When you can't live without bananas

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Saturday, October 18, 2008

URGENT - Am currently looking to contact Ms Christine Ong Su Chin. If anyone reading this has any knowledge of how to contact the above individual (last seen in HK as at May 2008), pls leave a comment with email. Thanks!

[Ed: This post has been post-dated by 2 weeks]
If genocide and infanticide are "acts of justice, punishment, demonstrations of holiness, all of which are good", I don't want to know what acts of injustice and demonstrations of unholiness which are evil are.

If this is Love, I don't want to know what Hate is.
On open-mindedness:

"The trouble with having an open mind, of course, is that people will insist on coming along and trying to put things in it." - Terry Pratchett

"I believe in an open mind, but not so open that your brains fall out." - Arthur Hays Sulzberger

"A diplomat is a man who says you have an open mind, instead of telling you that you have a hole in the head." - Unknown

"A great many open minds should be closed for repairs." - Toledo Blade
"The only function of economic forecasting is to make astrology look respectable." - John Kenneth Galbraith


Baltics trip
Day 10 - 25th May - Kuressare, Estonia;
Selected pictures/videos from HWMNBN and YC

Holed up at Tallinn bus terminal

Okay, so falling asleep in extreme cold isn't a good idea, but I had friends who took pictures of me (even if they might not have woken me before I drifted into eternal slumber)

Tourist info


Moat view

View from Kuressare Castle's battlements

Paintings/photo-prints in the castle museum

Pile of junk in the same


I don't know how they were playing - topless - in the weather
"The man who insists on seeing with perfect clearness before he decides, never decides." - Henri-Frédéric Amiel


I don't think I've seen a "citation needed" tag on any Wikipedia articles which are equation-heavy before. Must be because people stay away from editing them. Hurr hurr.

A Canadian at the Kyoto hostel told us that Canadian money has Braille on it so the blind can distinguish notes. However, the bumps are worn down by wear and tear. So much for that idea. [Ed: It's on Singapore money too, but maybe our money is higher quality - or the notes just aren't so old]

Bartok's Divertimento is an oxymoron.

Wasabi mochi sucks. The person who came up with the idea should be smeared in wasabi and left to die in the sun. At first I thought it was a Taiwanese idea, because the Taiwanese have the habit of taking a nice Japanese thing and either watering it down or transmogrifying it into some monstrosity (e.g. milk tea, tempura, senbei and, I'm told, variety shows and the language), but "东方水姑娘" (Eastern Water Maiden) is a Chinese company, so.

Another mystery of the universe: why do girls sometimes lean on someone or something and put/kick one leg in the air at an angle of about 90 degrees?

Addendum: Since this may be hard to visualise, here are two pictures:

After yet another (puzzling) allegation of misogyny, I am considering setting up a website called "Women Love Me!" partially inspired, of course, by "Black People Love Us!"

I am currently looking for volunteers in case I ever get it off the ground.

Volunteers have to be born (and currently be) biologically female (sorry for being a "bigot", but this website is not called "LGBTs Love Me!"), have their pictures taken (either mugshot or with me) and preferably will supply a line or two.

Possible lines:

- "Gabriel and I always play with each other's hair!"
- "He's the only guy who can sit through my entire discourse on tampons!"
- "I'm proud to be neither a UD or a PG"
- "I agree with Professor Higgins too"

Another way Mac sucks: in iTunes you cannot jump to any particular time in the song. There's the play bar, but if you have a 2-hour-long MP3 that isn't of any help.

While sorting through my podcasts folder, I found lots of podcasts iTunes "forgot" to delete. Clearing them out manually, I freed up 750MB of disk space. Mac sucks Mac sucks Mac sucks!

"I feel a very strong connection with her. We both suffer from the same rare intestinal disease" - This is a good way to find a life partner.

"True love" is like the "true christian" - everyone talks about it, claims it exists and can personally identify examples but when you press them they cannot define it properly. Further, such examples are only visible in retrospect - when a marriage ends in death (or a person dies), and 2 people can both claim it for themselves why denying that each other has it.

Why you should cohabit before marriage: so you know if you can stand the other person's snoring (if any)
"By trying we can easily learn to endure adversity. Another man's, I mean." - Mark Twain


Japan trip
Day 10 - 15th June - Okunoin, Koyasan; Osaka
(Part 5)

It was 4+ and I was feeling hungry, so once in the centre of town again I went to Hanabishi, a restaurant serving Shojin Ryori (I saw meat-looking plastic displays in the window) recommended to me by someone in Tourist information.

Now, my first encounter with Shojin Ryori (Japanese Buddhist Food) had not exactly been a joyous one, but it was a speciality in the town so I decided to give it a second chance. It didn't hurt that I wanted to wait the rain out.

Shojin Ryori part of the Menu. There were Y2100, Y5250 and Y6300 sets. Since this was 4pm and I wanted to have dinner (not to mention not break my budget by paying S$83 for vegetarian food), I had the first, hoping it'd be twice as good as what I had in Kyoto.

The 2 waiters I saw were both in robes, and one had shaved his head. Perhaps a monk and a lay brother?

Pre-meal tea and sweet.

Very sweet sweet (green bean?)

My set

From the bottom right and moving counterclockwise:
- A strong and flavourful soup. There was no dashi stock but you wouldn't know it.
- Eggplant in hoisin-like sauce (normally I don't like eggplant as it's mushy but this was firm and tender), a very bitter green thing (light green Lady's Finger?), a sweet and sour crunchy thing in a purple leaf
- Sesame tofu - the best tofu I've ever had; very smooth and very rich
- Exquisite delights (liberal sweet sauce helped): tofu, gluten, water chestnut, sweet pea, mushroom, winter melon (or some gourd), pumpkin
- Enoki mushrooms in red vinegar: delicate and tender
- Rice
- Pickles
- Plum wine

This was definitely the best meal I had in Japan (even if it was also one of the more expensive). This is what you get in a monk town.

