February 2002 Archives


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Whew. I found the

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Whew. I found the garage key.

The garage key was in a desk drawer. Without a car, we never needed the key and it was put away for safekeeping. Of course, it was also half forgotten. Vague memories of "drawer" dredged up the right location after a few tries.

This morning, I return to the old house one last time to hand back all the keys and participate in a house inspection. I'm a bit nervous about this. Can I explain (in Japanese) that the living room air conditioner never worked but we didn't bother to complain? That the fancy toilet seat's bidet function was broken when we moved in? How do I ask them to please dispose of the three things we left behind (a broken monitor, a mildewed suitcase and an old tatami carpet)? Time to do some quick vocabulary acquisition!

I love the sound

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I love the sound of trains. The Marunouchi line, an electric subway, makes a brief above ground appearance near our new apartment. Every few minutes, I hear the muted roar of trains going by. I haven't yet learned to distinguish their direction, but I will. And I suspect that I'll be able to tell what time of day it is by their frequency.

They're passing every two minutes right now--I'd have to say this is rush hour.

Hikkoshimashita. We've moved. The

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Hikkoshimashita. We've moved.

The past few days, I've been running around wearing a kitchen timer around my neck. It helps me to stay focussed by allowing me to work in 15 minute chunks. It's pretty astonishing what you can do in 15 minutes. This advice came from FlyLady, woman and a website that's difficult to describe but worthwhile reading.

I'm taking my timer off now and going to bed. Moving stories tomorrow.

The final items to

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The final items to dispose of before moving were some small tables and lamps. The stone-topped coffee tables we acquired when we first landed in Japan were a favorite of Tod's. He really didn't want to part with them, but the interior plan of the new apartment proved that there's no room for them.

I hoped to put them outside for anyone to take, like we did with our give-away boxes. But Tod really wanted to make sure they went to a good home. So we compromised. We put them outside with a sign that said "Tables, 1000 yen each. Please ring bell."

The new owner of the tables, Daigo-san, is a man in his forties. He was dressed in an outfit that woud have looked at home on a country estate--sweater vest, navy plaid shirt, camel coloured trousers. He was smoking a pipe and walking his beautiful standard poodle when he rang the bell. What a character! I hope he enjoys the tables.

Today's pre-moving activities did

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Today's pre-moving activities did not go as smoothly as planned.

After delivering our freshly washed curtains to the new apartment and discovering that they weren't actually very clean after all, we decided to hang them up anyway. The new windows are considerably shorter than the old ones. The curtains trail the ground like a bridal veil. But they will look nice once I've rewashed and trimmed them to size.

We determined from our measurements that the bedroom closet doors must be removed if our bed is going to fit. Unfortunately, we can't seem to get the doors out of their tracks. Tomorrow we'll return with a wrench and greater determination.

Our packing activities haven't even begun for the day. Looks like we have a late night ahead of us.

I shouldn't read the

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I shouldn't read the articles about blogging in the popular press. They make me question whether my blog is worthwhile. Self doubt creeps in when I encounter things like this:

"When people begin to think that they are nothing more than a cog in the wheel of society, they look for any way to differentiate themselves. The Web log proves they are different. Just read it. You'll see," writes John Dvorak in an article for PC Magazine.

A blogger with an attitude, Dennis Mahoney, write of things that should be banned from blogs: the use of "I think" as a prefix; digital camera photos of everday objects; discussions of content.


Today is wall washing

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Today is wall washing and curtain laundering day. I'm making slow progress but progress nonetheless. Bookshelves and nightstands are on their way out the door this afternoon to a women who is furnishing a new apartment. This reveals a shocking number of dustbunnies

I'm tired.

We've been measuring the

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We've been measuring the new apartment. Now we have scale diagrams of all the rooms and of all our furniture. I'm not a very good interior planner but I have great tools.

Where are we going to put the piano? Is it better to have the sofa facing the window or the wall? What about the pesky file cabinet? Do we really have to take the doors off the bedroom closets to make room for the bed?

With my diagrams, I can move all the furniture around and even make things disappear without having to resort to real-life hauling and shoving. On second thought, the exercise might do me good.

True Mongolian food is

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True Mongolian food is mainly meat, milik and flour. These ingredients are most accessible to the nomadic tribes of Mongolia.

Our dinner at Shilingol, a small restaurant in Sengoku, was mainly lamb and milk products. We started with a salty milk tea and fried bread, then dug into the only vegetable for the meal--shredded potatoes with garlic. Mainly we ate meat: spicy lamb shish kebab; steamed buns filled with seasoned mutton; lamb on the bone; lamb and seasonings wrapped in flatbread; slices of salty dried lamb.

At 8:00 one of the cooks came out and played traditional Mongolian tunes on a long-necked, square bodied string instrument called a morin khuur. The music was multiharmonic and dissonent but quite beautiful and complex.

