Bizarre Pizza

Pizza in Japan has often struck me as an oddity given the unique approach places approach the food from. When I was growing up, a large pizza generally came in a rectangle that was cut into 18 pieces and cost $20 and could feed three teenagers … or a family of 8. Many years later, while living in Vancouver, there was a pizzeria near my apartment that sold an 8-slice medium pizza with 3 toppings for $5. In Japan, though, an 8-slice pizza starts at $18 and quickly goes up from there. Suffice it to say, Reiko and I haven't ordered pizza very often in the 13 years we've lived together. That said, a flyer hit the mailbox today with an offer that is ridiculous enough that it might just be worth the absurd sticker price: 全力!ソーセージピザ1.

Aoki's Pizza

Just for giggles, I went to the calorie information page for the pizza shop and discovered that every slice contained a whopping 409kcal!

全力!ソーセージピザ Calorie Information

This would explain why waistlines around the country have started to balloon much like those in Canada did throughout the 1990s to today. It's understandable that restaurants will try ludicrous things in an attempt to attract sales, but this one is a bit absurd … even for Aoki's Pizza.

If the boy were a decade older, Reiko and I might entertain the idea of trying one of these. For the moment, though, we'll pass and enjoy a healthier dinner.

  1. 全力 (ゼンリョク) ⇢ With all one's strength / might.
    ソーセージ ⇢ Sausage.
    ピザ ⇢ pizza.

Five Things

A number of months have gone by since the previous Five Things post and I’ll admit that I didn’t think there would be another one given that it’s not always worthwhile to go through the unpublished and unwritten posts to grab fragments of an idea, but here we are. Over the last three months I’ve managed to go through a number of the terrible patterns that seem to repeat themselves every so often, which often results in a persistent reminder of that dark time for future versions of me to see and remember. Depression, burn out, bouts of crippling anxiety, and a steady increase in alcohol consumption are nothing new, but the rage that dogged a lot of my activities for several months was wholly unexpected and difficult to manage. This has dissipated for the most part as a result of a week away from work, but a feeling of anxiety is making itself known every few hours as the working day inches ever closer. This isn’t cool, as anxiety was a precursor to the stronger emotions I had battled in January and February. Will I have the same problem again in a matter of weeks or days?

As always, time will tell.

So, without further delay, here are five things that I’ve been thinking about this past week:

The Allergies Are Flaring Up

Here we are near the end of February and a number of people in the neighbourhood, myself included, are already reaching for an anti-histamine. Based on a bunch of weather stations in the area, the first six weeks of 2020 were the warmest on record for the last century by 0.4°C. The last time the average was this high was in 1989.

Nozomi Needs a Deck

On sunny days Nozomi likes to go outside around lunchtime, when the air is relatively warm, and just sit in the sun. This small pleasure is something I’m more than happy to accommodate as she genuinely enjoys watching the world go by while warming her fur. Unfortunately, she doesn’t yet have a place outside that is warm and comfortable enough for her. This spring we’ll be having a bunch of work done on the yard and I’ll make sure she gets a place all her own to sit, sun, and stare.

Getting Things Done

Despite the ridiculous hours I’ve forced myself to put in at the day job this year, things are actually getting done around the house. We’ve put up some new curtains, planned the new landscape for the yard, organized a better receipt-tracking system, and gotten into a comfortable routine to accommodate the boy’s kindergarten schedule. The first week was a little difficult but, now that we’re all getting used to a new school schedule, there are quite a few benefits to the boy being out for a couple of hours every day.

Reiko Is Exercising Again

One such benefit to the boy being at school is that Reiko has a bit more free time during the day. As we’re not at home for lunch we’ve started a little habit to enjoy a brief walk around the neighbourhood after having a light meal. This gets Reiko out of the house without the use of the car and is already having a positive effect on her energy levels. Prior to our little walks she would often have stiff muscles and digestion problems. Now, while she still has these conditions from time to time, her spirits are up and we’re enjoying the brief amount of time where we get to talk like adults. I genuinely look forward to these little trips, though she’s not yet willing to engage in a 7km trek through all of the nearby parks like I enjoy.

Perhaps one day.

