2017-12-29 LINCOLN CITY, OREGON, USA -- I bought a new Apple iPad. This is a 12-inch model that shows A4-size images slightly smaller than real size.

I named my new iPad "brass" because of its gold color similar to some brass instruments, and because I will use it to view sheet music. I copied files from my older iPad "N220BL", named after the registration number (so-called N-number) of Bruce Lowerre's airplane.

more more cycling

2017-12-26 LINCOLN CITY AND GRAND RONDE, OREGON, USA -- This month's rainfall is less than half of average. It still rains, of course, and when it stops we set off on our tandem bicycle.

On Christmas day, we went round
Devils Lake, located on the other side of the hill on where we live.

We rode up 17th Street, from where we can see
Cascade Head.

Years before "wearable cameras" ("action cameras" in Japan) became widespread, I strapped atop my bicycle helmet an
unwieldy camcorder that the manufacturer no longer admits ever existed (for shame!). They used to have a nice webpage for the model, but I can no longer download the firmware or the specification sheet. What an unreliable manufacturer!

The silver lipstick-shaped tube on my head is the camera unit. The black box hanging in front of my chest is the recorder unit.

Below are some pictures from the grainy movie captured by the
Elmo SUV-CAM when we rode from Fort Yamhill state park on the day after Christmas.

Oregon state highway 22, locally known as the Three Rivers Highway, is one of the roads that connect the Pacific coast and the Willamette valley. Some sections of the highway have ample shoulders.

In some places the shoulder is skinny. Staying on the shoulder requires skill and speed that I lack.

Some places have no shoulder at all. Gravel, dirt, or mud are unsafe and messy.

We appreciate motorists who pass us by driving in the opposite lane. Some motorists wait for oncoming traffic to clear before passing. That is super nice! We strive to be nice too when we drive.

lincoln pops big band

2017-12-21 GLENEDEN BEACH, OREGON, USA -- My trumpet teacher John Bringetto directs the Lincoln Pops Big Band. Every 3rd Thursday of each month they play for dancers at the Gleneden Beach community hall. Amanda, John's wife and band manager, waives admission for Noriko and me because we take pictures of the band for use in public relations.

Public relations calls for explanatory visual images, akin to picture postcards and journalism, where content overrides composition. I need plenty of ambient light to accomplish this. An example is the attached photo of the friendly band immediately before starting a song.

Jazz calls for dark, smokey visual images I feel, almost raspy and grainy, with heat and movement. I can take such pictures even in diminished light. The attached photo of Patti George is an example. Note that her body is in fluid motion.

In almost all gig venues, I have limited options regarding sight lines. I need access to the wings of the stage to capture images of the players in the back rows, such as for drum and trumpet. My teacher is an exception -- John solos in front of the band (because he is the conductor) and I have a wonderful view. Tonight he doubled on trumpet and flugelhorn (pictured below).

John seems to have strong preferences as to how he should be photographed. He complained of his posture and clothes in a picture taken by a newspaper photographer. I believe that the picture below portrays him attractively. Sorry about the cluttered background -- I cannot control the light, and must stay off the dance floor.

Noriko and I are giving a package of photographs and movies to Amanda. We hope she gives our pictures and videos to her band members to take home and enjoy with their friends and family.

mini walks

2017-12-21 SEAL ROCK AND NEWPORT, OREGON, USA -- After my trumpet lesson, we enjoyed a bit of sunshine at neighborhood parks. The ground was muddy or flooded in many places so we took short walks at 3 different places.

Brian Booth state park.

Beaver Creek, Pacific Ocean, and sand dunes.

Even at noon, the sun is low.

Yaquina River meets the ocean. Can you see 2 lighthouses at the left and right edges of the picture? They are
Yaquina Head and Yaquina Bay lighthouses, respectively.

Somebody made a sculpture out of driftwood. The curve matches the arch of the Yaquina Bay bridge.

lesson 036

2017-12-21 SEAL ROCK, OREGON, USA -- Today was my 36th lesson with John Bringetto. I played "Autumn Leaves" with iRealPro backing. Naturally I failed spectacularly. We'll get there eventually.

I report my progress to my family and close friends because they cheer me on. My esteemed colleague and trumpet player Atsushi Tsujimoto viewed a video recording of today's lesson. Atsushi commented that my tone is improving. I have been told that compliments on tone among brass players mean there is nothing to compliment about. Yes, that is so true of me.

In my blog entry last week, I may have erroneously implied that John and I are transitioning from stage 1 (technical studies -- that is, producing notes) to stage 2 (melodic studies -- that is, playing melodies of songs) of my trumpet education. Clarification: we are
adding melodic studies to technical studies.

I think of learning to play trumpet as learning to write. We start by learning the letters of the alphabet, beginning with writing in print, in block letters. Once we know the letters, we can spell words and write sentences. Concurrently to writing sentences we continue learning to write the letters (such as writing in cursive, or in smaller sizes to fit thinner ruled paper). We gradually increase accuracy, speed, and aesthetics. So it is with trumpet. I need to learn how to produce notes. With my small set of notes I attempt songs. Melody and technique form a positive feedback loop, to borrow a concept from electronic circuits.

Here is a spectrogram and an audio file from practice at home. The last 60 seconds of "Autumn Leaves". My trumpet notes / go out the window ...
171223_chart 4

171223_recording 4

amazon kindle tablet

2017-12-20 LINCOLN CITY, OREGON, USA -- One of my Christmas presents is an Amazon Kindle Fire 10 tablet. To be precise, Amazon dropped the "Kindle" moniker from the tablet's official name. But I will call it a Kindle tablet for a while, because kindle (Amazon's ebook service) is the main reason I bought this tablet.

The tablet comes in an attractive cardboard package. Not as sensuous as Apple, but almost as good as Ricoh photocopiers (if you are familiar with how they package their toner). A bargain at $149.

I ordered my tablet from my Amazon account. When I booted the device for the 1st time, it asked me if I was me. What a nice touch! Apple doesn't do that with their laptops or tablets.

I want to immerse myself in the Amazon Kindle Fire 10 tablet world for a while, in order to learn it and hopefully to like it. I am strongly considering leaving Apple's iOS world. Although I did order a new Apple iPad tablet -- it should arrive next week -- it may be my last. I am somewhat optimistic that Android or Linux would allow me to control and configure my environment more than Apple's iOS and MacOS.

more cycling

2017-12-14 NEWPORT AND LINCOLN CITY, OREGON, USA -- We biked a few more places.

After my 35th lesson with John, we rode along the south side of Yaquina River in Newport, from South Beach park via the Hatfield marine science center to Idaho Point. This is a flat stretch of paved road with light traffic.

Parts of Yaquina bay is shallow and brackish. Marsh wildlife abounds.

The Yaquina bay bridge was built in an
art deco design when ships were tall. Some years ago we walked across the bridge to soak in the view.

Kero snacked on Rodney's mint cake that we brought back from England. According to the wrapper, mint cakes accompanied the 1st known ascent of Mount Everest.

The day after our trumpet lesson, we took a short but hilly ride on Three Rocks road starting at Knight's park, about 20 kilometers north of where we live.

Knight's park is a boat launch. We kayaked here some years ago. The Salmon river flows out to the Pacific ocean (to the right of the photo). The waves are beautiful to see but scary to paddle through. Going upriver (to the left of the photo) is gentler.

We are becoming efficient with loading and unloading our bicycle. No more biking for a while, unfortunately, because rain returns tomorrow.

play songs

2017-12-13 SEAL ROCK, OREGON, USA -- John Bringetto, my esteemed trumpet teacher, now allows and orders me to play songs.

I am rather pleased with myself for having begun my 2nd stage of learning music. John says that I can produce some notes some of the time, and that I can use those notes to play songs. Naturally I continue learning the technique of sound production. That continues for at least 5 to 7 more years. But starting now, in parallel to practicing sound production, I learn to play songs. This meshes with advice Seikyee gave me when we visited her in San Francisco.

Most of John's students play in school bands from their 1st day of music training. Because I do not belong to an ensemble, my tablet computer is my friend.

My assignment is to play "Autumn Leaves". John chose an easy song: no big ascents in pitch, no short notes, the accompaniment contains a walking bass line, and perhaps most importantly, I have heard my master perform the song many times. Here is a picture of John clapping in time while I struggle to play. I am amazed at my teacher's willingness to submit to acoustic torture.

Here is a screenshot of my iPad. I view the sheet music (the lead sheet) on my left, and watch and listen to the rhythm section on the right. The sheet music comes from Hal Leonard's RealBook for Bb instruments (Kindle edition), which I modified so that the chord names match iRealPro's. John allows me to use iRealPro as a metronome and measure indicator. Because the song is easy, I can hear some chord changes, but were it not for iRealPro's display, I would lose track of where I am at. At best, I can merely distinguish 2 different chords. I cannot identify chords at all. I do not want to rely on visual cues because I want to hone my listening skills. I practice with my eyes tightly closed and ears wide open.


The sound coming out of my trumpet is not pretty. Here are the spectrogram and audio file. Due to hardware and software constraints, the sound is limited to 60 seconds. Certainly that is a blessing.
171215_chart 6

171215_recording 6

I cannot believe it took me 3 years and 6 months to reach this stage. I thought I realized I am a klutz with music, that I am the slowest learner in town. My self-assessment was overly generous!

cutting trees

2017-12-11 LINCOLN CITY, OREGON, USA -- Charlie the arborist and his assistant Josh removed 2 pine trees from our front yard. We had asked for a price quotation some days ago. This morning they announced that today was the day (wow). They arrived 40 minutes later, and left 2.5 hours after that. Fast work! They didn't give us time to warn our neighbors about the noise and dust. Thankfully our neighbors were graciously accommodating.

They removed 2 trees for us. For each tree, Charlie (up in the tree in the photo) made 1 round trip -- up and down once, that was all. Going up, he removed the smaller branches. Coming down, he cut the thicker branches and trunk. Josh (down on the ground wearing the white hardhat in the photo) collected fallen material. Both guys are strong!

Josh told me that they go through 1 or 2 chain saws each year due to heavy usage. Takes only 3 to 10 seconds to cut through a thick section. I guesstimate that a chainsaw lasts about 1000 hours of engine running time.

Before and after pictures from our rooftop. We were surprised how bright our north-facing living room became.


Most of the wood went through the wood chipper machine. Josh cut thick pieces into 14-inch lengths for us to use as firewood.

Noriko stacked the big fat heavy pieces in our breezeway (left side of photo). When the wood dries, we will split them with our firewood axe. The firewood that is ready to burn (right side of photo) might last us until Christmas. After that, electric heaters until next fall.



2017-12-10 LINCOLN CITY, OREGON, USA -- We have been heating the house with our wood stove. The flames are pleasant to watch, and the stove heats the entire house.

Currently we are burning wood that we bought 15 months ago. The wood was already seasoned (that is, dried) when we bought it. The wood dried more since we bought it, and now burns excellently. The firewood we have left might last us for a few more weeks.

We bought a new pile of wood from
Charlie the arborist, same as last year. He put the firewood on our driveway.

The wood we bought this time is not seasoned. We need to dry it for 6 to 12 months. We stacked the firewood in our backyard so that it will dry better than leaving it as a pile on the ground. I estimate the total weight of the wet wood at about 1200 kilograms. Noriko and I got a serious workout by carrying the wood!

During the months that we have no firewood to burn, we will use electric heating. We will also have the chimney inspected and cleaned by professionals.


2017-12-07 SEAL ROCK, OREGON, USA -- Terrific weather continues on the Oregon Coast. Noriko and I enjoyed 2 days of cycling so far.

We missed our tandem bicycle. We had not ridden it because we were traveling in Europe in the summer and early fall.

For our 1st ride of the season, we rode a section of the
Banks-Vernonia rail park. An old lumber railroad has been converted to a hiking and bicycling path. The park is famous for the Buxton trestle bridge, about 200 meters long and 25 meters above the ground. It is made of wood, and curves gracefully.

Gorgeous weather! The high pressure system brought sunshine and cold. Our fingers were freezing.

For our 2nd ride of the season, we rode South Beaver Creek Road, starting at a
state park 1 kilometer away from my trumpet teacher's house, and leading to Alsea bay in Waldport. I chose the route based on maps. Later we learned that I had picked a popular bike course.

Our tandem bike easily loads and unloads from our truck. The bike is too long to carry sideways so we load it lengthwise on the truck bed. I built a plywood box to carry gear and groceries.

garage door opener

2017-12-06 LINCOLN CITY, OREGON, USA -- Our garage door opener started to malfunction over the Thanksgiving weekend. We had it installed in 2006. I expected the device to last much longer but digital circuitry dies sooner than old-fashioned analog. We called the same store, and replaced our old unit with a new one.

Our old unit looks brand new after 11 years. Motor and remote controls all work fine, except the machine turns itself off at random times. I need to unplug the power cord to reset the unit. Then the door opens and closes a few more cycles. We were sure the logic board will fail soon.

Jonathan from
Garage Door Sales installed our new opener. Our old opener was a screw drive. The new one is a belt drive, and it is a bit quieter.

Our new opener can be opened and closed via an internet connection. This is our 1st smart home appliance.

work out

2017-12-04 LINCOLN CITY, OREGON, USA -- Noriko and I are back into our regular routine. We resumed exercise, believing that working out is an investment in our bodies. Noriko enjoys yoga, and I tag along. We lift light weights, which is as wimpy as it sounds! And after a long absence from the pool, I started swimming again. This morning was my 2nd swim in several years. Breaststroke, 1000 meters, 31 minutes. The hardest part is walking over to the gym. It's only 2 short blocks away but feels much farther. The greatest part is the sense of accomplishment afterwards.

hilltop big band

2017-12-01 CORVALLIS, OREGON, USA -- We visited the Hilltop Big Band for the 2nd time. This time we sat directly facing the stage. We had better acoustics compared to our 1st visit on 2017-11-03.

We took pictures, and emailed them to the band. They said they would add my pictures to the band's Christmas letter.

This picture was taken from left of where we were seated. Our seats had good sound but partially blocked sight lines. A column decorated with an unusual face stands in the front center of the stage. Soda fountain machines hide the view to the side.


Jim Cameron (far left, on keyboard tonight, his usual instrument is trombone) is a friend of my trumpet teacher John Bringetto. I have a Christmas music CD they made several years ago. They had a duo going on when Jim was band director at the Yachats Big Band. Noriko and I used to attend their gigs in Newport, until the restaurant (Cecil's Dirty Apron) closed, and Jim moved to Corvallis.

The band has
5 trumpet players. I would be ecstatic if I could play merely half as good as them! My favorite player is Mike Freeman (rear left, standing, playing with mute). I noticed that his section mates let him rest after strenuous playing.

friends in california

2017-11-11 to 2017-11-20 SAN FRANCISCO BAY AREA, CALIFORNIA, USA -- We cherish the special people who regard us as their friends. After an absence of several years, we visited our friends in the San Francisco bay area. We had a wonderful time!

Djuki and I met in 1987 as roommates at Stanford University. 30 years! His family gave us an Indonesian lunch.

Seikyee and Noriko met in college. Seikyee is trained as a professional chef. She threw an early Thanksgiving party.

Seikyee brought us to several eateries in the Inner Sunset district of San Francisco.

Ginny and Noriko met at work. Ginny thinks and verbalizes fast. Noriko is blessed to have Ginny as her mentor.

Psi and I met at work in 1988. He has the fast speech rate of anybody I know personally. We met his family for a too-brief conversation over homemade chocolate cake.

Jared was my supervisor at work. I strive to emulate his style. I'll show his picture below because he is well known in academic and industrial circles.

Mark and I met at work. Mark and June cleaned our house when we bought it in 2003. We walked and picnicked near the Point Bonita lighthouse north of Golden Gate.

California blue sky!

Mark lives within walking distance of quite a few nice eateries.

While the girls bonded in the shopping mall, Mark and I bonded by polishing the windows of his 26-year-old truck. I drove it when it was brand new. That was a fast truck!

