• For the past month I’ve been thinking about getting a bike. I wanted something with that wasn’t a cruiser like our electric assist mama-chari. Something a bit more sporty but not a road bike…a cross bike. I found a nice blue and white Giant Escape for ¥35,000 (about $350) at a local used goods shop in Totsuka. It already had fenders on it too, as an added bonus.

IMG 4595

  • Since the weather’s been so nice (it is spring) we took our bikes for a long ride along Sakaigawa with our goal being Iida-farm. We took the scenic route, which was a bit longer at 12km. Iida-farm is a small dairy farm with an attached gelato shop that’s popular with cyclists along Sakaigawa. Me and Leo shared a milk gelato and it was great.
  • My dad got his second shot of Pfizer and Japan has just started vaccinating the elderly. With a 4th wave apparently starting, I really wish they’d pick up the pace.
  • I haven’t had as much time (or energy) for working on Tanzawa this past week. Part of it is I’m using/saving my energy for work as we’re approaching a deadline. The other part of it is writing the WordPress import code just isn’t fun. I’ve got the import code written and working, I just need to run it through my posts to discover the edge cases I’m not handling and handle them. I think I’m fine leaving a proper polished UI for another day.
  • Jeff analyzed all the Airbot data for 2020 and submitted a PR to adjust the values so it tweets for the top 0.5% threshold. It already appears to be tweeting more! Certainly more than it has the past month (TCEQ blocked our scraper’s ip address again – a simple snapshop and restore of the server on a new droplet and we’re back in business).
Cycling is ten times more important than electric cars for reaching net-zero cities by Christian BrandChristian Brand (theconversation.com)

We’ve been using our electric assist “mama-chari” a lot more recently. I’ve been taking it to a local coffee shop that I’d usually walk (15 minutes) or drive (5 minutes)to and it’s been great. My wife has been taking it to her parent’s house (5.5km away) where I’d either drive them round trip or we’d take the train. Travel time ends up being about the same regardless of the method of transport we take.

What I like the most about cycling is how you can travel quickly and you’re not disconnected from your environment like you are with a car. It feels more human.

  • Another big week in the Van Dyne household. After 3 years (mostly by-choice) my wife is re-joining the workforce. The timing is mostly because Leo will be starting pre-school next week, so he’ll be out of the house most days for the majority of the day. Japan has some different laws surrounding healthcare/social security/being able to be declared as a dependent for tax purpose requirements, where if you work more than x hours or earn more than y per year you can no longer be included on your spouses healthcare/social security, so she’s staying within those bounds for now. Either way, exciting.
  • I watched The Trial of the Chicago 7 about anti-Vietnam war protestors charged with the intention to start riots at the 1968 DNC convention in Chicago. I’ve never seen Sacha Baron Cohen in a serious role before, usually he’s Borat or Ali G for me. I didn’t realize until the end it was an Aaron Sorkin movie – it’s no wonder I liked it.
  • This year marks 100 years of public transit in Yokohama and the city has build a webpage celebrating those 100 years. It even looks like the next station down has some limited edition paper tickets “Dancing Cat” tickets. Fun!
  • I got a haircut and talking with my barber about the vaccine and she said she’s hesitant to get it. I asked why and she mentioned Bill Gates funding the research, alluding to an ulterior motive. I wasn’t quite sure how to handle it exactly, but tried to talk about his vaccine work before covid. She said “do you think this might be one of those rumors?”, “Yes, absolutely.”. I also told her about my dad and brother’s experience getting the vaccine (uneventful, because it’s safe and not filled with 5G ads for Windows).
Izumicho, Kanagawa, Japan Air Pollution: Real-time Air Quality Index (aqicn.org)
How polluted is the air today? Check out the real-time air pollution map, for more than 100 countries.

Love this site that shows me the air quality from around the world. The simple visualization at the bottom with a colored square for each day of the year really lets you easily see trends in air quality over time. Izumi-ku, Yokohama’s air quality looks to be improving over the years. Yay!

