Category Archive: face to the world

Apr 02 you had one job!

IMG_5996UPDATE: The problem was with the Paypal account I used. Apparently in the years since I used that account, Paypal Japan has changed policies and I can’t receive money on that account without upgrading to a premium account.

I am not pulling this post down because still took 3 business days to figure this out (including one business day of not answering me at all), and because I’ll have to wait at least one more to get an answer on how to change the destination account. (Re-upgrading my Paypal account will take 7 to 10 days.)

But yeah,’s crime is mostly just slllloooooowwwww customer support.

I recently helped rescue a sick tanuki (see photo; poor little guy) from around my neighbourhood, and I thought it would be nice to do a little bit of crowdfunding to cover the costs of the compassionate fellow who drove several hours over toll roads to help me set the trap and then again to pick the little guy up and take him for treatment.

I did some quick checking around and came across For a small-scale, beer money project like this, they seemed perfect, particularly the part about no fees. Crowdfunding platforms generally take a 5% – 10% cut of whatever you raise. Sometimes it’s worth it. On the large platforms, you get quite a lot of exposure, which is valuable. But for a tiny project like this, mostly targeted at friends and family, a smaller site with no fees was appealing. Also, of the smaller sites, they were one of the few that offered Paypal, which is important because I’m based in Japan, where a lot of other payment processors won’t allow me to withdraw funds to my local bank account.

youcaring-logo-1-big<–(Their logo.)

I launched the campaign on Thursday evening (Japan time). A few hours later, my friend Rosie let me know that it wasn’t allowing her to click through and donate on her phone. I quickly tested it on my phone and multiple browsers and found that the button that is supposed to trigger the checkout screen wasn’t working; it was just reloading the page it was already on. I tested a few other campaigns, and the site worked properly.

I immediately opened a ticket with their support system. They’re a small site, so it didn’t seem unreasonable that they only answered during west-coast US business hours. They didn’t answer overnight on Thursday, my time. Finally got a peep out of them on Friday morning.

Them: Are you able to have your donors try on a different browser or device? There is a known issue in Firefox that our engineers are working on.

Ignoring the fact that, in addition to my problem, apparently their platform doesn’t work on 12% of computers (that’s Firefox’s market share) and they don’t mention that anywhere on their site, I pressed on, and replied within 4 minutes.

Me: The "Donate Now" button does nothing, so my donors can’t actually complete their donations. They click the button, the loading screen appears, and then just returns to the link at the top. It won’t progress to the credit card entry screen. This happens in all browsers, as far as I can tell. I’ve tried personally with Firefox and Chrome, as well as the mobile versions, plus the mobile browser within Twitter. Can you confirm that it’s not happening with this campaign on your end? [note: since then I’ve tested in the Edge browser; that also doesn’t work]

Despite having replied within minutes, this exchange took place about 15 minutes after their close-of-business on Friday (their time) and I have received no reply as of today (April 2). Which is totally reasonable for a business this size, except that the thing that is broken is the main function of their platform. And yes, it’s just for one customer (as far as I can tell—other campaigns go to the payment screen with no problems), but this isn’t like some weird formatting, or photo uploads not working properly. This is the bit where people give money to the campaign. Also, the worst time for a campaign to not be able to accept money is when it launches, of course, because it really ruins any momentum that you build with that initial post to your followers.

To add insult to injury, to anyone on the donate page who left one of the “send me emails” boxes checked, they have been sending emails advertising all the lovely campaigns that person could donate to… even though the one campaign that person was trying to donate to hasn’t received any money yet. So the “Donate” button submits the donor’s personal info, but doesn’t accept the money.


PERSPECTIVE: Yes, I’m running a tiny campaign trying to raise a few hundred bucks. It’s a “beer money” campaign, and there are no lives or livelihoods hanging in the balance. Terry the tanuki is going to get treated regardless. So it probably doesn’t make a lot of sense for support to spend a lot of time on me and my piddly campaign. However, I would be wary of any company that behaves this way towards any customers. Maybe it is worth it to pay that 5% fee to deal with a company that responds meaningfully when you have a problem with its platform (especially in the case of a medical fundraiser or a similarly important fundraiser). I guess I’m mostly annoyed because I have software to run my own fundraiser directly off my website, but I thought I’d save time and energy by using an existing platform for this one. Ugh. My mistake.

CONCLUSION: I’m going to follow up with on this, just to see how it comes out. I’m hoping for them to turn things around, but I’m not holding my breath and fully expect to spend time next week searching for an alternative platform. Bummer. They seemed really promising for future mini-fundraisers like this one.

Oct 18

Making a Living From Art

Disclaimer: Just to make this clear right at the beginning: I don’t have a “right” to make a living doing what I love. I understand that I am privileged to even be making the attempt. My ability to make this attempt is partly an accident of birth, and partly a result of the sacrifice of others. I am aware of this, and, if successful, hope to “pay it forward” and help others do the same.

“Hey, let me tell you something kind of important.”


Most of you know that I do theatre. I consider it my full-time job, although I have a part-time job and take occasional freelance gigs in order to help make ends meet.

The arts economy has changed since I left theatre school. And, as far as independent theatre production in Japan goes, it’s changed a lot since I first came to Japan as well.
The upside is that the inter-tubes and related technologies have made it easier to make shows. We now have easy access to media assets (sound, video, text) and inexpensive ways of integrating them into our shows. We can advertise to potential audience members quicky and efficiently and do ticket reservations online.

The downside is that the competition is massive. Not just from other small groups like us, but from the huge media companies. Fifteen years ago, expats here were bored and somewhat starved for English language cultural activities. Sure, they could watch movies on bulky VHS tapes, but they had to at least leave the house to get them. Now, stimulation, vacuous or intellectual, is just a finger-push away.

The problem isn’t so much that people can’t be convinced to go and see theatre, but that they’re not looking for it. Most people these days have a surplus of stimulation, not a deficit. Add to that the marketing problem common to groups producing original works, that is to say that the shows are unknown, and you have some idea of where we stand. There is an audience for international theatre here, but it tends to be focused on groups who tour into the country (usually sponsored by a large media company or University). The problem is twofold: the audience doesn’t know about us, and if they did, they might value us less because we’re local.

YTG (Yokohama Theatre Group— my theatre company)’s goal is to develop the company name as the “star” of the show, rather than the title of the show itself, but that’s going to take time. To get attention from the general theatre-going public, the media, the festivals, and the universities, we’re going to have to build up a reputation, and the only way to do that is to keep creating and documenting our shows.

Until then, we’re stuck in a financial model that requires us to depend on friends and family, and from the arts communities that we’re associated with, both here in Japan and around the world. This means that the very people we should be giving free access to are the ones we rely on the most for support right now. I’m not going to bemoan this state of affairs, as I’m very much in favour of the democratization of media in general, but I think you can see the challenge we face, and the challenge that I, in particular, as an artist trying to make a living at making art, have.

So, for those of you who are supporting me, thank you. Thank you so much. Seeing your faces at the show, or your names on the list of Patreon patrons warms my heart. (And of course, thank you to those of you who have supported YTG in the past in one of our one-off crowdfunding campaigns.)

Hey, thanks.

For those of you who are not, no worries. But consider this: a small amount of support from each of you would make a huge difference to me. I’d be able to increase my artistic output and it would be available to you, either in the form of show tickets (for those of you who are local) or show videos (for those of you who are not, or who just miss a show). At the moment, I’m able to squeeze out one to two shows a year, plus some events, plus a podcast. If there was a stable base of support, I could probably create 3 – 4 shows per year, plus multiple podcasts, plus possible writing projects (several of which are currently sitting on the back burner). More shows means more stuff for you to see if you’re a supporter, and it also means more chances to get YTG shows into festivals, to get grants, and to get commissions. First, I’ll have a body of work I can show to festival directors and grants agencies. Secondly, I’ll have a repertoire of works to draw on should opportunities arise. (Not to mention that if I’m able to pay my collaborators, I’ll be more likely to keep them around and keep more shows on the ‘active’ list.)

If you want to think of supporting us as charity, that’s fine. YTG is a charity. We’re a registered NPO in Japan.

A still from “39”

If you want to think of supporting us as advance or surrogate ticket purchasing, that’s fine, too. At a certain level of support (currently $20 USD, but I’d like to see that drop), you’ll receive stuff: like videos, show programs, and the like.

For those of you not currently supporting my work, I want you to ask yourself this question: If Andrew was doing his shows at places and times convenient to me, would I pay to go see the show? If the answer is yes, then I encourage you to support my work via .

For those of you currently supporting my work by coming to my shows, I want to suggest that supporting me via Patreon would not just get you cheaper tickets, but allow you to support me even when you can’t make it to a show or event due to bad timing. (And you’d get a video!)

Look, I’m not going to get rich from this. The first goal is to bring YTG into the black so that it can start paying off some of its accumulated debts and so that I won’t personally have to front the company the money for each show it does. Next, I’ll worry about making sure people get paid for their work. It’s great to work with our dedicated volunteers, and volunteers will always have a place at YTG, but despite the fact that it’s a charity, I see YTG as a professional company, which eventually means paying casts and crews.

Please consider supporting this NPO that I’m putting all my serious energy and resources into. As I said at the top, I have no right to make a living doing this, but support is going to make the difference between theatre being an expensive full-time “hobby” that produces 1 – 2 shows a year and me being able to ramp YTG up to a professional company that pays its artists and makes lots of great shows. Your support will help me get YTG’s work out there and seen by people who can help me take this to the next level.

Places you can find my work:

YTG website:
Patreon Page:
Theatre Podcast:





Looking into the future. Or maybe a chair.

