Right to Repair

Early this morning Joe shared a link to a Motherboard article describing how Apple has effectively killed another attempt to pass "right to repair" legislation by suggesting people will injure themselves when working with the intricate components that are part of the phones, tablets, and other devices we buy. As someone who could never build a computer from scratch in the 90s without cutting my hands at least once inside the case, I can certainly see the logic of the argument. While the Motherboard article clearly calls out the dangers of puncturing a modern battery, the number of phones with shattered screens that one can observe being used on public transit in this country is nothing short of amazing and it's bound to be the same elsewhere. For an inexperienced person to replace the shattered glass on an iPhone or iPad, there will almost certainly be a price to pay in blood.

A few hours after Joe's initial post, Robert followed up with this:

But if one makes the assumption that regular people either can or want to repair their devices, we are nothing short of delusional. Most people only what something that works, they don’t want to fuck around with it. Modern electronics are painfully integrated, components are few and specialized on a tiny PCB. Does the average person even know what they are looking at if they were to open the case of any contemporary device? […] Those of us who so loudly demand the right to repair, which is a broken term in and of itself, need to understand that we are the edge case and not the standard.

Indeed. Edge cases are consistently hard to please. I consider myself to be firmly in this category, hence the preference for certain types of less popular hardware and software. However, Robert goes on to make a recommendation on how a "Right to Repair" mechanism might work to the benefit of manufacturers and customers:

If one were so concerned about regular people cracking open their wares and potentially injuring themselves, there are better solutions. Perhaps a course that people could take, educating on the ways of the electronics and giving spare part access to those who pass a test or something along those lines. […] Think; certification for individuals to perform repairs.

This is an interesting idea. While it will not please everyone, it will please some of the more technically inclined who might want to run a small business fixing people's devices. A high school student with certification and access to fairly-priced replacement parts could earn a pretty respectable living and reduce the number of cracked screens in their school, thereby saving fingers from being sliced open before a screen protector can be applied. The same can be said for people in poorer neighbourhoods who might want to help their community get more value from their technology investments. Offering a certification program is no panacea, and it would undoubtedly ruffle a bunch of feathers like Robert said in his original post, but it would make an interesting solution for companies who claim they care about the health and well-being of their customers, as well as the environment. Repairing is better for the planet than replacing.

Personally, I doubt there will be much people-friendly movement from companies on giving people the ability to repair (or easily upgrade) their products. Systems have become so incredibly complex in both hardware and software that only a small segment of the population could actually stand a chance in repairing a broken device. Take apart a "smart speaker" and see just how easy it is to replace a burned out capacitor. Most people just want things to work and don't really care to invest the time in understanding the how or why, which is fine. That said, there will generally always be options available to people who want a greater degree of control and freedom over their technology. It may not always look as pretty or be as popular, but options will exist.

Sore

The last few days have been pretty rough for the body. Not only is there a lack of recovery time when playing with the boy1, but the effort put into pushing the Mazda a few days ago has resulted in a rather sore lower back. This isn't quite at hernia levels of pain, but the discomfort is letting me know that I'll need to be a little careful over the coming days. As one would expect, the boy has no concept of long-lasting pain and believes I'm ready for another round of abuse after just a couple of minutes on the sofa.

A common theme in many of my posts involves my current state of health, be it a lack of sleep, a spate of anxiety, allergies, or simply the process of ageing. While I understand that this body is no longer the same as it was 20 years ago, it's hard to let go of the idea that if I need to do a thing, then I will do that thing. Pushing the car to the nearby gas station was a necessity, so I did it. Lifting and carrying the boy when we're in crowded places or areas where food is in the open is a necessity, so I do it. Cleaning the house is a necessity — and therapeutic —, so I will regularly do so. The question I often ponder is when this sort of reckless decision-making will not be possible. At what point will I need to weigh the benefits of doing something myself because "it must be done" with asking someone for help?

There is grey in my hair. There are lines on my face. There are aches in my joints2. The time for reality to set in is not that far away … so I'm told.

