Shelter in Place

I have to admit, at first I was a little skeptical about the threat of COVID-19. But as events transpired in other parts of the world, I realized it was something to be taken seriously. Although an event I’d been particularly looking forward to on March 14 ended up being cancelled, I had already decided not to attend.

On March 15, the six largest California Bay Area counties issued shelter in place orders, including Marin County, where I work. On March 16, Sonoma County, where I live, issued a similar order. Other jurisdictions followed, and on March 19 an order covering the entire state of California was issued, superseding county level orders and not having an end date.

Schools were closed, events were cancelled or postponed, work places were closed or shifted to remote working – anything to limit exposure to (large numbers of) other people, thereby breaking paths for transmission of the virus. All of a sudden we were in a very different world.

Some people felt the measures were perhaps unwarranted, but to me, a quote from this article summed it up pretty well: “It’s that you have to take steps that appear in the moment to be an exceptional overreaction — because by the time it looks like the steps you’re taking are appropriate, it will have been too late.” Looking like we overreacted seems like the better risk to take.

So, we are to stay home, except for essential activities. Which are somewhat enumerated in the orders, but it’s got me musing on “essential”. Not something most first-worlders think on too much.

DO I REALLY NEED THIS __________ ? Fill in the blank with whatever new gadget or piece of clothing or getting in the car to drive to the store for one ingredient you don’t have for a new recipe you HAVE TO try tonight…

Maybe this is, as one of the memes going around said, the Earth sending us to our rooms for a time out to think about what we’ve been doing. It’s given us a lot of hints that we’re making a mess of things , and may be losing its patience. Or realized we need something very big and obvious to get our attention. How does that saying go? Mother Nature bats last.

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AMERICAN SUTRA: A Story of Faith and Freedom in the Second World War

I had been seeing posts about the book American Sutra online, and was able to make it to hear the author, Duncan Ryūken Williams, speak. There was a good size audience, which he wryly acknowledged, saying the book had taken him seventeen years, so it would suck if no one came to hear about it. He also gave a bit of personal background – he was born in Tokyo to a Japanese mother and British father, and had grown up spending time in both countries.

His journey to the book had started from his Buddhist studies program. In cleaning out a professor’s office, he came across a WWII diary of a Buddhist priest who had been incarcerated at Manzanar. As Japanese/British he had not known of the forced relocation, and as he delved into the history, found that religion was a largely ignored component.

In fact, the first person of Japanese ancestry picked up after Pearl Harbor was a priest. United States law enforcement had been surveilling Buddhist temples, and considered them suspicious.

While others have mentioned the racial component of treatment of peoples whose countries of origin were at war with the United States, Williams discussed that it was not only the racial difference but also religious difference that led to the Japanese being the sole group subject to mass incarceration. Despite religion allegedly being one of the four freedoms, the US was a Christian country, and non-Christian religions did not enjoy the same privilege. Besides speaking a different language and having a different culture, the fact that most Japanese practiced a different religion heightened the feelings that they were un- or even anti-American, and unassimilable.

Williams mentioned how on the infamous loyalty questionnaire, number sixteen was “What is your religion?” The point values for various answers were: Shinto -2, Christian +2, Buddhist -1. When Japanese Americans were allowed to serve in the military, there was a struggle to get B for Buddhist as an option on dog tags. In a somewhat ironic twist, many of the Military Intelligence Service (MIS) personnel who served in the Pacific had acquired their Japanese language skills from Buddhist sponsored language schools. And the difficulties of the confinement strengthened or renewed the Buddhist practice for many.

It was neat getting to hear Williams speak, as he was obviously passionate about the subject and has devoted many years to the book. Of course I’ve gotten a copy, although I have not read it yet. But I got the impression it is a good balance of detailed scholarly research and generally accessible readability. The talk was very informative, and I’m sure the book will be even more so.

