Has It Been Three Years, Already?

Over the years of my short life, I've learned that television shows typically work in cycles of threes. Every three years there are about three new television shows that are enjoyable, intelligent, and plausible. Typically, these shows have a very short lifespan and are replaced with two years of the common pointless dribble that is everyday TV. The fall 2006 season appears to have three great contenders from around the world that I just cannot get enough of.

From Japan: Death Note (the anime)

This is an increidble series. The main character (Light) finds a notebook that appears to have fallen from the sky. He learns that he has the power to kill anyone by writing their names in the book, so long as he is thinking about their face at the time he writes it. He can also specify how someone will die, otherwise, a heart-attack 40 seconds after writing the name is the default.

This is a great example of how absolute power corrupts absolutely. Light is a straight-A student who's studying hard to get into the best schools. His father is the chief at the local police precinct, and his mother and sister are pretty normal people.

After finding this book, Light decides that he will rid the world of injustice by killing anyone who has committed a crime. At first it's so that the world can be a better place, but that quickly changes to reveal Light's ambitions to be diefied as a god.

Each show is packed with intelligent plot twists, some great animation, and great suspense. I look forward to watching this show right to the end.

From the US: Heroes

This is a pretty good series, oddly enough. The premise is simple: a bunch of random people begin to develop supernatural abilities and their lives are somehow connected.

This reminds me a bit of what the X-Men movies did to the comic, but the show is enjoyable nonetheless. The plot twists are few, and the suspense is short-lived, but despite this, the intelligence behind the story stands out like a beacon in the night. I think that the real genius of this story will be missed by anyone who doesn't stop and think about what they just watched. Often times I'll be thinking about the episode afterwards and piece together bits and fragments from other episodes to see how things fit together.

This show is way ahead of anything else produced in North America, and it's a nice change of pace to watch something interesting where humans are used to play the characters (most of what I watch is animated).

From everywhere: The new season of Documentaries

Documentaries have been one of my favourite genres of entertainment for years. Insightful and educational, I have learned more about the world through documentaries than in the 15 years in the various schools growing up.

For the last few years, it seemed as though documentaries were trying to redefine themselves by becoming more like a "reality-tv" show than an educational medium. National Geographic, I feel, had the worst implementation of this as their takes on Egyptian tombs and pyramids made me fall asleep. There is nothing boring about Ancient Egypt … for a documentary to whore themselves out to such a level as to make something enjoyable just a 44 minute romp on the couch is sad, indeed.

But that seems to have changed now that many of the documentaries put out by PBS, History and Discovery are using HDTV and intelligent discussions in their shows. In the last six months, I have seen such quality documentaries come out on these channels that I actually look forward to what they might show the following week.

Documentaries are not just a source of idle entertainment, but of knowledge and information. There is so much in the universe that I will never fully understand or properly appreciate. With these documentaries, I can at least appreciate them better and have a basic understanding of their importance.

It seems that the rut is temporarily over as these new shows allow users to think and form conclusions (even if they prove to be wrong in the following episodes). I can only hope that this season will last longer than normal, as I do not look forward to another two years of unintelligent dribble.

Sleeping Through the Storms

The last few days worth of rain and wind has certainly left it's mark on the residents in and around Vancouver. Trees have fallen, streets have flooded, power has failed for many, people have been forced from their homes … and oddly enough, the water is contaminated.

This last point is the only one that has directly affected me, though. I use quite a bit of water every day … not being able to drink as much will certainly leave my throat dry.

And despite all this … I've slept through the worst of all the storming.

Typically I dream of only three things:

  1. People I care about

  2. Work

  3. Mistakes

    Work is the most common of these three (sad, huh?), and it's not really limited to the software I write, but the data structures that are required to make things work. I have often woken up hours before the alarm with solutions to some of the most complex logic branches I've had to devise, as well as crystal clear coding structures required to make a certain function work in the real world. Lately, however, I've been thinking about the functions and methods of PHP and how I can integrate them into this site.

