Magniloquent

The "Word of the Day" screensaver that comes built into macOS is a lovely distraction at times. Every 24 hours there is another list of words that cycle on the screen, complete with a phonetic spelling and definition. A lot of times the selected words are ones I've known for years and occasionally new ones pop up. For reasons that are not exactly clear to me, I try to use these new words in messages and conversations that day as it's an effective way of naturally building a lexicon. Every so often I get the feeling that this practice is something a lot of people around the world ascribe to as well. A few weeks back the word "loquacious" scrolled across the screen and not a day later was an article on a well-read news site with that very same word. Coincidence? Perhaps. If it happens once. But it doesn't. This is something that I see time and time again. Not a week goes by when one of the less-common words selected for display in "Word of the Day" doesn't make an appearance elsewhere in my reading. This is a good thing, too. What better way to reinforce newly acquired language than to be exposed to it again in an Anki-like manner?

One of today's words was, as the title of this post suggests, "magniloquent". This adjective means to use high-flown or bombastic language; bombastic meaning high-sounding but with little meaning. A lot of people would probably associate magniloquent speech to that of a politician or a person who simply likes the sound of their own voice. Heck, I could be accused of speaking magniloquently during a number of recent meetings at work. Yet, when I think about the word a bit more, something different springs to mind: text-based media.

Perhaps I've just become more aware of grandstanders and soap-box preachers since leaving Twitter in 2014, but it does seem that a great number of articles online are replete with an excessive number of adjectives that are used to inflate the significance of a topic beyond what might be considered excessive. This isn't limited to any particular group or people with certain ideologies. It's everywhere. In an effort to get our ideas across the void and into other people's minds, we've had to turn the volume up to eleven. This means exacerbating the issue of bombastic writing with superfluous terms and locutions, obscuring our ultimate objectives with turgid euphemisms that give us the appearance of being intellectually on par with the likes of Martha Nussbaum, René Descartes, and Alan Watts.

Very few of us could ever hope to be so cognitively gifted; and fewer still would actually want to be.

Still, it's nice to watch the words scroll past and use them to make sentences in our head, sentences we say out loud, and sentences we put to text. Sometimes we'll use a word wrong. Sometimes we'll learn the correct meaning of a word. Sometimes we'll pick up something new. And if that new word gives us a reason to pen an archetypal article or blog post, then so be it.

Five Things ... and 3,000 Days

Earlier today I discovered that 10Centuries has now been live for 3,000 days. It was August 1st, 2012 when the server was brought online and my account created. The first version of the system ran on the v2 platform, a re-write of the Evernote-dependent software that came before it. Today 10Centuries is running on the v5 platform and it continues to see updates to make the system better, faster, and more secure as time goes on. As today is a round-number anniversary, I thought it would be fitting to look at five updates that are coming down the pipe for the coming winter.

A New Social Design

The current site design for Nice.Social has been largely unchanged for almost 900 days. Sure, there have been fixes, tweaks, and additions over time, but the underlying visual structure has remained untouched. This needs to change.

A couple of months ago I hired a UI designer to help me envision what a modern version of Nice.Social might look like. I asked for a purple colour scheme and a consistent design language. They came back with something that I believe looks quite decent. Two weeks ago I started work on making the theme come to life and I'm hoping to have it complete enough for a community vote before November. So long as there are no serious complaints, it will go live on November 1.

As with many of the 10C works-in-progress, people can see the current state by visiting beta.10centuries.org. As the URL suggests, the system may not seem all that complete at any given time.

Evernote Integration

Yep, Evernote integration is coming back … primarily because I've been using Evernote regularly again1. This will allow people to publish new posts to their blogs from a notebook of their choosing and send existing posts back to Evernote. This will allow people to always have a copy of their post locally, which is ideal for anyone who wants a local backup.

Another Blog Theme, but for Photos

This is a long time coming. I would really like to have a good photoblog -- behind a password -- that I can share with family. This will allow them to see (curated) pictures of the boy and maybe read some stories about what he did on a given day. iCloud shared photo albums work with some members of the family, but not everyone has or wants and Apple device. The theme will not have to exist behind a password, of course, as it would be designed for anyone to use and enjoy.

