May 2003 Archives

Video workspace

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premiere.jpg
I've gotten work done on the entertainment section but not enough to show you. I need to do the voice overs but the circumstances were poor this week, even for sloppy ones. The destruction and construction are awfully noisy!

So instead, here's an image of my video editing environment. I use Premiere 6.5 on Mac OS X.

The entertainment section I'm working on now has 28 clips listed in the Project bin over on the left. To the right is the monitor where the video plays as I work with it. and to the right of that are some control panels for effects.

Down at the bottom is the most important section--the timeline. This is where I connect the clips, trim them, put them in order, add transitions, and get them just right. The yellow and pale green strips are the video clips in timeline and the powder blue box is a transition from one clip the other other. The jaggedy teal bit below is the audio waveform.

Editing is a lot of fun. I wish I had more time for it.

Destruction completed

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dest1.jpg dest2.jpgdest3.jpgdest4.jpgdest5.jpgdest6.jpgdest7.jpg

As promised on February 18, here is the complete series of photos of neighborhood destruction. Each week revealed a new vista of buildings in the background. The blue tarped construction in the later photos is a new Daikyo Lions Square luxury apartment complex going up next door to the destroyed building.

Yoshi's Chahan

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flavor.jpgFried rice is one of my comfort foods but until Yoshi showed me his technique for chahan, I was never able to get it to taste right when I made it at home. So today's Recipe Thursday is not a recipe as much as a tsukurikata, a way of making.

Yoshi has one secret ingredient that I will share with you: Ajinomoto's Chuka Aji, "Chinese flavor." It's a mix of salt, pork extract, vegetable extract, oil, oyster sauce, and MSG. It looks a little bit like fish food, but it makes the fried rice taste right. And because it's a dry ingredient, it doesn't add any moisture to the frying.

Fried rice is a good way to use up leftovers. I try to use at least three times as much rice as other ingredients. The extra bits are for flavor and show, but rice is the star of the show.

This goes very quickly, so be sure to have all the ingredients ready before you begin. Total cooking time is about 5 minutes in the pan.

Yoshi's Fried Rice
for one serving:
1 1/2 cup cold cooked rice
1/2 clove garlic, minced
1 Tblspn onion, chopped
1 egg, well beaten
oil for frying
Chuka Aji
soy sauce
1/2 cup other ingredients: chopped pork, chicken, salmon, carrots, spinach, peas, mushrooms, etc.

Heat the pan until it is very hot. Medium hot will ruin your fried rice. HOT!

Coat pan with oil and don't be stingy--oil is good and the rice soaks it up. Fry the garlic and onion for about 15 seconds, then add your "other ingredients" and fry until just starting to get done, maybe 45 seconds.

Push everything over to the side and tilt the pan so the oil puddles in one corner. Add the egg and scramble. You want to incorporate the oil into the egg to keep it moist. Cook until solid but still soft--the egg will continue to cook as you go.

Now, put the pan back down and add the rice. Using a strong wooden spoon or paddle mix the oil and ingredients into the rice thoroughly. Lumps are not acceptable so be vigorous--this is good exercise. Attack that rice!

Sprinkle generously with Chuka Aji and keep stirring. The rice should be making crackling sounds now. The egg and other ingredients are browned. Splash with soy sauce to color the rice a pale brown. Mix well one final time and serve.

Crime map

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2002crimemap.gif

The Tokyo Metropolitan Police publish an annual map of crimes in the city. It's fascinating to see where the hubs of bad behaviour are. I'm happy to say that Bunkyo-ku seems to be the safest inner-city section. Shinjuku, on the other hand, is a dangerous place.

Click the map above for a larger version, or visit the police site for even better detail in Japanese.

Posing for Photos

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posed.jpg

I don't know for sure, but I suspect that Japanese women have some sort of special training in "posing for cameras."

We all know about the V sign that everyone, young and old, makes for the camera, but there's another common pose struck only by fashionable women. It's a modelesque chin-down-pouty-smile-eyes-focussed-on-lens-legs-poised pose that I can't believe is entirely unlearned.

