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 mentioned 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 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!