The Journey of 1000 Miles …

Walking is something that I’ve enjoyed for as long as I can remember. Not only is it a means to get from place to place, but it demands that time be set aside for any given trek. On weekends I enjoy heading out for an hour to 90 minutes for the fresh air, exercise, and uninterrupted podcast listening. Many years ago it was a great way to provide Nozomi with some stimulation overload. Before that, while living in Vancouver, it was the preferred alternative to public transit when time permitted. But why?

Over the last couple of weeks I’ve tried to understand why walking is something I enjoy so much, and why it’s something I encourage the boy to do on sunny days. Thinking way back to the early-80s to some really fuzzy memories, it may have something to do with exploration; not only of the physical world, but of ideas.

Young kids will stop and examine everything along a path if you let them. Nozomi is much the same way, though the length of her paths has drastically shortened since the boy joined the family. I remember running on the sidewalks of Hamilton with my parents before they divorced, and later walking with my father when it was just him and I in an apartment on the east side. Every sojourn resulted in learning something new. Even when the route had been taken a hundred times there were still new things to observe, consider, and discover. What’s not to like about this?

One of the many things I hope to share with the boy is the long walk, which my father and I would typically do twice a month. Originally this time together was out of necessity. We would need groceries, and the supermarket was a little over 2km away. We could take the bus, but it was often faster to put one leg in front of the other. The trip would take some time and that’s when my father and I would have conversations about anything and everything. I remember learning how “dry” humour worked at one point. Another time we compared our favourite teachers. Sometimes we would just walk together in silence, letting the noise of the passing cars drown out any awkwardness that might be felt when no conversation is had. Much later in life I would learn that we didn’t use the bus in order to save the $4 so that it could be put towards food, but this didn’t diminish the fun I had during these journeys.

The boy and I will not need to walk two kilometres if we need groceries, as the nearest supermarket is about 300m from here, but there are some lovely parks that we could explore on foot when he’s old enough for the trips. Driving is certainly convenient, but time well spent is time well spent. Hopefully he will enjoy our walks together as much as I’ve enjoyed those taken with my father, Nozomi, and just by myself.

Five Things

Another Sunday, another list.

Tomorrow’s a Holiday?

Working from home has a lot of benefits. One consequence, however, is the inability to pick up when national holidays are on the agenda. This morning when I was reminded that two days still remained in the weekend my first response was: Seriously? Dammit! I have work to do!

This is clearly not a very healthy response to days off.

Sticking With a Flip Phone

Until the Librem 5 is available for sale, it’s not even worth considering a different device. I’ve been using the work-supplied Sharp 202-SH as my primary phone since August and satisfied with its operation and crisp audio quality when making calls. As the monthly cost of the device is just under $9, it makes zero sense to consider anything else given my continued migration away from commercial operating systems1. The flip phone can still collect a great deal of information about me, but I can also yank the battery if I truly wish to be “off the grid”.

The Boy Can Throw a Tantrum

That time of childhood has made itself known today with the boy throwing a fit worthy of the White House when he was forced to leave the park to have lunch at home. There was a lot of kicking, screaming, and tears to go along with the runny nose that kids seem to develop in short order. What’s interesting is that he was quickly placated when presented with lunch and soon became drowsy thanks to the 20-minute sustained emotional outburst. Before he could even finish his food, his head was on the table and he was ready for a nap.

Being a responsible adult means having more time and patience than a 2 year-old has rage. Fortunately the boy’s anger bothers me less than the faux rage from “managers” one can see at the day job.

Stargazing

Nozomi and I go out after the sun sets for her evening walk. What this means is that while she’s sniffing the ground and keeping her eyes low, I’m looking up at the distant light from celestial bodies far, far away. Light pollution is very much an issue in this part of the country, but there are far more stars visible from the new home than the previous one. I should really bring the tripod and DSLR out for some long-exposure photography.

Personal Stories

Over the last couple of weeks I’ve been sharing a number of stories from my past, and there are many more that I’d like to publish on here in the near future. What I find interesting about writing these memories down is the amount of detail that I can recall. If I were a better writer these details could be included. Perhaps I’ll give it a shot anyway. It’s not like these posts are literary works of art.

It would be interesting to know what others think about these personal stories. The events that shaped my life are likely uninteresting to most people, but two readers have said they’ve enjoyed reading about my trials and evolutions.


