Saturday, April 21, 2012
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
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
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
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.
And it was glorious.
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.
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
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
Sunday, March 11, 2012
Sunday, March 4, 2012
Camera Info: Canon 7D | 35mm | f/ 2.5 | ISO 1600 | 1/30 s
Sunday, February 26, 2012
This week came with some great news for my future, but also means that my Great Japan Adventure will only last for a few more months. I really want to make the most of that time and squeeze in some really great experiences while I can.
In that spirit, I found myself on a lunch date at Nakae. Located just north-east of Ueno in the Minowa neighborhood since 1905, the building has been declared a cultural treasure by the city of Tokyo. It's incredibly rare to find original wooden buildings that survived the many fires that have ravished Tokyo over the years, much less the fire bombings in World War II, so it really is something special.
Nakae specializes in a dish called Sakura-Nabe that you won't find too often, even here in Japan. "Sakura" is the Japanese word for cherry blossoms and "Nabe" is Japanese-style hotpot, but if you come expecting cutesy flower garnished dishes you're in for a surprise. You see, sakura-niku ("niku" means meat) is another name for horse meat.
Nakae's specialty is, therefore, horse meat and it is some seriously good stuff. Throw away your prejudices and try it - you won't regret it.
The lunch course kicks off with small side dishes of horse sashimi and horse tartar. Half of you are probably squirming in your seats as you read this thinking "Is he really going to eat that?!" and I can assure you I most certainly did. The horse sashimi, served with thin-sliced onions and ginger soy sauce is as delicate as any fish and yet incredibly satisfying. The tartar, mixed with a quail egg and a little soy sauce and sesame oil, is silky smooth.
But the real star of the show is the sakura-nabe, which is actually more like sukiyaki than nabe. The broth starts off a slightly disturbing dark shade of red a little reminiscent of blood, but quickly takes on a much more pleasing color once heat is applied and a little bit of red miso gets mixed in. You let this boil away happily until everything has just cooked through and then dip the contents into a raw scrambled egg to eat. This is the kind of hearty warm food that I love during Japanese winters. Warms your soul a bit really.
Once you've eaten most of the contents, the dish is "closed" with the left over raw egg. We added an extra egg, which had a gorgeous orange yolk. That egg gets cook just enough to firm up a bit, during which it sucks up all that delicious broth, and is eaten over rice.
Horse meat is by no means a typical food here in Japan, but I've gotta say I wouldn't mind eating more of it. Apparently horse actually has less calories and fat than beef but more protein, so it's not a bad choice from a health perspective either. Finding a butcher that carries it might prove something of a challenge though...
**"Uma" is the Japanese word for "Horse", hence the title of this post**
Camera Info: Canon 7D | 35mm | f/ 3.2 | ISO 1600 | 1/20 s
Friday, February 17, 2012
I've been doing a bit of baking recently and have been using Meiji chocolate (the Japanese equivalent of Hershey's) as it's the cheapest and most readily available option. Eating these delicious cherry-flavored chocolates served as a stark reminder of just how shitty the stuff sold in supermarkets is. It's easy to forget how amazing good food can be when you start getting used to the lowest-common-denominator junk that is so prevalent.
Next time you get the chance, buy a smaller amount, but splurge a bit on the good stuff. I'd bet you won't regret it.
Camera Info: Canon 7D | 100mm | f/ 5.6 | ISO 1250 | 1/15 s
Sunday, February 12, 2012
A.P.C. is the brand of jeans I've been wearing for the past few years. Tucked away just off the main strip in Daikanyama, I've always thought the store's design is super cool. The tree-lined entrance way is a particular favorite of mine.
I was there this weekend to pick up my older pair of jeans, which I'd sent in to get a hole fixed up, and thought it would be a nice change from the pictures of things that I've posted for the project thus far. One of these days I'm going to have a go at shooting people...
Camera Info: Canon 7D | 18mm | f/ 4.5 | ISO 800 | 1/5 s
Sunday, February 5, 2012
Getting ready for a couple of MBA interviews coming up this week kept me distracted from taking my weekly picture until the last minute. Fortunately, a macro lens is very handy for making things more interesting.
The middle tie is just a plain old tie I bought before moving to Japan. I like simple ties. They make me feel sharp.
The tie on the right was a gift from my grandma. Unless you look at it from really close, you can't tell that it's covered with pelicans. Something about that always makes me smile. Like it's my own little not-so-secret secret.
The tie on the left belonged to my grandpa. It's a little bit short and a bit rough around the edges, so I don't wear it all that often. I have a few ties from my grandpa and I always feel a bit more powerful whenever I have one on. Maybe I'll wear one for the interviews. I could certainly use a little help.
Camera Info: Canon 7D | 100mm | f/ 6.3 | ISO 1250 | 1/6 s
Sunday, January 29, 2012
Last night, Peter T. and I decided to have a Double Peter Party at 元気 (Genki) in Akihabara. Genki is a great little yakiton (grilled pork) place tucked away on the backstreets of the quieter side of Akihabara. I will try to put together a full post about the awesomeness of Genki in the near future.
This was our second time having a Double Peter Party there and last time we were introduced to what they call the "Mega". Perhaps the most massive beer you will ever come across, it's probably closer to a pitcher than a mug. As you can see, it's hard to tell whether Peter is drinking the beer or the mug is drinking his face...
