Posts Tagged ‘East Montrose’

Koichi Wakata_edited-1Our neighbor, Koichi Wakata, has been in outer space four times. Yes, really, it’s true. While he is more than busy with his job he was able to take some time out to speak to me recently about space.

An Interview with Koichi Wakata

Me: How old were you when you first thought about outer space?

Koichi: I was five years old. I was watching the moon landing on television. At the time there was no space program in Japan so I didn’t really think I could be an astronaut. It was a dream. It did spark an interest in space and flying though.

Me: And your parents encouraged you?

Koichi: My parents bought me a toy airplane. I remember playing with it.

Me: Where did you go to school?

Koichi: I went to school, college, and grad school in Japan.

Me: You’re from Japan. What brought you to the U.S.?

Koichi: The space program. I work for JAXA, Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency. I report to them.

Me: What did you study in college? Did you plan to be an astronaut when you went to college?

Koichi: No, I wanted to be a structural engineer specifically an airplane structural engineer – making better, lighter, stronger airplanes. My bachelor’s is in aeronautical engineering, my master’s is in applied mechanics. Much later I got my PhD in Aerospace engineering.

Me: What about being an astronaut? Did you take classes? Courses? How did you go from an aeronautical engineer to an astronaut?

Koichi: I saw an article in the paper. JAXA, Japan Aerospace Exploration agency was looking for mission specialist candidates. I, and 400 others, applied.

Me: The paper! Wow, I should pay more attention! What kind of tests did you have to do to qualify?

Koichi: Everything: Math, science, history, language. There were medical exams, and other exams. I passed.

Me: But you were chosen out of the 400. I’m certain there were a lot of qualified people, so what made you stand out? (I bet your wife Stephanie, can answer this one.)

Stefanie: I can. I think he was chosen because he has such a positive outlook about life. He’s a positive, happy person. He pushes himself to excel. And he isn’t afraid of anything.

Koichi: And because I’m curious. I’ve always wanted to explore new things. I’m always asking questions. I want to see new things.

Me: So you don’t watch The Godfather over and over again like some guys? Ha. Just kidding. I bet Stefanie has it right, there are geniuses and then there are geniuses who love life and reflect a positive outlook. Those are not so common. So tell me, you’ve been in space four times? That’s amazing.

Koichi: The first time was 9 days on the shuttle: STS-72, the second time was 13 days on STS-92, the third time was the space station for 4 1/2 months, this last time I was up there 188 days.

Me: That is a long time to be in space. What was the food like?

Koichi: Not so good. They have us on a low salt diet. It’s not very tasty.

Me: What about that dried ice-cream that we can buy at the space center. I got that when I was a kid and was very impressed with how good it is.

Koichi: We don’t get any of that in space.

Me: No?

Koichi: Never.

Me: You mean the advertising? the commercials? I feel like I’ve been lied to.

Koichi: That’s tourist stuff. I did eat gummy bears.

Me: Gummy bears? I feel better already. Who, would you say, were your mentors in the space program when you first started out?

Koichi: Ken Cockrel is who first comes to mind. Then Brian Duffy, I flew 2 missions with him. When something would happen out there I would always ask myself what would Ken do? Or what would Brian do?

Me: This is all so good. Tell me about space experiments.

Koichi: There were a lot of them. Robotics, we would work with small robots to see how they could help in space. We had medical experiments, life science experiments, we experimented with liquid to see how it reacts in space.

Me: How does it react in space?

Koichi: It clings to surfaces. You’d think it would ball up and fly around but that’s only if you fling it, it stays on surfaces.

Me: that’s interesting. What kind of life sciences experiments and medical experiments?

Koichi: I volunteered as a guinea pig.

Me: Seriously?

Koichi: Yes, they did two tests with me. One was to test a bone density drug, the other was an experiment with my vision.

Me: They experimented on you?

