Apple’s 2013 Developer Conference Announcements a Yawner

Apple_WWDC_Banner_ArtDesign matters.  Remember that saying? Apple captured me back in the 80’s with their declaration that design matters.  It’s not just that they were beautiful products to see and touch, but their inner elegance of user-experience shown through agains the likes of the IBM PC.  I was one of the first buyer of the IBM PC 8088. But I switched to Apple with the Macintosh and never looked back; it was a very compelling offering unique to Apple.  Now I count myself as one of the loyal Apple  followers with all that followed with countless Macs, iPods, iPhones and iPads.  And I’m also a shareholder of Apple stock, so I definitely have some skin in the game to seeing Apple succeed.

But from what’s been reported on the recent announcements at the developer conference in San Francisco, I couldn’t find anything to get excited about.  It’s an incremental evolution, nothing revolutionary or compelling.

There’s a saying: fail often, fail fast.  I don’t think that Apple, or any other tech company in the Valley for that matter, lacks  talent or ability to innovate.  This Valley is crawling with talent and innovation.  What may be happening to Apple is the malaise of large corporate governance, the inherent lack of agility in decision-making process.  Heck, I’ve known large tech companies that take nine months to develop a 12-month plan.  Apple had been spared this affliction because of Jobs’ absolute authority.  Now that he’s not at the helm, what’s a gigantic tech company to do?

What’s needed?  If I knew, I’d be making it, not blogging about it.  But what would be a killer function for the iPhone/iPad is a new paradigm for data storage and retrieval.  Forget the “Finder” type of system (although anything is better than nothing which is what we have on the iPhone/iPad at the moment).  An intelligent multi-dimensional system for storage and retrieval based on context would be nice.  Also a really useful Siri, one that truly is a personal assistant, not the brain-dead version that we have today that I never use any more.  (Why does Siri always think I want to buy something whenever I ask for information?) And I think these two functions that we desperately need (context based information storage-retrieval and a personal assistant)  are inextricably related.

So we’ll have to wait and see.  That’s what makes us “loyal followers”, but our patience is starting to run out.

An answer to the issues with guns

AK-47_type_II_Part_DM-ST-89-01131Every time we have a horrific tragedy like the recent Newtown massacre, we go through the same  heated debate on gun control.  And each time, the same old arguments based on ideological rhetoric, has resulted in no meaningful solutions to address the fundamental issue – that guns can kill and injure innocent people, intentionally or unintentionally.

But here’s a simple way of addressing this issue without getting into the endless debate, on difference of the ideology and ethics, interpretation of our Constitutional rights, etc.  I wont even go into the discussion about whether guns serve any useful purpose in our modern civilian world or not.

Regardless of one’s particular convictions, consider the gun as just another tool,.  Now consider the automobile (the car), another tool which can cause grave consequences, depending on the user and the circumstances of its use.  We accept the regulation of cars and its use without any arguments.

Cars are registered and taxed, a systematic means to track cars and its owners, updating and sharing the database annually.  Registration also requires cars to qualify to a certain set standards for safety and performance.  And registration taxes the owners on an annual basis to offset administrative and other related costs.

Drivers are licensed, i.e. drivers are qualified by means of a written and performance (driving) test on a regular basis.  They are also medically (physically as well as mentally) qualified.

Fuel is regulated and taxed, i.e. the fuel producers conform to a certain standard for production and distribution of fuel, and drivers pay fuel taxes to offset the cost of infrastructure and enforcement of regulations to support car use.

Driver insurance is mandatory, in order to provide some financial assurance in the event of damage caused by driving their cars.

The bottom line is that all tools must be used responsibly; any use of tools that can have severe consequences to themselves of those around them need to be regulated.  And we have a well-accepted example in the way of our beloved cars. We have found a way to coexist with cars every day.  Regulating cars and drivers should be analogous to regulating guns and gun owners, just replace the word “cars” with “guns”, “drivers” with “gun owners” and “fuel” with “bullets” in the sentences above.  It’s perfectly logical and common enough be be accepted.

