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Mikimoto was here.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Cafe Karadeniz yet again

We Research Fellows went out for a lunch to celebrate finishing writing our grant proposals. We dropped by at Cafe Karadeniz (pretty much the only choice around here serving anything decent, really). I had a chicken moussaka and a slice of dry fig pudding and a Chai latte for dessert.

Chicken moussaka

Dry fig pudding and a Chai latte

Oh well. I spent a little too much; wan't a cheap lunch!

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Thursday, October 30, 2008

Bento box on Shinkansen

While I was in Japan, I visited my friends in Toyama. I took the Joetsu Shinkansen to Echigo-Yuzawa then changed the train and took JR limited express Hakutaka to Toyama.

Train tickets. 
You can buy train tickets at a vending machine. I was being such a slacker and didn't bother to book for tickets. I rocked up at the JR Tokyo station then bought the tickets (since the terminal is at Tokyo). You need two tickets in catching these trains; you need one for the travel (Tokyo-Toyama) to get on local trains (meaning you can't catch Shinkansen/express/limited express just with this ticket) then another one for getting on a Shinkansen or a limited express. Then you put these two tickets together, one on top of the other then slide them in the machine to get to the platform. The train left Tokyo around 1:30PM. But... I had some time to kill beforehand, and so I got some rice balls (which I ate promptly straight after) and... Yeah. A bento box. You have to have one when you travel long distance on a train in Japan. I got one from one of the vendors in Tokyo station. A "Tori-gozen" (chicken meal) from Kagoshima.

Tori-gozen bento box from Kagoshima (but bought in Tokyo station) 


I think it was around USD8 or so... Would've been nice if I had some hot green tea with it.

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Friday, October 24, 2008

Max Payne (was painful)

So bunch of us from this department went to see Max Payne. I saw the trailer for it, liked it and so I went there in anticipation, and... What a pain it was. Yeah. They tried to cram in too much stuff in a movie, didn't have enough time for things to develop fully, plot devices creating plot holes large enough to drive tanks through, bad cinematography, bad script and so on. I thought it really had a potential to fly, but I guess the biggest enemy was itself... Anyway. Since we went there just in time for the movie, we didn't have time to have a bite. We thought of going to that Eat Asian food court down the street from the cinema, but it was closed. Bummer! So we ended up coming back to the food court at the cinema.

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Less than 10 bucks for this. Not too bad. Hummus was a little runny and tabbouleh was just parsley (or it tasted like it anyway) but hey for USD6, can't complain much.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

PM Residence and the Diet (Tokyo, Japan)

I've always been fascinated by political systems of different countries. Particularly the differences between the countries. Japan has a Westminster-style parliamentary system with two houses in the Parliament, just like in Britain and Australia. Just like in British system, the lower house can push a legislation through the upper house (Australia on the other hand cannot). I forgot to ask about this when we visited den Haag last year... I was actually shocked to learn that the Parliament in the Land of Sheep does not have an upper house; maybe good for saving money but not so good as a political system. Who would check the lower house without it? But then again, Queensland is like that. Anyway.

"New" Prime Minister's residence 
Supposedly the old one just got jacked up and moved away, and in its place the new one was built. The old one is still in use as a guesthouse or something for the new PM residence.

Building containing offices of politicians 

Parliament building 
One thing I have never understood was... Why is Japanese Parliament called "Diet" in English? Who decided to call it that name? I just looked it up on Wikipedia and apparently it's from some German influence back from Meiji restoration period... Oh well.

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Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Imperial Palace (Tokyo, Japan)

More of Tokyo. This time it's the Imperial Palace. I didn't know that it's just off from the Tokyo station. It was such a nasty day... Hot, wet and humid. Pretty terrible that was. Dunno how the residents cope with this year after year.



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Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Gluten-free baked cheesecake

It was the birthday of one of the techs in the lab. She's allergic to gluten, and so I looked up on the web to find this recipe. I decided to give it a go, but the recipe was a little too small for a cake tin this size. So I increased the ingredients by 1.5 times. After the crust was made, I lined the cake tin with it by hand then poured in the fillings.

Before baked

Straight after it came out of oven
It looked decent enough. Smelled good too. I brought it to the lab for the morning tea, and everyone seemed to like it. I forgot to buy a lemon and couldn't make the icing, but it turned out alright in the end. Wasn't too shabby if I may say so myself.

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Saturday, October 11, 2008

Hi-Tech toilet@Akihabara

I've heard of the existence of such an implement. All electrical, possibly paper-less monstrosity that shoots warm water up your bum and other areas then gently dry you with warm breeze of air afterward. The odour is sucked into the vacuum created by the bowl itself. It plays music to mask the sound of your do-do's. The seat is heated for your comfort, is motorized and goes up and down with a touch of a button...

