happy new year

2017-01-01 TOKYO, JAPAN -- Happy New Year everybody! May you all live long and prosper!

Daybreak at Mount Fuji.



Deserted streets of downtown Tokyo.

Manga and anime store at Nakano station, Tokyo.


pseudo-japanese restaurant

2016-12-26 SAPPORO, JAPAN -- We went to Gompachi, a pseudo-Japanese restaurant located in Nishi-Azabu, less than 2 kilometers east of Shibuya station in Tokyo.

The restaurant is said to have inspired the venue for fight scenes for the movie "Kill Bill". Former prime minister Jun-ichiro Koizumi entertained then-USA-president George W. Bush here.

The restaurant is good for laughs. Think Benihana of New York without the show, and set in fake mingei decor.

The food is neither fake nor outstanding. 2100 yen for the 2 of us.

snowshoeing on campus

2016-12-24 SAPPORO, JAPAN -- Sapporo received heavy snowfall. The last winter with 95 centimeters of cumulative snowfall at this time of year was in 1966. This doesn't mean that this is the winter of greatest total snowfall, nor does it mean that we expect similar levels of snow the remainder of this winter. It does mean that there's plenty of snow on the ground.

We went snowshoeing on campus for the 2nd time this winter.

Tree limbs accumulated damp snow that for 2 days fell steadily and softly.

Snow stopped late the previous night. The following morning sky was severe clear.

We waited for daybreak to start snowshoeing, then returned home to get our camera and take pictures.

It's nice to have woody areas a few minutes from our campus housing.

We're glad we don't own a car.

At the tennis courts, we drew pictures in the snow. Here's a half note. We also drew a trumpet (not visible in photo).

Kero's face, with 2 tennis net posts as the pupils of his eyes.

hokudai elects new president

2016-12-14 SAPPORO, JAPAN -- Hokudai elected Toyoharu Nawa as university president. Nawa is a professor of cement engineering, and currently is dean of the school of engineering. On 2017-04-01 Nawa replaces Keizo Yamaguchi, a math professor.

I am glad to see Yamaguchi gone. He is an embarrassment in both administrative leadership and public relations. Yamaguchi is a spineless yes-man for the Ministry of Education (he agreed to cut costs and personnel without seeking alternate funding), and a heartless no-man towards the local community (he banned barbecue parties and children from campus). I attended a keynote talk by him, and was appalled by his lack of vision and compassion.

I welcome Nawa, partly because of his corporate experience. He worked at Chichibu Cement before joining academia. Hopefully Nawa's real-world training will put Hokudai back on track.

Similarly to the United State's electoral college, Hokudai's president election is not decided by popular vote. All full-time instructors may vote, but the president is chosen by a closed panel of 13 individuals, who are not bound by the results of the faculty vote. This steering committee is akin to the privy council under the Meiji constitution, and is designed to protect the upper echelons of university administration.

Newspaper clipping from Hokkaido Shimbun 2016-12-14 online edition.

sapporo grand hotel art talks

2016-12-08 SAPPORO, JAPAN -- The Sapporo Grand Hotel hosts art exhibits and talks for free.

We love hearing from artists and craftspeople. Sorry no photography allowed during the lecture.

They offer hors d'oeuvres and drinks at a reception after the talk. Our university should hold similar cultural events!

We chose a quiet coffee table.

Our student Kayo works at one of the restaurants at the hotel.

library talk

2016-11-30 SAPPORO, JAPAN -- The Hokudai North Library invited us to give a workshop on learning phrases in context by using manga and books in L1 (a language you are familiar with) and their translations in L2 (a language you wish to learn).

We expected a tiny audience of somewhere around 3, which was the number of people who told us they might come. 34 people showed up -- a mix of faculty, administrative staff, and grad and undergrad students. Noriko and I were ecstatic.
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The workshop took 97 minutes, consisting of (1) 5 minutes of introduction by the library staff, (2) 10 minutes of lecture by me explaining the merits of reading identical material in L1 and L2, (3) 10 minutes of lecture by me explaining how manga and anime are appreciated in America and Europe, (4) 27 minutes of hands-on activity by students under my guidance, (5) 30 minutes of hands-on activity by students divided into groups (each table received different language material), and (6) 15 minutes of sharing results from each group of students.
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Students first found corresponding phrases in L1 and L2, then used the L2 phrases to construct new messages, and lastly shared their results with the other participants.
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Many thanks to Kyoko Jo and Yuji Nonaka for organizing the event! In the picture below, they are standing 3rd and 2nd from the far right.
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tokugawa museum and gardens

2016-11-27 NAGOYA, JAPAN -- Noriko and I visited the Tokugawa museum and gardens, located northeast of downtown Nagoya city. The museum contains artifacts owned by the Tokugawa daimyo (feudal samurai lord) family who governed the greater Nagoya area from 1603 to 1868.

The museum does not allow photography.

The gardens consist of sloping areas, flat areas, streams, marshes, and ponds. Most areas are heavily planted by trees and shrubs that mimic nature in miniature.

Gently persistent autumn rains soaked the leaves and bark of Japanese maple trees.

In the mist, a wedding was taking place.

JALT conference

2016-11-26 NAGOYA, JAPAN -- Our research-and-education team gave poster presentations at the JALT (Japan association of language teachers) conference in Nagoya city.

The poster area was heavily attended, partly because our poster session took place immediately after the opening keynote presentation.

Naomi Suzaki explained how our students learn pronunciation of English language by singing songs.

Ivy Lin explained how our students learn vocabulary, particularly collocations (multiple words occurring together at high likelihood).

night before supermoon

2016-11-14 SAPPORO, JAPAN -- Early this morning, the moon shone brightly into our apartment. Tonight is a super moon. Maybe the weather will hold.

