Archives For Christmas

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From before the sun rises until after the sun goes down, or fourteen hours, I’m at my job here in Japan. Because I get back to the hotel so late regular restaurants are closed, both convention franchise as well as local mom-and-pop businesses. So my Plan B for getting something for supper is to walk about two blocks to a 24-hour combined grocery and little restaurant called foodium. I don’t know if it’s a Japanese language idiom or not; the name sounds like something that would come straight out of the Valley. The foodium has become my one way of breaking the monotonous cycle of sleep-shower-breakfast-work-sleep. And it gives me an opportunity to walk about a bit as well, even if it is at night.

foodium interior

The interior is well lit and very modern, just about what you’d expect in an American supermarket. The panoramic should give some idea of one corner of the store. It’s packed full of modern packaged Japanese food items, a lot of it highly processed.

food at the foodium

Some of the items have a western Christmas/Yuletide theme. The Japanese, for whatever reasons, are very much into Christmas. You can’t go anywhere without hearing western Christmas music being piped into stores and train stations.

two christmas elves

The Japanese will even dress the part during Christmas, as the photo above illustrates. Japan is an interesting culture, one that combines aspects of theirs and ours in interesting and complex ways.

Cameras

The top photo was taken with an OM-D E-M10 and Panasonic 14mm pancake lens. The rest were taken with the iPhone 6s+. The camera in the iPhone is truly powerful with capabilities I’ve barely learned to tap. The ability to take panoramic photos, like the second, is so simple to do and the results are actually worth keeping. I wish Olympus were as easy to use making panoramics as the iPhone.

The E-M10 JPEG images were moved onto the iPad using OI.Share. All post processing was done on either the iPhone or the iPad using Snapseed.

anthropomorphization

January 3, 2015

asleep

anthropomorphization: noun: attributing human characteristics to something that is nonhuman (like an animal, such as a cat).

We pet owners are a funny breed (non pun intended). We ascribe all sorts of human qualities to our animals. And how can we not, when we see them doing something not just human, but so very child-like? Lulu likes to sleep on the arm of the stuffed chair, with one paw stretched out and around the bottom. Kind of like a kid with a pillow.

What makes this one particularly special is that the light came from the Christmas tree lights. Lulu has an affinity for that tree, more than the other two cats.

merry christmas 2014

December 24, 2014

christmas in ikebukuro

This is the Christmas tree in the center of The Hotel Metropolitan in Ikebukuro, Tokyo, Japan. It stretches a good two stories above the lobby floor. It’s covered in an immense number of glass decorations and lights. At any given moment, from the early morning until late in the evening, someone was having their photo taken in front of the tree. It was that popular. I had to wait a few moments for this relatively free view.

Shinto and Buddhism are the two primary Japanese religions. This is not to say that there are no Christian adherents in Japan. Japan was first exposed to Christianity, through Roman Catholicism, in the latter half of the sixteenth century. Unfortunately for the Franciscans who were performing missionary work in western Japan at the time, they wound up being banned and persecuted, starting in the turn of the seventeenth century. Christians would remain persecuted until 1873, when Protestants would begin missionary work anew. The celebration of Christmas itself didn’t become popular with the general non-Christian population like it is today until after World War II.

Today the Japanese seem to celebrate Christmas with the same fervor we do in the U.S. There are decorations and lights everywhere, and Christmas music (carols and more secular songs) is constantly playing in the background, in English. Yet, there are some things missing from Christmas in Japan. Yet there are no creches, no manger scenes. Nothing that overtly calls out to the Christian elements of Christmas. The celebration seems far more secular at least to a westerner such as myself.

