Sunday, October 29, 2006

what did your mama tell you?

You know that thing about your parents' advice being relevant at just the right time? Well, I was catching up with mama & papa yesterday after my last call to them. Mama was quite concerned about winter coming and me not being able to withstand the cold. She was also giving me advice on car maintenance and making sure I got the mechanic's number just in case something happened.

Well, today on our way to do groceries at Jusco, the car suddenly died. Right at the entrance to the parking lot where cars were driving in from the main road. As soon as we got out of the car, we saw smoke coming out of the bonnet. We were shocked to find out that the battery and the connecting cable was on fire!

Thank God I had 3 bodyguards guys with me. They helped push the car to the side while I called Yuichi-san for help. We were trying to figure out what went wrong and Yuichi was suggesting perhaps we should call the mechanic. Apparently getting their service would cost Y6,000 already.

So we thought of getting it to the nearest petrol station just to get a rough estimate of the repairs. The petrol-lady accessed the damage and said the previous person who handled the battery must've manually connected the cables wrongly, thus causing it to short-circuit and catch fire. Gosh! The car could've blown up, with the 4 of us in it!

Since the repairs and replacement would onli cost about Y6000+, we decided to just leave the car there and collect it when it was done. But I had to come back with some papers (I think they need to prove I did not steal the car!) before they could start repairing, and since it was a weekend, their supplier was on holiday. So I'd have to come back with the papers so they can replace my burnt battery and cables, and return again when they're done.

And guess what? By the time I came back, half the campus already knew what happened to me. Some even got the facts twisted and thought I got into an accident! The wonders of WOM.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

practically irresistable!

Did I mention that we have millions alot of case studies to read for this term? Well, we do. And there's like a neverending stream of them. At least 2 a week and they're done in groups. So group meetings take up a lot of our time and by the time you're done with one, you have to dash off to another one.

So much so that you get confused which person is in which group and which subject it's for. Yes, we have groups for all our subjects (except for Japanese, thank goodness!) so you learn to work with people you don't like get to practice your intercommunication skills.

But, I digress. I was trying to catch up on one of the cases for our Marketing Comm class and decided to surf the company's website for more info. Case in particular was of P&G's Scope Advertising Copy. I must say they have pretty much gotten their PR and user experience down pat.

Tips for fresh breath, quiz on irresistability IQ, latest ads, online poll, FAQs, subscription to their online magazine and the mandatory product lineup. Since I was stuck at the case question, I gave the quiz a go. And this is what I got!

yummy icecream

Sunny days are getting rarer as weather forecasts predict sporadic showers and cloudy weather. Is this what they call autumn? I don't really feel much difference from spring except that leaves are turning yellow and falling. Spring was when buds came out and transformed skeleton-looking trees into trunks with green on them.

One fine day sometime early this month, I took the opportunity to go out with some of my classmates. It was only the 2nd week into the semester but we could already feel the weight of the workload, but I thought it was gonna be now or never. So I drove them to Yummy, a favourite haunt with locals for good homemade icecream.

Since we were already out, I decided to explore the area. Even though I've been to Urasa a few times before this, I haven't been able to see what this little town had to offer. We dropped by a winery and tasted some of their white and red wine. That must've made them a little happier coz Kedar immediately bought a bottle to try.

We then walked from the vineyard to a nearby park to take somemore pictures. I still couldnt imagine this whole place being submerged in snow. For one, I've never been to a 4-season country before. I've seen snow when I first came to Urasa, but that was dirty snow melting away in May. As I thought about the prospect of being here during the long winter, I realised it was getting a little chilly so we decided to call it a day and head back to campus.

Friday, October 20, 2006

those things that you have to fill up

As long as I can remember, filling out forms in Malaysia has never been a problem for me. Academic forms, office-related forms, scholarship forms, income tax forms and even online forms.

But when I started applying for overseas scholarships, things became a little complicated. What's a first name and last name anyways? Add in family name, middle name, given name and initial (single or double) and it becomes even mindblog... I mean mindboggling.

Is last name the same as family name? Coz first name is usually family name (苗字) in Japan. I have 3 words to my name, but according to the American system, one has to go to middle name. But if I do that, my name gets screwed up coz 2 collectively are my given names.

I bet over the years while filling up foreign forms, I have had various versions of my name. In Malaysia, it's just one LONG space for your FULL name. I guess you'd say we've mastered the art of making things easy when you have so many races living in the country.

The other thing is native language. I'm Chinese by descent but no doubt Mandarin is probably my worst language considering my proficiency of the Japanese language at the moment. I'm also Malaysian by nationality and I can speak as well as a native Malay but I'd have to say my command of English is the best so far.

So is native language the one you were brought up to speak? Or the one which is defined by your ethnic origins? Or could it be the one that you speak so well that you are mistaken for a native speaker?

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

elected into the council

I'm still alive from last weekend's mental torture Accts & Finance class. In a way, I'm glad we got that over with. We're almost done with this particular subject, the only thing left is our group assignment. Sounds straightforward enough - read an assigned company's annual report and describe main business, financial performance, potential intengibles, and those things that I usually don't bother reading other important corporate facts.

We had our GSO (Graduate Students' Organisation) election yesterday during lunch time. I initially thought of running for that, but after considering that I might end up working with certain obnoxious individuals it would take up too much of my time, I decided not to. The whole setup sounded glam enough for so many people to nominate themselves in.

At the same time, I was also contemplating on contesting for the IM (International Management) council. This was more academically inclined since this body dealt mainly with subjects, scheduling, seminars and all things scholastic. Only 2 positions from the MBA school and Ebiz school each were opened for candidacy.

