work party

2021-05-03 KAWASAKI, JAPAN -- Mom, Kan and I enjoyed a work party at mom's house.

Kan installed track-lighting fixtures for the dining room ceiling. A suspended light for eating and a wide angle light for walking around the room.

Kan and I installed anti-skid strips on the stairs. The strips have adhesive backing and glow in the dark. I recommend laying strips end to end (that is, the full width of the steps) instead of only at the center (that is, where you are likely to walk) because you can see the entire step (which makes your staircase look wider, and aids in placing your feet especially when carrying items down the stairs) and in case you slip sideways the strips near the end of the steps will stop you.

Kan and I pressure-washed and bleached the driveway. This should keep the moss and mildew at bay through the end of summer. I got bleach splashed all over my almost brand-new jumpsuit. Honorable casualty of war.

Mom's minnows and water hyacinths are multiplying fast. She grows several thousand each year.

water timer

2021-04-30 MINAMI-BOSO, JAPAN -- Dad's former house draws water from a well. When he lived there full time, he used enough water so that the water and plumbing were clear of debris and organic matter. Water quality deteriorates when the well is not used. I want to draw water from the well and through the plumbing to keep the water clear. I got a water timer, originally designed to turn sprinklers on and off, to run the well water pump when I am away.

The timer is roughly the size of a grapefruit.

One end (the right side pictured above, the top side pictured below) attaches to the faucet. The other end (the left side pictured above, the bottom side pictured below) connects to a garden hose. The center part consists of the timer and solenoid. The device runs on 4 AAA batteries, which, according to the manufacturer, should last about a year.

I wanted to attach it to the bath tub faucet to protect the device from the elements. Alas the bath tub faucet leaks. So I attached the water timer to the garden faucet.

I covered the faucet and timer with a bucket to protect them from the sun, wind, and rain. I observed operation for 2 days. Seems okay ... for now. The device has a dismal record of failing, according to some people who have used it. Many users have no complaints. Let's see how lucky I turn out to be.

romance car museum

2021-04-27 EBINA, JAPAN -- Mom, Noriko and I visited the Odakyu Romance Car Museum. They opened 8 days ago on 2021-04-19.

The building is a garage for trains that is located next to Ebina train station and yard.

The trains on display are mostly retired express trains that required a surcharge over the standard fare. Passengers were assigned reserved seating in plush interior. The trains were designed for pleasure travel, and were called "Romance Cars". Later, starting about 30 years ago, the railway company introduced express trains for commuters, so that business people could sit in their own reserved seat instead of being squished on packed trains.

One car was an old passenger car from when the railway began business. I do not recall seeing this model, although when I was in middle school a similar car without seats carried light freight (such as bales of newspapers) each morning to shops on platforms. At night I would hear the whirring of the direct current electric motors. Life was simpler and quieter then.

Only recently did I learn why train wheels are sloped -- that is, the inner diameter is larger than the outer. I watched a video of Richard Feynman explaining the mechanism. Hint: rail car axles lack differentials.

An intricate diorama of backdrop video displays and miniature landscape and rolling stock is a highlight of the exhibit. The models are so nice that I doubt railway personnel built them. They must be made by professional modelers. Kindly excuse me if I am wrong. I would love to learn that railway employees love their trade and posses talent in model trains.

clean trumpet

2021-04-21 TOKYO, JAPAN -- I cleaned my trumpet (a Yamaha YTR-8310Z) using an ultrasonic bath with dish soap, and thiourea.

Ultrasound gets the gunk out fast.

Thiourea smells bad so do this on a breezy day. Until now I used a cloth to polish the silver finish. Thiourea works faster and deeper. I was able to clean surfaces that my fat fingers couldn't reach with a cloth.

My trumpet is the cleanest it has been since new. I found lots of tiny dents that I have no recollection of creating!

electronic keyboard

2021-04-07 TOKYO, JAPAN -- A few months ago on 2021-01-27, I bought a cheap electronic keyboard, a Casio CT-S200. About $150 (about $120 in USA, lucky Americans!).

I was super excited when the keyboard was delivered.

