2008 August 18 Monday and 19 Tuesday.


It's back to school for me an my students today.   

Even though the public schools don't  open until Wednesday, all of my elementary school and junior high school students came to my classroom today and yesterday.   

Some of them don't even live in Kagura or Kamui, so they had to make a special trip to get here.   

Thank you so much.   

On Monday from 13:00 until 14:30 I had a class with the 神楽公民館で英会話を楽しむ会, for the first time in 4 weeks.   

The students had a lot to talk about, and so did I.   

One of the young ladies told us about a trip that she and her husband took to MEXICO.   

She also brought along 3 photo booklets with lots of really nice photos. 

I felt very nostalgic when I heard her story and looked at the photographs, because I myself have also taken this same trip when I was about 16 years old.   

Of course, I was traveling with my parents and my skinny little sister at that time, but I remember that vacation very well. 

The route we took was to fly down to Mexico City and stay there for 2 nights.   

In Mexico City, we got to see the very impressive pyramids built by the Aztec Civilization.   

After that, we went to the Yucatan Peninsula and looked around at the various pyramids of the Maya Civilization at various places.   

I distinctly remember skin diving with a mask and snorkel off of the coast at Merida and other locations.   

I will never forget how clear the sea water was.   

It was like entering a whole new world, as soon as I put my head underwater.   

The young woman and her husband who went to Mexico during this year's summer vacation really enjoyed their time there.   

She told the class how much she loved Mexican Food (me too) and that she loved TEQUILA as well!!!   

She said that she had purchased 3 bottles of tequila and brought them back to Japan with her .   

I have to admit, I used to love tequila also.   

The really good authentic tequila is very delicious, and easy to drink.   

Therein lies the danger.   

Tequila is at least 40% alcohol, and some folks say that it has an extra hypnotic effect as well.   

In other words, it is easy to drink too much, too fast.   

Behavior which can lead to a loss of memory, and odd behavior in public places.   

I haven't drank any tequila in about 10 years, and have no plans to try it again, anytime, ever.     Unless,........

On Tuesday, there were two new persons who came to take a look at my classroom.   

Both of them have a definite goal in mind for their personal lives, when it comes to being able to speak English freely, and accurately.   

MOTIVATION is the KEY word here, because motivation gives birth to ENTHUSIASM  and enthusiasm gives ENERGY to DOING, and doing creates RESULTS.   

In Japanese, they call it SeiSeki  成績.   RESULTS.   

Literally, the "the becoming, piles up upon itself"    

That is how I read these two Kanji when used in this combination.   

Even dust, can pile up to become a mountain, is another way to say it.





2008 July 14 Monday thru July 18 Friday.


I was not as hot this week, as it was last week, and I didn't need to turn on the cooling system.   

About a month ago, my wife received a used digital camera from her younger sister.   

It is a RICHO Caplio R2 5.0 Mega Pixel unit, and you can see it in the photo above/left.  Ikuko almost never uses a camera, so I have developed the custom of taking this camera with me where ever I go.   

It is by far, smaller than any other camera that I have, and it takes very good photos.   

Now, I will never miss another photo opportunity because I didn't have a camera with me.   

Thanks Yuki!    This camera will be well used by me.   

Not only does this camera take still photos, but it also takes motion video as well.   

Plus, it can also be used as a voice recorder for sound only.   

Isn't it amazing what electricity and magnetism can do.   

On Monday, I had my last lesson with an 8 year old girl who has been coming to my classroom for about 5 years.   

She and her family will be moving to Chitose because of her father's job.   

I hope they can find a good English classroom in that city so that she can continue her studies there. 

On Thursday at about 20:30 while I was walking the aisles at the next door supermarket, a beautiful young woman runs up to me saying; "ノーマン先生、ノーマン先生!" 

She came right up to me and we looked at each other face to face.   

I could not remember who she was, until she said; "I am Haruka".   

As soon as I heard that, I knew exactly who she was.   

I haven't seen her in about 3 years, but she and her brother who are fraternal twins  一卵性双生児, used to come to my classroom during their elementary school and junior high school days.   

Now they are both 23 years old and attending universities in California USA.   

How's that for a job well done, by all hands on deck.   

It's a small world after all.   

Be kind to your neighbors.





