August 2003 Archives

Output/input (8)

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The TV test: looking at your work as your viewers will see it.

TV uses an entirely different color space than computer monitors, so what you see is not always what you get when you're making digital video. On top of that, the TV screen is larger and magnifies minor problems.

Really, checking the output on a TV is something that I should have been doing all along. But I'm not an eXtreme Programmer sort when I'm doing video work. I'm "in for a penny, in for a pound", so I save the big test til the end. But this evening I dumped the whole project out to tape and played it back.

Did Hello Tokyo pass the test? Not entirely, but the problems are solvable. I need to retinker the clips I had filtered to compensate for uneven lighting--I think I compensated too much on a few of them. And I will adjust audio levels in one section, which may mean recording the voiceovers again.

2 slices of genmai bread with butter and 2 with peanut butter, a banana, 2 cups of coffee, a chicken pie, salad and a beer.

Output/input (7)

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Today, a break. The video needs a rest and so do I. I kicked back and did some paying work, read Wired and had dinner with my friend Mike. Plus I gave Tod the lowdown on things to do in Zurich this weekend: maybe he'll go to the Lindt factory, or take the planet walk around Uetliberg.

Two slices of toast, 3 cups of coffee, tuna and crackers (one of my father's favorite snacks), vegetable juice, samosas, murgh lajeeg, vegetable korma, garlic naan, saffron rice, chai, two beers and two absinthe with water. Some chocolate. (Tod will know exactly where Mike & I went for dinner, I'll bet!)

Output/input (6)


Done! Although there may be a few tweaks remaining, the fully edited 12'55" video is compiling even as I type this. I am ecstatic that the editing is finished. Next challenge, burn it onto DVD and get it duplicated/replicated. Oh, and find some people who are interested in buying it.

I celebrated by going out with MJ, Jo & someone named Kana. Kana was entirely too energetic and wore me out with incessant chatter about her love life and lifestyle in California. But I enjoyed Jo and MJ's somewhat calmer and more intellectual company. We went for karaoke (how intellectual is that?) and left just before midnight...I missed my subway connection at Nagatacho by 90 seconds and had to taxi home. (despite the 8/29 date on this post, it's really 1 am on Saturday the 30th)

yogurt, 2 cups of coffee, 4 glasses of water, fried rice I made badly, garlic bread with gorgonzola sauce, some salads and stuff, 2 Campari sodas and a gin & tonic. Bad diet today, but I remember to take my vitamins. I will eat better tomorrow.

Output/input (5)


Closer, closer, closer. Today I went through the Getting Around, Entraintment and Conclusion/Credits sections and whipped them into shape with tighter transitions, music and overlays. I rewrote and re-recorded all the voiceovers, too. Plus I took a couple of final b-roll bits. It looks like I'm all poised to get this done in the next two days.

So the project will have taken just about a year from start to finish. And most of that was me sitting around twiddling my thumbs waiting to "find the time" to do the edits. (More like getting over the fear of doing it and maybe failing.)

Is it perfect? No. There are lots of things that I would fix if I could. But I can't, not without better equipment, sheer editing brilliance and an actress who delivers her lines more evenly. So I am going to be happy with what I have. If the production value isn't 110%, well at least it's done and I think it will be useful to people coming to Tokyo which was the whole point in the first place.

toast, 4 cups of coffee, cheese-ham-pickle toast, girl scout cookies, 3 glasses of water, crab shumai, white rice, vegetable juice. Not a very healthy diet today...

Output/Input (4)

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I made small steps today. I shot, captured and edited in the cooking footage, and did some voiceovers I don't like. I'm finding it challenging to get the right levels. Some of the video was shot outdoors, some of it indoors and doing voiceover recording directly to my hard drive instead of to tape just isn't getting me the same crisp sound.

I should stop being lazy and do it the hard(er) way--record to tape using the same wireless mic setup I used before, then capture and edit from there. More steps but better sound. Pffft.

I picked at the shopping section, too, getting things into a better order, but haven't tried to redo those voiceovers yet. The temporary ones I did for the rough edit are really bad. I have a terrible tendency to aspirate my Ps. Must practice sucking them in when I say them.

Maybe tomorrow, I'll do a marathon of voiceovers. Get them out of the way. I'd better write out what I want to say, so I can read directly from a script. That will make it much easier to get the right tone. If I work extemporaneously, I tend to forget where I'm going, which leaves weird little gaps as I try to think of the next word.

