June 2004 Archives

Road's end

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12 August 1999

Traveling is sometimes a game of chance. Having rolled snake eyes on the previous day’s activities, I woke up with a desire to leave Innoshima with all due haste. Maybe I could improve my game back on the mainland.

And so I did. I was bathed, breakfasted and checked out of the Hotel from Hell in time to catch the 7:40 bus to Onomichi. I had no intention of following through with my original plan of cycling the 20 km across the final two bridges. Air conditioned comfort and views of Setouchi from the fast lane were what I wanted and exactly what I got. I arrived at Onomichi Station at 8:30 am.

But I hadn’t planned to spend much time in Onomichi--it was more of a bed and breakfast stop than a day’s sightseeing destination. I had no idea what I’d find there to occupy my day. My entire Onomichi research consisted of the mimeographed map given to me by the travel agency which showed where I was staying for the night.

The station map indicated that there was a nearby castle park, so I walked down the street in the direction of the ropeway that would carry me to the top. Maybe I could stretch the park to fill my morning; I’d figure out what to do with the afternoon when it came.

Very long bike ride

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11 August 1999

To say I was a bit high strung when I woke up is an understatement. This was the big day...biking 40 km from Imabari to the island of Innoshima in the middle of Setouchi—the Seto Inland Sea. It would be a test of my endurance, my biking ability, my will power.

I had another round of bathing at the hotel and my first Western breakfast of the trip. Sausages, scrambled eggs, toast, fruit, yogurt and coffee. Plus a salad with a shrimp and a raw scallop (even Western food has a Japanese flair).

I went to the station and caught the first train to Imabari. It was a “one-man,” a local diesel train with only one car and the eponymous one man at the controls. Although I had never encountered a one-man in Tokyo, where all trains are six to fifteen cars long and have conductors plus drivers, they are the norm for local trains in Shikoku.

But they are slow. The trip which took 30 minutes on the express train the day before was stretched to 75 minutes on the one-man. Giving me more time to fuel my morbid fears about failing at my task and being driven off the bridge by a passing truck or falling off my bike and breaking a limb and having to explain in Japanese to the hospital staff what’s happened to me. So by the time I got to Imabari I was even worse than I was when I woke up.

But dammit, I was going to do this. I was determined (or maybe just stubborn) and I knew that riding a bike over some bridges really wasn’t outside my capabilities. No matter how morbid my imagination was painting the scene, I could do this.

In Hot Water

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10 August 1999

Over the course of the previous week, I had stopped marking time by meals and begun paying attention to check-in times and bath times. Eating had become less important than washing away the day’s grime and soaking in hot water.

The New Tokushima Hotel had two baths. From 3 p.m. - midnight, women bathed on the first floor. From 6 a.m. until 9, they bathed upstairs on the fifth floor. The men’s schedule was opposite--upstairs at night and downstairs in the morning. I’ve learned that when baths are switched like this, there’s usually something special about one of the bath rooms. So before breakfast, I decided to have a bath upstairs.

And I was right. The fifth floor bath had a rotenburo, an open air bath, with a little garden. It was nice to sit in the warm water with my wash towel piled on my head and listen to the traffic below me on the street and the calls of early morning workers unloading trucks of produce. Although maybe these aren’t the poetic sounds of nature, I enjoyed them. No matter where you are, there’s a world around you that you never imagine. And vice versa--how many of those produce workers gave a second thought (or even a first) to a foreigner’s bath that morning?

Lost on Main Street

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9 August 1999

The reason I went to Tokushima was not to chase Tod’s phone or even to do my laundry. I wanted to see some of the prefecture’s traditional crafts. Tokushima boasts indigo dying, traditional weaving, puppet making, pottery, paper making and a special local dance called Awa Odori.

The day dawned and I was full of excited anticipation. I had a list of places I wanted to go and things I wanted to see. Bur first, I’d fortify myself with breakfast.

