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Thanksgiving and Turkey

2020-11-23

Every year November 23rd is a Japanese national holiday, Labor Day Thanksgiving. This year, my friends and I decided to celebrate American Thanksgiving instead. Because of COVID-19, international travel this summer was a total no-go, and the winter doesn't look so hot either, we were quite excited to have a get-together. A potluck celebration at Jimmy's place, marvelous.

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I have an oven, Julie's old oven, and it's big enough to cook a turkey. So I ordered a turkey from the Meat Guy. Here's how I cooked it. This is a variant of a recipe from Food Network Magazine.

Start with a frozen turkey. Defrost the turkey in the microwave at 150 W, 6 minutes per pound, rotating occasionally. (It is recommended to purchase the turkey several days in advance and thaw it in your refrigerator instead.)

Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F). Place the oven rack in the lowest location. Lightly oil a 12" cast iron frying pan. Pat the turkey very dry with paper towels. Rub inside and out with salt and pepper. Dice the onion, carrot, and celery, and stuff into the cavity.

Melt the butter in a small frying pan. Mix in the paprika, sage, and thyme. Put the turkey in the frying pan. Butter the turkey. Roast for 1 hour. After 1 hour, baste the turkey with drippings. Continue roasting for 1-2 more hours, basting every 30 minutes, until the skin is golden brown. Use a meat thermometer to measure breast temperature, and stop roasting when it reaches 74°C (165°F). Wait 30 minutes before carving.

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After the turkey is in the oven, start making the gravy. This is a variant of a recipe by Slowturtle.

Dice the onion and celery. Put the broth, onion, celery, giblets, salt, and pepper in a pot. Cover and simmer for 2 hours. When the turkey is nearing completion, strain the broth. Heat the broth in a frying pan on medium heat. Add the turkey drippings and flour. Cook and stir for around 20 minutes. Use a blender to smooth the gravy out.


All the Prefectures

2020-11-02

This was a long weekend trip to Ishikawa with a dash of Fukui and Toyama. I'd been to Ishikawa and Toyama before, but only the big cities, and the Noto Peninsula to the north looked interesting. Fukui was the last remaining prefecture for me to visit in Japan. Now I've been to all 47!

10/31After work I biked home, grabbed my duffel bag, and walked to the train station. 🚅 Tokyo → Shintakaoka.🏨 Toyoko Inn Shintakaoka
11/1I rented a car and headed south to Tojinbo, a rocky outcrop in northern Fukui. Nice views. Then I headed north and drove on the beach at the Chirihama Nagisa Driveway, a famous 8-kilometer road right next to the sea. This road is also on my sixteen motorcycle roads list, but it was perfectly enjoyable in a car, especially given the warm and clear autumn weather. In the evening I continued north up the Noto Peninsula, eventually arriving at a remote campground just after sunset.⛺ Minazuki Campground
11/2The rain and wind kicked in overnight, but it wasn't an issue. Turn on the heat in the car to full and you dry out fast enough. I headed SE to Noto Island and checked out the Notojima Aquarium. It was a pretty cool aquarium. There were hammerheads, dolphins, penguins, and a neat projectors-and-mirrors room with psychedelic visuals along with the fish. After lunch I stopped by Wakura Onsen for a bath. It was a giant wooden building, quite majestic. In the evening I continued south to another free campground near Himi. Rain continued until around five the next morning.⛺ Amarabashi Camping Ground
11/3It was a short morning: get up, boil water, eat instant ramen, drink coffee, pack up, and head back to the car rental place before hopping the shinkansen. This was a short trip, only two full days, but there was fun stuff to see and do. 🚅 Shintakaoka → Tokyo.

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We Have Power to Make Things Better

2020-10-31

The following is a letter I wrote that appeared in the Grand Forks Herald on October 31, 2020. The title it was given is, “We have power to make things better”.

Over the last month, COVID-19 cases in Grand Forks and across the state have risen to shockingly high numbers. The governor talks of “personal responsibility”, but personal responsibility can't stop a pandemic. Earlier this month, the mayor created a toothless rule that required masks in city buildings, except it didn’t include the one place in town that’s seeing a lot of traffic this week, the Alerus Center.

As we watch state and local leaders mismanage the pandemic, it’s easy to tell ourselves that nothing can be done, that we’ll just have to “wait it out”. Please, don’t believe this. We have the power to make things better. We can combat COVID-19.

Look at other cities in other states. Look at other countries. New Zealand has only four active cases today, yet their population is six times larger than North Dakota’s. Why don’t we learn from them? It’s not easy to implement a solid COVID-19 reduction plan, but people in other places have succeeded, and I believe that North Dakota can, too. Even a small percent decrease in transmission rates can save a large number of lives, and we all have a responsibility to try.

Douglas Perkins

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The Benefits of Study Abroad

2020-08-31

This is a column I wrote for my school's international studies newsletter for high school students.

When I was seven years old, my family moved to France and it changed my life. How could it not? I learned a new language, made new friends, and saw exciting places. My experiences living across the U.S., Europe, and Asia changed me as a person, and if you, too, can study in another country, it could be amazing.

