December 31, 2008

Holiday Tidings

Part of the joy of the holiday is giving and getting Christmas cards.

On Christmas Eve, I look forward to pulling the stack out of the ancestral guy family card-holder (a painted sleigh driven by Christmas mice), and reading them all at once.

Part of the ritual of discussing the cards after we've read them includes lamenting the more notable cards that used to come every year that we no longer get. The two that got away, so to speak were the card from a friend who owned a beauty school (it always contained a hairdo of the month calendar), and the one from Harry's Jewelers, in Hong Kong (bearing a holiday greeting, their business address, and the famous quote "Come directly to the second floor. Pay no attention to the Pakistanis down the hall.") Can you imagine?

In my dotage I have come to love the holiday letter. I used to disparage them, but now I get it. And they are as different as people are.

My first friend to send one was the scientist. He would send four pages, single-spaced, front and back, directly pasted from his diary. Thought it was really a bit much until I got a mention one year. We know people who always manage to pass the overshare barrier (salary issues, horrors of/wonders of childbirth), and then there are the people who have done it so long that they just get it right. We aim to be one of those people. And when you get that Christmas card next year, you'll know which style I'm referring to.

In the meantime, Happy New Year to all. Grandmammoo guy is on her way over to see the new kitchen, teach me a family recipe and ring in the new year with us :)

December 29, 2008

Finally! A Mash-up for Me!

There is now a Google Maps mash-up for people who like manhole covers.

My people!

When I was in library school we were asked to create a database that could adequately describe a visual collection. I had suggested that our test collection be a collection of manhole covers. 

Snuggles, my partner on the project, insisted that we use a selection of Walker Evans' Farm Services Administration photographs. This was a more complicated choice and we ultimately learned more for that reason.

But I like manhole covers.

Here are a few from Japan:

No, this is not the same manhole cover. Please look closely :)

To see everybody else's photos, visit the mash-up here.

December 25, 2008

Some 1954 Pillsbury Bakeoff Winners

Santa brought me a vintage Bakeoff cookbook.
Interesting how tastes change over the years:
  • Licorice Lemon Cake
  • Watermelon Tea-Ettes*
  • Pineapple Sparklers
  • Date Cheese Charmers
  • Crisp Chocolate Tweedies
  • Cheese Round Abouts
  • Lemon Larks
  • Blueberry Boy-Bait
  • Lima Cheese Pie**
  • Thifty Giblet Meal
  • Perky Pear Cobbler

* The secret ingredient in these cupcakes is diced watermelon pickle.
** I would update this recipe with edamame and serve it to my people. No offense to the lima.

December 21, 2008

White Elephant Goodness

Objects seen at a white elephant exchange:

The second autobiography of Leonard Nimoy (mrguy's dept. party)
A package of Pocari Sweat mix (H.U. party)
A Billy Bass (Forklift Development dept. party)
A handkerchief set, containing note of well-wishes "from Grandma" (mrguy's dept. party)
A stack of old baseball cards (H.U. party)
A glasses holder, in the shape of a nose, painted as if Peter Max had a bad day (H.U. party)

December 20, 2008

Dock Ellis

Pitcher Dock Ellis passed away this week.

He was a complicated fellow, and the world will be less colorful for his absence.

  • spoke his mind
  • wore curlers during practice
  • pitched a no-hitter on acid
  • beaned players I don't like
  • beaned players I do like
  • was the subject of a biography written by a future poet laureate
  • went to rehab and got his life together
  • helped others to do the same
For a good read, try In The Country Of Baseball.

December 17, 2008

Quincy Jones is a Genius

O.K., so we all know this.

But not all geniuses are this interesting.

He speaks like a lot of people who can craft a compelling story and *might* be stretching the truth when it comes to their history. But he's the real thing. His life is punctuated by decade after decade of accomplishments and milestones that are not only his milestones but the milestones of American music and American history. Not bad!

Check for the upcoming broadcast of his interview with Ben Fong-Torres here

December 13, 2008

Japan 2008, the ride home

The trip ended too quickly. It's the rule.

The breakfast buffet was o.k., but my current favorites remain the Shinkobe Oriental in Kobe or the Mitsui Urban in Tokyo. Mrguy didn't really get to see savory Japan in action.

We said goodbye to the Inari shrine, and took another long pleasant cab ride in one of the be-doilied taxis of Japan. We had planned to take the train to the airport, but our hosts insisted otherwise.

At the airport I looked for the restaurant where AV-san coached me on my noodle-eating technique. It was not open, so we went straight to the ANA Sky Lounge.