This is not the ultimate solution to the issues with guns; that will take a cultural mind shift which will take years if not generations to take effect.  But this approach  can make an immediate effect by breaking the current deadlock in taking meaningful steps toward dealing with the issue with guns.

Japan after the Tohoku earthquake: No longer risk-adverse?

An article in today’s San Jose Mercury News, New generation of Japanese entrepreneurs sets sights on Silicon Valley, brings renewed optimism to a resurgence of Japan as a global leader in technology.  Much of Japan’s stagnancy in recent years in technological advancements can be traced to their cultural and philosophical conservatism in business development and investments in nurturing innovation.

If there’s a silver lining in the disaster struck in Tohoku area by the 2011 earthquake, it may be the changing attitudes in Japanese business, best expressed by a quote in the story “We felt death closer than before.  Now we don’t want to work for the big company. We want to work for ourselves. The biggest risk is that something could happen to you before you do something you really love. It could happen anytime, anywhere.”

Having just returned from meetings with business leaders in Tokyo as well as with relief organizations in the Tohoku area, Steve Yamaguma, a principal contributor to IdeArbitrage, will be be sharing his personal observations for his recent experiences here in these blogs.

Asian American Culture

Years ago, post “Martin Luther King” and the civil rights movement, Japanese Americans and Chinese Americans were “waking up to their roots” and rediscovering their identity. Prompted by the Black/African American community, they united together in a new found sympatico relationship as “Asian Americans”. The movement took root on college campuses across the United States, but was spearheaded by student activists at UC Berkeley, San Francisco State, San Jose State, and UCLA.

Rather than focus on the characteristics that divide, they coalesced under shared cultural experiences: discrimination, poverty, “invisibility” to mainstream media, and the urge to craft a new, positive identity. Thus the movement spawned new arts, musics and other creative expressions that were melded together from the experiences of their ancestors and the shared experiences of the youth of that era.

The birth of artists and organizations such as Taiko (San Francisco Taiko Dojo and others), Asian American Jazz Festival, Asian American Dance Collective, Asian American Theater, East West Players, and Visual Communications rallied the young students to a new and different tune. The widely popular  Asian/Jazz fusion band, Hiroshima, was one of the first breakout bands to reach mainstream audiences.

From New York, the album, “Yellow Pearl” by Chris Iijima and Joanne Miyamoto with Charlie Chin was hailed as the first “voice” of the Asian American movement. In the San Francisco Bay Area, another group, Yokohama California, wrote songs of the Japanese and Asian American experience.

In 1977, we had the opportunity to record the group Yokohama California (Bamboo Records) and bring them to the young college audiences. A more “folk” oriented style, they recorded a haunting piece entitled “Hot August Morning” which tells the story of the bombing of Hiroshima.

Now, relegated to the annals Asian American history, Yokohama California was rediscovered by professor Minoru Kanda, a historian, lecturer in Nara, Japan who has rekindled interest in the history and evolution of Asian American music and culture and has presented it to universities throughout Japan.

I was contacted by professor Kanda to attend and participate in a special seminar to be conducted at the International House in Tokyo, October 13, 2012. Realizing that Japanese and Japanese Americans have an opportunity to share their collective experiences Professor Kanda hopes that opening up the dialog will bring a new sense of understanding and will be a positive step towards global collaboration.

For more information, contact me at:

Steve Yamaguma

“Idea Theater “

Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

-Albert Einstein

So how do new solutions come about?  The premise of IdeArbitrage is that such solutions can be achieved when the right mix of people with different expertise and backgrounds are brought together to tackle difficult problems.  Diversity in disciplines can inspire, inform, and potentially converge on new, innovative solutions.

At a recent get-together in the Silicon Valley, Ann Edminster, author of Energy Free: Homes for a Small  Planet, Steve Yamaguma of Design2Market and Jim Takasugi challenged each other to explore and test the basic premise of IdeArbitrage by identifying examples where this premise has been put to practice.  After a quick reflection, following examples were brought forward.

