Monday, December 21, 2009
In Ashikaga, the smallish city where I lived, McDonald's and KFC were the only American fast food places available. My frequent trips to Tokyo were my only chance to see other familiar fast-food chains from home. I ate at the restaurant near Ebisu station lots of times on the way to and from parties and whatnot. It's the only place in the whole country I knew of where I could eat chili, so on a cold day that was the place to be. Add in frosties and those spicy chicken sandwiches, and you had gold. Gold! Why does Japan hate deliciousness?
Wednesday, December 16, 2009
Jake Adelstein, author of Tokyo Vice, has popped up in a couple of my favorite places to get news. His life story appeals to me as being both very entertaining and inspirational. He picked up and moved to Japan, living for three years in a Buddhist temple, then working as an English teacher and part time as a Swedish massage therapist, then eventually becoming a reporter for the Yomiuri Shimbun, credited as having the largest circulation in the world. At Yomiuri he worked as a crime reporter and his book reveals the depth of his knowledge on the Yakuza, or Japanese mafia.
One of my favorite newsy podcasts is NPR's Planet Money. Here Adelstein "talks about how the business of the yakuza groups has changed over time and how tighter government restrictions have pushed the Japanese mob into more "traditional" investments." You can listen to or download the podcast here. My favorite part of this one is the story of how the Yakuza hired actors to pose as Japanese bank execs in order to trick Lehman Brothers into loaning a front company $300 million. It's pretty golden. Fresh Air has another longer program with him as well as an excerpt from his book here.
And finally, Jake edits the blog www.japansubculture.com. A notable recent post here is entitled "Eating sushi off a naked girl: yay or yuck?"
I'll be putting his book on my Christmas list.
Monday, December 07, 2009
By the time I'd gotten them home the honey from the baklava and one or two others had pooled in the bottom of the box. I couldn't hold that against them.
This little festival only happens once a year as far as I know so if you've missed it you're SOL and most likely Greek cookie-less until 2010. If you'd like to attend a service though, I'm sure St. Anthony and the gang would be happy to see you.
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Friday, December 04, 2009
Once out in the Ollaytantambo station we started walking. There were plenty of offers of taxis to be sure, but after sitting for so long I think we both wanted a little exercise.
Ice cream apparently makes people in Peru very happy.
When I saw what we were in town for, I may have said some bad words. My legs were still jell-o from a ton of ruins walking the day before and this place had stone stairs galore. The view of the town below and the ruins on the neighboring mountains was worth it though.
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
I actually saw everyone on three different days. There was an informal little reception at Floyd's, a downtown bar, and there was a fancy(and long) gala at the Illinois State Library.
I took a couple of little videos of the thing in action. The whole setup was controlled with a Wiimote, which just made it that much snappier.
The whole thing made it into the State Journal-Register here.
Tuesday, November 17, 2009
Speaking of information, useful or otherwise, I read in a travel guide that Huttese, spoken by the big fat Huts in the Star Wars movies, is largely based on Quechua. I'm sure the Peruvians think that's swell. It's probably best that I didn't learn that until I left the country.
After a very eventful day on the PeruRail train and then exploring the wonders of Machu Picchu, we had a much needed sleep. This next day might have been even longer than the one before it.
We got to the train station a bit early, so there was a bit of time for us to explore. We played a bit more of my favorite game: White guy picka souvenir from a distance and latin girlfriend buya souvenir at much lower thana white guy price while white guy isa hiding. I'm still working on the name but you get the idea. Here are a couple of little things that I bought in Peru.
At one stop of the train I saw this old woman out the window. Her motions to the passengers were hilarious.
First was "oh I'm surprised to see you" from the woman standing right next to the train tracks to the people on a train that likely comes by the same time every day.
Then it was "oh I'm too embarrassed to have pictures taken of me".
Next was "well I'd be a little less embarrassed if you all put coins into this hat I happen to have here with me".
