died in the wool ______

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

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

disaster area

After attending SAP's caviar party, all of the attendee's left en masse.

The elevator ride down was odd however. As we passed a person waiting on the eigth floor the earthquake light on the display panel turned on and told us to get out. All of the rider's except me were Japanese, and they all said it was the first time they had experienced it.

Earthquakes don't last long, and so once the elevator started moving again, we headed to the subway to go our respective ways. But the ENTIRE Tokyo area/kanto train (including the subway, all private lines, and all JR lines) were stopped. There was no way for me to get home, so a couple of us headed back to SAP's place while we sipped on iced tea and watched the earthquake reports on TV.

It's the first time I've ever experienced something like that. Especially, at the subway, I think I understood the unnerving feeling, although only a fraction i'm sure, of how people may have felt in London recently. There's an end of the world feeling to it.

No we almost got hit by a typhoon yesterday. Like tornadoes, though, they rarely come into the city.

The great thing about typhoons is the next day. The azure sky is crystal clear and strong winds make the summer heat actually pleasant.

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cult of personality?

After reading the beeb's article about his excellency bush it was hard not to think about it that way. Mao switched from the great leap forward
to the hundred flowers campaign to cover his butt (and when he ran out of ideas), maybe he expects switching from 'war on terror' to 'enemies of freedom' and 'tools of statecraft' will somehow make his cultural revolution seem more palatable to us. Oh well, I suppose when anybody's ship is sinking, it's inevitable we try and keep it floating for as long as possible.

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sierra club SUPPORTS something?

Mike noticed this article in wired magazine about Ford's new mariner hybrid SUV and how the Sierra Club is supporting it.

Unfortunately, from the title of the article, it seems that the Sierra Club is a total sell out organization that is in favor gas guzzling cars.

I strongly support what Sierra Club is doing. When I interned in DC, I realized that so many of these groups sit on the sidelines with there ecobullets and negativity firing away at the evils of mega corporations and how the will bring about the undoing of the natural world. Very rarely do they propose any logical solutions, but push pie in the sky worlds were floating cars run on air, etc. etc. Okay, that's a little harsh, but my point is that companies need to be praised when they take steps in the right direction. Ford may be evil and I completely agree that they do few things right, but to look the other way with your arms folded when a company tries to somethings right is equally awful and reprehensible.

Suburban soccer moms and wiley hunter types like my father aren't going to give up there love of the SUV (which is the core of the problem I suppose). I praise Ford and the Sierra Club for trying to improve the situation with a hybrid SUV. Meanwhile, I'll just keep taking the subway to work.

I remember talking to my dad when I was little about fuel injection and why it was written on the body of a lot of older (at the time) cars. He told me that fuel injection was once an innovative technology meant to reduce pollutants and improve (reduce) fuel consumption, and displaying it on the outside of the car had meaning then. He said that almost all cars now already have fuel injection, and it's not innovative anymore, so flashing it on the outside doesn't have any consumer value anymore (I'm paraphrasing here). I hope someday that hybrid is as ubiquitous as fuel injection has become.

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Thursday, July 21, 2005


Target sure has gotten a lot of press for being 'design for the masses' lately. And it's difficult for me to change my childhood perception of the place (which is based in my hometown...actually is based in the SUBURBS of my hometown). At that time, it was just a big cheap place where my mom bought us jams (remember those?) and mediocre stationary products for school ( I always preferred the now defunct St. Paul Book and Stationary) in the mid '80's. It had a McGlynn bakery that had overly sweet cakes and cookies with red frosting that tasted like chemicals. When the edgy stylish ad campaigns started a few years back, I was wondering what target was trying to acheive. I haven't been to the new ikea-ized target yet, so it's really not my place to make any criticism. But I do feel the old fuddy duddy who refuses to think that a place like target can change to being a kitsch fashion house. Next time I'm shopping in the suburbs at big box retail(which will be too soon if it ever happens) I'll have to check it out. In the meantime, Muji is far superior, and if I had to go to big box, I'd just go to Ikea. Ikea and Target are really similar in my mind, with the latter simply giving european sounding names to things with diacritic marks.

