Pseudo-Wireless

The easiest and most cost effective way to transfer energy or information from one place to another is through a wire. Wires are portable, relatively durable, and can usually sit in the back of a closet for years without deteriorating. Wires are also really good at getting tangled. Really, really good … and I've long since tired of the hassle.

Rule 8 in the upcoming 12 More Rules for Life is "Try to make one room in your house as beautiful as possible", which is something I've generally followed with my working space since I was a teenager. A wonderful working space allows for better creativity. There are fewer distractions. There are fewer nuisances. The definition of what constitutes beautiful has evolved over time, but the overarching goal has not. When my working space is clean, I feel at peace and can focus completely on what's in front of me.

Wires are not beautiful. Perhaps when I was in my 20s they were, as more wires generally meant more things connected to the computers. More things connected meant more potential. But the chaos that comes from dealing with the cables of copper and plastic is just infuriating. Zip ties help with the stationary lines that deliver power and transfer data to the development machines, but headphones, tablets, cameras, and phones all have their own requirements with cables that cannot be fixed to a place without cluttering up the visible side of a desk. It's annoying as heck and I plan on doing something about it.

If I am to make my working space better suited and more beautiful, then the wires will need to be managed better. This means that one of the development notebooks that runs all the time will be put into a closet, as it is generally used for data processing via Linux; something I am able to accomplish through a terminal connection. The camera charger will be moved to the upstairs bookshelf, which has a power outlet that has never been used in the 18 months we've lived here. The tablets are charged via lightning and micro-USB cables, so it makes sense to bring them upstairs to sit next to the home server. If a tablet needs to be recharged, it can be done overnight. I generally prep my hardware the day before use, so this isn't any extra work beyond walking up a flight of stairs. The phones are also easy, as the main phone is charged overnight next to my bed and the work phone, which uses USB-C, has a 15cm cable that can be hidden away behind the external monitor to charge the device overnight.

With this done, the only wires I'll need to regularly interact with are used by headphones and microphones. Perhaps at some point in the future a decent pair of wireless headphones will solve this particular problem.

Wires certainly have their uses, but I've grown tired of battling with them every time I try to get something done.

No Good Will Come of This

Once again it seems that in order to meet tight deadlines I'm bullying myself to stay well past the middle of the night to fiddle with whatever happens to be the top priority of the moment. When we're in our late teens and early 20s, staying up all hours of the night to accomplish something was invigorating. A power nap between 5am and 7am was plenty to recharge the batteries for another 22 hours of zeal. So long as half a Saturday or Sunday was spent curled up under the covers, then the cycle could repeat for years … and I have enough first-hand experience doing this to say that years is no exaggeration. When a person is in their 40s, however, the late nights take their toll. Once a week is doable. Twice is a bit rough, but not impossible. More than this results in a person plummeting down a well of pessimism and indifference1.

Weltschmerz is where I find myself again and, unfortunately, it's not a city in Germany2.

At some point I will learn that no good comes from giving up sleep for the sake of an arbitrary deadline. The more I get done, the more there will be waiting for me the next day. Besides, my doctor has told me to slow down. Who am I to argue?


  1. One would be forgiven to think pessimism and indifference were not compatible, as being pessimistic shows that one is not indifferent, but humans are generally complex and often self-contradictory.

  2. I would love to visit Germany for a couple of weeks. Long enough to see the sights and enjoy the culture, while short enough to warrant the desire for another trip.

ASCII-motions

A number of things surprised me when I received an iPod Touch back in 2010. The device was my first Apple product and it presented me with something that I never had when using Palm OS or Windows Mobile1; simplicity. Rather than side-load 3rd-party software for simple features, it seemed that anything a person might need from the basic operating system were already in place … even copy-paste2. There was support for multiple languages and keyboards right out of the box. Applications were easy to find and install. Within the space of a week, the iPod Touch had almost completely turned my stance on Apple products 180 degrees.

