Saturday, July 17, 2010


When Melbourne's rugby team won a premiership, I was surprised and gave it some thought. I hope I have this right. It is rugby league. Rugby union is the posh one. Rather a silly game, whichever version you watch, but many seem to like it. (Victor has his fingers poised at the keyboard)

So how come Melbourne can win against Sydney teams when there is no rugby culture here to speak of? That is what I thought at the time. I worked it out a bit. The whole of Melbourne fields one team against many Sydney teams. We have four or so million possible players for one team whereas Sydney has many teams from perhaps five million people to select from.

Still, I wasn't satisfied. I took some pride in that Melbourne Storm beat Sydney teams, but still I was puzzled about Storm's success. Ok, got it now. Someone is pumping huge amounts of money into Melbourne's rugby to promote the game here. Management can afford to pick the the creme de la creme, the absolute best to make up our team. I was satisfied with my self explanation.

I know about AFL salary caps. I never thought to wonder about rugby league salary caps. But then I know little about rugby league. I don't know about the values of certain players. If I knew a bit more, I think the whole success of Storm might have smacked me in the face with the bleeding obvious. You only get the best players by paying them more than anyone else is prepared to do. But how can you if you are restricted by salary caps? There are ways and means, as we now find out.

What a lot of tosh we are being asked to believe. From Rupert Murdoch down to the orange boy, everyone who had any interest in the game must have known about the salary cap breaches.

The actors are all on stage delivering their pieces to the audience, except the audience has left in disgust at such an implausible plot.

But is it safe?

But is is safe to go there, is something my mother would ask, but she didn't. With a slight memory of the war, she was quite interested to hear about Japan. So far as personal security goes, I felt safer on Japan streets than I do in my home city of Melbourne. In Tokyo we stayed in an area renown for its down and outs, yet they just go about their business of being homeless without bothering anyone.

Our Friend in Japan, V, suggests that bicycle theft is a problem in Japan. This surprises me. I think it is more likely that a bike is just borrowed. I can be idealistic from afar can't I? She indicates that most bikes are registered and police check bicycle registration.

Not only did I feel safer on the streets of Japan, I was also less concerned about my personal belongings when out and about than I would have been at home, or anywhere else I have been.

I had started to get a handle on this by the time we travelled north. R and I were seated separately on the Limited Express from Hachinohe to Hirosaki. The woman sitting next to me either did not like foreigners, or was just snooty. Regardless, she went off to the toilet and left her handbag on the seat next to me. Snooty racist cow wouldn't have even missed the few thousand yen I nicked from her bag. Well, of course I didn't, but I certainly could have, very easily.

I have seen a bag snatch perpetrated by a smack head on a foreign Asian tourist in Melbourne. It was not pretty and I felt some shame that a visitor to our city will have such a bad memory.

V's friend C took his very proper Japanese parents in law to Ireland, his home country and had to really impress upon them about the security of their personal belongings while out and about in Ireland.

Speaking of C, sorry if I have already said this, I can't recall, but he overpaid for something at his local Japanese Post Office. Whatever he sent had his return address on it, and after he arrived home, the staff member who accidentally overcharged him knocked on his door and returned the fifty cents or so he had been overcharged. Ho, like that would happen in an Australian post office.

There must be crime in Japan. Hey, we have all heard of the Yakuza, the crime gangs and their nasty doings, but really, for day to day living, it is a very safe place to live and without the anti social behaviour to found here in Australia and other western countries. Why? I don't really know, but I will elaborate in another post.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Re: Wot Station was That?

Yes, Michelle picked it. Rushall Station. I had fifteen minutes or so to spare before the city bound train was due to arrive so I took a look around. Only four kilometres from the city and what a pretty little area. Firstly I saw this footbridge. I must investigate.

I walked halfway across the bridge to take some photos. It is not a very attractive bridge, but all walking bridges over rivers or creeks are nice and I imagine this one is very important for train commuters.

I guessed, later confirmed, that I was looking down at Merri Creek. It flows in a south easterly direction and joins the Yarra River just above Dights Falls. A bike bath runs along much of its length. The creek rises somewhere east of Kilmore and was once somewhat of an industrial sewer as it flowed through Melbourne's factory blighted northern suburbs. Both governments and volunteers have made a decent effort with remedial works. Looking towards the east.

Looking towards the west.

Some evidence of recent reasonable rain and stream flow.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Unrealistic Expectations

We all have unrealistic expectations about people's performance, often in their workplace but this really takes the cake.

Two groups of bikies were fighting at Sydney Airport. I repeat, groups of bikies. It seems security was slow off the mark but two arrived mid battle.

A witness stated, '"At that point I started looking around to see where on earth were the security," she said. Soon after, she saw what appeared to be two security guards running towards the fight area before she noticed: "They had stepped back and basically just watched."'

Really? And what would the witness expect them to do? Two guards step into a two groups of fighting bikies?

The witness later admitted they may have just been airline staff.

