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 RunsHealth 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.
TanzawaThere'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 EnergyI 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 JapanIt'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 AmericaThis 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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I mostly drink two things: black coffee and water. Unless I actively think about it, I usually don't drink enough water in a given day. While I enjoy the taste of water, I have a habit of just sipping my coffee and getting a refill from the maker when it runs out.
This isn't a good habit. Sometimes when I go to sleep at night, about an hour after I fall asleep, I'll wake up with my feet feeling sore. Problems if your feet at night cause me alarm. Usually as feet problems can be signs of diabetes.But it can also be cause by having tired feet because you were on them all day and they're tired. Or, as I discovered, dehydration.
Drinking nothing but black coffee, which dehydrates despite being a liquid, is a good way to end up really dehydrated. In an effort to drink more water I've been taking my old Laken water bottle with my coffee upstairs with me when I start work. Doing so has kept me drinking more water and I can't remember the last time I my feet were sore at night.
I love my little Laken. It's forest green. I've had it for probably a decade at this point. It has a dent at the top that gives it some character. The cap has a great clip that I can use to attach it to my bag so it doesn't fall out.
But it's a bit small, only about 500ml. I often find myself needing to buy a bottle of water to refill it, which defeats the purpose. And that clip I love? It's kind of a pain to unhook when I'm walking around town and want a quick drink. The mouth is also a bit small, about the size of a regular plastic bottle, so I always spill a bit when filling it up. And it's not insulated, so it sweats as much as I do during summer.
So I upgraded today to a 946ml (32oz) Hydro Flask. It's the opposite of my first bottle. It's big. It's got double-wall insulation, so it won't sweat and drinks keep cold/hot. I can put hot liquids in it. The mouth is huge. The lid doesn't have a hook, but it does have a loop that I can use to strap it to my bag. It's freakin' purple (technically "eggplant"). It's a tank.
My old water bottle lasted me a decade still has plenty of life left in it. I hope this one keeps me hydrated for many years to come.
A birthday is just another day, but it’s a good opportunity to stop, reflect on the past year, and plan for the next year.
Looking Back on 35Excluding the covid doldrums we’re all familiar with, 35 was a good year for me, both professionally and personally.
- I (helped) launch two major (different) versions of some factory automation software at work.
- I wrote an article in Japanese that was published in a real-life magazine.
- Interviewed and got a dream job that'll let me have a meaningful impact on climate change.
- Built and released my first project in years (Tanzawa).
- Paid off my car note (6 year loan, paid off in 1.4).
- Fully embraced that I'm an early riser and began prioritizing health.
- Running more months of this year than previous years (though there's still been some big gaps, I'm hopeful).
- Hit over 1 year of weekly The Week posts.
- Dodged 'rona and got us vaccinated very early for our age group (less than a week after eligibility), which gave us full vaccination during delta.
- Took two small overnight stays in Japan (Saitama last November, Yokohama less than a week ago)
Looking Forward on 36Looking forward to 36, I'm not quite sure what to expect.
Work-wise, since I'll be joining a new company in a few days I can't really list any specific goals. There's too many unknowns. But what I do hope is that I integrate to the team quickly, can share what I know, learn what I don't, and have a smooth work life while having an impact on climate change.
- Go on a couple small family trips in Japan (covid allowing). I'd love to ride the Shinkansen with Leo.
- Continue running and or cycling, but on a more regular basis, rain or shine. Ideally I want to do a couple of 5ks during the week and a longer run/ride on the weekend.
- Reduce my non renewable energy usage (put solar panels on the house).
- Build and release an electricity related side project.
- Reduce my plastic usage / trash (this is difficult as it seems no matter what you buy in Japan, it's wrapped in at least one plastic bag). We throw out about 1 40L bag per week today, which seems like way too much. I'd love to get that down to 1 40L bag per every two weeks, or even per month.
