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Aug/11

19

It’s been a while

I always mean to blog more, but usually it’s one of these thoughts that comes up in a conversation, or while I’m on a bus, or … so yeah. This time I’ve remembered all the way home, so let’s go!

I’ve now started at my new job at Google in Sydney (yes, free food!). It’s been pretty good so far. Sydney has been pretty welcoming, although everyone is really busy and I don’t have a circle (!) of friends to hang out with every day. After travelling for months in Asia (and many months of solo work with long hours before that) I guess it’s not that different though!

I have found some awesome new friends in Sydney though, which has been great, but perhaps that’s another story.

So what have I done … well. I came to Sydney about a week after I got back from Malaysia, and stayed out in Willoughby with a childhood friend. It looks something like this.

Willoughby

Starting work was full of things to learn but it was really a pretty welcoming experience. Pretty quickly I learnt that I was supposed to go to the US for training sometime, so I uh … did! That was 2 weeks in. In the US, in addition to working I biked up and down the Bay Area (near San Francisco), went to the Independence Day fireworks, and ate at at least 10 of the free cafes.

I also learnt that planning simultaneous movement of a bike and two travel bags is a difficult task. And that taxis in Mountain View can take 30 minutes to come or not turn up at all. And that the wind just loves blowing south when you’re biking north. And that I should act immediately on my thought “I should buy sunscreen sometime”. And that you should always take the first bus, even if it’s not an express.

Californian Road

Plus I played a bunch of Starcraft, joined the Google AHGL team (it’s a pretty awesome, friendly Starcraft 2 league between tech companies), and ran into a heap of interesting people.

I had 2 weeks of cloudless warm summer days in California. So when I got back to Sydney on my flight , it looked like this:

Wet

I got soaked on the way back to work that day, stubbornly refusing to take a taxi. But I did so in my nice new black Google jersey from the Mountain View store :P.

After that is a new story, and it can wait until a bit more of it has unfolded.

So yeah, I’ll try to cover both the good and bad things I’ve skipped over in the last few year or so. It will span several languages and areas of thought, so it might be hard to follow, but … よろしくね!

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May/11

4

Andong, Korea

Let’s skip over a bunch of stuff and into next week. Somewhere in there I went to Seoul and a couple of other places. Maybe some other day.

Andong is an inland city in Gyeonsangbukdo (안동,경상붘도, the romanization is not great, don’t try to pronounce it), roughly in the middle of South Korea ( map ). Andong University exchanges students with the University of Tasmania – one of my friends in Hobart is from Andong, also several students living there recently visited the Esperanto Society in Hobart and so I’ve been sent forth to return the favor. Please don’t make me explain again. Please? -_-

So I got here, managed to stuff up my Korean sufficiently to book two rooms instead of two nights at the motel, eventually explained and fixed it after a bit of back and forth and working out I couldn’t count to two (일, 이, what’s the difference!).

That night we had a thunderstorm which lasted all night and well into the next day. Because I’m stupid, I chose to go walking that day. Several kilometers, to the other side of town. Luckily I had my hat.

I’m fairly sure I’ve now walked the length of the main part of Andong twice. I managed to not find what I was looking for both times. Tomorrow will be the third time, so hopefully it counts.

I have to guiltily admit that I complain incessantly about the overwhelming amount of sweet bread that Japan and Korea have (sometimes it feels like treachery, that isn’t supposed to be sweet! Also, if you can see the sugar, you’re probably right that it will reach out and kill you), but I actually like it when they apply the same formula to coffee. One of the shops here does a very nice strawberry latte. Also green tea latte is generally very good, despite the disturbing colour.

I went to Hahoe on a suggestion from my Korean friend in Hobart, it’s a pretty little village close to Andong made up of old style houses on a river bend.

Anyway, I got in contact with some of the students here and was introduced to the Mate club, which is a university society studying English by talking about a set topic for an hour every day. Pretty good idea, and they take it fairly seriously and seem to be learning a lot from it!

Sadly my Korean is still bad, ie 안촣하요 or even 바부 level. Working on it.

Oh, and today I glued my hands together while trying to fix my shoe. The glue bottle followed the traditional tomato sauce bottle design, or maybe I was supposed to read the Korean on the back or something.

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It’s nice when things go to plan.

My friend and I had a great plan, since we couldn’t fly to Japan without a stopover we were going to visit his brother in Melbourne and then leave the next morning. Of course, there was the problem of the tsunami and the ongoing nuclear issues, but for the most part I think they were not relevant to tourists except in their potential to effect the normal running of things.

Anyway, a few days before it was time to go I got a phone call telling me the flight had been cancelled. We didn’t get the full story until getting to Melbourne, apparently we’d be flying to Sydney (the day before our original flight -_-), overnighting, and then going to Japan on Qantas via Hong Kong. Jetstar was still accepting bookings for the original flight just before we left.

