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A Happy New Year from the Okabe Family!

快が博士になりました!今年は社会人の仲間入りです。と言いたいところですが、実はまだどんなところで社会に貢献できるのか決まっていません。すべてはカリフォルニア形式?でこれから決めるそうです。立派に羽ばたいてほしいですね! 卒業式には90歳を超えるおばあちゃんも、はるばるテネシー州から参加しました。

Kye's PhD is now official! Now we await the next step -- how he can contribute to society -- as job-hunting is currently in progress in Silicon Valley. We are all excited to witness the unveiling of Kye's life as a working adult.
Kye's very tiny family (mother, father, maternal grandmother) was present in full at the June graduation in Palo Alto, California, where we were joined by a family friend and his wife. The friends live nearby; Kye's three family members, however, conducted an aerial dance to participate (with Masaru flying in from Japan and Stephanie travelling to Tennessee for the westward trip with Evelyn). Graduation week was glorious: the excitement of being with Kye as we zipped around in perfect California weather in our rented Tesla, relishing the culmination of 11 years of uninterrupted academic effort by Kye, who had stuck it out on his own far from home.
There were surprises, too. We learned the lengths to which Californians go to preserve their casual lifestyle. Masaru was the only father we recall seeing in a suit and tie. Even the graduates sported jeans and sandals or sneaks beneath their rented robes and hoods.



受精研究を振り返る総説を書いていてRichard Dawkinsがミームと名付けた存在が人間の活動のいろいろなことをうまく説明できることに気づいたので今は何でもミームを使って考えるようになりました。
ダイヤは最も硬い物質ということで工業用機械の部品としての価値はあるのですが、首からぶら下げているだけでは何の役にも立ちません。キラキラ光るといってもガラスとの違いは測定機器を使わないと判別できない程度です。それにも関わらずダイヤが高い値段で取引されるのはダイヤ崇拝ミームが人々に感染しているからだと考えると説明がつきます。このミームは南アフリカでダイヤ鉱山をみつけたイギリス人が生み出したそうでNetflixのドキュメンタリー番組によると、彼らの作ったDe Beersという会社がアメリカで愛の誓いを証明するために給与の「2ヶ月分」にあたるダイアモンドを送るのがよいというミームを拡散させることによって大儲けしたそうです。アメリカの売上が飽和した後に日本にきて給与の「3ヶ月分」と少し変更したミームをばら撒いたのでいまではたくさんの日本人がこのミームに感染しているみたいです。現在は中国でこのミームを感染させるべく努力しているそうです。ミームを制するものはビジネスを制す?商魂、恐るべし!!!

While I was writing a retrospective on the history of fertilization research, I found that most human-related things could be explained by "memes." Now I am true believer. Just as a virus requires cells as a host, a meme cannot be an independent living creature. It has the characteristics of a parasite, invading and controlling the human brain. Take religion, for example. There is no proof that the god(s) of any given religion exists, and yet look how many individuals devote themselves to their chosen god(s) around the world. I will not comment further on this as it may offend many readers. Instead, let us approach the subject by discussing diamonds. These gems are known as the hardest substances on the planet, a fact which explains their use in industrial machinery. Interestingly, while they are indispensable in manufacturing, they are of no use whatsoever when they hang around your neck or sit on your finger. Although diamonds glitter, the difference in the degree to which they and plain glass shimmer requires a professional tool to measure. Nevertheless, we all know that diamonds sell at quite the pretty penny. We can attribute the price tag to the "diamond meme," the prevalence of which dates back to two British citizens who discovered diamond mines in South Africa. According to a Netflix documentary, the diamond company DeBeers promoted a campaign across the US insisting that true love needed to be proven through the gift of a diamond costing the equivalent of two months' salary. The meme found countless believers as it raced across the nation. When sales eventually plateaued, the company sought to repeat its success in Japan, raising the stakes with a profession of love now costing three months' salary. And today .... you guessed it .... the cycle begins anew in China. Can one control business success by controlling the meme? Mutants of the "democracy" and "justice" memes seem to have appeared and be competing with the original memes in the US. Just as there is no such thing as a "wrong biological creature," I believe there can be no such thing as a "wrong meme." Myriad memes compete with each other and evolve in our brains. In the end, memes will become like mitochondria in our bodies. That is my opinion.






In 2019, Stephanie again enjoyed dividing her time between editing/translating and sharing cross-cultural topics and English language hints with conversation students in individual and group settings. She also had the opportunity to work at the Osaka G20 Summit with her translation boss, allowing her to view a major global event from the inside instead of reading about it externally. The G20, the shared family experience of Kye's graduation in California, and trips to Tennessee and Ireland (the latter with Masaru) were the year's highlights. Ireland was the fulfillment of a personal goal. Stephanie's parents had made multiple meaningful visits, and Stephanie's late father adored Ireland and its people, making the trip a pilgrimage for Stephanie -- one inextricably intertwined with memories of her father.





Being with Kye for almost a full week in June 2019 was nothing short of a luxury for us all. We met his professor along with several classmates/friends, and dined in a variety of ethnic restaurants, all giving life to images which had been latent in our imaginations up to that point. The past 11 years have been strewn with obstacles which, in sheer number, sometimes seemed like the Labors of Hercules (acceptance into college, as a transfer student, and finally into graduate school; passing the deadly quals [qualifying exam] and eventually, the oral defense; acceptance of the dissertation). While new hurdles lie ahead in life, we hope and trust that Kye will find a job affording happiness, a sense of stability, and a chance for creative and meaningful contribution to society, and finally, that his health and human relationships will flourish.


Simulation of sperm movement.
I tried to calculate how frequently spermatozoa and eggs meet in IVF medium. However, finding it difficult, I made a simulation program of sperm movement and estimated the chance of sperm-egg interactions. The figure indicated the simulated trajectory of a spermatozoon in a 1 cm^3 cubicle with a random reflection and a random forward direction. By adjusting the constant value for randomness and/or sperm moving velocity, I could see various patterns which could also be visible in a dish. It was great fun to adjust various constants and see the change of moving patterns. I hope I will somehow eventually be able to publish the results of this simulation. One of the most famous findings using a computer is the Mandelbrot set as shown above (You can enjoy the fractal structure of this calculated area where the equation of {zn}n∈N∪{0} ) would not go to infinity). The simulated sperm trajectory reminds me of the Mandelbrot set.


The 2019 news recap

As everyone knows, April 2019 marked the end of the Heisei era in Japan and the proclamation of a new Emperor in what was announced to be the budding Reiwa period. Although "Rei" is loosely pronounced as "ray" in English, correct rendering is excruciatingly difficult for the Western tongue, explaining Stephanie's own puzzlement at the choice of nomenclature. Although the new Emperor and Empress have impressively launched the new era with "enhanced internationalization" (dismissing interpreters to converse directly with overseas visitors), one wonders whether the committee choosing the name "Reiwa" paused to consider the world expanding outward from Japan's shores. Today, at the dawn of 2020 and this new Japanese era, we all wait with interest to see how Reiwa evolves against the backdrop of a changing world.


May 2020 be a good year for everybody!