An Indulgence I Could Do Without

Every day we spend a large portion of our time unconscious in bed. With a little practice I’ve managed to get down to a little over five hours a day during the week and about seven on weekends. However, even with 130 hours of active time per week, I feel I’m being lazy. There’s a great deal that can be done in the 38-odd hours that I’m asleep. Friends and family have suggested time and again that this “isn’t normal”, that people generally want — and should get — seven or eight hours of rest per day but, when the bulk of my time is spent in my head, why does the body need so much rest?

Sleep is quite enjoyable at times, of course. I rarely have issues falling asleep anymore, as the polyphasic sleep patterns have all but eliminated the insomnia that I have regularly struggled with. Waking up, however, is a terrible chore. The mind is foggy. Muscles are stiff. People are shouting. What an awful way to re-enter the world. If it were possible to go without sleep for days at a time and still be useful, then I’d give up the nightly block of rest in order to have a little more personal time and maybe relax a bit. So much of my waking day is spent doing things for others. Every so often I can do things for me, but not often enough. Being awake all night would also make it possible to escape the house for a proper walk through the neighbourhood while avoiding anyone that might be carrying a virus.

But this is almost impossible. While I can generally remain awake for 36~40 hours in a row and remain productive, the mental cost of doing so is excessive; I’m pretty much useless the following day, stuck in a perpetual mental fog.

Perhaps a better-tweaked sleep schedule would solve the problem of wanting more time while giving the mind enough unconscious time to stave off the insanity that arises with a lack of sleep.

Imprecision

Over the last couple of months I've noticed that my dexterity has become a lot less accurate when using the keyboard on the newer notebook from work. When the task is simply typing words, much like I'm doing right now, then everything is just fine. I can type at almost 200 words a minute1 with a minimal number of mistakes and everything keeps up just as it's expected to. However, as soon as I need to switch the hands up to start using the arrow keys or many of the special characters, things begin to go downhill. The cursor moves in the wrong direction or an @ appears where I expected a [, which is frustrating to say the least. While some of this could be attributed to stress-induced errors, the problem seems to be with the keyboard itself as the problem vanishes almost instantly when I grab my personal notebook, a 13" 2015-era MacBook Pro.

A first-world problem for sure, but one that can be solved relatively easily by using the older hardware which is still perfectly good for 95% of the tasks I ask of it.

Of course, being an inquisitive sort of person, I've tried to understand the why behind the problem. Answering this question might provide a workable solution, after all. So, having given it some thought, there are three main issues that I have when working with last year's MacBook Pro:

  1. The arrow keys are not an "upside-down T"
  2. The palm rejection on the oversized touchpad prevents characters from appearing on the screen
  3. The TouchBar is more a novelty than a productivity helper

Each of these issues have likely been covered ad nauseam by the tech bloggers of the world since 2016, so there's little point getting too deep into any of them, but it's important (for me) to consider how it is that an older machine can be more conducive to productivity despite the slower hardware, limited storage capacity, and cracked screen.

Pointers Need Not Apply

Mice are awful little peripherals. They force a person to take one hand off the keyboard and many are about as ergonomic as a cinderblock, which results in lost productivity at best and carpel tunnel at worst. I've seen a lot of people with white collar jobs become unable to use their computers after a decade or more at their desk because one hand is bent into the shape of their mouse and no longer has the dexterity required for hours of typing and clicking. This was something that I noticed back in the 90s and have abstained from using the things unless absolutely necessary. If the pointer is needed, then Lenovo's keyboard pointer — often referred to as "the nipple" — or Apple's touchpad are the only way to go2. Because there's no need to use a mouse, the hands can generally stay on the notebook at all times, allowing for keyboard shortcuts and quick pointer actions without losing focus or looking away from the screen. This is one of the reasons why the keyboard is a make-or-break decision for me when it comes time to research a new device. If the keyboard is illogical, then it doesn't matter how great the rest of the machine is, I won't want to use it.

On the 2019-era notebook from work, I find the keys are laid out just wrong enough that I'm often needing to take my eyes off the screen to look at where the fingers are resting, then correcting their position and getting back to work. This might not sound like a very serious issue and, in the grand scheme of things, maybe it's not. When you're taking your eyes off the screen to look at a keyboard several hundred times a day, though, frustrations can mount. Imagine a pianist having to look at their fingers every so often because the maker of their piano slightly tweaked the size and position of the keys to look a little nicer from a distance. It's illogical. The 2015-era notebook does not have this issue and I do not believe it's just because I've used that keyboard layout for the better part of 7 years.

