Monday, December 31, 2007

The Giant Minutes to 2008...

Well, 2007 is now finally coming to a close with the great new year of the mouse 2008 waiting for us all and I thought I should summarize some notable things from this year as a kind of closure exercise.

The interesting video illustrating this post can be called that of the biggest hit in Japan of 2007, the guy is called Kojima and the act you can see in the video is basically what he's all about so far. He's been hugely popular now for the last 6 months and appear basically everywhere, doing the same stuff every time. It consists of him talking about something (this can vary, I give him that), stopping himself after a small mistake saying "oh, shit" and then the music starts and the next part of his act with the dancing starts, culmunating with him pumping his arms down and singing "sonnna no kannkei nai" which could translate to something like "but that's got nothing to do with it". I think I've must lived here too long now, because I still find him pretty amusing but if he doesn't come up with a good way to diversify he might up in the same forgotten place as the golden dandy and Tetsu and Tomo (don't ask) by early 2008.

Personally, 2007 has been both a great and a horrible year, but in focusing on the good side, the biggest revelation of 2007 has been Ms. Sunshine and I hope I can have her stick around since my quality of life improves significantly when she's around.

Best toy of 2007 is without doubt the great God-Jesus , I can agree that practically the toy wasn't launched this year, but due to the lack of competition it still wins the award of best toy 2007!

Worst country 2007 is also France, same as last year and the year before that. But now, after spending over a month there it's become personal...

2007 has also been a year packed with stupid projects and I have problems selecting the most stupid project of 2007, the competition is really harsh there and I think the only answer here is "most of them" and I have the feeling that I ended up with the most messed up projects, but I am still here so I guess I shouldn't complain too much about it. But I must say that the award of most blatant display of stupidity 2007 must go to Mr. Chin during our "potato chips" project.

Funniest but not unexpected news of 2007 was US nazi fuhrer Kevin Strom (leader of the National Vaguard nazi organization) being arrested on child pornography charges, always funny when they mess up in that way.

The award of Best niece 2007 is also one with hard competition, but I guess it must go to my newly produced little baby niece.

Anyway, to all the readers of this little blog, have a happy new year and see you around in 2008!

Sunday, December 30, 2007


My Justice League of America T-shirt project is not progressing as fast as I would've like it to do, but now I've managed to add a Hawkman T-shirt to the collection!

If anyone has any ideas where to find Aquaman, The Atom and Green arrow t-shirts, please let me know!

Thursday, December 27, 2007

I drink to forget...

There's one Japanese tradition that I'm pretty fond of that is occurring now when businesses are getting ready to close the shop over the important New Year's celebration. Companies often gather together their tired employees and hold, so called, "Bounen-kai".
The basic premise of this little event is simply put a year end party and it doesn't contain any too strange ingredients, usually a dinner of some kind (the type of place is irrelevant, it can be held in a Mexican restaurant or Japanese sushi restaurant) and liberal amounts of beer and similar beverages for those that like that. In my previous life, working in a more traditional Japanese corporate environment it could become a bit too much with me having to participate in events all over Japan with different branches, customers, distributors and God knows what. In the world of management consulting it is not like that.

What I like about this tradition is the bleakness of the event. The events themselves are usually pretty fun, but definately depends on the crowd you are working with etc. But "Bounen-kai" translated into English means something in the vein of "Party to forget the hardship of year". So everyone gathers together and drink, have fun and forget all the trouble from the year so far. It's not about celebrating the year or anything positive, it's all about forgetting the old year.

So, ok, when you had your Bounen-kai and gone on the New Year's vacation. You come back and the there usually is another event waiting around the corner; the "Shinnen-kai" which basically is held in similar format as the Bounen-kai but with the premise to gather up the strenght for success in the coming year. Now, since I've been living and working here in Japan for over six years now, I've been through these proceedures several times and everytime we have a Shinnen-kai toasting to a great new year, but at the end of it we always end up with the Bounen-kai trying to forget all about it...

The total pessimism about this event somehow appeals to me and with a little effort I've managed to gather together a few of the remaining souls in the office for an ad hoc Bounen-kai, a coalition of the willing, if you will. We will do our best to forget about the year so far!

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

My sincere condolences...

Just the other day, I got an e-mail from a Japanese friend of mine wishing me a happy new year, and this specific friend is always very thourough in sending out traditional new year cards to hear friends and colleagues. In the e-mail she explained to me that since her father had passed away earlier this year it is custom to not send out any traditional new year greeting cards and she apologized by mail for this so I would understand why I didn't get any from her this year.

Personally, I'm a pretty crappy card writer and am very bad at sending out cards like this, I do it from a professional standpoint to business contacts etc. but not very good at doing it to friends, this years effort extended to a simple e-card which I sent out in a cluster to friends (if you're one of those who received it, please forgive me!). But still, like anyone I appreciate getting a physical card, it is nice.

But with this new found knowledge, I have decided to now assume that there had been a death in the family this year if I don't get a card sent to me. Laziness or the fact that not a few Japanese people are similarly bad as me in doing this I will pretend doesn't exist.

