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Comments on aspects of designs, from shared links to techniques. This is more about opinion than hard-and-fast facts.

Photograph of Thank You banners for NHS staff hanging from Regent Street during London Lockdown

“Freedom Day” : an experiment in common sense from those without it

July 20, 2021

An important scientific experiment is taking place right now. Run by a former banker with an Ayn Rand fixation, England is experimenting with trusting people’s common sense in the middle of a global pandemic. Already the results are high on the irony scale, with the vaccinated architect falling ill with the virus, and anti-lockdown protests on the day the lockdown was lifted.

The parameters for this pseudo-experiment haven’t been published. Perhaps the aim is to boost UK exports with new variants of the virus. Maybe it’s helping lift an ailing economy with a temporary boost to consumer spending. It could be to stress test the NHS again, because it’s been a few hours since that last happened.

Photograph of laptop on a table with a mug of coffee and TV remote nearby

Working from home: here we go again

July 12, 2021

Where we work has become another source of division in our splintered society. On the one hand, we have those proclaiming the pandemic is over and we must now return to our offices. Facing them are the “work from home” advocates who point to improved personal productivity and the desire to find a healthy balance between work and home.

Some of us have seen this before, albeit not in the same splintered, factional fashion. In the mid-90s groupware such as Lotus Notes tried to normalise remote working. Then we had the “Internet” in the mid-2000s. Now our greatest driver of change is an invisible virus.

Photograph of abandoned white goods in Kobe, with plants growing up and around it

Fly tipping in Japan

July 4, 2021

Japan has a much-deserved reputation for being clean and tidy. Although there are few bins, little litter is seen on the streets. A walk in the local park isn't accompanied by the usual plastic bottles and bags I was used to in the UK. All of this without bins on every street corner.

We just take our rubbish home.

KLM airplane at the stand in Kansai airport

A flight to Japan: my experience emigrating in the middle of a pandemic

June 21, 2021

In October 2020 we finally realised our long-term plans and moved to Japan. This is peak pandemic, Japan was closed off to most of the world, and there was no vaccine to speak of.

At the time I tweeted my experience, which a couple of people found helpful. Things have moved on a little, although my understanding is much of what we experienced is still in place today. I hope these notes are helpful.

Photograph of a classic Ramen Bowl with instant ramen, pork slices, boiled egg and spring onion

Celebrate life’s small victories

June 18, 2021

Instant Ramen is a single serving, you can't get it wrong, all you need is a pan and boiling water, staple. It's so easy to make even small children manage it. How I came to completely screw it up and turn scrummy noodles into a congealed, tasteless mess is anyone's guess.

Needless to say, that night's dinner was a silent and tense affair.

Graves in a church graveyard with the closest being freshly tended

What to do when your boss dies

June 18, 2021

A few weeks ago, an acquaintance found out their boss died. Aside from the shock of the loss, they'd been left in limbo. Who was paying their wages, and what were they supposed to do about the suppliers calling up to renew contracts?

I've been in this situation, albeit with a client who passed mid-project. The amount of money owed was small, but the pain of getting it huge once family politics took over. Fortunately, I'd dealt with life insurance claims early in my career, so I had a vague understanding of what was going on. It was helped by talking to a lawyer.

Folded umbrellas outside an abandoned cafe in a shopping mall in Japan

Mitsui Outlet Park: abandoned by covid and the state of emergency

June 6, 2021

The “State of Emergency” in Japan has seen some unusual restrictions placed on life. We’re encouraged not to travel “unless necessary”, and certainly not outside of our home prefecture. Restaurants have been told not to serve alcohol as drinking is linked to the spread of Covid. Many shopping malls and non-essential stores close at weekends.

Mitsui Outlet Park is located halfway between Kobe’s shopping heartland, Sannomiya, and the impressive Akashi Kaikyō Bridge. I’ve been there a few times, both to buy odds-and-sods, and enjoy the harbor walk and its view across the Inland Sea. It may be almost at sea level, but Osaka is still visible on a fine day.

