August 2004 Archives

Legal addictive drugs to be banned

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Tokyo's governor is planning to ban some legal drugs starting next April.

The metropolitan government asked a panel Monday to map out the ordinance to ban the sale, production, import and advertisement of drugs such as those that induce hallucinations or improve sexual pleasure, which will be called "governor's assigned drugs."

I wonder if drugstores specialising in these newly illicit drugs will spring up along the borders of neighboring prefectures, providing easy access to the banned products?

It happens in the States. Along the Pennsylvania-Ohio border there were always fireworks for sale at makeshift stalls just inside the Ohio state line, and back in the day when the drinking age was state-mandated (18 in Ohio, 21 in PA), plenty of liquor stores.

And speaking of liquor, isn't that the #1 legal, addictive drug? I bet Ishihara won't ban that.

Typhoon effect

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The edge of typhoon Chaba (#16) blew across Kanto last night. At 1 am, I woke to hear rain pouring down. 14 mm fell that hour--about 10% of the month's quota all at once. The air was silvery grey with raindrops when I looked out the window.

This morning, the clouds play a time-lapse nature film. The atmosphere is blood temperature and gravid with humidity. Wind gusts 40 m/s from every direction and anything with makeshift aerodynamics--the watering cans, plants, tins of mosquito coils--now floats in the small pond on our veranda that formed in the rain.

The sky is lightening even as I type this and the weather forecast predicts a hot sunny day by noon. Don't bother with an umbrella today.

Golden Gai

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Shinjuku is well known for its exclusive little clubs and bars that are invitation only. The Golden Gai neighborhood, really just a handful of crisscrossing alleys, is stuffed full of itty bitty spaces for drinking and carousing. Imagine a hallway with doors on both sides and a few signs glowing above the doors and you're seeing Golden Gai.

Last night was the annual Golden Gai matsuri. About half the bars opened their doors to all comers and dispensed drinks at 2 for 500 yen until midnight--a good bargain for any Tokyo drinking establishment.

We tried out a few places with our friends Tracey, Ashley and Jamie. At Kura Kura we watched rhythmic gymnastics on a screen that took up an entire wall (it was a very small room); Kenzo's Bar, including Kenzo himself, was decorated in leopard prints; and Evi, one of Tracey's hangouts, was standing room only and kicked everyone out just before midnight--the bartender was getting cranky. We ended up at a karaoke bar called Champion where we sang until about 3 this morning.

Tracey, Ashley and I love to sing. Jamie fills in the chorus, but won't take the microphone. Tod shoots photos of us enjoying the evening. We singers took turns with the other patrons, but I think the three of us might have sung more than everyone else. It was a lot of singing.

Now I'm nursing a raspy voice (but no hangover) and it's back to work today. Ah, weekends.

Developing film

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The Japan Photographers Mailing List folks organized an afternoon workshop on developing black and white film. It may have been one of the best documented workshops ever, as everyone was snapping away as James Luckett, consumptive.org, our fearless guide spoke. He made the process crystal clear and unintimidating.

The process goes like this:

  1. Beer
  2. Load the film into the reel (in the dark, of course)
  3. Pre-soak: clear water and a little agitation
  4. Developer: check the chart on your film or developer for timing. Agitate 10 seconds every minute--or whatever you think is good. Use a timer so you don't lose track of when to stop developing.
  5. Stop bath or water wash: to remove the developer.
  6. Fixer: for twice the "clear time" --the length of time it takes for a snippet of film to come clear in the fixer. Don't forget to agitate.
  7. Wash, wash, wash
  8. Wash with "photo flo" and hang to dry.
  9. Beer

I think film developing is much like cooking. You can carefully follow a recipe or you can wing it a bit. Either way you end up with a palatable finished product. Whether or not you can reproduce it depends on how many variables you introduced.

Do you know how the little numbers appear on the edge of the negatives? I assumed they were done somehow during processing but they're actually on the film as a latent image from the factory. You can use them to tell if you correctly developed your film. They should be black. Grey indicates underdevelopment. If they're black and fuzzy, you developed too much.

