leaving hokudai

2020-01-20 SAPPORO, JAPAN -- Noriko and I are leaving Hokudai (Hokkaido University) to live in proximity to our 4 aging parents, who live in Kanagawa.

We started to consider moving oh maybe a few years ago, but it wasn't until last spring (about a year ago) that our decision solidified. Each semester (that is, 2 times a year), Hokudai allows up to 5 full-time faculty members to take early retirement. Leaving in summer was too early for us. We asked to leave at the end of winter. Today we learned that our request was approved. My last day of work is 2020-02-28. I leave Sapporo the following day (leap day). We will take vacation (paid time off) during the entire month of March.

Early retirement means that we receive the full amount of retirement pay (otherwise only a small amount is paid), and I can apply for unemployment benefits while I search for my next job. I haven't found a job in Tokyo yet. Wish me luck!

I will miss walking to work across the snowy campus. I'm the person with both arms raised in this picture that Noriko took from our apartment.

piano lesson

2020-01-18 SAPPORO, JAPAN -- Ivy Lin, my former graduate student, gave me my first piano lesson today at her house. I am electrified!

Ivy was trained originally in classical piano. She has a degree in jazz performance in piano and guitar.

Ivy autographed a copy of "Beyer" she gave me as a gift. The book is written in German, English, and Japanese languages.

I hope to buy a portable electronic keyboard once we settle into our Tokyo home. Maybe a Kawai? Our names would match! Or maybe a Casio ... their products used to be considered toys, but nowadays their high-end models are highly regarded.

ethernet cables

2020-01-15 SAPPORO, JAPAN -- Our students practiced reading assembly instructions in English language. They built ethernet cables by attaching RJ-45 connectors to twisted-pair cable.

We test connections. Of course nobody succeeds the 1st time.

What surprised me most was that our students had never seen ethernet cables. Everything is wireless these days! I knew young people have never seen typewriters or record players or rotary phones (a student asked me where the "off hook" button was). I was unprepared for students having never seen an RJ-45 connector. Wow the speed of innovation.

Wired connections are faster, more reliable, and more secure than wireless connections. But it does seem that as if my crimping tools are becoming obsolete.


2020-01-14 SAPPORO, JAPAN -- Our TAs gave me a T-shirt that says I have teacher super powers. Thanks!

I hope the powers are more than giving course credit to students!


puppets and telescopes

2020-01-12 SAPPORO, JAPAN -- We visited a puppet exhibit and an astronomical observatory, both in downtown Sapporo.

Theater puppets were on static display (that is, the puppets were placed stationary, instead of being manipulated by performers). The difference is size, materials, and texture were apparent because we could see them close up.

A scene from Rudyard Kipling's "
Just so stories -- the elephant's child". This is where the crocodile says "Come hither, little one, and I'll whisper".

Some puppets are so large that they could be called giant props. This elephant head is handled by at least 3 people -- 1 for the head, 1 for each ear, plus maybe 1 for the trunk.

This puppet expresses emotion by raising or lowering eyebrows. The importance of eyebrow angle to the Japanese psyche is evident if you look at manga. Eyebrows are always drawn, even if they would be hidden from view by hair or hats.

astronomical observatory is located smack in downtown Sapporo. Not the darkest place to view stars at nighttime, but definitely the most convenient place to walk up to. Local kids play with their tobaggans (sleds) on the mound where the observatory sits.

A friendly docent explained the apparatus to us. He advocates refractive or Newtonian reflective telescopes over Schmidt-Cassegrain telescopes, because the latter suffer from distortion caused by heat convection within the telescope tubing.

During brief moments of sunshine, we viewed the sun.

happy new year

2020-01-10 SAPPORO, JAPAN -- Happy New Year! We spent our winter break with our family.

Noriko and I walked over to a shinto shrine and a buddhist temple near our Tokyo house. They are both popular sites of religion. We avoided the thickest crowds by visiting early.

Oomiya Hachimanguu, a shinto shrine known for military fortune in general and archery in particular. By extension, the gods enshrined here assist worshippers in their quest for victory in any competitive endeavor, such as winning sports events, passing exams, or finding employment.

The shrine has the Frog Stone, a natural boulder somewhat resembling a crouched frog, believed to bring fortune back to you. The word "frog" in Japanese language is homophonous with (that is, has the same pronunciation as) the word for "return" or "come back". What goes around comes around.

Every January 2nd, the shrine hosts an archery ceremony. This year, the responsibility was handed from the patriarch of the Ogasawara family to his son. The picture shows the father, the 31st-generation head of the clan, holding an arrow tipped with a whistling arrowhead. The whooshing sound was originally intended to intimidate enemies before battle. Now it is sounded to ward off evil.

The son pictured moments before loosing the arrow. In Japanese archery, the bow and arrow are first raised above the archer's head, and lowered to eye level as the bow is fully drawn. The Ogasawara family crest is printed on the fabric screen in the background.

Myouhouji, a buddhist temple known for medicinal healing powers.

They served us ceremonial drinks in a tiny sake cup with drawings of mice. This year's animal is the rat or mouse or gerbil or whatever you like to call it. They are often depicted with long tails, so I guess they are not hamsters!


