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Yaeyama Islands

2019-12-25

For winter vacation, I'm headed to the Yaeyama Islands, which are in the far SW of Okinawa, Japan.

12/25✈ Haneda → Ishigaki.🏨 Blue Cabin Ishigakijima
12/26⛴ Ishigaki → Ohara, Iriomote.🏠 Minshuku Yamaneko
12/27Iriomoate is island with one main road that goes along the eastern and northern coast. There's scuba diving in the north, but my minshuku is in the south, and without a rental car, there's no good way to get up there, and the rental cars are booked. Well, there's still plenty to do. I've been itching to run longer distances, and the roads and weather are great for this. There's a beach about six kilometers down one road, and one day I went on a long hike into the jungle. The elusive Iriomote wild cat was nowhere to be found, but I got a good view of a turtle crossing the road and a hawk soaring above the sugar cane fields.
12/28
12/29
12/30⛴ Iriomote → Ishigaki.🏨 Cabin Hotel Mr. Kinjo in Ishigaki
12/31It was rainy the first two days on Ishigaki, but between window shopping near the port, going to a nearby limestone cave, and reading a book, things worked out faily well. On New Year's Eve, the rain finally stopped, and the next day I went for a hike to the highest point on the mountain, or so was the plan, but when I got to the trail head the weather had turned gray and misty, certainly not the conditions I'd prefer for jungle hikes, and I continued along the road south, through a nature preserve where a peacock awkwardly took flight when it caught sight of me, and eventually back to the center of town.🏨 Hotel Mr. Kinjo Suns in Ishigaki
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1/2I took the ferry to Taketomi Island for the morning. It's a small scenic island with nice beaches and traditional houses and streets lined with fences built from volcanic rocks.
1/3Ishigaki is famous for scuba diving. How many dives have I done in my life? I don't have my old log book, but thinking back, my parents and I took dive trips to Belize, Bonaire, Dominica, and maybe somewhere else, and my dad and I went to the Bahamas (a Miami-based live aboard) and Honduras (Roatan). Let's assume each trip involved at least ten dives. That plus the five dives I got in Bali in 2017 puts my total going into today at around sixty dives. That brings us to today, and today we did three dives. The first two were near Sand Point, Kuroshima. There were several lion fish, which I had never seen before, plus an assortment of sea cucumber, sea slugs, small colorful tetras and similar tropical fish. The third one, where two manta rays circled two meters above our heads for ten minutes, was off the coast of Aragusuku Island, a small island SE of Iriomote.
1/4Today was my second and final day of diving for this trip. We had the same crew and some of the same divers as yesterday. The first two dives, 大崎ドロップ and はんごえリーフ, were along the NW coast of Ishigaki. We went in search of sea turtles but didn't find any. I found a large shrimp that crawled out of its cave, and a few barracudas swam by in the distance. The guide showed me a little fish that swims along a thin ropey piece of coral. Our third dive was at a site called Black Pearl. It's a sandy bottom at around thirty feet, which the dive shop chose because they had some beginners doing a trial course. Thirty feet is fairly shallow, and you just don't use much air at that depth, so we took our time searching for strange and small sea life. We didn't find anything particularly rare, but the overall light and location was relaxing.
1/5On the last day I rented a scooter and rode around the island. It's a nice two-hour ride along the coast, or longer if you take stops.
1/6✈ Ishigaki → Haneda.

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World Capital Flashcards

2019-12-17

This is a deck of world capitals and countries. For each pair, there are two cards. One is capital → country, and the other is country → capital. Before trying to memorize all of the capitals, it's a good idea to learn the countries and maps first. This gives you an idea where in the world these cities are located.

Here's the 388-card package for Anki.

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Vanilla Walnut Bars

2019-12-02

This is an easy recipe for vanilla walnut bars. It's a modification of one by Diana Rattray.

Melt the butter and allow it to cool. Crush the walnuts into fine pieces. In one bowl, combine the flour, salt, and baking powder. In another bowl, beat the egg for 2 minutes until foamy. Mix the brown sugar, butter, and vanilla extract in with the egg. Mix the two bowls together. Fold in the walnuts and mix well. Using a fork or stiff spatula, spread this evenly into a buttered square pan. Bake in a square pan at 180°C for 20 minutes, or until the top is brown. Let cool in the pan before cutting into squares for eating.

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Taipei

2019-11-18

Julie and Max got married recently, and they had a wedding reception in Taipei, Taiwan. James and Yuko and I flew over there for the party and some sightseeing. It's a three hour flight from Tokyo to Taiwan, and Julie and Max are pretty awesome people, so we thought it would be a swell way to spend a weekend. It was.