2008 July 5 Saturday and July 6 Sunday.


Saturday morning starting at 10:30, was my private lesson with the 8 year old girl, who really tries to speak English at every moment during her lessons.   

What a pleasure this is for her, and me as well.   Today, we used some hand written cards that I made many years ago, to learn words of opposite meaning, ANTONYMS 反意語.   

Words such as HOT and COLD, LONG and SHORT, DEEP and SHALLOW, etc.   Not only did she learn all of the words, but she used her imagination in coming up with short sentences, that use both words in a meaningful way.   

For example, The ocean is DEEP but small rivers are SHALLOW.   

Girls have LONG hair, but boys have SHORT hair (not always). 

Summer is HOT and WINTER is cold in Hokkaido.   

And so on and so forth.   

It was a very interesting lesson for both her and myself, and when her mother came by my classroom at 11:30 to pick her daughter up, the eight years old girl was surprised to see that ONE HOUR had already passed by, like it was just one wrinkle in time.   

The rest of the day I spent watching some interesting BBC documentaries on YOU TUBE, and also playing my black Fender Stratocaster Electric Guitar, UNPLUGGED while listening to some of my favorite POP ROCK CDs on the music player.   

It is overcast and rainy today, and not a nice day to be out and around, unless you absolutely have to be.

On Sunday morning, I woke up at about 07:00 and noticed immediately, that it was going to be very hot and humid today.   

Yesterday's rain and today's sunny weather were combining to create that heavy, sticky and hot air, which really takes the fight out of me.   

Time to close off all the windows, and turn on the cooler. 

I have a big job to do today, and you can see what that job was in today's blog photo.   

Yep!  That's right, A3 sized full color laminated presentation cards, designed to go along with that very well known CHILDREN'S SONG; Mary had a Little Lamb.   

What a classic!    And so easy for even 3 year olds to understand.   

Not only do the words of the song appear on the back of each picture card in both English and Japanese, but I also made three A4 sized handouts, which the kindergarten teachers can use to teach the kids the lyrics, in both English and Japanese.   

The entire job took me about 5 hours to complete.   

Well worth the effort as I will be using these cards and my acoustic guitar tomorrow morning at めばえ幼稚園 and many more times after that, at various gigs.   


Have Car and Guitar.   

Will Travel.





2008 June 14 Saturday and June 15 Sunday.


I had a private lesson with the 9 year old elementary school girl as usual on Saturday morning, but today her mother told me that her daughter has a headache, and also she slightly injured her right leg during some kind of sports activity, so they wanted a 30 minute lesson, instead of the full 50 - 60 minutes, which we have every week.   

The young girl's lack of concentration today was rather obvious, but I tried my best to make her feel better and extend the time to 50 minutes or more.   

I was only able to coax 40 minutes out of her today, but that is much better than nothing.   

Either way, I get paid the same so it's not about money for me, but rather about student SATISFACTION with my job performance.   

I take that more seriously than anything else, in every teaching job that I do.   

I am there FOR THE STUDENT.   The student is NOT there for me.   

In Japanese they have a well known saying that goes like this;  お客様は神様です.   Meaning; The Customer is GOD.   

If you are an entrepreneur who owns and runs a small business, of any kind, you know exactly what I am talking about.   

Even if you live in the Western World, some people STILL GET IT.   

It's about a WIN=WIN situation.   

There need not be any losers, in the game of LIFE.   

Ya see, the IDEAL is total co-operation.   

Helping yourself BY helping each other.   

How simple is that?   

As you all know, I have been an inhabitant of HOKKAIDO for more than 18 years NOW.   

When I first arrived here on March 12, 1990,.....   I immediately had a good feeling about this place.    

So did Charlie Hamel and family, when they first set down, BOOTS ON THE GROUND at the Asahikawa International Airport, on 2008 March 26.   

I have been corresponding with Charlie for more than about 2 years via the internet, but I only just recently, met him and his family, face to face for the first time, on that March afternoon.   

Since that time, Charlie has been publishing a Private Blog for family and friends only, the URL of which I will not make public.   

As I have been reading his blog everyday since it was begun, I have come to realize that Charlie and Me, have a lot of things in common, when it comes to living in JAPAN, especially HOKKAIDO.   

