RAM Emergency

How much memory does a typical computer need in 2019? When I look at machines that are sold at electronics shops1, I'm seeing machines that ship with between 4 and 8 GB of RAM. Looking at the Lenovo and Dell websites will show much of the same. Most of the notebooks that are handed out at the day job also fall into this category, with schools getting machines with 8GB, and managers getting units with 4GB2. When I moved out of the classroom in 2016 I was given a Lenovo W541 notebook with 8GB of RAM, which I promptly upgraded to 32 because it was the right thing to do. That machine has since been converted to a development server and I'm now using an X1 Carbon with 8GB. As I've lamented, perhaps too often, the sleek little notebook is great except for one little detail: 8GB is simply not enough.

RAM Emergency

As one would expect, I've brought this up with a couple of my managers who have all pretty much said the same thing: there isn't money in the budget right now for a new machine, so try to make due with what's at hand. I am certainly accustomed to working with what's on hand, though it generally means that I try to find creative solutions to my problems. The "fix" that I currently have is to offload work to other machines. I can send large workloads to the development server upstairs to chug through or, if I need even more power, a potent virtual machine with lots of memory and processing horsepower has been configured for me to use at the corporate data centre. This means potentially transferring up to 50 gigabytes of compressed data3 to get work done. It's suboptimal, but it's better than struggling with a machine that is simply not up to the task.

Today was pretty rough, though. More than once I noticed the machine struggling to keep up with the workload. If I were doing data transformations today then I could understand why the physical memory was exhausted and the swap file was being thrashed. However, today's tasks were all about working with web development tools. No database work. No API development or testing. Just design and development. Why couldn't the machine keep up?

The company had a RAM emergency. The office had too much RAM.
— Jen Barber, Relationship Manager for the IT Department of Reynholm Industries

Sometimes I'm tempted to bring up the issues that I face when using this notebook to carry out my duties. I didn't have these problems when I was permitted to use my own hardware, a MacBook Pro with 16GB RAM and a much slower SSD running the very same version of Ubuntu as the Lenovo. The previous system I had requested was denied as it came out to 338,700円, which is just over $3,000 USD. If I'm a little more conservative and choose a similar machine to what I have now, an X1 Carbon with 16GB RAM, less NVMe storage, and a higher resolution screen for 182,488円, which works out to just under $1,650 USD. The 2019-model X1 Carbons will be shipping in June, so the current version is priced to clear.

But am I asking too much?

For the longest time I have tried to cost the company less money than anyone in IT. This doesn't seem to be the case anymore. I work an excessive number of hours overtime and the hardware that I've managed to acquire over the last three years is not cheap. All of this is in the service of the day job, of course, but there is still a cost involved. The management has already said "no" to the request, so coming back at them for the third time in less than four months could appear to be selfish or persistent in the worst way.

While it's true that I could just "secretly" go back to using my own personal hardware to get the job done, I would be much more comfortable having sensitive, work-related data on a work-owned machine. This way, if I am terminated or decide to leave the company at some point in the future, then I'll know that there's no company data on any of my machines. Wiping a drive and re-installing an operating system isn't enough when it comes to keeping a device clear of data, as there are backups that could also contain data that does not belong to me. I treat this subject seriously as it's my responsibility to protect and maintain data not just for the day job, but for a number of people I offer services to. For this reason my machines will continue to be used for non-day job tasks. In the meantime, it will probably make the most sense to continue doing what I'm doing, working with the tools I have and finding ways to make it all work. When it comes time to discuss this year's performance with the management team, it may be possible to bring up the topic again.

Besides, I can always use the occasional system sluggishness as an excuse to get up and walk around; something I don't do nearly enough of anymore.


  1. Never buy a computer from an electronics shop unless it's an absolute emergency. You'll pay through the nose for something that's worth less than half of the amount you forked over. Buy online if at all possible.

  2. I don't understand the logic, either. Outlook alone will consume all of this just to start up, nevermind what the browser(s) and operating system want.

