Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Hong Kong Skyline

January 3, 2009

Speaking, again, of Hong Kong, I found this great nighttime view of the city in Wikipedia.

Hong Kong Night Skyline

Apparently, Hong Kong is the world’s most vertical city.  It has over 6,000 skyscrapers, and more people in Hong Kong live or work over 14 floors up than in any other city.


Now in Seattle

November 22, 2008

I recently moved to an apartment in Seattle’s Lower Queen Anne neighborhood.  This is the view from the end of my block.

New Neighborhood

Being just north of Seattle Center, the traffic can get horrible, but I don’t have a car anyway and there’s a grocery store five minutes away, so I can’t complain.

I made the move to my new home now and not sooner after returning from Japan because, among other things, I was helping with harvest and crush at my family’s small vineyard in the Yakima Valley.

Selah Grapes

We picked crate after crate of grapes, and then crushed them, using both a small, hand-cranked stemmer-crusher and this big, powered version.


Stemmer-crushers are ingenious machines.  Crushed grapes come out the bottom while the “jacks” – the stems, leaves, and so on – are spat out the side.

Stemmer-crusher Closeup

I also helped a bit with post-crush jobs inside the winery.


Most of this actually belongs to another winery, by the way, from which my family’s winery rents workspace and equipment in an arrangement known in legalese as an alternating proprietorship.

The plastic macrobins hold red wine while it ferments on the skins to extract color.  (White wines, on the other hand, are pressed immediately, to ferment with juice and no skins.)  The crushed grapes have to be “punched down” three times a day.


In addition to punch-down for red wines, with both red and white wines you have to constantly track temperature and sugar content as the wines ferment.  Sugar content is gauged by measuring the specific gravity, the density, of the wine.  This can be done with a refractometer, or, as here, with a hydrometer.


To use a hydrometer, you read how high it floats and then adjust that number based on the temperature shown on its built-in thermometer.

And I’ll end on that somewhat prosodic note.  More posts on China to come.

I’m Home

August 2, 2008

On Wednesday, my contract with the JET Program ended (more precisely, my contract with the Kobe City Board of Education), and on that day I returned home to the States.  My main priority now is getting a job, but I’ll try to show this blog some love from time to time.  I still have lots of things to talk about.


February 12, 2008

Well that sucks.

Namdaemun, Seoul’s 600-year old gate, was destroyed by arson. I’m glad I got to see it before this outrage happened.


This is what’s left.  (AP photo)

Seoul Namdaemun Burned

One bit of bright news: The firefighters were able to rescue the gate’s wooden name tablet.  (Yonhap News photo)

Seoul Namdaemun Tablet

The characters were written by Yangnyeongdaegun, brother of King Sejong the Great, probably in the 1440s.

Bad News

May 5, 2007

A short post to say that I’m alive and well.

This week was “Golden Week” here in Japan, which is a period with four public holidays. This year, that meant no school on Monday, Thursday, and Friday. I tried to make the best of my time off, although I quickly decided against traveling abroad when I found that airfare during Golden Week is double or even triple the usual price. Meanwhile, domestic transportation and destinations are pretty clogged, but that seems confined to the four-day weekend; the three-day one wasn’t too bad. On Monday I went to Ise, which was well worth the trip. I’ll talk about that some other time, though.

Yesterday there was a death in the family. At times like this, it’s hard being so far away from your loved ones, but aside from being able to be with my family, I suppose I’d feel just as helpless there as here. I guess all I can say is, Jenny, if you read this, know that my thoughts and love are with you.

Technical Difficulties

February 21, 2007

On the weekend before last, I bought a TV tuner/capture card so that I can watch and record TV on my computer (I don’t have an actual TV). Alas, when the card is installed, my computer won’t power on. I’ve figured out that the tuner card is tripping my computer’s over-voltage protection, so that power cuts off right after I push the on button. That’s pretty weird. The opposite problem – the card drawing too much power – would make sense, but since the tuner isn’t connected to anything but the computer, how would it be feeding power back into the system?  I imagine the card is just broken, whatever the case. Right now I’m waiting for a reply from tech support. Hopefully they’ll send me a replacement, but meanwhile this headache has eaten up way too much time.

But in good news: Today I received official notice that my request to re-contract for a second year of JET has been accepted. Woot! Also, a few posts back, I mentioned that I was helping some students prepare for the English test and interview for the special, international high school. Two of the three got in, so congratulations to them.

An Invitation

February 7, 2007

This is short notice, but I’m extending an invitation to anyone who has the time, funds, and interest. The last week of March and the first week of April are spring break (more accurately, it’s the break between school years). If you can come over here sometime in that window, I’ll show you around and let you crash at my apartment. Of course, if a bunch of people take me up on the offer, not everyone can stay at my place. But I’m guessing that no one, let alone a group, has both the time and money anyway, so I’m not worried. Still, I wanted to put out the invite. If you’re interested, let me know by the end of next week.


September 20, 2006

Maybe I should change the name of my blog to “Infrequent Dispatches…” Anyway, I promised pictures, so here are a few. This is something of an experiment. I’m trying to figure out the best way to display images; please bear with me in the meantime.
I took this photo from my hotel room at the post-arrival orientation in Tokyo.


A question for anyone who might know (Eli, are you there?): What’s the deal with the big glass funnel to the right of the helipad on the closest building?

And for something totally different, this is Himeji Castle. (Click on the thumbnail for a larger version.)


I made a day trip with a few other JETs to visit the castle and the adjacent gardens. As you can see, it was beautiful. What you can’t see is how uncomfortably hot and humid it was. I’m very glad that summer is giving way to autumn.

Home sweet home! Or my kitchen, anyway:


Some incoming JETs had a predecessor whose apartment they inherited, but others – like me – did not. This meant that my apartment was empty except for the furnishings guaranteed by the Kobe board of education. They provided a fridge, a gas stove, curtains, a futon (i.e. a Japanese mattress, not a fold-out couch), an electric fan, and a telephone. Now that’s much better than nothing, but it was a happy day when I finally bought a table and chairs.

This is just inside my door. You can see another of my purchases: a washing machine.

Okay, I’ve spent too much time fiddling with my image editor. I’m done for the evening. More to come later.