With a zap from Allspark... You'd get a Decepticon trying to drown you in its bowl. "Porcelainacon, transform!"

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Friday, October 10, 2008

Akihabara II

Just a bunch of more pictures from The Otaku City. I'll post what I netted in this place later.

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Thursday, October 09, 2008

Akihabara I

Another place I dropped by was Akihabara. It's known for its electronics and gadgets shops, as well as other shops for "otaku's."

Behind JR Akihabara station, cats on an information board. Maids from "maid cafes" were seen hanging around here.

Vending machine selling UCC cans of coffee with Evangelion characters (top two rows). The top row also sells cold noodles, curry udon and ramen in cans. Dunno about cold curry noodles and ramens... The bottom row sells hot food in cans. The left hand half is selling curry udon in cans while the right hand half is selling ramen in cans. It was too hot to try hot food in a can, and the thought of these kinds of food served up cold (yuck) stopped me from trying them.

Another building covered with billboards that make otaku like this happy.
It was quite amazing, how the town was catering for otaku. I once saw an analysis done by a Japanese thinktank, something about otaku saving the world from recession from their spending on electronics, gadgets, mangas, comics and anime. Maybe it's exagerrated, but to a certain extent it may have some truth in it, after seeing this place.

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Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Help us find radical guerillas

or so the posters say. I saw these posters in a subway station.

I thought these guys were not that active any more, especially in Japan. I guess I was wrong.

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Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Kokugikan and Edo-Tokyo Museum (Ryogoku, Tokyo, Japan)

So after wandering about in Tsukiji and downed that yummy set of sushi, I hopped on the Hibiya metro line again and headed over to Akihabara. I had an Odakyu/Tokyo Metro day pass to get around. At Akihabara I changed train to JR Sobu line and rode to Ryogoku. And what's in Ryogoku?

Why, the Sumo place where they do the sumo thingy, of course! (called Kokugi-kan)

But nah, that was not really the reason why I came here all the way... Didn't have time nor money to spend on this. Instead, I came out to see the Edo-Tokyo Museum. I'm always interested in this sort of stuff, history and all.

You buy the ticket here then take escalators after escalators to get to the entrance at 6th level (I think it was). You would've taken an escalator to get to the ticket sales level anyway... Sheesh. When I finally managed to get up there and entered the museum, there was some live performance going on...

But not for long; maybe I should've left Tsukiji a little earlier. The museum itself is spread over two floors. As the name suggests its exhibits start from days of Edo period through to the present day Tokyo. I thought it must have been a Dutch thing to have lots of miniatures in museums to explain how things worked when I visited that country. I was wrong, they had plenty of that here as well, and lots of them actually moved to show the exact mechanisms as to how things really worked.

They had special exhibit from Asakusa but photo was prohibited so I didn't take any pics... This museum really had interesting exhibits, and it was a very good learning experience...

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Monday, October 06, 2008

Tsukiji Market (Tokyo, Japan)

I went about in Tokyo... One place I wanted to go was this Tsukiji fish market. It's actually made of two parts; the wholesale market where they trade seafood (and it's for traders only) and the "outer" market located next to it open to everyone. I went to the outer market.

After getting off at one of the local station, Tsukiji, on the Hibiya subway line, you just walk down a street to get to the market. You walk pass this temple. It didn't look like a Buddhist temple to me but.

Tsukiji Hongan-Ji
When you get to the outer market, they give you a piece of paper with a map on it; it's the outer market map. Comes in handy if you know what you are actually after (and able to read Japanese!).

Outer market entrance
Walking around in this market really reminded me of another market; Higashiyama-shotengai in Kobe. My grandparents operated a small dried seafood stall, and lots of stalls here were selling what they would've sold back all these years. Talking about walking down the memory lane. All sorts of shops were here, I wanted buy all these great food but since I was going elsewhere after this place, I couldn't buy any groceries. Bummer.

After all this walking about, I was getting hungry; it was lunch time. The outer market is also famous for its numerous eateries; you can find all sorts of Japanese fast food outlets starting from curry, donburi and of course sushi joints. I just jumped in one of them and asked for a jo-nigiri set..

The bowl on the right is miso soup with a crab. The one on the left is a sushi with a whole steamed anago. It's something I've never had before on a sushi like this. Where I was (in Kobe) it always came out either broiled or grilled, Kansai-style.

Kansai-style grilled anago sushi

And all that for about USD15. I love eating out in Japan. Satisfied after this meal, I headed down in the direction of Ryogoku...

