Qantas entertainment making the hours fly by

My rare trips to the cinema are now limited to flights! So, what’s on for February 2018 flying to Japan?

On the CBR-MEL leg I got into the mood with a documentary about Japanese sword, kimono and pottery made by traditional methods.

Fun Fact: Mud is involved in the manufacture of all three!

  • Painted on at various depths before final firing to pattern the blade.
  • To dye the silk.
  • Clay. (More a slurry than a mud, but anyway…)

The 10 hour MEL – NRT leg

Battle of the Sexes – Bobby Riggs v. Billie Jean King. Five stars. I wonder if there was a deliberate attempt to balance the story-telling for the two main characters. I felt for Bobbie Riggs at one point. He was a hustler, a loudmouth and a chauvinist pig, but he wasn’t a monster. BJK’s wasn’t shown as a bra-burning ball-breaker. (Margaret Court cops it from all angles… but that’s reasonable given her views that haven’t changed since then.)

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks (HBO) – You probably owe your life to this woman’s cancer cells. I’ve shared the RadioLab podcasts that have discussed the ethics and the impact on her family. This film starring Oprah and Rose Bryne looks at the family in detail in the context of Rebecca Skloot’s book. BTW, the continual references to Henrietta’s painted toenails is symbolic of the care that she took in herself and others, and that the first that people realised how sick and weak she was when they were chipped.

The Journey (2016) – Described as “a fictional account of the true story of how political enemies Ian Paisley and Martin McGuinness formed an unlikely political alliance” at the October 2006 meetings for the Northern Ireland peace process.

They’re a Weird Mob (1966) – Yet another classic Aussie movie featuring Graham Kennedy. But seriously, how could I have not watched this film before now? TAWM probably did more for cultural education than even The Adventures of Barry McKenzie. Fun Fact: Walter Chiari (aka Walter Annicchiarico) spoke English very well in real life.

Casino Royale is too much… for Qantas

Special mention goes to Casino Royale in the James Bond section for its confusing presentation of Casino Royale.

The 1967 film of that name used the tagline “Casino Royale is too much… for one James Bond”. The loose relationship the rest of the canon is illustrated by James Bond being played by David Niven, Peter Sellers and Woody Allen (and more), and having had 6 Directors [and far too many drugs].

The 2006 film is the official version with Dame Judi Dench, Daniel Craig and Mads Mikkelsen.

The poster art is from the 1967 film, the title screen features a scene from the 1967 film but lists Judi Dench and clicking play opens with dark streets and an office building in Prague; not Peter Sellers and Duncan Macrae in a pissoir in Paris.

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To coin a phrase, “Casino Royale is too much… for Qantas”.

Fun Fact: Mike Myers cites Burt Bacharach’s song from the film “The Look of Love” that he heard on the radio the way home from ice hockey practice and Our Man Flint as the inspiration for Austin Powers.

Bonus Fun Fact: Casino Royale also takes credit for the greatest number of actors in a Bond film either to have appeared or to go on to appear in the rest of the Eon series: 11.

What entertainment will HND-SYD and SYD-CBR bring?

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The eggy, scramble happy ending

There have been so many stories of cyclists abused, injured and killed recently that it may appear to the casual observer that cyclists and drivers are at war. Australia is far from the friendliest place in the world to cycle; however there is a lot of love out there. Maybe Canberra is a bit special with so many recreational, commuting and racing cyclists that the attitude of drivers is more friendly.

In fact, my most recent encounters have been overwhelmingly courteous, such as the Linfox driver who gave me extra space or the Cappello contractors who patiently waited behind me on East Tallegandra Lane before overtaking safely.

I have just bought Cycliq Fly12 and Fly6[v] cameras to replace my old Fly6. Hopefully, I’ll continue to see examples of coexistence; now from two angles.

So anyway… last year I was hit by an egg while riding. This was so bizarre. Who throws an egg? Who carries eggs in a car and then throws them at a cyclist? Continue reading “The eggy, scramble happy ending”

5 simple chemistry facts that everyone should understand before talking about science

I couldn’t have put it better myself. Even with only first year Chemistry.

