Monday, December 31, 2007

Happy New Year (again)

More New Year's stuff...

(Go listen to the new podcast too...)

Happy New Year 2008! (And Masiguy Podcast #2)

Well, 2007 is almost a distant speck in our collective rear view mirrors and 2008 is directly ahead. I can honestly say that I am happy as heck to see 2007 vanishing and 2008 arriving... for very personal reasons. That said, 2007 did contain some of the greatest professional highlights of my life. As I've said before recently, 2007 has arguably been the best of my professional life. On a personal level, it ain't been so hot... but life goes on and I am putting my foot on the gas and going forward to a better tomorrow.

There were many highlights to the year for me, too many to try and remember and list all in one post. But the A&F team winning Athens Twilight with Mark Hekman was a highlight, as was traveling to Taiwan, Germany/ Switzerland and Japan. Having the new bikes do so well is nice- demand still greatly outpaces supply. Being a part of a wonderful book project- The Age of Conversation- was a major, major thrill and point of great pride. But... the biggest highlight? YOU. The community of friends I have built here continues to be one of the greatest sources of personal pride that I have. Many of the folks who read this crazy thing are now very good friends of mine- some of whom I get to see from time to time and others I sincerely hope to meet some day. I really can not thank you all enough for the support and friendship I have received- I am indebted.

2008 holds worlds of promise and potential. It's currently a blank slate and I have a pallet of oils ready to smear and shape and texture across the canvas. I'm no Van Gogh or anything, but I've got some clean brushes and a lot of ideas... so get ready. I look forward to continuing to grow and share with you all and to keep trying to make Masi Bicycles one of the most respected brands in the world again. I believe in the products and all the work we are doing, so I hope that continues to shine through and people continue to "get it".

As a special bonus for you tonight, I recorded a new Masiguy Podcast just a short while ago. It's a short podcast, so it's a little easier to listen to- just a few seconds shy of 15 minutes.

Anyway, Happy New Year to you all. Here's to seeing '07 go away and '08 develop into the best year of our collective lives!


Sunday, December 30, 2007

Another weekend down.

Wow, folks, thanks for the support of the podcast and all the videos I've done over the past few days... especially the "wrap-up" with 5 videos. Man, that was painful to watch- I watched all of them for the first time just a moment ago. Ugh. I'll try to do better next time and keep it shorter.

Anyway, now that the novelty of the video is wearing off and I now know a little better what I'm doing, I'll be returning to more regular blogging. My goal is to do regular written blog posts, along with a couple videos per week and 1-3 podcasts per week as well. If I can do all of that, I'll be pretty happy. We'll see how long I can maintain that momentum.

Had a great ride yesterday- as I mentioned in one of the many videos- and had an even better ride today. Rode a couple hours on the fixed gear today and just felt awesome. My legs were sluggish and tired when I first rolled out, but as they warmed up, I felt really great. I didn't have a bunch of power, but once I got rolling the legs just felt so smooth on the pedals and the bike just felt perfect. It was one of those rare days where the riding felt magical. Man and machine were in harmony... it was awesome.

Tomorrow will likely be a short day in the office- I believe we'll be getting out a little early. Then on Tuesday, we're closed for the day and I intend to go out and ride my ass off. I'm going to try to do a ride that goes up a local mountain- Mount Palomar-and start my year off right... whining and complaining about how fat and outta shape I am. Just the same, it should be great fun.

So here's to hoping you all had great weekends and got to ride your favorite bike/s. I know I did.


Video Weekly Wrap-up

Since I've been playing with all this new media stuff, I'm closing out this week with a video post.
Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5... the last one!

David Bernstein- FredCast, Spokesmen Podcast
Philip Gomes- Spinopsys
VeloNews calendar
Cyclepassion calendar
Rochelle Gilmore

Enjoy! (Sorry it is several videos...)

Extra Super Double Thanks to Ryan Rish of the Inferno Racing Team for his editing advice!

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Anti Hatred

Ugh... here we go again...

Matthew Parris of the Times Online spreads seeds of hatred with intentional stupidity.

Thanks to David Bernstein for pointing this out.


Happy Saturday!

Here's a video blog post for you! Easier than typing... that's for sure.

Blogger video;

Or YouTube, if you prefer;


Friday, December 28, 2007

Masiguy on YouTube.

CK had a video on YouTube this evening and since I have been working on video and podcasting all night long (having forgotten to eat anything for dinner actually), I thought I'd just go ahead and do a little more video work tonight... because I'm delirious.

So here's my video;


Thursday, December 27, 2007

Masiguy Podcast- Episode #1

The brand new Masiguy Podcast is now running! (I hope.)

There is a new blog to support the podcast, to keep hosting easier. I will update the podcast blog with each episode and will post the info here as well. I hope to do at least one episode per week, so hopefully I can accomplish updates while in Taiwan.

The first episode is pretty low-budget, but it's in the bag and I can move on to learning how to improve it. Please give me your feedback so I can make it into a better product. As always, thanks for your support.


More video...

Still working on the whole Seesmic thing and trying to get my video to work. I feel like an even bigger goober than I normally do. Also working on the podcast. I recorded the first episode and am in the process of trying to get all the rest worked out. Bought my hosting service and now just need to get the blog template and the podcast recording to merge... but I'm still learning.

In the meantime, here's a short video I recorded for Seesmic that I wasn't able to upload for some reason. It's nearly identical to the one in my previous post... so sorry for the redundancy.


Masiguy in Video?

Masiguy on Seesmic!

I hope this works...


Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Back to work...

Back in the office today. Back to working and trying to get a new catalog written. Fortunately, I get to recycle most of the Fall catalog in this new Spring catalog. But with all the new models I'm adding, I have to write a bunch of new copy anyway. I'm rewriting or tweaking a few other things as well. I think I have the pagination worked out, so the "flow" of the catalog is largely ready and done... I just have to finish writing the darned thing and then work with our Creative Director, Pete Demos, to get photos taken. Lots of work ahead... for sure.

I admit that I had a hard time focusing after being out for the past 5 days. It was hard to concentrate and the day seemed to go by very slowly. I think the ride yesterday- my first century in a couple years- just left me feeling a little loopy too. I was ready for a nap by noon! My legs were dead and heavy and getting up or sitting down was frequently accompanied by a grunt or groan. However, I went for my hour lunch ride today and the legs did loosen up a bit and actually feel much better now than they did this morning. That's a good thing. Hoping/ planning to ride this weekend and then there is a big ride on New Year's day that climbs a local mountain that I hope to do as well. But I think I'll be on my SRAM bike since it has an 11x26 cogset instead of my 11x23 on my Campy or Shimano bikes (I know, I know... I'm spoiled.)

