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.

From Letters Into Words

The boy knows how to read hiragana, the first Japanese character set children learn here, and can recognize most of them with a high degree of accuracy — even if it's a handwritten scrawl. Watching him absorb this information has been incredibly interesting and now he's beginning to put the skill to use by reading individual sounds and realizing they make a word. He's able to read simple road signs like とまれ1 and can get through some of the pages in borrowed library books. Judging from the frequency and energy put into his singing, the boy has also known his ABCs for several months. Reading English books has proven to be more difficult for him, but there are definite signs of improvement.

Mr Men Books

One of the many routines that both of us look forward to every day is the bedtime stories. When the evening shower is complete, the teeth are brushed, the toys put away, and Mommy is hugged, we go to the bookshelf upstairs and choose two books2 to read. Once he's in his bed and ready, he chooses which book to read first and I tell him the story; complete with different voices for all of the characters. The Mr. Men series has been among his favourite books recently, with Mr. Greedy and Mr. Nosey taking top spots followed closely by many of the first ten books3.

The boy has a pretty good memory for food and books and can name most edible foods in both English and Japanese after eating it just once. With books, he'll remember the story almost instantly and begin saying back some of the more memorable sentences verbatim. However, since he started to read Hiragana, he's been exploring words in the books. This week he's even started to do this with English despite the complexity of pronunciation4. To say that I'm happy is an understatement.

Even after the boy starts to read books on his own, there will still be a desire for bedtime stories. We both look forward to this chance to relax and there's no reason to stop until he feels he's "too old" for such activities. However, being able to read is going to open so many doors for the boy that I can't help but feel excited for him. There are a lot of stories to read. Far more than anyone could possibly hope to get through. Being young and inexperienced, he'll be able to read a story and feel surprised when there's a twist. He'll get to explore the classics and begin to visualize what the world was like before he was born. He'll have the chance to go on epic journeys with protagonists who start out as shy innocents and return home as wise adventurers. Sure, I can read these books, too, but I've read thousands of stories over my lifetime and can spot the patterns and upcoming plot twists rather early. There's much less surprise. The boy gets to experience the joy from our common stories for the first time.

If the boy does develop a taste for reading, I'll do what I can to maintain the thirst for more books. A lot of adults I talk to haven't finished reading a book in years. I generally get through two or three every week. My goal as a parent will be to ensure my son lands somewhere between these two extremes for his entire life. A person who likes to read likes to use their head. Nothing will be more valued in the future than the ability to think.


  1. This is typically seen as 止まれ, with the initial character being in kanji to more accurately let people know they should stop. However, in areas with a large number of families, the simpler form will be found painted near crosswalks.

  2. While the goal is for him to be content after two books, he generally wants to read every book in the house twice. To maintain some semblance of sanity, I've limited him to 3 books that I'll read to him, and 2 books that he can bring into bed.

  3. The first Mr. Men book I read was way back in 1985. I was six years old and wanted to read Mr. Bounce after the school librarian read it to the class. Why the brain remembers stuff like this, I'll never know.

  4. Japanese characters have just one pronunciation. English, of course, has lots of different ways to say vowels depending on what and where they are in a word.

Mario's Castle

There's a park not too far from my home that the boy and I enjoy going to once or twice a week. This particular play area has a lot of the standard equipment that one would expect to see in a place designed for children, such as swings, slides, and see-saws. What makes this place unique, though, is its "Mario Castle".

Hill Park

At the top of a hill is a castle with red bricks. There are tunnels underneath, ladders that take you to the top, and a 30-metre slide that will bring a person down to the walking path below. Whether this glorious fort is actually called Mario's Castle is up for debate, but this is the name that I call it given that it reminds me a lot of the castle in Super Mario Brothers for the NES.

Another Look at Mario's Castle

In front of the castle is an elaborate play area that includes a number of slides, tubes, rope bridges, and even a zip-line. All the things that I would have absolutely loved had there been something like this around my home when growing up. Fortunately I can take advantage of my role as a parent to act like a kid. The boy and I are often the only people under 50 in the park when we visit, as most kids would be in school at the time. This gives us free reign on all of the equipment.

Slides and Tubes

One of the many things that I find interesting about being 40 is that I don't feel 40. My muscles and joints do not ache nearly as much as my parents said theirs ached at my age. I can still run and jog for several minutes before breaking a sweat. Climbing isn't an issue, nor is lifting my body up onto a rope bridge from below … which is something that would probably result in a broken leg if I didn't do it right. Generally I believe my body to be healthier and in better shape today then it was when I was in my 20s1, which makes it easier to keep up with the boy as he runs from place to place, packing as much fun into every 60-second block of time as possible.