Not Pointing

Palm rejection on the MacBooks I've used has generally been pretty good. We can have a good amount of our hand sitting on the touchpad without the pointer jumping all over the place and taking focus away from the application window we're working in. However, it seems that with the newer MacBook, if you have more than 5% of your palm on the oversized touchpad, anything you type will not appear on the screen until your hand is repositioned, which dumps the last sentence or two that you typed before recognising the problem onto the screen as though the system were lagging behind your typing speed.

This never happened on any previous MacBook I've used. Given that the vast majority of my day is working in text editors with code that refuses to compile if there's just one character out of place, having a keyboard appear non-responsive simply because the palm-rejection software is acting up isn't cool.

Hey, Siri? Go away, please.

The final item that bugs me about the newer keyboard is it's WatchOS-powered TouchBar. The fingerprint reader doesn't recognise my fingerprints for more than 3 days3, I hit the Siri button at times when quickly hitting backspace, and the escape key in the upper left corner isn't left enough. I can live with the little nuisances of not being able to quickly pause music or skip to the next track without at least three taps, but not having the intended keys operate in an expected manner is not at all conducive to efficiency.

So, with all this in mind, I'll try something odd next week. Rather than use the newer, incredibly powerful notebook, I'll switch back to the 2015-era 13" MacBook Pro and see if the keyboard itself makes up for the slower hardware. If so, then it may be time to investigate either buying an external keyboard for the newer machine or repurposing it.

Time will tell ….


  1. The fastest I've been able to measure myself is 193 words per minute on a 2019-era 15" MacBook Pro, which is pretty astounding given that "I type wrong".

  2. HP's notebooks had some pretty going touchpads when the Synaptics software was not installed, but they'd quickly discolour and look awful.

  3. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, though. Biometrics can be circumvented though coercion or severing of body parts. Passwords … well … they can be given up as a result of coercion or severing of body parts. If someone wants in to a computer bad enough, bad things might take place.

True Quiet

When the family and I moved to our current home almost two years ago one of the most noticeable differences between here and the previous neighbourhood was a distinct lack of noise. The sounds from traffic were distant and the thrum from industry was absent. After seven years at the relatively convenient apartment in Kasugai, we were now wholly ensconced in a suburban location complete with natural sound dampening in the form of hills, parks, and an ageing local population. Over time we started to notice a distinct lack of other forms of pollution as well. The air is cleaner most of the year1 and, because there are no pachinko parlours nearby, the night sky is often incredibly alluring with its hundreds of visible stars. I had wrongly believed that this sort of quiet calm would not be possible while living in a densely populated part of the country.

However, quite a bit has changed over the past month — and this week in particular — as people across the country have started to isolate themselves from neighbours.

It wasn't too long ago that when Nozomi and I would go out for our evening walk that we'd see dozens of planes flying overhead. Their running lights would signal their terrestrial origin and, if the aircraft was on a domestic flight plan, we'd hear the distant roar of the engines as the jets moved an incredible amount of air. The same, too, for cars. Our evening jaunts typically take place as people who work in the nearby cities are coming home. Every few minutes there would be a rush of five or six vehicles racing past the park to get home before dinner cooled. A pair of community busses would often pass by. Two or three delivery trucks would be seen performing their rounds. Each one of these vehicles creates a noticeable amount of noise, albeit not nearly as much as we learned to tune out with the previous home. However, with the government request that we practice "social distancing" and work from home if at all possible, public transit is forever running on their Sunday schedules and most vehicles are conspicuously absent from the roads. The last two days have seen more vehicles taken off the road as several prefectures across the country have declared a state of emergency, further reducing the need for people to travel to any of these locations. Today the governor of Aichi prefecture, where I live, also declared a state of emergency. While there is no legal requirement for people to stay in their homes, many people will abide by the government guidelines that we go outside only when it is necessary; a hard sell during the few weeks of gorgeous spring weather before the crushing humidity of summer sets in.

Now here we are. In a place that is utterly silent from the hustle and bustle that once constituted daily, suburban life.

While Nozomi and I were in the park for her evening walk we2 counted fewer than 3 cars and 2 aircraft in twenty minutes. The night sky has the same number of stars as before, but they seem less hurried without the visual distraction that comes from blinking attention-seekers. The mail hasn't come all week. Deliveries in the area are generally finished before sunset. More people are working from home and, oddly enough, kids are at home taking their school courses online. The people we do see outside keep to themselves for the most part, wear a mask, and seem to be walking more to stave off cabin fever than for the exercise. The neighbourhood is truly quiet. So much so, that conversations can be heard across hundreds of meters.

