Monthly Archives: March 2014

花見!!(HANAMI)

Remember this view from a few days ago?

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Well, I was walking home last night and got the sense that something had changed. This morning, sure enough, behold! Sakura blossoms! Overnight transformation. Beautiful.

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Here’s another before and after view:

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So, today is Hanami day! More pictures to come.

Photo Diary: Tokyo, Days 1 – 5

My photo diary of Tokyo continues!

Monday Night

Shibuya glows.

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First stop on my craft beer tour is Brasserie St. Bernardus in Kanda.

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The ingredients for ramen:

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Tuesday

Morning, on my way to work. This is Shibuya Crossing. Very quiet before 8 AM on a Tuesday.

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Tuesday night, time for craft beer. Headed to Goodbeer Faucets, which is conveniently walking distance from my office. They also have happy hour from 17:00 – 20:00 with ¥200 off all pints, which is a sweet deal, especially considering that happy hour really isn’t a thing in Japan!

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Walking home. I love small side streets.

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A block from my house. Turn left where the fancy cube streetlights go dark.

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This is how I’m able to travel with Rilakkuma. He has a special hardness so he can be strapped to the outside of a backpack or suitcase and ride along without taking up space inside.

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Wednesday

Was at home most of the day, resting. Went out at night though. Shibuya glow, again, always.

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My friend, Andreas, who I know from Japanese at UCLA! He’s been living in Japan for three years. At long last, we are reunited! We’re so happy and we haven’t even reached the bar yet.

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Tonight’s craft beer adventure is Popeye.

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Popped into a コンビニ on the way home from the bar, found whisky. Those cups on the right are individually packaged shots!

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Thursday

Chuo line. First picture faces west, away from the center of Tokyo, second picture faces east.

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This street runs along the Chuo line tracks.

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I bought a train pass! Cute penguin.

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Had lunch at this place called Stand S.

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The fellow in shorts is cooking me a sausage.

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When I left it was raining and I didn’t have an umbrella, and he gave me one.

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Done with work, time to go out! This time to Ushitora in Shimotakazawa, where I will meet a new friend via OkCupid, and have more craft beer!

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Japanese real ale!

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Oh yes this omu-rice is so good.

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After Ushitora my friend and I return to Shibuya to meet some people at a British pub named The Aldgate. That’s not pictured here, however.

Time to catch the last train with everyone else:

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Shinjuku station is busy.

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Friday

Breakfast choices.

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Shibuya is getting a bit busier in the morning now that it’s close to the weekend. Also, I understand that salaried employees get paid around the 25th, so it’s about time to go out and spend that money!

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Time Traveling: Seattle to Tokyo

I made it!

Here’s a storybook summary of the past three days. Captions precede pictures.

Saturday

This is my “before” shot, pictured with everything I’m taking to Asia for five months.

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Instead of manual window shades the plane had something like digital glass, which enabled the user to adjust the tint by pressing a button! Saturday night was simulated mid-flight by tinting all the windows for a handful of hours. It didn’t fool my body.

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We departed Seattle at 1 PM Saturday and landed in Tokyo at 3 PM Sunday. I was on the plan for about 10 hours elapsed time, but twice that many hours passed as I freaking time traveled.

Sunday

First sign welcoming me to Japan.

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If you only read English then this sign says “welcome to Japan.” If you read some Japanese then this sign says “welcome back to Japan.” I was not aware of this when I first came here five years ago. I am so glad that I know this now.

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This is the first thing I saw when I exited the Asakusabashi train station, which is the same train station I exited five years ago and took my first steps in Tokyo.

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Arrived at my guesthouse (yadoya) in Nakano. This is my room.

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First meal, first beer.

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Monday

06:00 – I am awake. Time for a shower. This is my room in the morning.

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07:00 – This is my neighborhood. I’m on my way to work.

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08:00 – First breakfast. I got to my office before they opened, so I hung out at a cafe across the street and read a copy of The Stranger that I picked up before leaving Seattle.

Something I love about Japan that I had kind of forgotten: their jazzy cafe music. ♥

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17:00 – This is the view from my 6th floor office in Shibuya!

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20:00 – Same view at 8 PM. I am about to leave work and head out to a craft beer bar!

