Saturday, December 31, 2016

My 2016 review

This year, 2016,  I:
1.     Took over the gardening and cleaning chores around the house in January.
2.     Started going to the gym in March.
3.     Cleaned next door vacant lot of weeds spring, summer and fall.
4.     Went to Bob Dylan concert in March.
5.     Became a Bridge Master in March.
6.     Quit playing bridge in May after six years.
7.     Flew old friend John to Japan in May. Arranged guides and tours for him with students and friends.
8.     Started reading weekly TIME magazine in June.
9.     Waxed all the floors in the house.
10.                        Went to Kabuki play.
11.                        Enjoyed 2016 Rio Olympics.
12.                        Enjoyed Chicago Cubs World Series victory.
13.                        Marveled at Donald Trump’s successful presidential campaign.
14.                        Went to see four movies.
15.                        Swam in the ocean twice.
16.                        Donated blood thrice.
17.                        Climbed/ hiked two easy mountains.
18.                        Played the violin in my first recital in November.
19.                        Saw fireworks at Yokohama and Atami.
20.                        Hurt left shoulder.
21.                        Stayed one night at Manpei Hotel, Karuizawa.
22.                        Gained 3.5 kilograms in weight.
23.                        Threw away more unused things.
24.                        Resolved to abstain from alcohol in 2017.
Sunrise in Atami Thursday


Friday, December 30, 2016

Roses

Two years ago Toyoaki gave me a rose bush. Toyoaki is one of my students from the LSE English group. We meet on Thursdays at the Kenkatsu Center. Actually he lives not far from my school.  I planted that rose bush at the beginning of this year in my little garden. We got beautiful light pink roses from it weekly. I cut them and we enjoyed them in our house all year. There is space for one more rose bush so I mentioned this to Toyoaki and he was kind enough to give me one more bush. Did I say that he is a professional rose grower? He has dozens and dozens of rose bushes in his front yard and around his house. He grafts then and creates new kinds of roses. I don't know much about roses. Only that they are beautiful and have a wonderful scent (aroma/smell). Last Sunday I paid a visit to (went to) his house. I met his lovely wife, one of his two sons and wife, and their three kids; i.e. Toyoaki's grandkids. What a happy family. By the way, the pic is from the Yoshino Houikuen last week. I forgot to take a photo of the rose bush.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Viento: Roundup

The new Enoteca Viento, is designed for musical performances. The original Viento is a Gallery. They also offer light meals and drinks, including alcohol. The new place is larger. The dining/music space is big with no obstructions. That is, you can see the performers from any place in the restaurant. The owner, Hiroshi, told me that the theme of the restaurant is "in open spaces" or "in the fields". That is because the restaurant is surrounded by fields. The restaurant also has many wide windows. And everything is very modern. The color is mostly white. A very nice place indeed. Anyway, the final performance that we saw was the French horn player. I don't know his name. He was accompanied on the piano by the opera singer. It was 6pm when we left so I am not sure if there was any more music. We plan to visit there for lunch some day soon.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Viento: The Singing Moms

There was also a group of moms who performed. We saw them last year, too. I forgot the name of the group. The story is that they all have children the same age. Their kids all go to the same school. So, these moms know each other because of that. I suppose they do different functions (things) for the school. Two of the moms are professional or maybe piano teachers. Anyway all the moms love music and singing. That is the story they told us. So, they got together and formed a group. They sing accompanied only by the piano. They choreograph their performance. It is like dancing. They move as a group. Sometimes they move in twos or threes. Of course they are always singing. And I must say they sing very well. The two piano players performed together after the group finished several songs. As you can see from the picture, they are a happy bunch!

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Viento: Jazz

There is a grand piano and drums at Viento. Five different people played the piano during the event. One was my wife, Miwako. A couple of years ago she bought a used piano. Miwako used to play the piano when she was younger. She practices a lot now. She has a recital soon so she played "A-Train" at Viento with Hiroshi and Nu-chan on drums. Another pianist was my student and friend, Mari. She is the essence of their group "Emari". She is really cool. Mari took a lot of time to let me practice my violin with her many times. Mahalo, Mari. The opera singer and another jazz pianist also played. All these ladies were very, very good.




Monday, December 26, 2016

Viento: Aloha

The first performers at the Viento extravaganza were four ladies doing a Hula dance. Now, this was kind of special for me as I used to live in Hawaii. I have danced the Hula but only after imbibing. "Imbibing" means drinking alcohol. One of the dancers was the teacher and she was pretty cool. The three students were cool, too. They danced beautifully. The rhythm is slow. Their movements are graceful.  The teacher urged us to participate. I jumped right up and said "OK". And there I was on the floor dancing. I like dancing. It was a bit tricky (a little confusing /complicated) at first but I got the hang of it (got used to it) pretty quickly. Mahalo.