I have a feeling that quite a few of my Japanese friends has had a sad year with my definition, but I'm sticking to it.

Oh... it's you again...

Recently something really awkward happened... I was enjoying myself at the Tokyo Disneyland with the always lovely Ms. Sunshine, standing in line for Curry Popcorns, eating churros and riding all the exciting rides like "It's a small world", "Pooh's Honey Hunt", "Peter Pan" and such exciting things...

However, during the Pinocchio ride something really awkward happened, I ran into him again, I had no idea he was gonna be there and not in the Pinocchio ride of all places. It was pretty awkward when our eyes met but we both pretended like nothing...

Thursday, December 20, 2007

The Sountrack of My Life

I have an internal soundtrack with a number of songs that start playing inside my head during certain situations and I thought I would share this with you. Please note that I do not necessarily like all of these songs, these songs start playing in my head during certain situations irrespective of my wishes...

Ice Cube - Good Day
This song usually plays when I've had a good pleasant days, especially when I'm with Ms. Sunshine it's not unusual that this plays, including the more explicit parts. "Didn't even have to use my AK"...

John Fogerty - Bad Moon Rising
This one usually comes on during mornings when I sense that there will be trouble or problems in a project at work...

Nick Cave - Everything Must Converge
This one is also work connected, but pretty positive at that. This one usually starts playing when we're sitting on plenty of datapoints that are pointing in different directions but I feel pretty certain that we'll figure things out in the end and that the data will converge at some point. "Everything must converge in time, everything must converge someday, somehow some way, in time, I hope and pray that everything must converge".

Ministry - Flashback
This is a classic one that usually comes on during girl problems, fortunately it's been many years since it's been on heavy rotation.

N.W.A. - Fuck tha Police
Another classic rap song and this one comes on when I feel that I'm catching undeserved heat during work. I'm not black, teenager, have a lot of gold or a pager, but still the part "fucking with me because I'm a teenager, with a little bit of gold and a pager" speaks to some part of me...

Sisters of Mercy - Nine While Nine
Probably the most important song to me when I was in my late teens and it's still a classic, but it now plays when I'm really cold which makes it a frequent soundtrack to life in a Japanese apartment during winter. "It's so damn cold and I just don't know..."

The Pogues - The Sunny Side of the Street
Another positive song that usually plays after a good party or something similar when I've had a really good time. "I had the women, I had the booze"

Leather Strip - Walking on Volcanoes
This one is a new one in my internal soundtrack is also work related and is also relatively positive in the sense that it comes on when I've managed to navigate my way through internal problems or an annoying client but still somehow managed to come out intact. "I'm not scared, I'm walking on volcanoes, I'm not scared, I'm running through tornadoes"

Tiamat - However You Look at It You Lose
Work related song too, usually comes on when things are getting out of control, last minute scope slippage or something similar that suddenly brings on a host of problems that we had hoped to avoid. Mr. Chin is pretty good at messing things up like this...

Cat Rapes Dog - Thing I Hate
A general song that starts playing when I'm pissed off at something...

Pig - Hello Hooray
The Pig cover of the old Alice Cooper song, a song that most often comes on in connection to work and is another one that can start playing at the end of a project where things somehow got done with some suffering. "I've been waiting so long to sing my song, I've been waiting so long for this day to come"

Dark Tranquility - Misery's Crown
A song that basically stopped rotation now since it was very heavily tied to Mr. J and came on when his personal problems and his problems in the workplace affected my work in a negative way, but since he's gone now this song it basically out. "Don't bring it, don't bring your misery down on me"

and of course, no internal soundtrack would be complete without at least one Ramones song and for me that's "I wanna be Sedated" and this one usually comes on when I'm exhausted for some reason, either work, a nasty cold or something similar...

Wednesday, December 19, 2007


I take it all back! Bring back summer anytime, I can handle the heat, I can handle the sweating, I can handle the smelly people! I hate this cold here in Japan! Now, some of you might react to this, sure, I don't deny that I'm from a pretty cold country and -10C during winter time is nothing strange to me. However, it's the constant cold here I cannot stand. It's cold outside, it's cold inside and turning on the heater costs a fortune and isn't particularly good for the environment either.

I walk around in my apartment dressed like an eskimoe during polar bear hunting season, getting heated up only during the hot bath or when under a mountain of blankets in my bed. I want to go somewhere warm!

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

You break it, you bought it

It's getting close to Christmas here in Japan, unfortunately it's not really noticeable except for the Christmas lights and such so none of that old time European Christmas atmosphere unfortunately but it is something that I have grown used to with the focus here in Japan on the New Year.

However, I am now one working day away from my Christmas vacation which happens to be pretty short (but that is my choice after all) but I desperately need it now... I have severe problems even pretending interest in work or muster up even a spark of motivation to get anything productive done. I usually can at least feign some interest or motivation, but that skill seems to be gone now and I just have to endure one more day in the office...

The two projects I'm working on are also progressing completely differently, one of the progress is manned by The Boy and Dr. Y and they are all over it. It has been running so smoothly that it almost makes me a bit worried. We're so much ahead of the planning that things can be done in a very slow pace from now on if we feel like it.
On the other hand, the other pan-Asian project I'm working on is turning out to be the project from hell... Resources not coming as promised, constant phone conferences with people I have no idea how they will perform and if they can't perform as expected will make my life very hectic at the beginning of the year.

