• It’s week #10 – I’ve managed to make it to double digit weekly updates!
  • I renewed my driver’s license for first time. There’s 3 different levels of license in Japan, green, blue, and gold. You get a gold license by renewing twice without (any?) infractions or accidents. Having a gold license will also entail you to a 10% discount on your auto-insurance. But if you get tickets with a gold license, they’ll move you down to blue on your next renewal. Even though I’ve been driving for over 15 years, my driving history in Japan is only 3 years, so I was on a green and am now blue.
  • The actual renewal process is quite simple – you put in your license at a machine to register that you’re there for the day at “Station 1”. Then you progress through each station from paying your fees, eye checks, taking your photo, and finally a 2 hour lecture to remind you to follow the rules and overview of recent changes.
  • With Covid19 you still need to take the class, but the number of people permitted is half than before. So even though you came in the morning, you may need to take the afternoon class, or if you came in in the afternoon, you may need to come back the next day to take the lecture. I was rushing through all the steps as fast as possible as I didn’t want to hang out at the DMV from 45 minutes before they opened until mid-afternoon because of class size limits. Thankfully I made the cut-off and was finished by noon.
  • The lecture itself was mostly a video to remind people to drive safely and show some consequences of not driving safely. The video did cure all urges of me ever riding or owning a scooter, however.
  • After watching The Social Dilemma, I’m thinking of closing my Instagram account. I don’t use it much, but trying to figure out how to keep the data, as it is like a mini-photoblog. It looks like I can export my data (thanks to GDPR!) and maybe import it here to my website.
  • Leo had his first full-day of pre school, including taking and eating his lunch at school with just his peers and teachers. He had onigiri (rice balls), karaage (Japanese style-fried chicken), pumpkin, and tamago-yaki (Japanese-style omelette). We were a bit worried if he’d actually eat at school, but he ate almost everything!

  • I started working on a new, lighter design for my site. Which you’re probably looking at right now. It’s heavily inspired by solar.lowtechmagazine at the moment, but I’m planning to tweak it more as time goes on.
  • I made the short drive to Kamakura with the family to visit Patagonia. I used to visit Kamakura regularly, but with the surge of tourists and overtourism it’s become so full of people that I try to time my visits to “off-season”. With tourists not being allowed into the country it was so much quieter. It feels a lot like when I first visited Japan in 2006.
  • While in Kamakura I took the opportunity to ride one of my favorite trains, the Enoden. Leo’s getting old enough where we can ask questions of each other. My favorite exchange of the trip was when I asked him if he likes riding the train. His (translated) response: “I like riding the train. Mom, do you like riding the train, too?”. It was cute to see him wanting to make sure that mom was also having a good time.
  • I found this guy that collects photos from flea markets in Japan. Whenever I See pictures like these, I always wonder about the people in the photos.Who are they? What they did? How’d life treat them? Worth a visit.

  • I migrated this blog from NYC to Frankfurt, Germany so it’s now powered by 100% renewable energy. It’s a small step towards making my blog more sustainable and I documented the process so you can migrate your Digital Ocean droplets to sustainable regions powered by renewable energy.
  • While writing that post, I wondered if it would actually help anyone or make a difference. Chris used my guide to migrate his blog to renewable energy sources. Progress!
  • On the topic of waste – Gerry McGovern wrote a great article you should read called Cloudwaste. We never think about the cost of a search (after all, it’s “free”) – not quite.

Google estimates that carrying out a single search takes about 0.0003 kWh (1080 joules) of energy. That’s the equivalent of leaving a 60-watt bulb on for 17 seconds. In 1999, it was estimated that there were one billion searches on Google. In 2019, there were 5.2 billion searches a day, and 1.9 trillion searches a year. That’s the equivalent of leaving a 60-watt bulb on for one million years.

  • I set a goal to run 40km this month and I managed to smash that goal running a total of 60.9km (37.8 miles) in August. I’d like to match the same distance in September. Hopefully it will be a bit easier as summer winds down.
  • I finally bit the bullet and am trying out Apple TV+. I haven’t had a chance to watch what I actually want to watch (Greyhound, and the Beastie Boys documentary, but I have been enjoying watching Snoopy in Space with my son. In the first few episodes Snoopy goes to Johnson Space Center and they go to Space Center Houston. I used to live across the street from JSC and in the area for a number of years, and it was fun to see that they took the time to accurately depict the buildings.
  • Leo got his first proper haircut. The hairstylist used to specialize in kids cuts when she was first starting, so she’s a pro. She’s even got a barber chair that is shaped like a sports car. Leo didn’t flinch or cry or anything until she got out the hairdryer. He didn’t like that.

