True Quiet

When the family and I moved to our current home almost two years ago one of the most noticeable differences between here and the previous neighbourhood was a distinct lack of noise. The sounds from traffic were distant and the thrum from industry was absent. After seven years at the relatively convenient apartment in Kasugai, we were now wholly ensconced in a suburban location complete with natural sound dampening in the form of hills, parks, and an ageing local population. Over time we started to notice a distinct lack of other forms of pollution as well. The air is cleaner most of the year1 and, because there are no pachinko parlours nearby, the night sky is often incredibly alluring with its hundreds of visible stars. I had wrongly believed that this sort of quiet calm would not be possible while living in a densely populated part of the country.

However, quite a bit has changed over the past month โ€” and this week in particular โ€” as people across the country have started to isolate themselves from neighbours.

It wasn't too long ago that when Nozomi and I would go out for our evening walk that we'd see dozens of planes flying overhead. Their running lights would signal their terrestrial origin and, if the aircraft was on a domestic flight plan, we'd hear the distant roar of the engines as the jets moved an incredible amount of air. The same, too, for cars. Our evening jaunts typically take place as people who work in the nearby cities are coming home. Every few minutes there would be a rush of five or six vehicles racing past the park to get home before dinner cooled. A pair of community busses would often pass by. Two or three delivery trucks would be seen performing their rounds. Each one of these vehicles creates a noticeable amount of noise, albeit not nearly as much as we learned to tune out with the previous home. However, with the government request that we practice "social distancing" and work from home if at all possible, public transit is forever running on their Sunday schedules and most vehicles are conspicuously absent from the roads. The last two days have seen more vehicles taken off the road as several prefectures across the country have declared a state of emergency, further reducing the need for people to travel to any of these locations. Today the governor of Aichi prefecture, where I live, also declared a state of emergency. While there is no legal requirement for people to stay in their homes, many people will abide by the government guidelines that we go outside only when it is necessary; a hard sell during the few weeks of gorgeous spring weather before the crushing humidity of summer sets in.

Now here we are. In a place that is utterly silent from the hustle and bustle that once constituted daily, suburban life.

While Nozomi and I were in the park for her evening walk we2 counted fewer than 3 cars and 2 aircraft in twenty minutes. The night sky has the same number of stars as before, but they seem less hurried without the visual distraction that comes from blinking attention-seekers. The mail hasn't come all week. Deliveries in the area are generally finished before sunset. More people are working from home and, oddly enough, kids are at home taking their school courses online. The people we do see outside keep to themselves for the most part, wear a mask, and seem to be walking more to stave off cabin fever than for the exercise. The neighbourhood is truly quiet. So much so, that conversations can be heard across hundreds of meters.

The last time I could appreciate this level of background noise was when I travelled to New Jersey for business two years ago. The time before that I was the morning after 3/11. Before that? I lived in an ocean-side apartment I could barely afford in Steveston, BC โ€ฆ right on the edge of Lulu Island. That was in 2004.

As more of the country isolates itself in order to reduce the risk of contracting the Wuhan Virus, COVID-19, I wonder how much quieter the area will become and for how long. This will not be "the new normal" by any stretch of the imagination.


  1. We do still get the "yellow dust" from the Gobi Desert every spring. Gone is the black dust from factories and highway traffic, though.

  2. By "we" I mean "I", as Nozomi cannot count โ€ฆ to the best of my knowledge.

Seven Hundred Episodes

Paul van Dyk has recently put out his 700th episode of his Vonyc Sessions show and, as with the 699 episodes that came before, it's an enjoyable compilation of uplifting house and trance music. Earlier today, while out walking with the headphones on, I was trying to remember when I started listening to these shows. Oddly enough, the memory escapes me.

The first time I remember listening to something from Paul van Dyk was in Vancouver while playing Need for Speed: Underground 2, racing a souped up Mazda MX-5 around the track. This would have been somewhere around 2004 or 2005 when I had the time to spend an entire afternoon playing video games. Nothing But You was on the soundtrack and it was just an excellent piece of music to enjoy while driving well above the speed limit down crowded highways while racing the clock. A little while later I bought his Reflections album and have been hooked ever since.

The Vonyc Sessions radio program, however, has not always been available as a podcast. Initially this was made available as a 30-minute sampler on iTunes for $5 every month, and I picked up every album as they came out until they suddenly stopped during the summer of 2010. A quick search online let me know that the iTunes releases were dropped in favour of a 30-minute weekly podcast. Not only could I listen to new shows more often, but I could listen to them for free! Who could argue with a deal like this?

Over time the show expanded to be an hour long every week with special episodes every so often that could be two, three, or four hours in length. As time went on and he released new albums, I'd pick them up on or very close to release day not only because I wanted to support his efforts, but because his music has a genuinely positive feel to it that (almost) always brings a smile to my face no matter how hard the day might be.

It's not often that a subscription to a music podcast exceeds three years for me but I've yet to unsubscribe from Vonyc Sessions in the decade that it's been online. Hopefully it keeps going until the day that Paul chooses to hang up the headphones one last time.

