2020

leaving hokudai

2020-01-20 SAPPORO, JAPAN -- Noriko and I are leaving Hokudai (Hokkaido University) to live in proximity to our 4 aging parents, who live in Kanagawa.

We started to consider moving oh maybe a few years ago, but it wasn't until last spring (about a year ago) that our decision solidified. Each semester (that is, 2 times a year), Hokudai allows up to 5 full-time faculty members to take early retirement. Leaving in summer was too early for us. We asked to leave at the end of winter. Today we learned that our request was approved. My last day of work is 2020-02-28. I leave Sapporo the following day (leap day). We will take vacation (paid time off) during the entire month of March.

Early retirement means that we receive the full amount of retirement pay (otherwise only a small amount is paid), and I can apply for unemployment benefits while I search for my next job. I haven't found a job in Tokyo yet. Wish me luck!

I will miss walking to work across the snowy campus. I'm the person with both arms raised in this picture that Noriko took from our apartment.
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piano lesson

2020-01-18 SAPPORO, JAPAN -- Ivy Lin, my former graduate student, gave me my first piano lesson today at her house. I am electrified!

Ivy was trained originally in classical piano. She has a degree in jazz performance in piano and guitar.
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Ivy autographed a copy of "Beyer" she gave me as a gift. The book is written in German, English, and Japanese languages.
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I hope to buy a portable electronic keyboard once we settle into our Tokyo home. Maybe a Kawai? Our names would match! Or maybe a Casio ... their products used to be considered toys, but nowadays their high-end models are highly regarded.

ethernet cables

2020-01-15 SAPPORO, JAPAN -- Our students practiced reading assembly instructions in English language. They built ethernet cables by attaching RJ-45 connectors to twisted-pair cable.
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We test connections. Of course nobody succeeds the 1st time.
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What surprised me most was that our students had never seen ethernet cables. Everything is wireless these days! I knew young people have never seen typewriters or record players or rotary phones (a student asked me where the "off hook" button was). I was unprepared for students having never seen an RJ-45 connector. Wow the speed of innovation.
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Wired connections are faster, more reliable, and more secure than wireless connections. But it does seem that as if my crimping tools are becoming obsolete.
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t-shirt

2020-01-14 SAPPORO, JAPAN -- Our TAs gave me a T-shirt that says I have teacher super powers. Thanks!

I hope the powers are more than giving course credit to students!

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puppets and telescopes

2020-01-12 SAPPORO, JAPAN -- We visited a puppet exhibit and an astronomical observatory, both in downtown Sapporo.

Theater puppets were on static display (that is, the puppets were placed stationary, instead of being manipulated by performers). The difference is size, materials, and texture were apparent because we could see them close up.

A scene from Rudyard Kipling's "
Just so stories -- the elephant's child". This is where the crocodile says "Come hither, little one, and I'll whisper".
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Some puppets are so large that they could be called giant props. This elephant head is handled by at least 3 people -- 1 for the head, 1 for each ear, plus maybe 1 for the trunk.
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This puppet expresses emotion by raising or lowering eyebrows. The importance of eyebrow angle to the Japanese psyche is evident if you look at manga. Eyebrows are always drawn, even if they would be hidden from view by hair or hats.
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The
astronomical observatory is located smack in downtown Sapporo. Not the darkest place to view stars at nighttime, but definitely the most convenient place to walk up to. Local kids play with their tobaggans (sleds) on the mound where the observatory sits.
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A friendly docent explained the apparatus to us. He advocates refractive or Newtonian reflective telescopes over Schmidt-Cassegrain telescopes, because the latter suffer from distortion caused by heat convection within the telescope tubing.
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During brief moments of sunshine, we viewed the sun.
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happy new year

2020-01-10 SAPPORO, JAPAN -- Happy New Year! We spent our winter break with our family.

Noriko and I walked over to a shinto shrine and a buddhist temple near our Tokyo house. They are both popular sites of religion. We avoided the thickest crowds by visiting early.

Oomiya Hachimanguu, a shinto shrine known for military fortune in general and archery in particular. By extension, the gods enshrined here assist worshippers in their quest for victory in any competitive endeavor, such as winning sports events, passing exams, or finding employment.
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The shrine has the Frog Stone, a natural boulder somewhat resembling a crouched frog, believed to bring fortune back to you. The word "frog" in Japanese language is homophonous with (that is, has the same pronunciation as) the word for "return" or "come back". What goes around comes around.
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Every January 2nd, the shrine hosts an archery ceremony. This year, the responsibility was handed from the patriarch of the Ogasawara family to his son. The picture shows the father, the 31st-generation head of the clan, holding an arrow tipped with a whistling arrowhead. The whooshing sound was originally intended to intimidate enemies before battle. Now it is sounded to ward off evil.
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The son pictured moments before loosing the arrow. In Japanese archery, the bow and arrow are first raised above the archer's head, and lowered to eye level as the bow is fully drawn. The Ogasawara family crest is printed on the fabric screen in the background.
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Myouhouji, a buddhist temple known for medicinal healing powers.
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They served us ceremonial drinks in a tiny sake cup with drawings of mice. This year's animal is the rat or mouse or gerbil or whatever you like to call it. They are often depicted with long tails, so I guess they are not hamsters!
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