New Years beverage

This  kombucha (dried seaweed) tea comes looking like shishi- mai (獅子舞) - the lion dance lion. You drop him in a cup, pour hot water and wait for a couple of minutes. Your patience will be rewarded with kombucha and a small chewy snack





The Matsuri (local festivals) in Japan

One fun adventure in Japan is to visit a Matsuri – local festivals usually around a shrine. Chances are that wherever you are staying, perhaps a couple of stations away, a Matsuri is happening. They usually run for a night to couple of nights. There is lot of local food and some fun games. The best way to find a local Matsuri in Tokyo is to look up the web http://www.gotokyo.org/eventlist/en/list

You can walk past the stalls and just point at the food you want to eat.  Snacks usually cost  100 JPY for a stick of grilled meat to 500 JPY for a pack of Yaki Soba. Drink cost around 100 JPY for soft drink to 200 JPY for beer. 


My favorite bag – A simple but sturdy canvas bag from Japan


As someone who practically lives out of the bag, it is important to get a good bag. There is this company in Japan that makes sturdy canvas bags. I like them for their utilitarian feel and classic looks.  They are a bit pricy at about 300 USD but they last a long time and handle all the rough you throw at them. Here is the manufacturer’s web (Japanese only). http://gyuya.co.jp/hinomoto/collection.html

A Family Mart in Vietnam and a Korean movie

There is a 2009 Korean movie called Bandhobi. It is the story of an unlikely friendship between a Korean teenager and a Bangladeshi immigrant worker. The reason I like this movie is that I can identify with the characters. The girl, when she misses her Bangladeshi friend, goes by herself to a South Asian restaurant, and to the surprise of the staff, orders many native food and proceeds to eat it like a native. 

Today,  when I spotted a Family Mart in Saigon, I walked into it. I bought  Oden - a Japanese winter dish containing radish, fish cakes, boiled eggs.  These are usually skewered on a stick and dipped in a spicy soy based broth. Eating Oden takes me back to those freezing  days in Japan. On our way walking from the train station to some place, we would always stop by a Family Mart. The hot oden is always a welcome respite. Often in random cities, you will find me at a random ethnic food place - a Korean place in Phnom Penh, a Vietnamese place in Taichung, a Russian place in Bangkok or a Sichuan place in Manila. You know that I am just missing all my friends and conversations from these places.

Thinking about photography and privacy in the deepest undersea tunnel

I took the express train from Aomori to Hakodate. This train passes through the longest and deepest undersea tunnel in the world – between Honshu and Hokkaido. While in the tunnel, the ride is as comfortable as it can be, it is not scary at all, and there is nothing much to look at. So I started looking at the travel magazine in the seat pocket.

Face blurred in a photo

I noticed that whenever a public space is shown, the editors blurred out the faces of the people. I had always assumed that posting images of people in public is fine. I like to study how people use technology and I probably have dozens of such images (of people in various countries using their mobiles etc) on my web. Now more I think about it, I feel I should respect people’s privacy more. These days I take pictures in ways where the faces cannot be identified or I try to blur the face just like in this picture.


Some questions

Do we inform people at an event that we will be posting the pictures online?

Would camera apps in future rather than tagging the faces you have shot will instead blur them out by default?


Some resources

iPhone photo app to hide parts of your body and face (Warning, the site has some naughty pics)

http://obscurabylafilledo.com/


Android app to hide faces and other recognizable aspects from a picture. https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=org.witness.sscphase1&hl=en

Across the Sea of Japan

I went to Niigata because I wanted to see the Sea of Japan. I had never previously been to the western part of Honshu. it was good that I went there - it was warmer and the sky was clear. Japan sea seems bluer and more rough. There was hardly anyone on the beach. 
Mousan found tis plastic bottle on the beach. There was Korean text on the bottle. It says “Elite”. The design of the bottle and the printing looked much simple compared to what South Korean sport.  We speculated that it must be from North Korea. Looks like sunscreen, Wow!! it must have drifted from the East coast of Korea, a journey of 900 kilometres. 

Omoide noto - Memory Notebook and iWinkd

So we are in Kyoto and staying in this lovely ryokan - a traditional guest house.

And what do we find here, a dairy...

Some stories inside, most are in Japanese

and one in Chinese too

You will find in this many of these guesthouses. They are called Omoido noto, or memory notebook. Guests can leave their experiences of Kyoto and the guesthouse in this diary. 

Omoido noto is like a blog of a place. I like this concept. How can we use this. Early in 2008, we build a service called iwinkd. 

Conversations with Future Readers

I had loaned out this one book on some esoteric topic. While it was still on loan to me, I received an email informing me that someone else has reserved the book.  Wow, there is someone else who is interested in the same topic as me. 

Couple days later, I was at the library returning the book. The librarian was printing the reservation ticket for the person who has booked the book. I asked her if I can leave a note in the book pointing the next reader to my blog post (about the book) and inviting him/her to discuss the book with me. The librarian quoted some privacy rules and brushed me off. 

This was one of the situations that prompted us to build iwinkd. We were figuring out what would be a totally non-intrusive way to get two strangers to talk about an object that they both encounter and care about. 

So I am reading this book Fatherland by Robert Harris.

And I want to connect with future readers. One of the initial ideas we had was to leave my email and blog address. I figured that might not work. I needed a neutral space where people can come in. Lets see how this works on iwinkd:

I head on to iwinkd and create a message for the future readers.

iwinkd comes back with the tag for your message.

Place this tag somewhere in the book. One can use a post it.

Someone else encounters to book couple of weeks later and finds the tag. The new reader types in the tag at the iwinkd website.

He reads the message that I left for him. And decides to leave a comment.

Hopefully, we can keep talking about the book.