March 2005 Archives

Dad's racing days


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Dad loved to drive and to race cars. His father was a stock car driver from the time Dad was little and he went to the races with his mother to watch. (I only enjoy driving when I can go fast, so I think racing must be in the Hill blood.)

Despite what the article (circa 1954) says, Dad and his dad went on to race the figure eight track, much to the horror of my grandmother who watched from the stands. Once, when she'd brought all her friends along, Dad crashed and she turned around to find that everyone had wandered off to concession area.

Dad's racing skills held him in good stead when he had a spectacular end-over-end crash of his RX-7 in 1982. The car ended up impaled upside-down on a boulder and utterly totaled, but he walked away with hardly a scratch. He told me his trick: brace one hand on the car's ceiling and one hand on the dash to limit your movement; you might break your arms, but your noggin is usually safe.

Animal cakes


Chicken cupcake. Cute but the mound of icing forming the head makes them too sweet. From a recipe in Martha Stewart Living magazine.

Hedgehog cake. The quills are made of chocolate-dipped pretzels. He looked even better with long thin birthday candles stuck in all over him.

Birthday Brilliance

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This birthday card from my sister to her daughter had us in hysterics at last night's party. Click for larger version.

David Byers' Horseradish Fish

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recipe thursdayThis recipe was related to me by David Byers, an old family friend. When I was a little girl, he drove me home in his convertible Ferrari (it was the shortest ride home I've ever had) and a gave me an amythest crystal from his rock collection. How could I not idolise this man? As an adult, I've discovered he has great taste in wine and food.

David Byers' Horseradish Fish
serves 4

4 oz butter (1 stick)
1/3 cup soy sauce
1 Tblsp dill (or more as desired)
1 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp garlic powder
3 oz Gold's Hot Horseradish (1/2 jar)

4 swordfish fillets

Melt the butter and mix other sauce ingredients. Simmer over medium flame until the sauce starts to reduce. Remove from heat. Marinate the swordfish for 30-45 minutes, then pan fry.




Do people really resemble their pets? This is my only remaining cat, Clothilde. Observe her fur askew, bleary eyes and long ear hairs as she stands on crooked feet with teeth bared.

Yep, that could be me.

Philip R. Hill


Philip Hill, resident of Ephrata, passed away on Monday, March 21, 2005, at age 67. Beloved husband of Frances (Burroughs); loving father to Kristen McQuillin of Tokyo, Japan, and Jennifer Hill-Kaucher of Edwardsville; grandfather of Helen; and brother of Richard Hill of Indianapolis.

Phil created glass art that hangs at the Ephrata Public Library, Anam Cara in Ireland, and private homes around the country. His art won the WITF Gallery Judge’s Citation Award in 2003. A gallery of Philip’s work is online at He volunteered with EPAC as a prop builder and appeared on stage in numerous productions throughout his lifetime.

Born to Helen and Elvis Hill in 1937 in Detroit, Michigan, Phil raced stock cars before he had a driver’s license and joined the Navy at an early age. He served as a nuclear engineer aboard the USS Enterprise (CVN-65). After leaving the Navy, he worked as an engineer and later in research and development in the textile and adhesives industries where several of his processes were patented. He enjoyed an early retirement from ParaChem, Inc.

Water played an important role in his life, as he wrote on his website, “At an early stage in my life I became fascinated with water. We lived by Lake St. Claire outside of Detroit, Michigan, and I loved to go look at the lake and boats. When visiting relatives in Chicago, Illinois, going to Lake Michigan, the Chicago Yacht Club and the Chicago Fountain was a must!” Much of his glass art incorporated the colors and textures of watery surfaces and he drew inspiration from ancient legend and literature.

Private interment. Friends received at Eicher Arts Center from 5 – 8 pm on April 1st. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Heifer International, 1202 Main Street, P.O. Box 727, Little Rock, AR 72203. (888) 422-1161

Hanami, April 2

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Download this flyer to distribute (1.9 MB PDF)

Please join the Foreign Section Trust for a relaxing day of eating and drinking under the cherry blossoms at Aoyama Cemetery. FST members will be on hand to discuss the city's plans for the area and how you can get involved.

Free to all! Bring your favorite food and drink. Meet under the cherry tree at the south end of Aoyama Cemetery's foreign section. Map

FST Hanami Party
Saturday, April 2
11 am - 7 pm
Aoyama Cemetery Foreign Section
(rain dates April 3 & 9)

Old style

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dripBottle.jpgOne of the drips Dad receives is a milky liquid full of lipids for his nutrition. Unlike the other IVs that come in plastic bags, this one is in an old-fashioned glass bottle with a metal fitting at the bottom. It could be out of any hospital circa 1930.

