The best of 2015

This year was one of community, organizing and living better. After breaking down my current interests in a recent post, a pattern of community organizing and social activity is apparent. 2015 was a year of solidifying my thinking on social issues, especially those beyond tech, which has consumed me for the past few years.

Besides winning a victory over Bell Mobility and getting a nice letter from prime ministerial hopeful Tom Mulcair, here are some highlights from 2015:

Posts

Early in the year my writing performance was strong but it tapered off towards the end. Disappointing, and understandable that my most memorable posts were from the first part of the year.

In January I did a Kelowna news media audit. Thanks to this post I was able to interview insiders in the industry here, and learned a lot about the attempt Kelowna.com made to unseat Castanet… and why it failed. The post even generated an invitation to talk on CBC Radio. Later there were communications with UBCO to host a panel discussion between journos and academics to talk about media and transparency with the public, but that went nowhere. Nobody else seems to want to tackle this problem.

In March the LRC published my review of Kitten Clone. That is my second piece with them, and it was a lot of fun working with their editor.

I really enjoyed my second trip to the annual LinuxFest Northwest in April. My first experience was good, but this one had a lot of political events that I found very interesting. See More than computers — A recap of LinuxFest Northwest 2015.

For summer holidays we visited Japan, which made me think deeply about the sense of belonging that I have been building up in Canada — maybe for the first time. Check out the post In between worlds — thoughts from a short trip to Japan.

Media

I logged 47 films and 55 books this year. Only 6 were by women authors… :-/ Hmmmm… Of the 55, 42 were audiobooks. This is out of balance compared to years before. One reason is that I have been “reading” Infinite Jest … for 6 months. The “Infinite Summer” has certainly run long, but I am back on the horse and hopefully can finish in the next quarter. My GoodReads Challenge this year was 110%. Next year I will probably tone this down a little and listen to more Great Courses from The Teaching Company and history/education podcasts.

Books and film consumption by year, 2010 to 2015
Books and film consumption by year, 2010 to 2015

Probably the most influential book I read this year was Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty-First Century. I read it early in the year and it guided a lot of my subsequent reading. Highly thought-provoking and highly recommended. For fiction, The Three-Body Problem by Liu Cixin was a breakout book. It was my first foray into Chinese science fiction, and hard sci-fi at that — super mind-bendy. I look forward to the rest of the series.

For film, I would be remiss not to mention Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Maybe not the most technical film, but I still can’t stop thinking about it. I now know how real pop-culture fans feel about their respective fandoms. Going again this week. The Martian was another impressive film. I only saw it once in the theatre, but will watch it again as soon as I can get it in my house. I finally watched 2013’s Her (just yesterday in fact) and it blew me away. Finally, The Lego Movie and Big Hero 6 were the winners in Family Film this year.

Those are fun, blockbuster-type movie “experiences”, but for more hard-hitting media I consumed this year there are a few standouts: All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace, a documentary series from 2011 was very influential; as was Under the Dome, a documentary on China’s disastrous environmental record (see my full review here). The first few episodes of the summer television series Mr Robot had some great social commentary on tech. Even though the series was very enjoyable, it was a little disappointing that they did not more deeply explore the show’s early critiques.

Upcoming in 2016

Next year will see more learning/media focus on the Syrian refugee crisis as I work more with ORCA. There is also a fun secret project that will be done during Q1 (expect a post then). In the spring there is another trip to Japan planned, and in the summer a second wedding (my wife and I are renewing our vows for our tenth wedding anniversary). 2016 will also be a breakout year for my company. So, lots of positive stuff coming up.


See previous entries:

In between worlds — thoughts from a short trip to Japan

Every time I come back to Japan I ask myself: could I live here again? I spent 8 years here. I met my wife here. Both of my daughters were born here. There is so much about this country that I enjoy. The infrastructure is great, the safety, helpfulness, richness of culture and history.

Yet, I don’t think I could live in Japan again. At least, not at this point in my life. And the reason is a simple one: community.

We have lived for 3 years in Kelowna. Since leaving my hometown at 18, this is the longest I have ever lived in one location. I am involved in a few different community groups including the startup community, Japanese immigrant community, the wider immigrant community, and others. Once my children are more independent, I plan on being involved in more. This year, my oldest daughter completed kindergarten. That has a whole new community, a long term one made up of teachers and best friends and other parents. I care about what goes on in my city, province and country, and think of myself as an active and engaged citizen. I cherish my right to vote, and can voice my opinion to my political representatives which I have pretty much all met at one time or another.

