Chas Jones, Ph.D.

Nexus 5 Fix List

Nexus 5 Fix List

I went off contract with AT&T in autumn of 2013 and decided to purchase a Nexus 5 directly from Google, which is unlocked to any particular mobile service provider.  This allows me to purchase a sim card from any service provider and potentially pay a cheaper monthly cell phone bill than I have historically paid AT&T.

The Nexus 5 (N5) cell phone is reported to be one of the top phone on the market.  My most recent smartphone was an Android-based Samsung Galaxy S2 (SGS2).   The N5 has the newest and greatest version of the Android phone operating system (Android 4.4.2 Kit Kat), but I’ve found that there are certain things that are rather awkward.  I have been keeping my “fix list” that I have been hoping to share for a while, in case Google is paying attention to the blogosphere when it comes to product development.

Left-handed use (in landscape mode) soft buttons
The Nexus 5 was supposedly designed for efficient use with a single hand.  Great! Well, I often browse my phone while laying down. Sometimes, I am on my back (typically using my right hand, sometimes my left). Sometimes, I lay on my left side (holding my phone with my right hand, as my left is not very accessible). Sometimes, I lay on my right side and then prefer to use my left hand.  Well, while on the phone in landscape mode and using my left hand to hold the device, the soft buttons (button images under the touch screen, which always move to the side of the device that would be held by your right hand (depending upon the screen orientation). There is the problem. When I hold the phone with my left hand in landscape mode, the soft buttons (Home, Back, Open Applications) are not easily accessible with my left hand. I have to do “digit gymnastics” to push any of the soft buttons, or I need to pull out my right hand to touch the button (which is not efficient, nor is it “one-handed use”). I’d love to see a setting that allows me to quickly swap the location of the soft buttons.

Custom Notification Settings
This phone has a single ringtone for all phone calls (or you can customize by caller) and then it has another Notification sound setting. Therefore, it has a single sound type for email notification, text notification, and other push notifications. The Google Voice app does allow me to select specific ring tones for its notifications, but it seems that Google might make it a little more customizable out of the box.

Continuous scroll through home pages
My SGS2 would allow me to scroll continuously through my various home pages. The N5 allows me to scroll through my 5 homepages, but to get from #1 to #5, I have to switch directions and scroll through 5 pages. I would prefer to scroll directly from #1 to #5, by continuing to scroll to the left.

Pinch to minimize websites
My SGS2 allowed me to pinch to minimize websites so that I could select other open website tabs. The N5 requires that I push a button to accomplish this task.

Double tap to zoom into website text
My SGS2 allowed me to double tap on a paragraph and it would automatically zoom to the width of the paragraph. The N5 does not do this out of the box (using chrome).

One touch setting toggle
The N5 allows a two-finger downward swipe from the top of the device to access a quick settings panel, however, if I touch the wifi button, it opens the wifi setting page.  I’d rather it just toggle the wifi on or off.  Same with airplane mode, brightness, bluetooth, or location settings. SGS2 functioned perfectly well in this regard. I figured out that if you tap and hold the icon, it will toggle these settings on and off directly. Okay, that’s fixed.

Bookmark button in Chrome
There is no bookmark button in chrome on the N5. Sure I can click the “settings” button, then click “bookmarks”, and then open the appropriate folder for my bookmarks, but that means I have to use a minimum of 4 clicks to get to a bookmarked site. On my SGS2, it was a two click task. Bookmark button. Touch the bookmark.

In the end
I’m happy with my Nexus 5, but I would like to see Google address some of these simple “usability” issues with the Android 4.4 KitKat operating system on the Nexus 5. The N5 is their flagship phone and this simple functionality or lack there of, makes the operating system feel awkward. I know that I could install various “Launchers” and the N5 is designed to allow me to switch Launchers easily, but I’d rather it just work. If I use a launcher, I am not certain that the phone will get the same frequent updates that I will otherwise look forward to on the Nexus. I’ll look into the use of launchers, but I look forward to the day that Google finds this post and repairs the items on my Android 4.4.2 Kit Kat fix list. What do you think? Are there other software issues that you’d like to see addressed?  Comment below.…

Streaming Sounds of Rain

Sounds of Rain

Pure and simple: Relax to the sounds of rain and thunder here.  Listen to the streaming sounds of rain… white noise to drown out background noise at the office or at home. This is a continuous audio loop. Source file:

If you see me sitting at my desk with headphones on, it is quite likely that I am listening to the sounds of rain.  Feel free to interrupt me if needed, but you might want to try it.  It drowns out most distractions.
Streaming sounds of rain

Water droplet maze

Water Droplet Maze

Have you seen this water droplet maze?  The specific scientific reason that causes it to function is the “Leidenfrost effect”.   I’d never heard of it before seeing this video, but it is interesting. Once a surface temperature gets above 200 C, the water vapor beneath the water drop causes the water droplet  to float above the surface like a hovercraft.  So it appears that water does in fact run up hill (under specific conditions).  I think that this certainly has to have some useful applications.  Check it out!