I will never work as on-screen talent again. Or not until I've gotten some "talent" lessons under my belt. Or at least have someone else to direct me!

Leftovers from last night's deli shoot, 4 cups of coffee, a lemon water, some chocolate, and a dinner of swordfish on a bed of spinach and mushrooms. Wasn't as good as it could have been, because I put in too much wine. Wine evaporation looks great on-camera, though!

Output/Input (3)


Today's goal was to get the food section reorganized. I added an entirely new bit about deli food, as well as pulling the footage out of the shopping section, recording more b-roll and voiceovers. (Thank goodness for b-roll and voiceovers!)

Except for a little bit of missing footage that I will shoot tomorrow at dinnertime (I want to show a plate full of home-cooked food on the dinner table), I've reached today's goal. The food section expanded from 45 seconds to about 2'15". I think that's a much better length for such an important topic.

Tomorrow I will work on the newly shortened shopping section. MJ laughed and grimaced at all the shopping footage we shot last year, but it's really coming in handy's in so many of these sections!

Hey, if anyone knows of a good short-run DVD duplicating service, please pass the details to me. I don't think I want to pay for 1,000 replicated DVDs (even though they would be better quality) because I'm not confident that my market is that big...

Yogurt and muesli, 5 cups of coffee, a peanut butter sandwich, and "deli items" that I taped for the food section.

Output/Input (2)

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I re-edited the Food section today. It looks good, but it's very brief and really only touches on eating out.

I managed to get it donw so speedily that I opened up the Shopping section this afternoon. On review, I decided that I really ought th move all the bits about shopping for food and deciphering labels into the Food section following the eating out information. That will even out the times a bit and it just makes sense.

So I'll be staying up late tonight to rewrite the script, see where I can use stock footage I have on hand to fill the transitional gaps and to try to get the roughs done. There's still hot coffee in the thermos pot from this morning, so I'm all set.

No need to worry about my nutrition or loneliness today. I met my social quota for the week by enjoying Indian lunch with MJ and running down to Zushi for UltraBob's homemade hummus at dinner.

P.S. Look up at the night sky to see Mars. It's that gorgeous, bright pink light. On Wednesday, it will be the nearest to Earth it can get--about 34 million miles--a once in 59,619 year event.

Output/Input (1)


Two minutes after Tod walked out the door towards Zurich, I was at my computer working on Hello Tokyo. The first task at hand was to review what I've done so far. There are 8 sections in the video:

1. Title Sequence - Complete
2. Phrases - rough edits
3. Food - rough edits
4. Shopping - rough edits
5. Entertainment - rough edits
6. Getting Around - rough edits
7. Conclusion - shot, unedited
8. Credits - nothing done

So I'll work on the sections one at a time until I get them all done. I made good progress today, pretty much completing "Phrases."

- Recorded, captured and finessed voiceovers for Phrases
- Shot, captured and edited 3 bits of B-roll for Phrases
- Added in new voiceovers and B-roll
- Brought edits and transitions into line with Title Sequence styles
- Added music to Phrases

I need to let it sit for a day or two then review it carefully before I can really declare it done. No doubt there are a few jaggy edges to fiddle with, but it's 97% there now.

And for the benefit of my sweetheart, who worries that I eat poorly when he's not around, I'll be lisiting my daily food input. Today's menu: 3 cups of coffee; slice of toast and cherry yogurt; 4 glasses of water; romaine and tomato salad; cold chili con carne with saltines.

Bonus Video
This is a rather graphic, creepy-crawly video I shot this afternoon at home. An army of ants battles a 3 cm long green beetle. (no noodle eating poodles in sight, though) The beetle, which seems to be a Scarabaeidae Anomala from Okinawa, retreated safely after 6 or seven minutes.

play video Beetle Battle 0'41" (4.4 MB MPEG 4)

Fair warning


Tod's leaving for a last-minute business trip tomorrow. He'll be in Zurich for two weeks, in the wake of a big computer outage, interviewing developers and checking systems to make recommendations on ways to avoid similar situations in the future, but basically, he's going to go show off his mad tech mojo and flex his studly problem-solving skills.

I'd like to go along, but I'm not. An economy-class ticket to Zurich is 350,000 yen (about $3,000). It's a great opportunity to see Switzerland and venture out around Europe, but too expensive.

At first, I was disappointed. But now I am looking forward to two weeks of uninterrupted time to edit Hello Tokyo, drink too much coffee and be alone.

