June 2005 Archives

Sweet-sour vegetable pickles


recipe thursdaySearching for more pickle recipes for my podcast, I found this in one of my Japanese cookbooks. It's quite simple.

Sweet-Sour Vegetable Pickles

1/4 cauliflower
1 cucumber
2 onions, small
4 radishes
1 cup water
1 cup white wine vinegar
3 Tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 laurel leaf
1 dried chili pepper

Trim the cauliflower into florets. Blanch. Peel the onions, blanch, then cut in half. Cut the cucumber in to 4 cm sticks. Trim the radishes.

Mix the remaining ingredients and pour over vegetables. Refrigerate for at least three hours. Keeps up to 1 week.

Audio engineering

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hanashi-station.jpgI think I have a tin ear, which makes me most unqualified to do what I've been doing all morning--putting together the first show for Hanashi Station.

MJ, who is a trained audio engineer, gave me a "good job honey" when she listened to the draft, so maybe it's not as awful as I think.

There sure is a lot of me talking in it. MJ again: "I imagine you in a purple rinse and cardigan when I hear it! Your voice is comforting." Great...

The show will air on Friday, so be sure to tune in. You can subscribe to the RSS feed through your favorite "podcasting" software, like iPodder or iTunes. That way you'll know exactly when the shows are released.

As a bonus for today, here's what happened when my phone rang while I was recording narration this morning. Wrng number...why did this Japanese-speaking caller require me to speak in Japanese to tell her she didn't intend to reach me? Did she think I was her friend but putting her on?

play video Wrong Number 480K MP3



Tall glass of water
Beads of liquid crystal form
How quickly ice melts

Book tag


It's meme month. First the musical baton and now here's a bookish list that's payback from my sister.

  1. Total number of books I own: I recently pared down quite a bit as they overflowed the space where I keep them. I now have about 200 books which still overflow but not into so many untidy piles.
  2. Last book I bought:
    The 85 Ways to Tie a Tie, a delightful little book about mathematics and necktie knots written by a pair of theoretical physicists. I'm still learning to knot the best of the 85.
  3. Last book I read:
    Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami

    (Currently I'm reading Stardust by Neil Gaiman. I read it last week, decided it was a good read-aloud book and now I'm reading it to Tod.)

  4. Five books that have been meaningful to me:

    • The Annotated Alice by Lewis Carroll with annotations by Martin Gardner. This was the first edition that I read when I was 8 or 9--talk about opening up the back door into literature at an early age. I can't read Alice in Wonderland without Gardner's notes popping into my head.

    • The Diamond Age by Neal Stephenson. Something about this book makes me read it over and over. The nanotechnology, the story, the strong female characters, the way the plot tangles and dissolves at the end. Haven't found a Stephenson novel I didn't like, but this one resonates.

    • Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert A. Heinlein. This is one of the few novels my parents did not allow me to read as a voracious teenaged consumer of books. So of course I read it as soon as I could but sometimes I wish I hadn't.

    • Cyclopedia by an unknown editorial board. It has a longer title, but the book is long gone, I'm afraid. It was written in 1902 as a one-volume collection of household tips, recipes, information on sewing, planting gardens, how to write thank you notes, the language of flowers, particulars of etiquette, parlor games and more.

    • Henley's Formulas edited by Gardner D. Hiscox. This book was my father's. It is reprint of a 1927 edition that contains 10,000 formulas for everything from adhesives to perfumes. If I ever want to create fireworks, sewing machine oil, cream soda, or my own photographic paper, I can.

  5. Five people I'm tagging:
    Tod (he has no weblog, so he can just tell me over dinner)
    The Zous (they liked the musical baton)
    ...and I think that's enough. But feel free to pick it up if you like.

India ink

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Manadala, vines and spirals in indelible ink.

I'm surprised at how well my left hand managed the manadala drawing on my right palm. I'm not ambidextrous, or at least I thought I wasn't.

When I completed my hands, I drew on the tops of my feet. Who needs polished nails when you have flowers, dots and lines on your toes?

It's a bit disconcerting to see the ink on my fingers; I keep thinking it will rub off. But it doesn't. At least not right away. I don't know why I haven't done big drawings on myself before. It's a lot of fun.

If I had more hands, I could be the Indian goddess Durga.


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wonderfulwords.gifMany thanks to lil for teaching me this one. It suits me nicely! There is even a website dedicated to the world's flâneurs: Flâneur and they accept submissions, in case you want to turn your strolling into something literary.

The original French means "to lounge, saunter idly." The Shorter OED defines flâneur unflatteringly:

noun: An idler.

and attributes it to R. Holmes: "Paris...celebrated the idea of the flâneur, the man who drifts around the streets, gang at everything."