  3. I work with a lot of databases. Right now I've been tasked to perform a number of data migrations for corporate offices around the world.

Five Things

Yesterday the family and I enjoyed a picnic at a popular park in Nagoya, travelling 55 minutes each way. As one would expect during cherry blossom season, there were thousands of people in attendance making all kinds of noise and generally enjoying themselves. Despite the splitting headache and momentary anxiety rush, the trip was a complete success. Everyone enjoyed the time together.

This morning Reiko learned that a children’s theme park not too far from here was going to have a show featuring ワンワン1, one of the boy’s favourite TV characters. Throwing caution to the wind with a second consecutive day out in a sea of humanity, we quickly got ready and drove to 犬山市2. The weather was gorgeous, though a little hot at times when the 27°C temperatures felt more like 37°C. That said, it wasn’t too bad, which made standing in line to see the show a little more bearable.

Waiting in Line at Japan Monkey Park

Today’s adventure turned out to be better than yesterday’s, though the boy was clearly in need of a nap at certain points this afternoon. One observation I had today while watching other parents try to coral and herd their children is that adults tend to have a bit more fun at these sorts of events than the kids … which is both relieving and weird.

Preamble aside, it’s time to get on with the list!

Bare Bums

A lot of parents seem to have no qualms with changing their child’s diaper in plain view when there are potentially dozens or hundreds of spectators. Regardless of how often I see a parent quickly go through the well-practiced motions of changing a dirty diaper in public, I still find it a bit odd given how such things are strongly frowned upon in Canada.

Muscle Mass

Over the last two years my arms have gotten much stronger. There was a time when I thought that, after carrying her for a kilometre or two, Nozomi was a heavy puppy. She’s been consistently around 4.5Kg since 2013. Today I was carrying the boy in one arm, his stroller with various drinks and whatnot, and a bag with other necessary items while walking 700m from the parking lot to the park. Reiko estimated that this was about 20Kg in total, which I managed to do without dropping anything or stopping to rest.

Parents have to become strong if they are to succeed, it seems.

Shattered Screens

Something I observed a lot this weekend is the condition of people’s cell phones. It seemed that anyone with a child under the age of five had a phone with a shattered screen held together with a “screen protector” that was more a finger protector than anything else. While I can appreciate the advantages of using glass on a touch device, I do wonder why plastic is not a viable option for people to choose. Life happens and technology is subjected to a great deal of abuse. Colour matching is generally suboptimal with plastic screens but, given the number of people with shattered screens or visibility-blocking films on their glass devices, accurate colour rendering may not be as important as some manufacturers think.

Pervasive Pollen

Despite the heroic efforts of the allergy medicine, the incredible amount of pollen in the air has meant that I get to sneeze and cough just slightly less than I might if I weren’t relying on an antihistamine. Fortunately there are just seven months to go before the next winter season begins.

Silenced Sirens

It’s been a little more than a week since I’ve ditched a bunch of news sources for being undeniably biased in their reporting. This leaves just eight sources of news in my life, four of which are focused on technology. All in all, I’ve been quite happy with the change. While the lack of reading angry articles everyday will take some getting used to, this has proven incredibly good for the mind. Some echo chambers are harder to identify than others.

Tomorrow is the start to another workweek for a lot of people. Let’s make it a good one.


  1. ワンワン is read as “wan-wan”, which is equivalent to “woof-woof” in English.

  2. 犬山市 is read as “Inuyama-shi”, or “Inuyama City”. Fun fact, 犬 means “dog”, and 山 means “mountain”. We went to “dog mountain city” to see a person dressed in a dog costume named “woof-woof” … and Nozomi, a real dog, couldn’t join us.

Period drama Warrior brings Bruce Lee's vision to vivid life after 50 years

(arstechnica.com)

According to Hollywood lore, Bruce Lee pitched an idea in 1971 for a TV series about a martial artist in the Old West. Skittish studio heads passed on the project (and on Lee as its star), opting to make Kung Fu with David Carradine instead. Lee's daughter, Shannon Lee, heard these stories, too. When she took over management of her father's legacy in 2000 as president of the Bruce Lee Foundation, among the archived materials was Lee's original treatment, along with several drafts and notes. It stayed in storage for several years, until Lee mentioned its existence to executive producer Justin Lin. Lin loved the treatment and thought they could make the series that her father had always intended.