2019-12-28 ENOSHIMA, JAPAN -- We visited Noriko's parents, and on our way back walked to the light show at Enoshima.

No need for conversation. Just pour, smile, drink, smile. Repeat for 4 hours. Wonderful time with my father-in-law.

Enoshima is a tiny island (or a big rock, if you like) that is reached by a bridge. The light show is at the top of the island.

We usually walk up and down because it's not far and the view is nice. Tonight, to avoid the crowds, we rode the escalators up to near the peak.


The peak was awash in light.

The lookout tower.

Many of the lights have wintry colors. Brrr! Everything
looks cold!

Jewels of light.

We warmed our lips with hot chocolate.


2020-11-30 TOKYO, JAPAN -- Movers transported our belongings from Sapporo to Tokyo.

We asked the crew to put moving boxes on old curtains that we spread over the floor. 44 out of the 50 boxes contain my stuff (er, junk) from my office. We (er, I) will spend a few months opening and organizing.

Bookcases that our friend Chris Perry gave me found their new home in my music room.

I assembled Noriko's desk.

We celebrated the move with sparkling wine poured into glasses from Noriko's alma mater.

class reunion

2020-11-29 TOKYO, JAPAN -- I attended a reunion for the University of Tokyo department of electrical engineering.

Mostly guys (with some gals) all working in impressive positions. I showed up in casual clothes haha.


2020-11-22 TOKYO, JAPAN -- I have been an amateur carpenter, soundproofing a closet in our Tokyo house. Although the project is incomplete, the interim results are promising.

I want to practice trumpet without bothering our sister and her family who live downstairs. We live in what you might call a vertical duplex -- that is, a duplex where 2 houses are stacked on top of each other instead of built side by side like most duplexes are.

The closet that I am modifying does not share a surface (such as a wall or floor) with our sister's house. The closet is next to a hallway and staircase that do share surfaces with our sister's house. By reducing the noise emanating from the closet, I hope to reduce the noise penetrating into her house.

There are 3 steps in soundproofing a room for the purpose of playing music:

(1) Trap sound inside the room.
(2) Absorb sound within the room.
(3) Reduce sound reflections within the room.

Step 1, stopping sound from exiting the room, means people outside the room do not hear the sound. This is my main objective. In actual soundproofing construction, sound is attenuated, never eliminated. Some sound leaks. I am aiming for 20 dB attenuation. Professional soundproofing provides 35 dB or more (the larger the number, the better). However the professionals whom I consulted declined to work for me because their soundproofing material is too heavy. They were concerned that the building would become top-heavy and unstable in earthquakes. The material I use is not lightweight but has less total mass than what the professionals use.

Step 2, removing sound within the room, is accomplished by absorbing sound with fluffy material. (Acoustic energy is converted to a tiny amount of heat.) This step is necessary because the sound trapped inside the room is too noisy for me. I can't stand my own noise, haha!

Step 3, reducing sound reflections within the room, means weakening echoes. Echoes mask imperfections in playing. I want to hear myself as if I were standing in an open field or a large room. I do not want my trumpet to sound like it is being played in the bathroom.

I added a wall within a room. The original wall was unmodified. At this time, I have finished steps 1 and 2. Step 3 will be done around 2020-04-25, when I return to Tokyo for a longer stay.

Now for some pictures!

We begin with step 1. I hung sound-reflecting sheets on the wall and floor. This material weighs about 3 kilograms per square meter.

I used an electric staple gun to attach the sound-reflecting sheets to the existing drywall.

I sealed the seams with sound-proofing tape. Ultra-sticky stuff that blocks air passages where sound can propagate.

I covered the inside side of the door too.

My brother advised me on construction techniques, and loaned me his tools.

We proceed to step 2 of soundproofing construction. I attached long pieces of wood to hold the sound-absorbent wadding and drywall.

The sound-absorbent wadding weighs about 1.6 kg per square meter. Feels much lighter than the sound-reflecting sheets because the wadding is 30 times thicker (that much more volume).

Each piece of sound-absorbent wadding takes merely a few seconds to put in place.

Drywall covers the sound-absorbent wadding. The drywall I used weighs about 9 kilograms per square meter.

Repeat the process.

Cut wood smells fresh.

The easiest part.

My brother gave me a ruler for cutting drywall.

I over-estimated the amount of drywall I needed. I wasted very little material. Lots left over!

I cut too much off when I built this irregular corner of a wall. I will replace this board.

I installed additional electrical outlets.

I laid 3 layers of carpet padding on the floor. This material absorbs low-frequency sound such as footsteps. The manufacturer claims 51 dB attenuation at 500 Hz. In my case, the bouncy padding lets me comfortably sit on the floor (I sit on my feet).

Rough measurements give me 15 to 20 dB of attenuation already, even though the door is not yet sealed. Noriko cannot hear me in her office. She walked over to remind me to practice. I already was!

Fairly satisfied up to this point. More work to be done. The drywall surfaces are hard. I will attach another layer of sound-absorbent wadding to reduce echoes. This is step 3 of soundproofing construction.