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a few amazing places to eat in Tokyo

Here are three ‘Tokyo’s best….’ experiences I’ve found. NONE of which you’ll find in the Lonely Planet. There are many far more fabulous bloggers than I who have amazing detail. So please visit the links for more info.

Also check my Google Map of Yokohama and Tokyo for locations.

Mutekiya in Ikebukuro was described as Tokyo’s best ramen. No arguments here. It was fabulous and cheap.  Considering the quality for about $12 Australian I felt like I was robbing the place. Frankly I didn’t like it as much as Yokohama’s best ramen (their pork was way more smokey and BBQey), but it was amazing.

Even with typhoon heavy rain, there was still a 20 minute queue to get in this little place. It seats about 16-20 people also. So don’t expect to waltz straight in or enjoy a few quiet beers. There were a few repeat visitors in the queue too, always a reassuring sign.

It’s about a 5-10 minute walk from the Ikebukuro subway on the JR line, so is it accessible?  Hell yeah. See the link above for full details. My advice, get there for about 11am and have a big bowl or ramen to keep you full all day.

Maisen Tonkatsu is the opposite of the ramen rush. I’m told is a chain store, but you’d never guess. It’s in the very posh Aoyama district area near Harajuku, so this ain’t no sloppy Burger King. It’s the kind of place posh mums take their daughters out to for a long, leisurely lunch. It’s down these tiny back streets full or markets and boutiquey stuff which is very entertaining walk in itself.

You can either sit at the bar – an experience in itself – or wait for a table in the main room. If you’re not fussed you can probably sit at the bar without queuing. But to get a table you’ll have to wait 10-20 mins. They serve great set meals with different variations of delicately fried pork cutlet (ton katsu) in the crunchy panko crumbs. Something you can get overseas but you haven’t really tried it until you’ve had it in Japan. It’s just soooo much better.

There’s plenty of set meal options, most of them well under $20 Australian and all very, very tasty. Unlike the ramen stores you can kick back and have a few beers here, maybe even desert. There’s no hurry. So Maisen Tonkatsu is a must to remember that you’re on holiday when Tokyo starts wearing you down. Being down the back streets it’s a little harder to find but it’s entertaining. Simply use the Google Map above and your phone (here’s another handy tip about phones in Japan) and you can’t go wrong.

Finally and arguably the best it’s okonomiyaki (o-ko-no-mi-ya-ki) time. Buchiumaya in Shinjuku serves Hiroshima style pancakes (there’s two schools of thought: Kyoto and Hiroshima style. Apparently okonomiyaki is huge in Hiroshima). Not soft, sweet fluffy western pancakes. These babies are a whole meal in themselves. In fact I suggest starving yourself a bit so you can finish the thing. Don’t know if it’s the best in Tokyo but it was the best food of my trip.

Buchiumaya is a tiny place that seats about 15 people. It’s in the back alleys of Shinjuku and is full of Japanese rustalgia from the 1950s, e.g. old porcelain signs for soda pop and various other kitschy advertising. For me that really added to the irresistible charm of the place.  They cook the pancakes on a massive hot plate and it’s a very cruisey atmosphere. The cooks are in front of you and talk shit all night with the locals. It’s a great laid back place.

Oh yeah and they serve Hoppy beer and shochu in a big beer mug. Strangely no other places I found will mix beer with Shochu in the one glass, but it works and it’s a great drink for the barmy Tokyo nights. But let’s not forget the pancakes, they’re absolutely brilliant. You can get them with cheese, pork, prawns and loads of spring onion. Enough spring onion to sink a ship – twice.

Of all three places, Buchiumaya is the hardest to find. We had to wait about 20 minutes for a table. There are other bars across the road you could go to while you wait I guess. One is called Mr Canso that has beer and canned food, just plain Japanese weirdom.  Probably best to do it on a quiet night light a Tuesday or Wednesday. As Japanese businessman endlessly while away the hours sinking beers, cigarettes and pancakes into the night. I strongly suggest getting a cab there as it’s hard to find. You can easily walk to Shinjuku station on your way home. It’s about 15 minutes.

