family_friends

kaeruya coffee

2017-04-29 SAPPORO, JAPAN -- We visited Kaeruya Coffee, an intensely froggified coffee store.

The shop is across the street from the
Hokkaido Museum of Modern Art, and close to the Governor's Mansion.
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The building is narrow, long, single-story, and decorated with hundreds of frogs.
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Edamame is the shop mascot. I believe he is the only live frog in the store. He's been around for years! And grown a bit.
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Two sisters own and run the store. One loves brewing coffee and baking pastries. The other loves to paint.
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Whenever the Museum of Modern Art changes its exhibit, the painter sister creates frog spoofs of the artwork on display.
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This creation surpasses the original.
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Noriko had cheesecake with a mask. One of the large pieces in the traveling exhibition was a restored oil featuring party masks.
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Noriko bought a wine glass etched with frogs. See him peeking at you from under the water?
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izuru opens restaurant

2017-04-27 SAPPORO, JAPAN -- My former trumpet teacher Izuru Konishi retired from his day job as an insurance salesman. He and his wife bought a restaurant. They had a pre-opening party for close friends a week or so ago. Today was their first day open to the general public.

The "Party House Fiesta" is located smack in downtown Sapporo.
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I know where it is now, but the first time I came, I got lost for 40 minutes walking within half a block of the place.
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Izuru claims the place seats 100.
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Big windows overlooking sakura almost in full bloom.
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Trumpet art by local artist
Quzan Kuzuoka. Gold foil on canvas.
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Quzan formerly taught fine art in middle school. He now paints art, and creates signs and labels for commercial clients.
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We toasted Izuru's success.
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keroppi shopping spree

2017-04-27 SAPPORO, JAPAN -- Noriko went for a Keroppi shopping spree. Way to go!

What do I have in my bag today?
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Sweat pants, 2 tote bags, pouch, tissue paper case ...
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I got a tumbler for my fuzzy navels!
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fuzzy navel

2017-04-26 SAPPORO, JAPAN -- My favorite cocktail these days is "fuzzy navel", a sweet, tangy drink with low alcohol content. I usually order it at parties.

I learned only recently that the recipe is as simple as a whisky and soda. Peachtree (a peach liqueur) and orange juice. That's it!
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Approximately 3 to 4 % alcohol by volume.
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in remebrance of mutsuko masaki

2017-02-20 TOKYO, JAPAN -- We learned this morning that our friend and colleague Dr Mutsuko Masaki (眞崎睦子・まさきむつこ) passed away this past weekend due to a sudden illness at home.

Mutsuko earned her PhD in language and culture studies at Osaka University. She joined Hokudai as an associate professor in 2006, 3 years after I was hired.

We did not work on research projects together -- her interests focused on immigration while mine are in online learning systems and teacher training -- but she, Noriko and I chatted from time to time on topics ranging from pleasant culinary tips (Mutsuko was a serious cook) to exasperating concerns such as a senior professor telling junior colleagues they were unfit for academic duty because they were physically unattractive.

Mutsuko took a stand against coercion. If I understand correctly her interests stemmed from the history of immigrants from Japan to north and south America after the Meiji restoration. Low-class samurai and farmers who lost their jobs were urged to relocate abroad without receiving what nowadays is called full disclosure. Mutsuko gave me a copy of her book about the information the immigrants did receive (ISBN-13: 978-4872591767).
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During her tenure at Hokudai, Mutsuko's angst widened to encompass present-day coercion resulting in binge drinking at college parties. Her work was often misinterpreted as a crusade against alcohol abuse. Mutsuko told me on several occasions that the central issue to her was being forced into acting unwillingly. Press-ganging into drinking is an example of present-day intimidation, she explained. She taught classes on this topic, and wrote a book (ISBN-13: 978-4891152840).
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Mutsuko and our last professional connection was in hiring teaching assistants (TAs) for the 2017 academic year. We created an austere web page for potential applicants. The English Online class is hiring 15 TAs starting 2017-04-04.

Our last personal connection was several weeks ago when we passed each other by near Oodoori park in downtown Sapporo. She smilingly declared that she approved of us holding hands in public. (Holding hands in Japan is not as rare as it was 30 years ago, but among our generation perhaps it still is.) Mutsuko had a sweet habit of pointing out positive aspects in people.

My obituary omits Mutsuko's picture because she preferred that her photograph not be taken. A screenshot of Mutsuko's self-introduction on the
Hokudai grad school web site is attached below in remembrance.

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enoshima

2017-02-19 FUJISAWA, JAPAN -- We visited Noriko's parents in Fujisawa city.

