Sunday, October 11, 2009

Trans-Pacific Adventures

Connections in Dallas

I just landed from a three week trip to the USA, taking in Miami and Austin, with brief stops in San Francisco and Los Angeles. The last time I was here, was right at the end of my Cambridge University masters; and it therefore offers rather a convenient moment of Texan-style punctuation from which to reflect and digest.

What a long way I have come. The first time was trans-Atlantic with nothing more than a backpack, a Greyhound ticket via San Antonio, a whim and perhaps a prayer. The next was trans-Pacific, taking in a global design conference, and with an extended stay at the Austin mothership, visiting colleagues that have become firm friends. I have, geographically-speaking at least, come full circle.

It also allows me to look at my Asian experience and life through a different, Americana, lens. I am positive I could feel myself being 'reculturalized' (as our resident Cuban, Pedro, so eloquently puts it) back to Western ways in a way I did not feel when returning to Blighty, perhaps because I am on holiday when I head back there. It's a good feeling to head back to the office with a bit more confrontational spirit and less of the passive-aggressiveness reticence.

Usually, I enjoy writing these blog posts on the way through the trip. I think I felt some mild feeling of vertigo, however, as I imagined a virtual life in the USA, and re-imagined my Asian life; which felt more like a daydream, frankly - Kyoto to Taipei to Shanghai to Miami to Texas ... what a head spin!

Jet lag is oozing from every pore of my being right now ... time to sort out some photos, unpack and have a coffee. Good to be back to the daydream!

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Monday, April 13, 2009

Taipei Mega Architecture


I live pretty much slap bang downtown in Taipei, and I am forever amazed at the scale of my local motorway at the end of the street. The thing is, they posted it up on stilts, so it really does the double trick of magically disappearing and providing an incredible space right in the centre of the city. It also seems to be lit professionally, although I suspect that was more by accident than design.

Anyway, on my way back from my semi-regular trips to the computer market, I thought I would take a few photos.

Stairway to heaven

Painting on the ceiling with light.

Cathedral of the Automobile

Juicy couture. And home.

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Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Dopplr 2008

I have been amusing myself over the past year with Web 2.0 darling - essentially a set of tools to help plan, track, analyse and prod your travel, and allow you to see where fellow travelly friends are likely to be. It has taken quite some time to find anyone I know that uses it, but it has slowly grown into a nice thing that I believe has some potential, with a similar amount of interaction and intensity as Linked-In. This is actually an advantage in my view - I have a suspicion sites like Facebook that demand your everyday and immediate attention will fade as quickly as they appear. But I might be drastically wrong about that.

My raumzeitgeist. Whatever that means.

Along with the 'social' aspects of the site, it has some nice tools to make you feel guilty about the amount of carbon you are using (about 7500 kg for me in 2008 - oops!) and one or two fun toys, as you can see. We'll see how it goes, but do connect to me if you can find me.

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Sunday, November 23, 2008

Taipei Taxi Accessories

Taipei Taxis usually have some surprises up their sleeves, with multiple DVD players, karaoke systems, and imaginative nicotine delivery systems. Here are a couple of recent ones that made me smile sitting in the back listening to wailing Chinese pop music.

This one was great - the guy had two cell phones that perfectly squeezed into the space between the steering wheel and the airbag (now that would really be speed dialing if he crashes). The fact that the other phone was a Sony Ericsson made me question which came first - the car or the phone? And what was on the screen when I got in after landing? - a 3G web site of flights landing at the airport.

Slightly less practical, I admit - but why bother about being able to see out, when it is just so pretty!

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Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Lads Bike Ride

Nick prompted me last Sunday to head out with Justin for a pure fixie riding escapade off into the sunset. It's another twist on the 'getting together with friends' Sundays, that seem to be blending in so well into my life ... looking forward to more klicks in future.

Head of the peleton

Break away

Wind in our hair


On the boardwalk

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Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Cycle Lanes in Taipei

Cycle Lanes in Taipei

The incredible increasing interest in cycling in the last year is encouraging the city government to install cycle lanes along some of the major streets in the city. It's a great initiative, and I appreciate the spirit, but next time, how about guiding them away from fire hydrants, up steps less than 20 cm and out of the way of oncoming traffic? One step at a time, chaps.

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Wednesday, July 23, 2008


The wheels of steel

One of my unguilty pleasures in the last two months has been the move to cycling to work. My estimation that the DEM office was the same distance from my house as Dell was slightly off, and a 30 minute walk in the Taipei morning heat is not an awful lot of fun.

It didn't take too much persuasion from 'New Yorker in Taipei' Nick to persuade me to part with 3500 NT$ (about 60 quid) for a brand new fixed gear bike. Yes, it's a bit of a clunker and needs tightening weekly. Yes 60 quid means it must be very dodgy. But who cares? There is a certain nobility in riding a bike that costs about the same as my seat post on my mountain bike ... and if it's raining? I just leave it outside and don't worry about it too much.

