2015

salmon roe (ikura)

2015-10-08 SAPPORO, JAPAN -- Salmon roe (ikura) is a delicacy in Japan. USA fishermen treat it as bait. What a waste!

Our recipe is: (a) loosen and rinse the salmon roe in water, (b) dry in a colander for several hours, (c) pour a mixture of 5 parts sake, 4 parts mirin, and 1 part soba sauce, (d) soak overnight, (e) sprinkle over rice or crackers or tofu and enjoy!

From left to right: slightly dried salmon roe, mirin, soba sauce, and sake. The roe absorbs water while being loosened and rinsed. In my recipe, the roe is dried so that it later absorbs more sauce. We prefer less soy sauce to bring out the flavor of the roe.
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Add enough sauce to completely cover the roe. A generous amount works better than too less.
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Store in a refrigerator overnight.
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The roe absorbs the sauce, and becomes plump and large. Notice that after soaking the sauce barely covers the roe.
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The all-time standard is rice bowl (don), where the roe is sprinkled over a bowl of white rice. We are waiting for this year's new crop of rice. We ordered ours today. Should arrive soon!

In the meanwhile, we went for the grown-up
izakaya (pub or bar) flavor. This is ikura on daikon-oroshi (grated daikon radish).
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Baguette and cheese make a great bed, too.
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Cold tofu and ikura make a fancy appetizer.
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beachtown coffee

2015-09-25 LINCOLN CITY, OREGON, USA -- Beachtown Coffee, our favorite coffee shop in town, is being evicted at no fault of theirs. The owner of the property wants all tenants to leave. I wrote a letter to the owner urging them to reconsider.

My letter of support (PDF file).

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open air trumpet

2015-09-23 LINCOLN CITY, OREGON, USA -- Before my trumpet lesson with John Bringetto, I warmed up at Ona Beach State Park, located 2 minutes away from John's house.

I love playing outdoors as long as there is nobody around. I thought I was alone because I saw no cars parked or people walking. I practiced with my eyes closed ... Imagine my surprise and embarrassment when I opened my eyes to see 2 people on paddleboards waving at me!


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lincoln city 50th anniversary parade

2015-09-19 LINCOLN CITY, OREGON, USA -- Our city celebrated with a parade its 50th anniversary of becoming a municipality.

The parade started at the Cultural Center (formerly the DeLake School), where we go twice a week for yoga lessons.
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Our friend's dog participated in the parade.
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Most American events begin with the playing of the national anthem. A local trumpet player belted out a solo. In the background the Oregon National Guard stands in formation. They lead the parade.
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Second in parade is the flag, carried by a team of kids.
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Next, the fire department. This is ladder 57.
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Local groups, businesses, and organizations joined the parade.
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The News Guard is the city's local paper. Many American towns have their own local daily. Some universities do too.
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The candy shop's car was decked out with candy wrappers. Check out the hub caps!
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The local beer brewery brought their beer truck. Notice the faucets on the side.
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The Taft High School team is the Tigers.
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The trumpet player drove his Corvette while playing.
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Last in the parade, the garbage truck, clean as a whistle!
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The parade ended at the Community Center and Kirtsis Park, a block from our house.
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We waited in line and had a hot dog!
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tadpoles

2015-09-14 GALESVILLE RESERVOIR, OREGON, USA -- While kayaking on Galesville Reservoir in southern Oregon, we came across thousands of large tadpoles! What a beautiful sight!

Galesville Reservoir, located near the community of Azalea, Oregon

Water levels are low in most Oregon reservoirs due to a dry rainy season and a hot dry season. The shallow warm water is good for tadpoles!
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The water bottom was almost completely black with tadpoles. The picture below shows tadpoles after many of them swam away when they saw our shadow.
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Some had tails, some had hind legs, some had fore legs too, and some were climbing ashore.
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Each tadpole with a full-length tail was about 7 cm long.
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Lots of algae in the water keep the tadpoles well-fed. Here's a pair happily together in the water. Soon they'll lose their tails and become adults.
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This young adult posed for its picture.
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kayaking

2015-09-06 LINCOLN CITY, OREGON, USA -- We kayaked on Devils lake, Netarts bay, the Siuslaw river, Fern Ridge reservoir, and Dorena reservoir. Our trip on the Siuslaw river broke our records for range (distance) and endurance (time in motion) at 06:36 and 35.7 km. Poor Noriko was exhausted!