My aging and somewhat inaccurate handheld GPS receiver says that for our entire trip we drove a total of 2435 km (1521 miles) in 27:03 (27 hours and 3 minutes) at a mean speed of 90.0 km/h. The maximum speed of 250 km/h is clearly an error. I wish our truck ran that fast!

hilltop big band

2017-11-03 CORVALLIS, OREGON, USA -- On the same day of Ken Saul's classical trumpet concert, we attended a big band concert several blocks away in downtown Corvallis. A gentleman who attended Ken's concert told us about the big band concert happening that evening. So we changed our plans for the afternoon.

Hilltop Big Band is part of the Corvallis Community Band. Tonight they played at the Old World Deli.

The deli is affordable and friendly. The audience seating area is L-shaped. Alas the band faces the edge of the shorter leg of the L, such that most members of the audience have compromised sight lines and acoustics. I would suggest that at least the loudspeakers be placed at a 45-degree angle with respect to the stage so that the sound propagates to the center of the audience.

We sat on the wings to enjoy a clear view of the 4 trumpet players in the back row. I was impressed with Mike Freeman, who stood closest to me for most songs. (The trumpet players took turns playing lead.)

During intermission, I chatted with Jim Cameron (right of photo, counting on his fingers) who plays trombone in the Hill Top Big Band. I met Jim when he and John Bringetto (my trumpet teacher) formed a duo, where Jim played keyboard and voice, while John played trumpet and flute. Jim remembered me and Noriko! How nice of him.

ken saul plays spanish trumpet

2017-11-03 CORVALLIS, OREGON, USA -- Our friend and mentor Ken Saul performed trumpet at the Oregon State University Memorial Union.

Ken carefully and meticulously warmed up before his performance.

Ken quintupled on Bb, C, Eb, and piccolo trumpets plus a Bb flugelhorn.

OSU hosts concerts every Friday at noon during term. Here's Ken's concert program.

After the concert, we met Ken's wife Lily, who comes from Sapporo. We hope to spend more time with them next time.

taft tigers

2017-11-01 LINCOLN CITY, OREGON, USA -- Gabe, son of our friend Lori, is a senior at Taft High School, and captain of the soccer (association football) team.

Gabe is number 24, in the white shirt towards the right of the picture.

I got great seats next to the Taft HS Band. I learned a lot from observing their playing.

We congratulated Lori and her mother-in-law after the match. The Taft Tigers won 6-0. Actually I predicted that after the 1st goal but nobody was taking bets!

back home

2017-10-29 LINCOLN CITY, OREGON, USA -- The last 10 weeks were fabulous. We learned so much during our trip to England, Flanders, and Holland. Today we're back home!

Assembled my trusty Carol Brass 6580 and played it side by side with my Carol Brass Zorro that I played during our Europe trip. My chops (brass instrument jargon for my lips, cheeks, and tongue) had assimilated to playing the Zorro, so that the 6580 (although it has warm mellow sound) feels more difficult to play, and heavier too.

We installed internet at our house. Drew, the cable person, installed new cable and connectors from the utility pole to our wall outlet. We agreed to distrust the existing old coax.

For the past 13 years we had intentionally avoided having internet at our home because we would become glued to our computers. There is so much work that we need to do online that we no longer have a choice. Besides, we get to watch the news on our big screen. Alas the top news was yet another terrorist attack.

Bokeo (whom we adopted from our sister Keiko) has become our household deity for internet.

We froggified the living room wall with pages from our frog calendar.


2017-10-26 AMSTERDAM, NETHERLANDS -- We returned from England to Holland, and spent a few days in Amsterdam before flying home to Portland, Oregon, USA.


All of the floating stores (shops on boats) along the right side of this canal sell tulips, both flowers and bulbs.

We almost bought tickets for trumpet jazz playing at the Bimhuis, Holland's premier jazz venue. Alas the concert starts and ends too late in the evening for us.

A free ferry crosses the river Ij from Amsterdam Central train station. The white low building on the left is the Eye museum of cinematography. The tall building with the white tower on the right is the Lookout Tower, formerly the head offices of Royal Dutch Shell.

The fantastic view from the observation deck.

sunderland air museum

2017-10-24 Sunderland, UK -- I remain infatuated with aviation, although I no longer fly. By chance, we spotted a road sign for an aviation museum.

A dense collection of aircraft and land vehicles, all in various stages of restoration.

A telegraph key caught my eye. It is called the
bathtub key, and was used by many British aircraft. It has a spring-loaded cover to hold the key down (to transmit a continuous signal) to notify that the aircraft is going down. The same with Japanese aircraft during WWII.

The museum is located immediately adjacent to the
Nissan UK plant at Sunderland. Turns out the Nissan plant was built on the old airport grounds, close to freeways, sea ports, and major commercial airport. The old map below shows runways arranged in an inverted V shape. This is where Nissan is located now.

scarborough castle

2017-10-18 SCARBOROUGH, YORKSHIRE, UK -- On a blustery day, we visited the English east coast.

The castle perches on a promontory that has been occupied by humans since prehistory.

Noriko fell in love with this well-developed coastal town full of fun and views.

belas knap

2017-1-20 BELAS KNAP, GLOUCESTERSHIRE, UK -- We visited a burial mound, which in Japan would be called kofun (古墳).

We hiked up a rather steep pasture to reach a well-restored mound. The mound is shaped like the top half of a hotdog bun -- long with rounded ends, and raised along the longitudinal axis.

Several entrances were placed on the circumference. One entrance is described as false -- or perhaps it was reserved for a different purpose.

The burial chambers have been reconstructed so that the original stones can be clearly appreciated in the context of their intended use.

The Belas Knap long barrow is well documented. A few references for the lay public (such as myself) include
English Heritage, Stone Circles, and Britain Express.

st andrews church

2017-10-20 COLN ROGERS, GLOUCESTERSHIRE, UK -- We visited many churches. One church that retains its older style is the Church of Saint Andrews in the village of Coln Rogers.

The church blends in with the rest of the village because the building is not too large and is built from the same type of stones as the local dwellings.

The room closer to the front of this photograph dates from the 11th century. The tower in the rear is a later addition.

The vertical strip on the middle of the north wall (pictured facing the right of the photo) is a pilaster strip (a decoration that looks like a column supporting the ceiling or roof) and is characteristic of Saxon architecture.

Another Saxon feature is this lancet window (a narrow window, often with a pointed top, although this example has a round top) carved from a single block of stone.

The interior is clean and cozy.

An explanation of the building's history and design.

mechanical music museum

2017-10-18 NORTHLEACH, GLOUCESTERSHIRE, UK -- We visited the Mechanical Music Museum (formerly the Keith Harding's World of Mechanical Music).

A knowledgeable lady who loves music boxes gave us a detailed tour. She has lived in the same house for 54 years, and worked at this store for 19 years.

I was captivated by
Thomas Edison's phonograph (pictured left) because when I was an undergraduate student in the linguistics department at the University of Tokyo there was a similar device that had made recordings of Ainu speech in the 19th century. We were prohibited from playing the device for fear the needles would destroy the precious recordings. Eventually the university contracted a technical firm to read the grooves using lasers and to covert the visual imagery to sound. But I digress. Here is a close-up photo of the needle from Edison's phonograph.

Gramophones were commercially successful because vinyl records could be mass-produced by pressing. Edison's device may have had better
audio fidelity. Edison himself called the phonograph "his baby", and spent 52 years improving it. But his recording cylinders could not be duplicated. Here is a picture of a gramophone needle.

Music boxes, hand-cranked organs, reproducing pianos ... the museum is full of technical wonders. We would have stayed all day, if it were not for a constant stream of visitors who deserved tours and demonstrations.

inn and pub

2017-10-17 BROADWAY, WORCESTERSHIRE, UK -- We had a drink and enjoyed conversation with the local gentlemen at the Crown and Trumpet inn and pub.

The building was built in the 1780s -- fairly new by Cotswold standards. The building behind used to be stables. Today there are 5 bedrooms upstairs, and a pub downstairs. On Thursday nights they have live jazz.

Noriko had a
Stroud, a local brew. Although we are still unsure, so far it seems that English beers have a lighter, thinner flavor than some Belgian trappiste beers. I had a non-alcoholic beer.

st james church

2017-10-17 CHIPPING CAMPDEN, GLOUCESTERSHIRE, UK -- We visited St James church in the village of Chipping Campden.

St James church is a wool church, so called because they were built with money from the wool trade. At one point, wool accounted for half of England's exports. The town of Chipping Campden was known across Europe as a prime source of wool.

The church of St James is built in the perpendicular style.

The church was built and modified over time. The oldest tomb in the church dates from the 13th century. The oldest windows of the church -- dating back to the mid-15th century -- is in the upper part (the part above the transom) of the stained glass on the far wall above the altar. The lower part (below the transom) is modern -- it was made in 1922. In America that would count as old!

Placed in the south chapel close to the altar are effigies of Sir Baptist Hicks, later created the 1st viscount of Campden, and his wife Lady Elizabeth née Mays. Sir Baptist died in 1629 at the age of 78. He donated 10,000 pounds to the church, at a time when 40 pounds may have bought an entire village.

countryside walk

2017-10-16 LOWER SLAUGHTER, GLOUCESTERSHIRE, UK -- Noriko and I took a walk from our cottage (a fancy name for a rental townhouse) through farms into Lower and Upper Slaughter continuing to Brouton-on-the-water.

We still struggle with public footpaths. We are uncomfortable walking through other people's property (even with their permission) because it is where they work.

Footpaths are not always obvious. You need to develop an outdoorsy sense, like a hunter or tracker.

Unlike the Lake District or Yorkshire (where we stayed the past 2 weeks), the northern Cotswolds region has much more cows and horses than sheep.

A local lady pointed out a prestigious equestrian school. If it hadn't been for her commentary, we would have completely missed it.

We had tea at a
mill in Lower Slaughter, while we dried our wet clothes.

The weather improved later in the day, while we had a late lunch in

The town has 5 bridges. Cars can ford the river at certain spots -- that is, vehicles can wade across the shallow water.

We admired what must be the last flowers of the season.

Their church has been impressively remodeled inside, while retaining the historical exterior.

We wrapped up the day with a visit to the
Motor Museum. Lots of British cars, many of which I had never heard of.

cotswold stone

2017-10-15 STOW-ON-THE-WOLD, GLOUCESTERSHIRE, UK -- We arrived in northern Cotswolds, in a village named Stow-in-the-wold or Stow for short.

Unlike the 2 former places we stayed during this trip, this week we are staying in the middle of the village, within easy walking distance to shops.

This area is known for Cotswold stone, also called honey stone for their milk-tea color.

Cotswold stone is beautiful. In this district, most stores and houses -- even primary schools -- are built with Cotswold stone. I suspect that some of the newer construction uses fake stone, because the hue is different -- it has a deeper orange shade.

We took a walk in the neighborhood. Kero was thrilled to have local folk strike up conversations with him.

cream tea

2017-10-13 THORNTON RUST, NORTH YORKSHIRE, UK -- Noriko has been comparing clotted cream and lemon curd.

Clotted cream is somewhere between butter, mayonnaise, and cream, but without the salt. Rodda's is the leading manufacturer in the UK. We found a few other brands, which differ markedly in color, gloss, texture, viscosity, and taste.

Lemon curd is a lemon-flavored spread like jam. We tried various brands, and they also vary considerably. We will search for clotted cream and lemon curd when we return home. We think they go nicely with plain scones. Fruity scones are too sweet for us.

sheepish trumpet

2017-10-10 THORNTON RUST, NORTH YORKSHIRE, UK -- Finding places to practice trumpet is easier in England than Belgium because in England we have a rental car. My routine for the last several days has been: park off highway A684 safely alongside a sheep farm, sit in the rear seat, roll up all windows, and practice trumpet.

Rain or shine, the sheep keep on grazing. Once or twice a day (certainly around noontime and sometimes in the late afternoon) they sit down to ruminate. I enjoy gazing at the sheep and landscape while I play scales.

Colored paint shows who owns the sheep. Stone walls keep sheep corralled. The stones are merely piled on top of each other. Sometimes walls crumble, as shown towards to the upper left of this picture. We talked to a farmer who owns 15 miles (24 kilometers) of wall. He said his walls need constant mending.

I brought my Queen Brass (OEM Carol Brass) Zorro student trumpet. When I'm careful, I point the leadpipe straight ahead, so that the valves and bell are offset to the left.

After scales I took a break by playing by ear the theme song for "
Astro Boy". Hmm, listening to my recording, the song sounds pitifully wailful. Where did his 100,000 horsepower go? Am I doomed to play soulful tunes?

wensleydale cheese

2017-10-10 HAWES, NORTH YORKSHIRE, UK -- We toured the Wensleydale cheese factory.


They have a comprehensive visitor center, starting with traditional tools for making cheese.

Wensleydale cheese is immortalized -- for me at least -- through
Nick Park's "Wallace and Gromit" series. I made my pilgrimage!

We got matching T-shirts. We chose a tea-themed design because we've been enjoying tea so much.

mount grace priory

2017-10-09 MOUNT GRACE PRIORY, NORTH YORKSHIRE, UK -- We visited the ruins of a Carthusian priory. A priory is a place where monks or nuns live and work, and is smaller than a monastery or an abbey.

The Mount Grace priory was built in 1398 for Carthusian monks, named after the Latin name of Chartreuse (near Grenoble, France) where the austere order was founded.

Carthusian monks lived in individual houses called cells. Cells sound like jail cells or at best a room within a building, but at Carthusian priories including Mount Grace, each monk had a 2-story house with a substantial garden. The cell in the foreground is what remains of the original. The house behind the wall is a reconstruction that gives an idea of how large it was.

The monks met and prayed together, several times a day. But the monks did not talk, because they were vowed to silence. Other than for religious services, they would spend their days and nights in solitude.

Tiny openings in the walls allowed meals to be passed through while avoiding human contact.

The priory continued to expand, partly because the priory earned considerable income from its vast holdings of land, and partly because people paid to have mass offered for their deceased. The priory was abolished following the dissolution of monasteries by Henry VIII. At that time religious institutions became the property of the king.

wensleydale ice cream

2017-10-01 THORNTON RUST, NORTH YORKSHIRE, UK -- A few houses down the street from our cottage in Thornton Rust is a dairy farm that makes ice cream.

As we walked past on our way back from a hike, we said hello to the owners. They showed us their jersey cows waiting to be milked.

We also saw calves (all girls) at 2, 4, and 6 weeks of age. The 2-week-old calf was calling her mother. The other girls were eager to eat.

We learned that over 30 years ago our rental cottage was a milking barn (a "cow 'us" in local talk) belonging to the dairy farm.

cat bells over derwent water

2017-10-05 KESWICK, CUMBRIA, UK -- We are staying for a week in the Lakes District, recommended by my cute cousin Satoko. Our cabin (a 1-year-old double-wide mobile home with fancy furnishings) is located about 20 kilometers north of Derwent Water, one of the lakes in the area.

Along a narrow twisty lakeside road, we miraculously found a place to park, and climbed a hill overlooking Derwent Water. In this area, lakes are often called water or mere.

When we left the car, we didn't plan to go all the way to the top. The trail began with a wheelchair sign. I thought it led to a viewpoint a hundred meters away.

We didn't know until halfway up the hill that this was none other than
Cat Bells, the most popular of all hills in the area. The name Cat Bells comes from an older word meaning lair or den of cats, presumably wildcats. Folk etymology may have altered the name in the direction of mice putting a bell on a cat.

The weather was gorgeous. Maybe I should say "absolutely smashing" like the local folk.

Derwent Water has 3 islands, formerly inhabited by religious hermits.

Near the summit, we talked with a gentleman enjoying portable operation on 2 meters. "Portable operation" is ham radio talk for bringing your radio on a hike.

The 360-degree panorama from the summit is outstanding. Cat Bells is essentially treeless.

hadrian's wall

2017-10-01 CORBRIDGE, NORTHUMBERLAND, UK -- The history of science and technology fascinates me, particularly feats of civil engineering and functional designs of architecture. We set off for Hardian's Wall (vallum aelium), Britain's equivalent of the Great Wall of China.

