• Remembering Kelly Wilson

    I got a text from my brother, we lost our Uncle Kel. We knew it was coming, but it's always too soon. You're never ready. I was hoping that I'd be able to see him one more time. That he could meet our son. Life had other plans.

    I didn't see Kelly often when I was a child. But when we did, it was always a good time. One time we were standing around his house in California making guacamole and snacking on avocados. He taught me the trick of drizzling just a touch of creamy salad dressing on the avocado and eating it with a spoon. Eating an avocado directly with a spoon had never crossed my mind. I do this sometimes now, and I always think of him when I do.

    He was very mechanically inclined and took pride in his work. If something was supposed to move but didn't, be it a vehicle, a machine, or a factory, he could diagnose and fix whatever was wrong with it. When he fixed something, he'd fix it right, leaving it better than  it was before.

    One summer day in college, I joined Kelly out in the oil fields east of Houston. We left at 5:30am for the 90 minute drive out. We stopped by his usual convenience store for morning coffee. It was a good start to the day.

    The entire day, I  just tagged along, after all I'm a suburban boy who's good with computers, not much help out in the oil fields. We're pouring sweat in the Texas heat when Kelly gave me one bit of advice that I still reflect-on. He said, "Stay in school, you don't want to be working out in this heat everyday. Finishing school will let you work in comfort".

    It was simple advice. I've long since finished school, but that one day with Uncle Kelly gave me a greater sense of empathy for people working outdoors. Almost every time I see someone really working hard outside, I think of him and his advice.

    Kelly was always curious. Before moving to Japan, he asked me to send him photos of Japan. Not postcard style photos, just things that you wouldn't normally see, things that let a person know "hey, you're in Japan".

    Being a good nephew, I obliged. I'd send him random photos of the mundane: a coin laundry machine sitting outside an apartment building, traffic signs giving you the real-time traffic delays, cigarette vending machines. For good measure I also sent photos of random wtf Japan too, like cars tricked out with LEDs all over them.

    As time wore on, I sent fewer photos of Japan and more photos of Leo, usually on big milestones (he's standing! he's riding a bike!) or on Father's Day.

    I'll miss these little back-and-forths. I'll miss seeing something Japan and thinking "Oh, Kelly needs to see this!" and snapping a photo for him. While I can't send him a photo any longer, I will continue looking for things he might enjoy and snapping photos of them.

    Thank you for everything Uncle Kel.
  • Roadrunner

    I first discovered Anthony Bourdain after graduated college when I first started work and living in Japan. I'd watch No Reservations in a tiny 1K apartment in Yokohama, not far from where I live now. His words, spoken on screen or in print, always left an impact. They encouraged me to explore the world around me.

    Here was a man who got it. Be a traveler, not a tourist.

    Each episode a new adventure. Each episode a reminder to be curious. He was – he is, a hero of mine.

    Watching Roadrunner, you see a fuller picture of the man. His struggles, his pain, and the pain he caused others. You get a glimpse at happy moments, too. Tony being just a regular human. Having never met him, it sounds odd saying this, but you also get a sense of closure. His death makes more sense.

    I highly recommend this film to any fan of Bourdain's.
  • Back in Japan from London

    I've been back in Japan for almost 3 weeks and am finally getting 'round to writing the final "wrapup" post for my trip to London. A common question people ask me is "What was the best thing/worst thing about the trip", which I'll answer here as well.

    Best thing: Hands down, the bicycle culture in London. There's heaps of bike lanes throughout the city. Some are just paint, but many are proper protected bike lanes. I saw cargo bikes, cargo bikes with children in them (wish I could do this!), and even paramedics on a bike (all of his gear was bike-packed in panniers). Perhaps my favorite though, and I saw him twice, was this morning commuter that had his pug riding with him between his hands sitting on a little platform. The only regrettable thing is my cards didn't seem to work with the Boris bikes, so I couldn't rent a bike and cycle about.

    Cycle lanes

    Cycle routes

    Cycle shortcuts

    Worst thing: I had to think about this and the worst thing I could come up with wasn't even that bad, but there was trash everywhere. Not bits of paper or candy wrappers, but like a random garbage sack, only one on the street, so it's not even trash pickup day/time, sitting there smelling things up. It could be hyper-sensitivity because Japan is really clean, generally speaking.

    The flight back to Japan was good. On the flight to London, I didn't realize that I could select my seat before checkin, so I ended up with a window seat. Sitting in a window seat on long haul flights isn't fun as it makes it harder to get up and move about when you please. This time about I managed to snag one of the last aisle seats.

    The seating in premium economy is quite nice. You can't lay flat like you can in business, but you the seats slide out (so no front passenger getting in your space / nearly breaking your laptop with a sudden recline (true story))  and you have leg support.

    Premium Economy on JAL

    Food was also quite nice, though the combination was a bit odd – lasagna and soba?

    Main meal

    With everything going on in Ukraine, just like the flight there, we couldn't fly over Russia. As such we took the southern route back, which added a couple of hours to our flight time.

    14 hours of fun!

    Upon arrival in Japan we all had to do covid tests. If I had arrived 2 days later, I wouldn't needed to do the arrival test. It was just a simple saliva test, but my mouth was quite dry by then, so I had to really work to get enough. They hung a photo of a lemon to help you salivate.

    No covid for me

    Getting through the covid test queue was straight forward enough. But with the number of steps in the flow, I can see why the government has done away with it. There's no way that it could handle more passengers than it was already. 

    Most of things post has been not about London, but the trip back from London, so I'll end with this. London is great. Despite being about 36% smaller than Tokyo, the amount of diversity you experience in London is night and day different. I can't wait to go back.
  • 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.

    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 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.
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