December 2005 Archives

25 words to ring out the year


Another year summed up in 25 words, exactly.

This year, a lesson in
How to bear pain and loss.
Travel doesn't cure heartache;
Friends ease the agony.
Healing and peace flow like water.

Past years: 2004, 2003, 2002, 2001. Feel free to share your 25 words in the comments.

Three Views of Uluru

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Uluru, afternoon. December 28, 2005.


Uluru, sunset. December 29, 2005.


Uluru, sunrise. December 30, 2005.

Indonesian Braised Pork

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recipe thursday This is not for the faint of heart! We prefer to use homegrown dried chiles in place of the innocuous "crushed red peppers" which is probably what makes it so very hot.

Indonesian Braised Pork
serves 8

4 lb pork, cut into bite size pieces
1 onion, chopped
2 T crushed red peppers
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 T lime juice
2/3 c soy sauce
3 T brown sugar

Fry pork, onion, peppers and garlic over high heat until browned (about 20 minutes). Add lime juice, soy sauce and brown sugar. Reduce heat and simmer 20 minutes. Transfer to a covered dish and put in warm oven for 30 minutes or until your side dish of choice is done. We usually have rice or lentils with this and sometimes make chapatis, too.

Writing Show Interview

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Earlier this month, Paula Berinstein interviewed Hugh, Kara, Chris & me about LibriVox for her podcast, The Writing Show. We spent an hour on a Skype conference call talking about books, the challenges of reading and recording, how knitters, ggeks and 30-somethings seem to be interestedin LibriVox (often all in the same person!). And we each read a short selection. We laughed a good deal as we answered questions and overcame minor technical challenges, like Hugh dropping offline and a hard drive filling up.

The show's due out today (the 26th in the US) so you should be able to go there now and have a listen.


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Vibrant seaweed

Seaweed sketch

One of the best things I am doing on this holiday is sketching. Not that the results are spectacular, but I've drawn and painted up a storm and will continue to do so until I run out of paper. It makes me stop and look and really pay attention to what makes the landscape and the details different from home.

Delectable Cookie Torte


recipe thursday This is a layered torte -- 14 cinnamon-scented cookies layered with chocolate whipped cream. It's another clasic from the Telerama days--I first made it for Doug's birthday in 1992. It was a great success became the "fancy dessert" of choice anytime Doug was involved in a celebration. It takes a bit of effort and a good deal of time, but it is worth it!

Delectable Cookie Torte

2 c sugar
1.5 c butter, softened
2 eggs
2 T cinnamon
2.5 c flour
3 sq. semisweet choclate
4 c whipping cream
3/4 c cocoa

Cookies: Tear off 14 sheets of waxed paper. Onto one, trace the bottom of a 9" cake pan. Stack the sheets up, and cut out along the traced circle.

In a large bowl, mix sugar, butter, eggs, cinnamon and 2 cups of flour with a mixer on low speed until blended. Increase speed to medium and beat three minutes or until very light and fluffy. With a spoon, stir in the remaining flour to make a soft dough.

Moisten 1 or 2 large cookies sheets with a damp towel so that the waxed paper will stick to them. Place one or 2 circles on the sheets and spread with about 1/3 cup of dough. Bake at 375 for 8 - 12 minutes or until lightly brown around the edges.

Allow to cool on tray for 5 minutes, then remove from tray with the waxed paper still on the cookies. Repeat process until all dough is used. At this point you can store the cookies until needed by stacking them and covering with plastic wrap.

Filling: Beat cream and cocoa until soft peaks form.

Construction: Carefully peel off the waxed paper from one cookie. On your nicest cake plate, place the cookie and spread with about 1/2 cup of whipped cream. Repeat with all the cookies, ending with cream on top. Grate the semisweet chocolate squares and pile on top of torte.

Next is the most frustrating part: chill the torte for three hours. This helps to soften the cookies and makes them easier to serve.

Variation: Substitute 1/2 of the white sugar with brown and add 1/2 bag of mini chocolate chips to the dough, omitting the cinnamon. Fill with plain (or chocolate) whipped cream and top with remaining chocolate chips. The dough does not spread as easily and you will have fewer cookies (10 or 11 instead of 14).