On the Right Path … I Think

One of the better aspects of the time off from work last week was being able to really think about the coming months and years. I’ve made some specific plans and goals for the coming months that will bring me closer to achieving my long-term objectives and, crucially, have made sure the goals are realistic. There is still a great deal to get done and a lot of things I need to learn but, for the first time in a while, I can actually see a light at the end of the tunnel … and it’s not an oncoming train. So long as I can consistently meet the realistic objectives, I can find myself in a much better place by 2022.

And there we have it. A short little look at some of the things I’ve been thinking about this week that we’re not published as a post of their own. I don’t know if the Five Things theme will continue every Sunday, but there’s no reason why they can pop up every now and again.

Another Week

I told myself today that I wouldn’t write yet another blog post about work. A myriad of alternatives were thought up with a few even receiving some writing time. That said, none of these were to be. Despite some lacklustre efforts to write about data structures or “the anatomy of a book”, here I am writing a post that is somewhat related to work and the internal struggles I’ve been trying to reconcile. The idea that has been rolling around inside my head for the better part of the last six hours is how attractive another week off sounds. A great deal of change took place in the code running 10Centuries, with bugs being resolved, features being released, and themes being completed. It felt good to do these things, too. With another four days, I could get quite a bit done with the digital Bible project that will quickly lead into the Bible Journalling features.

This would likely be seen as incredibly selfish, though. A single hand can be used to count the number of people waiting for 10C to have journalling in place, but there are a lot more waiting for me to get things done at the day job.


Clearly I’ve started to take my employment for granted. There are millions of people across the globe who would undoubtedly love to swap places, as working from home with a good deal of autonomy is the exception rather than the rule. Colleagues seem to value whatever it is I bring to the table, so much so that they’re willing to overlook a dour attitude and an obvious lack of trust. So, despite the good fortune, why is it that I cannot look forward to sitting at the desk to solve interesting and complex problems like I used to?

Have I been spoiled for too long? It’s certainly a possibility.

If this summer is anything like the last few, then August will be unbearably hot and humid. I’ll have 40 days of banked vacation time by then and the incentive to bring Reiko and the boy somewhere nice for a while. They’ll both be out of school for the summer and this would be a good time to travel somewhere north or very, very south. I wonder if this would be a good time to bring the family to Canada to meet a bunch of my relatives. Canadian summers are quite chilly compared to this part of the globe and I know my sisters and parents would love to see us.

Heck, the more I think about it, the better this idea sounds. Sure, it’ll be expensive to disappear to the other side of the planet for a couple of weeks, but the away time would be good for all of us. I’ll bring the idea up with Reiko tomorrow and see what she thinks.

The Disconnect

This past week has been quite the break from the everyday, despite sitting at the desk and working primarily on my own projects. The biggest takeaway is that splitting my working day into three sections rather than two might actually work to my advantage but, more than this, by taking a nice three-hour "break" in the early afternoon, I can enjoy a short walk with Reiko followed by a longer walk on my own followed by picking the boy up from school and tending to his immediate needs. The slower pace has done wonders for my blood pressure, too. While this three-block working style may not always be compatible with the day job, it certainly gives me something to aim for from next Tuesday when I open Outlook and Teams for the first time in ten days1.

Time management aside, this forced time away has allowed a number of decisions to be made:

  1. Monthly efforts will be capped at 180 hours2
  2. Lunch will be spent with my wife rather than a computer
  3. Work stops no later than 1:00am3

The last couple of years has seen an incredible amount of effort poured into projects that are being decommissioned and (almost literally) tossed away before the end of this year. While there are lessons that can be brought from the mothballed systems into the new one, it would be foolish to continue working as ceaselessly as before. The projects I'm supposed to be focused on have more people involved, meaning there's less that requires my hands specifically. This means there will be more opportunity to share responsibilities and cross-train. Everyone will win.

More than this, though, I plan on clawing back my time to focus on the things that I want to accomplish going forward. Over the last couple of months there has been something inside of me that has simply grown tired of what I see online and in the news. Very little of it is interesting anymore, which means that time can be allocated to better things. Family and reading are two areas that will win, but so will sleep; something that has been sorely lacking over the last couple of years.

