Monthly Archives: August 2010

Travels

Togolese Djembe Drumming

I was taking a picture of my djembe drum (that I’ve posted in my photo section) which also led me to a Youtube search of Togolese djembe drumming. ¬†I’d kind of forgotten what it sounded like, so it was a pleasant trip down memory lane. ūüôā

News

10+ day traffic jam may go for another 2 weeks

It’s insane, but there’s a traffic jam in China that stretched nearly 100km long at one point, and has lasted for over 10 days now – and it’s expected to go on till possibly mid-September.

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Humor News

Cute alert!

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This isn’t particularly newsworthy, just something to make you go “d’awwwww”. ūüôā

The Telegraph ran an article a few days ago of what is becoming a yearly tradition of duckling rescues by the employees of a Spokane bank.

Click on the link above to read more, or click HERE for a slideshow (hover your mouse over the picture to see arrows that will bring you the next picture in the series).

News Thoughts

And salvation for humanity shall be delivered in a bomber’s cargo bay

Iranian president Mr. Ahmadinejad was quoted in today’s news as saying:¬†“The jet, as well as being an ambassador of death for the enemies of humanity, has a main message of peace and friendship.”

This wonderfully oblique statement is in reference to the unveiling of Iran’s first “domestically built, unmanned bomber aircraft”. ¬†I get the “ambassador of death” bit, but where does the “peace and friendship”, (or as the NY Times translates it, “Salvation for humanity”) come into a play? ¬†It is a bomber after all, whose sole purpose is to rain death and destruction on a population somewhere.

The statement is absurd.

Unless Mr. Ahmadinejad sincerely equates his new bomber with both peace and death (in which case I’d really like to catch a glimpse of the thought process at work here), he is most likely attempting (and failing) to gloss over the fact that Iran is simply building up their capabilities for warfare.

This is a shame, because Iran sounds like a culturally fascinating nation (if the information on Wikipedia is anything to go on). ¬†I say it’s a shame, but again I kinda-sorta understand the need for a nation to be considered one of the “big boys”. ¬†I just hope that someday we’ll be able to get over associating a nation’s military capabilities with their perceived “worth” in terms of world affairs.

Experiences Sights & Sounds

Futagotamagawa Fireworks – August 2010

JIH mailed me last week about a fireworks display at Futagotamagawa – though S and I weren’t able to meet up with the rest of the group (we got there a little later than expected) we managed to snag a decent spot and I shot a “few” (more like 200) pictures of the show. ¬†I’ve whittled the number down to a more manageable 87 pictures, which I’ve uploaded to shashin.njmatsuya.com (I’ve decided to have a separate section of the site specifically for photos from now on).

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The show was spectacular – I think it’s the best I’ve ever seen! ¬† I especially liked that they included music at the end, which really added to the overall “wonder” of everything. ¬†I don’t know how many people were at the show, but I think it’s safe to say we numbered in the multiple thousands. ¬†Surprisingly enough (or not, as this is Japan after all), everything was very organized despite the huge crowds, with police “herding” groups of people in alternating batches at the end to avoid a massive crowd crushing stampede to the trains.

The weather also cooperated perfectly, with just enough of a slight breeze to take the edge off the humidity.

Overall, it was a great show/evening. ūüôā

Again, for more pictures of the show, please go to http://shashin.njmatsuya.com !

Thoughts

Perseids shower – August 2010

It’s already August – I remember last year reading the news and wondering if I should try to stay up late and see if I could catch a meteor or two – I ended up choosing sleep. ¬† I’m going to give a shot this year instead, particularly since there should still be some meteors early Saturday morning (the peak was apparently last night). ¬†Judging from this handy site, the best time for me this Saturday (in the Tokyo suburbs) will be just before 5AM.

Let’s see if I can actually manage to wake up at 5AM and spot some!

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Experiences Sights & Sounds

Updated Gallery with Hustai pictures

I’ll have 2 sets of pictures from my trip to Mongolia – one from the trip to Hustai National Park and some from around the city of Ulaanbaatar. ¬†First up are the pictures from Hustai, below is a sample, and clicking HERE will take you to the full gallery.

