be art that succeeds on more of those axes than mediocre or poor art
C. very little art exists that doesn't work on at least one of these axes, in particular, commercial success is almost universally indicative of success in a few of these
D. Ok, so, not all the axes are created equal, some are more important and/or easier to achieve than others-- some may only have subjective meaning, might only work for a certain target audience. And maybe this is all so much anti-elitist, post-modern, "can't we all just get along" kumbaya-- but actually I think there's something to it.

Announcement of the Moment

That is all. (thanks Bill)


So the other night I got accused of being incredibly self-absorbed.

(The irony of taking the time to write up a big blog entry on protesting being called self-absorbed is not lost on me.)

This isn't the first time I've been accused of this. And it is a vexing accusation! To some extent it's of course true, but... I mean, are there really people out there so selfless as to put themselves way behind their interest in everyone else? That seems unlikely. Is the implication, then, that I lack the ability to be appropriately concerned for and interested in other people? That seems an unfair accusation! Or deficient in interest about things in general, I dunno, politics, pop culture, science, etc? That seems blatantly untrue. And despite all this, I'm willing to accept that there's a problem here.

So what is it? Previously I've heard it put that I have trouble talking without sentences that begin with "I" or "Me". I would say that to whatever extent the I/Me thing is valid, this aspect is going to be exaggerated by my rhetorical caution; I hardly ever assert something to be objectively true, I tend to couch things with things like "I think" or "It seems to me that". But that's probably beside the point, the issue is: I talk about myself a lot. (Like, that's what brought this up last night: it was a discussion where I tangented to mentioning playing tuba in church during a poignant pause (actually in response to an observation that something went over "like a fart in church" in a serious conversation. I was trying to be funny, but admittedly it was a story about me.) )

So yeah I talk about myself! I have stories to tell. But I want to hear every one else's stories too! In my interpersonal relationships I tend to have three goals:
A. I want to tell you my stories
B. I want to hear your stories.
C. I want to experience things with you that we can tell stories about.

To me this is a central part of the human condition.

Richard Feynman said that he didn't mind dying so much because "...When you get as old as I am, you start to realize that you've told most of the good stuff you know to other people anyway." Story- and Anecdote-related interaction is a side effect of my "Interestingness-as-Moral-Good" escape from the existential "why bother" hell I might other wise be in. You want to see cool stuff, and then through the power of communication, you can hear about other cool stuff you haven't seen, and return the favor.

But still -- some people, including people I care about, and whose opinions I care about -- see this as a problem. Even to the point of suggesting therapy! Which, as a way of fixing a problem of being self-absorbed, reminds me a bit of California fire fighters setting fires to try to preempt a larger firestorm, but I guess that's why you shell out the big bucks to be able to do in that magic 50-minute span.

As far as I can tell, this isn't a universally recognized problem; I believe that I have an OK relationship with others of my friends, possibly story tellers themselves, they seem to cope with how much I talk about myself and in turn believe in my legitimate interest in them. So is the issue in recognizing people who don't share this brand of mutual extroversion? And how then should I act? Try to tone down the quantity of anecdotes? Be more proactive in expressing my interest in what's going on with them? Just shut up for a change?

Would therapy be able to answer this question? Or is this just the symptom anyway, and therapy should somehow break me free of an underlying condition of needing attention the way fish need water?

I do value candid feedback on this, especially from people who know me in real life. (That I think is one of my positive character traits: I freely admit my flaws even as I consider triaging them into things I like the way they are, things I can change, and things that I don't like but know are here to stay.)

it's the economy, stupid

Ah, the economy.

I'm nervous by nature, and so frankly was a bit surprised at how well 2005 and 2006 seemed to go, economically-speaking. Now it looks like the chickens are coming home to roost.

I know some of this is a side effect of my general financial good fortune and lack of family to support, but sometimes I have trouble deeply understanding how as a country we have a negative savings rate. I don't think this is an international phenomenon; it's us.

What is it about us? A screwed up job market that tends to be bottom- and top-heavy? A culture so addled with materialism that people make an endless series of dumb purchasing decisions? As my Libertarian friends would probably argue, too darn much taxation?

But spending seems to be what our economy is based on! Is it some giant shell game? I remember listening to public radio when I was sick, some commentator who kind of contradicted herself without blinking an eye, on the one hand saying this downturn was going to be rough because consumers can't spend their way out of it, on the other hand chastising Americans for spending this way to begin with.

