seamus bellamy

Japan opens its doors wide to immigration

As populism and a tilt to the political right has prompted many nations to question once welcoming immigration and refugee policies and embrace xenophobia, a nation with a centuries long reputation for insularity has decided to move in the other direction. With its rapidly aging population and an underwhelming birthrate, Japan is opening its doors to large-scale immigration.

From The New York Times:

Under a bill approved by Parliament’s upper house in the early-morning hours, more than a quarter-million visas of five-year duration will be granted to unskilled guest laborers for the first time, starting in 2019.

Under the new measure, between 260,000 and 345,000 five-year visas will be made available for workers in 14 sectors suffering severe labor shortages, including caregiving, construction, agriculture and shipbuilding.

The measure also creates a separate visa category for high-skilled workers, who will be allowed to stay for unlimited periods and enjoy greater benefits, including permission to bring their families to Japan.

As The New York Times points out, over the next 25 years, Japan's population is set to shrink by 16 million people, or 13 percent. During the same period, the number of old folks in Japan will increase to make up 1/3 of the population. This leaves an incredible vacuum of caregivers, laborers and other positions that must be filled.

Not everyone is thrilled with the country's fresh, welcoming approach to immigration. But their feelings on the matter are moot: unless the Japanese start having a shitload of babies, which they're not, the nation will be in a serious bind when the bulk of their current population becomes too old to be able to keep the nation's infrastructure and businesses humming along efficiently. Read the rest

These boots from GORUCK are crazy comfortable

I wish I could wear running shoes, but I shouldn't. When I was a teenager, I tore all of the ligaments in my right ankle. Six weeks of physiotherapy and now, close to 20 years later, I'm still walking around on wobbly scar tissue. My ankle loves to roll out from under me, for any excuse at all. So, for extra support while I'm out strutting around, I wear combat boots. They tend to last longer than comparably priced hiking books and, depending on the boot, can be gussied up for special occasions. The downside to wearing combat boots is that even the lightest among them can still be pretty heavy.

Enter GORUCK's MACV-1. They call it a "Jungle Rucking Boot," but it's not at all dissimilar to the lightweight duty boots from companies like Magnum or 511 Tactical that I used to wear to work. Available in black or coyote brown, they ride just above the ankle and, at 14 ounces each, are one of the lightest pairs of boots I've ever lashed to my footies. Despite their light weight, they seem, so far, to be well made. The majority of the boot is made using full grain leather, which comes out of the box already holding a shine. It didn't take me long to wear the shine down to nothing, but it's the thought that counts.

The rest of the MACV-1 is comprised of 1000D Cordura and, for extra ankle support, a strip of 2" nylon webbing that runs down the back and side of each boot. Read the rest

Review: Moment 58mm Tele smartphone camera lens

I dig Moment's high quality smartphone camera lenses for the convenience that they offer. I don't always have my Sony RX100 III on me. It often isn't even charged and ready to use. But where ever I roam, I typically have my smartphone with me: thanks to Moment's lenses, I'm able to up my iPhone's photographic game to almost reach the heights that my pocket-sized Sony shooter affords. What's more, the money I've spent on their glass feels like a good investment. Should I ever pull together enough scratch to upgrade to a new iPhone, all I'll have to do in order to use the lenses I own is buy a new case for it. Currently, Moment makes cases for Apple, Samsung, and Google hardware and, as of earlier this week, OnePlus.

The one Moment lens that I used more than any other was their 60mm tele lens. It provided 2x optical zoom over what my old iPhone SE could manage on its own. My dual lens iPhone 7 Plus? Same thing, only better: when paired with the iPhone's native optical zoom, you wound up with 4x optical magnification. A couple of years ago, it allowed me to shoot this:

Not bad! But here's the thing: when you use the 60mm with a dual lens camera phone, like the iPhone X, which typically has a wider field of view, the images captured aren't as crisp at the edges as they are in the center. With the photo above, I was able to crop and correct for some of this in Lightroom, but it's a pain in the ass. Read the rest

reMarkable tablet: A software update makes this forgotten gadget incredibly useful

A couple of years ago, I was asked if I'd like to review the reMarkable tablet. If you're unfamiliar with it, the reMarkable is an E Ink slate and pen solution that provides a digital note taking and sketching solution that feels eerily close to writing on paper. I was excited to take it for a spin: despite the fact that I type for a living, my note taking and a good chunk of my writing is decidedly old school.

