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My Great Japan Adventure

Watashi no nihon e no daibouken

As I write this, I’m sitting in the San Francisco Airport waiting on a flight I’ve dreamed about for half my life. Being a nerdy kid raised on a combination of Godzilla movies, Power Rangers, video games, and anime, I’ve wanted to visit Japan since I was in high school. And now it’s actually happening. In a few short hours, I’ll be on a ridiculously long flight across 5100 miles, an entire ocean, and the International Date Line.

Long flights aside, I can’t tell you how excited I am.

It’s been a journey a year in the making, and I basically needed all that time to prepare. I had to get my first passport, as well as a new suitcase, a phone with a good camera, and some suitably stylish clothes. There were tons of logistical items to sort out as well, not to mention bringing my list of places to see down to a manageable level. Plus, I wanted to be able to speak and read at least a little Japanese (even though everyone says I won’t need it), and that definitely isn’t something I could accomplish in just a few weeks.

I’ll keep this post brief, but rest assured that I’ll be taking copious photos and keeping a log of my adventures. I’ll be in Japan for two weeks, so I’ll have no shortage of things to share when I return to the states.

Harry Potter and the 20 Year Old Book

In case you didn’t turn on the Internet yesterday, the very first Harry Potter book – Harry Potter and the Sorceror’s/Philosopher’s Stone – was apparently released 20 years ago.

I don’t know about you, but it seems crazy to me that the book series which defined much of my middle and high school years should be celebrating it’s 20th birthday (then again, it seems equally crazy that the last book in the series – Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – is nearly a decade old itself).

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Thanks, Obama

For most of my adult life, Barack Obama has been president of the United States.

In 2008, I voted for Obama despite being a registered Republican. I was in my Senior year of college at the time, and everyday it seemed the future was growing increasingly dim. The housing market had begun collapsing the year before, and was in total free-fall (bringing much of the economy with it) by the time the election arrived. My job as a student assistant seemed constantly in jeopardy, with the California governor imposing furloughs and other cost-cutting measures on state agencies. I wasn’t sure what – if any jobs – would be available once I graduated (and as it turned out, I spent most of that first year living the slacker’s life). As a budding twenty-something, this was a scary time to be coming of age.

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Pebble + Fitbit = ???

Yesterday, the smartwatch maker (and Kickstarter wunderkind) Pebble announced that it had been acquired by Fitbit. According to their email to customers:

Fitbit has agreed to acquire key Pebble assets. Due to various factors, Pebble can no longer operate as an independent entity, and we have made the tough decision to shut down the company… We are no longer manufacturing, promoting, or selling any new products. Active Pebble models in the wild will continue to work… Much of our team and resources will join Fitbit to deliver new “moments of awesome” in future Fitbit products, developer tools, and experiences. As our transition progresses, we’ll have exciting new stories to tell and milestones to celebrate.”

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What Just Happened?

The election wasn’t supposed to end like this.

When I went to bed Monday evening – after writing about my trepidation for the day ahead – I breathed a small sigh of relief because I thought my fears and anxiety about a Trump presidency would soon be at an end. Election Day itself went by without raising any concerns. I left work that day eager to hear the first round of results, hoping for a swift knockout thanks to Eastern states like Florida, Virginia, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania.

But as the night went on, my anxiety returned. Read More

Make Elections Great Again

Tomorrow – November 8, 2016 – is Election Day in the United States. This will be the 3rd Presidential election I’m eligible to vote in, and my emotional state this year is quite a bit different than in years past. In 2008, I went to the voting booth filled with youthful optimism. In 2012, I was utterly ambivalent. And this year, I am overcome with anxiety because Donald Trump may actually win this election.

Having been both a Republican and a Democrat during my short time as a registered voter, it’s fair to say I haven’t always liked the candidates running for political office. At times, I have vehemently disagreed with their policy positions. At others, I believed that a given candidate was insufficiently prepared to hold such an important political office. But through each election, I never doubted the ability of any presidential candidate – from John McCain and Mitt Romney to Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, and even Bernie Sanders – to safely lead the country through their four year term. Certainly, I never had reason to fear the election of a given candidate.

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Microsoft Surface Studio PC

The Microsoft Surface Studio

Microsoft’s new all-in-one desktop PC – the Surface Studio – is an absolutely gorgeous computer. If I had a home office and $3000 burning a hole in my pocket, I probably couldn’t order this computer fast enough. I’m not a digital artist or anything like that, so I don’t really have a burning need for the drawing capabilities, but my girlfriend (an Architect-in-Training) says that she could theoretically see herself using the Surface Studio if she did more drafting at work. What I think is most striking, however, is that the Surface Studio feels like the kind of computer that Apple should have built.

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On Headphones

How important is the headphone jack on your phone?

Until recently, that was a question many of us had never considered. I mean, why would we? In the 29 years that I’ve been on this planet, I have used many different devices, but no matter what device I was using – be it a portable cassette or CD player, a Game Boy, an iPod, a Windows or Mac computer, or even a smartphone – I knew that any pair of headphones would work on all of them. That era is over. Apple’s announcement of the iPhone 7, which no longer features the humble 3.5mm headphone jack, now forces us all to consider how much we value the perennial audio port.

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Words With Jeff

About Words with Jeff

This is the blog of Jeff Staple