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Wondering, wandering, and making sense of the world.

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Archive for January, 2013

The great socks swap

After reading this, most of my friends probably rolled their eyes and thought, “this is so Sushi.”

I believe that pairing matching socks after a load of laundry is a waste of time. This is why I try to only have one type of socks for all occasions, simple long black socks. The drawback to this lifestyle choice is that when some of the socks start to fade and/or develop holes, you need to change the entire batch. I held off doing this for a while, putting up with holes or sending some to the grave, but few months ago I decided to execute the great socks swap.

Faded old socks

Faded old socks

Set of brand new socks

Set of brand new socks

The interesting result of this activity was that I got to calculate exactly how much my socks expenditure is. I bought 35 pairs of new socks (7×5 packs), which is more than enough but I took into account losses and early failures, for a total of about 24 euros (I lost the receipt). Yes, you can find socks for really cheap in Germany. My last batch of socks, purchased in California, lasted me about 4 years (2008-2012) which (assuming they are equally priced, which sounds about right) calculates to 6 euros per year, 50 cents per month, or a little over 1.5 pennies per day. A lot of people talk about moving things to a subscription model, but if you want to make my socks consumption into a subscription model, it has to cost no more than a can of coke per month or few toothpicks a day. Maybe I would pay 3 cents for a delivery of fresh socks every so often, but I doubt anyone can make that business model work. Somethings are still best purchased outright.

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You die, and keep dying

Today I’ve come to the realization that one’s death is not a momentary event but a continual process of fading away.

My father passed away almost ten years ago. I never really got to have the kinds of conversation over drinks that I’m now used to and have come to enjoy. I was still too immature and unwise and too young to drink (legally) when he passed away.

Since then, every so often, when I return to Japan, I went out drinking with his old friends. Unlike myself, my father grew up and lived his entire life in one city, so the friends were life long ones who also knew me from the day I was born. As much as I enjoyed the conversations that shed a hint of light on who my father was, I think they enjoyed having me as a proxy for my late father.

Today I found out that one of them, a close family friend and probably the one I’ve been out most with, succumbed to cancer.

In the past I’ve written about how the internet has been rewriting what it means to die with our Facebook accounts becoming memorials and digital remnants becoming our biographies. However, today I am reminded that we also live on through other people and their memories, and with the passing of time…

I don’t know if there is a lesson in all this. I just know that today, my father feels a little bit farther away, and he’s been dead for almost ten years.

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Productivity and the speed of the internet

productivity and the speed of internet

Why I seem to get the most amount of writing/work done when I’m on trains and planes.

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Bizarre Attachments

99.99% of unsolicited e-mails are spam. Then there are completely inexplicable e-mails whose purpose is entirely mysterious.

Bizarre-Attachments

Last year, I received few of these e-mails from mysterious addresses with numerical gibberish subject lines, no body text, and over a hundred attached pictures (many of them duplicating).

I have no idea what to make of these. There is a slightly religious undertone, am I supposed to be brainwashed? Am I missing subliminal messages? I doubt they are digital drugs.

Anyone have any idea/clue/interpretation?

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Cute little Iceland

I was in Iceland for New Years, participating in an Ultimate Frisbee hat tournament (teams arranged on-site, so more of a “for the fun of the game” tournament). It was a fantastic tournament with fun people (mostly from Europe), lots of celebrating, and a country that’s just too cute.

Iceland has 320,000 people. That’s approximately the population of Saint Louis, Cardiff, Bielefeld, or Panasonic. There are 100 times more people in the greater Tokyo Metropolitan area than in Iceland, and this is no city state either like Vatican City, Monaco, or Singapore. Iceland is the 18th largest island in the world and is comparable in size to Bulgaria (pop. 7.3M), South Korea (pop. 50M), or Kentucky (pop. 4.4M).  It’s also not a “piggy-back” country like Lichtenstein which pretty much feels like an extension to Switzerland (I apologize to any Lichtensteiners who found this post). Iceland has its own coast guard, media, language, culture, frisbee team, etc.

One of the more surreal Icelandic experience happened when I was eating dinner with my Icelandic teammate from the tournament and her sister. To highlight how small Iceland was, the sister picked up the Icelandic national newspaper and started flipping through pointing at everyone she was connected to. “Same high school,” “neighbor,” “family friend,” “once acted in his company’s commercial,” etc. By the end of it, she was in some way connected to about half the people highlighted in the national newspaper. Pick up your own national newspaper. Do you even know a single person, in person?

During WWII, Iceland was invaded and taken over by the British who wanted to control the island before the Germans could. The invasion force consisted of ~700 partially trained marines with hand drawn maps from memory, and planning and weapons familiarization was done en route on the transport. The Icelanders, asserting neutrality and without a real military did not put a fight, and the island was conquered without a single casualty. The biggest resistance may have been put up by this man:

One Icelander snatched a rifle from a marine and stuffed a cigarette in it. He then threw it back to the marine and told him to be careful with it. An officer arrived to scold the marine.

Icelandic people believe that gnomes or ferries live in boulders and they should not be disturbed. This is taken very seriously with curvy roads being paved to avoid angering any of the fictitious creatures. You can imagine that in a country with lots of snow and icy roads, this is really hazardous. Further more, there are professional “elf-spotters” who are hired by city planners and home builders.

Iceland is part of the Schengen area but not part of the EU and definitely not part of Euro, which helped them rebound fairly strongly out of their economic crash in 2008. The Icelandic Kroner, roughly 160 ISK to the Euro currently, which threw off the Europeans and Americans who aren’t used to dealing with triple and quadruple digit prices (it’s not so far off from the yen for me), has five coins, and they all have sea creatures on the back:

Icelandic Coins

Given the opportunity, I would highly recommend visiting Iceland. It’s not a cheap country to travel to or in, but the natural beauty (or surreality) and welcoming people make it worthwhile. The winter months are probably not the best time to visit, despite the saying, “Iceland is green and Greenland is ice,” there are plenty of ice, snow, and hail. The weather during my stay was actually brutal, and we had to save two cars that got stuck on a snowy hill (imagine 30 fit frisbee players exiting a bus and approaching your car during a snow storm, help start the car up the hill, and start cheering once it gets going). I hear that the summer months are gorgeous with very long days, and cycling around Iceland is a great way to see the country.

Lastly, Iceland has the greatest and largest hot tub I’ve ever been in, the Blue Lagoon:

Blue Lagoon

I had a fantastic stay, and special thanks to the tournament organizers and the ultimate frisbee community for making it happen.

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明けましておめでとうございます – Happy New Year – Frohes neues Jahr

ブログで年賀状もあれこれ三年目になります。(去年一昨年

今年も色々ありましたが、無事生活拠点を変えずに一年過ごす事ができました。ドイツ語はまだまだ身に付きませんが頼れる仲間も増え、なかなか有意義な生活を送っています。

九月にとうとう三十代突入しましたが、自分の歳に脅迫されず気ままに生きていこうと思います。

そんな無責任な小生、今年もよろしくお願いします。

平成二十五年 元旦

(写真は母とシベリア鉄道横断後のモスクワで)

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