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.

Another Portland demo trip

I went to the Beaverton Uwajimaya today, but somehow I didn’t arrive until about 12:15 and I spent about 10 minutes wandering around trying to figure out where my demo table might be, then I found the staff member who runs the event, and settled in as quickly as possible. I think I didn’t do any sampling until about 12:45.

Actually I try to arrive by 11:30 to these events but somehow something goes wrong each time, and I get there later. This time the issue was fairly bland… I remembered the need to get cups for serving cold matcha samples, and had to stop at a Cash & Carry on the way out of town. I would have done this yesterday, but I had a long list of things to accomplish and it just fell off.

The weather was very warm today. I think I might have a bit of open-window sunburn.

Alas, I ate rather unimpressively on the way. The day started off well, because I had two halves of two nice muffins from Fresh Flours, and a yuzu marmalade window cookie (made with Korean yuja-cha, which I myself have been intending to import since February but faced a few unrelated inventory and payment obstacles that made me skittish). Along the way I stopped at a Mrs. Beesley’s for a fresh strawberry shake, so that beat my sugar quota. I had a slice of mushroom pizza at Pizzicato. These last two are, alas, frequent stops for me when I’m playing traveling supermarket product demo guy.

Surprisingly, the usual rule about sunny weather negatively impacting sales and store traffic at Beaverton didn’t seem to hold. I found I was sampling to a steady stream of customers most of the time, and the iced matcha latte in particular went over well… I think more people have recently tasted the (in my opinion scary) Starbucks green tea drinks that the idea seems less “foreign” when they try ours. Usually people who have tried both seem to prefer ours, which makes me happy, since we use better matcha and no melon flavoring.

Usually I’ve been at Beaverton on relatively cool days so I think today was the first time to do any iced matcha lattes there… it’s actually a little more convenient since the matcha flavor is more stable when served cold, so I can make more in advance and I never have to throw any away.

When I do hot matcha lattes, the samples get cool very quickly in small sample cups, and the exposure to air is not something that green tea appreciates; accordingly, to make sure everyone has the best possible experience, I usually make four samples at a time and discard any that remain after about 5 minutes. 5 minutes isn’t too much stress for a drink in a larger cup because it doesn’t cool as rapidly or have as much surface area exposed to air. I don’t want to drink a long-neglected cafe latte either, because coffee is about as temperamental when served hot as matcha is.

Anyway, iced is nice, because it seems more people have experience eating green tea ice cream than drinking matcha, and the taste is somehow familiar to them when we serve cold things. I didn’t track it very carefully, but I think we actually had a fairly high conversion rate today for Beaverton… in Seattle I do reasonably well whether doing hot drinks or cold. The smallest size ran out by the fourth hour.

Whenever I do demos at the Beaverton Uwajimaya I wish I had progressed further in studying Korean than I have so far… I have been using a little bit just to explain the name of the products in Korean, which some Koreans have heard of… yong su-yeom yeott saseyo! Nokcha late i-e-yo. But I can’t say anything else of interest.

Beaverton’s customer base has the heaviest percentage of Koreans of any store that I visit. So it seems like it would be a good think if I could say something more intelligent than “I’m selling dragon beard candy! This is a green tea latte.”

Technology woes

As an ex-Microsoft employee, I'm by no means easily discouraged by technological irritations. Of course, I do tend to scream and yell at my machines when they give me trouble, just like anyone else (it's not just me, is it, Doctor?). But it seems to me that when I have one small computer or cell phone problem, I have an unfortunate streak. Usually one problem coincides with another which coincides with yet another.

Recently, for the second time, my cell phone seemed to take a disliking to the manufacturer's power chargers, and the only way I can get my cell phone charged up is by connecting the data cable to my notebook's USB port. That's a minor inconvenience, and I can live with it. It just happened a couple of weeks ago and I kind of live on my cell phone these days, so I didn't want to send it in for repair.