Camera Info: Canon 7D | 35mm | f/ 2.8 | ISO 800 | 1/25 s
Saturday, January 21, 2012
In a world full of "distressed" denim, where jeans are broken in and ripped up to look like they've been worn for years, raw denim is beautifully simple. The whole idea is that the denim is never washed during the manufacturing process and the color fades naturally as you wear them. I bought my first pair of raw denim jeans back in November 2009, petit new standards from APC (I'm a skinny guy), and they are pretty much the only jeans I have worn since.
There was an interview in a GQ many years ago with eccentric designer, who mentioned that he only ever washed his jeans by wearing them into the ocean. I remember reading that interview with my sister and agreeing that that was super badass. I decided I wanted to do the same with these jeans, so brought them along with me on my trip to Vietnam last year and gave them their first wash in the Gulf of Thailand off the coast of Phu Quoc island. Did it make a difference? I have no idea, but whatever. I think it's super awesome.
I've washed them another two times since then and the color has faded quite a bit. There are clear lines on the back pockets where my wallet goes and where I always put my cell phone in my front pocket.
Sadly, all the wear and tear of the past two years has taken it's toll and a little whole is opening up. I'm taking them in to get it fixed up tomorrow and hopefully they'll be alright. I decided I'd start on a new pair too and thought it would be interesting to compare them side-by-side. It's hard to believe how different they are!
Camera Info: Canon 7D | 35mm | f/ 3.2 | ISO 1250 | 1/30 s
Tuesday, January 10, 2012
How do you get through the stress of applying to six of the top MBA programs? That's right: ice cream. Lots of it. But before anyone gets on my case about eating healthier, I would like to point out that I also consumed 17.5 kg of mikan during the month of December. That's worth at least a little forgiveness, right?
Now that the applications are in, all I can do now is wait. With any luck, happy emails inviting me to interview will start rolling in over the next month or two!
Camera Info: Canon 7D | 35mm | f/ 8.0 | ISO 800 | 1/4 s
Tuesday, January 3, 2012
** I'm starting up the 52 Weeks Project, which means posting one picture every week for the next year. Hopefully this will help me improve my photography skills and try shooting new subjects. All of the pictures will show up in my flickr photostream, but I'm going to post them here as well. I'll try to keep blogging as well whenever I feel there is a bigger story worth telling as well! **
Week One : Wrapped Up in the Past
Every Christmas since coming to Japan, I've tried to get Zach and Justin presents that are "Japan Exclusive". This year, I thought it would be cool to wrap the presents in a Japanese newspaper so it would be covered in kanji.
Down to the building recycling center, I found a stack of old newspapers and noticed that the top one was from May. Completely on a hunch, I dug deeper and found all the copies from back around the 3.11 earthquake!
I wanted to get the dates and the big headlines on the front of the packages, which made for a pretty ugly wrapping job, but I think it's so cool to see some of the major topics from those days jumping out. I feel like this wrapping paper is not only uniquely Japanese, it shares a bit of my life experience with them, which I think is really awesome.
I actually found the weekend edition from the day after as well, but selfishly decided to keep it for myself. I want to do display it somehow, maybe frame the front page or something, sort of a momento of a big event that I was around for. Maybe then I'll finally put my story from those days down in words somewhere...
Camera Info: Canon 7D | 35mm | f/4.5 | ISO 400 | 1/40 s
Sunday, January 1, 2012
Simply put, 2011 was a challenging year.
Spring was marked by the 3.11 Earthquake and nuclear crisis in Fukushima.
Summer saw two of the anchors of my Japan life leave, with Mike heading back to Michigan and Kato-san moving to Hong Kong.
Fall and Winter brought life consuming MBA info sessions, applications, and essays.
Facebook launched their “Timeline”, which essentially visualizes your life. Looking back through my timeline, 2010 was full of happiness and some really great times. 2011 was a much lonely year, especially the past 4 or 5 months. I recently heard the quote “Happiness is only real when shared” and I think that really gets at the heart of it. I pretty much dropped off the map in the second half of the year. Trying to recall highlights, I end up asking myself what exactly did I even do? Have I even been alive?
Something clearly has to change.
To that end, I’ve come up with some goals for 2012.
Professionally, I want to finish what I’ve started. Over the next few months, and the next couple of weeks in particular, I need to knuckle down, take care of business, and get my life pointed in the right direction. In many ways, I feel like my potential is limitless and there’s nothing that I can’t do. It’s just a matter of making the effort and taking the necessary steps to turn that potential into reality. So that’s step one. I also desperately need to learn how to network. To not be cynical and to be genuinely interested in getting to know new people, to make the effort to stay in touch with them. To make not just small talk, but interesting conversation. If I can do those two things, the sky is the limit.
But more importantly, I need to change the way I live life. Recently, I’ve gotten this idea stuck in my head, this concept: to live a beautiful life. It’s hard to put into words what exactly that means to me, but I’ve put together a few ideas that should get me started.
I think if I can do those five things, I could have something I would be willing to call a “beautiful life” in 2012. It’s certainly no small order, but there’s no reason why I shouldn’t be able to take a real shot at them all.
The first step, once I’m finished getting my professional life in order, is to make the most of my time left in Japan. If all goes according to plan, I have less than 6 months left. That's not a lot. There’s still so much I haven't seen and done, and I don’t want to waste that time.
There’s no time like the present. Let’s make 2012 a beautiful year.