The Y5250 set. It probably looked more impressive than the Y6300 one, which was why I didn't snap that. I don't know how anyone can finish so much food - maybe this is proof that vegetarian food doesn't make you feel full.

After my meal, I walked towards Okunoin, an ancient cemetery. The buildings inside would be closed by the time I arrived, but it would still be nice to walk through it. It was very atmospheric, because IIRC I only met one person - a caretaker.

The first condom dispenser I saw in Japan. Naturally, not only did it have to be in a sacred village, it was beside a sign about a primary school and youths. Damn Japs.

More picturesque monastery entrances

Koyasan map at entrance to Okunoin

Entrance to Okunoin: ichi no hashi bridge


There was supposed to be a White Ant memorial, but unfortunately I couldn't find it. Or recognise it, at any rate.

Helluva lotta bibs. One site says about Okunoin: "You'll see a lot of red clothes on statues or figurines which symbolizes a prayer for a miscarried or aborted fetus." If true, this would explain why Japan's birth rate is so low, but I think he misinterpreted the symbolism.

Another bridge


This memorial has an English plaque. Why? Because it commemorates soldiers from both Japan and Australia who fought in Borneo during WWII, as well as "the natives who cooperated with the Japanese army and were killed" (??? - by the Japanese? By the Australians? By headhunters? Who?!)

Pyramid of statuettes

Something seems missing here

Then it was the most sacred part of the cemetery (presumably), with all the (closed) sacred buildings.

The wooden plaques in the river are in memory of aborted babies or drowned souls

In one of the buildings here I saw again the 2008 Summer collection of anti-cigarette sketches. I wonder who writes them.

Closed hall. I think this was the lantern hall. If it'd been open I would've seen a 1000-year-old flame.


The way back - near the start of the cemetery. Considerably less gloomy.

I got the bus back because I was tired from walking the whole day (and more importantly, the timing was perfect) and met 2 Applied Linguistics Professors from Australia . They said it was a nightmare getting vegetarian food outside the temples.

On the buses in Koyasan, some in Kyoto and in places elsewhere in Japan, you take a ticket with a number marking your fare stage when getting on the bus and you pay on exit, according to the fare displayed on the signboard above the driver (when you advance a fare stage, the displayed fares all increase). What stops people from taking a new number?

When I got back to the cable car station, I ran through the fare gate in my enthusiasm. I wanted to go back to use the vending machine, and found out what happens when you run through a Japanese fare gate without a ticket - it closes on you and the conductor comes.

While waiting for the cable car, I saw 2 schoolgirls coming out of the cable car coming up the mountain. This made me go "wth" for 2 reasons:

1) It was a Sunday
2) At about 6.30pm
3) They have to take a bus, then a cable car, then a train (and maybe another bus) to school

While waiting for the train back to Osaka I took in the view behind the station.

Tourist information: "Koyasan Nakanohashi Reien Cemeteries. The park/cemetery grounds of Kongobuji temple at the base of Mt. Tenjiku... Families relax in the forest park (with flower garden, picnic garden, ski area, etc.); the perfect setting for communicating with one's ancestors"
Damn Japs.

When I got back to Osaka what looked like branded paos on sale at the train station. Since my room had a fridge, I bought some for breakfast:

"Hokuo. Scandinavia Natural Roman. Best Bread Message" - ???

When I got back to my hotel I decided to wander the streets of Shinsekai a while. Unfortunately it was raining.

Rainy streets

The place felt tired - and not just because of the rain; many shops were closed - even at 9pm, and some might even have been unoccupied.

After some wandering, I found a dodgy sex theatre:

Sex theatre. Well, there was also a poster for Blades of Glory and one for "Mongol" (?), but still.


Tsk tsk (Gaijin-in-Kimono Porn - it looks like a Jap guy doing a blonde angmoh HURR HURR)

Of course, the cinema practised price discrimination. Old people got cheaper tickets (Chinatown cinemas should do the same), and so did the disabled (probably because they find it hard to get action).
However, students and children also appeared to get discounted tickets as well - to both cinemas (as far as I can tell from the movie selection [banners, movie listings etc], the one on the right only screened sex movies). Wth.

There was a Y100 shop - except that their stuff was Y105 - because of taxes. Gah.

I was hungry so I scouted out a restaurant for dinner.

I had the third from the left on the top right menu.

Dinner: Fried noodles, fries with ketchup, fried chicken, MSG water salty egg drop soup and omelette-wrapped rice drenched with brown sauce. I have no idea why they thought serving noodles with rice was a good idea, but anyhow the food was good. Both the omelette and noodles had wok hei. The only letdown was the "soup". Unfortunately I couldn't finish everything - I left a bit of rice. I still could've had some chashu ramen (from the previous night) though. Or tried to, anyway.

The joint

I would've taken a picture of the Hitachi tower at the centre of the area, but it ws still raining.

Multi-mineral, multi-vitamin, fiber , protein, Vitamin Collagen and Diet Jelly drinks from the Japs - the masters of snake oil. I call this the "Con Women Drink Shelf".

My hotel has a lot of warning signs warning guests in the cheaper half to stay out of the more expensive half. Hah. The women's floor was also funny:

Sign in lift: "It is prohibition to enter besides a subscriber of this floor... A visit of a man from other floors is not possible. The foolish act is a breach of privacy of an other woman visitor"

The women's floor, with a hotline to call the front desk in case of chikan incidents.
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