I have another desktop machine, which is essentially a salvaged 5 year old PC with a newer processor, motherboard, and DVD-RW. It has an NTFS based file system. I never quite got this machine fully optimal, but I do use it at my office for basic tasks, or when I forget to bring my laptop to work. I was finally installing Service Pack 2 late last week on my office desktop machine, and some file permissions-related problem caused the install to fail. I didn't investigate, but I just allowed the machine to reboot. It turns out it didn't quite successfully uninstall the partial update, and my whole installation was hosed.

Then, Monday night, my laptop had a familiar problem, now out of warranty: the power clip on the motherboard seemed to misbehave, and I couldn't get it to charge the battery or sustain a power connection. This has happened before a couple of times. Apparently I have to be super-careful to make sure the AC Adapter Plug never gets jiggled or plugged in too casually, because it seems to be very easy to damage. When such a problem occurs, the whole motherboard gets replaced.

So by Tuesday, I had trouble with absolutely every essential piece of electronics in my life. It took me hours to recover my office desktop configuration, but it's now functional enough to be used for real work, including printing shipping labels and so on. So I'm up to speed again, but I wasted a lot of time, and now a substantial amount of money because of the laptop repair.

That earthquake

The earthquake registered 5 out of 7 on the Japanese scale in some parts of Tokyo and Kawasaki. Apparently the epicenter was closer to Chiba.

Kantou Earthquake

Wow… I was just watching an earthquake on an MSN Messenger video conversation and was a little speechless. Hiromi and I were struggling with network flakiness and general computer headaches and just as we got video up again an earthquake hit the Kantou region in Japan.

It seemed fairly hefty, but appears not to have been too destructive. Hiromi says it seems to have hit the Izu peninsula the hardest. The Japanese scale was about Shindou 4.0 (different than the Richter scale of magnitude). We stayed connected, so I could also see shaking from many smaller aftershocks.

It was a little scary to watch. Actually, I can’t say I’ve ever observed an earthquake from the point of view of a video conversation before…

 on Technorati

 

From fireworks to summer festivals

This has been a very different Chinatown International District Summer Festival than last year. I don’t know if it was the advance publicity, the relative novelty, or the great support from JACL and co., but last year was much busier at the summer festival than this year. I sold a lot more candy last year, even on the relatively challenging first day I had this time last year.

But I have a few things going for me this year… I have been directing people to YuzuMura.com more aggressively, with a promotional coupon, and I had additional products from Three Tree Tea to offer, and those have been doing well. I just wish we had one (still secret, sorry) product that isn’t going to be ready until about 2 weeks from now. It would be very tempting at an event like this.

I had help from Kaori (my roommate) and a woman I hired for the event who speaks Cantonese. But I didn’t do as much advance “training” as last time, so it was more seat-of-the-pants.

Afterward, two of us went to a cheap, decent Ethiopian restaurant in Columbia City. It was not bad, though I think I’ve been happier in other places… but the best Ethiopian meals I’ve had were probably in Chicago.

Hiromi just posted this photo from when we were headed to watch fireworks on July 4, in yukata (summer kimono, roughly). I wonder if I can ever find a less touristy yukata with a height suitable for me…

Onsen tamago with truffle salt, crumpets with fig jam

Last night I was hunting down some heavy cream at Fremont’s PCC, which was out of stock at Trader Joe’s. I had already bought some eggs, but then I noticed duck eggs, and decided that I ought to have some.

This morning for breakfast I poached one of the duck eggs and grilled some asparagus, inspired by dinner at Columbia City's La Medusa last Friday. I wasn’t in the mood for a fried egg, but I followed La Medusa’s lead and sprinkled the asparagus and egg a bit of truffle salt from Ritrovo. I toasted a crumpet, upon which I spread a liberal amount of butter, and ate it with a bit of fig jam.

If I had any morels I think they might have found themselves sauteed in butter and somewhere near my poached egg.

