Thursday, July 30, 2009
The rainy season recently ended, paving the way for the "real" summer to start, but this year the end of the rainy season seemed to be the signal to increase the amount of rain, the humidity in the air and the general stickiness. And when you are just about to be thankful that it's not raining you have to endure the intense heat that the sun gives, not to mention how the streets of Tokyo reflects it back to you and makes it even more unbearable. It is hot now, really hot. And as you probably are well aware, one of the greatest natural enemies of salarymen is the heat, due to the need to wear a suit to work most of the time.
Fortunately, a contingency plan exist and is soon to be put in motion, leaving the Tokyo heat behind for a little while at least.
Wednesday, July 29, 2009
The current prime minister of the LDP Party; Taro Aso is a bit of a favorite of mine, despite the fact that he was given the position only after his two predecessors folded and left and he has extreme disapproval ratings in all polls shown, he still manages to wear a constant smirk and be extremely condescending towards journalists during interviews. That takes a lot of guts.
But now, the largest opposition party, the DPJ, obviously smell blood in the water and their prime candidate and leader Yukio Hatoyama is also an interesting case. He doesn’t have any smirk or behaves overly condescending, but he does look like a schemer, like he’s always thinking up new and devious plans. In fact, he wouldn’t be completely out of place as the villain in a bad James Bond movie. I’m not even going to discuss the great “manifesto” that they presented earlier today (hint: the biggest point was “we promise not to waste the tax payers’ money”).
I do pity the poor Japanese citizens who have to go out there and vote in this election; the smirk or the villain?
(Ok, before maybe I should say that I am aware that there are more parties than these two in Japan and that the options are actually not only limited to these two parties, even though they are the biggest so I am simplifying things a little bit, but whatever, if you got complaints, take it up with my political advisor)
Monday, July 27, 2009
As promised just a little bit earlier, I thought I should here relate to my readers the wonders of the store called “Don Quixote” aka simple “Donki”. Don't ask me how the store got it’s name and how it in any shape or form is connected to the famous 17th century Spanish novel. Especially since their mascot character is a cute blue penguin (?). The stores also have a jingle that is extremely annoying and grinding to the soul, especially since it seems to be on constant repeat in their stores. As a special treat, the video above features busloads of the blue penguin mascot and also the annoying jingle, in a special extra-long version no less!
But now I jump a bit ahead of myself, a more objective explanation on what this “Donki” is would be in order I assume. Basically it’s a Japan wide chain of low price shopping centers that rose to prominence around ~10 years ago, just when I was baby salaryman here in Japan . By now, the stores are pretty famous and I think there are two properties in common for the Donki stores:
1. They carry anything you can imagine
2. They are deathtraps
As for point 1, the stores basically have everything you can imagine, from the highest high to the lowest low and basically everything in between. They carry electronical equipment, clothes, hardcore porn, video games, toys, foodstuff, DVD, sex toys, bathroom goods, hard liquor, brand- jewelry and accessories and freaky costumes, basically everything you could possibly need to life a meaningful life. Ok, they might not beat specialist stores in their line-up in any of those areas, but carry a pretty respectable line-up of all the mentioned stuff and more and usually at pretty reasonable prices as well.
What about point 2 then, you ask? Well, since the stores carry so much stuff (I cannot even begin to imagine the nightmare it must be to manage logistics and purchasing for those stores…) the stores are extremely crowded and at times it can feel a bit like maneuvering through a labyrinth. The one thing that always lingers in my head when I'm inside one of those stores is what to do if there's a fire and sure enough, apparently I was not the only one. A few years back a mentally disturbed woman decided it would be a good idea to start a fire in the futon section in one of the stores, creating a fire that killed several people and spurred a few copycat fires in other Donki stores…
For some strange reason, this did not seem to create any visible changes in how they laid out their stores and even more strangely, it didnTt seem to stop the flow of customers either. I do visit a Donki from time to time (more dependant on my tolerance for the jingle) but fire safety is always up there in my mind, but hey, it's a fun store!
Saturday, July 25, 2009
To tie things back to my earlier post about the horrors of telecons… With my little niece over on a visit we decided to go enjoy the amusement at the Tokyo Disneyland with a pretty short notice. Unfortunately I had forgotten a teleconference on the same date and the team on the Japan side insisted that they needed me to participate and support them and with the short notice I felt a little bad about ditching them and promised to call in from Disneyland .
In order to strategically make the best of the time, I decided to call in just as I was lining up for the Haunted Mansion ride which promised a waiting time of about an hour, which seemed like as good place as any to call in to the conference.
Unfortunately there were a number of factors that I did not take into account… First of all it’s not a simple line; a “spooky” elevator ride is included and also that the “estimated” times are not always exact and that this one proved to be considerably shorter than what they had on the sign outside, almost half the time… This resulted in some pretty interesting background noises as I tried to get my voice heard during the conference and as we got closer and closer to the carts I was half-fearing, half looking forward to actually taking the ride while listening to a discussion about a certain surgical procedure in heavily broken English with a Spanish accent. But the conference mercifully ended just as I was setting my right foot in the cart.