Hand-held photo of the moon. Sorry about the blurring. Too lazy to set up a tripod in the bedroom at 03:00.

library talk

2016-11-11 SAPPORO, JAPAN -- The Hokudai north library invited me to give a workshop on reading in 2 languages. The talk is on 2016-11-30 from 18:15 to 19:45 in the north library, 3rd floor group study zone.

The idea is that by reading your favorite manga or books in L1 (the language you already know) and L2 (the language you want to learn), you can read the books you love in L2, and learn phrases without looking up words in the dictionary. Manga gives graphical context, which provides the nuances of social relationships that are so important to the Japanese psyche. Manga (and to a limited extent novels) provide spoken language expressions in written form.

I intend to ask students to find corresponding phrases, and create short sentences using those phrases.

A pair of slides from my talk. These slides are shown to students at the beginning of my workshop as a warm-up task. The tasks increase in complexity during the 70-minute workshop. The artwork below is from Osamu Tezuka's "Black Jack", a classic medical drama which was serialized when I was in middle school.
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They made a flyer with a rather embarrassing picture of me. Here's a 2nd galley proof after I asked them to change a few minor portions of text.

Boku Girl

2016-11-02 SAPPORO, JAPAN -- A student recommended to me Akira Sugito's manga "Boku Girl". I fell in love with it! I've re-read the story 7 times in 12 days.

The publisher lets you
read episodes 1, 2, and 3 for free. The entire series contains 107 plus a few bonus episodes.

I wish they would let me translate the 11-volume story! Not entirely sure I have the skills though. I spent middle school and high school in Tokyo. I don't know how adolescents talk in English language. Even if I did, the lingo would be different 35 years later.

I sent a fan message to
Akira Sugito on twitter. He was kind enough to reply!
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I wrote reviews on a few online stores, including amazon.co.jp (Amazon Japan).
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kazurou inoue

2016-10-11 (UPDATED FROM 2016-09-30) SAPPORO, JAPAN -- UPDATE: Prize arrived! See photos at end of this article.

Kazurou Inoue is one of my top favorite manga artists. He was the first person I sent a fan letter to.

A few months ago, Kazurou Inoue began a new story that appears in a monthly manga magazine. I buy the magazine each month.

I could wait a month to
read the story online for free. I buy the magazine to obtain survey postcards that help the board of editors determine which stories survive and which get axed.

The magazine offers prizes as an incentive for readers to pay their own postage. This month, I found my name among the winners! They say the prize takes 4 weeks to arrive.

UPDATE: Prize arrived 16 days after winners were announced!

A cover letter, if you could call it that, was enclosed along with the prize.

The prize was a 500-yen prepaid card for shopping at various stores. The front side of the card sports an illustration by manga artist
Kazuhiro Fujita. Fujita was born in Asahikawa, Hokkaido. He authors "Souboutei kowasubeshi", currently serialized on Shonen Sunday magazine.

A slip of paper shows which stores accept the prepaid card.


2016-10-10 YOICHI, JAPAN -- We took a day trip to Yoichi, a town about 60 kilometers west of downtown Sapporo.

Tracks up to Otaru are electrified and parallel. Beyond Otaru up to Oshamanbe it's non-electrified and single track. I prefer non-electrified track, actually, because the lack of utility poles offer an unobstructed view.

Most stations are unmanned and trains carry no conductors. You pay the engineer (in the sense of a person who controls the engine) just like riding a bus.

We bought a 1-day all-you-can-ride ticket.

The Nikka whisky distillery is right across Yoichi train station.

We had a warm lunch at the distillery's restaurant.


2016-10-10 SAPPORO, JAPAN -- Sunshowers (rain showers in sunshine) have been frequent the past several days.

Rain seen laterally from our campus apartment. Judging from the darkness of the rain extending to the ridge line, I believe these are precipitation shafts not virga. Meteorological phenomena such as this remind me of the days when I flew airplanes. I sorely miss Bruce Lowerre, who was my friend, big brother, and flying buddy.

sapporo autumn

2016-10-07 SAPPORO, JAPAN -- Autumn progresses rapidly on Hokkaido island. For my morning run, I prefer to wear short-sleeved shirts and shorts. Soon I need to put on wind-stopping clothing.

Teineyama is a hill on the west side of the city. Most of the city's TV and radio broadcast antennas are located on this hill. Teineyama is the first spot in town to get snow. That might happen in a few days. We had sleet this morning.

Leaves are turning color all over campus. In summer we can't see through the trees outside our apartment window. In winter we can see the agriculture school building.

escher exhibit

2016-09-30 SAPPORO, JAPAN -- We went to an exhibit of works by M. C. Esher and his art teacher who taught at a technical college where Esher was majoring in architectural engineering. Esher's teacher convinced Esher to pursue a career in woodblock art rather than architecture.

Hokudai staff receive discounted admission. Full price is 1300 yen, most visitors pay 1100 yen, we pay 500 yen.


The Sapporo Art Museum is a beautiful building.

We enjoyed a nice lunch buffet afterwards.

clean clean clean

2016-09-24 LINCOLN CITY, OREGON, USA -- Summer is almost over. We clean our bicycles, wash the truck, wipe the mailbox, sweep the driveway. It's a chore that we enjoy and perform well.

Cleaning chains and gears is easy with solvent, lots of rags, and patience. I learned perseverance through trumpet practice.

Wash the truck top to bottom, inside and out, including the underside and engine compartment. I must be getting some dirt off because our mechanics tell us our truck is the cleanest in town!

