4. Remote Work, What You Can’t Do 遠隔でできない仕事


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For daily ichizoku Vlogs and more, starting December 30th.

A New Year






Here’s a sunset from somewhere by the sea near Kurahashi, Hiroshima.

I just realized this will be the last post of the year.

I truly hope you have a wonderful next year,

and as they say in Japan, Otsukare (honorable tiredness)!

for getting through this year.

A New Project









Photo I randomly shot the other day of our very own genius, Uemoto.

So before we get on with things, I want to announce the new project I’ll be working on.

Of course, I’ll be continuing to do what I’ve been doing with instagram, blogging, and all the internal affairs like translation.


The thing I’m really excited about is a project we call ichizoku.

Basically, stak is going to focus on the area around Hiroshima airport and dive into renovation and local development.

If our right hand is what we’ve been doing – tech and smart home devices – our left hand will be ichizoku.

From an outside perspective, in modern homes as well as rural towns, in the city and in the countryside, stak will be working to manifest a better lifestyle, a way of living with more space and time.










So here’s what I’ll be doing from now on.

I’ll be uploading a video every day starting on December 30th to my channel.

Over the years I’ve spent traveling across practically all of Japan, I’ve found a lot of really fascinating communities. For me, this has been the thing that totally captured my interest in this country. Not even so far away from the city, there are so many communities of people living in some perfect harmony of modern and traditional, happily doing what they really want to do in the way they want to do it. However, I’ve found they’re all doing so really quietly.

Of course, it’s not the case that this is how everyone should live and that this is happiness for everyone. However, I do believe that if everyone knew they could live this way, Japan’s society would find a greater balance and flexibility overall.

So, for our ichizoku Project, I’m going to go around to make connections, and essentially do research. As I go, I’ll make a sort of daily Vlog, along with turning all that footage into one stylish edit to capture the feeling of each place I visit.

It really feels like I’m tying all the experiences of the last 6 years together in a really meaningful way.

So I would be so happy if you follow along with me.

Onwards! 進もう!

Remote Work • 遠隔の仕事

[時間] と [タスク]








Time and Tasks

These are the two things that I believe now are essential,

having learned from experience of the consequences of not managing these well.

What I believe you cannot do is this:

• Tell your employee to find work to do.

Of course, this is a really important notion and way of work. Really, if there’s no one in the company who can take the initiative to create work for themselves to do, and do it, the company probably won’t do too well.

That being said, the employee and the company have to maintain a clear understanding of what specific tasks the company wants done, and what tasks the employee can do of their own accord. Without doing this, time will just disappear without really being spent productively.

In more practical terms, like with us, we started my remote work period having only decided what kinds of things I could do, instead of deciding what I would do. 

This left me nearly every day sitting down to do work in front of my computer, and then spending a disproportionate amount of time considering what thing I could do, instead of doing a thing.






There are also of course a lot of things you simply cannot do when you’re working remotely which are very important.

Not drinking or parties with your coworkers, but simply meeting with them. Talking with them and understanding each other. This is extremely important.

More simply, if you want to take a picture, you cannot. If you don’t send something like a device, you have no way of getting your hands on it. There are lots of obstacles.

In the end, I really think work is the same as romantic relationships. If the connection at its core is good, then it will work out. But long distance does make all things harder. Just saying it’s harder doesn’t really mean anything, so what’s actually hard about it? I think it’s that, when you’re actually together, there are always, constantly, little pleasantries and difficulties that naturally arise, and are naturally resolved through unspoken interactions, like one’s eyes, and the way one moves. All of this happens in the subconscious. So then when suddenly you’re separated, you have to really make a conscious effort to carve out time to take care of all these little difficulties that arise, or else they’ll build up and before you know it have led to distance in the relationship.

It’s really the same in working remotely.









So if I put it simply, to make remote work go well,

each person’s job needs to be very clearly defined.

There ought to be someone that gives out tasks for the workers to do according to their abilities,

or else there will be a lot of time wasted that goes out the window.

Both the worker and company have to know what exactly they can do for the company, even while working remotely.

Then schedule consistent meetings to stay in touch with each other and make sure mutual understanding is maintained.

If you do it right, remote work can be fantastic with efficient time usage and allowing employees their preferred workstyle and work environment.

But understanding the difficulties of remote work before beginning it is essential.

3. Remote Work, What You Can Do • 遠隔で出来る仕事




First off:
Released a small sample commercial for stak recently, check it out below!

More of these to come:



In other news, I found some old documents from the VISA Application process that might be appealing to anyone interested. I’ll edit last week’s post and put them at the bottom so check it out!

さて、今週のブログ。With that, let’s begin.


Remote Work, What You Can Do




Here it is, concisely:

You can do work you are asked to do.

But it’s very hard to do work of your own accord.


While everything depends on the person and the company, I believe having dealt with this for the better part of a year in a really difficult situation, that as a general rule what I said holds true.






Across any line of work, there is no one in our world who spends their entire work shift working at full capacity.

Especially but not limited to Japan, most work in our modern societies is just wasting people’s time.

Just take a boring old office. Any one will do. Really, truly, meaningful things have got to make up like 10% of the workflow. There’s all these things that we could really do much faster, and much more efficiently, but because of x rule and y reason, we have to do it the same as always.

The Japanese phrase Business has to Revolve (circulate, go around) makes sense then. Society has to give everyone stuff to do every day. But what about moving society forward?

Our most core philosophy here at stak is to make sure that we value time more than anything else.

The 80-20 Rule








This is a simple enough rule and it’s good to know. You can google it yourself to learn more about the interesting Richard Branson who came up with it, or check out Tim Ferris’s interview with him.

It says that 80% of x comes from 20%.

80% of our happiness comes from 20% of our day.

80% of our productivity while working comes from 20% of our entire time working.

Keep going.