    One shining example is the random image that will appear in the upper left hand corner of the site (the polaroid). Before today, that was a static image. However, by extending some of the other simple scripting I had seen elsewhere, I found that I could easily adapt the technologies to make that image random with each page load. After writing that function, I added another 8 polaroids (thanks Photoshop!) and voila!

    10 minutes to code and test, then 30 seconds to implement.

    PHP is something I should have learned years ago. I've known that it would become really big since it's early uses, but never really got on board due to personal grudges against the people that touted its superiority to existing web technology. This has really held me back on some pretty exciting areas of the programming world, and has probably kept me from moving to Japan that much sooner.

    In Japan, I find that most programming positions require people to be very familiar with PHP and MySQL. In North America, this has started picking up steam, but has been limited to certain business markets … none of whom I've ever needed to work with. But as I learn more and more about this language, I'm seeing some phenominal potential for its uses.

    To this end, as I dream up new things to add to this site, I'll try to implement them. I'm sure that I'll eventually reach the end of what I can do on a personal site … but I feel this would be a great testing ground. My server has a laughably slow processor (compared to actual production-level servers) and very limited capabilities. If I can maintain a great looking site while also keeping the functions fast and smooth, then I should have no problem transferring these skills elsewhere. At the same time, I'll see about learning even more PHP and JavaScript as these seem to be the main technologies in use across the ocean.

    Finding work in a foreign country is never easy. But hopefully by attacking this learning curve with my usual passion, I won't be caught sleeping through the next storms.

So Tired ...

It looks like my site has finally become more stable.

I still don't fully know what happened the other day to make it unloadable, but it looks to be in tip-top shape now. I've even added another cool little side-bar item: "Chuck Norris Facts".

I've been reading the Chuck Norris Facts for over a year now, and I still laugh pretty hard at some of the more creative ones. While killing time at work, I managed to find a script that would let me add it to my site, so here it is. Hopefully others who know about Chuck Norris will find it funny as well.

I've lost quite a few hours of sleep over the last week while working out the bugs to this site, so it will be nice to let it run for a while without my constant attention. It was my hope that after it was set up and running the way I liked, I would just connect once a day or every second day to submit a post about whatever I might be thinking about that day, or wherever I might happen to be. Perhaps this is still possible.

There are a few other nice functions that I have integrated into this site, but they will not be seen by many people. These are the simpler things like site counters, stats collectors, and the like. I'm interested to know not only who is checking out my site, but how often. If the traffic hits 20 unique hits per week, then I might just start making my posts more interesting.

Over the next few weekends I'll be uploading my collection of quality pictures, and tweaking a few of the functions and bugs on this site. One of the first bugs I want to hit is the frame disconnect when hovering over the bottom-most link in a panel box … it's just a visual nuisance, but a nuisance nonetheless.

Alright, it's time to get ready for work. I need to leave soon, and the shower is calling. Drop me a comment and let me know what you think of the page.

Ja ne,

Yare Yare ...

It seems that my site looked pretty good … for about a day.

I'm not exactly sure why, but something happened where the contents of my server was starting to be offloaded to a foreign IP. At the same time, it seems that my MySQL database started going a little corrupt, and I've been trying to fix quite a few of the issues that have popped up over the last little bit. Add to that the issues I'm now having with the weather bar, and it certainly doesn't look to good.

I must admit, I have no idea why this has occurred. I've spent the last two hours putting my network back together, as well as my server. It seems that several things all went at once. To that end, I've beefed up the security on my network, and taken my site off port 80. I don't think this last thing will do very much, really, but everyone has already bookmarked the site using the :88 switch, so why change it?

I'll hope to get the site back to it's previous state in the next few days. Until then, it will run in reduced mode.

What a lovely way to start the week …

Holy Cow, Batman!

After spending most of the day at my keyboard and writing/modifying/obtaining PHP code, I've managed to get the site looking pretty complete!

