died in the wool ______

To have no set purpose in one's life is the harlotry of the will -Stephen Mackenna-

Thursday, June 30, 2005


You know I think I'm pretty arrogant. I can say things that put people off, etc.

But wow, this guy takes the cake. Pretends to be a pro tennis player (at age 19) tries to create credit card accounts in his father's name to pay his girlfriend who he's hired as his personal secretary, when his mom tells the bank about it and vocals distress over her son's behavior, the son offs both his parents with a hammer leaving them to rot in their house for several weeks while he takes his girlfriend to the US first class to expensive New York Hotels, etc.

He was a straight A student, and it seems there were dreams he would become a surgeon. It looks like he threw a lot away.

But maybe he didn't want all of that, and actually wanted to be a tennis player. Maybe his parents were making him become a surgeon when he didn't really want to be, thus they whole tennis fantasy, and all right before going into college.

The coverage there was of this didn't delve into this kind of thinking at all, and I kind of wonder why...

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Monday, June 27, 2005


with the heat coming (and the fact that my roommate's mother gave us some western sized-cucumbers) I made some gazpacho this weekend.

I've been making gazpacho for years. A friend of mine and I took a trip to portland, OR where we ate at this great spanish resturant downtown, fernando's hideaway (no, it's nothing like the SNL skit). They signed me up for their newsletter, and one of them had a great gazpacho recipe in it. I've since adapted it a litle bit but it goes something like this.

4 large tomatoes

2 red peppers

1 cucumber

4 cloves of garlic

4 tbsp Spanish sherry vinegar (or balsalmic if that's all you've got)

1/2 cup of spanish olive oil.

3-4 pieces of french bread

taragon, to taste.

Broil the tomatoes and red peppers until the skins can be removed (about 30 minutes) remove the skins over a glass bowl, catching all of the liquid from the vegetables. add the olive oil to the mixture. break up the french bread and soak up the juices and oil in the bread.

Cube the cucumber, and working in batches, put all of the ingredients in a blender until smooth. chill in refrigerator. garnish with sliced cucumber and additional tarragon.

This recipe calls for broiling the tomatoes, but if you want a more intense 'fresh' flavor, you could use a different method of removing the skin. I've tried roasting the garlic along with the tomatoes, etc, but found that it took the bite out of the finished product, and found it's not appropriate for a chilled soup...

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summer in the city

Well we're finally hitting my least favorite season in Japan; summer.

It's not so bad yet. The days are pretty hot, but going out in the evenings are great, a little bit breezy and warm. My friend and I were walking around Shiodome last night and it was great weather. By the time august comes around, it's just unpleasant all the time.

But coming back to the apartment, it was just hot. The japanese roommate who doesn't sweat was shirtless reading at the table. I don't want to use the air conditioner. Actually last summer and all winter, we almost never used it. But I've got Nordic blood in me, and I just don't tolerate lots of sun and heat very well (the beach is a nightmare, I have a choice of pasty white or lobster red). Turned it on just long enough to cool down my 'room' before I went to bed. It's getting to be that time of year, and I'm going to be uncomfortable pretty much until September now. Oh well, it's only two months I guess

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Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Book meme

I've been tagged by someone who, because of seeming 'incidents' I can't reference or link to, but hopefully that person will pass through and see that I did fill out the book meme(although I can guarantee this person will be disappointed in my book choices):

Number of Books owned:

Oh, lots, but I've bounced around so much that most of them aren't with me. I did sell a lot of the ones I had at my parents house (gasp!) because they were tired of being my storage managers.

Reading Style:

When reading at home and popping into the fridge ever so often gets claustrophobic, I pop over to the local library and read there. They usually (although japan is an exception) have big confy couches, and so few people actually go there anymore.

Last Book I bought:

Just bought this from Amazon; The Natural Advantage Of Nations: Business Opportunities, Innovation And Governance In The 21st Century. It's written by Amory Lovins, a feel good lovey dovey environmentalists/economist/scientist who talks about 'negawatts'. It's a tad expensive, so I'm doing it COD after pay day on Saturday. Looking forward to reading it.

Last Book I read:

Sophie's world. Being a JET in Japan the housing is passed on to your successor, so many JET's houses are filled with books you might not by yourself. I was taking the train from Toyama to Miyazaki, and needed a couple books to read on the train ride, so plowed through several, the last one being this one. Although it might be a somewhat simplistic book, it was a great suppliment to my philosophy class in college (true to my college's nordic heritage, the class revolved around around Ingmar Bergman's obsession with the death of god). A great chronology of philosophy even if the plot that surrounds it is kind of mediocre and fizzled at the end.

Books I'm reading now:

Holding out for the one I mentioned above. Oh, and Wallpaper*, but that's not a book.