Potential research: Floods and climate change-Boulder, CO

How do changes in climate and associated weather patterns affect flooding?

Potential research: Floods and climate change-Boulder, CO

In mid-September 2013, the region around Boulder, Colorado experienced severe flooding when 15 inches (38 cm) of rain fell across the area in less than 48 hours. It was a magnificent event that some have estimated to be a 1000 year flood event.  What caused this particular flood event to be so incredibly large?  Was it climate change?  Did we (humans) interfere with other aspects of the landscape to amplify the event? Or was it some natural phenomenon like El Nino or La Nina that was expressing its influence?

It would be a very tenuous argument to declare this particular rain event was caused by climate change. Even though, climatologists frequently state that we should expect extreme events (i.e. flooding or drought) to occur more frequently in the future, they can’t really pin down a particular cause for specific weather related events.

The nexus of flooding and climate change is one of my primary research interest areas, however, as we can model how different climate scenarios might influence the flood characteristics of particular watersheds.  We can also model how changes to the jet stream and related weather patterns may affect precipitation, runoff and flooding. In the southwestern U.S., what would happen if winter precipitation events were received from the south rather than the pacific northwest? How might that influence runoff and or flooding in spring? How might reservoirs in the southwest be affected by altered precipitation patterns? What would those changes mean for water policy in the southwest?

The questions are endless, but I find them fascinating.  Hopefully, one day I will find myself in a position to get at some of the big questions revolving around floods and climate change.…

World’s Smallest Hydraulic Jump

World’s Smallest Hydraulic Jump

Is this the world’s smallest hydraulic jump example?  Probably not.  Is it indeed a hydraulic jump?  I am not exactly certain, actually.  A hydraulic jump would occur at the interface between supercritical flow and subcritical flow (Froude number at critical = 1.0).  Supercritical flow is when the flow velocity is faster than the downstream wave velocity. It is not clear from the video, if this is actually the case.  Is this some type of surface tension feature?  What do you think?  Is this the World’s Smallest Hydraulic Jump?


River gauging techniques – Helicopter

River gauging techniques – Helicopter

I am always interested in the different techniques that are being used to measure stream discharge.  Sometimes, it can be quite difficult to access rivers in areas with good access, non-mobile beds, stable cross-sections, and a host of other site conditions that make for good channel cross sections.  Well, here is a New Zealander’s approach that uses a helicopter, a modified whitewater kayak, and an ADCP unit to measure stream discharge.  The group is out of the Otago Regional Counil (

I came across the link at Stu Hamilton’s blog (

What do you think about its potential for measuring peak discharge in some of the remote rivers in Alaska or other places?



Flash flood video: Zion N.P. climbers lucky to be alive

Flash flood video: Zion N.P. climbers lucky to be alive

This G0-Pro video shows a crazy video taken by four climbers just before and during a flash flood event at Zion National  Park in Utah.  Flash floods are serious business and are very dangerous extreme events that are relatively common in the southwestern United States.  Check out the link to the story and the flash flood video.




Who am I?

Who am I?

I have been trying to update this website over the last week or two and am making some progress.  I am also trying to get my business cards updated and printed before going to the Colorado Plateau Research Symposium in Flagstaff, Arizona next week.  I think that I am going to place a word cloud on the back of the business card.  Here is one version that is being considered.

Chas WordCloud

A word cloud that attempts to summarize my research and professional background.


Sinkhole research – Potential opportunities

Sinkhole research opportunities

Guatemala sinkhole: a missed sinkhole research opportunity for me.

By Ker Than for National Geographic News
Published June 1, 2010
A huge sinkhole in Guatemala City (map), Guatemala, crashed into being on Sunday, reportedly swallowing a three-story building—and echoing a similar, 2007 sinkhole in Guatemala. Click on the photo for the actual article.

Sinkhole research could help many communities that have already experienced problems with them, but may also help communities avoid sinkhole hazards in the future. Sinkholes and other hydrology-related disasters fascinate me. I would like to explore the specific causes of sinkhole formation and opportunities for detecting sinkholes, such as the use of electromagnetic imaging or ground penetrating radar. Both of these techniques can be used to measure changes in density beneath the ground from a helicopter. Researchers use them to monitor permafrost degradation and subsurface geologic features.

