Swallows Return

Adult swallow in a nest, closeup facing right.

Adult swallow nesting on a cool April night.

Swallows have returned to our car port. They have been flying in and out for several days, and this evening two came to roost in a nest was made last June.

Last year in July I made some videos of five baby swallows from July 7th, 13th, 19th, 20th, and 21st, when they flew from their nest.

July 7, 2013:

July 13, 2013:

July 19, 2013:

July 20, 2013:

July 21, 2013 – Young swallows fly:

Many years ago our neighborhood was full of swallows every spring, but since 2007 or 2008 we have seen very few. In 2013 a few more appeared, but they did not nest at our house until June. This year more came in early April. Hopefully, the population is growing.

I’m looking forward to watching swallows up close again this year.

Listening to Pee Wee Baseball Practice

On Sundays we can see many activities along the banks of Yasugawa in Ritto and Moriyama. There are several ground golf courses, a golf putting course, tennis and basketball courts, a beautiful track for track & field events, and, in Moriyama downstream from the JR train tracks, a large grassy field for picnics.

On Sunday, April 13, 2014, I took a bike ride along the river. On the way back home I saw some little boys doing batting practice. They were all wearing uniforms, so I assumed that it was a Pee Wee baseball team. One of their coaches was pitching gently, and I noticed that the boys hit nearly every pitched ball.

Visually the scene was pretty dull, with the boys mostly and some adults standing around under an overcast sky. But acoustically it was more dramatic. I was struck by the contrast between the low rumble of background noise and the sharp ping of metallic baseball bats that dominated the soundscape.

This field recording has been added to radio aporee ::: maps – Deba, Ritto, Shiga, Japan.

Commuting Bike

Red touring bicycle facing left along a paved path with bushes beside the road on the right.

Maruishi Balboa, a 1980 touring bike with a 2014 double kickstand along the road from Ritto City to JR Moriyama Station.

I commute about 3 kilometers by bicycle from my home in Ritto City to JR Moriyama Station. My commuting and general-purpose bike is an old Maruishi Balboa touring bike that I bought in 1980. Last week I installed a new double kickstand to make it more stable when I park it.

This bike has been to the Pacific Ocean, Kyoto, Uji, and on roads everywhere in Shiga Prefecture. Many times it has climbed up river valleys into the Suzuka mountains and taken me on several trips around Lake Biwa. In 33 years on the road, that old bike has been knocked down three times by cars, and in May, 2008, it was hit head-on by another bicycle: front wheels hit straight on, both rims were destroyed in figure-8 bends, the other rider, a high school girl blinded by car lights, was uninjured, and I suffered facial cuts and a badly sprained left hand. I’ve rebuilt the wheels, and many other parts have been replaced several times.

The Balboa has spent a lot of time outdoors, so the frame looks awful, but it rides well and I don’t have to worry about the abuse it gets in the bike parking lot at the train station. I lock it, but I doubt that anyone would want to steal it. Now I have four bicycles, including a newer (1996) touring bike, but for daily use my old Balboa is my first choice.

Cherry Blossoms and Bugs in Takano

Entrance to a Shinto Shrine, with right side of torii gate, stone lantern, and vertical stone with the Kanji for Takano Jinja.

Takano Jinja (Shrine) Entrance in Ritto City, Shiga Prefecture, Japan.

Cherry trees bloom at the beginning of April at the entrance to Takano Shrine and in Takano Park next to the shrine. With both old and young cherry trees, Takano Park is a good place to see blossoms up close.

Cherry blossom buds in Takano

Many people go to famous sites to view cherry blossoms from a distance as scenery or as locations for picnics, but I prefer quiet places where I can get close enough to look carefully at individual blossoms.

Beetle on cherry tree

Close viewing reveals more than details of blossoms. Trees host many small creatures, and sometimes we humans are fortunate enough to see them. The beautiful trees and blossoms that we admire serve other creatures in different ways.

Cherry blossoms

A branch that offers serene and delicate beauty to humans may be a site of dramatic struggles for survival.

I hope people who view cherry blossoms will take time to look closely and see the richness of nature that lies beyond our conventional notions of beauty.

Trees and flowers can give us great pleasure, but they also nurture many other creatures with whom we share Earth.

More photos are in my my Flikr set, Cherry Blossoms.

Retirement Day One

Closeup of cherry blossom, surrounded by semicircle of four blossoms from upper left to lower right, with stem from lower left and blue sky background.

Cherry blossoms in Ritto on April 1, 2014.

Today, April 1, 2014, is the first day of my retirement from full-time work. It is a beautiful day here in Ritto City, so I took my camera on a short walk along the fields near my house. Cherry blossoms are beginning to emerge along the irrigation canal that runs through Hayashi.

It’s a great pleasure to have enough time to enjoy such scenery on a weekday! I’ll continue to teach communication and media two days a week, but I no longer have other duties as a university professor. So far retirement feels wonderful.

Leaving Room 413

At the end of March, 2014, I’ll retire from full-time service as a professor at Kyoto Notre Dame University (KNDU). I’ve taught at KNDU since October 1, 1977, and I’ll continue to teach on a part-time basis as I devote more time to other activities.

As a part-time teacher, I will no longer have my own office at the university.

Room 413, a small office with only bookshelves, a few chairs, a desk, and a filing cabinet.

I had the same office from 1981 until March 11, 2014. For nearly 33 years I sat at the same desk in the same chair and talked with hundreds, maybe thousands, of young women over two generations. Some have sat in the same chair that their mothers had used. The room served as consultation space, a tutorial and small seminar room, a lunchroom for English Speaking Society members and various small groups, and quite often a refuge for people who needed advice, comfort, and encouragement.

The door was always open, and students dropped in whenever they wanted to talk or just sit in the comfortable chairs that faced the window that overlooks the Matsugasaki residential area and Mount Hiei.

Mount Hiei from Room 413

I’ll miss Room 413 and the view of Mount Hiei, but I’m looking forward to finding new spaces for good talks with colleagues and students.

Decommissioning the POETS Web Server

At the end of 2013 (January 1, 2014 here in Japan) I shut down a Web server, Personalized Online Electronic Text Services (POETS), at Kyoto Notre Dame University. Now all requests to POETS are redirected to a page on my personal Web site at the university, POETS Web server retired December 31, 2013.

As I near retirement from full-time service after more than 36 years at the same university and 41 years of working for a living, I’ve become increasingly aware of how professional life exists in a web of associations, obligations, human relations, and even technological relationships. For example, the POETS Web server used databases, texts, and software that had been freely contributed to the online community.

I’ve tried to express my gratitude to people who generously gave away the results of their hard work, but I find it difficult to adequately express my gratitude for having been encouraged, nurtured, mentored, criticized, and occasionally thanked by people who helped me gain expertise in UNIX/BSD/Linux system administration, text processing, and other technical areas. These connections go back to 1971, when I was encouraged to learn BASIC programming on a mainframe terminal, and then around 1980, when I began to program personal computers. In the mid-1980s, as we began to use modems in Japan, I used various dial-up Bulletin Board Systems (BBS) and then joined the global community of UNIX users and administrators on USENET and on BITNET and Internet mailing lists. Developing the original POETS Web server in 1993 enabled me to exercise some skills that I had learned and to express my gratitude by creating a useful and free service.

I hope that young people who are now beginning to discover the joy of making useful software and Web services will receive similar encouragement and then, in turn, encourage others. We cannot adequately express our appreciation directly to all who contribute to our successes, but we can perpetuate their spirit of generosity by passing it on to others.