  • Saw this tweet about how the size of a highway interchange in in Houston is the same size as the city center of Siena, Italy (population 30k). Everything’s bigger in Texas, but some things are jut ridiculous.
  • I tried Yakisoba bread for the first time in all my years in Japan. I remembering seeing it for the first time in Nagoya in 2006 at the 7-11 near the language school I was studying at, but never thought to try it. It’s pretty good – but since it’s carbs on carbs, you still want some protein to fill you up.
  • I wrote an article about how to build environmentally sustainable digital products. There’s a lot more about this topic that I want to talk about and explore. It’s also something that most software engineers probably don’t think much about in their daily work, as energy efficiency is seen as a hardware issue.
  • Thinking about sustainability, I love the efforts like these off-grid solar powered websites. That might be offline part of the time goes against our fast-food-fast-fashion-always-on culture is so refreshing (albeit disappointing if it’s down when you want to access it). It’s like the Slow movement for micro-computers.
  • I saw this article about the results of Finland’s experiment with Universal Basic Income and it’s good to see that UBI doesn’t effect the willingness to work, as many detractors say.
  • Although it’s due to extenuating circumstances, Covid-cash is not dissimilar to an UBI experiment. While we are fortunate enough to have not been effected by the economic blowback (yet, who knows what the future brings 🤞🏻), it did bring a sense of security much like UBI.

  • I shipped a small project I was working on for a friend to automate some data collection from Texas Commission on Environmental Quality’s website. The work itself wasn’t too much different than Airbot but instead of being a full-blown django app requiring a server, it’s a lambda function that runs for a few minutes each day.
  • I rode the train for the first time since February-ish. This kind of blows my mind as one of the things I love about Japan is the abundance of mass transit. But I also haven’t been going too far out of a 5km radius from my house on a regular basis either, so it makes sense.
  • I did some exploring of the neighborhood behind ours on a long walk with Sophie over the weekend. It feels oddly American, but not. The streets are wide, there’s sidewalks on both sides, every house is offset from the curb with a small garden, it’s quite nice. But it’s also not nearly as American Sanda, Hyogo
  • I saw this great ad for the Harris County Public Library. I hope that ads like these help encourage people to use the library.
  • I ran my fastest 5.09km to date at 32 minutes 30 seconds. Edging closer to the elusive 5km in 30 minutes.

  • I gave a presentation about towncrier, a utility to help generate changelog files in Japanese. Summary of the talk is as follows: For each branch that you’re working on, you create a changeling file e.g. 12345.feature.rst. When you run towncrier it will group changelog files based on the type (feature, bug fix etc…) and prepend it to your changelog file. Having those changelog files in your branch makes managing multi-branch staging/test branches. And since you can put whatever you want in the content of the changelog file, you can add release instructions, which makes manually/semi-automatic deploys easier.
  • On my run on Monday morning, I ran towards Sakaigawa river. I used to live on the other side of it and run along it regularlly. I was hoping to run on it longer than I did, but it was about 0.5 – 0.75km further than I had anticipated to get there. On the way back, one of the houses close to the river’s rooster started crowing. I’m sure the neighbors love that.
  • Went to Ikea by car for the first time. Still getting used to Japanese highways and learning where lanes come and go, so it’s always an adventure. The cafe was as busy as ever, but they didn’t have any meatballs :(. Slowly getting used to the ACC (adaptive-cruise-control) and LKA (lane keep assist) on my Honda Freed. ACC and LKA combined and it drives itself down the road. Looking forward for this all to be over so can do some road trips.