Koichi: Yes, in space you lose bone density. On earth, your weight and the force of gravity pulls you and keeps your bones strong because the cells that replace bone are always at work. In space, those cells don’t work. So we must exercise using a vacuum cylinder to replicate weights. This helps to keep bones from losing too much density. The experiment this time was with a bone density drug. Not only did I not lose bone density but I gained a little. With the eyes, the back of the eye is affected in a weightless environment by becoming somewhat flatter. The effect is reversed back on earth but the vision in space is affected, things can get blurry. I was being monitored with that also.

Me: This all would be very interesting to anyone writing sci-fi. Oh, the things I could do with vision loss on a space ship. What other kinds of experiments did you do?

Koichi: We worked with a simi-conductor material. It is easier in space to create material that is lighter and thinner because of the weightlessness. There are a lot of materials being invented in space that would not be possible on earth.

Me: Oh my, the sci-fi writer inside me is humming. What is the most impressive thing you’ve seen?

Koichi: While the view of earth from outer space is very impressive, the most impressive thing I’ve ever seen happened when I was a thirteen year old.

Me: Really? What was it?

Koichi: I went to Boulder, CO. I visited the Great Rocky Mountains.

Me: Wow, the mountains do that to you, don’t they?

Koichi: That was a truly amazing experience. Being from Japan, and then visiting Boulder, all that space, the mountains, everything. Wow.

Me: Is there anything you’d like to leave us with? A parting word?

Koichi: Yes. When I am out there looking back at earth it is a truly humbling thing to see how small it is.

Me: Can you see pollution from outer space?

Koichi: At night, you can see the lights from the big cities.

Me: Light pollution.

Koichi: Yes.

Me: What about water pollution? Can you see the air pollution above cities? Like China?

Koichi: You can see the fires, the smoke from fires. And you can see the run-off at the mouth of rivers like the Mississippi river. But the Shanghai river is the worst of all. The earth really is tiny, and blue. It seems vulnerable. My feeling is that I’d like to protect it somehow. We all need to protect this spaceship earth.

Me: Yes, we do. What a great interview. Thank you so much, Koichi Wakata and Stefanie. You both are amazing. I feel so fortunate to live in the same neighborhood.

TO LEARN MORE:

See Koichi Wakata’s information here: http://iss.jaxa.jp/en/astro/biographies/wakata/

 

 

 

 

 

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In each of my groups of cottage pictures there are cottages that I know will be torn down within weeks. I’ll keep you updated.

Please note as you look how the majority of cottages are lovingly well-kept. It isn’t easy to keep a hundred-plus year old house well-kept.

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SAM_0472So on a walk through East Montrose you may see many types of homes. The neighborhood includes a variety of styles and tastes in architecture. The time it takes to walk gives the walker more perspective. Depending on the weather and the position of the sun for lighting you as a walker have many photo opportunities.SAM_0470SAM_0469

Some homes are more modern.SAM_0485

Some are quite eclectic.

This may be the house that was Cary Grant's favorite home in Houston. It feels Art Deco in style.

 Art Deco

This house reminds me of something from a storybook.

This house reminds me of something from a storybook.

Some homes in the neighborhood are traditional and quite old.SAM_0482  SAM_0473

This is a new old house. You can see the mix of old and newer townhouses behind it.

This is a new old house. You can see the mix of old and newer townhouses behind it.

This house sits next to a park. The house was saved as a result of neighborhood action to protect the park's giant live oak.

This house sits next to a park. The house was saved as a result of neighborhood action to protect the park’s giant live oak.

So many homes in East Montrose are being torn down to provide room for more than one house on a lot. There is nothing wrong with tearing down ugly, unfix-able houses but it is sad when old houses in good condition are torn down. It would be so much better if they were carted away to some other place like a country acre for instance (put out to pasture, so to speak – as if to reward them for good service these past one hundred years).

Next time you are out and about, take note of your favorite houses. You might not see them next time you take a walk.

Walking in East Montrose is a pleasure shared by many. One of the best things about walking is that the walker can see things missed from driving or riding. The small details. The cats lazing on porches. The sound of water from the hidden pond. A walker can see the details.

Coreopsis blooms from April until October and even November.

Coreopsis blooms from April until October and even November.

The smallest details may be the flowers.

