November 2001 Archives

Yesterday I bought a

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Yesterday I bought a copy of a book written by my shiatsu doctor. It's a thin volume, illustrated with cute drawings and it gives instructions on how to do your own shiatsu (which is called accupressure in the US).

Some of the suggestions are a little strange. Warm your ankles with a blowdryer before sleeping. Pound gently on the top of you head while eating breakfast.

On second throught, maybe warm ankles would be nice.

"Ohisashiburi, okaasan*!" I said

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"Ohisashiburi, okaasan*!" I said to my mirror. My mother, circa 1976, was looking back at me after my haircut. Wow.

I had no idea that the style I'd pointed to in a magazine was going to look like this on me. It looked swoopier on the model. My hair embraces gravity. But I hope that with some "hard wax" styling products I can bring out the curvy lines of the magazine hair. My old blowdryer is going to be my new friend.

*Long time, no see, Mom!

Loose change adds up

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Loose change adds up fast around here. With coins worth up to 500 yen (about $4), the total in a change purse or a pocket can easily buy lunch or more.

Our stuffed elephants, the Zous, have been saving for a trip to America. They've found over 12,000 yen in spare change just lying around, though I think they rifle my pockets from time to time. (Why are our stuffed elephants saving for a vacation? The largest Zou refuses to go in the overhead bin and demands a seat. We told him he'd have to pay his own way. We lead a very rich fantasy life!)

Tod tries to remain "compliant" with his change-- he rarely has change that adds up to the next largest coin and he always spends all of his change. On the other end of the scale, I opened my wallet the other day to discover 2500 yen in coins mixed in with the grocery receipts.

The news is full

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The news is full of national leaders' children.

The Imperial Crown Prince & Princess are due to give birth to their first child any day now. If it is a boy, he will be in line for the throne. If the baby is a girl, probably not. The Japanese constitution (written with help from the US after WWII) specifies a man on the Imperial throne.

On the opposite end of the spectrum PM Koizumi's son, Kotaro, made his "talent debut" this week when he appeared in an advertisement for light beer.

Thank goodness for Jim

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Thank goodness for Jim Breen's online Japanese dictionary system WWWJDIC. It's got an ugly interface and a strange name, but it is the handiest thing out there for translating e-mail, web pages and even i-mode screens if you know some Japanese but aren't strong on kanji.

Perhaps, if you've tried

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Perhaps, if you've tried to pick up a phrase or two of Japanese for a trip, someone has told you a trick for remembering douitashimashite (you're welcome) as "Don't touch my moustache." Of course it doesn't sound like that but it's easy to remember. Japanese learners of English memorize similar nonsense to try to pronounce English.

Hotta imo ijiruna (Don't touch the dug potatoes) sounds a tiny bit like "What time is it now?"

San kyu beri matchi (3 9 berry town) is "Thank you very much."

Mai buraza hazureta (Every bra came undone) is the delight of schoolchildren who need to say "My brother has a letter."

Every other month, the

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Every other month, the Daily Yomiuri hands out a little premium to its subscribers--this month we received a small cookbook titled "Dinner meets French Dishes: asian ingredients and herbs bring out the taste"

It's full of unique recipes. Would you like to try Miso Ratatouille, Green Onion Saute with Red Wine Sauce, or Squid & Potato Sandwiches (Fried)? I am not making these up; I can send you the recipes that chef Kazuhisa Tashiro has included in this illustrated booklet.

I swear I made this one when I was 7 years old.

Potato and Blueberry Jam Gratin
1 boiled potato, cut into 1 cm thick slices
2 teaspoons of blueberry jam
3-4 pats of butter
black pepper to taste

Arrange half of the potatoes in a small gratin dish, spread with a teaspoon of jam. Top with the remaining potato slices, another spoonful of jam, and several pats of butter. Microwave for 1 minute or until the butter is melted. Sprinkle with black pepper.

Today is "Labour Thanksgiving

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Today is "Labour Thanksgiving Day" in Japan, a national holiday. What are we celebrating? Are we supposed to be thankful for having jobs? Perhaps so.

I'm (unthankfully) working today trying to juggle half a dozen deadlines with cleaning. So far, working has won. Nothing's been cleaned. Maybe tomorrow.

Shichimencho is the word

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Shichimencho is the word for turkey in Japanese. Literally translated, it means 7-faced bird. Shichimencho is not a popular food in Japan; the meat is too dry for Japanese tastes. I think back to some of my own Thanksgiving meals and I have to agree.

Fifty 16 year old

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Fifty 16 year old girls are an intimidating audience. Until you get them to laugh.

Yesterday, I went to a girls' school in Kamakura to present "IT Careers for Women" on behalf of DigitalEve. Three classes combined to form a sea of sailor-suited uniforms. Although I heard horror stories from friends who teach about the total non-responsiveness of some classes, these girls turned out to be a great audience.

Heera and I spent almost two hours with them, brainstorming "who helps to make a cell phone" and helping them to discover their Myers-Briggs type. There were a lot of extraverts in the class--thank goodness!

