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.

International spam

I found my business email account is now averaging one spam message per day advertising some sort of questionable Japanese matchmaking service, and about one or two messages per week in Hebrew. Every once in a while I get spam in Chinese or Korean, though that’s far less common.

My domain name has a Japanese word in it, so maybe that would explain why I’m targeted for Japanese spam, but it’s not much of an explanation for the stuff in Hebrew. I haven’t ever registered for any Japanese site with my business email account except FoodEx or Hoteres trade shows.

Except for the fact that MSN somehow redirects a defunct Israeli florist site to my YuzuMura domain, I can’t figure out why I get spam in Hebrew. I tried to get someone in MSN that I used to work with to investigate that particular problem, though nobody has ever gotten back to me.

I’m not literate in Hebrew and I don’t understand enough Korean to recognize what the Korean spam is about. I understand the gist of the Japanese spam but even on the extremely remote chance I were the type inclined to respond to such offers, I don’t see what value sending it out of the country would be. The Hebrew spam seems to be Israel-based companies promoting vending machines or vacation packages or something similarly useless since I’m nowhere near Israel. They are particularly abusive because they tend to include large image files.

Sometimes I wish email weren’t so close to free. One of my email accounts became almost completely useless after 6 years of use.

Maybe I can catch up

My internet orders seem to be quieter the last few days so I hope I can finally make a dent on some long-neglected wholesale work and bookkeeping… but now I am a little frustrated at the sudden calm…

It looks like the weather is slowly turning into September-ish weather. Today it was pleasantly clear but not very warm.

I drank a lot of coffee today.

A bit of a klutz

It’s no secret that I am sometimes prone to distracting mishaps.

Today I went to Central Market to do a matcha latte demo, and due to a slightly larger than normal number of vendors doing demos this weekend, I needed to bring my own small table. The most appropriate one I have for such an occasion is a small outdoor Ikea table designed to be semi-foldable, and therefore slightly more readily transported or stored away, save for the unwieldy feet.

Previous experience with this table had taught me that it snaps and locks into position when the table is set up to be the conventionally horizontal. So I didn’t think to verify that it had in fact snapped into place.

Twice today someone asked me something that led me to rest my hand on the table. The first time this happened, only one small cup of iced matcha latte was on the table and the only disaster was a bit of spilled ice and product in disarray. The next time, of course, I had a good five or six cups set out to be served, and my container of ice was fairly well melted, so I made a far bigger mess.

After the second more dramatic mishap, I remembered I could visually inspect the hinge lock and in fact manually close it, in case it were not cooperating, as indeed turned out to be the case. No more trouble occurred thereafter…

Matcha white chocolate enrobed fortune cookies

If you’ve never tried it before, you probably don’t know this… photographing chocolate is hard. I almost always take photographs using extra-bright halogen lamps, and these generate a lot of heat.

They’re perfect for most of my products because they create a nice warm glow. Nearly every photo on YuzuMura.com is bathed in halogen light. In some cases, there’s some combination of ambient fluorescent or incandescent light, or else I’ll use available outdoor light plus my trusty halogen. Sometimes I white balance properly, using a white card, and sometimes I rely on the automatic mode, which casts everything a bit more yellow or red than it really is.

Well, my matcha chocolate fortune cookies arrived yesterday early in the evening, and so I thought I’d try to take photographs today. One session I got half-decent shots of the cookies by themselves, but there was something wrong with all of the box shots. Usually something was too dark, and something was too bright. Alas, my cookies didn’t like the lighting at all… they were crying. I came back about an hour later and their color had slightly shifted, so I had to start again with a different box of cookies.

I knew that matcha doesn’t like to be exposed to a lot of light, but I was a little surprised at how rapid my shift in color was… although I have seen this occur before in a matcha cake stored in a pastry display case on a very sunny day… In my case, the color shift wasn’t as dramatic, but it made me a little worried.

Anyway, I tried one more time, adding another source of fluorescent light, and this improved things somewhat on the product box shots. Most still had some overexposed spots though.

Someday I’m going to have to reshoot this, maybe with some soft fluorescent lighting. But it’ll work for now.

They tasted good, anyway, even when the heat from the light melted them a bit...

Matfor-240wMatfor-8p-plate-240

What am I doing right?

