Justin's Links


Search Here:
Thanks Google.

media r&d

Sign up for craaazy, irregular Justin email updates
You'll get a popup window asking you to register for Topica.com (optional), then an email will be sent asking you to reply or click a link to be sure they have the right email address.

Thinkpad X21
CoolPix 880
J-Phone T06

Edit Plus
Windows XP
Office XP


[an error occurred while processing this directive]

About this site
Contact this site

No Cash? Advertise In This Space
[an error occurred while processing this directive]
Howdy. I'm Justin Hall, a freelance writer living in Oakland California. I spent much of the last two years living in Japan, researching the social impact of new technologies and electronic entertainment. Now I write articles, contribute to Chanpon, Game Girl Advance and TheFeature.

Thanks for stopping by this old web site.

My memories of


Thus spake:
> Kryiananda on Like Mourning
> lil on among the latter
> on annotation
> Niall on Review of the Helsinki Scandic Continental Hotel
> Nicolas Fogelholm on Suomi's Shopping-Free Sunshine
> Cheap HP Toner on dish drying shelf
> per on feature journal ist
> on Violently Happy
> on Machine Friendship and Portraiture
> me on Jane's Worx
> Jim on The International Terminal of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler
> Jason on Camped Out in Terminal 8
> justin on Connected Cameras
> justin on here come the planes
> on Edwin Darby
> justin on Fenland
> Steve on Unplugging My Ass
> Bergman Peter on A Welcome Respite from the Turmoil of Life is the Turmoil of Aikido
> justin on Japan Career Question from Comments
> on Anne Needs a Job
> on ailing data respiration
> justin on U-Hauled
> on in front of me

waka waka! by Robin


Photo by: Robin Hunicke

I saw this girl at the Tokyo Game Show wearing these totally rad glasses. I asked if she was a game designer; she said she was just talent, a model, a booth babe sort of. But she looked like a young artist! Quirkily arrayed. I encouraged her to take her funky wardrobe and make some software. Then my disappointment was offset when she offered to let me wear her glasses after I heaped praise on them. And Robin snapped this photo!

October 2004

face front archives

I write for Game Girl Advance quite often - here's a list of my last few posts there:


[an error occurred while processing this directive]

August 27, 2003

Like Mourning

Someone dies and shock sets in. No more future memories to be made with that person, excepting the human tendency to immediately revisit all recent occasions with the deceased. And so we begin writing them into our lives as history, which is creative retelling. This tells us about ourselves, which has frustratingly little to do with the departed person and more about our selective taste and inclination.

So I remember a few phone calls with Jane's Mom, as she spoke some basic Japanese to me. I always figured it was her preference, her home tongue. And it was good practice for me. But not the fastest way for us to speak. An Aunt? Or Anne? pointed out the other day - "Oh, she always loved teasing you about your Japanese." She would test me some, with a phrase or a few words, and see if I could handle it. It's not the way I remembered it; now I see this sweet woman pulling my leg just a little, and my memories are brightened by laughter some.

This week there's actually little time for these kinds of stories; the family must prepare to meet the public and address the state. This mother left some affairs to be managed; this is a full time job that helps delay grieving. There's some helpful paperwork she left behind, and some she didn't. I'm not sure whether fully-described intentions would be easier to handle; interpreting funereal desires of the dearly departed can lead to disagreements amongst the friends and family. Fortunately there's not much of that strife evident in this family. So her daughters drive here and there, filling out applications, making lists, consulting lawyers and bureaucrats.

There is loads of details, mostly addressing the business of relations, assets and bills. I've never been to a mortuary, read through a will, used a coma as an excuse for a plane ticket refund, or held a cooling hand. All this in the last two days! This introduction to the life of the gone is sudden and deep. The sadness only leaks in; most of the time I'm tired, because of what is left to be done. Like mourning.

Posted by Justin at 05:11 PM | Comments (17) | TrackBack

August 25, 2003

among the latter

Last week I was in Helsinki energized by a dozen friends old and new. My expertise was valued and expanded. The weather inside and outside was fantastic. I felt blessed among men.

All the business and study and friendship there comes second to intimate emergency; the things with which we fill our days diminish as we face life's largest tasks, passage. I learned that in part from two quotes.

I've spent the last five days in and out of a hospital. There are people there welcoming babies, often smiling ear to ear and bearing presents. There are people there watching family members struggle with sickness; they smile to put a good face on things and to comfort the healthy. As Jane wrote, we are among the latter.

Posted by Justin at 07:54 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack


Two notes on TheFeature -

While it's exciting to post video links from here, some family members reported that they haven't had the patience to watch the panel discussion just to see their Justin explain his take on mobile phone potential. If you're among them, you can read the essay from which I spoke, here: Life Annotation Devices.

On the same web site, Doug Rushkoff posted an essay about phone use during "the Great Blackout of 2003." I was sleeping in Kennedy airport during that time, trying to use my phone, so I have some experience with this blackout he describes. But 2003 has five months left - there could be another, larger blackout still. And then what would we call it? The second great blackout of 2003 I guess.

