• Getting to London and First Impressions

    15 minutes before my taxi was to arrive I got a call – the driver was lost. This always happens. He put my address into his phone and it gave him the tennis courts behind my house. I can see the tennis courts, but there isn't a direct way from them to my house.

    Thankfully the call wasn't from the driver, but from the dispatch center. When I booked the taxi, they knew my neighbor's name, so she gave him guided instructions to my house. I get in the car and we're off.

    Then almost immediately he takes a right instead of a left to get out to the main road. GPS  is mostly useless in Japanese neighborhoods. A quick chat and I got him to the main road.

    Now boarding to London


    Checkin to the airport was smooth as could be. The flight was smooth too. This time I sat in "Premium Economy" and it was nice. Your seat doesn't go flat like in business class, but does manage to get you to about a 45 degree without leaning back, which means there's plenty of room to cross your legs if you choose.

    Premium Economy can pick champagne...so can't not get it.


    Upon arrival at Heathrow I was reminded just how clean and smooth things operate in Japan – which is easy to take for granted. For example, the escalator we rode immediately after getting off the plane was creaky and somehow at the top there was a bit of bread that just couldn't get over the lip so it sat there rolling around.

    Immigration was the smoothest I've ever experienced because it was all automated. There was a staff member there kind of guiding people a bit, but she seemed half-distracted by a conversation she was having with a co-worker.

    As for Customs declarations, I didn't have anything to declare, so I could just walk straight through, without talking to anyone. I looked at the area where you'd go if you had something to declare and there wasn't anyone even there. This is a stark contrast with what I've experienced in Japan, returning the US...even Sweden I had to state my purpose to a person. It's pure honor system here. Crazy. Suddenly all those movies where people think they can just smuggle stuff into a country make sense.

    In many respects, London reminds me of New York. Heaps of people, loud, gratified buildings, and a bit of a sensory overload. People FaceTime while they're walking down the street. There's pedi cabs with boomboxes. The taxi drivers don't wear suits and there's tattoos everywhere. The opposite of what I'm used to. Different, but in a good way.

    Across from my room


    There were also a number of homeless, which despite it's best efforts to hide, you do see in Japan as well. But they don't ask you for money in Japan. Having my airpods in, even not listening to anything is a godsend. I can walk and listen to the city and when the ask for cash I pretend I didn't hear, they see my earbuds and move on.

    But the largest thing to get used to is the masks – or lack thereof. Each country experienced the pandemic differently. And in Japan 99%+ of people have been wearing masks all the time in public and sometimes at home if a guest came over. And because of this we've never had any lockdowns, it's all been voluntary.

    To dive off the deep end to near zero masks is...quite a shock to the system. It's not something you can do immediately, you've got to ease yourself into it. I'm still mostly wearing my mask outside of my hotel room. And thankfully I did as the little elevator became full capacity and I was the only one with a mask (KN95) on. Coming from Japan, "no masks on a crowded and vent-less elevator, are you crazy?!" and "thank god I decided to wear this" were the two main thoughts that went through my head. It's so weird being able to see more than people's eyes in public.

    All of this said, it's not that I'm afraid of getting covid (again). Given the choice, I'd prefer not to. It's that should I get it, and should I test positive at the wrong times, it could delay me return. The "threat model" that I'm think I'm going to settle on is basically this: I trust that if my co-workers are stick, they're not going to come into the office, but all these other people...I don't know...so maybe it's better to be a bit cautious around them. In the end, it'll be what it'll be.

    After a long flight and while walking around, a beer sounded great. But I couldn't quite build up the gumption to get into a pub full of people laughing and talking loudly, sharing their droplets like it's 2019. I will, but it's something I'll have to ease myself into for sure.

    Instead of opted for a takeaway sandwich  (chicken in a "bap") and can of craft beer from the local Stansbury. It was fine, perhaps a bit dry. My favorite thing about the sandwich was the note that said something to the effect of "We made an effort to de-bone this piece of boneless chicken you're about to eat, but we might've missed some, so be careful". Thanks for trying to debone this boneless chicken for me, I guess?