Blog Comments

This is self-explanatory. One of the main reasons that comments have not existed on blogs is due to the "anonymous commenter" problem. 10C does not have an anonymous persona for people who do not wish to create an account and it seems ridiculous to create one. That said, there's no reason why it shouldn't be possible for people with 10C accounts to comment on blog posts via the blog itself when people have long been able to do so from Nice.Social.

An RSS Reader

One of the big things that I'm trying to address with the social site redesign is readability. As the new design does have a lot of improvements on how people can read and interact with posts, it makes sense to make 10C's mostly-hidden RSS Reader features into the social client. This will give people an opportuntity to unify some of the streams they read. There are a couple of features that are part of the RSS reader that should save people some time when reading certian types of articles and there will be options available for people to create response posts and quotations to post on their blog(s) right from the reader itself.

This will hopefully be in place before December.

Three thousand days is not a lot of time in the grand scheme of things and 10C still has the goal of ensuring the words we publish today are available a thousand years from now. This means there are still 362,250 days to go to deliver on the promise. During this time there will be quite a bit of work done to ensure the platform remains an interesting and viable place for just about anyone to share their words with the present and the future. Hopefully some of these planned changes will appeal to people.


  1. I wanted to like Agenda, and there are a lot of things that I do like about that note-taking system. But something just doesn't quite click with me in the same way Evernote does.

Eighteen Minutes

Eighteen Minutes a Day

There are hundreds of bicycles parked at various places around the neighbourhood every day as people travel from home to work, from home to school, or from home to a bus stop. By 11:00pm at night this number drops to mere dozens, which can leave a person to wonder if the bike has been abandoned. They do move, however. Every day the regular parking spaces are used and emptied, used and emptied. Seeing this one completely alone under a pedestrian bridge just steps away from a bus stop, I wondered what the bicycle might think if it were conscious. Would it dream of exploring the world despite its unremarkable design? Would it wish to be active rather than stationary? Would it simply wait and look forward to the few minutes every day when it can ride free from its wheel locks?

Something

I Create

A lot of thought has gone into my career direction since the daily blogging came to a sudden stop. It is no secret that I've become restless with the monotony of the daily grind. Every day is more of what yesterday had to offer with very little to offer in the way of challenge. There are plenty of complex problems that require simple solutions, which one could argue is a task worthy of an undivided focus. Yet these things do not offer me the trial by fire that I seek. Like an endlessly fickle fool, I want more.

More what is less easy to define. Like almost everyone else I would like more time, more energy, and more coffee. But regardless of how much we might have, these are luxuries we soon take for granted until a stray thought reminds us yet again that we are probably not using our finite resources in an effective manner.

Instead, I'm looking for something that has a steep learning curve with a massive reward at the end; the reward being the successful completion of the thing and, if fortune favours this fool, an indication of what to do next.

Perhaps I ask too much from life.

Fixtures

There’s a man that I see almost every morning who goes out for a rather long Nordic Walk. During the cooler months he’s seen while I walk Nozomi in the park or take the boy to school. In the summertime he goes past my house no later than 7:30am. He’s what I call a “fixture” of the neighbourhood. There are other people who have their own routines who are also fixtures, doing what they do daily and bringing a sort of regularity to the community.

There goes Nishimura-san.
Isobe-san seems to be on an enka kick again.
There’s Takeuchi-san walking Shiro.

The regularity presented by these people, all retired men in their 80s, is welcome. It conveys a sense of continuity, of consistency, and of familiarity. I’ve chatted with them, laughed with them, and learned from them. Over the 30 months of living in this neighbourhood, I’ve also become one of them. I am a fixture.

Being a foreigner in any Asian country means standing out wherever you go, but this neighbourhood is different. While the land owners are 99.7% Japanese1, there is a rather large population of Portuguese-speakers in the area. Japan and Brazil have a special bond that goes back over a century and, as a result, there are often a large number of Brazilian skilled labourers who come to the country for five to ten years, earn a respectable wage, and give their families the opportunity to enjoy many of the benefits that come with living in this country. Despite this, it seems that people recognize me whenever I’m out. They ask about Nozomi. They ask about the boy. They have noticed my patterns and will let me know when things are out of stock, on the way, or discontinued. When I venture to parts of the town that are less familiar, I’ll see the occasional neighbour or person who works nearby who will stop to say hello, and they’ll let me know of a park that I might have missed, a temple I might be interested in seeing, or an unmarked walking path that is known only to locals … some of which wind through the nearby mountains and act as a shortcut to the small lake nearby.