I put some of our photos from the workshop in our gallery, if you want to take a peek.

Disembodied voice

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Something I've hankered to do is voice-overs and recording work. There's something appealing about being a disembodied voice.

"Next station: Willowdale. Please mind the gap."
"Press 9 for Customer Service."
"The show will begin shortly. Please turn off your pagers and cell phones."

It's a desire dating back to junior high school when I was selected to make an announcement over the school PA system. I later overheard a classmate say "Who was that, she had a great voice." Preteen ego puffed and latent wish born.

So when a colleague contacted me yesterday about doing a quick recording for a project he's working on, I grinned. Of course!

I sat in a cleverly constructed recording booth tucked into a corner of an office. Ensconced at a small table behind layers of cotton quilting and heavy metal doors, I could hear myself breathe through the monitor.

15 minutes later, I stepped out having done a few takes of the short script. As I emerged, the sound engineer told me that the microphone loved my voice. "Right in the range," he said.

Middle-aged ego boosted. That should last me 'til the next recording gig. I'll probably be 60 by then...

Reflections

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creative perspectivesThe city drained the park's reflecting pools in preparation for cleaning. Denied my daily downward glimpse of sky and leaf, I sought out other reflections on the way home from this morning's swim.

The range of reflective surfaces seemed limited: glass doors and windows, traffic mirrors, highly buffed cars, rearview mirrors, chromed railings and knobs, a neighbor's tiny koi pond. The reflections themselves were more mundane than not: the building across the way, me walking by, the street, sidewalk and traffic.

But there were a few choice morsels. I saw colored flowers on an otherwise stark modern sliding door, a smiling child on a bicycle reflected on a black taxi. My favorite was a tangle of overhead wires with a transformer against a grey sky reflected in the windshield of a red minivan.

Inspired by looking no farther than the surface, I will take the camera out this afternoon and try to capture some reflections. Not an easy task, but I think it will be fun.

Trail Mix Cookies

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recipe thursdayJo brought the most excellent trail mix on our camping trip--dried figs, dates, apricots, bananas, ginger, papaya, raisins, and sultanas mixed with peanuts, almonds, pistachios, and cashews. There was a bit more than we needed, and I snagged a bag to bring home.

I turned them into bar cookies--oat-rich, chewy, slightly crumbly nuggets of camping memories. They make a delicious breakfast, too.

Trail Mix Cookies
makes 20 cookies

1 cup trail mix (fruit and nut mix, no chocolate)
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 egg
1/2 cup brown sugar, lightly packed
1/2 cup flour
1 1/2 cups rolled oats
1 tsp baking powder
pinch salt

Chop the trail mix until everything's about the size of a raisin. Add to the dry ingredients. Cream the butter, sugar and egg. Combine the wet and dry mixtures. Spread in a greased 8 x 10 pan and bake at 350/180 for about 15 minutes. Cut into bars or squares while still slightly warm.

Sado photos

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A few pictures from Jo's camera to wind up the travelogue. Thanks, Jo!

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Me and Ashley sharing a laugh at the campsite. I look like I'm posing for a political poster.

Swimming mania

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You may recall that I found a place to swim back in June. I started out with a few tenuous laps, worked up to slightly longer stretches in the water, then had the good fortune to swim with Jeremy, who knows what he's doing and loves the water more than anyone I've ever met.

To my utter embarrassment, he watched me carefully and gently corrected my stroke. I owe him a debt of gratitude. Although at the time I wanted to sink to the bottom of the pool and hide, I did listen to what he explained and after breaking some of my bad habits, I swim heaps better.

My arms describe a sinuous path through the water. My shoulder extends and my hand enters the water far ahead of my head, then pulls back though the water nearly skimming my body, brushes past my hip, and breaks the surface elbow first. My kick is a slow hip driven 1-2 beat opposing my arms. It's nearly as easy as walking.

