The week that was (06-14-19)

An oak sapling, planted jointly by Trump and Macron as a symbol of their countries’ friendship, has died. In an awkward bit of symbolism, the tree died in quarantine.

In order to speed up turnaround times for its airplanes at the gate, United is sending its ground crew to NASCAR pit crew training camps.

The Japanese parliament passed a law making illegal to fly an unmanned drone while drunk.

A rapper named “Scarface” announced that he’s running for a seat on the Houston City Council.

A man in Israel managed to hold up two banks armed with nothing but an avocado.

The F-35 fighter jet project is coming along nicely save a few hiccups. Pilots are asked to limit the jet’s airspeed to avoid “damage to the F-35’s airframe or stealth coating.” Kind of the point with a fighter jet. To go fast and not fall apart.

The Honda lawnmower that can go 150 mph announced last year? There’s now video.

The was a bumper crop of mangoes in the Philippines due to unusually warm weather, they now have 10 million more mangoes than usual and are not sure what to do.

A baby girl, born on board a train traveling from Galway to Dublin, was granted 25 years of free travel by Irish Rail

It can happen again

A couple of weeks ago, I took the family to see Then They Came for Me, an exhibit about the incarceration of Japanese-Americans on the West Coast during the Second World War. The exhibit, at San Francisco’s Presidio, has been extended through August and I highly recommend it. The use of the courts to remove civil liberties and justify racism (let’s call it what it was) is an ugly chapter in American history. Lessons learned then are more relevant than ever in today’s political environment of bombastic pronouncements and unnecessary walls.

Most know about the forced removal of 120,000 Americans from California, Arizona, Oregon, and Washington during World War II but did you also know,

  • Most families were given only a few days to clear out or give away everything they owned. Lifelong businesses were shutdown and sold off for pennies on the dollar. Houses were sold off, basically repossessed. You were only allowed a single suitcase and it wasn’t clear where you were going.
  • Until the actual camps were built, families had to make do in the horse stalls at local racetracks. Of course it stunk, was cold, and there was no privacy.
  • The “Internment” camps were a nice way of putting it. They were basically concentration camps, surrounded by razor wire and machine gun towers. The shacks were simple tar-paper sheds which provided almost no insulation from the freezing temperature in the Winter and baked in the desert sun during the Summer.
  • There were many acts of passive resistance in the face of extreme institutional injustice. This was 20 years before the civil rights movement.
  • Award-winning photographers Ansel Adams and Dorthea Lange were hired by the War Department to document the round-up and show it in a favorable light. Photos that depicted machine gun towers or protests were censored. It didn’t go as planned and we have them to thank for their record of this time.
Jap “hunting licenses” and a page for Life Magazine on how to identify a Jap
Our guide, Don Tamaki

We were lucky to have a guide the day we visited. Not just any guide but Donald Tamaki, one of the lawyers who worked on the team that cleared Fred Korematsu from the landmark Korematsu v. United States case.

In the video clip above, Don talks about how his team uncovered evidence of a cover-up. There was no evidence of any shore-to-ship radio messages, the threat of Japanese spies was unfounded, made up. 120,000 people were ripped out of their communities for no reason. Farms, businesses, and homes were sold off and people were told to suspect their neighbors for no reason.

In the end, the Supreme Court took the military & intelligence at their word and went along with their demand for an exclusion zone and incarceration of all those of Japanese decent within it. Once the courts stop questioning the other branches of government, in this case Congress and the President, the balance that keeps dictators and tyrants in check is lost.

While the current Chief Justice Roberts has said Korematsu v United States ‘has no place in law under the Constitution’ the law still exists, The Supreme Court has not reversed its original decision so the law that gives the president power to round up people based on race in times of national security is still on the books. As the dissenting justice in the original ruling writes, such a flawed law “lies about like a loaded weapon.”

A military order, however unconstitutional, is not apt to last longer than the military emergency. Even during that period, a succeeding commander may revoke it all. But once a judicial opinion rationalizes such an order to show that it conforms to the Constitution, or rather rationalizes the Constitution to show that the Constitution sanctions such an order, the Court for all time has validated the principle of racial discrimination in criminal procedure and of transplanting American citizens. The principle then lies about like a loaded weapon, ready for the hand of any authority that can bring forward a plausible claim of an urgent need. Every repetition imbeds that principle more deeply in our law and thinking and expands it to new purposes.

Korematsu v. United States, Dissent, Justice Jackson

It can happen again.

Related: California and Sanctuary Cities

The week that was (06-07-19)

It was only the 2nd time ever that there were two English soccer teams playing each other in the European Champion’s League final. Thousands of fans flew from England to Madrid, Spain to cheer on their favorite team. 63,272 managed to squeeze in to see the match. Meanwhile, two US MLS Soccer teams played in Atlanta and sold over 67,000 tickets.

Either someone has pulled off an elaborate hoax or the San Francisco sharing economy has literally jumped the shark. Swedish Startup to Bring Pogo Sticks to S.F. as E-Scooter Alternative.