We visited the
Corbridge Roman Town, located towards the eastern end of the wall.

Roman forts were built following a standardized design, so knowing one example tells us a lot about the others. We can combine information from many examples of forts to reconstruct what a brand-new fort may have looked like.

Granaries, with ventilation channels beneath the floor to keep the grain dry. Bread was the staple of the Roman soldier. These granaries were built starting around 180 AD.

The fort and town were occupied for almost 500 years until control of the Roman empire ceased in the early 6th century. During that time the ground level rose.

Impressive water system. Here, fresh water is pooled in a tank via a decorative fountain, then distributed throughout the compound.

The buildings were originally flat. These undulations were caused by the settling of the earth beneath.

Roman soldiers came from all over the empire, and brought their religions with them. The Roman pantheon was huge to begin with, so adding a few hundred more was easily accomplished. The semicircular area at the far end of this room was probably an altar.

We visited other archaeological sites pertaining to Hadrian's Wall. At
Chesters Roman Fort, we viewed part of the wall itself.

The wall spanned a river (where it still flows today) as an arched bridge, and continued on the other bank. Part of the foundation of the bridge remains.

We joined
English Heritage so that we can visit as many sites as we like.

from rotterdam to hull

2017-09-29 ROTTERDAM, NETHERLANDS -- After bidding farewell to our Flanders friends, we boarded an overnight ferry from Rotterdam, Netherlands to Hull, UK.

The sister ships, the Pride of Hull and the Pride of Rotterdam (presumably named after the ferry company P&0 plus their ports of call), have an unusual deck design. Part of the vehicle decks are open. Not for wintry weather, I fear.

With so many people on the decks I was unable to practice my trumpet.


Dinner and breakfast were spectacular. A friendly lady offered to take our picture.

Our cabin 10413 was comfortably equipped with 2 single beds, sink, toilet, and shower. This is the 2nd-from-the-top level of accommodation on this vessel. Deck 10 (the deck we were on) is quiet. The other decks have shops and entertainment facilities.

Floor area and storage space were considerably less than other overnight ferries we have taken. My favorites remain
Taiheiyo Ferry's sister ships, the Ishikari and the Kiso.


2017-09-25 IEPER, BELGIË -- Ieper (Yepres in English) was the battleground for trench warfare during World War I, or (WOI wereld oorlog een) to people in Flanders.

Ieper gave the name to Yperite gas, because this was where
mustard gas was first used.

The battle raged almost exactly 100 years ago. Cavalry still rode horses. Bugles were serious means of communication.

Special trucks transported several dozen carrier pigeons at a time.

The signal corps adopted wired telegraph and, in some cases, wired telephone.

Our friend Mia encouraged us to visit the
Passchendaele Museum. She was right -- Passchendaele is better than the more famous In Flanders Fields Museum. The latter is easily accessible from the Ieper train station, and has a wonderful exhibit that is worth a serious visit. The Passchendaele museum offers more direct and comprehensive appreciation of the trenches, particularly how they evolved over time.

Passchendaele let us tour a real tunnel that was recently discovered beneath a church. This is a temporary exhibit that is open until Armistice Day of this year (2017-11-11). The corridors are filled with water that need to be constantly pumped out. During trench warfare, soldiers manned the pumps. I would not last 5 days in these conditions.

We walked to the
Tyne Cot memorial to pay our respects. Many headstones mark unknown soldiers who are, as Rudyard Kipling wrote, Known Unto God.

We attended
the Last Post ceremony at 20:00 at Menin Gate. Tonight's ceremony was conducted by the Australian military. Our friend Mia is a loyal supporter of the Last Post Association.


2017-09-23 ANTWERPEN, BELGIË -- Today on the autumnal equinox we had terrific weather. Bright, sunny, wind calm, mild temperature, dry -- could not be more perfect.

We visited
the Water-Rant event. Yesterday we visited Fons and his pals setting up their lighthouse ship for visitors. Today was the 2nd day of the event and the 1st day of receiving real visitors.

We have never seen the dock so packed. Masts and flags filled the sky. MAS (the museum in the background) was almost hidden from view.

Pleasure craft from all over the area, some from France, many from Holland.

Former working vessels lovingly maintained or restored. The ships in this photo are tugboats. The one on the left (moored dockside) is the winner of the tugboat of the year award for 2015. The middle won the same award in 2017.

A seaman's choir belted out nautical tunes in several languages.

Food, food, food. They said they would attempt to create a Guinness world record for the world's largest dining table serving mosselen (mussels).

Of course we visited the West-Hinder 3, the lighthouse ship so dearly loved by our friend Fons and his buddies. For our first time we visited the bridge. The picture is from the port side.

The Westhinder-3's radio callsign was ORBD until she was decommissioned. Ships have 4-letter all-alphabet callsigns. If her role was similar to USA Coast Guard shore stations then the Westhinder must have processed a lot of traffic. In an attempt to honor her radio heritage, I demonstrated my poor fist on a straight key. This is radio talk meaning that I produced low-quality morse code messages using a telegraph key with 1 electrical contact. Some telegraph keys have 2 contacts, 1 for dots (.) and 1 for dashes (_). I received an official key holder for my effort. Glad I learned CW! CW is radio talk for morse code.

We visited a floating museum. Retired barges house exhibits and a café. There is a barge in the lower foreground of this picture. Barges have bridges and rudders but no engines or sails. Barges are towed by tugboats. (Did you know that towboats are boats that push barges from behind? Tugboats pull from ahead.)

The inside is chock full of barge and tugboat photographs, models, memorabilia, and training material. An elderly gentleman (in outstanding physical shape) from southern France explained to me how tugboats have towing cables for each barge behind them so that they can pass bends and curves, and how small boats that were shops on water would come up to tugboats and barges to sell food and drink. Oh I learned so much today! We talked in 3 languages because he preferred French, Dutch, and English in that order, which is the opposite of mine. I had a French language workout.

middelheim park

2017-09-20 ANTWERPEN, BELGIË -- We walked a total of 16 kilometers today to visit and stroll through Middelheim park.

Middelheim park is an open air art museum. Avant garde sculptures are placed throughout the grounds. Entrance is free!

This sailing ship diving into the water may well be the most iconic sculpture in the park. The artist calls it "misconception", I believe. I prefer to call it "let's play".

Beautiful day! Yet the locals are wearing jackets. It's chilly in the shade. 10 C or below.

The trees are a mix of late summer and early autumn.

I never saw so many acorns and chestnuts.

Like good Belgians, we had sandwiches on
the terrace of the Mi-ka café.


2017-09-19 LEUVEN, BELGIË -- We visited KUL (Katholieke Universiteit Leuven).

Leuven is less than an hour away by train, about the same distance as Brussels. There are 2 routes for the trains -- industrial and countryside. We took the latter in the morning. Cattle, sheep, cornfields. See line 16 on
the train network map.

Striving to become Belgians, we had a nice ontbijt (breakfast) at
a bakery celebrating its 100th anniversary.

Plenty of choices! This picture shows about 20 percent.

We had pizza bread (with bolognese sauce) and an apple-filled pastry. In Belgium, drinks come with snacks. Usually cookies, but because this is a bakery we got rolls.

Our cheerful friend and colleague Akiko, who studied at KULeuven, recommended the Begijnhof. In Leuven there are 2 begijnhoven (this is the plural form): groot (large), now student and faculty housing for KULeuven, and klein (small), now private housing. Groot was naturally our first destination.

A begijnhof is an enclosed compound where pious women lived and worked during the middle ages. Begijnhoven were common in the Netherlands and Flanders.

Begijnhoven were not nunneries. The women were not nuns, although depending on the begijnhof they might be called sisters in the sense of devout individuals living in a community, as opposed to clerics led by a mother superior. An example of a begijnhof with sisters is
the begijnhof in Antwerp. Their last member, Sister Virginie, passed away in 1986.

The tiniest spots are adorned with the female figures, such as the Virgin Mary, saints or sisters.

Detail of above photograph.

Many people live here. Hidden from view is an astounding number of bicycles.

Like the good Belgians we want to be, we took a break in the Oude Markt (old market).

Een pintje (a pint) of Stella Artois, the beer of the city.

The Stella Artois factory is relocating from inside of the city to the outside. The immense old factory (it's too large to be called a brewery, I feel) is being demolished and converted into attractive housing for students and the elderly.

I hope the project works. I am concerned that the high rate of turnover among residents might fail to create a sense of neighborhood. That said, I would love to live in any of these fancy new apartments. "Monaco on water" is how 2 local gentlemen described it. "Exclusive, eh?"

The KULeuven library. It was destroyed during World War I, and rebuilt in 1925 with donations from the USA. At least 1 nearby street is named after a notable American.

The square facing the library was hosting a traveling amusement park. Like good Belgians we stopped at a café. Noriko had soup and bread. I had Hasselt coffee for the first time. This warm drink is sweet coffee and
jenever (Dutch gin, originating in the city of Hasselt). It tastes something like Kahlua. I love it!

After a long day (including a visit to the bookstore) we returned to (may I dare say voluptuous) Leuven train station. I estimate that the express traveled some sections at over 160 kilometers per hour.

vlaamse havendag

2017-09-17 ANTWERPEN, BELGIË -- The port authority of Antwerp held an open house.

This is
the Mexicobrug (Mexico bridge), part of my morning running course.

For the 1st time we visited to
the church ship Sint Jozef, permanently moored next to the Mexicobrug.170917_P1600548

The Sint Jozef has a small chapel, a restaurant, and a large chapel. All rooms are richly decorated with nautical memorabilia, such as name plates or bells from ships. The seats in the restaurant can be arranged to face the altar of the large chapel, so that the altar is sandwiched between 2 seating areas for the congregation. The picture below shows restaurant seating towards the upper left, and large chapel seating towards the lower right. The ceiling is curved because it forms the deck.

We visited
the newly expanded Havenhuis (harbor house). This is also part of my morning run. When we lived in Antwerp in 2009, only the lower old part of the building existed. The top new half is 1 year old today. The new harbor house was designed by Zaha Hadid, who submitted a design for the Tokyo olympic games that was rejected due to high construction cost estimates.

Along with hundreds of other well-wishers, we wrote Happy Birthday on a shipping container.

I have never seen so many people at the Havenhuis. In fact I have never seen more than 2 people outside the building. When I ran by in the past, it was completely deserted. No cars, no bicycles, no ships, no tents, no snack stands, no portable toilets, no bandstand for live rock. Wow! Where did all these people come from?

Passersby love to see how we love Kero.

Siberiabrug (Siberia bridge), located at the north end of the Havenhuis, consists of 2 bridges placed side by side.

The Belgian navy gave tours of their ship. Contestants climbed a wall and dived into the water.

The weather was fantastic for early fall in Flanders. After coming home, I sat on our sunny balcony and practiced trumpet with a mute attached for silencing the dreadful noise. So far no complaints.


2017-09-16 ANTWERPEN, BELGIË -- We watched fireworks from our apartment.

Starting this year, the city of Antwerp is holding a fireworks competition. Each Saturday and Sunday night starting at 22:00, 2 teams shoot up fireworks. The top 3 are invited for a 2nd round of fireworks on 2017-09-15. Tonight, the grand champion showed off their skills.

We had a nice view from our apartment. A high-rise building in 't eilandje blocked part of the fun but not by much. No crowds, no noise, no cigarette smoke. Just us in our cozy living room. What a treat!

train world

2017-09-15 SCHAARBEEK, BELGIË -- We visited the brand new Train World museum, located 1 station north of Brussels-Nord, for a day of nostalgia and awe.

Schaarbeek train station is one of the oldest in the country. Belgian train service began only a few years after Belgium became an independent country in 1830. Rolling stock imported from Britain connected Schaarbeek and Mechelen to the north.

The platforms at the station start at the number 3. Platforms 1 and 2 are located within the museum. Outside the museum, there are tram lines connecting the neighborhood to Brussels.

The museum exhibits the building itself, and the history of Belgian rail service with respect to personnel, rolling stock, track, and technology.

An example of railway history is shown in the photo below. Mechelen station was considered the origin (kilometer post 0) of the Belgian railway system. A monument was erected at the 0 point. Many years later, the post was removed for construction work. They discovered a long-forgotten box buried underneath. The original railway people had placed items supposed to bring good luck.

The museum interior is unusually dark. The dim lights add romantic drama. As an engineer, I am more interested in clearly seeing mechanics.

Kero the train engineer. Try as I might, I could not make heads or tails of the steam locomotive's controls.

Posters and sales brochures from yesteryear.

The dining car of the Orient Express, a brilliant sales idea by the Belgians.

Hergé illustrated brochures for the railways.


2017-09-14 (updated 2017-09-23) ANTWERPEN, BELGIË -- We thank our friends for their friendship and for squeezing time out of their busy schedules. Out of respect, we will not upload their photographs, but I'm a few photographs of our surroundings should be permissible.

Annuska chatted with us at
the Royal Cafe inside the magnificent Antwerpen-Centraal train station.

Margret (she goes by Maggie now), Koen, and Mathis entertained us at their beautiful home. Koen opened a treasured bottle of
Trappist Westvleteren. Mathis commented that "De kikker (Kero) is rustig!".

Fons and Ingrid invited us to their home. We then visited
the decommissioned lighthouse ship Westhinder 3 in preparation of the Water-Rant festival.

Nathalie remembered me! She gave me impromptu lessons in Dutch language when she came to my office for cleaning. She speaks impeccable English by the way.

Jozef was humorous and lively as ever, plus with serious advice for me. Notice the hedge trimmed in the UA (Universiteit Antwerpen) logo at
the faculty club.

Mia gave us tips on visiting Ieper. She is a serious supporting member of
the Last Post Association.

Jan invited Evelien, Hilda, Francis, and us to his lovely home for an evening of intense conversation plus mosselen (mussels) cooked correctly (unlike mine), wine, and whisky.

Sarah told us about literature and translation. We talked about translating manga. A wonderful long conversation in a cozy tea room near the Antwerpen cathedral.

We missed Geert this time. With luck we'll connect next summer. We hope to return briefly for a conference in Brugge.

van laar trumpet factory

2017-09-13 MARGRATEN, NETHERLANDS -- We visited Hub van Laar (Hub is pronounced with a long [u:] as in "hoop"), who builds trumpets and flugelhorns in Margraten, a town near Maastricht, in the Netherlands.

We took the train.

We combined 2 tickets: a ticket from Antwerp to the border station, and a ticket from the border station to Maastricht.

Maastricht straddles the river Maas, known as the Meuse in French-speaking south Belgium. "Tricht" means "confluence", the same as my family name.

Hub speaks Dutch, English, German, French, Spanish, Italian, and Czech. He started playing trumpet at age 12. Later, he switched to trombone. He wanted to play trombone to begin with. He waited to grow taller, and for his arms to grow longer, so that he could manipulate the slides.

Out of respect to Hub and his staff, I will not show pictures or videos of their personnel or foundry, although they gave us permission to photograph them.

Their metal-working shop is the cleanest I have ever seen.

I test-played almost 20 instruments. You can see some of them on the shelf besides me. I played scales, lip slurs, and intervals. Each instrument felt different.

We enjoyed conversation over lunch at
a local eatery that began as an Hungarian restaurant.

I lost my mind and money, and placed an order for
a model B9.2 trumpet. This picture shows the instrument I test-played. Mine will be built and delivered in 5 months.


2017-09-11 ANTWERPEN, BELGIË -- We visited the oldest zoo in Belgium.

The zoo is located immediately adjacent to Antwerp's central train station. The picture below shows: left, the station building; center, the main gate of the zoo topped by a bronze statue of a camel and its rider; and bottom right, an aerial pathway running above part of the zoo.

The zoo has nice gardens. Locals can buy an annual pass for daily, quiet, pretty, relaxing walks.

For photos and videos of the zoo animals,
visit the zoo website. Here is Kero greeting penguins.

Rain and sunshine and sometimes both. Windy all day.