Wipe the interior for the lady of the house.

Bleached and dried our garbage can. Ours smells clean!

Trim ivy and blackberries from around our Japanese maple tree and hydrangea.

toad hill court

2016-09-22 OTIS, OREGON, USA -- Between the communities of Otis and Rose Lodge there is a side road named Toad Hill Court.

Naturally we insisted on visiting.

Just another side street connecting to a country road.

We stopped by the Rose Lodge market. We have driven past it hundreds of times, but it was our first time in the store.

We had brunch at the
Otis Cafe. They are known for gigantic portions. Somehow the meals didn't seem as large as I remembered from last time. Maybe I'm gaining weight!?

grand ronde bike ride

2016-09-20 GRAND RONDE, OREGON, USA -- We went for a bicycle ride in an area with gentle hills located about 50 kilometers east of our home.

We transport our tandem bike with the front wheel removed. The fork attaches to a clamp on the truck bed.

Attaching the front wheel takes only about 20 seconds.

Behind the
casino in Grand Ronde we found an idyllic pastoral area. We walked our bike over this wooden bridge because our wheels might get caught in the gaps between the slats.

The rolling hills behind Kero and Noriko are part of Oregon's coastal range. This row of hills keeps the ocean weather on the coast. Lincoln City is cool and moist. Inland, the summers are hot and dry. Grand Ronde is in between.

Bicycling lets us appreciate roadside views that cars would miss.

We took a break at
Fort Yamhill state heritage area.

Our luggage bag lets us carry snacks and extra clothing. The bag was expensive but worth it.

soccer match

2016-09-16 LINCOLN CITY, OREGON, USA -- We went to a soccer (association football) match at Taft High School. We visited the school itself some years ago, and were impressed with the almost extravagant facilities (or so they seemed to us, compared to what we see in most parts of the world), and the logical school hours.

America is big on athletics. Taft HS has a well-equipped field that is designed primarily for American football but accommodates soccer plus track and field.

Our friend's son Gabe is a captain (see his arm band). He scored the first goal of the season! The goal happened so fast that I couldn't photograph it.

Gabe and his team made the
local news.

bike upgrade

2016-09-15 NEWPORT, OREGON, USA -- We had our tandem bicycle serviced and upgraded. We took the bike out for a spin. The bike feels much more solid and responsive, mostly because the timing chain (which connects the pedals of the 2 riders) is tight.

Our bike now has a detachable pannier (a side bag) to carry Kero, snacks, and weatherproof clothing.

We started at the Hatfield marine research center, and headed via Idaho Point marina to Yaquina Bay bridge, the south jetty, and South Beach state park.

The boardwalk at South Beach state park is popular among vacationers and wildlife enthusiasts.

Noriko had her handlebar adjusted so that she ride with improved safety and comfort. Kero admires his reflection in Noriko's side-view mirror. The mirror also reflects sunlight onto Noriko's jacket.

oops bumped my bumper

2016-09-13 NETARTS, OREGON, USA -- I damaged my truck's rear bumper. I backed up into a basketball goalpost placed in a parking lot. Nobody hurt, no damage to other people's property, no affect on driving our vehicle. Next time I ask the Nissan dealer to service my car, I'll ask them for a cost estimate on bumper repair.


co-motion visit

2016-09-12 EUGENE, OREGON, USA -- We visited Co-Motion, a company that manufactures full-sized tandem bikes that can be disassembled for travel.

Co-Motion is located several kilometers away from Bike Friday.

Co-Motion exudes a high-class top-end image.

Co-Motion's headquarters houses their factory, sales, and showroom. They were preparing for a major bicycle trade show in Las Vegas.

The model I salivate for is the
"Java" tandem with Rohloff internal gears and carbon belt drive. All bikes are built to order, starting with frame material.

bike friday visit

2016-09-12 EUGENE, OREGON, USA -- We visited Bike Friday, a company that manufactures folding bikes.

Bike Friday is located in the west side of Eugene.

Bike Friday's headquarters houses their factory, sales department, and showroom.

Oregon has an impressive array of manufacturers that produce mechanisms requiring precision, for instance bicycles, light aircraft, trumpets, and folding portable tools. I suspect this is due to the large number of craftsmen who work in Oregon.

This jig, nicknamed "Fluffy", stress-tests bicycle frames.

Each bicycle is built to order. Each sack contains parts for each order. Some parts are made in-house, some are delivered from suppliers. Bike Friday keeps a just-in-time inventory. Bicycle assembly commences when each sack is filled.

The model I salivate for is the
"New World Tourist" with Rohloff internal gears and carbon belt drive.

Walter, a sales consultant and avid cyclist, gave us a factory tour and explained bicycle mechanisms to us.

Chris Botti concert

2016-09-11 MEDFORD, OREGON, USA -- Noriko and I went to a musical concert by Chris Botti and his band.

They played at the Craterian Theater (named after Crater Lake national park) in downtown Medford, Oregon.

Chris Botti happily allows his audience to take pictures and videos.

In the encore performance he invited the audience to come close to the stage.

The band members enjoy scripted and ad libbed banter with each other, and with the audience.

Truth be told, I had brought my trumpet method book and Chris's CD in vain hopes for an autograph.

tandem bike ride

2016-09-08 WILLAMETTE MISSION STATE PARK, OREGON, USA -- We took our tandem bicycle out for a spin. We hadn't rode for several years because we were enjoying our kayak.

We removed the tailgate from our pickup truck, and loaded up our bicycle on the truck bed. We wanted an 8-foot bed but the longest bed on a Nissan Frontier is 6 feet. I decided that suspending the bike frame would damage it the least. 4 straps hang the bike. The front wheel is removed, and the front spoke is fastened in between bolts.

