The Aftermath

Author: mirai  //  Category: Life in general, Rants and Raves

It’s been two days since what is believed to be the worst natural disaster Japan has ever experienced.  In addition to a magnitude 9.0 earthquake (upgraded from a previously reported M8.8 -which is only the 4th largest earthquake in recorded history), there was also a series on tsunamis that wiped out many areas in northern Japan.  And to make to things even worse, there are now fears of a possible meltdown of a nuclear reactor in that area.

In my area, things are relatively unaffected.  I came home to find that our laundry pole had fell off its hinges, but that’s about it.  Not even a broken dish, or picture frame out of place, so I am truly counting my lucky stars.  I do however, feel that food supplies might become an issue in the next few days, as people react to the disaster and overstock their supplies.  I went the convenience store today only to find that a lot of the non-perishable goods to be gone, along with water supplies.  But at this point, I a not too concerned about running out of food our water because most of the infrastructure in this area is up and running, so supplies will most likely replenish in time.

Our area continues to experience an occasional jolts here and there, but nothing too big.  In general, earthquakes don’t frighten me, but if we have another one like the one two days ago, and I am alone, I might be a bit scared.

Tomorrow’s Monday, which means another day at work.  Honestly speaking, I’ve contemplated not going, but I think my company depends on me to be there.  We all need to pitch in an do our part in times like this, so I will be there as I normally am.

 

For everyone else , take care!!  Miwa…haven’t heard from you…hope that you’re okay in Sendai.  Check in if you can!

 

Biggest Baddest Earthquake EVER!

Author: mirai  //  Category: Life in general

We had a MAJOR earthquake today.  I am so use to earthquakes in Japan, that even moderately big earthquakes that make some people cringe with fear, don’t phase me.  But today’s earthquake was different.   I actually feared for my life as I crawled underneath my desk and just hoped that the ceiling didn’t fall on me.

Since our three executive managers were in Singapore on business, the head of Operations, the HR director, and myself (the head of IT) were effectively senior management for the Tokyo office, therefore it was our responsibility ensure the safety of everybody in the office and lead the building evacuations, and business contingency operations.  I remained pretty calm through the ordeal on the surface level, but in reality, I was fearing for my life as the building rocked and swayed for what it seemed like an eternity.  Even when the big one stopped, several little ones continued to turn our building into a swaying monster as it creaked and crawled for several hours.  People were on the verge of panicking as images 20 ft tsunami’s swallowed whole entire neighborhoods as we all helplessly watched it live as it happened on the news.   Luckily, the only real damage that happened in our office was a few ceiling tiles that fell, but it was enough to frighten several people.  As I write this, the building continues to vibrate and shake at times, but not as nearly as bad as it did earlier today.  Unfortunately, the people up in Miyagi prefecture are  not as fortunate, as they continue to get pounded with fierce aftershocks and tsunamis.

Miyagi…our hearts and thought are with you!!

Last Day in Singapore

Author: mirai  //  Category: All Posts, Travel Blog, Work Related

This is my last day day in Singapore.  Sadly, it’s a work day, but I will probably be able sneak out a bit early to see the city one last time before I leave tomorrow on the morning flight back to Tokyo.

I usually don’t like hot, humid, wet, topical, summer-all-year climates, but Singapore more than makes up for in so many different ways that it could easily become one of my favorite places to visit.  I especially liked the Clarke Quay and Boat Quay areas; there seems to be a healthy amount of action going on there.  And although I didn’t have the opportunity to really go clubbing (not that I am really interested in clubbing anymore), just seeing the people there was entertaining enough.  And anywhere where I can get root beer for a reasonable amount of pocket change is instantly tops in my book, especially when there is a variety of brands to choose from.


In addition to the Quay’s,  I had the opportunity to go into the city over the weekend. One of my co-workers suggested that I check out the Ion Orchard Mall.  It really turned out to be just a cluster of really upscale department stores selling pricey fashion merchandise like Louis Vuitton and Chanel, so I wasn’t too particularly interested in those places.  However, right across the street from the Ion Orchard was another mall that had a more localistic atmosphere to it.  The ground floor had the more conventional shops and restaurants like Subway and Pizza Hut.  But the higher you go up in floors, the more you tend to believe that you’re in Manila instead of Singapore.  There were more shops and restaurants catering to the local Filipino population there.  The food looked a bit too, let’s say “authentic” for me to muster up the courage to try it, so I passed on all of it.