Posted by Justin at 07:50 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 21, 2003

Review of the Helsinki Scandic Continental Hotel

[warning: gleeful curmudgeon complaining]

It appears there are five possible stars a hotel can have. Five star hotes are rare and pricey, just about perfect. Four star hotels are more common, but still lux; as the reasoning goes, should be at least 80% perfect.

Marble bathrooms are nice. A sauna and swimming pool that are clean and functioning are worthy indeed. But hotel stars begin and end with service. I will now list a few moments my petty whims were defied by the Scandic Continental Hotel in Helsinki.

Taxed Morning Staff
Fresh from a positively delightful sauna/swimming pool/shower routine, I strode out of the elevator into a convention of visiting Swedish luggage salespeople. I had no idea who they were, but there were lines of them sprawling across the lobby. The two blonde staff people on duty were up to their ears in Scandinavian check-ins, leaving them no time to respond to the needs of their residing guests.
I simply wanted some guidance to another part of town. Which tram should I take? This kind of local instruction should be no challenge for a four-star hotel. But the Scandic Continental model of efficient and antiseptic staffing left no staff member who wasn't taking credit cards and handing out room keys. No concierge, no doorman. No guest services. No extraneous staff. No one to guide me to the tram.
I managed to quiz one of the staffers as she reached across the counter for a piece of paper. Hurredly, she scanned my map, "Oh! That's easy. Take the number 10 tram to the end of the line." Relieved that my information demand was so easily met, I followed her instructions to the letter. I ended up on the wrong side of town, needing to take a ten minute cab ride to be late to my appointment.

No Clock
My Scandic Continental Helsinki Hotel room had no clock. A hotel room with no visible time-keeping device. I inquired at the front desk; there must be some mistake, my room is missing a timepiece. We don't have clocks in the room, the young man said without a trace of humor or mirth. Struggling to reign in my astonishment, I asked if I might have a clock for my room. Please use your TV, I was told. So I should leave my television playing through the night, so if I wake up in the dark I can squint over at the quietly squealing neon box to see the hour? There are billions of clocks produced by China each week; please buy some.
My persisting after some timekeeping device had the blond staff shaking their heads, their smiles fading into near scowels. Somehow I thought a timepiece was so elemental a part of a hotel room. Let alone a four-star hotel room! I've stayed in 3$ Honduran bunkers calling themselves hotels, they had clocks. What's up with the Scandics? They wanted me to rely on the unremarkable and aged FinLux TV in my room - I wanted them to cater to my whims. They begrudgingly offering to see if housekeeping had any lost-and-found clocks I might use. They then neglected to call to let me know that housekeeping had kept the clocks for the poor timeless children of Finland. I had to bother them again, which was not a total loss: I was able to gently tease and taunt them for running a four-star hotel with no clocks in the standard rooms.

No Support for a Burn Victim
Returning from the sauna bar at 12:30am my last night, I plopped my problem on the granite check-in counter: my right hand thrust into a garbage bag filled with melting ice. I had lingered too long on a loily and the steam rising from the sauna burned my fingers. As I expected to sauna again the next day, I wanted some salve, medication, creme or even just some hand lotion. No go. No go? Superfluous hand lotion is the stock and trade of so many three and even two star hotels! Little plastic bottles of smelly cream abound! But not here. The "Practical Nordic Efficiency" character of this chain means one soap/shampoo bottle anchored above the sink and in the shower. No four star distinction between soap, shampoo and conditioner here. And there is no hand lotion, in the room or behind the desk. And no relief from any first-aid kit either. Not even a melty scar-tissue minor guest catastrophe could sway them to dig out other means of customer satisfaction or half-degree burn relief.

Add the tarnished post-Soviet institutional decor and layout and it would have seemed to be a rather dim experience. But understand that I lived here for five days. I spent many of my mornings sitting in the hotel and meeting housekeeping as they came to clean up behind my web production work. I'm growing into a rigorous working traveller. I don't really care so much about conditioner in my shower, but if someone puts me up in a hotel that says four stars, and all I can find online before my trip are bland reviews, I want to set the story straight for the people of the internet.

What might be the Helsinki Scandic Continental Hotel's salvation? The fantastically comfortable bed, the strong water pressure. The lady who helped me locate a pliers to dismantle a small artist's easel I purchased thinking it would fit into my suitcase, but at 3am two hours before my departure, I needed my hotel to provide specific tools for nuts and bolts. And they did! A suprememly satisfying customer service moment.

Then there's the defacto Scandic breakfast buffet. There's no real variation in the content of the Scandinavian Shoney's lineup, but by the end of three or four days, any eager eater can develop some breakfast sandwich crafting skills:


Witness butter on dark rye break, topped with emmenthal cheese, cucumber and tomato, and poached salmon. Fresh ingredients, good flavors. And great grapefruit juice! Yum! Find me a clock and I'll stay there again. Or maybe I should bring my own? Or call ahead.

Posted by Justin at 12:03 AM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

August 20, 2003

Suomi's Shopping-Free Sunshine

Coming down off a few days in Finland. Summertime up North - the hard work of a long winter makes summer sporting. People seem to make an effort to congregate in public, to skim the ocean in sailboats. This contrasted with the single-season Bay Area, where nearby beauty beckons all year round and I seldom leave my living room.

