Site Problems


Apologies if you tried to access the site over the last couple of days. One of the wordpress plugins I was using crashed the site, locking me (and you) out. It was my first web problem, and took me longer to fix than it should have (short version: should have asked web host provider for help first).

We’ll be back to normal tomorrow!

iPhone 5S in Japan

iPhone 5s

So we have a new iPhone coming out today, one that has finally achieved full market penetration -it will be available on all three major networks in Japan.

I have owned two iPhones (a 3GS back in the day, and a 4S that I’m using at the moment). I will have paid off the 4S in a couple of months, so have been thinking about upgrading.

I’m on Softbank, and they are running at least two special deals that may affect this decision:

1. they will pay off any remaining payments on an iPhone 4 or 4S if you upgrade to one of the new phones
2. they will set your monthly data charge at 4,500 yen for a year (a saving of 1000 yen or so off the standard rate for the LTE network)
3. they will buy back your phone (I think mine is worth about 14,000 yen according to their program)


Another factor is that I upgraded my 4S to run iOS 7 yesterday, and so far I am very happy with it. The battery seems to be holding up fine, it runs fast and does everything I want it to. I really like the new operating system, and it seems to be happy on my old phone.

The new iPhone 5S has had some pretty good reviews, and is technologically interesting, but basically is not going to improve my life. The only thing it does that my current phone does not is provide an internet hotspot (like the iPhone 5).

Doing some rough calculations, upgrading to a new phone is more or less cost neutral, at least for the first year or so. After that it will cost me about an extra 2000 yen a month.

Verdict: undecided. I am going to wait a bit longer and see what the new phones are like. Quite a few people around me are planning to upgrade. I’ll also go in and talk to Softbank and get some accurate numbers off them.

Has anyone got an iPhone 5S yet? Is it worth it?


Summer tip: use a fan and ice instead of air conditioning

fan and ice

This post is dedicated to my friend Philip, ’cause he needs it right now 😉

This summer has been fairly mild in Sendai, but the last couple of weeks have been hotter. I don’t like air conditioning and prefer to use a combination of other strategies to stay cool outside of work. At home I wear as little as possible, sleep on bamboo sheets (one of the greatest inventions ever), and use an electric fan.

One way to make an electric fan more effective is to combine it with ice. This has two benefits: it takes some of the moisture out of the air through condensation and also lowers the temperature of the air slightly. You can see my setup in the picture above. A plastic bottle 2/3 full of water, frozen, a bowl to catch the condensation (this bottle accumulates a couple of centimeters of water in the bowl by the time it thaws out completely), and something to raise the bowl so that it is in front of the fan.

If you prepare three or four bottles you can rotate them fairly constantly and maintain a more pleasant environment without the expense, environmental damage, and air quality degradation of air conditioning.

Any other tips for the summer?

To Do Lists and Project Management: Trello


Recently I have been playing with a great free online resource called Trello that is designed to help teams work together on projects.

There are two main things I do on the site: manage my to do list and coordinate tasks within teams (one of colleagues at university and one at Cambridge English).

To Do List

In Trello I have a personal to-do list board. I have divided the board into four: today, this week, future, and waiting (I got this idea from Leo Babauta, who got it from Ryan Carson). I populate the future and this week lists as things come in, then move them to today every morning. So far it’s really helping me keep track of various things.

Coordinating Teams

You can also add other people to groups, and assign them to tasks. They can write notes on things, archive completed tasks, etc. It’s incredibly useful to delegating and sharing tasks.

Right now Trello consists of a website and apps for iOS and Android. The basic version is free, and there is a paid enterprise version as well (I don’t know what it does). I’ve used other productivity apps before, like Wunderlist, the iOS Reminders app, and Google Docs, but this has been the best one so far.

Please leave any software tips in the comments!


TED Talk: What will future jobs look like?

Here’s an optimistic TED talk on yesterday’s topic (thanks Tom!).

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