Sunday, December 25, 2016

Merry Christmas

Today celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ in many religions. I went to a Catholic grade school for eight years. We learned about Jesus and God and the devil. We learned about good and bad. I forgot most of that. But I do remember some parts of Jesus' story. For example:
1. Jesus was born in a manger in a stable in Bethlehem.
2. Three wise men brought gifts for him. They travelled by camel and followed a star.
3. Mary was his mother. She was a virgin. (?)
4. Joseph was his father. He was a carpenter.
5. Satan, or the Devil, was always tempting Jesus.
6. Mathew, Mark, Luke and John were four of his disciples. They wrote the stories of Jesus in the bible.
7. Judas was also a disciple. He betrayed Jesus. He later hanged himself.
8. Mary Magdalen wanted to take Jesus to a love hotel but he said "No. Thank you."
9. He had a Last Supper with his disciples (see pic).
10. Pontius Pilot washed his hands of him. The Romans then whipped Jesus 33 times.
11. Jesus was later crucified and died on a cross at the age of 33.
12. He late came to life for a while and finally went to heaven.




Saturday, December 24, 2016

Emperor Meiji's birthday

Yesterday marked the celebration of the birth of the Meiji Emperor. From Wikipedia:
The Meiji period also known as the Meiji era, is a Japanese era which was from October 23, 1868 through July 30, 1912.
This period represents the first half of the Empire of Japan during which Japanese society moved from being an isolated feudal society to its modern form.
Basic changes affected its social structure, internal politics, economy, military, and foreign relations. The period corresponded with the reign of Emperor Meiji after 1868, and lasted until his death in 1912.
On February 3, 1867, the 14-year-old Prince Mutsuhito succeeded his father, Emperor Kōmei, to the Chrysanthemum Throne as the 122nd emperor.
On November 9, 1867, then-Shogun Tokugawa Yoshinobu tendered his resignation to the Emperor
and formally stepped down ten days later.
Imperial restoration occurred the next year on January 3, 1868, with the formation of the new government.
The fall of Edo in the summer of 1868 marked the end of the Tokugawa shogunate, and a new era, Meiji, was proclaimed.
I was free all day. I cut my hair and took a yuzu bath at home. I went to my school to write Blogs for the holidays. I practiced a lot of violin. I then went home to clean here and there. I then watched a recording of the morning's US football game and drink sake. I don't remember anything after that.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Winter Solstice

Yesterday was the Winter solstice.
solstice is Latin for sol = sun; stice = stop. That is, the sun stops going south on this day. It starts to go north. The following is from Wikipedia.
The December solstice happens at the same instant for all of us, everywhere on Earth.
The winter solstice happens every year when the Sun reaches its most southerly declination of -23.5 degrees. In other words, when the North Pole is tilted furthest – 23.5 degrees – away from the Sun, delivering the fewest hours of sunlight of the year.
The Sun is directly overhead of the Tropic of Capricorn in the Southern Hemisphere during the December solstice and is closer to the horizon than at any other time in the year, meaning shorter days and longer nights.
The shortest day of the year lasts for 7 hours 49 minutes and 41 seconds in Britain. This day is 8 hours, 49 minutes shorter than on June Solstice.
The day after the winter solstice marks the beginning of lengthening days, leading up to the summer solstice in June.
This day is my favorite day for the year. I took these pics in front of our house last Saturday.




Thursday, December 22, 2016

Enoteca Viento

I got another chance to play my violin in front of (before) an audience. The venue (place) is Enoteca Viento. The owner is Hiroshi Hosoda (see pic). He is a cool guy. He used to be my student. He is a member of a band. The band is called EMARIE. The pianist is Mari. She is my student. The lead singer (vocals) is Miyuki. She used to be my student. Actually, Hiroshi, Mari and Miyuki met in my English class at the  KenKatsu Center several years ago. They formed their band 5 years ago. They also have a drummer and a saxophone player. Anyway, Hiroshi opened Enoteca Viento in November. I have been allowed to "perform" with my violin at the old Viento restaurant. I fiddled there with Mari playing piano. She is such a kind person. And Miwako also played piano with me while I fiddled. My recital just finished November 27th. I rehearsed several songs. I really wanted to try them again, especially Aria by Bach. Hiroshi plays the bass fiddle. He agreed to play with me and Miwako. We used the CD. We were the background music. That was great fun. My other two songs were so-so as usual. But I have improved. By the way, I will have more info and pics about this event at Enoteca Viento this weekend. Be sure to check them out. Graci everybody!