  • Exciting times in the Van Dyne household! The potty has suddenly clicked for Leo. We haven’t been nearly as strict with Leo as some of our friends have been when it comes to potty training. We’ve taken the approach that “everybody eventually doesn’t like wet diapers and grows out of it”. Instead we’ve just been trying to make it a routine before the bath to give it a try. If he does, great and if he doesn’t that’s fine, we’ll try again tomorrow.

    I had Leo by myself all day Saturday and I didn’t change a diaper – at all. Not because he didn’t pee, but because I asked him every 3 hours if he had to go, we’d try and he’d sit and do his thing. On Sunday we thought he was just doing his thing on the loo and he did his first #2 by himself. The end of diapers is quickly approaching!

  • Part of having Leo all day Saturday meant we go out and ride the train. Leo wanted to ride the monorail. The monorail ends at Enoshima, so we can ride a bunch of trains and loop back to our house. Usually we walk down to the beach, maybe get a burger atKua`Aina then loop back.

    However, a couple of weeks ago Leo went to the aquarium in Enoshima and it was likely going to be packed being it’s a weekend and spring break. Even without the pandemic I’d avoid it. So we took the Enoden to Kamakura. I figured it was also going to be packed, but it was early enough we could avoid the crowds. We walked towards Tsurugaoka-hachimangu as there’s a Tully’s and I needed a break. But to my surprise it had disappeared!

    Sakara blooming at Hachimangu

    We looked at the Sakura and koi for a couple of minutes and headed home. On the way back we saw the Narita Express, one of Leo’s favorite trains. He also melted down as he wanted to ride it, but it wasn’t at a platform for us to ride. If it was I would have paid the extra fare so we could take it a couple of stations home.

  • I linked to What is the Small Web on the Tanzawa blog, but felt it’s worth calling it out on The Week, too. It’s made by Small Tech (also worth a click).

    Small Technology are everyday tools for everyday people designed to increase human welfare, not corporate profits.

    Small Tech is exactly the banner to get behind.

The magic of web 2.0 were the open apis. Developers could use these apis to mashup services how they wanted. Sometimes these developer’s tools and mashups became so popular that they would come to define the entire service of which they were building atop. Both hashtags and the term “tweet” originated outside of Twitter, Inc.

But when these services grew they morphed into platforms. Their apis were closed off and the developers that helped these companies find their success either kicked off or severely limited in what they could do. This became a pattern, not just with Twitter, but many services that found success in thanks part to their open api followed the same playbook.

Existing players making unpopular changes to their policies is usually a boon for the upstart. Each time this happens a vocal group of users becomes dissatisfied with the platform who then attempt to migrate to an alternative. However each migration causes some kind of loss. Data doesn’t transfer or communities fracture because not everybody moves. Not to mention the energy that could have been spent doing something else.

Contrast this with something like email. You can email anyone you’d like, even if they don’t use the same provider as you. If your mail provider changes a policy you don’t like, you’re free to change providers without losing your identity on the internet. People can still contact you the way they always had and you can still contact them. Your data can move from platform-to-platform seamlessly. There’s nothing re-organizing or hiding emails from your inbox unless you setup the rules (or use gmail).

The difference in experience between twitter and email is night and day. One keeps you locked in and subject to their whims, while the other gives you the choice to use it however you see fit. The difference is that twitter is a platform and email is a protocol. Pick protocols.

