seasons greetings

Winter break starts on 2011-12-23 and ends on 2012-01-04. Regarding my classes, the last class day before winter break is 2011-12-22, and the first class day after winter break is 2012-01-05.

Have a great, safe, winter vacation!

scientific proof that santa claus does not exist

As a result of an overwhelming lack of requests, and with research help from that renowned scientific journal SPY magazine (January, 1990) --here is the annual scientific inquiry into Santa Claus.
1) No known species of reindeer can fly. BUT there are 300,000 species of living organisms yet to be classified, and while most of these are insects and germs, this does not COMPLETELY rule out flying reindeer which only Santa has ever seen.
2) There are 2 billion children (persons under 18) in the world. BUT since Santa doesn't (appear) to handle the Muslim, Hindu, Jewish and Buddhist children, that reduces the workload to 15% of the total - 378 million according to the Population Reference Reference Bureau. At an average (census) rate of 3.5 children per household, that's 91.8 million homes. One presumes there's at least one good child in each.
3) Santa has 31 hours of Christmas to work with, thanks to the different time zones and the rotation of the earth, assuming he travels east to west (which seems logical). This works out to 822.6 visits per second. This is to say that for each Christian household with good children, Santa has 1/1000th of a second to park, hop out of the sleigh, jump down the chimney, fill the stockings, distribute the remaining presents under the tree, eat whatever snacks have been left, get back up the chimney, get back into the sleigh and move on to the next house. Assuming that each of these 91.8 millions stops are evenly distributed around the earth (which, of course, we know to be false but for the purposes of our calculations we will accept), we are now talking about .78 miles per household, a total trip of 75-1/2 million miles, not counting stops to do what most of us must do at least once every 31 hours, plus feeding and etc.
This means that Santa's sleigh is moving at 650 miles per second, 3,000 times the speed of sound. For purposes of comparison, the fastest man-made vehicle on earth, the Ulysses space probe, moves at a poky 27.4 miles per second - a conventional reindeer can run, tops, 15 miles per hour.
4) The payload on the sleigh adds another interesting element. Assuming that each child gets nothing more than a medium-sized lego set (2 pounds), the sleigh is carrying 321,300 tons, not counting Santa, who is invariably described as overweight. On land, conventional reindeer can pull no more than 300 pounds. Even granting that "flying reindeer" (see point #1) could pull TEN TIMES the normal amount, we cannot do the job with eight, or even nine. We need 214,200 reindeer. This increases the payload - not even counting the weight of the sleigh - to 353,430 tons. Again, for comparison - this is four times the weight of the Queen Elizabeth.
5) 353,000 tons traveling at 650 miles per second creates enormous air resistance - this will heat the reindeer up in the same fashion as spacecraft re-entering the earth's atmosphere. The lead pair of reindeer will absorb 14.3 QUINTILLION joules of energy. Per second. Each. In short, they will burst into flame almost instantaneously, exposing the reindeer behind them, and create deafening sonic booms in their wake. The entire reindeer team will be vaporized within 4.26 thousandths of a second. Santa, meanwhile, will be subjected to centrifugal forces 17,500.06 times greater than gravity. A 250-pound Santa (which seems ludicrously slim) would be pinned to the back of his sleigh by 4,315,015 pounds of force.
In conclusion - If Santa ever DID deliver presents on Christmas Eve, he's dead now. Merry Christmas.

american wagyu

Many Americans enjoy sushi. Kurobuta pork is becoming popular too. The ad below is for Kobe-style beef. (View the original ad.)

no class

No class between 2011-11-19 and 2011-12-05 because I have business trips to Tokyo, Japan and Portland, Oregon. Read your class slides for details.

the first 24 hours at fukushima

Read IEEE’s coverage on the first 24 hours at Fukushima. There’s more to the story than what the Japanese government, power companies, and media are telling us.

my favorite manga

I’m a big fan of “美鳥の日々” by Kazurou Inouye, and ”3x3 eyes” (サザンアイズ, no official website) by Yuzo Takada. I bought the whole sets at a used manga store plus a new volume including episodes after “3x3 eyes” ended (講談社漫画文庫 15-24). These two artists are my top favorites at the moment. “Captain Alice” is an ongoing story that’s on my must-read list.

goh's talk at the otaru university of commerce

On 2011-10-24 I gave a talk at the Otaru University of Commerce. Professor Shawn Clankie invited me to Shodai, introduced me to the audience, and videotaped my talk. Watch my talk on YouTube.


I’m a big fan of 侵略!?イカ娘 (watch the season promo) and the upbeat opening theme song for season 2 makes me want to take over the world!
If there’s time in class, we’ll watch During week5 of class, we watched an episode that aired last the previous week titled “
English じゃなイカ?” See you in class!

trick or treat?

