friends

our trumpet teacher performs

2014-08-16 NEWPORT, OREGON -- Noriko and I listened to my trumpet teacher John Bringetto and his buddy Jim Cameron play music at the Cecil’s Dirty Apron restaurant in Newport, about 25 miles south of where we live.

John is a sailor, musician, and
teacher. We are just starting to learn of his extensive adventures. Tonight he and Jim entertained us with favorite jazz tunes.

140816_P1140233
Above: Cecil’s is off US 101. Live music is offered frequently. The box on the wall next to Noriko (seated at the far left) is a modern jukebox. Insert your credit card and apparently your song is downloaded to the jukebox in case it’s not already stored locally.

140816_P1140208
Above: Cecil’s serves Louisiana cuisine. Their gumbo is a complete meal in itself. Next time, we won’t order the hamburgers!

140816_P1140190
Above: John and Jim have been playing together for 4 years.

140816_P1140201
Above: Both John and Jim sing. John switches instruments -- trumpet, flugelhorn, saxophone, flute. While he sings, he plays bass on the keyboard with his right hand, so that the keyboard has 3 hands playing on it simultaneously.

140816_P8160884
Above: My eyes were glued to John’s lips. Embouchure (the configuration of primarily the lips and secondarily the cheek, jaw, and tongue) is paramount to playing brass instruments. I need to learn the embouchure appropriate for me.

140816_P1140220
Above: Between bites of food, I would breathe with John’s playing -- that is, while he was playing notes, I would try to slowly exhale. I couldn’t keep up! John seems to have an endless supply of air. I’m in trouble!

140816_P1140237
Above: After the 2-hour performance, Sirokuro “flying puppy” and Kero “pink frog” were introduced to the artists.

140816_P1140241
Above: It was a mesmerizing night. Thanks John and Jim! We’ll see you here at Cecil’s on 2014-08-30!

140816_P1140236
Above: We’ll be attending more performances by John Bringetto and his band. Y’all come and listen!

remembering a friend

2014-08-08 MARGATE, FLORIDA -- Noriko and I visited Edith, the sister of our late friend Bruce Lowerre, at her home in Margate, Florida.

Bruce lived 5 houses away from Edith. We visited them several times after Bruce moved there to be close to his family.

As we had in the past, we stayed in the guest bedroom at Bruce’s house. The house was empty without him. I could barely bring myself to take pictures.

Noriko and I intend to return when I can play a few songs on my trumpet for Bruce and Edith. I would like to play “Gonna fly now” (the theme from the movie “Rocky”) for Bruce, because grieving for my friend is so hard now, and because he should be flying. For Edith, I would like to play “Anchors aweigh” because she is USN, Ret.

140806_P1130994
Above: Bruce’s study. Most of his books and equipment are gone. Hanging on the wall is his CMU PhD diploma.

140806_P1130995
Above: Bruce’s belongings are slowly being given away to his surviving relatives.

140806_P1130975
Above: Edith, Pat (a neighbor), Noriko and I had lunch at the Big Bear Brewery, where we once had lunch with Bruce.

140806_P1140015
Above: Edith rescues injured or neglected pets. Sassy is one of her most recent house guests.

140806_P1140070
Above: Edith formerly played the French horn for the US Navy. She took me to a local well-stocked trumpet store, where a trumpet instructor suggested I try the Bach 3C mouthpiece. He and Edith believe that the Yamaha 1335 mouthpiece that came with my rental trumpet is too small for my mouth. They may be correct, given that most players of the rental trumpet are Japanese middle school students (who tend to be smaller than adults), and I am larger than most Japanese adults. The Bach 3C has roughly the same rim size but a shallower alpha angle (the angle between the rim and the cup). I did notice a slight improvement in producing notes. The white ornament is a toy I got at the Moomin art exhibit in Sapporo, Japan.

death of an admired artist

2014-08-03 TOKYO, JAPAN -- Obi Hiroshi (帯ひろ志), a manga artist and teacher whom I respect and admire, died this morning due to a sudden illness.

A year ago yesterday we met for the first and last time at the Sapporo Clock Tower. Obi Hiroshi chose his pseudonym from his birthplace Obihiro city on Hokkaido island. He left Hokkaido when he was a toddler, grew up and lived on Honshu island, and opened his manga studio in Sagamihara (a city in Kanagawa, close to where I spent my adolescence). The day we met, he had returned to Hokkaido island for the first time in 50 years.

Obi Hiroshi earned fame in soft-porn manga for teenage boys. I approve of his manga because his work is full of loyalty, friendship, and happy endings. There is no violence or broken promises. His heroines are healthy, optimistic, extroverted, and courageous.

