Monday, March 24, 2008

A Taste of Sun Before the Gloom of Spring

For most of the year Kazamaura's pathetic weather keeps us interned, confined to indoor activities. In the Yukon people often joked that there were only three seasons there: July, August and winter. Well, the temperature may seldom dip below zero here in Shimokita, but I think that a similar approach should be used for describing Kazamaura's seasons: August, September, and Gloom. The only nice time to be here is the tail-end of July through to the first bit of October. There are a few exceptions . . .

. . . like most of Holy Week and Resurrection Sunday this year. It was still cold enough that we needed our jackets most of the time, but the sky was blue and the sun was bright and warm for the first time in months and months. Easter Monday brought back the cold and gloom that is more usual fare for a month that is neither August or September.

No One Needs to Teach a One-and-a-Half Year Old How to Do This--It Comes Naturally

The Koi (Cyprinus Carpio) in Our Local Park:
The Objects of Grace's Interest

I often used to wonder how well young children can connect simplistic drawings of animals and every day objects with the corresponding real-life entities. Over the past half-year or so Grace has demonstrated that she has no problem connecting real-life cats and dogs and birds with the pictures in her books. However, misunderstandings do occur. I was a little taken aback the other day when Grace insisted that the cyprinus carpio in the pond in our local park were "" (pronounced "joo"). Then I remembered this page in Grace's "Counting with Miffy" book. means ten. Since is the first word and sakana (meaning "fish") is the second word we say when reading this page to Grace, she must have thought that the little fishy pictures represented , even though I always point to the number 10 when I say "". I finally got her to pronounce "fish" (in English) a couple of times over the weekend, but whenever she actually sees a fish she still says "".

And if you have 49 seconds to blow . . .

. . . RooTube Continues to Satisfy the World's Unquenchable Appetite for Low Quality Video Footage Available for Free Over the Internet

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Welcome to Japan! A Visit from Aunt Mary and Uncle Paul

Go on, click the arrow in the centre of the slide show display area. Don't pretend that the slide show wasn't over before you figured out what was going on.
So What Do You Do When You Take a Whole Bunch of Group Photos and Not a Single One Turned Out Nicely? You Make a Slide Show.

It's not often that relatives can make it all the way over to Japan to visit the Elliot Clan of Aomori, so we really enjoyed and appreciated the time that Uncle Paul and Aunt Mary (my father's eldest sister) could spend with us in our native environment. Since they lost their camera in Kyoto (note to travellers: don't go to Kyoto, bad things are waiting to happen to you there--come to Aomori instead, where civilization is young and the tourists are few), so they asked us to share all the photos we took during their visit to northern Japan.

Unfortunately, I only took two pictures, and one of them wasn't that great.

Cousins at Play:
Sister #1 and Cousin W-1 (a.k.a. Anna and Erin) Came Down to My Parents' Place As Well

Grace Showing Baba that She Can Read Now

Friday, March 21, 2008

"The Night of the Abominable Snowplough" or "What in Tarnation Happened to My Lawn?"

My Recently Declassified "Secret Garden"

If my memory serves me correctly, our local snowplough has, in previous winters, caused only minimal damage to our "yard". I'm not sure what the deal was this year but, as these photos demonstrate, the era of benevolent snow ploughing seems to be over in our neighbourhood. The place looks like it was landscaped by Orcs.

My Precious Playing Area for Backyard Croquet

On the Side Facing the Road

My Playing Field in Greener Days
(Last August)

The Other, Other Sport of Kings

Although it's difficult to tell from a distance in early spring, the property we live on is actually quite jungly at the micro level.

Like so . . .

. . . and so. Especially ever since the school janitor started driving the daycare bus and became too busy to tend to the yard work of the teacher housing developments. But one day, the junior high principle who lives next door suddenly began attacking the weed jungle with a weed whacker. He continued to attack it all day until . . .

. . . our front yard looked like a freshly mowed hayfield. I took it upon myself to gather up and dispose of the "hay", partly because I thought it was the least I could do to show my appreciation for and competitive spirit toward the principle's hard labour, and partly because I realized that nobody else was going to do it. Actually, I felt so bad watching the principle diligently trimming the whole field with a weed whacker (a task roughly equivalent to eating soup with a teaspoon) that I borrowed an American style lawnmower from the Aomori Christian Centre and took over lawn mowing duty for the summer. I think this interference on my part may have disappointed the principle, because he moved his weed whacking operation across the street and began tending to trimming the sidewalk that runs around the perimeter of the school grounds. I don't blame him. Weed whacking is wonderfully therapeutic.