The Art of War and Breaking Bad

The Art of War is of course the book your MBA lecturer tells you that you should read but never do. It never seems to be a mandatory part of the curriculum, but it needs to be. Because if you can interpret it and apply what you have learnt, there’s no stopping you. Anyone can teach you a literal practical skill. But being able to interpret a classic text and apply it to your daily life is a massive skill. It’s not easy, but it’s rewarding. So I decided to have a little fun with it and contrast hit show Breaking Bad with the Art of War.

It’s clearly obvious to me that Vince Gilligan has read the book. Walter’s brother in law Hank the Detective is the biggest catalyst for it.

To know your enemy, become your enemy

“If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.”

Around series one, Hank Schrader gets promoted to a bigger Narcotics bureau. The squad is full of Mexican detectives with statues of Latino gods on their desks. Hank gawks at them worshipping the same gods as the drug dealers. He quickly realises that these Mexican cops are a better cop than him because they fully understand their enemies. This was the first real Breaking Art of War moment of the series.

Later in the series, Hank is in rehabilitation and starts to get is Art of War on. He takes up an interest in geology. Not because he’s interested in rocks, but because he wants to understand his enemy Walter White.

The 36 Stratagems – build your enemy a temple

Walter White’s business partner Gustavo Fring had demonstrated one of the 36 Stratagems of the Art of War. with his Los Pollos Hermanos chicken store. That stratagem is to build your enemy a temple. After Hank was wounded and in hospital, the hospital was teeming with cops supporting their fallen comrade. Gustav acts as a good guy and provides the cops with bucket loads of free chicken. All the time the cops not even suspecting him or his cartel as complicit in meth dealing.

Intelligence attacks with fire 

If you haven’t seen the ending, then stop reading. But when Walter White poisons Lydia Roddart-Quayle, he planned it diligently. He observed her drinking habits. Lydia always adds artificial sweetener to her tea and thus Walter poisoned it. To me this is a reference to [i'm paraphrasing] average soldiers attack with water, but the intelligent attack with fire.

Furthermore Walter deceived his former business partners (remember ‘the Art of War is deception‘) into thinking he was desperate. But he actually knew everything about his enemy and they were powerless to stop him.

You’re nothing without spies

“It is only the enlightened ruler and the wise general who will use the highest intelligence of the army for the purposes of spying, and thereby they achieve great results.”

Walter was spying relentlessly by keeping dibs on his brother in law Hank throughout the series. Whether it was small talk over a family BBQ or wiretapping his desk. But let’s not forget Saul the lawyer. He was the biggest spy of all and assured the Jess and Walter of greatness.

To be without form

“If I determine the enemy’s disposition of forces while I have no perceptible form, I can concentrate my forces while the enemy is fragmented. The pinnacle of military deployment approaches the formless: if it is formless, then even the deepest spy cannot discern it nor the wise make plans against it.”

Formlessness was the secret to Walter White’s success. While producing a distinct form of meth, virtually everything about their operation changed so their enemy could not bust them. How many places did they make meth? From the RV, to home basements to Gustav’s meth lab under the laundromat business. They constantly changed their form and even the recipe to ward off enemies.

Avoid war in the first place

The whole point Sun Tzu makes is that it’s not the Art of War, it’s the Art of Getting Your Way with as Little Bloodshed as Possible. It could be the Art of Wuss, because if you understand the book it’s about avoiding conflict wherever possible. But that may be a bit disrespectful. I guess the Art of War was just catchier. Whenever Jesse and Walter needed chemicals, they very rarely resorted to violence. They always had sophisticated ways of stealing what they needed. Whether it be the train heist, the magnet truck to erase a hard disc in the police lock up or several other scams.

There are probably a billion more references out there. I’m afraid that will have to do for now. A timeless book and an amazingly accomplished piece of television. They deserve each other.

two big tips for visiting Japan

A few things have changed for the better since my last trip to Japan.

Train travel

First things first, get yourself a PASMO card. The card requires a 500 Yen deposit then you can top it up as you go. Just look for the pink ticket machines at the subway stations. Why is this card so good? Tokyo has so many train networks, some government some private. On my last trip in 2012, you had to buy different tickets for all of them. The PASMO card now works on well every train network. On this trip  we went right to the outskirts of Tokyo, so I can vouch for that. You can even buy food at some supermarkets and pay for taxi fares with it.

