New books out!


This summer/fall (2016) my two latest books were published on Amazon!

Would You Rather Walk your Dog in Heaven is part 2 in the Would You Rather series. Gloriously illustrated by the super-talented Jim Steck.  Check it out here:


And here is my first coloring book, The Story of Humpty and Dumpty:


Happy Reading!

37. Futsal Jamboree

At the beginning of February is the annual Futsal Jamboree. Futsal is 5 on 5, small field soccer.

  • small goals
  • kick-ins instead of throw-ins
  • no-offsides
  • goalie throw instead of goal kick
All elementary grades are represented, plus at lunchtime the local jr. high boys take on the fathers.
Like all sports around here, it’s very well organized. And they serve a great lunch!
 Arrival at the school.
Pre-game strategy sessions
Saturday is a work-day for many fathers, and the 4th-grade Nakagori squad was without a coach.
I rounded up the lads and gave them a pep-talk before game one.
“All right, you guys have done this before, yeah?”
“You all know the rules for futsal?”
“And, uh, Riku, you are the captain, right?”
“OK, then. Go play hard, don’t goof around, fight until the final whistle, and listen to Riku, ‘nkay?”
Each grade had four or five teams, and the tournament was set up as a three game round robin- the team with the most points wins.
Nakagori did well. I think we had three grades that came out on top. Owen and Allen’s team got second in the 4th grade division.
First opponent, arch-rivals Sekishi.
Owen receives a nice looping pass from defender Riku. This short-field game suits fatty Riku well, with his ball control, sharp passes, bullet shots, and of course no need to exhaust oneself running up and down a full-sized field.
O and A in second-half action. Owen fakes a long shot, then dribbles to his left to pass the off-balance #7.
 Fumie and the peanut gallery.
 Post-game scoreboard check.
 Nakagori 1- Sekishi 0! (12th minute- Riku from 16 yds.)
Meanwhile, the soba/udon noodle vats are getting fired up.
 These jokers are pestering the mothers for food already.
“Go away, you pests! It’s too early!”
 Game two was against Ohse, the other feeder school to Nakagori Jr. High. Ohse was a very weak opponent, but they have one good player, the big Indian kid, #4. Maybe O. and he will play together for the junior high team in a couple years. Note the construction barrier behind the goal- they are building a higher fence behind the playground so balls quit sailing into windows (see the board across the windows on the dark house). I’ve kicked a few over the old fence!
 Allen played keeper.
We crushed Ohse. At one moment after yet another goal I thought the boys were getting a little too cocky with their celebration. “Hey! Stop that! Show some poise already!”
Allen had that uh-oh, what did I do look on his face. The boys stopped preening and got back to the game.
OK, actually “show some poise” is above my translation pay-grade but I came pretty close to the Japanese equivalant of, “Hey, calm down, you ne’er do wells!”
More results are in and the local moms are feeling proud! Nakagori teams are undefeated, so far!
Action on field 1- 2nd graders: Sekishi vs. Ohse.
Judges tent. Fresh coffee served up by the moms. The guy with the ball is thinking, “Who’s this gaijin (foreigner) snapping pictures?”
Lunchtime, finally!
Here’s the set up:
Four stations to bring you a succulent, piping hot bowl of soba or udon.
Station 1: the Noodle Pots
Station 2: Add the broth
Station 3: fishcakes, shrimp bits, rice crispies, and green onions.
Station 4: Serve it up with chopsticks, season to your liking.
 They also had sweet mochi (gooey rice) in a bean sauce for desert, and the proverbial picnic favorite, salmon onigiri (rice cakes).
                        Rice is a staple food in Japan.
Oh, I forgot to mention that I referreed three games on this day. They had me reffing the third graders. The first two games I was the fuku-shin (assistant judge). In regular soccer, the assistant just sits in a chair behind a table on the sidelines and does nothing. There was no chair so I just stood there. At one point the ball went out of bounds and the kids just stood waiting. The main ref wasn’t indicating who’s throw-in it was. Then the coach of the visiting team said, “You have to make that call!”
“Oh! Uh. Red! Throw in for red!”
That’s how I found out that the assistant is a line judge in futsal.
I didn’t have my camera for our last game, but it was a barn-burner. Kosai was the opponent and they were tough. They had this little third grade ringer they brought up and he was quick and agile, like a little Messi. Kosai scored two and I motioned for Owen to come closer to the side while they were waiting for a ball to be retrieved.
“Hey, Owen! We need two goals! Come on, now!”
I kid you not, O. netted one thirty seconds after that!
I turned to Fumie and tried to take credit for the goal but she brushed me off and cheered for her son and the team.
Owen fought like a trooper and scored the equalizer about a minute before the half. Unfortunately, little Messi answered with a clean shot on a breakaway just seconds later, and we were down 3-2 at the half.
The second half started grim- we were against a wind whipping and gaining in strength and Kosai opened the scoring with blast from their biggest kid. After a hard-fought five minutes or so, Owen netted another for the hat trick!
I must, in fairness mention that the Kosai coach had subbed-in his second string in the first half at 2-0 and again in the second half at 4-2, so Owen was facing a much weaker defense for his barrage of goals. At 4-3, Kosai stopped mucking around and put Messi and the big kid back in. We fought hard against a tough opponent and a tough wind, but Kosai held on for the win.
Oh, well, after those Cam Newtonesque gyrations in the 2nd game, I think it was time for a nice slice of humble pie for Nakagori anyway.
The silver lining to the Kosai defeat was that we faced them again, full squad in regulation field soccer the next day. Little Messi now had to navigate four defenders on his way to the goal instead of one or two; he was neutralized and we took bragging rights back from Kosai on Sunday! (we got our a***** kicked the rest of the day, however).
On Sunday I had to ref again, this time in full regalia!
All in all, a good soccer weekend!

