Five Things

Last week saw an incredibly productive Monday to Friday, with updates rolling out to several projects and even a couple of bugs being both discovered and quashed in short order. Interestingly, none of this was for the day job. Instead, the areas where I was most productive was with client work and the 10C platform, which is seeing some incredibly noticeable performance improvements. What’s unfortunate is that these side projects cannot (yet) pay the mortgage, so the day job is still a necessary evil.

That said, with another work week about to begin, there are a number of things that I would really like to see take place.

A Boatload of Money

Monday: Win the Lottery

The next lotto jackpot is 7億円, which is 700,000,000 Yen (about $8.6-million Canadian). While I may not play the lottery anymore, I would certainly enjoy the opportunity to walk away from modern employment with a healthy bank balance and the freedom to create new things on my own schedule. The standard bill management would take place up front, with the mortgage being paid in full and a good sum set aside in a term savings account for the boy to receive on his 20th birthday1. But after this there would still be several million to play with, of which I would dedicate maybe the equivalent of two years salary, starting with …

Tuesday: Update the  Kit

Yep, there would be a trip to the nearby Apple Store to pick up an iMac, a couple of tablets, a pair of watches with matching phones, and even an iPod touch for the boy. None of us would need to wait around for our devices to catch up to us until sometime around 2023, which would be a welcome change from what we’re doing today. One additional item I would likely pick up is an TV, which would allow for streaming from devices and a less cumbersome process when renting a movie2. Of course, our TV is 10+ years old, so …

Wednesday: Furnish the Home & Workspace

A nice 45” OLED TV would look great in the living room and would need a matching stereo system to go with it. While we’re at it, another sofa would be picked up, some soft carpet, and a few other creature comforts to turn the living room into a comfortable place to relax rather than the boy’s play room … though he would most certainly keep leaving his toys all over the floor there.

Thursday: Acquire a Nice Video Camera

At the moment any videos that are captured are done with a phone or a DSLR3 that was designed for still photography. What I would want is a camera that can record 4K video and be used both indoors and outside. This would certainly be used to capture memories with the boy when he’s taking part in school activities, but the video camera would also be used for a fun little hobby …

Friday: Start Cooking Show

Given the amount of free time a lottery-ticket millionaire family might have, it only seems logical that we try something new. If neither Reiko or I need to work anymore, then it seems like as good a reason as any to start a new hobby together. We both enjoy cooking and we both have our specialities. A show where we teach each other how to make something from our country of origin might be interesting enough that people would want to tune in and see. Also, because we’d be doing it for fun rather than a possible source of income, we could focus on making an honest show rather than one that tries to attract product placements and the like.

If everything goes off without a hitch, we’d still have 600,000,000 Yen in the bank after the first year, and a growing number every year after that thanks to a low cost of living and a modest interest rate from the bank.

Of course this is all dependent on having the winning lottery ticket, which requires that I buy a lottery ticket. Given the 7 year losing streak while living in Canada, I wonder if my luck in Japan would be any better.

  1. The age of majority in Japan is 20, which might make sense for other countries to copy.

  2. The current process is to rent the video, download it, plug the notebook into the TV via HDMI, start the video, move the video to the TV, then turn the notebook so the screen doesn’t distract from watching the movie. This is suboptimal.

  3. Reiko uses the Canon X7 Kiss for video more often than not, which is frustrating given the camera is not designed to be refocusing every microsecond to keep up with a fast-moving target like the boy. The audio quality also leaves much to be desired. I am a firm believer in having the right tools for the job after learning the basics with equipment already on hand. The cameras did admirably for a time, but something better should be considered when the need arises.


Some of the recent posts on this site have shared bits and pieces of my youth with perhaps a bit more detail than is normal, and this has resulted in a couple of people asking whether some of the memory is filled in via imagination or remembered with an uncommon amount of clarity. Given that memories are malleable and do not generally have updated timestamps to show when or if something has changed, I generally need to answer “it’s a little bit of both … I think”. For most of my life after the age of six, I can tell you a couple of things I did for just about every day right up until now. There are gaps, of course, and there are fragments of memories that I generally view as suspect. Human frailties aside, the memories that I’ve shared on this site or in person when chatting with people are as accurate as I can muster. There are, however, tools that I can use to help trigger details of memories.

