Friday, July 09, 2010

too easily migrated

just created the new blog with blogger's wondrous new fangley stuff (pinch me was quite manual/old skool) so that's it, we're movin' on over...

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

window on my new world

Standing in front of the window, open onto this narrow street of low sun bleached houses, I work on the laptop perched on a waist-high dresser. There is no desk in my padre-in-laws' apartment and the kitchen and living rooms are their noisy domains, so this morning I have decided to practice yoga poses as I edit and type here in our bedroom. Not sure if this will become a permanent routine. Our new temporary life here allows me creative freedom and the license to decide that later.

Grace lies on a makeshift bed on a rug by our bed, looking up only when a dog barks down the block. Birds chirp, buses and motorcycles pass by, rough Spanish ladies' voices shout out. It's 10:30 a.m. and the sun's heat begins to build. Concentration will be a challenge for me in San Juan de Alicante.

here in the spanish summer sun

So we've been in Spain for almost 3 days now and are obviously still adjusting. Surprisingly, it seems G-dawg is the one who's found it easiest! She's already quite attached to her grandpa (who today took her out alone for the first time) and grandma (who talks non-stop to her when she thinks no one else is around to hear it!) and is being permitted access to whatever sofa, chair or bed she desires to sleep on.

We are so proud of how brave she was during the long voyage. I have a feeling she must've slept some once our Tokyo-Munich flight took off since we made sure to wear her out the day before (not to mention the stress of the last two weeks, what with so many strangers traipsing in & out of our house, from movers to embassy properties people to party guests). Plus frankly I think the in-flight part must have been way less scary than the hour plus ride to the airport, during which she insisted on looking out the window most of the time, and the hour plus between the time they wheeled her kennel off to load her and the actual scary-noise filled take-off. Not to mention the transfer from that plane to the Munich-Madrid flight.

Anyway, when we finally landed in Madrid she was thirsty (the still quite-full level testifying to how she never mastered drinking from her kennel bottle, no matter how hard we tried to train her on it, with peanut butter even) and the grateful recipient of a huge handful of cookies before we even got her out of the airport. I think airline staff did give her water between the flights, evidenced by the odorless wetness of her blankets directly under the water bowls hanging from the kennel door, and that is thanks to our friends Stephan & Erin for helping make a great sign to stick on her cage, but 20+ hours is a long time to go without food. So as soon as we arrived at our hotel, where her grandpa met us, she snarfed back a huge bowl of the batch of food he had prepared for her.

She didn't love the hotel that night and was still nervous around her grandpa the next morning when we all got into the car for the 3.5 hour drive to Alicante. She was tired I could tell but the situation wasn't ideal for her to sleep in the car since she & I had to share the backseat with a big box. She curled up but couldn't feel stable as she was too close the seat edge. So I finally took A's knapsack, stuck it on the floor right in front of her seat & put folded newspapers on top so she could have a shelf to rest her head on, which she gladly did & proceeded to sleep for the whole trip!

Our routine here seems to please her. A & I both wake up quite early and take her out for a long walk. We're still exploring, looking for green spaces where she is allowed (most people don't pick up dogpoo here so dogs are banned from the nicest parks). It's not too hot in the morning, as it's quite dry here and though the sun is strong and the day soon starts to heat up, the morning (and night) breezes are cool. On the way back, we stop for cafe con leche (cafe latte) and then head home for breakfast.

Noontime walks are short as the sun is really strong and so she hangs out in the cool apartment with whomever of us is around (we've yet to all go out together and leave her alone). Her afternoon/evening walk is later than in Tokyo because of the heat too, with the sun only setting around 9:30 p.m.! I want to take her to the beach one day soon but it's quite a long walk and she's not even allowed on the sand (only the boardwalk/path) so I'm not sure it's worth it. Maybe we can find a place she is permitted and get grandpa to drive us. I want her to meet the sea!

Meanwhile, we have yet to get internet access a la casa so I'm at a cafe at the moment, but we hope to find a USB prepaid modem thingy tonight when A goes to a different branch of the store as the local one has run out and waiting for a shipment. When we do get hooked up, I'm going to be breaking away from Pinch Me & starting a fresh blog for Spain. I'm still kicking around names for it, but welcome suggestions. Am currently leaning towards "somos caracoles" (we are snails).

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

major procrastination

Don't know what's wrong with me today but I've been procrastinating my butt off (or make that on -- on this damn desk chair, that is). I'm just tired, I guess, as I had a migraine yesterday and it took two shots of my nasty meds to get rid of it.

