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.

Customs is one thing, but the FDA!

July 8, 2004, 6:59 AM

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...

Almost ready for the fair

July 7, 2004, 12:12 PM

Today I received a copy of Yuuyake Shimbun, which covered my trip to Portland and printed an article that also looks similar to my press release. The full-color ad looks pretty good in newsprint; I was a little nervous about that since I know newsprint is a little absorbent and tends to have pretty poor dynamic range. The adjustments my designer made for that factor seem to be just about right.

I also sent Maersk a bunch of money to cover customs duties and freight forwarding fees for the first shipment, which Maersk is trying to clear today. Alas, the FDA is reviewing the shipment documents and will either review the documents and release it, or they may take samples, which will cost me more money. I'm just glad I didn't let Yamato route this through Los Angeles or this would be very messy.

There's another shipment due to arrive in Seattle tomorrow which may or may not be cleared in time for the fair.

July 4 I made something of a galette with ricotta, parmesan, rosemary, roasted patty pan squashes, caramelized onions, and spanish almonds. It turned out ok; the patty pan squashes didn't seem as fresh as I had hoped. Anyway, I brought it over to a party in Wallingford right on Lake Union to which Amelia arranged invitations. I saw my graphic designer Jennifer there, and Denise, a dot-com veteran who now works for Microsoft, whose home had been the paddling-off point for the Independence Day party last year. I brought Kazue along also. It turns out that the host works for Expeditors International, so his company may also be useful to arrange air transport for me.

After the fireworks, we spend some time chatting with those who didn't leave straightaway, and then a few of us walked over to another party a few blocks away hosted by a friend of a friend. I was already sleepy, maybe because of the lingering effects of my late night adventure with Yamato. Someone was convinced I was drunk because I was slumped in a chair and relatively unanimated... in fact, I had only consumed one glass of wine the whole evening and it was a couple of hours prior. Christopher, A musician or audio sculptor I've met at previous Amelia-connected events, was there; I've not seen him in quite a while, though I was perhaps too sleepy to appreciate being there. Anyway, we departed around 3am or so, and I finally arrived home after dropping folks off sometime around 3:30 am.

July 5 was a slow day, too. Thanks to two late nights in less than a week, I really didn't wake up at a healthy time of day. I also slept earlier than usual, unwittingly falling asleep on my smaller sofa around 10pm. I'm guessing I'll be overwhelmingly busy over the next couple of days.

Yesterday and today I received the necessary equipment and documentation for processing credit cards, so I should be ready to handle non-cash transactions at the summer festival. I am supposed to get telephone training on how to use a telephone-based card entry system this Friday. I also received the materials for setting up my booth display at the summer festival. They look good, though I'm wondering how the backdrop banner will hold up if we have any wind.

Problems solved

July 3, 2004, 12:20 PM

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.

So that's what "logistics nightmare" means

July 2, 2004, 5:34 AM

The last three days I've been struggling with my air freight service, Yamato Transport, as they've managed to royally mess up the shipment of my dragon beard candy. They failed to arrange service on June 30 because of China Airlines had some reluctance to handle food shipments to the U.S., and they didn't arrange a backup in time to ship that day, and didn't inform my supplier of the problem until the air cargo offices were closed for the day. July 1, of course, happened to be a public holiday in Hong Kong, and so I heard zero news from Yamato yesterday until evening, when my supplier and I started beating up the Yamato Hong Kong office by telephone and email. By 11 pm here, or about 3 pm Hong Kong time, Yamato had finally gotten some sort of arrangement, but they had been so slow to inform us about what was going on that we didn't trust them to complete the shipment successfully anymore.

Yamato, once they got arrangements confirmed, also neglected to follow my instructions to get the product here as directly as possible, instead trying to route the cargo through Los Angeles and truck it up to Seattle. Since Monday, July 5 is a public holiday in the United States, customs clearance would be unlikely to be complete until at least Wednesday. That means, if all went smoothly, the product would be in my hands on Friday, which is one day before the street fair where I'm debuting the product.

So last night, Dragon Rich, the dragon beard candy maker in Hong Kong, contacted their usual freight forwarder, Maersk, to seek another freight arrangement option in parallel, and by 3 AM Seattle time had made arrangements to transport to Vancouver, BC by air, most likely on Saturday morning Hong Kong time. It should only take four hours or so for the surface transport from Vancouver, so customs clearance on Monday or Tuesday should be the end point of the critical path instead of another two days of surface transport. My supplier's diligence about arranging an alternative was truly impressive and they took some financial risks on my behalf, which I really appreciate.

