edmedia conference

2014-06-27 TAMPERE, FINLAND -- My friend and partner Akio Ohnishi and I presented our paper at the EdMedia conference in Tampere, Finland.

We flew in to Helsinki, and then took an IC (intercity) train from Helsinki to Tampere.


Our car was double-decker brand-new model with a ravintola (restaurant) on the lower deck and passenger seats on the upper deck.


The restaurant on the lower deck has a dish washer (wow), and seating areas separated to accommodate multiple groups.


The mezzanine has its own vending corner. This area is above a dolly. On the opposite end of the car, the same area has doors that open onto the station platform.


Passenger seating on the upper deck is arranged in a 2+1 configuration, with some double seats permanently facing each other.


The single seats face the window. I’m sure Japanese would call these bocchi-seki. The locals use them to get work done. Lots of table space and elbow room.


There is a conference room at the end of the car. They say you can give presentations here. Great idea!


IC trains cover the 187 km in 120 minutes. Pendolino trains (designed by Giorgetto Giugiaro) take only 90 minutes but their cars are older.


You can reserve and choose seats online. The earlier you pay, the less you pay.


Unlike German trains which require hardcopies of tickets, Finland’s VR national train system allows you to show your electronic tickets on your laptop or mobile device.


WiFi is free, albeit slightly slow. Akio tracked our train’s progress over a beer.


Tampere is perhaps best known for the Muumilaakso (Moomin Museum). This is an art museum for serious adults. Children should probably visit Muumimaailma (Moomin World theme park) in Naantali, Finland, about 3 hours away.


There are 3 spots where you can take pictures. I was ecstatic with meeting Muumimamman (Moomin Mama). The white sticker between my eyes is the entry ticket to the museum.


The conference was held at the University of Tampere. We prefer poster sessions because they allow more interaction with our audience. I used to think lectures were more prestigious. Only if it’s a keynote! Innovative stuff shows up in posters.


Akio and I set up our poster way ahead of time.


Akio showed a looped video of our online learning experiences. We also used the campus WiFi to demonstrate Glexa using our computer servers at Hokudai. We gave out handouts. They were all gone in 2 hours!


Our next-door neighbor was a MS student who analyzed communications among health care professionals at a emergency care facility in northern Finland. I enjoyed learning about applications I didn’t know about.


Our paper was among the 12 selected from about 400 papers to receive an outstanding paper award. Thank you, our students and colleagues!




2014-06-08 MIKKABI, JAPAN -- Noriko and I attended a research planning meeting near the town of Mikkabi situated on the northwest shore of Hamanako (Lake Hamana) in west Shizuoka.

Mikkabi is famous for oranges.

Single-car trains pass over tiny tunnels connecting orange groves on either side of the track.

Trains run roughly every half hour.

I was struck by the density of tiny shrines honoring deities. Some are simple and exposed.

Some are shielded by the trees they seem to honor.

Some are housed in tiny decorated buildings.

One had a decorative bridge made for it. This is the Inohanako Jinja, a tiny but ancient shrine already in existence when it appeared on imperial court records dated 742.

Inohanako Jinja sits on a rock shaped like the snout of a wild boar (i-no-hana) at the mouth of Inohanako (lake of the snout of the wild boar), a bay with a tight opening connecting to the rest of Hamanako.

chasing trains on the esashi line

2014-05-08 ESASHI, JAPAN -- Noriko and I chased a train on the Esashi line (brief info in English).

The line was never truly busy. In recent years, it carried an average of 41 passengers per day. The line will transport its final passenger on 2014-05-12. For the last several months, they doubled the number of cars (from 1 to 2) to accommodate train buffs coming from all over the country to bid the line farewell. The extra car gives everybody a window seat.

Instead of riding the Esashi line, we drove along it, chasing 1 of the 6 trains per day from Kikonai to Esashi. The train beat us to the finish, partly because we spent some time at a tiny station in the hills.

The 2-car train doesn’t quite fit in the short, skinny platform.

She’ll be comin’ round the mountain when she comes.

This underpowered diesel-electric is a favorite among non-electrified rural track all across the country.

Miyakoshi station. Keeps the snow and chill out.

Noriko surveys the tiny, clean platform. Apart from the height from the tracks, the smallness of the platform would fool you that this was a street car stop.

The fare table (not so expensive) and the train schedule (6 coming and 6 going per day).

