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.

Wind and rain blow me away

My work is almost finished at Microsoft, so I'm starting to feel some sense of accomplishment.

After work I decided to go jogging at Greenlake for a little bit. I wanted to run a single lap and walk another lap. Unfortunately, the weather turned after I started my walking lap... it became progressively windier and some rain came pouring down... I wasn't anticipating that, so my shorts and t-shirt were not the most comfortable attire for the job. I decided to jog as much of the second lap as I could handle, and I don't think I've done that kind of speed in a long time. The squall did die down after about ten minutes or so, so I was able to slow down again and not ruin my knee.

I guess I should get some gear suited for wet jogging... I won't have a gym membership for a while after I leave Microsoft...

How I examined my passions, Part II

A certain level of burnout with my job at Microsoft made me loath, or at least unmotivated, to seriously consider moving around within the company as my situation became more frustrating. It just wasn’t what I wanted.

I did spend some time looking around at similar jobs both inside and outside the company, and I tried to keep my mind open to staying, because, as I had long realized, I would need more money to realize most of my other ambitions, and it was a very lucrative way to collect savings toward that end. An alternately charming and sleazy career consultant told me the same when I confided in him that I was looking for something very different than I was doing.

Four of my long vacation trips to Japan during my Microsoft career coincided with professional crises. The first one, my first actual vacation as a Microsoft employee, wasn’t really planned to occur under such circumstances; a power struggle between two managers placed me in a frustrating position, and I had a long-planned vacation that my manager didn’t tell my new manager about, departing only a few days before I was being acquired by the new team in some sort of deal between them.

It was an awkward position to be in, but my new manager considered the information omission an error on the part of of my old manager and asked me to take my vacation as planned. During that trip, I was full of torn loyalties, feelings of disappointment, and apprehension. But my vacation, which was an incredible first experience in Japan, and my first trip outside of North America after my exchange program to Germany, gave me a lot of time to think about my future. It actually was the catalyst for a fledgling addiction to collecting contemporary Japanese ceramics, and expanded my culinary consciousness incalculably.

Over the next 6 years, my other three long vacations were very similar, although both of those vacations I took because I was frustrated at work, and wanted a distraction. It turned out that vacations were quite therapeutic, and even my short few extra days here and there that I got on business trips to Japan or elsewhere were extraordinarily refreshing.

I had the time to stop and take pleasures in basic human needs… good food, interaction with people, conscious moments of relative tranquility.

Strangely, it took me over a year to go on such a vacation again after my career frustrations began to mount. Before that, I spent more time than was probably healthy essentially fantasizing about alternative careers.

I felt really frustrated, and I had some self-destructive impulses… I thought about just walking off from my job without notice and burning some bridges, much like one of my employees did (the same forces that led me to consider leaving hit him harder, since I was deflecting some of them until he was moved under a different lead, and was used to certain kinds of irritation that were less tolerable for him). I had a few short-lived relationships where I was essentially completely emotionally unavailable and surely a source of other kinds of frustration for the women I was seeing.

I took refuge in my obsessions… I cooked a lot of elaborate meals for friends and acquaintances, refining some of my cooking skills. I spent a lot of time in pottery classes, considering early on the possibility that I might import some ceramics, and I thought it would be smart to have some first-hand understanding. Those pottery classes were also suitably humbling, as I did not have a natural talent and I sent a lot of clay flying. I also spent some taking Korean classes, remembering a college-era ambition of learning at least seven languages in my lifetime.

Early on, I started thinking about projects that I could indulge in with great passion, with some prospect for financial reward. I considered some restaurant projects, a small retail shop, and a more wholesale-focused import business.

In Part III, I’ll talk about how I evaluated the potential of these projects.

Milchreis mit Himbeeren

In Germany, I remember buying a short-grain rice called Milchreis as an awful substitute for japonica. It was the cheapest possible rice we could buy and available in mainstream supermarkets. It tasted adequate and the price was right for a starving student’s budget, so I frequently used it even when I cooked Chinese-style or Japanese-style dishes. On rare occasions I was able to get some decent basmati or Jasmine rice for a slight premium from Asian markets, but Japanese-style rice required a bit more difficult a journey from our little university town, Marburg.

The typical German way of making use of this rice involved cooking it with milk, sugar, and maybe a bit of vanilla, sometimes with a knob of butter. It was always cooked with substantially more liquid than if you meant to cook rice for eating with savory foods, so it is almost the texture of okayu. Essentially, it’s a rice pudding. It works best simmered at a low temperature with about 4 milk to 1 rice, by volume.

I think I can count the times I ate Milchreis in this manner in Germany on one or two fingers, but somehow I craved the idea last night, and I prepared some in anticipation of this morning’s breakfast.

It turns out that I have more ready access to California-grown Japanese-style rice than “Milchreis,” so I just used that. I made a quick raspberry sauce with a medium-heavy syrup and raspberries, and topped my molded milchreis with some more fresh raspberries.