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Flexible solar

World Changing has this great post about plastic solar cells: Although the pale in comparison of efficiency of silicon panels (5%max compared to 15-20% for silicon) There price, $15/m2 (compared to $800/m2 for silicon) makes this seem like a somewhat viable alternative to an alternative.

The ideas for implementation the world changing folks suggest, though, don't really seem to be in line with what this techonology is capable of. Sure you could put them on a south facing wall, etc, but the fact that these cells are flexible, makes them exciting. They could be knit into fabrics and textiles, wrapped around curved surfaces. I like the suggestion of an umbrella on the patio or at a beach. you could plug in your laptop or make a LAN somehow so you can use the internet. all kinds of cool stuff.

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Wednesday, July 20, 2005

chocolate and......?

I love cooking. In Japan the french cheese Mimolette is pretty popular. Other than eat it, I wasn't quite sure how to prepare it.

Plugging it into google I found a blog that had a recipe for a broccoli mimolette soup. It had great pictures, great commentary.

The blog is called chocolate and zucchini, and it's run by a incredibly english fluent french girl named Clotilde. She and her husband Maxcene (sp?) worked in silicone valley using computers and stuff, and that is where she first came in contact with the 'whole foods' 'trader joes' fresh natural organic californian food movement.

She does great things with food with a wonderful touch of french everything added. She's bright, unassuming and convivial, not to mention a creative chef. It's become regular reading and I've added it to my (brand spanking new) links menu.

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Friday, July 15, 2005

food ups and downs

It's funny, growing up, I was always known as a the good kid who would eat anything. My family used to go just about any type of resturant imaginable, and I never had issues with any of the food.

I now know that most of the food in those resturants, while some most certainly probably are unchanged from whatever country they are originally from, definately takes things from those cuisines which are saleable to an American audience.

I now realize that I am somewhat of a fussy eater. But to my credit I have also found some wonderful foods here that I do like. A list of the bad and then the good.

Mirin: Sweet rice wine.I tend to like crisp, fresh flavors, mirin is like a local anesthetic, sweetening food that is to me not normally so, creating a very bizarre taste in your mouth, like everything you're eating has been dipped in fish and honey. Mirin is unfortunately in a lot of sauces and things (such as tsuyu, what you dip soba noodles in when you eat them). Ruins any meal for me.

Oroshi Daikon: Daikon is a big white radish. It definately has its place in simmered food (oden), I absolutely love shredded daikon salad with sesame dressing (a common offering at Izakaya here). But for some reasin Oroshi daikon (ground daikon) just doesn't sit with me. The dirt smell of the root comes out, permeating the taste of the root and everything else your eating too actually.

Mayonaise: I thought this was an American thing, but Japanese love them some Mayonaise. It all started, according to a history show I saw once, when they put tuna and mayonaise in a onigiri (rice ball). now they have mayonaise in EVERYTHING (the chicken balls they sell at the convenience store right now are Habanero Pepper Mayonnaise flavored. I'm serious) It sucks because they will have a flavor that will be good by itself (like wasabi) and then destroy it with mayonaise.

Now for the likes (yeay!)

Japan has amazing vegetables. Everyone knows about Japanese eggplants, those small much more delicious version of its western counterpart. It's so good. But Japan also has great green/red peppers. They are very small with very thing flesh, and I love cooking with them. Mushrooms, shiitake, matsutake, enoki, shimeji, they are all good. It's like living in a country of gourmands.

Komatsuna: Apparently called 'Japanese mustard spinach' in English, a more sturdy spinach. You can actaully stir fry this without it turning to mush. The stalks are the best part, as they are filled with water and release a very good taste when they're eaten. A simple butter/oil sautee with sliced garlic and maybe some crushed pepper is all you need make komatsuna taste great. We feed this to our birds.

