Introducing a new piece of technology into our lives has the ability to change us in ways we didn't foresee and don't notice until we have the opportunity to live without it. Smartphones are an obvious example, but this isn't about smartphones (entirely).
On a trip to Spain I misplaced my Airpods. Until they turned up 3-weeks later in my backpack (in that one pocket you never open because it's too small for anything...except a pair of AirPods), I had the chance to live as if I never bought them. While my runs were a bit harder...but I could actually think and sort my thoughts without music distracting me.
I slept better, too. I hadn't realized that I had gotten into the habit of watching videos on the internet for ~hour most nights before bed on my phone. And since I was on my phone, I'd ultimately peek into Email or Slack. But without my AirPods, I couldn't watch YouTube in bed, so I'd just sleep.
I didn't expect purchasing AirPods would result in me losing an hour of sleep a night.
What about reintroducing older technology into our lives? I've found it can have positive affects in our lives. I recently refurbished an iPod Classic. I grew tired of streaming music –finding music is difficult (much easier to scroll around than type on virtual keyboard or tap through 4 different screens one handed) and it buffers.
With my iPod, on the train, my mind can wander like it used to. When I want to change a song, I just change a song. I don't get distracted by unlocking my phone, searching for the Music app, waiting for attempt to reload its state...before ultimately dumping me at the top of the navigation. When I start or stop a song there isn't this fear that bluetooth has messed up and I'm about to play music into a rush hour train (only works with wired headphones and there isn't a speaker on the device). I can relax and just enjoy the music.
When we buy new tech, we often only think about the promises of the product, and we don't think about the unintended changes that these products might bring. If we do not consider these and are not intentional when introducing tech we may find ourselves anxious and sleep deprived and without an understanding why.
Welcome to my year in review post...a few days into the new year. See previous editions for 2022, 2021, and 2020.
Side ProjectsI didn't start any new side projects this year.
Tanzawa has been under development for about 4 years now. This year saw a large number of gaps between development of features, but I still managed to ship:
- /runs page that shows the shape of every run I've made
- A photo gallery to my homepage
- Graph for showing weight over time
- Improved bookmark page design with tagging
- Added Sunbottle integration on my homepage
- Sharing posts to Mastodon via Brid.gy
- Better open graph support (so things look nicer when shared)
On December 31st, I also snuck in a PR to remove Turbo from the Tanzawa admin, a major goal for the year. There's still a lot more I'd like to do with Tanzawa and I reckon I'll continue chipping away it.
HealthI ran less than 2022. While the year stated strong I had a 2-week break when we went to America (I didn't feel safe running along traffic that's moving at 60 - 80kmh (40 - 50mph)) and I wasn't able to get into a groove until 6 months later. I noticed that when I frame running as a way to manage my mental health and not weight loss or such, I maintain motivation.
I had some surgery on one of my legs to fix some veins. My leg used to feel heavy when going for long walks or going up long flights of stairs...I thought this was normal / me just not having muscle or stamina. Turns out it was poor circulation. Once the doc fixed me, I now realize how much it was affecting me. I regret not doing it sooner.
Basal cell carcinoma made a reappearance after ~10 years. Thankfully I know what the early stages look like this time, so I was able to goto the dermatologist and get some cream to get it, rather than waiting faaaaaar too long such that it required surgery to extract it. Happy days.
FamilyLeo is in his last year of pre-school and next year he will start primary school. He's still a picky eater, but he's eating more variety of foods. He probably eats too many french fries, but we are able to go out and eat at a variety of restaurants now.
We went to visit Texas for 2 weeks in February. It was Leo's first trip to America and his first time meeting a lot of different family members. We had a lot of fun, but the trip was hard. Traveling with kids is draining. Having to drive everywhere is also draining. The expense of hotels/cars/flights and me becoming a taxi driver....I'd rather we visit places where there's public transit.
MediaI went from only buying physical books to reading books on my kindle again. I'm reading more books this way. This will be my default for now and for books that I really care about, I'll also buy a physical copy. Ultra Processed People has changed how I think about food. Having a 5-almost-6 year old in the house makes it difficult to truly cut them from my diet.
