10, Gadgets, Boredom

July 2020

The world is still weird, but if you’re reading this, odds are you’re even weirder.

Insert pithy quote where a famous person said it’s good to be weird.

I’ll be honest, I’m all out of pithy wisdom, to that I had much to start with. But the world is moving - forward, backward, or sideways - and my friend Nick told me I’m overdue for an update, so here we are.

If I haven’t heard from you recently, consider this an invite to change that.

It’s hard to say when I’ll be able to leave Japan again, so all bets are off for travel. The shine wore off Zoom meetings (not that I’ve slowed down), so it feels like a lot of us are re-retreating from public life. I respect those of my friends who can post small updates to social media and have the patience to engage with the gold between fun, ignorant, and interesting responses.

For now, I remain a digital hermit.

🗓️ Here’s what’s up right now:

  • 🎧 Listening to: I haven’t been listening to anything new that’s blown my mind over the past couple of month, but I did make varied, low-key playlist for my local cocktail bar. This is a pretty good sampling of what’s banging my earholes lately.

  • 📖 Reading: The Dog Stars was a surprisingly good post-apocalypse novel, where everyone dies in a (what else?) pandemic. Peter Heller’s travel and outdoors background lends believability to elements I typically find boring and contrived. As Anny told me, I enjoyed Shadow and Bone and have just started the second book on the trilogy. Business related: UnleashedFix This NextEat Your Greens, plus a few I can’t recommend.

  • 🥋 Taido: As of next week, we’re able to use our dojo again, so it’ll be great to be on a regular schedule of training with others.

  • 💭 Thinking about: GMB crossed a major milestone with ten years in business now behind us. We haven’t done any kind of promo or announcement yet, because it doesn’t feel like a good time for celebration right now, but we plan to do something special for our clients later this year when we complete some product updates. But what I’ve really been thinking about is whether or not I want the next ten years to be a continuation of the same things we’ve been doing so far, and the answer to that is: no. So a lot of my time lately is going into designing the company we need to become to grow into the company I want us to be ten years from now.

👨‍👩‍👧‍👦 People & Family:

  • 🏫 Next week begins summer vacation. Since COVID cases are increasing again in Tokyo, we wonder if it may extend longer than currently planned. 

  • ⛺ There’s not a ton of great travel options right now, but we’re going to Yamanashi for a few days to camp out and get away from the city for a while. It’ll be my first proper vacation this year (I had vacations planned in April and June, but they got canceled when shit got weird).

  • 👴 My friend Bryan just turned old yesterday. HBD, brother.

🧰 Things I’m finding useful:

  • 🧙‍♂️ I met one of the founders of Apollo Neuro in Croatia last year and tried an early version. Finally got the production model, and it’s oddly effective for helping me focus and relax on demand.

  • 🎸 Another gadget I waited quite a long time for: my SPARK amp is tiny, sounds amazing (Positive Grid has the best component emulation around), and is controlled by a handy iOS app. I preordered it back in November last year, and between COVID and international shipping, it took a while, but I’ve been playing a ton lately and enjoying it more than I had since moving to Japan.

✈️ Travel = Nope!

  • 🤷‍♂️ Non-Japanese citizens are still facing a lot of uncertainty right now. Though the government is just (as in, in the past couple of days) starting to allow re-entry, this is so far limited to permanent residents and requires some onerous restrictions and hoops to jump through. At this rate, I’m not gonna be leaving for quite a while.

If you’ve scrolled this far, I have a favor to ask:

Don’t stop fighting.

People are saying that COVID is over. That’s bullshit. They’re saying the protests against police brutality are over. Also bullshit. The economy is doing fine. Bullshit. Democracy is working. Bullshit.

We get tired of being angry all the time, so when someone comes along and tells us everything is fine, we want to believe it. But things aren’t fine.

Whatever you’ve been fighting for, don’t give up just because the fight got boring.

The Pretenders

June 2020

Is life returning to normal? I really hope not, despite the truth of this headline from The Onion:

City Enters Phase 4 Of Pretending Coronavirus Over

We’ve all gotten bored with the pandemic, so many of us have moved onto other interests in an attempt to ignore the fact that there’s still thousands of people dying, and that very few people, businesses, or governments were prepared to manage this. It’s very sad to know that the US specifically could have prevented many deaths were it not for incompetence, ignorance, and bureaucracy.

Add to that the complete fuckery of police violence and voter suppression, and it’s easy to feel a sense of powerlessness. I mean, shit in the US is starting to make 1984 look like the optimistic version, and the only “solutions” seem to be laughably naive or absurdly disingenuous.

Does it even matter who you vote for anymore (if you’re even allowed to)?