The coaching session with Jeremy was about six weeks ago. I bought a monthly pool pass shortly after that and now get in the water every morning or pay the consequence of being antsy all day. I swim for 45 minutes or so then come home and bore Tod by talking about swimming while we have lunch together. Tod doesn't swim.

But my sister swims, as it turns out. So we compare our lap times and laugh about how slow we are. I do 50 meters (two lengths of my 25m pool) in a mere 58 seconds--about the same speed as competitive 80 year olds. Next time Jenn & I are in the water together, we're going to race. She'll win; she swims 50m in 54 seconds.

Today I increased my distance per stroke, taking it down to 16 strokes across 25 meters. Usually I do 18 strokes per length, so shaving off two is a big change. I don't know if it made me any faster, but it felt good. I'm not consistent, though. I need more strokes as I tire. I definitely must work on my stamina.

I'm by no means a good swimmer, but I'm learning and improving every time I get into the water. And that's all that matters. That and beating Jenn when we race.

Sado weekend

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I've just returned from Sado Island, Niigata prefecture, where I attended the Kodo Earth Celebration. It was a weekend of camping, music and ocean.

If you have a chance to see Kodo play live (they tour all over the world), I recommend that you go. They are great drummers, versatile musicians and all-around superb performers. On stage they look like they are having the time of their life and the audience reflects their enthusiasm. They're coming to Tokyo in December and playing at the Bunkyo Civic Hall just down the road from me, so I'll get to hear them again soon.

The whole vacation was fun and relaxing. I'll try to backfill the details in the missing blog entries. But for now I'm off to bed, clean, dry and happy to be home.

More water and music

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I might be the only person who swims laps in the ocean. I woke early and went for a swim before everyone got up. Being a cautious soul, I didn't want to swim alone far from the shore so I swam out to the far side of the breakwater and did laps along its length for a while. The water had calmed down and cooled. It was a good energetic swim.

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Jo and Ashley cook brunch while Sarah looks on

After brunch, we headed into town and walked over to Ogi no Yu, a local sento. We bathed for an hour, enjoying the ocean view from the bath, then relaxed in the massage chairs for a while. It was lovely to be clean.

Jo took our groceries back to the campsite while the rest of us lounged in town and had a snack, then we were off to the final concert--Fanfare Ciocarlia and Kodo playing together. There were 2500 people crowded into the hilltop park.

Who'd've thunk that you could combine taiko drumming with gypsy music? But they did it, proving that Kodo are extremely versatile musicians. One number nearly brought me to tears -- a duet/battle between trumpet and bamboo flute. Such different tones echoing and repeating the same notes and phrases. Breathtaking.

I think my favorite bit was two of Kodo's drummers, carrying one drum between them arguing whether rice or noodles were better food. It was a rhythmic comedy sketch.

Kitsune-DON, Curry-DON, Niku-DON
Kitsune-uDON, Curry-uDON, Niku-uDON

Beach day

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Jo and Sarah wade out to chat with Ashley on the breakwater. Sobama beach

We spent most of the day in the water or on the sand. The waves were still pretty big from the typhoon and there was lots of seaweed floating around, so we body surfed in the morning and bobbed around without actually doing much swimming. Still, it was very nice to be in water.

The evening's concert with Romanian gypsy brass band Fanfare Ciocarlia was an energetic dance fest. Despite announcements that dancers were to move to the side of the seating area, when the band leader said "Everybody dance!" 1500 people did for over an hour. I left with more energy than I came with, and a pulled stomach muscle in the bargain.

Typhoon weather

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We arrived on Sado several hours later than planned, delayed by a typhoon blowing over. The train was late, the ferry cancelled. But it made no difference--everyone else was delayed, too--and we snagged the perfect campsite at Sobama beach overlooking the ocean.

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I've never owned a tent before; I don't camp too often. But this one is my very own. It's just the right size for me (they say 1-2 people, but you'd have to be two skinny people or very friendly). It has the best "genkan" I've ever seen--it's almost as big as the sleeping space.