And if I’m honest, that’s how I am with writing blogs. I mean, if it ends up taking me 2 hours to actually write the darn thing, chances are I spent like 6-8 hours before that thinking about it and lazing around and essentially idling.

What I Did




The first thing to understand (and what I needed to understand at first) is that,

I’ll help out where I can is cripplingly vague. Unworkably so.

Even if you’re good with, say languages, visual media, and small businesses, if someone came up to you and said “Ok, work!” would you be able to work? I did the following.







I tried to turn the things I could do into concrete (and consistent) projects.

With languages I became the staff’s english teacher.

Whenever there was a request for it, I translated anything requested.

I also asked for anything already out there, be it website, documents, or important conversations that might be useful, and translated those into English.

For visual media I had them send me 2 stak’s over to my home in the US, and I dove into for me a new brand of photography with advertising and product shoots. I also took over their instagram.

As for small businesses, I took a long and hard look at the world through the internet, and combed it for companies that seemed like they could potentially work with us in some capacity. Then I contacted them and became the interpreter for any advancements.







Things you’re not sure about. Try!

This is the most important, but the most difficult. Those things that you don’t think you can do.

With International Business, me, who knows nothing… well I tried to put out all my thoughts and opinions.

One thing Bossman Ueda does extremely well is the essence. Knowing it, and coaxing it out of people. The essence of things, the essence of ideas, the essence of what you’re doing. He’ll always say he really seriously wants to hear your thoughts on x or y, and the reason he wanted you in stak in the first place is because of the way you think. So I had to really trust that, and try a bunch of new things.

From that, I got into programming and web design. I’ve always been one with strong opinions and who is comfortable voicing them, but starting to feel comfortable doing that with the company brought me to the point of bringing up a website redesign. I guess he thought that was a good impetus to do so, and promptly gave me the reins on the project. It did end up taking a while, but hey, we got it done.

Of course there are so, so many other things I tried. The blog is one thing I had never done before. While I love writing, I’ve always been a very private writer taking to travel writing and poetry in one of countless journals.

Simple Advice







It’s better to do it earlier than later.

If what you’re doing is producing nothing, give it up.

Habits and systems leads to production. 

Working remotely is already enough flexibility.

Keep a balance of things you can do, and things you want to try.

You need a place (and possible time) that you do your work.

2. Visas and Australia ビザとオーストラリア




こらがstak familyは、みんなに共有したら誰かのためになる情報に思ってる。日本だけではなくて、どんな国からだとしても、海外に住もう、外国人を雇おう、と考える人がこれからの世界では増えていくばっかりだと思われる。

For the 2nd entry in this series, there are two main things I’m going to talk about.

The first will be what exactly it takes to live in Japan, should you think to do so.

The other will be about how I ended up in Australia in the first place.

All of us at stak, after having gone through this process over such a long period with such challenging circumstances, thought this info would be not just interesting, but also probably helpful for a lot of people out there. Really it’s not about Japan, but related to anyone who might want to work abroad, or hire someone from abroad. And in the world we live in today, the number of those people seems like it will do nothing but continue to skyrocket.

観光と旅 • Sightseeing and Traveling






If you’re someone crazy like me you might try to get lost abroad a few times in your life.

I don’t just mean sightseeing, but really traveling. Letting go of your ‘home’ and becoming yourself in a new environment. When you manage that, things change. Unnecessary things fall away, and new things come together. Unexpected things remain, feeling more precious than before, and certain things stay constant.

I cannot recommend enough how important this was for me. But I wouldn’t recommend travel in particular, just recommend following your gut for what you should do.

ビザというモノ • The Thing Called a Visa








To be abroad you need a VISA. Permission to be there.

There are lots of countries out there where tourist visas are not automatic things, and you need to apply beforehand.

Japan gives 3 month tourist visas (you may stay but may not work), and you can use two 3-month periods in a year (though I have never been asked by immigration about this, those are the rules).

To work in Japan you need a working Visa.

Working Holiday: If you’re from a country that participates in the working holiday agreement (not USA), you can do a working holiday in Japan which is a fantastic opportunity. This is what I did last year to try my hand at freelance videography and coffee barista work.

To get a Visa, you need a sponsor. (Usually a company)

Realistically, your paths to getting to Japan are limited to being a student there, teaching English, or if you’re good in your field it’s possible to get hired for an IT company. (If you’re not a student, you’ll likely need a college degree).

The reasons are respectively, English, English, and a linguistically unrestricted field.

If you are the other kind of people who are looking for work in Japan, who speak Japanese, but aren’t doing IT work, you’ll have to deal with what Stak and I did.

日本で外国人を雇う • Hiring a Foreigner in Japan



Of course, if you’re after specific, official information, you can just google to find it. I’ve also found the ministry of foreign affairs website to be relatively good, if a little confusing to navigate.

There are also Visa Sensei’s, whose job it is to orchestrate this circus act of bringing a foreign worker to work in Japan. 

厚生労働省•Ministry of Health, Labour, and Welfare

外務省•Ministry of Foreign Affairs


However, understanding what you’ll actually have to do with all those applications and information, in normal thinking terms – we can help you there.


