Twelve

Twelve years ago, somewhere in Miyagi prefecture, Nozomi was born alongside her brothers and sisters. It would be just 107 days later when she would join the family and bring a smile to my face every day since.

Nozomi in the Park

Almost a month has passed since the last time I saw her. My final act was to give her a little bit of breakfast before heading outside on the day that Reiko and I split. In retrospect, I should have brought her with me. However, in retrospect, I could have done a lot of things differently. Still, I really hope that Nozomi is doing alright despite the distance. Last weekend I cleaned up the home office and rearranged some things so that she would have a great deal more space for her bed when she returns, and there will also be fewer barriers in place to prevent her from exploring the house1.

There's no timeline for her return, nor do I know if she will return after the lawyers work out who gets what. However, I do hope that Nozomi can enjoy her 12th birthday with a nice treat and maybe a little more attention than she normally receives. In the event she can come back to this house, I'll make up for the time we lost together. She'll have a new pair of bowls, extra long leash, and her favourite dinner waiting.

Hopefully we won't have to wait too long.


  1. Nozomi has been pretty much limited to just the home office the last five years, as she's been kept separated from the boy. A few days after the house was emptied out, I removed all the barriers. Not only because they made it harder to get into and out of the office, but because they were annoying as heck.

Sixteen Years

Sixteen years ago as of this post's publication1, I landed in Japan for the first time. This was my first trip overseas and first time going to a country that did not have English as its native language. This was also the culmination of a number of efforts that were years in the making, resulting in a journey that seemed almost like deja vu at times. There were numerous points during this first trip to Japan where I thought for certain that I had done a thing before, or recognised something as being familiar from long ago rather than my first exposure, and some of these were recorded on my blog2.

The First Visit

The journey was not without its challenges, of course.

After reaching immigration & customs, my passport was given to an official and I was led to the most boring office one could imagine. Inside were several rows of grey metal desks staffed with people who looked as though they were living in purgatory – and perhaps they were. The officer who led me to the dreary place asked me to sit on a chair next to some similarly-screened individuals while they performed some background checks. In retrospect, this was probably to be expected, as I did not pre-file for a visa. Canadian citizens, I was told, could fly to Japan without first filing out paperwork and submitting it to the local Japanese embassy. This was also my first trip outside of North America. So a 26 year-old kid from Canada appearing on the other side of the planet from home with zero advance notice likely set off a couple of alarm bells. As I sat in the office, I tried to understand what people were saying. There were a few others in a similar situation as me, but we didn't speak to each other. The room was eerily silent aside from a few whispers as people spoke about the passports in front of them.

Twenty minutes passed before the official who escorted me to the office returned with three passports in his hand. He called out the names of the other people waiting with me and asked them to see another officer who was at the far end of the grey desks. Then he called my name and handed me my passport. I went to follow the other two travellers, not understanding at the time that they were being called for "additional screening". The immigrations officer stopped me and asked that I go out a different door to collect my belongings and go about my business. I looked in the passport and found a stamp saying that I was granted a 90-day visa.

Lucky me.

My bags were the only ones remaining on the carousel and I collected them without incident. My next task was to get from Narita Airport in Chiba to Gifu Station in the next four hours, where I would meet Reiko in person for the very first time.

Narita to Gifu Station

This was a time before mobile Internet was something that people could really use. One could get CompactFlash cards for PDAs to enable mobile Internet if you didn't mind paying $25 for 25MB of data3, and Reiko did arrange for a rental unit that I could use for this first trip to the country, but I wouldn't have such a luxury just yet. Instead, I had to buy train tickets with my limited Japanese, exchange money, and make my way 350-odd km using just the information that I had printed out before the flight. Oddly enough, the journey was mostly unremarkable.

I managed to get to Tokyo Station from the airport just fine. Buying a bullet-train ticket to Nagoya was also easy, though the line to speak with a person at the counter was long. On the train I had the least-desirable "middle seat" between two businessmen two ate their dinner and drank beer in relative silence. Once in Nagoya, I got on a train to Gifu Station and arrived some time around 10 o'clock at night. The only real complication was that I went to the wrong Gifu Station. There are two within about 500 metres of each other; one for the Meitetsu Line and another for Japan Rail. Despite this error, Reiko and I managed to meet up after she finished work. She drove me to the rental apartment where I would be staying the next ten days, showed me how to use some of the appliances and then pointed to the mobile Internet device that I could plug into my HP iPaq.