But a better definition is found at Dictionary.com's Word of the Day: One who strolls about aimlessly; a lounger; a loafer.



creative perspectives"Home is a place not only of strong affections, but of entire unreserve; it is life’s undress rehearsal, its backroom, its dressing room, from which we go forth to more careful and guarded intercourse, leaving behind us much debris of cast-off and everyday clothing."

--Harriet Beecher Stowe

Oakland, NJ -- home from 1969-1975.

In Oakland, I ran around in the wooded lot behind the house where the neighbor boys had carved out bike trails. I walked to school and picked fallen apples from the trees in front of the house. I played for hours in the glassed-in front porch with our collection of Fisher-Price toys. This is the house where I lost my front tooth and cooked my first meal.

Valley of Lake, PA -- home from 1976-1984.

In the Valley I wandered the woods, carving my own trails. Mom drove me to school but I learned more by reading books in the library and playing with my toys--tools, science gear, and art supplies. This is the house where I had my first period and baked countless desserts.

The places that we live shape us. I am connected to nature because of the trees, stones, hills and gardens of my homes. I recall many details of each house--the distinctive smells of the rooms, the smooth surface of the porcelain fixtures, the color of sunlight filtering through the windows. All of these memories come through in the things I create now.

Home is not only where the heart is, but where the subconcious goes for ideas.

Where did you grow up and how does it shape your creativity?

Thai Watermelon Soup

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recipe thursdayAdapted from a recipe at Epicurious, this soup was the showpiece of this week's Candle Night solstice dinner. I will be making it again, only next time I'll try to find a Thai chili pepper to add to the mix with the lime juice.

Thai Watermelon Soup
serves 6

1 medium-sized watermelon
1 Tblsp olive oil
1 Tblsp garlic, minced
2 Tblsp ginger, minced
1 stalk lemongrass, minced
2 Tblsp green onion, minced
1 lime, juiced
1/2 tsp salt
300 gr crab meat
1/4 cup cilantro, finely chopped

Juice the watermelon. I used an oroshi grater to good effect but you could use a juicer or a food processor (take out the seeds first, though) Strain the pulp and seeds. You want to end up with about a litre of watermelon juice.

In a large pan, cook the garlic, ginger, lemon grass and onion in oil over low heat until soft and golden. Pour in a cup of the watermelon juice and allow to simmer for 5 minutes.

Pour the gingery watermelon mixture into a blender or use a handheld blender to puree the solids. Strain back into the pan.

Add the remaining watermelon juice, lime juice and salt. Chill for two hours.

Mix the crab and cilantro, seasoning with salt if desired.

Serve the soup by portining the crab into mounds in each bowl, then pouring the chilled soup around the crab.

Wax maintenance

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Twenty three candles lit the apartment last night. The soft glow was delightful--the perfect light for a quiet summer evening.

Electric lights are horrible in comparison. Too bright, too steady. I was loathe to open the refrigerator to bring out the chilled soup; the small bulb at the back was so garish. The oven light was so strong in comparison to the candles lighting the kitchen that the metal spatula cast reflections on the walls.

But this morning, I rediscovered at least one reason why our forebears moved away from using candles. Wax on the table. Wax on the railings of the verandah. Cascades of wax down the wall behind the toilet. The little candle lamp is waxed shut. I must clean up the leavings of our light.

Solstice candles

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Stilton, white sangria, and candles

Sachiko by candlelight on the verandah.

Candle Night



Tomorrow at 06:46 UTC (15:46 in Tokyo) is the summer solstice, marking another quarter turn of the Earth around the sun and longest daylight period of the year. I'm going to take part in a quiet event called Candle Night.

From 8 to 10 pm, I'll turn off the electric lights and enjoy a house lit by candles. Maybe I'll enjoy a glass of wine on the veranda, or a quiet chat with friends over a candlelit dinner I've cooked from scratch. Maybe we'll make some music. Whatever we do, I imagine a slow and mellow evening to match the lighting.

There are 330 Candle Night events in Japan, including live music around town and GeshiFest in Yoyogi Koen tomorrow evening. Tokyo Tower was unlit on Saturday as part of the project. Will you take part, too, to mark the quarter year?

Japanese books


This week I went to the bookstore and purchased five books. Three were in Japanese; two in English.

That might lead you to believe that I can read Japanese. I can't. The Japanese books were all non-fiction, well illustrated and easy to "decipher" without having to read too much.

Today I made watermelon gelatin from this recipe.