The countdown timer is a nice touch. For the moment it will display the number of seconds remaining before my flight to Tokyo is scheduled to take off. I'll probably change that before going to the airport to show how many days until I return. I have no idea what to put after that, as there are no other specific dates that I can think of to use.

The weather bar on the side is also looking pretty good. That bar was the smoothest plugin I could install. Kudos to the development team, as their hardwork has certianly made less work for me. After getting the basics set up, it was just a matter of 1 line of code in my sidebar (aside from the seperate frame, which is a copy/paste job from existing frames).

Another cool feature is the Google Maps plugin. I've included a sample for this post, just to let you know where I'm currently sitting. The plan is to use this while in Japan to give people a better idea of where I am at any given time. For the moment, Google Maps doesn't like the Japanese address system, but perhaps I can hammer out some GPS coordinates or something similar that will work. It seems that everyone I talk to asks where I will be in relation to Tokyo … but they don't really know where Tokyo is, either.

My image gallery appears to be working, and there is still quite a bit more work that needs to go into that. However, so long as it's functional for the time being, I will be happy. It seems that I'll need to upload pictures in a 4-step process until I can get a faster/better/stronger server. However, once the pictures are uploaded, the current server will work just fine. That said, I'll just stick with the 4-step process.

For a brief period I tried to have a language bar on this site. This would have been a cool little feature as it would have translated my site into eight other languages by referencing the Google Language tools. Unfortunately, I could never make it work, so it was yanked. I might revisit this at some point in the future, but it's not a clear requirement.

The final note is the missing :88 from the end of my site address. I've decided to remove the port 88 reference because this was causing some problems with the Google Maps plugin, as well as the Google language bar. While I might not have the language bar installed anymore, there's still the possibility of adding it in the near future. Aside from that is the ease of finding my site. I highly doubt I'll ever get a real traffic load to my site, but if I do, I'll put some Ad Sense on here to recover the costs of bandwidth :P.

Most people say this site looks professional, now. Only one person recommended a change. Hmm … perhaps I could put some kind of polling software on here … this way people could vote whether they like the site design or not. So far, it's taken me several hours to learn PHP and construct it as it is. But that doesn't mean that it couldn't be better.

Let me know what you think by leaving a comment.

Image Gallery Up!

Alright … It's only taken me three days to build the image gallery into my site, and another 10 hours to load 80 pictures, and then three hours to work out the scripting error that prevented me from writing this post, but it looks like it's actually working now :D

Of course it's taken so long because I'm still teaching myself PHP and working within the limitations of MySQL 4, but it's all good. Pretty soon, this site should almost look like it was setup by an intermediate user :P There are still about 400 pictures that I would like to post on here, and of course once the pictures are up, I'll need to replace the reduced images with the originals (long story), but all in all, I should have this part of the site done by the end of November.

That's the plan, anyways.

There are still a few more things that I would like to add to this site. A working calendar (since the scripting here will not handle the default calendar setup), a site counter, and even a count-down timer. All of these things are pretty minor, though.

Alright, I'm way too tired to see straight … so I'm going to bed.

Lest We Forget ...

Today is Rememberance Day in Canada (Veteran's Day in the US), and we're asked to remember all the people that have fought and died in the many wars our country has taken part in. In British Colombia, November 11th is considered a holiday, while in other parts of Canada it is just another day.

I have never been in the military. Few of my family have actually served, or even gone to war. All of my grandfathers were in the second world war, and fortunately, all survived to tell about it.

For most of the year, people go about their business and completely forget how often our way of life has been challenged by those with designs to take over the world, or just a little corner of it. We have become very spoiled with the lack of insurgency and the relative peace on our side of the planet. Today there are millions going about their business, never once stopping to think of those who give their lives to preserve what we've taken for granted. Sales at retailers and the start of Christmas shopping for many will keep their minds occupied.

The phrase "Lest we Forget" is often invoked on this day, and I think it truly suits the purpose of Rememberance Day. History has taught us that those who do not learn from the past are likely doomed to repeat it. If we forget about what we've fought for, we might forget why we fight.

