Jason Truesdell : Pursuing My Passions
A life in flux. Soon to be immigrant to Japan. Recently migrated this blog from another platform after many years of neglect (about March 6, 2017). Sorry for the styling and functionality potholes; I am working on cleaning things up and making it usable again.

Maybe one or two days off

Most people take Christmas Eve off, but I'll probably do a few hours of promotions at Uwajimaya Seattle before attending a family party.

The Hong Kong folks took off Wednesday, only a few hours after Hiromi arrived in Seattle for a two-week visit. Tuesday, our last full day, we ran around doing a few morning errands, although I dropped Mr. Wong's son Hong off at GameWorks, where he spent about 6 hours playing "Street Fighter 3."

Everyone else went shopping. We stopped at the Pike Place Market for a whirlwind tour and visited Bacco for lunch in their new "Bistro" location, where Mr. & Mrs. Wong and Lavina shared a crab sandwich and a lox bagel with some soup and salad. I had a panini of some sort suitable for vegetarians.

I think I added about 5 pounds to my waistline in the last two weeks due to constant restaurant eating, even though I tried to be more cautious about how much food I was putting down my throat. With no meaningful level of exercise and a plentiful supply of heavy food portions, I was feeling some serious stomach pressure by the end of the week.

We ate our last dinner together at Lark in Seattle, which roughly met expectations and was overall quite appealing to my supplier. The atmosphere is pleasant, the food is decent, the portions are just right for sharing between four or five people. Not counting alcohol, I think we spent about $23-24/person including a reasonable tip. (Keep in mind that none of us were starving). With the alcohol I think it was a little higher, as the wine list tended to be pricy. We had a modestly priced sparkling wine at about $32/bottle and a couple of other drinks, but I don't recall seeing a red wine under $50/bottle on their wine list.

Today I ran around like a madman in the afternoon but it was mostly in search of food for the next few days. I fulfilled a wholesale order in the morning. Hiromi was driving tonight's dinner plan, featuring a tofu gnocchi and a gobo soup from a Japanese macrobiotic magazine I picked up on my last trip, and I prepared something for tomorrow's family gathering, basically filo cups filled with a savory cheesecake, upon which I will place some sauteed chanterelles with sage pesto and shallots, or probably some lox and capers for the non-vegetarians.

I need to eat more judiciously the next few weeks so that the holidays don't lead me back to my early Microsoft expansion...

Last day before a long journey home

We had our last demo today, in Milpitas, which attracted record crowds and pretty respectable sales. Saturday was surprisingly calm in Foster City, but the 99 Ranch store there is beautiful and well-suited for presenting the candy.

We had a few issues with proper display of the product in one store yesterday, and today we discovered one store had mislaid our cardboard display stand since signing for delivery. I am hoping to properly resolve these in the next couple of days.

I'm expecting good results overall in the Bay Area as word spreads, and we had a healthy launch for the area this week.

Tonight I learned one of the stores in Seattle has gone through a lot of inventory in the last two weeks, so I'm trying to decide whether to pull some inventory from other stores or to sacrifice some of my inventory meant for internet orders. I wasn't expecting to need another shipment this quickly, and the Hong Kong side had some unexpected orders, so I had not budgeted for a new order, and the Hong Kong office doesn't have much capacity to spare as they ramp up for Chinese New Year.

We ended up eating at a really horrible Japanese restaurant tonight after a tour of Macy's in San Francisco. I knew it was trouble before walking in, but my preference was overridden. I ate some not so freshly boiled edamame, a strange squash-filled roll, and some oddly prepared firm agedashi-doufu. I couldn't eat two full pieces of the agedashi-doufu because it was so mediocre. The staff didn't understand Japanese, and as far as I can tell from the misspellings on the menu and the waitstaff interactions, everybody working there was Korean. I left at the suggestion of Lavina to hunt down something I might enjoy more, and walked around aimlessly looking for a snack.

Last night we had a good meal in North Beach though, so I think that makes up for it.

It's all about logistics (oh, and that sales and marketing stuff)

I wouldn't like to call this week frenetic, because confusion was rarely in play, but it has been fast-paced and occasionally exhausting. It's been a huge challenge getting all of the things that really have to be done this week completed.

In preparation for a shipment of dragon beard candy, I've been working with my graphic designer, Jennifer, and I needed to arrange buyoff on our chosen design from the company that makes the candy. Beyond that, I had a couple of rounds of conversations to resolve some issues with a legal agreement with that company.