So if I'm not answering the phone, my e-mail, or the door, it's because I'm plugged into my video software. Gomen, ne. I'll still blog. Beginning on Sunday, I'll post a daily progress report of the video. I expect that I will have it done by September 7th, when Tod returns.

Fall fashion trends


I've noticed an unusual trend in fall fashion--there's a lot of Japanese influence in clothing.

I don't mean kimono are popular. It's more of a fusion. T-shirts have things written on them in Japanese and sumi-e style drawings. Parachute pants and tunic tops have patches of chirimen (a textured silk with vivid floral patterns) sewn onto them.

This is strange. Once every few years an American or European designer will use Japanese influences in his haute couture line, but I've never seen locally produced, casual clothing with such a strong and obvious Japanese twist.

I like it. But I wonder if the slogans on those Japanese t-shirts are as weird as the English ones are?

French Omelet


Although I'm not fond of eating eggs, once in a while a properly cooked omelet really hits the spot. Carmel brown on the bottom, lots of savory fillings...mmmmm.

This recipe is more of a technique than a list of ingredients. You can put almost anything inside an omelet--cheese, vegetables, meats, fish, last night's fried rice--honestly, this is one of the tried and true McQuillin household tricks for using up leftovers.

French Omelet
for each omelet

2 eggs
2 Tblsp water
2 Tblsp butter
Fillings of your choice
1 fork or wooden spoon
1 slope-sided frying pan

Everything has to be ready in advance because start to finish, cooking an omelet takes about 2 minutes. So whisk the eggs and water together until they are evenly blended. Set aside. Prepare the fillings (chop, sautee, reheat, etc.). Set aside.

Heat the pan very hot. When it is on the verge of smoking, drop in the butter. Tilt the pan to spread the butter evenly across the bottom.

Pour in the eggs.

Immediately start stirring the eggs. You don't want to break the bottom surface too much, or you'll get scrambled eggs, but you do want to keep everything moving and push down any bubbles that form. When you break through, tilt the pan to let some of the raw egg fill the hole. I usually find myself shaking the pan, which helps to let the raw egg in around the outside edges. In about 60 seconds, the egg will have set; you can stop stirring and shaking.

The regular finish: place filling over one half of the omelet. Allow to sit for 30 seconds, then fold the other half over and slip or lift the omelet from the pan.

omelet-turn.jpgThe fancy finish: Place the filling in a line across the center of the omelet, perpendicular to the handle of the pan. On the side of the pan with the handle, fold over 1/3 of the omelet. Then grab the handle with an underhand grip, slide the pan right up against the serving plate and roll the omelet out of the pan, completing the fold as you serve. Be careful not to burn yourself on the pan.

Denki yoho

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The electricity crunch that we were warned about earlier this year hasn't come to pass yet.

Tepco managed to get enough of its reactors back online to cover the city's power consumption, and their collective corporate prayer for a cool summer was certainly answered.

Oddly, though, this summer's power consumption is nearly as high as last year.

[click for a larger version]

This graph shows power use from 1986 (Showa 60) to 2003 (Heisei 14), noting the peak date of power use and the kilowatt hours/10,000. Our current peak was on August 1st. It was higher than everything except last year's all-time peak.

Maybe Tepco's denki yoho (electricity forecast) backfired. Everyday between 11:30 and noon, every radio and TV station announces how much power is available and what the expected peak is. Every time I've checked, the peak has always been well within the available power. I suppose that might make people care less.

The denki yoho is online, too.

Today's Forecast:
Today's Graph:

Moonlight glass



10 meter tall, opalescent glass light towers at Shiodome cast reflections on a rainy night.

Tourbooks for residents

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Tokyo is so big, so bustling and so very full of attractions that every overwhelmed citizen has a dilemma: Where to go when you're feeling bored or stuck in a rut? Luckily for us, there is a popular market for city guides. Every bookstore has a section devoted to them.

They are all in Japanese but you don't have to be completely literate to use them. As long as you take the time to decode the key points, they books are perfectly useful. The more you can read, the better, but it's not strictly necessary.

We picked up Tabearuki Navi Tokyo ("Trying the food at various restaurants Navigation Tokyo") published by Shobunsha. It lists "from old favorites to the new open, 500 delicious restaurants."

