November 26, 2010


This morning when I passed by the neighborhood florist, I smelled some fresh pine needles.  They have got a dozen of christmas trees from Oregon.  Totally made my day.
This evening I am going to a Christmas concert with a friend at a church.  Something magical is spreading in the air.  Can you feel that?

Another very happy incident this morning was that a close family friend of ours wrote back to my "where are you?" email.  He is the closest thing to a big brother to me, spending birthdays and christmases together growing up, so I am so so relieved that he is doing well, with a new first and last name (!).  I did not know you can do that.  Wow.

November 21, 2010


The September Issue
The September Issue
A documentary about Anna Wintour, Editor in Chief at Vogue USA.  She is said to be the model for the Meryl Streep's role in "the Devil Wears Prada".
Lots of beautiful clothes, arguments, photo shoots, and more shoes.  I love it.
The job is more about managing the business and the quality, than the fashion itself, and that fascinates me.


Director, Stuart Hazeldine
Starring: Luke Mably, Adar Beck, Gemma Chan
I happened to find this at a rental store, and I loved it.  The story is about 8 people from different backgrounds and ethnicity came together in one closed room to take an exam for this extremely high-paying job, about which no one really knows.  The concept is like 12 Angry Men.  Great mystery.

A Japanese film which came out a few years ago and was once very popular here.  I finally got around to watch it, and true, it was a wonderful film.

I also watched Gran Torino (Clint Eastwood) but hmmmm, it was not my cup of tea.  There is this contradiction in the film itself, that a decent man who sacrifice himself for others advertise about it.  It felt so weird that some people like to make this kind of movie.

Beautiful Imperfection

Found this video on Kelly's blog - I absolutely loved it.

Subtle, Fading Colors


November 20, 2010

Distrust and Independence

Yes, I made my own business card.  To be precise, it is more of a "contact" card than a business card, but the purpose is the same.

I always feel uneasy about giving my business cards to my friends.  About giving my work email address, while I have no idea until when I will be using that address.  You can reach me through the address for a while, but I don't own it.  No.

Our once-a-year bonus has been postponed for 4 months.  And the company only sent us an email, with very very subtle and unclear indication about it.  Plus, they did an employees' survey just before the bonus announcement came out.

My evaluation about the company and its policies was on a floodplain even before the announcement.  If you had ever looked at my survey score, it was clear that my satisfaction to the team I belong to is fairly high, but my distrust to the company is sky-high.  It is not just about the money, it's about other small things, the way they handle things, and about the way they make it clear that they have no interests in investing on us, including giving us decent PCs and infrastructure.
One more thing, and many of us may probably be done with the company.

The point is, the business card of my own.  I don't mean to quit my job now or anything, but I am not sure if I want to stay.  I think I work hard enough.  It is sad that you can't love the place you spend more than 1/3 of your life.

I love my job itself in a way that I have learned a lot and am still learning.  But I am not in my 20s anymore, I know that life is about learning, but job is not just about learning.  For work, learning should be only a part of it.  I want to take a break from learning and start actually making a difference.

I used to have my own business, and I loved it.  You learn and you make a difference, all at the same time.  No one else is doing it for you.  There are never enough people that no one gets to be territorial.  I really really really miss working for a small company.

November 17, 2010


This may be nothing compared to the New Hampshire foliage, but that does not mean we cannot celebrate the baby-sized color shower of the season.
I picked this beautiful red leaf on my way back from lunch.

I was excited to know that iTunes just started the movie rental and sales.  Then was instantly disappointed that I've already watched 95% of the worthy titles that are available right now.

