Saturday, May 08, 2010

Chatting with interesting people

I gave two 90 minutes lectures at Keio University Hiyoshi campus. The audience was the graduate students and general public, about 200 in all.

The first lecture was on the brain as a system, while the second lecture focused on the significance of contingency in the makeup of the self in the social context.

After the lecture, we ventured into one of the Izakayas of the Hiyoshi area with Prof. Takashi Maeno. It was fun to talk about google, satellites, and life in general.

Chatting with interesting people is one of my favorite exercises, and yesterday was a classic example.

Friday, May 07, 2010

Back in Tokyo

On the way back to Tokyo airborne, and onto central Tokyo by car, I was continuously writing a series of essays which unfortunately met their respective deadlines yesterday.

In all, I churned out 4 essays, letting out a total of ~10000 Japanese characters worth text.

My home country welcomed me back with a sunshine and hot air. I immediately became a "T-shirt" man, taking off my sweater, revealing my Paul Smith T-shirt featuring an apple. It is one of my personal favorites.

Once in my native country, I get immersed in a totally different context from the past few days. This morning, I will have discussions with editors of a book in the morning. In the afternoon, I will give two lectures at Keio University.

Back to the chores. However, the spirit stays. There are certain things that are left in you forever, to grow and glow.

Thursday, May 06, 2010

The volcano did not hinder my flight back to Tokyo this time.

On the last day in London, we met with Dominique O'Brien, who became eight times World Memory Champion. The current Champion, Ben Pridmore was there, too. We conducted a simple EEG experiment.

In the afternoon, I met with Prof. Linda Pring at the University of London Goldsmith campus. Goldsmith is famous for being the home of the YBA (Young British Artists), including the sculptor Anthony Gormely.

The volcano did not hinder my flight back to Tokyo this time. Right now I am safely on the plane, trying to reflect on my experiences in the U.K this time.

Soon after I finish writing this, the airplane will start descending to the airport. I won't be able to use any electric devises then. I will most probably read "Darwin's Island" written by Steve Jones. I bought the copy in the Heffers bookshop in front of Trinity college.

Once back in Japan, I will have a busy work schedule as usual. I won't have the luxury of relaxing. One needs to find solace in small things under these circumstances.

In the least, I would like to have a taste of the soba noodle somewhere and sometime soon. That could be done in 10 minutes at a standing bar found in many locations in Tokyo.

See you again, U.K. See you soon, Marmite. You have been very kind to me.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Drive it away!

I did not "agree" with the tightly controlled process of learning how to drive that is normal in my native country. So I dropped out of school. Time flew, and I moved to England, to conduct two years' post doctoral in Cambridge. After a while, I learned that I was eligible to apply for a driving license under the British system.

So I called up BSM. On the first day, Mr. David Ash came to my door and knocked. "Hello!", David said. "Hello!", I said.
David took me to the suburb of Cambridge in the car. I think it was near the Cavendish laboratory. David parked the car on the roadside, and let me sit in the driver's seat.

"Drive it a way!"

David said.

So under the British system, the learner is told to "drive it away!" on day one. What a difference from what I had known previously. The "drive it away" approach suited me fine.

When I was moving in London yesterday, I saw a car with "BSM" written on it. All of a sudden all these memories came back to me like in a flood.

The conversations I had with David. The first motorway. Night driving. David always helpful and kind, and yet firm.

The process of obtaining a British car license was interesting, but that is another story.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

London Skies

Walking along the London streets, even for a short time, is always an uplifting experience.

People has identified New York city in the United States as the capital of cultural freedom. In a subtly different sense, London is at once a capital of cultural tradition and freedom.

People from many countries in the world flock to London in search of something. What they seek and get, being immersed in the world according to the lingua franca of English, reflect the multitude of opportunities for a human being today.

I am in search of something myself, when I find myself in the British capital. To some extent, the nature of that something has changed over the years, while other aspects remain the same.

So I look up to the London sky, believing in the infinite possibilities extending before me. The skylines inspire me, to keep going and make yet another effot.

Monday, May 03, 2010

Trinity excellence in gardening.

I have moved to London yesterday night. When I awoke in the car, people were shouting "Abbey Road!" A surprise encounter with the street of Beatle legend brought me back to conscious life on arrival at London.

As I reflect on my stay in Cambridge, several things surge in me. Every time I revisit, I take home something valuable.
This time, my mental souvenir included a realization of the excellence of the art of gardening in the academic city.
I have been to the Trinity college premises many times, but until the last visit yesterday I did not explicitly realize the meticulous care with which the trees and plants are cultivated and maintained in the gardens, alongside the building walls, along the corridor.

Gee, what an excellent work of art! And high tech, too!

I asked the kind Trinity college Porter who was with us about the gardening in Trinity. "Yes, gardening in this college is excellent," he said. "There are 30 gardeners in this college. We have a new head gardener now. He is a superb man."
So I discovered that Trinity college excelled in the science of gardening, too. I suspect that the Trinity excellence in gardening reflects the general high standards of English gardening.

Thus we become the plant's best friend, with care and knowledge.

Sunday, May 02, 2010

A venerable society of lunatics

I stayed in Cambridge for two years from 1995 to 1997, and have been visiting regularly since.

I know the streets in out. Memories would flow back to me.

Cambridge is a stunningly beautiful town. However, needless to say, the value of the town is not for the looks. On my arrival, I went straight to the Cambridge University Press and checked the latest volumes. After that, I strolled to the Heffers bookshop in front of the Trinity college. I was thrilled to see all these wonderful books, each representing years of hard work, rigorous application of logic, no-nonsense empiricism, and refined aesthetics.

I think it is simply wonderful for people with similar interests and orientations to be gathered in a place, and have heated discussions, letting their souls inside out. We are always in search of such a community. In Cambridge we find a venerable society of lunatics which have matured over 800 years.

What a solace!