January 2004 Archives

Office space


It's been almost 5 years since I worked in an office. But for the past couple of days, I've been editing video at a client's Japan headquarters during regular business hours (and late into the night as well).

I'd forgotten the efficient bustle of paper and people through corridors and cubicles. Everyone is active and moving around.

The office is quite posh and lovely with modern furniture, red doors, grey carpets, tasteful signs, and free drinks in the fridges.

Compared to my quiet studio, it's an assault on the senses. All day long there's copiers swish/whip paper into trays; closed door meetings rumble and laugh; phones jangle non-stop. The air is super dry, the fluorescent lighting harsh. The scent of lunch is replaced by citrus-fresh cleaning products as the janitors wipe down the kitchenettes.

Having a change of scene is always good for me. I'm getting a kick out of the comparisons and I love the challenges of jumping into a new environment and figuring out the equipment, people, politics and the tasks at hand. I'll be full of new ideas when I return to my own office next week.

Your Doodles

| 1 Comment

creative.jpgLast week, I invited you to make some doodles using loops and mail them to me. Did you have fun? Here's a very brief gallery of submissions.

Jennifer (http://www.wordpainting.com)

Me and Tod: Angry Pig-Cub and Bird

Salmon with Green Peppercorns

| 1 Comment

recipe thursdayThis recipe is for Jim & Bob who have both mentioned cooking with salmon this week. This creamy sauce dresses up a simple pan fried salmon. It's heavenly and takes only a few minutes to prepare.

Salmon with Green Peppercorns
serves 4

1 Tblsp butter
3 shallots, finely chopped
1/4 cup white wine
6 Tblsp chicken or fish stock
1/2 cup heavy cream
2-3 Tblsp green peppercorns in brine, rinsed
4 salmon fillets
oil for frying
salt & pepper

Over medium heat, cook the shallots until softened, but not browned (1-2 minutes). Add the white wine and stock. Bring to a boil and reduce the liquid to 1/4 of the volume. Reduce the heat, add the cream and 1/2 of the peppercorns. gently crush the peppercorns as you add them. Cook over low heat for 5 minutes or until the sauce is slightly thickened*. Remove from heat. Strain the sauce. Stir in the remaining peppercorns.

Sprinkle the salmon with salt and pepper, and pan fry in a little bit of oil for about 4 minutes, or until the fish is opaque and the juices run clear when you pierce it with a knife.

Plate the fish, pour sauce over and serve. Goes nicely with a simple rice pilaf and a steamed green vegetable.

*To check your sauce the French way, dip a metal spoon into the sauce, turn it over and run your finger down the back of the spoon. If your finger leaves a mark that fills in slowly, then the sauce is perfect. No trail? Too thin. If the trail never fills in, your sauce is too thick.

Worm games


Like just about everyone with e-mail, I've received a lot of messages in the last 24 hours regarding the Mydoom (aka Novarg) e-mail worm. Not only infected messages, but also bounce messages saying that mail I sent couldn't be delivered because it contained a virus. Of course, I didn't send the mail; the virus was running on someone else's computer and pretended it was me because my e-mail address was in someone's address book.

So here's the Worm Game: figure out who I know that was infected with Mydoom, by looking at the addresses the worm used to send mail from "me." In other words, whose addressbook has my name and the name of the intended recipient?

Probably it's more than one person. I can't think of anyone who might have my address plus addresses at

  • legis.state.pa.us
  • yahoo.it
  • guardian.co.uk
  • watchovia.com
  • fractalfreak.com
  • marlinbroadcasting.com

But if it's you, please update and run your virus scanner and stop clicking on attachments in your e-mail!

(If you don't use Windows, then it's not you. This worm, like most computer viruses, only runs on Windows.)

To Vote or Not to Vote


I am a slack citizen. I haven't voted in a Presidential election since...um...well, it's been a long time. Libertarian Party candidates never win much more than seats on the school board.

The Libertarian Party advocates personal responsibility, individual liberty, a free-market economy and a peaceful foreign policy. If those principles were adopted by the US president, I'd be proud to be an American.

I want to do something to change the direction the US government has taken on almost every issue. I just don't know what to do, exactly. My friend, Terri, flew from Tokyo to freezing cold Iowa to knock on doors for Howard Dean. I guess I could start "Libertarians Abroad" or something...

