Tag Archives: iPhone

A Tail of Two Cetaceans

Just when you thought the NOVA implosion was history, along comes a new one, this time exploding right from the start. It’s a real blast from the past – perhaps a millenium ago – whose light was discovered less than a week ago by an astronomer in Yamagata.

Nominally visible to the naked eye, Nova Delphini, in the minor constellation Delphinus, the Dolphin, is the first such unaidedly eyeable cosmic event in six years. If you look toward the Summer Triangle, find the apex, the bright star Altair. Continue past the apex, and the Dolphin is basically swimming a short distance beyond (“above” the isosceles triangle vis-a-vis its short base between Vega and Deneb).

I harbor no illusions that the flecks in this iPhone photo are much of anything but “noise,” but the four-star diamond shape in the cloudy area does have a resemblance to the Dolphin. The nova itself probably isn’t visible here.


I used a delayed shutter release, long-exposure app called SlowShutter, mounting the phone on a stable surface before the shutter opened, then deliberately covering the lens before “releasing (not plunging) the plunger” (picking the phone up to tap the shutter closed; the longest automatic alternative to the open-ended “bulb” setting is only 15 seconds). This exposure was 102 seconds at ISO 3200 (also set in the app), edited again afterward in the iPhoto app for exposure, resulting in the purple hue.

This was a couple nights back. Now that the moon is rising later, Nova Delphini might be visible until midnight or beyond. If you’re really interested, getting out into the country where there’s less ambient light would be worthwhile.

Are We Having Fun?

Jumping from one dolphin dispatch to another, the caption/comment on this Facebook post resonated with me, though some subsequent commenters jumped to the conclusion it was anti-science in tone. It wasn’t necessarily. And though there is potentially great value in analyzing phenomena like fun and play, I think there is something to the comment. I don’t know about the actual porpoise of the writer, but there are a least two kinds of people who might say what the writer did: those who are indeed making a facile anthropomorphic assumption, and those, in all likelihood a little more educated, who with affected humbler-than-thou self-effacement tend to assume only humans are capable of whimsy, or for that matter, evil. And let’s face it: Fun is generally not so fun when you stop to over-analyze it, though the devil of “over-” may be in the d(olphins’) tails. For now, I do think one thing we can rest assured humans fortunately maintain a sovereign, inalienable right to is the bad pun. No other species would touch that.

Heat Sink


It’s been oppressively hot and humid, especially in the mornings this week, but today is giving us a bit of relief, some typical rainy season precipitation notwithstanding.

Moon Screen


Nighttime in my case has been pretty hard to bear, too, with a screen in need of repair keeping me from having a flow of fresh outside air. This was the moon a couple of evenings ago. About the best nighttime moonshot you could manage with a handheld iPhone 5 and no editing, only cropping.

The Real Azalea Stands Up


What I’ve been incorrectly identifying a series of flowers as, is this: azalea. Impossible to miss hedges and bushes have been adorning streets for a couple of weeks now, with many fully wilted and shed.


Above, a bumblebee carries out what has to be one of the sweetest jobs around. Below, what has to be one of the sweetest evacuation shelters around, on the campus of Chubu University.


A few minutes ago, the moon was a nice orange crescent near the horizon. I knew the photo would come out unsatisfactory like this, not least because it was too late, but I wasn’t outside when the conditions were better (the sky would have appeared a beautiful blue, and the iPhone would have chosen an exposure a little better suited to the relatively bright moon). Alas, I haven’t quite perfected that iTime Machine yet.


Coming Into View


The milder weather has had buds very pregnant with color, as seen in a photo from a walk in Kyomachi, Tajimi, a few days ago.


These others are from a walk yesterday, when things really began a-bursting. Above, another rare Kasukabe plate on a March into spring. Today is the vernal equinox, also a national holiday. Traffic should be heavier than a normal Wednesday.

Grow in the Dark


Life even sprouts in a ceramic sculpture on Heiwabashi Bridge.

A Shot in the Light


This flower was so high up, short of ending up with a silhouette from beneath, I had to shoot it from above blind. Selective focus/white balance and shutter-releasing blind with one steady hand that’s also holding the iPhone camera itself facing you, is no barrel of monkeys (does it sound like one?). Have to say I’m pleased with the results, even if that’s what I look like.