We rounded out our dinner with deep fried dough served with a milk glaze for dipping--Mongolian doughnuts.

I woke this morning

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I woke this morning to the sound of helicopters. President Bush is in town. I imagine he's staying at the Imperial guest house and coptering from place to place in the city.

This morning, he visited Meiji Shrine and later today he meets with the Prime Minister. Later tonight, they are all going out to eat at a yakitori restaurant. The PM, President, Mrs. Bush, the US Ambassador to Japan and the Japanese Cabinet Secretary and his wife are all expected to attend.

I can only imagine what that will be like. Will they get roaring drunk like everyone else who dines on yakitori? I suspect they won't be eating at one of the yatai (outdoor food stalls) that dot the city. Maybe they'll go to Nanbantei in Ginza--one of our favorite fancy yakitori places. Can't wait to see the photos in the papers tomorrow.

The Duck! man came

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The Duck! man came yesterday to estimate the cost of our move. I had requested an English-speaker since my Japanese is just not up to the challenge of contract details. Hanaki-san was very nice and he and I spoke in a mix of English and Japanese until Tod arrived.

Tod's Japanese is good enough that he was able to conduct the entire meeting in Japanese, much to the dismay of Hanaki-san who had been sent especially to speak English with us and wanted to practice. He gave his home phone number to Tod so they can get together to talk again in English.

P.S. Remaining in the box last night: two cotton skirts, a plastic grater, six bilingual food magazines, and a small chalkboard. That means about 60 items were picked up during the day. Not a shred of guilt remains.

One man's junk is

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One man's junk is another man's treasure.

This morning, I decided that there were tidbits in the house that I wasn't willing to throw away or sell, yet I didn't want to keep them. So I put them in a box, made a sign in Japanese that reads "Used things FREE. Please take whatever you like" and sat it on the sidewalk outside the house.

It's been quite a popular stop for passersby. Almost all of the art supplies are gone, the sweater that was a tiny bit too small, the kitchen odds and ends. We got rid of some old hard drives, games, and toys. I've been out to refill the box several times.

I feel good to knowing that these things are going to be reused. Of course, anything that's left at the end of the day gets pitched. But I won't feel guilty.

Yesterday in the Drawing

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Yesterday in the Drawing on the Artist Within class, we drew analogs of emotions, states of being, and personal characteristics. Without using symbols or drawing real objects, how do you draw anger? Soft? Mean? Naive?

Our purpose was to illustrate that there is a common "language of line." For example, Peacefulness is often portrayed by a horizontal form and/or waves. Femininity come out as crossed forms about 20% of the time. Anger seems to take two forms--either balled up or slashing.

Not only did we see the "language of line" but we all got to see a bit more of ourselves than we expected. My femininity was very bold and strong; my joy not so well developed. Maybe I need to work on that...

I can go for

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I can go for days with nothing really interesting going on, then find myself in up to my ears in activity. This time it's not my procrastination doing me in--it's deadlines, work coming in from clients and a class on "Drawing on the Artist Within." Tomorrow, it's more of the same. Fun!

Rattle. Rattttttttttllle. RRRaTTTTTtTTTtTTTTTtTtTle. Rattle.

That was last night's earthquake. It wasn't centered here in Tokyo, but it was strong enough that all of our windows rattled loudly.

Earthquakes are quite awe-inspiring. And they make me nervous.

More online food options:

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More online food options: Demae Kan shows only the restaurants that deliver to your address. Where we live now, we've access to Chinese, sushi, box lunches, Italian and pizza. In our new place, we lose the Italian, but pick up wine and "New York."

We tested out Demae Kan and had Chinese delivered last night. Our only delivery up 'til now has been pizza because Chinese food names are all written in kanji, so pronouncing the dishes over the phone is too challenging. But ordering it from a web page is no problem. I'd forgotten what a joy it is to have Chinese food brought to the door.

Tod gave an interview

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Tod gave an interview in Japanese.

The reporter, Kumi Yamada from Mainichi's MyCom web magazine, attended DigitalEve Japan's awards event to gather information for an article she is writing about us. Tod was the only man in the room and he won a prize for his participation on the Technology Team, so he was a obvious candidate for an interview.

Miki and Chiharu helped interpret when he and the reporter had difficulty communicating but he listened to the Japanese questions and responded in Japanese quite a bit.

I've just discovered that

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I've just discovered that Queen's Isetan, the big supermarket in our neighborhood, has online ordering and delivery.

This is good news. I've grown fond of some of QI's high quality items and our new apartment is about a 25 minute walk away. The nearest food shopping in our new neighborhood is Yunesuko; it's a small corner store with limited produce and fresh food selections.

But if QI delivers, I can have them bring me all of the specialty things I like. Pineapple!

