25 January 2006

A Little Something for the Japanese Speakers...

For those that don't speak or read Japanese, I apologize for the following. I'll try to not do this too often. The following was sent to me by a friend...

un-fucking-sociable: 人と付き合うのを非常に嫌う〔unsociable に fucking という下品な言葉を差し込んだ無意味な表現〕

I don't know what sort of translation they're working on to warrant researching that sort of lexicon, but I'm jealous.

Survey Says!

I get in to the office this morning and my supervisor hands me a letter that asks me to participate in an online survey for JETs. It's regarding tourism and such; they'd like to look at things from the point of view of a couple thousand foreigners living in Japan. Fair enough. Once I get into the survey, though, things got funny.

First thing I notice is that the survey is in translated English. It's pretty well done, but there are a few gems in there that are adorable. For example, they want to know about your experiences abroad: "Your experience of tripping abroad." Uh, tripping? Sorry, I only drink when I'm abroad. I try to save tripping for when I'm at home.

As with any survey, they need to know two things - who you are, and what your opinon is. Knowing who you are helps them qualify and categorize your comments. In this case, they ask questions about what countries you've been to, your purpose of going there, and what the results of your travel were.

Hmm. So how exactly should I comment on Iraq?

Should I mark it "Business", "Research/observation", or "Participation in international conference"? Does "invade a foreign country and topple their government" fall under the category of "Other"?

And then we get to the "Results" column. Were the results of my trip to Iraq...
"As expected"
"Nearly as expected"
"Results did not meet expectations"
"Absolutely no result"

I really have no clue how to answer that.

I'm going to spend five more chuckling minutes on this survey, then get back to doing real work. It's a busy week; I'll have to wait until later to talk about this awesome coffee shop I went to yesterday. No, strike that - It'll have to wait until I visit there with my camera. Words won't do it nearly enough justice. I'll just throw a teaser out by way of saying that the house it's in is nearly 200 years old, there's handcrafted pottery all over, and you have an incredible view of the bay and Sakurajima while sipping your coffee. I'll be going back, that much is certain.

19 January 2006

More Snow Pictures!

Makuragi Steps in Winter
Originally uploaded by gogakuhei.
I made a mistake in the number of steps, but that's been fixed. Sorry!

More snow! Well, snow pictures, that is. I don't think we've had snow in a couple weeks. This picture is from the Yusui town website: "冬の枕木階段"

Mt. Kurino stands over the town of Yusui. Up on the mountain, depending on the weather and time of day, you can see the Mt. Kurino Baths, a nearby geothermal power station, the Kurino Recreation Area, or the "Makuragi Kaidan". 'Kaidan' is 'stairs' or 'stairway'. 'Makuragi' is 'railroad tie'. That's right; a staircase of railroad ties.

But that's not all. This happens to be the longest railroad tie staircase in all of Japan! Insane! Six-hundred and eighty-something Five hundred and sixty-one steps going up the hillside. If the skies are clear, the view from up there is incredible. (Thought: Is this anything like having the "World's Largest Ball of Twine" in your town in the middle of Nowhere, Kansas?)

I conducted another cooking class yesterday; hamburgers, macaroni and cheese, and deviled eggs. I forgot to get the pictures off my phone yesterday, so those will have to go up tomorrow. I can say this, though - it all came off much better than I thought, or even hoped for.

17 January 2006

Say Hello to the New Toy

New Toy: iRiver H10
Originally uploaded by gogakuhei.
I got a new toy this Sunday: An MP3 player! (Please note: This is not an iPod.)

I found an iRiver H10 5GB MP3 player for a nice price at a nearby Yamada Denki. Of the two color choices I had, I went with "Trance Red". (Well, since I bought it in Japan, I guess it's not "Trance Red" but "Deep Red".) For once I'm one of the last kids on the block to get with the latest technology. Five gigabytes works out to something like 80 hours of music, or 1,300 songs. That's enough to keep me entertained for a couple weeks... I hope.

The color screen is an interesting touch. It can display pictures, provided there are pictures on the device to display. Since I was able to fill the five gigs with music in one short sitting, there are no photos for now. I guess I should dump a song or two so I can carry some pretty pictures with me. It can display text, as well, so I should start carrying around an e-book or two. Maybe shopping lists or something.

"What's that on your MP3 player?"

"Uh... some Creedence, some Vivaldi, pictures from vacation, a little Shakespeare... and my checklist for world domination."

16 January 2006

Magic Switch of +15 Happiness

Sometimes it's the simple things.

The main circuit breaker in my house was, until today, only rated for 15 amps. How much is 15 amps? Not a lot. If I tried to run two appliances at the same time - like my microwave and my air conditioner, or my vacuum and my washing machine, or even my toaster oven and TV (!) - the circuit breaker would trip and I'd have to run around and turn everything off before resetting the breaker and then resetting all my clocks.

