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I have figured out why Godzilla was able to attack Tokyo without any advance warning. It’s because everyone was going about their business, distracted… Either by cell phones or manga books or just generally ignoring their surroundings.
If you haven’t met me, let me paint a picture: I am 6’2″ tall (a head taller than the average adult male here) and I tip the scales at around 350lbs… Not to mention that 21 years after my enlistment I still walk like a cross between a soldier and a tank. Let’s add the cherry on top… I wear a big cowboy hat.
And yet… People walk into me, step into my path (half a step from getting hurt), or else walk toward me expecting I will get out of their way… Even though there are ten lanes of pedestrians walking with them, and only two lanes of pedestrians in my lane (yes, there are pedestrian lanes here, and for the most part they are respected).
Folks, I am a big guy, and while I was once a lot nimbler than I am, that was a long time ago. If my stride is going to take me forward, by the time you unexpectedly decide to occupy treat space that I have a half a second to not move into suddenly… It’s too late.
Oh, and I should mention something else… If I outweigh you by 200lbs (that’s about 90kg before you try to make that excuse) and you and I collide… Well let’s put it this way: I will feel it… But it won’t hurt me. The physical recollection of our brief accidental encounter will be a memory for me forgotten within minutes, and quicker if I am thinking of something else. You, on the other hand, will likely fee like you got hit by a truck. It will hurt… A lot… For a long time. Why? Because I stand like a brick wall and walk like a tank. I may be fat, but I am solid… VERY solid. ‘Let’s put Mitch in the CENTRE so nobody can get into our key’ solid. ‘If we need to walk through a crowd of rowdy people let’s put Mitch out front and we can walk through the clearing he causes’ solid. Physics will work against you unless you are a sumo wrestler… And you’d better be super-heavyweight at that.
So Tokyo (and all of Japan), I want to leave you with this simple lesson. Look up. I’m not going to hurt you on purpose… But if you are lookin at your cellphone and not at me when we walk into each other then you are about to be having a very bad day.
I love you. Really. So please, don’t do it. Pay attention when you walk.
One Jewish boy was still working with aplomb and elan.
He tried to clear his dashboard of servers of red,
While visions of sashimi swum round in his head.
He raised his head up from his screen on occasion,
To see some of his colleagues showing true dedication.
But our hero knew later he’d enjoy 80 proof.
An eighteen year old would bring great delight,
Which is odd, as alone he would spend this here night.
And then, the thought did enter into his mind
Of a place where likeminded company he’d find.
His carriage would not be pulled by eight reindeer,
But the Japan Rail train out of the station so near.
From Shinagawa Seaside he would go forth,
All the way to Shibuya, no pole but points north.
Where bars and restaurants filled with the cheer
Of dozens or scores of patrons with beer!
Izakaya is where he will make his own way,
To imbibe with his tribe after a helluva day.
A night of good food and good drink lay alee,
He thought to himself with more than slight glee.
Or maybe, he thought, as his head he did knock,
I should follow my diet, and go for a walk.
The streets of Tokyo, aglow with festive light
Held many a vision for his sheer delight.
Still and all, though enjoy himself this night he would,
His mind was focused on back home – where his family stood.
Theresa and Aaron, Gilad, Gingit, and Jake
Danced in his mind as a pause he did take.
Before going out for food and for drink,
He’d head to the hotel for a Skype he did think.
But alas, the time zone didn’t work in his favour,
And let the fam sleep as their rest they should savour.
But after his food, a drink or two and a walk
He’d head back to his room, with his family to talk.
And so we can end this Christmas tale, which rings true and not tall,
To you all a good night, and Merry Christmas to all!
Over the past few days I have received an incredible number of you asking what happened, if I am okay, and if I will be alright. I can assure you I am. Let me explain.