Here's Something Cool

๐‘ฉ๐‘ฎ๐‘ค๐‘ฐ๐‘ฉ๐‘ฎ ๐‘‘๐‘ฉ๐‘›e ๐‘ญ๐‘˜ ๐‘ข๐‘ฉ๐‘Ÿ ๐‘ฆ๐‘ฏ๐‘‘๐‘ฎ๐‘ฉ๐‘›๐‘ต๐‘•๐‘‘ โ€” ๐‘ท๐‘ฎ ๐‘๐‘ฉ๐‘ฎ๐‘ฃ๐‘จ๐‘๐‘• ๐‘ฎ๐‘ฐ๐‘ฆ๐‘ฏ๐‘‘๐‘ฎ๐‘ฉ๐‘›๐‘ต๐‘•๐‘‘ โ€” ๐‘‘๐‘ต ๐‘ž๐‘ฉ ๐‘–๐‘ช๐‘๐‘พ๐‘ฏ ๐‘จ๐‘ค๐‘“๐‘ฉ๐‘š๐‘ง๐‘‘ ๐‘ข๐‘ฆ๐‘‘๐‘– ๐‘ฆ๐‘Ÿ ๐‘จ๐‘ฏ ๐‘ช๐‘ค๐‘‘๐‘ฉ๐‘ฎ๐‘ฏ๐‘ฉ๐‘‘๐‘ฆ๐‘ ๐‘‘๐‘ต ๐‘ž๐‘ฉ ๐‘•๐‘‘๐‘จ๐‘ฏ๐‘›๐‘ฉ๐‘ฎ๐‘› ๐‘ฆ๐‘™๐‘œ๐‘ค๐‘ฆ๐‘– ๐‘จ๐‘ค๐‘“๐‘ฉ๐‘š๐‘ง๐‘‘ ๐‘ž๐‘จ๐‘‘ ๐‘ฃ๐‘จ๐‘Ÿ ๐‘š๐‘ฆ๐‘ฏ ๐‘ฆ๐‘ฏ ๐‘˜๐‘ต๐‘• ๐‘“๐‘ท๐‘ฎ ๐‘’๐‘ข๐‘ญ๐‘˜๐‘‘ ๐‘•๐‘ฉ๐‘ฅ ๐‘‘๐‘ญ๐‘˜๐‘ฅ ๐‘ž๐‘ฉ ๐‘’๐‘ง๐‘ฎ๐‘ฆ๐‘’๐‘‘๐‘ฉ๐‘ฎ ๐‘•๐‘ง๐‘‘ ๐‘ข๐‘ฉ๐‘Ÿ ๐‘’๐‘ฎ๐‘ฐ๐‘ฑ๐‘‘๐‘ฉ๐‘› ๐‘š๐‘ญ๐‘˜ ๐‘’๐‘ฆ๐‘™๐‘Ÿ๐‘ค๐‘ฐ ๐‘ฎ๐‘ง๐‘› ๐‘ฆ๐‘ฏ ๐‘ž๐‘ฉ ๐‘ฅ๐‘ฆ๐‘› 20th ๐‘•๐‘ง๐‘ฏ๐‘‘๐‘–๐‘ฉ๐‘ฎ๐‘ฐ ๐‘จ๐‘ฏ๐‘› ๐‘ฆ๐‘Ÿ phonemic ๐‘ฆ๐‘ฏ ๐‘ฏ๐‘ฑ๐‘‘๐‘–๐‘ฉ๐‘ฎ ๐‘ฅ๐‘ฐ๐‘ฏ๐‘ฆ๐‘™ ๐‘ž๐‘จ๐‘‘ ๐‘ค๐‘ง๐‘‘๐‘ฉ๐‘ฎ๐‘Ÿ ๐‘ฎ๐‘ง๐‘๐‘ฎ๐‘ฉ๐‘Ÿ๐‘ง๐‘ฏ๐‘‘ ๐‘ฉ ๐‘’๐‘ค๐‘จ๐‘• ๐‘ฉ๐‘ ๐‘•๐‘ญ๐‘ข๐‘ฏ๐‘›๐‘Ÿ ๐‘ž๐‘ฆ๐‘• ๐‘ฆ๐‘Ÿ ๐‘’๐‘ข๐‘ญ๐‘˜๐‘‘ ๐‘ฉ ๐‘š๐‘ฆ๐‘‘ ๐‘›๐‘ฆ๐‘“๐‘ฉ๐‘ฎ๐‘ฉ๐‘ฏ๐‘‘ ๐‘“๐‘ฎ๐‘ฉ๐‘ฅ ๐‘ฃ๐‘ญ๐‘ข ๐‘ž๐‘ฉ ๐‘จ๐‘ค๐‘“๐‘ฉ๐‘š๐‘ง๐‘‘ ๐‘ฆ๐‘Ÿ ๐‘˜๐‘ต๐‘Ÿ๐‘› ๐‘“๐‘ท๐‘ฎ ๐‘ฆ๐‘™๐‘œ๐‘ค๐‘ฆ๐‘– ๐‘จ๐‘ฏ๐‘› ๐‘ฆ๐‘Ÿ ๐‘’๐‘ค๐‘ด๐‘•๐‘ฉ๐‘ฎ ๐‘‘๐‘ต ๐‘ฃ๐‘ญ๐‘ข ๐‘ž๐‘ฉ ๐‘›๐‘ ๐‘จ๐‘๐‘ฉ๐‘ฏ๐‘ฐ๐‘Ÿ hiragana ๐‘จ๐‘ฏ๐‘› katakana ๐‘’๐‘ง๐‘ฎ๐‘ฆ๐‘’๐‘‘๐‘ฉ๐‘ฎ ๐‘•๐‘ง๐‘‘๐‘• ๐‘ข๐‘ฉ๐‘ฎ๐‘’ ๐‘ž๐‘ด ๐‘ž๐‘ด๐‘Ÿ ๐‘ญ๐‘ฎ ๐‘’๐‘ค๐‘ฆ๐‘ฎ๐‘ค๐‘ฐ ๐‘“๐‘ฉ๐‘ฏ๐‘ง๐‘‘๐‘ฆ๐‘’ ๐‘ฆ๐‘ฏ ๐‘ฏ๐‘ฑ๐‘‘๐‘–๐‘ฉ๐‘ฎ ๐‘จ๐‘“๐‘‘๐‘ฉ๐‘ฎ ๐‘ฎ๐‘ง๐‘›๐‘ฆ๐‘™ ๐‘”๐‘ฎ๐‘ต ๐‘•๐‘ฉ๐‘ฅ ๐‘ฉ๐‘ ๐‘ž๐‘ฉ ๐‘ค๐‘ฆ๐‘‘๐‘ฉ๐‘ฎ๐‘ฉ๐‘‘๐‘–๐‘ฉ๐‘ฎ ๐‘ญ๐‘ฏ ๐‘ž๐‘ฉ ๐‘–๐‘ช๐‘๐‘พ๐‘ฏ ๐‘จ๐‘ค๐‘“๐‘ฉ๐‘š๐‘ง๐‘‘ ๐‘ญ๐‘˜ ๐‘ฅ๐‘ฉ๐‘•๐‘‘ ๐‘ฉ๐‘›๐‘ฅ๐‘ฆ๐‘‘ ๐‘ž๐‘จ๐‘‘ ๐‘ฆ๐‘‘ ๐‘ข๐‘ซ๐‘› ๐‘š๐‘ฐ ๐‘จ๐‘ฏ ๐‘ฆ๐‘ฏ๐‘‘๐‘ฎ๐‘ฉ๐‘•๐‘‘๐‘ฆ๐‘™ ๐‘”๐‘ฆ๐‘™ ๐‘‘๐‘ต ๐‘ค๐‘ฉ๐‘ฎ๐‘ฏ ๐‘ข๐‘ฆ๐‘‘๐‘– ๐‘ฆ๐‘Ÿ ๐‘ข๐‘ญ๐‘˜ ๐‘ญ๐‘˜ ๐‘๐‘ค๐‘จ๐‘ฏ ๐‘ญ๐‘ฏ ๐‘ฆ๐‘ฏ๐‘๐‘ง๐‘•๐‘‘๐‘ฆ๐‘™ ๐‘•๐‘ฉ๐‘ฅ ๐‘‘๐‘ญ๐‘˜๐‘ฅ ๐‘‘๐‘ต ๐‘›๐‘ต ๐‘›๐‘ ๐‘ฉ๐‘•๐‘‘ ๐‘ž๐‘จ๐‘‘.