This lounge is a tiny slice of airport heaven :) It's a very chill place to listen to slinky jazz and eat complimentary sushi and drink a Carlsberg, perfectly poured by the beer machine.

We were not sad to be at the airport early.

On the flight home they fed us another tremendous meal and I fell asleep watching Hawaii Five-0.

Surprising to note that the meal helped me out with my Omnivore's List. Notice the tiny abalone on my plate?

In the City of Pride and Purpose, taxis have no doilies.


December 11, 2008

Japan 2008, Day 7

I've probably neglected to mention that we had jet lag the entire trip. It manifested itself as euphoria all the way until after my presentation, and then cheerful but penetrating fatigue the days in Tokyo.

We woke up a little later on that last full day and met with a young friend and colleague from home. By this point my idea of planning and even conversation were failing me fast. It was delightful and I hope she forgives my poor manners.

Coffee did give us a lift enough to get to Shibuya. At one of the stations I saw this sign, which I can loosely interpret as "Do not offer your finger to a small crab."

We found Shibuya but could not for the life of us find Mecca (i.e. Tokyu Hands). What we found instead was that within four blocks of Shibuya Crossing, there are little neighborhoods where you can't even hear the din. Places where I would totally live. That was unexpected.

We did find T.H. after a bit, and it was wonderful. Within seconds we located two shelves worth of pigeon repellent. This is one of the better examples:

I found my favorite discontinued Moleskine books, and pointless, stupid gag underwear. At what occasion are hot pants with a faucet attached to the crotch considered appropriate? And stuffed Totoros and thermohygrometers, and a huge array of beautiful signage. Mrguy said (as he did everywhere) "This place is amazing!!" I told him that if I die first, he is to cremate me and surreptitiously sprinkle my ashes in the aisles of Tokyu Hands.

After a while he started looking like his eyes were rotating in opposing circles, so we went in search of food. Not far away was a basement cafeteria whose line was just long enough for us to figure out how to order. The clerk said my sprout was kawaii, which is one of the few non-food or sumo words I understand. Much appreciated! A little tempura lotus root and some udon and we were back in action.

Mrguy had some record stores he wanted to find, and our pursuit of them took us places we wouldn't have gone otherwise. First we explored windy streets with little hippie storefronts displaying Tibetan textiles and incense. Kinda Santa Cruz-like. And nearby were straight up dorm buildings from the 1960's with small specialty record stores.

Manual of Errors was in one of those buildings and was accessible only via an external hallway.

Visiting this store was like visiting the dollar bins in record stores at home ten years ago, only the records are $165 apiece. The owner happens to specialize in oddities, which tends to be my taste. Some of his oddities were too odd and *not* my taste (so that's where all those Rudy Ray Moore records went!!), but he had some great stuff. I fell in love with a sweet record by JR and his Soulettes, and wanted to buy it. He said I could get it at home and wouldn't sell it to me. You can hear a little bit of their music here.

At this point I wanted to go find the flea market at a temple in Shinjuku. Mrguy got us to the neighborhood, but we never found the temple. There was a small stage near the station where a lady bellowed into a microphone about something...wait!! They were shilling for Calbee, my favorite potato chip brand. And they were giving out samples. I love them for their creative flavors but it turned out later that they've finally come out with plain potato chips. Irony in action.

Mrguy attempted to navigate us toward the temple, but we were so dead tired by this point and a little navigationally challenged. The good people of the red light district left us alone as we navigated their streets with our tired tourist faces and Tokyu Hands bags. I didn't even realize that this was a sketchy neighborhood until I saw a sign for "Slut to Slut." Whatever.

We walked for miles and saw some awesome stuff.

By now I was dying to see the last hour of the sumo basho. Ama and Hakuho were tied and Ama was up for promotion to ozeki, and somehow I just...felt like having a pint at this english pub instead. Can't quite explain. I just needed a break.

But in the last *half* hour we hurried around Shinjuku trying to figure out who might have a tv going that would be showing the tournament. Again, our travels took us to crazy places as we were emboldened by pursuit of some strange interest. Again, the people of Tokyo were amused by a lady with no Japanese language skills looking for sumo on television.

We headed to the train station but somehow found Kinokuniya instead. The Kinokuniya where I live has sumo magazines. The Kinokuniya in Tokyo does not. What's wrong with this picture? But mrguy got a fashion magazine and a Happy End singles cd.

I told mrguy that if we didn't go straight to the Hawaiian restaurant I'd be done for.

He insisted on going back to the hotel. I got in the bed with all my clothes on. I was done.
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