Across the Bay, the Oakland City Council unanimously passed a resolution decriminalizing psychedelic magic mushrooms.

Almost 19,000 women filed a petition with Japan’s Labor Ministry calling for a ban on dress codes that require women to wear high heels at work. Takumi Nemoto, Japan’s Health and Labor minister, cryptically replied, “It is socially accepted as something that falls within the realm of being occupationally necessary and appropriate.” Who is Nemoto you ask? He’s the same fellow who was accused earlier in the year of fudging government data resulting in over 20 million being short-changed on their benefits. Something that has been going on for 15 years.

In what most certainly was a case of the cure doing more harm than the ailment, an injured woman in her 70’s was airlifted off a mountain outside of Phoenix and was given the whirl y-gig ride of her life.

A “bloom” of ladybugs 80 miles wide flying between 5,000 and 9,000 feet in the skies near San Diego were so concentrated that they were picked up on radar.

A hotel safe, unyielding to blacksmiths, the safe manufacturer and former hotel employees who had long forgotten the combination, was opened by a random visitor who guessed correctly on his very first try.

Photo credit: Reddit user JohnnyGFam

The week that was (05-31-19)

“We are now in uncharted territory” said the announcer at the Scripps National Spelling Bee. After 5 and a half hours one day and 3 and a half the next, an unprecedented eight contestants remained and, for the first time, shared the championship.

A motorist in Germany avoided a speeding ticket when a dove flew in front of the automatic speed trap camera. Police will not pursue charges because of what they jokingly said was divine intervention.

Owners of of a theme park that features a life-sized replica of Noah’s Ark are suing their insurance company for rain damage.

The We Build The Wall group was temporarily thwarted from construction of a privately-funded border wall when the city government informed them that the group had not filed the proper work permits. Work resumed later once inspections were passed and permits issued for their half-mile barrier with Mexico.

In an abundance of caution, an elementary school in Scranton, PA closed for the day after reviewing security camera footage showing a naked man strolling the hallways pouring Murphy’s Oil Soap all over the floor.

A rapper in North Carolina is facing life in prison for murder. Part of the evidence are the lyrics in his piece, Cookies, in which he rapped about the incident.

Tornados swept through the Midwest but people would rather watch the Bachelorette.

Photo credit: Reddit user: hobbsarelie83

The week that was (05-24-19)

Police in Edinburgh asked the local McDonalds to halt sales of all milk shakes and ice cream just ahead of a Nigel Farage rally for fear that people would pelt the Brexit Party politician with the milky desserts. Apparently, milkshaking is a thing.

The official definition of the kilogram changed.

Kami Rita, a Nepalese Sherpa, set a new Mount Everest record, making it to the top for the 24th time – with his second summit in only seven days. The feat is even more incredible considering how crowded it gets these days.

A paper plate once used by Kurt Cobain to eat pizza sold for $22,400.

The quilting world erupted in controversy over a pair of scissors.

A technician restoring an old synthesizer from the Sixties absorbed LSD through his fingers and started what became a nine-hour trip. Apparently the avant-garde musician that used the instrument in the 60s used to dip the wires into LSD to inspire the musicians (and music?).

The St. Louis Blues beat the San Jose Sharks and will play in the Stanley Cup finals for the first time since 1970. In celebration, the local radio station played the Laura Branigan hit “Gloria” for 24 hours straight.

Visitors to Florida woke to discover an alligator in their AirBnB’s pool lounging on top of a blow-up alligator.

President Trump will attend the Grand Sumo Tournament in Tokyo this weekend. He will present the winner with a custom, “Trump Award” but is causing much consternation because he has asked to sit in a chair and not on a traditional Japanese zabuton cushion like everyone else.

California is debating a law that allows veterinarians to prescribe medical marijuana to pets. No word on when recreational weed for pets will be made available.

Photo credit: Reddit user Splicani_

The week that was (05-17-19)

A man took a submarine down to the bottom of the Mariana Trench, the deepest spot in the ocean. Down there, at 36,000 feet below the surface, he found trash.

Burger King has stated a pilot service delivering burgers & fries to those stuck in traffic in Los Angeles and Mexico City. Doesn’t this just make the traffic worse?

A town in Spain was forced to shut down a slide that connected two streets, saving a 10-minute walk. Many people using it hurt themselves after getting ejected off the bottom of the slide’s 33-degree slope.

Arizona followed New York’s lead and lifted a ban on nunchucks. “I find it interesting that a state that allows you to walk around with a gun on your hip worries about nunchucks being a problem,” said Shawn Sample, an Arizona karate instructor. No word on Alabama.

A Key West woman was arrested on a felony charge of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, a coconut.

A student in South Africa apparently got away with posing as “someone from headquarters” as he helped himself to free KFC in the name of quality control. Bold move for sure but bonus points for getting away with it for a year.