But the main (and easiest) action I can take is to vote, and I just can't rouse myself to register because it feels like my vote is useless. Any candidate whose platform I admire doesn't stand a chance, and I won't vote for a candidate I don't like simply to dislodge a worse one.

This is a defeatist attitude and nothing gets done by defeatists. So I'll think about it some more. If I do summon the enthusiasm to vote, I can get a downloadable absentee ballot request.

In case you're not sure of where you stand in the political spectrum, here are two online surveys to try:

World's Smallest Political Quiz -- only 10 questions
Political Compass -- a more thorough look at your leanings.

Sunset desk scene


My desk glows sunset colors. It can't possibly be time for twilight.

Didn't I just sit down to work 10 minutes ago? I've been hammering away at things since 8:30 this morning, but only one item on my To Do list is actually completed. Every thing else is in progress or in suspension.

Good thing I have an electric lamp on my desk.

Slow Sunday

| 1 Comment

There is nothing like an all-day brunch with friends to make a perfect Sunday, especially when the brunch menu is Eggs Benedict and apples stewed in wine.

After all those eggs (1 poached plus about 4 in the hollandaise) at 1 pm, I didn't feel hungry til I was on my way home from a meeting at 11 pm. I'm not sure what is weirder, coming home from a meeting so late on a Sunday, or having dinner at nearly midnight.

Next week it's our turn to host. Menu to be decided--check in on Thursday for a recipe.

Single Bean


In the gourmand spirit of single malt whisky, varietal wine, and single bean coffee, Lotte launched a product called Single Beans Chocolate.

singlebeans.jpgOf course I had to try them. Who knew chocolate beans tasted so different to one another? But sure enough, they are distinctive. La Flora is sweet and fruity; Sur del Lago is piquant; El Pilar tastes like piney mould.

The chocolates come in small bars for 150 yen each or a "cacao selection" variety pack for 300 yen. It's a bit more expensive than the average chocolate but you can buy it at the conbini, so it's not really too luxe.

Plenty of people got used to the high life in the economic bubbles of real estate and tech. Now we can't afford the extreme luxuries any more, but we still crave them. Lotte is cleverly profiting on the fact that our tastes and our pocketbooks don't quite match.

Or maybe gourmet foods in the convenience store indicate an upswing in the economy in general. I never did understand the Japanese economic slump--it seems like everyone is carrying on as usual with plenty of construction, designers doing good business, new restaurants and shops springing up all over. To say that this is a slump, well, the Bubble must have been heady times, indeed.



creative.jpgSometimes being bored is great for your creativity. When I'm bored, I doodle. I picked up a pen the other day and started doodling in a style I haven't done in about 20 years. If you were to peek into any of my school notebooks between 6th grade and graduation, you would find only the very briefest of notes and a lot of doodles like these:


I draw closed loops randomly then try to turn them into something. Often they are grotesque faces or people drawn with a minimum of frills.


Sometimes they are more elaborate creatures.


So to get your creativity going this week, here are two loops for you to play with. You can turn them any way you like, use them together to create a scene, or make two unrelated drawings with different rotations. Pretty much anything goes.


If you e-mail me yours by Thursday the 29th, I'll show them here next week, along with the ones Tod & I did from these loops.

Make some loops of your own, too! Just have fun and see where this takes you. It took me to good grades for six years--I think doodling during class put me into a state of relaxation that helped me absorb the lectures. Or something.

Brazilian Banana Cake


recipe thursdayI found this recipe on AllRecipes.com when I was looking for something to do with overripe bananas. The cake is dense, sweet, and moist. The bananas slices on top sink partly into the cake and the cinnamon sugar topping produces a superb coffee cake. Tod, who loves neither sweets nor bananas, ate two slices.

The recipe calls for 6 bananas, but I used three I had on hand and it was sufficient. More would be better.

Brazilian Banana Cake
makes 12 servings

3 Tblsp butter
2 cups sugar
3 egg yolks
3 cups flour
1 Tblsp baking powder
1 cup milk
3 egg whites
1/2 cup walnuts (optional)
6 bananas
2 Tblsp brown sugar
2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp clove

Mix the butter and sugar until smooth, then add the egg yolks and beat well. Combine flour and baking powder. Add to sugar mixture, alternating with milk. Beat the egg whites until they are double in volume and fold into the batter.