๐‘ด๐‘๐‘ฉ๐‘ฎ ๐‘ž๐‘ฉ ๐‘˜๐‘ฆ๐‘ฎ๐‘Ÿ ๐‘ญ๐‘˜ ๐‘ฃ๐‘จ๐‘ ๐‘ค๐‘ฉ๐‘ฎ๐‘ฏ๐‘› ๐‘‘๐‘ต ๐‘ฎ๐‘ง๐‘› ๐‘ฎ๐‘ฉ๐‘–๐‘ฉ๐‘ฏ ๐‘’๐‘ช๐‘ฎ๐‘ฐ๐‘ฉ๐‘ฏ ๐‘›๐‘ ๐‘จ๐‘๐‘ฉ๐‘ฏ๐‘ฐ๐‘Ÿ ๐‘จ๐‘ฎ๐‘ฉ๐‘š๐‘ฆ๐‘’ ๐‘จ๐‘ฏ๐‘› ๐‘ฐ๐‘๐‘ฉ๐‘ฏ ๐‘•๐‘ฉ๐‘ฅ ๐‘ฉ๐‘ ๐‘ž๐‘ฉ ๐‘ฃ๐‘ฐ๐‘š๐‘ฎ๐‘ต ๐‘’๐‘ง๐‘ฎ๐‘ฆ๐‘’๐‘‘๐‘ฉ๐‘ฎ ๐‘•๐‘ง๐‘‘๐‘• ๐‘ฎ๐‘ญ๐‘˜๐‘‘๐‘ฆ๐‘™ ๐‘•๐‘ฆ๐‘•๐‘‘๐‘ฉ๐‘ฅ๐‘Ÿ ๐‘ญ๐‘ฎ ๐‘ฆ๐‘ฏ๐‘’๐‘ฎ๐‘ง๐‘›๐‘ฉ๐‘š๐‘ค๐‘ฐ ๐‘ฆ๐‘ฏ๐‘‘๐‘ฎ๐‘ฉ๐‘•๐‘‘๐‘ฆ๐‘™ ๐‘จ๐‘ฏ๐‘› ๐‘ช๐‘“๐‘ฉ๐‘ฏ ๐‘ฃ๐‘จ๐‘ ๐‘ฃ๐‘ฆ๐‘•๐‘‘๐‘ฉ๐‘ฎ๐‘ฐ๐‘Ÿ ๐‘ž๐‘จ๐‘‘ ๐‘ญ๐‘ฎ ๐‘จ๐‘Ÿ ๐‘ฎ๐‘ฆ๐‘‘๐‘– ๐‘จ๐‘Ÿ ๐‘ž๐‘ฉ ๐‘ค๐‘จ๐‘™๐‘œ๐‘ข๐‘ฉ๐‘›๐‘  ๐‘že ๐‘ฎ๐‘ง๐‘๐‘ฎ๐‘ฉ๐‘Ÿ๐‘ง๐‘ฏ๐‘‘ ๐‘–๐‘ช๐‘๐‘พ๐‘ฏ ๐‘ข๐‘ฉ๐‘Ÿ ๐‘’๐‘ฎ๐‘ฐ๐‘ฑ๐‘‘๐‘ฉ๐‘› ๐‘จ๐‘Ÿ ๐‘ฉ ๐‘ฅ๐‘ฐ๐‘ฏ๐‘Ÿ ๐‘‘๐‘ต ๐‘๐‘ฎ๐‘ฉ๐‘๐‘ญ๐‘˜๐‘› ๐‘ฉ ๐‘•๐‘ฆ๐‘ฅ๐‘๐‘ฉ๐‘ค ๐‘“๐‘ฉ๐‘ฏ๐‘ง๐‘‘๐‘ฆ๐‘’ ๐‘ช๐‘ฎ๐‘”๐‘ญ๐‘œ๐‘ฎ๐‘ฉ๐‘“๐‘ฐ ๐‘“๐‘ท๐‘ฎ ๐‘ž๐‘ฉ ๐‘ฆ๐‘™๐‘œ๐‘ค๐‘ฆ๐‘– ๐‘ค๐‘จ๐‘™๐‘œ๐‘ข๐‘ฉ๐‘›๐‘  ๐‘ข๐‘ฆ๐‘” ๐‘ž๐‘ฉ ๐‘œ๐‘ด๐‘ค ๐‘ฉ๐‘ ๐‘ฉ๐‘ค๐‘ฆ๐‘ฅ๐‘ฉ๐‘ฏ๐‘ฑ๐‘‘๐‘ฆ๐‘™ ๐‘ž๐‘ฉ ๐‘‘๐‘–๐‘จ๐‘ค๐‘ฉ๐‘ฏ๐‘›๐‘ ๐‘ฉ๐‘Ÿ ๐‘ฉ๐‘ ๐‘’๐‘ฉ๐‘ฏ๐‘๐‘ง๐‘ฏ๐‘–๐‘ฉ๐‘ฏ๐‘ฉ๐‘ค ๐‘•๐‘๐‘ง๐‘ค๐‘ฆ๐‘™ ๐‘จ๐‘Ÿ ๐‘ง๐‘ฏ๐‘ฐ๐‘ข๐‘ฉ๐‘ฏ ๐‘ฃ๐‘ต ๐‘ฃ๐‘จ๐‘Ÿ ๐‘•๐‘๐‘ง๐‘ฏ๐‘‘ ๐‘ฉ ๐‘’๐‘ฉ๐‘๐‘ฉ๐‘ค ๐‘ฉ๐‘ ๐‘ฅ๐‘ฉ๐‘ฏ๐‘”๐‘• ๐‘ช๐‘ฏ๐‘ค๐‘ญ๐‘˜๐‘ฏ ๐‘ข๐‘ฆ๐‘ค ๐‘ฉ๐‘‘๐‘ง๐‘•๐‘‘ ๐‘’๐‘ฉ๐‘ฎ๐‘ง๐‘’๐‘‘ ๐‘•๐‘๐‘ง๐‘ค๐‘ฆ๐‘™ ๐‘ฆ๐‘Ÿ ๐‘’๐‘ค๐‘ฆ๐‘ฎ๐‘ค๐‘ฐ ๐‘ฉ ๐‘‘๐‘–๐‘จ๐‘ค๐‘ฉ๐‘ฏ๐‘›๐‘  ๐‘“๐‘ท๐‘ฎ ๐‘ฅ๐‘ง๐‘ฏ๐‘ฐ ๐‘๐‘ฐ๐‘๐‘ฉ๐‘ค.