I had asked for an early breakfast because I wanted to get a jump on things and leave enough time to figure out which busses to take and generally manage my illiteracy. So I was the only person in the dining room when I came in. At my place at the low table was the usual array of tiny dishes filled with pickled things. To one side was a brazier with a grate. As I puzzled a bit over this, the room attendant from the previous afternoon appeared bearing a bowl of rice, some miso soup and a fish which she placed on the brazier.

So I had to cook my own breakfast and it stared at me the whole time. As long as I concentrated on the rice I was OK. The attendant came over and flipped the fish over when it started to burn on the first side.

Missed opportunities/lost property

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8 August 1999

Working under the first rule of travel, allow extra time to figure things out, I woke Tod very early so that we could get to our destination in a timely way. We had dined, checked out and walked to the station before 8 am. The next train to Naruto left at 8:23.

It took about 90 minutes to reach Naruto, and operating under the second rule, sort out your return trip as soon as you arrive, we figured out what train Tod needed to be on to get back to Takamatsu in time for his 15:29 train back to Tokyo. If he missed the train in Takamatsu, he’d miss his connection and forfeit his seat on the Shinkansen which would mean standing on the next train. A three hour trip seems much longer when you can’t sit down.

So at 10:00 we were in Naruto, our bags were living in the coin lockers, and Tod had a ticket for the 12:46 Naruto to Takamatsu train. The next step was to get to the park where we could (maybe) see the whirlpools. Over to the bus stop we went.

The 9:56 had left only a few minutes before. The next bus was at 10:56. Ouch...that didn’t leave us much time at all for whirlpool-viewing, though by this time we’d resigned ourselves to not actually seeing any whirlpools. Maybe there was another way to get to the park.


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creative perspectivesSometimes, you need to give your body a workout to get the brain flowing freely. I know I sit too much at my computer cranking out words and images. When I go for long walks or swim laps, my brain changes gears and I enjoy a meditative state while my muscles do their thing. When I'm done, I feel tired, refreshed and full of energy. My fancy flies and I end up in places I didn't expect--creative leaps from my desk-bound routine.

Go take some exercise today. A good walk at lunch, a bike ride after dinner, a session at the gym, a splash in the pool. Make sure it's long enough to allow your brain to disengage and your body to get tired (but don't overdo it--gentle and easy is fine for this exercise!). Then see where your mind goes.

Lovely sandwich


recipe thursdayThis makes a fabulous lunchtime picnic. At least it did for me. It can be assembled al fresco if you bring a knife.

If you can't find bread with figs in it, use a chewy grain-studded loaf and slice up some figs. If you can't find peppered smoked chicken, I think you might be out of luck with this recipe.

Smoked Chicken and Blueberries on Fig Bread
serves 2

2 small loaves fig bread
2 fillets peppered, smoked chicken
2 oz full-milk soft French cheese from an obscure village
1 handful fresh blueberries

Slice open the fig bread, tuck two chicken tenderloins into it, smear with cheese and garnish liberally with blueberries smushed into the cheese.

Ever upward

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8 August 1999

Kotohira-gu enshrines Kompira, the sailors’ god who has expanded his business to include all travelers. On this long trip, it seemed foolish not to go invoke his good favor. So we woke early to catch the train that would take us about an hour west of Takamatsu.

Morning is not Tod’s best time of day but he normally manages to make it through with the help of a few cups of coffee but Japanese breakfasts don’t include coffee, just green tea. And while green tea has enough caffeine to get me going, Tod would have to drink several pots before he was awake. So I led the way that morning. After our breakfast we walked to the tram station at the other end of the street and were on our way,

When we arrived in Kotohira, we walked along a river to the main street. The main street turns into a staircase leading up to the shrine. A staircase that has 785 stairs! We knew because the guidebooks said so. And to confirm their accuracy Tod counted every one of them as we went up.

