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Home: Gary J. Wolff's Blog

Gary J. Wolff's Blog

Gary J. Wolff's blog is my mini-journal about GaryJWolff.com. It...

  •  lets you know whenever any new pages are added to GaryJWolff.com
  •  allows me to periodically share some interesting stuff about Japanese culture  
  •  keeps you up-to-date on any other postings or news regarding GaryJWolff.com


Enjoy...

Cheers, 
Gary


Recent website updates (at bottom of the page)
Feel free to share your comments below.





Feb. 27, 2017 - 2017 Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo

The Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo is the world’s largest livestock show and richest regular-season rodeo dedicated to benefiting youth, supporting education, and facilitating better agricultural practices.

As a charity, since its beginning in 1932, the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo has benefited the youth of Texas by contributing more than $430 million to scholarships, research, endowments, calf scramble participants, junior show exhibitors, School Art participants, and other educational and youth programs.

Out of the Show's overall commitment, more than $200 million has gone toward direct educational program support since the first scholarship was awarded in 1957. Currently, more than 2,400 students are on Show scholarships, attending more than 80 different Texas colleges and universities. The value of these scholarships is approximately $47 million.

These educational and agricultural research programs encourage and promote the breeding, raising, and marketing of better livestock and farm products at public fairs and within the livestock industry.

Providing the musical entertainment this year will be superstars such as Willie Nelson, Alicia Keys, Alan Jackson, Brad Paisley, and even one of my all-time favorite bands, ZZ TOP!! Wow, wish I could go.

Nearly 2.5 million people attended last year's 20-day event, and the 2017 Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo runs from Mar. 7-26. More details: https://www.rodeohouston.com/


2017 Houston Rodeo concert lineup
2017 Houston Rodeo concert lineup
(image credit: rodeohouston.com)




Feb. 23, 2017 - Video of My Ao Nang, Thailand travel adventure, Feb. 15-21, 2017

It was a magnificent trip and I was blessed to have sampled so much of the amazing Ao Nang, Thailand culture & beauty.... especially the wonderful people. I hope this video helps you catch a quick glimpse of this spectacular tropical Pacific paradise.

Don't miss out on the beautiful time-lapse sunsets, the 4-island tour on a long-tail boat, my hike up Ngorn Nak Mountain, the tallest peak in the area, the rock climbers on East Railay Beach, fire dancers at the Golden Beach Resort, live music, and even an English-speaking talking bird! smiley

Webpage to follow shortly...



Video of My Ao Nang, Thailand travel adventure, Feb. 15-21, 2017
(If player above is not visible, you can view video @ YouTube here.)

0:00 Busy traffic at Ao Nang's main intersection (Beach Road Rt. 4203 & Soi Aonang 17) 
0:25 Morning panorama of Ao Nang Beach on Feb. 16
1:02 Beauty salon animated blow-up advertising doll (Come on in!!)
1:12 Aboard long-tail boat @ beginning of 4-island tour
3:07 Panorama of West Railay Beach
3:59 Lunchtime @ Poda Island
4:29 Chicken Island
4:43 Female rock climber on Phra Nang Beach
5:06 Cute monkeys on Phra Nang Beach
7:20 3-wheeled tuk-tuk ride to Ngorn Nak Mountain
7:55 Waterfalls on Ngorn Nak Mountain (see pics of this gorgeous peak in my Flickr album)
9:43 Sunset timelapse from Ao Nang Beach on Feb. 17
10:00 Morning panorama of Ao Nang Beach on Feb. 18
10:32 Koi pond at Nopparat Thara Beach
11:06 Retail shops on main road to Krabi Town, including 7-11
12:02 Sunset timelapse from Ao Nang Beach on Feb. 18
12:38 South African band Ricardo @ Crazy Gringos Tex-Mex Restaurant (grrrreat guitarist & female singer duo)
15:52 Solo fire dancer on stage @ Golden Beach Resort
18:32 1, 2, then 3 fire dancers on Beach Road in front of Golden Beach Resort (Oh NO, one guy lost his fire baton!)
22:22 Talking bird can say "Hello" and make a cat call (CUTE!)
23:48 View of Ao Nang Mosque from a tuk-tuk
24:00 Busy long-tail boat loading area on Ao Nang Beach
25:10 Ladyboy cabaret dancers from the Blue Dragon, drumming up business prior to one of their 3 nightly shows
25:57 Advertising truck for Thai kickboxing match @ the Aonang Krabi Stadium
26:18 New Yorker Jimmy Patrick Roche performs "Smoke on the Water" @ The Beach Bar (I really liked this guy and went to hear him 2 straight nights!)
30:12 Long-tail boat ride to West Railay Beach
31:13 Rock climbers on East Railay Beach
34:47 Panorama of East Railay Beach
35:23 Return long-tail boat ride from West Railay Beach back to Ao Nang (nice view of the NOISY automotive engine commonly used on these boats)
35:45 Panorama of Feb. 20 sunset from Mum Aroy Beach Front restaurant 
36:43 Sunset timelapse from Mum Aroy Beach Front restaurant on Feb. 20
37:06 Nighttime landing @ Tokyo Haneda Airport




Feb. 23, 2017 - Pics of My Ao Nang, Thailand travel adventure, Feb. 15-21, 2017

Some years back, a Facebook friend posted some rather stunning photos of his vacation in Ao Nang, Krabi, Thailand. Ever since, I've had it on my bucket list and this past week I finally got my chance to go visit.