As I have written earlier (in Japanese), I am planning a trip to Hokkaido (the northern-most island of Japan), to the remote eastern part of it.  My friends started to give me good advices and tips since I wrote about it, never to realize that I am going there in late December.
Now, with much research, I am confident to say that nobody is trying to go there in December.  There are other parts of the island that are famous for winter ski resorts. But this place I am interested in, there are just frozen lakes and farms.  No package tour would go there.  Air fare is the cheapest.
I kind of love the idea of going into the world of ice and snow and flatness.  None of those exists in Tokyo, where I have spent most of my life.  Especially, I am curious how I would feel about the flatness.
The only regret is that there is this very cool hotel in that area, which costs crazy $500 per night per room (the price is like for a single room in one of the most expensive hotel in Tokyo).  I wish I had at least 3 people to go with me then we can split the cost. 

November 16, 2010

Dinner on a terrace

It's been 10 years since I came back to Japan.  A friend, who I had no contact with these past 10 years, has found me on twitter, and we went out for dinner today.

It was sooo freezing cold today, but we ate on a terrace and it was fun.  I was proud of myself for being healthy enough to be OK in the cold weather.  Besides, the Christmas lighting was magical.

He used to take care of us, a bunch of exchange students in Davis.  He was a student himself, but always selfless and so kind to everyone.  Somehow, I always succeed in forgetting all these, about how people treat me so well.  I shouldn't be like this.  I should be the person who I aspire to be.

This shot of the dinner table looks so cheesy, but just I'm showing you because it's such a perfect dinner table... flowers, wine, great food, and a fun catching-up.





November 15, 2010

Jekill and Hyde






一番難しいのは、日本人と外国人と混ざって英語で話すとき。英語の調子で突っ込みを入れると、日本人の男性にいつも変な顔をされます。日本語では相手の話に対して、I don't like it!とか、that's crazyとふざけてでも言うことができないのに、英語で話していると普通に出てきてしまう。



I am just writing about how I feel more comfortable and feel like myself talking to people in English than in Japanese, partly because I hate speaking with the terms of respect in Japanese, even though my English is not as fluent as I want it to be.  I am not complaining about English speaking people, FYI  ;)

November 14, 2010


Even though I love to collect pieces of papers and brochures everytime I travel, those are usually stashed away in plastic folders, never to be opened.  My intentions were always doing something like this -

I cut them up into pieces and created a 2-pages memoir... first time, ever!  I felt so accomplished when I was done.
My french friend told me that Japanese masking tapes are very popular in France these days.  The other day, I found some very cute ones, and could not resist buying.  Hope they will come useful for my scrapbooking.

This new knitting book was added to my library today.  The author is a Japanese violinist, who used to study in Europe and was fascinated by the world of intricate knitting.  This particular one is for scarves - all reversible, and all gorgeous.  I can't wait to try some designs myself.
"Ideas for Double-sided Knitted Scarves" by Toshiyuki Shimada
Going back to yesterday, my boss and I brought a visitor from NY to a famous Japanese temple and a very traditional noodle place.  Somehow I did not take any photo of the temple, but on the sideway, they had a bonsai competition.  They looked so lovely:
My favorite was the one on the right bottom corner, but I could not get any closer to take close-ups.  Pity. 
Below is the typical November flower in Japan (we also eat the petals).
Lastly, here is a shot of the traditional soba noodle place.  The food was great, but I am not sure how much the guest liked it.  She did not seem to be that much interested in seeing Japanese things.
So, I did not feel rewarded by spending a half day on weekend, feeling exhausted, and now suffering from sorethroat and slight fever.  But anyway, tomorrow is a new day and new week.  I will be ready.

Cities in the morning

A friend, whom I mentioned in this blog before, is a city planner who works globally and travels a lot (my dream job).  But he has gotten too busy lately, way too busy than a person should be.  He misses his time walking around new cities, taking photos.  For city planners, designers, architects and landscape architects altogether, town-walk is like one common hobby that all of them have.

Of course, all of us like to travel to new cities and walk around and take pictures.  But these people really walk a lot, not particularly to visit tourist spots or museums, but to see the streets, people, and where and how they live.  Right after I started my graduate program (urban design), I ruined my favorite sandals by mistakenly wearing them to an expedition led by our professor.