Anyway, before I finally get off my duff and go work on some sorting, I thought I'd upload a couple of pix of our potential new home that the embassy in Madrid may be renting for us but have not signed any lease yet. Isn't it fab?

Huge, bright with great parquet (good RIDDANCE beige carpets that Grace loves to muck) and near all kinds of big parks (for the mucky one's benefit)! Spoiled we all would be if it comes true!

See we're leaving in just 3 short weeks and the movers are coming to pack us and take away our stuff (to stick on a ship that takes 2 months!) in only 10 days. Freaking out!

G-dawg, meanwhile, has no clue what's in store and is sleeping like the now-adult lazy mutt that she is.

Monday, June 07, 2010

much cheekiness in the air

"Titty Debut!" Lucky I was stopped at a light when I noticed the strange ad campaign wording of a huge Samantha Thavasa billboard this morning, else I might've fallen off my bike.

And with that I realized I had been noting numerous hints of cheeky on the streets of Tokyo this spring (no, not the butt-cheek-peek miniskirts, they've been around for ages now). One that still sticks in my mind -- and with which I thoroughly identified as I have continued to dress way-way down compared to the diva/poupoune look rampant amongst Tokyo women -- was a dude dressed in black jeans and a black t-shirt that said in bold white text: "This is my suit."

Finally, I wanted to share this list, as I happened across it this afternoon and admired its brash frankness. As I non-vegan, I also enjoyed the cheeky last item.

Good Reasons to Go Vegan

Source: Vegan Outreach’s pamphlets Why Vegan but found via this cheeky-yet-compelling post on Good.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

tummy filled with fruit

So yeah, I've talked about my vegetarian leanings here before and even posted some recipes. Well, I'm still at it and Aran's come along too after having a harder time adjusting at first than I did. Now he's happy eating meat or fish as part of only a few meals a week (mostly when he grabs take-out "bento" lunches when I'm working) when he used to feel he needed some every day or two.

I'm happy that he's been able to adjust because my (and his too) ethical beliefs on the topic of industrialized food systems have become ever stronger what with the research I do on the topic for work. (Those who really have no clue what I'm talking about really should see Food Inc., or King Corn or pick up a Michael Pollan book...).

But I'm also happy to have confirmation that athletic people like Aran (he still runs and plays soccer) can indeed be healthy as hell (he never gets sick, no headaches, no colds, nada!) eating in one week the amount of meat/fish many North Americans eat in 1 or 2 days. Feels good countering the protein myth, my friends.

Today I've been thinking a lot about food because I've been oddly unhungry, when my appetite is usually quite a little monster. I've been thinking for a long while about getting more raw food into our life, aside from just the desserts that I love, and this afternoon seems to be proof that I should cuz I feel great!

We had one of our typical breakfasts this morning, and that probably gave me a good start: spinach & tofu scramble, a couple of pieces (3 for Aran) of toasted brown rice mochi (pounded glutinous rice cake) we get fresh from the organic farm we order from, some strawberries and cafe au lait. I had a busy morning, doing spring cleaning and such and only sat down to lunch at 2 p.m. and then it was just a big spinach salad, sprinkled with home-sprouted mung beans (shown in the photo above) and sunflower seeds, followed by a whole wheat bun (also from the farm) with sesame spread.

Afterwards I did some vacuuming and went out speed-walking the G-dawg for an hour. Came back, finished the chores & was a bit hungry by 5 so I whizzed up a little banana with a half cup of some delish 100% guava juice (that's more like a nectar cuz there's no water) + some water cuz it was too thick. That hit the spot!

It's now 6:30 p.m. and I'm not even hungry. Going to go shower, take the G out again and then think about what vegetables to eat for dinner (the fridge is full because our farm order came today)! Am thinking of inventing some fritters made from the sato-imo (small Japanese taro) we still had left from the last shipment. Recipe to follow, if it turns out.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

the little things

With only four months to go on our time in Tokyo,
the little things, peculiarities, niceties
are striking themselves in my memory banks.


This wistful list will grow in my mind, i'm sure...

Thursday, February 25, 2010

schoolgirl traumatized by toad sex

Sorry for the sensationalist post title, but a) it's a true story and b) it takes a lot for me to get inspiration, let alone attention.

Seriously though, yesterday I was walking the G through the cemetery in a bout of spring-like weather. Not long into our evening ramble, we happened through a section of the path where a good many toads were present, most mounted on top of one another and croaking loudly.

As we bemusedly walked slowly through the herptilian orgy, a teenaged girl rushed towards us. Visibly upset, she whimpered as she looked disgustedly from side to side at the lumpy brownish-green lovers.

