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April 6th-25th, 2005
- Preface -
"I Have Arrived in China"  by G-CBB
"All-Night Buses"
"Never Forever Young"  by LHS & KJA
"The Maglev Linimo"
"Expo 2005, From Behind a Camera"
"The Second Day"  by G-CBB
"'Move Forward' BS"
"Early Morning in China"  by G-CBB
"The German Pavilion is Personal Information(!)"
"Not a Temp for Long"  by KCM
"Back in the Netherlands"  by SAJ
"Anime, etc. in Portugal"  by RER & LHS
"Too Much Pollen"  by Yo/Gr & LHS
"A Visit to Chongqing"  by G-CBB
"Expo 1998 in Lisbon"  by RER & LHS
"Life in Chengdu"  by G-CBB & LHS
"What to Do with the 1984 Prelude..."
"Visit to Deyang"  by G-CBB

- Preface -     [Top of page]

2005/04/25 - Lots in LL-332 on China.  In reading through the accounts by G-CBB, I went to several websites, initially to simply verify spellings of Chinese city names, but then to spend some time looking at the Chinese sites and begin to visualize just how large China is and how much development has taken place there over the past couple of decades.

From myself, much about the expo and my fun with the friendly and helpful organizers (said with sarcasm).  The expo itself was interesting enough, but the events leading up to it and away from it, were not.  Let's see... lost time and money attempting to get a press pass, friction with one of the editors I've been working with, and rather too much time going over the 1,600 images I took down in Nagoya and at the event upon my return to Tokyo (146 of which are displayed in the Photo Gallery in several contact sheets).

And, back on a happier note, some interesting (to me at least, and I hope to you as well) exchanges with RER from Portugal.

"I Have Arrived in China"     [Top of page]

From: G-CBB  [Canada / China]
Date: Fri Mar 18, 2005
Subject: Now in Chengdu, China

I have arrived and I am now staying in Aabbb's apartment.  It is very small and I am now seeing how the poor half must live.  She gave up her bed for me while she slept in the common room.  I did not sleep long.  Not accustomed to sleeping on a board with no padding.

I am thankful that I have been able to access the Internet from her and Bbccc's computer.

Once I get used to using Windows XP in Chinese and switching to the English keyboard, I'll write more when I have spare time in the weeks ahead.


"All-Night Buses"     [Top of page]

(2005/04/06)  Last week on Tuesday night, I left Tokyo at 11:00 p.m. on a Keo all-night bus that arrived at the bus terminal on the Nagoya end at just before 6:00 a.m. on Wednesday morning.  The ride began well enough - I had a late dinner in my seat before the bus departed, and although the side curtains were all drawn, I was sitting in an aisle seat in the middle of the bus and could see out the front window.  My seatmate was a friendly and polite 19-year-old man who gave me no cause for complaint.  At the first rest stop, I got out, stretched my legs and walked through the rest area restaurant and gift shop, then got back on within the ten minutes given us, and was dismayed to see the driver pull a curtain over the front of the bus, which then left us sitting in a fully curtained off space as the bus continued down the expressway.  I can't speak for the other riders, but I always like to be able to see out the window, if there is one, and always feel uncomfortable on airplanes when the window blinds are down, so the claustrophobic feeling of the space kept me awake and I got into Nagoya with a total of about fifteen minutes sleep I think.

I functioned well into the early afternoon, but around two in the afternoon I had to sit down - feeling just about drained.  After that, I was able to get a second wind after eating two of the thick Ausie-burgers sold at the Australian pavilion, but still wasn't up to full speed, which is too bad, because it was a one-day photo-expedition after all.  I got 1,600 pictures, but I should have got over 2,000.

In any case, by the time I boarded the return Shinjuku-bound bus in Nagoya (and the sign did say "Shinjuku", not "Tokyo" - which seems to mean something, possibly that there has historically been a problem with Tokyo putting on airs, so the complex feelings that word can produce are prevented by not using it at all?), I was drained and looking forward to getting some sleep on the return trip.  Alas!  It was not to be!  My seatmate turned out to be a rather nasty man in his twenties who kept leaking his body over the centerline and into my seat space (on the window side - with nowhere to move to, since I was already pressed up against the side of the bus).  The seats on the cheap buses are a bit too narrow, which is why the better buses (more expensive) have only three seats across and each and every seat has empty space on both sides of it.  Still, if the two people sitting side by side are civilized human beings, there isn't any problem, they each take care to stay within their space and manage to get through the journey in peace.  On the way down to Nagoya, that was the case, but on the way back, I had to take defensive measures to protect myself against the barbarian who was sitting next to me.  Maybe he was enjoying physically pressing his leg and arm into me, but I wasn't.  It feels good to be touched by someone you like, but it feels bad to be touched by someone you don't like!  Not being able to ignore it and reality not being the movies with dramatic and quick solutions, I took to putting magazines between his body and mine (a thick one in my coat as armor against his elbow and a bag of expo brochures between his leg and mine).  He emanated furious electrons when I did so (but not words) and pushed his leg into me harder, but it didn't bother me too much as long as the insulator was thick enough to keep his body heat away from me.  (Mind you, I was on my side of the seat - he was the one crossing the line in the middle.)

At the first rest area I just stayed put (as did Mr. Barbarian) but by the second rest area, I needed to get out of that space, so I forced my way past the barbarian - not caring if or how I bumped into him in doing so.  At the third rest area I stayed put again and when the bus finally (finally!) got into Shinjuku, Mr. B got off, making a show of jamming his leg into mine just before he stood up and rushed off the bus (revenge for the second rest area?).  A minute later, as I was getting my things together and getting ready to get off, Mr. B came back for his bag (up on the overhead rack) that he had forgotten as he performed his dramatic leg-jam bit - "So focused on getting to me that you forgot your bag, did you? - HaHa!" thought I.

Sigh... such mundane idiocy.  But imagine it if you will.  The bus is completely full, there is nowhere to move to, and a stranger can't keep their body off of yours.  What would you do?  Was it so strange of me to get a few magazines between us?  Times like this, it would be very nice to have thicker skin, or maybe thorns....

