September 2005 Archives

Grown-up Fashion

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Black heels and a black suit

Today I visit a client's office and must blend in with the corporate surroundings, so I've slipped into pantyhose, donned my favorite suit (yes, I have more than one) and stepped into my high heels. I am ready to play the creative professional, emphasis on professional.

Fall Fashion Statement

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Oxblood Doc Martens and a black skirt

Not sure when (if) this was actually fashionable, but clunky boots and long skirts are my favorite things to wear. I may need to update my idea of "fashionable" or end up as the 80s equivalent of an aging hippy---an old punk?

Yasukuni War Cry

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Victory or agony? It's hard to tell.

I've been to the controversial Yasukuni Shrine a few times. This is where Koizumi gets in trouble for paying official visits because it enshrines the war dead--heros and Class A criminals alike.

Walking through it on Sunday evening, my eye fell on the large stone lanterns that flank the entrance. On each side of the hexagonal base is a bronze scultpure with a war scene from land or sea.

You can see all six of the brozes and the lantern they are attached to, in my Yasukuni Flickr set

Pants Thief

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I received this e-mail from a stranger this weekend:

Hi - I don't often visit your website - but I remember it because of your thai pants pattern. I was wondering if you were selling it now on ebay? I saw this just before and I knew I had seen it before:

(link to the eBay Australia auction)

I hope it is you selling it! Good luck with your selling!

No, I don't sell things on eBay. My pants pattern is free for anyone to use but I have not granted rights for anyone to sell it. It's one of my all-time most viewed pages--it's been looked at over 22,000 times since I published it last February.

So I wrote to Kathy the seller on Friday night to tell her that despite her claim in the item's listing, she did not "own full rights" to the content in her 3 page e-book. I wished her well but asked her to stop selling my pattern.

I haven't heard from Kathy yet, but someone bought the pattern for five Australian dollars on Saturday and it hasn't been relisted.

I've mailed off the official paperwork to eBay's VeRO program to assert my right of ownership. I don't know what will come of it, but we will see.

What other of my works are out there being ripped off?

FJP #7: Goodnight Wine

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Oyasumi Wine

It's not a nightcap. It's a packet of bath salts.

Oyasumi Wine gives your skin three rewards:

1. Bright and glossy skin from wine polyphenols;
2. Healthy skin thanks to co-enzyme Q10;
3. Evening primrose oil to moisturise your skin

Especially on the nights when you're tired, the mellow beauty of red wine in the water gives you an intoxicating feeling of dreamy comfort.

It gives you comfortable sleep on the nights when your heart is tired.

Well, I could use a good tipsy sleep. I think I'll go try it out now.

Price: 158 yen
Manufacturer: Kiyo Jochugiku KK
Sales point: Shop In

FJP #6: Suspense Manju

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Suspense Manju

This is a spin-off product from a popular Nippon Television series, Kasasu, (Tuesday Suspense Theater) that airs scary movies.

There are six cakes in the box. One of them is filled with spicy hot bean jam, instead of the usual sweet bean jam. We tried them with friends last night after Rie, Yumiko, & Yuka hummed the show's theme song.

Who got the spicy one?

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Price: 630 yen
Manufacturer: Daitou AYSS
Sales point: RanKing/RanQueen

FJP #5: Foot Detox Tapes

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Neteru Ma-ni

This is far and away the freakiest product yet. Last night at bedtime, Tod & I taped six porous packets of odd-smelling sand-like stuff to my feet and by the morning, they'd turned into hard, goo-oozing lumps.

So what's in them and what are they doing?

The packets contain Triple Power: eucalyptus, tourmaline and agarics mushrooms. Eucalyptus is known as a remedy for a lot of things including coughs and minor scrapes. Though the tourmaline fad in Japan seems to have passed its peak, the stone still brings benefits of negative ions and far infrared rays. The mushrooms provide vitamins and minerals and are thought to prevent cancer and ward off Alzheimers. It also makes the stuff smell like a cross between a fire sale and a Russian restaurant.