So to visit Helsinki in the summer time is to be in a manageable culture capital, where the distance from the opera to the modern museum is a pleasant walk through an ocean-side park. There's free wifi here, and there are small boutiques, smart restaurants, cafes and public transportation.

I went into the Diesel clothing store there (they only have the regular fashions, which are quite popular, not the more expensive "style lab" line). The young clerk, an eager student of fashion, pointed out that the major Finnish design brands, Marimekko or Iittala, they are still making decades old products. An emphasis on "the classics." Yes there are new designs coming from those studios, but how hip can a company be if they are still selling the same cups that your parents received as wedding presents? [answer: retro hip, for the next three months]

Sitting around the cool back room of the warm Sauna Bar, some half-naked and some clothed, the Helsinki bloggers lamented the fact that there are so few ethnic restaurants in town. I had raised the issue of immigration - in a country where people contribute so extensively to the public good, is there a sense of guarding that good from non-Finn invaders? These urban electrified youth seemed eager to share in all kinds of culture, whoever might move to Finland. Immigrants are welcome, if they would only pack their spices.

"I just want a 7-11," one said simply; longing for convenience shopping on his schedule. But there are laws in Finland, Butt Ugly blog's Janne mentioned, that regulate store hours. Stores of a certain size must close early on weekends and can't stay open 24 hours. I was dumbfounded to find Stockmann's, the large downtown department store, open only for six hours on Saturday or Sunday. I needed a new notebook, dammit, and I didn't want some Scandinavian helping me regulate my life. I was forced to turn on my heel, away from shopping, and back out into the streets brimming with strollers, skateboarders, sidewalk cafes and long hours of shopping-free sunshine.

[photo: Marko and Kim sailing near Helsinki]

Posted by Justin at 09:55 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

dish drying shelf

dish shelfI volunteered to wash some dishes at Justin's house in Finland. I couldn't find the drying rack, so I stacked them on the counter. He opened the cabinet above the kitchen sink to reveal a multi-story drying rack and shelves combined! What a miracle of common sense and smart design.

Do they keep their pots and pans up there too? Or is there another drying rack shelf down below, where the excess water from the heavier cooking vessels drains into the floor.

Posted by Justin at 09:08 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

feature journal ist

panel pic
My duty to my Helsinki hosts has been discharged. Last night with three gents I took to the stage for a panel discussion on mobile potential. What will these devices mean to us? Lots of snapshots, and music distribution. One hour, watchable online for the next two months in RealVideo or Windows Media, from a link on this page.
mobile net summit
It was all to commemorate TheFeature.com relaunching. I've been writing for them since 1999 - they've allowed me to pursue an interest in the social impact of technologies in the company of good writers and editors. But they had a frames-based web site with some unweildy links.

Now they've relaunched in a Slashdot/weblog style. So they have news stories and feature length pieces still, and also user journals and short links. Starting today, I'm responsible for a mix of articles, links and observations on a monthly basis - sort of a freelancer's commitment. It's the first time I believe I've been paid directly to maintain a journal.

Posted by Justin at 03:29 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

August 18, 2003

Violently Happy

I'm terrifically excited now - I was able to track down Esa Saarinen, show him an old photo of us together, and suggest we meet. He's agreed to have breakfast tomorrow morning in central Helsinki.

My luggage arrived from Kennedy over the weekend, so I have a videocamera I can use, with his consent, to record his thoughts on the machine rewiring of human consciousness.

Posted by Justin at 09:10 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 17, 2003

Machine Friendship and Portraiture

The first social networking software I saw online was SixDegrees.com back in 1996. It is severely gone; along with its record of friendships and acquaintences. Since then, there's been an explosion in these services. I have profiles on Ryze, Friendster, Tribe.net, LinkedIn.

As much as I might like the interface or community of any one of these sites, I'm getting a bit tired of typing in my preferences, birthplace, star sign and appreciation for the film The Pillow Book. This is not a new complaint - it would be nice to have portable personal data.

I just spent this morning fooling around with FOAF and BIO.

FOAF stands for friend-of-a-friend, and it's a way to signify relationships between people over the web. As best I can tell, FOAF is only useful to people with home pages. In the future everyone is famous for 15 megabytes, goes the saying.

FOAF will be useful when someone sticks it in a mobile phone. It could become the open standard for buddy lists! And then I wouldn't have to explain to every new appliance, contact organizer or personal network software who I know and how I know them. There are smart people pushing FOAF in this direction; for now, FOAF is fun Sunday-morning geekery, with a FOAF introduction, roll-your-own-FOAF apps, FOAF browsers (FOAF me!).

BIO (nee One-Line Bio) is a standard for describing biographical information online. You describe yourself in one file, the premise goes, and then that information can applied elsewhere. Write-once, read many Friendster.

BIO is a fine idea; I first heard about it in March at the SXSW Geek Out. BIO authors David Galbraith and Ian Davis haven't posted about it on their personal weblogs in some months - maybe development has slowed, or maybe I'm missing something. Has BIO been folded into FOAF or superceded by other efforts?

The early work on BIO was to establish a standard and spread early enthusiasm. BIO makes sense; again, at least for people with personal web pages.