This little old island has a lot to offer.   It is easily visible on a world map.   

In the big city of Sapporo and some districts of small city Asahikawa, land prices are very expensive.   

In other locations around Hokkaido, you can get LAND FOR FREE.   

If you are willing to,...... etc.      

I am not making this up.   There really is FREE LAND IN HOKKAIDO.   

I have even see a big sign by a rest stop that was inviting people to move to the village in exchange for free land.   

I may have even taken a photo of it.   I'll look for it later.   

By the way, the photo in today's blog shows what I did for the rest of Saturday and all day Sunday.   

I made a new series of 105 Conversation Topic Cards, for use with mostly adult students.   

The small stack of black and white cards that you can see at the top of the photo, are the ones that I made about 12 years ago.   

At that time, we only had a simple word-processor, cardboard sheets, glue and wide cellophane tape.   

They have worked well over the years, but it's time to reinvent the wheel, an totally remake and expand this set of teaching/learning materials.   

Now that I have a PC with graphics software, a color ink-jet printer and a laminating machine, I can make much more professional looking flash cards, and so on.   

The entire job took me about 12 hours over several days to complete.   

I will make more later.    Time to go take a walk.





2008 June 9 Monday.


Happy 12th Anniversary to the only child, that me and my wife have given birth to, together.   

The child's name is; Snowman's American English Family Classroom.   

Has it really been that long?   

Yes, it has.  But, that is not the whole story.   

The idea for having my own Language Learning/Language Teaching Classroom, started more than 30 years ago.   

That is the time, when I first visited Japan as a member of the USCG.   

After one week at Yokota Air Base, I was flown to the tiny island of Iwo Jima 硫黄島, for a 12 month tour of duty.   

It was at that time, and on that island, that I first began to learn the Japanese Language.   

I really liked this new challenge, and I spent every spare moment learning how to speak, read and write this most beautiful of all pentatonic scale spoken languages.   

A pentatonic scale, has only 5 notes in the octave.   

Likewise, Japanese has only 5 vowel sounds あ い う え お  in the ENTIRE LANGUAGE!   Is this unusual?    

Yes, very.    I can think of only one other modern language, that is spoken by enough people on this planet today, to rank in the TOP TEN INTERNET LANGUAGES, that has 5 or less vowel sounds.   

That language is Spanish.   

Anyway, since that time, I have spent countless hours learning the Japanese Language.   

Now, it is a very useful tool in my daily life.   

Not only that, but I know exactly what it is like for someone else to begin learning a totally new, and completely different foreign language, from the ground up.   

If learning languages is interesting, wouldn't teaching them to other people be just the same, or even more interesting?   

Yes, it would be.   

And it certainly has been.   

And it will continue to BE.   

If you can make your most interesting hobby, into your life's work, you have a job in paradise.   

A paradise that welcomes each and everyone, who is WILLING to put forth the EFFORT required to make it happen.   

ABC is really C B A.   

Conceive, Believe, Achieve.   

How simple is that?    ABC, 123.   

Back to basics, and a lifestyle that makes sense, in all aspects of that lifestyle. 

If you really hate your present job, do yourself a big favor, and ask yourself this simple question.   

"Did I, myself, go to this company and apply for a job, OR did the company come to my house, and force me at gun-point, to work long hours for little pay."   

Which is it?   

I think we all know the answer to that question.





2008 May 10 Saturday and May 11 Sunday.


Saturday morning started at 10:30, when I had a one hour private lesson with an 8 year old girl, who comes to my classroom every week at this time.   

Last week she didn't come, because she and her family went down to Tokyo and Yokohama during Golden Week, to see some relatives and do some sightseeing.   

During that time, she visited Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo Disney Sea, along with some other amusement parks in Yokohama.   

This week when she came to class, she told me all about her adventures IN ENGLISH!   

She even drew some illustrations of what she had seen and experienced during her trip.   

This very intelligent little lady, is one of the very few children who come to my classroom, who actually tries to use English as her first language, when she is with me.   

We almost never speak Japanese to each other.   Amazing.      

After that lesson was finished, I made some really hot and spicy Korean Ramen for lunch.   

It is my own very simple recipe and I would never think of making it for someone else, but I must admit that I really do love to eat stuff, made with lots of hot red peppers.   