Both of my grandfathers were fiercely independent to their last breath. They would work in their sheds, taking pieces of lumber or a fallen branch, and creating something that did not exist earlier that day. It might be an intricately carved relief. Perhaps it would be a music box for a granddaughter. Sometimes it would be just something they needed in the kitchen to solve a problem3 When they asked someone to "come help them in the shed", it wasn't because they needed help4. Interestingly, none of my uncles were like this. Most seemed to complain about some sort of pain, then delegate physical tasks to their kids as soon as it was feasible. From the standard "Go fetch me a beer" to "Go shovel the snow from the driveway" to "Grab that sledge hammer and break up the old concrete foundation"5. The contrast between the generations was night and day, and it was primarily this reason that I made the decision before leaving high school that I would rather emulate my grandfathers than parents, uncles, or aunts6.

The boy is still two years old, so cannot do much in terms of physical labour. As he gets older, I'll certainly include him in the myriad of tasks that are generally handed down from father to son. He'll learn how to wash the car and trim the lawn. He'll get to experience the joys of cleaning drainage, unclogging toilets, and replacing plumbing. He might even get to help with some emergency repairs in the middle of bad weather7. One of the things that I hope to impress upon him, though, is the importance of getting things done. We can all recognize that something is important and should be done sooner rather than later, but it can be genuinely hard to avoid procrastinating or giving up altogether. So while my body might be showing signs of its age and reminding me with greater alacrity8 that it might be time to slow down just a little bit, I plan on being an active and independent problem solver for as long as possible. There's no shame in asking for help, just as there's also no shame in doing something unaided.


  1. I generally view sitting at the work desk and doing day-job tasks as "rest" now ….

  2. Not many, mind you. My ankles and knees do protest more than any other part of the body, though.

  3. My mother's father once created a wooden spoon with a notch that could be used to guide cooking oil into a collection tin. To this day I've never seen any kitchen tool like it.

  4. My grandfather could soliloquy like a tenured professor. His idea of help was saying something like "Hand me that mitre saw back there" while deftly measuring where a piece of wood needed to be cut and talking about why the Canadian government at the time was "ruining the country". It's probably a good thing he can't see what the current clowns in Ottawa have gotten up to.

  5. I did all of these things. There's nothing like four solid days of working a sledge hammer to seriously rough-up a person's hands.

  6. The criteria that went into the decision were much more complex than this, of course, and (most of) the adults around me were not lazy slave drivers. They had a work ethic as well. I just very much preferred how my grandfathers approached a problem.

  7. I remember climbing onto the roof of a house in the middle of a rainstorm to help cover a hole just enough so that the rain wouldn't get in the house. Afterwards I was called on to climb onto the roof again and learn how to strip shingles, replace water-damaged panelling, then re-shingle … all in a 12-hour period between storms.

  8. I understand that alacrity is generally used to describe positive and cheerful verbs. I just wanted to use the word.

Why Use Linux?

Joey Sneddon over at OMG! Ubuntu! asked and answered the question of why someone would use LInux over Windows or macOS. His three-word answer leans a little close to zealotry, but is completely understandable. In my case, I've been 100% Linux on all of my computers for quite some time1 and rarely see the need to go back to either. While I can readily admit there are some applications that I miss from when I used to use macOS on a daily basis, going back to Apple's operating system is not something i'm prepared to do. Microsoft has made a lot of efforts to integrate Linux with Windows 10 but, even with the Linux subsystem functionality and Redmond's insistence that they love Linux, I cannot bring myself to allow any version of Windows to run bare metal on any of my machines. Like Joey, my reason can be boiled down to a three word answer: I trust Linux.

There are a lot of benefits of using Windows or macOS on a day to day basis. There's generally more commercial software available, faster driver updates, and better support for battery-related features. That said, I don't trust these systems. Same goes for Android. I simply do not feel it's in my best interest to put any data of value on a system that seems forever tethered to its creator, sending and receiving data as unobtrusively as possible in the background2. Linux distributions, as a rule, do not do this3.

Given the sort of data that I work with on a day to day basis and the trust people have put in me to not leak, lose, or share their data with anyone else, I need to completely trust my computers. Linux makes it easier for me to ensure that my systems are secure and non-communicative with unauthorized external resources.

