In preparation for returning to Japan this summer, I’m brushing up on my Japanese, and I’ve re-discovered some old issues of Mangajin I had stored away in my closet. They are really fun:
Mangajin was a monthly English-language magazine for students of Japanese language and culture. It was distinct from many other magazines of its type in that it unabashedly embraced Japanese popular culture as a learning tool and a route towards rapid acclimation into Japanese society. Each issue featured selections from various popular manga translated into English with detailed cultural and linguistic commentary.
It ceased publication in 1997, as it was unfortunately a bit ahead of its time – Japanese culture and manga didn’t become hip and popular in the US until after that. I managed to get a few back issues when I first studied Japanese 7 years ago. Print copies are no longer available, but scanned copies of the first 30 issues are online.
The example below is one of my favorites. I could have just presented the whole thing as an image, but I’m putting in the Japanese as text, as I need an example of Unicode and multi-language web pages for my WordCamp Lancaster talk this weekend, so this is a perfect opportunity.
What makes it such a great example is that its humor depends on the Japanese grammar. There is no direct translation. In Japanese, the words you use to count collections of objects depends on what kind of objects they are. If you have, say, one ball or one orange you would count it with ikko (ichi for one, combined with ko to indicate a round object). For one small animal, like a monkey, it would be counted as ippiki. There are many different categories.
From the series Urusei Yatsura, Ataru inadvertently summons an interstellar taxi and rides it home from school, racking up a bill equivalent to all the petroleum on Earth. His father, unable to put up with the resulting pandemonium, considers swapping the entire Earth for a ride to another planet. To show the insignificance of the Earth on the interplanetary scale, it’s referred to with the counter -ko, as if it were an orange or a croquette.
- 運転手さん、地球 一個分 で どの くらい 飛べる ん だ ね！！
- Untenshu-san, Chikyu ikko-bun de dono kurai toberu n da ne
- Driver, how far can you take me for one Earth?
- 地球 一行分 ねえ。。。
- Chikyu ikko-bun ne
- One Earth’s worth, hmmm…
- Sound effects:
- Pachi pachi pachi
- パチ パチ パチ
Maria has been awarded an Abe Fellowship, which will support us living in Japan from June – December this year. The fellowships are awarded to support “international multidisciplinary research on topics of pressing global concern.” Maria will be writing a book analyzing the effectiveness of different approaches to the use of export credits. Export credits aren’t in the news much, but they’re a big deal:
ECAs [export credit agencies] currently finance or underwrite about $430 billion of business activity abroad – about $55 billion of which goes towards project finance in developing countries – and provide $14 billion of insurance for new foreign direct investment, dwarfing all other official sources combined (such as the World Bank and Regional Development Banks, bilateral and multilateral aid, etc.). As a result of the claims against developing countries that have resulted from ECA transactions, ECAs hold over 25% of these developing countries’ $2.2 trillion debt.
This relates to her work at the Japan Bank for International Cooperation, which is what brought us to Japan for 6 months back in 2007. This time she’ll be a visiting scholar at Kyushu University.
The boys will attend the Fukuoka International School for the first part of the school year. Their primary instruction will be in English, but they’ll also learn Japanese. The boys and I have already started some informal tutoring, just once a week, with a couple students from Japan at nearby Rosemont College. This will help refresh my memory, since I’m rusty on what little Japanese I knew 7 years ago, and it’ll help the boys get at least an introduction to the language before we go (Kai was only 5 when we were there in 2007, so he doesn’t really remember any Japanese).
Fukuoka is a bustling port city in southern Japan, and it’s actually a lot closer to South Korea than Tokyo. We’ve already made arrangements for a small apartment (or, as the Japanese call it, a “mansion”) in Tenjin, which is a popular shopping and restaurant district in the city (this webpage has pictures of the apartment). Fukuoka is known for its cuisine and its beaches. In 2007 we visited Kagoshima City, which is also on the island of Kyushu, but we’ve never been to Fukuoka. So my new favorite website is Finding Fukuoka, which is filled with restaurant reviews and lots of information on things to do. I’m especially keen to work my way through the site’s guide to Fukuoka’s beaches, and its ramen shops (Kai and Eidan are also ramen fanatics, so I’m sure we will be checking out all the ramen shops). Fukuoka also appears to have an active Ruby community, which I’ll have to check out.
