Thursday, July 29, 2010

Submitting cottage video for Google/YouTube's "Life in a Day" contest

Alrighty! Wish me luck...

I'm submitting all the random footage from our cottage trip up to Christian Island, Ontario (with a stack of my awesome high school buddies) to the Google/YouTube's "Life in a Day" contest. If our entry is picked by Ridley frickin' SCOTT and Kevin friggin' Macdonald (that would be INSANE!!!!!!!!?!?!??!), we'd be given co-director credit and the film will be shown at Sundance. This is a longshot, by far, of course. But I would literally run around the world with excitement if we even hear anything positive back from the filmmakers. :) We had an amazing weekend and we had fun filming some of our random conversations while we reminisced about where we are now, and where we've come from. Here's hoping for some life-changing great news ;p

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Circular Polarizer

I just bought a circular polarizer filter for my camera and it's supposed to give you more saturated colours outside as well as finer definition of clouds. I tried a few tests outside today and it's looking pretty cool. One of the photos I got of a helicopter flying looked pretty good but looks even cooler if you run Picasa's contrast filter on it. This should hopefully make for some cool cottage photos at Alex's.





Helicopter + "I'm feeling lucky" (contrast and colour) filter in Picasa

...and with a little bit of re-cropping

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Reading and Adulthood

I don't know why it's taken me so long to become an actual fan of reading...
Ok that's a lie. Actually, I know exactly why:

College-aged Mike Jutan found most of his evening energy from large social events - lots of people, lots of noise, music, excitement, rock and roll, unhealthy food and so on. (Ya know, "kids these days")

But as of the last year and a half, I've very quickly starting focusing on "things that I find most important": moving to my new apartment, being more organized, making myself an apartment-cleaning schedule and sticking to it, going to bed at a "reasonable" time (after 1am but before 3am --strangely that's a HUGE improvement on before), getting into adult-person stuff like flossing and exercise for exercise's sake.

As part of this apparent transition into "real person" status, I've found I'm spending time more introverted-ly than ever before. This may be in large part to the kind of friends I've made at work (who are, as Computer Science tends to dictate, mostly introverted), but I think it's some sort of unexpected mature-ness that comes with living in an apartment that you really love, without 1000 roommates, and taking some pride in your surroundings. It also probably makes sense that less dance-clubbing occurs in a city that is actually pretty quiet at night, and after a long, exciting, busy work day, I'm much more keen to watch a Netflix, make some dinner, and read a book or go to a quiet cafe then schlep downtown with 50 people and go to some overpriced sweaty dance club. The club scene in San Francisco is actually pretty quiet (compared to say, Waterloo and Toronto) but even if I did have a bazillion friends here who were into that (and I don't), it's starting to feel like sit-down-and-talk-to-your-friends pubs have really taken over from the dance club vibe. Maybe that's what happens when you hit mid-to-upper-20's? Or maybe that's partly cause my friends and I work super hard and chillin' out and winding down on a Friday night is often much more appealing than running around until 3am and following up a busy week with 24-hour breakfast and 24-hour pizza and 24-hour doughnuts. It's not that we never do that kinda stuff anymore, it's still kinda fun of course, but times are a' changin'...

Ergo: Busy work day, hefty responsibilities during the week, maintaining a happy home to live in... all mean less staying up till 3am and following up a night of partying with horrible-for-you 24-hour food. :) It also apparently means more reading, more introverted activities, and more time for ideas and thoughts to coalesce.

I think I'm an adult now, and that's a little strange.

I'm still gonna wear my neon Adidas shoes though, 'cause I want to keep this realization a secret for now.

Friday, July 09, 2010

Vote for 826 Valencia!

Please click the link below to help 826Valencia in the running for a $20,000 charitable donation! All you have to do is click!
Chase Community Giving is hosting a contest on Facebook and giving out $20k to each of the top 200 charities with the most votes. 826 Valencia needs to gather at least 600 more votes to be in the running for the money. We can't reach our goal number of votes without your help, but with you and your network voting, we can make it! Please vote, and tell your friends. We can do it! Here's the link:

Monday, July 05, 2010

Jake Shimabukuro - Ukelele badass

This is completely awesome. Great stories and completely worth watching. Very inspiring!! Jake plays a couple of Beatles songs which will blow you away!