I can't ever remember being so young and timorous.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

cake that's not a cake

Sharing more yumminess. (Dedicated to Kaho.)

Okay, so this is a raw vegan recipe but I don't have a dehydrator so I've technically been cooking this cake, since my oven doesn't go low enough. But it is not only as healthy as dessert can be, it is also hands down the most awesome carrot cake I (and anyone I've made it for) have ever tasted. Note: I usually double the recipe as it keeps fabulously fresh and long in the fridge.

Raw carrot cake

1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans
1 1/2 cups grated carrot
1/2 cup pitted dates
2 tablespoons ground flax seed (or ground oats*)
8 tablespoons coconut
4 tablespoons ground cashews
1/2 cup raisins
1 tsp vanilla
2 tablespoons agave (or maple syrup, or honey*)**
1/4 tsp salt
nutmeg, ginger, cinnamon to taste

(* technically oats don't qualify as a raw ingredient, nor does maple syrup or honey, but real raw foodies would know that anyway...
** In any case, I usually omit the agave/syrup/honey since the raisins & dates lend plenty of sweetness for my taste.)

Grind your cashews and then your flax seed with a mortar & pestle or in the food processor. Set aside. Process the dates until smooth (they'll clump up in a big ball most likely). Add all the other ingredients except a handful of carrots and the nuts. Process until everything is as finely chopped as it seems to want to get. Dump into a bowl with the last carrots and the nuts, mix well.

Now you form it into whatever shape you want. I tend to make smallish cakes or loaf shapes so it will 'cook' (ie, dry out) faster. Last time I pressed it into an oil-sprayed pie plate and then sliced it up and smoothed the edges of each slice with my fingers.

You're supposed to dehydrate the thing(s) at 48 degrees Celsius (118 degrees Fahrenheit) for I don't know how long because I can no longer find the recipe by James on Gone Raw since they changed their system awhile back. I leave mine in the oven at the lowest it goes (170F) until I find it looks/feels dry enough, but I think it usually takes a couple of hours.

I always make the original icing, which is a cashew cream. You make this as so: Soak cashews in water for several hours. Drain and dry well. Process them with a smidge of vanilla and a couple of teaspoons of agave until it's a nice smooth paste. Spread it on rather lightly since it's very rich.

But if you, like me, are not a real raw vegan, you could just as soon put a cream cheese icing on it.

Bet it becomes your fav too.

the long-sought perfect pancake

So I'm just going to ignore the lack of comments on my last overly-pathetic post (thanks to MM for being ever exceptional, thanks to my best bud L & long-lost J for their mails, and to MB & RL for listening via Skype) and try and cheer myself up by sharing the first recipe for regular pancakes that has ever allowed me to achieve the light & fluffiness I have long sought.

Plain old perfect pancakes

1.5 cups flour
1 tablespoon sugar
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons melted butter
1 egg
1 cup milk

Melt the butter & set it aside to cool. Combine the dry ingredients with a whisk. Add the cooled butter & the egg, stir lightly. Add the milk & whisk briefly (don't over-blend). Cook in buttered pan or griddle at medium-high.

This morning I spread them with a very light coat of cream cheese while they were still hot and then drizzled them with some divine honey from the organic farm we order from. (See orig Honey & Jam post of this recipe if you prefer it with a blueberry maple sauce.)

Absolutely perfect.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

the beast

Today begins Day 6 of my third migraine since New Year's eve. One could say that for me, 2010 has so far certainly been a tiger -- a tiger with my head in its mouth.

So... I post this for two reasons. First, it is in lieu of toiling longer on all the e-mails I owe, for the light of the computer is not advisable, something recently proven by science. And also, to stir hearts, evoke empathy, draw warm tender thoughts from afar.

'Afar' being the key word, since those around me have trouble feeling empathetic towards the irritable, sunglasses-sporting ogre that I am. Colleagues cringe in my presence and Aran... well, though I am not an easy chore for certain, he is failing gravely in the pained brain-side manner department.

Let me tell a little story as an example of not just his shortfall, but of my state of mind as well, I suppose. How fitting a time to revisit my cheery childhood memories of abandonment and mistreatment! The latter is incidentally also now suspected as a formative cause to the development of migraines.

When I was about 8 or 9 years old, my heartless witch of a foster mother took me along on a visit to another foster mother's house. As the two beasts chatted (no doubt commiserating about how little they were paid for the "care" of the children they were housing, or how these kids couldn't do household chores at a fast enough rate), I was dispatched to play with the wards of the house.