The one thing I didn’t quite get at first was the sheer numbers of Filipino women conjugating in such a small area.  But then I realized two things: 1.  It was Sunday, and so it was a day off for most of the resident Filipino maid community, and 2.  There must have no less that 20 foreign currency exchange kiosks and banks in that one particular building.  Usually the Filipino maids would take their earnings and convert them into Filipino pesos before sending them to relatives in their home country.  Therefore, the lines in front of these banks and kiosk were mostly Filipino maids and other labor workers.  I must have stuck out like a swore  thumb, because it seemed that I was the only guy in the whole place.  But oddly enough I blended right in because apparently I look like a local.

This brings me to another topic.  As I mentioned earlier, I get stop frequently and asked for directions because apparently I look like one of the natives here, despite the suits I wear (apparently no one wears suits in Singapore -thanks for telling me).  In a way, this makes me feel very comfortable, especially coming from a place where people rarely even look at me let alone talk to me, because they assume I don’t speak the language.  In Singapore, people (mostly tourists and some locals) approach me and ask me for directions or what my opinion is on a particular restaurant or shop.  Of course, I have no opinions because I’ve never visited let alone heard of those places.  On one occasion, when I was looking at a menu in front of a restaurant, I was asked if there were any seats available (apparently mistaking me for a host or a waiter no doubt because of the suit of course)  But the one thing that blows people away the most is my accent.  You never really think of yourself as having a foreign accent, but in Singapore, I am the one with the strange and exotic accent, so people (mostly cab drivers) ask me where I am from.  I instinctively answer Yokohama, Japan rather than the States nowadays, because that is where my permanent place of residence now, and naturally people are very surprised by this.  I had a taxi driver who nearly got into an accident because he kept looking at me in his rear view mirror rather than keeping his eyes on the road.  I eventually had to explain my whole life story to him in the interest of my own personal safety.

If it weren’t for the fact that an average compact car costs in upwards on S$150,000 (that’s about USD$90,000 for something like a base model Honda Civic), I would probably wouldn’t mind living here.  Of course there are no race courses other than the converted street course for the Singapore GP that they hold once a year, so I guess that is  another reason why I would not be able stay in Singapore for a long period of time.

Singapore

Author: mirai  //  Category: All Posts, Life in general, Rants and Raves, Travel Blog, Work Related

I have been in Singapore for the last 3 days now on business, and so far it’s been a blast.  The only thing that could be better is the weather, which is very similar to the weather on Guam.  It’d be sunny most of the day, then all of a sudden rain.  And like Guam it seems to rain everyday.  Other than that I really like it here.  The food is good, the people are friendly, and  of course the entire city is immaculately clean.


I am staying a small hotel near the touristy part of the city near the Singapore river.  There are lot of restaurants and bars around here, too bad most of the restaurants are Japanese though.  My hotel is…well,  bit strange.  There is no way to really describe it accurately, but I’ll try.


The room itself is pretty spacious, but vertically spacious.  You see it’s a two story room and the bedroom is on the second floor, or to be more accurately a  loft.  Sounds cool right?  That’s what I thought before I arrived but in reality, it the worst use of space ever designed.  I mean who ever design this room should really take lessons from the way the Japanese people fully utilize small spaces effectively.  It seems that this room has a whole heaps load of space in terms of square or more like cubic footage, but the space usage was not planned out too well.   For example, (and I will post pictures later so that you’ll understand what going on about here),the bottom has a pretty sizable living quarters, at least by Asian standards (by American standards, this place would be a walk-in closet), but it has this very wide writing desk thingy that takes up about 20 sq. feet of space.   But to make things a bit strange, there are steps that lead up to the top of the desk, and connects to another flight of steps that connects to the loft.  So in other words, to get to the top of the loft you have stand on top of the desk.


As for the loft itself, it barely is big enough to do anything but sleep.  The width of the loft is about 1/3 the width of the bottom level, which in my opinion kind of dumb.  Why waste space by making this a loft in the first place?  I think they should have made this a full sized floor to take full advantage of the  available space.  But I guess that would have been less cool looking.