Book reviews: Asian Pacific American Librarians Association; Emiko Yoshikami, whose family’s story is one of the many told in the book

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Although I’m lapsed from playing, I’m taiko-adjacent – friends still play, and I continue to be a fan and supporter. From the socials I heard about the HERbeat project, bringing together top women artists from North America and Japan. The artists would be spending two weeks together in a cultural exchange and residency, and performing in a concert at the Ordway Center for Performing Arts in St. Paul, MN. On February 29, 2020.

Minnesota? In February??? But, the line-up was amazing – any one of the performers would be a draw, but to have all of them, on one stage, in one night? Once in a lifetime. I decided to go, and talked my sister into joining me, making it our Sisters’ Weekend for the year.

It was totally worth it, I’m so glad I went. Some of the performers I had seen before, some I had heard of but not seen, and others were completely new to me. So that was cool. The variety of pieces was fantastic – in addition to drums there was fue, shakuhachi, shamisen, singing and dancing. It was neat to see the variety of styles, and the contrasts and complements of the players’ different styles were well and thoughtfully used throughout the concert.

Beyond being a virtuosic display of skill and musicality, the event was super inspiring in that it was the realization of a “wouldn’t it be cool if …?” moment for Jennifer Weir, Megan Chao Smith and Tiffany Tamaribuchi. From idea, to dream, to reality. They made it happen, and shared it with all of us. What a gift.

Besides the concert there were other events during the residency, workshops and school shows. A full length documentary film is also being created. (Link on the page if you would like to donate.)

Additional opportunities to support women in taiko:
Chieko Kojima’s Film Project – combining live performance footage of Kodo “Sen no Mai”– Chieko Kojima Performance Career 40th Anniversary Concert with scenes shot on location on Sado Island.
Ren Zoshi’s professional taiko apprenticeship in Japan – phenomenal young player who began her taiko journey at Sonoma County Taiko!

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Calgary’s Plus 15

Downtown Calgary has a pedestrian skywalk system linking buildings, allowing one to traverse the city center er, centre, without setting foot outside. The name refers to the height above ground, approximately 15 feet, which… feet?! aren’t they on the metic system? There are over 10 kilometers of path and over 60 bridges.

The system was developed by architect Harold Hanen, who worked for the Calgary Planning Department in the late 1960s. The first bridges opening in the early 1970s. The motivations were to give pedestrians an option to avoid inclement weather, and the potential dangers of sidewalk travel. As time has passed there has been some re-evaluation of the need for the system, and arguments that it robs the city of street level activity and community. Good read on history, pros and cons, and personal usage experience.

Since the weather was quite pleasant while I was there in September, I didn’t feel any reason to use it to avoid discomfort, but I was kinda curious. However, due to timing – being after regular business hours – I was not able to find a way in. The bridges are owned by the city, but most of the access points are in private buildings, so you can’t always just walk in off the street. Which, for example if it’s a walk between two office buildings, why would anyone need to be there after hours? But it does raise some interesting questions about public/private space.

It does give a different flavor to the city – a extra visible reminder that there’s a whole other world cocooned inside climate controlled spaces. Even if one doesn’t use it, it colors the feel and experience. I can see both plusses and minuses to the system. But, after all the investment in it, I’m guessing it won’t go away.

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2018 Colombia – Day 11

< previous day

Somehow it had gotten to be our last day. sad trombone. How had that happened?! We must have been having fun! (After all, they say time flies when one is doing such.)

We had a bit of time before having to be to the airport for our flight, so walked around the neighborhood. Some of the other folks had gone on official graffiti – oh or maybe they called them street art or mural – tours earlier in the trip, but we saw what seemed like a good selection, in several different styles, just on our own.

There was a neat looking bookstore, which unfortunately – or maybe fortunately – was not open yet. Ditto for a Chocolateria. We passed by what looked like a farmers’ market, and many other shops and restaurants. The Museo Nacional was also steps from our hotel. I could have spent another day or two checking all these things out, but not to be this trip.

For breakfast we decided to try the restaurant across the street, rather than just doing the hotel buffet. It was a little more overhead with having to look at a menu and choose and all that, but it was good to try something different, and turned out to be super tasty.

