Have a Happy (and inspiring) New Year!
Steve Jobs at Macworld: "We come from different worlds"

Odds and ends to kickoff the year

Hope your first week of 2007 has been a good one. I've been back in Japan since December 31 and enjoying the first week of the new year "off the (digital) grid." That's right, no checking "The Google" or "The Internets" for (gasp) an entire week. It's been wonderful. Before I get up and running in full blog mode, here are a few odds and ends to start the year.

New Year's in Japan
Shrine New Year's (Oshogatsu) is a big deal in Japan. It kind of reminds me of the feeling of "being home for Christmas" in the U.S. That is, it's a family time, a time to head back home and spend some time with those who matter most. New Year's eve is not really a time for parties and countdowns, although that happens a bit too in the city. Instead, in Japan we enjoy traditional New Year's Japanese dishes such as toshikoshi soba at home before going out to say a prayer or two at the local shrine sometime after midnight. Usually we visit a temple (Buddhist) before midnight and then pay a visit to a shrine (Shinto) early in the AM of January 1. However, this year I arrived in Japan from San Francisco just a few hours before midnight and fell asleep before the clock hit 12:00, though my wife did wake me long enough for me to peek out the window of our bedroom to see celebratory fireworks bursting in the air above Universal Studios Japan on the other side of the city. "Rock-n-roll," I said...and went back to sleep. The next morning we left the city and took a train over to Nara Prefecture (where my wife's parents live) for Osechi Ryori.  Later we went for a walk to the Ikoma Taisha Shrine and the Hozan-ji Temple.

I was going to share the video and the pics below just with family, but I thought you may appreciate a glimpse of New Year's in Japan as well.

Above: Giving a little prayer at the Ikoma Taisha Shrine (YouTube link).

A few pics from our New Year's morning (presented here in Slideshare).

It's customary in Japan to send New Year's cards -- customized postcards called "nengajo" -- to family, friends, and business associates. It's a bit like the custom of sending Christmas cards in other parts of the world except that it is not unusual for people to send and receive hundreds of nengajo. My father-in-law, a high school physics teacher and an amateur astronomer with some high-tech cameras, sent out the nengajo below. Actually my wife put it together in Adobe Illustrator for him as it's a composite of four different photos taken by her father (buildings, night sky, two shots of the moon) plus text. Below left you can see the sketch my father-in-law made on paper and on the right a jpeg of the final card my wife put together based on his design. Presentation visuals are also often made this way: first the "analog sketch" then the digital version in Key/PPT.

07_sketch Arrrow_1Nengajo_07

As the cards are often sent to people you can not see regularly, the card acts to update them on what's new in your life. It is common to send a nengajo featuring your family portrait or pictures of your children, especially if you have a new baby. As we just got married in 2006, my wife sent out this card. People also send cards with a picture of the year's zodiacal animal which for 2007 is a Boar or inoshishi. I was born in the year of the Ox, so I'm suppose to be good at public speaking and inspiring confidence in others.

Some links for the new year.

My buddy Bert Decker has his "Top Ten Best (and worst) Communicators of the year" out for 2006. Interesting stuff.
Seth Godin reminds us that it is not about being popular, it's about being remarkable. Then Seth tells us here just how to be remarkable. Can you not apply this bit of wisdom to presentations as well?
My Kyoto-based designer pal, Markuz Wernli, has posted his own cool video summarizing his latest art project. We're trying to set up a presentation in the SoHo Apple Store (NYC) if we can swing it as Markuz will be in New York in January and early February.
I wish I could buy this man a beer! Hats off to this regular working Joe who became a hero in an instant. Just a great story. And Mr. Autrey, a construction worker, does a great job in his interview on the Letterman Show, better than half the CEO-types interviewed on television (full Letterman interview). Right on Wesley!

The world lost one of the greatest performers of all time over the holidays, "The Godfather of Soul," Mr. James Brown. Now that man knew how to make a connection with an audience! Take a look at this older clip below if you don't believe me. And even in his 70s the "The Hardest Working Man in Show Business" still had it. (Here's a vintage clip from the '60s).

Above: James Brown gets the audience involved.

Steve Jobs' Macworld 2007 keynote today!

Can't wait to catch Steve's latest presentation live today which means I'll be up until 4:00am or so tonight here in Japan. Below is a video I made after I attended the Macworld Expo in 2000, seven years ago. Guess I used Adobe Premiere on OS 9 if I remember correctly. If you do not suffer from motion sickness (whoa, what was I thinking?) this may be a little walk down memory lane for you Mac fans out there. I used this video as part of a longer presentation and report on Macworld Expo I gave to my user group in Osaka back in 2000; I was president of the group before I joined Apple.

Above: Video taken at Macworld Expo 2000.

I'll be posting my comments on Steve's keynote later today.Checkout Engadget for the latest until then.



The keynote was remarkably thin on content appealing to those of us living in Japan . . . I was looking forward to new iLife and iWork stuff at the very least. Who knows what AU and DoCoMo and the rest of the gang will have out by 2008, when version whatever of the phone gets over here?

Can't remember if I've posted a comment here before. Thanks for providing an interesting feed for my reader!

Lance Jones

Garr, the photos are terrific (and I really like SlideShare). I used to come here for your presentation insights, but recently I find myself coming to look for posts on Japanese culture. What a fascinating life you lead!

Any tips on best computer software for learning Japanese (spoken language)?

Thanks, and greetings from Victoria BC.


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