Leaving Tokyo: vegetables, electronics, kimono

May 24, 2012

My last night in Tokyo I wound up at dinner with Yuka, Yuki, Yumi, and Salvador (spot the outlier) at my favorite restaurant that Yuki found: 野菜の王様, King of Vegetables, in Hibiya.  We’d visited the other location in January, and I was so excited to see vegetables that we went again.

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Kappabashi, Kitchen Town (合羽橋)

May 24, 2012

 

My last day in Tokyo dawned hot and dry.  I thanked my generous host Hitomi profusely and headed out for some errands.  I stashed my bags in a coin locker at a central station and headed out for Kappabashi, known as “Kitchen Town” for its profusion of shops for restaurants and kitchens.  I was on a mission for my friend Andy to find him a knife.

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Scoping out the rowdy neighbors and baking Apophis cake

It’s been a pretty exciting week to be an asteroid researcher: you’d think the sky was falling!  Really, it was just a confluence of some rowdy neighbors checking in on earth asking, “How’s that space program coming?”  An ordinary chondrite meteorite exploded over Russia, and later that day a 150-foot-wide piece of spacerock skimmed 17,000 miles above the earth, just ducking inside the orbits of geostationary satellites.
We had nothing to do with either: the Russia bolide was detected maybe seconds beforehand by some satellites; 2012 DA14 was too low in our sky for Arecibo to observe.

The media guy here is still getting calls, almost a week later.  Univision came by, Dish Network wanted to interview someone…
 
Inline image 1 What are we doing in the midst of all this?  Regularly scheduled observations of asteroid (99942) Apophis, everyone’s favorite potentially hazardous asteroid that we’ve known about for almost nine years now.  None of these recently discovered raucous interlopers for us this week, pshaw.  Even so, the events of last week underscore the importance of “finding them before they find us” and commercial solutions to asteroid problems.
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Sakurajima, an active volcano in Kyushu

December 31, 2011

There’s an active volcano (活火山, lively + fire + mountain) a ten-minute train ride away from Satsuma-sendai.  Named Sakurajima,  (桜島, literally, cherry blossom island), this formerly island volcano is home to giant radishes, tiny satsuma tangerines, and numerous hotsprings.

桜島は活火山だ。

While Sakurajima continually erupts today, ejecting clouds of ash and smoke, its most recent major eruption was in 1914.  Locals knew before the big eruption that it was time to leave: they’d heard stories about the giant 18th century eruption when the islands’ wells boiled, shoals of dead fish washed up on shore, and earthquakes rattled their towns.  In what was a rare eruptive event for Japan, home to explosive high silicate lava, Sakurajima belched a veritable flow of lava (溶岩), which covered villages and caused the island to grow, eventually connecting via isthmus to the mainland.  The volcano erupts more than daily, spewing ash over Kagoshima-shi in the summer and further south in the winter.

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Sailboat camping on Tomales Bay, Spring 2012

April 21-22, 2012

On a Saturday in April, 24 intrepid people with an average age of 24 piled into three Flying Scots loaned by the generous and gracious Tejas conglomerate and Bill Moseley, as well as an assortment kayaks furnished by the Speh, Black, Kelly, and Jay households on Saturday morning. The goal was to arrive at Marshall Beach via boat, whether by kayaking or sailing, and spend the evening.  The campers came from as near as San Francisco and Berkeley and as far away as Sweden and New York City. Roughly 1/4 of the folks in attendance were physicists, and at least seven were accomplished sailors. Only one had majored in neither science nor engineering.  The weather was flawless: warm, sunny, and clear. Boats were packed, sunblock was liberally applied, and instructions for reaching the beach were meted out. A grand weekend awaited.

Convening upon Marshall Beach, the adventurers proceeded to build a campfire, dine on kebabs, and consume libations. Vegetarians were taught to shuck oysters and much dinner was consumed. Following the evening meal, s’mores were roasted on the fire and hot chocolate made. The skies cooperated as the fog cleared and a meteor shower graced the dark orb with fireballs. Breakfast was a rather gourmet affair, involving chocolate chip pancakes with maple syrup whipped cream, as well as two types of sausages. An expedition was mounted to Lairds Landing to view the buildings left by Clayton Lewis and his fellow creatives.

Returning to the dock on Sunday was frustrated by a paucity of wind, which then turned southerly, further hampering efforts to sail back. The water was unseasonably warm, so numerous pirates dove into the water, swimming between boats and delivering booty from one vessel to another while waiting for the wind to return. Innovations that occurred during the weekend include a method for chilling oysters while sailing as well as exhaustive explorations into alternative Flying Scot propulsion methods whilst becalmed.

Satisfied with the success of their soiree, the adventurers have set their sights on the Kilkenny beach overnight party in August as their next movement in the burgeoning movement of occupying Tomales Bay. If you are in need of crew on your vessel between now and August, please do not hesitate to reach out and inquire regarding the availability of these enthusiastic youngsters.

Photos here and after the jump.

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Oystering

December 3, 2011

The idea for this outing came in May after getting lunch in a Korean restaurant in North Cambridge.  Elisabeth would be in San Francisco for a Kepler science conference in December, and I’d promised her oysters and sailing.  We schemed with Andy, who would be moving to California, and all decided that we’d brave whatever cold weather awaited us in seven months in the name of mollusks and sailboats.

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A Japanese Thanksgiving in San Francisco

November 24-26, 2011

 Several of the boys from my lab at JAXA attended the a conference on fluids hosted by the American Physical Society in Baltimore in November, right before Thanksgiving.  The boss encouraged them to arrange a layover in San Francisco, and for me to take them to Thanksgiving with my family.  The boss’s ultimate goal is to get his students to think outside of Japan when it comes to future study or work: even if they do ultimately decide to remain in Japan, at least they’ll know what the other options are, or how other folks live their lives outside of Japan.

I could do even better than bringing the boys to a family Thanksgiving dinner: I invited Maro-san and Aikawa-san to a big celebratory meal at a friend’s converted warehouse for Thanksgiving, then to the Inverness Yacht Club for a post-Thanksgiving party the following Saturday.  They can watch US TV shows if they want a depiction of a Thanksgiving dinner in North America; here I could provide them something entirely unique.

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