clean the office

2022-03-02 TO 2022-03-18 TOKYO, JAPAN -- TUFS (pronounced [təfs], like "tough" + "s", short for Tokyo University of Foreign Studies) gave me and my 3 colleagues a nice room. It was formerly used, I understand, by a British team that coordinated exchange programs between the UK and Japan. The program was suspended by the nCOVID-19 pandemic, and the staff left. The room stood vacant for some time until it was given to us.

View of half of the office looking at the hallway door, before I organized the furniture. My 2 backpacks are on the conference table. For the 1st week or so, I would come to work wearing 2 backpacks full of cleaning supplies, stationery items, hardware tools, and computer gear. On my way home the smaller backpack would fit in the other and I walked faster!

2 tables that were originally placed end-to-end (see photo above) were re-arranged side-by-side (see photo below) and placed against a whiteboard along the wall.

2 desks for our 2 software engineers originally faced the wall. I suggested to them, and they agreed, that facing the windows would be pleasant.

View from the hallway door facing the windows. The engineers' desks are on the lower left of the photo. The conference table is seen on the lower right. Behind the cubicle wall is my soon-to-arrive colleague, an assistant professor of Japanese as a foreign language. My desk is seen on the far left. I have no partitioning wall, although my monitor unintendedly functions as such.

Against the walls, from left to right, our printer, whiteboard, stick vacuum cleaner, official shopping basket (for carrying items on campus), microwave, fridge, wall clock, tea cabinet, hot water pot, mirror, and sink. I intend to get a coffee kit for my colleagues. I myself drink tea daily; maybe 3 cups of coffee a year.

Engineer Land, seen from its right. The 2 guys do not want a screen or partition between the 2 desks. They removed the wheeled screen I placed for them. Instead they put the screen between their desk and the window to shield the late-afternoon sun reflecting off the windows of the building next to us. They still have a nice view and we can talk to each other. I like this layout.

Placed beneath the engineers' desks are development servers and their uninterruptible power supplies. The production machines are in a server room, which I have yet to visit.

View from hallway door when I arrived on the 1st train the other day.

At 05:45 the sky is still dark this time of year.

On my desk, from left to right: (1) My favorite bookstand. I own 3 of this model. (2) My Sony 50-inch monitor, with an Apple MacMini beneath it, next to the monitor's left leg. (3) My Wacom drawing tablet, which allows me to annotate documents freehand. (4) My Panasonic phone with bi-aural headset, my trusted companion since I worked in California. The headset lets me take notes or type while I talk on the phone. If you look closely you might notice that the telephone handset is missing its spiral cord -- I never use the handset, but it needs to stay there or the phone will go off hook.
Not shown in this photo: (5) My computer headphones for online meetings. The headphones are so effective in isolating noise that I did not hear my phone ring. I need to bring headphones that let me hear ambient sound in addition to computer audio. (6) Electrical power supplies and cabling. I am rather proud of having organized them neatly. The cabling is suspended on the bottom side of the table top so that they do not gather dust and I do not kick them.

All this happened over the course of 18 days. Not bad!

new job

2022-03-01 TO 2022-03-04 TOKYO, JAPAN -- Our eldest daughter got me a new job!

I was hired by the
Tokyo University of Foreign Studies (Japan's top language school) to improve their online learning environment. I belong to the Online Learning Support Team. I will not be teaching courses, but instead, helping teachers teach theirs.

My office is in the white-and-brown structure to the left as one enters the campus main gate.

View from my 3rd-floor window facing east. The main buildings are connected by an elevated ring road, which allows pedestrians to cross campus without being overrun by bicycles! I am not sure that that is the design rationale, but it does function that way.

Another view from my widow. From between buildings, I glimpse general aviation aircraft taking off from
Chofu airport a few blocks away. The skyline is low, close to the horizon, because the airport prohibits tall structures near it.

I share an office with 3 other team members. They are not here yet; they should arrive by 2022-04-01. 2 of them are being internally transferred, and 1 is being hired. I am the 1st of 4 people in this new team. We do not have a website yet. I need to work on that ...

I prepare for my colleagues' arrival by organizing furniture and cleaning everything. Sirokuro keeps an eye on progress.

I am sure my colleagues would like hot beverages. I cleaned the hot water pot with citric acid. I verified the outcome by brewing myself a cup of tea.


I cleaned my own section too. The right half of the cabinet is my space.

I placed my new monitor on my spic-and-span table. I use a table, not a desk, because I do not use drawers. I prefer legroom.

Whoppee! Opening my new computer!

First Boot. Before this can happen, the furniture needs to be arranged and cleaned. After booting, my computer files need to be migrated. It takes a while ...

Once my files are migrated, I logged in, and updated the operating system. Wait a while ... Kicked the power cable loose by mistake. Wait a while ...

I had problems with the network and email servers. Technicians came to help a number of times. I used my laptop in the time being.

Once network access was stabilized, I was able to join staff training. This one is for ethics.

More details to follow in the coming days, weeks, and months. For now, I am grateful, eager, bewildered, and excited!

frog pond

2022-02-16 CHIBA, JAPAN -- I started building a pond at my dad's former house. We are hoping for frogs to come.

I chose a spot that seems a bit closer to the rice fields at the bottom of our hill.

I dug a shallow hole, shaped like a box, 1 x 1.5 x 0.3 meters (roughly 3 x 5 x 1 feet).

We had bought a pond liner (a thick plastic sheet) that stops water from leaking. This sheet is 3 x 4.5 meters (10 x 15 feet).

I covered the hole and the sides with the pond liner, and held down the edges with bricks.

I could have used a garden hose to fill the pond, but instead chose to carry bucket-loads of water, partly for exercise and partly to slowly fill the pond so that the pond liner would settle and conform to the contours of the pond.

I tossed in several water hyacinths that my mom gave me in the fall. The plants are almost dead, except for some green spots that give me hope.

Took only 3 hours. I washed the buckets and sharpened my shovel for next time.

I will let the pond settle for a week or so, and then adjust the pond liner surrounding it.

revive camera

2022-01-21 TOKYO, JAPAN -- I revived my Pentax Q-S1 camera by cleaning the electronic contacts that transmit information between the body and the lens.

The camera body has 10 gold-plated pins arranged in an arc.

The body's pins mate with the 9 gold-plated pads on the lens. 1 long pad (probably the electric ground) connect to 2 pins on the camera body. Streaks mark where the pins rubbed against the pads.

The camera had been operating erratically. I was unable to determine the cause, until I noticed that during some malfunctions, the camera displayed an error message regarding auto-focus. I suspected the electronic contacts, and cleaned them, first with ethanol (ethyl alcohol) and then with electronic contact cleaner.

Sunhayato is a Japanese manufacturer of tools and supplies for building PCB (printed circuit boards). In the USA, I used to buy from MG Chemicals. Japan uses positive photo-resist, while USA prefers negative, so the black-and-white circuit patterns must be reversed. But I digress. Sunhayato sells handy chemicals that make life easier for the hobbyist or professional electronic technician. This contact cleaner comes in a tiny bottle with a brush attached to the cap, just like nail polish.

The cleaning seems to have eliminated hang-ups, at least for now.

The Q-S1 camera is one of my favorites. I regret not having bought it before the Pentax Q series was discontinued. I waited too long, hoping in vain that a newer model would be released (instead, the whole series disappeared) and before I knew it, the Q cameras were sold out. Except, some years later, Pentax sold back stock (that is, cameras in their storage) for list price. I kicked myself for my indecisiveness and paid the penalty!

nagoya business trip

2021-12-28 AICHI, JAPAN -- I took my 1st business trip since the beginning of the nCOVID-19 pandemic.

My mentor and guardian Professor Tsuneo Nitta held a research meeting at the Nagoya Institute of Technology. His team studies how to determine words and phrases that we think -- that is, words we say in our heads silently, without speaking through our mouths. In the olden days we were told to mind what we say. Nowadays we need to watch what we think! Surprisingly -- perhaps worryingly -- the technology somewhat works. Beware!

I had some time to sightsee. I visited Oosu Kannon temple, which was a major center of learning in its day, boasting a library of ancient documents, many of which with considerable historic, literary, and artistic significance.

The main gate.

The principal buildings.

The praying platform.

The Kannon diety.

I brought frog-themed goodies for Noriko.

Adorable frog cakes. Each cake's eyes and smile are branded by hand.

hozumi nakadaira

2021-11-27 UPDATED 2022-03-25 TOKYO, JAPAN -- UPDATE: A video of the event has been produced and released by the L-1 gallery, the event venue.

Hozumi Nakadaira photographs jazz performers. Tonight I attended the opening reception of his photography exhibit in downtown Tokyo.


Mr and Mrs Nakadaira hosted the event.

I arrived a bit early. Nakadaira gave me his autograph and told me the story behind his favorite photograph of
Bill Evans that has become his signature work.

Nakadaira was at the
Top of the Gate jazz club in New York city. It must have been 1968 or 1969.

"Bill Evans plus a bass player and a drum player were there, but nobody else -- the place was deserted." said Nakadaira. "The performance was scheduled to start at 21:00. I assumed that the band wouldn't play to an empty house, but I was wrong. I learned afterwards that musicians were paid by the hours they played, audience or not."