Working hard has it's advantages, but there are limits to what people can expect from themselves. I've clearly pushed too far in too many directions for too long. It's time to be a little smarter4. It's time to disconnect.

  1. I'm seriously considering a straight [⌘]+[A]⇢[Delete] in both Outlook and Teams to start the day on Tuesday. Anything that is truly important will be sent again. Everything else can probably wait or — knowing how corporate "emergencies" tend to operate — be completely ignored.

  2. Last month I seem to have managed 250 hours of work, which is more than six weeks of effort put into a 22-day period that included national holidays.

  3. Given that I start at some point between 9:30am and 10:00am during the week, this seems reasonable.

  4. I say this a lot, particularly when it comes to better time management. This is something that really needs attention on my part.

Staring at the Night Sky

After the sun has set and the wind has slowed to a gentle breeze, I like to sit in the ballpark across the street and stare at the night sky. This is generally during Nozomi's evening walk and, because she's completely occupied with whatever might be on the ground, our attentions diverge. Every so often, though, she'll come sit next to me and ask for a little head massage while I ask her questions she can't possibly answer … verbally. This was certainly the case tonight after a small meteor or decommissioned satellite plummeted through the upper atmosphere and was obliterated with a colourful display of atmospheric friction at work.

Night Sky

"Do you ever just stare at the sky?" I asked her. Considering that Nozomi is a dog, I already knew both the answer and that she could not reply. It would be interesting to discover that a non-primate mammal on this planet, though. What would they think of the stars in the sky? Would they see shapes and create their own constellations? Would they perceive the points of light as spirits of ancestors looking down to provide guidance? Would they just look at the sky like we do a TV and enjoy the view for what it is?

When I was young, I imagined flying to the stars like the characters of Star Trek. Powerful starships would ferry people to and fro, exploring the wonders of the galaxy while also lending a hand where necessary. This isn't something that I will have the opportunity to do in my lifetime, but our descendants may have a chance in the coming generations as our technology continues to improve and the yearning to wade into uncharted territory compels people to take great risks for an opportunity of even greater rewards. Fortunately there is nothing stopping us from using a little imagination from time to time.

The stars have fascinated me for as long as I can remember and the local neighbourhood seems oddly suited for stargazing. Light pollution from the nearby cities does obscure a great deal of the spectacle above, but there are more distant points of light visible from here than most other places in the country that I've stayed. That said, the country tends to dim after 1:00am as many street lights, amusement centres, and other sources of light shut down until the morning. On the rare occasion where I've stepped outside the house in the middle of the night, the majestic sky is so captivating that it's hard to look away.

Having Fun

Today I managed to accomplish only one of the things I had on my To Do list, but tackled two others that should have been resolved long, long ago. The final issue required several hours more than I had anticipated, which meant that there was no time remaining to tackle the new API work that was planned for 10Cv5, but I'm happy that some of the core functionality that people have kindly put up without for almost a year has been restored in a better, more consistent fashion. Hopefully some of the other important elements can also receive attention in the near future.

All this said, this evening I noticed that I've actually been having fun these last few days. Sure, there are bugs that need attention, features that aren't quite right, and interfaces that need some love, but these things are generally interesting and provide the incentive to make the v5 platform a little bit better every time the opportunity avails itself … and sometimes when it doesn't. Before taking some time away from the day job it seemed that every time I would sit down at the computer there would be message after message outlining problems that generally did not need to exist but needed to be resolved with a velocity that neutrinos would struggle to match. Now, though, because I'm working on a personal project that has generally interested me since 2011 and because I've yet to succumb to the itch, sitting at a computer and digging through layers of hacky code can bring a smile to my face.

This is something I really should do more often. The family seems to prefer me with a smile. Nozomi enjoys her longer walks thanks to the lack of pressure from the Endless Inbox of Terror1. Heck, I'm sure my computers are happier, too. The challenge will be dedicating the time and sticking to the plan.

With just two days remaining in this short leave, I'm looking forward to seeing just how much I can get done. There isn't any chance that I'll get everything related to Journalling complete this week, but it should be perfectly feasible to get some of the scaffolding in place in such a manner that I can begin testing the UI over a period of time to refine how the features operate.