So whatever money you put on it, you will use. As we traveled a fair bit, I probably spent about 1000 yen a day topping up my PASMO. Topping up can be done at any station. The machines work in English.

Note: DON’T personalise your PASMO. Because I did and I couldn’t return my card and get a refund. My wife with her normal one got the 500 Yen deposit back plus all credit on the card too.

Mobile phones

Your non-Japanese phone will only work for data in Japan. Apparently their mobile network works on a different technology. But the good news is that you can still buy a data SIM and use Viber to text and call your travel buddies. My wife and I bought pre-paid SIMs from SO-NET at Narita Airport. It cost us roughly $50 Australian dollars for a 4G data SIM and about 500 meg of data.

The 500 meg lasted me about 7 days. You can recharge via mobile with your credit card anywhere from 100 meg to 1 gig. When you run out of credit, you can simply recharge via web browser with your credit card. It doesn’t automatically tick over or anything.

If you do need a voice service, you can rent a Japanese phone and SIM for about 1300 Yen a day (roughly $15 Aussie dollars). Unsurprisingly Japan has gone iPhone crazy since my last visit. But you can only rent those old fashioned looking Japanese flip phones.

three different places to visit in Tokyo

If you’re after some different places to visit (perhaps it’s not your first trip to Tokyo) here’s three suggestions: Koenji, Shimokitazawa and Meguro. They’re all on train lines you can use your PASMO card on and easy to get to.

Be ironic and cool in Koenji

Koenji I popped out to briefly. It’s approximately 12 stops out from Shibuya on the JR Line. It’s alleged to be the hipster capital of Tokyo. I can’t confirm that but there is plenty of cool stuff going on there. It has plenty of little alley ways packed with bars, quirky stores, yakitori joints and nightlife in abundance. It reminded me of Kyoto a little bit, which is my favourite Japanese city bar none! There’s meant to be heaps of second hand stores and designers around here too. I came too late for the designers and too early for the nightlife, so it’s hard to tell. But the place is definitely cool!

You could easily spend a day out here. There’s little in the way of Tokyu Hands, Uniqlo and H&M which because frankly nauseating after the 18th visit. Apparently they are on their way with developers in tow. So the time to check out Koenji is now!

Go thrift shopping in Shimokitazawa

Shimokitazawa (it’s a mouthful I know, that’s shi-mo ki-ta-zawa) is something quite special. It’s maybe a few stops from the Shibuya Crossing train station yet worlds apart from Shibuya, or indeed Tokyo. When you wander around a bit it feels a bit more like smaller town Japan.

The draw card for Shimokitazawa is antique and second hand stores. Everything from 19th century Japanese antiques, to more kitschy stuff from the 50s and 60s. Probably a bigger emphasis on the kitsch. There’s heaps of American treasures too. One store was full of old beer signs from 1960s American pubs. Top that off with a load of second hand thrift stores, many stocking trendier clothes and there’s heaps to see.

Food wise there are heaps of coffee and wine bars around in walking distance from the station. There is an amazing sushi restaurant right outside the station (it’s all in Japanese. but it’s got a nautical theme and the wooden ceiling is covered in fishing nets). It was also dirt cheap for such high quality too. I think we paid under 4000 yen for two and we were both stuffed to the gills.

Indulge your aesthetic sense in Meguro

Catch the train back into Shibuya and then you can head out to Meguro. This is the interior design capital of Tokyo. There’s a 3 kilometre stretch of Danish furniture, stylish bric a brac and home wares. Despite what the Lonely Planet tells you, there’s about a 1km walk from the station before you get to the design stores. So don’t be discouraged. There’s a great mix of old and new stuff. All your Herman Miller and David Eames and any other designer worth a pinch of salt is there in abundance. Vintage English and Swiss stuff as well. If any of this resonates with you, then you need to check this area out.

There are some bargains to be had too. I found a linen backed full size Scarface movie poster for 5800 yen. There are some expensive US antiques similar to Shimokitazawa. One shop specialised in Motown and soul stuff. He seemed to have every beer sign ever hung in a black bar in existence!

My advice is to walk the whole strip because you’ll never know what you might find. When you start seeing car dealerships, like the very cool Flat Four specialising in VWs that’s the end of your journey. Catch a bus back to Meguro station and home you go with all your new goodies.

