Around the world in two weeks

27 November 2008 at 23:55

With stops in London, Köln, München, and Tokyo, my two week business trip went by in a blur.

The trip was good from business standpoint and I was lucky to be able to see good friends in all three countries, but boy am I thankful to be back home. Two weeks on the road is about my limit for a work-related trip.

Tokyo, it’s been too long

25 May 2008 at 17:43

There’s a statue outside of Shibuya station dedicated to Hachiko, the legendary Akita who faithfully waited for her owner every night, even long after he passed away.

I didn’t think much about it until my flight in April from SFO to NRT was in the air, but I spent almost ever other summer in Japan when I was growing up. After 8 years away (far too long in retrospect), would it still feel the same? Had the long economic malaise sapped the country of its vitality?

I was happy to see that while much of the urban landscape of Tokyo had changed—in particular, mega-projects like Roppongi Hills, Tokyo Midtown, and Omotesando Hills were all new to me—the essential character of place hadn’t. The dynamic energy, frenetic pace, and fantastic food were still there, just enhanced by the continued organic evolution of the city.

And that’s what I like most about the place, the jarring discontinuity—no doubt a legacy of the urban planning done by warlords from centuries past. Unlike other cities, Tokyo juxtaposes new and old, with seemingly little concern for continuity. Perhaps it’s wabi-sabi writ large. Regardless, I’m looking forward to going back in June—and much more in the future. Like Hachiko, Japan waits patiently for me to return.

Seen in Seattle

1 April 2008 at 22:51

You know your trip to Seattle is complete when…

…you spot Starbucks chairman and CEO Howard Schultz just outside the first Starbucks store on Pike Place.

On the street in London

7 February 2008 at 09:27

Even though I was in London for business, I did get a chance to indulge in some photography one night before heading off to dinner. Check out this album to see the results.

On a camera-nerd note, the Ricoh GR Digital II makes for a pretty nice range-finder-like digital camera. The high ISO grain is fairly pleasing and the range of manual control is rarity on a digital camera this small. It’s eminently pocket-able and will be a nice side arm complement to my eventual replacement digital SLR.

Thoughts from Munich and London

6 February 2008 at 09:27

Some random thoughts from my trip last week to Munich and London:

  • Flughafen München is the cleanest and quietest airport that I’ve been through in recent years. It’s a striking contrast (and a bit eerie) to sprawling complexes like LAX or or LHR.
  • Corporate rivalries play out in interesting ways. Just after the giant BMW grille in the baggage claim, there’s an Audi S5 on display right by the exit and enormous Audi banners in the outdoor square of the airport. Seems like a bold move given that Munich is BMW’s world headquarters.
  • Bread is generally very good in Germany. I would eat brötchen all the time if I could get something comparable here in California.
  • There’s nothing like the sense of déjà vu that you get when you return to a city that you were last in years earlier. In my case, strolling down Kaufingerstraße and ending up in Marienplatz brought back a flood of memories from a trip to Munich a decade ago.
  • The street cars in Munich are Prius-sneaking-up-on-pedestrians quiet. The N-Judah that runs by my flat in San Francisco sounds like a stampeding herd of buffalo by comparison.
  • London Heathrow, unlike the Internet, really is a series of tubes. Catching a connecting flight at LHR involves a series of moving walkways connecting a seemingly endless sprawl of terminals.
  • The EmPower power outlets built in to many airplane seats seems rather customer unfriendly. Is there actually a good technical reason for not providing standard AC outlets in-seat instead?

Willkommen in München

28 January 2008 at 00:21

Giant kidney-shaped grill and roundrel on the wall in the baggage claim?

I must be in Munich.