Wow! One of the most exciting things I saw the entire week was the beachside stalactite cliffs just outside the cave on Phra Nang Beach. This was part of a 4-island, long-tail boat tour I took.

I also had the opportunity to climb the highest peak in the area, Ngorn Nak Mountain. It was a fairly easy, 2-hour trek, gaining nearly 500 meters in elevation, with breathtaking views of the Andaman Sea from the summit.

I hope you enjoy my pics! Video and webpage coming soon...

Ao Nang, Thailand photo collage
Pics of my Ao Nang, Thailand travel adventure
(View the entire album @ Flickr.)




Feb. 14, 2017 -  "My Summer 1974 Hitchhiking Trip to the Grand Tetons" eBook

Amazon description: "From August 3-18, 1974, a young, wet-behind-the-ears college student with a severe case of "Rocky Mountain High" embarked upon a 16-day, 2800-mile roundtrip hitchhiking journey from Austin, Texas to Grand Teton National Park where he enjoyed a 5-day, solo backcountry trek in the gorgeous Teton wilderness of Wyoming. This eBook chronicles that amazing trip, describing all the sights, sounds, and magic of the adventure, including the unbelievably diverse and fascinating group of people he met along the way."

Ordinarily, I probably wouldn't have remembered all the details of a trip which occurred a remarkable 42 years ago, but as it turns out, I had forgotten about the daily diary, a kind of travel journal, that I had made in the back of my Teton Backcountry hiking guide, which I discovered by chance last summer while rummaging through some of my old stuff in mom's house in Houston.

So when I discovered my travel notes from this amazing hitchhiking trip, I told myself that I was going to someday share the story with the public by publishing it.

And so it has now become reality. It is now available from Amazon for only $0.99, their minimum price for an eBook. I hope to reformat it soon as a free download from Smashwords when I get a chance.

I hope you enjoy it!




Feb. 9, 2017 - Subway sandwich shop in Tokyo grows their own leaf lettuce right in the middle of the store's eating area

In the Subway sandwich shop in Tokyo's Marunouchi Building (丸ビル), they are growing their own hydroponic leaf lettuce right in the middle of the store's eating area. It takes 49 days from seed to cultivation, and they are able to harvest up to 20 heads of lettuce per week.

Maybe it's just me, but I couldn't help but have that "back to nature" feeling, eating a fresh sandwich with pesticide-free vegetables being grown right before my eyes. smiley The Subway Yasai Lab (サブウェイ 野菜ラボ 丸ビル店) is located on floor B1F, across from the American Pharmacy ("yasai, 野菜" means "vegetable" in Japanese). 


Tokyo Subway sandwich shop hydroponic leaf lettuce Tokyo Subway sandwich shop hydroponic leaf lettuce
Tokyo Subway sandwich shop grows their own hydroponic leaf lettuce
right in the middle of the store's eating area




Feb. 4, 2017 - Diamond Fuji Viewing Spots, Dates, and Times in Tokyo

It's already that time of year again when we might get a chance in Tokyo to view an amazing phenomenon known as "Diamond Fuji," when the sun sets into the cone of Japan's tallest peak, setting off sunbeams that resemble a glittering diamond, and which is a popular target of both amateur and professional photographers in Japan.

Until Feb. 11, if you're lucky, you might be able to catch Diamond Fuji from the top of some of Tokyo's tallest buildings & towers.

In December 2014, I decided to put together the webpage linked below, listing the best high-rise spots in Tokyo for viewing Diamond Fuji along with recommended dates, sunset times, admission fees, and links to their Google maps: Diamond Fuji Viewing Spots, Dates, and Times in Tokyo

 
Berndt's Diamond Fuji
Diamond Fuji photo taken Feb. 17, 2011 by Berndt Otto




Feb. 1, 2017 - Japanese university students having fun learning English!!

I've never seen anything like this. It has been a real thrill to see my university students use the new Quizlet Live game, as they truly LOVE it! I can honestly say I have never seen this same degree of excitement for a classroom language game during my entire quarter-century of teaching Japanese learners of English.