An indispensable tool when I wrote about the paper boats I made as a child was a mapping application that could show a satellite overview of the area I grew up. On the map I could trace the routes I used to walk alone and with friends. This would remind me of various details and warrant a little more investigation to fill in gaps that I might have forgotten. This was certainly the case with the metal grate that blocked human access to the tunnel where the Red Hill Creek flowed under King Street. I hadn’t thought of that filthy metal barrier in decades but, when I traced the route I would send my boats, it was like being transported back in time to watch myself run alongside the shallow creek, careful for the stones and low-hanging branches, as a vessel of dubious seaworthiness made its uncontrolled journey downstream. This technique was also used to remember details about the day I almost drowned in Lake Erie, the general history of Hamilton, and details for a bunch of other posts that have not yet been completed.

What might set my memories apart from other people’s is the area of focus. I tend to pay attention to small details or very specific elements of a place or situation rather than what someone might consider the main area of focus. This is also true of movies, where I’ll observe what supporting characters are doing while others are speaking or otherwise being the centre of attention. Disney and Pixar movies are great for this kind of activity. So, because I focus on small details, it’s easier (for me) to subconsciously reassemble a memory by filling in the blanks from one day with similar details from another. This doesn’t make the memory any less real, but it does make for a rather vivid scene in the mind’s eye.

What’s odd is that this memory is not limited to just places I’ve physically experienced, but extends to books and dreams as well. I’ve been told on several occasions that this is “not normal”. Given how many times I’ve solved complex coding problems in a dream and then later implemented the same solution in real life to great success, I’ll admit that I’m quite happy to be abnormal in this regard. It does raise a question, though: how do people generally remember things?

There are a number of bad memories I’ve wished could be erased, but I’ve learned to live with them and accept that not every event in life will be a good one. Does the typical human mind generally forget entire spans of time? Do people not remember most of their school-aged childhood? If so, why do more people not keep a journal to hold onto memories for longer periods of time?

Memory is a fascinating thing. I’ve considered mine both a blessing and a curse over the years. At some point it’s bound to deteriorate, which is one of the reasons for the recent posts about the past. Hopefully it won’t happen anytime soon.

Heavy Rain

On Monday the morning news boldly stated that this year's rainy season would officially begin on Friday. Being morning news and being a weather forecast, I didn't take the declaration very seriously as the accuracy of meteorology in Japan has plummeted to comically low numbers despite the national supercomputers dedicated to the task becoming ever more powerful. The prediction didn't change at any time throughout the week, though. Every weather person said that we'd have heavy rains starting from Friday.

Oddly enough, they were all 100% correct.

Lightning Over the City

The rainy season has begun, and it's letting the entire region know that we'd best pay attention. Given how warm the winter was, I am expecting this season's typhoons to be stronger than what we witnessed last year, which was already pretty devastating for some of the more rural communities around here.

Misusing Time

Earlier today I was having a conversation with Sumudu about Evernote and the topic of where the data sits came up. A lot of SaaS platforms tend to store people's information on Amazon's Web Service platform or Microsoft's Azure alternative. Evernote is a little different in that the data we upload to them is stored on Google's Cloud Platform. Given my reticence at having Google know too much about me, the question of how comfortable I was with the knowledge that the scans of receipts and medical diagnoses that I've put into Evernote over the years is theoretically available to Google1. As one would expect, I am not all that keen on Google being the place where too much of my data is kept. But what is the alternative? I've tried multiple different note applications since leaving Evernote a few years back, and they're all a collection of compromises in comparison. What am I to do, then? Build my own solution?