Spread batter into a greased 9X12 pan. Sprinkle with walnuts if desired. Slice the bananas onto the top of the cake, spreading even across the pan. Mix the brown sugar, cinnamon and cloves--sprinkle over cake.

Bake at 350 F (175 C) for 30 - 35 minutes or until a pick inserted comes out clean. Store in the fridge, as the bananas will get gooey at room temperature.

State of (Legal) Unions


It pisses me off when politicians and activists go on about "gay marriage."

My view: people who make a lifelong commitment deserve recognition as partners whether they have the blessing of a god, the signature of a judge, or simply publicly pronounce their commitment. No matter what the method, the results are the same. A stable and committed relationship.

Maintaining a stable relationship is hard work, regardless of the sexes involved or the method used to create it. It should be treated with respect and given legal status.

People on both sides of the issue freak out over the wording. But it's just a label. A lifelong commitment is not an easy thing--the label is a throwaway.

Call all committed relationships "unions."

If "marriage" is reserved for religious unions, then Tod & I have a union, not a marriage. Does it matter? No. We mark our 15th anniversary this year and a label doesn't convey anything at all about our experience together.

My message to the politicians and activists: Ignore the labels and support all committed relationships.



play videoFish Story. 0'21" (2.3 MB MP4)

Another super-short. This one features many pretty fish and one wet child. I shot it at the Itabashi Freshwater Fish Museum, a municipal aquarium, on January 18th. Music courtesy of Freeplay Music.




Ume in bloom. Itabashi, Tokyo. January 18.

The first sign of spring. The rest arrives on February 3rd, the lunar new year.

FDA Prior Notice


As of December 12, 2003, as part of the Public Health Security and Bioterrorism Preparedness and Response Act of 2002 (the Bioterrorism Act), all food shipped into the US must be pre-cleared by registering the package with the FDA before mailing it. (fact sheet)There is no exception for quantity; even gifts of candy and snacks sent by international mail must give prior notice (no more than 5 days and no less than 4 hours).

So if I want to mail my niece a couple packs of the Japanese gum she likes, I have register myself with the FDA then fill in a form. Repeat as needed every time I want to mail some food.

The form requires you to identify each item by manufacturer (including the address and mfg registration number, if known), an FDA product code, the common name of the item (please select one from the FDA's preapproved list), a harmonized tarrif code, quantity, and so on. Seemingly ad infinitum but really only 45 steps as enumerated in the instructions.

There are three main exceptions to the prior notice system: 1) food you are carrying on your person for your personal consumption as you enter the United States, 2) meat and eggs under import control of the USDA, and 3) food made by an individual in her own kitchen and sent as a personal gift.

#3 is a giant loophole waiting to be exploited. Grandma Terrorists (tm) worldwide are perfecting their recipes for Anthrax Fudge, Botulism Brownies, Vanilla Plague Cookies, and Smallpox Surprise. Snow White's apple is on the way, but a box of factory manufactured chocolates has to go through hoops... Ridiculous.

Online Audio Options


When you get tired of shopping for music via iTunes, here are two worthwhile (though more limited) online audio shops.

Magnatune: pays its artists 50% of the price you pay. You can choose the price ($5 - 18 per album) and the format (WAV, MP3, OGG). 106 artists in various genres.

Bleep: Warp Records' downloadable music by LFO, Aphex Twin, Boards of Canada, and so much more. No digital rights management so you can do what you like with the files.

What alternate online music stores do you frequent?

Rotate 90


creative.jpgI'm borrowing today's idea from Jeremy at Antipixel, who was inspired by this creativity series...it's a small, circular world.

Turn your work sideways. Jeremy tried taking vertical photos rather than landscapes. Maybe you will turn your journal sideways and write the across the long edge of the page. Or design a website that requires horizontal scrolling.

You can even try this at work. Do your next PowerPoint presentation in portrait orientation. Try making a chart that is wide rather than tall or vice versa. Send a sideways memo...I'll bet it gets some attention.

Spicy tofu fry


recipe thursday It's cold in Tokyo this week, so I want warm spicy foods to heat me up. This easy, quick, and inexpensive recipe uses the Korean toubanjan you bought for the pajong recipe in November.