Devil's lake, located in Lincoln City
Our tandem kayak travels on land on detachable rear wheels. The wheels are stored upside down near the stern when we are on the water.
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The lakeshore is lined with houses. Some are expensive. Our affordable house is behind the hill shown in the picture below. We live within easy walking distance, although the hill is too steep to safely pull by hand a kayak on wheels.
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Netarts bay, located at Netarts
The bay was shallow at spots. I got off our boat and pulled it across a sandbar. When I exit the boat the boat rises in the water, so I can often pull the boat after running aground.
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Park entrance fees are affordable and on the honor system. You put money in an envelope, drop the envelope in a box, and place your receipt behind your windshield.
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Siuslaw river, which flows into the Pacific ocean at Florence
Lots of sun, some tide and wind.

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This swing (also called turnstile) railroad bridge must be for tall ships and railcars. The bridge and river were deserted when we passed by.
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We traveled from the Florence public ramp to just before Mapleton landing. This was our longest trip to date.
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Fern Ridge reservoir, located west of Eugene
Overcast with occasional sunshine and showers. Visible in the background is the Fern Ridge dam, which was built to control flooding.

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Abundant tall clouds signal the end of summer.
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Dorena reservoir, located east of Cottage Grove

Oregon had a dry rainy season. Water in reservoirs is being drawn ahead of schedule. Exposed dead tree stumps look like strange creatures climbing ashore. Because most reservoirs are shallow, the surface area is significantly larger at full pool (that is, when the reservoir is full).

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Kero's private cabin is a transparent dry bag.
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Kayak repair

Our kayak has 2 pairs of fins. I bent 1 pair when I hit a submerged log. A quick trip to
Next Adventure (a kayak dealer in downtown Portland) fixed the problem. Instead of merely repairing our equipment, we decided to upgrade the broken part with what the manufacturer claims to be an improvement.

Our old, undamaged drive. Inspected and lubricated.

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Our old, damaged drive, with upgraded fins (the red and black blades) and sprockets (the gray component the fins are attached to).

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toasty, dry, and musical

2015-09-01 LINCOLN CITY, OREGON, USA -- The Willamette valley can get warm (summer daytime highs of 36 degrees Celsius are common) but the Pacific northwest coast is pleasantly cool.

We bought firewood for our wood stove. Our truck bed lacks a fence so we bought a half load for $40.
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Most of the wood in this batch is birch. We stacked the wood outside our front door in a covered breezeway.
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The wood stove keeps the house toasty and dry. The stove is effective all year long.
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Oregon had a good blueberry harvest this year. Ice cream is obligatory when we're so close to Tillamook, a region famous for dairy products. We bought our firewood there too. Most people would not drive that far to buy firewood. We know a beekeeper who runs a small mill there.
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Noriko likes fresh home-made potato chips. Heat canola oil to 180 degrees Celsius. Slice potatoes with a mandoline over the oil. Fry one layer of chips at a time (the slices stick).
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The trick is letting the chips cool and dry after frying them. Don't eat them hot -- they're still mushy! Wicking away oil using coffee filter paper is best, kitchen paper towels are acceptable. We never use salt.
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I rearranged the music room a bit. My iPad-mini keeps track of pitch, amplitude, and time. I love my Carol Brass horn, heavy as it is. Buying 3 horns in the 1st year or trumpet practice was excessive, yet necessary for our migratory lifestyle.

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Before lessons I warmup at a beachside state park across the highway from the community where my teacher John Bringetto lives. Passersby pay no attention to my playing. Thank heavens!
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John directs and plays in the Lincoln Pops Big Band. They gave an entertaining performance at the Lincoln City Cultural Center. John is standing in the rear, playing a flugelhorn for Chuck Mangione's "Children of Sanchez". Most people in the audience danced. Sorry Noriko! Maybe I'll learn how to dance after I learn to play trumpet. John says it will take 2 more years for me to play the notes I need. Can you imagine an artist spending 3 years preparing paint? That's what it feels like to practice trumpet!
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energizing on the oregon coast

2015-08-08 LINCOLN CITY, OREGON, USA -- We finished this semester as much as we could and flew over to our home in Oregon. We will conduct research, improve our teaching skills, strengthen our bodies, and learn to play trumpet.