In typical fashion for Japanese non-fiction books, there is a huge amount of information squeezed into a small space. In each entry's 7x10 cm slot, a photograph dominates the left half, with a sample menu and prices as the caption. On the right, symbols indicate whether this is a good place for a date or dining alone, whether it's best for families, salarymen or women. There's information on the location and type of restaurant, as well as the average price for lunch and dinner. A short paragraph explains what makes the restaurant worthwhile. Below that, come all the necessary details: phone number, hours, address, how many seats, credit cards details and so on. The final row of symbols encodes whether they restaurant does parties, private rooms, has parking, smoking or take-away.

This is just one of scores of guides. Hanako women's magazine publishes a range of mook (magazine-books) directing trendy office ladies to the hottest eateries and boutiques; OZ magazine gets into the act with its OZ mini guides for Tokyo neighborhoods. Kodansha, Japan's largest publisher, has a bewildering number of monthly magazines focussing on new products for men and women, food, and city travel.

So next time you're bored and looking for something new to amuse yourself, go to the bookstore.

Tokyo's 400th birthday

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edo400logo.gifEdo, the city that became Tokyo, was founded in 1603, so Tokyo is celebrating its 400th anniversary this year.

This afternoon, Tod & I visited the fabulous Edo-Tokyo Museum to learn a little bit more about the history of our city. It's been quite an interesting ride for the Edoko (children of Edo).

Tokugawa Ieyasu founded Edo after being sent here in 1590 from Kyoto, the capital of Japan, where he was a powerful nuisance. He built up his power base in Edo and took over. His descendants held on to power until the Meiji Restoration in 1868.

But it wasn't easy. I learned dozens of facts and stories today, but I think I'll focus on two choice tidbits about the Edo era economy.

The Shogun's 5,000 retainers were paid three times a year--in rice. Near the granary in Kuramae where the payments were made, there were rice exchangers who traded rice for cash. When the price of rice dropped, the retainers couldn't afford to to keep up their households, and would promise their next season's payment to the exchangers. Needless to say, the economy wasn't very stable. Currency was devalued several times in the hopes of making things better.

The Tokyo economy ran on the gold standard; in Kyoto silver was the main currency. Currency exchanges in both cities traded silver for gold and vice versa. In a closed economy this worked fine. But when Commodore Perry's "Black Ships" appeared from the US and forced Japan to open its doors to free trade, the Westerners realised that gold in Japan was very cheap, snatched it up, and left Japan considerably richer.

Not long after that, the Meiji Restoration began and that was the end of the Shogunate and its economic woes.

Happy Birthday Tokyo!

To see what else is planned as 400 Years From Edo to Tokyo festivities see the official Event Calendar (Japanese). I'm particularly interested in "Tokyo Lifestyles," September 13 - November 16, at the Edo Tokyo Museum. I'll definitely be going; if you'd like to come along, let's plan a date.

Marunouchi inside-out

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The berm along this section of Marunouchi Nakadori is a green oasis in a new retail desert. Each season it is planted with with fresh sod and flowers to brighten up an otherwise drab block of corporate headquarters. This summer it features red peppers. No one even considers picking them.

Unlike the rest of Marunouchi, this particular block hasn't felt the touch of urban renewal. It maintains the cold granite face that the entire street had just five years ago--imposing architecture with minimal exterior signage, curtained street-level windows, and shops tucked into basement hallways. You had to be introduced to the neighborhood's great restaurants by your coworkers because it was unlikely that you'd find them on your own.

But times are changing and elsewhere along this corridor between Otemachi and Ginza, buildings are turning themselves inside out. They've removed their uninviting marble facades and replaced them with plate glass windows opening into high-end boutiques and restaurants--Prada, Kate Spade, Hermes and Emporio Armani all have shops here. There's a website to promote the area and help shoppers find their way:

I think this renewal was precipitated by the Marunouchi Building which opened last December after several years of construction. Perhaps "Maru Biru" made neighboring building owners realise there was as much profit in retail as in office space. The Mitsubishi Trust Building completed their renovations a few months back with a lot of tasty restaurants, including a posh Dean & Deluca, and there are three more huge construction projects along the street.

But I still like the block with the pepper plantings the best. It's the only non-retail stretch remaining in the neighborhood. I can breathe a little easier and relax the tight hold on my wallet as I go past.


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yoyogi commutersYamanote29 is officially online today.

I've been busy this morning promoting it to various rail clubs and websites around the world. If you know of an organization that might like ( or link) Yamanote29, let me know.

As of today, we have 40 entries illustrating scenes from the Yamanote line in photos, video, and words. Four people and one Zou have contributed so far...

Please consider sharing your favorite story or photo to the site. Submitting is easy and you can do it in English or Japanese. Right now, everything's in English but pictures speak in every language.

