July 17, 2014
Runner’s High?

The phenomenon of a “Runner’s High” is well-known and something that I’ve wondered about for a long time. In fact, every time I go running I think about it, usually around the 30-minute mark when I start struggling a bit. I’m not sure, but I am pretty certain I haven’t ever experienced a runner’s high. There have been times when I have been running and my legs have a lot of energy and the running becomes almost effortless. This fits some descriptions of a runner’s high, but it’s not really the euphoria I expect. It seemed like that was more from just the muscles getting used to the strain.

Maybe I am being silly but I keep expecting for my mind to suddenly become clear, be filled with energy and a feeling of well-being, and everything will be right in the world. But so far that hasn’t happened. At any rate, I’ll continue to look forward to that elusive “Runner’s High”, even though it might never come.

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July 8, 2014
Build: Heavyset

While running the other day, I was thinking about how relaxed my pace was and that I’m actually a pretty slow runner. My pace is just under 11-minutes per mile (for a five-miler). I’d like to blame my body type, if I may, which can be described as short and stocky. As I was thinking this, the phrase “heavyset” entered my mind. Apparently some connection in my brain was made to a 40-year old memory! When I was a kid, we used to play a boardgame called “Manhunt” which was really cool because it had a pseudo computer, codes to figure out, and a detective handbook. Each player had to figure out who the criminal was, and one of the descriptions of the possible suspects was “Heavyset”.

Manhunt Boardgame

Manhunt Boardgame

Thinking back to that time, I wonder how our family came about getting that particular boardgame. Did my parents just see it at the Toys R Us and decide it looked fun? Was it a birthday wish by one of my brothers?

Later in that morning’s run I continued thinking about body type and a book I am reading, “Unbroken” which is the story of Louis Zamperini (we share the same hometown, Torrance and high school!). In it, the author describes Zamperini’s track career, his body type and the way he ran – smooth. He was also super-fast, and many thought he would break the 4-minute-mile barrier. That’s kind of the opposite of how I run! :)

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July 6, 2014
Running Update

Unexpected Rainbow

Unexpected Rainbow

For the last month, I have been making some good progress with my running. My knee is probably about 90% and I don’t worry about it too much. My cardio is pretty good in that I don’t get winded unless I run uphill, my legs feel pretty strong, and I am pushing the distance of my runs up little by little. I feel like I am kind of at my limit though, but not because of physical barriers. I could (and would like to) keep adding distance to my runs but the limiting factor is time. I am now comfortable running over an hour at a time but I don’t know how I am gonna fit an hour of running into my daily routine when the family returns from vacation and we resume our normal schedule. But I’ll figure it out when the time comes. It’s all good!

It’s funny how my body is changing now that I am running regularly. I suppose it’s not surprising, but it is interesting the way different parts of my body are getting slimmer at different rates. It seems natural to want and expect the belly area to lose inches and flab immediately, but since fat is reduced throughout the whole body at a similar rate, it’s a more gradual process. But it is kind of cool to realize that the fat that is deeper inside the body (as opposed to near the surface) is being reduced too. I’ve noticed that my hands have lost fat and are much firmer, for instance the fleshy part between the knuckles is definitely slimmer and more toned.

It’s really encouraging to see these changes but I am actually enjoying the process more than experiencing the results. Running is really fun and I look forward to going out and seeing what there is to see. Sometimes I see some cool stuff, like deer, beautiful sunsets, and unexpected rainbows. I always try to see something new.

Friendly Deer

Friendly Deer

Sunset

Sunset

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July 2, 2014
Scandal – Departure

I really like the latest single, Departure, from Scandal. And Mami is still the coolest guitarist.

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June 25, 2014
Topaz – The B-52′s

My second favorite song by one of my favorite bands and the first one I ever saw live.

