Saturday, August 08, 2020

One Wednesday in 1997 Tokyo (1997/2020)

A quick intro from 2020.  The following was written as I went about Tokyo for work reasons on a Wednesday in 1997.  It was written partly directly into a laptop computer I carried with me everywhere, and partly by hand (pen on paper) while going about when it wasn't convenient to take the laptop out (while standing on a train, for example).  And some of the handwritten parts were then typed up on my desktop computer at home.  1997 was a period just after I left my Nikon FM2 on the Yamanote Line and someone (apparently) made off with it.  After getting used to the Nikon FM2, I didn't want to use a junk camera, but couldn't afford another FM2 at the time, so for a few years I went without a camera and recorded things with text.  Rereading my text from my camera-less time now, I see that - ironically - often I was recording much more with text than I would have been with images.  There's that saying "A picture is worth a thousand words", but - in a sense - for some things you might say "A page of well-written text is worth a thousand pictures".  (The photo I'm using as an illustration for going about in Tokyo was taken on May 9th, 2000, when I had resumed recording Tokyo with images.)  LHS - 2020/08/08

Uehara  97/11/12  15:05

   I’m in Uehara now, sitting in the outside section of a coffee shop in front of Yoyogi-Uehara Station.  This is one of the “classier” areas of Tokyo, with fashionable people and foreign cars.  It’s cool today (the weather that is), but not downright cold, so it feels pretty good sitting outside.  The coffee comes... with the handle facing 90 degrees to my left... I watched an educational video last year (in Japanese, intended for a Japanese audience) in which an old man explained about various Japanese customs (people here have to learn them too, and not just by osmosis).  He explained the reason for turning the cup in the Japanese tea ceremony.  When there’s a beautiful picture on one side of the cup, you pick up the cup, admire the beautiful picture, and then carefully turn the cup so that you don’t put your mouth on the picture.  After taking a sip, you turn it again so you can see the art as the cup sits in front of you.  The old man went on to say that in the Meiji Era, when three was the sudden influx of Western things, even though there was (is) no particular reason to turn the cup anymore (since the design is uniform all the way around), from force of habit, people continued to do so.  He suggested that it’s perfectly acceptable to serve Western tea with the handle facing to the right.

   After watching that video, I tried asking people about whether the handle should face to the right or the left, and got all kinds of answers.  The largest number of people said it should face to the left, followed by people who said to the right, and finally people who admitted that they had no idea. “Ah... this is why the video was made!” thought I....

   Since then, I’ve noticed that I seem to get the cup facing right or left, and more commonly facing left at expensive places like the one I’m at now (Y500 for one cup).  Occasionally the handle is facing some odd angle, but that’s rude.

   As I sit here drinking my coffee, sitting behind potted plants, breathing cigarette smoke from the two smokers sitting in close proximity, looking at the concrete mass of the elevated tracks and station in front of me, people coming and going from the entrance.  I wonder at the ability to feel happy only because there are a few potted plants around me.  Selective vision....  Not “What’s wrong with this picture?”, but “What’s right with this picture?”.  Once you get to the point where you expect most things to be ugly, you can take great pleasure from beauty in the midst of a drab city street.

   The couple next to me.  Cell phones on the table, two packs of Marlboro Lights, an ashtray with, ah... let’s see... about nine cigarette butts, man wearing baseball cap with visor facing behind, woman in very short mini-skirt (distracting).  I had to ask the woman to move her bag, which had been on the chair of the table next to theirs, where I am sitting now - no apology - and her “oshibori” (wet hand-towel) is still on my table....  I’m happy that the young generation is less stiffly formal, but it would be nice if civility would remain behind as old customs go their way.

   The man, after calling out “Simasen” (Excuse me) towards the waitress for awhile, finally went inside to pay as the woman wondered off towards the station without even turning her head.  I watched her walk off into the station - a slow, deliberate walk - no backwards glance.  The man came out and, looking at me, said “Mendokusai”, which your Japanese-English dictionary would probably define as “troublesome; annoying; etc.”, but carries a broader definition than that.

   There are several Japanese words that carry a broad and substantial meaning, enabling you to convey a multi-dimensional feeling to someone with a single word.  What would you think in the situation above if the man came out and said (in English) just “Irritating!”?  I might be tempted to say “What?  The coffee shop?  The woman?  Some combination of the two?”, but in Japanese, he looked at me, said “Mendokusai”, and I knew without question that he meant the woman.  I said (in Japanese) “Well, she’s beautiful, so I guess you just have to put up with it”, to which he said “No, she’s just... mendokusai!”, and headed off to the station himself, at a slightly faster than leisurely pace.

