Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Sudden deafness, 5 months

I finished all my disgusting medicine, which as it turns out actually tastes worse and worse for each day that you take it, haha. After taking it for ten days, there was no noticeable change in my hearing, so I still cannot pick up on low frequencies on my left ear. It does not affect me in my daily life, but it would of course have been nice if all the hearing had come back. It seems the low frequencies will never come back, but I am still very happy that I can hear what people are saying and most sounds around me.

Weird T-shirts in Magic Bar Twister

People often tell me that they find the t-shirts I wear "weird" or "crazy". The one I wear the most when performing magic says: "I am not Japanese" in Japanese, which to Japanese people is very funny (because I am blond) and that makes it much easier to get started doing magic since everyone is already in a good mood as soon as they see my shirt.

Yesterday, I was wearing a shirt with a family of pigs eating fried pork and looking sad. My boss had found a shirt that he wore to "adjust to my level". It says: "I don't know anything" with a big "無" (meaning "nothing") inside the brain. No one commented on his t-shirt, though. But many commented on my pig t-shirt.

Diet tea?

Recently they have started selling a "diet tea" around here. It is "Calorie limited". But since the normal teas here have "0 Calories" or possibly "2 Calories per liter" written on them, how much better can diet tea actually be? Is there a point at all...

Home made Death Sauce

Pizza with bacon and egg

I was having pizza in an Italian restaurant run by a friend of mine when he suddenly put on goggles, gloves, and shoved paper up his nostrils. He then started running the mixer with lots of different pepper fruits in it. Apparently he had run out of "super spicy oil" to put on pizza. In Japan, everyone believes you have to put Tabasco on pizza (because that is the Western thing to do and pizza is Western food, is the thinking...) For people who like very spicy stuff, he makes this special oil instead. He gave me some to try, and it was indeed very spicy. It was more painful than the Death Sauce that is sold around here, but the taste was better. The Death Sauce has a kind of sour taste to it that this did not have.

Very spicy oil mixed with peppers

The peppers hanging here are all used when making the oil

Red King

A week or so ago, I went to the new magic bar in Sapporo,"Red King".

Smoky curry

Recently I have had "smoked bacon curry" at the Bottom Cafe several times. It is a new dish they are trying out on people, and it is very good. Every time I go there, the owner of the place also drop in by chance. And he always asks me to do magic for some random guests that he knows, and buys me drinks in return.


My tea cup

I went to a Chinese restaurant with a magician friend of mine. The restaurant is fairly new, and when I passed it a few weeks ago they were giving out coupons for free almond tofu. The food was nice and the almond tofu we got for free was very good. The tea cup I got for my jasmine tea was excellent.

One of the many dishes we ordered 
The name of the restaurant is "Dragon's Bar". Not to be confused with the place where my friend works, "Dragon Bar".

The almond tofu we got for free was great!

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

A chair in the mail

Yesterday I was planning to go home early but my professor strolled by my desk and asked me: "Do you have time to attend the seminar today?" Since I very much had time to do that I said "yes", and ended up getting home very late. Our seminars start one hour after my normal working hours are over, and go on for about two hours (normally, sometimes they go on for five hours). My professor wanted me to attend because he had just brought back some very delicious omiyage (souvenir) from Okinawa that he wanted me to try. They were pretty good, but maybe not "work three hours for free"-good, haha :-)

Anyway, when I got home there was a shipping truck standing in front of my apartment building. When I went inside, there was also a note in my mailbox saying that they had tried to deliver a package to me but that I was not home at the time. I went out and looked for the driver of the shipping truck and after a minute or so he came out of the neighboring house. I asked if he was the guy who had tried to deliver a package to me, and he was. So I got my package. Very nice timing.

I got a chair. When I went to my friend's wedding in Kobe, I got a "catalog gift", you get to pick anything you want from a catalog of all kinds of things. There was nothing in particular that I needed, so I picked a camping chair. It is foldable and seems practical if you go up in the mountains for a barbecue or something like that. It even has a cup holder. Last year I was invited to a total of 0 barbecue parties, though, so the chances of using this chair are maybe not that many... But two years ago I went to several barbecue afternoons were a chair would have been nice.