Quick, Give Me a Title Before I Lose This

If you watch this TED video from Zurich (where a good chunk of the world’s wealth may be concentrated, now that I think about it), you’ll see what I mean when I speak of power being concentrated in the hands of a few being an emergent phenomenon rather than a conspiracy cooked up in some smoke-filled room somewhere. James B. Glattfelder’s agendaless type of approach is based in scientific curiosity that’s also cognizant of the need to deal with immediate if mundane matters of human affairs before answering bigger, more enticing cosmological, “pure science” questions. Not being ideology-driven, it may have the potential to bring ardent 99-percenters together with actual power-holders to discuss what needs to be done to avoid economic calamity, which, after all, would take everyone down. 99-percenters get to place responsibility on the one percent, and the one percent avoid being characterized as greedy conspirators (well, we may still reserve the right to think they’re greedy, spoiled, cold and out-of-touch (gee, it’s hard to resist a few zingers, though, isn’t it?), but not as bad as Marie Antoinette. It’s an evolution. I actually think the top fifteen or twenty percent has a lot of responsibility). And the world averts financial doom. Not bad. The idea of being too connected is interesting, too.

Anyway, I’m so sleepy now, I’d better post this before I go deleting something like a rogue trader vaporizing billions in wealth. Late-night iPad/iPhone sessions carry that risk for me. I’ll probably at least wake up to a few glaring misspellings. ñ. I kid you not – that one just popped in there just now (the period might have been reflexive sleep-tapping). Anybody else experience these sleepyheaded slips of the finger? Okay. Post.

East of the Sun and West of the Moon

They Might Be Giants

Having been laid up for a bit, I decided to take a walk during the mild afternoon today in Toki. With the sun at my back, I sauntered eastward, hoping to find a bit to blog about as well.


By the time I reached the midpoint of my loop and turned back in the direction I came, the clouds had covered the sun, which was a relief since it would’ve been blinding. I snapped the shutter on this VW Bug that, like another I saw last year, still has a rare old Gifu license plate with only one kanji.


The Bug was a giant compared to what was down the road a bit. This Daihatsu Midget has been here ever since I can remember. It has its own little parking space under a corrugated roof in front of the owner’s house. It’s always spotless. And I don’t think it’s ever driven. A little research revealed it’s likely a first-year (1957) model. Subsequent models had such modern luxuries as steering wheels, doors and four wheels. This is in fact the well-known tuk-tuk that’s chugged and beeped through the traffic throngs of Southeast Asia for over half a century. It’s actually classified as an autorickshaw.


After I got back home, the clouds had floated to the eastern sky, bringing a cool rain, and with the sun back out in the west, this double rainbow.


That might be a heavy-duty ham’s antenna. I guess it’s still a relatively common hobby among older men here. Me, I’m just an amateur ham…


This is the building that used to house Sabbat Sabbat Jazz Bar. I hadn’t realized until now that it closed last summer until further notice, apparently. Not being Spiderman, and having to carefully use my left arm as a rain roof for the arm/hand/thumb-capturing lens-at-the-edge wide-angle iPhone, this was the best angle I could get to match the building’s distinctive arced roofline with the rainbow.


None of these rainbow images are enhanced. Only cropped. If I could get idyllic scenes with rolling hills and stately oaks and little lambs to adorn the lightshow, or even graphic urban blight, trust me, I would. The horizon-al reality of where I live is wires, antennas, corrugated tin and cramped, often uninspired architecture, not new enough to be a statement, not old enough to be antique, not Dickensian enough to be a player in its own right. For every borderline workable angle like this pair of rooves, there are a thousand useless ones. I just make what I can of it.

And the Moon Jumped Over the Cow


Finally, a little while ago, this. Behind those dark clouds and the rainbow had been this mooing mingling of multicolored light. In the constellation of Taurus, the Moon is right in the head of the bull, with Jupiter right in the, uh, bull’s eye. And I think, by Jove, to the lower right of the moon faintly in this picture, the other eye, the red giant Aldebaran.

Four Little Words

I agree with Jerry: The writer it is.

I wasactually (sorry, the space thing (peripheral touch thing) is so rampant itdsserves to be uncorrectedand shown up for what it is*) thinking to myself just the other day that the name Pop Tarts must have had some relation to Pop Art. I even checked the aisles atMeidi-Ya, after failing to find eggnog for the holidays, to see if they sold them. But as far as putting it in the blog, as I subconsciously tossed it around in my head, I was loathing making the obvious, tired reference to Andy Warhol or Roy Lichtenstein. Now, frustrated artist that I am, I may have an opening.

I hope you could link to the video, funny as a left cheek with no right whatsoever, savagely chewing on a forked tongue in super slow motion. If you couldn’t, this will make even less sense than whatlittle ot’s making now. Anyway, what really caught my ear (and boy, is that another story for another time, via a link to be determined (you’ll see)), somehow, was Seinfeld’s use of the word “daunting.”