Matsu means pine

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7 August 1999

I left the Aonos with my new karuta cards and pottery souvenirs filling my bag. After thanking Aono-san for all the trouble he’d gone to to make my vacation so special, I bid the family goodbye at the station and was on my way east to Takamatsu and Tod.

Takamatsu is not a very exciting city. It’s kind of flat and although far smaller than Tokyo, it’s made of ferro concrete and asphalt just like its larger cousin. But it is a great jumping off point for other destinations and there are a number of nearby sights to see.

Tod took the Shinkansen from Tokyo early on Saturday morning and after chaging to a local express train, arrived in Takamatsu at about 12:30. I scheduled my arrival from Nyugawa to give me enough time to visit the tourist information centre for maps and to scope out the coin lockers. But I left plenty of time for a good blunder, too.

One Hundred Poems

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6 August 1999

I woke to the sound of the local announcements at 6:45. Why the community centre needs to broadcast information about the evening’s events so early in the day is beyond me, but there was a man reading slowly and solemnly from a sheet of paper about a party and some classes. When he reached the end, there was a pause and then the dreaded “mo ichi dou” (one more time) that I know so well from class and the announcements began again!

A bit later in the morning, after breakfast, laundry and a tour of the vegetable garden, there was a bit of an argument between Ko & Yuka. Ko didn’t want to come on the day’s excursions; he wanted to play go with his grandfather. Yuka wanted to stay with her brother who she adores and imitates. But Yuka’s destiny was to be in the car with us as we toured some of Ehime prefecture’s highlights. Eventually, she gave in and we were all in the car and on our way.

Aono-san took such great pains to make sure I got to see all the things that interest me. We started at the Iyo Sakurai Lacquer Hall a small factory that had an area where you could watch the craftsmen working at carving the lacquer, filling it with gold leaf, painting details and polishing the finished items. It was fascinating to watch the process in action. I was so entranced that it was startling when they all got up and left the room for a smoke break.

Bellybutton of Japan

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5 August 1999

Sometimes you end up seeing the strangest places. On the trip from Kobe to Nyugawa, Aono’s hometown on Shikoku, we stopped for a few minutes at Nihon no Heso, the Bellybutton of Japan. At 35 N latitude, 135 E longitude, Nihon no Heso is the very center of the country.

There are a number of monuments competing to be the actual center--a sundial, two obelisks and a large stone monument share near proximity. I suspect that varying survey techniques produced slightly different results. But one of them must be correct, so I stood near all four of them...at some point I was standing dead center in Japan!

There’s a park surrounding the monuments and a small art museum. There’s even a special train that comes out to the park. The station platform is decorated with kids’ paintings and a ceramic tile map of Japan done complete with a crosshair showing the center.

But we didn’t stay too long at Nihon no Hesa. The drive to Nyugawa on the northern coast of Shikoku was long and we had other places to visit along the way.

Beginning of an adventure

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The next few entries (not including Recipe Thursday and Creative Perspectives on Friday) are another set of essays I wrote years ago describing my trip to Shikoku. I'm publishing them as they were written (sloppily) and presented to the group of readers who came before my weblog. This first one is from 4 August 1999.

It’s been a pretty amazing two weeks. I just arrived home from the long trip I mentioned last time I wrote to you. What an adventure. Or rather a long series of adventures. There’s far too much to tell all in one go, so I’ll dole out the highlights in a series.

The first part of my trip was spent with the Aono family. I met Aono-san when I worked at the bank. When I mentioned one day that I wanted to visit Shikoku, the smallest of the four major islands of Japan, he invited me to come along with him and his family on their summer vacation.

Over 25 million people live in the Tokyo metropolitan area and suburbs but most of them aren’t native to Tokyo. They’ve come to seek their fortunes in the big city. Once a year, at O-Bon in the middle of August, they head back to their hometowns to visit family and in the ancient tradition make peace with their ancestors. The Aonos were traveling to Aono-san’s hometown on Shikoku for O-Bon this year.