Maria will leave for Fukuoka probably at the end of May. I’ll stay here with the boys until they’re done with school in June. Then we’ll visit Newport for a week or two, so the boys can spend some time with their cousins there before we head off to Japan!
I’ve been with ElectNext for a little over a year, and this past week was only the third time since I started that everyone in the company was in the same place, and the first time that it was for more than a day. There are currently 7 of us, roughly equally divided between New York, Philadelphia, and San Francisco. So a typical workday entails a good amount of time in Google Hangouts, which is a great tool for keeping a distributed time on the same page. But there are a couple things for which there is no substitute for spending time in person: one is building team relationships (here’s a great article on building distributed Agile teams), and the other is brainstorming around challenging problems. As good as Hangout is, and tools like RealtimeBoard, there’s still no substitute for a team putting their heads together in person around a whiteboard or big easel pad.
We rented a 4 bedroom/7 bed house on the north side of Lake Tahoe, right across the street from the lake. This was a workation, which means we put in at least as much work time as usual. But we also enjoyed our evenings and our surroundings. We each had a turn preparing dinner, and sat down most nights around 8:30 to eat, staying at the table until late into the night. And we took the day off on Friday for a hike up to one of Maggie’s Peaks.
Click the album cover below to see more great pictures!
Spring is conference season, and I’ve given four presentations in the past for weeks: two in Philadelphia, one in Nashville, and one in Washington DC. Each presentation was different, and I did most of the preparation outside of my regular work hours, so I’m looking forward to not doing any more presentations for a while
I already wrote about the first presentation – Knowledge Slam, and a few days after that I headed to Nashville for their 2nd annual WordCamp. I also presented at the first one last year, which was my first time in Nashville. For both trips I was there for only a couple days, but I was able to get out and see some of the city each time, and I have to say it’s a great place. It’s a small, clean city, with very friendly people, and has culture and arts you’d normally find only in a bigger city… as long as you like country music.
My friend Caryn from grad school lives there now, and after I arrived Friday evening, I headed to the Station Inn to meet her, and see a show by Eric Brace and Peter Cooper. I’d never heard of them before, but Caryn was a fan, and after hearing the first song, so was I. Here’s a version of that song – “Ancient History” – that they recorded for Couch by Couchwest:
…If you liked that, I recommend the album.
The WordCamp was great. It had 3 tracks scheduled – one for beginners, one for users, and one for developers (a 4th was actually added on the fly, to accommodate the variety of skill levels in the beginner track). I spent the day in the developers’ track. Something I was excited to see in several of the presentations was a wider focus, showing WordPress as part of a broader ecosystem of development tools, as opposed to being the only tool in a developer’s toolkit. This came across especially in the talk about using WordPress in an enterprise software environment (unfortunately there is no information about this talk online), and Nathaniel Schweinberg’s talk on debugging strategies (many of which apply beyond WordPress).
My Clean Code talk was scheduled between those two, which was perfect, as the 10 techniques I presented are ones which you can apply to any software development project, not just WordPress. My talk went really well, with lots of good questions at the end. We even went over our scheduled time (normally that’s not allowed, but I was right before lunch, so it didn’t take away from anyone else’s speaking time). Here are some of the tweets people made during my talk:
Here are my slides, as well as the recording of my talk I made with my Flip camera (a professionally recorded version should be available on wordpress.tv sometime in the next few weeks)
After living near Philadelphia for 10 years, we decided it was finally time to visit Gettysburg. The boys are on Spring break, so I decided to take some vacation time (for the first time since last summer). We took our time getting there and arrived in the late afternoon, which turned out to be great, as we didn’t have to fight any crowds to get into the Cyclorama. The next morning we went through the museum. My favorite part were the derisive press responses to Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address (see my picture) – greatness is often found only through a historical perspective.
