Monthly Bloggers’ Meetup in Tokyo

Me trying to look olderStill no news to report from me. I work, I go home, lather, rinse, repeat. Next month, I turn 40 years old. It’s not fair. Not so long ago I was a teenager trying to grow a mustache in an attempt to look older. I can’t figure out what I did that was so horrible as to deserve this fate.

I don’t feel 40. I don’t think I look it either. People my age don’t look young anymore. They’re covered with wrinkles and cellulite and have specks of gray in their thinning hair. But at least they tend to have their stuff together. My stuff is lying in piles around the house. Am I allowed to have a middle aged crisis now? Because I think I’ve already starting having one. A very quiet one. Mostly. Until right now.

Changing the subject to the subject of this post, a bunch of bloggers who live in and around Tokyo meet at The Dubliners’ Irish Pub in Shibuya on the third Wednesday of every month at 7 pm. That’s tomorrow. I will be there, and I will drink (but not smoke) and probably moan a little about turning 40 because it stinks, although it’s not as bad as the alternative, which is dying.

And if anyone makes fun of me for getting old, I will beat them senseless with my stainless steel walker.

An Open Invite

I’m turning into a workaholic hermit, it’s been 47 days since I last did anything social, and I finally got paid today. Anyone in Tokyo up for drinks tomorrow night (Friday)?

I wish I had something interesting or witty to say, but all I do these days is work, go home, tag base, then go to work again.

Me and Jackie Chan

The other night, David Letterman had Jackie Chan on and asked him if he enjoyed making the Rush Hour movies. His reply:

“Not really…On the set I just follow whatever they tell me to do. They tell me fight, I fight. They tell me speak dialog, I speak dialog. When I speak dialog everybody laughing, I don’t understand what’s going on. Then I don’t know why audience like it.”

I can sympathize. Every morning, I think about what I’d say if I were to do a podcast and I think, “Nobody would want to hear about that.” But when I force myself to do one, the reaction is positive and for the life of me I can’t understand why. It’s like I’m the only one not tuned into the appeal.

I know, I know, I’ve said the same thing 100 times. But I’m still trying to figure it out. The problem is, I really like all the people who come to this site, so I have to keep putting stuff out so you keep coming back.

A happy news chaser, to clear your palate.

  • I bought a 30GB iPod yesterday to replace the one I lost. I also bought a new pair of Sennheiser CX 300 earbuds ($40 and they’re the best I’ve ever owned). With the store points I collected from that purchase, I picked up an expensive and beautifully crafted and designed leather case for a mere 45 yen.
  • For the first time in ages, tonight I’m having dinner with my best friend and her cousin. That might not make you happy, but it sure makes me happy.
  • The book publisher for whom we’re going to produce a podcast is mere centimeters away from approving the budget. Boy, will you be surprised when I can finally announce the company’s name.
  • As previously mentioned, my home computer is fixed, and I didn’t lose any data.
  • I’m going to take the kids to the International Tokyo Toy Show over the weekend, and the above-mentioned best friend and her daughter might come along. I think I’ll be able to bribe the kids into helping with a videocast, on the condition that I let them do it in Japanese.
  • Life is boring, repetitive, lonely, soul-draining and tedious for me lately, but it won’t be that way forever, and things could be a whole lot worse. I just need to make an effort to crawl out from under this rock.

I probably shouldn’t mention this…

…but I need to get it out because I have no one to to talk to about it. Last week a young, beautiful, intelligent, and very capable coworker of ours took her own life. Someone I’ve worked with for years. None of us had any idea she was depressed. Her funeral was last Saturday, and her replacement started work yesterday. I think about her and her poor, grieving family a lot. She really was a wonderful person, and we all miss her, but life has to go on. She was a half-Peruvian, half-Japanese woman named Arisa, fresh out of university.

So what’s new with me?

I’ve reverted to my natural state, a self-absorbed hermit geek trying to force myself to grow a bigger brain. See, I’ve got this anxiety problem ever since childhood. It’s rooted in the mantra, “I have to, but I can’t,” and it can be applied to many situations in life. It’s the thought pattern that stresses me out more than any other.

Our company has five websites for the six organizations–some of the for profit, others non-profit–that we run out of this office with fewer than ten employees. (My boss redefines the term “workaholic.”) I’m the IT guy. Just me. Anything more technical than browsing the web and accessing your email? That’s my job. I’m also the maintenance man, tightening screws, fixing doorknobs, and changing light bulbs because I’m also the tallest. I also get to haul out the heavy garbage.