This wasn't the only thing to change as a result of the iPod Touch, either.

Early 2010 was right around the time when I was most engaged on Twitter. There were a number of fellow-gaijin3 that I would regularly communicate with when not in the classroom and the Twitter applications for iOS were far and away better than anything I had used on Windows Mobile beforehand. As a result of the language support, I was able to more easily read Tweets that contained Japanese and Korean characters4, emoji, and silly ASCII art. More than this, it was possible to write my own messages with multiple character sets and yellow-faces to convey a mood alongside a 138-character message. It was with the iPod Touch that my predisposition to including some sort of emoji in my message really took off.

Emoji has been part of my online writing style since the late 90s when mIRC on Windows was the primary means of communication. Faces like :P, :), -_- and :/ would trail the vast majority of public messages on IRC to add an extra layer of information, letting people know whether I was being serious or silly, joyful or sad, ambivalent or angry. The utility of these extra letters was indisputable given the number of times arguments would break out simply because someone read something on IRC literally rather than with any measure of jest. But more than this, I liked having the faces. There's no denying that I generally spam a forum with messages when the opportunity arises and I wanted my messages to be noted for something other than the verbosity. A trailing face to convey a feeling, even one in jest like ಠ_ಠ, was the perfect answer.

Emoji in iOS was something completely different to the simple text-based faces I'd been using for 15 years. Unlike the ones from IM clients such as Skype, ICQ, and MSN Messenger, Apple's emoji were colourful and fun to look at. More than this, they were easily accessible! Tap the globe on the keyboard to cycle between English, Japanese, and Emoji. Choose the best expression or complimentary weather-or-food-related icon, then hit "Send". Could anything be simpler?

Looking at my Tweet archive5, 52,189 messages — a little over 70% of the total — had an emoji. The percentage is similar for my App.net posts, where 61,091 posts contained an emoji. As for Nice.Social, 78,346 social posts contain at least one; a ridiculous 84% of the 93,267 posts there.

But the time has come to put an end to these colourful distractions, return to the simpler text-based faces, and maybe cut back on the nuance-projection altogether. There's too much emphasis being placed on this set of higher-ASCII characters and the "fun" of using emoji has long since evaporated. Other people can continue to use these characters to their heart's content, of course. I will not judge in the least, given my inclination to use them to excess over the past decade or more. However, I don't see me reaching to put a "Simpson's Yellow" face into my social posts anymore.


  1. Previously known as Windows CE, for Consumer Electronics.

  2. Prior to version 3.0, there was no copy-paste functionality in iOS. Mind you, it seems that Apple has done a pretty good job of making it much harder to use in version 13.

  3. 外人 (gaijin), being short for 外国人 (gaikokujin), which means "foreigner" in Japanese.

  4. To get Japanese on Windows Mobile, I paid $50 USD for a 3rd-party language package that only ended up making the HP iPaq run hotter and less stable. There was no chance of seeing Korean characters without spending another $50, which was not something I wanted to do given what the Japanese language pack had done.

  5. All 73,818 Tweets I had ever sent were downloaded and imported into 10C before the account was deleted on Twitter. As they're all in a database, this makes asking questions and deriving statistics pretty darn easy.

Attention to Detail

Regardless the last, the difference between a job done and a job well done is all in the attention one pays to the details. Anyone with an appreciable degree of OCD and a hint of Asperger's will find it incredibly easy to get lost in the details only to miss deadlines and deliver work that was never specifically requested. However, when executed well, a person can complete something that is so polished in its implementation that few people are consciously aware of the spent effort. This is what separates the artists from the generalists. This is what brings joy to a job.

