Friday, April 23, 2010

the caffeine (withdrawal) made me do it

The vending machine in my lobby stopped stocking Max Coffee this week, as did the one on the way to Brandon's school. I exhausted my personal supply yesterday (I bought all THREE cans they had on the shelf at the Commissary earlier this week) so this morning I tried to make my own using instant coffee and sweetened condensed milk. It came out surprisingly good, but I learned something. It seems that the name "Max Coffee" actually does mean something, because apparently there's an unusual amount of caffeine in there. Which would explain not only the name but my doctor's shocked and concerned reaction when I told her I drank two cans every day. I don't know for sure how much caffeine is in it, but I can tell you that despite drinking a cup of normal coffee instead of my usual morning can of Max Coffee, I ended up with a screaming caffeine withdrawal headache today.

They say you should never go grocery shopping when you're hungry, but you should also never go to a department store when you're disoriented from a nauseating headache and feeling generally grateful that you never got into the really hard stuff, because you'd surely never survive any withdrawal more severe than this. Especially when you're shopping at a store where the modus operandi is "if you see it, buy it, because it will probably be gone tomorrow." I ended up buying a $45 pair of pants (NEX price) that *almost* fits me (because I'm damn well going to be losing some weight before we go to China); two pairs of leggings to wear under a dress I haven't bought yet; a bunch of new makeup - practical, everyday stuff as well as two shimmery iridescent eyeshadow pencils and nail polish in both teal and lime green; and a small boatload of toys that have been designated as "potty prizes". Oh, and the packing tape that I went there to get - 4 rolls of it. You'd think I'd gone to Target.

Well anyway, I'm home now, freezing my @$$ off (because "heating season" is over - apparently Mother Nature didn't get the memo) and drinking a Pepsi. And promising myself that I won't go shopping anymore for a while.

ETA: I feel compelled to clear Max Coffee's name. It doesn't appear to have been caffeine withdrawal after all, as the Pepsi seemed to make the headache worse rather than better. It was stunningly similar to the headaches I got when the cherry blossoms first appeared, but they've been gone for about a week now. So either I'm allergic to something else as well; I have a sinus infection that's causing very little congestion (the pain is definitely concentrated in my left sinus), or I have some kind of exotic head disease that causes blinding headaches once a month or so. Hmm. Thank God for Aleve.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

philosophical question. kind of. i guess.

There is a kind of fun, niche photography that I'd like to get into. Yes, another one. No, selective focus/shaped bokeh, fisheye and plastic lens (which I don't have yet but I'M GOING TO GET ONE) aren't enough. There's another niche that is seriously awesome.

I'm talking about 3-D!!!!!!

There are two options for ways to do it. (I'm not even considering mounting two different cameras on a spacing rod or whatever they call it. I want to take 3-D pics of birthday parties and the Great Wall of China, not a vase of flowers in a controlled studio setting.)
  1. Cheap 35mm 4-lens lenticular camera. (We're talking like $20.) Send film to for processing and printing. Prints cost a few dollars each but do not require a viewer or glasses. You are paying for every print on the roll without knowing how the shot came out, but the results are REALLY cool.
  2. Stereoscopic (2-lens) lens for my DSLR. $163 including shipping, and comes with a viewer. The 3-D effect is also viewable by crossing your eyes (I figured out how to do it in like 5 minutes) and you can also use digital stereoscopic images to make your own Viewmaster reels. Which is also REALLY cool. You can get lenticular (no glasses required) prints made from digital stereoscopic images, but it is (considerably) more expensive than getting it done from film. On the other hand, you'd only be paying for the ones you really want. On yet another hand, the upfront cost for this method is a lot higher than a $20 camera and some film. But on a fourth hand (what kind of creature is this, anyway?) you can shoot as many pictures as you want until you get the focus and the exposure and the composition just right.
I should also mention that I'd like to get one or the other before we go to China (probably this summer) and there's a lot of other stuff we have to get for that trip. A lot.

So, which option would you choose?

Sunday, April 18, 2010

the answer: round 7

The guesses we got this time were blueberry, blackberry and boysenberry. Good guesses all, but let's think about this: if the answer were something as obvious, and normal, as berry ice cream, would I have posted about it? Probably not. :)

It's lavender.

I had a lavender chocolate bar once, and I kind of hated it. It was like eating a (distinctly fragrant) flower. But if there's one thing you can count on when it comes to Japanese food, it's that the flavors are going to be well-balanced. This ice cream was actually really yummy. The lavender-and-plain-white-cream swirl (pictured in the previous post) was even better. (White ice cream in Japan usually isn't vanilla - it's just, well, sweet-cream-flavored.) I'm thinking of going back just for the ice cream. Mmmmmmm. (ps, View that picture full-size to see how absolutely superb my macro lens is.)

There's a completely different variety of purple ice cream in Kamakura. I haven't tried it yet, so expect another edition of "what's in that cone?" the next time I go there. :)

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

what's in that can? round 7 - what's in that cone?

