My Custom Coffee Tumbler – Summer 2013


Shiro Natsuyasumi 2013 GrandeAs it is already well into summer I thought that it was time to make my new custom coffee tumbler insert. I originally had an idea for a summer coffee tumbler during the rainy season but it was a bit rain-specific, so I decided to go with a new purely summer theme now that it is hot and sunny pretty much everyday. As it has been over 35°C and sunny most days lately the beach was an appealing and appropriate setting for the new cup. I doubt that I will make it to a nice beach this year, but even if I don’t I can live vicariously through my coffee tumbler 😉

As usual I have prepared a download here for anyone who would like to print it out and try it in their own grande cup. Cheers!

First Impressions of iOS 7 Beta


A lot has been said about the new design for iOS 7, and there have definitely been a great variety of strong reactions. From people criticising the visual design to applauding it, from pointing out similarities to other OS’s in regards to functionality or features, it seems like pretty much everyone in the tech and design realms has an opinion about it and have passed on their first impressions of iOS 7 beta, so here I go!

The Visual Side

As for visual design, I would say that I really like the overall impression of the new iOS. Although I might not necessarily agree with the colour palette used in the version shown at WWDC or some of the icon design, I think that it is a base that can easily be built upon. The previous versions of iOS appeared to be a bit of a dead-end visually and were getting quite long in the tooth. Although I can see elements of Android and Metro in there, I do not think the design is so much about copying them as it is about breaking away from the previous conceptions that iOS had been operating under. I am sure that with this new look as a base, refinement and gradual development of a new style can progress much more easily that it previously has. After all, by dumping a lot of the skeuomorphic baggage iOS can embrace a new symbology that can be comfortable for users and yet not try to imitate non-digital analogues. Don’t get me wrong, I love the textures that we find in the real world: the grain of wood, the texture of fabric, endless fields of green felt. But I can enjoy those things in the real world more than I ever have in the digital realm. I want functional digital design to express a certain simple aesthetic and utility that makes it a wonderful tool and allows it to evolve along its own lines over time. And besides, simplicity is part of the elegance of Apple hardware and having that reflected in iOS is not necessarily inappropriate.

That is not to say that I think all digital design needs to be flat and overly simplistic. I believe that digital design should always push to innovate and stretch the limits of technology while challenging the world artistically. Modern technology can do so many beautiful things when in the hands of a skilled designer. I just tend to think that simulating the real world has its place but is not a necessity for digital design. iOS making a break from imitating the real world could allow it to go in a new and interesting direction that might not previously have been considered. Wouldn’t that be nice!

The Functional Side

On a functional design side, it appears that Apple has done quite a good job of creating something that appears to be a big departure and yet should still be easily accessible and familiar for most users. I think this is a big and important step in transitioning forward that has perhaps been missed by some others (ahem, Windows 8). As for the observation that there are features included from such rivals as Android and WebOS, I think that people tend to forget a really important thing: design is a constant dialogue of imitation, refinement and innovation. As long as patents aren’t violated I am not sure why people react so strongly when such dialogue happens. Just because Volvo first incorporated the modern seat belt as standard equipment in its cars in 1959, does that mean that people should have been outraged when other manufactures took up the practice and copied Volvo? If a feature or design has good utility and can enhance the experience of the user of a product, shouldn’t other competing products also adopt it and work to gradually refine it as a conversation in design between rivals?

I think that this kind of adoption and refinement is what makes things better for the end-user and should not be controversial or disappointing. Would it not be more of an oddity if Apple did not adopt a logical element of functional design simply because someone did it once before? In iOS 7, Apple has introduced Control Center which has a strong analogue in Android, but would iOS users really be happier if they avoided introducing that type of feature simply because Android had it earlier. Besides, it is not as if a quick settings menu was even innovative when Android did it. It has been seen in many versions in many pieces of software over the years. This can be said for several of the features in iOS 7 that have been introduced and criticized. Maybe the angry Droids should remember that ‘imitation is the sincerest form of flattery’ (as long as it doesn’t involve a patent dispute). I think that too much energy is wasted on such arguments and criticisms that could be spent productively.


Although there has been a certain amount of borrowing involved in putting together iOS 7 there has also been some innovation as well and I think that the design team at Apple has made a very good start on breaking away from legacy iOS baggage while taking iOS into a more open future. It would seem that people are getting confused and a bit too focussed on skeuomorphism vs minimal modernism and are overestimating it as a factor in Jony Ive’s design choices. Although he and Jobs had different preferences regarding those aspects of design, they both have expressed that there has to be a function behind the design. I think that Ive has focussed on function as well as the design changes and is trying to make it a comprehensive package. Sure, there still appear to be a few features missing that I would like (and there would no doubt be more controversy about as some of those are already on Android) but I have to say that I am quite excited to see (and use) the final product when it is released in the fall!


Fixing a Corrupt Mac OS X Server Open Directory Database


Recently I had an issue with my Mac Mini Server and fixing a corrupt Mac OS X Server Open Directory (OD) database.

