Thursday, June 29, 2006

"Bob Dylan - 1966 Concert"

The only things I had heard of Bob Dylan's until a week ago (when I began listening to a live recording of Bob Dylan on my MP3 player while walking around Tokyo), were what was broadcast on the radio.  The recording I'm listening to these days is the digital version of a double album of a 1966 concert, and something about that recording very strongly stirs memories of the better side of that era for me.  I was only six years old in 1966, so I wasn't exactly part of the scene, but I still picked up on the feeling in the air and heard the music on the airwaves (thanks to my older brothers).  The stuff of Bob Dylan's that I grew up hearing on the radio sort of bored me, so the excitement this live recording generates has come as a surprise.

"'Sweet' - July 2006"

I previously complained about the new use of the word "sweet" - now being used pretty much like "cool" used to be used, but now it's time to apologize for that rant!  There's a guy I'm working with who is around 25 years old and he says that - and other new things - very naturally, and I have to face the fact that 47 is not just an abstract number, it's really how many years I'm been walking around on this planet.  Just as I'm getting used to being "middle-aged", I look ahead and see that in a decade or two I will no longer be "middle aged", but will be "old" and looking ahead another two or three decades, I'll likely be dead.  Life is short.  Enjoy the "sweet", "cool", "subarashii" (or whatever) moments and do what you can to be constructive - it'll be over before you know it.

Lyle (Hiroshi) Saxon

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

"Freedom From Tubes...."

Freedom from tubes - florescent tubes that is!  (I don't mind the underground train system in London!)

Florescent tubes are very popular here, and my office is typical, with at least twice as many of them as would be sensible.  It would be nice to just leave the bloody things shut off all day and make use of the light from the windows.  Someday in the (hopefully not to distant) future, it will become known that florescent lighting is bad for your eyes, bad for your health, etc., and bipeds will finally scale back on the use of this horrible form of lighting.  Until then, we suffer or are happy fools destroying our eyes and health in glee.....

Lyle (Hiroshi) Saxon

Monday, June 26, 2006

"One Evening at the Temple...."

Distant voices

Distant forms

Bridged in a timeless moment

Calmly watching cat to the side

Mechanized noises faintly heard

Crows strangely not irritating

The wind blowing... by, but still connected - the feel of it on my face brings back memories of childhood summer evenings....

Lyle (Hiroshi) Saxon

The shortest way home is the longest way 'round....

"Bad News, Company, Cameras, & Time Zones"

Re: "Saturday again and I am just about numb from all the terrible things in the news such as Global Warming, worse hurricanes on the way, assurance that Los Angeles will experience a bad earthquake, no end to the drought but maybe an end to water, war in Iraq getting worse, Iran building Nukes, North Korea testing intercontinental missiles, and now my newspaper points out that the number of close friends that Americans have has shrunken drastically."

I just realized one advantage to working too much lately - I haven't had time to find out what's happening in the news lately!  All I know is what's happening in my own apartment and somewhat at the company I'm working at....

Re: "And that's true, I recall childhood and youth when TV hadn't come along, and people were not so busy.  We had friends.  Visiting was our entertainment.  Now with the Internet, we have friends across the ocean and don't know the name of the people next door.  And NOBODY anymore ever drops in for an evening of talking."

Now you mention it, I remember reading how people are skipping having a living room at all and instead using the space for a home office.  I remember my parents entertaining people from time to time, but - come to think of it - I very rarely do the same.  Actually, Tokyo makes it hard anyway, since most people are living in small apartments for one thing, and often lives hours away from each other on top of that, so get-togethers, when they happen, tend to occur in restaurants, coffee shops, and drinking places - generally in a middle ground between where the people meeting live.

Re: "You are correct when you ask, why can't people have both money and time?  Yes, I'm afraid that having enough money to live, and maybe even enjoy some of the good things, requires all our best time and energy at some job we learn to hate.  The unlucky man will eventually grow feeble and sick and unable to work and so dies a very poor man.  The lucky dog however simply drops dead while at work."

I laughed when I read that.  I'm definitely spending more time working right now than I would like to, but it has enabled me to recently get a new camera (a Ricoh GR-Digital), so at least I'm having some fun taking pictures with that.  The only irritant being that work ties up most of the day, so I end up with too many night pictures.

Re: "Sounds like the bad news on CNN has me depressed, but not so. I find time for comical films of all kinds and a few drinks... and talking with you (via the Internet of course!).  Tell me about your work these days."

Work is going okay, but the projects I've been assigned have been delayed, so I've been filling up the time with reading about past projects and trying to find out the definitions of the very large number of acronyms the company uses!  Some of them are international, some of them are specific to Japan, some of them are specific to that company, and some of them are even specific to engineers within the company!!  It's incredible, but there I am right there under the same roof as the authors of material I'm reading and many of the acronyms seem to be unknown to everyone!  And they still use them!!!  I've begun to irritate some of the foreigners I'm working with regarding my quest for acronym definitions, so I guess I better be more quiet about it, but I do strongly feel that you can't really write properly when much of the vocabulary is in code that no one can explain!  Rather than "XYZ" and "MNO", they might as well assign their special codes numbers "Attach the 729 to the 503", etc.  On the other hand, one of the old-timers who's been in the translation and technical writing business here for several decades has talked with me and told me how he fully understands where I'm coming from and he's given me some database material he's built up while working on projects for the company....

