JETAA 20th Anniversary Kintetsu Essay Contest

The JETAA (Japan Exchange & Teaching Programme Alumni Association) 20th Anniversay Kintetsu Essay Contest Publication is now available online as a downloadable PDF.

A big thank you goes out to Liz Sharpe (JET Alumni Association Pacific Northwest) and Steven Horowitz (JET Alumni Association of NY) who worked so hard to compile the publication. And a shameless self promotion: the music/design/lifestyle company I co-founded, Hepnova Multimedia, did the cover design.

The publication is a compilation of the 15 winning essays into a format that we are hoping to have printed for new and future JETs to read to get them excited about the JET Programme as well as for the enjoyment of the JET alumni community.

For new readers of my blog (including fellow ITP‘ers, holla if yo’ out there!),  I was an English teacher on the JET Programme from 2003-2006 in a city called Nakatsu, on the island of Kyushu.  I also did some freelance writing and played keyboard in some bands, including a salsa band that played a major summer festival, an Ani DiFranco/Cranberries coverband, and did some one-off solo and special guest gigs with vocalists as well.

Click here to download the Essay Contest Publication.


Getting into grad student life

I had my first orientation session for ITP yesterday. Over the course of about an hour and a half, we were introduced to the program, the faculty and staff and the facilities at ITP. Then they passed around a wireless mic and had all the new students (about 100 people) introduce themselves. The incoming class is about 60% male to 40% female, and about 30% international. Koreans, Turks and Texans seemed rather well represented in the group. People came from all different backgrounds, from seasoned techies, to dabbling dilettantes like me, to the utterly random (not meant to be a value judgment – the randomness and the diversity is part of the greatness of ITP). I think there was somebody who was a corporate lawyer and somebody who had a finance background.

Due to all the wireless signal activity in the room, there were some major sound and feedback issues with the mic, so we ditched the mic part-way through the intros. The fact that there was a big column in the middle of the room also hindered communications. In any case, I hope to be able to get to know my fellow classmates better later today at the departmental welcome part and over the course of the next 2 years.

I got my official NYU ID yesterday, and upgraded my MacBookPro to Leopard (finally) and my Adobe software to CS3 in preparation for school and for the continuing web content production I will be doing for HRW.

I also met with my academic adviser, Daniel Rozin. My first semester schedule is pretty much spoken for. I will be taking the four foundations courses: Applications of Interactive Telecommunications Technology, Communications Lab, Introduction To Computational Media, and Introduction to Physical Computing. It’s just a matter of scheduling. I just hope I don’t get stuck in an early morning session, since I have pretty much reverted to my natural nocturnal ways of late-night productivity since quitting my day job.

This morning I had to get a blood test taken at the NYU health center to prove my immunity to measles, mumps, and rubella. I was a little anxious about having blood drawn, but the nurse was very nice and put me at ease. She had me lie down, grab a squeezy ball and look away while she pricked my arm and sucked out the sample. Not too bad actually. I got a cute Sesame Street Band-Aid (“plaster” for my British friends) to cover my wound afterwards (below).

Sesame Street Bandaid

After the blood test, I went to the NYU bookstore to get my textbooks for the semester and also picked up a new Timbuk2 laptop backpack. I already had a Timbuk2 messenger bag, but the one-sided strap was killing my back. The backpack spreads the weight more evenly and is much better on the back and shoulders, even if not as “cool.

After lunch, I worked on my submission for the new ITP T-shirt design (below). I was going for a simple geek-chic aesthetic with the circuit board and LED fonts and the retro-but-timeless green-on-black color story that evokes the monochromatic computer monitors of yore.

ITP T-Shirt (Circuits & LEDs) - Model View

Check out all of the submissions here.

California Cuisine Food Fun Interactive ITP New York News NYC NYU Personal Photography Pictures Restaurant Technology Tourism Travel

Northern California Trip Over – Back in NYC Update: Perilla and ITP

Fisherman's Wharf of San Francisco

End of summer update: I got back this morning from a week-long holiday in Northern California. Tons of pictures on Flickr. I will blog more about it later.

Above: The famous Fisherman’s Wharf of San Francisco. Below: LS plays with eels at the Monterey Aquarium.

LS & Eels

Sophia & Perilla

I hung out with Sophia today. We had dinner in the West Village at a place called Perilla, which is Top Chef Harold Dieterle’s restaurant. The ambience was casual and cosy, typical West Village. Our waiter was attentive and the menu looked good. I was a big fan of Harold’s when I watched Top Chef, so I had high hopes. But unfortunately, things got weird, but not in a good way. We were presented with exactly one slice of bread each. Mmm, gee thanks. Nobody asked if we wanted more. We shared an heirloom tomato salad and seared sea scallops for the appetizer course. The tomato salad was good, but a bit pedestrian. The pine nuts and the feta cheese in the salad overpowered the subtly of the tomatoes. The scallops themselves were executed to textbook perfection, but like the tomato salad, had some balance issues: their were bacon or pancetta bits that were a little overwhelming, and not advertised on the menu.