With camp set up (5 tents, 7 people), we caught the bus into Ogi to check out the festival fringe events and food stalls before walking over to the Kodo concert. The storm blew the roof off the outdoor stage, so the concert was relocated in the municipal gymnasium. 1500 people sat on the floor--it's a large gym.

After the concert, I looked up. Ah! The stars are thick in the sky on Sado. The Milky Way is prominent in the sky. I spied all 7 of the Pleiades, the teapot, Cassiopeia, and the familiar constellations from my childhood. I could have gazed at the stars all night, but sleep got the best of me too soon.

Camping Soup

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recipe thursdayThis weekend I'm off to Sado Island to camp for a few days with friends and attend the taiko drumming festival. We're splitting up the cooking duties so that everyone makes one meal. I'm bringing along everything needed for lentil soup. Except for the optional cheese topping, nothing needs refrigeration.

Camping Soup
serves 4

1 cup lentils
3 cups water
1 carrot
1/2 onion
2 Tblsp dried garlic chips
2-3 dried red chilies
1 Tblsp oil
salt & pepper
8 tortillas
1 cup grated cheese (optional)

Small dice the onion and carrot. Over the camp stove, heat the oil and sautee the onion and carrot until just browned. Add the garlic and chilies and cook until the scent wafts up to greet you. Add the lentils and toast briefly, then pour the water in, cover the pan, and allow to boil for about 20 minutes. Salt and pepper to taste.

Top the soup with grated cheese and serve with flame-toasted tortillas.

Tokyo stations

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On jtrains, a geeky train mailing list I read, someone asked how many stations are within Tokyo's 23 wards. Thanks to desktoptestu we now know the answer.

566 stations.
15 rail companies.

566 is a little bit misleading. Some stations are used by multiple rail companies and are counted once for each company. For example, Iidabashi station has trains from JR East, Tokyo Metro and Toei. So even though it's one station as far as travelers are concerned, it's counted thrice.

And here's the breakdown by rail company in order of number of stations:

Tokyo Metro: 132
Toei: 130
JR East: 75
Tokyu: 62
Tobu: 29
Seibu: 28
Keio: 25
Keisei: 19
Odakyu: 15
Keikyu: 19
Yurikamome: 12
Tokyo Monorail: 9
Tokyo Rinkai Kosoku: 8
JR Tokai: 2
Saitama Kosoku Tetsudo: 1

Indoshina

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We often eat out, sampling Tokyo's vibrant restaurants scene. We travel all over the city in search of good food, so it's a nice surprise to discover a treasure in our neighborhood.

Indoshina specialises in Vietnamese cuisine with a smattering of other SE Asian flavours on the menu. I've walked past it dozens of times but it looks like a dive and we've been so disappointed in the Japanified Vietnamese restaurants we've tried that we've always given Indoshina a miss. But it turns out that it's quite good. A Vietnamese man runs the kitchen.

And boy does he know how to cook. We tried a spicy tofu and pork sautee, vinegar-dressed celery salad with peanuts, fried noodles and eggplant soup. The fried noodles were uninspired, but the other dishes were excellent. The soup, a coconut and onion broth with chunks of eggplant and pork flavored with lemongrass and shiso, was outstanding. The prices were reasonable, with each dish running about 800 yen.

Indoshina is on Kasuga Dori, just a few blocks from Myogadani station (towards Korakuen). The red, white and blue striped sign is in kanji that sound out in-do-shi-na but don't mean anything. There are pictures of the food outside, so you probably won't miss it. Open 5 pm til midnight on weekdays and til 11 pm on weekends.

Yoyogi park people

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Who spends the afternoon in a park? A variety of people and I spied on them all. You can have a peek in the Yoyogi Park People gallery.

People weren't the only ones enjoying themselves; light was playing in the fountain. Pretty.

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Members' cards

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My wallet's become extra thick with various stores' point cards, so I pulled them all out and had a look at what I've collected. Most of them are useless but they offer a voyeur an interesting look into my shopping habits.

