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Home: Gary J. Wolff's Blog: Gary J. Wolff's Blog Archives, October-December, 2014

Gary J. Wolff's Blog Archives
October-December, 2014

This page shows archived posts for Gary J. Wolff's blog from October-December, 2014.



Dec. 30, 2014 - The Motivating Magic of Songs in the EFL Classroom

This newly published article covers tips on how singing English songs helps motivate Japanese university students in EFL classrooms in Japan. Written in Jan. 2014, it just now appeared in the "My Share" section of the Jan./Feb. 2015 issue of The Language Teacher, published by the Japan Association for Language Teaching (JALT).

Dec. 29, 2014 - "2014 - The Year in Review"

It's been a great year! Thanks for being a part of it.

The full-size 2014 pics are here: https://flic.kr/s/aHsk3xbEdE

See you next year! smiley

Dec. 27, 2014 - Somebody in Texas LOVES me! smiley

The most AMAZING Xmas package arrived from Houston yesterday!

Here's a breakown of my Xmas stash:

- 6 bags of Nora Wolff's world-famous Texas Trash snack mix, a tasty concoction that's graced the Wolff household and its environs for at least the past 4 decades
- Costco's premium "Chocolates of the World" from Italy, Germany, Spain, Switzerland, Canada, and Belgium (Yummy!)
- Bath & Body Works anti-bacterial hand gel
- Texas Longhorn muscle shirt (to show off my ripped Schwarzenegger physique next summer)
- Texas Longhorn bottle opener that plays the Longhorn Fight Song
- Texas Longhorn soft & comfy flip-flops
- Texas Longhorn gourmet salted peanuts

Needless to say, I'm gonna be "ready to go" for the Longhorn football team's match-up with the Arkansas Razorbacks in next Monday's Advocare V100 Texas Bowl in Houston. smiley

I'm without question the luckiest guy on the planet. THANK YOU, MOM!

Mom's 2014 Xmas presents
Mom's 2014 Xmas presents

Dec. 26, 2014 - Diamond Fuji Viewing Spots, Dates, and Times in Tokyo

"Diamond Fuji" is a phenomenon which occurs only from Oct. to Feb. when the sun sets into or rises out of Mt. Fuji's cone, setting off sunbeams that resemble a glittering diamond.

After a failed attempt to view Diamond Fuji on Dec. 23, 2014 atop Mt. Takao and a lengthy but very fun Xmas Day Diamond Fuji discussion thread with my friends in the "Hiking in Japan" group @ Facebook, I decided to put together the webpage linked above, listing the best high-rise spots in Tokyo for viewing Diamond Fuji along with recommended dates, sunset times, admission fees, and links to Google maps.

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

Dec. 25, 2014 - My all-time favorite Xmas music video - Andrea Bocelli & David Foster performing "White Christmas"

I just LOVE these 2 brilliant musicians. Merry Xmas, everybody!!

Andrea Bocelli & David Foster performing "White Christmas"
Andrea Bocelli & David Foster performing "White Christmas"
(YouTube has restricted embedding of a video player above,
but you can view video @ YouTube here.)

Dec. 25, 2014 - NORAD Tracks Santa over my hometown Houston, Texas

Wow, Santa just made the rounds in Texas and passed thru Houston around 12:45 am local time (UTC - 6 hrs.). Besides Houston, other observation points in Texas where Santa was tracked by NORAD include Amarillo, Lubbock, Dallas, Austin, and San Antonio. Wow, nearly 6 billion presents delivered so far... smiley

NORAD Tracks Santa in Houston - 2014
NORAD Tracks Santa in Houston - 2014

Dec. 24, 2014 - NORAD Tracks Santa over Tokyo, Japan

Santa just made the rounds in Japan from Iwo Jima to Sapporo, and passed thru Tokyo around 11:15 pm local time (UTC + 9 hrs.) on Xmas Eve. Other observation points in Japan tracked by NORAD included Kyoto, Osaka, Hiroshima, Okinawa, Yokohama, Nagasaki, and Itsukushima. Wow, already over 970 million presents delivered so far...