The video below shows my students in action and was created with the new "Memories" feature in the iOS 10 Photos app. For more info on the Quizlet Live game, you may wish to refer to my article written about it last year: Quizlet Live: The Classroom Game Now Taking the World by Storm



Quizlet Live: Japanese Students Having Fun Learning English
(If player above is not visible, you can view video @ YouTube here.)




Jan. 28, 2017 - TODAY’S ENGLISH LESSON:

- I wondered why the baseball was getting bigger.......then it hit me.
- To write with a broken pencil is…….pointless.
- When fish are in schools, they sometimes…….take debate.
- A thief who stole a calendar…….got twelve months.
- When the smog lifts in Los Angeles…….U.C.L.A.
- The professor discovered that her theory of earthquakes…….was on shaky ground.
- The batteries were given out…….free of charge.
- A dentist and a manicurist married…….and then fought tooth and nail.
- A will is a…….dead giveaway.
- If you don't pay your exorcist…….you can get repossessed.
- With her marriage, she got a new name…….and a dress.
- Show me a piano falling down a mineshaft and I'll show you…….A-flat miner.
- You are stuck with your debt if…….you can't budge it.
- Local Area Network in Australia: …….The LAN down under.
- A boiled egg is…….hard to beat.
- When you've seen one shopping center…….you've seen a mall.
- Police were called to a day care where a three-year-old was…….resisting a rest.
- Did you hear about the fellow whose whole left side was cut off? …….He's all right now.
- If you take a laptop computer for a run, you could…….jog your memory.
- A bicycle can't stand alone:…….it is two tired.
- When a clock is hungry…….it goes back four seconds.
- The guy who fell onto an upholstery machine…….was fully recovered.
- He had a photographic memory…….which was never developed.
- Those who get too big for their britches will be…….exposed in the end.
- When she saw her first strands of gray hair…….she thought she'd dye.
- Acupuncture: …….a jab well done.
- You can tune a piano.......but you can't tuna fish.
- Time flies like an arrow. Fruit flies like a banana.




Jan. 24, 2017 - Taylor Anderson Memorial Fund Music/Art for Fukushima Project slideshow

My good friend, Mississippi native, and globetrotting bluesman Rambling Steve Gardner just returned back from the Taylor Anderson Memorial Fund Music/Art for Fukushima Project for elementary schools in Fukushima, where shows and workshops were conducted at Sakura Elementary School and the Yoshida Community Center.

Taylor Anderson, from Richmond, Virginia, was a JET (The Japan Exchange and Teaching Program) English teacher from 2008-2011 at elementary and junior high schools affiliated with Ishinomaki Senshu University in Ishinomaki, Miyagi prefecture, where she lost her life in the March 11, 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami. Donations to her memorial fund can be made here

Not only is Steve without question Tokyo's most accomplished harmonica playin' & finger pickin', slide playin' blues guitarist, but he spends a LOT of his time in Fukushima, having made over 50 trips in recent years, working in association with the Tokyo American Club’s Women’s Group to play his music or conduct workshops, especially to boost the morale of child victims of the 2011 Great East Japan earthquake and tsunami who are still suffering from a fairly high level of depression.

For more on Steve and his amazing music, including his videos, photos, blog, and live gig schedule, head on over to: http://stevegardner-roots-n-blues.ning.com/



Taylor Anderson Memorial Fund Music/Art for Fukushima Project slideshow
(If player above is not visible, you can view video @ YouTube here.)




Jan. 15, 2017 - "GW’s 2016 Wild West Road Trip: 28 days, 7700 miles, 8 states, and 10 national parks" (the eBook)

Hot off the press! It was a gargantuan process, but the eBook project I started on Dec. 29th to document my amazing 2016 summer road trip... now 13,560 words(*), 87 pics, and 34 video links later...  is finally complete.

The main purposes of the trip were to reconnect with old friends, revisit some of my favorite national parks as well as seeing some national parks I'd never been to before, check out some of my former workplaces and abodes, and to revisit some spots where I'd previously mountain climbed or camped as a boy scout in my MUCH younger years. smiley

And here's a short excerpt from the next to last chapter entitled "Road Trip... By the Numbers":

- Most miles driven in 1 day: 650, on Sept. 8 from Silver City, New Mexico to Kerrville, Texas

- # of National Forests driven thru/camped in: 22

- Nights spent staying in motels: 10

- Nights spent staying with friends: 8

- Total road trip cost: $2990

- # of times I crossed the Continental Divide: 11

- Most northerly latitude: 48.73° N, Moyie Springs, Idaho (in the Idaho panhandle just a few miles east of Bonners Ferry)

- Most westerly longitude: 116.86° W, Spirit Lake, Idaho (just west of Farragut State Park)

(excerpt from the eBook chapter entitled "Road Trip... By the Numbers.")