There are undoubtedly a number of people who will disagree with me, and that's fine. While there are thousands of different distributions available to meet just about any need or criteria, the vast majority of people will be happiest on one of the two main commercial operating systems. This, too, is fine. It's not my job nor intention to convert anyone to Linux or provide the days or weeks of support that would be required while a person acclimated to the different system. Linux works for me. Specifically Ubuntu Linux. If someone reading this prefers something else, then it's better to continue using that software. At the end of the day, how we use our computers is a personal choice.


  1. This is despite the unenforceable expectation that everyone at the day job is using Windows 10 with the various tracking and "security" tools installed … including all the Apple devices.

  2. iOS also shares information back to Apple, albeit to a lesser degree. While I'm not keen on data leaving my possession without explicit permission, I generally know precisely what information is being sent to iCloud and can modify my behaviour enough to maintain some semblance of verifiable control.

  3. The online "outrage" that surrounded Canonical's attempt to collect system information after a successful installation was seriously disingenuous. While there is the option to send anonymous system data to Canonical, it was an opt in function that would show you the entire message so that you could determine whether it could be shared or not. After a little more than a year, it turns out that the majority of people installing Ubuntu Desktop send the data to Canonical

Five Things: Mazda Edition

The day started with little fingers dropping a 22 year old glass trinket, sending shards of skin-penetrating hazards across the floor … and it only got more expensive from there.

Being the second day of the family's 10-day Golden Week holiday, we wanted to head out to a nearby play centre called "Fantasy Kids Resort". There the boy would be able to run around and do what toddler's do best. If we were lucky, he might even remember some of what happened while playing around with the balls, or the blocks, or the slides, or the myriad of other things designed to give parents a bit of a break from saying "Don't do that!" and "Inside voice!". Unfortunately, we never made it the 16.3km because our relatively new car lost all forward momentum along the way. Reiko would step on the gas, the engine would rev up to 4,000rpm, but we would go nowhere. Interestingly, reverse worked just fine.

Fortunately, there was a gas station about 200 metres up the road where we could park the car in order to deal with all the hassles that come with a broken down vehicle. There was just one problem, though: the gas station was 200 metres up the road.

Being the optimistic dolt, I told Reiko to put the car in neutral and I would push the vehicle the rest of the way. This is apparently something that "nobody does" in Japan, given the way passing drivers gawked and slowed down as they overtook the newish Mazda Premacy that was limited to my sluggish jogging speed. However, after a bit of huffing and puffing, I managed to get the car to the nearby Eneos. The crew there was quick to help out, and they even performed a free diagnostic of the car to see what might be causing the problem.

Diagnosis: a loss of power.

No duh.

Then it was time to call the dealer where we bought the car, call the roadside assistance company we have a contract with to tow the vehicle to the dealer, and try to get things back on track.

Despite the stress and hassle, several things went quite well. The boy was relatively patient despite the obvious boredom that comes from being stuck at a gas station for 90 minutes. The service crew were incredibly helpful the whole time, even though the only thing we bought was a bottle of water. The tow truck arrived 20 minutes before we were told to expect it. The tow truck driver called us a taxi1, which then arrived two or three minutes later. And, fortunately, the first car rental place we went to had a car that we could hire for a couple of days.

We left the house at 10:30am and returned just before 2:00pm absolutely exhausted for all the wrong reasons.

But, as this is a Five Things post, there should be a list. So I'd like to list out all the things that bugged Reiko and I today when we were dealing with the Mazda dealership where we bought the car.

Our Warranty is Only Valid at the Selling Dealership

There are seven Mazda dealerships closer to us than the place we bought the vehicle. The reason we bought the car at the dealer we did was because of how hard it was to find a good, used Premacy2. We wanted to have the car shipped to the nearest dealer as we are already familiar with some of the people there and it would be much easier to pick up the car after it's fixed. Unfortunately, this option wasn't available to us as the manufacturer warranty that we received when we bought the vehicle is apparently best serviced from the selling dealership.

This expectation is stupid.

No Courtesy Car for a Month

Generally when a person needs to leave their car with a dealer or auto repair shop for any length of time, they're given a courtesy car. These loaner vehicles are usually the most basic sort of car money can buy, lacking any creature comforts. We don't need a glamourous vehicle while our car is in the shop, but it would be nice to have a vehicle. While we have been promised a car, we will not see it until May 22nd. As the calendar clearly states, today is April 28th.