Mizuna: Looking somewhat like dandelion greens, these are great on sandwiches because of their slight bitter tang. I use them for all kinds of things, although strangely (to me anyway) these are traditionally boiled, which seems like pure sacrilidge. They probably traditionaly douse this with a healthy blend of mirin and mayonaise too.

Goya: This is apparently 'Bitter Melon' in english. Look at the link, and you'll see this looks like a wrinkly plastic cucumber that has been melted a little bit. It's originally an okinawan food, but is now commonly found everywhere in Japan recently. It is very bitter, but is filled with stuff that is good for you. including vitamin C and protein. Careful how you use it, and it'll be a great addition to anything you make.

Citrus: Japan is abound with great citrus. There's the fairly well known Yuzu, which is like a mix of a lime and a lemon and is great sliced this in with honey in hot or cold water. Kyushu has a huge selection of citrus fruit, and more than just the mikan (mandarin orange). There's Kabozu, which is similar to a lime but with a very thin peel, a pokan, like a grapefruit with a really thick skin. The list goes on. Kumquats (kinkan) are also widely avaliable in Kyushu too. So good.At izakayas, they often have sours, which is freshly squeezed citrus (most often grapefuit) with shochu. It is not a strong drink, and the joy of squeezing a fresh citrus in your drink never disappoints me winter or summer.

Desert: wagashi, or japanese sweets are certainly different from American sweets. The biggest difference is really the materials: beans, tea, etc. One of my favorite sweets is kuromitsu, somewhat similar to molases. It's even appeared in a hagan dazs ice cream over here. A really good desert is shirotama (a somewhat flavorless whiteball made of rice flour) with maccha mousse, azuki beans and kuromitsu. It's really good!

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Tuesday, July 12, 2005


It's funny how one can unknowingly project one's life on the rest of the world assuming that either the norm or not the norm for the rest of the world.

For example, Okra. Okra is really popular here. The funny thing is that neither side (those being Americans and Japanese) know that it's also popular in the other country and both assume that it originated in their country. Someone once told me 'Domino's Pizza is a Japanese company, they don't have it in the states, right?'

What led me to think about this was an article in the NYT about 'looping', having a teacher stay with a elementary school class for more than one year. It's been shown to improve test scores etc.

Which made me reflect on my own elementary school experience. My school was divided up into 5 (and then an added sixth) units, all color coded. Each unit had three (and then later some with 4) classrooms. To give an example, I was in Green 1. Green Unit was where all the smart kids were, but I digress. My elementary school was 4-6 grade, but Green 1 was my homeroom for all three years of elementary school. When the older kids graduated, they were replaced with new 4th graders. Basically, my class consisted of kids of all grades. For class periods, such as reading or math, the classes divided up into 4th, 5th, and 6th grades, which makes sense. But for other classes, like music, science, etc, We would go with our homeroom. Recess and lunch were also with our homeroom.

It was such a great idea I think. You make friends with kids of different ages as well as your own. I'm still friends today with a lot of those people as a result of it I think. The funny thing is, everyone else I knew went through it that I never saw it as a particularly interseting or unique experience.

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Friday, July 08, 2005


I try not to have cliche discussions about huge events as the media will do more talking than we can imagine or even tolerate.

But Jamais over at worldchanging so succinctly stated how I feel and what needed to be said (even better than what Blair said):

It's important to remind ourselves that we have in our hands the tools for our own transformation, and we can make the world a better place through our own actions. There are some who wish to change the world through fear and violence, but there are far, far more of us who want to change the world through knowledge, cooperation, democracy and a long-view wisdom about both our responsibilities and our opportunities. The future is on our side.

The solutions we write about here, no matter how seemingly trivial or transient, are part of a greater constellation of possibility. The latest green design, networked gadget or open-source model won't, in and of itself, solve the problems the world faces. But no one item or idea will do so -- only the ongoing, combined efforts and inspiration of the growing community of people who know that another world isn't just possible, it's here, and it's in our hands.

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