This year in our adventures, the boy and I have visited 17 parks around the neighbourhood (and surrounding neighbourhoods). This one here, with Mario's Castle, is by far our favourite. One day we'll need to drag Reiko along and have a nice picnic under one of the lush trees.


  1. There are a lot of differences between my body today and my body 20 years ago, such as the amount and type of food that I can consume in one sitting. For the most part, though, it's better.

At the Zoo

Before today, the last time I was at a zoo would have been at some point before 1991. The exact date is long forgotten, as school trips tend to be about experiences more than anything else, but I do remember the smell of the school bus and the ceaseless noise of classmates who were way too happy to be on a field trip. This changed today when Reiko and I decided to bring the boy to the Higashiyama Zoo in Nagoya, where he would get to see a bunch of animals up close for the very first time.

Nagoya's Higashiyama Zoo - East Gate

This spring has seen the boy get quite a bit of exposure to crowded places, which he's long been uncomfortable with. At first it was weekly trips to the mall, where he would get to eat in a busy place with an endless number of distractions. Later we brought him to busy park grounds where he'd get to share space and toys with others. Last weekend we brought him to the アンパンマンミュージアム1 in the next prefecture over, where he seemed to enjoy himself thoroughly. Today's visit to the zoo was going to be a continuation of the boy's introduction to life in Japan, and it couldn't have gone better.

A lot of young kids can be quite quiet and shy when out and about. This has certainly been true with the boy, who is unrestrained and loud at home or in the car but silent and reserved when in public. However, over the last couple of day trips, he's been able to loosen up and enjoy himself while visiting new places. He loves to dance and sing, so seeing him do this outside is a good sign.

One of the other benefits of having him explore a crowd is seeing just how different he is from other kids. I sometimes get frustrated with his desire to touch darn near everything he sees, but the fact that he doesn't throw objects, (intentionally) spill food on the floor, or cause trouble is a great thing. He sees other kids jumping off chairs and fighting over some small object and tells them — to no effect — to stop. At some point he'll likely start testing the boundaries of what he can get away with while outside, just as he does at home. Until then, I'll enjoy his good behaviour and look forward to bringing him to more places.


  1. The Anpanman Kid's Museum, which is more a place for parents to spend money than for kids to learn anything.

Different

A nearby kindergarten held a little bit of an open house today as part of their regular efforts to recruit students for the next school year. Working from home means that instead of relying solely on Reiko's judgement for which school the boy should attend1, I can visit the schools and act as a second set of eyes. More than this, I attended a French-Immersion kindergarten in Ontario. There's no way I can pretend to know what goes on in a Japanese school unless I see for myself.

And see, I did.

The basics of kindergarten are all the same as I remember from 37 years ago. The playground is large and well-trodden. There are toys strewn all over the place until the teachers come along to pick them up. Teachers work in teams of two for classes larger than 25 kids2. The facilities are generally locked down to prevent weirdos from coming in. A rabbit is sitting in a cage outside, generally enjoying not being bothered by children. There's nothing sharp anywhere.

The differences stood out like a sore thumb. There was nudity.

At first I thought this was that sort of "silly nudity" where a young child will take their pants off for a joke or just to get a reaction out of a teacher. But then I saw a second child without pants. Then a third. Then a fourth. In a classroom of at least 25, a good number of kids — both boys and girls — were running around half-clothed. Some kids chanted "がんばれ!" while others went into a small room. Some were watching the group of 10 parents who were walking through the school.

"Before classes go out for a walk, children are encouraged to go to the bathroom. For children who are not completely potty trained, this is a reassuring way for them to learn."
— the lead teacher guiding the group

Maybe this is something I just don't remember but, to the best of my knowledge, there was never a "potty activity" when I was in school. Kids would sometimes have accidents and that would cause a bit of a problem, of course, but this was completely new to me. Reiko was also a little surprised to see it as it wasn't done at her kindergarten, either. My reticence to having teachers encourage my kid to take his pants off in front of a group may be due to a Christian upbringing in Canada, where nudity is "shameful" and must never be done ever, ever … but I'd really much rather the boy not get into a state of undress in front of his classmates or teachers.

A moment later we moved on to the next part of the tour where we went up to the roof of the school3, where another class was putting their hands or feet into shallow buckets of paint before stepping on large sheets of paper. The kids were having a lot of fun on the roof, but I had to question why they weren't in a classroom with air conditioning. The roof was at least 30 degrees in direct sunlight, which was certainly a bit warm for me.

It's different.