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yambara dam construction site

2015-08-02 YAMBARA DAM, JAPAN -- With Noriko's parents we visited the Yambara dam construction site near Naganohara town in Gumma, Japan. We drove down to the area that will eventually be covered with water.

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The soon-to-be-submerged railway tracks are surprisingly left behind. Usually the metal is recovered for scrap.

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Equally shocking were the sagging powerlines supplying electrical power to the train motors. Of course these are dead wires (that is, there is no electricity running through them). The sheer wastefulness of the construction project scared me.

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chris botti concert in sapporo

2015-07-16 SAPPORO, JAPAN -- We attended a trumpet concert by Chris Botti. He was born in Portland, Oregon. Travels around the world. Wonderful and thoughtful team of entertainers. They let us photograph and video-record their performance. I won't post here on this public forum the pictures we took.

Noriko won a ticket, and I bought mine.

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birthday trip and presents

2015-06-22 OTARU AND SAPPORO, JAPAN -- For my birthday this year (which is also the 1st anniversary of my trumpet playing) we took a weekend trip to Otaru, a seaside city less than an hour west by train. We visited their aquarium and relaxed at a hotel with a 24-hour private furo-style bath. On our way back I got a birthday present!

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The
Otaru aquarium (a private institution) is located on the seaside with outdoor seawater pools for seals, sea lions, walruses, dolphins, and penguins. Indoor fish tanks hold local fish as well as species from various parts of the world. Near the aquarium (shown on the upper right corner of the picture) is the Hiyoriyama lighthouse, the oldest and still operational lighthouse on Hokkaido island.

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The aquarium animals appear content. Ill or handicapped individuals are kept in separate pools so that they need not compete for food. Blindness is common with age, we learned.

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Our
hotel is a short steep climb (16 percent gradient) from the aquarium. It is located 70 meters above sea level, which is the same as our house in Oregon, except we are several blocks away, and the slope is gentler.

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We had our own private furo-style bath. Because the water was somewhat lukewarm, we could bathe for as long as we wished.

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At 19:18 Japan time, we viewed a sunset from the cliff above the sea. I practiced trumpet. My trumpet teacher
John Bringetto told me to practice every day. This was my first time practicing outdoors.

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The following afternoon we returned to Sapporo, where at the
Yamaha music center my new instrument was waiting. I tested it in a soundproof room at the store. Noriko and Maki (the salesperson, who is also a French horn player) said that my current instrument sounds brighter while my new instrument sounds deeper. Hmm ... I couldn't hear the difference from behind the bell. The 2 horns certainly blow different. The new horn needs more air. The old horn is noticeably heavier. This suggests my new horn is made of thinner material that may dent easily.

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My expensive new toy is a
YTR-8310Z model designed by Yamaha in collaboration with Bobby Shew, the jazz trumpet player. Notice the difference from a regular 8310Z? Mine has 3 rings. A regular 8310Z has U-shaped saddles on the leadpipe and 1st valve slide. For that minor change I paid merely $30 extra and patiently waited 4 months.

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My new Yamaha case (pictured on the left) looks classy, feels solid, and I'm glad to have it. It's probably made for people who drive, and carry multiple bags. It stores 2 trumpets top side up, but nothing else -- no music, no cleaning supplies, no audio recorder. My old case (pictured on the right) stores 1 trumpet laid flat on its side (which I don't like) but has room and pockets to carry a fair amount of gear. Plus it has straps for carrying on my back. I suspect that I'll use my old case to carry my horn, and use my new case to store my horns at home. We don't own a car in Japan.

rainy season in hokkaido

2015-06-04 SAPPORO, JAPAN -- Who says Hokkaido has no rainy season? Of course it does. Yesterday's heavy rain stopped trains. Being unprepared is not necessarily evidence of being unexpected. Sapporo receives snow every winter, yet is woefully unprepared. To prevent icing, they should continuously sprinkle the roads with river water (the Toyohira river does not freeze) and let the water carry the melted snow back to the river. Divert the river water upstream, and return it downstream. That should remove snow as soon as it hits the ground, and also save money. Instead they spend millions of dollars carrying the snow to dump sites. Oh well, this is a city that took 200 years to build a weather-free passageway from the central train station to the downtown financial and shopping districts. The locals complain of the winter weather but do nothing about it.

