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Home: Gary J. Wolff's Blog: Gary J. Wolff's Blog Archives, January-March, 2018

Gary J. Wolff's Blog Archives
January-March, 2018

This page shows archived posts for Gary J. Wolff's blog from January-March, 2018.



Mar. 29, 2018 - Tokyo Cherry Blossom Season 2018

​Even after over a quarter-century in Japan, I never cease to be amazed at the stunning Japanese cherry blossoms, probably in part because we don't have anything even remotely close to this in my home state of Texas.

One cannot help but admire the grandiose way Japanese revere and celebrate the arrival of the spring cherry blossoms... laying down their plastic sheets under the blossoms and then eating, drinking, singing, dancing, and celebrating life in general. 

The cherry blossoms in Japan are a very significant symbol of renewal and starting a clean slate. Hence, both the new school year and fiscal year begin April 1st in Japan.

They are also a symbol and reminder of the fragility of the human existence. The blossoms rarely last more than a couple weeks, and then they are GONE... until next year. ​Now you see them, now you don't. ​

But they depart in classic style in what is known as a cherry blossom blizzard. ​This phenomenon is called "sakurafubuki (桜吹雪 )" in Japanese. ​If you've never seen one, it is strikingly beautiful​.​

This amazing 1-minute sakurafubuki I filmed 11 years ago is still one of my all-time favorite YouTube videos:

Nighttime lightup of Megurogawa cherry blossoms
Nighttime lightup of Megurogawa cherry blossoms, near Naka-Meguro Station (a special TEXAS-size shoutout to my new Canadian musician friend Mr. Jonny Barefoot for introducing me to the gorgeous nighttime Megurogawa cherry blossoms!) View my entire Flickr photo album here: Tokyo Cherry Blossom Season 2018)

Mar. 22, 2018 - "Old-timers haven’t gone soft on softball"

​Twenty years ago I put together a website honoring my late father, Walter F. Wolff, who in his prime was one of the best fastpitch softball pitchers in Texas.

For some reason, I never managed until today to get around to scanning and posting an amazing article (page 1/page 2) written by Jayne Custred in the Houston Chronicle newspaper in July 1988, entitled "Old-timers haven’t gone soft on softball." Her story appeared shortly before the start of the Chronicle's 50th Softball Tournament, and was a heartwarming glimpse into old-timer fastpitch softball players like my dad, whose careers spanned several decades, and were still playing the game with passion.

At the time of the article, Dad was already a "young" 55-year-old pitcher playing on a 45-and-over team. If you have any interest in the history of fastpitch softball in Houston, Texas, you'll probably want to have a look when you get a chance.

old-timer softball pitcher Walter Wolff
Photo caption above reads: "For Walter Wolff, fast-pitch softball is still as much fun as it was 40 years ago." (from July 1988 Houston Chronicle article, "Old-timers haven’t gone soft on softball" (page 1/page 2))

Here are just a few highlights of Dad's softball playing days:
  • At age 16, started his LONG pitching career which spanned a remarkable 5 decades
  • Pitched in 6 world softball tournaments
  • Pitched 3 times in Mexico, including in the Mexican National Softball Tournament in Poza Rica
  • Toured New Zealand as a pitcher with the Western U.S. All-Star Team
  • Once struck out 20 of the 21 batters he faced, including 17 straight, in Lake Charles, Louisiana
  • Inducted into the Houston, Texas Softball Hall of Fame in 1986
  • Pitched against (& beat) Eddie Feigner and his world-famous 4-man "King & His Court" softball team in the Houston Astrodome
  • Inducted as an Honorary Member of the United Softball Club of Auckland, New Zealand
More details on Dad's career, including a photo gallery and the full story are here:

Mar. 17, 2018 - Frank Peter's intro to "Won't Get Fooled Again"

One of my favorite rock songs of all time is "Won't Get Fooled Again" by the British band The Who.