   Hmm... if you have confidence in what you’re doing, it’s OK to wear it, and the language is structured in such a way that you generally have to talk either up, or down, but rarely can you talk straight across.  (Well... you can talk almost straight across, but there’s usually at least a slight tilt built into the words.)

   At the job site I was just at, I was telling someone not to attempt to draw exact parallels in Japanese word for word with English.  Even between native speakers of a language, the words are only representatives of thoughts, so if you start with words as a base, you can only go wrong... you have to start at the source - before words - then you have at least a small chance of conveying what it is you’re thinking of.

   Well then!  It’s about time to head over to Akasaka..

   (That was the idea, but as I left, I noticed a sign saying “Uehara Park”, so I asked the waitress if it was far, and she explained where it was, but had a certain look on her face, so I asked her what was there, if it was an interesting park, and she recommended going to a different park, which I did.)

Nishihara  16:47

   The evening sky of pale blue and orangeish-pink through the baseball diamond chain link fence is quite beautiful.  Again I find my seat next to a smoking couple (cigarette smoking that is).  “I have to get going” the woman says, and they wander off together below the trees.  Trees....  This area is very nice - large houses on hills with real yards - I imagine myself happily living in one....

   Yoyogi-Uehara - not just an empty image - the place really is nice.

   Well, bye!  I’m going to soak up the twilight a little before getting on the subway.

Chiyoda Line  17:17

   I walked through the park after that, the trees with colorful leaves, the sound of children happily playing in the twilight, memories of childhood autumns long ago... a Porsche 928 rumbles slowly, smoothly up a hill... I watch it until the glowing taillights disappear over the crest of the hill.  With the aid of my Tokyo street map (68 fold-out pages), I find the correct direction to the station (after wandering the wrong way in the maze that the streets are).  As the station nears, the Tokyo I know too well comes back to me.  I flatten myself against a wall behind a concrete utility pole so a car can pass.  I climb the stairs to the station, go through the gate using my magnetic ticket with Vincent van Gogh’s Almond Blossoms printed on one side (nice picture, beautiful colors...).....  I climb more stairs to the elevated platform and buy a pack of Clorets candy... the woman explains that it’s only 100 yen, and that you don’t have to pay the 5% tax at the Odakyu kiosks, but you do at the kiosks run by the subway system on the other platform.....

   And in the time it took to write that, I have arrived at Kokkaigidomae (only six characters in Japanese) Station.

Akasaka  18:04

   I’m now in a windowless, airless meeting room at a large American company in Central Tokyo, awaiting the people I came to meet....

Nihonbashi Station  23:50

   I’m sitting here worrying a bit, wondering if I can make the connection to the last train.

   Earlier in the day in Ginza, I was invited me into the office from the conference room, and I sat at a desk on the other side of an acquaintance who just got a new computer.  I ran back and froth from my own computer (exploring how to use Netscape) to his computer (which he began using just today), showing him how to do different things with e-mail.  We sent each other e-mail (all the way across the desks... amazing stuff, technology) while trying out our respective new e-mail systems.

   Jumping back to Akasaka, I heard an amazing story from someone I had sent an e-mail to, best explained with the following letter (uncorrected):


   Thank you for your email.

   We had an email trouble caused by your today's email.  In my case, the trouble was that I couldn't send and received any email, and the email system (MS-Mail) displayed Mail SPL Error message.  I asked for what happened to my email-box to a system administrator who is responsible for our company's email system.  The answer from her was your email was not acceptable with our system and also made other email to me delayed.  As she deleted your email to solve this trouble I can send this letter to you.  Could you tell us either machine and either address caused this error?

   I am afraid I cannot come to the meeting today because I am not in good condition.  I will hear your talking from Nantoka-san tomorrow.

   Thank you,

Hanako Dareka

Incredible huh!!?  After hearing from three people that they lost their address books after loading the new MSN software, plus my problems of repeated system error induced computer shutdowns when Outlook Express is open, my sudden inability to send e-mail from my laptop computer, and now this.  I think there’s a serious problem with MS’s newest e-mail software.  (Using newly purchased Netscape Navigator, I’m able to send e-mail again from the laptop by the way.....)

Back to Ginza.

   My acquaintance and I were successful with most of the stuff we were trying to do, but one strange thing happened that I’m hoping was just a simple “pushed the wrong button” mistake on my part.  Two messages that I sent to him went through, but the message part was blank!!  If this ever happens with mail from me, then please let me know.  (I know, I know, if it happens with this letter, you won’t be able to read this.)

   Well... as I sit on this late night Tozai Line train with 92.3% men, I sign off.

Inside the last train  12:30 a.m.

   On the last train now.  I'm standing in front of three, count ‘em, three people in a row (sitting), talking on their cell phones.  One of them is wired for sound with headphones around her neck.  This display of technology brings to mind my own self an hour ago, sitting in an office in Ginza, drinking Chivas Regal, and sending e-mail to the States, the UK, and across the desks within the office.