If we moved back to Japan, I would lose all of this.

My wife takes our daughters back about once a year and puts them in school for a month or so, that they might have some Japanese education. Walking the kids to school, listening to the daily recap from the teacher, attending assemblies — even though I am pretty fluent in Japanese, my outsider status is pretty apparent. Not having the same shared experiences, I cannot contribute to my full potential.

This year’s visit coincided with the Gion Festival, a month long series of events, dating back to 970CE, heralding the beginning of summer. Gion matsuri is one of Japan’s three major festivals and the pride of Kyoto. It is a hot sticky mess as the summer rainy season brings humidity and typhoons. Everyone looks forward to going out in the (slightly) cooler evening, admiring the 33 floats, running into neighbours, drinking and revelling. Families are out with younger children way past their bedtime. Teenagers run around, flirting and sneaking drinks. It is a real carnival atmosphere. The floats represent different city neighbourhoods and are maintained, built and paraded by the community members. There are months of preparations, meetings and dance practices, bringing the community together. Parade members are selected as representatives of their neighbourhoods. The participants are full of pride, and are looked on by their community members with pride. Although there is the occasional foreigner in the mix, they are inherently a “guest.” Experiencing Gion matsuri this year just reminded me of how difficult it is to integrate into a foreign society.

My 8 years in Japan were not as an “expat”, but as someone who intended to live their forever. I am fluent with the language, knowledgeable about history, know more about Japanese traditional culture than many Japanese, and kept up with domestic politics and economic issues. Even armed with all this knowledge, lacking a common experience with natives makes it exceedingly difficult to integrate completely. I think most lifers in Japan find a comfortable niche and make it work for them. This would have been my approach, had I chosen to stay.

These challenges in integration have given me a little insight into the immigrant experience, which has been very useful in Canada. My wife got her Canadian Permanent Residency over 5 years ago, yet there are still many struggles. She is grateful that I can understand her feelings and at the same time be her “inside man” when it comes to Canadiana. I enjoy helping other immigrants, not from a pedestal of privilege (as a white male) but as a pool of understanding, to be drawn upon if needed.

I am a collection of strange experiences, without any real special skill or knowledge. I have always been in between worlds, serving as connective tissue between different communities — stuck between Canada and Japan; between Eastern and Western Canada; technology and politics; nerds and “normies”; between the past and the future. Always cartilage, never the bone.

However, at this point in my late thirties, with all the connections to the local community that I have been building over the past few years, I am finally achieving a sense of long-term belonging. Japan is a wonderful place, a place that we Canadians can certainly learn from and aspire to in many things. But for now, I am content just visiting. I have much to live for at my home in Canada.

Summer 2015 in Japan

For those that are interested, here are a bunch of photos and videos from my trip to Japan this summer:

War in the East China Sea… or lack thereof

Foreign Affairs is being unnecessarily alarmist on China-Japan relations in the East China Sea. Take these quotes:

A military conflict between China and Japan would have catastrophic consequences and would almost certainly involve the U.S. military.

And:

The cost of any military conflict between China and Japan would be immense, and neither side wants a war.

Yet:

It isn’t as if China and Japan want to go to war over a few islands.

And:

While neither side wants a conflict…

But there is always a risk:

… in this volatile reality of increasingly crowded waters and airspace, the risk that a miscalculation or accident could escalate into a major crisis is far too high for comfort.

However small:

Yet even if the probability of any single encounter resulting in an incident remains low…

We insist, there is still risk!

… the frequency of plane and ship traffic in the region increases the likelihood of an incident that could escalate to a military crisis if not managed rapidly and effectively by both sides.

Here they are referring to these MOFA stats:

vessels in senkaku by year

Despite the article repeatedly stating that this is a “war” nobody wants, FA is willing to bang the drums. This article is simply a neorealist solution looking for a problem. (Here I refer you to my master’s thesis on this exact topic). Undoubtedly, China-Japan relations are a delicate topic and a better framework in East Asia is necessary. Nevertheless, banging the war drums is not the way to bring these parties to the peace table.