Our bike is an KHS Tandemania Comp. This is a nice 2-out-of-5-star tandem.

No luggage container means Kero must stay with the car. He is visibly disappointed.

We biked through the Willamette Mission state park and watched the Wheatland Ferry. This is a high-tech electric boat that carries up to 9 passenger cars to and fro. We rode it several years ago when the boat was brand new.

boat slide

2016-09-04 SILETZ, OREGON, USA -- Here are pictures of a boat slide, something parks in Japan don't offer to boaters.

Last time Noriko and I visited this park, there was only a gravel parking space for a few cars and a narrow dirt path leading to the water.

Now they have a paved parking lot, complete with a crosswalk. I cannot recall the last time I saw a crosswalk at a park with a boat launch.

The top of the boat slide has a metal frame shaped like a goal post. At the top center there is a hole for passing through a rope.

People with boats load their boats on the slide, and connect their boat to their vehicle (typically a pickup truck) using a rope.

The instructions say to use a 130-foot (39-meter) rope. A bus might be 12 meters long. 40 meters would be the length of 2.5 buses, parked back to back.

The slide slopes gently at first, then steeply.

It is a fairly long drop to the river below.

For Noriko and me, we would need to carry our kayak by hand to and from the water. I am not confident that we could do it.

The river flows slow and shallow this time of year. When the water level is higher, we might like to paddle in our kayak, if we could somehow get our kayak on the water.

organic blueberries and strawberries

2016-09-02 LINCOLN CITY, OREGON, USA -- Fresh fruit is delicious this year. We enjoyed a big bowl of organic blueberries and strawberries.


IEEE talk

2016-08-31 BEAVERTON, OREGON, USA -- Noriko and I attended a talk on cloud radio access networks. The talk was sponsored by the Oregon chapter of the IEEE.

The Tektronix complex is near Nike World Headquarters. Roads in Oregon are often difficult to navigate because they are intentionally twisted. We spent several minutes looking for Building 38.

The Tektronix auditorium is spacious.

The IEEE server generous portions of pizza. We don't eat as much as we used to.

lincoln county historical museum

2016-08-25 NEWPORT, OREGON, USA -- Noriko and I visited the Lincoln County Historical Museum in Newport, Oregon. I am embarrassed that this is our first visit. We should have visited years ago!

This year is the 50th anniversary of the sister city relationship between Newport and Mombetsu, Japan. They told me that 30 high school students came to visit early this month. Here is part of an article from the Newport News-Times 2016-08-24 issue.

The museum in housed in a 120-year-old house that was built by a 60-year-old carpenter. The building was originally located a block away.

One room shows how affluent families lived in Lincoln County. Items on display include musical instruments, richly embroidered cloths, a book-reading stand illuminated by candles.

A curious device was used to apply electrical shocks to your brain. After treatment, patients allegedly felt better. I would probably feel nothing at all, because I would become unconscious!

organic farm

2016-08-23 NESKOWIN, OREGON, USA -- Noriko and I visited Corvus Landing Organic Farms in Neskowin, Oregon. "Corvus" means "crow" (the 2 words must be cognates) or "raven" and is the name of a constellation located south of Virgo.

They are located 29 kilometers north of where we live, 5 kilometers off the highway.

The farm sells directly to the public on summer Tuesdays from 10:00 to 16:00. They also sell at a few farmers' markets in the area, such as Neskowin and Gleneden.

Kero met a cheerful young lady who works on the farm.

I was impressed with the irrigation pipework on their gate. Somebody good with tools carved "Corvus Landing". The pipes are topped with pine tree carvings.

Kero inspected the farm. Beyond the hills in the background lies the Pacific Ocean.

The section of the farm they let us walk through was quite small. Noriko and I together might be able to care for it, if we worked full-time.

Rows of veggies.

Green onion, a slender and shorter kind of Japanese

Onions lay half-exposed, ready for harvest. My mom says onions are often pulled out so that the nutrients in the leaves move into the bulbs.

chocolate frog

2016-08-22 WALDPORT, OREGON, USA -- Noriko and I visited the Chocolate Frog store in Waldport, Oregon. The owners might open a new, larger store south of Florence! We are happy for their expansion.

Their store is full of frog-themed items.

Noriko gave the owners frog gifts from Japan.

They make chocolate frogs.

They also make chocolate bars, featuring wrappers designed by local high school students.

Here's the write-up by the teenage artist.

Another work of art.

And her write-up.

We got a refrigerator magnet.

Can you spot it on our freezer door?

lincoln pops big band

2016-08-20 LINCOLN CITY, OREGON, USA -- The Lincoln Pops Orchestra played dance music at our city's community hall. My trumpet teacher John Bringetto is the band director and also performs trumpet and flugelhorn. Noriko and I took pictures and movies so that John can give them to his band members.

Patty George sings while John Bringetto plays flugelhorn. The Lincoln Pops Orchestra tends to play a tad slower for elderly dancers.

Storm Wedel is 19 years old. Noriko and I enjoy observing him grow as a vocalist and trumpet player. Monochrome photographs capture jazz music better than color.

full moon

2016-08-18 LINCOLN CITY, OREGON, USA -- The moon was full and bright tonight.

I was too lazy to set up my tripod in our family room. I took this picture by holding my camera in my hand.

whale watching

2016-08-17 DEPOE BAY, OREGON, USA -- We watched whales and tourists watching whales from our table at a Mexican restaurant.