When should you go abroad? Global health this year is a question mark, and who knows what next year will bring, but with any luck, you’ll have an opportunity in high school or university. You can probably find the time, but you also need to find the motivation. Why exactly would you want to go abroad? Everyone has different answers.

Maybe you want a challenge. Learning a foreign language and adapting to a new culture help you learn who you are. You might get homesick or have communication problems, but as you overcome those problems, you’ll gain strength and confidence.

Maybe you want to see the world. From food to fashion to music, experiencing new things is rewarding and exciting. People in different countries think and act in different ways, and when you live abroad, your own thoughts and actions will evolve. Also, perhaps you can make friends from around the world, and these connections could last a lifetime.

If you have the chance to study abroad, I hope you carefully consider it. There are so many interesting things to learn about yourself and the world. Be a global citizen. Go out and find them.

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Western Japan

2020-07-25

For summer vacation, I headed to western Japan. There are four prefectures I hadn't visited that were on the list: Yamaguchi, Shimane, Tottori, and Okayama.

7/23🚗 Tokyo → Mie.🚐 Rest area
7/24🚗 Mie → Yamaguchi. It was a long drive. Near the end, we had some heavy rain. My rental car is actually a small van, not designed for high speeds, and certainly not designed for high speeds in the rain. I went slow and took breaks. One advantage to the van is if you're hanging out or want to lie down for a nap, the back is big enough to make that comfortable.⛺ Shinpeigahara Park Camping Ground
7/25Various countryside sites and road walking in Kano. Yamaguchi is rural. It feels similar to Akita or northern Yamagata, with all of the overgrown mountains where nobody lives and then the rice fields in the valleys, with too many shades of green for the camera to do it justice.
7/26Tsunoshima Big Bridge (角島大橋). This is a famous road in a motorcycle magazine I read years ago. It's way the heck out there but worth the trip, either by car or bike. I had a tasty seafood lunch on the island. There was a giant downpour this afternoon, and I'm alone in the campground tonight.
7/27It rained again today, so I packed up my stuff and drove east. At lunch I drove down to Mito Onsen for a meal and a bath. In the afternoon I walked down to Hijiri Lake. The new campground is up in the mountains on the Hiroshima-Shimane border, and relatively exposed, so when the rain stops, it should dry out fairly quickly. Tonight there are two other groups in the campground, and we're happy enough with the pace and space of it all.⛺ Hijiriko Camping Ground
7/28Sandankyo is a famous gorge in northern Hiroshima. The touristy portion was closed due to heavy rain, but the upstream piece to Sandantaki, a big waterfall, was open. Today was another on-and-off rain day, but given the places and trails I hit up, it worked out fine. After lunch I climbed Shinnyuzan, and in the late afternoon downpour, I walked to the top of Osarakan, Hiroshima's highest mountain. There were no views from the summit.
7/29Today was a relaxing day. I did laundry at a laundromat and later visited the town of Masuda, Shimane. There's a nice little temple, Manpukuji, and the woman working there talked to me for twenty minutes about that sect's founder, how their garden was laid out, and various historical details.
7/30Russ Kabir, my successor as a Chokai JET, lives in Higashi Hiroshima. We got together for chatting and lunch. I haven't seen Russ since maybe 2014. Cool guy!⛺ Takataniya Campground
7/31I got up at 4:30 to see the sunrise. The campground is on top of a hill overlooking Miyoshi, Hiroshima, and it's famous for the "sea of clouds" you can often see in the early hours. This morning was beautiful. Later, I drove to Izumo to see the Izumo Grand Shrine. It's big, notable, cool.⛺ Daisenike Camping Ground
8/1I got up early today and went off to climb Mount Daisen, the highest point in Tottori Prefecture. It was cloudy most of the hike, a welcome change from the rain that lingered for the past week. In the afternoon I stopped by an onsen to take a bath and a laundromat to wash my clothes.
8/2Tsuyama is a city in Okayama. I stopped by to check out Shuraku-en, the garden, and Kakuzan Park, site of the former castle. It's a nice place to stroll around for an hour or two.🚐 Kannabekogen Rest Area
8/3🚗 Hyogo → Aichi.🚐 Rest area
8/4🚗 Aichi → Tokyo.

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Grand Forks

2020-05-18

The other day I found some cool old maps of my home town, Grand Forks, North Dakota. Here are the maps, along with some pictures from the past few decades. Grand Forks is in the NE part of the state. The county is shown in green in this 1897 map.

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The next two maps are from 1934 and 1963. The house I grew up in is located between Roosevelt School and South Junior High School, which are on the south edge of town in 1934. By 1963, the town had expanded in that direction, and growth to the south continues to this day.

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The next map is from 1994. You can see continued growth to the south and the west. Of course there's no growth to the east, because of the Red River, and also because you'd have to drive around 10 miles farther south to get to a bridge.

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Here are two maps and two aerial photographs of Grand Forks created in 2020, although new road construction suggests the data is several years old. I've added two small black house icons. The one in the north is at 1112 Cottonwood Street where I grew up, and the one directly south of that is at 5571 Charlie Ray Drive where Betsy and Dex built their new house in 2019.

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1112 Cottonwood Street.

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Lewis & Clark Elementary School.

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South Junior High School.

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Central High School.

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5571 Charlie Ray Drive.

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