This recognition is interesting, though I’ll admit a bit uncomfortable. In an ideal situation, I would be completely anonymous while outside. In reality, though, this is unrealistic. Much like I have identified the “fixtures” in the neighbourhood, people have identified me; a foreigner with poor Japanese-speaking skills who tends to go everywhere on foot by choice. Workers at the nearby grocery store know what kind of alcohol I prefer. Employees at the library know what kind of books I initially look through. Dog-walkers know that I’ll always stop to let their canine friends sniff the back of my hand before I scratch them behind the ear2.

Neighbours have commented on seeing me sit in all four of my preferred places, one of which I had thought to be “hidden” by the surrounding greenery. Strangers come up and say things like “Fukunaga-san in 3-chome3 tells me you’re a programmer. Can you help me with … ?” The retired man who plays basketball in the park across from the grocery store has thrown me the ball after I dropped the boy off at school and asked if I would play a quick game of 21.

I am a fixture; instantly recognizable by the foreignness of my appearance and irrepressible Canadian accent.

… And I think I’m okay with this.


  1. 99.711% of land owners in the six neighbourhoods that make up this part of the city are Japanese. 0.289% — 121 people — are foreigners with permanent residency. This is according to the recent numbers from city hall.

  2. I scratch the dogs behind their ear, not the people. That would be weird.

  3. A neighbourhood designation.

One Decade

Ten years ago today Nozomi joined the family. She was just 107 days old and so full of life that it was a joy watching her explore the world. Over the years she slowly calmed down, playing less and less with inanimate toys, but she's never lost that spark that makes her the puppy she is.

Ten Years with Nozomi

Every so often I think back to the day when we first met and when she came home. The first meeting was a week beforehand, on Sunday the 15th. She was 100 days old and a ball of unbridled energy. The first time I held her at the pet shop in Saitama she started chewing on my fingers as though she wanted the bone inside … and perhaps she did. With a sticker price of 220,000円1, she was just a bit out of our budget for a pet so she was put back into her cage where she very quickly went back to playing with a heart-shaped plushie.

A week later, the day after Reiko and I met up with an old friend who happened to be visiting Tokyo at the time, we went back to the pet shop and saw that the puppy was still there. It was my hope to bring her home because that first interaction the week before had left its mark. I've taken care of a number of dogs over the years, but none were quite like the newborn miniature dachshund that would eventually be called Nozomi2. There was something different about her, and I wanted to be the one to give her a home. So, after lunch on that fateful Sunday, we made the trip to the mall at 流山おおたかの森 and went into the pet shop. Much to my surprise, the puppy was still there … and 50,000円 cheaper3.

When the sales clerk came over I let her know that I wanted the gold-furred puppy that was rolling around on her toilet pad. Some other dogs were barking for attention, including one long-nosed dachshund that shared my birthday, but their attempts for attention went unheeded. It was the girl covered in her own urine that I wanted to invite to the family. The clerk looked happy to make a decent sale and took Nozomi to the grooming area where she would be cleaned up, given a bow, and placed in a box that only recently was sent out for recycling4.

Nozomi, like most animals, did not enjoy being carted about in a small box. She was sticking her nose out of every air hole in an adorable manner while trying to understand what was happening. We loaded her up in the car and drove the 20 minutes home, all the while thinking of possible names for this new responsibility. It wasn't until we got home that the reality of having a puppy set in.

There wasn't a place for her to use the bathroom.

Where would she sleep?

What would she eat?

Oh, crap …

We had picked up a collar and leash at the pet shop earlier that day, but there wasn't a dish, food, or even a bed. We would have to improvise. So, for that first night, Nozomi slept in a plastic crate with a towel we understood would be garbage come the morning. She had a feast of puppy food from the nearby grocery store. She drank water from a bowl that was once used for cereal.