New cities by the sea
Skyscrapers are winking
Some hills are never seen
The universe expanding
We’re gazing out to sea
Blue dolphins are singing
Minds swim in ecstasy
Clear planet, ever free

Topaz
Our hearts are traveling faster,
Faster than the speed of love
Straight through a tear in the clouds
Up to the heavens above

Bright ships will sail the seas
Starfishes are spinning
Some hills are never seen
Our universe is expanding
Moonrise upon the sea
Starships are blinking
We’ll walk in ecstasy
Clear planet blue and green

Topaz
Our thoughts are traveling faster
Moving beyond the heavens above

Planets pulsating, constellations creating
Voices are guiding me to the cities by the sea
Yes, I see cities by the sea

Deep forests by the sea
Skyscrapers are winking
Some hills are never seen
The universe is expanding
Topaz

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June 23, 2014
Lovely day for a ride!

Vroom vroom!

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June 20, 2014
Gardening to Reduce Stress

Many people like to spend time gardening to reduce stress. I also like to garden and get my hands dirty, but oftentimes the pleasant activity of backyard gardening is mixed with the unpleasant activity of yard work. Actually, most of the yard work is fun (trimming trees and shrubs, weeding the garden beds) but the actual clean up portion is what I dread. And while I am zeroing in on the unpleasant parts, I have to say that the worst plants to deal with are the rose bushes in our front yard.

Our rose bushes grow like crazy during the summer, so they require a lot of maintenance, otherwise things can quickly get out of control. The thorns on those branches are sharp! Of course I wear gloves and long sleeves but they don’t offer that much protection, especially when bagging all the clipped branches, and this is where the stress-reduction comes in.

I don’t curse or use bad words often, but during the bagging of those thorny rose clippings, F-bombs fill the air. Normally I am doing yard work alone so I can really let loose with the cursing without having to worry about offending anybody. I used to just focus on the frustration and pain (physical), but now I’ve found that by focusing on the actual cursing and imagining the release of all that tension, it turns into a positive experience. I kind of imagine that attached to each swear-word is a small amount of stress, and it is being released from my mind and into the air. This is stress that has built up throughout the week, not just because of the rose bushes. You know what? This positive spin seems to work. And it is actually pretty funny – I can’t help but laugh at myself!

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June 19, 2014
An Ounce of Home

An Ounce of Home – You’re embarking on a yearlong round-the-world adventure, and can take only one small object with you to remind you of home. What do you bring along for the trip?

This is an easy question for me to answer – I would take along my ugly doll that my wife made for me. In fact, it’s already in my daily bag! I like to pack light and my ugly doll probably doesn’t even weigh an ounce, but it would remind me of home, or more specifically, of my family.

I’ve lived in several different places, and it’s hard to really know which place I would call “home”. I’m thinking that there is more meaning to “home” than just where you return to every night. I like to think that “home” is equal to a happy place, and that happy place would be where my loved-ones are. Hopefully they would be with me for the round-the-world trip, but if not, this homemade ugly doll would remind me of them.

There’s a song by Everything But the Girl (one of my favorite bands since 1984) that this Daily Prompt reminds me of. It’s called “One Place” and one of the lines in the song is, “In the end if you take care, you can be happy or unhappy anywhere.” I really believe this is true. I guess the saying “Happiness comes from within” has some truth to it. It isn’t the external situation that causes happiness (or unhappiness), but the determining factor is your interpretation and reaction to that situation. With that in mind, I’ve been trying to look for happiness and a positive angle no matter what situation I am in at the time. Is this part of “living in the moment”?

Homemade Ugly Doll

Homemade Ugly Doll

This post was prompted by The Daily Post from WordPress.

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June 17, 2014
New On Cloud Running Shoes

On Cloud Shoes

On Cloud Shoes

I got a new pair of running shoes last week: On “Cloud” running shoes. They are very light and would be classified as a minimalist shoe, but they do have some decent padding. I’ve always run in a standard-type running shoe – shoes with a medium amount of padding, but in the past several years there has been so much variety in the market, with minimalist shoes becoming popular a few years ago, and now super-cushy shoes are getting the spotlight. So for my latest pair of shoes, I wanted to try something besides my standard shoe. A few of my friends really liked their minimalist shoes so I decided to try some, figuring I would ease into the new type of running by alternating between the Cloud shoes and my standard running shoes.

