One of the very first podcasts I regularly listened to was The Talk Show, hosted by Dan Benjamin and John Gruber. Within a few months this list had grown to include Back to Work with Merlin Mann, Hypercritical with Jon Siracusa, and Build and Analyze with Marco Arment. All of these shows were hosted on the budding 5by5 podcasting network, and they all had similar themes depending on the time of year. A number of podcasting networks have come and gone since then. Some have evolved. Some have stagnated. But the wonderful thing about these shows is that just about anyone can make them so long as they put in the time and effort.

Podcasts I Listen To

Over the last few months I have not been speaking into the microphone very often, though I have been producing a bunch of Japanese shows that are starting to see some mild success in terms of downloads. Many of these shows have several thousand downloads per episode, and a few have even been approached by companies who are looking for advertisement reads. A wonderful sign of success.

That said, I miss having my own shows. Ones where it's my voice that's going out on the Internet. The issue comes down to a lack of time, and this lack of time has resulted in a number of the projects I want to work on taking a back seat to responsibilities that must be taken care of. All this is fair enough, but I still look forward to the day when I can get behind the microphone again and start putting out my own shows.

But on what subject?

There are a number of show ideas that have been put down on paper over the last few months, but few seem to have a shelf life beyond six or seven episodes. Some of the show ideas include:

  • having a kid in Japan
  • buying a house in Japan
  • a picture and 1000 words1
  • interviewing Japanese podcasters

These are all things that I'm pretty much doing right now, though not as a podcast. Would any of these appeal to me long enough to invest the time into? The first two show ideas would be for others rather than myself, which is fine. Sharing information of this kind could be incredibly useful to expatriate parents who call Japan their home. Is it something that can carry for an entire year, though? The last show idea is essentially Show Me Your Mic but with a focus on the Japanese podcast community. The show wouldn't make sense to put out in English, though, as the podcasters would not really grow their listener base.

This third idea, though, is something I've unsuccessfully been trying to build into 10C as a feature called "Places". I say it's unsuccessful because the feature is not yet released and is not fully conceptualized. There are some gaps in the tool to make this something people might be interested in, though it's most certainly an "art project". As a podcast, it would involve taking a single photo of a place, and sharing that with a short audio description describing what is not in the picture. This could be historical references, common uses, or what popular location it's adjacent to. Theatre of the mind, so to speak.

Is this something people would listen to, though? Of the four show ideas, this is the one that I would find most interesting, even if the show didn't break 100 downloads per episode. One of the things that I tend to see online is a focus on what people can see, rather than what they cannot. Going in a different direction from what's expected would be quite unique, I think.

But then there's the time issue. Where would the time come from?

If something is important enough, a person will make the time to do that thing. The question I need to ask myself is whether this is important or not, and go from there.

  1. this is something I've considered for the longest amount of time, as it sounds like an interesting idea. Take a picture of an area and, in 1000 words, describe what's not in the picture to give the image context.

How Many Klicks?

Typhoons are on the way and the summer heat has finally started to become a little more tolerable as autumn makes itself known. Of the many things I've looked forward to with this change of season, getting outside and just walking is one item I've wanted to do for months. Walking may not be the fastest way to get from place to place, but it's certainly one of the more enjoyable ways. Not only do we get a little fresh air and exercise, but something that I feel is missing from our lives: an appreciation for details.

Walking in Rural Chiba

When I talk to people who drive everywhere about various elements of a city, I'm often surprised by how little people seem to know about the area. Someone might say "I wish there was a bakery close by" and I'd respond with "Oh, there's one right beside the pharmacy not two blocks from here" only to hear "There's a pharmacy around here?" It seems that when people are behind the wheel of a vehicle their attention is elsewhere1 and a lot of the little gems of a place are completely missed. This is to be expected, of course.

On weekends I like to get out of the house for a few hours to walk somewhere new and travel down unfamiliar roads. This can sometimes lead to some dead ends and awkward moments as people wonder why a foreign guy is heading towards a building at the end of a dirt path, but it's a great opportunity to see things that many local residents simply don't. I used to do the same when living in Canada, too, travelling by foot when time permitted so that I could better appreciate an area. Over the last few years I've met some friendly people who love nothing more than to talk about their neighbourhood, and I've brought Nozomi to a few of these places as well so that she could enjoy some time outside in a new location. I hope to do this again this year before the winter chill makes the ground too cold for her paws.