   The guy right in front of me on the phone:

   “It’s late, and... ‘hic’... I’m on the train.....  I’ll call... ‘hic’... tomorrow...”

   No joke!  The guy really is hic-upping as he speaks!  In my Chivas-induced glow, I don’t even try to kill my laughter.

   Oops...  I said before I was signing off, didn’t I?  Oh well, this is hand written, but I’ll pound it into electrons later.


Lyle (Hiroshi) Saxon

(2020) Formatting question here - Why is it considered necessary to have word processing programs auto-mutate carefully formatted text by dumping in extra hard returns here and there?  Hard returns automatically inserted between lines of text with (intentionally) no spacing between lines (creating double spacing against the will of the author) and then triple hard returns between paragraphs (creating hideously huge spaces between paragraphs).  The process seems clear - if you have a single hard return after a line, the software makes that two hard returns (so you get a space between lines you didn't want a space between) and if you have two hard returns after a block of text (to get one line of space between paragraphs) it adds two more hard returns so you get triple spacing.  Why in God's name is this auto-mutating of text considered a good thing?  Is there some way to turn off auto-mutate and control line spacing yourself?

Friday, May 29, 2020

“In Tokyo” - June 1997 (+2020)

(2020) - Another look back at something I wrote in 1997 and sent to a few people by e-mail at the time.  Not really much preamble needed for this one....


“In Tokyo” - June 1997

This one is a little bit odd perhaps.  I wrote it with the intention of it’s being something like a diary, and ended up with impressions.  I had intended to just write about what was happening in a regular style, but the result is something like a poem.  In all honesty, I’m slightly embarrassed to send this out, but the feelings were real enough, so I think it’s valid.... 

June 25th, 1997 - Wednesday 20:20
Shibuya Rooftop Beer Garden

   The beginning of summer.  The temperature is just right, with a light breeze blowing up here on the roof.  I say the beginning of summer, but it’s already June 25th!!
   I think... I need a trip.
   I’m sitting here... feeling many things... there’s a desire to write, but what?
   Time.  I came to Japan in August 1984.  Everything was so different, the adventure of just living was enough.  It didn’t matter if it was a twenty minute hike to the station and it took two hours to get to the Japanese language school I was going to in central Tokyo.  It didn’t matter because the whole thing was an adventure, and just surviving an adventure is enough.
   But, at the end of 1995, I realized... I saw... I felt my old self.  The man in San Francisco standing by the ocean, wondering about mysterious foreign lands on the other side.  The sound of the always in-motion cable car cables underfoot on an empty evening street.  The mystery of China Town, and my passion for photography.  A general passion for life....

June 26th, 1997 - Thursday 1:15 p.m.
Joban Line

   I’m on my way to Kashiwa.  If all my train rides were like this one, life would be more enjoyable!  There are actually empty seats on this train!
   Outside the train, through the window, I watch the jumble of wires and buildings slip by beneath a beautiful sky of light blue and white....
   Early this morning I sent out some “Looking for e-mail pals” letters, and just before heading out, I checked for mail and found:

One letter from a cousin.
Two letters from new e-mail pals.
One piece of racist hate mail.

   I’m a little depressed about getting it, but after all, I’ve sent out a lot of letters, and this is the first time I’ve gotten something like this.  Some people are dangerously crazy, but hopefully their numbers are few.
   I’ve never had this particular brand of racism directed against me before, because I’m an outsider here.  It’s strange, interesting, and eye opening to have this particular poison aimed at me.  I’ve asked Japanese friends about their experiences with racism overseas, and mostly, if they’ve had bad experiences, they just say that they’ve had trouble before, but don’t (won’t) elaborate.  But since I’m Japanese now (apparently), now I know.
   Unfortunately, there’s racism in every country, but sometimes when you experience it far from home, you forget about the evil people you left behind in the old country.
   But enough on that topic!
   I’m almost to Kashiwa.  I’ll try checking for new e-mail at a public phone there.

Ginza 18:42

   Another beautiful sky.  A jet flies by up very high, leaving a trail only where it passes through a light cloud.  Flying...  The clouds lit with the sun low in the sky.  The city is drifting towards evening and night, but the sky is still one of a summer day.  The city below, so... so... city.  The sky... so beautiful.
   A sound-truck drives by with marital music blasting from huge horn speakers facing in all directions.  A bone chilling wind blows over my warm mood.  A feeling of sadness.  I wonder - what would the sound truck men and the evil creature who sent me racist hate mail do if they were locked into the same room together...?
   I watch the sky...  Evening colors are seeping into the clouds...  The sound assault truck gone, my spirits pick up again....
   Now it is unmistakably the edge of evening, and I must be back at work very soon.  My thoughts go to you, the reader.  What do you think?  Does this day of mine seem to have some meaning?  Let me know if you would, please, for my weeks are too much the same.  Every day is different, but what I’m doing is more or less the same.  Or so it seems to me... and to you?

