Places I’ve been

I have Earthdesk as my desktop on the PC. (I have the default wallpaper on the MacBook as I never really see it due to the ‘work’ thing).

Apart from the moon, sun, the ISS (the yellow circle with the dot in it) and storm names which appear anyway, I’ve added dots to the places I’ve been.
Orange – family
Purple – Automattic

(click for big)

They bring back good memories.

And back

They were actually decent people when letting me out. They said my hands were cool as they set off the detector with the steel in them. Very surprised. Landed late and apart from the americal woman sat next to me who ate a huge sandwich in two bites the whole back thing was okay.
Nearly lost the macbook (in a bar), camera (in a cafe), luggage (in a shop) but all were safe when I got back to them.

Very difficult week though for reasons I’m not going into here. It made me realise how broken I am but I also have no real clue how to fix me. There is no single fix and while I can see one thing that would / might be helpful and I have one more I think might help, but each forms only a sliver of a solution.

Walking back into the house where literally nothing had moved felt very very strange. Had things moved it would havde been weirder as no-one should have been here, but yeah, very odd.

Get my xDF2 chip on Sunday.

Orlando

Well they let me in. Frisked, questioned but no worse than that. My last time leaving the US was the bad though so there’s time yet.

Really good to meet up with people I knew before but also to meet with so many new teammates where we have only communicated in Slack before.

Really missing Jacqui. Last night we all went to Marvel Island – I ate mac’n’cheese for the first time – and so many things I saw that I thought about how she would like to have seen it, would have looked at photos, would have asked me about people, and she isn’t around now for me to do that. I’ll have the photos (on smugmug at some point) but I can’t share this experience with her.

Away to be groped

Last time I went through an airport (to/from Poland) I got complimented on my tattoos and waved through without stopping. That has never happened in the USA and I doubt it will happen this time – heading USA way tomorrow.

When I had my leg done Neil covered it in saniderm that was relatively thick. Good stuff though – it stuck for days, itching was reduced and the tattoo looks great.
The left arm though he used saniderm again but this stuff was super thin, like onion skin. I can’t even feel the edge where it stops. That was Thursday, it’s Sunday and it’s still stuck perfectly. I plan on removing it maybe this Thursday.
Switched the initial nostril hoop things for Ti rings. Why wait for it to heal then stretch when I can expand it now and let it heal for the one time?

The meetup.com group I started is ticking over nicely. We don’t just talk about how we got to pass the entry requirements but it’s good when talking and a memory is triggered that everyone else knows why you suddenly went silent, or turned to stare out of the window. Everyone who has come along has been really cool.

Wanting to make a fairly significant life change but – like all of us – a money thing gets in the way. Not sure if it’s solvable.

My HOSTS file remains good – a solid week of blocking all things facebook, instagram and twitter. Will be adding a chunk of google domains to it soon.

Currently reading:

Countdown to Zero Day: Stuxnet and the Launch of the World’s First Digital Weapon

Fear: Trump in the White House

The Secret Barrister: Stories of the Law and How It’s Broken

Click Here to Kill Everybody: Security and Survival in a Hyper-connected World

I’m still totally off fiction, just like I’m off films too. I don’t want pretend stuff.

Tracking my day

Using IOGraph I have tracked my actions today. I use a Wacom tablet/stylus if it makes any difference.


Click for the big image.
I can explain some.
The big circle top left is where certain bookmarks are grouped together – mainly for plugins/akismet. The big one in the centre is where I rest my hand (I only noticed I did this after seeing that circle develop over the day). The grouping in the top right is where I click to catch the browser scrollbars. It’s wide because the windows overlap each other down that side. The lines that move into the bottom left/right are toward action buttons. The predominance of circles on the left are email subjects / forum posts. The very big dot on the left is where windows overlap so there I can easily click between irc / IM / email / Things so I don’t have to cmd+tab or use dock icons (it’s faster my way).

New shiny

I’m sitting in front of two machines, both belong to work. My laptop belongs to work. The other computers in the house – and there are a few – do not have my name on. So if I want to just browse the net, or do non-work stuff I have to do this on a work machine. And work is work, I can’t help but see that xchat is open, adium is showing incoming, twitter searches are in the dock as are 3 browsers and any other programs I might be using that day. There is no getting away from the fact that these two are Work. They are almost identical too so that should this one fail the other is there to rely on. Anyway, no computer, no personal web stuff. I couldn’t compartmentalise any online activity. That works as an excuse for a new shiny but it’s actually real.