A car company does not have a spare car lying around. I wonder if they still have our old Daihatsu Move.

ETA: June 6th

If waiting four weeks for a loaner wasn't bad enough, we won't have our own vehicle back until the first week of June. After a battery of tests, the mechanics at the dealership discovered that our transmission is shot. How a transmission dies on a car that's been driven for 30 months at most is beyond me. It's a family vehicle, not a sports car. We go to the mall to buy clothes and maybe have some lunch at the food court, not perform donuts and practice drifting in the parking lot. Regardless, a new transmission must be ordered from the Mazda plant in Hiroshima. The dealer has said that the average shipping time is four weeks, and this week the factory is shut down for Golden Week. There's nothing we can do but wait.

Hassles and happenstance aside, there were some good things, too.

Free Delivery of the Courtesy Car and Our Fixed Car

The dealership we bought our vehicle from is located a couple of cities over, and we're not going to rent a car at 7.200 Yen (about $70 USD, +/- 10%) per day for four weeks3. Getting there via public transit would also be quite the excursion, requiring about 90 minutes on the bus and 25 minutes on the train. Shipping a car from there to here would cost somewhere in the ballpark of 20,000 Yen (about $200 USD, +/- 10%). The salesperson who took our money for the Premacy offered to have both the courtesy car and our Premacy delivered to us at no cost, saving us the time, hassle, and money.

Very appreciated.

They Called Back

According to the website, the dealer closes its doors every day at 6:20pm. We were promised a phone call today to know what the problem was with the car and when it would be fixed. At 6:30 we'd heard nothing. The same silence was observed at 7:00 and 7:30. By 8:00pm we had given up expecting a call but, at 8:02, the phone rang. It was the dealer explaining what was wrong with the car and how they needed to perform a full battery of tests to confirm it was just the transmission rather than something else. Despite being the Sunday night before a national holiday, the sales person and two mechanics worked overtime to keep their promise.

This, too, was very appreciated.

Today has been a long day, and a bit of rest is in order. Fortunately, the problems that we faced today are comically light in the grand scheme of things.


  1. Our phone batteries were pretty much dead. The wife's phone was running on fumes, as she never charges the darn thing, and my work's flip phone's battery is 10+ years old and hasn't been used for an hour of phone calls since it belonged to the area sales manager who left the company in 2013.

  2. The car is no longer manufactured, which is a shame as it is a perfect fit for the family. The Atenza is too low to the ground for the boy's car seat. The Axela is too small. The CX series is shaped in such a way that Reiko wouldn't be able to put the boy in his chair.

  3. While it's true that I do earn a little more now than I did when teaching, this doesn't mean that money can be blown willy nilly on things like having a rental car parked somewhere within walking distance for 23 or more hours each day.

In My Head

Since I started working from home full time a year ago, I’ve become much more “in my head” than before. When I go outside it’s generally with the same two people or Nozomi. When I’m on my own I tend to walk to the same park to sit in isolation in a semi-secluded spot on a hill. When I’m at the computer, the words people use to communicate are given voices as the text is being read. A surprising lack of communication with people in the real world means that I spend a great deal of time in my head, and I wonder if this is contributing to my hearing problems.

The other day I wrote about “noise” and how it generally affects me. As is likely true with most people1, I generally cannot be in a noisy place for more than a couple of hours. A ceaseless acoustic assault will make me feel trapped and claustrophobic, which results in rising stress levels. Depending on the volume, this might result in some temporary deafness as the mind begins to shut out the world in order to better manage the overload of information. When I’ve tried to explain this to people, the assumption is always that deafness is quiet. For me, it’s anything but.

When one or both of my ears begins to deafen, I generally hear what is best described as 100 or more people talking simultaneously at the same, loud level. When this happens in one ear, I can generally deal with it by keeping my head turned towards the people I want or need to listen to. When both ears have given up, the world is essentially shut out and I’m walled in a garden of incoherence for most of the rest of the day. But why?

This hearing problem has been with me for years, but it does seem to be getting worse as I continue the march towards 50. For years I’ve wondered what it’s like to be deaf. From most accounts, it’s quiet. If my ears ever do completely give out it will be interesting to see if this is true. The one thing I do worry about, though, is spending too much time in my head while the rest of the world goes by.