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Saturday Night

My 2017 New Years Resolution (promise to myself) is to not drink alcohol for one year. I did that five years ago when I turned 60 years old. I wrote in my diary so many times how good it was to wake up every morning fresh as a daisy! I also lost one kilogram of weight per month. So, I lost 12 kilograms for the year. That is my goal again this time. Now, I am working on a drinking schedule to finish 2016. Last Saturday after my Kenkatsu lesson I went to the Azumakura restaurant in Ageo. I met my drinking friend, Mark. He knows so many people and so many things and so many drinking places. From Azumakura we walked to a bar. It was dark and no customers. We had one whiskey there and then we went to a very bright Izakaya to eat some more. Then we went to a dancing place. I danced two or three times and then I felt tired. I remember going to the bathroom, said Goodbye to Mark and walked to Ageo station. At Okegawa I had to wait about 20 minutes for a taxi. The good news is that I left my bicycle keys at home so that I wouldn't be tempted to ride it home. Good boy, Rick and Thank you, Mark.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Violin

Today, I want to share (tell you) some info about the violin. First, it is so very interesting. Second, I am improving. I practice almost every day so I must improve, eh?  There are many things to learn, remember, practice with the violin. That is true with any physical activity.  Sports all have their own unique (special) challenges. But, I know that any activity is 99% mental. Right now, I am making a very concerted (hard/strong) effort to bow straight and hold the violin properly. Bowing straight is not too bad, but holding the violin (with the left hand) has been a major (big) problem for me. First of all, I hold it too tight. So, I can't move smoothly around the violin neck. I also cannot reach notes. That is because my fingers are too stiff. Since (As) I started late in life (at 60 years old) to practice the violin this is a major (huge) obstacle (hurdle/challenge/problem) for me and all violinist-wannabes. I also fear tuning the violin with the pegs. That is why my teacher does it for me. (see pic). "Never say give up"!

Monday, December 19, 2016

Puzzler Answers

Puzzle Answers: CLICK HERE.

スーパースクラブルパズルは200ピースのタイルを使って言葉を作るゲームです。
それぞれのタイルにはアルファベットが書いてあります。参加者が(リック先生のアドバイスを受けながら)順番に、ボードにある単語に手持ちのタイルで作った単語をつなげていきます。

以下のパズルをご覧のようにたくさんの単語できました。
この中に何も書いていないタイルが4つあります。クイズです!この空白のタイルに入るアルファベットはなんでしょう?わかりますか?

答えは一番下にあります。スクロールダウンして(ずっ~と下まで見て)チェックしてみてください!












































EXTRAS/SMOKED           EASY               BEFORE              BRUSHED/DROVE


Sunday, December 18, 2016

Puzzler Hints

We have another chance to play music before an audience today. Yes, we can! Puzzler Hints: CLICK HERE.

HOME PROJECT for December 2016 :  “I wanted to...”

「~したかったけど~しなかった。~できなかった。」 を言いたい時に使います。

1.  “How was the party?”
     “I don’t know.  I wanted to go but I had to work late.”  (=I didn’t go there.)
     「パーティーはどうだったの?」
     「知らない。行きたかったんだけど、遅くまで仕事しなきゃいけなかったんだ。」
2.   “I wanted to tell you, but I was afraid that you might get upset.” (= I didn’t tell you.)
     「言いたかったんだけど、君が気にするかもしれないと思って。」
3.   “ I really wanted to buy a ticket. But they were already sold out.” (= I couldn’t buy it.)
     「そのチケット本当に買いたかったんだよね。だけどもう売り切れだったんだ。」
4.   “ I wanted to eat that piece of pie but somebody beat me to it. (=I couldn’t eat it.)
「あのパイ食べたかったのに、誰かに先を越されちゃった。」

What did you want to do?

Made in the UK.



Saturday, December 17, 2016

Puzzler

This is the final Puzzler for the year. Did you enjoy them? I enjoyed making them for you all. Puzzler: CLICK HERE.

HOME PROJECT for December 2016 :  “I wanted to...”

「~したかったけど~しなかった。~できなかった。」 を言いたい時に使います。

1.  “How was the party?”
     “I don’t know.  I wanted to go but I had to work late.”  (=I didn’t go there.)
     「パーティーはどうだったの?」
     「知らない。行きたかったんだけど、遅くまで仕事しなきゃいけなかったんだ。」
2.   “I wanted to tell you, but I was afraid that you might get upset.” (= I didn’t tell you.)
     「言いたかったんだけど、君が気にするかもしれないと思って。」
3.   “ I really wanted to buy a ticket. But they were already sold out.” (= I couldn’t buy it.)
     「そのチケット本当に買いたかったんだよね。だけどもう売り切れだったんだ。」
4.   “ I wanted to eat that piece of pie but somebody beat me to it. (=I couldn’t eat it.)
「あのパイ食べたかったのに、誰かに先を越されちゃった。」

What did you want to do?

Cool USA guys at UESS party.