If I was more in the mood for a Japanese vibe, I might have skipped the truffle salt and used some grated daikon, mustard and soy sauce for the egg and asparagus. Then it would really be “onsen tamago”. But somehow I thought the dish would taste best in a small Karatsu-ware bowl, along with a contemporary Arita plate for the crumpet.

Ahiru no onsen tamago with truffle-jio, crumpet with  fig jam

Cherry kanten jelly

I have been holding on to a jar of German Morellen, or sour cherries, for far too long. I was thinking to incorporate them into or place atop a cheesecake, but the next time I make a cheesecake it will probably be a green tea version. No matter how I reimagine this it is unlikely to require cherries.

I happened to notice that I had about two-thirds of a packet of sweetened kanten (agar-agar), which I must have previously used to gel a cheesecake or torte topping. It turns out that this amount is just about right for four cups of liquid, so I simmered the liquid from my jar of tart cherries and a little extra water with the remaining agar agar and placed the cherries into four small bowls.

When the liquid had simmered suitably, I poured it into the bowls and let it set. Then I got this simple, refreshing dessert. It’s not as sweet as it looks, and it only has the sweetened agar agar, and whatever mysterious things (mostly water and glucose syrup) might have been in the jar of cherries. It sure beats artificially flavored Jello desserts.

Cherry kanten

 

I thought things would go more smoothly

It’s been a productive week, but I have been behind schedule on absolutely everything. Most of what I’ve been doing has involved a lot of context switches, but I guess that’s no more unusual than any other week. The intensity has sure been pretty high.

Monday I helped Masa and Lisa load up furniture from their now-sold tea shop, and then took care of some other tasks that must have seemed important at the time but this much time later I can’t remember a thing. I filled a ton of internet orders on Tuesday at the same time I was trying to handle a wholesale ceramics order and a matcha sales call with a little tea shop downtown. Yesterday I got lost in Kent running an errand on my way down to Portland to follow up with another customer; once in Portland, I spent some time looking at furniture shops to see what the market down there is like, since I have to start making a dent on new accounts for Enlighten… I wasn’t trying to be a salesman so much as gather information, but I probably annoyed at least two shopkeepers, nearly talking their ears off.

Internet orders seem to be picking up recently, so I took care of more of them today. The rest of the day I spent doing mundane tasks like invoicing and paperwork, and I made a little delivery to a tea shop in Bellevue. Maybe I’ll catch up on some internet code tonight.

Everything that I’ve been doing this week was running at least two hours and sometimes a couple of days behind my original plan… I haven’t been procrastinating but I’m having a hard time keeping up. I wish that weeks like this translated into enough revenue to live on… But it’s getting closer.

Farewell to Masalisa

I went to a farewell party for Masalisa, the little tea shop in Ballard that I’ve been going to occasionally for maybe a year and a half. They will turn over the tea shop to another couple in a few days and then focus full-time on the new business, which, of course, I’m participating in as their sales broker. Actually I came straight from an abbreviated matcha latte demo at Uwajimaya to Ballard.

I always liked that space and I hope the new owners retain some of the character.

At the party I ran into a former MSN colleague and his wife, who runs Pare*Umbrella, a company that imports contemporary Japanese-designed umbrellas. I also met an employee of a sake distributor who knows some of the other importers I do, which just goes to show the circle of Asian importers makes up a very small world.

Masa and Lisa’s son charmed the crowd by performing renditions of Queen songs on a children’s amp and guitar setup, and a 5–piece ensemble of attendees played Okinawan shamisen and sang folk songs. It was the last chance to eat Masa’s Matcha Roll Cake, though I think he changed it a bit on this last occasion. A few people brought snacks, and I felt like a slacker because I didn’t bring anything except some dragon beard candy samples… I would usually cook something for an occasion such as this.

Today the heat of the last few days finally subsided… on Friday I was stuck in a car most of the day in 90 degree (Fahrenheit) weather, and Saturday I served a tremendous amount of iced matcha latte samples (soy and regular) at Uwajimaya. Today I only made it hot… It cooled quite considerably.

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.

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