The Calm Before the Storm

Update: The typhoon passed quickly by Japan, crossing the island in few hours. Here is a short video of the peak winds and rain from the lobby of our hotel. There were a few branches down and everything got very soggy, but overall, it was just a bad storm and nothing exceptional. The family slept through most of it, battling jet lag. 


Courtesy of Japan Meteorological Agency

We arrived in Osaka a couple of hours ago and are cozy in our hotel. We got in just in time as many flights are being cancelled due to Typhoon Halang which will hit the Japanese mainland in a couple of hours. As you can see from the screen shot above, Osaka is located at the tip of the arrow. Halang, with winds gusting up to 180 km/hour is between a Category 2 and 3 on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale. That means there will be heavy rains and winds, and expect some trees and wires to fall. The weather was quite cool with a nice breeze upon our exit from the airport, which is one of the nice things – the heat and humidity of the Japanese summer has dissipated, at least for the weekend.

We are very tired after the 14-hour flight. I’ll try to take some video tomorrow if possible as it is almost 11:00 PM here in Osaka. The Japan Meteorological Agency has an excellent website in English which I will be checking often during my stay here. It also covers earthquakes, weather, and ocean data.

Good night and we’ll see what tomorrow will bring.





Goodbye USA

We are saying goodbye to summer and our visit to the USA tonight. To celebrate, we went out to eat at General Zapata Restaurant in Bethlehem and walked around the Lehigh campus. It was another gorgeous late summer evening.

I want to thank Jack, Cathy, Julie, Alice, and others for being such gracious hosts. We really enjoyed our time together and hope to continue to see each other.

It was a summer of good food (way too much), friends, family, and exploring the mid-Atlantic region, from the Appalachian Mountains to the New Jersey Shore and many places in between. The classes at Lehigh were extremely stimulating and will really help me next year as I lead a new school. The kids loved spending time with Uncle Jack and Grandma Cathy.

The “star of Bethlehem” shines over the city

Weekend Family Journal


Ocean and Oliver Show Off Their New Haircuts

We had a quiet weekend in Freeland, Pennsylvania. On Friday morning we packed and headed back to the Appalachians after a week on the Jersey Shore. We stopped to get haircuts at shop in Toms River, New Jersey. The kids look so much older with their their new hairstyles. We then checked out the Franklin Institute, a museum dedicated to science education in Philadelphia. I highly recommend a visit, although you can skip all of the extras, like the IMAX and 3D theatres, and the flight simulators. All three attractions were quite dated and not worth the extra cost.  The regular exhibitions and activities were excellent however and the kids could have stayed there all day. It was the perfect thing to do on a rainy day. We didn’t get much time to see the city and I do want to go back and explore a bit of the history of the city, especially see the Liberty Bell, the building where the Second Continental Congress met, and most importantly, recreate the training scene from the movie Rocky. The museum district is quite nice and I recommend Matt & Maria’s Italian Sandwich Shop, where we didn’t have the famous Philly Steak&Cheese sandwich, but we did have some gourmet sandwiches that really hit the spot.

The Atrium of the Franklin Institute

The visit did make me reflect on the life of Ben Franklin. I can see why he is called the “First American”. He was such a tour de force of intellect, creativity, ambition, and service. His accomplishments and wide variety of interests are truly impressive. I got chills seeing one of the original lightning rods he designed and reading some of his original journals about electricity. He was also a great diplomat and politician. We are fortunate to have him as one of the Founding Fathers of our country and his personal characteristics helped forge the ideals of America.

We spent the rest of the weekend resting and spending time with extended family. I did take the kids for a hike in an old strip mine just outside of Freeland, near the “patch town” of Upper Lehigh. We climbed the giant ore pile nicknamed “Big Ben” and contemplated the legacy of the coal industry. The locals use the area for motorcycle and ATV riding and also as an illegal dump to avoid fees at a landfill.

This week we are finishing up with packing, doctor visits, and saying goodbye to family before heading out on Friday.

The view from the top of “Big Ben”

Island Beach State Park


Nadia is pictured on top of the dunes

There were some good things that came out of the Stock Market Crash of 1929. One of them was the beautiful Island Beach State Park, here on the Jersey Shore. Henry C. Phipps, a childhood friend of Andrew Carnegie and a big shareholder in Carnegie Steel, bought the southern part of the long barrier island with the intent of making it into a resort. With the crash of the stock market, construction halted and with the interruption of World War II, the land was never developed. The State of New Jersey wisely purchased the land from his heirs in 1953, and hence today, it is the only undeveloped, large, piece of land on the entire New Jersey coast.