This is how you combine work and pleasure, removing any possible productivity from work with removing all the fun from pleasure!
(Sorry about the lack of posting, been kinda busy with family and stuff, but I'll get right back on it from now on again!)
Friday, July 17, 2009
Tuesday, July 14, 2009
Friday, July 10, 2009
Teleconferences on the other hand can be a complete clownshow of inefficiency... Especially if it involves a larger number of parties calling in. A not too unusual pattern is as follows:
1. A large number of people call in and “hello?”, “who just called in?”, “Hello, can you hear me?” is repeated by different parties for a good 10 minutes before the meeting can get going
2. When the organizer has finally managed to do the roll call and the meeting is about to get underway there is always someone saying “hello? Can you hear me? I haven’t received the meeting material?” after which another 5 minutes is taken up by identifying that person and then mailing him/her the material
3. Meeting is just ready to get started for real, 15 minutes past the scheduled time, a few late stragglers are calling in during this with a few repeat “hello?”, “who just called in?”, “Hello, can you hear me?” during the process
4. Presenter is starting the presentation but a few minutes in there's annoying noise due to someone calling in while hanging out next to what sounds like a major highway, the meeting gets held up by the organizer trying to find out who the culprit is “who doesn’t have their phone on mute? Hello? Can everyone mute their phones please?”, finally usually the culprit mutes the phone without identifying themselves
5. After that 5-10min hold up the meeting continues
6. Someone calling in puts the conference “on hold” and pause music drowns out any attempts to have a constructive meeting
7. Organizer calls out “who has put their line on hold? Could you please stop?” then someone points out that that person won't hear it anyway because he/she has the call on hold, some minor hilarity ensues. In a lucky situation the person resumes the call and the music stops within a few minutes
8. The meeting can finally continue with the 20-30min delay
I really wish I was exaggerating here, but I'm sure that other people working in international companies trying to cut travel and meeting expenses (which is most companies as it look now) recognize the situation...
Wednesday, July 8, 2009
Tuesday, July 7, 2009
- Sharp knives hanging at low heights
- Prescription and OTC Drugs placed randomly on lower level bookshelves
- Ointment drugs that smell like mint also within easy reach
- Unstable bookshelves that a minor earthquake easily could topple and cause severe injury
- Sharp corners on basically every piece of furniture (excluding some of the pillows)
- Cables and electrical equipment all over the place
Not to mention the poison cockroach traps conveniently located for a baby to find at low heights (leftovers from this battle)
In hindsight, it’s a small miracle that little dude Otto actually made it out of here alive…
So, with the situation clarified, what have I been doing to prepare? My activities has been focused on two key projects:
* Purchasing the remake of Bubble Bobble to play with big Bro
* Purchasing Wii Sports Resort and loading the controllers with new batteries
We might move the knives when and if we get around to it though, but it’s all a matter of priorities!
Friday, July 3, 2009
In central Tokyo , the three main train operators are the Japan Railways commuter trains, the Toei Subway and the private Tokyo Metro subway system operating a large number of different lines. From a very practical standpoint, the JR trains go on the ground and the Toei and Metro trains go underground, but they are all reliable, reasonably cheap and convenient. With one big exception…
Just a few years back, Toei started a new line called the Oedo line, from a theoretical standpoint, the line made perfect sense. It created easier access to some areas in Tokyo where you had to do a few complicated changes to get to before. Sometimes when I look up the most convenient route to a destination, the Oedo line comes up as an alternative and at a few rare occasions when I haven’t taken it in quite a while I opt for that route, something that I usually quickly regret.
So, what’s the problem? The line is new, so the stations and platforms are usually very clean and has a nice design, the trains are of course crowded during rush hour, but not more than any other line in central Tokyo. The problem is that to fit the subway in with the other lines that operate in central Tokyo, the line had to be built pretty far down underground making it a real hassle getting down to the platform after passing the gates. The other day I stupidly thought it would be a good idea to change for the Oedo line since it seemed like the fastest route but what I failed to take into the calculations was that getting down to the platform took almost ten minutes and five set of stairs and then after arriving at my destination, I had to scale five escalators and trek for another ten minutes to breathe the air of freedom… I do hate the Oedo line…
Wednesday, July 1, 2009
I think it's pretty well established that this is not the place to go to to get the latest news on Japanese current affairs, entertainment news or anything useful. However, today I feel that I just have to touch a bit on a slightly current subject...
There is this free magazine called "Hot Pepper" which keeps track of what's going on in Japan (I'm not sure, but I think there are local version outside Tokyo) with restaurant listings and stuff. To be honest, I've never really been particularly interested in that magazine so I've at most flipped through one at some point but not much more than that.
Recently J-pop artist Kaela Kimura star in the commercial you can see here above with Snoopy. This song is so infective that it has burrowed itself deep inside my brain and I have severe problems exorcising it, especially since it seems like they show it all the time now on tv. I just thought that I should infect some visitors that are not living in Japan here as well, but hey, it IS catchy, that is the problem...