technology

ig nobel prize

2018-06-03 SAPPORO, JAPAN -- I attended a double-header talk by 2 professors who won Ig Nobel prizes. The talks were fascinating!

Professor Kazunori Yoshizawa (pictured left) won the Biology Prize in 2017 for discovering a female penis and a male vagina in an insect that lives in Brazilian caves. Professor Toshiyuki Nakagaki (center) won the Cognitive Science Prize in 2008 and the Transportation Planning Prize in 2010 for his study of feeding behavior of true slime moulds. The person pictured on the right is a clown dressed like an MC.
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You can scratch your head about what these highly educated people are doing with your taxes. There is serious science behind their affable personality. Evolution manifests itself most speedily in sexual organs, I learned. True slime molds are mono-cellular organisms containing many nuclei. These molds exhibit considerable intelligence, some of which we cannot understand.

Commemorative prizes and awards were unceremoniously given to the professors in the spirit of the Ig Nobel prize itself.
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institute of low temperature science

2018-06-02 SAPPORO, JAPAN -- We toured Hokudai's Institute of Low Temperature Science. This is one of Hokudai's premier research facilities.

The exterior admittedly looks like a government building. That's because that's essentially what it is!
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Hokudai's research team went to Antarctica to drill ice. Some parts of the cold continent are exposed (that is, there is no ice or snow) but most are covered by glaciers whose mean thickness is 2200 meters (this means you need to dig 2200 meters before hitting rock). The thickest ice is about 4200 meters.
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The research team drilled ice using metal tubes. Think giant drinking straws made of stainless steel. Each drilling sequence yielded ice core samples that were 4 meters long. Drill down, pull up, drill down ... After nearly 3 years they hit bedrock 3300 meters below the surface of the glacier.
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The institute stores ice core samples. The deeper the older, and due to the age and pressure, the larger the ice crystals. In the picture below, the cross section specimens of the ice are arranged with the younger layers above and the older below. Note how crystal sizes increase with age and depth.
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Large blocks of single ice crystals are rare.
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The ice core samples are stored at -50 degrees C. Noriko's hair froze like mouse whiskers! I knew I would start to freeze in an hour or two ... but I didn't feel the cold during the 15 minutes we were in the reefer.
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The freezer equipment is not exotic. -40 C is common in the food industry. The room is cold (and hence dry) enough that frost does not accumulate on the freezer.
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camera mount adaptor

2018-05-29 SAPPORO, JAPAN -- I purchased a camera mount adaptor that allows me to attach a camera lens with a Sony-Minolta alpha mount to a camera body with a Pentax K mount.

The adaptor arrived 2 weeks ago from America. I usually ask vendors to ship US products to our home in the US. This time I had the adaptor shipped to Japan because the equipment is in Japan and I didn't want to wait.
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I bought this adaptor specifically to use my mom's
Sony-Minolta 500 mm reflex lens with my Pentax K-5 digital single-lens reflex camera. Kindly excuse the dust on the equipment.
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I have been experimenting the past 2 weeks. Results have been underwhelming.

The reason must be the corrective lens in the adaptor. The corrective lens is the piece of glass in the center of the adaptor in the 1st picture. Its purpose is to change the optical distance between the camera lens and camera body so that the image focuses on the image sensor. If the adaptor did not use a corrective lens, all camera lenses with Sony-Minolta alpha mount would become "near-sighted", that is, they may focus at close distances to the subject, but not at infinity.

The pictures below are untrimmed JPEG images straight from the camera. All pictures were taken hand-held, because I intend to use the equipment hand-held to photograph flying aircraft in strong daylight.

Here is a half moon. Can't call this image "sharp".
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Full moon. Hrrmmph.
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Microwave radio tower. The air was clear when this picture was taken. The washed-out colors of the foliage in the background are disappointing.
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Traffic cones placed in the parking lot beneath my apartment (we live on the 10th floor). The image is usable if it were for, say, keeping records during construction work or for collecting evidence during a criminal investigation. But the image lacks crispness and contrast.
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I cannot recommend this camera mount adaptor. In the past, I tried various ways to attach this lens to this camera
without using a corrective lens. In order to focus close to or at infinity (roughly beyond 50 meters from the camera), I needed to position the lens and body carefully together. Tricky, yet possible. Alas, a mount-adaptor engineer refused to build one for me. So I had been looking for a solution. Thought I found it ... doesn't work as well I wanted. End of a $60 experiment.

edix

2018-05-17 TOKYO, JAPAN -- We attended EDIX, a trade show for technology in learning.

