Crunch time

It's crunch time. Home before 10pm? No way.

On the bright side, I get to toy with confidential releases of Beta 2 of Windows Vista and the technical beta of Office 12. Though to be more specific, it's Vista and Office that's toying with my program... =P

So what am I doing? I'm working on an XPS implementation which will be used in the upcoming Windows. XPS has great potential I think. It's a open fixed-document format, which means it's non-interactive like PDF, platform independent, and also it's the native spool format of Vista. Imagine the possibilities. Better yet, imagine the specification. Yup, it's only 385 pages long. (version 0.7 was ultra verbose at 500-ish)

Oh yeah, I have to keep track of some blogs at work... ;)

Tim Sneath (WPF & WinFX)

Feng Yuan (Windows Digital Documents)

Andy Simonds (Windows Digital Documents)

XPS Team (Windows Digital Documents)

Brian Jones (Microsoft Word)

Jeff Bell (Microsoft Publisher)

Office 12 and Vista are visually dazzling. The system requirements are equally dazzling however.


JLPT overwhelms Jason 60-40

JLPT pulled a dramatic 60-40 upset victory over defending champion Jason yesterday in the 2005 Language Cup finals.

"I was confident going into this match," said a sweaty but ecstatic JLPT during the post-match interview. "I was so devastated by last year's 8-92 loss to Jason. I trained hard throughout the year and have reached a level of play that I can really be happy about," added JLPT with a genial smile.

Things weren't so bright for last year's champion. Asked whether he continued his training throughout the year, the 21-year old refused to comment. "I don't think it was a good day for me." he said instead. "I didn't bring my watch, and [JLPT's] 'time warp' really caught me off guard. Before I knew it I had five minutes left to prepare my final counterattack."

During the first phase, Vocabulary and Writing, the two players were generally evenly matched though JLPT always held the upper hand. This probably threw Jason off guard. By the time the closing bell rang, JLPT finished with a slight lead over last year's champion.

In the second phase, Listening Comprehension, Jason valiantly rallied back and finished with a substantial lead over JLPT. Using his 'ear technique' which he honed after watching hundreds of episodes of anime, Jason enjoyed an excellent round of play. The fat lady had not sung yet however.

The third and most important phase, Reading Comprehension and Grammar, was when the outcome was sealed. JLPT opened with her usual 'mundane two-page essays on useless topics' strategy. When Jason appeared to be coping well, she revealed a formerly proscribed technique: the 'repetitively-redundantly-droning-and-makes-no-sense-like-this-current-sentence sentence that uses basically only bombastic words and which is definitely a run on-sentence in English but if it isn't I'd like to make it so because I-loooove-curry-and-by-the-way-I-just-had-some this morning... keke' trick of doom.

From this Jason never recovered. JLPT mercifully finished him off with her famous 'time warp' trick -- those that witnessed it for the first time were completely baffled.

Jason later admitted today that he bathed in last year's glory and was idle in preparations, while his opponent apparently increased her powers tenfold.

In her usual emollient way, JLPT remarked, "Jason is a formidable tactician with quick and effective plays. I had a tough time due to his outstanding techniques of 'guessing' and 'second guessing'."

source: Serendipity Islet
Official purveyor of useless news



--------------- Preamble ---------------

I'm a gamer at heart. I know I spend too much time on this pastime, yet it's difficult to let go. I've tried quitting on several occasions with little or no success. I play a lot more after a period of withdrawal, so these efforts could be counterproductive. Currently, I'm on my longest 'no-gaming' streak so far and I'm hoping it'll last as long as I'm here. Otherwise I'd be squandering this lovely opportunity in Japan next to my laptop.

The purpose of this post is to in part serve as a grisly reminder of life passing me by, as well as to just serve as a list of the games I've played so that I can glance and reminisce on good ol' times.

--------------- The Meat ---------------

Gamer levels:
Casual gamer 1-2 hours/day, Enthusiast 2-4, Dedicated 4-6, Hardcore 6-9, Extreme 9+

Let's first start off with the two periods where I didn't play games. One of these periods is right now! The only other period was in grade 12 second semester, application season for university. (After I got in, I thought I'd be at the bottom of the class, so with a "why try?" attitude I drastically lowered my standards and just cared to pass; the marks I somehow ended up with first term suggested I could fare much better had I cared...)

Now those two periods aside, the following is about my gaming life since grade 5, when I got my first PC.

University: I'm around the "dedicated" level at university, with the notable exception of the WoW period, where without fail I played 8 to 12 hours a day. In particular, I binged on the weekends I stayed in 'Loo, where at the very least I played 14 hours a day.

High school: I played everyday after school, almost religiously (like with EQ) until around midnight. For EQ, I even woke up at 5 o'clock in the morning to play. I was dedicated during school days and turned hardcore or extreme on the weekends... :P

Grade school: Still everyday after school, though back then I was also into calligraphy, chess, and science. Probably around enthusiast level on average.

--------------- /played estimate ---------------

How much time have I spent on games? Let's start estimating with an old mathematical approach: find the lower bound. The games that really left an impression have a short description. (All units are hours)

Computer games

World of Warcraft
Total time spent: > 720
November 23, 2004 to January 23, 2005: 19 days 5 hours. In other words, 32% of the two-months time was spent on WoW. Basically I could take 24 hours, subtract sleep time and 1-2 hours for substance, hygiene, etc, and that would be my play time for the day. No regrets: it was a great time, though my marks suffered a 6% drop. =P

Guild Wars
Total time: 150 to 250
May 2005 to present. Not sure if there is an in-game chronometer. I estimate completing the game at 40-60 hours, 40 for classes like the Monk which can complete missions easily with henchmen. Played about 5-9 hours per day in May and June, while waiting for the Japan visa.

Total time: 600 to 800
One of the most memorable times I've had, surpassed only by WoW. I still remember the opening music and the exact time the music stopped when the game loaded. I still recall a Frost Giant stepping on me.

Half-Life 40-50, Doom II 20-30, Wolf 3D 20
TFC 300-800, Counter-Strike 300-800
Total Annihilation 60-80, Warcraft II 50-60
Warcraft III 250-500, Starcraft 100-150
Diablo 100-150, Diablo II 300-500
Neverwinter Nights 200-250, Dungeon Siege 30
Freespace 40, Freespace 2 40-50, Freelancer 50

Planescape: Torment 40-50
Baldur's Gate 30-40, Baldur's Gate II 50-60, Star Wars: KotOR II 20-40
Star Wars: KotOR 30-60, Albion 50-70, Morrowind 20-30
The Longest Journey 50 (counterexample: WoW was a longer journey)
Grim Fandango 40

Sega Rally 2 20-30 hours, Hitman 2 20-30 hours, Tyrian 40-60 hours

Video games

Smash 300-400 hours, Smash Melee 60-150 hours, Project Gotham Racing 30-50 hours
Mario Tennis 20-40 hours, Tales of Symphonia 90-110 hours
Mario 1 to 3 70 hours, Zelda 1 and 3 60 hours, Zelda: Ocarina of Time 30-40 hours

Chrono Trigger 30-60 hours, Chrono Cross 60-70 hours, FFIX 40-50 hours, FFVIII 40-60 hours, FFVII 60-80 hours, FFVI 40 hours, FFV 30 hours, FFIV 30 hours, FF 25 hours

Gameboy games
Pokemon Yellow 40-45 hours, Pokemon Silver 30-40 hours, Golden Sun 30 hours

Various (Mostly old games; 15 hours each for quick calculation)

Jazz Jackrabbit, Raptor, Commander Keen, Prince of Persia, (10-20 more titles)

--------------- Analysis ---------------

The list above contains the large majority of the games I've played. I've omitted games that I've only played for on a few occasions. Notable examples are Halo, the Mario Party series, Mario Golf, etc. Let's say those games sum up to 100 hours in total.