  • Technically this was last week, but my term as head of the neighborhood has come to an end. Although I was part of the physical education group (the most event heavy group), we didn’t have a single event due to covid. Being new to the neighborhood and not renting, I was hoping to use this year to get more involved in my community and to get to know my neighbors / let my neighbors get to know me. Next year I’m the backup head of the block, so maybe that’s still possible, once the vaccine rolls out.
  • Speaking of vaccines, my friends in the US and UK are starting to get their covid vaccinations. While we’ve had a fraction of the case load as them, I can’t help but feel a bit jealous. We’re still inoculating at a slower pace than I’d like to see, but in a month it’s increased a hundred to topping topped 70k per day. It’s at least going in the right direction.
  • I’ve decided to get a bicycle and went to a couple of shops to check out used ones. One was a one of Japan’s great second hand stores, where they have a bunch of “used” products that are like new. And the other was a shop that specializes in used bikes. The staff was friendly and answered my stupid questions. I’d wouldn’t mind buying my bike from them, but they didn’t have the one I want.

    I don’t know what it is – maybe just a lack of knowledge of bicycles in general, but I always hate going into bike shops. It’s not a Japan thing, as I’ve noticed in US as well. I always feel some serious in-group/out-group energy. Just me?

  • I saw this cool project called Solar Protocol, which is an experiment to have a website hosted across the globe completely by solar power and sent from whichever sever has the most energy. I thought about volunteering as a server steward, but I’m not sure about how I can securely mount solar panel to my balcony, which has both great southern and western exposure (I’m not about to start climbing up on the roof).
  • Lately I’ve felt like our water bills are a bit higher than they should be. For many it’s because they’re now at home all day everyday, rather than in the office, so their usage has increased. But we’ve been at home all day everyday for about 3 years. Since we bought our house, I had always thought our water pressure almost too good. Turns out the taps were fully open. I cut them back 50% – 60% and they’re still getting great flow. This should reduce our usage (and thus our bill), but it will take a month or two for us to find out just how much effect this 30 second fix will have.

  • Sophie turned 9 years old – she’s old enough now that she has to take medicine twice a day. Rather than making her a little doggie cake, kept up the tradition of singing happy birthday before giving her a bit of chicken and carrots. She always looks at as funny whenever we sing to her.
  • I shipped locations in Tanzawa this week and started a new weekly round up style post on the development blog. Once I add support for checkins (backfed from Swarm) I’ve got the minimum viable blog for me to switch over full-time. Already I find myself wanting to author posts with Tanzawa instead of WordPress.
  • As for the migration – I’ve got two basic paths forward. 1) Turning my current site into a static site and use nginx to redirecting existing urls to the static site. 2) Parse the WordPress XML file and import it into Tanzawa. Option 1 will “buy me time” to get the WordPress import flow working. 2 is probably at least a week long project like locations were. I’ll have to blog about possible workflows on the Tanzawa blog while I stew on the path forward.
  • Jacob linked me to this new creator on youtube: Beau Miles. Specifically this great film of his called The Commute: Walking 90km to Work. It’s refreshing to see someone talk about just how much cars remove us from our environment. The description about the video says more than I ever could.

Setting off with no food, water or shelter, I walked 90km to work a bunch of years ago to see if a stripped back adventure could give me the kind of buzz that far away, exotic, heavily planned expeditions have given me over the years. It did. Different, but familiar feelings of challenge and insight came through. When I was asked to give a lecture about adventuring at a new building at my university, I said ‘no worries, why don’t I walk to work and deliver the lecture as soon as I get there’? So I walked to work, again.

Go watch it. Now.Then follow up with his The Human Bean: 40 days on a tin-bean diet.

Today marks 10 years since 3/11, the great earthquake and tsunami in Tohoku that resulted in tens of thousands dead or missing and even more displaced from the nuclear accident in Fukushima. 3/11 was one of those days that I’ll never forget and I still vividly remember.

A few months prior to 3/11 I had gotten married my wife in Japan and my parents were coming to meet her family for the first time. They had a direct flight from Houston, Texas, which is about 13 hours and were scheduled to land around 4pm on March 11th, 2011. I was riding the Narita Express to meet them at the airport and chatting with my old Japanese teacher in US on Messenger about horrible the earthquake was in New Zealand a couple weeks prior.