Over the months and years that followed, Nozomi evolved into the incredibly kind and patient puppy she is today. I still call her a puppy despite her age because of how pure her intentions are. There is no malice or disrespect in anything she does. Her heart is as pure and innocent today as it was ten years ago. Being a domesticated animal, protected from the harshness of open nature, she doesn't need to forever worry about food or safety. Everything is taken care of for her … which is why I see her as a puppy rather than an adult dog. "Age ain't nothin' but a number", and adulthood is a mental state more than anything else.

The ten years I've had the opportunity to know Nozomi have been some of the most difficult — and the most rewarding — of my life. She's been there through thick and thin. As silly as it may sound, I really don't think I'd be where I am today without her non-verbal support. I hope she enjoys our time together. I hope she's happy to be part of my family. I hope she lives a long and healthy life. I say these things selfishly, and I say them as a friend. She is very much worthy of the responsibility-free lifestyle she enjoys.

Happy anniversary, Nozomi.


  1. This would be about $2,200 USD which, for someone who generally received dogs for free while growing up, was quite the sum.

  2. The first name I had considered was B'Elanna, but this was shot down.

  3. She made up for the cost savings with all the medical attention she's received over the years. I've never tallied it up, because it doesn't matter, but she's likely seen close to 200,000円 ($2,000USD) in medical care over the decade … which isn't bad, really.

  4. Boxes can only last for so long. I didn't want to get rid of it, because of sentimental reasons, but it started to take on a life of its own. The box had to be let go.

Too Many Compromises

Two months ago I started down the journey of creating an Android application, my first in a long, long time. The software was aimed at an audience that seemed under-represented in both the Google Play Store and Apple's AppStore: UFO enthusiasts. In both stores there is an absolute dearth of applications and, of the ones that do exist, none of them have seen any updates in the last couple of years. What I wanted to do was to create a tool that would not only show the most recent reports, but also allow people to report things that they may have seen.

In addition to this, there were some other functions that would have given the software a little bit of an advantage over other UFO apps and websites that have been researched recently:

  • a dynamic heatmap would show where in the world (or a specified area) people claimed to have witnessed a UFO sighting
  • the ability to read the reports provided by the eye-witness
  • the ability to comment on and "score" a report
  • the ability to report a sighting and provide an accurate GPS location, photos, audio, and/or video supporting evidence
  • a library of different sighting types
  • a library of different vehicle types
  • a library containing theories of where these visitors come from
  • the ability to send the report to one of the more popular UFO sighting databases
  • plus a few other nice features

Using my weekends and evenings, the application was written and ready for deployment in about five weeks and it works pretty decent on my test devices which include a Sharp phone from 2013 running Gingerbread. The API back end is fully coded and the database contains almost 80,000 records of eye-witness accounts -- including geographic coordinates -- which had been pulled from the NUFORC web reports. However, as I got further into building the application, the less enthusiastic I felt about it.

These are some of the issues that crossed my mind:

  1. The data seemed highly suspect, with the most common sighting location being a place called 100 Mile House in Canada. Any place that is not Nevada with a ridiculously high proportion of sightings is going to be suspect, especially given that the 1,200+ reports seemed to be written by the same person.
  2. Allowing people to comment on and score the testimony of others -- even with the aim of "democratising the reporting process"1 -- would quickly devolve into people calling everything "bullshit" and adding zero value to the topic. Too much negativity is not a good thing.
  3. The people that would use this application likely strongly believe they saw something … and the application was actually designed in such a way as to show people that 99% of UFO reports are complete fabrications.
  4. I would be trying to monetize the application via advertisements, with an in-app purchase to shut them off.

The further I got into development of the system, the more wrong it felt to continue. There were simply too many compromises to make:

  1. the app was written for Android rather than iOS, because that's what most people use
  2. in-app advertising (and its subsequent tracking) would be in place for the vast majority of people, as Android apps generally do not earn a great deal of revenue unless they're a game of some sort
  3. the 80,000 records collected from NUFORC were of dubious quality
  4. people who report sightings generally believe what they think they saw, and I would be encouraging people share the story with me so that my database would become larger so that the growing size could be used as part of the reson for more people to use the application

But, perhaps most damning of all, is reason number 5: I don't believe a single one of the reports.

