September 2002 Archives

Coffee maven

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Now that the weather's cooler, we're roasting coffee again. There's nothing as good as a cup of java from freshly roasted beans.

Today looks like it's going to be a big coffee day. I started with two mugs this morning, then some during a meeting and when I arrived back here a few minutes ago, Tod had just made another pot. Tonight, I'll be filming at 2 am, so there's bound to be coffee involved then, too.

If I'm extra jittery tomorow, I'll know why.

No quakes


It's been an awfully long time since I felt an earthquake...there's been a few in other parts of Japan but nothing in Tokyo for well over a month.

I get nervous when I don't feel the earth wiggle a bit. If the pressure builds up for too long, there's a bigger chance that things will topple when it finally does give.

Wonder if people who've always lived on fault lines feel this way? Am I especially sensitive because I've only been in the danger zone for four years? Earthquakes are starting to feature in my dreams; I hope I feel the earth move (just a little) soon.

Parks and Tours


This morning, I spent some time typing up tour itinerary ideas for a visiting acquaintance. This is the third time I've done this in the last few months, so I figured I'd use today's write-up as the basis for a web page. There are so many other ideas, that it's taking me longer to put together than I expected. But I will have a list of my favorite spots to vist online soon.

But I did re-discover a nice resource on Tokyo's Metropolitan Parks that I'd lost track of a while back.

Cataloging tapes

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I hate cataloging tapes. For me, it is the worst part of any video project. Yet it's vital, not only as a way to produce lists of what to sntach off the tape, but also production proofing. Did we get the shot we think we got? I have about two hours of tape to go through today. It's already 1:30 and I've put it off this long, but I need to get it done before 6 tongiht. So I'd better get the tape in, the logbook out and review, review, review.

Autumn Cuisine

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The convenience stores are stocking oden now. These stewed bits of fish paste sausages, daikon, whole eggs, and tofu-based dainties will stink up the stores in a matter of weeks. There's a certain scent--bitter, acrid, fishy--that punctuates winter-time conbini visits.

At the supermarkets, end cap displays are laden with pottery nabe, portable gas ranges, and gas canisters. There are nashi, grapes and mikan in every fruit aisle. Chestnuts are everywhere and expensive matsutake mushrooms are carefully displayed in wooden boxes. And there are all the makings of oden, which is much better done at home than from the conbini.

Within a week or so, the vending machines will convert to hot drinks and soups. I'm looking forward to a crisp day and a nice hot cocoa to warm my hands.

Sun-dried laundry


Although almost everyone in Tokyo has a washing machine, very few people seem to have dryers. Laundry is usually hung outside to dry.

In apartment buildings, that means hanging your undies out on the balcony and draping futons over the railing or out windows. Sunny days look a little bit like a bazaar with clothes flapping in the high rise breezes. Several buildings in our neighborhood have communal space for laundry on the roof--they're completely caged in to keep things from blowing into the streets below.

I have a dryer but I still like to dry things outside. I'm amazed at how quickly towels dry in the sun. Half the time of doing them in the dryer. Sheets are dry in 30 minutes on a breezy day. And despite the polluted Tokyo air, things dried outside smell fresh.

Movable weblog

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I'm finally getting my act together and installing Moveable Type on my server. Now I can control all aspects of my weblog with finer control and no more worries about Blogger problems.

Of course, that means I have a lot to learn and things look a little wonky at the moment. So if you'll forgive my errors and fumblings, I should have everything back to normal (or better!) shortly.

Am I a scientific American?


My life is public. I write here daily and I've been contributing my ideas, words and images to newsgroups, Internet bulletin boards, publications and websites for more than ten years. So when you do a web search for "Kristen McQuillin" you'll find a lot of references.

But today I found one that surprised me. I was playing with KartOO, a search engine that draws relational diagrams and I clicked through to this article at Scientific American. They borrowed images I'd drawn for a 1997 grad school project on the history of zero. What a surprise--they never even asked. I took the original project off the web a while back, but my images lived on. I discovered my History of Zero project cited in two other places so I've just dug out the files, updated them and put them back on my site.