  1. There’s a rather lengthy blog post on this topic in the works, but it seems to have gone almost full Richard Stallman. Long story short, I cannot trust any of the four main consumer operating systems — Windows, macOS, iOS, and Android — as they do not have my best interests in mind.

That Time I Dabbled in Idiocy

The title of this post is a little vague given that I dabble in idiocy all the time, however, a short discussion with Sumudu this afternoon reminded me of my early 20s when I was engaging in some dangerous, stupid, and self-destructive behaviour involving alcohol.

Wines in a Rack

Starting in 1999 I generally stuck to beer, having between three to five bottles of Molson Canadian every night after getting home from work. This was part of the "wind down" routine that I had observed when the adults I grew up with came home from work1, and was taken up by me in an attempt to better handle the stresses that came with full-time employment and constant pressure to perform. In 2001 I met a woman who's father loved various kinds of alcohol and we got along great. He taught me a lot about schnapps, zinfandels, wines, tequilas, and vodkas. Of all of these, Smirnoff Vodka and Bailey's Irish Creme agreed with me the most. My home was soon stocked with quite a selection of different beverages from the nearby LCBO2 and I'd share interesting discoveries with the people around me.

By 2002 I was single and miserable again, drinking at least a bottle of wine every night and hitting the harder stuff on weekends while playing Age of Empires II online and having my ass handed to me time and again. Generally I would just stay home after opening a bottle of something but, occasionally, I would go out to get some food. This would often mean driving — as I was rather fat and out of shape by this time — while my blood alcohol was way over the legal limit. To make matters worse, sometimes I would forget to wear my glasses and drive anyway. This is not something a near-sighted person should do when their sober, let alone under the influence.

I was a complete and total idiot worthy of being punched in the face by every passerby. Repeatedly.

By July of 2002 I knew that I was going to hell in a hand basket. There was no justifiable reason for the destructive behaviour3 and something had to change. Fast. It was at this point that I decided to move west. On Thursday July 18th, I applied for a job on the other side of the country, and on August 1 I flew from Toronto to Vancouver4 to start my life anew.

Between 2002 and 2015 I had fewer than a dozen beers in total while out with colleagues and drank nothing stronger. Since then I've dabbled in some 5% vodkas and 6% Japanese beers. Never more than two or three times a month, and only when there is ample free time after drinking where I will not be required to drive or do anything that requires a clear mind. No alcohol is ever kept in the house, either. Like many things in life, alcohol is just fine when it's consumed in moderation. I have no plans on reliving the stupidity of my youth with excessive drinking and reckless decision-making. I was lucky that nothing happened 17 years ago while being stupid. Only a fool would think that same fortune might carry forward.


  1. This isn't an excuse. I chose to drink. It was never pushed on me.
  2. In Ontario you generally buy alcohol from the government. LCBO stands for the Liquor Control Board of Ontario.
  3. Any justifications I told myself at the time were later deemed irrelevant and moot. I was in control of my life, and I was ruining it because of undirected, unresolved anger.
  4. I didn't get the job, but I did get one heck of an education. While the move was tough at times, it was ultimately good for me.

Nine Months Already?

Again with the subject of time, it seems that tomorrow will mark nine months since the family and I moved into our house. Calling a "new" house might still be technically accurate but, given the damage that's been caused by the boy to the floors, the walls, and a couple of doors, it would be better to not use that particular adjective. This is still a nice place to live, though. Everybody likes it here. The area is relatively quiet most of the time. And, despite working from home every day, the place is big enough that I can still feel like I'm not right beside everyone while focusing on the day job.

That last bit is important, as it was nine months ago that I was able to start working primarily from home and go into the office on an irregular schedule. While this does limit the amount of distance that I can put between the day job and the family, it does provide an extra two hours every day to use for something other than commuting1. The original plan was to dedicate an hour or so every day to walking. Reality had something different in mind.

When the boy is a bit older, I might start going to the office more regularly. Working from home is nice, but so is working in close proximity to adults ... some of the time. Being out of the house gives the family some space as well as providing a clear buffer between work and home. Frustrations and stressors can be forgotten about on the trek home. Podcasts can be enjoyed more completely. Snacks can be had without the need to share. It's a win-win for everyone. Until then, I'll be happy that Nozomi is often curled up under my chair while I'm hammering away at the keyboard, having discussions with colleagues around the globe, and solving problems that would be a lot easier if the corporate compliance officers would just look the other way from time to time2.