For a lot of us it all comes down to employment. If your job situation stays good you should be more less OK. If not, it's going to be a scary struggle. But even if you're in the first category, man, it's tough not to let this stuff dominate your thinking and outlook in general.

Heh, maybe working for a European company will help. I wouldn't count on it, I've been burnt by that kind of thinking before, thinking that being sheltered under the Thomson umbrella would help my subsidiary muddle through, but it turns out when you work for one part of a giant company and your part is doing pretty well, they may still look to economize on your part just to help out the other sections.

Woo, ramble-heavy posts as of late!

the sigh of soundlence

Err, not a lot to say today.


Random, if gross thought: so one of the less attractive habits of some of my cousins was to spit up in the air and catch it. This is, of course, disgusting, but it's hard to put your finger on exactly why. The material starts in the mouth and ends up in the mouth, and you wouldn't think that the time in the open air would be all that corrupting. It's like it involves a process similar to transubstantiation, where the material epistemologically changes from mere saliva into spit, and we reject the attempt to reverse that transmogrification.

Game of the Moment

--from an old post at cellar.org's Image of the Day. (I feel like I haven't been finding as much cool stuff to share with you all lately. But, I do like frogs.)

hour of power

Seriously, giving us more Daylight Savings Time is like my favorite act of Congress this past decade.

Invention of the Moment
Horeseradish-based fire alarm, designed for the hearing impaired. Brilliant idea! I wonder how they sound the "all-clear" to get rid of the smell, though. (via bb)

Video of the Moment

A classic. Check out the older muppet versions in the related links selection... actually this came from a bb post with the new machinima "ROFLMAO" version.

I never quite realized that "Mahna Mahna" is two identical words, since the usual emphasis scheme makes it sound more like pheNOMena.

Wikipedia says that backup singers are the "snowths". Random geek culture wise, they remind me an awful lot of Birdo, arguably videogaming's first transsexual character.

o ho ho!

I got nothing to say about Spitzer right now, 'cept, damn, $4,300!?!

No, wait, one brilliant quote:
For its members, Emperors' Club isn't a whorehouse. It's a whorehome--
HAHA! From Slate's coverage So You Want To Open a Brothel.

Map of the Moment
--Thomas Jefferson's plan for an America that never was, from Strange Maps a brilliant website Kate pointed out the other day.

the moth and mrs murphy

In 24 hours I'll be on a plane to Japan!

Quote of the Moment
He had two choices. He could pretend that everything that had happened since the day of Lynch's murder had been a bad dream, forget it all, and set about rebuilding his life and his career like a sane, rational person. Or he could take a hand once again, play it out to its conclusion.

It was no choice at all, really. He felt like a moth that had just sighted the Great Chicago Fire.

George R R Martin, "The Armageddon Rag"

Passing of the Moment
D+D Inventor Gary Gygax died recently. Of all the geekish tributes I've seen tho him, only Slate points out that Dungeons and Dragons is a morally and creatively flawed travesty of a gaming system, that it really encouraged an idiotic "hack and slash" style that helped cement a kind of geek ghetto.

hello japan! (backlog flush #64)

Off to Japan! But in my OCD need to keep the site updated, I'm going through OLD backlog -- like, late 2004/early 2005.

hello japan! (backlog flush #65 and travelog)


Travelog of the Moment
In theory my jetlag "isn't so bad", but then again I'm writing this at 4AM (3PM Boston time.)

I now have the technology and 'net access to try travelloging in real time. This likely means my observations will be extra facile and I'll be less likely to know if they represent just what I see, or Japan as a whole. And so it's going to be more raw and mundane than if I were pulling it together after. So, those disclaimers out of the way:

A few other notes:

hello japan! (backlog flush #66 and travelog)

(1 comment)

Travelog Photo Insanity of the Moment
So, Saturday. Josh played tour guide and we hit Kamakura, with dozens of temples and a giant Buddha, and then the port area around Yokohama. I appear to have gone a bit crazy nuts with the photos this day.

hello japan! (backlog flush #67 and travelog)


Travelog of the Moment
Another amazing day with Josh. I'm going to be traveling to Hiroshima and Kyoto on my own by rail, so I might not be posting quite so extensively for a bit...

hello japan! (backlog flush #68 and travelog)


Travelog of the Moment
So I thought Monday would be mostly travel, but I got to see some important things. I braved the Tokyo subway and then the bullet trains all on my own, got to Hiroshima, and then determined to heed Josh's admonition to "don't be that girl from Lost in Translation" (i.e. sitting moping around a hotel room) I headed out for a few hours of exploration.

