Category Archives: Miscellaneous

Japan – The Last Day

I managed to find some free internet access in the departure lounge, so decided to make use of it.  I left Panasonic today at 3pm local time, and caught the train back to the hotel to pick up my baggage.  My timing was impeccable, as the airport bus was only a few short minutes from leaving as I got to the stop.  The 70-odd minute ride to the airport was quiet, and gave me a chance to try to find a word to sum up my impressions of Japan.  I think I found it – “drab”.

Now, this may be peculiar to this part of Japan (Osaka – Kyoto), but everything feels just a little gray, perhaps grimy, and yet remarkably sterile.  There is very little litter, and I never saw any graffiti at all.  Perhaps the youth of Japan are instilled with a little more respect for others and for authority here, and certainly crime is lower in Japan than back at home.  For all that, it still feels a little lifeless.

Approaching Kansai Airport near Osaka, I realised something I hadn’t picked up when I arrived – Kansai Aiport is on a man-made island (check it out on Google Maps), and is reached by a bridge about 3km long!

I arrived at the airport about 90 minutes before check in opened, and so sat down for a while before taking a walk to find some sustenance.   Much to my delight, I found … a Starbucks!!  Real coffee!!  I was so thrilled at the prospect that is was some minutes before I realised that I had lost my mobile phone.  It must have slipped out of my pocket while I was sitting down, two floors above.  Retracing my steps brought no joy – it was gone.  So, off to the info counter.  Had a phone been handed in?  “Oh, please wait while I get paperwork”.  It wasn’t until about a minute later that she pulls out my phone and says, “Is this yours?”  That phone may not be much more than a hill of beans, but it was my hill, and those were my beans!!

Anyway, I am looking forward to getting back to Oz and seeing my (in some cases sick) kids again.  It’s been a good trip, and one that has given me some good memories, but for now, I’m glad it’s over.

Japan – Days 2 to about 5

Japanese Panadol - perhaps...OK, so I lost track of how many days I’ve been here.  I’ll cover the major events and see how we go from there…  Tuesday arrived, delivering to me the worst headache I’ve had in a long time.  Of course, it would have helped if I’d brought some Panadol.  Note to self…  I spent a long day at the office (until about 6pm, to make up for the fact that I left at 4 on Monday due to a timezone issue…) nursing my head.  On the way back to the hotel, I dropped into a 7-11 style store, and spent some small amount of time trying to communicate to the man behind the checkout that my head hurt and I needed something for it.  After much effort, I eventually got something that looked kind of like what I wanted.  At least, it said “Pain / Fever Reliever” on  side – the ONLY English words on the box other than the brand.

It's Coke Jim, but not as we know itSpeaking of pain relief, the lack of good cofVarious cans...fee here has forced me to look elsewhere for my caffeine fix.  Coke is available here in all shapes and sizes – quite literally.  On the left is one sample from a vending machine.  Screw top, 300ml bottle made of… wait for it… aluminium!  They also have Coke in more ‘normal’ style cans, although a bit elongated.  These come in at least two sizes, 250ml and something larger (haven’t seen it close up).   On the right is the 250ml can, along with a couple other interesting cans in the hotel fridge: orange juice (still, not sparkling) and coffee.  Iced coffee.  Possibly black iced coffee.  Yes, this is a strange place…

Today (Thursday), I managed to take the afternoon off to slip in a bit of sight seeing.  I caught the train into Kyoto and walked down to the Imperial Palace.  For today, I’ll leave you with a smattering of images from this trip.  Enjoy.

One train has been painted with Thomas characters.  I saw it 3 times, or there is more than one like this.

One train has been painted with Thomas characters. I saw it 3 times, or there is more than one like this.

The Kamo River runs through Kyoto.

The Kamo River runs through Kyoto.

One of the gates into the Imperial Palace grounds.

One of the gates into the Imperial Palace grounds.

Inside the grounds, there are several palaces. This is one of the gates into one of the palaces.

Inside the grounds, there are several palaces. This is one of the gates into one of the palaces.

A quick panorama of the south wall of the Imperial Palace.

A quick panorama of the south wall of the Imperial Palace.

This was as close as I got to seeing the Imperial Palace proper, as I hadn't booked a tour and didn't want to argue with the guards.

This was as close as I got to seeing the Imperial Palace proper, as I hadn't booked a tour and didn't want to argue with the guards.

This tree was a bit like a Roll Up. See the next photo...

This tree was a bit like a Roll Up. See the next photo...

Yep, totally hollow.

Yep, totally hollow.

Tranquility in the palace grounds.

Tranquility in the palace grounds.

I read somewhere that you can't pump your own petrol in Japan. Notice the hoses hanging from the roof, waiting for the attendants to grab them as you pull up.

I read somewhere that you can't pump your own petrol in Japan. Notice the hoses hanging from the roof, waiting for the attendants to grab them as you pull up.

Kyoto street scene.

Kyoto street scene.

More of the Kamo River.

More of the Kamo River.

There were quite a few of these shrines dotted about the place. The swastika symbol is relevant to Buddhism, not Nazism.

There were quite a few of these shrines dotted about the place. The swastika symbol is relevant to Buddhism, not Nazism.

Back in Moriguschi, this clock is near my hotel. At certain times, the bells ring to form a tune (no doubt delightful, but I never heard it).