Five books that mean a lot to me:

alright, we'll start from childhood here:

A wrinkle in time: The first in a long series by L'engle, I ended up reading them all (well except for many waters, my fifth grade mind just couldn't get into it). The end made me cry.

The Jungle by upton sinclair: Jurgis' son drowns in the streets of 19th century new york while he suffers from respritory problems from working at a fertilizer manafacturer. Makes you realize that the US was once on par with china in environmental concern and working conditions/workers rights. Ate this up in high school, maybe it's dark theme was an outlet for the very little angst I might have had then.

Confessions of a Mask: I read this book right before I came out, and I felt like it was talking directly to me. The conflicting feelings he was having, etc etc. I actually gave this book to the first person i came out to because I felt like Mishima could say it better than I could. Have yet to read this in the original, but I don't know if I could handle Mishima's writing style.

Natural Capitalism: Kind of the prequel to the book I'm getting from amazon. Filled with pie in the skyish kind of environmentalism that appeals to me.

East of eden: After a classmate of mine I respect got timshel tattoed on the lower part of his back, I checked this out. a joy to read. The film was not.

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good blog

I would just add this onto my favorites in that column to the right, but last time I tried to play with that I destroyed my blog, so I guess I'll just have to do this for now.

World Changing
is a great blog writing about so many topics that I like :urban planning, green architecture, etc, etc etc. I've put it in my favorites. Many 'greens' can be very pessimistic and what I like about this website is that most of this website is level headed optimistic. he even criticized ad busters for being far too pessimistic (and I couldn't agree more) just take a run through. It's all pretty good.

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Monday, June 13, 2005

Tokyo office observations

This morning I got an inquiry from our American counterpart. She wanted to confirm my address, saying 'the office is on Chiyoda-ku street right?'


Let's break this down with a graphic:

This is Tokyo. Let's start out by saying Tokyo IS NOT a city. The US is divided into states, Japan is divided up into prefectures. Tokyo is a special status prefecture.

Now, what most people think of as Tokyo, is the 23-ku area. ku (as in Chiyoda-ku)is translated as 'city' and 'ward', but they are similar to burroughs like in New York (I have actaully seen an albeit very old sign that translated it this way in Ikeburkuro)

In this picture, the eastern half is 23 ward area (thw western part are cities within Tokyo, and are relatively sparsely populated). I live in Minato-ku and work in Chiyoda-ku, 2 of the 3 most central wards (the other being chuo-ku), and is more or less considered the 'downtown' of Tokyo.(although as a study abroad student I lived in a very different kind of 'downtown')

Japan, and most asian countries in general, are not organized by 'streets'. A housing block is designated a number, and each house with in that block is assigned a number. Thus an address of 2-1-1 Chiyoda-ku would mean that the are in the second block of chiyoda-ku division 1, building 1. The numbers are assigned chronologically as they are built in the area, not numerically along a street of some kind, so building number 6 could be right next to bulding 23. You pretty much cannot find your way anywhere without printing out a map from yahoo or asking a police officer (this is also why driving navigation systems are so popular here and not so in the US)

So Chiyoda-ku street. It's where I work.

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Friday, June 10, 2005


most non-japanese point the finger at Japan for its excessive use of waribashi (disposable wooden chopsticks). I avoid using them whenever I can, but at the office they are avaliable, and my mind has just never been in the right place at the right time to bring non-disposable chopsticks with me to the office.

brooding over my poor planning, I decided to ask someone in my department what they're made of, to get the conversation started. He told me that they're made from different wood depending on where you are. Then I asked him why japan uses waribashi. He told me that waribashi are made from the leftovers from making other larger purposes, and that they had nothing to do with clear cutting.

I was so suprised to hear this. What was the western media making such a big deal about if japan was simply using the leftovers to make them?

I decided to do a quick google search and came up with this site. It looks like we are both a little bit right:

Waribashi (disposable wooden chopsticks) waste the second greatest amount of wood. The use of waribashi began in the 1870's. At that time they were made from scraps left by woodworkers. But now, about 410,000 cubic meters of timber are cut every year just to make waribashi. Japan consumes 130,000,000 waribashi everyday, 11,000,000,000 pairs a year.

I have no idea of this information is accurate; after sending it to him, he noted, and I somewhat agree with him, that the numbers seemed awful large. The japanese population is 126.5 million and I don't think everybody uses more than one pair of waribashi a day. Schools, for example, almost always use non-desposible ones for there students, and that would eliminate a huge number. Japanese people rarely use waribashi at home unless they get them at the convenience store. I suppose that the number isn't far off.