Santoku & Queen's Isetan (grocery stores) cards get me a 500 yen coupon after I've purchased 50,000 in groceries). I just redeemed a Santoku coupon yesterday. It will be about 6 weeks before I get another one. At QI, you have to check your total in a little kiosk that prints you a coupon if you have enough points.

Bic Camera gives me 10% of the purchase price in points to be spent as yen on future purchases. I think Tod's card has about 16,000 points. Mine's got 5,000. We shop there too often but it feels good to buy things just in points.

Jingu Skate Rink has a really good deal. Get 5 stamps and earn one free entrance. Ten stamps gets you in for free three times. I have 2 stamps so far. Must skate more!

Oshman's sporting goods store gives you a 1,000 yen discount after you spend 20,000 yen. I bought one bathing suit and I'm already 70% of the way there. It was a double points sale week; I didn't spend 14,000 on a bathing suit.

Shop In gives 500 yen for 10,000 yen in purchases. This is probably the most generous of the programs, but they sell cosmetics and jewelry and stuff like that, so I don't shop there very often...why have I kept this card?

Karako sells "ethnic" housewares at La Qua. I've got 520 points on the card, but no idea what they are good for. I should toss this one.

Club ON is Seibu's member club. I accumulate 1 point for every 1000 yen I spend, but I've no idea what I do with the points. I do a lot of framing at Loft, part of the Seibu group, so I probably have a fair number of points.

Junoesque Bagel Buy 4000 yen's worth of bagels and get three bagels free. They have a kiosk in the station where I transfer on a Friday night coming home late, so we often have bagels for breakfast on Saturday mornings. I'm sure I'll fill this one up in no time at all.

Coffee History is my newest card. It's a coffee bean shop in Ginza with roasted and green beans from all over, but a paltry reward program: after 2.5 kg of coffee purchased, you get a 500 yen discount. Good coffee isn't cheap.

Record breaking season

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Despite dim prospects in for medals in Athens in the next few weeks, Japan's doing great in other record breaking areas. Mother Nature is having her own field day here in Tokyo.

This is the 40th straight day of manatsu-bi, midsummer days that reach 30 degrees or more.

It's the longest unbroken stretch of hot days since Tokyo meteorologists started taking notes in 1923. The previous record was 37 days in 1995.

Tokyo's new record doesn't touch the one set in Kobe in 1994: 76 miserable dog days. Kobe can keep that gold medal; that is one record I hope we don't break.

Naming conventions

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creative perspectivesI am the sort of person who names inanimate objects--cars, stuffed toys, and particularly computers.

I tend to work in computer-rich environments where names are necessary to identify the machines. At the bank, all the computers had alphanumeric codes. I think my testing suite server was tk2t126-something. Neither creative nor memorable.

By long-standing tradition, geeks name machines in sets. At Telerama, where the mascot was an elephant, we had africa, asia, tusk and ivory. In one of Duquesne's media labs, the computers honored film directors. In another, we used color names.

Since I own one or two computers at a time, my naming scheme runs serially. Most express passions: desire, joissance, yen, ravary, iru. My laptops and external storage devices reflect travel and movement: portage, ferry, texel, siphon.

Many of the names have personal double meanings. I named yen right after my first trip to Japan. Iru means both to need and to exist and it came into existence when I needed it to finish a project. Ferry's purchase required a boat trip to Dover, Delaware.

Soon a new computer arrives on my doorstep. While sitting in Hibiya Koen the other evening, I hit upon the right name: koi. You might know koi as a Japanese carp, but with different kanji it means romantic love. Change the kanji again and it means entreaty or request. It can also mean intention and yet another meaning is "deep, dark, dense, strong". Koi fits in nicely with my passions.

How do you name your objects?

Orecchiette with bacon

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recipe thursdayLooking for a quick dinner the other evening, I threw together this pasta dish. I would have used pancetta, but it's not available in my grocery store. They do carry "fresh bacon block" which is unsliced bacon and worked quite nicely instead of pancetta.