Speaking of spoiled, I have been meaning to send a special thanks to my good friend Daniel at Shimano. My older Shimano carbon sole shoes were damaged by my Thanksgiving crash- I wore a nice big hole through the carbon sole. Daniel helped me into a new pair of the new SH-R220 shoes. These are the second tier pro shoes with heat moldable insole and upper. Not only do they look pimped-out hot, but they are incredibly comfortable. I LOVE THEM and highly recommend them. In fact, the Shimano shoes and pedals both get the Masiguy Two Thumbs Up Seal of Approval. All of my road and track bikes use the Shimano SPD-SL pedals and all of my road shoes are Shimano as well... even on my SRAM and Campy bikes. Come to think of it, my mountain bike uses Shimano SPD, my cross bike uses Shimano SPD and my new concept flat bar bike has a new set of XTR pedals. I even have Shimano mountain shoes and a bithin' new pair of Shimano "commuter" shoes (thank you Chad for those). Yes, I'm spoiled... I know it.

Further speaking of spoiled (as in you folks)... I'm working on a Masiguy podcast that I hope to have set up and the first episode posted by the end of this week or early next week. Ideally I will be able to post a few episodes while in Taiwan the 5th -12th. Keep your eyes peeled for details here. I am working on creating a new blog to support the podcast, but the podcast itself is supposed to be called The Masiguy Podcast... for lack of a more creative title. I thought of using the title I've been planning to use for a book I have been intending to write for the past 17 years- The Bald Man Speaks... but that would just be confusing. More details will follow in the coming days, so stay tuned. It'll be a very low budget production for a while, as I work out the kinks, but it will hopefully launch soon!

Ok, time to shut down and relax.


Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Merry Christmas (again) & I did it!

Merry Christmas to all. What a day...

Could not sleep last night and finally got out of bed at 4:00AM. By 7:30 I was on my bike rolling away from the apartment. I came home at 11:50... after riding between 90 to 100 miles. If my memory serves me correctly, it should have been 100, maybe 101 for the ride. I had to fight a killer headwind on the trip north for part of the ride, but I had an awesome tailwind on the way back. Not that it helped me going up any of the hills... but on the flats I was flying!

Afterwards, I went to my aunt's house for a late lunch with my extended family. (Last night I had the kids for dinner at my Mom's for our traditional get together with my brother and sisters- I'll have pictures up from that soon.) After eating that big meal, I then headed to the house of my best friend's mom... for another big meal. 3 in 2 days... and I feel it too. I've eaten a lot the past two days. Thank God I got some good mileage in today, or I'd burst at the seams.

I sincerely hope that everybody had a great day today- no matter what you did or how (if) you celebrated. Back to work in the morning... so I'll have to drag my bloated carcass out of bed and head to the office. Oh well... at least I'll be fat, tired and sleepy!


Monday, December 24, 2007

Merry Christmas/ Happy Holidays!

Since I have a lot of international readers and friends around the globe (where it is already Christmas day), I thought I'd put up my Christmas/ New Year's post now.

Like Thanksgiving, this year is a different kind of Christmas for me. It's unlike any Christmas before it and will likely be unlike any Christmas that follows it. But such is life. I will be enjoying tonight with my kids at my mother's house for our traditional Christmas Eve dinner with my immediate family of brother and sisters and all of our offspring. The best part, of course, is watching the kids tear through the wrapping and into the presents. The shouts of glee are the best part of the whole evening for me. Tomorrow the kids will be with their mother traveling and having fun, so Christmas day will be the first one for me without my kids. Needless to say, it's a "first" I'm not exactly looking forward to, but life is about new experiences and growth.

The plus side is that I will still be seeing my friends and family tomorrow and will get out for a ride as well. Life is full of balances- with bad comes good, with lows comes highs, etc. I am blessed to have the friends and family that I do and I am always aware of that. This time in my life, though painful and trying, has been very effective at showing me that I will never truly be alone. I have too many friends and a loving family. I am blessed beyond the measure of money, fame or recognition- I have the very tangible and real things that can not ever be purchased or won.

So I hope that this Christmas brings much joy to everybody. Hopefully there is a bicycle involved somehow too- whether for yourself, or whether you built it for your own children or somebody else's. I know that for me, one of the greatest moments of my life was receiving my first bicycle. I'm quite sure my parents had no idea what that bike would lead to in my life. Not only did I taste freedom for the first time on a bicycle, but it has given me a career and served as my vehicle to see the world.

Masiguy- circa 1975 or 76.

Enjoy this time with your friends and family and anybody else you love- even your bike. May the new year be filled with more blessings than you can possibly ever count. Remember those who are less fortunate and find a way to ease their burden because the world needs more of that- locally and globally. AND... may the new year be full of excellent rides, a clean and smooth running drivetrain, no flats and lots and lots of tailwinds!

(And thank you for continuing to read this blog.)


Saturday, December 22, 2007

Special Day

Today was a special day for The Princess...

My Christmas present to my daughter was a special "date" with Daddy. Yesterday we went and got haircuts together and then today we went to a matinee performance of the Nutcracker by the San Diego Ballet company. That was followed up by dinner at her favorite restaurant... where she ate macaroni and cheese (of all things).

Both of us got "dolled up" in our finest and headed out for our grand day out.

The ballet was wonderfully done! Great sets, great music and great dancing... even Daddy had a good time. The ballet was a little longer than a 6 year old can comfortably sit through, but she still had a great time and came out of the theater chirping like a bird.

She loves the Nutcracker music, but only really knows it from the movie Fantasia. She loves the movie and has always liked classical music, but the ballet is NOT Fantasia. But, she loves dance/ dancing... LOVES it. So she was enthralled by the ballet- between fits of twitchiness and boredom.

All told though, it was a very special day... for The Princess and Daddy both.


Friday, December 21, 2007

Spokesmen Podcast #26

For the 4 readers here who actually like the sound of my voice, the Spokesmen Podcast episode 26 has been posted up for your listening "pleasure".