 

Al Jorgensen Bio book review

Al Jorgensen. Not your average Cuban expat.

Imagine every cliche of a rocker you can. Snort a bit of blow maybe; a few tattoos, a few track marks, weird clothes… You’re not even getting close to what Al Jorgensen is about. The man is rock star inextremis. As far as pure drug intake goes, even Lemmy and Keith would be gobsmacked.

I was intrigued to read this book for a few reasons. When his band Ministry played the Big Day Out in Australia in the early noughties, I remember tour organisers getting pissed off that he was smoking crack in the car! Or so the journalist from Hot Metal magazine observed. There were also rumours that backstage (don’t ask me if they’re true), he was wearing adult diapers so he could just keep partying without breaking the seal.

Al is one crazy motherfucker. Normally that would be a tad indulgent but there is no other way to describe him. For a small Cuban boy adopted by a mid-western American dad he may as well have been borne from the depths of hell. You can knock him out and he’ll quite literally gaffer tape himself together again.

But what about the book? Jorgensen talks about bands his fledgling stages, even a short stint at Chicago University heading their Electronic Music department. Right up through some early electronica disco type hits, through to The Revolting Cocks and major label success with Ministry. Jell0 Biafra and Lard also get a brief and very entertaining mention.

What I like about it is he talks a lot about time in the studio without being laborious or clinical about it. Especially how hew recorded the song Jesus Built My Hotrod and several others. He’s also very lucid about partying stories. Many other bios are too sketchy on that stuff. But Jorgensen remembers it all.

All boxes are ticked, hallucinogens, cocaine, celebrity beastiality, fame, fortune, homelessness and then fame again. Delicately mixed in with all kinds of hubris. He even had a stint as a drug guinea pig for acid legend Timothy Leary. All of which begs the question how the hell is this man still alive? He only has his eye balls left to tattoo that’s for sure. Maybe he’ll do that tomorrow?

I’m not a huge fan of industrial or electronic music but you have to respect the man for breathing. Worth a read. Particularly if you have trouble staying awake on the train. This should have your jaw on the floor.

a day out in Yokohama

Tokyo is enough of a draw card to Japan in itself. So if you’re like me you’re probably wondering why bother with Yokohama? As it turns out there’s heaps to do. For a start Yokohama is significantly more family friendly.

The Yoshimuraya Ramen store is well worth a visit. Allegedly Yokohama’s best ramen. No arguments here. It was sensational. Easy to find too, just look for the courtyard full of people out the front. It’s at least a 20 minute wait to get in and the place runs like clockwork. Whole sections of the bar entering and leaving at the same time. It’s all orchestrated by a guy in a white suit and gumboots that very politely orders everyone around. A very Japanese experience.

It’s not a place to sit and ponder the world Parisian style. Just enjoy some bitchin’ ramen and get on with your day punk rock style. Honestly the broth might be a tad salty but that must be a Yokohama thing. You haven’t tried ramen until you’ve been to this place.

The ramen though is only part of the fun.  Just watching the team of chefs make the ramen broth and noodles is an attraction in itself. They cook ‘in the round’ and have these massive stock pots, probably 150 litres on the go constantly. Watching these five guys prepare a dozen bowls of noodles at a time, while working these massive pots in sauna like conditions is truly a sight to behold. Little wonder these guys stay so skinny and muscular.

Other than that Yokohama’s been getting a whole lot of love in the past decade. There’s whole brand new district there. The waterfront area where the Landmark and Queens Towers is pretty cool. You can go to the 69th floor of the Landmark tower and get a great view. Oh yeah and compared to Tokyo it’s extremely family friendly. We were about the only people there without small children.

There are heaps of amusements for small children as well. Likewise the bigger stores like H&M etc all sell baby and children’s clothing.

If you’re a car tragic like me, Nissan Global HQ is a great excuse to swipe yourself a Nissan GTR brochure and sit in a few cool cars. They even have a few Le Mans and Aussie touring cars there. If you’re really a tragic, I enjoyed just wandering through the Nissan and Toyota used car dealerships seeing what was on offer. You just won’t find that in Tokyo.