Somehow, one of my rascally counterparts decided to cartwheel a little too close to where I stood and a foot impacted my mouth. Blood flowed copiously from the socket of my now extremely wobbly right upper eye tooth.

"It's far from your heart," the evil one declared after I was brought to her, bawling. "You'll live."

Since that tooth grew crooked, causing my smile to be forever lopsided, making young me quite self-conscious, I have always remembered that simple dismissal that spoke such volumes.

I suspect she uttered something equally icy a year or so before that when I, hanging upside down on a jungle-gym, fell. I recall not being able to move my head for days and I also remember that we did not go to the doctor. However, though x-rays show that the impact of that fall permanently contorted my neck, I can allow that the root of her carelessness may have also involved (aside from her true cold-hearted nature) ignorance. For there was no blood that time, only invisible damage to soft tissue and spine.

Well, this true-life fable has meandered on and I have lost the ability to articulate the moral. Suffice to say, A's all I've got in the support and affection department and he seems at a loss, frequently uttering pat phrases that strike me as thoughtless and evoke that disgusting woman from the past.

Perhaps also I hope to alleviate as much of the ignorance out there as possible, for the sake of other migraineurs who might need empathy and understanding as they struggle with this beast of a neurological syndrome.

Friday, December 11, 2009

to be eco-fair, I just wasn't in the mood

So yesterday I dragged my butt to the Tokyo Eco-products 2009 expo. Some colleagues had gotten there an hour before me and were heading to lunch when I arrived, unhungry. So off I strolled on my ownsome with the remnants of a migraine making the crowds and very bright lights difficult to endure.

I knew my workmates had thoroughly checked out the big name tech exhibits and frankly, the huge number of people at those mega-stands was enough to have me heading in another, more down-to-earth, direction.

Though there were around 700 exhibitors, I only stayed around two hours. Not just because of my mood but also because unfortunately I was not able to grasp that much, having such limited Japanese (virtually no reading skills) and feeling invisible as I was ignored by most booth staffers (particularly the male ones).

I did end up mini-interviewing a couple of English-speaking women exhibitors and might follow up those stories. One is a small biz that grows organic cotton and then, using only human-power, spins & weaves it into beautiful soft cloth. The other was a very dynamic young entrepreneur who started her own line of natural cleaning and beauty products.

So though it wasn't an earth-moving experience for me, I know I was just feeling "crusty" as one friend might say, and there was so much to see and learn, I was happy to see so many children and teenagers. And despite what I felt was an overabundance of greenwash, many people will enjoy the whole positive green atmosphere, I'm sure.

In fact later today on Our World 2.0 you can read my boss' (way more enthusiastic) vision of the thing, which I must say is interesting - almost as if he were at another show. When in fact he was just in another headspace

Thursday, December 03, 2009

did the computer eat my brain?

New computer-less career/lifestyle wanted:

Vivacious and hard-working forty-two-year-old seeks a way of life that does not require eye strain, neck problems caused by mouse-shoulder, not to mention skull-penetrating electro-magnetic signals and/or radiation.

No, just kidding, I like my job. I guess I'm just feeling disheartened on this the 3rd day of a nasty migraine that hit me hard after I had a record month of headache-freedom. Doesn't help that Aran starts tossing and turning before the crack of dawn, forcing light-sleeping me to suffer extended jet lag along with him.

Which reminds me, I've gotta get off my duff and install my camera software on our new Mac Mini (the PC was unresuscitateable) so I can upload my Portugal pics before too much time goes by. I never did finish uploading the ones from our trip to southern Japan in July...

But to go back to my dream: What does an apprentice bread maker clear, I wonder? Anyone know any bakeries that are hiring? Oh, or if I (or The White One herself for that matter) ran in the right circles, I could start a gourmet doggie catering service. I say the right circles cuz the average Japanese person is likely not going to pay me much for their pup's chow in this deflationary period.

Though on the latter point, supposedly the Bank of Japan is likely to act and the government's pondering new stimulus (more!) to try and avert another recession.

I admit to having a low to average economic intelligence quotient but what with Dubai and all, I have suspicions about the state of health of the world's economic systems, despite what many would have us believe. Don't you?

Ok, well, though I've got the brightness set on medium, that's enough computer for now.

Friday, November 06, 2009

inspiring and covetable stuff

Is covetable even a word? Dubious... Anyhow, I wanted to share the link to yes, more of my WORK. Before you yawn and click away, I promise that even you issues-uninterested people (no MM, I'm not picking on you!) will find it a good read.