Electric driverless delivery trucks began rolling on public roads in Sweden. Don’t get caught behind one though, the trucks are limited to speeds of 5km/hr.

Photo credit: elevator under construction by reddit user Sorktastic

How we met

Izumi and I have told this story countless times so it’s ironic that I have never posted anything about it here, this place where I post stories to share. When people ask either of us, “So how did you two meet?” This is that story.

When I was living in Tokyo I worked at a Japanese company, Kyodo. My division was with a joint-venture Kyodo had with Dow Jones called Kyodo Tsushin. We sold financial news and market data to banks and financial firms. I was with a group that served Western financial firms so in our group there were some native English speakers as well as Japanese that spoke excellent English.

One evening our group went out for drinks and I struck up a conversation with Izumi who had recently joined our team. I was struck with how she had no trace of an accent and asked her where she learned English.

“Oh, I was born in Brooklyn and went to Montessori school there. English was actually my first language but my parents moved back to Japan when I was seven so I grew up in Japan.”

Thinking that was quite specific but also surprised because her experience matched my circumstances. I mentioned that I too was born in Brooklyn and I too went to Montessori school. We also discovered we were both discovered that we were both about the same age but left it at that.

The next day Izumi came in to tell me that there was a good chance we went to the same nursery school in Brooklyn. She told me that she went home and told her mother that she had “met a Mr. Kennedy who also went to Montessori school in Brooklyn” and her mom immediately asked, “Do you mean Ian? Did he have curly hair?” Izumi’s mom remembered my name, after all those years!

A couple of days later Izumi brought in an old, faded photo of me at her house for her birthday party.

Check out the clip-on ties!

Floored to see this old photo, I then went to visit my parents who live in Japan now and went thru the shoe box that is our family photo album and found this photo of Izumi, at the same birthday party, from a different camera.

White stockings were all the rage in the 70s.

Our two parents knew each other in Brooklyn.

The Japanese have a phrase called “the red thread” ( 赤い糸) which is like this invisible thread that was strung between us, over all these years since we’ve been apart. Within a year of the photos taken above Izumi and her parents moved back to Japan where she grew up and I stayed on the East Coast and grew up there. It was only after 25 years that we came together again, halfway around the world from Brooklyn.

I went back to the photo box at my parent’s house and later found this, our class photo from that Montessori school in Brooklyn. Can you spot us below?

Try now.

Epilogue

We discovered later that there were several other connections between our two families. My father, a restaurant critic, was a huge fan of Izumi’s aunt’s restaurant Marie Claude and had included one of his reviews of her restaurants in his book, Good Tokyo Restaurants.

Furthermore, my parents were eating at an izakaya in Jiyugaoka and sat next to Izumi’s parents. When they struck up a conversation, they made the connection that Izumi’s mom was the sister of Kazuko, the chef behind Marie Claude. While they celebrated making that connection, they did not realize the deeper connection, that they knew each other from Brooklyn at the time.

One final note of symmetry. My father was born on the longest day of the year, Izumi’s on the shortest. I have a younger sister and am the oldest of two siblings. Izumi has a younger brother and is the oldest of two siblings. Both our younger siblings are the same number of years apart from us.

I guess you could say the connection is strong 💪 Happy Mother’s Day everyone!

The Week That Was (5-10-19)

Ben Hsu fell asleep with two Airpods but in the morning could only find one. He used his iPhone’s “Find my Airpods” tracking feature which causes the Airpod to chirp so you can locate it. ‘I checked under my blanket and looked around but couldn’t find it – then I realised the sound was coming from my stomach.’

Two teenagers skipping school from Christ’s Church Academy in Florida were pulled out to sea while swimming at the beach. Realizing the gravity of their situation, they cried out to God for help. A sailboat heading up the coast happened to see them and rescued them. The boat’s name? Amen

The Pentagon has decided to end a training program for Afghan Air Force pilots after 40% of them went AWOL while in America and never came back.

A supermarket cashier made history by being the first woman to join Queen Elizabeth’s 359-year-old Household Cavalry. Meanwhile, Prince Charles announced he has opened a B&B in Scotland. Oh, and a baby was born.

An iguana is in protective custody awaiting court permission to receive medical treatment after its owner hurled it at a restaurant owner. After finding 41 small turtles in a bag in the back of her car, police asked a Florida woman if she “had anything else.” That’s when she pulled a foot-long alligator out of her yoga pants.

Fifteen sheep were enrolled at a primary school in the French Alps after parents feared falling student numbers would see some classes closed.

In another shuffle towards self-awareness, Tesla extended the capability of their car to self-diagnose itself so that now the car can even pre-order spare parts in advance.

Presidential candidate Andrew Yang promised to deliver his State of the Union address with accompanying PowerPoint slides. In response, the crowd erupted in what must be the world’s first instance of a collective chant for “PowerPoint! PowerPoint!”

Photo credit: The winning sand sculpture of 2019’s Texas Sand Sculpture Festival