I truly hope we take this year an an opportunity to find out.

That said, life does go on, and we still have to pay bills, buy food, clean up after ourselves, and pretend that society isn’t completely off the rails. It’s in that spirit of pretending it’s all gonna be all right that I offer this update.

🗓️ Here’s what’s up right now:

  • 🎧 Listening to: The new(ish) album by ゲスの極み乙女 has been in heavy rotation for a few weeks now.

  • 📖 Reading: Forever by Peter Hamill is one I bought just on the premise, and now after a few hundred pages realize is just not my kind of book. I’m a fan of magical realism, but this tries too hard to be at least three different books. I’m gonna finish it, but I’m looking forward to starting Shadow and Bone, as recommended by my friend Anny.

  • 🥋 Taido: Now that Tokyo is gradually reopening municipal facilities, and the contagion appears to be largely under control, I’ve been meeting a small group to practice with each week. We’re still not fully reopening the dojo, sticking with our regular online practice schedule for now, but it feels good to get on the tatami and move around some.

  • 💭 Thinking about: I’ve been having a lot of good conversations about race and inclusivity and ways to counter the systemic biases in society. I don’t have answers, but I can say I’m further resolved against an authoritarian police state and that I’m very proud to have some very thoughtful and compassionate friends doing good work in the world.

bike tour in japan

Cycling near Kiryu. Definitely not a thing I’ll make a habit of… explanation below.

👨‍👩‍👧‍👦 People & Family:

  • 🐘 A family of six (four small kids) moved in upstairs. Pray for me.

  • 🎒 School is back to a regular, daily schedule in our town, which makes life easier and happier for the whole family.

  • 🚴‍♂️ My friend Robert owns a cycling tour company and took a few of us riding around the countryside. I really don’t enjoy biking, but I still had a good time and recommend it to anyone who wants to have a unique experience in Japan.

🧰 Things I’m finding useful:

  • 📗 Still enjoying manual life. I’ve been doing far less digital note taking lately, and when I need to share something I’ve written, I just snap a pic with my phone and send it.

✈️ Travel hahahaha, right…

  • 🤷‍♂️ At this rate, my main concern is not being able to return to Japan if I leave. I’m confident that I can navigate my personal safety while traveling without exposing others to risk, and I hope to make a visit to the US in the next handful of months.

"In these times..."

27 April 2020

Pretty sure the phrase “in these times” will be banned in the near future.

I saw a powerpoint from Facebook’s ads department that says people are already over tips and tricks for working from home and other kinds of “quarantine content.” Since most of it was rehashed bullshit anyway, I think many of us were over it before it really got going. But the real insight from the ads report is that people are really, really missing out on fun and spontaneity right now.

Sure, we’ve found ways to “socialize” on the internet, but having to ask someone’s username and send a secure video link are taking a lot of the sex appeal out of it. We miss just showing up and seeing what happens.

We miss unexpected joy. There’s joy to be had, but it has to be planned ahead of time.

So I decided to dust off the substack account and send you an email, because there’s no way in hell you could be expecting it :)

🗓️ Here’s what’s up right now:

  • 🎧 Listening to: Fetch the Bolt Cutters by Fiona Apple. It’s always so good to hear artists experimenting and evolving, especially when they manage to do so without losing the personality that originally drew me to them. She does.

  • 📖 Reading: Half Way Home by Hugh Howey is a quick read and a reminder that his Wool series is worth a reread. Next on my agenda is Book of Drugs, by Mike Doughty, which I have high hopes for since Soul Coughing was one of my favorite bands for many years. Finally, my friend Josh Hillis just released his new book, and I’m gonna try and read it this week.

  • ⏰ Routines: Well, it sure as hell isn’t normal. I’ve been living solo in a large apartment, going to the office way less, and missing all my Taido activities. It’s different, and what I’m trying to stick to is a pretty consistent schedule of walks, mealtimes, and exercise to fit my work and reading around. It’s far from perfect, but it’s kept things moving forward for the most part so far.

  • 💭 Thinking about: It’s interesting to see people trying to adapt to remote, tech-mediated interaction. We’ve been doing remote work at GMB since before anyone called it that, and we’ve been doing online education for more than eleven years now. Like most businesses, all the Taido dojo are struggling to find ways to keep people involved and improving. Unfortunately, online teaching is a lot harder and more nuanced than people expect, so there’s been a lot of challenges. I’m trying to find ways to help individual dojos without anyone having to invest the time and money a full-fledged online class platform (which even then would only be partially adequate). So yeah, I guess what hasn’t changed is that I’m thinking about Taido and teaching a lot…

  • 🥩 Eating: I found a service that ships bulk meats in Japan, so I’ve been eating grass-fed ribeyes pretty much every day lately.

