year-end vacation

2013-12-29 LINCOLN CITY, OREGON -- Noriko and I are relaxing at the end of the year.

The weather has been good during our stay. We’re lucky -- it snowed 20 cm a few weeks ago.

Coffee and internet at Beachtown Coffee.

I got a new, fast laptop. I like my previous MacOS 10.6.8 much better than the new MacOS 10.9.1.

christmas party

2013-12-25 SAPPORO, JAPAN -- We celebrated Christmas a week early on 2013-12-18 in wed[1234] in room E215. We decorated the room and had fun all day long! Students, download your pictures from Glexa.


talks by guest speakers

2013-12-25 (originally 2013-10-31) SAPPORO, JAPAN -- Guest speakers give talks in my class. Everybody is welcome. No reservation necessary.

All talks are in the liberal arts building, room E215. Several weeks after each talk, the talks will appear on Hokudai’s Open Courseware project.

Our 1st guest speaker of the semester was Momoko Miyamoto, who talked about her adventures at TUM (Technical University of Munich, or Technische Universität München) in Munich, Germany. She gave her presentation on 2013-10-16 in wed[1234] (same talk repeated 4 times).

Our 2nd guest speaker was Hana Shimoyama, a Hokudai sophomore who has done volunteer work in Tanzania and elsewhere. She talked on 2013-11-13 in wed[14] (same talk repeated 2 times).

Our 3rd guest speaker was Keiko Okabe, a Hokudai postdoc specializing in ancient Latin manuscripts. She talked on 2013-11-13 in wed[23] (same talk repeated 2 times).

Our 4th guest speaker was Tsuneaki Nishimura, a Hokudai alumnus and licensed physical therapist, who works at the artificial joint division of Johnson & Johnson (visit their English website and Japanese website). He talked on 2013-11-20 in wed[1234] (same talk repeated 4 times). (HIs talk was originally scheduled for 2013-11-06.)

Our 5th guest speaker was Yuka Wakatsuki, a Hokudai 2nd-year master student, who spent a year in Hawaii and a summer in China and Russia. She talked on 2013-11-27 in wed[1234] (same talk repeated 4 times).

Our 6th guest speaker was Yuzuru Kubo, a Hokudai alumnus, who works on water quality issues in northern Kyushu island. He talked on 2013-12-04 in wed[1234] (same talk repeated 4 times).
Our 7th guest speaker was Shunji Imai, a Hokudai freshman who spent his summer in Finland and Germany on an exchange program. He talked on 2013-12-18 in wed2 to his classmates.

Our 8th guest speaker is being planned. She will probably talk on 2013-01-15 in wed4 to her classmates.

christmas market

2013-12-17 SAPPORO, JAPAN -- Noriko and I went to the Munich Christmas Market being held on Oodoori Park in downtown Sapporo.

The TV Tower (which used to broadcast TV signals, and still a sightseeing platform) marks the east end of Oodoori Park. They should build a skating rink here.

The Munich Christmas Market is held each winter, from the end of November till Christmas Eve.

We talked to the same shopkeeper we did last year.

We went to a restaurant to warm ourselves inside and out.

The restaurant is on the 10th floor, and faces the Sapporo City Hall building. Oodori park is between the two.

We didn’t expect to glimpse the Clock Tower. Professor WIlliam S. Clark built it originally as a military drill hall for students at Sapporo Agricultural College (the predecessor of Hokudai).

Snow cranes fly above a lake-like illumination.

The Munich Christmas Market grounds below, with the white Tannenbaum in the center.

Christmas lights blur.

christmas party

2013-12-16 SAPPORO, JAPAN -- We’re having a Christmas party on 2013-12-18 in wed[1234] in room E215. Bring your friends! Wear a costume or hat. Bring a Christmas tree decoration.

These pictures are from last year’s (2012’s) party.



2013-11-26 SAPPORO, JAPAN -- For our anniversary, we rode the Hokutosei sleeper car from Ueno to Sapporo.

The Hokutosei sleeper car emblem at the end of cars.

Ueno station became spacious after its recent modernization.

Everything in Ueno is about panda bears.

Sleeper cars depart from track 13.

When the Shinkansen reaches Hokkaido island in 2016, sleeper cars are expected to cease service.