Then we bought an audio tour CD for our drive through the battlefield. This is a 2-3 hour experience, and I was worried Eidan would be bored, so before heading out we bought him a toy musket rifle at the gift shop. This made the tour an exciting adventure for him, as he got out of the car to pick off the other tourists at each stop we made.
One thing that stood out for me was that the guidebooks and audio tour talked about the strategic importance of various ridges and other high ground. So I was expecting some impressive hills, but with the exception of the two “round tops” these locations were all just very mild slopes. I was amazed at what a difference it made to occupy even just slightly higher ground.
The highlight of the trip for Eidan was his many hours spent in the hotel pool. For me it was dinner with the family at La Bella Italia. The place looks like an Olive Garden from the outside, but – speaking as someone who grew up eating Italian food – I can say my shrimp diablo was excellent. Two bottles of Lancaster Brewery’s Strawberry Wheat beer didn’t hurt my disposition either
We passed the Harley-Davidson factory in York on the way there, and figured we’d stop for a factory tour on the way back, but we belatedly discovered they don’t have tours on the weekends. We’ll catch it next time!
Last week I took my third trip to San Francisco since I started working with ElectNext in the Fall. Now that I’m back home, jet lag is keeping me up, so you get to hear all about it.
It was another busy week working side by side with Mertonium in the Code for America office. Maria was in Japan at the same time, leading a group of Villanova students. My mother was kind enough to come out to watch the boys while we were gone. Having someone else taking care of them for a week meant they were exposed to some new, yet everyday things. Who knew – Kai likes cranberry juice, and Eidan experienced his first batch of home-made jello. I never thought about it before, but a big, shimmering, jiggling bowl full of it is an entirely different experience than the tiny store-bought cups he’s used to. He reportedly announced in amazement, “I’ve never seen anything like it.”
On my previous trips I’ve been able to stay for a weekend to visit friends, but I couldn’t stay that long this time. I did get a few hours in San Mateo when I arrived last Sunday afternoon though, with my friend Lynda and her son Grant. That’s where we used to live, and it was my first time back there in about 8 years. It brought back a lot of memories. I was delighted that my favorite restaurant was still in business, so we had a tasty, home-style Japanese lunch at Hotaru. It was a warm and sunny day, which was a welcome break from the perpetual gray and chill of Philadelphia this winter, so we strolled through downtown and visited the park.
Another highlight of the trip was seeing the Bay Bridge lights the night after they were inaugurated (unfortunately it was raining on the first night). Check out my video on the right. The only negative aspect of the trip was my coming down with a cold on Thursday, which was bad enough I had to cancel plans with my friend Paul that night. I’m not over it yet, and being up late with jet lag tonight isn’t going to help…
The ElectNext team has gathered from across the country – Philadelphia, Boston, New York, and San Francisco – to meet in New York City for the week of the election. We stopped by 30 Rock after work today, and as you can see in the pictures, it’s all setup for election night. Our candidate matcher is featured in the NBC News app that’s on the Microsoft Surface tablets that they’re promoting in booths all around the plaza. We also got to meet in person for the first time with the NBC team we worked with online, for getting the candidate matcher on their site.
I arrived Sunday night and I’ll be here through Wednesday. In the parts of Manhattan I’ve seen so far, there’s hardly any sign of Hurricane Sandy’s damage, but many surrounding areas are still suffering.
Update 11/7: here are a couple pictures from last night. ElectNext hosted an election night party at the General Assembly coworking space that we work out of.
We’ve visited Maria’s sister Yoko and her husband James several times in Denver over the years, and it has become one of my favorite cities. Visiting with kids, it can’t be beat – the many skate parks are amazing, the Elitch Gardens theme park and Water World are right in town, and the Arvada Apex Center, with it’s skate park and indoor water park, is probably the nicest public facility I’ve ever seen in the United States. Part of the reason the parks and related facilities are so nice is that they get money from the Colorado state lottery. There’s plenty for adults too – the bars and restaurants downtown are great (my favorite is the retro arcade bar 1UP), the Denver Cruisers are fun to watch on Wednesday nights, and the Denver Rockies play right downtown in Coors Field, a stadium which is much more impressive then the team’s record.