Finally, the REALLY strange part of this hotel is  that the whole hotel complex is shaped like the letter H, and my room is on the inside portion of the top of the H.  That means that I am directly adjacent to a bunch of rooms on the other side.  This would not really be a big deal except for the fact that the side room facing  inside of the H is one huge two story glass window.  Now, here is the interesting thing, either the people of Singapore have absolutely no shame, or there’s some kind of voyeurism thing going on here among the guests in the hotel, because people (both men and women) would shamelessly prance around in their rooms either partially or completely nude with their curtains wide open for the world to see (not that I am watching of course….not intentionally at least…except for maybe the blonde girl on the ninth floor) Quite a strange phenomenon, and takes a quit a bit of getting use to.  As for me, I immediately close my curtains when I get back from the office.  No one is going to be peeping in on me.



December Again

Author: mirai  //  Category: All Posts, Cars and Racing, Life in general, Work Related

Yup it’s December again, and I am starting off this blog like I do every December.  You’re probably wondering where I got the phrase “December Again”.  Well its kind of a play on a title of a song called Winter Again by a Japanese alternative rock band called Glay (no I didn’t misspell it), not that I am too crazy over  Glay or the song for that matter.  However, people who know me know that December is my favorite month.  So many good things happen in December, that it just makes me happy every time it rolls around.  It’s only been one day, but already a lot of good things have happen this month.

We’ve finally sold our Mini Cooper race car, and are about to put in a bid for a more competitive race car for next season.  I am about to rebuild my race car.  I’ve joined an awesome new company as the Head of IT, and I am going to Singapore (first time ever) on business in couple of weeks to meet with my staff members.  Nothing but goodness, and about to get better.  Yup!  December ALWAYS rocks!   Gotta love it!

New Camera!

Author: mirai  //  Category: All Posts, Rants and Raves, Techie Stuff

After nearly two weeks without a camera, the new camera finally arrived.  I was a picky this time, because I am not exaggerating when I say how much I loved my old Canon Ixy 1000.  I didn’t want to replace with just anything, not even another newer Ixy.  The newer models oddly enough have LESS functions than the older ones.  I guess the whole idea is to sell less complicated cameras,so  that the majority of the public can use them easily.  Unfortunately, something that is just point and shoot is not enough for me.  I like some degree of manual control so that I can manipulate the photograph. But nowadays, most of the cameras being sold are pretty dumbed down so anyone can use them.


The Ixy 1000 that we’d been using for the last 3 and half years was nice in that it had fully automatic point and shoot mode, and a manual mode where I can control lighting through ISO settings, etc so that I could take pictures without using the flash (even dark areas).  The newer cameras always try to select the right settings for you automatically  so that you get a good picture, but often times turn out to look like an amateur took the picture.



Through my research, I found that Canon’s Ixy 3000IS is the last model that Canon made that featured a fully manual mode.  Nowadays, if you need a camera where you want to be able to control light settings, you would have to buy a DSLR camera.  I don’t mind DSLR’s but they are a bit big and cumbersome to carry for little trips here and there.  Also, it takes too much care, as you have to disassemble lens and and body, clean them, and store them separately so that they don’t collect dust and scratches, or even break.


I looked all over for the Ixy 3000IS, but they were last sold in 2008, and have somewhat become a rare and premium item in Japan.  Even the used ones are being sold over retail price.  And of course, the electronics shops only carry the latest cameras, so it’s impossible to find the 2 year old model in brand new condition.


My only options at this point were to either settle with what is available on the market today, or scour the world wide web for an Ixy 3000IS in brand new condition.  I chose the latter.  In the UK, the 3000IS goes by Ixus SD990IS and in the US, it goes by PowerShot SD990IS; I guess western countries don’t like the name Ixy…I wonder why.



I noticed that both the US and UK also carry high premiums due to the rarity of this camera. In the States, I have seen them go for as high as $1000.  The retail price is only $399.  In the UK, the price is a bit more reasonable -about 320BP.  I lucked out and found one I the States in brand new condition for $290 (over $100 off the retail price), so I ordered it right away.


So far, I have had for less than a week and its quite nice.  It’s a bit more complicated than the Ixy 1000, but its a lot more reactive and faster.  The below photos were taken with my iphone, not the Canon.


Annoyances

Author: mirai  //  Category: All Posts, Comic relief, Life in general, Rants and Raves

A brief caveat on myself and on the contents of this post before you read:

I am NOT a people hater, but I do hate it people do things that make absolutely no sense at all.  So if you agree with me so far, keep reading and see if you are still with me at the end of my rant.