So okay. That was a long and annoying mess, but it turned out that was the extent of the annoyance caused by the tsunami. Once we got to Japan, everything was incredibly smooth and efficient, probably more so because there were very few tourists. I got a bit lost looking for the hotel, but this was entirely my fault since I’d been there before (got lost last time too!). We saw very little direct evidence of problems other than a few lights which were switched off to save power and a couple of minor aftershocks.

Ok. Tokyo. Problems, nashi. What do you do in Tokyo in mid April?

I wanted to go see sakura (桜, cherry blossoms). However, it was night and we were in Ikebukuro, which is not particularly famous for it’s flowering cherries. So I asked one of the owners of the restaurant we went to where to find them (in unpracticed Japanese), and she very nicely drew us a map and guided us several blocks towards a small, hidden park where there were, in fact, sakura, see exhibit A. It’s awesome when locals are friendly!

Over the next few days we visited several of the famous sakura spots in Tokyo, including Ueno park and Yoyogi park. Japanese people hold parties supposedly for Hanami (flower viewing), but actually to get drunk. I think pictures tell the story better! We also spent a lot of time shopping, catching trains, being guided around shrines, drinking weird coffee, and trying to decide what to do next. I’m very grateful to my friend for dragging me to Japanese restaurants, because I would just be lazy and not bother if he didn’t :P.

That’s not the end, but Tokyo is a big place.

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May/11

4

Random Blogging

Last month and this month I’m traveling in Asia, mostly Japan and Korea. Since I’ve neglected my blog for about a year (since I last did something interesting, clearly) I’m going to post more random things about my travels in an effort to pretend I never stopped.

At some point I might also start typing randomly in Korean because the button is right there, and well, it’s just so easy to press it. If I fail to change back it’s because I glued my fingers together today and need to avoid unnecessary stress caused by fixing mistakes. If you can’t understand my Korean it’s probably because it’s wrong.

I’ll start out with some old stuff and some recent stuff, there’s some stories in between which I want to save up and write properly.

So, …!

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Mar/10

10

Postcards

In recent weeks a number of decidedly odd postcards have appeared on Twitter (and elsewhere), apparently sent to our friends from Japan by a couple of random people (if you have seen these people or know anything about their decidedly odd activities, please get in contact with me) [edit] [I may award a decidedly odd prize].

For the purpose of working out what it’s all about, I’ve collected those that have surfaced here to be contemplated in harmony.

お楽しみに! (Enjoy!)

Puzzling.

Puzzling.

This card is of particular interest – it was received by Tom and caused a great deal of confusion because it is not actually written in Japanese or Chinese. It’s a puzzle. And it’s pointlessly hard. For those short on time, Tom’s excellent solution can be found here.

Thanks to everyone who uploaded postcards! There’s still a few out there I think, so if you have one please let me know!

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Feb/10

11

Random Photos

Street

Some nice looking rooftops, Kyoto

Some nice looking rooftops, Kyoto

Snow and scenery

Snow and scenery

Some nice looking rooftops, Kyoto

Some nice looking rooftops, Kyoto

Ironic sign, the Japanese text says Sake (alcohol) and tabacco. Sideways.

Ironic sign, the Japanese text says Sake (alcohol) and tabacco. Sideways.

I uploaded these before but didn’t have time to post. Just about to run out of time again, so I can’t write much.

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Jan/10

20

On Writing

I’d just like to briefly observe something that I guess is fairly obvious about the nature of writing things to be read by other people.

Conveying experiences perfectly is impossible.

You’ll agree this is pretty obvious. However, I think I’ll go further than this – giving anything more than a hint of an experience was like is a fantastically difficult task.

The problem is that the main way in which authors build images in the mind of the reader is by calling on the reader’s experience and imagination, two things which by their very nature vary wildly from person to person. This means that writing a book that nearly everyone can enjoy is a virtual impossibility (and yet some incredibly talented and lucky authors manage it).

Even writing a message for a specific person requires you to know precisely how that person thinks, under what conditions it will be read, and how the person will be feeling when they read it.

Such is the hazard of communication.

I’m sure that this has all been said before. This is just my own attempt at explaining an experience of it.

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Dec/09

17

iPhone development

If you follow me on Twitter then you probably know that I’ve recently started an independent games studio called Abstract Artificer – its first game, called Spiri, has been released and is available on the iPhone App Store for your equivalent of US$1.

Spiri is a fun little game, but next I’m thinking of making something bigger next, maybe with a somewhat related concept but with a lot more of the things that people want from an iPhone game – social aspects, short term goals, and lots of marketing -_-. Also looking at making some non-game apps that people have suggested or requested from me.

For more on my game Spiri and Abstract Artificer, see AbstractArtificer.com.

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On #coffeetime

Coffeetime is the eternal state of being that defines our presence in the world. It both is and is not finite, linked as it is to both a finite resource (time), and to the infinite reach of human imagination.

As such, you should understand that the question "when is coffeetime?" is more than a mere request for temporal details. It is a spiritual call for guidance and a link back to reality.