By summation,

Σ(floor[/played] ) = 5060 hours

So, I've spent a minimum of 5060 hours playing games. My best estimate would be 6400 to 7200 hours, but this bare minimum estimate suffices for the purposes of this post. It's hard to estimate play time for games like Counter-Strike and Diablo II; I would say the upper bound is much more realistic for those games.

A completely different approach to estimate "/played" would be to take my mean daily gaming time as say, a conservative 3 hours, and multiply that by 10 years x 365 days a year -- this yields 10950 hours! (What's scary is that this isn't an upper bound by any means...)

--------------- Reflection ---------------

Let's finish off by putting the lower bound estimate into perspective, to visualize what "just" 5060 hours can mean. . .
  • A full-credit course in university is about 36 hours of classroom time + an optional amount of self-study or homework time (recommended to be a matching 36 hours). On average, I attend 30-36 hours of lectures, and do about 10 hours outside class. Let's put the total time for a course then at a high 50 hours. With that, 5060 hours translates into the time and effort needed for 101 courses, or 20 terms of school! Indeed, the 720+ hours from WoW alone would be about 3 terms.
  • Japanese Language Proficiency Test level 1, the highest level, is usually obtainable after 900 hours of study. Generalizing other languages to be the same level of difficulty -- very conservative since Japanese is hard -- 5060 hours is ample time to fully master five foreign languages! (I've spent about 36x3 classroom hours + perhaps 50-150 hours self study, so around 200 hours...)
  • 5060 hours is 2.3 years worth of sleep at my usual 6 hrs/day
In conclusion,



Miss Universe-ity?

Yes, apparently there's an annual pageant among Japanese universities. Awesome, no?


I just finished watching a volleyball match between Japan and America. Like always, there was enthusiastic cheering from the Japanese crowd -- I almost felt sorry for the Americans.

I was disappointed to observe that, like the last time I watched volleyball in Japan two years ago, the comments directed towards the non-Japanese teams usually contain 高さ, or height (i.e. height advantage), especially if they're winning. I'm a little annoyed at this: it's almost as if it's wrong to say that the opposing team's technique or strategy is better. No, it's their height of course!

Announcer 1: "Ah, point America!"
Announcer 2: "Yeah, player X is so tall isn't he?"
Announcer 1: "Yea, amazing isn't it?"


Some thoughts

I wonder what it would be like right now if China, instead of Japan, performed something like the Meiji Restoration and Westernized more than a century ago? It might've been China that attacked Pearl Harbor to secure her position in the Pacific. China would've probably annexed Korea instead of Japan. Atomic bombs might've been dropped on China. This alternate timeline is unlikely* to have occurred since Japan Westernized in response to the Qing Empire's defeat to the European powers -- very shocking since China was the overwhelmingly dominant power in the area since recorded history. Plus, with China's historically infamous hubris, it is unlikely to happen even given that the order of events is reversed and instead Japan was the first in the area to be forcibly opened up to European powers.


Anyone experienced a moment when a familiar English word suddenly just doesn't "look right"? You question the spelling at first, then it becomes more and more 'correct' as you stare at it... I've had this happen to me often recently. I've already forgot the words that triggered this. =P


I've made note of a couple minor problems that I've observed here.

Idling. No, not the people but the cars. My extended family here is a archetypical example of this: whenever they wait for anything -- people, events, etc. -- while traveling by car, they never shut down the engine. This could go on for a couple minutes to over an hour. Sure, my cousin likes watching the LCD (an excuse they suggest) but doesn't anyone care about the environment, not to mention the yen slipping out of their pockets by the second?

Smoking. I think smoking is a major health issue in Asia. I've been to Shanghai before and it's the same: cigarette smoke taints restaurants, streets -- almost everything. I have to give credit to some of the districts in Tokyo which have implemented anti-smoking bylaws to alleviate the problem, though they do not seem to have been very effective. I still breathe second-hand smoke almost everyday from men smoking as they walk around, even in crowded areas.

*Of course, probability doesn't apply to historical events, but this is speaking with the quantum theory of multiple timelines in mind... :P



For those that haven't heard, Wikipedia (in my links area) is a great place to find information.

As 勉強 (benkyou: study) for my Japanese, I have made my first page in Japanese! Check it out.

I'm hoping to add more topics soon. Any suggestions?



I've delved a bit into coin collecting recently. I'm not yet well read on numismatics, but here's a description of my collection so far:
  • 1/20 oz. Gold Maple Leaf (I forgot the year -- I bought it at the Royal Canadian Mint in Ottawa a few years ago)
  • 3x 1 oz. Gold Maple Leaf dated 2004
  • 1 oz. Silver Maple Leaf dated 1989
  • Tri-metallic (Au/Ag/Pt) 1 oz. coin from the Pobjoy Mint (mintage 999)
Gold and Silver Maple Leafs.
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The Au/Ag/Pt coin -- this one's my favourite. =)


Go Waterloo!

'Best overall' in MacLean's reputational survey for the 14th year. On top of that, 'Loo's two teams claimed both 1st and 2nd place in the East Central North America ACM contest. That's right, we pwned again.

Both come as no surprise though -- it's been like this since I was in Grade 1.

Hmm.. that's enough shameless promotion for a day ;)

Let's see how we do in the Putnam this year.


Preparation for the JLPT

The JLPT (Japanese Language Proficiency Test) on December 4th is drawing nearer...

I went to a language school in downtown Tokyo for a few weeks but that wasn't really helpful. I find the best thing to do now is just to practice the language: chatting with the natives, and listening to the news, etc.

I think I'm ready for it.


Favourite colour

What's your favourite colour? Mine's lavender. The next three would probably be gold, bright orange, and sky blue.



I had a discussion with a young colleague today about investments in general. We went through many popular forms such as stocks, bonds, real estate, et cetera, arriving somehow at cash. This became quite humorous for me, as I think investing in cash is amongst the most foolish investment choices. He didn't agree.

We defined "investing in cash" as the process of committing money, storing it in the form of cash (domestic currency in physical paper form or in a chequing account), for the prospect of future returns.

I think most everyone knows why this is a poor investment, in fact I wouldn't even regard it as a proper investment. In my opinion, it's the act of not investing. Sure, you can save cash in preparation for a real, large investment, but I dearly hope that cash isn't your final target.