We visited for two weeks, and the boys spent one week in skate camp, which also included time at the Apex Center water park (the video at that link gives you a glimpse of one of the skate parks). Yoko and James were great hosts, taking us and the boys all around town, not to mention giving Maria and I a couple nights out while they watched the boys. James took me out to a shooting range, for my first experience firing a gun (by the end of the session I was a pretty good shot), and they hosted a great 4th of July party at their house. The highlight for Kai was spending most of a weekend in the garage with James, building his Captain America light-up sign that I wrote about last week. For Eidan I think he was simply thrilled to be in a house where there were twice as many adults, all giving him some significant portion of their attention every day. For Maria and I it was a very rare extended reduction in our parenting duties – with Yoko and James to help with the kids, we could do things like wander into a bar and see a band, just walk around town together, and other ordinary things like that, which become extraordinary when you have kids.
If you want to see more pictures, click the album thumbnail below:
We’ve been in Denver for almost two weeks, visiting Maria’s sister Yoko and her husband James. I have Post to Post Links II error: Unrecognized type: cat_slug about the trip so far, but haven’t had a chance to blog anything in detail yet. So I’ll start with the project James and Kai worked on most of yesterday and finished this morning: making a Captain America light up sign out of sheet metal (his WWII shield). James has made other light-up signs before, using different designs, so he’s experienced in the craft of making these.
Kai drew the initial design on a large piece of sheet metal, tracing a projected image. Then the division of labor between them for most of the first day was Kai outlining and cutting pieces of sheet metal, and James welding. The stars were a bit tricky, since they are small. James had to weld them individually first, and then attach each star to the shield. They finished the welding yesterday. This morning Kai degreased the shield, and then we did the spray painting (I say “we” because this is the one place I jumped into the uncle-nephew bonding: I painted some cars in my teenage motorhead days, so I helped with the hard to reach corners of the blue top section). Then Kai and James finished the project by modifying a set of Christmas lights and wiring them into the shield.
Now we just need to figure out whether to ship it back to Philly, or see if we can package it and take it home on our flight as checked baggage.
I’ve traveled coast-to-coast across the US 4 times, but until this past weekend I had never been in the South (except for a brief visit to UVA many years ago). I was in Nashville for only 48 hours, and I enjoyed every minute of it. The first thing I noticed was how kind and polite everyone is. The driver of my shuttle bus from the airport pointed out all the sights as we drove into town, and he seemed genuinely interested in what everyone on the bus was planning to do that weekend. I spent the day on Friday with my friend Caryn, who I hadn’t seen since we finished grad school 16 years ago. She showed me around town, and it was great to catch up.
This was Nashville’s first WordCamp. The organizers did a great job pulling it together, and they clearly had a lot of local talent to draw upon for their speakers. Coming from Philly, I think I was the only Yankee among the speakers – I felt honored to be included (Nacin, coming from DC, is a borderline case ).
I was in the developers’ track all day. The first two sessions were design focused, and here’s an excellent summary of both presentations. They were followed by the Otto and Nacin show. They are both deeply involved in the development of WordPress, and they gave a preview of features in WordPress 3.4. Their talk was the most popular of the day in the developers’ track.
I was up next after lunch, and my talk went well. It was an advanced topic (dependency injection) so I drew a smaller crowd. But I got some good questions towards the end, and some good tweets:
Here is a non-technical summary of my talk.
Russell Fair wrapped up the day, and he did a great job of sharing his experiences using LESS with WordPress.
I didn’t get to see Joel Norris’ WordPress bootcamp presentation, but from what everyone was saying, I believe he gets the prize for having the most popular session. He stayed in character as a drill sergeant for almost the entire session. And he was in costume – here’s a photo.
The speakers dinner and the after party were both a lot of fun. I learned a lot chatting with Otto and Nacin, made some new friends, and my friend Caryn was able to come too, so it was a great evening.