A self-hosted Evernote alternative would be an interesting project to work on, and there is already prior work done for such a system that I could continue building on. One of the reasons I stopped working on my own Notes SaaS is because I wanted to focus on getting 10Cv5 ready and out the door. Another was that one of the big reasons I like Evernote is because of the seamless OCR feature that reads through PDFs and most image formats to find words and make them part of the note's metadata, making it possible to search for notes based on the text contained in an image. This is very cool and not at all easy to do with a personal project. There are software libraries out there that will do this, but many of them are either very expensive or just too resource-intensive to use on consumer-grade hardware. Rather than bang my head against the wall by building yet another note-taking app that requires people to compromise, it just makes sense to use Evernote platform … especially considering how I just picked up three Moleskin notebooks that work with the service.

Fifteen minutes later, while working on something for the day job, a solution to the OCR problem flashed through my head. I had devised a way to make OCR work, which would lead to the ability to search for words contained in images and PDFs, and to even handle handwriting to a certain degree. The difficult features that encouraged me to return to Evernote now had valid solutions. I quickly slapped together a proof of concept and, less than 20 minutes later, I had proved that the mechanism was sound. PDFs and high-resolution JPEG images were being "read" in both English and Japanese with minimal effort on my part. Lovely!

But is there a market for an Evernote alternative? What sort of features would I need to have right out of the gate to gain traction? Is this something that people would consider a subscription for — even if it's a one-time, lifetime subscription option — so that it might be possible to dedicate a proper amount of time and resources to the project?

There are a number of threads on various forums including Reddit where people ask about viable alternatives to the green elephant to no avail. A lot of people seem to want an alternative and lament the friction involved with the other note-taking applications.

An A5-sized notebook on the shelf next to me has a lot of handwritten notes and diagrams outlining the requirements of what a proper competitor would need in order to wrest people away from Evernote and the local-file options. There were even scribbles talking about how the server component could be made open source while saving some of the nicer features for the hosted version that I would make available. The ideas seemed reasonable.

Then I glanced at the clock and saw that an entire hour had been spent looking into something that, in reality, would likely be a gross misuse of time. If there was a strong market demand for an Evernote alternative, there would be plenty already. Fact of the matter is that there does not seem to be a large enough group of people (that I'm aware of) that would like yet another text editor on their devices. Rather than invest the time into something that would not help me towards the goal of self-employment by 2022, it would make much more sense to focus on the day job until the end of the shift, then spend some time with 10C and maybe fix a bug or two.

While the goal to be self-employed and provide useful tools to people is noble, it can't be done during regular working hours. A distraction like this may be alright for a couple of minutes, especially when a technical problem is solved, but any more than 5 and it quickly becomes a misuse of time.

  1. Evernote explains that, as a cloud provider, Google is subject to strict security and legal obligations which limit Google’s access to Evernote data. The data put into Evernote belongs to the uploader. Google will not process data for any purpose other than to fulfill contractual obligations such as delivery. Given the fallout that would occur should Google be found in breach of this, it's probably safe to assume that nobody will be doing anything stupid.

Paper Boats

Our imaginations are wonderful places to escape from the rules and structures that define reality. Some children are incredibly fortunate to have both a vivid imagination and the time required to adequately explore their creativity. I was one such child, often building models of various vessels out of paper and embarking upon "missions" that would often consume an entire afternoon. One of my favourite pastimes around the age of 10 or 11 was constructing boats that were modelled on the large military and civilian ships that I could find in the family encyclopedia set. My models would rarely exceed 15cm in length, but what they lacked in tonnage they more than made up for in complexity.

Paper Boats on a Cold River

The first boats were quite simple. A sheet of paper would be folded in half with the ends glued shut. After the seal had taken hold, I would "open" the centre like a hotdog bun, attach a deck, and then cut the ends to be tapered nicely at a 45˚ angle. Once all of the glue had dried, I would bring the model to the nearby creek and release the ship into the water with the goal of following the craft as far as I was allowed to travel1. Unfortunately, the early ships would all tip over immediately after being put in the water. I had yet to learn about ballasts and keels.