Because I already have sufficient experience in the kitchen, it's pretty easy to figure out the recipes in a each monthly issue of Kyou no Ryouri. I don't need to read the methods too carefully and I know many of the necessary kanji. Sometimes an esoteric ingredient or an usual procedure sends me into the office for a dictionary, but generally, I get along with Japanese cookbooks just fine.

A restaurant with a beautiful night view.

A step up in complexity, this dining guide is still pretty easy to figure out without much actual reading. I skip over the restaurant reviews and look at the pictures. And all books like this one have neat arrangements of the cogent facts - price range with a sample menu, address, phone number, map, hours and a chart of highlight points about the decor and atmosphere.

Showa 34 (1959) map of Jimbocho compared to today.

The last book is the most challenging. Though I can enjoy it with limited reading, when Tod & I sat together looking at it and he read and translated bits of it aloud, I wished I could read better than I do. The book compares pre-Olympic Tokyo to today, pointing out some of the things that are still around and some that are not. Alternating with the map spreads are photos and text describing the era and its fashion. Did you know that in Showa 36 (1961) the fads were seamless stockings and skiing? In Showa 32, everyone was going to charm school and the word "deluxe" entered the national vocabulary (in katakana, of course).

Peko and Zous


Waiting in Ueno for the Zou's playmates

This morning, we trundled the Zous off to Ueno to play with some friends. The 9 of them (3 people and 6 animals) were a bit late coming from the far side of town, so Tod took my picture while I stood there holding three stuffed friends. You can try to imagine the odd looks you get when you are standing outside a busy train station cuddling a giant elephant. Not a single person stopped, but there were a lot of sly smiles and little bows.

It might have helped that my hair's finally long enough to pull off my neck and out of my eyes. Sachiko says I look like Peko-chan, the cartoon spokesgirl for Fujiya's candy classic, Milky. Tracey agrees with great glee and laughter.

Zousama wrote all about today's adventure at zousan.com



creative perspectivesYou probably know about CafePress, the online shop where you can sell your own custom t-shirts, mugs & other stuff.

Do you know abotu Lulu? Lulu is an on-demand book publishing service. What a cool thing! You upload your content and with a few additional steps (choosing cover artwork, setting a price, and so on) you have a ready-to-sell book. It doesn't cost you anything.

Lulu does more than books. You can publish and sell your music, photography or art through Lulu as well.

This seems like a god-send for us independent creative types. Who's going to be the first Creative Perspectives reader to publish through Lulu? And what are you going to publish?

Bachelor's Special

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recipe thursdayThis was a dish...perhaps I should say concoction...introduced to us by our friend Doug way back when we were all struggling to make ends meet. The original recipe was simply a box of Kraft dinner, with added lima beans, sliced up deli ham and a good dollop of horseradish. When I saw fresh horseradish in the market last week, I reworked the recipe to a more luxurious version. It's as strange as ever, but it really does taste wonderful.

Bachelor's Special
serves 4-6

1 cup soy beans (or lima beans)
1/2 cup diced ham
2 Tbsp freshly grated horseradish
500 gr pasta tubes (macaroni, ziti, etc)
1 cup grated cheddar cheese
1 cup grated mozzerella
1 cup milk
1 Tbsp butter
1 Tbsp flour
salt & pepper to taste

Blanch the soybeans in salted water. Dice the ham. Grate the horseradish.

Boil the pasta until it is al dente.

While the pasta is cooking, prepare a simple white sauce. Melt the butter in a pan and add the flour to form a roux. Slowly pour in the milk (to prevent lumps, it should be heated but I never do that, I just whisk like crazy to break up the lumps). Set aside.

To the drained pasta, add the white sauce, 1 1/2 cups of cheese, ham, beans and horseradish. Season with pepper and salt.

Spoon the mixture into a casserole and top with the remaining cheese. Bake for 20 minutes or until the cheese is browned. (No oven? You can skip the baking, just mix all the cheese into the pasta and allow the dish to sit for a few minutes to melt the cheese, heat the ham and mellow the horseradish.)



wonderfulwords.gifHere's an old Scottish word (late 18th - early 19th century) from the OED that I think at least a few of my friends and colleagues had better add into their vocabularies this week.

verb: 1. Work hard, exert oneself, bustle about; 2. fatigue or tire (oneself) with hard work
noun: 1. Constant work and bustling; a state of worry or excitement.

Chicken on the Grill


Tod and dinner. June 2004.

*cue fashion show announcer*
"Tod is wearing a button-front cotton camp shirt, no tie, and a pair of demin shorts as he tests this herbed chicken for doneness. Looks like there's still a ways to go, Tod!"