My new eBook is now available on 2 platforms... at Smashwords as a free download in 7 different formats and in the Amazon Kindle Store (アマゾン日本) for only $0.99 (the minimum price they will accept). If you prefer the Kindle version, but don't have a Kindle (neither do I), you can download the free Kindle app to read my eBook on your PC or mobile device.

[The easiest way to read my eBook is to simply download the free pdf at Smashwords, which you can then read on your PC or mobile device, or even print out if you wish. (This pdf doesn't include the eBook cover, but if you like, you can download it here.)]

I hope you enjoy my latest publication, just as if you were taking the trip with me! smiley

(*) an estimated 142 pages if it were a physical book




Jan. 8, 2017 - A quote from one of my favorite mentors

As a guiding principle for Twenty-Seventeen, I may borrow a quote from one of my favorite mentors, the late great Mr. Zig Ziglar: "I'm not gonna ease up, let up, shut up, or give up until I'm taken up. As a matter of fact, I'm just getting warmed up."  smiley




Jan. 5, 2017 - His & Hers Japanese pillows

Special Japanese pillows for the lonely. Ya gotta just LOVE Japan! smiley


His and hers special Japanese pillows




Jan. 1, 2017 - Jacquie Lawson's stunning New Year's animated greeting card - WOW!

This absolutely amazing animated New Year's greeting card by famed UK graphics design artist Jacquie Lawson was sent to me a few years ago by a Tokyo friend, and features fireworks celebrations in Sydney, Moscow, Paris, London, & New York City. Click photo or link below to view this beautiful animated New Year's card. Wow....


New Year's greeting card
Jacquie Lawson New Year's greeting card
http://www.jacquielawson.com/viewcard.asp?code=4572241549241




Dec. 31, 2016 - Calvin and Hobbes' New Year Outlook

Calvin and Hobbes' New Year Outlook
Click HERE or image above to view full-size comic strip.
(Image credit: calvinandhobbes.com)





Dec. 30, 2016 -  TOP 10 NEW YEAR'S RESOLUTIONS:

1. Keep skid chains on your tongue; always say less than you think. Cultivate a low, persuasive voice. How you say it counts more than what you say.
2. Make promises sparingly, and keep them faithfully, no matter what it costs.
3. Never let an opportunity pass to say a kind and encouraging word to or about somebody. Praise good work, regardless of who did it. If criticism is needed, criticize helpfully, never spitefully.
4. Be interested in others, their pursuits, their work, their homes and families. Make merry with those who rejoice; with those who weep, mourn. Let everyone you meet, however humble, feel that you regard him as a person of importance.
5. Be cheerful. Don't burden or depress those around you by dwelling on your minor aches and pains and small disappointments. Remember, everyone is carrying some kind of a load.
6. Keep an open mind. Discuss but don't argue. It is a mark of a superior mind to be able to disagree without being disagreeable.
7. Let your virtues, if you have any, speak for themselves. Refuse to talk of another's vices. Discourage gossip. It is a waste of valuable time and can be extremely destructive.
8. Be careful of another's feelings. Wit and humor at the other person's expense are rarely worth it and may hurt when least expected.
9. Pay no attention to ill-natured remarks about you. Remember, the person who carried the message may not be the most accurate reporter in the world. Simply live so that nobody will believe them. Disordered nerves and bad digestion are a common cause of back-biting.
10. Don't be too anxious about the credit due you. Do your best, and be patient. Forget about yourself, and let others "remember." Success is much sweeter that way.

--Ann Landers, "The 10 Commandments of Getting Along with People"




Dec. 26, 2016 - 2016, The Year in Pictures

A 3-min. movie of 2016 highlights, created with the new "Memories" feature in the iOS 10 Photos app. Enjoy! smiley

Best wishes for a healthy & prosperous 2017, the Year of the Rooster!



2016, THE YEAR IN PICTURES!!
(If player above is not visible, you can view video @ YouTube here.)




Dec. 25, 2016 - Canadian Pacific Holiday Train

The 18th annual Canadian Pacific (CP) Holiday Train has raised more than spirits across North America this holiday season, with donations of $1.2 million and 250,000 pounds of food counted to this point. ​As food banks continue to count the money raised and weigh the food donated at each train stop this year, the program is on track to have raised nearly $10 million and 4 million pounds of food since its inception in 1999.

In the words of CP's Chief Executive Officer, "Beyond food and monetary donations, the CP Holiday Train generates goodwill, raises spirits, and helps people start the holidays off on the right foot. We thank the communities across our network for supporting the program and giving back to their neighbours."

The video below was filmed last year by the Elk River Guiding Company as the CP holiday train passed thru Fernie, British Columbia. "The Little Drummer Boy" background music by Harry the Cap is a perfect match!



Canadian Pacific (CP) Holiday Train 
(If player above is not visible, you can view video @ YouTube here.)