It was a good show and I don't drone on endlessly about Masi bikes (for those who think I do). We had the usual good banter and it was fun as always. Plus, it's a slightly shorter episode, so it's a bit easier to listen to.



Thursday, December 20, 2007

Words of advice;

Helpful cycling tip;

If you ever do/ don't want to truly freak out your neighbors, then do/ don't do this-

  • Ride your fixed gear bike on your trainer in your driveway after 9:00PM in sub 50 degree weather in a steady rain until your body temperature elevates to the point that the moisture on you and in your cycling clothing begins to convert to steam and it looks like you are on fire without flames.

Works every time. I promise.

Got out on my Speciale Fixed this evening to ride my stationary trainer (because I've been too lazy to go buy a replacement belt for my rollers). When I went out, it was a cool 50 degrees and dry. After about 5 minutes though, the temp dropped and the rain started. Since I was already out and the rain was light, I just kept riding. The rain came and went in constant waves- usually light, but there were a few that were fairly heavy and I eventually decided to call it a night when the tire wouldn't stop slipping on the resistance unit. The fluid resistance unit always generates a lot of heat from the internal friction and the cooling "fins" are usually pretty hot. Due to the rain, the unit was "smoking" with steam when I got off the bike. Because my body temperature was good and high from the workout, the water on my body and in my clothing was converted to steam- at one point, the steam was so heavy that I couldn't see past my self very well. It was actually pretty cool. The curious/ frightened looks of passersby was pretty funny. I normally get odd looks when I train in the driveway, but tonight might have been the prize winner.



Wednesday, December 19, 2007

One step down...

So this week I finished my color selections for the Fall 2008 range of bikes (including some new bikes you're gonna love). Now I am in the midst of writing new copy for the Spring 2008 catalog- mostly a revamp of the existing Fall 2007/Winter 08 catalog. The new Fall '07 website is almost ready to unveil as well. Soon you'll be able to see all the lovely images of the Fall '07 bikes and then we'll be getting ready to plug in the new Spring '08 bikes in just a few more months. Oy... I'm getting dizzy now.

Lots of good development has been going on and I am really excited about the bikes that are coming in Spring and those coming on their heels in Fall. It's a pretty exciting time to be a bike nerd... I promise. If you are one of the many folks who like the steel bikes we're doing at the moment, then you'll be pretty happy with what is coming.

Christmas is just a few days away and I'm looking forward to some quality time with my kids. I'll get a chance to ride a little as well, which is good because I hop back on a plane and head back over to Taiwan in the first week of January... so building a little base fitness before losing another week of training will be good. But this time, I swear, I'm gonna try to fight my jetlag and actually go to the "fitness center" at the hotel. No really... I mean it this time.

So much going on and so many things to update you on and post about. I'll get caught up soon and will get back on schedule... I hope. Thanks for your patience- in advance.


Tuesday, December 18, 2007

This is cool!

This is pretty darned cool, if you ask me!

Honk Kong Fixed Gear is a cool blog and what also appears to be a really cool movie too. Go give'em a read some time.

Thanks for the link guys!


Monday, December 17, 2007

Quick update...

The Boy's Weekend went really well, with hardly a hitch the whole time.

The ride on Saturday was very hilly- over 5,000' of climbing, with the biggest climbs being up Big Tujunga and Angeles Crest over the 55 miles of the ride. As I've said for some time now, at more than 6' tall and over 200lbs, I'm hardly the stereotypical climber. But man can I descend! The descent down Angeles Crest was insanely fun! I never once got out of the 53x11 and was going well over 50mph on a few of the straightaways.

Me, at the top of Big Tujunga... man, what a climb!

The Squirrel at the top of Tujunga- with miles to go to the top of Angeles Crest.

The two of us, preparing to finish the climb... and no, I'm not barfing.

There were really only two glitches;
1) I worked on my bike before leaving the office and driving north to LA... which of course meant that my shifting was terribly sporadic and I had chatter from the drivetrain the entire time.
2) Saturday night we went out to one of our favorite little punk rock bars, called the Burgundy Room. We were there long enough to close the place down... and were subsequently hungover enough to not want to ride on Sunday.

Outside of that, the Squirrel was a great host- as always. Thanks again buddy.


Thursday, December 13, 2007

What a week...

I'm glad tomorrow is Friday. It's been a long week- on lots of levels. I'm glad to get this one into the "done" pile, for sure.

Almost done picking the new colors for the Fall '08 bikes. Just a few more to go and I am done! All I'm gonna say is that if you like what the line looks like now, you're gonna love where it is headed... you can take that to the bank.

Heading to Los Angeles for the weekend. Gonna go spend the weekend with my best friend, the dreaded Blue Squirrel, riding and riding and riding and riding... and then riding. It's our super double secret training camp. It's only two days, but it's intense... I could tell you more, but then I'd have to track you down and kill you. No bags of blood and no syringes, just lots of riding (and lots of me whining about not being a climber) and "dude time". There might be a beer in there somewhere- after all, one of our team sponsors is Peroni.

I took the night off from going to the gym, but the previous two nights I put in very hard work with the weights and nearly hobbled myself, but managed to avoid injury. Today, though they felt a lot like the steel plates I was lifting the night before, my legs felt really good on the bike. They felt heavy, and stiff, and lacking any kind of "snap", but the power felt great. As much as I hate weightlifting, my legs have always responded well to weights. Hopefully this means that I can fight the negative effects of all the travel and loss of training time and still manage to find racing fitness for next season. I want to get some podium time this next season, so I'm trying my best to actually "train" this winter. Hopefully that means that I can get my former racing fitness back and get back to the front of the field.

So, since I'll be away from home for the weekend, there may not be any posting here for a few days... but don't worry, I'll be back... and I'll be thinking of you while I'm gone. I promise.


Tuesday, December 11, 2007

My mind is spinning!

It's a nutty time to be in the bike business these days... at least it is for me and my cohorts at Masi/ Haro...

Most of you have not even seen the newest bikes we have produced and many models have not even been shipped to us yet. However, my product manager (Wayne Doran) and I have already wrapped up all of the Spring '08 bikes and now I am working on creating that new catalog (and it seems like the ink is still wet on the current one). Now I have to wrap up selecting new colors and finish spec (like within the next week or so) for all of the new Fall '08 bikes. No wonder I always feel dizzy and disoriented (I thought it was all the hits to the head I've taken...)