HP iPaq with Mobile Data

All in all, it was quite the trip. We visited castles, temples, malls, and restaurants. There were a lot of things that I had seen only in anime that became real, and a lot of things that I had never considered that turned into future considerations. I often think back to that trip and wonder What If …?

Am I glad that I came to Japan all those years ago? Yes. Am I glad that I moved to the country fifteen months later? Yes. Am I glad that I worked a job that I never thought I was good at for 9 years before returning to a development-based role? Yes. Am I glad that I met Nozomi? Absolutely. Am I glad that the boy came along? Most certainly. Would I do it all again?

That's the question, isn't it?

If I could do it all over again, I would. Despite the pain and heartache I have felt over the years, despite the challenges and low points, there has been a remarkable amount of good that has happened, too. I never would have met many of the people I consider friends today had it not been for my move to Japan. I never would have matured as a person without a marriage full of challenge. I never would have been able to bring Nozomi away from the constant earthquakes that shook eastern Japan after the Great Tohoku Earthquake in 2011. The boy would never have been born.

Despite whatever people might think, I do not hate nor harbour ill feelings towards Reiko. Our marriage didn't work out, and a lot of that had to do with me just as much as it did with her. We didn't marry the right person, but we both learned and gained a great deal from our 14 years together, and 16 in total. So when I think back to that first trip to Japan, when I was so young and naive, I smile and think of all the good that has happened since then. Life is not easy for most people, but it could have been a heck of a lot harder for me than it has been. Despite the heartache, this past chapter of my life is not something that I regret.


  1. This would be 5:05pm Japan Standard Time

  2. Before self-hosting my websites, I used Microsoft's Windows Live Spaces for my blog. This proved to be untenable long-term as the person I was with before Reiko would often leave comments. As one might expect, this resulted in problems. The simplest solution was to delete the blog. Unfortunately, there was no way to export the sites back then. All of the posts were lost.

  3. This price was astonishing as a Canadian, where mobile data was – and continues to be – at least five times more expensive.

Observations

The last two weeks have been quite the roller coaster, with a remarkable amount of change, stress, and relaxation taking place almost simultaneously. Being an introspective sort of person, I have been thinking about some of the patterns that have changed over this past fortnight, and some of the realisations have surprised me … while also not surprising me.

The Headaches are Gone

One of the most noticeable changes is that I no longer have headaches. This could be the result of an increase in daily exercise, but I strongly believe this is because I'm not burying thoughts or emotions anymore. Prior to the split up, I would usually consume two headache pills on Thursday and Friday, then anywhere between four and seven on weekends. Long weekends would naturally stack up to involve more pills in addition to some Chinese medicine, namely 葛根湯加川芎辛夷1 and 抑肝散加陳皮半夏2. These two, taken together and chased down with a cup of coffee, would allow me to maintain some semblance of normalcy on weekends and other days off. I would rarely get upset after taking this concoction, and would generally appear "fine" … though I did make sure to think two or three times before saying anything out loud, as that was just better for everyone if I did.

The Laughter is Back

There was a time many years ago when I could laugh until my sides hurt. That stopped being possible at some point around 2015, as any laughter was often met with anger, and all laughter generally ceased last year after something I found funny on TV turned into three days of "the silent treatment" because it apparently wasn't funny to anyone else. However, I am now able to laugh out loud. Not only can I laugh out loud, but I do so many times a day at all sorts of absurdities.

Because, seriously: life is bloody absurd at times.

The Waistline is Shrinking

Maybe this is just the result of more exercise and laughing, but my jeans are starting to slip down my hips while walking. This is despite the larger portions of food that I've been consuming at home in order to not waste the perishable items in the fridge and pantry.

Other People's Problems Aren't Mine

No explanation is needed here. My problems are mine. Other people's problems are not mine. The world is no longer on my shoulders as a result.