Spicy Cabbage and Tofu

4 cups chinese cabbage (hakusai), chopped (about 1/8 of a head)
1/4 cup scallion or leek (negi), sliced
1 block firm tofu (momen dofu), cubed
1/2 tsp toubanjan (Korean chili paste)
oil for frying

Heat your wok. Add enough oil to form a small puddle in the bottom. Toss in the onion, then the cabbage. Stirring constantly, cook for two minutes or until the cabbage just begins to soften. Add the tofu and cook another two minutes, stirring gently to keep the tofu intact. Spoon in the toubanjan and stir. Serve with rice.



I created a super-short short yesterday and submitted it to WeeklyDV. You may recognize the footage from Hello Tokyo and the music from the Toilet Paper Inspirations last March--this is DKM Redux.

play videoScramble. 0'31" (3.2 MB MP4)

I was inspired by WeeklyDV.com, which posts a topic and a deadline and invites you to submit short DV films. The quality of submissions ranges all over the place. To me, that doesn't matter. I'm more interested doing something that about doing it exactly right or doing it in good company. It's a fun challenge that gives you a reason to experiment. Doesn't that tie in perfectly with my plan to do more creative things this year?

Last Minute


I'm very excited that there is a Japanese version of lastminute.com - http://www.lastminute.co.jp/.

Americans may be unfamiliar with this UK-based service, but it lists lots of great deals on travel and entertainment for those of us who find ourselves planning things a day or two before we want to do them.

Phone greets


Nearly everyone I know has a cell phone that displays the caller's name and number when the phone rings. Some can even pop up a photo of the caller. It's extremely handy. This isn't exactly new tech; even in the US, Caller ID was introduced in the 90s. These days, I don't answer the phone unless I know who is calling.

It got me thinking about how phone transactions have changed over time.

1894: Operator-assisted calls required long waits and sometimes multiple transactions before conversation commenced.

"Operator. How may I direct your call?"
"Albany, New York, please."

1954: Before conversing, you needed to have a brief exchange to determine who was on the other end of the line.

"Hello, Jones residence. Myra speaking. May I ask who's calling?"
"Hi, Myra, this is Jane."

2004: Technology allows preliminaries to be skipped. With a glance at the display, the person answering can just start talking.

"You're running late?"
"Sorry. At Shinjuku now. I'll be about 20 minutes..."

Stupid speaking


I've spent most of this afternoon dazed and confused. Sometimes my migraines manifest themselves as an inability to speak coherently. It's as if my brain forgets how to put the words in order. I sound like I'm speaking in patois:

Eating where?
Friends invite to dinner out?
Maybe have home foods.

Often when my scrambled verbal state arises, I have to puzzle out the steps to do things, too. As I sat down to write this, I asked myself out loud "How do I blog?" Then answered aloud, "Press the button, then click the word, and then fill in the writing." OK. Got it.

Oddly, though, I can write just as well as usual. I have no trouble remembering the words when they are coming out of my fingers. Editing is a little bit more difficult, though. Must be different parts of my brain that control writing and speaking. Weird, huh?

A Brief History of Zero

| No Comments

A Brief History of Zero

Kristen McQuillin, July 1997 (revised January 2004)

Once upon a time there was no zero. Of course people knew if they had nothing, but there was no mathematical notation for it. Zero was independently invented only three times.

The first recorded zero is attributed to the Babylonians in the 3rd century BC. A long period followed when no one else used a zero place holder. But then the Mayans, halfway around the world in Central America, independently invented zero in the fourth century CE. The final independent invention of zero in India was long debated by scholars, but seems to be set around the middle of the fifth century. It spread to Cambodia around the end of the 7th century. From India it moved into China and then to the Islamic countries. Zero finally reached western Europe in the 12th century.

Before you continue reading the history of zero, please be sure you understand these underlying concepts : Number vs Numeral; Invent vs Discover & Place Value Notation

Babylonia: 300 B.C.

The Babylonians were the first culture to invent the place value system. They had a sexigesimal number system, that is, they counted in 60s, as we count in tens. When you count minutes in an hour or measure circles you are thinking in sexigesimal.

Of course the Babylonians didn't use our numerals. They wrote in cuneiform, a writing system optimized for writing in damp clay tablets. They used two symbols to represent all the numbers from 1 to 59. The wedge was used for a one and the crescent equalled a 10. By grouping them together, they created symbols for all 59 numbers.

5 crescents + 4 wedges = 54

Beginning at 60, we see a place value. The number 61 would be written with one wedge to the left (1 sixty), and one to the right (1 one).