But the BIO spec still boasts event:marriage as the only notable personal event besides birth, death, keywords and self-description. What about tattoos? Religion? Right-or-left handed? Favorite candy bar? Favorite films?

Event:marriage doesn't appeal to anyone below the age of 25, often the most eager technology pushers. BIO is not likely to catch on until teenagers can use a web form to describe their favorite television shows and then automatically stick that in their TypePad profile. And from there to the mobile phone - that's the obvious home for any truly useful social networking technology.

There's probably a way for me to develop my own extensions to the BIO standard. What it is, is up to us, as Howard is fond of signing his emails.

Posted by Justin at 03:16 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 16, 2003

Jane's Worx

gencon jane jpegJane has been busy.

This week she recently re-launched her personal web site umamitsunami.com (umami tsunami - that's Japanese for "a big fucking wave of deliciousness"). Her site had been mostly dormant for a while; I think she needed a chance to hit the reset button. I'm glad to see her posting again online about her projects and inclinations - I first got to know her through her writings online!

Earlier in July, Jane travelled to Indianapolis for GenCon, America's largest role-playing game convention. Jane loves games, but she struggles with being a geek and not always identifying with a predominantly male geek culture. She took her questions on the road, resulting in "FemCon:" a heartfelt survey of women in pen and paper games.

And her band Dealership is going on a West Coast tour in the next two weeks. If you want to see some awesome smart punky pop, I can't recommend Dealership more highly. Jane sings and plays guitar and keyboards, along with two energetic witty fellows named Chris. They're all completely charming and they make fun, provocative music - even better than what you'll hear in a fistfull of Dealership MP3s. The tour schedule is available online on the fun Dealership web site; I'll reproduce some of it here:

August 17th - Twiggs Coffeehouse (San Diego, CA)

August 18th - Espresso Cafe (Oceanside, CA)

August 19th - The Gypsy Lounge (Lake Forest, CA)

August 21st - Le Voyeur (Olympia, WA)

August 22nd - Graceland (Seattle, WA)

August 23rd - Bob's Java Jive (Tacoma, WA)

August 27th - Spaceland (Silverlake, CA)

(Dealership Shows)

Finally, Jane wrote up our time at the the Björk concert and afterparty for the Dealership diary. She did some fair justice to the tipsy clothes switching that happened in the presence of that modern musical goddess.

Posted by Justin at 04:13 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

The International Terminal of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler

FinnAir pushed and prevailed. While hundreds idled in the international terminal at JFK, we were pushed through darkened hallways, through a hand check of our bags and wands and gates to secure our persons. Finally, twenty-one hours after we were originally scheduled to leave, we were all on board a plane, clapping and cheering as the pilot swung up on to the runway.

As I walked back to the bathrooms, I recognized most of my fellow passengers from the long hours watching their pores open and close in the ticketing lobby of klieg-lighted Terminal 8. It was a travel bonding experience; someone suggested we schedule a reunion.

We landed in Finland at 4am. Now it's Saturday morning under an overcast sky. I sit now in the same clothes I put on Thursday at six AM. Three days in the same outfit is not especially unusual, except that I haven't removed them during that time. I'm staying at a nice hotel; I suspect my time sweating and sleeping on the floor in my garments has me smelling stronger than usual. My checked luggage was left in the darkness of New York City; I'm not sure when I'll see clean clothes and socks. A good excuse to buy some Finnish underwear!

My camera was checked in my bags as well. What a mistake! I missed the chance to turn on night-vision and film refugee campouts at Kennedy airport. If I had, it might have looked something like the surreal New Years at Tokyo Disneyworld.

I missed a Helsinki meetup, but it's been kindly rescheduled for Wednesday.

Posted by Justin at 09:44 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

August 15, 2003

Camped Out in Terminal 8

On a trip from San Francisco to Finland, my New York layover coincided with a major North American power blackout. This is my account of sleeping over night in John F. Kennedy International Airport.

I am camped out in Terminal 8, an international terminal. Most of the terminal is dark, but there's one middle stripe with flourescent lights powered by an emergency generator. People are attracted here, to the American Airlines counter with few answers. To a wall-side refuge, clumps of families laying down survey people walking by, mostly aimless.

There's lots of idling. Not much power and not much to do. Questions don't get answers. One woman wants medicine from her checked baggage for her kids. A beleagured man losing his voice walkie-talkies to an unseen ally to find her bag in the darkness on the floor below.

This is the floor with the ticket counters and access to the gates. Below is the baggage claim - the first floors to get dark. Even while the sun was still setting upstairs, the darkness down here was already so thick as to be frightening - I wondered if I could be mugged in the airport. The only light came from flashlights, from groups of people clustered together waiting for family and friends to come through immigration. All mired in darkness.

Upstairs, at the far end of this building the food court stands transformed into a temple of tranquility. It sits dark but for pale night light leaking in through the broad frosted skylight. Three vendors are here, selling bananas, water and sweet bread by candle light. Tables lay scattered, pale white surfaces with a few bodies strewn between.

You can hear someone's low snoring from nearly anywhere in Terminal 8. And the squak of walkie-talkies from various officials. I've been handed raisins, apple juice, water and blankets by airport staff. A man with a brassy accent, came through to announce that buses were coming to take us to Terminal 1 or Terminal 4, where there were lights, and power, and AC - which was good "because you people smell." He said he would come back and tell us when the buses arrived. He never returned.