Ingratus

A lot of times when I'm feeling particularly frustrated with the day job, I get ideas in my head that sound an awful lot like the conspiracy theories one of my crazy uncles would spout after he had a few too many bottles of Molson. I imagine that people have it out for me, that I'm being given the jobs that nobody else will do because it's not prestigious enough to warrant their time. In my head I see a pattern of poor communication as an active attempt to make me look like a fool to the senior management team. Bizarre ideas that benefit nobody. When I notice the sequence taking shape, I try to stop and ask myself what the problem really is. There's no denying that I tend to put in long hours to solve tedious and complex problems that few people care to understand. There's also no shortage of preventable issues that I'm asked to resolve ahead of higher priority concerns simply because someone knows how to force something to the top of the To Do list. These are normal nuisances that should barely register on the radar, yet they can sometimes trigger such a great deal of frustration that nothing about my work seems enjoyable. Fact of the matter is that a billion people around the world put in long hours to solve tedious and complex problems that few people care to understand, many of which are likely preventable if a little foresight is employed.

Compared to a lot of people, I have it pretty darn good. There's a roof over my head. Food in the fridge. Ample supplies of electricity, clean water, and safe air. The technology I have access to is more than enough to accommodate just about any problem, be it related to the day job or the family. The people around me are generally in good health. Not a day goes by where I don't learn something that is both engaging and directly related to an interest. Colleagues seem to value what I have to offer, and the family makes efforts to accommodate my working hours. Heck, I even get to work from home!

So what the heck is there to be frustrated or angry about? I had to work incredibly hard for over two decades at multiple jobs on two continents to get to where I am today. Why is it so hard to just be thankful for the good fortune that I've been lucky enough to enjoy for three years? Is this part of the human condition to always want more? Or is this simply an obvious lack of gratitude?

Try as I might, it's very hard to remain positive all the time. That said, I'd much rather spend my working days feeling neutral and disconnected than negative and paranoid. I am thankful for the life I currently lead, which is far and away better than any other time in my short history. Why is it so difficult to just maintain the proper perspective and remember that work is work and nobody is out to intentionally make a fool of me?

Five Things

Almost six weeks have passed since the most recent instalment of Five Things, which strikes me as odd given that this Sunday-only post structure was chosen for its simplicity and lack of rigidity, resulting in a much simpler writing assignment. It is what it is, though. There hasn't been another instalment because I've honestly not been keeping track of the days very well lately. They've started to blur to such an extent that the only thing that separates a Sunday from a Tuesday from a Thursday is that one of those three is burnable garbage day1 for the neighbourhood. Blurred days are not necessarily a bad thing, though this can certainly make it a little tricky to know when to relax and when to invest brain power into the day job. Digressions aside, there are five things that I've recently learned which have given me a bit to think about.

Eighty Three

10Cv5 has hit its 7-millionth API request today and I decided to query the statistics table to see what the person:machine ratio was. As one might expect, most of the web traffic to my server is from content scrapers and search crawlers. 83.4% of traffic since March of this year. Most of the requests are completed in under 0.2 seconds but, if most of the traffic to 10C sites are from machines, it would make sense to determine this up front and serve a simplified content view. Why complicate things with all sorts of HTML to parse when just the basics will do?

Statistics

There is quite a bit of flat file caching that goes on, but this doesn't mean the software can't be tuned to better support the primary group of visitors.

Six

In addition to the machine-traffic to the server, there are apparently just six people — not including myself — that subscribes to my RSS feed. This is quite a bit lower than the 47 I had at this time last year and is undoubtedly the result of either a poorly-written daily blog post or my shifting views on society, culture, and language. All in all, this is something I'm fine with, as the personal site is more for me to get ideas and thoughts down in some fashion. If I wanted to build an audience, I would need to have something of value that people would want to read. Asinine soliloquies on a handful of uninteresting topics from a perpetually exhausted fool is not something people will generally invest time into, and for good reason.

Five

This Friday I must hand in completed work on an almost impossible project. This gives me just five days to do the impossible and hope like heck it works as planned. My stress levels have rarely been higher, but this is what I'm generally paid to do. My job is to complete the tasks that nobody else is willing or interested in doing, and this isn't necessarily a bad thing. The deadlines do get a little tight from time to time, though.

