• The Week #44

    • This past Sunday was Mother's Day. A few weeks ago ( Week #38 ) when Leo and I went to Kamakura we dropped by the Ghibli shop. They have these great My Neighbor Totoro pots and for Mother's Day, you could order them with flowers. I couldn't order it in the shop with Leo (toddlers aren't the most patient people) and luckily I could order it online. It came early and is a great addition to the front of the house.
      Totoro welcoming visitors
    • Last week we planted some seeds in some containers and they've started sprouting! So far just the corn and the green beans have started popped out. I'm still skeptical that it'll all live long enough for me to actually eat, but for now I'm remaining positive.
      Green beans sprouting
    • I cycled to two new parks with Leo. I really love the range that a bike, especially an electric assist bike with all of the hills, gives you. The more I ride my bike, the less I'm convinced EVs are "the" solution for personal transport with regards to climate change. This isn't surprising for me, as I've never been a fan of cars in general.

      It's not the energy or space required to made and keep cars, it's that they encourage sprawl, dominate our neighborhoods and hog our resources. Self-driving EVs doesn't change that equation. Cities should be designed for people and cars tend to get first consideration when designing the streets. More people on bikes for more trips would make the streets safer and connect people with their neighbors.
    • The new Anthony Bourdain, World Travel, an Irreverent Guide, book arrived and I've started reading it. The parts that Tony wrote are in blue. Even though he died a couple years ago, I can hear in it in his voice when I read it. One day I hope that I can write half as good as he did.
  • The Week #43

    • It’s our second Golden Week with a state of emergency. The numbers keep on going up. I wish they'd give half the consideration they're giving for the olympic athletes to the residents of Japan. We’re trying to keep close to the house as best we can.
    • That said, I am spending time on my bicycle. I peddled to Enoshima and back (about 35km round trip). I know I've been talking about my bike a lot recently, but it's been a revelation. Like many Americans I stopped riding my bike in high school. Not only as I got a license, but the the suburbs in Houston are so spread out / bike unfriendly (unless you want to get hit by a pick-up truck the size of an elephant) that people naturally stop.Β 
    • I made some good progress on Tanzawa so far as well. I've built and launched my file browser. It shouldn't be too difficult to hook this in to Trix (the editor I use to write posts) so you could insert an existing photo into a post without re-uploading it.
    • Leo's wearing undies during the day. He's had two accidents thus far, but he's getting better at it. Thankfully neither accident was in public nor over the tatami floors.
  • The Week #42

    • Tokyo is entering another State of Emergency. I understand why their doing it, Kanagawa should probably also be declaring one. But these half-measures for the past year(!) and a glacial rollout of the vaccine, I feel like I'm getting close to the "pandemic wall".
    • I finished and submitted the first draft (to be published in June) of a magazine article I'm writing (Japanese) for an internal review at work. I always get a bit nervous before submitting these kinds of things, like they'll suddenly realize "wait a minute, this guy doesn't know what he's talking about". Getting your Japanese nitpicked and seeing grammar mistakes that you know you learned back in college is also humbling.
    • Hoshide-san successfully launched and made it the ISS. Always happy to see JAXA astronauts fly.Β 
    • I ordered the new Bourdain book – Word Travel: An Irreverent Guide. Although Bourdain has been dead a couple of years (something I still think about on occasion and get sad about the loss), this new book was a work in progress until just before he passed. Apparently he was slated to work on it for a couple of weeks that summer. Either way I think it fits exactly what I've been wanting to read: something not heavy, not work related (no tech/design), non-fiction, and something in English. Excited for it to arrive.
  • The Week #41

    • I've migrated my blog from Wordpress to Tanzawa! I made the first commit to Tanzawa back during winter break with this idea of wanting a blog that was comprised of different micro-blogs, dead easy to use, and IndieWeb friendly. I finally finished all of the Wordpress importing code so I could move entire blog over. The import went smooth – the only issue I had was needing to increase my request Timeout settings while Tanzawa rewrote all of the content.