There are many rumors. There was a terrorist strike. There will be power by 9pm. Power has come back to LaGuardia and Newark. The other terminals have power. Power is 15 miles away, in Rockaway. CNN says that our airport has power. So does Ted Koppel. Planes are taking off from other terminals.

I waited in the FinnAir section for my flight. The FinnAir staff refused to give up hope. They said they had the plane ready to lift off, with our luggage aboard, and a flight crew. But the TSA airport security refused to function without power, unwilling even to perform an old-fashioned hand frisk or search! FinnAir seemed to be our allies, as eager to leave as we were. There was only one FinnAir flight stranded this night; we were a relatively tight knit group compared the the hundreds of American Airlines castaways wandering the airport looking for any sign of future passage or alternate routing.

Frida from FinnAir made a speech finally after 1am to let us know that Helsinki wanted their plane back, so they would be trying to leave in the morning, power permitting. In the meantime, there wasn't any chance for us to fly for ten hours. Many bridges and tunnels were closed for entering New York city, meaning that most of the people she was addressing were likely to remain at the airport for the duration. Frida pointed out that the hotels were booked. Even if we could find a hotel room, hotel lobbies were filled with guests that couldn't open the electronic lock systems of modern hotel rooms.

In her crisp Scandinavian-inflected English, she added a personal postscript to all this information: "You will remember the hardships of your grandfathers, what they went through, when you have gone through this evening. At least you are all well fed!"

We Finland flyers had accumulated there near the ticket counters for over eight hours. The FinnAir section of JFK terminal 8 is like a Splinter Cell level - you're blinded or invisible, depending on obstructions between you and the two massive klieg light installations outside the window. At 3am there are still a few stragglers sleeping or chatting in the FinnAir lines, between ropelines that have long ago come down. The rest of the room is dark.

The giant atrium here boasts a giant, gaudy Rolex clock stuck at 4:10. I leave to get better reception on my mobile phone - outside wee hours smokers and talkers congregate near cars that are parked, empty, or standing and running. In ten minutes of standing outside, I don't see a cab or car move or drive past. People are parked, people are staring off at the horizon, some are sleeping in skycap carts.

The smell hits me when I re-enter the airport - it's the same smell as the homeless shelter I worked at in high school. Prolonged human stink. A low sheen of sweat from a New York summer coats my skin. In the single lit part of this terminal, you can see all manner of people slumped over sleeping in wheelchairs or golfcarts, passed out together in couples on blankets on the floor. One woman looks about eight months pregnant. Another girl lays with her leg in a cast. You can see all these people in the light here, but there's many more in the rest of the airport- outside of the backup generator lights, they're only illuminated by an occasional stray flashlight beam.

There are a few stores here; most are shuttered. One store couldn't close its metal gates; employees sat in the foyer - to prevent looting? Au Bon Pain has its metal gate half-way lowered, the jolly lady from Saint Kitts distributes 6$ ham sandwiches and 2$ bottles of water to beseeching patrons approaching on their knees.

I found my way into the bathroom by the light of my mobile phone screen. A few lumens in a pitch black piss cavern is enough to find the urinal. The phone slips from my mouth as I'm relieving myself and I find myself groping around blindly on the floor through wet and sticky to find my critical device. I finish my bathroom visit with a long session at the sink, washing my face and hands and phone without light.

The few illuminated portions of the terminal have working power outlets. People camp out near them - universally to charge their mobile phones. One man in the FinnAir section used the battery life on his laptop to show some kids a James Bond movie. But everyone in the light seems only concerned with staying connected, not with computing. I found a power outlet disguised behind an Accenture advertisement; I punctured the sticker to take over both sockets for my laptop and phone.

I talked to my brother Colin because I knew he would offer me up-to-the-minute news and he would be eager to call friends and family. He posted a note on my website and emailed my hosts in Finland - I'm sleeping at the aiport tonight. Near the defunct elevators up to the Admiral's Club, there's a nice cool two-tone granite floor with low lighting and working power outlets. It's a cul-de-sac, few people walk in here.

I'm bedding down near an older gent on his way to Orange county, his mobile phone works well with unlimited minutes so he's routinely asked to share it by the older ladies sitting outside on an airport go-cart. A middle aged woman named Jane sleeps face first on a red American Airlines blanket, across from a young woman working on her fiction masters degree, who was supposed to be meeting her mom at an airport in Poland in about three hours.

Posted by Justin at 12:39 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

August 13, 2003

Connected Cameras

Not having to develop film is a convenience. Instant worldwide distribution of snapshots is a revolution. Considering the early efforts in Japan to understand and regulate the power of mobile camera phones: The Onset of Connected Cameras for TheFeature.com.