Dec. 24, 2016 - 2016 "NORAD Tracks Santa" in Japan

As of shortly after 11 pm Japan time on Xmas Eve 2016, Santa Claus just made the rounds in Sapporo, Fukushima, Utsunomiya, Tokyo, Yokohama, Chiba, Nagoya, Kyoto, Osaka, & all points south, and then on to Korea. Almost 1 billion gifts delivered so far. Track Santa in real-time, 3D animation during the rest of his 24-hr. journey here: noradsanta.org



Santa Claus visits Japan just after 11 pm on Xmas Eve 2016
(If player above is not visible, you can view video @ YouTube here.)

[Don't miss the close-up of Rudolph's RED NOSE just after the 1:00 min. mark!] smiley




Dec. 22, 2016 - My all-time favorite Xmas music video - Andrea Bocelli & David Foster performing "White Christmas"

'Tis the Season! This is without question still one of my all-time favorite Xmas songs by 2 of my all-time favorite musicians. I'm feeling especially blessed these days and would just like to wish a very joyous Happy Holiday season to my many wonderful friends, for whom I am extremely grateful. And Happy New Year 2017, the Year of the Rooster...



Andrea Bocelli & David Foster performing "White Christmas"
(This video is in a playlist of 26 Xmas songs and should play continuously, non-stop.)
(If player above is not visible, you can view video @ YouTube here.)

[Andrea holds that last note for the word "white" a remarkable 22 seconds! WOW!]




Dec. 18, 2016 - A 2009 Christmas Medley by Santa Mickey

Back by popular demand, the famous Santa Mickey thrills kids worldwide with Xmas carol karaoke practice. Kids....by all means....DO try this at home!! smiley Happy holidays from Santa Mickey!!


All 5 videos are in a playlist and will play continuously, non-stop. Or click on the playlist symbol in the upper left corner above to select the other 4 videos. OR...play the entire playlist in a new window here.
[Lyrics may not appear on your mobile device, but should be visible on your PC.]




Dec. 16, 2016 - The new "Memories" feature in the iOS 10 Photos app

Often being the last to the party, I wasn't really that surprised that it wasn't until just this past weekend that I discovered by chance the really cool new "Memories" feature in the Photos app in iOS 10, which was released in September.

The iOS Photos app scans your library for meaningful people, places, holidays, and more, and presents them in curated collections called Memories. The app then automatically makes a movie for each Memory on your iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch. You can also create your own Memory from any Moment, Collection, Year, or Album in your photo library, plus share it with friends and family.

Just open the Photos app on your device and select the Memories button at the bottom of the screen. After tapping on a Memories movie to play it, you can then edit the movie by selecting the mood of the music, length, and which pics in the collection to include. More info on how to use Memories is here.

I was so amazed by this new Memories feature, even though I had more urgent matters on my plate at the time, I immediately made 3 movies of groups of my friends I visited this past summer on my 28-day, 7700-mile road trip. Check 'em out if you get a chance!
 


(1) DubFest IV, Kerrville, Texas Hill Country, Sept. 9-11, 2016
(2) One Magical Day in New Mexico, Sept. 7, 2016
(3) 3 Magical Days in Colorado, Aug. 20-22, 2016
(all 3 videos are in a playlist and should play continuously, non-stop)
(If player above is not visible, you can view video @ YouTube here.)

Note: I'm still learning, which helps explain why the world-famous Old Faithful geyser somehow wound up at the beginning of the New Mexico video. Last time I checked, it's still in Wyoming... smiley




Dec. 10, 2016 - A Big Mac delivered to your front door?!

McDelivery is a McDonald's service that delivers their menu items to the customer's door via motorcycle couriers. The service was first introduced on a trial basis in Virginia in the U.S. beginning in 1993 and is now available in 15 different countries in Asia, Europe, the Middle East, Africa, and Latin America.

In America, the service expanded to Manhattan in 1994 and continues to be available at 10 Manhattan restaurants. In some cases, delivery is available 24/7 and in at least one location, the service is free with a minimum order.

Maybe they copied Domino's. smiley

Source: Wikipedia


McDelivery in Japan
McDelivery in Japan
(Photo credit: outsiderintokyo.wordpress.com)




Dec. 4, 2016 - Because we all need a bit of light at the end of the 2016 tunnel

The Caretta Shiodome Illumination event is now in its 14th season, and is by far my favorite place to view holiday illuminations in Tokyo. The 2016 Caretta Shiodome Illumination program, under the theme of “Forest of Spirits,” features approximately 250,000 LEDs & will be held daily from 5-11 pm, with the 8-minute shows starting every 20 minutes.

And believe it or not, this year's program, which started on Nov. 17th, goes until Valentine's Day, February 14th, 2017. It's an absolutely amazing display, so if you're anywhere near the Shimbashi Station area after dark, be sure to have a look!