A great many of you have known me as a Microsoft contractor. I have been for quite some time, first as a Virtual Partner Technology Advisor, then as a Virtual Technical Evangelist, and most recently as a member of the Server and Tools Business. So when e-mails to my @microsoft.com account started to bounce (Tuesday this week) a lot of people expressed their concern. I am quite touched by the outpouring of support!
I have always contracted to Microsoft through its Canadian subsidiary, Microsoft Canada. In September of this year I accepted a contract with Rakuten, Inc – a Japanese company – that would see me spending most of my time in Tokyo. Although we tried, there was no good way for Microsoft Canada to keep me on. It was not done maliciously – in fact, my skip-level (my manager’s manager) did everything he could to a) keep me on, b) communicate the issues with me, and then c) accommodate my request for a timeline extension.
So let me answer some of the ‘Best Of’ questions… the ones that seem to be coing up most often.
1. Did your decision to leave Microsoft have to do with being turned down for a particular position?
No. Although over the past year I have indeed been turned down for a position, it has worked out very well for me in almost every way imaginable. While taking that role would have been good for me, I have been able to grow in the direction I have wanted to grow. Because of my independence I have been able to accept the consulting project I am currently working on, which is one of the mot exciting projects I have worked on in years.
2. Did you leave Microsoft because of a disagreement?
No… and yes. I suppose in the end we disagreed on geography – my consulting role needed me to be in Japan, and Microsoft Canada would have needed me to be in Canada. Other than that there was no disagreement whatsoever.
3. Did you leave because you did not like the direction in which the company was heading?
Not at all. In the army I topped out at Staff Sergeant, and as such I learned quickly that some things were above my pay grade. At Microsoft that was the case as well – I know that a lot of things are out of my control, but I also knew that whatever direction the company would take, my position (should I have elected to keep it) was safe. Whatever decisions the company made, as a VMware Compete expert I was reasonably safe 🙂
4. Do you feel any disdain toward Microsoft, Microsoft Canada, or anyone you worked for or with?
ABSOLUTELY NOT. I loved working there, and while I may have had the occasional issue with someone they were always resolved.
5. Did you leave Microsoft to work with competing technologies?
NO. Although over the past couple of weeks I have made a habit to wear my non-Microsoft branded shirts more than usual, I have not ‘gone over’ to any other competing technology. With that being said, I am carrying an iPhone now not because I left Microsoft… because Windows Phone 8 is not available in Japan, and this is what the company I am working for gave me.
6. Will you be going back to Microsoft?
That is a very good question. What I once thought of as my dream job no longer holds the same appeal to me. With that being said, there are a lot of jobs at Microsoft, and should the right opportunity present itself I would be glad to go back, either for the right contract or for the right full time position. However one thing is for certain: I no longer view Microsoft as the Holy Grail of companies. I think they are a great company to work for, but there are a lot of other great companies out there.
7. What will you miss most about it?
I had to give this question a little thought. My first knee-jerk reaction was the people, but then I realized that the people I got to know are still there, and are still available to me. I am still a Microsoft MVP, a Microsoft Certified Trainer, and an influencer. My friends are still my friends. When it comes down to it, I suppose what I will miss most is having Lync… having the ability to call my family from Japan was a great tool!
8. Any regrets?
None at all… for the remainder of my time in Japan I will continue to work closely with Microsoft, but not with the Canadian team. It is a really exciting project, and I would not trade it for anything.
I want to thank you all again for your concern and support, and hope to be able to continue working with you in the future!
At the north end of Platform 2 of the Hamamatsucho Station on the Yamanote line there is a statue/fountain that may be the strangest I have seen since I got to Japan. I actually have no business at this station and never would have seen it, except for that another gaijin that I met recently was telling me about it. I still likely would not have sought it out, but on Saturday I was essentially wandering aimlessly, and when the conductor announced that we were approaching that station (please don’t ask me to type the name again) I decided to hop off and look for it before continuing on my way.