Dad's in the ocean


Waterloo Bay, Elliston

Today I consigned some of my father's ashes to the Indian Ocean in the Great Bight of Australia. He wished to be buried at sea. I hope he doesn't mind that we settled on cremation and scattering a bit of him in the world's waters.

I didn't know until we were planning this trip that Dad had been in Australia as a sailor in the US Navy. Mom sent me this excerpt from a letter he wrote on 6 September 1964 (his 27th birthday) when his ship, the USS Enterprise, was visiting Australia:

Friday evening I went over and looked around Sydney. It is quite a place and has a certain air about it. You would really like it. It's a very young city. The 'old' buildings are less than ten years old and almost everything else is new. It's awfully clean for a large city - 2 1/2 million population - and it has the only decent waterfront I've ever seen. It is a combination of America, England and Europe, all in one spot. There are big supermarkets and small groceries - like in France. There is some night life but not too much. The people are friendly to an extreme. Total strangers can't seem to do enough for someone they've just met and it's not 'put on' either. They really mean it. The Australians take life easy during leisure time and are hard workers all the other time. It's really nice.

I'm happy to know I've brought him back to a place he liked.

Elliston Matsuri

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Jo cooks while MJ, Tod & Tracey chat with some Ellistonians

Our first-ever Elliston Matsuri was a success. Attended by a double handful of local adults and children, we cooked up a feast of okonomiyaki and yakitori, and had enough superballs to keep the entire town bouncing. It was a fun evening for everyone, I think.

Afterwards we spun out the folks at the pub by turning up in yukata and jimbei for a post-matsuri glass of wine. We met a woman and her well-trained dog, Pluto, a farmer and shearer who's lived in Elliston for more than 30 years and another rather blur gentleman who kindly invited us to come to the pub at 9 am on Christmas day for drinks.

On the Jetty

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Waterloo Bay from the jetty in Elliston, South Australia.

LibriVox in Wired

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A while back, I and some of the other LibriVoxers (LibriVoxians, LibriVoxites?) were interviewed for a piece in Wired News. It was a great interview via iChat with Cyrus Farivar in the states, but check out the part where I'm mentioned and quoted:

For some volunteers, LibriVox is a way to combine their love of literature with their passion for the spoken word.

Kristen McQuillen, 39, has recorded 21 different chapters across nine different books from her home in Tokyo. For her, reading a book aloud to someone can make the work more understandable.

"I'm giving people who wouldn't have exposure to some of these classics in a way that's not so intimidating," she said.

Hmmmm. Misspelled name and a quote that makes no sense. I'm pretty sure I said another word in between 'classics' and 'in' -- perhaps 'exposure' or 'access.' Ah, well. The article gave LibriVox good exposure.

The Web Will Read You a Story

To Oz


Click for larger view

We're in Australia for a couple of weeks. We will spend Christmas in Elliston, then tour the Red Center and spend the first week of 2006 in Brisbane. So If I post infrequently or don't get the comments moderated right away, it's because I'm having too much fun chasing gallahs and eating meat pies.

I'll bring back stories and photos!

Mapping (III)

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creative perspectivesI'm going to close out Creative Perspectives for 2005 with another example of mapping. This time, I've mapped each month's key event--whether it was very good or very bad. There are five bad months and seven good ones. It's a very personal event calendar.

2005 - good and bad. Click for larger view

I tried to abstract the most important thing that happened in each month. Some worked beautifully and turned into lovely little geometric designs or flowing shapes.

On the other hand, a few of these are more concrete than I'd like. July was my trip to Beijing. See? There's Tian An Men, hidden by the red chaos of China. For December, I drew a gallah feather, a gum tree leaf, and one dot for each of the places we'll be visiting in Australia. I should rework both of these without the obvious symbols.

And some are just poorly done. In particular, May was our Golden Week camping trip to Niijima, but I choked for ideas and ended up with little symbols about nature. They aren't even interesting. Definitely need to think harder on that one.

As it turns out, the bad months were much more successful as abstractions than the good months. The good months were mostly about travel and places; the bad months were people problems. I find it easier to abstract emotions than places, I guess.

If you were going to draw out a map of your year, how would you do it?

I wish you very happy holidays and a fresh and insightful new year!