Back in Moriguschi, this clock is near my hotel. At certain times, the bells ring to form a tune (no doubt delightful, but I never heard it).

A close-up of the clock. Presumably the figures dance to the bells.

A close-up of the clock. Presumably the figures dance to the bells.

Near the clock is the place where plastic chairs go to die...

Near the clock is the place where plastic chairs go to die...

Japan – Day 1

Before I left Sydney I decided that Japanese youth culture and I were just not going to get along.  For a start, I prefer the top of my pants to be ABOVE my knees.  Anyway, my work was paying for me to fly to Japan for a week, so who was I to complain?

Despite being a JetStar flight, things were surprisingly comfortable for the 9 hour flight into Osaka.  Being in a wing exit row helped – I could stretch out a bit – and the personal video-on-demand unit didn’t hurt either.  I was able to watch a couple of movies that I wanted to see (“Love the Beast“, “Fast and Furious“), and was able to jump back to my childhood with a couple of episodes of “Pinky and the Brain” (“Are you pondering what I’m pondering, Pinky?”  “I think so Brain, but if you swap the ‘P’ with an ‘O’ my name would be ‘Oinky’!”).

Arriving in Osaka, I was struck by the fact that there were not one but two air bridges allocated to each terminal gate, to help load and unload quicker (or to keep first class away from cattle class), and that we didn’t walk to the baggage carousel and customs – we got on a train!  After clearing customs (the cavity search was surprisingly gentle), I was able to catch a bus for the ride out to Moriguchi (about a 70 minute ride).

The area around the hotel (Royal Pines) is not very touristy, Moriguchi being more of an industrial centre, but nevertheless I packed my camera and took to the streets in search of points of interest and food.  I wasn’t very successful in either attempt, so I present you with a view from my hotel room.  The area at lower left is the train station.

View from the hotel room window

View from the hotel room window

 

Since I had been unable to buy a power adapter in Australia, and had forgotten to get one at the Osaka airport, I used my short battery life to Skype my wife, read a chapter or two of Jeremy Clarkson’s “Don’t stop me now“, and went to bed.

Morning came.  To be honest, today has been a bit of a mad rush and I haven’t had much time to process it yet, but a few salient points stick out.

Firstly, I have decided that the Japanese wouldn’t recognise a good cup of coffee if it fell on them from the top of Mount Fuji.  The cappucino I had tonight in the hotel restaurant looked and tasted a little like frothy dishwater.  The ‘American Brew’ I had for breakfast this morning was like said dishwater after it had cleaned a good number of sushi bowls.  Still and all, it contained caffeine, and so was a necessary evil.  Interestingly, the hotel room doesn’t have coffee sachets.  Green tea and noodle cups, but no coffee.

Dinner tonight (at the aforementioned restaurant) was quite good, despite the coffee.  I ordered ‘Aussie Beef and Vegetables’, being the adventurous type.  I should have known better.  The meat was excellent, but was served on a plate of bean shoots and onion, with potato, beans, pumpkin, and some red substance with little flavour and less texture.  Could have been tofu.  Oh, and the eating implements?  Chopsticks!  How Aussie!  Well, we are a multicultural nation, are we not?

The meal was surprisingly cheap: 1500 yen for the main dish (about $18 or so).  What was less appealing was the cost of a Johnnie Walker and Coke – also 1500 yen!

Anyway, time to wrap up for the day.  I leave you with a smattering of Engrish signs hanging around the hotel room.  You’d think that it wouldn’t be hard to hire someone who speaks English natively to translate, but apparently it is.  Very hard.

Eye of Newt.  Wing of Bat.  Bugle of Fire Alarm.

Eye of Newt. Wing of Bat. Bugle of Fire Alarm.

Yes, indeed it is!  But touch not when the kettle is hot.

Yes, indeed it is! But touch not when the kettle is hot.

Honestly, who names their lamp "Off"?  And why does it need to wash?

Honestly, who names their lamp "Off"? And why does it need to wash?

When analogies break down…

USB 3.0 (running at a mind-numbing 5.0 Gbps) is just around the corner, and it got me thinking about the similarities of version numbers vs. features to the .NET Framework.  Let’s have a look so far:

Version USB .NET Framework
v1.0 First release, 1.5 Mbps First release, slow and buggy
v1.1 Full speed, 12 Mbps Many improvements, but no major leaps in technology
v2.0 High speed, 480 Mbps Significantly improved performance and development speed, reduces LoC required by (up to) 80%
v3.0 SuperSpeed 5.0 Gbps WPF, WCF, WF, etc.

OK, so .NET 3.0 was just a few layers on top of v2.0, while USB 3.0 is an order of magnitude faster. The real question is however, what will USB v3.5sp1 bring us?

Premature Optimization

Aren’t the people at Microsoft nice?  Apparently they made Internet Explorer 8 just right for NineMSN.

optimised

optimised2

(Maybe a more truthful approach would be to say that the NineMSN site is optimized for IE8?  But why let the facts get in the way of a good story?)

Yes, but why is his hair green??

Overheard in a local shopping centre:

    FRIEND: Oh, so you’ve had your baby?

    MUM: Yes.

    FRIEND: And what did you have?

    MUM: A boy.

    FRIEND: Another boy?  Oh, you could start your own soccer field!

Err, yeah.

I is a 1337 developer!

I have been using SubVersion for code management for the past few years.  I just made Commit # 1,337!

Sad, really…