I am glad I was able to find it on my own, because it is quite small, and good as my communications via gesticulations may be I have trouble conceiving how I would have asked someone where this particular statue was. If it was the Venus de Milo or the Statue of David I would be able to figure it out, but this one … I just have these terrible images of … never mind.
The statue/fountain is, as you can see, of a small boy. Really it is no more that 75cm tall. None of this makes this a weird statue. The fact, however, that the boy is urinating into the pool (a practice I have always thought to be frowned upon) is only the first part of the weirdness of this statue… and if that was the beginning and the end of it I never would have gotten off the train.
Now here’s where the weirdest part comes in. There is, I am told, a group of volunteers whose task it is to dress this little boy. Please take a minute to think about this: The statue firstly is quite sealed to the base; as well its weewee is… well, out and in use, I could imagine this causing several logistical issues. According to my friend (and this is the weirdest part) the volunteers actually custom-sew the outfits, and then dress the little guy, without covering his weewee, and presumably without turning the fountain off.
I don’t know how often they change him, but my friend told me it is often enough. More importantly, I would love to know how one applies to the position of Member of the Order of Dressing the Urinating Boy Statue… Are there auditions, tryouts, eliminations? Who selects them? Is there a compensation package? Is it a full-time gig, are there term limits? How long is a term?
So I saw the statue/fountain, and I went about my day. I will be going back though… my friend told me that they change him every few days, and it is worth checking out the different outfits. I won’t go out of my way, but if I am on that line passing that station, why not? 🙂
Have a great week…
The calendar has turned in Tokyo. Although there are a few hours left in North America, here it is now Friday, and more importantly it is November. I got in late from a Halloween party in Shibuya… the whole city was a crazy place tonight, and I have the pictures to prove it (they come later in the post).
In the meantime, despite there being several hours left on the East Coast, October (2013) has been guaranteed the top month ever for The World According to Mitch. I hope it is a combination of on-point technical articles, and my life experience (currently in Japan) that has drawn so many of you here, and so many of you keep coming back. Thank you!
As always I want to hear from you… tell me what you want to see more of, what you like and don’t like. I read all of your comments, and try to adjust as I can. In the meantime I promised some of you more wild Tokyo Halloween costumes, so here they are!
I thought these were some of the wildest costumes I’d seen… as were most people they were only too happy to pose with me, However the costumes get even more interesting when you look close… I am not a pervert, and would never take and post dirty pictures, but this next photo of one of the girls sitting down underscored the detail put into the costume… namely, their skivvies are also lighting up and flashing! The people I was with couldn’t help but wonder how well insulated the costumes were, because moisture and electrical charges are a bad mix… Talk about fiery sex! (Also when they turned their costumes off you could see that their undergarments had been coordinated as well as the rest of their costumes…)
I thought this next costume was quite clever, and proves that I am not only taking pictures of sexy girls in scantily clad costumes. I also got to take a picture of two gentlemen wearing naked women’s bodies 😉
This gentleman was at the bar where I spent the evening, but by coincidence is also from Toronto! He’s spending some time in Japan just like I am, but wasn’t careful because with all of the zombies out it looks like one of them tried to eat his brains!
I am not sure what these girls are dressed as, but don’t they look so cute? (Notice the McDonald’s Golden Arches in the background…)
I told you they coordinate their costumes, right>
I wonder if he can predict going home alone tonight?
It is good to see religion and Disney come together at last…
Anyone care for some of these guys grilled up with some balsamic vinegar?
…and finally some truly Japanese costumes… worn by some NOT SO JAPANESE guys…
All in all it was a crazy night. You wouldn’t think that dressed as I was (golf shirt and my leather jacket) that I would win a costume contest, would you? Alas, I did… until it was proven that I cheated. When I entered I told them that my name was Mariko, and that i was a 22 year old short Japanese girl in full makeup. When I was announced as the winner the girls in the Red Army/Stewardess costumes (see the photo in front of Cafe Miyama) Attacked me and stripped me naked trying to prove I wasn’t who I said I was. The trophy was taken away from me, but I think I still came out ahead!
