The purpose of life

The purpose of life is to be happy. Our time on the earth is limited, and there is no guarantee of tomorrow. So we must make the best use of our time. The best use of our time is by serving, and when we cannot serve, at least not to bring harm to others.

Human nature is inherently compassionate. Humans are unavoidably interdependent creatures. We collaborate because it makes life easier, and we can accomplish more fantastic things. We interact because we need to share responsibilites, we need to share living. Selfishness and egotism do not lead to happiness, but rather frustration. Having more, wanting more than we have, we can never be satisfied even if we obtain it. Even if my debt were erased now, even if I had enough money to retire, would I really be much happier? Probably not.

Why do I do what I do?

I have the talent to create art. I have the ability to make beautiful things. Humans have a need to be moved, to feel. I have the power to make people feel. My pictures mean little if I don’t share them. If I have a chance to entertain, a chance to make people feel, then I should take advantage of it. Hoarding pictures doesn’t help anyone. I can advance my skill through practice and study. From analyis and dedication I can improve my ability to communicate with others, to express the feelings I have inside, to affect others. In tems of my technique as well as presentation/distribution, I can receive more feedback, grow as an artist, and influence more people. To practice artfully I must know myself and to do that I must know others. For humans are the same, fundamentally in that we all want happiness and hope to avoid suffering.

Getting old

I know that poeple tend to romanticize the past, paint it in a rosier hue as time goes on. The fish that you caught in elementary school with your grandfather was eight inches long then, a foot when related in high school, and by the time you’re telling the story to your children you needed a tractor trailer to carry it home.

When people in Japn ask me if I can hold my liquor, I tell them the fantastic tale of my time at UVa right before graduation. After I learned that I was accepted into Carnegie Mellon in March, the knot of stress and obsessive overwork that I’d been carrying for over a year was undone, and I spent my last weeks in Charlottesville with a handle of Beam next to my bed, sloshed partying four days a week. Those were the high times when I could drink anything and shrug it off without the slightest hangover.

Now almost any kind of hard liquor is my sworn enemy. Like a nasty ex-girlfriend that you just can’t lay off, it leaves me broken and dazed ever time. I’m not even drinking half of the amount that I used to, but there is a pall cast over all revelry due to my rapidly deteriorating youth.

I had plans to get out skiing at 8:00 this morning, a full day on the slopes with my Troublemakers, but at some point last night, someone introduced an urn of Chinese liquor to the equation after a long string of beers and wine. Now I’m doing my best to collect moderate spirits for a day of sightseeing in Tochigi-ken.

Wicked

I’m sitting in a kotatsu (or is it under a kotatsu), and sipping my morning acerola juice. I’m currently at a friend’s vacation house in Nasu, Tochigi-ken. This is the first time that I’ve worken up after eight o’clock in several weeks. Usually waking up at this time requires turning over, and half not-sleeping for a number of hours. I’m not sure if in the end this is beneficial or detriimental, but Mom usually says, “You needed the sleep.”

I came here with my firend, Matsutsuka-san, and his co-worker Hayakawa-san. They both work at Fuijitsu, but I know Matsutsuka-san because he’s the husband of one of my Japanese sensei from Carnegie Mellon. I walys feel just a little off-blaance aournd them, because she was my teacher and all, so I fumble over culling all the slang and off-color jokes from my Japanese. I don’t want to make any mistakes; I feel it would be a bad reflection on her if I chattered on like some sort of heathen.

Anyway, we came here to ski, the last skiing of the season. It’s been an exceptionally warm winter, so we’re lucky if there’s any snow left. There isn’t any here, desptite being in the base of the moutnains. But Matsutsuka-san said he called the resort a couple of days ago and they still had a few feet of snow on the trails. I’m really not sure what’s going to happen. Every other time I when I went on a ski trip it was always a package deal with a hotel, fixed meal times, etc. We got here at about two a.m. (work), and then had some drinks and snack before bed, which I think are partly responsible for my uncomfortable daze. I want to get in as much skiing as possbile, but since we’re going to be here for a couple days, it’s probably best to take it easy so I can pace myself. Usually after about six hours or so my leg muscles start to wear out and I can’t make the turns I need to anymore. Then I just get sloppy and crash.

