June, 2008

Jun 08


Another good & full trip to Tokyo — just got on the Narita Express — and I have to say that Tokyo trains are an absolute marvel. I bought my ticket at 2 minutes to 2p, with the train set to board at 2:03, and made it all the way through a very complex Tokyo Station to get to the train with a minute or 2 to spare — and of course the train left precisely on time.

Over the past couple of years of coming here, I’ve really come to appreciate Tokyo as a city — it never really feels super-dense anywhere even though there are lots of people living in a close space — and there are lots of green areas, sidewalks, public transportation, on and on. When you consider that it’s an absolutely gigantic city with maybe 28 million souls, the way that it works and feels is a stunning accomplishment.

The past couple of mornings I’ve gotten up early to jog 10k or so from my hotel and around the Imperial Palace, and it’s been great. Or, rather, yesterday was a good run, but not all that great, since it was rainy & cold and I was jetlagged. Today was much nicer, and felt great to run around a place that’s been important (and beautiful) for centuries. I’m starting to really like running in the early morning in urban areas like this (although I don’t do it too often, and Sunnyvale isn’t quite dense enough to be interesting) — it’s a bit of a communion with other runners — a shared start to each of our disparate days.

I found today & yesterday that it really helped my running, too, as there was always someone ahead of me on the loop around the Palace — so I always had someone to work to catch up to (and occasionally fall behind). As a result, I think I (re?)discovered something about myself: I tend to run better from behind. It’s easier for me to concentrate and focus enough to catch up, and it makes me a better runner. (Or at least a more consistent, faster runner.) That’s probably a little window into my non-running psyche, too, and maybe a clue to why I’m drawn to work at a place like Mozilla.

Or maybe not; I’m a little jetlagged for psychoanalysis. On to Narita, then heading home. Thanks to everyone at Mozilla Japan for another very good trip, and for an unbelievably great launch here in Japan. See you in Vancouver.

Jun 08

Tokyo Firefox 3 Launch Party

Had a very fun time at the Fx3/Mozilla 10th Birthday party here in Tokyo last night — the Mozilla Japan team, and especially Eri, did a wonderful job. Nearly 300 people came to celebrate — it was a beautiful mix of students, developers, educators, business people — and lots of people who’ve been with Mozilla for a very long time.  (The ice sculpture was fantastic, btw — know what the Firefox is? It’s a mousepad! Nice work, Eri.)

Jun 08


I hereby declare June 26 “ShaverDay” here on John’s Blog. (Not to be confused with ShavingDay, which is something else altogether.) Anyway, congratulations to Mike on a well-deserved recognition today — wish I could be in Toronto for it; will look forward to pictures, video, blogging, etc. 🙂

Jun 08

What I Talk About When I Talk About Running, by Haruki Murakami

This book is a short, wonderful, gem of a book, by one of my favorite authors, about something I’m really trying to figure out, running. [It isn’t quite out in stores yet — I think it comes out the end of July, but I got to read a galley.]

I hadn’t known that Murakami runs marathons — he’s in his 50s now and started when he was in his 30s. This book is a set of reflections on his running, and his writing, of course, since the disciplines have overlaps. The book really connected with me, even though I haven’t worked my way up to full marathons yet (did a half last year, and will do another this year, but would like to do a full in the next year or 2), and it inspired me on several levels.

So many good pieces of thoughtful writing here, I’m just going to quote a bunch. Like this one:

No matter how much long-distance running might suit me, of course there are days when I feel kind of lethargic and don’t want to run. Actually, it happens a lot. On days like that, I try to think of all kinds of plausible excuses to slough it off. Once, I interviewed the Olympic running Toshihiko Seko, just after he retired from running and became manager of the S&B company team. I asked him, “Does a runner at your level ever feel like you’d rather not run today, like you don’t want to run and would rather just sleep in?” He stared at me and then, in a voice that made it abundantly clear how stupid he thought the question was, replied, “Of course. All the time!”