In any case, after missing two nights of sleep, I was finally able to get a few hours that day and again that night.  The next time I take an all-night bus, I'll try very hard to get an aisle seat both ways!     [Top of page]

"Never Forever Young"     [Top of page]

One of the things I carried over the Pacific Ocean from San Francisco was a 1952 book of Dennis the Menace one-square comics.  (See a few of them on the "Historical" page.)  The problem with popular comics is that when the original creator of them dies, people hate to see the comic stop, so someone picks up the torch and keeps it going.  That might be good, but the problem is, the comics then seem to lose their originality and spark of life.  I think that happened with Dennis the Menace, who isn't a menace at all anymore, but just a cute little kid.  It's recently happened over here in Japan with Doraemon (a television animation), which also lost its original creativity and spark of life upon the demise of its creator.  Another damaging factor with Doraemon, is that the appearance of it has gone plastic big time - it must be a computer-generated thing now and not drawn by hand any longer.  And - as of this month - all of the voice actors were changed.  Another long-running TV animation, Sazae-san, has had voice actors replaced one by one for whatever reason, but all at once?  At this rate, I think the Doraemon anime may well cease to be - it's gotten really boring anyway, and with all the familiar voices suddenly gone, there's hardly anything left.

Anyway - the real point of this, is how much things have changed and the links that tie generations together.  KJA (see letter below) was already an adult in 1952 when the Dennis the Menace book was published.  I wasn't born until 1959, but I remember a certain ambience to the early sixties that fits with the pictures I see in the book.  (The furniture is exactly like what was in my own house for example.)  What struck me while reading KJA's comments was that, if you put him into the strip, he would be an adult in Dennis' world, but I would be... well... I would be (to a certain extent) Dennis himself!  Ignoring the somewhat uncomfortable implications of this (that I was a spoiled brat), what strikes me as immensely interesting about the situations portrayed in the book, is that what it's actually portraying is a hinge point in history.  I have never in my adult life worn a hat of any kind, and while I saw the tail end of that era, what I more closely identify with is Dennis, not his parents!  From these original comics, it's clear that the readers were adults who were likely experiencing similar situations with their post-war children suddenly being raised in an era of prosperity.  Prosperity tends to spoil children... I still remember my brothers and I laughing at older people telling us how much more difficult things had been for them whenever we complained about something.  Now I understand that it was indeed something we should have thought of, but at the time, the bad old past had no relation to the bright future in any way.  How stupid we were!  We should have thought a little about how conditions change from generation to generation, realized that there is a connection between them, and somehow even realized that we would not be forever young....

From: KJA  [US]
Date: Sun, 3 Apr 2005
I read the Dennis book a couple of times and the comics are indeed humorous.  The clothing of that era rates comment.  Dresses, stockings, and heels on women, suits on men.  I am sorry to report that is no longer the case.  America has gone casual with a vengeance.  Most women today wear trousers, are too fat and cannot wear high heels, nor do they care.  Most men in my town consider it a matter of pride not to wear a tie (even in church), or wear leather shoes that need to be shined, or even shave.  Tattoos are considered to be outer garments.  The better stores put up signs stating that men must wear a shirt (an undershirt will do) and shoes please, socks are optional.  T-shirts with commercials printed on one's chest are now proper attire for men and women.

I look back on my military days as a period of sartorial splendor.  Imagine, private soldiers wearing a collar stay to make the collar look good and therefore the necktie ultra neat.  Fresh shaves and haircuts.  Sole and heel dressing on my shoes.  My belt buckle aligned with shirt buttons and trouser fly.  Freshly ironed creases in my trousers even and a perfect shoe shine.  Caps worn properly were more important than trousers.  Unbuttoned buttons were unthinkable.  It was a time of neatness, cleanliness, and rules of dress observed by all, including the lowest of Ginza shoeshine ladies.  Note, I said ladies.
Well Aabbb and Bbccc will come over later.  Ccddd will serve barbecued chicken and chilled white wine.  I think she even has a lemon cream pie.

Thanks for Dennis and a stroll in time.

KJA     [Top of page]

"The Maglev Linimo"     [Top of page]

After stepping off of the all-night bus from Shinjuku and into the concrete parking garage of the Nagoya bus depot, I had a good look at a map I'd bought at the second of the three rest areas the bus stopped at on the way down and found the nearest subway station to Nagoya's TV-Tower (Hisayaodori on the Sakuradori Line), took a train the three stops from Nagoya Station and spent the next two hours first photographing Nagoya's TV-Tower and then walking back to Nagoya Station, taking pictures along the way, including of a fish market near the station.

It was nearly 9:00 at that point, so I hurried into the station and took the Higashiyama subway to Fujigaoka.  At Fujigaoka, I was envisioning a quick transfer to the new maglev train "Linimo", but was dismayed to discover a 40-minute wait for the train, caused, it was soon apparent, by the fact that the Linimo train is far too small for the task of conveying people to the Expo - it consists of only three small cars and they were only running one every six minutes, which may sound like a lot, but to deal with demand, they should be running one every two or three minutes.  Excessive?  Not at all - not in Japan anyway - after all, if they can run the full size 11-car Yamanote Line in the crush-rush every two or three minutes on its 34.5km of tracks, it should be possible to run that little mini-train on that short 8.9km line at least as often.  The Marunouchi (subway) Line is run every two minutes throughout the crush-rush.  (Actually, several other lines are run similarly frequently, but those two lines are the only ones I checked a train schedule for and confirmed the fact absolutely.)

Incidentally, there seems to be some confusion here over the two technologies "linear motor" and "magnetic levitation".  Tokyo's Oedo Line, opened in 2000, uses a linear motor, but runs on conventional rails.  So, a linear motor can propel either a conventional train or a magnetic levitation (maglev) train, but with a maglev train, since there is no solid physical contact with the train line, it must have a linear motor.  Thus, the most interesting technology with the Linimo train is the maglev technology first and foremost, and the linear motor technology is only of secondary interest, but people seem to be thinking that "linear motor" means "magnetic levitation", no doubt influenced by the train's name which is obviously based on the words linear motor.  "li", then the Japanese phonetic equivalent to "nea", which is "ni", and "mo" short for "motor".  A catchy, but misleading name.  (Similarly, "hi-vision" taken from "high-definition", but often only meaning low-resolution "wide screen format".)