Although the land area is not very large, the multi-story structures, bridges, and snaking pathways expand distance and volume.
This map comes from the zoo website.

jazz cafe

2017-09-10 ANTWERPEN, BELGIË -- We listened to live jazz at the Café Hopper in 't zuid (literally "the south") part of Antwerp.

The café is located near the royal museum of art. The museum is undergoing significant remodeling at this time. We hope to return to Antwerp when renovations are complete.

The café has street seating (smoking allowed), and indoor seating (non-smoking). This is standard for Flanders.

Daniel McBrearty played clarinet and 2 kinds of saxophones. Jef Manderveld on bass, Jonas Boulsen on drums. The guitar and piano players were different people from what was printed on the flyers. A local teenager was invited to play piano. Sorry I did not catch their names.

The best part for us was that music started at 16:00. Most live performances take place at night.

No cover charge, just a coffee or hot water and ginger, for a set of live music.

opera open house

2017-09-10 ANTWERPEN, BELGIË -- The opera house had an open house today.

Sharp-eyed Noriko spotted a sheet of paper posted on a construction site fence announcing the event.

We entered the building 50 minutes after they opened that morning. Lucky! We avoided the long queues that formed later in the day.

Noriko enjoys opera and ballet. Truth be told, I am not a theater-goer. My parents love Bizet's "Carmen". They played the records so often that I memorized many parts of it. But my main interest lies in architecture, particularly sight-lines and acoustics.

Ceiling center.

Box seat decoration.

View of the stage from the 4th row from the front.

Monitors placed in the wings of the stage show what is going on. Here, Noriko is standing in the center of the stage. The camera must be mounted fairly high to capture the stage at this angle.

Floorplan of level 1, the bottom level for audiences. Note the abundance of staircases, many of them spiral.

Floorplan, level 2. Row seating in front, box seating in the back.

Floorplan, level 3. Almost all row seating, with some box seating in the center and corners.

The prop person (maybe she was the prop master) explained her wares. I failed to understand most of what she said. My vocabulary is nil in the area of arts (and literature and politics and ...).

Wigs and makeup.

Wardrobe storage and fabrication. I counted at least 10 sewing machines, maybe more were hidden from view.

Dressing room for leading actors. Top actors enjoy spacious privacy, including a toilet, sink, shower, sofa, and piano. Upright pianos are found throughout the building. Top actors get to practice alone.

Regular actors -- the enlisted men in the army -- put on their makeup together.

There's always a piano nearby, even in dressing rooms for low-ranking actors.

I imagine that these are plans for lighting and placement of large props.

We sat in the front row, near the corner, on level 2 to watch a lighting demonstration.

Numerous rods are raised and lowered by frighteningly rapid cables. I believe they support props and backdrops.

The rods -- curtain rails if you will -- are invisible during an opera performance. Today, however, the rods took center stage, as they danced in mist and light with impeccable precision and speed.

After the light show, we left the seating area for the opulent curved hallway.

Ceiling of the cafe, where the audience can relax during intermission.

vleeshuis museum

2017-09-09 ANTWERPEN, BELGIË -- Noriko and I were visiting the Vleehuis (meat house) museum of musical instruments when we were invited -- purely by good fortune -- to join a tour of the nearby cathedral tower. After the tour of the cathedral we returned to the Vleeshuis to resume our study of musical instruments.

I do not know whether the color of the exterior walls are intended to evoke images of bacon. Seriously, I suspect the color contrast of meat and fat, and flesh and hide were design elements.

The tall ceilings are supported by crossed arches.

The 1st floor (what Europeans call the ground floor, or floor 0) consists of 2 rows of open space supported by arches. The museum's main exhibits are located here, and some more in the basement. The upper floors are closed to the public.

We were particularly drawn to trumpets. In medieval times, Antwerp and other cities employed trumpet players, who performed at formal functions in uniform and often on horseback. In 18th-century Antwerp, trumpet players would stand watch atop the cathedral tower 2 times a day, in case they needed to sound the fire alarm. Below is a detail of an oil painting that depicts a procession led by 4 trumpet players. These are natural trumpets -- that is, the trumpets do not have valves. The players are puffing their cheeks and seem to be applying excessive mouthpiece pressure. Hmm, they need to work on their embouchure!

This painting shows a procession exiting what must be the Antwerp cathedral, judging from the likeness of the architecture. The cathedral building evolved over the centuries. The 1st building was built in 1520, almost exactly 500 years ago. The building can and should look different from how it appears today.

Detail of the painting shown above. A band follows a white-robed flag bearer and a green-clad standard bearer, who jointly lead the procession. The person holding a trumpet with coiled tubing shown in the center of this photograph is, I believe, the trumpet player. The 3 people holding shorter straight wind instruments might be playing straight trumpets, as Noriko surmises, or they could be playing reed instruments such as shawms. Noriko is probably correct. Shawms were popular back then, but they seem to have been used only in folk music (such as dance music in open-air festivals), so perhaps shawms would have been excluded from a formal procession such as the one this painting.

Sheet music from a while ago. Of typographic interest is the shape of the notes. The note heads are diamond-shaped, instead of ovals. Heads can be filled (that is, solid black) or empty (that is, circles), just as today. The stems extend from the center of the head rather than the right edge. The way stems are written is the same as the hand writing of many modern musicians. Perhaps it is more natural to center the stems.

Trumpet valves are a fairly recent invention. Natural trumpets (including the world's 2 oldest known examples from King Tutankhamun's tomb) have no valves, and are often straight. They all have bells, which have the effect of decreasing the frequency intervals between lower harmonics (
see my favorite reference).


The museum lets visitors download software for listening to sounds created by instruments on display. No need to rent audio guides anymore.
This app is available only in the museum.

An omni-tonal horn invented around 1820 by
Charles-Joseph Sax, father of Adolphe Sax, who in turn invented the saxophone. Fascinating design. I do not understand how the omni-tonal horn works (this reference may help). The horn appears to produce various pitches without keys, valves, or slides. However it is not clear from merely visually observing the instrument how the horn works. For starters, I cannot tell which parts move. I would like to see the instrument played.

The museum's basement houses 2 reconstructed Belgian foundries of music instruments.

The first foundry is a bell foundry that was relocated when the owner and builder retired in 1988. He was the last bell maker in the country. Carillons are numerous in the low countries (Benelux) and the USA. Carillon players are called carillonneurs, but for myself, in the interest of international English, I am switching over to "instrument-name player" to describe players of instruments. Piano player (not pianist), flute player (not flutist), trumpet player (not trumpeter).

The second foundry is for brass instruments. The company "Van Engelen and Son" started making instruments in 1813. They were well known for military instruments, and for a while they were the largest manufacturer in the country. The company ceased business in the 1991. The museum purchased the brass instrument manufacturer's workshop in 1999, and exhibited many artifacts as shown in the picture below. The foundry displayed at the museum depicts the original workplace in the 1970s.

Mandrels would be familiar to brass instrument craftsmen today. The tooling on exhibit are only 50 years or so old. (Referring to half a century as "only" shows my age.)

Hanging bells is another timeless technique.


2017-09-09 ANTWERPEN, BELGIË -- Fortune smiled on us today. We jointed a small-group tour up the north tower of Antwerp's cathedral -- Onze Lieve Vrouwe kathedraal.

The north tower is 123 meters tall.

We went up to the 3rd balcony, which is surrounded by a stone fence above the narrow windows.

The tour began at the nearby Vleeshuis museum (vleeshuis is literally "flesh house", and means butcher's hall, where fresh meats were sold in olden times). The museum contains musical instruments that are directly related to Antwerp.

Among the collections are church bells, hence the connection to the cathedral.

The last artisan of church bells in Belgium retired in 1988. His foundry was relocated to the museum.

The cathedral is a few minutes away from the music museum. Our guide pointed at the part of the tower that we would visit. But it was so high up there that I could not grasp the height. Besides, Noriko and I were ultra-focused on listening to what the guide was saying in Dutch language. We understood a useful part of it because it was show and tell of architecture, musical instruments, tools, and building techniques. I confess that after the 2.5-hour tour my brain was wiped out.

The tower was built in stages, starting in 1520. The walls are thicker towards the bottom.

On level 1, there is a large, tall room where 16 men would stand by before tolling the bell. In order to allow the sound of the bell to emanate from the tower, there are no windows or walls surrounding the bells. Tolling bells can be cold work. That is why there is a fireplace in this room.

On level 2, our guide gave us a lecture on how the cathedral expanded in size, both horizontally and vertically. He was giving us a chance to catch our breath.

Spiral staircases make you dizzy! Noriko and I were reminded of our 1st apartment in Antwerp, which had a spiral staircase so tight that my backpack would scrape against the walls as I went up and down. If you were sick or injured I don't think the ambulance crew could get you out.

On Level 3, we were allowed outside onto the balcony. (Actually this is level 5. We skipped 2 levels because, according to the guide, there is nothing to see.)

This is already high enough! Thank heavens, the rain is clearing.

Don't look down!

Merely days ago I was delighted to view the Brabo statue and the stadhuis (city hall) from an elevated platform. Never did I imagine that I would be looking down from the cathedral tower.

A closer look of the stadhuis.

Level 4 houses the bells.

Some ringing mechanisms are modern.

Level 5 houses the automated mechanism for playing chimes every 15 minutes. 8000 pegs of various sizes specify the melody. The smell of machine oil fills this weather-proofed room. Each year, around Easter time, the machine is disassembled, cleaned, and reassembled, sometimes with a new melody. (I might be mistaken -- this is what I understood from our guide's explanations).

On level 6, which is 1 level above the top balcony, there is a tiny room where the carillon player operates levers and pedals to play the bells.

The top balcony!

The Boerentoren ("farmers' tower") panorama deck is at the same height as we are. This building was Europe's tallest skyscraper when it was built in 1932.

The steamy towers behind the high-rise apartments are nuclear reactors (slated to be decommissioned by 2025 -- Japan should do the same), and the BASF factory, where our friend works.

From this height, the stadhuis is too far away to appreciate. Instead, the shape of the properties, and the overall land use become apparent.

Grounding wires for lightning. They say the Empire State building is hit by lightning 100 times each year. The north tower of the cathedral does look electro-statically attractive.

The roof of the cathedral proper.

There are more pictures I would like to show. I will stop here today, and add more tomorrow! (update -- I lied. Took me 1 week.)

red star line museum

2017-09-07 ANTWERPEN, BELGIË -- If we were to call Sapporo our home base (a reasonable choice, given that we work there 32 weeks out of a year), then we travel over 20 weeks a year. If we were to call Lincoln City our home base (which is what my heart tells me), then we travel 40 weeks a year. Either way, we are never far away from our suitcases. We even have names for each of them.

But some people chose to travel one way. They permanently move from one place to another. That sort of travel -- migration, immigration -- is the core message of the
museum of the Red Star Line.

Most of you may be more familiar with the
White Star Line, indelibly etched in our societal memory due to the sinking of the Titanic. Both the White and Red Star Lines carried immigrants from Europe to North America.

One of the more famous immigrants was
Albert Einstein. Among the many unfortunate people forced to flee Europe (who were fortunate enough to escape), Einstein was one of the lucky ones. He traveled in relative comfort.

Another famous immigrant who traveled on the Red Star Line was
Irving Berlin (né Israel Beilin). He spoke no English when he sailed on the Rhyland as a child.

Irving Berlin's piano.

This desk belonged to the chief engineer of one of the largest ships in the Red Star Line fleet. All officers were British. The crew came from all over Europe.

In the beginning, the main cargo of the Red Star Line was carrying oil from the USA to Europe (America exported oil back then). Instead of sailing empty back to the USA, the ships ferried passengers, mostly immigrants. Later, the ships were upgraded with fancy services such as tasty meals and live music for 1st and 2nd class passengers.

Larger ships were built, specifically for passengers. These were the cruise ships of their day. The 27000-ton
Bergenland II sailed around the world. During a 133-day cruise, posh passengers visited Yokohama and Nara, among other places.

While the jazz band played for 1st and 2nd class passengers, 3rd class passengers were viewed with suspicion because many were poor and dirty.
Robert Koch -- whose name I did not expect to see mentioned at this museum -- was one respected scientist who believed that immigrants were likely to carry communicable diseases.

Immigrants were inspected by physicians both before leaving Antwerp and upon arrival in New York. At Ellis Island, among other requirements, passengers were tested for intelligence by placing wooden blocks together. Noriko passed.

I would like to visit Ellis Island someday. Immigration is a headache for me today, even in this day and age, when visas and inoculations are hardly necessary. I can only begin to imagine how nervous people must have been 100 years ago on their 1st long trip that they hoped would be their last.


2017-09-06 BRUSSEL, BELGIË -- The city of Brussels is Brussel in Dutch, Bruxelles in French, and BXL to locals who prefer abbreviations.

We started with a visit to the Grand Place, a large square in the center of the city.

Aggressively gilded buildings line the square.

Weather was borderline -- almost about to rain. Tourists didn't mind.

We walked into
a music shop that we found in a prime location near the square.

The gentleman at the store (who had studied music at a conservatory) told us that Belgian schoolchildren are not required to take music classes. Compulsory exposure to music is limited to playing the recorder in elementary school (but unlike Japan, not harmonica). Students may take music lessons for free after release. It appears that music is an extra-curricula, extra-credit activity. Piano is the most popular instrument. Acoustic guitar is second. But interest in electric guitars has waned, overshadowed by computer games.

I bought
a level 1 trumpet book. I can play most of the music written in the book (badly, of course). I bought the easiest book because I want to learn the Dutch language terms for music. Because the book is written for children, the language used is colloquial and friendly. Exactly what I need! The book is 21 euro -- as expensive as music books in Japan. Come to think of it, the Hal Leonard books they sell in the USA are unusually affordable.

Today's main attraction was the
MIM (musical instrument museum). The art-deco building is a landmark.

The museum is chock-full of oh-so-wonderful instruments from the world over. Next time we visit (probably soon) we will rent an audio guide, which plays music played by the instruments on exhibit. Today we focused on visual appreciation.

Analog synthesizer. I spent some time reading the labels of the controls.

Automatic organ.

Wires that control the automatic organ. The tiny wires might be for brief notes (like 1/32) or vibrato.

Belgium is the birthplace of
Adolphe Sax, who invented the saxophone. Sax experimented with various brass instruments, including a keyed trombone with 7 bells, pictured at left.

I love the display cases as much as I do the items on display. The cases are beautifully integrated into the architecture.

I was thrilled to see a drawing of a brass instrument foundry that I had read in a book about the history of brass instruments.

Historic documents such as these grip me with curiosity. The museum has reproduced most of this book so that visitors might read it.

Before modern times, mouthpieces were permanently attached to the trumpet. Of the mouthpieces that I saw, all had rather thin rims (although many modern mouthpieces are just as thin), and as far as I could tell, medium-sized cups. I could not see the shape of the throat or bore.

Glass bugels!

The gift store uses, but alas does not sell, book ends with a trumpet design.

The top floor has a restaurant with a marvelous view of Europe's capital city.

To round off the day, we listened and watched the great wall clock ring 17:00.

dinner on the balcony

2017-09-05 ANTWERPEN, BELGIË -- Belgians are passionate about their food. We wish to join them!

Shall we start with bubbles?

Belgische frietjes (Belgian fries) are fried twice!

Mosselen (mussels) are sold in sealed plastic boxes. I've never seen that done in Japan or USA. I feared the clams were dead ... my mom trained me to buy and cook live clams. But they were okay. Boil them and the shells pop open, just as they should. The Belgians add veggies to the broth.

The clams we can't finish on the first night become dinner the second.

Our apartment is on the top floor, and is taller than most buildings nearby. Our apartment comes with a spacious balcony (or terrace or veranda, depending on where you're from).

Our functionally rather limited kitchen is adjacent to the balcony.

Access is through 2 enormous windows. The size of each opening is 2.0 x 2.4 meters.