Don’t need a desktop or a SFF machine because I don’t need what it can do. I don’t need a laptop because what I want to use it for does not warrant the size, weight or ability. So – that leaves a notebook. Checking several sites in the end I opted for a Compaq CQ10. It’s running Windows XP (and it arrived with no activated crapware) so I’m quite happy there. All the programs I want are now installed, I have a few gb of music and when the extra gb of RAM arrives (it runs well but as it’ll take 2 it can have 2) it’ll be all the smoother. OS is tweaked a little, custom theme installed. And no work programs. Pidgin will be Live and ICQ only, no Skype, irc is there but not for work. It’s a work-free machine, one I can use and see just what I have created. I do have a couple of plans for some non-work work which I can move to it which will be better. And if I am out and it is lost / stolen then unlike my laptop I don’t need to worry about work passwords/data. So all is good.

The last day

I had wanted to see the Shofukuji Temple and Naoko had said we could do that on the Sunday. But with Yasu offering to show me some places and Naoko – along with Noel and Ned – needing to head to Tokyo then the temple dropped off the agenda. It didn’t matter because I had no checklist as such and I had also experienced other shrines.
On the saturday night I tried to get some cash from a machine and the machine said No. I emailed Jacqui who spoke to the bank and Visa who assured her it should have said Yes. She had done this before I went so the card being used abroad wouldn’t set any bells off. So Sunday started with me a little concerned over the money but a machine that said yes then a Starbucks and then some food meant that as I headed around shops to try and buy the girls something I was feeling pretty good. It’s not a tourist place which is excellent and not excellent and I was struggling – they didn’t even have any Hello Kitty gear in the right sizes. I was meant to be outside the office by 12:00 and I had left at 09:30. I gave up around 11 and settled for some jewellery. Not a bad choice in the end and it was the same type of gift I brought back from my first visit to San Francisco but I would have preferred something slightly more japanese. Anyway, by 11:45 I’m sitting on the kerb sharing some cake with the pigeons.
Ishibashi appears and a few minutes later Yasu does in his car. Turns out it’s his brother’s but he is in China. We drove across the city and after stopping for coffee (they do a lot of chilled coffee over there. Each time I ordered coffee anywhere I had to say I wanted it hot) we met one of the other guys from the company and he was with – I think – his girlfriend. Off to a train we went.

Getting the tube to Wordcamp there had been barriers between the platform and gates between those barriers. Those gates said to stand in 2 lines. Of course the train stopped in perfect position. This overland train probably did too but I didn’t notice. The station and journey were unremarkable and we hopped off at Dazaifu.

I think that if you went to Japan with a checklist of the types of things you wanted to see this would hit several items – stone carvings, shrines, ornamental bridge, blossom, koi, trees, history and a huge museum. My camera battery ran out after a couple of pictures.

It was busy being a Sunday and it was obviously a tourist spot for many japanese. Tea was called for. Into a cafe(?) where you took your shoes off, sat on a platform at chair height then swung your legs around to be under the table. It would look like you were sitting at a very low table (as if you were sitting cross-legged at a table). I passed on the food and instead had a bowl of green tea then a larger bowl of better green tea. It was surprising seeing elderly men and women doing the serving and moving up onto and off the raised platform. Refreshments done we slowly made our way up to the museum pausing briefly on the ornamental bridge to see the huge koi swimming below. At the museum Yasu found a guide who spoke english and after I said I’d like to know a little about everything off we went. It was incredibly good of Yasu and the others to not only take the time to show me but also to probably walk around a place they would have been at other times. It took a fair amount of time to get round because it was a big – and perfectly clean – place. On the way back down to the train station we passed a shop selling chopsticks so I bought a pair (black, cherry blossom pattern) and I also got to see some other of the structures.

The plan had been to go bowling then to a yatai for food. Time had crept on though so bowling was skipped. Instead we headed to a car park in the city after the train brought us back. This car park was several floors high and free to park. It was free because it was the carpark the pachinko players could use and so not having to pay for the car can only have helped the people who ran this place. Going down in the lift I was asked if I’d ever heard pachinko. At the first floor I could hear a machine-like noise. On the ground floor it was really loud and when the doors opened it went straight into Health and Safety territory. Very very loud. Lanes of players all sat in their bright chairs, almost all with several boxes of the steel balls stacked behind them – boxes that cost 5000 yen which at the rate I got would be £37 / $56 a box. The noise was incredible and the machines were all coloured and flashing brightly. I managed to get a couple of pictures and started to video but that had to stop when we were told to so it is very brief. I knew about pachinko but it wasn’t something I felt I had to do. I had walked through a couple of arcades but this huge hall was really amazing. We left and walked around the corner to what was effectively yatai lane – lots of stalls all the way down on one side. In the city it might be one of two together but here they were next to each other. In we went for food.