  1. お金と時間を柔軟に使えることが必要。ビザ申請が最初から降りるまで、3〜6ヶ月間ぐらいかかる。私たちの場合では、4ヶ月半だった。状況によるけど、それが働けない時期になるかもしれない。
  2. 整理する必要がある。大切な書類をまとめて、キチンとオーガナイズをすること。何がどこにあるかわかって、全てをスキャンとコピーをする。ただ一つの例えだが、大学卒業証書の原本が必要、必要であれば再発行するのと、送るのも時間がかかる。早めに動くのが重要。
  3. 会社がどれだけ信頼してくれてるかわかる。なぜ日本に行く、いつまでいたいと思ってる、どうしてこの会社で働きたいという理由を全部、自分の中ではっきりと理解すべき。
  4. 会社側では、雇う外国人がどれだけ信頼してくれてるというのも尊重すべき。社長だけではなくて、スタフ全員が納得しないと大変なことになるかもしれない。海外に引っ越すのは簡単にやることでは全くないし、日本で働くことが楽勝に思う人が一人もいない。


  1. You need to be able to be flexible. With time, with money, and with relocating. The Visa process can take 3-6 months. It took us about 4.5. Depending on your situation, you might not be able to work during this time.
  2. You need to be organized (not a bad thing to become). Have all your travel/essential documents together, copied, scanned, and clear in your mind. This means everything. This might include mailing your actual college diploma across the world.
  3. You need to respect the commitment the company is making. Know why you’re going to Japan, know how long you want to be there, know you really want to work for the company. It’s not an easy process to get you there.
  4. The company needs to respect you as well. They, all of their employees, need to try to understand the commitment you are making. It is not an easy task to move abroad, nor is it easy to work in Japan.




最終的な目的としては、在留資格認定証明書(CoE) がある。要は、外国にある日本大使館に「この人にビザ出していいよ」って許可を与えるもの。政府との申請がいよいよ通れたら、会社に郵送される。そして、自分がいるところに送る必要があって、大使館に持って行くのが次。場所によるけど、1〜2週間を待ったら、ビザがパスポートに貼ってくれて、それを持って日本に入国できるようになる。入国の際に、ビザがあり次第、空港で在留カードが発行される。



First of all, it will take up to 6 months. You have to have your company documents together, and your employee-to-be’s documents together.

You’ll submit their documents with an application form, written explanations as to why you need the employee, and why the employee wants to come to Japan. You’ll wait. You’ll get stuff back that likely need adjustments. Repeat.

When I came in 2015 to be an English teacher, I didn’t have to really think about it. Like a lot of ALTs and Eikaiwas, they actually had me enter on a tourist visa and start working while we waited on the official paperwork to go through and my working visa to come. Yeah… In our case with Stak, I had to submit a resume (according to their format) complete with educational and employment history. This was checked. I also had to submit a short essay about my thoughts on Japan (“I love Japan”). I had to send in my original diploma, as well as multiple copies of all my documents. I had to answer lots of different questions about my past and my time in Japan (reasonable considering the amount

The overall goal is the get the Certificate of Eligibility COE. This is essentially the green light to the embassy where you live that they can give you a Visa. It will be mailed to the company when the government finally produces it, and then they’ll have to mail it to you. You’ll bring it to the embassy, and wait another period for them to produce your actual VISA. With this, you can go to Japan and receive a residence card upon arrival at the airport during immigration.

Every person’s situation is different which is why this is so difficult for anyone, even government bodies, to explain properly. So, please feel free to comment and ask me -anything- and I will try to help.

マイケル、なぜオーストラリアにいたの? • Why Was I in Australia?




To put it simply, I’d already given up on Japan.

If not for Stak, I wouldn’t be here now.

I spent 2018 saving up money in the USA, then spending 6 months traveling doing different projects in Japan hoping to find something. There were lots of promising things, but nothing worked out. One company I thought was going to hire me turned out to have 0 idea of the Visa process and bailed on me last minute. Luckily, I’d started the working holiday visa process, and spent 2019 in Japan doing that and diving into freelance. I figured if that didn’t work, it just wasn’t meant to be. Nearly at the end of my time in Japan, I found stak.. or rather, stak found me. And now more than a year later, I’m finally back in Japan, here to work for them.

The Smartest Person In The Room

Is the person who can tap into the knowledge of everyone in the room.

All parts rely on others to make a whole.

All wholes are the sums of their parts.

If you can see the parts, and you can do addition, you can create wholes.



I’m going back to Japan tomorrow after 8 months stuck back stateside.

For now, that’s all I’ll say on that, because for the next few weeks I’ll be talking about all aspects of the pandemic, visa, lockout, and return situation.



Having worked 8 months at Stak, I’d say that is very much our philosophy.

Not to do things the way they ‘ought’ to be done,

Not to do things because we feel we have to,

But do what we want to do. Challenge what we can do.



For whatever reason, I kind of want to keep today’s Blog short.

Corona put everyone’s life on hold.
The world maybe.

Mine was sent into a complete standstill.

It’s actually too much to put into words but I’ll do that bit by bit from here on.


New Macbook

I’d been meaning to upgrade to a new laptop for a mobile workstation for a while, and just in time, they came out with their new macbook with the Mac M1 chip.

I went in.

I cannot stand a lot of what Apple does.

Regardless of money and ethics, purely as a company who makes things:

Overall, inflexibility, a condescending attitude to their customers, and being out of touch.

Perhaps this is true for a lot of big businesses actually.

I can summarize all of this through one example. I downloaded an app from the internet, a small text-based game. When I tried to open it, apple told me I could not open it as they could not verify who produced it. This is annoying already, but then when you think you’d then be prompted with a choice like “Open Anyways” and “Cancel” it gives you two options: “Move To Trash” and “Cancel.”

So you can “Cancel” or “Cancel.”


Thank you so much Apple.

Not only am I forced to deal with their heavy handed attempt at controlling these things (probably in their mind to protect the customer from downloading dangerous files), I am unable to elect to take care of things on my own. I am not even given the option. AHHH.

They treat their customers as if they are incapable.

They take the bottom segment of their customer base, those who have the most issues and file the most complaints, and cater their entire design to them.

This is a common mindset businesses fall into that I think leads to unhappiness.

Anyways there is so much to like about Apple. Aesthetics, streamlined products, cleanliness, efficiency, reliability, Airdrop by itself, final cut.

The laptop’s great by the way.


First Commercial

Anyways, so I’ve been working on our first video.