      It's still nowhere near finished and ready for the non-enthusiast, but it's getting closer and I cannot express how excited I am to finally be using it on my main site.
    • I am no longer head of the block. I had two last tasks: deliver the "power of attorney/proxy" sheets that give me (head of the block) authority to approve the next year's directors o the neighborhood association and then attend the meeting to exercise that right, ending my duties.Β 

      My neighbor across the street didn't include all of the signatures required on his proxy-approval form so I had to go collect them. After I collected it, we were going to take a family walk to the neighborhood association building to drop them off.

      I rang their door bell told them the wife came down and I told her what I needed and she invited me inside while she gets their seals. When I looked up her husband (late 60's) was standing there with a huge grin on his face. He motioned for me to come inside and sit on the sofa.

      He offered me a drink. Thinking I'd only be there a second and knowing that my wife would be outside momentarily I refuted. He asked again. I refuted. Finally he looks like a light bulb went off and just gets a wine glass and hands it to me. Can't refuse now.

      I hear my son yelling for me outside.Β  The wife invites them inside and much to my wife's surprise see's me drinking wine and enjoying cheese πŸ·πŸ˜πŸ§€. Β 

      We all had a good chat (mostly masked) before continuing on our walk. The opportunities for these meetings between neighbors are rare these days, especially with covid, but they are the foundation of building a community. I've said it before and I'll say it again, I'm really happy we found such a good neighborhood to call home here in Yokohama.
    • I've been thinking about audio quality as I'm on so many Zoom calls lately and saw this page comparing a bunch of microphones with audio-clips. Usually this type of content would be in a YouTube video or something. Being able to click different players to hear sample recordings is neat. I'm nowhere near deciding or actually purchasing a microphone, but it's still neat.
  • The Week #40


    • For the past month I've been thinking about getting a bike. I wanted something with that wasn't a cruiser like our electric assist mama-chari. Something a bit more sporty but not a road bike...a cross bike. I found a nice blue and white Giant Escape for Β₯35,000 (about $350) at a local used goods shop in Totsuka. It already had fenders on it too, as an added bonus.





    • Since the weather's been so nice (it is spring) we took our bikes for a long ride along Sakaigawa with our goal being Iida-farm. We took the scenic route, which was a bit longer at 12km. Iida-farm is a small dairy farm with an attached gelato shop that's popular with cyclists along Sakaigawa. Me and Leo shared a milk gelato and it was great.

    • My dad got his second shot of Pfizer and Japan has just started vaccinating the elderly. With a 4th wave apparently starting, I really wish they'd pick up the pace.

    • I haven't had as much time (or energy) for working on Tanzawa this past week. Part of it is I'm using/saving my energy for work as we're approaching a deadline. The other part of it is writing the Wordpress import code just isn't fun. I've got the import code written and working, I just need to run it through my posts to discover the edge cases I'm not handling and handle them. I think I'm fine leaving a proper polished UI for another day.

    • Jeff analyzed all the Airbot data for 2020 and submitted a PR to adjust the values so it tweets for the top 0.5% threshold. It already appears to be tweeting more! Certainly more than it has the past month (TCEQ blocked our scraper's ip address again – a simple snapshop and restore of the server on a new droplet and we're back in business).

  • The Week #39


    • Another big week in the Van Dyne household. After 3 years (mostly by-choice) my wife is re-joining the workforce. The timing is mostly because Leo will be starting pre-school next week, so he'll be out of the house most days for the majority of the day. Japan has some different laws surrounding healthcare/social security/being able to be declared as a dependent for tax purpose requirements, where if you work more than x hours or earn more than y per year you can no longer be included on your spouses healthcare/social security, so she's staying within those bounds for now. Either way, exciting.

    • I watched The Trial of the Chicago 7 about anti-Vietnam war protestors charged with the intention to start riots at the 1968 DNC convention in Chicago. I've never seen Sacha Baron Cohen in a serious role before, usually he's Borat or Ali G for me. I didn't realize until the end it was an Aaron Sorkin movie – it's no wonder I liked it.