I use the keyboard in the evening to practice reading music. I find that practicing reading tires my chops (that is, my cheeks and lips), so learning on keyboard is physically easier, plus I can do this in the evening without disturbing neighbors. I play the keyboard with my left hand partly because I am having trouble with my right hand, specifically trigger-finger on my 4th finger (ring finger). The doctor says "no trumpet!". Well I can't use that as an excuse can I? so I practice ...

This keyboard is perfect for my needs and ability. The device has numerous limitations that don't bother me -- the keyboard has 61keys (that's only 5 octaves but that's 2 more than my range on trumpet), only 48 voices (that is, notes that can be played at the same time -- that's 47 more that my monophonic trumpet), lacks touch-sensitive keys (it has simple switches that play notes at full volume regardless of finger pressure -- perfect for me because I cannot coordinate finger strength), and blasphemous "Casio-chords" (shortcuts for playing chords, for instance pressing C plays major triad CEG -- nice because I get to hear what chords sound like). I can transpose the keyboard to Bb to match my trumpet pitch (I transpose 10 semitones up so that the lower range of the keyboard is raised an octave).

My new keyboard replaces my older keyboard, a Casio SA-46 (about $35). My previous keyboard has much smaller keys that may suit young children but are awkward for my fat adult fingers. I often used the eraser end of a pencil to press the keys.

When I bought my older keyboard, I was not confident how much help a keyboard would be for me, so I bought a cheap model. Later, I discovered that even with my rudimentary keyboard skills (that are not the focus of my music practice) I benefit from having a keyboard that fits my body size. So I saved my pocket money and bought a new one. I still have my old keyboard because I rarely sell or discard old equipment.

Both my old and new keyboards are lightweight and run on 6 AA batteries. I can easily carry them to my coffee table (I sit on the floor) or bed (I play on my lap).


car breaks down

2021-04-01 MINAMI-BOSO, JAPAN -- I didn't need an April's Fools joke this year because I experienced something similar in real life. My rental car broke down.

Dad had a tiny all-wheel-drive vehicle that could climb the driveway to where the well water holding tank is. I parked the rental minivan (a Toyota Noah, not sold in USA) at the bottom of the driveway, like I always do, because I don't have the courage, and the car doesn't have the strength.

The car wouldn't start. The cell motor ran with gusto, battery was fine, but engine wouldn't start. I called the rental car company, which sent me a mechanic. He came right away (nice surprise) in a tiny passenger car (not a tow truck). He didn't bring many tools (surprise).

The mechanic tried a few things, and then told me that the car's computer is refusing to inject fuel into the cylinders because the computer detected one or more errors that he can only determine when the car is connected to a diagnostic computer at the shop. Even then, he said, we may never know what went wrong, because the diagnostic tool only tells you which parts to replace. Wow, 3rd surprise of the day (1st was the breakdown, 2nd was the tiny passenger car).

The mechanic drove away, saying he needed to get back to his garage to fetch a tow truck.

I went back into the house, spent a few more nights there, and rode the bus home. The nearest bus stop is 1500 meters (about 0.9 miles) away. 6 buses each direction per day on weekdays, 4 on weekends. Not bad for a remote rural location. In fact I am planning to switch to traveling by buses once I finish bringing items to dad's house. There's a 2-hour bus ride from downtown Tokyo to Tateyama, the major city nearby, followed by a 20-minute bus ride from Tateyama to close to dad's house.

After 3 weeks the car was finally repaired. They never told me what went wrong with it.

laptop battery

2021-03-16 TOKYO, JAPAN -- I replaced the battery for Noriko's laptop computer. Quick to do, once I got the replacement battery.

Kero blesses the equipment prior to replacement.

Appropriate screwdrivers facilitate assembly. I happen to own these somewhat arcane screwdrivers. The battery comes with screwdrivers for people who don't have them.

Disconnect the old, factory-original battery.

For the replacement, I chose a brand with a reasonable reputation.

Ready to go!

pressure washing

2021-03-04 MINAMI-BOSO, JAPAN -- I borrowed my brother's pressure washer to clean the house and discourage wasps from building nests.

The awning and eaves are prime real estate for wasps. Apparently wasps (hornets, yellow jackets) avoid areas that can occasionally get wet. So I blasted water all over the place!