The Logic of Science

One of the most ludicrous things about the anti-science movement is the enormous number of arguments that are based on a lack of knowledge about high school level chemistry. These chemistry facts are so elementary and fundamental to science that the anti-scientists’ positions can only be described as willful ignorance, and these arguments once again demonstrate that despite all of the claims of being “informed free-thinkers,” anti-scientists are nothing more than uninformed (or misinformed) science deniers. Therefore, in this post I am going to explain five rudimentary facts about chemistry that you must grasp before you are even remotely qualified to make an informed decision about medicines, vaccines, food, etc.

1). Everything is made of chemicals

This seems like a simple concept, but many people seem to struggle greatly with it, so let’s get this straight: all matter is made of chemicals (excluding subatomic particles). You consist entirely of chemicals…

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Throwing objects at vehicles now a criminal offence in ACT

Now here’s an interesting thing in light of my recent experience… on Friday 9 June 2016 the ACT Legislative Assembly passed the Justice and Community Safety Legislation Amendment Bill 2016, and one of the amendments was to specifically target that act. The explanatory statement 5 May 2016 (PDF) reads,

The Bill introduces a specific offence in the Crimes Act 1900 to clarify that the practice of throwing or directing objects at vehicles (including riders of bicycles) is criminal conduct.

and further…

There is no specific offence presently prohibiting this conduct in ACT legislation, either in the Crimes Act or road transport legislation. Prosecution of this behaviour using existing offences (such as assault) is possible but problematic.

I doubt that it would have made much difference in my particular case as the ‘assailant’ was motivated to admit to the incident. However, like the 1 metre rule sets a standard that can be reasonably adjudged, so too that act of throwing or directing and object at any vehicle can’t be argued down under the ‘no harm, no foul’ schoolyard rule.

Kyoto Marathon 2016 – Spectator report

It’s a bit tricky to watch a marathon; 42.195 km around a closed track would be good for spectators, but would be hell for the 16,000 participants.  By the way, 16,000 starters took up 3/4 of two regulation running tracks shoulder to shoulder, so a track event is out of the question.  Incredibly, all 16,000 passed the start line in less than 15 minutes.

Why does Kyoto have a marathon?

As we’ve seen, Japan has an obsessive love of running that might not be as obvious as its love of karaoke, extraordinary food or pop idols, but it is every bit as powerful.  Of the top 100 male marathon runners, about 94 are African and 6 are Japanese.  Of the top 100 female marathon runners, about 85 are African and about 12 are Japanese. [The Way of the Runner]

Don’t take this the wrong way, but the Kyoto Marathon is mostly about giving runners a beautiful view of a beautiful city.  The narrow roads and dirt riverside paths don’t lend themselves to a serious race.  However, the sights, the extensive menu of of energy snacks and the regular and enthusiastic cheer squads give it a special character.

And as with most things, there are important concepts that must also be combined.

Great Eastern Earthquake commemoration

The first Kyoto Marathon was held on 11 March 2012. A number of runners from the affected areas can run for free, and they wore purple ribbons to signify their presence. The starting ceremony included a moment’s silence.

Do you Kyoto?

Environmental issues are also emphasised. The Kyoto Protocol took effect on 16 February 2005.  Tap water was supplied, not 20000 2L bottles, 21 February was declared “Car free day”, the event was carbon-neutral and printing was minimised. Nice.

Following the action – my secret weapon

My secret weapon was a Micro Suspension scooter.  It’s big 200mm wheels and suspension would run over cobbles and coarse asphalt, I hoped.  The test in Tokyo showed that it worked well.

The course headed West after exiting the stadium.  I hoped to go North to intercept at about the 10km mark and at the top of a hill.  The maps provided were vague and only showed a selection of major roads.  I headed North… I reckoned.

Guide No. 1

Fortunately I found a guide; a woman running North at about 4:00/km!  She was looking at an annotated map of the course that seemed to show where to meet someone who was running.  I asked if the road was the best road to the marathon course.  She said that she was going there too, so we ran and rolled together.