As hard as it is for me to believe, development has become fun again.

  1. This is despite all the rules that have been put into Outlook. If everything were to hit the Inbox, then email would be unbearable … moreso.

The Other Half

Over the last two days I've had the good fortune to buy my hands into code that I've been working on for quite some time. What this means is that a lot of the things that needed to be written were already half done and I've finally been able to complete the other half. Yesterday this meant getting some restaurant software updated and today it was some rather important pieces for 10Centuries. With these important pieces complete, I now get to turn my attention to something new that will be built on the 10C platform: Journalling.

Over the next couple of days I plan on building the first half of the Journalling aspect, which is essentially a reader theme that draws on a new API that presents content in a well-indexed, easily searchable manner. The design will probably remind people of the Kindle application with fewer options, but the core layout will actually be built to resemble some of the single-panel textbook themes that I've tested and abandoned at the day job. Once the site is running well, it will be time to work on the other half, which is the journalling aspect. These two elements will be sharing the same screen, side-by-side, and building on each other's strengths.

With any luck, it'll be possible to share some screenshots of the initial designs tomorrow and the refinements in later posts. In my mind, this new feature will allow me to explore some of the better aspects of traditional textbook design in a modern medium while also providing something of serious value to people who wish to study and create worthwhile notes.

Hopefully the first release of this feature can be shared with the world before the weekend, even if it's just the first half of the objective.

A Good Day

Perspective is an interesting thing. Today a number of mildly frustrating things took place. First off, the spring in Nozomi's retractable leash snapped, rendering the handy little device more a hazard than a tool. The boy continues to ignore 99% of what I say, which makes just about every interaction with him less-than-ideal and, if that wasn't enough, he managed to punch me in the eye rather hard after dinner, leaving an uncool bruise in his wake. Being three, he was also far too exhausted after school and far too energetic after dinner, meaning there was a lot of screaming, tears, and runny noses to deal with for several hours. Yet, despite any exasperation or irritation some of these situations may have caused, I would say that today has been a good day.

Quite a bit of work was done on a client project1 and the weather was nice enough after lunch that a quick walk through the park could be enjoyed while catching up on a philosophical podcast. Although a couple of emails from the day job hit the personal Inbox, these were automated messages from servers and not something triggered by a person. At no time did I feel the itch to check work messages, nor did I even consider it. When it came time to pick up the boy from kindergarten, I met him at the gate and he seemed happy to see me. Dinner was good. Nozomi was a model puppy. Reiko and I managed to do what we needed to do without ever feeling rushed.

This last point is what generally made the day so enjoyable, I feel. At no point was I racing against the clock, or holding for the bathroom until the bladder was at breaking point just because there was "one more thing" that needed to be done ASAP. The tasks that were accomplished, and the fun that was had, was at a natural pace.

Hopefully the rest of the week will follow a similar pattern.

Tomorrow there is some snow in the forecast and I'll need to head out in the morning to pay this quarter's property taxes to the city. So long as I time it just right, it might be possible to walk in the snow while out to pay taxes. There's little chance for the frozen precipitation to accumulate very much, given the relative warmth of the ground, but just being out in the winter-like conditions will bring a smile to my face. One of the many things that I miss about eastern Canada, and Southern Ontario in particular, is the ridiculous amount of snow that falls between January and March. There's just so much of it and people hate it almost instantly for all the car accidents, shovelling, frozen toes, slushy roads, chilling wind, and overabundance of hassle … but I miss it quite often.

So, while the snow in this part of Japan will never compare to the winter storms I remember from my youth in Canada, I'll take what little accumulation I can get and smile the whole time.

Today was a good day, and I see no reason why tomorrow can't be just as lovely.

  1. I know, I know. There's just one client remaining, as they've made it clear that they only want me working on their stuff. This is probably because of our decade of history and my stupid-cheap rates.

Bible Study

Over the last couple of weeks I’ve been reading through the Bible again as part of Dennis Prager’s The Rational Bible commentaries in an effort to better understand the first books of the core documents that are the foundation of many of the long-existing western civilizations. This is the first time in nearly 15 years I’ve examined the Old Testament with any sort of studiousness and this book has proven to be an excellent reintroduction to self-study of scripture. So much so that the hour-long block of time I dedicate to reading every evening zips past in what feels like 15 minutes.