No Complaints

Not only do I have far fewer complaints to listen to, but I have far fewer to state. Yes, I miss my kid and dog. Yes, I miss the barely-constrained chaos that is a house with a 5 year-old. However, the incredible lack of complaints that I have had to listen to has resulted in an incredible change of attitude and likely contributed to the laughter, the shrinking waistline, and absence of headaches.

The Neighbours are Quiet

There are a lot of retired people in the vicinity and, as one would expect, many of them love to gossip. At one time I was privy to some of the conversations that were going on with regards to one household or another. However, now it seems that people are not really talking to me about others, which means that this household is the new topic of discussion. This doesn't bother me, though, as people are expected to talk. When someone asks a question, I keep the answer civilised, though I know there are people who really want to dig deeper.

There have been a number of other things I've observed about my current life that is markedly different from before, but these six I think are the most noticeable. Interestingly, there isn't one negative item in the list.


  1. カッコントウカセンキュウシンイ – pronounced kakkontoukasenkyoushinei

  2. よくかんさんかちんぴはんげ – pronounced yokukansankachinpihange

Yearling

Today marks a full year since I returned to AskUbuntu and started answering questions. This is despite "retiring" in March of 2021 in the hopes of focusing on other things. All in all, the return is no surprise as this wasn't the first time I had left Stack Exchange, deleting my account in frustration, only to return shortly later. What's different about this time, though, is that I've stuck it out and participated in some fashion on the site every day for a year; something I've wanted to do for a while but found impossible.

One Year – 365 Consecutive Days

There's no denying that being an active participant on any Stack Exchange site can be an exercise in patience, as people will often ask new questions rather than use a search engine to find an existing answer. People will claim their issue is unique despite hundreds of similar questions that all point to the same answer. Some will even become indignant and demand that the world bend to their whims because … reasons. However, despite the asininity that can persist for weeks at a time on occasion, there is a lot of good to witness on sites like AskUbuntu and elsewhere. As a result, it can be hard to stay away.

As the screenshot above illustrates, I managed to earn almost 12,000 reputation points over the course of 365 days, as well as 80 participation badges. 451 answers were left in an attempt to solve people's problems, and six questions of my own were asked with varying degrees of success. All in all, this is an achievement to be proud of and one that would be difficult to replicate over the course of a second year.

This realisation, however, raised an interesting question: Should I create a new account – not deleting the current one – and try to out-perform my past record?

Defeating the score could be done by investing more heavily in bountied questions, but what about the badges? A lot of these are earned through participation and it would likely be deemed uncouth to start over and clog up the various review boards with yet another attempt to gain reputation in order to participate more fully. The idea is certainly an interesting one, but the effort is not something I'm really keen on at the moment as there are other things that must take precedence over the next few months. Still, to beat my existing "high score" would be an interesting challenge.

Perhaps this is something I can consider at another milestone, such as 10K points or 5 years of activity. At this point, it seems unlikely that Stack Exchange, Ubuntu, or AskUbuntu will be going away anytime soon.

Two Weeks

Today marks two weeks since my marriage reached its conclusion. It was two weeks ago at six o'clock in the morning that I left the house for an uncharacteristic morning walk, and I did not return until mid-afternoon. Over these fourteen days I've given a lot of thought to that first weekend when everything fell apart. The day before saw several wholly unnecessary arguments followed by a five-hour "discussion" while the boy slept. The question of divorce came up, and I agreed that it was the most logical way forward for both of us. Regardless of the effort put into the relationship, Reiko and I have become incompatible … and I am uninterested in trying to resolve matters further. As I said on that Thursday night, "I'm absolutely exhausted."

The first few days were pretty rough. I felt incredibly uncomfortable being at the house, so would spend most of the daylight hours moving between parks or sitting in a high stairwell, out of sight and completely off the grid. My devices were all left at home to ensure that I could not be tracked. However, by Monday afternoon, I had finally come down from the anxiety and returned home. I needed to communicate with my employer and with family. I needed to regain a little bit of routine in order to bury the suicidal tendencies enough that they could be ignored once again. By Wednesday it was possible to feel somewhat normal in the house. By Friday I could comfortably interact with neighbours and answer some of their questions about the missing car and absent dog1.

