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.

Yoshika in the moonlight

Last night I got to see Yoshika, a Kobe jazz vocalist, at Jazz Alley in Seattle. It was a rare show without a cover charge, since it was sponsored by the sister cities program and Japan America Society. Actually I called Kazue to find out if she was up for seeing the show at the last minute, and it turned out she was already on the way, so I ended up kind of crashing her party. I probably would have gone on my own or perhaps would have drafted some other friends had that not been the case, but hopefully I didn't cause too much trouble. It was a small networking opportunity, too, since the other folks there were JAS members.

It was a pretty nice concert, though I think the first set was a little stilted... maybe the songs were too unfamiliar to the local musicians who accompanied her to allow for much improvisation. Things loosened up in the second set and timing improved when the set list featured more standards.

Sunday turned out to be a pretty successful day for demoing at Uwajimaya. I sold more than usual, and a couple of customers bought multiple units. I'm hoping this is thanks to fall festival celebrations, but i'll take it, regardless of the reason. In celebration, Amelia, Dirk, and Jennifer along to Fu Kun Wu, which is a bar that serves vaguely medicinal drinks in Ballard. It proves yet again that Ballard is where all the ingenuity in Seattle food and drink seems to be concentrated.

Today I spent a lot of time sorting various papers into files. I got started in the evening yesterday, but I made a much bigger dent today. I've been a little too haphazard with documents since getting started with my business, and I don't want things to get any worse.

My web project is too frustrating. Even the off-the-shelf solutions I've been checking out seem to leave plenty of room for headaches.

It started off with humble expectations

Lacking sufficient motivation to cook and lacking sufficient inspiration on where to eat a simple, inexpensive dinner, I somehow found myself conspiring with Jennifer to come up with something entertaining for the evening, already well into the dinner hour.

Suddenly I had the idea to find something in Columbia City, a frequently neglected possibility for dining in Seattle. I noticed a little Ethiopian place that sounded inexpensive and tasty, and made my way southward, picking up my friend along the way.

We arrived slightly circuitously, but something caught my eye which had previously sounded less exciting in the particular set of restaurant summaries I had been perusing. It was La Medusa, a cute little Italian restaurant with an appealing menu. I mentioned something about how much I had been enjoying making roasted cauliflower at home recently, and we made our way across the street to sneak a peek at the Ethiopian place. It looked like a good Tuesday night place, but was a little noisy due to their Friday night musicial guest and wasn’t exactly what either Jennifer or I needed, so we trusted our impulse and returned to La Medusa.

La Medusa on Urbanspoon We wandered around for a few minutes while waiting for a table to open up, but we settled on some chickpea fritters, roasted cauliflower with pine nuts, and some grilled asparagus with a fried egg and some hint of truffle salt. I ordered a glass of a Sangiovese and Jennifer got some Pinot Grigio. Somehow, in spite of eating too much pizza recently, I was still drawn to a fig, fennel and ricotta pizza. We skipped any other mains or pastas since it was already late and no longer particularly needed, but found ourselves more than satiated… still, we felt the need to indulge in a little chocolate espresso torte.

Everything was spot-on. Simple preparations, good ingredients, humble but reverential staff, and very attentive service made the whole experience very pleasant. The interior is spare yet attractive. Prices were commensurate with the quality of ingredients, but still a little less extravagant than less impressive options downtown or Capitol Hill. This is exactly the kind of Italian dining Seattle needs.

I have frequently ranted to anyone who will listen that Seattle attempts at Italian restaurants tend to miss the mark: oversized portions of boring pasta that make it hard to order a taste of anything else on the menu, spectacular prices, overly complex dishes that obscure rather than highlight the ingredients used… It’s refreshing to see that there are other alternatives to this approach.

La Medusa is no budget dining experience… I think the total bill, before tip, was about $55 for two, about $15 of which was from wine. I had originally been seeking out something more modest, thus the inclination to come for the inexpensive Ethiopian place. But it is a beautiful little space, and does an excellent job bringing out the best in simple things. The lower rents in the area probably contributed to a roughly 10–20% lower cost than an equivalent meal, if such a thing were available, in Queen Anne, downtown, or Fremont.

The space is actually fairly friendly to the young families that seem to be populating Columbia City, and we saw several (non-disruptive) children around the dining room. It’s an excellent little neighborhood place, but it’s definitely a place with enough appeal to draw me out of my Woodland Park/Fremont environs.

Morels and bells

Morel and bell pepper pizza

Slightly incapacitated by a clumsy foot injury about a week ago, I was doing all I could to avoid going out of the house on Saturday... Leaving would have required me to don a clunky medical foot support boot in order to minimize aggravation of my sprain. It's a 5 minute job just to put that thing on.

So, how could I stay home and be lazy without resorting to ordering something up for delivery?

The answer was pizza.