Friday, December 16, 2016

Merry Christmas

Do you believe in Santa Claus? I used to. I remember that I cried and cried when my friend told me that there was no Santa Claus. I was 17 then. I'm OK now. Currently, I teach at four different kindergartens. At one I dress up for Halloween. At one I make a graduation speech. At one I am on stage performing with the kids at the Christmas party. At the Kitamoto Higashi K I am Santa Claus (see pic). I started teaching there two years ago. This was my second Santa gig there. They have a complete Santa outfit (not including reindeer). So, I don't have to prepare anything. There is also a day care for children. I first meet those kids as Santa. Of course I only speak English at my interview by one of the staff. I disguise my voice. That means that I change the way I speak so the kids don't know that it is "Rick Sensei". It seems to work. Then I hand a Christmas present to each child one by one, group by group. Then they take a group photo. That takes a long time with the youngest kids. I then go secretly to the Kindergarten. Here I am on stage for the interview, presents and photos. It took two hours to meet all the kids. It was a lot of fun. Ho Ho Ho!

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Family Memorial Service

My father-in-law passed away in 2000. I have been happily married for 28 years now. So, I knew Miwako's father for maybe 12 years. When my mother came for a visit in 1993, he took us all to a restaurant  for a gorgeous lunch. I know he did not drink alcohol. But, he made an exception this time. He had only one glass of beer and he turned red as a beet! He also smoked a lot. I remember he would get up at 3AM to watch the TV news, drink green tea and smoke cigarettes. He never drove a car. He was a pretty cool guy. Last Sunday we held a 17 year memorial service to honor and remember him. It was in Ageo. One of his daughters lives in France with her Japanese husband and two sons. So, they couldn't attend. Another daughter lives in Tokyo and she came with her husband, daughter, son-in-law and only grandchild (see pic). Of course, the eldest daughter, the lovely Miwako (my better half) and our two daughters were there, and finally mom-in-law. The lunch lasted two hours. There was good cheer and lots of talking amongst us all. Thank you, Toshiyuki.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

UESS Party

Last Saturday night I went to the Urawa English Speaking Society's (UESS) annual Christmas party. 87 people attended 28 of which were foreigners. They offer Japanese members and guests an opportunity to speak and hear English from native speakers. They also have lot of fun there. They charge 3,000en for Japanese and 0en for foreigners. They provide food and drinks. It started at 6:30P and ended at 8:30. In those two hours, I met an English teacher friend and perhaps 20 new foreign people. Two of my students attended and I enjoyed rubbing elbows with many, many Japanese people. One group of gents started singing Bob Dylan's Blowin in the Wind. I joined that chorus. Later there was a Philippine bamboo dance (see pic). I tried that, too. Of course I ate enough food and had a couple of beers. I was rather busy. Ten minutes before the end of the party it was my turn. I told the director that I would like to donate some of my classic novels at the party. The members have to win at "Rock Paper Scissors, 1 2 3" in order to win the book. I brought Moby Dick, A Tale of Two Cities, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Les Miserables, Oliver Twist and To Kill a Mockingbird. In total 30 people participated in the contest. I hope the winners enjoy the books as much as I did.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Once a year English lesson

As you may or may not know, I am an English teacher here in Japan. I used to be a computer operator and then a programmer.  I was also a waiter, a construction laborer, a hotel worker, a scuba dive shop manager; basically, a "jack of all trades". That means I did any work necessary to survive. One day when I lived in Hawaii, I decided to learn Japanese. I quickly realized that the best way to learn was to come to Japan to study. But how could I survive here? Several people told me that there are plenty of (many/lots of) English teaching jobs available in Japan. Can I teach English? I didn't know. But I could speak English. So I took a chance. 32 years later here I am. It has been a great ride (experience). Last Thursday I was invited to teach a group of students at the Hasuda East Kouminkan. The students are adults and really cool people. That is because their English teacher is a cool person. Her name is Junko. (see pic). She teaches English to two groups of adults in Hasuda.  She combined the two lessons. The lesson last Thursday was 90 minutes. It was their opportunity to try out (test) their English skills with a native speaker. This was my second time to teach them and it was again so much fun. They all did very well. Way to go, Junko sensei!

Monday, December 12, 2016

Puzzler Answers

Well, here is another new week. There are only three remaining. Enjoy the rest of  2016! Puzzler Answers: CLICK HERE.

And now, a Super Scrabble Puzzle for your perusal. Cool Words:

MUSE      DETEST       GRIEVED      ZANY      YOLK     WHOM         DONOR      ROUSE

And how about them BLANKS? Can you figure them out?  The answers are way down below.



































COFFEE                MARE/MERE/MIRE/MORE              QUILT           FLASHES/FLUSHES   

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Puzzler Hints

We have a Buddhist memorial service today. I want to drink but I have a violin lesson tomorrow so I'll try my best to limit my intake. Puzzler Hints: CLICK HERE.

HOME PROJECT for December 2016 :  “I wanted to...”