"You don't get to photograph Bill Evans", he said, "So when Bill Evans hunched over the piano and started to play, I crept towards the piano, thankful that the place was empty. The manager let me get close to the stage. He even offered to turn on a light." That's how the spotlight fell upon Evans in the dark club.

Until I heard Nakadaira's story tonight, I had interpreted this picture as Evans in pain, in agony, contorting himself into a capital letter E in order to focus and create music. I had wondered whether Evan's drug problems were affecting him.

But it turns out that Nakadaira's camera captured Evans when the latter was simply getting to work as usual.

I confessed my revelation to the photographer.

"Each work of art has lots of valid interpretations. Yours is okay."

He continued his narrative.

"They played until 04:00. Only a handful of customers came. But the cats played 4 sets, just like they said they would."

Nakadaira paused and said, "That would never happen in Japan. An empty house? Never."

My mind went back to several jazz performances I have been to in the last several years. Some, if not most, were poorly attended. Perhaps times were different in 1961, the year I was born, and the year Nakadaira began photographing jazz performers.

In 2014, Nakadaira published a collection of his photographs leading up to that time.

One of photographs shows
Thelonious Monk drenched in sweat after a performance.


"Monk perspired a lot. He had 2 ginormous suitcases full of suits. I think he brought like 20 suits for his Japan tour. The morning he was leaving Japan, my wife and I visited his hotel room. He was fast asleep, and his wife -- Nellie was her name, if memory serves -- was complaining while she packed his suitcases. We helped. And I gave him a gift, a music box, you know, wind up a spring and music plays ... It played 'Koujou no tsuki' (moon over castle ruins). Monk loved it. He played it over and over during his flight. The stewardess told him to stop. So he locks himself in the lavatory and continues to play the music box! Finally it was confiscated by the cabin crew."

Aha! Nakadaira was the person who gave Monk that music box!

"The next year, I went to Newport. Monk's wife comes up to me and says 'Thelonious is playing a song for you.' And that was '
Japanese folk song'. You need to listen to the album."

The tiny gallery became full of admirers and fellow photographers. I sat in a corner so that others could talk to the host of the show.


In college, Nakadaira majored in art with concentration on photography.

"My academic advisor -- he was a photographer too -- his pet peeve was that 'People ask if they can take a picture. But they always wind up taking several! If they want 2 pictures they should say so.' Maybe that's why I usually take only 1 picture during a performance."

This curiously parallels
Francis Wolff's approach to jazz photography. According to the documentary film "Blue Note records: beyond the notes", Wolff would customarily take 1 shot only of jazz performers.

Nakadaira loved jazz as a young man. He started his jazz cafe, initially named "Dig", and later, after relocation, "

I visited Dug a few weeks ago. They are in a tiny 3-story structure that appears 2 stories taller because of a billboard on the roof. Still 10 stories shorter than the neighborhood buildings. Great location though.


Dug is in the basement.


Nakadaira began photographing jazz performers in order to support his jazz cafe. He wanted to decorate his shop with his photos.

He published his own calendar. 2 weeks per page.


After 60 years, he has stories to tell, pictures to show, and coffee to serve. The cafe is run partly by him and mostly by one of his sons, who went to college in the US.

"I attended my son's commencement ceremony. And sitting next to me was a person whom I recognized but couldn't remember his name. I asked him 'Have we met somewhere?' He says "No we haven't.' He was Tom Hanks! I had seen him in a movie."

And I hadn't met Nakadaira either, until tonight. I am grateful for his spending time with me.

His autographed photo is placed in front of my music stand in my soundproof practice room.

trumpet online

2021-11-27 TOKYO, JAPAN -- John Bringetto, my trumpet teacher, gave me a trumpet lesson using an online conferencing tool. This was our first time doing this.

So wonderful to see and hear my cheery encouraging hero! We hadn't chatted since 2020-03-20 -- 20 months and 1 week ago! Plenty of time for my learning to go astray. He had kindly responded to my email messages but we hadn't heard each other for ages.

A few things I learned today: (1) I need considerable improvement on my lip buzzing, (2) more and more practice is the sole solution for mapping piano keyboard positions to trumpet fingering positions, (3) I need to practice hearing a note and replicating it on my instrument, and (4) I might run out of time (that is, die) before I become a mediocre player (right now, I am far below that!).

Most worrisome is that my embouchure might be wrong. After being away from my mentor, my mouthpiece placement seems to have slipped into a bad position. I am terrified at the prospect of spending a few years correcting my embouchure. I need to see John soon! At this time, I cannot judge the extent of damage.

Some news: (1) a restaurant a block away from our house in Oregon prohibits wearing masks -- astonishingly, a store person asked a customer to
remove their mask, (2) John is performing at multiple locations where it is safe and sanitary -- whew! what a relief -- wish we could be there!

mom's birthday weekend

2021-10-23 KANAGAWA, JAPAN -- We visited mom for her birthday weekend.

I reported on my trumpet progress. Mom declared I'm magnificent. Her evaluation consists of 99 percent of her love and 1 percent of my music performance. After 8 years of practice, I can play "Happy Birthday" in 12 keys. This is a level of proficiency that most middle school students might reach after 4 years of study. I am a slow learner!

We delivered roast beef. I should have roasted it overnight. Instead I started cooking in the morning, and feared I might be late, but we arrived on time.

I like big chunks instead of thin slices because biting through thick cuts is gratifying.

Washed down with Niigata sake we bought on 2021-10-03.

My brother sent mom a birthday cake. Yummy!

By coincidence, technicians came to install mom's new kerosene stove. The installation had been delayed 2 weeks due to shortage of specialized parts for installing the stove. We wanted to put the stove in the corner of an L-shaped room (actually 3 rooms open to each other) at a 45-degree angle. We needed extension pipes and what not.

The stove seen from above. All the piping and tubing are hidden inside the triangular space behind the stove. The space is easily accessed by a vacuum cleaner nozzle too. I hate to see dust trapped behind shelves and appliances.

Test run of the stove. Super warm!

replace laptop battery

2021-10-14 TOKYO, JAPAN -- I replaced the battery of one of our laptops.

I have replaced laptop batteries a fair number of times. This particular model (an Apple MacBook Pro retina 15-inch late-2013) employs ugly, disorganized, inelegant assembly techniques. I used acetone and rags (shown held in my hands in the picture below) to loosen and remove the adhesive that attached the old battery to the laptop's aluminum casing. Not hard to do; just tedious.

Buying this laptop was an expensive mistake. For unknown causes, I am unable to install operating systems (MacOS) above a certain version, even though the manufacturer says I should be able to. Wiping the storage device has no effect. I have restored the system at least 7 times since I bought the device -- about once per year on average, a failure rate much higher than my other devices.


2021-10-02 TOKYO, JAPAN -- We had an unusually active thunderstorm. Lots of lightning and thunderclaps. We saw so many flashes of lightning that it was easy to photograph them even with fairly fast shutter speeds. Here's a bad picture.


fall of civilizations

2021-09-18 TOKYO, JAPAN -- For the past several days, I have been enthralled with the "Fall of civilizations" podcast.

I wrote the following comment on their website:

The tales are so superbly told that I cringe to watch the episodes, for I feel as if witnessing a rape or murder, and I shudder realizing the evil that man is capable of lies within me, hopefully dormant until my death, but ready to be awakened by what we believe to be righteous or justified in our current time.

This is a partial screenshot taken today from
their website.

eye surgery

2021-09-03 (UPDATED 2021-09-29) TOKYO, JAPAN -- I had surgery on both of my eyes.

For 2 weeks (until 2021-09-16) I wore goggles to prevent dust from entering my eyes. Wearing goggles (all day and night, even in bed) was not that big of a deal. Being unable to wash my face was a bit of a drag. Noriko cut my hair the day before surgery. We stayed mostly at home.

All is well, thank you, I see much better now!

I got a new prescription for my eye glasses. The frame is from before. This is the first time in 50 years that I have had difficulty adapting to my new prescription. I get seasick! haha

gone with the wind (almost)

2021-08-08 TOKYO, JAPAN -- The heat-reflective tarp that I had placed on our roof was almost blown off in a storm.

Unusually strong winds swept through the greater Tokyo area. Our niece saw our tarp being dragged off the roof when she came home from work. She sent us a picture.

To avoid catastrophe, I wrapped up everything for storage till next summer.

horseman museum

2021-07-31 TOKYO, JAPAN -- I visited the Topcon Horseman Museum, co-located at Kenko Tokina headquarters, north of Nakano train station.

Topcon was the trademark of Tokyo Kougaku (Tokyo Optics), a manufacturer of large format cameras.

Topcon disappeared, like so many other camera manufacturers and brands, beginning when the industry was consolidated during the film era (Petri, Miranda and Konica come to mind), then when photography shifted to digital (Minolta and Elmo, for instance), and today, as cameras become part of mobile phones.

heat-reflective tarp

2021-07-27 TOKYO, JAPAN -- Noriko and I rearranged the heat-reflective tarp on our roof after a weak typhoon passed by. I would prefer a wider air gap between the tarp and the roof. My current set-up is not so bad because the wind lifts the tarp off the roof.


covid vaccine

2021-07-27 TOKYO, JAPAN -- Noriko and I are vaccinated for COVID19. The government took its time. It might take several weeks for the vaccine to become effective.

olympic airshow

2021-07-23 TOKYO, JAPAN -- The 2020 (delayed to 2021) Olympic games begin today in Tokyo.