I'm not sure why that is, but it IS.   

I was hoping that I could drive out to ShiBiNai and visit with Charles Hamel and family, but Charlie was busy helping one of his neighbors, set up a new restaurant.   

A very neighborly and noble thing to do.   

Maybe I should have gone out there to help them, but I was more interested in playing the guitar, again today.   

Since about 2 or 3 weeks ago, I have been getting back into an artist from Great Britain, whom I have been listening to since about 1984.   

When I lived in the USA, I had many of his albums on cassette tapes, and I would spend countless hours listening to his music and playing along on both electric and acoustic guitars.   

Again this Saturday, I used You Tube to find the songs I love, and my acoustic guitar to play along with the rhythms and melodies.   

The British Musician to whom I am referring is Al Stewart.   

You can see a You Tube video of him and his band, performing his original song, The Last Days of the Century, by clicking on his name above.   

Later on, I also played around on the Alto Recorder, and just for fun.   

Sunday was Mothers' Day.   

Of which I had completely forgotten about until about 10:30 am on Sunday Morning, when Ikuko reminded me of it.   

My mother and father are both deceased now, and the only bloodline family member whom is still slaving away on prison planet, is my skinny little sister, who lives in Seattle.   

She is not a mother, so I didn't send her a greeting card.   

We were mainly concerned with Ikuko's mother, who is still active and healthy, and living not too far away from us. 

That's why Ikuko remembered that today is Mothers' Day, and I didn't. 

To make up for my forgetfulness, I have thrown together a haphazard digital greeting card, to post in this blog.   

You can see my less than diligent results, above/left.   

Tomorrow, I get to play my guitar at the Young Buds Kindergarten めばえ幼稚園.   

I am well prepared, and looking forward to it. 

I think we will start with the ABC SONG, and work our way UP from there.





2008 May 5 Monday thru May 9 Friday.


Monday and Tuesday were both National Holidays so I had no classes to teach.   

The weather during this entire five days can be characterized as cold, wet and windy.   

I even saw a few snowflakes from time to time.   

Well, that's the north country for ya.   

Because of the consecutive holidays, I was able to make a new set of Question and Answer Cards, that are designed to be used together with my original textbook for elementary school students.   

After the students have memorized all 12 pages of the textbook, the cards are used to test the learning comprehension of the students, by presenting the entire contents of the textbook, one question at a time, in completely random order.   

This method, really puts the frosting on the cake.   

It took me many hours over several days to finish all of the cards, but now that I have them, I can use them over and over again for many years to come.   

Invest Time in Yourself.   

Turn off the boob tube.   

Watch You Tube instead.   

Starting again Wednesday, it was back to a full schedule of classes throughout each day.   

And it continued to be cold and windy, especially at night.   

That's usually when Ikuko and I go for our walks.   Not this week.   

It will get warmer soon, but my snow tires will stay attached until the third week in May.   

I have seen it snow here before, as late as May 18.   

The  hot times are still a month or so away.   

When that season comes, we can really get down and go for some long drives, with overnight camp outs, and MEGA Star Gazing.   

Bring on the Summer.  Bring on the Night.





2008 April 2 Wednesday thru April 6 Sunday.


Welcome to The Learning Curve.   

If you are a non-native speaker of the English Language, and you are reading this blog, with a full understanding of what I am talking about, you already KNOW what The Learning Curve is all about.   

The reason I bring this topic up TODAY, is because one of my most enthusiastic students, a middle-aged person who attends my classroom 3 times a week, told me something that was profoundly interesting for me.   

This particular student has only been attending my classroom for one year.   

Before he came to my classroom, he had attended a big name English Conversation School, in the city of Kitami for two years.   

At that time, he wanted to study English as a hobby, because he was living alone, and had quite a bit of free time on his hands.   

After 2 years of living and working in Kitami, he was transferred to Asahikawa, and he immediately starting looking for a new English Conversation School in Asahikawa 旭川英会話スクール.   

It didn't take him long to find this website for my little ole school, right here on the WORLD WIDE WEB.   

AKA the internet.   

He called here and made an appointment for a free trial lesson 無料体験レッスン.   

After that lesson, he immediately decided to sign up as a new member of this classroom, and has been coming here almost every week, and on average about 2 or 3 times a week, for a total of one year now.   