    • This year marks 100 years of public transit in Yokohama and the city has build a webpage celebrating those 100 years. It even looks like the next station down has some limited edition paper tickets "Dancing Cat" tickets. Fun!

    • I got a haircut and talking with my barber about the vaccine and she said she's hesitant to get it. I asked why and she mentioned Bill Gates funding the research, alluding to an ulterior motive. I wasn't quite sure how to handle it exactly, but tried to talk about his vaccine work before covid. She said "do you think this might be one of those rumors?", "Yes, absolutely.". I also told her about my dad and brother's experience getting the vaccine (uneventful, because it's safe and not filled with 5G ads for Windows).

  • The Week #38


    • Exciting times in the Van Dyne household! The potty has suddenly clicked for Leo. We haven't been nearly as strict with Leo as some of our friends have been when it comes to potty training. We've taken the approach that "everybody eventually doesn't like wet diapers and grows out of it". Instead we've just been trying to make it a routine before the bath to give it a try. If he does, great and if he doesn't that's fine, we'll try again tomorrow.
    • I had Leo by myself all day Saturday and I didn't change a diaper – at all. Not because he didn't pee, but because I asked him every 3 hours if he had to go, we'd try and he'd sit and do his thing. On Sunday we thought he was just doing his thing on the loo and he did his first #2 by himself. The end of diapers is quickly approaching!
    • Part of having Leo all day Saturday meant we go out and ride the train. Leo wanted to ride the monorail. The monorail ends at Enoshima, so we can ride a bunch of trains and loop back to our house. Usually we walk down to the beach, maybe get a burger atKua`Aina then loop back.

      However, a couple of weeks ago Leo went to the aquarium in Enoshima and it was likely going to be packed being it's a weekend and spring break. Even without the pandemic I'd avoid it. So we took the Enoden to Kamakura. I figured it was also going to be packed, but it was early enough we could avoid the crowds. We walked towards Tsurugaoka-hachimangu as there's a Tully's and I needed a break. But to my surprise it had disappeared!


      We looked at the Sakura and koi for a couple of minutes and headed home. On the way back we saw the Narita Express, one of Leo's favorite trains. He also melted down as he wanted to ride it, but it wasn't at a platform for us to ride. If it was I would have paid the extra fare so we could take it a couple of stations home.
    • I linked to What is the Small Web on the Tanzawa blog, but felt it's worth calling it out on The Week, too. It's made by Small Tech (also worth a click).
    • Β Small Technology are everyday tools for everyday people designed to increase human welfare, not corporate profits.
    Β  Β  Β  Small Tech is exactly the banner to get behind.

  • The Week #37


    • Technically this was last week, but my term as head of the neighborhood has come to an end. Although I was part of the physical education group (the most event heavy group), we didn't have a single event due to covid. Being new to the neighborhood and not renting, I was hoping to use this year to get more involved in my community and to get to know my neighbors / let my neighbors get to know me. Next year I'm the backup head of the block, so maybe that's still possible, once the vaccine rolls out.

    • Speaking of vaccines, my friends in the US and UK are starting to get their covid vaccinations. While we've had a fraction of the case load as them, I can't help but feel a bit jealous. We're still inoculating at a slower pace than I'd like to see, but in a month it's increased a hundred to topping topped 70k per day. It's at least going in the right direction.

    • I've decided to get a bicycle and went to a couple of shops to check out used ones. One was a one of Japan's great second hand stores, where they have a bunch of "used" products that are like new. And the other was a shop that specializes in used bikes. The staff was friendly and answered my stupid questions. I'd wouldn't mind buying my bike from them, but they didn't have the one I want.

    I don't know what it is - maybe just a lack of knowledge of bicycles in general, but I always hate going into bike shops. It's not a Japan thing, as I've noticed in US as well. I always feel some serious in-group/out-group energy. Just me?