Air force demonstration fighters flew over our house and drew a five-colored Olympic logo in the sky. We watched with delight from our rooftop. We didn't take pictures because we wanted to view the entire sky with our own eyes. The screenshot below comes from the
Nikkan Sports newspaper. From our vantage point, the pink ring appeared to our far left.

We assumed that the air force performed aerobatics all across town. We learned later that, for reasons unknown, they drew only one logo (the one we saw) and many people, including television crews, were disappointed because they didn't get to see it.

Noriko and I were lucky! Just like the solar eclipse in Lincoln City, we got to see something special in the sky right over our house.

We wish the athletes the best. But we're not interested in following the spectacle (or debacle of public safety). Frankly we are fed up with the the callous rude greed that seems to drive the Olympics. The airshow was both the beginning and the end of the games, as far as we're concerned.

repair watch and trumpet

2021-07-06 TOKYO, JAPAN -- The day began with my 1st COVID vaccine shot. Then I went to fetch my wristwatch and to have my trumpet repaired.

I went to Ginza (downtown Tokyo) to pick up my wristwatch that came back from maintenance. Nothing was wrong with it, except that after 30 years the watch deserved a rebuild. The watch was sent to Switzerland, where technicians completely disassembled it, cleaned everything, replaced parts that were worn out, reassembled it, tested it, and shipped it back to Tokyo. I am impressed with the durability of the device, and the manufacturer's long-term commitment to care for it.

The watch was a 30th birthday present from my brother. It came back in a bright red case.

Then I went to Ikebukuro, where a Yamaha store is open on Tuesdays (their Ginza flagship store is closed on Tuesdays), to have my trumpet fixed. My 2nd slide was stuck. A technician pulled the slide out in 3 minutes! Thanks!


2021-06-15 TOKYO, JAPAN -- I availed myself of having borrowed my brother's tools. I replaced our ancient shower hose and head.

A patient clerk at the neighborhood hardware store found me the appropriate parts.

I needed to re-use the L-shaped elbow joint because replacement parts are no longer available.

I used a longer hose to facilitate cleaning the bathroom. Bathing areas are large in Japan.

Tomorrow I hope to replace another outdoor faucet.


2021-06-14 TOKYO, JAPAN -- I replaced our outdoor faucet.

My brother let me borrow his tools from his extensive collection. Top left: faucet wrench. Top right: new faucet.

Kerochan supervised my work.

The new faucet comes with a spring-loaded detachable coupler for rapidly connecting and disconnecting garden hoses. Note the yellow dot on the faucet handle. Not blue for cold water, or red for hot.

Our new faucet has temperature-sensitive springs (like automobile radiator caps do) that open and close within a range of temperatures. To prevent freezing and rupturing of water pipes, the faucet allows water to drip when water temperature falls to about 1.7 C. Once the valve opens, it closes again when water temperature rises to about 4.5 C.

survey for jaltcall

2021-05-08 (UPDATED 2021-06-12) TOKYO, JAPAN -- Thank you for participating in my survey for my presentation at the JALTCALL-2021 conference. The purpose of the survey is shown in the description below. The survey was open between 2021-05-08 and 2021-06-04. Thank you again for your time and expertise.

You may download
my presentation slides in medium resolution (6.6 megabytes).


河合 剛 (かわい ごう) 博士(工学)

antenna mast

2021-05-25 MINAMI-BOSO, JAPAN -- I bought a straight steel pipe to use as a mast for my Cushcraft R7 vertical antenna.

My Cushcraft R7 antenna base is a pipe with an inner diameter of about 45 millimeters, of which about 2 millimeters is unusable due to fastening bolts that protrude inside the pipe. Until recently, I was unable to find a pipe that fits well, partly because USA and Japan have different pipe sizes. In Japan, common outer diameters are 48.6 millimeters for construction scaffolding (too big for my R7) and 31.8 millimeters for household handrails and hanger bars (too thin for my R7).

Yesterday, I bought a 2-meter pipe from an
agricultural supply factory that manufactures frames for plastic-sheeted greenhouses. Outer diameter is 42.7 millimeters -- perfect for my R7. I wanted a longer pipe (6-meter lengths are available) but 2 meters was the longest that would safely fit in the rented minivan.

The agricultural pipe slid perfectly into my R7. The mating section is just in front of my knee. Bolts on the R7 hold the antenna against the agricultural pipe.

Happy! I'll set up my antenna during my next visit to my dad's former house.

laptop battery

2021-05-15 TOKYO, JAPAN -- I replaced the battery for a laptop. I seem to do this fairly regularly! Each laptop is different, so the batteries and replacement procedures are different, too.

One of the screws is hidden behind a flexible flap.

Battery and dust removed.

Battery status before and after replacement. The old battery lasted 1 hour tops. The new battery lasts 5 hours. The battery was manufactured 17 months ago. Hmm ... spent some time on the store shelf.

Screen Shot 2021-05-09 at 11.24.47 Screen Shot 2021-05-16 at 06.29.52

dream cars

2021-05-08 TOKYO, JAPAN -- I daydream about owning or leasing an electric vehicle.

I enjoy reading about electric vehicles on Here are 2 cars that I would love to drive.

There are at least 2 obstacles for me. (1) The COVID-19 pandemic prevents us from returning to Oregon, USA, where, compared to Japan, automobiles in general and electric vehicles in particular are more easily obtained, maintained, and enjoyed. (2) Although we could afford a car in Tokyo, Japan, here we have varying needs that cannot be accommodated by a single vehicle. Dad-in-law needs a minivan for handicapped people, I would prefer a van or truck for carrying tools and materials for home improvement, and everybody needs a tiny car to navigate the alleys of Tokyo -- an impossible combination. I rented various makes and models, and yes they're all fine, but none are compelling.

Instead of buying we have been renting. Renting allows us to choose the vehicle that matches the mission of the day -- driving parents, buying groceries, carrying building material, sightseeing, for instance. I focus on the driving and ignore the owning because the rental car company maintains the car. Plus, rental cars let you walk away from problems as long as they're not your fault. I was rear-ended last July, and had a break-down last month. Each problem solved over the phone.

Here is a table showing my usage for the
rental car agency I use most often. The column headers are, from left to right: (1) calendar year and month, (2) contract type -- mine is individual not business, (3) total time duration of rental in hours and minutes, (4) total driving distance in kilometers, and (5) total cost in yen. Note that early in the COVID-19 lockdown period we drove very little -- between 2020-02 and 2020-05 we drove a total of merely 256 kilometers, a distance that in Oregon we might travel in a single day. Usage increased swiftly once we started driving to our parents' houses. Since 2021-04 I stopped driving to my dad-in-law's house mostly because Noriko began riding the train to stay with her father.

The monthly charges are roughly comparable to (that is, in the same order of magnitude as) monthly payments for leasing a car. Hence I could lease or own if I wanted. However, because I need different types of vehicles for different types of missions in Tokyo, I should not drive exactly one vehicle. Ahhh ... that's too bad. Maybe in Oregon?

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 from 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 and plumbing are left stagnant. I want to frequently 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 of the water timer attaches to the faucet, and for most people the other end connects to a garden hose. The center box 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 static 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 named "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 standing-room-only trains. I endured that for 10 years ... never again!

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 reason. 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!

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!

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.


soldering iron

2020-11-22 TOKYO, JAPAN -- Years ago, a decade ago, I bought what to me is a top-of-the-line soldering iron (a Hakko FX-888 soldering station, since replaced by the FX-888D). So what's the big deal you ask. Nothing, except that I opened the box after all this while. In the meantime I had been using my older, less sophisticated, perfectly capable soldering irons (I own several). I should stop saving stuff for that special moment! Life is getting too short!

From left to right: Hakko soldering station, an electronic keyer for sending Morse code (a hand-made gift from my friend Akira), a
Panavise vise model 301 (makes life easier), Fluke DMM (digital multimeter) model 179, and at upper right corner, a can of chilling spray, just in case I burn myself.
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Today's mission: to fabricate a cable for connecting my telegraph key to Akira's electronic keyer. Alas I cannot photograph myself while I solder. Here's a spade lug connector being held by clamps (locking forceps) which in turn is held by a vise (not shown). I think I do a decent job of soldering but close-up photos are not flattering!

Things are coming together. The needle-shaped object held by the vise are the clamps seen on edge. My telegraph key (one of the 4 that I own, a
Bencher BY-2) is at the lower right. Akira's electronic keyer was damaged during the move from Sapporo to Tokyo (the speaker wires broke). And the batteries leaked (grrrr -- cleaned with vinegar). I learned recently that removing mercury from batteries made them more prone to leaking.

Desoldered the contacts and replaced with speaker wires with a slightly heavier gauge.

I didn't want to soil the dainty sponge that came with the soldering station so I used my trusty 3M sponge (I love it).

I bought a heat gun to replace my old
Portasol that gave up the ghost after 30 years. The heat gun I got is essentially a tiny electric hair dryer. It is about the size and shape of a cucumber or zucchini (actually these vegetables can grow quite large but for the purpose of my explanation please imagine supermarket size). It blows hot air that shrinks heat shrink tubing.