See some guy left a comment on an OW2.0 article with a link to his site, so I went to check it out, just cuz, well, that's my job. And hey-ho, what do you know, I was inspired to tell the story of the small company in Bali of which he is a founder.

Check it: Bombastic Plastix pays garbage pickers to bring them discarded plastic shopping bags and in a low-tech, low-energy but high-quality process, they turn 'em into beautiful fabric which they then sew into fantabulous looking handbags, totes and wallets.

So, just so you know, I've got a birthday coming up next month and really love the Shorty Wallet and the new laptop cases... The upcoming backpacks look great too (click over to their blog), though I'm feeling a little too old for those polka dots!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

worth a try

So it's No Impact Week, in case you hadn't heard, and though Aran and I already live quite "lightly" (and the G too I guess, since she eats homemade food and only bathes every 6 weeks or so!), we're looking for ways to cut consumption, waste & energy use even more as part of the Experiment.

Last weekend we didn't even take the metro, cruising on our spanking new (speedy!) bikes instead, of which I'll post pix as soon as our PC is resuscitated. Because we've pretty much converted to unconsumerism, we had debated not buying new (but rather second-hand) when A's broke. Finding affordable used decent bikes in Tokyo turned out to be uh, possibly impossible so, since we don't have a car and in fact don't buy much of anything but food (and A's damn used jazz CDs), we chose a local brand called Tokyo Bike and allowed ourselves the luxury.

Okay, well I forget what my point was... It's past lunchtime now and I'm feeling a little lightheaded. Going to eat my salad now, made with my very first attempt at homemade organic mung bean sprouts (thanks to Mark for the seeds!). A secret? Making them was super-easy! But actually, now that I'm looking for a link to include here, I seem to have done it wrong since mine are more beany with just tiny sprouts. Next time I'll try the Wiki way, which is still pretty duh-doable!

Oh and one last thing, for the No Impact thing, I'm looking at composting at home and hope anyone who does it will share tips. At the moment, I'm thinking of doing it the Japanese way: bokashi.

Also, Our World is entered in another awards competition, so please vote for us, if you can via this big obnoxious button:

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

attack of the toads and other adventures

Fall can be strange. Just yesterday evening I asked myself, "Was that Thanksgiving?", simply because I was walking jacketless with the G (also jacketless as she is losing her summer coat) through the cemetery and having to seriously watch my step as G dashed about in the dark, excited by the hoards of toads hopping happily wild in the mild breeze.

Then tonight we were surprised by a sudden clap of thunder as a storm commenced, and my next thought was that hopefully the hard rain will not knock away the odoriferous deliciousness that are the flowers of the magical rocket candy trees, which I believe I raved about last autumn as well.

I don't have much else to say, nor do I much these days, feeling unwell to some degree 75-80% of the time and needing to focus on work when pain free and sharp-brained. Life marches on, if anyone wonders (and is peeved I haven't sent any mail). Yet another bad haircut, a speedy sleek new bicycle, and an aged PC that has fallen victim to a fatal case of self-random-rebooting disease. Rien d'excitant de verdad.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

ingredients for a crisis

Forgive me for going on about these things again, but I was wondering why Canada has only a single signatory on an important letter to the Queen. Where are our country's activist thinkers? (Note: The letter is a response to one written by the British Academy to the queen in which they claim to be explaining the "diverse ingredients which together resulted in the global financial crisis.")

Anyway, I extract a chunk here but the whole thing is worth a read. As is anything found on Transition Culture (but then I'm a Rob Hopkins groupie...)! Tip: the Links page is a veritable goldmine.

Our premise is that our current economic malaise is symptomatic of a far more serious systemic failure to acknowledge what Archbishop Rowan Williams has identified in saying “It has been said that ‘the economy is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the environment’. The earth itself is what ultimately controls economic activity because it is the source of the materials upon which economic activity works”.

Energy underlies everything – Scylla and Charybdis of peak oil and climate change. The underlying cause of the current economic meltdown is a multi-generational debt-binge inextricably linked to a concomitant multi-generational energy-binge. The Academy’s letter focuses on some “imbalances in the global economy”. However, the key to addressing our current situation is to recognise the far more serious imbalances between our insatiable hunger for energy, its finite nature and the environmental pollution in its use.

Energy is the lifeblood of any economy. Our exponential debt-based money system is in turn based on exponentially increasing energy supplies. It is therefore clear that the supply of that energy deserves our very highest attention. That this attention doesn’t appear in the Academy’s analysis is deeply worrying.