We scrapped our plans to walk Enoshima due to unexpectedly cold winds. The weather forecast has been consistently unreliable the last several days!
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Surfers waiting to ride the big waves, just like the Hokusai woodblock prints.
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We prayed for our parents' health at a seaside Shinto shrine.
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We chatted over sashimi.
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Night waves and Mt Fuji.
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Pizza and paella at the Red Lobster restaurant.
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Cushy ride on the Odakyu Romance express.
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waffles

2017-02-05 SAPPORO, JAPAN -- Cold days call for warm food. "Rustig" (Dutch) or "hygge" (Danish).

Waffles are quick and easy. Our $40 waffle maker bakes 2 at a time.
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Half a ladle of batter makes roundish waffles. More batter makes squares.
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Chocolate sauce.
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Cheese and blueberry jam.
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Ice cream with toppings.
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food ideas

2017-01-15 SAPPORO, JAPAN -- We've been searching for food ideas by dining at restaurants we usually don't go to because we can cook their food at home. But professional cooks do use more ingredients and present their dishes with flair. Much to learn, much to eat ...

A kushikatsu (deep-fried on-a-stick) restaurant gave me ideas that I must test and taste.
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At a restaurant for okonomiyaki (pancakes made at your table with veggies, meat, fish, and eggs), we decided that mine is better!
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keychain

2017-01-12 SAPPORO, JAPAN -- Many years ago I won a prize from the Snapple soft drink company. The reverse side (the inside side) of a bottle cap told me to mail it to the company to claim a keychain. It was my trusty keychain for many years until the carabiner and cloth strap disintegrated.

After so many washings the strap shrunk and the Snapple logo faded. Worse, the strap came apart. Need to fix it before I lose my keys!
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I bought a new carabiner and fabricated a new strap from a piece of leather strap I bought at a crafts store. 30 centimeters for a bit over 300 yen!
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I sewed through the stitch holes that came with the leather strap. I still managed to break a needle.
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I am rather embarrassed that this simple sewing task took me more than half an hour. All my friends fabricate fancy stuff, but this is my limit! *sigh*
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sake of the month club

2015-05-05 SAPPORO, JAPAN -- Noriko and I joined a sake of the month club for the first time in our lives. This is not a serious commitment. We get 2 720-milliliter bottles of fresh sake delivered each month for merely 3 months. If we enjoy it, we might join again. We are not heavy drinkers. It took us 14 days to finish our 1st delivery of 2 bottles. Most people would finish a bottle in a single evening.

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reflecting on 2014

2014-12-31 SAPPORO, JAPAN -- The year 2014 felt long for us. 2014 started great, with a relaxing vacation at our home in Oregon, followed by a train trip from Sapporo to Kagoshima and back. In the same month of January I was stunned to learn of the loss of my close friend, mentor, and aviation buddy Bruce Lowerre, and in August, of the manga artist Obi Hiroshi whom I had met just once almost exactly a year before his death and whom I hoped to develop at least a professional relationship if not a friendship.

Noriko sympathized with my grief and suggested that I take a free trumpet lesson because she knew I always harbored a fascination for the instrument (I had drawn a trumpet for my college freshman class T-shirt and sweatshirts, and had purchased but not pursued an electronic trumpet shortly after joining Hokudai in 2003). I surprised myself for registering for trumpet lessons. I received my rental trumpet on 2014-07-01 and as of today 2014-12-31 exactly 6 months have passed.

I immensely enjoy my music adventure. My only regrets are that I have not much to show to my 2 teachers Izuru Konishi and John Bringetto. Although these 2 gentlemen may have remotely possibly seen students worse than me, those hypothetical students were probably children forced against their will to learn music by their parents. In my case, however, I signed up for lessons. I have been committed, recently practicing 2.5 hours daily, which is considerable for a person with a full-time job. Yet those precious 2.5 hours are simply insufficient. A middle school or high school band member might practice 4 hours a day. A college music major would practice 8 hours a day. At my rate of practice, I would never become even half as good as 9th grader.

I see myself as at best a beginning-level trumpeter that no band or ensemble would want. I accept that with rational dismay, because after all music is a hobby, a sideline to my arguably successful occupation as an associate professor at a major university -- this year, 2 graduate students of ours were hired by prestigious universities, our paper won an outstanding paper award, and we won a few grants. Yet as a novice student of music who happens to be an overly logical adult I foresee a limited future akin to homeowners who are justifiably proud of their real estate and yet realizing that they would never own that 7-bedroom 4-car-garage house with 2 swimming pools on 10 acres. My musical journey will allow me to appreciate the equivalent of the majesty of Chomolungma (Mt Everest) and the achievements of the people who summitted it. I myself will enjoy walks in the city park.