Earlier this week, there was a video of a sinkhole that was swallowing a number of trees in a Louisiana swamp. The sinkhole had been swallowing a lot of land around a former salt mine and has been releasing a lot of methane during the least a year.  Check it out here: Raw: Louisiana Sinkhole Swallows Giant Trees – YouTube.

There is a growing source of images and videos related to sinkholes on the internet.  I do not know if the frequency of occurrence of sinkholes is increasing, however, as it is very likely and possible that we are simply much better at sharing information very quickly these days.  Regardless, families that have been affected by sinkholes would be very grateful for additional information about how to minimize risk from future calamity. Even more importantly, if a sinkhole was identified and a family saved before a disaster, the rewards would certainly be many times greater. Anyhow, this is one subject that I’ll keep my eyes on in the future, because we just never know when or where the next disaster may strike.


2011.11.03. Sustainability Course. Week 2.

2011.11.03. Sustainability Course. Week 2.

To save time and reduce repetitiveness, I will summarize the course at the end of each week. It is important to me to document the Sustainability Short Course that I am participating in, but one post per week will probably suffice regarding the class content. On Monday, we had two interesting lectures by Wilf Swartz (University of British Columbia – Vancouver), a PhD student in Fisheries. The first was a general overview of the history and current state of global fisheries. I really enjoyed that conversation and would love to talk with him more extensively about the topic. The 2nd lecture was about the attempts at the World Trade Organization to get rid of government subsidies related to the global fisheries market because subsidies allow fisheries from some countries to out-compete equivalent fisheries in other countries. Suppressed fish prices and costs of harvest lead to overfishing and excessive numbers of fishing vessels and increased investment in fisheries relative to the actual value. None of these things are good for sustainable fisheries. Bottom line: At present, our fisheries are very over-fished and are likely facing an impending collapse. North Atlantic cod fisheries had a huge collapse twenty years ago. Other fisheries have followed and those types of collapses are becoming more frequent globally.

Dr. Noriyuka Tanaka  on Nuclear contamination and radiation – An interesting lecture on the Fukushima disaster caused by primarily by human caused errors associated with designs for earthquakes and tsunamis.  Lots of background information on radiation and recorded levels of radiation exposure throughout areas of Japan.  The data appears to show that Sapporo has some of the lowest radiation exposure, but doesn’t offer any comparative values, so I have no idea if the values were high or not compared to what I am typically exposed to.

Mr. Majima- Sustainability and the ethics of war – A engaging and intriguing couple of lectures that incite and inspire many tangential thoughts on related subjects.

Mr. Majima – Ethics in Sustainability  – A very good set of lectures by Mr. (not yet has his doctorate) Majima on Ethics in Sustainability.  He has some wonderfully engaging exercises and his lecture style stands out (in a positive way) from may professors that I have had in all of my university experiences (and that is a lot!)  Anyhow, future students of Dr. Majima will find him a great professor, I am sure.…

Great Italian food in Japan?

Great Italian food in Japan?

Wow!  I had some amazing Italian food last night!  Some of the best that I have ever had and I really am looking forward to going back and trying some more…  I know that you won’t believe me, but you might want to trust me on this one.  The name of the restaurant?  Cheese, cheese.  Yes, that was the name!  So let me repeat myself, the name of an amazing Italian restaurant in Sapporo, Japan is “Cheese, cheese”.  Where is it?  Well, its in the Susukino District on the bottom floor of the Norbesa Building, which is similar to most in Susukino, except that it has a giant ferris wheel on top of it!  Seriously, you can’t miss the ferris wheel and therefore, Cheese, Cheese is very easy to find.

Now, I speak and read absolutely no Japanese so there is always a language barrier when I go to a restaurant, but the experience turned out pretty good. I sat at the bar that surrounds the kitchen which was great.  I noticed that every patron was being served something as a precursor to their meal.  I wasn’t quite sure what it was until mine was sat before me.  It was a fried egg in a cup. I was directed by the chef to immediately stir up the egg and eat it rather than let it cool.  So I did. It was nothing spectacular, but interesting.  Otherwise,  I had only pizza while I was there.  I had their Margherita variety, which I tend to really enjoy.  The menu was only in Japanese and it had some photos, but mostly, I just said “Pizza”.  I also said “Tomato, basil, cheese” (with my best Japanese pronunciation) and the waitress said “Ah, Margherita!”  And I said “Yes!”.  The pizza was a thin crust version that was about 12″ in diameter.  They only have one size, I think.

