Sazae-san Syndrome

There's a cultural joke in Japan called "Sazae-san Syndrome" which refers to the feeling of malaise that generally sets in across the country at 6:30pm every Sunday. For half a century a cartoon called サザエさん (Sazae-san) has aired at half-past six in the evening every week on Sunday, chronicling the trials and tribulations of two families that live in the same home. The show is set in the late 1960s and a lot of people -- including me -- enjoy watching every week because it's a reminder of simpler times. A person needn't have lived in Japan or the 1960s to understand the situations and find them funny, either. So how is it that a popular show that's been on TV for 50 years can make a large portion of a nation feel anxious?

It's a reminder that the weekend is over and the day-to-day grind is about to begin again.


Today marks the last day of my Christmas and New Year holiday, which means tomorrow is going to be an action-packed day with dozens of people demanding more time than a single person has available. I know this because I succumbed to the itch on Christmas Eve and found several dozen messages in the Inbox inviting me to high-priority meetings that were scheduled during my time off or requesting things that will take two weeks to build be completed for tomorrow morning. As one would expect, there was a lot of bluster with people suggesting that their "entire department will be sitting around doing nothing" if I am unable to have things ready for first thing in the morning, but such is life. In addition to this was a series of requests from a direct manager who knew I was on vacation, unavailable, and unwilling to forfeit more personal time to either perform a series of incredibly complex data migrations three months ahead of schedule from the old system to an upcoming one, or provide the files I had developed over a span of six months to do the job. Data migrations are complex tasks where single mis-steps can require an exorbitant amount of time to resolve … but this didn't seem to matter. The files were provided and, just as I had warned the manager in a detailed email, the migration failed for the vast majority of records because of things I described. The team tasked to do the work may try hard, but they do not have the eye to detail that is required for a complex migration involving billions of records across hundreds of objects that must be assembled in a complex series of steps. When the migration failed, the manager started sending me messages expecting solutions pronto.

That was on New Year's Eve.

Naturally I was radio silent.

Silence does not stop the mind from constructing scenarios in my head involving several days of work fixing problems that never should have existed in the first place. Days I don't have because of so many other competing priorities that were postponed in December to accommodate other teams that required complex things to be done for arbitrary deadlines that did not seem to matter in the end.

Yesterday and earlier today I looked at the inbox as well as the corporate Teams chats to get a feel for what sort of week is on the way. It didn't look pretty. From what I can tell, January is going to see about 2 weeks of overtime work put in just to maintain my current status of being six weeks behind schedule with a number of tasks that cannot be delegated.

My dear, here we must run as fast as we can, just to stay in place. And if you wish to go anywhere you must run twice as fast as that. -- The Red Queen in Through the Looking-Glass

At 6:30pm this evening, when the iconic theme song to Sazae-san could be heard throughout the house like the chimes of a grandfather clock, a feeling of malaise descended. My chest started to tighten, the smile disappeared from my face, and Reiko noticed almost immediately that I didn't seem as much fun as earlier in the day.

I take my work quite seriously most of the time and too seriously the rest. To have the start of the working year and all the carefully constructed schedules and commitments made last year tossed out the window because a bunch of people above my pay grade cannot pay attention is really, really frustrating. This isn't the first time this sort of shenanigans has happened and it certainly won't be the last. The decision-makers at the day job are not stupid. They work hard and they try to do the best they can with everything at their disposal. What usually happens is that ideas are not thought through completely or, worse, people wait until the last minute to communicate the need for something to be done, then shovel that load onto whoever might be able to technically perform the task regardless their other commitments. As I generally have a reputation for being able to do things that others cannot (or will not), this means that I get tasked with fixing things that shouldn't need to be fixed in addition to building things that should already exist.

Sazae-san Syndrome is quite real in this house.

Missed a Nap

Last month I put some effort into moving to a polyphasic sleeping cycle and have had some pretty good results. With a short nap in the afternoon and another in the evening, I find myself more alert during the times when I am awake and also more creative. The nap can also be supercharged by having a cup of coffee about 15 minutes before nodding off, which results in a really clear head upon waking and a workable plan of action for the rest of the day. This is something I wish I had learned a decade ago when midday naps started becoming feasible1, as the benefits have been quite noticeable. However, when I miss the opportunities for a little rest, the mind wanders and consciousness requires a concentrated effort to maintain.

