Saturday, April 21, 2012


About a week ago, I had just finished processing my weekly picture after a ridiculous 2.5 day business trip to Spain (more on that in another post). Desperately in need of sleep, I turned off my computer for the night, planning to write up the story behind the picture the next day. The following morning, I boot up my computer, expecting to run through the usual flow of email, facebook, soccer news, and weather, just like any other day. That's where everything went terribly wrong.

My computer is dying. The only way it can start up is in safe mode. Everything is still safe on the hard drive, but the computer itself can do almost nothing. Startup Repair couldn't fix it and System Restore didn't change anything. I've read around on a lot of help forums to try to find the cause of the problem, but there's not much out there that actually provides a conclusive answer. It seems to have sorted itself out for some, while the discussion just sort of trails off for others... I'm hoping it's a software error, an update gone bad or something, though some have suggested that it means the hard drive is starting to fail. The general recommendation is to run the Disk Check program from safe mode and go from there. It came up clean, but still won't start up properly. Time to look for new ideas...

 I've backed up all my pictures with my external hard drive, but need to buy another drive to take on the rest of my files. In the meantime, I'm borrowing my girlfriend's spare Sony netbook. The screen is tiny and it runs about as fast as a three-legged dog, but it's better than nothing. My Sony computer worked well for about 3 months after I bought it back in 2007, but has been disappointing ever since. I'm not talking about disappointing in a "the hardware is old and slow" sense, I'm talking about being a shitty product. I've taken pretty good care of it in terms of maintenance and what not, but it has still had countless stupid problems, both hardware and software related, on a consistent basis. The touchpad, the fingerprint scanner, their special function buttons, the power management software, there are sooooo many things that this computer has failed at. I will most certainly never buy another Sony computer again and, quite honestly, I might not buy another Sony product. I had fully intended to replace this computer once I was back home anyways and now I imagine I will be that much more delighted to finally get my hands on a computer that doesn't suck.

This is probably the worst possible time for my computer to have died. I'm less than two months away from moving back to the US and most certainly not going to buy a replacement with a Japanese keyboard and Japanese OS. At the same time, I have so many things to take care of that require a computer: hotel reservations for a trip to Thailand in two weeks, logistics for moving back to the US, finding a place to live and roommates in Cali, the list goes on and on. Between this little hot pink netbook and my work computer, I can get by for the absolutely crucial tasks, but there is lots more that will have to be put on hold.

Weekly Mad Men fix? Dead. This computer can barely handle youtube, much less HD video and I'll be damned if I'm going to watch the show on this 6in screen. Looks like I'll be having a Season 5 marathon sometime in June.

52 Weeks Project? Probably on hold. This computer would probably self destruct at just the thought of running Lightroom for photo editing and I don't want to post pictures for the project that aren't great. Even if I were to shoot in JPEG instead of RAW and just upload as-is, this screen is too small to properly check whether or not I got the shot right and I can't access flickr from the office because of the company'S firewall. I want to keep taking the weekly pictures, so maybe I'll just write the stories now, upload the actual photos later and backdate posts once I've got a proper computer again.

Even the existence of this blog is now in question. "Tekitokyo" is hardly a relevant name for my blog if I'm not living in Tokyo anymore and I'd already been playing with the idea of starting up a new blog once I moved back. Given that I likely won't be able to upload pictures for the near future, I probably won't post much, if at all during the next two months. I've got one last weekly photo that I managed to get up onto flickr before the crash that I'll write about, but that might be the last I have to say on here before signing off in June.

I'll keep fiddling around with my computer and see if I can't save it somehow. Maybe I'll wipe it clean and completely reinstall Windows once I've backed everything up. Hopefully something will work...

Sunday, April 8, 2012

[ 14 / 52 ]

Week Fourteen : Onward
Week 14

After nearly nine months fighting my way through the nightmarish process of MBA admissions, I have made my decision. In the end, I was admitted to three top-tier schools and waitlisted by another, but there was only one school that was right for me and what I want to do with my future. Starting this summer, I will be a member of the UC Berkeley MBA class of 2014.

I hate the word "passion" and think it is widely abused these days so I won't use it here, but the tech industry is definitely where I see myself in the future. Going to Berkeley will put me right in the heart of that world and I'm excited for all the opportunities that this will offer me. I haven't decided what specifically I will be aiming to do but, regardless of that choice, there are few better places to open the right doors.