This sounds like a show to look forward to 👍

Sources

Anxiety is a problem for millions of people around the world and can range from being a slight unease in the chest to a full-blown panic attack. Not everyone will experience it the same way and rarely have I seen people who do not battle anxiety on a regular basis understand how it can affect someone. In my case, the strain that I feel most often is social anxiety, which generally appears almost every time I’m in a crowd without a pair of headphones on. What I don’t understand is why this feeling exists at all.

Social anxiety is a mental disorder where a person is incredibly nervous when in a social situation. Symptoms can include abdominal discomfort, a tight chest, lightheadedness, and a 'negative loop' of feeling anxious about any anxious feelings. Panic attacks may also occur if the right conditions cascade into each other. I’ve yet to experience a sense of panic when out shopping at a crowded mall or even when on a train in Tokyo. Everything else, though, is a regular occurrence to such an extent that I’ve started to actively avoid going to busy places unless I am alone and wearing headphones. When in a crowded place by myself, it’s possible to push away the oppressive claustrophobia that comes with being surrounded by hundreds or thousands of people who generally stand a little too close to others. This is generally impossible when out with Reiko or the boy because both enjoy talking in a near-nonstop fashion, and not answering questions or being part of a conversation/soliloquy is not an option. So, when out and about with the family, I generally keep the ears open to keep the peace at the cost of enjoying the different environment.

This has been “just the way it is” for years, and I’ve usually associated this with my strong dislike of unstructured noise. When people congregate somewhere, conversations and other sounds blend to become virtually incoherent, which makes it a challenge to hear what anyone is saying. However, after a bit of an anxiety issue today that resulted in a feeling of oppressive claustrophobia where I wanted everyone in a crowded park to “go away”1. The feeling is completely irrational and I understand it as such, but anxiety is really hard to control.

As the feeling generally crops up when I’m surrounded by noise, I’ve been paying attention to how loud a place is in order to maintain some semblance of sanity when outside. However, Reiko seems to think that my problem is not sound, but sleep.

This past week I’ve been working pretty long hours to accomplish a number of tasks and objectives. From Sunday to Friday, a six-night period, I managed to get about 27 hours of sleep. Nozomi gets more than this in two days, and the boy gets it in three. Generally when I am not getting enough sleep I have difficulty focusing on voices and this results in conversations coming across as incoherent noise rather than communicative language. As the ears get tired2, noise increases, which leads to anxiety, which leads to lots of frowning or a strong desire to escape the current environment, even if it’s just my living room. Reiko thinks it’s better if I get to bed before midnight every day, understanding that sometimes I’ll be waking up at 4:45am for early-morning meetings.

The idea does have merit. Generally I’m battling the strong desire to fall sleep between the hours of 2:00pm and bedtime. The body or, more likely, the mind is clearly trying to tell me something. My concern is that by spending more time in bed there will be less work accomplished. Reiko’s concern is that if I’m always focused on getting work accomplished, then a serious burnout isn’t too far off.

Two decades ago I could push myself pretty hard and the consequences were minimal. I’m clearly not as resilient today, and adjustments must be attempted. So, with this in mind, I’ll set a goal for myself to be in bed by 11:30pm every night, as this will mean being asleep before midnight. The trick will be to tell the mind it’s time to shut down for the night.


  1. By “go away” I mean leave and/or give me and my family a good 50 meters of space.

  2. I know it’s not the ears, but the brain. That said, this is generally how I describe the issue.

Mornings in the Park

Warmer temperatures have made the mornings a lot more enjoyable over the last two weeks and this has resulted in longer walks with the boy and, more often than not, Reiko as well. In addition to the fresh air and exercise, these walks are an excellent opportunity to explore the neighbourhood together. The boy is as curious as anyone his age would be, which means there are new discoveries and a barrage of questions every couple of minutes … or seconds. Fortunately he does stop for air every once in a while, which allows me to make use of the nice Canon camera.