So, the trains. It's too bad that "and the trains ran on time" has such a negative connotation, because it's actually quite handy. They are extremely punctual, except when someone stepped in front of one... a not uncommon occurrence, maybe 2 or 3 a month - infamously the result of a nation that has A. a strong and idiosyncratic sense of honor, B. not much of a religious prohibition against suicide, and in fact a social precedent for it (A Spitzer in Japan would be dead by his own hand by this point, Josh says) and C. Really, really fast trains.

near the hypocenter (backlog flush #69 and travelog of hiroshima)


Travelog of the Moment

that we figure this thing out or learn to love the figuring (backlog flush #70 and travelog of kyoto and nara)


Travelog of the Moment
So Wednesday I went on a bus tour of Kyoto and Nara. I wasn't utterly blown away by the tourguides (who may have been gearing for people who did zero reading about Japan in general) but it was the best way to get to these geographically diverse sites. Plus, a day with more riding and less walking seemed like a nice idea for my feet.

Also I met some nice people from Norway and Finland (dropped my Nokia street cred) and to be honest often they seemed more interesting than the tourguide's spiel.

get hot communication (backlog flush #71 and travelog of osaka)

(1 comment)

Travelog of the Moment
Today I took trains to Osaka, third largest city of Japan. Osaka is know for its cuisine, its dialect Osaka-ben (confession: it all sounded like Japanese to me), and the easy-going nature of its people. Scheduled to be in Tokyo, I was worried I didn't have enough time, and while a daytrip is never enough to really take in a city, I got to hit the major things Josh suggested.

it run on love (backlog flush #72 and travelog)


Travelog of the Moment
Fairly relaxed day today.

fine foods - better life (backlog flush #73 and travelog)


Travelog of the Moment
So today was another day taken at a leisurely place, sight-seeing-wise, but with plenty of hiking. Josh and I headed out to Hakone, near the base of Fuji, and then went toa traditional Hot Spring.

with a dream is continued (backlog flush #74 and travelog)


Travelog of the Moment
Now reading: Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. This is actually a profoundly wonderful book, thanks for the suggestion Lex!

You know, I've taken almost 1,200 shots so far this trip. Yeesh!

Today was a bit of a repeat of last week, visiting the electronics store area Akihabra and meeting up with old college buddy Alex.

kanazawa, noh problem (backlog flush #75 and travelog)


Travelog of the Moment
So today I set off once again on my own to Kanazawa on Japan's west coast.

hello japan! (backlog flush #76 and travelog)


Travelog of the Moment
Mornings in hotels I tend to watch kids' tv, it's more interesting that the news and I like watching people teach English. There's this one show with muppet-like folk, they all play instruments along with a human pianist. I'm impressed with how much fidelity the instruments seem to be handled; they're not just holding them and flailing, which seems to be the standard for puppet musicianship.

sayonara japan! (backlog flush #77 and travelog)


Travelog of the Moment
So today, back to Tokyo. Kind of melancholy, I can feel a part of myself working to say good-bye to Japan, knowing that while a return trip isn't out of the question, it's not assured either.

home again home again

Prepublishing this from Japan, since I'm probably going to be pretty out of it for a bit as I actually return to good ol' Boston...

Snark of the Moment
"This book," he says, further, "is a study of American literature from an economic point of view. It takes our living writers, and turns their pockets inside out, asking 'Where did you get it?' and 'What did you do for it?'"

Fired by Mr. Sinclair's example, I tried turning inside out the pockets of a living writer of my acquaintance, a writer considered successful in his work, and one who appears often in the wealthier magazines. The gross receipts were one nail file; one rubberized tobacco pouch; one fountain pen without a top; one Western Union envelope (empty); one folded bit of paper upon which was written "Endicott 6281--about eleven o'clock"; one card bearing the names Tony, Gus, and Joe, and a West Forty-eight street address; one small rubber band (broken); one office clip (bent S-shaped); one half-dollar, one dime, and four pennies; one twenty-five centimes piece; and several unpleasantly mouselike formations of gray fluff. I had no heart to ask, "Where did you get it?" much less, "What did you do for it?"
Dorothy Parker reviewing Upton Sinclair's "Money Writes!"

japan observation ramble wrapup extravaganza!