Should I find myself in this predicament, it would likely make sense to buy a bunch of decent pens so that I can continue to communicate with the world in a more controlled environment.


  1. I’m assuming most people have certain tolerances for noise.

Let Golden Week Begin

As of this moment, I am on vacation. There will be no need to check the work email, Slack, Teams, or other communications platforms until the morning of May 7th when I make my way to Tokyo for an afternoon of back-to-back meetings. Ten consecutive days off. What the heck will I do with all that time?

Believe it or not, there will not be very much coding taking place.

Out of Office

As much as I would like to invest a couple of days to iron out some rough spots with 10Cv5, the family will make sure that I don't spend more than a handful of hours each day looking at a screen. So while I might be able to tackle some of the lower-hanging fruit, there will be some challenges tackling the bigger things, such as getting the new account administration screens prepped and the signup pages activated.

Lack of coding aside, one thing that I will be working on over the coming days is a more clearly defined plan for 2019 that will ensure I'm in a better place to be self-employed by 2022. There are a few ideas that I've been kicking around in my head the last few weeks, but there just hasn't been a proper amount of time dedicated to thinking through the ideas. Transitioning from a "safe" job to something that is 100% dependent on consistent success is not an easy thing when there are mortgages that need to be paid and family members who need to be fed.

What I have been planning on doing is creating a pair of useful applications that can be offered to the world for a fair price. Hopefully this will provide a bit of recurring income in a manner similar to what is seen with applications like Sublime Text and other tools put out by independent developers. I have no expectation that these applications would have an audience large enough to warrant a full-time commitment. The first of these applications will be made available for purchase this year, with the second appearing relatively early 2020. Both of these tools can expect updates at least once a month.

However, the main idea that I've been thinking about involves leveraging a lot of the knowledge I've amassed over the years to help smaller educational institutions. I've built two LMSes already and have spoken to a number of small school owners about possibly creating a third. In these conversations, I really listened to what sorts of problems the schools faced on a regular basis. By better understanding a problem, a potential solution has a better chance of becoming an actual solution. What I heard time and again wasn't that the schools were having problems organizing their data. The number one concern that small school operators had, aside from maintaining enrolment rates, involved communication with the students or parents. Despite the plethora of platforms available, this is the problem to solve.

Any potential solution cannot be "create another platform", as this generally does not work. There are better options, but can they pay the bills?

This is what I'll be working on during the holiday when not out and about with the family or blogging in the park.

Noise

Many years ago, when I was in high school and knew everything, there would be days when my parents would be quite sensitive to certain kinds of noise. Sometimes they would complain about the Backstreet Boys cassette my sisters played on repeat a dozen times a day. Sometimes they would complain about the noise from my younger brother as he would complain ceaselessly about how something or other "wasn't fair". This would often strike me as odd given that when seven people live in the same house, a certain tolerance to noise was required.

At some point in my 30s, my ears started giving me problems. Well … I thought it was my ears. There were the signs of tinnitus by mid-afternoon six days a week. There was the desire to wear noise-isolating headphones everywhere, even if they weren't plugged into anything (aside from my ears, of course). Occasionally an ear would even stop working, rendering me deaf on one side for a number of hours. A lot of this was taken in stride, though. The tinnitus was likely the result of working at a printing company for many years without wearing ear protection1. The headphones were the desire to block out human interaction as well as the audio assault one contends with when working in the city. The temporary deafness in one ear was caused from stress.

Or so I thought.

Over the last couple of years one of the things I've noticed about sound is that most of it is fine so long as there is a purpose. Sounds that have no immediate value or — worse — obstruct other sounds appear to cause a physical reaction in me. This is especially prevalent when the TV is on. Japanese TV is not quite as weird as YouTube videos would have a person think, but it can be incredibly annoying in the name of "fun". There might be multiple layers of background music playing while one or more people are talking about a subject. There might be sound effects placed in random spots just to give the sound effects person a reason to get out of bed that day. There might be as many as six people talking all at once resulting in two or three overlapping conversations while background music is playing and a laugh track chimes in every couple of seconds.