At the end of the line, Esashi station, with a warm stove even in May (the Sea of Japan coast is chilly) and a special desk for farewell souvenirs. They were selling out fast.

The Esashi station master signals the engineer to depart.

cherry blossoms

2014-05-08 TOKYO AND SAPPORO, JAPAN -- My departed friend calls to me ... I hear his voice all the time. The other night he appeared in a dream and he talked to me while I cried.

Bruce, here are flowers for you. I saw them near Noriko’s sister’s place in Tokyo, and on Hokudai campus.


depoe bay

2014-01-02 DEPOE BAY, OREGON -- Noriko and I enjoyed an afternoon in Depoe Bay, a tiny town 20 minutes south of where we live.

The Oregon coast is rugged. Cliffs are common. Our city has sandy beaches, but for the most part, the coastline is rocky forest.

Depoe Bay has what they call a Sea Wall, where US highway 101 runs along the coast.

Tiny shops line the highway.

Decorating gardens with windmills is popular on our windy coast.

We bought a flying disc for our ultimate team Paddy.

Depoe Bay claims to have the world’s smallest navigable harbor. The boathouse on the back left is for the Coast Guard. The boat on the front left takes tourists to watch whales.

We watched from the Sea Wall.

Gulls are easy to spot.

The whales were far away. The dark shape on the left is a whale splashing water. The object on the right is a boat for tourists.

happy new year

2014-01-01 LINCOLN CITY, OREGON -- Noriko and I had toshikoshi-soba on New Year’s eve, and mochi and otoso on New Year’s day.

Soba cooking on an American kitchen stovetop (I call them ranges but most people call them stovetops).

The weather has been nice. We saw a gorgeous sunset from our dining room.

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 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.


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.

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.


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!

resting, raining, restauranting

2012-12-13 LINCOLN CITY, OREGON -- Our classes had a full day for an early Christmas party. Noriko and I left Sapporo for a business trip followed with vacation. It rains a lot on the Pacific Northwest, especially along the coast. We’ve been spending most of our time indoors. When we do venture outside, we try restaurants and cafes that we’ve never been to before. Here are a few meals we’ve cooked for ourselves and eaten out.

We made a standing rib roast (in the oven, left) with baked potatoes (wrapped in aluminum foil, right).

The rib bones allow the roast to stand by itself without a rack. We use a rack anyway to catch the juices. One rib per person if this is your main course.

Noriko likes medium (the outer side), while I enjoy medium rare (the core of the roast).

The McGrath’s Fish House in Salem, Oregon is a family favorite. Seafood is expensive in America.

We don’t remember the last time we had lobster. We had a plate of 2 tiny lobsters that came from Maine. Maine is on the Atlantic coast. On the Pacific coast, we get crab. The left plate contains pan-fried Pacific oysters. Deep-fried cooking is a hundred times better in Japan or Belgium than it is in America.

We hadn’t visited our local Nelscott Cafe until now, partly because they’re at the opposite end of town, and partly because it’s hard to park. The interior is bright and cheery that reminds me of a storybook titled “The old black witch” I read as a child (ISBN-13 978-1930900622, still in print). First rays of sunshine in several days!

All hamburgers are $5 on Fridays!

Munchen kerstmarkt

2012-11-29 SAPPORO, JAPAN -- The cities of Sapporo and Munich (Munchen) are celebrating their 40th anniversary of sisterhood during their German Christmas Market. We ran into our students, took pictures, and enjoyed sausage and hot chocolate.

new mailbox

2012-09-28 LINCOLN CITY, OREGON -- In America, most houses have mailboxes on the curb (that is, along the street). There are strict rules regarding where you can put your mailbox, how large it should be, and what you can write on it. For instance, you must have your house number on it. You may have your name on it, but that is not required; in fact it is not recommended. You may put no advertisements on it.

Our old mailbox was too small and the rain kept getting in.

We ripped the old mailbox off, and painted the post.

We bought a new mailbox and a set of metal house number stickers. The house number must face the direction the mail delivery person comes from. Our mail delivery person drives from the west, so the house number is put on the west side of the mailbox.

The red flag on the side tells the mail delivery person that I have outgoing mail for her -- that is, I want to send a letter. The mail delivery person opens my mailbox door, picks up my outgoing mail, and brings it back to the post office.

Our new mailbox is bigger and keeps the weather out. It comes with a lock to keep our mail safe.

