Reiwa, UNCC, Peggy Oberhofer, Kazuyuki Tanabe

I was having some trouble with my blog recently, and a few blog posts didn’t reach everybody.

At least this one was important, because it involved the change to the Reiwa Era, which also happened on the day of the horrific UNCC shootings – my undergrad school, in the building where my physics department was. And I also heard of the loss of a person from my days at UNCC who I liked very much – Peggy Oberhofer, the wife of Dr. Oberhofer, the department chair. And also on the same day I found out that a former student, and friend, Kazuyuki Tanabe had a stroke in Thailand where he lives.

If you got the original post then sorry for the duplicate email. If you didn’t see the post, I hope you click through and take a look. It’s just been on my mind lately:

Monta gets his nails trimmed

The weather is warm and sunny, and it was time for Monta to get his nails trimmed. So we walked over to the vet. Monta was a good bird. He relaxed in the park for a bit afterwards.

Getting ready to go
Outside the front door
Checking out the newly refinished staircase.
At the vet, checking in.
Waiting to be called.
I guess that dog gets to go first…
Agh! What’s he doing?!
Relaxing on a park bench afterwards.

Personal review: The Apple Watch

I had never seen an Apple Watch until last month. Then I visited my friend, Sue, in St. Louis. She had upgraded to an Apple Watch Series 4 and offered me her Apple Watch Series 1, if I’d really use it.

Note: The Apple Watch Series 1 is the 2nd version of the Apple Watch. The very first one did not have a “series” model, and is now obsolete. But the Series 1 can still be updated to the latest WatchOS.

The last time I owned a watch was… a long time ago. My thought was, since I always have my cell phone with me why on earth would I need a watch? I know the time.

So I was never interested in even checking out what the Apple Watch could do. Now I see, and I’m impressed! It’s so much more than a time piece!

Let me go through what I’ve discovered.

Telling time

Of course, since it’s a watch, you can see the time. I do notice this is easier around the house, for example, where I’m not carrying my iPhone constantly. By the way, the watch itself (this is the 38 mm model) weighs almost nothing. You don’t even notice it’s there most of the time.

You can customize the Watch face a zillion different ways. In addition to a variety of built-in (and downloadable) faces, you can use photos from your iPhone albums. Here is my current “Monta watch.”

Monta custom Watch face with weather “complication”

You can add what Apple calls “complications” to a Watch face, which are extra features. Yes, “complications” is a weird name. They are add-ons, if they fit. You can tap on the complications and see more info. In this case, I can tape on the weather complication and see more details about today’s weather, including rain forecasts and temperature predictions thoughout the day.

Touching on the weather complication – it’s raining now, but should clear up by noon

By the way, you can easily take screenshots of the Watch and they are instantly synced to your iPhone camera roll. That’s where most of the pictures for this blog post come from.

Even just up to this point it is cooler than any other watch I’ve had. But wait! There’s more!


You can install apps on the Watch, and you can mirror the notifications you get on the iPhone or set custom notifications. Many notifications (e.g. Messages) let you reply from the Watch itself. More on that below.

The home screen, containing installed apps
Some more apps on my home screen

I do feel more “in contact” with my notifications now. I don’t know if that’s a good thing or a bad thing. But, for example, it’s easy to tap away junk or unimportant mail and get it trashed from the Watch without ever even opening it up on the iPhone or Mac. You can also dismiss notifications and at least be aware something is waiting for you.

I also like seeing short synopsis of news alerts from the New York Times or Apple News.

The “dock” on the Watch showing recently used apps

Notifications can have tone, haptics, or both. I did run into an “age-related snag” with Message tone notifications. The pitch is so high I can’t hear them! Sue could. I could hear all the other notifications except for Messages. I sent Apple feedback on that, because you can’t adjust the pitch.

Finally I decided to just use haptics, because the beeping was getting annoying anyway, while the haptics are subtle and not really disruptive.

This is a problem though. There are Apple product users of all ages. I was sort of hoping to show off the Watch to members of my volunteer class on Sundays. But almost all of them use just the standard apps, and at least half the class are seniors in their 70s and 80s. It’s amazing that Apple created a device that can’t be heard well (pitch-wise) by seniors. It’s pretty common knowledge that we lose the ability to hear higher pitches as we get older.

Still, haptics are easier on your overall senses I think, since it’s something you would be wearing all day.

Notifications work in a very logical way with the iPhone. If the iPhone is on, notifications go there. If the iPhone screen is off, then the Watch gets the notifications. This way you don’t get bothered with duplicate notifications.

Heart Rate

This is cool. It comes with sensors that rest against your skin and tracks your heartbeat!

Heart rate with history you can tap on


I’ve never had a FitBit or any device like that. The most I have is MapMyRun to track walks and bicycle rides on my iPhone. The Activity feature tracks used calories, walking, exercise, amount of times you stand, gives reports, adjusts goals and is pretty cool.

You can tap and see how far along you are. Your goals are to complete each ring.

It can be a bit of a nudge sometimes (“How about standing for 1 more minute now to reach your standing goal?”) but generally it’s interesting.

Yay. I reached my goal. My Watch is happy with me – for now.