Since we may be on the slopes for three days, I finally took the time out and bought myself a pair of skiis. Wednesay was the first day of spring, which is a Japanese holiday, so after a photo shoot in the morning, I went ot the Alpen in Kanda and chose my blades: a pair of 175 Dynastar Troublemakers.

I read that you’re supposed to select a pair of skiis just above your skill level, so you have room to grow. I think that these will work out for now. So far I’ve had the best luck with rental carving skis, but these Dynastars are of the “freeride/new school” variety. I’m don’t know that menas, but they’re light, not very narrow, and dual-tipped. I’m not sure how to interpret that, but in theory I should be totally sweet.

A friend comes to Japan

If you were in Wal-Mart to pick up a few necessities, and you saw one of my products on a shelf behind the cashier, would you buy it? Maybe this has occurred, but you didn’t realize it because game developers’ faces don’t really appear on box… unless you’re John Romero or something. But if it did, that would certainly be something to make you smile, especially if we lived over six thousand miles apart and hadn’t seen each other since college.

The other day I was starting to feel the effects of a stress-induced cold. I’d taken my kanpou, but still I figured those little antibodies duking it out in my bloodstream could use all the help they could get, so I took a break from managed code exceptions and sauntered down to 7-11 for my oft-quaffed vegetable juice. When heading towards the register my eyes swung past the discount DVD section and what caught my attention? Two letters, O.C.

Ben Schenkkan (Benjamin McKenzie as you may know him) lived on the fabled hall of Emmet First Left in the the fall of 1997. We sang karaoke (badly), we went to some parties, and we played GoldenEye together for hours on end, nearly ruining our academic careers in the process. I know Ben is a really great guy, even though we never had a chance to get close since we were in different schools. It’s kind of amusing with all the hoopla surrounding him now. I remember going to his plays at Culbreth towards the end of my time at The University.

After he got the role in The O.C. I tried emailing him with information from the alumni directory, but I didn’t get a response. Judging from all the fan sites, I reckon once someone figured that address out it stopped being usable for him. Anyway, I hope we can get together again some day, and talk about acting, stardom, and Kent girls. Until then, I wish him the best of luck.

Ben, if you get bored and decide to Google yourself, eventually reading this, I bought your DVD at 7-11; and Japan misses ya, big guy. 🙂

Sending out an S.O.S. (late to the scene)

This week while having a very long discussion with my boss about myself, he noted that “the smartest people are the dumbest people.” Essentially what he meant was the more you know that you really know nothing, the wiser you are.

I can’t even pretend to think that I know a good amount about anything. I am constantly aware that there are uncounted thousands of pieces of media which I would really enjoy and probably benefit from. The sad reality is that even if I hear a lot of hype about one in particular, I probably won’t try it for some time because I spend my precious time focusing so intently on things I already know will pay off immediately. But, when enough people tell me enough times, I may eventually look into it. This blog is the best example.

Guitar Hero has been on the radar for a couple years now. It’s apparently a glorified version of Guitar Freaks, with better marketing and execution. Still, I’m kind of stubborn and for the longest time I just kind of skimmed past the headlines. However, I finally had an easy chance to try it since our boss brought back a copy from the States this week. So late last night after nearly everyone had gone home I poked my head into the meeting room and gave it a try.

I see why it’s sold over two million copies.

The first time I picked up the controller I tried “Message in a Bottle” on easy and got a 94% hit rate on the notes. When I started the song, I was tense and my fingers were shaking. People were watching and I was nervous about messing up. But by the end of the song I was physically unable to resist the urge to sway back and forth, pulling up on the neck to finish off riffs. I’m a bit of an addict when it comes to rhythm games, and Guitar Hero just became my new crack.

After it got really late and everyone went home, I went back into the meeting room and tried “Message…” again on medium. The increase in difficulty was staggering, but I suppose the general progression is to clear most of the songs on easy and get comfortable with the note patterns and then start on the simpler medium difficulty songs.

But The Police are cool, and I wanted to devour “Message in a Bottle.”

So I tried it over and over, figuring out the riffs and practicing sliding down the neck. I got about 50% cleared, and after about forty minutes my hands were starting to get tired so I called it a night.

But during the ride home, I listened to “Message…” over and over on the iPod; I had to figure out bassline. Laying in bed before going to sleep, I found myself practicing the fingering, working those transitions over and over in my mind. Man, I got it bad, and I’m afraid there’s no cure.

It’ll be a miracle if I last a week without ordering an import copy.