  • SEAM Studio, San Francisco: Gluten-free store in a Landscape Architect’s office
  • Macintosh: computing platform inspired by calligraphy, converging art with technology.
  • Full Circle Farms, Sunnyvale: community-based non-profit farm dedicated to the renewal of local, sustainable food systems in the heart of Silicon Valley

This are just a quick list of examples generated in a short 5 minute conversation.

 “Idea Theater “

How do we capture and effectively communicate the premise and its examples to a wider audience?  Steve came up with the title: “Idea Theater”, a place where new solutions to difficult problems are generated.  Addressing MICA, an educational institution in interior design based in Tokyo, Japan,  with aspirations to expand into distance learning, as our hypothetical audience, we agreed on the approach of capturing these examples on video, by visiting the sites and interviewing their creators and participants.

Next Steps

We’ll each solidify and build on these and other instances that best exemplify the premise of IdeArbitarge, including:

  • Specifics of examples will be identified (weblinks, contacts, etc) for video documentation.
  • Platforms such as  Webex* will be explored and assessed for Distance Learning and  professional-academic network wiki* for educational content development.
  • A follow-up get-together will be held in approximately two weeks to share findings and determine next steps.

In time, specific services will be defined and packaged for presentation to Machida Interior Coordinator Academy  (MICA).

One Year After: A benefit concert for the children of Tohoku, Japan.

A benefit concert marking the one year anniversary of the horrific earthquake and tsunami  in Tohoku Japan was held at the San Jose Mission on March 10, 2012.  The even not only rekindled awareness of the continuing tragedies in Tohoku but also raised over $12,000 for the benefit of children of Tohoku.

Steve Yamaguma, benefit’s producer, provides a behind-the-scenes description of the event.

As with most disasters, there is an immediate outpour of support and concern for the victims of a tragedy. Such was the case after the devastating earthquake and tsunami that hit the Tohoku area, the North East region of Japan on March 11, 2011. Unreal images of buildings collapsing, homes being swept away and lives lost, plastered the media 24/7. I felt compelled to do something besides just donating money to the Red Cross and other organizations. I wanted to let the people of Japan know that “we cared”. That is why I started the blog, “”, to create a platform for people to share their concerns and support.

Months after the media frenzy died and the world moved on to another crisis, aBillionVoices served to keep the stories alive about the struggles and hope for the people of Tohoku.

At the close of 2011, the images of the disaster all but disappeared from mainstream media. Those closer to Japan continued to share their stories and updates on the progress of rebuilding and recovery. It was then that I got together with my friend, Aileen Chanco, co-artistic director of Music at the Mission, a classical chamber music organization and talked about the ongoing relief efforts and how many people were still suffering and struggling to put their lives back together. We decided we had to do something, especially since the 1 year anniversary of the event was approaching.

As Aileen was a part of a classical chamber ensemble, and I had connections to taiko groups, the idea to combine the two came together. We decided to do a fundraising concert at the historic Mission San Jose in Fremont, California, bringing together Japanese taiko drumming and classical chamber music.

Our goal was to recognize the one year passing of the tragedy in Japan, honor the lives lost, and keep the awareness of the recovery efforts alive. We wanted to show solidarity from our community and let the people of Japan know that we still care.

I contacted Give2Asia, an agency that helps connect funders to nonprofits and they introduced us to Living Dreams, a Japanese nonprofit supporting orphans and children. Their program, “Smiles and Dreams: A Tohoku Kids Support Project” will help fund a summer camp for the orphans who were displaced by the disaster.

It was important to get the business community involved with sponsorships as well as donated goods and services. We ran through our rolodex to recruit volunteers and prospective sponsors. The idea struck a chord with the community and we announce the event “One Year After: A Benefit Concert for the Children of Tohoku, Japan” to be held on March 10, 2012. As it was the afternoon of March 11th in Japan, it was still the evening before, March 10th in California. We felt that would be an important part of the discussion as well. It was evident that Silicon Valley and the Japanese businesses were so intertwined. (We normally have our conference calls with our Japanese clients after 5 pm as they are just arriving at work to start their day).