So during my trip I kept a list of "Japan Topics" on my iPhone, a few words to remind me of a topic I wanted to mention in the travelog... the thing was my daily updates were often done for speed, so most days I just selected, picked, and captioned the photos without so much verbiage.

On the plane ride back I decided to type up what I had to say while Japan was still fresh in my mind. It got pretty wordy though (also some if it reads as if I was typing on a tiny laptop keyboard while sleep deprived on a plane) so rather than taking up all the space here (or breaking it up over a course of days...) I made each iPhone note a link to display/hide what I wrote about that on the plane. Or just hit "Show All" and see just how wordy I got... there are a few last photos lurking in there to.


"biggest/ seems like land w.o. enough to do"
"there is a lot of language to ignore people don't read anyway - also USA fairly multilingual"
"land of cell ringtones"
"josh on students consulting each other"
"point cards / loyalty programs"
"internet cafe / overnight"
"frission of earthquake"
"thankful for robot"
"Einstein letter to FDR / military police committee minutes"
"little sense of big cities small when talking tickets"
"ask showing fingers over five"
"doorways step up over"
"use of please"
"rr pass envy and reserve seats"
"Japanese foreplay = 'brace yourself!'"
"formula at register / and tray / seasonal foods"
"green spot / eyelids Japanese"
"build boat on lake water?"
"kabuki description"
"fedora and alex"
"libraries in museums"
"tipping, lack thereof.. sales tax wired in / most coins clearly labled... big bills ok"
"rice balls are neither, sort of"
"stairs more for disembarking"
"trains and naps, warm... plus heated seats"
"conductor and cart ladies on train always bow"
"train timing makes up for not knowing Japanese"
"loyalty to objects I travel with"

So thanks again Josh and Tomomi and Erin... I had a fantastic great neat time there and it was all over way too soon...

travelog of the moment

OK, I know I've written an awful lot about Japan, and this should be my penultimate entry (assuming I get to assembling the list of interesting man hole covers I photographed...) While I really enjoyed assembling each day's travelog just after it happened, I kind of longed for a summary like I had for some previous trips -- a way of telling my future self, where the heck did those 14 days go? As well as having a single URL.

It's kind of odd that each day's entry starts with three random quotes or links, but oh well.


to Japan!
Fly to Japan, via DC instead of Chicago. Josh meets me at Narita Airport and we take trains to his place in Shim-Matsudo in Chiba.


Kamakura and Yokohama
Josh and I head to Kamakura. We hike all over place and see the Zen temple Engaku-ji, the larger Shinto temple Tsurugaoka Hachiman, wash money in (Zeniarai Benten) and adore Daibutsu, the outdoor giant Buddha. After we head back east to Yokohama, go up Japan's tallest building the Landmark Tower, hop the water-taxi, and then have dinner in Chinatown.


Akihabara, Takeshita Street and Harajuku
Josh and I meet up with my college buddy Alex. We geek out at the Electric City Akihabara, taking in one of the giant stores (Yodobashi-Akiba) and the weekly street fair. Then we see super-you-threndy Takeshita Street and chic Harajuku. Finally we have dinner near the famous scramble intersection (as seen in Lost in Translation when it had the giant dinosaur on the electronic billboard.)


to Hiroshima
I head out on my own to Hiroshima, walk to my posh (but cheap) hotel and pay my respects at the Atomic Bomb Dome. After I go gift hunting in the impressive Hondori shopping arcade.


I visit the Peace Memorial Park and with a heavy heart view the displays at the Memorial Hall. Then I hike across the city and up to the Museum of Contemporary Art and check out the Manga Library. Finally a train to Kyoto.


I take a bus tour of Kyoto along with some friend Finns and Norwegians. The rainy day tour features the elegant Nijo-jo with its Nightingale floors, the Golden Pavilion shrine, and the Imperial Palace. After a buffet lunch and light shopping at the Kyoto Craft Center I switch to the Nara tour for the afternoon, getting attacked by friendly but hungry deer outside Todai-ji, world's largest wooden building and home of a Buddha even larger than Daibutsu. I paint a tile there, the tour makes one last stop at the Shinto shrine Kasuga Taisha, and then it's back to the hotel, damp but happy.