Anyway, its demerits are simple and numerous: inflation nibbles (or chomps) away at your purchasing power, which is obviously not increasing; you're at the whim of the volatile currency market; and quite plainly, there's no growth. These were the ones I suggested.

He didn't have time for much rebuttal as the lunch bell beckoned us to our cubicles, and being a curious guy, I would like to hear some merits of being a "cash investor". I just doubt a combination of miniscule growth potential and low security make for a good investment.

Brainstorm! - show me your creative financial genius!


Aspirations, huh....

It seems that the last post has made some buzz. Ray has reflected on it.

This seems like a good time to list some goals I have. Pardon the rip off of Ray's blog title, but what dreams may come? Indeed.

I've worked for a couple engineering firms and software companies, and quite frankly I can't see myself doing that for life. So what is there left? Drumroll.

I like university. I like the overall academic environment, and of course, the social side as well. So that brings me to graduate studies. The field is probably mathematics. After that, maybe professor? There's option one.

Option two is law. Law is interesting. The average lawyer doesn't actually make large amounts of dough, so it's really based on interest and my reluctance to just graduate and take a job at say, Epson.

Option three is medical school. My parents went to med school, so naturally I feel somewhat inclined to do the same thing. I'd have to admit that I don't have the stomach that my parents do for the things that may I have to learn and do in med school (actually a long story, lot's of talk with 'rents :P). So maybe it's not such a good idea, being afraid of germs, diseases, and nasty things in general. Yet, I do have an interest in the field, more so than programming let's say. :P

Options two and three seem pretty cliché for a person with no clear idea of what they want to do after graduation, and indeed I am, but I don't believe I'm choosing two and three for the popular reasons.

Anyways, this is basically as far as I've gone in contemplating my future.


Le comte de Monte Cristo

I started reading this as of late. It made me remember a thought I had when I was little:

Wouldn't it be mutually beneficial and convenient -- not to mention cool -- if we as good friends hold positions of esteem in the future?

Now, if you've seen Gankutsuou you'd probably realize what I'm blabbering about. My version isn't nearly as romantic as the one played out in Alexandre Dumas' magnum opus: it's pragmatic and doesn't require ardous effort for its realization*.

Basically what I mean is that it would be great to have at least a doctor, a lawyer, and then other professions too numerous to list, that are all of utility, in our circle of friends. There are some determined among us who already aspire to become one of the aforementioned, hence this 'idea' doesn't change anything. But --

*It's nearing a time when we should be looking at the horizon, wondering which career we should pursue. I'm sure that even without this assertion, we'd eventually find our place in this world; this merely is an attempt to put it into words, partly with the hope of stirring up motivation in some of the lazy asses we have in our circle (myself included =P). Being far from eloquent and rather officious, I would appreciate it if anyone can rethink, rephrase or improve upon this fledgling thought.

Questions, comments, suggestions?


Curry (in a hurry too!)

The Japanese love curry. Their curry is quite a departure from Indian curry. I prefer Japanese curry because it has that "sweet 'n' mild yet spicy" flavour. The best curry is found in specialized curry restaurants; the best dishes there use premium wagyu beef and can cost over 3000 yen. Regular curry rice with inexpensive imported beef usually goes for a reasonable 600 to 800 yen.

You can eat decent curry at home too! It's as easy if not easier to make than instant noodles. Instant curry rice is cheap as well, only around 300 yen altogether for rice and curry. You do need instant rice -- i.e. rice that's already cooked -- otherwise the curry rice wouldn't be very instant now would it...

Here's how to make instant curry rice.

1. Buy instant rice and instant curry. This is a pretty obvious step. Supermarkets typically have a wide selection (at least 20-40 kinds) of curry.
2. Bring a small pot of water to a boil, and then put the curry package in for 3 minutes.
3. Meanwhile, 'instantly' cook the rice in a microwave ('instantly' = 90 seconds).
4. Take a plate and spread the rice on it to cool it down a bit.
5. Cut the curry package and pour its contents onto the rice or beside it, whichever you prefer.


Here are some pictures from my instant curry adventure:

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These are the 12 kinds of instant curry I bought today. Prices ranged from 90 yen to 525 yen. Can you guess which is the cheapest and which is the most expensive? The cheapest one should be easy to spot. =P (Answer at bottom of post)

Here's what's inside a box, a pack of curry.
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And the instant rice.
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(Answer to the expensive/cheap question!)

The middle one in the leftmost column is the 525 yen one. It contains below-average Kobe beef, which means it's still among the most expensive. The cheapest is the one without a box. A pitiful, homeless curry pack.

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From most expensive to least expensive, left to right.


No start button

Oh no... now I can't start.



My name in Chinese characters is 郁聞遠.

The first character 郁 is my family name. It's read 'yu' in Chinese, 'yoo' in Korean, and 'iku' in Japanese.

郁 means 'fragrant, rich aroma', and can also mean 'prosperous' as well as 'brilliant' (like 華). According to a Korean friend, 郁 is a common Korean surname. It's rare in China though, isolated to a region south of Shanghai. It's also a Japanese surname, and albeit very rare, it's popular in first names. Generally speaking I guess it's a Korean surname!

聞遠 is my first name, transliterated from Chinese as 'wen yuan'. In Japanese it's read 'bun en' and in Korean it would be 'moon en'.

聞 means 'to hear' and 遠 means 'far', hence it could be naively translated as 'hear afar'. However the meaning is rather artful and thus cannot be simply translated as such. I think it means 'to profoundly inquire and illuminate'. In this case, the 聞 takes on the meaning of 'to inquire/to illuminate/to make known' and 遠 means 'complete, profound, distant'.

For those of you that have names with Chinese characters, I'd like to know what they are. =) Typing them might be a hassle though...


Who orders steaks well-done?

Whee, this post was supposed to be on a totally unrelated topic, using "who orders steaks well-done?" only as a rhetorical question to stress the main point.

I was too tired to post last night so I only put the title up. But eh, this turned out okay too, interesting :P

What's more interesting is that I forgot what the real topic is. Hopefully it'll come back to me. =P


Ties with the Wu

There exists an interesting link between the people of ancient Japan and the people of Wu, a historic region in southern China. Wu was also one of the Three Kingdoms which controlled the same region. The character 'wu' (呉) is pronounced 'go' in Japanese.

A map of the Three Kingdoms, courtesy of Wikipedia

Records by Chinese emissaries to Japan from the Wei and Jin dynasties describe the contemporary Japanese as having customs similar to the people of the Wu kingdom. Furthermore, the Japanese referred to themselves as descendants of the Wu. Many words in modern Japanese have pronunciation similar to Wu words of the same meaning, reflecting an ancient tie with the Wu.

As an anecdote, I have found that people from Shanghai pick up Japanese quicker than those from northern China.

Traditional Japanese dress, popularly referred to as kimono, traces its roots to Wu-style dress. In fact, the proper word for "traditional Japanese dress" is gofuku (呉服), lit. "dress of Wu".