As time went on and my knowledge of water craft improved, the models became ever more complex. Ships would have water-tight compartments where air could be trapped to keep the vessel afloat even if some glue had come unstuck. The best ballast was often the artificial gravel used with HO scale model railroads, so I would use that either at the bottom of the hull or — better still — within the keel after wrapping the plastic stone in cellophane. In order to keep the ship floating near the centre of the creek's winding route, a rudder had to be set at an angle between 8˚ and 12˚ turning starboard, otherwise it would wind up hitting the stones along the shore with every bend and curve. Masts were impossible to use without the vessel tipping over, so sails were out. Every ship had to rely only on the flow of the water to complete its mission. Of the dozens — or hundreds — of attempts, only two managed to travel the kilometre or so from the launching point to the King Street tunnel without hitting the shore or otherwise coming apart at the seams as glue bonds deteriorated.

It was fascinating work. The encyclopedias at home explained the basics of buoyancy and how ships generally worked, but the increasingly complex designs came about as a result of the extra study that was put into the effort. In my imagination, these weren't just paper models of cargo vessels, aircraft carriers, or passenger ships. These were water-borne craft that I captained, with a crew of people who were just as intently focussed on the objective. We had to make it to the King Street tunnel, where the creek would enter into a gated tube 3 meters in diameter2. We had to.

In order to build a ship that could make the journey I read every book on boats that I could find. The elementary school I attended and the nearby library had some magazines and books that showed a number of interesting designs, including some twin-hull concepts that would have made a sail tenable while also eliminating the need for a double-reinforced, complex keel to keep the ship upright. But these books were mostly about pictures rather than substance. The real breakthrough came when I went to the Hamilton Central Library on a school trip and looked up the technical books on ship design.

My adolescent mind was blown.

There were blueprints, complex equations, cross-section drawings, and pictures of yachts. I learned that a boat designed for fresh water would work differently in salt water. I saw manoeuvrability diagrams that showed very precisely how much area was needed for a ship of a certain size to turn or come to a complete stop. I discovered just how primitive and utterly simplistic my models were … and stepped up to the challenge.

For my most ambitious vessel, I would take everything I learned from experience as well as the ideas and concepts I thought I understood from the professional books at the Central Library to construct a ship that would travel from the "launching pier" near my school to the King Street tunnel and right on through the other side without coming undone or getting stuck on the shallow shore along the way. More than this, the ship would carry a cargo of one Loonie, which I could only use if the mission was successful.

The Planned Journey

For what seemed like weeks I toiled away on the ship. The hull was the simple part, as I'd become rather proficient having the paper bend and hold the best shape for the water. The keel was complicated, though. I don't remember how many times I rebuilt that part of the vessel, trying so hard to have the built-in tail rudder hold a proper starboard angle after the glue set. The decks were easy, and I even went so far as to have the Orlop deck made from a handful of carefully-shaved popsicle sticks. This sat on top of the in-hull ballast and would be where the single Canadian coin would be stowed. When everything was said and done, the ship was easily the most complex and most difficult thing I had ever built. My father was impressed with the attention to detail and asked if I was really going to have it sail down the Redhill Creek towards Lake Ontario, where I might never see it again.

So I thought about it.

And I thought about it.

And I thought about it some more.

While the ship never once met physical water, it regularly played an important role in the imaginary excursions I would enjoy from the comfort of my bedroom3.

  1. As one would expect for a child of 10~11 years, my father had set some boundaries for how far I could travel. As the creek trickled downstream, it would go under King Street in Hamilton, which was the farthest north I was permitted to go.

  2. The concrete pipe where the creek went under the four-lane busy street was gated, of course, to ensure kids didn't go in and drown.

  3. This was the last boat I ever built. Some years later, when I was attending high school, I had the opportunity to visit C&C Yachts in Niagara on the Lake, where fibreglass yachts were designed and built. During the trip the employee that was giving us a tour explained what it took to be a designer and a longtime friend of mine pointed at me and said "He's your man!". Sometimes I wonder if I would have been up to the challenge of the decade of schooling followed by a decade of apprenticeship.