NORAD Tracks Santa in Tokyo 2014
NORAD Tracks Santa in Tokyo - 2014

Follow Santa as he makes his 24-hour journey around the globe in real-time 3D animation: https://www.noradsanta.org/en

Dec. 20, 2014 - Greg Irwin's 2014 Xmas Concert

I just LOVE this man's voice... smiley

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

Dec. 13, 2014 - Midtown Christmas 2014 Illumination

This year's Midtown Christmas Illuminations in Roppongi, Tokyo features a "Midtown Cruise," created by a half million twinkling lights. The illuminations in this walking cruise include "Tree Illuminations," the "Starlight Road," a pathway of glittering white and blue lights, 9 trees that sparkle in the shape of a champagne glass, a pink 60-year-old "Miracle Tree" where you can make a wish, and the climax of the journey which is the absolutely breathtaking Starlight Garden, whose "Space Journey" theme features 180,000 lights including a new "stick illumination," the first of its kind in Japan that sends light up to 4 meters into the air.

If all that weren't enough, you can also see the "Enya Tree," a small, white-sparkling fir tree planted in November 2008 by the world-famous Irish singer Enya, with a wish for "coexistence between humanity and nature." More details on the 2014 Midtown Xmas Illuminations, which can viewed till 11 pm every night thru Xmas Day, can be found here: http://www.tokyo-midtown.com/en/events_news/detail.php?id=555

My 11-min. video of the 2014 Midtown Christmas Illuminations
(If player above is not visible, you can view video @ YouTube here.)

Here are some video highlights:

 1:48  The 9 champagne glass trees
 2:22  Starlight Garden show
10:38  Miracle Tree (make a wish!) smiley
10:55  The Enya Tree

Dec. 7, 2014 - Nighttime lightup of Rikugien fall colors (六義園紅葉のライトアップ)

Every fall, this beautiful, 300-year-old Tokyo garden hosts a 2-week event to light up its beautiful fall colors. This year it was held Nov. 20 - Dec. 7, 2014. Below are some of my pics. The rest are here: Nighttime lightup of Rikugien fall colors, Dec. 5-6, 2014

Rikugien 2014 nighttime lightup
Rikugien 2014 nighttime lightup
Rikugien 2014 nighttime lightup
Rikugien 2014 nighttime lightup
The full 54-pic album is here:
Nighttime lightup of Rikugien fall colors, Dec. 5-6, 2014

More info on the Rikugien Garden:

Dec. 2, 2014 - Golden Ginkgo Trees, Tokyo, Japan

Gaien Ichou Namiki Dori (外苑いちょう並木 通り, Ginkgo Avenue) is one of my favorite spots to view fall colors in Tokyo. Today the golden ginkgo trees were spectacular, as they are every year this 1st week in December.

golden ginkgo trees in Tokyo
Golden ginkgo trees in Tokyo
View 15-photo Flickr album here:
Golden Ginkgo Trees, Tokyo, Japan, Dec. 2, 2014

Google Map 

My video from Dec. 2009

Nov. 30, 2014 -  Christmas Sale on both of my mountain climbing eBooks!

The View from the Top of Japan
Christmas Sale now on


Buy for yourself or give as a present to that someone special by clicking on "Give as a gift." Either way, just enter the coupon code below @ checkout to get the discounted price:
The View from the Top of Japan: UX49L
Climbing Mt. Fuji: HR93T

The View from the Top of Japan
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These eBooks will make GRRRRRREAT stocking stuffers or can be printed out as coffee table books.... besides, they even cost less than a cup of coffee @ Starbucks! smiley  

Nov. 26, 2014 - Preparing and Presenting Scientific Posters

Japanese university students are often called upon to prepare and present posters in their technical English classes. A tall, handsome university professor from Houston, Texas spoke Mon. Nov. 24, 2014 at the JALT2014 national language teacher's conference in Tsukuba, Japan to share online resources his 3rd-year university technical English students use to prepare their scientific posters.

These resources included the design and layout of posters, sample poster templates, posters prepared by his former students, and also a sampling of posters presented in the poster sessions at this 4-day Tsukuba language teacher's conference.

If all that weren't enough, the presentation was captured in a breathtakingly exciting video (ha-ha!), which along with online notes & more details from the presentation (including all links) can be viewed here: Preparing and Presenting Scientific Posters

JALT2014 presenter Gary Wolff
JALT2014 presenter Gary Wolff

Nov. 19, 2014 - Happy Birthday to ME! smiley

Here's an absolutely hilarious video from my wonderful sis on the occasion of my birthday. Check it out by clicking the image below!

