Chugging out of the harbor, smooth sailing ahead

“On⇔Offline in Tokyo” is the best experience that I’ve had with a new blog, a re-design or a re-boot.

Note: A re-boot is when you let your blog gather dust and then start by apologizing to the non-existent audience that you’re back.

I’d gone back and forth on whether to go with yet another installation of WordPress or taking the opportunity to learn another CMS. During this dithering, I was opening up iAWriter on my laptop during the commute and just typing, typing, typing. This happened half a dozen times in the last two weeks.

With a few hours before going to bed yesterday, I decided to take the plunge because my draft documents were piling up. I didn’t want anything to clog the writing that was happening naturally!

And you know what? The out-of-the-box experience of WordPress 3.2 with Twenty Eleven was so good that I spent five minutes installing WordPress and… went back to blogging.

Note: When I first installed WordPress way back in the day, I spent countless weekend installing and hacking at plugins and themes. While definitely fun and very educational, it took 6 months to start writing.

These were my somewhat arbitrary requirements, which WordPress brilliantly fulfilled.

  1. multiple formats for single blog entries
  2. big header images customizable per single blog entry
  3. pull quote styles
  4. adaptive to mobile devices screen sizes

My advice for a smooth start? Write 3 articles in your text editor that you’re happy with, before setting up your blog system. Content first.

Little hubs for asynchronous connections

A photo of a koban and a policeman
A photo of a koban and a policeman

Yesterday evening, I found a pair of house keys next to the ATM machine in a bank kiosk. Like any properly trained Japanese citizen, I crossed the street to deliver it to the neighborhood police box, the koban.

Not surprisingly, it was empty. Kobans are left open while the policeman on duty is out patrolling, and a sign instructs you to place a call to… someone.

Inside of an empty koban
Inside of an empty koban

I’ve had two good experiences with this particular koban, the closest one from my home. Perhaps that’s why I was willing, without a thought, to voluntarily spend 10 slightly uncomfortable minutes in an empty police box on a rare, early weekday afternoon, to wait for a policeman to come back so that I could fill out the paperwork.

You see, I’m fairly certain that the keys I delivered will make their way back to their owner. It had one of those little keychains that come with a 500ml bottle of sports drink, a campaign for a past World Cup. There was just something so ordinary about that keychain. Foolish perhaps, but I’d like to think that upon realizing that they’d lost their house key, the owner would have the same instinct that I had – to cross the street to go to the koban. Who knows, they might even have picked up the phone, where the same gentleman that I talked to would tell them that someone had just delivered a set of keys.

Let me share two stories about my other experiences:

My iPhone, a young lady, a policeman and I

My iPhone slipped unnoticed from the bicycle basket while riding along Roppongi Street one day. When I noticed it was missing, I knew that bump I rode over a few minutes ago must have been my phone. I quickly backtracked but of course, it was gone.

The next morning, I stopped by the police box. After the paperwork had been filled out, a policeman placed a call to the central lost and found. My phone had been delivered to the Shibuya Police Station, which was about 15 meters from where I must have dropped it.

I went to pick it up, where I was told that a nice, young lady had delivered it the day before. She didn’t want recognition or compensation, just asked that “the phone be returned to its rightful order”. It’s quite possible that my phone was already in the hands of the police while I was frantically searching for it.

Another set of lost keys, a lost boy, two policemen and I

A little boy, probably around third grade, was wandering around on the street in front of the neighborhood grocery store. I asked him what was wrong. He’d lost his house key and no one was home. After half heartedly joining his search for a minute or two, I suggested we go to the police box.

Two gruff policemen took over from there, trying to get an address out of the boy. They said there was nothing more that I could do, so I said good luck to the boy, and left.

Police boxes are little hubs for asynchronous connections.

I’ll never meet the owner of the keys, the young lady, or the lost boy’s parents. Or perhaps we will meet one day and never know.

We’re simply random strangers passing through time, connected by fleeting moments at a small police box in a big city.

The ambidextrous hair product ad

This is an ad for a hair product. The caption in the circle says, “Sasaki Kacho (manager), word is that you’re looking really sharp lately!

Question: is Sasaki Kacho the man or the woman?

Perhaps the lady is kidding around with her boss, sharing some gossip while scoring brownie points. Or perhaps the man is praising his superstar boss, sheepishly scratching his head while making a personal remark.

Okay, the copy initially caught my eye because my family name is Sasaki but the ambiguity made me look twice.

Let’s consider a few things about the copy:

  • the word “sharp” (kakkoii) can be used for both male and female
  • the use of the word “kacho” is slightly jarring because the two models are around the same age
Note: “Kakkoii” is more often used as a masculine adjective, but if this lady has climbed to kacho at her age, chances are that she’s pretty “kakkoii“!

And visually?

The disproportionate size ratio is probably due to the female model being better known but still,

  • the woman’s clothes and accessories is not the typical office lady style
  • the color palette of the ad is not particularly masculine or feminine
  • the opaque circle is an odd design choice – it could be said TO her, or said BY her

Is there a right answer to this question?

Yes. The product description at the bottom says “Lucido is a mens’ cosmetic brand for 40 and over”. What was your guess?