Then it was the travel shuffle – got to the airport, went through security, waited for then got on flight one to El Salvador. Which was late, so the connection was a tad hectic, since we had to go through a screening and Eric got stopped for some reason, but we did both make it to the second plane. Whew. Not quite as they were closing the door, but pretty close. Anyway, we were on, and made it back to San Francisco safely.

As I mentioned before, Colombia hadn’t been on my radar as a place to go, but I’m super glad I got the opportunity to visit, especially with a local connection. Although she hasn’t lived there in many years, Angela has an obvious affection for the country, and Jon has developed one as well. They were super generous in sharing this and their travel knowledge with their family and friends. It was a wonderful experience that I am immensely grateful for.

more pictures

June 18, 2018

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Calgary Central Library

The hotel we were staying at was right next door to the stunning new (opened November, 2018) Calgary Public Library Central Branch. It is an amazingly beautiful building, with sleek curves softened with the generous use of wood. Although super modern and open floor plan, it is not completely unwelcoming (as modern buildings sometimes are.) Or maybe just the fact that it is a home for books gives it a touch of homey feel to me.

There were actually a number of nooks and crannies, and more secluded areas for quiet study scattered throughout the library. And two cafes! Which – food and drink in a library still weirds me out, but whatever, they definitely seemed to be a draw. Ohand!!! and indoor play area in the Children’s Library section!!!

The building also seems well integrated into the site, with the light rail passing underneath it, and a public plaza area with some fun sculpture. The main entrance can be accessed from either side, and is nestled under a swooping wooden curve that suggests a boat.

Besides the beauty of the building, there were a variety of art works on display, and I found a small gallery with an exhibit of artist’s books, which was very cool. The reading room had shelves with book selections on various themes, which was also neat. Perhaps my favorite thing was that there were spaces for an Author in Residence, an Artist in Residence and a Historian in Residence. None of them were in when I visited (in the evenings), and I’m not sure what I might have talked with them about anyway, but it seems like a great thing for a library to have this sort of program. I also got a chuckle from the “Vintage Media Lab,” which included such historical equipment as a typewriter, and film and slide projectors.

more pictures

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2018 Colombia – Day 10

< previous day

So I meant to get through all the posts about our Colombia trip before heading off on the next International Adventure – you would think fourteen months would be enough time for that – but, yeah. Think again. Anyhoo, I guess before I get too far into those write-ups I’ll wrap this up. Although I thought I’d jotted (in electronic form – would that still be jotting?) down some notes about the last couple days of the trip, but again, not so much.

Regardless, I do remember that I made it through a full night in a hammock for the first time ever! Achievement Unlocked! Although I can’t say it was a full night’s sleep, at least I didn’t fall out. And, while the idea of sleeping in a hammock sounded pretty cool, let’s just say I haven’t rushed out to do it again. It certainly me realize that I do not keep perfectly still all night. Changing – well, trying to change – positions in a hammock is very different than when you are in a bed. Also, you are more affected by the ambient temperature, since you are surrounded by air. Surprisingly, it actually got a bit chilly! I was glad for long sleeve top and pants and a kikoi to wrap myself in. In fact, the whole time we were in the Amazon it was cooler than I had expected – not that I am complaining. But it did seem a little odd to be wearing long sleeves and pants in the rain forest!

Speaking of rain forest, that was our activity for the day – a walk in the jungle. Hmn… are those terms interchangeable? Whatever, we went out walking in the trees and vines and plants and mud and bugs and exuberant life surrounding Habitat Sur. So. Much. Green. I’m glad there was a path and people to follow, it seemed like it would have been very easy to have gotten lost and never be seen again.

After a tasty meal we were back on the bus, and to the airport, and then on the plane to Bogota. And just like that, back in the city. We were in the same hotel, and what could have been the same room, except it was a different number, and the mirror image of what we’d had previously.

There were some rumblings of getting a group together for dinner, but Eric and I struck out on our own. It turned out there were a lot of possibilities within walking distance of the hotel – of course you find allthethings on the last night – we went to the Sandwich Workshop Angela had recommended. Super duper yummy. But no alcohol because the Presidential Election.

more pictures

June 17, 2018

next day >


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