For managing the Korea part we are outsourcing it to a student to help us out with what is needed there. It is actually not that difficult and I think we found someone who can be capable of doing it if given some encouragement. Unfortunately I put Ms. A in charge of managing this person and she is doing so with gusto and pretty aggressively, when I hear her talk to this person I am just expecting the Korean person to scream out "I don't need this, I quit!". And since we really don't have any viable "Plan B" I am temped to enforce a "you break it, you bought it" policy towards Ms. A's management style here.

Well, slightly incoherent post which probably fits my frame of mind right now. One more day and then I get a mini-vacation with Ms. Sunshine!

Friday, December 14, 2007

"I deserve to be beaten"

The current project is turning out to be quite an ordeal since I now once again is forced to deal with Mr. Chin which could drive better men than me to drink.

Working together with Ms. A also means that I have to put up with a neverending stream of "thank you"s. The smallest little thing will trigger a flow of "thank you" in different form and shapes, but when she has finished with that (it usually takes a while) she moves into the next phase which is the "I'm so sorry I am so worthless" phase, and believe me when I say that this can actually go on for several minutes, first the "thank you" and then the "I am so sorry!". This usually happens over MSN Messenger but can also occur in person.

Yesterday a particularly long such incident occurred triggered by me letting her know that I had made something that we needed. I first tried to endure the "thank you"s by the standard "it wasn't a big thing" and after a couple of minutes she, as always, moved into the apologetic phase. Starting off with a "I am so sorry I haven't contributed anything to this project!" and I tried to put an end to this through a "No, you have been helping out plenty" and this went back and forth a few times until I tried with "Don't beat yourself down, we've just started this project" and to that came a reply "But I am so worthless, I deserve to be beaten!".
Repeat that to yourself "I am so worthless, I deserve to be beaten!".

My response? Going to the bathroom and pretending to forget to answer to that...

Thursday, December 13, 2007

This is what everything has been leading up to...

Plenty of stuff going on in the company now and I will try to find some time to dedicate a little space to that craziness that is ongoing now but I just thought I should share a little gem I've found here in Tokyo.

This is taking the concept of the bath tub duck one step further. These guys were thinking outside the box! Not only does this duck float in the bath with you, when you press a button he also quacks a tune and blinks in different lights. Hard to go back to the simple plastic yellow duck after spending some time with one of these I can tell you!

Friday, December 7, 2007

I've failed you...

Normally, I would not work together much with people in the same nasty middle management position as me (as in getting crap both from below and then again from above and trying to dodge it inbetween), but just these recent days I've been hit with managing two projects and also having Ms. A co-ride with me as a learning exercise. Now, Ms. A is not a bad person, she is actually a pretty nice person, but she is always very high strung and very intense, stress just oozes out from her into her immediate surroundings. But she has been having a tough time adapting to the work style in our company.

For some reason, I am perceived as performing well (don't ask me why, this puzzles me too) and therefore she has been attached to work besides me and learn how stuff should be done. She has no problem with that and in theory, neither do I.
However, I've got the feeling that this will be an ordeal... Today she e-mailed me her vacation plans over Christmas and New Year's which is good for me to know so I can plan work accordingly. Usually we also have a workplan for our projects where we insert our vacation plans as well so it's clearly visible and in response to her e-mail I answered back with a friendly "Great, you deserve your vacation and can you also please put these dates in the workplan?".
2 Minutes later I have a reply; "I am so sorry, I should have done this immediately, I have failed you!" ... this was a serious reply from her...
This is going to be a challenge...

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Are you really going to put all of THAT in THERE?!

Yours truly has for some time been suffering from a nasty throat infection that really hasn't gotten better given time, so I decided to visit a ear, nose and throat specialized clinic to have it checked out and get some nice drugs for myself.

It was my first visit in such a clinic and the doctor was very nice, but the things they do to you there... First he brought out a nasty sucking device that he put in my nose to suck all the snot out of there, which was a pretty funny feeling for a short while until most of the stuff was sucked out. I sneezed for a good two minutes afterwards. After that, he decided that he wanted to take a little better look and brought out a long thin camera with a light attached to it that he decided was a good idea to insert in my throat through my nose. The feeling was pretty uncomfortable although not painful per se, while showing this device deeper into my cavity he kept saying "sorry about this" which was a nice gesture but didn't really help.

After this ordeal was over, he looked at the pictures and the following exchange took place:
Doctor: Well, looking at these pictures, it seems like you might have a bit narrow airways and I think I probably best take a look at it when your cold has passed since you're a bit swollen in the throat now.
Salaryman: Oh, what does this mean?
Doctor: Well, it could become the reason for sudden death ("totsuzenshi") or high blood pressure...
Salaryman: Wait a minute, never mind the blood pressure?! What do you mean with "sudden death"?
Doctor: Well, don't worry about it for now, but you should come back.
Salaryman: You bet I will!

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