The last time I could appreciate this level of background noise was when I travelled to New Jersey for business two years ago. The time before that I was the morning after 3/11. Before that? I lived in an ocean-side apartment I could barely afford in Steveston, BC … right on the edge of Lulu Island. That was in 2004.

As more of the country isolates itself in order to reduce the risk of contracting the Wuhan Virus, COVID-19, I wonder how much quieter the area will become and for how long. This will not be "the new normal" by any stretch of the imagination.


  1. We do still get the "yellow dust" from the Gobi Desert every spring. Gone is the black dust from factories and highway traffic, though.

  2. By "we" I mean "I", as Nozomi cannot count … to the best of my knowledge.

Seven Hundred Episodes

Paul van Dyk has recently put out his 700th episode of his Vonyc Sessions show and, as with the 699 episodes that came before, it's an enjoyable compilation of uplifting house and trance music. Earlier today, while out walking with the headphones on, I was trying to remember when I started listening to these shows. Oddly enough, the memory escapes me.

The first time I remember listening to something from Paul van Dyk was in Vancouver while playing Need for Speed: Underground 2, racing a souped up Mazda MX-5 around the track. This would have been somewhere around 2004 or 2005 when I had the time to spend an entire afternoon playing video games. Nothing But You was on the soundtrack and it was just an excellent piece of music to enjoy while driving well above the speed limit down crowded highways while racing the clock. A little while later I bought his Reflections album and have been hooked ever since.

The Vonyc Sessions radio program, however, has not always been available as a podcast. Initially this was made available as a 30-minute sampler on iTunes for $5 every month, and I picked up every album as they came out until they suddenly stopped during the summer of 2010. A quick search online let me know that the iTunes releases were dropped in favour of a 30-minute weekly podcast. Not only could I listen to new shows more often, but I could listen to them for free! Who could argue with a deal like this?

Over time the show expanded to be an hour long every week with special episodes every so often that could be two, three, or four hours in length. As time went on and he released new albums, I'd pick them up on or very close to release day not only because I wanted to support his efforts, but because his music has a genuinely positive feel to it that (almost) always brings a smile to my face no matter how hard the day might be.

It's not often that a subscription to a music podcast exceeds three years for me but I've yet to unsubscribe from Vonyc Sessions in the decade that it's been online. Hopefully it keeps going until the day that Paul chooses to hang up the headphones one last time.