The yellow section is heat shrink tubing that has been shrunk. Nice snug fit around the wires. This photo is the back side of the iambic paddle.

Now I can practice sending Morse code with any of my 4 telegraph keys. From left to right: (1) Morse Express annual Christmas key 2008 edition sold exclusively by Marshall G. Emm, N1FN through his online store for telegraph keys.
Marshall became a silent key -- that is, passed away -- on 2020-02-17. His business died with him. Christmas keys were miniature collectible keys that Marshall sold each winter. Toshihiko Ujiie of GHD Keys made the Christmas keys between 2008 and 2019. Too bad there is no Christmas key this year. (2) Akira's keyer. (3) Mizuho "baby" BK-1 key. Only 890 yen. I am looking for a suitable base for it. A base is a weight that prevents the telegraph key from moving when it is used. The base is usually a heavy piece of metal, stone, or wood. Instead of attaching a heavy base, the key can be bolted to a desk, especially on a ship. (4) GHD model GN607 iambic paddle. The 607 went through several versions. Mine is the earliest. I suspect the later ones are better, because mine does not feel as pleasant as its price would make you expect. (5) Bencher model BY-2. Apparently the top seller in amateur radio. I used it when I was at W6YX (Stanford amateur radio club) from 1986 to 1999. It has several design flaws that are inexcusable given its price and length on market (that is, plenty of time and money to improve the product). One can buy an entry-level camera lens for this amount of money. Camera lenses are much more complex. Hmmm ...

Close-up photo of the Christmas key, in memoriam for Marshall N1FN. I sent condolences to his colleagues, who politely acknowledged my message.

An excerpt from Mizuho's user manual for the BK-1 key. Mizuho went out of business in 2012 when the founder, Tsuguo Takada, JA1AMH retired. Ardent fans keep memories and know-how alive. I talked to whom you might call the fan club president, Mr Takahashi, at his tiny store in Akihabara.
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early christmas presents

2020-11-21 TOKYO, JAPAN -- A publisher of amateur radio technology is offering gifts when you buy their books.

During normal years, the gift promotion happens in summer, at the
Tokyo HamFair (similar to the Dayton HamVention in the USA). The convention was canceled this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. So the publisher delayed the sale till Christmastime and shifted the sale online.
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They gave me what they promised! A shopping bag with morse code hidden in letters of the alphabet.

I received my books and presents the day after I placed the order. I don't think this speed is possible on the Oregon coast.

555 timer IC

2020-11-16 TOKYO, JAPAN -- My home office (den, playpen, pigsty, cattle barn, call it what you like) is becoming more comfortable because I am spending more time there. But today, I played in the living room because it's brightly lit.

Today's program is brought to you by the 555 timer IC.

I confess I cannot memorize resistor color codes. Plus some pairs of colors are hard to tell apart.

Magnifying glass (made in UK), assembly instructions, tablet computer (for looking up resistor color codes -- I lost my paper color wheel), and my trusty toolbox (I attached the handles only today because when I was in Sapporo the toolbox never left the shelf it sat on).

akihabara shopping

2020-11-09 TOKYO, JAPAN -- I had a field day in Akihabara. I visited various stores on a mission to buy cables and hardware for my Cushcraft R7 antenna (see my article dated 2020-11-03).

Akihabara opens late and closes late. I arrived at 11:00, just as most retailers were opening for business.

I wonder if some shops ever open. The store on the right seems ... er, haunted?

I canvassed the neighborhood in search of deals. I bought coax (coaxial cable) connectors and stuff at
Fuji Musen (Fuji Wireless). Like many other shops that carry transceivers, Fuji Musen has an amateur radio club station at the store. Their callsign is JJ1ZAC.

Truth be told, this 15-meter run of coax is sold at a 37.5-percent markup. I can buy a 100-meter roll for 28600 yen. I debated ... went to the store that sells bulk cable ... paced back and forth in front of the building ... finally, decided against it, convincing myself that I would rather have more space in my house instead of a big roll of coax. The 15-meter roll is about the diameter of a basket ball, give or take. The 100-meter roll is the size of an automobile tire.

I had a conversation with an 89-year old lady at a parts store specializing in solder-on connectors. Her store (or should I say booth or box?) was about 2 meters wide and 2 meters deep. She told me that she has been tending the store for 63 years. Broadcast stations plead her to keep her store open because she sells scarce parts. But her 68-year-old son won't take over the store. "Next year", she says, "I'll close for good. I keep saying that."

The spoils of the day.

odakyu department store

2020-11-09 TOKYO, JAPAN -- Today was my last day visiting the unemployment office. They gave me benefits for 180 consecutive days. Thanks! Helps a great deal!

The unemployment office is on the 23rd floor. Through embarrassingly dirty windows I gazed at the 10-story-tall Odakyu department store.

From the ground floor of my elementary school (the 2nd of 3 primary schools that I attended -- we moved a lot), I could see the Odakyu building 2 kilometers away. It was one of the tallest buildings around. Shortly afterwards, the Odakyu disappeared from view.

In a year or two, they begin demolishing the building. The new building will be much taller.

inductive range

2020-11-08 TOKYO, JAPAN -- Our house is all-electric except water is heated with natural gas. Our kitchen has a steam-convection oven (also called a combi oven) and an inductive range (I grew up in Toronto so I say "range" instead of "stovetop"). Our inductive range is temperamental (didn't know that until after I bought it) and rejects many pots and pans that would work fine on other inductive ranges. Hrrumph!

Our inductive range destroyed our favorite enameled pot. Grrr!

I bought a metal disc that claims to be heated by inductive ranges and then heats whatever pot is placed on top of itself. A-ha!

The stainless steel disc is 220 millimeters in diameter. Smooth on the back side.

Yes, it works! At least some of our pots have been saved from the scrapyard.

cushcraft r7

2020-11-03 TOKYO, JAPAN -- I opened a box that I had stored for a quarter of a century. Never expected to say that!

This is a Cushcraft R7 vertical antenna for amateur radio, still in its original box. I had to discard the box today because it was too old for further use.

I bought the antenna as a Christmas present for myself 26 years ago. The antenna was shipped to my office at
SRI International. I remember my work phone number!

My friend Akira and I set up the antenna at my apartment in Palo Alto, California. We sandwiched the balcony fence with 2 pieces of plywood to serve as a mounting platform. Sorry, there are no photos of that installation.

I was pleasantly surprised to find all the parts astonishingly clean. I must have wiped them carefully when I disassembled and packed the antenna for our move from Palo Alto to Tokyo. This was in early 1996, just before I began graduate school at the University of Tokyo.

I need to assemble and adjust the antenna. As a general rule, antennas work best when they are high above ground, located far away from everything else. Climbing ladders or bringing down antennas is a scary chore, however. I want to adjust my antenna closer to the ground (my flat and safe rooftop, to be precise). I decided to use the tripod for a work light as a temporary antenna stand.

Looks lovely!

Ignore the warning decal -- all antennas say that.

The R series went through several versions (R5, R7, R8, R9, R7000, R9000). My antenna is the
1993 version of the R7.

Cushcraft was bought by MFJ on 2009-07-31. I am glad that MFJ has kept Cushcraft alive. I own at least a dozen MFJ products. I am not quite impressed with their sense of aesthetics. But they do design, manufacture, and sell a wide range of amateur radio gear.

Here is my
MFJ-259 antenna analyzer, shown with its dip coil placed (rather nonsensically -- for photogenic purposes only) near one of the coils in the R7 antenna matching box.

What is fascinating is that you can now purchase a pocket-sized VNA (vector network analyzer) for pocket change! The nanoVNA has a
user group. This month's issue of "RF World (volume 52)" magazine has a special feature on the nanoVNA. Read excerpts for free.

once in a blue moon

2020-10-31 TOKYO, JAPAN -- This year's Halloween is lit by a blue moon. The next blue moon Halloween is in 37 years, I believe?

Enlarged photo of moon.

Night view from our rooftop.

heat-reflecting tarp

2020-10-26 TOKYO, JAPAN -- I dried and put away the heat-reflective tarp that I put on my roof (see my article dated 2020-6-16).

Spreading the tarp was easy. Elevating the tarp off the roof but preventing the wind from blowing the tarp away was hard.

I used traffic cones and barricade bars as stand-offs because they were cheap. I connected 3 cones with 3 bars so they wouldn't blow away in the wind.

Drying each side in the warm autumn sun.

The heat-reflective sheet was highly effective in reducing heat from penetrating the roof into the house. The tarp of course is a temporary solution. I intend to have a contractor build a deck on the roof.

I stored the tarp in a cardboard box indoors. The traffic cones and barricade bars stayed outside. Frankly I don't know what to do with them. Maybe the contractor will take them?

bigger monitor

2020-10-10 TOKYO, JAPAN -- I brought home my mom's old computer monitor. This monitor broke a while ago. (I recommend against buying this make and model, unless you buy through a vendor that takes your side when you need repairs. The monitor does a fantastic job when it is operational.) I got her a new, different monitor because she needs to work. I got the old, repaired monitor, and set it up in my room.