I hung my head

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I hung my head out the window for 90 minutes last night and was rewarded with about 80 sightings of Leonid meteors.

The best ones were jaw-dropping, luminous pink fireballs that streaked across the sky, leaving lime green smoke trails. I watched the smoke from one trail dissipate and I swore I could smell it. Tod's convinced it was the smokestack of the local bathouse, but why would the bathhouse be operating at 2 am?

Even the less spectacular meteors were noteworthy. Several of the shorter ones were turquoise like reflection of light in a cat's eye in the dark--and shaped like eye slits. Who was looking at us through them?

I even saw a non-Leonid meteor, a pale orange dotted line speeding south to north. Despite being delicately beautiful, it was dull in comparison with the Leonids.

Takarazuka 1000 Days Theater

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Takarazuka 1000 Days Theater was the temporary home of the all-female musical theatre troupe, Takarazuka, while their permanent venue was being rebuilt. Their 1000 days are over, they've moved back to their original home, and the temporary building has a new use.

It's a superstore. Huge stores devoted to a single retail brand are not at all common in Japan, and to have one in downtown Tokyo is mind-boggling. The store is airy and open: a wide, white atrium lets you look up through glass walls to silver ductwork on the third floor. Riding the escalators through the space gives an overview of two floors of Muji's popular "no brand" clothing and household goods, plus a full floor of software.

I felt like I was in a suburban American store, the sort that fring the shopping malls. The new store is just as theatrical as the Takarazuka shows.

I've been noticing the

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I've been noticing the crazy personalization that women make to their stuff: keychains by the score hanging off knapsacks; shiny bells and doodads on bookbags; a Loius Vitton handbag with a Pooh hanging from the strap.

But taking the cake today was the pink cell phone with an aftermarket antenna that blinks red when the phone rings, accessorised even further with a puff of white maribou and shiny, pink and red, heart-shaped gel stickers edging the full-color display. On the display--Lady and the Tramp. Nobody will mistake this one for their phone!

Shrimp can leap. The

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Shrimp can leap.

The local fishmonger always displays his freshest wares outside on the sidewalk and extorts passersby to look at the crabs waving their arms or moving their googly eyes. It's a bit disconcerting and I usually avert my gaze as I wait at the intersection there.

But when an 8 inch long shrimp made a tall, graceful arc from one side of an ice-and-sawdust bin to the other, I had to go look. Wow, those things are really lively. They have a lot of legs (you know because you peel them off before dipping into the cocktail sauce) and those legs are quite powerful. The fishmonger was delighted that I came over to peer into the containers.

"Very fresh!" he said as he reached in and pulled out a very squirmy shirmp. Understatement of the day.

At lunchtime in Otemachi

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At lunchtime in Otemachi yesterday, a war protest parade wound its way through the streets.

About a hundred people, lead by a van equipped with loudspeakers, carried banners announcing their affiliations (local organizations and businesses, I think) and signs with slogans. The only reasons I knew it was a war protest was that one of the signs read WAR IS NOT THE ANSWER in English. The slogans they chanted were too difficult to understand.

The parade was given one lane of traffic. The crossed the street when the signal changed. A police van followed along behind them to make sure they were safe from traffic behind them. It was an extremely orderly protest.

Sayaka found my website

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Sayaka found my website about a year ago. A few months back, she invited me to help with a monthly magazine, Yanesen, that she's part of. Yesterday we met for the first time.

We were supposed to be working on articles for the magazine, but we finished in about 20 minutes then spend the better part of two hours enjoying cake and coffee while we talked about the state of the world, holidays, travel, and Japan.

I love getting a chance to meet people I've met online. Especially when they are neighbors!

First sighting of Xmas

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First sighting of Xmas decorations in my neighborhood. Sprout Planning Co (a realty office) has a small wreath with blinking lights propped up on a bench outside thier front door.

Takashimaya Times Square in Shinjuku lit their elaborate holiday sculptures last week, but I haven't seen them yet. Apparently most of the big department stores are already decorated for the Christmas season (which isn't even a holiday in Japan) but I haven't been shopping in weeks. Maybe I'll make a special trip to see the deco.

"You have the nose

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"You have the nose of a tyrant."

I'm not exactly sure what that means, but Tod swears it's a compliment.

The leaves are turning

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The leaves are turning red and gold in the hills west of Tokyo. Waking up this morning, I took a walk up a mountain road damp with recent rain. Yellow and brown leaves speckled the pavement like confetti.

It was idyllic. Pine and wet bark scented the air--a refreshing change for my smog-filled lungs. Only my footfalls and a rushing river in the valley below broke the silence. No cars roared by; there wasn't even the squeal of bicycle brakes. Not a single cell phone rang.

Little rituals that mark

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Little rituals that mark the passage of time make life richer for me. This week, I bought us new house slippers. During the winter, the floors are too cold to walk on with bare feet or even in socks. We don't wear shoes in they house (they stay in genkan) so we, along with everyone else, wear slippers. Buying fresh ones is a tiny way to note that time flies by.