As I may have mentioned in not so explicit language, ‘ll be making one a month for Stak.

I’ve been reflecting on my process of making videos until now, and considering my weak points and strong points.

I could sum it up by saying I would benefit from planning and structure. For the videos from now on I want to experiment with creating a defined story board, and trying to shoot the shots I lay out for myself ahead of time, to tell the story I’d already decided on, rather than trying to mix shots into a story. I’ve done the latter well, but success comes from pursuit of challenge.

Investing is something I’ve talked about. Investing in anything. In yourself. It seems to be the key to everything – success, love, happiness, growth. (Investing being movements today that create a better tomorrow, not sacrifice the present for the sake of an imagined future).

Perhaps the first thing that taught me about this was camera work. In photography and videography too, I cannot escape the simply feeling that “I suck” when I’m doing the act.

But when I look at the finished product… I just smile.

So I know every time I go out to shoot, I may feel bad or doubtful or unsure in the moment, but the product will be good.

Back to that first note on connecting parts together to make a whole..

I felt like just putting down resources off the top of my head that come to my aid.

Videography: Aidin RobbinsParker Walbeck | James Matthews

Jesse Driftwood | Movies With Mikey | Kraig Adams

Language: My friend Yuki | Dogen

Music: Calmed By Nature | alona chemerys | My Analog Journal

Beautiful Videos: In Russia | our deepest fear | Watchtower of Turkey & About




Have a wonderful Thanksgiving.

Eat up. Give Thanks.

Be filled with gratitude, which fills you with joy.

Stay safe and healthy.

Getting on Track

I used to journal.

I used to write every day, usually at night, sometimes for hours, working through all the labyrinths and riddles of my mind.

There was a natural process I’d go through without ever really being clear what that process was, or what exactly it was accomplishing. I’d feel sometimes, at the end of writing, that I’d figured everything out. But if I stopped and thought about what I actually had figured out, there was nothing clear or practical there.

It’s probably a lot like how plants grow, or how insects molt – they’re not really sure of what they’re doing, but they’re doing some process that’s right for them to continue on in life’s natural flow.



What are some of your processes that you go through that are vital to your life?

What are some processes you used to have that you’ve fallen away from.

Is it good you’ve stopped them?

What processes or habits would benefit you now?

I’ve been rethinking my idea of meditation lately.

I guess I’ll back up a bit.

Back when I was beginning the whole journaling thing back in freshman/sophomore year of college, I was going through a lot of the existential stuff humans experience when they are growing through something. Negative feelings came on, I began to recognize those feelings as anxiety, and I began looking for a way to deal with it.

My trouble with anxiety is that I was proud. I had the idea that I could think through anything, and if I couldn’t figure something out, more thinking would solve it eventually. This works great until you start thinking about scary things which cause scary feelings, and those feelings get worse and worse cause you keep thinking, and then your feelings cause your thoughts to be scarier.

So my way out was in letting myself accept that there were other ways to exist ‘correctly’ besides thinking. So before I really knew meditation was a thing, I’d prescribed myself with the goal of sitting with my thoughts and not losing myself in them. Seeing through the impermanence, the transience of all the things that ‘I’ experience internally. As long as I sat down on this cushion and didn’t move, there was no thought that could truly harm me. And I realized (read: actualized) this through practice.

I did 30 minutes of meditation a day for 4 years straight.

Then when I got to Japan, I decided to break the habit and quit cold turkey.

I was going into the next phase of whatever this journey was.

Where I rejected what seemed to be the one way to find peace and wisdom, and instead look for peace and wisdom everywhere in the world.


So now, 5 years since then, I’m really rethinking my idea of what meditation is.

There are so many forms.

And there are so many wise, happy people in the world.

So the real essence of what all these self help techniques, all these enlightenment practices, all these get-in-touch-with-God sermons, are getting at – well it’s got to be the same thing.

And that thing must be of the nature that it cannot be defined – that is, stated in a way that will always convey the meaning accurately.

Any person can define happiness, or peace, or introspection, or what they mean by God – but they’ll only ever be getting at their understanding of it. And even then, just getting at it.

So anyways. I guess I’ve become kind of a universalist.

Strongly against the idea that all things are the same, that all things are relative. I hate this idea.

All things have meaning, and that there is never a right answer.

There is only one wrong answer, and that is the thought that you’ve found the answer.

There are kind of two minds you can have when meditating. There are two many practices, in my understanding. Mindfulness and vipassana (concentration). You know, one is broad, open, accepting, all-encompassing, and the other is focused, (not in a negative way) narrow, unified, strong.

In either of these practices, the aim is the same. To see things as they are, to use the technique to bring clarity and compassion to yourself and your world.

You can spend just as much meaningful time on one as the other, and you can spend just as much time appreciating and practicing both, as well as picking one and focusing on it.

This flexibility in the universe is fascinating.




Back when I did all that journaling, and then meditating stuff,

It was the internal preparation for a lot of external movement that followed the next few years.

I’m kind of getting the feeling that all this journaling and thoughtful stuff I’m doing now, and really,

what I’ve been doing during these 12 months of being unable to progress in life…

It’s all to get ready to move again.

So enough of this philosophy stuff.

Let’s move.


Here’s what I’m going to do be doing from now on:

  1. Blogs every week to stay organized, note my plans, and of course talk about anything stak related. Also going to do a 10~ish part series reflecting on my 7 months in quarantine and the process of returning to Japan.
  2. A movie every week. This is going to be my rule. It doesn’t matter what kind of thing, but I have to make one every week.
  3. Build up a youtube page. Channels that follow my interests.
  4. One of these will be a series of videos on learning English for Japanese speakers.
  5. One will be of course, videos I make for stak. I will make one stak commercial every month.
  6. One will probably be a series of music playlists and music videos as I find the time and songs to put them together.
  7. I want to make stuff on games and esports, but I’m not sure what angle to take on this yet.
  8. I want to also make a random series about… thoughts, people? Uncategorized.
  9. It would be cool to one day revisit Sounds of Japan.

