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15.05 20150

Konichiwa

I’ve mostly been busying myself with seeing how many gin and tonics I can drink in a night and odd-balling around Edinburgh trying to find a reliable source of income. I did, however, manage to arrange a holiday to Japan and Thailand with two of my good friends that was an amazing experience all round. Except Thailand, that was shite.

I was mildly tipsy off the champagne swilled mince pies and decided to call Jonny on Christmas day to arrange a holiday with my copious amounts of airmiles. A couple of hours later and I’d forked over £375 and a lot of airmiles to ship us over first class to Tokyo. A bargain by all accounts and I thoroughly recommend people hoard some form of airmiles even if you aren’t a frequent traveller. Contact me by all the normal means for tips on the best credit cards or just go to Head for Points where they do a good job of outlining the most of it for us Brits.

Oh look, a tree in season!

Oh look, a tree in season!

The Imperial Palace East Gardens in Tokyo were stunning and there was almost no one there.

The Imperial Palace East Gardens in Tokyo were stunning and there was almost no one there.

Another friend, lets call him Jamie, as that’s his name, decided to join us. For those of you that know Jonny, the trip was almost a given to be full of culinary delights and moaning about the lack of English spoken.

We started off in Tokyo and arrived at a rather unsavoury 9:35am. After negotiating our way onto a bus for a meagre £16 each, we eventually got to the hotel ready to embrace the city. After a 4 hour nap. The first night we concentrated on adjusting to the relevant time-zone. The important thing when doing this is to drink as much as possible to ensure the longest nights sleep possible. A thorough tour of Roppongi, including a stop at a lovely piano bar, a frightful place called Geronimos where heroes of the night get a plaque of their name on the wall if they manage to neck 15 unique shots (we decided this wouldn’t be a fruitful challenge), and a brief encounter with a non-local lad trying to entice us into later night entertainment, resulted in a solid 7am wake up after almost a full four hours sleep and ready to crack on with all things Japan.

We liked this place because a Japanese guy sang Piano Man

We liked this place because a Japanese guy sang Piano Man

We are not on this wall

We are not on this wall

The world famous Tsukiji fish market, which we showed up to drunk at 6am and went straight into the no-entry area. Worth it.

The world famous Tsukiji fish market, which we showed up to drunk at 6am and went straight into the no-entry area. Worth it.

After a bit of day-time strolling, we went to our first restaurant of the trip, A511. So called because it is a steak restaurant, and when you’re in Japan you have Kobe steak. Kobe steak is graded from one to five on quality, and zero to twelve on marbling. So 512 would be the “best” you could get. Which they served, and we had. It was very very good but more on steak later as we did have better. I had the Japanese style menu which was a bit of a convoluted mashup of ways to reduce the quality of the steak at hand.

Just the steak will be fine, thanks.

Just the steak will be fine, thanks.

We headed to the Studio Ghibli museum which I was pretty excited about, but predictably J&J had never heard of. It was somewhat disappointing other than the giant Totoro outside, and was very much directed towards the younger audience. There were some really cool animation things in the first room we went in, but the rest was all about kids jumping on a life-size Catbus structure. We did do the recommended stop off in Inokashira park where myself and Jamie peddled round on somewhat inefficient swans while Jonny tested the ice cream vending machines and inspected the opposite zoo for potential mates.

What a riot

What a riot

Pictured: Not my neighbour

Pictured: Not my neighbour

Top of the Park Hyatt, Tokyo. No Scarlett, sadly.

Top of the Park Hyatt, Tokyo. No Scarlett, sadly.

Our first major sushi experience came from Sushi Mizutani. He is the protégé of the a-lot-more-famous Jiro. Jiro was a) fully booked and seemingly impossible to get into, b) had considerably worse reviews from a number of sources, and c) was said to be about double the price (although we certainly didn’t find that to be the case). The sushi was nothing short of amazing, and the company fantastic too. We were a bit nervous at first, and Jonny voiced his opinion on the lack of menu and not knowing what on Earth we were being served. It was ok though, as the chap (who turned out to be the head of Japan for a large IB) across the counter spoke perfect English and did a lot of translation for us. You know a nights going well when the otherwise t-total Jonny saw off the Japanese Whiskey the gentleman kindly bought for us, and myself and Jamie retired to Hooters for a quiet gin or ten.

The man-giant himself, Mizutani. He wouldn't let us take snaps of the delicious food he was producing, the wee bugger.

The man-giant himself, Mizutani. He wouldn’t let us take snaps of the delicious food he was producing, the wee bugger.

The rain poured down the next day and it was pretty miserable all round. Fortunately I had the foresight to book tickets to Disneyland that day, so we could enjoy thorough misery surrounded by Toy Story characters. Jonny had a pretty good vision of how the day was going to go once we tried to queue for the first ride and left pretty sharpish. Jamie and I were more stubborn, and regrettably only managed to go on two rides all day. Despite the rain, and it being a Tuesday, the park was RAMMED with kids and every single queue was over two hours. The two rides we went on were shit.

Lets all watch a parade of people dressed as Disney characters in the rain for 15 minutes.

