Saturday, 25 July 2009

Yukata Camwhore SP

| 2 persons flung their shoes
Yukata Camwhore 2
Summer, is all about hanabi (fireworks), matsuri (festivals), and yukata (summer kimono). After three summers in Japan, I finally got myself a yukata, partly because some friends wanted to go to an aquarium and it happened that at Aqua Stadium, there's a 50% discount on the ticket for visitors wearing yukata. In the end, I spent more than 6000 Yen on the yukata, to save 900 Yen on the ticket. Something seems to be wrong with the calculations here... Oh well, a trip to Sunshine City next week will save me another 120 Yen. And then, there's the hanabi!

Of course, for camwhores, it also called for a self-portrait. I tried to find a katana to go with the yukata but they don't seem to sell them at the department stores anymore. So, I had to make do with a folding fan instead.

It's most probably not the best self-portrait you've seen but hey, understand that I'm anything but photogenic. Still, people should be taking more SP's because where can you find a more willing subject than you yourself?

Thursday, 23 July 2009

Sun Gazing

| 0 persons flung their shoes
The rain god ignored my prayers. It rained until ten this morning and the clouds still linger on until now. Dang, I knew I should have bought a PrayerMAX 5000™.

The weather might not be on our side but giving up was the last thing we had in mind. Martin and I headed to the rooftop of the tallest building in the campus at ten.

"No entry. Authorized personnels only."

Forget about it. Rules are meant to be broken. Especially during times like this when the world is coming to an end. (Unless if you've been staying under a coconut shell for the last few weeks, I'm sure you've heard of the doomsday prophecies.)

I was glad I didn't keep my anticipation high. Although the rain had stopped, not a patch of blue sky could be seen. If you ask me, this is a curse. Missing the most phenomenal event just because of crappy weather?

However, it didn't take long before our patience paid off. The sun offered us a momentary glimpse; about half of it obscured by the passing moon. Martin snapped away with his 300,000-yen camera equipped with a 150,000-yen lens. (No, he doesn't work for National Geographic.) Even at a focal length of 1.4 x 300mm, the sun turned out rather small (see it on Flickr). To the eye, it was but a mere 4mm blot in the sky.

The astrologers advised all Librans against leaving the home during the eclipse, but here I was, defying all advices, and of all things, watching the eclipse from the rooftop of a ten-storey building. For all I know, I've been cursed for the rest of my life for leaving the house this morning to witness the eclipse. I could have just gotten swept off the rooftop by a sudden gust of wind, ending my uneventful life with an elaborate finale.

But that didn't happen because an hour later, I was swimming in the pool.

Or maybe I could have gotten a heart rupture in the middle of the pool but that didn't happen either because later that evening, I was cycling like a madman, trying to rush for work in time.

Yes, I could have gotten rammed by an SUV on the busy road but that too, didn't happen because fourteen hours after the solar eclipse and counting. I'm still alive and kicking.

Except, I'm having a cough and runny nose. It might be the curse at work.


Wednesday, 22 July 2009

Praying to the Rain God

| 0 persons flung their shoes

22 July 2009. The longest solar eclipse in the century; 6 minutes and 39 seconds. It's said to be the biggest phenomenon of the century. In fact, this is one of reasons they call this the International Year of Astronomy.

Meanwhile astrologists warn of disasters. People like me, who were born under the sign of Libra, are advised to stay home and wear the briefs over the pants. And those who can't avoid going out should hang a chicken foot around the neck. Failing to do so will result in eternal damnation. And by that, I believe they refer to getting a perennial wart in the butthole.

I had a wart on my right hand before and it wasn't a pleasant experience. I can't imagine getting a wart in the butthole but to hell with it! Who's going to miss the chance of witnessing this rare event?

Initially, I thought it would be an once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to take photos but after doing a quick research, I had not choice but to ditch the plan. First, a solar filter for lenses costs at least ten grand. Then, to get anything more than a bright, tiny blot, you need a focal length of 2000mm ideally, or at least 1000mm. Obviously, we're talking about getting a telescope here. Of course, a workaround is to get a 500mm lens and double the focal length with an extender, but whoa, as if I work for National Geographic!

Plan B.