The train departs Ueno at 19:03 and arrives at Sapporo at 11:15 the following day.

Our cabin is on car 9. The train has 11 cars.

The aisle runs along the left side of the train as seen from Ueno towards Sapporo.

The cabin is meant for 1 person, but the sofa bed expands to accommodate 2.

The train sports an art deco design.

The shower claims a 10-minute limit, but in fact runs forever, as long as you wait for the water to heat.

The sink and toilet fold into the shower room wall, like a murphy bed.

Sirokuro and Kero found a cozy nook to spend the trip.

Dining cars, once found on all express trains, now exists only on sleepers.

We bought bento boxes at Ueno.

Our cabin came with white wine, whisky, mineral water, and tea.

We celebrated 22 years of being together.

Coffee and tea are served in the morning.

Daybreak on Hokkaido island.

The previous night had been stormy. Birds didn’t seem to care.

halloween party

2013-10-30 SAPPORO, JAPAN -- We celebrated Halloween a day early in our classes. Students and TAs decorated the room, and we had fun all day.

I dressed up as an ayakashi (yokai) named Hiiragi from “Natsume’s book of friends”.

This ayakashi -- Kaonashi from “Spirited Away” -- won a big cookie decorated by TAs.

My colleague Jeff Gayman brought his class over.

CALL-Plus workshop

2013-10-22 SAPPORO, JAPAN -- The CALL-Plus Workshop, a workshop for language teachers, will be held on 2013-11-16 from 10:00 to 17:00 at Sapporo Gakuin University. All teachers of foreign languages are welcome. This year’s theme is flipped learning. Don Hinkelman and I will critique and illustrate the flip model in our joint keynote titled "Flip the Classroom: Gimmick or Revolution?”



nitobe college talk 3

2013-10-20 SAPPORO, JAPAN -- A Hokudai alumna will give a talk titled “Leadership in global society” on 2013-11-01 from 18:15 to 19:15 in the liberal arts building, lecture hall N1. The talk is in the Japanese language.



nitobe college talk 2

2013-10-20 SAPPORO, JAPAN -- A Hokudai alumnus will give a talk titled “Mind, skill, quality for a global life” on 2013-10-25 from 18:15 to 19:15 in the liberal arts building, lecture hall N1. The talk is in the Japanese language. Download the flyer.



candle night

2013-10-13 SAPPORO, JAPAN -- Enjoy candle light, live music, and a photograph exhibit at Candle Night on 2013-10-18 from 17:00 to 20:00 near the Enyu Gakusha building. This event is held annually near Hokudai's main gate; however probably due to construction at the main gate, the event will take place near the Kita-18jo gate.

baby galaxies

2013-10-13 SAPPORO, JAPAN -- The science school will host a talk in the English language by Dr John Wise (Georgia Institute of Technology, USA) titled "Baby galaxies: the first steps toward the Milky Way” on 2013-10-16 from 17:00 to 18:00 at the science school, building 2, entrance hall.

talks by guest speakers

2013-10-13 SAPPORO, JAPAN -- Guest speakers give talks in my class. Everybody is welcome.

The first guest speaker of the semester is Momoko Miyamoto, who will talk about her adventures in Germany. Her talk is on 2013-10-16 in wed[1234] (same talk repeated 4 times) in the liberal arts building, room E215.

trace effects

2013-10-13 SAPPORO, JAPAN -- A group of English language teachers in the USA developed an interactive manga-style learning experience titled “Trace Effects”. Help Trace and his pals. Their website requires a browser plugin that installs quickly.

lottery for English language seminar

2013-10-02 SAPPORO, JAPAN -- Students who wish to register for my wed1 class (the class in Wednesday 1st period) must enter and win the course lottery. The lottery is open from 2013-09-27 to 2013-10-03. Results are announced on 2013-10-07 at 08:30.

more kayaking

2013-09-16 LINCOLN CITY, OREGON -- Noriko and I kayaked 14 days for a total distance of over 220 km so far this summer. On our latest trip, we put in our kayak at the small town of Waldport, Oregon. From the boat launch near the mouth of the Alsea river, we went up-river for 11 km, where Noriko found a floating restaurant. She had pulled pork and I had a french dip sandwich. A gentleman from Medford, Oregon kindly took our picture.