We rode the
yurikamome train. The automated trains are unmanned (no driver or conductor), and are monitored remotely.
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Cloudy, cool, breezy, comfortable day.
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We attend EDIX each year. Recently they started doing shows in Osaka. Glad to see growing interest in the field.
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smoke detectors

2018-05-05 TOKYO, JAPAN -- We replaced our smoke detector, and added 4 more.

This is our old detector that I installed 22 years ago. I brought it from America.
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Japan's law recently changed. They now require smoke detectors (at last!).
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Our new made-in-Japan units come with 10-year batteries.
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motion sensor lights

2018-04-29 TOKYO, JAPAN -- During a 10-day series of national holidays, we returned to Tokyo.

My brother Kan replaced a motion-sensor light fixture for us. The old units were installed by him 22 years ago.
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Let there be light!
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artificial intelligence trade show

2018-04-04 TOKYO, JAPAN -- We visited a trade show about artificial intelligence and content.

I cannot believe the number of vendors selling AI-related products and services.
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Lots of graphic artists and manga artists ready to visualize your concepts.
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replace laptop battery

2018-04-01 TOKYO, JAPAN -- Noriko's laptop battery gave up the ghost.

This MacBookAir is easy to open and upgrade. Some years ago, I replaced the hard disk with a solid state drive.
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This is my first time replacing the battery of this particular laptop.
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The old battery swelled to over 5 times its original thickness. Glad I disposed of it in time!
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mini misadventure

2018-03-04 HEBO, OREGON, USA -- Summary: I got our truck stuck in the snow. Friendly passersby pulled us out. Nobody hurt, nothing broken.

We had several days of warm weather. We drove up a hill for a hike. At the bottom of the hill, the road was dry.
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Halfway up, we encountered snow. It didn't look bad at first.
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Less than 3 minutes later I got us stuck.
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Various passersby helped us.

One family called us a tow truck. The tow truck never came, because apparently they require (1) confirmation by the police or fire department, or (2) persistent requests by the driver of the vehicle.

Another family drove us back to our truck, after we walked down the hill to get help.

A third car pulled us out of the snow. They attached a chain to the front of their truck and to the rear of mine. We put our trucks in reverse. A young strong man pushed my truck sideways to get it out the rut.
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We gave the 2 men an unopened bag of
sembei we had. The men have friends in Japan and coincidentally had recently enjoyed sembei that their friend had given them. They were happy to get more.

I am grateful for everybody's generosity. I want to help people too.

computer games

2018-01-27 TOKYO, JAPAN -- I rarely play computer games. Lately I have become addicted (temporarily, I'm certain) to 2 games: 虹色カノジョ (Dream Girlfriend) and 旅かえる (Travel Frog). Noriko is ambivalent to the former (although many girls and adult women play it) and shares my passion with the latter. I play both games for free.

I learned of Dream Girlfriend when I bought my Amazon Kindle Fire 10 tablet. Apparently the game has been around since 2015, perhaps even before that. The game is still actively being developed.

Just in case you are concerned, there is no sex or violence in the game. You meet a young female android, and you help her choose hair styles and clothing. That's all! The storyline is essentially non-existent (neither goal nor growth) and the conversations are brief ("Let's take a walk in the snow", "Good idea", the end).

The game's allure (to me at least) is the fantastic artwork. Japanese manga and anime graphic creativity at its best. You can imagine lots of back stories or fan fiction just by combining backgrounds with your girlfriend's hairdo and outfits.