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So, yeah, everything is going fine. I freaked out a bit before I left, and that’s OK. It’s part of the process. I blogged about it in order to (1) process it and (2) show that everything isn’t awesome all the time.

WTF am I Doing?

What the fuck am I doing?

I am about to fly to Tokyo, my first destination along a multi-month tour of Asia.

And I am not excited.

I’ve put myself through days of stress. I haven’t slept enough. I’ve tried to get everything “done” and “wrapped up” and “organized” before I leave. Partially for my friends, with whom I am leaving my belongings, partially for me, because my journey continues on a direct route to Burning Man upon my return, and partially because that’s kinda just the way I am.

Wait a minute. Burning Man.

Last year was my Virgin Burn, and I wasn’t excited for that, either. I was terrified.

But despite that fear, I went, because it was intolerable to be so paralyzingly afraid of something I knew nothing about and hadn’t personally experienced.

And it was amazing. It changed my life! It brought me to where I am today. Burning Man is to me as Y Combinator is to a startup.

I read a book many years ago about Focusing, a technique of communicating with your body to process felt senses. These feelings live in my tummy, in my gut. And they are familiar. They say:

“I am afraid that I won’t be accepted.”

“I am afraid that I will be hurt.”

“I am afraid of how I will change.”

These are exactly the same fears I had before Burning Man, and look how that experience turned out! I was accepted (by others, but most importantly by myself), the hurtful things I feared simply weren’t there, and I was an active agent in my processes of change so that I changed with intention.

I am not doing this because it’s easy. I’m not doing this because it’s hard, either. I’m doing this because I believe it’s worthwhile.

My felt sense is also telling me that I need to cry. OK, I know how to do that, and to inspire myself at the same time. With this:


How much can you lose? How much can you win?

 

Browsing

I was exploring a natural remedy store on Capitol Hill a few days ago.

One of the employees asked me if I needed help finding anything. I said:

“I’m not looking for anything in particular.”

She replied:

“Then you’re going to find lots of things.”

Oh, I have.

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This picture was taken by my friend Lisa in Carmel, CA. Visiting her was my first destination after departing Los Angeles in January.

I’ve been inspired by Steve Jobs’ commencement speech since I first heard it circa 2005/2006. It is one of the handful of motivational media I revisit every so often. I was an undergrad at DigiPen when I first saw his speech, and the life I am living now was nothing but a fantasy that I didn’t know how to pursue, or really even believe was possible.

It was so utterly appropriate, such an obvious omen, to find this at the start of my journey. If you listen to the Universe it will tell you when you’re on the right track. Your track.

Things You Didn’t Know (or Forgot) About Oregon (and PDX!)

Or, at least, things I didn’t know or forgot:

  • The coast is stupid beautiful. Like video game fantasy beautiful.

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  • Oregon takes littering seriously. The maximum fine is $6250!
  • For the first time the “SELF” label on a gas pump (or lack thereof) is meaningful to me. In Oregon you can’t pump your own gas for your car, remember?. BUT! If you’re filling a motorcycle or boat, you CAN pump your own gas.
  • Logging is a big industry here. You’ll frequently see trucks on the highway hauling felled trees, and you’ll pass many mills and processing plants.
  • There is no sales tax.
  • Bank of America ATMs will dispense $10 bills. Your can withdraw $30 and $50. (In California their ATMs only do increments of $20.)
  • There are beer styles in this region that don’t (quite) exist in California. For example, the Cascadian Dark Ale (CD or CDA). Someone likened it to a Black IPA, which you can get in California, but in my experience a CDA is much less bitter than I expect from an IPA. To me a CDA is like a Dark Mild or Dark Bitter brewed exclusively with PNW hop varieties.

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And a spotlight on Portland:

  • Portland is referred to as PDX. Have a business here? Have a website or Twitter for that business? Put “PDX” in the name so people know where you’re at.
  • The public transit is awesome.
  • It’s small. Going “across town” is 3 miles. (And people here complain about this like how people complain about going from Echo Park to Santa Monica in LA.)
  • Breweries are everywhere, and most of them are brewpubs, not like brewery + tasting room setup that’s popular in LA / CA.
  • For most places, doesn’t matter if you’re just a brewery or bar, if you serve alcohol, you have to serve food. I think it’s a law. And lots of kitchens are open late, past midnight. And the food is good, too.
  • Portland has a big food cart (not food truck) culture, but it’s different from LA’s. These are more like permanent installations. (They don’t roll up and leave every day.) Many of them are setup in parking lots, and many parking lots have become food cart hubs.