The Boy Surveys the Park

As one would expect, Nozomi is also enjoying the springtime weather. Over the next few weeks her winter coat will begin to shed, which will make her appear younger, thinner, and much cooler. Time permitting, she'll also get a proper trim.

Nozomi in the Park

With two days of idyllic weather forecasted for the weekend, Reiko and I have made some tentative plans for a pair of picnics. One day we'll go to a nearby park with a large number of cherry trees and ample space for the boy to run. The other day we'll make the trip up to Inuyama to enjoy the park surrounding the castle with the in-laws. Camera batteries will be charged. Memory cards will be prepped and ready to go.

This weekend is going to be fun.

What Broke the RSS?

Over the last couple of weeks there has been something preventing the RSS feed from this personal site to Feedly. The last update shows as being March 16th. To the best of my knowledge, I've been publishing a post every day since September of last year. What's preventing updates from appearing on the popular syndication service?

RSS Background

The W3C Feed Validator reports that the XML feed is valid and it's possible to see updates when using an RSS Reader that does not rely on web services to parse, sync, and display feeds. Given the number of sites on 10C, if the RSS generator was broken, then there wouldn't be updates from any account appearing, but this isn't the case. New posts do pop up on an almost daily basis, but not for matigo.ca. The problem must therefore be somewhere within <channel>, and with one of the more recent <item> objects.

Yesterday this site moved over from v4 to v5, which is using a very different mechanism to build syndication feeds. Unlike the previous version of the platform, v5 supports both XML and JSON. Feedly also supports both of these formats, so I added the JSON syndication feed and found that the items are all loading just as they should. Every article, quotation, and bookmark loads without fail. So what's wrong with the XML file?

Looking at the output, there does seem to be some encoding issues with Japanese characters, but nothing that should get in the way of presenting the data. One would think that services such as Feedly have developed all sorts of methods to clean a broken or otherwise malformed XML file. What bothers me about this isn't so much the lack of updates or the fact that we can't do any debugging or check for errors on Feedly's website, but instead the appearance that I've given up the blogging streak. Few of the posts I write are worth reading more than once, if at all, but a post a day for over six months isn't something to walk away from. A lack of updates via an RSS service due to XML problems will look the same as a blogger who has given up.

Writing something every day is not at all easy, as it cuts into other responsibilities and expectations, but it's something I do look forward to. Unless I'm knocked offline for a day or otherwise indisposed, there's little chance of me stopping in the near future.

A Conversation with Nozomi

Not a day goes by where I don't chat with Nozomi about whatever happens to be on my mind. This generally happens when we're out in the park for one of her walks, and typically when there aren't too many people within earshot. For reasons I can only guess at, my neighbours generally do not talk to their dogs aside from issuing commands like "sit", "stop", and "come on". Maybe their conversations are limited to their homes.

Today marks 40 years since my parents braved driving through a final winter storm so that I could be born in a hospital. Despite the round number, growing list of responsibilities, and crippling home-owner's debt, I don't feel my age. If anything, I feel younger today than I did at 35. Perhaps the boy has something to do with this. However, it's because of this youthful feeling that I often find myself enjoying moments where the devices are put away, the distractions are minimal, and the current activity is the singular focus.

Clouds Above

This focus happened a couple of times today, once when I took the picture above, once when the boy and I were playing together, and again when Nozomi and I were outside after dinner, with the stars above shining brilliantly despite the light pollution that obscures all but the brightest celestial objects. It was this last moment, when Nozomi and I were alone in the park and observing our separate interests1 that I shared with her my unrealistic desire to explore the universe.

