July 2006 Archives

Til Tuesday

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I'm in the States this weekend and will return to Tokyo on Tuesday. I don't expect to have time to write anything here, so I'll see you on Tuesday with a list of ten interesting things to do in the Detroit airport.

Textures Underfoot

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creative perspectivesWalking home from the Kudan Kaikan beer garden Wednesday night, I reached Iidabashi, about halfway, and decided to spare my left instep from the growing blister my sandal was rubbing into it. I took off my shoes and walked the rest of the way home barefoot, taking great pleasure in the textures underfoot.

First I walked along a brick-paved street. It felt smooth and slightly warm. I liked the way my feet pressed into the cracks between the bricks, as if they would like to imprint me. After that too short stretch, I trod temporary asphalt paving for a while. The prickly uneven holes between tarred pebbles nipped at my toes.

At the intersection on Andozaka, I stood on the dotted yellow edging. I expected the rubbery plastic bumps to be more raised. I bounced around on it a little bit, unsuccessfully trying to position my reflex points for a massage before the light changed. The next bit of sidewalk patchworked old and new construction efforts - more temporary asphalt, a few squares of non-slip concrete, a couple of smoother tarred-over asphalts stretches.

I was pleased to discover how fun it is to climb the 60 stairs in the shortcut to our street in bare feet. The smooth concrete and tile steps are easier to take without shoes. And the summit achieved, I walked heel-to-toe on the smooth heat-painted white border to avoid my street's scratchy paving. The polished granite lobby and carpeted hallways of my building were welcome relief from the more robust exterior textures.

Take off your shoes and walk around outside today. See what you feel. You might be surprised.

Japanese Potato Salad

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recipe thursdayAs much as I love the 1902 potato salad, I love this one, too. It's texture is smooth potato interspersed with bits of fresh vegetables. You'll find this kind of potato salad in every supermarket deli in Japan - sometime spread thinly as a sandwich filling on crustless white bread. Starch heaven.

Japanese Potato Salad

4-5 potatoes
1/2 cucumber (thin Japanese type)
1/2 carrot
optional: mustard, salt, pepper

Peel and boil the potatoes. Mash roughly, leaving lumps. Thinly slice the cucumber and carrot (a mandolin works perfectly for this) and sprinkle with salt in a bowl. Allow to stand until the vegetables begin to sweat, then rinse and pat dry. Mix potatoes and vegetables with enough mayonnaise to hold the mixture together. Season to taste with salt, pepper and/or a little mustard if desired.

How to be an ad hoc model

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Step 1: Wait for a phone call from a desperate friend who:
a) had a model cancel at the last second;
b) didn't realise another model was needed; or
c) has a client with shifting requirements.

This is how I get all my modelling jobs. Yesterday Sayaka called me at 12:27. "Kristen, do you have some time? I need you." At 2 pm.

Step 2: Ask the friend, client or photographer what you should wear. Are you supposed to be a housewife, a teacher, an office worker, a date? Are there color requirements? Dig through your wardrobe and find something that will work (It is helpful to have a wide and varied collection of clothes that fit). Get dressed quickly, do your hair and face neatly. There will be no adjustments once you get there.

Step 3: Wait at the venue. They may say 2 pm, but that's when they start prepping the studio or shooting the products or other models. You will wait your turn. Bring a book.

Step 4: Get in front of the camera. Act natural. Smile. Look into the lens. Note the camera's make and model and what lens is on it so you can tell Tod later. Interact with the other models, as directed.

In my experience, most photographers just want you to stand or sit without moving around too much - forget what you've seen of fashion magazine shoots with models tossing their hair and striking poses. When you're in a picture for an event poster or a flyer, you're probably background for the text.

Step 5: Assure everyone that you are neither a model nor an English teacher. Hand out your meishi and tell them - especially the bosses - that you are a media editor (or whatever you are) and would be happy to hear from them if they ever need you in that capacity.

Step 6: Collect your stipend and go home. The total elapsed time from arrival to departure is likely to be around an hour, most of it taken up with Step 3.

"Dead Wolf" pattern



Ephrata Playhouse, where my mom's been doing community theatre for 20 years, is producing the gothic comedy The Mystery of Irma Vepp later this summer. So Mom called on me, creator of the life-like furry albino lobster pattern, to draft a pattern for a life-sized dead wolf to be dragged on stage in a hunting scene.