Here's Something Cool

𐑩𐑮𐑤𐑰𐑩𐑮 𐑑𐑩𐑛e 𐑭𐑘 𐑢𐑩𐑟 𐑦𐑯𐑑𐑮𐑩𐑛𐑵𐑕𐑑 — 𐑷𐑮 𐑐𐑩𐑮𐑣𐑨𐑐𐑕 𐑮𐑰𐑦𐑯𐑑𐑮𐑩𐑛𐑵𐑕𐑑 — 𐑑𐑵 𐑞𐑩 𐑖𐑪𐑝𐑾𐑯 𐑨𐑤𐑓𐑩𐑚𐑧𐑑 𐑢𐑦𐑑𐑖 𐑦𐑟 𐑨𐑯 𐑪𐑤𐑑𐑩𐑮𐑯𐑩𐑑𐑦𐑝 𐑑𐑵 𐑞𐑩 𐑕𐑑𐑨𐑯𐑛𐑩𐑮𐑛 𐑦𐑙𐑜𐑤𐑦𐑖 𐑨𐑤𐑓𐑩𐑚𐑧𐑑 𐑞𐑨𐑑 𐑣𐑨𐑟 𐑚𐑦𐑯 𐑦𐑯 𐑘𐑵𐑕 𐑓𐑷𐑮 𐑒𐑢𐑭𐑘𐑑 𐑕𐑩𐑥 𐑑𐑭𐑘𐑥 𐑞𐑩 𐑒𐑧𐑮𐑦𐑒𐑑𐑩𐑮 𐑕𐑧𐑑 𐑢𐑩𐑟 𐑒𐑮𐑰𐑱𐑑𐑩𐑛 𐑚𐑭𐑘 𐑒𐑦𐑙𐑟𐑤𐑰 𐑮𐑧𐑛 𐑦𐑯 𐑞𐑩 𐑥𐑦𐑛 20th 𐑕𐑧𐑯𐑑𐑖𐑩𐑮𐑰 𐑨𐑯𐑛 𐑦𐑟 phonemic 𐑦𐑯 𐑯𐑱𐑑𐑖𐑩𐑮 𐑥𐑰𐑯𐑦𐑙 𐑞𐑨𐑑 𐑤𐑧𐑑𐑩𐑮𐑟 𐑮𐑧𐑐𐑮𐑩𐑟𐑧𐑯𐑑 𐑩 𐑒𐑤𐑨𐑕 𐑩𐑝 𐑕𐑭𐑢𐑯𐑛𐑟 𐑞𐑦𐑕 𐑦𐑟 𐑒𐑢𐑭𐑘𐑑 𐑩 𐑚𐑦𐑑 𐑛𐑦𐑓𐑩𐑮𐑩𐑯𐑑 𐑓𐑮𐑩𐑥 𐑣𐑭𐑢 𐑞𐑩 𐑨𐑤𐑓𐑩𐑚𐑧𐑑 𐑦𐑟 𐑘𐑵𐑟𐑛 𐑓𐑷𐑮 𐑦𐑙𐑜𐑤𐑦𐑖 𐑨𐑯𐑛 𐑦𐑟 𐑒𐑤𐑴𐑕𐑩𐑮 𐑑𐑵 𐑣𐑭𐑢 𐑞𐑩 𐑛𐑠𐑨𐑐𐑩𐑯𐑰𐑟 hiragana 𐑨𐑯𐑛 katakana 𐑒𐑧𐑮𐑦𐑒𐑑𐑩𐑮 𐑕𐑧𐑑𐑕 𐑢𐑩𐑮𐑒 𐑞𐑴 𐑞𐑴𐑟 𐑭𐑮 𐑒𐑤𐑦𐑮𐑤𐑰 𐑓𐑩𐑯𐑧𐑑𐑦𐑒 𐑦𐑯 𐑯𐑱𐑑𐑖𐑩𐑮 𐑨𐑓𐑑𐑩𐑮 𐑮𐑧𐑛𐑦𐑙 𐑔𐑮𐑵 𐑕𐑩𐑥 𐑩𐑝 𐑞𐑩 𐑤𐑦𐑑𐑩𐑮𐑩𐑑𐑖𐑩𐑮 𐑭𐑯 𐑞𐑩 𐑖𐑪𐑝𐑾𐑯 𐑨𐑤𐑓𐑩𐑚𐑧𐑑 𐑭𐑘 𐑥𐑩𐑕𐑑 𐑩𐑛𐑥𐑦𐑑 𐑞𐑨𐑑 𐑦𐑑 𐑢𐑫𐑛 𐑚𐑰 𐑨𐑯 𐑦𐑯𐑑𐑮𐑩𐑕𐑑𐑦𐑙 𐑔𐑦𐑙 𐑑𐑵 𐑤𐑩𐑮𐑯 𐑢𐑦𐑑𐑖 𐑦𐑟 𐑢𐑭𐑘 𐑭𐑘 𐑐𐑤𐑨𐑯 𐑭𐑯 𐑦𐑯𐑝𐑧𐑕𐑑𐑦𐑙 𐑕𐑩𐑥 𐑑𐑭𐑘𐑥 𐑑𐑵 𐑛𐑵 𐑛𐑠𐑩𐑕𐑑 𐑞𐑨𐑑.