The screenshot below shows my girlfriend Panko (meaning she-panda, not bread crumbs) working as a docent at a museum. Panko knows a lot about the history of the castle, and is working towards her PhD in architectural design ...
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Travel Frog is a brand-new game, released on 2017-11-24, just 2 months ago. I learned of Travel Frog from an article in the
New York Times (I subscribe for $1 per week), which reported a new Japanese-language game becoming the rage in China. Apparently 96 percent of downloads are for players in China, with only 1 percent for Japan. And this is without localization (that is, the game has not yet been translated to Chinese or English language).

Noriko and I suspect that the designer of the game must have been secretly observing our lives -- perhaps they work for the NSA? Or CIA? Or the Xinhua news agency? Whatever. Here is a frog that travels the world and takes selfies (photos of himself) and sends back souvenirs. Sounds just like our own frog Kerochan! And he has a snail for a friend! That's my dad-in-law! The inexplicable uncanny resemblance to our family is endless!

Travel Frog lives in a delightful house located within a hollow rock. Here's a screenshot of Travel Frog at home.
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robot talk

2018-01-08 BEAVERTON, OREGON, USA -- We attended a robot talk and demonstration. The talk took place in a building adjacent to my old office at OHSU.

Dave Shinsel recently retired from Intel, and builds robots as a hobby. His creations are professional level, high-end serious stuff. One of his latest robots appears in a
Microsoft Surface commercial.
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Most of the shell of the robot is made using a 3D printer. Some parts, such as the head, ears, and hips, are made from plastic globes sold at pet stores for gerbils and hamsters to play in.
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Dave disassembled the robot so that we could peek inside.
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Noriko and I loved the technical presentation and demonstrations. Apart from the robotics, what impressed me was the aging of the engineers. I belong to the same generation. Computer science is no longer a young field! We are past-middle-age senior-citizen geezers. Shocking!

chimney cleaning

2018-01-02 LINCOLN CITY, OREGON, USA -- We had our chimney and wood stove cleaned and inspected.

We cleaned our family room in preparation for cleaning.
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Chance from Robben gave our chimney and stove a clean bill of health. Yay!
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ipad

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.
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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.
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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.
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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.

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.
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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.
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Our new opener can be opened and closed via an internet connection. This is our 1st smart home appliance.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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Bokeo (whom we adopted from our sister Keiko) has become our household deity for internet.
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We froggified the living room wall with pages from our frog calendar.
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mechanical music museum

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

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.
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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.
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Pleasure craft from all over the area, some from France, many from Holland.
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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.
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A seaman's choir belted out nautical tunes in several languages.
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Food, food, food. They said they would attempt to create a Guinness world record for the world's largest dining table serving mosselen (mussels).
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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.
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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.
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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.)
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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The museum interior is unusually dark. The dim lights add romantic drama. As an engineer, I am more interested in clearly seeing mechanics.
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Kero the train engineer. Try as I might, I could not make heads or tails of the steam locomotive's controls.
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Posters and sales brochures from yesteryear.
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The dining car of the Orient Express, a brilliant sales idea by the Belgians.
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Hergé illustrated brochures for the railways.
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eclipse

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.
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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.
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I made something that looks like a mortar hat that you wear for graduation.
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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.
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I made filters for our video camcorder, binoculars, and monocular.
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I also made one for my eye glasses. Bad idea, because the silver coating reflects the image of my face.
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Various gear lined up for action.
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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!
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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.)
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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.
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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.
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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!
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During totality we saw very little around us. Noriko and Kero were fascinated with looking at the sun without protective filters.
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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.
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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.
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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?
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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!
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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.
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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.
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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.
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EDIX

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.
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The show runs for 3 days. I went every day.
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Lots of opportunities to try out new technology.
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Vendors explain their technology of course. I like to hear experiences from teachers who use the technology.
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Our own technology was well represented. Glexa is becoming known.
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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.

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

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Reflection on water is clear but the surrounding rocks are blurred.
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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.
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The blurred images are wildly distorted.
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Distortion can stimulate fleeting interest. Here is a night shot of lightfish swimming from the city lights of Sapporo.
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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.
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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).
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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.
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Replacement
requires dexterity rather than knowledge of tools. The photo below shows the focusing screen removed from its metal frame.
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A close-up photograph of my former focusing screen (a Pentax type ML-60) shows that my new screen is roughly on focus.
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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".
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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.
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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.
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Focusing is much faster and easier than before! With manual focus, split-image focus is my favorite!