(As a side note, Manchu-style dress is often mistaken for traditional Chinese dress. The actual style of clothes the ancient Chinese wore was similar to kimono and the Korean hanbok. The Manchu subdued China circa 1640 and forced the Han Chinese populace to abide by their customs, including adopting Manchu-style dress and a pigtail hairstyle.)

Did you know...? =)


Searched for friends, got something else

I haven't made any friends around my age yet. And yes, I want to. No offense, but my colleagues at Epson are all men in their 30's or 40's who go to bars and pubs (pub = a place where one pays a lot of money to cavort with voluptuous ladies) every few days. I went drinking with them a couple times, but I don't go regularly; I don't enjoy those activities.

So I said to myself, "make some friends around my age whose interests more or less coincide with mine!" I went to a site that advertised 友達探し, which when I translate it, means "looking for friends service".

Registration was simple enough. For my short blurb about myself, I described myself as a Canadian working in the IT sector, looking for friends to do language exchange. I also uploaded a small picture of myself, the one in the "About Me" section here. Put my hobbies as anime, athletics (wouldn't be true a week ago :P), and onsen (hot springs). This was yesterday.

Guess what? I came back today to find my mailbox flooded. What's more, all the messages were from girls. I assume that it's a matchmaking site of sorts.

I started reading the emails. Some of them had "out of the blue" content that was disturbing in ways. Let me share some.

anon_girl1 20 years old
Subject: Good evening!
Message: Can we meet sometime later tonight?
(What? Eh? No introduction - nothing. A little scary. Time stamped 8:14 pm too.)

anon_girl2 28 years old
Subject: I wonder...
Message: I'm anon_girl2. Hello. It's lunch break, so I sent this message. Tonight, or maybe Saturday - free?
(Okay, a tad less scary. But wait, there's more!)

Message: . I'm looking forward to this weekend!
(Wait - we have plans for the weekend?! I haven't even replied!)

Message: (Long message, cut short) Still no response...? I can understand, I didn't put a picture of myself (actually she does have a pic, which is a shot of her bosom) and you probably feel insecure. I'm not very cute or beautiful so being ashamed of myself I don't do this often. You must let me pay the restaurant and hotel fees. I'm looking for someone that I can meet on a regular basis.
(Ooh, free food! - eh, hotel too?! . . . . .)

Suffice to say, I unsubscribed to that site right away. Now, was something lost in translation or what? Tomodachi sagashi means what?

Okay, there were a few other girls who were normal. A few were interested in language exchange and I'll keep in touch with them. Another was a 14 year old girl from Taiwan. Another mail came from two girls. Two of them share the same email address? Me no comprehend.

*yawn*.. time to sleep...


Chinese history

Embarrassingly, I haven't read Chinese history. Quite a few Japanese that I've met have studied Chinese history to some extent. Conversations with my colleagues sometimes come to this topic, and me knowing pretty much nothing made me feel like a child who has disappointed his parents. So, I started reading up on Chinese history. It's rather interesting I must say, and certainly more interesting than Canadian history. Here's a summary.

Famous parts of Chinese history:
  • First characters were written around 3500 years ago on turtle shells and bones, which were used for divination
  • Beginning of imperial China with the Qin (秦) Dynasty around 2230 years ago (imperial China would last until 1912)
  • Three Kingdoms period, a time famously depicted in the novel "Romance of the Three Kingdoms"
  • Three great dynasties - Han 漢, Tang 唐, and Ming 明
    • 漢 2200 years ago - China adopts Confucianism and prospers; population reaches 50 million. Paper is invented. China expands into parts of Korea and Vietnam.
      • Chinese people to this day refer to themselves as the people of Han in honour of this period. The major ethnic group in China is Han Chinese, which makes up 92% of China's population.
      • The Japanese word kanji (漢字) literally means "the words/characters of Han"
    • 唐 1400 years ago - A high point in Chinese civilization, perhaps even greater than the Han dynasty. Golden period for Chinese literature and arts. The government is run by intellectuals selected through civil service exams (standardized merit tests and the closest thing to IQ tests until the late 1800's)
      • Chinatowns in major cities are often called 唐人街, lit. "district of the Tang people"
      • Block printing greatly improves literacy
    • 明 640 years ago - China finally recovers from Mongol rule and begins a successful revitalization. The economy flourishes bringing arts and technology to new heights. A vast army and navy is built. Ming becomes the most advanced and powerful nation on Earth - The Great Ming Empire (大明帝国). Later on, there's a shift from exploration to isolation which marks the beginning of the decline of China, which in turn would last until the 20th century.
      • Over 100,000 tons of iron per year was produced in Northern China
      • Books were printed using movable type
      • The navy consisted of four-masted ships displacing 1500 tons. Early Ming explorers and merchants explored all of the Indian ocean, with some historians proposing that even the Americas were reached.
      • Ming was the last ethnic Han dynasty in China. The "great restoration of China during early Ming" was used as a rallying cry to instill feelings of national pride and resentment of foreign rule from the Qing Dynasty (Manchu rule) until after WWII.
I hope this was an entertaining and informative read!


New acquaintances

I met some new people in the last two days.

Yesterday I went to Tokyu Square in nearby Hachioji to check out its international exchange corner. After reading some brochures I approached the reception lady. Apparently she's a close friend of the last Epson intern from Canada, Candy! Her name is Tsuneko. According to her, she acted like a mother to Candy. We chatted a bit, exchanged contacts, and then she left.

I lingered a bit and visited a volunteer club with a long name: Club of Children and Students Working Together for [a] Multicultural Society (CCS). I told them I wanted to join CCS. I was rejected because I'm working here and not studying here. Not all was bad however, as I met some people around my age who were volunteering there. Again, some new contacts, and this time I was first to leave.

Today I met two fellow gaijins on the stairs to my apartment. It seems easy to befriend other foreigners in Japan. I think it's because we share a lot of experiences here and are in similar situations, and voila - that's the important common ground.


A lull and some useless things I did

I haven't done much aside from work since I arrived. Realizing this, I recently developed a strong urge to volunteer, work out, and study Japanese.

Megalos (the gym), Japanese lessons, volunteering - everything is set to begin in October.

I'm now waiting for October. This week I've somehow fallen into a state of torpor; waves of boredom and apathy have been breaking on motivation beach. Normally when this happens I go out and buy a game, however, this time I squandered my time on online tests.

I want to be more transparent. If my life is a house, I hope this blog will be like a window, revealing the innards rather than like a photo album with snapshots of the exterior.

Starting now I'll post some personal things, including dreams, fears, thoughts, et cetera.


I found out my overseas health plan covers psychological tests, so I treated myself to some. I took two intelligence tests. An emotional IQ assessment will have to wait till next year as the $400 allowance for this calendar year is all spent.


IQ tests are quite fun. The "ah-hah!" feeling experienced after solving a perplexing problem is certainly one of euphoria. Online tests usually don't have problems of this caliber; the few I've found were all hosted by highiqsociety.org.

