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.

Making deliveries and a few pitches

Today I made the first delivery of dragon beard candy to Uwajimaya Seattle, and I expect things will be visible in the next day or so. I have to go back and provide some mockups (empty boxes) for the shelf displays since the Seattle store is worried about careless customers damaging  the product by picking it up and shaking, tossing, around, flipping upside down, etc. I'm not sure this risk is substantially worse than, for example, with fancy Yoku Moku cookies or even many kinds of chocolates, but I'll work with that for now. I might have overemphasized the fragility when we first spoke a while back... the main problem is with excessive vibration and with vertical display.

Yesterday I got agreement from the Bellevue store to carry the product, so I need to supply them soon. I made a date to demo the product there in early August. This weekend, assuming all goes well on the Seattle side, I need to make a trip to the Beaverton, Oregon store to meet the new grocery manager there. The grocery manager who agreed to carry our product had to go back to Japan to care for a family member, so I just have to follow up with the new grocery manager about how to display the product and when we should do in-store sampling.

Also yesterday afternoon, I made a couple of stops at small Taiwanese tea shops in Bellevue and did some guerrilla sampling with store staff after buying something to drink. I made some conversation and I'll go back to show the full product line and information shortly.

I went to a local bamboo supplier to talk to them about materials for merchandising racks. It sounds like the kind of materials that would work best will be more expensive than some possibilities that were hinted at by one of my customers... so I'll have to find out what the best option will be. Maybe it's worth the commercial presence of the more expensive option... but I don't want my subsidy of store displays to be terribly expensive. Anyway, the bamboo importer referred me to a designer who may have some ideas. Coincidentally, they had some interest in the candy for their retail store, which is planning to have a little tea bar shortly... Since the brand identity references bamboo, it might be a good match.

Customs is one thing, but the FDA!

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

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.

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

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.

Sales call

Most of the morning I spent sorting samples of ceramics to show to a gallery owner in Pioneer Square. I had to run to the office supply store to get some labels so that I wouldn't lose track of which item is which, and I got another big box to make it easier to carry things around.

I finished everything by afternoon, though I didn't have a proper lunch. I nibbled a little bit, and got something small at Essential Bakery before my appointment.

Everything went reasonably well, so I've got to pack up a few other things from Akutsu-san and Senda-san (see my earlier post about the Mashiko buying trip for more details) and make a few revisions to my pricing schedule, then come back tomorrow to show the rest.

I made a few phone calls after returning and made a simple dinner. Unfortunately, I was so hungry when I got home I didn't gather the required gumption to go running. I'll try to wake up early and make up for that...

Busy enough for one day

This morning I took my car to have an expensive alarm installed in my car, and I replaced the CD player that had been stolen. It took them a few hours, so I met with my graphic designer for lunch at Phuket on Queen Anne. We talked about an ad campaign for my Hong Kong candy, and some packaging for organic teas from Taiwan. We also did some exploration at Uwajimaya, looking at how different teas and gift items are packaged.

After that I waited for the Car Toys person to finish up the paperwork... apparently they suffer re-entering the invoices in three different programs that don't talk to each other.

I hurried back home to revise a couple of spreadsheets and sent them off to my contact at the candy company. We talked for an hour about getting some visuals for the ad work, and some displays and other things for the summer festival, and various other logistic details.

Afterword, I changed clothing and went jogging. The weather was pleasant. It seems like I've brought up my mileage average to about 5 miles per run... I ran around Greenlake twice, for 5.6 miles, three times over the last week, and just shy of that the other runs. It's sure not helping my belly much yet, but I'm glad I'm getting my mileage up without aching. I won't push my mileage above that for a couple of months, because the last thing I want to do is re-injure my knee with mediocre health insurance...

Drug addicts steal cheap stereo

Some days don't start out so well.

I was awakened this morning by my neighbor, who noted that my car window was smashed.

Apparently, someone decided it was worth breaking my window and ripping up the air conditioner panel and bezel for the prospect of maybe $25 they could get for my cheap aftermarket CD player. I had a Panasonic 50 Watt x 4 CD player which played WMA- and MP3-encoded CDs installed in my Camry back in November. It was an impulsive decision that alleviated some frustration after I missed a trip to Korea. It wasn't the fanciest model but not the cheapest either.