Toss, toss, toss

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I was feeling edgy and distracted until I decided to start throwing things away this afternoon. I pulled 140 litres of useless, outdated and no longer desired kipple out of the kitchen, genkan, and pantry closets, 70 litres from my office and I'm about to start in on the bedroom. I'm not sure how all this junk accumulates, but it does.

I definitely do feel better with less stuff. I would love to pare down to only the things I use at least once a month. It's not possible, since there are too many seasonal and archival things, but it's a good goal.

Cha-chan, a cat

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After teaching a digital photography workshop with 23 participants, and after a delightful dinner at a restaurant on Sotobori Moat, the outermost of the Imperial Palace defences, I met a cat.

Cha-chan was sitting on a makeshift plywood and crate shelf outside an old house. I couldn't help petting her. Fat and friendly, I held out my hand and she tested me out with a gentle bite. I passed muster by not flinching and was allowed to pet her.

Her owner, an older woman who never gave her name, came out to talk to us. "Cha-chan runs away from scary strangers and dogs," she said. I guess since Cha-chan didn't run away from us, we weren't scary. I'm pretty sure I'm not a dog (no comments from the peanut gallery, please).

Obaasan chatted with us for ten minutes before we said goodnight and left. I think this was the nicest, longest conversation I've ever had with a stranger here. This old woman was lonely and not too concerned that we were foreign or didn't always understand what she was saying. Cha-chan liked us and that was good enough for her.

The film progresses

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More film in the can. On this sunny day, we hit Ginza again and got another 20 minutes of footage this morning. We're heading out in a few minutes to get some of the grocery shopping sequences.

When I'm home at my desk, thinking about this project, I hate it. Filming is tiring. Nothing ever goes quite right. I always flub my lines; the makeup is uncomfortable. Why am I doing this?

But when I get out there with the camera and equipment, I actually enjoy it. It's fun to solve problems on the fly or figure out the best angle to shoot from without getting in the way of traffic. If we set up the tripod and take a moment to get ourselves arranged, we always draw a crowd. Sadly, nobody applauds when I'm done.

DE-J Workshops on CD

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They're done! The DigitalEve Japan workshop CDs that I've been working on since May are finally complete. I finished the cover art last night and we'll be taking advance orders for them on Saturday at my Digital Photography workshop. But only if the Steering Committee decides on a price...probably somewhere around 2000 yen.

I like the cover art. I did the tray inserts first with all the details of what's on the CD. The covers, which are simple, highly pixelated pictures of the instructors (me & MJ), were much harder to do. My favorite part of the cover and tray is the silly callout box. "4 illustrated lessons! 33 minutes of video! 15 exercises! 8 Internet links!"

I think the contents of the CD are good, too. We've covered a lot of ground. I really like the Dreamweaver one, which I taught to a live audience in May. I've refined what I covered then, adding some more detail and explanations. It's a useful tutorial on templates, style sheets and other handy features of Dreamweaver. MJ's audio CD presents a broad overview of digital sound for beginners then walks through creating MP3s and listening to Internet radio.

If you'd like to order either of these, please drop me an e-mail. I'll send you more details.

Six month reprieve

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Why is this girl smiling? Because she didn't have to be stabbed in the neck this morning.

The thyroid echogram pictured shows her lovely benign tumor. It hasn't changed in 6 months and that stability means no needle aspirations. Next check: March 19th 2003.


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Prime Minister Koizumi is in North Korea today, attending a summit with tetchy neighbors.

The hot topic at the summit--abductions. Japan claims that North Korea abducted a dozen or so Japanese citizens in the 1970s and 80s. NK has sometimes completely denied this; at other times they have launched "missing person" searches in cooperation with the Japanese Red Cross.

What isn't said is why NK would want to abduct Japanese citizens in the first place? Did these people have specialised knowledge NK needed? Was it just to cause terror and piss off Japan? Digging around on the 'Net as not brought the answers to the surface.