I leave in a couple weeks, January 5th, for the next trip to Taiwan. I also made the decision today that I'll be back in Taiwan for the Taipei show in March... which means I'll either be in Taiwan for my birthday (March 18th) or on a flight back, most likely. I'm going to Taipei, rather than returning to Germany for Eurobike. As amazing as that show is and as much I really want to be there, I am still unable to sell into Europe. That means that my trip to Germany is solely as a spectator doing research. Now, it was worth going this year, but if I am only going to do research and find ideas/ inspiration, then I think I should go to Italy next year instead and keep going to different markets. Plus, our distributor in Canada (Norco) is having some good success with our newest bikes and it makes much more sense for me to travel to Montreal again and go back to the Canadian version of Interbike- Expo Cycle. Besides, I really do love Montreal and was sad that I didn't go this year. Norco is a great company and they have been very good for Masi in Canada, so I really want to return to Montreal and help them as much as I can with the brand there. Since the dates for Eurobike and Expo Cycle are so close, I had to make the painful choice to return to Montreal (but I'm taking my bike again and riding up the Mont and along the river once more).

Oy, I'm feeling jetlagged and dizzy just thinking about it all... I gotta go lay down.


Sunday, December 09, 2007

Fixed Push?

You've officially reached the mainstream when you've attained this level of parody.

Don't get me wrong, I love the fixie scene and embrace subculture with open arms- as somebody who spent a large part of my life in subcultures of various types, I will always have a love for it.

BUT... you have simply got to admit that this video is superbly done and funnier than all heck. (Be warned, the language is more R than PG... so send the kids to go get you a cup of coffee...)

Thanks to Fritz for the info. I have to imagine that the BSNYC is all over this already... but I haven't seen it on his site yet.


Saturday, December 08, 2007

One more Japan installment...

I've been meaning to post more on Japan for a long time and still have some cool pictures to share.

One of the most incredible things about Japan, for me, was the unbelievably delicious food. I recognize that I got special treatment by my amazingly generous host- Terai-san- but the food I ate was superb.

The first meal I had in Tokyo was the best sushi of my life!

The fish was the best I've ever had... and I grew up on the Gulf of Mexico and know a little bit about seafood.

Shochu- it's kind of like a Japanese version of Scotch. It is really, really yummy stuff and goes very well with sushi.

I quite nearly ate my weight in sushi... and loved each delicious bite of it.

This is the sushi chef/ owner and his wife. I have his business card somewhere and will find it and post it later- since it has his name and the location of the restaurant.

This was the most beautiful cappuccino I've ever seen. It was in a small cafe inside a large department store- kind of like the Japanese version of a Macy's or Bloomingdale's. The taste was very good too.

The second night's dinner was tempura. I didn't get any pictures of the food because I was spending all my time eating. It was SO yummy... true tempura is mighty good stuff and not even remotely greasy for being fried food.

This is the chef/ owner. He thought it was very funny that I wanted to take his picture... which I suppose doesn't happen too often.

Dinner the third night was teppan grill. OHMYGAWD it was delicious!

As Americans, we often think that we invented beef. I mean, beef is kind of a symbol of all things American. Well, I've eaten enough beef to keep the state of Texas afloat over the years, but I can honestly say that Kobe beef lives up to it's worldwide reputation as a premier beef. I had Kobe beef a few times in Tokyo and each time the flavor and tenderness were unlike any beef I'd ever had.

Our chef was as much of a showman as he was a culinary genius. The food was incredible and he was as entertaining as he was skilled.

I didn't manage to get photos of other meals or chefs, but I ate like royalty and enjoyed each grain of rice that entered my mouth! I was entertaining to my hosts, who found it funny that I was so enthralled by the food and interested in getting photographs of everything. But they also went out of the way to make each meal as memorable as possible and rewarded my enthusiasm for Japan, the food and culture with tons of gracious generosity. It's been a few weeks since I returned from Tokyo and I still think of it fondly and am still grateful that I was able to see Tokyo- and I can't wait to get back.


What's with Kirsten Gum?

Why are so many people looking for naked pictures of Kirsten Gum? Yes, I know she's a very attractive woman and was a commentator for OLN's coverage of cycling a few years ago, but why are so many people looking for nude pictures of her? I know Fritz must be experiencing the same phenomenon. If you Google "Kirsten Gum", his site comes up as the number one search item and the article it pulls up mentions me and my blog. Frankly, I think it's pretty funny how many people are looking for naked pictures of her. She should be flattered... or totally freaked out. Not sure which applies more, but I'll put it this way- she's the number one entry path to my blog.

Sometimes truth is far more entertaining than fiction.

To all the people who stumble upon my blog looking for nude pictures of her- sorry to disappoint you. Hopefully you'll get over the disappointment and stick around and give the blog a read anyway.


Friday, December 07, 2007

Good music...

The Princess and I did what we usually do; had dinner and listened to music (she's as much of a music nut as I am) and then played cards and continued listening to music. She's a big, big fan of Pinback and The White Stripes, among others. She prefers "rocken roll", but will tolerate my bouts with classical jazz (Miles Davis, Thelonius Monk, Dexter Gordon, Charlie Parker, Horace Silver, Art Blakey, etc). She has a soft spot for a bit of classical, preferring Tchaikovsky (just like me). Mostly I just plug the iPod in to the stereo and we just listen to it do its magical shuffling. It's such a joy to me to watch her suddenly break into a wiggle because she can not ignore a rhythm. To quote a song from years ago, "the rhythm is the master and I'm just a slave to the rhythm". If there is any one thing I hope that the two of us can share, I hope that music will always be it (though she is becoming quite the writer already at 6 years old).

My favorite memory of her and music is from when she was less than two years old and I was a full-time stay home dad (I stayed home when she was 1 until she was 2). We were driving to the YMCA and the then-new White Stripes song Seven Nation Army came on the radio. That really great bass line was playing and I happened to look in the rear view mirror in time to see her bobbing her head in perfect sync with the beat. I asked her, with a half giggle, "you rocking out baby?" In her tiny voice, without missing a beat (or the rhythm) she said, "yeah daddy, I'm rocking out!" She still calls that song her "rocken roll" song. Smiling at the memory of it now...

Anyway, one of my all-time favorite Elvis Costello songs played while we were in the midst of a heated round of Go Fish. Deep Dark Truthful Mirror, from the Spike album. She didn't understand the lyrics, obviously, as she just smiled while I sang (poorly) along. She said that it made her feel happy- bless her heart.