Where to Rest?

Reiko’s parents recently sold their cemetery plots and decided to put the money into their bank account rather than find a new place where their remains can be interred. This struck me as odd, given that Reiko’s mother and father are both over 70 years of age and have no delusions of immortality. However, upon hearing the logic behind the decision, I cannot say that I blame them for making the decision that they did.

Very rarely is an entire body buried in Japan. Due to space limitations, bodies are typically cremated and the urn is placed in the family plot. These stone-marked locations are generally visited by family at least once a year in August1, when they are cleaned up and offerings are placed. I have visited the cemetery where Reiko’s grandfather was interred on several occasions, but not in the last five years. Reiko’s parents understand that young people generally do not visit cemeteries, and they do not wish to be "forgotten in a field of buried ashes”. So, rather than be cremated and buried in a plot not too far from where the previous generation rests, my in-laws have decided that it would be better to be cremated and have the ashes divided evenly among three pendants; one for each of their children.

A Crowded Japanese Cemetery

One can see the logic behind this decision, though I do wonder about the long-term feasibility. How long will the ashes be handed down from generation to generation? Will people in a century or two even know who’s ashes they’re responsible for keeping safe?2 While I can see my son maybe holding onto my ashes for a generation, I highly doubt his children — should he choose to have them — would want to look after an urn full of dirt from a time long forgotten. This is the very same problem that I see with being laid to rest in a cemetery. Tradition can only go so far, and eventually our bones will be forgotten as the current generation focuses more on the present than the past.

When I think about where I would like my remains to go, two ideas come to mind. The first is that I would like to have my cremated ashes laid to rest next to Nozomi, ideally near a nice tree, on the little plot of land where my house resides. If Reiko chooses the same, then we can all be interred together in the same place while the boy inherits the property. The second is that I would like to have my ashes put into a paper boat and dropped into the ocean. When the fragile vessel dissolves, then the ashes will be naturally spread in to ocean. This will absolve any future generation of the responsibility of taking care of my remains. The last thing that I want is for a future generation to consider a jar of my ashes and charred bones to be considered a responsibility or a burden.

Of course I can say all of this in a matter-of-fact sort of way because, with luck, I still have another 35 to 40 years to go before this body fails. I do not fear my death, but I do worry about being a burden on the people left behind. This is why I have some decent insurance policies in place and have opted to donate my organs — minus the eyes and brain3 — to anyone who might need them upon my passing. When I am gone, the only thing I want to leave behind is 10Centuries. Everything else can be divvied up as it will serve zero purpose to me.

Do Reiko’s parents see their passing in a similar fashion? Are they trying to minimize the perceived burden that comes with being responsible for visiting and maintaining the family cemetery plot? What is to be done about the plot for Reiko’s grandparents? Will this be left abandoned and forgotten in a couple of decades? How about the great-grandparents who were born and lived during the time of the Japanese Empire? How about the generation before, which is the earliest generation — that I know of — to be buried in the cemetery near the in-laws’ house?

These are not easy questions, as they carry a great deal of emotional weight and familial responsibility. What I do know, however, is that when my time comes, I want my body to be recycled as quickly as possible so that people can move on. My spirit will continue. 10C will continue. So long as Reiko and the boy are financially stable after my passing then I will be content, as it means that my responsibilities will have been properly carried out.

  1. “Silver Week” is the traditional time when it’s believed that people return to Earth to roam amongst the living, but in ghost form. If their tombstones are in good repair, they can rest comfortably. If the plots have been forgotten, then they cannot rest. You can see the long-term problem with this sort of belief.

  2. I should really sit down with Reiko’s parents and interview them on a podcast so that they can share their life story and the incredible change they’ve witnessed over the last 70 years. The Japan of today is vastly different from the Japan of the 1950s, yet there are still many similarities.

  3. Silly as it may seem, I consider the eyes and brain to be the essence of a human. This is what we are. Everything else is just an organic machine for the purpose of locomotion.