Yeah, I was happy to learn how to write an application in Kotlin, have it compile and run on actual hardware, and see it go from a concept to a working system. But if I don't have any faith in the things that the people using the system have to say, is it right to carry on with the project? The honest answer is "no".

So despite the efforts, the application has been scrapped. All of the code is archived in GitHub and will likely sit there for a long, long while before it's either forgotten or deleted. The database I may make available as a MySQL dump, as it's a right pain to collate this data from various sources online, but only if I receive written permission from NUFORC to do so.

I am still very much interested in building some small applications as a means to test the feasibility of earning a living through independent application development and this project ejection has certainly allowed me to confirm how I do not want to go about it. This does bring me back to square one, though, which means something else will need to be devised, planned, and built to scratch the itch that leads to self-employment; ideally without compromises.


  1. As it stands, all UFO reports go through no more than 5 gatekeepers around the globe, depending on which group you're reporting the sighting to.

Offensive

For the first time in a long while, I had considered recording an episode of Doubtfully Daily Matigo to outline something that occurred today at the day job that just rubbed me the wrong way; so much so that I felt offence by the very idea that was presented. Despite being excessively opinionated, it takes a great deal to offend me. This is primarily because I try not to take too many things so personally or seriously that discussion becomes impossible outside an echo chamber. However, today at the end of a meeting, I was asked a rather simple question:

We need to add some JavaScript to every page. Is this done through the "Additional HTML" section of the admin pages?

This was a question regarding a bit of software that is being prepped for use at the day job. The JavaScript that's being added is designed to track what a person is doing on the website in excruciating detail. Where is the mouse? How much time passed between actions? What did a person click? And a whole lot more.

This I find offensive. The entire modern web is offensive.

Just about every site that we visit has trackers in place to extract as much data as possible from us, from browser details to frequency of visits to what colour socks we're wearing. What the fuck for? I do not buy the various arguments that companies have for the excessive amount of data collection that goes on behind the scenes when we're using a website.

Does a company need to know how long we're on a page? No.

Does a company need to know where a cursor is positioned while we're on a site? No.

Does a company need to know that we've visited a site 50 times in the last week? No.

Should a company use a third-party service to collect "metrics" that are compared and collated against information data collected on other sites for the same visitor? Fuck! NO!

This isn't to say that organisations shouldn't have the ability to record some data about the people who use their services, but there needs to be a clear contract between the website and the visitor before any collection starts to take place. A lot of websites fail in this regard, some more spectacularly than others.

10Centuries does record information for every web request. I've outlined what it is that's recorded in previous articles, but here is the list again:

  • the UserAgent sent by the browser (so that I can see what browsers are more common, which dictates bug-fixing efforts)
  • the IP address of the visitor (not that this value means very much anymore)
  • the resource the visitor requested
  • where a visitor came from (if known)
  • how long the whole process took to complete

This information is primarily used for 2 purposes:

  1. To work out the mean, median, and mode values for server response times. If it goes above 0.3 seconds, I start investigating bottlenecks. My job as a provider is to ensure that content makes it to visitors in a fast and efficient manner.
  2. To work out how widespread a bug might be. Sometimes I'll learn that a function isn't working quite right in Opera or Firefox. Then I'll look at the stats and see there are fewer than 0.4% of the visitors to all of the 10C sites using these browsers. At this point I can decide whether it's worth solving the problem right now or later in the day.

Anything beyond this amount of data is too much. Could I record more? Yes, of course. But to what end and at what price? Companies that collect far too much data generally get put on my blocklist rather quickly. If a project I'm responsible for at the day job is also added to this blocklist, then my job becomes exponentially more difficult. I will not soften my stance on trackers, even for the sake of employment. Fuck that. Online surveillance needs to stop. Not only is it excessive and unenlightening, it's downright offensive.

Imperceptible

A couple of weeks ago I started to wonder whether Nozomi was ignoring me. She'd be lying under my desk for her afternoon nap and I'd chat with her every so often only to get no response. Not even a glance. When she would sit outside, I'd call her from around the house and she wouldn't move an iota until she saw me come around the corner. If in the afternoon I felt the need to stretch my legs outside a bit, I'd ask Nozomi if she wanted to go for a walk in the park — both words she knows very well — only to be met with silence. However, it seemed that rather than ignoring me, she wasn't aware that I was speaking. The biggest hint that something was awry would be the way she'd act surprised every time she saw me, as though I were consistently silent.