While I was there, I watched the chef make a pasta that appeared to be alfredo, but it looked absolutely amazing.  I watched as he tossed the noodles in the center of a giant hollowed-out wheel of parmesan cheese.  Whoah!  He tossed and tossed and tossed the hot noodles in the cheese wheel.  I can only imagine how the noodles became coated in a layer of parmesan which he then dropped into a creamy serving dish.  It looked delicious.  Next time, I will try that!  And I will be back, and I doubt that it will be too awfully long before I am there!
I also watched the chef as he brought out a new leg of prosciutto, which he placed into a clamping device.  He sat it in front of a customer that had ordered some sort of appetizer and he proceeded to carve very thin slices of prosciutto for them.  He appeared to be telling them a story in Japanese as he slowly sliced and served them slices of the meat.  I was really curious to hear what he had to say, but I couldn’t understand a word of it.  It seemed like he might be telling them about the history of prosciutto and the secret life meanings that can be found by taking it in slowly on an autumn Saturday night.  It was moderately priced, as I had 1/2 of a pizza and a drink for about $18.  I could handle that, but it wouldn’t be enough had I been a little bit hungrier.

Also inside of the building with the ferris wheel, was a looked to be a fun bowling alley.  Complete with many cartoonish characters and lovely servers.  I think I found a fun evening for our little group of international students.  Dinner and drinks at Cheese, cheese; followed by a round of bowling; and finished with a 20 minute ride on the big ferris wheel (1000 Yen/ person).


Update:  I went back to Cheese, Cheese to try this amazing pasta alfredo dish that I had seen from across the distance while I was there the first time.  I went alone and I only ordered the Pasta Cheese, Cheese (which is what they referred to this dish at a cost of 1800 yen). Natsuki’s (my waitress) masterpiece shall be my dinner! First, piping hot noodles are repeatedly tossed in a hollowed wheel of Parmesan cheese. Then, place noodles back onto hot plate and pour near boiling heavy cream over the piping hot noodles. Top with grated Romano… Let your mouth water as you ponder the flavor. If it were me, I would add some steamed broccoli and maybe a touch of basil, oregano, and thyme. Delicious.

And below you can see my artistic creation that evolved out of the rabbit and name that Natsuki wrote onto my paper table covering upside down as I she sat me.  Fun, fun at cheese, cheese!…

Evolutionary theory 101: Toilets

Evolutionary theory 101: Toilets

In the time of our ancestors, it seemed mind-blowing when somebody started digging a hole before doing his/her business to realize several benefits: 1) Sanitation.  It was cleaner and you were less likely to get sick if you crapped into a hole in the ground and covered it up. 2) Odor control. With a little earthen cover, the eau de feces is much more pleasant. 3) Compost.  The whole mess even seems to go away if you just give it a few months under ground, so you can dig in that same spot once again and do your thing.

Then we decided to upgrade as we dug bigger holes over which we would place platforms unto which our buttocks would sit.  Technological advancement, but we lost some of the benefits of the simple hole covered in dirt.  Lets face it, this is an outhouse.  Many, if not most of my friends in Alaska, actually still use outhouses today because they live in cabins without running water.  1) Outhouses can be clean, but many don’t feel that way.  At least almost all of the stuff, ends up in the hole!  2) Odor control.  Yeah, you wish.  3) Composting?  Well kind of…  Maybe eventually when you bury that big festering pile of stuff, but I bet that you’ll never be brave enough to dig there again! 4) Water conservation!  Well that’s the reason that outhouses exist these days right?  They are typically found in areas that lack running water.

Sure there were various renditions on the outhouse, such as the “head” on historical sailing vessels that traversed the seas of the planet.  Historically, the head for the common sailor was found at the front or rear of the ship, where holes were strategically placed over  the water into which a man (or woman) could do her business.  Now, that was clean.  There was no odor.  It was all recycled by the sea and it required no water!  Not to mention that the impact in the open sea was either beneficial or nominal due to the vast volume and extent of the world’s seas.  What is it that is said about the world’s pollution problem?  The solution to pollution is dilution.

** This is contrast to the current situation where to worlds’ oceans have become a dumping ground for ships and nations world wide.  Our seas are drowning in plastic, toxic waste, and garbage.  Our food and livelihood comes from these waters people!  Once you devastate them, they are not going to be restored very easily!

Then came chamber pots and servants to dispose of them.  It was probably dumped into a nearby river, sea, or hole that would be filled until it was at capacity.

