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.

A series of small repairs

My nifty MPX-220 cell phone took a unusually painful journey to be repaired after a problem with the power conversion. Friday it came back, though I was told it was supposed to ship out last Friday via FedEx 2–day.

I really, really appreciate ActivSync. My previous cell phone, a Sony Ericsson T616, could arguably be syncronized with my Outlook address book, but it was usually painfully slow and most often resulted in a huge number of duplicate records being created. ActivSync is much speedier and has only rarely produced an odd duplicate.

More importantly, in this case, it meant my replacement phone could be put into service almost instantly. Within a few seconds of plugging my phone into my PC, it had all my contacts except for the two or three I failed to syncronize before the AC power failed.

I can’t say I’m any more thrilled with Motorola’s customer service than I was when I sent the phone off for repairs, but at least the work is done. And my backup phone had a cracked screen, which meant that for about 2 or 3 weeks I couldn’t tell who was calling me, and I couldn’t dial anyone unless I remembered their phone number. I’m glad that’s over.

Departure

One of the things that distinguishes Tokyo from Seattle is the amount of attention that people pay to each other’s feet. In Seattle, it’s perfectly acceptable to wear a pair of sneakers that you picked up at a rummage sale or flea market 5 years ago, even if they have clearly worn out their welcome, in polite company.

I don’t wear tennis shoes or sneakers save the pair of running shoes I use when exercising, but I’ve been walking around wearing some very sad, past-their-prime shoes that not only have lost most of their structural integrity, but have a small yet noticeable circle of damaged leather at one of the toes on the upper. I had planned to replace the shoes for about 5 months or so, but I moved from being a bit too low on resources to take care of such things until they were actual emergencies, to being completely overwhelmed by an insane schedule, and it just became impossible.

But I decided I didn’t want to wear such sad shoes on my Japan trip, partially because my knees aren’t very happy right now and I’ll be walking constantly next week, and partly because I don’t want to have kawaisou na kutsu (sad shoes, roughly… but please don’t reuse the Japanese term without a heavy dose of irony attached). On my first trip to Japan I realized having holey socks was more than a little embarrassing, and I’m sure that it can’t be much better to wear sad shoes.

In order to avoid pity and amused glances, I made a quick last minute stop to replace now decrepit everyday pair of shoes.

I started wearing Ecco shoes after a knee injury a few years ago. I’ve run into other people that wore exactly the same model of shoe and they were fiercely loyal… one man had about four pair that he had accumulated over time, because he didn’t want to go to replace them and find out that he could no longer get the same shoe. I, too, have bought about two pairs of the shoes, but I didn’t feel a need to hoard them… Alas, after today, I somewhat wish I had… the new variants of that model now cut against my ankle unpleasantly, and I ended up switching to a slightly less convenient laced shoe instead of the loafer-like design I had before, solely to avoid the miseries of excessive friction.

At least my feet won’t be an embarrassment.

A long time since Portland

I haven’t made it down to the Beaverton Uwajimaya for a while, so it was a good thing I finally made it down there.

I got a late start due to a bunch of things that I needed to prepare this morning, and I had so much merchandising and preparatory work to do when I was there that I took more time than usual to get set up, and in fact I wasn’t ready to go until just before a fairly substantial foot traffic rush started to subside.

This could be considered a problem, but in fact I’m never quite sure whether heavy or moderate foot traffic is better for me, because I tend to convert more customers when people come in small, sporadic waves than when I have dozens of people pressing by, grabbing samples and moving on before I have a chance to explain products to them.

This weekend I’m back into full demo mode; I will be at the Bellevue Uwajimaya in the afternoon tomorrow.

My dragon beard candy shipment is very tight right now. Including intended deliveries, I think I have just about 2 small gift boxes left, and maybe about 18–22 larger gift boxes. I still have a moderate amount of a new style of packaging left (a tea and candy gift set), and enough of the 3 pc samplers to meet anticipated needs, but I’m going to have to reorder this week.

I had a bit of a run on the candy this week that I didn’t expect. I am torn because it’s too soon to order again for most of my wholesale customers, but stock is inadequate to cover near-term demand. Hopefully I can make things work somehow.

My life is a barcode

Thursday I ran over to Staples to hunt for some laser printer-friendly adhesive labels that would be suitable for bar codes that I can stick on the single tubes of my dragon beard candy so that retailers, like Uwajimaya, can scan them. The gift boxes all have pre-printed bar codes, so that wasn't an issue, but, alas, there are almost 1200 small tubes for individual retail sale that lack these essentials. So this weekend, in the sweltering heat of my apartment, I printed out appropriate bar codes and stuck them on to about 364 packages, which made it possible for me to deliver the single tubes to Uwajimaya Beaverton and Seattle.

On Friday I got agreement from two other stores to carry the candy. I will most likely be doing sampling at Viet Wah next weekend, and I have sampling plans for the next few weeks at Uwajimaya Bellevue, Seattle, and Beaverton.