Getting Back Into Evernote

When I decided to put macOS back on the notebook a week or so back to remove some of the friction I was consistently rubbing up against when trying to work, I decided to also give Evernote another try. There was a time when the note application was my go-to resource. It was used extensively between 2011 and 2013 on the iPod Touches I had and, after getting an iPhone, the application became even more useful thanks to all the geo-tagging that could be done with the notes. Evernote was so much a part of my day-to-day life that the prototype version of 10Centuries was an Evernote-based blogging tool1. However, some time around 2015 the company started to change. The applications were slow, bloated, and too difficult to use on the phone. The desktop application did the job, but wasn't as good as previous versions as a result of a bunch of extra "chrome" that was added at the bottom of every note. By the autumn of that year, I uninstalled the software and let my premium account expire. The system just wasn't for me anymore.

The next couple of years weren't particularly great for digital note-taking. I tried OneNote and an array of alternatives that were all trying to be like Evernote, but none could solve the problems that I actually had. What I need from a note application is not at all revolutionary. In fact, Evernote did everything I needed and then some … but the applications were just hard to use. In 2017 I decided to give the service another try, installed the application on my phone, and almost instantly regretted it. My inbox was hit with a slew of spam from Evernote! They wanted to welcome me back. They wanted to offer a discount for a year of premium service. They wanted to let me know about new features. They wanted so much for me to centre my entire life around their service, which is not how notes work. Less than two hours after installing the application, I uninstalled it and added to the mail filter, sending everything automatically to trash.

Not having a decent digital note system is not an option anymore, though. An entire 150-page A5 book is filled with hand-written notes every five weeks for all the things I'm doing at the day job. Another one for 10C sees 15~20 pages written every week with ideas, bug analyses, data structures, and more. All of these things can remain in paper form and still be quickly referenced, but this still works out to over 1400 pages that I'm hand-writing every year just for development projects, not to mention client work and the various essays I've been working on that are in various states of completion.

Plain text files have been used, but don't easily support attachments or meta-data. Word processors like Microsoft's Word or LibreOffice's Write are overkill and do not have decent PDF OCR and indexing built-in. Try as I might, the best tool for the job since 2011 has been — in my mind — Evernote. So here I am with a trio of these …

Evernote's Squared Smart Notebook

This third time around has actually been quite positive. I'm not being inundated with spam. The applications on the tablet and desktop are actually pretty decent. The advertisements — for the moment — are minimal. I've even started scanning receipts and other documents into the service again, which is something I once did religiously in order to keep track of important things that needed to be quickly searchable later. For the most part, I'm enjoying the reduced friction that comes with using a tool that is wholly aligned with the things I need from a note management service.

My only hope is that the service continues to leave me alone while being dependable going forward. I'll get the premium account. I'll get the notebooks that make it easier to have hand-written notes and sketches get processed. I'll even learn to use Penultimate on the tablet with a stylus2. So long as the marketing engine doesn't get in the way of the service, it might just remain part of my digital toolbox for the foreseeable future.

  1. Quite literally. The only way to publish a post with Noteworthy is via Evernote.

  2. Much to Steve Jobs' chagrin, of course.

Five Things

Another week is about to begin and, as one would expect, this means the weather is about to become lovely. For some peculiar reason, the best weather always seems to happen between Monday and Friday. One might argue that this is the result of a very selective memory, but I’m inclined to think that the universe likes to tempt people into skipping work.

This is why we have “sick days”, right?

Sunglasses at Light

After going without for more than a decade, I finally have a pair of prescription sunglasses to use when out and about in the sun. One of the last big purchases I made before leaving Canada back in 2007 was a $890 pair of frameless glasses that could transition from completely transparent to decently grey with UV light. These broke a few years later and, being rather financially constrained at the time, I picked up a simple pair of regular glasses that would get the job done. This is the same pair I use today.