For the past month or so, I’ve been trying to run each morning before everyone wakes up — I feel like I’ve found a whole extra hour in the day, and it’s been really helpful to me. But I feel, very often, like I don’t want to get up and run. Working on it. Maybe it’s something like this:

…I’m happy I haven’t stopped running all these years. The reason is, I like the novels I’ve written. And I’m really looking forward to seeing what kind of novel I’ll produce next. Since I’m a writer with limits — an imperfect person living an imperfect, limited life — the fact that I can still feel this way is a real accomplishment. Calling it a miracle might be an exaggeration, but I really do feel this way. And if running every day helps me accomplish this, then I’m very grateful to running.

And I do find that I’m learning things about myself by doing it, and developing the discipline:

It doesn’t matter how old I get, but as long as I continue to live I’ll always discover something new about myself. No matter how long you stand there examining yourself naked before a mirror, you’ll never see reflected what’s inside.

But the real reflection, the real lesson, is here:

My time, the rank I attain, my outward appearance — all of these are secondary. For a runner like me, what’s really important is reaching the goal I set myself, under my own power. I give it everything I have, endure what needs enduring, and am able, in my own way, to be satisfied. From out of the failures and joys I always try to come away having grasped a concrete lesson. (It’s got to be concrete, no matter how small it is.) And I hope that, over time, as one race follows another, in the end I’ll reach a place I’m content with. Or maybe just catch a glimpse of it. (Yes, that’s a more appropriate way of putting it.)

And that’s it, the whole essence, really. By doing something deliberate like running, with your own set of goals and successes and setbacks — your own sense of what & who you’re trying to be — that lets you sometimes catch a glimpse of the person you might be content with. It’s a Catch-22, I think: that by the very striving to do something, to be something, that you can see/feel what it might be like to achieve it.

I find that for myself I spend a lot of time working on how to be better at what I do (and probably not enough on how to get my running better, but I’m working on that, too), and am never really content with the way things are — and I think that if I were somehow suddenly content that I wouldn’t quite be me anymore. But I’m starting to notice things that are really meaningful to me lately that are about as good as it gets. In my running, increasingly, and of course in the myriad moments of life with my family (just playing whiffle ball with Kathy & SPL last night was about perfect).

So I’m inspired by the book, and by Murakami himself. Great book, worth reading more than once.

Jun 08

Mark Vonnegut on his dad, Kurt

One neat thing about the Kindle is that it lets me keep track of passages in books that I particularly like, and from time to time I go back and look at them and think about what they might mean. (The user interface to this, however, is really, really painful and not very useful. Hopefully they’ll work on it, not to mention make it easy to use my Kindle to blog passages when I mark them as interesting.)

Anyway, I blogged a while about the posthumous Kurt Vonnegut collection called Armageddon in Retrospect — a reasonably good collection of some of his writing. But I forgot to share a few particularly good paragraphs from the introduction, written by his son Mark. Listen:

He taught how stories were told and taught readers how to read. His writings will continue to do that for a long time. He was and is subversive, but not the way people thought he was. He was the least wild-and-crazy guy I ever knew. No drugs. No fast cars.

He tried always to be on the side of the angels. He didn’t think the war in Iraq was going to happen, right up until it did. It broke his heart not because he gave a damn about Iraq but because he loved America and believed that the land and people of Lincoln and Twain would find a way to be right. He believed, like his immigrant forefathers, that America could be a beacon and a paradise.

He couldn’t help thinking that all that money we were spending blowing up things and killing people so far away, making people the world over hate and fear us, would have been better spent on public education and libraries. It’s hard to image that history won’t prove him right, if it hasn’t already.

Reading and writing are in themselves subversive acts. What they subvert is the notion that things have to be the way they are, that you are alone, that no one has ever felt the way you have. What occurs to people when they read Kurt is that things are much more up for grabs than they thought they were. The world is a slightly different place just because they read a damn book. Imagine that.

That’s about as good an elegy as you’ll ever read.