We have a view of the Antwerpen train station, a UNESCO world heritage site.

de koninck

2017-09-05 ANTWERPEN, BELGIË -- We visited the beer manufacturer "De Koninck". When "De Koninck" was bought by another Belgian beer company "Duvel", they decided to continue brewing beer in downtown Antwerp, and bottle the beer at a larger facility elsewhere. They took out everything from the old brewery, and installed a new brewery plus a new visitor center -- the latter in the space no longer needed by the bottling and storage equipment.

Admission costs 12 euro, which sounds sort of pricey, even considering 3 small glasses of beer to taste, plus 1 euro off of gift purchases. However the rich experience is definitely worth the money. The costs keep the crowds away, and let serious visitors relax.

The audio guide costs 1 euro. The exhibits are so nicely done that the audio guides are unnecessary.

You enter from a converted shipping container. From this moment of the self-guided tour, De Koninck's whimsical humor permeates.

Movies (with subtitles in 4 languages) are shown in rooms with their doors closed so that everybody gets to watch the show together from start to finish.

Scan your hand (the symbol of Antwerp and De Koninck beer), and they match you with an employee having a handprint similar to yours.

In a room full of beer glasses, you are edutained with comical videos. "Edutainment" means education via entertainment. Beer glasses are sold all over Belgium, because each brand of Belgium beer is optimally enjoyed in its own brewery-designed beer glass.


This van takes you on a beer-delivery ride through the city of Antwerp. Because I don't want to spoil it for you, I won't post my video of the ride.

Naturally you can look at ultra-modern ultra-clean brewery facilities. The gray walkway with red trim in the background is the self-guided tour pathway. Notice how the factory and tour blend together.

I had never seen cooling systems like this. I wonder what they do with condensation?

At the end of the tour, they let you taste a flight of 3 (or more) beers, fresh from the vat. Note the pipes leading into the beer taps.

I'm not a strong drinker ... so Kero took over for me!

I really have no idea what beer to recommend you. I myself am strongly partial to "De Koninck" because it is the beer of the city. But "Triple d'Anvers" (with a name in French language no less!) tastes better, I hate to admit. The 3rd choice of the day was a chocolate-flavored beer that came out of their test brew.

Noriko bought a polo shirt, and I got a beer glass and key holder.

trumpet practice

2017-09-04 ANTWERPEN, BELGIË -- Practicing trumpet while traveling is not easy for me. I don't want to bother people. Finding a place to play is not easy unless smack in the middle of the day. Because I often have activities planned during the day, I ruefully use a practice mute (top center in photo) that doesn't feel right. Maybe when I become an intermediate player I can benefit from a practice mute. At my current stage, I can hurt myself if I'm not careful.



2017-09-03 ANTWERPEN, BELGIË -- After a ten-year absence, Noriko and I returned to Antwerpen, België (Antwerp, Belgium). What a lovely city!

Open-air concerts are popular during the sunny summer months. They set up a grand stand around the Brabo statue.

Brabo is the mythical hero who rescued people by cutting off a greedy giant's hand and throwing it into the river.

We had never seen Grote Markt (the grand market square) from this height.

Stadhuis (city hall) is richly adorned. From our higher vantage point, we were able to look into the recesses holding the statues. From the ground, we could only see the foremost parts.

Squares around the city hold markets on various days. On Saturday mornings one of the squares holds the Vogelenmarkt (the bird market) where they do sell live birds in addition to vegetables, bread, meats, fish, snacks, and clothing.

Veggies look yummy!

Trumpet of death? These mushrooms must grow on the ground where I practice!

We bought a chocolate-shaped frog.

The storekeepers were fascinated with meeting Kero.

Yesterday morning I ran, and this morning practiced trumpet. I had done neither for some time, because I had become slightly asthmatic during our stay in England. I am feeling better now. Maybe the cause was flowers in English gardens?

During yesterday's morning run, I scouted for a place to practice trumpet, and chose a spot at the edge of a city park, next to a construction area. The scenery is awful but hopefully I bother nobody. I played softly.

We had lunch and dinner on the balcony of the apartment we are staying at.

isle of wight

2017-08-28 ISLE OF WIGHT, UK -- Our cheerful colleague Akiko Tashiro recommended a day-trip to the Isle of Wight. We followed her advice to visit Carisbrooke Castle and the Osborne House.

Red Funnel ferry took us from Southampton to East Cowes. Their website contains plenty of information for planning visits to the Isle of Wight. The 1st class cabin offers elegant tranquility.

We walked about 10 kilometers from East Cowes to Carisbrooke Castle. The first step is crossing the river Medina. There are no bridges because the Isle of Wight attracts tall sailing ships. A launch took us across to the west bank.

A former railroad track is now a linear park that connects West Cowes to Newport. Newport is oddly named, I think, because it lies in the center of the island. Yes, ships can sail up and down the river, but I doubt Newport was ever a thriving port. I heard that the railroad was abolished in 1966.

In Newport, a local gentleman (his family has lived on the island for 400 years) graciously showed us the sights (including the town square and the oldest pub in town), and directed us towards Carisbrooke Castle.

England distributes electricity using wiring techniques different from the USA, Japan, and Belgium. The English wiring looks like half of an umbrella frame, spreading electrical power from 1 utility pole to over a dozen houses across the street. This fact has nothing to do with the Isle of Wight. It has more to do with my interest in electricity and electronics.

The castle sits atop a hill, with a commanding view of the island. The castle was built for military defense.

The castle grounds are a favorite park for the locals. We said hello to many townspeople and their pets.

Kero inspected the moat and ramparts.

The area within the castle walls is not very large. This castle was a mansion for a lord and a fortress for his garrison. The castle is neither a military base for invading enemy territory, nor a walled city for protecting its citizens.

Donkeys turn a large treadmill to lower and raise a bucket from a deep well. Workers spent 2 years digging the well. The first 2 meters was topsoil. The next 47 meters was rock. Geologists say there is probably a natural spring at the bottom (or rather, workers kept digging until they reached such a water source). This turning wheel is the only such device still in operation in Europe.
Watch the video (23 megabytes) to hear how long it takes for a pail of water to hit the bottom.

We climbed the castle keep. Unlike the penthouse status of
tenshukaku in Japanese castles, the keep of Carisbrooke Castle was a watchtower where sharp-eyed lookouts surveyed the island. The single-story small building at the left of the photo is where the donkey draws water from the well.

Kero treated us to a taxi ride from Newport to Osborne House. Cost 17 pounds. The driver asked for 15 pounds, and we added a tip, which apparently is not obligatory in Britain. The driver told us that the 5-pound notes we gave him are no longer accepted at stores.
New, polymer-based paper currency is replacing the old, paper-based currency. In a few weeks (on 2017-09-13) new 10 pound notes will enter circulation.

The Osborne House is near East Cowes. It was the beach house for the royal family. I imagine it served a role similar to Japan's Hayama imperial villa.

Osborne House is best known, perhaps, as the place where Queen Victoria died. I was more intrigued as the place where children grew up. This picture shows the nursery. The furniture is original, but the wallpaper is not.

In terms of architectural design, the Osborne House does not impress. The building is large, of course, with nearly 90 servants working for a family of less than 10.

The staff would squabble over seating arrangements. The seat immediately to the right of her majesty ranked highest.

Queen Victoria's toilet was located between 2 walls. The term WC (water closet) is apt.

Queen Victoria's bathtub occupied a closet. Open the closet doors, and instead of clothes you find a bathtub with a lid on it. Plumbing was bad back then. Traps (U, W, or J-shaped pipes to stop odors) had not been invented. Covering toilets, sinks, and tubs was standard operational procedure to stop malodorous fumes from entering the house.

The public areas are grand. This is the formal dining room, where dignitaries were entertained. The ceiling is richly decorated.

The garden is positively lovely in the beautiful weather.

We walked down to what used to be the royal private beach. Truth be told, this is the only aspect of the Osborne House to which I could say "I could live with that!". The rest seemed too stuffy to me. Change clothes several times a day? Dress up for dinner at your own house?

Noriko picked her favorite Victoria sponge cake.

Nice lawn!

The ferry back to Southampton was crowded with families enjoying their last 3-day weekend of the summer.


2017-08-27 PORTSMOUTH, UK -- We took a day trip to Portsmouth, one of the main seaports of Britain, former home to their naval academy (now at Dartmouth), but not where (as I had mistakenly thought) the Treaty of Portsmouth was signed. (The 1905 treaty that ended the Russo-Japanese war was signed in Portsmouth, Maine, USA.)

We arrived early at the train station. Lucky that we did, because (a) the ticket offices were closed, and (b) all but 1 automated machine recognized my credit card and printed the tickets that I had bought online. When traveling in Europe, use credit cards with computer chips! Magnetic strips are insufficient.

Kero took care of the tickets.

We walked from Fratton station to Portsmouth Harbor. I got us lost. Friendly local folks gave us directions. Along the way we passed by the house where Charles Dickens was born.

We went up the Spinnaker Tower. The observation decks are the 3 floors with dark green windows, located near the top of the comb-shaped arch.

Gorgeous day. Clear view of Isle of Wight (which is 4 times bigger than Japan's Izu Ohshima, and slightly smaller than Japan's Tanegashima).

We had cream tea overlooking the horizon and harbor. Clotted cream is butter that is somehow more buttery than butter.

The British navy is building their
largest aircraft carrier, the conventionally-powered 280-meter-long Queen Elizabeth. Unlike American aircraft carriers, the Queen Elizabeth has no catapults or arrestor wires. Instead she uses VSTOL (very short take off and landing) aircraft that the British are justifiably proud of. The ship is being fitted now, and should be deployed in 2020.

After seeing the newest high-tech ship from above, we descended to water level, and visited the Naval Historic Dockyards, where the
Mary Rose is on display. The Mary Rose sank in 1545. She was raised in 1982, and is being conserved -- a magnificent feat of engineering and resolve.

We visited the
HMS Victory, famous for being commanded by Admiral Lord Horatio Nelson during the Battle of Trafalgar (1805). I enjoyed the juxtaposition of old and new warships -- the modern Queen Elizabeth is docked behind the Victory.

The bow of the Victory. Note the absence of forward-facing weapons.

A harbor tour on a boat gave us closer views of the Queen Elizabeth and other naval ships.

The bow of the Queen Elizabeth. British carriers have an upwardly sloping ramp at the bow.

Clean, flat surfaces typical of modern ships. The shape and material of the surfaces cause the vessels to appear much smaller on radar.

After another visit to the Spinnaker Tower (our ticket let us visit as many times as you like on that day), we took a train from Portsmouth Harbor back to Southampton. Lovely weather all day! (British expressions are rubbing off on me -- I would never say "lovely" in America.)

solent air museum with police and fire exhibit

2017-08-26 SOUTHAMPTON, UK -- We visited the Solent Sky Museum in the city of Southampton, UK. Solent is the name of the channel of water between the England mainland and the Isle of Wight.

Southampton is where the fighter aircraft Spitfire was developed. I was excited to visit the air museum, although I sadly no longer fly.

Kero was glued to the
FROG (fly right off the ground) series of model aircraft engines and kits. Perhaps FROG will come back, just like Heathkit did in 2015.

Kero wants to ride a scale model!

Supermarine S.6A. Famous. Delighted to see it! Embarrassingly, I did not know until today that the ribbed fuselage is for cooling engine oil. I had thought it was for metal strength.

On the 2nd floor (1st floor in British English) of the air museum is another museum featuring the history of the local police and fire departments in the Hampshire area.

Here are handcuffs and batons used through the ages. They all look uncomfortable!

Noriko found on display a cornet that was played by the fire department band. Each year they perform for their families at their open house.

We talked at length with Mr John S Beel, who until recently was a volunteer police officer (special constable). He volunteered for 4 hours a week for almost his entire adult life. He now is the exhibit's primary custodian and docent. We were impressed and honored to meet him and to hear his stories. Out of respect for his privacy, I will not repeat his tales of adventure, devotion, frustration, and despair. I do recommend that you visit the museum and talk to him.

Mr Beel's uniform is on display at the entrance of the police and fire exhibit.

EuroCALL-2017 conference

2017-08-24 SOUTHAMPTON, UK -- I gave my talk at EuroCALL, a conference for practitioners and researchers in computer aided language learning (CALL).

The University of Southampton hosted a reception at an art gallery.

This friendly young man took good care of us.

Naturally Kero and Noriko attended also.

rush to england

2017-08-22 LINCOLN CITY, OREGON, USA -- The morning after the total eclipse of the sun, we traveled to Southampton, UK for a conference.

The timing was terrible. First, I wanted more time before and after the eclipse. We had to turn away friends who wished to stay with us. Before we leave our house, we need to close it -- meaning we need to eat all the food, wash the sheets, vacuum the rooms, immobilize the truck, switch off non-essential circuit breakers, turn off water, and so on. These tasks do not allow us to accommodate guests. Second, there were 2 more conferences happening at the same time in Sweden. I would have liked to have attended those conferences too, in order to see friends, keep abreast of academic developments, and to report on my progress.

Travel itself was uneventful. Alas, I was so tired that I dozed through our long layover at AMS (Amsterdam Schiphol airport). I had planned to work. Had I known I could not stay awake, I would have checked in at an airport hotel. AMS has 2 hotels (similar to Japanese capsule hotels) at the terminal between security and the gates. Sleeping on a flat bed and taking a hot shower would have been more restful and refreshing.


2017-08-21 LINCOLN CITY, OREGON, USA -- We knew when we bought the house that a total solar eclipse would occur over our home. Although we did not buy the house specifically for that reason, for the past few years we have been planning for the astronomical event.

I built solar filters using cardboard boxes and filter material made by Baader planetarium.

The Baader filter shows the sun in white, as opposed to most solar filters that produce an orange image. The Baarder filter is made of thin plastic material, and is coated silver on both sides.

I made something that looks like a mortar hat that you wear for graduation.

The tubular section of my contraption slips over the 500 mm reflex lens I borrowed from my mom. The micro-four-thirds image sensor on my camera has a crop factor of 2 with respect to the 500 mm lens (which is designed for 35 mm full frame). The sun occupies about 1/9 the size of the field of view.

I made filters for our video camcorder, binoculars, and monocular.

I also made one for my eye glasses. Bad idea, because the silver coating reflects the image of my face.

Various gear lined up for action.

The biggest concern was the weather. Summers on the Oregon coast are blessed with sunshine most of the time, especially during midday. But fog often develops in mornings and evenings. The last several days have been excellent!

Test shots with our equipment look promising. Our camcorder provides a much larger image of the sun, because the lens has powerful telephoto capabilities. (Most camcorder owners need telephoto to shoot their children playing sports or performing arts.)

On the big day, during the morning, skies ranged from severe clear to low fog. During totality, there were wisps of clouds but they were scattered and thin enough for 4-out-of-5 star viewing conditions! Here is Noriko sitting facing east (where the sun and moon are) in our backyard. See the blue sky and stark shadows.

I wore a T-shirt designed by our friends who own the
Chocolate Frog candy store in Waldport. Naturally I must wear my Keroppi short pants to complete the outfit.

Eerie dimness engulfed us as totality began. My mom and I did not experience this so strongly during the solar eclipse in Hawaii in 1991. Or maybe she did, but I was too excited to notice!

During totality we saw very little around us. Noriko and Kero were fascinated with looking at the sun without protective filters.

Of course you've seen gorgeous pictures taken by professionals and enthusiasts. Here are examples of what we captured.

Totality. Click
here for higher resolution photo. Click here for video of the latter half of totality period, from around the middle to the end. Video is about 95 megabytes. You will hear Noriko and me talking excitedly, and the camera shutter operating automatically at set time intervals.

Time-lapse photos at the end of totality. This is an animated GIF image. Click
here if time-lapse photos do not appear, or here to view the time-lapse photos as a video. Video is about 16 megabytes.

This is my 4th solar eclipse. I saw a partial (in blazing daylight) as a child in Toronto, Canada. My mom and I visited Hawaii to see a total eclipse in 1991 (see the T-shirt below). Noriko and I saw an annular eclipse in Tokyo in 2012. We missed a partial eclipse in Sapporo due to weather. Today's eclipse was great fun because we experienced it at home! How often does that happen?

little shop of horrors

2017-08-18 NEWPORT, OREGON, USA (updated after the event) -- My trumpet teacher John Bringetto played in the orchestra for the stage version of "The Little Shop of Horrors" at Newport's Performing Arts Center.