36. Summer Europe Trip: The End

There is not much to report about our final two days in Holland. We got an afternoon train in Osnabruck and arrived at Amsterdam Centraal at about 5 pm. Then we crossed the canal and walked the path we’d bicycled on almost three weeks earlier back to the Weeda’s home, where we ended the first leg of our trip.

 Another wet day in Holland!

Mr. Weeda had some free time so he took us for a drive while it was still light. The countryside across the canal and in the northern limits of Amsterdam is beautiful, mostly farmland dotted with small towns and age-old churches in bucolic settings. Weeda was a bit of an F-1 wannabee along the narrow roads up here, and Keenan got carsick and had to get out and get some fresh air, in the rain along a path that bordered a north-sea lagoon. 

When we got home, Mrs. Weeda had a great goulash ready for us, and some choice Dutch beer. 

Thank you Weeda’s for two great, “last nights” in Holland. 


Well, that’s it. The next day was rainy again. We had another great breakfast at the Weeda’s, and off we went, back through the park (and among the schoolchildren on bicycles) to the little ferry, over to Amsterdam Centraal. 

At a station supermarket, I picked up some blocks of Gouda and Edam to stuff in our bags, thus avoiding the 3x mark-up at the airport. 

After our short hop to Helsinki, we got lucky and were bumped up to business on an overbooked flight. My air-travel suggestion, when traveling together: don’t reserve your seat when you have a connecting flight and just wait and see where the airline puts you. Here’s my unconfirmed theory- if they can’t sit you together in economy, or economy fills up before they find you seats, you might get bumped to business.  The downside, which will break the deal for most of you, is that you also might get unlucky and end up in two middle row seats, stuck between the overweight sumo wrestler on one side and the hacking, sneezing, tubercular wretch on the other. 

These seat were the adjustable bed/entertainent center units I’d always peeked at getting on planes but never experienced for myself. If you told me it was first class I would have said of course it is. 

Keenan was in hog-fanta heaven- it was a 10 hour movie fest. 


When we arrived in Nagoya we picked up the car in the long term lot and drove right over to the Costco across the bay. I picked up a couple pairs of 19 dollar slacks for work, a couple bags of Belgian chocolate for gifts, and we wolfed on American food- greasy pepperoni pizza and big hot dogs- ahh, back in Japan!


Hope you enjoyed the blog!