Five Things

Another Sunday means it's time for another list. The last couple of days have seen a ridiculous amount of negativity projected my way, which has certainly taken its toll on my patience, but August was a pretty good month overall. The boy is starting to read more. Projects at the day job are moving forward. The summer heat and humidity has been replaced with some cooler temperatures with intermittent storms. All of these things are positive and each is worthy of a celebration … some more than others, of course. September is shaping up to have a bunch of positive events take place, too, and I'm looking forward to each one of these.

A Week Off … for Training

The last week of September will involve a solid week of Mulesoft training through an all-day intensive course. There will be a great deal of learning and a great deal of Java. Once complete, there will be a closed-book exam where I get to put the skills to use an earn certification for the technology, which will get put to use almost immediately with some upcoming projects at the day job. An added bonus of the training is that I'll need a new computer, and I've managed to convince the day job to provide a 15" MacBook Pro with 32GB RAM, as the 13" MacBook Pro I've been using for the last few years is simply not up to the task of dealing with AnyPoint Studio, the IDE used for Mulesoft development.

A New MacBook

Yes, this was mentioned in the previous point, but it's still something positive to look forward to … even if this is potentially coming a mere couple of weeks before Apple releases the fabled 16" MacBook Pro with the older-style butterfly keyboard, which is the same style that I've enjoyed since 2012. With 32GB of RAM and a dedicated video card, a number of the heat problems that I've been struggling with lately should be drastically minimized. It will also be feasible to do some of the more computationally demanding tasks that colleagues have been asking for help with. If the keyboards on the current 15" devices are as problematic as posts on the web make them out to be, then I'll attach an external keyboard and use the device that way. There's still a whole lot of positive with this hardware acquisition.

Reiko's Birthday

While she doesn't really like birthdays anymore, this annual celebration is a perfect excuse for the boy to make something nice for his mum. Last year involved a great deal of work on my part, as he was just one year old at the time. This year he'll get to help in the kitchen to make something nice. There will also be cards, flowers, and — possibly — something akin to a cake that is not a cake1

Cooler Temperatures

September is here, which means the summer heat is about to give way to a series of typhoons that will cool the country down and bring in the short, two-week autumn period where everybody wants to be outside before five months of winter hit. For me, this entire cycle is a positive as it means that the stupid mosquitoes that bother me at every opportunity will disappear for a short while. This is, of course, one of the many reasons that winter is my favourite season.

And finally …

Reading List Zero

For the vast majority of this year, the reading list has been sitting at about a dozen books to read. Some of these were the result of recommendations from authors of other books, and a couple were even picked up because I strongly disagreed with the author's stance on a subject but wanted to read a coherent argument about why they felt they were right. All in all, it's been a challenging reading year as I've managed to read just one work of fiction and 82 books that cover topics such as modern religion, historic events, sociology, education, child rearing, technology, and even a biography2. Rarely is the list shorter than a three or four books, but I've not had any new recommendations from other readers or authors for a number of months. If I do get down to zero, then I might just use the rest of the year for some science fiction, as the year of "real stuff" has been a bit much at times … particularly when reading something from someone I might slap in the face3.

September has just begun and I plan on making sure it's a positive one.


  1. Reiko doesn't like cake.

  2. Finally got around to reading Walter Isaacson's book on Steve Jobs a few months back. It has been sitting in the Reading List for 4 years.

  3. I read things from people I strongly disagree with, like Milo Yiannopoulos, in order to have a better understanding of their arguments. This allows me to construct better arguments for why their stance on a topic may be incorrect. Not exposing myself to ideas I detest is not exactly the best way to go through life.

Five Things

Yesterday I had today’s post all planned out. The topic was set as the things that have changed in my life since this time last year, and seven items were identified1 with a couple of notes to guide the direction of the section. After writing the post this afternoon, however, I found the piece lacking. It just didn’t sound right. When this happens, the post gets archived and is generally never seen again. Unfortunately this means that another post needs to be planned and written before midnight rolls around.

Luckily this is a Five Things post, which is generally easier to write.

Rather than look at change, which would have me write about a rather sensitive topic that would likely be misunderstood, I figure this would be a good opportunity to look at five inanimate things that make my days just a bit more enjoyable.