Still it seems silly that our company, while using non-desposible bento boxes, continues to use waribashi. They must have the facilities wash those bento boxes, I can't think of any limitation that would warrant using waribashi. When I visited one of our factories in the neighboring prefecture, Kanagawa, the mess hall there used the same bento boxes as we did, but had non-disposible chopsticks.

This is all kind of hypocrtical. Shining the spotlight back on myself, my elementary school always had sporks for everyone to use. The savings and possible hassles from using washable silverware also makes me wonder which is more cost saving. But I can guarantee you that for adult settings, such as company dining halls, they would not use disposable silverware, almost always.

If you think about food culture, us convenice stores rarely sell things that you need any utensils to eat with. Here they do, and if you're going to sell bento, you're going to need chopsticks. I don't eat them, but a lot of people do.

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Thursday, June 09, 2005

co-op luv

There's plenty of good food in Tokyo, so I don't complain about it very much (we actually have better indian here than in the states in my opinion).

But I really miss my co-op a lot. A good friend of mine introduced me to minea long long time ago, and I've been hooked ever since. Things I can get there but not here:

Knudsen Cherry Cider
Tamari Roasted Almonds (kind of ironic, huh?)
Flax Seed bread
Almond Butter
hummus, tapanade, habnero pepper, and other really good spreads
2 year aged sharp chedder
pepper jack cheese
kung pao tofu
Barbara's Puffins cereal
Rice Dream or Silk soy milk (eden soy has always been kind of chalky)
organic fruit and vegetables at a relatively reasonable price
fresh carrot juice/wheatgrass
food in bulk
garden/boca burgers
Paul Newman salt and pepper pretzels
non-dairy chocalate/carob
olives that aren't canned

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Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Fllw @ google

We all know google does fun things with there logo on the search page.

Well today the theme is Frank Lloyd Wright with guggenheim in NY making up the second G and fallingwater making up the L and E (unfortunately MY favorite, the Robie House wasn't used.)

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The NYT is running this article about women upset about people being upset seeing them feed their baby in public

Now, if I was a woman, which I'm not, I would do ANYTHING I could NOT to be seen feeding my baby in public. I don't even like being in my own house with no shirt on. One woman poses the question after someone was made uncomfortable seeing her feed her baby on an airplane 'it's not like he's on solids yet, he has to eat. What else could I do?' If you really didn't want to be seen breastfeeding, you wouldn't be; you would have prepared it in a bottle ahead of time, knowing that the baby would need to eat sometime just before the flight. Or you would have gone into an aisle in the back (it doesn't have to be a bathroom).

This seems like such a non-japanese problem. I can't see a Japanese mother breastfeeding in public. the article mentions that the US is a 'mechanical culture and that anything not coming out of a can is seen as suspect', which would be even more true here. It's probably also true that breasts are seen only sexually here, what with rampant manga and public porn displaying breasts everywhere here, rather than as something artistic or biological.

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Tuesday, June 07, 2005

biznes japanese

I've realized, through talking to my friends, etc., that people in my office do have some unique expressions that they themselves have never used.

そもそも: this shows up a lot. it's more or less a formal way of saying まさか or 'In the first place'そもそも修正を頼んだのか 'I don't seem to remember even asking for this to be proofread' It sounds angry like まさか too.

若干: for the longest time I thought this was 弱感, but the meaning is the same and also similar to 多少

One person in my department really likes sounding pretentious, and one of his favorite phrases is 幸いでございます。Which is more or less like 'we would be more than pleased'
This is often written in formal business letters, but he is the first person I've ever heard actually use it.

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Monday, June 06, 2005

last train

taking the train back on saturday night, it's true that there are a thousand narratives in each train car.

To my right are three japanese looking people. I figure they're Japanese until they start speaking perfect english with the english mannerisms. Then they switch to perfect Japanese again. It's really unclear what relation these people have to each other. Suddenly one calls down the subway car to an older man holding one child and another one knocked out sleeping against him. He doesn't speak any English. as we pull into the next station one of the three leaves with the man and children. I assumed they were married, and the couple left were married too. They continued to bounce between flawless english and japanese.

After being enthralled with these people, I look to the left of the car. A man scratches his face, like people do when they're tired. But he doesn't stop, he keeps scratching his face until he starts bleeding. Then he starts scratching his head too, and then back to his face continuosly. I've heard that people that itch and can't stop moving (their feet, etc) are often heroin addicts, but that is incredibly rare in Japan.


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Office (architectural) observations 6/6

My office building, for Japan anyway, is quite old. From the outside it doesn't look like much. 1960's bland low level (12 story's about) building.

