Saturday, December 29, 2007


Masashi was feeling beach-and-snorkeling withdrawal--we hadn't been in the water since Hawaii in December 2005! So we took a short trip to Saipan--compared to Hawaii, Saipan is closer (3 hours by plane), cheaper (even during Christmas), and there's no jet lag (only one hour time difference). And on top of all that, Christmas isn't the peak time, so we didn't have to plan months and months ahead, like we would for Hawaii.
We stayed just for four nights and three full days (with one day to get there and one to get back). It was wonderful--warm, even hot at times, with beautiful skies, and lots of bright, colorful fish. Since all we wanted to do was to relax in a warm place, it was perfect. And the food was good too, much better than Hawaii, where everything is too sweet. The picture above shows the beach in front of our hotel, Aqua Resort, and in the background you can see the small island where we went for snorkeling. On the left, you can see one of the main scenic spots on Saipan, overlooking Bird Island (which didn't have any nesting birds at this season.) It was also fun for me to be in a Christain country at Christmas time, to hear all the Christmas music on the radio and in the hotel lobby. We'll probably go back some day...

Hisashiburi (It's been a long time...)

I had a busy, busy semester, and so I didn't update my blog for a long time. It's almost the end of 2007, and so I thought I'd better put up at least a bit of news in case anyone ever reads this...

Everything is still fine here in Tokyo. It's the winter break, and I'm suffering with a nasty cold that I picked up while in Saipan (just a clogged head). Masashi and I are settling in for a quiet New Year at home with the cats, who are very happy we're back after 5 days away.
More about the trip in the next posting...

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

One of my worst nightmares...

It didn't happen to me, but now I know am right to be worried about it!

Several years ago now, when riding on a super-crowded rush hour subway train in Tokyo (one of those ones where the station workers push people into the train), I had a panic attack when I suddenly wondered what would happen if the train stopped for some reason and we were stuck in the train for awhile. I had to get off at the next stop, and since then I do anything to avoid those kinds of rush hour trains. These days, if I have to go to Shinjuku station in the morning, I take the bus--it's a 35 to 50 minute ride, in contrast to the 10 minute train ride, but I don't panic!

Anyway, on tonight's news, they reported that a crowded rush hour train stopped between stations due to some kind of problem. People were stuck in there for two hours before someone came to lead them out. It was in one of the newest subway lines, the Oedo line; because it's new, it's very deep underground (so it can run under all the other lines). I always feel nervous when I take that line because it's so far underground. Anyway, because it's so far underground, the ventilation is not very good--50 people fainted or had to lie down while waiting to be rescued, and 10 were taken to the hospital.

Anyway, now I feel that I am definitely right to avoid those trains!

Luckily, when I go to Waseda, I can take a train that isn't very crowded. I have to walk 25 minutes to the station (or else I can take a bus if I am in a hurry), but I can sit down on the train for the 10 minute ride.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Europe Trip

In the last month of my sabbatical, I went to Europe for two weeks.

I spent a few days in Brussels recovering from jet lag. It's a small city, with some beautiful old buildings and parks. This was my favorite park, dedicated to the various guilds that made Brussels such a thriving city.

Then I went to the Universite catholique de Louvain for the Learner Corpus Summer School. It was a very exciting week in which I learned a lot, and I met many linguist/language teachers from around the world. Now I have many ideas about what I will do next with the learner corpus I am creating at Waseda.

After that, I went to Brighton in the south of England to meet with Lynne Murphy, a professor at the University of Sussex, to discuss a project involving antonyms in Japanese. This photo was taken near her house.I knew that Brighton was by the sea, but I was surprised to find that it is quite hilly--and Lynne and her husband live up near the top of one.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

~ ~ ~ Shaking ~ ~ ~

The typhoon is now hitting Tokyo. We're not yet in the highest wind speed range, but already the house is shaking quite a bit in the gusts, and the windows are rattling. I don't think there's any danger of the windows breaking (they are reinforced with wire in them), but I don't think I'll get much sleep tonight.

I'm supposed to be flying to Europe tomorrow on a flight that leaves at 11:30 a.m. The typhoon should be past here by then, so the plane will probably fly, BUT I am worried about whether I'll be able to get to the airport in time. I was planning to leave at around 6:30, but they are predicting that we'll still be in the center of the typhoon then, and in that case, there will be no trains running. I hope the typhoon just moves over faster than they expect.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Goodbye Mr. Hissy...