Coffee, with a Bit of Milk

I don't drink nearly as much of this wonderful beverage as I used to, but coffee remains one of the indulgent pleasures of the day. A cup with breakfast, a cup after lunch, and — occasionally — a cup around 11:00pm. When I started this addictive habit at the foolish age of 16, I took my coffee the same way my mother did; with cream and sugar. Around 21 this changed to cream only and at 23 I went with regular milk and haven’t looked back.

Boxer Shorts

This could probably be classified under the TMI category, but four months ago I made the switch from briefs to boxer shorts. This is not the first time I’ve switched, but it will likely be the last as none of the inconveniences I had while wearing this style of underwear at 20 have resurfaced. Summers in this part of Asia are no fun at all when the heat and humidity kicks in by 8:30 in the morning, and briefs are notorious for trapping heat. Since going with boxers, I have found sitting at the desk for hours on end to be much easier.

A Good Work Chair

Until a month ago, I used a kitchen chair at the work desk. There were a number of reasons behind this, such as avoiding the cost of a nicer chair so soon after moving house. Now that I have a more comfortable working chair, though, my legs don’t lose blood circulation and my back is supported much better. It has already paid for itself because of this.

A 24” 4K Monitor

Two years ago I was fortunate enough to receive a 24” Dell P2415Q monitor at work. Given how much of my day is spent staring at a screen, having a sharp image with no discernible pixelation is crucial. This monitor is generally used for image work, Remote Desktop sessions to Windows servers, and a whole bunch of web development. Without this monitor, my eyes would be a lot more tired by the end of every day.

A 13” MacBook Pro

I’ve used a number of computers over the years, but none have been quite as influential in my life as the 2015-era MacBook Pro that I use on a near-daily basis2. So much of what’s been accomplished in the last four years can be attributed to that specific tool. While it’s certainly struggling to keep up with my current workload, the machine is no slouch and can generally do what I need so long as I give it time to process.

There are certainly a bunch of other inanimate objects that make life more enjoyable, such as my home or the spring-loaded leash that gives Nozomi 5 metres of wiggle room when we go out for a walk. The five listed above are the smaller items that I tend to consciously appreciate on a daily basis. Sometimes it really is the little things that can help someone feel better despite whatever temporary trials life may be throwing their way.


  1. I generally try to come up with more than five, then whittle the options down to the target number based on the decency of the writing. This doesn’t always happen but, when it does, a more cromulent post is written.

  2. I’m technically forbidden from using my computers on the weekend, as it’s supposed to be “family time”. This makes freelance projects harder to complete, but time with the family is generally a good thing.

Five Things (I Would Photograph If I Were Any Good)

The first digital camera that I owned was an HP Photosmart 635 camera back in the early 2000s. It ran on a pair of AA batteries, took SD cards no larger than 128MB, and started disintegrating after the first six months of rather light use1. The experience was not particularly great, so I generally didn't want to use the camera very often. Later, when cameras started appearing in phones, the image quality was so poor that I often refused to take a photo because the pixellation would "ruin" my memory of the moment. In 2006, when I first visited Japan, I borrowed a friend's Olympus digital camera and was quite impressed with the results. Later that year I bought a Canon A95 and used that to take about 2,200 photos2 over the span of 7 years. It wasn't until Nozomi joined the family that I actively wanted to take pictures of the people, puppy, and places around me … which meant using a 4th Generation iPod Touch more often than not.

Over the intervening years, I've taken far more photos than I can keep track of. iCloud tells me that there are 24,818 pictures in my library, but these are just the ones I've kept, which is not the same as the number I've taken. The images that are blurry beyond recognition, horrendously out of focus, or just plain awful seldom see the next day. When "the cloud is the limit" to the number of pictures a person can keep, it's more important to ensure that every photo we keep has value in order to reduce the amount of visual checking and rechecking that goes on later. One thing that I can say for certain is that since 2011, my pictures have become noticeably better. Subjects are in better focus. The rule of thirds is observed a lot more. I try to frame static subjects when the opportunity arises. The use of focus to have the subject appear sharp while the background is blurry has also proven quite enjoyable and is easy as heck with the prosumer Canon DSLR we picked up before The Boy joined the family. However, this is pretty much the limit of what I can do to make a good picture. 90% of the photos I take are simply not worth sharing.