Birthday Gary JibJab
View funny video @ JibJab here.

Nov. 18, 2014 - World's tallest man meets world's shortest man

Sultan Kösen, 31, the tallest man in the world, is a Turkish farmer who measures 8 feet, 3 inches (~251 cm) tall. On Thursday, for the first time he met Nepalese weaver Chandra Bahadur Dangi, 74, the shortest man in the world who is just 21½ inches (~55 cm) tall. The occasion was the 10th annual Guinness World Records Day, which celebrates record-setting achievements around the globe.

World's tallest & shortest men
World's tallest & shortest men
(Photo credit: Daniel Deme/WENN.com)

Nov. 13, 2014 - Taylor Swift (テイラー・スウィフト) is HOT....even in Japan! smiley

I spotted this ad for Taylor Swift's new "1989" album inside a Tokyo train car on my way home tonight. Wow, go テイラー!! smiley

ad in Japan for Taylor Swift's new "1989" album
Ad in Japan for Taylor Swift's new "1989" album

Nov. 10, 2014 - My 1st mountain climbing book shows up in my doc's office

Maybe you can imagine my shock & pleasant surprise recently to see my 1st mountain climbing book, "The View from the Top of Japan," on the shelf in my doctor's office waiting room. Wow!

"The View from the Top of Japan" book

[OK, well in the spirit of full disclosure, I DID give this book to my doc back in the spring of last year, but it was great to see that he's sharing it with his other patients!] smiley

Nov. 5, 2014 - Are you a Twit Face? smiley

Are you a Twit Face?

Nov. 3, 2014 - Fall colors (紅葉) in Nishizawa Valley (西沢渓谷)

Yesterday I had the pleasure of seeing one of Japan's top 100 waterfalls, along with some stunning fall colors.

Yamanashi Prefecture's Nishizawa Keikoku (西沢渓谷), about a 90-minute train ride and 1-hr. bus ride west of Shinjuku, is one of the most beautiful valleys of the Chichibu-Tama-Kai National Park and features several waterfalls, including the spectacular 5-tiered Nanatsugama-Godan-no-Taki.

It's particularly beautiful during the peak of the autumn leaves season in late Oct. & early Nov. The hike was organized by Jambo International.

Click thumbnails below to open full-size images,
or click here to view entire 68-pic album.
Nishizawa Valley
Nishizawa Valley
Nishizawa Valley
Nishizawa Valley
Fall colors in Nishizawa Valley
My full 68-pic Flickr album is here:
Fall colors (紅葉) in Nishizawa Valley (西沢渓谷)

My 2.5-min. Nishizawa Valley video
(If player above is not visible, you can view video @ YouTube here.)

Nishizawa Valley Hiking Map (in Japanese)

Nishizawa Valley Google Map

Oct. 29, 2014 - Happy Halloween from Tokyo Disneyland! smiley

Halloween in Tokyo Disneyland
Halloween in Tokyo Disneyland
Tokyo Disney Resort official website
(Photo courtesy: Nozomi Uchibori)

Oct. 28, 2014 - 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. 19, 2014 - NASA gets into Halloween spirit with jack-o-lantern pic of the sun

jack-o-lantern sun
Jack-o-lantern sun
(Image credit: NASA/GSFC/SDO)

This image, taken by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory on October 8, is a composite of two images of extreme ultraviolet wavelengths at 171 and 193 Ångströms (not visible to the naked eye), appearing gold and yellow to create a jack-o-lantern like appearance.

Blending together the 2 sets of extreme ultraviolet wavelengths shows the sun's most active regions, which appear brighter because those are areas that emit more light and energy.

WOW! Trick or treat!! smiley

Oct. 14, 2014 - Typhoon Vongfong slams Japan; 2nd in a week

The 2nd powerful typhoon in a week has struck the entire Japanese archipelago, leaving a broad path of destruction in its wake. Typhoon Vongfong (a Macao Chinese word meaning "wasp"), also known in Japan as Typhoon 19 (台風19号), has killed 2 people and injured at least 93 nationwide, with 1 missing.

A 90-year-old man was found dead in an irrigation channel in Tottori Prefecture and a 72-year-old man drowned after driving his light truck into a pond in Ehime Prefecture.