Online tests:
  • iqtest.com = 148
  • intelligencetest.com = 138 // "Ph.D. certified" ?
  • queendom.com = 144
  • web.tickle.com
    • Super IQ Test = 143
    • Classic IQ Test = 144 // Another flawed and simple test
  • highiqsociety.org
    • Ultimate IQ Test = 150, 157 // well made (took it twice)
    • Verbal IQ Test = 144 // features obscure words that have no practical use
    • Timed IQ Test = 136 // this proves I'm slow :P
    • Culture Fair IQ Test = 155, 153 // I liked this one best (score went down T_T)
    • Test for Exceptional Intelligence = 155 // takes a long time to finish, took me over 3 hours I think
Paper tests:
  • Entrance-test-thingy-into-gifted-program = ? // forgot, enough to get in :P
  • WAIS-III = 155 // most comprehensive test I've taken
  • Tanaka-something, a Japanese IQ test = 8th percentile // >.<
Try out some of these!

Personality tests
  • EQ = 99 // EverQuest = level 34 cleric :P
  • What's your Destiny? = Manager // Oh come on, a destiny should have more grandeur
  • What's your Fantasy Island? = New Zealand
  • Ayurveda Body Type = Vata
  • The Confidence Test = High
  • Career Personality Test = ESTJ
  • What Breed of Dog are You? = Scottish Terrier
I like the IQ tests better. Good IQ tests are like good games: they stimulate the mind. Personality tests are like surveys.


Photos from my trip

I'm back! Let's see how the past week was...

Aichi Expo (ended on September 25th)
Very fun and very tiring. Honestly, more tiring than fun. The Expo attracted about 50% more people than it was designed for, so in short, long lines and crowded areas got in the way of enjoyment. Photos couldn't be taken inside the pavillions so I just have some photos of the grounds and exterior exhibits.

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The north gate. Over 100,000 people passed through this gate every day.

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Toyota's new toy, the I-unit (I think). Toyota had the best show, which featured a robot band playing "When the Saints Come Marching In" and a dozen of these I-units whizzing around, topped off by a dazzling laser show and some acrobatics, all led by a funky Japanese DJ rapper.

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This is about a quarter of the line-up to see the Toyota show. 4 hours wait!

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One damn hot car :P

Expensive Dining in Tokyo (ended September 25th as well :P)
My aunt went on a spending spree, treating us to all kinds of expensive Japanese cuisine every day. The most memorable restaurant we went to was a shabu-shabu restaurant nearby - it was about 7,000 yen per person. There were 4 qualities of beef available there, ranging from 1,200 yen to 5,000 yen for 3 slices. I think my aunt spent over 250,000 yen this week on food...

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The shabu-shabu restaurant. 7,000 yen per person, ouch. I went to an all-you-can-eat shabu-shabu place for 2,000 yen in Shinjuku.


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A recently passed law encourages or enforces (don't know which) women-only cars. Something tells me there'll be a public outcry if the TTC tries this :P


Who let the geek out?

No work for nine sweet days! The geek writing this blog will be partying like it's 1699 - woohooo!!

As I'll be going on some trips, I won't be blogging for a week. I know, the pain of withdrawal is excruciating at first. Yet despair not - you will survive! Just tell yourself that it's only one week =P

では、またね! (^.^)/


More pictures!

I'm going to start putting up some pictures I took 2 years back, last time I was in Tokyo. Enjoy!

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It's a Harajuku thing... don't ask =P

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Athletics festival at Mejiro elementary school.

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This is has nothing to do with my stay in Japan 2 years ago, meh. It's a picture of Shanghai at night, taken by my relatives when they visited Shanghai a while ago.

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If you look closely, you'll realize that everyone is wearing either suits or uniforms. Not a sight you can see in Canada.

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A temple in Kyoto. I took many pictures of Kyoto so I'll dedicate a special post to it in the near future, and maybe incorporate them into the Kyoto post I wrote a year ago.

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Okutama. This mountain valley stream is where I went fishing and also where the "About Me" picture was taken.

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And to finish today off, a picture that captures all the deliciousness of sashimi! おいしそう!

Next week I'll be going to the Aichi Banpaku. I'll be sure to take pictures wherever it's allowed, or maybe even where it's not :P



Well, it's been a long six weeks since I first started working at Epson. I think I could have done a lot more much better had I some goals. So, as a blindingly obvious solution, I made some goals.

I think that posting them here, by making them public, accountability will make me actually work towards them. Hopefully.

-Learn all the Joyo Kanji (1945 commonly used Kanji) before December. I can understand about 1300-1400 of them now. 600 Kanji/60 days = 10 Kanji a day, roughly. Ouch. I'll essay the JLPT in December.

-Bring back 1,000,000 yen to Canada. A millionaire will I be. 1000000円/8ヶ月 = 125,000円 a month. Not too difficult. However, this will mean not going drinking every few days and laundering 3000-4000 yen or so every time. Bye bye lavish - better yet, profligate - lifestyle.

-Gain 25 pounds. Now this is going to be much harder. To eliminate possible confusion, I mean twenty-five pounds of muscle, not fat =P. I'll be going to Megalos, the gym, about 3 times every week.

I had my first dream in Japanese yesterday. I think it's finally starting to sink in =P. Or maybe I'm just turning insane. (And adds the mathematician, "Or both!!")


Unexpected turns

I found out some things today that, if I had known earlier, would've saved me a lot of hassle.

First off, some background. The place I'm staying at is best described as half-motel, half-apartment. It's suited for people that want to stay longer than they would usually at a hotel, and short enough so that a rental apartment would cost too much (renting a place in Japan costs a lot, about 4-7 months rent is normal for the first payment). Hence the term "Weekly/Monthly マンション". That Japanese word is 'mansion', but it doesn't carry the same meaning as the English 'mansion' - not at all :P.

Anyways, it already comes loaded with the internet. Yup. I just have to buy an Ethernet cable and I'm set. Moreover, there's lots of free channels with good programs, including anime, recent movies, and CSI!! I guess the absurd cost of the rent here is justified. I mean 107,800 yen a month is a bit steep for a fairly rural place!

Secondly, and lastly (I have 2 minutes left in internet cafe time =P) I found a pair of new shoes in my luggage! For those that haven't read, I bought a new pair because my shoes got soaked and stunk. Wow, now wasn't that a wisely spent 10,000 yen? :P


Wet shoes and beefing up

It has been rainy and damp for the past week or more, and it's going to continue as more typhoons pass by Japan. I only brought one pair of shoes, so that quickly got drenched and started stinking. Yeah, for a couple days I brought the wonderful aroma of brevibacteria by-products to the company. Today I bought a pair of Nike shoes at ABC Mart, a famous shoe store apparently, in Hachioji (a nearby big town). It's a nice, dark pastel green pair, for about 120 Canadian. I also bought some shoe shampoo too clean my other pair; it's actually pretty new so I don't want to throw it away.