Whale-watching boats carrying tourists depart every 10 to 15 minutes from the world's smallest harbor at Depoe Bay. Depoe Bay is on the Oregon coast, about a 20-minute drive south from where we live.

The dark hump near the center of the picture is the back of a whale. The whale-watching boats claim that the friendly whales approach the boats. Somehow I suspect it's the other way around.

Thar she blows!

The wisp of vapor is viewed more clearly in this video. The dark line crossing the top of the image is a power line hanging outside our restaurant window.

corvallis community band

2016-08-16 CORVALLIS, OREGON, USA -- The Corvallis Community Band plays each Tuesday evening in the summer at Corvallis Central Park, across the street from the main library and close to the downtown campus of Oregon State University.

Corvallis is about 100 kilometers inland from the Oregon coast. Daytime temperatures soar above 35 Celsius (this day it felt like 38). After sundown the temperature quickly drops to 25, and continues to fall until dawn to around 13. The band starts playing at dusk.

The locals bring lawn chairs to enjoy the music.

We snacked at a picnic table, although it was a bit far away from the band.

We listened and watched through the trees.

trumpet lesson with john bringetto

2016-08-16 SEAL ROCK, OREGON, USA -- I had my 20th trumpet lesson with John Bringetto at his home in Seal Rock, 58 kilometers south of our home. I have been learning trumpet for 26 months. Progress is slow.I feel like I am learning how to write the letters of the alphabet. Not sure I am even learning how to spell yet. Certainly not yet learning how to read and write sentences.

I asked John if there is hope for me. He told me not to think that. Childlike absence of inhibition is key, he says.

He wants me to play long tones and scales pianissimo. Playing soft is fatiguing! It's like adjusting a faucet to obtain the thinnest continuous trickle of water, right at the boundary of a fast drip. I am starving the horn of air, holding my breath in.

John let me play 4 mouthpieces from his vast collection. They clearly felt different on my mouth. Truth be told, when I played them they hardly sounded different, because I was focused on adjusting myself to each mouthpiece and I had no ears for timbre. Noriko took a video showing us comparing 2 of his Monette Prana mouthpieces with my Bach 3C. The mouthpieces do sound different in the video.

I think that compared to my Bach 3C his Monette with 1.25-inch rim matches better the intended acoustic design of my Carol Brass 6580. My Bach 3C is probably better suited for my Yamaha 8310Z. My understanding of the difference in frequency response of the 2 horns is that the 6580 and 8310Z have more energy in the lower and higher frequencies respectively. This difference is paralleled in the frequency response of the Monette and Bach mouthpieces.

I wish I could measure the frequency response of horns and mouthpieces independently and under reproducible conditions. Brass instrument manufacturers should publish frequency response charts, just like camera lens manufacturers publish MTF (modulation transfer function) charts.

perseid meteor shower

2016-08-12 LINCOLN CITY, OREGON, USA -- We spent over an hour in our back yard at night gazing at the Perseid meteor shower. We ourselves saw about 30 meteors, some quite bright and spectacular. The skies were clear, the wind was calm, and the moon was out of our view.

We have no pictures of the skies because our camera is not sensitive enough.

LED lights

2016-08-10 LINCOLN CITY, OREGON, USA -- I replaced the reverse lights of our pickup truck. The new lights are whiter and brighter. Apart from feeling safer in poor visibility, I don't expect a difference in driving, but I do feel happier about our truck.

The rear light assembly and the factory-original incandescent reverse light bulb.

The new LED reverse light bulb.

Side-by-side comparison of new and old light colors, intensities, and beam patterns as seen reflected off the interior surface of our garage door. Left: new LED is whiter and brighter. Right: old incandescent is yellower and dimmer.

I wanted to also replace the headlights. In Oregon, people drive with their headlights on even during daytime. At night, headlights are crucial because the highways are not lit. For some time I had noticed that our headlights seemed dim, partly because my eyes are aging, and partly because many other cars have whiter brighter lights. Alas amazon.com shipped me the wrong part, so I have to send it back. Better luck next time.

a whole day of trains

2016-07-16 SAPPORO, JAPAN -- Noriko and I spent a whole day on trains near the Sapporo area.

A one-day pass lets us ride all local trains within a designated area. The rail lines and noteworthy stations we traveled through are, in order of time of departure or arrival: (1) Sassho line -- Sapporo 06:39, Ishikari-Tobetsu 07:45, Shin-Totsukawa 09:28, (2) Hakodate line -- Sunagawa 11:44, Iwamizawa 12:52, Oiwake 13:38, (3) Sekisho line -- Oiwake 15:18, Shin-Yubari 15:56, Yubari 16:23, back to Shin-Yubari 17:10, Oiwake 17:54, Minami-Chitose 18:22, and (4) Chitose line -- Minami-Chitose 19:18, Sapporo 19:52.

The photos below show segment (1), the Sassho line between Sapporo and Shin-Totsukawa.

The morning summer sun was blazing at Ishikari-Tobetsu, where they have a beautiful park with a pond full of tadpoles. What a great start of the day!

A single-car diesel-electric waits at Ishikari-Tobetsu track 1. Because many stations on the Sassho line are unmanned, passengers buy tickets from the engineer just like you pay a bus driver.

The Sassho line is single track. At Ishikari-Tsukigata our train waited 22 minutes for 1 of the 7 daily trains coming from the opposite direction.

The station platform is graded at the end. In the old days the slope eased wheeled carts to carry cargo on and off the platform, and these days would seem to assist wheelchairs and strollers. Alas in modern stations overpasses and staircases are prevalent.

Inside the station house, we found furniture of yesteryear, with tatami-clad benches. A kerosene stove heats the waiting room in winter.