But as for me, I hope to get back into my daily walking pattern. The pedometer should read 10,000 steps every night during the week, and almost double on the weekends. Depending on the weather and lighting, some of the pictures I take while on the journey may even wind up here … which is something I should do more often.

  1. Hopefully on the road.

Kashiwa's Field of Dreams?

A Snowy Field In Japan With Footsteps …

This field is directly in front of my house, and has been fallow since the wife and I moved to 柏市. A farmer will come along every two months to till the soil and, aside from this, there is never a human seen on this relatively large plot of land. Considering how people tend to use each spare bit of ground to grow vegetables around the cities in Japan, I've wondered why this particular field has been left empty for so long. Thanks to yesterday's dusting of snow, it seems the answer has presented itself: the field is haunted.

It is not uncommon to see footsteps on this field after it has been tilled, after a rainfall, or after it snows. What is uncommon, though, is a set of footsteps that reach all the way across the field. We can see that four sets of prints are leading from the middle of the field and no further. This clearly indicates only one of two possibilities:

  • people stand in the middle of the field for great lengths of time, then leave the area only after the soil looks untouched
  • the exit from Hotel California has been found
  • ghosts of deceased baseball players return to Earth to play the game they love

The first two are about as absurd as homeopathy, so that leaves only the third explanation … right?

An Accident Waiting To Happen

Walking the Dog Never Looked So Easy

Walking the dog never looked so easy.

Does Instagram Make My Bad Photos Worse?

One of the most popular iPhone applications for the last half of 2010 was Instagram, a photo sharing program that would allow us to easily share images on various social networks while also providing the unique freedom of applying specific image filters before uploading.  This unique feature put the free application ahead of other photo sharing programs, earning well over a million installations before the bell struck midnight on New Year's Day.  However, there's been a nagging complaint from those who view photography not as a casual pass time, but a serious hobby or profession that should be treated with respect. Some have even gone so far as to say that Instagram let's us take our already awful photos and make them into something worse before sharing with the world. But is this true?

I decided to put this to the test using a 4th Generation iPod Touch, which is not known for its photo quality.  Heck, the iPod Touch has perhaps one of the worst cameras on any Apple product, being a fixed-focus device incapable of trapping as many photons as The Steve showed the iPhone 4 collecting. Nevertheless, by using a lower-quality camera we may still be able to see a pattern of badness that can answer this question once and for all.

Doutor Coffee

Doutor Coffee (Original)Doutor Coffee (Instagram)

As we can see in the original image, the photo quality isn't all that great. This is particularly true for images taken in places with very low light. Luckily, poor visibility can often be hidden with low resolution images. Does the Instagram filtered image look better? Well, it certainly looks more vintage….


Sleepy Nozomi (Original)Sleepy Nozomi (Instagram)

Next we can see のんちゃん is trying to get some sleep, but I'm preventing her from doing so thanks to an ever-present camera being pointed in her general direction. Which image looks better?

Blue Sky Over Kashiwa

Blue Skies Over Kashiwa (Original)Blue Skies Over Kashiwa (Instagram)

Here we have a picture that was taken outdoors at around one in the afternoon. As you can see, the sky was a wonderful shade of blue, and the sun was providing plenty of photons towards that fixed-focus camera. Did it make a difference, or is the Instagram-processed image superior? Like the Doutor image above, it certainly looks much older than it is ….

For me, it doesn't much matter if Instagram makes my low-quality images look worse or not. My iPod Touch will never have a camera worth using for serious photography, and the iPhone likely won't have an amazing image sensor until the sixth or seventh generation. Higher quality cameras are likely something Apple is seriously looking into as they compete with Android more, but it's likely something that will slowly evolve over time. For this reason, I see tools like Instagram to be simply a stepping stone for the developing firm as they raise capital for other projects or aim to get bought out for some ludicrous amount of cash … all the while giving people the opportunity to take their less-than-professional fun shots and turn them into seemingly timeless classics without the quarter-century wait.

Many applications take a very serious approach to solving a problem, but this isn't one of them. To say the app shouldn't have had so much success is just crazy, considering how popular gag apps that deal with bodily functions have enjoyed more downloads for a greater amount of time.

What's your take on Instagram? Does it make our photos worse? Better? Neither? I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Into The Sunset

Into the Sunset

The Mrs. and I were making our regular trek around the neighborhood when this lovely image came into view.  Oddly enough, my cell phone was able to take this shot without turning out horrendously off color or out of focus.  Oh, to have a cell phone with a camera capable of clear shots in low light conditions….