Back to the undersized Linimo mini-train - after finally getting on one of the three-car trains (the Higashiyama subway ends aboveground and the surface train Linimo begins underground!), I rode it at very ordinary speeds (no, it's not fast and feels just like a regular train with the exception that some minor bumps had a slightly different feel to them, a more muffled vibration) and got off at Banpaku Kaijo, the main station for the Expo.

There was a delay going through the airport style security with security people looking through everyone's bags and a walk through a metal detector, but it didn't take overly long so I finally found myself inside the venue....     [Top of page]

"Expo 2005, From Behind a Camera"     [Top of page]

(2005/04/06)  Have you ever heard tales of photographers photographing something dangerous and focusing so intently on the viewfinder - imagining how the picture will turn out in the future - that they don't quite comprehend the danger they are in?  I don't think I was in any danger, beyond the upper-middle-aged woman who gave me a mighty shove in one walk-through exhibit (my backpack got instant revenge by whacking into her "Oops!  Sorry!" and then she got re-revenge by whacking into me when I taking a picture later on), but I wasn't really there, if you know what I mean.  I got back to Tokyo and began looking at the 1,600 pictures I had taken and then - for the first time - I began to see the event through the photos.  The most striking thing about the photos for me, are the faces of the other visitors.  While there, I was focused exclusively on taking pictures, and I basically shut out the people around me, and even those in my pictures while I focused on overall composition, paying little attention to any individual.  So, after uploading the pictures to my computer, I found myself calmly contemplating what my camera had recorded - really seeing some aspects of the expo for the first time - "Large numbers of retirees it seems... well, it was a Wednesday after all..." etc.

So - in answer to some people asking me "How was it?", I say, "I don't know!  I was so busy taking pictures, I didn't see it!"  A slight exaggeration, but only slight!

"The Second Day"     [Top of page]

From: G-CBB  [Canada / China]
Date: Sat Mar 19, 2005
Subject: end of second day in Chengdu

It is now the end of my second day with Aabbb in Chengdu!  The weather was cloudy and it warmed up to 16C.  Today we took a local bus ride to another part of the city, so we could visit one of her friends.  The one-way bus trip only cost five yuan for both of us.  This is about one Canadian dollar.  (I found this interesting because the transit fares in Toronto are $2.50 just to get onto the bus.)  Back to today's bus ride - even though it remained in the city, it went through farm sections and also passed a cluster of some huge new industrial buildings containing the car dealerships/showrooms for foreign cars - from Korea, Japan, the US, and Germany.


About all for now, as I am being told it is time to go to bed.


"'Move Forward' BS"     [Top of page]

As I recently commented to a friend:

I have developed something of an allergy to the expression "move forward" as 100% of the time I've heard it used to date, it has been used by people vastly more interested in politics, deception, and personal comfort/gain than in reality and quality, especially if it means some slight extra effort be made by said politicians.

I recently received the following phrase from a politician:

"Need to move forward on this now."

This after I sent in the 1st draft of a story and this politician's 1st edit of it, with which there were mistakes that needed to be corrected.  (Note that the urgent demand for speed was sent with the editor's very first changes to my article - and the article is to be published three months down the road!).  Do you see how offensive that is?  It's saying "I can't be bothered with you and I'm going to do what I want - buzz off!"  While in something like a "letter to the editor" column, newspapers edit as they see fit, in the case of a writer having an article published under their name, they deserve to have at least one chance to affect change on something the editor has put their hand into, especially when the editor's writing style is at odds with the original author.

I ignored the "Need to move forward on this now" line and sent in a version with just a couple of fixes for things I felt most strongly about, and also changed a couple of lines to fit in with some new bits that were put in.  On previous occasions, I was spared the "need to move forward with this now" line until after my one chance to affect change....  [Note: My requested changes were implemented, so all's well that ends well I suppose....]

I say to the world now:

We need to move forward with truth and reality, and stop moving forward with lies and destructive politics!

Note:  "Move forward" seems to be someone's idea of an "improvement" on the perfectly good words "go ahead".  It's just a dirty trick actually.  Most people are none too pleased to hear someone say "Well, I'm going to go ahead and do what I want to do, regardless of what you think", but when  PR-BS people utter the words "We need to move forward with this now", they tend to get away with their extreme rudeness and sophistry with the suggested lie that there is something mutual about the unilateral decision they are making - but they shouldn't get away with it!  Bloody sophists!  $%^#%$$^%$^%$^%$#!!!     [Top of page]

"Early Morning in China"     [Top of page]

From: G-CBB  [Canada / China]
Date: Wed Mar 23, 2005  5:14 am
Subject: Early Morning in Chengdu, China

In this new location, I'm noticing how much the new sounds around me stand out - every little squeak and squawk is heard, like the ticking of a wall clock.  The windows are open 24/7 and many early morning new and yet familiar sounds reach your ears.  The very large vegetable and meat market is just around the corner.  The garbage truck's motor constantly running to lift or compact the rubbish.  There is the crow of the rooster from the store selling caged live chickens.  The occasional screeches as two wandering cats are vocalizing their displeasure in each other.  With no gutters and down spouts on the exterior of the apartment building, the smacking of the rain water falling onto the cement walkways below.

I had been told that Aabbb and Bbccc habitually go for an early morning run.  (The cell phone alarm went off at six in the morning and ran its full course since it was left in a location out of arms reach.)  Yesterday Aabbb introduced me to this routine.  (By the way, I only walk briskly as she would run circles around me.)  An understandable reason for the timing is the fresh new air of the morning and the streets are not yet crowded with the very active hustle and bustle of everyday life.

Overnight the water trucks have flooded the streets, washing them clean and pushing any dropped rubbish towards the gutters. Now there is a whole army of broom sweepers pushing this together into piles.  They are followed by workers with shovels, who put it into containers attached to tricycles.  I even saw a supervisor who was dressed in a suit and tie.  (I suspect that he had an office type day job to go to after this cleanup was completed.)  I could not help thinking that the usual hotel traveler would not have seen how clean the streets are if they ventured out at an ordinary hour.