More on Gar Reynolds' blog:

Saturday, July 03, 2010

Final Japan/SoKor Journal post: Links to all blog posts

Thanks for you interest in my Japan and South Korea blog! Here is the entire trip journal, in order of posting. For more articles on my planning for the trip and other non-blogging posts, click here to filter my blog by the "Japan/SoKor 2009" label.

Mike Jutan's 2009 Japan and South Korea Trip Journal

South Korea

Japan/SoKor Wrap Up

On arriving back on Jan 5th, I was super happy to get back home after a 10 hr flight and customs. After not sleeping much on the overnight plane, it was 9am or so when I got back to my apartment and (this is crazy), I had a shower, and went STRAIGHT TO WORK!!!!!!! I know, I'm insane. I had lots of emails to read, and thankfully it was a pretty slow-moving day, which was good. :) I was super jet-lagged, but it was good to force myself back into a regular routine right off the bat.

What an amazing trip. Unpacking took me a few days, and my bag was literally 50% gifts. :) I have so many great stories and memories from this trip. I was so excited to retroactively blog these stories, and a selection of my 26 Gb/3300 photos and videos!! I am so happy and pleased with the trip, but as always after a long trip, it's nice to be back home.

I made a deal to myself: no airports, bus stations, or trains for a while! Haha. But, as you might expect, I'm definitely excited for my next big adventure.

Thank you so much for reading about my trip, for your interest, and for you kind comments. This blog has been a reminder and refresher for me about all the fun I had on my trip, and I really appreciate all the keen readers. Just as my buddy Kurt Phillips inspired me to take this trip, I hope I've inspired you to bust out of your usual day-to-day, take a risk, and jump into an unexpected adventure halfway around the world.

Japan and South Korea were awesome, and life is "SUGOI!"
Mike Jutan :)

Japan/SoKor Day 26: And that's a wrap! Back home to SF

January 5, 2010
Japan/SoKor Day 26: And that's a wrap! Back home to SF

Back home today!! Crazy!!

I got up and they had mentioned to me that breakfast would be at 9-ish. At precisely 9:10, I heard a knock on the door: "Bah-rek-a-fahhst, Pah-reeze-ah!" When I got down there, there was a name tag for me and (thank goodness), they had already opened my bowl of miso soup for me. I packed up my stuff, took a quick video of the room, and checked out. I asked at the front desk if they had a taxi to the station. The guy looked confused and said, "Uhhhh...."?! Haha, so I decided to walk instead.

The train was super quick. Once I got to the station and jumped on the train, I zoomed to the airport in only 8 minutes. I dropped off my bag and didn't see any crazy checkin requirements that I thought there might be given some security issue a week or so before (I think it was in England or something), so I thought they were going to be nuts abut security, but it was actually fine. I got to the airport like 5 hours early just to be safe, and it turns out that security was quick so I had lots of time for shopping! I had actually planned to leave a lot of extra shopping for the airport because I knew they'd have a lot of stuff I wanted to buy, as well as the benefit of buying stuff at the airport and not having to schlep it around for 3 weeks outweighed the amount of selection at other stores along the trip. :)

I got lots of cool stuff: Gigi the cat in a holder from the Miyazaki movie "Kiki's Delivery Service", a cellphone Totoro keychain, Ponyo, a really awesome Sake bottle and cups, an awesome Yukata robe, Uni Qlo slippers to match the plaid shirt I bought in Ginza, a Wall-E Japanese Story book, 2 big boxes of mixed cookies and rice balls, and some other cool stuff.

There were some great massage chairs and I hit that up for a while too. Another amazing airport!! I ended up shopping so much that I didn't bother with food until I got to my gate, and McDonald's was the only option so I had another chance to get the Teriyaki McBurger "seto" ("set" or "extra value meal") with "Qoo" white grape juice!! So many awesome things here! I finished my journal writing and then had an early boarding which was nice.