According to the instructions, taping these packets to your feet detoxes you while you sleep. The main activity is in the sap from the eucalyptus.

A liberal and rough translation of the vague copy on the package:

As tree sap carries the energy from the roots to the tips of the leaves, so will this sap-infused packet carry the healing energy all through your body via the tsubo (energy points for accupuncture/shiatsu) located in your feet.

What definitely happens is that while you sleep, the eucalyptus extract heats up and melts all over your feet, making them sticky and congealing the rest of the packet. The oils in the eucalyptus also make your feet tingle a little bit. Several hours after taking off the packets, my feet still felt cool and happy, like they'd had a good massage.

Do I feel detoxed? I don't know. I will say that I'm in a better mood and more energetic today than I have been in a few days. But that could just be the amusement of leaving a trail of sticky footprints from the bed to the bath.

Price: 1,050 yen
Manufacturer: BMK
Sales Point: RanKing/RanQueen

FJP #4: Turmeric Tonic

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Kan no Suke (Liver Assistant)

Here's another patent medicine with miracle curative powers. Turmeric is well-known in Japan for helping your liver to process alcohol--it's the curcumin that does the trick.

Inside the box are two sachets of granulated powder--one for before drinking and one for after. The powder is turmeric mixed with zedoary and some dried turtle bits. Zedoary is an Indian plant in the ginger family used as a medicinal stimulant.

Turmeric helps you drink more, zedoary fixes up the hangover, and the turtle stuff adds vigor to your body. Or as the company website says: Solve it, Erase it, Straighten it.

I enlisted Tod to test this out last night at Oktoberfest in Hibiya Park, though he downed the first packet with a swig of beer so I'm not sure how effective that one was.

When I asked him this morning, he said his liver felt fine and he didn't seem to have a hangover. Was it the Kan no Suke at work? Hard to tell.

Price: 315 yen
Manufacturer: Hosendo
Sales Point: RanKing/RanQueen

FJP #3: Cat food snack

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Yaki Katsuo (from the Ciao Cat Snack Series)

This is not the only type of cat food sold in Japan, but it is certainly the most interesting. Encased in this vacuum-packed plastic is a strip of katsuo fish (bonito) imbued with green tea essence to reduce the fishy smell. This one is regular katsuo flavor, but it also comes in scallop, sardine and even dashi (Japanese soup stock).

The packaging tells the rest of the story:

"Direct from Tosashimizu Harbour"

"Gently juicy, with lots of taste appeal. Delicious fresh ingredients to please your cat."

"Cats like salty foods. Your cat will like it even better if you heat it to body temperature before serving."

"The katsuo that come in on the Japan Current from Souda are cooked to fragrant perfection and soft juiciness to please your beloved cat."

"Soften by squeezing gently before opening."

"No artificial colors. Made in Japan."

Price: 88 yen
Manufacturer: Inaba Foods (pet food division)
Sales point: Seifu supermarket

FJP #2: Insect Repellent for Rice

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Kome-touban

Most Japanese homes (if not all) store their rice in a big, boxy container that holds five or ten kilograms of rice. It gets used up quickly, but bugs love rice as much as people. So what to do? Put this insect repellent in it.

The 10 cm tall plastic pepper goes into your rice bin and repels weevils and other pests for up to six months. As the pepper samurai on the package insists, "Rice is delicious!" Togarashi Power!

Kome-touban is made from togarashi, cayene chili pepper, in a gel base. A list of points on the back:

  • Togarashi extract and fermented alcohol protects the rice from bugs.
  • When the product runs low, it's easy tell when to exchange it
  • The alcohol in the product keeps your rice appetising and keeps mildew and bacteria at bay.
  • You can use it in a rice bag or in your rice box

But it says that if you store eggs in your rice, you might get bugs anyway. (Who puts eggs in their rice??)

It also warns not to eat the contents and if you do, to call the ambulance for aid. The gel is highly flammable. Dangerous stuff...

