Thursday, April 12, 2018

Spring? Summer!

Life is good right now. We had some happy family news just recently; and the weather here on Okinawa sprinted from a chilly winter, right through spring, and into early summer over the course of a few weeks.


Spring in Okinawa is a pretty subtle thing; the winter is just as green and almost as warm as the other seasons. You barely notice that spring has started.


I'm surprised just how rare it is to get fog here. I expected it every few weeks or something but apparently not. When it does roll in, though, it's plenty heavy. I was happy I didn't have to drive to work this particular morning.
Ritsuko is taking every chance to practice driving with her new license, so lately we've spent our weekends on the road. We've been visiting areas all along the coast, usually for lunch and a leisury afternoon in the sun before we head back again.

Almost all hotels and resorts let people use their beaches (I suspect the beaches may legally be public property), and many let you park for free as well. There's always a cafe or something like that around, and quite a few hotel restaurants serve lunches at very reasonable prices. It's still too early for the main tourist season so it's never crowded.



I'm taking a rest near Mirai beach.
It's plenty warm enough in April to sit outside in a t-shirt and sip ice coffee; on  sunny days you may actually want to get out of the sun to avoid getting burned.

Beaches all open around the beginning of April. I swam at Mirai beach two weeks ago, and it felt great. The sea is still a bit chilly but you quickly get used to it, and as long as it's sunny you don't feel cold. The weather is still unsteady, though, so you can't really plan for a beach holiday just yet.


Moon beach. Beautiful weather and no crowds.


Spring sea.


Thursday, March 29, 2018

Fish gratin!

Every so often — once a month or so — Ritsuko goes to Osaka while I stay here in Okinawa to work. It works really well; she visits our relatives and meets her friends in Osaka, while I can geek our with computer games and hobby projects(1)  here in Naha.

And I can cook any food I like for myself. Ritsuko is in Osaka this week; I had a can of cooked salmon at home, and I just realized that I haven't had a real fish gratin in years and years. It's easy to make and it's a very forgiving dish, so you can easily substitute ingredients. It took only an hour from stepping through the door to sitting down for dinner, and I managed to take a shower and hang the laundry as well.

I took some cooked salmon (you could just fry or steam a bit of raw salmon filet), about half a broccoli, two potatoes, and some milk, shredded cheese and fresh dill for the sauce.

Peel and boil the potatoes for potato mash. Meanwhile briefly boil or steam the broccoli bouquets, just enough that they soften a bit.

Make a bechamel sauce on about 150cc milk. Add the fresh cut dill, take off the heat and mix in the grated cheese.

Make the potato mash with the remaining milk, butter and salt, pepper and nutmeg to taste. Make it a little toward the soft or runny side.

In a oven-proof container, spread the mashed potatoes on the sides.

Assemble the bits, with the mashed potatoes around the rim.

Add the salmon, in bite-sized pieces, then the broccoli in the center.

Mix in the sauce. Make sure no fish sticks out (it burns easily) and that the vegetables are covered with the sauce. The mash looks better without.

Pour over the sauce, and gently mix the sauce, the broccoli and the salmon so it's all covered.


Finished! I would perhaps give it a little bit more colour next time.

Bake in a hot oven (220°-240° or so) for about 20-25 minutes until it takes colour. It's all cooked already so it just needs mixing and heating up.



Dinnertime. A simple salad goes well with the heavy gratin.

It was tasty! I can't believe I've waited this long to make it again. The trick here is really that the fresh dill mixes with the flavour from the fish as it bakes. You can use any firm fish, really, but cod and salmon are common.


1. Not to mention practice the ukulele out of her earshot...

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Congratulations!

Beginner Drivers' Mark
My wife Ritsuko has just taken her drivers license. She took the driving test a couple of weeks ago, took the written test yesterday, and she passed both on the first try!

And as it happens, today is also her birthday! Congratulations!

Although taking your license the day before your birthday is not, perhaps, the best possible timing. Had she waited another two days, her license would be valid for a whole extra year before she needs to renew...

But no matter. I see a glorious future ahead of me, a future where I can sleep or read email in the passenger seat while she practices her driving :)


In other news, it's the end of February, which means that spring has arrived on Okinawa. Flowers are blooming, the weather is turning warm(er), and half the office has started wearing kariyushi shirts again. We'll be back to sweaty, humid summer heat again soon enough, but for a little while at least it will be pleasantly warm, dry and comfortable.


Fukushuen
is a Chinese garden in Naha. Very pleasant and quiet. It's a perfect place to visit now in early spring, before it gets too hot and too crowded. This model and her photographer apparently had the same idea.



Fukushuen


Fukushuen


Pokemon Go player on his lunch break outside the Naha city hall.


Had an errand to run in Onna village over lunch, so I got a supermarket bento on my way back and had lunch outside by the seashore. Relaxing.


Thursday, January 25, 2018

Internet, Oh Glorious Internet

We finally have internet again! It took four months, two visits, and a construction approval to get our fibre-optic connection, and we finally did. I spent the first hour running OS updates on all our machines while grinning from ear to ear.

Four months may sound ridiculously long. But in all fairness, we could have gotten a network connection through a cable-TV company in two weeks or less. That would have had a pretty bad upstream speed, though (6Mbit/s), and we wouldn't have had IP telephone (which Ritsuko uses a lot).

A real fibre-optic connection gives us a high-speed, low-latency bidirectional connection and IP telephone for slightly less than the cable-TV connection would have cost. But our building is a bit weird, and there is no existing fibre network on the upper floors.

This is a mixed-use building, with a television company as the main tenant. There's a TV-mast on the roof and everything. Every cable conduit in the building is already full with cabling, and rerouting other things to make space would risk disrupting the businesses renting there. They had to run our fibre up through an elevator shaft, then drill through the walls for a conduit into our apartment. I'm surprised and grateful they agreed to do it at all. Total installation cost? 1500 yen... I almost feel bad.

Anyway, a quick test showed me getting about 140Mbit/s down, and 250Mbit/s up, with a 54ms latency. Not as good as we had in our previous place, but more than good enough. It should vary a lot by time of day, and weekday evenings, when I tested, tend to be slow. I'm happy.