Lyle (Hiroshi) Saxon
June 26th, 1997
Ginza, Tokyo


(2020)  Rereading this now, I remember the time delay in getting a response to something I wrote back then.  I would send out something via e-mail and then get some responses to it via e-mail replies over the following days.  Now there's the "Like" count or "heart mark" count.  Writing before was a speedy version of old-form letters.  How we toss text back and forth now is something else altogether.  The 1997 text I edited slightly, but it's 97% the way I wrote it back in 1997.

Lyle (Hiroshi) Saxon

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

1997と2020 - Recording Methods Over the Years

(2020) The first electronic word processing machine I bought was (unfortunately) a dedicated word processor.  I say "unfortunately" because while the machine worked well enough and was useful, the data I saved to floppies is now unreadable and it delayed my entry to computing (outside of school and then work).  I bought my first used computer in 1995, and then a second machine in 1996, but both of those computers were too under-powered to get onto the Internet, so for my third computer, bought in late 1996, I bought an old-stock new machine that had just enough power to get on-line.  The first two machines weren't a complete waste of money though, as I used them as word processors and they were immeasurably more powerful tools for that than the 1980's word processor I had been using.
   Right at the end of 1996, I began to realize what a fantastic machine an Internet-connected computer was for communicating long-distance.  (Recently, I'm beginning to see the drawbacks to that, but that's another story.)  So, heading into 1997, I used the machine a lot for writing and exchanging text messages with people residing in other parts of the world.  This was before FaceBook, Twitter, etc., and so there were only chat rooms, or e-mail.  I briefly spent some time in chat rooms, but abandoned those in favor of e-mail (starting with a small group of people I had met in chat rooms).
   I go into that history as part of the history of how I have attempted to record things.  How I've recorded things has been dictated by time and tools, and what tools I've worked with has been dictated by the technology available at the time and by my (generally limited) financial resources to acquire things.  The basic timeline of how I've recorded things is as follows:

Early Days-1990 - Single image photography via SLR 35mm cameras.
1990-1993 - Analog video (digital sound, some in mono, but most in stereo).
1993-1996 - Single image photography via SLR 35mm camera.
1996-2000 - Text, either hand-written or typed into a computer.
2000-2006 - Single image photography via digital cameras.
2007-Present - Mix of single image digital photography and digital video.

   The 1996-2000 period stands out as the only time I was not recording images with some sort of camera.  I accidentally left my Nikon FM2 on the Yamanote Line in 1996 (I reported it to the police, but it never returned) and I didn't have enough financial resources to replace it with another good camera, so I decided to just go without a camera for a while and record things in words.  Finally!  We come to the reason for all of the above text!  All of this preamble is to explain why I have zero photographic images from 1997 to 2000, but do have text.  Only text.  And I recently dug out of the back corners of a hard drive some of the things I sent to a select group of people via e-mail in 1997, but didn't put into a blog.  (I don't think I did anyway, enough time has passed since I started blogging that I might have put something up and forgotten about it.)
   In any event, it was kind of a special time for me, as I found it relaxing to go somewhere, stop, pull out a notebook (or batch of folded paper) and pen, and calmly write - having only words to record what I was seeing, hearing, experiencing....  As I got into computing, I began carrying a laptop computer with me and writing with that, but that was contingent on having somewhere to sit down and since my equipment was using a pre-lithium-ion battery, it didn't run for long between charges, so if I wanted to spend any time writing, I usually needed to plug it in.  These days, coffee shops and fast food places know their fondle-slab loving customers are much more likely to be there if they can plug in their devices, so there is an outlet by every seat, but in 1997, AC outlets were generally to plug in vacuum cleaners and were few and far between.
   One last note about the timeline I wrote above (scroll up...).  That is to show my primary method of recording street scenes, etc., and the 1996-2000 period was exclusively text (with the exception of some junk camera pictures taken to record people events, but nothing suitable for posting), but text has been an ongoing thing.  It's never been only pictures - you have to explain the pictures with words after all.  That's why I didn't mind going to all text for awhile - I was already used to recording things that way in combination with images, so it wasn't too big of a jump to just go to only text.
   OK!  And finally we come to something I wrote back in 1997 - on June 7th and June 9th - partly by hand and partly straight into my laptop computer (edited):

“What to Write...” - June 7th, 1997

(Handwritten)  Here I sit, on a train heading to my first job of the day....

