Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Suck 'em down, biznaaachez

When the subject of instant ramen comes up, my friends can testify that I always rave about Marutai brand instant ramen. I 'discovered' this brand of "bo" ("stick", unlike the regular squiggly brick of noodles of other brands, Marutai's are straight and packaged much like soba and somen) ramen at a supermarket near my old apartment in Yokohama. I happened to be staring at a package of the "Kyushu" (ie tonkotsu) flavored noodles wondering if they would be worth spending my hard-earned 110 yen (approx. US $1.00) on. My then-girlfriend told me that she had bought the brand several times and really liked them. This recommendation and her family roots in the Kyushu area convinced me that it was worth a shot. After all, I could blow 10000 yen (approx US$100.00) on an hour of pachinko at the drop of a hat so 100 yen for a potentially mind-expanding session of ramen would probably be worth it or at least humorously disgusting. Much to my fortune (the kind which never showed up during my aforementioned 10000 yen pachinko sessions), the former was the case; though it wasn't as good as an authentic straight-from-Hakata bowl of tonkotsu, it was a very good reproduction of it and, for an instant ramen in general, excellent.

Just a little bit on tonkotsu ramen since it is one of the rarer flavors of ramen outside of Japan: from Hakata located in the Fukuoka prefecture, tonkotsu ramen is characterized by its white full-bodied soup. The word 'tonkotsu' literally means 'pork bone' and these bones are boiled along with various ingredients, onion and garlic among them, for several hours and sometimes even several days. This results in two things: 1) the wonderfully delicious soup and 2) a terrible odor which boiling pig's bones causes. The noodles used in tonkotsu ramen are typically straighter than those used in others and the toppings tend to be less varied as well: benishoga, a couple of slices of char-siu, and sliced up elephant's ear (no, not the real thing but a fungus that is kinda-sorta shaped like one). Tasty stuff.

I was down at Nijiya market in San Jose's Japantown the other day and spotted not only my old favorite Kyushu flavored (far left) but four other flavors, from left to right, Goma-shoyu, yakisoba, regular (which looks to be a shoyu-based flavor), and shoyu-tonkotsu. They also had miso but I've already had that one before and found it to be pretty average -- I'm not a big fan of miso ramen even if it's from a reputable place like Sumire. In future posts, I'll review these new (to me) flavors. Until then, enjoy some more Marutai bo ramen via YouTube:

Sunday, January 27, 2008

So what is it that you want to say?

Unlike those talky Mac commercials on TV, this is what really happens when Apple and the PC try to communicate with each other:

Tuesday, January 22, 2008


A little aside: "The Scream" has to be one of the most overused images in the history of blogging since nearly every copy that I found online was linked to one.

Back on topic, California State University students out there know that today was the first day of instruction. If this were back when I was an undergrad, I probably would have felt a greater sense of dread but I'm actually a little anxious to start. I blew off a lot of my undergrad time because I had a fairly easy major (English) at a university not generally very well known for its academics (University of Hawaii). I chose UH because I was more interested in the beaches and women cultural and life experiences that it offered over those I could get in my native California. Simply, I had to get out and live a little.

In contrast, I care a lot more about the education that I'm receiving and, more importantly, shaping and refining myself into being a better ESL instructor and researcher. At SJSU, the TESOL (Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages - yes, we need a new acronym) and Linguistics departments are merged together and known together as the Linguistics and Language Development department. As things go, it's a pretty small but comfortable department: there are just about 100 graduate students and a handful of professors between the two groups. It is literally the case that you could hang around the LLD office at Clark Hall all day and run into everyone in our program. In fact, just today I was introduced to someone else in the program by a fellow classmate. I had seen this person studying in the halls outside of the LLD office so, with a wink, I said, "I've seen you around the base, soldier."

TESOL and Linguistics students are kind of interesting because, though we fall under the same LLD department, we have different programs and plans that we follow. I would separate TESOL students into three groups: the trench soldiers, the drifters, and the non-native speakers. The first group of students are those who are already teaching ESL at a local community college or adult program and are just slamming through the program as a matter of necessity or formality to get to the next level. These students tend to be older are war-weary and hardened by dealing with school administrations and budgets, are very articulate, what I would consider as the old school ESL teachers. The second group (which I fall in) are those who have drifted around in life, lived abroad and taught EFL as a means to get a visa, and realized that they liked the work and, essentially, are getting a Masters as a means to get another visa in the future. This group is usually a lot rawer and less refined but have a strong personal passion, bordering on naivety, toward the profession. The last group is the newest group of ESL teachers as it's only been fairly recently that a large influx of non-native instructors has received formal training. These students tend to be very serious, hard working, but somewhat distant. Maybe it's the homesickness, maybe it's the extra work that they have to put in to keep with schoolwork not in their own native languages, or maybe it's just that most are just going back to their own countries in a couple of years so there's no need to tie yourself too closely to a place you may never see again.

As for the Linguistics students, I've only interacted with a few of them before and haven't worked out an angle on them just yet. They strike me as being more contemplative and intellectual than the TESOL ones but I'll probably better figure them out in time.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Back at the compound....

Though the news is fairly old in the beer community, the recent hops shortage has been making the rounds in mass media lately which has probably made all Joe Beer Guzzlers freak out, stockpile cases of brew, board up their homes, and guard their stockpiles with lethal firearms. This includes yours truly, of course.

During my recent rounds buying buckshot, I dropped by a local Japanese supermarket and happened to spot several bottles of Echigo Stout, brewed by the Echigo Beer Co., itself a division of a sake brewery. I've tried their Koshihikari Echigo beer, which they claim uses real koshihikari rice during the brewing process, and found it to be a very dry German pilsner style of brew. Echigo Stout, on the other hand, is a full-flavored yet medium bodied stout with delicious flavors ranging from dark chocolate to espresso and a nice lingering aftertaste. The latter flavor is the one which is stands out for me because I'm not a coffee drinker (gives me a stomachache for some reason) but I sometimes crave the flavor of coffee and Echigo Stout delivers it. Wish I could sneak this stuff into work in a Starbucks tumbler.

Needless to say, I ran back to that store the day after drinking the single bottle and bought the remaining five. Echigo's line of beers is already pretty rare, you might find them at a local Asian market or Japanese restaurant, but their stout should be considered even moreso since that type of beer has a much smaller audience than the standard ales and lagers. However, if you see it, by all means, pick it up and give it a try for yourself because you'd have to pry mine from my cold, dead hands.


Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Blog, Take Two!

If you happen to be coming from my other two blogs, Kuzu and Eigazoku, a big welcome back to you and me. It's been, to say the least, a while since I've posted in either since I've been spending so much time with schoolwork (got all A's as a result though, go me!). I also became a little disillusioned by having two blogs that only focused on a few interests in my life and really wanted to talk about more. The initial intention of starting my previous two blogs was to cover these things but I just felt that they were too confining to my current life situation. The truth is that, though I lived in Japan for several years, I currently don't and find myself not following goings on enough to be able to make an informed commentary on exactly what's happening over there and, in fact, I've been using the time to fill in gaps in my knowledge of things that occurred while I was living there.

With that said, I will post about other interests: movies, retro gaming, TV, microbrews and use this blog for personal and professional reflections for school. All postings here, though, will be microtagged because undoubtedly there will be a lot of things that you will want to skip.

Enjoy and, as always, feel free to comment.