Music!

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Check out this awesome studio that is a five minute walk from my apartment. I have this space to myself plus use of all the equipment in it for less than $8 an hour! It’s called Gourd Island Studio. I’m pumped: I can play drums again, I can record music and sing loud and plug into nice amps, all without worrying about bugging my neighbor.

Also, I finally went to the Ruby Room last night, which sounds like a strip club, I know, but is actually a pretty well-known music venue in Tokyo.

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One of FIVE BANDS that played last night! Dig the double-neck bass+guitar combo in the back.

I had pretty lucky timing, five bands played and they were all really fun and there was a lot of talent on display. Met some cool folks, too. They have a Tuesday night open mic I’ll be back for this week.

 

 

I Get To Learn What a Japanese Hospital Is Like

I went to the hospital in Japan. Hooray for new experiences! Mom, I’m fine.

I was doing some squats a few nights ago—no weights, just down and up with my hands in front of me—and I guess I was doing them wrong because after I finished number thirty (the last one) my back sent a very angry letter of resignation to the rest of my entire body.

My back's message. Also, hello new readers!
My back delivers a message to my brain via the central nervous system. Also, hello new readers!

The next morning I hobbled to the hospital.

It looked like this on the outside and just getting there felt like a huge success so I took a picture.
It looked like this on the outside and just getting there felt like a huge success so I took a picture.

When the shift began, all the hospital staff lined up and greeted all the patients in unison with a “good morning,” a bow, some other Japanese I didn’t get, and another bow. That was pretty awesome.

The waiting room. On the left: a counter where everything you need from reception to billing to pharmacy are all lined up with number-taking systems. Very efficient. Upstairs: all the doctors.
The waiting room. On the left: a counter where everything you need from reception to billing to pharmacy are all lined up with number-taking systems. Very efficient. Upstairs: all the doctors, nurses, and technicians.

I had an x-ray, two consultations with a doctor, and blood work done. Then I got a week’s worth of two different kinds of pain medication plus about 50 disposable heat pads. The total bill was around ¥8600 (less than $80 USD). Americans reading this will be amazed. Anyone else will be wondering why I’m even mentioning it.

Anyway, may I never spend more than 2 minutes talking about my health problems, a genuinely boring topic, I know. But for what it’s worth, I had a visit to the hospital in Japan and as usual even the worst of experiences was better in every way here.

A Dream

Sometimes I look around and just say to myself, “Wow. I’m here.”

Japan is not heaven or anything but it’s a place I wanted to live. Now, whatever that place’s reality turns out to be, it’s a place where every day I have the ability to look around and say “I did it.”

If you have a dream, no matter how big or small or absurd to others, pursue it now. Make it happen. You can make your dream come true, and nothing will change your life for the better more than proving that to yourself. Nothing can rob you of the knowledge that you set your mind to something and accomplished it.

If you’ve already accomplished something you set out to do, take time as often as you like to remind yourself that you did it.

And if you’ve never had a dream, what are you waiting for? Take a minute today, imagine something that makes you smile. Then go after it.

–Abraham Lincoln

I Get a Package From America (and Other Little Updates)

This one’s for Gina. Thanks for reading!

There are a few difficulties with having a blog and living here:

  1. I get new and amazing experiences so regularly that if I don’t blog for a week I feel overwhelmed by how much I want to share (which causes me to put off writing for another week and the snowball begins to grow…)
  2. If I approach an experience with the mindset of wanting to write about it later, I take photos and think about how I would describe it. I spend the moment, as my photojournalist friend Kelly once told me, documenting life instead of living it.

So, lately I’ve just been trying to experience these moments, getting immersed in them and letting myself forget how I would describe it later. It’s been nice.

Now it’s time for a huge messy brain dump. I think I’ll just lay out whatever’s on my mind. Enjoy. 🙂

I got a package!

My friends Vanessa and Moses sent me a box!

I got a box in the mail!

 

“Thanks for accepting this package.” 🙂 Actually they crashed at my place a month or so ago.

 

Oh. Oh my.

 

100% honest: I started laughing uncontrollably like a cartoon villain as I emptied the box. I’m laughing right now. Look at all those Reese’s Cups!!! HehehahahaHAHAHA!!

 

So how well did they survive shipping through the summers of Georgia, USA and Tokyo, Japan? Let’s find out…

 

Wow! They held up surprisingly well.

 

Delicious. If you’re reading this, thank you guys!

They also sent me a cool collection of sci-fi stories based in or about Japan, and toothpaste because I heard it can be hard to find toothpaste with fluoride in it. I think there’s a different fluorine ion in it here instead but readers familiar with chemistry are already noting that I have no idea what I’m talking about so let’s just move on.

I got a guitar and I’m discovering the Tokyo music scene.

Shimokitazawa (“Shimokita” as all the cool kids call it) is an awesome little area near where I live, littered with vintage clothing shops and houses playing live music. I’m going as often as I can.

I got a Yamaha FG-251 acoustic guitar for ¥6000 (about $56 USD), restrung it and adjusted the truss rod. Now I’m trying to overcome my fear of bugging my neighbor by playing it. I mean, I can hear his microwave beep through the walls, so there’s no question whether he’ll hear my strumming. Probably should’ve bought an electric.