I've been thinking to myself, "I should really start working out soon!" for quite some time now, so today I mustered enough motivation to fight back the procrastination devil and went to register at a Hachioji gym. It's Megalos, a large chain of gyms. I must say the service here is impeccable. I couldn't complete the registration because I needed to bring a hanko (personal stamp) but yet I was treated to a personal tour that lasted over 45 minutes. They even gave me a body check-up which gave a thorough breakdown: protein weight, muscle weight, fat weight, bone weight, water weight - all individually measured for different body parts! The conclusion? I need to increase muscle weight. I think that's why I'm here... =P

Hmm, I still have 15 minutes left here in the Internet cafe. I guess I'll do some surfing.


No Internet...

The wireless network I've been using isn't there anymore, so now I'm in an internet cafe writing up my week. =P

I subscribed to Yahoo! BB but that's going to take a month or so. Bah. Anyways, in my boredom I bought a Japanese RPG made by Falcom. It should improve my reading speed of Japanese text, right? :P

Another co-op student working in Matsumoto showed me a great site for learning Japanese. It covers mostly elementary topics but some advanced stuff is there as well. I sent in my application to go for JLPT level 1 by December. It's going to be real difficult (>.<) 何とかなるさ...

I've been enjoying the night life in Tokyo this past week. I went to Ebisu, Meguro, and Shibuya - some of the most fashionable districts in Tokyo - on Tuesday and Wednesday. I tried expensive Thai cuisine in Ebisu, and some good ol' cheap (but tasty!) Yoshinoya Gyu-don in Shibuya. On the way back to my humble abode on Tuesday, I fell asleep on the train and arrived in Hashimoto, which was like going to North York from Mississauga by way of QEW.

Friday was my welcome party, an all-you-can drink kind of thing. =P I met this Japanese guy who has a deep interest in Hong Kong and Shanghai. Me being from Shanghai might have perked his interest, since after the welcome party he treated me to some nice Cantonese food at a nearby mall-like building. The whole floor was full of Chinese restaurants of many kinds, about 12 stores.

I was astonished when he took me to a Japanese restaurant after the Chinese restaurant and the welcome party. We ate some sea urchin there among other common dishes. By the time we finished, it was 2:10 am. He sent me home by taxi. What a nice guy! He spent like 18,000 yen that day compared with my 0 yen. I feel kind of bad.

So on Friday, I drank domestic beer, plum wine, oolong tea, green tea, milk tea, white wine, sake, and Tsingtao beer, and ate sea urchin, sushi, sashimi, Caesar salad, garlic bread, Italian pizza, yakitori (Japanese-style barbeque chicken), Cantonese cashew (that's how they spell it here, I dunno..), and a host of other foods I either don't remember or can't describe without writing a whole lot more.

Hmm, what else... I got my paycheck on Friday. Today, I met up with my grandpa from Shanghai. He's here to see the Expo in Aichi (see previous post). I can't wait to go... I wish September 18th is nowwww... =P

Time to go buy some groceries.


Expo 2005 Aichi

I'm going to take a one week vacation in September to go to the Expo in Aichi. My relatives here are visiting the Expo this week, and might go again with me and my parents in September.

The theme of this Universal Expo is basically "Harmony with Nature"; in Japanese it is 愛・地球博 (Love the Earth Expo). I hope it's fun!

I've been spoiling myself lately with expensive fruits - like grapes today - but I really should start making a monthly budget. I've already borrowed 40,000 yen from my aunt =P Payday is 4 days away! =D

As I'm typing this, I'm watching a fun Japanese show about women and their thoughts on the opposite sex. Just now, two warning signs of "bad" men were mentioned. They are:

Translation: "a man that brings his mother (to lunch, was the example) is no good"

Translation: "a man that believes in superstition is no good"

That's it for now!



I spent half a day in Ikebukuro with a penpal, shopping around and what not. It was fun but tiring. Now I know a famous meeting spot, 池フクロウ, which is an owl statue in Ikebukuro station.

I brought home the Lord of the Rings trilogy on DVD, so it's time to relax and watch some good ol' action from Gandalf and friends, in English! English means understanding without thinking - oh yeaaaaah! Ah, there doesn't exist anything more refreshing right now. =D

As for studying Japanese, that can wait another day... =P


First Principles

In a perhaps vain attempt to gain a clear sense of direction in my life, I've been thinking of ways that might shed some enlightenment. Specifically, I have been seeking some fundamental, guiding principles. Reading philosophy came to mind.

I began with some Descartes. His method axiomatic and his reasoning deductive and terse, I quickly came to respect his work. I especially admire the argument he made to establish his famous statement "Je pense, donc je suis".

I'm thinking Greek is next, maybe Socrates.


Work, work.

Meeting. Another meeting. Real work is delegated to overtime. Skipping dinner for another meeting. Meeting goes into overtime. Get off work at 21:30. Eat and drink at some restaurant. Get home, check e-mail, and sleep.

That pretty much sums up life recently.

As you might've guessed, I'm in a semi-melancholic semi-"just tired" mood. I have a bunch of penpals here but I haven't had a chance to meet any of them yet. I'm hoping to make some friends who can hang out with me. It's not easy however, and my work schedule isn't helping either. To my family and friends back in Canada: I miss you guys!

Tommorow, one of the big honchos in Epson is coming to visit our lab.



I was reluctant to put disturbing pictures of my sunburn on this blog, but now I've decided that I should, since it's part of my experiences here (not a pleasant one at all, I can assure you)..

So here they are, enjoy! =P

(L) Watch saved my skin! (R) Peeling skin - eww! (Peeling it is a cool feeling though.. :P)

So what happens after being sunburned?
-about 3-4 hours after you've actually been sunburned, you will start to notice it
-pain starts 4 hours after being sunburned and is worst 2-3 days later
-if you've been burned badly, your skin will start to peel about 5 days later, however, by that time it doesn't hurt

It's not an experience I'd want to have again, but yet, it was great as a conversation opener. Here's a typical conversation, HK-47 style:
[exclamation] "Hey, look at this!"
[shock and mild disgust] "Eww! Doesn't that hurt?"
[assuring reply] "Not anymore."
[question] "Where and when?"
(long conversation ensues)

At the moment, skin peeling is nearly complete, so I expect to be fully healed in a few days.

On a less disgusting note, here are two pictures from yesterday's hill climbing trek. Very tiring it was.. some of the slopes were about 16.3 degrees from horizontal!

(L) Mountain pass. Drifty drifty! =P (R) Interesting irrigation system...


Exploring the surroundings

This long weekend will be the first weekend I spend in Hino. I thought I should start exploring the area. I found a church that is within 5 minutes walk. In the afternoon, I climbed a nearby hill range, and got a pretty good look at what my neighbourhood looks like from above. I also went to Chuo University (中央大学), but apparently they have a guarded gate and only students and faculty can enter T_T. I passed by a nearby theme park, Tama Tech. I will keep it in mind; it'll be a good place to spend a day with friends. There's also an expensive looking Cantonese restaurant and a hot springs spa nearby, but I think those cost too much o(T_T)o

On a side note, at first I found typing Japanese on the cell phone to be extremely tedious. The first few times I exchanged cell phone mail, I took about 10 minutes to reply and the other person would take like 30 seconds! I was discouraged - I mean it's pretty embarassing to make the other person wait 10 minutes when everyone else responds in under a minute. Anyhow, I'm still relatively slow at it but I'm amazed how fast these things can be picked up. Typing English on the cell phone however, is a separate skill.

