Phil’s Library 2009

reading I‘ve recently been asked to list the books that have been most influential to me. That’s a tough request. Most of you know that the Bible used to be the book on which I based my life. When I finally rejected the Bible as divine or even remotely inline with truth, I determined to approach every book I read with a heavy dose of skepticism.

Reading critically is essential. I can’t recall any books that I would consider to be pivotal in the progression of my thinking. It was a slow but steady evolution.

While I prune my library regularly, below are 2 lists of significant books still shelved in my library. The first is a list of books I’ve read, and the second is a list of books I hope to read soon. While I’ve been spending about 4 hours a day listening to educational podcasts, there’s nothing like sitting down with a cup of coffee and a good book.

Books I’ve read.

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Rather Than Learning A Few Things Perfectly, Learn Many Things Well

itemThis post is an elaboration of #4 from a list of things I learned early in life.

First a disclaimer. I have an eccentric personality to a notable degree. This post may not apply to you. It is my enjoyment of risk, my lack of envy, my passion to learn, and a yearning for change that all converge into the extreme dilettantism I am promoting here.

Take the number of different types of jobs you’ve work for more than a year. Multiply that by the number of real hobbies you’ve pursued for more than a year. Multiply that by the number of relationships you’ve been in more than a year. Multiply that by the number of residences you’ve lived in. Divide all this by your age.

This is your dilettantian score. © Phil Stilwell 2009 ;)

Here’s the simplified formula.
({job types > 1y} x {hobbies > 1y} x {relationships > 1y} x {residences}) / {age}

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I don’t have a television, so while many of my friends are home on a Thursday night watching shows such as House, I’m usually out meeting people. Last night I met a fun and interesting girl named Lisa who told me she was an actress. Later in the evening that she mentioned her role on the set of House. The funny thing is that, in spite of hearing much about the show, I have never seen an episode, so I didn’t recognize her celebrity.

I think I’ll run out and buy me a television now. Just kidding. I’ll save that for the day I can’t drag myself out to meet real people.
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Night Out

shibuyaMy Tokyo lifestyle is a bit odd these days.

  • 9 hours ago I crawled out of bed in my small apartment near Tamachi after having made myself sleep a few extra hours to kick a cold.
  • 8.5 hours ago I ate brunch at my favorite spaghetti shop in Azabu-juban.
  • 8 hours ago I had a coffee at Starbucks, signed my contract for another year at Tokyo University of Science, continued my critique of miracles on an on-line forum for christian Kiwis, and caught up on my email.
  • 7 hours ago I cycled to my favorite dance club in Ginza, and dance for 2 hours with a few Japanese friends. I was the only foreigner among 40 dancers.
  • 5.5 hours ago I cycled to Heartland Bar in Roppongi Hill where my photo exhibit is up for the final week, spoke with a few guy friends, and chatted up a couple of nice girls over glasses of red wine.
  • 4 hours ago I cycled to Shimokitazawa, about a 30-minute ride on a good bicycle, Continue reading


HK catI‘ve always had a thing for cats. The cat in the photo on the left was taken in Hong Kong as it dashed out to me in hopes of affection or food. I’m a sucker for such innocence and helplessness.

However, not all cats are quite so innocent. Especially the cats here in Tokyo. While American cats will hiss a warning at you even before you spot them, Tokyo cats seem to be more full of game. They’ll lay purring on their backs looking like they’re welcoming a petting, then suddenly lunge and sink their teeth into your approaching hand. These are often the cats you see strolling along the streets of Tokyo in fluffy white coats as if they own the place.

I once observed a Japanese Chihuahua that had cornered such a cat, yapping away as if it had accomplished something. A moment later it was squealing in pain with a shredded ear as it vanished down the street. I swear the cat was grinning sadistically as she licked the blood from her pretty paw.

Here are a few tips about Tokyo cats based on my experience.

  • Beware the quiet. I used to carry my cat around the neighborhood in the evening. At first she would constantly meow as she surveyed the novel environment, a flood of possibilities filling her mind. Then came the quiet. About 4 seconds after the quiet, there would be a sudden flurry of clawing in an attempt to escape the safety of my arms.
  • Plan to get dirty. Sometimes, when my cat was just a kitten, I would let her explore a small patch of shrubs for a while before calling her back so I could safely carry her home. That was fine for the first few trips out, but she eventually got obstinate when I attempted to retrieve her. I far too often found myself crawling through the thorny shrubs, alternating between threats and promises as she smirked at me. I did usually get the final revenge as I hosed her soiled pelt down to a scrawny semblance of herself in the shower.
  • Know the previous owner. One cat I owned actually turned out to be the ex-cat of a yakuza boss who was known to take cat thieves on one-way excursions on his boat. I dyed the cat black.
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The Lack Of Novelty

When you’re my age, nothing much excites you. You’re perpetually keeping a lazy eye out for some new thing that will rock your world, yet even things most unusual feel familiar.

  • Travel to a new country?
    After living in the mountains of Mexico and the city of Lima Peru, visiting several other countries and living in 25+ U.S. cities, I’m afraid the novelty of it all will wear off too soon. The notion of traveling has little appeal as I am very content in Tokyo, and do most of my exploration in my head.
  • Take up sky-diving?
    No. It seems far too similar to my divorce.
  • Go back to school?
    Now that’s a good possibility. I love to learn, and a Ph.D. would be nice. However, I’ve noticed that, having done 8+ years of schooling after high school, I’ve become a bit lazy. Well, not lazy, but disinclined to be in a scheduled program where I actually have to go to bed before 5am, and wake up before noon.
  • Get married and start a new family? Continue reading

Heartland Photo Exhibit

all10bEnjoy art? Beginning February 1st, I’m having an art exhibit for the full month of February at Heartland Bar in Roppongi Hills, located in downtown Tokyo. Because Valentine’s Day is drawing nigh, the theme is romance/intimacy, and includes the photos on the right. If you’d like to stop by some evening, contact me at philstilwell(at)yahoo(dot)com a day ahead of time, and I’ll see if I can meet you there. If you’re lucky, you might maybe you’ll even meet the models! I’m having a party at Heartland Bar for my friends on Saturday, February 7 starting at 19:00. It will give you a chance to see the photos and chat with many interesting people. For my photo art, check out Cheers, Phil

Postscript: Over 60 guests attended the party on the 7th. It was a great time! The exhibit was extended from 2 weeks to 6 weeks due to its popularity. Now it’s time to think of a new project…”