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WARNING: THIS SITE FEATURES ORIGINAL THINKING...Jim Croce once sang Don't tug on Superman's cape..., which seems like reasonable advice should we not wish to anger the supreme powers. We do have this duality in our culture: the Superman that is the state collective, the leftist call to a politics of meaning managed by the state, the deification of "we're from the government and we'll take care of you" - versus the Superman that celebrates individual freedom, private property, freedom of conscience, free enterprise, and limited government. We humbly take on the latter's mantle and, eschewing the feeble tug, we dare to PULL, in hope of seeing freedom's rescue from the encroaching nanny state. We invite you, dear reader, to come and pull as well... Additionally, if you assume that means that we are unflinching, unquestioning GOP zombies, that would be incorrect. We reject statism in any form and call on individuals in our country to return to the original, classical liberalism of our founders. (We're also passionate about art, photography, cooking, technology, Judeo/Christian values, and satire as unique, individual pursuits of happiness to celebrate.)


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November 20, 2005
More fall colors...
Filed in: Current Affairs, Japan, Photography

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It wasn't blossom season in Inokashira Park - but the colors were just as beautiful. It began at the entrance to the park...

...Continue reading "More fall colors..."

Pulled by Emcee on November 20, 2005 at 05:18 PM
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November 19, 2005
Inokashira Park: People of Japan...
Filed in:

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Inokoshira Park is a place where the presence of people really compliments the views of the place - perhaps it is just the sheer joy of their experience as they enjoy the beautiful setting...

...Continue reading "Inokashira Park: People of Japan..."

Pulled by Emcee on November 19, 2005 at 05:19 AM
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November 18, 2005
Duck? Not!
Filed in: Current Affairs, Japan, Photography

The crows in Japan are huge. Their voices are also like Siamese cat meows are to a Tabby.

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This guy was pretty sure that this post on the bridge belonged to him. He wasn't going to leave no matter how close I got...

...Continue reading "Duck? Not!"

Pulled by Emcee on November 18, 2005 at 10:02 AM
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Inokashira Park: Colors of fall - flash filled...
Filed in: Current Affairs, Japan, Photography

Inokashira Park is centered around some long, narrow ponds. Many of the views that I enjoy are through the trees on one side of a pond to the other side - which in the best case is lit with sunlight.

The problem is that cameras have very poor dynamic resolution in back-lit cases like these. I took one of my external flash units with me on this trip and I used it to attempt to catch the good backlight but fill in the foreground some as well.

This is a very delicate process - and I certainly haven't perfected it - distances, actual ambient light, reflection and other factors are at play. But I did get some good results.

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There's something very rich about the backlit colors of fall with something other than a totally black foreground. The shrub on the lower right is too lit by the flash and the reflector on the pole is annoying - but those can be fixed with p'shop...

...Continue reading "Inokashira Park: Colors of fall - flash filled..."

Pulled by Emcee on November 18, 2005 at 05:14 AM
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November 17, 2005
Well, he walked like a, swam like a, quacked like a...
Filed in: Current Affairs, Japan, Photography

There were significantly more waterfowl in Inokashira Park when I visited, er, yesterday was it?

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I haven't seen this many here before.

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I've heard that you should get these in a row...

...Continue reading "Well, he walked like a, swam like a, quacked like a..."

Pulled by Emcee on November 17, 2005 at 09:51 AM
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Inokashira Park: The artist becomes my art...
Filed in: Current Affairs, Japan, Photography

I've posted some pictures that I took in Inokashira Park in Kichijoji - back in the spring during cherry blossom season. I've been there in the early fall as well - but not while the fall colors are happening!

I had a little while on Wednesday during my trip to Tokyo this week - so I headed back to the park to check out the turning leaves.

I also thought I'd try to do a few people watching studies as well.

I found one painter very intent on his craft - and as he studied his subject, I studied him.

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I approached him and just barely caught his attention with the camera - he briefly nodded and his eyes twinkled so I just hung around for a little while...

...Continue reading "Inokashira Park: The artist becomes my art..."