- Introduce Leo to his grandparents. Leo has only met my mom on my side of the family when she came to visit shortly after he was born. I'd like him to meet the rest of the family, so maybe a trip to the US once borders open up a bit more?
I have no idea how many of these I'll be able to accomplish this year, but maybe writing them down like I have here will give me a fighting chance to remember and make progress these goals this year.
The past few months my Twitter usage has increased. Initially it was because there was a lot of "word of mouth" information about vaccine availability (and we got our jabs quite early thanks to Twitter). And then it was because it's a good way (perhaps the best way?) to tap into the foreigners in Japan "community".
But lately, I've felt like Twitter's been sucking me down a hole and eating too much of my time. Especially in the mornings when I first wake up. It hits me with all of the injustice and crises in the world. And for no real benefit...
YouTube tries to feed me nothing but political outrage. It's mostly unusable unless I'm directly linked to a video or subscribed to a channel. And while there's plenty to be outraged about, it's nothing new. I don't want to watch political outrage before bed. I want to watch documentaries about the good parts of society. Documentaries about coffee, art and, public transportation.
Instagram feeds me mostly travel content and photos of bread. Honestly, mostly not bad. But I all I think about each time I open the app is that I'm helping feed Facebook and their success.
I'm going to try what Cal Newport advises when trying to cut down on social: remove the apps and logout after each session to add friction to get started.
So far I've deleted Instagram off my phone. I've logged out of Twitter and delete its app as well. YouTube gets a pass, but only as I use it to sling Simon to my TV for Leo.
My hope is that I'll be able to reclaim the mental space taken by social media, slow down again, and start doing things that matter with that time.
One of my recent quests in life is to reduce the amount of meat that I consume. There isn't a single reason why, but rather it feels like a manifestation of slow culmination of thoughts and beliefs.
Whether it be literal less i.e. physically driving less or buying less junk or less in the sense of slow, the idea of less has always had an appeal to me. Better living with less. This thinking is counter to a lot of those I grew up around and was a constant source of conflict.
Why now? Why meat? I can't give can exact reason for why now, other than, why not now? Why meat? The answer to that is more complex.Each burger we consume comes with a at least of costs baked in: the direct cost of a life of the animal and environmental (cutting down forest to make room for cows, shipping animals across an ocean to get processed in a foreign country, just to be shipped back to their origin for sale).
The first is true no matter what. I'm mostly fine with that cost. It's the circle of life. I'm glad it's not me that has to do it. If it were, I'd probably be vegan. The second, the environmental costs, can be controlled, or at least managed by our consumption choices. Do we go for the cheap back of mince from the super center or do we go for the grass-fed at Whole Foods?
The Power of Defaults
When I was in my teens I was massively overweight. I was well over 100kg and only 172cm. While 172cm hasn't changed, but I'm currently in the low 70's (still too high, but I digress). What made this possible wasn't exercise, but learning about the power of defaults.
If you can change your default, you can make substantial changes with significantly less effort. So if your goal is to lose weight, it's less work to reduce consumption rather than burn off excess calories consumed. By changing my default from burger, fries, and a coke to burger and a diet coke or just burger or maybe the chicken sandwich could shave off 600+ calories, which is at least an hours worth of running. And since it's just a default, if I really wanted fries or a coke that day, I could, but I had to make the decision.
Likewise, I've changed my defaults for meat. As beef as it has a higher CO2 footprint per kilogram than pork or chicken, I mostly stopped buying beef and replace it with pork or chicken. Default changed to not beef. The other default I've been working on default: no meat.
Changing DefaultsMy default breakfast has changed from toast with eggs, and maybe some sausage or bacon to toast with peanut butter and a banana. I can still eat an egg if I want, but I usually don't.
Lunch is harder to default for me, but I've been defaulting to less or no meat dishes. I'll have some pasta (either a butter-soy-garlic Japanese style pasta, or a Naprotian (sans bacon as is traditional)), taco rice (with beans instead of meat or just little meat), or onigiri with a Japanese style omelette (tamago-yaki).
