Comes an end

At the end of the year we look back, and tell stories. Often the stories are of people now distant or places we are far from. At the end of this year then, as the cat sits next to me, I will tell you two. Out the window to the right I can see the Marin Headland, and the tree in the back yard still has leaves. To a boy from New York, on the thirty first of December, this is worth noting. The ends of most years fade like most days, salvageable only with focus. Some though swim strangely before me, raised by music, perhaps, or phone calls, the voices of people involved.

In one of these memories a group of boys wander Shibuya, having taken the Saikyo line in from Saitama. They wear coats, for the weather is chilly, and have champagne in bottles in their bags, awaiting the midnight hour. Excited, they enter bars for brief moments, a single beer or a few songs on the dance floor. Occasionally they encounter familiar faces, and sometimes one or anther is left, engaged in conversation, while the rest spill back out onto the streets, where the real party is. They meet up in intersections, stairwells, and public spaces. They are not alone, the city is alive, from the video screens on famous buildings to the pulse of music from every doorway. These boys are young, and in love, in that way that young boys far from home can be, with Shibuya, with people everywhere, and with the evening. They cheer on strangers, and chat with bouncers who are likewise entertained by the celebration. They buy drinks in cheaper establishments and tend bar in fancier ones, as it is that kind of evening, people slipping in and out of roles and positions, gaining a phone number, a friend, or a bottle of gin. As midnight nears they re-unite, somehow coming close enough in the throng to pass champagne to each other, all part of a large circle of people they do not know. The Hachiko exit of the Shibuya station, made famous by countless movies, is an impassable mass of bodies, and the memory ends with the champagne.

Another year, another country, and the image I remember is of Huaihai, it’s lanes blocked by police for a show, a parade, and then fireworks. The year ending is celebrated by Chinese dance teams, by dragon costumes, and by the all-encompassing smoke of fireworks set off both in patterns and in fistfuls. A group of friends have wandered in from various edges of the crowd, working their way in one side street or another to try for a better view of the stage. This memory is from the years where Huahai at Huang Pi Nan Lu feels like the center of the city, before Shanghai sprawls out and becomes familiar. Zhongshan park is still unfathomably distant, and taxi rides avoided despite their scant cost. The parties of this winter are fueled by three kuai baijiu mixed with two kuai coke. But on this evening everything seems still, despite the throngs and the fireworks, the constructed stages and the pulsing lights. Even the crowds are patient with each other, at the end of the year. People wait, and help children up on to shoulders, they let old people to the front and climb phone booths carefully, concerned for the plastic and glass. It is a cold evening, and most have bundled up in hats save the construction workers, who watch from the edges hands in the pockets of their suits. After the show ends a couple walks home down the center of the street, holding hands as they step over the debris, broken costumes and expended fireworks. The crowd, which had filled seven blocks, is gone within thirty minutes, and, as they walk east, the street is given back over to cars by the elevated road, the new year already arrived, and the city returned to it’s plan.

At the end of the year we look back and we tell stories. Tonight, with some new friends and some old, we will go looking for celebrations, lucky to have had so many.

10 things I learned yesterday

1. IMAX 3D shows on Tuesday evenings do sell out.

2. If someone is a good director, 10 years away from the mainstream doesn’t *have* to destroy their ability (which opposes the George Lucas principle, though that gives rise to the question of initial talent, which I will not discuss here).

3.  Making Titanic doesn’t stop someone from loving science fiction.

4.  Gollum really was a massive step in the blending of motion-captured live actors and CG creatures.

5.  Waiting for the technology you need to be developed can work, but building it yourself is almost always the right choice.

6.  If someone who is a good director and loves science fiction spends ten years of their life building the technology they need to make a movie, it is worth $19 to see it in IMAX 3D.

7.  Probably twice.

8.  Unless you have a very small nose, and so can’t comfortably wear the 3D glasses as their correct focal length is farther from your eyes than your nose will allow.