So, when he told me that he used to take pictures a lot when he traveled, to forget his time, and to find himself completely exhausted and starving (I thought this is fascinating, because I have never forgotten myself taking photos), I suggested to do that again.  Since he is extremely busy, he can't find enough time during the day, so he decided to do it in the morning, just for a few minutes.

Morning pictures from around the world.

He gave me his permission to show you a few of his photos here on my blog.

Barcelona - looks so modern!

Lyad - only men are outside at a cafe... feels strange

Casablanca - my favorite photo!  Lovely.
This trial (him sending his morning photos from the other side of the world) reminds me of a very famous poem in Japan - a Relay in the Morning.
Someone translated this into English, not sure if it's good enough, but here you are.

November 09, 2010

Read & Reading

Outliers: The Story of Success

The book was really great.  It's about how anomalies occur, whether it's a good outlier or a bad outlier. Major part of the book is dedicated to how some people out-perform most of us.  Gladwell spends most of the pages describing that outliers occur from dedication, timing, cultural background, social values, upbringings - rather than the inherit IQ that the people possess.

It's very interesting that:
(1) He felt the urge to explain how black people and white/asian people are born the same
(2) Also he felt the urge to explain why Asian kids do better at maths in school - that it is because of their cultural background, not because they are smarter.
(3) The book gave me some insights in Korean culture.  I work with our korean office, and I often have difficulties understanding the reasons for their actions.

It also made me realize that the former CEO of my company must have been a real genius - he must have IQ200 or something.

The Giver

Amazon wanted me to read this for the past several years, and I finally picked it up last month.
It was such a great read.
The book is about a future community where people have very regulated simple lives, that their actions and families and everything are decided by the pre-determined community rules.  But nobody thinks it strange, because that's how things were done for generations and generations.  Memories from the past, sense of colors, joy, love, and feeling of attachments are all contained in one selected person, called Receiver (receiver of memories).  When a boy was selected to become the next Receiver, the old receiver became the Giver.

The book reminded me to cherish my experiences and memories, whether they are good or bad, happiness or agony, because the memories make me who I am.  Without them, we are all empty.
It's a simple, short, but wonderful book.

The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine

My ex-boss recommended me this book, it's about the 2008 financial crisis.  Then I realized that the author is the guy who wrote Money Ball.
I just started to read, but it looks great so far.

The Ghost Writer

One of my colleagues recommended and lend me this book.  Heard that the movie was similarly great, so I am very much looking forward to it.  Ewan McGregor and Pierce Brosnan!

It seems one non-fiction and one novel at a time works perfectly for me.

Oh, and I am still reading Life is a Verb.  Wonderful book.


I am still struggling finding someone who would go to the Harry Potter movie with me.  Of course, there is a Meetup group for movie lovers, and I am planning to join in case there is no one else.

But it is hard for me to understand why so few people have read that book around me.  Yes, of course, I am the strange one, always.

I love fairly tales and kids adventure stories, as much as I love histories and reportage.  I am all about believing what I cannot see by my physical eyes.  I believe in ghosts and fairies and dusts (you know what I mean if you have read the Philip Pullman books) and the unknown world underground.  Those things truly fascinates me.

Sometimes people tell me that I have to grow up and face the reality.  That instead I should think about the practical things, like money and pension and housing and marriage and kids (oh, I don't mean to say that I don't care about these things).  When that happens, I mumble in a small voice so that they cannot hear me... "what has become of you?"

November 07, 2010

Tart with Pears and Raspberries

I am going to be quick today.  Didn't do much except for experimenting with my blog design, cooking, and baking.  My original intention was to make a berry tart, but a basket of pears was on sale yesterday, so I decided to go for some pears.

It turned out that those pears were just one step from going bad.  They were way too soft and I had to cut out a lot of parts.
Sorry for the bad pictures.  When I finished, it was after 7PM.

Today, I want to quickly explain a very easy way to make tart crusts.  It only takes a few minutes, believe me.
First, measure flour with your food processor on top of a measure.
 Then, mix flour, sugar and salt in a food processor.