What an AMAZING trip. I can't wait to look through all my photos and write up my journal!

The sign for my room at Wakamatsu Honten Ryokan. I think this was the only one in English :)

Workers at a sushi restaurant preparing fish for the day in Narita City

Ahhhhhh!!! Back home!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I managed to get a bit of a cold over the last few days of the trip, so first things first: chicken soup, orange juice and some halls!

Then my backpack took the liberty of making itself feel at home

Here come photos of all the souvenirs and gifts!! This was the awesome Namitatsu "No wave, No life" sweatshirt I got in Fukuoka/Hakata at the Namitatsu Okinawa clothing store.

Their trademark is to have iconic Japanese cultural icons (eg Samurais) riding the waves on a surfboard

Lots of cool books - the guide to the Ghibli museum, a book about the Pixar exhibit at the Ghibli museum, the guide from the Andy Warhol exhibit at the Seoul Museum of Art, and The Art of Totoro, my favourite Miyazaki movie

Lots of Narita airport purchases here! Sake bottle, assorted Japan sweets to share with friends at work, a yukata robe with Koi fish on it, a Toroto hanging keychain, Green Tea Kit Kats, Ginger Ale Kit Kats, Royal Milk Tea Kit Kats, Chocolate Strawberry Hi-Chews, and some purple Uni Qlo slippers that exactly match the plaid shirt I bought there!

Lots of gifts: headbands (they say "Kamikaze!" and "Number One"), an anime book for Kurt and for Alex, a Wall-E book (in Japanese!) for me, Gigi the cat from Miyazaki's movie "Kiki's Delivery Service", handkerchiefs and table decorations

Gigi the cat

Nekobasu!!!!!!! The cat bus for Matt :)


As is usually the case with Japanese things, something cute (Mei from "My Neighbour Totoro") is made even cuter by putting it in a costume with a hood of another animal on it (in this case, the Cat bus?!!!) Such a weird item, but I loved it.

Siggraph stuff: T-shirts from Siggraph Asia, Lightsaber chopsticks!

A model of a Shinkansen train

Awesome little Totoro and Catbus model with the farm house from "My Neighbour Totoro" - love the roof!

Little Totoro keychains

SCAD Hong Kong shirts from Siggraph, Kiki's Delivery Service towels, other stuff from Siggraph

A crazy "Engrish" t-shirt I bought in Osaka. I have no idea what it says or what it means!

Seoul Museum of Art calendar, and two sets of placemats with chopsticks and spoons

Totoro Bento Box for Matt

Buddhist Temple gifts, bracelets, lotus flower wall hangings, cool placemats

Art scroll from Insadong, South Korea

Toy Store 3 ad from the Disney Store in Japan

Cars shaped like Pixar characters from the Disney Store in Japan

The cat with a towel for a face, the mascot for the onsen in Hakone

Crazy stickers from Korea, and weird ads from Shibuya

This is what our receipt came in from the crazy "Alcatraz E.R." restaurant in Shibuya. It is supposed to be the kind of envelope that a pill prescription might come in

Totally crazy ads that girls were giving out on the street in Shibuya and Akihabara, advertising "Maid Cafes"

Crazy "Engrish stickers" from Suncheon, South Korea 1

Crazy "Engrish stickers" from Suncheon, South Korea 2

Crazy "Engrish stickers" from Suncheon, South Korea 3

Crazy "Engrish stickers" from Suncheon, South Korea 4

Crazy "Engrish stickers" from Suncheon, South Korea 5

Crazy "Engrish stickers" from Suncheon, South Korea 6

Japan/SoKor Day 26: Videos

Here are the last 2 videos of the trip! This Ryokan tour video is on my last day in Japan and it shows lots of parts of the Tatami room, if you're gonna just watch one, then check this first one out!

On my last night in Japan I stayed in a fancy Ryokan with a cool tatami mat room in Narita, actually very close to Narita airport! It was a great spot and a very relaxing finish to my trip!