9.  Which is not a problem I have.

10.  However this means the 2nd time I see Avatar will probably be on a normal screen.

Welcoming others

In the fall of two thousand nine we welcome our first guests to San Francisco. We have lived here scant months, but feel ready. In many ways this is the true test of our comfort in a new place, the ability to show to others what we have built and discovered. Our house is not finished, lacking a desk by the window and a mirror on the wall, but it can be cleaned, the detritus of a life with regular jobs and ultimate games put away, and so it is. We have explored enough to have a coffee shop, a noodle joint, a burger place, and even a sushi restaurant for family outings. The tour of our neighborhood is small, but includes a secluded park on a hill tall enough to afford an incredible view, and Golden Gate Park, near enough for jogs as well as bird watching. We do not know everything, or even many things, but are comfortable with busses, paths by the ocean, and cooking dinner. Our house has but three chairs, yet we can manage to house a guest, and have spare keys.

This ability, to those long with it, seems no grand gift, no special acceptance of place and people. Yet to a transient person it is an achievement long sought. Not only are these four walls new, this specific place, but so too is this city, and state. This is the first lease I have signed in America this decade, possibly ever. Changing my bank’s address of record from my parent’s house I feel my life finally shifting west, belatedly acknowledging where it’s center of gravity has been for years. And after a summer of taking recommendations on cities and neighborhoods it is comforting to lead the way to a mid-morning bagel for a friend fresh off the plane from Shanghai via Beijing. We all rotate around, though, and he is familiar with this neighborhood, having lived here in ‘01, before heading to Taiwan, and from there to Shanghai, where we met.

In Los Angeles later, for a weekend, in the city that has been the nexus of my travels east and west, we think of all the other places we have seen together. “Have I still been everywhere you have ever lived?” he asks, the two of us standing on the rooftop of his new house, looking out towards the Marina, and Venice, and the Pacific. Jets from LAX pass on the horizon. Yes, I say, save San Francisco. And San Francisco he will, for three months in we have begun to welcome visitors.

List of mobile phones I’ve used

A Japanese Panasonic candybar model with a monochrome screen which, being old and cheap at the time (2001) I can’t find any information about online.

Nokia J-NM02 – A model that’s very hard to find information on, but in 2002 was pretty sweet.  Flip, color, camera, web, and that wonderful antenna.

Nokia 2100 – On moving to Shanghai in 2003 I bought the cheapest phone I could.

Siemens M55 – Quite an upgrade after about a year in Shanghai.

Nokia 6681 – An incredible *phone*.  A little slow towards the end, but with Opera Mini and the Gmail app the best phone experience I had ever had, by far.  Also synched with my Mac via Bluetooth, which was a huge win.

HTC P4350 – Windows Mobile.  Great hardware, worst software ever.  Only lasted six months before I got tired of having the messaging app crash while texting.  No sync.

BlackBerry Curve 8300 – An incredible phone, but by 1 year the trackball was breaking. Also better with Opera Mini and Gmail app.  Qwerty keyboard was great.  Used w/ Exchange.

iPhone 3G white 16GB – Fun, versatile, but hands down the worst *phone* I’ve used since the… ever.  Horrible reception, prone to crashes in the phone app, generally slow, and after 1 year the plastic is cracking at the edges.  Note that this is my *first* time on a US post-paid contract, though I did use T-Mobile pre-paid at times on the BB and the 6681.

The test of a mobile’s keyboard

The test of a mobile’s keyboard is at what length of intended entry one gives up and waits until a laptop is available.

Pause.

For me, with the iPhone, that point arrives sooner than it has in the past.

Regardless of what Gruber says now about it being “good enough” or what he said at it’s introduction, regardless of how biased I may be, and how wonderful the customization of keyboards is, the length I enjoy typing directly onto the screen is lower than it was on other devices.  List of devices used prior here.

As a related note:  has anyone else gotten worse at typing on an iPhone lately?