So, being Sunday, today's Five Things will involve five subjects that are not family and that I would like to learn how to photograph properly.

The Night Sky

Night photography has proven quite tricky with the DSLR and all but impossible with the phone. When the moon is shining bright, illuminating some fluffy while clouds from above while a city illuminates them from below, I am often awestruck by the beauty of it all. Light against the darkness. The contrast is easy to appreciate. Unfortunately my knowledge of ISO levels, exposure times, and other night photography techniques is insufficient to adequately capture the fleeting moment where the distant city, the fluffy clouds, and the incredibly bright moon are balanced "just right".

Parks from 15cm (Above the Ground)

Many years ago I wondered what the world looked like from Nozomi's point of view, as her eyes are generally just 15cm from the ground when we're out for a walk. So I started taking pictures with my phone at her level to reveal a world of giants. Trees that are impossibly tall. People that are skyscrapers in an of themselves. Grass that is tall enough to obscure a discarded bicycle just metres away. Some of the pictures did turn out quite nicely, but a lot had the wrong focal points. With a bit more practice and perhaps a better use of a mini-tripod, I'd love to create a series of images that can be shared with the world.

Historic Locations Permeated By Modern Tech

When Reiko and I take the boy to castles and other historic places around the area to introduce him to the history and culture of the country, I am often amazed by how many people are experiencing the location through their phones and/or tablets. The contrast intrigues me. To capture this in an image — or series of images — would be incredibly interesting.

Janitors

One of the many things that visitors to Japan often comment on is the lack of litter in the streets despite the ever-present dearth of garbage cans. While many people will hold onto their garbage until they can find an appropriate place to dispose of it, some people will "accidentally" drop things on the ground and just keep walking. When this happens, a janitor will usually be along in a matter of minutes, find the refuse, and take care of it. These people can also be seen sweeping stairs, cleaning public washrooms, organizing magazine racks, and just about anything else that would involve keeping a place tidy and organized. A lot of Japanese people that I talk to barely notice the janitors who keep our public areas clean for barely minimum wage, but I tend to see them everywhere I go and occasionally stop to thank them3. I would love to capture some of these people doing the things they quietly do in a well-framed image that conveys not the action being performed, but the human behind the broom. The images I've captured thus far have been fraught with lighting errors and focus problems.

Distant Worlds

What science-loving geek wouldn't want to take pictures of distant planets? The better the resolution, the bigger the smile. There's no denying that the earth is pretty amazing and has a lot of subjects to photograph, but the universe is a big place. There's a lot more we can all see and share with each other.


  1. Being single and a workaholic, I didn't really have many opportunities to take photos outside from one or two road trips every year.

  2. 2,200 photos according to the internal counter, which I have never reset.

  3. Most janitors are not accustomed to being thanked, which is a shame.

Five Things

The original plan for today’s list was to look at five things I wish I didn’t know, as having the knowledge has generally resulted in a great deal of frustration. The list was mostly written, aside from the fifth item, which I couldn’t really think of. On the list two of the items could have been rolled into a single entry as one only exists because of the other, and the others were poorly justified. Reading through the piece, the post could really have been titled Mountains from Mole Hills, as not knowing these things would not result in a happier, more fulfilling life. If anything, just the opposite would happen very quickly. So why not turn the frown upside-down and look at five things I wish I did know?

Buddhism

From my mid-teens to late 20s I studied and was very much a part of religious communities. First it was with the Roman Catholic Church, until “something happened”. Then it was with the Christian Reformed church. Finally it was Islam, where I had some of the most intelligent discussions in my life with people who have invested decades into understanding not only their own sacred books, but those of other faiths. I learned more about the importance of Genesis, Exodus, and Leviticus while talking to Muslim scholars than from anyone else.

Buddhism, however, is something of a mystery. I’ve read some books on the religion and it’s precepts, but my knowledge is still very shallow. By learning more about this religion, I might gain a better appreciation for some of the historical buildings in Japan as well as the role the belief system had in shaping much of Asia.

The Art of Conversation

There are a couple dozen or so rules of thumb that I try to follow when talking to someone new but, more often than not, I leave a conversation wondering how badly I engaged with the other person. This isn’t for a lack of trying, either. I’m just generally not very good at conversing without a set topic. Perhaps with better verbal and interpersonal skills, I can develop and maintain lasting friendships.

