“Nanakorobi yaoki”- when life knocks you down, get back up.

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The “Daruma” doll has been highly valued in Japan through the ages as lucky charms that fulfill people’s wishes. The beginnings of the Daruma are said to be an imitation of the founder of Zen, Bodhidharma, in a Zazen seated meditation position. Bodhidharma was born in India, he later became a priest; the 28th generation to take over from the teachings of Buddha, and then he traveled to China.

Despite the many difficulties he encountered there, the indomitable spirit of Bodhidharma persisted. This captured the hearts of the people, and during heavy floods a devotee carved a statue of Bodhidharma, which is currently enshrined at the temple of Shorinzan Darumaji. After the temple opened, to provide relief for farmers hit by famine, the high priest allowed the farmers, as a side job, to make papier mache Daruma (imitations of Bodhidharma) and sell them at festivals, where they quickly caused a sensation.

The passed on prayer used nowadays of “make a wish to a Daruma and if you endeavor it will be fulfilled”, is derived from silk farmers praying for “silkworms to make good cocoons” whilst filling one eye with ink, and when this prayer is fulfilled the remaining eye is filled in with ink.  In Japanese the term “get up” is used to refer to the opening up of old silkworn shells, you are praying to the Daruma who stands for the Japanese proverb of

These days, Daruma are made in varous regions of Japan but the vast majority of papier-mache Daruma are made in Takasaki, Gunma Prefecture, location of Shorinzan Darumaji Temple, as well as the surrounding area, and are known as “Takasaki Daruma”.

There are many theories as to why the Daruma are painted red, but it actually derives from the clothing of Bodhidharma. Red also appears to be the color that was used for charms in ancient times. In modern day, apart from red, many other colors of Daruma have appeared, such as white, yellow and green. Not only do they also vary in size, there is also a white version used for weddings, and there are also ones where you can write on the torso.

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My “New” New Year Resolutions

I have made countless New Year resolutions in my life and one thing is for certain unless I use them to set real achievable goals for myself by February 1 the resolutions are forgotten.

This year I will yet again have two sets of resolutions…one set of practical resolutions that will make my life richer or even easier in some cases. The other set are the resolutions that may be harder to accomplish because outside forces that I cannot control may get in my way.

Every year I set business goals but the economy often effects not only me but my clients as well. If they have a bad year no matter what I do I may find the going tough. I will keep this set as business objectives. My practical list seems easier to tackle anyway.

First, I will learn to type…sounds simple right? I set this exact same goal last year but this year attending a meeting at Intel I was embarrased as I watched all the execs typying their meeting notes feverously. I put my laptop away and just listened intently.

I am even now typing this and my other blogs using my patented “hunt and peck” method. I have had enough. I am the product of the “old school” Catholic school system.
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The boys took shop, the girls took typing…this made sense to the nuns. Why would a boy ever need to type and for God’s sake why would a woman need to learn to use tools? In my case the Sisters of Loretta added yet another wrinkle, the so called “smart” students should take Latin. They say that is helpful in learning other languages. I can tell you it has not helped even a “sukoshi,” a “nid noi,” or a “nemnogo”. If I had used those two years to learn more Spanish for example I would not be putting leaning Spanish on my “practical” resolution list.
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Second, lose weight. It has been a tough and challenging year…some folks don’t eat when they tackle stress, I binge. Comfort food has been the best way for me to cope in this tough economy. I believe that food beats Xanax but if I continue on this path I will be one ton by 20117. Pizza and Pasta are the trusted, “go-to” menu items for me and I will try to cut them from my roster.

I am sure exercise should be on the list but most people put that on their lists and quickly leave that resolution on the shelf. In my case I have joint issues as well so I would be dropping exercise like a bad habit first sign of pain.

Third, re-learn to play a musical instrument. I have tried a few instruments when I was a teen but now I really regret not sticking with any of them. I recently attended a holiday party and held a guitar in my hands the whole night and could only join in one old rock song, “Brown Eyed Girl” I think.

With Apple’s help it has become so much easier to learn instruments I will have little excuse to not at least give it a shot. This may be the toughest resolution on my list because it does require some musical talent as well as perseverance but I have produced a great deal of music in my career and I should at least know how to make some chords on the piano!  One stand-by song that I can call up at a party would be nice…”Stand By Me” perhaps.

This year is starting to shape up like Bill Murray’s experience in Ground Hog Day.
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The fourth resolution is one that I should be ashamed not to complete. In my career I have written countless scripts for TV commercials and short films but each one has been for a client or brand. Why I have not been able to write even a small script for myself is already a mystery. Knowing my career and history my colleagues have even urged me to take my shot at it.

With all my time abroad, in all of the exotic countries I have been posted I should have a wealth of material. The coups, natural disasters, jungles, cults, superstitions, and the sheer variety of cultures I have experienced will make a great backdrop for any story I choose to write.

All of the other resolutions should not even be on a list. They are all things we should be doing as good citizens of the earth and just good people in general. For example, I have a grand daughter and grand son. I won’t need a list to remind me to love them and spoil them any more than I already do…this comes naturally.

I do have one request for all my friends, be kind in 2016. We all need a little extra love and attention these days.

No holiday from e-mail…

Even on the cusp of this long Christmas weekend, there’s no rest for the weary.

The majority, or 59%, of working Americans check their work e-mails during Thanksgiving, Christmas and other traditional holidays, according to a survey by Xobni (“inbox” spelled backwards), a Silicon Valley startup that organizes Microsoft Outlook inboxes and address books.

