With the year coming to a close and a lot of newspapers looking back at the decade, it seems reasonable to do something similar as a great deal has happened since January 2010. A decade ago Reiko and I were living in an apartment on the outskirts of Kakamigahara. Reiko was seriously considering going back to university for a Masters degree. I was an English teacher who had delusions of writing software for the company. Twitter was a fun place to interact, and I was using an Acer AspireOne netbook as my primary computer … as that was all we could realistically afford at the time1.
Life seemed to be so much simpler then.
However, there has been a lot of change over this time as well. Some of it good and some of it less so. Today's list is presented chronologically and dedicated to five events that changed the course of the following years.
April 2010 — An iPod Touch Replaces Windows Mobile
As silly as it may sound, within a very short amount of time of having an iPod Touch, I learned that my software sucked and needed to be better. Not just a little, but a lot. The biggest area where my software failed after being exposed to an Apple device was the interface. Menus and submenus and contextual menus and left clicks and right clicks and "power" functionality when there was a Shift+Click or Ctrl+Click. Then there was the actual design of the interface, with its heavy influence from Windows XP design patterns ….
It wasn't pretty. One thing that my software did manage to do well was having multiple languages right out of the box. Back in 2010 all of my Windows software shipped with English, Japanese, and Korean at a minimum.
However, after using applications designed for iOS, my eyes were opened to how interfaces could actually guide and improve software use. I've never looked back.
June 2010 — I'm Employed by a Tech Startup
In early June I was supposed to demo a piece of software I developed for the day job called Lemonade to the then-CEO. The tool would help school management with the tedious task of tracking employees trainings, time-off requests, praise forms, complaint forms, and the like. It was also designed to be self-healing and not require a centralised database at all. Using BitTorrent technology, every instance would have a full copy of the database. When a computer failed, which happened frighteningly often back then, a manager could get a new machine, install the software, type in their credentials, and have their data back within minutes. It was an interesting tool that five of the school managers I worked with thought could solve some legitimate problems.
As one would expect, I prepped quite a bit for this opportunity. The software was tested thoroughly. A one-page summary was typed up to explain the problems it would solve, the benefits and the long-term costs of operation. I took the day off so that there would be no schedule pressure. I arrived at the meeting room 3 hours early to make sure everything was prepped and ready to go.
15 minutes before the meeting was scheduled to begin, the managers of the local schools joined me in the room and we went over some of the main items that a C-level executive would want to hear about. I was nervous, but ready.
15 minutes after the meeting was scheduled to start, it was still just the managers and I in the room.
Half an hour later one of the school administrators tracked the CEO down at a different school in the area. She wasn't coming and she didn't even have it in her mind to let the rest of us know that she wasn't coming.
Two days later a headhunter got in touch asking if I'd be interested in "an exciting opportunity in Tokyo". I agreed to have the meeting and was hired soon after.
August 2010 — Nozomi Joins the Family
Who knew that a puppy could change a person's life so much? I had dogs and cats while growing up, but they weren't at all like Nozomi. From the time she and I first interacted, we got along quite well. I didn't even mind too much when she would bite hard enough to draw blood. Nozomi taught me responsibility in a way that only a dependent could. It wasn't always easy. There was certainly a bit of sacrifice at times. But it has been worth it.
March 2011 — The Great Tohoku Earthquake
The 3/11 quake forced a great deal of change to come about quickly. Nozomi wouldn't eat because of all the aftershocks. Reiko was stressed beyond belief. Clean water was darn near impossible to find and the grocery stores were completely cleared out as people stockpiled as much as they possibly could. We needed to get out of the Tokyo area fast.
On the 16th we took one of the first Shinkansens back to Nagoya after the lines were confirmed safe and stayed with Reiko's parents for a couple of days. I was given permission to work remotely for the time being with the understanding that I could be called up to Tokyo at any time for meetings. A week later we went back to our apartment and a fortnight later we decided to move back to central Japan. Again I was allowed to work remotely for a time, but my employment with the tech startup ended in August 2011 after the company sold itself out to Mixi.
January 2017 — The Boy is Born
This is arguably the biggest event in my life and not just for the 2010~2019 decade. The amount of responsibility that comes with a tiny human is incredible. I can see why some people are unwilling to accept the burden. That said, the amount of joy that this child can generate in people is well worth the challenges that come with parenthood. I've not been a perfect father by any stretch of the imagination, but the boy is rather forgiving at the moment. Every morning I aim to be a better person than the day before.
While these five items stand out as important events over the last ten years, they are not the only big ones. There was a period of 17 months where Reiko and I were en route to a divorce until a series of schedule changes resulted in a large confrontation and several days worth of conversations to get to the bottom of our issues. We never did discuss everything, but we resolved a majority of the big issues.
The period of time when App.Net was a viable social platform was also important, as I met a lot of intelligent and interesting people there. One could probably make the case that the conversations that happened on that network helped shape the way I see the world today.
There was also a three year span where I was involved with at least one podcast, though the last bit was primarily in a support role.
Or maybe the day in 2016 when I finally, after years and years and years of trying, managed to get taken out of the classroom at the day job in order to develop software for the company; a desire I had carried since late 20072.
The 3652 days that make up January 1, 2010 to December 31, 2019 have certainly been eventful. Time seems to move much faster today than at any other point in my life. It will be interesting to see what 2020 ~ 2029 will be like, though I have a very strong feeling that it will be much more complicated than any decade preceding it.
The computer I wanted back when it became necessary to replace my HP Pavilion zt3000 cost about 320,000円. It was another HP that supported a whopping 8GB RAM and one of those newfangled Core 2 Duo CPUs. The 15" display was 1920x1080 rather than the horrendous 1366x768 that appeared on just about every notebook computer in the country between 2006 and 2018 and the keyboard had the Home/End/PgUp/PgDown keys in "the wrong place", running vertically down the right side. 320,000円 was about 5 weeks of wages before taxes and deductions, though. It just wasn't feasible. So, rather than deal with the challenges that would arise from a Toshiba, NEC, or Fujitsu notebook, I opted for a navy blue, 35,000円 Acer AspireOne. It worked well for blogging, but I tended to use it for developing software in Visual Studio as well … which was probably not at all recommended. Interestingly enough, I was able to use the machine up until I bought my first Mac in 2012. It wasn't easy, but it wasn't impossible.
Did I mention that after leaving the tech startup, I went back to work at the same educational company I worked at after landing in Japan? Yeah … that's another story I should tell at some point.