While she sniffed grass and leaves, I explained how the local solar system could keep me busy for years and the nearby star systems for decades. The problem of travelling vast distances at relativistic speeds was brought up as well as a couple of options for how humanity might get around going insane during the years, decades, or centuries of travel. Challenges with food and energy production for long periods of time kept the one-sided conversation going longer than Nozomi was willing to listen, but we could certainly walk and talk at the same time. And then, as was to be expected, the ultimate fantasy was declared:

This would all be easier if I were a Q.

Q, the fictional, omnipotent race of beings from Star Trek, can do anything they please regardless of how impossible the desire might be. Time travel. Going from one side of the galaxy to the other in a heartbeat. Reading a book while enjoying a cup of coffee on the surface of the Sun. All of these things are possible and more. Of course, being Q would also make a person immortal. With this sort of potential, now it becomes feasible to explore the galaxy … and the next one … and the one after that. Nozomi could come with me. I could ensure she never aged a day ever again. Heck, with the power to do anything at all, I might just solve Brexit2 before heading off to Andromeda to see what happens when a pulsar is absorbed by a black hole.

These are the sorts of conversations that I enjoy having with Nozomi when we're outside. She doesn't get to share her ideas very often, though she does send clear signals when a topic isn't to her liking. A few months back I was talking about how we needed to find a better shampoo for her to use during baths. As soon as she heard that last word, she was as far away from me as her leash would allow and pretending to be incredibly interested in some fallen leaf that was just out of reach.

Her honesty and patience are both wonderful.


  1. As one would expect, Nozomi is interested in what's on the ground. I am interested in what's above.

  2. First order of business: fire all of the politicians.

A family from Quebec drove home from Florida with a body in the backseat

(nationalpost.com)

A vacation to Florida ended tragically for the Drapeau family of Quebec, whose patriarch Fernand, 87, died on the drive home.

His wife and son, wary about the cost and hassle of going to an American hospital and getting Fernand’s body repatriated, decided to just keep driving to their Ormstown home, in Quebec’s Montérégie region.

Oh my. This would weigh heavily on me if I were driving. I mean, a heart attack can be handled at a hospital if caught early enough. Do these people not speak English? 😕

Sing

Spotify has done a pretty solid job of improving my enjoyment of music. Not only do they have a larger collection than I could possibly ever acquire (legally), but they have an application that is just so painless that I actually want to use the software. Whether I'm listening on the phone, the tablet, or the Ubuntu-powered notebook, the company has offerings that make it easy to sync playlists between devices, pick up listening to a song between devices almost to the second, and download locally for better listening1. One of the basic features that I've enjoyed more than I ever should is the playlist builder. Creating playlists in a music application is nothing new, of course. What Spotify does well, though, is present similar songs that might also be added given the recently added files.

The algorithm they use is just wonderful, but there is a pretty dire consequence: I want to sing.

Microphone Up Close

My wife has on numerous occasions asked me to not sing as fate has made it impossible for me to carry a tune in a bucket, even if it had four handles. This doesn't stop me from trying, though.

When she's not home, I'll turn off the TV, fire up Spotify, and hit shuffle on my "Let Me Sing" playlist. The boy even gets involved by following along with The Cranberries, Pearl Jam, Cornershop, Fatboy Slim, Sting, Phil Colins, and dozens of other great artists. It's hard not to. Music is the universal language, and singing is just downright fun. That said, I do wish I were better.

This need to karaoke at home was not instigated by Spotify. I would often do the same when all of my music was stored on a hard drive and played through WinAmp, or sitting in iTunes available across several Apple devices. Each of these earlier systems had just enough friction in place to prevent a spontaneous song and dance show. I doubt this is just because of how easy it is to create, modify, or load a playlist. If anything, what makes this music service worth the annual subscription is how instant everything feels. I could search for something truly obscure like Takuro Yoshida's classic Ningen Nante2 or Billy Ban Ban's I'm in Love With You Again3 and be listening in the span of 10 seconds. Music has never been so accessible and it's completely changed my relationship with the art form.