Today I watched an interview with Arturo Sandoval, who exhorted trumpeters to spend 3 seconds before each practice session expressing gratitude for the exquisite opportunity to enjoy music, despite life’s numerous obligations. I am delighted that I am allowed to engage in my new pursuit.

Hence I find it fitting to close this year with a sense of deep happiness and intense good fortune that our 4 parents, 2 siblings and their families are relishing their lives in excellent health.

remembering a friend

2014-08-08 MARGATE, FLORIDA -- Noriko and I visited Edith, the sister of our late friend Bruce Lowerre, at her home in Margate, Florida.

Bruce lived 5 houses away from Edith. We visited them several times after Bruce moved there to be close to his family.

As we had in the past, we stayed in the guest bedroom at Bruce’s house. The house was empty without him. I could barely bring myself to take pictures.

Noriko and I intend to return when I can play a few songs on my trumpet for Bruce and Edith. I would like to play “Gonna fly now” (the theme from the movie “Rocky”) for Bruce, because grieving for my friend is so hard now, and because he should be flying. For Edith, I would like to play “Anchors aweigh” because she is USN, Ret.

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Above: Bruce’s study. Most of his books and equipment are gone. Hanging on the wall is his CMU PhD diploma.

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Above: Bruce’s belongings are slowly being given away to his surviving relatives.

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Above: Edith, Pat (a neighbor), Noriko and I had lunch at the Big Bear Brewery, where we once had lunch with Bruce.

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Above: Edith rescues injured or neglected pets. Sassy is one of her most recent house guests.

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Above: Edith formerly played the French horn for the US Navy. She took me to a local well-stocked trumpet store, where a trumpet instructor suggested I try the Bach 3C mouthpiece. He and Edith believe that the Yamaha 1335 mouthpiece that came with my rental trumpet is too small for my mouth. They may be correct, given that most players of the rental trumpet are Japanese middle school students (who tend to be smaller than adults), and I am larger than most Japanese adults. The Bach 3C has roughly the same rim size but a shallower alpha angle (the angle between the rim and the cup). I did notice a slight improvement in producing notes. The white ornament is a toy I got at the Moomin art exhibit in Sapporo, Japan.

death of an admired artist

2014-08-03 TOKYO, JAPAN -- Obi Hiroshi (帯ひろ志), a manga artist and teacher whom I respect and admire, died this morning due to a sudden illness.

A year ago yesterday we met for the first and last time at the Sapporo Clock Tower. Obi Hiroshi chose his pseudonym from his birthplace Obihiro city on Hokkaido island. He left Hokkaido when he was a toddler, grew up and lived on Honshu island, and opened his manga studio in Sagamihara (a city in Kanagawa, close to where I spent my adolescence). The day we met, he had returned to Hokkaido island for the first time in 50 years.

Obi Hiroshi earned fame in soft-porn manga for teenage boys. I approve of his manga because his work is full of loyalty, friendship, and happy endings. There is no violence or broken promises. His heroines are healthy, optimistic, extroverted, and courageous.

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Above: My favorite character Chisato from “Miracle lingerie”. Chisato gains super powers by wearing lingerie sent to earth by aliens. Her bra and panties are activated only when exposed to sunlight and to the full view of men transfixed at the 14-year-old saving the world. Obi Hiroshi softened the sexual aspect of his story by drawing Chisato as if she was wearing a bikini swimsuit, and by assigning Chisato humanitarian missions to overcome her embarrassment. Contrary to what amazon says, the books are available for purchase. (This cover artwork is identical to the books I own.)

Another reason why I respect Obi Hiroshi is his generous, sincere love of his students. He was an assistant professor at an
art school. We talked about teaching techniques and student psychology. He taught at various off-campus venues including Sapporo. I believe he was teaching a manga clinic at Tokuyama University (in Yamaguchi) when he suffered a brain stem hemorrhage that killed him within hours.

Overwork must have caught up with him. He mentioned his hectic schedule and health problems. Manga artists are rarely paid well for their artwork. Obi Hiroshi supplemented his income by illustrating corporate instructional material. He was proud of his fast turn-around times. I wish I had paid him to draw for my online courseware. If only I could have afforded to pay him enough so that he could have worked less.

It is so unfair for such a super-friendly artist and ultra-caring teacher to leave us behind.

Obi Hiroshi was 54 years old.

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Above: Obi Hiroshi signed his book for me. It occupies a treasured display position in my office.

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Above: Obi Hiroshi and I exchanged messages over the past few years on twitter.