Other than that I indulged my trashy side. The Minato Mirai 21 district has plenty to keep you entertained. There’s a huge store home maker store that’s kind of like a Bunnings/Wal Mart kinda vibe where you can buy all your trashy cheap household stuff. There’s also a Super AutoBacs which is a huge car accessories store. A lot better that your Aussie Super Cheap auto. They have plenty of tuning parts, stereos, massive rims and accessories to gawk at. Yup it’s a tiny bit more suburban in Yokohama, but it’s a great break from the hustle and bustle of Tokyo.

Finding Maru restaurant in Aoyama

My wife grabbed a book from the library ‘Where Chefs Eat‘. It had several pages on Tokyo. Turns out the Japanese like to play hard ball when it comes to finding restaurants.  That’s where I come in. Two things I’ve learnt about chef’s recommendations. One, chefs clearly never pay. These guys aren’t paying the $300 a head before drinks we have to pay. Secondly, they get lead wherever they’re going in a drunken state by locals and have researchers and publicists that can retrace their steps. We wake up with delirium tremens, they wake up that plus a story and a pay check. At the very least they still have coin in their wallet. It’s a hard knock life.

maru-restaurant-3

the only sign of this restaurant is the entrance to a whisky bar (not yet open at time of writing) off a side street.

This realisation came as we started to look for Maru. Seemed legit. It was on the Google map. On a main road. The hotel verified the address. No big deal so we thought. Thankfully we found it. But of all the spruikers on the street promoting bigger restaurants, yeah there were polite but none had ever heard of it. I chatted to at least 8 of them from 2 different restaurants. iPhones came out in abundance but no Maru was found.

All we could find was a sign to a Whiskey Bar. We went down the stairs and the Whisky Bar wasn’t even open yet. Then I noticed a red curtain that I thought was to a broom closet or a cloak room (see pic below). Thankfully I looked in that cloak room and it was Maru. Thank god we found it. Easily one of the best meals of our trip. It took about 20 minutes of two-ing and fro-ing but the meal was sensational.

Seven dishes for about 5500 Yen and all killer no filler. Yep those drunken chefs have their place. They just don’t make life easy for you.

 

maru restaurant red curtain entrance

go down the stairs and look out for this red curtain

Tokyo’s guitar street Ochanomizu

I love Japan. I mean truly, dig up a spoon of that soil and I’ll eat it. The place is just so much fun. Judging by Shibuya crossing on a Saturday night I’m not the only fat white guy that does either! But on this trip I had a mission: hunt down awesome guitars.

That search took me to Ochanomizu. It’s a station one stop down from freaky-sleazy-businessman-centrel Akihabara and had a stretch a few hundred metres long of door-to-door guitar stores. If you’re a six stringer it’s a great day out. Just leave the wives and girlfriends back at the hotel. This is for the die hards only.

So what kind of stuff do you find? Mostly new stuff. For some reason the Japanese think lowly of themselves. The ground floor is usually Japanese and cheap guitars. Heaps of quirky Fernandez type things. My favourite was a lime green see through plastic guitar. An imitation of a BC Rich Mockingbird. Yours for around 60000-80000 Yen, or about 600 – 800 Aussie dollars. Sadly plastics heavier than wood. Oh yeah and there’s actually a guitar called the ESP Throbber. I guess mity penis had already been taken.

There’s also heaps of the cheaper ESP brands. Grass Roots and Edwards. I think the Grass Roots looked great. They’re all well under $500 and are made in China or the Philippines or somewhere. The Edwards stuff looks mad. They’re ASSEMBLED in Japan but I understand all the hard work’s done in China. You’ll get a lot of change from $1000 with an Edwards and they look as good as the ESPs.

When you go upstairs things get better. Some of these stores have 4-6 floors of guitars. Usually a Fender floor, a Gibson floor, a heavy metal floor and a vintage ‘money’s no object floor’. The heavy metal floor is worth a look because they have all these custom models for those ‘seriously I know this is Japan but is that a guy or a chick?’ type musos. All covered in orange hair and wearing their mother’s clothes. Some of their gaudy signature guitars costing up to $6000. Especially a brand called ‘Killer’ which seems to be made by ESP.

Fenders do well here. There’s heaps of Japanese made Fenders for very reasonable coin. I reckon the Japanese Fenders are the best. And unlike other manufacturers, you can unbolt the neck and stick your new guitar in your suitcase to get it home! No oversized baggage to care about!

