Must Have Snowboarding Tracks

You always want a wicked mix to snowboard to. Everyone wants to rock down the hill to the latest Kanye or Jay-Z track. As I’m headed out to the hills of Ontario tomorrow (yes, hills, not mountains, yawn) for the first time in my adult and “decent ability at navigating down a mountain or hill” based life; I figured I’d share the music that has stuck with me since the beginning and ending of epic mountains for me in Fukushima. These are those quintessential tracks that get it done. My playlists in the past have included everything from Me and Mrs Jones and Green Onions to System of a Down’s BYOBImmortal Technique’s Peruvian Cocaine, and Freaky Flow’s Let Me Know. So, hopefully it’s a well rounded group that I present below.

1) Gearing up – Cake – Comfort Eagle/Arco Arena

These are the ultimate songs to gear up to. You’re sorting out your board, throwing on the gear you didn’t wear on the drive to the hill. These are the songs you prep to. Not too hardcore, but they say, I’m getting in the zone and “I’m in it to win it” if that’s actually something you say in your head.

2) Get Going – Mark Morrison – Return of the Mack / House of Pain – Shamrocks & Shenanigans

You hit the top of the hill, and are going to rock a warm up run. You’re pumped to be there and want to smash out, but not too hard, because that could get embarrassing if you push too hard on your first run. Boom, these tracks.

3) Pumped UP – Rage Against the Machine – No Shelter / 2pac featuring Big Pun – I’m a Rider / Kasabian – Club Foot

Yes these are old school, but they get the job done for the “I’m about to crush the park out type rider.”

4) Just riding, chilled out. Tellsion – Gallery (anything by these guys) / Minus the Bear – I lost all my money at the cockfights / Pinback – Prog (anything by Pinback really).

Going for some flatland tricks, waiting for friends because they’re slow? These ones.

5) Random others

I could include about a thousand other songs that I feel are essential to any snowboarding list at this point, but hey, here are just a few others that didn’t fit into the categories above, but are awesome none the less.

Kings of Leon – Sex On Fire

Cast of Cheers – Human Elevator (anything by the guys)

Nada Surf – Blankest Year

Maps & Atlases – Artichokes

 

In an effort to not overload anyone’s browser I’m going to cut this, but be aware, I could go on.

Happy Boarding.

Xbox One vs PS4 – What I’m getting and why

I’ve recently posted about Xbox One vs PS4 and the need to wait for both to come out before deciding on which one to get. The PS4 by the time of this writing has launched and the Xbox One launch is only days away, but unless there is some major malfunction with the Xbox One launch, I’m pretty sure I’ve decided on the console I’ll be getting: The Xbox One.

xbox vs ps4

First a look at the systems side by side. I’ve hyperlinked where I’ve got the answers for all of this, but a lot of them are covered in this video from Machinima, if you’d like to take the video version route. I’ll expand upon a few of these specs below.

They’re virtually identical in almost all aspects except a few that I think tip the scales.

Spec PS4 XBox One Winner
Price  $399 w/o Camera  $499 w/ Kinect Same
Power/GPU 1080p 720p PS4
Storage 500 gb, not available/not mentioned 500 gb, external available eventually Xbox One
Backwards Compatability Nope Nope Tie
Controllers Supported 4 8 Honestly who cares? Xbox
Online Costs $4.16/Month, $50/Year $5/Month, $60/Year $0.75 a month difference, PS4 barely
What you get without paying Online Services (not matchmaking), free to play games Play games, offline. That’s about it PS4
Online PS+ vs Live Online Matchmaking, free games Everything, tons of apps, games with gold, Xbox Rewards, Xbox by a COUNTRY MILE
Living Room/Entertainment Um? Blu-Ray player Universal Remote for all devices, pass through for cable box, skype, mp3, DLNA, CDs, etc. Xbox
Size Average console size Behemoth with another huge power bar PS4
Online Services Gaikai Microsoft Xbox
Peripherals Whatever PS4 calls their kinect, sold separately Real Kinect, included Xbox
Indie Gaming PS4 – well versed in indie games Xbox One – meh PS4
Second Screen Recently unveiled PS4 app Smartglass has been around 12 months Both pretty similar, Xbox because of the 12 month head start
Totals  6  8  Xbox One