I'm not a big gamer, but this year saw me and Leo play the heck out of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. We got 3 divine beasts down and 1 to go. While Leo's friends at school are into Pokemon, Leo's hooked on Zelda...it also gives us something we can chat a lot about in English.
WorkWorking at Kraken continues to be a blast. We're growing like crazy and literally moved offices because we couldn't all fit. For a while the conference rooms were turned into hot desks and we event had passes to a nearby co-working space as overflow.
The new office is in Roppongi. It's a major step up and fun to work out of. Though I'm still mostly remote so I can help with the boy in the mornings (and it didn't get any closer, so it's draining to go multiple days in a row).
Somehow I went from leading a team of 4 (including myself) to leading a team of 15 (including myself). We shipped so much work this year and migrated a large client to Ink. I'm really proud of what we've accomplished and looking forward to more this year.
Looking Ahead to 2024Last year was by all means, a good year. I hesitate to call these resolutions, but here's some things I'd like to change or do in the coming year:
Run 100 Times
For real this time. I can get a good month or two of running, but there's always something that creeps up. With a fixed leg and an eye towards mental health, I'd like to achieve that this year.
Take more time off work
We have unlimited time off at work. I don't use it as often as I should...which I realized after taking my first full-week off since February at the end of December. The team has grown and has enough experience that things will still get done in my absence. And I know I'll work better if I'm better rested.
An upcoming trip for work has reminded me how much I like to travel. The past few years...we had Leo...then the pandemic...and we got out of the habit of going places we don't always go. I'd like to go explore more this year.
Embrace being a dad better
My hobbies have generally been things I do by myself or require stretches of uninterrupted time. At the same time Leo's not going to want to hang out with me forever, so I should seize the moment. I want to focus more of my attention on doing things with Leo, not always for Leo.
Be more present and embrace calm
I've known for a while how distracted smartphones make us (me). This year I want to be more present and take concrete action towards calm. This will mean carrying more dedicated devices. But each device will not have the internet. I want to go back to listening to my mp3 collection on an iPod, take photos with a point and shoot, and way finding without a gps. If I replace my iPhone this year (it's already 5 years old), it will likely be with a Galapagos phone.
When the iPod was released it made a single promise: all of your music in your pocket. With great software and this promise, it sold like wildfire. Over time our music collections grew and with it, the max capacities of iPod also grew.
After a good run, the iPhone came out. Unlike the iPod, the iPhone used smaller faster solid state drives. Our music collections no longer fit on the device. We now had to pick and choose in advance which albums we'd take with us.
However, the iPhone had one thing the iPod didn't: cellular internet connectivity. This made a new reality possible: access entire label's catalogs for the cost of a CD per month. No music taking up precious storage (which now also houses our photos and data) and constant access to the latest releases. Win-win.
Or is it? How many artists did you forget existed because the albums you owned were hidden behind recommendations for the masses? How often have you been unable to change songs or buffer because of connectivity issues? And when your subscription expires or the service is shut down, what's do you have for all of the money you've spent? Nothing. Nada.
Maybe it's a sense of nostalgia. Maybe it's longing for software and devices that just work. But I'm switching back. I've re-purchased an iPod Classic so I can keep my entire music collection with me again.
I've started using my point and shoot camera when I'm out with the family. Not only are the photos sharper, but I can stay focused and more in the moment.
Using my camera made me realize a difference between blogging today and blogging back in the day.
Back in the day, your photos were stuck on your camera until you got home for the day. This forced you to wait until the end of the day to blog. You could collect your thoughts and write a good post.
Today, your camera (phone) is directly connected to your blogging platform (website, mastodon, instagram etc..), there's a temptation to live-blog everything all the time. We post immediately for the likes and reactions. Who can blame us, though? It's right there bundled in with your camera.
Maybe we should do that less. Maybe I should do that less.
Give your point and shoot camera another try. You'll notice the difference in quality and connectedness.
When was the last time you left your phone at home? Or in the car? And how did it make you feel?
I went to dinner the other week with my family and I forgot my phone in the car. My first instinct was to get it...but this is Japan, not America, nobody is going to smash in my window to get a cellphone, so I left it. And I'm glad I did.