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Tokyo Marathon

2019-09-19

I'm going to run the Tokyo Marathon on March 1, 2020. 2017 and 2018 were great, so why not do it again?

Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
            9/1910.1 km 9/20  9/215.1 km
9/22  9/2310.8 km 9/2411.1 km 9/25  9/26  9/27  9/2810.0 km
9/29  9/309.9 km 10/15.0 km 10/2  10/3  10/4  10/5 
10/611.1 km 10/7  10/8  10/9  10/105.1 km 10/11  10/12 
10/1310.8 km 10/14  10/15  10/165.0 km 10/17  10/18  10/195.0 km
10/2025.3 km 10/215.0 km 10/22  10/235.0 km 10/24  10/25  10/26 
10/275.0 km 10/2815.3 km 10/29  10/305.0 km 10/3125.3 km 11/15.0 km 11/2 
11/35.0 km 11/45.0 km 11/5  11/6  11/7  11/8  11/9 
11/10  11/11  11/12  11/13  11/1411.0 km 11/15  11/16 
11/17  11/18  11/19  11/20  11/21  11/22  11/23 
11/24  11/2511.0 km 11/26  11/27  11/28  11/29  11/30 
12/15.0 km 12/2  12/3  12/4  12/5  12/6  12/7 
12/8  12/9  12/10  12/11  12/12  12/13  12/14 
12/15  12/16  12/175.0 km 12/18  12/19  12/20  12/21 
12/225.0 km 12/23  12/245.0 km 12/2510.2 km 12/26  12/2710.0 km 12/2824.6 km
12/2912.4 km 12/308.0 km 12/318.0 km 1/126.3 km 1/28.0 km 1/35.0 km 1/4 
1/55.0 km 1/6  1/7  1/8  1/9  1/10  1/115.0 km
1/12  1/135.0 km 1/14  1/15  1/16  1/17  1/18 
1/19  1/20  1/21  1/22  1/23  1/24  1/25 
1/26  1/27  1/28  1/29  1/30  1/31  2/1 
2/2  2/3  2/4  2/5  2/6  2/7  2/8 
2/9  2/10  2/11  2/12  2/13  2/14  2/15 
2/16  2/17  2/18  2/19  2/20  2/21  2/22 
2/23  2/24  2/25  2/26  2/27  2/28  2/29 
3/1                   
Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat

USA

2019-07-22

This summer I took students to Boston for two weeks, sent them home, and then spent another two weeks visiting friends and family around the country.