Price: 398 yen
Manufacturer: ST Chemical Corporation
Sales point: Seifu supermarket

FJP #1: Collagen Marshmallows

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It's Freaky Japanese Products Week at mediatinker. All week long, I'm going to buy some of the strange and wacky things in Japanese shops. I'm looking for fads, trends and short-lived phenomenon that rake in the yen for manufacturers.

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Collagen Marshmallows

Collagen is what makes skin elastic and taking supplements is good for aging skin, they say. There are tons of collagen-rich facial treatments, pills and creams on the market but I've never seen collagen marshmallows before today.

For only 122 yen, I purchased a 50 gram packet of lightly grapefruit flavored marshmallows at the local drugstore.

Normal marshmallows contain about 300 mg of collagen (it's processed from cow and pig marrow into the gelatine that makes marshmallows gummy) but these balls of chewy sweetness contain 3000 mg through added collagen peptides. That's quite a bit and the instructions say you should eat half a packet a day.

Price: 122 yen
Manufacturer: Eiwa Confectionary Company
Sales Point: local drugstore

Drawing in Karuizawa

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Two-fisted painting

Having quickly tired of the bath and hotel, I spent the second morning drawing a little bit of tree trunk after having another walk around the grounds. I made a recording of birds sounds with a stream burbling in the background (and a bit of a breeze, too).

play mp3Karuizawa Birdsong 1'59" MP3 (1.8 MB)

(Click to see the photo Tod snapped while I was recording--if you listen carefully, you can hear his camera's shutter.)

After lunch, Tod rented a bicycle and scouted out the rest of the complex while I sat on a moss covered rise to execute a a bunch of 60 second sketches as a drawing exercise.

We were to take up the tour again at 14:20, but the bus was two hours late--stuck in traffic on the way from Tokyo. By the time we left the hotel theday was fading. Our apple picking and grape picking were reduced to short hops off the bus at roadside stands in the pitch dark to be handed some fruit and shuffled back onto the bus. Terribly disappointing, as I'd looked forward to standing in the orchard and smelling the fruit and the earth.

We arrived at home 4 hours late. We'll never do a bus tour on a weekend (particularly a holiday weekend) again.

Bus Tour to Karuizawa

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Hotel Green Plaza, Karuizawa

One thing Tod & I had never done until this weekend was to take a Japanese bus tour. They seem the province of older Japanses folks, but this is "Respect for the Aged" weekend, so it was the right way to celebrate.

We showed up on time at the appointed departure place, but screwed up right away by failing to notice the seating assignments posted on the door of the luxury bus. We really bollocksed up the works by sitting two rows ahead of where we were assigned. Because we couldn't fight our way back down to the front of the bus, a fellow passenger had to check the chart and shout our assignment to us. Embarrassing, but it was our only obvious error of the day.

The bus started off with two rounds of applause (for the guide and the driver) and a lot of explanations. We were offered the choice of reserving a popular lunch option for our meal stop, and a bento for the return trip the next day. We opted for both, as it seemed simplest.

Lunch was kamameshi, a steamed rice and chicken dish, at a roadside restaurant that's been serving it for 120 years. I guess that makes is popular, as advertised. They certainly had the bus tour business down pat. A man with a flag bearing the restaurant's logo greeted our bus as we pulled into the parking lot He waved teh flag high as he lead the lunching crowd through the gift shop and upstairs to our long table in the restaurant.

Back on the bus, we continued north to Karuizawa, a famous mountain resort area where many well-off families have summer homes. We'd spend the night at a hotel and on the way back, we'd stop along the way to pick apples and grapes.

"Karuizawa is a little bit interesting," my friend Elizabeth warned me. "It's where the upper middle class go for the summer, and it's a mix of Western styles and Japanese tastes."

She was more spot-on than I imagined. Many of the buildings, including the hotel, are half-timbered Swiss look-alikes. The summer homes span a wide range of styles, none of them particularly Japanese. Our hotel room was split in two: half the room was carpeted, papered in a floral design and sported twin beds. The other half was tatami with a low table, zabuton cushions and the ubiquitous complimentary green tea.