「~したかったけど~しなかった。~できなかった。」 を言いたい時に使います。

1.  “How was the party?”
     “I don’t know.  I wanted to go but I had to work late.”  (=I didn’t go there.)
     「パーティーはどうだったの?」
     「知らない。行きたかったんだけど、遅くまで仕事しなきゃいけなかったんだ。」
2.   “I wanted to tell you, but I was afraid that you might get upset.” (= I didn’t tell you.)
     「言いたかったんだけど、君が気にするかもしれないと思って。」
3.   “ I really wanted to buy a ticket. But they were already sold out.” (= I couldn’t buy it.)
     「そのチケット本当に買いたかったんだよね。だけどもう売り切れだったんだ。」
4.   “ I wanted to eat that piece of pie but somebody beat me to it. (=I couldn’t eat it.)
「あのパイ食べたかったのに、誰かに先を越されちゃった。」

What did you want to do?

The trail down

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Puzzler

The UESS party is tonight. I will met some old friends and hopefully some new ones. Are you coming? Puzzle: CLICK HERE.

HOME PROJECT for December 2016 :  “I wanted to...”

「~したかったけど~しなかった。~できなかった。」 を言いたい時に使います。

1.  “How was the party?”
     “I don’t know.  I wanted to go but I had to work late.”  (=I didn’t go there.)
     「パーティーはどうだったの?」
     「知らない。行きたかったんだけど、遅くまで仕事しなきゃいけなかったんだ。」
2.   “I wanted to tell you, but I was afraid that you might get upset.” (= I didn’t tell you.)
     「言いたかったんだけど、君が気にするかもしれないと思って。」
3.   “ I really wanted to buy a ticket. But they were already sold out.” (= I couldn’t buy it.)
     「そのチケット本当に買いたかったんだよね。だけどもう売り切れだったんだ。」
4.   “ I wanted to eat that piece of pie but somebody beat me to it. (=I couldn’t eat it.)
「あのパイ食べたかったのに、誰かに先を越されちゃった。」

What did you want to do?

Getting ready

Friday, December 9, 2016

Pearl Harbor Day

In America, December 7th is Pearl Harbor Day. It is not a celebration. It is a day to remember the attack on the US by the Japanese Empire. Here is the story from Wikipedia.
The attack on Pearl Harbor was a surprise, but Japan and the United States had been edging toward war for many years. The United States was unhappy with Japan’s increasingly bad attitude toward China. The Japanese government believed that the only way to solve its economic problems was to expand into its neighbor’s territory. They tried to take over China's import market. So Japan declared war on China in 1937. American officials responded to this action with many economic sanctions and trade embargoes. They thought that with no money and goods, (especially oil), Japan would have to stop. Instead, the sanctions made the Japanese more determined to fight. During the negotiations between Tokyo and Washington,  D.C., neither side would budge. It seemed that war was inevitable.
Just before 8 a.m. on December 7, 1941, hundreds of Japanese fighter planes attacked the American naval base at Pearl Harbor near Honolulu, Hawaii. The attack lasted just two hours, but it was devastating: The Japanese managed to destroy nearly 20 American naval vessels, including eight enormous battleships, and more than 300 airplanes. More than 2,000 Americans soldiers and sailors died in the attack. 1,000 soldiers were wounded. The day after the attack, President Franklin D. Roosevelt asked Congress to declare war on Japan; Congress approved his declaration. Three days later, Japanese allies Germany and Italy also declared war on the United States. And again Congress declared war.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Mount Maruyama descent

There was a small structure at the summit for viewing. The view was panoramic. Again lots of sunshine up here. We had lunch and assorted munchies, including apple and chocolate. Then we began our descent. Fearless leader Yayoi chose wisely here. We made a circle of our climb. That is, we ascended one route and then used a different descent route to arrive back at Ashigakubo station. It was an 11 kilometer trek. The ascent was the steeper climb. However on the way down the ground was littered with fallen leaves. Some places they were ankle-deep. Below these leaves were sometimes rocks, sometimes roots and sometimes mud. So, we had to be careful. We wanted to get down the hill faster but one member, Asuka, had a slight (small) problem with a knee. Fearless leader loaned her her stocks. This helped a lot. She had to take her time getting down, but no problems. The weather was nice and most members enjoyed the large number of dead leaves on the ground. It was also very quiet as there were almost no other travellers. The mountain was ours! We put our jackets back on as it got cooler. We left the top at 12:30 and arrived three hours later at Ashigakubo station. We had ramen, etc and soft cream here. We returned to Okegawa by a different route going to Kumagaya and the Takasaki line. We arrived Okeagwa at 6PM. It was so much fun. I thank you all.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Mount Maruyama ascent