Screenshot of CNN.com after disabling JavaScript showing an almost blank web page

It’s 2021 and we’re still building inaccessible websites

June 4, 2021

CNN and I have had a falling out. Every time I visit their website a video starts playing and there's no way to switch it off. Whatever music I'm listening to has to be put on hold so I can waste a couple of seconds of my life tracking the thing down and muting it. 

Ah, you might be thinking, browsers have an option to stop videos from autoplaying, and you'd be right. Only somehow CNN has found a way around it.

Lego set of the millennium falcon from star wars in its original box

Millennium Falcon: will it ever be made?

May 26, 2021

This was a birthday present to myself more years ago than I can remember. In fact, I can't remember when I bought it.

It was going to be gifted to someone in the UK before we left. Instead it made the 12,000km trip to Kobe.

Graphic showing a bitcoin logo rolling down a chart

The Crypto Crash was inevitable: you have to wake up from the dream eventually

May 21, 2021

The week's "Crypto Crash" made for fascinating viewing. It seemed to come from nowhere, which is hardly surprising. Bitcoin and its ilk are less currency and more a mass consensual hallucination. Sooner or later reality crashes in.

There are no fundamentals to monitor, policy announcements to calm markets, deep analysis that makes long term projections possible. Supporters might say it's driven by rational thought, impervious to outside influence. Others might suggest it's pure emotion balanced by regression to the mean.

A person walks into the Nitori store in Myodani, Japan

Furniture and steak: a match made in Nitori heaven.

May 7, 2021

Do you go to Ikea for the sensual curves of the HÖGSMA or the meatballs? You could be asking a similar question of Nitori, one of Japan's largest home furnishing chains.

Nitori has been experimenting with restaurants in a couple of its stores, and now the plan is to go nationwide. If Nikkei is right, one of the ways it'll keep costs down is by raising livestock "in-house".

Illustration of a Japanese flag overlaid on a fading Union Jack

2020: a bad year for Japan / UK trade

May 5, 2021

2020 was the year of the pandemic, and every economy suffered. My interest is Japan and the UK, and while many of my peers look at it from a UK perspective, I prefer the Japanese. I keep my findings on a page on LinkedIn, which I update from time to time.

Using data from Japan's official statistics authority, I've looked at how imports and exports with major markets have unfolded over the past 6 years. Then I've dug into the UK. Some highlights:

Update

May 3, 2021

Over the past week I’ve tried to reach out to over a dozen Japanese companies and organisations claiming to support foreign investment. My strike rate for making contact is about 50 per cent.

Why so low? Contact forms. More than half of those I’ve used have failed to submit. A couple of times I’ve been told it’s because I’m not submitting full-width Katakana. Otherwise there’s a bland “Please correct your error” type message.

Seriously, Japan, if you want foreign investment make it easy for us.

The Japanese city of Kobe seen from a high aspect

Kobe: the city I now call home

April 30, 2021

I took this photo from a temple about 1.5km from where I live as the crow flies. This is Kobe, the place I now call home, a city crammed into a strip of land barely 8km wide between sea and mountains.

What you see down there is a few tens of metres above sea level. Where I was stood was more than 300 metres.

Update

April 23, 2021

A couple of times this past fortnight I’ve been tagged in Tweets. I’d like to say the poster has shared something I’d be interested in, only this isn’t the case. Instead, I’ve been the victim of a drive-by-tagging, designed to raise the profile of the poster in the vain hope of catching someone’s – anyone’s – attention.

Worst case I saw: 22 different people tagged in a single tweet. One person responded. A quick bit of cross-referencing showed at least half a dozen of the others didn’t follow the tweeter. How many did before they blasted out their spam is anyone’s guess.

I get it – we need to raise our profile, but adding a load of @usernames on the end of a post just to get attention is the social media version of spam. If you want to engage with someone, engage with them. Ask their opinion. Reply to a message. DM and ask if you can include them in a blog post.

Do anything but tag all and sundry.

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