Milchreis mit Himbeeren

Raspberries were incredibly cheap yesterday…

Yoshika in the moonlight

Last night I got to see Yoshika, a Kobe jazz vocalist, at Jazz Alley in Seattle. It was a rare show without a cover charge, since it was sponsored by the sister cities program and Japan America Society. Actually I called Kazue to find out if she was up for seeing the show at the last minute, and it turned out she was already on the way, so I ended up kind of crashing her party. I probably would have gone on my own or perhaps would have drafted some other friends had that not been the case, but hopefully I didn't cause too much trouble. It was a small networking opportunity, too, since the other folks there were JAS members.

It was a pretty nice concert, though I think the first set was a little stilted... maybe the songs were too unfamiliar to the local musicians who accompanied her to allow for much improvisation. Things loosened up in the second set and timing improved when the set list featured more standards.

Sunday turned out to be a pretty successful day for demoing at Uwajimaya. I sold more than usual, and a couple of customers bought multiple units. I'm hoping this is thanks to fall festival celebrations, but i'll take it, regardless of the reason. In celebration, Amelia, Dirk, and Jennifer along to Fu Kun Wu, which is a bar that serves vaguely medicinal drinks in Ballard. It proves yet again that Ballard is where all the ingenuity in Seattle food and drink seems to be concentrated.

Today I spent a lot of time sorting various papers into files. I got started in the evening yesterday, but I made a much bigger dent today. I've been a little too haphazard with documents since getting started with my business, and I don't want things to get any worse.

My web project is too frustrating. Even the off-the-shelf solutions I've been checking out seem to leave plenty of room for headaches.

A disaster, but thankfully not an embarrassment

Customs cleared a smaller shipment this afternoon, which contains only the small gift boxes of my dragon beard candy. These gift boxes contain 9 pieces of candy each, and the 18-piece boxes are still held up by the FDA.

It would have taken a miraculous feat of bureaucratic achievement for me to get my larger shipment, which contains sampling tubes, larger gift boxes, individual packages, the paper gift wrapping, the pretty shopping bags, or similar, until Monday or so.

My Hong Kong supplier just called me to find out if I got the shipment, and of course it hasn't quite cleared... She called FedEx to see if they could work another kind of miracle, but, alas, it wasn't possible.

Anyway, I have something to sell, so I won't have to go to the event empty-handed. I'll take requests for delivery by mail to anyone who wants bigger boxes... hopefully that will allow us to capture anyone who wants more...

I went through telephone training on how to use the phone authorization system for accepting credit cards. Now I'm all set... though a little lighter on inventory than I had hoped.

It's a disaster, but fortunately, I don't have to be completely embarrassed... Had nothing cleared by today, I would have walked into the show with pretty banners and no products. Now I can comfortably go to the festival without feeling stupid.

Introducing MoriAwase.com and the debut of my "other" blog

Pursuing My Passions has always been focused on my life after Microsoft, about indulging my passions for good food, contemporary Asian craft, and travel while somehow trying to build a business around those obsessions. But except for the occasional comment on a restaurant here an there, I haven’t spent much time looking outward at what other people are doing.

I wanted to build a bit of a community focused on changing contemporary Asian lifestyles, as well as on food, crafts, and design. Of course, with my ever-increasingly insane schedule, I never put the necessary amount of time into the project. But I’ve decided I will bite off a little at a time, much like I did originally with this blog… and for now, I’ve decided to create a blog wholly focused on an assortment of such things, rather than just on what I’m up to myself.

The first couple of entries on that blog are now up on MoriAwase.com. If you have any sort of enthusiasm for rustic-contemporary Asian craft, contemporary Asian art and design, for Asian cuisine and travel, please take a look, and consider signing up to participate in the MoriAwase.com Forums.

Pursuing My Passions will continue, focused mostly on what I’m cooking, where I’m traveling, and what I’m doing with my business, as it always has… MoriAwase will be a bit more focused on the world around me, and perhaps more traditionally blog-like with links to interesting content outside of my narrow little sphere.

Problems solved

Friday morning I got an account established with Maersk Logistics and I filed the necessary paperwork to allow them to clear my shipment at customs. I was impressed at how on top of things their staff seems to be. They advised me of some corrections needed in the shipping invoice to reduce the risk of being held up at customs, and kept me informed about the status of FDA notification, the anticipated schedule fo transport, and so on. By 6:45 pm I got a confirmation email that the shipment was on its way and they provided an ETA.

Yesterday afternoon in the mail I received a copy of the Chinese newspaper which is carrying my ad. They seem to have given me complimentary spot color... they just decided on areas that they thought should be highlighted. I hope the ad reaches the right audience.

In the afternoon I met with Patrick at the Queen Mary tea shop and restaurant a short stretch from University Village. We tried what turned out to be a green tea from an all-organic Taiwanese farm I met with in Japan, and a moderately fragrant oolong recently added to Queen Mary's collection. I think I wasn't expecting a green tea, since my poor Japanese ability led me to believe all of the products the Taiwanese farm sells are oolongs. Since I haven't consumed a lot of Chinese-style green tea, and since the two teas were so different from each other, I found it hard to compare the two. The tea, called “four seasons-spring,“ was much different in character than any Japanese green teas that I drink.

