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?

Monday, July 03, 2017

WSU Murrow College of Communication: Ethics in Communication Project

Click HERE to learn more and participate as a benefactor, audience member or both!

Be part of this important project that will help educate WSU students and the public on ethics and responsibility of the Press. With the namesake of one of the most accomplished broadcast journalists in the industry, this presents a unique and important responsibility for the Edward R. Murrow College of Communication.

Monday, June 12, 2017

I'm just a girl in the world

I grew up... 

Listening to this.

Wearing these.

Watching her.

And now in a time when obvious heroes are in short supply, I can't help but want to find someone who will stand up and fight for what is good, what is right, what is true. What I have always loved about superheroes is that they are 'doers', fixers...action oriented. This lady, despite being fictional, ignites the belief that we all can choose to be our best selves and make a difference whether big or small. 
❤️ 🗡️ 

Check out this awesome but SPOILERY review by HISHE (How It Should Have Ended).* 

*If you're in a rush, this part of the review, starting at 7m 30sec, makes me cry every time I watch. It's that good.

Oh yeah, and go see Wonder Woman in the theater. 
You won't be disappointed!

Friday, May 19, 2017

Update-->No Update on Fully Funding WA Public Schools

Wanting to know what big developments have happened to fully funding education for WA State public schools since I blogged about it last month? (Crickets...) Well we're deep into a special session and it looks like we're headed into another one because very little is happening. Republicans resist coming to the table and when they actually bring themselves to do something, it's a political stunt, designed only to embarrass the Democrats, not solve the problem. It ends up making lawmakers look foolish while WA School districts and parents are still like:

But we--citizens and parents of WA State--can do something. Below is an email I sent to the group currently negotiating the McCleary Education Funding Case (aka Education Funding Task Force) today reminding them of what we want and that we are STILL waiting. (Need a refresher on where the issue is right now? Click this Seattle Times article from today.)

You can do it too! Remind them that they are tasked with fixing the problem, not making it worse. Bonus points if any of these folks are YOUR actual reps. Since many of my friends and family still live in SW Washington, very likely Paul Harris or Ann Rivers could be your legislators and your input would go much farther! Just let them know what you care about and do it soon, if you would. Thank you!

(5/20/17: This list has been corrected and updated to reflect )

Rep. Paul Harris, R-Vancouver
Rep. David Taylor, R-Moxee
Sen. Christine Rolfes, D-Bainbridge
Sen. Andy Billig, D-Spokane
Sen. Ann Rivers, R-La Center
Rep. Kristine Lytton, D-Anacortes
Rep. Pat Sullivan, D-Covington
Sen. John Braun, R-Centralia


Dear Education Funding Task Force Members:

How is the plan coming? I know it's probably a very difficult process you've been undertaking these past months. But the special session will be over soon and having heard little to nothing from the task force, I thought I'd check in and remind you of what is important to us as a family.

1. Please don’t pit schools and services against each other. Washington can't fund public schools at the expense of mental health care, anti-poverty programs, homelessness assistance, higher education, or early education. 
2. We support a capital gains tax. The House capital gains tax proposal is an excellent idea. Washington voters like it too — a recent poll showed 65% support this plan. And we will be paying that tax too since we exercise stock from my husband's company every year.
3. We support closing tax breaks for big businesses. The state legislature must close some of the numerous, unaccountable tax loopholes. Washington gives away something like $30 billion in tax breaks each biennium, which translates to a ton of lost revenue and for what exactly? They should be paying us extra for the proximity to the hottest real estate and labor market in the country.
4. Most importantly: Please come up with a plan in earnest. The games, stunts, stonewalling (looking at you R's) shows us that you don't take this seriously or value the thing we value most: our children, specifically their well-being and future. 
As a parent, as a tax payer, as a citizen, inaction and game-playing makes me furious. Mostly because many of you are parents & grandparents too so fully funding education and bolstering it in a long term way should be in your interest as well.
Again, I look forward to seeing your plan and hope it will be very soon.

Kali Sakai
Seattle, WA

Friday, April 21, 2017

Fully Fund Washington's schools, invest more (not less) and branch out for long-term revenue

My daughter, Sidney, 2nd grade
Our message to Senator Braun on 3/26
Dear Members of the WA State Education Task Force:
(Sen. Andy Billig, Sen. Dino Rossi, Rep. Pat Sullivan, Sen. Ann Rivers, Rep. Kristine Lytton, Sen. Christine Rolfes, Rep. David Taylor & Rep. Paul Harris)

Do you know what I see when I volunteer in my daughter’s elementary school each week? The incredible amount of effort and resources it takes--even in an affluent school--to teach and make progress with each individual child. Many educators do this without having the services, personnel and resources they need and many compensate for it out of their own pockets or with overtime, when they’d normally be with their own families.