๐‘ข๐‘ญ๐‘˜๐‘ค ๐‘“๐‘ญ๐‘ฏ๐‘‘ ๐‘•๐‘ฉ๐‘๐‘ท๐‘ฎ๐‘‘ ๐‘“๐‘ท๐‘ฎ ๐‘ž๐‘ฉ ๐‘–๐‘ช๐‘๐‘พ๐‘ฏ ๐‘จ๐‘ค๐‘“๐‘ฉ๐‘š๐‘ง๐‘‘ ๐‘ฆ๐‘Ÿ ๐‘ค๐‘ฆ๐‘ฅ๐‘ฉ๐‘‘๐‘ฉ๐‘› ๐‘ฆ๐‘‘ ๐‘ฃ๐‘จ๐‘Ÿ ๐‘š๐‘ฆ๐‘ฏ ๐‘๐‘ญ๐‘ฎ๐‘‘ ๐‘ฉ๐‘ ๐‘˜๐‘ต๐‘ฏ๐‘ฉ๐‘’๐‘ด๐‘› ๐‘•๐‘ฆ๐‘ฏ๐‘• 2003 ๐‘ž๐‘ฆ๐‘• ๐‘ฅ๐‘ฐ๐‘ฏ๐‘Ÿ ๐‘ž๐‘จ๐‘‘ ๐‘•๐‘ฉ๐‘ฅ ๐‘ฉ๐‘ ๐‘ž๐‘ฉ ๐‘ฅ๐‘ท๐‘ฎ ๐‘’๐‘ฉ๐‘ฅ๐‘๐‘ค๐‘ฐ๐‘‘ ๐‘“๐‘ญ๐‘ฏ๐‘‘๐‘• ๐‘˜๐‘ต๐‘Ÿ๐‘› ๐‘š๐‘ญ๐‘˜ ๐‘ญ๐‘๐‘ฉ๐‘ฎ๐‘ฑ๐‘‘๐‘ฆ๐‘™ ๐‘•๐‘ฆ๐‘•๐‘‘๐‘ฉ๐‘ฅ๐‘Ÿ ๐‘ข๐‘ฆ๐‘ค ๐‘–๐‘ด ๐‘ž๐‘ฉ ๐‘’๐‘จ๐‘ฎ๐‘ฆ๐‘’๐‘‘๐‘ฉ๐‘ฎ๐‘Ÿ ๐‘ฆ๐‘ฏ ๐‘ฉ ๐‘ฎ๐‘ฐ๐‘›๐‘ฉ๐‘š๐‘ฉ๐‘ค ๐‘ฅ๐‘จ๐‘ฏ๐‘ฉ๐‘ฎ ๐‘๐‘ฉ๐‘ฎ๐‘ฃ๐‘จ๐‘๐‘• ๐‘ข๐‘ฉ๐‘ฏ ๐‘›๐‘ฑ ๐‘ฆ๐‘‘ ๐‘ข๐‘ฆ๐‘ค ๐‘•๐‘ฐ ๐‘ฉ ๐‘ค๐‘ฆ๐‘‘๐‘ฉ๐‘ค ๐‘ฅ๐‘ท๐‘ฎ ๐‘ฉ๐‘›๐‘ญ๐‘๐‘–๐‘ฉ๐‘ฏ ๐‘จ๐‘Ÿ ๐‘ข๐‘ฐ ๐‘’๐‘ฉ๐‘ฏ๐‘‘๐‘ฆ๐‘ฏ๐‘˜๐‘ต ๐‘‘๐‘ต ๐‘ฅ๐‘ต๐‘ ๐‘ฅ๐‘ท๐‘ฎ ๐‘ฉ๐‘ ๐‘ญ๐‘ข๐‘ฉ๐‘ฎ ๐‘’๐‘ฉ๐‘ฅ๐‘˜๐‘ต๐‘ฏ๐‘ฉ๐‘’๐‘ฑ๐‘–๐‘ฉ๐‘ฏ ๐‘ช๐‘ฏ๐‘ค๐‘ญ๐‘˜๐‘ฏ ๐‘ข๐‘ง๐‘ฎ ๐‘•๐‘๐‘ง๐‘ค๐‘ฆ๐‘™ ๐‘’๐‘ฉ๐‘ฏ๐‘‘๐‘ฆ๐‘ฏ๐‘˜๐‘ต๐‘Ÿ ๐‘‘๐‘ต ๐‘๐‘ค๐‘ฑ ๐‘จ๐‘ฏ ๐‘ฆ๐‘ฅ๐‘๐‘ท๐‘ฎ๐‘‘๐‘ฉ๐‘ฏ๐‘‘ ๐‘ฎ๐‘ด๐‘ค.