Injuries include a 39-year-old American pilot whose light plane crashed in the city of Ibusuki in Kagoshima Prefecture, near the southernmost tip of the main island of Kyushu, and a man in his 20s and a 9-year-old girl, who in separate cases, both had a finger severed when high winds slammed doors shut.

On Oct. 7 Vongfong strengthened to super typhoon status with wind speeds of 180 mph (80 m/s) and a central pressure of 900 millibars, making it the strongest tropical storm on earth since Typhoon Haiyan slammed into the Philippines last November with maximum sustained winds of 195 mph (87 m/s), killing over 6,000 people.

Although Vongfong weakened to a tropical storm before making landfall on the southern main island of Kyushu, the most notable impact of the storm was the nationwide rainfall amounts, as seen in the graphic below. In Satsumasendai City in Kagoashima Prefecture, the storm dumped 85 mm (3.3 in.) of rain during a 1-hr. period on Mon. morning.

As of midday Monday local time, the highest rainfall total from Vongfong anywhere in Japan was found in Kunigami (on the northern end of Okinawa Island) where 21.95 inches (557.5 mm) of rain were reported. Also, some parts of Okinawa, Miyazaki, and Kochi Prefectures received well over 400 mm (~16 in.) in a 24-hour period.  

- NHK World

Typhoon Vongfong nationwide 24-hour rainfall amounts
Typhoon Vongfong nationwide 24-hour rainfall amounts,
as of 6:10 am, Tues. Oct. 14, 2014
(red bars indicate >100 mm (3.9 in.), many of them >400 mm (~16 in.))
(image credit: NHK)

Oct. 12, 2014 - Danny Macaskill rides Scotland's Cuillin Ridgeline

In general, I'm not a big fan of cyling in the mountains (especially if they're on the same trail I'm hiking on), smiley but this remarkable video shows one of the most incredible, daredevil feats I've ever seen. Danny Macaskill took a death-defying ride on his Santa Cruz Bronson mountain bike along the notorious Cuillin Ridgeline in his native home on the Isle of Skye in Scotland.

Posted just 10 days ago, as of today this video has been viewed over 15 million times. I believe my favorite parts begin @ the 1:44, 2:00, 2:17, 3:06, 3:37, 4:30, 5:17, 5:42, 6:08, & 6:19 min. marks.

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

Mountain biking in Scotland: http://www.visitscotland.com/see-do/activities/mountain-biking/
Santa Cruz bicycles - http://www.santacruzbicycles.com

Interestingly, I had the pleasure of riding my friend's $5,500 Santa Cruz Tallboy last month in Denver (Thanks, Tom!): smiley

Santa Cruz Tallboy
Santa Cruz Tallboy
(my entire 105-pic Colorado photo album is here)

Oct. 8 - The total lunar eclipse from Tokyo

Well, I got to see the 1st half of it....before the clouds moved in. smiley And yep, in that 1st pic, I captured a jumbo jet flying across the face of the moon!

The partial umbral eclipse began @ 18:15 & the total eclipse began @ 19:25.

By far the best lunar eclipse I've ever seen, even though I missed the entire 2nd half! smiley

total lunar eclipse from Tokyo
total lunar eclipse from Tokyo
total lunar eclipse from Tokyo
total lunar eclipse from Tokyo
total lunar eclipse from Tokyo
total lunar eclipse from Tokyo
total lunar eclipse from Tokyo
total lunar eclipse from Tokyo
total lunar eclipse from Tokyo
total lunar eclipse from Tokyo
total lunar eclipse from Tokyo
total lunar eclipse from Tokyo
total lunar eclipse from Tokyo
total lunar eclipse from Tokyo
total lunar eclipse from Tokyo
total lunar eclipse from Tokyo

Oct. 6, 2014 - Total lunar eclipse - Wed. Oct. 8

A total eclipse of the full moon will occur on Wed. October 8, 2014. For North America and the Hawaiian Islands, the total lunar eclipse happens in the wee hours before sunrise on October 8. For New Zealand, Australia and eastern Asia (including Japan), the total eclipse is seen after sunset on October 8. A partial lunar eclipse can be seen before sunrise, October 8, from much of South America, or after sunset, October 8, from western Asia.