Just for your clarification, here are the lyrics;
One day you're going to have to face
A deep dark truthful mirror
And it's going to tell you things that I still love you too much to say
The sky was just a purple bruise, the ground was iron
And you fell all around the town until you looked the same
The same eyes, the same lips, the same lie from
your tongue trips
Deep dark, deep dark truthful mirror
Deep dark, deep dark truthful mirror
Now the flagstone streets where the newspaper shouts ring to the boots of roustabouts
But you're never in any doubt, there's something happening somewhere
You chase down the road 'til your fingers bleed
On a fiberglass tumbleweed
You can blow around the town, but it all shuts down the same
So you bay for the boy in the tiger-skin trunks
They set him up, set him up on the stool
He falls down, falls down like a drunk
And you drink 'til you drool
And it's his story you'll flatter
You'll stretch him out like a saint
But the canvas that he splattered will be the
picture that you never paint
A stripping puppet on a liquid stick gets into it pretty thick
A butterfly drinks a turtle's tears, but how do you know he really needs it?
'Cos a butterfly feeds on a dead monkey's hand,
Jesus wept he felt abandoned
You're spellbound baby there's no doubting that
Did you ever see a stare like a Persian cat?
Not exactly cheery, but still an awesome song. "One day you're going to have to face a deep dark truthful mirror and it's going to tell you things that I still love you too much to say"... one of the very best lines of lyric ever penned!

Hope you all spend your weekends "rocken out"!


Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Ramblin' man...

Here are some of the many (many) random thoughts passing through my bike nerd brain this evening-
  1. The past two nights I've ridden my trainer in the driveway. I have my daughter this week, so I have a shorter day at work (due to drop-off and pick-up duties)- which means I don't have time to ride at lunch. So once the Princess is sound asleep, I slip into my lycra silly suit and hop onto the trainer. I didn't ride at all on Monday, since I allowed my legs an extra day to recover from racing on Sunday. Last night and tonight though, I've logged quality time on the trainer and the legs are actually feeling really phenomenal. Now, that doesn't mean I'm race ready, it just means that they are coming around. I've been finishing the workouts with some small gear spinning and my legs are flying and my upper body is nice and smooth. I can't remember the last time my legs have felt this supple. It has to be the bike! (BUY A MASI!)
  2. I finished building Frankenbike today. This is the one with the new SRAM Double Tap flat bar road shifters. So far, in the stand and riding around our parking lot, the shifters feel buttery smooth and light. I brought the bike home so I can use it as one of my run around bikes. I'll have pictures and more of a report as soon as I have the chance to get a couple rides on it... but so far it's LOADS of fun.
  3. Speaking of run around bikes... I've been playing with my SoulVille prototype. As I've mentioned before, I'm looking to do some cool things with the SoulVille frame platform and I've been having fun with the one I have. More pictures of that to follow too... I promise.
  4. The whole T-Mobile thing... can't say I didn't see that one coming. Bob Stapleton is a quality guy, but even he couldn't save the team from losing major sponsors with all of the controversies that rocked the team this year.
  5. Bruyneel with Astana, along with Trek? Well, I guess it makes sense. Looks like Discovery part Deux to me. Should be interesting to see which Astana riders stay and which ones go. Can't imagine that Kloden will stay. Looks like Leipheimer and Contador will be the center of the team with Bruyneel simply changing team uniforms. Wonder if Lance will be at the training camp this year...
  6. Slipstream/ Chipotle is going to be a lot of fun to watch. I rode in a cab from my hotel in Vegas to the Criterium Championships with the sponsor honcho of the team. I've got his card somewhere, so I apologize for not remembering his name. Anyway, he was a very nice guy and we had a very cool conversation on the way to the race. The team is going to be a force to deal with and I applaud Vaughters for his dedication to his drug-free program and very transparent testing procedures. I really hope the team does well.
  7. Speaking of teams... MY team is going to kick arse again next year. I can't say anything before it is time, but the team is looking really, really good for next year. Expect to see more of them on podiums all over the place. I'm practically giddy. Hopefully, I'll make it back to the team's training camp in February in Macon, GA. I heard that the camp last year, although rainy, was really great. I was at camp two years ago and it was really great to see the team come together, so I hope to get in the mix again. Besides, Chad and I have to finally resolve this debate over who is the better sprinter. (Deep down inside, I know he knows the answer...)
  8. I haven't even received some of my Fall '07 products yet and I am in the midst of preparing to write my Spring '08 catalog. The Spring '08 products are done being developed and we're now just waiting to pull the trigger on them. Now I have to come up with the colors and model names and final spec for the Fall '08 bikes. My Product Manager, Wayne Doran, and I are both going slightly insane with the process. The twice a year product release is a process I believe in, but it creates two condensed product cycles in one year... and two catalogs. This first year of doing this will be the most difficult. After this it gets easier... we all hope.
  9. January 5th I head back to Taiwan. Again. I'm thinking maybe it's time to get an apartment there and start a second family...
  10. We recently got the new and upgraded version of Microsoft Office and Outlook at the office. But for some reason, I think because of the built in spam filter, I am not receiving comments from here on the blog. I apologize if there is a delay in getting back to your inquiries. I'm trying to figure it out... I promise.
Ok, that's all the news that's fit to report for one night.


Tuesday, December 04, 2007

HUH? SRAM chains and the pro peloton.

I caught this interesting tidbit today in an online Tech Report on VeloNews, written by Matt Pacocha;

In addition to Lennard and me, VeloNews editor, Ben Delaney (or "Ben Boonen" as we affectionately refer to him), is also putting time on Red. I've told him to "try and break a chain." You see we, here at the magazine, aren't quite convinced that there's merit in the professional peloton's current aversion to the manufacturer's chains. We'll let you know how things turn out in a couple of months.