Three

For a little over a week I've started to take about three unintentional 5-minute "power naps" every afternoon. The first is around 2:00pm. There's another somewhere before 6 o'clock, then the last somewhere between 8:30 and 9:00pm. These little naps first took me by surprise as I'm not knowingly stopping for a nap. They descend on me without warning. That said, after waking I feel much better and can get back to whatever it is that I was doing before the unscheduled unconsciousness event.

Zero

This weekend I managed to finally get caught up on my podcasts, meaning that there are no new episodes remaining for me to listen to and I can begin going through the back catalogue of some shows. What's interesting about listening to older episodes of interview shows or lectures is that there are occasionally references to events that are current at the time of recording which you can view with a better historical context. We don't know what the future has in store for us but, when we can look at the recent past with a bit of context, we can assume that the future will be much like the present but with subtle changes that accumulate exponentially by the moment … only a handful of which will have any pertinence on our lives.

There are a number of other things I could write about with regards to lessons learned over the last couple of weeks, but many of these topics might be better suited to their own individual posts.


  1. Garbage collection is separated quite a bit in this part of Japan. There's burnable and unburnable garbage, as well as separate collections for different types of plastics, paper, metals, and more. This makes the trash sorting I grew up doing in Canada look farcically simplistic in comparison.

Instagram Tourism

Over the last couple of years there has been a growing number of Instagram stickers stuck to windows of shops across the country, most notably at locations where there might be some form of tourism. When the family and I went to Kyoto a couple of weeks back, the colourful "Instagram OK" sign was placed prominently on every building, and it was seen numerous times around — but never inside — the Disney theme parks when we were there this past weekend. Considering the popularity of the visual social network and the various TV shows dedicated to what can only be described as Instagram Tourism, one can hardly blame shops that depend on pedestrian traffic for encouraging photos and other sorts of free advertising. This is, after all, one of the most modern and effective ways to market a business.

However, when every shop is encouraging people to take and share pictures to Instagram, stores need a way to differentiate themselves from others around them. In Kyoto and many other tourist spots, every second shop is offering ice cream, cotton candy, or traditional Japanese sweets. Taking pictures of a generic, vanilla ice cream cone isn't enough to ensure people make a note to visit your store. As a result, one trend that is growing is the unique forms of differentiation that's taking place in tourist hotspots.

Queuing for Ice Cream

Earlier today, the family and I travelled to a historic street in Inuyama, which isn't too far from here. The plan was to see Inuyama Castle, a place that Reiko and I have seen hundreds of times from a distance but have never visited. Soon after arriving, though, our plans changed from sightseeing to finding something for lunch. The street that we were on had a number of vendors offering treats such as takoyaki1, very long French fries, Nagoya frankfurters2, yakitori3, and every sort of beer you might find at a baseball game. This isn't exactly the sort of meal that is suited for Reiko or the boy, so we moved on down the street until we found a traditional little restaurant.

But I'm getting way off topic. What I wanted to write about was how shops are differentiating simple things … like ice cream.

Ice cream is big in Japan, particularly during the colder seasons4. There are vending machines offering 17 different kinds at train stations. There are giant chest freezers displaying hundreds of frozen cones at convenience and grocery stores. There are soft-serve windows every 15 metres anywhere money-carrying tourists or teenagers might congregate.

Generally when a shop wants to make their ice cream stand out from the crowd, they'll try to find a signature topping. It might be some sort of cookie, or an overabundance of colourful sprinkles, or wafer bars, or sometimes imported chocolate bars5. Last year on one of my work trips to Tokyo, I passed a place that offered ice cream with gold leaf confetti. What I saw today, however, went quite a bit beyond mere tiny squares of real gold.