So far, I've had no luck in finding any hardware solution that serves me better than a piece of paper and a fountain pen can. Unfortunately, at its release, the reMarkable wasn't all that remarkable. While the latency of the tablet's E Ink display and pen were close to non-existent, the rest of its software felt under baked. The UI was far from intuitive. It functioned as an e-reader, but only barely. While you could export what you'd written to a smartphone or computer, there was no way to edit the text once it was there. It felt like a slog to use. I asked a colleague in Canada if he'd like to give it a try. I mailed it out to him and, a few weeks later, it came back to me, marked not "deliverable." I didn't have time to ship it out again as I was preparing to spend several months on the road. I threw it into the back of my workspace's storage cupboard. It lurked there until today. Read the rest

My Life on the Road: Headed to Texas - chicken and booze in Bozeman

We left Claresholm after eating a continental breakfast of terrible coffee and decent muffins. The hotel’s owner chatted lazily with us as we noshed. He had been a manager of Woolworth's department stores, from Toronto, Ontario to Terrence, British Columbia. He served the chain loyally for decades of his life, never questioning when they sent him north, east or west. They fired him after 27 years of service. He’d become redundant.

I told him that I remembered eating grilled cheese sandwiches at the Woolworth’s lunch counter where I grew up. There was pride in his voice as he told me that, before McDonald's came along, the department store’s lunch counters were the biggest restaurant chain in the world.

The sun was high for it being so early in the day. We heated the RV’s engine for a half hour before wheeling south.

It’s a strange time to write for a living. Where normally I expect to raise an eyebrow when I tell folks what I do, my vocation of late has roused opinions and suspicions. I wasn’t sure if I would stand up to questioning at the border. I needn’t have worried: the border guard was more concerned about where we were going, how long we’d be there and whether we had any contraband onboard. In her rear view mirror, my wife saw our border guard staggering through a pee-pee dance from her booth to the border patrol facility a few feet away as we drove off.

Montana.

The mountains are different here than they are in Alberta. Read the rest

I had a close encounter with a grizzly bear

I've always felt a spiritual connection with grizzly bears. They're slow, chunky and have an overwhelming affection for peanut butter--just like I do. From time to time, I'm fortunate enough to spot one, or at least the signs of one's passing, while we're in Alberta. But, as they generally don't want anything to do with people, being able to spend a prolonged amount of time with one is an incredible treat.

It's a treat that I had the opportunity to partake in earlier today.

Around 30 minutes outside of Bozeman, Montana, we saw the first sign for it: Montana Grizzly Encounter. I wasn't into it at first: captive bears aren't cool. I checked out their website as we drove. Rescue bears. Rescue bears are very cool. Five minutes later we were pulling into the Montana Grizzly Encounter. Sixteen bucks for two adults and a score of steps later, we were in.

MGE was founded in 2004 and has been giving homes to bears rescued from cruel captivity ever since. Five of the six bears that MGE shelters were rescued from inhumane situations from all across the United States. Their sixth bear, Bella, was an orphan discovered in Alaska. On her own, she wouldn't have stood a chance. At the sanctuary, she's living the best life that she possibly can. You won't find any bars or cages at MGE. The bears have a temperature controlled enclosure that they can enter or exit as they please. There's a large area for the bears to do bear things in outside of the public eye. Read the rest

Review: Diablo III for Nintendo Switch is the best way to play this much-loved game

Blizzard games have staying power. They're incredibly well crafted and designed to run on a wide spectrum of Windows PCs and Macs, both low powered and high. New content? They're all over it. I can't think of a single one of their titles that hasn't received multiple updates, oft-times for free, in the past decade.