I called my friends, Somei Yoshino Taiko Ensemble to see if they would help us out and they enthusiastically supported the idea. They began their collaborative process with the Music at the Mission Chamber Ensemble. I reached out to my media contacts and set up interviews and pushed it out via social media. Mike Inouye of NBC Bay Area stepped up as our MC for the evening and the Counsel General of Japan Hiroshi Inomata graciously accepted our invitation to say a few words at our event. Henry Tenebaum of KRON and Janice Edwards of Bay Area Vista and Signature Silicon Valley helped promote it through mainstream media.

The local business community including the Mission San Jose Chamber of Commerce and the Fremont Chamber of Commerce stepped up to help out. Key business supporters included Mission Coffee, ground central for all of our planning meetings as well as host for the after concert reception.

Friends, families and the community at large gathered together to help make thousands of origami cranes (traditional symbol of hope) that would be part of the decoration of the venue as well as become a gift of support to be given to Soma High School in Fukushima. We felt that this was an important gesture of goodwill for the overall U.S./Japan relations.

With the efforts of all the dedicated volunteers, our event was sold out. The day of the event, dozens of volunteers worked together to set up the stage, directional signs, table displays, and hang the cranes.

A pre-event reception for the major sponsors including Union Bank and Elysium as well as local politicians was held in the adjacent Mission San Jose Museum while the audience in the main chapel hall got an introduction to the history of a thousand cranes. Then each audience member was invited to make a crane that would be a part of the gift to the high school in Fukushima.

Andy Galvan, a local historian gave a brief history of the Mission and noted that an earthquake destroyed a major part of the Mission as it had to be then rebuilt.

The opening ceremony began with a pounding of the taiko drum echoed with the ringing of the Mission bells. Then with a procession into the chapel Mike welcomed the audience and introduced Counsel General Hinomata to say a few words. Monsignor Manuel Simas, pastor of St. Joseph Parish, and Reverend Ronald Y. Nakasone, professor, Buddhist Studies, Graduate Theological Union together offered up a moment of silence to remember those who were lost in the tragedy.

The concert started (literally) with a bang as Somei Yoshino Taiko mesmerized the audience with an assault of alternating pounding rhythmic passages, delicate sensitive melodies and hypnotic dance and choreography.

The second half of the program brought piano, violin, flute, and cello together with taiko and percussion in moving, emotional pieces that reflected the sensitivities of the moment. Photos from Sendai City, one of the most devastated areas hit by the tsunami, formed an emotional backdrop for the chamber ensemble. These images taken immediately after the tsunami by Michael Tonge, a British school teacher in Sendai, reminded us of the horror that devastated the people in the Tohoku region.

The magic of the event, in this beautiful, amazing venue brought the audience to their feet in the final movement.

A delightful spread greeted the audience at the reception at Mission Coffee, which showcased the art of Kathy Fujii-Oka, mixed media artist who’s work was chosen as it reflected the mood and feeling of the concert and fundraiser.

The entire evening was amazing. The support and enthusiasm from everyone showed that we cared. And that together we can make a difference.

The monies raised, over $12,000, will help the Smiles and Dreams: Tohoku Kids Support Project with their summer camp program. And the “1000 Cranes” will be sent to show our support and to give our best wishes for the children and their future.

Steve Yamaguma

President, Design2Market

MICA Distinguished with ISO29990 Certification

Congratulations to Hiroko Machida and the Machida Interior Coordinator Academy  (MICA)! 

On June 19 2012, MICA became  the first interior environmental design and planning school in Japan to be awarded the ISO29990 certification.

MICA was client and partner for many of the projects highlighted on this web site, notably the Hakone Kowakien Redevelopment Master Plan and  Saikiabashi Corazon Resort, among other planning and design projects completed in Japan.

Creating “Interior Coordinator” as a qualified profession has been one of Hiroko’s lifelong objectives.  This certification on MICA’s 35th anniversary formally acknowledges her contributions to the profession.  Her success is also measured in the real transformations that she brought about to thousands of  students’ lives, enabling their own personal success stories.