Yet they do it gracefully and without consideration for the surroundings. I've seen women arranging themselves this way in front of landmarks, in clubs, in purikura photo booths, on the street with friends. It doesn't seem to matter what they are wearing or who is holding the camera. The ones who are best at it go on to become event models at technology and automobile conventions.

Perhaps there is a special schoolday in the 6th grade or so, when boys and girls are taken into separate rooms and the "facts of life" are explained. Same as when I was a schoolgirl, but in Japan the girls get an extra lesson in modelling. We missed out on that in my elementary school, so all I can do is look slightly goofy in photos.

CMS trials

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I'm becoming familiar with various content management systems (CMS) for websites. FCCJ uses Xoops, DigitalEve is experimenting with Zope, and WWJ is setting up a PHP-Nuke site.

All three do basically the same thing. They allow the administrator to post content, create user accounts, and manage forums. On top of that, you can install modules and add-ons to do other things--create polls, mange a FAQ, support weblog-like journals, display RSS feeds. You name it and someone has probably written a module to do it.

But all three have their own specialised jargon to describe what they do and myriad quirks in the way they handle even the basic functions. None of it is as straightforward as it should be.

My challenge today is to figure out the subtle differences between the various PHP-Nuke "blocks." How does Content differ from Articles differ from News? Sections relates to them in what way? What the heck is Ephemerids?

Once I've sorted that out to my satisfaction, I need to figure out how to display excerpts of articles on the front page, but to restrict access to the rest of the content to people who have registered on the site. Luckily for me, I have an entire community of Nuke developers to support me. I just have to figure out how to speak their language!

Futile quest

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tea-rin.jpgLast summer's trendy drink was tea. There were at least a dozen new brands of cold tea in the convenience stores. Boutique teas--Chinese specialties, green teas, oolong tea--all unsweetened and refreshing on a summer day. This one, Rin, is a Chinese green tea scented with jasmine and herbs.

It's Tod's very favorite tea, ever. He loves it so much that he drinks two 2-liter bottles a week to keep him going through his long nights at work. The local liquor shop, Kashiwaya, faithfully stocked Rin for him all winter even though it's a summertime drink.

When they ran out of Rin last week, the clerks at Kashiwaya were very sympathetic, but there's nothing they can do; they can't get it anymore.

Asahi has stopped production and seems to be selling off their stock--their Rin webpage shows a dearth of container sizes. Tea is no longer the fashionable (and profitable) thirst quencher.

So my quest, and yours if you should choose, is to find the remaining 2-liter bottles of Rin. There must be some out there, gathering dust in the back corners of mom-and-pop liquor shops. If you see any, would you please let me know where they are?

More shopping video

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shopping-rough2.jpgOK, it's back to tasks completed on the Hello Tokyo project. This week, I've added in those missing fruit and convenience store bits from the previous edition of Video Saturday and I've added short segments on department stores and my favorite goofy shopping venue--the 100 yen shop.

This is still a rough edit, but it is coming along. Next week, I'm aiming to have another segment slapped together--entertainment.

For this download, I'm trying out a different compression program and format. Please tell me if you have any trouble with this MPEG-4 file.

play video Shopping. 3'30" (5.3 MB MP4)

Tiny Frogs

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tinyfrogs1.jpgLast spring, we discovered tadpoles, otamajakushi, in a nearby park. We watched them develop and took delight in stopping on our way by to peek at them. In Tokyo, you have to enjoy the little details of nature when you can find them.

Needless to say, we were surprised and disappointed when they vanished. It was shortly after they started to bud legs, but before they were fully developed into frogs. Maybe a cat ate them or perhaps schoolboys had carried them off in jars. We didn't know.

tinyfrogs2.jpgSo this year, we've been watching the new crop with interest but expecting another vanishing act. Only they didn't vanish. Instead, we caught them in the act of escaping the pond.