I almost gave up thinking about it when I was struggling to understand in the midst of the Acct class. I didn't even meet the deadline actually. But an email from the former president at the very last minute spurred me to submit my name.

Lo and behold, there were only 2 of us from Ebiz. Even though we could've won by default, but they maintained that if and only if we obtained more than 50% of the votes, would we win the posts. I gave a roughly sketched short speech, not promising anything, but urging my voters (*cough) to work alongside with me to make their student life a fantabulous one.

I wouldn't have minded if I didn't win, but since I'm up in the Council (woohoo!), I guess I shall have to make do with better time management and hope not to die before the end of this year itself! Ganbarou yo!

Saturday, October 14, 2006

snapshots from hokkaido 4

It's exhausting to have one subject crammed into one weekend. I wonder what's wrong with these people - 10 days' worth of Foundations of Accounting and Finance into 2 days and you don't get a day off after that. And to top it all off, we have our final exam tomorrow itself!

Yes, while I do agree that it may sound like a good idea to just get it over with, but I think most of us were struggling to stay awake towards the end of today's session. It's only the 2nd week and they want to kill us already! I don't remember working life being this bad.

Anyways, to soothe the tired eyes, I thought these pictures taken at Noboribetsu helped a little. I managed to do a short stop over at this sleepy hollow which is otherwise known for its hotsprings and gorgeous valleys, while on the way to Hakodate at the southern tip of Hokkaido.

In any case, I think I'll get some eyepads and an early night. Must look fresh for my fans class tomorrow.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

snapshots from hokkaido 3

Our trusty rented bicycles brought us to rural Hokkaido. Lots of flat plain areas flanked by mountains in the horizon. The ride back was pretty hot. Should've worn a sleeveless. My efforts to get an even tan was almost successful back in Tokyo, but since I expected Hokkaido to be cooler, I didn't bring my tank top along.

You can tell that my travels are one big gastronomic adventure. That's the 3rd bowl of ramen I've eaten in Hokkaido. And I don't even like ramen! But I just had to try. Bragging rights haha. Having a chunk of creamy butter in your ramen soup just adds another dimention to the taste. I really think if you can make your own ramen, it's not that hard to replicate the Hokkaido ramen experience.

Our next stop was the Furano Wine Factory. Different breeds of grapes can be found here. We tasted some red wine, and a little of the more fruity white variety. Too bad the cheese factory wasn't near the wine factory. Oh, the combination of wine and cheese - yummy! But thank goodness for that, I'd have indulged more than I should.

This was one of the last few pictures I took before heading back to the station. If only we'd stayed back a little later, the sky would have turned into a glorious watercolour mix of purple, gold and chrome. Now that would've been picture perfect.

Monday, October 09, 2006

carpet for my feet

Today I kill myself further by placing a carpet in my room. My nose starts acting up with fur and those comforter/blanket thingy you find in posh hotels (cheap ones are even worse!).

But when you wake up on a cold morning, your feet craves for something warm when it touches the ground. That's when the carpet comes in handy. I have it beneath my toes now and it feels good.

I think I gotta either take antihistamines all the time or bear the cold months ahead of me without a carpet. Dang allergies.

On the other hand, good news is that we've completed our Innovation Challenge! Just uploaded our PDF file up to their website. It's really taken up a lot of my time. So left behind in my homework and assignments. Plus I'm the only one from Ebiz taking up Intermediate Japanese (I think) And my friends want me to run for the GSO elections. They must really love me or hate me :p

Saturday, October 07, 2006

snapshots from hokkaido 2

There was a mention of the Ramen Alley in Lonely Planet Japan and we thought we should pay it a visit. If you're not attentive enough you might just miss it. It's almost hidden in between the shops located on the main roads, and there's only this neon light signboard telling us where it was.

Apparently the seafood ramen is a must in Hokkaido. So we did just that. Huge chunks of crab, scallop and pork in mouthwatering soup was just too tempting to resist. It was past midnight and we were dead tired from all the walking. Plus my ill-fitting shoes were killing my feet, but it was worth every drop!

We woke up early the next day to take the train to Asahikawa, but there wasn't much to see there. Just a main road down the station and well, nothing much spectacular apart from that. So we went on to Furano, where we rented a bike and cycled around the town. Our first stop was the cheese factory, where we tasted marbled cheese infused with red wine. Too bad I didn't get to milk a real cow though.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

snapshots from hokkaido

Since I'm basically packed with almost-twice-daily meetings for the Innovation Challenge project, I thought I should just do mini posts for the moment. Taking Ebiz at 11 credits, Intermediate Japanese, and trying to reply fan mails while attempting to do freelance from here can be really tough. I need a secretary. And a maid to clean up dishes.

The Sapporo television tower which looks very much like the Eiffel Tower. Rather plain looking in the day, but quite a sight at night. Located near the Odori Park which is a wide strip of greenery separating the North from the South area of Sapporo.

Ramen is not originally Japanese, but evolved from the Chinese skinny noodle (sou men), as the legend goes. But it's a huge fav for people on the go and basically anyone who loves noodles. There are different varieties of ramen in different parts of Japan. I've tried the Kyushu ramen in Osaka (how ironic) and this is the miso and pork based ramen of Hokkaido.

Otaru was where I would've lodged if I had taken a ferry up Hokkaido. But thankgoodness I didnt, coz it was a really small town. So small it warranted onli an afternoon trip there. Famous picture taking spot would be this canal which is lined by a row of really old warehouses. Lots of artists and people selling trinkets along the sidewalk.