xbox one

Alright, a few things: I’ve left out controllers, because that’s up to player preference. For the most part these systems are super similar. Where Xbox One wins out for me is all of it’s extra features and awesomeness. The PS4 may be a bit more powerful for gaming, but we’ve entered an era of more than just gaming with consoles. Smartglass, Kinect, and the Microsoft entertainment services trump anything that PS4 puts forward. The only thing that makes me sad about this decision is PS4’s ease of access to indie gaming, I wish that Xbox was more on the ball with this. The ability to play games like Warframe, and DC Universe on a console would be friggin awesome, but that’s the reason I bought an Ouya (yes, you can judge me for that all you like).

With all of this being said, I’m still going to wait until after the Xbox One’s launch to see how it performs. If you’re one of my friends and reading this, I strongly suggest Xbox One and I will follow up on this after the launch, just to be completely sure. Hopefully you see it the way I do and will also be grabbing the Xbox One, then bring on the gaming!

If you feel I’ve left anything out in the above table, shoot me a comment below and I’ll gladly add it in.

Movember vs The Ever Important Job

[I wrote a waffling/attempt to draw you in type intro, but if you’re looking for the rant, scroll down, just past the pretty pictures, yes that’s me in my boxers snowboarding]

My Movember team this year as of November 1st consisted of 2 members. We’re currently up to 5 and I assume that will MO in days to come…but….

This year, I am partaking in my 3rd year as a member of FukushiMO. The idea of FukushiMO started back before it became a Facebook page I could link you to. It was started by Peter Gillam, an Australian (where Movember began) giving a speech at a Fukushima Board of Education Assistant Language Teachers’ Annual Meeting (it’s called something else, but I’m drunk so forgive me). He gave a speech that talked about how growing a mustache in our home countries was done to raise awareness and money for Men’s health everywhere. Even that year I didn’t participate, being an ex-pat for so many years prior, you’re out of the loop when it comes to this stuff, and I didn’t know.

But this is all background noise. After Gillam’s speech, we all kind of jumped on it and FukushiMO has been going strong. It’s something that, after all of us have come and gone from Fukushima Prefecture, we still take part in. A way to re-connect with people you saw everyday in a past life, that rarely comes up in your current day to day. Through the storied MOtoshop wars and social media connections. Epic examples below!

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With that all being said, this year, has been different than others. While most of the core group has moved on and moved out of Japan, and back to the rat race of their western culture jobs, our participation rate has dropped. Largely, this year, because of the ever-overbearing employer.

[Begin Rant]

Here’s my thing gentlemen, if your employer or a potential client can’t get behind an international movement that benefits Men’s Health and Prostate Cancer research, should you really fucking be working there? Ya, the paycheck is great and all that shit, but seriously? You can’t look a client in the face, say, “Ya, it’s Movember, sorry about that,” and move on? You really need to question where you’re at in life if, in 2007, 2008, 2009 and beyond we rode down a hill in our boxers, in Japan, as teachers of their youth! But now you can’t grow a fucking moustache “because of the job.”

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Here’s a picture of me in my boxers, snowboarding, because, I don’t want to put a picture of the rest of you, and get you fired. I have them though!

This goes for everyone else out there, if you’re in a job where a mustache would compromise your ability to do, or to retain said job, you should think twice. Seriously, WHAT THE FUCK?

I’ve heard every excuse in the book thus far. “I’m looking for a job.” “I’m new at my job.” “I’m afraid that John in accounting will judge me!”

Fuck John! And fuck all that other shit, you’re a grown man. John probably wishes he could grow a sweet ‘stache, but instead he just puts his head down, shaves his face daily and moves on hoping for that pension. Jesus, what a terrible life John leads.

I’m obviously a little bit biased, as I am my own employer (shameless plug, who really wants to hire me after reading this blog? I don’t know?) but even my brother, a high ranking employee of a large engineering firm puts together a huge Movember Team each year, supported by that company, and they crush what FukushiMO makes based on their “larger than ex-pat working in the western world” salaries. So, really, if you’re playing the corporate game, you don’t have an excuse.