The number 124 (2 sixties + 4 ones)

The number 1856 (30 sixties + 56 ones)

And here's the challenge that leads to the invention of zero. How do you indicate that there's nothing in a particular place? How would you show the number 3604? 3604 is 1 "60 squared" + 4 ones but nothing in the sixties column. Well, scribes started leaving a blank space. But not all of them did that and even when they did sometimes it was a pretty small space--it was difficult to tell it was there. So one very bright scribe put in a symbol that already existed as a separator in literature, a sort of sideways, superscript, double wedge. Now it was easy to distinguish whether you meant 3604 or 64:

top: 64 (1 sixty + 4 ones)
: 3604 (1 sixty2 + 0 sixty + 4 ones)

Babylonian mathematicians used the separator (effectively the first zero) in the middle position only. The person doing the calculations knew what order of magnitude he was working with and didn't add any separators at the end of his notations. However, the astronomers started using the zero placeholder in at the end and at the beginning of notations. This allowed them to note fractional degrees and minutes of arc and made their computations more accurate.

Despite the invention of zero as a placeholder, the Babylonians never quite discovered zero as a number. On an accounting tablet recording the distribution of grain there is a notation at the end of a column of numbers that reads "The grain is exhausted." Another example from the same era is a description subtracting 20 from 20: "twenty minus twenty...you see."

Although we have evidence of zero from tablets in the Selucid era (4th to 1st C BC), it is possible that the zero was invented before that time. Many of the Seleucid era tablets are copies of much older documents. We'll never know for certain, so we place the Babylonia zero around the 3rd century BC.

Central America: 350 CE

The Mayans, native inhabitants of Central America, were highly skilled mathematicians, astronomers, artists and architects. However, they failed to make other key discoveries and inventions that might have helped their culture survive. They never used the plow or metal tools and their civilization collapsed mysteriously around 900 CE.

They had a very complex calendar system and needed a placeholder in their elaborate date system. This lead to their invention of zero--600 years and 12,000 miles removed from the Babylonians.

The Mayans had several calendars. There was a 365 day civil year, a 260 day religious year and, key to their invention of zero, the complicated Long Count calendar which measured time from the start of the Mayan civilization (August 12, 3113 B.C.) and completes a full cycle on December 21, 2012.

Mayan Long Count Units






20 days



360 days (18 months)


20 tuns

7200 days (20 years)


20 katuns

144,000 days (400 years)


20 baktuns

2,880,000 days (8,000 years)


20 pictuns

57,600,000 days (160,000 years)


20 calabtuns

1,152,000,000 days (3,200,000 years)


20 kinchiltuns

23,040,000,000 days (64 million years)

It is the formal Long Count calendar that brought about the zero. The Mayan numerals were very complex in formal use--painted or carved heads or even full figures were used to represent numbers. When using these ornate carvings on a stelae, or stone tablet, the Mayans had a rather rigid graphic layout; each period of time had a space and all the spaces needed to be filled in. So a date that was 8 baktuns, 14 katuns, 3 tuns, 0 unials and 12 kins had to have one figure for each place. The zero was often represented by a shell shape.

Despite the use of zero in the place value system, it was never used for calculations. Once again, this stems back to the calendar. You may have noticed in the chart above that a 360 day year is 18 months (20 days to a month). This irregularity messed up an otherwise tidy vegisimal (base 20) system:

Decimal 10 is (1 x 10) + (0 x 1) = 10
Vegisimal 10 is (1 x 20) + (0 x 1) = 20
Mayan 10 is (1 x 20) + (0 x 1) = 20

Decimal 100 is (1 x 10exp2) + (0 x 10) + (0 x 1) = 100
Vegisimal 100 is (1 x 20exp2) + (0 x 20) + (0 x 1) = 400
Mayan 100 is (1 x (18x20)) + (0 x 20) + (0 x 1) = 360

Decimal 1000 is (1 x 10exp3) + (0 x 10exp2) + (0 x 10) + (0 x 1) = 1000
Vegisimal 1000 is (1 x 20exp3) + (0 x 20exp2) + (0 x 20) + (0 x 1) = 8000
Mayan 1000 is (1 x (18x20exp2)) + (0 x (18x20)) + (0 x 20) + (0 x 1) = 7200

India: 458 A.D. (debated)

The final independent invention of the zero was in India. However, the time and the independence of this invention has been debated. Some say that Babylonian astronomy, with its zero, was passed on to Hindu astronomers but there is no absolute proof of this, so most scholars give the Hindus credit for coming up with zero on their own.