In my college days, during spring break my buddies and I used to make the long trip from Austin down to South Padre Island at the extreme southern tip of Texas, and as we crossed the causeway over to the island, we would crank up Won't Get Fooled Again full blast. smiley

You might say, it became our theme song, and in the uncountable number of years since, it still remains intrinsic to my heart and soul. Well, a few weeks ago, for whatever reason, I suddenly decided I wanted to learn the very innovative intro synthesizer (organ) part of the song composed by The Who's genius lead guitarist and songwriter, Mr. Pete Townshend.

Well, it was my good fortune to discover the amazing Piano-ology site created by Mr. Frank Peter. Thanks to Frank's easy-to-learn transcription and video of the WGFA song, I have managed to get to a point now where I’ve almost mastered the intro, even without the sheet music.

[Unlike the countless other similar videos at YouTube, Frank has filmed his piano playing from directly above his head, so you can clearly see the keyboard and his fingers as he's playing, greatly simplifying the learning process!]

For anyone interested, I've embedded below Frank's video of the Won't Get Fooled Again intro, and which I guess I've watched at least a million times now. smiley

The best news though is that, thanks to Frank, I was motivated to dust off my 28-year-old, 5-octave, 465-sound Casio Tone Bank, which I hadn’t played in at least 5 years.

If you get a chance, please also check out Frank J. Peter's personal website, where I believe, like me, you will be thoroughly impressed with all his amazing projects to help make our world a better place, especially his charity work in Africa.

Keep on keepin' on, Frank, and thanks again for helping us with Won't Get Fooled Again!!

Frank Peter's intro to "Won't Get Fooled Again"
(If player above is not visible, you can view video @ YouTube here.)

Mar. 15, 2018 - Only 3 more days!

The kawazu-zakura (河津桜) cherry blossoms are always one of the earliest varieties to bloom and, with their very distinctive dark pink color, are a definite harbinger that spring has officially arrived.

In my neighborhood, they've been displaying their grandeur since the beginning of this month. And I always love it when they appear alongside the gorgeous yellow nanohana (菜の花) flowers. It makes for such a nice contrast.

Of course, the true stars of cherry blossom season are the somei-yoshino (染井吉野) variety which, according to the latest forecast (3/13), will start blanketing the Japanese capital in only 3 more days (3/18). Yee hah! Can't wait! smiley

Kawazu-zakura cherry blossoms in Tokyo
Kawazu-zakura cherry blossoms in Tokyo

Mar. 4, 2018 - 2018 Cherry Blossom Forecast

Only 18 more days till the cherry blossoms are forecast to begin blooming in Tokyo on Mar. 22! Yay! This is 1 day later than last year, but 1 day earlier than the average blooming date over the past 10 years. Full bloom in Tokyo is forecast for Mar. 29. Can't wait! smiley

2018 cherry blossom front in Japan
2018 cherry blossom front in Japan

Feb. 18, 2018 - 7 Magical Days in Pattaya, Thailand, Feb. 7-14, 2018 (the video)

My favorite video clips are the aerial view of Mt. Fuji, the crazy Turkish ice cream magician, the 3D optical illusion art exhibits, the motorcycle-driven mobile women's bra and dress shops, the amazing acrobatic smoothie server, the 105-meter-long tunnel at Underwater World Pattaya, and of course, the 3 timelapse sunsets. smiley Enjoy!

7 Magical Days in Pattaya, Thailand, Feb. 7-14, 2018
(If player above is not visible, you can view video @ YouTube here.)

