I know, I know.

Forgive me listeners, for I have sinned. It has been a month since my last podcast.

I will get one out this week, I promise. Even if it’s just me making fart noises by cupping my armpit.

Don’t let anyone tell you that editing hours of audio isn’t a bitch. I either have to learn to enjoy it or find a good way to organize raw audio files. Maybe I need to get into the habit of making shorter files when recording.

More panoramas coming soon

The second I woke up this morning I had a blinding flash of inspiration. I created a makeshift monopod for my Sony Clie PEG-NX70V using a Swiss army knife, a long piece of dental floss and the clip from a broken Mickey Mouse keitai strap. (I really wanted to use duct tape to make it an official McGiver hack but couldn’t figure out how to fit it into the equation.)

Here’s the entire process. The clip attaches to the Clie right under the camera, the floss is tied to the clip and the Swiss army knife acts as a plumb bob so the Clie’s video camera stays relatively the same height and location. I shoot a video of everywhere from top to bottom, 360 degrees around, while trying to keep the camera’s lens rotating around the same point in space. The MPEG gets imported into the PC where I delete the crappy parts with QuickTime. Then I export one or two frames per second as JPEGs — about 150-400 images in all. Those get fed into AutoStitch, which theoretically should piece them all together into one image. When the image is viewed with the PTviewer Java applet, it should look fairly good, although relatively low res since the Clie’s video camera only does 160 X 120. Maybe I should try taking stills at 640 X 480.

There are lots of autostitched photos in flickr under the tags autostitch and composite. And beautiful QuickTime panoramas from around the world (along with the moon and Mars) at panoramas.dk.

The HairCutCast

Wow, youse guys are so lucky! Two and a half podcasts flom Japan in one weekend! Oh how I envy you.

There are photos in the gallery. The truth is they’ve been there for quite a while.

Some of the topics of discussion I had with the woman who cut my hair:

  • I am a podcaster. That’s why I took all those photos while I was waiting, and it’s also why I have microphones in my ears.
  • She never heard of podcasting, but she knows about MP3 players.
  • She said, “So this is kind of like watching a video clip filmed while riding a roller coaster and feeling like you’re there, eh?”
  • She’s still using Windows 98. Needs to upgrade but not looking forward to the pain of transferring all her programs to a new computer. The other day she cut a guy’s hair who said he has three PCs that are still running Windows 95. I said he must really like it.
  • Until 8 years ago, it was illegal to run a shop like QB House because of strict sanitary regulations. Also, the minimum price for a haircut was regulated. ($30-$40 minimum) In fact, the association for hair cutters still requires members to fix their prices. QB House isn’t a member.
  • The 300th QB House in Japan will open soon. There are stores in other countries too. She mentioned Singapore, Malaysia and Hong Kong.
  • You get to keep the comb.

QB House links:

  • Business is booming. The number of customers is in orange, the number of stores in blue
  • The “service unit.” Nice and sterile sounding, eh? You can hold your mouse over areas of the image to see explanations most of you won’t be able to read. But it’s cool because it’s in Japanese, right?
  • The next generation cutting station will include a video monitor to bombard customers with advertisements deliver various information to customers.
  • Employment info. Full time employees make about US $22-45,000 a year. Part-timers make $10/hr and up, which means the company is really raking in money, but keep in mind that rent and electricity here are quite expensive.

Podcaster (not me) Fired for Podcasting

Nate from the Nate and Di Show got fired for acting like an immature moron in church and podcasting it. This was posted by Di in the Podcasting News Forum last week:

Apparently, folks here in the bible belt do not appreciate our strange sense of humor. Our trip to church on episode 5 apparently caused quite a stir in his office. Without warning, Nate was summarily released from his job today because someone we trusted at his company sent his boss a link to the site earlier this week. Nate was told our behavior on the show does not reflect the company “image”… even though we do it in our free time, not at work, and we never even mentioned where he worked. Anyhow, he was offered a severance package, so he really can’t discuss the details about the company, but we will hopefully survive for awhile, at least until he finds a new job. Most of our shows are just plain goofy, nothing to get that offended about(we think), but some people are so uptight down here that it’s ridiculous.

I wouldn’t be surprised if in order to receive the severance package he had to give up the right to sue the company. No doubt he was scared stiff when the shit hit the fan and wasn’t thinking straight.