Gold and Platinum Cones

A soft-creme cone with the ice cream completely wrapped in gold leaf for 550円 ($5 USD) or, for the people who really enjoy flushing money down the toilet … literally, there's a soft-creme cone wrapped in platinum leaf for 1,800円 ($16.50 USD). Not expensive enough? For an extra 200円, you can upgrade from a cone to a waffle.

Garnishing meals with precious metals in leaf form is nothing new and dates back — if memory serves — to around the time of the Renaissance in Europe. Given that our bodies cannot process gold or platinum, it's interesting that people would exchange good sums of cash for the sake of a story with some photos, followed a little while later by a shiny poop. That said, if it makes people happy, it can't be that bad. Just don't expect to see me enjoying something like this any time soon. I prefer my ice cream cones boring and cheap.


  1. Octopus balls. They're delicious, but deceptively hot. Who knew that octopus could retain heat for as long as it does?

  2. These are like normal frankfurters, but with red miso — the area's distinctive type of miso. I've wanted to try one for a while, now.

  3. BBQ'd chicken on a spit.

  4. This still strikes me as odd. If the weather is cold, why would anyone want to eat something cold? Alas … this is Japan.

  5. Three Musketeers is not something that you'll easily find in the country, but there is an ice cream shop in Kyoto that will put an entire Three Musketeers chocolate bar into a half-filled ice cream cone, then wrap the chocolate in more soft-serve ice cream until just a little bit of the chocolate end is visible. I'll admit that I was tempted to try one, but at almost $7, no thank you. If it were a Mr. Big, though ….

On the Daily?

At least one blog post has been written and published on this site for almost 400 consecutive days now and I'm not exactly sure why. A majority of the writing goals that I had tried to reach were all surpassed by a wide margin and there doesn't seem to be much of value being written given that this is a personal blog site with topics that are wide-ranging and often incoherently discussed. Yet, despite having long since met the ultimate goal of writing a post every day for a year, I continue to strive for a daily blog post. Having given the subject some thought, I believe the reason boils down to a couple of things:

  1. blogging is an escape from "day job" stuff while sitting at a computer
  2. blogging is a different form of creativity that can have a very low bar for quality

Both of these are quite important at the moment as a lot of what I do for work has a very low tolerance for errors and generally consists of deadline after deadline with a myriad of random "high priority" tasks that get thrown in randomly for a little bit of variety. I generally write when I have a few minutes to spare or immediately after the evening shower as it's a good way to wind down and relax some muscles. The pressure I feel is typically a self-inflicted punishment to compensate for all the good that has come about in the last few years. Unfortunately, this can result in some very stiff shoulders, a lack of concentration, and a whole bunch of irritability. Nothing good. Writing is a temporary antidote.

A few years ago, shortly before the boy was born, I was sticking to a "No blue light an hour before bedtime" rule. Both the notebook and the phone would be put away for the night, generally around 11:00pm, and I'd take out my trio of pens and a paper notebook to write. It didn't matter what I wrote, so long as it was pen to paper for about an hour. During this time, I'd pen letters to family, write long essays that would later become blog posts or guest posts on various sites and forums, or simply jot down incomplete ideas that were in search of form and structure. It was an interesting activity and, because I wasn't looking at a back-lit screen before sleeping, every morning was met with a good bit of positive energy. This is something I should look at doing again … even if it's just temporarily.

Convergent Objectives

Why is it that when a truly important deadline is set at work, several other tasks and projects are expected to finish at the exact same time? This is the question I've asked a lot recently as, for the last couple of weeks, three projects that I'm working on have had an absolute due date of November 1st. In the last 12 hours, two more projects have also been assigned this same date and there's a good chance that one more will be added to the list before I have my first coffee of the day tomorrow. The degree and frequency of convergent objectives is nothing short of astounding at times.

It might be time to put up the white flag on a couple of less-urgent matters and ask for some assistance. The output will not be quite what I'm looking for in terms of consistency or polish, but there's little hope that I can effectively complete half a dozen complex tasks that each require a careful attention to detail.