Sep 05

A Plea to People Who Support Theatre

Photo by John Matthews

Photo by John Matthews

Some of you might be aware that I’m doing a show. This is true. You can see info about it here:

As any of you doing small, independent theatre (especially here in Japan) know, we’re stuck in a financial model that requires us to build out from our friends, family, and the arts communities that we’re associated with, both here in Japan, and around the world. This means that the very people we should be giving free access to are the ones we rely on the most for support right now. I’m not going to bemoan this state of affairs, as I’m very much in favour of the democratization of media in general, but it’s still a fact of life for small-scale theatre and many other arts.

So, my plea is in two parts:

1. Please support me and the work that I do. Buy a ticket. If you’re not local, or you want more inexpensive access to our shows, events, and videos, join our Patreon campaign at

2. If you are going to buy a ticket please, please, please reserve your tickets now! Don’t wait until the last minute! Don’t make me sweat until the show starts that the cast and crew will outnumber the audience. This is about the money, yes— I don’t want the show to lose money and stop me from doing the next one— but it’s mostly about not wanting to perform an amazing show that we’ve worked on since March to an empty house.

Look, I know we’re all busy people in Tokyo, but it means so much to have those bookings as early as possible. You can always email the box office and change your booking if you need to. Just let us know that you’re coming.

Jan 26

Weird Place for A Writer

(photo in this post courtesy of Nema Photographie)


I’m writing this long-overdue blog update while I should be writing content for By the Hour, my upcoming show—my VERY upcoming show, that opens in just a few weeks (Feb 12 – 14). Why I’m not: because more than any other show I’ve worked on, it’s hard.Photo by Nema Photographie


So, first, we’re developing the show in rehearsal, so it’s not just about pounding out a script. Not that I haven’t done this before, under similar time pressure, but here’s the rub: the show is supposed to be accessible to both Japanese and English speakers, without the use of subtitles. And the subject of the show (sex workers in Yokohama) is a talky-ass subject. Our research is not very deep at all, and there’s still pages and pages I could write, without being preachy or anything… but I don’t want to create that show. Not just because that’s not what I’ve promised to deliver to audiences at the TPAM showcase, but because I really want to do something different with this piece.


I have to be cognisant as well of the fact that a lot of what I write is going to have to be translated into Japanese by my co-creator Naoe Kawamoto. So again, trying to keep the words to a minimum. It’s an enormous challenge.


So yes, I should be writing the play RIGHT NOW as I sit on the local train to Kamiooka station, but I think I instead needed to type out this post to clear my thoughts on the matter. Not sure if it worked, but I’m now itching to write, which is a good sign.


(If you want  to support the show, please buy a ticket at or, if you’re not able to attend the show, because you don’t live in Japan or something, head over to and pledge to support my theatre company.)

Dec 27

Goodbye Taipei, Goodbye 2015

Jeebus, but it’s been forever since I’ve written here. Mostly because I’ve started keeping a private journal that requires less editing and polish than something I post online. Yes, even more shit than this blog. But I felt like I should barf some of my photos and brief thoughts up online until I can write something more thought out.


Anyway, I’m planning a year-in-review post, so I’m only going to cover my recent stay in Taipei. On December 18, I flew out of Narita airport. The plan had been originally to teach several workshops upon arrival, but those got cancelled.

What did go according to plan was that I met a whole bunch of strange and unusual people involved in the theatre scene there. (see images below)Katie Partlow

Tellus Theatre













Ahem. There were also a few who were so strange, I didn’t photograph them.


The other part that went according to plan was that my wife and baby Hammy joined me from December 23 onward and we celebrated Xmas with Suzy and Roger Walker. Suzy and Roger were also the generous people who put up with the whole Kikai-ga-shima team being dumped on them this past summer for the Taipei Fringe leg of that show.


IMG_20151226_132608So, we had a lovely, nearly traditional UK Xmas with our friends, and also made time to a see a little bit of Taipei while we were here. It was the best possible way to spend an Xmas in Asia, and I’m only sorry that Roger and Suzy are leaving Asia in February, so this will be a one-off affair. But I’d like to extend a huge thank-you to them for putting up with us for the better part of a week (and me for more than a week)!


Other stuff: we visited Tamsui and spent half a day there, and also had a chance to meet up with some Taiwanese friends. Also, Hammy rode a giraffe (pictured here).


So now, with slightly heavy hearts, mostly because we both have to work tomorrow, I’m sitting at the gate for our flight (Transasia GE 608, in case anyone feels like tracking it with Flightradar), about to say goodbye to Taipei. At least for now. Goodbye, Taipei! Goodbye, bubble tea!

Bubble Tea!

Jun 02

Had my ass saved by +Peter Kambasis​​'s old Galaxy Note today when mine suddenly…

Had my ass saved by +Peter Kambasis​​'s old Galaxy Note today when mine suddenly decided it was no longer going to transmit or receive mobile network signals. It has not been a great day for me, technologically speaking, as my reliable X60s laptop bit the dust this morning when its fan went tits up. That's going to be a massive repair job… 2000 yen part, but replacing it will likely take the better part of a day. #perfectloverblog 

Had my ass saved today by +Peter Kambasis​’s old Galaxy Note today when mine suddenly decided it was no longer going to transmit or receive mobile network signals. It has not been a great day for me, technologically speaking, as my reliable X60s laptop bit the dust this morning when its fan went tits up. That’s going to be a massive repair job… 2000 yen part, but replacing it will likely take the better part of a day. #perfectloverblog

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May 12

Another Diet

TL;DR I’m dieting again. It’s working. I describe it in detail because it is of interest to me. Feel free to skip this update if it doesn’t interest you.

I need to lose weight again. Well, not so much weight as fat. So I’m back on a diet.Skeleton_diagram

I’m pretty lucky in that my body responds well to dieting: I lose weight relatively quickly, and it takes years to put it back on. But it does go back on. Part of that is that my eating habits gradually revert to bad. In the past, I’ve found that simple calorie counting works very well for me. The trouble is that calorie counting is a pain in the ass. It actually pushes me toward eating more processed/prepared foods because then I don’t have to do as much work to figure out calories. I want something that’s more sustainable and has a better exit plan than “keep counting calories for the rest of your life”.

So I’m trying something new, and I have a plan for after I hit my target. After watching a recent BBC Horizons documentary on “personalized dieting”, I took their test and figured out what category of dieter I fit into best. To be honest, “personalized” is a bit of a misnomer because they only had three types of dieters, and I think that there must be more. Two of the them were related to physiological issues (Constant Cravers and Feasters), and one was psychological (Emotional Eaters).

As I said, I took their little online test and, no big surprise, I came out as a craver. Which makes sense. When left to myself, I tend to graze a lot. I’ve never been super big (but that might be because I’m still relatively young and active), so maybe I don’t have the physiological issue that the scientists in the documentary identified, but my behaviour certainly follows this template more than the others. (If you want more details, just search “Constant Cravers BBC Horizon” and you’ll likely find the webpages devoted to this programme.)

The Constant Craver diet was recommended two consecutive days on a highly restricted calorie count (600 – 800 kcal), and low carbs.

Not willing to take a TV programme at its word, I did some poking around and seemed to find some evidence that “intermittent dieting” worked well, and sometimes even yielded better results than regular calorie restriction, or even full-time low-carb diets. The evidence wasn’t overwhelming, but I thought it was worth a try.

On the non-restricted days, no calorie counting was required, but a “Mediterranean Diet” was recommended. That diet is very hard to follow for me as a person who doesn’t eat vertebrate animals, but I’m also not as out-of-control as some of the dieters on the show were. For instance, my ideal weight (before adding more muscle) is around 70kg and my weight when I started the diet was probably around 85kg. I’m 185cm tall, just for reference, and I tend to fall within standard BMI measurements. Actually, I have a slim build, so ideal weight should skew lower for me, probably, but still, I’m looking to lose under 20kg, not 100kg. So I’ve just been eating normally and cutting portion sizes when I cook for myself. I’ve been cutting down on sweet stuff, too, but I don’t sweat it too much.

So far, the results seem to be good. I am basically constantly hungry two days a week (usually Wednesday and Thursday), which is unpleasant, but the other days I don’t sweat it. I’ve started making whole wheat chapatti and in general don’t limit carbs but try as much as possible in Japan to eat whole grain ones. I’ve lost… well, it’s hard to say, because I didn’t have scales when we started, but based on how fat I looked, my guess is that I was about 85kg. Our current scale is a bit unreliable, but it’s telling me I’m hovering around 76-77kg after 4 weeks on this diet.

But the most important part is what do I do when I hit my target weight? At that point, or maybe even when I’m getting close, I’m going to change the restricted days to low-carb only, and possibly make it just one day a week. I also plan to start doing some strength exercises (I get a fair amount of basic exercise from walking quickly over the hills near my house carting my 11kg son around), but I’ve, of course, been putting that off for the time being. In any case, it’s having a plan for afterwards that makes this different than one of my normal diets. So, uh, I guess, good luck to me?

Update: The link to the BBC test that categorizes your eating type is here

Dec 31

Obligatory Rambly New Year Post

I guess I should make some kind of end-of-year blog entry. The trouble is having the time to do it right. I work from home, so holidays are not holidays. They are like semi-normal work days with a wife and child to distract me constantly. I do not need any help being distracted. I’m good enough at doing that on my own, thank you very much.

I’m also a little bit year-reviewed out. I sent out a family email newsletter for the first time every (yes, I am truly a family man dad type now), and a lot of stuff I could think of to write here would be a re-tread of that. I’m not much for writing the same thing twice under normal circumstances.

20141231_211239Pretty good year, all told. I don’t have my own theatre yet; I’m not even making my living from doing theatre yet, but I completed new major projects this year, one of which will be having a public performance at the end of March. I’ve got two and a half ideas also brewing for the next show after that, but it’s all going to depend on whether I can get the collaborators I want.