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Above: Obi Hiroshi’s wife announced her husband’s death on
his twitter account.

death of a close friend

2014-02-09 SAPPORO, JAPAN -- I have been reticent because I have been in shock. I am stunned and paralyzed because my close friend Bruce Lowerre died in an airplane accident.

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Bruce and I met at work. The research institute we worked for is known for inventing the computer mouse (I knew Dave Engelbart -- his wife told me how she renamed the turtle the mouse). The research team that Bruce and I belonged to later developed SIRI, the speech recognition software used in Apple products.

Bruce was a decorated researcher. His invention (the beam search algorithm) is still taught in computer science classes today.

He started his career in chemistry (his first BS was in that area), but became enthralled with computers when, as an undergraduate student, he was hired by a local bank to write computer software. CMU initially rejected Bruce’s application for graduate studies in computer science because CMU believed solid training in logic was necessary. So Bruce earned a BS in mathematics (in the 1970s, computer science was not taught at the undergraduate level), went to CMU, studied under Raj Reddy, invented the beam search algorithm, and earned his PhD.

Bruce was clever with his hands. He brought his home-made telescope to his honeymoon. He flew radio-controlled blimps at HP labs, his workplace at the time. He built toys for children of his friends.

Bruce loved what he called bar room music. He often played the piano for Noriko and me.

But his most serious love was aviation. He earned his private pilot license in 35 hours (the legal minimum allowed), and continued with his instrument rating, commercial pilot license, and flight instructor certificate. I was one of his students. Through Bruce I learned the fascination of floatplanes. I earned my private pilot, single-engine sea at Dave Wiley’s seaplane base. Bruce had almost 2000 hours of flight time. I had much less, but at one point had more floatplane time than him. Bruce and I flew floatplanes together in Florida and Washington.

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As a young man, Bruce had become infatuated by the Spencer AIrCar, a wooden amphibious airplane with a boat-shaped hull and retractable wheels. Bruce resolved to build one himself. He obtained the plans for the aircraft, and bought or fabricated parts. On many occasions, I watched him working on his airplane, and sometimes handed him tools or parts. I never helped with the actual construction though, because I knew he wanted to claim he had built it all by himself.

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After many years, his airplane began to take shape. Noriko and I rode in the airplane on the ground (we enjoyed a high-speed taxi up and down the runway) but we never flew in it, because federal regulations require that experimental airplanes first be flown for at least 40 flight hours with no passengers, in order to test for safety.

It was during this period of testing that Bruce was killed.

In late September 2013, two days before his fatal flight, I called him in Florida from Oregon. He told me of his intention to fly to Lake Okeechobee that weekend, partly to observe issues with the exhaust manifold. The engine had either been running hotter than it was supposed to, or the exhaust manifold was unable to handle normally expected temperatures. I wished him well, and promised to visit him as soon as he could take passengers.

I did not learn of his death until after New Year’s. A Christmas card from Bruce's sister Edith told me the terrible news. Dazed, I read various news articles, a preliminary report from the NTSB, and a closed online forum for builders of the Spencer AirCar.

I had been worried because he hadn't replied to my email nor phone calls. I kept leaving messages on his voicemail. This was not the first time Bruce was incommunicado, however. There were times when he was offline for months on end, usually due to networking problems with his internet provider. I was however concerned enough to dig up Edith's mailing address (she doesn't use email) and had planned on writing her.

I am crestfallen with the death of my friend. When Dave Wiley died in the floatplane that I had been trained in, I essentially stopped flying. With Bruce gone, I may never fly again, even to renew my license (I need to fly with an instructor and pass a knowledge and skill test every 2 years). The cockpit would remind me of the friends I lost.



Below are pictures from September 2011, the last time we visited Bruce in Florida.

At his hangar, Bruce shows me an airplane ride machine he is building for his great-nephew and great-niece. A leaf blower gives children the sensation of flying.
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Bruce and I mess with the engine cowling. The propeller of the Spencer AirCar faces rearward.
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Bruce takes Noriko and me on a high-speed taxi ride.
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The Spencer AirCar has dual controls, but the right seat pilot almost never flies the airplane.
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We did about 60 knots (about 70 mph) on the runway.
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Video of the high-speed taxi. 110906_high_speed_taxi_3

Friends unconditionally embrace their friends’ passions.
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Bruce signs me off for my biennial flight review. We flew a different airplane (a Cessna 150) for my review.
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Bruce, Edith, Noriko and I dined richly every day. This is the Big Bear Brewery.
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We lost Emily (Bruce’s wife, 2nd from left) and her mom Agnes (far left) several years ago. Now Bruce. We miss you so.
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Noriko believes that Bruce and Emily are now happy. I hope so too. But at this moment I am inconsolable.

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.)

thundereggs


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.

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.