There are a couple of things I like about having a dedicated pair of prescription sunglasses. Not only is it easier to look at things outside during the daylight hours, but these can act as an auxiliary pair should anything happen to my indoor glasses. Until now, I’ve been extremely careful to ensure the boy doesn’t damage my eyewear. Now, while I plan on remaining vigilant, there is less at stake from little fingers creating big problems.

Unhelpful Rhetoric

This week I was chatting with a couple of neighbours when we heard a fire truck followed by an ambulance race down a nearby street, sirens and PA speakers blaring. One of the men stated that the fire and police have been a lot busier in the area lately, to which another said — and I am quoting in English despite the Japanese that was used — “The change happened about the same time the last group of foreigners moved into town.”

I couldn’t resist. I had to ask how often the cops or fire department had been to my house in the last 14 months.

“Oh, you’re fine,” the neighbour quickly said as though trying to backpedal. “The problem is all the Brazilians.”

To which I quickly rattled off a bunch of high profile crimes that have been in the news over the last two weeks, all of which have been conducted by Japanese people. Legal immigrants to Japan generally try to follow they rules because the consequences of causing trouble is too great a cost. I’ll admit that my attitude towards immigrants in Canada when I was young and stupid was unfair1, but I will do what I can to help people understand that people who willingly choose to live and work in Japan are generally hard-working, law-abiding residents.

10,000 a Day

In the month of May my average daily step count was 10,005. The last time I saw this sort of number was when I was still very much into the idea of Quantified Self, which I had to abandon after the boy was born due to the over-complexities of recording activities that are interrupted thrice at a minimum2. That said, both the boy and Nozomi have been insistent this month that they have more time outside, and I am quick to support any reason to get some fresh air and sunshine. It’s nice to see a 5-digit number again.

The Mazda is Back

Last week the Mazda was returned with a new transmission and two new associated computers. Before the car had problems, I thought the vehicle was smooth. After feeling how the car accelerated and maintains speed now, colour me surprised. I’ve not enjoyed a ride this smooth in years. The car feels brand new.


As I eluded to earlier, I’ve recently started to track some of my numbers again. For the moment, tracking will be kept relatively simple with steps, heart rate at the time I wake up, sleep patterns, and body weight. A lot of this is quite automated, which makes it easier to get back into the swing. One thing I am looking forward to, though, is picking up an ᴡᴀᴛᴄʜ at some point to better track my pulse and other metrics. If I plan the budget just right, Santa might place one of these devices under the tree this year. Two would be better, but likely isn’t in the cards for this year.

  1. I didn’t mind that people came from other countries. What frustrates me was the communication barrier, as not everyone was fluent in English or Québécois. I used to ask “If you can’t speak either of the languages, why are you here?” It was an idiotic and unfair question. As a settled immigrant in a historically homogenous nation, I understand the challenges that come with moving across the planet.

  2. This is why I had to give up tracking my sleep. I would be woken up at least twice every night, and three times on average. Try recording that into a phone application that expects a person to go to bed just once per night.

Nighttime Treks

With the summer humidity here, Nozomi is back down to just two walks per day. Being a miniature dachshund has got to be rough. Everyone in the world is a giant and concrete at 15cm is always a warm surface just looking for an excuse to be hot. That said, it’s not all bad. Nozomi does have a pretty easy life, even by dog standards.

Nozomi Enjoying a Walk

Last summer Nozomi and I would generally head outside a little after sunset for her evening visit to the park. The air is relatively cool and the grass feels nice on bare paws. However, because of all the changes that had happened in such a short time, Nozomi would want to return home within the first five minutes of her walk. She was completely uninterested in exploring the park or being outdoors. This year she can’t get enough of the outdoors.

In the evenings we have a set route that she seems to enjoy quite a bit. We head to the park where she al it’s immediately jumps on the grass for a quick uphill pee. Then we head to the baseball diamond so she can walk around the edges of the outfield and catch up on all her puppy smells. As we come around to the last corner, though, she turns left to walk away from our home. Instead we travel south to another pedestrian path and take the long way home, stopping every so often to greet neighbours or sniff something of interest. The look on her face as we conduct this trek makes the journey worthwhile.