I played Diablo III on my Mac. When it came out for PS3, I played it there, too. It's a game that I return to time and time again, not because it is particularly challenging, but because of the grind: there's always something new to find--a new piece of gear that'll give the character that you're playing a slightly different way to play. So, when I tell you that Diablo III Eternal Collection for Nintendo Switch is pretty much the same deal as Diablo III played on any platform, you'll understand that what I actually mean is that it's great.

I've always preferred playing Diablo III with a game controller over a mouse and keyboard. I like that a wee flick of the right thumbstick will send my hero rolling out of the way of danger. This was one of the first things I tested when I loaded up the copy of the game that Blizzard sent to me last week. The thumb-flick works with the Switch. The rest of the game's controls are similar to what I remember from my PS3 as well. You can't remap your controller's buttons, but your powers and attacks are laid out well enough in the game that it's not a hassle to use them, arbitrary or not. Read the rest

Review: The Oneplus 6T is almost as nice as a flagship handset for a fraction of the price

When I need to futz with an Android device, OnePlus is the company that I typically turn to. For the money, you won't find a more capable handset in North America. The OnePlus 6, thanks largely to its zippy performance and Android Oreo's being a joy to use, was the first Android device I was able to live with as my daily driver. The OnePlus 6T is, with the exception of a few minor tweaks, very much the same handset as its predecessor. I'm very OK with this.

Under the hood, there's not much to see: OnePlus has used the same Snapdragon 845 processor. The version of the 6T that I took for a spin comes packing 8GB of RAM and 128GB of storage. It's a speedy-feeling set of specs that served me well with the OnePlus 6 and now, the 6T. Apps, fly open, I've yet to see any interface lag and I've no complaints about how quickly either smartphone does anything.

With the OnePlus 6T, users get a 3,700mAh battery. Given that I've grown accustomed to the low level of battery that my aging iPhone 7 Plus leaves me with at the end of the day, I was pretty pleased with how much juice was still left in the 6T when I set it down for the night. While it might not come with wireless charging baked into it, the OnePlus 6T's Dash quick charging technology more than made up for its absence. I'll take a rapid charge over the simplicity of not having to plug a cord into my hardware any day. Read the rest

My life on the road: A lost passport, no ID, and bullshit paperwork trying to get back to Canada

16 October, 2018 My wife drops me at the airport in Calgary. I'm traveling to Chicago. A fancy audio hardware company called Shure invited me to the city to check out some of the new tech that they'll be releasing in the coming months.

I pass through security with no issues. As I lace on my boots, I am certain that I have my passport. It is in my hand as I board my flight. I place my passport in a buttoned pocket in my jacket before sitting down on the plane. Standing up at the end of my flight, my passport is still there. Upon landing, I pay it no further mind. I'm on the hunt for a cab ride into Chicago's downtown core.

"They say they don't have any money but Jesus: lookit alla this construction," my cab driver says to me. "It's alla the time." I tell him that we have construction season in Calgary, too. But yeah, the traffic headed into the downtown is weaponized bullshit. My smartphone says that the trip should take 35 minutes. Curb to curb, it is a 90-minute ride.

I pay the driver his due and step out of his hack.

In the hotel's front door to the hotel's front desk. I have my luggage. I have a reservation. I have a credit card for incidentals.

I do not have a passport.

I don't have a driver's license, either. I haven't had one for years: my PTSD makes my being behind the wheel a bad idea. Read the rest

I love the Garmin Tactix Charlie, so it'll likely get lost or broken

I destroy Apple Watches. It's not intentional. It just kinda happens. The first Apple Watch was a Series 1 piece of wrist candy. I loved how it kept reminders for me to take my medication, pay my bills, and all of the other things that my PTSD-addled brain refuses to keep track of on my wrist. I hated how slow it was to respond to requests and that it wasn't possible to hide apps that I never used from its interface. It died in a torrential downpour.

Same thing for my second Apple watch. It was a Series 2. While it was a little bit faster and the OS was a tiny bit more agreeable, it was unable to avoid being smashed by a passerby at a street market in Costa Rica. From the impact, it looked like it had met with a single, focused impact, like the tip of a knife or another object that wouldn't be agreeable to have in my body. I'm sure that it's over reacting to say that my Apple Watch saved my life, but I think about this often.