I dozed off a couple of times between 1 am and 3 am, but around 3:30 or so I was finally able to sleep after the marketing manager in Singapore had clarified the most important details. I got about 4 hours of uninterrupted sleep, but at least I have some confidence that my shipment will get here in time.

All of the advertisements were ready to go on Tuesday and some publicity was arranged. On Wednesday, the Northwest Asian Weekly asked me to bring them some other photos for a story they were running, so I went down there and took some product shots. The newspaper came out Thursday morning. It turns out the story is very similar to my press release, so it was kind of a funny experience reading it.

Getting the publicity machine started

June 28, 2004, 8:51 PM

Sunday I spent time working on publicity and advertising details. My designer was struggling to finish up some image manipulation and final layout tweaks, and I got to work on a little press release.

Over the course of the day a number of little complications kept reminding me how incredibly tight time is. Somehow, though, I managed to sneak out at night to watch Michael Moore's movie with my overworked designer and my friend Amelia.

Most of the day today I spent finalizing shipment details and contract arrangements, as well as arranging to get ads ready for the papers that are going to press soon, This afternoon I did my best to make the publicity section on the Yuzu Trading Co. web site presentable, and I tried to make a dent in the work on the dragonbeardcandy.com web site. Online ordering isn't quite ready but at least it won't be blank if people start looking at it when the ads come out.

By early evening, my designer was still struggling to arrange delivery of the ads to the four newspapers that we're working with, so I went over to try to find a way to get them delivered in time. After a long series of technical battles with software, email servers, ftp servers, and even fax machines and printers, we finally got business concluded and we went off to eat some dinner around 8:30 or so.

We stopped at Galerias on Broadway I had vegetal enchiladas con mole poblano, which were better than the last time I ordered the same dish a good year or so ago... not too sweet, pleasantly spicy. Jennifer had some crab-stuffed tortillas and ended up feeling stuffed herself. The most important thing after all of the chaos was to have a celebratory margarita, so mine was a “patron” and Jennifer's was a frozen strawberry.

I'm a little tired now, but I think Tuesday will be a little easier, assuming my shipment gets sent off from Hong Kong according to plan.

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

June 27, 2004, 12:46 AM

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.

The results are in

June 21, 2004, 8:28 AM

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.

I like to think "busy" and "productive" are related

June 14, 2004, 10:00 PM

On Sunday I actually took most of the day "off", in the sense that I didn't have a business agenda until I started reading email at night.

During the day, I stopped at my pottery lab to try to pick up the last bits of work from this quarter. A couple of recently glaze pots were ready, but are nothing to write home about. A ceramic "train" that I made was still on the greenware shelves, waiting to be bisque-fired. I suppose it will be ready next week. I don't plan to take the class this summer due to the demands of my business interests and, to be honest, due to the fact that I enjoy taking advantage of summer weekends, whether that means running to meet customers, networking, or jogging in the good weather.

In the afternoon, I met with a friend who had expressed some interest in promoting soaps from Japan. We chatted about different things and then I decided to stop by my grandparents' house. Along the way, I bought some stuffed figs from Fran's Chocolates in old Bellevue.

In the evening I tried to follow up with some outstanding concerns I have related to my project to import a Hong Kong sweet. I've mentioned the candy here before... the big secret that I haven't mentioned is what it's called... it's called dragon beard candy, and it's made with thousands of strands of pulled sugar and maltose. In fact, it normally only has a 15-30 minute lifespan after it's made. The version I found is high quality, beautifully packaged, and has a reasonable shelf-life. I will be the first, or at least one of the first, people to import this into the United States. Work related to this ended up keeping me later than I planned.

Today I met with a couple of banks. Alas, in spite of all of my running around a month or so ago in attempt to pick a bank, I still didn't pick one. I must do that this week. I made an appointment to talk with one of them a little bit more tomorrow.

By the end of workday (by the standards of the alternate universe that is the 9-6 world) I had made a bunch of appointments for the rest of the week. I'm meeting with a friend of a friend tomorrow who can introduce me to some people I should be talking to. I'm having dinner later midweek with Patrick, whom I've mentioned recently. Thursday, I'm meeting with a candidate to help me out for sales of dragon beard candy, meeting a friend visiting from China, and having a conversation with a manager at a local specialty supermarket. I'm also having dinner with a tech entrepreneur, Tony, whom I've mentioned before, mostly to catch up on things. One of these evenings I think I'm meeting with an acquaintance of mine from back in the day when I worked at the Northwest Asian Weekly. I should have Wednesday morning open to run errands.