I looked all over the internet for solar filters but they were all sold out. Heck, I even considered getting one from an auction site, if only people weren't as desperate as to be willing to spend more than two grand on a filter. But luckily, after checking more than a dozen online stores, it finally paid off. I managed to grab two solar filters!

Unfortunately, it was a little too early to do my victory wardance. Because, the weatherman is predicting a cloudy weather in the morning!

After all this anticipation?

Hell, I need to make some sacrificial offerings to the rain god...

Tuesday, 14 July 2009

Being on TIME

| 4 persons flung their shoes

TIME is probably going to sue my pants off for this but heck, as if it's the first time I'm doing this! Besides, if they decide to feature me on their magazine cover one day, this ought to save them the trouble of designing it.

In the process of making this, erm, magazine cover, I learned two things.

Lesson number one: You can't expect to look better than a chunk of melted ice-cream when you take a self-portrait after an exercise. See the Adidas logo on the T-shirt? I was probably not in the right mind; this was taken after I came back from jogging. The initial plan was to get a wet, tired look, but all the shots turned out disastrous. By the time I managed to get a decent shot, I was already more than dry.

Lesson number two might be a great tip for some people. Using Adobe Lightroom to convert photos to jpeg format before uploading them solves the issue of colour desaturation. When I converted the file to jpeg in Adobe Photoshop and uploaded it, it didn't turn out the way it was supposed to - I looked like a corpse. But, saving it first in tif format, and then converting it to jpeg with Lightroom solved the problem. It might have something to do with the colours palette but this is the only solution I know of.

Enough technical gibberish. For those who wish to buy or frame this (probably never-to-be-published) cover, do it quick! You might be the only one in the world to own this unique magazine cover!

Sunday, 12 July 2009

Doomsday Prophecies

| 8 persons flung their shoes
The solar eclipse coming up next Wednesday (July 22) is said to be the longest total solar eclipse that will occur in this century. While the rest of the world is jumping with joy at this rare occurence, the fate of the world troubles me.

You see, solar eclipse and doomsday is like vodka and sex. Vodka leads to sex; solar eclipse leads to doomsday. It's the most natural chain of events imaginable.

When it comes to doomsday, Nostradamus and his fellow seers have plenty to say. They've presented all sorts of fantastic doomsday scenarios one can possibly come up with. Natural disasters, nuclear war, rampaging humanoids, meteor strike, ice age, invasion of the ugly-butt martians... The list goes on. Sitting right on the top of the list at the second place is Santa Claus, who is believed to bring destruction to the world. The first place, of course, belongs to none other than Jesus Christ, our saviour.

In keeping up with tradition, I thought I ought to come up with my own prophecy for doomsday. Unfortunately it isn't easy to come up with a fresh doomsday scenario these days; Hollywood has explored all the possibilities.

All, but perhaps not this one...

A friend of mine suddenly had the urge for chicken rice. Not long ago, it happened that someone mentioned of a chicken rice restaurant in Suidobashi and I've been planning to try it out too. And so, we agreed on going for a dinner date last Sunday.

On the train bound for Suidobashi, I somehow felt being out of place but it took me a while to realize I was the only guy in the train. The rest were all girls.

For one moment, I thought I'd boarded the ladies-only train but that couldn't be possible because they're only available early in the morning and late at night... Which led to only one other explanation - by some divine miracle, all men vanished in a blink of the eye and what was left of the world now was me and the ladies!

My fantasies was short-lived though. It just happened there was a Tohoshinki concert at Tokyo Dome and the girls were heading there.

Nevertheless, I barely felt disappointed. Instead, I believe it was a divine sign. Think solar eclipse. Think doomsday. And bam! This is a sign which says that I must stay in a train when eclipse starts. And when it's all over, I shall go forth and repopulate the world.

On second thought, doomsday is supposed to wipe out all of mankind so this doesn't technically count as a doomsday prophecy.

Dang, I've to come up with something else. Forget about writing it down though, because prophecies are more accurate when they're not put on paper...

Ten days till the solar eclipse. Brace yourselves, make your prayers. May god bless you.

Saturday, 11 July 2009

Flip Flop Policy

| 3 persons flung their shoes
I hate resorting to harsh language but I'm not going to hold back my anger towards a stupid decision made by the Malaysian government. The idiocy of Malaysian policymakeres knows no bounds. If you follow the Malaysian news, you'd believe the country is run by a bunch of imbeciles.