At today's lesson he told me that he is so happy, that he can now speak English in a fluent and accurate manner, and he felt so good about IT, that he couldn't stop talking about IT.   

I then explained to him in English, about the concept of a learning curve.    

Please look at the graphic, above/left.   

When a person, any person, first tries to learn something completely new, they START on the LEARNING CURVE.   

At first, they must study very hard, and they do not make much progress.   

But if they keep on trying for a long enough time, they will reach phase one.   

At this point, they can feel that they have learned something new, but it is still not very useful in their daily lives.   

If the student continues to study, they will make it to phase two and then phase three and up to phase four, where they notice a significant increase of their knowledge about the new study, but IT is still NOT QUITE ENOUGH to become very useful in their daily lives.   

At this point, many people will have spent about 2 or 3 years studying this new knowledge and they all have a decision to make.   

Should they continue their study, or should they quit?   

Unfortunately, a lot of people get frustrated with their own slow progress, and give up at this point.   

However, those students who keep on trying to learn more about their new knowledge, and DO NOT GIVE UP, have a very big surprise waiting for them, just around the corner.   

After phase four, the amount of time spent studying begins to yield much bigger results in total learning achieved.   

This is the point where critical mass has been achieved, and the return to the student for their time spent studying, INCREASES EXPONENTIALLY.   

In other words, their total understanding of the knowledge at hand becomes greater and faster with each step they take towards that knowledge.   

The student finally has enough pieces of the puzzle, to be able to SEE the BIGGER PICTURE of that knowledge base.   

This is true for any type of LEARNING (knowledge acquisition).   

It is a fundamental LAW of the COSMOS.   

IT never changes.   IT just IS.   I KNOW FOR A FACT that this is true, because I have had many personal experiences, in my own 50 something years of humanoid EXISTENCE on this EARTH, that have taught me the true meaning of learning.   

For example, learning how to play the guitar, the piano, the bass guitar, the Japanese Language, the teaching of languages, the learning of new languages, and the list goes on and on.   

Don't be one of those people who give up when the going gets tough 三日坊主.   

Hang in there and tough it out.   

There are millions of sad stories about people who did their best, and then STOPPED ONLY 3 METERS AWAY FROM THE GOLD MINE.    

Do not allow yourself to become one of them.   






2008 March 27 Thursday.


Another milestone in the continuing story of Snowman Bei Kaiwa.   

This young gentleman with me in the photograph above/left, has been coming to my classroom off and on, since he was 8 years old.   

You can see what he looked like at that time in the smaller photo in the lower right corner.   

Today was his last lesson at my school.   

On April 1, he will be flying to Australia and start attending an English speaking high school there.   

He is planning to spend 3 years in Australia and graduate from high school there.   

His main goal in life is to become a professional golfer, and I know for sure that he can do it.   

He first started playing golf when he and his family lived in Houston Texas for about 6 months, when he was just 7 years old.   

He is now 15 years old and has been practicing golf every day of his life since he was 7.   

That's what it takes to become a professional, in any field.   

Unswerving dedication and constant practice of the BASICS.   

Look at Tiger Woods or ICHIRO, and you can see what I mean.   

Remember this young man's face, because you will be seeing him on TV in professional golf tournaments, in the not too distant future.   

He will probably be on the same tour with Greg Norman of Australia, some day.   

His real name is Nanase, but I just call him Tiger Yoshida.   

Have a safe flight to the big down under, and come back and see me again during your Christmas Holiday.   

Life can be so sweet, when you have a specific objective in mind.   

Rock on my friend. 





2008 January 7 Monday thru January 11 Friday.


Back to school for me and most of my students. 

The public schools are still on winter holiday until the middle of next week, so some of my students didn't come to class this week.   

In fact, during my last week of classes just before winter vacation started, I told my students that if they didn't want to come to my classroom during this week, that was OK with me.   

These kids need some free time to relax and learn things on their own, from time to time.   

As a result, I had more free time during this week than I usually do.   

So, I used the time to seriously get into a book, that I first bought about 2 years ago. 

The title of the book is "SAMS Teach Yourself Dreamweaver MX Application Development in 21 days."   

It is a rather large book of 714 pages, each page packed full of useful information.   