And finally "wow, those coins really did the trick. my shyness is cured!"
The train was pretty calm until he showed up. I didn't catch his name, but he was like a dancing mix between a clown and a terrorist. Obviously I took some video of the performance.
Well I was worried Mr. Steeds might have not welcomed an intrusion to his intent watching of himself, but he seemed pleasantly surprised when we asked him for a picture. Honestly I wouldn't have even known who he was if he hadn't been watching his own show, so maybe we're even.
Eventually the train stopped and we had to say goodbye to our new famous friends. But we didn't just ride back to where we came from. That's for quitters. Our train ride ended in the Peruvian town and Inca ruin site of Ollantaytambo (yeah, it's a long name, but recall Bangkok's name in Thai?). The city is notable for being a temporary capital for the Inca resistance during Spanish conquest. Very cool. More on the city later!
Thursday, November 05, 2009
A trip to the local Meijer, though, was the jackpot. They had haunty festive stuff but because it was already so close to the big day, everything was 30% off! It was a rare procrastination-based victory. There were only a few lonely racks of stuff left, so that made choosing easy.
The both of us and a couple of my friends all went down to St. Louis for some haunted house and downtown festivities.
-and Angelica was a bumblebee. We had talked earlier about coordinating costumes, but the supermarket sale ruined that. She wanted me to be a flower to match her bee, and I wanted her to be Slimer. It didn't work out.
Next I'll get back to the end of my Peru pictures. Stay tuned!
Saturday, October 31, 2009
I'm happy that these Guy Fawkes costumes are still popular. Did you know that the word "guy" meaning "man" or "person" originates with Guy Fawkes?
The interesting little entry in The Merriam-Webster New Book of Word Histories.
We put our pumpkin outside one little day before we wanted to carve it, and the next time we checked it had been chewed up by squirrels. Angelica drew a face so that we could cut out the parts with the little teeth marks.
I thought it came out pretty well.
Tuesday, October 27, 2009
The story is in the true spirit of the American inventor. I might paraphrase the timeless story as "This guy saw this thing, and it sucked, so he made it better". You might want more details than that, though, so I humbly offer the tale as told by late founder Ed Waldmire, Jr. to his son Bob on January 30th, 1959.
In Muskogee, Oklahoma, I saw an unusual sandwich called “corn-dog.” This sandwich was a wiener baked in cornbread. The corn-dog was very good, but took too long to prepare. The problem was how to cover a hotdog with batter and cook it in a short time.
In the fall of 1941, I told this story to a fellow student at Knox College whose father was in the bakery business, and then gave it no further thought.
Five years later while in the Air Force stationed at Amarillo Airfield, I received a letter from my fellow student, Don Strand. To my surprise he had developed a mix that would stick on a weiner while being french-fried. He wondered if he could send some down that I could try in Amarillo. Having plenty of spare time, I said ‘yes.’
Using cocktail forks for sticks, the U.S.O kitchen in which to experiment, we made a very tasty hotdog on a stick, that we called a “crusty cur.” They became very popular both at the U.S.O. in town, and at the P.X. on the airfield. My friend continued to send mix and we continued to sell thousands of crusty curs until I was discharged – honorably – in the spring of 1946.
We decided to sell them that spring. My wife did not like the name “crusty curs.” Through trial and error and discarding dozens of names, we finally decided on the name “Cozy Dogs.”
Cozy Dogs were officially Launched at the Lake Springfield Beach House on June 16th, 1946.
This story and a bit of additional history and news is available on the Cozy Dog website here. Apparently Cozy Dog was also featured in National Geographic's Traveler magazine, but the magazine's website guards its treasures a bit too jealously for this lover of truth.
I think this little eatery would be pretty cool even without its claims of corn dog genesis. The restaurant sits on Historic Route 66, the old-school patchwork of roads that led from Chicago to Los Angeles before the advent of the Interstate Highway System. It has lots of memorabilia everywhere that was interesting to look at while I waited for my food.
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