With little motorized vehicular traffic, there were many people of all ages engaged in their very early morning run.  We had the freedom to use the pavement of the roads (to avoid places where the sidewalks were rough or broken up).  We passed others who were doing stationary exercises.  Occasionally the quiet was broken by the hail of a newspaper person delivering the early morning newspaper.

As our jogging hour passed, the city began to come alive.  The first real traffic was of all ages riding their bicycles.  So quiet, you could hear the hum of the bicycle tires on the pavement.  At this early hour, there was no ringing of their bicycle bells, for they all had lots of space to maneuver and pass slower riders.  There were students riding off to their first classes at school; fancy dressed workers who saved on transit fares by riding to work, etc.

Our route took us past many store fronts with their metal shutters still closed.  A few had already been raised to reveal that it was not just a store.  I saw people cooking breakfast, bending over wash basins, and even saw a man in one of the beds in an upscale furniture store - he was just turning over in bed and looking out the window....

Later on, dog owners came out taking their pet dogs for an early-morning stroll.  As we were getting close to home, the bread/donut types of stores were starting to open - perfect timing for the joggers to buy something to go with their morning meal.  The corner sidewalks were now occupied by other street vendors.  They had brought small tables and chairs for customers to sit and eat the Chinese delicacies, which were being cooked right there before their eyes.

G-CBB     [Top of page]

"The German Pavilion is Personal Information(!)"     [Top of page]

(2005/04/06)  I needed some information about the exhibit in the German pavilion, so I tried calling the Expo information number - but no matter how many times I called it, it was always busy, so I looked through my receipts from the visit last week and found a phone number for a different pavilion on one and tried calling that.  "Ring-ring!" and right away a polite woman answered the phone.  I apologized for asking about a different pavilion, and explained that the general information number was obviously understaffed (could it be that the organizers are tight-fisted about everything - like transportation and press passes...) and I needed the number of the German pavilion.  She told me to hold on a minute - and then came back with a general information number that she gave me with two warnings, 1) that the number was an old one and I'd have to listen to a recording to get the new number and, 2) that the organizers that the number would connect me with would only speak Japanese.  "No problem!" said I in a cheerful voice and in a cheerful frame of mind.  We talked for a little more - she apparently had spent some time overseas, etc. and then - saying civilized good-byes, we hung up.

Next, I called the number she gave me, and sure enough, I got the expected Japanese language recording: "Okake ni natta 052-12-3456 wa, bango ga kawarimashita, atarashi bango wa, 052-98-7654 desu" (The number you have dialed - 052-12-3456 has been changed, the new number is 052-98-7654).  So, I wrote down the number, hung up, and prepared to call a human being and obtain the phone number for the German pavilion.  Or so I thought....

I called the number and explained that I was trying to get the phone number for the German pavilion.  Expecting the number to be forthcoming, I was surprised to have the woman ask me where the call was coming from.  I should have known that meant "Who are you", but it was an unexpected question after all, so I just said (the entire conversation was in Japanese BTW) "I'm calling from Tokyo..." and then the abomination on the other end of the line said that she couldn't give out "kojin joho" (personal information) over the phone and started questioning me as though I were a terrorist.  I was flabbergasted... "The German pavilion is personal information?!?" I thought and then I said "Look, okay, but I must say, I'm not asking for personal information..." at which point the bloody monster on the other end interrupted and began questioning me in an urgent manner, as though I were about to press a button that would obliterate the entire planet - picture any stupid movie where the hero is desperately trying to save the city/country/world from a madman through quick and urgent talking - and... I just kind of flipped, and said "What... what is this?!" and slammed the phone down.

So, there you have it - the organizer's duty is to prevent visitors from visiting the Expo and also to prevent them from obtaining any highly classified information, such the phone number of a country's pavilion!  Bloody idiots!  I daresay - I daresay that there is something very wrong with the way the organizers are running the expo.  A pavilion's phone number is "personal information"?  What kind of nonsense is that?  And they ran me around and lied to me about the media pass, etc., so what good word can I spare for them?  None that I can think of at the moment!  Mind you, if there's some reason they don't want to give out phone numbers, I can deal with that, but the absurd lie that the German pavilion is "personal information" is so very insulting to be told!  Grrrr!!!  Snap!!!  Growl!!!     [Top of page]

"Not a Temp for Long"     [Top of page]

From: KCM  [US]
Date: Sun, 27 Mar 2005

.............  Next week I am going to be staying with Aabbb, since I will be working late at work to compensate for the hours I missed last week.  I will be so happy once I'm no longer a temp.  No more making up hours!  One of my friends will be visiting - hopefully - this upcoming weekend.  I say "hopefully" because each time she's made plans to come, she's ditched them, either because of a fight with her boyfriend (who is doing the bulk of the driving) or due to the weather (not confident enough in her own driving abilities), etc.  If not, I am going to veg out in front of the TV, or do something more productive, like redesigning my site.



"Back in the Netherlands"     [Top of page]

Subject: Re: How are things?
From: SAJ  [US / The Netherlands]
Date: Mon, 28 Mar 2005

I got back from the US Saturday morning (March 26th) and was sick as a dog by the afternoon.  The flu or something close to it.  I was stateside for nine weeks.  I was so busy taking care of things, that it went by fast, but it was a hard trip this time around.  The house is back in order, everything I have left is stored away and hopefully the house will be rented out soon - I really need the income to cover the loan I had to take out to do the work on the house.  Sigh....

I'm still sick and can't stay up for long at any given time....which means my time is up and I need to hit the couch again.

Getting warmer there yet?


Yes, it's gotten warmer, but it's still too cool for my tastes.  A new problem I have is that the building I work in has begun turning on the air-conditioning, so as I work I am blasted with Antarctic air... I hate being cold!

"Anime, etc. in Portugal"     [Top of page]

For this next letter, I've mixed my comments in with RER's, adding "[RER]" before RER's bits and "[LHS]" before mine.