Standard English Version

Earlier today I was introduced โ€” or perhaps reintroduced โ€” to the Shavian alphabet, which is an alternative to the standard English alphabet that has been in use for quite some time. The character set was created by Kingsley Read in the mid-20th century and is phonemic in nature, meaning that letters represent a class of sounds. This is quite a bit different from how the alphabet is used for English and is closer to how the Japanese Hiragana and Katakana character sets work, though those are clearly phonetic in nature. After reading through some of the literature on the Shavian alphabet, I must admit that it would be an interesting thing to learn โ€ฆ which is why I plan on investing some time to do just that.

Over the years I have learned to read Russian, Korean, Japanese, Arabic, and even some of the Hebrew character sets. Writing systems are incredibly interesting and often have histories that are as rich as the language they represent. Shavian was created as a means to provide a simple, phonetic orthography for the English language with the goal of eliminating the challenges of conventional spelling. As anyone who has spent a couple of months online will attest, correct spelling is clearly a challenge for many people.

While font support for the Shavian alphabet is limited, it has been part of Unicode since 2003. This means that some of the more complete fonts used by operating systems will show the characters in a readable manner. Perhaps one day it will see a little more adoption as we continue to move more of our communication online, where spelling continues to play an important role.

Finger-Waggers

A lot of people seem to have put the time once spent on commuting to the day job to new use in finding things to finger-wag about. Websites that were once fun places to visit to read about current events or technology news have devolved into editorials where authors stand on soap boxes to point out every fault and failure made by someone else, as though their sense of moral superiority and tunnel-visioned hindsight provides the necessary shield to deflect any examination of any decisions they've made over the course of their lifetime. Nobody and nothing is safe from these public admonitions and heaven forbid the author has more than a few hundred fellow finger-waggers to propagate the message in the hopes of "going viral" during this COVID-tainted year.