Orecchiette with Bacon
serves 3-4

250 g orecchiette pasta (or shells, sprials, penne)
1 zucchini
1 red pepper
12 white button mushrooms
10 cm bacon block
grana padano or parmesan cheese to garnish
salt and black pepper to taste

Put the water on to boil the pasta. Slice the vegetables and bacon into sticks about 3 cm x .5 cm. Heat a frying pan and add the bacon, stirring frequently to cook until brown and nearly crispy. Remove from pan, leaving bacon grease. Fry the peppers, mushrooms and zucchini in the grease. When soft but not mushy, remove vegetables from pan. Cook the pasta, drain and mix with the bacon and vegetables. Season with black pepper and salt; garnish with cheese.

Serve with salad and garlic bread.

Cash and credit

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I was down to 1236 yen in my wallet this morning, so I went to the post office ATM to get some money. As usual, I withdrew 50,000 yen--about a week's worth of groceries, train fares, restaurant meals, and small purchases. It doesn't seem like a lot of yen to carry around, but if I convert it to US dollars, it's more than I would ever consider carrying in that country. $450? No way. $20 and some plastic...

I used to pay for just about everything with a debit card that deducted the amount directly from my bank account. Groceries, gas for the car, lunches, clothes, snacks at the convenience store. Every shop in America has a credit card machine next to the cash register. And everyone uses them almost to the exclusion of paper money.

In Japan I carry cash. I like it better.

Cash is discreet. Nobody needs to know what I do with my money. If you examined my ATM card use, you could tell when and where I withdrew money, but not what I spent it on. With a debit card there's a detailed record of your spending habits. Creepy.

Cash is concrete. Money in my wallet waxes and wanes as I withdraw and spend. It's easy to keep track of what I have left for the week. It gives me pause when I spend. A small pause, anyway. It's shocking to take out 50,000 on Wednesday and spend it all by Thursday night. But with a debit card, it's easy to forget exactly what you've spent.

Cash is neat. It's so pretty--all the colors and patterns (the guilloches are particularly lovely). The microprinting and fibrous paper, the holograms, watermarks and slivers of shiny ribbon running through it offer hours of fodder for daydreaming and fine observation. No credit card has ever capture my attention for so long as a 1000 yen bill has.

Eye Frisk

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I've never been a big fan of putting drops into my eyes, but I've been overindulging in computers and books for the last couple of days and my eyes were feeling kinda crusty this morning, so I grabbed Tod's bottle of Sante FX Neo.

"Whooooo, refreshing!!" he exclaims every time he drops them in. I should have taken that as a warning. But I tried them anyway.

I didn't read the ingredients before I used them. If I had, I might have stopped myself. The contain neostigmine menthylsulfate (minty!), aminoethylsulfonic acid (aka taurine), potassium L-asparate, tetrahydrozoline hydrochloride (vasoconstrictor) , chlorpheniramine maleate (antihistamine), and e-aminocaproic acid (used to stop bleeding during surgery).

Ouch! Refreshing! Ooooooh! Refreshing!

Sante FX Neo are sold only in Japan, so overseas readers won't be able to try them. But follow along with the instructions to get the idea:

  1. Drop a Frisk or an Altoid into your eye.
  2. Repeat with the other eye before you chicken out.
  3. Blink. Tear up.
  4. Jump around a bit trying to get the mints out.
  5. Note the mentholated tear tracks burning your skin.
  6. Feel refreshed when the pain finally stops.

That's the effect of these eyedrops. Will I use them again? Maybe...

Overgrown

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Tomb with weeds. Zoushigaya Bochi, Toshima-ku.

Rhythm Train

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play videoRhythm Train 0'18" (2.3 MB MP4)

I shot this froma Tokaido line train heading towards Tokyo. I love the syncopation of the windows, doors and travellers' heads going past. I attempted to score it in Soundtrack, but didn't get the effect that I wanted--creating music is yet another area for improvement.

Your influence

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How do I influence others in a way that changes the world? This is something I've been thinking about lately.

