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USA

2022-08-12

It was nice to get to the U.S. after three years. At the beginning of COVID-19, international travel was absurdly difficult. After a while things settled down, but until the spring of 2022, the Japanese government's immigration policy required a length quarantine upon return to Japan. It's hard to do that unless you work from home, which I don't, but now the rules are more relaxed so it was time to take a jaunt across the Pacific and see how America is faring.

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I went to North Dakota along with George and Cora. Betsy and Dex had a Christmas party despite the seasonal inconsistency. We also went to see the Sound of Music at Frostfire, rode some bikes, and went tubing on the Red Lake River. It worked out well.

After five days in the upper Midwest, I flew to Seattle, and Marjorie and Andrew and I took a road trip down through Corvalis, where we met up with Ross for an afternoon, and then west to the coast from Newport down to Arcata before slowly working our way back to Portland. There was so much cool stuff. I don't know what the best place was, because it was all good, but the two locations I'd wanted to go for decades were Redwood National Park and Crater Lake, and they lived up to the hype.

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On Marjorie and Andrew's last day, we drove up to Portland and saw Toby for few hours. Then I went camping and hiking near Mt. Hood for a couple of days. And finally I drove back to Seattle, saw Matt and Diana and Nash for a day, met AJ for lunch, and flew back to Japan.

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Ascending Kumotori

2022-02-23

Mt. Kumotori is one of Japan's famous peaks, and it's a nice overnight excursion from Tokyo. Takeshi said you could climb it in winter. So now, fourteen months after he told me that, I have gone to the top, and it was well worth the effort.

The trail head is at the end of a bus route that departs from Okutama Station. You could theoretically take early morning trains from central Tokyo to make this connection, but it would involve waking up at some obnoxiously early hour. I stayed at a hotel in Mitake, got up at 6:15, and went on my way. I took a leisurely morning and got to the trail head around 9:00, the summit at 12:30, and then got back to the trail head by 3:00. 22 kilometers in 7 hours is a fairly relaxed pace, but I wouldn't want to go faster because if you work up too much of a sweat, you get cold when you stop.

The views were spectacular. Mt. Fuji to the southwest, the Alps to the west, and Tokyo itself off to the east, it was all crystal clear today. There was a little wind but not much. It's February, so it's cold outside, and you definitely need spikes to do this climb in the off season, but if you can find a day like today, go for it.

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Cold Breakfast Oatmeal

2022-01-05

This is a recipe for cold breakfast oatmeal. It's a variant of Cathy's recipe.

Put oats in a 1 L mason jar, filling it 90% full. Then add the dried cranberries, nuts, and cinnamon. Put on the lid and shake to mix. Then add the honey, and finally add milk to fill the entire jar. Put on the lid and shake to mix. Store refrigerated. Wait 12+ hours before eating.

The oats will gradually absorb the milk. Each morning, after you spoon out your breakfast, add more milk to cover the oats.

Steel cut oats are chewy. You might prefer rolled oats (non-instant & uncooked). For rolled oats, around 300 g are needed. Pecans and apple slices are also delicious.

It takes me 4-5 days to finish off a batch. A pre-made high fiber tasty breakfast is great for those on the move.

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Camping in Yamanashi

2022-01-03

For winter break I rented a van and went camping in Yamanashi with a side trip to Nagoya. Late December is a questionable time for camping with my 3-season gear, but the weather was cooperative. I first stayed at one free campground with a steep approach road that looked to be dangerous as hell if it ever froze over, especially in the large rental van with regular tires, and later found a spot at a nearby commercial campground.

Mt. Minobu is a mountain with a massive temple complex on it. You can walk around for free. I took the cable car up to the summit and leisurely strolled down the side of the mountain, before having hoto, a Yamanashi soup, for lunch. Because the weather for most of the trip was sunny, with almost no precipitation, walking around outside was great. As long as you don't go too fast and work up a sweat, you're good to go for hours. Another good point of the location in southern Yamanashi is the frequent views of Mt. Fuji to the south and the Japanese Alps to the north. Many of the smaller valleys have parking lots with trails leading up local mountains, and the scenery is nice wherever you go.

In early January I drove down to Nagoya, stayed in a hotel there for a couple of nights, and took a trip into the city. Marjorie told me to go see the ikemen gorilla at the Higashiyama Zoo. Later in the day I walked down to Nagoya Castle, which is quite majestic.

On the last day I drove halfway back to Tokyo, did another short day hike, slept overnight in the van at a rest area overnight, and finished off the jaunt.

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My old plan was to travel with my parents during the break. Sadly, Omicron struck in late November and the Japanese government extended the quarantine for re-entry in Japan. As a result, people with in-person full-time jobs such as myself found it impossible to travel abroad. On the one hand, the Prime Minister's anti-foreigner policies are frustrating and accomplish little. On the other hand, domestic tourist spots are less crowded than they otherwise would be, and international travel during the Covid Era has always been a dice roll. So it goes. That aside, it was a nice break.


Rethink Fufeng

2021-12-04

The following is a letter I wrote that appeared in the Grand Forks Herald on December 4, 2021. The title it was given is, “Grand Forks should rethink the Fufeng ag project”.

Last month, the Herald lauded an upcoming massive agribusiness project as “historic” because of the “large private capital investment,” but details suggest the project would make Grand Forks a massive polluter.

Natural gas use in the city will rise to double the current levels. Imagine that – the Fufeng Group plant would use as much natural gas as the rest of the city combined. All of that natural gas furthers climate change, at a time when we should be taking action in the opposite direction. In fact, the plant would be the worst polluter in the state, other than coal power plants.

Sadly, environmental concerns are only the beginning of the worries. Gov. Burgum and other leaders are happy because the project would bring in money through property taxes, but the company will also be offered a “temporary” tax break, for years or decades to come. Rather than boosting the local economy, the plant will be leeching off of it. Jobs will be created, true, but of what quality? Low-paying plant jobs would hardly improve the quality of life for most North Dakotans.

The agribusiness plant is guaranteed to damage the environment and is unlikely to make life better for residents of Grand Forks. Now is a great time to say “Stop!” and rethink all of the important details of this risky endeavor.

Written By: Douglas Perkins, Tokyo, Japan, formerly of Grand Forks

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Kanagawa Geography Flashcards

2021-10-23

This is a deck of cards showing maps of cities, towns, villages, and wards in Kanagawa Prefecture. Kanagawa Prefecture is just south of Tokyo, and it's part of the urban sprawl. There are nineteen cities in Kanagawa. Three of those cities are divided into wards. There are also over a dozen towns and villages.

Here's the 58-card package for Anki.

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