One of the two neighborhood cats has died. Mr. Hissy (a.k.a. Hissy-chan or Gray-chan) was found dead behind the neighbor's car yesterday. We don't know how he died exactly, but we (the neighborhood people who loved him) had been worried since we hadn't seen him much on Sunday and not at all on Monday. He was in a big fight with an evil orange cat on Saturday night and at first I thought that might have been what killed him, but other people don't think that is likely. Masashi thinks he was poisoned, either accidentally or deliberately. Many people in the neighborhood loved him, but a few people hate cats, especially if they are fighting noisily late at night.

Several people came by to see him last night as word spread of his death, and some people even brought flowers and treats to set around his body. But he was taken away just now by the city ward. They have special truck to come around and collect dead animals...just a job for them, but they were nice and not at all surprised by the flowers and treats.

The other cat, Mama-chan, is very lonely now, and has been crying a lot last night and today for me to come outside to pet her.

It's true that Hissy-chan was "just a cat", but he was a special cat. He was an unusual color, as you can see, and many, many people looked for him to pet him and talk to him everyday. When he'd hear the footsteps of one of his friends turning into our street, he would go running to meet them. We will miss him!

You can see more pictures of Mr. Hissy and Mama-chan in my June post.

Sunday, August 12, 2007


I'm back in Tokyo, enjoying (enduring?) the hot weather! For the first week or so, it was not too bad--high temperatures of 31 or 32 degrees Celsius (88 to 90 Fahrenheit). Even though it is quite a bit more humid here than in California, I didn't mind too much, and I didn't feel like I needed the air conditioning. But then Friday and Saturday, it got up to at least 36 degrees outside, and more than 33 in the house (dropping down to 30 or so at night). It was just miserable! When I tried to go to sleep last night without the fan, it was impossible--at midnight, it was still 33 degrees in the bedroom. SO we slept with the air-conditioning on (set to 29). But today it was better,, only about 32 outside and inside. Now I'm sitting here in the living room with just the fan.

I really hate using the air conditioner if I don't have to. Not only does it use electricity (and spew hot air into the air locally), it makes me feel somewhat sick if I am in it for too long. The fan is much better. I also have bottles of water and tea in the freezer. I take one of these out and put it against my forehead to cool off, and drink the liquid as it melts.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

A Trip to San Francisco

Hideko and I took the train down to San Francisco, together with Sheryl, another student at the LSA.

We were met by Hideko's friend Andy, a Japanese guy who has been living in San Francisco for a long time. Andy took us to some of his favorite places around the town, across the Golden Gate Bridge, of course, but also to a wonderfully steep street that had been planted in hydrangeas, all in bloom that weekend.

We had lunch at Andy's restaurant, We Be Sushi. The miso soup was great--Andy's mom must have been a really good cook! But at least some of the sushi was a kind that his mother probably never made, like his special grilled eggplant sushi.

Thursday, July 12, 2007


Stanford and the surrounding area is filled with flowers! Even the cactuses in the Arizona Cactus Garden are blooming. I don't know what this one on the right is called, but I had to try to get a picture of it.

Small gardens are tucked away into courtyards, and in the more open spaces there are fountains and more flowers.

In the afternoons, there are always people enjoying these spaces, but after dinner, I was able to get some shots with no people in them.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

ALMOST a student again!

I'm really enjoying the classes here at the Linguistics Institute. I am attending 4 classes: one on writing systems (of languages past and present), one on language change (historical and present, English and other languages), one on language variation (focusing on English, especially cases where two different words seem possible in a particular kind of sentence, and looking at differences in meaning/style/etc. which might distinguish them), and a class that is hard to describe in a blog that will probably be read by people who don't know much linguistics. (It focuses on ways we can characterize a speaker's knowledge of syntax--in this case English--using statistical models based on frequencies of words and constructions). I may also take one more class if I can find one I like. A lot of interesting classes are scheduled at the same time as those above, but in one of the free periods, I've tried two different classes. One was a bit beyond me, and so I tried joining another class recommended by another person here. That one was really a bit too "Intro" level to be interesting. But four is the normal number, and there are evening lectures and workshops on Wednesdays and weekends, so I don't really need more.

I am almost a student because I don't have to do any homework! There are assignments for anyone who wants to get college credit, but for the rest of us, it's enough if we just do the readings (as much as possible--there are too many to get to them all) and go to class.