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  • Portland’s got a big strip club scene. Going to the club for lunch, or happy hour, or just out with your friends is no big deal. It’s just another place, with seemingly no taboo at all.
  • Folks like to drink.

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  • Stumptown is huge, and most coffee shops serve ready-made french press coffee.
  • Most of Portlandia is surprisingly accurate.

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My Productivity Tools

I have a few tricks I use to focus and get into work, especially when I’m having trouble doing so, the work feels hard, or I catch myself procrastinating. Here they are:

The 15-Minute Trick

Very simple, similar to Pomodoro, my own take. I find this trick especially helpful for getting started on tasks that seem daunting. Here’s how you use it:

  1. Set a timer for 15 minutes.
  2. Work until the timer goes off.

That’s all you have to do. Work for 15 minutes, then do whatever you want. Take a break for as long a you want, walk away from work, or keep going. I usually find that I’m really into what I’m doing when the timer expires, so I reset it and work for another 15 minutes. Then I do it again, and again, and before I know it I’ve been working for an hour. Sure feels good.

Music

For whatever reason, there are a handful of albums that help me to really sink into work. My work albums tend to clock in at 45 – 90 minutes, which is a nice chunk of focused work time, and I’m usually ready for a break afterwards. Here are the ones that do it for me. Find what works for you!

The following compilations really drown out everything else and keep me dancing in my chair as I work:

Finally, the DJ sets on Robot Heart’s SoundCloud consistently create a great audio space for working.

Take a Nap

I own the couch in my offices. I am the king of naps. I usually take one nap per day, sometimes multiple. Here’s what to do:

Take off your shoes, put something like a scarf or an eye pillow over your eyes, and listen to music or just wear headphones. Set the timer for 25 minutes, which is enough time to fall asleep and enjoy a solid 20-minutes of napping. It could be shorter, but don’t let it go longer.

OK, nap time.

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Spontaneous

Sometimes you just have to participate in an unplanned leggings fitting party.

I often tell people what I’m doing, which roughly goes like this:

“I am a digital nomad. I work remotely, and I am living in different cities for one month at a time. Last month I lived in Portland. This month I’m living in Seattle. Next month I’ll be living in Tokyo.”

Then they ask why I’m doing this, to which I usually reply:

“Because I can!”

Which is totally true. But only one, small facet of the truth.

I returned from Burning Man having lived a spontaneous life in a way that, prior to the Burn, I had not known. I tried to continue to live that kind of spontaneity after I returned to LA, but it was hard. I had lots of commitments and not a lot of room for spontaneity. Everyone around me was the same. Everyone was busy and had a schedule. There wasn’t a lot of room for play, for saying “yes, let’s!” to something unplanned.

That was unacceptable to me. I wanted to change that. I knew that if I created a life in which more was unknown, more was unplanned, I would be more spontaneous. I would have to be. I wanted my daily circumstances, the very structure of my life, to invite me to be spontaneous.

I knew that if I left Los Angeles I would be more spontaneous. It’s always like that, away from home. So I decided to uproot and leave. I also knew that if I stayed in one place too long that routine, commitments, and momentum – a bias that favors of the known and dissuades the uncertain – would start to set in. So I decided to make uprooting a pattern.

This is my life now: move, root, uproot. Repeat.

Why am I doing this?

To remain on the edge, stay uncomfortable, facilitate spontaneity, cultivate play, and live.

And to try on some leggings along the way.

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Opening

Before I even left Los Angeles I knew I’d be working in Tokyo. I had identified my first choice office there, and beyond that I had a lead on a space in Taipei, which was as far as I had taken my office research and planning in Asia.

Since leaving LA (six weeks ago), and particularly since arriving in Seattle (one week ago), I have discovered so many more opportunties! I feel like the whole world is opening up to me.

I now have a concrete list of coworking spaces that includes Seoul, Kyoto, Bangkok, Hong Kong, Singapore, Ho Chi Menh City, Hanoi, Auckland, and Kathmandu. The list grows every day.

!!!

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