Pulled by Emcee on November 17, 2005 at 09:31 AM
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November 15, 2005
So you're going to Japan?
Filed in: Current Affairs, Japan

Reader Tomas Rees (who also publishes The Plutonium) is going on a class trip to Japan in January and asked about what are 'must sees' in Tokyo and Kyoto (as well as Hiroshima - which I can't really comment on since I haven't been there). Your trip coordinators might have many or all of these things on their list already, but here's what I'd suggest...

For a January time frame - this is what I'd recommend in Tokyo:

1. Tsukiji: The Tokyo fish market. Go to the early tour if you can (starts about 5 am - but what the heck, you'll be waking up at 3:30 anyway for the first few days) and see the tuna auction. Winter is an excellent time for fishing. Make sure to have breakfast (you college kids can do fresh sushi for breakfast if I can!) at one of the sushi shacks next to the market. They won't show you this on the tour but you should be able to find them easily. I can guarantee that it will be the freshest sushi you have ever tasted in your life and even people that don't like sushi will like it. Let the proprieter of the place that you go to decide what to feed you - that way you get what he just bought in the early morning.

2. Hama Rikyu garden: It's right near the fish market so you should visit it as well. In the winter there won't be any blooms - but the trees and the waterside areas should be beautiful. If they are operating the water taxis from the park that would be fun to do as well - might be a bit cold - but the scenery will be great. A couple of hours to half a day.

3. Koishikawa Botanical Garden: Not a really well known tourist place, but well worth the visit IMO. Should have interesting flora even in winter. Associated with Tokyo University and a fascinating blend of botanical interest and garden design from the Meiji period. Half-day to full day activity depending how interesting gardens are to your group.

4. Tokyo-Edo Museum: Excellent cultural museum - great to go to on a rainy day and easy to get to by train. They also will have a visiting exhibit that will be fun to see - I saw St. Petersburg Russia treasures and paintings on my visit there. Easily an all day excursion.

5 Go to the various markets around train stations. I recommend Akihabara, Tokyo, Shinjuku, Shibuya, and the town I stay in most of the time: Kichijoji. Sushi shops, Ramen shops, and various gift shops abound. Best tourist trap is the shopping district around Asakusa temple.

There are many, many other places to go and you really can't go wrong visiting anywhere in Tokyo. Get an English train map and subway map and you can go anywhere in about half an hour. Might consider the museums at Ueno Park - it won't have much in the way of flora in winter.

Kyoto:

1. By far, the most fabulous place to visit in Kyoto (IMO) is Saihoji Temple (Kokedera). I have a ten part photo series that starts here. This place is hard to get into - you have to do written invitations via snail mail back and forth to get there so you'd want to start this now. Your hotel (in Kyoto) or your tour guide, or travel coodinator might know best how to do this. I was fortunate to have my business associates in Japan take care of this for me. Just get the paperwork done. It is one of the most astonishing places I have ever been to in my life - and being there changed how I look at the world in many ways. Just do it.

2. Kiyomizu-dera: Another must see. My photo series starts here. This place is so embedded in the Japanese psyche that it must be seen just to provide a cultural reference. This place is also a kind of physical gateway to a number of other temples and shopping areas nearby. You can easily spend all day here.

3. Kinkaku (Golden Temple): This place is pretty commercialized and it's a long bus or taxi ride to get there - but it's well worth going. You can do the visit in an hour or two (not counting transportation time - it was about a forty minute cab ride from the Kyoto Station area if I recall correctly - should be about the same for the bus). My Kinkaku post is here.

There are dozens if not hundreds of historical sites in Kyoto. I'm partial to temples and gardens as you can see. I've been to about a dozen and these are certainly the top of the list for me. I'm also interested in hearing anyone's suggestions for Kyoto as well since I plan to get back there as soon as I can.

UPDATE: I saw pictures of President Bush visiting Kinkaku with Prime Minister Koizumi while I was in Tokyo this week. They actually sat within the temple itself - something that we ordinary mortal tourists can't do...


Pulled by Emcee on November 15, 2005 at 07:15 AM
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November 14, 2005
At the speed of life...
Filed in: Current Affairs, Japan

I'm back in Tokyo.

I know I just got back on November 3rd. I know it takes a day to be accustomed to a time change for each hour of time difference there is... let's see - that's 16 days for October 30th, 16 days for November 3rd, 16 days for November 13th... no, I better stop this...