Hopefully the house can withstand the next 20 years of abuse the boy will inflict upon it ....


  1. Given that I use a lot of my own resources and I would ferry them from home to work and back every day, it often struck me as odd that I'd go into the office to use the same equipment I could use from home. Mind you, it wasn't always possible to do this, but some productive meetings with managers made a lot of things possible.
  2. Everything we do must be GDPR-compliant regardless of what the systems will do given that we have employees from the EU operating on every continent minus Antarctica.

Never Mind the Chill

While out for a short walk this evening a number of young boys ran past me wearing shorts and a t-shirt, laughing as though they were enjoying the feel of 2˚C air against their purpling skin. Given the time of day, they were likely coming from the elementary school about half a kilometre down the road and on their way home for dinner. Seeing them without much protection from the cold reminded me of my own silliness as a child when I'd wear shorts until the mercury dipped below -5˚C and didn't even consider zipping up my winter jacket until -15˚C or a strong wind.

Doing this now would likely result in an ambulance ride.

Minus Twenty

There's a lot to like about being young. Time operates on a completely different scale. Unhealthy foods can be guilt-free pleasures for days at a time before the consequences build up to noticeable levels. And temperature ain't nuttin' but a number. When is it that our bodies change from being resilient and nimble to vulnerable and stiff? While I would not like to live through my childhood again, I would very much enjoy the benefits of being in a 17~19 year old body again1. Mind you, if I were to have a young body again, I wouldn't grow a mullet. Some youthful follies are best left lost in the sands of time.

While I still much prefer the winter to summer2, I'm not at all a fan on wearing multiple layers of thick clothes before leaving the home. Mobility is more restricted. Senses are dulled. Static is an inescapable foe. Fortunately the spring is just a few months away.


  1. Aside from the knee pain that I used to have as a teen. My goodness that was not at all fun. For years my knees were incredibly sensitive to touch and it felt like the muscles were being stretched to the limit whenever I needed to kneel. Fortunately that cleared up sometime around 20 ...
  2. There are no mosquitoes in winter. Any season with an absence of mosquitoes will be my favourite. Unfortunately there is just one.

Works For Me

One of the least useful responses a person can receive when reporting a problem is "it works for me" and it really needs to go away. What I have found over the years is that when somebody reports that some sort of technology — be it hardware or software — is not working as expected or desired, they'll consider it a bug or a failure. They'll (hopefully) report the issue with the expectation that a solution will be found and everyone can get on with their lives. Getting a response like "it works for me" from someone who generally knows the system far better than the person reporting the problem is incredibly dismissive and will only encourage people to not report problems.

I'm not a fan of the PEBKAC concept. It's funny as a joke, but not when it's aimed at somebody.

When I report problems with systems at the day job, there's an 80% chance that one of the IT managers will write back "it works for me" with a screenshot pasted into an Excel file just to show that they checked. There's rarely any follow up nor is there any request for further information. I generally need to do their job to pinpoint exactly what the problem is, where, and how to fix it. Because this is technically their job, there's resentment when I invest the time into solving the problem myself. By the time a solution is found and provided, emails start coming in from schools across the country reporting the very same issue. The management team then delegates the task to someone by forwarding the email with my solution, and then everyone goes back to whatever it was they were doing before I reported the issue.

This isn't to say that people should pay more attention to me, as that's most certainly not something I'd be comfortable with. Instead, there needs to be a conscious effort to determine why a person is reporting an issue. Is it because of a network issue somewhere between A and B that's not affecting C? Is someone using Netscape Navigator 4.0 Gold and complaining when the react.js-powered site refuses to load? Is the issue something that could be resolved with training, instead1?

Yes, there are times when someone may revel in their incompetence, ignorance, or both2, but the vast majority of people are competent to varying degrees. We should take them at their word that something isn't quite right and investigate it reasonably. If no issues are found, ask for more information. If there are still no issues found, dig deeper still. Who knows. Maybe there's a genuine bug that hasn't been encountered before that could get squashed before it affects someone else.