In Japan almost everyone and their mothers have lunch between the hours of 11AM and 1PM, so almost every restaurant you go to during these 2 hours  are jammed packed full of people.  Often times, you are told that there will be a wait to get a seat. The wait can be anywhere between 15 to 45 minutes just to be seated.  This doesn’t even take in account for the time it takes to get the attention of  a waiter or waitress to take your order…or the time it takes for your order to be prepared and delivered…or the time it takes for you to eat your food.  And then, you have to wait to pay for your food, because in most cases you cannot pay through your waiter or waitress, and you have to stand in line  with people who like to squabble over who should pay the bill at the cash register.   Not fun, especially when you usually only have an hour to spend for lunch.  So logically, the best thing to do is avoid going to any restaurant during these hours, which I normally do.

McDonald’s does a very peculiar thing these days.   By the way, I would not recommend going to any McDonald’s in Japan during the hours of 11AM to 2PM if you are even slightly in a bad mood, or it’ll only serve to make your mood even worse!  Having said this, in my own defense I was not in a really bad mood today, and I did go after 2Pm, but they still  managed to annoy me none the less.

You see,  in Japan, McDonald’s has this “brilliant” idea of making almost everything on their menus cheaper during peak lunch hours  (between 11AM to 2PM), which has got to be absolutely THE single worst idea in the history of fast food restaurant management because it only pours fuel on the overcrowding situation.

Before I go on, I must correct myself to avoid any misunderstandings.  McDonald’s didn’t make their menus cheaper during peak hours, but rather they made their menu’s more expensive during non-peak hours.  For example, once upon a time, not too long ago,  a Filet-O-Fish Set (Filet-O-Fish w/ medium fries and a medium-sized soft drink) was 490 yen (about $5.60USD) no matter what time of the day you went.  Now, you can get a Filet-O-Fish Set for that price only during peak hours.  If you’re even 1 nano second late, then you pay the “normal” price of 590 yen ($6.70)… except that 590yen is their new inflated price.

So, what’s the result of McDonald’s fabulous idea of lowering normalizing the prices of their menus during peak hours?  Well for starters, you get an overcrowded restaurant where you absolutely cannot…I repeat CANNOT get a table in some areas.  Since there are no real loitering laws (or at least none being actively enforced) you get people who buy one small cup of coffee and stay in the restaurant for fricken’ hours -sometimes taking up two tables (one for themselves and the other for their bags, briefcase, laptop bag, or whatever.  Today I saw just that – a man with an empty Styrofoam McDonald’s coffee cup in front of him, completely fast asleep while people carrying trays of food aimlessly look for a place to sit and eat their lunch.

Secondly, you get a lopsided business model.  Ideally, you would want a steady stream of customers all day long, and not just a peak/dead situation which I normally see at these restaurants.  Except, McDonald’s seems to encourage this which makes no sense!  If you know that the majority of your customers consistently come to your restaurant between certain hours of the day because of the robotic way everyone was programmed to do things at the same time everyday when they where children, wouldn’t it be smarter to raise prices (if you’re going to raise prices at all) during those hours?  Wouldn’t it also make sense to encourage people to come during  hours, which are normally are dead by lowering the menu prices during those times?  Am I missing something?  Do I not make sense?

One other annoyance that I’ve had is with the smoking policies that some of these restaurants have.  Most American-based companies such as McDonald’s, Denny’s, or Starbucks (although Starbucks isn’t really a restaurant) are pretty good about segregating their smoking and non-smoking areas.  One exception is Subway.  They are HORRIBLE at  with separating smokers from non-smokers.  A non-smoking table can literally be right next to a smoking table.  Apparently, the Subway restaurant managers are unaware that smoke can travel through the air and annoy a non-smoker sitting at a table 2 feet away.

Hey, I get that most of the Subways are really just big sandwich “stands”, and aren’t really restaurant per se, but if I were a manager of small sandwich shop with limited seating, and I had any business sense, or common sense which these managers seem to greatly lack,  I would realize that the last thing I would want is someone sitting in my restaurant sitting there for 2 hours smoking a cigarette and taking up valuable space.  I would want people to sit down, eat their sandwich as fast as humanly possible and get the hell out, so that my next customer can sit down, eat their sandwich as fast as humanly possible, and get the hell out.

What Japanese restaurant managers need to realize is that  restaurants are there for consuming food and drinks, not taking an afternoon snooze, …or having a long cigarette drag,… or making it into your own private office, …or having a geeky little game fests with your geeky little gamer friends.  It’s annoying!!!  Stop encouraging it with your business models that MAKE NO SENSE!!  And for the people who like to loiter, have some decency and respect for other people who have to share that space by not annoying them!