Initially when the train started shaking I had thought it was the usual movement of the train, people move around to get disembark quicker or driver’s coming in a bit hot and has to brake a harder than usual. When it felt like the train had a very real possibility of tipping (it wasn’t close, in retrospect) is when I realized this was something different.

The trains immediately shutdown and Shinagawa station was a madhouse. The engineers (I’m guessing) on a business trip on the train had the right idea, they immediately went to the nearest hotel and booked room. I wish I had done that.

My parents were still in the air, so I had no way to contact them. Apparently they circled Tokyo for a few, before re-fueling at Yokota airbase, before continuing on to Osaka – landing in the wrong part of the country.

After the earthquake you couldn’t make a telephone call in Japan. All the circuits were busy all the time. But the internet and Twitter worked great. I had my laptop and a 3G modem with me. Using my US number on Skype, I could use US telephone circuits, which weren’t overloaded, and contact other family in the US to let them know what was happening and that I was fine.

We found a hotel that’d let us stay in their lobby. We eventually left to go find food, but everything was sold out everywhere. The only place we found with food was a Yoshinoya with a long and slow moving line. After waiting for what felt like 30 minutes and making little progress we noticed that, despite this line not moving, people seemed to be coming and going. We were in the line for take-out. Eating in we could get service almost immediately. Due to the high volume of customers they were rationing beef – which they made sure we’d be ok with before we ordered.

After eating we returned to the hotel to stay the night on hard marble floors with a bunch of other stranded people. The morning it felt almost oddly normal. A couple of backpackers asked if we knew where the nearest hostel was, but we were of no use. We found a different hotel that was serving nice warm breakfast with the type of service that makes you feel like everything’s gonna be all right.

My parents managed to find their way to the Shinkansen and made it to Shinyokohama. We attempted to ride the Tokaido-line to Yokohama but it was after seeing 3 trains come bursting at the seams packed with people, we looked for alternative routes to meet my parents. Funny enough, we also rode the Shinkansen to Shinyokohama. It was still standing room only, but at least you could breath. And the journey was only 7 or 8 minutes.

What I experienced on 3/11 pales in comparison to those that lost their lives and saw their homes and loved ones vanish before their eyes. 10 years later and while things look like they’ve rebuilt, they’ll never be the same.

  • The biggest thing to happen this week was Leo graduating from from the “higkari-gumi” at his pre-pre-school. I couldn’t attend, but saw a small video. He was so proud of himself. He got a cool medal, a hat, and a certificate that we’ve framed. He starts pre-school full-time at the same school next month – he’s so ready for it. My only concern is keeping his english ability when he’s playing in Japanese all day. His output in English is already “behind” that of his Japanese (as expected, since we live in Japan) – I just hope it just doesn’t regress.
  • We’re finally back down to double-digit covid cases in Kanagawa again. We haven’t been in this range since probably November or December. We’re not out of the woods yet, but starting to see light at the end of the tunnel. If only they could speed up the vaccinations here, they’re off to a snail pace.
  • In my entire life I’ve owned 3 suits. 2 suits I got when I first graduated from the Men’s Warehouse and became way too big for me once I moved to Japan ( it’s common for people to lose weight when they move to Japan because a combination of smaller portion sizes and taking trains/buses everywhere instead of driving). Those 2 suits fell apart almost immediately. The other suit I got as a replacement for my sister-in-law’s wedding 11 or 12 years ago. The white shirt I bought with it was getting pretty gross so I went out and replaced them this week. I don’t think I’ve ever owned this many dress shirts at a single time. Now I just need an occasion to wear them. (Even as a salaryman, I never wear a suit – even when going in to the office (which I haven’t for over a year)).
  • I’m starting to blog (even more) with Tanzawa. As it gets more feature complete it’s easier for me to blog with it than it is WordPress.
  • Around a month ago I bought tanzawa.blog. It will be the home of the Tanzawa project (maybe hosting???) once it’s ready for release general consumption. In the mean time, I’ve redirected tanzawa.blog to tanzawa.jamesvandyne.com