I’ll also be you know, moving around again so, back on the photography grind. stak and personal instagrams, let’s go.


I’ll be back next week. Thanks for keeping up.

Collaboration in a Quarantined World

A Reminder.

There are times when even that which is most important to us in our lives can feel devoid of meaning.

I know for me, starting, and then continuing a job remotely has been an immense challenge.

So I suppose this is a reminder, if nothing else, to myself:

The amount of effort you put into a task determines the value.

I think in most cases, it’s not even so important what you’re doing, so much as how.

Most people who are successful, whatever you take that to mean, are in my mind successful not because they did the right thing (very few people can ever tell what that is anyways), but because they did what they were doing the right way. Do that long enough, and eventually you’re going to wind up doing the right thing, and doing it in the right way. There’s very little, if any control, over whether what we are doing is the right thing to do. To a degree, we can tell what the wrong things are, and thus choose something that seems pretty close to our interests. However, what makes x more right than y? Wouldn’t z be better?

However, we have full control over how we do whichever x y or z we’ve come to.

That being said – even though I feel like I am well aware of this, I find myself inevitably searching for new and better whats and running from the hows.

The path to happiness lies in the latter though, or at least in letting the hows guide you to new whats.

The Problem With Blogs

The problem with blogs is often that one writes them with the expectation that people will read them.

And even worse, sometimes with the goal of more readership.

This is counter to the notion of journaling – writing for the process of writing itself.

Of course it’s not always so black and white, but there is a lot to be said for what the act of writing and what it brings you in and of itself.

A recent podcast episode (Tim Ferris Show) I was listening to with Richard Koch mentioned this. When asked about what tricks, tips, methods he has to keeping track of how and what he’s doing, he mentioned that while he doesn’t do the usual therapy or ultra health route, he employs two methods. 1. Bike Rides in the morning. 2. Taking a journal and writing reflections at a nearby pond; also journaling when waking up at night.

With both of these, he is pointing out something I’ve always been fascinated with – the natural, organic flow of your mind and heart should they be given the right environment.

To tie things together – it’s not about thinking the right thought and writing the right word – but providing your mind with the right environment for it to naturally work things out for you, in the midst of all its subconscious and unconscious processes.

So for whatever reason, this is what I’ve been reflecting on the last month.

I feel like I’ve lost my self discipline. And I’d been trying to regain it by force, but not through nurturing it, not through trusting my mind to work through things.

But really, perhaps I just stopped doing all of the things that allow the creative, motivational, happiness, whatever other juices, to flow.

Perhaps that’s all you really need to do. Recognize that which gets you in your flow. Puts you in your element.

They’re not the easy things necessarily.

But nothing that’s worth having comes easy.

And conversely, joy is not manifested through force of will.


So let’s bring it back.

It’s all about how, not what.
The tricky part is in determining the right (subjective) way of doing things.

While the answer to this is obviously dependent on the person, their personality and preferences, the way of building habits around those is often impossible without involving other people in the process.

Surround yourself with people that encourage you to keep the habits that are really good for you, and spend less time with the people that bring out your less healthy or productive tendencies.

One of the best ways to do this is to collaborate.

Over the 6 months I’ve been in unexpected isolation at home in the States, I’ve gone from letting go of just about every hobby, to slowly building them back up again as I see fit.

Every time I’ve met hardship in my life this has been my process, and it always leads to a new chapter of life.

During this time, I’ve started doing weekly talks with my friend about religion and philosophy, which has bolstered not only my feeling of connection and closeness, but my study of those topics which have been so central to my life. We pretty much alternate discussing the western and eastern spheres, my area of expertise being the latter.

Though I’ve been studying programming on my own the last two months, I’m going to dive into freecodecamp with my brother from this week on, and I can’t wait. Discipline and joy lead to the best kind of success.

Something else that has become a core part of my life is running every day, for joy and for challenge. I make sure I do this every day (discipline) but the distance that really feels good so as not to push it, and to make sure I’m running because I enjoy it, not for the numbers.

Areas I’m still struggling with are: sleep schedule, time management with free time and with productive time, balance of current projects and exploring prospects for the future, maintaining a steady flow of video/photo production while stuck in one place.

If there’s something you’re struggling with, identify it. Then create a discussion with someone. Often just this process is enough to get it at the forefront of your subconscious, and the process will carry on naturally from there.

For the trickier (and often productive) areas, maintain that balance of discipline and joy, of structure and freedom. In the isolated world, this is the hardest thing at all.

But in the end, even though we are all on our own right now, we all really are in this together, and are all interconnected and there for each other.

After The First Step

The hardest step is the next one.

In that, I suppose the hardest step is getting yourself to take another step.

I often wonder why that is, what about me or about humans in general makes that the case. What makes it hard to do the right thing? Why is it so hard for us to believe that taking care of what we have to do immediately, instead of putting it off, really would feel better in the long run? Why is it hard for us to invest? What makes us believe so stubbornly that the feeling we get from instant gratification could be better than the feeling that will come after making wise, weathered decisions?

I’ll leave that discussion for another time, because wondering about all that is probably just another mechanism of my brain to distract me from what I really need to be doing, which is, continuing along the path I started on.

After HTML & CSS

Before heading out on a journey, it’s good to have a map.

Perhaps along the way you’ll make a different turn, but at least you’ll know what’s out there.

I’ve been tasked with learning about programming. Specifically, how to make websites.

I went through the basics of HTTP and CSS, but what comes next…

PHP Basics: PHP Grammar, HTTP Domain Types, Transferring Values Between Clients.

Other HTTP Basics: HTTP, WebAPI, REST API, GraphAPI

Database Basics: Creation and Deletion of Tables, Databases, Columns, and Records, Table Relations.