Doug's Mom's Barbecue Sauce


recipe thursday This is a delicious, simple barbecue sauce and another of Doug's mom's recipes. It's savory and not too hot. I think it is perfect as is, but Doug and Tod used to sneak in a little extra tobasco and chili powder. Either way, it's the best!

Doug's Mom's Barbecue Sauce
makes about 2 cups

1 c catsup
1/3 c worchestershire sauce
1 t chili powder
1 t salt
2 dashes tobasco sauce
1.5 c water

Combine ingredients, bring to boil and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from heat, cool.

Tree berries


Delicate winter fruit on Mt. Futago

Desk with Flowers


A surprise from a friend this morning.

Mt. Futago, Kanagawa



Taking advantage of the beautiful clear day, Tod & I hiked up to the top of Mt. Futago to scatter some of his Uncle Bernie's ashes. We visited it once before* about five and a half years ago to scatter his Aunt Sally. I feel good knowing that now they are together enjoying the view of Yokohama and Tokyo.

Mother Nature has been at work since our last visit, making it difficult to follow the course outlined in Gary D'A . Walters' Day Walks Near Tokyo. A typhoon blew through last year, downing massive trees all along the trail. We navigated over and under them to make our way through but some side trails seem to have vanished and signage is missing. The remaining signs have been helpfully annotated in marker by other hikers, though, so it's not as bad as it might have been.

At the advice of a local man we met near the trailhead, we did not take the route from the top of the mountain to Taura, as the book suggests, because the man said it was badly degraded from the storm. We walked through to Higashi-Zushi instead, which turned out to be shorter and easier than I remember the other way being. At least this time, we didn't get lost.

*I made a video that day--May 4, 2000--including the part where we got lost. You can view it here: 31 (98 MB Quicktime) duration 6'03"

Mapping (II)


creative perspectivesA lot of my maps are abstractions of my emotions. What is the state of my heart? My mental state? How am I being influenced by things I think or see or hear or do? It's cathartic and sometimes I don't even know I'm doing it. Idle doodles become outpourings.

Because I am afraid most people aren't going to understand these very personal maps, I don't often display them. But I reluctantly showed my sketchbook to a friend earlier this year with surprising results. He is extremely perceptive and gave me spot-on interpretations, revealing things to me that I hadn't considered. I think he knows me better than myself, in some ways.

Here is an example I will share that is very map-like. I even let my super-ego label it for the benefit of viewers. It summarises and lays bare a lot of emotions and things I've been feeling this year. There's a great deal unsaid, too.

2005 Heart Map click to enlarge

Feel free to interpret in the comments. Just don't suggest therapy or a regimen of drugs, please.

As a creative exercise, can you map out your year in some way?

Doug's Mom's Chili


recipe thursday We collected quite a few recipes from Doug's mom back in the early 90s. Her chili is one of my favorites and it can be spiced to your preferred degree of pepperiness. I rediscovered this recipe when I was looking for Jean Englehardt's meatloaf recipe. A few other favorites surfaced, and you'll see them in upcoming Recipe Thursdays.

Doug's Mom's Chili
serves 4-6

1/4 c oil
1 onion, chopped
5 garlic cloves, chopped
1.5 lb ground meat
1/4 c flour
4 T chili powder (or more to taste)
1/2 T onion powder
1/2 t garlic powder
1 t salt
1/4 t black pepper
2 cans red kidney beans (16 oz size)
2 cans tomatoes, whole (16 oz size)

In a large pot, saute onion in oil until golden. Add garlic. Crumble meat into mixture and brown. Remove pot from heat and add flour and spices. Stir thoroughly. Pour in beans and bean liquid, then add tomatoes (crush them with your hands to break into chunks) & liquid. Stir. Return to heat and simmer 30 minutes or more. Add water if the chili thickens too much. Serve over rice.


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What happens when seven people get together to read a section of Ulysses in a bar in Tokyo?

Hilarity ensues. We changed tables twice trying to find a quiet place away from the irritating 80s pop background music but failed. We ordered lots of beer, we rattled the microphone, we (ok, I) tripped over words while reading. But it was such fun that we'll likely do it again.

Here's what we recorded, warts, Bangles, and all:

play mp3Ulysses "section 4" 43'25" MP3 (40 MB) Read by David, Kasuemin, Susan, Robin, Tod, me, & Jeremy.