All in all, the school looked like a decent place for the students that we saw and most of the parents seemed happy with everything they heard. Would I be comfortable sending the boy there? Not completely. While the rooftop activities would be fine on a cooler day, I'm not at all keen on dealing with heat stroke. I've had that twice before, and it's no picnic4. As for nudity? I'm really not comfortable with this.

There are three other schools that Reiko, the boy, and I will be checking out over the coming months. One of the three will likely not even warrant a visit as the reviews online are all negative, with most mothers complaining about the lack of learning their kids are doing. The other two, however, show some promise.


  1. I would be completely fine with this, as Reiko has been a teacher for her entire professional life. She knows what to look for in educators and institutions. That said, what's the point of working from home if I cannot actively participate in the boy's development?

  2. I can barely manage to stay sane with just one kid. How do kindergarten teachers manage to do what they do?

  3. School roofs are generally evacuation areas for neighbourhoods in times of flood, so there are strong fences and safeties in place to ensure nobody falls off. This is quite different from the schools I attended in Canada, where the roof was pretty much "off limits" and impossible to get to.

  4. Funny story about heat stroke. When I was 17 I was out playing baseball for about 11 hours on a sunny Saturday. That night I went to bed and woke up Monday afternoon. Apparently my sisters couldn't wake me no matter what they tried. Wait … that wasn't funny ….

Mornings in the Park

Warmer temperatures have made the mornings a lot more enjoyable over the last two weeks and this has resulted in longer walks with the boy and, more often than not, Reiko as well. In addition to the fresh air and exercise, these walks are an excellent opportunity to explore the neighbourhood together. The boy is as curious as anyone his age would be, which means there are new discoveries and a barrage of questions every couple of minutes … or seconds. Fortunately he does stop for air every once in a while, which allows me to make use of the nice Canon camera.

The Boy Surveys the Park

As one would expect, Nozomi is also enjoying the springtime weather. Over the next few weeks her winter coat will begin to shed, which will make her appear younger, thinner, and much cooler. Time permitting, she'll also get a proper trim.

Nozomi in the Park

With two days of idyllic weather forecasted for the weekend, Reiko and I have made some tentative plans for a pair of picnics. One day we'll go to a nearby park with a large number of cherry trees and ample space for the boy to run. The other day we'll make the trip up to Inuyama to enjoy the park surrounding the castle with the in-laws. Camera batteries will be charged. Memory cards will be prepped and ready to go.

This weekend is going to be fun.

The First Month

It's been a month since the family and I moved into our new home and, like so many time-related milestones as of late, it feels both longer and shorter than the actual time that's passed. Short, because 30 days can pass in the blink of an eye as a person with all the responsibilities and expectations that come with adulthood. Long because a year of house design, construction, and planning can mess up a person's perception of being at a place. Everything is far from perfect but, all in all, this has been a very positive move for the family.

The Park

One of the biggest perks of the new home is proximity to a very well-maintained public park. The places that Nozomi and I used to frequent these past seven years would see a landscaping crew come by three to four times per year, meaning that the grass would often be tall for most of the year with collections of garbage under many of the bushes thanks to litterers and weather patterns. Here, though, it seems there are neighbourhood groups that take turns cleaning the public space every Sunday. More than this, the vast majority of dog-walkers here actually pick up after their pets! Nozomi is certainly enjoying this new place to explore.

Nozomi's Smile

The boy also likes going out to the park, walking along the paths, and touching anything he can get his hands on. With my new role at the day job — if it can be called such anymore — I'll be working with people in different time zones a lot more often. This means that I'll have the opportunity to work from home a great deal more than in the past, making it possible to bring my son out to this park to learn more about the world around him. It's interesting to watch him explore everything for the first time, as I've come to take things like leaves, sand, and discarded stones as they are. For him, though, all of these things are unfamiliar and interesting.

Which raises a couple of questions. While the boy is exploring the park, I'm often watching his reactions as he tries to piece language and objects together. He's just 15 months old and already walking up and down stairs, hills, picking up sticks that are long and awkward, and all the other things that kids will do while learning about their own boundaries and quickly surpassing them. I will not over-protect him while he's discovering some of what this world has, as I fully expect he'll fall or injure himself from time to time. These are important lessons to learn. But I do wonder whether I'm too relaxed about him doing stuff from time to time. I see other parents worry and fret over just about everything … but that can't be good for either party.

I will watch to make sure the boy does not do anything that'll break bones or leave a mark, but I want him to understand that the world is here to explore, enjoy, and share with others, be they human or something else entirely.

Hopefully the next 300 months are as enjoyable as this first one has been, though I know there will be trials ahead.