Running in the new shoes the first time was great! First of all, these shoes are so light – they weigh almost nothing! I was expecting a really different feel because these shoes supposedly have less support and cushioning than my regular running shoes, but it was really comfy. The angle of the shoe is different, so I do have to change my running form to a more forward posture, with shorter strides. My normal running style is with pretty short strides, so there wasn’t too drastic a change form me, but the shoes felt really good. I ended up running 2 miles on that first run.

The next day, my feet were a little sore. But it was a good kind of soreness, not like an injury or anything. The following day I was fully recovered and went running again in the Clouds and enjoyed the run even more. My third run was the best so far and I haven’t actually went back to my normal shoes yet. Today I am taking a day off from running, but I am planning on trying to run maybe three days, then one day of rest. We’ll see how that goes. Overall, I am happy with the On Cloud running shoes and would recommend them!

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June 10, 2014
Terminal Time

Terminal Time – You’re at the airport, your flight is delayed for six more hours, and none of your electronic devices is working. How do you pass the time?

Ugh, all my batteries are dead! So… I reach into my backpack and pull out my sketchbook/notepad and either sketch what catches my interest, or work on a blog post, a story, or ideas for a story. Speaking of sketches, if you don’t follow Hamahouse yet, his Instagram feed is wonderful! It’s full of cool (and quick) sketches he does, and a photo of the sketch with subject in the background. I wish I had his talent!

I went to art school from High School through college, but I am not a good illustrator. I have always envied people who can draw. It’s something that many people misunderstand about creative types – a graphic designer, painter, sculptor, etc. is not necessarily good at drawing. I remember once in a drawing classes in college, there was a particular student who could accurately sketch just about anything that was in front of him. His sketches were technically accurate in proportion and lighting. His work was amazing! Our instructor (whom I greatly respected) said he had a real talent for drawing, and said she wished she had that talent. That kind of stuck with me… that a talented painter might not be great at drawing. By that time in school, I knew that I didn’t have that same level of talent in drawing, however, my instructor’s comment gave me inspiration to keep up with what I was specializing in, which was painting. I must say though, that it is a little deflating when I have to admit to someone that I cannot draw so well, even though I have a degree in art.

At any rate, here’s a sketch I did while at one of my son’s piano lessons. Not nearly as cool a Hamahouse’s, but I am trying!

A Sketch at Bay's Piano Lesson

A Sketch at Bay’s Piano Lesson

This post was prompted by The Daily Post from WordPress.

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June 5, 2014
Pizza Margherita and Peperoncino Pasta

Pizza Margherita and Peperoncino Pasta

Pizza Margherita and Peperoncino Pasta

Tonight’s dinner was homemade Pizza Margherita and Peperoncino Pasta, made by my wife. As I’ve mentioned many times, she is an amazing cook and we eat like kings at home. The other night we went out to a local Italian restaurant which was rated pretty highly on Yelp, but the food was just too salty for our tastes. I think maybe that left my wife unsatisfied since she really wanted Pizza Margherita. So, she made us a homemade pizza pie! It was great!!!

It got me thinking a little about how American and Japanese palettes are different. I’ve come to realize that I don’t like too much salt on my food anymore, but here in the States it is common for food to be pretty salty. There are always salt shakers on the tables in restaurants, and they get used really often! After eating Japanese and Japanese-style food for years now, my taste buds are not used to so much salt, so lots of times the standard restaurant fare is just too much for me. To be more specific, the type of saltiness I am used to comes from shoyu and miso, and not regular table salt, so it is a more complex flavor. I guess it is rare for us to say about a Japanese meal that it is too salty, but we might say that there is too much shoyu in it. I hope that make sense.