My son went from being a barely-crawling infant to a fully toddling toddler. He’s still pretty much pre-verbal, but he understands quite a bit of what’s said to him, in Japanese and English– which I find heartening, since he’s at hoikuen most days and I’m the only one who speaks English to him. Super! He may require a few months’ stay in Canada in the future to force him to actually speak it, but it’s great to know that his comprehension is good.

This is also the age where children apparently start understanding stuff. For the past few weeks, I’ve been able to reason with him to some degree. “Do you want to play with your toy? Yes? Okay, but we’re going to change your diaper first, okay?” is an example. He doesn’t want to do something; I figure out what he wants to do; I outline the steps between now and doing what he wants to do; I get his assent; we do it. I’m sure this is just a temporary golden age of reason before he gets into a “no” phase, but I’m really enjoying it. For once, I’m better at doing something child-related than my wife, and I’m going to thrill in that for as long as it lasts.

Is that enough yet?

My project for the last week of 2014 (bleeding into this year as well) has been to add more storage to my homebrew NAS. Finished the hardware setup a couple of days ago (an old pair of 2TB drives in an external case connected to the NAS by USB 3.0), and have just about finished the data-juggling from zfs pool to zfs pool to make best use of the space. Mostly this is because of the amount of video that YTG has started to generate (500GB in 2014 alone). I’ve started shooting more of the shows (or rather roping someone into shooting the shows) in a more professional way, which means multiple HD cameras. A 90 minute show can generate in excess of 100GB of raw data from the cameras, so I’ve decided to dedicate most of the largest pool (3TB) to the video files.

Enough yet?

I’ve also started journal-writing. My dad kept a journal from the time he was 19 until a few months before his death(there was an earlier one too, apparently, but he destroyed it when he was in his late teens). I’ve decided to start writing regular journal entries as well, with more of a mind to creating a family history document for my son’s generation. So far I’ve been pretty good about it, but we’ll see if I keep it up during the year. I’ll be slowing copying my father’s entries into the new document and adding commentary and annotations.


Okay. Now. That’s enough.

Nov 20

Moniker Update–Fixed

Oh MonikerSo, last week, I wrote this. I tried to be somewhat even handed and not fly off the handle as is my usual style. However, I did find the situation galling.

I was worried that the worst was going to happen, and I was going to lose one of my domains to a squatter, but Moniker support finally called me last Friday night and finally confirmed my phone number, thus allowing me to renew that domain.

I was very lucky that the expired domain was a redirect to another, not one of the three main ones I use on a day-to-day basis. Otherwise, either of my two websites could have been down for 10 days.

So, now that the crisis has passed, I am planning to move all five of my domains again to a new registrar. Any suggestions? Here’s why I picked Moniker initially:

  1. Good management interface (now gone to hell)
  2. Low prices (still have these). Current renewal rate is between $8.95 and $9.95 (USD).

I basically need these two things. GoDaddy has been recommended to me, but I’ve heard horror stories. is more expensive. Hover is more expensive than Moniker, but not by much, actually. Would love to hear from people who have some experience in these matters.

(Of course, this is all assuming that I can transfer. Search @moniker on twitter and you’ll find a lot of people not able to transfer their domains out.)

Nov 13

Open Letter to (WTF, Moniker?)

WTF, MonikerThis is an open letter to and its CEO Bonnie Wittenburg.

TL;DR One of my domains registered with expired, and they are not allowing me to renew it until I confirm my phone number, which they are making stupidly difficult to do. They seem to be having serious issues with customer support:

Dear Moniker,

This is in regards to case KS#2014110610010145. I am not a domain kingpin. I am not one of your customers who owns a portfolio of 250 domain names. My account has 5 domains registered. Two are personal domains that redirect to this blog and the other three are related to the NPO theatre company that I run. I moved to Moniker from several other domain hosts back in 2012 in order to consolidate all these domains to one manageable location.

Until this summer, I was reasonably happy with the service. I was lucky and didn’t suffer any problems due to the systems upgrade SNAFU back in June. The new system is a bit crap, to be honest, and the mandatory password reset took several tries until it “took”, but I’m willing to overlook growing pains as a company changes.

You have three jobs, in my book, and that is allowing me to hold my domains, keeping the DNS pointing at my DNS provider, and allowing me to renew those domains each year. You have failed.

One of my domains was due to expire on November 4. I have all my domains set to auto-renew and a credit card set up as my payment method. The last domain to expire was on August 8, and on July 26 or 27 (depending on time zone), my credit card was duly charged and I was sent a notice that my domain had been auto-renewed. Your systems start sending out notices months before a domain names expires, with occasional reminders up until the renewal date. This is great. For my domain that expired on November 4, I was receiving those notifications. I took note, though, on November 5th (local time, still the 4th in North America), that I hadn’t received the usual renewal notice, so I logged into my account. After resetting my password again for some damn reason, I went to that domain and saw that it had not been auto-renewed.

Hm. That was a bit frustrating. Perhaps there was a systems glitch. I checked my payment information and it was correct, so I went to the domain and changed it to renew immediately. The invoice appeared in my inbox right away, and it stated that my credit card would be charged. Great.

Except my credit card wasn’t charged. Instead I was sent the following email:

Thank you for registering your domain with Moniker.

For security reasons, we must verify your account before processing your domain requests.

The analysis for which accounts need to be verified is not done by our system but by an external service, based on objective criteria.

The use of such policies has sadly become necessary due to fraud attempts, especially in the internet business.

Until your account is verified you will only be able to make payments via Bank Transfer

We will gladly make an exception for you and open up access to your account once you call our support teams and verify your account.

To verify your account it will need to be a live call.   This again is a onetime call for fraud prevention.

You can call us at 1-800-688-6311 for the account validation. Outside the U.S. and Canada: 954-607-1294

Our hours of operations are Monday-Friday 8:00 am EST – 8:00 pm est.

We look forward to speaking with you.

Please have the following information handy to quickly verify your account.

Account #

Email Address on the account

Phone # on the account

Mailing/Billing Address on the account.

Wonderful. I have been singled out by “objective criteria”. Like what? My credit card hasn’t changed since I’ve joined. My billing address hasn’t changed. I’m also not trying to register a domain, as the email states, I am trying to renew an existing one that has been in my name since before I transferred it to Moniker. It it just because I live in Japan?

Interesting to note here that the support hours are 8:00 – 8:00 EST, which is currently 22:00 – 06:00 Japan Standard time. Luckily, it was still within support hours when I caught the email on the morning of November 6 so I called and left the requested information in a voice message as directed by your telephone system.

Your support team called me back as promised. At 5:00 the following morning. So I obviously didn’t answer. My phone gets turned off when I go to bed so it doesn’t wake my toddler. When did get up that morning, I saw this email:

Thank you for your response.

We retrieved the voice mail message however, we attempted to reach you at the number on file and we were unsuccessful. The number on file needs to be valid to complete account verification.

To change the telephone number please go to USER PROFILE> User Profile. Once updated please leave another detailed message with your account details listed below on our verification line so we can update the account.

Please have the following information handy to quickly verify your account.

Account #
Email Address on the account
Phone # on the account
Mailing/Billing Address on the account

Should you have any further questions, please do not hesitate to contact us.

Best regards,
Torshie [redacted]

This kind of thing has happened before, but usually with a company that didn’t have my address on file—and, I might add, as part of the information I had left for you on the voice mail message that you requested me to send! Since my address was part of the confirmation process, and the person who called had to dial a country code other than +1 (US/Canada), you would think that time zones would be taken into account, no?

Still, whatever, mistakes can happen. I replied to the support email explaining the problem. No, my number did not need to be updated, I just needed to be called at a time when normal people are sleeping. I mentioned that I was available right at that moment to receive a call (still within business hours at 17:00 EST/7:00 JST). Two days later I received a follow-up email:

Hello Andrew,

Thank you for contacting us.

We apologize for the error. It look like we will not be able to reach you during normal hours today. If you leave a message on our voice mail system please call from the number on file so we can verify the number is valid.

Remember to confirm you account details:

account #

Should you have any further questions, please do not hesitate to contact us.

Best regards,

Torshie [redacted]

I sent another reply explaining that a) I wasn’t going to phone from the number on file because it would have been expensive (the number is a Japanese mobile number), and b) that I’d already called and all they needed to do was complete the call back. I also specified several times over the next few days within Moniker business hours that I would be reachable in order to simplify things. I received no reply, and those days and times passed. I sent another reply with more dates and times and a request to expedite the support ticket since my domain had now been expired for several days. This morning (domain expired for 8 days now, 4 days since last contact), I received this reply from support:


Thank you for contacting Moniker Support.

We need to verify your Moniker account information for fraud prevention before you can make purchases.

Please provide us the following information:

* Customer ID / Domain(s):
  * Name on the account:
  * Email address on the account:
  * Phone number on the account:
  * Street address on the account:

Once your account has been verified, you will be able to make purchases on your account.

If you have any further questions, please reply back with your email or call our toll-free number 1.800.688.6311 / International 1.954.607.1294
Our hours of operation are M – F 8:00 AM- 8:00 PM EST & Sat 10:00 AM-4:00 PM EST.

Should you have any further questions, please do not hesitate to contact us.

Best regards,

Shane J

Now you can perhaps see why I included Torshie’s name earlier. It’s not to get anyone in trouble. It’s because my support person changed, and he obviously did not read the entire email chain. I’m not printing Shane’s name to get him in trouble either. It’s simply obvious that your support process is not sufficiently documented to allow your support people to do their jobs. Don’t worry, you’re in good company here; Paypal does the exact same thing. You get a new support person each time, and each time you have to explain everything from the beginning even though it’s all in the email reply chain.

I have replied to the most recent email explaining that I’ve already called with my information and I just need the call back from the Moniker side to complete verification. Since I received Shane’s email during your business hours, I suggested that I was available at that moment. Of course, he did not call.

So where does this leave me? Angry and writing a blog post about it, I guess. Waving my fist at the internet.