Oh - incidentally, I have a few new pages at my website.  Two that were uploaded today are:

Nenogongen Mountain Area

- and here:

Tenryuji Temple (Tokyo)

Those were taken with the same camera on the same day (a Pentax, in May of this year).

This page was taken with my newest camera - the Ricoh GR-Digital:

4:11 a.m., and the sky is growing light.  It gets dark at 7:30 p.m.!  When the sun comes up at 4:15 a.m. and sets at 7:30 p.m. - you are (Tokyo!) in the wrong time zone!!!

Lyle (Hiroshi) Saxon

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

"Me, a Young Japanese Woman?! What-What-What?!?"

The company I'm doing some contractual work for decided to issue new security cards to everyone, including the contractual workers and they had us print out A4 cards with our name and employee number, and then we had our pictures taken one at a time while we held the cards in front of us, like so many criminals - so when it was my turn in front of the camera with my card and number , I couldn't resist saying "I didn't do it!  I'm innocent!".  Ho-ho, funny me, but I guess they got their revenge.  Today I trooped over to the building where the photos had been taken to pick up my new security card and when they handed it to me, I looked down to see my name and employee number married to a photo of a young Japanese woman!  I pointed out the error and they told me they would "Look into it"....

In hindsight, I realize that I should have just kept the card!  It would have been a great joke, and I doubt the guards would even have noticed, unless they stopped me for some reason, and anyway, it had my correct name and employee number on it.  Oh well - I missed my chance to have a daily ongoing joke running and now I'm (it seems) the only person of several hundred who doesn't have a spiffy new security card.

If they don't get it reissued by Friday (it took two months to make them in the first place) and they don't give me some way of getting into the company, I will be locked out of the building and unable to get to work come next Monday.  Well... something will be worked out I'm sure (signing in daily as a guest?), but I sure wish I'd kept that card now!  But since I didn't, I now have to suffer through the humiliation and embarrassment of being the odd one out of the club.  An expensive joke it was!  Oh well, land of subtlety,hey!

Lyle (Hiroshi) Saxon

Sunday, June 18, 2006

"Higashi-Yukigaya, June 2006"

Further exploration in Ota-ku (here in Tokyo) brought me to an old temple and house, several photos of which can be seen here:

Incidentally, this is the first page of photos taken with my Ricoh GR-Digital camera.  Of note is how the 5.9mm lens (28mm lens equivalent on a 35mm camera) handles lines very well without distorting them - which is evident in some of the close-up pictures of the temple.

Lyle (Hiroshi) Saxon

Thursday, June 15, 2006

"Temples, Here, There, (Nearly) Everywhere!"

Just when I had thought that the area I had decided to walk through in quest of a temple (marked on my map) was going to be completely nondescript, Tokyo came through for me - as it generally has on such a walk.  There were several small shrines and temples along the way; a factory I didn't know about, a small shop making the increasingly rare tatami mats; a river; and... um... a few other things!  This has long been the attraction of Tokyo for me - if you begin a multi-hour trek through this mega-city, all sorts of things come up seemingly at random.  Zoning?  What's that?

Lyle (Hiroshi) Saxon

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

"Bloody Electric Lights!"

I had a chance - a near chance anyway - to take a really amazing photo of a dramatically stormy-looking sky over Tokyo this evening, but I had to look at it through glass and the interior lights of the building I was in couldn't be turned off (not by me in any case) so I had to take the picture through the glass, and try to shield the lens from the very unwelcome and unwanted electric lights inside.  Who knows, maybe a picture or two even turned out decently, but how much nicer, more dramatic, more memorable, more human, more-more-more better things it would have been had I been out in the open.

Sealed boxes - I hate them.  How can you connect with the world when you have to look at it through thick glass all the time, as though it were just another version of watching TV or a movie?  Where are the winds?  The subtle connections with the rest of the world?  Out there, on the other side of the glass, that's where!

Lyle (Hiroshi) Saxon

"(Subway) Train Yard, Etc."

After looking into it a little more, it appears that the old train car factory/maintenance shed was for wide-gauge subway cars, which the Toei subway system uses, and not in fact Shinkansen cars, as I had initially thought.  In looking into the logistics of that old factory, I was led to a new-looking and fairly large train yard about a fifteen-minute walk away - see:

 - where evidence strongly pointed towards that old factory being an extension (or vice-versa) of the new factory building.  At the large train yard, there is also an older building similar to that old disused factory building, so I suppose those two were a pair and the new building replaced the separate and recently shut-down one.

Not far from the train yard and factory/maintenance sheds is Honmonji Temple:

All of the pictures on the two pages above were taken with an Olympus 810.  I'm working towards getting some pictures from the Ricoh GR Digital up next.

4:35 a.m. .....  I need to get some sleep.