Very little about how one studies a religious text has changed in the decade and a half since I last worked on understanding the word of God, but quite a bit has changed in me. I’ve taken on a great deal more responsibility, accepted more challenges, gotten married, and even started a family … though not precisely in this order. What this means, though, is that since I last tried to better understand my role in the world, I have matured and have a very different perspective on the ancient texts and what they have to say. There have been a number of passages in the book of Exodus that speak more to me now than they ever could have to a 25 year old version of me. In the past when this would happen, I’d grab a red spiral-bound notebook1, open to a fresh page, record the passage that spoke to me, then write some thoughts about it. This process of Bible journalling allowed some extra time to think through a concept or piece of wisdom, and having it on paper allowed me to go back and review the things I had studied and learned.

Since buying a copy of The Rational Bible, I’ve yet to pick up yet another notebook for notes and journalling, and it seems wrong to use one of the empty, black-covered notebooks which have been acquired for the purposes of work notes and To Do lists. What I would really like to do is record passages and notes digitally so that I might not only keep the journal for more than a handful of years2, but have the ability to quickly search, reference, and possibly share the thoughts and bits of wisdom with others in a well-structured, consistent manner … sort of like how quotation posts work in 10C, but with a little more rigidity.

So, with this desire in mind, I plan on building this sort of functionality into the 10Centuries platform starting this week with the goal of having something that people can at least look at before the end of Friday. Having a tool that allows for reading a Bible of our choosing and write notes alongside the texts seems like a worthwhile project. My years of experience developing textbook software can be used for something worthwhile and some of the journalling ideas I’ve been considering will have a playground for testing and refinement.

This is something I’ve been thinking about very seriously over the last few weeks and, seeing as I have the time, knowledge, and opportunity to build something to aid in Bible journalling, it makes sense to give it a solid effort. Hopefully if the tool can help me better keep track of ideas, questions, and wisdom, it can also help others who wish to do the same.

  1. I generally went with a red-covered book because this was the colour of the text in the Bible to signify that God or Jesus was speaking. Red meant “The Word”, and the notebook symbolized this. It was kept on my nightstand, always within an arms reach when reading or sleeping.

  2. I’m not sure why, but my Bible journals rarely stuck around for more than two or three years after being filled out.

Surface Tension

As absurd as it may sound, I really enjoy a coffee when the cup is as full as it can be under the laws of physics. Surface tension is my friend, allowing a few extra drops of the wonderful liquid to reside in the cup. This has been my preferred way to prepare a mug since the mid-90s1 and there's little chance that it'll change at any point in the near future so long as I'm able to lift the cup without spilling any before the first sip.

Surface Tension

The question that a lot of people generally ask when they learn of this preference is why, as though there is some sort of well-considered reason for filling a cup to the brink of overflow, but there is no reason beyond enjoying the challenge of seeing the coffee sit higher than the top of the mug without going over a rim. Besides, why not push the limits of what a container can hold? Good things are better in moderation, but this doesn't mean we can't fill a small or medium-sized cup to the brink rather than one of the cereal bowl-sized ceramic "mugs" that are so popular in North America2. This is how I approach a number of things in life; enjoy as much as you'd like, but do so with moderation.

There are a couple of areas in my life that have gone well beyond moderation and are approaching lunacy, the number of hours I work for the day job being one of them. Filling a cup to its comical capacity is fine, but filling most of a waking day with office work is just poor judgement. Hopefully with this next bout of time off I'll have an opportunity to reexamine what's truly important in life and make the necessary adjustments. There will always be more work, and I am not a cup. Spilling over isn't good for anybody.

  1. My parents used to tease me so much when I would make coffee, hoping that I would spill some so they could have a laugh at my expense. The joke was on them, though, as teenagers generally have pretty good motor control. My hands didn't start shaking until just a couple of years ago.

  2. I had one of these, but it was actually for cereal. Being able to eat from a bowl with a handle on the side had several advantages.