    I found a nice bookshop that had a good selection of books. The nice thing is that they're all in English (duh) so there wee heaps of good options for me to bring back for Leo. So far he's getting a big shiny "Peppa Pig goes to London", and a Paddington Bear 3-story collection book.
  • Reflecting on Tokyo Disneyland

    This is the last post chronicling our trip to Tokyo Disneyland. Originally this trip was supposed to occur at the end of last month, but Leo (and the rest of us) got Covid, so we had to cancel.

    At the time, I was really disappointed. But having got it and recovered, it made the fear of catching Covid disappear. We were, and everyone else was as well, wearing masks and doing our part to prevent the spread…but it was nice to not really have to worry about the “what if”.

    Going two days before Golden Week, in pure “off season” times is definitely the way to go. I didn’t check in or blog about every ride, but we never waited more than 20 minutes for a ride (once) and mostly we had no wait at all. Go off-peak if at all possible.

    Taking the train home from Disneyland isn’t hard. Upgrading to the green car for the Tokyo - Totsuka leg of the trip (and on the way there from Totsuka - Yokohama) is well worth the charge. You don’t want to spend an hour getting exhausted on a packed commuter train before/after spending a day walking around outside all day.

    I’m glad I also booked breakfast at the same time as booking the room. Or rather, glad I noticed I needed to. As we booked the room last-minute this time, most of the time slots for breakfast were taken. 7am was perfect for me…though maybe a bit early for Leo after a day of playing hard at Disneyland.

    Spring/Fall is the time to go. Walking around outside all day int summer heat would be brutal.

    Changes for Next Time

    It’s difficult with a 4-year old to schedule exact mealtimes as each minute they get distracted by the new shiny, and there’s a lot of new shiny at Disneyland. That said, making a reservation for dinner is the right decision. You’d think you might could still get a table, but this isn’t the case.

    Print out a paper map and plan out the rides we want to ride more in advance. Paper maps aren’t a thing anymore, it’s all driven by your cellphone. This is a real shame for three reasons:

    1. It removes an artifact for kids after the trip to reminisce. As a kid I’d often revisit the maps from Knott’s Berry Farm and Disneyland and remember what I did or think about the next ride I wanted to ride.
    2. It removes kids from the decision making process. They can’t pop out the map and say “I want to go here”, they’re got to rely on their parents to being out their cellphone, open the apps and scroll around. Kids guiding their parents to the destination is a great opportunity to hone their navigation skills. And worst case scenario is you end up at a churro’s shop (which is quite great).
    3. Opening your phone and relying on the internet each time you want to verify where you are or what’s nearby is such a faff and so slow. Sure, you don’t get real-time wait times with a paper map, but it got annoying. And you have to worry about battery.

    Conclusion
    I'm really happy we made this trip and the entire family had a fantastic time. Being able to escape to a fantasy land, if even for a day, is such a privilege. Experiencing these parks as a parent is heaps of fun – not just riding the rides, but watching how your kid reacts to seeing his favorite stories and characters come to life, is really something else.
  • What I mean when I say #BanCars

    I drafted this at my local Honda dealership, getting my car serviced. For someone with a #BanCars plastered on the back of their bike, owning a car might seem a bit hypocritical. But it’s not.

    When people see the sticker, they assume I think we should ban all cars. But that’s not exactly what I want. Let me explain.

    Outside of our homes is the public. The public is owned by all of us, from newborns to centenarians, people of all fitness and physical abilities. Cars take the public and privatize it.

    Toddlers can’t walk around the public least they get run over...by a car. Riding your bike becomes difficult because you’re worried, not about the weather, but about getting hit by a 2-ton pickup truck, something that is only going to get worse with electric vehicles as they are heavier and quieter.

    I don’t want to ban all cars. No, I want to reclaim the public for people as much as possible. Reduce the number of lanes dedicated for cars and increase the lanes dedicated for other modes of transport, like bikes. Make dedicated lanes for public transit. Remove free car storage from the sides of our roads. Reallocate the roads of our cities to be human centered, not car centered.

    It’s not a ban. But it will feel like a ban to some people in the same way that some white people feel oppressed when there's racial equality.

    This is what I mean when I say #BanCars, it just doesn't fit on a bumper sticker.
  • Characters in your neighborhood

    When you first move somewhere new each face is a stranger. But over time you get know your neighbors and they're no longer strangers, but your neighbors. You become familiar with their routines. And some of those neighbors stand out a bit more than the others.