First things first: clean the windows so we can leave them open while we set up equipment. Alas our house is in a dusty neighborhood, and our windows get dirty quickly. The rain made it easier to wipe the dirt off the rails and screens. Can't let that dust blow into the house!

My old setup. Dual monitors, 1600 x 1200 pixels. I've been using dual (or more) monitors since 1996.

Remove everything, clean everything, and place everything back.

Tall monitors are good for posture. Keeps my neck and spine straight. Less pain.

ceiling lamp

2020-09-24 TOKYO, JAPAN -- I replaced our stairwell ceiling light fixture with an old Japanese-style light that I had kept in storage for some time.

I pasted synthetic rice paper (plastic that looks like Japanese hand-made paper) on the bottom side of the wooden frame to hide the lamps and circuitry. The paper must be removed if I ever need to replace the bulbs.

The paper is not quite as taut as I wanted but pulling too hard might break it.

I placed plywood over the stairs so that I can reach the electrical outlet on the ceiling.

I have never seen these outlets in the USA. In Japan they are common. You push and twist the connector in the receptacle, which provides electrical power and supports the weight of the fixture.

Noriko approves.


2020-09-04 TOKYO, JAPAN -- I was organizing my room. I was wondering what to do with the pieces of drywall that were left over from my soundproofing project.


I decided to put the drywall on the wall because the wall in my room is made of dried mud, which is crumbly and sandy and messy.

The west wall went okay. I placed the chest of drawers my friend Chris Perry gave me. (By the way this room will be professionally renovated in a few years.)

The south wall did not fare as well.


Bullseye! I drilled right through an electrical wire that had been plastered into the mud wall.

Surprisingly, the circuit breaker did not trip. Everything is now fixed of course. I wasted half a day! Honestly I could not have known ...

science of music

2020-08-29 TOKYO, JAPAN -- I am reading a most wonderful article that explains the science of music, particularly concerning why the chromatic scale has 12 notes, and why major triads sound "nice" while minor triads sound "off".

You can read it for free online. I highly recommend it.

Daniel Shawcross Wilkerson (2014) "Harmony explained: Progress towards a scientific theory of music"

minivans with lifting seats

2020-08-16 TOKYO, JAPAN -- Over a period of 4 days, we (or rather our mothers) tried 2 minivans that have mechanized seats that swing out of the vehicle so that passengers with limited mobility can enter and exit the vehicles easily.

Nissan Serena minivan with lifting seat
Toyota Noah minivan with lifting seat

We learned a great deal from this experience. Soon, I'll upload a bunch of pictures along with commentary.


W6YX online meeting

2020-08-12 TOKYO, JAPAN -- We attended a club meeting of the Stanford Amateur Radio Club W6YX. We have been unable to attend in person for oh so many years.

They showed a demo of meteor propagation during the Perseids meteor shower. When the meteor burns up in the atmosphere, ionized particles are created that allow radio waves to be refracted, so that radio communications can take place between locations that are otherwise unable to reach each other.
Screen Shot 2020-08-12 at 12.21.46

ieee oregon chapter

2020-08-11 TOKYO, JAPAN -- Noriko and I attended an online seminar (webinar) hosted by the IEEE Oregon chapter. We are glad we could attend while being so far away.

Tokyo is 16 hours ahead of Portland, Oregon. We watched the talk at 09:00 Tokyo time.

The talk was about Wifi's 5th and 6th generations.
Screen Shot 2020-08-21 at 16.05.07

9-year-old camera

2020-07-22 TOKYO, JAPAN -- I purchased my trusty camera (a Panasonic GX-1) on 2011-11-14 for 85300 yen. This was the first time I pre-ordered a camera (that is, decide to buy when the product is announced, before seeing it or holding it at the store).

Today I learned that I have taken 85147 pictures with this camera. About 1 yen per shot! (I bought a viewfinder and extra lenses for this camera so the mean cost per shot is closer to 3 yen.)

We were expecting the camera to die (that is, malfunction so badly that the cost of repair would exceed the value of the camera) during our trip to Europe in 2017. I am glad that the camera is still chugging along.

Too bad I cannot say the same for my Pentax K100D (I own 2, 1 of which is totally dead, and the other rather sick). My Pentax K5 (I also own 2) are okay.

book money

2020-07-20 TOKYO, JAPAN -- I won 1000 yen (about 9 US dollars) worth of book money from "RF World" magazine. Thanks! T7251508_trimmed

The prize were 2 magnetized cards (each worth 500 yen) that you hand over to the bookstore cashier. I will buy study guides for an
electrician license exam (an unofficial, commonly used English translation is "chief electrical engineer") that I am slowly working towards.


2020-07-03 (UPDATED 2020-07-17) TOKYO, JAPAN -- On my way to my mom's house, planning to drive her to her dentist, my rental car was rear-ended while stopped at a traffic light.

Nobody was hurt. Correction: the accident is being reclassified from only property damage to both property damage and personal injury. My doctor of orthopedic medicine diagnosed me with a neck problem. Nothing serious, time will reduce pain, please don't worry.

What we should worry about is the astonishingly poor education among the staff at the
police department. This letter addressed to me suggests that the person who wrote it did not finish middle school. (It reads something like "Mr c/o Goh Kawai".) This is but one of the strange behavior displayed by police personnel. At first I attributed my bafflement to my ignorance of police matters. I now believe there is a simpler explanation -- substitute "my" with "their" in the preceding sentence.

The rest of this blog entry is unchanged since 2020-07-03.

I bring my own dashcam when renting cars, primarily to record the scenery and to view the trip at home. This was the first time the dashcam came in handy for an accident. The camera is placed beneath the rearview mirror, facing forward through the windshield. Because I install and remove the dashcam every time I rent a car, I use a dashcam with a suction cup. I do not have a rearview dashcam because I do not know of dashcam products that allow rapid and frequent installation and removal of rearview cameras.

Here is dashcam footage taken at the time of the accident. If you cannot play the movie within your browser, try downloading the file to your device, and play it from there.

The rear window was completely smashed. Curiously and happily most of the glass fell outside the car, although the impact was from the outside. Safe automotive design!

The other vehicle (a 2-ton truck) was hardly damaged. Sturdy automotive design!

A police officer nonchalantly filled out forms. The truck driver, who admitted complete fault, swept up glass shards with a broom he was carrying on his construction truck.

My rental car agency arranged to have a tow truck carry my car away. The tow truck driver and the accident truck driver hit it off. They engaged in friendly conversation.

I walked 6 kilometers back home. On my way, at the Frog Stone I offered thanks for keeping me safe.

Omiya-Hachimangu shrine is preparing for tanabata festival. I want to go with Noriko.

I received an oracle, which admonished me to "pray before travel" and "exert thyself and thou shalt be employed". I am grateful.

Later in the day, the rental car company and insurance adjusters from both parties called, and reassured me that I have nothing to worry about, nothing to pay, and if I experience discomfort (such as whiplash) please seek medical assistance, which will be completely paid by the other party's insurance.

Noriko congratulated me for driving Oregon Coast style, keeping plenty of space between the car ahead. Truth be told, I had been disillusioned lately because when I leave space in front of me, invariably somebody cuts me off. This happens in urban areas both in the USA and Japan. I had been feeling that (a) people must think I'm a country yokel driver, and (b) there goes my safety margin. I'm glad I kept that safety margin when stopping at the red light today. Otherwise I would have hit the car in front of me.


2020-06-18 TOKYO, JAPAN -- This year, the PanSIG-2020 conference is taking place online (instead of Niigata, Japan as originally planned) due to the COVID-19 pandemic. My talk takes place on 2020-06-20 12:00-12:35 Japan time.


reflect heat

2020-06-12 (UPDATED 2020-06-16) TOKYO, JAPAN -- I spread a heat-reflective sheet (imagine a white tarp) over about half of our roof. My intent is to create a layer of air between the sheet and the roof in order to prevent our house from getting too hot. The roof is a concrete slab that rises to above 60 degrees C in the summer sun. Much of that heat comes into our house. By creating a shady layer of air above the roof, I hope to keep the temperature of the roof no higher than the temperature of ambient air.

heat-reflective sheet uses rather advanced technology.

Our living room was our staging area.

My plan was to hold up the sheet with a low and long sawhorse. I do not want the sheet more than 50 cm off the roof.

I purchased water bags (plastic foldable bags with handles) that become 6-kilogram weights when filled with water.

The sheet is heavier than most tarps, I discovered. (I ordered the material from an
online merchant, sight unseen.) The sheet sags under its own weight. I need more sawhorses or perhaps wooden crates.

If the sheet is effective and stays where I put it, then I might place a second sheet on the other half of the roof.

Updated -- We touched the roof at various places. Too hot to sit where it's sunny. Cool to the touch where it's shady. The heat-reflecting sheet works! The next step is finding a way to lift the heavy sheet off the roof, and to hold the sheet in place so that it won't blow away in the wind.


fluorescent lighting

2020-06-10 TOKYO, JAPAN -- I replaced the fluorescent tubes of lighting fixtures in our bathroom. This is the first time in 20 years that the tubes have been replaced. Although they were not due for replacement (the ends of the tubes had not yet blackened), I chose to change them because fluorescent tubes gradually dim and become inefficient as they age.

Old tube above, new tube below. National changed their domestic brand name to Panasonic during the replacement interval.