One of the HDD’s had become unstable and it eventually just died. That left me with one drive available which is ok but it also caused some issues when the RAID array I was running was killed by the drive failure. I always keep backups and regular clones of my drives, but as the drive had been starting to fail for a while there was always a chance of corruption throughout the more recent copies. After decommissioning the dead drive I cloned the most recent copy back to suitable partitions on the secondary drive and booted it up. Everything seemed to be working without issue! Yay!

Then came the most recent OS X update to 10.8.4. Sitting at lunch during work last Friday I decided to go ahead and update the server using Prompt on my iPhone. I SSH’d in as usual and ran the commands for the update. It seemed to update smoothly and then wanted to reboot. After the reboot I reconnected via SSH and checked on the server state. Most of the services were running without issue.

The update did not likely cause any issues by itself, but after the reboot the Open Directory service would not start and upon diving a bit more deeply into the terminal I found that it was due to corruption. I tried some fixes and some restarts but to no avail. I was feeling rather gloomy that I might have to go back to a significantly older version on my server to get the OD working again even though everything else seemed fine.

Lunch was over, and there did not seem like much to do with the issue until I got home so I went back to work and tried to forget about it (unsuccessfully). Once work was finished I hopped on the subway and started researching the issue. I found many various fixes but most of the did not seem appropriate or did not work when I tried them. After a bit of research I started to see several sites mention certain slapd related fixes that sounded promising, so I fired up Prompt on my iPhone and logged in.

First of all, I used launchctl to unload the openldap:

$ sudo launchctl unload /System/Library/LaunchDaemons/org.openldap.slapd.plist

…then I ran a recommended recovery:

$ sudo db_recover -h /var/db/openldap/authdata/

To see how things went, I ran slapd with tool mode switches:

$ sudo /usr/libexec/slapd -Tt

…and it gave me this response:

53f31f93 bdb_monitor_db_open: monitoring disabled; configure monitor database to enable
config file testing succeeded

That looks promising, so I turned Open Directory back on:

$ sudo launchctl load /System/Library/LaunchDaemons/org.openldap.slapd.plist

The OD seemed to be working fine, but I wanted to reboot just to make sure it was stable enough:

$ sudo shutdown -r now

After the reboot everything (including OD) came up fine! I realized that people on the train were probably wondering why I was looking so excited peering at a black screen on my phone, but I still enjoyed my small victory 😉

Strava Workflow for Alfred v2


As I often feel a bit tired after my long rides I was looking for a way to get my rides up on Strava as easily and quickly as possible while spending as little time in front of my Mac as possible. I fairly quickly came up with building a Strava workflow for Alfred v2 that would simplify the process. My workflow makes it easy to open the Strava site in the default browser by simply typing ‘strava’ and to upload your rides/runs by typing ‘sup’. To upload rides/runs I would recommend plugging your device into your Mac or wirelessly connecting it, waiting for it to connect properly, then just type ‘sup’ (short for “Strava upload”) and then letting Strava find the data on your default device. If you only have one run or ride on the device, Strava will automatically upload it without any further input from you, giving you a few seconds to re-hydrate or towel off a bit. It is pretty easy.

You can download the workflow here.

Post-Ride Chocolate Smoothie

Today was a fairly hard riding day on the road (wind, rain and a flat tire during the rain) so I decided to cheer myself up and help my recovery with a post-ride chocolate smoothie. Not really feeling like searching for a recipe online and then going out to try to find the ingredients (a lot of which are often hard to find in Japan) I decided to concoct a smoothie with the ingredients I already had at home. It actually turned out really tasty so I thought that I would post it up here so you can give it a try if you feel so inclined.

Post-Ride Chocolate Smoothie

My Post-Ride Chocolate Smoothie

  • 1/2 cup ice cubes
  • 1 cup of low-fat milk
  • 2 heaping tbsp of low-fat probiotic yogurt
  • 6 almonds
  • 1 small banana
  • 2 heaping tbsp of powdered cocoa (20-24%)
  • Optional: 2 pieces of 86% cocoa or higher chocolate (softened)

Just throw it all in a blender, blend it for 45 seconds or until smooth and enjoy!

Using a recipe calculator I found out that it should have about 318 calories, 10.2g of fat, 16mg of cholesterol, 164mg of sodium, 1153mg of potassium, 7g of dietary fibre, 31g of sugars, 17g of protein and a whole lot of Vitamin B-12, Vitamin B-6, Vitamin D, Calcium, Magnesium, Manganese, Phosphorous, Riboflavin and other trace elements. It seems like it would be a decent recovery drink, although I am not a nutritionist.

Shinjuku Gyoen Hanami 2013

Today Yoko and I decided to go and check out the flowers at Shinjuku Gyoen (新宿御苑). Hanami has come a bit early in 2013, and it looked like it has already passed its peak in the park. Although it was not too crowded, it was not really the best day for wandering around and taking photos as the weather was both overcast and bright. I did get a few nice shots of some of the flowers in the park. I hope that you can enjoy them!