One outstanding task is translation. I'd like to do the submission guidelines in Japanese, but I need some help. Anyone willing to give me a hand?

Peanut Noodles


Here's a tasty way to dress up packaged ramen. It's cheap, filling and highly recommended when you are inviting the Zous for dinner.

Peanut Noodles

2 packets dried ramen noodles
2 Tblsp oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 t dried red pepper flakes
1 onion, chopped
1/4 head green cabbage, chopped
1 cup peanuts, roughly chopped

Dressing 1 - Lemony
1/4 cup olive oil
2 Tblsp balsamic vinegar
1 Tblsp lemon juice
1 tsp lemongrass or cilantro
1 fresh chili, chopped

Dressing 2 - Peanuty
1/4 cup peanut butter, room temperature
1/4 cup water
1 Tblsp vinegar
1 fresh chili, sliced into strips
1 clove garlic, minced
1" fresh ginger, grated

Cook the ramen noodles as directed on the package, omitting the dried soup flavoring. Drain.

Select a dressing. Whisk the ingredients together and set aside.

In a wok or large frying pan, heat the oil and saute the garlic, red pepper, and onion until the onion begins to soften. Add the cabbage, cook another two or three minutes. Add the peanuts and cook for 1 minute longer. Toss the noodles in the pan, mixing well. Stir fry to heat through.

Pour the dressing over the noodles and vegetables.

Serves 2 or 3

All-Japan Kitty



Hello Kitty gets around. Usually you find these location-specific Hello Kitty omiyage only in their featured city, but a Sanrio shop in LaQua carries all of them in one place. No need to travel to get your Hello Kitty geegaw. Left to right: cans of chocolate creams (representing Kobe in a red dress), strawberry creams a the purple can, and two yellow cans of corn cream candies (Hokkiado).


If you're not fond of sweets, why not get some other treats? Up at the top, Kitty-chan's pictured on handkerchiefs in Kyoto and Kobe. On the second shelf, it's a variety of items from Kumamoto and other cities.

This shop has about 200 keychains and keitai straps with Kitty posing in traditional costume or with signature items from famous places: Mt Fuji balanced on her head; dressed like a Okayama bonodori dancer; sitting on a Okuwadani boiled egg.

SCO's Tantrums (a melodrama)


Setting: a community of penguins working together
Time: present day

melodrama.gifLinux is a computer operating system developed by a lot of volunteers--some of them are geeky boys and girls; others are big companies. IBM loves Linux and has devoted a lot of resources to it, including donating bits of code to make it better.

Linux is free, "open-source" software and it's distributed under a special license agreement called the GPL. The GPL says that you must pass the software along with its source (the human-readable code that allows anyone to make changes to it) and that you are not allowed to add any more restrictive license requirements than the GPL.

In other words, if you add something to Linux, you can't require anyone to put your logo on it and you can't start charging people to use the part that you created. You give it for free, or you don't give it at all.

Enter the villain, twisting his mustache.

SCO was an important player in the Unix world but have gone downhill somewhat since its glory days. In fact, a few years ago, they bought a small company that had a beef with Microsoft so they could sue Microsoft. SCO won.

Now SCO is back at the judge's bench. They claim that Linux incorporates some of the Unix code that they own the intellectual property (IP) right to. They say that code entered Linux via IBM's donation.

The Unix world is filled with people buying and selling rights to bits of code, so it's not a surprise that IBM had some of SCO's old code. IBM and SCO worked together on Project Minerva in 1999, but abandoned the project in 2001. SCO says IBM stole their ideas and recycled them into Linux.

The good guys speak up

Now if it's true that Linux includes SCO's code, it isn't really a big deal. The Linux volunteers could remove the SCO code and write new bits to do the same things. The IP infringement ends when the code is removed. Problem solved.

The plot thickens

But SCO isn't saying exactly what parts are theirs and that means they can't be removed. If they aren't removed, then the IP infringement is still on and SCO can go to court. In March they sued IBM. The suit began with 1 billion dollars and currently seeks 3 billion dollars in damages.

SCO is a small company at the end of its life. Maybe what it wants is to create a nuisance and get itself bought out. IBM wasn't taking the bait. They prepared to go to court. Now there are two countersuits against SCO.

The villain wrings his hands...

Perhaps SCO worried that IBM would win. Last week, SCO demanded $699 for every CPU running Linux and $32 for every device with Linux embedded, like your TiVo and internet phone. This fee licenses the SCO proprietary code; anyone who doesn't pay faces a lawsuit.