Moniker; Ms Wittenburg: please either complete the verification or allow me to make the single $9.95 payment needed to renew my domain with the credit card you have on file. Despite the length of my post here, this is not a complicated technical issue. This is a customer support failure only. It’s a person-problem that you can fix. No engineers or technicians are required. The Moniker brand has been seriously tarnished as of late ( Most of the complaints are about customer service. It’s time to start turning this around.

I look forward to hearing from you.



Jun 13

First Step

My son took his first step this morning. He’s been standing unassisted for several seconds at a time since last weekend, and standing up without using furniture for about as long, but this morning was different. He was clinging to the door frame in the kitchen and was making inarticulate “Daddy, come here” noises. I moved to about two meters away and motioned for him to come to me.

“Come here, Hammy!”20140530_093855-Edit

Usually, he’d let go of the door frame, drop to a crawl, crawl over to me, and then hoist himself back up using my legs for leverage. Today, he let go of the door frame and took one clear step toward me, and then half of another one before sinking to his knees.

But that was his first clear step, and I’m so happy that I was there for it. Given that he spends more than half of his waking hours at the preschool during the week, and that it’s usually my wife playing with him on the weekends, I feel pretty lucky that I was present (the only one present) for at least one major milestone of Hammy’s development.

He’s actually behind most of his contemporaries for walking. Both the other 13-month-old kids at the preschool are already toddling around and have been for a couple of weeks. But that’s okay. I was a late walker too. I’m still a slow learner—I really don’t like doing anything until I’m sure I can do it. (He’s way ahead on climbing skills, though.)

20140612_170125Speaking of the daycare, yesterday was an official parents-visit day. This week and next week are, in fact, days when parents can book themselves in for a morning and participate in classes. (That’s him in the cardboard box in the photo on the left.) We’ve been told that Hammy is an angel at daycare usually, and I believe it. He rarely cries when I drop him off, and even then he’s forgotten about me within 30 seconds of saying goodbye and is playing contentedly. When I drop him off and pick him up, I frequently see or hear a lot of the other children in his class bawling their wee heads off, but I’ve only seen him do it once—he’d only napped for 40 minutes that day and was overtired.

But yesterday, after he noticed that I was staying, he broke out of his blissful mode, crawled over to me during morning story-reading, and started fussing. He was a huge pain in the backside for about 75% of the time I was there, being just as fussy as he usually is in the evenings when I bring him home. At least, my wife told me, they’ll have some idea of what he’s like at home.

Sure, I guess. But I’d kind of like them to go on thinking he’s always that beatific boy I drop off and pick up.

Apr 30

Almost One Year of Ham

IMG_8539Hammy turned 11 months two weeks ago. Only a few more weeks until we celebrate his first birthday. I thought I should make some comments on him, or fatherhood, or something. I wish I’d been less busy and able to do it incrementally, but even writing in his baby book became difficult with a big show and fundraising campaign on the front burner.

So much has changed since I last wrote about him. When was the last time, anyway? Like six months ago? He’s got teeth now, four of them, which he occasionally uses to bite us with. His behaviour is become more discernable. He’s started pointing in the last few weeks, although figuring out what he’s pointing at is a crapshoot, since he doesn’t seem to understand that his finger needs to target the object. He tends to raise his arm almost straight up and then point his finger in a downward curve no matter what he’s trying to point at.

What else? I think he’s started to understand kissing in the last month, and hugging in the last week. He doesn’t really kiss. He places his mouth on someone (or something in the case of the giant stuffed gorilla Rau-chan) and drools. But it’s close. A bit disconcerting when he unexpectedly does it on one’s open mouth while one is talking to him. I certainly hope his technique improves before he starts kissing for real in his teens. The hoikuen (daycare) reported to me yesterday that he really likes hugging people. Given that we’re always hugging him and each other at home, I don’t find this surprising, but it’s nice to hear that it’s been noticed.

Kumiko’s _IMG_1372In the last month, he’s started getting picky with food. Nothing specific. It changes from day to day what he will and won’t eat.

Speaking: It’s been “abwaaababa” or some variation for a while now. About a month ago, I’d trained him to say “da” and “dada” as well, but he seems to have lost that as well while I was off doing my show. Although one morning in production week, he woke me up by standing at the foot of the bed and shouting “DA!” at the top of his lungs.IMG_0239

Right: standing. Still not standing unassisted, but since February he’s been cruising around using furniture. Recently, he’s added walls to his repertoire. He’ll readily walk around the house if someone holds his hands for balance. He also loves to climb things. I am seeing a few bruises and possible broken limbs in his future as he gets older and more adventurous.

I could add that Hammy seems very interested in technology, but I’m not sure if that’s a valid observation on my part, or a tendency to project parts of my own personality onto my little offshoot. Until he can talk, we won’t know, and I’m going to do my best not to Kumiko’s _IMG_2532influence his interests in that regard. I really look forward to giving him his own computer in a few years, though.

Rolling back for a second: Hoikuen.

Hoikuen is basically the Japanese version of daycare. Why is our 11-month old in daycare? Well, places in daycare are hard to get, and if you don’t get in at the beginning (age 0+), when there are the most places, you may not get your kid in at all. Since my wife and I both work, and my mother-in-law is busy babysitting the four other wee ones in the family, daycare is a necessity. My schedule means that I’m frequently working at home, but during the weeks leading up to a show, I could be away from the house from 9:00am to one 20140328_174718o’clock the next morning. Also, at any time I could get a job that requires me to work my pants off (figuratively speaking: those in the know understand that I rarely wear pants) for a week or more on a special project of some sort. Also, from this April, I’ve started teaching acting one day a week at a university in Saitama, which means I’m out of the house from 7:00 to 21:00 or later, depending on trains and how much I need to talk with my students after my last class. So yeah, we need child care enough, and only the full-time option is subsidized by the city. No brainer, really.

Hammy cried the first couple of times we left him there. Once he figured out what we were doing, anyway. He would glare at us and scream the scream of raw betrayal. From the second week, however, he hardly acknowledges us leaving… he’s so eager to go explore and play with new toys. I have to take his temperature in the morning when we arrive, and if the group starts singing the clean-up song while I’m doing that, he starts squirming because he wants to go join them.

So far, though, he is gratifyingly happy to see me at the end of the day when I go to pick him up. 


I guess I should sum things up here, but honestly, I don’t have a summation or a conclusion. I’m not quite 12 months into being a father, and I really probably won’t know what to think until after it’s all over and baby Hammy has flown the nest.

It’s going to be hard to get out of the habit of calling him Baby Hammy, though. Maybe I should do it into his teen years for maximum embarrassment.

Mar 19

Why I'm Glad the Internet is Fairly New

This link is making its way around teh inter-tubes this morning. It's a teenage girl who is coming out as "trans-ethnic", because she feels she is Japanese, not a white American.

I could just shrug and say "Trans-ethnic? Whatever." and pass on by, but her idea of being Japanese is so weird.

"I’m a typical Japanese girl who loves Japanese pop culture and society and the ancient traditions still manifest in Kyoto."

Very few Japanese people I know, but especially very few girls are manga-obsessed and / or care about the "ancient traditions" of Japan "still manifest in Kyoto". Whatever that means.

"I know that in Japan because of my skin color I will be looked upon as a foreigner, and that’s why I plan to live with a host family. After getting rid of the western-ness I may accidentally have acquired, I’ll be a normal Japanese in every situation, socially and culturally."


"[Japan is] as close to perfect as I’m ever going to find, and it was shocking to me that humans could create something so wonderful. Japan gave me faith in humanity while I was a depressed child who hated America and had no hope because of the meat industry." <– yeah, speaking as a vegetarian in Japan, you've got a huge eye-opening coming at the hands of your host family. Particularly if they take her out to a ホルモン restaurant.

Her idea of being Japanese is, despite her protests, not significantly different than that of any American otaku teen who's never been here. Basically, she sees it as a Disney World for otaku. Except that's not the reality, and for those who actually make it here, the reality of Japan sets in pretty quickly and depression frequently follows. Not because Japan's awful (hell, it's my favourite place to live), but because they have unrealistic expectations and they've invested so much in the fantasy.

At the end of the day, though, this girl is 15, and what I wrote above is not to take her down a peg, but to make the point that young people today have it harder than we did. (Get off my lawn, you kids!)

When I was in Canada this winter, I found a lot of my old writing, and much of it was just as dumb, if not dumber, than this. The saving grace is that pretty much anyone who came into contact with my writing of that period has forgotten it. At least back when I was 16, if I wrote something stupid, there was no internet to make sure that people would remember it forever.

However, not just coming out as "trans-ethnic", but as "trans-ethnic" to a fantasy culture that doesn't exist may end up haunting this girl for the rest of her life, especially now that it seems to have gone viral.


Embedded Link

ゆき の ものがたり (Yuki’s Story) – I am finally going to come out: I am a transethnic…
I am finally going to come out: I am a transethnic Japanese woman.
I’ve noticed that on Tumblr there is a lot of ignorance and hate about us, and I’d like to civilly redress that. Unlike the LGBTQA+…

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Post imported by Google+Blog. Created By Daniel Treadwell.

Mar 11

Three Years

Three years ago, I was walking out of my Japanese class near Yokohama station and was headed for my bicycle. I had no idea then that just over two hours later, I would be cowering under my kitchen table or standing outside watching the earth roll while people just a few hundred kilometers away were dying terrifying deaths or having their homes destroyed.

After the dust cleared, I did just over a week of volunteering, and it really doesn’t feel like I did enough. I also started a (largely unsuccessful) attempt to call out journalists on their shoddy and sensationalist reporting of the event, particularly the brouhaha surrounded the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. I think I made a few people defensive, but I don’t think we really effectively called anyone out on their bullshit. And such reporting continues to this day, largely forgetting about the real victims of the tsunami, many of whom are apparently still homeless.