Oddly enough, things feel relatively normal now. The house is much too large for a single person and I do miss Nozomi's near-constant presence in the office, not to mention the lack of playing with the boy, but still … things feel normal now. Music is openly playing for most of the day to push away the silence and there's no doubt the house is cleaner now than at any point in the last three years. Thinking about it, this is very similar to the sort of life that I lead in Vancouver … except there's less human interaction.

In Vancouver I would occasionally work from home, as a great deal of my work could be done on my trusty HP and the boss was quite accommodating so long as productivity remained steady. On those days I would walk over to the nearby coffee shop in the morning for some caffeine and walk around the neighbourhood mid-afternoon. These where short periods of exercise and human interaction in the day. Interestingly, a similar pattern is playing out now nearly 15 years later. In the mornings I head out for a power walk that is about 4 km in length then head out again around 5 o'clock in the afternoon on a shorter 3.5 km trek. During these outings neighbours will occasionally greet me and engage in some small talk. Exercise and human interaction. What's old is new again.

There is still a lot of uncertainty regarding the future, but one thing is for certain: there will be a lot less sustained stress and anxiety going forward. Until recently it was necessary to forever think very carefully about what words I spoke, what body language I presented, and what requests I would make. The goal was to reduce the number of arguments and complaints that I would hear in a day. Unfortunately, this resulted in a persistent state of anxiety that would occasionally transform into passive-aggressive communication. As it's no longer necessary for me to walk on eggshells, I'm able to relax and communicate with people without worrying about listening to arguments later. It's really quite liberating. People have even commented on the change, saying that it's nice to see me relax.

The price for this state of calm is proving to be incredibly high, but not insurmountable. It's unfortunate that I cannot communicate with the boy. It's disheartening that Nozomi is not at home. If this is the cost of sanity, though, then I can bear the burden for the time being. I will continue to ask to speak to my son and for Nozomi to be returned to me. I just hope that they can be patient enough while Reiko and I reach agreements and file paperwork.


  1. The neighbours are quite accustomed to seeing me, which is not surprising given my foreignness, and Nozomi. The neighbours did not see Reiko very often and, while the boy enjoyed playing in the yard, he was generally not allowed to for "reasons" that I stopped debating long ago. As a result, people noticed that there was no car and no Nozomi; not an absence of people.

Dr. Crane

Back in the 90s, Kelsey Grammar portrayed a psychiatrist named Frasier Crane. He was smart, witty, refined, and came from humble beginnings. I was attracted to this character because he appeared to be the epitome of success and, as such, a role model for a young man who was about to enter into the world. Dr. Crane had a radio show where people would call in to seek advice to problems and, prior to this, he ran a private practice. He would have heard it all. People's highs and lows. Their fears, faults, and failures. Their innermost desires. As a psychiatrist, he would have a front-row seat to the rawest aspects of human nature. Yet, despite the level of cognitive intimacy he would have with clients and the abject horrors he would have heard, he seemed normal and generally composed.

While psychology is a subject that I find incredibly fascinating, it's not something that I could do myself. Many years ago, when I still worked in a classroom, I would be exhausted by the end of every day not because of the workload, but because of the effort I put into pretending to be a normal human being. Despite the excessive number of words that spill forth from my fingers and the machine-gun-speed technical discussions I have with some colleagues, human interaction is something that I find absolutely exhausting. There is just so much that goes into it, from the body language to the context searching to the innuendo. This is something that I can manage in short bursts of a few hours but, after four or five hours of wearing the mask of an extrovert, I feel like a cornered animal in search of escape … back into the comfortable embrace of introversion.

Allow me to observe for a while. If needs be, I may opine. Afterwards, I will be silent to allow others the opportunity to speak and explore ideas.

This is not the case in every situation, of course. There are some people who I have built a modicum of trust with that allows me to be me in front of them. No masquerades. No pre-calculated sentences. Just an unfiltered version of me; a person asking questions. So. Many. Questions.

Can a person with such a thirst for answers temper the curiosity that often results in a wiki rabbit hole situation?

At this point in a blog post a reader might wonder where the article is going, assuming there is even a destination. Oddly enough, for this specific stream of consciousness at least, there is.