  1. I had a person scream until they were blue in the face that they couldn't use a corporate website. IT checked and said "it works for me". I checked and saw the person was going to website.com when they should have been going to website.co.jp. Sometimes the devil is in the details.
  2. I still encounter people my age who say "I don't know computers. Hehehe." and it boggles the mind. How can anyone who has been employed for 20+ years and lived in a wealthy country not know the very basics of how a computer is used? People shouldn't be expected to know how to code, but one would hope that they would know the difference between a word processor, a spreadsheet, and a browser.

Expectations

When the mind is a mess, what sort of ideas can be teased out of the jumble? Does it even make sense to record the discombobulated thoughts in an effort to better understand them? As with so many things in life and technology, the answer to these questions will always be "It depends". Whether a person wishes to use their time to scribble nonsense on paper or just stare blankly at the wall is a decision best left to the individual. What do I do in these situations? Well ... it seems I piss away an hour looking for a royalty-free stock photo I can crop and pass through a monochrome filter.

Expectations

The second rule in 12 Rules for Life is to treat yourself like someone you are responsible for helping. I'm responsible for helping an awful lot of people, including a puppy, and they all get priority over my needs. Staying up until 2:30 in the morning in order to read books, attend meetings, or otherwise "get one more thing done" before bed is just silly, though. There's a hard wake-up time of 7:30am every morning as that's when the boy generally starts talking and demanding freedom from his enclosed bed. If anyone in my house were to do this, I'd tell them to get to bed by the time 1:00am rolled around. Why don't I tell myself the same thing? Sleep is quite important, and I'm not young enough to handle more than a pair of late nights back to back without paying for it cognitively by the third day.

Why is it so difficult for a person to take better care of their needs?

For me the problem comes down to expectations. I make a list of things that I expect to complete on a day and I'll keep working until every item on the list for that day is crossed off. These can often be completed before midnight. Lately the list needs a couple of extra hours. Is there any benefit to working late during the week, though? Unless there is a hard deadline to meet, the most logical day to work past midnight would be Friday, as there wouldn't be any work the following day and an afternoon nap is most certainly possible when the boy must take his.

I really must take better care of myself. From ensuring a decent amount of sleep to walking a set distance every day, these small matters make a big difference.

Absence

My parents separated when I was five years old and, as one would expect, it was completely my fault1. The first year was a little rough. My youngest sister was just a few months old at the time and taken in by an aunt. My other sister and I were sent to a foster home for some time while my father worked on all the legal stuff while also working full time shift-work at the old Firestone factory in town. Where was my mother during this time? I'm not exactly sure. She just sort of disappeared for a while.

Staying at a foster home was stressful at first. Nobody spoke French2 and I needed to very quickly bring my English up to communicate with the many people who lived in the house. Religion was a serious part of life with daily readings of the Bible as a family followed by discussions. My sister, who was 3 at the time, had no problem fitting right in and adapting. I envied her at times.

Every weekend my father would come by to visit and, one weekend, we were told that we'd soon be leaving the foster home and moving into an apartment together. Laura, my infant sister, would not be joining us. My mother had requested custody of the tiny girl during the divorce proceedings. My father would take care of Christine and I. We were all quite happy with the arrangement and no questions were asked about why our mother only wanted the baby. Thinking back to that time, a lot of questions were not asked.

Over the next few years, my parents would iron out a lot of their disagreements in private. They never got back together, nor was it ever an option. However, because these two adults were able to communicate with each other with a modicum of civility, there were never any bitter custody battles. Instead we had a schedule for visits. Christmases would be held at one home one year, and the other home the following year. Every month we'd spend a weekend with the other parent. During the summer holidays, we'd spend a month. This was the standard pattern for years right up until I was 13 and asked to move in with my mother3. My sister had done the same when she was 7, though it may have been primarily motivated by money. Despite his efforts, my father was left with some crippling debt after the divorce. He took on all the credit card debt and the mortgage. Though the house was sold, there was still several tens of thousands of dollars that had to be repaid. He worked for years to make it happen, and I was too naive to understand the sacrifices he made to ensure the bills were always paid and food was on the table.

But then a young child usually doesn't think of these things very often.

There were a lot of things I never really considered about this time in my life until recently ... such as what my father felt when I would visit my mother for a month or the Christmas holiday. It was just him and I in the two-bedroom apartment for several years after my sister left. When two people live in such close quarters the absence of one is quite stark. A Christmas when one's children are all somewhere else doesn't strike me as a particularly happy time of year. Weekends and summers were spent with "the other child", so there would be someone present to keep the silence at bay.