Since taking time off from the day job for Christmas and New Year, I've been pretty much the sole caretaker for the boy. Reiko has been busy with a hundred other things so the best way to help her out is to assume the bulk of the parenting duties. While this is generally no problem, it does occasionally create havoc with my sleeping patterns. When the boy will not take his nap or go to bed in the evening without a fight, then I generally stay awake from sunrise to the middle of the night, which is a foolish thing to do when the brain starts demanding a little sleep just before midnight.

As this is the final weekend before our regular routines get started again, we're trying to restore the proper rhythm of when the we do certain things. This coming week will be busy as heck as I try to catch up on two weeks worth of email and tasks while also ensuring Reiko has completed all of the time-sensitive tasks that she is responsible for as well. Hopefully this will mean that the after-lunch and after-dinner naps will become possible again, as the dizziness and momentary lapses that plague a tired mind are not at all welcome.

  1. Working in education means that there are generally long, unpaid breaks at various times during the day. I would often put these times to use with a hobby or personal project.

A Crazy "Nested If" Fallacy

Earlier today I read an opinion piece in a local newspaper from Julie Anne Pattee who argues that it is not acceptable to call someone a "nutcase" or use any term that might refer to a mental illness or condition as a means to describe someone or something that may appear to be behaving differently than expected. As someone opposed to the seemingly ceaseless desire from various groups to impose limitations on how people may use language, the editorial was something I was genuinely interested in reading. The best way to understand someone's argument is to hear it out. Not only because of Rule 91, but because it's darn near impossible to have a valid reason to challenge an idea that you don't understand.

The editorial starts out by introducing a Lego Ninjago character named "Krazi" who is a one-dimensional antagonist that epitomises everything the word "crazy" might mean to most people. A children's book put out by Lego to sell more toys describes the character like this:

Krazi is well named because he is completely mad. He is extremely dangerous in battle, because he is totally unpredictable. One day he might fight ferociously for hours, and another day he may sneak away at the start of the fight and then come back and strike again later. He was almost left behind in the underworld, but he is too formidable a fighter not to have come along.

The Fandom link describes him in much the same way, stating:

Krazi is a being deemed purely insane, even more than any other known character. Likewise, he is prone to back-and-forth behavior, often switching between opposite routines without order, and falling into strange fits of madness, running around while screaming and biting trees. He is also incredibly destructive, taking it upon himself to smash entire mountains as a hobby. Either as a result of his insanity, dimwittedness, or both, Krazi is also prone to calling out phrases that make little sense, and is generally so wild and unpredictable that even Samukai almost found him to be too much of a wild card to utilize.

By all accounts, this character is quite literally crazy. If most of us were to be in close proximity to a person like this in real life, we would take immediate action to get out of the area immediately and call the police. If there are children -- related or otherwise -- in the area, most adults would do their best to remove them from the area as well. A person living with mental sickness or instability sees the world very differently, making any sort of active engagement dangerous without a lot of prior knowledge and experience.

By using a character with these traits, Lego is very clearly copying The Joker from Batman to create an easy "bad guy" for kids to play with. This is part of what upsets the author of the editorial. She writes:

As a culture, we've gotten so used to using words that refer to mental illness as negative that no one even bats an eye when we decide to turn our hatred of the mentally ill into a toy for children. Krazi is still a popular Lego character.

This is where she transitions from describing Krazi to stating her argument, but I find it an untenable stretch to suggest that having a character that is by all accounts literally insane is the result of "hatred of the mentally ill". Lex Luthor from Superman is insanely smart and, as a result, one of the wealthiest men in the fictional DC universe, but this doesn't mean that we hate intelligent people. Uriah Heep from David Copperfield was incredibly well read and could twist words to his advantage better than most, but this doesn't mean we abhor books2 or developing a large vocabulary. Cathy Ames from East of Eden is a remarkably beautiful woman who manipulates people, destroys lives, and murders just for her own amusement, but this doesn't mean we despise beauty. The list goes on and on, as most every great work of fiction has an equally compelling antagonist that has at least one thing going for them that we deem worthwhile, be it intelligence, creativity, beauty, or something else. To suggest that a character like Krazi was created simply because Lego hates people who suffer from mental illness is disingenuous. Worse, this potentially false presupposition results in something I call the "Nested If Fallacy".