From: RER  [Portugal] (with comments by LHS)
Date: Tue, 29 Mar 2005

[RER] I guess we're far behind the on the One-Piece show.  I haven't seen the episodes you described.  [Referring to the anime/manga "One-Piece", that we were discussing.]  Right now Ruffy and his friends are on an island called "Little Garden" with dinosaurs and two giants who fight all the time.

[LHS] Ah!  The fighting giants!  That might be from... about... two or three years ago!  I'm not certain, but the first episodes I saw of One Piece were of fighting giants and then some time after that they go up into the sky and begin a long serious of adventures up in the clouds.  In-between that there are other adventures.  On one hand, you might feel disappointed to be watching them so late, but on the other hand, rest assured that there are many interesting adventures to come!  Guaranteed!  If the writer shut down the series tomorrow, you'd still have new shows to watch for a couple of years yet.  (In a later letter, RER informs me that the show is on every day, while it's only a weekly broadcast here, so they'll catch up with the current shows in no time.)

[RER] The new sky pictures are wonderful.  Maybe you should make new ones about the ocean, another universal thing, yet more frightening....  I have always lived by the ocean and I feel uncomfortable every time I'm away from it.  When I travel someplace where there isn't a beach or a river I feel disoriented.  If I'm in a mountain area, I have no idea where north is... it's very confusing for me.  On the other hand, I feel closer to home if I'm by the ocean, even if I'm far away from home.  The funny thing is that I hate to swim!  It's some feeling between fear and respect I have for the ocean.  I wonder if you feel the same since you live near the sea in Tokyo and also did earlier in San Francisco.  This thought occurred to me since you took the pictures after a storm; I guess people have the tendency to notice nature when it gets "angry".  It's the same with the sea, after a storm (where I live) there is a salty smell in the air and it makes me think of the terrible waves that have now calmed down.  (Actually, the smell comes from seaweed that is washed up along the coast.)

[LHS] I have a background with both mountains and ocean, but I also feel uncomfortable in places where there isn't water - a lake, a river, a creek, an ocean - any kind is okay basically, but no water is a disturbing thing!  No matter if it reliably comes out of the water faucet, I want to see "living" water, preferably clean and either flowing or with waves!
   But, while I like some aspects of the mountains (good for a kind of lonely contemplative thinking), there is something soothing and profound about the ocean.  When I walked down to the beach from my San Francisco apartment, I always felt happy and excited as the Pacific Ocean came into view.  I never got tired of looking out over the ocean.  In fact, I often looked out over the ocean and imagined Japan... knowing that for some reason I had to go there....
   I like storms - it's as though they bring an energy from distant times and distant lands with them.  In a storm you can easily forget words - which always prevent pure thinking - and concentrate on feelings and (wordless) pure thought.  As for choosing the picture because of the storm, here there is a fundamental difference between lazy photographers and diligent painters!  When I go out to take pictures, I typically take a picture every ten to fifteen seconds, often taking over 500 pictures during a typical one-day outing.  I was very happy to discover that dramatic sky and to photograph it, but I didn't really go looking for it, I just happened to find it.  When I did find it, I experimented with it, trying many different angles.  I like to get the final result in the camera - I don't like cropping and changing pictures.  (All three of those were unchanged from what originally came out of the camera, BTW.)
   [Written: 2005/03/29 12:12]  In a few hours I'll be setting off for Aichi to see the 2005 World Expo there.  I'm really not sure what to expect.  I began with high expectations, and then began to think it would be very boring and a waste of time and money when I started seeing reports about it on TV, but hopefully, it won't be all bad!

RER & LHS     [Top of page]

"Too Much Pollen"     [Top of page]

Subject: Re: All night buses....
From: Yo/Gr  [US / Japan]
Date: Tue, 5 Apr 2005

[Regarding the high level of pollen this spring.]  Yes, the allergy thing is killing my eyes.  For some reason, I don't really get a runny nose, but my eyes hurt without medication....

Well, it looks like you did hit one of the interesting things here with the fish market.  How was the expo?  It isn't selling at all, so they seem to be on TV making excuses everyday, kind of late I think!

The overnight bus!  Yes, I've used it many times, I usually get about 1-2 hours sleep, not really fun unless I were half my height!  I will eventually get up there, but for now I am broke, not a penny in the bank...


While looking over the pictures I took and uploading them to the site (see E-2005 pages #1, #2, #3 & #4 in the Photo Gallery), I've been thinking how it was and I have come to the conclusion that if you have the time and money to burn, and if it's not overly crowded on the day you visit, then it's worth going to.  I especially liked the international aspect of it.  If you focus on the amusement park style rides though - which always have long lines - then you will be missing most of the exhibits while waiting in long lines for just a few rides.  The desire of a large percentage of the visitors to ride the amusement park stuff, however long they have to wait in line, does take pressure off of the other exhibits though.  If you spend just one day there (at $45 a day, who can afford to be sloppy with time?), do you see the 10% of the expo that consists of amusement park rides, or skip the rides and see the other 90% of the expo?  For me - there to take photos - naturally I chose the 90% route.  Besides, a couple of the most popular rides that I saw on TV looked like a boring waste of time to me.  As an example, one unnamed pavilion has a group of robots mechanically walk out on a stage and "play" trumpets.  No thanks!  In fact, I fail to see why anyone would want to wait in line for an hour or two to see such a thing.  What's the point?  It's lunacy!  If you want a machine to play music, there are CD-players that work very well.

So - back to the question of whether it's worth seeing or not.  Only if you have money and time to burn, or a need for photographs of the event!  No money in the bank?  Then have a look at my pictures of the event and just consider yourself to have virtually visited it!     [Top of page]

"A Visit to Chongqing"     [Top of page]

Date: Thu, 07 Apr 2005
From: G-CBB  [Canada / China]
Subject: On the road to Chongqing

.......... Unfamiliar with the bus routes, the best way to start was a taxi into the center of the city.  Our first stop was to pay a visit to the Canadian Consulate (Embassy) to let them know we were now in Chongqing.  This would make it easier to facilitate an appointment to see the Canadian Consulate representative.  The receptionist suggested a hotel for us.  The Yudu Hotel consists of 29 floors with rooms ranging from 198 to 630 RMB per night (divide by six for Canadian dollars or by eight for US dollars).  After several phone calls the next day, we learned that the consulate was out of town conducting a tour for a group of Senators from Canada.  He was due to return, but his flight had either been delayed or canceled.  Now the walk-a-bouts to fill our time became the main item to fill our days while we were waiting for him.