Happy Halloween, Happy November, and thanks again for reading!
- A Real Trip… Happy Halloween from Japan! (garvis.ca)
I mentioned in conversation a couple of days ago that I was going to be starting to learn Kyokushin Karate in Japan and that I was very excited. One of the people involved in the discussion mentioned that the first few months of any martial art is going to be less interesting, but if I stuck with it I would probably start to enjoy it. I told him that I was not new to martial arts, only to Karate, and that I was a Second Dan Black Belt in Taekwondo. He then went off on a tangent telling me how Taekwondo is not a serious martial art, and it’s only about kicking, and how real martial artists (like the ones in the UFC) study Muay Thai, BJJ, and other serious arts.
Now here’s the thing… he was very clear that he is not a martial artist, but he is a big fan, and he continued insulting Taekwondo as being inferior and useless as compared to other martial arts. He talked about the Monk Tournament, UFC, and seemed to know a lot of the plusses and minuses of many different martial arts.
The problem was he had never learned about respect, one of the key tenets of every martial art. He did not realize and would not listen when told by me and by others that he was being offensive, insulting, and disrespectful. He kept trying to prove that his book knowledge made him an authority. I told him that I would gladly invite him to my dojang in Mississauga to learn Taekwondo, and see if he might learn a new respect for it. One way or another, until he earned a Black Belt I was not willing to listen to him insult me, my Master, my GrandMaster, and my art.
Here’s the thing. I know that different martial arts have their strengths and their weaknesses, and frankly I am quite cognizant of these. However if someone is going to tell me how much they dislike my primary martial art, they had better have a Black Belt of their own, otherwise they cannot have any credibility. The Black Belt can be in any art, from Karate to Brazilian Jiu Jitsu to whatever, but to come at me with pure theory and telling me that my art isn’t very good is a very strong insult from someone with absolutely no idea what he is talking about.
The person continued talking about ‘pure martial artists’… people who strictly learn a single art. In my experience, there is no one perfect martial art, and any practitioner who is serious will have a base in one art but a lot of knowledge of others – for example, my Taekwondo school (Oriental Martial Arts College) does teach Taekwondo, but we also integrate a lot of Hapkido into the curriculum from the very early belts. The Hapkido complements Taekwondo and closes some of the potential shortcomings. As my Master once told me, there is no pure martial art because all martial arts borrow from each other and evolve. The fans of UFC may prefer watching certain forms, but even the UFC fighters use different styles… hence the name Mixed Martial Arts.
I had visited the Kyokushin dojo once before to watch a class before returning to join. I had not told the Sensei anything about my previous martial arts experience… I wanted to (out of respect for both him and for GrandMaster Kim), and had even arranged to bring a friend to translate for me. It fell through, so I had to do my best… I told him I wanted to learn from him, he told me what the rates were, and that was essentially the end of the conversation. When I returned Monday evening he told me to change at the back of the room. As I pulled my workout kit out (I don’t have a gi yet, but it is on order) the Sensei saw my Black Belt pop out. He immediately had his entire class turn and bow to me. They may practice a different art from me, but a Black Belt is a Black Belt.
When my gi does come in, for the first time in several years, I will be wearing a White Belt. I will not ask the Sensei for any special considerations for me based on my pre-existing Black Belt – I am a Black Belt already, and that does not change by donning a white one for a new art. Even in Taekwondo one of our words of wisdom that we repeat after class is Cho Shim… Beginner’s Mind. I am looking forward to starting from the beginning again though… it is really exciting! More on that later.
Wish me luck… it’s the morning after, and my body is aching just like I hoped. I kept up just fine, but am really looking forward to sparring… Sensei won’t let me spar until I have the protective equipment. Look forward to a bunch of articles about my new martial art in the next few weeks!