Marshmallow roasting

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Jenn at the grill, circa 1974

My sister, Jenn, never wore ties while grilling. She seems to be entirely delighted by her marshmallow roasting.

I loved to toast marshmallows (and then turn them into s'mores) until some idiot adult at a community barbecue set his alight and blew it out all over me. Flaming marshmallow makes nasty burns. I screamed and I still haven't forgiven him for not apologising.

Dad wore ties


Dad in the backyard, Ephrata, circa 1988

This was certainly not the only time he barbecued in a tie and dress slacks. Even in casual settings, Dad often wore a tie.

Some were gifts from family and friends, but most he purchased himself.

He would go shopping for work clothes every two years. He went alone and returned with a wardrobe to last until the next shopping excursion.

When I was in high school, and Jenn & I were wont to model every new outfit we acquired, he came home from shopping, ran upstairs with bags full of booty, spread his purchases out on the bed in neat arrangements of outfits, then invited Mom, Jenn & I upstairs for a special showing.

Among the shirts, suits and socks were three new ties.

Musical baton


UltraBob is forcing me to play this game with him; he says I'll die a horrible death if I don't. But MJ says UltraBob is a dead man anyway for passing the Baton to her, too. So either a die a horrible death now or wait til one of the people I pass along to kills me...hmmm.

You answer the questions, then pass them along to five people. It's a chain letter for weblogs. I've always hated chain letters, but at least this one gives me something to do for content on a work-filled Saturday.

Total volume of music files on my computer:

4.67 GB and much of it is royalty free stuff I use in film projects. The bulk of our music collection is stored on Tod's server.

Song playing right now:

Well, nothing is playing at the moment. The last song played (at 17:24 last night according to iTunes) was "Chittlin Ball" by King Porter Orchestra

The last CD I bought:

I buy them in batches. The last batch was contemporary female jazz vocalists: Holly Cole, Jane Monheit, & Stacey Kent.

Five songs I listen to a lot, or that mean a lot to me:

I listen to these because I am trying to learn them. So not only am I listening, I'm singing along, too. Must make the neighbors crazy.

Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea
Nice Girls Don't Stay for Breakfast
Embraceable You
Too Darn Hot
The Coffee Song

Five people to whom I’m passing the baton:

Collectively, the Zous (that's 4) and my sister, Jennifer.

Value of Fun

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creative perspectivesI am well motivated by pleasure and fun. Money is useful but I'd rather be underpaid to work with people I like than to be overpaid to work on a project with a bad team.

Two days ago, I jumped into the end stages of a web development project. My role is minor (porting content from the old site to the new) and fair drugery, but I'm enjoying it tremendously.

It's all because of the guys I'm working with. Jeremy Bogan and Daniel Bogan, at Segment Publishing in Sydney are fun, smart, and smell like elderberries. I may never meet them in person but we get along famously through intstant messaging. We've joked and teased, while excavating a mountain of tasks quickly and efficiently.

My very favorite jobs have been with good teams. The Multimedia Development Center crew at Duquesne in 1997 was a dream--everyone was intelligent, capable, willing to share knowledge and able to be silly while working hard. It was a highly creative environment. We've all gone our separate ways, but we keep in touch and I think all of us would choose to work together again if we could.

The MediaSense team here in Tokyo is another group of hard-working, hysterically funny people; I always free up my calendar when they call me for a last-minute job. We make videos for a corporate client and even though it's always "the same thing as last time, but different" we manage to be creative within those limitations.

So for me, even toil becomes creative play when I like my collaborators.


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For the first time in a long while, my heart leaped and I exclaimed as I felt the jolt of an earthquake. This morning's tremor was abrupt and sent the G5 rocking back and forth on the rack.

It was only a magnitude 4.6, only a 2 on teh Japanese scale, and centered in nearby Chiba. I'm not sure why this one shocked me more than other recent ones, but I'm glad to know that I've generally gotten used to earthquakes.


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On the train platform. Photo by Tod.

Faithful thoughts


Prayer sticks, Aoyama Cemetery Photo by Tod.

1-2-3 Tiered Skirt


I shrunk some yardage and fell about 50 cm short for the dress I wanted to make, so I turned the fabric into a skirt. This is an easy design that will adjust to many sizes. The measurements are for my skirt--I'm about 5'7" and I wear a US size 10/12.

The skirt is three tiers, with the top tier falling just above the knees with 15-20 cm ease to make for comfortable walking without bulk around the waist. The lower tiers are about half the length of the one above. Each tier is 1.5 times as wide as the previous one. This gives enough fullness for suitable flair while dancing, but without using too much fabric.