The actual oolong from Queen Mary's was nice, but a little tannic for my taste and, although much better than average oolong, not quite as fragrant as the one I tried at FoodEx. I'll have to break out the two teas actually labeled oolong to find out if I can reproduce the quality of the ones I tasted when I was at the trade show.

In the evening I met with a Korean woman who is interested in helping me out with the summer festival event, and seems like she'd be a good addition. Long term, she may also be helpful in doing some web design and web marketing for Yuzu Trading Co, as that's close to what her day job is. It turns out she also knows some people that I am connected with, including two people at Azuma Gallery and also Eugene, the MyGreenTea guy. I'm starting to think that Eugene knows everybody...

I was incredibly tired last night because of my relative lack of sleep, and found myself driving back from Bellevue to Seattle in pretty bad shape. I still stayed up a little bit later, which was probably not very smart, but somehow driving that short stretch made me a little wired. Today I'm doing very little work, and I am not doing anything actively leisure-like... just decompressing.

Visions of earthquakes dancing in my head

I woke up remembering all sorts of dreams involving earthquakes. Not nightmares... no substantial amount of fear was a part of them...

I briefly chatted with Hiromi this morning via MSN Messenger and I mentioned the dreams. She went to bed, and a few minutes later TV started showing images of a steam and smoke eruption at Mt. St. Helens.

On Friday while I was driving toward Seattle, a few hours shy of Portland I remember hearing about another minor plume. I started to recall the big eruption when I was about 7 years old... If memory serves me, my family was living in Kent and I was in first grade. I remember my neighbors pointing toward clouds in the sky and explaining that I was seeing Mount St. Helens erupting. I was disappointed, because all I could see was clouds... My 7-year-old mind wasn't quite able to see the difference.

Today I'm preparing a ceramics shipment... I hope I can get this and my other chores done in time.

The Chinese Gadfly, Part 1

I got to bed a little earlier last night, but it was only after I composed and sent a response to my latest source of irritation.

Late Friday, a Chinese company sent an email to me by way of YuzuMura.com claiming that my use of the phrase “dragon beard candy” runs afoul of a trademark they registered in 2001 in China. Somehow, the 2000 years of prior use as a common phrase (in Chinese) got past the Chinese trademark authorities; perhaps they considered it a novel usage since they registered the mark “Dragon Beard brand cotton candy” in English rather than Chinese.

Translations of common phrases are, to my knowledge, not well protected by trademark law, but the more amusing thing is that they are making a claim against a phrase that existed in English in the United States, Canada, Hong Kong and Singapore for a fairly long time prior to their registration.

Also, their company, “Nutra-Swiss,” does not appear to have any trade presence in the United States. They don’t have much to protect; if a trade name is not in active use, it’s not protectable, and this should be doubly true for a weak mark. These days, their online presence appears confined to search engine spamming and domain name resale, although I do recall seeing some photos of some artificially-colored plastic tubs of cotton candy on some trade directory last year. I’m not selling cotton candy or even comparing my product to their artificially-colored goo anywhere on my commercial site, since it’s irrelevant to my market.

I expect there may be one or two more rounds of email, after which I’ll probably publish the entirety of the exchange here for popular amusement. They don’t show a very sophisticated understanding of trademark law.

Dinner

I needed to take advantage of leftover ingredients today. I still had a bit of ricotta in my refrigerator, which would not likely survive much longer than today; it was still in decent condition. I also had some tomatoes, onion and mushroom, in addition to a bit of parmesan. It turned out that Central Market, where I did my matcha latte demo today, had a little sale on manicotti shells, which is quite fortunate, since I had already thought of making manicotti on my way to search for pasta. I was lower on tomatoes than I remembered, so rather than incorporating the mushrooms into a filling, I made them part of the sauce, which was heavy on onions, deglazed with a little fume blanc, and seasoned with garlic and basil. I chopped the roasted peppers into confetti and included them in the ricotta-parmesan filling.

Mushroomonionmanicotti-640w

For a dish which was composed primarily as an excuse to use up ingredients, it turned out fairly well. The wine and mushroom sauce turned out more interesting than the tomato sauce I had planned. But I only have about 6 weeks left in Washington’s tomato season…

Technorati tags: China, trademarks, law 

Oh, yes, blogging always comes second

I guess my objective of posting photos from Hiromi’s Mashiko visit by Monday didn’t quite work out. But Hiromi managed to post a few photos on her blog.

She met with two of the artists I am selling on YuzuMura.com, including Senda Yoshiaki:

Senda Yoshiaki Tokkuri

I’m a little sleepy today. Maybe I’ll go to bed at a reasonable hour… but not until I finish watching Rooftop Room Cat on AZN TV tonight. It may be a little predictable, but I find it somehow endearing…

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