Dozens of miniature frogs, no bigger than a garbanzo bean, struggled out of the water yesterday afternoon. They weren't hopping, exactly. They were more like froggy toddlers trying to keep their balance without toppling back into the pond.

They lined up along the border between the water and the land. Waiting for something, but what?

Blueberry Coffee Cake

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blueberrycoffeecake.jpgPerfect for a weekend brunch and super-simple to put together. As pictured, I made it with blueberries and walnuts, but it's simple enough for a variety of berry and nut substitutions. Can hardly wait for cranberry season...

Berry-topped Coffee Cake

cake
1.5 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup oil
1 egg, beaten
1/2 cup milk

topping
1 Tblsp butter, softened
1/3 cup sugar (brown works best)
1 Tblsp flour
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 cup walnuts or almonds, crushed
1 cup berries (blueberries, raspberries, etc)

Butter a 9" round pan. Preheat oven to 350F. Prepare the cake batter: Mix dry ingredients. Add liquids, beating well to form a smooth batter. Pour into pan. Create a crumb mixture with the butter, sugar, flour and cinnamon. Add in nuts and stir to coat with crumbs. Spread berries evenly over cake batter, then sprinkle with crumbs and nuts. Bake for about 30 minutes.

Googling in Japanese

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redpajero.jpgAn interesting conversation is going on over at the DigitalEve Japan discussion list about searching in Japanese vs English. One poster commented that searching for red Pajero at images.google.com and images.google.co.jp doesn't bring up the same results. Later she revealed that she was searching for it in Japanese on the Japanese Google, and in English on the English Google.

Which is not the same search at all. Why not?

Well, as I explained on the list, if you search for aka pajero and for akai pajero (with aka/akai in kanji and pajero in katakana) you get different results: 11 for aka pajero and 3 for akai pajero. If you spell out aka or akai in hiragana you get 0 results.

Yet all four variations are definitely the same idea of "red Pajero" that any Japanese reader would understand.

This must give Japanese search engine developers nightmares. I didn't even start on the variations of spaces between words or not. Generally, there are not spaces between words in Japanese. I usually search with spaces between words, though.

If you search for red Pajero in English on either images.google.co.jp or images.google.com you get 49 hits. Quite a few more than searching in Japanese.

So there are two issues involved:

1. There's more than one way to write "red Pajero" in Japanese.
2. There are more results in English than in Japanese.

Regarding 1, you must try all variations to find all results. No way around it.

As for 2, I'm not sure whether there are more hits on this search in English than in Japanese becasue there are simply more pages on the web in English, or whether Japanese webmasters tend to name their images and pages in English or romaji even on otherwise Japanese pages.

Does anyone know the breakdown of English pages to Japanese pages? I assume a whole lot more English than Japanese, but I don't know where to dredge up the actual numbers.

More web updates

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My 1000th entry inspired me to keep on cleaning up and changing things around here.

There's a new tabbed layout at the top of the page. It's part of my "move to CSS layout, old browsers be damned" campaign. The tabs are done in CSS, but I can't take much credit; I'm standing on the shoulders of Dive into Mark's Pure CSS Tabs.

And I've finally decided on my categories. I've got 19 of them now (sorry, Tracey, no toilet category) and old posts are slowly making their way into the correct categories. If you click on the category displayed at the end of each entry, you'll jump to the archive of everything in that category. Thanks, Kurt, for the suggestion.

Also, my RSS feeds are corrected and should work with all the RSS readers. That prompting to upgrade from the broken MT2.5 templates came via Gabriel at snydic8 this morning. They want to list the Zous, so I did us both. Maybe mediatinker will get picked up as well. (5/21: it did!)

I've also added a section to the navigation at the right that points to some of the stuff I've done and interesting projects I've contributed to. May as well promote myself to my 650 daily visitors. OK, I do realise that a lot of those 650 visits are by RSS readers and robots, but still...

Tsuuyu is Kabi Time

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I don't care what the Japan Meteorological Agency says, I declare today the start of tsuuyu, the rainy season.