The walks around this very modern pedestrian-friendly area of Chongqing were very pleasant.  (There were some taxis and police vehicles - I'm not sure what the rules are that allow them to enter this pedestrian street mall.)  One of the first things I noticed was the many (my term) pole-delivery men.  They wait to be hired and put to work.  The tool of their trade is a long thick bamboo pole, with a strong rope hanging from the end, and with four more looping ropes at the end of each rope.  For example - a delivery truck arrives and must be unloaded.  These men load up their poles and head off to the store or office where the goods are to be delivered.  For something extra heavy like a new electrical motor then two men will team up for the carry.  A woman has purchased a large bag of rice or flour and a pole-delivery man is seen following behind her to her high-rise apartment building.

I've noticed women knitting in groups nearly everywhere I've visited outside the major tourist cities.  In Chongqing, I noticed these women walking about and knitting at the same time, with a small plastic bag holding the ball of wool hanging from a wrist, hands busy knitting as the knitter walked.

Our morning breakfast (included with the room charge) was in the 29th floor revolving restaurant.  I was caught by surprise the first morning to see that it was a Dim Sum service.  Not knowing how many carts were going to pass by, I chose from the first and the dishes that needed to be cooked or heated were rushed off to the kitchen by waiting waitresses.  The big laugh came by all (including the staff) on the second morning.  I selected from the first cart, but the dishes were not put on our table or sent to the kitchen, so I got up, ran after the cart, and picked up the two dishes and brought them back to our table.  Ah... I did not understand Chinese.  This time, the two dishes were only for display purposes and the cart lady had places the order with a waitress.  All patrons were laughing as the cart lady followed me back to our table to retrieve the two display dishes.  Her vocal demands in Chinese had caught the attention of everyone in listening distance.

The view out the windows of the revolving restaurant revealed how the new modern sky-scrapper buildings (lower than the revolving restaurant) had put their roofs to good use.  Many had landscaped them with attractive rooftop gardens.  Some had tables and chairs that were conveniently located under shade trees.  Other rooftops included swimming pools or exercise areas or tennis courts.  One group of buildings had a bridge joining them together and it was designed as a running track.  I could also see satellite dishes on some of the rooftops.  I noticed that most of them were pointing almost straight up into the sky.  The satellite in space they're aimed at must be almost right overhead.

As with every city in China where I have been, the construction of new buildings is constantly changing the skyline, and in Chongqing, it seems to be continuing apace 24/7.  Our first night's sleep was disturbed by what sounded like breaking glass.  Witnessed the next day, it turned out to be metal studding being tossed onto a pile.  We had to have our room changed to the other side of the hotel.  I was reminded of my navy days, for at 07:00 in the morning - through the open window - I could hear the revelry over an outdoor paging system, soon followed by the sound of a large group of men somewhere shouting out their chants - presumably in time with their morning calisthenics.

What with Chongqing being located on a very hilly peninsula, just about everywhere you walk is either uphill or downhill.  One of our afternoon strolls was for about 15 blocks - all downhill to the tip of the point of land where two rivers converge.  Even this lookout point and park is very elevated from the rivers below.  A group of about 40 women were practicing their exercise routines with drums and recorded tape music.  This was also a great location for kite flying.  I had a chuckle watching the young ones running across the square in all directions in an attempt to get their kites launched up into the winds.  The waving flags on the poles around the perimeter indicated to me the direction the wind was blowing.  Once I took pity on one small Chinese girl and helped her launch her kite.  Out came the cameras and video cameras to take pictures of this Canadian getting involved with the activity.  The shoreline of the river was filled with floating pontoon bridges connecting the floating wharfs where the small cruise ships and the ferries tied up.  The side of the hill was dotted with iron tracks for a number of tram gondola elevators that take passengers up or down the hill to and from the ships.  Needless to say, we took a taxi back to the area of our hotel.  The climb up would have been way too much for both of us.

Our last phone check with the woman at the consulate informed us that he was back in town.  Her suggestion was to show up at the office for opening hours on Friday morning at 08:30.  We were the first to arrive at 08:15 and the doors were locked and the 17th floor hallways were empty.  The only one to arrive on time was the official recorder security person for the Chinese government.  He brought his own school type desk chair combination and set himself up in the hallway.  He recorded (without asking) the coming and going of all people entering the offices of the Canadian Consulate.  The staff then came in one by one, followed by the woman we'd been dealing with, who arrived at 09:00.  We were shown into a very large boardroom style reception area with a 48-inch plasma television showing a pre-recorded 60-minute introductory show about Canada - in English with sub titles in Chinese.  In the blink of an eye, the consulate arrived at 10:30 - the affidavit that I am single was signed, stamped, and sealed.  Both of us went on our way in a rush back to our hotel room to pack.  The bus we wanted to catch would depart at 13:00 hours from Chongqing to Chengdu.  On the bus trip back, one of the movies was a Jackie Chan movie in (not surprisingly!) Chinese.  I could laugh at some of the stunts and the action as he and a woman were being chased around town.  This filled some of the return trip and made the time pass quickly.

G-CBB     [Top of page]

"Expo 1998 in Lisbon"     [Top of page]

Again, this has both my and RER's comments mixed together within the letter, with the leading part of each block of text beginning with either "[RER]" or "[LHS]".

Subject: Expo
From: RER  [Portugal]
Date: Tue, 05 Apr 2005

[RER] I hope you liked the Expo!  I loved watching the PDF slide show of the Portuguese pavilion.  It's strange to see familiar stuff in your pictures....  I read that a famous Fado (traditional music style) singer called Misia did a show at the expo last week. I wonder if you saw her.