Sadly I am also guilty of lethargic ignorance. As an academic and scientist it behooves me to confirm information. Yet for shame I learned only a few days ago that my interpretation of the scientific pitch notation was wrong. I am contrite that I assumed (without checking) that octave numbers increment when ascending from G to A. I now know that octave numbers change at the boundary between B and C.

That being said, below are 2 spectrograms (that is, images produced by spectrum analyzers) that visualized my practicing scales this morning. Most musicians swear by their metronomes. Many prefer a tuner as well. I too need both, but because I cannot judge my own sense of timing or pitch, I need another source of information. Spectrograms show each note's time duration (the horizontal length) and pitch height (the vertical position).
During trumpet practice, I use an iPad-mini, its built-in microphone, and the Audio Analyzer application.

In the following screenshots, the vertical axis shows frequency in kilohertz. The axis scale is placed on the right, because on this spectrum analyzer the origin of the x and y axes is at the lower right.

The horizontal axis shows time in seconds. The values should actually be negative, because the origin of 0 seconds is placed at the right edge, and all sound prior to that are in the past (e.g., 5 seconds ago, or -5 seconds). The designer of this software application does a few things differently from what I am accustomed to as a speech engineer.

Because the spectrum of trumpet sounds contains harmonics (also called partials), that is, the fundamental frequency (i.e., the lowest frequency that can be produced with a length of tubing) and its multiples, for each moment in time there are multiple harmonics spaced at integer multiples, stacked vertically on top of each other. In this chart, about 2 or 3 harmonics are visible. Generally speaking, harmonics for trumpets fade out in intensity above roughly 3 kHz. Thus you can say that trumpets, although they play high parts of music, are perfectly audible over a telephone (the audio bandwidth of a regular phone is between 300 and 3400 Hertz).

The cursor (the thin horizontal line running across the center of the spectrogram) marks 592 Hz, which is close to the 1st fundamental of E5 (the E on the 4th space on the treble clef). This is my natural, default pitch at the moment. Some people have lower or higher natural pitches. I expect mine to rise a bit further. If I recall correctly, John Bringetto told me his natural pitch is C6. Wow!

My trumpet (and those of all other beginning trumpet players, plus those of the vast majority of professional trumpet players) is a Bb (B-flat) transposing instrument; that is, when I play a C it sounds like a Bb on a piano. When I use a piano to tune I need to play the piano key that is one whole note below what I want on my horn. There are trumpets that are pitched in other keys, namely C (for orchestral playing), E and higher (to play higher notes).


Poorly played notes between C5 and Bb6. The unevenness of the time durations (that is, the horizontal lengths) of each note shows that I am insecure about how to play the next note. The notes having weak acoustic energy between harmonics were played clean (that is, with clear and compact tone), whereas notes with a lot of color markings between harmonics were played dirty (that is, with diffuse and airy tone).
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This spectrogram shows me playing the E major scale below my natural pitch of E5. Notes at or close below one's natural pitch are easier to play. The relative absence of colored markings between harmonics shows that I produced good tone. The time duration of each note is more uniform. Overall, I am doing much better (although far from perfect) than the notes I played in the spectrogram above.
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Even to the untrained eye the geometric symmetry of my second spectrogram should be an obvious clue to better performance. Astonishingly, spectrograms are rarely used in music schools. In fact I have read of and met musicians who knew nothing about spectral analysis. Maybe music schools accept only students who do not need spectrum analyzers. I envy them in that sense!

neil stalnaker performs at d-bop

2015-05-26 SAPPORO, JAPAN -- Neil Stalnaker, a former navy bandsman who relocated to Japan, played his Besson trumpet at my favorite jazz spot D-Bop in Sapporo. Neil had studied in person with Carmine Caruso in New York. That made a connection to me because I play Caruso's "6 notes" and "seconds" every day.

