trip to belgium

2018-06-28 TO 2018-07-09 ANTWERPEN, GENT, AND BRUGGE, BELGIE -- We came to Belgium for an academic conference. Our Belgian friends were overly generous with their time to see us.

Our amateur radio friend and his wife entertained us at their lovely home. This was our first time in their beautiful garden.

Another amateur radio friend now teaches at a technical college. He and his wife talked over delicious beer and food.

Our former Dutch language teacher and her 2 daughters took us to a jazz big band performance in Gent. What a hot day it was! I should have worn short pants.

Our former colleagues greeted us in my old office at Universiteit Antwerpen.

Another former colleague and her husband explained to us their son's infatuation with the
Red Devils (Rode Duivels), the Belgian soccer (association football) team. The book below is a sticker book -- you collect stickers and paste them on the book. The night we saw this book, the Rode Duivels won against Japan, and several nights afterwards, the beat Brazil. We are delighted that we have Belgian, Brazilian, and Japanese friends.

We watched soccer at our hotel room, while enjoying local snacks. I cannot remember the last time I watched sports on TV. We don't have TV, and I don't watch spectator sports. The Belgium-Brazil game was a worthwhile exception. Noriko and I understood quite a bit of the Dutch language commentary.

I respect my former colleagues as researchers, friends, and fathers of their families.

The conference reception was held at Brugge city hall, which is a museum when not being used for meetings and civil weddings. The mural depicts Robert III, Count of Flanders, also known as the Lion of Flanders after the Battle of the Golden Spurs, although in reality he did not participate in the battle.

At the conference dinner, I shook hands with the provincial governor (standing in the doorway, right) and visited his office. He has a bedroom in the governor's mansion but prefers to commute from home.

midsummer sunset

2018-06-22 SAPPORO, JAPAN -- I know it's midsummer when then sun sets over the science building.

In winter, the sun sets considerably south over Teineyama (the hill on the left of this picture).

In half an hour, the sky changes color.


2018-06-17 SAPPORO, JAPAN -- Noriko and I celebrated my birthday.

Noriko gave me a fantastic birthday card that she had found in Southampton, England almost a year ago! The card shows a picture of a couple just like us, the husband with short hair and the wife with long hair riding a red tandem bike followed by a black and white dog! Kerochan naturally is too important to appear in mass-produced greeting cards so he made a special appearance.

We went to
Toppi, a sushi restaurant at Soen train station, a 14-minute walk from our apartment. We had had a heavy breakfast, so our sushi lunch focused on spendy delicacies.

We had shortcake at
Rokkatei, a confectionery store well-known and respected on Hokkaido island. They serve free cakes and soft drinks on your birthday!

We visited the
Yamaha music store located upstairs from the Rokkatei cake-and-coffee shop. We chatted with a sales person (a French horn player) who sold me the Yamaha YTR-8310Z trumpet that I play when I am in Sapporo. We took no pictures. Instead you can view a photo album of the history of Yamaha wind instruments. The first wind instrument they manufactured was a trumpet, designed under the supervision of Renold Schilke.

Today is also my 4th anniversary of my learning trumpet. Here's a recording of me playing "
It could happen to you". It's best if you don't play the audio file. Instead, listen to what I want to sound like: Chet Baker singing the song (he also plays trumpet).


belated commencement

2018-06-13 SAPPORO, JAPAN -- Noriko and I celebrated our graduate student's commencement.

Ivy finished 3 months ago but we missed her ceremony because were out of the country. She and I were busy the last 2 months with classes. Tonight's celebration was belated yet relaxed.

Our 2 families enjoyed food and conversation.

Ivy made a photo album of our 3 years together. The classes we taught, the conferences we presented at, the jazz gigs we went. Wonderful memories!


2018-06-09 HACHINOHE, JAPAN -- Noriko and I visited Hachinohe, Aomori for our first time.

We sailed from Tomakomai to Hachinohe on the brand-new ship
Silver Tiara.

Kushihiki Hachimanguu Shrine is famous for the national treasure akaitoodoshiyoroi. No photography in the museum. Instead please view Kerochan and Sirokuro Puppy engaged in yabusame, a medieval sport where archers shoot at fixed targets from horseback.

I recommend
Korekawa jomon archaeology site and museum because (a) they are actively engaged in archaeology, (b) they have a comprehensive collection including hundreds of dogu, and (c) they are eager to teach. They let you touch real artifacts (no, not because they are so numerous that they are of low value).