[LHS] Unfortunately not.  I was just there the one day and I had a camera in front of my face nearly the entire time.  If I lived in Nagoya and had a season pass (or whatever they call it) allowing free access, there are a number of performances that I'd like to see - but never mind the entrance ticket (too expensive), transportation costs and time from Tokyo will probably prevent me from visiting again.  There was what seemed like a knock-off of a Disneyland show that started once the day had moved into night, but other than that (which I only stopped for a minute or two to watch), I was busy walking... click... click... click... from one pavilion... click... click... click... to another... click... click... click... and... click... click... click... taking pictures within each... click... click... click, so even if there had been a show (if there was, I didn't know about it), I would have had to forgo it in the quest for as many photos as I could get in that one single day.  Ah!  I almost forgot!  I did see a few minutes each of a couple of outdoor shows (in both cases a group in their country's native costume dancing to native music), as well as a sort of dance/fashion parade deal at the China Pavilion.  (On the Expo-2005 photo pages there are a couple of pictures of that, or more precisely, one each of two events - China and... Malaysia... I think.)

[RER] The Expo was in Lisbon in 1998.  I liked some pavilions, I remember the Japanese one was really good: lots of technology stuff and even a hologram movie about the first Portuguese who arrived to Japan (Oita, I think).  There were others that were very good, like Mongolia and Iceland.  I also enjoyed some shows I watched with movie projections on water; fireworks; etc.  The thing I hated the most was waiting to get inside the shows and pavilions - some places I had to wait two hours.  This really upsets me!!  Once I got in, I didn't really enjoy it after waiting for lots of time in the hot weather (35 degrees...), so I spent most of the time avoiding crowds.  I shouldn't have been there in August  :)

[LHS] Speaking of other expos, I went to the - and I believe this is the official name - "Tsukuba Science & Technology Expo - 1985", but I can hardly remember anything about it.  I remember a few seconds standing out between the pavilions in the hot August sun, and then I remember watching in the US pavilion as computer photo editing software was demonstrated by taking a digital photo of two people and then swapping their faces on a computer screen while they watched.  Very mundane PhotoShop stuff in 2005, but it was sort of interesting in 1985.  And... in trying to remember something else, I just had a flashback to a wraparound screen that was showing flying images of famous places on earth - it would have been more interesting if the resolution had been higher, but as it was, the picture looked like it had been overly expanded, and I wasn't impressed with the effect.  What else?  If I think about it long enough, I suppose something else will come up, but mostly it just draws a big blank.
   One Tsukuba thing that I very clearly remember, is that it was that year (either coincidentally or intentionally) that phone card operated public telephones came out.  In 1984, the only way to use a pay phone was with coins.  Then in 1985, telephone card vending machines and card phones started popping up everywhere, and the first cards were (all?) Tsukuba Expo '85 cards.
   I mentioned all that, because I've spoken with a couple of people who went to Tsukuba as middle-school students, and they remember it well.  I finally figured out a possible reason why I don't though.  For me, 1985 was still part of the adventure phase of my move to Japan.  For me, the entire country was the "Japan pavilion" and the Tsukuba Expo was just another room in the larger pavilion of what was a life of daily mystery - no wonder I don't remember much from that expo!  My daily life in 1985 was more of an adventure than the visit to the temporary pavilions.

[RER] One-Piece: I got the DVD from e-bay but still haven't had a chance to watch it.  About the TV-show, it is broadcast daily here, so it won't take so long until we will be watching the same episodes  :)  I don't know why, but it is broadcasted late in the evening, so I can watch it every day.

[LHS] It's broadcast here every Sunday evening at 7:00 p.m. on channel eight (Fuji-TV).

[RER] Today, I'm really tired.  The screen is starting to look blurry to me, so I should get to bed!

RER & LHS     [Top of page]

"Life in Chengdu"     [Top of page]

From: G-CBB  [Canada / China]
Date: Sat Mar 26, 2005
Subject: Aabbb and Bbccc's Apartment Complex

Aabbb and Bbccc's apartment is in Chengdu, Sichuan Province, China.  The exterior of the apartment complex is surrounded by a 10 foot high solid brick wall toped with a two-foot high rod metal barrier.  Inside of the complex there are seven apartment buildings consisting of 48 units each.  The smaller units are 20 feet wide and 40 feet front to back.  The larger units are 30 feet wide and also 40 feet front to back.  The space between buildings is about 40 feet.  There is a cement sidewalk next to the entrance of each building.  Then there is a level tarmac with a width of about 10 feet.  A small brick wall retains the earth garden area with separate gardens for those growing either vegetables or flowers.  The length of each building is parallel to the road which runs east to west.  The entrance is in the northwest corner of the complex.  There is a guardhouse and a covered patio there too.  At the back southeast corner there is set of high and locked gate doors.  Along the length of the east exterior wall are many locked storage areas about 15 feet deep.  Through the metal mesh of a long storage area I could see where all of the bicycles were stored.  Many were heavily covered in dust so they are not used too often.  Access to the bicycles is guarded by two women all day long.

To visualize the arrangement, imagine a set of child's building blocks.  In two piles stack them six blocks high.  The space between each pile of blocks consists of the stairs from the ground floor up to the top unit.  Now put four of this design side by side and you have one apartment building complex.  There are no elevators, just stairs.  The exterior of the stairwell uses fancy open-air designed cement blocks to let in both air and some daylight.  Since the stairs only occupy one half of the depth of the building, the main bedroom fills in the remaining space.  At each landing of the stairs are the metal front doors for the two units on that level.  Also at each landing there is a light that is controlled by both a timer and a motion detector.  If your arms are full, then it takes a good stomp of the foot to activate the light at night.

The units are a mix of owned and rented units.  Aabbb and Bbccc's apartment is a furnished rental unit.  The one main bedroom is about 10x13.5 feet.  The main room is about 10 feet wide and 19 feet long.  To the west is the balcony of about 4x10 feet.  To the east is a combination utility room, and Bbccc's bedroom - measuring 9x10 feet.  We have to walk through this room to the kitchen and bathroom.  Each of these is very small, measuring 2.5x4 feet.  I have not seen the inside of the larger units, so I don't know what their floor plan is.  I suspect they have more than the one bedroom.