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Sunday, October 05, 2008

DSL+McDPF on a Sony VAIO GR390

I have a bunch of laptops I no longer use regularly. Why not turn one of them into one of these digital photo frame thingy? I've always wanted to get one ever since they became popular. The price has steadily been coming down, but the size of panels never excited me, largest one I can see in the Land of Sheep being around 11 inches or so for like 400 bucks or so. Kinda steep for a panel that size that does nothing but display static pics. So. I decided to go ahead and use my Sony VAIO GR390 I bought all these years ago with now a bum battery... But how? I consulted ever faithful Mr. Google and found some solutions. One of them was to install Damn Small Linux (DSL) plus this package McDPF. Contrary to initial impresseion, I actually struggled to make it work. The DSL installation was straight forward; downloaded iso, burn a CD, boot off from it, installed it on the HDD, and reboot. Then go through a few more system options like enabling APT etc then that part was done. Next part was a lot trickier than the DSL part. Downloaded the McDPF package, put it on an USB stick, put it on the machine then reboot with the stick on the machine. Then the machine will go through motions automagically and install basics. Then you invoke a script, follow instructions and then you have your DSL based DPF or so the theory went. For some reason, it kept stuffing things up, like making the machine automatically reboot every 5 minutes or so, and pictures not cycling. It didn't install feh package and I had to install it through dselect. But after repeating installation processes a few times (yeah, that many times to figure what was going wrong) now the machine is working nicely; it's playing FrameChannel stream atm. I'm sure I'll find more kinks in the system as I use it, but for the moment I'm just happy that it's working...

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Umezono (Asakusa, Tokyo, Japan)

So I went to Japan to see a few friends a couple of weeks ago. While I was in Tokyo, we visited Asakusa and Senso-ji. After visiting the temple, we dropped by at Umezono, to try out their Awa-zenzai. I saw this place on the telly a week or two before I went to Japan. Umezono is located a street off from the famous Nakamise-dori.

Umezono from outside
I was a little surprised when I went in Umezono; just like many Japanese eateries, you buy a ticket at the counter for your food before being seated. When the waitress came about, we presented the ticket for the food. For some reason I found it a little odd, as I thought places like this you just order the food and get the check once you are done eating. After waiting for a while... It came.

Awa-zenzai arrived...

And look at it!
Awa-zenzai uses steamed millet cake instead of sticky rice cake usually found in other zenzai's. The zenzai part is based on semi-filtered sweetened red bean paste, and doesn't have much liquid unlike other zenzai's (brown-black stuff in the bowl is all red bean paste). It came with some salted Japanese peppercorn (Sansho) on the side (in that little ceramic container on the photo) to refresh palate to enjoy more intense sweetness of the zenzai. Frankly, it was a lot better than expected and I muchly enjoyed it.

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Friday, October 03, 2008

Freebies at the Honours Options night

So me and two students in the lab went down to SBS to attend the Honours Options night. This is for both students and their potential Honours supervisors to meet up and discuss possible projects for next year. We expected to have some freebies and so we trekked down Symonds Street to find...

A bit of sushi action that was a little disappointing, then again, I just came back from Japan and so I maybe a little harsh here...

And a platter of sandwitches. They were mostly alright but asparagas wrapping (top right corner) was not very good. But then again, probably I shouldn't be bitching as this was provided for free. We totally missed out on UFOs (Unidentified Fried Objects) platters as they were out of our reach.

The food quality was one thing, but it appeared that it reflected the quality of students too... It's hard to find a diamond when it's surrounded by a vast amount of sand in a beach...

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Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Mentatz (Lorne St., Auckland)

I was invited to go to the Happy Hour concert at the Town Hall. I hadn't been to a classical music concert for quite a while so I obliged... To find the pieces a little dull (or should I have said they were too... Peaceful, perhaps?). I nearly dosed off but for the kids making rackets around me. Maybe parents shouldn't bring them to a concert like this if they are too young and can't sit still for an hour?

Anyway. After the concert, we went out for a little dinner; down the Lorne Street, a place called Mentatz. It's a Japanese joint, but I didn't realize this until we got to the place and looked at the sign outside written in Kanji (麺達). This place offers bunch of ramen and donburi dishes as well as the usual side dishes including pan-fried gyoza and such. I had cha-shu-men and yaki-gyoza.

The noodle soup was on a little salty side; I guess that's what you get with a miso-based soup. Gyoza felt a little soggy but it was alright. We had a coupon from the Entertainment Book, and got 25% off from our bill. Not too shabby I'd say. Now I'm thirsty from all that salt...

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