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June 30, 2002

Posting But Not Yet Publishing

I'm mostly operational now, and using Blogger Pro, obviously. I chose Blogger Pro because of its ease in setup and operation. If I was using Blog*Spot, I would have been up and running by Friday or so. Because I'm using an Earthlink-hosted domain, however, it took longer to get going -- not so much setting up the FTP parameters as tracking down and correcting a problem with my Earthlink account. Everything should be resolved by tomorrow, but in the meantime, I'm writing away.

This is only my third day working with Blogger Pro, and I can see plenty of opportunities for Pyra or others to extend the tool. They're working on comments, of course, which I am anxious to see -- I think much of the interest of having a blog will come from the contributions of and give-and-take with others. I'd also like to see built-in tools to easily manage links to favorite blogs and other Websites. I know there are third-party tools to do this sort of thing, but I'd much rather have it integrated with the Blogger Pro engine.

June 29, 2002

Choosing a Blogging Tool

I didn't actually start my blog yesterday as planned, nor today, so this is yet another back-dated entry. (I suppose that makes my blog nothing more than a pack of lies, but there you go.) Why the delay in implementation? Because the more research I did into blogging, the more technological choices I found, and the less sure I was of my decision.

Blogger seems to be the ease-of-use king, but perhaps lacking in some of the advanced features I'd like. Also, I'm not ecstatic about any of the templates provided, though this isn't the most critical issue.

movable type is recommended by Joi Ito and quite obviously incredibly flexible. However, movable type looks like a bit of work to set up -- perhaps a bit more than I should be taking on at first.

Radio UserLand is interesting, but I can't quite seem to pin it down. It's from Dave Winer, who clearly knows a thing or two about scripting and blogs, but what differentiates it from the other blogging tools out there?

As I haven't yet made up my mind, I'm still stuck making text entries and resigning myself to entering them later.

June 27, 2002

Getting the Idea to Blog

I'm starting my blog today. Why the entries earlier? Because I just traveled to Japan, which I always find interesting, and wanted to write about it. So I'm cheating and making retroactive entries.

I got the idea for the blog from Joi Ito. It's not that I hadn't heard of blogs, or even read them on occasion, but Joi's doing it suddenly made it mainstream for me. It took blogging from potential Geek Hierarchy qualification material to the hip end of mainstream. I don't know that I'm mainstream, and I'm certainly not hip, but hey, if I can write a little and feel as if I am, then that's all that really matters.

Jet Lag

Bill and I returned to North Carolina from Tokyo yesterday and arrived early this morning. For the second time in two months, I flew American Airlines to JFK, then American Eagle from JFK to RDU. For the second time in two months, not only was my American Eagle flight delayed by weather, but the entire process was made more unpleasant by the lack of organization and ill manners displayed by the American Eagle employees at JFK. Given how much I generally like dealing with AA, at least compared to other airlines, I don't say this lightly.

Anyway, we were home by 00:30 this morning, which was better than my last trip, when I wasn't back until 02:30 or so.

Of course, my jet lag finally calmed down on the last night of my stay in Tokyo, so now I'm back to the sleepless nights. Is it just me, or does jet lag worsen with age? My first trip to Europe was on a military jet at the age of 18, and I don't remember a bit of lag then. When I was 30 and would travel to Europe from California, I'd adjust within two or three days. Now it takes me a week, which is usually just about how long I'm overseas. In other words, I adjust just as I'm about to return home.

June 24, 2002

Japanese Cooking Lesson

Last night, we were invited to the house of Jun and Tomoko Kurata. Jun works for Lamuz, a Tokyo company which the team at AirEight has known for many years now. Tomoko is his lovely wife.