140803_miracle_lingerie_1140803_miracle_lingerie_2
Above: My favorite character Chisato from “Miracle lingerie”. Chisato gains super powers by wearing lingerie sent to earth by aliens. Her bra and panties are activated only when exposed to sunlight and to the full view of men transfixed at the 14-year-old saving the world. Obi Hiroshi softened the sexual aspect of his story by drawing Chisato as if she was wearing a bikini swimsuit, and by assigning Chisato humanitarian missions to overcome her embarrassment. Contrary to what amazon says, the books are available for purchase. (This cover artwork is identical to the books I own.)

Another reason why I respect Obi Hiroshi is his generous, sincere love of his students. He was an assistant professor at an
art school. We talked about teaching techniques and student psychology. He taught at various off-campus venues including Sapporo. I believe he was teaching a manga clinic at Tokuyama University (in Yamaguchi) when he suffered a brain stem hemorrhage that killed him within hours.

Overwork must have caught up with him. He mentioned his hectic schedule and health problems. Manga artists are rarely paid well for their artwork. Obi Hiroshi supplemented his income by illustrating corporate instructional material. He was proud of his fast turn-around times. I wish I had paid him to draw for my online courseware. If only I could have afforded to pay him enough so that he could have worked less.

It is so unfair for such a super-friendly artist and ultra-caring teacher to leave us behind.

Obi Hiroshi was 54 years old.

130802_P1080617_pt
Above: Obi Hiroshi signed his book for me. It occupies a treasured display position in my office.

140714_twitter_obi_hiroshi_teaches
Above: Obi Hiroshi and I exchanged messages over the past few years on twitter.

140803_twitter_obi_hiroshi_dies
Above: Obi Hiroshi’s wife announced her husband’s death on
his twitter account.

trumpet lessons

2014-08-03 SAPPORO, JAPAN -- I started taking trumpet lessons.

140701_P1130295
Above: The Yamaha YTR-3335S trumpet for beginning students. $800 to buy new, $200 to rent for 7 months.

I have no musical training whatsoever. Never learned to play an instrument, nor read sheet music, nor sing. I can’t even whistle in tune.

Listening to music has always been a pleasurable yet passive, unconcentrated activity for me. I would turn on an internet radio station, perhaps in the smooth jazz or easy listening genre, and let the music play. I wouldn’t pay much attention, and wouldn’t miss it if the music turned itself off.

During childhood I fantasized over playing the trumpet at a level of seriousness similar to becoming a superhero. Knowing this, Noriko took me to a free trumpet lesson at the Yamaha music school for adults on my 53rd birthday.

140715_P1130653
Above: The Yamaha school moved to its Sapporo-station-front location 12 month ago. We live 5 minutes away.

140715_P1130649
Above: While waiting for lessons, students study by the window overlooking the train tracks.

140715_P1130652
Above: Yamaha manufactures all sorts of musical instruments. I don’t know yet which make or model of trumpet would be best for me. I’m renting until I know what I want. It would be a wonderful Christmas or New Year’s present.

During our free trial lesson, we interviewed Izuru Konishi (a big band jazz trumpeter). We liked his life experience, personality, and teaching style, so we signed up for lessons. I say “we” but Noriko isn’t taking lessons -- she’s my adult guardian. My mental age is around 8. I would fall apart if I went to lessons alone.

We’ve had 4 lessons so far including the first (when we learned about the teacher, not the instrument). Each lesson is just the 3 of us (teacher, guardian, student), lasts 30 minutes, and meets 3 Tuesday evenings per month.

During the first 4 lessons, I’ve changed my embouchure (lip and mouth shape) 3 times already -- we’re looking for what is best for me. The one I’m practicing now seems like a winner, at least for high notes. I produce C6 fairly consistently, although I still hunt for notes. My low notes suffer though. Now I can’t produce C4 (middle C).

Today at the time of this writing my trumpet is in a suitcase traveling to America. I’ll take
lessons in Oregon, too, because Izuru recommended it, and because I want to be bilingual in music.

140701_P1130301
Above: The mouthpiece I’m using feels tiny to my big lips. Practicing the trumpet improved my whistling.

140715_P1130655
Above: Izuru signed my textbook. At that time, I didn’t know it was forbidden to place items on the piano. Sorry!

140715_P1130660
Above: The trumpet has 3 piston valves. I incorrectly imagined that the valves create 8 notes (2x2x2=8). Turns out they lower the note in 6 half-note steps (0, -0.5, -1.0, -1.5, -2.0, -2.5, and -3.0).