In conclusion, (yes, I’m drunk enough that I will use “In conclusion” to finish my rant like I’m in the 5th grade) there is no reason to not participate in Movember. I don’t care if you’ve moved on in life to another team of people you see on a daily basis, but I do care if because of your job you deem something like growing a mustache beyond your reach (facial hair growth ability aside).

In most cases none of you have been told to not grow one, it’s out of fear of the boss-man/woman’s repercussions that you don’t. And while I’ve said to question your standing at said job, I would suggest that you ask your boss about starting a team. Most likely she/he’ll be on board, and if he/she’s not, fuck them!

Movember, do it!

Fuck whoever else stands in your way. Or just donate to us in the links below, because you’re afraid.

[End Rant]

Fukushimo 2013 GTA

Donate to me: http://mobro.co/brentstirling

Donate to my team: http://moteam.co/fukushimo
(Please spread team donations amongst all members. It makes us feel warm and fuzzy inside.)

XBox One vs PS4

Dear friends, family, countrymen and everyone else,

PS4 vs Xbox One composite

Do not buy into the hype. That is the best bit of advice I can give you. Can we not all finally band together and buy a system as one cohesive unit? I have made the responsible choice to wait until well after Christmas to make my decision on which system is the best and I would urge you to do the same.  There are horror stories, the red ring of death, the lack of the PS Slim, everyone wants something better and we’re older now.

Gone are the days of getting the newest system. Instead we’re faced with a decision that will put us on one side of the fence or the other for then next 8 to 10 years. Do you really want to sit across the table from your best friend and judge him/her silently because he/she bought a PS4 and you got an XBOX One? Do you want to play GTA 6 online, in the dark with a bunch of strangers and 12 year olds telling you to “Go Fuck Yourself!” Probably not.

What I’m trying to say here is, hey, let’s be friends, in the gaming world. I know I’ll never bring most of you hardcore gamers over to the world of Steam and online gaming, which is not only cheaper, but better (but I digress). So because of that, I’m asking for a consensus on the new gaming systems.

Neither have backwards compatibility, so your old games are dead. Neither are going to have free online access, so all you PS3 assholes can fuck off and let’s face it, the XBox Controller is better anyway.  (yes, that is an open invitation to bring it, feel free to look at the Ouya Controller as a tip of the hat to XBox).

All I’m saying is, let’s talk about this, as a group and decide which system is best for us, best for our brother-in-law and best for his child to grow up with. Let’s make a concerted group effort to never have to say “oooo, you have XBOX ONE, tough shit friend, we all roll PS4, go suck some HALO dick!” or vice versa.

I will update this blog on thoughts that I have regarding each system, after I’ve decided on one or the other, but until then, let’s all be friends and I really hope we can all decide on a system together.

My Movember Email

The following is an email I sent out to family, friends, lovers and other random people that gave me their contact info.  Have a look and consider donating to Fukushimo or myself.

Dear Family, Friends, In-Common-Laws and Randoms that I added to this email…

Movember is once again upon us, and I have shaved my illustrious beard in the name of awareness for Men’s health and prostate cancer.  Myself along with the gentlemen of Fukushima-present and Fukushima-past have banded together again as Fukushimo (think Megazord)!
Seven days in, I have a decent Mo (as a girlfriend and as one growing on my face, so 2 Mos).
Inline image 1
But a stellar & ridiculous Mo is not enough!  The machine that is Movember operates off of donations and the more we get, the more magnificent of a collective Mo we can grow, it’s a scientific fact!
So, with that said, I’m emailing all of you in hopes of gaining a donation from you for either myself, or Fukushimo as a team! Anything from a dollar to a million dollars is acceptable.  For donations over a million, just send them directly to my bank account and I’ll make sure it gets to the right people😉
If you do donate to the team, please share it amongst all of the team members, as we get more stuff that way! Now, as an alternative, you could donate to Drew, but his Mo is far less photoshopped and I’ve already donated to him, so it’s cool, just move on.
What’s in it for you, you may be asking yourself?  Fear not, random friend, in-common-law, girlfriend, family member or other (you categorize yourself accordingly).  For any donation, I will create and send to you a Movember Duck Face Photo, that is the perfect size to be hung in a den, placed on a mantle piece or saved to a hard drive never to be viewed again.  Have a look and tell me you don’t want one of these bad boys…
Inline image 2
Note the personalization there!  It’s a nice touch that you won’t get from other Movember groups!
If all of this isn’t enough for you, check out my epic and sad Movember Shave video on YouTube!  It’s 2 minutes of your life you’ll never get back, but it’s set to some pretty intense music, thank you Requiem for a Dream! (If you’re too lazy to click the link, have no fear, it’s embedded below)
With all of that, I’ll leave you.  Regardless of if you donate or not, I’ll still love/like/include you on mass email blasts in the future, so no worries.  Feel free to share this email around or like Fukushimo on Facebook for the impending Mo-toshop war I am bound to have with Steve Paugh (It is coming sir, oh you wait!).
For those of you that can donate, thank you in advance.  Your thank you will be posted to my Facebook page or Twitter account in the near future.