Neil told me he had not warmed up that morning, and needed to ramp up his playing during his gig. His first song was pretty energetic. Steamy warmup!

What warmed me and the rest of the audience was that 2 middle school kids (who came with their parents) joined the stage and blasted away on the trombone and trumpet! The kids were awesome! If I could play half as good as them I would be ecstatic. The 5 adult musicians were kind and encouraging. Here are pictures of the members of the quintet, along with a flyer of the event.

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trumpet clinic

2015-05-24 SAPPORO, JAPAN -- I attended my first trumpet clinic. Although I had read about trumpet clinics, this was my first hands-on experience.

A trumpet clinic is a one-time trumpet lesson, typically given by a well-known trumpet player who is touring the area. A parallel at a university would be a guest professor giving a one-time lecture and answering questions from students and professors of the host institution. Participants of clinics cannot claim to be students of clinicians -- that title is reserved for people who receive regularly scheduled instruction. For clinics, I suppose the apt term is attendee.

The guest professor today was
Shunzo Ohno, a soft-spoken gentleman who grew up in central Japan and has spent almost his entire professional career based in New York. Noriko (who missed the clinic as she is visiting her parents in Tokyo) is fascinated by Shunzo's biography. His experience with a lip injury somewhat parallels that of Louis Maggio.

Shunzo performed in downtown Sapporo yesterday evening. From the front row I watched him play. The clarity and purity of his sound captivated me. That's the tone I want! Maybe half an octave higher though, because that is where the center of my range is.

Although naturally I was eager to learn from Shunzo, I was rather apprehensive because I expected advanced amateurs to ask advanced questions, and I did not want to dilute the level of instruction by being a dunce. I was also scared that I might be asked to play in front of strangers.

In fact that did happen and I was in panic! My first public performance was a series of long tones that broke up before they left the bell!

Shunzo was kind and gentle and spent considerable time (perhaps 15 minutes out of the 120 minutes for class) to show me how to set the embouchure (don't fidget!) and play. He knows I live in Oregon so he switched to the English language to teach. Shunzo is clearly more at ease talking about trumpet in English than in Japanese. Much of the instruction Shunzo himself received was in the English language. He grew up in a working-class family, and he was self-taught in music until he moved to New York as a young man.

I am not sure what the rest of the audience felt with how Shunzo and I interacted. They were probably unhappy that I was wasting precious time. In my weak defense I might mention that the 11 other students were not entirely enthusiastic about asking questions. Shunzo was disappointed, and maybe that's why he was generously responsive to me when the group lesson period ended. He gave me extra personal teaching for quite some time afterwards. We also showed each other's trumpet bags. His is ultra-minimalistic. Mine is full of gear, ready to fight a war. Except I don't know how!

Flyer from Shunzo Ohno's performance in Sapporo.
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Shunzo demonstrates lip buzzing, mouthpiece placement, and mouthpiece attachment.
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Spectrogram of Shunzo's scales. Fast and clean! Even on my best day I cannot achieve this. The horizontal cursor at 591 Hz marks Bb trumpet E5 (concert D5). Shunzo excels in the lower and middle registers. He focuses on melody.
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sake of the month club

2015-05-05 SAPPORO, JAPAN -- Noriko and I joined a sake of the month club for the first time in our lives. This is not a serious commitment. We get 2 720-milliliter bottles of fresh sake delivered each month for merely 3 months. If we enjoy it, we might join again. We are not heavy drinkers. It took us 14 days to finish our 1st delivery of 2 bottles. Most people would finish a bottle in a single evening.

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sakura cherry embankment walk

2015-04-26 SAPPORO, JAPAN -- Spring arrived in Sapporo early this year but still a month or two behind Portland and Tokyo. We took a 12-kilometer walk along the Shinkawa river embankment. We left home at 07:00 to view the cherry trees illuminated by the morning sun from aside. Near the river we found a park bench (rare in Japan) where we took a sip of water.