Officially, it won't begin until early June. Doesn't matter that we've have wet tsuuyu-like weather for the past week. It's not actually 'til June. And it ends in July. That's the traditiaon and weather patterns be damned.

It really makes no difference when it's official. The extended wet weather means that it's time to drag out all the mould-preventative and dehumidifying things.

drypet.jpgContainers full of dessicant, DryPet brand, will sit on shelves in my pantry for the next two months. Sachets of the same stuff need to go into the dresser drawers. I must to stock up on kabi-killa, mould killer, for the bathroom.

No matter what you do, no matter how much dessicant you put in strategic locations or how careful you are with cleaning, the damp and humidity make it a challenge to keep dry. Follow tsuuyu with the sticky summer and there's no way to avoid mould. But battling it keeps it to a minimum, and I'm ready to get armed for the fight.

Compressing

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compressionhell.jpg
What a boring Sunday. I'd hoped to be outside today, but...

I'm inside at my computer, compressing videos. Such is the glamorous life of a media tinker.

Really, it's my own fault. I'm doing some subtitling work for an insurance company and the MPEG-1 files they gave me to work with have to be recompressed. This causes a loss of quality, similar to making a photocopy of a photocopy. The details start to blur and it's not as crisp and perfect as the original.

The client is aware of this; I did a test clip before I agreed to take on the job. In fact, I encouraged them to go back to the original post-production company. But maybe they wanted someone local or maybe I'm just very economical. I got the job.

But even though they think the test clip quality is OK, I'm not happy with it. So I spent Friday afternoon and most of yesterday tweaking and testing the encoding settings in Cleaner.

I even upgraded to Cleaner 6 to get access to 2-pass variable bit rate encoding. But the program is pretty buggy and I've had mixed results. Only 70% of the clips processed properly when I batched them overnight.

So I am fighting with Cleaner to get the last few done today. One sailed through with no errors. The other two...fail, fail. I've dropped back to Cleaner 5 to see if I can get them to encode without errors.

And that's why I look so bored. Encoding is a lot of waiting and hoping. The program's just signalled its completion with a cheery chime, so I'm off to see how it did. With fingers crossed...

[Update: 19:03. The last two clips are done and the CD is burning now. I'm ready to hand this off to the client tomorrow on schedule. Whew.]

1000!

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Today marks my 1,000th entry in this journal. I've reviewed the past 999 entries to bring you some of my favorite highlights, full of typos as always.

23 August 2000. Sometimes I'm surprised at who reads this weblog. We discovered our neighbor is a foreigner after he figured out he lived next door and came over to introduce himself.

1 December 2000. Black toothpaste is not a joke.

5 December 2000. There are not 2000 body parts, but maybe 2000 uses for Lever 2000 soap. This thread continued on December 6, 9, & 10 but only 23 uses so far.

12 April 2001. Neighborhood plumbing projects begins; is inspected (30 May), and corrected (22 June).

14 June 2001. Personal rituals gone awry on a summer holiday.

12 July 2001. A little portrait of domestic happiness.

23 June 2002. An all-nighter in the poolhall with MJ.

4 October 2002 & 5 October 2002. A Two-day haircut blog.

2 December 2002. The sighting of the mystery weasel and an announcement on the local noticeboard. (4 December )

I wonder what the next 1,000 posts will hold?

Sewing books

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patternbook.jpgI really hate patterns. From the time in 8th grade when I was sewing letter-shaped pillows in Home Ec, I found all those tissue paper notches annoying. And the super-detailed instructions might be good for some people or when you're learning a new construction technique, but... Align reverse side to front side at notch, pin. Turn 1/2 inch. Sew to notch, reinforcing seam with double row of stitches. Yuck!

Here in Japan, none of the patterns are in my size, so I'm spared this trauma. I have experience drafting patterns, though it's been a long time and my skills are rusty. What I need is inspiration. What do current fashions look like?

Enter the fashion book. I've fallen in love with these and already own three of them.

skirtpage.jpgEach book has a front section with photos of the designs on models. Then each item has a one or two page spread that shows you how to place the pieces on the fabric, a numbered list of instructions, and details for any special construction points.