Of course the point remains that while we suffer from excessive security procedures at airports, the Federal and State Police were nowhere to be seen.


If you are interested in English and our language as it is spoken, you will find the Pants post on the subject interesting. The linked article to a piece in The Economist is a good read.

I grew up with an Australian version of British English and I will continue to use it until I die. The differences between British English and American English intrigue me, but there is nothing wrong with American English. It is just a bit different a times to what I know. Only the ex colonies seem to hang on to British English. It will die around the world and then perhaps even in England. There you go France, if you are forced to use English, use American English to piss orf the Brits.

I have already noticed I have slipped into American forms of words or sayings, even though I consciously don't wish to. American English will become the lingua franca of the world, if it is not already.

If you find this depressing, cheer up. It seems like mobile for your mobile phone is winning and cell is disappearing.

If you did any reading of the links I gave you above you will perhaps have an opinion on whether English is difficult to learn. There are suggestions that because certain things in English don't follow any rules, that it is very difficult, meaning you have to know these things off by heart. "i before e, except after c", was one I can recall. "except for weight", was added, and others I subsequently discovered.

I can only really recall that rule, which doesn't work very well, and the following three, all of which I am know to breach often enough.

Don't say 'got'. It does sound ugly at times, and generally I try to avoid it.

Don't end a sentence with 'it'. There, I just did it twice. Mostly laziness on my part. You often have to rearrange the sentence to avoid using it. If I am trying to write or speak proper like, I don't do it. But you can sound a bit overly correct by not using it at the end of a sentence.

Don't start and sentence with 'And'. It is a useful dramatic device and I will continue to use it. Sorry, take two. It is a useful dramatic device which I will continue to use.

V's work in Japan is in the education field, yet we both agreed that neither of us were taught much in the way of rules of grammar at school. Conjunctive verbs? Is that what makes your eyes clag up, or your bottom itch?

Clearly we learnt the right way to do it from experience, that is reading, writing, talking and listening. There may be gaps on my part that I need to watch for, but lordy, compared to what the schools are churning in the way of barely literate students, well, I am not concerned about my short comings. I am quite concerned for them though.

Stick ya two bobs worth in. I am interested. Do you known the rules or just what seems right?

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Wot station was that?

Any idea which Melbourne station platform I am on? Can you see the gate to get off the platform? No? It was behind me and I alighted from the very back of the train. I will never forget that statistic about this train station. A hint, it is not south of the Yarra. It is a nice little spot. More photos at a later time.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

From the Press

Fatso the croc chomps drunk chump

The Age is not normally given to such headlines, but it has been suggested that the online edition is somewhat downmarket. Perhaps this is the required proof. I had to read the headline twice to absorb what it said. The story is just about some drunk bloke who thought it would be funny to ride a crocodile.

And then sometimes I come across an article in a newspaper that gives me such a warm glow of pleasure. There are just so many things wrong about this scene, including can you really stop a wild pig with a .22 rifle?

A NEW Zealand man remained in stable condition today after his dog jumped on a loaded rifle and accidentally shot him in the backside.

The 40-year-old man from Te Kopuru, located in far-northern New Zealand, was injured while on a pig-shooting trip with three other men on Saturday.

The man was sitting in the back seat of a 4WD vehicle when the dog jumped on the loaded .22 rifle, which was also on the back seat.

The gun fired and a bullet lodged in the man's buttocks.

He was treated at the scene before being flown to Whangarei Hospital by helicopter where he had surgery to remove the bullet.

The men told police they thought the gun was unloaded, prompting authorities to warn of the need to be careful transporting firearms.


The Shinkansen train ticket. The tickets issued by the proper booking office have English printed on them.

Ticket for the Railway Museum.

Ticket for the New Shuttle train like guided bus/tram.

Pay tv card. Waste of money.

Ticket for Hirosaki Castle.

Ticket for old Aomori Bank branch.

Ticket for Fujita Memorial Gardens.

Japan Day 11. 30/06

After a bite to eat for breakfast at you know where, we said our goodbyes to V and at 9.00 we were on the Limited Express bound for Hachinohe via Aomori where once again the train changed direction. An hour and half or so later, we changed to the Shinkansen and were bound for Tokyo.

At Tokyo Station we followed the signs and found the Narita Express and after a very short wait the train shot out into the suburbs at a very high speed. We travelled to the airport at Narita, some 7okm away, from the heart of Tokyo in something like forty minutes.

We had a few hours to kill before our flight, but the time passed quickly enough.

We must have been behaving suspiciously as two policemen came and took our passport details. We were quite concerned that we were going to have trouble leaving, but there wasn't.

Our flight left about 8pm without any problems. We had some food and a workmate had given R some relaxing tablets to help us sleep. I barely ever sleep on planes. R took one and relaxed and felt much less wound up. I tried one but it had no effect. After we had eaten and I had drunk two decent sized glasses of red, I tried another pill and I slept the sleep of the innocent, only disturbed by the occasional jab from R to stop me snoring.