Walk past the guardhouse and out onto Fu Qin Jai and immediately you become part of the very active and busy life of the small side streets of this community.  Now the roads become sidewalks, and where level, the sidewalks can become roads.  Everything moving in all directions, multitudes of people of all ages walking, bicycles and tricycles, mostly electric but occasionally gas powered mopeds and motorcycles, cars and some trucks too.  All of the time you can hear horns honking and bicycle bells ringing because walkers might be in their path.  Now and then a hawker on a tricycle is shouting out his wares or a small store has a prerecorded announcement constantly playing.  Naturally there are groups of people talking everywhere.

Immediately to the north is the fresh vegetable and meat market, occupying a full block.  On the outside of this market on all four sides are six-story buildings with only apartments starting on the second floor.  The ground floor level facing the streets contains business units of stores side by side.  Each has its own metal shutters, which are lowered and locked when they finally close at night (maybe midnight).  Look into any of the individual units and you can see that all available floor and wall space is packed full of goods for sale.  In this area, there is a constant mix of every type of store.  Banks, clothing, restaurants, hardware, bread, fruit, music, and drug stores to give you a little idea of what you might see walking down a street.  All this serves this community very well.  There is so much and such a large variety block after block that there is no point to buying food for a week at a time.  It is very easy to pop out to buy fresh buns to eat with your breakfast.  In very little time, you can step out again in the afternoon to buy your fresh vegetables and meat for the night meal.

Another interesting feature regarding shopping is the way there are areas of the city where most of the stores for many blocks are all selling the same type of goods.  About a five-block walk away is an area where there is nothing but hardware stores.  The mix here is everything from what electricians, plumbers, carpenters, etc., might need, to all of the small things a handyman might want to buy to fix things in his own home.  These hardware stores and malls are at street level.  Above them might be business offices or apartments.  In one building I had to go to, the second floor was nothing but camera stores.  (I was able to find a new battery for my 35mm Canon film camera there.)  One afternoon, we took bus #56 to a section of pet stores.  For several blocks there was nothing but a mix of houseplants, aquarium fish, dog, cat, and reptile stores.

As the sidewalks are used as parking lots for the multitude of bicycles and electric mopeds, you generally end up walking out in the street.  For major office towers, these sidewalks are managed by parking lot attendants.  You must pay to leave your bicycle there and the attendant will tell you the spot where you must park it.

In larger areas of the sidewalks, such as at the corners of intersections, local vendors have set themselves up too.  The box on their tricycle might be a kitchen to cook snacks of meat, vegetables, or types of bread donuts or pancakes.  Other vendors will be selling specialty items of all kinds.

The sidewalks are a great place for family and friends of storeowners to set up kitchen tables and chairs.  Yes, you will see a group of people eating their meal out on the sidewalk.  Other times they might be playing a card game.  I have seen lots of men playing a Chinese chess game too (different than European chess).  Today I saw the local newspaper stand lady working with her child, doing his school homework.

This is but a glimpse into this small part of the much larger city of Chengdu with a population over 11 million.


There are some parallels with Japan, such as the zoning thing.  After growing up with strict zoning laws, it was a novel experience to suddenly see just about everything seemingly all mixed together!  Times are changing though, and things are leaning towards the squeaky clean side now, which is orderly, but also sometimes sterile and boring.  Also, the new housing areas, where people drive their cars to shop and don't know their neighbors, are experiencing higher levels of crime.  In the seeming free-for-all that the old crowded small-store economy appeared to be, people were out on the street watching out for each other, which seems to have kept crime rates low (in Japan that is - how is it in China now?).

Apartment buildings - while a lot of new ones have security doors at the main entrance that you need a password or key to open, the old ones were never walled or locked.  The design of the buildings themselves sounds somewhat familiar though - as there are any number of variations on concrete apartment building layout here.  I'm living in a large concrete apartment building myself these days.     [Top of page]

"What to Do with the 1984 Prelude..."     [Top of page]

(2005/04/25)  My 1984 Prelude is still sitting on its Y11,000 per month piece of dirt.  I am on the verge of laying down a pile of cash to have it turned to scrap.  Unless I become ultra-filthy-dirty-stinking-rich, I think I will never again aspire to car ownership here.  What's the point anyway, when you can rent a car for a weekend or whatever?  It's a depressing situation - having to lay down a pile of cash to make a car vaporize.  On the other side of the Pacific, my old cars always produced at least a small amount of cash when I got rid of them, and then there's been the life-long situation of exchanging money for material things... and suddenly I'm exchanging money to make a material thing go away?  The strongest feeling at the moment is "never again" - never again will I own a big piece of metal, glass and rubber that needs Y11,000 per month worth of dirt to sit on.  What's the saying?  "Never say never"?  Well, in that case, once I'm ultra-super-filthy-dirty-stinking-rich, then I'll consider car ownership again!

"Visit to Deyang"     [Top of page]

From: G-CBB  [Canada / China]
Date: Tue Apr 5, 2005
Subject: Deyang

I found Deyang to be a pleasant and very clean smaller Chinese city to visit, a place with fewer high-rise buildings, and even the store units were just that and not part of apartment complexes.  The main thoroughfares were similar to what I have seen almost everywhere except for Chongqing.  They consisted of three wide lanes in each direction, and on both sides there was a tree-lined boulevard to separate the main road from the bicycle road.

From north of Chengdu to Deyang must be a flood plain.  I saw many rice patties in various stages of growth.  I make this guess as I saw other patties flooded with water and workers either tilling the land or planting in the water.

By the way, from what I have been able to see of the English language broadcasts on Chinese TV (which is not often), there has been no coverage of the Pope or the earthquake.  I only caught the news when I checked into my own home page in Canada before checking for e-mail.

The disaster here that has been in the news is regarding a tanker truck that crashed into a small river, spilling chlorine.  Last count was 28 dead, but no figure on how many have been hospitalized.

I am squeezing this in tonight before I hit the sack.  Bbccc was finally getting sore eyes from all the time at his computer, enabling me to get some computer time in.


And - that's it for LL332.  I'll read this over and post it to the site.

Sore dewa!

Lyle (Hiroshi) Saxon
Nishi-Shinjuku, Tokyo
April 25th, 2005
[Top of page]