I made a little delivery at the Beaverton Uwajimaya and met with the new grocery manager and his assistant. Not entirely surprisingly, since I knew this was a vendor sampling day, I ran into Eugene Levy, who was showing off his green tea, today in the form of iced genmaicha. I chatted with him a bit before meeting with the Uwajimaya staff and we had a simple dinner at the little Japanese restaurant bordering the store. It was probably around 90 degrees Fahrenheit, so I ate hiya-yakko (cold tofu).

I needed something of a weekend, so I didn't do any work today until afternoon, when I made a delivery of the now-barcoded impulse-buy tubes to Uwajimaya. Tomorrow I need to make another trip to Chinatown to meet up with another store there.

Things are kind of picking up... I still have to do a lot of sales work this week, so I hope I can take care of everything else that comes up.

Respite, and something out of nothing

It’s been a tough few weeks for me. Instead of scheduling supermarket demos this weekend, I decided to get out of town. I’ll get back to the usual routine next weekend. Assuming my new shipment arrives, I will need to go to Portland next weekend.

I drove over Stevens Pass to Leavenworth, through Snohomish County. Fall certainly seems to have set in; the non-native deciduous trees have been turning. Fortunately, the dreary rain dropped off as I crossed over the pass.

In Leavenworth I ate some Kartoffelpuffer and drank a glass of Glühwein, both of which were often offered as street food when I was in Germany, but were served at a middle-brow restaurant here. After lunch, I walked past Kitschdorf (no, that’s not an official name for the center of town, but it fits) down to a walking course along the river, where I noticed a few fallen chestnuts and the occasional river fish.

When I got home, I realized I had a fair amount of ingredients which I had originally quite specific plans for, but which no longer had a clear fate. Rather than let them go to waste, I set out do do some serious improvisation.

Roasted potatoes with chive sour cream, and cabrales salad

My leftover cabrales cheese needed a final send-off, so I decided to use it in a salad. I incorporated a small amount into a sour cream/mayonnaise based dressing with a mustard kick. I’m not much of an aficionado of creamy dressings, but this worked quite well. In a frying pan, I let some butter cook at low heat with garlic and chopped tarragon, and added some pieces of my remaining rye bread to toast for croutons. Just a bit before pulling the croutons off heat, I added some of the cabrales cheese, so I could taste the contrasting flavors of raw and cooked blue cheese.

Alongside, I served some roasted potatoes with chive sour cream. The contrast between the blue cheese and the lightly flavored sour cream meant some subtlety in the sour cream was lost, but I was being frugal here, not trying to win any culinary contests.

Bluecheesesaladandjagaimo

Roasted cauliflower in white Cheddar sauce

I had half a cauliflower left after making my “nests” last week, so I roasted the cauliflower and served it in a white Cheddar sauce. This was essentially a cream and garlic enhanced bechamel with a fair amount of sharp white Cheddar.

Cauliflower in cheddar sauce

Dinner ended up being fairly dairy-intensive, but of course, it was quite comforting. I think later this week I’ll probably switch gears back to more sappari food.

Sales picking up

I had a busy weekend doing more promotions, this time at Uwajimaya Beaverton and Bellevue. I had lots of trouble setting up, because I couldn't find my product on display anywhere and nobody knew where it was. It turned out that what I had sent them a few weeks ago had almost entirely been sold, and that's why it was nowhere to be seen.

My bamboo display cabinet for the candy was hiding upstairs in storage. It hadn't been unpacked, although it had been at the store for quite a while. So I spent some time unpacking and setting up the cabinet. Shipping stress damaged the cabinet slightly, and adhesive from packing tape affixed to the plexiglass door on the cabinet stuck to face of the door. I spent an hour scrubbing off the adhesive residue.

After returning from Portland, late at night, I made a little stop at a Diwali party at a friend's home in Capitol Hill. Everyone tried their hardest to lose money gambling; I didn't pass up the marketing opportunity to hand out sweets, which is a reasonable thing to do on Diwali. 

My promotion at Bellevue this Sunday was beyond all historical comparisons. Usually it's one of the toughest places to sell the candy, but it sold really well today. My memory of last week's sales might be a little inaccurate, but I think that I sold slightly more today in Bellevue than I sold last Saturday in Seattle. That never happens. I am wondering if people are feeling festive, if I'm getting better at telling the story, or if people are finally starting to see the value in something like this.

Afterward, I stopped at Patrick's home. He made a matsutake risotto and an onion soup, accommodating my vegetarian quirk with a mushroom based broth. I ate so strangely the last couple of days that I was inadequately hungry, though I kept eating... today's brunch was two really large pastries from Le Boulangerie in Wallingford, and no real food except a bit of seasoned fava bean snack I nibbled on right after finishing up at Uwajimaya today. Maybe my body was in starvation mode and confused.

Early in the week I made a satsumaimo (Japanese sweet potato) ice cream which turned out to have a pretty nice texture and flavor. My blender was quite flustered by the low proportion of liquids to solids, but it survived.