  • The rain season officially ended. Gone is a month of rainy weather cool-ish weather and here are blue skies and 30+ degree weather. That’s still a good 10 degrees cooler than Houston summers, but you’re outside / exposed to it more in Japan than in the US so it feels hotter. Autumn, please hurry.
  • Went to Handy, a Home Depot-lite over the weekend and picked up some new storage and picked up a cooler to use this summer. Trips to Ayase are always fun because the streets are so wide and there’s a lot of green, it reminds me of being in the US. Looked at the BBQ’s – really thinking about getting one. Since we have a farm and a field next door for neighbors on one side, BBQing out front shouldn’t be a problem.
  • I read an interesting article It’s time to start writing. It’s mostly about how Jeff Bezos and Amazon have banned PowerPoints and has a culture of writing instead. Writing has two benefits: it clarifies your thinking and it creates a history of why decisions were made. Clarity through writing is something I think of a lot at work lately as I’ve been writing more specs and documentation.
  • Justin linked me to an article from a decade ago called Stop trying to delight your customers. The title alone has some solid advice in it. People use your service because it saves them time/money/provides value – not because it causes delight. The focus on “providing delight” vs solving a problem causes a lot of startups to miss their product market fit. You don’t need a whizzbang SPA to start when a simple server-rendered form will solve the problem. Expectations of software has risen in the past decade, but if your app solves a painful enough problem your customers won’t care if it has some rough edges.

  • With a couple of public holidays lined up, we had a 4-day weekend. While the covid numbers aren’t spiking in Kanagawa too much, it still doesn’t feel safe to go out and about We mostly kept close to home.
  • I got a haircut for the first time since just before covid started. Everyone wore masks (as you’d expect, this is Japan after all), not much talking (woo!), and a shave to boot. Even in normal times I don’t like going to the barber, but I’m always happy I went and wonder why I don’t go more often right after I finish. Humans are funny.
  • I just found out about Svelte this past week. It’s been a revelation for building reactive apps. Moving reactivity from runtime to compile time is so smart. Rich’s talk Rethinking Reactivity is really worth a watch if you do any frontend development.
  • To learn Svelte, I’ve started to build a small app with it that I’ve been wanting for a while: A photo blogging client using IndieAuth/Micropub. So far I got the basic layout (using Tailwind.css) and the IndieAuth workflow setup. Once it’s ready y’all be the first to know.

  • I don’t think I’ve seen the sun in over a week and the forecast is for rain and clouds for the next week. This isn’t a complaint because once the rainy season is over it’ll be hot basically all the time. (Update: Saw some blue skies and it’s hot 🥵)
  • I watched a french documentary called Antifa: Chasseurs de Skins. It’s about the anti-fascists in Paris who fought the neo-Nazi gangs in the 80’s. You can watch it here.
  • Sent in my FPCA (Federal Post Card Application) so I can get an absentee ballot this fall. Thankfully I can submit it all by email. With sending mail to the US being difficult / delayed right now, I worry a bit about sending in my actual ballot this fall.
  • I ran for 30 minutes for the first time in a while. It’s still cool enough to run with a mask on. Using some nice homemade masks that my MIL made me so they’re not hot.
  • In a discussion on writing engaging technical content on HN, someone linked to a lecture from the University of Chicago about writing outside of academe. The crux of the message is: those rules you were told about writing (use short sentences, don’t start sentences with “and”, or “but”, only use active verbs) don’t make sense and are anti-patterns. When you’re writing in school, you don’t think it, but you’re literally paying the teachers to read your work. Outside of school, your writing must provide some value to the reader or they won’t read it.
  • Three-day work week this week thanks to a couple of public holidays giving everyone a four-day weekend. Looking forward to having a couple extra days off, but not quite sure what to do with it.

  • I saw a good format for a weekly “week in review” blog post on Michael’s microblog that I’m going to copy. It’s just a bullet list of things that happened, but I hope it will allow me to capture the ideas that are between a status update a full post.
  • I figured out why some of my posts weren’t receiving with webmentions with help from the indieweb irc chat. Webmentions are only enabled if trackback/comments are allowed. The posts that weren’t working I drafted initially using MarsEdit, which turns off trackbacks by default. Unfortunately there isn’t a per-post checkbox in my post admin interface, so it was non-obvious why some were working and some weren’t.
  • The potential of Micropub finally clicked thanks to a talk by I watched by Chris.
  • I finished reading chapter one of the dragon book, though it no longer has a dragon on the cover. There’s no real immediate work or project ideas for me to learn compiler design, but I know the principles will come in handy.
  • My Apple Watch has quickly made itself an indispensable part of my routine. The haptic wake up alarms and the reminders to stand while I’m working are the killer features for me so far. Running with it is also a game changer. I’m using the 4 hour weather look ahead on my wrist far more than I had thought I would. But that’s probably because it’s the rainy season.
  • I went to St. Marc Cafe for a coffee and chocolate croissant. There wasn’t an empty seat inside, which made me a bit nervous. Everyone was wearing a mask when they weren’t drinking / eating and that location is large enough where there’s plenty of space between tables.