The fixed gearing without freewheel means I don't need a brake on the back, and instead braking is now harder work than accelerating. Sounds stupid, eh, but it makes for a wonderfully involved ride, judging the traffic, maintaining momentum, staying smooth and in general staying out of trouble. Taipei is Taipei, so I did pussy out and stick a brake on the front - sorry Nick and the courier purists, but I don't want to die.

It's a trend from the streets of NY, London and Berlin that I am happy to import here, but I hope, or at least expect they will not be as popular as the folding bike craze sweeping the island at the moment.

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Saturday, January 12, 2008

Tokyo - Some Random Photos

Some pics, for you, loyal reader...

Commuting to work - these guys looked super cool as they cruised around, and seemed confused as to why I would find it strange or funny - is this the future of electric transport?

Meiji Shrine - wetter than last time!

Cool trains

I love the Tokyo Taxis - Toyota Crown Victoria, lifted straight from a retro kung-fu movie, and sporting automatic doors in the rear!

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Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Get on the Bus

Uh Oh, 100 buses in Taipei...

Know that I got some very strange looks when I was taking these photos!

Advertising in Banciao - BIG (see me below) - I had to talk my way into the top floor. The security guard said 'no' but then I showed him a poster of me behind him and he had to say yes! Authority?

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Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Kyoto Jazz Massive

Kyoto is now officially one of my favourite places on the planet. The weather has been nigh on perfect for my time here and it has been truly splendid seeing the city.

The highlight of the trip - just perhaps one of the highlights of all my travelling - was renting a bike and riding around in the winter sunshine on a rented bike with my Cambridge University scarf waving behind me. I had a smile on my face for the entire day, popping from temple to temple, putting my head round the door of a few UNESCO World Heritage Sites, and cutting up taxis riding just like a student so late for their morning lecture there is simply no point rushing any more.

It would be very easy to overdo the temple thing here. They form the city's major industry and have done for the last thousand years. I think I have done a reasonable job mixing it up though, making sure I also include some gardens, pagodas, food and stopping to ponder the immense complexity of this society - at once immediately accessible and frustratingly impenetrable; espacially here in Kyoto.

I suppose the feeling I have of this place is of awe, but in a similar way to the secretive halls and passages of Cambridge University, even if I was Japanese I would have difficulty breaking more than the most superficial of surfaces - let alone understanding the place.

I'll have one more day to soak, then I will have to the even more historical capital of Nara and then on to Tokyo for a weekend of eating, shopping and drinking with Kaoru. Should be a blast, and a nice contrast to the hostel + 'cultcha' of this place.

Ridiculously beautiful and endlessly layered, this place is beguiling.

Sanjusangen-do. This temple had 1001 human-sized standing buddas standing inside. Each budda sported 40 arms. Each of those arms are able to protect 25 universes from evil. In turn, each can save 25. So, this insurance policy - an insurance policy that took 100 years to build - can protect a total of 30,033 worlds from destruction, and save mankind. Seems... a touch... excessive.

Kiyomizu-Dera - UNESCO World Heritage Site

The weather was simply perfect

Pagodas in the mist

What more to say? I played for a while with B&W

Views over Kyoto

Happy Budda at the love temple - I would be too, surrounded by such beauty

Hon-do - rather an arresting site in the gorge

Even lamps in the cafe got my pulse racing!

Everything - everything - seems to be considered and nicely executed, with little design solutions everywhere you turn

Yeah, so my new camera has depth of field - you guys have guessed. Again, not Sakura!

Port hole

The roofs just blew me away every time

3G monk!

Heian-Jingu is a rather large and gaudy temple - or shrine, I always get them mixed up - in a very Chinese style

Fortunes tied to trees

Ginkaku-Ji, or the Silver Pavilion, is another UNESCO site. Very nice, but with a pretty ugly Zen garden (in my opinion) and rather too many chattering tourists

Make a wish

Tools of the trade on show at Ryoan-Ji. But he messed up all the raking!

Hi Contrast

Layer cake

Icy cold sunshine

Is this just the nicest row of buckets you have ever seen?!

A very pleasant lunch while looking out across an immaculately manicured garden

Hello ... or rather Konichiwa

At the Imperial Palace ... much more well preserved than the other places. But with an organised tour, lots of camera toting tourists and a slightly hygienic feel, I think other locations were better

Yeah sorry! Sakura? No.

A lovely garden... but I have begun to realise that while Japanese gardens seem to be made for looking at, Western gardens are for sitting in. If I sat down I am sure a necromancer or irate gardener would shoo me away!

Too cool!

The English chap I hung around with for a couple of days; a hip hopper from Oxford

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