The last two weeks have been rough. Because of my flaws and inadequacies, I have brought an end to my marriage. I have questioned the value of my existence. I have not seen my son nor my dog for over 10 days. I have been incredibly distracted when I should have been working. And, to top it all off, I learned that my already immuno-compromised father has caught COVID. A veritable feast of negatives! Yet at the same time, I have learned from friends that I do have value. That, despite my flaws, I am worth their time and support. That I am not alone in this empty house where I assuage the silence by asking Siri to play various albums, never forgetting to say "please" with each request.

I'm not broken, but I am off-kilter.

A friend has suggested I go see a therapist to discuss these matters. I harbour no qualms about speaking to someone about some of the things that echo inside my head, though I will admit that I'm terrified to share my true thoughts with anyone. We're all human, but some less so than others. Or so I've been led to believe. If I were to find a someone like Dr. Frasier Crane locally who I could talk to, then I would likely be just as guarded as I am when talking to friends, texting to family, and writing on here. Some things are better left unsaid. Fourteen years of marriage has proven this fact time and again. Is it possible to be completely open with a psychologist without fear of … judgement?

Wiser people have said that they fear God, not man. This is because God is eternal whereas humans are ephemeral. A person who is afraid to reveal themselves to other people would have a hard time revealing themselves to the Creator of the universe. I can do this to a certain extent, and have done so with remarkable benefits at the day job. By investing less time into thinking about what people might think of me, I am liberated to ignore convention and solve complex problems. Talking to another person about my frailties, however ….

When I was growing up, Dr. Crane was a role model. "By the time I am in my 40s," I told myself, "I will have a nice home with nice furnishing and be a well-respected, cultured individual." This goal has become incomplete. I have a nice home … though it has been emptied of love. I am respected by some and have even gained a little bit of culture on account of the books I read. I'm no role model. I'm not refined or witty. Am I successful? Career-wise, perhaps … but not with the family, which is far more important than any job most people might have. Thinking through everything that I've done over the last 20 years, have I done the right things? Have I been the best that I could be?

No. Not in the least.

Is there someone that I would like to talk to about the past, present, and future? There is.

Will they lend an ear? There's only one way to find out.

For some time now I have been re-examining my faith, seeking answers to very specific questions that seem simple, but are nothing of the sort. The person that I would like to talk to is not a psychologist, per se, but instead a priest. I have questions. I have incomplete answers. I have a deep-rooted desire for absolution. Perhaps with this, I can begin to resolve the areas of my life where I have failed others. The list is long, but it's not infinite.

50,000 Steps

This past Thursday marked the end of my marriage to Reiko. The following morning, I went out for a walk at dawn with the intention of leaping from a tall balcony while Reiko emptied the house of anything that would fit in the car. As one would expect, the boy is gone. Nozomi, too. In the space of just a few hours, several lives were completely uprooted. And it was completely my doing.

A rapidly-emptied house is an eerie thing. Echoes are different. Neighbours are easier to hear. Various detritus covers the floor and tables. Despite the amount of clean-up work ahead of me, staying just didn't seem like a viable option. For the vast majority of Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, I was out; sitting in parks, walking the paths, and otherwise making myself scarce. I didn't want to be seen. I didn't want to be spoken to. With headphones in my ears, I did what I could to blend into the background. Every seven or eight hours, though, I'd make the a trip back for some additional water and a little bit of cleaning.

By Sunday night the house was mostly organized. I had a small dinner consisting of rice with tuna and mayonnaise — a staple meal when I was living single in Vancouver — and a cup of coffee. I decided to get the dishes done early and get some sleep, as the weekend had been quite exhausting.

This morning I followed the same pattern as the weekend, waking up at 4:00 am and leaving the house within an hour. The main difference was that I brought with me a noose made from a rather long power cord. On the hill where I like to sit there are a number of utility poles that run through a thin forest of leaved trees. This mostly-concealed area is an excellent place to sit undisturbed for an hour or two while listening to podcasts and, because the utility poles have pegs allowing technicians to climb up, there's a strong place to mount a rope.

Sunrise took place at 5:30 and I was already sitting on the hill to see the morning light start to break through some light cloud cover. An episode of Irreverend was playing through my headphones and my mind was struggling with the weight of what was expected to come. Some messages were sent to people just to see if anyone was awake. My sister replied almost immediately.