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Beautiful flora

Shaking our heads in wonder, we headed outside to walk around the complex. The air smelled clean and woodsy and it wasn't long before we were off the beaten path and hunting for interesting flora and fauna. I spotted a pink mushroom; we marvelled at moss and discovered a well-contained stream meandering through the property.

Of course, we enjoyed an onsen bath and the hotel's extensive buffet dinner before heading off to bed. We had more fun in store for us the next day...

Creative Languages

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creative perspectivesA conversation with a trilingual friend at dinner last night got me thinking about non-verbal languages.

She told me the story of how her grandmother would watch Japanese TV dramas with her every week, and each week at 8:40 when the director pointed out very clearly who the bad guy was, she would turn and say to her granddaughter, "Look, see, there. It's him! He's the bad one." Of course, the younger generation had already figured that out from more subtle clues. She had been immersed in the visual language of film since childhood.

Though grammar of film was once the province of an elite set of filmmakers and television producers, these days it's cheap and easy to make your own films with digital video cameras and computer editing. So film is being "spoken" by regular people rather than just watched. It's becoming more common.

In fact, kids are learning to speak it school when they make documentary and storytelling videos as class projects. And they learn by imitation, too. A group of 5th graders in Minnesota did this interpretation of DEVO's Whip It video.

A form of communication I have missed out on is the video game interface. Though interfaces are not a grammatical language per se, the skills a gamer exhibits - ability to quickly parse a visual field for information on ammo, maps, lives remaining, etc-- are changing the way people communicate. There is an entirely new vocabulary in film these days--variable-speed pans and montages, for instance, that convey movement thorugh time and space in a way that is novel.

All of this leads to the inevitable question: what language signal will I need to have pointed out to me in the most obvious and simplest way when I am 80? What creative visual or aural (or scent!) languages are developing now that will change the way a younger generation thinks and communicates?

Nut Encrusted Salmon

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recipe thursday I promised this to Yuka for dinner as a repayment for a favor. We haven't managed to get together to enjoy it, but Tod & I had it last night. Takes about 30 minutes, start to finish, and is wonderfully light and delicious. The secret is quatre epices, a French spice mixture of white pepper, nutmeg, cinnamon & clove.

Nut Encrusted Salmon
serves 2

2 salmon fillets
1/2 lemon
1/8 cup of panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
1/4 cup of mixed nuts (almonds, pistachios, macadamias, walnuts, brazil nuts, etc)
dash quatre epices
salt & black pepper to taste
1 tsp butter

Squeeze the lemon over both sides of the fish fillets and set aside while you prepare the crumbs. Chop or grind the nuts finely. In a baking pan large enough to contain the fish, mix nuts with breadcrumbs and season with a liberal dash or two of quatre epices then salt & pepper to taste.

Press the fish into the crumb mixture, turn the fillets over and mound the remainder on top of the fish. Dot with butter. Bake in a 350/160 oven for 20 minutes.

New Foodie Book

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I had the honor of paging through the only printed copy of my friend Elizabeth's new book this week. It's gorgeous, though she worries it is too heavy. I disagree; the book has a good heft.

But better than weight, it has recipes! From fish to desserts, there are fabulous Japanese dishes to cook, a richly illustrated "pantry" section, and lots of tips and kitchen techniques. It really is a marvel. I've eaten with Elizabeth many times and she is a master chef, even when we're just having a casual lunch while computer troubleshooting.

Washoku, Recipes from the Japanese Home Kitchen is due in bookstores next month and available for preorder from Tenspeed Press, and at Amazon.

Elizabeth talked with me about the book, along with one of my favorite topics, Japanese pickles, in my recent Hanashi Station show, Japanese Kitchen. (12.1 MB MP3)

Have a listen and order the book (unless you're on my Christmas list, in which case...surprise! You're getting a cookbook this year!). Elizabeth has a US book tour lined up, so check her calendar at Taste of Culture and see if she's going to be in your area soon.

Psmith in the City

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I volunteered with Librivox to read aloud some of the public domain Project Gutenberg texts. I talked about doing this on my own last year, but except for some scattered short stories, never really followed through.

