2012-12-31 LINCOLN CITY, OREGON -- Jetstar is an LCC. LCC stands for “low cost carrier” and refers to commercial airlines that offer no-frills service. No free drinks, no free meals, no free anything. But the price is cheap.

I wonder whether LCC stands for “low conscience carrier” because some LCCs seem to have no scruples about mistreating their customers. My definition would include more expensive airlines such as Delta, which we are forced to fly, although their aircraft and service are barely adequate.

Jetstar routinely cancels or reschedules flights, and is reluctant to refund fares. There is a website called don’t fly Jetstar that is full of complaints from irate passengers.

I have 3 outstanding refund requests with Jetstar. Remarkably, 2 of them have been approved. We’ll see if Jetstar does give me back my money for a canceled flight and a seat downgrade. (I paid extra for a better seat but they gave me regular seats after a schedule change.) There is 1 refund request outstanding -- my flight returned to its point of departure and I spent a night at an airport hotel. We’ll see if Jetstar keeps their promise about reimbursing me up to 12,000 yen for accommodation and ground transportation costs.

tesla electric car

2012-12-27 TIGARD, OREGON -- Tesla, the all-electric automobile manufacturer headquartered in Palo Alto, California, markets its vehicles by displaying them at shopping malls across the country. All vehicles are configured to order. Prices are fixed. In the beginning Tesla built 5 cars a week. Their production facilities in Fremont, California currently assembles 400 per week. 17,000 customers have bought, or are waiting delivery of, their Tesla. The wait is 9 to 10 months long.

I have been reading about the Tesla cars. This was the first time I saw one. I’m not alone -- the local maintenance shop in Portland (located on 72nd Street in Tigard) does not have a sign outside because the Tesla employees want to concentrate on servicing vehicles. If they had a sign, then passersby would drop in to see cars. The maintenance facility does not display or sell cars. Most customers talk to sales representatives at shopping malls, or go online to place their order.

Tesla display at Washington Square Mall.

Tesla’s 4-door sedan with sunroof. There’s nothing under the hood.

The trunk is capacious too.

Tesla is an all-electric vehicle. Not a fossil-fuel and electricity hybrid. This is your toy car that runs on batteries. Except you get in and drive it.

Their core component is a battery slab between the front and rear axles.

2 electric motors are placed adjacent to the rear axle.

I don’t know why the shock absorbers are so tall.

Electric motors generate full torque from low revolutions.

Tesla’s Roadster is a 2-door cabriolet (open car). Acceleration is rumored to be phenomenal.

I’m too tall for the cockpit. My eyes come at the top edge of the windshield.

Oregon dealer plates. We can buy Teslas in Oregon now!

In several years, prices are expected to drop to $30,000.

resting, raining, restauranting

2012-12-13 LINCOLN CITY, OREGON -- Our classes had a full day for an early Christmas party. Noriko and I left Sapporo for a business trip followed with vacation. It rains a lot on the Pacific Northwest, especially along the coast. We’ve been spending most of our time indoors. When we do venture outside, we try restaurants and cafes that we’ve never been to before. Here are a few meals we’ve cooked for ourselves and eaten out.

We made a standing rib roast (in the oven, left) with baked potatoes (wrapped in aluminum foil, right).

The rib bones allow the roast to stand by itself without a rack. We use a rack anyway to catch the juices. One rib per person if this is your main course.

Noriko likes medium (the outer side), while I enjoy medium rare (the core of the roast).

The McGrath’s Fish House in Salem, Oregon is a family favorite. Seafood is expensive in America.

We don’t remember the last time we had lobster. We had a plate of 2 tiny lobsters that came from Maine. Maine is on the Atlantic coast. On the Pacific coast, we get crab. The left plate contains pan-fried Pacific oysters. Deep-fried cooking is a hundred times better in Japan or Belgium than it is in America.

We hadn’t visited our local Nelscott Cafe until now, partly because they’re at the opposite end of town, and partly because it’s hard to park. The interior is bright and cheery that reminds me of a storybook titled “The old black witch” I read as a child (ISBN-13 978-1930900622, still in print). First rays of sunshine in several days!

All hamburgers are $5 on Fridays!