And here it is. I have not built this - only drafted the pattern and instructions - so I am certain some adjustments will be necessary in the sewing. My instructions are not extremely detailed. The wolf involves a fair amount of handsewing and a solid general knowledge of sewing. If you make the wolf and have any tips or suggestions, please leave a comment.

To aid realism, I studied the proportions, weighting and rigidity of dead wolves (through photos & scientific papers only; no animals were harmed in the creation of this pattern). The weight is added by stuffing the head, shoulder and hips with bags of rice, sawdust or beans. The legs are held stiff with dowel rods; the limitedly flexible spine is created with a series of interlocking plastic cups threaded together and tied off at tail and head. I recommend buying very long fake fur and giving your wolf a haircut when you've finished the construction.

Instructions (575KB PDF)
Pattern Pieces (1.2MB PDF) prints to 42 US Letter pages

Koi Mikuji

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Love Fortune
"First Rank, Big Luck" Love Fortune

I got this from a robotic dragon-puppet fortune vending machine at Yushima Shrine. Tod & I waffled about who would get one - would I buy one for him, would he buy one for me? In the end I got one for myself, but as you'll see it seems to suit him better.

Here's what it says:

Love Song
The sun rises
The heart rejoices
The dawn breaks
You meet your perfect love
Your heart beats loudly

First Rank * Big Luck

Love Fortune
As the morning sun rises, you will have incredible luck. You will be bound by this love. The drumming beat of your heart will confess your love. Every time you see your love, it deepens. Your joyful day will come. Be sure to treat your family well.

Star Sign
Aries is ideal. Gemini or Cancer are also ok. [I'm an Aries; Tod's a Taurus]

Blood Type
A or O are best. B should be avoided. [I'm type A; Tod's type O]

Difference in Age
It's best if there isn't much difference in age.

Zodiac Year
Rooster is best. Horse or Dog are ok, too. [I'm a Horse; Tod's a Rooster]

East-South or Eastern people are good. [I'm from the east coast of the US & so is Tod.]

Meeting Place
You should wait for your darling at a quiet coffee shop in your neighborhood. [I bring Tod coffee in bed nearly every morning]

You will have the best relations with the people most familiar to you.

Your happiness in marriage will depend on your desire to honor the gods.

Your concentration will suffer, but if you can overcome this point, you will do well.

Merrily we row along


In my rented boat

We walked to Ueno Park and rented a rowboat for an hour. I love rowing around Shinobazu pond on a Saturday afternoon. Afterwards we stolled through a flea market, relaxed with a bath and karaoke, then had dinner and walked home.

Completed Jewelry Projects


creative perspectivesAh, it feels good to finish something. At the moment it seems like I have a lot of loose ends and unfinished projects. But I can reduce the count by three now.

I went through my jewelry project box a couple weeks ago and found a bunch of silver clay and other bits and bobs that I've been meaning to work on. I got down to business and made a trio of necklaces that you can see on Flickr. I like them, even though I realise I need to work on my wire techniques.

Aluminum Choker

1902 Potato Salad

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recipe thursdayFrom "Popular Amusements for Indoors and Out of Doors," published in 1902. This is my all-time favorite picnic salad. It combines all the best elements of cole slaw and potato salad into one bowl.

4 potatoes, boiled and chopped
1.5 cups cabbage, chopped
6 eggs, hard boiled & sliced
1 tsp ground mustard
1 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp sugar
7 Tbsp vinegar
1/4 c butter, melted

Stir spices, sugar and vinegar together. Add melted butter. Pour over potatoes and cabbage, tossing to coat. Add in egg slices, reserving some for garnish.

Writing on new leaves


Leaving a place gives you a chance to turn a new leaf, but you have to work hard to write something new on it.

This was a comment I made in chat to MJ last night, while talking over how moving away or changing your job doesn't change anything inside you. She suggested I copy and paste it into a blog entry, but I didn't think I would. It opens me to exposing my own inability to write cleanly on new leaves no matter where I go or how much I want to.

But there you go. I am full of apparently unbreakable bad habits and personal flaws. And there are ugly gaping wounds, too. Some I don't see - those are the ones that friends either kindly overlook or end friendships over. Sometimes I recognise my faults and can overcome them. Sometimes I recognise them, but they overcome me.

One overcame me yesterday. I received an e-mail from a friend - not a dramatic missive, just a pedestrian hello - but after I replied, I sat at my desk and cried tears of frustration that our friendship has shifted into something I can't abide. It's a struggle each time we meet or communicate. I think about the way I wish things to be and I cling to hope that our friendship might change even though that is not remotely realistic.