The subheading to Julie Anne's editorial reads:

Our words matter because they are chains that lead us places. Stigma leads to prejudice which leads to discrimination, writes Julie Anne Pattee.

This is a Nested If Fallacy because it requires multiple "if" statements to be true before reaching the end result.

So, if a person associates evil with the mentally ill, then a stigma will develop. If a person has a stigma regarding mental illness, then they will be prejudiced against those with some sort of mental issue because they are seen as evil. If a person is prejudiced against a person with mental illness, then there will be discrimination because they are seen as evil.

This cognitive path can certainly take place in some minds, but to suggest this is going to happen every time a person is introduced to a fictional character that is -- again -- quite literally insane is a leap too far. It is the role of a parent to ensure their children have a balanced understanding that "not all crazy people are evil" just like "not all wealthy people are evil" and "not all creative people are evil" and "not all beautiful people are evil". The objective of this children's character is to act as a one-dimensional antagonist to be defeated by "the good guys", whoever they may be. Kids will not read this far into Krazi or even the more popular Joker from Batman.

From here, the article continues and the author makes the case that using words that describe various types of mental illness are slurs that should be stamped out, much like how people stopped calling each other "retard" or "Corky"3 to mean "idiot".

[…] It's still normal for the weather and the stock markets to be described as schizophrenic. Every time something bad or unfair happens to one of my friends, they'll tell me it was "just insane."

How would either of these statements lead to the development of a stigma or prejudice? If someone were to say "It's really hot outside" does that mean the weather outdoors is sexually attractive? Or would the inverse be true so that "He has a hot body" means the person in question is running a fever? People regularly use language to describe situations without speaking in a derogatory fashion about any person or group of people. If we were to impose a new set of rules to refrain from using words that are -- or could be -- perceived as diminishing to people with a mental condition or illness, we would need to encourage everyone to start reading books in order to expand the common lexicon that we all use when communicating with each other. The Oxford English Dictionary contains 171,476 words that are currently in use plus another 47,156 obsolete words. Of these, the typical English speaker knows somewhere around 20,000 and uses a decent portion of them regularly. With this in mind, let's imagine we changed some sentences from derogatory to "inclusive":

The weather is absolutely schizophrenic today.⇢ The weather is quite erratic today.4

The checkout line was just insane today.⇢ The checkout line was highly irregular today.

Yep, we certainly have a large enough selection of everyday words available for these two situations … so long as we don't mind speaking like Vulcans.

Personally, I would be in favour of seeing people use a wider range of words when describing situations or people because we hear the same adjectives over and over and over again to the point where the meaning of the word evolves into something else. This is certainly the case for the word "crazy", which I generally perceive as meaning "with a great deal of energy" or "very positive".

We went to a crazy party the other night.⇢ The get together we attended was incredibly fun and we partied like it was 1999.

Tom got a crazy deal on a 65" Sony TV.⇢ Tom bought a 65" Sony television for a very good price.

When we call someone a "nutcase," what we really mean is that we shouldn't take them seriously.

Indeed. Not everyone should be taken seriously in every situation, especially when emotions are involved. This isn't a slur that denigrates people with mental health issues, it's a warning to others based on current or past experiences with the "nutcase".

Words make worlds, as the saying goes. Using inclusive language isn't some kind of pointless, politically correct obsession. It's actually the necessary first step toward creating a fairer, more equal society for all of us.

Incorrect. Societies cannot be fair or equal because life isn't fair equal. People can scream and shout for the dispossessed to their heart's content, but this will not change the fact that some people are born more intelligent than others, or more creative, or more beautiful. Some of us will struggle with mental health issues. Some of us will struggle with addiction. Some of us will struggle with physical impairments. This doesn't mean that we shouldn't aim to ensure that those who seek to be members of society can participate, but it does mean that we should not enforce rules that are ill-defined and constantly changing.

Language evolves. Today "bombastic" means pompous, verbose, periphrastic, and the like5. Who is to say that it will not mean something seen as derogatory to people with mental illness who scream obscenities on busy street corners next month? If this happens, should we stop using this word to describe politicians who are all talk and no action because it might offend someone? Nested If Fallacies can happen like this, too.