The anachronism ends at the bottle, though. Plastic tubing leads into a high-tech machine that regulates the amount of liquid flowing, calculates time until the bag or bottle is empty, and rings bells to alert the nursing staff when it's time to change.

I figured out how to operate it, though I absolutely will not touch it. Like all gear it looks mysterious at first, but quickly yields its secrets if you watch a skilled operator at the controls.



Dad was lucid and talking for a while today. I leaned in close, reading his lips and listening to him repeat phrases over and over until either I said them back correctly or he got tired and gave up. Almost everything comes out as vowels and glottal stops.

"Ai ee ai ah pohkupine"
"Porcupine? Huh?"
"Ai fee aik ah pokupine"
"Ah, you feel like a porcupine. Well, you kinda look like one, too, Dad."

It's not easy to talk with an oxygen mask, a cough, and deep fatigue. Good thing Dad's got a strong and persistent sense of humor.



Today I tagged along with Mom's friend, Bob, to the local rec center for a swim. I thoroughly enjoyed being in the water and getting some exercise, though the swim was unremarkable, as was the pool. What was most interesting was conversing with the other swimmers.

One man, Larry, is training for a mini-triathalon. He owns a gymnasitcs studio in the area. We talked technique and breathing for ten minutes between rounds of swimming.

Americans are chatty. A shop clerk in Pittsburgh gave me the rundown on her upcoming birthday, her three children, ex-husband and new dreamy boyfriend.

And alarmingly, I can add to these conversations with tidbits of my own. That store clerk now knows that my birthday is also coming up, that my dear husband brings me a hot water bottle on cold nights and that I would like diamonds for my 40th birthday.

Wonder who I'll meet next time and in what circumstances? What will we talk about and why will we bother?

Little joys


Ah, the joys of the Internet. This morning I turned on the laptop and as soon as it located the wireless network here, I video chatted with friends back home--an oasis of pleasant moments before heading to the hospital.

It was hard to see Dad hooked up to the monitors and tubes. He's not in control of himself or the situation and that's not Dad. He's in pain. He's restless and disoriented. But this afternoon he picked up his arms and danced along to Buena Vista Social Club.

Ah, the joys of music.

In transit


Waiting. Where am I?

The Pittsburgh International Airport is one giant wireless hotspot. This makes my four hour layover almost bearable. I should reach my destination in another 3 or 4 hours.

I can't really tell you how the trip is going--after 23 hours in transit, all memories of the travel have been wiped from my mind. I am living in the moment, delighted to have eaten soup and salad, then brushed my teeth. Simple pleasures.

Home Hairdressing

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MJ applies the streaky bits

It's a 20 year tradition that my mother does not recognise me when she meets me at the station or airport. I travel incognito with a new hairstyle or color every time.

Thanks to MJ's expert help, today I am a redhead with dramatic blonde highlights. Next visit home perhaps I will dye my hair jet black.



Is it appropriate to apologize to an unknown, unseen, and (frankly) only assumed, audience for my recent lack of daily posts? I'm not sure. And yet I feel I ought to.

So I'm sorry. I just haven't felt like writing much. Recipe Thursdays and Creative Perspectives have taken a hit. When's the last time I posted more than three days running? It feels like weeks. After my existential meltdown, I had not much to say. 130 hours of video editing in less that two weeks, topped by my father's sudden illness, kept me distracted from the observations of daily life.

But I leave for the States tomorrow and I am sure that I will have plenty of culture shock to write about. Stay tuned. I'll try to post recipes, too. American food...

The C-word


There was a comedy sketch decades ago, in which the comedian talked about her brash relatives and how they conversed in shouts across the dinner table, constantly battling for attention. But there was one word that they never spoke in more than a raspy whisper:


I'm not sure why that has stuck with me for so many years. I don't even remember the comedian. But it's on an endless loop in my head right now.

My father was diagnosed with aggressive small-cell cancer yesterday. He has a tumor the size of a mikan between his lungs and esophagus. It is inoperable and he started chemo today with radiation to follow.

I'm on my way to visit as soon as I can get a flight.

Tokyo Calling


Podcaster Scott Lockman features "Hello Tokyo" in his latest episode of Tokyo Calling:

Episode 14

This 19 minute podcast features a couple of news stories with a short discussion of some of the various websites for news from Japan in English, an excerpt from The Mediatinker's Hello Tokyo DVD, and a couple of emails from the listener letter bag.

Scott suggests I start a podcast--maybe a cooking show! What do you think. Shuld Mediatinker do online radio?