Now, I'm no Pro Tour rider or anything, but I'm probably a chain makers worst nightmare if you think about it; I weigh over 200 pounds, I ride my equipment very hard and do not always maintain it very well (I'm spoiled, so sue me) and as a track/ criterium sprinter I tend to put a lot of stress on chains. Over the years, I have broken more than my share of chains. You name a Shimano chain from 8spd all the way up to 10spd since about 1991 and I've busted it. I've blown a couple Campy chains in the past. Taya? Yes. KMC? Yes. Sachs/ Sedisport? A couple in the distant past. SRAM purchased Sachs/ Sedisport several years ago, for the record. That said, the new SRAM 10spd chains with their Power Lock link have been flawless. The chains
have almost zero stretch with many, many miles on them and I have used and reused the "single use" connecting link several times. Don't get me wrong, I am not saying that the Shimano or Campagnolo chains are bad chains, but I am saying that the SRAM chains are the best I've used so far. Why a Pro Tour rider would want to use a different chain is beyond me because their equipment is perfectly maintained and looked after. If anything, it is the common shmuck like me who should have a problem with the chains. I've been riding very hard on the PC1090R hollow pin, hollow link plate chain for numerous months and have not had one single issue with it. Sadly, with the Shimano chains, I would have normally replaced the chain twice (or more) by now. I love the products and the people at Shimano, but I do have to confess to liking the SRAM chains better. Sorry. On another product note; I recently got a very sexy set of the new SRAM Double Tap flat bar road shifters to test and have begun building a franken-bike to ride.

As soon as the bike is done, I will post pictures as well as a report on how the shifters work. I saw them first in Germany at Eurobike and was very, very impressed with them.

Another project bike is in the midst of testing/ riding and I will post more on that in the next day or two as well. It's one of my favorite projects in a while too, so the testing has been fun and will continue to be. So stay tuned for more.

(PS- Sorry for the weird formatting. Blogger does weird stuff when you cut-n-paste things some times.)

Monday, December 03, 2007

Spokesmen VIDEO podcast- #24!

THIS is so freaking cool! The lost episode of the Spokesmen Podcast, live and in video from Interbike is now available.

Just remember the expression "face for radio"... please... I'm sensitive.


Sunday, December 02, 2007

Contest Winner and Race Report

Ok, the SockGuy sock drawer guessing contest winner is....

William (hoodoohoo), from Saturday at 6:04PM. William's guess of 99 pairs was closest, so he wins a care package of SockGuy socks (one pair of Masi socks of course) and a new Kryptonite lock. William- either drop me a comment with an address or shoot me an email at tjackson (at) MasiBikes (dot) com. And congratulations!

For those who seek the answer to all questions in the universe- the answer is 102 pairs of SockGuy socks; 101 in the drawer and the one pair I was wearing when I took the picture. Yeah, I know... I got a problem.

As for the racing today...

The weather was warmer than I thought it would be and the winds were almost non-existent. Essentially, a prefect day at the track. I did decide to race in the B field, rather than the A's. I knew I wasn't going to be competitive in the A's and I was totally unsure of what the tail bone injury was going to be like at race pace on a fixed gear (versus riding on my own with a geared bike).

The first race was the motorpaced burnout. The C group did 20 laps and then the B's, riding behind the C's, did an additional 20 laps. I managed to hold on through the C's and then made it until about 2-3 to go in the B race before I was just too spun out at race pace. My 88" gear felt small for the speed we were going and it was clear that some of the other riders had been doing some motorpace workouts already and had the flow better than I did. Still, I was happy to have made it that far.

Next up was a Triple Sprint. Basically, it's a 12 lap race. Sprints every 3rd lap, with a "neutral" regrouping lap in between. So you get three sprints and a couple regrouping laps. Points are scored on each Sprint, 5 deep. I think I got a 3rd, 4th and 5th and I was surprised I got that. At race pace, on the fixed gear, the tail bone hurts like crazy. After the triple Sprint, I could feel the swelling beginning.

Lastly, we did a 30lap (10Km) Scratch race. I figured I'd be out in 15- 20, so I was pretty pleased that I ended up finishing the whole race and getting 4th or 5th. Again, when the pressure was on the pedals, the pain was pretty bad and I could sense the power output dropping (though that may have been a psychological response to the pain). I was happy with how I rode and was pleased with the slight "attack" I made halfway through. Basically I just took a 2 lap pull and raised the pace a little... but I didn't barf or fall out of the race... so I was pleased.

In the end, though it hurt a lot more than I thought it would, I was happy that I raced and effectively doubled the number of races I did last year. Hey, small steps people... small steps. One other cool note was that my cousin Steve, who is also a cyclist, was there for the first couple races- watching from his bike. Steve is the first cyclist I ever rode with when I moved to California in 1986 and he's a good guy to boot, so it was great to see him there. (Hopefully he wasn't embarrassed.)

William- drop me a line so I know where to send your prizes.

I hope everybody enjoyed their weekends!


Saturday, December 01, 2007

Made it.

The ride this morning, though chilly enough to need knee warmers AND arm warmers, was good. The tail bone held up and even though the power isn't great, it's good enough that I think I'll be at the track in the morning to race.

Rode the first half of the local group ride and then split off on my own to ride in the terrible headwinds- we had winds today that were blowing at 30mph at times. Somehow, I managed to avoid the rains that came and went all day. I apparently rode between the fingers of the clouds and only got a light dusting of rain a couple times. Otherwise, I stayed dry. The roads were in crappy shape from all the rain the night before, with all the crud and debris washed out into the open. Still, I managed to avoid getting a flat somehow too. All in all, it was a great day to ride!

After I got back, I got myself a shower and then hopped on the SoulVille and headed out for lunch at one of my favorite local Japanese restaurants- Ichiban. After that, I cruised around for a bit and visited my friends at Adams Avenue Bicycles before heading back home.

A good ride, a good lunch, a good recovery ride... and a not-too-painful tail bone = pretty decent day.


Masiguy contest reminder!

Just a quick reminder; the most recent Masiguy contest (guessing the correct amount of SockGuy socks I have) technically ended last night at midnight. However, since I didn't post a closing reminder, I am extending it until midnight (my time) tonight.

Guess the correct number of SockGuy socks I have in my sock drawer (or be the closest) and win a care package of socks from my good friends at SockGuy and a cool lock from my very good friends at Kryptonite.

Time is running out!

(Place your votes here in the comments of this post or in the comment section of the original contest post.)

Little reminders mean a lot.

Little reminders mean a lot some days.

(My "reminder board" in my kitchen, with a little graffiti left by an anonymous tagger.)

Thanks, Squirrel.


Friday, November 30, 2007

Riding through the pain...

Last Saturday, while the Princess was out being a Princess with my sister, I was out for a ride with my bestest friend.