Raked Hay Waiting to be Transported to My New Mulch Storage Facility

I gathered all of the cut grass into a giant pile out behind the principle's house, and hopefully it will make great mulch this spring.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Secret Garden 2007 Part I: A Dream Is Born

Before this blog entered its period of cyber silence following the mushroom incident, I shared my new vision for working my own land through an apple-box gardening scheme. However, after clearing away the freshly mowed weeds from a neglected corner of the board of education property we live on, I got an itch to take a shovel and hoe to it. In essence, I was motivated to go back to moonlighting as a peasant, but this time through an unsanctioned squatter-gardening project.

After all, my apple box farm was going nowhere . . .

. . . with the exception of my store-bought basil plants.

So I developed an action plan in which I would discretely dig apple box-sized holes one at a time and backfill them with the precious contents of my apple boxes (i.e. a dirty cocktail of black soil and compost).

I would use the rocks unearthed in the process to build borders for my new little "flowerbeds".

I worked early mornings, before breakfast, and strategically positioned my apple box collection so as to block the view from teachers driving past on their way to the junior high school. The idea was that perfectly formed "flowerbeds" would suddenly and inconspicuously start popping into existence one at a time in the hidden corner behind the fire hydrant.

Of course, we couldn't keep the crows from finding out that we had started hiding our compost under the weed cuttings I had piled up between the wind fence and the "retired" telephone pole (lying on its side behind the fire hydrant). Eventually I moved the weed pile to a remote location at the back of the property behind the principle's house and used the space for a stone pile instead.

Secret Garden 2007 Part II: Glory Days

Our garden's peak of glory spanned August and September. Our basil plants grew into the size of small bushes, our mint threatened to take over the "lawn", and the daikon survived in the bankrupt, rocky and garbage infested strip of soil that I had sifted by hand.

We intended to use the mint to flavour our drinking water and season our lamb chops, and the basil was slated to be turned into basil paste for use throughout the winter.

Unfortunately, the busyness of the season overtook us, and the only thing we ever used any of our herbs for was this pizza (and possibly a few salads).

Oh yeah, I even made an outdoor composter out of the old apple boxes once they were no longer needed to shield the basil plants from prying eyes and violent winds.

Secret Garden 2007 Part III: The End

Or so said Robert Frost. According to my sources the world as we know it will unquestionably end in fire, but my Secret Garden 2007 perished in ice--thanks to an early cold spell starting 19 November.

I kept wondering aloud when I should harvest my daikon, and my green-thumbed neighbours (of "My Neighbours' Corn" fame, references here and here) kept telling me "Wait for it . . . " "Wait for it . . . " and I waited for it--and we all lost our daikon.

Close-up of a Cold Daikon

Technically these were still edible, but the window of opportunity was too narrow. I followed my neighbour's advice and individually wrapped each one in newspaper for storage, but they all spoiled within a month or two anyway. They have become fertilizer for this year's daikon.

Monday, March 10, 2008

What Happened to YouTube Remixer?

I was planning to combine this video . . .

. . . with this video using YouTube Remixer as a test to see whether Remixer is up to the task of becoming the main video editing tool for the producers of Keitai Cinema and RooTube. Unfortunately, this online editing tool seemed to be out of service today. I hope that's just temporary, because I'm trying to move all of my video producing operations--including all of my video files stored on my external hard drive--into "the cloud" courtesy of YouTube. Doing so seems to be my only option since I'm currently stuck using a seven-year-old Mac with only a couple of GBs hard drive space left, and all of my keitai video files are in an obscure Microsoft ASF file format. My Windows Movie Maker days are over, and I need to look for new ways and means of maintaining my status as a bottom feeder in the vlogging food chain. If this venture proves successful, I will finally make good on my promise to produce Monkey Wars Episode 2: The Attack of the Clerks.

Things Wives Wish Their Husbands Wouldn't Allow to Happen to Their Children's Little Red Jackets

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Girls' Day Was Yesterday

Preparing the Girlfest

Grace Doing What She Does Best--Casually Helping Herself
(I Believe Someone Said it was Girls' Day?
My Day for Entitlement?)

Yuko Made Chirashi Zushi
(Literally "Scattered Sushi")

Peeling Oranges Is Serious Business

Choo Choo Po Po!
(The Little Girl Who Could)

Going Shopping

While Grace was Sleeping

"Pon!" Birth Plan II

Two years ago I was proud to be the kind of guy who does maternity yoga with his wife. Now that Grace has been successfully "pon!"ed into the world I have to spend much of "Pon!" Birth Plan II on the sidelines policing her activities. Sometimes she gets all mature on us, though, and keeps mom company. If I try to join in like times of yore, she goes back to being fussy.

We Still Need to Teach Grace the Difference Between Left and Right

A Little Girl Can Only Be Good for So Long . . . .