Once again I climbed (hiked) up a mountain with some members from the LSE English group. This time we went to Maruyama in Chichibu. Our fearless leader, Yayoi, planned the climb and the train route to get us there and back. The same members this time were Osamu, Yayoi and me. And two new members joined us. They were Asuka and Kiyomi. Asuka wanted to join last time but didn't. And Kiyomi was a late and very welcomed addition to our group.  On the other hand, as we waited at Omiya station to "dock" with three members, there was an e-mail. It said that Junko and her daughter wanted to come but would not be attending as they missed their train. C'est la vi (French for that's life.) So, five of us boarded the train. We went to Kawagoe, Higashi-hannou and finally Ashigakubo arriving  at around 9AM. Yayoi pointed us in the right direction. Osamu took the pole position (lead) and off we went. First we walked along a street for a while, then through someones backyard and finally into the mountain. It was nice weather so we shed our jackets. I had my binoculars in hand hoping to see some "old bird friends" as I used to be a birdwatcher years ago. I wanted to see a woodpecker, and did, but it was a small one. Our climb was easy until the final 200 meters. Then it got pretty steep. It wasn't very hard climbing and just right for me. We reached the summit at noon and had lunch for an hour enjoying the view.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

The Russians are Coming

Two Saturdays ago I taught English at my school until 11AM. I heard there was something happening at the Nishiguchi park near my school. That is next to the Okegawa Citizens' Hall. I took a walk there to check it out. I saw 5 Japanese guys play their Shamisens. I saw one guy perform inside a big pink balloon. I saw 5 or 6 O-koto instruments, but no players. And then I saw the Russian Chuck wagon. A "Chuck wagon" comes for the old west in the USA. It is a portable restaurant. Or a restaurant on wheels. The owner was a Russian lady and she spoke perfect Japanese. It was almost lunch time so I purchased some borscht. That was pretty good, but it could have been hotter. That means that I thought it was not hot enough. It could have had more meat, too. I also tried a pirogi and bought one for later. They were yummy. She also had a cool Matryoshka Doll. It had President Putin on the front and included Lenin, Gorbachev and other Russian leaders. However it was expensive...10,000 yen! I wonder how many rubles that is.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Puzzler Answers

So, I climbed and hiked around Chichibu yesterday with friends. That definitely was F-U-N. Thank you all. Puzzler Answers: CLICK HERE.

How about a Super Scrabble Puzzle? Cool words are:

HARVEST       ADOPT       ANOMALY      BASH      MOTIF       VENT        EXILE 

And how about them BLANKS? Can you figure them out? The answers are way down below. 






































STAGE               PACER/PAGER/PALER/PAPER/PATER/PAVER            IMAGE/SAD

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Puzzle Hints

We are in the Chichibu mountains today. I hope the weather is nice. Puzzler Hints: CLICK HERE.

HOME PROJECT for December 2016 :  “I wanted to...”

「~したかったけど~しなかった。~できなかった。」 を言いたい時に使います。

1.  “How was the party?”
     “I don’t know.  I wanted to go but I had to work late.”  (=I didn’t go there.)
     「パーティーはどうだったの?」
     「知らない。行きたかったんだけど、遅くまで仕事しなきゃいけなかったんだ。」
2.   “I wanted to tell you, but I was afraid that you might get upset.” (= I didn’t tell you.)
     「言いたかったんだけど、君が気にするかもしれないと思って。」
3.   “ I really wanted to buy a ticket. But they were already sold out.” (= I couldn’t buy it.)
     「そのチケット本当に買いたかったんだよね。だけどもう売り切れだったんだ。」
4.   “ I wanted to eat that piece of pie but somebody beat me to it. (=I couldn’t eat it.)
「あのパイ食べたかったのに、誰かに先を越されちゃった。」

What did you want to do?

Happy Birthday!

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Puzzler

And now it's December. Can I still abstain? Only the Shadow knows! Puzzler: CLICK HERE.

HOME PROJECT for December 2016 :  “I wanted to...”

「~したかったけど~しなかった。~できなかった。」 を言いたい時に使います。

1.  “How was the party?”
     “I don’t know.  I wanted to go but I had to work late.”  (=I didn’t go there.)
     「パーティーはどうだったの?」
     「知らない。行きたかったんだけど、遅くまで仕事しなきゃいけなかったんだ。」
2.   “I wanted to tell you, but I was afraid that you might get upset.” (= I didn’t tell you.)
     「言いたかったんだけど、君が気にするかもしれないと思って。」
3.   “ I really wanted to buy a ticket. But they were already sold out.” (= I couldn’t buy it.)
     「そのチケット本当に買いたかったんだよね。だけどもう売り切れだったんだ。」
4.   “ I wanted to eat that piece of pie but somebody beat me to it. (=I couldn’t eat it.)
「あのパイ食べたかったのに、誰かに先を越されちゃった。」

What did you want to do?