𐑴𐑝𐑩𐑮 𐑞𐑩 𐑘𐑦𐑮𐑟 𐑭𐑘 𐑣𐑨𐑝 𐑤𐑩𐑮𐑯𐑛 𐑑𐑵 𐑮𐑧𐑛 𐑮𐑩𐑖𐑩𐑯 𐑒𐑪𐑮𐑰𐑩𐑯 𐑛𐑠𐑨𐑐𐑩𐑯𐑰𐑟 𐑨𐑮𐑩𐑚𐑦𐑒 𐑨𐑯𐑛 𐑰𐑝𐑩𐑯 𐑕𐑩𐑥 𐑩𐑝 𐑞𐑩 𐑣𐑰𐑚𐑮𐑵 𐑒𐑧𐑮𐑦𐑒𐑑𐑩𐑮 𐑕𐑧𐑑𐑕 𐑮𐑭𐑘𐑑𐑦𐑙 𐑕𐑦𐑕𐑑𐑩𐑥𐑟 𐑭𐑮 𐑦𐑯𐑒𐑮𐑧𐑛𐑩𐑚𐑤𐑰 𐑦𐑯𐑑𐑮𐑩𐑕𐑑𐑦𐑙 𐑨𐑯𐑛 𐑪𐑓𐑩𐑯 𐑣𐑨𐑝 𐑣𐑦𐑕𐑑𐑩𐑮𐑰𐑟 𐑞𐑨𐑑 𐑭𐑮 𐑨𐑟 𐑮𐑦𐑑𐑖 𐑨𐑟 𐑞𐑩 𐑤𐑨𐑙𐑜𐑢𐑩𐑛𐑠 𐑞e 𐑮𐑧𐑐𐑮𐑩𐑟𐑧𐑯𐑑 𐑖𐑪𐑝𐑾𐑯 𐑢𐑩𐑟 𐑒𐑮𐑰𐑱𐑑𐑩𐑛 𐑨𐑟 𐑩 𐑥𐑰𐑯𐑟 𐑑𐑵 𐑐𐑮𐑩𐑝𐑭𐑘𐑛 𐑩 𐑕𐑦𐑥𐑐𐑩𐑤 𐑓𐑩𐑯𐑧𐑑𐑦𐑒 𐑪𐑮𐑔𐑭𐑜𐑮𐑩𐑓𐑰 𐑓𐑷𐑮 𐑞𐑩 𐑦𐑙𐑜𐑤𐑦𐑖 𐑤𐑨𐑙𐑜𐑢𐑩𐑛𐑠 𐑢𐑦𐑔 𐑞𐑩 𐑜𐑴𐑤 𐑩𐑝 𐑩𐑤𐑦𐑥𐑩𐑯𐑱𐑑𐑦𐑙 𐑞𐑩 𐑑𐑖𐑨𐑤𐑩𐑯𐑛𐑠𐑩𐑟 𐑩𐑝 𐑒𐑩𐑯𐑝𐑧𐑯𐑖𐑩𐑯𐑩𐑤 𐑕𐑐𐑧𐑤𐑦𐑙 𐑨𐑟 𐑧𐑯𐑰𐑢𐑩𐑯 𐑣𐑵 𐑣𐑨𐑟 𐑕𐑐𐑧𐑯𐑑 𐑩 𐑒𐑩𐑐𐑩𐑤 𐑩𐑝 𐑥𐑩𐑯𐑔𐑕 𐑪𐑯𐑤𐑭𐑘𐑯 𐑢𐑦𐑤 𐑩𐑑𐑧𐑕𐑑 𐑒𐑩𐑮𐑧𐑒𐑑 𐑕𐑐𐑧𐑤𐑦𐑙 𐑦𐑟 𐑒𐑤𐑦𐑮𐑤𐑰 𐑩 𐑑𐑖𐑨𐑤𐑩𐑯𐑛𐑠 𐑓𐑷𐑮 𐑥𐑧𐑯𐑰 𐑐𐑰𐑐𐑩𐑤.

𐑢𐑭𐑘𐑤 𐑓𐑭𐑯𐑑 𐑕𐑩𐑐𐑷𐑮𐑑 𐑓𐑷𐑮 𐑞𐑩 𐑖𐑪𐑝𐑾𐑯 𐑨𐑤𐑓𐑩𐑚𐑧𐑑 𐑦𐑟 𐑤𐑦𐑥𐑩𐑑𐑩𐑛 𐑦𐑑 𐑣𐑨𐑟 𐑚𐑦𐑯 𐑐𐑭𐑮𐑑 𐑩𐑝 𐑘𐑵𐑯𐑩𐑒𐑴𐑛 𐑕𐑦𐑯𐑕 2003 𐑞𐑦𐑕 𐑥𐑰𐑯𐑟 𐑞𐑨𐑑 𐑕𐑩𐑥 𐑩𐑝 𐑞𐑩 𐑥𐑷𐑮 𐑒𐑩𐑥𐑐𐑤𐑰𐑑 𐑓𐑭𐑯𐑑𐑕 𐑘𐑵𐑟𐑛 𐑚𐑭𐑘 𐑭𐑐𐑩𐑮𐑱𐑑𐑦𐑙 𐑕𐑦𐑕𐑑𐑩𐑥𐑟 𐑢𐑦𐑤 𐑖𐑴 𐑞𐑩 𐑒𐑨𐑮𐑦𐑒𐑑𐑩𐑮𐑟 𐑦𐑯 𐑩 𐑮𐑰𐑛𐑩𐑚𐑩𐑤 𐑥𐑨𐑯𐑩𐑮 𐑐𐑩𐑮𐑣𐑨𐑐𐑕 𐑢𐑩𐑯 𐑛𐑱 𐑦𐑑 𐑢𐑦𐑤 𐑕𐑰 𐑩 𐑤𐑦𐑑𐑩𐑤 𐑥𐑷𐑮 𐑩𐑛𐑭𐑐𐑖𐑩𐑯 𐑨𐑟 𐑢𐑰 𐑒𐑩𐑯𐑑𐑦𐑯𐑘𐑵 𐑑𐑵 𐑥𐑵𐑝 𐑥𐑷𐑮 𐑩𐑝 𐑭𐑢𐑩𐑮 𐑒𐑩𐑥𐑘𐑵𐑯𐑩𐑒𐑱𐑖𐑩𐑯 𐑪𐑯𐑤𐑭𐑘𐑯 𐑢𐑧𐑮 𐑕𐑐𐑧𐑤𐑦𐑙 𐑒𐑩𐑯𐑑𐑦𐑯𐑘𐑵𐑟 𐑑𐑵 𐑐𐑤𐑱 𐑨𐑯 𐑦𐑥𐑐𐑷𐑮𐑑𐑩𐑯𐑑 𐑮𐑴𐑤.