Most people use cell phones primarily for e-mail. I find that a neat and maybe welcome change. I think the main reason is the high cost of actually talking on the phone.

Hmm, and I need to start saving money now, at least until payday comes. I have about 12,000 yen or $140 left and still 2 weeks to go. D'oh! =P


Mizuho bank and cell phone!

Today I finally got my bank account with Mizuho! Woohoo... money!
I also picked up a cell phone for one yen (no contract) :D
It has a free TV service and a free interactive navigation/map service to help me when I'm hopelessly lost. I can also use it to find nearby restaurants and places of interest.

Two funny Engrish quotes from the company:

1. Especially, it is not. ←when trying to express 'nothing in particular' (Yoda-speak!)
2. ...now judgement failure... ←when trying to express 'cannot decide yet' (I pictured a robot breaking down when I heard this, hehee :P)


Nikka Differences

It can be said that I started working on this post in my head when I was in Japan 2 years ago. I was asked to and so I'm going to post some differences between Japan and Canada (nikka). Limitations include but are not limited to my unbalanced scope of knowledge (I know more about Canada than Japan) and the following...

Disclaimer: These 'differences' are intrinsically flawed as they are generalizations of behaviours of groups of people - there are almost always, and probably many, exceptions to each of the points posted below. Please keep this in mind to avoid stereotyping; it is not my intention to offend any Japanese or Canadians. For example, if a medical study lists the mean IQ of African Americans at 87, that does not mean that a given African American is 'dumb'. Use the same kind of thinking when reading the post.

Language must also be clearly defined. By 'many' (or 'frequently') I do not necessarily mean a majority. 'Many' may even applied to describe a small percentage of the population, such as 1%. However, 'many' still carries meaning because it emphasizes a difference. For example, if the rate of 'such and such property in the general population' is 0.4% in Canada and it is 1.1% in Japan, that is a significant difference - almost 3 times! Yet, it is still a tiny minority of the population. When I say "Men here have more..." I mean that "Japanese men have more..." - this is the point of reference when using 'here'.

Japanese culture is changing quite rapidly, so there are some generational differences. There is an aging population that is creating a significant change in the structure of Japanese society, the implications of which will be felt from now until decades later. Some of the points below may only apply to one age group. Younger generations tend to be more Westernized, and so there is probably less of a difference between Japan and Canada in these cases.

I don't know if this is very enjoyable to read, but some have been waiting for this, so here it is!

And so, without further blah-blah...

⇒Men here have more prominence in all high-level positions, especially in companies and the government. The second point is related.
⇒Compared with Canada, a higher proportion of women in Japan fulfill traditional roles in society (e.g. housewife, receptionist) and a much lower proportion are in the technology sector (e.g. areas such as software engineering).
⇒The use of personalized stamps (not the postal kind) is required in Japan; signatures alone are, generally speaking, insufficient.
⇒The main modes of transportation are train, bus, and taxi. However, many if not most Japanese families do have a car. Still, the percentage of Japanese owning a car is much lower than that of Canadians, owing to their excellent public transportation system.
⇒People are almost always polite here, in other words you'll be hard pressed to bump into a rude person. Many people, especially company employees here, are very busy and so may seem to be rude but really they just have no time (i.e. if you ask for directions to a temple).
⇒Service is basically without exception, exceptional here. When I come back to Canada I'll be in for a huge reverse culture-shock. "Whaddya want??"
⇒There is a much greater emphasis on cuteness here. Many commercials, books, even cars and electronics are essentially made to be cuter than their competitors. This is known as the 'cuteness factor' by foreigners like me studying cultural differences.

⇒Many Japanese may form closer bonds with their co-workers and high school friends than with their immediate family. Due to this, it is frequently the case that husband and wife are not 'close' or affectionate. Stemming from this and weak anti-prostitution law enforcement, we have the booming love hotel/soap spa business.
⇒A mother usually bonds much more closely with her child(ren) than with her husband.
⇒Guys usually hang out with guys and vice versa for girls. They tend to form large cliques. Consequently, even when married, it is common for men and women to form separate groups, like for instance, when dining, partying, and shopping.

⇒Most employees work long hours. What I mean is 9:00 to 21:00 is not really considered overtime.
⇒Company events here are held more frequently and on a larger scale (we had over 1500 people at our summer festival last Friday)
⇒The bureaucratic procedures here, although created with the intention to help boost productivity, is practiced to the point where it hurts productivity instead.
⇒People are almost always courteous and helpful here. In the company it's even harder to find a rude person since you won't be asking for directions to a temple or something while they're running to the company.
⇒Bonds between company employees are quite strong. It's almost family-like.
⇒Beer and sake are the agents that keep strong these bonds. Sure, many people in Canada drink beer and have a great time after work/school. But no, not nearly as prominent as it is here - here it is almost guaranteed that you'll go out a few times a week drinking.

⇒There are many private schools here. In fact, most high school students go to private high schools.
⇒There are dozens of books that just describe and compare the 300-odd high schools around Tokyo.
⇒Primary school is 6 years long, junior high is 3 years long as is high school.
⇒There are many 塾, or cram schools that supposedly help you into universities and high schools.

⇒Sorting the trash into 11 different piles is something that Epson does (ISO 14001), but even in everyday life, garbage is sorted in a specific manner.

Sources of information include many 25-50 year old Japanese colleagues, penpals, Canadians working here, my relatives and their friends, and lastly of course, my experiences here.

This is a working list, and so even if a few months pass, expect this page to be updated again. Items may be removed and/or added without notice at my sole discretion.

And yes, I've been reading too many software licenses. =P



I went to Ginza today with a few distant relatives from China. Ginza's the kind of place that makes you feel poor. At first, you tend to think that the extra few 0's at the end were added by accident.

I can't afford any of the stuff there nor do I wish to buy them if I had the money; I'm not into fashion. What surprised me is that these relatives from China are rich. A better term might be nouveau riche. The tendency to spend, and especially display wealth is typical of the newly rich, and it is an epidemic here (referring to Japan, China, and Korea). People here have to realize that wearing $6,000 worth of Burberry and Louis Vuitton doesn't make you a better person. I think that if one is indeed blessed with fortune, one should use discretion and show a little subtlety. Conspicuous consumption is a social problem with implications that may be difficult to see.

Over-consumption is a social norm here. It's basically expected that one has at least a few brand names on their person. This is doesn't apply to guys as much, but the girls here certainly feel pressure. Sure, there are many wealthy people, and yes, they buy many brand name goods. The sad part is that the average Joe - probably Jane in this case - is expected to do the same. What happens? They wear a few grand, looking like they are the daughter or wife of a multi-millionaire, and have basically nothing in savings.

It's a fact that many girls (and some guys too) in Tokyo are very materialistic. This is why I'm very glad to have met a few girls here that do not prioritize making and spending money.

So there goes my anti-materialism rant. I'm not against great brands, rather I'm against the notion that one must wear brand names to fit into society.