Having Kyushu Electric come out and replace my 15 amp circuit breaker with a more solid 30 amp breaker didn't cost anything. The base rate I pay for electricty goes from $3.50 to maybe $6.50 a month, but the price per kilowatt hour stays the same. A small price to pay to be able to cook dinner without the lights going out. Now if I can just figure out why my gas meter keeps resetting itself, I'll be set.

12 January 2006

A Week for Food and Cooking

Maybe it's something in the air, but this week seems to be all about food and cooking. Of course the fact that I'm hungry right now might have something to do with that.

The baker said he can make the buns for me. They're probably going to be closer to dinner rolls, with a slightly chewier texture, but I don't have time to shoot for more than that. When I have time later in the month I'll try to make some from scratch. Why does baking bread have to seem so complicated? Maybe it's just me.

I decided yesterday morning that I was going to make refried beans last night, and then found that I was looking forward to those beans all day. All day. Is that a sign of domestication, when you start looking forward to cooking? The house sure smelled good, though - the beans simmering with various spices, then frying up a little bacon with garlic and onion as a base for the mashing of the legumes.

I just realized something. Talking about food when you're hungry and can't eat is what I think we should call "a bad idea." I better get back to work and not think about food until 12:00.

One last thought - beginning with a little writing seems like a good way to start the day. I'll try to keep this up. (Hah!)

11 January 2006

Big Black Apron, or "I Need Something to Say"

Big Black Apron
Originally uploaded by gogakuhei.
I felt like writing for a minute this morning, and decided for some reason that I'd tell you about my apron. I got a nifty black denim Williams-Sonoma apron for when I'm cooking. I'm guessing it's black denim so I can maintain some degree of masculinity while cooking with an apron... or something like that. It'll be nice to keep my clothes covered, and the pockets on the front will be handy for all those little things you wish you had when mixing it up in the land of forks and spoons.

I have another cooking class next week. The plan is to go with hamburgers, deviled eggs, and baked macaroni and cheese. Once I started looking up recipes, I came to a somewhat surprising realization:

There's more than one way to cook mashed cow.

I expected there to be several different ways to cook macaroni and cheese ("over 100" according to allrecipes.com), and maybe a few ways to cook deviled eggs (20-30 as far as I can see), but I never really gave hamburgers much thought. Take cow. Take apart cow. Mash cow parts. Make like Play-Doh with cow mash. Apply fire liberally... right?

Well, I'm seeing at least 100 ways to cook hamburgers here, and at one point I thought I saw over 150. The recipes range from what now seems mundane - mix a few spices in - to the realm of "Huh?" Try "Chinese-Style Cheeseburgers" with cheddar, chinese mustard, soy sauce, and water chestnuts all mixed in. Maybe you can go with Cola Burgers, or Garlic Curry Burgers, or Jalapeno-Blue Cheese Burgers.

I think my two favorite names have got to be "Good Burger" and "Mad Cow Hamburger".

Okay; back to work. I need to figure out which of these I'm going to teach next week.

That reminds me of the one problem I think I'm going to have with this cooking class: Where can I get hamburger buns? I need to take a trip to a local baker today and see if he can make them for me. If not, I'm not sure what my other options are. I guess I could always go the homemade route...

10 January 2006

Something I Missed on the Way to America

Originally uploaded by Andrewdeluxe.
(Catching up on things from December...)

I left Kagoshima on 15 December. Less than a week later a snow system came through and dropped about a foot (30 centimeters) of snow in and around my area. While that doesn't sound like much, it was the most snowfall here in almost 90 years. It took about two days for it to melt... and I missed it all.

Ah, well. I'm sure we'll get more before the winter is through.

Happy Belated New Year

Wow. Close my eyes for a moment and December just waltzes on by. Damn you, December. Think you're all sneaky and stuff. Ah, well.

It was a busy month, December. A handful of school visits, two trips to a nursery school, three weeks back in California... (insert cliche "now I need a vacation from vacation") but it was all fun.

While in California I did a lot of shopping and visiting and eating and drinking. The trip I took down to Monterey was nice; I got to visit the Japanese department at DLI and give a talk. It was half show and tell, discussing my Japan- and Japanese-related experiences post-DLI, and half Q&A on everything from life in Japan to study tips. They had some good questions about translation and interpretation which I was happy to pass along. Most of them will wind up dealing with interpretation or translation issues in short order. The introduction to translation and interpretation they get is a good and solid one, but it's good to hear actual anecdotes. It makes it more real. (Well, it makes it more entertaining, at least.)

I wrote up a stack of (mental) notes with New Year resolutions. I need to go through, prioritize, and get to work on them. I'd talk about them in detail, but that would only lead to embarassment and dissapointment. I'd rather tell about them after something has actually happened. It's more fun (for me) that way.

Anyway, it's still during the work day. I just wanted to make a dent in this silence. More later.