I began to posit sentences like “I can’t tell you how long it’s been since I daunted someone I really cared about;” “It’s not really worth daunting at this point,” “Aww, who daunted on the sofa?!” and “why don’t we daunt this out like adults?” The possibilities are… daunting.

And Jerry’s four word hypothesis is intriguing. A little tip I may try myself. There you go: “cheek,” “chew,” “savagely,” or some part of speech thereof, and “tongue.” Oh, wait. Tongue and cheek are already taken as a set. But daunt worry. I’ve got plenty of cheek where that came from. I just have to be more content with content and remember that all wordplay makes Jack a dull blogger. I did pick up this soup at Meidi-Ya, by the way.


Thank you, Jerry, for helping show there is such a thing as getting something for nothing, if not a free lunch from the Soup Nazi. Many a creative writer’s power is his or her dedication and deadline. Beyond that, where the stuff actually comes from, often no one can foretell. Kind of like canned SpaghettiOs, Spam, or Dum Dums’ Mystery Flavor.

*File it under Truth to Materials, kind of like Pop Art itself, a refusal to deny the visual milieu of the day, however banal or ugly**. People have used typewriters’ artifacts as part of “concrete poetry,” or retained drunken slips of the finger at the keyboard (Truth to Tequila), or made use of the mobile camera’s distortions, but I may be the first person in the world to deliberately make use of the iPhone 5′s sensitivity issues, which probably resulted from a verycomplex cost-benefit analysis at Apple. Just my luck this’ll be the one time people finally realize how trivial (in its inevitability) such truth to environment has become, and I’m roundly rejected as a pathetic artistic wannabe.

**O, to be in college again indeed, where the word “milieu” is never out of place.

Wind in the Road

Let me introduce yet another funky little cafe tucked into the hills and winding backroads of rural Gifu, Fuu.


This cozy little rustic hideaway, in its third year of business, lacks any significant signage beyond its immediate surroundings, so no one just happens to wind up there. It’s in Azuma, Akechi-cho in Ena. In your navigation software, enter the Japanese kanji (not the usual katakana) for kōhī (珈琲) and then fuu (風).


You’ll be greeted by the kindly owner and ushered down a hall to a wood slab table in front of a little wood stove, or perhaps to a front room where the morning sun will keep you warm. Another hardwood floored room has a dugout horigotatsu in the middle for warmth.


The name, the owner will be glad to tell you, comes from the breeze that blows through, giving a refreshing, cooling feeling in summer. In winter, the same draft renders the woodstove the heart and hearth of the place. It gets bone-chilling without it. Still, as it’s on the leeward side of the surrounding hills, the weather is consistently milder than the rest of Ena and Nakatsugawa. You can see some of the dried kindling under the bookcase below. It reminded me of college days when we chopped wood most every morning to stoke the day, and somehow made a fractured axe last all winter in the process.


There’s a nice selection of books, many about design and style, for inspiration and information. You’ll also find artwork in every nook and cranny. Do let me know next time you find an actual cranny somewhere, by the way. The only ones I’ve actually seen have strangely always been in print, and invariably right next to the words “nook(s) and.” Uncrannily peculiar.


While the owner’s real pride is a slowly prepared cup of coffee to sip in this idyllic nest in the woods (with a healthy serving of the story of how it all came to be, hacked out from a jungly old bungalow after a life in the concrete jungle of Nagoya), she does serve pasta lunches for those who come on an empty stomach.


She was kind enough to throw this sweet potato on the wood stove (in foil on the stove above and in the raw below), serving it with green tea after the lunch and coffee, on the house. It was a nice experience, skinny skin and all.


That heat, something we tend to take for granted even without much domestic central heating here, really became a theme running through it all. Also playing through (which reminds me, Fuu, unfortunately(?) like much of rural Japan, is also surrounded by golf courses) was French chanson music. C’est si bon.


Antiquey items and of course plenty of pottery for sale line the variegated walls, shelves and staircases.


Below, complementing a roundtable with all different school chairs à la Momogusa, is an old card catalog salvaged from a school library. By sheer coincidence, someone else on the other side of the world just had the same idea. Maybe it’s just that I used to be a library worker that I thought it interesting. I once checked and corrected my university’s entire general collection card catalog, card by flippin’ manila (get it?) index card. Remember your Dewey decimals, Huey, and never forget, always nothing before something. Only an old-school librarian may get that. Never mind. Throw analog on the fire and curl up like smoldering pages with a good book blog on your Kindle.