My personal effect on the working of our world seems pretty insignificant. I have no progeny (human or creative) and I can think of nothing I've done that will live on after I die. Nothing sticks out as me having changed someone's opinion or actions. At least as far as I am aware...

When I consider it that way, it seems that only a handful of people have any real influence on the world--the leaders and luminaries we read about in the news, for example.

But for each newsworthy leader, there are levels upon levels of people who influenced him. And sometimes you just can't know that you'll be one of those influential people. As far as I know, there's no way to predict what effect you're going to have on the world through your actions. It's the butterfly effect on a human scale.

New Spaces

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creative perspectivesMy recent decision to abandon my container garden has opened my eyes to the possibilities of the spaces around me. After removing the planters and tiered shelves, and washing down the tile flooring, I discovered that the little garden space is quite a bit bigger than I remembered. It's a lovely spot for sitting and thinking.

Which leads me to wonder how I can rearrange my office. I've been feeling sort of stuck in this long narrow room--it's cluttered, fussy and distracting. We've got two desks, a small filing cabinet, a credenza, and two big metal racks full of equipment. If I turn my desk, can I still get to the door? What if I move the racks together and use them as a divider between my side of the room and Tod's?

I think it's time to get the measuring tape out and figure out how to get a new perspective on this room.

Coffee jelly

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recipe thursdayThis is a quick and easy gelatin dessert that requires no cooking and is low in calories. Coffee jelly is a popular dessert in Tokyo. The coffee jelly sold in the stores is usually sweetened, but this version delivers a sharp contrast between the bitter coffee jelly and the sweet milk.

Coffee Jelly
serves 2

5 g gelatin
50 ml hot water
200 ml cold coffee (for softer jelly, use 250 ml coffee)
1 tsp sweetened condensed milk

Thoroughly dissolve the gelatin in the hot water. Add the coffee and stir. Pour into two small bowls or glasses. Chill and allow to set. Serve drizzled with condensed milk.

Portable Market

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This vegetable truck parks on the corner across from Denzuin temple, creating a convenient market for the local ladies.

The owner chats up the aunties as though he were hoping to marry them all. But the first time I asked him a question, he answered in the rudest possible way and made me feel really stupid. I guess I'm not the marrying type. So I don't go very often. Really, who wants to be insulted while buying lettuce?

But I like the idea of the portable vegetable market. There's a fish truck man, too, who parks around the other corner. He's much nicer and once gave me a free grilled-squid-on-a-stick. I'll bet he thought I wouldn't eat it. Ha! I fooled him, it was delicious.

Afternoon rainstorm

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A typhoon blew through last week. The sunlit raindrops looked like a downpour of diamonds. So luxurious.

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Gaijin in the pool

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"I'm here all the time, love," replied the foreign swimmer in the next lane when I said hello this morning and noted that I hadn't seen him before.

Well, he was exaggerating. He isn't there all the time--usually on Sundays and sometimes during the week. Seems nice enough and he swims 2 km on Sundays. Not sure how far he went today, but he's planning to swim around a small island in September, so I guess he's preparing for that 8 km trek.

I don't usually talk to people when I swim, so it was a treat to meet an English speaking neighbor who likes the water. Hope to see you again soon, Sean. But not on Sunday; the pool is too crowded.

Space redesign

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The garden is dead. Summer heat, lack of water and my inattention finally created a collection of dirt-bound twigs and crispy leaves huddled against the veranda's edge. I'll salvage what I can, but I give up.

I'm going to remove the planters and fill the space with a comfortable chair, a side table and maybe a rug I loom myself from sewing scraps and old clothes.

This will be my quiet corner to get away from the computer and breathe some city-fresh air. I'll breakfast there, scribble in notebooks or enjoy a cocktail in the evening.

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  • Carolyn Farwell: Oh the gif you've created is so funny! You have read more
  • Tracey Northcott (@keitaigoddess): I am going to miss you!! read more
  • Eric Smith: Hey Kristen: Met you on a train a couple of read more
  • sar: Hey beautiful !! you have some mad drawing skills ! read more

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