A Story of Two Tape Recorders

I ran into a trouble a couple of weeks ago. My Sony TCM-400 tape recorder was starting to show signs of ending. I can not rewind and the play mechanism often freezes. I would have to say though, to be fair to the Sony corp. designers, this tape recorder has lasted 16 years without a single complaint.

Sony TCM-400

The design has a slow down/speed up dial on the right and a regular or half speed recording switch on the left. Its mic was good and did well against wind. A standard 60 minute take on half speed could last (do the math) 120 minutes, though you got a drop in quality and sounded like a chipmunk if the tape were played on a regular speed deck.


I went looking for a replacement and was out of luck for a new Sony. Actually I noticed a really interesting thing at the electronics shops here in Japan; you could barely find any of the players/recorders in stock! People are still buying them up. I found this one on sale for around $30 with a stripped down design that boasts a simple hole style mic and a typical button lay out. It is nearly identical to my Sony in size and weight, a big plus as it fits in the palm of my hand.

overhead shot

Sure the Sony had a counter, VOR auto sound ON recording, a half speed and a pause button, but they are all asides to the fact it records sound. The ELPA has almost nothing, but it has enough and is at a good price point.

Tape Recorders

Why do I even bother with using tapes???? Well, they don’t get damaged by water, they are easily recycled and they are analog. They take batteries and work pretty well. And I use them to dictate and write with, so that is the key point.

Find what works, keep moving with it.

Keep writing!


On the Job


I have been hammering away at my current novel, Doc Dickens Back on the Hudson, now for a good month. My editing process looks like this when I redraft the first draft. I hand edit on the pages after typing them, then on the next edit I place them on the white board with magnets and type standing up. This has been working really well, along with time boxing (which I will mention in future posts). It’s all about getting stuff done, and that is definitely what I am all about today!


Check in and see when my book is available. If you’d like to be a reviewer I can also send out copies once I am at that stage. Thanks and as always,


Keep writing!




Busy Writing a Novel


Life and writing is a great thing. I have been able to sustain a good momentum writing my next novel, a murder mystery.


Drafting the whole thing on my Olivetti Lettera 25 typewriter!


Oil and Hush Hush: Typewriter Work


Been hammering out a new novel, which equals happy for me, and I decided to finally oil part of my typewriter that was bugging me. Basically the basket part that moves when you press the shift key to type upper case letters was not coming back up to the lower case position. I unscrewed the bottom, got out some bicycle oil (also used on sewing machines) and dabbed a tiny amount on the two bottom hinges on which the entire basket swings and voila! Fixed.

But what is this? The bottom base, which I had never taken off until today, needed to be cleaned, and I wondered…..

collagetypewriter 1

You see I thought about ways to dampen the sound from my machine. Older typewriters that were made of metal often had felt glued in strategic places to help mitigate all those reflected clicks and bangs. I had a sheet of red felt from my classroom that I have been using as a base for typing as it muffled some of the vibrations. I cut a piece for the bottom and affixed it with double sided tape. Then I started looking elsewhere. Behind the platten there was a hollowed out space so I taped in some felt there. Then I realized I could remove the central metal part of the machine, the guts that were held in the plastic frame by four screws, and I placed more felt on the sides and under the basket cover. I also stuffed bubble wrap into cavities that were in several spots.


To be honest the felt looks good, after all it matches the red basket cover which I painted the year I bought it from a used shop. Did the felt help? Actually, yes it made a noticeable difference in the sound. Along with the oil the machine is working better than it ever has. I hammered the first four pages of a novel out on it today. Life can’t get much better than this!

Did I Drop Off the Planet, or Did it Drop Off Me?


The truth is I haven’t been writing. Life got extremely busy before we went back to visit family in the States this summer. I was writing steadily until the middle of June, then advice struck down the tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil (writing) and I folded to the pressures of being a teacher and getting the work done. Only natural. Only human.

But the fire is lit under me again and with it my desire to be a fully supported writer by age 50. Doing the hard-boiled thing now, writing a fun book and see it turning into a series with a hazardous/humorous protagonist. With this comes a flood of other ideas and rehashing of old ideas.

I’m also reading a ton too-Chandler’s Good-bye My Lovely right now. It’s all exciting, while at the same time my goal is to be a better teacher. So I am planning way ahead to give me time to get this thing pumped out. Will give myself a SID, or Self Imposed Deadline, until the end of September to get the first draft in the drawer. Then another month to draft. We will see, but the scheduling looks like it will be workable. Again it all falls on my own ability to plan out each day and use time to its fullest.

I’m not dead, I’m just getting warmed up!

Keep writing!

When Foreign Becomes Normal: Reflections on Living in Japan

Where to begin with such a title? As I am American, I guess that is where my story starts. Moving to Japan in 2000 was a life changer.

When you go from a place of long cold winters with brilliant summers and tree covered, well-everything, moving to a new land offers many jarring sights.


Electric poles stick out into the streets. Not on people’s property-that would be taking up their land. Nope, right in the street where you have to weave and bob around them in traffic. I have become adept at this and now do not even notice when I do it.