It's a daunting task to read an entire book aloud, so sharing the work with a cohort of other reader is a much more pleasant experience...at least for the reader. Who knows what the other readers sound like. Some will be good, others not as good. I'm striving for 'not the worst.'

Today I recorded the first three chapters of P. G. Wodehouse's Psmith in the City, a 1910 account of two college boys who go to earn a living at a bank--their arch rival is the bank manager, Mr. Bickersdyke (what a mouthful, it took me a few takes to get it right).

One of the things that I think will be interesting about this project will be reading books I'd never thought to read before. I read some Wodehous, but not this one.

I don't know when it will be put up on Librivox, or when the following chapters are scheduled to come out, but here it is for your enjoyment (in two different formats):

play mp3Psmith in the City, chapters 1-3 29'45" MP3 (27.2 MB)

play oggPsmith in the City, chapters 1-3 29'45" OGG Vorbis (25.8 MB)

Early Autumn Evening

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The evening sky at 6 pm

I woke to the sound of crickets this morning--a promise of cool weather to come. I recorded their quiet chirping outside my office this evening complete with kids playing and a train rushing past at the end:

play mp3Early Autumn Evening 0'56" MP3 (864 KB)

Parisian Hotels

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I have spent the last couple of days looking online for a reasonably priced hotel in Paris. I am coming to the conclusion that it is an impossible task. It's not that there is a lack of hotels but that there are entirely too many.

I'd like to stay in a quiet neighborhood near the center of the city, in a double room at a 2- or 3-star, small hotel for under 175 Euros a night. All the places I was most keen on are booked for the nights we'll be there in October. So now I'm faced with at least two dozen runners-up and a level of flexibility that puts me in the range of hundreds of hotels. It's mind boggling.

So I'm taking recommendations.

Anyone have a favorite Paris hotel? Tell me about it. Why do you like it? Where is it? Does it have a web page I could peek at?

I guess if I wait long enough, I could discover the joys of Paris' parks after dark.

Shinobazu Boating

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Audrey Hepburn (Tracey) and Jimmy Stewart (Tod) enjoy the drinks.

Some days are performance art, honestly. How else could I leave the house dressed as a water sprite?

The boating party was tiny--Tod, Tracey and me--but lots of fun anyway. Tod rowed us out to the middle of the pond and set us to drift. We popped the cork on a bottle of sprkling wine and noshed on cheese, crackers, fruit and cookies.

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Me and Tracey, a study in contrasts.

The best part of the afternoon was watching people on shore and the other boaters watch us. Some waved, some looked away, a few called out to us. Most just smiled. We really did resemble like the painting on the invitation with our parasols and dress up clothes.

Avoidance

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creative perspectivesI'm doing an art project now that I keep putting off. I really want to work on it, but it's causing some controversy here in the McQuillin household. So rather than upset my mate or work out a reasonable compromise or really explain what I'm doing so he's not freaked out, I avoid making much progress. I do a little, get oddly paralysed and stop.

Which sounds pretty rotten until I realise that I've gotten busy on a number of other projects instead. Today I made a headpiece for tomorrow's boating party. Yesterday I finished up my podcast for Hanashi Station. The day before that, I used the last page of my old notebook and went out and bought a new one. I've been organizing upcoming travel, too, which takes so much more time than it should, really.

So the delay in getting this difficult project off the ground isn't completely bad, but I realise I need to address what's stopping me from working on it. Is it really as bad an idea as Tod thinks, or am I just concerned for his feelings?

How do you fill the time when your projects don't run as smoothly as you'd like?

Fried Saba & Lettuce Salad

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recipe thursday This is my translation of a seasonal recipe from Kyou no Ryouri, NHK's daily cooking show and monthlly magazine. Saba, mackerel in English, is a dark-fleshed fish full of good-for-you oils. The salad incorporates fragrant Japanese herbs and is topped with a garlicy dressing. The original recipe by Kentarou says it takes only 10 minutes to prepare and is 340 calories per serving.