おめでとうございます — Happy New Year!

(See all pictures and videos at Flickr)

Happy 2014! This year the grandparents watched the kids so the wife and I could go out for 初詣 (hatsumode), the traditional first trip of the year to the shrine. We left our downtown Kyoto apartment at about 11PM and had a full course of shrine-visiting, including:

  • 電電宮 Denden-gu, where the gods of electricity reside
  • 松尾大社 Matsuo Taisha, where the gods of alcohol reside
  • 春日神社 Kasuga Jinja, a health shrine
  • 御金神社 Mikane Jinja, the money shrine

Our first stop was Denden-gu, a small shrine near Arashiyama. This is a famous shrine for people in the IT business. You will see sponsor placards here for Softbank, NTT, Tepco and tons of other companies. At the entrance there are two signs for Thomas Edison and Heinrich Hertz! Here we were able to ring the New Year’s bell. In fact, we rang it a few times since this is just a local shrine and there weren’t a ton of people. I picked up a good luck charm for our office here.

Next stop was Matsuo Taisha where the wife made a wish to have lots of delicious alcohol this year. Then on to Kasuga Jinja to wish for the health of our parents. The final stop was Mikane Jinja where you basically just wish for money. All in all it was pretty productive(?) and we got home at about 3:30AM.

This afternoon we went up to 龍安寺 (Ryouanji), a Zen temple where we admired their famous rock garden. This garden was designed with an ocean of gravel and 5 island groups for a total of 15 stones. The cool part is that for any viewing angle, one can only see 14 stones at a time. Tricky!

Rock garden at Ryoanji
(full size)

Travel advisory

For the next few weeks I will be on the road. One of my business partners and I will be in San Francisco for the next month or so (leaving tomorrow morning) to raise some money for the new business we have been working on for the past year. Anyways, I will probably posting a lot of tweets and photos of the trip. The last time I was in SF was almost exactly 2 years ago. I wrote about my impressions then. I am really looking forward to the challenge it will be this time. Give us a shout if you are in the area and want to meet up. We will have office space in Runway while we are down there.

In late December I will be back in Canada briefly before jetting off to Japan to meetup with the wife and kids, who left for Kyoto last week. We will be hitting Tokyo Disneyland for Xmas, then Tokyo Skytree before heading back to Kyoto for New Year’s. As always, following my postings on Twitter and photos on Flickr. All four of us will be returning in early January. Then, who knows where the journey will take us next?

Paternity Leave Lessons Learned (in Japanese)

Next month an article of mine will be published in an Osaka-based newsletter. The article is based on a blog post from a few years ago: End of paternity leave and a lesson on negative support. It is all in Japanese (edited by my lovely wife), but for those interested, click on the more link below:

父親育児休業の最も大きな学び

コホリック・チャド

 1997年に、武道を勉強するため、初めてカナダから日本に来ました。わずか数か月の旅でしたが、絶対に日本に戻りたいという強い願望ができました。二年後、大学の短期留学生として再来日できました。留学中の一年間に、妻と知りあい、それから長い愛情のある関係を築くことができました。2008年に妻から衝撃的なニュースを言われました。妊娠だ!

 初めての娘が生まれて、新米パパになった時は幸せな瞬間でした。産後二か月になったら妻が仕事に戻るため、私が半年の育児休業をとりました。はじめは育児休業をとるつもりはありませんでしたが、妻が三年間の有期雇用の職場で働いていて、三年目に妊娠したので育児休業の権利がなく、産休のみで仕事に復帰しなければならなかったため、妻が産後も仕事を続けるために夫婦で話し合って、私が育児休業をとることにしました。

 予想しなかった育児休業という経験によって赤ちゃんについてたくさんのことと、また同じくらい自分のことや妻との関係について学ぶことができました。

 育児休業をとったと話すと、職場の反応を日本ではよく聞かれました。半年間、取得したことも驚かれました。職場では上司に二歳半の子どもがいたことから、羨ましがられたぐらいで問題はありませんでした。同僚からは「男性でもそんなに長く育児休業をとれることを知らなかった。自分も考えてみる」とか「ちゃんと育児休業がとれるなんて、この会社はさすがいい会社だ」と言われました。そのため育児休業は会社によって保証されている権利ではなくて、国の制度であることを説明しないといけませんでした。肯定的に受け止められていたようですが、知られていないことがたくさんあると思いました。日本は北米に比べて、育児休業の制度が進んでいないと聞いたりしますが、カナダの制度より日本の方がだいぶ進んでいる感じがしました。