The chair also came with a strap with a hooking mechanism for attaching it to PET-bottles, so you can carry around a bottle when hiking or some other tiring outdoor activity that I am unlikely to participate in.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Sudden deafness, 4.5 months

Back in last week of November last year I lost the hearing on my left ear because a virus killed the nerves in the ear, or at least that is what my doctor thinks is what happened. The symptom is called "sudden deafness". I then got lots of steroids which is the standard treatment, that makes about 50% of the people who get sudden deafness get their hearing back. After a few weeks, most of my hearing came back.

The really low frequencies did not come back but my doctor thought that since the rest of the hearing came back very nicely, this may be caused by a different problem. His theory is that it is caused by the cochlea (the spiral shaped thing in the ear) being too full of liquids. This can happen when you take steroids, and might disappear when you stop taking the steroids.

It has now been quite some time since I quit the steroids and the hearing of low frequencies is still not back so I went to see my doctor again. He gave me a sack (literally; a very heavy sack) of new medicines that help with cochlea problems. I am to take this during 10 days, and then perhaps the rest of my hearing will come back too.

It seems this medicine is horribly disgusting. My doctor told me several times that it is only available as a kind of syrup you drink and that tastes really bad. Since there is no other way (no pharmaceutical company in the world has managed to make a pill or powder out of this medicine) I would just have to take it anyway, he cautioned several times. Then the pharmacist told me more or less the same, several times... You can put it in the refrigerator for awhile to make it a little easier to drink, she said. But basically you just have to grin and bear it.

Of course you take the medicines you are given, right? How bad can this stuff taste?... I guess I will find out soon. I am to take this three times per day for ten days, so if it is really horrible, that will be two weeks when I am not very happy I guess, haha.

Friday, April 12, 2013


Today I went to the magic snack bar Ropossa and had dinner there. Ropossa is always nice to visit. Today I was handed a bunch of wooden puzzles (boxes that are non-trivial to open) and sat with them for over an hour before I figured out how to open the last one... Very tiring for your brain. Then I was sent a photo of myself from when I visited last year (at Halloween), but with some Japanese style decorations added. I also received a small gift, a plastic illusion:

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Encouragement at work... or what to do if you are hit by a North Korean missile

Today's first e-mail on the staff mailing list roughly translated said this: "If you get hit by a North Korean missile, please inform both the police and the administrative office of the university."

They also specify what to do if you find stuff that "looks like it could be from a North Korean missile". Mainly it says to not play with it but to inform the office and the police or fire department. Good to know.

A previous colleague of mine tells me that during the flu pandemic they sent out e-mails saying basically: "The ministry has told us to think in terms of about one-fifth of the university's staff dying, so please make sure you keep sufficient records to allow us to carry on without you."

The Japanese way of informing you of things sounds somewhat cold to us Europeans sometimes...

New magic bars in Sapporo

It seems there are two new magic bars in Sapporo! I have not had time to visit either of them, but a friend of mine did. He was not impressed, but people who know absolutely nothing of magic seemed to have fun.

In one of the magic bars a friend of one of my magician friends is working. I have met him two or three times and he seemed very nice. There is also another magician there, and I have met him too, in our magic bar. He showed me some magic about two years ago, and that was a bit weird. It would be interesting to see if he has gotten better since then. I will try to go and see them in the near future.

Edit: For anyone who has never been to any magic bar at all, I still recommend "Magic Bar Twister" (link to Hotpepper page) as the best place in Sapporo (though I may be slightly biased here, since I perform there a few days per week).

Death sauce pizza

On Tuesday I was one of the presenters in our lab's seminar series at the university. Our seminars are held from 18:00 to whenever they finish (usually around eight, but sometimes they go on until eleven). Since my working hours are only until 17:00 I often do not attend the seminars (I do not get paid for overtime, and am generally not allowed to take time off some other time instead either), but when it is my turn to present I do of course attend.

When I got back home at around 20:15, I got an e-mail from my boss in the magic bar who said: "So, you are very busy today?" I e-mailed him back and said that I was kind of thinking of going out and having dinner, but that perhaps bringing my bag of magic props to the magic bar would be more fun. He replied that "Indeed, if you come here I am sure something fun is waiting for you!"

So I skipped dinner and went to our magic bar where it turned out my boss was working alone. There were three groups of guests, 4 persons, 5 persons, 3 persons, all showing up at the same time which is difficult to handle alone. All guests were very funny guests to do magic for, so it was very nice when there were two of us.

