September 17, 2007

Beach Day

We went to the beach with some friends today. T and R had been looking forward to it for days. ("Tomorrow's tomorrow's tomorrow's tomorrow, we're going to the beach, right Dad?") We planned a 5AM departure to beat traffic and the kids had no problem waking up at 4:something. T was running, jumping and blabbering so much that I had to tell him just to sit in a chair and not get up unless he really had to (I had to finish my first cup of coffee before dealing with that much energy at that time of day).

It was a beautiful day at Kujukuri beach in Chiba prefecture.

Catching some rays

Sand castle? Cake?

For T, a day without baseball is now unthinkable. (That's our friend David playing catcher.)

She left it all out there on the beach.

September 16, 2007


T. (and R. to a lesser degree) has been all about baseball for the past month or so. We play catch or practice batting whenever we have a chance. Yesterday there was a sample lesson for a baseball school that practices at Hikarigaoka park, our favorite hangout. I had never heard of a baseball "school" before, where there are teachers rather than coaches and classes rather than games, but then again, this is Japan. We went anyway because the the price was right (free!).

T. and R. both participated and had a blast. There were warmups (with parents), throwing lessons, batting lessons, a sales pitch (sorry, bad pun) for the school, and some freestyle batting and fielding. The picture above is of T., R. and another kid working on their grip while waiting for their throwing lessons.

If T's interest in baseball persists, we'll look for a team for him to join.

September 6, 2007

Running Again

I should be out for a run right now but instead I've been stuck in the house, glued to the TV screen, watching people's umbrellas get blown inside out, tiles fly off of roofs, and storm surge crash over breakwaters. We're in a big typhoon, hurricane for you western hemispherians. Since I can't run, I figured I'd write about running.

I started in sixth grade. My first race was the 10km Turkey Trot in Kona, Hawaii. I finished it in 57:18 at age 11 (weird how I can remember silly things like that but not to pick up bread and milk at the store). I ran off and on and got serious about it in '95-'96 when I ran a couple of marathons in Hawaii (Kona - 3:43:?? and Maui - 3:32:32). After that I didn't really run again until June . . . this June. Yes, that's an eleven-year-gap.

There is a huge park in one direction from my apartment and a river with a trail all along it in the other direction. They are both beautiful places to run. I've been at it pretty regularly for the past few months except for eleven days in the middle of August. That's better than eleven years anyway and plus I have tons of excuses--I had a fever for about a week, guests from back home, our newborn was awake at all hours, and Tokyo had the hottest August on record, blah, blah, blah.

Anyway, I post this to say that I'm nuts about running again. I have more energy and feel more relaxed throughout the day, sleep better and eat better. I'm sure good things are happening to my heart and lungs too. I found a niftyonline running site with an excellent log and a community of good folks. You can see automatically updated snippets of my running log at the bottom of the sidebar on this page (feel free to bug me if you notice a long gap between runs).

The site is If there are any Tokyo runners reading this, especially in the Itabashi/Nerima area, let's get in touch.

September 3, 2007

Girly Tomboy

R wanted to get all dressed up for our family afternoon at the park but then when we started playing baseball, she was right into that too, even with the dress and faux pearl necklace.

September 2, 2007

Mitsumasa Anno - Picture Books that Teach Math

We recently found a few really delightful children's books by Mitsumasa Anno. He is (was?) a Japanese math teacher turned author of children's books. The ones we read were Anno's Magic Seeds, Anno's Counting House, and Anno's USA. I love studying and teaching other disciplines through literature, which is part of what draws me to Anno's books.

Anno's Magic Seeds is about a wizard who gives a young man named Jack two seeds and tells him to eat one and plant the other. He promises that Jack won't be hungry for a whole year and that the seed in the ground will produce two more seeds the next year so he can repeat the process. Jack obeys and the wizard's words come to pass. For a few years Jack continues eating one seed and planting the other but one year he decides to plant both seeds. That's when the fun begins as the seeds begin multiplying geometrically. Jack eventually has so many seeds that he starts selling some. He plants more and more each year and always eats one each year. It is the reader's job to figure out how many seeds were planted, harvested, etc. Other complications arise when Jack marries and has a baby. Of course his wife and child eat some seeds also. All goes well until the hurricane. Jack, thankful that his family is spared, begins anew with just a few seeds.

The book, besides being a fun, beautifully illustrated story and a challenging math puzzle, teaches about risk, compound interest, the importance of diversification and the fact that good things, especially family, mustn't be taken for granted.

Anno's Counting House is a wordless book about people moving from one house to another. The old house gradually empties and the new house gradually fills with the people and their furniture. The reader (or readee) needs to predict and count who and what moves from one house to the other at each stage in the story. Attention to detail is important.

Anno's USA is one of a series of journey books. Wikipedia describes them better than I could:
In the "Journey" books, a tiny character travels through a nation's landscape, densely populated with pictures referencing that country's art, literature, culture, and history. Anno's illustrations are often in pen and ink and watercolor, and occasionally incorporate collage and woodcuts. They are intricately detailed, showing a sense of humor as well as an interest in science, mathematics, and foreign cultures. They frequently incorporate subtle jokes and references.
There are three pages of Anno's work on amazon.

An interesting web site with math lessons based on literature (including some of Anno's books) for grades K-8 is called SMaRT Books. Check it out and if you have any other reading recommendations, please share in the comments.

September 1, 2007

Geography Quiz 2: Statetris

For those who liked the other geography quiz I linked to a while back, here's one that is similar to tetris. Drop the states in their proper place using the arrow buttons on your keyboard. There are maps of Europe and Africa into which you drop the countries, and maps of the US, the UK, France and The Netherlands into which you drop states (or counties or whatever those European countries subdivide into). My times for filling in the US map was 4:06.7 on the easy setting which earned me a "Very Good" and 7:43.5, also on easy for Europe, for which I was told, "I've seen people do worse." That didn't give me enough confidence to try the even more difficult maps.

Anyway, give it a shot and post your scores in the comments. Here's the link again: Statetris.