3D Television -do we really need it?

Author: mirai  //  Category: Life in general, Rants and Raves, Techie Stuff

The other day, I visited my local electronics store to buy a new hard disk to replace the broken one in my blog server. Yes, that’s the third hard disk this year, but that’s another rant.  In the process, I got a first had look at the new 3D LCD television sets. In Japan, there has been an enormous amount of hype amongst the media on how wonderful these things are, and how it is the next generation in the home theater experience. Well, here’s my take on it:

First, let me make a comment on 3D “technology” in general.  Not to sound like an old man who’s letting the progress of time leave him behind, but in general I think that this whole 3D thing -whether it’d be movies, television, or artwork, is a bunch of hooey (to put it politely).  I remember back in the days when I was a kid, a local TV station in my hometown in the states would periodically broadcast movies in 3D.  You would have to manipulate the color settings on your TV set and buy these really dumb looking cardboard 3D glasses with red and blue lenses (like that one guy in Biff Tanner’s gang use to to wear in the movie Back to the Future) from the local convenience store for like $2.50.  It never worked too well, and I never got it to work well enough to get the 3D effect.   I mean, what are we? back in the fifties again? Why now? Why again with this 3D movie craze?  Don’t get me wrong;  I’ve watched Captain EO and Honey I Shank the Kids at Disneyland, and it’s all fun and well, but I also think that 3D has it’s place, and a correct way of using it.  The living room is definitely not the place, and it has been way overused in movies today,in my opinion.

3D has become the new CGI (computer generated imagery).  With the exception of some good movies like Terminator 2, which has a pretty good plot, I personally think that all CGI really is, is big band aid for a poorly written script.  And 3D is pretty much the same.  The movie, Avatar is a good case in point. Although it received pretty good ratings and pulled in a lot of money at the box office, if you take away the 3D  and all of CGI special effects, what you have is a really stupid movie with a very cliche plot.  It just goes to show that if you pour hundred of millions of dollars into eye popping special effects, then you can create an instant  box office sensation out of a very mediocre story line.  Here is where I think 3D effects would work well: any Star Trek movie.  The Star Trek franchise has always coupled award winning special effects with a good engaging story line, and I would definitely go to see a Star Trek movie in 3D.

Going back to the original topic that I hopelessly strayed off of, I see 3D televisions as just another gimmicky gadget that no one really should want or need.  While I was in the electronics store, I put on the funky Bret “the Hitman” Hart look-alike glasses (or maybe they look more like the glasses that the aliens from the 1983 television show “V” were wearing) …anyways I put them on and watched a soccer match in 3D. I was hardly impressed.  Instead of seeing eye-popping effects and objects that seemingly leap out of the screen at me, it was more like looking into an aquarium with little people in shorts running around back and forth. Hardly impressive.  Afterward, I felt a bit light headed; it was sort of the same feeling I get trying to look at the 3D image hidden in a stereogram.

So my general impression is that I don’t think its worth shelling out the extra cash for just the new 3D technology in these TV’s.  I wouldn’t mind too much if they became standard equipment on all TVs in the future as long as I can turn the 3D off when I didn’t need it, but there is no way I would want to pay extra for it.  It’s just not worth looking like a retro 80’s reptile alien, or an old washed up professional wrestler just to get the awkward fish tank effect. I could definitely live without it.  And yeah,I get it… I am sure that if I watched the right movie with the proper effects, the experience would be tons better, but I still ain’t buyin’ it!

Random Vacation Pics

Author: mirai  //  Category: Life in general

These are just random pics I took while I was on vacation in California and Georgia last July.  By the way, I am trying something new with a Polaroid overlay plug-in…not sure it all the RSS feeds or the Facebook link will display the pics properly, so if they don’t display right, you’ll just have to com visit my site.





September Again

Author: mirai  //  Category: All Posts, Life in general, Rants and Raves

Thank goodness August is FINALLY over.  I’ve always despised August (especially in Japan).  The days are long, hot, and wet (from the humidity), and there are no public holidays, so the month seems to last forever.  September is nice mellow month for me.  Things tend to cool down a bit, there are lot of nice holidays, and although they’re usually not celebrated in Japan, Thanksgiving and Halloween are just around the corner.

With the temperatures expected to finally die down in the following weeks, I will finally complete the rebuild of my wood deck.  In the long procrastination, I mean hiatus that I had taken to do this, I was able to come up with a few very artistic ideas to make the deck look better.