Category Archives: site news

For those who are interested, a note that I’ve changed host … slightly.

For a while the site has been on Pairlite, which is a hobby focused product from Pair, but now Pair has a new lower cost offering so I’m moving back. With the exception of a year or so on WordPress.com, Pair has been the main home for most of my sites for over a decade I think, maybe longer.

Anyway, back on Pair, and no longer getting a random error on the WordPress news dashboard panel!


New Header Image: Sunset

It’s been a long time since I changed that header image, and since the last one was from a cooling stream, I thought I’d replace it with a sunset, which looks nice and warm, even though I took the picture in late 2013 and it was definitely not warm. The same time I took these pictures I think.

Shonan Winter Sunset
Shonan Winter Sunset

There’s something very calming about sunsets all over the world, over forests, cities, the ocean, wherever. I’m frequently reminded about something the amazing Douglas Adams wrote for the ‘final’ Hitchhiker’s series – Quintessential Phase about boundary conditions, (I’ll dig the quote out for the next post) and a sunset where the ocean meets land seems to be two simultaneous boundaries.

It’s been a quiet time on the blog this year, something not in keeping with my own year, which has been as busy as ever, but instead of blogging it’s been family time and working on other projects.

That said, I spent a couple of hours this weekend moving this blog from WordPress.com, which is a fantastic resource, over to some hosted webspace I have with
pairLite
, which is part of Pair.com. This will let me play a bit more with WordPress, give me a little space, and save me a small amount on domain mapping. Let me know if you see anything odd.

New Header Image: Water

cropped-cropped-waterfall1.jpg

It’s been a while since I posted, and it’s been a while since I updated the head, and since I’ve moved the blog theme to the Twenty Thirteen one, I thought I’d make the banner fit a little better.

There’s been a lot going on of late, hence the lack of posts, and much of it has been in the outdoors, and as the temperatures climb higher and the humidity makes Japan a national sauna once more, it’s good to get into the water and trees of the countryside and cool off.

I took this shot quickly as it’s a park of some steps which make waterfalls for the kids to play in, and it gets decent traffic on these hot weekends in Kanagawa.

Water @ Satoyama Water @ Satoyama Water @ Satoyama

New Header Image: Wooden Posts

It’s been a long time since I updated the header image – about 9 months in fact, so I decided it was time for a change. Nothing amazing, as usual, but I thought I’d keep with images from out and about the local area. This one was from a local children’s play park, where they have a trellis on supports over a seating area. The steel supports have these wooden sections bolted to them for cosmetic reasons, and you can see here, they don’t touch the ground any more, meaning there’s a quirky look and a nice texture.

Wooden Posts

The image was taken on my Nikon D3200 on the 35mm lens at the slightly silly 24MP, but cropped all the way down – that’s a benefit of lots of pixels – cropping becomes a lot simpler.

woodpost1.jpg

Re-Hosted

I used to host this blog in my own WordPress(.org) installation on my own hosting account, along with an older sister homepage called brightblack.net in flat HTML/CSS. For several years (2003 to 2009 specifically), I used a hosting service called Pair.net. I only stopped using them as I really wasn’t doing much with it, so I decided to move the blog to WordPress.com, and retire that space.

As we head into 2013 though, I’ve gotten involved a few projects I want to work on, and I’m quite keen to get back to working with HTML5, JQuery, and CMSs such as WordPress and Drupal again. I’m also looking to try one or two bits in conjunction with some of the Amazon Web Services.

Thus, I went looking for hosting space, and between recommendations from friends, LifeHacker and a few other places, I’d got a short list together, but ultimately ended up going with Pair again, and their PairLite package. They’re competitive, and they treated me well before, and this new package pretty much summed up what I needed: a hobbyist setup of 10 databases, 10GB of space, and some suitable bandwidth. I’m sure many of these other hosting companies are excellent (certainly DreamHost has a lot of fans), but the whole unlimited everything some offer just never sounds right. So, for 75USD (plus 25 USD setup), I’ve taken a year with Pair again, and we’ll see how it goes.

Ironically perhaps, this blog will stay on WordPress.com at least for a decent while – this host space is for new projects and experimenting, though it’s safe to say the old stalwart brightblack.net will be back somehow. I’ll also keep doing my e-mail via Google Apps, which has itself changed it’s business model – you can no longer get a small scale free account – all Google Apps account are now pay for, though those of us grandfathered in will still have our ‘free’ accounts, though for how long I have no idea.

The Roof Tile - full

New Header Image: Roof Tile

Apologies if this is a bit of a [stereo]typical image, it’s just one I snapped on a recent trip in the countryside, at a very comfy, if a little run down looking temple.

The Roof Tile - full
The Roof Tile

I actually only noticed the place due to the long pile of timber running up to the entrance, as I was cycling past in the rain, and semi dismissed it as just yet another temple, but actually, the place seemed to have a certain texture to it, as if it had a more practical purpose, if not now, in the recent past, even if it was a bit overgrown.

A Pile of Timber
A Pile of Timber

I’ll likely post a few more pictures of the site in a later gallery post.

Quake preparedness – the lost page!