The northern segment of the Sassho line will soon be abolished. The impending end means nobody cares about maintaining the facilities.

The Hokkaido Railway Company (nicknamed JR Hokkaido) has steadily shed rail lines since becoming a private company in 1987. JR Hokkaido is a distressing corporation. 2 of their CEOs committed suicide (respectively in 2011 and 2014) due to poor financial performance (the firm has never been profitable), hazardous operational practices (at least 1 train caught fire due to poor maintenance, and at least 1 dropped pieces of equipment while underway), and wanton lack of ethics (1 worker sabotaged the tracks to avoid coming to work, and 1 engineer destroyed a safety system because the warning signals were annoying him). The public was outraged when dangerous workers were allowed to return to duty instead of having their licenses pulled. Customers were doubly stunned when JR Hokkaido management wondered aloud what was the problem with that? 2 CEOs killed themselves in shame.

Some station houses are converted railway freight cars. That by itself is not a bad idea. Add windows and furniture at the maintenance yard, bring the car to the station, take off the wheels and presto! Station house at any remote location. Too bad the station houses are being neglected.

Although I have not found reliable historical records on the Sassho line, it seems that even during the best of times the northern segment of the Sassho line was never used to haul coal or fish (both major exports of Hokkaido island until the 1950s) or carry passengers (the line runs through forests and farmland). I read that a local politician campaigned to have the rail line built, perhaps to appease his voters.

Shin-Totsukawa is the end of the line. The Sassho line used to extend further north from here to Ishikari-Numata, but that segment was decommissioned in 1972. Shin-Totsukawa has no rail or bus connection. Apart from several houses, nothing is near the station. Nobody depends on or supports the rail line.

A group of kindergarten kids and their teachers welcomed us with drums and dancing. The northernmost section of the Sassho line has exactly 1 train per day. The railcar we rode was the first and last to arrive, and the first and last to depart. After arriving at 09:28, it reverses direction and leaves the station at 09:40, and has the distinction of being the earliest last train in the entire nation.

We took a taxi to Sunagawa station. We could have easily walked the 8 km distance but we needed to catch a train. Before the train we enjoyed brunch at one of the many confectionary shops in Sunagawa.

Our former graduate student was stationed at an elementary school in Sunagawa. She told us about the apple pies and tanuki (badger-dog) cakes.

We spent some money on delicious cakes.

Kerochan and Noriko were quite happy with cakes and free coffee (rare in Japan).

radio program

2016-06-22 (UPDATED FROM 2016-05-23) SAPPORO, JAPAN -- Update: on 2016-06-22 the transcript of the radio program came online, along with an audio recording.

My friends Akio Ohnishi, Hiroya Tanaka and I appeared on a local radio program on
station Air-G (FM 80.4 MHz facebook twitter). This was the first time I appeared on commercial radio.

I've been on the air on amateur radio and aviation radio. Commercial radio is quite a different experience, mostly because it is broadcast on a schedule as opposed to being a two-way conversation that can continue as long as desired.

The program we appeared in is a 10-to-15-minute segment called "School strike" (
website twitter) contained within a 105-minute live show called "GTR" (website). "School strike" sounds like teachers demanding better working conditions (which I would agree with for my colleagues' sakes) but the radio station means "strike zone" or "dead center" of topics related to education in the Sapporo area. Most listeners are middle school and high school kids, their parents, and their teachers. They are eager to learn what tertiary education offers them.

At 20:30 local time we were shown to a spacious recording studio. The announcer D J Ryota asked us questions and we took turns answering to the best of our ability. We adjourned at 20:47. Tonight's segment lasted a few minutes longer than usual, I believe.

The following 2 pictures are screenshots of the radio station's tweets.

Right to left: D J Ryota (wearing a white cap), Akio Ohnishi (founder and CEO of Version2, Inc
website facebook), Hiroya Tanaka (professor of English language at Hokkai Gakuen University website), and me. Hidden behind the orange artificial flower on the desk is Sirokuro Puppy (the mascot of my online learning courseware).

After our segment the program went to music and the microphones in the recording studio were turned off. We took souvenir pictures. Mine features Sirokuro Puppy and the uniform for Paddy (website twitter), the ultimate frisbee men's and women's teams that I am the faculty advisor for at Hokkaido University. One man and two women from our teams were chosen to represent Japan in the world championships! Only 24 for each gender are selected.


2016-06-17 SAPPORO, JAPAN -- Birthday!

Today marks the 2-year anniversary of my trumpet playing. Hmm, progress is slow!

Noriko and Kero gave me a trumpet keychain.

yosakoi soran matsuri

2016-06-12 SAPPORO, JAPAN -- The Yosakoi Soran Matsuri takes place every June. Young adults, including many of our students, perform choreographed dances in groups averaging 100 people each.

Modernized Japanese attire is the norm. Hairstyle for women is often a pineapple bun. Maybe it is easier to dance.

Grandstands line the streets. Some are free, others not. Friends and families of each team walk with their dancers across town.

The weather was clear, and to use aviation terms, ceiling unlimited, winds 090 at 20 gusting to 50 (blowing from the east at 10 to 25 meters per second). We were almost swept off our feet. Yet the dancers were steaming with sweat.

This year 280 teams participated, some coming from far away. Each team performs numerous times at 20 venues downtown.


2016-06-02 AMANOHASHIDATE, JAPAN -- Noriko and I visited Amanohasidate located on the Sea of Japan side of Kyoto.

Amanohashidate means "ladder to heaven". In local mythology, the heavenly gods climbed up and down to create the islands of Japan. But one day the ladder toppled. They must have had an earthquake!