So in a state that is home to some of the wealthiest people and the biggest companies in the world, how is it that our public schools are still so under-resourced? Why do we shortchange our children this way?

I'm at a loss as to how Senate Republican lawmakers can propose to only really fund HALF the state’s schools with their plan while at the same time pressing significant taxes upon the property-owning middle class. The Seattle Times reported on 2/22 that this plan weighs even heavier on Seattle-area property owners than previously thought and Seattle families will receive less per-student-funding for their contributions than other parts of the state. It seemed hasty that 5607 was shoved through. It didn't allow time for the public, the Committees or Senate Democrats to really dig into the details. As a result, the true financial impact and it’s inadequacy was only discovered after it passed the Senate.

But Senator Ann Rivers said to me in an email exchange on 1/31/2017, “Please don't misunderstand me – I don't think 5607 is perfect. It is however, at this time, the singular bill that has 25 votes in the entire legislature.” This sounds like Republicans knew the plan wasn’t so much about best serving our students but rather slamming through a solution that would appease the lawsuit. The bottom line is: it still doesn’t solve the problem.

It's time to start looking at stable revenue sources without gutting every other social service because this is a long-term investment in our children and our state's economy via our competitiveness for jobs & innovation. State Superintendent Chris Reykdal agreed that more resources are needed in this Crosscut article (2/22/17). "A straight swap of state for local dollars such as the one proposed by Republicans isn’t enough. “If you’re seriously going to change outcomes for every student … I think every school district should have more resources,” Reykdal said. “The bottom line is they need to invest more.

Therefore, I am asking you to support the House Democrats’ budget. I urge you to embrace the capital gains tax which will ensure that the wealthiest Washingtonians pay their fair share. And by the way, I’m not just asking here for ‘others’ to fund education. My husband and I will get to participate since we exercise stock and pay capital gains taxes every year too.

Also close tax break loop holes to large companies, like Boeing, who--let’s face it--have no loyalty to Washington when the bottom line is concerned. But our schools educate the next generation of workers. Why should big business reap the rewards of this workforce that they don’t help build? Washington is a great place to live and draws a deep and diverse talent pool. Companies are lucky to set up here and the state should start acting like it.

I’m a parent and constituent in the 36th District. But my family has and does live all over the state of Washington--and we are all products of the public school system.

  • Rep. David Taylor: My grandfather was born and raised in Toppinish. He went to school there and worked on the family farm until the family was relocated to a Japanese internment camp in Wyoming.
  • Sen. Andy Billig: My dad grew up on South Hill and attended the original Grant Elementary and went on to graduate from Lewis and Clark High School in Spokane.
  • Rep. Paul Harris: My father and stepmother now reside in the 17th district and my stepmom teaches 1st grade at Harmony Elementary, also located in your district.
  • And as I previously shared with Sen. Ann Rivers: I grew up in her district of Ridgefield and attended Union Ridge Elementary, View Ridge Middle School and ultimately graduated from Ridgefield High School.

As my kids look ahead to 3rd grade (Sidney) and Kindergarten (Calvin) in the Fall, I ask you now that you’re in special session to set aside the lesser angels of our nature and work together to finally fulfill Washington’s Paramount Duty of fully funding education. Use the House Democrats plan. Create a sustainable revenue stream that simultaneously fixes our lopsided tax system and keeps social services intact. Shore up taxes lost to big businesses who aren’t paying nearly enough and tax capital gains 5-7% more. This legislation will define our core values as a state but it really shows voters if our lawmakers can overcome ideology and special-interest influence to do right by our most precious and beloved resource: our children.

Thank you,
Kali Sakai
Seattle, WA

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Henry Shiro Sakai, 1926-2017

Last Wednesday April 12th while we were in Portland, my great-uncle Henry Shiro Sakai passed away. He was 91 and the youngest (and last) of my grandfather’s siblings. According to my Dad, he was an electrical engineer who worked in avionics for North American Aviation, which among other things had supplied modules for the space shuttle program. 
I had written to Uncle Hank this past February telling him of our plans to visit Portland during Spring Break and wanted to interview him. My thought was to get an account of our family’s experience in the World War II Japanese Internment Camps for posterity. He even made a joke in a subsequent voice mail that he hoped he’d still be around when we were scheduled to visit on Saturday April 15th. I had no idea that I should have taken his comment more seriously. I guess you can never know these things but I am heartbroken that I didn't take the initiative even 6 months sooner to talk to him about it. 

There isn’t going to be an official obituary or service—he and my aunt who survives him decided that wasn’t necessarybut I wanted to pay a humble homage to him anyway. RIP Uncle.

Photos by Cindy Hovind, 2013