The implication contained in many of these rushed soliloquies is clear: despite all the good that has been witnessed over the course of 2020, everything is bad.

While it's incredibly unlikely, I do hope that people quickly tire of spending their days finding fault in the efforts of others and instead aim to improve things through cooperation and collaboration. Anyone can point out what's wrong with something, but this is rarely useful. Offering potential solutions, however, can sometimes lead to a world-changing transformation.

Five Things

As the sixth week of โ€œStay the Heck Homeโ€ comes to a close, a lot of people in the neighbourhood are starting to show signs of open frustration. Thereโ€™s only so much that people can do from home and only so long they can see the same walls. Our homes are generally meant to act as homes rather than some sort of minimum-security prison1 weโ€™re asked to remain interred at. Looking around and talking to people while out and about, Iโ€™ve learned the following things:

A Business is Sinking Before It Can Even Begin

Thereโ€™s a building under contraction about 2km from here that was to be a new restaurant. Construction was slated to finish in March with a grand opening for April 1st. As a result of the Wuhan Virus, the construction company has not yet completed the building and the restaurant owner is struggling with bills and mortgage payments for a place that cannot even be used to generate any revenue. Apparently the restaurant owner has enough financial reserves to four months. If theyโ€™re not open and making a profit by the start of August, the entire business venture will bankrupt the owner.

The Japanese government will not be able to provide assistance to this business owner because hasnโ€™t yet opened for business.

Many Parents Will Send Their Kids Back to School This Week

This week will see the new school year begin for a majority of students across the country2. All three elementary schools, both kindergartens, and the junior high in this neighbourhood will open their doors for kids to return to their studies. Just about every parent Iโ€™ve spoken to said theyโ€™ll be sending their kids to school because they simply cannot stay home any longer.

Reiko is seriously considering keeping the boy home from school until next year, though.

Forced Retirements

Two of my neighbours have recently been asked to retire โ€œfor the good of the companyโ€. They are 57 and 52 years old. Pension payments do not begin until a person is 65 and age discrimination when hiring is very much a problem in this part of the country. While they do have enough savings to get by for a while, that money was being set aside for their expected retirement years.

Hopefully they can find some gainful employment in the near future.

Pokรฉmon Go Players are Committed

Everywhere you go there is a noticeable lack of people. Grocery stores are half full. Barber shops rarely have more than two people. The roads are clear enough that itโ€™s actually possible to drive at the speed limit for more than 200m3. One thing that hasnโ€™t changed, though, is the number of people aged 50 and above playing Pokรฉmon Go in each of the nearby parks. If anything, Iโ€™d say there are probably more participants simply because people get to work from home, which frees up the time once used for commuting for other purposes.

Alcohol Is Getting Scarce

The alcohol sections of stores are looking pretty thin despite the fact that Kirin, Asahi, and Sapporo have increased production of their popular beverages. While Iโ€™ve not had a conversation with every store manager in the area, Mayumi at the local FamilyMart convenience store says that they receive shipments every night around 10pm and sell out of the more popular drinks by dinner time the next day; which almost never happens because โ€œa convenience store with empty shelves is losing moneyโ€4. Will there be a rise in alcoholism in the area as people try to stave off boredom? Is this why there are a lot more police sirens at night than ever before?

The longer this goes on, the more damage there will be to repair.


  1. Our homes are usually more comfortable than a prison โ€” regardless the security level โ€” but confinement can make even the most comfortable places feel like captivity.

  2. Schools have the option to remain closed. Many universities have opted to push back the start of their year until mid-May. K-12 in most cities around the country are gearing up to begin classes again

  3. Congestion and a glut of bad drivers generally limits driving to 15km below the posted limit unless youโ€™re the first car stopped at a red light. Then you can almost be guaranteed a 200m stretch of road to traverse unimpeded โ€ฆ until you catch up to the cars that left you behind at the previous red light.

  4. This is how she described empty shelves, which is an interesting way of looking at the situation. People canโ€™t buy what isnโ€™t present.

Podcast Discovery

Somewhere around five or six years ago Jeremy Cherfas invested a good deal of time to start a podcast called Pick of the Podcasts. This was a show that had sections from as many as four shows featured in order to encourage people to subscribe to those shows. The effort was incredibly time consuming and resulted in the podcast owners not really having a way to measure how many people had listened to their show, as the episode audio was not being hosted from their site but a separate file. Pick of the Podcasts had a very short run but, as a mechanism for podcast discovery, it seemed a rather interesting way to approach the problem of "podcast discovery"; finding shows that we might want to subscribe to.

In the half-decade that has passed since this attempt to help people find new shows, not much has changed to help people find new shows to listen to. The directories that exist all seem to promote the big networks, such as PRX, NPR, BBC, Gimlet, NHK, and the like, while simultaneously burying the independent creator who could very well be making something truly unique that we might enjoy. There should be a way to give everyone an equally weighted score when trying to suggest productions to people.

Oddly enough, while doing the dishes tonight, I started tossing around the idea of creating a system that would track podcasts published in the last week or so, look for present and historical keywords weighted by frequency, then generate a custom RSS feed that I could subscribe to with any podcast player. This feed would contain 4 new episodes per week for shows that might be of interest based on various factors provided by the RSS subscriber.

Would this work, though?