Normally I take out the head unit's detachable faceplate when leaving my car in the driveway at night. For some reason, I didn't think about it yesterday... after returning from some errands in the afternoon, I assumed I'd be going back out in the early evening.

I spent the evening unpacking ceramics and writing web code instead, and never made it out. I slept around 1:30 at night. My apartment is actually close enough to my parking spot that it might have been possible to hear the noise of broken glass, but I didn't.

After reporting the damage to the police and calling up my insurance company, I cleaned most of the glass off of the driver's seat and headed to a glass shop in south Seattle. I was able to get the window replaced today, but I'll have to wait until Monday or Tuesday to talk to someone about the stereo. I still have the factory-installed cassette player/stereo unit, but it sounds like insurance will cover the replacement of the stereo and structural repairs.

I can't imagine anyone who knows about car stereos would have considered mine worth stealing, but they did pop the trunk and decided that my ceramics tools and a pair of gloves weren't interesting. I guess it was probably just a drug addict who decided he could get some pocket change toward his next fix.

Driver's window
Driver's Window

Driver's seat
Driver's Seat

Facing the music
Facing the music

Missing stereo
Missing stereo

 

Appointment missed, opportunity gained

Yesterday I completed my trip booking to Chicago. I have never flown into Midway and I've never flown a discount airline like ATA, so I have two new experiences this weekend.

The importer who was supposed to meet me today was unreachable, but I went to the meeting place anyway and waited. I studied Korean a bit, and then made a couple of other phone calls. After 45 minutes or so I didn't hear anything so I prepared to take off.

At the cake shop where I was waiting, I gave the baker and his business partner a sample of my Hong Kong confection and they responded positively... It looks like they are interested in making a small order after talking it over with their other partner. So that's a good thing... I hope there's more of that to come. I had another conversation at a little pearl tea shop in Bellevue just before Korean class, and the owner there was in disbelief that the product could even be imported (he knows it normally has a very short life after being made). So there's some definite untapped potential.

Apparently FedEx decided not to ring me this morning when they brought a shipment by, or else they came when I was in the shower, so I didn't get the rest of the product samples I expected today... I hope the same thing doesn't repeat itself tomorrow because I want to carry some along to Chicago this weekend in case I can find some shopkeeper who might be interested.

One pint lighter, bank hunting, bad pottery day, exit interview

On the night of my last day at Microsoft, April 15, I didn't really start working until I got home. I had to finish up a business proposal to one of the companies I want to work with, and there was a lot more work left than I remembered. I was up until about 3 AM focusing on that.

Saturday and Sunday I jogged in incredibly good weather around Greenlake... I also made some plates at pottery lab on Sunday.

Today I went to the North Seattle branch of Puget Sound Blood Center for the first time. I've usually donated at the Bellevue location, which was across the street from my old apartment, or at the mobile donation bus that came to Microsoft every couple of months.

I also had to go bank hunting. I have been operating from my personal account, and that's very confusing and also not good to do since I'm organized as an LLC. I wish I had this figured out 6 weeks ago... talking to banks and trying to make sense of their fee structures, especially when my stuff will involve international wire transfers and so on, is not the most entertaining part of this job.

Actually, I did start developing a lead for one or two products I want to sell when I stopped to get some tea. It would be small volume but potentially a good thing.

In the late afternoon I went back to Redmond to do my exit interview with an HR person. I played nicely... and turned in my cardkey, parking pass, corporate card and all of that stuff.

Somehow I had a series of disasters at pottery class tonight... I guess my hands weren't steady enough or something... I kept on ruining simple cylinders. At least I was able to finish up some pots that I had started last week.

Ex-MSFT: People who moved on to pursue their passions

People who give up the security of their job to do something crazy, risky, fun, or beneficial to humanity are inspirational to me. I'm glad to know that I'm not the only one. I'll be posting others here as I discover them.

Jean-Philippe Soulé quit Microsoft and started traveling in Asia, teaching, plotting adventure expeditions, and taking photographs.

Cameron Beccario was a Visual Basic developer who left Microsoft to study Japanese.

Patrick Jennings left Microsoft on April Fool's Day, 1994, and travels, occasionally writes code, and writes about his adventures and thoughts on his blogs/ejournals. He's been known to bicycle across China, run off to Thailand, follow Route 66, and trek across remote regions of British Columbia.

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