I hope that I never have to take part in armed combat.

I hope my children never have to take part in armed combat.

When diplomacy fails, violence is sometimes the only resort. Let's just hope the next great battles that ask us all to rise up will be for something greater than in the past… lest we forget.

I Hope My PDA Can Go 12 Hours Without a Recharge

I don't know why I didn't do this sooner, but I just checked out where I will be sitting during my flight to Japan and back this coming Winter.

I have not flown very often, but luckily I have had the window seat each and every time. I enjoy looking out the window (before the plane gets above the clouds) and seeing the world below. This bird's-eye view gives me great appreciation of both nature, and the ingenuity of the human race. I can see well planned cities, and not-so-well planned cities. I can see the rivers and streams flow through lush greens, golf courses and even suburban residences. I can see the small cars travelling here and there as people go about their business.

Of course, this is just my excuse for not saying things like "I get claustiphobic when I'm stuck between a bunch of strangers in a tight space for hours and hours and I want to look outside to get at least a partial sense of space and freedom."

During my flight to Tokyo from Vancouver, I will not be sitting beside a window. Instead, I'll be sitting in the centre row of seats. Luckily I'll be on the outside, so I can assume that this means I'll be flying next to a married couple with one child. Hopefully that child knows how to relieve the stresses of cabin pressure.

On my last overseas flight, there were several children under two years of age that didn't know how to handle the cabin pressure. Unfortunately, the pressure would fluctuate quite often for some reason as well. The pressure changes alone gave me a terrible headache 30 minutes into the 10 hour flight, but the crying children only added to it. Even though I could listen to some music in order to escape the echoing cries, I could not drown it out completely.

My flight back will be a little better, because I'll have a window seat. I'll also be on one of the nice Boeing 767's as I fly back from Osaka. One little hitch will be that my seat cannot recline. I'll be right ahead of the rear cabin door. While this means I'll have a great unobstructed view of the ground (because I'll be ahead of the wing), and I'll be right beside the washrooms should nature decide to call, but I will not be able to get much of a comfortable sleep.

Oh well, I shouldn't complain.

I was able to obtain these flights pretty late into the season, and they were at a pretty decent price ($1430 return). Had I bought the tickets sooner, I could have saved a few hundred and maybe been able to request better seats. But even though I might not have the most comfortable flights, I'll get to spend two weeks with my Reiko-chan. That alone will make the 21 flight hours seem like nothing.

That said, I'll still bring my PDA and about 2 Gig of music with my trusty headphones just incase. Who knows … maybe I'll meet someone really interesting on these flights and make some new friends, or find some opportunities for work in Japan.

Image Gallery

In preparation of my upcoming trip, I've been examining digital cameras to see which one would be the best to capture all those unique moments. I've been looking for months, really.

When it comes to capturing a memory on film (or in a computer), can you have too much quality?

For the last few months I've examined dozens of cameras made by Sony, Canon, Panasonic, HP and Fuji to see which would be the best option for me. I'll admit that I do not want to have a film camera, as development costs are not something I would look forward to, and I would really much rather have the freedom to capture a thousand pictures and then have just the ones I want developed and put on paper.

I'll also admit that I will not settle for anything less than 6.0 MegaPixels.

When I first went to Japan in April, and when Reiko came to Canada in August, I had borrowed a friend's 3.2 MP camera. This was okay for some shots, but it was an older unit. This meant that some pictures would be out of focus or in the wrong color spectrum depending on the lighting, the shake of my hand, or the speed of the object (very few of my shots from the Nagoya Aquarium turned out really well). Add to this the fact that I'm looking for something that I can use for several years to capture all those moments when I go somewhere nice or spend time with the special few people in my life, and I'm forced to wonder if "buying" is even the right option for me.