In many ways, an MBA is huge turning point in one's life and career. I expect big things to come from this and am as eager to see what the future brings as I ever have been. This will be a fantastic adventure and I hope to truly make the most of it.

Camera Info: Canon 7D | 35mm | f/ 8.0 | ISO 1600 | 1/6 s

Monday, April 2, 2012

[ 13 / 52 ]

Week Thirteen : Good Morning?

Week 13

Technically this picture wasn't taken in time for week 13 of the 52 Weeks Project as it is sunrise on Monday morning, but I'm going to let it slide.

Friday afternoon, we got a call at work from a client telling us they wanted us to come in and pitch our services to them. It's always great when clients are calling and this is one of the biggest names in Japanese electronics, so we would love to have their business. The catch: they wanted us to come in Monday afternoon.

The result was a whirlwind 72 hours that saw me leave the office at 4am, 6am, and 4:30am. Working with my colleagues in London in Madrid, it was like living on some obscene hybrid of JST and GMT. I got to be at the center of everything happening on the Tokyo side I think I probably felt more like a proper banker than at any other point since joining Daiwa and while it's certainly not the way I'd want to spend most of my weekends, as an experience it was great.

With the project completely sneak attacking me on Friday and the consecutive late nights, I never had a chance to take my picture for the week. I did, however, get to catch a couple of great sunrises (It was already light out on the day I left at 6am). This shot is from the last of the three days and thus technically Monday morning, but I've always been of the opinion that a day doesn't actually end until you go to bed, so from my perspective it still counts as Sunday and fair game for Week 13.

I think the fact that it marked then end of what felt like an epic battle makes this picture beautiful to me. I look at it and remember the way I felt looking out from my balcony as the sky grew lighter. It was a feeling of knowing that as intense and exhausting as it had all been, we had done some damn good work. It was a feeling of conquest.

Camera Info: Canon 7D | 10mm | f/ 5.6 | ISO 500 | 1/8 s

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Getting Out of Town - Kansai Weekend

I've fallen behind on writing about my travels but it's going to take a while to work through all my China pictures, so that post will have to wait.

A couple weeks back, I got sent to a meeting in Osaka, which is about 2.5 hrs from Tokyo on the bullet train. It wasn't a terribly important meeting but someone from Tokyo had to attend and nobody else wanted to go. Thus goes life at the bottom of the food chain. The one saving grace was that the meeting was scheduled for 4pm on a Friday. Given that I wouldn't be able to get back to Tokyo until 9 or 10pm, I was well within my rights not to return to the office afterwards. With the company picking up the tab for my train ride, it was the perfect chance to spend the weekend wandering around Osaka and Kyoto.

Saturday was spent in Osaka. Though generally considered Japan's second largest city, I think it's absolutely fair to say it is a very distand second. It's a bit rough around the edges compared to Tokyo and being there feels a little like time travelling back 5-10 years. But it's not without it's charms: the food there is awesome and cheap. Osaka is well known for "kuidaore", which literally means to eat until you drop. It's an activity sort of like bar hopping but focused on food, going from restaurant to restaurant, eating a bit here or there. The city is also famous for a number of foods perfectly geared for such adventures: takoyaki, okonomiyaki, and kushiage. None of it is very healthy food but I've somehow managed to drop about 5 kg in the last few months, so I had some leeway to work with.

And so I ate.
A lot.
And it was glorious.
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Sunday morning, I packed my bags and made the quick trip over to Kyoto. Kyoto can be a tricky in that it is a big tourist destination for both foreigners and the Japanese. It's temples are gorgeous but nothing ruins the experience like being overrun by hordes of tourists. Case in point: Kiyomizudera is a really cool temple but is also so popular that it's often too coated in visitors to really appreciate. I imagine it would be great really early on a weekday morning. As it was, I arrived in Kyoto around 10am on the weekend and there were already long snaking lines for the buses to the temple.