My wife and son are out for a couple of hours, so I’m using this quiet time to think about all the people that we lost on that day, and those we still haven’t effectively helped; to think about all the stories yet untold, and all those that can never be told.

The plum blossoms are blooming in my yard again, just as they were then.


Feb 23

Worst Vacation So Far – Part 1 – “Right in the Hole”

We’ve just passed Kyoto again, our original destination, on our way back from Okayama to Yokohama.

Our plan was a one-week western Japan baby-tour. We wanted to bring young Hammy to meet various relatives and friends who hadn’t seen him yet. Sadly, that was not to be.Forest Hammy

Pre-Trip Blues

Those of you following my facebook posts over the past couple of days know part of the story, but it actually begins last Monday or Tuesday, when the whole family got sick. Hammy had been doing double-barrelled snotting around, and it was on the Tuesday that he a) managed to drool straight into my mouth, and b) started running a slight fever.

By that evening, I had a raging sore throat which carried over into the next morning. We would have all done very well by staying in bed that day, but due to deadlines imposed on us by the city of Yokohama, we had to go and file our taxes. The copies of the filings would be used on our application forms for a daycare subsidy. Those forms needed to arrive at the right office by February 28, only one day after our return from our planned vacation.

The taxes were complicated by the fact that due to a clerical mistake, I was missing an important piece of paperwork and had to travel into downtown Tokyo before heading back out to the boonies for a long walk to the tax office to meet my wife with tax filings already in progress.

Getting Away

We’d planned to leave Thursday around 11:30 and have a leisurely Shinkansen ride to Okayama to visit relatives on Friday and Saturday.

Sunday was for visiting friends in Osaka, and Saturday to Wednesday was for hanging out with friends in Kyoto, including our the family of the woman who introduced my wife and myself to each other in Toronto.

I woke up with a 39 degree fever, a hacking cough, an aching body, no appetite, and a pounding headache. My wife dispatched me to the local clinic to get tested for influenza, which would scupper the trip, since we wouldn’t want to go spreading it around wherever we went. So off I went. Except the clinic was close on Thursdays. I was in no physical shape to go to my usual doctor near Motomachi, so I was re-routed, after an excruciating 15 minutes with the chills in –2 degree weather, to another clinic.

So there I was, in the waiting area, or rather, a separate waiting area for those people considered very infectious (me), waiting for my influenza test. The nurse tells me it will hurt a little. Sure, whatever, I can take a little needle in the arm.

It isn’t until I see the plastic tube coming for my nose that I realize what is going to happen. It makes a 4-vial blood extraction with 10-minutes of vein hunting, seem like a walk in the park by comparison. Afterwards, I was shocked to find that cranial fluid was not indeed leaking from my brainpan via my left nostril, because as far as I could that, that was where the nurse had punctured me.

The test came back negative (on so many levels), so after a two-hour nap, we decided to start moving to Okayama.

Day 0 and Day 1

The shinkansen was great, as always. A bit busy, but once we hit Nagoya, we got seats together, so we were happy.

We crashed that night at the hotel, and I slept fitfully as my fever jumped up and down, alternating me between the sweats and the chills.

The next day, my wife and Hammy went on their own to hang out with my father-in-law and his mother while I spent the day lying in bed, taking Advil, and trying to catch up on sleep. My father-in-law dropped them off around 17:00, brought me some convenience store energy drinks, and broke the solid safety latch off the door on the way out (his parting words as he handed the broken piece to my wife: “Oh, this just fell off.”). My appetite finally returned in time for dinner, when, just as we were deciding where to go, Hammy knocked over the room’s electric kettle and put his hand in the spilled, 98 degree water.

Okay, this probably makes us somewhat bad parents, but to put this in perspective, the kettle had a lid that was not supposed to release liquid unless a button was held down. I later discovered that this button was broken, which explains why the liquid was able to get out and scald my son’s hands. Regardless, we will be much more safety conscious in the future—we were lucky the damage was as limited as it was.

Once I realized why he was screaming (it took me three or four seconds to piece the scene together when I looked up), I picked him up, ran to the shower, and held the burned hand under the cold water. (The sink design was too weird to hold him comfortably, hand outstretched, for any period of time.)IMG_4248

We decided to head to the hospital.

Okayama city has only one large, 24-hour hospital with an emergency room.

Before I go on, let me tell you the positive things about the emergency room service:

1. The area was modern and pristine.

2. We were moved through quickly. In Canada, I’m always impressed by the quality of most of the medical staff, and frustrated by four to five hour waits to see one of those staff members.

Okay, that’s it.

The clerks at the desk informed us that the skin specialists wasn’t in and that they’d much rather us delay our emergency until the next morning when he’d be back. We told them that we had a nine-month old with burns on his hand that were now blistering, and that we’d like to see a doctor, please. The man on the desk also sent for a bag of ice and told us to hold it (DIRECTLY!) against his hand. I made sure we wrapped it in a towel first.

When we got to see the doctor, maybe 15 minutes later, he appeared to be in his early twenties, sporting a chin beard and Crocs. He and the four or six nurses hovering around huddled and hemmed and hawed about what to do.

“Just put it on ice,” they chorused, “and come back tomorrow to see the specialist.”

The doctor told my wife a story about having a serious burn on three of his fingers. “I just kept it cool,” he said, keeping it cool. I almost punched him in his chin beard. Did this guy graduate from Phys Ed teacher college and get his paperwork swapped with some poor med school student? Wait, no, I’m pretty sure my Phys Ed teachers in high school, loathsome human beings as they were, knew not to put ice on a fucking burn. I seriously began to think that this guy might wear Crocs because he couldn’t figure out how to tie his shoelaces.

It was at this point that the group of (and I use the term loosely) medical professionals, crowed, confidently, that my son’s burn, which consisted of:

a) index finger, underside, burned and blistered up to twice its normal thickness
b) middle finger, top joint, underside, burned and blistered
c) ring finger, half of the top joint, left side, burned and blistered

was a “first degree burn”.

Deciding that a battle of wits with six unarmed foes wearing the kevlar of stupid was essentially an eternal stalemate and a waste of time, I kept a smile on my face and started to insist on a wound dressing. “We can’t keep Hammy’s hand cooled all night and keep him from sticking it in his (decidedly non-sterile mouth). You’ve got to dress the wound to protect it until we come back tomorrow morning.”

The doctor fucked off, presumably to be cool somewhere else, and one of the nurses set to being helpful with us. This woman meant well, I’m sure, and she was kind and helpful. But she put an adhesive bandage on Hammy’s index finger (burned and blistered along its whole length on the underside). At the time, I’d assumed it was some kind of special burn dressing. It was not. I insisted that she wrap Hammy’s hand in gauze to stop him from pulling off the bandage she’d applied, and she did. She tied it so expertly, that Hammy pulled it off in one clean motion not 5 minutes later. She did not offer to tie it again.IMG_4154

Finally, as we were in the waiting area, I insisted that my wife request a painkiller again, though her initial request had been turned down. I was worried about my son being in too much pain to sleep, which would only hurt his ability to heal, and our ability to keep his hand cool, as per Doctor Chinbeard’s orders.

We prevailed, or rather, they relented, and they issued a painkiller dose based on Hammy’s body weight. We accepted it gratefully and headed home.

Throughout all of this, I need to restate, that one particular nurse was very kind and understanding with us. I should also be clear that, although sorely tempted, I did not have to resort to stereotypical white-man-loud-voice-bullying that I’m sure you are all imagining me doing. Gentle insistence through my wife, who could cut my tone and word choice into something pleasant and polite, was enough. These people were there to help, and they did their best. But they were thoroughly unequipped, in training or in intellectual flexibility to deal with an injury that must be the bread-and-butter of most emergency rooms. (Also, it was interesting that none of them even bothered to check a manual or anything, they just clucked about in their ignorance.)

We’re almost back in Yokohama, so this is going to have to be a two-parter. Allow me to just add that Hammy slept soundly after returning to the hotel and receiving his painkiller. At the very least, my wife and I had the novel experience of administering our first suppository.

As my friend David Montero liked to say: “right in the hole.”

Feb 10

The Yokohama Snow Plow

No, it’s not a skiing manoeuvre.


So, two days ago we had a massive snowfall. It usually snows in Yokohama about once or twice a year. Most years it’s enough to cover the ground and necessitate shovelling, but this year has been the most snow we’ve had since we moved into the Kamiooka Tea House. I think. (Update: my wife tells me that we’ve set a 20-year snowfall record.)


This is also the first time it’s happened here when I’ve been at home in the morning, and not zipping off to a A lot of shoveling to do...20140209_083655

rehearsal or job. To give you an idea, I’ve posted some photos of the area just in front of my house.

Even though my door is under little roof, I still had to shoulder it open. The temperature had risen above zero in the morning, and the sun was out, so the snow was fast melting and HEAVY.


I went to get my shovel, but no sooner had I dealt with a few shovelfuls that I realized that this was perfect weather for building a snow man.

Snowman 2014

This irresistible urge led me to soaking wet gloves and probably one of the worst snow men ever built, but judge for yourself.

So then I shovelled our walk, which included the stairs leading both up to our neighbours and down to the street, a walking path the length of our house on the road, and the area in front of our gate. And the area in front of my neighbour, Ichikawa-san’s, gate. And the path above the stairs.

Then I helped one of my other neighbours (most of my neighbours are over 60, with quite a number of them pushing 80) dig out his car. Then I kept going and helped dig out the street so that all the neighbours could get their cars out. This kept on until I’d made a complete circle around the block to the bottom of my stairs again, where I joined up with the footpath I’d made earlier. By the time I’d started digging out cars, there were at least 8 of us on the street, led by an obasan.