There is a certain amount of comfort when talking to a family member that likely comes from lots of shared experiences. We exchanged messages for over an hour, talking about what had happened, what's going to happen, and when things are going to happen by. I didn't have any decent answers to offer, but my sister didn't press. She listened, offered a suggestion or two, and listened some more. Eventually she had to stop in order to get some sleep before her work shift, so we said our goodbyes with a promise to catch up later in the day.

Naturally, she didn't know about the noose.

Joggers and early-morning walkers started making their way through the park and its trails below the hill by this time. These people were in decent shape and enjoying their Monday morning far more than I. After checking on the electrical cord, I went back to the phone to see if I could get in touch with somebody else. At this point I wasn't looking for a specific person, but any person to talk to. A distraction was required.

A colleague was online. We started talking. For over an hour we discussed our weekends, possible next steps, and options. At some point, I mentioned what I was planning on doing; something that I wasn't going to burden anyone with. As one might expect, the order came that I was not to use the noose followed by a number of reasons why it would be a bad idea. It is because of his words that I am still here to write this post, nearly 12 hours later.

Despite the emptiness of the space, I am now spending more time in this house that was once a home. More cleaning has been done and I've started to tend to some of the plants in the yard. Tomorrow I don't think I'll head out to the parks unless absolutely necessary, though. Since Friday afternoon, it seems I've clocked well over 45,000 steps. Including the steps I would have recorded in the morning had the phone come with me, the total is over 50,000; approximately 40 km.

While there is still a great deal to do regarding paperwork and other necessary discussions, I hope the divorce proceedings can restore some stability in our lives.

As one would expect, this will be an ongoing topic for a while.

Bright Yellow

This post is being published pretty much exactly 43 years to the minute after I was born into this world, in the middle of a snow storm that my parents had to drive through in a 1977 Honda Civic Hatchback. For reasons I can't possibly fathom, I sometimes think about this car and the stories that my father would tell me. Perhaps it's because he would tell the same stories multiple times while other family members would occasionally fill in the gaps over time. As I grew older, these stories revealed quite a bit of my young father's character.

A 1977 Honda Civic

The collection of stories begins at some point in mid-to-late 1976, and the Honda was bought brand new off the lot of a dealership not too far from the hospital where I would later be born. My father saved money for years to get a car and, in a moment of youthful exuberance, he picked this Honda as it fit his budget and was something he could drive off with the very same afternoon. The colour was something that a lot of people laughed at, as my father has never been a flashy individual. He's always preferred dark colours and would have preferred a black Civic, but this would have required a car to be ordered from nearby Toronto. He would have to wait until the following Tuesday, but it was Friday and he wanted a car for the weekend. So, being just 19 or 20 years old at the time, he gave in to impulse and accepted a lemon yellow car that was not only a "cheap Japanese import", something rarely seen at the time, but a vehicle that shipped with seat belts as a standard!

The two-door car had an automatic transmission, an AM/FM radio with an 8-track cassette player, and not much else. Despite the lack of luxuries that we all take for granted today, my father loved this first car. To him, this was a symbol of being an adult; a free adult. And, like many young adults who are still experiencing a high from a big-ticket purchase, he decided the first place he would go after driving off the Honda dealership's lot would be McDonald's.

There are many traits that I share with my parents. I look just like my mother, but I act just like my father; he is a creature of habit. So when he pulled into the McDonald's Drive-Thru to order some food, although he has never told me exactly what he ordered, I know with almost absolute certainty that his lunch consisted of a Big Mac, a large order of fries, and a strawberry milk shake. Nothing masks the fresh scent of a new car like McDonald's and the scent was going to be masked almost instantly because, as he drove away from the pick-up window with his meal, he would quickly learn that cup holders are probably worth the expense.

The curbs in Georgetown, Ontario were quite steep until the 1990s, which means that any vehicle pulling into – or out of – a lot would tilt several degrees and bounce as the shock absorbers tried to compensate for not being in equilibrium. My father had his milkshake held between his legs as he drove away from the restaurant, which resulted in a lesson in physics. The beverage was spilled all over the driver's seat and on the floor mats. While there was nobody else in the vehicle, my aunts would often laugh at how they imagined he reacted. The car, I'm told, smelled of strawberries until the following summer despite the attempts to clean it all out.