Vanfu Museum of Reproduced Art has the unusual characteristic of being a corporate showcase (the Vanfu company is in the printing business, and is proud of their technical capabilities) and offering the public a close, hands-on view of valuable Japanese artwork that has been reproduced in high fidelity. Reproducing artwork requires considerable care in controlling light, scanning images, adjusting color, selecting paper, printing, and mounting. The process is expensive. Yet because these are reproductions, you can look at them closely, instead of through a pane of glass and over the shoulders of museum patrons. Kerochan was delighted to find a reproduction of the Toad Sage, whose familiar is a three-legged toad.

The Gretto Tower ("gretto" is a word in the local dialect meaning "all around" or "360-degree view" tower) in
Tatehana Park overlooks a section of the port of Hachinohe. Much of this was swept away during the tsunami of 2011.

On a good day, the
Samekado lighthouse commands a clear view of the Pacific Ocean. On cloudy foggy rainy days as today, the lighthouse does it job. The light originally burned oil (and apparently considerably warmed the top part of the lighthouse). Then it was replaced with an incandescent electric lightbulb. Now it uses a metal halide lightbulb.

They gave us a private tour of the lighthouse. The guide turned on the old light for us. Just like lights in the USA, the old lights rode (or rather floated) on a pool of mercury, because ball bearings were unavailable.

From the
Same ("shark") train station, we rode a train consisting of 3 brand-new cars (kiha E132-505 manufactured by Niigata Transys).

Tatehana dockside Sunday morning market teems with great deals on fresh produce and fish.

ig nobel prize

2018-06-03 SAPPORO, JAPAN -- I attended a double-header talk by 2 professors who won Ig Nobel prizes. The talks were fascinating!

Professor Kazunori Yoshizawa (pictured left) won the Biology Prize in 2017 for discovering a female penis and a male vagina in an insect that lives in Brazilian caves. Professor Toshiyuki Nakagaki (center) won the Cognitive Science Prize in 2008 and the Transportation Planning Prize in 2010 for his study of feeding behavior of true slime moulds. The person pictured on the right is a clown dressed like an MC.

You can scratch your head about what these highly educated people are doing with your taxes. There is serious science behind their affable personality. Evolution manifests itself most speedily in sexual organs, I learned. True slime molds are mono-cellular organisms containing many nuclei. These molds exhibit considerable intelligence, some of which we cannot understand.

Commemorative prizes and awards were unceremoniously given to the professors in the spirit of the Ig Nobel prize itself.

jazz bands

2018-06-02 SAPPORO, JAPAN -- We listened to several student jazz bands during the campus fair.

Alas Hokudai does not have departments for the performing arts. Musicians and the audience are shoved into a lecture hall. Space is tight, and acoustics are awful. But everybody is eager to play or listen!

I couldn't help comparing my ability to our students'. I have been practicing for almost 4 years. I would have finished college by now! I would never had survived (well, maybe
avoided death, but certainly not contributed) in a jazz band.

The more I think, the more John's prediction seems likely: 10 years to learn trumpet. Wow, if you start in 5th grade (11 years old) then you might entertain people the last 2 years of college!

school cafeteria

2018-06-02 SAPPORO, JAPAN -- We had lunch at the north campus cafeteria. This is the cafeteria with the most attractive architecture on campus.

We rarely eat at the school cafeteria, because they open too late for breakfast (I often bring yogurt and granola for breakfast at 07:15 after morning trumpet practice), and because we feel rushed during our short lunch break (break is from 12:00 to 13:00 but I return to my office around 12:10 and must leave at 12:40 so I have only 30 minutes).

Beautiful summer day!

institute of low temperature science

2018-06-02 SAPPORO, JAPAN -- We toured Hokudai's Institute of Low Temperature Science. This is one of Hokudai's premier research facilities.

The exterior admittedly looks like a government building. That's because that's essentially what it is!

Hokudai's research team went to Antarctica to drill ice. Some parts of the cold continent are exposed (that is, there is no ice or snow) but most are covered by glaciers whose mean thickness is 2200 meters (this means you need to dig 2200 meters before hitting rock). The thickest ice is about 4200 meters.