Munchen kerstmarkt

2012-11-29 SAPPORO, JAPAN -- The cities of Sapporo and Munich (Munchen) are celebrating their 40th anniversary of sisterhood during their German Christmas Market. We ran into our students, took pictures, and enjoyed sausage and hot chocolate.


prime dates

2012-11-22 SAPPORO, JAPAN -- I am obsessed with primes. Prime numbers that is.

My birthday 617 (06-17, June 17th) is prime. Is yours? Don’t know? Don’t worry, I made a list of all days in the year that are prime.

01-01 01-03 01-07 01-09 01-13 01-27 01-31
02-11 02-23 02-27 02-29
03-07 03-11 03-13 03-17 03-31
04-01 04-09 04-19 04-21
05-03 05-09 05-21 05-23
06-01 06-07 06-13 06-17 06-19
07-01 07-09 07-19 07-27
08-09 08-11 08-21 08-23 08-27 08-29
09-07 09-11 09-19 09-29
10-09 10-13 10-19 10-21 10-31
11-03 11-09 11-17 11-23 11-29
12-01 12-13 12-17 12-23 12-29 12-31

Did you know that New Year’s Eve (12-31) and New Year’s Day (01-01) are both prime? Can you find another instance of 2 successive prime days? The answer: 03-31 and 04-01. And that’s not because I put a 0 at the beginning of the day of the month. (I’m an engineer and use ISO-8601.) Even if I didn’t (and used 11 for January 1st and 41 for April 1st) we still get 2 prime days in a row.

This also means that, in Japan, both the calendar year and the academic year start and end on prime days.

You notice that there 59 days that are prime, including 02-29 (the leap year prime). So 1 in every 6.203 days is prime. That’s more than 1 a week. However, the distribution of primes is uneven. Although both months of January and May have 31 days, January has 7 prime days, while May has only 4.

the 90th best job in America

2012-11-02 SAPPORO, JAPAN -- CNN says in their article titled “The top 100 jobs in America” that the 90th best job is Assistant Professor. CNN says assistant professors benefit society and derive personal satisfaction, but stress is high and flexibility is low. I agree with the high stress but disagree with the low flexibility. In fact the flexible work schedule is one of the highlights of my job.

Unfortunately the Japanese government has been lowering salaries at national universities. I make less than I did 10 years ago. And that’s with significant increase in pay scale. (My rank went up but my pay went down.) The government is bankrupt and needs to skim off its employees.

English Proficiency Index

2012-11-01 SAPPORO, JAPAN -- The English Proficiency Index (EPI) says that Japan and South Korea have “exemplary education but mediocre English” which is “particularly striking when compared to the astoundingly high quality of achievement in math and reading in these countries”. The EPI blames “an over-emphasis on rote learning, relatively low levels of exposure to foreigners in everyday life, and teacher-student norms which impede conversation practice”. That sounds correct. Access the EPI main page, from where you can follow links to the report I quoted above, Japan’s fact sheet, and the EPI full report for 2012.


2012-10-31 SAPPORO, JAPAN -- Classroom E215 was a party house today. We celebrated Halloween all day long. Here are some pictures from the event. Our students can download more pictures from Glexa.

We decorated the classroom. Can you guess what I am?

Yuka was a farmer. She wore her ag (agriculture) team jumpsuit.

Keiko was my nurse today. She wore her real uniform. Nobuyasu was sometimes a wizard, sometimes a devil, and sometimes both.

Noriko was Keroppi of course.

Yoshimichi was a jack-o-lantern. Somehow he looked more like a tomato.

Wizard-devil, Dr Jellyfish, and Jack-o-Lantern.

Ting was Batgirl. Our class solved a Halloween crossword puzzle.

Lots of students wore costumes too. Lots of fun things to talk about in class.

Here’s our team! Left to right: Yuka the Farmer, Nobuyasu the Witch-Devil, Ting the Batgirl, Sirokuro as himself, Goh the Jellyfish, Kerokki as himself, Noriko as Keroppi, Yoshia the Wizard, and Keiko the Nurse.

Another team photo starring Yoshimichi the Jack-o-Lantern (second from left).

hokudai book reviews

2012-10-07 SAPPORO, JAPAN -- The Hokudai library has a program called “Reading nourishes your brain” (本は脳を育てる). Books recommend to freshmen by faculty are marked as such. If the library doesn’t have the book that the professor recommends, then they buy it.