2013-09-02 LINCOLN CITY, OREGON -- Noriko and I have been kayaking. The rivers along the part of our Oregon coast are mostly tidal, that is, their water flows are affected more by tides than by river current. We are learning how to use tidal tables and tidal current tables. The latter are more important because the velocity and direction of the water flow affects us more than the height of the water.

Here are pictures of (a) the Yaquina River between the Cannon Quarry and Elk City boat launches near Toledo, Oregon, (b) the Willamette River south of the Wallace Marine Park boat launch in Salem, Oregon, and (c) a salamander at Olalla Lake near Toledo, Oregon.


Goh meets Hiroshi Obi

2013-08-02 SAPPORO, JAPAN -- Hiroshi Obi (帯ひろ志), a manga artist and teacher, visited Hokkaido for his first time since he left the island as an infant many years ago. I met Hiroshi Obi at the Sapporo Clock Tower. When I asked for Obi’s autograph, Obi thrilled me by drawing my favorite character Chisato! Wow! Obi held Sirokuro Puppy and took a picture together. We then visited the old prefectural building.

See Obi’s pictures (taken by yours truly) on
his blog. Here’s the autographed drawing. Watch Obi draw it in the video below.


2013 fall courses

2013-07-28 SAPPORO, JAPAN -- In 2013 fall semester, I teach 2 kinds of classes. All classes meet on Wednesdays. Wed1 (the class in Wednesday 1st period) asks students to give brief presentations in front of class about a spot on Hokudai campus. Wed[234] (the classes in Wednesday 2nd, 3rd, and 4th periods) have identical content, and practice phrases for international travel.

Classes start on 2013-10-02, and meet every week (except during winter break) until 2014-01-22. We have a Halloween party on 2013-10-30, and a Christmas party on 2013-12-18.

To register for my classes, you must enter and win the course lottery. The lottery is open from 2013-07-24 to 2013-07-30.

technical writing

2013-07-09 SAPPORO, JAPAN -- I produced a short video series titled “Technical Writing” for learning the basics of technical writing through writing captions for figures and tables. The 4-part video series is used in an English language course required of all 2588 freshmen at Hokkaido University. Students use Glexa’s peer-based writing tool to submit their writing output (see screenshot below). Watch the videos below. Total running time 56 minutes.


noriaki katagiri, phd

2013-06-28 SAPPORO, JAPAN -- Noriaki Katagiri, my graduate student, received his PhD at a commencement ceremony presided by the dean of the graduate school of Media and Communication, Hokkaido University. We are proud of his accomplishment.
Download his dissertation. 130628_noriaki_katagiri_dissertation


Camp Makomanai

2013-05-26 SAPPORO, JAPAN -- Camp Makomanai (a Japanese army base in south Sapporo city) opened its doors to the public for a day of performances and exhibits.

Camp Mamokamai is home to the JGSDF 11th Brigade. The brigade is composed mostly of infantry and artillery. I received some of my own training here.

Servicemen entertain visitors with taiko drums. This band has only men, but there are many women drummers too.

Almost all aircraft in the Japanese army are helicopters. The air force has fighters and transports but no bombers. The navy has anti-submarine surveillance aircraft.

In a mock battle, armored personnel carriers (the 8-wheeler in the middle) of the 18th infantry regiment advances towards the enemy under cover of suppression fire by the 11th artillery (the tracked vehicles with guns). Self-propelled howitzers are not tanks. Howitzers fire upwards (that is, at high trajectories) to reach targets beyond line of sight.

Most of the static displays (that is, exhibits that are for looking at) consisted of equipment used in disaster relief. The photo below is a triage center.

A decontamination tent. The army seriously prepares for nuclear, biological, and chemical attack.

Inside the decontamination tent, there are low-pressure and high-pressure sprays for removing hazardous materials.

If your area becomes a disaster zone, then you might live in tents like these. They are roomier than backpacking tents.

The Japanese army provides furo baths to keep civilians happy. In America, you get coffee.

The tent walls have been removed to show the interior. The inside looks just like a regular public bath.

Lots of water is needed. I often suspect that most of army cargo is water. But soldiers aren’t allowed to drink it: “Save it for your buddy.” I got used to not drinking water during exercises. American soldiers drink all they want.