The old mailbox went to the dump.

rv (camping car) show

2012-09-14 PORTLAND, OREGON -- We went to an RV (recreational vehicle = camping car) show at the Portland Expo Center. Along the edge of the expo grounds, they have several torii gates chronicling the internment of Japanese-Americans along the west coast during World War II. Indoors the expo hall, lots of camping trailers and motorhomes are on display. Some are vintage models for rent. Some new ones are huge, with double slide-outs, and look like houses inside. Some are richly appointed yet compact.


2012-09-02 LINCOLN CITY, OREGON -- A local casino run by local Native Americans hosted a fireworks display over the Labor Day weekend. We watched the sun set over the Pacific Ocean and enjoyed the show.

fixing the house

2012-08-20 LINCOLN CITY, OREGON -- Time to fix the house! It rains less in the summer on the Oregon coast. Here I am trying to match the front door trim with what Brandon Hertz, our contractor, did for our windows. My workmanship is not even half as good as his. Noriko pretends not to notice.

summer party

2012-07-20 SAPPORO, HOKKAIDO -- Every summer they have a neighborhood party at a pocket park across the street from where we live. There’s a stage where pre-screened serious amateurs entertain the throngs. By midnight, everything is dismantled, and the party plaza becomes a kids park next morning.

shiretoko peninsula

We traveled in the Shiretoko peninsula area for the first time. Sirokuro was thrilled with a gorgeous view of Mt Rausu reflected upon one of the five tiny lakes north of Utoro. We also watched Venus traverse the sun.

cooking class

We went to an Italian cooking class at La Veneziana restaurant in Sapporo. Denis Schiavo is the chef and owner of the restaurant. He has taught for 6 years, and currently teaches at a trade school (専門学校) in Sapporo. Unlike some cooking classes where students touch the food and share responsibilities, Denis’ class at his restaurant is a demonstration with running commentary.

He made (a) gnocchi al pomodoro e basilico, and (b) saltimbocca alla romana. Gnocchi (pronounced like “nyokki”) are flavored mash potato rolls quickly boiled in ultra-salty water. They cook fast -- pull them out of the water 15 seconds after they start floating. Saltimbocca is literally translated as “jump into the mouth” and means “you can’t have just one”. Saltimbocca is a thin slice of pork with sage and fresh ham on top, pan fried in olive oil (best if infused with sage), butter, and white wine.

Sirokuro stayed behind the kitchen counter to observe and record everything. It was a wonderful way to spend lunchtime of a beautiful May weekend. After class, we went grocery shopping at Hatakeyama’s and walked down the Lilac Fair at Oodoori Park.

cherries in bloom

When I left Sapporo at the end of April to visit my family, all the trees were bare. When I returned 10 days later, the foliage had exploded into fresh green. The cherry blossoms are particularly endearing.

boys basketball

Last week, we went to Taft High School to see a basketball game between 2 teams of 7th-grader boys. One team is coached by Brandon, who fixes people’s houses during the week, and teaches life skills and sports to kids on weekends. We went to cheer Brandon as much as his team.

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.

greetings from europe

Noriko and I arrived in Antwerp, Belgium today, following a fun-filled week of visiting museums and historical sites in London. The weather in Europe is terribly cold. They're talking about a 200-kilometer skating race in Holland that takes place over frozen canals and rivers. It's called the "Elfstedentocht" (the eleven city race) because the course runs through 11 cities. If they decide to hold the race, then you might see it on the TV news. The race rarely happens because it hardly ever gets cold enough for the entire route to freeze. Last time was in 1997, when the son of a colleague of mine here at the University of Antwerp did the race.

happy new year

I hope you all entered 2012 in high spirits. I had a wonderful New Year’s. I visited my mom at Lake Yamanaka on the northern slopes of Mount Fuji. We walked around the lake (13.5 km) on New Year’s day, and saw the First Sunrise. It was a crisp, calm, chilly morning.

american wagyu

Many Americans enjoy sushi. Kurobuta pork is becoming popular too. The ad below is for Kobe-style beef. (View the original ad.)

fantastic weather

After several months of rotten health, I’m coming back to running. My favorite running paths include:

(a) The campus circuit. Once around the campus = 6 km.
(b) Oodoori Park. The park is short but pretty and lots of restrooms! Including the run from campus to the park = 6 km.
(c) Sasson Expressway. From campus, run along the Shinkawa River to the expressway and back. Including the campus circuit = 11 km.

I really want to run the banks of the Toyohira River but from where I live the path to the river is boring and rather dangerous because of vehicle traffic.