Carpentry

If someone were to present either of my grandfathers with a piece of wood and (nicely) ask that they make something, a beautiful and unique piece of art would be created. Regardless of what it was, be it a birdhouse, a shelf, an old-timey crystal radio, what you would get back would look like something from a luxury store in Ginza1. With this skill, I could take a more proactive role in customizing my house and maybe even help some neighbours with their own projects

Canine Care

There is just one place in a 10km radius that a person can bring their dog to get a proper trim, and they’re not accepting new customers because there isn’t enough hours in the day to take care of everyone. If I want Nozomi to get her claws or fur trimmed, I need to take her 12km to the place she’s gone since the age of 2. If I could do this, then Nozomi wouldn’t have to go so long between visits and I could maybe help other dogs in the neighbourhood when they need a little bit of care, attention, and pampering.

Rocket Science

Who doesn’t want to know rocket science? With a better understanding of the conventional technologies that are in use or active development today, it becomes possible to seriously examine some of the less-conventional — or downright unconventional — means of propulsion in space.


  1. This is generally seen as “where the wealthy shop in Tokyo”

Five Things

It’s that time of the week again where people lament the shortness of the weekend and the length of the working week. For me this is generally when I am the most optimistic for what lies ahead as a list of attainable objectives has been assembled over the weekend and the first of many checkboxes can be marked as complete in less than 12 hours. In addition to having a list of things to accomplish, Sunday is also a time for Five Things™ and maybe a little reflection.

Modern Ink-Jet Printers Rock

The old Canon inkjet has decided to insist on being as difficult and temperamental as a hungry toddler so, rather than put up with such nonsense, we went out and picked up another basic Canon. As a new printer will often come with some sample photo paper, I printed out a couple of photos and was immediately struck by the vibrancy of the colours and the clarity of the image. At some point in the last few years it seems that Canon has also worked out how to print right up to the edge of the photo. There isn’t any colour bleed or leaking anywhere to be found.

This printer will see a lot of use over the coming weeks.

7,500

Before the boy was born I would generally clock close to 8,000 steps a day. This was in part because I could invest the time into walking places. After I started working from home, though, this number dropped to just a few hundred steps a day. Now that the boy is more keen to head outside and explore the world it’s feasible to have days with a healthy amount of walking. Last week was the first time in over a year where I averaged just over 7,500 a day.

Hopefully there will be more of this in the future.

Prescription Sunglasses

After what seems like forever, I’ll soon have a pair of prescription sunglasses to wear when out and about. I generally do not wear non-prescription sunglasses as the lack of focus and difficulty in reading distant objects results in a pretty severe headache, so the more expensive option is needed. The last pair of prescription sunglasses I had were actually “transitions” that would (slowly) get darker with direct sunlight. These were broken in 2008 and I’ve been going without ever since.

Yesterday Reiko and I went to a place and ordered ourselves some decent protection. We’ll receive the glasses in 10 days. I’m quite looking forward to this.

Napping in the Park

Yesterday and today I fell asleep while sitting on the hill in the park. This is generally a bad idea, but the rest has been truly invigorating. When I wake up after a ten to fifteen power nap outside, I feel as though I just had a night at a really nice hotel. While I hope this doesn’t become a habit, I do hope that power naps continue to be as beneficial.

No More News in English

Over the last couple of months I’ve come to realize that most of what I read on English news sites is either fabricated or grossly misrepresents the facts in order to push a specific agenda. This practise is nothing new for tabloids, but every source of news has effectively become a tabloid in a bid to inflate thier numbers. I’m not playing their game anymore. If news sites want me back as a reader, then they’ll need to have the same journalistic standards as Japan’s NHK news desk. Nothing else is worth my time.

This coming week should be quite a bit more productive than last week, and I’m hoping that two updates to 10Centuries will restore some of the important functionality that people have been asking for.