Maybe it was the warm light in the restaurant contrasting with the cool and clear autumn night, but, during dinner, I found I could relax and focus on conversation. After I finished eating when there's a lull in the conversation, there was no urge to cycle between the same 3 sites to check if anything had changed since the last time I checked 3 minutes ago.
It reminded me of when my wife and I were still dating and we'd grab a meal. We had phones and they were connected to the internet, but data was slow and expensive, the screens were tiny, there weren't push notifications from corporations selling their wares.
You could just be.
I think I'll forget my phone more often.
We all have booms in our life. Periods where we get really into something. My current boom is overnight oats. "Ugh, an entire blog post about oats, pass!", I hear you say, but stay with me.
Why overnight oats? They're easy for one. I spend 2 minutes each night and breakfast is ready in the morning. Buying some pop-tarts would be even quicker, so it's not about the time. It's more than that.
Overnight oats perfectly encapsulate some life tenants.
Take it SlowYou can't make overnight oats without time. It's right there in the name. Life is the same. All around us – society, the media, entertainment, they all encourage us to rush. Don't miss out! Final sale! Get yours before it's all gone.
But I don't care. Embrace "missing out". Final sale? They've had a "going out of business" sale for the last 3 years. Takin' a while, innit? They got theirs? Good for them. I didn't need or want it anyways.
Keep it easyOvernight oats are easy. Put some oats and milk into a container, cover it, and whack it into the fridge. Done. Life should be the same – keep it easy. This doesn't mean to be lazy and don't challenge yourself. Rather, take those hard things, put systems so they become your default and easy.
It's hard to keep trim (still working on that) when you have a house full of unhealthy snacks tempting you. Easy is stocking healthy foods in a way so they're accessible when you need a snack.
Make healthy easy and healthy will become your default.
Keep it wholeMaking oats I'm able to control and pick exactly what goes into them. Organic oats, (almond) milk, organic chia seeds, organic cacao, some honey or (real) maple syrup. All things that our bodies have been eating for hundreds of years. As much as possible, we should prefer food to be as whole as possible.
It's not a breakfast cereal or supermarket bread with gums and pastes and powders to make it ship and store well on a shelf. It's not a lie.
For my 38th revolution around the earth I hope to continue being like my overnight oats: Slow, easy, and whole.
An internet buddy of mine posted in a private Slack group we're part of about how the weight of climate change is affecting his mental health. With the wildfires, heatwaves, and hurricanes coming for California(!), it's easy to feel despair. This post is my (slightly edited) reply.
Having a child was a kind of catalyst for me and climate change. Action is how you fight the weight of climate change. None of our individual actions will solve the climate crisis alone (as it’s largely a systems problem), but action breads action from those around us.
In Saving Us (great book, highly recommend), one of the things the author talks about is how one person’s actions influence their neighbors. For example, let’s say a neighbor sees you doing X that’s positive for the climate (composting, getting solar installed, switching to electric transport / cycling).
This in turn influences your neighbors
It does feel like we’ve passed a tipping point. Be part of voices that demand the system changes and encourage those around you to do the same.
- Directly, as it creates an opportunity for discussion about this topic with your neighbors. They might be on the fence about doing any of these and they can chat with you about it and your motivations. This plants and water seeds in their mind about the issues, as well as creates deeper community bonds, and we’re going to need them.
- Indirectly - neighbors that pass by your house notice X…so it plants a seed…and a few house down they see X again. After a period, X is now an acceptable and something that this neighborhood does. You can see solar panels spread through neighborhoods like this - one person got them, then a few houses down, and a few houses down, then a few house down…and pretty soon the neighborhood is powered by the sun (either by panels directly, or by the excess the neighbors are pushing into the grid).
This said, the energy transition is also happening at an incredible pace. We’re deploying more solar, wind, and batteries at a faster pace than ever before and it’s not slowing down. For me personally, joining a group of companies that’s fighting climate full stack was how I deal/dealt with the weight of climate change and the future I want for my kid. I am but a cog in the machine, but everyone around me has the same sense of urgency. And when it feels hopeless, I can see / hear about new wind farms/solar farms we’re deploying or see the number of people actively working on it, and I feel like…we (humanity) got this (energy transition).