We spent the afternoon exploring the park. The kids felt bad for me that we didn’t see any birds in the salt marshes, so they pretended they were birds, in part to make me feel better. It is hard to believe that this is how the island looked before the extensive building of vacation homes and urbanization of the northern part of the island. In looking at real estate magazines, the big homes pictured below sell for over 1 million dollars and the smaller rental properties are also quite expensive. Park managers have done a pretty good job of allowing access to the park and preserving the environment.

View from the Boardwalk of Seaside Park

I wish they would have preserved more of the coast, not only in New Jersey, but everywhere. I understand that everyone wants waterfront property, but I find myself gravitating to coastlines without development, which are few and far between.


A Classic Summer Holiday at the Jersey Shore

We are taking a few days of rest and relaxation to celebrate the end of my classes at Lehigh. We drove 3 hours yesterday from Freeland and are staying at the “Jersey Shore”. More specifically, in Seaside Park, which is a small town on the Barnegat Peninsula, a narrow barrier peninsula, just off the mainland of north-central New Jersey. We chose Seaside Park because it is just outside the Island Beach State Park, the largest undeveloped coastline in the state.

The peninsula is very crowded, as is most of the coast, due to its proximity to the metro areas of New York and Philadelphia. For generations, Americans have come to summer on the “Jersey Shore” (I would call it the Jersey Beaches instead). It is some pretty expensive real estate, and people are attracted here because of the white sands, blue water, and cool breezes coming off the Atlantic. We had a wonderful afternoon and evening, making sand castles, throwing the football around, and diving in the big waves crashing on the sands. The water is a bit cold however, not Lake Superior cold, but extremely refreshing. The beach was not crowded with plenty of space for everyone. We are staying at the Beach Club Hotel a small, family-run hotel near the beach which is perfect. The peninsula is still recovering from Hurricane Sandy, which hit the New York/New Jersey area in October of 2012.

Nadia and I are taking great pleasure in watching the kids play and have fun! That is what raising a family is all about.

Weekend in the Poconos

We had a nice quiet weekend taking advantage of state parks in the area. On Friday we rode the Delaware & Lehigh Trail from Whitehaven to Glen Summit. Oliver described it as “dreadful” and the 22 miles tested his patience. He loved the ride back as it was all downhill. Biking is one of my favorite things to do with my family and it is very easy on my knees! I want to get into the sport even more this year.

Ocean is shown above at Sand Spring Lake in the Hickory Park State Park. Park officials created a little lake and beach area by damming the creek. It was a pleasant afternoon in the bright sun and cool water. We packed for our trip for Jersey Shore and hung out with family.


Summer Fun in the Lehigh Valley

Oliver Takes Aim at Archery Addictions

It has been nice to have my family with me this summer! Last summer, when I started work on my doctorate, I was here by myself. When the work is done, I certainly look forward to seeing the kids and my wife Nadia.

There is a lot to do here in the Lehigh Valley. The Valley, as the locals call it, consists of three cities, Allentown (75,000), Bethlehem (75,000) and Easton (27,000) and numerous smaller cities and towns. It lies on the eastern edge of Pennsylvania and has a border with New Jersey. With the end of the coal and steel industries, the area has environmentally recovered. There are a lot of businesses and industry still here today, with large hospitals, Penn Power, Mack Trucks, Crayola, Air Products, etc. It also serves as a bedroom community for Philadelphia, which is 97 kilometers south, and New York City, which is 140 kilometers east. Real estate and the cost of living here is much lower for them.

They have the AAA Minor League Baseball affiliate of the Philadelphia Phillies, Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs. The Iron Pigs play in the 10,000-seat Coca Cola Park in Allentown, which is a great night out. They are really set up for families. We got $7 tickets for the outfield grass, and had a nice evening out. The kids could roll around and there was plenty of good food and drink. I think the majority of people were there for all of the extras, and the baseball game was just an excuse to get out. They also have the Philadelphia Flyers minor league hockey team, the Lehigh Valley Phantoms, and a building a new arena in Allentown.

Ocean in the center field grass – L.V. Iron Pigs vs. Buffalo Bison 

The Lehigh Valley is also culturally rich, with many universities, including mine (Lehigh), art galleries, theaters, etc. I am learning more about Pennsylvania and really like it here. It is very similar to the midwest and reminds me of where I grew up. There is a bit more going on with a higher population, but it is still easy to get out and away from urban areas. It is a great place to be in the summer.

Ocean, Ollie, and Nadia at the ColorFest 5K Run