This was an invitation not to be passed up. To see Shikoku with a native and to get to meet Aono’s family was a major big deal.

Japanese are pretty reserved about showing their private feelings and sharing their private lives. There is even a special word for the external mask used at work and with people who aren’t relatives or close, trusted friends. This is the “face” you hear about so much in Western press--as in saving face, you know. But there is another side of the Japanese--playful, loving, silly. I was being given an opportunity to see that private, family side of Aono-san.

And it was such fun.

Dear Inner Critic


creative perspectivesYou have an inner critic, don't you? I think most of us do. Mine's a middle aged man--the ringleader of all reviewers--who lies in wait in my head, looking for a chance to tell me what's wrong with what I'm doing. He's harsh.

But today I'm going to write him a letter to tell him why I disagree with his reviews.

Dear Inner Critic,

I have been following your reviews and opinions for many years and would like to give my sincere congratulations for your perseverance over these many decades.

However, I believe that your criticisms are sometimes too severe and do not take into consideration the homely and experimental nature of creative spirit.

Not every endeavor is destined for perfection. For you to insist that it is and to compare every work to your ideal is limiting this artist's enthusiasm to produce more. And as we all know, practice makes perfect.

So I humbly request that you keep your mouth shut and allow the artist to do her thing in peace. When she is ready for your comments, I am sure she will ask for them.



Now it's your turn. What would you like to say to your inner critic?


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recipe thursdayThis lemony Greek chicken soup is a good choice when you're sick and tired of chicken noodle.

serves 3-4

4 chicken filets, or 1 skinless breast diced
2 cans chicken broth
1/2 can water
1/2 c rice
2 lemons, juiced
2 eggs
2-3 Tblspn milk
1/4 cup flat leaf parsley, chopped

In a stock pot, cook the chicken quickly over high heat until seared. Pour in the stock and water. Add the rice, cover and simmer for about 20 minutes or until the rice is cooked.

In a bowl, beat together the eggs and milk until very well blended.

When the rice is cooked, pour the egg mixture into the boiling soup in a thin drizzle, stiring to form egg threads. Remove from heat, add lemon juice and parsley.

Variation 1: use 10 finely sliced shiso leaves instead of parsley.
Variation 2: add some diced carrot with the rice. Add 1/2 cup chopped spinach after the rice is done and allow to cook down, then do the egg threads.

Girls' Websites


Not long ago, a 6th grade girl in Sasebo, Japan, killed her classmate in a rather gruesome way at school. Investigators discovered the girls had once been friends and things had gone sour. The victim had written some unkind things about the girl on a website. The murderess (so sad to think of an 11 year old that way, but she is...) also had a website where she posted poetry and other writing expressing her unhappiness and problems.

Today a survey company, Interactive Marketing Interface, announced that 69% of sixth- and seventh-grade female students have their own websites. Do you think that websites will be tied to school violence like video games were after Columbine?

The trial of finding the trash


(October 2000)

Tokyo, like many metropolitan areas around the globe, has not one trash day, but many. In fact, we have four--two for burnable trash, one for non-burnable and a final one for recyclable metals and glass.

Everyone in the neighborhood puts their trash at the same place. Tokyo’s streets are so narrow that event the miniature trash trucks—they are about the size of a pickup but shaped like a normal garbage truck—can’t squeeze through. So for their convenience, we all plop our bags at a place designated by a color-coded sign which also tells us what days belong to what type of garbage. Which is good, because I’ve always had some problems remembering what day which sort of trash was to be taken out to the collection point.

When we moved to a new neighborhood earlier this month, I ran into a problem.

Hanging with the linux geeks

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(August 2000)

Kinichi Kitano wore a red and orange plaid shirt, tan shorts and black Birkenstock clogs.

“Today we’re going to tour Akihabara for Made-for-Linux items. Does anyone want to buy anything special?” he asked the group assembled in the Computing books section of Shosen Book Tower.