Then came water consuming toilets which eventually would evolve into the toilets that are commonplace in United States households. And then there are variations on those to conserve water (which is great), with low flow toilets, dual volume flushes (depending upon what type of business you have done). Please note that I do not want to suggest that these are the height of the recent evolution of toilets, because there are obviously several evolutionary tracks that toilets have taken.  In places around the world, they use holes in the floor that still utilize water to move the waste from the bathroom into the public sewer system or into a septic system (Italy, India, Japan, and China are places that I have encountered such systems).

Well, the Japanese have decided to push the envelope in terms of toilet innovation.  *Cue the bugles!* Enter the Washlet (by Toto). Its more than just a toilet seat, folks!  It is a Bum Pampering Appliance Extraordinaire!  Not only does it chop, mash, dice, and cube your favorite veggies (okay, not really), but its various forms will have many, if not most, of the following options:

  1. Bidet function for the rear (with pre-warmed water and adjustable pressure)
  2. Bidet function just for women (also with pre-warmed water and adjustable pressure)
  3. Heated toilet seat
  4. Massage function
  5. Automatic deoderizer (aka exhaust fan, with various speeds to maximize its deoderizing effectiveness)
  6. Music! (Yes, music which may include the option for the natural sound of running water, to cover up the sounds of any thing that you may wish to hide)
  7. Drying function (using heated air to dry anything that has gotten wet using the bidet)
  8. Anti-bacterial seat

Yes folks, we are talking EVOLUTION!  I introduce unto you, the Washlet by Toto!…

Underground passages.

Underground passages

Interesting…  This afternoon, I discovered an underground passage (it could also be classified as a shopping mall) that links the Sapporo Station to the Odori Station to the  Susukino Station.  I walked the length of it and was pretty amazed by the underground maze that links all of these areas.  Under, above and around each station are underground shopping areas that emerge and stand up out of the earth to form malls that extend in all directions.  Up, down, and all around.  They are also not simple and easily followed.  The passages lead off in angles in every direction and those link to other ones and those to more.  I felt like a rat in an experiment!  It made me think about the potential consequences of a major earthquake.  What would happen if there was an earthquake at this precise moment when I am underground and have no idea how to get out of here.  Do I even recognize the exit signs?  Not really.  I definitely know what some of them look like, but there do not always seem to be exit signs when there are paths to the surface.  Basically, I think that I would be screwed.  If there is an earthquake right now, I’ll just lay beneath the rubble and hope that I can crawl through the endless passages until I see light at the end of the tunnel.  But until there is an earthquake, I will just start walking a little faster and get myself out of  here!  I don’t even like shopping malls! But this one is kind of interesting…  😉…

Sustainability Course. Day 4.

Sustainability Course. Day 4.

Today, Tony led a few activities that encouraged the students to summarize the material in the course to date.  It was somewhat helpful and was interesting to see and hear how different people interpret the lectures.  The first exercise was for us to draw a mental map of the course materials to date.  The second exercise was for us to identify and briefly discuss an issue important to sustainability in our home regions/countries.  I discussed corporate vs. subsistence salmon harvests in the rivers of Alaska.  I also discussed how the U.S. economy is bolstered by the countries of China and Japan when they purchase large quantities of U.S. debt.  The result is that Americans have a false sense of economic security, a sense of entitlement to purchase materials derived from resources that have been extracted from seemingly poorer nations.  When in fact, our society would collapse almost instantaneously if either country called our debts.  The messed up thing is that the entire global economy would collapse, but both China or Japan have the power to instigate these types of global impacts due to the economics of the situation.  Anyhow, I believe that if this situation did not exist, resource extraction from developing nations would be much less severe than it is now.

The second lecture was by Dr. Arai.  This was the first time that we have met him and he discussed Japanese and global policies and history related to resilience and disasters, including the disaster caused by the Great East Earthquake in Japan in March 2011 (and subsequent tsunami and nuclear disaster).  It was an interesting lecture, but it would have been nice to have more time for discussion and questions.…

Linking cultures.

Linking Cultures

As mentioned previously, a number of the non-American students are pretty shy or quiet.  Andres is from Mexico and is gregarious and speaks English at least as well as each of the Americans.  I suspect that some of the Asian students are self-conscious of their proficiency in English. I am not positive, but that is my suspicion.  Well yesterday, all of us went to lunch together after I asked if everybody was interested in doing so.  Today, not everybody joined us, but the Asian students asked me if I was going to join them in the school cafeteria.  I was pleasantly surprised and was happy to join them. Andres was already there when we arrived so we all ate together. I was happy with that.

