Monday, December 11, 2017

A Very Japanese Christmas

Christmas was coming to life when I visited Japan in early November. Colonel Sanders, an integral part of Japan's Christmas traditions, was in his Santa garb. Ticket counters in some train stations were decorated with tinsel and little ornaments. Christmas trees were starting to sprout.

Monday, December 4, 2017

Monday Morning Coffees

From under the duvet, I hear the daily grind. Dwight is edging towards his workday.

It's time for my daily incantation:
"OK Google, what time is it?"
"OK Google, turn on National Public Radio"
"OK Google, turn on bedroom lights"
"OK Google, bring coffee"
OK, I don't ask Google to bring coffee. I stick my head out the door and make my wakeful state known. I make a mental note to program Google to flash a light in the kitchen when I'm ready for my first coffee of the day

A few minutes later, the coffee arrives.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

A Sporting House

November 2017. I look out from our Minneapolis Mill District apartment.

Ahead, I see St. Anthony Falls, the only significant waterfall on the Mississippi. A hydroelectric plant, established in 1882, still generates enough power for thousands of homes.

Minneapolis grew up around these falls.

Across the river I pick out the Pillsbury "A" Mill. Completed in 1881, it was the most productive flour mill in the world for 40 years.

My eyes follow the gorgeous curved lines of the 1883 Stone Arch Bridge back to my side of the river to the Washburn "A" Mill, part of a complex dating back to the 1870's.

I look down to 11th Avenue South which runs in front of our home. It draws my eyes away from the Mississippi and up the road to a Romanesque brick building (pictured at the top of this post) at 212 11th Avenue South. It seems strangely out of place.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Four Kyushu Olle Hikes

It can be a challenge getting to a hiking trailhead. Public transport may be spotty or non-existent, and once you're in the locale, trailheads have a bad habit of hiding in plain sight.

Once I've found the trailhead, I can usually muddle my way along the trail with the assistance of GPS, map, signage, and dumb luck. The odd involuntary reroute, in airline parlance, is all part of the experience. Travel without wabi-sabi is bland.

Sometimes, though, I just want to get to a trailhead then walk with my mind relieved of the logistics of the walk. Originally developed in South Korea, Olle hikes meet this challenge in Kyushu, Japan's southernmost main island. An Olle hike might include villages, farms, mountainous countryside, and the seaside. The trail may be arduous, or relaxed, depending on the classification.

I don't have to overthink: an Olle hike is a nice day out; I just have to follow the symbols shown at the top of this post.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Snapshots: A Night in a Bicycle Hotel

This week I spent a night in Hotel Cycle, in a converted warehouse in the port city of Onomichi, Japan. I used it as a base to cycle part of the Shimanami Kaido trail across the Seto Inland Sea.

Friday, November 3, 2017

Walking in Silence

Today I walked through a solemn space filled with sounds of flowing water, wishing for an alternate history that does not lead to this place.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Snapshots: Circling and Framing a Volcano

Sakurajima dominates the view across the bay from Kagoshima, southern Japan. It's one of the world's most active volcanoes, regularly raining ash on the city. Surfaces can feel gritty, accumulations of dust are a hazard to cyclists.

Hotel rooms with a view of Sakurajima fetch a premium. Directions are expressed relative to the volcano; e.g., "walk towards Sakurajima." It's a common element in public art.

Yesterday, I cycled around the volcano.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Using Social Media to Resolve an Issue with United Airlines

We're off to New Zealand in December. There are no nonstop flights from hometown Minneapolis (MSP) to New Zealand, but I found one-stop itineraries through Los Angeles (LAX), San Francisco, and Houston. These are good cities to connect through in the winter: they don't get shut down by snow.

Everything was fine until United changed our optimal one-stop itinerary to two stops. This added several hours to the journey, and introduced opportunities for misconnects.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Snapshots: Superior Hiking Trail 2017

Each October we drive up to the North Shore of Lake Superior to hike sections of the Superior Hiking Trail.