A short list of desired items was produced: a SCSI hard drive and two internal, 50-pin (narrow), terminated SCSI cables. And soon we were out of the bookstore and on the broiling hot streets of Akihabara.

Akihabara is Tokyo’s famous electronics district. It grew from a few small shops under the railroad tracks selling black-market radio components after World War II. The district was originally called Akiba-hara, after a shrine in the neighborhood, but when the train station opened in 1890, a misprint on the station sign turned it around to Akihabara. Akihabara is still called Akiba by those who like nicknames.


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(September 2000)

I won them. Five little goldfish, kingyo in Japanese.

Our local end-of-summer festival blocked off the shopping street. Makeshift stalls in the street grilled corn on the cob, yakitori and takoyaki. Lines of children in yukata waited for their turn to get a cone of shaved ice. All along the street, games of skill awaited those who would try to toss a ring, shoot a cork-gun or catch a fish.

The high price of melons


(Digging through my older writing, I've found some essays written for the mailng list that was a precursor to my weblog. For my long-time fan (yes, Mom, I mean you) the next few entries may be familiar. This one was written in June 2000.)

Have you ever bought a $30 cantaloupe?

Expensive melons are given as gifts in Japan. I might have selected another item to present, some French cookies perhaps or a decorative tin of seasonal tea, but the melon seemed appropriate. Tod & I, melon-headed Americans, had to pay a formal call on a neighbor who we had inadvertently upset.

It all started three weeks ago. The imminent arrival of my sister and her family spurred us to take on some tasks we’d left undone when we moved in in February. We bought a low, Japanese-style dining table and zabuton cushions to sit on. I finally moved my office a few feet vertically and set it up on a desk instead of the floor. And we took the initiative to build a deck on top of the triangular patch of mud and weeds that sits outside our living room and dining room.

A bilingual carpenter friend constructed the deck while we were away from Tokyo for a week. We had the fun of arranging the work with Eddy, leaving for Singapore, and returning to find a beautiful deck. We celebrated by painting the outdoor table and chairs.

It was when I was struggling to move the table back onto the deck that I had a hint things might be a bit touchy. Our table is wooden and lightweight, but tricky to squeeze through the narrow funnel of space between our house and the house next door. I’ve done it before, but this time I slipped and bumped the neighbors’ kitchen wall. Just a tap, nothing damaging. I didn’t even ding the new paint on the table.



creative perspectivesHere's a challenge. Unplug yourself this weekend. Turn everything off--the TV, your computer, radio, stereo, cell phone, answering machine. Take in no media and be completely unreachable for a day or two.

At first this is going to be uncomfortable. At least it is for me. No computer? How will I answer all the questions that pop into my head? No cell phone? But what will I do if I want to meet someone and I'm running late or can't find them?

After the initial panic, I settle into a very mellow and leisurely groove. No distractions from thinking. I can take my time and enjoy my life without the subconscious stress of ringing phones and e-mail. I can pursue my pleasures quietly. It's a good stretch of time to paint, to cook, to plan things.

What will you do with your unfettered time?

Savory French Toast


recipe thursdayThis was a surprise. We had a half a French loaf and some eggs, but it was dinner...aha! A jar of pasta sauce, a few sausages and a dish of spinach with mushrooms, voila, dinner was done.

Savory French Toast

1/2 loaf french bread
3 eggs
3 Tblsp parmesan cheese (grated)
olive oil

Beat the eggs until smooth, blend in the parmesan, season with salt and pepper. Slice the bread into 1 or 2 cm slices. Dip the bread in the egg to coat, allowing excess egg to run back into the egg mixture. Fry on both sides over medium-high heat in a little olive oil.

Heat up some pasta sauce, serve on the side instead of maple syrup.

Who made Bush god?


The US president doesn't have to abide by international treaties and his own federal laws? Isn't that sort of like saying the Pope doesn't have to follow the ten commandments?