The guys in the program are in an all-men dorm (called the International House at Kita 8 East, a 15 minute walk from CENSUS).  The women are in a co-ed dorm (guys occupy one floor) that is found 45 minutes away from the CENSUS building.  So after class, we have all been going our separate ways in the afternoon.  Today, at lunch, Isma, one of the Indonesian students was mentioning how they all have been going back to the dorm after lunch and sitting in their rooms until the next morning.  This means that they have basically been in class until about noon and then back in their dorm by 2 PM each day.

I was shocked, so today I invited all of the students to go on a walk with me after lunch.  A bunch of the international students decided to join me (much to my surprise).  They are all pretty cold every time the step outside in Hokkaido. It’s probably been 45-50 degrees F, which is a lot colder than their homes.  So when they said yes, I thought that I’d just take them to see the mall in Sapporo Station so that they could see something interesting in a warm place.  So we spent a couple of hours checking out all of the silly stuff in the mall.  After we had our fill of mall stuff, I asked if they were tired yet and they said no, so I decided to take them down to the Susukino district.  They seemed to really enjoy the experience.  They hadn’t seen anything like that in Sapporo yet, and they were definitely intrigued.  YoungRi (South Korea) really enjoyed the electronics, the flashy clothes and the silly, bright colored stuffed characters.  Wenwen (China) really liked all of the shoes and just watching all of the people and goings-on.  Isma (Indonesia) was pretty much happy and laughing at everything and everyone of us.  Meanwhile, Anni (Indonesia) liked everything and kept disappearing around the end of every aisle.

We finished their exploratory adventure at a coffee shop where we got teas and sweets to warm up before the walk back to our dorms.  YoungRi gave me a brief lesson in Korean and Japanese language and I did the same for her English.  In our group, she has a harder time than the rest communicating in spoken English.  She says that she studied English for 6 years in school, but they do not speak the language in their studies.  They only study the written language.  Interesting.  She also says that there is a huge desire to have native English speakers come to South Korea to teach English.  No skills in the Korean language is necessary.  Want to earn $500/day teaching English?  I am giving you the job lead that you need!…

Sustainability Course – Day 3

Sustainability Course. Day 3.

Today Segah-san led a discussion about the state of the world’s forests and the threats that they face on a daily basis in different regions of the planet.  We also discussed the various values and benefits that forests provide to society and the world’s ecosystems.  In the second half of the morning, Dr. Fukushima lectured from Taiwan.  He really is a very good lecturer.  His primary subject was life cycle analyses and _________.  I enjoy his lecture style, but I think that it would probably be more effective if he was actually present with us.  He tends to prompt individuals in the class with random questions, but can’t really see us and doesn’t quite wait long enough for someone to speak up in response.  So most of the time, he responds to his own question before someone speaks up.  I’m not sure if he actually wants us to respond to his question, or if it is simply his personal style of communication.  Anyhow, his take on life cycle analyses is unique to all of my studies.  We never talked about anything like it in my economics course and I personally believe that it would have been an obvious choice for a subject.  Maybe I can get him to give a distance lecture to students in Alaska sometime.

I really do like the perspective that these professors are bringing to the program.  So far, each speaker is covering a general subject area and each is providing just a glimpse into their personal research.  I keep finding myself interested in hearing more about their research, but I am waiting to ask because I assume that we’ll have a lot more time to get to those details.

Anyhow, so far, so good in the class.  I’m looking forward to the rest of the course.

Dr. Tony Chittenden has been really personable and helpful to the students.  Everybody has been extremely generous especially Dr. Shingo Tanaka and Dr. Gaku Ishimura.  Tony has helped give a little more background about life in Japan, Japanese politics, and I’m hoping to learn a lot more about Japanese culture and customs.  I feel relatively comfortable asking him about these sorts of things (probably because he been a New Zealand citizen living in Japan for a long time) and greatly value his seemingly candid responses and insight to our interest.  He originally came here to ski, but ended up staying.  That’s all I know, but it seems like he loves to live life.  And if that is true, that’s one value that we share.…

2011.10.25. Susukino – The entertainment district.

After lunch, a few of us took a walk to the center of the city. The city is set up on a grid system and each intersection can be identified in relation to the city center. The intersection that is one block north and one block east of the center is North 1, East 1. After finding the center (which has a red Eiffel Tower look alike sponsored by Panasonic), I wandered down to Susukino, which I had found 2 days prior, but didn’t know what it was. Now I know that it is considered to be the “entertainment district” and is where the majority of the nightlife is found in Sapporo. It looks really crazy busy and there are many, many floors of businesses on all of the main streets. The district covers ~16 square blocks, I think. And it seems like South 4, West 4 is about the center of the area. It is really cool and I look forward to checking it out on a weekend night. You want it? Name it and I bet that you’ll find it in Susukino… Check out some of my pix.

