January 2009 Archives

Goalsetting, 1991 style

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In 1991, at age 25 and two years into my marriage, I was soul searching and life planning. I recently unearthed a sheet of paper dated July 1991. Here is what I wanted to be doing in my future. I've noted the ones I ach

1 year from now I want to
1. Have a full-time job that I enjoy ✕
2. Save money for land, house & business ✓
3. Self-educate in herbs, farming & architecture ✕
4. Enjoy my marriage ✓

By July 1992 I still didn't have a job I loved, but I was on my way. Money was tight but getting better; we were saving a little. I was learning lots about herbs but more about the Internet (which would provide the good job and savings I wanted). My marriage was enjoyable.

5 years from now I want to
1. Buy land and build a house ✓
2. Start a business (herbs, DTP, catering) ✓
3. Travel ✓
4. Learn to drive ✓
5. Enjoy my marriage ✓

By July 1996, I had learned to drive, bought a house (though not a farm) then moved to Chicago. I had quit my job to work as a freelance writer, so I had a business (sort of). In July, I was packing my bags to go to Japan for the first time. That last goal was definitely a continuing success.

10 years from now I want to:
1. Continue farming on a small scale ✕
2. Work on building my business ✕
3. Write a book ✕
4. Enjoy my marriage ✓
5. Get more education ✓

By July 2001 I had no farm, no book and my main education was Japan's culture and language, though I had started and abandoned a grad program in 1997. Small business ownership was no longer interesting to me, though I was about to embark on a hodgepodge non-business of tinkering. Loving the marriage.

25 years from now I want to:
1. Have an established farm
2. Succeed in my own small business
3. Be published
4. Enjoy my marriage

These goals are for review in 2016 - 7 years from now. Although I'd still love to have a small farm, I don't know if that is going to happen. I've put business by the wayside in favor of doing whatever comes my way. That suits me well. Published = a lot of work, but it is still a desire and a possibility. Enjoying my marriage another 7 years doesn't seem like a stretch.

Kofu, 13 years later

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Kofu nestles in a basin valley near Mt. Fuji

Tod & I visited Kofu on our very first visit to Japan on a referral appointment from his eye doctor. We were such newbs back then we had a hard time directing the taxi to the hospital. Nothing much from those trips stuck with us, so we decided to give Kofu another visit.

It was a nice day trip. We had lunch at and a tour of Japan's oldest winery, Sadoya, then clambered up the local castle hill and around town for some photos.

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The view of Mt. Fuji is framed by technology

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These strange ice needles rose straight out of the ground

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Cherry husks

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sunlight in a kendo practice hall

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Doesn't this look like a good place to hoop?

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Chilly sunset view from a shrine

Processors Are Stealing My Breaks

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My video editing work is usually done on a very tight schedule which means that sometimes I sit at my computer and work around the clock for days on end. Clients are masters of complex revisions, changed direction, and last minute changes so we use all the available hours and minutes before a deadline to polish a project. There is always something to make better, prettier, smoother, or sexier even on projects that have been signed off by the client. Tweaking is endless and complete only when the project is delivered to the client. On the world stage these projects are utterly inconsequential, but in that editing suite they assume epic proportions.

Even working at full tilt 24/7, we used to get breaks - sometimes even a few hours for napping - while video and effects files rendered. During renders the computer is locked into using all its processing power to crunch bits so there is no option to multitask. Render-enforced breaks are critical because if the computer isn't making you stop, you just keep editing until you fall over. The deadlines loom, other projects are waiting in the wings, and there is always something more to do.

So it may be that new technology is killing me. Our massively multiprocessor machines have reduced renders from hours to minutes. "Ah, it's too quick," Rob lamented as an After Effects projected finished before he had fully stretched his back. And forget about working all night, starting a render at 5 am and catching 40 winks until computer finishes and the new business day begins. Our computers are just too darn efficient.

Fast processors should be a blessing but if a 1 hour break is cut to 20 minutes that means no real rest for the brain or body. I can enjoy a cup of tea in 20 minutes, but I can't take my mind off work. And when the mind wanders, that is when creative ideas percolate. I must to try to find a new working pace that combines endurance, speed and time to refresh, too.

