Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Summer Holiday

It's the tail end of October, and I've just had my summer holiday. OIST actually granted me two days of summer leave even though I started only in September.

Cape Manzamo.

One part of my new job is user training. I've prepared two training classes — one an introduction to HPC, and one on GPU programming — and I gave them both last week. They went decently well; better than I expected for a first course draft. Seemed like a perfect time to take two days off for a four-day weekend with Ritsuko here in Okinawa. With the move and the job we haven't had much downtime together in a while.

Summer vacation in late October may sound daft, but it's still about 30° here most every day; summery enough for me. And four days is plenty of time since we don't travel anywhere. A week at some vacation spot is just 4-5 days in practice without the travel and packing time.

On Saturday I finally got to see Shin Godzilla, the first new genuine Toho Cinema Godzilla movie in years:

This is a great movie — if you like kaijuu movies, of course. It's classic Godzilla, but starting over with a new origin story. Original Godzilla was about nuclear testing; this is thinly veiled commentary on the political (mis)management of the Touhoku disaster and Fukushima meltdown.  It's really an ensemble movie about politics as much as about a big lizard with bad temper.

Good casting overall — several characters bear more than a passing resemblance to real politicians. The female lead (who is supposed to be a Japanese-American) could have benefited from an actor with a little more (or, you know, any) subtlety and at least a basic grasp of English.

Godzilla itself lives up to the part; they really manage to convey the sheer mass and scale of the monster. It really feels physical - the CG effects in most movies feel like empty shells projected onto a screen, but this feels like it could really have been an actor in a rubber suit. That is high praise.

The story? It's a Godzilla movie. Monster appears. Monster destroys Tokyo. People flail about trying to stop monster from doing same. The rampaging and action sequences are extremely well done, and, again have a sense of physicality to them that many movies fail to convey. Excellent movie. I sincerely hope they're working on the next one.

The Okinawa Industrial Fair was at Onoyama park this weekend, just a few hundred meters from home. It's a yearly exhibition for Okinawan producers of consumer and industrial goods. Sounds dry, perhaps, but it's anything but.

Rows upon rows of tents, all selling or offering
something, a lot of it edible or drinkable.

It's a big family festival that mixes serious industrial exhibitions, university and NPO projects, and small shops showing (and usually selling) their goods. You find hot sauces, hair tonics, music instruments, CNC casts, awamori, cement, beer, flowers, solar panels, robots, prosthetics, chiffon cakes, kariyushi shirts, power stones, salt, PVC pipes, graves,  and so on and so on. And of course lots and lots of places that sell food and drink.

An underwater Crown-of-thorns hunter robot by students at a technical college. The starfish eat coral, and can devastate an area. This one has a vision system to recognize the specific starfish, and syringes at the front that inject vinegar which kills them.

An exoskeleton showcased by a couple of students at a technical high school. Mostly passively compliant with counter-springs, though the hands are servo-controlled. The kids in the audience loved the demo.

Okinawan-style grave. The price of a car — though you obviously get more years of use with the grave.

One company displayed the manhole covers they produce for the various local municipalities in the prefecture. Cool, though they weren't for sale.

It's spread out over much of the park, with hundreds of outdoor stalls, and an indoor exhibition at the budokan. We spent all of Sunday afternoon there, and still had to skip one section altogether. It's big, it's noisy and it's a lot of fun to wander around, eat and drink, and look at the crowds and at all the things on offer.

One of the tent areas, with the Budokan housing the main industrial exhibition in the background.

The Kerama islands is a group of beautiful islands in the Pacific with coral reefs, white beaches and few people. It's a good area for snorkeling and diving. It's also just half an hour away from Naha by boat.

A fishing boat berth in the Naha harbour area.

So on Monday we took a half-day snorkelling tour (with Marine House Seasir) to the Kerama islands. Breakfast at home, go to the harbour and on to the boat, two hours snorkelling among beautiful reefs, then back in time for a shower and lunch at home. Perfect!

The colourful fish on the reef really stand out when you catch them over the sandy bottom

A determined-looking trio against the sun-dappled surface.

A section of coral showcasing the variety in the area.

It was a fairly big boat with almost thirty people on board. These people are doing a trial dive, not just snorkelling.

 A fun day trip and a great summer vacation. Have to do it again some weekend soon. Next time perhaps try diving myself; it looks like a lot of fun.


  1. Long time no comment, but I have been reading since.

    Had Shin Godzilla screened at Sitges festival and some friends went to see it, and they told me that very same about bureaucracy. I opted for a HK "Operation Mekong" action movie, as the monster thing does not attract me.

    Jag älskar god väder! I can't believe the extremely warm weather that has been around. Last year I was in Sweden, and later than September it was dark and colder. Now in Spain, 20º+ had me in the beach (and water) until the 3rd November!

    Employers here aren't nice, even getting an graduated job is crazy slow and not well paid. Might have me moving to Sweden again in a couple years.

  2. Hi Jordi,

    Yes, the weather is very different between Sweden and Spain this time of year. Why do you think so many Scandinavians come to the Spanish coast every winter? :)

    We've got autumn here now, but "autumn" is very much like a beautiful Swedish summer day, so I'm not complaining either.


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