I'm also enjoying the beautiful campus here. Today after dinner, I went to the Stanford Shopping Center (I'm not a fan of shopping or malls, but I have to admit it is a beautiful place) to buy a sweater (it's been cold the last few days, and I didn't bring enough warm clothes), and I decided to get a camera. I didn't bring my digital camera from Japan because it was a little too big and heavy, especially the battery charger (which I have to use often because the battery wears down so fast. ) I really like my old Sony CyberShot, now about 7 years old, but when I saw a Sony store in the mall, I decided to get a new one. It is much smaller and lighter, and works like the old one...except that all the menus are in ENGLISH! It really felt weird when I picked up the one in the store and saw English on the screen. I might actually try using more of the features with this one. Starting tomorrow, I am going to take pictures of the campus to post here, so check back.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007


Before the regular classes start here, there are three days of Presession classes, designed to get people up to speed on particular topics. I signed up for three of them, not quite thinking thatit would mean almost 6 hours in the classroom per day for these five days. Since I have been waking up pretty early (5:30 today) because of the time difference, and staying up fairly late trying to review some of the stuff we did during the day, I am feeling pretty sleepy now!

But the pre-session ends tomorrow. There will be fireworks on July 3 and a barbeque on July 4, so a bit of a chance to relax before the classes start. (Then it will be just 4 hours a day...PLUS the extra lectures, workshops, etc. that I might choose to go to.) I probably won't have a chance to go far off campus until Sunday.

One place I definitely want to go is down to the wetlands. It is DRY here--the creek and lake on campus are actually bone dry. But this morning, walking across the lawn right in front of my dorm, I saw a Great Blue Heron. It was SO COOL... I bet there will be a lot of herons down by the bay.

Sunday, July 1, 2007


I am finally here at Stanford University, for the Linguistic Society of America Summer Institute. I arrived in California on Wednesday, and I stayed for three nights at a hotel in Menlo Park, the town just north of here, to try to recover from jet lag. But today I moved down to the university, to my new home-for-one-month, in the graduate student housing. I got my computer connected, bought the books I'll need for the courses which start tomorrow, and rented a bicycle!

In the past three days, I've done a lot of walking,various places in Menlo Park and from there down to the university and around downtown Palo Alto, maybe 5 or 6 miles each day. That was fun--I enjoyed looking at all the gorgeous flowers everywhere--but being on a bicycle is much better! On one of the days when we don't have classes (maybe July 4th?), I plan to ride down to the wetlands/nature preserve areas down by San Francisco Bay. I don't think I'll ride it to class--the distances between the buildings we'll be using are not really that far--but it will be very good for exercise and just general joy.

I know that things will get very busy soon, but I think that I'll try to keep up with this blog, after telling my friends and family about it. (I thought it was linked to my home page, but I realized just now that it is not. I'll have to try to change that. I'll have a lot to say, but because I foolishly decided not to bring my camera, I won't have many good pictures. I thought the camera would be heavy (especially since I'll be bringing back books) and a hassle at the airport, and that if I really wanted to take a picture, I could use the camera on my cell phone. HA! The picture above is the only decent one out of many, many attempts yesterday, a closeup of a cool cactus in the Arizona cactus garden on campus. But maybe if I keep trying, I'll get better at using that camera.

Well, check back for updates, and maybe for photos.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007


Anyone who knows me knows that I love cats. Three lovely cats live with Masashi and me: Tora-chan (a.k.a. Tiger), Mike-chan, and Hana-chan. Tora-chan, who you can see at the left, has been with me for 12 years now, even since he was found by the side of the road as a tiny kitten no bigger than the palm of my hand. He's been my faithful campanion through many rough times... and he even meets me at the door when I come home .

Mike-chan (below) was rescued by a group that helps abandoned and stray cats. She had been found wandering with her eyes glued shut! The forms that came with her showing her health check-up just listed her as a "mike-neko" (calico cat), so I just called her Mike. (That's pronounced like a Japanese name: "mi", which means "3", as in 3 colors, and "ke" which means "hair").
Mike-chan is about the same age as Tora-chan, and has lived with us for 9 years now; originally, I got her to be Tora-chan's pet because he was so lonely when I was gone at work. Origin As you can see, she likes to eat... she's definitely overweight. The short little tail is a feature often found in Japanese cats--the tail bones are all bunched up and fused together, giving her the short tail.

Hana-chan has come to live with us much more recently.
She came to live with us in 2005, after her mother (see below) brought her to the front of our house in a snow storm, to eat and get dry. When the mother and kittens didn't leave, I began to panic--what would the neighbors think about 6 cats in front of the house? What would happen when those cats all had kittens? A neighbor organized a capture of the cats, and a volunteer tames the kittens and found homes for them, all except Hana-chan. I promised to find a home for her, and she ended up with us! Masashi wasn't sure about getting another cat, but now she is his favorite. This picture shows her in one of her favorite sleeping spots, a box that is too small for Tora-chan or Mike-chan to fit in.