Five Things

Nineteen years ago the Nuwaubian Nation expected that the planetary lineup in our solar system would cause a "star holocaust", pulling all of the planets toward the Sun, incinerating everything, and ruining an otherwise lovely day. I remember hearing about this on a nighttime documentary discussing Nostradamus and other "doomsday" predictions some time around '93 or '941. This memory has persisted a little more stubbornly than others from that time period, probably as a reminder that the end of the world will not be foreseen by fringe religious groups.

That said, it's time for another list …

Irregular Heartbeats

Reiko and I both suffer from occasional palpitations and, while these do not happen with enough regularity to make wearing a medical heart monitor worthwhile2, their frequency does seem to be increasing. I've done a little bit of digging around online to see what sort of options are available for us to monitor ourselves and it seems the most recent Apple Watch3 has the simplest, most comprehensive heart monitoring software for the price. While I've not seriously considered an Apple Watch before, being able to show a doctor a series of ECG charts to aid in a diagnosis could very well mitigate future problems.

More research is required.

Green Fingers

Earlier today I was out in the yard, pulling weeds from the ground, and thinking about what sorts of plants I'd like to see added this year. Both Reiko and I agree that we'd like to have a tree, though it's location is still a topic of debate, and we'd like to have a small vegetable garden. What struck me today was how much I enjoyed being down at ground level to make the small plot of land around our house a little more presentable. While I don't know anything about taking care of flowers, bushes, and trees4, I would be interested in learning. Heck, this might be a good excuse to learn a new set of Japanese words. My speaking ability has seriously degraded over the last year or so as a result of working from home.

Pulled Strings

Last week the Mazda broke down and we were told to go rent a car5 for the month or so that the vehicle would be in the shop, awaiting a new transmission and ECU from Hiroshima. The best deal I could find for a month-long rental was about $32006, which is simply out of the question given that most non-commercial vehicles sit parked for the vast majority of every day. As a result, the family and I have resorted to using the bus when travelling more than 3km. This isn't impossible, though it does increase complexity when trying to plan around bus schedules and walking speeds.

Imagine my surprise when we received an email on Friday saying that a courtesy vehicle has been found and that we can use it for a couple of weeks. Last night around 9:00pm we received a "Plain Jane" Mazda Flair. This is very much appreciated, as it gives Reiko something to drive to work.

Excessive Footnotes

Sometimes when I see the number of footnotes at the end of my blog posts7, I wonder why I don't just write "mini-posts" that say the same thing as the footnote (with more detail and perhaps some pictures), and link to that. Occasionally these annotations are little more than digressions, but sometimes these could be expanded out into a post of their own. By going the route of having a series of detailed mini-posts, it becomes possible to have multiple blog posts pointing to the same reference point without there being a need for copy/paste. More than this, any update to the mini-post would benefit any future reader who might follow the link.

But then a blog might become a …

Personal Wiki

There are almost 100,000 items on matigo.ca going back to 20068, when I actually thought that a Synology box sitting on top of my fridge would be sufficient to run a website. A lot of blog posts have links to previous articles. Some social posts link to blog posts. Many social posts link to other posts across the system. The more I think about it, the more I wonder when a personal website tips the scale from being a traditional blog, to a non-collaborative — or semi-collaborative — wiki. Properly structured, a wiki would be an interesting way to catalogue a life.

This concept will need just a little more thought to organize.


  1. Not sure why, but documentaries on Nostradamus and future predictions always fascinated me as a kid.

  2. These are generally worn for 24~36 hours and not much longer. Hospitals can't just hand heart monitors out like they do prescriptions.

  3. The Series 4 Apple Watch is the most recent model as of the time of this post.

  4. I grew up on a vegetable farm, so know how to work with all the standard veggies one might find in a North American house. We had pine, maple, and willow trees across the property, but these were either for decoration or have been growing since before Canada was a country. My mum did try to have flowers a couple of times, but they tended to get lost in the weeds pretty quick.

  5. Generally people get discounted rates through their auto insurance provider if they signed up for this benefit, which increases the cost of insurance by about $60 a year. We chose to not get the coverage given that the car was essentially new and that car problems generally don't result in being without a vehicle for 30+ days. Oops.