Standard English Version

Earlier today I was introduced — or perhaps reintroduced — to the Shavian alphabet, which is an alternative to the standard English alphabet that has been in use for quite some time. The character set was created by Kingsley Read in the mid-20th century and is phonemic in nature, meaning that letters represent a class of sounds. This is quite a bit different from how the alphabet is used for English and is closer to how the Japanese Hiragana and Katakana character sets work, though those are clearly phonetic in nature. After reading through some of the literature on the Shavian alphabet, I must admit that it would be an interesting thing to learn … which is why I plan on investing some time to do just that.

Over the years I have learned to read Russian, Korean, Japanese, Arabic, and even some of the Hebrew character sets. Writing systems are incredibly interesting and often have histories that are as rich as the language they represent. Shavian was created as a means to provide a simple, phonetic orthography for the English language with the goal of eliminating the challenges of conventional spelling. As anyone who has spent a couple of months online will attest, correct spelling is clearly a challenge for many people.

While font support for the Shavian alphabet is limited, it has been part of Unicode since 2003. This means that some of the more complete fonts used by operating systems will show the characters in a readable manner. Perhaps one day it will see a little more adoption as we continue to move more of our communication online, where spelling continues to play an important role.

Finger-Waggers

A lot of people seem to have put the time once spent on commuting to the day job to new use in finding things to finger-wag about. Websites that were once fun places to visit to read about current events or technology news have devolved into editorials where authors stand on soap boxes to point out every fault and failure made by someone else, as though their sense of moral superiority and tunnel-visioned hindsight provides the necessary shield to deflect any examination of any decisions they've made over the course of their lifetime. Nobody and nothing is safe from these public admonitions and heaven forbid the author has more than a few hundred fellow finger-waggers to propagate the message in the hopes of "going viral" during this COVID-tainted year.

The implication contained in many of these rushed soliloquies is clear: despite all the good that has been witnessed over the course of 2020, everything is bad.

While it's incredibly unlikely, I do hope that people quickly tire of spending their days finding fault in the efforts of others and instead aim to improve things through cooperation and collaboration. Anyone can point out what's wrong with something, but this is rarely useful. Offering potential solutions, however, can sometimes lead to a world-changing transformation.

Five Things

As the sixth week of “Stay the Heck Home” comes to a close, a lot of people in the neighbourhood are starting to show signs of open frustration. There’s only so much that people can do from home and only so long they can see the same walls. Our homes are generally meant to act as homes rather than some sort of minimum-security prison1 we’re asked to remain interred at. Looking around and talking to people while out and about, I’ve learned the following things:

A Business is Sinking Before It Can Even Begin

There’s a building under contraction about 2km from here that was to be a new restaurant. Construction was slated to finish in March with a grand opening for April 1st. As a result of the Wuhan Virus, the construction company has not yet completed the building and the restaurant owner is struggling with bills and mortgage payments for a place that cannot even be used to generate any revenue. Apparently the restaurant owner has enough financial reserves to four months. If they’re not open and making a profit by the start of August, the entire business venture will bankrupt the owner.

The Japanese government will not be able to provide assistance to this business owner because hasn’t yet opened for business.

Many Parents Will Send Their Kids Back to School This Week

This week will see the new school year begin for a majority of students across the country2. All three elementary schools, both kindergartens, and the junior high in this neighbourhood will open their doors for kids to return to their studies. Just about every parent I’ve spoken to said they’ll be sending their kids to school because they simply cannot stay home any longer.