One group broke off and started working their way up the hill to the east, but I confined my efforts to the ring around my house, which, believe me, was work enough. If I hadn’t been worried about looking lazy, I would have snapped a photo of what was, by now, 12 people digging out the road: The “Yokohama Snow Plow” of this entry’s title. The youngest was what looked like a 10 year-old girl (I was the second youngest). The oldest was probably 76 or 78. You can tell it doesn’t snow here much. Some of these guys were shovelling way too much of this heavy snow with each stroke; I was worried someone was going to drop dead.

As I came around again, I saw another neighbour struggling to knock snow off the rickety roof over her door, so I walked over and volunteered myself, being a good two heads taller than she. I also helped her shovel the area in front of her gate (her house was in particularly deep due to the way the snow had blown). I did wonder why her husband (who I almost never see) poked his head out the door, but otherwise offered no assistance. Must be a story there.

After helping out (and telling her she could borrow my ladder if she needed to do this again when I wasn’t around), I headed home and immediately collapsed onto the baby’s futon.

Later that day, I went out to check on the snow man. Not doing so well.


And this morning:

Snowman 2014

Feb 05

Lester B. Pearson is Spinning in his Grave

I don’t know really who Lester B. Pearson was. A Prime Minister maybe? Far too lazy to check wikipedia on the LesterBPearsonairport’s shitty WiFi, and that’s really part of my point.


If I’m ever famous and people decide to name something after me, this is my request: if it’s something shitty, please don’t.


As I said, I don’t know much about Lester B. Pearson and what he stood for, but I’m pretty sure he didn’t stand for shitty WiFi and rude security gate personnel.

I mean, seriously, lady, I know you do this all day long, but most of us travel less than once a year, and every fucking airport has different security protocols, so if we don’t instantly get things right, a little fucking patience is in order. I mean, security all over the world makes us basically deconstruct our carry-on luggage and clothing:

Wallet and change, check
Cell phones, check
Laptop PCs, check
Liquids in ziplocks, check
Scarves, hats, and jackets, off
Boots with steel toe, off
Belt with metal buckle, off
Metal watch, off
Cucumber wrapped in aluminum foil, extracted

And then, we have to organize it in trays based on a random system.
”No boots in trays!” <—well, at some airports they go in trays
”Large purse goes in a tray!” <—in a lot of airports they don’t
We managed to guess everything else right this time.

”Take the baby out of the carrier to go through the metal detector.” <—our carrier has no pockets; my wife thought the lady was joking.
”Mummble mumble baby mumble through.” <—what? we can’t take the baby through? No answer. Woman on the other side: “bring the baby through.”

It’s not like she’s good at her job and was just being impatient that we weren’t. She forgot to put through a bag belonging to a man who went through two people in front of us. This got us scolded by another security working trying to hurry us along until we explained that it wasn’t ours, nor did it belong to the woman in front of us, but we were stuck behind it because they hadn’t processed it.

Also, this is one of the only times I can think of that the security staff person didn’t move our bags and trays along the conveyor herself. It was kind of a sticky conveyor, and not as roll-y as they tend to be, and I was pushing, but she just stood there waving as I struggled to move about five trays



Anyway, Hammy and wife are back now so got to wrap this up.


P.S. I also don’t think Lester B. Pearson stood for no baby seats in the toilets or the cafeterias. I mean seriously, it’s not like terminal one was built in the 70s.

Feb 04

Heading Home

After 86 days in Canada, it is time to head home to Yokohama. In that time, my son has gone from six months to eight and a half months. In other words, a mostly inert sleeping airplane baby to a baby who may not take well to sitting on his parents’ laps for a 13 hour flight (mostly through daylight hours, E.S.T.).

The flight here was quite pleasant, and Hammy slept through most of it, but the logistics are different going home: we fly at noon, local time, instead of 17:00. And he was a little too long for the bassinet last time, meaning that he’ll be much too long for it now. I imagine his legs sticking straight up into the air if we try to lay him down in it. Also, when we flew here, his only movement was an occasional roll-over. Now, he’s used to crawling from room to room and pursuing different toys (or power cords, or expensive cameras, etc…).

Kumiko’s _IMG_2220


<— This is the baby we left Japan with.Mmmph! 



And this is the baby we are coming home with     —>






Hmm. I guess that doesn’t really prove my point at all.

In any case, I am looking forward to sleeping in my own bed, something I haven’t done since the week Hammy was born. (We moved up to the tatami room and slept there until we left Japan, but now that he’s crawling, we’re thinking the playpen in our bedroom may be safer for him and for our shoji.)

Jan 18

Starbucks Coffee ≠ Artist’s Work

TL;DR Stupid Facebook truthy meme oversimplifies complex issue and pisses me off.

I’ve seen this image posted on Facebook a couple of times now, and it bugs me.


First off, a disclaimer: I am an artist who would like to make a living from my work. I believe that artists should be paid.

On the surface, this little meme-graphic seems to make sense. Cheapo yuppie scum will pay $5 for a mochalatteccino steamer, but they don’t want to pay $1 to listen to a song that they like. Dig a little deeper and this analogy not only falls apart, but backfires badly.

First, “won’t pay” means “won’t pay, but will download for free”, since otherwise there isn’t much of an argument here, unless we are suggesting that one must purchase anything one likes rather than going without. Millions of people won’t buy expensive cars either, but they’re not doing anything wrong unless they attempt to obtain one for free.

Second, let’s quickly define “song”, since the meme author doesn’t do that for us. Since the meme claims that a song costs $1, it seems to suggest that “song” means a digital file containing a recording of a song, since $1 is about the going rate for a single song on legitimate digital music purchase channels.

Maybe that seems intuitive, but I just wanted to make clear that the original meme isn’t even all that precise. Now, having made sure we’re all talking about the same meaning, I can launch into the main flaws of this meme.


A cup of coffee and a song are both things that one can buy, so how does the analogy not hold together?

The meme’s author isn’t comparing the two items equally. The ingredients in a single cup of coffee may cost less than one dollar, but the ingredients (bits and bytes) in a single digital song file cost even less. But what about the years of training for the musician(s)? What about the cost of the recording equipment? The instruments?

Well, if we’re going to count those, as the meme graphic does, then we have to look at a coffee on an equal footing. Here’s a little infographic from the Wall Street Journal about what makes up the price of a Starbucks Grande Latte in China (choice of country is arbitrary):


(courtesy of

I’m not going to bother doing a mathematical comparison, because that’s not really my point. My point is that the simple meme treats a $5 cup of coffee as simply the cost of its ingredients (which are more than a few pennies… at least 64 pennies if this infographic is right) and doesn’t take into account all of the costs that go into making it the way it does for the song. I’m not even sure if it’s possible to compare them on an equal footing, because some costs, percentage-wise, would change based on how many units are sold, and some wouldn’t.

The root of why we can’t compare them, then, comes down to this: the most obvious way that the two items differ is that a cup of coffee is a physical object, and a song is not. Here are the important differences in properties between a cup of coffee and a song:


  1. A coffee cannot be instantly duplicated at virtually no cost; a song can.
  2. A coffee cannot be shared between two or more people without reducing the amount that each person can drink; a song can be shared with many people without reducing the amount or quality of the music.
  3. Each coffee can only be sold once; a song can be sold or given away again and again.
  4. You can steal a cup of coffee; you cannot steal a song. Well, you can, and that’s called plagiarism. But stealing in the sense of taking a copy of the song for free to listen to (rather than claiming it as your own work): no. You can copy it without permission, but the key difference is that the artist retains his/her own copy and you have not deprived the artist of the ability to sell that song to someone else.


But that’s not really the point, is it? The graphic claims that effectively everyone (“people”) will pay for a coffee, but “millions” won’t pay for a song. Stay with me on this…

A cup of coffee is a commodity, in the sense that one is essentially the same as another. If we want to be anal about it, we can say one Starbucks Grande Latte is the same as any other, rather than all cups of coffee are alike, but same fucking thing, really.

A song recording is not and the crux of my argument here is that it is silly to treat it as a commodity. A coffee has value because it has cost something to make and if you don’t pay for it you won’t get any. Yes, you could grab someone else’s coffee off the counter and make a run for it, but you are still paying because of the effort and social cost involved (try going back to the same shop the next day). A song recording, on the other hand, no matter how much it cost to make, can be copied without permission at essentially no cost and essentially no risk. You can not pay for it and still get it, without depriving someone else of the pleasure of listening to it. A song does not have value because of the cost of making it. A song has value because we say it does.

That’s what copyright law is, at its heart, regardless off all the corporatist baggage it carries now. It says certain types of ideas have value and can be treated in limited way like property for a limited amount of time. Someone else should not profit off of your creative work without your permission.


I think I’ve shown that the comparison itself is flawed not only in the sense that the graphic doesn’t compare coffee and songs on equal and fair footing, but that even if one could compare them fairly, they are not really comparable. But let’s get back to the main premise of the graphic: “Millions of people will pay for a cup of coffee, but not for a song (recording, presumably)".

Again, there’s a surface truthiness to the statements, but something still niggles at me. Yes, I know people who would pay for a coffee and download a song without paying for it. But those same people pay for music all the time, directly and indirectly. The argument has been made that heavy music “pirates” (arr! E-S-P-E-C-T) also tend to spend more on music than non-“pirates”, because music lovers tend to be the type of people who acquire music by any means.


(via )

You could argue, I suppose, that music purchases for some artists don’t benefit those whose music wasn’t purchased legally, but my feeling (no data on this, just opinion and experience) is that the popular, famous acts are the ones who lose out at the expense of smaller, independent artists because the work of the former is easier to find on P2P networks. This may or may not make a difference to you, depending on how fiercely you cling to the social Darwinian principles of a capitalist free market and the letter of the law, or how much of your feeling about music copying hinges on “don’t hurt the little guy”.

In addition, even the most dedicated illegal downloader pays for music. It’s unavoidable. For example, part of the “store operating expenses” for Starbucks Grande Latte include the licensing for the in-store music, so coffee buyers in a Starbucks are technically paying for music in the price of their coffee. But we all also pay for music that we hear on the radio (through theoretically listening to their advertisements), in the background of movies, the BGM on elevators, etc.