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tesol toronto

2015-03-26 TORONTO, ONTARIO, CANADA -- Noriko and I gave a poster presentation at TESOL-2015, a conference for teachers of English language. The timing and location of the conference gave me the perfect opportunity to visit the city where I spent my early childhood.

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Between the Union Station (equivalent of Hauptbahnhof) and the CN tower lies the Metro Toronto Convention Center, with a sculpture of woodpeckers.

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A black snowman greets visitors.

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We knew we arrived at the correct venue when we saw a frog blessing the building.

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Registration was fast and painless. Other conferences should take note!

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The conference was well attended.

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I enjoy poster presentations because I get to interact with my audience more than a lecture session. The questions and comments that people give me are often valuable.

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I prefer printing my posters the old-fashioned way, because (1) I can mix and match the sheets based on the people I see at the conference site before I give my presentation, (2) I can add or correct sheets of paper without having to re-print a large expensive poster, and (3) I am never sure that the poster panel will have the dimensions promised by the conference organizers.

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Noriko always cheers me on. I owe my success to her.

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Lots of people stopped by. Thanks for coming, folks!

my primary school

2015-03-25 TORONTO, ONTARIO, CANADA -- Noriko and I visited my primary school in Toronto, Ontario, Canada for the first time since my family moved away in summer of 1970. A vice principal (they have more than one now) generously gave us a tour of the school, which has grown considerably during the past 44 years.

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There were probably 250 pupils back in 1970. Today they have 240 teachers! This number excludes kindergarten, now a separate school, although located on the same grounds. The 1400 pupils (plus 650 kindergarten kids) take turns having recess and lunch because the schoolyard is over-crowded. We never had to play in the front lawn. In fact it was forbidden because it faces the street. Now a fence keeps children inside.

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Thorncliffe Park is an area surrounded by a ring road lined with densely-populated high-rise apartment buildings. Mine was across the street from the school front door, where I am standing. Because the school is located in the center circular area, and because that area has no place to grow (it is hemmed in by apartments) the school has become crowded over the years.

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I recognized my 3rd grade classroom, and with horror, the room they kept me for pronunciation practice. ESL (English as a second language) was an emerging concept at that time. I spoke English well enough to function in class. Somebody decided that Alice (who was born in Canada, and was wearing braces) and I spoke "funny" and required pronunciation training. So we got detention! That windowless gloomy storage room is now a brightly-lit photocopier room.

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The school building added wings and floors. The new library does not seem more spacious. The colors are vibrant though.

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What have they done to the schoolyard?! It's a quarter of the size it used to be, and completely paved save for a patch of turf at the edge (note the green belt in the photo in front of the apartment buildings in the background). In 1970, each winter the yard was hosed over and allowed to freeze for ice skating. Today kids are bused over to a 365-day indoor skating rink.

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Mr Scott was our principal. He knew every pupil by name, and their parents' as well.I was ignorant until today that he was the founding principal of my school. Nor did I know that the school and I are the same age.

goh's 2nd trumpet

2015-03-02 LINCOLN CITY, OREGON -- I am ecstatic with my new instrument! It costs double of my 1st trumpet, and even to my novice eyes the difference is apparent. No, it doesn't make my playing better. But it does make it easier, because the notes slot better, especially in the higher registers.

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Favorite things come in brown paper packages!

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I knew exactly what the case would be like, because I have another one for my Zorro trumpet that I play in Japan.

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Silver is a good color for me. The bell reflects the view around the room too.

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Noriko congratulated me for producing good sound from the get go.

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Carol Brass uses stainless steel pistons. The pistons and valve casing must be thoroughly cleaned daily for the first 3 weeks. Note the dark residue on what was a bleached white towel. California Music Supply (CMS) sold me a soft and easy-to-use valve cleaning brush. Highly recommended! I am scared of those cleaning rods because they might scratch the inside of the instrument.

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CMS gave me spare parts for free!

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My new horn is considerably louder than my other horn. I need to stand away from the window and mirror to avoid reflection of sound.

