Tuesday, September 05, 2017

O'Canada 2017: Grouse Mountain

Grouse Mountain
This place was amazing.


Lumberjack Show at Grouse Mountain

From our recent trip to Canada: The Monty Python song used to be the first thing to come to mind when I'd think of 'lumberjacks.' But now...have you ever seen a lumberjack competition? OMG, it's absolutely delightful! The suspense. The danger. The athleticism. LOVE IT.

Monday, September 04, 2017

O'Canada 2017: Science World & Stanley Park

Having not spent much time up in Vancouver BC before and having no good reason for avoiding it, we packed up the kids and headed north this last week. It's shocking really, given the proximity, wealth of activities/attractions and just the international cosmopolitan allure that we had not thought of this plan sooner. Additionally the weather was *perfect* in 70/80 range unlike the rest of the west coast which is in the 90/100 range. 

A week away won't fix the government or make the struggles of this country go away, but it does push a reset button (or at least pause) so the soul can recoup. But doing so in Canada, especially Vancouver, where their accent is so similar to our own, doesn't even feel like we're in a foreign country. Sure everything is in 'metric' and there is an extra 'u' sometimes (like favorite vs. favourite) and they go to the Washroom (not the Restroom or Bathroom) but the best thing is their money. It's super futuristic and made of polymer plastic so that coupled with their dollar & two dollar coins, a favorable exchange rate to the US dollar and having gotten rid of the absolutely worthless Canadian penny--throwing tourism money at them is easy and enjoyable. 

With the children, we made sure we did things that they would enjoy and got us out and about. And walking around was pretty entertaining. Take for example the Lamborghini Batmobile with a parking ticket that we happened upon. Won't see that in Seattle!

Batmobile Lamborghini 

Their science center is very impressive in terms of what variety of exhibits they have in addition to the amount of hands on opportunities. Maybe it's the Canadian sensibility or more money to put toward education--don't know. But they also don't sugar coat stuff either. There was a whole section on how babies are made and it even acknowledges the existence and intricacies of (gasp) sex. I like that frankness about the truth of science and the lack of unfounded pearl-clutching about the topic. Another area of the museum featured many kinetic, Rube Goldberg-like contraptions that engaged the kids for long spans of time. It's really a great place to spend the day with a good deal of fun and learning and if you have a membership already to the Pacific Science Center (or many other ASTC science museums) you can get in free.

Look at these nerds, right here...


I so want one of these guys if they're as cool as the one in Tangled.

We saw the IMAX "Beavers" movie then Cal saw a stuffed Beaver on exhibit and now they are his favorite animal ever.

An undisputed crown jewel of Vancouver is it's picturesque and vibrant Stanley Park. It's packed with a bunch of trails, beaches, play areas, nature stuff and gorgeous views. There is a seawall trail that runs the perimeter of the entire park and is roughly 5.5 miles. We brought the kids' bikes up with us and rented a few for ourselves. I personally loved the 7-speed Trek Cruiser that I rented and might even consider getting one in real life for (gasp) riding around Seattle. But most impressive was that the kids did the whole ride without whining. A stop for lunch and a few stops to look at stuff were also part of the winning strategy.  

Cal was not having his picture taken. Vancouver in the background.

At the awesome waterpark on the route.

Sidney perfected her eye roll on this trip and we shall never be the same.

To be continued.....

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Fig Time 2017

Another August, another fig season! Members of our household (some more enthusiastically then others) wait and prepare all year for the epic two week window of fig harvest. And every year Ken ups his game. Because each year, a new challenge meets him.

(As a refresher: Find the evolution of defending the tree from interlopers and how it became the stuff of myth and legend HERE. Last year's season introduced the world to the likes of 'Quadropus.')

You know that thing when you solve your problem only to find another one in its place? What we've noticed is that the method of defending the tree evolves and the *kind* of interlopers changes over time as well. First, it was the terrible European Starlings that seized on the figs, then we noticed some bad-ass crows claimed our yard as their territory so we've seen very few Starlings this year. But very recently, we've spotted a bold squirrel who doesn't take no for an answer. A few days ago I went out to water some flowers in the garden and the squirrel scampered away with a ripe fig in it's mouth. It could barely carry it but it managed to escape up into the tree. So yesterday when I was again outside picking up all the forgotten plastic toys strewn about the yard, I saw a/the squirrel near the fig tree again. I shouted for it to get moving. But it just sat there twitching it's fuzzy tail, daring me to do something about it. I yelled again and it moved a few feet but not with any urgency. I then announced, "It gets the hose!" and I clicked the sprayer over to "jet" and gave a squirrel an unwanted shower it would not soon forget. But I digress...