From the left: Fish paste inside something. Not sure what it was but it was edible. The grey item is some sort of boiled vegetable extract I think. Very rubbery indeed. The yellow is mustard which actually does taste like english mustard. The skewer is the beef tendon. See the bit at the bottom? The one that looks gelatinous? That was mine… Other dish is tofu and a huge chunk of radish which I assume is horseradish.

I’m all for trying new food. And I did here. It was amusing that Yasu said all the food was good. No matter what I pointed at he said it was good. Even when the others proclaimed something that suggested strongly was wrong he insisted he was right. The mood around the table was really good, friendly and funny. One item was ‘fish paste’. I said I didn’t like fish that much and Yasu said it didn’t taste like fish. Others laughed, he insisted so I ate some. He was wrong and everyone – including him – laughed again. He indicated a skewer of what looked like raw meat. I’d be eating some but it didn’t look like beef. He is pointing to his arm and he couldn’t get the name he needed. One of the ladies used Excite translate (no-one used Google translate) and as I picked the ‘best bit’ up toward my mouth I was shown the translation. Beef tendon. That would explain the ‘no meat’ appearance. It was an opaque but shiny orangey lump of what looked like firm jelly. I ate it. It did not taste of beef at all and it wasn’t actually that bad. Not sure I’d repeat the experience but if I had to it would not be a problem. I was pretty good with the chopsticks by now too. Other highlights were chicken (which looked like chicken) and lots of fresh shredded ginger too. Was a good meal and I insisted I paid – least I could do for the day they had given me. Back in the car park I said farewell to the other couple and I was dropped off at the hotel.

That day really does rank as one of the best I have ever experienced. It had everything in it I could want. I got back to the hotel room and felt so relaxed, fulfilled and just so damn great. And it was all down to the people I was with – how do you thank people like that enough?

A day to not forget

Family aside today ranks as one of the best I have ever experienced. It would be no use writing what happened because in many ways it was hardly spectacular but the people I was with, where we went, how we got on and other stuff that was from in me and what I wanted all added up to a day I could not have anticipated or ever imagined.

It was beyond wonderful.

Have some ginger:
Yatai!

Walking in the rain

Was yesterday. Got the tube with Naoko and Noel there. Did I mention I met Noel for the first time the day before? Top bloke. The Community Centre venue was good (they drive on the proper side of the road here which makes crossing them so much easier and safer) and I found a drinks machine that sold small hot tins of coffee. I worked my way along them and eventually found the black coffee/no milk/no sugar one. There are dozens of these machines all over the place, it’s very odd. Anyway, except Noel’s which Naoko translated the rest were – quite naturally – in japanese. So I wandered around more than listened which explains the coffee. I had not intended to speak here but Naoko had asked me so I did 5 minutes of who I am, how I came to work for Automattic and that of 8500 plugins we have only 117 turn up if you search for ‘japanese’ so please write more so japanese users can also have more choice and make more of their blogs.
After the event we all headed off to a venue around the corner for a buffet meal and drinks. I wasn’t hungry and after 2 bottles of a fanta equivalent it was starting to feel odd being the only person in a room of 50+ who could only speak english. I said my farewells to Naoko, Ned and Noel all of who are off to Tokyo today for some other event and got some vague directions (go out, turn left, keep walking) to the river from where I could find my way.

A long long time later where I have to admit the “seeing something unintended and new” turned into “where the hell am I?” while plodding through the rain I eventually found my way back. As lost as I was though I did notice new stuff which just doesn’t happen at home. It was the longest I have been out just walking and while it was a little tedious to get lost and be soaked in the rain it was still part of what I wanted, it was still being here and experiencing.

Oh – at Wordcamp one of the companies with their presentation outside was doing it on a PS3. I expressed some concern over the misuse of this so they quit that and let me play a level of Flower for those around. Very good of them :)

Stuff today is first get some money from a machine, second to meet Yasu and see what parts of Fukuoka he thinks are the coolest and lastly to get back with lots of time to pack ready for a 4am start back home and sleep.