The ugly, gaping wound in this case is my childish desire to have things my own way. The personal flaw is my conviction that sad emotions are a form of weakness. The bad habit is instinctually cloistering myself when I am sad or upset. I ride out the storm of my emotions alone; even when I crave a hand to hold or a body to hug. I punish myself for feeling bad by pushing everyone away.

Last night, I declined a dinner invitation because after crying and being pointlessly sad over that e-mail, I couldn't summon the will to leave the house and socialise. But being around people - leaving this place - would probably have improved my outlook, turned the leaf so that I could start writing something new.


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From the time I was ten until I graduated from high school, I was a member of the local Girl Scout troop. One of the most important things I learned as a scout was to leave a place better than you found it.

I put that to practice this weekend when I stayed in the Matsudai dormitory. The place suffers from the "tragedy of the commons" as it's inhabited mainly by people staying only a night or three and then moving on. Everyone is generally neat and careful in a daily way, but longer term tasks get overlooked.

On Monday morning after breakfast but before we started our workday, I scrubbed the kitchen clean. Well, I scrubbed it cleaner. I focused on the forgotten tasks and the built-up mess: I used a knife to scrape off the grotty bits between the stove and the counter; degreased several years of crud from the backsplash; washed all the dribbles off the cabinet doors. The overall effect was still a dirty kitchen - it would take the better part of a weekend to get it truly shipshape - but not as dirty.

Next time I go up, I'm bringing what I need to fix the shower - apparently it doesn't drain. I suspect a clog of hair and grossness. I will arm myself with drain cleaner and a snake and we shall all bathe joyfully afterwards.

Ocean Day

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Today is Umi no Hi, Ocean Day, and even though I'm nowhere near the ocean, water is playing a large role in my holiday weekend.

It's raining here in Matsudai where I'm helping Hanako to put together the Hotta Rakashi Memorial Museum for the Echigo-Tsumari Triennial which opens on Friday. We've been thoroughly soaked walking in an unexpected warm summer downpour. The room we are transforming into a gallery has transformed into a lake in one leaky corner. Everything this weekend seems to be damp, but battling the water is creating a sense of comaradarie.

One way water has not played a role in the weekend: no opportunity to bathe or shower since we arrived. Maybe I should stop writing and go upstairs to see if the dormatory's spiderweb coated shower room actually works. Or perhaps I'll simply step outside and wait for the next deluge...

In a summer mood


creative perspectivesI woke this morning to an in-brain concert of Ella crooning "Too Darn Hot." At 7 am, it was 28.3 (about 83ºF) with a likely high of 34 (93ºF). The hot and humid summer is upon us and I'm not enjoying it. I'll spend the next three months waiting for things to cool off again.

Two mornings ago, I was trudging across town slowly working up a sticky sweat. My mood was turning sour as I turned pink. Then I thought about all my friends who just love summer. They crave the sun, the warmth, the freedom they feel in the hot weather. If they can love it, shouldn't I be able to, too?

So I tried it on. I love summer. I thought about all the nicest summer icons - watermelon, shaved ice, picnics, cold drinks, fireworks, seaside holidays, boating, bathing suits, well-muscled lifeguards.

And you know what? My mood changed. The weight of the sun beating down on my shoulders lifted a little. I felt more comfortable, cooler, happier. It didn't last too long, but I tried again later and sustained a happy mood a few minutes more. Exercising a change in perspective may be the way to make summer not only bearable but enjoyable.

I'm persuaded that seeing things from another point of view is an effective way to change your thoughts and mood. Next I'll try to apply this technique to my feelings about certain projects that have me frustrated and worn out.


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Coca Cola Japan presents...Deeppresso

At long last, I can say something about this product. I saw a preview of it months ago when I was doing a video edit for CCJC. I cracked up in the editing room and kept it in mind for all this time, though I recalled it with only one 'e'.

De-presso? Depressed espresso? Decaf espresso?

No. Deep-presso. Deep flavour. Intense.

Intensely typical, despite the "100% Brazilian, single origin, beans." It's the usual, grossly sweet, milky Japanese canned coffee. The ingredients list: milk, coffee, sugar, flavouring, casein, milk solids, emulsifier. I've sipped half a can and I'm buzzing like a kid on birthday cake and ice cream.

As much as I love Coca Cola Japan and its many excellent products, this is not one that I'll be trying a second time.