On my last trip to Tokyo, Jun took me out to a wonderful tempura restaurant atop the Odakyu department store at Shinjuku station. Diners sit at a bar not unlike that in a sushi restaurant, but instead of cutting fish, the chefs are frying small batches of treats and serving them immediately. Lemon juice and four types of salt are provided for seasoning purposes. One of the types of salt was made using green tea and was called, logically enough, shio macha (salt green tea). I found it quite tasty. Later during that trip, I went looking for it at one of Tokyo's best food halls, Mitsukoshi in Ginza, and they looked at me as if I was from another planet.

Me: "Shio macha arimas-ka?"

Mitsukoshi employee: This guy is clearly from another planet.

Last Friday, Jun offered to take Bill and me to dinner, and when Bill heard about the tempura restaurant, we couldn't resist a return trip. Over dinner, I told Jun about my unsuccessful shio macha search. I also talked about my recent and clumsy attempt to make tamagoyaki (egg omelet) at home. (It didn't taste awful, but it looked... unappetizing.) Little did I know where these conversational tidbits would lead.

Sunday, Jun called and offered to have us out to his place for dinner. Not long after 17:00, we were at a train station northwest of Tokyo, with Jun there to meet us and walk us back to his place. Tomoko was waiting for us with cold drinks and warm hospitality. It turned out that there was more of an agenda to the visit than simply dinner and conversation. Earlier that day, Jun and Tomoko had experimented with making homemade shio macha -- it turns out it can't be bought in stores. Not only did they present us each with a container's worth, they brought out the tools necessary to make more so that we could see exactly how it was done.

For the curious, shio macha is easy to make. You'll need a quantity of very dry salt. Jun and Tomoko used alpine salt from Europe. Kosher salt would also work well. You'll also need powdered macha (green tea): one-fifth the quantity of salt you're using will work well. Grind the salt (a hand mixer with grinding attachment works well) until it's the consistency of the powdered macha. Mix the two together and strain them. Presto! Shio macha works well on tempura and would probably work well on many sorts of friend and/or fatty foods. It would probably also be tasty as a rub for grilling chicken and other meats.

Jun and Tomoko weren't done there. Hearing my tale of tamagoyaki woe, Jun conspired with Tomoko to make a fresh batch for us while we were there, using the recipe from his hometown, which doesn't use sato (sugar) as the Tokyo style does. It's too much to describe fully, but suffice to say that everything was made from scratch, including the dashi (soup stock) made from katsuo (bonito), which hardly any Japanese do anymore.

Here's Jun cooking the tamagoyaki in a special pan:

I have decided to blame my earlier failure on my lack of such a purpose-designed pan. That's either the truth or a comforting lie.

June 22, 2002

Kappabashi and LaOX

I'm in Tokyo with Bill Gibson, AirEight's VP Engineering. It's monsoon season here: warm and humid most days, cooling down briefly immediately after a storm.

We did the shopping thing today: first Ginza, then a train ride to Kappabashi, then a walk to Akihabara, then a train ride back to the hotel.

Ginza and Akihabara are well-known and probably don't deserve description here (with one exception below). I hadn't heard of Kappabashi until this trip. It's a street lined with restaurant supply stores. Everything one would need to start a restaurant in Tokyo -- save the fresh food -- can be found here. It's an amazing place if you're a little geeky about cooking (which Bill is and to which I aspire) or Japanese culture (which I am and to which I think Bill might be headed).

Probably the largest store in Akihabara is LaOX, which is actually a series of multi-story stores clustered in the district. LaOX is much fun, but you have to listen to the LaOX jingle as you walk through it. There's the instrumental version, which isn't so terribly bad, but then there's the vocal version, with its oh-so-Japanese singer who can warble just on the edge of screaming. The melody is catchy in that awful, Oh-God-please-don't-let-this-infect-my-brain kind of way. On the last trip I had Richard Boyd threatening me if I hummed it again. Bill was almost to that point today. I remembered how the US Army blasted rock music at someone for psychological warfare purposes -- was it Manuel Noriega? -- and thought that perhaps I should let them know about the LaOX melody. I could work there for maybe a day before losing it.