I bake pizza at home with some regularity... it's easy enough to throw together a simple yeast dough with about 5 minutes of effort. Though it's always best to let the dough rest for a fairly long time, even in an impatient mood I can get decent enough results with just an hour or so of proofing.

I realized I had a pretty substantial stash of cheese from Seattle's cheese festival last weekend... I also had some bell peppers, and a larger-than-practical stash of morels. I noticed some sad, neglected sundried tomatoes hiding in the refrigerator as well...

Somehow I make pizza often enough that I rarely think to take photographs... I always think, "I'm hungry now... I'll take pictures another time." But this hurried, slightly tense pizza dough got special attention. I suppose I didn't have much else competing for attention when I made it, even if it does come across as a little stiff...

The cheeses included a leftover bit of manchego and a creamy-tangy Mt. Townsend Creamery Seastack.

With some chopped garlic and a splash of olive oil, I could skip any elaborate saucemaking... I did saute the morels briefly to prevent them from drying out. My stash was full of surprisingly tiny morels, which saved me the hassle of chopping them.

I guess I have a strange sense of laziness...

 

And we're back...

I just returned home from the long return drive about an hour ago... The weather today was beautiful... I apparently was just a few hours too late to witness the results of the minor Mt. Saint Helens eruption today... still somewhere in Oregon when I heard about it.

The trip was mostly productive. I sold a fair amount of ceramics to a suitable spot, and got agreement for a chain of several other stores to carry the candy. The direct sales from this trip probably covered most of the expenses from this trip, and I established a couple of relationships that will probably have future benefits.

I'd write more, but I'm exhausted. I didn't consume any measurable amount of caffeine today, either.

I drove all day

Sunday morning, dark and early, I extracted myself from bed around 5:30 am, finished packing some ceramics samples, almost finished packing clothing, and carried everything down to my car after a quick shower. I think I actually left home around 7:30 if I take into account the quick stop at Lighthouse Cafe for a necessary dose of caffeine... I had to stop at Seatac airport for about 30 minutes to pick up frequent flyer tickets I redeemed for part of my upcoming trip to Japan. Somehow, 8:30, I got myself on the road, nearly nonstop to the Bay Area As I recall, I made one stop for gas and greasy food somewhere in southern Oregon, one secondary and another stop for gas and windshield insect removal just about 30 minutes shy of the big box hell known as Emeryville, California, where I had booked a week at Extended Stay America. I think I was all checked in by about 9:25 pm. I think 13-14 hours including stops is pretty good for 800-some miles.

The night before, I had been volunteered to take advantage of a cache of mushrooms scored by my graphic designer, Jennifer, who has previously done some work for a Portland-based fancy mushroom distributor. I cooked for Jennifer and three other friends various little treats, including porcini korokke or croquettes (which were pleasant tasting though I faced some texture issues that I haven't had before), a potato-dough based pizza featuring more porcini and some good buffalo mozzarella, a side dish of portabellas sliced and cooked with garlic and rosemary, and another side dish of golden chanterelles which were seasoned with sage brown butter and adorned with crispy sage leaves. We had sumibi-yaki of white matsutake and all the other available mushrooms, served with dipping sauce choice of yuzu-ponzu I had tossed together or ginger and soy sauce. I also made a little salad with my signature yuzu honey vinaigrette, which had some pine nuts and a little bit of browned bits of mushrooms, as well as some nice tomatoes. Leftovers mostly went home with guests, as I was leaving town for the week. Everyone went home by around 11:30 and I put myself in bed a little after midnight, where I tossed and turned and briefly woke to turn on the heat and put on more clothing after an unknown period of time, so I was impressed with myself for waking up early and mostly successfully getting on the road without panicking and without forgetting anything more than a pair of pants.

Friday night was Jennifer's birthday party, which I attended after trying my best to finalize last-minute arrangements for my little trip. Alas, many things suffered due to biting off a little too much for the last two days of the week.

The first day here was only moderately productive, but I met with one lead and made a few other calls, set up an appointment to show off ceramics to someone, and so on. I am now stopping in a Palo-Alto based cafe to feed my information needs, as the Extended Stay America has no meaningful internet access in the room and I don't have a dial-up provider. I had intended to do this in the morning but the spot I found in the Oakland area had pretty unreliable connectivity so I had only about 15 minutes of usable access. I thought about some sort of dial-up plan, but I think I am happier to spend the $3-5 in a coffee shop for internet access with a nice cup of coffee than I would be to sign up for another subscription service for something I don't really want anyway.

I'm a little nervous about all the stuff I have to cram in to the next two weeks in the United States... I'll try not to think about it too much; it'll only make things worse.

Phone calls as work

I'm not quite used to the idea that a day of making phone calls can be considered work.

I guess I'll have to learn to think that way.