  • I saw this cool project called Solar Protocol, which is an experiment to have a website hosted across the globe completely by solar power and sent from whichever sever has the most energy. I thought about volunteering as a server steward, but I'm not sure about how I can securely mount solar panel to my balcony, which has both great southern and western exposure (I'm not about to start climbing up on the roof).

  • Lately I've felt like our water bills are a bit higher than they should be. For many it's because they're now at home all day everyday, rather than in the office, so their usage has increased. But we've been at home all day everyday for about 3 years. Since we bought our house, I had always thought our water pressure almost too good. Turns out the taps were fully open. I cut them back 50% - 60% and they're still getting great flow. This should reduce our usage (and thus our bill), but it will take a month or two for us to find out just how much effect this 30 second fix will have.

  • The Week #36


    • Sophie turned 9 years old – she's old enough now that she has to take medicine twice a day. Rather than making her a little doggie cake, kept up the tradition of singing happy birthday before giving her a bit of chicken and carrots. She always looks at as funny whenever we sing to her.

    • I shipped locations in Tanzawa this week and started a new weekly round up style post on the development blog. Once I add support for checkins (backfed from Swarm) I've got the minimum viable blog for me to switch over full-time. Already I find myself wanting to author posts with Tanzawa instead of Wordpress.

    • As for the migration – I've got two basic paths forward. 1) Turning my current site into a static site and use nginx to redirecting existing urls to the static site. 2) Parse the Wordpress XML file and import it into Tanzawa. Option 1 will "buy me time" to get the Wordpress import flow working. 2 is probably at least a week long project like locations were. I'll have to blog about possible workflows on the Tanzawa blog while I stew on the path forward.

    • Jacob linked me to this new creator on youtube: Beau Miles. Specifically this great film of his called The Commute: Walking 90km to Work. It's refreshing to see someone talk about just how much cars remove us from our environment. The description about the video says more than I ever could.



    Setting off with no food, water or shelter, I walked 90km to work a bunch of years ago to see if a stripped back adventure could give me the kind of buzz that far away, exotic, heavily planned expeditions have given me over the years. It did. Different, but familiar feelings of challenge and insight came through. When I was asked to give a lecture about adventuring at a new building at my university, I said β€˜no worries, why don’t I walk to work and deliver the lecture as soon as I get there’? So I walked to work, again.

    Go watch it. Now.Then follow up with his The Human Bean: 40 days on a tin-bean diet.

  • The Week #35


    • The biggest thing to happen this week was Leo graduating from from the "higkari-gumi" at his pre-pre-school. I couldn't attend, but saw a small video. He was so proud of himself. He got a cool medal, a hat, and a certificate that we've framed. He starts pre-school full-time at the same school next month – he's so ready for it. My only concern is keeping his english ability when he's playing in Japanese all day. His output in English is already "behind" that of his Japanese (as expected, since we live in Japan) – I just hope it just doesn't regress.

    • We're finally back down to double-digit covid cases in Kanagawa again. We haven't been in this range since probably November or December. We're not out of the woods yet, but starting to see light at the end of the tunnel. If only they could speed up the vaccinations here, they're off to a snail pace.

    • In my entire life I've owned 3 suits. 2 suits I got when I first graduated from the Men's Warehouse and became way too big for me once I moved to Japan ( it's common for people to lose weight when they move to Japan because a combination of smaller portion sizes and taking trains/buses everywhere instead of driving). Those 2 suits fell apart almost immediately. The other suit I got as a replacement for my sister-in-law's wedding 11 or 12 years ago. The white shirt I bought with it was getting pretty gross so I went out and replaced them this week. I don't think I've ever owned this many dress shirts at a single time. Now I just need an occasion to wear them. (Even as a salaryman, I never wear a suit - even when going in to the office (which I haven't for over a year)).

    • I'm starting to blog (even more) with Tanzawa. As it gets more feature complete it's easier for me to blog with it than it is Wordpress.

    • Around a month ago I bought tanzawa.blog. It will be the home of the Tanzawa project (maybe hosting???) once it's ready for release general consumption. In the mean time, I've redirected tanzawa.blog to tanzawa.jamesvandyne.com

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