The electrodes at the end of the tubes are sheathed in waterproof boots to keep out bathroom moisture.

You may wonder why I did not replace the fluorescent tubes with LEDs. I believe in LEDs -- in fact I was an early adopter of white LEDs, and years ago, I paid dearly for flashlights that were underperforming novelties. However, in the case of replacing fluorescent tubes but not the lighting fixture themselves, I prefer fluorescent because LEDs designed to replace fluorescent include circuitry for use with the fluorescent lighting fixture's power supply (such as a ballast). When the power supply fails the LED bulbs can no longer be used because by that time I will probably not own lighting fixtures containing power supplies intended for fluorescent tubes. Replacing the entire lighting fixture maximizes the benefits of LEDs. In my case today, I like the aesthetic design and waterproof construction of my light fixtures, so I kept them.

The tubes I installed today are brand-new premium technology. I pre-ordered them. They should appear on store shelves 10 days from today. They are expensive ($25 each, yikes) but cheaper than good LED tubes and should last 30,000 hours. I expect today to be the first and last time I replace tubes in our bathroom.


2020-06-09 TOKYO, JAPAN -- I learned that thiourea (/θaɪoʊjʊəˈriːə/) quickly removes silver tarnish. Until today, I used polishing cloths or cream containing fine abrasives to polish silver. That method is preferred, but for hard-to-reach surfaces such as necklace chains or machine screws (for jewelry and trumpet parts, respectively), immersion in liquid is effective.

The manufacturer's
video and instructions show how quickly thiourea removes tarnish.

Apparently, the rule is to use thiourea sparingly -- that is, infrequently (only when the silver item is heavily tarnished) and briefly (do not let the liquid remain in contact with silver surfaces for more than 10 seconds).

Kerochan oversaw my first experience.

The chemical's effect is difficult to see in my photograph because of reflections on the silver surface. You may notice tarnish on the tubing pictured at the top of the photo below. By contrast, the area around the manufacturer's logo on the bell shown at the bottom of the photo is clear of tarnish. This after only a few moments of wiping with a cloth dipped in thiourea. Much quicker and less work than rubbing with a polishing cloth. My hands stayed clean, too. With the polishing cloth, your fingers become black.

I learned from
Wikipedia that thiourea is a organosulfur compound. Yes, it has a "rotten egg" smell like sulphuric hot springs. The chemical structure bears an uncanny resemblance to my body. Noriko approves!
110px-Thiourea 110px-Thiourea-3D-vdW


2020-06-06 (UPDATED 2020-06-12) TOKYO, JAPAN -- This year, the JALTCALL-2020 conference is taking place online (instead of Hirosaki, Aomori, Japan as originally planned) due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Here is
my poster (1 page, PDF format, about 250 kilobytes):

I invited members of the audience to email me suggestions, complaints, and questions.

I submitted a poster for the following reasons:
(1) I am not confident that I can provide a realtime video-conference because my internet bandwidth is shared with my neighbors. At my location, connection speed fluctuates greatly and unpredictably.
(2) I am not convinced that a prerecorded video would add much information to my poster. The filesize-to-information ratio of my talk would not be compelling enough to warrant uploading a video.
(3) During poster sessions, in my experience, many passersby do not interact with authors of posters, although some do, and give much satisfaction to me.

My talk is online at

I tested my connection. Thankfully, during my presentation, I had sufficient internet bandwidth.

A virtual background (a photo of Cascade Head, north of Lincoln City, Oregon) hid my homely (in the British sense) surroundings.

electronic keyboard

2020-05-29 TOKYO, JAPAN -- I got an electronic keyboard! It's a children's toy and I'm excited like a kid!


My new instrument is less than half the price of my trumpet mouthpiece ($32 vs $78). I marvel that a complex electronic appliance costs less than a piece of metal, even allowing for the fact that the mouthpiece is solid brass drilled on a CNC machine and plated in silver. Both the electronic keyboard and trumpet mouthpiece involve expert knowledge, which arguably ought to cost about the same. Hmm ...


This electronic keyboard has many flaws. But it meets my immediate purpose, which is to save my chops when I struggle to learn how to read music. Rather than get my cheek muscles tired by playing trumpet, I can hear the notes as they're supposed to sound by hitting the keyboard keys with 1 finger. (The trumpet is a monophonic instrument, which means it can play 1 note at a time, instead of many notes together as you can on a piano.)


The electronic keyboard can play trumpet sounds! Dial "tone 46" for trumpet. Sounds awful compared to expert musicians. But -- tell you what -- it sounds just like me! Is that awful or awesome? haha! (By the way, centuries ago those 2 words had the same meaning.)


Truth be told, I wanted (and still want) a nicer keyboard, such as
this model, to learn piano. But a full-size 88-key keyboard is too wide for my narrow grotto (1320 mm vs 890 mm).

id photos

2020-05-24 TOKYO, JAPAN -- Noriko took my ID photo. In Japan, you glue your ID photo on your resume or CV when you apply for jobs -- unthinkable in the USA. I printed 24 pictures on photo paper stock for only 120 yen ($1.20). What a bargain!


remote controls

2020-05-22 TOKYO, JAPAN -- After several embarrassing mistakes, I installed remote control holsters on the wall. The remotes control ceiling lights and air conditioning.




2020-05-20 TOKYO, JAPAN -- We discovered candles among our moving boxes. We had a candlelit dinner!



attenuate more sound

2020-05-05 TOKYO, JAPAN -- I added loudspeakers to my semi-soundproofed closet.

To save space, I placed the sub-woofer on top of my cabinet.

Mirrors and flashlights help see behind the equipment so that I can connect wiring.

The loudspeakers are easier to listen to when I play backing tracks for trumpet practice. Alas, low frequency sounds (which carry the bass beat that I need to hear to keep time) escape from the closet. This is a problem only when I play backing tracks.

The speaker amplifier generates considerable heat. (My previous speakers were battery-operated Bluetooth speakers that were cold to the touch.) Just another reason to stand up, open the door, drink tea, and rest my chops (lips and cheeks) so that I can practice some more.

As a side benefit, I can listen to FM radio stations. The white wire in the picture above is the FM radio antenna. However we rarely enjoy broadcast stations. We don't have a TV set. This is our first and so far only radio in the house. I do have amateur radio transceivers but they are not for listening to commercial radio stations.


2020-05-02 (PHOTOS ADDED 2020-05-07) TOKYO, JAPAN -- At long last, I completed soundproofing my closet so that I can practice trumpet and listen to music.

The result was 16 dB attenuation at 1 kHz. (The degree of attenuation differs by audio frequency.) I was fairly confident of reducing by 10 dB, and hoping for 20 dB.

Professional installations promise 35 dB, and achieve that in only a few days of construction work (the workers assemble soundproof panels that are pre-fabricated at the factory) compared to a year of on-and-off do-it-myself labor. Professional soundproofing costs about 20 to 30 times more than what I paid for materials and tools.

I learned a great deal through this soundproofing project. The fit and finish is awful (haha) and the acoustic attenuation is much less than professional quality (hmm) but I love my outcome more. I would gladly and eagerly practice in my tiny spot.

What is most important (and will be evaluated over the next several weeks) is how much less I bother my sister and her family who live downstairs.

The initial indications are promising. Noriko cannot hear me from her office. Standing outside the closet door, I can barely hear music played through loudspeakers placed within. Although I do hear sounds, unless I follow the bass beats I cannot tell which part of the song is being played. If doubt neighbors would hear anything even if our windows were open. Practicing during the day seems acceptable. We will discover more in the following days.

Here is a chart showing before and after degrees of attenuation. I should note that because "attenuation" means "decrease", the values in the chart ought to be positive. I may replace this chart later with a correctly worded version.

Screen Shot 2020-05-02 at 21.32.36

I played sine waveforms (that is, pure tones) at frequency values of 0.5, 1, 1.5, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 kHz through loudspeakers placed inside the closet and facing the door. I stood just outside the door facing the loudspeaker, and compared the audio level when the door was open versus closed.

In the chart, the orange and gray values represent respectively the degrees of attenuation before and after soundproofing. For instance, closing the door decreased the 1 kHz tone by 24 dB before soundproofing, and by 40 dB after soundproofing.

The yellow values show the difference before and after. For instance, after soundproofing, the 1 kHz tone decreased by 16 dB more than before. This 16 dB is the improvement after soundproofing.

For all values, the lower values (that is, closer to the bottom of the chart) are better.

At 0.5 kHz, soundproofing made no difference (only 1 dB, but values below 3 dB are almost certainly within the range of measurement error). In general, low frequency energy is difficult to stop. I am disappointed because I was hoping to see at least some difference. Even a modest 6 dB would have been cause for celebration.

At 1 kHz, soundproofing made a respectable difference if I may say so. Not bad for a first attempt by a rank amateur. I was hoping for more but I am happy with what I got.

At some frequencies at and above 1.5 kHz, I obtained fair to good attenuation. Given the loudness of my trumpet (I tend to play rather soft), I am fairly confident that from a distance few people would hear these frequencies. The degree of attenuation differs by frequency, however. We see that 2, 3, 7 kHz tones are reduced less than 4, 5, 6, 8 kHz tones. I do not know why this happened in my case. Generally speaking, soundproofing materials (which are acoustic filters) have 1 or more passbands (that is, frequencies that are not attenuated). Perhaps that is what I am experiencing.