0:00 Stunning aerial view of Mt. Fuji from plane
2:17 Timelapse sunset #1, Pattaya Beach
2:41 Magical dancing water fountain, Royal Garden Plaza shopping mall
3:29 Crazy Turkish ice cream magician
5:42 10-ft-tall walking skeleton
5:59 Bali Hai Pier
7:01 Panorama of Pattaya Marina
7:55 Big Buddha
8:45 Water fountain statue at Siam Bayshore Resort
9:07 Pedestrian signal countdown timer (nighttime)
9:47 Rotisserie grilled fish
10:02 Open-air grilled seafood restaurant
10:21 Dr. Fish spa
10:40 Dancing girls, ORN Group Entertainment
12:38 Riding in a songthaew
13:49 Hen & chicks, I Zoo, Sanctuary of Truth
14:36 Turkeys, I Zoo, Sanctuary of Truth
15:28 Waterfall, Sanctuary of Truth
16:06 Cute goats, I Zoo, Sanctuary of Truth
17:38 Colorful rooster, I Zoo, Sanctuary of Truth
18:02 3D optical illusion art exhibits, Art in Paradise museum
18:54 Panoramas inside Art in Paradise museum
20:37 Pedestrian signal countdown timer (daytime)
21:16 Panorama of Pattaya Beach
22:19 Motorcycle-driven mobile sticker/decal shop
22:38 Timelapse sunset #2, Inn House Hotel rooftop
23:06 Motorcycle-driven mobile women's bra and dress shops smiley
23:42 Panorama of Jomtien Beach
24:57 Panorama of Pattaya Floating Market
25:19 Amazing acrobatic smoothie server, Pattaya Floating Market
26:23 Goat feeding, Pattaya Floating Market
27:08 Goldfish feeding, Pattaya Floating Market
27:41 Longtail boats, Pattaya Floating Market
28:35 Grilled yakitori, Pattaya Floating Market
28:57 Live music, Pattaya Floating Market
30:40 Johnny Depp (a.k.a Capt. Jack Sparrow) performs wine glass music, including The Beatles' "Hey Jude"
34:43 Koi pond, Underwater World Pattaya
35:08 Turtles, Underwater World Pattaya
35:31 Various sea creatures in the 105-meter-long tunnel, including sharks, rays, tuna, eels, yellowtails, clownfish, plecostomuses, and more, Underwater World Pattaya
42:06 Car store animated blow-up advertising doll (Come on in!!)
42:16 Sunset panorama, Pattaya Beach
43:35 Magical dancing water fountain, Royal Garden Plaza shopping mall (reprise)
45:06 Parasailers, Pattaya Beach
46:07 Timelapse sunset #3, Pattaya Beach
46:30 VW van cocktail bar
46:56 Rainbow Festival live music, Central Festival shopping mall
47:50 Amazing wall-mounted red car, Walking Street Red Car Pub

Feb. 16, 2018 - 7 Magical Days in Pattaya, Thailand, Feb. 7-14, 2018 (the pics)

It was a grrrrreat 1-week escape from Tokyo's brutal winter this year, the coldest in 48 years. 7 days of sun & surf in the Royal Kingdom of Thailand's beautiful coastal city of Pattaya. I'm in heaven, man. smiley

Don't miss my 237 pics at Flickr, the one below a sample of from the amazing, magical 3D illusion Art in Paradise Museum. Video coming soon!

Art in Paradise Museum, Pattaya, Thailand
Art in Paradise Museum, Pattaya, Thailand

Feb. 3, 2018 - Super Blue Blood Moon Total Lunar Eclipse on Jan. 31, 2018

This amazing pic was taken by my Facebook friend Berndt Otto in Setagaya-ku, Tokyo on Wed. night with his Nikon P900, 2000mm lens. WOW! Good job, Berndt, and thanks for sharing! smiley

Super Blue Moon Total Lunar Eclipse on Jan. 31, 2018
Super Blue Blood Moon Total Lunar Eclipse on Jan. 31, 2018, as seen from Tokyo, Japan

2018's first lunar eclipse on Wednesday, Jan. 31 was a rare celestial phenomenon. A blue moon (the 2nd full moon in a calendar month), a super moon (when the moon is unusually close to Earth, making it bigger and brighter) and a blood moon (a moment during an eclipse when the moon appears red) all coincided, creating a lunar trifecta.

The last supermoon total lunar eclipse was in September 2015 and the last super Blue Moon total eclipse happened on December 30, 1982. But the rare spectacle which occurred on Jan. 31 and which NASA is calling a "Super Blue Blood Moon" is the first time all 3 lunar phenomenon have coincided since 1866. Wow.