From time to time, placed in one location so that everyone can see the varied, fascinating interests of our faculty. The next time this event begins is on 2012-10-23.

I have also recommended some books.

new mailbox

2012-09-28 LINCOLN CITY, OREGON -- In America, most houses have mailboxes on the curb (that is, along the street). There are strict rules regarding where you can put your mailbox, how large it should be, and what you can write on it. For instance, you must have your house number on it. You may have your name on it, but that is not required; in fact it is not recommended. You may put no advertisements on it.

Our old mailbox was too small and the rain kept getting in.

We ripped the old mailbox off, and painted the post.

We bought a new mailbox and a set of metal house number stickers. The house number must face the direction the mail delivery person comes from. Our mail delivery person drives from the west, so the house number is put on the west side of the mailbox.

The red flag on the side tells the mail delivery person that I have outgoing mail for her -- that is, I want to send a letter. The mail delivery person opens my mailbox door, picks up my outgoing mail, and brings it back to the post office.

Our new mailbox is bigger and keeps the weather out. It comes with a lock to keep our mail safe.

The old mailbox went to the dump.

Things we can learn from a dog

2012-09-27 LINCOLN CITY, OREGON -- Sirokuro (my dog) told me rules he lives by.

Never pass up the opportunity to go for a joyride.
All the experience of fresh air and the wind in your face can be pure ecstasy.
When loved ones come home, always run to greet them.
When it’s in your best interest, practice obedience.
Let others know when they’ve invaded your territory.
Take naps and stretch before rising.
Run, romp and play daily.
Eat with gusto and enthusiasm.
Be loyal.
Never pretend to be something you’re not.
If what you want lies buried, dig until you find it.
When someone is having a bad day, be silent, sit close by and nuzzle them gently.
Thrive on attention and let people touch you.
Avoid biting when a simple growl will do.
On hot days, drink lots of water and lay under a shady tree.
When you’re happy, dance around and wag your entire body.
No matter how often you’re scolded, don’t buy into the guilt thing and pout, run right back and make friend.
Delight in the simple joy of a long walk.

(These rules has appeared in various forms over the years. The original author is unknown.)


2012-09-20 LINCOLN CITY, OREGON -- Noriko and I kayaked along the Siletz River from the boat launch at Ichwhit Park.

This will probably be the last kayaking trip of the season. The summer ended too soon but it was just as well because the kayak’s reclining pedaling position (similar to recumbent bicycles) is not kind to our backs. We need some stretching and strengthening exercises!

Here are some pictures with captions.

We loaded up the KeroTruck with our tandem kayak. The 14.5-foot (4.2 meter) kayak doesn’t look too large on the ladder rack. We’re getting accustomed to loading and unloading.

Our kayak has pedals that propel our vessel at various speeds: 2 knots (3.6 km per hour) at two-thirds speed (only me pedaling at leisurely speed), 3 knots (5.4 km per hour) at standard speed (only me pedaling at brisk, sustainable speed), and 4 knots (7.2 km per hour) at full speed (only me pedaling aggressively, akin to a good running workout). When Noriko pedals, we go faster. We don’t know yet what our flank speed is.

The water was calm. This is what floatplane pilots call “glassy” water.

Summer is giving way to autumn along the river bank.

Some people live along the river. Those who do all have a boat or two.

One person living in an RV hung a frog wind ornament from his awning.

We saw 3 otters. Next time we’ll take pictures using a telephoto setting and higher resolution.

We loaded up the kayak on the truck and drove 12 miles (20 km) back home.


2012-09-15 HILLSBORO, OREGON -- Gavo (my former PhD advisor), Noriko (Gavo’s wife and pianist) and us visited the Rice Northwest Museum of Rocks and Minerals.

Gavo is a rockhound (a person interested in finding or collecting minerals, rocks, and fossils). 3 days ago, Gavo had bought a double thunderegg (2 geodes fused together) for $26 at a rock store in Pioneer Square. The double thunderegg had been cut open in half and polished.

We were astounded to find the second half of that very same double thunderegg on display at the Rice museum. What a coincidence that a hobbyist’s specimen bought recently matched a specimen that must have been catalogued and displayed some time ago!

The pictures below show the 2 specimens, with the picture of Gavo’s specimen flipped to ease visual comparison. Note that 2 halves of thundereggs never perfectly match because the cutting process removes material having the thickness of the cutting blade from between the 2 halves.