All in all, combined with my subjective hearing evaluation, my closet muffles sounds emanating from within to a level that I hope does not bother my loved ones when they are active during the day. If I were to play my trumpet at night, my family will probably notice.

Here is a picture of the door, sandwiched by sound-absorbing wadding. The door closes rather snugly.

The walls are covered with sound-absorbing wadding. The closet does look like a room in a psychiatric ward.

View from where I sit and practice. The closet is L-shaped. I sit at the end of one of the legs in the L.

Surrounded by technology, haha. Sheet music on the left, backing track on the right. I sit on the floor, Japanese style, so the music stand is low.

organize house

2020-04-20 TOKYO, JAPAN -- Staycation (as they call staying at home for vacation) is an opportunity to organize the house.

Organizing means making a mess before sorting and storing.

Stocked my semi-soundproof closet with books and musical instruments.

I sit on the cushioned floor of this 90 x 170 centimeter cozy cubby hole to practice trumpet.


2020-03-31 LINCOLN CITY, OREGON, USA -- We responded to the US Census.

We went to the census website.
Screen Shot 2020-03-31 at 08.11.02

There were only a handful of questions. I wonder how useful or detailed is the information they collect.
Screen Shot 2020-03-31 at 08.12.14

We finished in several minutes.
Screen Shot 2020-03-31 at 08.16.25

online learning

2020-03-19 LINCOLN CITY, OREGON, USA -- Oregon governor Kate Brown issued an executive order prohibiting colleges and universities in Oregon from conducting face-to-face instruction until 2020-04-28. She states that colleges can continue to teach by remote and online learning.

I am grateful that online learning is considered a viable alternative. I am saddened that a pandemic is underscoring the value of e-learning.

Screen Shot 2020-03-19 at 11.54.32

Screen Shot 2020-03-19 at 11.52.14

Screen Shot 2020-03-19 at 11.52.26

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2020-02-18 SAPPORO, JAPAN -- Hiroshi Watanabe, professor emeritus and former colleague of mine at Hokkaido University, spent a few decades translating Samuel Richardson's "Clarissa". Clarissa is one of the longest novels in English literature. The original book contains over a million words. The Japanese translation is approximately four million characters long. Richardson's style of writing to the moment made this mid-18th-century novel tremendously popular in its day. Hiroshi's translation is the first time "Clarissa" has become available in Japanese language.


I am indebted to Hiroshi because he chaired my job interview (we were strangers at the time) and he believed in me. Hiroshi is an avid photographer -- his monochrome candid pictures received awards from magazines. We shared a common hobby. I have nowhere near Hiroshi's photographic skills (regardless of my hours in the darkroom for both monochrome and color photography), but I do have an edge over him on internet technology, which brings me to the story behind Hiroshi's translation of Clarissa.

Hiroshi was concerned, wary, worried, fearful to the point of certain failure in finding a publisher who would print his translation. The book is simply too long. Plus, Hiroshi wanted to add notes to his translation -- notes that elucidate his interpretation of Richardson's writing, and that help readers appreciate the customs and values of Richardson's day. Hiroshi wanted a publisher that would not only publish the first edition of his translation but successive revised editions as well. I suspect he was correct in presuming that no publisher would accommodate his desires. Hiroshi dejectedly predicted that his manuscript would be locked away in a library, doomed to obscurity before anybody learned of it.

I offered to disseminate Hiroshi's translation via the internet. I set up a web server 15 years ago (2 years after I was hired, and 1 year after he retired), and managed the web server until yesterday. Beginning today, Hiroshi's translation is delivered from
Hokkaido University's library website. Finally! Yay!

The translation is available in PDF file format. Clarissa Harlowe’s composition "Ode to Wisdom" is available both as an audio recording in MP3 file format, and as a music score in MIDI file format. Click on the links below to obtain your own copies.

Clarissa translation in PDF format, about 57 megabytes
Ode to Wisdom audio recording in MP3 format, about 2 megabytes
Ode to Wisdom score in MIDI format, about 4 kilobytes

ethernet cables

2020-01-15 SAPPORO, JAPAN -- Our students practiced reading assembly instructions in English language. They built ethernet cables by attaching RJ-45 connectors to twisted-pair cable.

We test connections. Of course nobody succeeds the 1st time.

What surprised me most was that our students had never seen ethernet cables. Everything is wireless these days! I knew young people have never seen typewriters or record players or rotary phones (a student asked me where the "off hook" button was). I was unprepared for students having never seen an RJ-45 connector. Wow the speed of innovation.

Wired connections are faster, more reliable, and more secure than wireless connections. But it does seem that as if my crimping tools are becoming obsolete.

puppets and telescopes

2020-01-12 SAPPORO, JAPAN -- We visited a puppet exhibit and an astronomical observatory, both in downtown Sapporo.

Theater puppets were on static display (that is, the puppets were placed stationary, instead of being manipulated by performers). The difference is size, materials, and texture were apparent because we could see them close up.

A scene from Rudyard Kipling's "
Just so stories -- the elephant's child". This is where the crocodile says "Come hither, little one, and I'll whisper".

Some puppets are so large that they could be called giant props. This elephant head is handled by at least 3 people -- 1 for the head, 1 for each ear, plus maybe 1 for the trunk.

This puppet expresses emotion by raising or lowering eyebrows. The importance of eyebrow angle to the Japanese psyche is evident if you look at manga. Eyebrows are always drawn, even if they would be hidden from view by hair or hats.

astronomical observatory is located smack in downtown Sapporo. Not the darkest place to view stars at nighttime, but definitely the most convenient place to walk up to. Local kids play with their tobaggans (sleds) on the mound where the observatory sits.

A friendly docent explained the apparatus to us. He advocates refractive or Newtonian reflective telescopes over Schmidt-Cassegrain telescopes, because the latter suffer from distortion caused by heat convection within the telescope tubing.

During brief moments of sunshine, we viewed the sun.


2019-11-22 TOKYO, JAPAN -- I have been an amateur carpenter, soundproofing a closet in our Tokyo house. Although the project is incomplete, the interim results are promising.

I want to practice trumpet without bothering our sister and her family who live downstairs. We live in what you might call a vertical duplex -- that is, a duplex where 2 houses are stacked on top of each other instead of built side by side like most duplexes are.

The closet that I am modifying does not share a surface (such as a wall or floor) with our sister's house. The closet is next to a hallway and staircase that do share surfaces with our sister's house. By reducing the noise emanating from the closet, I hope to reduce the noise penetrating into her house.

There are 3 steps in soundproofing a room for the purpose of playing music:

(1) Trap sound inside the room.
(2) Absorb sound within the room.
(3) Reduce sound reflections within the room.

Step 1, stopping sound from exiting the room, means people outside the room do not hear the sound. This is my main objective. In actual soundproofing construction, sound is attenuated, never eliminated. Some sound leaks. I am aiming for 20 dB attenuation. Professional soundproofing provides 35 dB or more (the larger the number, the better). However the professionals whom I consulted declined to work for me because their soundproofing material is too heavy. They were concerned that the building would become top-heavy and unstable in earthquakes. The material I use is not lightweight but has less total mass than what the professionals use.

Step 2, removing sound within the room, is accomplished by absorbing sound with fluffy material. (Acoustic energy is converted to a tiny amount of heat.) This step is necessary because the sound trapped inside the room is too noisy for me. I can't stand my own noise, haha!

Step 3, reducing sound reflections within the room, means weakening echoes. Echoes mask imperfections in playing. I want to hear myself as if I were standing in an open field or a large room. I do not want my trumpet to sound like it is being played in the bathroom.

I added a wall within a room. The original wall was unmodified. At this time, I have finished steps 1 and 2. Step 3 will be done around 2020-04-25, when I return to Tokyo for a longer stay.

Now for some pictures!

We begin with step 1. I hung sound-reflecting sheets on the wall and floor. This material weighs about 3 kilograms per square meter.

I used an electric staple gun to attach the sound-reflecting sheets to the existing drywall.

I sealed the seams with sound-proofing tape. Ultra-sticky stuff that blocks air passages where sound can propagate.

I covered the inside side of the door too.

My brother advised me on construction techniques, and loaned me his tools.

We proceed to step 2 of soundproofing construction. I attached long pieces of wood to hold the sound-absorbent wadding and drywall.

The sound-absorbent wadding weighs about 1.6 kg per square meter. Feels much lighter than the sound-reflecting sheets because the wadding is 30 times thicker (that much more volume).

Each piece of sound-absorbent wadding takes merely a few seconds to put in place.

Drywall covers the sound-absorbent wadding. The drywall I used weighs about 9 kilograms per square meter.

Repeat the process.

Cut wood smells fresh.

The easiest part.

My brother gave me a ruler for cutting drywall.

I over-estimated the amount of drywall I needed. I wasted very little material. Lots left over!

I cut too much off when I built this irregular corner of a wall. I will replace this board.

I installed additional electrical outlets.

I laid 3 layers of carpet padding on the floor. This material absorbs low-frequency sound such as footsteps. The manufacturer claims 51 dB attenuation at 500 Hz. In my case, the bouncy padding lets me comfortably sit on the floor (I sit on my feet).