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 ...
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Move everything out into the hallway. Most of it made its way back, because I couldn't bring myself to throw it out.
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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.
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Hard for you to believe, but this is better than before.
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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.
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The cable broke at the base of the strain-relief collar.
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Ready to tin the cables on the power supply side.
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Tinned, soldered, and heat-shrunk (is that a word?). I mean "heat-shrink tubing shrunk and applied".
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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.
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LED lights

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

The rear light assembly and the factory-original incandescent reverse light bulb.
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The new LED reverse light bulb.
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Side-by-side comparison of new and old light colors, intensities, and beam patterns as seen reflected off the interior surface of our garage door. Left: new LED is whiter and brighter. Right: old incandescent is yellower and dimmer.
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I wanted to also replace the headlights. In Oregon, people drive with their headlights on even during daytime. At night, headlights are crucial because the highways are not lit. For some time I had noticed that our headlights seemed dim, partly because my eyes are aging, and partly because many other cars have whiter brighter lights. Alas amazon.com shipped me the wrong part, so I have to send it back. Better luck next time.

keroppi day hopper

2014-05-17 SAPPORO, JAPAN -- Over 20 years ago on an iMac-DVD running OS 8, Noriko and I enjoyed “Keroppi Day Hopper”, a software application developed in the USA for children. The software manufacturer did not update the application, so it stopped running when the operating system evolved to MacOS 10. I resurrected “Keroppi Day Hopper” by installed Windows 98 on top of Parallels 9 on my latest laptop running MacOS 10.9. Noriko and I enjoy watching the pictures.

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tesla electric car

2012-12-27 TIGARD, OREGON -- Tesla, the all-electric automobile manufacturer headquartered in Palo Alto, California, markets its vehicles by displaying them at shopping malls across the country. All vehicles are configured to order. Prices are fixed. In the beginning Tesla built 5 cars a week. Their production facilities in Fremont, California currently assembles 400 per week. 17,000 customers have bought, or are waiting delivery of, their Tesla. The wait is 9 to 10 months long.

I have been reading about the Tesla cars. This was the first time I saw one. I’m not alone -- the local maintenance shop in Portland (located on 72nd Street in Tigard) does not have a sign outside because the Tesla employees want to concentrate on servicing vehicles. If they had a sign, then passersby would drop in to see cars. The maintenance facility does not display or sell cars. Most customers talk to sales representatives at shopping malls, or go online to place their order.

Tesla display at Washington Square Mall.


Tesla’s 4-door sedan with sunroof. There’s nothing under the hood.


The trunk is capacious too.


Tesla is an all-electric vehicle. Not a fossil-fuel and electricity hybrid. This is your toy car that runs on batteries. Except you get in and drive it.


Their core component is a battery slab between the front and rear axles.


2 electric motors are placed adjacent to the rear axle.


I don’t know why the shock absorbers are so tall.


Electric motors generate full torque from low revolutions.


Tesla’s Roadster is a 2-door cabriolet (open car). Acceleration is rumored to be phenomenal.


I’m too tall for the cockpit. My eyes come at the top edge of the windshield.


Oregon dealer plates. We can buy Teslas in Oregon now!


In several years, prices are expected to drop to $30,000.

prime dates

2012-11-22 SAPPORO, JAPAN -- I am obsessed with primes. Prime numbers that is.

My birthday 617 (06-17, June 17th) is prime. Is yours? Don’t know? Don’t worry, I made a list of all days in the year that are prime.

01-01 01-03 01-07 01-09 01-13 01-27 01-31
02-11 02-23 02-27 02-29
03-07 03-11 03-13 03-17 03-31
04-01 04-09 04-19 04-21
05-03 05-09 05-21 05-23
06-01 06-07 06-13 06-17 06-19
07-01 07-09 07-19 07-27
08-09 08-11 08-21 08-23 08-27 08-29
09-07 09-11 09-19 09-29
10-09 10-13 10-19 10-21 10-31
11-03 11-09 11-17 11-23 11-29
12-01 12-13 12-17 12-23 12-29 12-31

Did you know that New Year’s Eve (12-31) and New Year’s Day (01-01) are both prime? Can you find another instance of 2 successive prime days? The answer: 03-31 and 04-01. And that’s not because I put a 0 at the beginning of the day of the month. (I’m an engineer and use ISO-8601.) Even if I didn’t (and used 11 for January 1st and 41 for April 1st) we still get 2 prime days in a row.