The reason the date of the Hindu zero is in question is because of how it came to be.

Most existing ancient Indian mathematical texts are really copies that are at most a few hundred years old. And these copies are copies of copies of copies passed through the ages. But the transcriptions are error free...can you imagine copying a math book without making any errors? Were the Hindus very good proofreaders? They had a trick.

Math problems were written in verse and could be easily memorised, chanted, or sung. Each word in the verse corresponded to a number. For example,

viya dambar akasasa sunya yama rama veda
sky (0) atmosphere (0) space (0) void (0) primordial couple (2) Rama (3) Veda (4)
0 0 0 0 2 3 4

Indian place notation moved from left to right with ones place coming first. So the phrase above translates to 4,230,000.

Using a vocabulary of symbolic words to note zero is known from the 458 AD cosmology text Lokavibhaga. But as a more traditional numeral--a dot or an open circle--there is no record until 628, though it is recorded as if well-understood at that time so it's likely zero as a symbol was used before 628.

Which it probably was, considering that 30 years previously, an inscription of a date using a zero symbol in the Hindu manner was made in Cambodia.

A striking note about the Hindu zero is that, unlike the Babylonian and Mayan zero, the Hindu zero symbol came to be understood as meaning "nothing." This is probably because of the use of number words that preceded the symbolic zero.

Spreading Outward: China, Arabia and Europe

The Hindus influenced the numeration of nearby locales, and introduced the zero to the Chinese and to the Arabs who developed the modern day shape of numerals and passed them, along with zero, to the Europeans in the 12th century.

Although China independently invented place value, they didn't make the leap to zero until it was introduced to them by a Buddhist astronomer (by way of India) in 718.

Although it seems strange to image a place value system with no place holder for "nothing," it makes perfect sense when you see the Chinese method for writing and calculating numbers.

The Chinese used a counting board to do their mat, and an additive system to write their numbers. There was a symbol for 1 and a symbol for five and these symbols were added together to form symbols for other numbers up to 9. The numbers were actually rods arranged on a counting board which ran from left to right. Any missing places were left blank on the counting board. After the introduction of the zero symbol, the counting board could be retired. Numbers could be written on paper without the need of little rods and counting boards.

Arab countries in the MIddle East also got their zero from Indian scholars. Arab mathemeticians created a new form of writing numbers--the Arabic numberals we still use today. When Europe and the MIddle East began trade on a large scale, Europe adopted Arabic numerals and abandoned counting boards.


Underlying Concepts

"It must have required many ages to discover that a brace of pheasants and a couple of days were in both instances the number two."

Bertrand Russell

Number vs. Numeral

A number is a quantity, an abstraction of a collection of things; a numeral is a man-made symbol that represents the number.

Numerals (symbols) from various cultures look different, but all express the same number. Some are very complex, others are simple dots or circles. All four of these are symbols for the number zero. L to R they are from Babylonia, China, India and Central America. Words are also symbols that express numbers, but we don't call them numerals.

Numbers (quantity) are always the same value, no matter what symbol or word is used to represent them. Uno, bindu, ichi, 1, single, solitary. All of these symbols represent the concept we know as "one." The quanity does not change, even when the symbol is different.

Zero is a special case. Constance Reid, in From Zero to Infinity shows the difference between number and numeral with a set of simple math problems. It is easy to use zero when it is a symbol, but not always so easy to calculate with zero the number. What are the answers to the following math problems?

Zero as Symbol

Zero as Number

1 + 10 =

1 + 0 =

10 - 1 =

0 - 1 =

1 x 10 =

1 x 0 =

10 / 1 =

0 / 1=

[Answers. symbol column: 11, 9, 10, 10. number column: 1, -1, 0, 0]

Invent vs. Discover

invent (v.) think up or mentally fabricate, esp a new device or contrivance. The numeral zero (symbol) was invented.
discover (v.) to be the first to find out, see or know about; to realize. The number zero (abstract) was discovered.

Place Value Notation

Place value notation uses numerals in different positions to represent different numbers. You may recall learning about the "tens" place and the "ones" place in elementary school; this is place value notation.

Our system uses place value notation; for example, 32 means "three tens and two ones."