I saw the movie a long time ago. Even that movie was a re-make. The original must be ancient.

Here's a screenshot from
the theater company's web site.


John showed me the music. Sorry no photo. Too scary to show! The first note on trumpet is an A6. The last song (played after curtain call, and while the audience is walking out) is also brutal. What was the composer thinking?

Naturally we bought tickets for opening night.

We asked for seats close to the orchestra pit, so that we might see John and other musicians up close. Turned out that the box office had sold us seats
in the pit! Noriko discovered that row B is the pit itself. John (lower right, facing away from camera) is where our seats would have been located.

Minor chaos ensued. We (and many other surprised guests) had our seats changed.

Thanks to Noriko's quick thinking, we got excellent seats in G row, with a much improved view of the stage from an elevated near-center position.

Even if we had been seated in the front row (which was row C) we could not have looked into the pit anyway because a portable wall blocked the view.

Naturally no pictures of the performance itself. I felt that the 2 trumpets were less audible but maybe that's because I'm partial to brass instruments.

As the musical show progressed, I remembered various melodies and lyrics that made me laugh, such as "you'll be a dentist". Kero, Sirokuro Puppy, Noriko and I had a great time!

I realized that the "horrors" in that little florist are not the antics of the flesh-eating plant. The terrors have more to do with human greed and cruelty.

lesson 30

2017-08-16 SEAL ROCK, OREGON, USA -- My trumpet teacher John Bringetto gave me my 30th lesson with him.

He teaches me in the room with the vaulted roof. These beautiful trees shelter his neighbors from my terrifying noise.

Among his many talents, John is an accomplished sailor. He crossed the Pacific Ocean in his 2nd sailboat. The photo below is his 3rd.

This past week, I practiced playing as accurately as I can with a metronome. Today John told me that all that good practice is worthless if I can only play like a machine. I answered that I would be ecstatic to play like a machine! Expression comes after that.
Screen Shot 2017-08-16 at 14.35.10

prepare for the eclipse

2017-08-15 LINCOLN CITY, OREGON, USA -- A total eclipse of the sun will occur on 2017-08-21. Our house is close to the center line of totality. We have been preparing for the event! Rain or shine, we will enjoy it.

Kero and I are ready to observe the sun! These safety glasses show the sun in deep orange. We taped them to our glasses so they won't fall off!

Our friends own a candy store called the Chocolate Frog. We bought eclipse-themed items there! Here are chocolates of the sun and moon kissing. We got 6 for our friends coming soon.

the odd couple

2017-08-10 LINCOLN CITY, OREGON, USA -- Our friend Don Bambrough starred in the leading role for the theater production "The Odd Couple (male version)".

We were lucky to get seats 3 hours before curtain time.

Tickets are affordable.

The theater is small and intimate.

The playbill -- that is, the theater program, in North American usage.

I took no photos of the performance, although I suspect they would have allowed it had I asked. We wanted to focus on the show. Instead, here's a review with pictures that appeared in
the "Oregon Coast Today", a weekly publication of local events. The names of the characters (and their actors) are switched left to right -- the person on the left is Oscar played by Don.

Larger photo from the online edition of the "Oregon Coast Today". The person on the left is Oscar played by Don. Don is a former crab fisherman. He would sail to Alaska to catch crab in horrible weather and exhausting working conditions.

chet baker tribute

2017-08-03 LINCOLN CITY, OREGON, USA -- David Matheny played flugelhorn at Lincoln City's Cultural Center. I enjoyed David's interpretations of Chet Baker's music, and the mini-lectures David gave in between songs.

The LCCC makes it easy to buy tickets online. We don't even need to print them. We tell the receptionist our names and that's it.


Drinks and light snacks are sold and allowed during performance. There's a tiny table next to your seats.

During intermission, I told David Matheny that I've been taking trumpet lessons for 3 years, and asked when I can start playing flugelhorn. He answered that I could begin immediately, especially if I used a flugelhorn mouthpiece with a rim and cup similar to my trumpet's mouthpiece. I asked that don't flugelhorn mouthpieces have deep, V-shaped cups for dark sound, and David answered that yes most players do play those deeper mouthpieces, but that some people including himself play a trumpet-shaped mouthpiece with a shorter shank, that facilitates playing both instruments.

Here's a review with pictures that appeared in the "Oregon Coast Today", a weekly publication of local events.

And the same picture in clearer color.

back for the eclipse

2017-08-02 LINCOLN CITY, OREGON, USA -- We returned home to Lincoln City, Oregon.

Our little town is excited with the solar eclipse happening on 2017-08-21 at shortly after 10:00 local time. We will be on our roof with our cameras and binoculars praying for sunshine. The weather forecast says there is only 40 percent probability of viewing the sun at that time. We are aware of the risks. We could have reserved a hotel in the high desert if we wanted a view of the eclipse. Our priority is experiencing the event at home. If we see it, great. If we don't, that's fun too.

"The News Guard" is our local newspaper. Their office is only 1 and a half blocks away from our house. I read their online edition. They keep us informed of how the community is preparing for the eclipse.


dj teaches pronunciation

2017-07-28 YOKOHAMA, JAPAN -- I attended a talk by a radio disk jockey.

Hidetoshi "La Vitz" Matsuo uses dJay Pro, a software program for disk jockeys, to train English language learners.

Earlier that day, I bought a single trumpet case at Joy Brass for trips. This soft case is less sturdy but half the size of my hard case.

ship suitcase to airport

2017-07-26 SAPPORO, JAPAN -- I shipped a suitcase from our Sapporo apartment to Narita airport. The advantages are (1) you pack early, so you focus on your tasks at home instead of continuing to worry about packing, and (2) you travel with carry-on luggage only until you reach your departing airport, so your clothes stay dry (no sweat!).

Japan has the best delivery system in the world. Fast, safe, ubiquitous, dependable, reliable, affordable. Print your shipping label yourself to save a bit.
Screen Shot 2017-08-13 at 17.23.09

chitose airshow

2017-07-23 CHITOSE, JAPAN -- I went to an airshow at Chitose Air Force Base. Chitose AFB is located about 30 kilometers from Hokudai, and is co-located with Chitose airport.

Chitose AFB is home to the 2nd squadron of the JASDF (Japan air self defense force). In attendance for the airshow were the USAF, plus Japan's navy, coast guard, and even the army.

My favorite flying boat.

The highlight for me was the rescue demonstration by the helicopter team. 2 minutes after arriving at the extraction zone, they winched up a person on a stretcher, and they were gone!

Type 10 tank from the 71st mechanized battalion, which hosted me for part of my training in the army reserve.

After half a day, I felt sufficiently refreshed to return to the office and finish grading my 2582 freshmen. (We had 2617 at the beginning of semester but some dropped out.)


2017-07-14 SAPPORO, JAPAN -- Deep frying is my domain at our home. Noriko surpasses me in every aspect of cooking but she let's me do some tasks so that I have the opportunity to serve her.

We started deep frying at home after living in Antwerp, Belgium. Before that, we regarded frying in oil as a hassle. It's no big deal with the proper equipment.

I no longer use woks. Deep pots prevent oil splashes. White pots show you the color of the food.

Coffee filters wick away the excess oil. We're preparing
agedashi-dofu (deep-fried tofu in daikon sauce).

We love veggies.

international kindergarten

2017-07-07 SAPPORO, JAPAN -- We visited an international kindergarten in downtown Sapporo.

Shaun Keenan (standing, far left) invited us to his school. They have 3 grades, 1 class each. All instruction is in English language. The kids are doing great!

The kids were dressed up in kimono for the
tanabata (7th of July) festival. I brought my electronic trumpet (Yamaha EZ-TP) for the kids to play with. Ivy Lin (far right) is my grad student. She has a degree in music performance. She played the electronic trumpet beautifully!

Ivy Lin and I played the "ABC song" on her guitar and my trumpet. I made mistakes but the kids didn't care.

ivy lin sings at jamusica

2017-06-29 SAPPORO, JAPAN -- Ivy Lin, my graduate student, sung at Jamusica, a local jazz bar.

Ivy has a bachelor's degree in jazz performance. Her instruments are piano, guitar, and voice.

Masaya Yanagi is one of most sought-after bass players on Hokkaido island.

Sohei Kawai (no relation to me) is a bashful and respected drummer. I should take his rhythm lessons.

Tomoaki Motoyama is a Hokudai physics major turned Sapporo piano player.

We gathered with our friends to enjoy the evening.

Monochrome captures the jazz scene nicely.

sunrise seto sleeper train

2017-06-17 TAKAMATSU, JAPAN -- For my birthday, we rode the sleeper express train Sunrise Seto from Takamatsu to Tokyo.

Sleeper trains are a dying breed. Only a handful remain in Japan. Germany canceled its last train a short while ago. We should ride Amtrak before they disappear.

Tonight might be our last chance.

Our cabin was on the lower level. Twin room, no plumbing. Shower and restrooms down the hall.

The bottom edge of the window is the same height as the platform floor.

Ehime prefecture is famous for oranges. We stocked up on orange juice for the overnight ride.

Ivy baked me cupcakes for my birthday. How sweet!

JALT-CALL conference

2017-06-17 MATSUYAMA, JAPAN -- We went to Matsuyama University in Ehime, Japan to present our research at the JALT-CALL (Japan association of language teachers, computer aided language learning) conference.

Beautiful buildings in the center of the city.

Ivy Lin reported her work on vocabulary learning. She identifies words that students understand when they hear or see them, and trains students to say or write those words.

I reported our progress at Hokudai. The language proficiency scores of our students have been steadily rising. But that can't continue forever.

coldest june day on record

2017-06-05 SAPPORO, JAPAN -- Sapporo is cold! This is the coldest May and June we've had in a long while. Unbeknownst to us at the time, Sapporo would have a record-breaking hot streak in July. 10 days of 30+ Celsius days. We need to even out the weather!

Screenshots from an affiliate of the meteorological agency.


2017-05-31 WAKKANAI, JAPAN -- Noriko had never been to Wakkanai, the northernmost town on Hokkaido island. I had visited just once when in college. And the train company wants to abolish the line. Let's go while we can!

We took the train from Sapporo to Wakkanai, and rented a car to see the local sights.

The end of the line. At 45 degrees and 25 minutes north latitude, Wakkanai is 45 kilometers north of Lincoln City, Oregon.

The landmass over the horizon on the picture below is Sakhalin island, lying to the north at a distance of several hours on a ship.

The southern half of Sakhalin island became Japanese territory after the Russo-Japanese war (1904-1905). At the end of World War II, the Soviets retook the island. Many Japanese civilians were captured by the Soviets. A statue commemorates the loneliness, despair, and death of the people forbidden to return to Japan.

I enjoyed an exhilarating morning run up and beyond the hills behind our hotel. I'm a tiny white speck in the picture that Noriko took from our hotel window (no you can't see me unless somebody pointed it out to you). I followed the trails up to and beyond radio towers transmitting TV and telephone signals to the neighboring small islands of Rishiri and Rebun. From there I saw Rishiri, Rebun, and Sakhalin islands all together. Sorry I didn't bring a camera.

Rijiri island seen from Wakkanai airport's observation deck.

We enjoyed ultra-fresh scallops at Sarufutsu village.


The high point of the trip was kaeru (frog) road -- a stretch of highway decorated with frog statues made from surplus fishing floats.

high tea

2017-05-28 HAKODATE, JAPAN -- We visited Hakodate for relaxation. A highlight of our trip was high tea at the former British consulate building.

The late spring rains added color to the lush garden.

Decorations are fancy and ornate.

Lovely light stand on a carved stone pedastal.

Connecting rooms add depth to the building.

Teapots wear dresses to stay warm.


Sandwich and cakes on multi-teared towers. The idea reminds me of
juubako boxes in Japanese cuisine.

We had a slow comforting experience.

Calm, relaxing,
rustig as they say in Flanders.

girls und panzer

2017-05-20 OOARAI, JAPAN -- We made the pilgrimage to Ooarai, home of the anime and manga series "Girls und Panzer". No, I will not explain what that is. Look it up yourself, like a good otaku.

First stop: Marine Tower.

On the 2nd floor from the top there is a maid cafe called "Panzer Vor".

Early lunch amidst blueprints of tanks and tables covered with camouflage fabric.

We must definitely return, if only to fill out the frequent-diner's membership card.

The entire town is full of "Girls und Panzer" memorabilia and themed-items.

The Ooarai Isomae Jinja (a local shrine) attracts people wishing to become manga artists. The hopefuls draw their pleas on wooden plates for the gods.

We discovered wonderful frog statues.

Pink frog good luck charms. Irresistible!


2017-05-17 TOKYO, JAPAN -- I went to EDIX, a trade show for information technology used for education.

EDIX is held at the Tokyo Big Sight convention center each May.

The show runs for 3 days. I went every day.

Lots of opportunities to try out new technology.

Vendors explain their technology of course. I like to hear experiences from teachers who use the technology.

Our own technology was well represented. Glexa is becoming known.

planning for trips

2017-05-15 SAPPORO, JAPAN -- Our department at Hokudai gives us 6 months of sabbatical leave exactly once for each professor's tenure. This is considerably less than many other schools (1 year of leave after 6 years of teaching is common). Noriko's and my leave is summer, fall, and winter of this year.

We've been busy planning and paying for our flights. We prefer flights that let us sit together, without having to sit next to somebody else. Reserving a few months before the flight allows us to select the seats we want, and that determines which flight we take.

One of our destinations is Southampton, UK. I am giving a presentation at
EUROCALL-2017, hosted by the University of Southampton.

"I found a cheap ticket!", I thought. The total cost rose from 100 euro to 346 euro (391 US dollars) after adding various costs that are necessary. Still, not too bad.

playing with my camera

2017-05-12 SAPPORO, JAPAN -- Upgrading the focusing screen on my digital single-lens reflex camera breathed new life into it. I am excited to use what is now a much easier tool to toy with.

Heavy rains yesterday washed away the pollen and dust in the atmosphere. (Much of the dust blows in from deserts in China.) This morning, sunlight pierced the crisp cool air, and laterally illuminated moist vegetation. I took pictures on my way to work.

Lensbaby lens emphasizes one part of the image by blurring the rest. See that only the trillium in the center is in focus, although the rest are at roughly the same distance from the camera.

The Lensbaby company is headquartered in Portland, Oregon. Maybe they and Professor Clark are enjoying similar weather today.

See how the tree is in focus while the surface of Ohno Pond is blurred. Just showing you the optical characteristics of the lens. Not that my composition is great.


Reflection on water is clear but the surrounding rocks are blurred.

My photographs of architecture are almost always in postcard-perfect focus. The Lensbaby might arguably draw the audience towards a section of the building, such as my office show here.
The blurred images are wildly distorted.

Distortion can stimulate fleeting interest. Here is a night shot of lightfish swimming from the city lights of Sapporo.

my former students

2017-05-11 SAPPORO, JAPAN -- I visited my former students who are now full professors at Hokkai Gakuen University.

Takafumi Utashiro teaches the teaching of Japanese language. I observed his class today. His students impressed me with their enthusiasm.

HIroya Tanaka has a heavy teaching load in English language. His research in and development of vocabulary acquisition tools is helping my graduate student Ivy Lin.

camera focusing screen

2017-05-08 SAPPORO, JAPAN -- Finally, after 3 years of procrastinating (actually 2 years and 11 months but equally embarrassing), I replaced the focusing screen on my camera.

Focusing screens are located beneath the pentaprism on single-lens reflex cameras. This photo shows the camera placed upside down, so that the focusing screen (the rectangular frosted sheet of plastic with etched lines) is viewable on the bottom of the photograph.

Some years ago, shortly after purchasing my camera (a
Pentax K5), I replaced the factory-original focusing screen (pictured below) with a rule-of-thirds grid pattern (pictured above).