Discovery has long been a problem with creative endeavours as there has been an absolute plethora of content online since the Internet's inception. Jeremy is right when he strongly states that podcast discovery is just as much a problem today as it was in 2015. There must be a solution to the problem, and I wonder if something like this would bring us one step closer to an ideal solution.

Forty-One

This evening Reiko was watching a special about Shimura Ken, an incredibly popular Japanese comedian who recently and very quickly passed away after contracting the COVID-19 virus. His passing has resulted in a great deal of grief across the country as he was a genuine personality. His celebrity never went to his head and he always had something positive to say. Reiko grew up watching his shows and he was on TV right up until last month. Given his 40+ year career, it's only natural that people across the country would grieve his passing. Tonight's TV special included a number of interviews where Ken was able to get rather philosophical and explain the why behind his actions and one of these really connected with Reiko on a fundamental level:

If you love what you do, then you can keep doing it forever. Your delivery will evolve. Your specialty will become more nuanced. If you do it well enough, then nothing can stand in your way. However, if you doubt yourself, then it's time to move on. An audience can feel disinterest a mile away.1

Reiko and I are both in our 40s. While I've been preoccupied โ€” perhaps excessively โ€” with my own mortality since the 90s, Reiko is just starting to seriously think about hers. I've passed my expected mid-life point2 and Reiko is approaching hers. It's no wonder she's starting to wonder if she wants to continue with the current career or consider exploring one of her many other interests. Considering the number of non-positive changes that have started taking place at her university, I suggested she seriously look at learning a new skill and sharing that knowledge with the world. She's always been someone who loves to share knowledge. Even if she were to give up her position as a teacher at a university, she'd find other avenues to educate people. That's just the sort of person she is.

There are a lot of avenues of study that Reiko could embark upon. She's interested in nutrition, early childhood education, and a number of different craftworks. Of these, she has consistently expressed a desire to formally study nutrition for as long as we've been married and I've often suggested she invest some time into seriously studying this on her own for a couple of months to see if it's something she'd want to dedicate her energy to for a few years. Hopefully she reaches the conclusion that maybe a little bit of focus and study would be a good thing, if for no other reason than to see whether she's genuinely interested in the subject or if it's something she's mildly curious about.

We're both at the mid-point of our expected lives. We've worked incredibly hard for a decade and a half to be where we are right now. If Reiko were to take a year or two off from her current job to focus on something else, we'd be perfectly fine. This luxury of time and financial security was a hard-fought battle, but we've made serious progress. Should Reiko make the decision to devote her days to studying a new subject and maybe using that new knowledge to help others, then I'm all for it. Heck, even if she uses it just to help family, I'll be 100% behind her. There is so much for any one of us to regret as we face our final days. The last thing I want is for Reiko to think that she was "trapped" into doing something that she's lost interest in for the sake of a paycheque.


  1. This was the gist based on my memory of the quote, which was all in Japanese โ€ฆ as one would expect.

  2. No male that I am genetically related to has lived past the age of 77. Today marks my 41st year on this planet. The average life expectancy for men in Japan is 81.25 years. That works out to 29,676 days, divided by two is 14,838, tacked on to my birthday is November 17, 2019. While life expectancy is not a science, I do enjoy the math that can be applied.

Restoring Functionality

Another evening, another update to 10C. This most recent one was well overdue, though. One of the features that was part of v2 and v4 for years that never quite made the jump to v5 was podcasting. After almost a full year of v5 being live, the feature has finally made a comeback โ€ฆ to a certain extent. There are still a couple of things that need to be built into various themes to support podcasts, but the core elements are all there to publish audio files to the web in a manner that is completely compatible with iTunes, Google Play, and standalone podcast clients.

In the two previous versions of 10Centuries, podcasts generally consisted of multiple distinct elements that were loosely coupled. There would be a record for the podcast itself, one for the accompanying blog post, and a social post as well. If you were to edit one of these afterwards, the other two items would not be updated. As one can imagine, this was suboptimal. With 10Cv5, there's no reason for any of this. A podcast is a complete entity in and of itself, the same as with quotations, bookmarks, notes, and locations. This is because a podcast is just an article with an audio file attached. Even the post type remains the same. Sometimes the simple solutions are better than the over-engineered ones that sought out edge cases.

For the moment, podcasts are only publishable through the Anri theme or a dedicated client1. In the next little bit, I'd like to ensure that everywhere a person can publish a post, podcasts are an option.

Publishing on Anri

Like with 10Cv2 and v4, when "Podcast Episode" is chosen, some additional fields will become visible on the screen under the image upload section. Unlike the previous versions of 10C, you do not need to add an audio file to the uploads box to make these elements visible. This was one thing that a lot of people did not like about the previous UI and I did not want to make the same mistake again. As a result, audio uploads have their own distinct button.

Only the post text, summary, and audio file need to exist in order to publish a podcast, though more information will generally make for a better-formatted syndication feed.

Speaking of syndication, there's a new settings page where people can better control their RSS feed.

Syndication

With this page people are able to have a specific author name, or a list of authors, for the RSS feed as well as a detailed summary, a Creative Commons license, the number of items to show in the RSS feed, a cover image which is the same as your avatar by default, and content categories2.

As with so many of the things I make, the UI could certainly use a little bit of love. That said, I'm hoping that with the core functionality in place, people can make use of it.