If a word might lead to a stigma, then it should not be said. If a word is changed by modern culture to mean a word that is perceived to lead to stigma, then it should not be said. If a classification of words, such as adjectives, can be hijacked to mean a word that is perceived to lead to stigma that becomes prejudice that evolves into discrimination, then it must be eradicated.

Maybe it's better if we just don't say anything at all.

  1. Rule 9: Assume that the person you are listening to might know something you don't. Julie Anne Pattee, the author of the editorial, has lived with experience of severe mental illness, and was a mental health care research assistant and consultant in Montreal. She knows a lot more about mental illness than I ever will.

  2. Well … a lot of people might abhor reading books, but we generally don't hate the object itself.

  3. Corky was a character on the TV show Life Goes On in the early 90s. He had Down Syndrome, but was high-functioning enough to be relatable to people who had no experience with the condition.

  4. Earlier versions of this sentence tried the words "unstable", "erratic", and "volatile", but these could also be misread to appear as derogatory towards people with mental illness.

  5. Sort of like this rather long rant against compelled speech.


Sometimes it's good for established routines to go through a period of disruption. This allows for some reflection to see if the current patterns are in need of an update. One of the many things that Reiko and I have tried to maintain over the last three years is a repeating series of steps for the boy to learn and follow. Some of these are to adopt lifelong rules, such as washing hands before -- and sometimes after -- a meal, while others are simply processes that we have all learned to be effective for daily activities, like getting ready for bed. As the family is staying in Gifu with Reiko's parents, just about every routine is being disrupted as a result of being in a different house with a larger group of people to create distractions. After getting the boy into bed tonight, both Reiko and I agree that the various regimens that we've all become accustomed to are desperately missed. Fortunately we return home tomorrow afternoon.

Friends and colleagues have told me that small children need to have a schedule that gets stuck to in order to maintain some semblance of sanity at home. Having a toddler of my own now, I can corroborate this tidbit of wisdom as being an effective means to ensure teeth are brushed, showers are taken, clothes are changed, and toys are (somewhat) put away. The routines have become second nature enough that when I forget a step, the boy will remind me via some sort of angry demand. It's an interesting thing to see in practice. However, as February draws ever closer, we know there's going to be another period of adaptation required for new routines and stricter schedules. Kindergarten begins in just a handful of weeks, which means less sleeping in and more emphasis on timeliness.

As it stands, we've been making incremental changes over the last couple of weeks. We wake up slightly earlier and aim to have breakfast done by 8:00am so that teeth can be cleaned and clothes changed half an hour later. He will need to be at school by 9:00am and, if it's my day to take him, that means walking1 20 minutes along "Circle Road", a dedicated pedestrian path that cuts through the four local neighbourhoods and allows a person easy access to every school in the area without ever needing to cross a road2. It's a good walking distance for a toddler, and a decent warm-up for me.

Very few habits are ever static and it's important to ensure they're updated as conditions change. That said, having everything thrown out of whack when visiting family can help us identify what parts of a routine should stick around.

  1. I don't want my kid to expect a ride to school every day. He has two legs and they work. He should learn to walk to places he wants to go to. His mother, however, would rather drive even if the destination is 100m from the house.

  2. When people do need to cross a road, the pedestrian path becomes a bridge. This ensures that young children walking to school or elsewhere do not need to contend with the fast-moving cars that ignore the 40kph speed limit signs painted on every road.

New Year, Old Home

As per tradition, Reiko and I are spending New Year's Day -- and a couple of days after -- with her parents at the family home in Gifu. This was the house where Reiko and her sisters were raised. This is the house where I lived for a year after moving to Japan, then again after Reiko's mother fell in the middle of the night. This is the house where Reiko and I stayed in the final month of her pregnancy with the boy. If walls could speak, they'd have stories to tell.

The boy has been here a number of times over the last three years, but rarely has he spent more than a few hours here before we piled in the car for the return trip home. Tonight he gets to sleep downstairs with his mum while Nozomi and I are upstairs in Reiko's childhood room1. There will be different smells, different sounds, a different bed, and somewhat different pre-sleep habits. He's adapting to the environment, but it's clear that he's not completely comfortable in this unfamiliar home where none of his stuffed animals can keep him company at night.