Maintaining the Nerd

It’s been quite a while since I’ve blogged.  I apologize, but if you’re reading this, you probably weren’t sitting on the edge of your seat waiting for my next blog post.  A lot has happened since my last post and a lot happened before that and I have sat down and attempted to blog, multiple times about the happenings in my life, Secret Weapon Media being the major development, I never seem to have the time.  That brings me to the topic at hand.  Maintaining the Nerd/Geek/Dweeb or whatever you’d like to call it.  I know that each of those terms have their own definition and subtle nuances but at this point, they all seem to blend together.

In the heyday of my early twenties I could easily claim to be a nerd.  I owned a few gaming systems, spent nights playing counter-strike with my clan and even had a clan server.  I was relatively techy, relatively well read and was aware of all of the major occurrences in nerd culture (I think).  I was never a comic book guy, but I had dabbled enough to even fit in if the conversation called for it.  But those were the days of undergrad, in a humanities program.  Work was minimal, recreational drinking and gaming along with a light peppering of women that deemed me decent enough to date were my day to day activities.

But as I sit here now, a 30 year old man, with my own company doing technological things…I realize that today, here and now, to call yourself a full blown nerd is nearly impossible.  Gone are the days of playing a game of Dungeons and Dragons and by that alone being able to deem yourself a nerd, the internet, while bringing nerd culture to the forefront has made that culture so vast that it’s nearly impossible to grasp.

I own the latest tablet, smartphone, laptop and gaming systems even with a few unreleased betas rocking around in there and that by no means can constitute me as a nerd anymore.  I have a full time job that is based in social media and forces me to stay on top of trends that are on-going throughout the internet.  But all of this, still deems me unfit to be a nerd.

Nerds are the original hipsters

A nerd to me is someone that knows just about everything about every sub-culture or counter-culture out there.  They know Linux is kernel and they know that X-Box 720 is slated to come out in Q1 of 2013.  They have beat Skyrim, they are already playing Borderlands 2, they read graphic novels, they know when the release of Jelly Bean for the Samsung Galaxy S3 will be.  They have already played and mastered Counter-Strike: Global Offensive.  They are looking forward to Windows 8, only so they can trash it and they relish the fact that Apple’s iOS6 had an epic fail of a mapping app, or they hate it because they’re Apple fanatics.  Technology is only the tip of the iceberg for the all around nerd, Star Trek, Firefly and Big Bang Theory are other forms of nerd culture that need to be followed.  But staying current on all of this has become impossible for the nerd of any age.  It’s absolutely dumbfounding the amount of information out there. To stay ahead of it would take a lifetime, just for what has come out in the past week.

Today alone, I have optimized social media channels for 3 separate businesses, had drinks with other techies where we discussed operating systems of different smartphones and the impending Windows 8 attempt at taking over the smartphone world.  I then delved into the world of Counter-Strike: Global Offensive where I not only honed my skills as an AWP specialist (I got pwned, despite the 1337 skills I had back in the day) then I switched to Skyrim on my X-Box, even though it came out nine months ago and I got it on the day it came out, I still lag behind my nerd brethren as I am only a measly level 58 in the game, (alteration, smithing and enchanting at 100 though, for those judging me).  I’ve researched white hat SEO tactics, discussed RSS feeds and have posted on 3 different news articles regarding the current Muslim uprisings regarding the film Innocence of Muslims.  Now that’s all well and good, but that hardly qualifies me as a nerd…

What else have I done with my day?  I put groceries away, I took the dog out, I cuddled my girlfriend.  I understand that the mere existence of a girlfriend may strip me of my right to be deemed a nerd and this, is the point of this post.