When: November 17, 2016 – February 14, 2017, 5-11 pm
Where: Caretta Shiodome, 4-min. walk from Shimbashi Station
More information: http://www.caretta.jp/Illumination2016/ (Japanese)
Access map: http://www.caretta.jp/access/index


Caretta Shiodome 2016 Illumination
Caretta Shiodome 2016 Illumination
(Photo credit: caretta.jp)




Nov. 27, 2016 - George Strait's been "Kicked Outta Country"

Texan country singer George Strait, one of the most influential and popular recording artists of all time, has hit back at modern radio stations which no longer play his songs, by recording on his new album with fellow singer-songwriter, Jamey Johnson, a new song called "Kicked Outta Country."

In the song's lyrics, shown beautifully in the video below, Strait mentions that other famous country singers before him were also kicked outta country.... George Jones, Merle Haggard, Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, and even Johnny Cash.

Strait holds the record for the most #1 albums and singles, gold albums, platinum albums, and multi-platinum in the history of country music, and is 11th in the most #1 albums in all other genres. Strait is 3rd only to Elvis Presley and The Beatles with the most gold and platinum albums in the history of music.



(If player above is not visible, you can view video @ YouTube here.)




Nov. 22, 2016 - November 22, 1963.... a historic day in America AND Japan

Fifty-three years ago today was a tragic day in U.S. history, when America's 35th president, John F. Kennedy, was assassinated in Dallas, Texas. As it turned out, that day became historic in Japan as well. The shocking news of President Kennedy's assassination (on November 23, Japan Time) reached the Japanese people via the first-ever, live U.S.-Japan satellite telecast, carried out by The Japan Broadcasting Corporation (NHK, 日本放送協会) using the Relay 1 satellite.

JFK assassination
News of John F. Kennedy's assassination arrived in Japan via the first-ever trans-Pacific satellite TV relay.
(Image credit: nhk.or.jp)




Nov. 15, 2016 - Tree huggers rule in Japan! smiley

As a former traffic safety engineer in the states, I almost had a heart attack when I saw this tree in the road on the campus of Tamagawa University in southwest Tokyo last June while attending a language teacher's conference.

Because of serious liability issues, this sort of thing would likely never occur in the states, but you gotta give credit to the environmentalists who somehow got away with THIS decision. Only in Japan! smiley

Tree in the road
Tree in the road, Tamagawa University, Tokyo, Japan




Nov. 12, 2016 - The FarmBot Genesis automated farming machine

FarmBot Genesis is the world's first 100% open-source farming machine designed for at-home automated food production that allows users to graphically design their own farm by dragging and dropping plants into locations of their choosing. Plants are then automatically spaced, and seed planting, watering, and weeding operations are handled automatically.

FarmBot Inc. is a San Luis Obispo-based California Benefit Corporation which openly shares its public domain crop and growing information, including all of the CAD and manufacturing files, hardware designs, software source code, step-by-step assembly instructions, and tech specs for every part. It is also the company's mission to contribute one percent (1%) of its annual net revenue back to help grow the open-source farming community.

Since their July launch, FarmBot has already received over $1,000,000 in pre-order sales and will start shipping in February 2017 in time for the Spring growing season.



(If player above is not visible, you can view video @ YouTube here.)




Nov. 3, 2016 - Quizlet Live: The Classroom Game Now Taking the World by Storm

"Smartphones consume a large part of university students’ time, but are used primarily as tools for social networking and gaming. Therefore, smartphones can become a distraction, especially with the introduction of exciting new apps like Pokemon GO. However, students can be introduced to educational apps and shown how more productive use of their smartphones can help improve their academic studies (Cochrane, 2015).

By now, most teachers have already heard of or used Quizlet, the popular online education platform introduced in 2007. It was recognized by SimilarWeb (2016) as the fastest growing U.S. education site in 2015, with over 36 million average monthly visits..."

Read more of this academic article which appears in the November/December 2016 issue of The Language Teacher journal, published by the Japan Association for Language Teaching (JALT).




Oct. 30, 2016 - Burger King Japan's Pumpkin Burger

A pumpkin burger?!! What will Burger King Japan think of next? And right in time for Halloween... smiley

Burger King Japan's Pumpkin Burger
Burger King Japan's Pumpkin Burger




Oct. 29, 2016 - Artwork by Yoshimizu Koike

Happy Halloween from Mr. Yoshimizu Koike, one of my favorite Japanese artists. Click the link above to see more of his paintings and sketches, including "Celebrate Christmas 2008," sketches of Kawagoe and Ochanomizu in Japan, as well as a number of Cairns, Australia.

Halloween 2010 by Yoshimizu Koike
"Happy Halloween 2010"




Oct. 23, 2016 - This Turbine Works 24/7 To Create Water Out Of Thin Air

Throughout the world today, 1 in 3 people do not have the daily minimum of 7.1 cups of water needed to survive. Worldwide, a child dies every 90 seconds for lack of clean drinking water, nearly 1000 a day. And almost 10,000 people die every day from dehydration and waterborne disease.