日本とカナダの育児休業制度の違い

 実は国々の育児休業制度を比較するのは大変難しいと思います。ほとんどの国は育児休業制度がありますが、その内容は様々です。例えば休業中に支給されるお金。長い期間の休みを提供しても、お金を支給するかしないかで、育児休業に参加する人口は変わるでしょう。

 カナダの場合は父親は子どもが生まれたら、三七週間の休業をとる権利があります。育児休業は子どもが一歳になるまでに開始しないといけません。その間の生活費用は国の雇用保険のシステムから支給されます。だいたい収入の50%となります。

 日本で育児休業を取得できる期間は「子が一歳に達するまで」。つまり、父親でも産後すぐに申請すれば、最大一年間とれます。(カナダはわずか九か月)。その上、日本は「パパ・ママ育休プラス」という二度目の育児休業をとれる便利な機能もあります。例えば、出産後の八週間以内を妻と一緒に育児をして、その後、夫は仕事に戻る。妻が仕事に復帰する大変な時期に、夫が二度目の育児休業がとれる制度です。カナダでは一人の子どもに対して、育児休業は一回しか申し込めません。日本のように分けたりすることができません。

 日本はカナダに比べて、こんなにすばらしい制度があるのに育児休業を利用している男性はわずか 1.23%です。(「平成二〇年度雇用均等基本調査」)

 私はカナダの制度にいろいろな不満を感じるのに、2010年のカナダにおける男性の育児休業利用率はなんと30%(Labour Force Survey. 2010. Statistics Canada.)でした。だが、これには事情があります。ケベック州が独自に2006年に育児休業の特別制度をつくりました。この育児休業制度は父親専用で母親は参加できません。 五週間、完全に有給で父親は育児休業がとれます。それでケベック州における育児休業男性利用率が爆発的に増加しました、現在はなんと77.6%です。ケベック州外でも、育児休業男性利用率は増加しています。2001年で全国的に育児休業を利用している父親はわずか3%でしたが、現在はケベック州外でも11%となりました。

しかし上記の利用率だけでは、一つの大事なデーターが見えないと思います。それは男性育児休業利用者の平均利用期間です。所得できる期間がカナダでは九か月、日本では一年あっても、実際に男性は育児休業をどれくらいとれているのかが解りません。カナダと日本の統計調査を見つけることができませんでした。日本の男性育児休業利用者、1.23%の中で、一年間いっぱいをとっている父親は何人いるでしょうか?私も半年間しかとることができませんでした。

 次に育児休業をとって感じたことを紹介したいと思います。専業主夫の経験のお陰で理解できたことがたくさんあります。この学びを他の新米パパと共有したいと思っています。それは育児休業がとれるかどうかに関わらずです。具体的には以下に書いた、expectation management(期待値管理)についてですが、夫婦のチームワーク、コミュニケーション、プランニング、持久力とサポートにも深くつながっている話だと思います。

育児のお口伝、其の一

(「くでん」武道用語・秘伝のこと)

育児は短距離競走ではなく、マラソンである

娘が生まれてから二か月間は、妻が家で回復と育児をして、私がフルタイムで仕事をしていました。妻をできるだけサポートをしたいという気持ちがあって、仕事が終わるとすぐに家に帰って育児を引き継ぎました。週末は私が家にいて、妻に外出を勧めました。買い物やマッサージなど。充電するために気分転換をしてほしかった。新生児の育児は難しいとイメージして、私の役割はできるだけサポートすることだと思いました。新米パパの本を読んでそう思いました。

 しかし専業主夫になり、新生児育児の「お口伝」が解りました。実は、短時間なら新生児の面倒を見るのはそんなに難しくはない。走ることと同じように長時間は挑戦です。マラソンのように大量のメンタルと持久力が必要となります。例えば、賃金労働の仕事は週五日の八時間に集中できます。しかし育児労働は二四時間、週七日。さらに賃金労働の場合は、職場と暮らしの場が違いますが、育児労働の場合は職場に住んでいるのと同じ。これはストレスレベルが上がります。