For the record, since his version of the story differs slightly from reality, here's what happened;
We left from my place and got about 5 miles out and were riding on a fairly crappy section of road with a bad lighted intersection. The asphalt is really bumpy from all the buses and large delivery trucks that pass through. Squirrel was riding behind me and keeping an eye on the ground, avoiding the nasty potholes/ asphalt mounds, when the light at the intersection turned red. Since that particular intersection is one you do NOT want to run at the light, I applied the stoppers... while Squirrel was still avoiding potholes. He looked up just in time to see my largeness becoming rapidly larger in front of him. But it was a bit too late and he ran right in to me- essentially taking the bike out from under me. We both hit the deck pretty good- I skid across the ground on the heel of my carbon soled shoes (burned a hole through the heel) before landing right on my tail bone. He ate up his ankle and knuckles pretty good too. But both of us got up and we rode an additional 48+ miles, for about 53 miles on the day. Since he was coming off of recovering from shoulder surgery, the crash was a little bit spooky for us both, but he was just a little bruised and we were both laughing as we rode away. The fallout for me is that my tail bone is still super sore. Almost as sore as when I cracked it in a crash on the track during a race 4 years ago. I feel better on my bike saddle than I do in a chair, but I can't get too much power generated. Standing to climb or sprint is a little painful and applying 100% power while seated is nearly impossible. BUT... nothing seems to be really messed up and I think I can continue riding as things heal.

It's been dumping rain here all day, but it will hopefully stop and dry out so that I can ride tomorrow morning. If the rear end can handle the ride without too much problem and the weather cooperates, then I'll try racing at the track on Sunday morning. During the winter this year, there will be races on the first Sunday of each month. I'm hoping to get out and put some punishment on my legs and see just where they really are. Maybe, if I'm still too sore, I'll just sandbag and ride the B or C group races, instead of the A races. I'd rather get some laps than not get any laps. Plus, it's always good to hang at the track with all my fellow racers. So we'll see what happens Sunday- I'll try to remember the camera too.

Enjoy your weekend, whether you walk, ride, run, swim or simply read a good book. Enjoy it.


More New York Times!

This kicks ass!

Congratulations to Team Grumpy's- Little Guy Racing. The little team that could... and DID!


Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Remember these words...

William Faulkner's Nobel Prize acceptance speech from December, 1950;
I feel that this award was not made to me as a man, but to my work--a life's work in the agony and sweat of the human spirit, not for glory and least of all for profit, but to create out of the materials of the human spirit something which did not exist before. So this award is only mine in trust. It will not be difficult to find a dedication for the money part of it commensurate with the purpose and significance of its origin. But I would like to do the same with the acclaim too, by using this moment as a pinnacle from which I might be listened to by the young men and women already dedicated to the same anguish and travail, among whom is already that one who will some day stand where I am standing.

Our tragedy today is a general and universal physical fear so long sustained by now that we can even bear it. There are no longer problems of the spirit. There is only one question: When will I be blown up? Because of this, the young man or woman writing today has forgotten the problems of the human heart in conflict with itself which alone can make good writing because only that is worth writing about, worth the agony and the sweat. He must learn them again. He must teach himself that the basest of all things is to be afraid: and, teaching himself that, forget it forever, leaving no room in his workshop for anything but the old verities and truths of the heart, the universal truths lacking which any story is ephemeral and doomed--love and honor and pity and pride and compassion and sacrifice. Until he does so, he labors under a curse. He writes not of love but of lust, of defeats in which nobody loses anything of value, and victories without hope and worst of all, without pity or compassion. His griefs grieve on no universal bones, leaving no scars. He writes not of the heart but of the glands.

Until he learns these things, he will write as though he stood among and watched the end of man. I decline to accept the end of man. It is easy enough to say that man is immortal because he will endure: that when the last ding-dong of doom has clanged and faded from the last worthless rock hanging tideless in the last red and dying evening, that even then there will still be one more sound: that of his puny inexhaustible voice, still talking. I refuse to accept this. I believe that man will not merely endure: he will prevail. He is immortal, not because he alone among creatures has an inexhaustible voice, but because he has a soul, a spirit capable of compassion and sacrifice and endurance. The poet's, the writer's, duty is to write about these things. It is his privilege to help man endure by lifting his heart, by reminding him of the courage and honor and hope and pride and compassion and pity and sacrifice which have been the glory of his past. The poet's voice need not merely be the record of man, it can be one of the props, the pillars to help him endure and prevail.

These words have remained with me since I was a Junior in high school, when I read them the first time in a creative writing class. Now, they hold new meaning and even greater significance.

(PS- Thank you for your emails today.)

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Personal update;

I have a life outside of this blog and outside of my job, though the three are very closely linked and there is little in my personal life that I have omitted from this space in the nearly three years I have been blogging here. That said, I have kept many things private- my private life is just that... private. However, I have also cultivated a very public life via this blog- both for better and for worse. I have made many friends in the bike industry, outside of the bike industry, with consumers, with retailers, with the marketing community and with many other people I would have never met otherwise. Many of those people come to this space to get updates on me and my life, and not just on the Masi products. That is something that truly means a lot to me and I am blessed to have the many friends that I do.

All of that said, it will come as a surprise to nearly everyone who has been a regular reader of this blog that I am in the midst of a divorce. Out of respect for the privacy of my ex-to-be and our children, I am not going to go into any details about the divorce. Like many marriages, we had problems for years and they eventually took their toll on our marriage. We've been separated for several months now and that is the major reason why my postings here and elsewhere have been less frequent. I've had a lot on my mind outside of blogging, to say the very least.

The most important issue for me is my kids and they both seem to be handling all of this very well. My wife/ ex-to-be and I have been working very hard to protect their lives and keep things as normal as possible. This means that we share custody on a week on/ week off schedule so that we both have real, quality time with both children. I won't lie and say things are perfect, because they certainly aren't, but things are going as well as one might hope they would.

Why am I choosing to blog about this all now? Well, for a number of reasons- it's easier than sending a ton of emails to all the people I know, it keeps me from explaining what is happening in my life one uncomfortable conversation at a time (which really is more painful than tedious) and because I have been such a proponent of transparency in blogging- it seems I should put my money where my mouth is. During a "conversation" with my ex over the weekend, she pointed out the fact that my blog has been all about the good things happening in my life. She also pointed out that I have been living in a bit of a vacuum- not talking to anybody about the divorce or any of the things happening in my non-blog life. I realized she was right, so here I am.