Sometimes, smokers can smoke in special rooms inside of buildings.  Other times, they get special rooms in the outdoors.  Other times, they get a special corner on a block. And sometimes, they can smoke anywhere they want including inside of a restaurant kitchen!  Crazy.  I wonder who makes up the rules.

Me at the city center and at the red Panasonic Eiffel tower look-a-like.

South 4, West 4 intersection in Susukino.
Ramen Alley with a ton of little Japanese Noodle shops.
  We’ll come back when we are hungry!

 Covered shopping area in Susukino.
Closet and Bar?  What woman wouldn’t love this little boutique shop?  Its a wine bar and clothing store.  Cute.

2011.10.25. Sustainability Course. Day 2.

Class started at 8:45 AM this morning.  I almost forgot that it wasn’t at 10 AM.  At 8:35, I remembered.  I quickly got dressed and galloped down the sidewalk to the donut shop at Sapporo Station (main transportation hub for the city).  I grabbed myself a couple of donuts and continued on to class.  A funny aside.  Yesterday, Ben and I discovered the donut shop and were ripe for new cultural experiences.  So we each decided to grab one donut that we hadn’t had before and one that we thought we’d enjoy for sure.  Ben first ate into his “strange” donut, but it was relatively normal cake donut of some unknown flavor.  His “safe” choice actually had some sort of meat product in it, while he had expected some sort of fruit filling.  My safe choice was simply a glazed donut which was really quite tasty.  My strange donut was acceptable, but actually fish sauce on one side of it.  Pretty funny.

So I got to class 4 minutes late, but it ends up that everybody was running behind schedule.  So it was just fine.  We had a morning lecture on sustainable agriculture that was actually pre-recorded.  It was okay, but not great.  We were scheduled to have a different speaker, but he had actually gotten sick and couldn’t make it to class.  Our 2nd speaker was Dr. Fukushima whom is teaching in Taiwan.  So we had a distance lecture and his subject was “Systems thinking and Life cycle analyses”.  It was actually a very good lecture that brought up a good discussion among the 10 students.  That was all we had scheduled for the day.

I recommended that all of the students grab lunch together today, since we hadn’t really hung out at all as a group.  Some of the students are quite shy.  I don’t know if they are self-conscious of their English or if its just their personality or culture, but I’ll keep working on them…  🙂  Some of them certainly seemed to open up a bit.  We just ate at a campus cafeteria.  It ends up that there were 3 different lines (each quite long) and I didn’t know that ahead of time.  So I wanted a noodle dish, but was in the wrong line for it (which I discovered when I got to the front of the line).  So I just got some random Japanese dishes that looked like they might be good.  It was all fine and only cost 314 Yen ($4), but I was still hungry after eating.  Hmmm….  Not good.  I could have gotten 2nds, but  I just decided to get dessert.  So we found a convenience store, and I found some tasty frozen Japanese dessert.  It seemed to be some sort of frozen sweet dough with ice cream in the middle.  Yum.  I like.…

2011.10.24. Sustainability course. Day 1.

Interesting day.  We actually had a brief orientation event last night, but I was too tired to write an entry.  It was pretty basic and introduced ourselves to the group.  I don’t quite know everybody’s names yet, but it appears that there are about 12 people in our group of students.  All of them are international students. I think that we have 3 Americans, 1 Mexican, 3 Indonesians, 1 Chinese…  And I am missing the other nationalities.  I could be wrong on the group size too, but I’ll get it right sometime soon.
The dorm is interesting.  I’ve got a small room all to myself.  Its pretty basic and does not have wireless (not complaining, but want to provide useful info for future students).  It does have a refrigerator.  There’s a shared kitchen down on the 1st floor, but we need to have pots, pans, utensils, and personal place setting (plate, bowl, eating utensils) in order to be able to cook and eat.  I have none of these items.
Today’s course include lectures from Dr. N. Tanaka and Dr. Tony Chittendenon Sustainability and Energy.  Pretty basic, but I liked their lecture styles.  Tony is originally from New Zealand, but has been here for a long time.  