I woke as the early breakfast was being served and we soon touched down at the Gold Coast. There was minimum time to wait for our flight back to Melbourne. Taxi home, lovely home.

I got busy at home with sorting things and washing clothes. I thought I was ok, but about 9.30 I fell soundly asleep in front of the tv. It had been a long period of travelling.

Look what we saw 'on test' at Tokyo Station, a brand new Shinkansen with an even pointier nose. Maybe it is for use on the extended service to Aomori. Pretty fair chance.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Japan Day 10 29/06

It only took V until our last day in Hirosaki to mention 100 yen bus, that takes a circular route through town. Well, there is more than one route and the 100 yen bus is essentially for local shoppers, but the routes are useful for visitors. We were really immersed in local culture when we went to the department store on the wrong side of tracks on the 100 yen bus.

Once again we fortified with Mr Donut product. V, can you send me some of those sausage roll thingies?

The department store was.........a department store. A local shopping place for local people. The aquarium within the store was way kewl.

V had to go to work and what shall we do to amuse ourselves on the last afternoon in Hirosaki. We shall go to Fujita Memorial Gardens. V worked out for us about how to use the 100 yen bus. The 100 yen bus arrived, proudly displaying its 100 yen bus sign hanging in front it and we went to the Fujita Memorial Gardens. I suspect it is a memorial garden to a person and not to those fallen in the war. We didn't mention the war or whales.

As you can see in the photos, the garden was pretty spech.

Oh look, a foreigner. I had not noticed her, but she came and sat next to us on a seat while we were at the park and initiated a conversation. The poor young German backpacker lass was just so relieved to see westerners and speak in her second language. Out hearts went out to her for her bravery for travelling Japan on her own and being in such an out of the way place as Hirosaki.

We had really worked out this 100 yen bus and caught it back to town. A taxi might have been 2000 yen. We bought a few things in the 711 department store and took a nice arvo rest at our hotel.

We bought a small token of our appreciation for E, who had taken us out for the drive on Sunday and arrived at V's workplace early to pass the gift on to E. We crossed the road to Eat, where we dined our first night to wait for V to finish work. H welcomed us, H being V's other boss, who had the restaurant on the side. She fed us some olives in a bowl and other treats while we waited for V to finish work.

We ate at H's place twice while we there and she always presented herself as American/Japanese, but at the last moment when we were paying the bill, she fell apart and turned into a Japanese person. She turned back to Western as we left. It was nice but also revealing and amused me.

Back to our hotel, tomorrow we depart Japan.

Wish there was a Mr Donut at home.

One last shot of Mount Iwaki, taken from the department store forecourt.

The aquarium at the department store. No, nothing is stuck in the top of it.

A few shots from the very beautiful Fujita Memorial Garden. Iris were in bloom and do they have large flowers compared to ours. The gardens were very good in 'aspects'.

Women in kimonos had been taking tea in the traditional tea house.

Looking up.

And looking down.

There was a Japanese house on display.

And an English house, which we took a look at inside.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Japan Day 9. 28/06

Mr Donut breakfast and we then walked to V's who took us to see some old buildings I wanted to look at. One had some marvellous miniature buildings around the exterior. There must have been a couple of dozen of them.

We went into the old Aomori Bank building as there was a bit of a museum there. Very little English signage.

Next stop was the tourist information centre near other civic buildings such as the town administration and the court house.

We had a nice lunch at a cafe and V left to go to work and R and I decided to look at the street of temples. It was decent walk away and we even walked a bit past it and had to backtrack. I had two maps of very different styles and layouts and they confused me. The street is lined with temples on either side and businesses that deal in death. Many temples were quite new and some under construction or renovation. At the end of the street was a very old temple and from what I could work out, it dated back to the 17th century. It was partly closed while works were happening. We caught a cab back to the hotel and rested before eating at the Hirosaki Gusto with V. R and I walked to Hirosaki Park to see the castle illuminated, but only made it to a gatehouse. It was quite dark and spooky in the park.

We walked to V's work as she was just finishing and went back to her place for a drink.

While there are outdoor areas for bicycle storage at stations for free, for the winter there is a pay station under Hirosaki Station for bicycles. You aren't allowed to take a bike on a train, so some people have two bikes, one at each station they use. While you have to walk up the steps with from the underground station, your bike doesn't have to be carried. It rides on the moving belt.

A private local train which is not part of the main system.

An exhibition of Japanese artist Yoshitomo Nara's work work was held in Newcastle in England when we visited two years ago, the first photo. He is a local person from Hirosaki and in the second picture is one of his works he donated to the city. The dog is a bit over two metres tall.

These mini buildings were very well done.

The old Aomori Bank branch, now a museum.

Another fine building.

Float models previously used in the annual Neputa parade.

No English signage, but the car is a Subaru, perhaps the first. It had its engine in the rear.

Just another beautifully designed garden.

The possibly 1600s temple.