Amanohashidate is a spit about 4 km long. It is a pine-covered sandbar that traverses a bay. Medieval paintings show that the spit did not stretch across to the other side. An extending ladder?

We crossed the spit twice. It's a pleasant, flat, shady walk.

We took the boat once. See its white wake alongside the spit.

From the hilltop we saw the numerous bays and peninsulas that characterize the complex coastline.

One of the bays yonder is Maizuru, home port of one of the fleets of the Japanese navy.

We gave offerings at Nariaiji, a buddhist temple known for a benevolent holy statue who fed its wooden leg to a starving priest. The priest wasn't supposed to eat flesh or wood. But all was forgiven.

Most worshippers crave a look of the dragon carved by Hidari Jingoro, a sculptor from the Edo period, about 300 years ago.

But we came for the eggplant charm, with a screw-off cap that reveals a golden frog within. Naturally we purchased a pair.

The stairs deterred most tourists.

The climb was steep, but worth the view!

Poor Noriko! The sole of her shoe came off without warning! We taped the shoe back together.

Noriko quickly got a new pair of hiking shoes.


2016-05-30 TAKENO, JAPAN -- Noriko and I stayed at Takeno, a seaside town on the Sea of Japan near the Kyoto-Hyogo prefectural border.

The geography is complex. The shoreline is heavily serrated, with numerous inlets and promontories.

This naturally protected bay is a popular snorkeling and scuba diving spot.

This sandy beach is a summer destination for people living in downtown Kyoto.

Parts of the coastline geography are similar to Oregon.

We soaked in the hot springs and enjoyed a traditional Japanese dinner.

ferry from tomakomai to nagoya

2016-05-27 NAGOYA, JAPAN -- Noriko and I took a 40-hour ferry trip from Tomakomai (east of Sapporo) to Nagoya.

Ishikari was launched in 2011. She has won the ferry of the year award each year since. The Tohoku tsunami occurred during her maiden voyage. The Ishikari weighs slightly less than 16,000 gross tons, is just under 200 meters long, and is 27 meters wide.

Cabins come in 12 different types. We stayed in a room with a window, sofa, 2 beds, restroom and full bath. The room has a refrigerator and hot water maker. The TV shows the view from the bridge.

The ship's course hugs the eastern coastline of Honshu island. WIMAX (wireless internet) and cellphone coverage is fairly consistent, at least on the shore side of the ship.

The ship sails early evening and arrives on the 2nd morning. We enjoyed sunset dinners.

Weather was perfect. The ship travels at 26.5 knots (40 kilometers per hour ). On a calm day, that is the speed of the wind blowing across the deck.

I blew my trumpet behind the funnel looking over the stern.

sapporo summer

2016-05-22 SAPPORO, JAPAN -- Summer! No need to heat the rooms before getting out of bed or stepping out of the shower! As I write this at 07:20 local time (3.5 hours after civilian sunrise) the windows are open to a nice easterly breeze.

View from our west window towards the ski jump on Okura hill.

Almost all snow disappeared from the top of Teineyama while we were in Tokyo last week.


2016-05-22 (UPDATED FROM 2016-05-18) TOKYO, JAPAN -- Bright blue skies and warm almost hot arid winds greet the throngs at Tokyo Big Sight for the annual EDIX trade show. I assume EDIX stands for "education using information technology exposition". I attend and give talks each year.

The Tokyo Big Sight building is oddly shaped and not easy to navigate. The conference halls are underground. The aboveground superstructure accommodates meeting rooms.

View of Tokyo bay from the top floor. Tokyo Big Sight is built on reclaimed land. In Japan the standard construction technique is to keep dumping dirt into the water until an island is formed. They have been doing this in Tokyo since the early 17th century. In the Netherlands they build dikes and pump the water out. Either way the ground is soft, moist, and often encroached by the sea.

I enjoy interacting with the audience. I gave 2 talks per day for 3 days. My audience size ranged from 5 to 40. Day 1 is energetic but not productive (because everybody's attention is scattered). Day 2 is the best (because everybody understands this year's trends and interests). Day 3 starts good (because serious people attend) but ends bad (because people start to leave).

Yamaha demonstrated an electronic band practice kit. Really quiet!

And Yamaha displayed a trumpet! If I asked they might have let me play it in the soundproof booth they were demonstrating.

Sometimes booths are so packed that posters and demos are hard to see. Chieru staff dress in bright orange so at least finding them is easy.

3D printing has been the rage the past few years. Of course I need one to build my own cute pink octopuses (or octopoda if you like).

snow and sakura

2016-05-03 SAPPORO, JAPAN -- Crazy weather in Sapporo! One day warm enough to run in a T-shirt and short pants. Sakura (cherry blossoms) bloomed. Next day snow, sleet, rain, plus intense winds that blew sakura petals off the branches.

We took our first day off in a month. Walked through sakura in downtown Sapporo.

Late-blooming sakura trees were the smart ones! Today 24 degrees C. Tomorrow sleet is forecast.

Blown-off petals fall through the sky like snow.

We enjoyed an art exhibit of Yokoyama Taikan.

back at hokudai

2016-04-01 SAPPORO, JAPAN -- Returned to Hokudai today after stopping by our parents' homes on our way back from Lincoln City, Oregon. We are grateful that all of our 4 parents are healthy and active.

Mom runs a publishing company out of her house. Pictures of my departed sisters adorn the walls.

I'm relieved that there is hardly any snow left in Sapporo. I slipped and fell a couple of times earlier this winter and was sore for a while. Ouch!