Inside too not much to speak of. It's the details, though, that give any character to this building.
This is the lighting from the stairwell. Instead of planting the florescent lighting on the ceiling, which is status quo anywhere these days, they imbeded it vertically into the wall. It's off center too, and it's just such an interesting way to use lighting. Really neat.
The number plaques they use are really neat. I think the font that they use for modern number, while intentionally more easily accessible, lacks any taste (or maybe that's simply because of their ubiquity) Look at the 2 in this picture. I love it's shape; how the diagonal line down rounds out to give the upper arc a more open feeling. Interesting.
These are used to hang info from them for people visiting the building ('the hallway is slippery. be careful', etc.), Notice that this is one piece of metal, and how it coils up from the bottom and curves over and ends in a kind snake abstraction. very art deco. I want to take one of these home.

We are moving to a new building in October, which will be a positive thing in almost every respect. It would be great, though, if they could bring these kinds of things along too. It would keep it from feeling super sterile.

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what a weekend!

going to the thai resturant down the hill from my place friday night turned out to be quite the experience.

When the owner of the resturant gave me my order of broad noodle pad thai, this guy suddenly came in firing really fast and kind of difficult questions to the owners. What I could make of it, This guy was a representative for NHK, and he was looking for non-japanese to participate in a show about 梅雨 or the Japanese rainy season. Then he saw me. So he came over to me, gave me the spiel. Why would I say no?

Anyway, he gave me his card, and called me the next night. We set up a time for them to come over with a camera crew to film me talking, and then that would be it. It'll air sometime in the middle of July, on a saturday morning (hey I wasn't expecting prime time)

Anyway, that all happened, but we ended up being delayed all the time. The cameras had to set up and adjust lighting, we waited about 20 minutes for some guy from the office to bring a plaque that said 'no rainy season in the US'(which we never ended up filming because they weren't able to find it). Still it'll be pretty cool to be on NHK to millions of science loving kids across this little country.

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Thursday, June 02, 2005

my new suit

I finally bought a suit yesterday! I had pieced one together at H&M a few years back (all under $100 mind you, and I wasn't looking shabby at all) but lost the jacket in transit somewhere.

I picked up a glossy black pinshtripe number. I look fan tas tic... in that hustler/gangster kind of way.

I picked it up at Zara in Harajuku. JETRO published this document about Zara and its success in Japan. Zara succeeds with no advertising (a novelty in the fashion industry apparently) and with low volume and high circulation (much like H&M) It is the 'more fashionable gap' and is certainly faux high fashion, but is certainly not disposable clothing of H&M (highly debatable; my H&M stuff has lasted physically and fashionably (but what do I know about fashion anyway) for many years)

I realize that Zara tailors fashion to each country, but I actually don't like most of what's on sale there (a lot of goth kind of stuff and seemingly trashy (trendy?) looking for the price clothing) Still I am able to find good things there periodically, and there clothing fits me (unlike most of the literally short shirted, narrow shouldered dress shirts you find everywhere else) and its cheaper than most of the department store crap here.

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NYC photo blog

NYC subway
I guy named Travis (what great name!) started this photo blog of his subway commute between manhattan and brooklyn.I've been looking at it for a couple of months, so take a look at his archives; there's some very beautiful atmospheric,etc, moments captured. It's pretty amazing the range of subjects he's made with something seemingly limited as a subway.

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Wednesday, June 01, 2005

'summer style'

Today, by demand of the environmental ministry, office workers (the men anyway) are encouraged to not wear neckties to the office. This is in response to the putridity of Japanese summer and the resulting high costs of air coniditioning thousands of people in ubiquitous black suits and ties.

It even made the NHK news today, with people (from the environmental ministry it seemed like) saying 'everyone looks so different with no neckties!' and the cheap suit stores trying to push their goods.

Luckily, already being a sore thumb, I'm pretty much able to get away with not wearing a full suit to the office (just the infrequent external business meeting and press event), so it doesn't have that much of an effect on me. Still I do worry hearing stories how thermostats will be set at 30 degrees.

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abadoned Japanese buildings

I know I've got some strange and boring interests. I really like silence. If you have ever seen abre los ojos, the opening scene when he's walking down an empty street in Madrid, and also the final scene when he's considering jumping from the building, are both so beautiful to me.

I guess you that might explain why i like these abandoned houses
abandoned building

Kore Eda's film Afterlife takes place in a building that looks like this, and I think one of the things that attracted me most to that film was the location and silence of the film.


This one is great, and to really get a scale for just how big Gulliver is in the picture, you really should go to the website and the collection of photos the photographer took. Gulliver is just one part of a pretty large european themed-park that tanked with the turn of the economy.

Images of Mt. Fuji have been a theme in Japanese art for centuries, and I really find the possible depth of meaning with fuji in the back of this picture. Westernization, decay, etc. etc. really interesting.

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