Vitex can be pruned into small trees. They bloom at least twice. They are also called Chastetree because Native Americans used the leaves in tea to ease Menstrual cramp.

Vitex can be pruned into small trees. They bloom at least twice. They are also called Chastetree because Native Americans used the leaves in tea to ease Menstrual cramp.

Flowers bloom in the neighborhood year round.

The Four-O'Clocks are what is referred to as "an old-fashioned" flower. They bloom in the early evening and attract hummingbird moths. They come in pink, yellow, apricot, white, and variegated.

The Four-O’Clocks are what is referred to as “an old-fashioned” flower. They bloom in the early evening and attract hummingbird moths. They come in pink, yellow, apricot, white, and variegated.

Blink and you might miss them.

Here is the "common" Lantana usually planted by the Mockingbirds because they love the black seeds. You will also see purple Lantana and the brilliant yellow Lantana around the neighborhood.

Here is the “common” Lantana usually planted by the Mockingbirds because they love the black seeds. You will also see purple Lantana and the brilliant yellow Lantana around the neighborhood.

Walking gives the viewer the privilege of a nice long look.

Hibiscus is a tropical that will survive a mild winter.

Hibiscus is a tropical that will survive a mild winter.

Walking is beneficial not only for the walker but for the neighborhood. Walkers can spot things like opened or non-secured properties. They can spot things out-of-place or unsafe. East Montrose is a very walkable neighborhood and hopefully homeowners will be encouraged, as the neighborhood becomes more and more gorgeous, to fix broken or non-existent sidewalks for those that like to walk.

Pride of Barbados has a brilliant bloom.

Pride of Barbados has a brilliant bloom.

Despite the intense heat at Saturday’s dedication party in parking lot next to Inversion Coffee House, the folks attending looked cool. Perhaps in part because of the great wine and finger food, and of course the snow-cones. You can’t have an August party in Houston while the sun is still shining without snow-cones.

snow-cones

snow-cones

The art was complete.

Finished Art

Finished Art

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The artist, Patrick Renner, looked happy.

Joan Son and artist Patrick Renner

Joan Son and artist Patrick Renner

H-Town Streats had their food wagon open.

Origami artist Joan Son and husband Wing

Origami artist Joan Son and husband Wing Tse

The music was provided by P.L.X.T.X. Pronounced “Pluto” – their website explains all: Venetian Snares to Aphex Twin (Come to daddy period) until Atari teenage riot. It is close to the fury of the sound crew of Alec Empire, drum’n’bass breakbeats as overwhelming rumbling explosions interspersed with crackling and larsens hyper-strident. genre – DIGITAL HARDCORE. The brains behind P.L.X.T.X is twenty two year old, Bradley Muñoz – Based from Houston, TX. P.L.X.T.X is reaching high with DIY strength. overcoming many obstacles & not letting his stutter get in his way. P.L.X.T.X is not sitting still here in America, but expanding as far as Europe & Japan. — P.L.X.T.X released a full length album titled, SELECTIVE MUTISM LP. — this full length shows how far P.L.X.T.X is taking his music with truth and dignity.

The heat did not dent the beat.Music D.J.

So I’ll let the pictures tell more.SAM_0405 SAM_0406 SAM_0411 SAM_0419 SAM_0421

Walking around East Montrose is without a doubt a great pastime. The architecture alone will keep your interest.

The neighborhood sign shows up nicely against the colorful art

The neighborhood sign shows up nicely against the colorful art

There is a new art installation across from Inversion Coffee Shop and Houston Art League.

Working the painted wooden slats into the metal frame

Working the painted wooden slats into the metal frame

Patrick Renner has done a fascinating job of creating what he calls “Funnel Tunnel”.

The artist

The artist

It is fun and quite colorful. I don’t know why it doesn’t stop traffic.

The not-quite-finished tail

The not-quite-finished tail

We stopped to chat with the artist. He was very gracious although he was trying to finish the project before the grand opening two days away. I imagine he was stressed but he didn’t act like it. He spent time explaining things to us. He made me want to put the camera down and pitch in to help add more slats.

The front of the funnel tunnel

The front of the funnel tunnel