Monday, July 25, 2016


No not scouting as in young people in matching scarves. We're going to Naha tomorrow to look for a) an apartment; and b) a car. Surprisingly, the car is the more difficult part of the process.

We'll rent an apartment of course.  We need something fairly quickly so we can start moving next month. We don't need perfection, just something good enough. After all, if we realize the apartment is too small, the area is inconvenient or something, we can take our time and move to a better suited place next year or so.

We have a couple of candidate apartments, and appointments with the real estate agents. In fact, we're looking at the most promising place tomorrow right after we arrive. Hopefully we'll decide before the end of the week, and if we're lucky we could get access to our choice by the start of August. In that case it's possible we could actually get our things to Naha even before I start work.

The car is more difficult. We've realized that we do need a car in Okinawa, no matter what. But what kind? Neither of us has ever owned a car before. We've been asking around among friends and relatives, and the range of advice we get is absolutely ridiculous. Most of it is frankly just a reflection on their own interests, and not really relevant to our situation.

"Mercedes is great. Get one".  Good advice if you are wealthy and retired. Not so much for us.

"50km on heavily trafficked mountain roads is easy on an electric bicycle!" Ehhmm, no.

"You need a 2l engine at least. With a turbo." If cars are your hobby perhaps.

One thing everybody agreed on: Don't get a kei car. They're small Japan-specific cars with severely limited size and engine power. They're popular on Okinawa for instance. But they're really only good for short-distance travel. On highways they're too unsafe and too slow.

Another common opinion was that if we get a small car, get a new one. They're inexpensive, so fuel and maintenance is a big part of the cost.  The total cost of ownership won't change much whether you get a new or a used one, and give you greater peace of mind. If we'd get a larger car, on the other hand, a used one is better value.

The sum of the most sensible advise we got is: Consider your everyday needs only. Decide how much you're willing to spend. Then, pick the car that will give you the most satisfaction, not just the most value.

We'll pretty much follow that, I think. But of course, I like technology and Ritsuko is very particular about design, so to maximise satisfaction I suspect we'll get something a little more showy than we strictly need.

Monday, July 11, 2016

New Job, and New Career

After a long application process, I've got a new job! I will work at the Scientific Computing and Data Analysis Section at the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology, where I will support, train and help researchers in high-performance computing and programming.

OIST entrance tunnel.

Over the past ten years or so I've spent a lot of my time using clusters and supercomputers, writing code, and supporting team members with less computing experience than myself. I've also tutored graduate students and post-docs in the use of specific software and neuroscience modelling. And I've come to realize that the computing aspects and teaching are much more interesting to me than the research itself.

The Scientific Computing section at OIST is very well equipped, with two clusters — Sango is on the top-500 supercomputer list — and many research units at OIST make use of computational methods in one way or another. Computing has become a general tool, just like mathematics and statistics, for many research fields, but most researchers don't really have formal training in the field.

Here I can support hundreds of researchers and be far more effective promoting science than when I spent my time on my own projects. Also, this promises to be much more varied and challenging, with different research fields and a wide range of issues, from teaching beginner-level programming to optimizing cutting-edge software.

We'll probably live in Naha and I will commute by car from there. Ritsuko doesn't drive so it's not really feasible for us to live close to OIST, and we'd need a car in any case.

We will leave Osaka and move to Okinawa. But we have family here in Osaka and Ritsuko has things to take care of here, so she will return regularly. We'll probably also celebrate new year and other holidays here. It's surprisingly cheap and quick to fly between Osaka and Okinawa — cheaper than the train between Osaka and Tokyo — so it's very doable.

I'll start in September. Right now we're very busy with paperwork, trying to find a place to live, and figuring out the details of the move. I need to work through a pile of things left on my to-do list since my last project, and of course I need to prepare for the new job itself. Busy, busy...

Sunset near OIST.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Black And White

I haven't really done much photography the past year or so. And what pictures I have taken have mostly sat unprocessed. My motivation has been returning lately, so I've been processing old shots.

Here's a selection of black and white film shots from the past year or so. Do click for larger views, the last one especially.

JR Osaka station in Umeda.

Mikoshi. Shinsaibashi, Osaka.

Guardman. Umeda Sky building, Osaka.

Shokudo in Akashi.

Misty windows. Hanshin station, Umeda.


Tokyo University.

Framed. Tokyo subway.

Tokyo University.

Ohatsu temple. Umeda, Osaka.

Relax. Osaka.

Every way is good. Marunouchi line, Tokyo.

Glittering nights. Umeda, Osaka.

Nakanoshima, Osaka. My favourite view.