There are certainly worse things for a car to smell like.

Over the next year or so my father would be teased about the car's size, it's colour, the sound of its horn, and many other attributes. Because it was so light, the car was once picked up by four of my uncles and turned 90˚ in the driveway, making it impossible to drive the car out as it was just wide enough to sit facing the walls between two houses. Thinking through some of these events as they must have played out, I can see why he didn't really like visiting a lot of family all at once. As the youngest of five children, he must have been teased fiercely while growing up.

In 1977 my father would meet my mother. They'd marry in April of the following year, and I'd come along 352 days afterwards. Christine, my sister, would join us within two years and Laura another two years later.

I don't have many memories of the car myself except one, which would have taken place during the spring or summer of 1984. We travelled to Canada's Wonderland, a relatively new theme park just north of Toronto. I was about the same age then as my son is now, which means I would have been a bundle of unbridled energy during the daylight hours. The trip was rather long for a five year-old but, once we arrived, I was so excited that after jumping out of the car I slammed the door shut … and started screaming.

Cars were made mostly of steel in the 70s, which meant that components were heavy. A young child would have to brace themselves in order to open or close a car door. This is exactly what I did, and my thumb was caught between the door and the frame as a result. There was blood. There were tears. There was paper towel … a lot of paper towel. But we stayed at the park, went on the rides, and spent time as a family. Pictures taken that day show me wearing a blue shirt, a black baseball hat, a tightly-wrapped wad of paper towel on my right hand, and a frown so deep it left marks to this day.

My thumb was and still is fine. I don't know how much space there was between the door and the frame, but apparently there was just enough to not slice a child's digit clean off.

The car was eventually sold a few months later. My mother had walked out, leaving my father with three young kids, a mortgage, and crippling credit card debt. Money was tight, and the car was not nearly as necessary as getting the finances under control. Many years later, after remarrying, he drove a K-Car. It was a nice Reliant automobile, but during our drives in that car he would talk about his yellow Honda and wonder what happened to it.

Forever Distracted

Almost ten years have passed since I created a little project called Noteworthy. This project had the sole purpose of allowing me to write blog posts from Evernote while disconnected from the Internet. I could be sitting on a train, using my 3rd-generation iPod Touch, listening to music and hammering out a blog post about something that was on my mind while travelling between classrooms. A good amount has changed since the project started, but a lot has stayed the same, too. I want to write. I want to publish. I want to share my words with the world in a vain attempt to broadcast my existence to a world that really couldn't care less. 10Centuries is currently at the tail end of its 5th major software version and the six is being developed to address a number of performance and interface issues that have plagued my platforms seemingly forever. However, as I write the code that will bring the 6th version of this software to life, I wonder if I'm doing this to intentionally distract myself from writing; the very activity I set out to encourage with the creation of a personal platform.

My high school art teacher, Mrs. Deluca, often said that I was a "high-achieving procrastinator". Rather than invest the time in the various projects and assignments I should have been doing, I would put my energy into any number of alternative endeavors and show off the fruits of that labor at the expense of my grades. There was no denying that the things I would create on my own were often more interesting than the portraits, paintings, or figurines that were expected by the teacher — which she herself would often admit — but they were arguably not the objectives that would bring the most value. As a result, my grades would often be in the mid-to-high 70s rather than the 80s or 90s that could have been possible if I were to apply myself to the tasks at hand. The same is seen today with the projects I do at work and in my spare time. Again, there is no denying that I could create useful things if I were to sit down and focus on what was needed rather than whatever happened to be in my head, but the incentives just aren't there.

Why in the world would I want to create various things at the day job if they're going to spy on potential customers or waste my colleagues' time? Why would I build a couple of things for 10Centuries if there is little chance of standing out against solid competitors like Tumblr and WordPress?1 The problem that I face is not so much a lack of enthusiasm for development or problem-solving, but a lack of enthusiasm for the day-to-day grind; the final 10% of every project that turns something from a hobby into a work of art that people can appreciate and benefit from.