I was just thinking, wondering - what to write about.  This morning I was thinking that maybe I spend too much time on E-mail, but I realize, as I sit here on this train, that I really need that interaction, and far from interfering with my writing, it’s the spark that sets off a storm of ideas.
   Several hours pass....

(The following written with my laptop in Shinjuku at Kinokuniya Book Store in “Times Square”......)

   I’ll just start writing something, and see where it leads me.  But first, as I only have about twenty minutes before I have to be back at work, I should describe my surroundings right now.
   I’m sitting in a line of young woman who are all holding copies of a new book by a comedy pair (a man and a woman) who call themselves Bakusho Mondai  (爆笑問題).  They’re waiting in line to get their books signed by the authors.  So, what am I doing here?  The reason is simple my friends, I’m here for the grid.  I was walking along, and I felt a sudden desire to start writing this after seeing something that inspired me.
   Anyway, I was walking along thinking “Even if I pull out the laptop in the bookstore by the public phones, the battery will go dead on me before I can get much written.  What to do, what to do....”  And I remembered that outside of this department store in Shinjuku, there are grid connectors (probably there for cleaning), so when I saw that a convenient looking one was right in the middle of a line, I walked up to the two women who were sitting on either side of it, and asked them if I could sit between them so I could plug my computer in, and they didn’t mind, so here I am.
   I asked the nice woman next to me if she wanted to say something to everyone, and after thinking awhile, she said:

“Chikyu ni yasashiku ikiyo.”

First, a direct translation:
“Let’s live on Earth kindly.”

And a more natural sounding translation:
“Let’s take care of the Earth.”

Now I’m out of time!  I’ll be back when I get a chance!

(1997/06/09)  I spent most of yesterday at Showa Kinen Koen, which is a very nice park, but it cost about eight dollars to park, and four dollars to get in, so it’s not the kind of park you just wander into.  Since a lot of financial power is there for the park though, it really is quite nice inside.
   Yesterday was a perfect picture of people relaxing on a Sunday in the park.  The only odd thing was the constant sight and sound of helicopters flying overhead, but living in Tokyo you learn to tune out what you don’t want to hear or see -  particularly what you don’t want to hear!  I can listen to classical music with the window open and construction only two houses down, and the hammering doesn’t even invade the music in my mind... unless I start thinking that it’s strange that it doesn’t, and that thought puts the noise in mind until I can empty my thoughts again.  There’s something to be said for not thinking sometimes... or not thinking rationally anyway.

(2020)  Thinking about this post while going over it just before putting it on-line, I realized/remembered another element to the text-only period.  It exactly coincided with my text-only Internet usage.  I was using (as were most people at the time) a slow and expensive dial-up connection and sending photos was a sure way of making people angry!  Myself included actually.  I really hated it when someone sent something heavy, since I was paying per minute for time on-line, I didn't appreciate having to wait several minutes for a single photo to download.  So partly I was thinking at the time that all I could use was text anyway, so I might as well go without photos for a while.  The text-only period was interesting, but when I got my first digital camera in 2000, it sure did feel good to be taking pictures again!