I just can't stand it for more than a couple of minutes, yet I'm in the minority here as both Reiko and the boy enjoy having the TV on for several hours a day. When they're talking while the TV is on, my ears start to tighten up, I feel my chest tighten as well, and I just want to leave the room or shut the TV off. Muting does help, but not always.

Which strikes me as odd. If the problem was with my ears and how they process sound, then muting the TV should resolve the issue. Instead it just puts my rising tensions on pause. The problem likely isn't my ears, but in my head … like so many of my other problems.

After a number of conversations, there's a better understanding in the house that sometimes I need to insist the TV gets shut off for a few hours. This doesn't always happen, but the number of times that I've been able to ask that the TV be shut off and see it stay off is nice. One day I might see a doctor about this. Given my past experiences with Japanese doctors looking at my ears, though, it might be a while before that day comes.


  1. The company did provide free ear plugs, but that made it really hard for me to hear people above the thrum of the presses. After a couple of hours, I opted to just deal with the noise.

Asleep at the Keyboard

Today an interesting thing happened in that I fell asleep at the keyboard while in the middle of writing a SQL query. This is the first time in recent memory that I've lost consciousness mid-thought, and it's clearly a sign that I'm not getting enough sleep. While I no longer have the accuracy of a sleep tracker like SleepCycle to tell me just how poorly I'm resting, I can count on one hand the number of hours of sleep I've achieved since Sunday. Last time I checked, today is Wednesday. Meetings are taking place at all hours of the day. The boy needs attention for the 12 hours he's not sleeping. Nozomi and Reiko also need a bit of time. Then there's the time I dedicate to 10C and freelance jobs. Clearly the body is a lot more tired than I'm admitting, which means falling asleep at the keyboard1.

The ThinkPad X1 Carbon Keyboard

To make up for the lack of rest over the last couple of nights, I've blocked the schedule from 10:00pm until the start of the following day. Hopefully this will mean getting to bed by 11:00pm at the latest and falling asleep somewhere between 30~60 seconds later2.

There are just two more working days to go this week before the start of Golden Week, which will work out to 10 consecutive days off work with six of those days being fully paid holidays. The lack of OT will hurt the pay cheque a little bit, but the ability to get some sound sleep will more than make up for a few hundred dollars less in income.


  1. Would this be short-keyed as AAK?

  2. I generally fall asleep within 15~30 seconds after lying down in bed but, when overtired, a little more time is needed.

If Software Were Music ...

An odd thought crossed my mind the other day1. While listening to some of the better music to come out of the 80s and 90s, I wondered if there was any software from this time period that I'm still actively using. Given the speed at which technologies change and get rewritten, very little of what we see today is more than a couple of years old. Sure, some of the core components of Windows or Oracle might be a decade or two old, but these would be small components of larger projects, like a modern piece of music with a forever-repeating sample from James Brown.

Will any of the software tools that we use today continue to exist and be useful in 30 years?

Blurry Code

Being useful is important. Unless the planet is plunged into some sort of crisis that has wiped out all digitally-stored information everywhere, there are bound to be backups of software that is in use today sitting on an optical disc at the back of someone's closet. Crazy hypotheticals aside, I considered a semi-realistic one: of the software I use today, which ones could realistically continue to be useful until 2050 without any further updates?

Before continuing, I should state that I am fully entrenched in the world of Linux. While I do have a couple of iOS and Android-powered devices in the house, these sealed appliances with known operational lifespans do not count. I'm simply looking at the tools that I use on Linux.

Thinking through the question, I can think of just a handful of applications that are not part of the default installation of Ubuntu Linux that would still be useful in their current form in 2050:

  • Sublime Text, a pretty decent text editor
  • Typora, my favourite Markdown-friendly text editor
  • Gimp, the Gnu IMage Processing application
  • Glances, a command-line tool to see resource usage

Using the base installation of Ubuntu would mean that I could use the file manager, terminal, and a bunch of other built-in applications that make using the system easier. None of today's browsers would work very well with the web in 30 years, though. Grab a copy of Netscape Navigator 3.5 and try to open a site. Most of them will be an absolute mess. A lot of the other tools that I use would likely not work as expected, such as source control programs, API testing utilities, and database clients. A lot of these things would break because of new security protocols in place. Others might break for different reasons. Thinking back on all the support software I would use when deveoping over the years, none of the applications would work today … except maybe SQL Server Management Studio from around 2000, so long as it's connecting to a database that is also 20 years old2.