I'd say that this attention doesn't appear in mainstream public consciousness is what is deeply worrying! What would it take for Canada to truly start addressing the realities? Would an administration change make a difference? It just seems to me that other countries are far ahead. (Did you hear about the EU's willingness to act?)

Personal change, I don't believe, is enough (though we should all nonetheless be doing it!). There is sadly still such a long way to go to Transition the world, isn't there? If the thinkers are to speak up will that push things along?

Friday, September 04, 2009

friday's bump

Another quake this morning, but different in that it was a quick, strongish jolt that didn't leave things, like my long-legged plant table next to the desk, swaying afterwards. It also confirmed that G now officially knows the drill: I dashed out of the den towards the front door as she was dashing out of the diningroom in the same direction. Smart mutt!

Aside from that, life marches on, though for a change, I won't talk about work! Last weekend we stocked the mutt away at Dogs Inc. (so she could have some quality "pack time") and went hiking in the mountains of Ome/Oku-tama, which are still in the Tokyo metropolitan area but you'd never know it. The "Rock Garden", a narrow valley filled with streams strewn with mossy rocks, was particularly beautiful. Unfortunately we never caught a glimpse of the famed flying squirrels that supposedly live around there. I'll post photos soon. (>Now posted.)

It was certainly nice to be exerting physical energy out in the fresh air, though I was frustrated by a side-effect of the prophylactic migraine meds I've been taking. Beta-blockers are tough on the lungs and I was wheezing like a geezer on the steeps. Five weeks in and it still remains to be seen if they'll be worth it (I've been averaging a migraine a week, instead of two.)

Anyway, back in town this week, the hot weather seems to have finally ended. It's nice to wear long sleeves again occasionally, after months of dressing as lightly as possible and still being constantly slicked in sweat. Maybe I'll even make a soup this weekend.

Also want to visit Tokyo Hacker Space and see if I've finally found a way to get my food dehydrator and solar oven built!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

apples have feelings too

In Japan and elsewhere, people often wash their produce before eating it. Why? Is it to rinse off the dirt and insects? Or maybe we are hoping to clean off all the dreaded pesticides?

Perhaps the question is: do we really need those pesticides? One pioneering organic apple grower, Akinori Kimura, has proven that we do not. For years now, he has been inundated by more orders than he can handle from those who want a taste of what has been nicknamed the Miracle Apple.

Read more at Our World 2.0!

(Photo by Mathatelle)

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

the dentist and the deadline

Had a filling this morning for the first time in I donno how long. I forgot how much the jaw bone in question throbs when the freezing wears off!

Damn if it doesn't interfere with concentration when one is on a deadline. Advil liquigels my friends, I'm on my way.

Despite the difficulties finishing the text I'm working on for an upcoming new web portal at UNU on satoyama (<--see the Wiki or watch a gorgeous doco), I'm glad to be at home with A/C on today since it's currently 36C out. We didn't have it on at the office yesterday since we were doing our Cool Biz duty, which feels good if somewhat challenging.

Ja ne.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

launch of Debate 2.0

Photo by David Joyce

Over at Our World we have just launched Debate 2.0, a new fun open forum for anyone's theories or rants on a hot topic du jour! We briefly introduce a current controversy and you dive into the discussion. Simple as that.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

rockin' rollin' and rainin'

As you may have heard, yup, there was an earthquake last night. And though we felt the rockin' and G-dog came runnin' (which she never did before), and all three of us decided to step out the front door, the epicentre was off the coast so apparently it measured only a 3 or 4 or our 'hood (the meteorological agency's info kept changing) rather than the exaggerations given by some trashy media!

The map of its radius, or whatever it's called is the most dotted I've ever seen though, so I don't know what that's about. Chances are on our side though I think, that we make it 11 more months without being subjected to the Big One.

So now we're waiting for Etau, that nasty stubborn typhoon, to track the hell away.

Saturday, August 08, 2009

forget shorter showers

Facing the apex of Tokyo summer, when pretty much all I can do is think about showering and popsicles, I must pass on this link to an awesome and oh-so-pertinent-these-days article in Orion mag, entitled Forget shorter showers.

For anyone like me, who's got an environmental heart or has developed a penchant for living simply but wonders why CO2 just keeps getting spewed, the piece explains "Why personal change does not equal political change".

Time to join this gang of sharp vocal youth perhaps, and shed my clothes for the cause?

Thursday, August 06, 2009

One man inspiring Hope

This week's feature story over at Our World 2.0 is about a guy who gave up his career as an engineer to go live in an extreme environment to try and halt the monster-like moving sand dunes from eating more of northeastern China's grasslands.