Herro Flom McDonald’s

If the lack of commentary in The Frogcast made you pine for the velvety smoothness of my voice, you’re going to love this episode. It’s blabberific! (TM) And every time I say “um” you have to take a drink. (Or come to think of it, maybe I should take a drink.)

Show notes:

  • My toy collection:
  • Otofuke’s website
    • Listen to more of their songs
    • Photos from their street performance in NYC
    • Photos of them performing on the east side of Shinjuku Station (The side Kabukicho is on.)
  • If you like playing with digital photography, definitely check out AutoStitch. I have a gallery of images I made last night and today.
  • Ani-Zoo (Pronounced “Zoe”)
    • His official, under construction website
    • Page with a photo of him
    • I forgot to take a photo of the place where I saw him perform. So sue me.
  • Learn all about Golden Week just like I did. Until now I never bothered.
  • If you were to download my humble carp streamer photo and use it for your desktop wallpaper, I would be most honored.
  • The sad sad Planet’s website

My podcasting hat

Our House is a Very Very Very Fine House.

Click and drag on the image to scroll around. If you’re saying, “What image?” then you need to install Java. Go ahead. It’s good for you.

That’s the back of our house. The house on the other side of the “street” with all the shrubbery in front of it is my father in law’s house.

I made this with very little effort and no practice. That’s why it’s kinda crappy. I simply stood in one spot and “painted” the scene with my Sony Clie’s 160×120 pixel video camera; no tripod, no nuthin’, I simply filmed everywhere. I downloaded the MPEG-4 movie to my PC and exported about three frames a second to JPEG using QuickTime. Then I pointed AutoStitch at the directory full of images. It did the rest.

There are ways to create higher quality panoramas, but they take lots of time, effort and an investment in hardware. But for what I want to do–take a quick immersive snapshot so listeners can get a clearer image of what they’re hearing–I’m happy with it. Take a look here for some stunningly beautiful hi-res panoramas of Japan.

You can see most of the path I took on the walk from the door to the rice field full of frogs. The door’s in front of you. Pan left. I walked up the alley then turned right. The rice field is right behind the white truck parked in the driveway of grandpa’s house.

What you hears is what you gets.

Just saw this quote on Podcast Alley about me:

He may not be the most professional, most dedicated, nor the most Japanophilic…but he fills the nice (sic) for those who want to know about life in Japan. 🙂

Yep, that’s me! 🙂 Always looking out for #187 in the rankings. If by some fluke I start getting too popular, I’ll return things to normal by putting out a few shows of armpit farts and making schloppy noises with my mouth.

The Frogcast

Pretty self-explanatory, this one. Last night I attached my earbud microphones to my glasses with rubber bands to minimize the “cranial backwash,” walked outside to the rice paddy next to our house, sat there quietly for about 10 minutes or so then went back inside.

I recommend listening to it with headphones on–your best pair–and in a very quiet setting. The detail is incredible, if I do say so myself. You can hear exactly what I was hearing. Try picking out the two times I scratched my head.

It loops very well. I feel asleep listening to it and dreamed I had little vicious frogs stuck in my hair. No joke.

I’m using the NYU Distributed Network to cache and distribute this podcast. Please let me know if there are any problems with it.

“Are you a Japanese citizen?”

I get asked this a lot from both foreigners and Japanese. No, I’m still American. But theoretically, I could become a Japanese citizen:

By law, aliens with 5 years of continuous residence are eligible for naturalization and citizenship rights, including the right to vote; however, in practice, most eligible aliens choose not to apply for citizenship, partly due to fears that their cultural identity would be lost. Obstacles to naturalization included broad discretion available to adjudicating officers and great emphasis on Japanese-language ability. Naturalization procedures also required an extensive background check, including inquiries into the applicant’s economic status and assimilation into society. Koreans were given the option of adopting a Japanese surname. The Government defended its naturalization procedures as necessary to ensure the smooth assimilation of foreigners into society. Alien permanent residents may live abroad for up to 4 or 5 years without losing their right to permanent residence in the country.

Even if I were to renounce my American citizenship for Japanese citizenship, I’d still be a foreigner. It’s not like America where anyone can not only become an American but also be accepted as one. In Japan, if you’re not Japanese, you’re not Japanese.

Being married makes me a husband. Having two sons makes me a father. Living in Japan makes me a foreigner. So it doesn’t bother me being treated as such. On the contrary, as a privileged white guy, it’s good to be able to see the world from the perspective of a minority. I gave up bitching about it years ago.