    Those neighbors have a particular quirk. They do something different. These neighbors, these... characters, are what make a neighborhood a neighborhood. And sometimes we're that character. But something is lost without their presence.  My neighborhood too, indeed, has a couple of characters worth sharing.

    One is a neighbor about 10 houses down. Like most older men in my neighborhood he's retired and I'd often see him come back from a walk when I 'm walking Sophie.

    But one day I noticed he looked to be slowly stalking a cat. Odd. And a few days later, stalking a cat... after a brief chat I realized he wasn't stalking the cat, but he "walks" his cat. The cat's not on a leash, but he kind of guides it up and down the street. My neighbor, the cat walker.

    Like many Japanese neighborhoods, mine has tori and little shrines spread throughout every so often. Each shrine has a kami. It's a holdover from when this was all farmland. 

    Which brings me to our next character. You can't miss him. I've seen him out running at various times. A running neighbor is nothing special, but this neighbor's route is particular. He runs from his house (I presume, I'm not sure where he lives) past each tori and to the local shrine.

    When he passes each tori he stops and bows to pay his respects. I probably wouldn't have noticed this routine or payed much attention but not for his attire. He runs in dark blue jeans and a white button down shirt.

    Who are some of the characters in your neighborhood?
  • Fuck the Oligarchs, Get off Gas! ✊

    Don’t like filling up at 5 bucks a gallon?

    Fuck the Oligarchs, Get off Gas! ✊

    Stressed by all your time in a metal box?

    Fuck the Oligarchs, Get off Gas! ✊

    Want to stop the countless wars perpetrated  by petrostates?

    Fuck the Oligarchs, Get off Gas! ✊

    Want real energy independence and security?

    Fuck the Oligarchs, Get off Gas! ✊

    Want a healthier and more vibrant local community?

    Fuck the Oligarchs, Get off Gas! ✊

    One more time for those in the back!

    Fuck the Oligarchs, Get off Gas! ✊
  • Tanzawa Themes Launched 🚀

    I've merged support for Tanzawa themes 🎉! It's basic at the moment, but it's a good springboard for future development. I'll activate my hastily built "Platinum" theme for a couple of days to show it off.

    Platinum live on my website


    I've documented some basic instructions for building your own Tanzawa theme. The only real requirement is Tailwind 3.0. If you run into trouble, let me know.

    If you make a theme for Tanzawa, please show me so I can link to it. If you wouldn't mind others using your theme, consider submitting a pull request so users can have more selection.
  • Tanzawa in 2022

    It's been one year since I first started using Tanzawa in public as I blogged about my daily development progress.

    This post started as a scratchpad for me to figure my priorities when developing Tanzawa as it stalled for a couple of months in early November. I had intended to publish it and use it to guide me through the next couple of months. 

    But writing down even a partial list of priorities energized me and gave me a sense of focus. That focus allowed me to ship some big new features like plugins, start on a refactor, and made some good progress on theme support.
     
    As such I'm now re-purposing and rewriting this post to solidify my thinking for the next few months (or more) of development and lay some groundwork for Tanzawa in 2022.

    Theming

    Theming is my top priority at the moment. Theming while a core feature for someone to make a blog feel like home, is probably not something I'll use that much as I quite like my current color scheme. Basic color scheme changing is in progress in PR #150. It'd be great if a later PR could also allow custom layout as well.

    On second thought, perhaps "theming" is a misnomer. Perhaps it's actually two independent features: color scheme selection and layout. This way you could mix and match between them?

    Strava Plugin

    As part of my 2022 goals I'd like to run 100 times and I'd like to track this on my website. I could do it manually, but I'd really like to own that data in my own database so I can do some custom visualizations of my runs.

    There's three parts to this integration:
    • An admin interface to authenticate Tanzawa with Strava.
    • Management command to download and store the latest runs.
    • A public facing runs page.

    Eventually I'll need a way to automatically run on the management command without sshing into the server to setup a cronjob, but that'll be fine for now.

    Runs page is a feature that I've been wanting since the outset of Tanzawa (similar to trips). At the outset I planned to use Runkeeper, but their lack of API made me switch to Strava.