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The view out of my music room (spare bedroom). Sometimes deer walk past.

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All those goodies piled up in my trumpet case. Handkerchief, audio recorder, spare parts, tuner with metronome, mouthpiece, valve oil and grease.

goh's 2nd and 3rd trumpets

2015-02-25 SAPPORO, JAPAN -- Noriko and I split our time in 3 places: our school in Hokkaido, Japan, our home in Oregon, USA, and with our families in Tokyo. Because flying with a trumpet is not recommended (my teachers had negative experiences) I decided to own 3 trumpets.

Trumpets are expensive. While they are considerably less expensive than other brass instruments, and ridiculously cheaper than woodwinds, the absolute cost makes me hesitate. Somewhere between 500 and 4000 US dollars would get you a respectable brand-new instrument. My first trumpet (that I ordered on my mother’s birthday last fall) cost 750 dollars. That felt pricey.

After becoming numbed to the cost of music, we twice visited the Yamaha music store (which sells many brands including Yamaha) to choose which one I should get for playing in Sapporo.

I was surprised to discover that different makes and models felt quite different. Some were easier to play than others. After comparing 6 models plus my rental and my $750 horn for Tokyo, my choices narrowed down to a Bach
180S37 (the world’s best-selling professional trumpet) and a Yamaha 8310ZS (developed with input from the jazz trumpeter Bobby Shew). I chose the Japan-made Yamaha over the USA-made Bach partly because in Japan it is slightly more convenient to have the trumpet repaired or serviced. Besides, American instruments are less expensive in America.

I ordered the 8310ZS with O-shaped finger rings on the leadpipe and 1st slide instead of the factory-standard U-shaped finger saddles. O-shaped finger rings allow me to carry part of the weight of the trumpet on my left thumb. Japanese businesses including Yamaha are not as open as European or American firms regarding modifications (try substituting an ingredient at any restaurant in Japan) so the seemingly simple change of 2 pieces of metal necessitates a 4-month wait. The paperwork for the special order went through a few weeks after Noriko's birthday. It feels auspicious to make positive decisions on birthdays of my loved ones.

The Yamaha will be delivered shortly after my birthday and 1st anniversary of embarking on my musical adventure. What a nice present! My Sapporo teacher Izuru Konishi plays a 8310Z himself, which he let me try. The higher notes came easier compared to the Yamaha 3335S I was renting at the time.

In parallel to choosing the Yamaha, a few days before Bruce's birthday, I ordered a
Carol Brass 6580, sight unseen, untested, purely based on reputation and reviews. I hated to do that but there were no music instrument stores that carried them. This horn took 80 days to be delivered to Oregon. It should be waiting for me when we return home next week! I can hardly wait! I will ask my Oregon teacher John Bringetto to play it, and breathe life into the instrument. A high-performance sports car must be driven by a capable driver at least once, in order to bless it and to show the student driver what the vehicle is capable of.

I tested 6 trumpets on 2 occasions at the Yamaha music store near Sapporo central station. Each time, they gave me a large soundproof room and plenty of privacy. They’re expensive but provide excellent service.
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California Music Supply sold me the Carol Brass 6580 (a CTR-6580H-GSS-S to be exact). They took a picture of my purchase before shipping it to our home in Oregon. The trumpet comes with a bunch of extras, including an alternate tuning slide and valve buttons. I swapped the hard case with a soft backpack. They use UltraPure oil and grease, made in Philomath, Oregon, a few hours from our home.
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trumpet factory visit

2014-08-19, CORRECTED 2015-02-25, CANBY, OREGON -- (Editing note: This article was corrected for factual accuracy regarding the affiliations and job titles of the people mentioned. I apologize for the delay in effecting the corrections.)

Noriko and I visited
Marcinkiewicz Co. Inc., which manufacturers trumpets and mouthpieces the old-fashioned way.

Zack Marcinwiekicz grew up in the family business and now is the general manager. (His father Joe owns the company, and his older brother Yasha is the production manager.) Zack graciously told us stories and gave us advice for well over an hour.