This situation is one that I used to think of as a "Different Ceiling", as that's what I would generally observe while trying to fall asleep or shortly after waking up. My parents liked to socialise and, when parents have 5+ kids to bring places, there's almost always a requirement to adapt to new sofas, new beds, and new cots on a regular basis. I was quite the quiet person when growing up, preferring to buy my head in a book or two rather than goof around with cousins or other bored kids. This started to change in my mid-teens thanks to being old enough to play board games with "the adults" but, until then, I would generally be found sitting in the living room with a Star Trek novel in my hands and2 a glass of soda nearby. People would occasionally try to interact and I would quickly shut them down. At the end of the day, generally around 11:00pm, if the parents were still loud and playing their Trivial Pursuit game, then I would curl up on the sofa and get some sleep. I was not exactly a fun kid.

My son, while similar in many ways, is much more like his mother in temperament. This means that when we're at places, he's much more willing to interact with people -- including strangers. Will he develop the same disinterest in going places as a family and perhaps crashing on a sofa or in someone else's bed3? Will he stay awake and notice all the differences between where he's sleeping that moment and his bed back home? Will none of this ever cross his mind?

The older the boy gets, the more I'm reminded of my own youth and the peculiarities that I exhibited … and still possess to varying degrees. Hopefully my life-long neurosis does not rub off on him.

  1. The room has long-since been changed into a guest room, so it's not like we're stepping back in time a quarter century or more to her room as it was in her teens.

  2. There would also be a second book next to me in the event I finished the first.

  3. I have a really hard time doing this for some reason. I can sleep in a hotel bed just fine but, if the bed is assigned to a single person (who is not me), then I am not comfortable sleeping there.

Siberian Winds

Nozomi has decided to stay in her bed for the better part of the day while gusts from the north batter our house like a typhoon minus the rain. These winds are from Siberia and, being from a part of the world that many consider to be unbearably cold, they carry quite the bite. It's really no wonder that a dog the size of Nozomi would choose to stay in her bed, with a heated blanket and in close proximity to her water bowl. That said, when nature calls, one must answer eventually.

One of the many things I like about Nozomi is her unabashed honesty. She'll let the whole house know that she needs to go outside now but if she doesn't like what she sees outside, she'll think twice about heading out … until I pick her up and remove her options. This was certainly the case today when she was hit with a blast of cold air the moment she stuck her nose outside the door. Fortunately she's a pretty good sport about being outside when I'm with her.

A moment after getting outside, Nozomi was fitted with her leash1 and we made our way to the park. As is our habit, she got to work sniffing the ground to see which other dogs have been out recently and I stared at the night sky. Quite a few of the western prefectures are being blanketed with heavy snow. Here the sky was mostly clear with just the occasional wisp of cloud. Above was Orion's Belt, as plain as day, and to the west was Venus, brighter than the crescent moon.

Right after comparing Venus with our nearest celestial body I had a sense of déjà vu and the feeling that the moon would be completely hidden behind a strand of cloud within a minute which, given the weather, it was. This wasn't precognition or prophecy, but simply the subconscious combination of memory and math.

Nozomi and I make the same evening trek every night, so I am quite familiar with what stars are in the night sky at different times of the evening. The wispy clouds were lit well enough by the moon and the street lights below that the mind could easily estimate where a cloud might be in a short period of time. The mind's eye clearly put two and two together to imagine the moon being obscured while I examined the sky, which then happened a few moments later. Déjà vu it was not, which is probably a good thing. The last thing I want to do is deal with "bugs in The Matrix" while on vacation.

Siberian winds have a number of useful effects. First they remind me of early winters in Canada, when the first cold gusts would caress exposed skin and sometimes offer a gentle sting to assert the season. Second, they cool the neighbourhood -- and the house -- down enough that every moment under the electric blanket feels sinful given all the comfort. Finally they give Nozomi some extra incentive to return home early so that she can return to her heated bed and get a drink of water.

Hopefully there's a lot more winter on the way.