Written by one of his inspired volunteers, Hope He, a self-confessed "ordinary Chinese girl" who is part of China's "eco-generation".

Check it out.

(Photo: Wan Ping)

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

yup, it sure is getting hotter

Check out the spreading red thanks to climate change + heat island effect. And that last one is 10 years ago. Wonder what today's would look like.

"Tokyo has turned into a nightmare caused by government policy that prioritises the economy over environmental protection," said Komichi Ikeda, deputy director of the Environmental Research Institute Inc., a private organization comprising environmental scientists.

A report released by the Tokyo Metropolitan government shows that average temperature rise in the capital over the course of the 20th century has been 3 degrees C.


we are Yetis

I get so angry when I hear people parroting the whole "China/India are going to cause climate disaster" line that I must pass on this Reuters story from a few days ago, in an effort to arm you to debate people who use that argument on you!

Americans, Australians, Canadians top greenhouse gas emitters

The United States is by far the biggest greenhouse gas emitter ahead of China if consumers in rich nations are given responsibility for energy used to make imported goods, a researcher said on Wednesday.

Greenhouse gases, including by factories making goods such as cars or televisions for export, usually count towards the total of the country where they are made. Such data indicate that China has overtaken the United States as top emitter.

But adjusting emissions according to the country where consumers of goods live swells emissions by developed nations, said Glen Peters, a researcher at the Center for International Climate and Environment Research in Oslo (CICERO).

"The ranking makes a lot of rich countries look worse and a lot of poor countries look better," he told Reuters.

In the ranking of 73 nations, Americans have the biggest annual "carbon footprint" at the equivalent of 29 tonnes of carbon dioxide per capita, ahead of Australians at 21 tonnes and Canadians at 20 tonnes.

Each Chinese citizen in the survey, based on 2001 data, accounts for just 3.1 tonnes. Adjusted for China's much bigger population, U.S. emissions were 7.9 billion tonnes and China's 3.9 billion.

"The U.S. is increasingly shifted towards a more service-based economy, importing more of its products from China," Peters said of the ranking, published online last month in the journal Environmental Science and Technology.

"A lot of China's emissions growth is production of exports," he said of the ranking produced with the Norwegian University of Science and Technology. Economic trends since 2001 confirmed the United States as number one.

Read the rest.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

growing food movements

Interest sprouts in local, low impact grub

This week over at Our World 2.0 we take a look at how “voluntary simplicity” is making a comeback in the rich industrialized world. With climate change and oil depletion issues looming large and recession hitting hard, more people are realising that our way of life is unnecessarily resource-intensive.

Of particular concern to such “slow livers” or “downshifters” is their reliance on a food system that is dependent on massive fossil fuel inputs. (Not to mention the health impacts of a diet based on chemical-drenched produce, processed foods and hormone-filled animal products).

For some insight into these interesting movements, I talked to a couple of inspiring characters: one who has not only become an urban gardener extraordinaire but has also taken up eating wild foraged edibles as well, and another who practices something called freeganism.

Please give it a read and leave a comment as to whether you agree that it really is "time for the consumer to step up and be responsible for what is put in their mouth."

Monday, July 20, 2009

tops on my DIY to do list

Just discovered a super-interesting site and am posting this as a kick in the butt to myself and Aran. I've wanted a solar oven and a dehydrator for awhile now and it would be ideal if we could get one of the two done before winter (when it's awesomely sunny and dry here).

I've bookmarked Build it Solar and hope to actually do it!

Sunday, July 19, 2009

whiplash and a double rainbow

Well this afternoon's G-walk was not a typical one. Damn pooch took me unawares when she ran like the wind to the end of her lead after a crow and gave me whiplash that I've gotta go rub some arnica on or I'll be sorry tomorrow.

Anyway, on the way home, we came to a spot where the sidewalk was blocked by a crowd of people shooting the sky with their cell phone cams. Lo and behold a fabulous double rainbow was arcing my 'hood. It was so vibrant that it had a pale double above it. I rushed home to snap the shot I posted here from the balcony but by then it was already fading and our view only encompased a slice.

Today would've been my brother's 52nd birthday - maybe he's celebrating.

Friday, July 17, 2009

luxury cars and lunatics

I realized today that I've had the wrong approach to blogging. I don't post much anymore cuz after 3 yrs abroad, the number of people who originally wanted to stay updated has dwindled and I don't know (or care much) how to please anonymous lurkers (stats show people read, though few comment).

Anyway, I'm not complaining! This is natural cycle of human relations stuff. What I decided is that I should be posting simply for my own future reminiscing pleasure. See, since I was about 13 years old, I sporadically kept a journal. Until I started blogging that is.