Some workers at a sushi restaurant preparing fish for the day.

Japan/SoKor Day 25: Crazy snowstorm and back to Japan

January 4, 2010
Japan/SoKor Day 25: Crazy snowstorm and back to Japan

This morning I woke up a few times to the sound of snow shoveling outside. Eventually I got up and looked outside, and there was TONS of snow out there! TONS!!!!!!!! I heard a British guy get in and say, "Man, it took 4 hours to get here". It was supposed to be only a 1.5 hr bus ride! The day before I'd scoped out the bus stop to the airport and it seemed pretty easy to get to but the traffic outside sounded insane, so I went to chat with the really helpful hostel guy. I asked him if he thought I should take the train instead and he said, "Yes, I think so!" A few minutes later he said, "I checked for you and Incheon is open, but traffic is VERY bad." I made a quick judgement call, weighed the options (thank goodness for the Computer Science degree -heh), and changed plans to take the subway instead. It turns out that this was an EXCELLENT last-minute change of plans, without this I probably would have missed my flight. Oy!

It turns out this was the largest overnight snowfall in 70 YEARS!!!!!!!!!!

From Korea Times:
The Korea Meteorological Administration (KMA) said 25.8 centimeters of snow had fallen in Seoul, breaking the previous record of 25.6 centimeters set on Jan. 28, 1969. Weathermen said that the snowfall was the largest amount recorded in the capital since data were first collected in 1937.

From Associated Press:
SEOUL, South Korea — Seoul residents battled the heaviest snowfall in modern Korean history after a winter storm dumped more than 10 inches Monday, forcing airports to cancel flights and paralyzing traffic in South Korea's bustling capital.

The snowfall, which began about 1 a.m. (1600 GMT Sunday) and continue through Monday afternoon, was the worst since Korea began conducting meteorological surveys in 1937, the state weather agency said.

Gimpo International Airport in western Seoul canceled 224 flights before resuming service Monday afternoon, airport official Choi Choon-ja said.

More than 20 flights between Incheon International Airport, just west of Seoul, and cities in China also were canceled, with China also coping with a snowstorm. More than 100 flights to other regions were delayed, Incheon airport official Kang Soo-kyung said.

The snow and icy roads snarled traffic in and out of Seoul, with many commuters squeezing into packed subway trains to get to work. A regular Cabinet meeting also was delayed Monday because ministers were stuck in traffic.

About 3,600 workers were mobilized to clear the snow from Seoul's roads and sidewalks. About 5,000 soldiers also were dispatched to Seoul and surrounding Gyeonggi Province, according to the Defense Ministry.

Here are a few extra photos of the snowfall on the street that I found on Google images (thanks to the people who took these):

So that was pretty crazy. Given the insane amounts of snow I am glad I changed course at the last minute and took the subway. I actually got to Seoul Gimpo Airport in only 1 hour, amazing. It's also super lucky that I had booked a ticket out of Incheon, because most Gimpo flights were canceled that day. After arriving at Gimpo, I changed to the Airport line. There was a commuter version of that train and there were lots of those, but I arrived with literally 5 minutes before the super fast express train was leaving - once per hour on the hour!! Time was definitely on my side that day! I jumped onto the express train and off it went. I was so glad not to have taken the bus to the airport, that would have been a mess.

I sat next to a businessman and he asked me about my thoughts of Japan vs South Korea. We had a nice chat about my travels and he told me he lives 30 min outside of the city and that trip took him 4 HOURS by bus!! He actually gave up on the bus after 4 hours on it and switched to the train so he could meet a business colleague at the airport. He said he was already a couple hours late, but he expected his colleague's plane was late.

I arrived at the airport and it was fantastic. There was a really awesome Korean Cultureal area there, where rather than rushing to your gate, you could listen to traditional Korean music and do arts and crafts!! It was really funny and awesome. I glued and painted a little wooden desk, and there was a lady playing a harp/sitar kind of instrument. Someone else there joked with me, saying, "This is so much more interesting than buying cigarettes at the airport!" There were lots of other cool things in the airport too, like showers, an actual hotel in the airport, a spa and massage room, crazy. Fancy airport!