Did I mention all our websites are also bilingual English/Japanese? That’s an extra challenge, and a big one, because there’s a technical aspect to it in addition to the comparatively simple task of keeping the contents in each language in sync with each other.

Is the stress getting through to you? Can you tell I’m stressed? I’m not done yet.

Our three main sites need to be overhauled. Site #1 was developed in 2000 in Java by the guy who had this job before me. I don’t know dick about Java, which means I can barely understand the concepts behind servlets, containers, Jakarta Struts, Tomcat configuration files… Whenever something has to get tweaked under the hood, I get that, “I have to, but I can’t” feeling, and it stresses me out. Our business model has changed since the site was developed, so the way the site fundamentally works has to be changed. Overhauled.

Site #2 is the ugliest website I’ve ever seen. It was written in Perl sometime in the mid to late 90’s. It’s my duty to humanity to tear that eyesore down and start over from scratch.

Site #3 consists of completely static HTML pages, but should be database driven with an easy-to-use backend so our non-technical staff can update it. In both Japanese and English, remember.

So the boss wants this all done like, two months ago. Oh, and site #1 (and possibly #2 and #3 also) needs a mobile interface so people can read it on their cell phones in Japanese, which means the view for phones has to be in Shift-JIS while the web version should be in UTF-8. Do you understand that? I’m the only one here who does. It’s a lonely job. Whenever I try to explain something technical to my boss or coworkers, it takes half an hour of excruciating patience on both sides.

So that’s the gist of the situation, and here’s the problem: I suck at programming. I can tweak already written code or write little snippets of code that work, but God forbid I’d ever have to figure out what they do six months later, or even worse, have to make any major changes or additions. The temptation to do things the quick and dirty way is strong–like I said, the boss wants stuff done when he tells me to do it, not half a year later. That’s reasonable, and I really do feel for him. He’s a great guy and works harder than anyone I’ve ever met. He’s got real guts. He gets things done.

Here’s my major personal issue: I feel like I’m the albatross around his neck because I want to do things right. I don’t want to paint myself into a corner or get tangled up and tied to a solution I hacked together in a rush. But I also have to deliver. I don’t get paid to just think and do research.

But that’s exactly what I’ve been doing the past few weeks (and over Golden Week), learning the very basics of Java Servlets, object oriented programming in PHP, XHTML, CSS, and researching the multitude of PHP frameworks available.

I gotta get back to work now. But I’m leaning towards using Zend Framework to redevelop our websites. I discovered it at 3am this morning (slept on the office couch) and at first glance it looks good because it has support for internationalization and localization built in instead of being an afterthought hack someone hobbled together with gettext and spit.

I wish I could use Ruby on Rails. It’s an awesome language and the available documentation is superb. But deployment of Rails a application to the web is a huge, huge, fickle bitch I wasn’t expecting to have to cross swords with. PHP on the other hand is industry standard and supported by default on 99.9% of web servers. So I’ve got to learn some serious PHP kung-fu from now just to be able to do my goddamn job. It’s not all bad, seeing as how I’m being forced to learn stuff I should already know.

So if you don’t hear from me for a while longer, at least now you know why.

P.S. I’m also the audio-visual guy. The skills I acquire in audio and video editing here get applied to work when the need arises. My boss also wants to get into multimedia in a big way, and I’m the one who has to do it, and do it right.

P.P.S. My wife resents me for not doing more to help her around the house.


I’ve been spending so much time in front of the computer lately that I messed up my back and had to stay home from work. It feels like someone used my kidneys for punching bags. When my kids came home from school this afternoon they took turns walking up and down my back in front of the TV, which made the pain at least tolerable for a few hours. Right now I’m helping myself to a big heaping glass of awamori on the rocks so I’ll be drunk enough to sleep despite the pain. (If sake is “rice wine” then awamori is “rice whiskey.” I like the flamable stuff. It exfoliates my intestines.)

Back pain has to be pretty close to the worst pain there is. It’s hard to think of anything other than how much it hurts. I can understand why some people with chronic back pain lose the will to live.

On the bright side, the next time I have a bad day I’ll be able to say to myself, “Things could be worse. At least my back doesn’t hurt.”