These aren't the sort of slippers that last a lifetime. They're fabric-covered scuffs with vinyl soles that last about a year. This winter, we each have a pair of furry plush slippers and non-furry pair with decorations. Mine have geometric patterns embroidered in gold; Tod's have 1950's advertising illustration-style applique of a man with an umbrella. They'll keep our feet warm just fine.

One stop away on

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One stop away on the Oedo line there are two neighborhoods--Iidabashi & Kagurazaka--that I need to explore.

A lively crowd passes through the area: well-heeled young women, grungy college students, and the ever-present salaryman with a few foreigners thrown in for spice. Enticing shops (one with a fantasic array of Japanese dishes) line the streets. It's old-fashioned and fashionable at the same time.

Although they are so close that I can get there in a 30 minute walk (or take a 2 minute train ride), I've never spent time there. But after dinner of delicious French crepes at Le Bretagne in Kagurazaka last night, I think I'll be going back. Not just to that restaurant but to the others that I spied on the short stroll from the station to Le Bretagne.

My office looks as

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My office looks as though someone rifled it. My G4 computer is gone, along with its monitor and a CD burner. My backpack spills its contents in the corner; cables and cords tumble from open drawers. A carpet of papers, CDs and office supplies covers the floor.

Was I burgled? No. I made this mess while preparing to ship my computer equipment to Saitama where I'm leading a digital video workshop this weekend. My equipment, cables, and class materials are packed neatly in boxes and waiting for pickup.

My office begs to be straightened up. I will oblige it as soon as I've had another cup of coffee.

Tokyo Transportation Series City

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Tokyo Transportation Series

City bus (with advertisements) 4:14 pm

Nothing strikes fear into

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Nothing strikes fear into my heart like having to transport my computers around town. This fear is compounded when they are going by delivery service. It's further intensified when I've just conducted the transaction to ship them in Japanese.

I believe that someone from Pelican will arrive at my doorstep on Thursday afternoon to pick up three boxes which I will have packed myself. They will put them on a truck and drive to Saitama Prefecture about 60km away, to delivery them on Friday afternoon. I plan to pay in advance so I hope that's what they expect, too.

There's an entire field

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There's an entire field of study for human-computer interactions. I wonder if they study the odd ESP that lets computers know when I'm too busy to fix them. I swear my computers choose to break down when they can cause me the most headaches.

I am leading a two day digital video retreat this coming weekend and I've just had to remove memmory from my laptop to keep it from crashing when it boots. That makes this already sluggish machine even slower. I need to rethink my teaching strategy to compensate for the longer times to compile the videos. Argh.

Utility monopolies [insert rude

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Utility monopolies [insert rude scatalogical verb here].

I have one in mind in particular. Pittsburgh's water and sewer authority has screwed up again. Instead of maling bills regularly, they wait for a year then visit the house to paste a termination notice on the door.

When this happened in July 1999, I thought it was my error. Perhaps I hadn't given them an up-to-date address; I'd moved to Chicago, then Japan, then back to Chicago (briefly) before returning to Pittsburgh. But looking back, I think they had the right address all along.

Because it happened again. Last known bill, June 2000. Termination notice, November 2001. Total amount due, $650.


"Good morning, what's for

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"Good morning, what's for dinner?" is a favorite greeting on my online hanggout. My compatriot in Chicago is just about to start cooking when I wake up. Sometimes we trade menu ideas. Once in while we discover he's about to eat the same dish I had the night before. Weird food synchronicity.

This morning, we discussed short ribs.

K> I have some short ribs to do tonight
K> haven't decided how to cook them yet.
N> broiled?
K> maybe. or perhaps simmered til they fall off the bone
N> poached in a tasty liquid
N> sear them first and poach in the deglazed goodness
K> that sounds great.
N> maybe I'll make that tomorrow :)
* N consults the Meat Bible
K> I can deglaze them with sake and flavor the liquid with soy and mirin
N> yum

I love reading. Curling

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I love reading. Curling up with a novel at the end of a long day is a great way to escape the stresses of work. Nothing beats a good reference work when I need some assistance--even the Internet isn't as reassuring as my trusty dictionary. Nonfiction challenges me to learn, sometimes in areas I've never explored.

And I like to read aloud. Speaking the written word is slower but forces me to focus on every word and to hear the author's cadence and rhythm. Every morning I read to Tod, usually highlights from the morning paper. I like to think that hearing me helps him to wake up. On some weekend evenings, I recreate old fashioned drawing room entertainment by reading from a novel. Every once in a while I read aloud when I'm alone, or simply to entertain my wool-headed Zous.

It occurs to me that if I got some training, I could read aloud for a living.

My desk is host

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My desk is host to two towering stacks of papers & books. There are pens, notebooks and office supplies scattered evenly across it. An empty take-out cup has a place of honor near the mouse. My empty coffee mug rests on a coaster nearby. 14,910 yen is divided into two heaps. My arms occupy the only clear space--a swath terminating at the the keyboard.

Two days ago my workspace was completely barren. What happened?

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