This double thunderegg came from what is now Richardson’s agate beds located near the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument. Gavo and I bought thundereggs that Richard Rice himself collected at the same site.

rv (camping car) show

2012-09-14 PORTLAND, OREGON -- We went to an RV (recreational vehicle = camping car) show at the Portland Expo Center. Along the edge of the expo grounds, they have several torii gates chronicling the internment of Japanese-Americans along the west coast during World War II. Indoors the expo hall, lots of camping trailers and motorhomes are on display. Some are vintage models for rent. Some new ones are huge, with double slide-outs, and look like houses inside. Some are richly appointed yet compact.

conference and dinner

2012-09-11 PORTLAND, OREGON -- 11 years ago Noriko and I were stranded first in Copenhagen and then in Amsterdam because America closed its borders due to terrorist attacks. Today was a pleasant day. First our colleagues and I gave a poster presentation at a speech science conference in Portland, Oregon. Afterwards we had dinner 2 blocks away at the South Park restaurant.


2012-09-02 LINCOLN CITY, OREGON -- A local casino run by local Native Americans hosted a fireworks display over the Labor Day weekend. We watched the sun set over the Pacific Ocean and enjoyed the show.

kayaking with a friend

2012-08-25 LINCOLN CITY, OREGON -- Mark, an old friend, drove up from California to stay with us for a few days. We launched our brand-new kayak in Devil’s Lake. He swam across. Noriko and I paddled and pedaled. Our kayak is propelled by both arms and legs.

citation for course offering

2012-08-23 SAPPORO, HOKKAIDO -- We received a citation from Hokkaido University for the clarity and content of our course offerings.

Click the image below to view a full list of our citation along with those of my colleagues.

fixing the house

2012-08-20 LINCOLN CITY, OREGON -- Time to fix the house! It rains less in the summer on the Oregon coast. Here I am trying to match the front door trim with what Brandon Hertz, our contractor, did for our windows. My workmanship is not even half as good as his. Noriko pretends not to notice.

110 format camera

2012-07-31 SAPPORO, HOKKAIDO -- While shopping for something for work, I found (on a discontinued items table) a 110-format camera. A toy. A steal.

I want the Pentax auto100 super, a miniature single-lens reflex camera with interchangeable lenses for 110-format film. I wanted one but couldn’t afford it when they were being manufactured. They now have fan clubs in Japan and in the UK. I’m looking for a used specimen in useable condition.

Lomography manufactured a limited run of 110-format film. I bought 3 rolls of black and white that I hope to develop myself in the fall.

ultimate team paddy

2012-07-21 SAPPORO, HOKKAIDO -- What I used to call “frisbees” are correctly called “flying discs” because “frisbee” is a trademark. Many games are played with flying discs. “Ultimate” (formerly “ultimate frisbee”) is one of them. I’ve been the academic advisor of Hokudai’s ultimate team “Paddy” since they formed 3 years ago. Now they’ve grown to have both a men’s and women’s team. Noriko and I watched them practice on a riverbed on a hot summer day.

summer party

2012-07-20 SAPPORO, HOKKAIDO -- Every summer they have a neighborhood party at a pocket park across the street from where we live. There’s a stage where pre-screened serious amateurs entertain the throngs. By midnight, everything is dismantled, and the party plaza becomes a kids park next morning.

my first hokkaido-style barbecue party

2012-06-29 SAPPORO, HOKKAIDO -- Hokkaido locals love a style of barbecue that they call Genghis Khan, named after the Mongol warrior-king who allegedly fed his troops lamb and mutton to keep them fighting-fit. The Japanese seem to enjoy barbecue sitting on the grass. Noriko and I contributed by smoking salmon, chicken, rice balls, and hard-boiled eggs.