Lyle (Hiroshi) Saxon

Friday, May 08, 2020

2000年5月 元玉川上水の散歩

I stumbled onto this scene on May 2nd, 2000.  It had a feel of history and mystery to it, and a tranquility, accented with a feeling of risk... "Is it okay to go down there...?" I wondered.  What was this wonderful green space - clearly a former path for water - doing hiding in the center of Tokyo?
I later met someone living in the area and they told me it was the former path of the Kanda River, which I believed until (years later) discovering an old map upon which it was clearly labeled as being part of the Tamagawa Canal.  I've found since then (when trying to learn about the history of other things), that people are often mistaken, and some (many?) just make stuff up.  And this for not very old history - the kind where you can discover the truth fairly easily with a little time invested in research.  It makes me wonder how accurate historical accounts of things are....
This is how my unexpected adventure (a simple enough experience, but it felt like an adventure) began.  I looked down this street and thought "I wonder what's down there at the end of the road?"  When I got down there, I walked over the foundations of a house that had been recently(?) demolished and discovered these stairs leading down into the former waterway.
I hadn't planned on going down there - in fact I was running shy on time, as I had to get back to work, but the area was inviting and interesting, so I walked down the stairs, thinking "I guess this was whoever lived in the missing house's private access...."
A contributing factor to pushing ahead was the path through the grass.  Clearly, the area was accessed enough by others to make that path, so presumably it would be okay to walk down it and see where it went.
As I walked along, I kept looking over at the houses and apartments on one side (with a park on the other side, over the high fence) and thinking how nice it must be to live in a convenient area in central Tokyo with all that tranquil green on one side....
As I walked along, I daydreamed about living in one place or another, and wondered what had happened to the missing water.  I wasn't afraid of any creatures in the grass, but since this time (in 2000), I've been stung by one of those giant centipedes, come face-to-face with one of those giant wasps, and come across snakes on three different occasions - including coming within inches of stepping on a poisonous one that was lying on a mountain road I was walking on.
And so, the more time goes by, the more I have become leery of tall grass and lots of green.  Being right in the middle of Tokyo, this strip of green was probably about as safe as it gets, but if I stumbled upon something like this now, I would be more reluctant to go marching through the tall grass.
That said, stretches like this with the grass not so tall and the path fairly wide look safe enough.
That apartment building makes me wonder all over again what it would be like to live there.  To come home via typical Tokyo streets and then go out on the balcony for a look at all that tranquil green.
Residences along this former waterway must be quite expensive.  Looking at these pictures and remembering the walk, I recall one house in particular that looked like it would be perfect to live in.
It was high up above a section of that concrete retaining wall with a decent sized yard and enough setback from the edge that you wouldn't worry about it tumbling over that artificial cliff in an earthquake.  It looked really ideal and I imagining living there and having a backyard party in the spring (too hot in the summer).
Oh, and there was this compact tent!  I wondered who was camping there.  It could be a good spot, but out of sight of people who would chase you away is also out of sight of people who could help if someone attacked.
I may have been daydreaming about other things as well, but I remember it as a time focused on the ambiance of the space with the unanswered question (unanswered at the time that is, I know now) about the history of the waterway and continually imagining how it would be to live in one place or another.
There were some older wooden houses quite near the path, and while they looked cozy, they also seemed a bit exposed. Probably there would be some nervousness living there - like living in the wilderness somewhere.
Which is why the houses and apartments up high above the space seemed so appealing.  Living there, you would less likely be accessing the space for a stroll, but you could see the space and not have to feel nervous about it at night.
And so where did this former waterway lead?  On this first visit, I ran out of time, but on a later visit I discovered that it didn't go much further than I had ventured.  At a road, it took a sharp turn to the right and went into a tunnel - which sounds exciting, but looking in the barred off entrance, it only went back about four or five meters to where the tunnel had been walled off.
At the time, I just figured that was the end of it, but thinking about it now, I wonder if that tunnel continued (continues?) on the other side of the wall....
There are stages to exploring something new.  First you contemplate it - wondering if you should take the risk of doing something you've never done before and going somewhere you've never been before.
Then you decide to go ahead, and you enter a new space with sharper senses, not sure what to expect.  As you progress, you begin to adjust to the new space.
As the nervousness fades, you congratulate yourself on having escaped the usual routine and begin to enjoy yourself.
Then the initial post-nervousness excitement fades, but in its place you're more relaxed and you start to tune into the new space you're in.
That state continues for some time, but unless you really belong in the new space, at some point, a feeling of lost time begins to creep in and you start to want to get back to your usual routines.
And so the journey out of a space is never as fun, exciting, and enjoyable as the trip into it.  This was a short trip, so it wasn't so noticeable, but on some long trips, the journey out into the countryside is pure fun and adventure and the trip back pure tedium.
It was a nice experience enabled by low expectations and contrast.  I hadn't been expecting to escape the typical city streets that day, so it was quite nice to suddenly be in that quiet green space.
The timing was good as well - early May, so it was a nice temperature and the green everywhere was a spring green.  This same space wouldn't have been as nice in the August heat.
It would be nice to slip back in time and see this with the water flowing.  Due to the absence of people (I didn't meet anyone at all while there) it seemed as though I could feel something from the past, but it would be nice to slip back with a camera and get some video....
And so we come to the end of the dry canal bed adventure.  I'm glad it beckoned to me from down the street that day.  The experience was better in a way than going off into the countryside for a change of pace - being unexpected and suddenly experienced as it was.  I've recalled the experience from time-to-time and enjoyed revisiting it through these pictures I took that day.  Hopefully I've conveyed something of that experience with this blog post.
Lyle (Hiroshi) Saxon

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Fearing the Air...

Looking back at previous years, you compare things.... and contemplate whether things were better or worse than the present time.  Comparing 2019 with 1990, on one hand you have 1990 which was a time you went about your life thinking about work, friends, the weekend, etc., and other than land line telephone calls and paper-based mail (the hand-delivery kind), you communicated with the people you were actually with and didn't contemplate the end of civilization or whether you could go out without filtering the air you breathed.
In 2019, the world seemed to be coming apart in many ways - global heating, wars, a whole host of non-sustainable human activities/behavior leading to an existential threat to life in the future.  And now in 2020, the very air is to be feared.  Nearly everyone covers their face when going out.  .............  Thought I was going to write up a storm about this, but that's basically it.  I'm feeling very nostalgic about 1990 as a time when people went about their lives without wearing face masks and when you were with someone, they didn't have primary focus on their micro-computer(s) and were actually with you.
On the other hand - I certainly do like having computers and electronic communication.  What would be nice?  Getting past this virus threat/upheaval, and while still having the convenience of modern technology, a world where people turned off their electronic devices while with others and left primary focus on the people they were actually with.