By Thursday afternoon, I completed the details with the agreement and struggled with my fax machine when I tried to send it off. I had the same struggles trying to send off some documents related to credit card processing to my bank. On the same day I needed to pester my bank to clear some funds to wire them to Hong Kong, get some materials printed up at Kinkos, arrange for payment for an attorney, find some slacks to replace some shredded ones, and a whole bunch of other little things.

Early in the week I got an appointment with a Portland-area specialty market to show off the dragon beard candy, and that meant I needed to hurriedly find decent but not outrageously expensive hotel accommodation. I planned to go with a friend of mine who is helping out with some of the promotions, so that meant my budget challenge was more complicated, but somehow I stayed on budget finding two rooms in a hotel that wasn't scary; it wasn't special, but at least it didn't seem too dodgy. We arrived late at night because with all of the other errands I was running, and a need to eat something simple before leaving town, it was at least 8pm before leaving Seattle.

The Portland meeting went surprisingly smoothly, and the results were better than I expected. Later that afternoon, we met with Jim Hill, the editor of Yuuyake Shinbun, a Japanese and English paper that is distributed widely in the region and published in Portland. He took photos and talked with us about the dragon beard candy project. He also gave us some suggestions on other venues we should approach.

Traffic was pretty brutal in Portland, but the weather was pleasant. On the way out of town, we stopped at a restaurant called Castagna, which was surprisingly empty for a Friday night. It was a bit of a hidden gem... We ordered two starters and a main and shared everything. The "trio" of marinated artichoke hearts, blanched flat beans, and fried morels was elegantly simple, and very sappari. The three little mounds of simply seasoned dishes was unexpectedly refreshing. A modestly portioned arugula salad with aged goat cheese and roasted beets was similarly pleasant. Some "risotto cakes", which tasted like yaki-onigiri with a slightly crunchier crust and creamier center, were placed atop some fava beans, morels and other spring vegetables with seasoned with restraint. The presentation was somehow French, but the approach to ingredients was more Italian in its simplicity. We finished with a nifty black currant ice cream drizzled with cassis liqueur.

I dropped Kazue off at her home in Seattle and then came home and did a little bit of work from around 12:30-1.30 am.

After I headed off to bed, Hiromi sent me some messages on MSN Messenger, which drew me back to my laptop. Some issues with my network caused lots of messages to get lost. Hiromi got frustrated and called me.

Tonight I had a plan to meet at Patrick's and bake my jagaimo pizzas. I started a potato around 8am and got the dough going before I left my apartment. At the Pike Place Market I got some excellent tomatoes, and the last of the asparagus and morels. I got a bulb of fennel and a nice peach. I picked up some cheese at PFI and went home to do some prep work.

At Patrick's I made a simple pizza with quillisascut lavender fennel cheese and buffalo mozzarella. Out of the oven I added some lemon and salt marinated shaved fennel. Another one I made was pesto and colorful tomatoes, and a pesto/morel/asparagus/roasted pepper pizza (less heavy than it sounds... the asparagus was the only heavily applied topping). For dessert, I also made a peach and lemon-honey mascarpone pizza with a little sprinkling of the lavender cheese. Of course, there were a bunch of other dishes since it was a potluck... a nice salad, some kuri-gohan with goma-shio (chestnut rice with black sesame seeds and coarse salt), and some items that were not vegetarian that I nibbled around. I think one of the dish was boiled pork and lettuce, there was some dramatically plated crab, Naoko made a ton of gyouza, and some itamemono.

Patrick sampled a lot of wines and some sake. It was a good learning opportunity, though there were so many choices that I promptly forgot the names of most of the wines. I usually don't drink particularly expensive wines and I tend to rely on local wines just to make decisions more easily.

Tonight I prepared a matcha infused gin with a modest amount of sugar, in the style of a matcha liqueur I've had a couple of times in Japan and experimented with for a while when I had a bottle or two of it in the U.S. Mine is much less sweet so it should be drinkable by itself, but it might be diluted with a little bit more gin to make a drier drink.

Unwanted waistline expansion

The last few months I’ve found that my waist has been expanding… I haven’t been jogging as much as I have in the past, and I’m just in a car way too much.

This afternoon, I had a relatively short list of orders to fill and I didn’t need to lug around too many packages. Rather than drive to my office, then to Ballard to drop off packages, I walked the short stretch to my office, took care of things, and after I finished most of what I needed to do at my office, I walked all the way to the Ballard post office, FedEx Kinkos, and the bank. I wandered around a bit, then walked back home.

I got at least an hour of walking in, if not a bit more. I sure needed it. But I need more regular exercise generally speaking… I’ve only jogged a couple of times in the last week.

