Saturday, March 27, 2010

Rusty Shukugawa Sign

03.13rustyshukugawasign-1, originally uploaded by sleepytako.

I love walking along the Shukugawa river. I love rusty signs.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

My face in Okonomiyaki.

03.24OkonomiyakiFace-1, originally uploaded by sleepytako.
Can you tell that's my beard?

Today was the next to last day at the school I am an ALT at. It's always a sad time for me. Because of contractual reasons, I cannot continue at the same school next year. Even if I could, the job would not start till the fall. I only get six months at each school, and by the time I get use to the teaching styles and learn the students' names, I have to leave. Today we had our big school cleaning. After that the principal, vice-principal, home ec. teacher, English teacher, special ed teacher, and myself joined the single special ed student for lunch. The one student that makes up the class has been really fun to teach. He introduced me to Jarinko Chie--an absolutely hysterical anime about a family living in downtown Osaka in the 70's--which I'm getting into despite it being very hard to understand the thick Kansai dialect. As a goodbye party he made okonomiyaki for us. The principal and myself had our portraits drawn in mayonnaise and aonori.

I'm really going to miss this school, the wonderful students, and the teachers. Thanks to them all for a great six months.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Mac Media Center - Using A Japanese TV

Thanks to the move for the Sleepytako family we also acquired a TV--besides the microwave previously mentioned. But what good is a TV if you have nothing to watch on it? Hence the MacMini I have down there. I've seen other sites that talk about setting these up so I just wanted to add my few notes about doing it with a Japanese model Sharp Aquos flat screen.
  • Connecting via a DVI-HDMI cable there is no need to fine tune the resolution as other sites say. All you need is to set the screen size to underscan.
  • These Sharp models have an English menu option. Even though I can read my way through the Japanese menus having an English option is recommended.
  • The audio goes from the back of the MacMini into the TV via a male-male headphone patch cord. You'll have to set the TV so that the audio is not coming over the HDMI but via the audio in.
  • I'm using Plex for my media center. It's totally recommended. The video plugins offer up a ton of free content like The Daily Show, PBS, CBC and others. Some are blocked from outside of the USA (Sesame Street for some reason) but many work just fine. Not only that and most important. My wife can understand it too.
  • I've yet to get a remote so I'm using a wired Buffalo Mac keyboard (¥1,000 at Softmap in Namba) and my Logitec bluetooth mouse (¥2,800 from a DenDen town computer shop) until I get a remote.
  • I tried to use 1070p but it made web browsing impossible. Even trying to set the font size and installing a large theme for Firefox. Going down to 720p has made web broswing easy on the big screen. Tweaking the view options in OSX also helps.
  • If you want to get a Digital tuner to use the Mac to record TV I've seen this for sale at Yodobashi, but I've not got it myself. I-O Data makes a version too. I've seen a cable TV tuner also, but I can't find it online.
  • Those green straps? Earthquake protection.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

White Day Cookies

Thanks to a recent relocation for the sleepytako family, which was also the cause of my extended absence from this blog, we have acquired a new magical cooking box. Yes, you say, that's merely a microwave oven. But wait, there's more! That box is also a toaster and a full blown oven. Oh hell yes. My complaints about Japan are few, but one of them is the lack of ovens. Ovens are for sale here, but they are rather expensive and too big for a typical Japanese kitchen. These all in on microwave oven toaster hybrids are great for space savings and cost. We got one like this Sharp for around $150.

So now that I have an oven, and my own kitchen where I know where everything is, I can cook! And cook I have done. I've made tacos and this two times. I've also taken on the task of making cookies. Japanese cookies are always hard, crunchy and lack oatmeal. I felt something must be done to combat this evil. Just like the Jehovah's Witnesses that come to my door every Saturday I had to preach the gospel of soft cookies. White Day gave me a chance.

So, with a mild hangover from Saturday night--don't have a Sidecar and a Manhattan after drinking your fill of beers--I broke out the ingredients and baked away. The little oven pumped out 180C heat for the two or so hours it took me to bake 35 cookies at 4 cookies for each batch. One downside of the oven is it's size, but it's also a good thing about it.
Presentation is important for Japanese gift giving, so I bought some small white paper bags at the ¥100 shop. Using a feminine font I found on this site I fed the bags through the printer. Sadly because of the unevenness of the paper some leftover ink on the printer heads smudged them a bit.  Still it wasn't too bad and with a sheet of stickers I had around the house I sealed them up.

Judging by the requests for the recipe my witnessing of the gospel of soft cookies has worked. I'm glad all my friends and colleagues enjoyed their cookies. I'll be saving my next batch for hanami perhaps?

~~Oatmeal Walnut Chocolate Cookies - Japanese Kitchen Version~~
  • Flour 小麦粉 2cups
  • Sugar 砂糖 1cup
  • Brown sugar 黒砂糖 1cup
  • Salt 塩 1tsp
  • Baking Soda 重曹 1tsp
  • Baking Powder ベーキングパウダー 1tsp
  • Milk 牛乳 2tbsp
  • Butter バター 1cup
  • Eggs 卵 2
  • Vanilla extract バニラエキス2tsp
  • Oatmeal オートミール  2 1/2 cups (I used Quaker that I found in a normal market)
  • Walnuts クルミ  2 cups (cheapest place for bulk walnuts is GyomuSuper 業務スーパー)
  • Chocolate bars チョコレート 3 bars (I like Ghana)
Take the chocolate bars and break them up by hand, put into a plastic bag with the walnuts. Cover the bag with a towel and beat the hell out of it with a hammer. Put aside. Mix the sugars and butter in a bowl. Once creamy stir in the eggs one at a time. Then add the milk and vanilla extract. Put aside. In another bowl combine the flower, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Mix the wet and dry ingredients together. Add in the oatmeal, chocolate and walnuts last. Make ping-pong ball sized balls of the dough and put them on parchment paper. I could do 4 at a time in my oven. Bake the cookies for 10-15 minutes, or until they begin to brown at 180C. Makes 30-40 cookies.