Oh and I was promoted to full professor effective today. No big deal -- our school limits the number of full professors so qualified associate professors wait their turn. I qualified years ago. Vacancies were created last month when several professors retired. I ordered bilingual, double-sided business cards.

solid basics

2016-03-26 LINCOLN CITY, OREGON, USA -- I am delighted that after 21 months and 9 days my trumpet embouchure (that is, the placement of the mouthpiece upon my lips) is becoming accurate and consistent. Not quite there yet though! I started removing my mouthpiece after each note so that I can unwaveringly combine my body with my instrument.

I am excited to deepen my listening of music. During today's lesson (which is our 20th),
John Bringetto lectured on chord changes, specifically on the role of the secondary dominant. Much of what he mentioned was over my head, although not for lack of reading material -- I need to put the theory to practice by working through actual examples. I will review our lesson by listening to its audio and video recordings. I also practice playing straight melody with iReal-pro backing.

John demonstrates by firstly playing the straight melody (which is where I am barely at), secondly embellishing the melody (which I suspect is my limit of possible achievement), and thirdly improvising by moving around the chords.

Much of embouchure is hidden. "Tense the corners of your mouth, and relax the aperture (that is, then opening at the center of the lips". "Raise the back of your tongue, and widen your throat like there's an egg in it". I see the point ... but aren't these instructions oxymoronic? Or I am a moron?

rotary club of lincoln city

2016-03-23 LINCOLN CITY, OREGON, USA -- Lori Arce-Torres, our friend and insurance agent, invited us to a Rotary Club meeting at the Salishan Lodge in Lincoln City, Oregon. The Rotary Foundation sponsored me 30 years ago (1986-1987) to travel from Tokyo to California to study at Stanford University.

I was granted an opportunity to thank Rotarians (as Rotary club members are known) for their generous support.

David Gomberg (
representative in the Oregon state house, and owner of the Gomberg Kite company) gave a talk about the 5-week short session of the state legislature that meets in even-numbered years.

ken saul, inventor of ultrapure oils

2016-03-16 PHILOMATH, OREGON, USA -- We met Ken Saul, owner of the Ultrapure Oils company that manufactures lubricants for brass instruments, at a coffee shop near his factory.

Ken was trained as a composer and trumpet player. After earning his degree in music from San Francisco State University, he studied at Julliard. He continues to perform the trumpet in the larger Corvalis, Oregon area.

Ken is also an engineer. He has an BS in electrical engineering, and an MS in engineering management. He worked at HP's fabrication facility in Corvallis for 30 years. During the early period of his technical career he used high-vacuum pumps which required precise lubrication. This formed a confluence of his interests in music and engineering. He invented a synthetic lubricant for brass instruments which he named Ultrapure Oils.

I use Ultrapure Oils exclusively, partly because I am an Oregonian, and partly because
Carol Brass, the manufacturer of 2 of my 3 trumpets, vouches for Ultrapure. So does Monette, a trumpet manufacturer based in Portland, Oregon. Wynton Marsalis plays Monette. (By the way, Wynton Marsalis and I both use Ultrapure oil, and are the same age. The commonality ends there: Wynton Marsalis plays trumpet, alas I play with the trumpet.)

Recently, Ken helped a trumpet manufacturer that uses stainless steel valve casings and pure copper valves. Last month, Ken improved his oil to reduce electrochemical corrosion caused by the difference in ionization tendencies across the 2 metals.

Ken spent over 100 minutes with us, generously advising me on my trumpet training, and talking about the trumpet industry. His wife comes from Sapporo.

Noriko and I plan to attend his performances with the
Corvallis Community Band this summer at Corvallis central park.

I oil my valves before and after each practice session. I disassemble, wipe, dry, reassemble, and lubricate my instruments every 3rd day. My instruments allow me no excuse for poor playing!

Imagine Coffee is considerably larger than coffee shops in Japan. Apparently they occasionally provide live music.

Ken graciously exchanged my stock of Ultrapure oils with his newest blend.

back online

2016-03-03 LINCOLN CITY, OREGON, USA -- We are back online! This past fall and winter were seasons of illness and injury for me. Nothing serious, thank you, everything is being taken care of. I'll skip the details because who wants to hear of ailments? I do apologize for not updating my website for so long. I was out of commission until the medical team found out I was treating myself incorrectly. Next time I'll consult experts even if I suspect seasonal allergies!

We returned to Oregon a few days ago. Noriko got us a free upgrade to roomier seats on the 9-hour flight from Tokyo to Portland. Delta airlines calls the spacier seats "economy comfort", implying that regular seats are "economy discomfort". A truthful assessment in my opinion. Delta reportedly profited 6 billion dollars last year, mostly from falling jet fuel prices. Crude oil is down to $35 a barrel today, from over $140 in 2008 and $100 in 2014. No news from Delta about fuel surcharges. By contrast, ANA (All Nippon Air) has reduced their fuel surcharges over a period of some time, and will abolish them altogether starting next month. Delta is not my favorite airline.

A picture I should have uploaded to my blog 3 months ago: On 2015-11-23, while woozy from illness and exhaustion, I gave my first public musical performance in my life at the House of Jazz in Sapporo, Japan. Noriko is upset that they made me play when I should have stayed in bed. No preparation of any kind. I chose my song only 2 days before the event. First time playing with a live band (piano, bass, drums). No rehearsal except a 10-minute "hello, nice to meet you folks" just before. Conditions were so bad that I could not begin to become embarrassed or worried. I played "Bye bye blackbird". John Bringetto gently advised me not to "get ahead of the chord changes". I didn't know what they are (still don't), and could not hear them (still can't). I will do the world a favor by NOT putting a recording of my performance here.