She’s clearly a happy and energetic Nozomi again.

Passionate Hobbyists

Earlier today I was introduced to Dennis Prager via Fireside Chat Ep. 84, where he strongly suggests people get a hobby. He then goes on to explain why people should have a hobby and why some things people consider a hobby are more of a pastime. Ultimately I agree that people need to have a creative activity that can be enjoyed during leisure time. In my case I have several very different passions that I can engage in when stepping away from the computer, but I understand this is not particularly common in adults. Yet, while I agree with the central idea that people should have hobbies, I wonder just how many people honestly have no creative outlet in their life.

In the YouTube video, Dennis makes a couple of interesting statements:

  • the more passions you have, the happier you'll be1
  • a hobby is to create something beautiful
  • watching something is not the same as creating something, therefore "watching movies" is not a hobby
  • a pastime, such as a video game, is not a hobby
  • technology has made our passions extinct2

The first two points I generally agree with. One could argue the point about creating something beautiful but, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. The last three points I can disagree with on semantics, as some people enjoy reviewing movies that they watch, making the act of watching part of the hobby. Some people enjoy creative games, such as Minecraft, SimCity, and others. I would contend that people can certainly create something beautiful in the virtual world of a game. The last point, however, I disagree with. Technology may have changed the sorts of pursuits that people are passionate about, but passion is still very much part of what makes our hobbies worthwhile.

Kids Today …

There's no denying that I have a multitude of hobbies that all bring me varying degrees of joy, depending on how knowledgeable and/or competent I might wish to be3. However, I have been described — in polite conversation — as a walking edge case. What I have seen first hand with my community volunteering4, though, is that kids today are just as creative and passionate as I was thirty years ago and as kids likely were a century ago. Where we focus our passions has changed. Nothing more.

One difference that I see with young people around here compared to when I was their age has to do with ramp-up time. If someone wants to try something new, they can generally get started quickly, cheaply, and easily thanks to a plethora of applications and YouTube videos. I've learned more about photography since the boy was born thanks to professional photographers on YouTube sharing concepts like framing, tilt-shifting, bokeh, and more. Sure, an application could probably do all of these things for me, but I want to use my nicer Canon DSLR camera. This means investing the time into learning how to do things with the tools available to me. Kids can do the same with just as much ease.

Case in point is a young girl down the street who wanted to make a cartoon featuring her new kitten. She downloaded an app for her tablet5, did all the preliminary work of drawing, colouring, and adding some music that she composed in GarageBand herself, then showed the whole neighbourhood (literally) what she created. Now she's talking about wanting to become an animator and learning more about this form of art than she might have otherwise. The technology made it possible for her to explore an idea, make something she found amazing, and then springboard to the next level. Whether she chooses to pursue a career in art or animation is irrelevant at this point. She is passionate and she is learning.

Having a creative hobby is a wonderful thing and I would encourage everybody to have at least one. For many, a hobby may be put on hold for a lack of time, a lack of resources, or a lack of "safe space"6. To suggest that a person's lack of passion is the result of modern technology is a bit of a stretch, though.

  1. This is what he calls the Happiness Theory

  2. He is not at all anti-technology. He explains in the video that the amazing technology so many of us take for granted has pacified us with all its convenience.

  3. At last count and not including hobbies that are not related to programming or otherwise non-creative uses of time? Five. Baking, gardening, sketching, writing, podcasting and photography. However, I also really enjoy reading and listening to podcasts. While these may not be creative in the moment, what I learn from the books or audio can certainly be put to use later.

  4. I participate in a robotics course during the summer holidays, teaching kids how to program and think problems through to find solutions. Both girls and boys attend the sessions and they generally range from 7 to 15 years of age.

  5. I think it was her father's tablet, but kids generally use whatever they want. Parents will allow it so long as there's a little bit of quiet in the house.

  6. Try having a nice model railroad set in the house with a toddler. Tears will be shed.