Rough measurements give me 15 to 20 dB of attenuation already, even though the door is not yet sealed. Noriko cannot hear me in her office. She walked over to remind me to practice. I already was!

Fairly satisfied up to this point. More work to be done. The drywall surfaces are hard. I will attach another layer of sound-absorbent wadding to reduce echoes. This is step 3 of soundproofing construction.

internet phone

2019-08-16 LINCOLN CITY, OREGON, USA -- We switched from POTS (plain old telephone system) analog to IP (internet protocol) digital telephone.

Our monthly bill decreased from $32 to $10, and we can call anywhere in the USA for free (to be precise, it's included in the monthly bill) and Japan for $9 an hour. I calculate in dollars per hour because I tend to chat long with friends and family.

Equipment from left to right: analog phone with answering machine, uninterruptible power supply, cable-to-telephone converter (newly installed, and belongs to cable company), cable-to-internet converter, wifi router.

Maybe our last telephone directory ever.

We kept our old phone number when we transitioned from analog to digital. The last 4 digits are identical to Noriko's parents's phone number.

test kitchen

2019-03-31 TOKYO, JAPAN -- I tested our new kitchen. (Note for my students: a "test kitchen" is kitchen that experiments with recipes. Here I played with words -- I literally tested my kitchen.)

Ingredients: yakisoba stir-fry noodles 1kg, moyashi bean sprouts 1kg, sliced pork 300 g. Layer everything in that order in the pan. My new oven takes 2/3 size gastronorm pans (known in Japan as "hotel pans" because they are standard in the hotel and catering industry). The pans are almost square, about 34 cm to each side (353 mm x 325 mm to be precise).

The oven takes up to 6 pans at a time, depending on the depth of the pan. My pan in the picture is 40 mm deep.

After 6 minutes of cooking, take out the pan, pour sauce over the food, and mix.

Dinner is served!

home repair repair repair repair ...

2019-03-30 TOKYO, JAPAN -- Repair and renovation work at our house in Tokyo is almost complete.

A grand team of over a dozen people came to reinstall the sink and steam convection oven.

I am experimenting how to direct the hot moist air from the oven towards the ventilation fan.

The attentive cleaning crew beautifies the construction area.

home repair repair repair ...

2019-02-20 TOKYO, JAPAN -- At our house in Tokyo, the contractors are smoothing the sheetrock surfaces and hanging wallpaper.

The entrance to the house is where in-coming equipment is stored. From left to right: the vanity sink, the steam convection oven, and toilet.

commercial kitchen show

2019-02-19 TOKYO, JAPAN -- I visited a trade show for owners and managers of restaurants and hotels. Vendors exhibited services and equipment.

Alas, no photography allowed

I noticed 3 things:

(1) The booths are huge. Some vendors rented space exceeding 30 x 30 meters. They had full-size kitchens and tables for customers. Wow!
(2) The buyers expect respect. Chefs typically work (or should I say slave) for several years before advancing to leadership positions. They are proud and can be haughty.
(3) Many vendors offer food samples but (surprise) you don't get full! Buy from vendors who give you all the food you want to taste and test.

home repair continues

2019-02-03 TOKYO, JAPAN -- Our house repair is progressing. Work halted several times while the construction crew waited for materials to be delivered. We were unable to order materials before start of construction because nobody knew what needed to be repaired until the ceiling, walls, and floors were removed.

We installed sound-absorbing ceiling tiles to reduce sound reflection. The eye bolts are for Noriko. She intends to relax in hanging chairs and hammocks.

The shoddy workmanship of the original owners of the house gives us no end of headaches. Our construction crew fixes as much as they can.

Cross section of our new flooring material. The top layer is decorative. The middle layers support the weight. The bottom sponge layer cushions the floor, so that if people or objects were to fall on the floor, the shock would be reduced. The total thickness of this composite flooring is 19 millimeters. We installed this on top of our existing 2 layers of flooring material. The floor is now over 30 millimeters thick.

The ceiling is ready. The walls need to be papered. The floor is ready.

Glass sliding doors were replaced. The old doors (see above photo) were clear on the top half and frosted on the bottom half. The new doors are a single pane of clear reinforced glass, so the room feels airier and more naked than before.

home repair

2019-01-05 TOKYO, JAPAN -- We have been repairing and remodeling our house in Tokyo. It is partly an irritating process, because the building should have been demolished (it was not built to code) when we obtained it. Alas we are stuck with it. Our contractor team is removing or replacing faulty plumbing, and insulating and sealing the drafty house. I am determined to make the best out of a poor situation.

We ripped out the old ceiling, walls, and part of the floor. We are insulating and sealing all inside surfaces. Already the room feels warmer. The ceiling has been sheet-rocked. The walls will be too, as soon as the electrical outlets are installed. We will add a layer above the existing floor to reduce sound propagating downstairs.

This corner is where the new sink and
steam convection oven will go. I am excited to cook for my extended family!

We are aiming for a spacious room where we can cook, laugh, watch movies, and (gasp) play music.

travel frog

2018-07-31 SAPPORO, JAPAN -- Noriko and I continue to enjoy (at a diminishing pace) our iPad tablet game "Travel Frog" (旅かえる).

Our frogs ride boats (made of soup bowls) or rafts (a small piece of wood). We wonder why our frogs never swim.

Sometimes our frogs camp. Campfires and moonlit nights seem romantic!

Our picture albums have been growing. The software company now allows us to add pages to our albums.

acoustic technology helps music students

2018-07-24 SAPPORO, JAPAN -- My cheerful colleague Akiko Tashiro helped me print my poster for a workshop on acoustics being held at Hokudai today.

This is my 1st time printing a poster in A0 size. Until now, I have always printed on A4 size paper, because (1) based on my interactions with my audience, I can select which pages to show, and (2) I can print additional or correctional pages without re-printing the entire poster. Somehow the A0 size paper makes me feel professional. (Just kidding.) Seriously, I'm astonished at how little information I can show on the poster. The big letters and pictures eat up space.

My former student Ivy and her former music teachers attended my talk on how science of acoustics can help students of music. You can read
the article here on my website.


The talk took place the same day a 24-hour convenience store opened at central campus. Now (if I need to) I can buy lunch on my way to work. I usually arrive at 04:00.


hokkaido railway technical museum

2018-07-14 SAPPORO, JAPAN -- We visited the Hokkaido Railway Technical Museum, located near Naebo station, 1 stop east of Sapporo central station. An easy walk in warm weather from our home.

Visitors check in at the security gate because the museum is located within an active train yard. The museum is open only 2 Saturday afternoons a month, apparently due to a shortage of volunteers.

Static display of a type D51 steam locomotive built here at this yard in 1938. The Japanese love the D51.

Static display of experimental bus for road and rail travel. Hmm, not Japan's top achievement. Americans would do much better than this half-baked contraption.

Old brick buildings continue to service trains.

The museum is housed in the oldest extant building at the yard. The front exterior of the building used to be a platform. The building itself was used to service trains regardless of weather.

The rafters are original.

The tall building has been split into 2 levels. The upper level exhibits parts and memorabilia in glass cases. The lower level exhibits trains.

Japan imported rail from various countries, including USA (3rd and 4th from top) and Belgium (2nd from bottom, right). Belgium was forced to adopt railways before other countries in western Europe, because when Belgium became a nation they were not given rights to seafaring routes. Rail technology advanced as a result.

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.

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.

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!

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.

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.

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.

Large blocks of single ice crystals are rare.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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".

Full moon. Hrrmmph.

Microwave radio tower. The air was clear when this picture was taken. The washed-out colors of the foliage in the background are disappointing.

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.

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.


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.

Cloudy, cool, breezy, comfortable day.

We attend EDIX each year. Recently they started doing shows in Osaka. Glad to see growing interest in the field.

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.

Japan's law recently changed. They now require smoke detectors (at last!).

Our new made-in-Japan units come with 10-year batteries.

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.

Let there be light!

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.

Lots of graphic artists and manga artists ready to visualize your concepts.

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.

This is my first time replacing the battery of this particular laptop.

The old battery swelled to over 5 times its original thickness. Glad I disposed of it in time!

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.

Halfway up, we encountered snow. It didn't look bad at first.

Less than 3 minutes later I got us stuck.

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.

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 ...

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.

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.

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.

Dave disassembled the robot so that we could peek inside.

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.

Chance from Robben gave our chimney and stove a clean bill of health. Yay!


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.

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.

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.

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.

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.


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.

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.


2017-08-21 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?

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.

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.


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.

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.

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!

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.

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.

LED lights

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

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

The new LED reverse light bulb.

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

I wanted to also replace the headlights. In Oregon, people drive with their headlights on even during daytime. At night, headlights are crucial because the highways are not lit. For some time I had noticed that our headlights seemed dim, partly because my eyes are aging, and partly because many other cars have whiter brighter lights. Alas 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.


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, they are:

2011-01-09 (that’s 20110109 written in yyyy-mm-dd format)
2011-04-29 (it’s a holiday, too!)
2011-05-13 (wow, 2 prime dates 2 days apart! -- these are known as twin primes)
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*)
2011-08-23 (4 primes in the month of august!)
2011-10-23 (my mom’s birthday is prime!)

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 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.