Reiko is seriously considering keeping the boy home from school until next year, though.

Forced Retirements

Two of my neighbours have recently been asked to retire “for the good of the company”. They are 57 and 52 years old. Pension payments do not begin until a person is 65 and age discrimination when hiring is very much a problem in this part of the country. While they do have enough savings to get by for a while, that money was being set aside for their expected retirement years.

Hopefully they can find some gainful employment in the near future.

Pokémon Go Players are Committed

Everywhere you go there is a noticeable lack of people. Grocery stores are half full. Barber shops rarely have more than two people. The roads are clear enough that it’s actually possible to drive at the speed limit for more than 200m3. One thing that hasn’t changed, though, is the number of people aged 50 and above playing Pokémon Go in each of the nearby parks. If anything, I’d say there are probably more participants simply because people get to work from home, which frees up the time once used for commuting for other purposes.

Alcohol Is Getting Scarce

The alcohol sections of stores are looking pretty thin despite the fact that Kirin, Asahi, and Sapporo have increased production of their popular beverages. While I’ve not had a conversation with every store manager in the area, Mayumi at the local FamilyMart convenience store says that they receive shipments every night around 10pm and sell out of the more popular drinks by dinner time the next day; which almost never happens because “a convenience store with empty shelves is losing money”4. Will there be a rise in alcoholism in the area as people try to stave off boredom? Is this why there are a lot more police sirens at night than ever before?

The longer this goes on, the more damage there will be to repair.


  1. Our homes are usually more comfortable than a prison — regardless the security level — but confinement can make even the most comfortable places feel like captivity.

  2. Schools have the option to remain closed. Many universities have opted to push back the start of their year until mid-May. K-12 in most cities around the country are gearing up to begin classes again

  3. Congestion and a glut of bad drivers generally limits driving to 15km below the posted limit unless you’re the first car stopped at a red light. Then you can almost be guaranteed a 200m stretch of road to traverse unimpeded … until you catch up to the cars that left you behind at the previous red light.

  4. This is how she described empty shelves, which is an interesting way of looking at the situation. People can’t buy what isn’t present.

Podcast Discovery

Somewhere around five or six years ago Jeremy Cherfas invested a good deal of time to start a podcast called Pick of the Podcasts. This was a show that had sections from as many as four shows featured in order to encourage people to subscribe to those shows. The effort was incredibly time consuming and resulted in the podcast owners not really having a way to measure how many people had listened to their show, as the episode audio was not being hosted from their site but a separate file. Pick of the Podcasts had a very short run but, as a mechanism for podcast discovery, it seemed a rather interesting way to approach the problem of "podcast discovery"; finding shows that we might want to subscribe to.

In the half-decade that has passed since this attempt to help people find new shows, not much has changed to help people find new shows to listen to. The directories that exist all seem to promote the big networks, such as PRX, NPR, BBC, Gimlet, NHK, and the like, while simultaneously burying the independent creator who could very well be making something truly unique that we might enjoy. There should be a way to give everyone an equally weighted score when trying to suggest productions to people.

Oddly enough, while doing the dishes tonight, I started tossing around the idea of creating a system that would track podcasts published in the last week or so, look for present and historical keywords weighted by frequency, then generate a custom RSS feed that I could subscribe to with any podcast player. This feed would contain 4 new episodes per week for shows that might be of interest based on various factors provided by the RSS subscriber.

Would this work, though?

Discovery has long been a problem with creative endeavours as there has been an absolute plethora of content online since the Internet's inception. Jeremy is right when he strongly states that podcast discovery is just as much a problem today as it was in 2015. There must be a solution to the problem, and I wonder if something like this would bring us one step closer to an ideal solution.

Forty-One

This evening Reiko was watching a special about Shimura Ken, an incredibly popular Japanese comedian who recently and very quickly passed away after contracting the COVID-19 virus. His passing has resulted in a great deal of grief across the country as he was a genuine personality. His celebrity never went to his head and he always had something positive to say. Reiko grew up watching his shows and he was on TV right up until last month. Given his 40+ year career, it's only natural that people across the country would grieve his passing. Tonight's TV special included a number of interviews where Ken was able to get rather philosophical and explain the why behind his actions and one of these really connected with Reiko on a fundamental level:

If you love what you do, then you can keep doing it forever. Your delivery will evolve. Your specialty will become more nuanced. If you do it well enough, then nothing can stand in your way. However, if you doubt yourself, then it's time to move on. An audience can feel disinterest a mile away.1

Reiko and I are both in our 40s. While I've been preoccupied — perhaps excessively — with my own mortality since the 90s, Reiko is just starting to seriously think about hers. I've passed my expected mid-life point2 and Reiko is approaching hers. It's no wonder she's starting to wonder if she wants to continue with the current career or consider exploring one of her many other interests. Considering the number of non-positive changes that have started taking place at her university, I suggested she seriously look at learning a new skill and sharing that knowledge with the world. She's always been someone who loves to share knowledge. Even if she were to give up her position as a teacher at a university, she'd find other avenues to educate people. That's just the sort of person she is.