Of those who do check e-mails during the holidays, 55% said they do so at least once a day and 28% do so multiple times per day.

Workers feel compelled to check e-mail outside of work to keep up with their jobs, noted Xobni’s senior director of product management.

Forty-two percent of the respondents also said they believe staying up-to-date during the holidays eases their workloads after having time off. In addition, with the increased popularity of smartphones, it is easier to access work e-mail and be on call all hours.

“Especially with mobile devices and laptops, people are taking them everywhere,” he said. Jacobson added that he also plans to check his e-mail over the Thanksgiving holiday.
Still, getting work related e-mails over the holidays is not always well-received. Forty-one percent feel annoyed, frustrated or resentful about it.

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Others, however, are finding work e-mails provide a much-needed reprieve from family time. Fifteen percent of respondents said they feel relieved or thankful for having the distraction of getting a work-related e-mail from colleagues or clients.

Here is a helpful stat;                                                                                                         Five percent said they purposefully check e-mail to avoid awkward family commitments.

Nintendo’s Origins

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Were you aware of  Nintendo’s origin as a card game company?

Believe it or not, Nintendo started in 1889 in Kyoto, Japan. As a nineteenth-century company, Nintendo produced “flower cards” used to play a number of different Japanese card games.

My colleagues in Japan used to play them with me on the bullet train between Tokyo and Osaka. Not too many years ago they still had dining cars on that run…very nice; after a long day of meetings in Osaka they would drink, eat curry rice and play Nintendo cards on the trip home. Only after trying several other business ventures did Nintendo eventually enter the video game industry.

Imagine Christmas day telling someone you have bought them a Nintendo game only to open a deck of 52 cards.

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Aloe Vera for Dinner in Japan

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Living all over the planet I certainly ate and drank my fair share of unusual things. From Cobra blood mixed with cognac to fried grasshoppers.

There are a few things however that we probably should eat or drink that are healthy and tasty that we probably have never considered. Aloe vera is a well-known plant for treating burns and insect bites. However, many of you probably do not realize that you can eat Aloe vera too. I tried it tempura style in Tokyo and loved it. They also serve it fresh with a few dipping sauces.

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Eating Aloe vera is very healthy. The main reason for eating Aloe vera is because it will increase your resistance to disease.

The plant is full of antibiotics, which will fight off infections. Some people claim that eating Aloe vera will also prevent hair loss. Hmmm  I cannot vouch for that. Aloe vera is also rumored to help reduce acne as well.

Pass The Pasta Please

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Carbohydrates, such as pasta and breads produce insulin in the blood stream, which in turn makes a chemical called tryptophan, which in turn produces serotonin. Serotonin puts the breaks on stress and tension and produces a calming effect.

When you eat some pasta for example, it calms your nerves and your mind becomes more focused. To achieve this effect, however, don’t combine these foods with protein-laden ones, because the process will be blocked.

If this is the case why are we Italians so high strung? We eat pasta or pizza virtually everyday. Imagine if we don’t get our pasta or pizza fix.

Geek Heaven, Akihabara.

I certainly miss the technology and gadgets that I encountered each day in Japan, Especially now that I am manufacturing tablet devices for education.

With broadband connections ten times faster than the U.S. and 90 percent of the population owning mobile phones, it is not surprising that Japan has its own “Electronic Town.”
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Called Akihabara, it is the center of “otaku” or geek culture in Tokyo.

In this “geek heaven” it is possible to buy anything from spy cameras to underground computer games.

“Tokyo is the hot bed for new electronics in the whole world,” said Serkan Toto, Japanese correspondent for the Tech Crunch news blog. “Japan is a very advanced technology-wise, it’s a nation of early adopters.” Japan’s electric town is a covered market stockpiled with any and every kind of electrical component a dedicated geek could dream of.

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Radio Street is a must for the hackers and makers among Japan’s cadre of geeks who are seeking components to start or finish a DIY electrical project.

“You can come here and build to your heart’s content,” says technology consultant Steve Nagata, who is also known as the “King of Akihabara”.

For Mr. Nagata, Japan’s long-standing obsession with technology springs from a wish to understand what is behind lots of gadgets.

“It comes from a deep interest in things around them and wanting to find out how things work and know what each component does,” said Mr Nagata.

Akihabara hosts more than just component shops. Finished goods are on sale too. Those willing to rummage can find anything from old radio tubes to audio recorders, high-end surveillance equipment and the low end too, such as a tie with a built-in camera.

“This is a very big part of Akihabara, the surveillance equipment with every kind of camera from professional grade to little teeny cameras that you can stick into all sorts of different things,” said Mr. Nagata.

The equipment itself is legal but how you use it may definitely run afoul of certain restrictions”. “You really never do know when someone is watching you,” he added.

As might be expected Akihabara reflects the thriving underground, homemade software culture in Japan.

“This is a garage software industry for anyone from individuals to small clubs or a company that produce and sell unlicensed software,” said Mr. Nagata. “There are exact look-alikes to completely original software, this stuff is just as impressive as major console software.”

The products cost less than the titles from the major gaming brands but, said Mr. Nagata, making money is not the main aim for the folk behind the software.

“This is very much a labor of love, something that they do out of their affection towards a particular character or style of gaming,” said Mr. Nagata. “It’s their attempt to fill the world with something that they want to exist in it”