This also means that, in Japan, both the calendar year and the academic year start and end on prime days.

You notice that there 59 days that are prime, including 02-29 (the leap year prime). So 1 in every 6.203 days is prime. That’s more than 1 a week. However, the distribution of primes is uneven. Although both months of January and May have 31 days, January has 7 prime days, while May has only 4.

110 format camera


2012-07-31 SAPPORO, HOKKAIDO -- While shopping for something for work, I found (on a discontinued items table) a 110-format camera. A toy. A steal.

I want the Pentax auto100 super, a miniature single-lens reflex camera with interchangeable lenses for 110-format film. I wanted one but couldn’t afford it when they were being manufactured. They now have fan clubs in Japan and in the UK. I’m looking for a used specimen in useable condition.

Lomography manufactured a limited run of 110-format film. I bought 3 rolls of black and white that I hope to develop myself in the fall.

annular solar eclipse

Noriko and I went to Tokyo to attend a big trade show that covers online learning technology. We also had fun watching an annular solar eclipse!  Here are 3 photos I took from the rooftop of Noriko’s sister’s house in downtown Tokyo. Weather was haze and clouds. The smoke you see on the pictures isn't the corona, it's water in the atmosphere.

The pictures were taken at a time very close to the peak of the eclipse at our location (2012-05-21 07:33 Tokyo time) using different exposure settings.

We were all thrilled to watch the best astronomical show in hundreds of years.


For the occasion, I wore a T-shirt that I got at a total solar eclipse in Hawaii in 1991. That was a blast, too. It happened before Noriko and I were married. I went to Hawaii with my mom. We drove up and down the big island of Hawaii and found a sunny spot. Some people who stayed at their hotels weren’t so lucky. Weather is the name of the game in amateur astronomy!


scientific proof that santa claus does not exist

As a result of an overwhelming lack of requests, and with research help from that renowned scientific journal SPY magazine (January, 1990) --here is the annual scientific inquiry into Santa Claus.
1) No known species of reindeer can fly. BUT there are 300,000 species of living organisms yet to be classified, and while most of these are insects and germs, this does not COMPLETELY rule out flying reindeer which only Santa has ever seen.
2) There are 2 billion children (persons under 18) in the world. BUT since Santa doesn't (appear) to handle the Muslim, Hindu, Jewish and Buddhist children, that reduces the workload to 15% of the total - 378 million according to the Population Reference Reference Bureau. At an average (census) rate of 3.5 children per household, that's 91.8 million homes. One presumes there's at least one good child in each.
3) Santa has 31 hours of Christmas to work with, thanks to the different time zones and the rotation of the earth, assuming he travels east to west (which seems logical). This works out to 822.6 visits per second. This is to say that for each Christian household with good children, Santa has 1/1000th of a second to park, hop out of the sleigh, jump down the chimney, fill the stockings, distribute the remaining presents under the tree, eat whatever snacks have been left, get back up the chimney, get back into the sleigh and move on to the next house. Assuming that each of these 91.8 millions stops are evenly distributed around the earth (which, of course, we know to be false but for the purposes of our calculations we will accept), we are now talking about .78 miles per household, a total trip of 75-1/2 million miles, not counting stops to do what most of us must do at least once every 31 hours, plus feeding and etc.
This means that Santa's sleigh is moving at 650 miles per second, 3,000 times the speed of sound. For purposes of comparison, the fastest man-made vehicle on earth, the Ulysses space probe, moves at a poky 27.4 miles per second - a conventional reindeer can run, tops, 15 miles per hour.
4) The payload on the sleigh adds another interesting element. Assuming that each child gets nothing more than a medium-sized lego set (2 pounds), the sleigh is carrying 321,300 tons, not counting Santa, who is invariably described as overweight. On land, conventional reindeer can pull no more than 300 pounds. Even granting that "flying reindeer" (see point #1) could pull TEN TIMES the normal amount, we cannot do the job with eight, or even nine. We need 214,200 reindeer. This increases the payload - not even counting the weight of the sleigh - to 353,430 tons. Again, for comparison - this is four times the weight of the Queen Elizabeth.
5) 353,000 tons traveling at 650 miles per second creates enormous air resistance - this will heat the reindeer up in the same fashion as spacecraft re-entering the earth's atmosphere. The lead pair of reindeer will absorb 14.3 QUINTILLION joules of energy. Per second. Each. In short, they will burst into flame almost instantaneously, exposing the reindeer behind them, and create deafening sonic booms in their wake. The entire reindeer team will be vaporized within 4.26 thousandths of a second. Santa, meanwhile, will be subjected to centrifugal forces 17,500.06 times greater than gravity. A 250-pound Santa (which seems ludicrously slim) would be pinned to the back of his sleigh by 4,315,015 pounds of force.
In conclusion - If Santa ever DID deliver presents on Christmas Eve, he's dead now. Merry Christmas.