The graphic also doesn’t say what context the purchase of a song is in. Sometimes consumers make value judgements on items based on their packaging or other criteria. For instance, personally, I will not pay $1 for an .mp3 file. I will not do it. I will pay ~$1 for a losslessly compressed audio file with no DRM. I will pay ~$10 to $30 for a physical copy of an album (which can come out to more than $1 per song), depending on context and perceived value. I think that most people who actually like music will pay for it under certain conditions.

The last thing that the meme graphic doesn’t take into account is the ease of acquisition. If I’m out in the middle of a rice field planting rice and I feel like a coffee, I am not likely to drop everything, walk 40 minutes to a train station, and go into town to buy a coffee. Give me an option to make it appear, for free, in my hand, and I’ll take that option. (Actually, I won’t because I hate coffee, but that’s beside the point.)
Likewise, while the channels for legally purchasing music downloads have become much better, frequently it’s faster and easier to get a song through P2P channels than it is through the legal ones. iTunes is apparently really great, for instance. If you like Apple telling you which devices you can play them on (theirs). Other music stores aren’t much better and frequently have much worse selection. Because of music licensing being handled by many corporate entities who don’t necessarily play nice with the digital distributors (remember when iTunes didn’t have any Beatles songs?), there isn’t one central way to search and find what you’re looking for.

The quasi-legal back channels for getting music, on the other hand, don’t give a rat’s ass about corporate concerns, and it’s usually trivial to find what you’re looking for, as long as it’s at least moderately well-known.

Another point is that most online song sellers require payment by credit card. Don’t have a credit card? Don’t have an iTunes gift card on hand when you want to buy that song?

Does this sound trivial? Maybe it is, but every little obstacle you put between the customer and the music makes it that much less likely that he/she will buy said music.


To wrap up: the meme graphic tries to demonize some theoretical person who will pay what is suggested to by an obscene amount of money for a cup of coffee, but will not pay a single dollar to support an artist by buying a digital song recording. I think I’ve shown that the comparison is faulty due to unfair footing in the comparison (designed to make the thesis more emotional), and the fact that these two items are so different that they should not be directly compared.

Moreover, by pointing out that music downloaders tend to also be music buyers, and discussing how all purchasing is affected by ease-of-use and circumstance (e.g. coffee doesn’t get bought unless one is somewhere that sells it when one wants to drink it), I think I’ve shown why the graphic bothers me so much, despite the fact that I think artists should be paid for their work.


I really dislike meme graphics like this, because they take a really complex issue and turn it into something black and white. There are topics where this reductionism can work (“if you don’t vaccinate your children, you’re endangering everyone else’s kids”), but the topic of copyright in the digital age and the changing economic playing field for artists who produce work that can be reproduced digitally is something we should be discussing thoughtfully. We should not be drawing lines in the sand until we’ve explored more possibilities and pitfalls, in theory and in practice.


Wow. I did not intend to write such a long piece. Even so, I feel like I’ve only covered half of the issue. As an artist, I feel I should contribute to the discussion of how artists should be paid, and why it’s really bad, on a philosophical level, to compare a commodity (coffee) to our art. If I have time, I may write a part 2…

Jan 11

Hi! My Name is Loco and I am a Racist Review

After a rather long break, I've returned to +Baye McNeil's first book, Hi, My Name is Loco and I am a Racist ( I just finished reading the Aiko chapter, and my heart is broken for the night.

After reading his second book (Loco in Yokohama), I shouldn't have been surprised that his writing could be so moving. 

His work is blisteringly honest– and I mean blistering to himself. Unlike some of the more famous moral crusaders, when he puts himself front-and-centre he doesn't do so in a false glowing light. Any righteous indignation directed at Japan (or elsewhere) is tempered by the indignation he evenhandedly directs at himself, when deserved. This isn't a book that presents you with a thesis that you need to agree or disagree with; it's a book about a person working shit out. It is personal storytelling par excellence, (pardon my French).

Anyway, I haven't made it to the part of the book in which he solves racism (no spoilers, please), but that last chapter forced me to put the book down for the rest of the night (in a good way), and I wanted to write about it while it was on my mind.

Seriously, if you haven't read either of his books yet, I recommend it, whether you're in Japan or not. The e-book versions are like 500 Yen ($5-$6 CAD). There is no excuse not to shell out for them… unless you don't like reading good stuff.


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Jan 08

Someone just posted this awful article on Facebook: http://www.huffingtonpost.c…

Someone just posted this awful article on Facebook:

Summary: The article argues that not tipping is kind of a jerky behaviour, which I agree with. However, it then goes on to defend the practice of tipping as if THE VERY FABRIC OF OUR SOCIETY DEPENDED ON IT. THERE IS LITERALLY NO ALTERNATIVE, PEOPLE.

No alternative? Really? Could we not just force restaurants to pay their staff a living wage and be done with the barbaric practice of tipping altogether?

The article is totally BS when it deals with this, saying that prices of food will double etc. Bullshit. Japan is supposed to be one of the most expensive countries in the world. It is where I live. There is no tipping. Is the food more expensive? No. In fact, I usually spend less on an equivalent meal in Japan than I do in Ontario. The final food prices are generally the same as Canadian prices are before the tax and the tip. Sometimes a bit cheaper, sometimes a bit more expensive. ALWAYS cheaper after the tax, though, in my experience.

Okay, the portions are sometimes smaller, I suppose (although not always). But seriously, do you need a plate the size of a stereo system?

Oh, and when did 20% become the minimum tip?

I'm not cheap. I tip when I'm in Canada. Usually between 15% and 20%, mostly depending on how often my water/pop gets refilled. But I hate doing it. Not because I begrudge service workers their money, but because I think the practice is wrong: it isn't actually a motivator for anything other than forced cheeriness (which is exhausting, because then I have to be forcibly cheery in return); it forces me to guess how much my meal is going to cost ("okay, that's 8.95 plus 17.5% tip and 13% HST…"); and it is actually unfair to the servers. (Think about it: if the owner does a bad job of marketing and not very many diners show up, why should the servers suffer for that?)

This article in SLATE was pretty interesting:

So for now, I will keep tipping when I'm in Canada, because that's how the wait staff make their money, but I think anyone  in favour of that system is mental.


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An Open Letter To Bad Tippers
Now, to speak directly to a certain terrifying subset of this species. These are the lowest, most shameless sorts of customers. Their existence is a constant, chilling reminder that evil exists in the world. They are the non-tippers.

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Jan 08

Propane Update

The heat is back on. It is 10.5 degrees now in the main part of the house (it was as low as 7).Picture 4

The propane guy was named Bob and he was very nice. He explained that propane is in short supply and he, in fact, was carrying the last of it. This cold snap apparently caught everyone by surprise. This might explain the fact that the company couldn’t send any other driver… and that it cost almost $1 per litre. Adding in all the taxes and stuff, that brought my total to $1804.

Well, at least I know what it costs to fill that huge tank now. Jesus.

Jan 08

A Day in the Cold

Okay, off the bat, let’s be clear about what this post isn’t: I’m not complaining about the fact that the main part of the farmhouse I’m currently living in is about 8 degrees right now and that it may drop to 5 before the propane guy finally gets here. Not really a huge hardship, especially compared to those without power and heat over Xmas in Toronto.

I will clarify my complaint in a moment, but first, some background.

We turn the thermostat down to 15 degrees every night when we go to bed, and then crank it back up to 19.5 every morning. Today, after an hour of running, the temperature was 14.5. Odd.

Then my wife complained that the gas stove was barely sputtering along: the largest element turned on max looked like a back element turned on “simmer”. This is when the penny dropped for me and I went downstairs. Sure enough, the furnace was complaining about low gas flow. Turned it off and popped online to see what could cause this.

Once I realized that it was either a frozen regulator or that we were out of gas, I called the propane company. They told me to check the gauge on the tank (never knew there was one), and sure enough, the pressure was “0”. So I called them back and asked for a refill ahead of schedule. Since we were completely out of gas and it was our heating fuel, they told us they’d fit us in.

Apparently today was a busy day for them and it wasn’t until 10:30 that they called me back to say that a driver had been assigned. In expectation, I went outside for about 25 minutes in –20 weather (not including windchill) and shovelled out a path from the lane to the propane tank. It was so cold I had to do it without my glasses—my breath would fog them up and then freeze solid.

Five o’clock rolled around and no one had shown up so I called them back. They called the driver and then called me back to let me know that he’d had a breakdown in the morning and so he was just starting his shift now.

So here’s my complaint: Why didn’t the driver call the breakdown in? Why was there no requirement that he do so? The propane company could have moved us to another driver’s roster or at the very least called us to let us know there would be a delay. I spent the whole day with one ear cocked for a truck coming in the lane.

Now we’re told that he’ll be here by midnight. Of course, in the dark, will he be able to find the tank or the handy path I dug to it? I phoned the propane company again (keep in mind that each of these calls means about 10 minutes on hold) and asked them to give the driver my phone number so I could stop checking the window every 5 minutes. Hopefully he follows these instructions.

Anyway, that’s my complaint. Purely customer service. It’s our fault we ran out of gas. The farmhouse usually isn’t occupied this much and this winter is particularly cold. We have scheduled fill-ups, and usually that’s enough. But running out of propane is on us. That’s fair. Still, Superior Propane should have at least kept us in the loop. We could theoretically have left the house to get groceries, hang out with neighbours, etc., but that we were stuck waiting for the propane delivery.

Picture 1

No serious hardship for us either. The farmhouse has electric heaters in the area I’ve made into my office and in our bedroom, so it’s actually a lot like our house in Japan that way. The room we’re occupying is about 17 degrees, and then if we want to cook or use the toilet, the air temperature is closer to 7. We’ve taken it easy on the hot water all day, so there was enough for Hammy’s bath and for me to do the dishes. We’re all okay, although we’ve been cooped up in the same two rooms together all day.