We went to a concert by the Hokkaido University Symphony Orchestra. My colleague (a linguist and trombonist) is the orchestra’s advisor, and many of our students perform.

siberian railway

Our friend Annuska Rodrigues Bento visited us from Belgium via the Trans-Siberian Railway. She gave a talk about her travels to our students. Her trip took 10 days. Does that sound long to you? I think that it’s too short, especially when you consider that there’s so much to see along the way.

shiretoko peninsula

We traveled in the Shiretoko peninsula area for the first time. Sirokuro was thrilled with a gorgeous view of Mt Rausu reflected upon one of the five tiny lakes north of Utoro. We also watched Venus traverse the sun.

cooking class

We went to an Italian cooking class at La Veneziana restaurant in Sapporo. Denis Schiavo is the chef and owner of the restaurant. He has taught for 6 years, and currently teaches at a trade school (専門学校) in Sapporo. Unlike some cooking classes where students touch the food and share responsibilities, Denis’ class at his restaurant is a demonstration with running commentary.

He made (a) gnocchi al pomodoro e basilico, and (b) saltimbocca alla romana. Gnocchi (pronounced like “nyokki”) are flavored mash potato rolls quickly boiled in ultra-salty water. They cook fast -- pull them out of the water 15 seconds after they start floating. Saltimbocca is literally translated as “jump into the mouth” and means “you can’t have just one”. Saltimbocca is a thin slice of pork with sage and fresh ham on top, pan fried in olive oil (best if infused with sage), butter, and white wine.

Sirokuro stayed behind the kitchen counter to observe and record everything. It was a wonderful way to spend lunchtime of a beautiful May weekend. After class, we went grocery shopping at Hatakeyama’s and walked down the Lilac Fair at Oodoori Park.

annular solar eclipse

Noriko and I went to Tokyo to attend a big trade show that covers online learning technology. We also had fun watching an annular solar eclipse!  Here are 3 photos I took from the rooftop of Noriko’s sister’s house in downtown Tokyo. Weather was haze and clouds. The smoke you see on the pictures isn't the corona, it's water in the atmosphere.

The pictures were taken at a time very close to the peak of the eclipse at our location (2012-05-21 07:33 Tokyo time) using different exposure settings.

We were all thrilled to watch the best astronomical show in hundreds of years.

For the occasion, I wore a T-shirt that I got at a total solar eclipse in Hawaii in 1991. That was a blast, too. It happened before Noriko and I were married. I went to Hawaii with my mom. We drove up and down the big island of Hawaii and found a sunny spot. Some people who stayed at their hotels weren’t so lucky. Weather is the name of the game in amateur astronomy!

study abroad fair on 2012-05-19

STEP (the people who run the Eiken tests) is holding a study-abroad fair on Hokudai campus. Read more info and register.

cherries in bloom

When I left Sapporo at the end of April to visit my family, all the trees were bare. When I returned 10 days later, the foliage had exploded into fresh green. The cherry blossoms are particularly endearing.

teaching excellence award

We received a Teaching Excellence Award for an English language course offered during 2010 fall semester!

The course that won an award was an elective course in English language conversation for freshmen, and placed 4th in category (courses with class sizes between 25 and 49).

This is the 4th award during the 5 years that we have been eligible. Hokudai gave its first teaching excellence award in 2005. Since then, Noriko and I were in Belgium for 2 years. That leaves 5 years of eligibility. Results from the last of those 5 years (academic 2011) will be announced in spring 2013.

Most of our team -- Nobuyasu Obata, Xin Li, Chifumi Goto, Yuka Wakatsuki, and my wife Noriko -- are in the picture below taken during a Christmas party in class.


SACLA (Sharing All Cultures and Languages) is a Hokudai student organization that socializes internationally. They are recruiting new members. View more information on their blog.

SACLA holds international lunches. This semester, I believe they start on 2012-04-11 Wednesday (but I may be wrong -- contact them). They meet from 12:10 to 12:50 at the International Student Center (留学生センター) 1st floor lobby. Bring your own lunch.


Internships are highly desirable, in some cases practically mandatory, to secure your dream job. The Hokudai career center is offering internships to undergraduate students. To be considered for this competitive opportunity, attend 1 of 2 identical workshops: (a) 2012-04-11 Wednesday from 16:30 to18:30, Clark Building, 1st floor, main lecture hall (クラーク会館、講堂), and (b) 2012-04-13 Friday from 18:30 to 16:30, the Humanities and Social Sciences building, room W203 (人文・社会科学総合教育研究棟, W203室). Both workshops have ended.

spoken language corpora class starts

The first class will meet met on 2012-04-10 tue1 (Tuesday 1st period) in room ITE-SE (情報教育館3階サーバ編集室).
The second class and all subsequent classes meet in room S316 (CALL staff room B).
Bring your laptop. We have WiFi (801.11g). I will tell you its SSID and password when you come.