Hana-chan's mother and (probable) father live outside in our neighborhood. They spend a lot of time eating and sleeping in front of our house, but they are not "our" cats. This beautiful gray cat came first, taking shelter from a typhoon in an empty cardboard box in front of our house, and while he accepted the food I gave him, he had to hiss first, just to make sure that I wouldn't get too close--so we called him "Hisser" (also,"Hissy-chan" or "Mr. Hissy"). Now he's become very friendly and tame, and so everyone else calls him "Gray", and most people comment on his unusual coloring.

When Hisser had been visiting out house regularly for a few months, I heard him meowing loudly one morning after I had given him some food. He was calling another cat, a rather ordinary brown one, who came and ate most of the food. I didn't really like the idea of feeding two cats, but I was intrigued by the fact that Hisser had called her. I saw her now and then, but she always ran away when I tried to get close. Then one cold snowy morning, she came with four kittens! The rest of the neighborhood knew her well, and already were calling her "Mama-chan". The two cats spend most of their time together, but they have now been "fixed" so that there won't be any more kittens. Most people find Hisser to be friendly than Mama-chan, but Mama-chan is always friendlier to me. She knows that her kitten (Hana-chan) is living in the house, and I think that she is glad that I helped her kittens.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007


Masashi's cousin Masashi (yes, same name, but different family name) lives on an island south of Tokyo called Hachijojima. We went there for a short visit the past weekend so that Masashi could help Masashi with some computer-related things.

It takes about 8 hours to get their by boat, but only 35 minutes by plane, so of course we flew. The view is wonderful...Tokyo Bay and Mount Fuji, and several other small islands on the way to Hachijojima.

While the Masashis were busy, Masashi's cousin's daughter Nana took me around to some of her favorite spots on the island. We rented a couple of bicycles, because her mother's motorized one was too heavy for me to use, and Nana's old one was much too small for her.

We went to the ocean, of course, but we also went inland to a park which has a small stream with a waterfall, and fireflies in the summer.
It was really lovely, the kind of place I was always happy to find in Wisconsin. We had to take off our shoes and walk across the stream to get to the top of the waterfall. Nana says it is a wonderful place to cool off in hot weather. All we could hear was the sound of the water and the birds... I only wish there was a place like this in Tokyo.

After the Masashis were finished with the computer stuff, we all went for a bath at a hot spring. There are several on the island, all a bit salty. Then we went for dinner at the Korean restaurant run by Nana's mother. Nana went home after that, but the three of us adults went out to the Anchor Pub, run by an Australian guy and his Japanese wife.

We were only in Hachijojima for one night, and it was only April, so we didn't do any snorkeling, but maybe we'll go back in summer.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007


For this semester, I am on sabbatical: a whole six months for research, during which I don't have to teach.

I had the option of asking for one year rather than six months, and I also had (and still have) the option of asking for an extension of six months or one year (which I might or might not get), but for a lot of reasons, I decided to just ask for six months.

One is that I kind of want to be around at SILS (the School of International Liberal Studies) during the final semester for our first graduating class. Another is that I had promised to work on an on-going fall semester project. But the biggest reason is that probably because I was worried that if I took one year or more, I might waste too much of my time. With only six months, I really have to get to work, don't I? And if I take six months instead of one year, I will theoretically be eligible for another sabbatical much sooner. (Of course, how soon I get to have another depends on who is on the committee to decide that when I apply next time...)

In the first few weeks, I have just been been trying to get my wrk schedule figured out. In the past, it has always been true that I can't get any work done in the mornings, and that still seems to be true. For the first few weeks, I was feeling bad about goofing around or sleeping in the morning, but now I have just decided to give in, and just plan to work in the afternoon and evenings. But that means that I need to eat less for dinner (I don't work well on a full stomach) and not drink alcohol with dinner... Or else just do the dinner preperations early and eat late, and work in between. That might be the best plan of all.

Why am I even making dinner at all? That is one of the joys of being on sabbatical, I think! WHen I am working, Masashi and I don't get to eat together enough, and we also eat out a lot. I really enjoy cooking when I have time.

During this sabbatical, I am working on two main projects, and a lot of little ones. But maybe I'll save that for another post.

Monday, April 2, 2007

Starting this blog...

I haven't updated my web page in a LONG time, and I never seem to get around to updating my news. I'm starting this blog, linked to my web page, to see if I can get myself to post more regularly for friends and family who are interested.