Some Desktop Wallpaper I Use

I often prepare my own desktop wallpaper for use on my Retina MacBook Pro as I love the way my photos look on the high-res display. Some of the images I often use are family related and are not really for distribution, but I do have a lot of neutral ones that are fine for the public.

If you have a few moments, please feel free to browse the images below and use any of them for your desktop wallpaper!

If you click on an image it will open the gallery in your browser. You can select “View full size” below the photo you would like to use as wallpaper to open it at full size in a new window. After the image loads, right-click and download the wallpaper. As they are quite large (3200×2000 pixels) they might take a few seconds to load on slower connections.

My Custom Coffee Tumbler – Spring 2013



Spring is almost upon us here in Tokyo so I thought that it was time to move on from winter and embrace spring. To reflect this I have designed a new grande cup liner for my custom coffee tumbler to add a bit more of a spring feel. I have also designed a tall size version for those with tall size cups. Although I am not super fond of pink it really did work best as the background for the most popular spring flower here: 桜 (Japanese cherry). To tell the truth, I think we have more cherry blossoms in my hometown in Canada than one would typically see in Tokyo, but people in Japan tend to associate cherry blossoms with being a very Japanese thing and the strongest association with the coming of spring. As they tend to bloom here for not much more than a week in each area it can be a bit of a briefly dramatic spectacle. It is a nice time to go to Shinjuku Gyouen (新宿御苑) on a weekday and have a picnic, shoot some photos and relax. Go to a local park on the weekend and you will be lucky if you can sit down never mind picnic.

I think that by the time cherry blossoms have come and gone I will be happy to do another cup design that is not quite so pink 😉

Update: By printing it on 和紙 (Japanese traditional paper) that is slightly off-white I have managed to make it look a bit more classic and a lot less pink!

Castelli Gabba WS Jersey (2012)

20130310-031258.jpgI have always liked to ride my bike all-year-round and have tried many different ways of dealing with transitional weather. Dressing for summer and mid-winter are generally pretty straightforward, but it gets a lot harder in the spring and fall. Both in my hometown on the west coast of North America and here in Japan the weather can be very unstable during the off-season. The mornings can be cold with rain showers and yet be warm and sunny before lunch. It has always been a bit tricky to dress for the changing conditions and everyone seems to have their own strategy. Always preferring to wear the minimum possible when riding I decided to try the Castelli Gabba WS Jersey.

While it is race shaped and has a similar weight to a regular off-season jersey, it uses Castelli’s Gabba and Nanoflex fabrics for better than normal weather resistance. I have found that it is pretty much wind proof and can comfortably withstand short rain showers or road spray (although the seems are not taped and do eventually let some water through). It does have a slightly high collar and seems pretty good at keeping wind out when zipped up. As I do not generally go out in the pouring rain for long rides on my road bike the moderate water resistance was fine for me, and when I did get rained on the wind resistance combined with an inner layer still kept me warm enough while moving. The jersey itself seems well made but is on the small side for fit as are most Castelli offerings. Both of the fabrics seem to breathe well.

What about my arms? Well, I already had Castelli Nanoflex Arm Warmers made of water-resistant material that seem to do enough to make inclement weather comfortable.

As for the temperature range, I have found that mixing up base layers and arm warmers can give this jersey a very large temperature range. Wearing a simple wicking inner I have found it comfortable from 15-20°C. Add a short sleeve warm inner and arm warmers and I have been comfortable at 8-15°C and with a long sleeve warm inner, wind-stopper SS inner and arm warmers I have been able to ride down to 0°C without discomfort. It is probably important to note that I tend to be bothered less by cool weather than most people, and these temperature ranges change a bit if there is significant rain involved.

Overall I am very happy with the jersey and I am happy to have it as part of my off-season arsenal. I would recommend it to anyone who does not really like wearing a jacket in changing weather or prefers a race cut jersey for those fast flat land winter rides.

There are two colour options (black or fluoro yellow) and there is also a long sleeve version available that is a bit better in cold weather.


  • Good all-round weather resistance for a jersey
  • Covers fall and spring conditions well
  • Well made
  • Race cut for reduced wind resistance


  • Rather expensive
  • Only two colour choices

*the image used in this post was taken from

My Custom Coffee Tumbler – Winter 2012

Shiro Winter 2012 GrandeWhen I go to Starbucks (one of the few consistently non-smoking coffee establishments in Japan that serves decent straight iced tea) I tend to prefer to use my own tumbler, both for the discount and for its ability to hold liquid at temperature a bit longer than thin PET. Over the years I have had a few of these cups but as they were all plastic they tended not to be as effective at holding temperature as the stainless tumbler I had and I was always a bit torn which to use. Enter the stainless-core design-my-own-tumbler. This summer Starbucks in Japan started to sell my dream custom tumbler.

I picked one up and have been using it since fall. As the weather has moved into winter it was time to replace the falling leaves motif I went with for the fall months with something more season appropriate. Yesterday I designed, printed and prepared my winter tumbler (Shiro Snowflake version 2012). The dog (Shiro) design is one I did a number of years ago and still use on occasion in a variety of applications. Pretty nice, eh?