I can't believe this is happening. The government has decided to end the use of English in Science and Math teaching, reverting to the national language as the medium of teaching. This issue has been at the center of debate for some time now but to think that it would actually get through the parliament was the last thing I expected.

When Tun Dr Mahathir called for the teaching of Science and Math in English six years ago, it was in line with one of the nine challenges of Vision 2020 - "to form a progressive science community". It is believed that the people should embrace English as the international language in order to make themselves a competent nation. While there were issues to be addressed, the idea was lauded as a bold move that will benefit the country in the long term.

Unfortunately, some brainless scarecrows in the parliament have just made a stupid decision to undo the previous efforts. The teaching medium of Science and Technology is going to be reverted to the national language in 2012. Supposedly, the achievement of Malaysian students in the subjects has been at a steady decline since English was introduced in 2003. It has therefore prompted the government to make the decision to switch the teaching medium. But if you ask me, it seems more like a desperate political move to regain support from the Malay nationalists.

Our dear MP from Kulim, Zulkifli Noordin, is an example of our diehard nationalist who's relentlessly fought to defend the pride of the national language. Using English in schools is seen as a threat to Bahasa Malaysia, which is the integral part of Malay heritage. Two days ago, he made a comment on his blog, saying, "English proficiency does not guarantee scientific progress". Oh, as if using Bahasa Malaysia as the language of instruction is a better shot.

Our narrow-minded guy didn't just stop there. Instead, he went on bashing Tun Dr Mahathir for the policy, which he claimed deters the students' achievement. He then went on making some sweeping statements.

Quoted from his blog post (translated):

"People in the Philippines are proficient in English, but many landed up only as maids. The Philippines took pride in their peoples' ability to speak English but had only succeeded in exporting many maids, whereas Japan has produced many international award-winning scientists who could not even utter a word of English."

When I first came to Japan, I, too, wondered why the Japanese can be such a progressive nation despite the pathetic level of English. It appears that the Japanese can afford not to master English, although it is the language of knowledge. Japanese academic books can be found easily; newly-published English books are often translated into Japanese within weeks if not days. Meanwhile, in Malaysia, how often do you find academic texts in Bahasa Malaysia? Even the local reference books I used to read weren't reliable.

Looking at the English syllabus in Japanese schools, it's hard to believe that the students here are learning English in much more detail than we do in Malaysia. But I can safely bet that the average Malaysian can understand English better than the Japanese. This is because of we are exposed to the opportunity to actually speak the language instead of learning just the grammar rules. Using English as the medium of instruction was the right move to make. Increasing English lessons in schools will never compensate for the damage that is going to be done by the abolishment of the use of English.

Am I disappointed? No, I'm furious.

If you're curious about what Tun Dr Mahathir has to say, head over to his blog. (The post is in Bahasa Malaysia.)

Wednesday, 8 July 2009

Enemy at the Gates

| 7 persons flung their shoes
It's a time of hardship. The Mongolian invaders are outside the walls. The riches of our country are going to be plundered, our wives and children enslaved, our cows raped... Unless if we stand up and fight for all that is held dear.

Like water and oil, Mongolians and walls just don't mix. Build a wall around your city and before long, you get troops of Mongolian invaders trying to bring it down.

The war lasted for 108 days and resulted in a truce. But now, they're back again, stronger than ever. Fearless warriors, fire-breathing dragons, catapults and battering rams as usual, only in greater numbers this time.

We've conscripted a considerable amount of young men from the village to defend our land. The repairmen work around the clock repairing the wall, the archers shower the enemies with arrows, but the attack shows no sign of ceasing.

We're lucky to have the Tibetan monks on our side. Their secret art of fireball-hurling worked at first but unfortunately aren't as effective against the rampaging cave trolls, our latest threat. Fed with the blood of Genghis Khan, these creatures rage on until they crack their heads on our wall.

The Invisible One has been aiding us in the battle too, flicking his Invisible finger at the invaders, tossing them into the air. But if we were to live through this dire hour, we'll need a miracle.

May God have mercy upon our souls.

Stick Wars on iPhone
Haha, it's Stick Wars on iPhone. Stickmen versus stickmen, a simple yet addictive game which I've been spending several late nights playing. At this rate, I'm going to rub my fingers raw...