Lets all watch a parade of people dressed as Disney characters in the rain for 15 minutes.

A Teppenyaki place called Hama. A huge mis-communication in the order resulted in us doubling the size of both of our order and the bill.

A Teppenyaki place called Hama. A huge mis-communication in the order resulted in us doubling the size of both of our order and the bill.

Our first non-sushi non-steak Japanese fine dining experience came at the hands of Koju. This is a three michelin starred restaurant and similar to Mizutani’s was a sit-at-the-counter affair. I thought the food was great, the others not so much, some of the courses were certainly questionable to the Western palette. The chef/owner was a very nice chap though, as well as what I presume was the manager. They answered all our questions about their big knife selection, the chef posed for photos and showed us around the pretty small kitchen, and the manager came out for a drink with us (where I was shocked to learn that he was a) straight b) married c) over 40) to the frankly amazing High Five cocktail bar. One website lists it as number nine in the world, which was unsurprising. It was on the top floor of what seemed like an apartment building, much like a lot of the restaurants and bars. It’s a small building and we met three Yanks who were on some sort of work pissup for AutoCAD. You describe what you like to the bartender (who’s name is escaping me) and he makes you a drink. And it’s always really good.

And this is for fish, and this is for fish, and this is for fish...

And this is for fish, and this is for fish, and this is for fish…

This was some X-games thing with some famous Yank. I don't know how to use my camera.

This was some X-games thing with some famous Yank. I don’t know how to use my camera.

We headed over to Kobe, because no fine food tour of Japan would feel complete without at least checking out the city. Despite having three times the population of Manchester, by comparison to Tokyo, Kobe felt small. We were booked in for restaurant Aragawa and there was obviously some miscommunication between them and the hotel (who had made our reservation on our behalf) because they weren’t expecting us. Frankly, we thought we were in the wrong place as the décor is pretty awful. The owner must have realised our concerns because he brought out the Michelin guide to show that we were good to go. It became more apparent when the food came out. I had smoked salmon to start which was incredible in itself. But my word, when I ate the steak that came out of this restaurant… Well, look at it.

Could have ordered three. Didn't. Full of regret.

Could have ordered three. Didn’t. Full of regret.

Next on the tour was Osaka to watch Sumo Wrestling. There was one street we walked down in Osaka that was really cool, loads of giant fish awnings, and tons of people. The sumo was fun, I got some prop bets in with Jonny to ensure a losing trip. It was surprising that it definitely wasn’t a contest of the biggest guy winning, and also surprising to see a Russian guy in full sumo gear. We went to a supposedly nice restaurant (Taian) but it’s not worth writing about.

But can it do it on a rainy day in Stoke

But can it do it on a rainy day in Stoke

Christ, not in public mate.

Christ, not in public mate.

Kyoto was the final stop. We went to Kinkaku-ji “Golden” temple, Kiyomizu-dera temple, saw a bunch of geishas and even more kimonos. Maybe it was the trip to the Zen garden, but I found Kyoto super chilled. We had a great night out in a club called WORLD Kyoto where the strict no-dancing law in Japan isn’t upheld to the highest standards (although one enthusiastic Westerner did get called out by the bouncer for having too much fun). The final restaurant we went to was Nakamura. It’s a traditional Japanese tea-house setting (basically a private room) and I thought the food was fantastic. It was a bit less social in that there are no other people around, so I made vague attempts to chat up the lass serving us who claimed to “not be on Facebook”. C’est la vie.

This guy seems to have life pretty figured out.

This guy seems to have life pretty figured out.

Some really old (but renovated) structure. And me.

Some really old (but renovated) structure. And me.

You made this? I made this.

You made this? I made this.

No one would take the freeroll of running across the perfectly raked gravel, much to the non-amusement of the nearby Yanks.

No one would take the freeroll of running across the perfectly raked gravel, much to the non-amusement of the nearby Yanks.

UK Health and Safety would have a field day with the fire regulations here.

UK Health and Safety would have a field day with the fire regulations here.

They're everywhere in Kyoto

They’re everywhere in Kyoto

Presumably checking my Twitter feed.

Presumably checking my Twitter feed.

Making friends.

Making friends.

Then we went to Thailand and sat by the pool for a week. Highlight was seeing my old pal and runner up to David Gorr, James Keys and his offspring.

The post “Konichiwa” was first posted on Rupert Elder’s Blog.

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02.02 20150

Something Strange Happened

Rarely do crazy things happen to me. I actively crave stability and consistency. You know, hence choosing one of the more volatile professions and lifestyles out there.

Due to having a variety of domains as well as being a somewhat early adopter to Gmail, I often get emails that are not intended for me. For example, I have been receiving an Indian companies phone bill for months (they don’t respond), I received some sensitive documents about an engineering company, I received someone’s password for an online travel portal, among a variety of other things. Here is a typical one:

Rog,

Dont mean to get on your back again but with the testing is the any chance you can do it by thursday afternoon just then I can run the copy over on thursday night so that on friday if it has run ok I can crack on with making the currnet redn05 my backup server. We are swapping the disks on the server so you can keep the current ones as a backup for a week or 2 incase any thing f’s up.