Fried Saba and Lettuce Salad
serves 2

2 slices saba (mackerel)
4 leaves bibb or Boston lettuce
1 Japanese cucumber
6 leaves shiso (similar to basil or cilantro)
1 bulb myoga (a type of leafy, young ginger)
3 green onions
white sesame seeds
flour, frying oil, salt & pepper

dressing
pinch garlic, grated
pinch ginger, grated
1 Tblsp sesame oil
1 Tblsp vinegar
1 Tblsp soy sauce
1/2 - 1 tsp Korean kiso (Kochujan)
1 tsp mayonnaise
1/2 tsp sugar
salt to taste

Tear the lettuce into bite-sized pieces. Cut the cucumber and green onion into 3 cm lengths. Thinly shred the shiso and myoga.

Cut the saba into 1 cm slices and dust with flour. Fry in 1Tbsp frying oil on boh sides until browned and barely cooked through.

Mix together the ingredients for the dressing.

Toss the greens with the dressing and divide evenly onto two plates. Place the fried fish on the salad, sprinkle with sesame seeds, and enjoy.

Boating Party

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Boating Party
Saturday, September 10
14:30 - 16:30
Shinobazu pond boathouse, Ueno Park
Cost: boat rental, 600 - 700 yen/hour

Please come to our second dress-up party. Wear your favorite summer frock, hat, gloves & parasol--or don your tux or suit--for an elegant row around the pond at Ueno. If you'd like, bring some light snacks and drinks for a mid-pond picnic. I'm planning a bottle of champagne and some nibbles.

Everyone is welcome; no RSVP necessary, though you may leave a comment if you want to signal your attendance or have a question.

Birthday

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Dad laughs over a birthday book in the early 1980s.

Today is my father's birthday. He would have been 68.

I'm not sure how to mark the day--celebrate his life, mourn his passing? I certainly am thinking of him lots but it hurts. Not as much as it did before, but it is still a painful loss.

I'm remembering birthdays past--badly decorated cakes (our imaginations were always more vivid than our frosting execution), Clark bars, joke gifts, golf miscellany and whatever Jenn & I had scrounged up or made. Dad had a whole shelf in his closet of gifts he cherished (I assume) but never used. I suspect a lot of fathers do.

Me, me, me

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Squinting into the sun after swimming

I'm sure I'm not the most photographed spouse ever, but sometimes it seems like it. Every time Tod has his camera in hand, it seems to be pointing at me. Looking through his photos from Aichi, I found about 20 portraits.

OK, fine, Tod. If I am so compelling to look at, let the world see me as you do. I present some of the better ones: Portraits of Kristen

The Long Pour

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After enjoying a private bath together after dinner, Jim, Tod & I retreated to the 8th floor to sit outside on plastic deck chairs. Yuka went off for a massage and facial. I needed a Scotch.

So Tod & I went up to the observation lounge bar (open at long last) where a passel of yukata-clad salarymen were wailing karaoke. We scooted around them and bellied up to the bar.

Tod asked the barman if we could get some drinks to take downstairs. Sure, no problem. Could we charge them to our room? Yes, absoutely. He called over a girl dressed in a blue plaid uniform and asked her to pour our drinks while he wrote up the check.

"Um, straight, please," Tod reminded her. "No ice."

"And no water?"

"Right. No water."

This confusion lead her to pour our liquor like it was oolong cha. She finished off a bottle and her manager handed her a new one to top up the third drink. We received three juice glasses with five fingers of scotch each. Total bill: 1500 yen.

We laughed all the way to our deck chairs and the unfinished portion of our Scotch came home in my thermos bottle.

The Ghost Hotel

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We spent today recovering from the excitement of the Expo by sitting around our seaside onsen hotel in Nishiura.

After 9:30 am, we were the only guests in the entire building. I don't know where everyone else went, but we encountered no other guests. Everything in the hotel was closed. Lights were off in the hallways. Staff walked by like zombies in a videogame. It was spooky, and Jim captured it all on film.