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7/21🚌 Musashino → Narita.🏨 東横イン成田空港 新館
7/22✈ Narita → Dallas → Boston.🏢 Tufts University
7/23We opened with an ice-breaker where students all join hands and try to unscramble themselves. A tweak I'd never seen before is to require that left hands go with right hands. Adding this extra rule makes each team talk a little more before starting to untangle themselves. For another speaking warm-up, we split students into three lines. The line on the left had a message to say to the line on the right, and the line in the middle spoke and yelled to disrupt communication. In the afternoon we went for a tour of MIT and continued with group projects students started last month. The process we're using is called design thinking, which is similar to the "twenty-four steps" method of product development.
7/24In the morning we went to Harvard University. The tour was fairly generic — there's lots of history, but the guide didn't know it, and the campus looks a lot like any other university campus. Still, it was cool to see where my grandfather and great grandfather went for their PhDs. In the afternoon we did group work. Students are working on a big problem-solving project, and today they did an analysis using the nested theory framework.
7/25The creator of PoolText, Ali Furkan Akin, gave a talk about his career and how he formed his start-up. He had a good job in Turkey, left it to get an MBA from MIT, worked for Sprint, and then made a new company with several of his friends. It was pretty exciting to hear him tell the story. In the afternoon we went to Greentown Labs, an environmentally-focused incubator. Their work was cool to me, but our students don't know much about start-up businesses or technical environmental problems, so I don't they learned very much.
7/26Students made empathy maps for their projects. There are many tools in the Ideation process they're using, and empathy maps are one way to focus on the target persona for the thing they're making. I took a group of students to a burrito shop, but sadly the quality was kinda meh. They told me that horchata tastes like yatsuhashi, a famous Kyoto sweet.
7/27The creator of room2learn came and spoke with us in the morning. She started the website and company in order to help teachers and architects work together to build classrooms that fit the kinds of lessons they want to teach. Later, students worked on their projects and wrote a user story. On another note, the dining hall here at Tufts University is expensive but has decent food. The vegetable and salad selection is quite nice. This is quite different from my experiences in Japan, where it's remarkably hard to find vegetables when you're eating out.
7/28Students spent most of today working on their projects. In the afternoon we started making prototypes and writing pitches. It's in the 90s, and indoor work is ideal.
7/29Students gave midterm presentations today. The key points were empathy, expression, passion, message, and English. For practice we did a rotation where each group presented to five different teachers separately, so that they got five chances to speak and five different reactions and recommendations. In the afternoon students started to consider financing and channels for their products.
7/30In the afternoon we took the train to the Boston Commons and hit up Fanueil Hall for lunch. Tasty lobster — I waited all week for it. After that we went to the Boston Museum of Fine Arts.
7/31In the morning students did interview work at Harvard University. I took a few students to a Chinese restaurant for lunch. Solid American Chinese food.
8/1We went to the MIT Museum and played with Lego robotics in the morning. I haven't done mobile robotics since college and these Lego kits look like a great way for students to get a toe into the water. Students are nervous about their upcoming presentations, and there is some conflict within many of the teams as students try to align their personal and team goals.
8/2Students spent the day preparing for tomorrow's sales pitches. I took a nap in the afternoon. Last night I moved the mattress from the bed frame to the floor and my back felt much better.
8/3Today our students gave their final presentation, a sales pitch for their product. it went better than I expected because the topics they have her very open-ended and that means it's easy for the students to feel like their project is lacking depth even though they have considered it carefully. one notable thing is that when they finish their presentations we had a young man who owns several companies, he was one of the judges and he asked a lot of difficult questions — for example, regarding the funding model or attracting users — and most of the groups were able to answer most of the questions to some degree, which is quite challenging. entrepreneurship is not what I teach and it's not my area of expertise but it was cool to see the final results of this two-week summer study abroad trip.
8/4We got up at three in the morning to go to the airport. The students and other teachers fly back to Japan today. I went with them to the airport and fell asleep on the airport bench after they saved goodbye and cleared security. Later I dropped off my bags at the airport hotel and headed out to see the city. My first stop was Belle Isle Marsh, a quiet place to take a nap. In the afternoon I saw the Blue Man Show, a music and performing arts act. It would be neat to bring the students here next year.🏨 Hilton Boston Logan Airport
8/5✈ Boston → Minneapolis → Grand Forks.🏠 5571 Charlie Ray Drive.
8/6My parents built a new house last year. It has thick walls with tons of insulation and was designed to be highly energy efficient. As best we know, it's the only house in Grand Forks that has solar panels at all, which surprised me. Perhaps the upfront costs plus worries about winter snow have scared off everyone else? The yard is a giant prairie flower garden.
8/7Betsy and Dex help run adventure races in the summer. We went up to a hiking trail near the Pembina Gorge to clean up trail markers from the most recent race. It was a half day walking through creeks and following game trails, with great scenery and few mosquitoes.
8/8We went canoeing on the Red Lake River in the afternoon. North Dakota has very nice summers. It gets hot, but that's offset by the breeze and the dryness. I like being outside.
8/9Betsy and I went for a bicycle ride in Turtle River State Park. It's a beautiful little park that I went to a lot back in elementary school.
8/10✈ Grand Forks → Minneapolis → Seattle.🏠 Kirkland
8/11We got a late start. Marjorie, Zoe, and I headed out to a campground near Mt. Rainier.⛺ Ohanapecosh Campground
8/12The weather was good. We did a short day hike in the morning and a longer day hike in the afternoon. The wildflowers are still in season up here in Rainier National Park.⛺ Seaquest State Park
8/13We drove into Mt. St. Helens National Forest. There are several excellent visitor centers, but the mountains are where it's at. I went on a seven-mile hike to Spirit Lake with nice views of Mt. St. Helens and Mt. Hood.🏨AirBnB Portland
8/14We hit up the OMSI in the morning and met with Toby for lunch. Portland is a nice city for walking around, and we did.
8/15We went to Powell's bookstore in the morning. I don't buy paper books for myself, but my school can always use a few extra novels for returnee students.🏠 Kirkland
8/16Doing an escape room was a first for me, and it was pretty exciting. In the afternoon we went to Living Computers, a museum with all sorts of old computers and video games, many of which are mostly functional. We played Oregon Trail and looked at punch card readers.
8/17Marjorie took me to Nash's house and on the way we stopped at Taco Bell. in the evening Nash and I went over to Matt and Diana's and we had dinner together.
8/18Jez and her husband Matt picked me up. We headed over to West Seattle and walked on the beach and had a seafood lunch. In the evening, Nash and I went to see a movie. It was really nice to spend time with relatives and friends that I haven't seen in a long time on my last day in the US.
8/19
8/20
✈ Seattle → Narita.