Russian folk dancers

Friday, December 2, 2016

My November

November 2016 has come and gone. How was yours? What did you do? Here is a recap of mine. In November I
1. Went to the gym eleven times.
2. Had one violin lesson with my regular teacher.
3. Had two violin sessions with my mentor.
4. Played in a violin recital.
5. Visited Enomoto Farms and ate choco gelato.
6. Went to Hakone for a one night stay. (Visited Pora Museum)
7. Celebrated 28th wedding anniversary, Miwako's birthday and Yumiko's birthday.
8. Took my sprint (mouthpiece used when sleeping) to my dentist for an adjustment.
9. Saw a movie at a 4Dx theater.
10. Bought a backpack for climbing/hiking.
11. Visited a local spa.
12. Saw Donald J Trump elected 45th president of the USA.
13. Saw the Chicago Cubs with their first World Series since 1908.
I wanted to go to the gym more, but  couldn't fit it into my schedule. This month I have a couple of parties and a trip to Nara planned. However the big question still remains: Can I curb my drinking?
I wanted to do this but he only had one pink balloon.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Recital: Afterthoughts

I first picked up a violin in June of 2012. I have been practicing ever since. That was the year I abstained from alcohol. That means that I didn't drink alcohol that year. I needed or wanted to do something different. I had just quit the softball team after ten years and we started playing bridge in 2010. But, I then thought MUSIC! I know nothing about MUSIC. So I took the plunge. That means that I dove into it with my whole heart. One important reason for music and the violin is that I have a place to practice. That is right here in my school. However, the violin is much more difficult than I imagined. You have to play softly. You must pull and push the bow straight on the strings. You have to hit the notes properly. And that is just the basics. There are so many other things you have to do. But, I am still struggling with all of them. But, the music is so beautiful! I am very fortunate to have friends who often help me and that includes my wife. I also have an excellent teacher (see pic). So, I continue. I will play well someday. It will sound like music.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Recital: Showtime

Besides the violins there were several pianists as accompaniment, two flautists, one lute player(cool instrument) and his lady partner who played a wooden Japanese recorder. Everyone took their turns on stage to perform. The flautists were excellent. The lute player and recorder player were really good. The violin players were a mixed bag. That means that they were all different shapes, sizes and levels. The best was an 80 year old woman. She was smooth. She was accompanied on the piano by her daughter. One younger lady, maybe 40, has been studying for 3 years. She was nervous. But while her bowing was scratchy, it was very straight and she hit all her notes correctly. One guy, about 50, has been playing on and off since he was 24. He was excellent at practice but nervous during his recital. Then there was me. I played two songs. The first was one minute long so I played it twice. My performance was so-so. The second song was 90 seconds and I was off key the whole time. The teacher said try it again. I did. I was off key exactly as the first! So, I was consistently bad. The ensemble was good but I got lost trying to watch my music and watch the guy at the same time. Again I was so-so. Try, try again.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Recital: The rehearsal

The Recital was Sunday. I was excited about it and got up at 4AM. The rehearsal was scheduled for 1PM. I watched some TV before going to the school to practice violin. I don't think I could have practiced anymore. I was as ready as I was going to be. We drove to the restaurant in Yono an arrived at 12:45. My teacher invited 5 of her students including me. I already know one. She is 10 years old and used to be my student. The others there were strangers to me. Of course we met and chatted. We then practiced on stage one by one. It was cool that Miwako could accompany me on the piano. Everyone had different violin experience and levels. We then all rehearsed Bach's Aria (or AIR in English). That was so cool. I did practice that a lot. I had never played in an ensemble before. I could not play everything. But, I chose a part here and a part there. I did practice those very hard. My biggest concern (worry) was the timing. We all played together. The teacher was so surprised. She said we sounded wonderful! But then she told me that I played some notes too short. I decided to keep one eye on the veteran guy who played next to me at showtime. That was a mistake.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Puzzler Answers

My recital was yesterday. Was I wonderful? Puzzler Answers: CLICK HERE.

And now here is  a Super Scrabble Puzzle for your perusal. Cool Words:

REMIX        MUSED     EMERY     BRUTE     HOOF      WIDTH      VINE    CHIRP

And how about them BLANKS? Can you figure them out? The answers are way down below.









































RIB/ROB/RUB           QUIT           YOUTH        TOUCH

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Puzzler Hints

Violin Recital today...Yes, I can! Puzzler Hints: CLICK HERE.

HOME PROJECT for December 2016 :  “I wanted to...”

「~したかったけど~しなかった。~できなかった。」 を言いたい時に使います。

1.  “How was the party?”
     “I don’t know.  I wanted to go but I had to work late.”  (=I didn’t go there.)
     「パーティーはどうだったの?」
     「知らない。行きたかったんだけど、遅くまで仕事しなきゃいけなかったんだ。」
2.   “I wanted to tell you, but I was afraid that you might get upset.” (= I didn’t tell you.)
     「言いたかったんだけど、君が気にするかもしれないと思って。」
3.   “ I really wanted to buy a ticket. But they were already sold out.” (= I couldn’t buy it.)
     「そのチケット本当に買いたかったんだよね。だけどもう売り切れだったんだ。」
4.   “ I wanted to eat that piece of pie but somebody beat me to it. (=I couldn’t eat it.)
「あのパイ食べたかったのに、誰かに先を越されちゃった。」

Rice field and November snow.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Puzzler

I will not drink this weekend BUT who knows what will happen next weekend? Puzzler: CLICK HERE.