I am not made of money. I cannot afford to buy watch after watch (although that's kind of what I've ended up doing). Smartwatches provide me with a level of utility that makes my life a lot more manageable. It took some time, but I came to the conclusion that the best smartwatch for me was one that I could not kill.

Enter the Garmin Tactix. Read the rest

Civilization VI has been ported to iPhone and my productivity has died

I've been playing Civilization, in one form or another, since the mid-1990s. I love the depth of the game and the multitude of ways that it can be played. Read the rest

Affinity Photo is an awesome low cost Photoshop alternative

I pay for a monthly subscription to Adobe's suite of photo editing apps. They streamline my workflow on my Mac, iPad and iPhone. What's more, they allow me to make my mediocre photos almost look like they were taken by someone who knows what they're doing. I'll be the first to admit, however, that subscription-based software is bullshit. Yes, you'll always have access to the latest updates that the application developers have to offer, but for all of the money you're paying over the course of months, or even years, you never end up with a product that you can say you own. Stop paying that monthly fee and you're left with bupkis. I don't much care for how that feels. I'm also not crazy about how much horsepower Adobe's software needs to perform well. Photoshop and Lightroom work great on my 2015 MacBook Pro. The same goes for Adobe's mobile apps on my iOS devices and Android smartphones. Unfortunately, the pixels flow like mud if I attempt to do any image editing in Lightroom on my Microsoft Surface Go. It's just not powerful enough. Happily, I discovered Affinty Photo a few years ago. It's a low cost Photoshop alternative for iOS, Mac OS and Windows that, for many image editing tasks, is just powerful enough to get shit done.

On my low-powered Surface Go, Affinty loads in half the time that Photoshop does, allowing me to get in and out of working on a photo quickly before uploading it to go along with a story. Read the rest

Review: CleanMyPC makes for lazy computer maintenance at a reasonable price

One of the nice things about owning a MacBook is that, more often than not, you don't have to give too much thought about what's going on behind the scenes. Mac OS is stable as all get out. Most users will never need to fart around with terminal commands or futz with file structures. As much of a cliché as it may be to say it, it just works.

Most of the time.

I discovered, over the years, that as stable as Apple's software experience typically is, there are a few ways to improve on things by tweaking and cleaning my SSD up. These are not tasks that I am good at. Admittedly, this is likely due to the fact that I've been too lazy to learn the ins and outs of making my computer do tricks outside of what my work requires. As such, I let apps do the behind-the-scenes heavy lifting for me. I've relied on MacPaws' CleanMyMac for years to clean junk files from my computer and maintain my drive's health. I can't remember how much I paid for it, back in the day, but I've very likely gotten my money's worth out of it.

The only thing that I likely know less about than what goes on behind the scenes of Mac OS is what in the name of Hell makes Windows 10 run. While I find the OS and the software I run on my Surface Go to be adequate for churning out words and a bit of photo editing, I haven't got the slightest idea of what to do in order to keep my new Windows 10 PC healthy. Read the rest

Let me tell you about living my life on the road

In passing, I've talked about the fact that my wife and I are full-time nomads. Lemme expand on that.

A few years back, we bought a 21-year-old RV with the intention of living in it while my wife completed her degree in Vancouver, Canada. Typically, winters in Vancouver are mild by comparison to the rest of the country. The climate is similar to what you see in Seattle. Not so while we were there. It dropped to below freezing for weeks at a time. Snow, a largely unknown commodity in British Columbia's lower mainland, hung around for months. We were cold. We blew through hundreds of dollars worth of propane trying to stay warm.

We were poor.

