The PoS cellphone I use when travelling abroad has the bad habit of accidentally triggering all sorts of functions when I forget to explicitly lock the keyboard (stupid brick-body designs). Instead of staying nicely asleep in my pocket, it will kill time by calling random contacts from my address book or navigate half a dozen menu down to some obscure settings…

Last week, upon glancing at my message logs by chance, I realised it decided to send half a dozen empty messages to the first contact in my address book. It then topped that series with an audio SMS: 30 seconds of muffled sounds from whatever crowded bar I must have been in, that night.

All that while using a throwaway number on a prepaid German SIM card (thus unknown from most of the people in my address book).

Meanwhile in Europe, my friend Abigail is probably ever so slightly worried by that mysterious German caller who sent her all these creepy empty messages.

So, after spending a whole five days back in my exciting Kansai countryside, I was on my way to Tokyo again on Friday night, this time to fulfill a very specific (and lovely) calendar imperative.

This 48 hour stint in Tokyo was much more compact than last week’s but we still managed to fit a couple funandhappythings.

Saturday, Ken and Shizu drove us to Design Festa where we spent the afternoon looking for those elusive two or three pearls of awesome/weird/crazy, usually lost in a sea of homemade flea-market t-shirts and Tokyu Hands-style jewelry (hey, starving art students need to eat too). To be honest, nothing mind-blowing (and not even that much of the usual WTF shock stock that people tend to expect from Design Festa)… but some entertaining live shows:
Dora video played drums while random bits of video samples (including at some point, a strident Japanese CM for toilet air freshener) played in the back. The result sounded at times not quite unlike a Death Metal band, from which you’d remove everyone save for the drummer: loud, energetic and quite funny.
Somewhere on the main stage, three butt-naked guys covered in gold paint and sporting massive fully-erect fake penises (also covered in gold) were executing some sort of butoh-like contemporary dance involving a chain and the music from William Tell overture. Somehow, Design Festa always seem to feature a few naked guys doing strange contemporary dances. Never twice the same guys.
The last act we caught before leaving, Crazy Angel Company wasn’t breaking new grounds, comparatively, but did a nice job of livening the venue a bit with their energetic Japanese-style brass band music and accompanying choreography. They closed with their own rendition of the Soran Bushi, a famous Japanese folk classic with an infectious back-and-forth chorus, of which H. eventually grew very tired, after a weekend of constant humming from my part.

On the way back and after running a couple errands for the following day, we lucked out in grabbing a table at Chacha Yufudachi on a saturday night with no reservation (strange, I know, to be going to a Kyoto-cuisine place while on a trip to Tokyo, but both Chacha branches are among my favourite restaurants in Shinjuku, both for the food and the atmosphere). We capped the night with a few drinks at Albatross’ brand new extension in Golden Gai: in fact, merely the first floor of their previous location, which has been added as a semi-independent branch to the second-floor’s bar. Same familiar faces and friendly crowd as usual, although we unfortunately had to make it home for last train in order to be fresh and rested for the next day.

And next day was awesome, indeed: lovely people, gorgeous groom and bride, delicious food, excellent wine (of course) and charming surroundings… But I won’t bore you with the details of my gorgeous friends’ happiness: after all, if you are of those who care, you were probably there (and if you weren’t, you know where to find much better reports than my own very incomplete remembrances of that wonderful day).

One (short) night and a nozomi ride later, I am back at plotting world domination, one DNA strand at a time… Which reminds me I might finally get to that piece about the why’s and how’s of Bioinformatics this week, if I can escape the tempting embrace of procrastination long enough…

2009 Card Preview

As usual, feel free to go hunt for your likeness in the large version of the card. You can even check out a mega-large version (huge file warning) for better resolution.

Lovely pic of Chiba-san, in full zen contemplation of year past and year ahead, courtesy of Hiromi.

Spending the night drinking in Aoyama and dancing in Shibuya until morning with Deny and friends, 6 hours after landing in Narita.

Yoshida-san at Albatross, casually wishing me a welcome back, asking how I’m doing, as if it had not been two years since the last time I sat there ordering a drink.

Soon-to-be-official-geisha Hako-chan, demonstrating her shamisen skills at a tiny Shibuya izakaia, before going on a drunken quest for some old Pink Floyd albums at nearby Tower records.

Sheer serendipity and Saeko’s MBA program being located 6 floors down from my lab in the same Jimbocho building.

Drinking our asses off with Yi, Jun & co., enjoying Kaikan Hotel’s Beer Garden‘s “All you can drink” formula until the very last minute (and the last dozen hastily ordered pints).

Tokyo clubbing. Receiving a freshly removed pair of lacy underwear adorned with the wearer’s phone number. Having never asked for it in the first place.

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Sara: Yea, he is a bit strange, very moody, the autistic kind, you know… talks a lot, all the time…

Dave: Autistic? talks a lot? That doesn’t make sense… Wouldn’t an autistic temperament imply that he is overly quiet and keeping to himself most of the time?

Sara: Absolutely not! What are you talking about? He’s autistic… Has those weird fits of enthusiasm, gets excited about the smallest things, you know, the way autistic people often behave…

Dave: OK. You aren’t making any sense. We can’t possibly be talking about the same definition for autism, real or pretend.

Sara: Autism??? Who talked about autism, he is autistic: he makes aut, he’s an autist… He paints mostly.

Dave: Oh…

As is now customary around these parts at this time of the year:

Dave's 2007 New Year's Card

May 2007 bring you kittens, happy puppies & ponies with very little thermonuclear wars on the side…

PS: If I recently met you long enough to snap a pic, your face is probably up there. Full size version here for the unbelievers.

PPS: To make up for the sharp decrease in picture-taking this year (linked to a switch from my nifty camera-equipped keitai back to the basics of 19th century cellphone communication), I innovated by adding a couple pics of online acquaintances whom I have not met in person this year, but spent more than a share of my time exchanging communications with. Yea, this is 21st century alright.

PPPS: Collage quality is really not all that great this year. Ironically, part of my studies lately have involved the very algorithmic tools I need, to come up with an elegant solution to this very tricky problem (yay for Operational Research). Unfortunately, said studies also meant I really did not have the time to implement it. We’ll try to have it for 2008.