The Gibsons not so much. But if know what you want, it might be worth your while. They’re the same Les Pauls you’d find any old where. Maybe a few hundred bucks cheaper than Australia. Nothing I haven’t seen anywhere else (well below $10,000 anyway). But there are bargains here. I saw a 2012 Firebird for $1000. Oh yeah and most stores will do tax free if you’re foreign.

A few shops not only let you order an ESP from the custom shop, one actually had sample necks and planks of wood to choose from on the floor. I don’t care who you are, that is awesome! I loved ESP before I got there but this just toughened that up a notch! Their guitars are plain flawless for a major manufacturer.

What really sucked though was I was after vintage 1970′s Japanese guitars. The Ibanez Iceman, the lawsuit Les Pauls, the Grecos that were better than real Strats. Sadly none were to be found. I guess they’re not cool right now or frankly there’s no money in them. I was gutted. Even the $1000 Rickenbacker Dakota guitar I found (edit – it’s hard enough to find a Ricky in Australia, but for that kind of money I almost bought it on general principal) didn’t soothe the disappointment.

Anyways Ochanomizu is a great day out. And I mean a day. There’s heaps of record stores around too like Disc Union and other cool stuff. So if you’re a guitar gear tragic, get into it!

Reflections on the MBIT degree. Some advice

Between 2009 and 2013 I studied a Masters of Business IT at RMIT in Melbourne part time.  This is my personal view on the degree and the university. I strongly recommend you talk to others and form your own view.

Why did I choose the university? I like the fight in the dog. RMIT had to be bailed out by the state government 7-10 years ago because of an epic IT fail. I believe the bail out was around $50M. But they were honest about it. The effective CIO of the uni talked about how rational people made very rational decisions and failed. But the uni seemed to thrive after coming so near to the brink. They really aggressively started marketing to international students and appear at least quite profitable. That honesty really impressed me.

Secondly the uni is very convenient. It’s right in the CBD and meant you don’t need to travel. Finally it was about half the price of studying at Melbourne University’s Business School. Sadly I’m now lead to believe it’s had the degree.

One thing that was clearly obvious in the MBIT program is that mature aged students working full time are a minority. Something like 10-20%. A great deal of the students are international. Many of which are in their early twenties who have gone straight from undergrad to postgrad. Many who have had no vocationally relevant work experience in IT. It means that there is very limited scope to make real connections with people in a similar disposition to you. That’s where I see the true value in a degree and I think the uni fails here badly.

Some would argue why bother attending lectures at all? Personally I was paying for my degree out of my own pocket up front and wanted to maximise the experience.  Honestly what’s the point of not attending lectures you’ve paid for? Studying undergrad at Monash University, engaging in the tutorials and lectures was some of the most stimulating learning I’ve ever had.

It was evident that RMIT were pushing charm and charisma over academia. Yes some of the lecturers were really fun. But sometimes fun isn’t exactly challenging. The depth of the subjects varies dramatically. Quite literally one subject on business case development had us watching an old episode of Oprah in a tutorial. I dropped it.

In one subject on supply chain logistics, I walked out of a 2 hour exam in approx. 40 minutes without study.  It’s not a gloat, blind Freddy could’ve got a high distinction. It really feels like a shallow victory and makes you question whether those high distinctions you really worked for meant something. If that’s what you’re into great. Hopefully you can buy your big work assignments off of some dodgy bulletin board and fudge your way through the real world as well. The real concern was some of the students found it highly challenging. Which really doesn’t say a lot for the intake requirements.

RMIT pushes the importance of presentation skills and giving students real life skills. Sadly it doesn’t work that way in reality. People would give presentations like shy little church mouses and still pass. Once I saw a student make an opening remark mocking how everyone thought his presentation was boring. When he finished he sat down and proceeded to play Diablo on his laptop. Only once did I see a student get reprimanded once for a clearly sub par presentation. It’s all too hard to deal with at RMIT. Plenty of students just get rubber stamped.

Sadly most students complained because they’d prefer to be watching Oprah. That is the real disappointment that great lecturers are being made way for fees for degrees.