Yesterday I was surprised by a larger than usual number of internet orders for almost every product category I cover. I spent a good portion of the day taking care of them, although I also had a few other wholesale things to work on and a quick meeting, and some banking errands.

Today I got a smaller number of orders but fairly substantial ones. In the last couple of weeks my average internet sales per day seems to have nearly doubled. The strange thing is I haven’t really changed much, although about 6 weeks ago I increased my promotional budget on Google and Overture nee Yahoo Search Marketing. It had a noticeable but not completely direct impact. Only some of those customers seemed to have come from those ads anyway.

Someone ordered a bamboo tea tray only a few days after I put them online… I was really surprised because I did no promotion or even mention of it except in private places until after one had sold.

I don’t really know what I’ve done differently… It’s bewildering. I hope it’s a trend and not a fluke… And I better not stop whatever it is that caused whatever’s happening to happen…

Irritating spammers

It seems over the last few months my referrer logs on my blog site have become nearly useless.

I used to enjoy looking to see who was linking to me, but now 90% of the “referrers” are actually bogus. They attempt to promote questionable pharmaceutical or gambling sites. Someone just writes a bunch of scripts that cruise blog sites with forged headers.

Most of them are immediately obvious ploys but every once in a while something pops up with an innocuous-looking URL that tricks me.

I think they are trying to trigger fake trackbacks or something. After I added the Human Interaction Proof (HIP) requirement to post comments on my blog, all of the spammer efforts were shifted from making bogus comments to making bogus HTTP referral log entries.

Somehow I can’t figure out how such spammers think this helps them. I wouldn’t actually buy anything from such a site and cluttering up referral logs can’t help with search engine page rankings, so what exactly is the objective?

Fresh Flours cookies, Les Cadeaux Gourmets

I went to deliver something to one of my customers, Fresh Flours, which is just awaiting final inspections before they open. They were having some computer trouble, and remembered that I used to work for Microsoft, so I was recruited to investigate the problem. Somehow I managed to solve it… it was deceptively simple. Anyway, I was given a preview of coming things to take home… some black sesame cookies and some chocolate cookies with nutty slivers (maybe almond).

Fresh flours cookies (preview)

They are quite nice… only mildly sweet, full of nutty flavor, and with a nice sugar crunch on the outside…

I also made a brief stop at Les Cadeaux Gourmets, originally just to look for something yummy to substitute for my standard Dragon Beard Candy gift for folks who have had enough already. Anyway, I got to talking with the owners, and suddenly found myself with a new customer… I’ll reveal more later…

Back to work

Hiromi had to go back home yesterday, so I took her to the airport to send her off. We drank two coffees on the way to the airport, because it’s Seattle and we only made one coffee stop this entire trip. We had a reasonably decent latte at Essential Bakery, and something else at the airport, which was a little overcooked.

Of course, we started enough of the days with an iced latte or perked up with a straight espresso or something made at home, so we didn’t walk around uncaffeinated. We had some of the most luxurious breakfasts I’ve indulged in for a long time. Everything happened deliberately most of the time, which is usual when she visits Seattle… I will never be able to shake the image that I move at my own pace. Actually I often have the urge to move at a frenetic pace when left by myself.

I got a bit of a sunburn on July 4, in spite of a relatively pain-free long kayak ride on Sunday. I forgot to apply sunscreen for a short meander along Alki on Monday, and I exposed my usually covered feet to the sun by wearing sandals most of the day. Somehow, although the burn was rather moderate, I had a slighly lobsteresque look on my feet, arms and legs by the end of the day, and walking around yesterday exacerbated the irritation a bit.

I went to Ikea today to arrange for additional parts for my bare storage shelving, which I’ve been using ever since I brought over my first ceramics order last year. I hate shopping at Ikea. It’s not that I am particularly opposed to their products, but I feel like I’m in a lab mouse maze, complete with traps and dead ends. They have signs to guide you where you think you want to go, but they always force you to walk through things that you have no need for, unless you happen to be their target audience with 1.8 children in tow, an outdoor garden, and a house whose kitchen you can alter at will. When you see a sign that tells you to walk straight through, then walk through a non-negotiable U-Turn path around another wall, only to see another sign urging you to walk straight ahead parallel to but in the opposite direction of the last sign, you feel a little manipulated.