Nagano, summer festival, medical exam, Shinjuku, Star Wars: Episode 3, O-bon

I'm going on a business trip to Nagano next week (update: actually I don't know when but it's 'soon').

Work is tough but since I'm working on some very new technology, I'm happy. I can't reveal much, but it's to do with the next version of Windows, Windows Vista (formerly codenamed Longhorn). Research is in the form of reading 400+ page Microsoft confidential documents that have like 8 pages or so of legal blah-blah before the real material. Company policy dictates that we read the legal stuff =P.

Let's look at some differences between the work environment in a software company here and in Canada (using Roxio as the reference):

-almost everyone here works crazy hours. Like 9:00 to 21:00.
-no games room here =(
-more company events here (tommorow we have a summer festival! I bought some raffle tickets.. I hope to win a PSP hehe)
-bureaucracy is rampant here
-the reception ladies are quite cute :P

I'll add more differences as they come to me, but other than these, it's pretty much the same. Oh, and we speak Japanese here, but that's obvious, right? =P

Due to popular demand, (actually just one person so far, but eh.. :P) I'll be posting more differences in the near future, about everyday life though, not work. Although do keep in mind that many points are generalizations, and as there is inherent danger in generalizing, be careful not to infer too much.

All new employees must undergo a thorough medical examination, which I think shows a bit of the extent of bureaucracy here. I went to a nearby hospital today (the building I'm in has a small hospital too, but it's too limited to perform such an exhaustive medical exam). Among the things performed were:

-measuring height, weight, chest, hip, waist
-urine sample, blood sample (4 tubes!)
-x-ray scans
-blood pressure
-vision tests, hearing tests
-reflex exam

Yesterday, us 3 Canadians in the office (me, John, and Sachin) went to Shinjuku to meet Sachin's Japanese friend. She's pretty and studies law - wow, go Sachin! =P We had fun eating Shabu-shabu buffet. We had plans to watch Star Wars: Episode 3 so we had to leave her in the middle of Shinjuku (one of the busiest cities in Tokyo).

I'll take some pictures of my colleagues soon, and with their permission post them here =D.
I also want to watch the O-bon festival. I'll try to take pictures but it's a nighttime festival I think, so they might not turn out well.

以上。(the end)


Yachting near Tokyo

I went yachting for a day with my uncles' high school classmates south of Yokohama, in Misaki.
Now I'm all red and hurting - yeoow, sunburn!! It was really fun though. There was this extremely humorous and cheerful pilot (he flies the Pokemon plane for JAL!) that kept saying weird things in English and French to me, which made me and everyone else laugh like crazy. For example, he would add "..in the bed" after nearly every sentence, like "Co-pilot, in da beddo". Other quotes include "I'm Michael Jackson - do you know Michael Jackson?", "Do you trust me?", and "Sil vous plait.", which were all overused but funny nonetheless.

We sailed quite a distance in the morning, about a third of the way to Ooshima. While I was at the helm, 2 or 3 yachts passed us - yeah, I suck =P. At lunchtime, we came back near the harbour, and we had 3 yachts all anchored side-by-side and started to barbeque. I swam in the ocean a bit too, but accidentally swallowed a bit of sea water. Boy, was it salty!

Hmm.. tommorow is the first day of work. 頑張ります! (ganbarimasu!) I hope this redness fades a bit by tommorow morning..


Hino 日野

I moved in yesterday under heavy rain, but I ended up going back with my relatives since I was missing many necessary things (including food!). So, I came back today at 2:00 pm, bought some stuff along the way, and started unpacking everything. Here are some pictures (some were taken vertically so you'll have to exercise your neck a bit =P) of Hino and my apartment:

Apartment - Outside:

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(L) This is the apartment complex. (R) The parking spaces are small but well-paved.
Little space is wasted here -- look at the corn planted just behind the parking spaces.

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(L) Bicycle parking area. (R) Apartment notice board, containing garbage pick-up dates.

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(L) The name of the apartment complex is Leo Palace 21 (at least that's what I think), but apparently Libra (written in Katakana below the lion) is the actual name. (R) Stairs. Yup, really.

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(L and R) My unit, 204.

Okay, let's go inside!!
(I photographed the inside first and then the outside, so that's why the file names are like that)

Apartment - Inside:

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(L) The entrance. Shoes off! The pair of slippers there is a souvenir from my uncle, when he recently was in India for a business trip. (C) Closet is to the left, in the middle is a ladder to the sleeping quarters, and to the right is the door which opens into the hallway. (R) Mirror and closet.

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(L) Sleeping quarters - nice and cozy. (C and R) Bird's-eye view.

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(L) Microwave and fridge. (C) Scotty's place. 30 amps should be enough, right? The breakers are divided into 10A, 15A, 20A, 30A, 40A, 50A and 60A in Japan, all colour coded. The colours are red, pink, yellow, green, grey, orange, and purple respectively. So I con green, a decent challenge. We need more power Scotty! (R) The washing machine, which is right under the breakers.

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(L) A toilet. To the right and up a step, is the bathroom. (C) The bathroom. To the behind lies the toilet. (R) A sink and an self-cleaning range.

Well, wondering how the view is like from the window? Here's a semi-panoramic view:
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(L, C, and R) View from window. Go unnecessary comments! =P

To be honest, I can't think of a good name for the next section -- 'Miscellaneous' would be too boring and 'Things on desk' seems a little lame -- so I'll call it.. umm.. stuffy stuffies!

Stuffy stuffies:

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(L) Things I bought on the moving day (yesterday). In Hino, special garbage bags must be used. The orange is for non-burnable trash and the green is for burnable trash. The key to the apartment is the metal card in the middle of the picture. To open the door, you insert the card and twist it 90 degrees to the left (refer to previous pictures of the front door).
(C) The pink book is the apartment manual (yes, there's a manual). The other booklets contain other instructions, warnings, and flyers.
(R) Other things I bought yesterday.

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(L) Things I received from the Hino City Office after registering. Free garbage bags (alright!), an Engrish manual on garbage disposal, a Hino City guidebook, and a colour calendar containing the garbage pick-up dates.
(C) Groceries I bought on my way back from registering as an alien at the city office. Those peaches are delicious!! That boxed meal is my first meal at Hino =). Hmm, what else. That orange egg-shaped thing is actually a refill, not a real air freshener -- doh!
(R) Emergency escape rope ladder.

Hino City, Tokyo Capital (東京都日野市):

These pictures were taken on the way from my apartment to the Hino City Office, in chronological order this time:

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(L) Railway tracks. These are fairly close to my apartment it often gets a bit noisy. (C) Blueberries! (R) うぁー!ひろい!(uwaa! hiroi!) Guess the meaning on the comment page! Let's see who gets the closest answer! =D

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(L and R) The closest station to my apartment, Toyoda.

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(L) Fairly large park. To the left is the Hino City Office. (R) The Hino City Office.

Coming out of the city office, I took these pictures of the park.

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Okay, that's it for now! It took 2 hours and 30 minutes for this post, whew!