Being a self-proclaimed nerd has become too difficult.  It’s impossible to keep up with the Redditors, the Tweeters, the Google+’ers (I’m not including Facebook here, everyone has that shit and you’re not a nerd if you only have that).  Have I seen The Dark Knight Rises? Fuck no I haven’t, because I just don’t have the time.  Between job, girlfriend, dog and life, as well as staying on top of the newest memes and everything else happening in the nerd-o-sphere it’s just not manageable.

No. No you aren’t buddy

So what is the point of all this? Nothing really.  I guess it’s a nerd appreciation post and an attempt to put nerds into different categories.  I’ll still proudly call myself a nerd to those that are unaware of all the things I don’t know, but I’ll qualify it a little bit more from now on. And if you understood everything I wrote in this post.  Props to you.  But you know as well as I do that you’re behind and while you wasted your time reading this, you probably missed the next big meme on 4chan or failed to back the next OUYA on kickstarter (I backed it, bring on March 2013).  For shame!

Editors note: I drank wine and craft beer while writing this and then didn’t edit it.  Deal with it! 

Fukushima

It’s been almost a year since the Great East Japan Earthquake and almost six months since I returned to Fukushima and this will be the first thing I have posted about it since my week long adventure into the place I called home for so long.

I have agonized over the writing of this for months now.  While in Fukushima, I learned, saw and felt so many new things.  The main feeling I came away with after having been there was one of inspiration.  The people in Fukushima, foreigners and Japanese, were all so very inspirational.  The vigor that they put into the community there and how they defend and care for Fukushima and it’s reputation was nothing short of remarkable.

I’ll be honest, while I did go back to Fukushima on the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ dime, my main motivation for going back wasn’t to spread the word that Fukushima or Japan was safe, as I’m sure those at the MOFA building who met with me on my first night in Tokyo would have loved for me to do.  After everything I had read in the news or on blogs around the world that gave a range of views on the situation in Fukushima, I needed to see it with my own eyes so that I could put my mind at ease as to the safety of my friends, former co-workers and students.

I had planned to write pages and pages about Fukushima, what had happened, what I had been through, what the people there had been through and what it had all meant for the world at large.  Even after my trip out to the coast of Fukushima to see Soma and what had become of it, I wasn’t deterred.  But that changed on my last day in Fukushima while teaching at my favourite school in Nihonmatsu.  I had brought a few bilingual copies of Quakebook with me as a gift to the school and throughout the entire class, two girls continually poured over the stories in it.  As they silently wept in the back of the classroom, but refused to stop reading the stories that brought them so much pain, I felt the division between those who had experienced the earthquake and those who had not grow even further apart.  Until that point, I felt that I could potentially pull off an accurate representation of how Fukushima felt and how it was.  But in that moment, watching two of my former students cry openly, but quietly in the back of the room while refusing to stop reading, I knew that nothing I ever wrote would be good enough.  I can tell you now, that this post is not good enough.

——-

Through all of the drinking, smoking, dancing and general reminiscing that I took part in while back in Fukushima I sensed quite a few changes, not in the landscape or in buildings that had closed because of earthquake damage, but in the people there.  The foreign community has maintained the ex-pat lifestyle that I lived while stepping up their community involvement.  Every ALT I encountered was like a reverse Batman of sorts, dancing, drinking and socializing late into the night, and up at the crack of dawn to fund-raise and volunteer by day.  All of them are superheroes.

Hearts for Haragama Volunteer Event

While there is no all encompassing viewpoint that can be assigned to the people living in Fukushima, one overarching sentiment that seemed to come from everyone I spoke to was that, they’re all happy to be there and wouldn’t be anywhere else, no matter what.  The one thing that I think people looking in from the outside fail to see about those still living in Fukushima, is that they’ve gone through this disaster together and through it they’ve become closer.  If it hadn’t been for those around them and the general attitude of the people in Fukushima at a time of crisis, who knows where they would be now.