Just to make myself feel less slothful, I'm going to leave my home for an hour or so and then I'll feel like I'm doing something.

Internal conflict

I'm a little conflicted these days because I need to be focused on sales and promotion, but I also need to get the online shopping solution for my website up and running. It's kind of difficult to do both; in spite of my relatively technical background, I never particularly had much talent for writing code, so it takes me longer than it should.

Also, I discovered sort of fatal flaws with the shopping cart system offered by my web presence provider that make me not want to use it... problems with the shipping calculations, inability to distinguish between taxable and non-taxable goods (which affects my in-state customers when I sell food products), and some other problems like how to connect to a payment gateway. I think I will either need to pick some other system or roll my own sooner than I had hoped.

This morning I met with a furniture designer to discuss a retail display rack, or point-of-presence, for the dragon beard candy. He works with bamboo wood products, so it's a good fit for displaying products from the dragon beard candy company, whose brand name is Bamboo Garden. I think the racks will be a little bit expensive, but should be helpful for merchandising the products in many retail locations.

I made a dent in some of my web code, but I have a number of long nights ahead of me to make it functional. I hope it doesn't distract me from the work that's more important. I learned when I started thinking about making business cards and similar types of materials that it was much more cost-effective to hire a designer for that than to do it all myself, even though I once did a lot of graphic design and layout work. Changing my mindset, acquiring all the software, and tweaking and so on costs money, and keeps me from doing things that are probably more important. The same applies in this case, it just hits closer to home because I've been doing more closely related work more recently and I already have the tools I need... Still, I might have to decide whether to hire out the sales work or hire out the software work...

As usual, my stuff didn't arrive on time

The good news is that I finally have the remaining portion of my candy shipment. The bad news is that it wasn't delivered in the morning as was last indicated. I had to wait at home most of the afternoon, and then I did my best to get the cartons out of the way of my neighbors. The weather was hot and all the lifting and hurrying made me very sweaty.

Maggie had asked me to arrange to get a box to her for some Vancouver visitors, and I originally planned to run over to the Eastside for another reason and was going to just bring it to her. With the delayed arrival, I couldn't proceed with my original plan, but I did go and meet her just before she was heading off to another evening job. She even ordered a take-out meal for me from the restaurant they had been visiting just beforehand, so I drove down to the Kirkland waterfront and ate a bit as the sun was setting on the shore of Lake Washington.

In spite of a relative lack of productivity this week, I tend to feel pretty exhasted at the end of the day. If I'm awake later than 11 pm tonight, I'll be surprised. I wonder how much energy the petty frustrations of logistics will sap from me...

OK, you can have your candy now...

The FDA provided notification that they inspected my shipment sometime yesterday, and my cargo was released back to Maersk for forwarding. I was supposed to get it this afternoon, but delivery has been delayed until tomorrow morning due to delays recovering the cargo.

I suppose it's too generous to call this a “learning experience.” But I know how long it can take to clear a shipment in the event something doesn't go quite as planned... I guess it means I should always keep two weeks of inventory handy. So much for a zero-inventory distribution model...

These days I'm getting interesting phone calls and email messages related to the candy launch, so I think the publicity and advertising is starting to work its magic... I need to be a little more aggressive getting the product into stores though. Fortunately, I'll finally have the product to sell...

Failure to inspect

Apparently the FDA has provided no notice of the inspection results, nor even evidence that they have completed the inspection. Supposedly, they have a legal obligation to inspect the cargo within three business days of filing notice of sampling, and they filed that notice on Friday. By the end of the day today, there was no new information, so I'm not sure what kind of recourse might be available.

In any event, the net effect is that I still don't have my shipment, and I'm paying about $30/day for storage as a side effect of the FDA failing to complete their obligation.

I'm hoping to have some news tomorrow, but I'm in a position of no particular power over the situation.

On the bright side, I met with a company that inquired about my candy for wholesale purchases and the meeting went pretty well. Yesterday Eugene dropped by with some tea samples, so I  also brought this company some samples of the tea to try.

In true spy movie style, I met my graphic designer just before 11am at her dentist's office in Fremont, where she passed me some CDs containing the new, post-summer-festival advertisements for the dragon beard candy. After my other little meeting I ran the CDs to two of the newspapers that are running the ads.

In the evening, Jennifer, Amelia and I met to join in at the Cascade Cycle Club's Tour de France event at Magnusson Park. It was a quintessentially American experience... on a nice, sunny evening,  come to a lovely park with a thousand other people, and watch TV. We were too lazy to wait in the long line for the food there, so we ran off to the nearby Pagliacci and waited at an alternate venue, apparently for a shorter duration than we would have otherwise, and then came back with a large verde. We watched a few taped-delayed crashes but mostly spent the time chatting... after a brief visit to the overly warm auditorium where we saw another, slightly overlapped tape delay, I got tired early and came home.

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