The original WaterSeer™ model was tested as a prototype at the UC Berkeley Gill Tract Farm in April 2016. Results were excellent and of the several variations tested, all exceeded water production goals. One model stood out above all others, generating up to 11 gallons (~41 liters) from a 9-square-feet (~1 sq. meter) condensation surface.

The current model was finalized in August 2016 and will be field tested in coordination with the National Peace Corps Association once the Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign is complete. Your contributions will help them test and finalize the design so they can move forward!



The WaterSeer Turbine Works 24/7 To Create Water Out Of Thin Air
(If player above is not visible, you can view video @ YouTube here.)




Oct. 17, 2016 - Danny MacAskill’s Wee Day Out

The world-renowned Scottish stunt cyclist explores the stunning beauty of the rural landscape around Edinburgh, Scotland in this film that sets out to capture the simple fun of a ride in the countryside with moments of incredible riding and a touch of humor. Danny pulls off never-seen-before tricks, most of which would normally be assumed impossible on a mountain bike, like leaping onto a single train track, turning a hay bale into a giant unicycle, riding over a cottage, and disappearing into a 6-ft. puddle. WOW!



(If player above is not visible, you can view video @ YouTube here.)




Oct. 15, 2016 -  Tokyo KFC's Colonel Sanders in his Halloween costume

Colonel Sanders gets into the Halloween spirit in Shibuya, Tokyo... smiley

Colonel Sanders in his Halloween costume in Tokyo
Colonel Sanders in his Halloween costume in Shibuya, Tokyo




Oct. 9, 2016 - Merry Halloween!!

One cannot help but admire the brilliance of Japanese creativity.... in this case, celebrating the Halloween season with a sneak preview of Xmas. smiley

Merry Halloween
Merry Halloween!!




Oct. 6, 2016 - THEY WALK AMONG US!!

I used to work in technical support for a 24/7 call center. One day I got a call from an individual who asked what hours the call center was open. I told him, "The number you dialed is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week." He responded, "Is that Eastern or Pacific time?"

I couldn’t find my luggage in the airport baggage area and went to the lost luggage office and reported the loss. The woman there smiled and told me not to worry because she was a trained professional and said I was in good hands. "Now," she asked me, "Has your plane arrived yet?"

A man was driving when he saw the flash of a traffic camera. He figured that his picture had been taken for exceeding the speed limit, even though he knew that he was not speeding. Just to be sure, he went around the block and passed the same spot, driving even more slowly, but again the camera flashed. Now he began to think that this was quite funny, so he drove even slower as he passed the area again, but the traffic camera again flashed. He tried a 4th time with the same result. He did this a 5th time and was now laughing when the camera flashed as he rolled past, this time at a snail's pace. Two weeks later, he got 5 tickets in the mail for driving without a seat belt.

My friends and I were on a beer run and noticed that the cases were discounted 10%. Since it was a big party, we bought 2 cases. The cashier multiplied 2 times 10% and gave us a 20% discount.

While looking at a house, my brother asked the real estate agent which direction was North because he didn’t want the sun waking him up every morning. She asked, "Does the sun rise in the North?" My brother explained that the sun rises in the East and has for some time. She shook her head and said, "Oh, I don’t keep up with all that stuff."

My sister has a lifesaving tool in her car which is designed to cut through a seat belt if she gets trapped. She keeps it in the car trunk.

While working at a pizza parlor I observed a man ordering a small pizza to go. He appeared to be alone and the cook asked him if he would like it cut into 4 or 6 pieces. He thought about it and said, "Just 4 pieces. I don’t think I'm hungry enough to eat 6 pieces."

One day I was walking down the beach with some friends when someone shouted, "Look at that dead bird!" Someone else looked up at the sky and said, "Where?"

I walked into a Starbucks with a buy-one-get-one-free coupon for a Grande Latte. I handed it to the girl and she looked over at a little chalkboard that said "buy one, get one free." She said, "They're already buy-one-get-one-free, so I guess they're both free." She handed me my free lattes and I walked out the door.

My colleague and I were eating lunch in our cafeteria when we overheard an admin girl talking about the sunburn she got on her weekend drive to the beach. She drove down in a convertible, but said she "didn’t think she’d get sunburned because the car was moving."

I stopped at McDonald’s and ordered some fries. The girl behind the counter asked, "Would you like some fries with that?"

Yes, they do INDEED.....walk among us. smiley








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Feb 27, 2017

2017 Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo

The Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo is the world’s largest livestock show and richest regular-season rodeo dedicated to benefiting youth, supporting education, and facilitating better agricultural practices.

As a charity, since its beginning in 1932, the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo has benefited the youth of Texas by contributing more than $430 million to scholarships, research...