Remnant of old wasp nest. I blasted most of the nest away. Wasps use a nest for a year and then abandon it.

I also pressure-washed the stairs leading up to the house.

The back porch is organized and sanitized.

After a day's work, enjoy practicing trumpet looking out the window, without a care for bothering neighbors -- they live too far away to hear me.The rectangular object hanging from the curtain rail near the top center of the picture is the WIMAX mobile internet device.

My sheet music is on my computer tablet. I use a camera tripod as my music stand.

screen door

2021-02-28 TOKYO, JAPAN -- I installed a screen door at our kitchen door. The door is great for ventilating the house. Alas in summer bugs come in. No worries now!

Me with the screen door kit.

The hardware is nicely manufactured, but the instructions are horrible. They need a technical writer.

We got it to work, and we're thrilled with the result.

rural internet

2021-02-20 MINAMI-BOSO, JAPAN -- I have been visiting dad's old house regularly. Today I learned that internet has arrived at our remote location.

I use WIMAX, a mobile internet service that costs about $45 per month for unlimited data. Speed varies by location. Until my last visit, there was no high-speed coverage. Now there is! Yay! I am delighted even with the low speeds (I get faster uplink and downlink speeds in town) because it's enough to do what I want and much better than before. Although we still cannot get wired internet connections, such as fiber or cable TV or ADSL, I don't care!

miura peninsula

2021-02-18 MIURA, JAPAN -- Mom and I visited for our first time the southern tip of Miura peninsula, located on the west side of Tokyo bay.

Great weather and awesome scenery.

I love Tokyo winters. The air is clear, crisp, dry, and not too cold. The clear skies give us nice views of Mt Fuji in the distance.

Their new lighthouse (just opened) looks like a daikon upside down. The Miura penisula is famous for their excellent daikon.

online conference

2021-02-05 TOKYO, JAPAN -- I attended the CamTESOL (conference in Cambodia for Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages) this year online. Last year I was physically there. I would love to visit again. For the purpose of attending conferences, I am beginning to favor online gatherings.


well pump

2021-02-02 MINAMI-BOSO, JAPAN -- For the first time, I stayed over at my dad's old house. He used to live near the southern tip of the Boso peninsula east of Tokyo bay. The house has stood vacant for some time.

We had a problem with the well water pump. I asked the plumber who installed it originally to repair it. His work was expensive and sloppy. I cleaned the holding tank, inside and out.

The holding tank holds 300 liters of water. There are 2 pumps: 1 at the well-head down the steep driveway, and 1 at the holding tank. The 1st pump draws water from the well and raises it to the holding tank. The 2nd pump sends water from the holding tank to the house.

Clean the house, enjoy it for some years, and then sell it.

It's 200 meters (1/8 mile) to the nearest house, and that is with a hill in between. I cannot hear the local farmers riding their tractors. The songs of birds, frogs, and trees are all I hear. This is a wonderful place to practice trumpet (haha) or seriously, music, wood working, pottery, what have you. Close to shops yet far from neighbors.

experiment with rooftop antenna

2021-01-16 TOKYO, JAPAN -- My new amateur radio license allows me to experiment with radio transmissions. I tried setting up an antenna on my flat rooftop.

I began by attaching connectors to coaxial cable. Here is my new heat gun in action. (My old butane torch gave up the ghost.)

I enjoyed this Cushcraft R7 antenna when we lived in Palo Alto. The antenna has been in storage since 1996. 25 years!

The antenna is pretty long.

Oh boy the wind! I am not comfortable installing an antenna so close to our neighbors. Instead of downtown Tokyo, I will set up my antenna at my dad's old house (he no longer lives there) in rural Chiba prefecture.

new callsign for amateur radio

2021-01-08 TOKYO, JAPAN -- I received my new amateur radio license. My new callsign JK1EAS is recycled (that is, somebody had it before). This is my 3rd callsign in Japan, after 7L1FQE and JM8AGU.


new year's food

law would not have wanted us to skip New Year's celebrations on her account. So Noriko and I visited my mom. We had osechi (New Year's fancy food) and ankou (monk fish) pot. We bought a whole ankou and spent a few days finishing it.