It's a long holiday

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It's a long holiday weekend here. Yesterday, I stayed away from the computer for most of the day.

Tod & I went to Ikebukuro to check out the Gyoza Stadium, a pot-sticker theme park operated by game giant Namco. For 3,500 yen you get all-day, all-you-can eat gyoza in a dozen different styles from around Japan. Unfrotunately, the wait was 2 hours to get in, so we opted to eat elsewhere. We'll go on a less crowded day.

We also sought new rings. In addition to our wedding rings, we wear matching bands to seal our friendship. These have varied over the years because they are usuallly inexpensive bits of stone or pressed silver that Tod somehow breaks. A couple of weeks back he snapped the silver one we've worn for the last few years. I don't feel right wearing one if he isn't and my hand felt bare so now we're sporting simple milled silver rings that we found in a tiny litle shop near the movie theatre where we went to watch Star Wars Episode 2 (at long last).

On the way home we did the unthinkable. After stopping at a convenience store for our dinner, we nibbled chicken nuggets and drank beer as we walked home. How naughty!

Who knows what's we'll get up to today? Putting on makeup on the subway? Littering? No doubt we'll be up to no good now that we've broken the taboo of eating while walking.

Holy 1950s

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Don't I look like Mrs. Cleaver in my jewelry and apron? I'm showing off cleaning products for the video. These all have pictures on them, which are helpful for the functional illiterate who wants a tidy room.

Road (construction) rage

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Plans for filming yesterday were thwarted by road construction. My valiant camerawoman got no sleep because of all-night construction near her house. So we put off our reshoot in Ginza until the MJ gets some sleep and we have another sunny day. Tomorrow we'll shoot the grocery store and cooking scenes. It's coming together slowly, slowly.

Today I will work on animations. I'm not sure exactly what I'm going to do, but I need to make train routes somehow interesting. Little trains zipping around them? Maybe something simpler...

Irritating patriotism

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Is it safe to read news yet? I stopped a few days before "the anniversary of the tragic event" and I do not relish seeing any nationalist, patriotic aftermath. Would someone check to see if all the flag-waving, teary-eyed reportage is over?

Your Cynical Friend

Subliterate goofiness

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Today has been one of those days where my head has gone all funny. I woke up with a migraine; I forgot to put water in the coffee maker; referred to a woman as a man on a mailing list; at an afternoon meeting I don't think I managed more than one coherent sentence. Now I'm off to Japnese class where I am sure that I will babble like a subliterate goof. Never mind that last one, that's normal.

Ah, well. I'll come home after and go to bed early. Perhaps tomorrow my head will be working right again.

Bloodlust for mosquitos

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Bloodlust for mosquitos.

I'm not the sort to kill insects but mosquitos are an exception. I despise them. The damp weather has caused a boom in the population and they are finding their way inside. That's not too hard since we have no window or door screens in this building.

When I see one, I attack before it can bite me. In fact, I think I just jammed a finger slamming it into the ceiling during an assault. However, the foe was vanquished so I'll enjoy a bit of pain with my triumph. One less mossie to bite me. The world is made safe--or at least my office is.

(Props to mjd-s for the supa-graphic!)

Hiccough cure


How do you cure hiccups in Japanese? By answering a simple question: What is tofu made of?


This evening at dinner, it worked better than holding my breath, drinking out of the wrong side of the glass or being frightened. Soy beans have magical powers...

Printing digital photos

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These are digital camera print kiosks. For 50 yen a print, you get your images printed directly from your camera's storage media--Compact Flash, Smart Media, Memory Stick, PC Card, even floppy.

These are at a big electronics store, but our local Family Mart convenience store has one, too. Ah, technology.

Personally, I like to work with my images before I print them--touching them up in Photoshop usually improves them. I print mine on photo paper with my ink jet printer. Not archival quality, but who archives birthday snapshots? Someday they're going to be found in a box full of photos and somebody's going to wonder " Who are these people? Maybe Great-Aunt Kristen still remembers."

