Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Blogs merged into one...

Today is the last day of the academic calendar in Japan.
So, it is time to say goodbye to colleagues who are retiring.
I was particularly sad to see an old colleague leave today.
His career spanned 42 years; assuming he is 60 now, he must have joined the university when he was 18.

Today is also the day when I say goodbye to a few blogs that I have created but have not been able to maintain.
Thanks to Blogger, even an internet-semi-illiterate like me can execute the export-import functions.
I did the proverbial 'hop-step-and-jump' over three blogs and have decided to return to the original blog, pulling together all the posts into one single address.
And surprised I was, to see that I have accumulated 420 posts since 2004.

Through the process, most of the comments have unfortunately been deleted by Haloscans.
Had to let them go although I would have liked to keep them.

Tomorrow is 1st April, the start of the new academic year.
I am ready to start afresh...

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Mee Rebus on a second try

After the few days of strong gales, the skies rained for four straight days.
Very unusual to see so much rain in March. 
My vegetable garden was soaked with water, which is not a bad thing. 
Requested my missus to try the 'mee rebus' recipe again.
This time with 'proper' ingredients such as bean sprouts (my favorite), chopped green onions, boiled egg, and oven-toasted crispy bean curd. 
We actually used leftover fish (sea bream) curry for the base and added potatoes to thicken the gravy. 
Normally we try to avoid fried stuff whenever we can, so no 'cucur udang' (prawn fritters) this time... 
Wooh, I think the taste was as near as we can get to the real thing... 
I ate and I howled...

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

A windy weekend in Japan

Vicious gales scraped past the Japanese archipelago over last weekend, howling and screaming... Wind velocities of over 80 kph (in Kyushu) killed people, stopped trains, cancelled flights, and blew away my precious layer of leaf mulch in the vegetable garden. The serene Japan Inland Sea saw waves of up to 3 meters when it is 0.5 meters on a normal day as ferries remained docked and fishermen were reduced to watching television at home. 

Along with the winds came the yellow sand clouds all the way from the deserts in northwestern Chinese and Mongolian deserts. Visibility was reduced to about 3 to 4 kilometers, and the islands off the beaches seemed to have disappeared from view... 

With a three-day weekend, still managed to do quite a bit despite the less than friendly weather... such as going to an 'environmentally-friendly' jersey cow dairy farm to collect a few bagfuls of cow dung for the vegetable garden. It was not well fermented yet so handling was a bit messy though. Then, along with some fellow villagers, we went collecting rubbish in the hills as part of the regular community service activity. After which, planted tens and tens of geranium into pots big and small. I plan to 'strategically' place these potted geraniums on the vegetable beds as part of companion planting, hoping to confuse the pests-insects. 

And on a windy, better-to-stay-indoors like this past weekend, we looked up some recipes on the net. With potatoes from the last harvest, why not do something with them, we asked ourselves. We have been eating potato salad almost everyday, but still several kilos remain and 'eyes' are appearing on the potatoes. 

Aha, why not Mee Rebus from PigPig's Corner? With no prior shopping for ingredients, we made do with what we have in the house... There was no bean sprouts, no chicken stock... Overall, it turned out to be an interesting first experiment and although the taste was of course far from what we would expect from Mee Abu of Alor Star, it was delicious enough. As we were very generous with potatoes, the gravy turned out to be very thick. 

Good reference for experimenting on the next windy day... 

Monday, March 22, 2010

Food and lights @ Brisbane

While at Brisbane, had a good time eating out at the restaurants.
There are plenty of choices, but naturally, my preferences go to things Asian. 
Tried Philipino bitter gourd rice, Korean seafood spicy noodles, Bologna spaghetti, Turkish kebabs, Chinese chicken rice, Indian vegetarian curries, Lebanese salad rolls, and several types of sandwiches...
It was interesting to note that many Asian restaurants sell an overly wide spectrum of food. 
For example, you can get Thai, Korean, Vietnamese, and Malaysian stuff from the same one restaurant. 
I was rather skeptical that a single restaurant can offer such a wide variety and be good in all of them. 
I once asked a waitress where the cook came from.
'Korean' came the reply and luckily enough, the Korean dish I ordered was pretty authentic.   
Stayed at a really convenient location at Brisbane. 
The well designed service apartment offered excellent night views of the city. 
Night photography has always fascinated me. 
The picture above was taken from the balcony of the service apartment. 
City Hall at night...
Would have loved to bring my Nikon SLR with me if not for the extra weight.
Had to do with just the aim and shoot compact...
Still, managed to enjoy myself walking the streets at night, shooting away...

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Brisbane and Cairns… lovely cities they are

It is raining lightly today at Aji. Took a walk in the hills with my missus after breakfast. The Japan Inland Sea is calm, despite the drizzle. It is indeed a beautiful scene, and it feels super good to be back home again.
Got back from Australia yesterday, after spending some time there...

Seems to me that the Australians have a knack for good city planning. As with my brief visits to Perth and Melbourne some years ago, I am once again impressed with the way their cities are planned and managed. Shallow impressions they may be, but just take a look at how their public parks and beaches are laid out and maintained. They are so ‘user-friendly’ and clean, and most folks using the facilities seem to be well civic-minded. At Cairns, ‘no fishing’ means no fishing although I was a little surprised to see a fisherman throwing nets at the esplanade front, catching deliciously looking finger-sized prawns.

A police car patrols the city center. Even in Cairns, the red Lunar New Year banner greets you.

Cairns is a small city. The first thing that hit me as I headed towards the city was the vast sugarcane fields. I am reminded of similar scenes at Okinawa. In the city, I was struck by the immense numbers of birds that make Cairns their home. Parakeets woke me up with their raucous calls as they buzzed the early morning skies. Bats, pretty big ones, cruise the skies all day and noisily settled down in the gum trees in the evenings. The overriding feature of this little city is her hot and humid tropical weather. In this sense, she is no different from my home country Malaysia. There are coconut trees, palm trees, huge fig trees with massive roots off-shooting from branches towards the ground. Feels just like home if not for some of the plants that are unmistakably Australian.

The lagoon at the esplanade park... clean and well-maintained...

At Cairns, I was lucky to be blessed with three nights at a marvelous ‘boutique’ hotel right in the middle of the city. The bus terminal is right in the face, so is the supermarket and the seafront. The manager is very hospitable and most friendly, making my stay as enjoyable as can be. The self-contained, apartment-styled room was very clean, spacious, and neatly designed into four segments; lounge, kitchen, bathroom, and bedroom. All these plus maintenance to the highest hygienic standards, I must add.

Being right in the city center comes convenience. I had thought of joining a scuba diving tour at the Great Barrier Reef but decided against it due to possible tsunamis (from the Chilean earthquake) hitting the eastern shores of Australia. Had also contemplated renting a car to drive around the vicinity but in this hot weather? And driving alone without my missus as navigator? Oh no.

A fisherman throwing his net at the esplande front in the early morning hours.

On a Sunday morning… took a walk to the fresh produce market two blocks away. Man, this is like the pasar pagi (morning market) at Simpang Empat near my village back home. Only much more cleaner and more 'cosmopolitan'. You see people of all colors… peddling fruits, veggies, potted plants, bush honey, samosas, noodles… Bought myself a packet of stir-fried bitter gourd with rice from a Filipino vendor. Quite delicious it was, as I gnawed away, sweating. Also bought some ‘sugar sweet’ bananas and a big piece of fruit cake to chew in the room.

At Cairns and Brisbane, I ate and ate... so much so that I gained about 1.4 kilos in less than 2 weeks at Australia...