It's got a huge gash in the top, but sounds pretty good.
It’s got a huge gash in the top, but sounds pretty good.

I’m also writing music in Garageband while riding the trains. None of it’s any good of course—I think music is the first (only?) thing I’ve ever been able to just give up trying to be great at and started doing just because I love it.

 

I’m introducing software development process improvements at work.

I’m going to write a separate post on this and link to it here later. Unless you’re into software engineering you’ll probably wanna sit this one out, but it’s making me happy.

I’m learning a lot about not judging and seeing myself in others.

Things can seem pretty different at times. Discovering that a laugh is not always a laugh and can mean many things from “I find this humorous,” to “I have no idea what you just said,” to “I’m feeling pretty uncomfortable right now,” can make you question all of your judgments of others. And that’s been a good thing to question.

Learning you can’t trust your assumptions about another person’s intentions forces you to fall back on faith: what do I think is in the heart of the average person? If you think people are basically good, you’re going to respond to culture shock and culture clash positively, assuming the best when in a situation you don’t fully understand. Think people are basically cruel and every puzzling situation will leave you wondering if you are the butt of an ill-intentioned joke. I’m glad I’m able to believe people I meet are more likely to be kind to the stranger than rude or hateful.

I discovered the mille crepe. Oh my god.

This is a mille crepe. It’s a slice of “cake” that’s actually about 30 crepes with creme between them. It’s a French food but these are made by the Japanese and you’ve never had anything so delicious in all your damn life.

 

Want some don't you?
You can be jealous now.

OK I guess that’s enough for now.

Coding in a Shared Office Space

This is the only chair I have to sit in at my computer at home:

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Art majors will recognize it from any renaissance painting depicting the seats in hell.

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So this morning I said to myself, “I’m in Tokyo, I should be able to find anything I want, and today I want a cheap shared office space to go code in.”

Half an hour’s worth of Googling later and I was on my way down the train line to a shared office space in Shibuya called Allincco.

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It was great! 15 minutes is ¥100 (about $1 USD), but the max you pay per day is ¥1000 (under $10 USD). There’s whiteboard and office space available, and in general was just a pretty good temporary work space.

There was free wi-fi of course, free Coke and other sodas, a dozen or so free coffee drinks (making it an obvious choice over working at Starbucks and paying ¥450 for a tall café latte), and cheap ¥100 snacks.

It was no Cat Cafe mind you, but for the price it couldn’t be beat, and after about 10 hours total (some of it last night in my infernal torture device) I was able to throw together a new web version of my pet project Washington’s Rules. 🙂 Today was a good day.

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Click the ruggedly handsome face of America’s first president to see Washington’s Rules for yourself.

 

 

 

My Not-Allowed-to-Stay-In-The-Apartment-All-Day Day

My company is on break for the Obon holiday for most of this week, and I am determined not to spend it in my apartment watching South Park and Seinfeld on Internet TV. So I gave myself a rule today: out by 10am and back no sooner than 7pm.

I hopped on a train in a direction I never go and asked my girlfriend to pick a number between 1 and 30 (she picked 22). That’s how many minutes I stayed on the train.

The results:

1. Got off the train and started walking around, ended up walking into the area around Sensō-ji, my second time there in a week but this time from behind the temple. Saw a lot I missed by coming in through the Kaminarimon Gate, like the lovely works inside the free admission Taito City Edo Shitamachi Traditional Crafts Museum.

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Ate some delicious fried custard stuff and did a little shopping:

The cat make a speech. Listen to its meow.
The cat make a speech. Listen to its meow. Dream of a sweet love song.
Hehehe I don't know why I love this store's name so much.
Hehehe I don’t know why I love this store’s name so much.

Moved on, hop another train and ended up…

2. At Yashio station where I looked at some clothes

Satan Faith: Bulldog. hahahaha

And then I stepped into the spot to which, unbeknownst to me, destiny had been leading me all day: The 3rd Planet Game Arcade.

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And finally, I rounded the corner to witness a miniaturized horse race betting game. O_O

By the way, did you miss the fact that one of the jockeys’ bodies was horrifically snapped off at the waist? He was just a set of legs. I think that should disqualify him.

I was wandering around inside 3rd Planet thinking “This place smells just like the bowling alleys back home,” when I rounded the corner to discover:

It is also a bowling alley.
It is also a bowling alley. This place is incredible.

I played one game. One sad little game.

That, ladies and gentlemen, is a two-digit bowling score.
A pirate-themed, two-digit, single-player bowling game score.

Finally emerging from the incredibly fun and diverse gaming experience that my day had become, I grabbed a bite at the finest McDonald’s I have ever laid eyes on.

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And now I’m writing this on the train at 7:30pm. Google maps says I’ll be home in 15 minutes, where I’ll upload all those pictures you just saw. My random train-riding journey took me to the opposite side of Tokyo from my home and cost me about ¥3000 total. Success.

If you’re ever looking for something to do, stop looking and just get outside. Something to do will find you.

Now for some South Park…