We went to a grocery store for some basic supplies before getting some dinner.  It was a small store though and had limited choices for me.  We also went to dinner.  I think that I’ve given up any hope of being at all vegetarian on this trip.  It seems pretty much impossible.  We (Ben, Andres, and I) went to a restaurant tonight and it had no pix of food and no English text (see photo below).  The owners knew no english either.  They either don’t know my custom sign language for fish, or they didn’t actually have any on their menu.  So we randomly ordered 3 items off of the menu after the guy didn’t want to choose 3 items for us.  We got deep fried squid (very yummy), a bunch of raw bacon and a hibachi grill that we could cook it on, and a veggie stir fry dish with bacon with a side of deep fried squid!  Hilarious.  Andres also ordered a bottle of Sapporo Soft (white liquor of some sort that was actually pretty tasty and very smooth…  Weird.  The whole experience was weird.   The place was about 3 blocks from the guy’s dormitory which is about 6 or 7 blocks from campus.  Anyhow, very interesting experience. Jet lag still has me under her grips and I am going down early and quickly these days.  We’ll see how long I last after sharing that bottle of alcohol…  Origato! (Thank you!)

2011.10.23. The long trip.

Up until now, life was pretty hectic.  I hurriedly prepared and installed field gear to initiate this winter’s research project.  I bought some new clothes and gear for my trip (my new Mountain Hardware rain jacket is the red one that I am wearing throughout this trip.)  I also wanted to hang out with my friends which I wouldn’t see for the next couple of months due to our combined travel schedules and up and coming holiday breaks.

I arrived at the airport in Fairbanks, Alaska at midnight and flew 3.5 hours to Seattle and 1.5 hours to Los Angeles.  Now I needed to get to Riverside, so that I could  hang out with an old friend of mine, Sarah, for 24 hours before flying to Japan the next morning. I jumped on the FlyAway shuttle bus ($7) between LAX and Union Station (a transfer point for all public transit in the LA area).  Purchased a round trip train ticket ($23.50) on the MetroLink to get me there.
En route, my fellow passengers taught me new phrases as they audibly imposed upon my personal envelope.  “Jail-raised” was the most notable.  As in, “That m_th*rf_ck*r wasn’t jail-raised so he don’t know sh!t.”  Apparently, this guy had been jail-raised and implied that he held qualifications that far exceeded his subject’s because of his time spent behind bars.  I was particularly impressed by this group of 5 passengers, each of whom was equally impressed with each other because of their particular experiences behind bars and the homies that they had met while there.  It was funny that one of them was trying to fit in and was sure to claim that while she had not been in jail yet, she was soon going to go to court for some minor infraction in which she had received a ticket. She thought that this might just be her opportunity to finally end up in the county jail.  The ages of these kids?  17, 19, 20, 24, & 18.

Sarah picked me up at the train station and gave us an opportunity to catch up a bit.  Nine years had passed since we last saw each other.  It had probably been 5 years since we last talked, but then there was Facebook.  Of course, through the “magic” of this website, we have reconnected in some minor, but not really so minor way.  Its an interesting phenomenon because I’m not sure that I would be sitting with her and her husband at dinner, if we had not been Facebook friends.  I highly doubt it actually.  It hadn’t dawned on me that Riverside was somewhat near LAX when I had posted that I’d have 26 hours in the LAX area and was dreading the experience.  Sarah invited me to stay with them in their home so that we could catch up and share a few laughs. Laugh, share memories, and catch-up we did.  We went on a great little hike up to the “C” and had a great homemade pasta dinner and some beautiful and delicious little appetizers and a wonderfully simple, yet indulgent, chocolate-laden dessert.  I am so happy that we were able to make that happen.  It had been way too long and I hope that it won’t be nearly so long before I see them again!
The next morning, I caught the train back to Union Station, but caught the subway ($3) to the airport.  Red line to the Blue line to the Green line.  Free shuttle bus to the airport and I was there.  1.5 hours for the train and 1.25 hours for the subway/shuttle.

12 hours after Los Angeles and I touched down in Tokyo.  Pick-up my checked luggage. Go through customs. Check in for my domestic flight.  Go through security.  They find an old generic leatherman (with knife) in my carry-on!  I haven’t seen this thing in many, many months!  How long had it been in there?  This is the bag that I always have with me as my carry-on.  It had gone through security without question from Alaska to LAX and again from LAX to Japan!  I suspect that it had traveled on a number of flights before this trip as well.  Interesting.  Throw it out please.  They comply.

Sapporo.  Oct. 22, 2011. 9:30 PM.  Subway to Sapporo Station. Taxi to Hokkaido University’s International House (male dormitory).  Check in. Sign papers.  Listen to the many rules. Agree. Sign my life away. Go to sleep.  It has been a very long trip from Alaska and I am going to sleep very, very hard.…