• 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 thanย  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, Iย  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.
  • I keep thinking about old projects in the Gnome2 days, when I used desktop Linux and how much fun desktop computing used to be. Everything was open โ€“ either by choice via open standards or by force e.g. reverse engineering messenger clients, which then allowed the data to be local and open. You to do cool things like Beagle (and really Nat's Dashboard app before that).

    Dashboard (right) pickuped the context of your current activity and showed you handy information.

    These days everything seems to be closed and or web-based. Your data is only accessible via apis that you don't control. And with the rise of mobile, we've grown to expect our data to be accessible everywhere...but really, wow many times have you been hard press because we couldn't access a random file at a random place at a random time?

    Has this expectation has does us more harm than good?

    Often these services sell themselves as a way to simplify. Simply put all of your data into a magic directory and it will be made available everywhere. But how many people actually manage to do this? On your Mac, a lot of apps automatically save data for you, and chances are it's not in one of those magic directories.

    So now you're left with a false sense of security and an increased complexity of trying to remember where your files are. Not to mention they could be deleted at anytime by someone/algorithm in a random organization e.g. Dropbox/Google closing your accounts.

    Maybe it's just nostalgia and rose tinted glasses...but maybe it's not.
  • 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 itโ€™s not.

    When people see the sticker, they assume I think we should ban all cars. But thatโ€™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 canโ€™t walk around the public least they get run over...by a car. Riding your bike becomes difficult because youโ€™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 donโ€™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.

    Itโ€™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.
  • Fuck the Oligarchs, Get off Gas! โœŠ

    Donโ€™t like filling up at 5 bucks a gallon?

    Fuck the Oligarchs, Get off Gas! โœŠ

    Stressed by all your time in a metal box?

    Fuck the Oligarchs, Get off Gas! โœŠ

    Want to stop the countless wars perpetratedย  by petrostates?

    Fuck the Oligarchs, Get off Gas! โœŠ

    Want real energy independence and security?

    Fuck the Oligarchs, Get off Gas! โœŠ

    Want a healthier and more vibrant local community?

    Fuck the Oligarchs, Get off Gas! โœŠ

    One more time for those in the back!

    Fuck the Oligarchs, Get off Gas! โœŠ
  • Looking back on 2021

    I may be starting (or resuming?)ย  a new tradition with another year in review post ( 2020 ).

    2021 was a good year.ย  This post is a highlight of all of the good things that happened this year.

    Tanzawa
    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 builtย  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.

    Health
    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.

    Kindergarten
    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.

    Writing
    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.

    Climate Change
    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.
  • Reflecting on 35

    A birthday is just another day, but itโ€™s a good opportunity to stop, reflect on the past year, and plan for the next year.

    Looking Back on 35

    Excluding the covid doldrums weโ€™re all familiar with, 35 was a good year for me, both professionally and personally.

    Workย 
    • 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.

    Personal
    • 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 36

    Looking 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.

    Personal
    • 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.ย 
  • I saw this tweet of what Dallas, Texas used to look like and I love it. Compared to what this same spot looks like now, the difference is startling. US cities (even in Texas) used to not be too different from their European counterparts. Maybe this pandemic will allow Americans to start building cities for humans, rather than cars... again.

    Dallas!
  • I really enjoyed Make Your Life Better by Doing Less by Scott Young. People tend to focus on a better life by adding things to our lives. But adding things spreads us thin, guaranteeing that we don't improve in where it really matters. Rather, we should subtract and focus on those things that really matter to us.

    I think about my morning running habit. Or more accurately, my lack of running habit., You see, I used to run a few times a week, but I kept adding more to my plate. First it was a habit of readingย  Twitter for 5 minutes. Then I added Slack for 10 minutes. Oh and Hackernews. One cup of coffee. No, make that two.

    Beyond filling my head with noise when I first wake up, it pushed my morning schedule and spread me thin. Sleeping in five minutes breaks my entire schedule and it's much easier to skip a run when I tell myself "I don't have the time".

    Previously, Iโ€™ve asserted that the hard way is often the easy way. Committing to doing something you know will be hard, paradoxically, often results in an easier time than opting for something that seems easy.ย 

    This passage reminded me of when I decided to build Tanzawa instead of making a custom theme for Wordpress for my IndieWeb-ified blog. It's much harder to build your own CMS than to just point and click โ€“ but getting it the way I want is much easier.

    Instead of clarifying our pursuits into the few, difficult obstacles they represent and deliberately crafting strategies for dealing with them, weโ€™ve opted for a myriad of seemingly easy problems. Except the easy problems end up filling up our lives, leaving little room for what really matters.

    I couldn't say it better myself.
  • Took my bike to the cafe to work a bit this afternoon. Itโ€™s so much fun. I canโ€™t but feel like my parents and peers were sold a lie that driving brings freedom.ย 
  • Posting with Wordpress feels so clunky. So many buttons and check boxes when all I want is to just click a button and type. I'm really looking forward to getting my blog over to my own system so I can move from a generic cms/blogging system to something streamlined specifically for blogging, and most importantly, how I want to blog.

    I'm already full of ideas for fun pages I'll able to make once my data is in a proper relational format and in a database that supports geographic queries. But first I need to finish porting my data. So close I can taste it.

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