Fortunately for me, my favorite spot in Kyoto is a bit out of the way and much less popular with tourists. Nanzenji is tucked away near the North-East corner of the city and is a bit inconvenient to get to compared to some of the other temples. While there are always a small number of people there, you will never have to fight your way through crowds. There is nothing quite like wandering around a quite temple on a cool clear morning to make your soul feel at rest. There is an aqueduct near the back that you can get up and several places to wander off the path in the forest up into the mountains.But for me, the best part of Nanzenji is the giant gate, one of the three great temple gates in Kyoto. The current gate was built in the 1600s and you can go up on it for 500 yen, which seems like a lot considering that there's not much to do, but I think it's absolutely worth it. You are required to leave your shoes at the entrance, leaving you to walk around in your socks. The wood has all been worn smooth and you can't help but wonder how many have touched it over the years to make it that way. The gate is huge and you can see out over Kyoto to the West. I bet it would be fantastic at sunset. It's quiet and calming. It might be one of my favorite places in all of Japan.
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I spent the rest of the day wandering around Kyoto, stopping by Chion-in and the Nishiki food market. I think my favorite thing about Kyoto is that the city is so unashamedly Japanese. Tokyo is big and modern, all nice and shiny and full of neon lights, but Kyoto reminds you of where this country comes from. Walking around, it reminded me of just how different Japan is from the US and made me realize that there is a lot I will miss about this place.

I took a good number of pictures over the weekend which I've uploaded on flickr. I'll try to add little descriptions to them over the next few days to give them some context.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

[ 12 / 52 ]

Week Twelve : It Really is a Great Wall
Week 12
Far and away the highlight of my recent trip to Beijing was the Great Wall of China.

It. Is. Freaking. Awesome.

Pictures really don't do it justice (not that that stopped me from trying) and it's difficult to find the words to describe it. The Great Wall is absolutely one of the wonders of the world and there is no substitute for being there yourself. Seeing the way it endlessly winds up and down the mountains is absolutely mind blowing. If it had been built yesterday we would still be declaring it a monumental achievement and a testimony to the awesomeness of mankind, so that fact that it is hundreds of years old only makes it that much more impressive.

We'd actually tried to go to the wall a couple days earlier but failed thanks to some spotty directions from a guidebook (read: the bus station it told us to go to doesn't exist). Wanting to avoid a possible tourist rush on Saturday, we decided to wait an extra day and try again (with new directions) on Sunday. The temperature proceeded to drop dramatically and we thought we had missed our best chance. Instead, Saturday night brought a light snowfall and Sunday greeted us with a rare sunny day, offering up pleasant weather and gorgeous views of the wall.

There are several points you can climb the wall near Beijing. We opted for Mutianyu, which is supposed to be much less touristy and restored than the more popular Badaling location. Next time, I'd like to try making the 10km hike from Simatai to Jinshanling, which is supposed to be much less restored and really incredible.

Most people recommended I visit Shanghai instead of Beijing, especially for this time of year. Really the only reason that I stuck with Beijing was that I wanted to climb the Great Wall before moving back to the US. And you know what: once I was up on the wall looking out over the surrounding mountains I knew I had made the right choice.

Camera Info: Canon 7D | 19mm | f/ 8.0 | ISO 160 | 1/320 s

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

[ 11 / 52 ]

Week Eleven : On The Road Again
Week 11
A few years back, I was looking for a duffel bag that was just large enough for trips over Japan's many long weekends. My sister responded by giving me this gorgeous brown leather one as a Christmas present.

Since then, it has accompanied me on not only short trips within Japan, but also on longer adventures to places like Taiwan, Korea, and Vietnam as well as a couple of trips back home. Right now it's loaded up for a five day journey to Beijing, which I head out for tomorrow evening.

The bag has taken it's share of beatings over the years (airport luggage handlers aren't always kind), but that just gives it more character. It's a tough little S.O.B. and I look forward to haven't it around for years to come

Camera Info: Canon 7D | 35mm | f/ 5.0 | ISO 1250 | 1/13 s

Sunday, March 11, 2012

[ 10 / 52 ]

Week Ten : Once Upon A Time, Today
Week 10
I spent this past weekend in the Kansai area, a day each in Osaka and Kyoto. It surprised me how much I enjoyed being in Kyoto and I found myself thinking how it would have been a great place to spend a year studying abroad.

A group of girls sitting by the river and laughing loudly reminded of my own brief study abroad in Japan, where we occasionally had parties on a river bank not unlike this one. It made me smile and I wanted to take some kind of picture of the scene.

This shot isn't even really what I had in mind at the time, but I quite like it. Something about it feels like it could just as well have been taken 20 or 30 years ago, rather than this afternoon. It's not very similar to my normal style and I thought about adjusting it in Lightroom, but I think it really is best just the way it is.
Camera Info: Canon 7D | 35mm | f/ 8.0 | ISO 200 | 1/320 s