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February 18, 2009

Not born to be a camera repairman

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The other day my camera took a hard bang and the next day I noticed that once I zoomed in (extended the lens), I was unable to zoom out again (contact the lens) without a lot of fidgeting. After a inspection, I realized that there was a small piece that had broken off and was inside the lens, sometimes jammed in where it shouldn't be, preventing its proper functioning.

This was the cheapest lens I could find (used) when I purchased it. It was out of warranty, probably costing more to fix than to get another one, and besides, I need it for work tomorrow, so no time to send it to a shop. I decided to take matters into my own hands - carefully disassembling it as I record where each screw went and how it all fit together. I never made it deep enough to extract the piece because the further I got into the lens, the smaller the screws got, until it was beyond the reach of my tiniest screw driver.

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Attempting to put everything back together proved futile. Although it looks (almost) the same, something seems to be wrong, as I now have a camera that will not focus. It does however, make a nice macro lens. Hence today's photos - all taken with the broken lens either in my house as I was testing it, or on a walk to the local shop for some beer to drown my sorrows once I realized I would have to purchase yet another expensive piece of equipment to fill my photo addiction

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February 17, 2009


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For maybe the first time this winter I was happy to see the sun that had been winning the battle against the snow that never came. Despite being disappointed that it was so much like spring last Sunday, that I was able to walk around in shorts and a t-shirt, I was happy to see the sun shining through the windows of the smoke-filled neighborhood temple. Every year the temple is opened up for one day and everyone from the neighboring hamlets files in to say a few prayers and eat some mimi dango (mochi rice shaped like an ear - mimi means ear) It is PROVEN that if you eat a mimi dango this day, you WILL NOT catch a cold for the next year. I had never heard of this before moving here, so I asked around and found that it used to be done all over Japan, but the drug manufacturers wanted to start marketing western cold medicine and lobbied to have mimi-dango declared illegal. It was illegal until the mid-sixties, but by that time most people in urban areas had forgotten all about them.

I have mimi-dango made with our no-chemical rice powder if anyone would like to remain cold-free this year! Only 1,999 yen plush shipping for two. (You are only supposed to have two because you only have two ears)

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Yearly meeting

Yearly VIllage <em>soukai</em> mtg.

Last week I attended the yearly hamlet soukai were everything gets decided for the next year, and any local office positions are voted on. Last year Tomoe attended because we did not know that only the "men" of the house are supposed to come but this year she stayed home (she says it is to not embarrass me, but I think it is because the meeting was quite long last year). It is followed by a quick ceremony at the shrine next door, for which we pay a shinto priest to come from Iiyama. This priest must have the least worries about unemployment of anyone in Japan - with 23 hamlets in our village alone, and many more in the surrounding villages, and three or four ceremonies per year that he presides over, he is busy all year, and all he has to do shake a tree branch around.

Of course, as with any meeting, this was followed by emptying several bottles of Sake. I guess that makes it worth the long meeting that I only understood about half of.

Yearly VIllage <em>soukai</em> mtg.Yearly VIllage soukai mtg.

February 08, 2009


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February 05, 2009

The Problem of Abundance


The winter is almost over and we have barely touched our food reserves. We still have a ton of tomatoes sauce, pickled tomatoes, pickled zucchini, cabbage and pickled nozawana as well as many kg of potatoes, sorghum and rice. Before we know it, we will have fresh tomatoes and fresh rice. We gotta find a way to get rid of this!

Tomoe has been busy making some great dishes with the sorghum, and whatever we can't finish we will give to the chickens in the spring. Then the problem will be finishing all the eggs.

In Tokyo we were so careful not to throw away any food - always using a scraper to get even the last bits out of our soup bowl or plate. Here, we have so much that it is rotting in the hallway and I have grown numb. It doesn't feel like waste though, because it is all going back into the soil for next years crops. It's amazing to feel so wealthy with so little work (well, it is work, but it doesn't feel like it).

The photos are the sorghum. Our biggest trouble was figuring out how to get the outer shell off. We ran it through a peddle powered machine that takes the grain off of the stem, but the only way to remove the husk is to beat it - very time-consuming. Tomoe came up with the idea to put them in the blender for a few seconds, and it worked quite well, with only a few broken grains. We also pop them over the fire stove like pop-corn. They don't pop as big, but they make a tasty snack that satisfies the urge for "crunchy" without the calories (or cost) of potato chips.

Once we get the distillery built though, the *real* fun begins!


February 04, 2009

Make No Mistakes

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Yeah, yeah. Lots of photos of Tomoe recently. Don't mistake it for love or anything crazy like that. She's just a great model. :)

February 02, 2009

Favorite Photos

Tomoe at Home

I was looking through all of my past photos tonight, and organizing them for easy use when I want to print something, or something outdoorsy to use on the website. I came across this - my all time favorite photo of Tomoe. She will probably kill me if she knows I posted it, so Shhh!

Below is my second favorite.

I guess I like her chin from that angle or something...

Or maybe it is because it looks like hope, or pride, or strength. I should research what a "head cocked upward and to the right" signifies in terms of body language, but this just makes me feel good. it makes me feel invigorated, and ready to go forward and like we can face anything. It looks like "F the world! We Rock!"

Any suggestions as to why?


February 01, 2009

Finally February

fire hydrant and dog tracksfebruary is here

Finally, it feels like February. Although it is not sticking too well, at least its trying.

Finally some snow!

Mission Accomplished

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Ahhhh. I am so happy now that I have almost forgotten about waking up to the sound of pouring rain washing away all of our snow. And no, I am not happy because it is actually snowing now. I am happy because I have finally finished the remake of our One Life Japan website. I did love the old one for its sentimental value. I made that site three years ago, and it was kept secret for a year and a half before I finally felt confident enough to just to it. While it did not draw any customers for those first 18 or so months, without having it there for me to look at and remind myself that it is a good idea, I would probably still be unemployed in Tokyo. Anyway, the old site left something to be desired for usability, as the idea has evolved through the years, so one of my goals for the winter down-time was to revamp it. I am not sure it is much easier to use for the customers, but it is easier to use for Tomoe and I to promote various programs and trips we are doing, and want to do.

We still have a lot of things that are not on the site yet, so keep checking back if you are thinking you would like to join something (or just write to me).

These photo is from a rescue mission Tomoe and I went on two days ago. When we hiked up the mountain last week I managed to loose my nalgine water bottle, so when we had a sunny day, we decided to go rescue it before it got buried for the rest of the winter. The mission was successful.

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