The Cutting
From a 220 cm length of 95 cm wide fabric, cut the following pieces (measurements are approximate):

  • 2 - 63 cm W x 50 cm H

  • 2 - 95 cm W x 28 cm H

  • 3 - 95 cm W x 1/3 the remaining material (about 15 cm)

I used a ruler to measure and then folded the fabric and cut carefully on the fold. I'm a really lazy cutter!

The Sewing

  1. Sew the tiers into tubes on the short sides

  2. Hem the bottom one with a narrow hem.

  3. Sew a casing for elastic in the widest one.

  4. On the top edge of the middle and lower tiers, baste with contrasting thread, breaking the stitching at each side seam

  5. Mark the center, center back, and sides of each section with pins

  6. Pull the gathering basting on the middle tier up to meet the pins on the top tier

  7. Pin into place. I use 8-16 pins per tier to keep things from moving too much in the next step.

  8. Sew tier to top, keeping gathered side up. This helps prevent the edge of the gathers from folding over into the seam as you sew.

  9. Turn the seam allowance up. Press, if you desire.

  10. Topstitch seam allowance to previous tier.

  11. Repeat gathering and stitching for the lower tier.

  12. Fit elastic; thread through casing.

  13. Sew elastic together and close casing.

  14. Enjoy your skirt.

Color theories

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creative perspectivesA couple of weeks ago, Tracey was asking me why some colors look better on people that other colors. "Maybe you can explain it on Creative Perspectives," she suggested. Well, that's a tall order--books have been written about color theory & professionals charge an arm and a leg to give you a personal color session.

But it's possible to explain the basics in short order. In fact, I had fun yesterday playing with a personal color palette.

My personal color palette

First I took a close-up photo of myself in daylight. I brought into Photoshop and sampled the color my skin, eyes, hair and the red of my lips (which should be about the same color as when I blush).

From there I played with a nifty color tool Color Coordinator which allowed me to enter a color value (which I noted from my photoshop sampling) and view monochrome values (the first two columns above), alternate complements (120º & -120º), complementary (180º), and one of the tetradic colors (90º) on the color wheel. I adjusted brightness in horizontal bands and saturation in vertical bands to give a wider range of examples for each color.

And it turns out that some of these colors are already in my wardrobe. I noted the general colors of my current wardrobe in dots along the side. I'm not doing too badly, though I suppose I need more blue in my life.

New Potato and Avocado Salad


recipe thursdayLooking for an interesting potato salad to serve at your next barbecue? This fusion of Japanese and western flavors will knock their socks off; the secret is the wasabi mayonnaise. I've adapted this recipe from the May issue of NHK's Kyou no Ryouri.

New Potato and Avocado Salad
serves 4

400 gr new potatoes (aka baby potatoes)
1 cucumber
1 avocado
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/4 tsp wasabi (freshly grated or paste)
1/4 tsp soy sauce
salt & pepper to taste

Boil the potatoes (scrubbed but with skin on) in salted water until just soft. Cool and cut into quarters. Cut the cucumber in half lengthwise (if it's a thick American cucumber) and thinly slice. In a separate bowl, mix the mayonnaise, wasabi and soy sauce. Mix mayonnaise, potato and cucumber. Salt and pepper to taste. Halve the avocado, remove the pit and use a small spoon to scoop pieces into the salad. Mix gently and serve.

Too big


Forget moderation. Portion control? Out the window. And now that 107 million American adults are overwieght or obese, furniture manuafacturers are touting new, wider seats for restaurants.

UPI published an article on May 23rd: Eatery furniture confirms obesity trend

Furniture makers are selling bigger chairs and tables to U.S. restaurants, an apparent accommodation to growing customers.

The National Restaurant Association's four-day conference in Chicago featured numerous displays of supersized furniture for supersized diners, the Dallas Morning News reported Monday.

Chili's has begun testing more spacious eating spaces and was looking at installing tables up to 12 inches larger at future Chili's outlets.

And at the other end of the process, there are also extra large toilet seats, Great John, winner of the Best New Bath Product 2004 at the Chicago Bath Show

The size of the average person has increased dramatically over the last century. Most toilets made today are manufactured from designs dating back to the early 1900´s. In the past, the pleadings of big and tall people went unanswered. For this reason GJTC engineers, medical doctors and artists took to the task of creating a NEW GENERATION of products satisfying the needs of today’s customers. Our goal was to create the most comfortable and safe toilet for Large-Size people in the market. The other challenge was to make a toilet that could also be used by any size person. The final result was the creation of a "SIZE FRIENDLY TOILET"

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