The tour is underway

We made our move from Seattle to Portland last night. Saturday involved rushing around maniacally to get a rental car before the agency's noon closing time. Enterprise apparently doesn't "pick you up" on Saturdays if you live in Seattle, so I needed to extract Mr. Wong from his hotel a little early and have him drive my car back to my home.

The demo in Seattle went reasonably well; apparently the publicity from the Seattle P-I, Seattle WeeklyNorthwest Asian Weekly (twice), Seattle Chinese Post, and even some internal Microsoft message boards brought in a few people. We definitely attracted crowds, especially at the Seattle store. I hope that this event translates into a long-term boost in sales and also helps build the brand image in the US.

Originally we planned to return from Portland to Seattle tonight, but on Friday the Portland Fox affiliate asked us to be available for a morning TV show this Tuesday, so we decided it would be simpler just to stay in Portland and continue directly on to San Francisco from there.

We are traveling in a small van, but the amount of luggage needed for supplies, personal effects, display material, and so on makes the space pretty crowded. I almost think we would have been better off dragging a small trailer behind my Camry. I feel comfortable, but the passengers themselves must feel pretty cramped.

Tomorrow is our first relatively unstructured day. I'll be taking the Wongs around Portland to do some market research, the specific mode of which most people simply call "shopping." We'll go to downtown Portland again and maybe a few other areas. I'm not looking forward to waking up at 5am on Tuesday or driving for 10-12 hours afterward, but I think it will be interesting to see what happens in the Bay Area.

Mr. Wong is coming

The guy who makes my dragon beard candy is coming to Seattle next Thursday. I'm trying to get my publicity act together; I've got a few little mentions lined up but I'm hoping to get a little more visibility still.

His wife, his son, and one of his assistants will be coming also, so I'm trying to get publicity hotel, transportation, appliances and similar things lined up in time for their visit. I'm not sure I'll get much sleep in the next few days.

This will be cool. I think it will help sell candy, and will help us launch properly in the Bay Area.

I shipped off a small internet order to Japan today. I was excited because it was the first completed order going back to Asia. I've made one or two shipments to Canada, but that's the extent of international orders so far.

The weather is pretty cold these days, so I'm not looking forward to the depths of winter this year. Last year was intensely cold (by Seattle standards) with unusually high frequencies of snowfall... I hope it doesn't get that harsh this year.

The results are in

Somehow all of the running around last week kept me from actually writing any updates or even reflecting on what was happening.

Most everything went reasonably well. I chatted with the attorney I mentioned last week, and learned some useful things. I was able to get a verbal agreement with a manager of a local specialty market (to remain nameless for now) to carry my Dragon Beard candy.

Dinner at Patrick's was pleasant... I brought by a hijiki dish with renkon, snow peas, and fresh soramame (fava beans), as well as a kind of nimono with morels, lion's mane mushrooms, and baby bok choy; Naoko, Patrick's wife, made a vegetarian curry and a tomato salad. Afterward we collaborated on dessert, with some gyokuro-cha from Patrick's cabinet and some homemade quince infused liqueur (karin-shu) that I brought, and some strawberry-basil-yuzu sorbet that I made served with some nice fresh figs from Naoko's kitchen. We ended up watching a 1952 Japanese film called Ochazuke no aji, mostly for the title's hint of a food theme... It was kind of like watching a movie adaptation of a Jane Austen novel set in Japan.

On Friday I ate at Carmelita with Kazue and a visitor from China, which was nice but the food was somehow disappointing to me. I usually really appreciate their generally sappari approach to food, but some things were less than memorable this time. After Tony's work schedule settled down, he met us for drinks at Sambar, which after two visits is probably now my favorite little Seattle cocktail place. I don't consider myself much of a drinker, but even the non-alcoholic house drinks there are something special; the vibe is also very nifty... very understated; the typically accidental hipness of Ballard.

Over the weekend I visited the obligatory Fremont Fair and Solstice Parade. Living in Fremont makes failure to attend inexcusable, as it would be an awful waste of free parking... Anyway, the fair was appropriately cathartic; it was also, as could probably be expected in an election year with Republicans in power and going to war, slightly more politicized than the last one I attended. The inflatable effigies were clever.

This week I really have to catch up on my web retail site, and I also have an urgent need to complete a few other errands like setting up my credit card merchant services in time for the street fair. If all goes well, I'll make some progress on those things and still go out and make a couple of small sales calls.