  1. If you're familiar with the 10C API and have a RESTful API client, then you could even use that to publish podcasts. That said, only a geek would enjoy the task. Everything can be done with two API calls, but it's not at all glamorous.

  2. These are only useful for podcasting when publishing to iTunes or the Google Play Store. Not sure about other distributors like Spotify.

Tracking

The subject of tracking seems to be in the news a great deal lately as people are understandably nervous about applications that send data back to organisations such as Facebook, Google, Apple, Amazon, and the myriad of advertising networks that clamour to know more about us through apps, web sites, and an ever-growing number of connected appliances. Given that a lot of the online publications that are currently shouting the loudest also have an unruly number of tracking mechanisms on their website, and given that 10C seems to operate in complete isolation from external services, I figured it would be a good idea to outline just how much data my platform is collecting on each and every person who visits this website, subscribes to an RSS feed, or downloads a podcast.

File Downloads

I don't track this in any appreciable way. The server knows how many bytes of data has been sent, but not the name of the file nor who it sent the data to, because I don't care.

RSS Subscriptions

I don't track this in any direct way. When an RSS service or an RSS reader comes by to grab the most recent XML or JSON file, the User Agent1 and the IP address of the system that initiated the request is recorded in the UsageStats table along with details such as which website was accessed, which RSS feed (because there are many ways to request one), the type of HTTP request, the response code, and how long the whole process took.

Web Visits

Just as with RSS subscriptions, the User Agent and IP address of the system that inited the request is recorded in the UsageStats table along with details such as which website was accessed, which URL, the type of HTTP request, the response code, and how long the whole process took. If a person is signed into the service at this time, then the authentication token ID is also recorded.

Why Do It?

This data is collected to answer a couple of fundamental questions:

  • how long are people waiting for data?
  • is the current hardware sufficient to meet demand?
  • where are the bottlenecks2?

It's with this data that I can tell you the average response time for a request is 0.3 seconds start to finish, and that 87 of the sites hosted on 10C represent 99% of the traffic. Is the current hardware sufficient? Yep. Not bad for a five year old laptop-turned-server.

UsageStats

And Then โ€ฆ?

Because the statistics table generally grows by about 350MB a day, it's not something that I want to keep around in a request-by-request format. Aside from mild curiosity to compare performance metrics from the past to the present, there is very little value gained from the numbers. For this reason, statistics are summarised by site on a daily basis and deleted from the system after 30 days. Backups of the database are also kept for 60 days before being discarded as a waste of space. This means that at no point will I have request-by-request statistics older than 91 days3.

What about the "Popular Post" feature? Where does that data come from?

Yep, this come from the UsageStats table as well, but to say that this summarised data is equivalent to tracking a group of people would be a stretch.

How can I verify this?

The code that powers 10C is open source. The function that records the data into the UsageStats table can be found in /lib/functions.php on (or around) line 1918 as recordUsageStat(). The SQL query can be found in /sql/system/setUsageStat.sql. Want to get a copy of your data from UsageStats or any other place in the database? Just get in touch and we can make it happen.

As someone who has taken a number of steps to reduce the number of sites and services that can follow me around the web, I understand the importance of collecting just the information that is needed to answer basic system questions and offer general functionality. None of the systems I create will go beyond the amount of statistics collection that is outlined above because, to be completely clear, tracking what people do just isn't that interesting. I'm much more interested in what the system does than the visitors.


  1. User Agents are not to be trusted 100%. They can be anything, and it's incredibly easy to claim to be a valid browser when the connection is in fact an automated process.

  2. Long-running API requests, etc.

  3. 30 days of recent data, plus 60 days is 90, plus today means "Generally nothing older than 90 days, 23 hours, 59 minutes, and 59 seconds.

Listening to Old Podcasts

Earlier today I listened to the most recent episode of Micro Monday1 as it featured one of my favourite podcasters, Jeremy Cherfas. In it he talked a great deal about what makes a good podcast, the importance of audio quality, and the difficulty in discovering new shows that aren't part of the big networks. What's funny is that I was looking forward to listening to this particular episode because Jeremy had lamented that his sound quality was not up to snuff and I wanted to see just how "bad" it was. Afterwards I wondered whether the audio quality from some of my old shows have stood the test of time and went back to hear a few episodes of Discover ADN, a podcast that launched my podcasting efforts in 2014 โ€ฆ almost six years ago exactly.

For my ears, the podcasts I recorded in my bedroom closet during 2015 and 2016 were some of the best I've ever made. Shows like DiscoverADN and Changing Platforms were fun, short-lived titles to record and produce. The 400+ Doubtfully Daily Matigo episodes recorded up until 2018 were alright, but most of them were done with a cell phone microphone while walking in the park. These were not the sorts of shows that would warrant a second listen, and usually not a first. There were a bunch of Japanese shows that I worked on, but rarely did I speak on the shows. I was there more as a coordinator and producer until the hosts either became bored and quit or โ€” as fate would have it โ€” were picked up by a local radio station.

After the boy was born, there was rarely a time in the house quiet or calm enough to record any shows, so the microphone and headphones were put into their padded boxes and have patiently waited for the chance to come out and shine once again. Now that he's three, perhaps there's time again. The question I have is whether there's anything interesting I could talk about every so often that might warrant a subscriber or two to the show.


  1. Micro Monday is an interview podcast for people using Micro.blog, a social network that aims to be as open and non-corporate as possible.