No bad news



After hanging up this sign on Sunday cautioning the neighbors to be careful, the lobby staff called me to complain that they were mazuii (yukky) and I was giving people bad feelings. They took the sign down; apparently it's not acceptable to let the neighbors know about the robberies.

That makes no sense to me; if my neighbor had been burgled I would want to know so I could take extra care to lock my doors and watch for strangers. I wonder what else has happened in the building that the management has swept under the rug.

Fool me twice


I no longer believe I dropped my wallet on Wednesday. I think there was a thief in my building.

Why? I am embarrassed to admit this but once again my wallet has been emptied of its cash. It happened between 2:00 am and 6:50 am today. This time the robber left my wallet on the table in the genkan, but I don't sit my wallet on my hat so I noticed right away.

Now what? Aside from being more diligent about locking the door and keeping my wallet far away from the genkan, I will go to the police and report the thefts, alert the building security, and post a notice to warn the neighbors.

So much for my complacent feelings of security.

Parabolic antenna



Our wireless network is great, but doesn't stretch quite all the way through our apartment. It peters out halfway down the hall to the bedroom.

But not anymore. Tod built this nifty parabolic antenna from a thin sheet of metal and some foamcore. It's not the most stylish thing in the house, but it works.

What was my first Google search from bed? Of course... (NSFW)


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creative perspectivesThis week, we're going old-school with our creativity. I'm sure you remember (perhaps with some dread) the compare-contrast papers from your 9th grade composition class. With practice, you should have gone from basic observations to more finely noted details and finally on to the larger ideas that linked your compared objects. But other school distractions--geography homework, soccer practice, the cute boy in trigonometry--likely prevented this from happening.

So let's brush up our comparative skills. Take two things that fit together in a category--fictional characters, bottles of wine, politicians, songs--and prepare to write.

If you're not sure how to start, try simply listing similarities and differences. Get the obvious points out of the way, then let yourself have fun with some of the larger cognitive leaps.

Once you have a list, think about what's important in it and what is interesting. Can you combine ideas from the list into one "treatment" of the subject?

For example, apples and oranges are both fruits, but they grow in different climates, mature in different seasons, and are combined with different ingredients in the kitchen. You could take those points to write about how geography influences what we eat.



Well, hmph. Someone snatched 46,000 yen from my wallet.

Either I dropped my wallet as I was coming into the building yesterday evening (I keep my key in my wallet, so I know I had it when I reached the lobby's security panel) or someone in the building opened the door to my apartment and grabbed it from the hall table.

Our maintenance man found it this morning on the street outside the building. When I reclaimed it, it no longer contained the money I had recently withdrawn from the bank. Fortunately my identification, bank card, train cards, and other non-cash items were not stolen.

(For those of you in credit-friendly countries, it may be a shock to calculate I had about $450 in my wallet, but it's not so uncommon here. Banks are not open 24 hours and everyone uses cash. Japanese bank machines dispense 10,000 yen notes like American ones spit out 20s.)

The amount taken is substantial but it won't prevent my bills from being paid. Perhaps the person who took my money needed it more. I hope the thief uses it wisely.

Expatriate vs Immigrant


Researching the foreign graves at Aoyama Cemetery, I notice that I refer to the people buried there as "expatriates" but not as "Japan immigrants." Yet many of them lived here for decades before expiring; some had honors heaped upon them by the Japanese government; some married into Japanese families. They were settled permanently; they were iimmigrants.

The dictionary defines immigrant as "a person who leaves one country to settle permanently in another." It's too clinical a definition; I feel that there is something more to immigration.

Take me as a case in point. I'm an American expatriate and although I have no intention of returning to the US or of leaving Japan, I don't consider myself a Japanese immigrant. I don't know that I'll ever be a Japanese immigrant, no matter how long I'm here.

I have a friend in Pennsylvania who is British but has lived in the US for about 25 years. She is permanently settled, married to an American, owns property, has a green card but is not naturalised into US citizenship. I don't think of her as an American immigrant; she's a British expatriate.

What is it that turns an expatriate into an immigrant? Perhaps it is letting loose the final tie to your homeland. Making an irrevokable and official renunciation of the old stomping ground. Adopting the culture, language and lifestyle of your adopted nation. Or perhaps all it takes is an authorised acceptance or permanent recognition from the government.

Truly, I do not know. What do you think?


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I'm awaiting a delivery by "bike-bin" --known outside Japan as motorcycle courier messenger service.

After the messenger arrives with a hard drive named w00t I've gotten rather friendly with this past year, I'll have a frantic two and a half days to edit together three videos. I should be trying to relax in these last moments before I get started, but somehow I just can't seem to stop thinking about what I need to do.

Ah, there's the doorbell. The fun begins...

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