Articulation

Despite nearly four decades of communicating verbally, finding the right words to clearly vocalise a non-trivial idea continues to be a struggle. This is especially true when emotion is involved, as this primeval motivator tends to cloud judgement and hinder any ability to formulate a cogent argument for or against an assertion. This would be a failure of Rule 10, be precise in your speech, and it has caused a serious amount of strife over the years. A person who cannot communicate what they want can never attain their goals, but how does one go about correcting the difficulty?

Over the last couple of months I've been writing and rewriting a personal essay1 that tries to outline my ideal future. The basics are easy, as they answer the questions of Who do I want to be?, What do I want to do?, and Where do I want to end up? These are really, really easy to write because I've known the answers for years. What's hard to write about with any degree of depth is another all-important WH-question: Why do you want these things?

He who has a why to live can bear almost any how.
— Friedrich Nietzsche

Try as I might, the gist of why I want what I want comes down to the fear of being forgotten, but who am I to warrant being remembered?

By most current estimations, there have been roughly 107-billion humans to have ever existed on the Earth and the number that have been remembered for more than three generations can be measured in the tens of thousands. Some names, like Genghis Khan or Mozart, have been remembered for hundreds of years. Others, like Djer or Shǎohào, ruled two of the world's most ancient nations thousands of years before Christianity or Islam existed. These people are remembered because they were worthy of being remembered. Who am I compared to them? I'm just one of 107-billion people who have tried to lead a decent life and provide for my family. Noble goals, indeed, but this is not what I seek. My selfish ego wants something that most people cannot possibly have. It's almost entirely narcissistic and for no justifiable reason.

And this is why I've been rewriting the personal essay so many times. I get to the question of why and hate the answer because it's so absurd that only a psychopath would see it as something worthwhile.

Who do I want to be? A combination of people who have influenced me over the years, of course. I'd like to be as patient and encouraging as Mr. Castle, my high school shop teacher who allowed me the freedom to use school computers at lunchtime to learn about the tools. I'd like to be as engaging and humorous as Mr. Neil, my high school geography teacher who had been teaching for so long that he knew many of my classmates' parents when they were teenagers and he was a fledgling teacher. I'd like to be as understanding and resourceful as Mrs. Laidlaw, my 5th grade homeroom teacher who would do just about anything for her students. I'd like to be as brave as my wife, who will stand up to people regardless of their stature when something is unjust. In some ways I'd like to think that I've succeeded, but there is always room for improvement.

What do I want to do? I want to make something that helps people solve a legitimate problem: self-publishing on the cheap. It's not just blogging, or podcasting, or textbooks, or even video. It's all of these things and then some. We are at a point technologically where anybody in the world can share an idea with the world without a great financial burden, but to do so requires that we give up ownership of our efforts. This is, in my mind, fundamentally wrong. What I want to do is provide the world with the means to very easily, and with as much privacy as desired, publish something online in such a way that the content cannot be removed, altered, or destroyed. I have not even come close to reaching this goal.

Where do I want to end up? In the long-run, I would like to have my body cremated and buried next to Nozomi in the yard of my house, ideally under a tree so that my ashes may provide a brief amount of sustenance to a long-living plant. If Reiko chooses the same, then we can rest together until the boy has us moved or we're recycled completely. Before that, though, I would like to have the luxury to retire at the age of 60 with the financial means to spend the rest of my days volunteering. This would allow for maybe a quarter century to work with others, sharing knowledge, building skills, and encouraging personal growth. The time that I've spent volunteering over the last 17 years has been incredibly rewarding and it would be really nice to have the opportunity to continue doing so. Unlike a regular day job, volunteering offers the chance to do vastly different things on a regular basis. There is no getting bored.

Why do I want these things?

… because I'm selfish.


  1. I'm not sure what else to call a long-form document that is written for me and only me. Personal essay comes closest to what it is, though the thing generally reads as more of a soliloquy than any blog post.