Enjoy this Halloween card!

free cloud storage

For a limited time, box.net is offering 50 gigabytes of cloud storage for free. Sign up now to take advantage of this promotion. Maximum filesize is 100 megabytes per file. (You can store larger files if you pay.) I am not affiliated with box.net.

study abroad program

Several partner universities of Hokudai will give talks on study abroad programs for sustainable development on 2011-10-27 from 13:00 to 15:30, at Hokudai’s International Student Center (留学生センター).


International Student Center (留学生センター) advises and accepts applications for Hokudai’s Study Abroad Programs (exchange student programs). Deadline for programs next year is 2011-10-31. Programs vary in destination and duration. For details, visit:

→ Japanese
→ 平成24年度交換留学生の募集について

Hokkaido International School fall festival

The Hokkaido International School (HIS) is holding its annual Fall Festival on 2011-10-29 from 10:00 to 14:00. There will be trick-or-treating at the school for kids, and food stalls for everybody. HIS is located about 5 minutes east of the Sumikawa subway station.


By the way, HIS is opening
a new school in Niseko, probably reflecting the growing international community there.

my talk at Sapporo Gakuin University

On 2011-10-15 at Sapporo Gakuin University, I am giving a talk titled “Designing online learning experiences for audio-visual language learning”. Many thanks to our students who participated in English Online during 2011 spring semester, and who granted me permission to analyze their learning outcomes as part of my talk.
Talk details

dropping wed1? or taking thu1?

If you decided not to take my wed1 class (English Repeat 4 英語再履修4), then contact me by using the “contact” link above, because I must remove you from my course roster (履修者名簿) so that you can register for other courses.

If you are taking my thu1 class (English Seminar Introductory 6
英語演習初級6) but were absent during week1, then you must see your TAs to learn about our class, and do assignments for week1 and week2. I extended the deadline by one week for week1’s assignment so that new students can catch up. If you were absent for both week1 and week2, then you are in trouble. Talk to your TAs in depth during week3 or you risk being left behind.

a moving story

I recommend you read this young man’s story. I cried. (It’s written in Japanese.)

class registration closed

Registration from my courses during 2011 fall semester has closed. I will accept no more students.

registering for my repeat class

Do you wish to take my class that appears in the course catalog as 英語再履修ー4 (English Repeat, class 4), and is offered in Wed1 (Wednesday 1st period) during 2011 fall semester? You must come to our first class on 2011-09-28 Wednesday at 08:45. This is a rule for all repeat classes (as well as being common sense). You cannot register if you miss the first class. I do not know where our classroom is yet.

Registration is limited to 35 students. To register, you need my signature of approval.
I approve registration on a first-come, first-served basis. Come early to guarantee registration.

have a great summer

Thanks to all of you -- students, teaching assistants, technical staff, and instructors -- for making spring semester of 2011 a success. We earned the highest mean scores in TOEFL-ITP in the past 6 years. Test scores are not the reason why we learn, but they do indirectly indicate how we are progressing towards our objective. I’m glad that the quality and quantity of our learning experiences is improving.

lose those training wheels

A student wrote on an anonymous survey for our online English language course: “I want translations (from English to Japanese)”. My response: "Could you state the reasons why you desire a translation?"

Obviously, in the real world, translations are rarely available. But even when they can be obtained, for instance in language classes, I am unaware of convincing arguments for translations. If there is an argument for supplementing our courseware with translations, I would like to hear it.

In case the argument is based on sense of insecurity or ambiguity associated with communicating in an unfamiliar language, let me counter that argument by an analogy to math.

Say you wish to solve a math problem. For simplicity we'll assume we wish to prove the Pythagorean theorem. As you plan your solution (I heard there are 370 known proofs; maybe you can discover the 371st), do you translate that, say, to art or music? Probably not ... What is true and clear in your mind does not need to be transposed to another medium.

One goal in language learning is to achieve the same sensation of sureness that you have in math. How would you judge a person who solves math problems by translating them to music? (By the way, Pythagoras did precisely that on occasion.) If you value certainty in math, I am sure you would appreciate confidence in language. A corollary is that the longer you rely on translations, the longer it will take to build that confidence.

TAs wanted

Are you helpful, personable, social, outgoing, boisterous? Will you be on Hokudai campus during 2011 fall semester? Do you enjoy coaching Hokudai freshmen on their English language skills? Then consider applying for the position of teaching assistant (TA). Successful candidates will work with me and other conversation partners during class. Interested? Click on the “contact” button on the menu bar above.

massive solar flare!!