There’s a real sense that life is finite for the people there.  When I asked a group of friends why they had stayed despite the radiation, one remarked, “I could get hit by a bus tomorrow, what do I care if I get cancer in 40 years, I have to die of something.”  While to most this may seem a bit over the top, it made sense.  The people who were in Fukushima a year ago went through something that most people will never go through and from that they’ve gained a new perspective on life.  The main goal of those there is not to restore Fukushima, but to continue living as they were so that a semblance of normality will remain and continue into the future.

Radiation does play a part in everyday life there, but it’s something that everyone has come to accept.  One ALT said, “We talk about radiation like we talk about the weather.” And responses to combat its effects were very different and personal.  A Japanese Teacher of English told me that she uses food from different prefectures, along with a different set of pots and pans to cook for her children, while she uses Fukushima produce to cook for herself and her husband.  When I asked if she would consider leaving Fukushima, she vehemently answered, no, going on to say that her family was there and she would never abandon the place that was her home.

Everyone in Fukushima is making due with the changes that come from living in an area where radiation is an issue, but it didn’t seem to stop anyone from doing all of the things that they had done before the earthquake.  I attended the Annual Autumn Festival in Aizu Wakamatsu on my first night back in Fukushima and even visited temples that were as breathtaking as they had been a year ago, where tourists, while sparse, also took in the beauty that Fukushima prefecture has to offer.

At Fukushima Senior High School more than half of the school had been condemned due to earthquake damage and temporary buildings have been erected.  When heading into my first class there, with Jason Ishida, the current Fukushima SHS ALT, he said, “I’m interested to see how winter goes, it’ll probably be warmer in these buildings than the classrooms in the school normally are.”  This positive spin was everywhere, and while to some it may seem like the people there are viewing the glass as half full on every issue, it’s more of a coping mechanism.  The people there have decided to stay, and instead of living in fear of what could happen or what might be around the corner, they’ve moved on, accepting what their current situation is and dealing with it as they see fit.

The temporary building at Fukushima SHS

At Adachi Senior High School in Nihonmatsu city, I was amazed to see that a Senior High School from Namie had been transplanted into the school and was running it’s own curriculum.  While the Adachi students were partaking in their Sports Day, the staff from Namie SHS were in teaching classes as their school’s Sports Day wouldn’t be for another week.  Two principals, two vice-principals and the staff from both schools had merged together and accommodated each other.  Adachi’s Sports Day, while normally held outside, had been moved to a nearby community center.  When I arrived it looked like any other sports day with augmented events to deal with the space and everyone I talked to seemed to take it all in stride.

Adachi SHS Sports Day

The people of Fukushima have taken everything that’s been thrown at them and when I asked why they had all stayed, foreigners and Japanese people alike answered that Fukushima was their home and if they weren’t there to continue on, who would do it.  The fundamental change in the ex-pat community as well as the Japanese community was palpable.  While wearing my “I Akabeko Fukushima” t-shirt outside of Koriyama station, I was met with bows, smiles and thank you’s from the locals, something in all my time as an ALT in Fukushima I had never experienced to such a degree.  On the flip side of it all, the ex-pat community is now, more than ever tied to Fukushima.  And both groups have the same goal in mind to continue to live, work and play in Fukushima in order to put the disaster behind them and move on into a brighter future.

In the end, I think Japan is safe, but more than that, Japan and the people in it are inspiring, now more than ever.  As for Fukushima, my trip back showed me that the ex-pat and Japanese community have everything there under control.  And while they may not be able to control every aspect of life in Fukushima, those aspects that they cannot control will not bring them down.  The people in Fukushima have a sense for how precious life really is, more so than anyone else that I’ve met and despite all of the fear that they face on a daily basis, they continue to live their lives as they always have, inspiring those around them to do the same.  I am proud to have lived and worked with these people and to have called Fukushima my home.

If you’re interested in reading more about Fukushima, please check out James Foley’s infinitely better written piece Fear & Traveling in Fukushima