the first 24 hours at fukushima

Read IEEE’s coverage on the first 24 hours at Fukushima. There’s more to the story than what the Japanese government, power companies, and media are telling us.

massive solar flare!!

Check out Popular Science’s article on a massive solar flare that happened yesterday!
Just watching the video is fascinating enough.
Of course this means my amateur radio friends are having a headache but that’s another story.

online magazines

Here are a couple of online magazines that I enjoy:
Popular Science (I’m a geek, and proud of it)
Scientific American (I’m a scientist, and proud of it)

These websites keep me informed about the (sometimes dark) world of ours:
Frontline (investigative journalism at its best -- Japan’s journalists should cry in shame)
Newshour (formerly the “MacNeil Lehrer Newshour”)

An article about my former colleagues:
SRI shows the benefits of shrinking tech by CNET

TED talks

Looking for intellectual stimulation? How about a TED talk video. They come in English (challenging -- the content can be complex, and the talkers assume a native-speaker audience) and other languages including Japanese.

prime numbers

I’m fascinated with prime numbers. Prime numbers, or primes for short, are natural numbers that can be divided only by 1 or by itself. By definition, 1 is not prime. 2 is the only even prime. 17 is prime, and so is 617 (my birthday is 17 June). But my month of birth (6), year of birth (1961), and date of birth (19610617) are not.

This year, 2011, is prime. The next prime year is 2017.

So what are dates this year are prime? According to
prime-numbers.org, they are:

2011-01-09 (that’s 20110109 written in yyyy-mm-dd format)
2011-02-17
2011-03-01
2011-04-11
2011-04-29 (it’s a holiday, too!)
2011-05-11
2011-05-13 (wow, 2 prime dates 2 days apart! -- these are known as twin primes)
2011-05-23
2011-06-03
2011-06-13
2011-06-19 (aw shucks, my birthday isn’t prime! in fact I need to wait until 2027-06-17 for my prime birthday! and the one after that is 2036-06-17! neither of these are twin primes *sob*)
2011-08-01
2011-08-07
2011-08-19
2011-08-23 (4 primes in the month of august!)
2011-09-27
2011-10-11
2011-10-23 (my mom’s birthday is prime!)
2011-10-27
2011-12-13

My birthday (17) is a member of the only sexy prime quintuplet (5, 11, 17, 23, 29). Sexy prime quintuplets are a set of 5 primes satisfying the condition (p, p+6, p+12, p+18, p+24).

speech recognition may improve your pronunciation

My PhD research was in applying automatic speech recognition technology to nonnative pronunciation learning. My systems worked but they were cumbersome and showed only text and audio. Now people at www.englishcentral.com have built an online system where you watch videos and practice your pronunciation. Use a computer that has a speaker (or headphones), a microphone, and web browser, and Flash.

interview with an old timer

The “Transistor Gijutsu” (“Transistor Technology”) magazine is celebrating their 555th issue with a delightful interview with the inventor of the 555 timer IC (integrated circuit) designed in the 1970s. The interview is in English with Japanese subtitles.