Anyway, I now have more shelving to assemble. I also realized I’m going to need another small shelf, preferable something portable and ideally snappable for my Chinatown Summer Festival event this weekend, but that’s not a problem Ikea seems to be able to solve, so I’ll go and get something utilitarian at Office Depot or Staples tomorrow, I think.

Matcha-anko muffins, some with shiratama

I made these matcha muffins this morning, and we used up some recently made shira-tama and leftover ogura-an by placing them in the muffin batter. I think I first tried matcha muffins about 6 or 7 years ago at Kimura-ya in Ginza.

They actually looked substantially more matcha green before being hyper-illuminated, so I might reshoot these at some point when I get around to making some more, and try not to overexpose them so much.

Matcha Muffin plateMatcha muffin kozara

Jason’s Matcha-An Muffins

1–1/2 cups flour
2/3 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 stick butter, melted
1/2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp Matcha for Cooking
1/4 tsp salt

Ogura-an or your preferred type of anko (sweetened azuki bean puree), about 1/2 cup

Mix with a fork to a lumpy consistency, taking care not to develop strands of gluten. I filled a 24–piece mini-muffin pan with this amount of batter, using about a tablespoon of batter per pan. Using two spoons, press a bout a teaspoon of anko into the batter. We also snuck a few homemade shiratama into some of the muffins; when baked they taste kind of like yakimochi.

Bake at 375F (180c) for 22–25 minutes, until edges are browned. You can test one muffin with a toothpick.

Breakfast also included some leftover black raspberry pie, some very orange jidori no tamago medama-yaki (sunny side up orange eggs from very well-fed hens) with a little Ritrovo truffle salt, and watermelon.

Sonstiges

Hiromi and I spent the afternoon kayaking yesterday with Jennifer… we made our way from Portage Bay to the arboretum, then up to Madison Park and back. Surprisingly, three hours in the sun didn’t roast anybody. It was Hiromi’s first time on a kayak, so Jennifer gave a basic lesson to Hiromi while I was waiting in line to rent a 3rd kayak at Agua Verde.

Afterward I made a late dinner to take advantage of some decent but early heirloom tomatoes… insalata caprese, a salad with grilled figs, tomatoes and butter leaf lettuce, some bruised tomato garlic bruschetta, various leftover cheeses, and some tomato cream pasta with basil, just to complete the tomato-heavy theme. The day before we also had some tomatoes, but on ciabatta… also an egg white fritatta with morels and some earthy smoky cheese, and a salad with a crushed raspberry vinaigrette and lavender fennel cheese.

Ciabata and egg white morel fritatta

We also had a nice dinner at La Carta de Oaxaca on Friday night… preceded by cocktails at Fu Kun Wu. That seems to be a theme every time I end up at La Carta… the waiting list demands stopping somewhere else for a drink. But we got a table in 30 minutes… an impressive feat for a group of 7 on a Saturday night.

La Medusa Re-dux, and new ceramics arrivals

Hiromi arrived safely, and somehow I arrived at the airport at exactly the right time, just as she had picked up her baggage. I think I was in the Seatac parking garage about 6 minutes.

We unpacked and inspected some ceramics she brought from Minowa Yasuo and Senda Yoshiaki, which I’ll put on YuzuMura tomorrow or at least within a few days, as I made quick work of photographing most of the pieces.

I cooked a simple lunch (did I mention how many tortillas and how much mango salsa I still have?) and then I took care of a couple of small office errands and a delivery to Uwajimaya. We made our way to La Medusa in Columbia City, where only a few weeks ago I enjoyed a nice meal, and we hoped to have an equally pleasant experience this time.

We were not disappointed. We had a small amount of overlap with what I last ate there, but this time we had a nice grilled cioppino salad with some soft Quillisascut cheese, greens and pine nuts, and a nice pasta with pickled fava beans and a fava bean cream sauce. I was particularly fond of the salad. The chickpea croquettes and fig and fennel pizza were as good as last time.

Temmoku Matcha-JawanSenda combined clay tokkuri and ochoko pair
Minowa niji-yuu tsubo vaseMinowa-san tall kabin niji-yuu

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