  6. The estimate was 363,500円 for the smallest car with zero features.

  7. I say this knowing full well that this blog post has an arguably excessive number of footnotes as well.

  8. I don't count the very first chronological post as a start date for anything but my life outside the womb.

Five Things

The weather this weekend was so nice that men over sixty were wearing winter jackets, people under 40 were wearing jeans and a light jacket, and kids were wearing as little as their parents allowed. As one would expect, the family and I managed to spend a good bit of the daylight hours outside. While the boy was not always happy with what was going on at any particular moment, he did greatly enjoy playing in the 7-Eleven-sized sandbox at a park not too far away. Lots of pictures were taken, and I even managed to get some great shots thanks to the fast shutter speed of the Canon DSLR. The summer humidity is not far off, so we're trying to enjoy as much time outside as we can beforehand.

Weather report aside, it's time for another list of things that don't necessarily warrant a blog post. First up …

The $300 CD

There used to be a popular music store in Ontario called Sam the Record Man that would often import albums from around the world. In the fall of 2000, Hamasaki Ayumi's 3rd studio album Duty was released to much fanfare, and I wanted a real copy, not just the decent-quality MP3s from Napster. So on the week of the release I called ahead to confirm the store had stock of the CD and asked that one be set aside for me, and I would be up on Saturday morning. On Friday I rented a car from the nearby Budget and invited a friend to join me on the 2-hour drive from Hamilton to Toronto to pick up a CD from Japan.

Young people have so much time on their hands.

The drive up was probably uneventful as I don't remember much about it. When we arrived at the music shop I went up to the counter and asked if they had my CD on hand. The clerk checked and, as one would expect when a young person calls a store asking that something be set aside, the CD was not waiting for me. Fortunately there were still two discs in stock and I picked up the coveted album for the insane price of $44.95 CAD, which was before the 15% tax was applied. Of course, as I had rented a car and drove for two hours just to get this CD, I didn't stop at just one Japanese import disc. I bought three: the aforementioned Duty album, a TM Revolution album, and a compilation from Neon Genesis Evangelion.

Not only was I young, foolish, and employed, I was stupid, too. All in all, the three discs came out to a little over $100, making the trip to Toronto come in at around $300 in total. Did I enjoy the drive? Absolutely. Did I enjoy the CD? Very much so, as I still listen to it today … on Spotify. Would I do something like this again? Probably not for music or some sort of collector's item.

Not the Target Audience

April is considered the start of the year in Japan for schools, TV shows, and a number of businesses that prefer fiscal years not follow calendar years. This year a number of shows that the boy likes to watch have seen regular cast members go and new people join. Animated shows such as Thomas and Friends has also started another season, with the voice actors the boy and I have come to know reprising their roles. There's just one problem: I strongly dislike the changes. Especially when it comes to Thomas and Friends.

The boy disagrees. He loves the changes. I haven't heard him laugh this much when watching his programs ever. Clearly I'm not the target audience, and that's fine. So long as the boy is happy, then my opinions on the matter are less than inconsequential.

Power Napping

In an effort to try and regain some semblance of sanity, I've decided to invest some time in power naps throughout the day. For the moment it's just five to ten minutes in the afternoon, but may try to squeeze in ten minutes after 4:00pm as well. With a slightly more rested mind, better things will happen … like being able to stay awake during meetings.

The Sound of Processing

Sleeping in the same room as the 10C server1 means I get to hear when the system is doing some heavier lifting. What's interesting is hearing the system and the hard drives work when it comes time to do the hourly and daily backups2. There's a certain rhythm to each backup and I've already worked out the sounds of a healthy backup.

I wonder if people who work at data centres also train their ears to catch anomalies.

Pre-Pre-Kindergarten

Tomorrow will be a big day for the boy as a nearby kindergarten opens its gates to neighbourhood children who will start attending school for half a day starting April 2020. There are three kindergartens in the area and we're not yet 100% certain which school would be best for him, so tomorrow's open house will be an interesting opportunity to see the facilities, the teachers, and how the boy reacts to everything. He's not particularly comfortable in areas with a whole lot of foot traffic, but kindergartens should be different given the size of the feet.

With just one week remaining before most of the country shuts down to celebrate the series of national holidays and the new emperor's coronation, it will be interesting to see how much work gets thrown my way. Given the amount of overtime that I've been clocking the last couple of weeks, I fully expect managers to start stepping in and asking that I do much, much less.

This is assuming, of course, that managers at the day job start to manage.