I'm not fishing for sympathy or support or anything. I'm simply getting this "confession" off my chest so I can get back to my job and focus on what I need to focus on. Family first, so the posting will continue to be sporadic and will continue to jump around. I have turned off comments for this post because I am not asking for a big discussion, I just want to move on- both privately and professionally.

This time in my life feels like such a Greek tragedy; this is the best time of my professional life and yet the worst time of my private life. Still, I know some folks who are in far worse shape than myself and I try to recognize that blessing every day, no matter how hard it might be some days.

I thank all of you who have become regular readers and friends. As corny as it might sound, I really do feel lucky to have the community that has grown around this blog- I am humbled more than you know by each comment and each new friend.

Regular bike-related posting to follow soon... I promise.

PS- I also ask that you keep my ex-to-be in your thoughts and prayers too. Divorce is never easy for either party involved.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

More from Japan

As promised, here are a few more images and info from Japan...

Azuma, my distributor in Japan, set up this booth with the other brands they distribute; Easton Components, Kore Components and Cervelo bicycles being the biggest... aside from Masi, of course.

The Masi sign stood out really well in the sea of brand banners.

Looked good from a distance too.

Me, hanging out with the bikes- I really liked the way the Coltello race frame was built up as an urban fixie with riser bar and suede Keirin saddle. Hiro, my Keirin racing brother at Azuma built the bike up and was very eager to know what I thought of it. He was very happy that I liked it. It was really great to watch the Japanese consumers flock to it and take pictures with their cameras and camera phones.

One of the coolest things was the Japanese version of the Masi catalog. It's really cool, for me, to see all the Masi stuff written up in Kanji. I'll have to scan a few pages of the catalog this week and post them here- I got a big kick out of it.

Nothing makes a product guy happier than watching people stare at your products. Since I don't speak Japanese, I couldn't really talk to many of the consumers and mostly hovered around, waiting for the chance to answer questions when possible. It was awesome to see the reception the bikes were getting. I spent the two days of the show smiling from ear to ear. (Terai-san is the man in the grey suit waving and Masa Nagoya is standing next to him in the pink shirt.)

There were also test bikes there and they were on the road nearly constantly! Many of the test riders came back with very large smiles after riding the bikes... which in turn had me smiling very broadly too.

Needless to say, I was very happy with the experience of the show and I hope to be able to return next year. Today (Sunday) is the last day of the Osaka part of Cycle Mode and I am anxiously waiting to hear from my friends in Japan how the show went there. I am hoping that next year I can attend both shows; travel to Tokyo for the first show there, then travel to Taiwan to get my work there done and then return to Japan for the Osaka show. I think that would be a perfect trip... so if my bosses happen to read this... thanks in advance!

Next up; other cool products from Japan... and there were plenty.


Thursday, November 22, 2007

Turkey Day

The Princess and Rainbow Bear.

The Princess and Daddy.

The Princess, Daddy and Gramma.

The Special Guest... and he was a good one.

Jackson Carter (getting his groove on)- my sister Mandy's son.

Jackson and The Princess.

My nephew Gianluca, with his mommy (my sister) Sara.

Mandy with Gianluca, Harry (Sara's husband, Gianluca's daddy and my brother-in-law), Mom and my step-dad Rick.

Unky Jeff (father of Jackson, husband of Mandy and my brother-in-law) with Gianluca.

Absent today, was my brother Ronnie and his wife Cheryl and two sons Orion and Nolen, but they had a good reason; at 10:02PM last night, Cheryl gave birth to their third son Adrian. So that now gives me at least 5 nephews! Soon, I'll be able to have my own junior team!

Happy Thanksgiving.


Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Being Thankful.

I find myself feeling particularly challenged this year, in the "being thankful" department. Sometimes life is like that though. Just the same, I'm working on remembering the blessings I have because when you take them for granted, they go away.

I am thankful for;
My children- happy and healthy, thank God.
My family.
The friends I have- both in the flesh and those of you I've never actually met.
The job I have that allows me to travel the country and the world- all because of bicycles.
Bicycles- without them I wouldn't have my great job.
The ability to still ride a bike- even if less often than I would like and below the level I would like. Every ride is better than no ride at all.
The ability to be thankful for something, no matter how small or insignificant it might seem to somebody else.

I hope that you have at least a little something you can feel thankful for too. Enjoy Thanksgiving- even if it just means you don't have to work. Be thankful for that and go for a ride. Always remember, things can always get worse. This year, I have been reminding myself of that... more than in previous years. I'm thankful I can still believe it.

Have a great Thanksgiving and spend it doing whatever makes you happy, whether that is being with family and eating turkey (or turkey tofu) or just riding your favorite road or trail. Regardless, enjoy the day and be thankful.

PS- More Taiwan and Japan pictures and stories coming.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Japan photo gallery

Ok, I'm slowly beginning to figure out Flickr. I have set up my first photo gallery there with a small sampling of the pictures I took in Tokyo. I'm still figuring it all out and this is just photos and no descriptions yet, but there are a few good images there, so go check it out.


Monday, November 19, 2007


Sadly, it is that time. I leave today. My flight is a little later in the afternoon, so I'm going to eat some breakfast and then hit the streets one last time before I hop in cab to the train station to the airport. Planes, trains and automobiles... yippee.

I will have a much larger post, or posts, with many photos from Japan and stories, but I simply must reiterate my many thanks to all of the wonderful people I have met this week in Japan. I can not say enough about how honored I have been to meet so many generous people. Japan has made a very lasting impression on me and I look forward to returning many times in the future- both for business and pleasure.

I know I will miss a few people, but I have to thank the amazing people from Azuma (my Japanese distributor); Takaichi Terai (President of the company and the most incredible host- I can not thank you enough), Tetsu Furuta (the man who really helped to get Masi into Japan, as well as me), Masa Nagoya (a very good man who was a big help getting Masi into Japan as well) Ishibashi- "Ishi" (guided me from the airport to the hotel and frequently served as interpreter), Masaomi Aoki, Ryozo Fujioka, Hori (a fellow keirin racer) and others who I have forgotten. There was also the very beautiful Kumiko, who assisted in the booth and was also very kind.

I hate to finish this post without more stories or pictures, but I have too little time left to wander and explore this beautiful city. I will have more later.

Once again, thank you to all of the many wonderful people who made me feel so welcome here in Japan. I am without words to thank you adequately.