This is not a criticism of the Japanese. I see way too much secularism in our Christmas celebrations. Way to much emphasis on Black Friday’s and Cyber Mondays. Being a photographer and a traveler I get constantly bombarded with emails advertising all sorts of special holiday sales on camera and electronics gear and travel destinations. I can easily ignore all that because I’m already too broke to buy anything else after about mid-November, and I’ve had about all the travel I can handle by the time I come home from Japan. I’m all tapped out. And yet the exhortation to “Buy! Buy! Buy!” keeps coming at me from all sides. I manage to tune all that out because I’m broke – and too numb to pay attention anymore.

This Christmas eve is the quiet before the hectic Christmas day. Tomorrow I’m going to spend time with both grown daughters, one for lunch and the other for dinner. We’re going to be even more busy on Christmas day than we were when the girls were little and living at home.

To me that’s the real gift this time of year, being with our girls and their respective boy friends, sharing what everyone is doing with their lives. I guess I managed not to make too may mistakes as a dad; they still want to see me and spend time with me. Time with my girls is the most precious gift of all, especially at Christmas.

merry christmas 2013

December 25, 2013

key west christmasI’d like to take moment and wish everyone a Happy Holidays and a Merry Christmas. It’s been a long strange 2013 for me, and I’m thankful to have gotten through it all in far better shape than I thought I’d be in at this point in time. I was laid off from the MITRE Corp (due to sequestration, or so they said) back in April. I’m very thankful that I have my current job (the one that sent me to Japan in early December), and extremely thankful that my time laid off was as short as it was. I know from other’s experiences that engineers my age that are laid off will essentially never work again, or at least not in the profession that they were let go from.

I’m thankful for my marriage of nearly 30 years, and the woman who has stood by me and put up with me all that time.

I’m deeply thankful for our two daughters, those two sacred gifts of life that we helped raise, and we were blessed with the opportunity to watch as they grew from infants to young adults. It’s both blessed as well as tough to raise children in this day and time, but I wouldn’t have given up the opportunity for anything. If I have any regrets it’s that I may not have devoted enough time to the two girls. But there’s no reason to dwell on that, what’s done is done. I have plenty of lovely and loving memories, and so do they. And as they continue through life as grown adults, I still have many opportunities to share some of those coming moments with them. The adventures continue.

In spite of the Snowden revelations, I’m thankful I live in the United States. No government or society is ever perfect, especially not ours. As Thomas Jefferson once remarked, “eternal vigilance is the price we pay for liberty.” The NSA excesses are but one example of the eternal vigilance we must practice, and then act upon, to nurture liberty and democracy. And while I’m at it I give thanks for whistleblowers like Edward Snowden.

And I’m thankful for all the men and women who have given their lives in defense of my freedom, both this year and in years past. We may argue the motivations of their commanders (and believe me I certainly do), all the way up to the Congress and the President, but it’s the troops at the sharp end who execute the orders and are called upon the make the ultimate sacrifice.

Finally, I’m thankful for the democratic process in this country that allows me to not just vote but to act upon my beliefs in a lawful manner. The biggest mistake I ever made was to vote not once, but twice, forĀ Barack Hussein Obama II. If I’d known during the 2012 election season what I know now about the NSA excesses and his support of them, as well as his other foreign policies, especially the immoral drone wars, I would have done everything in my power to help vote him out of office. That knowledge came about through the exercising of our most precious Constitutional rights, a priceless gift that demands our continuous and vigilant support by whatever means necessary.

breaking_bad_lab_01The older I get the more jaded I become, especially around Christmas. I’ve reached a point in my life where I can’t afford anything I’d like to have as a Christmas gift, and unfortunately, neither can anyone else. Or at least I felt that way until I saw the Lego Breaking Bad Meth Lab.

For just US $250 (a mere pittance!) you can have your very own model meth lab (albeit built out of Lego blocks) along with tiny representations of the key Breaking Bad characters. Even though it’s just two days before Christmas I showed this to my beloved wife, who stared at it for a moment and informed me, as she has so many times before, that I was crazy.

Oh well. Maybe I can pick it up on sale after Christmas at the local Toys ‘R’ Us or Walmart. Probably Walmart.

Merry Christmas!

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