HOME PROJECT for December 2016 :  “I wanted to...”

「~したかったけど~しなかった。~できなかった。」 を言いたい時に使います。

1.  “How was the party?”
     “I don’t know.  I wanted to go but I had to work late.”  (=I didn’t go there.)
     「パーティーはどうだったの?」
     「知らない。行きたかったんだけど、遅くまで仕事しなきゃいけなかったんだ。」
2.   “I wanted to tell you, but I was afraid that you might get upset.” (= I didn’t tell you.)
     「言いたかったんだけど、君が気にするかもしれないと思って。」
3.   “ I really wanted to buy a ticket. But they were already sold out.” (= I couldn’t buy it.)
     「そのチケット本当に買いたかったんだよね。だけどもう売り切れだったんだ。」
4.   “ I wanted to eat that piece of pie but somebody beat me to it. (=I couldn’t eat it.)
「あのパイ食べたかったのに、誰かに先を越されちゃった。」

What did you want to do?

Beautiful snow!





Friday, November 25, 2016

Violin Practice

I will have my first ever violin recital this coming Sunday, November 27th. I will play two simple pieces on the violin. My lovely wife, Miwako, will accompany me on the piano. That is helpful because we could practice together. The other piece is an ensemble. It is Bach's AIR. It is wonderful music. There will be five students in the recital. One pro will keep beat on the piano. There are two violin parts. Two students will play the "upper" part. My teacher and one student will play the "lower" part. The other two students can pick and choose when and where they wish to play, upper or lower. At first I was completely bewildered (confused) about the music. And I decided since this is my recital (and I am paying for it) I will practice hard and try to play as much as possible. My teacher recommended several parts that I can play but we didn't have time to practice. I tried to play and keep time with the music (I have a CD). So, I practiced by myself at first. It was difficult. I found the places that I just couldn't do. I called my violin mentor, Yuko-san, and she was kind enough to come and assist me. We practiced for over an hour this past Tuesday afternoon. Then I practiced with Miwako on the piano Wednesday evening. I practiced again yesterday afternoon. I have some time today and tomorrow to practice. Yes, I can! Wish me luck!

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Home alone

I took Miwako and her mother, Yumiko, to Omiya station by car last Saturday AM. They traveled by Shinkansen to her mom's hometown in Toyama prefecture. From then until Monday at 3PM I was home alone. What to do? Saturday was easy. Teach English until 4:45PM, go to the gym, have "dinner" (Miso Ramen and gyouza) at Kurumaya, then home to watch TV. Sunday was a challenge. I was free all day. First I cut my hair. Then I cut my finger! I didn't want to cut my finger. It was an accident. I did it while washing a small glass. How awful! I can't play the violin, I thought. But it wasn't that bad. I bandaged it up and then went outside to clean up the garden. Then time for a nap. Then I went to the school to practice violin But it was such a nice day I first went to the park near here and read my magazine while enjoying the autumn colors and falling leaves. Then to school to practice violin for 2 hours. Then to Kurumaya for another dinner very similar to Saturday night's dinner. Then home to watch the movie Titanic on cable TV. I then watched the news and fell asleep on the sofa....three times.
NishiGuchi Park, Okegawa

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Labor Thanksgiving Day

November 23 is Labor Thanksgiving Day, a second national holiday in November. It became a holiday in 1948 as a day for citizens to express gratitude to one other for work done throughout the year and for the fruits of those labors.
Labor Thanksgiving Day (Kinro Kansha no Hi in Japanese) is actually a modern name for an ancient ritual called Niinamesai (Harvest Festival). In the ritual, the Emperor makes the season's first offering of freshly harvested rice to the gods and then partakes of the rice himself.
The history of Niinamesai goes back hundreds and hundreds of years; the first written account is found in the Nihon Shoki (The Chronicle of Japan) - one of the oldest histories of Japan, dating from 720 - which says that a Niinamesai took place in November 678. The origin of the ritual is believed to be much older, going back to when rice cultivation was first transmitted to Japan more than 2,000 years ago. Niinamesai came to be held on November 23 during the Meiji era (1868-1912) and was a nationally celebrated event.
After the World War II, Labor Thanksgiving Day was established to mark the fact that fundamental human rights were guaranteed and rights of workers were greatly expanded in the postwar Constitution. Today, Labor Thanksgiving Day has become a national holiday while Niinamesai is celebrated as a private function of the Imperial Family.
A number of major events are held on this day. One such event is a labor festival held every year in the city of Nagano, which hosted the Olympic Winter Games in February 1998. Local labor organizations sponsor this event to encourage people to think about issues affecting peace, human rights, and the environment.
In the suburbs of Tokyo, nursery school pupils present drawings and handicrafts to local police officers, who look after their safety every day.
This photo is in front of our house last Sunday.