She told me that her boyfriend was in group G (from A to K, not including I).  I asked why she wasn’t running as she seemed very fast.

I reached the top of Ichijō-dōri and Route 162 to find the B to D runners running past.  Despite waiting until the support vehicles, I didn’t see Chikako in the crowd of runners.  But I could see that she had passed the 10km mark some time before, and at a good steady pace, so I moved to the next rendezvous.

Following the course was not an option; the roads would not reopen for a while and the narrow footpaths would be clogged with spectators.  I had to go back down the hill (testing the limits of the brake) and ride east.

Guide No.2

I managed to get to a main road Nishijō-dōri with my inadequate map.  I stumbled across some Australians staying in Kyoto for 2 months but who live in Norway; they helped confirm my path.  I can’t believe I couldn’t remember “Mange takk, tusan takk” to thank them.

I reached Imadegawa-dōri and turned East.  I found a new guide.

Guide No.3

My third guide was easy to spot.  Just like the first guide, she was in running shoes, compression socks, carrying a small backpack and was fast. Unlike my first guide, she was wearing a cow-print onesie!

Again, she agreed to help me find the course.  She ran even faster; slowing down at bus stops, but not much else.  At one point she hurdled the front wheel of a motorbike who didn’t stop in time.

Guide Nos. 4 & 5

My third guide turned off to visit a shrine, but I quickly found a couple on their 50’s running in the same direction.  We ran and rolled past the Kyoto Imperial Palace gardens; me ringing my bell to get clear path and them running behind, and not much slower than the previous two.

I reached the river; again about 30 minutes ahead of ETA.

The waiting, the weather, the wind

My original plan had included scoping the course beforehand so I could estimate the time it would take to get around.  I’d hoped to stop along the way to warm up and recharge at a cafe with Wi-Fi.  Unfortunately any rehearsal was spoiled by the atrocious weather.  I couldn’t quite work out where the 30km mark was.  However, I discovered an official photographer further up the river and I could stand on the bridge and get a good view.  A few minutes later guides 4 & 5 sat nearby. After they cheered their friend they ran over the bridge; the woman gave me two energy sweets.  How nice!

Chikako had just passed the 25km mark, so I knew that she would be here soon.  Except… both my compact camera and my iPhone decided that it was too cold to operate.  The camera refused to open, the iPhone displayed 1% battery.  I put them in my vest pockets to warm them up in the hope that they would return to life.

I saw Chikako and shouted to her from the bridge.  It will be a great photo.  She looked to be in good condition, given that this was the furthest she had run in one go!

Next rendezvous – 37km

Warm up the iPhone and find 65% of battery.  Enough for 7 seconds of bliss.

Finish line

Let’s leave that until the athlete interview.

Kyoto Marathon features a World Champion, of sorts

The race included the Nobel-Prize-winning stem-cell scientist Shinya Yamanaka who ran 3:44:42.

IMG_2827 (2)
Shinya Yamanaka: Nobel Prize, runs a sub-4 Hour marathon, one of Beat Takeshi’s heroes.

Kyoto Marathon – Runner’s Expo

When a rest day involves 30,000 steps…!  We had a few places to visit in Kyoto and racked up about 4km of walking before heading back towards our starting point and the Miyako Messe.

As expected, the level of organisation at the “Kyoto Marathon Okoshiyasu Welcome Square” was extraordinary.  The simple ID check was followed by enthusiastic volunteers handing out the runners’ kit.

Then entry into the sponsors’ zone for a photo and an opportunity to buy more gear from CW-X Wacoal, as worn by Ichiro Suzuki.

Toyota as a major sponsor showed off their Mirai Hydrogen Fuel Cell Vehicle (review later).  Lots of supplement and sports companies handed out sample bags (with samples of brochures, mostly) before we got off the first floor.

It continued on 3F with more sponsors.  Asahi were handing out 0.00% Super Dry (review later), bus and train tickets to the start were for sale and yet more sporting goods.  Only the Japan Post display was subdued and silent.