Naturally, they are looking for companies that have lots of Linux computers. And of the Fortune 500, one company has agreed to pay up. Terms are not disclosed, nor the company.

The barbershop quartet sings a funny song

Ironically, and a very key point, is that SCO is a founding member of UnitedLinux, a consortium of companies promoting and distributing Linux under the GPL.

They have been distributing the disputed code under the GPL for over a year. By demanding a licensing fee, SCO violates the GPL they agreed to follow. So, according to the GPL, they can't distribute Linux anymore. But neither can anyone else.

Choose your own ending

A) Someone finds and removes all the SCO code from Linux. (read here)
B) Investigators uncover a SCO-Microsoft conspiracy to discredit Linux (read here)
C) Linux dies of lawsuit-itis (read here)
D) SCO loses the lawsuits and goes bankrupt, giving their IP to IBM to cover costs.

Ode to a Custodian


Mr. Janitor, I do not know your name.
You mumble Itterasshai!
Greeting me kindly as you polish the big brass gate.

I try to engage you in idle conversation
But chitchat and weather are unimportant
When it's trash day and there are fingerprints on the glass.

You sometimes bump lightly against my door
On Tuesdays, as you vacuum the hall.
Like a tree-fall in the forest, I hear you excuse yourself to no one.

Godliness is no match for cleanliness.
Today, I caught you wiping a city property--
The sign outside our building that tells how to put out the garbage.

After work, you change into a suit to go home.
I hardly know you without your blue coveralls.
But you recognize me and say hello as we pass in the street.

Change in weather


Yesterday, typhoon #10 blew through Kanto. I was out in it. My 100 yen umbrella turned inside-out twice and bent slightly at the handle, but it kept me from getting entirely soaked, so it did good service.

Today it was perfectly clear and 35 degrees--the hottest day of summer so far. I know it doesn't compare to the horrible heat-wave in Europe, but 35 is plenty hot enough for me.

We holed ourselves up in the living room, turned on the aircon, and watched Princess Mononoke. Twice. First in Japanese with English subtitles, and then again with Neil Gaiman's really excellent dubbed script.

For our second feature we watched Forrest Gump.

LaQua's restaurants include "Bubba Gump Shrimp Company," an American restaurant chain featuring pallid, oversized portions and a Forrest Gump theme. The movie plays on screens throughout the restaurant; the menu is peppered with quotes from the movie; the drinks menu is attached to a ping pong paddle; and to get the attention of the waitstaff, you turn over a sign that says "Stop Forrest Stop." We tried it a few weeks back and Tod revealed that he'd never seen Forrest Gump. I suppose if we return, the theme will make a lot more sense to him.

Although it's a little late to matter, we both think Shawshank Redemption should have won the Academy Award for Best Picture in 1995. Forrest Gump, which won, just doesn't compare.

Getting Around


Here's a first edit of the "getting around" section of Hello Tokyo. It conveys information and tells the story, but it's not yet elegant...or even close to being finished. I've taken the clips and put them into order--story-boarding with the video instead of paper. It's missing the overlays, music, transitions and voiceovers. Those will come later

play video Getting Around 3'24" (2.5 MB MPEG 4)

I will be putting Hello Tokyo on hiatus (again) while I make the switch from Adobe Premiere to Final Cut Pro. Unfortunately, I can't import my Premiere files to FCP, so I'll be starting over from scratch on the project.

It's not such a bad thing. I wanted to redo most of the editing to match the new music and the visual theme of the title sequence. I'll have a tailor-made reason to learn FCP inside out. I'm itching to get Hello Tokyo finished!

Apple's offering a $500 rebate if I buy before September 20th and mail them my Premiere install CD. That's an offer I can't refuse. Adobe's stopped making Premiere for the Mac, so I'll have to switch eventually. May as well do it now while it's not so expensive.

Illustrated MT templates


Tackling Movable Type templates and CSS for the first time can be daunting. The MT default templates contain four kinds of code: CSS, HTML, MT tags, and Javascript.

If you're new to all this, you're about to learn that it pays to make a careful study of the code. Once you understand the way it works together, it's pretty easy to modify your MT templates to display almost any design you want.

Understanding the Divisions

Let's start by taking a look at what the different sections are and what the code does. I've broken apart the default template in an illustrated way. This isn't exactly a Movable Type tutorial, but it does point out where the divs are and what the tags look like in code and rendered in the browser.