  1. Nozomi's leash is kept next to the wash basin outside where her feet are cleaned after every trip to the park.

Extra-Solar Extermination

With the winter holidays in full effect, I've been able to make some time to watch some new sci-fi and settled on The Expanse, which is a show that has received some positive coverage on some of the tech-centric sites that I read. "Binging" is impossible -- and something I wouldn't be interested in doing, anyway -- but there are 90 minutes set aside in the evening for two episodes, which is just enough of the show to offer plenty to think about and analyse the next day.

Cast of The Expanse

At the moment I'm almost through the second season, which has seen the main characters get pretty dark at times. However, alongside the heroes journey into the abyss is the idea that there is something alien that is being taken advantage of by humanity for military superiority. Halfway into the second season it seemed that there might be a slight shift in the story to include bipedal intelligent life from another star system, but this -- I believe -- turns out to be false. Another human-run project is creating problems with wide-reaching consequences. Thinking through the story logically, this makes the most sense. Humanity's greatest enemy will always be humanity itself, not an extra-solar entity hell-bent on destroying us.

Well … not in the manner portrayed in movies and literature, anyway.

In stories like War of the Worlds and Independence Day the aliens1 used very conventional, human means of conquest. A military crossed a vast distance and then waged war like we have seen nations do over the centuries, albeit with some super-charged weapons that are just slightly beyond our own. Given the wealth of resources in the solar system, particularly the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, the Oort Cloud, and the Kuiper Belt, any intelligent species that would come all the way to Earth to wipe us out for the resources on this planet would not be very intelligent at all. Any species capable of interstellar travel would have the necessary technology to have a literal horde of self-replicating robots that could mine, refine, process, and ship raw materials from uninhabited planets and asteroids to market without the need for costly wars.

If there was something incredibly rare in the universe but found on this world, or any that we inhabit going forward, then there would still be better ways of extracting the resource without the need for ground troops or battles in air and space.

This is one of the many things that I feel The Expanse gets right. Rather than ask the viewer to suspend their disbelief long enough to accept a string of unrealistic plot devices, the struggle is with different groups of people with different sets of goals and different perspectives. Though the story is set 200 years in the future, the fundamental problems are ones that humanity has struggled with for millennia. The settings are different as are the technologies, but there is enough plausibility for the story to come across as realistic.

It will be interesting to see how this story plays out over the next couple of seasons.

  1. In War of the Worlds the invasion force was from Mars, not outside our solar system. This detail is unimportant with regards to the overarching concept, however.

Five Weeks to Go

In just five weeks the boy will begin his pre-kindergarten class at a nearby school, marking the first step in his journey towards independence and socially-valuable competence. There is still a great deal for him to learn between now and the time he ventures out into the world on his own, but this first harrowing ordeal will give him a taste of what is to come in life. Reiko and I are both excited, nervous, and a little sad all at the same time. The boy is growing up so quickly.

Hopefully he will have a better time at kindergarten than I did1

From what Reiko and I have seen, the boy will have a curriculum that is quite similar to the ones that we had while growing up, despite the differences between the Japanese and Canadian systems. The boy will spend a great deal of time with creative exercises, such as painting, singing, drawing, and craftwork. There will be an emphasis on cooperation with classmates. The Hiragana and Katakana character sets will be introduced2 as well as basic math concepts, which he already knows. There will be an English lesson twice a week, which ought to be interesting given his existing knowledge of the language. This will be a good opportunity for him to learn more about the world, five hours a day.

How will the boy respond to being left in a room full of strangers, I wonder? Will there be tears? Will he have a tantrum? Will he not care and instead play with some classmates? I'm very curious to see him develop over the coming months and years.

  1. Memory can be a fickle thing, but there are two generally uninteresting events that I remember from my own early educational career. The first was an experience in getting lost on account of colour blindness, which people did not know I had, and the second was standing against a wall and being as still as possible because everybody was talking nonsense. My mother enrolled me in a French-Immersion kindergarten in the hopes that I would be properly bilingual. I guess this is sort of accurate, though not in the languages my mother originally planned for.

  2. The boy can already read both Hiragana and Katakana, as well as the 26 Roman characters. What he can't do just yet is put Roman characters to use to read words. He does this with Japanese characters, though.

Hiding Unwanted Things in the Fog

Number 32: Do not hide unwanted things in the fog.
-- Jordan Peterson on "What are the most valuable things everyone should know?"