Shortly before we were to make the drive over the mountains, I was informed that, after five years of service to a site that I had built, my services were no longer needed. It shattered me emotionally and financially. I was sent scrambling to find enough work, piecemeal, to make end's meet. There was cash coming in barely enough to keep afloat. Staying in a campground in the lower mainland costs around $800 per month. We couldn't foot the bill. We made do. Weekly, we would sneak into a local university sports complex for a shower. On one occasion, we had to decide between buying food or propane for heat. We chose food. This ended up costing us $1200, money that could have kept us going for months, to replace our hot water tank as it iced up and cracked in the cold. Read the rest

This is the best laptop sleeve I've ever owned

I upgraded to a 13” 2015 MacBook Pro with Retina display after a two-week working vacation in Costa Rica. The extreme heat laid on me during my time there was enough to fry the 11” MacBook Air that I’d brought with me in a way that made it all but impossible to use. There was just one problem: All of the accessories I had for my old MacBook Air were too small to use with my new MacBook. I had to invest in something new. The first item on my list: a classy-looking case for my stupid expensive new laptop. It would need to be able to protect my computer while I was out doing inadvisable things. It would also need to look good for the times when I pretend I'm a professional, attending meetings or press junkets.

After shopping around online, I discovered Picaso Lab’s Classic Brown Leather MacBook sleeve. Three years in, I feel like it's one of the smartest investments that I’ve ever made.

The sleeve is made from lined Napa leather which, on the outside, has a bit of a texture to it. This makes it easy to grip the sleeve. The texture is slight enough that the pebbling doesn't screw with the sleeve's clean lines. The leather is tough, but supple. When my laptop’s not in the sleeve, the leather can be bent, this way and that, despite being pretty thick. I’m betting that this is one of the reasons that the sleeve still looks so good after riding around in my backpack or the back of our Jeep for the past three years. Read the rest

Richard Kadrey talks about his latest book and what comes next after Sandman Slim

I’ve known Richard Kadrey for a number of years. We generally mouth off at each other about technology, injuries we acquired while we were young/dumb, barbecue, tiki drinks and movies. There’s not much jibba-jabba, however, about what either of us does for a living. He writes constantly. So do I. It’s nice to talk about anything but your gig, from time to time.

That said, the rent must be paid, so here we go.

On August 28th, the tenth book in Kadrey’s Sandman Slim series, Hollywood Dead, will be available in the United States. Last last week, after reading an advanced copy that was sent out to me, I got on the horn for a chat with him about the new book, his plans for Sandman Slim and what he’s got cooking beyond the massively popular urban fantasy series.

SB: I read Hollywood Dead over the weekend. I think one of the things I enjoyed the most about the new book is how the tension ramps up as Stark came to understand how screwed he really was.

RK: I really wanted him off-balance. He felt off-balanced in The Kill Society—Stark was basically hiding who he was. But I wanted him to be genuinely fucked up in this book. He thinks everything’s going to be fine now and nothing is fine. Everything is fucked up. There’s no problem he can solve by punching it. Yeah, there’s bad guys, but his overall situation can’t be solved with violence. In the book, a lot of the truth of what[Stark]is comes out of Kasabian’s mouth, the way it always has. Read the rest

The Montague Paratrooper Pro is the best damn bike I've ever owned

When you live full-time in a motorhome, no matter how big it is, there’s not a lot of room for extras. In order to have enough space to be comfortable, its necessary to strip your belongings down to the essentials. A library full of books gives way to e-readers and tablets. Full-sized anything? You’re gonna want to swap it out for a compact model or, better still, a version of it designed to collapse down to a smaller size to store when its not in use. My Montague Paratrooper Pro mountain bike does that. I love it.

Bike designer David Montague put together the original Paratrooper folding mountain bike for the U.S. Military. It was designed to accompany parachutists out the door of a flying airplane and, once on the ground, be used to get the soldier riding it to an objective far more rapidly than if the approach were made on foot. I’d known about these bikes for years. I was obsessed with them. Moving into an RV gave me an excuse to finally get one: it’s a full-sized bike that collapses down small enough that I can stow it in one of our rig’s basement compartments, out of site and out of mind.

The bike I ride, the Paratrooper Pro, comes with a few bells and whistles that the original Montague Paratrooper lacks. It’s front forks can be locked for riding on pavement in the city, or unlocked for a smooth, suspension-aided ride down trails and dirt roads. It’s got 27 gears to the OG Paratrooper’s 24. Read the rest

Next page

:)