christmas tree

2020-11-29 TOKYO, JAPAN -- We are trimming our Christmas tree this afternoon. Pictures coming soon!

oil painting

2020-11-28 KAWASAKI, JAPAN -- Mom showed me an oil-painting kit I used in middle school and high school.


My brother and mom have art talent. I chose art class through a process of reluctant elimination. My music was atrocious and calligraphy was not quite in the style my teacher appreciated.

I wonder about the condition of the paint.

I fear the oil is in bad shape too!

Mom's favorite stray cat watched us tinker with old memories.

iwasaki house

2020-11-26 TOKYO, JAPAN -- A few minutes from my alma mater stands the Iwawaki House (also see alternate explanation). Hisaya Iwasaki, the 3rd president of the Mitsubishi zaibatsu, commissioned the British architect Josiah Conder to design and build the house in 1896. Conder had arrived in Japan in 1877 having been invited by the Japanese government to design buildings and train architects.

The grounds are merely 1/3 of the original area, and the 20 or so buildings are reduced to 3, yet giant gingko trees still stand.

Iwasaki built the house when Japan as a nation and Mitsubishi as a company craved recognition by European and American powers. The house projects an ostentatious presence.

The south facade is American colonial style.

The buildings on the grounds are comprised of 2 distinct styles -- British-American mix vs Japanese. Instead of incorporating elements of each into one structure (say, having a tatami room in a house with western-style exterior), Conder chose to build 2 types of houses side by side. Some were connected with hallways or underground passages, the latter, I surmise, for household staff to go from one building to another unobtrusively.

A large tatami room with a formal cabinet area may have served a purpose analogous to a drawing room in the west.

The Iwasaki House served 2 roles: the private residence of the Iwasaki family (who lived in Japanese style in private), and a reception complex for dignitaries (where occidental customs prevailed). The Iwasakis were
seishou (businessmen with strong ties to politicians). Networking was essential. Perhaps some of that took place in the billiard hall, an unusual building at that time (or perhaps at any time anywhere).


The plumbing, including toilet fixtures, are original. Made in the UK.

I was glued to the lightbulb on display. An artisan was trained by Thomas Edison's team on how to fabricate light bulbs.



2020-11-23 TOKYO, JAPAN -- We celebrated Thanksgiving 3 days early, because in Japan today is a holiday while Thanksgiving day is a work day.

Costco in Japan sells frozen Butterball turkey, just like in the USA. I did not know that a Butterball turkey "contains up to 8% of a solution of water, salt, spices and natural flavors for tenderness and juiciness". Hmm, I prefer untreated birds!

Sprinkled paprika for color. Roasted for 3 hours, just to be safe.

Chopped onions and celery (hard to find in Japan) for stove-top stuffing.


Deliver to family. Sister lives downstairs. Brother lives a 35-minute drive north. Mom lives a 35-minute drive southwest.

soldering iron

2020-11-22 TOKYO, JAPAN -- Years ago, a decade ago, I bought what to me is a top-of-the-line soldering iron (a Hakko FX-888 soldering station, since replaced by the FX-888D). So what's the big deal you ask. Nothing, except that I opened the box after all this while. In the meantime I had been using my older, less sophisticated, perfectly capable soldering irons (I own several). I should stop saving stuff for that special moment! Life is getting too short!

From left to right: Hakko soldering station, an electronic keyer for sending Morse code (a hand-made gift from my friend Akira), a
Panavise vise model 301 (makes life easier), Fluke DMM (digital multimeter) model 179, and at upper right corner, a can of chilling spray, just in case I burn myself.
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Today's mission: to fabricate a cable for connecting my telegraph key to Akira's electronic keyer. Alas I cannot photograph myself while I solder. Here's a spade lug connector being held by clamps (locking forceps) which in turn is held by a vise (not shown). I think I do a decent job of soldering but close-up photos are not flattering!

Things are coming together. The needle-shaped object held by the vise are the clamps seen on edge. My telegraph key (one of the 4 that I own, a
Bencher BY-2) is at the lower right. Akira's electronic keyer was damaged during the move from Sapporo to Tokyo (the speaker wires broke). And the batteries leaked (grrrr -- cleaned with vinegar). I learned recently that removing mercury from batteries made them more prone to leaking.

Desoldered the contacts and replaced with speaker wires with a slightly heavier gauge.

I didn't want to soil the dainty sponge that came with the soldering station so I used my trusty 3M sponge (I love it).

I bought a heat gun to replace my old
Portasol that gave up the ghost after 30 years. The heat gun I got is essentially a tiny electric hair dryer. It is about the size and shape of a cucumber or zucchini (actually these vegetables can grow quite large but for the purpose of my explanation please imagine supermarket size). It blows hot air that shrinks heat shrink tubing.

The yellow section is heat shrink tubing that has been shrunk. Nice snug fit around the wires. This photo is the back side of the iambic paddle.