Lyle (Hiroshi) Saxon

Monday, March 16, 2020

七国への旅 - 令和二年三月

The new morning ritual now after a night's sleep is to go on-line and see how much worse everything is.  I don't recall any time in my life where reality seemed so much like a disaster movie where the people on the screen confront an ever worse reality - leading to...?
Aside from the abstract feeling of reading about bad news from afar, and seeing/feeling the people around you getting nervous about events, the first in-my-face shock came on February 27th at Tokyo Station when I went to the platform for the Chuo Line and it was nearly empty!  Then when I got on the train, it was nearly empty as well - until it filled up down the line.  Thinking about it now, I suppose the businesses in the Marunouchi area (next to Tokyo Station) were told to work from home?
Gradually, the concept that it's bad to be near people has set in and I've stopped (for now...) going to art exhibitions in Ginza and stopped walking through places with a lot of people (if I don't need to be there that is).  What with telecommunications, it's not so bad to hole up at home, but after a while you want to get out and get some fresh air....
And so I decided to take a mini-vacation to a suburb of Tokyo I'd never been to before.  As I exited the station, I felt a little excited and started thinking about it:  "On the face of it, I've just gone across town to a nondescript suburb, but what is so different really from jetting to another country for a vacation?  In both cases, I'm in an area for the first time, seeing things I've never seen before.  This is a valid vacation!"  Granted, I could use the same language I use at home, half of the chain store names I already knew, and I would be going - not to a hotel - but home that evening, but on the adventurous vacation side, I hadn't seen the names of half of the chain stores, and as I walked up a hill I'd never walked up before, I thought "I wonder what's up the road here...?"
I don't know...  As I attempt to explain it in words, it looks kind of mundane on the screen... but in the moment it was actually quite nice.  After not having gone anywhere new for so long, the change really did feel as though I were on a journey into an unknown land... which I was.  The part that looks mundane is that it was just another part of the city I already live in and was just a day trip.  I know... but trust me, it felt like an adventure!
As I walked up the hill, I thought, "As long as this goes up, it's going somewhere interesting... if it levels off or starts going down, I'll turn around and go back."  Writing/remembering that, I realize an important element of it becoming a pleasant adventure was that I had low expectations for it.  I didn't really expect to find anything very interesting, but whatever was up the hill was guaranteed to be at least a little bit interesting, since I was approaching it from a fairly long period of boredom.   Contrast is the key element here.  If there is contrast, then it's interesting.
Midway up the hill I looked across the street and saw an area between condominium... not high rises, but medium rises?  From about nine to fifteen stories high?  What do you call those?  Anyway, they're one of the forms vertical gated communities take.  The area looked visually interesting, so I thought it would be a good place to record a pair of JV/EV videos.  So I crossed the street and started a JV video... and realized it was a boring one and there wasn't so much to say, so I just left the camera running and said the same boring content in English, then another comment in Japanese and then English again.  Ideally, those should be separate, but lumping them together in a JEV video gets it out-of-the-way more quickly.
From there I continued up the hill... and at an intersection, I looked down the road going to the right.  Something about what I was looking at seemed interesting....  Recalling the moment now, I'm not really sure exactly why it seemed interesting, but the scene beckoned and I obeyed the allure.  As I walked along, I was pleasantly surprised to see that I was approaching the edge of a valley, with a view through space to the other side of the valley.
Again, contrast.  If you do a comparative analysis of valleys on planet earth, surely there are many more dramatic and beautiful ones.  But for me, after spending months on narrow streets, in crowded trains, inside buildings, etc., that open space - with some flowering trees (cherry? plum?) in the middle of a cluster of green trees (on the other side of the valley) was a beautiful sight.  Arriving at the end of the road, I then descended a series of stairs (with the camera rolling) and discovered Opera Tunnel... which I just had to give a try.  (The experience and the video were in tandem, so that's an authentic view.)
The echo was... dare I say spectacular?  ("Spectacular" here refers to the quality of the echo, not the quality of my bad singing.)  As a child, I liked the fun of making noise in tunnels, continuing on to honking my car horn in them (when there was no other traffic) and throughout my life, I generally haven't been able to resist trying out the echo in tunnels.  But... I am usually disappointed!  There's always some kind of echo in a tunnel, but generally not enough to be much fun.  Opera Tunnel though, now that's what a tunnel echo should be!  Perhaps the oval shape of the tunnel works better than a round tunnel?
After that, I climbed back up the stairs and walked along a beautifully straight road on the edge of the valley.  Why "beautifully straight"?  Back to contrast - when living in cities that had nearly all straight roads, I would have considered it the very definition of boring, but now I live in an area with no straight roads at all.  There are some roads that are straight for short stretches, but even those roads tend to be curving slightly or straight for only very short stretches.  So, looking down a perfectly straight road, it was an exciting thing to walk down - for the contrast of it.
And... that's about it actually.  As I walked back down the hill towards the station I was beginning to feel tired and then the prospect of being home again that evening was a pleasant thought.
Lyle (Hiroshi) Saxon

Wednesday, March 04, 2020

The Fragility of Supply...

