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:

Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.us
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.
Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.us

And the instant rice.
Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.us

(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.

Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.us
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!