My new focusing screen is a
Canon screen (model Ec-B, split-image) that was modified by a company in Taiwan. I wanted split-image focusing because I am used to it, my lenses are manual focus, and my camera's autofocus algorithm is slow in displaying its results.

requires dexterity rather than knowledge of tools. The photo below shows the focusing screen removed from its metal frame.

A close-up photograph of my former focusing screen (a Pentax type ML-60) shows that my new screen is roughly on focus.

A split-image focusing screen has a circular area in the center. The circle is split into 2 halves. When an image is in focus, the image appears perfectly through the circle.

The picture below shows the view through my camera's viewfinder. This photo was taken by another camera looking into the viewfinder. Look at the edge of the white book. The 2 semicircles cut through the letters "M" of "COMIX" and "R" of "HARTA".

When the image is out of focus, the image is broken side by side. See how the edge of the white book is shifted horizontally.

With split-image focusing, the focusing technique consists of (a) finding a line or an edge, such as a person's face against a blue sky, and (b) turning the focusing ring on the lens such that the line in (a) is connected.

In the picture below, I focused on the inside (closer to camera) edge of the button on the 2nd (middle) valve of my trumpet. I used a low F number at a relatively close distance to achieve shallow depth-of-field. I am satisfied that my focusing screen is accurate.

Focusing is much faster and easier than before! With manual focus, split-image focus is my favorite!

flowers at hokkaido jingu

2017-05-05 SAPPORO, JAPAN -- For the first time in at least 10 (maybe 13) years we took a few days off during Japan's Golden Week (a string of holidays interspersed with work days).

Sapporo summers are brief. Plums, cherries, magnolias ... all flowers bloom together.




We prayed for peace and health at the Hokkaido Jingu, a Shinto shrine with a checkered past.

The supreme Shinto priest is the emperor. His family crest (a 16-leaf chrysanthemum) adorns the shrine.

I saw for my first time a reproduction of the
Imperial Decree on Education (教育勅語) signed by Emperor Meiji. I have read, heard, and said the decree numerous times.

May 5th is Boys' Day (which is a holiday, unfairly and unlike March 3rd Girls' Day). Carp streamers wish boys well. Chinese mythology says carp, when jumping over waterfalls, transform into dragons. Religion in Japan is a mix of indigenous Shinto, imported Buddhism of various varieties, and some Chinese and Korean mythology and superstition.

otaru ferry terminal

2017-05-04 OTARU, JAPAN -- We walked from Otaru station down the canal to the ferry terminal.

We saw
the ship we traveled on last summer.

Otaru ferry terminal is one of the nicest in the country.

We enjoyed bay views through large windows.

restaurant Seagull serves affordable good food with great views. Alas they are closed between 16:00 and 17:30.

ainu porotokotan

2017-05-03 SHIRAOI, JAPAN -- We visited the Ainu village Porotokotan at the coastal town of Shiraoi.

"Poroto" means "lake, pond", and "kotan" means "village, hamlet". The village is on the east shore of a lake, situated in a marshy area near the coast. It is a beautiful area, which struck my untrained eyes as similar in fauna and flora to the Pacific northwest, where native Americans practiced a similar lifestyle.

Inaw (offering sticks, made by shaving branches) are everywhere, for the gods and goddesses dwell everywhere.

The Ainu (which means "people, human") were hunter-gatherers. They kept a fire burning in their houses to dry the roof and rid the house of insects. As a side benefit, food was preserved by smoking.

The village manufactures, displays, and sells salmon that was prepared using traditional Ainu techniques. Salmon caught in the fall is gutted, salted, dried in the winter air for 2 months, then hung indoors to be cured with smoke.

Ohaw is a clear, salty broth containing as much (or as little) food is available. We were served ohaw with millet rice, shito (starch cakes), pickled roots, and herbal tea. 800 yen.

In one of the larger buildings, people of Ainu heritage performed dances and songs.

The man is wearing a straw ceremonial headdress of an adult male. He holds a reproduced painting of an Ainu adult woman. Note tattoos around her mouth and on the back of her hands and forearm. The Japanese Meiji government prohibited tattoos (and many other practices all over Japan) claiming that traditional body art or hair or clothing would appear primitive, uncivilized, and savage to westerners. Many local people were unconvinced if not downright offended (Isn't it more valuable to appear attractive to your neighbors? How often do you meet westerners anyway?). The government's true motive was in entrenching its authority into the populace by controlling all minutiae of everyday life. I read an account of an Ainu woman who, as a young adult, wanted desperately to be tattooed because she felt she had earned that privilege. The police beat her up.

In 2020 a national museum of Ainu ethnology will open nearby. We should not be misled by government spending. The new museum consists of static displays, not of demonstrations or lectures delivered by people who are breathing and growing the Ainu heritage. The government is compartmentalizing and segregating the Ainu culture, and officially declaring it dead. This is as bad as animalizing the Ainu people, which could be accomplished by creating what is effectively a zoo, where one can view live Ainu in close to their native habitat. Whether one claims that the Ainu no longer exists or that Ainu tradition is carefully preserved, treating culture as a static, unchanging entity relegates it to a fossil, an object of scientific study, but having no rights or privileges.

But the Ainu culture is alive. Discriminated, decimated, debilitated, but alive, and deserving of respect and friendship. The Ainu language and culture can be better appreciated by, for instance, providing Ainu language classes in schools, or by organizing Ainu culture camps where people can stay for a length of time to soak in the material and spiritual culture of the Ainu. Yet even Ainu festivals or rituals are rarely scheduled.

The government cannot revive the Ainu because doing so forces the government to accommodate other minorities, such as the Koreans who were forced to work in Japan. Deep understanding of history damages the government's credibility, for they are the direct descendant of the pre-war establishment. Unlike Germany and Italy, which severed their pre-WW2 political leadership, Japan was allowed to retain Emperor Hirohito. Not executing him for war crimes legitimized his political and military subordinates. "We were following orders. If the emperor is held blameless, then so are we." The Americans made a mistake of acceding to Japan's demands to keep the emperor.

cherry blossoms arrive in sapporo

2017-05-02 SAPPORO, JAPAN -- Sakura are here! We walked Oodoori Park in downtown Sapporo to enjoy the cherry blossoms, pansies, tulips, and more flowers.

Beautiful spring afternoon. Still nippy at 12 degrees Celsius. Stove needed morning and evening.

I prefer cherries that bloom before leaves come out.

Kero adds beauty to the flowers.

Can't get enough of them cherry blossoms! They're viewable only several days a year.

The park is getting ready for a brief summer. Hot weather lasts maybe 4 weeks.

kaeruya coffee

2017-04-29 SAPPORO, JAPAN -- We visited Kaeruya Coffee, an intensely froggified coffee store.

The shop is across the street from the
Hokkaido Museum of Modern Art, and close to the Governor's Mansion.

The building is narrow, long, single-story, and decorated with hundreds of frogs.

Edamame is the shop mascot. I believe he is the only live frog in the store. He's been around for years! And grown a bit.

Two sisters own and run the store. One loves brewing coffee and baking pastries. The other loves to paint.

Whenever the Museum of Modern Art changes its exhibit, the painter sister creates frog spoofs of the artwork on display.
P1420930 copy

This creation surpasses the original.

Noriko had cheesecake with a mask. One of the large pieces in the traveling exhibition was a restored oil featuring party masks.
P1420949 copy

Noriko bought a wine glass etched with frogs. See him peeking at you from under the water?

tri horn buffalo at d-bop

2017-04-27 SAPPORO, JAPAN -- Today was a full day! Business meeting, keroppi shopping, heavy lunch, visit new restaurant ... and then a rock concert at jazz bar D-Bop.

D-Bop is owned by private detective Cozy Matsuura. Cozy is well-connected in the police world, but I understand he was never a police officer. Cozy plays sax, and opened a jazz bar. "D" is for "detective".

Tri Horn Buffalo show was so crowded that my ticket got squished before I could photograph it.

It was rock played with jazzy instruments. I loved how they interacted with the crowd.

Takahiro Miyazaki, the sax player, autographed his EWI (electronic wind instrument) music textbook for me. I own an
Akai EWI-5000 that I have no idea how to play.

izuru opens restaurant

2017-04-27 SAPPORO, JAPAN -- My former trumpet teacher Izuru Konishi retired from his day job as an insurance salesman. He and his wife bought a restaurant. They had a pre-opening party for close friends a week or so ago. Today was their first day open to the general public.

The "Party House Fiesta" is located smack in downtown Sapporo.

I know where it is now, but the first time I came, I got lost for 40 minutes walking within half a block of the place.

Izuru claims the place seats 100.

Big windows overlooking sakura almost in full bloom.

Trumpet art by local artist
Quzan Kuzuoka. Gold foil on canvas.

Quzan formerly taught fine art in middle school. He now paints art, and creates signs and labels for commercial clients.

We toasted Izuru's success.

keroppi shopping spree

2017-04-27 SAPPORO, JAPAN -- Noriko went for a Keroppi shopping spree. Way to go!

What do I have in my bag today?

Sweat pants, 2 tote bags, pouch, tissue paper case ...

I got a tumbler for my fuzzy navels!

fuzzy navel

2017-04-26 SAPPORO, JAPAN -- My favorite cocktail these days is "fuzzy navel", a sweet, tangy drink with low alcohol content. I usually order it at parties.

I learned only recently that the recipe is as simple as a whisky and soda. Peachtree (a peach liqueur) and orange juice. That's it!

Approximately 3 to 4 % alcohol by volume.

manga prize shikishi

2017-04-04 SAPPORO, JAPAN -- The monthly manga magazine "Sunday Super" sent me a shikishi picture board featuring 4 female characters appearing in current stories.

A description of the prize on Sunday Super's website.

Big envelope = big smile!

Displayed it on my bookcase.

chris botti concert

2017-03-17 TACOMA, WASHINGTON, USA -- Noriko and I attended our 3rd concert with Chris Botti and his band.

Wonderful entertainment, as always.

He autographed his CD for me! And shook my hand!
Screen Shot 2017-05-08 at 13.01.29


Screen Shot 2017-05-08 at 13.02.31

the chocolate frog

2017-03-08 LINCOLN CITY, OREGON, USA -- After my trumpet lessons with John Bringetto in Seal Rock, we like to drive a bit further south to Waldport, where our friends have their Chocolate Frog candy store.

Noriko and l love the store-owners Ken and Leslie. We visit and buy every chance we get.

They make chocolate frogs! The yellow one is a new flavor -- hot pepper!

Frog poop! Puffed wheat, I think, covered in colored candy.

Frog poop goes great with ice cream sundaes!

The Chocolate Frog supports local talent by selling artifacts made by local artists. We installed a cute faceplate for our light switch in our family room.

zach moves to oregon

2017-03-06 DAMASCUS, OREGON, USA -- We visited our friend Zach at his lovely new home located southeast of downtown Portland, Oregon.

When the skies are clear, Mt Hood looms in the east. What a gorgeous view that must be!

Noriko selected mice-themed sake cups. Zach keeps rats as pets.

Friends! Last time we met face-to-face was 10 (gasp!) years ago in Sapporo. Electronic correspondence is nice, but can never beat a hug.


2017-02-24 RYOGOKU, JAPAN -- We took a long walk in the Ryogoku district.

We were drawn irresistibly to
a store claiming to be toadally frogified.

Alas they did not live up to their hype. More baseball paraphernalia than frog-themed items.

But we did have a nice old-fashioned lunch.

We made an unexpected, informative, and somber encounter with the past at the
Kanto earthquake memorial museum. The earthquake itself killed a few thousand. Citizens remained calm because they were used to earthquakes, and quickly decided that the worst was over. In the Ryogoku area, about 50,000 people evacuated their homes that were damaged by the earthquake, and assembled at an army storage depot near the Sumida river. The houses caught fire, causing a firestorm that consumed all oxygen from near the surface of the ground. Evacuees suffocated if they were lucky. The river was covered with scorched bodies of victims who had dived into the water to escape the heat. A similar disaster occurred at the end of World War II, when USA fire-bombed Tokyo.

Ryogoku is home to the national sumo arena. A replica of the sumo ring is at the Ryogoku train station.

The train station has a wonderful exhibit of historical photographs. Unfortunately we are not allowed to take pictures.

At the end of the hallway is a staircase leading to a train platform reserved for use by the imperial family. On this day, the staircase displayed
hina dolls for girl's day.

kamogawa seaworld

2017-02-21 KAMOGAWA, JAPAN -- We visited Kamogawa Seaworld, a private aquarium on the Boso peninsula in Chiba prefecture.

Kamogawa Seaworld is located right on the beach. The show pools give the visual illusion that they are connected with the Pacific Ocean behind.

They have extensive water processing facilities. The absence of rust is an impressive feat of design, fabrication, and maintenance.

The star attraction is the orca show.

The trainers love their partners, who are unable to survive in the wild for various reasons.

If you're splashed by jumping orcas, then warm up and dry yourselves indoors while enjoying views of jellyfish.

Most jellyfish of this species has 4 U-shaped gonads in their bells, but some have 3 and some have 5.

There is an indoor tropical reef and beach. Sea turtles are bred here.

The plastic walls are over 20 centimeters thick, but visually appear as thin as a house window, because optical distortion is minimal even at an oblique angle.

You can eat orca-shaped rice with curry sauce at the restaurant, while viewing sea-life through windows.

We stayed for 2 days and 1 night. I went for a morning run along the beach.

Penguins, dolphins, sea lions, seals, water insects ... so much to see, we definitely would love to visit again.

in remebrance of mutsuko masaki

2017-02-20 TOKYO, JAPAN -- We learned this morning that our friend and colleague Dr Mutsuko Masaki (眞崎睦子・まさきむつこ) passed away this past weekend due to a sudden illness at home.

Mutsuko earned her PhD in language and culture studies at Osaka University. She joined Hokudai as an associate professor in 2006, 3 years after I was hired.

We did not work on research projects together -- her interests focused on immigration while mine are in online learning systems and teacher training -- but she, Noriko and I chatted from time to time on topics ranging from pleasant culinary tips (Mutsuko was a serious cook) to exasperating concerns such as a senior professor telling junior colleagues they were unfit for academic duty because they were physically unattractive.

Mutsuko took a stand against coercion. If I understand correctly her interests stemmed from the history of immigrants from Japan to north and south America after the Meiji restoration. Low-class samurai and farmers who lost their jobs were urged to relocate abroad without receiving what nowadays is called full disclosure. Mutsuko gave me a copy of her book about the information the immigrants did receive (ISBN-13: 978-4872591767).

During her tenure at Hokudai, Mutsuko's angst widened to encompass present-day coercion resulting in binge drinking at college parties. Her work was often misinterpreted as a crusade against alcohol abuse. Mutsuko told me on several occasions that the central issue to her was being forced into acting unwillingly. Press-ganging into drinking is an example of present-day intimidation, she explained. She taught classes on this topic, and wrote a book (ISBN-13: 978-4891152840).

Mutsuko and our last professional connection was in hiring teaching assistants (TAs) for the 2017 academic year. We created an austere web page for potential applicants. The English Online class is hiring 15 TAs starting 2017-04-04.

Our last personal connection was several weeks ago when we passed each other by near Oodoori park in downtown Sapporo. She smilingly declared that she approved of us holding hands in public. (Holding hands in Japan is not as rare as it was 30 years ago, but among our generation perhaps it still is.) Mutsuko had a sweet habit of pointing out positive aspects in people.

My obituary omits Mutsuko's picture because she preferred that her photograph not be taken. A screenshot of Mutsuko's self-introduction on the
Hokudai grad school web site is attached below in remembrance.



2017-02-19 FUJISAWA, JAPAN -- We visited Noriko's parents in Fujisawa city.

We scrapped our plans to walk Enoshima due to unexpectedly cold winds. The weather forecast has been consistently unreliable the last several days!

Surfers waiting to ride the big waves, just like the Hokusai woodblock prints.

We prayed for our parents' health at a seaside Shinto shrine.