   It was when I saw a news article stating that industry people were saying "There's no need to panic-buy toilet paper - there's a good supply of it..." that I thought "Uh-oh..." and a few days later I went around to three stores in my area, two of which have a large area where they stock a small mountain of a dizzying variety of toilet paper.  Before walking into the first big store where there had always been that mountain of toilet paper, I thought "It'll probably be half gone..." so it was a bit of a shock to walk in and see the shelves were completely bare.  And not just toilet paper - there were no tissue paper packs or paper towels either.
   So, I went to two other stores to have a look... and it was the same story.  Completely empty shelves.  One of the large stores had a sign at the empty shelves where the toilet paper used to be saying "Two packs per customer".  Okay... I guess that didn't help too much.  For that kind of thing, I suppose a family of four would have each family member go to a cash register on their own?  In any case, what I have is what I have and any new stock is unavailable to buy.  I have some, so I'm okay for now, but I wonder when it'll be available again.  What I'll probably run out of first are tissue packs... I have pollen allergies and fairly active sinuses....
   Anyway, after I had checked out the situation with paper products, I went grocery shopping, which was uneventful except for noticing that rice was nearly sold out.  I bought one of the last remaining bags.  I walked around the store observing the other shoppers in their face masks.... and then noticed a woman not wearing one.  Seconds after spotting her, she let loose with a very congested-sounding cough... into her fist (to best spread the germs around).  I speed walked in another direction (but still ran into her again a few minutes later).  I thought "Well, that's great.  Probably the only person in the store who really should be wearing a mask is the one who isn't...."
   Anyway, the whole thing reminds me of the fragility of supplies.  Never in my life have I experienced going into a store and there being no toilet paper for sale.  It was always there... and then, with people considering the possibility of having to stay holed up at home for some period of time, hording starts, and "Poof!" supply vanishes.

Lyle (Hiroshi) Saxon  20200304  (水)

Mechanical Mice Work Best

   Back when I began using computers, there were only one type of cursor-positioning mice in general use, the type with a small but heavy rubber surfaced ball that rotated two shafts mechanically and indicated motion that way.  They worked fine, although they needed to be cleaned periodically for proper use.  Since most people I observed around me never cleaned theirs, the performance would get spotty and they blamed the design and enthusiastically embraced optical mice when when came out, since they could be absolutely filthy dirty and they would still work fine (provided nothing was blocking them optically.
   But wait - there was another problem with the mechanical type - since they needed a certain amount of friction to work properly (to mechanically turn the rubber ball), they didn't work very well on slippery surfaces.  The blazingly simple answer to that was to use them on a sheet of paper, but while I used a sheet of A3 or whatever non-glossy paper was handy and got great performance that way, I don't recall anyone around me noticing what was happening and doing a little work procedure kaizen for themselves.
   Fast forward to the era where all externally-connected computer pointing devices are optical and I've found (to my intense irritation) that one optical device after another starts out working great, but develops a kind of glitch where if you're trying to move it precisely (like when cropping a photograph) it will jump or stick a little.  I don't know if the sensor for the light beam is wearing out or what, but it's really irritating when editing pictures....
   Fast forward again to yours truly walking down a street in Akihabara about a month ago.  I noticed a box of old PS/2 connector mechanical mice - new ones no less (old stock) and so I bought a couple (as my desktop machine has both USB and PS/2 sockets) and while I wasn't really expecting it to be great, I'm finding that it's much much more precise in movement (on a sheet of copy paper, as of old) than the optical ones I have.  The amount of motion required for moving the pointer is quite a bit more, but after going into the settings on my computer and dialing the speed up, it works absolutely great.  No jumping or stalling  - yet.  Hopefully it will just keep working this way and I won't need to go back to optical mice which have - time after time after time - started produced spotty performance after using them for a few months.
   Granted, I've only been using this new (old stock) mechanical mouse for a few weeks, but I remember how it was before - if the performance started to get weird, just clearing out dust buildup on the metal shafts (that come in contact with the rubber ball) would restore performance.

Lyle (Hiroshi) Saxon