This diagram shows where the div sections of the MT index template begin and end. (Please click to open a larger version in a new window.)

Positioning with CSS

Want to move these three major sections to different locations on your page? Start by modifying the style sheet entries for #banner, #content, and #links.

Most of the positioning elements in this stylesheet are margins and padding. Note that when a margin or padding is specified with four values, the order is always TOP, RIGHT BOTTOM, LEFT. If only one value is specified, it applies to all four sides equally.

Almost anything on your page can have margins and/or padding added to it--images, forms, tables, paragraphs. Usually margin and padding are mixed in with the formatting elements that control color, fonts and so on. In the examples, I removed the formatting controls as they rarely cause confusion once you understand positioning.

Margins and padding are nearly interchangable. The main difference is that if you've specified a background color in your style, padding adds an edge of the background color, but margins do not.

There are several other positioning elements that are crucial to the overall layout of the MT default index page.

Position:absolute This is used by the #content element and it means that #content ignores where other things are on the page and puts itself where you specify based on margins of its "parent." In the default MT index template, the #content element is absolute in relation to the tag. It's 225 px from the left margin, which leaves room for the left-side links section.

Position:relative This is the opposite of position:absolute. Relative positioning lets you shift an element on the page in relation to the things around it.

Float:left Floats are a little confusing, but if you've ever wrapped text around an image in Word, PageMaker, or a similar program, you'll understand the basic concept. In CSS, anything can be floated--images, paragraphs, headings, divs. Float can create some surprising and bad layouts, partly because not all browsers (including IE6) support them well, so read up on float before you start using it. And be prepared to test in many browsers to make sure it looks OK.

Width:200 This is used in the #links style in the default template. It ensures that the links section doesn't overflow into the #content section (which is 225 pixels from the left margin)

One final note. The difference between # and .
#name -- ID -- used only once per document
.name -- CLASS -- used as many times as needed in the document

This is not everything there is to know about positioning. For more details, check out Eric A. Meyer's comprehensive (but a little daunting) CSS books. For up-to-date online help, Google for CSS positioning tutorial.

A Positioning Example

To move the "links" column to the right instead of the left (MT's default), you need to edit #content and #links in the style sheet. In #content you change the position to relative and add a float and a width. You also change the values for the margin. In #links, you remove the width and adjust padding:

Links on LEFT (the MT default)

Links on RIGHT (modified)

#content {

#links {

#content {
margin-left: 15px;

#links {

Formatting the Blog Entry

After you have the major divisions sorted, you can focus on formatting your blog entries. Changing the way the blog entry looks requires a mix of the style sheet, special MT tags and HTML.

There are three things you might want to do to format your blog entry:

  1. Adjust the text displayed (Format the date as 2003-08-14) - MT Tags
  2. Change the fonts, color, spacing, etc., of the text - CSS
  3. Move the text to another place in the entry - HTML template

All the sections of the entry (the date, title, body, extended entry link, posted, comments link, and trackback) follow a similar pattern: to change the text displayed take a look at the options for the MT tag and change the template; to change the way the text looks, change the CSS and to move the data around within the entry, cut and paste within the template HTML.

Let's take one section of the entry as an example:

Entry Date
To change the text of the date, you change the <MTEntryDate format="%x"> by substituting something else for the %x. All the date format codes are in the MT Manual.

To change the font and color of the date, you edit date in the style sheet.

date {
font-family:palatino, georgia, times new roman, serif;
font-size: large;
color: #333;
border-bottom:1px solid #999;

To change the location of the date within the entry, cut these lines from the HTML, and paste them where you want the date to appear. These lines must stay inside the MTEntry.

<h2 class="date">
<$MTEntryDate format="%x"$>

More Study Examples

I took the screenshots from Jason Cha's Japan Blog, Philip Hill's Grandfather Philip, and my own Media Tinker weblog. Thanks to Bob McDonald, Rudolf Ammann, Gary Lawrence Murphy and Olivier Thereaux for their helpful suggestions.

Balsamico Cucumber Pickles

| 1 Comment

Cool article!!!



Yesterday, Media Tinker rolled into the 2nd millennium of comments. Sajjad posted the final comment of the first thousand, and Jeremy's beautiful essay on nice frames was number 1,001.

I'm sorry that I don't have prizes to give out...

Enabling comments was a difficult decision. Did I want to open myself and my writing to potentially harsh criticism? Scary! As it turned out, most remarks are friendly and in those rare cases when they aren't, I'm more thick-skinned than I imagined.