When a person does not want to think about something, the mind will get to work putting up blockers to ensure the issues are never addressed. What's interesting is that we can choose to not think about specific -- high resolution -- things such as a memory and we can choose to not think about unknown -- low resolution -- things such as an emotion. We do this by avoiding introspection and busying ourselves with something else, be it other thoughts, chores, or our phones. However, avoiding the items we don't wish to confront may work in the short term but it's not a successful strategy for the long term when something truly bothers us.

In the Fog

Yesterday I was asked if I've been able to complete the Self Authoring Suite and the answer is a resounding "no". It's a difficult process because in order to get the most out of the effort, a person needs to be completely honest. This would be Rule 8, Tell the truth -- or, at least, don't lie. Despite the fact that the Self Authoring program is completely private and there is -- hopefully -- nobody going into the database to try and make sense of the things people write, I find it incredibly difficult to answer some of the questions in a manner that befits the overarching objective of the exercise, which is to make a realistic and concrete plan for the future. The ugly truth is that I do not like who I am inside, nor do I like some of the things I've done in my life.

It's difficult to write about them without feeling deeply ashamed. Sure, "we all make mistakes", and the best we can do is to learn from our errors to ensure a better present and future, but this dismissive statement only makes sense if the mistake was a genuine accident. The things we do with intent, knowing they're wrong before embarking on the action, cannot be played off so easily because they reveal to us who we are inside. When we willingly ignore our conscience and do the wrong things to appease our inner demons, we get a glimpse of who we could be if let loose.

When I was a young man, I thought that people were generally good inside and that bad things were done out of desperation more than malice. This changed almost instantly when I was 18 and confronted by a predator in priest's clothing. At this point I discovered that inside me was not only the ability to consider and plan a murder, but the ability to justify it, too. Better decisions were made. Rational actions followed. Evil was avoided, but not defeated. It persists.

In the years that followed I did all sorts of stupid things, from petty crime to driving drunk to hacking systems. Activities I knew to be wrong before embarking on the endeavour. Though I have not done any of these things in over 15 years, the fact that I could willingly do them at all is nothing short of disappointing. Can I avoid the temptation to do these things in the future no matter the short-term reward? How can I be sure?

Inside of us is the potential for incredible good as well as unimaginable evil. For the better part of the last four years, I have made a concerted effort to be better a better person tomorrow than I was yesterday. Sometimes I fail, but every morning offers another opportunity for incremental improvement. Looking forward, I see potential. Looking back, I see shame.

It's just easier to avoid thinking about it at all.


Today marked the final payday of the year, which means that in addition to the digital payslip there is an official summary statement showing how much was earned and deducted this year. The numbers this year show that I've clearly gone above and beyond to get as much done as possible, but it has resulted in being pushed into a tax bracket that demands a larger portion of the earnings. As a result, I'm now paying close to 22.75%1 in taxes from each paycheque before paying for all the necessities to life and the taxes on those; a number that is getting incredibly close to the 26.4% I used to pay when living and working in Canada.

Japanese Yen

One of the many common complaints that people seem to enjoy venting is the poor use of our taxes by governments. Politicians are ineffective. Projects are unnecessarily expensive. Lightbulbs at the government buildings are 10-times more expensive than they should be. The roads are still marked with potholes from five years ago. The list goes on. However, waste aside, is the perceived ROI worth the noticeable amount of tax that is skimmed from the fruits of my labour?

Yes, I think so.

The air and water here are generally clean. The cops do not harass us. The schools are plentiful and working. The bulk of health care costs are generally covered by the government2. My family is quite safe. The roads, while frustrating at times, are well maintained. The electricity grid is incredibly resilient. We're not at war. Food is plentiful. I'm free to be myself … as imperfect as I may be.

There's a lot that the government can do better with regards to money but, if a person can have all this for just 22.75% of our taxable income, why wouldn't someone see it as a good deal?

  1. Using the actual gross and net values on the document, this year saw 22.74390544368302% of earnings deducted for use by the federal, prefectural, and municipal governments.

  2. A typical doctor's visit for me is about $3 with a prescription that rarely goes above $10 unless I have pneumonia or something equally unpleasant. Children under 16 are -- so far as I know -- completely covered. I cannot find any fault with this in the least. I'm employed, so I can afford a $13 visit. People on pensions pay substantially less.