Entrees. This is where it gets bad. We had the Romesco Oil Poached Chatham Cod with black olive gnocchi, oyster mushrooms & summer zucchini sauce and the Grilled Pork T-Bone with lavender, lychee-black chick pea salad & green mustard sauce. Off the bat, the cod dish was way too salty, and had a weird “squeaky texture.” The “romesco” was a red sauce smeared on the cod with chunks of nuts in it, a departure from the smooth Catalan classic. I found the nuts too aggressive in texture compared to the tender cod. Much better after I scraped off most of the sauce. The summer zucchini sauce was more of a color element than a flavor contrast, so I can’t say it was all the memorable. The black olive gnocchi was too similar to the oyster mushrooms in color, but were surprising in taste and texture when I bit into them. The color and texture reminded me of Taiwanese pig’s blood black pudding, and not in a good way.

The pork t-bone was a big, thick peace of meat, but not at all juicy or particularly flavorful. It was covered by a giant mound of salad that obscured the meat on the plate, not all too flattering a presentation. I couldn’t really taste the lavender, and the lychees were just kind of random surprises that lacked a real context.

Dessert was redeeming. Sophia ordered the Vanilla Scented Doughnuts with peach compote filling & sour cream curd. Fried dough. Peaches. Cream. Yum. ‘Nuff said. I had the local blackberries Linzer Torte, which was very well executed as well. It did a nice job of clearing my palate of all excess salt from the entrees.

Sorry Perilla, I really wanted to like it. I really tried, but I left disappointed. Luckily, we were able to amuse ourselves with some great people watching, as we observed two very awkward dates at adjacent tables unfold before our eyes. Made up for the lackluster food. We noticed that the awkward date people were drinking a lot more than we were. Maybe they were on to something.

Interactive Telecommunications @ NYU Tisch

Orientation starts tomorrow morning for the masters program in Interactive Telecommunications that I am doing at NYU. Updates forthcoming.

Below: Lee-Sean and the giant sunflowers of Sonoma.

LS & Sunflowers in Sonoma

Fun Personal Photography Pictures

Sophia’s Birthday Karaoke

I went out last night to celebrate my friend Sophia’s birthday at Japas 38 Karaoke.  More pics on Flickr.

Cooking Cuisine Food Photography Pictures Recipe Wine

Bluefish Curry

Bluefish Curry

This dinner is a improvisation that I put together last night (Saturday, 9 August 2008). I would characterize this meal as Mediterranean-meets-Malay-in-a-Manhattan-love-affair. Full of flavor, yet light enough for a balmy late-summer weekend evening.

The locally-caught wild bluefish and the veggies are from FreshDirect, while the seasonings come from my eclectic pantry of global flavors and some extras from my last WholeFoods excursion. You will need a mortar and pestle for this project. I got mine I guess you could also use a food processor, but I prefer the meditative tactile quality of the mortar and pestle. Besides, a mortar and pestle is much easier to clean than a food processor and is a good form of stress relief and DIY aromatherapy.

Ingredients and Prep


  1. Six cloves of garlic, smashed and peeled
  2. A two-inch segment of ginger root, peeled and roughly chopped
  3. One-third cup of unsweetened dried coconut
  4. Five to six anchovy fillets in oil, along with about one tablespoon of the oil
  5. Two teaspoons of Sriracha hot sauce, or to taste (or substitute with fresh chili peppers if you have them, but in that case, add more sugar)
  6. Half teaspoon of brown sugar
  7. One teaspoon of tamarind concentrate (AKA tamarind paste
  8. One and a half teaspoons of turmeric powder
  9. Two-thirds cup of boiling water
  10. Juice of one lime
  11. Salt & pepper to taste

Vegetables and Herbs

  1. One medium zucchini (courgette), cut into bite-sized half moons
  2. Two handfuls of grape (or cherry) tomatoes, halved
  3. Four green onions (scallions), cut diagonally into 1.5 inch (4 cm) segments
  4. One handful of fresh basil
  5. Four to six kaffir lime leaves, cut into a chiffonade

Two wild bluefish fillets (10-12 ounces/280-340 grams each, substitute any firm, oily fish), scaled, deboned and rinsed in cold water and dried with paper towels

Cilantro (fresh coriander) to garnish


Preheat oven to 425 Fahrenheit (220 Celsius).

Bash up the garlic and ginger in a mortar and pestle. Add the coconut and bash up some more. Add sauce ingredients 4 to 8 one by one and mix thoroughly. You might need a spoon or a spatula to help you out at this point. Add the boiling water and half of the lime juice. Season with salt and pepper. Go easy on the salt since the anchovies are already salty. Mix to incorporate.

Just barely coat the bottom of a 10 x 10 inch casserole or baking dish with some of the sauce mixture.  Put the bluefish fillets into the baking dish skin-side down.  In a large bowl, mix together the remaining sauce mixture and the vegetables and herbs.  Spread this mixture on top of the bluefish fillets.

Cover the baking dish with aluminum foil and bake for 45 minutes.

Serve with rice and some simply sauteéd greens. In the picture above, I have mixed-grain rice and bok choy and carrots sauteéd with garlic, ginger, and a little dried chili pepper.

Drink Paring

I had some Varanda do Conde, a Portuguese vinho verde with this meal. I nice tart rosé or a nice cold lager would work too.
Varanda do Conde