Soldiers meticulously protect visitors from sharp objects. Here’s a tent peg covered in a plastic bottle.

During break time, a soldier does chin ups by the barracks.

no phone, no television

2013-05-13 SAPPORO, JAPAN -- 3 years ago, we stopped having a phone at home. The only phone we have is at the office. Noriko has a cellphone for talking with her family, but I don’t.

We’ve never had a television. I might watch television when staying at a hotel, for instance. The commercials are all new to me. I’m glad I don’t have to watch them every day.

I’ve been renting DVDs from GEO and Tsutaya. I pay for each rental. Their monthly plans don’t work for me. GEO costs less, and they seem to have a better selection of DVD titles, but their rental period is shorter (10 days including shipping time both directions). Tsutaya costs more but their rental period is longer (30 days), and they have a better web site.

I also watch anime online. Niconico shows for free the latest episodes of my favorite programs such as ハヤテのごとく Hayate the combat butler and 進撃の巨人 Attack on titans.

glexa in the papers

2013-04-21 SAPPORO, JAPAN -- This is old news that I realized I hadn’t publicized.

Glexa and VERSION2 (the software company that develops Glexa) appeared in the Hokkaido Shimbun newspaper on 2013-01-01 and 2013-01-20. In the article are pictures of Akio Ohnishi (founder and CEO of VERSION2, shown pointing at the computer screen), a screenshot of our courseware (thanks, iBioSeminars!), and a photo of yours truly taken by his mother at Lake Kawaguchi.


dissertation defense

2013-04-12 SAPPORO, HOKKAIDO -- I am pleased to announce that my graduate student Noriaki Katagiri will defend his PhD dissertation titled "Enabling English Classroom Discourse by Non-native Instructors" on 2013-04-23 Tuesday starting at 13:00 in room IMC-105. Room IMC-105 is across the hall from IMC-110 (see map).

Your attendance would be most appreciated. Refreshments will be served.

Presiding at Katagiri Noriaki's defense will be his dissertation committee, consisting of the following members:

(a) Dr Kenji Araki, Professor of Natural Language Processing, Hokkaido University,
(b) Dr Yoshiki Yokoyama, Professor of English Language Teaching, Hokkaido University of Education, Sapporo, and
(c) Dr Goh Kawai, Associate Professor of Education Technology, Hokkaido University.

Abstracts in English and Japanese languages of Noriaki Katagiri's dissertation are attached below (PDF file, approximately 500 kilobytes). To obtain a full draft of his dissertation (PDF file, approximately 5 megabytes), kindly contact me.



ultimate team paddy

2013-04-10 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 4 years ago. They’ve grown to have both a men’s and women’s team. One of our men was selected as a player of the team representing Japan. He will compete this summer in an international match being held inToronto, Canada.

Paddy seeks new members regardless of experience. Watch the team trailer.


president's award for teaching excellence

2013-03-15 SAPPORO, JAPAN -- I received the Hokkaido University president's award for teaching excellence (教育総長賞). Although I am the only person named on the certificate, the honor is shared by Noriko and our fantastic teaching assistants. Everyone who guided our students over the years jointly earned this award.

The president's award for teaching excellence was established in academic year 2011 along with its sister award, the president's award for research excellence (研究総長賞). The president's award for teaching excellence is Hokudai’s highest honor in teaching, and is given annually to Hokudai instructors who, among various other qualifications, have received at least 2 first-place teaching excellence awards. For academic year 2011, 7 instructors received the president's award for teaching excellence, of whom 3 teach languages (1 each from Chinese, French, and Japanese), showing that language teaching is strong at Hokudai. I do not know yet who all the recipients are for academic year 2012. I do know that 2 colleagues (sociology and English language) whom I respect won this award.

My sole disappointment is that receiving the president's award for teaching excellence permanently disqualifies us from receiving further teaching excellence awards. This limitation creates vacancies in award positions so that others may follow. While I agree with the spirit, I will miss the pride of having our future TAs mention in their resumes that we taught award-winning classes. (Maybe there is a way around this restriction. If I find one, I'll exploit it.)