One of the things I've seen many people do (and get away with) is the "return". This idea makes very effective use of a department store's policy to accept returns on things within a certain time frame. One option that I've been considering is to buy a really nice Canon 7.1 MP (or better) camera before going to Japan, and then return it right after I return. So long as I keep the unit in great shape, this shouldn't be a problem. This option would also give the the ability to "borrow" a better camera this spring when I visit my family in Ontario with Reiko. Of course, I could do the very same thing again when I travel to Japan or Reiko comes to Canada at a later date.

Using this policy to my advantage, I could always have a great camera at my disposal with ever-improving picture qualities and ever-larger pixel resolutions. I've met people that do this very thing with almost every piece of technology they own so that they are able to have the latest and greatest cell phones and notebook computers, so I should be able to do the same thing with a camera … right?

Unfortunately, every time I've ever tried to return something to a store, I've been turned away for some reason. The best I've ever managed was a partial store credit on a PDA. I also have this notion that exploiting this policy is morally wrong, so my conscience warns me against it.

Sure, I wouldn't have the camera for more than 3 weeks. Sure, I probably wouldn't even have more than two thousand pictures taken. Sure, I would make certain that I didn't get any scratches or damages on the device to ensure a smooth return transaction. But even with all this, I would feel as though I was cheating the system for my own personal gain. This is a practice that I've never endorsed or successfully accomplished.

Then again, perhaps that explains a few things…

I'll definately be going to Japan with a camera. There are just way too many memories that will be made, and I want to have something to show everyone that can't come with me. I'm sure I could borrow the same camera I had used before, but I want something more. I want a device that will give me bigger and brighter images. I'll be in another country with my Reiko-chan … why would I want to settle for less?

So I guess that means the only question that remains is: which is the right camera?

Benkyo! Benkyo! Benkyo!!

It seems that my trip to Japan will be quite interesting this time around, and I should really study the language better.

The route has been confirmed as follows:

  1. Fly from Vancouver to Narita (Tokyo, Japan)
  2. Somehow find the JR Train Station and the train I'm supposed to get on to Gifu
  3. Find Reiko at Gifu Station

And then on the way back:

  1. Make the trip from Nagoya to Osaka without Reiko
  2. Find the right place to catch my plane
  3. Fly from Osaka (Kansai) to Vancouver

It should be interesting…. One of the nice things is the time I need to be in Osaka. Luckily, my plane will depart at 5:55 pm. This means I need to be at the airport no later than 3:00 pm. This will give me the required time to "get lost" and completely make a fool of myself as I try to find my way to the airport :P

Of course, it shouldn't be too bad. The first time I flew to Japan, I had to take the train from Nagoya to Gifu following a set of instructions from Reiko. She did a pretty good job of putting everything together, and once I got to Japan and started using them, it made sense. I'm sure I'll be able to get instructions that are just as clear as before.

By taking the Shinkansen (bullet train) from Toyko to Gifu, I'll get to see quite a bit of the country, too. In April, it was already dark by the time I got on the train from Nagoya to Gifu so, there was no way to take decent pictures of the countryside. This time, I'll be landing in Tokyo at 3:20 pm, so I should get a few hours of sunlight before I can't take pictures from the train without excessive reflection from the glass. I can't wait!

I've wanted to see Japan in the winter for the last 10 years. In all the movies, dramas and anime's I've seen, it's always looked so peaceful and serene. It shouldn't be too cold where I'm going … but one day I would really like to visit Hokkaido during the Christmas break. It's supposed to be really cold up there, and it would be great to see many of the less-Americanized places in Japan.

Before meeting Reiko, I found it hard to believe that people would fly to other parts of the world more than once every few years. The costs always seemed to be very limiting. But now I can see what the attraction is, and why so many do it whenever they can. Seeing the beauty of nature around the planet, and the amazing cultures everywhere is what makes distance vacations so enjoyable. We can learn so much more in person than we can with any documentary … no matter how good the narrator and script is.

I'll make sure a photo gallery is running on my site before I go. This trip I'm aiming for at least 1000 pictures. I still need to get the Canon camera I want … but it shouldn't be too much of a hassle.

Of course I should really learn some more Japanese so that I can get around better…