Ten days ago we went to the vet and they confirmed my suspicions: Nozomi has gone deaf. Not completely, mind you, but anything quieter than a sneeze has become imperceptible. According to the vet, the early signs of impending deafness would have started years ago. Typically one ear goes, and then the other. During this time Nozomi would have shown signs of looking the wrong way when being spoken to, or rubbing her ears on the ground as though something were caught in her fur. She did both of these things, but I chalked it up to Nozomi being a dog and doing bizarre things like one would expect from a dog. None of her previous medical checkups said anything about her hearing, but this was also something that wasn't explicitly tested.

Nozomi, being the optimistic girl that she is, doesn't seem to mind the lack of sound. She's still able to do most of the things she loves and, while she does appear to get startled more often as people enter her field of vision without warning, there doesn't seem to be any sign of depression or anxiety on her part. What's interesting is that the vet said that Nozomi would probably respond more to touch than previously, and he was right. Nozomi's always enjoyed physical contact, but lately she seems to want tummy rubs and snout scratches a lot more.

Nozomi's mental state aside, I've been quite disappointed in myself for not noticing the signs sooner. She's always done silly things, like one would expect from a dachshund, but she's never ignored an opportunity for a walk in the park or the sound of her kibble bag being opened. While I doubt there's much that could have been done to save her hearing, particularly during the recent COVID shutdown, her health is my responsibility. I should have known that something wasn't quite right and brought her in for some tests earlier.

Despite our genetic differences, Nozomi and I can generally communicate well enough with each other. She knows my hand signs that signal food, or exercise, or general directions. I also know how to read her eyes and general body language to understand what it is that she's looking for. That said, it's very unfortunate that she might not hear any of her favourite words ever again.

Wait States

Every so often there's a need to move and transform a great deal of data for the day job. This was certainly the case earlier in the week when 15GB of compressed database backups were pulled in from a couple of locations and restored to the main development machine. Fully expanded the files worked out to about 91GB of data in total. This isn't an excessive number by modern standards, but it is a large enough quantity of 1s and 0s that some patience was needed before I could actually get to the task that required this data. Fortunately technology has consistently progressed to the point where our computers are rarely bound to a single task, but this rare need to wait 90 minutes for a pair of databases to finish restoring had me thinking about how often we had to wait when using computers 20 years ago.

Back in 2000 I had a custom-built workstation with a pair of 1.0GHz Pentium 3 processors, 512MB of RAM, 120GB of spinning disk storage, RAID controllers, a decent Radeon video card with 64MB RAM, a SoundBlaster that was powerful enough to decode MP3s in real-time to completely take the load off the Pentium chips, and a bunch of other hardware that ensured the bank account stayed as close to empty as possible without dipping into the red. The machine was used for everything from gaming to database work to software development (for Windows and PalmOS) to messing around on IRC. It was the most potent and capable computer I had ever used up to that point, and would hold that title until 2006 when I started using Xeon-powered servers at the day job. Looking back, even with the rose-coloured glasses, there was certainly a great deal of time every day where I would be sitting in front of that powerful workstation while waiting for it to complete a task.

Booting into Windows 2000 took a couple of minutes. Launching VisualStudio 6 took a minute or so, then another minute or two to open the project I was working on. Compiling code would take at least a minute, sometimes longer. When gaming, a level change could take a minute. Downloads across the local network measured in the thousands of kilobytes per second while anything coming from the Internet trickled in at several dozen kilobytes per second. Waiting was a natural expectation when working with computers.

Current machines are magnitudes faster than the computers from the turn of the century and waits are generally measured in fractions of a second. Every so often, though, we need to afford some time so a task can be completed. During these moments I like to think back to the computers of yesteryear and wonder just how long it would take them to process the same workload.

Ninety-one gigabytes of data for a pair of MySQL database restorations? On the dual-PIII workstation from 2000, it would likely take an entire long weekend.