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Bush, as commander-in-chief, is not restricted by U.S. and international laws barring torture, Bush administration lawyers stated in a March 2003 memorandum.

The 56-page memo to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld cited the president's "complete authority over the conduct of war," overriding international treaties such as a global treaty banning torture, the Geneva Conventions and a U.S. federal law against torture.

"In order to respect the president's inherent constitutional authority to manage a military campaign ... (the prohibition against torture) must be construed as inapplicable to interrogations undertaken pursuant to his commander-in-chief authority," stated the memo, obtained by Reuters on Tuesday.

Source: Reuters

Hot commute


This morning I attended a 9 am meeting at FCCJ. I was dressed and out the door at 8:30, just in time for rush hour on the Marunouchi line.

A hundred people in the train car with me multiplied the effects of today's sticky weather. By the time I reached my stop, 11 minutes after I'd boarded the train, my upper lip was beaded with perspiration, my hair was damp, and sweat dripped down the curve of my spine.

I'm lucky, though, because I got to come home and strip off my clammy clothes after the meeting. While everyone else suffers in their suits and ties, I'll spend the rest of the day in a t-shirt (and not much else).

Malaysian food

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Six months living in Singapore gave me a taste for Malaysian food--spicy, flavorful dishes of meat and vegetables. But spicy foods aren't really to the Japanese tastes, and we haven't seen much Malaysian food here. But wandering the streets of Ginza looking for a place to eat, we spotted a sign for Rasa. "Malaysia - Singapore cuisine" Oh, wow!

The menu is full of my old favorites--beef rendang, chicken rice, and a host of seafood dishes with peppery sauces and exotic names. Prices range from 700 - 1800 yen. There's also an extensive drinks menu including local beers and Singapore favorites like kopi, the-O and wheatgrass juice.

We splurged on the 4,000 yen set. It was eight courses, from steamed chicken salad through black pepper beef and finishing up with mango pudding. Each dish was better than the last and as authentic as you're likely to find in Tokyo. The chef spent 13 years in Malaysia and 11 in Singapore.

Malaysia Airlines is connected to Rasa (the store card features the airline's logo, and they play Malaysia Airlines travel videos in the dining room). I wonder if they get their blacan and other key ingredients flown in specially from the source.

Rasa is 1 minute from Ginza Station, exit A3. Go out the exit, and walk towards Citibank. Turn left at that corner and the building is two or three doors down on the left.

Rasa: Malaysia - Singapore cuisine
Ginza Five Star Building, 8F.
Ginza 5-8-13, Chuo-ku
Weekdays 11:00 - 14:30 & 17:00 - 23:00
Weekends/Holidays 12:00 - 23:00

Rainy season

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I listened to the first drops of rain fall this morning, breaking the Sunday morning silence with faint plop-pitters against our deck umbrella. This will be a familiar percussion for the next six weeks.

Although I don't think it will be officially declared for a few more days, I do believe tsuyu, the rainy season, has begun. UPDATE: The start of tsuyu was declared today.

Look at that forecast... For current tsuyu details, weathernews has a national tsuyu map and information about tsuyu on the Kanto plain where Tokyo sits.

Tsuyu begins in the southwest and moves northeastward. Last year Tokyo saw on June 10th and said goodbye to it on August 2nd, but on average it starts on June 8th and ends July 20th. I guess we'll have to wait to find out how this year's rainy season compares. Here's hoping for short and wet.

Hat shopping

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Maybe shopping would be easier if I paid attention to what's in fashion, but I don't, so I always seem to desire something that doesn't exist.

This time my goal is a black straw cloche. A cloche is the close-to-the-head hat, small brimmed style from the 1920s. But apparently it's not a style for 2004. I can find all sorts of floppy sun hats and narrow-brimmed fabric hats with square crowns, and some dreadful caps I remember from the 1970s. One lovely hat I tried on was the right shape--but it was the wrong color (burgundy) and definitely the wrong price (41,000 yen).