In any event, this will be a busy week. One thing I learned at Microsoft was that busy doesn't always mean productive... I think, though, that everything I'm planning to do this week is valuable in one way or another. Everything looks like progress, so far.

Pioneer Square gallery sale completed

June 12, 2004, 11:59 PM

This afternoon I completed a sale of ceramics to Azuma Gallery, a Pioneer Square gallery which carries prints, screens, and ceramics. It's my first sale of note, so I'm very happy. To the best of my knowledge, it's also the first venue where the work will be seen by an American audience. The two artists whose work Azuma Gallery has bought are Minowa Yasuo, who does gas-fired work, and Akutsu Masato, a 27-year old whose work combines rural, organic textures with a surprisingly modern feel.

Minowa Yasuo's kaki-yu (Persimmon glaze) pots, which are gas-fired, sometimes have a tenmoku-like appearance, and sometimes a striated rainbow reddish pattern, which can be matte or have a metallic luster, sometimes even on the same pot, depending on the clay body and the kiln atmosphere. The results are pretty striking, and although Minowa can control the basic "tenmoku" vs "niji" effect, no two pots are exactly alike.

Akutsu Masato's work has a lot of youthful energy and has four main textural motifs, a "doro" or rough clay look, a tetsu-yu brownish, wood-like brush pattern, a white sandy texture often adorned with sgrafitto or sometimes rough, evocative stained three-dimensional contrasting textures, and a gyokuro-yu glossy dark green glaze which references more typical Mashiko or Kasama ware.

If you happen to be in Seattle anytime soon, please stop in and take a look at Azuma Gallery, located at 530 1st Ave. S., and ask about the work of Yasuo Minowa and Masato Akutsu (the order used in this case is the customary US given name followed by family name).

Later in the day, I met up with Kaoru, a friend of mine who works for a community college program north of Seattle, and we had a little dinner at Djan's, a Thai restaurant in a little house in Wallingford. We had a nice, simple meal with cold spring rolls, green papaya salad, an eggplant dish, and a not-very-spicy red curry with tofu. We skipped the "fusion" or "specialty" dishes since none of those appeared to be vegetarian friendly. The best thing about that place is the careful, but simple presentation, and the feeling that you're really eating in someone's house. The dishes that we had would probably be easily obtainable at any kind of Thai restaurant, but overall I would say it was a pleasant, unpretentious dining experience with a little more attention to detail than the average Thai restaurant.

We stopped at Masalisa in Ballard, a tea shop which transforms into a sake place on weekend nights. At first I was inclined to order some kind of nomi-yasui sake, but in the end both of us decided to try their "sake smoothies", one with strawberries, and the other with matcha. These were interesting concoctions, reminiscent of amazake except for the icy texture.

In the morning and early afternoon, I chatted with Patrick at Vivace's, an ex-Microsoft guy I've previously referred to indirectly, who contacted me after reading my web journal. We drank too much coffee and talked about various ways we might be able to work together. I was a bit surprised that our conversation shifted into discusssion about my ambition to do a little cafe/restaurant, as I have hinted at before, and there's a distinct possibility that this may be feasible sooner than I had previously calculated. He also has some useful connections that might make it possible for me to study cooking under some chefs in the Kyoto area. In any event, we'll keep on talking over the coming weeks.

Working and even networking

June 11, 2004, 11:56 PM

Taking care of this gallery sale has occupied most of my time the last few days, but everything is almost finished, so I'll report more tomorrow.

I made an appointment to meet with another ex-Microsoftee whose background has a few other interesting parallels with mine; he moved on to create a consulting company, and he has hopped back and forth between the Seattle area and Japan for the last few years.

Yesterday I got in touch with Tony, my uncle, and talked shop a bit. He had been in L.A. recently doing some work on a department store catalog. I also talked to Eugene, the green tea importer, and he pointed me in the right direction at Uwajimaya, and we talked about a couple of other ideas. I called up another Tony, a serial entrepreneur who is half Japanese and half German I met at a Starbucks a couple of years ago, and after talking a bit we made some plans to meet up and catch up over food.

The convoluted schedule of the last couple of days has left me eating irregularly, not jogging at all, and covered with newsprint stains from sorting through hundreds of ceramics pieces, but it's been pretty energizing.

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