After the guests left, my boss ordered some pizza for us from a very cheap place (one pizza for 500 yen instead of say 3500 yen which is common in Japan). It is so cheap so it does not come with Tabasco (which for some reason Japanese people think is a must on pizza). My boss did remember that a customer had left a bottle of Death Sauce for us a few weeks ago, though. So we ended up eating pizza with lots and lots of Death Sauce. My mouth hurt for 20 minutes or so after that, but not as much as when I tried Death Sauce the first time.

Swedish sweets in Japan!

Sometimes I teach Swedish to a Japanese family who lived a few years in Sweden. They speak Swedish quite well, and are very nice to talk to. In return, they give me tea and cookies during our meetings. This month, they had been to Sweden so this time they had brought Swedish sweets. I was very surprised to see "delicatobollar" in Japan.

Second Hokkaido Magic Convention

During the weekend I visited the Second Hokkaido Magic Convention and saw a lot of magic. I wrote about it on my magic blog.

Huge cream puffs

During the weekend, one of the regular customers of our magic bar showed up and brought three gigantic cream puffs. One for each of the magicians working that day. It would have been enough with one cream puff to share between us, haha, but it was good.

A letter from Osaka

When I visited our magic bar during the weekend, there was a letter for me there! It was from Monsieur Pierre of the magic bar Magic Time in Osaka. It was sort of a newsletter about Magic Time, with cute hand drawn

Smoky curry

I stopped by the Bottom Cafe near my house to have some late night dinner and was told that they had a new curry with smoked bacon that they were trying out on guests to see if people like it or not. I tried it and it was very good.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Weird food: Suppon

Yesterday I had "suppon" for the first time in my life. Wikipedia tells me it is called "Chinese softshell turtle" in English, and it also tells me that it is a threatened species, so perhaps it would have been better not to eat it...

Anyway, suppon is considered fancy food here in Japan, so it is quite expensive. The place we went to took 10,000 yen per person for the food, drinks costing extra. It turned out to be quite a lot of food, though. We got one turtle, and apparently you can "eat all parts", so we got all parts.

At first, they had an aquarium with three turtles swimming around, and fished out one for us. They let us take photos, but touching was strongly discouraged. Apparently they bite. Then they went off to the kitchen to kill the little guy.

The first thing to appear on our table was a glass of turtle blood, mixed with wine. It tasted pretty much like wine.

Next, we got some starters, which were very nice. They did not seem to contain any turtle, but there was tofu, smoked duck, seaweed, etc. Typical Japanese stuff.

The next dish was turtle sashimi, so a plate with raw turtle meat. The taste was not that strong, and it did not taste like blood or the "bad" taste of raw meat. It was a lot chewier than fish sashimi, though.

Then some fried turtle (a leg, probably) appeared, seasoned with salt. There was also wasabi and horseradish to put on it. Taste was quite nice, but there were lots of small bones so it was like eating a more difficult version of chicken wings.

Almost at the same time we got the salt turtle leg we also got some deep fried (kara-age) turtle. Tasted a bit like deep fried chicken, but of course had more bones.

The main dish is the "nabe" (this being the Japanese word for "pot", and meaning boiling stuff in a big pot on the table with lots of vegetables and other things). All that remained of the turtle came out on a plate with some vegetables, mushrooms, noodles, etc.

The head

The claws

While the pot was boiling, we got a vinegar soaked turtle part. Possibly part of the shell or stomach. Very strange consistency, but not bad.

Once the pot had boiled for a few minutes, it was time to dig into the contents. The vegetables and the soup had a slight taste of turtle, but not that much. The meat was pretty good, though somewhat hard to eat. The turtle skin is "full of collagen and great for your skin". So it is a bit strange to eat.

There were all kinds of parts floating around in the pot, and since it was way too much food for the two of us, we left a lot. I did eat parts of the shell, some internal organ that may have been the liver, an eye, the tongue and other parts of the head.

Shell with a part removed by me for eating.


The head
The head without the tongue.
We also had rice and egg put in the pot to make the final rice based dish that is common with nabe-dishes in Japan. By this time, I had almost given up on eating (too full) but I had some and it was good.

Finally, there was also desserts. These were turtle free, though.

Italian at Garbanzo again

I went to the Italian restaurant Garbanzo for the first time in ages. There I had some nice food, and also ran into my boss from our magic bar who was there giving out tickets to a magic show. He was very surprised to see me.