Monday, September 24, 2007

solo trip to tripiness

I went on my first long distance solo adventure in Japan, a trek to the Tokyo Game show. From door step to craziness and back to doorstep in one day, and only my two little feet ( and many, many trains ). It's incredible that I could make such a trip so easily. Public transportation is convenient here! And so many people were very helpful.

The show itself was very similar to E3. Very noisy and crowded. It was hard not to be disappointed that I couldn't take photos of the games. So instead they posted girls everywhere and invited you to take their photo. I waited for 15-30 minutes each to get closeups with a few new games. Heavenly Sword was visually awesome and kind of overwhelmingly hack and slash. Halo 3 looked exciting. The line was too long to try it. I waited 30 minutes to play Microsoft's new flight sim on a very cool 3 screen setup. The realistic flight controls died in the hands of the guy in front of me.

Overall, XBox 360 seemed like they came to compete in Japan. Their booth was the strongest visually. PS3 booth was big, but very crowded; chest-touching-back, scooting-3-inches-a-second crowded. I didn't make it far before I turned back. Wii showed games everywhere. They seemed to have no central display. Nintendo seemed the publisher with the least to prove. They are dominant here, in Japan.

It was a very fun trip. Exhaustingly crowded and noisy. The train ride back for a time was like being a sardine in a can. We were all smushed together. I was fine because I was so much larger and my head poked out. But I felt bad for the shorter people. Eventually the faithful Shinkansen trundled me home, and I dragged in very late and tired, about 13 hours after I left.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

I want the answer

You may or may not have seen this. I want to warn you. This is about as anti-inspirational as it gets.

This man wants to know why Kerry conceded the 2004 election when he was winning. I want to know the very same thing. His behavior and the reaction of the guards suggests that he knew this was a sensitive question and the guards knew that such a question was likely to pop up. I'm really, really hoping they were not pre-briefed to handle it in the way they did.

I really want to know Kerry. I voted for you. I was astonished when you didn't fight the result.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

long walk

Today found me on another long walk, trotting randomly through the streets of downtown Shizuoka. The heat is finally giving us a reprieve and I can't help but stretch my legs and go roaming. I live and work in the same small room, in my apartment in Shimizu. The back of my chair inches from my bed. Some days I never even set foot outside. But when the claustraphobia hits I just have to set out. Breath real air.

I've explored nearly every street around my apartment for miles. And I don't like walking down the same street twice. So my walk starts with a trip to the local small shuttle train, and a quick hop downtown to start from there. The clouds are dark gray and swirling ominously, threatening a downpour. I welcome it. Rain envigorates me when I'm walking. But it is a false threat. The wind is cool and strong, and the concrete road never ending. I set out from the busy station and head towards the nearby hills. In a direction I've never been. The shops and homes flow by and I'm quickly out the city, weaving my way through small back streets where the interesting things are. I break out into a large open flood plain. The wash from Mt. Fuji comes through here. And there is a raised walking path that takes me along the wide flowing river. This takes me behind many houses. I see a son and father throwing baseball in the alley. Each silent and somewhat serious. Men and women walking their dogs keep me company on the long path. But I soon break out and head for the wilderness. For some reason, I prefer the empty streets. The ones with bamboo on either side touching tips far overhead. But there is no road into the nearby hills. And I skirt the base for a long time before feeling like I'm very far from home, and better turn back.

Boys are girls are out of school now. And they race past me in their crumpled starched uniorms, peddaling their large metal bikes and looking very bored. Clusters of girls wear navy blue skirts and white shirts, chatting constantly. Some eye me curiously, most ignore studiously. That is definitely a required skill; the art of ingoring studiously. It's not long before I'm back downtown and mixing with the crowds of fashionably suited men and women making their way home. The train ride home is packed. And I give my seat up to stand by the railing. I prefer to stand anyway. I'm sweaty and I know I don't smell great. The train rocks as it hurtles down the rails and I peer out the window at the city flying by. So many homes. So many people. It's not long, and my stop comes, Sakurabashi. Bridge of cherry blossoms. But there are none. Just rows of tightly packed bikes patiently awaiting their masters just outside the stop. I exit with the flow of rushers home, and silently make my way to my own.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