Amazingly, my plane was actually only 1 hour late due to the snow. We sat on the runway for almost an hour while a hilarious de-icing machine/cherry picker thing sprayed hot soapy water at the wings. Funny.

Once I arrived in Narita, it was much warmer and things felt way more familiar again. I went to the Keisei station, jumped on the train, and remembered my Japanese words quickly. Japanese is so much easier to remember than Hangul! I zipped to Narita Stn. quickly, and then cabbed in Narita City to Wakamatsu Honten, a fancy Ryokan where I was staying for my last night of the trip.

I arrived and tea and a cookie were waiting for me in my room. Very nice! A grandmother, the proprietress of the Ryokan, laid the tea out for me and gave me a warm cloth to wash my face. She said she would bring me dinner in 45 minutes, "Please relax." Dinner came exactly 45 min later and it was unbelievable. Tons of small dishes, all exquisitely prepared and laid out neatly on the table. There were a few local seafoods and other non-kosher ones like I expected, so I picked around that stuff as best as I could. There was still lots of good stuff to eat and I knew it would be worth just getting the standard meal and eating as many of the items as I was able to. The Sashimi was GREAT!

There was also some miso soup in a bowl with another bowl on it as a lid. It was sortof fused together in some sort of steam vice grip and I tried super hard to take the lid off. Finally it burst off and I poured a ton of soup directly on the crotch of my jeans and the fancy floor chair I was sitting on. Haha! Crap!!!! That was ridiculous. Oy, what a long day. :)

The food was great, and there was Melon for dessert. Also the meal came with plum wine which was also excellent. After the huge and incredible dinner, I took off and went for an after-dinner walk around the streets of Narita City. I saw some guys making sushi which was cool. I ended up walking all the way to the train station which was great, so the next morning I'd know where to go and could walk rather than taking a cab. After a while I walked back via a market and bought a cute little solar powered nodding cat ornament from an old couple who ran a souvenir store there.

I headed back to the Ryokan and put on a robe and some sandals and wandered down to the onsen bath to try it out and relax. That was fantastic and a great relax after a crazy day of travel and not knowing if I would catch my plane and get out of South Korea in time for my chill evening planned in Narita and my flight back to San Francisco the next day! It was nice to relax. I had the onsen to myself which was awesome. After the bath I sat on one of the "preening seats" in the sort of onsen locker room and there were razors there and other useful stuff like hair brushes. I had a nice hair brush, dry and shave and was ready for some TV up in my room. On arriving back in my room I'd noticed that while I was gone all the plates had been removed and a roll-out futon bed had been set up! I watched a few weird things on TV and then had a really nice relaxing sleep after a long day of travel.

Tomorrow: back to San Francisco!

TONS of snow!!!!!!!!!

This was a pretty clean street compared to the main street, which was covered in snow overnight

Piles of snow on all the cars, this was nuts!

In the airport, safely!

Probably the coolest airport ever. Rather than racing to my gate, I spent time listening to Korean traditional music and making arts and crafts. AMAZING!!

A lady performing traditional music at the AIRPORT!!!!!!!! This place was so fancy.

The design for the little painted desk that everyone got to create... at the airport

Another example of that really cool origami desk lamp

Tasty Korean beef before getting on the plane

Arrived at Wakamatsu Honten Ryokan in Narita! They brought in some green tea and cookies and a hot towel and said I should relax and dinner would arrive in 45 minutes.

Huge, amazing, varied Ryokan meal! There was some seafood I had to politely skip over but I could eat most of it and it was fantastic!

The proprietress of Wakamatsu Honten, bringing in my food and setting it out neatly on the table, and then posing for a photo!

Amazing dinner, beef cooking, sushi, tempura, fish, miso soup, tofu and more and more.

More photos of the dinner

Dinner! I hope that shrimp didn't feel bad that I couldn't eat him.

Great final meal on the last night in Japan!