Posted by Justin at 11:13 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

here come the planes

I'm obsessed with O Superman by Laurie Anderson. I was re-exposed to it recently on a drive from San Francisco to Los Angeles; it emerged from Ryan's tiny white music box through our car stereo. Soft humming tones, computer modulated loving robot voices. Easy tilting melodies. It expresses a childlike wonderment and enthusiasm for technology pleasure tempered by a knowing military and manifest destiny backstory. I've been listening to the eight and a half minute song on relentless repeat for days now; I feel its very much a part of what I'm thinking and feeling. There's a deep craving, beneath all the modulation and flanging, for something connective. And a sense of humor still to upend too much electro-brooding. Even the most elementary electron outreach can tingle the senses if staged with smarts.

Posted by Justin at 12:42 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

August 11, 2003

Edwin Darby

Longtime Chicago Sun-Times financial editor Edwin Darby passes away at age 82.

Mr. Darby virtually invented the idea of the "corporate strategy" profile that has become the foundation of modern business journalism.
(From the Sun-Times Obituary).

I didn't really know Ed Darby this way; I knew him as the gently sarcastic gravel voiced father of my near-brother GK. He was a man who drank martinis with my dad, and seemed to me to be from that generation of men slightly older than most of the other parents at my school - men who were fully gray and didn't bank much bunk in conversation, but did enjoy the fading perquisities of a wood-panelled wall, alcohol lunch, boys club era in Chicago business. From this profile it seems Ed Darby comported himself well in that world and aspired to define his field. All I know is he helped raise a son with a kick-ass conscience and a good strong back for making media.

Posted by Justin at 08:58 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack


Fin-land would seem to mean the land of the Finns. But according to "Of Finnish Ways," Finland means more like Fenn-land, Fenn as in fen or marsh. If you go buy what the Finns themselves call Finland, that's "Suomi" which means swampy.

I'm reading Aini Rajanen's "Of Finnish Ways" because I'm travelling to Finland this Friday. Unlike my previous trips to that modern world capital, I'm taking the time to do some studying up on Suomi so I have more context, presumedly a richer experience. This book is warm and breezy, dated 1981 and stamped as expired property of the Forest Park Library near Seattle Washington - a pleasant side effect of buying used books off the interweb.

I'm also setting flame to the fabulous cross-continental connectors. From Jason, I received some good Finnish game-industry conversationalists; each of them said "Too bad you're missing Assembly." savusau3.gifBut a week in their town should be enough time to grab a smoke sauna with somebody. If they have that in the big city!

Mostly, I'm just looking for some hip guides, some good conversation, a tip to good streets for walking, curious places for eating. Some of that can be found on the web, A to Zed or perhaps in the pooled knowledge of a travel club.

I'm officially invited as a guest of TheFeature; I'm participating in as event they're hosting to relaunch their web site. I'll be giving a short talk about the future of mobile media and human relations. Eating reindeer steak, seeing Perry Hoberman perform at the excellent Kiasma Museum. Wandering wide streets hoping to drop in on a small glimpse of something from the other side of the world that seems like it could have been next door. Or pushing my body in strange positions of dance or sweat in the company of people not speaking a language I don't really know but I treasure the chance to be surrounded by so many signs with so many vowels on them. I'll be taking photographs that I expect to post on the Internet.

I've travelled before, with more serendipity in store. This time I'm staying longer and scheduling more.
Finland Dates: August 15 through August 22. Email or comment if you're in the 'hood.

Posted by Justin at 12:36 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

August 10, 2003

Unplugging My Ass

Last month, I felt plugged up in Japan somewhat, in spite of the light diet there. Sure it's possible to eat loads of meat if you tend towards Yakiniku (basically, Japanese Korean food). But we had tended towards noodles and fish and a broad range of foods. Maybe it was the swampy summer heat - strolling about in my curteous long pants, I felt a heavy load in my guts. I kept thinking, I want to search for "tokyo colonic."

I can't remember where I first learned about anal irrigation, where they shove a tube up your bum and flush out your lower intestines with warm water. Maybe it was L.A. Story, a Steve Martin homage to Southern California living. Either way, I remember the early image I had of clean water pushing out decayed bits of food and flesh; I thought then, as I do now, "I wonder how John Wayne's colonic would have turned out?"

It would have turned out a lot of old steak, I think - just based on an uninformed imagining. This conception of colonics was affirmed this weekend, as Jane and I sat with her sister Anne and Anne's boyfriend Ryan. On the banks of the Russian River, just above our canoes, Anne's homecooked meat pies in hand, we shared colonic lore. None of us had ever sat on the hose, but Anne had a friend, or a friend of a friend? who had a colonic where she was able to see what passed out from her bowels. Supposedly, she saw a piece of an old plastic toy, swallowed in toddlerhood, finally flushed from her guts. This woman lost ten pounds, the story went, and she felt great.

It was a magical idea, we all agreed - throughout life we accumulate eated bits that never leave us. So why not flush them out occasionally? A little web research yeilds the International Association of ColonHydrotherapy web site, where you can search for Colonic professionals in your area. Biotherapy Clinic on Post street in San Francisco; from their pages, it looks to be a few Russian emigres with some deep steeping in alternative medicine. Normally, the mere presence of a web site for a business makes me more likely to take them my business. I like having easy access to information! But part of their sales pitch includes the line:

How much is your colon hydrotherapy session?
$65 per session. We have the lowest prices in San Francisco and the Bay Area!
Is low price really the most important qualification to use for dedicing who should irrigate your ass? Considering how important cleanliness and care would seem to be - a punctured or infected butt would be a sad side-effect of a deep flushing.