Dinner still typically has some kind of meat or fish component, but it's no longer the main. It's used more like a spice. To replace the gap we've been increasing the variety of vegetables that we buy and eat in it's place.
I don't have a particular goal of becoming vegetarian or vegan (though many creatives I respect are e.g. Moby, Casey Neistat etc..), but I may end up there.
For now it's just a journey of exploring life with less meat. A life with less harm. A life with more veg. A life with different defaults.
Inspired by James, I'll chime in with the technology I use. Most of it is a few years old at best.
Computer SetupMy main computer is a mid-2014 15" Macbook Pro with a 2.8Ghz Intel i7 CPU, 16GB ram, and 512GB SSD hard drive. It got a fresh battery back in January so it should be good for another few more years.
I do feel the limits of it occasionally, but not often. As it's been a while since I've gotten a new computer, I am getting the urge to replace or augment it. If I replace it outright, it would probably be with another Mac, Thinkpad, or a Frame.work.
If I were to replace it with a desktop, it would probably be a used Mini PC coming off lease from some business. But since I mostly use my personal laptop from the kitchen table (not my home office), I'd need to remote into the desktop most of the time. But I'm not sure I'd do that.
Home ServerI have a 2012 MacMini with 16GB of ram acting as a home media server. I got it from my brother and the clips that hold the ram in are broken / missing (I have no idea how). So it's using a broken cd-r (as is how I received it) to create pressure to keep them in place.
This server also runs mac OS and is hooked up to my ScanSnap and a Drobo with 14TB of storage. Since it redundant, only half is actually usable. As is, it'ss fairly under-utilized with just Plex and iTunes. Maybe spending time on r/SelfHosting could improve that. If I were to get a new Mini computer, it would likely be replacing both my laptop and my home server.
Work SetupI've been working remotely / working from home for all but 2 years of the past decade. I've always kept my work setup separate from my home setup in that period. Currently my work computers are provided by my employer and they're generally the latest MacBookPro that's refreshed every 3 years.
- Keyboard: Happy Hacking Lite2 USB with a US layout
- Headphones: Airpods on mobile. Sony MDR7506 Professional Large Diaphragm at my desk.
- Mouse: Magic Trackpad and a random Microsoft Optical mouse
- Webcam/Microphone: Built in. (I really should upgrade this)
- Monitor: Dell U2720QM 27 inch 4K
- Operating System: macOS Catalina at home, BigSur at work. Ubuntu on my servers.
- Browsers: Firefox
- Terminal: Terminal.app / iTerm2
- Code Editor: PyCharm / emacs
- Music: Plex / YouTube
PhoneiPhone XR (Yellow, 64GB)
WatchApple Watch (Series 5)
A bit over 4 years ago I moved back to Japan, without a stable job. I had been contracting for 3 or 4 years in the US, but a difference in time zones (GMT+9 vs GMT - 4) made that difficult to maintain. I had heard about a Python shop called BeProud and they were remote friendly.
There weren't many remote friendly companies at the time in Japan, let alone companies that specialized in Python consulting. Being full-remote friendly signaled to me that they'd have a progressive company culture where I'd fit.
It was a fun just over 4 years, my longest tenure to date. My co-workers were great, bosses nice, and the projects (mostly) fun. Work-life balance is taken seriously (I took 6-weeks of (paid) parental leave after my son was born without any issues – something that's still rare in Japan).
If you can speak Japanese and sling Python, they're a great company filled with great people.
So why leave?
Climate change. Like many, for years I've worried about climate change. But I didn't know where to begin, beyond voting for people that take it seriously and reduce flights/driving where possible. But the challenge is bigger than any individual.
The most important change society is going to need to make is is getting our emissions to net zero. As fast as we can. And the biggest leaver is changing how we power (⚡️) our society. Japan currently gets 69% of its electricity from fossil fuels. Any way I can help lower this number, beyond just changing my personal electricity, is something worth spending my time and effort doing.