Jan. 16, 2018 - The "Dear Wolff" ​thank you picture book

Today I received what is without question one of the most magnificent presents I’ve ever received in my entire life. It was the last day of this semester​'​s English ​Communication ​2B class, and after all ​3 ​of my university students had ​finished their final exams and left class​, 5 minutes later they reappeared and presented me with a​ cute little 18​-page​, scrapbook-style​ ​​thank you picture book​. It had ​been ​prepared by hand​,​ complete with photos, stickers​,​ seals​,​ handwritten thank you notes​, and ​even ribbons.

It also included ​​amusing rankings for (1) which student came to class late the most often​,​ (2) which one spoke the most Japanese in class​,​ and (3) which one had the best English communication skills. ​Ha-ha, how CUTE! ​It also included a photo gallery ​of Chi​hiro's European travels​ last year​.

I can't begin to tell you how much this ​spectacular act of love has profoundly touche​d my heart and soul. I just can't imagine how many HOURS and HOURS they spent on this, right at the end of the semester when they're SO busy with tests, reports, writing graduation theses, part-time jobs, etc. Simply amazing!

Thank you very much​,​ Yuki​,​ Kenji​,​ and ​Chihiro. ​Best wishes ​to you ​always! Love you guys…​​



















Jan. 11, 2018 - GW’s August 2017 Alaska Adventure eBook

GW's August 2017 Alaska ebook cover image
Hot off the press! It was a gargantuan process, but the eBook project I started on Dec. 30th to document my amazing August 2017 Alaska adventure... 10,190 words(*), 58 pics, and links to the 31 video clips in my Alaska YouTube video... is finally complete. YAY!

Come join me in reliving the sights, sounds, and magic of my 16-day, August 2017 Alaska adventure, one of the most magnificent vacations of my entire lifetime!

Highlights of the adventure include ​hiking in and exploring Denali National Park for 4 days, a day trip to the Arctic Circle, a visit to the famous Chena Hot Springs, sitting on Santa's lap at the North Pole, visiting Wrangell-St. Elias National Park (America's largest), a 5-hour ranger-guided wildlife boat cruise in Seward's Resurrection Bay, and most notably, catching 2 HUGE silver salmon in the Lower Kenai River! 

My latest eBook is now available for only 99¢ in the US Kindle store, or ¥112 in the Amazon Japan store (アマゾン日本). If you don't have a Kindle (neither do I), you can download the free Kindle app (Kindle無料アプリ) to read my eBook on your PC or mobile device.

I hope you enjoy my latest publication and that you will find at least part of it informative or interesting, just as if you were taking the Alaska trip with me! smiley

(*) an estimated 107 pages if it were a physical book

Jan. 1, 2018 - 1st Sunrise of the New Year - 初日の出 Hatsuhinode 2018

Hatsuhinode (初日の出) is the Japanese custom of viewing the 1st sunrise of the New Year. It's almost as exciting as watching paint dry, smiley but here's a 22-second timelapse of the first sunrise of 2018 in Tokyo which occurred Jan. 1 at 6:50 am (Universal Time + 9 hrs.). Don't blink, or you'll miss it! smiley

1st Sunrise of the New Year - 初日の出 Hatsuhinode 2018
(If player above is not visible, you can view video @ YouTube here.)

Japan-Texas ebook cover thumbnail
A FREE download at Smashwords

Pattaya ebook cover
Only $1.99 at Amazon
(¥214 at アマゾン日本)

Alaska ebook cover
Only $2.99 at Amazon
(¥340 at アマゾン日本)

Summer 1974 hitchhiking trip ebook cover
Only 99¢ at Amazon (¥105 at アマゾン日本)

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Gary J. Wolff
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GW's road trip ebook cover
Only 99¢ from Amazon
(¥114 at アマゾン日本)

new Climbing Mt. Fuji book
Only $2.99 at Amazon
(¥343 at アマゾン日本)

Only $2.99 at Amazon
(¥343 at アマゾン日本)