When I first started blogging again and then building Tanzawa (the custom CMS that powers my site) a couple years ago, I forwent adding comments. People (who knew) could comment on my blog using webmentions from their own blog, or if I was backfeeding them from a silo using brid.gy.
My thinking at the time was that people aren't going to read my blog anyways, those that do probably have their own IndieWeb blogs, and backfeeding will take care of the remainder. And I didn't want to deal with spam. I'm not sure all of that's true. ( I still don't want to deal with spam.)
I've been searching the magic that was blogging ~20 years ago. You'd write posts on your site and somehow, through the magic of the internet, people would find it and they'd leave a comment. Often their message included a link to their own site (as a field in the form, not in the comment – that'd just be spam). And you'd visit their site and leave a comment. And before you knew it, you had a new internet buddy in who knows where. I still keep in contact with some people I met this way (though via messaging apps).
The core enabler of this magic was that there was a no-fuss way to interact directly with the author of the blog you were reading. It didn't even require an account most of the time. Communities could form on any given site because of this one feature.
Maybe it's time I look into adding comments on the blog. I might capture a bit of magic.
Nothing makes you feel old before your time like a back injury. Let me rewind. Leo doesn't always like taking a shower/bath. One day, while in America, instead of taking a shower with me, he by himself. But he's only 5 – he still needs help.
The shower head in the house we were staying was fixed to the wall i.e. it didn't have a hose. And the water pressure left a lot to be desired. In order to rinse Leo I needed to hold him up like Mufasa presenting Simba to the rest of the animals on the Lion King so I don't get wet. As he was against showing in the first place, the moment I start Mufasaing him, he starts throwing all of his 15kg of weight around and tweak.
Back in Japan I visit the orthopedic doctor and as I suspected he gave me a hernia. The fix will take a couple of weeks, but mostly seems to involve heating to relax my back and then putting me in a chair that lays me back and gently pulls my hips / stretches my spine until everything goes back to where it's supposed to be. What a pain. Literally.
Coming back to America after being away for six years for a short trip is nice. I get to experience America almost as a kind of foreign tourist. I can soak up the joy of the absurd and, as a former resident, notice all of the small changes that go unnoticed by the current residents. I'm still mostly fluent in the culture and the long-term problems and issues I'd have to face is if I were moving don't apply.
Going shopping at H-E-B and Target is fun. If I'm honest with myself, I miss amount of choice available in your average Target or Supermarket. Take the cheese section, there's Colby jack, Swiss, Jalapeno monterey jack, and probably 10 other varieties in block, slice, grated, and cube form. Compared with "melting cheese" (as opposed to cheese that doesn't melt?) and fake cheese slices in Japan, it's hard not to get envious.
I'm not a huge consumer of BBQ sauce, but just look at this selection.
Even the Asian section is quite good these days. Plenty of options for nori and other basics. You can even buy bottles of unsweetened green tea.
The clothes section's manikins are not slim any longer. They're mostly plus sized. Even the models in the swimsuit section aren't thin, instead also showing plus sized models. It better reflects the clientele and I reckon that's a good thing.
Everything's bigger here. The portions, the roads, and the cars. Part of that is because Texas. The truck density has always been higher here. They drive fast, too. Most roads have highway-level speed limits in Japan (40mph / 65 kph). And when you walk along on the sidewalk next to 3 lanes of cars driving over that speed limit, it doesn't feel safe. Stroads are the worst.
Needing to get in the car to do anything or go anywhere is definitely something I did not miss about America. As far as the eye can see there's solid cars all traveling in the same direction and yet nobody thinks "maybe this doesn't make sense for us all to be traveling independently together. Maybe this is a giant waste of resources and time and money."
Nobody seems to think that there's any other way. That ceding life to the automobile is the way it always has been and the way it always will be. You can feel the hostility of the design to anything isn't a huge metal box.
America is best in small doses. Stay long enough to embrace the absurdness of it all and leave before the reality seeps past the rose-tinted glasses.
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