Like many, while I am worried about climate change and want to help, each time I looked for how I could get involved in non-superficial ways it either required engineering or chemistry expertise that I don't have or in the wrong location or some other factor that didn't line up. Until now.
Octopus Energy, one of Europe's largest investors in renewable energy, is a working to make a "green dent in the universe". They do this in a number of ways:
1. As an electricity provider, they offer dynamic tariffs that move with the wholesale price of electricity. Using data science and machine learning, they then help their customers take advantage of renewables by increasing electricity usage when there's an abundance of energy on the grid (which is usually when there's a lot of renewables producing electricity) and reduce usage when there's less abundance (and usually dirtier, fossil fuels).
2. They're generating their own green electricity that they put on the grid.
3. They sell and service electric vehicles
4. They're making green-Hydrogen as a service.
The system that powers all of this is called Kraken and they're bringing it to the US, Australia, and Japan (in partnership with Tokyo Gas), allowing customers to take advantage of cheap green energy and reduce demand when it's mostly fossil fuels.
Starting in October, I'll be working on the integrations that allow Kraken to be used in Japan and helping de-carbonize Japan's electricity supply. Hopefully over the coming years this 69% will decrease.With any luck, my work will directly contribute to driving that number to 0% as quick as possible.
While I'm sad to leave BeProud and co-workers I enjoyed working for and with, the opportunity to use my skills to fight climate change in a meaningful way is not one that I could pass up. To my new co-workers, I look forward to working together to make our green dent.
Where I live in Yokohama we have some small forests that they've decided to turn into parks. There's some paths through them, they're nice. I'm not sure if they're "native" forests or not, but the patches of green are nice.
Trees are something I've found myself become more of an advocate for as I've gotten older. We need more of them. Not just for the carbon capture features, but for the purely practical reasons: their shade helps cool us down and they clean the air. There's also some psychological benefits of seeing green, too.
Growing up in southern California, our house was a typical post-war ranch style house. In the back we had 3 big lemon trees that produced more lemons that any person could consume. Out front the entire street was lined with tree. Most houses didn't have trees in their yards because of these mature trees provided shade most of the day. It was great when you were playing outside, riding your bikes and skateboards.
But these trees roots were deep and apparently starting to interfere with some plumbing. So the city decided to cut them all down. They replaced them with these young trees that looked like toothpicks in comparison.
The difference in street temperature and the harshness of the light being outside was immediate. Without trees to filter the sun going outside your house you were blinded be the light. The rest of the neighborhood kept their trees, just ours became this hot barren wasteland.
But it's been 20 years. Writing this post I looked at street view on Google maps to see what has changed. All of the trees on my street have gotten bigger and can provide enough shade for a single parked car. Except the one in front of my old house. It's still a twig (or more likely got replaced again). The city also seems to have found their way to the rest of the neighborhood as there's not much shade along the sidewalks anywhere anymore.
One of my favorite summer treats were tips to Knotts Berry Farm, an amusement park. The day before we'd go we'd visit the local Vons and pickup sub rolls, deli meats, and other sandwich fixin's. We take the van (a Ford Econoline). This van had 2.5 rows for seating: two seats up front, a bench in the back, and a single seat in the middle, giving you a nice open area around the sliding door.
Knott's has multiple parking lots, but one of them was park-like and almost entirely covered in shade. We'd park there with a big cooler full of sandwich goods and drinks. During lunch we'd leave the park, enjoy the breeze, and have a nice picnic in the van.
Sometimes, even with the trees, it was a bit warm. On those days we'd have our "Texas coolers" (a cool/ice cool wet tea towel wrapped around our neck) help. Without those trees any picnic would have been hot and miserable.
I don't really have a way to end this post. I just always think about trees and heat island effect more during summer and these two memories of growing up resurfaced themselves.