Food is fresh. As in you buy the food you are going to eat that day, you eat it, and you go shopping for 15 minutes again the next day. No more buying food for 2 weeks. No more thoughts of, “Why don’t I just go to Burger King and eat a bacon cheese burger?” No, you don’t do that anymore. Well I don’t do that anymore. I eat more vegetables and fish than before. The rice we buy and eat was grown in the prefecture we live.

Every year I go to a health check that costs me the equivalent of $12USD. It includes: barium stomach cancer check, lung cancer x-ray, urinalysis, fecal coliform check, blood pressure, EKG, blood test (cholesterol HDL/LDL, hemoglobin, etc.), height/weight check and a check by a doctor.

I never had, save for kids checks at elementary school, a health check growing up. I am much more likely to go to a doctor here if I think something is wrong-a big difference from my homeland where I avoided doctors because essentially I am cheap and do not have deep pockets.

People marvel at how Japanese live so long. If you could have a doctor tell you what to do every year and just followed 25% of the advice it might add years to ones life. Not to mention the tie in with my second observation about food and its freshness.


Oops, do you see what is happening here? I am starting to turn this post from an observation of what becomes normal into a comparison between two places and there is always something bad when you do that. Why? Because one side will always be demolished. It’s an unfair thing to compare one country or people against another-unconsciously I was stacking the deck in the Japanese favor. No, Japan is not better than America, just different. So after nearly 20 years what is normal that was not normal before?

I am. I don’t see myself as a foreigner here, even though my face clearly is. After such a long time and coming here relatively young I am a man betwixt nationalities. I relate to Japanese people, but I am not from here. I understand some of what Americans think, but have supplanted it with another set of mistranslated rules.

I have changed as I lived here to the point where I am now comfortable being a resident. Life feels normal in every way, even if I marvel at the different sort of life I am living from the rest of my family. Again not positives, just differences.


I hope that where ever you may be, you are taking note of the people and things around you. If you are a writer this is an essential point. Observe people, learn and understand them if at all possible. Write it down and relive what you have observed. Pass it on to the next person to savor, to enjoy. Make the normal in your life the extraordinary for others lives. And above all-

Keep writing.

I’m Getting Off Track

As I’ve mentioned multiple times here on my blog, if I am not posting-I’m usually busy writing. Now that I am posting, well my priority shifts to blogging instead of where I should be, getting the words out for my next novel. How will I balance doing both?

Solution: WordPress Post Scheduling

When I write multiple blog posts in a single day I can post them by using the scheduling tool. This way, if I actually plan out my posts and hammer them out before hand, I can post indefinitely AND keep up my writing as I don’t have to keep thinking,”What am I going to post today?”

The point is-we all need to plan ahead and do a bit of cramming in this life to get where we need to go. I for one am up writing blog posts now at 5:00 am. For the love of posting, for the love of my writing, for my future.

Keep writing.

The “Role” of the Dice

That isn’t a miss spell!

I wrote my short story book Gold River City 100 using a large collection of dice accumulated over the past 5 years. The idea of writing stories first occurred to me after getting a set of Rory’s story dice for use in my English classes. I saw their potential for making stories to be exciting and set about to collect more in order to make a set of short stories with a common theme-the background being Gold River City. A year later, and 100 short stories later, I published Gold River City 100.


Rory’s Story Dice are the most well known recent imagination dice out there, but there are many others. I got # dice with up to 24, I found odd dice-like one from a Jumanji board game- and sets like Story Dice which I bought off Amazon. Another interesting one was a set by Kerplunk that has days of the week, months, compass directions and continents dice that have been fun to use.

Rolling dice and then thinking up a story was a challenge, but it also meant I could let go and just write. Don’t think about it, make a story and at the end most of the stories turned out pretty good. There was a subconscious thing going on and the dice only helped in giving me invitation to elaborate on what I didn’t even know I was thinking.


I recommend if you want to try writing with dice you should get a set of either Rory’s original Story Cubes or Story Dice and see if they work for you. Limiting the number of dice you use also makes it easier for some, but you can experiment. The whole idea is to keep writing!

So, keep writing.

Melatonin and Dreams

I am not a person who likes to take any artificial chemicals. My feeling is ibuprofen is a last resort. Yet one minor inconvenience rests on me daily insomnia. I know in part it is due to lower activity levels which mean getting to sleep in a state of awakeness is just harder, but it robs me of being completely at my best. So melatonin is in the cabinet.

I first tried this supplement about 15 years ago and found it worked well-with one interesting side effect. Now, to preface this, I have a vivid dream life that I often remember after waking. There are many dreams I could easily write about, they have stuck with me. When I take melatonin though I remember them very clearly. They are less fragments and more complete impressions. Chalking this up to the hormones properties seems the most likely answer, yet it is still pretty fascinating to me.

Sleep is very important. I am making a concerted effort to get more sleep. This means: no watching videos or surfing the internet at night, not listening to music (unless for the specific reason of sleeping) and making myself as comfortable as possible while going to bed.

I will do my best, for it all ties in with trying to get as much done each day as it possible. Busy bees make honey, so to type.

Keep writing.

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