Black and white photograph of people hunting for crabs on a beach while a bird hunts for them in the foreground

Everybody’s hunting for crabs

July 21, 2021

Crabs were everywhere. While people hunted them for pleasure, the heron was looking for lunch.

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.

Illustration of a laptop placed on an engineering size reduction symbol with lines showing data deflected away from a red circle

WordPress: how to remove unwanted code from your site’s header

July 15, 2021

When WordPress generates a webpage, it adds a lot of information unseen by the user. Much of this appears between the <head> tags in the code, and asks the browser to interpret information in a certain way, or load additional files and resources. While some of these are useful (such as style.css, which turns raw words into a stylish website), others are not. Some could compromise the security of your site.

Each resource that's requested slows your website a little. It makes sense to remove anything your theme or site doesn't use, even if all it does is shave a third of a second off the loading time.

Photograph of a man working on powerlines in Kobe, Japan

Man at work on powerlines

July 14, 2021

The roar of a diesel engine brought me to the window of my office.

They were methodical and meticulous. The vehicle moved into place. A crane rose. The coupling inspected and sprayed. Down came the crane.

Photograph of two elderly people in masks and long sleeves walking in evening sun with a ferris wheel behind them

Wear a mask

July 14, 2021

It was mid-spring, twenty+ degrees and a bright evening sun. I was in T-shirt with my hoodie wrapped around my waist.

They came towards me at a gentle stroll. Buried beneath layers and wearing masks and the white gloves sold in hundred yen stores.

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.

A structure on a beach in Kobe designed to offer shade

The shade

July 8, 2021

These structures are half-artwork, half-civic amenity. They offer shelter for those who find themselves down on the beach, and let's be honest: the sun in Kobe can be quite intense.

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.

Photo of a hammock slung between two trees in a Japanese wood

We all need a place to hide

July 1, 2021

Found tucked away in the back of Nihonheso Park.

Illustration of a building in Japan with a bright yellow background

WebP: a “new” format for your WordPress images

June 29, 2021

WebP’s arrival is getting WordPress fans excited. As a photographer, I’ve been watching this image format evolve for a couple of years. It promises much, delivers some of it and is gaining popularity. Question is whether now is finally the time to make the switch from trusty JPEG.

Although you may only just be hearing about it, WebP has been in the works for a decade. Designed from the outset for the web, Google is pitching it as a replacement for the venerable JPEG. With support for both lossy and lossless compressions, animations, and transparent backgrounds, it looks like a solid option to replace JPG photos, PNG illustrations and countless animated GIFs.

White hydrangea plant

Hydrangea in Japan

June 24, 2021

It's a special time of year in Japan. The hydrangea are out, signalling the arrival of the rainy season. Parks are full of pinks and blues and whites. People are gathering (in a socially distanced way), enjoying the sights and taking photos.

Social media is awash with these photographs and everyone enjoys the shared experience of admiring the flowers for second time. I count myself amongst these onlookers.

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.

A green suzuki Hustler cross-over parked in front of a sushi restaurant

A light lunch (aka sushi)

June 11, 2021

A couple of years back my flight got into Osaka at about 11:30am. It was too early to check in to the B-Kobe where we usually stayed, so my now Father-in-Law suggested a "light lunch." After a bit of bumbling around the mountains of Hyogo and a couple of dozen plates later, "light lunch" became a sushi feast.

The name stuck, and we will still call our trips to the sushi restaurants "light lunch".

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