Thanks to everyone who leaves comments. I always look forward to reading them. Very soon the comments will be more numerous than the entries.

No passing zone


glasses.jpgBoys don't make passes at girls who wear glasses.

If I thought it was likely that any boys would make passes at me at my age, well, I just ended an era for myself. Today I went to get glasses.

Although they are "just for reading" I know this is a slippery slope. Once Mom was fitted for reading glasses, she never went without again.

To anyone shopping for megane in Tokyo, I can recommend Zoff. They are quick, professional and inexpensive. My new glasses were only 5,000 yen.

And best of all, the cute, 20-something optometrist spoke English. I was slightly worried about the examination in Japanese, so I was very happy when Hikage-san just jumped right in and spoke perfectly fluent English to me. He made the whole experience much easier.

But he didn't make a pass...

Ruining your eyes



"Don't sit too close to the TV or you'll ruin your eyes." I don't know if mothers still say this, but it was a familiar comment when I was growing up, even in a household that didn't watch too much TV.

So why didn't I apply this good advice to working at the computer? Staring at a monitor for hours on end has the same effect and recently my eyes have been feeling the strain.

Now I'm on a campaign to rest my eyes. That means staying away from the computer, books and other activities that fix my focal length for a long duration. In essence, no reading input and no writing/coding/drawing output.

I'm sure this is going to be very good for me, but it's left me with long stretches of time I don't know what to do with.

So far, the house is clean, laundry done, and meals are sorted for the next two days. I'm planning to add more greenery to my summer-wilted garden; I'll go to two exhibits I've been meaning to see. I think I'll finally make up the shirt Tod thought he'd sew himself. Maybe I'll sew something for myself as well. I might have a nice big purge of kipple.

I might even consider going for an eye exam--maybe I finally need glasses.

But whatever I do, I'll have to keep work to a minimum this week. I feel like I'm suddenly retired and at loose ends. What do I do with all this time looming before me?

Hanabi taikai

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edogawahanabi.jpgSummer fireworks festivals are a tradition dating back hundreds of years. Originally for the powerful elite, there were public fireworks along the banks of Sumidagawa in 1733.

These days summer fireworks are an excuse for everyone to get dressed up in their yukata and spend some time outdoors. Over the last 50 years, the weeks spanning mid-July and mid-August have become an increasingly loud and colorful time of year.

Last night, we picnicked on the embankment of Edogawa and watched competing fireworks companies shoot off 14,000 fireworks in 75 minutes. It was splendid. This video doesn't really capture the jaw-dropping majesty of the event, but it gives a taste of three moments during the spectacle.

play video Edogawa Hanabi 0'50" (2.8MB Quicktime)

26 Things


Today (oops, a day late!) I posted my entry for 26 Things, the international photography scavenger hunt. You might want look through my entry, 26 Things Around Tokyo, but it's equally fun to randomly choose another entry and see who did it and how it was made.

There's a huge variety of images for each of the 26 topics--each reflecting the photographer's personality and skill. What do my images say about me? I don't want to think about that too hard right now.

Henna gaijin


Henna gaijin literally means '"strange foreigner" but it's got a somewhat more derogatory sense than just strange.

A henna gaijin is someone who has a deep knowledge of some Japanese arcana--the esoteric details of the tea ceremony or karate or Japanese food or kanji--but fails to understand the daily basics. In other words, someone who can create an exquisite flower arrangement in the ikebana-morimoto style, but who buys sushi to grill it.

I worry sometimes that the longer I stay here, the more I am becoming a henna gaijin. I am concerned when a Japanese person expresses astonishment at some bit of Japanese trivia that I know. "Oh really? I didn't know that!" sends shivers of dread down my spine.

But what can I do, really? I love to learn and it's details that interest me. Fortunately, I don't focus my study in any one area, but drink in whatever comes my way.

For example, did you know that most Japanese people didn't have surnames until the Meiji Restoration (1870)? Ironically, when they selected their new family names, they borrowed from the powerful shoguns that had recently been deposed.

Or that if you keep a bit of iron in your nuka pot (for pickling) the eggplants will keep their color? Iron is a mordant for cloth dye as well.

Or that the genkan entryway where you take off your shoes, was originally in farmhouses where the animals and people shared the same structure? It was a practical way to keep mud and dirt from getting into the living quarters and was much higher than the small step commonly found today.

I hope these bits of knowledge aren't enough to make me a henna giajin but all this talk of henna makes me think I need to dye my hair.

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