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Looking at the sea

So we took advantage of the situation and chilled out on the abandoned 10th floor observation lounge. There were hawks to watch and conversations to enjoy. Tod sussed out the CD player for the lounge and we listened to music and danced. It was a good day.

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Nishiura beach

In the late afternoon, when the unforgiving heat had eased a little bit, we went down to the beach.

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Jim does tricks

Jim amused us and the doormen at beach hotel with his pole trick. I think this is something that only men can do. Despite our efforts, Yuka and I failed to levitate.

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Walking into the ocean

But we did get to swim in the sea. Yuka had the foresight to wear her bathing suit. I swam in my underwear again. Tod & Jim weren't so brave; they stayed on shore.

Aichi World Expo 2005

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The main walkway at the Expo

Wow, it was hot. For an environment-and-forest themed Expo, there was an amazing lack of shade. But we sweated it out and thanks to the Belgian-Luxembourg Chamber of Commerce in Japan, we had special access to seven of the national pavilions, so we didn't have to wait in line.

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Visitors file into the Holland pavilion theatre

The one I liked best was Holland's. I cried tears of awe as I watched the film they created. It was a magical piece of editing that used four high definition projectors aimed at the floor and four vertical screens arranged in a cube. Water and kanji dripped from the screen to the floor, then swirled into a series of maps showing Holland's spice explorations followed by montages of modern Holland and its people. Metropolisfilm in Utrecht did this video. I want to go work with them.

For lunch we stood in line, but it was worth it to have proper Polish pierogies. Mmmmmmmm.

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The library at the Singapore pavilion

Other highlights: the awesome science in the German pavillion, the library in the Singapore pavillion, and the experiences in Austria--waltzing and sledding.

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The Australia pavilion's beautiful facade

We did not visit the mammoth or encounter the robots and saw only a small fracton of what was on offer. But it was a full day from which we retreated, exhausted and a little cranky, to a satellite venue organized by the local village.

The evening wasn't what we expected at all--just a few visitors and a lot of staff trying to be very kind to us. They seemed lonely and a little bit desperate. As one woman explained, the Expo has only taken money away from the town. Everyone visiting the area is going to the Expo, and not to the village attractons (though I have no idea what those are).

But despite the pathos, we got to try on replica Japanese armour and that was fun. My posse and I are not going to win any wars, I think...

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Kristen, the giggling samurai

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Tod, the elf-warrior

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Yuka, the graceful soldier

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Jim, the shining samurai

Personal Days

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creative perspectivesIt's time to rethink the holidays. Many of use simply follow along with the nationals and relgious holidays that are presented to us without thinking too much about them. But I suspect that there are more significant holidays for each of us.

For example, my wedding anniversary has more signifigance to me than Easter; I always celebrate the solstices and the equinoxes. But those are the obvious ones.

What about other less well-known occasions? Maybe I should celebrate the invention of the pencil or the Internet. Or Lewis Carroll's birthday. I think I must declare a day to commemorate coffee. Can you imagine what fun we'll have on Cupcake Day?

So this week, make a list of the offbeat and the significant holidays in your life. Then mark them down on your calendar and find ways to celebrate. What's your first new holiday?

Beef Stroganoff ala Thredgold

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recipe thursdayThis is Ashley's family recipe for beef stronganoff. Like all good recipes, it isn't exactly measured, so I'm guessing on quantities. We had this tonight and it was delicious!

Beef Stroganoff ala Thredgold
serves 4

1/2 onion, minced
2 strips bacon, minced
olive oil
2-3 filet steaks, cubed
1/4 cup red wine
12 mushrooms, sliced
1 Tbsp tomato paste
1 can crushed tomatoes
1 pint cream
salt & pepper to taste

Sautee the onion and bacon in a bit of olive oil until the onion is translucent; remove from pan. Sear the beef, browning on all sides. Deglaze the pan with the wine. return the onion and bacon to the pan, add remaining ingredients and simmer until the mushrooms are soft and everything looks done.

Serve over egg noodles.

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