This morning, I put

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This morning, I put pencil to sketchbook for the first time in months. It's been almost a year since the last time I actively sat down to draw something. Too much time away from art ruins my eye-hand coordination!

Of course, I didn't stray far from my beloved computer. Is it ironic or prophetic that my first sketch in a year is of the Escape key?

Valentine's Day store window

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Valentine's Day store window display at Mono Comme Ca, Harajuku.

Dogs with oversized noses, based on in a series of popular photographs, sniff at a huge pile of chocolates. The dogs are wearing Mono Comme Ca T-shirts and the pile contains plenty of Mono Comme Ca's own Valentine's Day creation, the thin striped packages at center front.

I hope my Valentine doesn't take to heart "sniffed by dogs" as the key to gift purchases.

Note to self: being

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Note to self: being organized is worth the pain of getting there.

I've enjoyed reliving many experiences by organizing my slides and photos. It is taking lots longer than I'd expected, but the results are fantastic. I can find all the images from my trips and photo expeditions quickly now. I hope I can keep them tidy...

Before we move, I

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Before we move, I need to reduce the volume of stuff we own. Of course, we're having a sale of miscellaneous household furnishings but I'm also trying to pare down my professional life by organising my slides and clippings.

At the moment, my clippings are a huge stack of magazines where my work was published. I need to slice out the articles along with the cover and contents page of each. I'm sure I can get the 30 cm stack down to a small pile in the course of a day or so. This is a task I've been avoiding for almost three years.

My slides are going into sleeves after I mark each one with a subject and date. I've already finished 100 of them--only 200 more to go! Then I must tackle the unfiled photos and negatives.

Ah, Spring! We've just

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Ah, Spring! We've just entered the new season and even though the weather hasn't budged a bit from "chilly and grey" I know it will soon. The annual parade of flowering trees has begun. It culminates in the cherries blossoming in early April.

The plum trees bloom first. For me, that is the true mark of spring. Nothing is finer than catching their sweet, delicate perfume on a breeze and turning to see a profusion of bright pink petals at the ends of bare, dark branches. I spotted my first plum blossom of the year while househunting. I took that to be a good sign for a new beginning.

The meat department in

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The meat department in Japanese supermarkets offers a dazzling array of cuts because standard butchering techniques are unlike American ones. Chicken thighs are deboned. Beef is cut into extremely thin slices rather than roasts. Food is bite sized when it's served.

But this begs a question. Which came first, the cuts of meat or Japanese cooking techniques?

Absinthe is a green

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Absinthe is a green liquor made of wormwood and anise. It was originally a medicinal tonic, but gained popularlity in the Belle Epoque first among French soldiers, then artists and writers, and finally among the general populace across Europe. It was so popular that it was eventually banned because its active ingredient, thujone (from the wormwood), was said to cause hallucinations, illness, and even death.

I used to grow wormwood and thought about brewing some absinthe of my own from recipes I found on the Internet, but I never did. So until last night, I'd never had a chance to try it. It's impossible to purchase absinthe made from old recipes--their thujone levels are too high for today's regulations. But you can find it in a less potent form (in terms of thujone content) in the UK and EU. But not in the US, where it remains banned.

At Le Cafe in Harajuku, I tasted two different kinds. The better (by far) was Absinthe Hapsburg. At 72.5% alcohol it was definitely not for drinking straight. Traditionally, drinkers mixed the strong, bitter tonic with water and sugar. Modern recipes are already sweet, so mine was served with water and ice. It was delicious--anise with an herbal undertone.

I felt very worldly sitting in a Tokyo bar, with absinthe in my hand and playing the part of a writer all dressed in black. What a kick!

Today is 2-2-2. I'm

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Today is 2-2-2. I'm delighted to be living at the turn of a century because I'll be able to revel on dates like this for the next 10 years.

And it's even better in Japan. In the Japanese tradition, the year is noted by the length of the emperor's reign. 2002 is is Heisei 14. We've been in Tokyo to celebrate 8-8-8, 10-10-10, 11-11-11 and 12-12-12. We were back in the States on 9-9-9.

There's a song by Morphine, French Fries with Pepper, that commemorates a series of 20th century dates. "On 9-9-99, I'll be sitting on the back porch, drinking red, singing 'Oh, French Fries with Pepper'." We did.

Time is wonderful. So is the way we note it.

After living here for

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After living here for four years, I think I know Tokyo pretty well. It's vast, but I try to get around to see it.

Yet when I met my friend MJ for lunch yesterday, it was in a completely new part of town for me. Bakuro-yokoyama is a quiet area with a mix of high-rise office buildings and tiny shops specialising in kimono and traditional Japanese fabrics. It's not a special or extraordinary neighborhood, which may be why I'd never been there.

The funny thing is, it's less than fifteen minutes away from my house. So much for knowing Tokyo...

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