There are assumptions about your ability to sew. You must know how to cut a pattern, sew a seam, turn a hem, etc. These books are not really for true beginners, though they are not difficult things to sew if you have the basics under your belt. The instructions are sparse but there are illustrated sections to cover some techniques and I've learned a clever ironing tip from the "Men's Shirts" book.

The books also have pullout patterns--a single sheet with all of the pieces printed on top of one another. You are suppose to trace them out. Of course, they are not drafted for my shape, so I will have to redo them to fit my waist-hip ratio and my wide shoulders.

This page shows the skirt I made last week. It doesn't even have a pattern, just measurements for the various rectangles. The instructions include some detail on putting together the pocket, but other than that, it's 7 easy steps:

  1. Sew side seams
  2. Make the slit
  3. Assemble pockets, attach
  4. Create a tri-fold casing hem
  5. Sew the waisband casing
  6. Insert the waistband elsastic
  7. Insert the cord at the hem

It was so easy, I made two. Summer wardrode is sorted. Have I mentioned that I now know the kanji for "fusible interfacing" in Japanese?

Toast

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You might think that a recipe for toast is like a recipe for boiled water, right? But here I present you 5 ways for making your toast more interesting.

I make mine in a toaster oven but you could try a broiler if you have a slotted toaster.

Ham Cheese Pickle Toast
1 slice bread
1 slice ham
1 tsp sliced pickles (or relish)
1 slice cheese

Layer the pickles between ham and cheese, with cheese on top. Toast until cheese is bubbly. Make two, put them cheese-side together and you have a warm, not-too-greasy sandwich.

Garlic Anchovy Toast
1 slice bread, slightly stale works best
1/2 clove garlic
1/2 anchovy fillet
2 Tblsp olive oil
1 Tblsp grated Parmesan
black pepper to taste

Mince the garlic and anchovy, then mix with oil. Spread oil mixture over bread. Top with cheese. Toast until the cheese is lightly brown, but before the garlic burns. Season to taste with cracked balck pepper. A nice accompaniment to soup or pasta.

Toast with Lettuce
1 slice bread
2 leaves lettuce
1 Tblsp mayonnaise
salt to taste

The poor (dieting) man's BLT. This tastes best if you have good lettuce, but even iceberg will work. Make the toast the usual way. Spread with mayo and top with lettuce. Sprinkle with salt.

Orange Toast
1 slice bread
2-3 slices orange
1 Tblsp butter
1 Tblsp brown sugar

Peel an orange and slice into very thin round slices. Butter the bread, cover with orange slices and sprinkle with sugar. Toast until the sugar is bubbly.

Last Toast of the Evening
1 slice bread
1 Tblsp butter
1 tsp Vegemite
beer, as desired

Before beginning, drink a lot of beer; Vegemite is only good after too much. When you are ready to retire for the night, make toast the regular way being very careful not to burn yourself. Slather on butter and Vegemite. Munch before passing out.

For more toast recipes and other toast fun, see Dr. Toast's Amazing World of Toast

Panawave

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50 members of a cult group have been driving their dying leader around the countryside of Japan for the last three years, looking for a place that is free of electromagnetic waves. The Panawave Laboratory members say that their cancer-ridden leader, Yuko Chino, 69, feels worse in the presence of EM radiation.

They stop along country roads and break out their supplies--meters and meters of white fabric, which they use to drape trees, guardrails and the vans they drive. Apparently, white reflects the waves. Everyone wears white and they use mirroed shields to hold back the police who come to move them off the public thoroughfares.

Harmless kooks, more or less. Except that they are also doomsday cultists. Panawave believes that the world will end this Friday, when an EM surge realigns Earth's axis, or Planet X appears on the horizon, or some such drivel depending on which account you read.