  1. My snoring is keeping people awake, so it's better if I sleep in a different room for the time being.

  2. The database is backed up hourly and the files are done daily. Spinning disks are used to store uploaded data while SSDs are used for the databases.

Five Things

After a frantic couple of days last week, I managed to carve out a two hour period this afternoon to just get out of the house, sit on a mountain, and listen to a podcast with my eyes closed. The forecasted rain was nowhere near as strong as predicted, making the isolation quite enjoyable1.

This next week is going to see me work on several important updates to four of my active projects, all of which are built on the same software powering this site. A little bit of me time was necessary, and it also gave me plenty to think about, including:

Planet Hoph

Planet Hopf

I just learned about this representation of the Hopf fibration today. I would have appreciated this 20 years ago when I studied differential topologies, as it would have saved a week or two of WTF? moments.

Thanatophobic?

Far too much of my time (on a human sale) is spent thinking about time on a grand scale and it’s implications. As of this moment, every living entity that we know of on the earth is equally mortal. Some may experience more seasons than others, but we will all return to the earth at some point. Earlier today when I was thinking about Nozomi’s eventual passing I was reminded that I’m not at all afraid of my eventual death, but that if others. When I die, that will be the end of me. I’ve done what I can to ensure family will be taken care of2. It might not be easy for some members of family, but there won’t be anything I can do about it. If others pass away before me, though, then they’re forever in my memory but forever gone. I’ve lived 40 years and only been to one funeral. Silly as it sounds, I am not at all sure how I will react when a close member of my family, be they human or otherwise, passes away. It really bothers me.

Not Appropriation

We can’t seem to go more than a dozen minutes without there being some group of people “voicing concerns” about cultural appropriation and how it’s detrimental to the uniqueness and vibrancy of cultures and civilizations. As an immigrant to Asia, I wonder how much of Japan’s culture I’ve appropriated and whether it’s a bad thing, given that I’m from Canada with dozens of generations of ancestry that hails from England, Ireland, and France.

I have a very Japanese work ethic, often resulting in warnings from family and colleagues about 過労死, which literally means “dying from overwork”. Is this cultural appropriation? Should I feel bad about myself?

I eat with chop sticks and generally stay away from silverware unless buttering toast or eating yogurt. Is this cultural appropriation? Should I feel bad about myself?

I speak, read, and write Japanese to a certain degree. Enough to buy a house and live day to day in the country, anyway. Language is very much a part of culture, so have I appropriated it from native-born Japanese people and sullied it for my own gains? Is this appropriation and should I feel bad about myself?

Or is the entire “cultural appropriation” argument just a straw man for something much deeper that people are unaware of or unable to adequately articulate?

I’ve lived a very Japanese life for much longer than I’ve lived in this country. Ever since I read about the country in the Collier’s Encyclopedia set my father bought when I was young the nation, it’s people, it’s history, and it’s culture have been absolutely fascinating to me. So much so that I boldly said to my parents at the age of 14 that I would live in Japan one day. And here I am. Have I appropriated the culture? No. I have assimilated it and, by doing so, have an appreciation for a lot of what’s been learned. I emulate the parts of the culture that align with my existing beliefs, and I avoid the things I have no interest in.

People have been doing this since before we left the trees. Cultures evolve and borrow from one another. Most of the appropriation arguments that I’ve read, admittedly on left-leaning websites, seem to believe that cultures should operate in complete isolation and be practised only by those with a genetic link to its history, which is pretty much impossible and a recipe for disaster3.

Rain on the Window

Last Friday marked one year since the family moved into our new house, and it’s been quite a step up from our previous living arrangements. One of the more interesting things that I’ve enjoyed about living in this house is the sound of the weather as it hits the exterior walls and windows. Regardless of how windy the day is, it sounds as though a gentle breeze is caressing the siding. Heavy rains sound like the gentle refilling of a modern toilet: water that’s running, but in no hurry.

It’s lovely to just sit back and listen to the house … when the boy is sleeping and background noise is eliminated.

6:15am

This seems to be the new time for the boy to wake up and instantly start talking. If I wasn’t consistently working until 1-to-2 o’clock in the morning, then this wouldn’t be a problem. Unfortunately running on just four hours of sleep a day catches up to a person. How do parents of multiple children manage to work and sleep? Is it a myth that parents get any sleep at all?