So I will have to look again because I don't have the millinery skills to make a straw hat.

Change of focus


creative perspectivesI've been floundering. I can't seem to get anything finished. None of my projects are going where I want them to. There are lots of hurdles and blocks-- some are of my own making, others not. It's rather frustrating.

My frustration morphs into a series of bad feelings, irritable moods and depressed thoughts including all of the time-honored artistic temperament classics: Do I have any talent or skill whatsoever? Any original ideas? Why am I doing this stuff anyway? What's the point? How can I possibly think my work is any good? Mr. XYZ is better at this than me, so why should I try? Wouldn't I be better off with a "real" job pointlessly shuffling papers somewhere?

So my daunting digital pile of uncompleted work sits untouched. And so do my physical piles. Nothing's getting done at all, even my normally tidy house is adrift in dust. The lack of progress aggravates the bad feelings, further preventing me from getting anything done. A vicious cycle.

have-lack.gifBut it's breakable. This morning, I decided to look at the situation from a different angle:

I have accomplished a great deal. The unfinished projects are avenues for continuation and growth. Books, stories and screenplays started. Art underway. Footage shot but unedited. There's effort behind it; look at how far I got. No reason to stop now. Let me add more to what I've already done and see how much farther it goes.

I think this is the secret to happiness in many aspects of life, not just creativity. People who focus on what they want but don't have--whether it's consumer goods, love, fame, creativity or something else--are rarely happy.

My glass is not half empty. It's half full.

Garlic Tonic


recipe thursdayOn the same day Tracey & I made ume shu, we also put together a batch ninniku shu--garlic tonic. It will be ready at the end of October, just in time to ward off chills, strengthen our blood, test on my visiting mother and mother-in-law, and all the other healthful benefits it's said to bring. Really it was just too unusual (and tasty sounding) a combination of flavors not to try it!

Ninniku Shu

500 gr garlic
50 leaves shiso
4 lemons
60 gr white sesame seeds
80 grams fresh ginger root
1 cup honey
1.8 litres white liquor (35% alcohol)

Peel the garlic and trim off the ends. Steam for about 5 minutes. Rinse the shiso leaves. Slice the ginger root. Peel the lemons and slice into 2 or 3 pieces. Put all the ingredients into a 4 litre jar, and cover with the white liquor. Store in a cool dark place for about 5 months. Drink straight.

Community pool

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I've found a place to swim and it's practically in my backyard. (If my backyard was as big as a 20 minute walk, anyway). The Bunkyo Sports Center near Myogadani station is where I'll be taking my exercise. They don't mind if I have a tattoo and it's pay as you go--450 yen/swim. I think there's a monthly pass as well.

Swimming is one of my favorite athletic endeavors. I learned when I was 11 or 12 and took to it like a fish to water. By the time I was 15, I was a lifeguard. My school didn't have a swim team, so I never became competitive. I just spent my summers swimming laps.

But that was twenty years ago and I haven't done too much swimming since. I have to get myself back into form. There's a lot to re-learn and my body has changed over the years.

I swam for a brief 20 minutes on Monday evening and wrenched my shoulder trying to breathe on the left instead of the right. But it feels OK today, so I'm going back this morning to try for a slower, longer workout. And I'll stick to breathing on the right today.

Where're my books?


missingbooks.jpgI loan out books to everyone. With a few exceptions, I don't expect to get them back.

But over the last couple of months, every time I've gone to look for a specific one to loan, it's already gone. Tod asked last night "Do you know what happened to His Dark Materials?" Someone is enjoying it, I imagine, but I have no idea who it might be.

So now I'd like to figure out who has what, so I can engineer trades to get the books into different hands. It's like solving word problems. "If Friend A in Meguro wants to read book X which is currently held by Friend B in Kanagawa, how long will it take to get book X to Friend A?"

Do you have any books I loaned you? Which ones? Leave me a comment or drop me a mail...

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