Short getaway to Hokkaido

The northernmost islands of Japan are on similar latitudes with Rome, Marseilles, and New Hampshire.  But they are COLD and frozen!  Hokkaido is Japan’s second largest but has only 4% of the population.  It does have snow, forests, salmon, brown bears and other amazing wildlife.  I got the chance to visit the eastern part to see the legendary Red-crowned crane (Grus japonicus) – Tancho tsuru in Japanese.  In the early 20th Century they were thought to be extinct in Japan until a group of 20 individuals were discovered in a wetland in eastern Hokkaido.  Now the global population is up to 2000 and have strong protection in Japan where their habitat is increasingly protected and local farmers have taken to feeding them in their snowy wintering grounds.  The two day trip was short but full of birds – besides the cranes there were Stellar’s sea eagles (Haliaeetus pelagicus), White-tailed eagles (Haliaeetus albicilla), Eurasian jays, Chinese nuthatches, woodpeckers, lots of tits, and a couple of Hen harriers (Circus spilonitus)  – plus a fox and lots of Sika deer (Cervus nippon)!  And snow and cold!

I also had a fun companion and partner on the trip – and personal chauffeur.  She did a great job driving on the snowy roads!

With some short videos!

Dancing cranes!

Landing cranes!


Some of the landscapes were stunning!


Frozen Lake Akkeshi

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And my amazing chauffeur got to have some fun too.  🙂

Kyoto winter!

Last winter I chickened out and got out of Kyoto a few times with stops in the USA, Cairo, and Malaysia.  This winter, I am being brave and staying here the whole winter.  It will be my first complete winter in years and years!

All of my apartment windows are opaque, so I don’t see the weather until I open the door to check.  This morning I got a nice surprise and a fun ride to the lab. Yay for snow!

Savage Harvest and Throwim Way Leg

I applied for a job in Papua New Guinea recently.  It would be a dream to work there, but it can be an intimidating place (in parts).  New Guinea is the second biggest island in the world (after Greenland. No, Australia is not an island, its a continent) and has some of the richest marine and terrestrial biodiversity in the world.  Papua New Guinea alone has more than 800 languages!  But it is poor and corrupt and some areas have high levels of violence.

To prepare for the interview I read two books about the island.  Savage Harvest, by Carl Hoffman, is the story of the death of Micheal Rockefeller and the author’s quest to find out if he had drown (as reported) or was eaten (as many suspected).  Throwim Way Leg is the story of Tim Flannery’s (who has described more species than Darwin did!) early adventures and explorations of the mammals of New Guinea.  He documented animals in areas no other scientist had been to all while battling tough field conditions, vermin, and disease.

Both authors describe how tough the island can be.  But through all the stories of hardship there is an underlying beauty of the people and the landscapes that still attracts me.  But, in the end, I don’t think I got the job….. so, it will just remain a dream.  Good books though!



Autumn is, without a doubt, my favorite season.  I love the crisp air, the smell of the leaves as they start to decompose on the ground, and the deep sense of nostalgia that it brings every year.  During my time in Malaysia, it was Autumn that I missed deeply.  The seasons in Malaysia followed the monsoons – wet and wetter.  They grew comfortable but never sparked the feelings that I have during the Autumn.  Kyoto is stunning during this time of year.  I am grateful to get the opportunity to be here.


Hanase hiking

Monday 11 October was Sports Day in Japan and my neighbour, Yoko, organised a short hike in the mountains north of Kyoto.    We took the bus up there and hiked for a few hours.  The trail ended at a nice little forest center with BBQ pits and hammocks along the river.  The hike wasn’t particularly strenuous but very beautiful.  I was hoping to see some big wildlife but we saw lots of little wildlife!


At some points the trail got narrow and steep.

And it was a fun group!

Spider man! スパイダーマン!

This is the first post for a long time.  Sorry for the absence.  I am progressing on my studies… slowly.  I have applied for some jobs recently but not getting many nibbles, so keep casting.   During the last trip to Sabah, I got a great deal on a camera that can get some close up shots.  The great Kyoto autumn weather has allowed for a few photo sessions lately.  Here are some spiders and other critters from campus.

Hiroshima: The World’s Bomb

Andrew J Rotter.

This was the first book I have read about the atomic bomb.  What a terrible, horrible weapon.  I am hoping to visit Hiroshima some time this year.



I’ve finished the transcriptions of my raw data.  I have 57 interviews and I’ve transcribed the 42 that were conducted in English.  My research assistant is still working on the Malay and Chinese ones.  The transcription now comes to 493 pages.  I’ll spend the next month or so coding the data and trying to find some patterns.

Goodbye Transcriva!  You were free and you worked great, but I will not miss you!

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The Name of the Wind

Patrick Rothfuss’ excellent first fantasy novels.  Other than the Lord of the Rings, and recently, the Song of Ice and Fire, I have never been a fantasy fan.  But these books distracted me quite a bit over the last few weeks.

The story of Kvothe. He spends a lot of time at the University. I spend a lot of time at the University. Does this count as PhD reading?

The Limits of Institutional Reform

This may become one of the central theories in my PhD work.  Taking it very slow to absorb as much as I can.

Matt Andrews