My mid-week entertainment involved a stop at Troiani for lunch, where I had a decent but unremarkable penne dish. The restaurant belongs in a mafia movie. It's huge, dramatic, expensive, and apparently well-funded. I had a nice little savory crepe at 611 Supreme on the same day, which was a refreshing contrast.

Les Cadeaux Gourmets and a face from my past

This week was completely crazy, and I rarely had a spare moment before, say, 7 pm, in the best case. Today was like that, but more so. I had a couple of urgent shipments to take care of, which I handled, but the rest will unfortunately have to wait until Monday. I hate to delay sending off orders but I haven’t been able to keep up completely.

After running over to Redmond for a few hours, I got back to Seattle with just about an hour to take care of several outstanding tasks before I needed to make some final preparations for a demo event at Les Cadeaux Gourmets.

I haven’t done a lot of events in this type of venue before, and it was nice to have an audience that was already excited about specialty foods. It never fails when I do a demo in Uwajimaya that someone will complain that my products are too expensive. In that context, they are at the top end of the scale, but for most specialty gift stores, my products are in a fairly comfortable price range, and nobody visibly compained about the prices (which I cannot make any better without selling at a loss). The only thing that makes the products atypical is that they are Asian rather than European.

So today, I had slightly more intimate conversations with customers, and a very receptive audience, and, although I didn’t do a detailed analysis yet, an apparently higher conversion rate than I usually see. I was fairly happy with the results, even though store traffic was a bit quieter than I’m used to handling at supermarkets.

While doing my demo I ran into the group manager for my team in MSN, which was quite a surprise. I don’t know why it should have been a surprise, as I vaguely remember hearing he lived in the Queen Anne neighborhood when I worked at MSN, but somehow it didn’t register. Anyway, I introduced my products (at least the objects of today’s demo) to him and caught up a little bit.

After finishing up with my demo I met up with Lisa of Three Tree Tea to get more demo materials for the next few weeks. I finally got to eat dinner at that time: a quick burrito at the West Seattle Tacqueria Guaymas. Today worked out to be about 14 hours of nonstop activity…

And so the hard work begins

This morning I sent off my final visitor, and my week of being a tour guide came to a close. It was a pleasant distraction and I am happy that I am able to take time to do this kind of thing without having to ask for permission from someone. Of course, it means I do have a lot of work to do now.

Actually I was able to accomplish a small amount of work over the last week as well. Yesterday I met with another guy who had been working as a small importer/exporter and has since moved on to build a marketing firm in Bellevue. He gave me the names of some distributors that may be useful for me.

Also I got a call from a tea importer that I met at FoodEx who is based in Bellevue. He had also been attending the Las Vegas tea show which was going on a week or so ago. He offered to introduce me to some buyers he works with, and we'll also have a little meeting at my favorite Japan-esque cake shop in Seattle next Wednesday.

I may need to make a little trip to the Bay Area later this month to meet with one of my suppliers, so I'm going to need to hunt for some cheap tickets.

Finally, it looks like my ceramics are set to ship now, so I should be able to get my hands on them soon and start building up my retail web site.

Today I need to do some revisions on some sales objectives that I have for one of the products I am working on and prepare for another conference call with that supplier. And I need to play handyman also... I should finally put together the shelving I bought at Ikea a week or so ago for my office.

More blues, possibility of improvement

I’m not feeling much better today, but I met a couple of customers for two different purposes today… one a dragon beard candy customer and the other is a customer for Japanese ceramics. I was a little behind schedule on everything I did today and I didn’t do any other sales calls.

I was hoping my mood would be improved by jogging around Greenlake in good weather. I haven’t slept enough recently and over the last few nights for various personal reasons I was sleeping even less. But it wasn’t a particularly successful distraction… My mind kept on dwelling on my little frustrations and I left the lake as moody as I started.

Anyway, I still have a bit of a unpleasant disposition but maybe I’ll be ok tomorrow. I guess on Friday I’ll go to Portland for a little while and tomorrow I must take care of some Eastside errands.

I need to get some better sleep tonight.

Trying to be focused

Yesterday I shipped out an unusual number of internet orders. One of them was destined for Seattle and I almost delivered it myself, but I was busy enough that I thought better of it.

Today I was preparing a donation of candy for an event honoring minority women in business, which was a good way of using what little remains of my fall inventory; it's benefits a non-profit but has some potential marketing side effects as well.

I am also extremely short of the newer inventory in the Pacific Northwest stores, not counting big gift boxes, so I am desperately awaiting a shipment that is supposed to be here by Monday or Tuesday if all goes well. I expect it will be no problem to sell what I have in big gift boxes though...

These days I'm eating a little carelessly. I haven't been sleeping well, maybe due to subconscious distractions, and I'm sometimes skipping meals or substituting snacks for real food. I need to stop that. Yesterday I had a nice dinner though... I made okonomiyaki.

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