Place value notation is how zero was invented. It was a symbolic placeholder for an empty place (for example 302 or 3200). Previous to the invention of zero, either number might have been written as 32, leaving the reader to figure out the number from context. Zero was a big improvement for accurate accounting!

In most systems that use place value notation, the places are the exponents of the base. In our decimal (base 10) system we have places for: 1, 10, 10 squared (100), 10 cubed (1000) and so on. In a sexigesimal (base 60) system, the places are 1, 60, 60 squared (3600), etc. In a base 20 system: 1, 20, 20 squared (400), 20 cubed (800), and so on.

Value "Four hundred and twelve" in Base 10 & Base 60


10 squared place

Tens place

Ones place

4 1 2


60 squared place

Sixties place

Ones place

6 52

Numerals 4-1-2 in Place Value Notation


10 squared place

Tens place

Ones place

4 1 2


60 squared place

Sixties place

Ones place

4 1 2


A Half Diet

| No Comments

Holiday feasting has taken its toll on my figure. It's time to reduce a bit before I snowball into a citizen of Houston, Texas (American's fattest city).

My diet's already pretty well-balanced if you ignore the desserts I scarf. Mainly I just eat too much. So if I continue to eat what I like and cut back the portions, I will lose weight.

Here's my diet plan:

1. Serve myself half of what I'd usually dish up; if I'm still hungry 20 minutes after half a meal, then I will eat a little more.
2. Order whatever I like on the menu, but in smallest size and eat only half.
3. Pay attention to portion sizes on packaging; eat half of what's noted.
4. No more beer, and limited wine or spirits.
5. Lots more water--did you know dehydration can be confused with hunger?

I should see a leaner Kristen in about a month or sooner if I get off my butt and exercise some.

Upside down

| No Comments

creative.jpgWhen I was a kid, I would lie on my bed and hang my head over the edge so that I could see everything in my room upside down (that position also made it easier to braid my very long hair) As a young woman, I spent part of a summer afternoon lounging on a fountain and watching the river traffic upside down. Except for the crick in my neck and the blood rushing to my head, it was great fun.

I'm not the only one who likes to see things turned over. In Japan, Amanohashidate, one of the country's "Three Famous Views" is best enjoyed when viewed upside down through your legs.

So for today's creative perspective, view the world around you upside down. Don't just peek, take a good long look. What differences do you see in your room? If you're able to go outside to look around, notice the way things move. People's gait as they walk; the movement of cars are they brake. If you're really brave, try it in public. Does your favorite shop seem different when it's topsy-turvy? Does your homeroom teacher look unusual? Well, that might just be the confused expression on her face...

Blue Cheese Dip

| 1 Comment

recipe thursdayThis is ambrosia for blue cheese lovers. Best when prepared a day in advance so the flavours can blend. It makes a lot, so try any leftovers as a sandwich spread, or thin it out for a luxurious salad dressing.

Blue Cheese Dip
makes approximately 1 liter

225 g cream cheese, room temperature
100 g Danish Blue cheese, crumbled
240 ml mayonnaise
240 ml sour cream
120 ml onion, minced
120 ml celery, minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
5 cc celery salt
5 cc ground black pepper

Beat all ingredients together until creamy. Chill dip at least an hour. It tastes better the longer it stands. Serve with vegetables, crackers, bread, pretzels, etc.

National Travel Campaigns


Considering the upwardly spiraling precautions and paranoia concerning travel to the US, I think that other nations could turn this into an advantage for themselves. Think of the fun ad campaigns:

Freedom Flies In France

Come to Australia; we were criminals once, too.

Viva Mexico!!! Cheap overnight travel by truck!!! No delays!!!

Travel Canada, so close and yet so far...

Israel, where air security was invented

Visit Russia (we already know who you are...)

I'm sure you can think of others. :-)



I just completed my first screenplay. It's Neon Chopstix episode three, "Confidential."

I definitely have a lot to learn about where to put in scene and shot notations and how to differentiate action from general comments and scene settings. But it's roughed in and now John, Kimura and I can polish it. I'm looking forward to learning more about the process from them.

NC seeks JF for fun times

| 1 Comment

Say hello to Neon Chopstix, former known as the production-that-had-no-name. Thanks to everyone who sent in suggestions. We decided the name after a long walk around Harajuku scouting locations on New Year's Eve day.

The next hurdle is auditions. We need more people to audition this Saturday.