Anyway, the proprietress will be glad to have your company, and only too eager to share her stories with you. She related, for instance, that the fall foliage north of Fuu on route 109 was quite spectacular, and that deer and wild boar (hey, no librarian jokes) roam the hills with abandon and a mariachi band (just seein’ if you’re paying attention). I myself spied an intriguing pair of birds running out of my car’s way which I thought might be rare grouse (raichou), which I recall are the official bird of Gifu prefecture, though perhaps they only reside at higher elevations. They may also have been thrushes*. They seemed brown and spotted, without the long tail of pheasants, and scurried along the ground rather than flying.


Props to an iPhone app called Strip Designer, which I used to put together the collage of photos at the top of the post. Well done, and it was either free or discounted to 85 yen.

*(Sixties spy spoof/superhero reference alert) Jeepers, I learned through this that robins, would you believe, are the most common kind of thrush. Once again proving that to write will always win over chaos, and a labor of love will always make you get smart. And Robin’s your rich uncle, Bruce Wayne.

Lost and Found

Google’s free new Maps iPhone app was welcome news for anyone around here (and perhaps anywhere) who’d come to expect reliable map coverage for free on their iOS device. That it came with turn-by-turn voice navigation this soon was a wonderful unexpected Christmas bonus. A great big thank you to Big G for that. They may have taken the high-tech high road by choosing to provide it for free despite it not being pre-installed anymore.

I tried out the new navigation, technically still in beta, on my iPhone 5 (iOS 6.0), and was pretty happy. As a driver, I really felt like I was using navigation for the first time. There are new options like avoiding toll roads, and displaying public transportation and walking directions. Extra information like StreetView and online restaurant reviews is easily visible without leaving the app. It quickly recalculated routes when I took unscheduled turns. It even kept working after I turned off the screen by pressing the power button on the top edge of the phone, though in truth by pressing it I intended to shut it down completely as the battery was draining and I knew where I was at that point.

It took me to my destination without a hitch, though the place I was going was closed (the app’s Open Sesame button feature is rumored to be in pre-alpha testing). In fact there is a place in the app that shows business hours (none shown in this case), but the info may simply not have been available.


I was going to Soya Coco, a cafe in Sogi, above, which a recent magazine listed as being open that day (though closed on cold/snowy days), but the owner came out to tell me it was only open on weekends. The app, like Apple’s (no way around it) half-baked attempt at atlasing, does have an option for reporting new or wrong information. I’ll have to get back to Soya Coco another time.

One oddity the app did display was sometimes skipping names of intersections (not that all crossings have names anyway) when telling you to turn. For example, it would say “Turn right at onto 69.” If there’s no name or landmark associated with the intersection, they could simply leave out the “at.” Now if only the WordPress iOS app would leave out “smart” quotes, life would be peefect. That typo is thanks to the iPhone 5′s changed touchscreen, the worst manifestation of which is an often (accepted up to at least iPhone 4) ignored tap on the space key, prevalent and documented enough now to be considered rife. Ithink it’s actually an pverall issueof periphery taps being ignored. Younormally don’t see it here because I take the time to check and edit.

Other than that, the main downside I experienced was the battery usage and heating of the phone, which is only to be expected, and is true of any navigation app and smartphone. Shutting off the screen (if voice directions are enough) would probably cut down on that. I’d also make sure the app was completely off when I wasn’t actually using it (by double-tapping the home button to bring up the active apps on the bottom of the screen, long-pressing any app icon there, and tapping the red minus badge of the wiggling Maps app). Of course, extended use would really call for a car adapter.

So thank Google for restoring and improving a basic free feature the iDevice had clearly lost. This is some of the company’s bread and butter, pavement they’ve been pounding step by step for years (one of their long-term goals may be to be at the center of a fully driverless road transportation system), and something no one should expect Apple to be able to match any time soon. Tim Cook’s moral compass-guided apology was well-placed. One wonders what Steve Jobs would have said (“That’s not the wrong turn you’re looking for;” “There’s great enlightenment to be found in the middle of the Australian desert, you know”). Credit where credit is due, I’d say. No reason we can’t all have a piece of the pie.


The weather was pretty blah today, but it did give us this nice atmospheric phenomenon at one point.


This seems to be what’s called a 22° circle (the rainbowy arc above, left). Below, the tail end of an associated sun dog toward the right. I didn’t stop to take pictures until it was all fading. I admit I used a lot of editing to bring up the colors here.


And I have to say, since getting the iPhone 5 and better photo apps, I’ve edited photos (subtly) much more often than before, which used to be hardly ever.