Holidays are like work, only busier

I thought the last couple of days before Christmas would finally calm down, but I didn’t quite get to rest. I had a flood of late orders, some of which may have been meant for after-holiday purposes, that kept me up late. This combination of working a contracting gig (a.k.a. a job) and operating a business has already been fairly overwhelming, even though I haven’t quite done a “full” work week at Revenue Science yet… Due to holidays and competing commitments, I’ve only been “on the clock” 28–38 hours/week for the first few weeks.

The good news is my web orders this month have now beat any previous month, so the “Christmas magic” seems to have done its job. Because I had quite a boost from previous months between July and November, and relatively conservative Google and Overture/Yahoo ad spending, the jump wasn’t quite as dramatic as it is for some retailers. I also failed to get much in the way of self-promotion done this season because I was just so overwhelmed with other work from November on, so I think I can do a better job with some advance planning and maybe some hired help next holiday season.

Hiromi and I took my brothers, stepfather, and stepgrandfather to the Christmas Eve Seahawks game last weekend, where I narrowly avoided a parking ticket. I thought Christmas Eve was a city holiday, but watched some other cars being ticketed on the way to the game, and made a beeline to my car to get it in a garage. My mother couldn’t make it to the game because she had to take care of my grandmother, and due to some misinterpretation I didn’t quite realize this until about 45 minutes to kickoff… we tried to offer the ticket on the street at face value, but most average folks weren’t interested in a single, premium 200–level ticket when their main goal was to get inside the gates, and the scalpers that came up to me wanted to pay less than face value so that they can claim they had to pay $74 or whatever for it; my rush back to my car made any further negotiations complicated, so we didn’t get anything out of the extra ticket.

I actually had a couple of deliveries to make on Christmas Eve, since I had a few locally-destined internet orders that I had planned to hand-deliver, but couldn’t squeeze in during the week. I liked bringing such orders in person, but it’s no longer feasible unless it’s a very large order. Under my current circumstances, I think I’m going to have to go back to using FedEx Ground for local shipments, because I can’t deliver in as timely a fashion as they can, and it doesn’t save me any money right now when it takes so much time out of my day.

We went to a family party at my grandmother’s house after the game, which involved about 20 dessert options and nothing savory, so I threw together a frittata to have some kind of protein source… Hiromi and I took my little brother out to dinner at a corporate restaurant in downtown Bellevue late at night.

In spite of a pretty hectic schedule, we’ve usually taken 30–60 minutes a night to make a passable meal, and a few times I’ve made some more interesting things.

The night before Christmas Eve we made some pleasant manicotti, with San Marzano tomatoes; the filling involved chevre in addition to ricotta fresca. I used fresh oregano and basil, and some shiitake mushrooms in the sauce.

Manicotti side viewManicotti in the pan

On Christmas Day, I made a pizza with a potato-based dough that, in my small circle, I’m known for… We roasted bell peppers in a hurry, and served it with some very nicely caramelized brussels sprouts, seasoned with garlic.

Jagaimo Pizza with roasted red peppersRoasted red pepperBrussels sprouts

I’m not quite caught up… more good food to come… and probably some end of the year thoughts.

Customs is one thing, but the FDA!

I'm now jittery and nervous because the FDA is holding onto my shipment. I'm hoping they will clear it in time for the summer festival, but there's no way to predict what will happen. In fact, there's a good likelihood that, if they request inspection, that it won't happen until Monday, which would be a disaster for me.

Unfortunately, there's nothing I can do to expedite the release or even any kind of inspection. Customs has released the cargo, but FDA regulations mean that I can't even open a box until they've decided what they'll do.

So I'm sitting in limbo...

Next steps

After several weeks of difficulty, I finally managed to get hold of one of my customers that has been MIA for awhile. The call turned out to be productive, though, as I’ve been able to get reasonable buy-off on some additional products, and will be meeting with that customer about a near-term plan for some other good stuff after I come back from Asian mid-March.

The gift market is going to be seasonably quiet for about two months, so I’ve been trying to nail down some additional products to make sure I’ll have a decent revenue stream during the spring and summer months.

Of course, because of all of that, I’m now facing more challenges on the supply side. Some companies are awfully sluggish about responding to my email or fax inquiries, and some companies which have been more responsive turned out not to meet my needs. I am happy, however, that I have one more product almost ready to go.

Cash flow is a little nerve-wracking. I’m still waiting for a lot of the money from big shipments in December, and it’s making me incredibly nervous. It’s not a fun position to be in.

This is a period when I really need to get everything right. I’ve not really been a pleasant person to be around the last few days, as I’ve gotten a lot less patient and a little less polite. I hope my usually good nature returns by the time I do demos this weekend.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28