We also met John Duda, owner of
Calicchio, which rents factory space from Marcinkiewicz. John followed his father and became a brass instrument craftsman, including years at Benge, Olds, Kanstul (where he made tubas -- didn’t know they made them) and worked at Marcinkiewicz for a short time in the early years.

I don’t have pictures of these illustrious gentlemen, mostly because we were so enthralled with Zack and John’s stories, and also because we thought taking their photos would be inappropriate.

However Zack did give us permission to photograph their building and their lobby. So here they are!

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Above: Marcinkiewicz is located in Canby, a community with nice houses surrounded by farmland, located between Portland and Salem. Oregonian pilots will be familiar with Aurora state airport, situated several miles away, and home to kit plane manufacturers. Perhaps the region’s build-it-yourself, self-reliant spirit plus a labor base of skilled metal craftsmen accustomed to tight tolerances is why we find trumpets (Marcinkiewicz, Monette), aircraft (Van, Sportcopter), and bicycles (Comotion, Bike Friday) being manufactured in Oregon.

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Above: Marcinkiewicz prefers their customers to visit the store in order to custom-tailor instruments. Clients are typically advanced players who know what they want. The trumpets in the glass showcase shown in the picture are prototypes -- trumpets that were made by combining various bells, lead pipes, and materials. The black flat boxes on the shelves behind the glass showcase contain mouthpieces, some differing in dimensions at merely half the thickness of a hair.

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Above: Marcinkiewicz started out similarly to Vincent Bach in that in both cases their founders were trumpeters who chose to augment or stabilize their income by making trumpet mouthpieces and instruments. Today, many trumpets are mass-produced in factories. Some musicians insist on hand-made instruments, however, leaving a niche market for companies such as Marcinkiewicz. John told us of a trombonist who could accurately distinguish hand-hammered bells from machine-made bells. (Calicchio also produces trombones.) John also told us that where the seam of one-piece bells goes -- bottom or the side -- makes no difference. But two-piece bells do suffer from uneven thickness. John can make tubas with one-piece bells, but the price is prohibitive.

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Above: The lobby is adorned with photographs of trumpeters holding Marcinkiewicz instruments. We smiled when we saw a picture of Bobby Shew as a young man, already hairy and beardy if not more so. In the picture above, located in the center below the blue whale is Herb Alpert, my idol, who was a business partner with Marcinkiewicz from 1983 to 1989.

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Above: Zack gave us 3 Marcinkiewicz pencils. One goes to Izuru Konishi, my trumpet teacher in Sapporo. Another goes to John Bringetto, my trumpet teacher in Seal Rock. And I get to keep one, too.

the night train "cassiopeia"

2015-01-21 SAPPORO, JAPAN -- A raging snowstorm repeatedly canceled our flights. We wasted 2 days at the airport waiting for flights that kept getting delayed and delayed until they finally told us to go home. We needed to travel so we took a night train from Sapporo to Tokyo.

JR (the Japan Railways group of companies, formerly state-owned Japan National Railways) sells tickets in an inconvenient manner that encourages unethical behavior. Tickets are often hard to get ahead of time but easily obtained immediately before departure. This is because people buy tickets to resell them at a hefty profit. When no buyers are found, the tickets are sold back to JR for a refund. We bought ours at the airport after they canceled our flights for the 2nd time.
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The Cassiopeia is a sleeper car that runs between Ueno (serving the Tokyo area) and Sapporo central station. It was named because the W-shaped constellation points to Polaris (the symbol of Hokkaido) and reminds passengers of the double nature of some aspects of the train (double-deck, double rooms).
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Our room sleeps 2 in an L-shaped configuration. The chair backs slide down to form a bed. The room has a private sink and toilet. We got a single-story room (that is, not double-decked) with a higher ceiling.
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The Cassiopeia departs Sapporo shortly before sunset.
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The Seikan tunnel connects the islands of Hokkaido and Honshu. The tunnel is 53.85 km long, and takes about half an hour to cross. The trip feels longer because there are several other tunnels on either end of it.
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A lounge car offers views and refreshments.
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We dined in splendor in the privacy of our cabin. Before leaving Sapporo, we stocked up on goodies at the department store next to the station.
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