It’s not a purse

I’m really picky about shopping. If something isn’t perishable, I’ll probably think long and hard before actually buying it. I get this from my father, who takes months and possibly years before making any sort of significant purchase. Everything I buy, before I do I have to resolve about ten thousand issues, ranging from everything about the ecosystem and the world economy to how much more cramped it’ll make my house feel and if how often I’ll really use it.

But this post isn’t about describing another of my neuroses to you, it’s about my (not a) purse.

For the longest time I wanted a small bag for my camera. A lot of times I don’t want to take my whole bookbag with me, and it’s not good for carrying my camera anyway because stuff mixes around and it’ll get scratched, or crumbs in it or something. I have the segmented camera bag that my parents bought for my grandfather about twenty years ago, but it’s too well padded, too large, and too touristy. It’s great for getting through the airport with film, flash, and replacement lenses, but it’s a pain when I’m on the bike or running down an alley chasing after some cat.

So I’ve wanted just a small, nondescript little satchel for the longest time. But like I said I’m really picky about what I buy, especially if it’s something I’m going to use all the time and be to my mind part of the iconic ensemble that is me. My image is very important. Probably too much so. But the best way you can endear yourself to me is to listen intently to what I say, and you know my style. Mikiko is the best person in the world for this. She has developed a supernatural understanding of what I like and how I think, and so her presents are always riveting in how much they fit me. It’s as if I searched for a year and bought them myself.

Anyway, I wanted a bag for my camera, and I had a perfect image in my mind of exactly what size, weight, fabric, and style I wanted. Last weekend I found one in Koenji (obviously).

It’s made in Guatemala and wasn’t expensive at all. It’ll probably tear somehow and I’ll have to fix it, because I carry it with me every day now, forsaking my trusty JanSport if I can help it. It rocks. Yes. I am super cool.

Bicycle upgrades, plans

Around the end of last year my Enjoy just about hit rock-bottom. This was pretty much the culmination of three and a half years of being left to the elements and hard riding, but the kicker was my less than humorous brush with serial vandalism which required about four tube changes and eventually forced me to replace the rear tire. It’s not that I mind taking apart the bicycle, but the money and multiple trips to the store for parts was adding insult to injury considering my housing crisis. After my three “children” were moved out of harm’s path, I eventually had a chance to install a number of upgrades I’d been planning on for a while.

Since rain and open air means rust to lesser metals, all sorts of things were snagging on the shredded of my front basket. The real crime though was an aluminum can of Ebisu beer that was punctured and lost on a routine return trip from Shibuya to Shinjuku. I ended up removing the unit completely.

With the acquisition of the Trek, the Enjoy’s status as a work horse was solidified, so I made it a point to add as many “convenience” features as possible. Among these are a can holder for “juice”, and a rear cargo rack for oversized purchases or undersized (fine-boned) passengers.

Although I’ve had it installed for quite some time now, I do also have a Cateye cycle computer mounted on the handlebars. From my estimates I ride about 4500-5000 kilometers a year on commuting and weekend shopping runs, which is roughly a trip coast-to-coast in the States. Not impressive, but enough to make me start to think about an ergonomic seat. ^^;; To complement this, I added a compass to the Trek for voyages into foreign territory, though this is more for venturing out to the sticks than the city.

Aside from the standard day-to-day improvements, I’ve been playing with the idea for a while about a visual overhaul for the Enjoy. Proposed ideas have ranged from the conservative (a bright orange repaint) to the flamboyant (hand painted body panels and a steering wheel-size angel’s head on the basket). When it’ll get done remains to be seen, but I have an awfully satisfying imagine of getting up early on a Saturday morning in summer and toiling away to finish at dusk, glazed with the salt of dried sweat and sitting arms-on-knees in the driveway, beaming with satisfaction.

Tuning gear and brake tension is probably the most difficult maintenance I’ve performed so far, with the Enjoy’s friction-based single gear system edging out the dual derailleur setup on the Trek in terms of requisite finesse (frustration). The next big challenge I have is one of the greatest delicacies a bicycle mechanic can encounter: truing a wheel via spoke wrench. As of now I have the tool, but still lack the knowledge of how to use it properly. Hopefully I’ll get around to that sometime soon, as four years of road bumps and near-catastrophic collisions with oblivious children has added a little more lateral movement into my travel than I’m comfortable with.