Sunday, October 23, 2022

Coffee surgery - the aftermath

How did the coffee plant pruning turn out? Exceedingly well!

This was the plant right after cutting the trunk:


The coffee plant right after cutting the trunk.

And this is the plant after one month:

 


The plant almost exactly one month later.

OK, so the camera and the light are both better in the second picture. But it's still fair to say cutting that trunk has done the plant a world of good. There's lots of new, dense growth and little to no leaf browning. 

That last may be in part because I'm more restrictive with watering; a Reddit post suggested a common cause was overwatering. I now wait until it seems dried out, then way for one more day before I completely drench the pot. It certainly seems to work.

The cuttings didn't fare nearly as well:


Yeah, that didn't work.

No idea what went wrong. I still want a second plant so I may try again in spring. Will need to first look up a better way to do it — this time I just dipped the cuttings in growth hormone then pushed them into the soil. I also tried putting one in water first, but it never formed roots either. Anybody know how to take proper cuttings, let me know.



Friday, September 16, 2022

Coffee Plant Surgery

Some of you may remember my coffee plant? I first got it in 2016, from the UCC Coffee Museum in Kobe. It came with us to Okinawa, where it thrived in the hot, humid climate. A few years ago it even gave me enough coffee cherries that I could brew a cup of my own homegrown coffee.

But as I noted above, the regular typhoons and other weather have been a bit harsh on it. Over time it's become decidedly lanky, with long branches and sparse foliage. This is what it looked like yesterday:



Life's been a bit rough for it lately. Long branches that catch the wind so it loses leaves every time we get a typhoon coming through. When most leaves are lost the branch dies. You get a ball of foliage at the top of a janky, unstable trunk.

Sorry about the picture, by the way; it's a cellphone, and we have another plant right behind it (that we also cut at the same time, for much the same reasons).

 
Actual coffee farms cut down their plants every five years or so. And they do it in part to avoid the plant growing too tall and lanky; a shorter, denser plant produces more coffee and is easier to harvest. So, this is what my plant looks like now:


The coffee plant cut down. It already had this new "side branch" coming out of the base, so I cut it above that point. Hopefully this will let it handle the Okinawan weather better, and grow a thicker, more stable trunk this time around.

I know it's the right thing to do, but it's still nerve-wracking. I have no idea if it will survive this. So, to give it a bit more of a chance I took some cuttings as well:


Six cuttings. Let's see if any of them survive. If all of them do, I have no idea what to actually do with all of them; our new balcony is large, but not so large we can keep half a dozen coffee plants around.


If we're unlucky, they will all die. If we're lucky, the main plant will survive, and perhaps one or two of the cuttings will take root. If we're too lucky, they will all thrive and I'll have more plants than I need or want. Not a bad problem to have; by next spring we'll know.

Friday, September 2, 2022

A tale of a single-dish restaurant

In November last year me and Ritsuko are out on a walk in Naha on a rainy Saturday when we run across an Italian restaurant called Pastida. We're looking for a place to have lunch, so we go inside.

It's an interesting place. They serve lunch only — in fact, they're renting the space from an izakaya that opens at night. And they serve only one single dish, pasta Bolognese. No side dishes, no salads; if you don't feel like Bolognese, you need to go somewhere else.

It was very tasty; a real Bolognese with bits of meat simmered in a wine sauce, fresh pasta and topped with lots of Parmesan cheese. This was my lunch:

 


Spaghetti Bolognese

I've been back in Osaka for my summer holidays, and Ritsuko happened to see a magazine article about a pasta place in Kansai run by a young couple. It was a small place serving only lunch, and serving only a single dish: Spaghetti Bolognese. Not just the concept, but the picture looked very familiar. 

And when you search online there's a lot of these restaurants around. Here's a picture from Google Maps:



Spaghetti Bolognese

 

The pasta, the cheese, the plating, and yes, even the plate is almost exactly the same. Hmmm. 

It turns out these restaurants are way cooler than I thought. They are not chain restaurants, but they all obviously get their pasta from the same place. That place is Bigoli (also a name for the type of pasta they use). This company makes a single thing: fresh pasta and Bolognese sauce. But what they sell is a restaurant in a box.

You buy a license from them, and you get everything you need: the food, the plates and cutlery, printed menus, promotional material and so on. Yes, you still need to find a good location and come up with a name, and you still need a license to serve food and learn how to prepare this properly. 

 

This seems to me to be a pretty good way for somebody to dip their toes in the food service business; to figure out if they really want to do this sort of thing long term. Starting any kind of business is a big financial risk and lot of work; at least here you start out without having to figure out what to serve on top of all the rest.

If you look at the list of shops they have, there's single-dish restaurants like above. But there's also cafes and bars that add this as their one proper food dish. A low-workload way to add a proper food item to their menu.

Two reasons I don't feel cheated: First, they don't hide this. When you actually look a the menu, they clearly print that the food comes from Bigoli. In fact, they make it a point of pride. Second, the Bolognese really is quite delicious. They make this one dish and they really do make it well. You can even order online if you want to try it at home.