Two weeks without shopping (almost)

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I decided to go through with my plan to not shop for a year. I am certainly not the only person to be doing this, as I discovered after my first post on the topic at the end of last year. There are lots of groups and sites dedicated to reducing consumerism in various ways. I'll post about some of them later on. Today is just a personal report of my progress.

The first two weeks have been pretty easy. I haven't had too many "I want X" moments. There was one afternoon, while waiting for a friend at a train station, that I would have liked some hand cream to soothe my dry skin. But I didn't have any and I refrained from buying some. I felt virtuous and made a note to myself to do a better job of packing little necessities into my bag. I still haven't put any lotion in, though.

Mostly I have been avoiding shopping by doing things at home, going for walks and excursions, suffering a migraine, and hooping. The usual things, but more of them, I guess. My Japanese study is getting greater attention. That is good.

That is not to say I haven't looked at all. Tod & I made our traditional swing through Ameyokocho during the new year holiday. We bought food - yummy Chinese onion buns and a lot of peanuts - and ignored the durable goods, though it was a bit of a challenge to pass by all the pretty scarves and interesting cheap clothes. And one afternoon last week, Jim & I were browsing the antiques stalls at Ueno Park. There were a few temptations, like glass laboratory equipment and handmade beads, but I enjoyed looking at them without buying them. Soon enough I was bored of the whole thing and dragged Jim off to ride in a swan boat with me.

I must admit that there was one actual shopping experience. It was not for myself and it was in a true emergency. I'm forgiving myself for it, but I did note it carefully in my journal with a drawing of what I bought and a record of the price. Here's what happened: Jim needed clean underwear and pajamas when he landed in the hospital with a fractured skull (a long story not related to the swan boat and he is recovering now). I was asked to get some essentials and bring them to the hospital. At the time, in the stress of the situation, I didn't even consider an alternative to popping into Uniqlo and dropping some cash on new things. Reflecting on it later, I could have found a non-shopping solution. I might have loaned him some of Tod's stuff. Or I might have had time to go over Jim's place and root around for clean clothes. Neither of those options were in my head on the day, though, so I shopped. Mea culpa.

Black Bean Stew

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Tod picked up a bag of Bolivian black beans yesterday and made this wonderful stew in our pressure cooker. If you don't have a pressure cooker, you could try pre-cooking the beans or using canned beans.

Black Bean Stew
serves 4-6

250 gr black beans, soaked
1 large onion, roughly chopped
2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
1 cup mushrooms, chopped
1 bell pepper (any color)
1/2 carrot, diced
900 ml water
1/2 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp paprika
2 potatoes, diced
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 tomato, chopped
cilantro, chopped
lemon wedges

Saute the onion, garlic, peppers, mushrooms and carrot until soft and wilted. Add spices, beans & water. Close the pressure cooker and bring to recommended bean pressure and cook for the recommended bean time. (Its 2nd ring for 20 minutes in ours; check your manual). When the beans are cooked, depressurize the pan and add in the potatoes, salt and black pepper. Cook for 10-15 minutes or until potatoes are soft. Serve topped with tomatoes, cilantro and a lemon wedge.

Unsorting the trash

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Late last year, Bunkyo-ku completely changed the composition of the Burnables list. We are now advised to put our plastics, rubber, styrofoam and vinyl items in with our food scraps and paper rubbish for burning. This is due to a new incinerator system that they are calling "Thermal Recycling."

So little material is now Unburnable (foil, metal lids, broken pottery, broken glass) that it feels like we aren't sorting our garbage at all. The Unburnable bin used to quickly fill with plastic bags and packaging. Now it sits there waiting for us to break a lightbulb or a plate.

Of course we recycle bottles, cans, PET and paper as well, so there is sorting to be done. But wow, does the Burnables bin fill up fast.

Me minus 25 years

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Me. West Hazleton High School, 1984.

Yesterday evening, I unearthed my high school yearbook and paged through it. I hadn't looked at it in at least a decade and I was surprised by a flood of memories. I recalled people's laughs, the way they walked, fresh white smiles, how much I desired their ease or athleticism, how lonely I was, and how aloof.

Based on what I felt when I looked at photos of my classmates, I was a rotten person. Self-absorbed and not at all self-aware. Callous, cynical, judgmental, envious, proud...what are the other deadly sins? I probably embodied them, too.

I hope I have changed a little. My sincere apologies to everyone I encountered back then. What a bitch.

Happy Year of the Ox

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