Check out Popular Science’s article on a massive solar flare that happened yesterday!
Just watching the video is fascinating enough.
Of course this means my amateur radio friends are having a headache but that’s another story.

online magazines

Here are a couple of online magazines that I enjoy:
Popular Science (I’m a geek, and proud of it)
Scientific American (I’m a scientist, and proud of it)

These websites keep me informed about the (sometimes dark) world of ours:
Frontline (investigative journalism at its best -- Japan’s journalists should cry in shame)
Newshour (formerly the “MacNeil Lehrer Newshour”)

An article about my former colleagues:
SRI shows the benefits of shrinking tech by CNET

campus fair

In between work, Noriko and I walked up and down the campus main street and enjoyed the fair. My favorites include the railroad society, and the astronomy society. I wish our ultimate team (frisbee team) put on a demonstration. Maybe next year.

fantastic weather

After several months of rotten health, I’m coming back to running. My favorite running paths include:

(a) The campus circuit. Once around the campus = 6 km.
(b) Oodoori Park. The park is short but pretty and lots of restrooms! Including the run from campus to the park = 6 km.
(c) Sasson Expressway. From campus, run along the Shinkawa River to the expressway and back. Including the campus circuit = 11 km.

I really want to run the banks of the Toyohira River but from where I live the path to the river is boring and rather dangerous because of vehicle traffic.

international friends through SACLA

SACLA (Sharing All Cultures and Languages) is a Hokudai student organization that socializes internationally. SACLA’s international lunches won Hokudai’s 元気 energetic project award in 2010. Contact them for times and places of their international lunches. (Last year, they met on Wednesdays from 12:10 to 12:50 at the International Student Center (留学生センター) 1st floor lobby.) They also engage in sports, cookouts, and volunteering.

TED talks

Looking for intellectual stimulation? How about a TED talk video. They come in English (challenging -- the content can be complex, and the talkers assume a native-speaker audience) and other languages including Japanese.

prime numbers

I’m fascinated with prime numbers. Prime numbers, or primes for short, are natural numbers that can be divided only by 1 or by itself. By definition, 1 is not prime. 2 is the only even prime. 17 is prime, and so is 617 (my birthday is 17 June). But my month of birth (6), year of birth (1961), and date of birth (19610617) are not.

This year, 2011, is prime. The next prime year is 2017.

So what are dates this year are prime? According to
prime-numbers.org, they are:

2011-01-09 (that’s 20110109 written in yyyy-mm-dd format)
2011-04-29 (it’s a holiday, too!)
2011-05-13 (wow, 2 prime dates 2 days apart! -- these are known as twin primes)
2011-06-19 (aw shucks, my birthday isn’t prime! in fact I need to wait until 2027-06-17 for my prime birthday! and the one after that is 2036-06-17! neither of these are twin primes *sob*)
2011-08-23 (4 primes in the month of august!)
2011-10-23 (my mom’s birthday is prime!)

My birthday (17) is a member of the only sexy prime quintuplet (5, 11, 17, 23, 29). Sexy prime quintuplets are a set of 5 primes satisfying the condition (p, p+6, p+12, p+18, p+24).

mon4, mon5, tue3, fri3 survey results

Anonymous survey responses for my undergraduate classes are posted on their respective class web pages (mon4, mon5, tue3, fri2). Combined preliminary results are posted below.

Thanks to everybody for making this an exciting semester for your conversation partners.


  • 1.00 = 大賛成、全くその通りだ
  • 2.00 = やや賛成、かなり納得できる
  • 3.00 = 中立、回答できない、わからない
  • 4.00 = やや反対、あまり納得できない
  • 5.00 = 大反対、全く納得できない