Following is Hiroko Machida’s announcement letter:

Dear Jim Takasugi,

It is my great pleasure and honor to share with you that on June 19, 2012 Machida Hiroko Academy (Tokyo) was awarded the certification of ISO29990 (Internationally recognized standard for a provider of non-formal education and further training that emphasizes the actual performance of teaching services). In Japan, Machida Hiroko Academy is the first recipient among providers of interior and environmental design and planning education. 

I personally feel gratified that this honorable event has certified our educational objective to provide internationally recognizable standards after 35 years of endeavor which had begun as a tiny classroom in Akasaka, Tokyo and of my dream to provide job opportunities to a newly created and qualified profession “Interior Coordinator”.

As I also realize this Certification would not have been possible without your kindness and support, I would like to take this opportunity to express my sincere appreciation of your past and continued support.

Lastly, I wish to share our renewed determination to enhance our educational quality and standards at this memorable time.

Thank you so much.

Truly yours,

Hiroko Machida

Machida Hiroko Academy

Is Facebook Killing Silicon Valley?

The Atlantic magazine recently published an interview with Steve Blank titled ‘The Golden Age of Silicon Valley Is Over, and We’re Dancing on its Grave’  

“The headline for me here is that Facebook’s success has the unintended consequence of leading to the demise of Silicon Valley as a place where investors take big risks on advanced science and tech that helps the world. The golden age of Silicon valley is over and we’re dancing on its grave. On the other hand, Facebook is a great company. I feel bittersweet.”  says Mr Blank. “I think it’s the beginning of the end of the valley as we know it. Silicon Valley historically would invest in science, and technology, and, you know, actual silicon. If you were a good VC you could make $100 million. Now there’s a new pattern created by two big ideas. First, for the first time ever, you have computer devices, mobile and tablet especially, in the hands of billions of people. Second is that we are moving all the social needs that we used to do face-to-face, and we’re doing them on a computer.”

To borrow from Harry Truman, “The reports of SV’s death are greatly exaggerated”. Silicon-based innovation was just the initial phase.  SV innovation has continued to evolve with advances in hardware, software, and applications that capitalize on the two . SV has always pursued the Next Big Thing, and the Killer App.  Facebook is just one of a parade of these seen in the Valley.

Technology is the enabler, not the end of a longer innovation value chain.  By definition,  innovation continues to evolve and this fares well of Silicon Valley’s future.

Honoring Jimi Yamaichi

Congratulations to Jimi Yamaichi, whose  lifelong work to preserve Japanese American history was recognized by the Government of Japan in the 2011 Conferment of Decoration.  Jimi received the Order of the Rising Sun, Gold and Silver Rays, for his work in Santa Clara County.

Established in 1875 by Emperor Meiji of Japan, the Order  is awarded to those who have made distinguished achievements in international relations, promotion of Japanese culture, advancements in their field, development in social/occupational welfare or preservation of the environment

Details of Jimi’s accomplishments can be found here.

As a long-time carpenter and builder, Jimi Yamaichi collaborated with Jim Takasugi, architect, in realizing the following projects:

  • YuAi Kai Senior Center, San Jose, California
  • Okayama – San Jose Sister City Friendship Gate at Kelly Park, San Jose, California
  • Restaurant Nijo Castle, Newark, California
  • San Jose Buddhist Church Betsuin,  Administration Wing, San Jose, California

A Sustainable + Accessible Home

The New York Times recently published an article about House+House Architects’ solar powered, sustainable home on the Sea of Cortez in Baja, Mexico.  Located in the remote fishing village of Cabo Pulmo, this home is universally designed to provide access for everyone.  Featuring a 165-foot long sculptural ramp weaving through lush gardens to facilitate wheelchair access to the second floor, the new home is thoughtfully integrated into the desert landscape.

Congratulations Steve and Cathi on another thoughtfully designed  and beautifully executed house!

(Previously, the award-winning architects Steven & Cathi House of House+House collaborated with us on the design for La Vista Golf Club and Hotel in Chiba, Japan)