140715_P1130657
Above: My goal is to play “Happy birthday” on Noriko’s birthday. I have 7 months to hit G5!

140725_IMG_0144
Above: I bought a bunch of books. I started to read and listen a lot about music theory and trumpet playing on the internet. I also subscribed to a bi-weekly magazine for jazz appreciation. Being an academic, hitting the books is something I know how. Translating that information to mouth, breath, and fingers is an entirely different challenge.

cherry blossoms

2014-05-08 TOKYO AND SAPPORO, JAPAN -- My departed friend calls to me ... I hear his voice all the time. The other night he appeared in a dream and he talked to me while I cried.

Bruce, here are flowers for you. I saw them near Noriko’s sister’s place in Tokyo, and on Hokudai campus.

140404_koenji_sakura_temple140404_koenji_sakura_tree140503_P1100960140503_P1100973

death of a close friend

2014-02-09 SAPPORO, JAPAN -- I have been reticent because I have been in shock. I am stunned and paralyzed because my close friend Bruce Lowerre died in an airplane accident.

091111_DSCN4096

Bruce and I met at work. The research institute we worked for is known for inventing the computer mouse (I knew Dave Engelbart -- his wife told me how she renamed the turtle the mouse). The research team that Bruce and I belonged to later developed SIRI, the speech recognition software used in Apple products.

Bruce was a decorated researcher. His invention (the beam search algorithm) is still taught in computer science classes today.

He started his career in chemistry (his first BS was in that area), but became enthralled with computers when, as an undergraduate student, he was hired by a local bank to write computer software. CMU initially rejected Bruce’s application for graduate studies in computer science because CMU believed solid training in logic was necessary. So Bruce earned a BS in mathematics (in the 1970s, computer science was not taught at the undergraduate level), went to CMU, studied under Raj Reddy, invented the beam search algorithm, and earned his PhD.

Bruce was clever with his hands. He brought his home-made telescope to his honeymoon. He flew radio-controlled blimps at HP labs, his workplace at the time. He built toys for children of his friends.

Bruce loved what he called bar room music. He often played the piano for Noriko and me.

But his most serious love was aviation. He earned his private pilot license in 35 hours (the legal minimum allowed), and continued with his instrument rating, commercial pilot license, and flight instructor certificate. I was one of his students. Through Bruce I learned the fascination of floatplanes. I earned my private pilot, single-engine sea at Dave Wiley’s seaplane base. Bruce had almost 2000 hours of flight time. I had much less, but at one point had more floatplane time than him. Bruce and I flew floatplanes together in Florida and Washington.

080130_IMGP1136_trimmed
091111_IMGP3515
080131_IMGP9341
080131_PIC_0092

As a young man, Bruce had become infatuated by the Spencer AIrCar, a wooden amphibious airplane with a boat-shaped hull and retractable wheels. Bruce resolved to build one himself. He obtained the plans for the aircraft, and bought or fabricated parts. On many occasions, I watched him working on his airplane, and sometimes handed him tools or parts. I never helped with the actual construction though, because I knew he wanted to claim he had built it all by himself.

080129_IMGP1018

After many years, his airplane began to take shape. Noriko and I rode in the airplane on the ground (we enjoyed a high-speed taxi up and down the runway) but we never flew in it, because federal regulations require that experimental airplanes first be flown for at least 40 flight hours with no passengers, in order to test for safety.

It was during this period of testing that Bruce was killed.

In late September 2013, two days before his fatal flight, I called him in Florida from Oregon. He told me of his intention to fly to Lake Okeechobee that weekend, partly to observe issues with the exhaust manifold. The engine had either been running hotter than it was supposed to, or the exhaust manifold was unable to handle normally expected temperatures. I wished him well, and promised to visit him as soon as he could take passengers.

I did not learn of his death until after New Year’s. A Christmas card from Bruce's sister Edith told me the terrible news. Dazed, I read various news articles, a preliminary report from the NTSB, and a closed online forum for builders of the Spencer AirCar.

I had been worried because he hadn't replied to my email nor phone calls. I kept leaving messages on his voicemail. This was not the first time Bruce was incommunicado, however. There were times when he was offline for months on end, usually due to networking problems with his internet provider. I was however concerned enough to dig up Edith's mailing address (she doesn't use email) and had planned on writing her.

I am crestfallen with the death of my friend. When Dave Wiley died in the floatplane that I had been trained in, I essentially stopped flying. With Bruce gone, I may never fly again, even to renew my license (I need to fly with an instructor and pass a knowledge and skill test every 2 years). The cockpit would remind me of the friends I lost.