Posted by Justin at 08:03 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

August 07, 2003

A Welcome Respite from the Turmoil of Life is the Turmoil of Aikido

Howard has been insisting for years that I study Aikido. Aikido is a non-violent martial art, a way to respond to aggression. After my first day of study, I realized I was learning to invite my attacker to meet the floor. Introducing my attacker to the ground. Then as the days wound on, I realized I was learning to dance with someone who might be charging at me. As my practice progresses, I suspect I will learn to watch and understand physical gestures and respond accordingly, with the goal of eventual tranquility between all parties.

This, I think, is why Howard wanted me to start this practice. Because he'd seen me approach people in untoward ways (eager to ask a question, I'd grab someone's arm, for example). Basically, I had a lot of energy flying in many directions. So Howard suspected that the practice of learning to "blend" energy with someone else, practiced repeatedly, would train my energy to be more suited to that of my surroundings.

Back in June I did a web search for "Oakland Aikido." I discovered East Bay Aikido, an Aikido dojo, a practice center, an ai-ki-kai, within ten minutes walking distance of my house. The walk took me through a park, up hill on the way there, downhill on the way back. These small details framed the dojo in a wonderful light.

My first day at the dojo, back in early June, we practiced meeting the mat with our partners, and then we gathered for a chance to breathe and share sentences at the end of the session. I explained how I had found the place, and how lucky I felt for the location. A woman approached me and said that I was twice lucky then, since she had searched through many dojos before arriving here, where the practice was strong but gentle, and there are few injuries.

I've since discovered that much of the light there radiates from Tom Gambell, the sensei, chief teacher. He's attracted to him a wide range of senior and junior students who tend to share his lighthearted but dedicated temperment.

So now I find myself donning a uniform and striding off to join them twice a week, tuesday and thursday mornings. Usually my exercise efforts last about two weeks before some kind of dread sets in. I start justifying work over exertion. Or I'd rather stay up late play games. This Aikido feels good because I am exercising, tumbling rollong around, climbing up off the ground again and again. There's a sense of play to it, for myself and with my partners. I get human contact, grasping all manner of wrists and shoulders, learning to balance with a dozen different actors. I walk to my practice, through a park and up a quiet street. I'm using my body, in conjunction with other folks, in a calming sort of way. Three months in and I'm very much grateful.

AikiWeb gives good context. Small video clips of Aikido founder Morihei Ueshiba in action. This site is easily overloaded. If it doesn't work, come back an hour later to see a tiny old man in large pants spinning people around at choppy old-movie speed.
Posted by Justin at 11:21 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

August 05, 2003

Japan Career Question from Comments

In a thread about Anne's work, Jim Katta asks: "did living in Japan for two years hurt, improve, or totally not matter in terms of your career prospects/development?"

I was laid off of my last job in January 2001. I was active as a freelance writer/speaker in the months following. I coaxed up a few writing assignments as an excuse to go to the Tokyo Game Show in April 2001. It was a blast.

A friend from my old college Ben (BoldRobot.com) contacted me that spring, because he would be in the Bay Area taking summer classes at UC Berkeley. He mentioned he was going to be taking intensive Japanese.

I did a mental calculation at that time - I'm a freelance writer, which is roughly a stationary treadmill. Yes, you build up a portfolio of clips over time. But graduating to better and better publications is hard without some work above and beyond turning in stories. I figured that a foreign language would be a good skill for me to have, especially a foreign language that complemented my interest in electronic entertainment. I reasoned that I would not be sorry if I took three months to pack my brain with new information.

The class was hard, time-wise (about 6-8 hours a day, with much homework). I didn't do well, but I learned some Japanese. And my Uncle Jim asked me, mid-summer - aren't you going to go to Japan after you spent all that time learning Japanese?

I did another mental calculation - I'm a young writer, working solo. I live alone. I don't have too many commitments. I might as well try something different. So by September I was packing up to move to Tokyo for at least one year.

I think I wanted a challenge. I had been in the Bay Area for a few years by then, and the Bay Area was in a kind of deep post-coital funk. There were a lot of broke people who hadn't yet discovered that unemployment can be a kind of creative liberation.

When I got to Japan, I joined the Foreign Correspondents' Club. There I discovered a number of nice folks, who usually weren't Japan scholars, or even all that interested in Japan specifically - they'd just found a place to land, a good gig: being the man in Japan.

Japan is the second largest economy in the world. Isn't that amazing? A small dense island on the other side of the world. All that monetary might requires worldwide translation. Japan's consumer electronics, animation culture, game culture, fashion forward thinking - all these things are of interest to foreign people, foreign media. You can make a good living just being the person who tells people back home what's happening in Japan. Japan is expensive, and kind of uncomfortable, that's why you're valued as being the weirdo who manages to live there, hold it all together and share what you see in a sensible way.

I looked at the project of moving to Japan as a communications challenge. I once asked Howard what he does for a living - he said, "I'm a communicator." Losing the ability to read and write and communicate verbally, and then having to relearn it - I figured that would be good exercise for my young communications skills.