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Feb 27, 2017

Gary J. Wolff's Blog

Gary J. Wolff's blog keeps you up-to-date with my everyday life in Japan, as well as recent additions/changes to the GaryJWolff.com website.

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Feb 27, 2017

Mt. Fuji Mountain Huts (富士山の山小屋)

Listing of Mt. Fuji mountain huts for the main Yoshida trail, along with website addresses, phone numbers, elevations, and sleeping capacities.

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Feb 27, 2017

Climbing Mt. Fuji - Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ), Page 2

Page 2 of the most frequently asked questions about climbing Mt. Fuji, including info on routes, maps, videos, transport access, weather, and climber stories.

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Feb 26, 2017

Gary J. Wolff's Blog Archives, April-June, 2014

Posts include a freak June hailstorm in Tokyo, & videos of my musician friends, a cherry blossom blizzard, and my Disney children's show performances.

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Feb 24, 2017

Acting and Modeling in Tokyo

Some samples of acting & modeling roles possible for foreigners in Tokyo, along with a short list of some of the reputable Tokyo talent agencies.

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Feb 24, 2017

Gary J. Wolff's Blog Archives, January-March, 2016

Posts include Tokyo Metro's Mega Solar project, a paraglider flight thru Norway’s Northern Lights, and a video interview with ZZ Top's Billy Gibbons.

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Feb 24, 2017

Gary J. Wolff's Blog Archives, July-September, 2014

Posts include 2 typhoons striking Japan, my Sept. Texas vacation pics & video, my new “About Me” page, and the eruption of the Mt. Ontake volcano.

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Feb 23, 2017

Video of My Ao Nang, Thailand travel adventure, Feb. 15-21, 2017

It was a magnificent trip and I was blessed to have sampled so much of the amazing Ao Nang, Thailand culture & beauty.... especially the wonderful people. I hope this video helps you catch a quick glimpse of this spectacular tropical Pacific paradise.

Don't miss out on the beautiful time-lapse sunsets, the 4-island tour on a long-tail boat, my hike up Ngorn Nak Mountain, the tallest peak in the area, the rock climbers on East Railay Beach, fire dancers at the Golden Beach Resort, live music, and even an English-speaking talking bird! :-)

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Feb 22, 2017

Pics of My Ao Nang, Thailand travel adventure, Feb. 15-21, 2017

Some years back, a Facebook friend posted some rather stunning photos of his vacation in Ao Nang, Krabi, Thailand. Ever since, I've had it on my bucket list and this past week I finally got my chance to go visit.

Wow! One of the most exciting things I saw the entire week was the beachside stalactite cliffs just outside the cave on Phra Nang Beach. This was part of a 4-island, long-tail boat tour I took.

I also had the opportunity to climb...

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Feb 22, 2017

Mt. Yatsu-ga-take (八ヶ岳), Japan's 33rd highest peak

Pics, maps, and trail description of my Aug. 2000 climb of Mt. Yatsu-ga-take, elev. 2899m, Japan's 33rd highest peak.

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Feb 22, 2017

Gary J. Wolff's Blog Archives, Oct.-Dec. 2009

Posts include videos of nighttime light-up of fall colors, golden ginkgo trees in Tokyo, and Santa Mickey Christmas carol karaoke.

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Feb 21, 2017

Advice and Information on Mt. Fuji trails and huts

I live in Fujinomiya, at the beginning of one of the Mt. Fuji Trails. I've written a blog post about general advice for climbing. I have also written about

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Feb 14, 2017

"My Summer 1974 Hitchhiking Trip to the Grand Tetons" eBook

Amazon description: "From August 3-18, 1974, a young, wet-behind-the-ears college student with a severe case of "Rocky Mountain High" embarked upon a 16-day, 2800-mile roundtrip hitchhiking journey from Austin, Texas to Grand Teton National Park where he enjoyed a 5-day, solo backcountry trek in the gorgeous Teton wilderness of Wyoming. This eBook chronicles that amazing trip, describing all the sights, sounds, and magic of the adventure, including the unbelievably diverse and fascinating group of people he met along the way."

Ordinarily, I probably wouldn't have remembered all the details of a trip which occurred a remarkable 42 years ago, but as it turns out...

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Feb 09, 2017

Where can I eat, sleep, and sightsee at the base of Mt. Fuji?

In May 2016, the friend of a friend opened Hostel Mt. Fuji in a newly renovated wooden house located in Fujiyoshida City, at the base of Mt. Fuji. As you can see below, it's an absolutely gorgeous place, complete with rooms that have original old wood floors and Japanese style sliding doors, as well as a comfy tatami mat TV lounge.

If you need a good place to stay, conveniently located near Fujisan Station where you can easily access both Mt. Fuji train and bus transport options, you'll definitely want to consider Hostel Mt. Fuji. Reservations can be made here.

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