Lyle (Hiroshi) Saxon

Saturday, June 10, 2006

"Ricoh GR Digital Camera"

I recently began using a Ricoh GR Digital camera (the model name "GR Digital" is a reference to Ricoh's well-regarded GR film cameras) and it's an interesting design.  It falls right between the low end of the digital SLR market and the top end of the compact fits-in-a-pocket digital market - or more precisely, it is the top end of the fits-in-a-pocket digital market (based on my observation of what's for sale at Yodobashi Camera in Shinjuku - not on extensive Internet research).  What makes it worth considering as something worth shelling out your hard-earned cash on, is the quality of the lens.  Being a fixed focal length (thus avoiding the tradeoffs inherent in variable focal length lenses), Ricoh was able to design a lens that is more akin to a quality SLR lens than a typical cheap and fuzzy compact 5X (or whatever) zoom lens.

I don't have any photos from it posted to the site yet, but when I get some up, I'll make a mention of them so you can see for yourself how pictures from the camera look.  The camera name and exact specs are:

Ricoh GR Digital
CCD: 8.1 million pixels
GR Lens 5.9mm f2.4

The 5.9mm lens is comparable to a 28mm lens on a 35mm film camera.  I only put in a limited amount of time using the camera to date, but I'm very impressed so far - enough to recommend buying one if you're at all interested in taking quality pictures with a pocketable camera.

Lyle (Hiroshi) Saxon

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

"Ricoh GR"

Hmmm.... yet another camera?  Not exactly!  But I borrowed a Ricoh GR today and tried it out for about 30 minutes.  I like it, which is a problem, maybe, since in the past couple of months I have already bought two cameras!  Buying a new camera every month is a bit much, but, um... when it rains, it pours, eh?

What's intriguing enough about the Ricoh GR that I might go for a third compact camera?  The lens, which seems to be a rather good fixed focal length one....

Lyle (Hiroshi) Saxon

Monday, June 05, 2006

A Kimono in a Crowd... there's a reason you see a lot of such pictures of women in Japan - when one passes by, everyone leaps for their cameras! The result is that people outside the country still (still!!) have an image of Japan as a place where Japanese women wear kimonos. No - it's not true. I mean... there are some women wearing them for sure, but the vast (and I do mean vast) majority of women here never ever ever ever wear them. Everyone likes them - but they're rather difficult to wear, and the expense and rarity of them excludes them from general use. But... but, but... they are interesting and beautiful at the right time and on the right occassion... worn in a certain way by women who are comfortable in them.....

Lyle (Hiroshi) Saxon

"Choonji Temple" (First batch of Olympus 810 photos.)

I stumbled upon a temple I'd never visited before - Choonji Temple - and I've posted some photos I took of it here:

Other than that, are some photos taken in the usual places... I aim to start focusing more on posting pictures of areas not yet covered on the site, but, for now, here are the links to some typical Shibuya, Shinjuku, etc. images:

"Shibuya - June 2006"

"Iroiro #2 - June 2006"

"Ebisu - June 2006"

Incidentally, if there is anything you notice about these pictures taken with the Olympus 810, let me know - I'm trying to figure out precisely how it differs from the Ricoh R4, so I can best divide their use accordingly.

Lyle (Hiroshi) Saxon

Sunday, June 04, 2006

"Near Iidabashi Station"

This was taken in Iidabashi one hot, summer day....



Iidabashi - might be a cool place to live, what with its central location and narrow side streets....

[2013/01/19 Update] - I just stumbled into this old post.  I can't believe I posted a one-line comment!  Just to add something to it, here's a video from Kagurazaka - which is the area I was really thinking about when I wrote "Iidabashi":

Kagurazaka Sanpo - (F) - (111207)

Lyle (Hiroshi) Saxon

Thursday, June 01, 2006

"Olympus 810"

Oops... another few yen landed in my pocket, so I rushed off to empty my pockets towards another new camera - this time an Olympus 810 - a cool looking camera that is interestingly nearly opposite my Ricoh R4 in what it can and cannot due, but that was the idea in buying it after all!  The Ricoh has a lot going for it - it's fast to start up, fast to take pictures, and fast to process them, allowing for fairly rapid image recording.  What's not to my liking is how it works in artificial low-light situations, which is where the Olympus works well.  But after taking about 1,800 pictures with the Ricoh, the Olympus feels really really slow!  It takes a couple of seconds to take a picture and takes a few seconds to process each picture taken.  Rapid recording of a high volume of images is best left to another camera... unless this issue is due to the memory card being slow, in which case it could be remedied by buying a faster card....

In any case, at the moment, I'm thinking that I'll be dividing the use of these two cameras along those lines - speed for the Ricoh and available light night pictures for the Olympus.  What I really want, by the way, is a camera with a good f1.4 (or f1.2 or f1.8) lens that is still convenient to use otherwise.  In the highly competitive camera market, price is a big issue and the lens is where the manufacturers are saving money.  They have to buy the CCDs and can't hide the pixel count, but since most people only understand the focal length of lenses and not the aperture, that's what gets shortchanged....

Lyle (Hiroshi) Saxon