 テレビでマラソンを見ると選手はそんなに早く走っているように見えない。自分はそれより早く走れるだろうと思うかもしれません。でも42キロの長距離をそのスピードでずっと走れると思いますか?専業主婦(主夫)という仕事は、綱渡りをしながらマラソンを走っているようなものです。しかも育児以外の家事など、山ほどある仕事も考えないといけない。だからパートナーのサポートが大変必要となります。

 サーカスで見る綱渡り芸人が練習するときはいろいろ準備します。まずは低い縄、それに長い棒を持ったヘルパーもいます。バランスを崩して、倒れそうな時はヘルパーが棒を出して、手をかけるところを提供する。抱っこ、掃除、皿洗い、赤ちゃんを風呂に入れたり食事を手伝うのは綱渡り芸人に「手すり棒」を出すのと同じ。パートナーが一息ついて、バランスを立て直すことができる。ここに単純な学んだこと:このレース=育児では「サポートし過ぎ」ということはない!それでも、私は綱渡り人になった時、もっと精神的に微妙なことを学びました。

育児のお口伝 其の二

「肯定サポート」より「否定サポート」のコストが高い

expectation management(期待値管理)

 どういう事かをサポートをポイント制にして説明してみます。パートナーにサポートを提供すると+10サポートポイントを取得。これは「肯定サポート」と考えてください。サポートすればするほど、ポイントが貯まる。しかし「約束したサポートをしなかった」ら(お皿を洗うと約束したがしなかったなど)一回で100サポートポイント減点。これが「否定サポート」。損失の大きさをよく解ってください。

注意:「否定サポート」とサポートの欠如は違います。「無サポート」の値はゼロで始まりますが、「無サポート」の期間が長く続くと、サポート減点となっていきます。

 またマラソンを走るルートもよく考えないといけません。上がり坂、下り坂、人混みになる折り返しのカーブ、給水所。ランナーの持久力は限られているので、道しるべをよくプランニングしないといけない。予定していた給水所に着いて水がないと言われたら非常に困るでしょう。

 専業主婦(主夫)のパートナーにアドバイスできることがあるとしたら、サポートする約束を直前にキャンセルしたり変更することは禁止。パートナーが毎日の道しるべを計画できるように、よく自分の予定について伝えてください。持久力は限られているけれど、情報があればうまく管理することが可能です。やる事を言う。言ったことはやる。良好なコミュニケーションは夫婦関係の基礎ですが、赤ちゃんがいるとこれが倍、大事になってくると思いました。

最後に

 育児休業は素晴らしい経験でした。伝統的に父親が子どもを支える方法は財政手段によるサポートでした。正直、新生児にお金はそんなに掛からない。赤ちゃんを育てる経験は短期的な収入カットがあっても、価値がありました。私にとって育児休業経験は感動的、でも孤独な、素晴らしい、でもストレスの多い複雑な気持ちの時期でした。子育てはユニコーンと戯れて、虹がでている日ばかりではない。でも今年一月に次女が生まれて、現在、育児休業中です。今回はカナダで父親がとれる育児休業の最大限九か月間とりました。ところで職場の反応ですが、同時期に同僚の三人の父親が長期休業をとって子育てをしています。

LTU in Japan

For the past four months I have been doing periodic interviews with people involved in the tech industry in Vancouver and BC on my podcast Lining Things Up. So far it has been great, and I have learned a lot about local entrepreneurs and entrepreneurship in general. The show (usually) is released every second Thursday.

As I am on an extended stay in Japan, I decided to continue doing the main show but thought it would be interesting to intersperse releases with interviews of tech people based here in Japan. I reached out to a few prominent (English-speaking) members of the tech community and have begun the process. Thus, I am excited to present LTU in Japan.

Lining Things Up in Japan

LTU in Japan will be a short run show and included in the main LTU feed. If you are interested in technology in Japan, have a listen. You will be inspired by the personal stories of the interviewees, and how they got to Japan. You will get some insight on how the tech community works in other parts of the world, and hopefully you will gain some perspective on your own community.