Writing is something I've wanted to do for well over a decade, yet I invest my time in the tools that are supposed to aid in writing. Seeing 10C and its myriad offerings succeed is something that I would genuinely like to see happen so that I can focus more on the platform and less on the day job, yet the last 10% of effort always seems reserved for a "later" that never comes. Mrs. Deluca was correct with her description as my GitHub statistics and efforts on AskUbuntu would clearly show that I am investing my time into things that are not contributing to the very things I set out to do.

Is this just part of being creative while lacking discipline? Or is this something else?

There is no denying that there are a lot of things that I'd like to do with my time, but I do wonder why it is that I can produce so much while accomplishing so little.


  1. I understand these two are the same company now, but that's beside the point.

Don't Fall

Every two months the neighbourhood comes together to work as a team on cleaning up the neighbourhood. We sweep out the gutters at the side of the road, remove weeds from various places, and ensure that the community is generally nice to look at. While this might sound like a great deal of work, we're generally done in half an hour then free to go about our regular Sunday business. Today's cleanup had the added benefit of being attended by the neighbourhood leader for the year1, who has been absent the last 10 months, leaving the bulk of the community management to his wife. As this was his first – and final – cleanup for the year, he started the day with a bit of a talk.

Japan is a country with an ageing population. The median age of people living in the immediate neighbourhood is 63, with only four people under the age of 18 being part of that number. Most of the neighbours that I interact with on a regular basis are in their 70s and 80s. As such, the people around me have a very different set of concerns, which is what today's talk was about. Although the leader was speaking to everyone, he was looking specifically at me for a good portion of his speech.

Good morning everyone. A long time has passed since I could help you with the cleaning. I think it was almost two years ago, when Yamaguchi-san was the leader, that I could lift a broom. As you can see, I don't go very far anymore. This walker is too cumbersome, and I'm too tired2. But before Oguchi-san takes over the leadership role next month, I wanted to remind all of you the importance of regular exercise. It was two years ago when I fell in the kitchen and broke my leg. Since that time my life has completely changed. I can't drive. I can't take a bath by myself. I can't visit friends who live far away. I had to give up most of my hobbies. And my weekdays went from being mine to being spent at day service, with nurses and coaches helping me to maintain some muscle. All I wanted to do was change a lightbulb, and the rest of my life changed because I fell.

Don't fall.

We're all getting older. Even you, Irwin-san. You're how old now? 40? Enjoy it. When you get to our age you'll wonder why you didn't appreciate the health you have now.

Most of us have known each other for over fifty years. We've watched as new children came into the world, grew up, and left to start families of their own. A lot of you are still in good shape, but a little accident in the house can do the same thing to you as it did to me. Suzuki-san down the street tripped on a single step last year, and she's been in a care home ever since. So don't fall.

This summer I'll be moving to a care home as well. My wife will stay in the house here. She's as healthy now as she's ever been. Just look at how beautiful and strong she is. But I don't want to be a burden. Takeshi3 will be buying the empty house down the street and building a new home there in a few months so that he's closer to home. He'll be able to help out with the neighbourhood responsibilities again in my place. He's about the same age as you, Irwin-san. You should meet him … when he's not looking at his damned phone.

I'll stop talking, but I just want to say again: don't fall. At our age, it will literally be the last thing you ever do.

When elders speak like this, it's interesting how closely people pay attention. There was certainly some laughter at points in the talk, but everyone knew exactly what he was saying. I cannot imagine being close to 90 years of age, and I cannot imagine being incapacitated for the rest of my life due to an injury in the house that doesn't involve a harpoon impaling a part of my body. Being reminded of just how fleeting good health might be is certainly good for a bit of a perspective check. As it stands, the worst thing I have to deal with is allergies, which is a 5-week period of discomfort. Some of my neighbours, however, have to deal with a great deal more.


  1. Every year there is a house in the neighbourhood that takes on the responsibility of leader. Generally, it's the husband who performs this role not out of patriarchal governance, but because the women of the area already have enough to do with the various events that are coordinated with surrounding neighbourhoods throughout the year. There is no rule anywhere saying that a role must be performed by a man or a woman and, indeed, you will see a mix of genders at every type of meeting.

  2. When someone around here in their 80s say they're "too tired", it usually means they're in too much pain.

  3. Takeshi is his son.