Chain restaurants — fast food, especially — get a bad reputation because they serve low quality or unhealthy food, not because the food has been prepared beforehand. "Ghost kitchens" (multiple online order-only "restaurants" all served from one physical kitchen) try to fool you and trick you into thinking you're getting something you really are not. 

This is doing neither. It is a healthy amount of good quality food. And they're open about it having originally been prepared elsewhere. This is fine by me.


Tuesday, July 12, 2022

Fireworks

Ginowan has a large fireworks show every year. It's normally in April, but due to you-know-what-virus it was postponed to July this year. 

Good thing: we can see the area right from the balcony. So we set up with dinner (homemade rice bowls) snacks, folding chairs and camera with a tripod. 

As it happened, the first typhoon of the season passed by just the day before. The weather was still really bad the same morning, but they insisted it would go ahead as planned. The rain let up literally minutes before it was due to start — a testament to just how good short-term weather forecasts are these days.



The fireworks happen near Tropical Beach and is sponsored by JAL, and by the resort hotel next to it. The view from the hotel is probably pretty spectacular. 



I elected to take just long-exposure shots this time around. Typically 4-10 seconds per shot. You treat the fireworks much like you'd treat a strobe; you control the brightness with your sensitivity and aperture, not shutter speed.



The display was designed by Junko Koshino, a clothing designer. It did feel more focused on creating interesting patterns than on just big explosions. And the long exposures really bring that forward, I think. These fans look as good as a still picture as they did live.



Trees with leaves, I think



Cool overlapping patterns



A dandelion fluffball and an orchid. Welcome to summer!


Friday, July 8, 2022

2020's

 You know, if the 2020's could just stop trying to be "interesting times" then that'd be great....



Thursday, June 30, 2022

Moving House

We've moved house. From Naha in the south we've moved about 10km north to Ginowan. From a fun but really old apartment, to a new, fresh place. From a backstreet in the center of a city, to a residential area by the sea.

 


Ginowan at night. Not a dense city, exactly, but not rural either.
 

Our entire existence right now is one of cardboard boxes and chaos. We're slowly digging ourselves out from the pile of stuff we've accumulated over the years. My computer is still packed away, so I've got no real pictures to show.

Why move? One reason: the Naha rental apartment was expensive and aging badly, and the landlord wasn't willing to do much more than the minimum necessary. For instance, the water pressure was so low that you'd lose the hot water in the shower if you turned on the tap in the kitchen at the same time. That was always fun in winter when I was showering after work while Ritsuko was making dinner.

Another reason: Our new place is 10km closer to my place of work than the old. But as those 10km were through Naha and Urasoe — very busy during rush hour — that makes my commute about 25-30 minutes shorter in the morning, and 30-60 minutes shorter in the evening. I now drive the 30km to work in only 45 minutes each morning, giving me lots more free time each day.

We also get a nice views, and we're now close to Chatan and Rycom; the Convention Center mall and the seaside park is right down the road; and the Parco City shopping center is only minutes away. 

On the down-side, we lose walking access to the Naha city center, with its restaurants and shops. And we're more car dependent than before; while our new place lets us have two cars, we also need two cars, a mixed blessing at best. Time will tell if we'll get used to it or not.

Sunday, May 22, 2022

Here's Osaka

So I start a post about something. I write half of it, then life gets in the way, I focus on other things and I forget about the post. A few weeks pass by and I can't pick it up again because I no longer really remember the point of writing it. 

But it's still sitting there, silently waiting for me to finish it. The guilt I feel for not doing it stops me from writing anything else - which is ridiculous of course. I'm the only one who even knows what I was trying to write in the first place.

So forget about that. We've been to Osaka, both over New Year and Golden Week. Here's a few pictures, selected not because they mean anything, but just because I like them:



The old Osaka City Hall on Nakanoshima. Today it's a conference center, and the surrounding park is a popular place for festivals and events. The new Osaka City Hall is a grey concrete box just off to the right.



Umeda JR station in Osaka.


Vending machines — is there anything they can't sell? This one sells COVID antigene tests for 1900 yen, less than 50 meters from home.


This way.


Namba, Osaka. This is obviously a story in the making, and I really want to know what was going on and how it turned out.


Fugitives.


Kawachi-Nagano is less than half an hour away from Namba by train, but as quiet and peaceful as you'd ever want. Feels like going 30 years back in time, in a very good way. A friend of ours works at a ryokan in the area, so we went there for a delicious lunch.


The pinball hall in Big Step, Amermura. Almost a hundred machines, from really old to the newest releases. Well worth a visit if you've ever enjoyed pinball. Even more worth it if you've never done so. Bring 100 yen coins!


Lilo Coffee Roasters is currently my favorite coffee place in Osaka. They do some excellent specialty coffee. You can get your choice of beans brewed almost any way you want, and buy a bag home.


A quiet evening sit down outside the shop. Minamisenba.


You never really see your neighborhood until you leave it for a while. Minamisenba.


Sunset.