The research team drilled ice using metal tubes. Think giant drinking straws made of stainless steel. Each drilling sequence yielded ice core samples that were 4 meters long. Drill down, pull up, drill down ... After nearly 3 years they hit bedrock 3300 meters below the surface of the glacier.

The institute stores ice core samples. The deeper the older, and due to the age and pressure, the larger the ice crystals. In the picture below, the cross section specimens of the ice are arranged with the younger layers above and the older below. Note how crystal sizes increase with age and depth.

Large blocks of single ice crystals are rare.

The ice core samples are stored at -50 degrees C. Noriko's hair froze like mouse whiskers! I knew I would start to freeze in an hour or two ... but I didn't feel the cold during the 15 minutes we were in the reefer.

The freezer equipment is not exotic. -40 C is common in the food industry. The room is cold (and hence dry) enough that frost does not accumulate on the freezer.

hokudai campus fair

2018-06-01 SAPPORO, JAPAN -- Our school's annual campus fair started today. Each year, we try to cover all the exhibits and shops. This year, they finally put the program online. (These links may become obsolete rather quickly. Sorry about that.)

Our favorites year after year are the
railroad club and the entomology club.

The railroad club visited various railroads across the country.

The entomology club went to Malaysia (among other places) to collect insects.

We listened to several jazz bands. The bands operate under a larger umbrella organization called the jazz club. The club has dozens of members, and they probably plan gigs and parties together, but seem to practice and perform in smaller ensembles.

According to Kero (Noriko's frog), the scariest attraction is the Frog Meat shop. They sell exactly what they say.

"We purchase frogs from reputable butchers", says the sign. Kero gagged when he read this. "I gotta hide!"

The queue was long! Girls wearing frog headgear walked around holding pictures of frogs happily serving their kin. Kero almost fainted!

We walk through the exhibits and shops again tomorrow and the day after.

camera mount adaptor

2018-05-29 SAPPORO, JAPAN -- I purchased a camera mount adaptor that allows me to attach a camera lens with a Sony-Minolta alpha mount to a camera body with a Pentax K mount.

The adaptor arrived 2 weeks ago from America. I usually ask vendors to ship US products to our home in the US. This time I had the adaptor shipped to Japan because the equipment is in Japan and I didn't want to wait.

I bought this adaptor specifically to use my mom's
Sony-Minolta 500 mm reflex lens with my Pentax K-5 digital single-lens reflex camera. Kindly excuse the dust on the equipment.

I have been experimenting the past 2 weeks. Results have been underwhelming.

The reason must be the corrective lens in the adaptor. The corrective lens is the piece of glass in the center of the adaptor in the 1st picture. Its purpose is to change the optical distance between the camera lens and camera body so that the image focuses on the image sensor. If the adaptor did not use a corrective lens, all camera lenses with Sony-Minolta alpha mount would become "near-sighted", that is, they may focus at close distances to the subject, but not at infinity.

The pictures below are untrimmed JPEG images straight from the camera. All pictures were taken hand-held, because I intend to use the equipment hand-held to photograph flying aircraft in strong daylight.

Here is a half moon. Can't call this image "sharp".

Full moon. Hrrmmph.

Microwave radio tower. The air was clear when this picture was taken. The washed-out colors of the foliage in the background are disappointing.

Traffic cones placed in the parking lot beneath my apartment (we live on the 10th floor). The image is usable if it were for, say, keeping records during construction work or for collecting evidence during a criminal investigation. But the image lacks crispness and contrast.

I cannot recommend this camera mount adaptor. In the past, I tried various ways to attach this lens to this camera
without using a corrective lens. In order to focus close to or at infinity (roughly beyond 50 meters from the camera), I needed to position the lens and body carefully together. Tricky, yet possible. Alas, a mount-adaptor engineer refused to build one for me. So I had been looking for a solution. Thought I found it ... doesn't work as well I wanted. End of a $60 experiment.

sushi party at home

2018-05-29 SAPPORO, JAPAN -- Noriko returned from Tokyo to Sapporo. She was staying with her family, while I was cooking for myself (efficiently and moderately nutritiously but not excitedly). We rented a car for 5 hours, and went grocery shopping at the Sapporo Costco.

We celebrated her return with sparkling wine poured into a wine glass etched with frogs.

Sushi party at home! Fantastic weather, just the 2 of us, happy together. Shira-ebi (literally white shrimp, Pasiphaea japonica, pictured lower right) is a delicacy available only this time of year.