Here’s a shot I took at the world’s busiest crosswalk, about a twenty minute walk from my house:

👨‍👩‍👧‍👦 People & Family:

  • 🧓 My parents assure me they are still alive.

  • 💁‍♀️ It’s been about three weeks since I’ve seen my Ladies, who are staying in the country for a while.

  • 👥 Like everyone, I’ve spent a ton of time in video chats with different groups of people. I feel very lucky to have a solid group of friends here in Tokyo that have been keeping me relatively sane.

🧰 Things I’m finding useful:

  • 🦠 Japan Coronavirus Tracker: Incidentally made by my friend Shane

  • 📗 All the changes to the routine have had me spending a lot more time in the analog world, and I’ve switch almost completely back from digital notes and systems to writing most things down manually.

✈️ Travel hahahaha, right…

  • 🤷‍♂️ Hard to say what travel plans might pan our or not right now, but I hope to make a trip to ATL soon.

All right, you’ve made it to the end.

That’s all I’ve got, and if you take a minute to reply, it would definitely bring a bit of spontaneous joy to my day.

I have not yet died of the Covid

We’re still here.

Shit’s crazy now, and it’s not every going to be the same. Bad things are going to happen, and at the same time, there’s going to be opportunities to make things better. That’s how global-class events work. It doesn’t make it fun or easy though.

Life in Tokyo has been fairly steady. Everyone is adjusting and cooperating, and we’re all managing as well as we can.

🗓️ Here’s what’s up right now:

  • 🎧 Listening to: Color Wheel by Aqueous has been in heavy rotation the past couple of weeks. It’s got a great mix of interesting arrangements, great musicianship, and actual listenable songs. Also, this.

  • 📖 Reading: Right now, I’m between sets of novels, so I’ve been rereading a couple dozen business books to various degrees of completeness. Not really going through any of them linearly, rather sampling chapters and dipping into sections that are useful.

  • 💭 Thinking about: Is there anything it’s responsible to be thinking about besides what’s going on in the world right now? Most of my actual thoughts boil down ways to make sure my family and friends are safe and keep GMB running and helpful to as many people as possible.  

  • 📰 Changes: GMB’s killing off another old program to make way for something new.

  • 🆕 Output: We also made a guide to making the most of isolation and lockdown. There’s lots of resources, tips, and exercises to try at home while under coronavirus lockdown

Andy is socially distancing

This seems like an appropriate image since we’re all social distancing now… Taken at the Tottori sand dune.

🧰 Things I’m finding useful:

  • 🦠 Japan Coronavirus Tracker – Incidentally made by my friend Shane. Japan has been taking hygiene and distancing seriously for weeks now, and as a result, things are relatively contained.

✈️ Travel

  • 🛩️ We took a short trip to Tottori. But we were very responsible about it and took all the precautions, I promise.

  • 🤷‍♂️ Hard to say what travel plans might pan our or not right now, but I hope to make a trip to ATL soon.

🙆‍♂️ You OK?

If there’s anything you need or anything you’re worried about, please let me know. This shit is unprecedented, and we all have to work together to get through it in one piece.

Please take care of yourself.

And I'm back

Well, it’s been a little while… we’ve had some major new projects out at GMB, and I took some short trips in Japan. We’ve also had school cancelled for a couple of weeks to help prevent COVID proliferation, so the calendar has felt pretty full.

🗓️ Here’s what’s up right now:

  • 🎧 Listening to: Color Wheel by Aqueous has been in heavy rotation the past couple of weeks. It’s got a great mix of interesting arrangements, great musicianship, and actual listenable songs.

  • 📖 Reading: Right now, I’m between sets of novels, so I’ve been rereading a couple dozen business books to various degrees of completeness. Not really going through any of them linearly, rather sampling chapters and dipping into sections that are useful.

  • 💭 Thinking about: A lot of mental energy has been going into reorganizing my organization… Basically, all the tools and system I use to plan, think, and work, and how my assistant and I cooperate on making sure I get the right shit done so the rest of the company isn’t waiting on me.

  • 🎙️ Recent Interview: I was on the Small Business Japan podcast talking about how being in Japan was central to starting GMB. Probably not for everyone, but if you’re interested in Japan, it’s worth a listen.

Andy Fossett poses with a Shisa in Okinawa

I went to Okinawa.

✈️ Travel

  • 🥋🏖️ Went to Okinawa last weekend for Taido and had loads of fun.

  • 🤷‍♂️ Hard to say what travel plans might pan our or not right now, but I hope to make a trip to ATL soon.

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