  1. 1.55 面白い授業だった。
  2. 1.69 TA (teaching assistant) がいると授業が向上する。
  3. 1.70 一般に外国語の授業というものは、いつまでも日本語ばかり使っていても上達しないので、どしどし外国語に触れるべきだ。
  4. 1.75 TA若槻由加の「ハワイ大学交換留学体験」が聞けたのは有意義だった。(2010-11-08, 09, 12実施。当日欠席した人は「c」と回答してください。)
  5. 1.78 剛の授業に成績をつけるとすれば、総合して「秀」だ。
  6. 1.90 成績は絶対評価(基準さえ満たせば「秀」が取れる成績のつけかた。クラス間に成績の格差が生じうる)にすべきだ。
  7. 1.93 TAとの会話のチャンスが多かった。
  8. 1.95 コンピュータを活用した授業だった。
  9. 1.97 初対面の人と握手や挨拶を練習したのは有意義だった。
  10. 2.02 機会があったら、剛の授業を再び受けたい。
  11. 2.03 練習したいろいろな会話は、将来、役立つだろう。
  12. 2.06 以前できなかったことがらが、何か1つ以上できるようになった。
  13. 2.08 教材が授業内容に適していた。
  14. 2.11 授業参加の度合いを客観的に測るためにbonus ticketを今後も配るべきだ。
  15. 2.22 英語のみの授業を受けるうちに抵抗がなくなった。
  16. 2.26 この授業を取るように友人や後輩に薦めるつもりだ。
  17. 2.34 毎週たった2(合計180)の英語の練習では話せるようにならない。
  18. 2.39 授業や課題の指示が明解だった。
  19. 2.46 1回の授業を1学期間にわたり合計15回ほど受けるかわりに、連続3日にわたり英語だけで生活する合宿制の授業(English Camp)があったら、受講したいですか?(宿泊費用は実費約1万円、教材費無料)
  20. 2.48 Glexaによる予習が授業中の会話活動に役立った。
  21. 2.51 3ヶ月前と比べて英語力が身についた。
  22. 2.51 ビデオ・映画・音楽などをより多く用いるべきだ。
  23. 2.52 シラバス通りの授業だった。(シラバスを読んでいない人は「c」と回答してください。)
  24. 2.64 何かをやり遂げた気がする。
  25. 2.64 北大の1年生全員を対象に「コンピュータで英語を学ぶ自律学習型の授業」(英語2)が行なわれています。来年以降も続けるべきだと思いますか?
  26. 2.72 この授業をより高度にした内容の授業があれば履修したい。
  27. 2.81 native speaker (母語話者) を授業に呼ぶべきだ。
  28. 2.83 剛の指示が英語であるため理解しづらく不安だった。
  29. 3.07 「大学の英語とはこういうものか」と感動した。
  30. 3.39 剛が日本語をもっと話すべきだ。
  31. 3.44 課題の説明を含め、授業を全て英語で行なうべきだ。
  32. 3.48 現在、北大の英語科目は4人の異なる教員が英語1,2,3,44科目を教え、学生は毎学期2人の異なる教員から2つの異なる英語科目を学んでいます。もしも1人の教員が1年間を通して教えるとしたら、つまり1年間ずっと同じ教員が同じクラスに英語を教え続けるとしたら、その方が良いと思いますか?同一教員が継続して指導すると、個々の学生の能力を深く理解し、長期にわたる学習計画が立てられるという利点があります。反面、教員が採用する指導法が学生の期待と食い違うと、学習効率が劣化し、長期にわたり苦痛が続く恐れもあります。教員のシラバスや先輩のレビューなどから適切な教員を選べると仮定して、同一教員による1年間指導が望ましいと思いますか?
  33. 3.71 WEBごしの宿題よりも授業中に小テストを行なう方が良い。
  34. 3.71 語学の授業では、一般に、日本人教員の授業よりも、native speaker教員の授業が優れている。
  35. 3.76 授業内容が平易すぎた。
  36. 3.78 学生を指名して(当てて)発言・回答させるべきだ。
  37. 3.81 学生同士で課題を添削しあうべきだ。
  38. 3.87 クラスの人数を減らすべきだ。
  39. 3.92 成績は相対評価(「秀・優・良・可・不可」が取れる人数の比が定まっている成績のつけかた。クラス間の成績の格差がなくなる)にすべきだ。
  40. 3.96 日本人同士と英語を練習するのは気が進まない。
  41. 4.06 課題や小テストを増やすべきだ。
  42. 4.08 プリントやスライドではなく、一学期を通じて一冊の教科書を使うべきだ。
  43. 4.10 スライドショーはムダである。
  44. 4.11 授業の目的がわからなかった。
  45. 4.12 この程度の内容なら受けなくてもよい授業だった。
  46. 4.45 意味のない授業だった。
  47. 4.71 TAたちはムダである。
  48. 4.77 剛の英語力が低い。
  49. 4.82 剛の声が小さい。
  50. 4.83 剛の熱意が全く感じられなかった。

fri2 survey results

Survey results have been updated with the addition of write-in comments.

Our fri2 class (undergraduate class on Fridays 2nd period) ended today. Anonymous survey responses are posted on the
class web page. Thanks to everybody for making this an exciting semester for your conversation partners.

final exam

Attention all undergrad students

You must take the final exam. If you missed the final, you must see me for a personal interview no later than 2011-01-25. I am out of town starting 2011-01-26, and when I return to Hokudai, it will be too late to have an interview. You must see me before I leave.
If you miss both the final and the interview, you fail my course.


Sushi is popular. (Which causes problems that I won’t go into today. Suffice it to say that if you like sushi, enjoy it now, while there’s still fish left in the oceans.) Anyway, here are some sushi-related links.


But don’t believe all websites! How many mistakes can you find at the following website?


I found:
wrong: “malay”, correct: “japanese”
wrong: “ohyo” is pronounced “oh-yoh”, correct: “o-hyo”