So, the only thing to do when there’s work ahead of you, is to do the work.

So let’s move ahead with:


I’ve found w3schools to be one of the best references – a more educational dictionary perhaps – for learning programming so far. However, there is no one stop shop for learning, and the more resources, the better.

For reference, I’ll try to describe what HTML and CSS are as I understand them, and then look them up to see how I match up.

HTML (HyperText Markup Language): The standard programming language for turning a document into a web page. When Googled: “standard markup language for documents designed to be displayed in a web browser.”
CSS (Cascading Style Sheets): Pretty simple – the style sheets that do all the aesthetics for the contents designated in the HTML. Positioning, colors, order, etc.  When Googled: “style sheet language used for describing the presentation [of a HTML/other document].”

So what is PHP? A “general-purpose scripting language especially suited to web development.” or:

PHP is a server scripting language and a powerful tool for making dynamic and interactive Web pages. PHP is a widely-used, free, and efficient alternative to competitors such as Microsoft’s ASP.

Server scripting language. Dynamic web pages. Microsoft’s ASP.

To understand these, let’s Google. Why the word server, before scripting language?

Server-side scripting is a technique used in web development which involves employing scripts on a web server which produce a response customized for each user’s request to the website.

Oh boy. Getting down the rabbit hole. In layman’s terms? I found this very helpful:

Today, a variety of services use server-side scripting to deliver results back to a client as a paid or free service. An example would be WolframAlpha, which is a computational knowledge engine that computes results outside the clients environment and returns the computed result back. A more commonly used service is Google’s proprietary search engine, which searches millions of cached results related to the user specified keyword and returns an ordered list of links back to the client. Apple’s Siri application also employs server-side scripting outside of a web application. The application takes an input, computes a result, and returns the result back to the client.

Now this makes sense. Send something, result gets computed, and comes back. So the ‘work’ of the operation is done server side. Makes sense.

A dynamic web page? “a web page whose construction is controlled by an application server processing server-side scripts.” Or by a more artful definition, a site that “displays different content each time it’s viewed.” Sure.

As a side note, looking up Microsoft’s ASP, apparently it’s a paid alternative to PHP, based on Microsoft’s visuals rather than being done in the C++ coding language, thus fitting larger groups and PHP fitting individuals or start-ups.

PHP Grammar

All right now we get into the good stuff. What I love in language is grammar. It’s the magic that lets us convey meaning, and create poetry, and all the good stuff. It’s the theory behind the music of language. And I found the same to be true so far with programming, though in the programming sphere, grammar and vocabulary seem to be coalesced.

Off the top of my mind, from a month and a half of bootstrap, html, css, here are the core bits of grammar:

div. col/row. I mean these are the building blocks for building blocks.

Jumbotron, textblock, img, a, href, ul, li, etc.

All these start from the most basic functions.

div is just a section of content, col/row organizes that content in a vertical or horizontal space.

For each specific thing you might want to do, for example, put a picture or media file in, there is a corresponding piece of grammar. When you want to do more complex and specific things, you often have to combine. There are rules for each piece of grammar to make sure they work right.

So let’s lay out what I’ll need to learn in PHP, and then dive into it for next week:

Sample PHP:

$txt = “PHP”;
echo “I love $txt!”;

So $ creates a variable like in python. Very interesting.

A PHP script can be placed anywhere in the document. PHP Script being the <?php ___________ ?> bit. Like html the statements end with “;”. Functions etc. are not case-sensitive.  However, variables are.

// or # for commenting single lines, /* ___ */ for multiple. Cute robot.

If, else, while, echo, print.

Echo and print are almost the same, both output data to the screen, but print’s return value is 1 so it can be used in… expressions… hmm. Echo can take multiple parameters, print can take one. echo is faster.

I want to get familiar with all the syntax and placements in this:

$txt1 = “Learn PHP”;
$txt2 = “W3Schools.com”;
$x = 5;
$y = 4;

echo “<h2>” . $txt1 . “</h2>”;
echo “Study PHP at “ . $txt2 . “<br>”;
echo $x + $y;

So I’m going to work on replicating that.

Until next time! For now, a picture from a couple months ago.

An End To A Start

One of my favorite things about this universe is its reflexive nature.

The further you look out into space, the larger scale you take, the more it starts to look like the smallest scale.

The more magnified the microscope, the more what you see resembles what you might see out of a contrastingly large telescope.

Life’s vicissitudes refers to the up and down undulations of the every day.

While there’s an up and down to every day, you can see the same up and down on any scale.

Take a month, you see the same wave shape. A year. A minute.

And within that wave, you might look closer and you see that it and of itself is made up of smaller ups and downs.

There are certain universal patterns to the universe we live in that grant no big secret to living, but perhaps grant a sense of understanding that all things are connected when truly seen. And perhaps this understanding is if not the, a secret to living well.

This is where my thoughts took me when considering the end of the beginning of my study of web design.

I always try to have an understanding of the linear flow of my life. Maybe it restricts me. But I feel it helps me maybe to organize things. In seeing this as the close, I can reflect on it as a whole and take more clear and concise lessons and techniques forward. Plus, seeing it as just the beginning, I can then consider what chapters ought to come next.

Anyways, enough abstraction.

What I’ve Understood

My expectations that it would be a lot like learning a language were pretty much spot on.

Of all the things during this month and a half, I found my wish to have a teacher, or at least other peers to learn from, to be unquenchable. I don’t believe having a teacher or lessons are necessary for learning anything. But one needs some kind of a sounding board. What I mean by this is perhaps best explained with how I learned Japanese. I started learning walking around Shikoku (perhaps one of the least inhabited and least English friendly areas of Japan) on a pilgrimage. This led me to spending hours or days alone with Japanese and other people of various levels of English ability.