We've got four Japanese female roles to cast and only a few Japanese actresses auditioning. You wouldn't think it would be so difficult to find Japanese actresses here in Japan, but here we are running a bit short of them.

If you are a Japanese actress, or know one, who is looking for something to do on weekends between February and April, drop me a line for an audition time on Saturday.

Audition info is in Japanese at http://www.neonchopstix.jp

We have scads of eager foreign men and women competing for 2 parts. Their enthusiastic applications have been heartening. Even though only two will be cast, we'll need plenty of folks for smaller roles, so we're looking forward to seeing everyone this Saturday.



I've been reading an interesting classic text on Japanese psychology: Anatomy of Dependence by Dr. Takeo Doi. It was written in 1971 and Doi was hailed as the Freud of Japan.

In the book, he explains amae. It's odd but I can't even begin to explain amae even after reading nearly 100 pages of the book, instinctually understanding the concept, even having a few "Aha! That explains that thing I experienced" moments as I read along.

Amae isn't unknown to Western culture, but there's no word for it. It's part unconditional love, part dependency, part selfishness, part generosity, part obligation, part indulgence.

For example, amae is what Tod and I experience when I bring him coffee in bed in the morning--he is relying on me to indulge him and I am (usually) happy to do so. When he tucks me in at night, that's amae I get a warm loving feeling as he indulges my desire to be cuddled and made safe before I go to sleep. It makes me want to bring him coffee in the mornings. What goes around, comes around.

The book is good. I'm not all the way through it, but I expect I'll have quite a few more "aha!' moments as I see why Japanese people sometimes behave in ways that seem odd to me. If you are interested in why Japanese seem "different" to Westerners, this is a good place to start your explorations.

New Years' Bargains



More more more


creative.jpgDo you have a New Year's resolution? I have one:

Do More

For me the creative process is iterative. I try something, take a look, make a change, compare my results, find inspiration or see a new twist, try again, and often end with something wonderful and unexpected. The more I do, the better I get. I am building up a body of work--some of it's total crap, but some of it is pretty good indeed.

There's a story about a pottery class where half the students were graded on quantity and half on quality. The quality students aimed for one perfect pot by the end of the class; the quantity students were graded on the number of pots they made regardless of quality. The students who aimed for quantity ended up with better quality pots because they weren't afraid to try, fail, experiment, learn, and try again.

More is good. Practice makes perfect.

Take that to heart. Whatever your creative outlet, do it more this year. If you don't expect perfection every time, I'll bet you'll have some fantastic work in twelve months' time.

Toasted Mochi


recipe thursdayMochi, cakes made of pounded rice, is an important part of the Japanese New Year. There are mochi-making parties at the end of December and everyone eats mochi in their soup on new year's day. Many people have "kagami mochi"--two round balls of mochi topped with an orange--as a holiday decoration that is cracked apart and eaten in early January. But you don't have to pound your own mochi, it's sold in precut blocks or small rounds. Here is a simple and filling snack of mochi.

Toasted Mochi
serves 1

1 cake mochi, round or rectangle
1 tsp soy sauce
1 strip nori (seaweed paper)

Brush the mochi with soy sauce. Arrange on aluminum foil in the toaster oven. Toast until lightly browned and puffy. Remove from toaster oven. Heat the nori in the toaster oven for a few seconds. Wrap the mochi in nori and enjoy.

Recent Comments

  • Rolex Watches: This group of pictures is so beautiful, thank you for read more
  • Robert Parent: I have learned to not let pass the subtle hints read more
  • Jenn(y): This is a good, goal-oriented way to approach the new read more
  • Tracey Northcott (@keitaigoddess): I am such a loser - sent off my cards read more
  • Tracey Northcott (@keitaigoddess): Hi Babe, Haven't seen you in ages it seems. Ash read more
  • https://www.google.com/accounts/o8/id?id=AItOawlBlcLTfxgMWRgxf2_TuNkGW8AwePJPekQ: Hi Kristen, Tell me about it. Our last (3 month) read more
  • Tracey Northcott (@keitaigoddess): "We deeply apologize to our customers for the heavy burden," read more
  • Carolyn Farwell: Oh the gif you've created is so funny! You have read more
  • Tracey Northcott (@keitaigoddess): I am going to miss you!! read more
  • Eric Smith: Hey Kristen: Met you on a train a couple of read more