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The trip to Hustai is not one I recommend for people who get carsick easily. ¬†I’ve been on rollercoasters that bounced less than we did on the drive from Ulaanbaatar! ¬†Thankfully I have a (relatively) strong stomach and I had a fun time bouncing all over the place. ūüėõ

After arriving at Hustai, we opted to stay at the more distant lodging (about 11km away from the main entrance area). ¬†I think it was a great idea since we were able to get a much better “feel” of just how expansive and beautiful the park was. ¬†We also got more peace and quiet since there were quite a few tourists at the main area. ¬†I stayed in a little ger on my own and I had the best/most peaceful sleep I’ve had in a long time (as opposed to the rest of my family who chose to stay in a more western-type cabin, and were kept away all night be the creaking and banging of the doors!).

The only thing that bugged me (pun intended) about Hustai was the overwhelming amount of insects. ¬†We didn’t bring any insect repellent (not sure if that would have helped though) and were just bombarded with midges and gnats flying around, literally in clouds around us. ¬†The only time we had any respite from them was during the early morning and late evening/night.

Despite the bugs, it was a great trip. ¬†Mongolian nature is really amazing; sometimes a bit stark, and I can’t even begin to imagine how frigid it must get in the dead of winter, but it’s beautiful in many ways nonetheless.

Thoughts

If it ain’t broke…

I’ve just spent nearly 3 hours fiddling with my site… with nothing to show for it.

After the fun I had playing with Photoshop yesterday, I wanted to see if there was another plugin that would display image galleries a little more nicely. ¬†I rather like the Simpleviewer plugin and thought I’d give it a shot. ¬†However…

I found that my current WP theme doesn’t really allow for much manipulation. ¬†I then thought, “heck, why not go for a new theme – I’ve had this one for a long time and something new might look nice”. ¬†Fast forward 20 minutes, and I still haven’t found a theme I was particularly fond of. ¬†So…

I thought I’d play around with the CSS files of my existing theme. ¬†Now, I know what CSS *is*, but I haven’t really used it aside from editing some existing themes on other websites in the past. ¬†After mucking around with the styles sheet, and various php pages (which, frankly, I know nothing about), I gave it up as a bad idea. ¬†I think at some point I’ll have to take the time to sit down and design a theme of my own, but that’s going to have to be at some later point down the road. ¬†Anyway…

I went back to see if other plugins would offer more flexibility, and I found several, installed them, tested them, but all didn’t play too well with the site (again, I think my current theme limits quite a bit).

I’ve decided to call it quits for now. ¬†3 hours gone, and nothing to show for it… but hey, at least I didn’t break the site right? ¬†..Right? ¬†*grumble*

Experiences Sights & Sounds

Messing around in Photoshop

As I mentioned in my previous post, I’d been to visit my family in Mongolia last month. ¬†It was great to spend time with them and catch up (though I did come down with a stomach bug of some sort while I was there), and while we didn’t go out too much, I had a very relaxing time. ¬†I’ll write a bit more about what we did in a later post.

One of the things I did while I was there was mess around with my youngest brother’s camera, a Nikon D40. ¬†It was the first time I’d ever really used a DSLR and… I can’t see myself ever being content with a regular point and shoot any more. ¬†I’m actually looking around now to see what’s available in the DSLR market, including the used/refurbished stores, but more on that later. ¬†I personally took probably over 500-600 pictures over a period of 2-3 days (days that we went out), and though they’re not all post-worthy, I felt some were interesting enough to put up.

I’ve never been a hardcore Photoshop user, I’ve just dabbled with it in uni for an “elements of webdesign” course I once took, and for batch resizing. ¬†But tonight, I thought I’d see what I could do to “spruce” up a few of my pictures – and I have to say I had fun with that too! ¬†It’s amazing how one can make colors pop out and seem more vibrant. ¬†I know that digital manipulation is no replacement for quality photography, but used in conjunction, I now feel that certainly has its benefits. ¬†Below is what I came up with in the course of 2 hours (the one of the¬†lavender¬†mountain range took me almost an hour as I was figuring out what I could do with PS)

Post edit: I’ve updated the Hustai pictures and put them in a gallery HERE.