This is ice cream that we got at Kurihama Flower World. Personally I'm not too big a fan of getting something to eat if I don't know what it is, but kids could care less. They don't think of ice cream in terms of flavor - it's all about color. Boy, was Brandon disappointed the time he got green tea ice cream. But I digress. This is purple ice cream. What flavor do you think it is?

(PS, it was DELICIOUS. And I don't usually like this flavor.)

Monday, April 12, 2010

Magical Flower Snow

Thanks to my newly confirmed allergy to one of my all-time favorite flowers, over the course of a few short days, my reaction to cherry trees went from "Ohhhhh, look how many there are! It's so beautiful!" to "WHY did they have to plant so many so close together? Puffy pink groves of EVIL!!!"

Still, when we passed by the trees on our way to pick up some dumplings and tempura and have a picnic dinner by the fountains at Mikasa Park, it quickly became apparent that we simply HAD TO stop and take some video clips. To quote Brandon: "Mommy, I think it's snowing over there!"
I really wish my camera took HD video like Brian's does. :( Pout pout pout. (I would have borrowed his for this, but he went and took it with him on the ship. Pshaw, what could he possibly have to take pictures of in Jakarta? Pfffft.)

By the time we got back on base, it was dark out, so I was able to get some long-exposure shots of the petals falling...

...and some with the flash.

I probably should have pulled out the Lensbaby for this one but I just didn't think of it. It was cold and late and Brandon was tired and whiny. ("I'm too tired to waaaaaaaaaalk...)

Once again, I'm REALLY glad that we got out and enjoyed the good weather...a day of beautiful weather is like an oasis here. There's never more than one in a row! Yesterday we wore t-shirts and no coats at all. (Until the sun went down and the cold wind started to blow.) Today? Winter coats. I could see my breath! And it's raining. Again. Phooey.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

more pictures than you can shake a (blooming) stick at

My enjoyment of my first sakura (cherry blossom) season in Japan has been dampened a bit by the fact that I seem to be allergic to them. I had a mild sinus headache lurking in the background for a week or so, and then all of a sudden one afternoon (after spending the morning in the park taking birthday portraits of Jackson) it exploded into something very similar to a migraine - I literally had to take a Zofran (left over from my bout with H1N1) to stop the headache-induced nausea. The next day, I was fine - until I went outside. Bam - another killer headache. That's when I remembered that back in my Philly days, I used to get sick during the spring. I used to get sick all the time, so that isn't really saying much, but I remember this one time that I bought a bouquet of all my favorite flowers at the corner store, and the whole week that they were in my apartment, my nose was too stuffy to be able to smell them. That's when I started to suspect that I was allergic to either cherry blossoms or oriental lilies. Well, I carried oriental lilies in my wedding with no problem; and now during cherry blossom season, I'm getting headaches that could slay a dragon. I think the mystery has been solved.

Well anyway, I started taking a Claritin every morning and I'm back to the nagging background sinus pain. It's annoying but at least I'm able to function.

Despite all this, I'm still enjoying the beauty. The blossoms peaked a few days ago - Saturday, actually. It was the first truly gorgeous day we've had so far this spring, and I'd been planning on taking the train to Kamakura anyway. I'm SO glad I took the risk and took the boys somewhere by myself. (It helped that it was somewhere that we've been a few times before!) We had ice cream, I had a McDonald's shrimp burger for dinner (always a day-maker), and I got a lot of cool shots with my Lensbaby.

Today, Brandon's preschool class took a field trip to the park to take their class picture. The stage the blossoms are at now is my personal favorite: when the slightest breeze sends them floating through the air and they start to cover the ground like some kind of magical flower snow.

If it hadn't been such a tiring field trip, I would've brought the boys back out to the park after school to take another round of portraits. But by the time we all headed back to the preschool from the playground and the picnic lunch, almost every single one of those kids was half asleep on their feet, including (and especially) mine. I guess I should have gone anyway, because there's rain in the forecast tomorrow. Again. Ugh.

Despite what that series of Lensbaby photos might lead you to believe, the vast majority of the pictures I've taken in the past couple of weeks have been closeups of cherry blossoms - some with the Lensbaby, some with my absolutely superb 50mm macro lens. Here's a few of my favorites, but just a few, because even I don't have the patience to look through all of them again right now.

I kind of wish the sweet spot on this one had come out sharper, but it's hard to manual-focus on something while your 2-year-old is trying to push you out of the way to grab said object.

I'm having trouble thinking of a good way to wrap this up. Let me fall back on what I learned in first-year writing. In conclusion, I have taken many pretty pictures of cherry blossoms ("sakura") this year, despite the evil, evil pain that they cause in my head. I expect that I will take many more pictures as they continue to fade, and that I will take pretty much exactly the same pictures again next year, although hopefully with better weather and therefore better lighting. The end.