Category Archives: places and facts

Kids Say the Darnedest Spain

“Do you like the cookie?”


“It’s from Spain.”

“Spain who?”

“No, it’s from the country Spain.”

“The country? Where is it?”

“It’s in Europe next to France.”

“I don’t know it.”

“Is the cookie good?”


A conversation between myself and my 6 year old daughter while she ate an oyster shell cake from Santiago de Compostela. At least she could appreciate the taste, they are quite good!

Keep writing.

Blogging and the Bloggers Who Blog Them

Blogging is an interesting activity. It involves thought, tenacity and creativity. It harvests life’s experiences. On top of this it is fun to blog!

But blogging is like any relationship-frustrating at the worst of times, exciting at the best. I’ll start with what makes it exciting, I am a rather positive person after all!

Writers know they have to “get things out there” in order to feel productive. Written material is meaningless unless placed for an audience to see. Vain, maybe, but it is the gauge by which we can judge productivity.

Blogs get the words out, and can make writers more productive and feeling happy because “I posted something” can be very fulfilling. We can also share anything and that leads to opening up hidden doors of writing opportunity.

Ah, the frustrating bit is also linked to the vanity bit. Just like Vanity Smurf needs a mirror to admire himself and is lost without one, so the blogger who has no views. Many a blogger posts their heart and never sees a number next to the eye mark on the blog views. This is especially frustrating when the post was meant as an information/advice or current events posts.

However, instead of forever, blogging balances out just like most relationships do, by being a place to reside more than a place to confide. It becomes comfortable, this blogging thing.

And so (as I start a sentence with the word and) This is blogging. To tell and be and live. So live on bloggers-live on!

Keep writing.

Have You Ever Wondered….?

Digging through the closet of my English school classroom I came across three notes that I had saved during one of our visits to the States. We stayed in the beautiful Christmas Farm Inn located in the pretty New Hampshire town of Jackson. These three notes were left in our room by the cleaning staff.


So why did I keep them? Because, even though I am an English speaker and teacher of English, these notes surprised me in how hard it was to read them. As a teacher I could not resist saving them as examples to show people here in Japan.


I am not trying to make a judgment about another person’s ability to write, but well, I am making this one. It seems some place along the line this young lady learned to write in a much different way than I had learned. Maybe she didn’t learn to write at all and was winging it? Maybe she was used to using a screen and had trouble with a thing called a pen? Maybe she had been drinking? I digress, because obviously she has her own style and I am making a bit of fun out of it at her expense. Yet….. this note was left to communicate with customers, guests, in a business. That should mean something when it comes to clarity.


I hope you enjoyed these notes!

Keep writing.

Kitchen Yuki or The Way Restaurants Used to Be In Japan

Roadside restaurants were once a common part of the driving experience along the major routes of the land of the rising sun. Mom and Pop establishments that catered to everyone and offered up fair that ranged from greasily indigestible to, well whatever the opposite would be (flaky perhaps?).


When I first arrived here in the land, 17 long years ago, the road side establishment of Kitchen Yuki was one of the few places you could always go to and get a bite. They served up Kanazawa curry, which is a sort of curry that is very dark and strong flavored-almost black really. It’s not true Indian style curry though. However it goes well on pasta or fried pork. Another thing is that they have dishes that include one of each of pasta and curry rice. Sort of a carbohydrate two-fer!


Good eats.

Keep writing.

The Olympus SP-100EE 1 Year On

When I was in the market for a new camera that had just a bit more zoom my attention turned to the Nikon P600, a popular and shiny mega zoom camera. It had many of the features I wanted, except the price…..

I stopped at a local electronics shop here in town, Haku Man Bolt (literally 1 million volts!), and found they had the display model of an Olympus camera I had not heard about. I tried it out and liked the price point so got it. It was an Olympus SP-100EE, noted for having a targeting sight to use with the 50X zoom.

Olympus1 copy.jpg

Compared to the Nikon the zoom was about the same, and resolution also. I will not avoid the fact that the Nikon’s picture resolution is most likely better. They just have a really good color balance and processing capability on their cameras. This Olympus has a few features that I really like though.

1.You can set the camera to be on USB charge and still use the camera. Very useful for long videos, using the interval setting, etc. Many cameras just don’t allow you to do this anymore and it is a big help when the need for power arises.

2. Weight-this is where I would usually be negative about a camera, but this one saved me hundreds of dollars! I once left the Olympus on the roof of my car and drove for 10 kilometers until a person jumped out of their car and told me there was a camera on the roof of my car! A lighter camera would have fallen off long before. Also the lens has a really solid rubber ring that is very wide and must have helped the camera cling in place.

3. Video quality-at first I thought the image quality was not as good as I wanted it to be, but the video quality is definitely good enough. Especially with the stabilization it makes a very clear, steady imaging of your scene.

4. Tough-along the weight lines one of the things I like about the Olympus is that the body is metal. Nikon makes good cameras, but the bodies are tending toward plastic now to save weight but it also means they can brake more easily. I love hiking and have dropped this camera on rocks, tree trunks and bumped my daughters head a few times, and it has held up very well (no daughters were injured for this review).

5. Zoom speed- As noted by other reviewers the zoom speed, especially in video mode, is really slow on the Nikon, but not the Olympus. It zooms and focuses much faster and also features a focus lock in the main menu and on a button on the front side by the lens.


There are many negative with the Olympus SP-100EE, to be honest. Image quality is not what I was expecting-especially in low light. Nikons are much better at low light, no doubt about it. But this camera has a gimmick that is actually useful-what they call their Dot Sight. Basically it is a separate screen built between the body and pop up flash that shows a target bull’s eye in red.

Olympus3 copy.jpg

This correlates to the center of your zooming lens. This is excellent for taking pictures of wild life and fast moving objects that would be impossible to catch with the viewfinder-and it really works. I have used it countless times, especially for pictures of birds. For this feature a wild life photographer would really find it a gem. It is the only camera on the market with this feature, and might only ever be!

Imperfect as cameras can be the Olympus SP-100EE has its charms. After a year I find using it more often and understanding its advantages, while coping with its weaknesses. It’s a relationship I am happy with, because the pictures tell the story.

Keep writing.

Teacher Challenges

Though I don’t usually have writer’s block I do get stumped with the best thing to do in a class. Teaching is an act of both creativity and observation, the teacher must know the students and how to present the material so that they are engaged. Sometimes, when the rubber meets the road, the engine grinds to a halt.

It’s always easier to think of an idea for another person than yourself. That is an old truism I heard from a teacher once. She was right, and to help yourself it might be useful to start listing all the different tools (games, activities, warm ups, etc.) you can think of on a notepad. The more you write the more you will remember things you did in the past. Even if it didn’t work for that class last time, it might work for this class so write it down. The more you right the more chance you will be able to overcome a block of the “what to do” sort.

Teaching is a challenge as much as it is a joy. It is focused energy, logical simplicity, and at times madness. I hope you are tackling the job with a serious attitude that is willing to laugh at yourself, because you will fail (but your students need not!). Good luck comrades.

Keep writing, and teaching-yeah I said it!