Still, at the current rate of heat loss (about 1 degree every two hours), we’ll hit 0 degrees at noon tomorrow, so I do hope that guy shows up tonight. I imagine pipes will start freezing at some point if he doesn’t. Or not. I know nothing about these things.

Well, that was my day.

Dec 30

Not My Day

Safe and sound in the T-dot, thanks to Jon Vokins (and Louise Vokins for letting him come and get me).

Had a hell of time getting in– first, I realized I’d forgotten my keys. Then, when we stopped at my sister’s house to pick up hers, my Galaxy Note dropped out of my pocket and into a puddle. Then, when I picked it up, it flipped over and dropped again. Then, after I got back to the condo, I realized my suitcase was still in Mr. Vokins’s back seat moments after he pulled away. Then, I realized I didn’t have his phone number. Then, I tried to get into the apartment to get on the internet to let him know, but the key  was a dud and I spent several minutes futzing with it to get the door open.

At last, I popped open my laptop, jumped on Facebook, and sent Jon a message. He turned around and came back.


Jon Vokins, ladies and gentlemen, is a saint. This is not the only time he’s gone out of his way to be nice to people. I’m so happy that he’s got a kid, because I don’t think anyone is more qualified to be a full-time dad than him. I really hope to see him in Japan sometime in the next few years.

As he pulled his car away for the final time, Jon thoughtfully suggested to me that I not leave the house for the rest of the day, seeing as my afternoon had been pretty much a bunglefest. I resolved to follow his advice… until I saw that there was no food in the fridge.


Oh oh…

Nov 27


So, I'm FINALLY on Jellybean (4.1.2) a YEAR after it got released.

DoCoMo pushed the update in August or September, and because my phone is rooted, I had to eventually kill the updater app so it would stop prompting me to upgrade every three hours.

Last time I had to reflash my phone, my backup failed and it took me days to get my phone back in working order. This time it only took about five hours total for the whole process– a vast improvement. Here's the final process (I made one and a half unsuccessful passes) (this is for future reference to me):

0. Ran a Titanium Backup and then Menu->Special features->Create (makes a flashable zip file with the Pro version of TiB)
1. Fired up ODIN 3 v. 3.04. Yes, newer versions are out, but this is the version to use due to a brick bug with the Note and some other phones.
2. Rebooted into Odin download mode (vol down + home). Flashed the update (found on xda forums) under PDA, and allowed the auto reboot to happen.
3. After reboot, powered down and back into download mode.
4. Flashed clockworkmod recovery V6.0.1.2_r12 and allowed auto reboot
5. Held down BOTH volume buttons to boot into Clockworkmod Recovery as the device was coming back up.
6. Wiped the device.
7. Flashed SUper User .zip
8. Flashed the TiB .zip file
9. Rebooted; opened TiB, and restored all missing apps and data.
10. Futzed for a bit with apps that weren't 100% restoreable, widgets, and with system settings that needed to be adjusted to my preferences.

Luckily, I use Nova Launcher as my home screen, so restoring that restored all my icons and their positions. I only had to reset my background.

Bummers remaining: too risky to restore Wifi access points, so need to put them all in manually again as I encounter them. Boo. Also, BTsync seems to be ignoring new photo files. Will have to investigate that today.



So, I’m FINALLY on Jellybean (4.1.2) a YEAR after it got released.

DoCoMo pushed the update in August or September, and because my phone is rooted, I had to eventually kill the the updater app so it would stop prompting me to upgrade every three hours.

Last time I had to reflash my phone, my backup failed and it took me days to get my phone back in working order. This time it only took about five hours total for the whole process– a vast improvement. Here’s the final process (I made one and a half unsuccessful passes) (this is for future reference to me):

0. Ran a Titanium Backup and then Menu->Special features->Create (makes a flashable zip file with the Pro version of TiB)
1. Fired up ODIN 3 v. 3.04. Yes, newer versions are out, but this is the version to use due to a brick bug with the Note and some other phones.
2. Rebooted into Odin download mode (vol down + home). Flashed the update (found on xda forums) under PDA, and allowed the auto reboot to happen.
3. After reboot, powered down and back into download mode.
4. Flashed clockworkmod recovery V6.0.1.2_r12 and allowed auto reboot
5. Held down BOTH volume buttons to boot into Clockworkmod Recovery as the device was coming back up.
6. Wiped the device.
7. Flashed SUper User .zip
8. Flashed the TiB .zip file
9. Rebooted; opened TiB, and restored all missing apps and data.
10. Futzed for a bit with apps that weren’t 100% restoreable, widgets, and with system settings that needed to be adjusted to my preferences.

Luckily, I use Nova Launcher as my home screen, so restoring that restored all my icons and their positions. I only had to reset my background.

Bummers remaining: too risky to restore Wifi access points, so need to put them all in manually again as I encounter them. Boo. Also, BTsync seems to be ignoring new photo files. Will have to investigate that today.


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Aug 24

99 Days of Ham

Tomorrow is Hammy’s 100th day, so I thought I should write something about how it’s going: 

So far, so good.

That about sums it up.


The First 30 Days

My mother flew in on May 31, which made things much easier. Having her there to do dishes and several other chores really freed me up to get other work and the heavier chores (like gardening) done. Also, my mother, my wife, and myself get along very well, so it also made the adjustment of having a baby in the house easier on the mental side as well. My wife and I were very sad to bid farewell to her at the end of June.

From the beginning, my wife has let me sleep through the nights, which has been very nice… especially at the beginning when Hammy would wake up every couple of hours for a feeding. We’re all sleeping together in the upstairs tatami room, on futons (Japanese-style, so right on the floor), so every once in a while, I’d offer to put him back to sleep after he ate.

Best song to get him to fall asleep during month 1? “Do You Hear the People Sing?” sung at full belt. I’m not sure my neighbours appreciate that at any time, let alone midnight, let alone with my voice, but there it is. My hope is that they prefer my marginal singing to the squawling of an infant. “Danny Boy” also worked a charm. These songs have recently lost their full effectiveness, but they still come in handy.

Month 2 & 3

My wife is still letting me sleep through the nights, which is really nice. I get physical symptoms (migraines, sleep paralysis) if I don’t get enough consecutive hours of sleep, and I have more trouble falling back to sleep than she does, so I really appreciate it. She goes back to work next spring, though, at which point I am hoping he sleeps through the night, because as the main breadwinner, she’s going to need her sleep more than me.

Near the end of month 2, we started getting real smiles and laughter from Hammy—not the ones where you wonder if he’s just squeezing out a particularly stubborn fart, but real ones. He’s also started looking at things. When something moves out of his field of vision, he’s started turning his head to follow it.

For the nonce, he’s settled into a pattern of sleep where, except for waking briefly to feed once or twice a night, or waking because he’s accidentally shifted around and fallen off his futon or kicked a wall or something, he sleeps about 8 hours at night, and maybe 4 hours in naps throughout the day. It means fewer long breaks to get stuff done during the day, but it does mean more smiles and giggles during that time, so it’s a decent trade-off.

Unfortunately, he’s also figured out how to scream over the last week. I suspect Graig Russell taught him how when I wasn’t looking last week.

Today, Hammy rolled over for the first time. He’s been rolling over for about a week now, but hasn’t been able to get all the way from his back to his belly yet. My wife and I have been waiting, cameras poised, every time he tries. So of course, he waited until both of us were not paying attention to finally do it. The photo at the top of this post is from moments after we discovered him.

100 Days

Wha--?!Last week, we went to a photo studio to get some photos taken to celebrate 100 days of Hammy. It was an interesting experience, but I’m glad we did it. It was reasonably inexpensive and allowed me to just be there rather than worrying about lighting, composition, etc.

(My only complaint was that the digital files they gave us were only .jpgs and they refused to release RAW or TIFF files. I could understand if their business was selling prints, but their recommendation was to get the .jpgs and make the prints ourselves at the local camera/electronics chain!)

So yeah. Like I said: so far, so good.

Aug 24

Doing a little experiment to see:

a) if anyone (I'm thinking more overseas) is interested in buying flea-market grade stuff from Japan

b) if doing something like this is worth the hassle

I've opened an account on bitmit and over the next few days I'm going to post odds and ends. I'm not expecting anyone following me on my blog or social networks to be interested in the kitch I'm posting online, but I think that some of you may be interested in how this pans out.

#bitmit   #perfectloverblog  

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Jul 03

Fuck me, this was supposed to be my day to get work done

I'm still in my pyjamas, and I just took two hours to do the dishes thanks to a fussy baby and a sick wife.

This is one of those days that having a home office really bites you in the ass.


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Jul 01

Goodbye, Mother

Yesterday, my mother returned to Canada after staying with us in Yokohama for a month. We miss her already. And not just for the scads of housework that she did, but for the fact that she moved in and instantly become a part of our home. Does this sound odd? After all, she is a member of the family…

But there are some people who suck energy (for lack of a better word) from one’s home, and there are some people who inject it, and my mother is one of the latter. She would have been content to have puttered around the house doing all our house chores and only going out to do groceries, and we would have been content if she’d sat in a chair, drank tea, and demanded frequent visits to Kamakura. Her presence was uplifting.


It can be sad when guests leave, but usually their departure is accompanied with a sense of relief. When my mother waved goodbye from the bus yesterday afternoon, all I could feel was that we, my wife, Hammy, and myself, were being separated from an integral part of our household. We all had a little cry. (Well, Hammy was crying because he’d pooped himself, but still…)


Goodbye, mother; we’ll see you this winter!



May 22

I really hope…


…that this is the last time I have to wear these god damned slippers.

Packing up to leave the clinic and bring my family home.

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