What is also a little uncommon about our meals is that often times there is no meat in the meal at all. Honestly, I don’t notice much of the time because the food is really delicious. It is such a normal thing to have a meat component to a meal in America and I think we’ve been conditioned by the meat industry that we need to have meat as a main component for every meal, whether it be breakfast sausage or bacon, turkey or ham in our sandwiches, or chicken in our pasta. It might be hard to believe, but there are delicious meals without any meat in them! I don’t mean to be preachy, but I do think we as humans should realize the impact our over-consumption of meat has on our environment, as science is showing us more and more in studies. I think it is really good, though, that people are becoming more aware of these studies and are choosing to be more mindful of where their food comes from, and the resources that are required to produce our food. The sharing of information on the Internet has a lot to do with that.

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June 4, 2014
Longing for Gravity

Longing for Gravity – You are on a mission to Mars. Because of the length of of the journey, you will never be able to return to Earth. What about our blue planet will you miss the most?

One of my favorite types of photography is landscape photography, especially landscapes that feature beautiful or interesting clouds. Although I am sure I will be able to view unlimited amounts of photos via electronic communication, I will miss being able to actually take them and post-process them. These days, the post-processing (in Lightroom mainly) is maybe 80% of the fun of photography for me. I see the camera as just a tool to capture the light, so I can get that light into the computer to do the post-processing. Although I am sure there will be interesting things to photograph on Mars, I’m sure it will lack the diversity of our home planet.

You can see some of the photos I have made at my Flickr page or Instagram feed.

This post was prompted by The Daily Post from WordPress.

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June 2, 2014
森恵「接吻 -kiss- (ORIGINAL LOVE)」

Megumi Mori’s cover of 接吻 -kiss- by Original Love is so good! I hope you agree. It’s a great pop song.

After watching/listening to this, I decided to try to learn it on guitar, which is kind of a problem since I don’t know how to play guitar! But why should that stop me? With that in mind, I picked up Koa’s guitar, watched a couple beginner videos, and learned a couple of chords. As thousands of hopeful guitarists before me, I learned how to play E major and A major and then strummed along to Buffalo Springfield’s “For What It’s Worth”. That was actually quite fun and satisfying!

Anyways, it is kind of a goal of mine to learn a few tunes on the guitar so why not start now? It should be a fun experience. Who knows, someday I might be able to play 接吻 like Megumi Mori! (the singing though is impossible…)

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June 1, 2014
First Day at the Pool

Click to view slideshow.

Today was the first day at the pool for us this year. It was just Koa and I who decided to go — Mariko was out at the Farmer’s Market and Bay stayed home to read — so Koa didn’t have anyone to play with in the pool. I swam for a bit, and played with him, but I’m sure it’s a lot more interesting to play with his friends! Still, it was fun and we got some good exercise. We got there at 2pm, and there was a nice crowd of people there. Not too much that we didn’t find chairs, but at around 2:30 it seemed like the rest of the neighborhood decided to drop by. When we left at 3pm, there were cars parked on the street and no empty chairs to be found. I need to remember to arrive before 2:30!

Also, I continue to be enamored with my Panasonic DMC TS2 camera. It’s a waterproof/shockproof camera that captures some good pictures and video, and with the magic of post-processing, you can get some fun images out of it. Plus I love the peace-of-mind knowing that I don’t have to take care of the camera as much as a dSLR. I think it is definitely worth it to have one of these rugged point-and-shoot cameras in the bag at all times!

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June 1, 2014
Snapshot Stories

Snapshot Stories — Open the first photo album you can find — real or virtual, your call — and stop at the first picture of yourself you see there . Tell us the story of that photo.

Tamago Sushi Shirt

Tamago Sushi Shirt

For this Daily Prompt I opened up my Flickr stream (which hasn’t seen a whole lot of activity these days, and found this photo I took of myself wearing a sushi shirt. The shirt was a gift from my oldest brother, who visited Japan recently with his son. It’s pretty cool, isn’t it? If you are not familiar with sushi, this one is called Tamago, which means Egg. It’s a good kids’ sushi actually, but my wife and I also enjoy it, usually towards the end of a sushi meal since it is sweet.

I don’t have a lot of photos of myself since I am usually behind the camera and I don’t particularly like selfies. So… when I do take photos of myself, my face is usually hidden!

You can learn more about tamagoyaki at Wikipedia.

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