This website that you are looking at now, was created using Microsoft FrontPage 2002.   

In order to make it, I had to read another very long book entitled; "FrontPage 2002 Developer's Guide."   

Unfortunately for me, Microsoft has discontinued making FrontPage, and has changed over to making another newer software called "SharePoint".   

This means that web server support for FrontPage websites will gradually become less and less as the years go by. 

So, I am switching over to Macromedia (Now Adobe) Dreamweaver, Fireworks, Flash and FreeHand, to make a completely new website that will (hopefully) be more professional looking, easier to use, and have much more interactivity with the users, who visit my website.   

I want it to become more of an eLearning oriented website, and have interesting and enjoyable English Lessons available 24/7 for anyone who wants to use my new website for studying English at home.   

This will require that I spend a lot of time learning how to use the new software, and creating a brand new look and feel for the website.   

Wish me luck.   I have to do it ALL by myself.   

I need this new challenge to keep my mind hyper-busy and to have that feeling every morning when I get up, that I have a lot of things that must be done NOW.   

NOT because someone else told me that I must do this, but because I told myself that I WANT to do it.   

I never ever want to lose my curiosity for learning something new.   

That is my most extreme pleasure in life, always learning something new.   

I mean, what else is there?   

Oh!  By the way,....   As you can see from the photo above/left, it has been snowing every day for the past two weeks, and the weather forecast in the Hokkaido Newspaper says, it will continue do so, for the foreseeable future.   

It is absolutely beautiful, and very cold.   

No insects during this time of the year!   

And no, walking along the river banks playing my alto recorder, either.   

It's the season to hunker down inside, take a lot of hot baths, and read read read.   

I still have a WHOLE LOT TO LEARN, and I suspect that you do also. 

If learning is fun, life is a TRUE pleasure.   

If you are spending most of your time CONSUMING mindless entertainment, which stimulates your ephemeral pleasure centers, for just that moment, you will awake each morning with an EMPTY feeling INSIDE, and run back to that source of fantasy pleasure to get more and more of it.   

However, you can never get enough of it, because it does not fill up the hole in your soul.   

The hole that DEMANDS real learning, real knowledge, real wisdom, in order to be totally satisfied and at PEACE with YOURSELF.   

Total Happiness with Peace of Mind. 

To illustrate this point, I have a TRUE STORY to tell you all, that I just heard from one of my students today.   

The student who told me this story, is a 4th year student at Asahikawa Medical College, and has been to America before, traveling around as a back packer for about one month.   

Therefore, he speaks English quite well.   

During our lesson today, he told me that he and his family went to Kyoto during winter vacation, to visit his grandfather and grandmother who live there.   

When I asked him how his grandparents were getting along, he said;  "My grandfather is 93 years old, and he is still alert and cheerful. 

However, my grandmother who is 85 years old is forgetful, and she has sudden and extreme mood swings. 

One moment she is happy, and the next moment she is angry.   

One moment she is eating lunch, and the next moment she can't remember if she eat lunch, or not."   

I asked my student; "Why do you think your grandmother and grandfather have turned out so differently?"   

He said, and very insightfully; "My grandmother worries a lot 心配性."   

He instinctively knew the real reason why his grandmother had become this way.   


She literally THOUGHT HERSELF into her present senile dementia situation.   

I pray to GOD that this never happens to me.   

Thoughts ARE things.  No joke.   

If you worry a lot, you are NOT doing yourself any favors.   

You are literally killing yourself from within. 


If the main source of your worries is the repayment of a loan or loans of whatever type, then you need to STOP IT.   


IF you have food, clothing, shelter and NO LOANS,.....    

What do you have to worry about?   

Have you ever been HOMELESS and not by your own choice?    

I have.    It sucks.      

AND it will never happen again.   


Because I have promised myself, never to LOOK BACK AGAIN.   

Always Forward.   Pay IT Forward.   

The big bonus to DOING LIFE this way, is that you get AT LEAST 10 times MORE COMING BACK to you, than you gave previously with your own, time and effort, by paying IT forward.   

Do you see what I am talking about, NOW?   

Here!  This, is another big secret.   

Giving is FREE, and Receiving is ABUNDANT.   

LOVE is positive.   GREED is negative.   

You don't need a PhD to see the writing on the wall, do you.