Albeit some lecturers were difficult or quirky, they provided great academic challenges that really boosted my confidence. It inspired me when one lecturer said he’d given me one of the most complex subjects he’d given a student. Whether it’s true or not is irrelevant. It really pushed me hard to learn. Besides so what you can’t understand your lecturer’s accent? What happens when your new boss has a funny accent. I guess your uni days really haven’t helped you then!

If you are mature age, looking for a challenge and willing to spend your own money, I frankly wouldn’t recommend this degree. I don’t regret studying it and did learn a lot, but it doesn’t open doors. One could argue I haven’t engaged enough in extra curricular activities. From what I hear of Melbourne University they’re much bigger on networking and soft skills. Frankly I can’t even remember any on offer aside from the odd end of year barbecue. You could also argue though that getting a Masters isn’t a meal ticket. You’d be right.

Think twice about why you want to study. Because you won’t get a pay rise and a promotion if you can’t make it work. One learning I had is that if you want people to notice you at work, try and do as many assignments as you can on issues your employer is experiencing. It gets a bit nauseating living and breathing a company 14 hours a day but it pays off.

The truth is I studied and am quite proud of what I achieved on paper. I graduated with distinction and was accepted into the Golden Key Society for those who finish in the top of their school. No it hasn’t made a huge difference in the real world honestly. The mockers may have me there. It takes a lot more than a piece of paper to do that. However I feel shortchanged by my choice in uni. They’ve been too much about the economic turnaround and not enough about results. Choose a university that will put as much into your education as you will. You’re not going there for entertainment. Oh yeah and you can watch Oprah for free.

Nokia Lumia 1020 just plain rules

Edit. After a recent trip to Japan there’s something truly awful about this phone. It does not support Google Maps at all. Whether via an app or by web browser, Google have conspired to make Google Maps fail on Windows. A bit frustrating when you’ve spent months preparing a Google Map for your holiday.

As soon as I blog this, the thing will probably break! But I’ve had it for just on seven months now and it hasn’t missed a beat. Battery life is about 1.5-2 days, call quality is good and it does exactly what it should do. It’s a smart phone, not a smart arse phone.

Now the real shock, I love using Windows 8 – on a phone. I’ve heard it’s hideous to use on desktop and a tablet. However I’ve had no problems so far running it on a smart phone. It just does what you need it to do and gets on with it.

Now this phone’s party trick is the 41 megapixel camera. As far as I can see it’s actually 36+5 megapixels. In other words it takes a ginormous photo and a regular one. So your phone doesn’t crap out loading up detailed pictures. A bit cheeky but fact of the matter is it takes pretty good pictures. For the first time ever, I went on holiday with just the phone and not a camera. No regrets. Just awesome shots.

In the office it integrates perfectly with Outlook mail too, as you’d expect. You can do a lot more with meeting invites too than you can on Android or iOS. The Office stuff is on there too but I haven’t actually had to use that very much. From what I’ve seen of Microsoft Excel on the phone though, it’s pretty good.

This does raise a point though. On the ads they show a dad at a school talent show in the back row zooming right in. Bullshit. I’ve been to the Nokia store and they couldn’t zoom in any further than I can either. That’s the one thing about it that’s bogus. You can still do some quite sophisticated exposurey stuff you wouldn’t expect to do.

Of course smug Apple puritans gawk at the size, or indeed anything non Apple. You can never convince them and frankly who cares. You’ll buy a new iPhone every time the one button on the thing conveniently breaks. Coincidentally about the time your contract is up for renewal and a bright, shiny new model is about to go on pre sale. I don’t really buy into that any more. Apple users are becoming scarily evangelical, like a bunch of Mormons or something. I’m just over the Apple stuff.

Even worse are the Android nerds. “Oh but the processor isn’t fast enough”, “the specs aren’t good enough”, “there’s a blah blah coming out that’s going to be better than that”… frankly I don’t care. It does what it needs to do and does it really well.

Having said that, I don’t know about the black background on everything so much. Possibly it’s black to save battery life. The only other disappointment, you can’t access Google Play or any other decent book stores (I read a lot of books on my phone). There’s a Kindle app but I found the book selection there surprisingly disappointing. Despite that all the apps you will ever need have been ported across to Windows. Just plenty of what you need and nothing you don’t.

So whether this phone is good for you will suit entirely on your disposition. But if you want something with good battery life, an awesome camera that’s a no fuss phone, then this thing is pure win.