Here are a few for you to sample:

Profile of cult leader Yuko Chino (Daily Mainichi),
Photo essay on the Panawave cult(Daily Mainichi),
An overview of the recent Panawave attention (The Independent),
City council gives cult a year to close shop even though the world ends in two days (via Japan Today),
and the Panawave Laboratory home page (in Japanese).

I have plans for Saturday, so the Earth had better not end on Friday!

Heroins toy

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ffherions.jpg
Meet Selphie Tilmitt of Final Fantasy VIII. Schoolgirl with a weapon, or just another omocha from the convenience store? Attitude with a splash of "Engrish," I say.

Does Bandai need an English copy editor?

Archiving

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If you look to the column at the right, you may notice a change. I've moved the Archives off to their own page and added a list of the five most recent comments.

This has been a long time coming. For the past couple of months, since a discussion at the first Japan Bloggers' Party in February in fact, I've been thinking about the archives of this weblog.

But I have a quandary.

When I began my weblog, I just lumped all the entries together each month. Now that I've accumulated 35 months of writing, maybe monthly archives are not the best way to go.

When I converted to Moveable Type last year, I started categorising my posts. But even so, I'll make my 1,000th entry later this week and I have only 5 categories.

Some weblogs have scores of categories with just a few posts each. My topics range far and wide, so I've opted for just a few broad categories: Work Updates, Japan Commentary, Personal Reflections, The Wider World, and Food & Recipes.

Since I have to go through and categories the first two years of Blogger-created posts, I'm trying to think carefully about my categories. What other categories make sense for this weblog? Should I have a separate category for video, instead of putting it under Work Updates? Should I subdivide the Japan Commentary category into, I'm not sure...Japan Nature, Japan Society, In Tokyo?

What do you think? Have you ever looked back for things in the weblog? What would have made the experience better? What do you do on your weblog that you think is worthwhile for me to adopt?

Jasmine bloom

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jasmin2.jpgLast spring I bought some greenery for the veranda of our new apartment. This rather dull-looking, waist-high shrub is an orange jasmine. The people at the shop told me it would bloom wonderfully scented flowers.

But last year, there were no blooms, just a collection of green leaves. We were disappointed.

jasmin3.jpgTwo days ago, the plant fulfilled its promise and produced a single blossom. It's not much to look at; about 2 cm long and hardly distinguishable from a leaf unless you look closely.

But it's so highly perfumed that this one tiny flower can be smelled from the far end of the veranda and even in the office when I leave the door open.

I truly hope that it makes flowers one at a time. The jasmine scent sort of clashes with the toilet paper...

Progress but no video

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strawberry-mikan.jpgIt was a busy week with paid work and photography fun so I didn't make much time to work on Hello Tokyo. But I did manage a little progress. I have photos of conbini to slot into the empty space you saw last week.

And in my fridge I have the carefully wrapped last harvest of the strawberry season and some terribly expensive out-of-season mikan. I will film them tomorrow, then eat them for breakfast. Mmmmm.

More to show next week, even if it's just the gaps filled in on what you saw before.

Dark summer

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Looks like it's time to buy a UPS or two for the office.

Kyodo News - The Tokyo metropolitan area may face serious power shortages as early as the end of June due to the shutdown of nuclear reactors operated by Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO) over a defect cover-up scandal, TEPCO officials said Thursday.

Concerns about a possible power outage in the Kanto region centering on Tokyo have grown since TEPCO shut down all of its 17 reactors for safety checks on April 15 following the cover-up scandal that emerged last August.

If I promise not to run my aircon, can I keep power for my computers?

Soborodon

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Here's a very simple Japanese recipe that is pretty, too. A don is a bowl of rice with stuff on top--gyuudon is the beef bowl that you can find in shopping mall food courts in the US. Soborodon is chicken and egg.

The seasoning for both the chicken and the egg mixtures is a classic mix of sake, salt and soy sauce. Many recipes use this combination and along with dashi fish stock, it gives Japanese food a distinctive flavor.