Candy nostalgia

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Glico is marketing Tic Tacs in Japan now. I hadn't realised I'd missed them until I tasted their imitation vanilla coating. Ah, childhood memories....

When Zoupi returned from Belgium, he brought some original Belgian Frisk mints with him. They're blue! And they have sorbitol in them, the stuff that gives Velamints their slippery texture (and laxative properties).

Penguin has a new flavor of their caffeinated mints--chocolate mint. Tod imports cases of the regular, cinnamon red and decaffeinated "lights" and sells them at the office. I guess he'll be offering a new variety after the next order.

Tidying bookshelves

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It's a cool and rainy day; typhoon 16 is to our south, battering Okinawa, and typhoon 17 is heading our way from the east. The perfect day to stay at home and clear out some of our books and other junk.

I've read everything we have, excepting Tod's programming reference books which just don't hold my attention. So it's time to get some new books, but no new books in before we get some old books out. Check out the list at Being A Broad's Sayonara Sale bulletin board. Bye bye, books!

Other stuff has been accumulating at a steady rate, even though I try hard to live by the "one in, one out" rule. I have some new clothes this week, but I haven't gotten rid of any yet, so I must do that today.

A sleepy commuter

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This sleepy commuter was completely crashed out on the Mita line last night. When I snapped his photo, the flash went off but he only stirred a bit then settled back into his snooze. I wonder if he got off at his station?

Current projects

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I've added a new page to my mediatinker site: Current Projects. I'll try to keep it up to date with the things I'm working on.

Describing my projects to an unfamiliar audience makes me realise that I'm doing some pretty interesting stuff. When I'm actually doing the work, it doesn't seem so interesting and sometimes it's frustrating. Yesterday's video shoot was a semi-success. We got a lot of scenes done, but a bad microphone connection (or RF interference) makes most of them unusable; we'll have to reshoot all of it after I fix or replace the wireless microphones. Or perhaps I can learn to lip sync voice overs...

Shiny blue talons

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Yesterday MJ & I prepared for today's start of shooting by touching up my hair and playing with girlie accessories

To the left is how I imagined long, fake nails would look and feel--smooth, polished, elegant. To the right is how they actually make me feel.

In the first photo I am trying not to burst out laughing because I have just reglued the 7 nails that fell off as I ate dinner and used the toilet. It is not easy to unzip pants with long nails... I have a new found respect for women who survive with talons attached to their hands.

Today I will put on makeup for the camera and brave the late summer heat to film in Ginza. I have to go prepare my bag of tricks & all the equipment. More tomorrow...

Surreality x 3

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Surreality 1: MJ & I met with a would-be actress who was representing a production company. She took us to a temple to meet with the producer. We sat in the middle of a gorgeous tatami room surrounded by worshippers chanting. The producer didn't appear. We booked out of there before we could be initiated into whatever weird cult this might be...

Surreality 2: I had MJ's in-law's over for dinner. And her husband and his brother and their bandmate and their bandmates's bandmate. Excepting MJ, none of them speaks much English. The conversation was pretty wild. We all laughed a lot at one another. (L to R: Kazu ("sexless drummer"), Shingo (rockabilly bassist), Masaki, Mum & Auntie)

Surreality 3: While trying to identify a multi-legged insect (does this bug look familar to you?), discovered that the male platypus is venomous.

RSS and weblogs

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Every morning, I spend between an hour and 2 hours checking in on friend's weblogs and reading news. Lately, I've been thinking that this activity takes up too much of my time.

NetNewsWire keeps track of new headlines on news sites and new posts in weblogs. This would be a huge time saver. But...

It uses a protocol called RSS which is an XML-like content syndication language. Since few of my friends' sites nor many of the major news sites (BBC, CNN, Yahoo) use RSS, I really don't get the biggest benefit from using NetNewsWire. For the sites that are using it, it's really fantastic.

Maybe I'll rework my site to use RSS. But can I persuade Dan, Jenn, & both of the MJs to do it, too?

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