Given that we've been writing software for well over half a century, at what point will we start seeing applications — that are not on spacecraft — have operational lives stretching into decades? Will people use and enjoy older applications like a person might enjoy older music? I wonder ….


  1. Well, "odd thoughts" cross the mind all the time. This particular one seemed interesting, though.

  2. SQL Server Management Studio that shipped with SQL Server 2000 on a shiny silver CD — like I still have upstairs — would not connect to a SQL Server 2005 instance until later service packs were released. Even then, it's rare for an older SQL Server client to connect to too new a database engine.

Different

A nearby kindergarten held a little bit of an open house today as part of their regular efforts to recruit students for the next school year. Working from home means that instead of relying solely on Reiko's judgement for which school the boy should attend1, I can visit the schools and act as a second set of eyes. More than this, I attended a French-Immersion kindergarten in Ontario. There's no way I can pretend to know what goes on in a Japanese school unless I see for myself.

And see, I did.

The basics of kindergarten are all the same as I remember from 37 years ago. The playground is large and well-trodden. There are toys strewn all over the place until the teachers come along to pick them up. Teachers work in teams of two for classes larger than 25 kids2. The facilities are generally locked down to prevent weirdos from coming in. A rabbit is sitting in a cage outside, generally enjoying not being bothered by children. There's nothing sharp anywhere.

The differences stood out like a sore thumb. There was nudity.

At first I thought this was that sort of "silly nudity" where a young child will take their pants off for a joke or just to get a reaction out of a teacher. But then I saw a second child without pants. Then a third. Then a fourth. In a classroom of at least 25, a good number of kids — both boys and girls — were running around half-clothed. Some kids chanted "がんばれ!" while others went into a small room. Some were watching the group of 10 parents who were walking through the school.

"Before classes go out for a walk, children are encouraged to go to the bathroom. For children who are not completely potty trained, this is a reassuring way for them to learn."
— the lead teacher guiding the group

Maybe this is something I just don't remember but, to the best of my knowledge, there was never a "potty activity" when I was in school. Kids would sometimes have accidents and that would cause a bit of a problem, of course, but this was completely new to me. Reiko was also a little surprised to see it as it wasn't done at her kindergarten, either. My reticence to having teachers encourage my kid to take his pants off in front of a group may be due to a Christian upbringing in Canada, where nudity is "shameful" and must never be done ever, ever … but I'd really much rather the boy not get into a state of undress in front of his classmates or teachers.

A moment later we moved on to the next part of the tour where we went up to the roof of the school3, where another class was putting their hands or feet into shallow buckets of paint before stepping on large sheets of paper. The kids were having a lot of fun on the roof, but I had to question why they weren't in a classroom with air conditioning. The roof was at least 30 degrees in direct sunlight, which was certainly a bit warm for me.

It's different.

All in all, the school looked like a decent place for the students that we saw and most of the parents seemed happy with everything they heard. Would I be comfortable sending the boy there? Not completely. While the rooftop activities would be fine on a cooler day, I'm not at all keen on dealing with heat stroke. I've had that twice before, and it's no picnic4. As for nudity? I'm really not comfortable with this.

There are three other schools that Reiko, the boy, and I will be checking out over the coming months. One of the three will likely not even warrant a visit as the reviews online are all negative, with most mothers complaining about the lack of learning their kids are doing. The other two, however, show some promise.


  1. I would be completely fine with this, as Reiko has been a teacher for her entire professional life. She knows what to look for in educators and institutions. That said, what's the point of working from home if I cannot actively participate in the boy's development?

  2. I can barely manage to stay sane with just one kid. How do kindergarten teachers manage to do what they do?

  3. School roofs are generally evacuation areas for neighbourhoods in times of flood, so there are strong fences and safeties in place to ensure nobody falls off. This is quite different from the schools I attended in Canada, where the roof was pretty much "off limits" and impossible to get to.

  4. Funny story about heat stroke. When I was 17 I was out playing baseball for about 11 hours on a sunny Saturday. That night I went to bed and woke up Monday afternoon. Apparently my sisters couldn't wake me no matter what they tried. Wait … that wasn't funny ….