Soborodon
(serves 2)

2 servings of cooked rice, hot (about 1.5 cups)
Chicken topping:
250 grams ground chicken
1 Tblsp sake (rice wine)
1 tsp sugar
1 Tblsp soy sauce
Egg topping:
3 eggs
2 Tblsp dashi or water
1 Tblsp sake (rice wine)
1/2 tsp sugar
1 tsp soy sauce
2 tsp red pickled ginger, to garnish

Over low heat, cook the ground chicken with the sake and sugar, stirring well to break the chicken into tiny crumbs. When the chicken turns white, add the soy sauce and simmer for a few minutes, until the liquid is reduced to a tablespoon's worth.

Beat the eggs well with water, sake, sugar & soy sauce. Scramble the eggs over medium low heat. Again, you want a fine grained effect, so stir well to break them up. Cook until the liquid is mostly evaporated. [NOTE: If you don't eat eggs, you can substitute a cup of plain cooked corn or peas. Frozen works great and it's really fast.]

Divide the rice into two bowls. Spread half of the rice with chicken, the other half with egg. Garnish with a teaspoon of shredded pickled ginger right in the middle.

Dawn

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Tod's just gone to bed after a late night of work and I've just gotten up. Even though I haven't had quite enough sleep, the mosquito buzzing loudly in my ear between attacks kept me from getting any more.

So here I am at 4:23 am, watching the sky lighten and wondering if there's any coffee in the thermos pot left over from yesterday. May as well make use of the morning. I'll do my work now and take a nap in the afternoon.

Darkroom fun

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anshitsu1.jpgAfter seeing Tod grinning at the pinhole workshop last week, what better present could I get him for his birthday than the makings of a home darkroom?

We're now able to develop black and white paper negatives in our bathroom. It is a surprisingly simple set up. At least the basics are: a trio of trays, some tongs and a lot of chemicals. Plus a special red lightbulb that cost more than the developing chemicals combined. It's a good start, but I have a feeling that we're going to be accumulating photographic tools for a while.

We took eight exposures with our pinhole cameras and developed them. But instead of trying to make contact prints we scanned the images and inverted them in Photoshop. Worked like a charm, see below.

anshitsu2.jpgWe will make physical prints, too, but since we don't have an enlarger (must add to list of tools to acquire, along with 'light meter'), we'll have to use my desk lamp and guess about the timing a bit. Chance makes for fun art, though, so I think we'll enjoy experimenting.

I like the darkroom because of the instant gratification. It's like magic to see the blank paper turn into an image. The stop bath and fixer are boring but necessary. I get really impatient during the washing and drying. I want to examine the images closely in the daylight. More importantly, I want to see them in positive. I can't tell from the negative if it's turned out well or not. It's a learned skill, I hope.

Two images from this afternoon:

deck-railing.jpg
From Tod's "deck railings" series. 30 second exposure on Fujibro KM2 photo paper. Inversed in Photoshop.

kasuga-sign.jpg
My own "not too badly ruined" series (one image). 2 minute exposure on Fujibro KM2 photo paper. Inversed in Photoshop.

Walk through Kasuga

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Tod & I documented our part of town yesterday as part of Tod's birthday festivities. It was a lovely day for a walk and we had fun really paying attention to the details and quirky things that make our neighborhood different from others. I've posted the fruits of our labor on mediatinker.com so you can take a tour of Kasuga.

Soon, these will also be part of the Neighborhood Project run by UltraBob. You can get your neighborhood featured there--just send in your pictures and captions.

What's that smell?

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nepia.jpgIt's Nepia's Japan no Kaori toilet paper. Just what is Japan's fragrance? According to the package it's No. 1 SAKURA fragrance.

I'm not fond of scented toilet paper. I mean really, who are you trying to fool? The smell of your tp's not going to make toilet odors more pleasant. But Japan no Kaori has an interesting fragrance. It's a floral, but not sweet. It's almost citrus. Very similar to cherry blossoms, just as advertised.

It's also pink, another strike against it. I'm generally a plain white toilet roll girl, myself.