We chatted over sashimi.

Night waves and Mt Fuji.

Pizza and paella at the Red Lobster restaurant.

Cushy ride on the Odakyu Romance express.

odawara castle

2017-02-17 ODAWARA, JAPAN -- We visited Odawara castle.

Forts and castles have been built and rebuilt here since the 15th century. The current castle grounds are much smaller than its peak at the end of the 16th century. The tenshukaku (
天守閣, originally spelled 殿守閣, the castle keep) is about the same age as me, and renovated last year.

The view from the top is magnificent. Except it started to rain!

We waited out the rain in the history museums. This is a sword hilt.

Some types of cherry trees blossom early.

Plum trees (both white and red) bloom before cherries.

Odawara has a seaport, and is famous for kamaboko. We found our favorite kind!

We rode the Odayku Romance express home. Ours was one of the oldest train sets in service, dating back to my middle school days. The old trains offer the best views, because like the upper deck of a Boeing 747 aircraft, the trains have a bulge where the engineer sits (in the old sense of "engine operator"). The newer models are single-story, and you view out through the windshield from behind the engineer.

musashino historical museum

2017-02-12 MUSASHINO, JAPAN -- We visited the Musashino Historical Museum, located northwest of Musashi-Sakae station in Musashino City, Tokyo.

This small museum takes a serious, critical view of historical events, and explains their exhibits without dumbing down the content, or neutralizing viewpoints. I found their approach refreshing.

The museum has 3 rooms: their permanent exhibit (shown below), a temporary exhibit, and a hall for lectures and demonstrations.

I learned that the villagers were transplanted here shortly after 1657 when a fire destroyed Edo (now Tokyo). The samurai families who lost their homes in the fire were ordered to relocate to what was then the outskirts of town, in order to decrease the density of population and buildings in downtown Edo. The farmers living in the outskirts of Edo were in turn pushed out to undeveloped woodlands, which became Musashino City about 300 years later.

The temporary exhibit featured household utensils spanning 100 years. Noriko and I felt our age when we recognized most of the artifacts labeled "historic".

our 1st daughter

2017-02-15 FUCHU, JAPAN -- We visited Hiroko, our 1st daughter. Hiroko is an assistant professor at the Tokyo University of Foreign Studies, Japan's top language school.

Her office room number is my birthday.

From her office window, a wonderful view (through bird-proof netting) of Mt Fuji.

Unlike me, Hiroko doesn't hoard belongings. Her office is sparse and uncluttered.

TUFS architecture is classy.

We had a quiet French lunch behind the
birthplace of Kondo Isamu, a samurai at the end of the Edo period.

disorganizing my office

2017-02-12 SAPPORO, JAPAN -- I tidied up my office. Although to you, the pictures below probably appear as if I disorganized my office.

Cleaning is crying. I threw away a hand-held massager that my mom gave me a year after I went to the United States. That was 30 years ago! A battery leak corroded the terminals beyond repair. I kept the massager (which worked great for aching eyes) for sentimental reasons. Until today. Sob ...

Move everything out into the hallway. Most of it made its way back, because I couldn't bring myself to throw it out.

I removed posters I had outside on my hallway wall. The map of Indonesia was a gift from my former roommate. I saved that map, but tearfully discarded the others.

Hard for you to believe, but this is better than before.

playing scales

2017-02-11 SAPPORO, JAPAN -- Trumpet players are expected to play over a 2.5-octave range. After 33 months of training, I am beginning to approach the upper and lower edges of that expected range.

My trumpet, like over 90% others, is a transposing instrument. For my Bb trumpet, music is written 1 whole step above, such that a concert Bb is written as C. What I call a C major scale is a concert Bb major scale. Conversely, a concert C major scale is a D major scale on my trumpet.

Shown below are a spectrogram and an audio recording of a 2-octave C major scale (concert Bb major), starting at my C4 and ending in C6, that I observed during this morning's practice. I could have started half an octave below, like I often do. This is not my best playing, merely better than average.

I want to solve 3 problems. (1) I want to stabilize my pitch. My unstable pitch is clearly visible as fluctuation in the higher harmonics, that is, the wiggly lines in the upper rows. (2) I want to transition cleanly. As my pitch ascends, some notes jump up or down. I want to stop that. (3) I want to play softer. I can play a bit soft in my comfortable range, which is the left half of the chart. As I ascend in pitch (that is, moving towards the right of the chart) I need to increase airflow, hence increasing the sound amplitude (see the red color in the lines towards the right). I want to learn to play softer, which means I am playing more efficiently.


My tiny success is that I am becoming able to play this range at all. I am happy that my chops (a collective term referring to lips, cheeks, teeth, and tongue) recover much faster than a year ago.

repair power supply

2017-02-10 SAPPORO, JAPAN -- Our family has bought oh almost 100 Apple Macintosh computers over the years. Maybe over 100. I am disappointed that my 3-year-old laptop (a 15-inch MacBookPro) came with a power supply that is poorly designed compared to its predecessors. The cable broke several weeks ago. The same afternoon I bought a new one at the local Yodobashi camera store. Today I finally got around to repairing the broken unit.

Took a while to crack the case open.

The cable broke at the base of the strain-relief collar.

Ready to tin the cables on the power supply side.

Tinned, soldered, and heat-shrunk (is that a word?). I mean "heat-shrink tubing shrunk and applied".

I gave up re-using the original strain-relief collar. The repaired unit is for office use only. Works fine as long as I don't yank the cable.

ivy and the two book trio

2017-02-05 SAPPORO, JAPAN -- Our grad student Ivy is a musician trained in jazz piano and guitar performance. Tonight she sang with the Two Book Trio at the jazz bar Jericho in downtown Sapporo.

Jericho is a tiny place.

John Long, who taught Ivy music at high school in the UK, visited from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

Sohei Kawai on drums, Yosuke Homma on bass.

Tomoaki Motoyama (far left) on piano. Tomoaki played Jericho's mini-upright piano with his back to the audience.

John played sax, and gave me several music tips.

snowshoe on campus

2017-02-05 SAPPORO, JAPAN -- We snowshoed for probably the last time this winter.

We can walk right straight out our front door on to the snow-covered campus grounds.

The ag school lawn.

We always draw Kero on the tennis courts.

Spiral square.

Hard to tell, but that's a pair of beamed eighth notes (1/8 + 1/8).

Finger-drawn portrait.

otaru snow light path

2017-02-04 OTARU, JAPAN -- Partly because our trumpet lesson was canceled, we spent our evening at Otaru, where they are having the Snow Light Path event.

Otaru used to be the primary city on Hokkaido island. The Bank of Japan (Japan's equivalent of the Federal Reserve Bank) and many private banks had their offices here. The city had a good seaport that ferried in manufactured goods and shipped out raw materials such as coal and fish. Canals linked the port to the warehouses. It is along those canals that the Snow Light Path takes place.

Candles (not LED lanterns) are lit at 17:00.

Weather was mild for this time of year. We dressed ultra-warm for safety's sake.

Many snow lanterns look like flower pots. Volunteers make them by filling buckets with snow.

No bucket? Stack snowballs!

As night drapes over the bay, the hills disappear from view.

Some lanterns are made of ice, or hollowed out banks of snow.

The Snow Light Path extends to the historic financial district of downtown Otaru.

We visited the Bank of Japan building, now a museum.

The Bank of Japan has a monopoly in issuing bank notes. Here, we experienced lifting the equivalent of 100 million yen (roughly 100 million dollars). This is child's play for Noriko. We carry this amount of paper for our classes all the time!

With so many international tourists, and biligual store staff, you couldn't tell which country you were in.



2017-02-05 SAPPORO, JAPAN -- Cold days call for warm food. "Rustig" (Dutch) or "hygge" (Danish).

Waffles are quick and easy. Our $40 waffle maker bakes 2 at a time.

Half a ladle of batter makes roundish waffles. More batter makes squares.

Chocolate sauce.

Cheese and blueberry jam.

Ice cream with toppings.

last lesson with izuru konishi

2017-01-28 SAPPORO, JAPAN -- Noriko and I did not realize that today's trumpet lesson with Izuru Konishi would be our last. Several weeks ago we agreed to soon terminate lessons partly because Izuru is switching jobs at this time, and because Noriko and I are taking sabbatical leave starting this summer.

We had planned 2 more lessons on 2017-02-04 and 2017-02-11. We learned the evening before our next lesson that the streets would be closed for snow removal. So we canceled both lessons for what was supposed to be our last month. Hence, we discovered after the fact that today's lesson was our last. I took 65 lessons from him, 2 or 3 Saturdays a month, for 60 to 90 minutes each.

Izuru is retiring from his insurance company (his day job to support his family) to become an owner of a popular gig hall and restaurant, the
Party House Fiesta. I was there once to attend a piano teacher's birthday. Customers rent the entire hall, receive food and drink (it was buffet style when I was there; perhaps they might be served at the table if they pay extra), and party any which way they like. Most groups seem to perform music. They have a baby grand piano (I saw it) and probably a drum kit (unsure).

Noriko came every week. I am indebted to her for my entire music adventure. She made me take my very first music lesson. Izuru showed me which end of the trumpet I blow into.

Izuru and I would sit side by side, me on his left. I was never happy with my playing. In the photo below, placed between Sirokuro Puppy and Kero is my audio recorder. I recorded all our lessons, and saved Izuru's demonstrations as separate audio files so that I could play them while practicing by myself. The textbooks he uses ("
Learn to play trumpet and cornet" ISBN-13 978-0739014684 and ISBN-13 978-0739030332) do not come with audio recordings. I wish they did because I am unable to read music -- that is, even though I might play the pitch of each note, I might not understand the rhythm unless I knew the song already, or the etude is so simple that the timing and phrasing are transparent.

sun piazza aquarium

2017-01-27 SAPPORO, JAPAN -- Noriko discovered that there is an aquarium in Sapporo city, that we need not travel to say Otaru or Muroran to visit an aquarium.

Shin-sapporo station is just 1 stop away from Sapporo central. Noriko got us discount tickets at a store that sells them individually. Background: The train company sells 11 rides for the price of 10. Some stores sell them at prices between discount and full prices.

The privately-owned
Sun Piazza aquarium caters to local school children. Their building is small (no orca or dolphin shows here) but they do have a nice collection.

Sorry that I cannot show you photos of the inside.

akio ohnishi awarded prize for entrepreneurship

2017-01-24 SAPPORO, JAPAN -- Our friend and collaborator Akio Ohnishi (founder and CEO of VERSION2, Inc) received the Northern Entrepreneur Prize for 2016 from the Sapporo Chamber of Commerce in recognition of his outstanding achievement in starting and growing a software service company in Sapporo. Congratulations!

Scene from the award ceremony. Photo by the Sapporo Chamber of Commerce.

Excerpt of a brochure by the Sapporo Chamber of Commerce explaining why Akio Ohnishi deserves the award.

Clipping of news article that appeared in the Hokkaido Shimbun.

food ideas

2017-01-15 SAPPORO, JAPAN -- We've been searching for food ideas by dining at restaurants we usually don't go to because we can cook their food at home. But professional cooks do use more ingredients and present their dishes with flair. Much to learn, much to eat ...

A kushikatsu (deep-fried on-a-stick) restaurant gave me ideas that I must test and taste.

At a restaurant for okonomiyaki (pancakes made at your table with veggies, meat, fish, and eggs), we decided that mine is better!

nobuyasu is hired

2017-01-13 SAPPORO, JAPAN -- Our co-teacher Nobuyasu Obata accepted a job as a law professor. Congratulations!

We met when Nobuyasu was a grad student in the school of law. He was studying to become an academic in law, not a lawyer in legal practice. He was our TA while he was a grad student, and has been our co-teacher since he earned his PhD and was hired by Hokudai as a researcher in law. Just last night he received and accepted an offer to be a law professor at a private legal college. He came to my office to deliver the fantastic news. Way to go!
GK5B9351 copy


2017-01-12 SAPPORO, JAPAN -- Many years ago I won a prize from the Snapple soft drink company. The reverse side (the inside side) of a bottle cap told me to mail it to the company to claim a keychain. It was my trusty keychain for many years until the carabiner and cloth strap disintegrated.

After so many washings the strap shrunk and the Snapple logo faded. Worse, the strap came apart. Need to fix it before I lose my keys!

I bought a new carabiner and fabricated a new strap from a piece of leather strap I bought at a crafts store. 30 centimeters for a bit over 300 yen!

I sewed through the stitch holes that came with the leather strap. I still managed to break a needle.

I am rather embarrassed that this simple sewing task took me more than half an hour. All my friends fabricate fancy stuff, but this is my limit! *sigh*

manga postcards

2017-01-09 SAPPORO, JAPAN -- A pleasant surprise was waiting for us when we returned to Sapporo after visiting our family in Tokyo and Kanagawa.

The Shonen Sunday manga magazine sent me 2 new year's postcards with manga art. The 1st is
"指定暴力少女しおみちゃん" (Shiomi, the organized crime girl) by Kazuro Inouye, my favorite manga artist.

The 2nd is
"Ryoko" by Kaito Mitsuhashi. This series began a few months ago. I am already taken by the artwork. Ryoko is the main character (pictured below) who hunts gigantic vegetables that have become sentient animals through botched genetic engineering. Ryoko's storyline is similar to "eat or be eaten" motif that is becoming popular, for instance by Ryoko Kui's "ダンジョン飯" (Delicious in dungeon).

Each month I send Shonen Sunday postcards hoping that I would win a prize. I did win several months ago. In December I sent 4 postcards and won 2 prizes. Thanks Shonen Sunday!

maid cafe

2017-01-04 TOKYO, JAPAN -- Our friends Mari and Steve took us to a maid cafe in Akihabara. This was our first time at a maid cafe.

Heart of Hearts maid cafe is decorated in a middle school theme. They use school furniture for tables.

The friendly and cheerful girls drew a picture of Kerochan using chocolate syrup.


A bit pricey (expect to pay 1500 hearts (1 heart = 1 yen) an hour), but all in all quite wholesome (not erotic or risqué at all), totally non-smoking, and safe for kids of all ages and genders. Seekers of
moe would enjoy it most. That would be me!

I would certainly encourage my women students to work at a maid cafe, assuming they want to. It would teach us something about customer service. In this day and age, most store people behave as vending machines. Maids at maid cafes are extroverted, energetic, charming, attentive, and take pride in making you happy. Thanks and congratulations to the hard-working young women.

automated dolls

2017-01-02 TOKYO, JAPAN -- The Yume Karakuri Ichiza (Fantasy Automated Troupe) performed at the Edo Tokyo Museum. We were mesmerized by the intricate and creative gizmos.

Automated dolls were popular attractions starting from the late Edo period. Crowds would pay to see the spring-driven robots.

The Edo Tokyo Museum recreates a period theater.

This doll brings cups of tea to you, and after you finish your drink, it takes empty cups back.

This doll nocks 4 arrows in succession, and shoots at 2 targets. It often hits them.

This doll writes 4 kanji and 2 pictures on a piece of paper placed in the frame. He is programmed using replaceable sets of 3 rotating wooden disks that control the hand movement in 3 dimensions.

The mechanical parts of automated dolls were made mostly of wood. Compared to metal gears, wooden gears tend to be bulky and imprecise. Springs were made of whale baleen. Whale baleen is now impossible to obtain, and the lack of material hinders the restoration of antique dolls. Modern automated dolls use brass springs. The non-mechanical parts -- faces, hands, hair, clothes, cabinets -- were made similarly to non-robotic dolls, just like hina dolls made today.

koto (a 13-string instrument) player that troupe leader Susumu Higashino has been building for several years. Her dress has been removed to reveal her mechanism.

Example of original baleen spring. Decay is evident.

The troupe leader Susumi Higashino was trained as a wood carver, and begun collecting antiques when he was a young man. He then spent decades discovering, restoring, and reconstructing automated dolls.

Some time ago, Susumi Higashino suffered an illness causing him to lose control of his right hand. He used his left hand to autograph his DVD for me.

The jacket from the DVD.

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.