I was doing a periodic clean out of Evernote (which is a generally fantastic app) when I found my notes from April 2011 which I was intending to turn into a page on the site for earthquake preparedness, and somehow, I’d forgotten about it. Anyway, it’s now been tidied up a little and posted. I’m really keen to add links and tips from people.

Nanikore’s Quake Preparedness Tips

The 2011 Nutshell

I’ve never been one for massive reviews of the year just gone by – it always seemed somewhat redundant if not impossible to squeeze 365 days into a post – but here’s a few observations of 2011, and some things I’m hoping to look into in 2012.

Obviously 2011 was dominated as far as events go by the massive earthquake of March 11th, and the thousands which followed it and the social questions it triggered. Right now it seems we’re back to ‘normal’ levels of earthquakes. It was all quite surreal. For me, the trip to Iwate to help in some of the tsunami clean up re-enforced how resilient people can be in the face of true tragedy, even the though the continued leaking from Fukushima Daiichi nuclear reactor captured the news headlines.

On a smaller, but also personal note, our family car was written off in July by some person running a red light, but thankfully no one was injured in either vehicle. It also seemed odd that in 2011, hospital staff were complimenting us on having our kids fastened into the appropriate child and baby seat, but it brings home the fact that still in Japan, children are either held by parents (or more usually, grand-parents), or are allowed to wander around the vehicles whilst in motion.

But enough about me.

One thing I have been following was my meagre 25USD Kiva investment, which is now 91% paid back by the Mật Sơn 1- Đông Vệ Group, who I loaned the money to as part of a larger group loan to help their manufacturing business. I’m now going to re-invest that amount into another group, and add another 50USD to my fund and support another group. Right now I’m looking at fishing as well as manufacturing in Asia. I think microloan groups are a worthy investment to help communities grow and support themselves, and since I live in Japan, any money would accrue such tiny interest it’s hardly worth it anyway.

This blog actually hasn’t done too badly this year, going from ~150 to 450 views per month, but it’s a personal thing, so thanks to those people who visit it. Every now and then I think I should spend more time on it, or concentrate on a single vertical, but in truth, I’m interested in a lot of things, so it’s unlikely I could ever settle on one thing. WordPress does let me pull out the five most popular posts of 2011 though, so here they are!

1. Home page
2. Dog Day (犬の日)
3. The Baker and the Bromate
4. Volunteering in Iwate Prefecture
5. New Header Photo: Heads
6. Quakebook

OK, so the home page doesn’t really count I suppose, hence the #6 in there. The Dog Day post I noticed a while ago constantly gets a few views per week, which has convinced me to do a few more articles on perhaps lesser known Japanese cultural traditions. ‘The Baker and the Bromate’ was probably the most researched post I’ve ever done, and I was quite pleased with it; the ‘Volunteering in Iwate’ pretty much wrote itself, and I was pleased to receive a few emails to say it’d helped people prep for their own work there. The new header photo post making the top 5 is probably more of a tribute to Jaume Plensa and his sculpture work – thanks Jaume! Bringing up the top five then was my review of the crowd sourced ‘Quakebook’ which was put together after the quake to get some peoples stories out, and help raise fund for survivors of the tsunami.

I was also quite surprised that two of my posts were mentioned in podcasts – the ‘Baker and the Bromate’ post was on JapanTalk #228, and the slightly more whimsical post about the “City of Ghosts” story was mention by John C. Dvorak on the No Agenda podcast.

Towards the end of the year I decided to give the National Novel Writing Month a go – writing a 50,000 word novel in a month. I’ve written short stories and such over the last five years, but this was a whole new scale of things. As you see from some of the posts, it somewhat took over my life for the month, but I was actually really pleased with what came out, and over the next year I’m hoping to revise it a little bit to make it at least readable and understandable to a third party.

Right at the end of 2011 I stepped in to update the tokyotoyrun.com website at the last minute to upload info for one of our large toy runs, which was the first web coding I’ve done in a very long time – at least it seemed to render OK and no one complained. I think in 2012 I’ll spend a bit more time on the overarching site we’re looking to put these toy runs under, reviewing some old HTML, CSS and JS knowledge, and see how it goes.

So on the whole, 2011 ended a bit more on the upbeat than it was looking at the beginning, but a reminder that the people of Tohoku are going to need support for a very long time, and I hope the Japanese government stop squabbling and mucking about, and actually deals with the issues.

2012 then, should be a good challenge, and I’m looking into new professional qualifications, language tests and whatever else is of interest after the family time and work!

feetinthewater.jpg

New Header Photo: Feet In the Ocean

After five months with the excellent Alabaster Heads as my header image, I’ve decided to change it. I have to say though, that my photo of Jaume Plensa’s installation at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park got more hits and searches than any other header by a long way. If you haven’t seen them in real life, then seek them out.

The new header image is far less artistic or ambitious – it’s my feet in the clear waters of the Pacific Ocean at Shimoda on a recent visit to Ernest House. I’m wearing my Keen hiking sandals, and it was toward the end of a couple of great days, and it was nice to just stand in the water and watch the waves. I thought it made a nice ‘end of summer’ image, as we go into Autumn 2011.