Syd, our official photographer, noticed a poster on the wall at our table--Learn English in Ireland--with a collage of images including a picture of Joyce and the cover of Ulysses. Providence.

If you want to learn more about why we were doing this or if you want to play, too, visit LibriVox and specifically the Ulysses thread in the forums.

Whiskey Health

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In this month's issue of Health magazine, there are articles on stretches for different body types, a guide to aromatherapy, how to keep your hands and feet warm during winter, and a pull-out section on the benefits of whiskey.

Yes, you read that right. "Relaxing with Whiskey's Fragrance" is the name of the 8-page booklet. It has lovely photos of whiskey in crystal glasses, and many pretty charts proving the benefits of having a good belt after dinner. Did you know that whiskey scent is more relaxing than the smell of the forest? It's a good blood thinner, too, improving circulation (and keeping your hands and feet warmer as a consequence).

There's even a procedure for making the perfect whiskey mizu-wari to draw out the healthful aroma:

  1. Fill a glass halfway with ice
  2. Pour in a measure of whiskey
  3. Add mineral water in equal measure (or up to 1:2)

I guess I know what I'm going to have after dinner tonight. My feet are freezing!



I want to build an orrery.

You might not know that word, but I'll bet you've seen one. It's a mechanical model of the solar system with planets turning around the sun. It was named after the Earl of Orrery who commisioned a watchmaker to construct a model of Newton's planetary motions in 1700.

Orrery designed by James Ferguson. Adler Planeterium, Chicago.

Nowadays it's easy to find digital ones (Science U, Orrery with NASA images, and Schools Observatory). Most of the beautiful mechanical ones are in museums but there are some contemporary orrery makers (John Gleave and Brian Grieg) and plans available for build-it-yourself orreries made of Legos and others from meccano/erector sets.

Of course I want to make one that isn't of our solar system, but a system of my own invention. And in fact, my ultimate goal is to make one with complex motion--some of the planets have eliptical orbits and they won't all be in the same plane. I know how it will look and how it moves. Now I have to figure out how to do it.

I wish Dad were still here. He'd be good at this.

3 ku in 5 minutes


Did you know that you can walk out of a station and within five minutes walk from Shinjuku-ku through one ku and into a third?

I'm not going to tell you which station or which ku. Can you figure it out?

Mapping (I)


creative perspectivesFor most of this year, I have been playing with map-making.

Some of my maps combine time and space: the last day of the trip to NYC, my trip from Tokyo to Pittsburgh to Paris and back. Some show the tasks I've laid before me. Others lay out the sounds of the space I'm in. I even mapped a really bad sunburn I got over the summer.

For a while I didn't think of these drawings as maps. They were just things I was thinking about and putting onto paper. But in August I picked up Katharine Harmon's You Are Here: Personal Geographies and Other Maps of the Imagination and realised that I had been drawing maps for months. The book is filled with clever, intricate, weird, and classic maps that make me feel connected to a long history of map-making.

Now I make a point to draw maps of whatever takes my fancy. Just like I was doing before, only now they have a label.

If you have a gap in your Christmas list, I can recommend You Are Here as an interesting filler that will give you many hours or enjoyable reading and study.

Portabella Cream Sauce


recipe thursdayPortabella mushrooms are not so easy to find in my grocery store so when I found baby bellas on the shelves the other day, I grabbed them up quick. Here's what I made them into--rich, flavorful, glossy brown cream sauce. I wish I'd made more.

Portabella Cream Sauce
serves 4

3 baby portabella mushrooms, halved and sliced
2 whole sundried tomatoes, slivered
1/2 onion, minced
6 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp butter
3-4 Tbsp flour
1 1/2 c whole milk, heated
salt to taste

Sautee the onion and sun-dried tomato in 4 Tbsp olive oil. When the onions turns translucent, add the mushrooms and continue cooking until they shrink and turn dark brown. Remove vegetables from pan.
Add the butter and remaining olive oil to the pan. Mix in the flour to form a roux, cooking to a pale nut brown. Add the milk, whisking to remove any lumps. Return the vegetables to the pan and simmer to reduce to about 1/2 the liquid's volume. Salt to taste.

Serving suggestion: over gnocchi with a garnish of shredded prosciutto

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