english online courses start

The first week of class starts 2012-04-10 Tuesday. The course "English 2” (英語II) is offered in 14 class periods in up to 4 classrooms for each class period. Check your classroom assignment because computer equipment and deadlines vary from class to class.

boys basketball

Last week, we went to Taft High School to see a basketball game between 2 teams of 7th-grader boys. One team is coached by Brandon, who fixes people’s houses during the week, and teaches life skills and sports to kids on weekends. We went to cheer Brandon as much as his team.

lunch with friends

Noriko and I visited our former Dutch language teacher at her home in Ghent, Belgium (Gent, Belgie). Evelien, Cleo (who had turned 2 the day before), Annuska, Paloma and us enjoyed an afternoon together. We are so fortunate to have friends that welcome and care for us. We’re hoping that they’ll come see us in Japan and/or America.

greetings from europe

Noriko and I arrived in Antwerp, Belgium today, following a fun-filled week of visiting museums and historical sites in London. The weather in Europe is terribly cold. They're talking about a 200-kilometer skating race in Holland that takes place over frozen canals and rivers. It's called the "Elfstedentocht" (the eleven city race) because the course runs through 11 cities. If they decide to hold the race, then you might see it on the TV news. The race rarely happens because it hardly ever gets cold enough for the entire route to freeze. Last time was in 1997, when the son of a colleague of mine here at the University of Antwerp did the race.

good luck and good bye

Thanks to all students, teaching assistants, conversation partners, guest speakers, and visitors for making our semester a success. Good luck to you all, wherever your adventures may lead you!

What now? 3 things:

(1) Your grades were sent to the registrar on 2012-01-27 at 19:30.
I sent you glexa mail about your class points, assignment points, bonus points, total points, and letter grade. Contact me by the “contact” tab above or by glexa mail if you have complaints, suggestions, or questions.

(2) Tell your friends about our class. Do you recommend our class? Or not? Either way, the best way the to learn is to match the student’s desires with the instructor’s abilities. Help your friends determine whether they and me make a team.

Our survey results are online under the “undergraduate” tab above. Tell your friends to read them in order to decide whether to take my class next fall. That’s 2012 fall semester, starting on 2012-10-01. My course offerings are listed on the “undergraduate” tab above as well.

final exam

My undergraduate students must take their final exam during their last day of class (2012-01-25 and 26). If you cannot take the final, you must contact me to schedule a personal interview. The interview is a 30-minute English conversation. Use the “contact” tab above to reach me.

book reviews

I occasionally write book reviews for the Hokudai library. Here’s a recent review of the following book:

新美景子 (著), 野口邦和 (監修)「カラー図解 ストップ原発〈1〉大震災と原発事故 」全4巻
大月書店, 2011年12月発売
ISBN-10: 4272408410
ISBN-13: 978-4272408412

The book will soon circulate at the Hokudai north library.


Japan lacks investigative journalism. Scientific journalism is almost as scarce. Read this series of 4 illustrated books for children. Familiarize yourself with the theory, history, objectives, advantages, and costs of nuclear energy. You may wonder why you knew so little before picking up these books.

I vehemently oppose nuclear power plants. You may agree or disagree with me. Either way, you owe it to yourself and the world to learn all about the issue, particularly the aspects that the government and industry strive to hide.

happy new year

I hope you all entered 2012 in high spirits. I had a wonderful New Year’s. I visited my mom at Lake Yamanaka on the northern slopes of Mount Fuji. We walked around the lake (13.5 km) on New Year’s day, and saw the First Sunrise. It was a crisp, calm, chilly morning.

visitors welcome!

You are cordially invited to join my classes. My classes are always open to visitors. No appointment necessary.

In my usual classes, my students walk around talking with TAs most of the time -- I usually have between 5 and 8 TAs. Probably the best instructor-student ratio on campus.

Yuka gives a talk on her exchange student experience:
2012-01-11 wed[124] and 2012-01-12 thu1

Yoshia gives a talk on his overseas experiences; we do sushi conversations:
2012-01-18 wed[124] and 2012-01-19 thu1

Finally, we must have finals:
2012-01-25 wed[124] and 2012-01-26 thu1