There are a lot of avenues of study that Reiko could embark upon. She's interested in nutrition, early childhood education, and a number of different craftworks. Of these, she has consistently expressed a desire to formally study nutrition for as long as we've been married and I've often suggested she invest some time into seriously studying this on her own for a couple of months to see if it's something she'd want to dedicate her energy to for a few years. Hopefully she reaches the conclusion that maybe a little bit of focus and study would be a good thing, if for no other reason than to see whether she's genuinely interested in the subject or if it's something she's mildly curious about.

We're both at the mid-point of our expected lives. We've worked incredibly hard for a decade and a half to be where we are right now. If Reiko were to take a year or two off from her current job to focus on something else, we'd be perfectly fine. This luxury of time and financial security was a hard-fought battle, but we've made serious progress. Should Reiko make the decision to devote her days to studying a new subject and maybe using that new knowledge to help others, then I'm all for it. Heck, even if she uses it just to help family, I'll be 100% behind her. There is so much for any one of us to regret as we face our final days. The last thing I want is for Reiko to think that she was "trapped" into doing something that she's lost interest in for the sake of a paycheque.


  1. This was the gist based on my memory of the quote, which was all in Japanese … as one would expect.

  2. No male that I am genetically related to has lived past the age of 77. Today marks my 41st year on this planet. The average life expectancy for men in Japan is 81.25 years. That works out to 29,676 days, divided by two is 14,838, tacked on to my birthday is November 17, 2019. While life expectancy is not a science, I do enjoy the math that can be applied.

Restoring Functionality

Another evening, another update to 10C. This most recent one was well overdue, though. One of the features that was part of v2 and v4 for years that never quite made the jump to v5 was podcasting. After almost a full year of v5 being live, the feature has finally made a comeback … to a certain extent. There are still a couple of things that need to be built into various themes to support podcasts, but the core elements are all there to publish audio files to the web in a manner that is completely compatible with iTunes, Google Play, and standalone podcast clients.

In the two previous versions of 10Centuries, podcasts generally consisted of multiple distinct elements that were loosely coupled. There would be a record for the podcast itself, one for the accompanying blog post, and a social post as well. If you were to edit one of these afterwards, the other two items would not be updated. As one can imagine, this was suboptimal. With 10Cv5, there's no reason for any of this. A podcast is a complete entity in and of itself, the same as with quotations, bookmarks, notes, and locations. This is because a podcast is just an article with an audio file attached. Even the post type remains the same. Sometimes the simple solutions are better than the over-engineered ones that sought out edge cases.

For the moment, podcasts are only publishable through the Anri theme or a dedicated client1. In the next little bit, I'd like to ensure that everywhere a person can publish a post, podcasts are an option.

Publishing on Anri

Like with 10Cv2 and v4, when "Podcast Episode" is chosen, some additional fields will become visible on the screen under the image upload section. Unlike the previous versions of 10C, you do not need to add an audio file to the uploads box to make these elements visible. This was one thing that a lot of people did not like about the previous UI and I did not want to make the same mistake again. As a result, audio uploads have their own distinct button.

Only the post text, summary, and audio file need to exist in order to publish a podcast, though more information will generally make for a better-formatted syndication feed.

Speaking of syndication, there's a new settings page where people can better control their RSS feed.

Syndication

With this page people are able to have a specific author name, or a list of authors, for the RSS feed as well as a detailed summary, a Creative Commons license, the number of items to show in the RSS feed, a cover image which is the same as your avatar by default, and content categories2.

As with so many of the things I make, the UI could certainly use a little bit of love. That said, I'm hoping that with the core functionality in place, people can make use of it.


  1. If you're familiar with the 10C API and have a RESTful API client, then you could even use that to publish podcasts. That said, only a geek would enjoy the task. Everything can be done with two API calls, but it's not at all glamorous.

  2. These are only useful for podcasting when publishing to iTunes or the Google Play Store. Not sure about other distributors like Spotify.