  1. The mountain I enjoy sitting on is in the middle of a park. When it rains, the whole area is pretty much deserted aside from a few stragglers like me who just want to enjoy the quiet. There are covered gazebos at various points as well, which makes sitting in the rain possible, so long as it’s not a “Vancouver drizzle”, as the only protection from that is not going outside at all.

  2. In the event of a natural death the mortgage will be paid off, Reiko will receive $150K in cash plus the cost of any funeral, and the boy will get $75K. In the event of an accidental death, the insurance payouts are tripled.

  3. Cultures (and languages) that don’t evolve tend to disappear.

Five Things

Yesterday the family and I enjoyed a picnic at a popular park in Nagoya, travelling 55 minutes each way. As one would expect during cherry blossom season, there were thousands of people in attendance making all kinds of noise and generally enjoying themselves. Despite the splitting headache and momentary anxiety rush, the trip was a complete success. Everyone enjoyed the time together.

This morning Reiko learned that a children’s theme park not too far from here was going to have a show featuring ワンワン1, one of the boy’s favourite TV characters. Throwing caution to the wind with a second consecutive day out in a sea of humanity, we quickly got ready and drove to 犬山市2. The weather was gorgeous, though a little hot at times when the 27°C temperatures felt more like 37°C. That said, it wasn’t too bad, which made standing in line to see the show a little more bearable.

Waiting in Line at Japan Monkey Park

Today’s adventure turned out to be better than yesterday’s, though the boy was clearly in need of a nap at certain points this afternoon. One observation I had today while watching other parents try to coral and herd their children is that adults tend to have a bit more fun at these sorts of events than the kids … which is both relieving and weird.

Preamble aside, it’s time to get on with the list!

Bare Bums

A lot of parents seem to have no qualms with changing their child’s diaper in plain view when there are potentially dozens or hundreds of spectators. Regardless of how often I see a parent quickly go through the well-practiced motions of changing a dirty diaper in public, I still find it a bit odd given how such things are strongly frowned upon in Canada.

Muscle Mass

Over the last two years my arms have gotten much stronger. There was a time when I thought that, after carrying her for a kilometre or two, Nozomi was a heavy puppy. She’s been consistently around 4.5Kg since 2013. Today I was carrying the boy in one arm, his stroller with various drinks and whatnot, and a bag with other necessary items while walking 700m from the parking lot to the park. Reiko estimated that this was about 20Kg in total, which I managed to do without dropping anything or stopping to rest.

Parents have to become strong if they are to succeed, it seems.

Shattered Screens

Something I observed a lot this weekend is the condition of people’s cell phones. It seemed that anyone with a child under the age of five had a phone with a shattered screen held together with a “screen protector” that was more a finger protector than anything else. While I can appreciate the advantages of using glass on a touch device, I do wonder why plastic is not a viable option for people to choose. Life happens and technology is subjected to a great deal of abuse. Colour matching is generally suboptimal with plastic screens but, given the number of people with shattered screens or visibility-blocking films on their glass devices, accurate colour rendering may not be as important as some manufacturers think.

Pervasive Pollen

Despite the heroic efforts of the allergy medicine, the incredible amount of pollen in the air has meant that I get to sneeze and cough just slightly less than I might if I weren’t relying on an antihistamine. Fortunately there are just seven months to go before the next winter season begins.

Silenced Sirens

It’s been a little more than a week since I’ve ditched a bunch of news sources for being undeniably biased in their reporting. This leaves just eight sources of news in my life, four of which are focused on technology. All in all, I’ve been quite happy with the change. While the lack of reading angry articles everyday will take some getting used to, this has proven incredibly good for the mind. Some echo chambers are harder to identify than others.

Tomorrow is the start to another workweek for a lot of people. Let’s make it a good one.


  1. ワンワン is read as “wan-wan”, which is equivalent to “woof-woof” in English.

  2. 犬山市 is read as “Inuyama-shi”, or “Inuyama City”. Fun fact, 犬 means “dog”, and 山 means “mountain”. We went to “dog mountain city” to see a person dressed in a dog costume named “woof-woof” … and Nozomi, a real dog, couldn’t join us.