    Setup & Deployment

    I still haven't documented how to deploy Tanzawa for production. It's part I don't like faffing with servers and part "works for me".  The problem is, no matter how great the experience is blogging with Tanzawa, if users can't install or set it up, it doesn't matter.

    As I'd like to get more people using Tanzawa, not just trying it out locally, I've got to make it easier to install. It will likely be an automated setup of a droplet on DigitalOcean. At least for starters.

    Continue the Refactor

    When first building out Tanzawa I used Django Model Forms because they're quick to prototype with. And my micropub endpoint mostly transforms data to fit these forms and runs them as it was easiest. But this is more brittle and intertwined than I'd like.

    So I plan to continue to refactor "as time and energy allow".

    Bonus Ideas Later in the Year


    Propaganda Website
    As part of my mission to get people using Tanzawa besides myself, I'd like to setup a dedicated propaganda website. It doesn't need to be powered by Tanzawa itself (though that would be neat). I'm picturing a site that has your standard marketing bog introducing Tanzawa, directs people to GitHub, and so forth. But as it's not just a marketing website, it should contain some pages dedicated to the cause of the open web, Punk rock style.

    Native Syndication

    I still manually syndicate my posts to Twitter. I'd like to remove that burden and allow Tanzawa to automatically post to Twitter and other social networks. There's been some good discussion about this on Issue #84.

    Year In Review

    A "year in review" page generator plugin that will use your own blog to craft yearly reviews. It would show you some fun statistics like most interacted with posts (top 3?), a map of your checkins, stats about the number / frequency / type of posts, word count (?). It would be fun to add some hooks to allow plugins to contribute to the statistics as well.
  • Looking Forward to 2022

    After my looking back on 2021 post, I thought I'd write about what I'm looking forward to next year and maybe set some rough goals. So I don't forget what my goals are, I'm going to put (some) of them on my Now page.

    100 Runs

    Health and running always appears on the list of stuff I'd like to do more regularly. Rather than set a distance goal, which would probably be a bit too ambitious, I'm going to set a simpler goal: 100 runs next year. That works out to about 2 runs per week. Doable. And it should be habit forming. Should I surpass it earlier in the year than anticipated, I might adjust it higher.

    Tanzawa

    There's a lot I'd like to get done in Tanzawa next year. On the top of my list is strava integration (to track my runs :) ), theming, and some better instructions / deployment options. Oh and proper photo posts. It would also be great to actually get a site (Tanzawa powered or otherwise) up on tanzawa.blog, since I've owned the domain for about a year now.

    Octopus Energy

    I can't really say what, but I'm really looking forward to this next year at Octopus in Japan. This first year has been in build mode and this next year is launch mode.  We're going to make some big strides in growing green electricity in Japan and the team we've got is really good and getting better (We're hiring - join the fun!).

    Travel in Japan

    It's been a long 2 years with the pandemic. I'm hoping we can find some time to travel in Japan a bit and let Leo ride his first Shinkansen. Not sure on the destination yet. Maybe somewhere I haven't been before.

    Visit America

    This isn't entirely under my control, but I would like to visit America. I haven't back since I moved back to Japan in early 2017. And with Leo being almost 4 and having only met 3 members of my family (my brother and mom I flew out here on separate occasions, my younger brother just happened to be studying abroad in Japan when Leo was born).
  • Looking back on 2021

    I may be starting (or resuming?)  a new tradition with another year in review post ( 2020 ).

    2021 was a good year.  This post is a highlight of all of the good things that happened this year.

    Tanzawa
    This year started with a sprint of programming and blogging. I first showed Tanzawa to the world on January 3rd. Over the course of the next couple months, I built  it up enough to support various indieweb protocols and got it to the point where I could import my Wordpress blog data. A few months after that I worked up the courage to open source it. And since then I've been iterating on it when I have the chance to add fun features like trips and plugins.

    Health
    After fretting about which license to release Tanzawa under, I started fretting more about getting vaccinated. I fretted enough about this that I managed to annoy my wife, but that fretting paid off as I got myself and my family vaccinated early. Thankfully we haven't gotten sick (with covid or anything else), knock on wood.