This developed in me a technique that I hold to be paramount. If you need to learn to shoot a basketball into the hoop, you throw the basketball at the hoop and see what works and what doesn’t. The physical laws of the universe and your body respond to your attempts and guide you. With language and more intellectual pursuits, you need something to take the place of these physical guides. You have to take shots and see what gets the ball in the basket. In language, you need to try to produce the language and see what conveys your thoughts correctly. What creates conversations. The best way to do this is by trying (and failing many times) to converse with someone who speaks the language perfectly. They can then act as that sounding board for you.

So to put it concisely:

• I found that with web design, it was essentially similar to learning Japanese in that I could completely teach myself and produce a result simply by googling and making mistakes over and over again until it worked.

• I found it was dissimilar in that I found it much harder, despite having the entire internet of resources at my fingertips, to find someone to learn from.

• This resulted in me doing the right things often in the wrong way. So for instance given my circumstances, my computer and my screen size, everything looked right, but when viewed on another screen, all the proportions and positions would be disjointed.

• In other instances, the way I wrote code to produce an effect was in an extremely longwinded, or difficult to understand way. This leads to the code then being difficult to go back to, difficult to reproduce, and difficult to collaborate on. This has helped me realize that with coding, producing the right result is much closer to the first step than the last, and really the process should be prioritized.


Those might seem like difficult issues to fix. But anything seems difficult to approach when viewed with too broad a lens. It makes sense that, with no prior experience and no code to mimic, my first code would be messy and present some issue.

I’m sure you’ve realized, but I like turning back to language to understand things.

What is grammar. Sure, it’s how words connect. But grammatical phrases are something that fascinate me. Ways of expressing an idea that, taken literally, don’t really seem too communicative or even to make sense at all. There are lots of these in Japanese, fresh in my mind from learning it, but of course in English there are countless expressions. Be that as it may. Be that as it may? What is that? Why does it mean what it means?

In the same way in programming, we have things like <div> and <hr>. And going through all the code I learned, there were little shortcuts and more concise ways of doing everything that I came to start to understand. Learning these grammatical expressions is always the key to clear, natural communication in the target language – and so it will be the same with programming. The key is to understand why these tools are used, and how they came about.

One other thing I found interesting was as I began to dive into javascript, I immediately picked up on clear similarities to what I learned about python in the past when I studied it for fun. To bring this conversation full circle, it reinforced in my mind the idea that all things are connected, in and of themselves, and with all others. If you learn Python, you’re learning javascript and all the other languages too. If you learn Japanese, you’re learning a lot about all the other languages, and how languages themselves work. You’re never really learning only what you’re learning.


Because it’s been an extra week since I’ve posted, and since I’m not entirely sure where I want to start, let alone where I should start, let’s see where we get from this:

In the camera world, there exists a certain infatuation with this look.

The film look, the nostalgic look, the grainy old-style look, whatever you want to call it.


Regardless of whether you like it, regardless of whether you call it nostalgia or an insatiable desire for a unique style or whatever, this taste exists. It’s not polished, it’s not super high effort, it’s not state-of-the-art. Yet, it has charm.


This question has fascinated me since diving into the camera life, and really, since diving into an artistic life. Really, I think this question should intrigue you no matter what realm of life you’re in. I mean, according to just about everything in our world, based on any smart marketing or how the economy has developed, there is no reason a low quality, messy look like this should be so consistently popular. So let’s explore this together, and see how it brings us back home to where we need to be.




Flavor of the month.

These things happen.

The intentional and the unintentional.

Take the clothing brand Supreme, clever, ambitious, and bold. They recognized the pull implied with a shortage – they were fully able to overcome any desire for instant gratification, and have faith that by not selling to maximum capability they would in the end earn more. They sold shirts that cost 3$ to make for 45$ but marketed them in just the way that they had a pull, and then marketed that pull in just the way that they would generate more pull. This was all intentional, and genius.

Then take, for example (I imagine the examples on this side are far greater in number) the frozen yogurt, or gelato stores. Or boba tea. I think it went from 1-2 stores when I was a sophomore in college to too many to count by the very next year. I mean there are countless examples, especially with luxury foods. These are trends that are begun unintentionally. Customers, or rather, a culture as a whole will seemingly decide that something is cool and just start buying it. You never really know when this interest will dissipate, or if it will, or at what level it will stabilize. This is the hopeful goal behind every small business – that the product they’ve decided to provide ends up becoming super popular without them really having to do anything (usually this is beyond their control anyways).

There are trend that are created.

There are trends that occur.

And there are also trends that are set (think any successful artist that gets then imitated, or any huge company such as Apple who then gets reproduced in so many ways).

This third type is the most fascinating, because I believe in most cases, the only reason the thing becomes a trend is due to:


There is a book called Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.

Though pertaining to very untrendy material, it grew popular because it was good.

And, ironically, it was about quality.

More specifically it was about a character’s gradual descent into existential madness while exploring the ideas of quality in our world. But anyways, you should read it.

The point is, the reason Supreme is now being written about in stupid blogs such as these is because of quality. Not their products’ inherent quality, but the quality of their marketing and branding abilities. That is something to be revered, and to be realized.

The reason Apple does well and sets trends is because they create quality. Period.

Banksy is another thing to discuss here, but I’ll leave it to you and the millions of other opinions out there. He does a mix of all of this, or else he wouldn’t be where he is now. Wherever he is.

 So. I grew up with a very genuine disposition towards that which was not popular, for whatever reasons. Things that were popular I tended to shun and go towards that which only I could have found, or that which wasn’t well known yet. I know a bit better after growing up that really I was just after things that were good, rather than that which was popular. Sometimes they are linked, but often not.

And back to film.

In the modern era with unbelievable CG, and professional level cameras and equipment available that even a teenager could afford, why would these relatively ancient technologies be so lastingly adored, beyond what a fad ever attains? Because they have something important to say about quality.