I hop the train to Osaka, the third largest and most generally easy-going big city of Japan. I go to the of Osaka-Jo, have some squid on a stick, enjoy seeing a slightly twisted version of home in America-Mura, have more great vendor food, and then witness the restaurant apocalypse that is the Dotombori district. Finally I ride the Hep Five Ferris Wheel (starting on the 7th floor of the shopping center and spinning its way up) and catch the bullet train back to Tokyo


Ginza and Asakusa
Josh and I head through the Ginza and Asakusa district and take in Sensoji Temple, with its giant lanterns and huge festive row of vendors. Then we watch two great programs of Kabuki.


Josh and I journey out to Hakone, near the base of Mt. Fuji. We take a bus over steep climbs and scary hairpin turns and do a bit of hiking. We drink in magnificent views of the lake and Mt. Fuji, as well as a visiting a few neat shops. Finally I try the Japanese Onsen, natural springs, with nary but a little towel to hide my junk and then sit folded on my hand as I decompress in the hot water


Akihabra Again and Shinjuku
Another day in Tokyo. Josh and I go back to see some stuff we missed in Akihabra then we again meet up with Alex. After a brief respite in Starbucks Josh heads home and Alex and I head to the top of the neo-Gothic Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building for more great views. We then see a bit of Shinjuku and have some great conversation over some Shabu-Shabu hot pot cooking.


to Kanazawa via Echigo-Yuzawa
Time to head to the west coast on my own, this time to Kanazawa. The snow covered landscape near the Echigo-Yuzawa station is just breathtaking. I walk to my hotel, taking in some cool public sculptures and then see the Oyama Jinja shrine with its lovely rustic pond gardens. I get a feel for the city watching a video at the minimalist Noh Museum and then head to my hotel, right in the heart of the Katamachi scramble area.


A brief stop at a Shinto Shrine and then I spend hours exploring Kenrokuen Garden, arguably Japan's finest. I follow the water, see some shops, and take tea. Then I get lost in small forest of Kanazawa Castle, never sure if the storehouses I saw were all there were to see because of the construction or if I was just lost. I then experience the delight of the 21st Century Contemporary Art Museum, including the so-brilliant permanent installation Swimming Pool. A quick dinner at McDonalds (lemon pepper shaka shaka chicken is weirdly good) and then I see the Red Sox opening the season against the A's.


to Tokyo
I walk to the train station and then head back to Tokyo. On my own I hunt down the brandless brand store Muji (at last!) as well as a particular shop in Akahabra I wanted to check out for some gifts. Back one final time to Shim-Matsudo where Josh and I head out for some pizza - Pizza Hut, but Korean BBQ style!

Final Thoughts
All the things I didn't have time to fully ramble about when putting together the previous updates.

A quick postscript, manhole covers that seemed a little interesting at the time.
Bonus: Larger versions of 13 of the most visually compelling shots on Flickr - now backed up here in 2019


Ugh, break-up today.

My fault.

Sigh, like Milan Kundera wrote "We never know what to want, because, living only one life, we can neither compare it with our previous lives nor perfect it in our lives to come."

Japan of the Moment
So one odd series of photograph I took in Japan were manhole covers. Not every one I saw, but I saw a few that caught my eye, either because of design, or with a splash of cover, or because the hole was in grass instead of asphault, etc...

That last one probably is the one that got me noticing them on one of the first days, but I didn't think to photograph it 'til the end.


(1 comment)
Today I am 34.

I guess this means I am no longer "in my early 30s".

S'funny, I've been doing this site since before I was 27. That's a little nuts. I'm not sure I know what I would tell my younger self. Anyway, it would probably be more useful for me to try and channel my older self into giving me good advice for nowadays.

Quote of the Moment
First, I read in the paper how John Smoltz, the Atlanta Braves star, showed up at a training session one day with a painful-looking welt across his chest and, when pressed for an explanation, sheepishly admitted that he had tried to iron a shirt while he was wearing it.

Second, it occurred to me that although I have never done anything quite so foolish as that, it was only because I had not thought of it.
Bill Bryson, "I'm a Stranger Here Myself"

2008 March❮❮prevnext❯❯