Hopefully I can share my love of music with the boy for a couple more years before he starts to leave the room whenever Sting's Fortress Around Your Heart plays over the speakers. If all else fails, perhaps a sound-proofed room where I can let loose with the well-timed, out-of-tune lyrics is in order. At the very least the space could double as a podcast studio.


  1. These are all things that Apple could have gotten right with their streaming subscription service several years ago if the iTunes and Apple Music development teams weren't so hell-bent on making something so awful that a combination of Windows Media Player and KaZaA seems a step up.

  2. This can be found by typing "Takuro 人間". The full song's name is 人間なんて.

  3. It's hard to believe that また君に恋してる has just 63,000-odd listens given how it's one of my favourite Japanese songs ever.

Reiwa: The Next Imperial Era for Japan

A little after 11:30 this morning, productivity in Japan came to a halt as people tuned in to watch the country's chief cabinet secretary unveil the name of the next imperial era. This is something that is generally only seen once or twice in a person's lifetime, and is something that affects just about every document that gets written in the country. Unlike most countries in the world, Japan has two official date systems: the Gregorian calendar, and the 元号 (read as "gengo") Imperial era. Much to the surprise of many, the next era's name will be 令和 (read as "Reiwa"), meaning "fortunate harmony".

Japan's chief cabinet secretary Yoshihide Suga unveils the name of new era, Reiwa

In my neighbourhood the new name was met with a bit of confusion, as the majority of people expected the next era to start with some form of "Kei" rather than "Rei", but soon everyone was on board given the general simplicity of the characters. For me it'll be quite easy to write as the first character, 令, is the same as in my wife's name. The 和 is also similarly easy as it's the second character in 昭和 (read "shōwa"), the era I was born in. Traditionally when a new emperor is crowned, the 元号 that denotes the era is changed. There are also times in history when the era name was changed after a large natural disaster or when an unpopular emperor wishes to recast the latter half of their reign. There have been close to 250 eras since this tradition began some 1300 years ago, two dozen of which I can name. This new era begins on May 1st, coronation day for the next emperor of the country.

This means the Japanese calendar will go like this:

平成31 4月 30日 - April 30, 2019
令和1 5月 1日 - May 1, 2019

The Japanese calendar dates are used on all official documentation, particularly if it is related to money and/or the government. All of my mortgage documents, for example, show the year I signed as being 平成29 or 平成30, with the final payment taking place in 平成65, even though everyone knew that the current emperor had signalled his intentions to step down ahead of these dates. Fortunately we will not need to go back to the bank to update the paperwork for the new era, but we will need to remember that 平成65 is actually 令和34 which will be in 2053 … assuming that Emperor Naruhito is still in good health at the age of 93 and has not stepped down for his son Hisahito to take over.

As one would expect, this semi-regular confusion around dates has lead to some people calling for the abolition of this "imprecise" calendaring system for the full adoption of the Gregorian calendar that is used across much of the globe. Given the cultural propensity to hold onto tradition, there is little chance that Japan will completely step away from using 元号 in the near future. The idea that Japan is living in the future or otherwise throwing caution to the wind by forever living for tomorrow is terribly inaccurate. Like many countries a long history and deep sense of pride1, most adults are generally conservative and follow traditions. The culture has certainly evolved over the course of its history, as one would expect, but not at the expense of what's been considered good from the past.

When the next emperor is crowned it will be akin to a new year for people across the country. Some will make "resolutions", just as people might for January 1st, and others will choose not to. One thing is for certain, though: everyone will appreciate the incredibly long Golden Week holiday this year. In my case, I get to clock off work on Friday April 26th and not do a thing for the day job until the morning of Tuesday May 6th. Six days of paid national holidays, and more than 65% of the country's employed people will take advantage of it.


  1. The average person that I've spoken to is very proud to be Japanese and have a deep respect for the culture and history of the country. The imperialist expansions across Asia and into the Pacific during the first half of the 20th century are generally regarded as terrible mistakes that must never be repeated. Only once have I met someone who felt the country needed to go into Korea again to "bring peace to the region" … which would do anything but.