Virtual Company

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My life and technology
I've been using Internet technology to mediate communication for so long that it hardly seems novel: chat in various forms since 1988 (18 years!); e-mail, telnet & FTP about as long; web sites starting in 1992; video conferencing from 1995; VoIP telephony from last year.

But today in the middle of a three-way video conference, I paused a moment to marvel at how far technology has taken me. My work and social life are increasingly performed with people scattered around the globe. No technology I use is cutting edge anymore. Without it, I'd have no work and far fewer friends.

I keep up with friends in the US, India, Canada, Australia and Japan via iChat. I have a phone number in Adelaide and free calling to the US. My weblog has been around nearly six years. I am a member of several online communities and volunteer projects. Friends know how to reach me online.

I am a partner in Collectik, along with Chris in Sydney and Hugh in Montreal. We work collaboratively using Basecamp for general messages and Mantis for bug and assignment tracking. Once every couple of months we hold a conference call via Skype or chat in iChat.

And I'm working with Jez at SegPub in Sydney on another project. We use Basecamp, too, but chat and video conference almost every day. A new guy, Tim, joined the company last week and now we're starting to feel like a real team, rather than Jez & me blabbering to one another while we write, code and plan stuff.

If only there were an online espresso maker...

In the darkroom

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Busy developing. Do not disturb

In place of an enlarger, since I'm contact printing, I'm using a 20 watt light bulb with an iPod box as a shade (props to Kris for finding the right box to use). A wall clock regulates my 12 second count while I have the light switched on. I slip the exposed paper into a black bag in an old film box, then do another set. When I get to twelve exposures, I start developing them two at a time.

For full annotations, see this photo on Flickr.

Darkroom Math & Other Notes

  • To double the amount of light (and halve the exposure time), measure the hole in the bottom of your iPod box, multiply by 1.41 and cut the hole to the new size.
  • Negatives go emulsion side to the paper to decrease accidental blurriness.
  • Negatives (in this case) turned emulsion side to paper print backwards.
  • Ensure the contact glass is not casting a shadow on the edge of the negative
  • Center the glass under the light if you want to evenly expose two sheets at once.
  • High contrast paper works better than medium contrast paper when contact printing
  • If you switch from ISO P 640 paper to ISO P 250 paper, increase your exposure by 2.56 times. 12 seconds becomes 31 seconds.
  • Don't neglect to clean the contact glass between batches

Ice Bath

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Preparing the bath

Inspired by the cold bath after the sauna at Komaki Onsen and suffering from the heat today, the boys decided to make a cold bath at home. As usual, they were not doing things by half measures. They went to the conbini and got big blocks of ice and tossed them in pairs into the already chilly bath.

A cold bath is a fine thing on a hot summer day.

Yuzu Chicken Marinade

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recipe thursdayThe new Weber grill has been busy. John & Tod cooked up a whole chicken using this marinade - it was succulent and citrus-y. I've included the grilling directions Tod supplied, too. I can see many grill-roasted chickens (and lots of chicken soup) in our future.

Yuzu Chicken Marinade

1 yuzu, green/unripe
1 lemon
6-10 thin scallions
2 cloves garlic
1/4 onion
olive oil
salt & pepper
3 Tbsp honey

Grate the rind of the yuzu. Juice the lemon. Slice thin rings from a couple inches of the green end of the scallions. Puree the onion and garlic together. Combine zest, juice, scallions, and garlic-onion mixture with olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Rub solids inside and over the chicken, and marinate for a few hours, turning once or twice. Before grilling, insert 1/8 of the yuzu into the cavity.

"Throw that bad boy on the grill - coals on one side, chook on the other, for indirect heat," Tod directs.

While the chicken is roasting, mix the honey with the remaining marinade. Every 20 minutes or so, baste the chicken with the honey-laced marinade. Rotate the chicken on the grill as needed to prevent too much browning on one side. A 1 kg chicken takes about an hour to roast. After removing from the grill, allow to "set up" before carving.



Even though Japan is not such a huge country and we try to travel around as much as we can, there are lots of places we've never been. Today we're going up north to Towadako in Aomori-ken to enjoy the caldera lake and woodsy mountain air.

This time, I know I'm getting on the right train.

Tanuki? Anaguma?

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I still don't know what it is, but I just saw my mysterious woodland friend from December 2002. Only this time he was in the garden below my veranda. He paused amid the overgrown lawn, looked me straight in the the eye, then moved on.

And I have witnesses. Unfortunately none of the gathered friends could agree on what it was. Anaguma? Tanuki?

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