oblivious oblivion

"Happiness is a warm gun" according to the Beatles. And many more serious sources seem to agree: happiness comes in the afterlife. It is unachievable in the material world. Monks seek enlightenment through detachment. And momentary nirvana is fleeting possible with practice. But detachment never lingers long, nor it's peace, under the rain of daily tiny assaults on a thin imaginary roof of isolation. For it's only in impossible isolation that you could hope to divest yourself from emotional attachments. Surrendering to the inevitability of a web of moral and social connections, how then is a sane person expected to realistically achieve some sense of peace? Can peace be found in the connections? In the worries and responsibilities.

For some this is not a rhetorical question. But quite serious. The quest for some sense of inner peace can drive people down long and twisted roads with no guarantee for end. It can drive you to spend to achieve: "I will be happy when I can buy..". It doesn't even need finishing. Any sentence beginning with "I will be happy if.." seems doomed to failure. The conditions for happiness are not conditional. And not in the future.

From my own limited experience, it happens when you surrender to the now. When you can embrace the wonderful experience that is drawing a clean breath into a healthy body. And from there let your awareness discover the beautiful intricacies of the mundane world as they exist before you at this moment. Pause to relish the connections. Do not separate yourself. It's so easy be impatient. To see only what you have seen before. Do not categorize. Do not impose yourself on it. Challenge yourself to look with new, childlike eyes, and not look away until you have groked the water before you. Consider it's existence. The rushing passage of time. The flow of energy and pressure that have molded its birth, life, and eventual momentary presentation to your awareness. Waiting for you to see it. And it will always wait. For it is at peace. An oblivious oblivion. But connected to you, as you are to it. And all things. Let it's peace fill you. And surrender to your connection.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

evolution of learning

Learning another language is a great way to gain insight into your own mind. I've been using the Rosetta Stone language learning software to wire my brain to process Japanese. I can feel the necessary connections building when my body feels a deep sense of fatigue and I can no longer continue listening and clicking. The system mimics what it must be like to be a child. You hear snippets of language and different images. You are rewarded when you click on the right one. There is never any translation. There is no need. No one translates 'car' into baby-speak to teach a baby what a 'car' is. They see it - or experience it - and create and association with a sequence of audio and muscular emanations that is stored in the brain as 'language'. I've often been intrigued by this process, why it takes so much more energy than other tasks, what affects the rate of learning.

One of the things I seek to explain to myself is what man has been doing for so many millions of years. How does it put us where we are now? And where do we go from here? In some sense - I speculate we will reach some threshold where it takes so much schooling to reach the forefront of science that we will be limited by our lifetime. And therefore could not hope to advance new thought because it would take so much time to learn what is 'known' previously. I now think this is false. And this video helps explain why. And it also helps explain why it took so long for man to evolve the systems we build on today - language - society - technology. And how they are evolving. In addition to aquiring new data that advances our tiny needs for the moment, we are stumbling on the tools for constructing new thought. Some times, like paper and the printing press, the connection is clear and the tools shape the advance of tochnology and therefore - more importantly - our ability to build mental relationships that did not previously exist. That's what learning is; creating structure in our brains - electro chemical connections - that lead to new abilities to make more novel structures. The ubiquity of information washes us in more forms of novel input. And the resursive cycle, our internal explorations of this input and exfoliation of thought, feeds on itself and drives us all.

Going back to my fatigue observation, I think diet and energy level affects how much effort is available to make these connections. Perhaps that's why it gets harder to learn as we get older. We just dont have the metabolic capacity to process sugars effeciently any more. Our protien folding gets more and more messy. And we lose the ability to make connections. Another factor is the willigness to try something new. The mind travels down the same paths daily - the same snippets of sentences we reuse in conversations - the builtin response to surprise - the reflex to categorize more and more of what we see as something we have all ready seen. Perhaps the evolution of learning will be recognizing and controlling these environmental, social, diet, and stimulation of new experiences. Maybe we will rediscover the importance of sleep.