So why did I buy it? Three reasons. 1) I am fascinated by the idea of marketing toilet paper as "Japan's frangrance." Such agreeable cultural connotations for a such a mundane commodity. 2) I hoped it might inspire me to finish the lyrics for the other toilet paper song. 3) I wanted to share this oddity and ask you what you think America's fragrance might be. New car? Plastics? Shopping mall?

Shopping 2'49"

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It's very much a work in progress this week but "in progress" is better than nothing. I think Video Saturday deadlines will get this project done. Thanks for all the nice comments and support. You've renewed my enthusiasm that this video is worthwhile.

I managed to drop four minutes of video onto the timeline this week and I recorded placeholder voiceovers while sitting at my desk one morning. I don't think you can hear the trains rumbling past but I really need to be more careful of my aspirated Ps.

There's footage still to be shot (you'll see two blank sections), filters to apply to some of the clips, and timing adjustments all over the place! You're getting to see a scant three minutes, because I ran out of time to get the last 70 seconds presentable. So stay tuned for next week's edition...

For now, it's play video Shopping, Part 1. Quicktime, 1.9 MB. 2'49"

LaQua

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laqua.jpgThe newly opened LaQua looks like an amusement park, doesn't it?

Only from this angle. There are also 46 stores and 19 restaurants area, a fitness gym and a spa that includes baths filled with hot spring water they drilled for specially. Nestled between Tokyo Dome and the Bunkyo ward office, this is another of the city's new "urban destinations."

LaQua opened yesterday and I dragged Tod out to have a peek. We had lunch at Maharaja and afterwards I walked through the mall to see what it was all about. More of the same as everywhere else, really, but I will be able to reduce the number of trips to Shinjuku and Shibuya.

The rollercoaster, the Thunder Dolphin, makes a double loop around the roof and through the center of the hubless Ferris wheel at a breakneck 130 km/h. The entire building shakes when it goes past--in one store, a display of glasses toasted one another with chattering clinks every few minutes.

At 1,000 yen a ride, Tod calculated that they take in 480,000 yen an hour on a busy day. That works out to about 15 million USD a year if they are at full capacity on 300 days.

I'll bet the ward office civil servants are already weary of the people screaming past their windows every 3 minutes.

Eringi Risotto

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boletus.jpgEringi are delicious mushrooms. They have a rich, meaty flavor that is complemented by butter. Native to China and the Mediterranean, they are relatively new to Japan.

According to the research Tod's done, they're called "Boletus of the Steppes" or "King Oyster Mushroom" in English, but I just can't image a grocery store in the US putting all that on a sign! If you see these mushrooms outside Japan, could you let me know what they're called?

This recipe makes enough for three people as a main dish served with a big green salad and bread, just as we enjoyed it on Monday.

Eringi Risotto

100 grams eringi (2-3 medium sized mushrooms), sliced
100 grams chicken, cooked & diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 leek (or onion of your choice) sliced
2 cups short grain rice (arborrio, Japanese, etc), unwashed
1/2 cup white wine
4 cups chicken stock (hot)
3 Tblsp olive oil
4 Tblsp butter
1/2 cup parmesan cheese, grated
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

(If you don't have any leftover cooked chicken handy, medium dice a chicken breast, dredge in flour, saute and set aside.)

In a large, heavy skillet, heat the olive oil and 2 Tblsp butter (reserve the rest for later). Saute the eringi, leek and garlic until soft and the eringi turn a lovely caramel color. Add the rice and mix well to coat with oil. Cook slightly, but do not brown the rice. Splash in the wine to cool things down. Allow the wine to evaporate.

1/2 cup at a time, add the stock. Allow each addition to be absorbed by the rice before adding the next--it should take about 3 minutes per 1/2 cup of stock. This is the "risotto method" that gives the dish its name. When you get halfway through the stock, add the chicken. Check the rice for doneness after the 7th addition. The rice should be firm but not crunchy when it's done, so be ready to adjust with more or less stock as necessary.

Turn off the heat and mix in the remaining butter and the cheese. Sprinkle with black pepper and serve immediately.

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