As always, if you have feedback or questions, get in touch via Twitter or email me: chad [at] liningthingsup

A few production notes

For those interested, I have a few comments about producing the new show. First, I conducted the theme music entirely with GarageBand for iPad. It is pretty simple, but amazingly fun. Secondly, the site. I designed the main LTU site to be minimalistic, bright, and mobile friendly. It is a long, single column design that I did in one day. LTUJ is the same but different. Simple, but inverted colors and a wide design. You’ll notice, however, when you resize your browser the interviewee “cards” sort themselves to fit your screen. The ultimate result is that on an iPhone, LTUJ is a long design similar to the regular site. Once again, I whipped this up in a day, by hand using Espresso so forgive any irregularities.

Warner Bros: You are doing it wrong

The wife got me the Harry Potter: The Complete 8-Film Collection boxed (17 discs) set for our anniversary. Yes, well, she got me Lord of the Rings for another anniversary, so it is already well established that she married a total geek. Besides, it is a great present and I hope to enjoy all of the films and books with both of my daughters. I know it is only DVD, but I don’t own a BluRay player, and I do everything digital anyways. So I was excited to see that the boxed set included digital downloads! But not so fast… Take a look at this fine print:

DIGITAL COPY: Includes Standard Definition Digital Copy™ of the film with the purchase of this disc. Special Features not included. … Not compatible with iTunes or with Macintosh and iPod devices. Consumer must reside in Japan and have a broadband internet connection and a DVD-ROM drive. * Mobile Requirements: Digital copy access on mobile phones limited to supported phones using Docomo as a mobile service provider. … PC Requirements: Windows® XP Service Pack 2 or later or Windows® Vista or Windows® 7, Internet Explorer® 6.0 or above. Windows Media® Player most recent version, Adobe® Flash® Player most recent version, and Adobe® AIR™ most recent version.

Boy, that last couple of lines is packed full of exciting software that I want to install on my computer [/sarcasm].

Anyways I only have my MacBook Air here in Japan so with no disc drive it doesn’t look like I will be able to get any of the digital versions. Besides, when you go to Warner on Demand Digital copy website there are a number of other restrictions including:

※Digital CopyのダウンロードはInternet Explorerで行ってください。他のブラウザでは正常にライセンスが発行できませんので、ご了承ください。

Yes, digital downloads require Internet Explorer. Apparently they cannot license [the content properly through] other browers thank you for your understanding. (#bullshit)

I know it has all been said before. Hollywood needs to be disrupted, and not just the distribution part of the business. This is such a terrible, terrible experience. I am glad there are alternatives, but it is a sad way to treat paying customers.

Observations on the lack of “free” WiFi in Japan

WiFi Access point ads in Starbucks

Above is pictured a sign at (one of) my local Starbucks. Free WiFi is a rare thing here in Japan, at least in the form it takes in North America. There is no lack of internet access points here, but they require you to be able to login using either your home internet providers credentials, or your mobile phone provider credentials. A third way to gain access is to pay a monthly fee to a WiFi subscription service such as Wifine. None of these options is truly “free” WiFi as known in North America, since the fees for access points are buried in your monthly internet fees. That said, the form of free WiFi that we enjoy at the local café in Vancouver is not necessary here, as most people have some sort of internet provider. Though it does greatly inconvenience travellers such as myself, who have no domestic internet service profile.

It might seem extremely inefficient to serve internet access in this way. Rather than hooking up a WiFi basestation, or getting sponsored free WiFi (as Bell does for Starbucks in Canada), establishments have to make partnerships with a spread of service providers to best serve their customers. It isn’t like they have to setup different WiFi basestations, as logins all seem to be handled through web forms. Still though, it is not as straight forward. There must be some value in the complexity.

It is often said that your ISP knows more about you than Google or Facebook or any other web service. In Japan your internet service provider also knows where and when you are accessing the net when away from your home. It is just like how credit card companies can track your usage and use that information to target campaigns and products. I am not sure if the Japanese ISPs are doing this, but it seems that there is value in gathering this type of information. If they see you are accessing the net mostly in the morning at Starbucks, they could bundle some coupons for breakfast rolls in future promotion.

All this said, I am still boned. As someone outside of the system, my information is not valuable, and thus I do not get the benefit on “free” WiFi in Japan, or any breakfast roll coupons. Not that I am bitter…