Also, this of course goes beyond film. Art. Video games. (Most of the popular Esport video games are games that were created back in the early 2000s??). Movies. Vintage music, theatre. While the whole of the capitalist world is telling us MORE FASTER BETTER QUICKER our hearts are telling us to move beyond the surface and figure out what these things are really -about-.

In the end that’s all that matters. What is this thing about. What does it have to say? If it’s essence is quality, then it will be loved. If only its surface is quality, it will pass, and fade into irrelevance. Super 8 cameras and the like – they exist as a protest against the modern era ultra-CGI action films, stating resolutely that what truly matters is where you filmed, what you filmed, and why you filmed it.

It doesn’t mean the way of filming is unimportant or that there is no use to having better visual technology. Obviously, it was made before all this, so it has nothing at all to say about that.

In truth, by its continued existence, it shows only that there is something lacking in the modern field of art. We spend perhaps too much time creating a quality surface and forget to fill the inside with meaning.

This wasn’t meant to be all about vintage cameras. All things are connected, when expressed in their true nature. So without stating it all explicitly, I’ll just say that’s where my mind’s at right now. And really where stak’s mind is at in general. We aren’t following a trend, we aren’t trying to create a trend, we’re just after quality.

Beyond HTML

Where We’re At


So looking back at where I was a little while ago (the beginning of August, not even that far back), I have come a long way. And, as is the sensation of learning, I have come to see how far I have to go as well.

Here are some simple points I can note with confidence:

 Like with language, it’s easy to make it look like you’re ‘speaking the language.’

Let’s compare my screenshot from last time:

To the untrained eye, or my vision 2 weeks ago, these both look like “Code.” Very impressive. A lot like how if people can manage a basic amount of a language like Chinese, the outside viewer who knows nothing about it will assume they are pretty fluent.

The reason I say this is because I had this hunch that learning programming would be not only exactly like learning a language (in my case Japanese) but intensely benefit from prior experience in the field. If I could understand that which made me able to learn Japanese, and put them in clear and concise principles, I could apply those to my new study of programming and learn effectively.

Let’s see what those two similar looking, but in nature, completely different html docs look like when run.



Pretty basic huh. New:

This is just the front page, and there is so much more. Every aspect of this page I look at, there are things I am completely unaware of that I could do better or differently, and there are also things I am aware of that I want to do better. That’s a satisfying feeling; an empty canvas, with which I can paint as I will according to the abilities I feel like developing.

Holistic Learning

I ended up graduating with, among another major and other minors and extracurricular activities (read: protests, social action), a philosophy major. Beyond any of the stigma that comes along with that, I genuinely found it to have given me some of the most useful skills I could have possibly learned, in a practical sense, and also in an internal, emotional, human sense.

The ability to understand, and express. The honed desire for ideas that are clear and concise. The capacity to approach ideas incomprehensible, and the wisdom to set issues aside that are irrelevant or lack a solution.

There is nothing more fundamental to our daily lives than these skills, in my honest opinion. I’m sure there are a lot of schools out there where the actual implementation of the degree (teaching staff, curriculum) doesn’t do the field of study justice – as was the case with my other major – however, for what it was, my experience was indispensable.

The reason I talk about Philosophy, and one example of its applicability, is it helps me understand things like language, and now programming.

Take math: On the most simple level, one can memorize that 2+2=4, and 4+7=11. Make those example equations as complex as you want. To truly understand what ‘addition’ is, and all its actual and potential applications and implications, is something completely different. It’s an entire world of utility apart.

In the same way, one can memorize the 1:1 translation of any word in another language – but to understand why and how the actual ideas in our heads are expressed in the other language – it’s completely different.

So with programming: one can google search how to do something. Anything. Easily. On the internet. It’s 2020 (please end.). They can then copy and paste whatever they find into their code, change a few words so it applies to what they’re making, and be done.

However, to understand what the coding language itself does, what it asks of you, and what it can do, is completely different.

What I have come to understand about coding through HTML is this.

What I then have come to understand about HTML is that I needed to learn more than HTML to accomplish what I wanted to.

What I then learned about css is that it’s used in a separate document for cleanliness, conciseness, and efficiency. I can then assume that is true for the general method of artful programming.

What I then learned about bootstrap is that it is a grid system. I really have been learning this.

w3schools, a great resource so far, says this about bootstrap:

  • Bootstrap is a free front-end framework for faster and easier web development
  • Bootstrap includes HTML and CSS based design templates for typography, forms, buttons, tables, navigation, modals, image carousels and many other, as well as optional JavaScript plugins
  • Bootstrap also gives you the ability to easily create responsive designs

This is completely useless information for someone who doesn’t already know what all of that means. Thus. Pretty useless stuff. It’s like hearing that Japanese is an east asian language with the 2000+ Kanji, and 50+ character alphabet of Hiragana and Katakana, the comprehensibility of the language being dictated by a balance of those three writing systems, while pronunciation relies on pitch accent, You say, “Okay.”

On the other hand: you can just dive in. https://getbootstrap.com/docs/4.5/examples/

Bootstraps website as well as w3schools give examples. Take apart examples. Understand them. Recreate them. This is, in my opinion, the way to learn anything.

Where To Go From Here

While I’ve spent tons of time learning the ‘vocab’ of bootstrap (how to make a navbar, how to make a carousel, etc.), I was spending a lot of time looking up how to do each thing, and copying from examples. There’s no flexibility or efficiency in this. So I’ve spent a lot of time the last 2 weeks learning what bootstrap is.

You have to learn the vocab. You have to put your nose to the grindstone and do the hard work. But spending at least as much time searching for a true understanding will, in the end, not only make the artform more efficient and effective, but more artful, more full of beauty.

Will update again as the site nears completion!