 Thirdly, chop up butter into small dices.  Put them on top of the floor, and bring it into a fridge or a freezer.  Chill for 20 minutes or so (while you do other things such as, in my case, knitting).
 You take the bowl out of your freezer, then add an egg york, mix.  You don't need an egg york, instead, you can just add small amount of chilled water.
This time, I used an egg, plus 2 large spoons of water.  Mix more.
That's it!
Take the dough out on a chopping board, spread it into a circle.
After putting it onto a tart dish, put it back to a freezer for 30 min.
Finally, bake it for 25 min in pre-heated 180 C oven. (about 370 F?)

Find more detailed explanation here (Link to Smitten Kitchen).

I sort of followed Smitten Kitchen recipe for the filling (90%).  For the crust and fruits, I did more or less my own thing.

November 06, 2010

Deep Autumn Red

I woke up in a very bright room this morning.  The bright sun was cheerful from early in the morning.  Since today was a "movie in the morning" Saturday, I got up right away.  Feeling the energy in the air, I started photographing everything.


Remember I bought a bouquet last week?  The orange rose started to fade, so I added a few new flowers to the vase.  Dahlia, and a few others which name I don't know.  Deep reds felt right for me yesterday at the florist.

Because, I am knitting this.

Had a quick breakfast with milk tea and a toast.  On top of it is the apple jam I made a few weeks ago.  Taste magical without even a sprinkle of sugar.

This is the blue pullover I spent more than a year to knit.  Only because I get so distracted all the time.

My friend and I went to watch Eclipse.  It was a little embarrassing and so, it made things all the more exciting.  How often do we get to feel embarrassed these days?  I don't, at all.  So we fully enjoyed it.  And I love Jacob.

En route to my favorite cafe, there is a tiny, sweet, fascinating hatter.  I think someone bought a couple of hats earlier today, because the window looked a bit empty.

I go to this cafe quite often these days.  Because... see the lamps?

My treasure hunt this morning.

I have a bunch of "keeper" issues of magazines in my cabinet.  They are for example, an American Vogue in which Kate Branchet dressed up in variety of gorgeous couture dresses.  Or, Elle Decor magazine featuring Le Corbusier designed houses, the actual houses in which people live.  Or, UK edition of Vogue Living with rooms in such beautiful green colors that I want to stare at for hours.

Below, an out-of-print Japanese fashion magazine is one of them.  This is from 3 years ago, but it's still my favorite.

いま溜めてある雑誌はたとえば、ケイトブランシェットがゴージャスなドレスを着た特集が載っている米国版Vogue、ル・コルビュジエの住宅が載っているエル・デコ、ロンドンで買ったUK版のVogue Livingなど。

I was looking for this issue to get some inspiration for my next knitting project.  Then I found below.  My favorite Japanese actor, full color in 4 pages.  It's funny that I didn't have a slightest interest in this article nor in him 3 years ago when I first saw this article.  Nor the 2nd, 3rd..... times.  But I like him now :)

In the article, for the cliche question "what type of girls do you like?", he answered that he is attracted to someone's words, then her voice, then her face.  Perhaps he is just saying, guys are not made that way, but for me, it's true.  Beautiful male voice (and I don't care about female voice).
今の一番のお気に入りは、KCRWでMorning Becomes Eclecticという番組を担当しているJason BentleyというDJです。

I must confess, my heart beat often speeds up when someone catches cold and his voice gets lower and huskier.  I know, it's so lame.

(This particular actor, he doesn't have that great voice.  But he is not a real person for me, so that's ok.)


Brian McKnight's old album, U Turn, renting.

My first McKnight experience was this radio program, New Ground, hosted by Chris Douridas on KCRW several years ago, when the album first came out. Just listen. If it won't melt you, what are you made of? Me, becoming all ice cream listening to this archive recording now. Even after countless times I listen to it long time ago.

CD is good, but it cannot beat the live recording at the studio.

November 04, 2010