Stalls from the Tohoku region sold arts, crafts and foods from the areas affected by the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake.  (Runners from those areas can enter the marathon for free.)  I bought some things and a pack of persimmons from Fukushima that were dried on the tree to intensify the flavour.

Finally, I picked up a  t-shirt at the official goods store.  There’s a map on the back, you see.

Sengaku-ji and the 47 Ronin – Conveniently located

1200px-chushingura_matsu_no_oroka
Ukiyo-e depicting the assault of Asano Naganori on Kira Yishinakain the Matsu no Ōrōka of Edo Castle (wikipedia)

Ever had one of those days when you are walking down a street you’ve walked many times before and you come across a site of major historical significance? (Actually, it could happen all of the time in Australia, because we are rubbish at acknowledging and signifying history.) I’ve walked past the Sengaku-ji temple a dozen times without realising that it is a memorial to the 47 Ronin lead by Oishi Kuranosuke to avenge the wrongful death sentence given to their Daimyo Asano Naganori (Takumi no kami), the Feudal Lord of Ako.

(This week my posts were going to be about Chikako’s journey to her first marathon, but I’ve strayed somewhat.)

I’ve been t0 Ako in Hyōgō Prefecture (we have friends there too) and have walked where Lord Asano’s castle was.  Statues of the 47 Ronin line an path and I assumed that their remains were buried there.

The story of the 47 Ronin is epic and I won’t do it justice by telling it. Even the retired French spy in Ronin could do a better job. So here’s wikipedia for a starter.

Madman sell the 1962 Japanese film version, which is well worth watching.  Avoid the Keanu Reeves film and the Stan Sakai manga.

Kyoto Marathon-Day 1

 

Mt Fuji, winter morning
Beautiful view of Mt Fuji from Shinagawa – winter morning

Overnight stay in Tokyo started with an amazing view of Mt Fuji.  Winter is often dry and hazy and a clear look across 95km to see it like this is unusual.  We saw Fuji-san only once on our previous trip on a clear day after the heavy snow in 2014.

Lovely day for a run after a day sitting down.  (Does it count as altitude training?). Today’s plan for Chikako included 6km and intervals.  The ideal place for the run was a lap of the Imperial Palace, and the 5km walk to there would be a good, gradual warm-up.  There were some intervals along the way; beating the crossing lights is a real motivator.

It is a popular 5km loop, and can be packed with runners in training for the Tokyo Marathon on 28 February, as it was when we were here two years ago.

There’s about 50m of elevation between the Route 301 Uchibori-dori in the East and near Route 20 in the West.  (Don’t believe the trace that drops to 64m below sea level at Kokyo-Gaien; it is flat and close to sea level.)

Imperial Palace - anti-clockwise lap
Imperial Palace – anti-clockwise lap

There weren’t hundred of runners this time – maybe next week – but a few teams of university and high school runners; coaches in long coats waited near neat piles of towels and tracksuits.

The popular route includes inspirational and informational signs.

All the while I kept watch on my Micro Suspension scooter.  I walked much of the way to the palace to be a nice footpath user

Total walking/moving for the day was about 25km; not including trains.  That’s a typical Tokyo day for us.  Really.

Speeding suggestion

  It’s an 80km/h zone, I’m in a bus doing 100, we’re being overtaken by a Prius doing 120. I must be on a Japanese tollway.

The speed signs are like a serving suggestion on a cereal box; no-one really puts sliced strawberries on their cornflakes.

To be fair, the variable speed signs were blacked out for the first 20km. 

Don’t think that reckless driving is the norm. People drive to conditions. When the road is good and clear they go fast. If there is a traffic jam ahead, they flash their hazard lights. (But there’s too much overtaking on the left for my liking.)

And don’t think that drivers are impatient. Only taxis have functioning horns as far as I can tell.

The Electronic Toll Collection lanes at the tollbooths requires slowing to 20km/h, which is only slightly faster than paying by coin. (HINT: Places coins between index and middle fingers. Drop into hand of toll collector. Take receipt between thumb and ring finger.)