Cheers mate

A couple of weeks ago I received an inadvertent email meant for another Rupert who obviously has a similar email address to me. It was an invitation to a 31st birthday party in London, right near where I used to live. I politely pointed out the error, we had some mild back and forth, and presumably my self-deprecating humour and stunning charm got me an actual invitation which I curiously accepted.

I did some mild Facebook vetting to make sure I wasn’t going to die and headed down with a friend last Saturday.

The party was decent albeit certainly at London prices. There were amazing cupcakes on offer from Hummingbird Bakery. The host and all the guests were extremely welcoming and very nice to us and it ended up being a really fun night. I don’t know why this surprises me, because I sort of presumed something crazy would happen where I’d end up in a ditch, but it was just a relatively normal 31st birthday party with a cool bunch of people. The host was extremely nice to us and even cooked brunch for us and a few of her other travelling friends the next day.

So there you go: an honest error and some out of the ordinary spontaneity resulted in making some new friends and having some mildly interesting content for this blog.
The post “Something Strange Happened” was first posted on Rupert Elder’s Blog.

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21.11 20140

London/Malta/Poker/Prismata

At the start of October I headed down to London to compete in the EPT. I’ve played it once or twice before in London and found it to be pretty tough on the whole. My starting table was relatively tough but I chipped up quite nicely. I got moved to a table that was definitely the softest I’ve ever played at in any EPT. Naturally I lost chips at that table, made it through to day 2, had a tough spot where I ended up folding jacks pre, then didn’t fold queens pre and lost to kings.

With varying amounts of discipline I managed to find time to bubble both the £1k re-entry and the £2k side events as well as losing in a couple of others. All in all not a very lucrative trip financially. It was great to catch up with old friends from my university days though who I haven’t seen in a while.

Earlier in November I went to play the “Battle of Malta” which is a €500 re-entry. I played a satellite to it online and won it, but it was a bit presumptuous of me to assume that the majority of the €1500 package would be going to the buyin so I was somewhat disappointed to learn that I had 6 hours of travelling for a €500 tourney. Nevertheless, I managed to fight my way through the 2pm start all the way to 3:20am before deciding to lose a flip. I’m not a huge fan of a) starts later than midday b) finishes later than midnight. So a 2pm start 4am finish was right up my alley.

Malta itself was alright. I’d never been before and it absolutely pissed it down for 3 of the days. So much so, in fact, that as my flight was landing, around 1000ft above the runway the pilots decided to take off again and circle around the island for an hour. Before going to Rome. Marvellous. Fortunately I did make it in that night otherwise the weather could have been more costly than frustrating.

Back home I’ve been participating in two activities: poker and Prismata. The poker has been going fantastically – after much whining to Mickey, and the obligatory (pretending to) “talk strategy”, my results in my minuscule sample of 1200 tournaments have FINALLY turned around and I won the big 162 last week and the 100r on Tuesday to keep the bailiffs away for another month.

Prismata (for those that don’t follow me on Twitter), is a turn-based strategy game where you build armies and try and kill your opponents. One comment described it as “this is basically plants vs zombies PvP” which is a fairly accurate description, although others have drawn parallels to StarCraft/Hearthstone/Chess etc. In short, it’s really addictive, and really fun. I think the developers are doing a great job in ensuring it’s not one of those scammy Candy Crush ™®© pay-to-win or grind-to-win type games. When it’s released (it’s in alpha testing) it will be free-to-play with no grind/pay incentives that detract from the quality of the game (purely cosmetic). It’s a model that Valve is employing to great success with DoTa 2/TF2 as well as LoL in the big games category. I really love the game and if you’d like to try it out you can buy an early beta key (as well as other incentives) from the Prismata Kickstarter which launched yesterday. There’s already a decent collection of poker players playing it – Timex is currently #1 in the world, SirWatts #9 (I’m #99 as of writing… Likely a remark on our relative poker abilities too).

Anyway, so that’s what’s going on. Next week I have my grade 1 piano exam and then I’m heading to Prague to play the EUREKA (but not the EPT, conflicts with Christmas jumper pub crawl). After that it’s back home for the festivities before deciding what to do in the New Year. I’ll probably fire out another update before the year ends, but if I can’t be arsed then hope everyone has a great Christmas and a messy New Year!
The post “London/Malta/Poker/Prismata” was first posted on Rupert Elder’s Blog.

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30.10 20140

RE: RE: Should I Give Now or Give Later?

The good folk at REG Charity took the time to write a rebuttal to my earlier post on donating to charities. I have to say, despite writing this blog for 9 years now, I still kind of assume no one reads it and use it more of a rambling soapbox of things that pop into my head or almost as quite literally a web log of things I’m doing, so it’s quite an honour to have someone write a full blown article about something I wrote!

 

The post “RE: RE: Should I Give Now or Give Later?” was first posted on Rupert Elder’s Blog.

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Monaco

15:13

London

14:13

New York

09:13