Our fig harvest's success owes a lot to technology. This year Ken was able to find an application that accomplished 90% of what he wanted to do with monitoring, detection and triggering the Quad. Two Raspberry Pi computers with cameras attached kept watch over the tree and kicked off a modified Quadropus with shorter limbs for better flailing and less tree entanglement. More tech and cabling seemed to entered the garden this year but Ken continued to tweak and refine his device. Unfortunately, the crop wasn't as voluminous as last year, in fact he thinks it's half of what last year yielded. I'm not sure if we should attribute the very wet spring or the 52 days of straight sun we just had but even the berries were not as great this year. Still, a good number of eating figs and roughly 27 jars of jam should come from it. Hopefully that should be enough. 


It works!

And sometimes you get a surprise.

Tuesday, July 04, 2017

America's Birthday & the Bainbridge Island Japanese American Memorial

On America's birthday, I find myself thinking about what it is to be American. I think particularly about how the last nine months have brought my uneasy feelings into focus about divides in our country: racial, economic, religious and gender, for starters.  But these past months have also lit a fire of purpose in my life--to not just have functioning knowledge of civics & government--but to also purposefully advocate for the things I care about.  Supporting public schools, maintaining ethics in media and combating racial injustice top my list. 

But it all seems very dysfunctional and frustrating right now. So on this day, I am harkened back to a particular moment in American history where confidence in our country teetered and a people of color felt like strangers in a strange land. I am steadied and inspired by the confidence in this country that kept the Japanese-Americans from giving up on this great democratic experiment even in times when disillusionment seemed to overtake the dream. My own family's experience with the Internment camps best reflects this...

During World War II after the bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1941, many of my Japanese relatives were forced to go into Internment Camps (prisons). My American-born grandfather, his parents and siblings who grew up in the Yakima Valley were moved eastward to camps in Idaho and Wyoming. 

My dad was actually born during the war but outside of an internment camp in 1944 because my grandfather and grandmother were chosen to work on farms near the camps that supplied the food for the people inside. Though on the 'outside' of the camp, they didn't have their basic freedoms to do as they pleased or go where they wished. 

My late aunt Shizuko "Suzie" Sakai who married my great-uncle Walter Sakai, recounts in a 12-part narrative HERE the oral history of her family's experience. It's impressive for the level of detail and it's the most complete account of someone in our family captured in media.

This chapter in history remains a black mark on the great 'American experiment' of democracy and it's guarantee of civil rights to its citizens. Unsurprisingly, this event in the West Coast Japanese-American experience ripples through what is passed on to subsequent generations. But not in the expected resentment and anger you'd expect. But in example after example of personal fortitude and clear loyalty to their home country of America.  

What I have learned and observed about this part of my Japanese heritage shaped who I am and in it the values and character of duty and perseverance. Some of my great-uncles served in regiments that fought in WWII in the European battles. They served and fought with distinction for their home country that simultaneously was detaining their family members  The resilience of my relatives after they were released and how they yet embraced America, their fickle birthplace, without question impresses me to this day. It is this that I think on in these dark days of our current situation. If the fabric of our country is unraveling or redefining itself and its place in the world. I think about my great grandfather coming to this country in search of opportunity and his faith that America held such promise. And I wonder what it took to leave all that he knew in search of better but I also think about that risk-taking spirit that carried him over the Pacific and to the Washington shores and into Indian lands, the only place where Japanese immigrants could actually buy land because the US government forbade the purchase of land by non-white immigrants.  


Exactly a month ago we visited the Bainbridge Island Japanese American Memorial, a ferry ride away from Seattle. It was the very same day that UK Independent Party Leader and Pro-Brexiter Nigel Farage commented on Fox News in the wake of the terrible London attacks that something needed to be done to prevent future ones. He invoked the idea of internment camps for terror suspects which would effectively create Muslim Internment camps. Fox News quickly distanced themselves and opposed this opinion on-air. But the fact still remains that there are people who feel this is an effective strategy to deal with threats: to round up all members of an ethnic/racial group, strip them of their liberties and detain them. How does the world not learn its lessons?