When I think about how my mother left and then think of how my father interacted with her afterwards despite her immediate activities following her abrupt egress4, I'm genuinely surprised that he didn't hire someone to keep an eye on everyone "just in case". Then again, with the amount of debt he had endured, hiring a private investigator — even a bad one — would have been out of the question. What would I do if, in three years, Reiko were to leave without taking the boy? Would I be able to trust that she wouldn't flee with him at some point later on?5

It's a hard question. The house would feel incredibly empty without the boy, though. Heck, the main reason we bought this house was so that he would have a semi-permanent home for (ideally) his entire life. Thinking along these lines, the apartment where my father and I lived for seven years must have been oppressively quiet during the Christmases where Christine, Laura, and I were at our mother's house. He must have been overjoyed to replace the quiet with noise after remarrying in 1992, a year when his three children were all at a rural home 70km to the east.


  1. I say this in jest now, but this is what kids tend to think at the time.
  2. My mother spoke French and my father spoke English. While I could communicate in both languages, French was my strongest tongue at the time. I had even attended a french kindergarten, so my entire understanding of the world was through the lens of a tiny Quebecois.
  3. A story for a different day, I think.
  4. She went bar-hopping, found a guy who would become my step-father, got pregnant, and stayed with him for 13 years, having two children with him before yet another "abrupt egress". I've not yet talked to my mother about the real reasons for these departures. She's made allusions that I find suspect, but I've never tried to dig in. This is clearly a failure on my part.
  5. Yes, I understand the many layers in this question, given that Nozomi and I were due to leave several years ago. Life has gotten a lot better since then, and we continue to work on improving our relationship.

Five Things

A couple of weeks have passed since the previous Five Things post, so it’s most certainly time for another instalment of this lazy Sunday theme.

Non-Stop

The boy will be two years old later this month and his development has been interesting to watch over these last few months. While he’s a little behind the curve in a couple of areas, he’s no dummy. Based on information from daddy blogs, parenting books, and a parenting support TV show, his speaking ability and pattern recognition skills are well ahead of his peers. This can be seen first hand when he’s solving a jigsaw puzzle targeted at five year old children while blabbing non-stop in both English and Japanese about what he sees on each cardboard piece.

Time will tell if this compulsive desire to communicate will survive the next couple of stages of cognitive development.

Out of Podcasts

In 2018 I managed to produce and publish just over 200 podcast episodes. Very few of these were mine. After learning audio production skills and getting practice with my own shows in 2014 and 2015, I started to help some members of my community create shows of their own. People had ideas, but were unsure about what was involved with all the unheard aspects of podcasting. So for three years I worked with a bunch of very creative people to release shows about gardening, local history, classic literature, regional train stations, and — oddly enough — stray cats. Many shows fizzled out after a couple of months but, in 2017, one show was picked up by a radio station in Osaka and turned into a professional show. Last year two other shows followed suit. The last episode that I produced and published was on December 18th, which has left me without any podcasts to work on ….

A New Podcast?

As with many other creative endeavours, I’ve had a number of ideas for podcasts over the last few years that I’ve wanted to try out to see whether they’d work. Time, however, is an incredibly limited commodity. Now that there are a few extra hours for creative pursuits every week, it seems like an opportune time to get back into a regular groove. The question now is what sort of show would I like to make?

FTaaP? (Five Things as a Podcast)

One idea that’s been rolling around in my head the last few weeks is the idea of doing a weekly podcast that focuses on good news. Every episode would present five genuinely good things that happened around the world with a little bit of commentary. Despite all the insanity that seems to fill the news cycle every day, there are a lot of wonderful things that get reported and immediately lost in a sea of political drama and social media rage. Sharing some good news would be a nice way to remember that the world is in a much better place today than at any other time in human history.

But What About v5?

Yeah, I’m working on that a minimum of three hours per day. There’s a lot I like about it and a lot that’s not as bug-free as I want it to be. At some point I’ll just have to bite the bullet and release the thing, but I’d really like to ensure that people who use v4 don’t see the new version as a downgrade while some features take time to come out. Then again, given the decreasing usage, I could probably release the update and only a handful of people would notice.

So there we have it, the first of many Five Things instalments for 2019.

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