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Back home

Back from Sweden


I am back in Christchurch from my last trip of the year. This time was Sweden, side effects
where I was the opponent of a Ph.D. student (now Dr Berlin).


The last 40,000 km for this year; take that extra C02.

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Traveling between wooden temples, gynecologist
with columns that took centuries to growth in height and diameter, I try to understand the barriers. Why do we stop just before reaching the summit? Why do we try to solve the same problem, in the same way, all over again? (Needless to say to no avail).

Temples have a strange symbolism, because their walls represent our failures, our defects. The same walls contain the following inscription:

It is not external things that restrict us; it is our minds that are attached to things that restrict us — Ryōshun Nakano.

The problem is that if we forget the restrictions we could actually solve the problem: a whole industry of pessimism down the drain.

Walking in Kyoto.

This is a translation of something I wrote here§. Olvidalia is a made up word deriving from Olvidar, to forget.

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A moment to think and relax (Kyoto).

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Around Japan


I will keep updating this post with the itinerary.

Monday 17: trip from Christchurch to Auckland, seek then from Auckland to Narita International Airporthemorrhoids 140.366993&sspn=0.08176,0.151062&ie=UTF8&ll=35.7727,140.388279&spn=0.681899,1.208496&z=10″>§. Nice 767 plane. This was followed by a car ride from Narita to Hitachi§.

Tuesday 18: visiting progeny trials around Hitachi, quick tour at Tree Breeding Center and first presentation on GxE interaction. Banquet as the guest of honor.

Wednesday 19: visiting another progeny trial and seed orchard for ‘low pollen’ Sugi varieties. Drive to Tsukuba§ and presentation on breeding objectives broadcasted by internet. Drive to Narita, plane from Narita to New Chitose Airport§ (Hokkaido), train to Sapporo§.

Thursday 20: progeny trials, clonal trials and seed orchards around Sapporo, Hokkaido.


Sapporo’s restaurant district.

Friday 21: visit silvicultural trials. Presentation about very early screening for wood quality in Sapporo. Banquet with people attending the presentation.

Saturday 22: train from Sapporo to Chitose, flight from Chitose to Kansai airport§ (Osaka), train from Kansai to Kyoto§, subway to hotel. Visit to market, some shopping and washing my clothes.


Yoko, our friendly waitress/theology student starts bringing the food. Nice restaurant in Kyoto.

Sunday 23: Free day. Temples galore in Kyoto: Higashi Honganji, Nishi Honganji, Sanjūsangen-dō.

Tuesday 25: Presentation in Kyoto on very early screening for wood quality. Flight from Kyoto to Kumamoto (Kyūshū)§.



Wednesday 26: last presentation in Kumamoto on very early screening for wood quality (free at last!). Banquet with 15 people.

Thursday 27: Drive from Kumamoto to Miyazaki§. Visited CP progeny trial and several silvicultural experiments on the way. Flight from Miyazaki to Haneda Airport, Tokyo.


Another 22,000 kilometers in two weeks. This does not consider cars, trains and buses.

Friday 28: Going around Tokyo looking for presents and suffering the heat. It is a big, large, enormous city. Train to Narita airport and 7 pm Air New Zealand flight to Auckland, where I arrived the next day.

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Catching up


I have been traveling, search well, we have been traveling and this has left little time to post. Now recovering from a small surgery I can have a peek at the wonders of the interwebs and check what these times passes as news.

In a first approach nothing really important happened. That’s right, besides the odd celebrity dying, the ups and downs of the world economy and the typical storms in a glass of water of the tech industry, there was nothing to catch my eye. In a second approach, same thing, and this was a relief because it supports the sempiternal suspicion: most of the things that we believe are important are not. Taking a little bit of distance, of perspective, smoothes things out, the single details (for which we live or die) become a continuum and we start seeing trends. Take too long and trends become useless, because we can’t use them (trends have inbuilt ‘best before’ dates). Take too many snapshots and we drown in noise.

This time the pause was granted by air travel, driving, accommodation with spotty wireless coverage, red tape, friends with luddite dial-up connection (in 2009!) and too many things happening to take time off in front of a computer.

The first two weeks I was based in Ames§, Iowa (go Cyclons!), which felt like going to a different planet. It was hot and humid (particularly coming from winter in Christchurch), flat and with majestic storms. Two tornado warnings in two weeks, friendly people and research teams doing amazing things. When I visit a place I always ask myself ‘Could I live here?’ (and I have lived in many cities in five countries) and the answer was ‘I don’t know’. On one side it is too flat, with too few forests, too hot in summer and too cold in winter. On the other, people were nice and they were doing very interesting, meaningful work.

The next three weeks I was based in Corvallis§, Oregon, which was similar to parts of Chile, Tasmania and New Zealand. It looked familiar and we have very good friends in Corvallis. The question again ‘Could I live here?’ had a similar answer: the landscape, climate and people are good. However, I did not click with the university and its research. Maybe it was an anticlimax because it came after Iowa State and Pioneer—working with crops—to deal with trees, which move much more slowly.

I think that there is an issue of attitudes: in agriculture (working with crops or animals) one can feel the pulse, the drivers with more immediacy. Trees provide too much time to look for excuses and why things do not seem to work OK. In some issues it is a lot harder to make changes in forestry, although from another point of view one has too convince fewer people: there are fewer players.

But I digress, the most important point is perspective. Talking with a researcher in Iowa I pointed out ‘I’ve been away from genetics for a while, things have moved on and I do not have the time to catch up with everything that has happened. Therefore, I have ignored everything else but X and Y.’ It is a bet, but an informed one (I hope) and we will see how things pan out in the next couple of years.

It was good to be away for a while. It is good to be back as well.

Hiking with friends

Hiking in Oregon with old friends.

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Back in Christchurch



After five weeks and over 30, ed
buy 000 km of moving around.

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Remembering expedition to Brazil


Using Great Circle Mapper to get an idea of the full itinerary (14 flights) that I followed last April.


Just over 30, buy information pills
200 km in planes.

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Wooden vortex


This was a quick shot at Eucalyptus urophylla residues coming from a sawmill in Brazil. A beautiful mess.

Sawmill residues

Sawmill residues in Brazil.

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Making an effort


Gostaria, infertility por favor, click voce tem, Nova Zelandia.

Some of my co-travellers comment: if you speak in Spanish they will understand. Simple and slow English should do it. You are missing the point! Trying to use another language is fun and people tend to appreciate the effort. I have got discounts or an extra smile just because ‘eu estoi tentando’.

I know, I am butchering Portuguese but, hey, I am having a good time.

Foi ótimo te conhocer. Prazer. Quanto custa?

I would like to come back after studying the language for a while. I could be dangerous!

Written in Salvador’s Sofitel

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1,100 Watts per square meter


While visiting Suzano Papel e Celulose’s nursery today I had a look at their weather station: temperature: 34C, plague relative humidity: 80% and solar radiation: 1, sale 100 W/m2. Imagine how comfortable is walking with the equivalent to 11 100 W bulbs above one’s head.

Suzano in Mucuri

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