Today, my Japanese is weak, and weakening as I continue living in California. I have some additional context and depth on the world, having seen how another culture parses life on earth. I experienced the beauty of tiny igloos lit by candles and hot steam rising from my rump in a snow throne. I spent weeks living in plastic tubes, I saw a fish slaughterhouse and I got in a barfight with a Brazilian. All those are experiences that color this writer's writings.

As my brother, an expert optimist, puts it, "You'll never regret 'that year you spent living in another country'." As long as you're participating and paying attention I think time spent anywhere can be valuable. Japan in particular? If you can figure out why you want to be in Japan, and you can tell other people, that should brighten your communications career prospects.

Posted by Justin at 04:36 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

August 04, 2003

Anne Needs a Job

Last Wednesday, we had arranged lunch with Jane's mom and sister Anne, since they live quite nearby. We arrived to find Anne rotisserieing a while chicken. Anne is an ambitious chef and an eager writer. Besides her own web log, she's started a Cheese Diaries web site with friend Connie. For our dessert Wednesday, Anne had prepared a chocolate cake made with cayanne? pepper. But she hadn't finished handmaking chocolate frosting yet, so I had to content myself with memories of her rose-water and pomegranite cake.

I'm delighted to be guinea pig for her gastronomical experiments! When I started dating Jane I had no idea I would be privvy to this fabulous feasting at family affairs.

Anne is currently independent, freelancing, unemployed. It helps explain why she's had mental space and time to explore a passion for food. She's been looking for a job; I've been trying to steer her towards ecological/scientific writers who might need a smart research assistant/apprentice. And independent chefs, like Annick who might give her some ideas for making a living off food craft. Either way, I hope Anne's intense exploration of nourishment and excess is only slightly tempered by opportunities for more financial security.

Posted by Justin at 08:29 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 03, 2003

ailing data respiration

Gasp choke uh it's hard to breathe! I can't get enough (air) into these (lungs)

Actually the internet has slowed to a gasping modem rate. Maybe it's SpeakEasy, or maybe someone has discovered my completely free-and-open wireless connection and they're stuffing it with multimedia letters to their family members.

CHecker has a wi-fi network, his SSID is "open_but_be_nice" - maybe I should rename mine, "i_pity_the_fool." Does anyone know of a tool I can run to sniff to see where my wireless signal is being shared? I have a Linksys WRT54G.

Posted by Justin at 10:38 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 01, 2003


truck_14.jpgWith fond memories of "Snatch it like you live, Baby" I called up the Berkeley local U-Haul today. 15 rings, no answer. Tried again, seven rings, no answer. Then I tried an Oakland-local U-Haul. I reached someone, they immediately put me on hold. Ten minutes elapse, they reinitiate the phone call. "Hello I'd like to make a reservation." Hold on. It's like this, repeatedly - it's like dealing with someone who has no short-term memory. "Hello, who are you?" "Hello, I'm Justin." "Oh, okay. Who are you?" Actually, the carnival of personal suspense and miscommunication on the phone with U-Haul is a bit like any night at the Southern Cafe.

I have work to do, so I just do my work and wait for the speakerphone. I'm practicing complete calm - no irritation each time someone picks up the phone and speaks to me like its our first time communicating. Hello this is Ida. Hello Ida, (I'm not going to mention that you've spoken no more than six words to me four times today), I'd like to reserve a truck. What sized truck? 14 feet. Hold on. And again I'm swept along into fifteen minutes of uplifting piano music with trilling saxophone and a confident man explaining secure self-storage and towing opportunities.

All this to reserve a rental truck to help my brother move out of his Palo Alto apartment. He's moving from PA to London, so I'm taking his nice grill, a queensized bed, maybe some bookshelves, another TV.

Is Oakland U-Haul busy? Filled to the brim with people? Or just a few deeply pestering customers? I imagine myself a communications entity, represented by an evenly-blinking red on-hold light on a phone up near the register. My most recent call was 25 minutes of on-hold, at which time sweet Ida picked up again. But my speakerphone was on mute so we couldn't reach each other! And she hung up. And so our dance begins again.

Posted by Justin at 01:38 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

in front of me

I have been writing a lot for Game Girl Advance. So I put a list of my recent GGA posts in the upper right corner of the front page (drawn from a quick whipped-up RSS feed of my GGA posts). These days, that site tends to have more Justin updates than Justin's Links. Because I'm studying the culture of games more than I'm explicitly studying myself, and there's a good conversation happening there around those issues.

Besides writing, I'm making lots of proclimations. We should eat at home more. Jane and I are both decent cooks, we enjoy cooking. So I declared my intention that we should enjoy that more. Jane took that to mean that she should manage our eating from home more, and she wasn't so excited to see her time consumed with meal planning, grocery shopping, cooking and cleanup. So in order to assuage her fears, I scrounged a dinner from refrigerator leftovers and a dessicated half onion plucked from our trash can ("i didn't need to know that" sez Jane). Coming home late from her band practice, she found a lightly bubbling pan of pasta with olives and ricotta. This morning she brought me a bit of yogurt with the last bit of leftofter vegan plum crisp from Lulu. This is what is in front of me.

Posted by Justin at 11:16 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack
Justin's Links, by Justin Hall.