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
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.
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)
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
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.
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.
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
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: WalterWolff.com
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.
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
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
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.
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.)
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!
Kawazu-zakura cherry blossoms in Tokyo
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!
2018 cherry blossom front in Japan
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. Enjoy!
7 Magical Days in
Pattaya, Thailand, Feb. 7-14, 2018
(If player above is not visible, you can view video
@ YouTube here.)
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
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
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
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.
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
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!
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.
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
and (3) which one had the best English communication skills. Ha-ha,
how CUTE! It
also included a photo gallery of Chihiro's European travels last
I can't begin to tell you how much this spectacular act of love has
profoundly touched 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…
2018 - "GW’s August 2017 Alaska Adventure" (the eBook)
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
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
catching 2 HUGE silver salmon in the Lower Kenai River!
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!
(*) an estimated 107 pages if it were a physical book
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,
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!
1st Sunrise of the
New Year - 初日の出 Hatsuhinode 2018
(If player above is not visible, you can view video
@ YouTube here.)
When the magnitude-9 Great East Japan Earthquake (東日本大震災, Higashi Nihon Daishinsai) struck 8 years ago today, even though cell phone networks bit the dust, public pay phones turned out to be vital lif…
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