Here are the viewing times for Tokyo (& Houston): smiley
Partial umbral eclipse begins: 18:15 (4:15 am)
Total eclipse begins: 19:25 (5:25)
Greatest eclipse: 19:55 (5:55)
Total eclipse ends: 20:24 (6:24)
Partial umbral eclipse ends: 21:34 (7:34)

October 8, 2014 total lunar eclipse map
October 8, 2014 total lunar eclipse map
(Image credit: EclipseWise.com)

More info: Earthsky.org
When to see it from your location: http://www.timeanddate.com/eclipse/lunar/2014-october-8

Oct. 6, 2014 - Up in the east, down in the west

These 2 pics were taken within 5 min. of each other.

14.10.6 moonrise
Mon. Oct. 6, 2014 moonrise, 5:18 pm

14-10-6 sunset
Mon. Oct. 6, 2014 sunset, 5:13 pm

Oct. 5, 2014 - Here comes Typhoon Phanfone. Watch out, Tokyo!

Category 4 Supertyphoon Phanfone (Typhoon 18, 台風18号), a Laotian term for "animal," is already pounding islands south of Kyushu with torrential rains and wind gusts of up to 101 mph as the storm heads north towards Tokyo.

Winds at Japan's Kita-daitō (North Daitō Island) gusted to 45.3 m/s (101 mph) at 2:35 pm JST (1:35 am U.S. EDT) on Saturday, before the wind observations were knocked offline. Minami-daitō has set an all-time calendar-day record for the month of October with 217.0 mm (8.54 inches) of rain, beating the old October record of 198.5 mm on Oct. 26, 2010.

Heavy rains from Phanfone are the main threat, and are likely to bring dangerous flash flooding and mudslides. One precipitation forecast model predicts that Phanfone will dump widespread rains of 4-8" (102-203 mm) across much of Japan.

Two top models for predicting typhoon tracks, the GFS and European, predicted with their 12:00 Zulu Saturday runs that Phanfone would hit the main Japanese island of Honshu near 18 UTC on Sunday, and make its closest pass by Tokyo around 9 am Monday morning Japan time.

As of 9 am Sun. morning, the U.S. Navy's Joint Typhoon Warning Center is forecasting Typhoon Phanfone to pass within only 19 nautical miles (~35 km) of the Yokosuka navy base, just south of Japan's capital. Should make for a very interesting Monday morning commute for the 9 million residents of Tokyo's 23-ward metro area. frownie anime

Source: Dr. Jeff Masters, co-founder of Weather Underground

Typhoon Phanfone radar
Typhoon Phanfone radar, as of 9:15 am, Sun. Oct. 5, Japan time
(Photo credit: Weather Underground)

Typhoon Phanfone storm track
Typhoon Phanfone storm track, as of 3 am, Sun. Oct. 5, Japan time
(Photo credit: U.S. Navy Joint Typhoon Warning Center)

[Typhoon Phanfone (Typhoon 18, 台風18号) postmortem:

- Widespread flooding occurred across Japan, especially in Shizuoka Prefecture where over 400 mm (~16 in.) of rain was recorded in some areas within a 24-hr. period. Over 19 inches (~480 mm) of rain fell in the prefecture's mountainous regions over a 3-day period.

-Tokyo recorded wind gusts up to 70 mph (~31 m/s), and sustained winds around or above 40 mph (~18 m/s) lasted for about 2 hours in the city.

- 3 people are dead and 4 others are missing. A member of the U.S. Air Force drowned while taking photos on the coast of southern Okinawa Prefecture on Sunday. Two other fellow US airmen were also washed out to sea and are still missing.

- Also on Sunday, a university student disappeared while surfing in rough seas off the coastal city of Fujisawa, south of Tokyo.

- On Monday, 2 men in Yokohama died after being buried in mudslides at different locations.

- A junior high school student is missing after being taken away by high waves from a beach in Yokosuka.

- 62 people were injured across the country.

- JR rail officials suspended services on the main JR Tokaido Line in Shizuoka City after a landslide washed away a short section of track. Officials are unsure when trains will be able to start running again.

- Airlines cancelled about 630 flights on Monday morning, mostly to or from Tokyo's Haneda Airport.

- Over 2.9 million people were issued evacuation advisories.]

Oct. 1, 2014 - Emily Skye's 28 Day Ab Shred

Go Emily! WOW! smiley

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

Emily's site: https://www.emilyskye.com/

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