Below are pictures from September 2011, the last time we visited Bruce in Florida.

At his hangar, Bruce shows me an airplane ride machine he is building for his great-nephew and great-niece. A leaf blower gives children the sensation of flying.
110906_bruce_leafblower_plane_DSCN8348

Bruce and I mess with the engine cowling. The propeller of the Spencer AirCar faces rearward.
110906_bruce_cowling_DSCN8364

Bruce takes Noriko and me on a high-speed taxi ride.
110906_bruce_highspeed_taxi_IMGP1509

The Spencer AirCar has dual controls, but the right seat pilot almost never flies the airplane.
110906_bruce_highspeed_taxi_DSCN8460

We did about 60 knots (about 70 mph) on the runway.
110906_bruce_highspeed_taxi_IMGP1541
Video of the high-speed taxi. 110906_high_speed_taxi_3

Friends unconditionally embrace their friends’ passions.
110906_bruce_highspeed_taxi_DSCN8517

Bruce signs me off for my biennial flight review. We flew a different airplane (a Cessna 150) for my review.
110908_bruce_bfr_DSCN8656
110908_Goh-DirtyBird

Bruce, Edith, Noriko and I dined richly every day. This is the Big Bear Brewery.
110908_bruce_bigbear_IMGP1699

We lost Emily (Bruce’s wife, 2nd from left) and her mom Agnes (far left) several years ago. Now Bruce. We miss you so.
020809_lowerre

Noriko believes that Bruce and Emily are now happy. I hope so too. But at this moment I am inconsolable.

Goh meets Hiroshi Obi

2013-08-02 SAPPORO, JAPAN -- Hiroshi Obi (帯ひろ志), a manga artist and teacher, visited Hokkaido for his first time since he left the island as an infant many years ago. I met Hiroshi Obi at the Sapporo Clock Tower. When I asked for Obi’s autograph, Obi thrilled me by drawing my favorite character Chisato! Wow! Obi held Sirokuro Puppy and took a picture together. We then visited the old prefectural building.

See Obi’s pictures (taken by yours truly) on
his blog. Here’s the autographed drawing. Watch Obi draw it in the video below.

130802_P1080617_pt

Things we can learn from a dog


2012-09-27 LINCOLN CITY, OREGON -- Sirokuro (my dog) told me rules he lives by.

Never pass up the opportunity to go for a joyride.
All the experience of fresh air and the wind in your face can be pure ecstasy.
When loved ones come home, always run to greet them.
When it’s in your best interest, practice obedience.
Let others know when they’ve invaded your territory.
Take naps and stretch before rising.
Run, romp and play daily.
Eat with gusto and enthusiasm.
Be loyal.
Never pretend to be something you’re not.
If what you want lies buried, dig until you find it.
When someone is having a bad day, be silent, sit close by and nuzzle them gently.
Thrive on attention and let people touch you.
Avoid biting when a simple growl will do.
On hot days, drink lots of water and lay under a shady tree.
When you’re happy, dance around and wag your entire body.
No matter how often you’re scolded, don’t buy into the guilt thing and pout, run right back and make friend.
Delight in the simple joy of a long walk.

(These rules has appeared in various forms over the years. The original author is unknown.)

thundereggs


2012-09-15 HILLSBORO, OREGON -- Gavo (my former PhD advisor), Noriko (Gavo’s wife and pianist) and us visited the Rice Northwest Museum of Rocks and Minerals.

Gavo is a rockhound (a person interested in finding or collecting minerals, rocks, and fossils). 3 days ago, Gavo had bought a double thunderegg (2 geodes fused together) for $26 at a rock store in Pioneer Square. The double thunderegg had been cut open in half and polished.

We were astounded to find the second half of that very same double thunderegg on display at the Rice museum. What a coincidence that a hobbyist’s specimen bought recently matched a specimen that must have been catalogued and displayed some time ago!

The pictures below show the 2 specimens, with the picture of Gavo’s specimen flipped to ease visual comparison. Note that 2 halves of thundereggs never perfectly match because the cutting process removes material having the thickness of the cutting blade from between the 2 halves.

This double thunderegg came from what is now Richardson’s agate beds located near the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument. Gavo and I bought thundereggs that Richard Rice himself collected at the same site.

lunch with friends

Noriko and I visited our former Dutch language teacher at her home in Ghent, Belgium (Gent, Belgie). Evelien, Cleo (who had turned 2 the day before), Annuska, Paloma and us enjoyed an afternoon together. We are so fortunate to have friends that welcome and care for us. We’re hoping that they’ll come see us in Japan and/or America.