Smart replies

This is a cute feature if you need to reply to Messages (or anything) from your Apple Watch and don’t want to dictate or “draw in” a message. Dictation works fine, but sometimes you just want to make a quick reply. And sometimes you’re not in a place where it’s easy to dictate. The “drawing” letters feature also works surprisingly well, but it is slow.

I noticed this feature when driving back from shopping and Sue asked me, “Will you be home soonish?”

(Note: Yes I know I shouldn’t be looking at the Apple Watch while driving.)

While safely at a stop light I did want to send a quick reply though and was surprised to see the first suggestion was, “I will be home soonish.” I sent that.

It turns out that WatchOS analyzes the grammar of received messages so it can come up with appropriate quick responses. Very cool! You can also add your own canned responses.

Replying to a message – The choices are dictate, an emoji, draw characters and below that some suggested smart replies and your own canned responses.

Listening to music

I’ve found this to be useful when listening to music on the train with headsets on. Instead of taking your iPhone out of your pocket to see what song is playing, or skip a song, etc., your Watch automatically knows you are listening to music and the default display changes to something like this.

Oh, you gotta have friends…

Camera remote

This is a genuinely cool and useful feature. The Apple Watch acts as a remote for your iPhone camera. You can flip between front and back cameras, and there is a 3 second timer option so you can lower your Watch out of view once everybody is in place.

Using the camera remote feature on the Apple Watch to take a picture of Dave, Nobu, and me.

Taking notes

Surprising, Apple Notes is not available for the Apple Watch. A strange oversight. But Google Keep recently released a WatchOS version, so you can use it for quick notes, including check lists for shopping.

Dictating a note into Google Keep on the Watch

Battery Life

During a normal day I have had no problem with battery life. I put it on in the morning and take it off when I go to sleep. It magnetically attaches to the small USB charger, and if you then stand it on its side it goes into “nightstand mode” where you can see the time by tapping on the phone – or even tapping lightly on the table it’s on.

My biggest battery test was returning back to Tokyo from St. Louis – almost a 24 hour day, door to door. It was a race against time, and when I got home the Watch was down to 1% and I just barely got it connected to the charger when it finally ran out of juice.


It’s fun. It isn’t vital to have. But it is a genuinely interesting supplement to an iPhone, with extra features you wouldn’t ordinarily think of as being on a watch. It even lets you make or receive phone calls!

With later series, the Watch also supports Suica pay, so you can use your watch to get on trains and buses, and pay for things without taking your iPhone out of your pocket.

It’s a relatively unintrusive, extra assistant for iPhone users throughout the day.

There’s more – I feel I’ve barely touched the surface. But you get the general idea. I like it!

Mixed feelings at the start of Reiwa, UNCC, and friends

Today is the first day of the new era. Heisei ended yesterday, and Reiwa began at the stroke of midnight.

There are many moving scenes of the former emperor abdicating. He was a man of grace, and the imperial couple are much loved. I particularly liked that I could actually understand him when he spoke. I heard him speak for the first time after the March 11, 2011 earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear disaster in Fukushima. I was struck by how clear and easy-to-understand his Japanese was.

While there is a mood of celebration at the coming of the new era, I find myself feeling mixed feelings today. After all, today was also the shootings and killings at my undergraduate school, UNCC, the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. I watched in shock and sadness, seeing scenes of the campus I graduated from 40 years ago this month. And the Kennedy Building! That’s where the physics department was, where I had all my classes, and spent most of my time hanging out – in labs, on the computer. How could something like that happen at UNCC?

I tried to take a walk in the late afternoon, before the rains started again. I needed to shake off feelings of depression and lethargy. I still have some jet-lag and fell asleep before midnight last night. Then I got up early to work on a site which was having some problems, and also take care of invoicing since it’s the first of the month. But the UNCC news was present in my mind. People always say, “I can’t believe it happened here.” I feel that way about UNCC.

Also today I heard that Peggy Oberhofer, the wife of Dr. Ed Oberhofer, the physics chair at UNCC when I was there, passed away last month. She was a wonderful person. I love that family. I haven’t heard from Dr. Oberhofer in some years though. I wonder if he still uses email.

All this UNCC news all of a sudden. I felt like I was going back and forth in time, 40 years ago, and then today, the first day of Reiwa. I had thought of visiting Charlotte during this last U.S. trip, but there wasn’t time.

And there was also the news I heard before boarding my plane back to Japan that a good friend and former student at Nippon Electronics College, Tanabe-san, had suffered a stroke in Thailand, where he is living. At first we thought he was missing. Then news started coming in that he was found, but because of his stroke he can’t use the right side of his body or speak. His Thai friends and Japanese friends are trying to sort things out. He needs rehab. Does he want to stay there? Does he want to come back to Japan? Does he have medical insurance in Thailand? It’s a difficult situation.

I did take a slow walk around the neighborhood, and the rains did come again. I tried to lay down and listen to some music, but couldn’t relax.

There are still five days left to the unusually long Golden Week holidays this year. I somehow feel like I missed the start of Reiwa I was so looking forward to. I don’t exactly feel celebratory. The rains are now getting stronger, and the day is just unreal and disturbing.

I would like to try to find some mental peace of mind in the remaining days of Golden Week.