Thank you, students, for the opportunity to assist you. Thank you, colleagues, for recognizing my teaching team.


jetstar comes through

2013-02-03 SAPPORO, JAPAN -- 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 have personally experienced several instances of Jetstar flights being canceled or rescheduled. A website called don’t fly Jetstar is full of complaints from irate passengers. Some customers allege that Jetstar is reluctant to refund fares.

That worried me because I had 3 refund requests with Jetstar. Remarkably, as of last week all 3 requests were met and paid. Of these requests, 1 involved a full refund for flights (Jetstar changed the flight times that did not mesh with our schedule), 1 involved a seat upgrade refund (Jetstar gave me a lower-cost seat following a change of aircraft), and 1 involved a hotel and taxi reimbursement (Jetstar’s flight was canceled due to weather, and I had to stay at the airport overnight).

Since I first flew Jetstar on 2012-08-02, I have flown Jetstar 7 times, have had my flight schedule changed 5 times, and requested refunds 3 times. Based on my experience, yes, Jetstar has changed my flight schedule often (70 percent), and yes, they did give me my money back (100 percent), although it took them some time (3 to 10 weeks).

A few months ago, I had wondered whether LCC stands for “low conscience carrier” because some LCCs seem to have no scruples about mistreating their customers. No, not Jetstar, at least not in my experience. Their web site is bizarre and tricky but functional. Their wildcat sales are rather unfair but their everyday fares are low enough. They have strange boarding and de-planing practices such as checking boarding passes after boarding the aircraft, and chaperoning passengers after they get off. But their aircraft is brand new, and their up-front seats are worth the extra price. Overall, I am happy to fly Jetstar.

The keys to satisfaction on Jetstar are to (a) plan flexible itineraries, (b) keep records of all purchases and correspondence, (c) write refund requests, (d) follow up on refund requests, and (e) wait for refunds to be processed.

Overall, Jetstar offers the lowest prices, the newest aircraft, and the best refund policies. I have decided not to fly Skymark because they cost more and will not (as a matter of corporate policy) re-book passengers on non-Skymark flights or pay or assist in transportation or accommodation even when Skymark cancels flights. I will not elaborate on my repeatedly negative experiences with Skymark here. I will however offer to predic that Skymark will go out of business if they continue charging medium prices for rock-bottom service. Air Asia (according to their website) seems to have rebooking and reimbursement policies similar to Skymark.

(This article was revised 2013-03-13 to describe AirAsia’s rebooking and reimbursement policies.)

grades are in

2013-02-03 TOKYO, JAPAN -- Attention all students:

Your grades are in!

Login to
Glexa to learn your scores and grades.

Personal interview

2013-01-24 SAPPORO, JAPAN -- This announcement is for my students in wed[1234].

Update: As of 2013-01-27 12:20 Japan time, I am no longer accepting requests for personal interviews.

If you missed your final exam, you must see me for a personal interview. You are responsible for contacting me for an appointment. Send me mail via Glexa. You must see me on or before 2013-01-28. Contact me now because my schedule is rapidly filling up.

Update: As of 2013-01-25 09:30 Japan time, nobody has contacted me for a personal interview. If you want to see me, then send me Glexa mail now.

how to become a manga artist

2013-01-13 SAPPORO, JAPAN -- I read advice on how to become a manga artist. The advice offered by manga editors is similar to what I offer my graduate students. Perhaps the similarity stems from the fact that both manga and research rely on creativity (the author’s unique contribution) and convention (a set of rules or formats that authors and audiences agree upon). If I am correct, then it should follow that this advice would apply to other fields that blend innovation with protocol.

Although I absolutely lack artistic talent (I can’t draw or sing), I do enjoy manga. I was pleasantly delighted to receive last week a full-color image of Ubel Blatt signed by Shiono Etoroji. I respect Obi Hiroshi because (based on what he has written) he is probably a talented and dedicated teacher. And I’ve read Inoue Kazurou’sMidori no hibi” many times because the characters and storyline remind me so much of Noriko and me.

new year's cookies

2013-01-01 LINCOLN CITY, OREGON -- Happy New Year everybody!

As a New Year’s treat, I wanted to make airplane-shaped cookies but (probably because I used the wrong kind of dough) they turned out looking like potatoes! Better luck next time!