Body clock is just going to be messed up.

We got things to do.


Pulled by Emcee on November 14, 2005 at 05:12 AM
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November 13, 2005
It was a fabulous weekend...
Filed in: Current Affairs, Music

I just spent the weekend at the CMS - Christian Musician Summit conference held in Redmond Washington at our nearest mega-church, Overlake Christian Church - you know, the one that seats 6,000 people in the sanctuary.

Concerts: Phil Keaggy (has to be one of the premier guitarists on the planet - talk about a one man band!), Paul Baloche (top praise song writer - he's the guy that wrote 'Open the eyes of my heart Lord' among an array of many others), Abe Laboriel and Friends (Abe is one of the premier jazz bassists in the world and was doing 'Christian' jazz in the late 1970s before anyone knew anything about crossover anything) - this was just on Friday. Saturday, we hosted the last tour date of Chris Tomlin's Indescribable tour - with Matt Redman. These guys rocked - uplifting and wonderful - and rocked.

I had a bass teacher for two days this weekend: Norm Stockton. He is a master musician. He's studied all the greats - I could close my eyes and hear Marcus Miller, Victor Wooten, Nathan East, Jaco Pastorius... and many others, but he has also taken what he wants from each of the artists he has studied and created his own style. I could go on and on - it was really interesting to meet Norm - he was born and raised in Tokyo - and had just gotten back from there - and I was just leaving from Seattle to go to Tokyo - so we hit it off really well. For me it was just terrific meeting someone so gifted that I share spiritual values with. I'm hoping we'll get to know each other better.

Off to Tokyo for me again on Sunday.


Pulled by Emcee on November 13, 2005 at 03:37 AM
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November 10, 2005
One of those days ...
Filed in: Current Affairs

I had a flat tire going to a meeting today. Nice guy next to me jumped out at a light to let me know. Got the truck back to the office - borrowed a car - went to my meeting - got the tire changed about 9:00 PM.

Why so late? At some point this afternoon my glasses frames broke up on one side and the lens is, oh, somewhere west of Seattle - anyone's guess is as good as mine. So I had to go to the vision center store and talk them into 1) giving me an exam after hours, and 2) getting me some glasses made by tomorrow, because I'm leaving for Japan again on Sunday and I have a hard enough time reading street signs WITH my glasses.

Cool thing about the optometrist visit: I have had a long term condition called 'pigment dispersion syndrome' which, long story short, means that some of the color of my eyes rubs off and floats around inside my eyes. This is a potential precursor to pigmentary glaucoma - if the pigment clogs the tear ducts and elevates eye pressure. I've been under the - er, infrequent - care of an opthomologist for this condition for a decade or so. Why infrequent? Well, mostly because one of the things that they do during the supposedly semi-annual checkup is that they take a bright flash picture of each optic nerve. This is the general procedure: They pry your eyes open and put in some drops that dilate your pupils to about the size of quarters. Then they put you in a contraption that pretty much holds your head in a vise and holds each eye wide open. Then they take pictures with about a 100,000 candle power strobe - repeatedly - until they like the pictures. When you are done, it's pretty much hopeless to think that you could actually see anything for the rest of the day. I very much don't like this procedure.

The bright young man that I saw today had a new fangled piece of technology. No dilation. No bright lights. You just tuck your head in a view finder and a light blue laser light paints a grid across your eye - a little slower than a strobe flash and a lot less bright. This results in an incredible, instant, computer based photograph of not only the optic nerve - but all features of the eye. The software provides tools for making a variety of physical measurements right there with the mouse.

The optometrist was pretty enamored with my 'floaters' and decided to also do a field test, and further detailed pressure tests etc. which I'm happy to report all showed me as pretty normal (other than I've got a bunch of crap floating around in my aqueous humor). And I'll get to send these tests over to the opthomologist group without doing their evil photo op. I'll also let them know that unless they get one of these new contraptions, I'm going to the new kid in town - even more often than I show up at their place.

Since my eyes weren't dilated and I could see, I caught a cab back to the office and changed my tire.

So, bad day for tires, bad day for eyeglasses, good day for eye tests. Ciao!


Pulled by Emcee on November 10, 2005 at 11:28 PM
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