Now I can practice sending Morse code with any of my 4 telegraph keys. From left to right: (1) Morse Express annual Christmas key 2008 edition sold exclusively by Marshall G. Emm, N1FN through his online store for telegraph keys.
Marshall became a silent key -- that is, passed away -- on 2020-02-17. His business died with him. Christmas keys were miniature collectible keys that Marshall sold each winter. Toshihiko Ujiie of GHD Keys made the Christmas keys between 2008 and 2019. Too bad there is no Christmas key this year. (2) Akira's keyer. (3) Mizuho "baby" BK-1 key. Only 890 yen. I am looking for a suitable base for it. A base is a weight that prevents the telegraph key from moving when it is used. The base is usually a heavy piece of metal, stone, or wood. Instead of attaching a heavy base, the key can be bolted to a desk, especially on a ship. (4) GHD model GN607 iambic paddle. The 607 went through several versions. Mine is the earliest. I suspect the later ones are better, because mine does not feel as pleasant as its price would make you expect. (5) Bencher model BY-2. Apparently the top seller in amateur radio. I used it when I was at W6YX (Stanford amateur radio club) from 1986 to 1999. It has several design flaws that are inexcusable given its price and length on market (that is, plenty of time and money to improve the product). One can buy an entry-level camera lens for this amount of money. Camera lenses are much more complex. Hmmm ...

Close-up photo of the Christmas key, in memoriam for Marshall N1FN. I sent condolences to his colleagues, who politely acknowledged my message.

An excerpt from Mizuho's user manual for the BK-1 key. Mizuho went out of business in 2012 when the founder, Tsuguo Takada, JA1AMH retired. Ardent fans keep memories and know-how alive. I talked to whom you might call the fan club president, Mr Takahashi, at his tiny store in Akihabara.
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early christmas presents

2020-11-21 TOKYO, JAPAN -- A publisher of amateur radio technology is offering gifts when you buy their books.

During normal years, the gift promotion happens in summer, at the
Tokyo HamFair (similar to the Dayton HamVention in the USA). The convention was canceled this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. So the publisher delayed the sale till Christmastime and shifted the sale online.
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They gave me what they promised! A shopping bag with morse code hidden in letters of the alphabet.

I received my books and presents the day after I placed the order. I don't think this speed is possible on the Oregon coast.

baked apples

2020-11-20 TOKYO, JAPAN -- I baked apples for the first time at our house in Tokyo.

Baked apples are easy to make. I found that a knife and spoon are better than an apple corer because you can follow the core and seeds as they reveal themselves at an angle you cannot see from outside. With a corer it's hit or miss.

We hardly ever buy butter. This is the first time I bought butter in maybe a year?

Another first: I baked without wrapping apples in aluminum foil. The combi oven adds enough steam so the apples won't dry out. Some had to crack, hrrumpf.

We discovered that baked apples taste almost as nice as freshly baked when warmed in a microwave. Next time we bake apples, we'll bring some to our families.

late sunrise

2020-11-19 HIRATSUKA, JAPAN -- The sun rises a few minutes late each day.

The morning sky reminds me of the atmosphere of Jupiter.

People gather to watch the sun rise through the clouds.

Sunbeams over Sagami bay.

I practiced trumpet over the autumn foliage.

Snacks in the warm car.

time difference living

2020-11-17 HIRATSUKA, JAPAN -- Noriko once wrote a short novel titled "Time Difference Living" (which, by the way, received a review in a literary periodical). The protagonist chooses his own time zone to live in. He gets up way earlier than other people in his community. He has lunch, works, plays, rests all at different times of day. He escapes the crowds and gets the best treatment by living in his private time zone.

We tried time difference living at a restaurant. We arrived at 17:00, too late for lunch, too early for dinner.

We had the entire restaurant to ourselves! hurray!

Tranquil isolation calls for leisurely dessert!

555 timer IC

2020-11-16 TOKYO, JAPAN -- My home office (den, playpen, pigsty, cattle barn, call it what you like) is becoming more comfortable because I am spending more time there. But today, I played in the living room because it's brightly lit.

Today's program is brought to you by the 555 timer IC.

I confess I cannot memorize resistor color codes. Plus some pairs of colors are hard to tell apart.

Magnifying glass (made in UK), assembly instructions, tablet computer (for looking up resistor color codes -- I lost my paper color wheel), and my trusty toolbox (I attached the handles only today because when I was in Sapporo the toolbox never left the shelf it sat on).

keroppi donuts

2020-11-14 TOKYO, JAPAN -- Our niece gave us donuts made in the likeness of Kerokerokeroppi and his mom and dad.

Too cute to eat! But ... they're gone!

The image below is copied from the
promotion website.

copper grater

2020-11-10 TOKYO, JAPAN -- I treated myself to a copper grater for making daikon-oroshi (grated daikon).

Purchased at Kappabashi for 100 dollars! I might break even after grating 1000 daikon. Let's see ... 1 daikon per week, 50 daikon per year ... 20 years!

Medium grain on one side for daikon, fine grain on the other side for spices.

Ooya is a group of craftsmen that was incorporated in 1928. I bought a grater in size "2", 2nd largest.

Each point (too short to call it a spike, no curve or angle to call it a hook or barb) is chiseled by hand. The inherent unevenness in the angle of the hooks allows the daikon to be rubbed back and forth without needing to rotate the daikon. Machine-made graters have hooks that are perfectly aligned so that the daikon develops ruts or grooves that impede grating.

Tried it!

Hmm ... You still need arm-power. Elbow grease.

Daikon-oroshi topped with nametake-chazuke is surprisingly yummy with roast pork.