    I've never been able to keep running regularly, but this year I've managed to make it more regular. I've done this by not being as strict to myself. I don't have a set schedule, which is useful to beat yourself up with when you miss a run. Instead I just to run 2 to 3 times a week. A "missed" run this week doesn't matter if I plan to continue running for years ago.

    Kindergarten
    Leo started kindergarten this year. Before it started, we could tell that he was ready to start venturing off a bit. And since he's been going it's also released a lot of stress at the house. The terrible twos during a pandemic weren't fun (toddlers, amirite?). But he's adjusted to it well and we've got a good rhythm.

    I've been able to take days off work and join him on field trips be an active participant in his pre-school life, which has been a lot of fun. I enjoy being able to spend time with him and see how Japanese pre-school life is.

    Writing
    I got an article published in Web+DB Press about getting started with GraphQL and Django. This is notable, not just as it's in an actual magazine, but that it's in Japanese. This was my second time authoring something in print in Japanese. Without the support of my old company, I doubt I'll be writing anything in print anytime soon.

    Climate Change
    I changed jobs and joined Octopus Energy. While I expected it to be a good change (as I wouldn't changed jobs otherwise), having a job that lets me use my Python/Django skills and lets me help in the fight against climate change in a real way has been a big positive influence in my day-to-day life.

    One aspect of this change has been a new social group, a worldwide network of employees that care about climate change and fighting it. The other, larger aspect, is that I no longer feel this dread about climate change because I am helping to fight it, both in Japan and abroad everyday. Directly in Japan because my work will help increase the adoption of renewables. Indirectly because the work in Japan enables work and investment outside of Japan to further speed the renewable transition.

    Joy of Cycling
    I've never been a fan of driving. I resisted getting my drivers' license until I was 18 (in the Texas suburbs) and only then I got it because I was forced (no public transit and everything is miles apart). Fun fact: I never completed drivers' education. I did 1 class (of 3) with a teacher in California, which was enough to get my learners' permit. Before completing, I moved to Texas with my learners' permit and used that to convert it into a license (with the 10 minute driving test).

    Growing up in southern California I used to ride my bike everywhere. This year was the year that I remembered that. First with a cross-bike. And again with an e-bike mama-chari (Panasonic) I used to putter around town and take Leo to and from Kindergarten. Not only does each ride save emissions I may have emitted from a car. But each ride, no matter the weather, I've got a smile on my face.
  • Picking Your Mode of Transport

    I can get from my house to the in-laws three different ways: by car, by subway, and by bike.

    The drive from my house to the in-laws, according to the Honda app linked to my car, emits about 200g of carbon into the air. That's not including the other externalities such as local air pollution, noise, and just being traffic. It costs about ¥100 in fuel and maintenance. This is only economicaly because a neighbor lets us park on some of their land for free. Otherwise we'd need to add ¥400 - ¥600 for temporary car storage. There is no view, just narrow roads. Depending on traffic, it takes about 20 - 30 minutes and I arrive feeling stressed.

    Going by the subway costs ¥252 one way and there's a 10 minute walk on either side. This is more efficient than the car because a) there's many more people riding the same vehicle, b) it's electric (though that power may be coming from coal). The view is nothing, because it's mostly underground. Total trip time is about 30 - 35 minutes.

    Lastly, I can go by bicycle. It costs me nothing. It's powered by peanut butter and bananas. The view is rice fields and a river. I arrive feeling happy and calm, because I was looking at nice scenery and getting some exercise.

    While the concept of a personal carbon footprint was invented by big oil,  each trip we can take that doesn't emit carbon emissions does make difference. Each trip is an opportunity. An opportunity to pick the means of less impact. Less noise. Less pollution. Less traffic. Less carbon.

    But it's also an opportunity to inspire your community. It's an opportunity to be the change you want to see. At first it might just be you. But someone might see you and think "I can do that." and take their bike next time. And someone seems them riding their bike and has the same thought. It an opportunity to normalize riding a bike as transport in your community.

    More people ride bikes when they see people riding bikes. More people riding bikes means more demand for proper infrastructure. More people riding bikes means less local air pollution and a happy, healthier, calmer community.

    When you have the choice, take your bike.
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