I also realized there's a lot of things about Tokyo I've never recorded. Day to day life here is old hat to me now but it is nonetheless markedly different than life back home. In the details.

Today was a quirky day that would serve as a good example. I walked the G at 4 p.m. today, earlier than I have of late because it was cloudy and therefore cooler (uh, well, less hot anyway - around 30C) than normal for this hour. Perhaps the hour change could be blamed for the memorable array of moments and sights, some usual, some bizarre.

First, after our daily visit to the spot in the cemetery drainage system where G's friend the rat lives (so Aran tells me anyway, I've never seen it, no matter how many times G leads me there), the mutt lunged into a bush after what I thought was a cat.

Nope, she came out chewing something smaller than a cat. I yelled at her, to no avail of course, except to prompt a quicker swallow. Shortly thereafter however, dog-brains has to stop walking in order to scratch at her muzzle with both front paws as she does when something unpleasant hits her palate. This time around, I suspect it was a big ole dose of wasabi! Scavenging sucker!

And little Ms Inu didn't have much time to recover before we crossed paths with a strange man holding a big umbrella (it wasn't raining) and swinging a huge stick. The grrrl don't like big sticks unless I'm holding one horizontally in the air for her to jump at. Nothing to worry about though, just one of a handful of homeless men that live amongst the graves.

Just seconds later, I'm the one shocked to find a rich lady has driven her sports coupe into a part of the cemetery that does not permit cars. She smiled at us as she was climbing back in. Oh well, at least she was friendly.

Later, in a quiet cat-less corner of the graveyard, I let dog-brains off the leash and we played fetch with her baseball after I bribed her with a cookie to drop a small cell-phone charm ball she found that woulda choked her.

As we played, a helicopter passed by on its way to the nearby American army landing pad and when I glanced up at it, I noticed a blimp cruising through the low clouds. I also noticed how many cranes are sprouting in the 'hood, despite the recession and housing glut.

Last and perhaps weirdest was the origin of a sound that caught my attention on the way home. We were passing through a small park when I heard what sounded like a remote control toy. I looked around curiously because I hadn't seen any children so was wondering about the source. Turned out it was a sparrow pecking at the belly of a huge cicada that was struggling to get away and whose beating wings were the what I heard.

A semi-typical Tokyo Friday.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

just a couple of clicks

I know I'm a broken record but are you not as ashamed of Canada as me with the whole emission cuts inaction thing?

So two clicks is all it would cost ya to help pressure your MP into getting on board! Go to this list, find your MP (just look for your district if you don't know the MP's name), and if they don't support KyotoPlus (ie., their profile says that they're on the "red list") then just hit the Click Here button and send the letter.


Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Who put the COP in Copenhagen?

Who put the COP in Copenhagen?

To most, the words COP15 and Copenhagen are sounding quite familiar these days. In millions of minds all over the world these terms are linked to the fact that we need to replace the Kyoto Protocol.

Check out the rest of this climate conference cram sheet I wrote on Our World 2.0.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

today's sweat factor rating

In a break from rainy season, the summer sun shone in earnest today, bringing the hottest temp yet I think. It was 31 C plus several degrees of humidity but I gave it a rating of 6 (on ten) on the sweat index since I know worse is still to come in the next couple of months.

What I am very happy to report is that Aran has not badgered me to put the air con on yet. Except in the bedroom at night, which I can live with. I think we are finally pretty well acclimatized (and he's finally caught my power-down bug).

But we'll see how we do on vacation down in southern Japan and on a teensy island off near Okinawa. (Note to self: you're as white as a sheet, stock up on sunblock.) We just finished booking today and are leaving next Friday. First we're off to Nagasaki, then Kagoshima and environs, before heading to Yoron Island.

I'm excited and disappointed at the same time. We picked Yoron after we couldn't find a hotel in Yakushima, where I was really dying to go. The only option would've been camping but of course A wasn't keen to do that since I think he's only been camping once in his life and has no faith in my advanced skills. I also suspect he was too chicken to try the intense hiking with overnighting in mountain cabins that it would've taken to get to the Jomon Sugi (7000 year old cedar tree) which I would not have visited the island without seeing.

Alas, he says we'll go another time. I hope he's right. Next time we must work out the dog arrangements earlier. Of course then it won't be as much of a problem since she'll be broken into the doggie hotel scene this time around.

On a totally unrelated note, I thought I'd remark on a jaunty Tokyo women's fashion trend: summery straw fedoras.

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