Monday, October 31, 2005

Movie Review - 電車男

Saw this on a flight back from Osaka to KL.

The movie was based on a popular Japanese novel of the same title (obviously or it wouldn't have been made right?). The protagonist is an anime/game/collectible otaku who simply cannot talk to the opposite sex. He turns red, stammers and shivers when he has to talk to any female and so he has always been unattached. He should have killed himself when he was 16 but anyway...

Once in a train, he (trainman) courageously stood up for a female passenger who was being harassed by a drunkard. In return, trainman received a pair of Hermes cups from the lady victim as a token of thanks. Our protagonist geek tells a group of anonymous geeks that he chats online all the time about Ms. Hermes' present and they start jumping to conclusions about "Ms. Hermes" having fallen for him and he should go after her. Soon everybody he chats with throw in their two cents worth of advice/suggestions/tips on how to date Ms. Hermes. Through the advice/suggestions/tips, trainman is bit by bit transformed into a dating machine and swept Ms. Hermes off her feet into his arms...or did he?

Basically a simple love story, what's unique about the movie is the bunch of net-denizens supporting the reluctant trainman on his quest. None of them ever met in real life but unite together to help the trainman. In fact, they are so connected to the internet, they seem to have difficulties in human relationships in real life. And helping trainman became part self-discovery and somehow transformed the way they relate better to the people around them. Morale of the story: Losers help loser, everybody wins!

Somehow, I still think that the trainman should have killed himself when he was 16. He is such a sissy when he talks to women. Perhaps his character was over-acted. Ms. Hermes, on the contrary, is self-assured and calm. Not incredibly pretty but she has character and sort of balanced the cast. The movie would have been over-emotional because of the weepy trainman if not for the little parts of humor dosage. I like best the part where trainman was advised by his "friends" to try all the food in a restaurant that was to be the setting for his date with Ms. Hermes, so that he will know what to order during the date. Haha...=P

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Test Drive in Osaka

I love test drives!

To be exact, I love driving at breakneck speed if I know that I am not going to cause an accident. For those not familar with the basic test courses, there's usually four lanes to to a course with four different speed limits. The first lane: 0-50km/h; second lane: 50-100km/h; third lane: 100-160km/h. Finally, the fourth lane slopes upwards at a 45 degrees angle and the car needs a considerable speed to stay on that lane because of the angle. I love the 4th lane!

Actually, the first rule of test drives is not about breaking the sound barrier but to see if the car handles, drives and breaks well under normal driving circumstances. Of course, you are welcomed to test how the car handles at max speed but seldom you need to climb that 4th lane.

But at the test course, everyone will say that the rule is a whole load of bull. Of course you start a slow acceleration to see if it changes gears nicely; then you jam the breaks hard to test the breaking performance. You can test also the steering control and almost every features the car has. Five minutes tops, and then you start to fly on that 4th lane...! (^_^) v

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Tokyo Motor Show

At the motorshow today, I plan to do what most people do at motorshows, which was to take plenty of snapshots of pretty cars and the pretty gals beside them... =P The problem with digital cameras is that the battery always seem to run out faster when photo opportunities present themselves aplenty. It's like there's a correlation or something! Anyway, in preparation of such an event, I always have a spare battery on hand.

Things started well and I was happily snapping away with my aging Canon Ixus, when the dreaded battery icon started to flash on my camera screen. As I reached into my bag to get the spare battery, I realized that I left my spare battery with Sakai for some forgotten reasons! Earlier on, our delegation had splitted into two groups and Sakai was leading the other group. The situation likens to being in a chocolate factory and having no appertite! There's so many photo opportunities here but my dead camera can't take pictures.

Solution? Appoint a photographer. The Moroccan GM for sales was so happily snapping at everything and anything, that he willingly obliged to share with me all his pictures. Please enjoy some of them here....

Lexus LFA Concept - Damn bloody nice car!

The new RAV-4 (front)

The new RAV-4 (back) - Think about it, Wanli


Daihatsu Copen: Cute like the MR-S [I'm test driving it tomorrow =) ]

Daihatsu Pretty

VW Polo GTI! The VW booth was the best booth IMO ^_^

King of Cars! 23 Skyline GTR! _/ ̄\○"

Nice touch by Mini =P

Saturday, October 22, 2005


やっとう,日本出張は現実になりました!2 か月間中近東で働く後,今度の出張は初めてアジアに戻られる旅です.または,今年2番目の日本出張!(^O^)v

My Japanese is really going down the drain. Two sentences are the max I can go to express myself in writing! Well, what the heck! =P

Friday, October 21, 2005

France 2: 0 Sencha

It's incredible that I encountered two problems with Air France in one single month! My impression of France now is already bad even before I visited the country!

If you remember, Air France lost my luggage for a week because of labor strike in Paris in the beginning of October. This time as I was coming back from Algiers, they screwed up again! The French are simply marvellous at screwing up!

There I was on my return trip, with Sakai, sitting comfortably on ME212 (coach share with AF), waiting for take off, when they ordered all passenger to disembark. Fortunately or unfortunately, when alighting, we met Hisham, a colleague working for our Moroccan distributor, on his way to Beirut. Sham told us that when the ground crew was retracting the boarding stairs from the plane, the machinery sliced through the door of the plane and badly damaged the door.

So we were stuck in Charles de Gaulle airport while the ground crew tried to repair the plane. Turned out, the spare part they need can only be found in Hamburg and it is not likely for the part to arrive in such a short time. Incredible! Airbus has no spare parts in France? Seems like all the passengers will be stuck in Paris for a while because there wasn't a way for the repair to be done so quickly.

After two hours, AF staff finally hatched a plan. They would book accomodations in a transit hotel and put us up for the night and arrange us to fly on the first available flight to Beirut the next morning. So after being stucked in the terminal for 5 hours past our schedule flight, we could finally leave the airport and go to the transit hotel. But we couldn't leave Sham behind. Being a Morrocan, Sham needs a visa to enter Paris and so we stayed back in the terminal with him.

It was the beginning of the long wait with Sham and some of the other passengers who had their passports detained to apply for their temporary visa. We watched as the AF staff, who were dispatched to handle us, disappear one by one. The promised 1 hour wait stretched to 3 hours. By then, we decided to check on the visa application status with the AF booth outside the terminal. Guess what? They have no clue about Sham and the other passengers without visa. Sakai mentioned that this could be real-life event of The Terminal in the making but fortunately, Sham didn't watch the movie. The new AF staff only followed-up on the visa application status when one of the Lebanese "aunties" and Sham started to complain loudly. I guess there was no proper handover of the issue because after the complaint, the AF staff were able to come up with their passports and a collective visa. Finally, it was okay for us to leave for the transit hotel at about 10 pm after such a long ordeal at the airport.

There were approximately 90 people from our delayed flight scheduled for the next day 9pm morning flight to Beirut. There were approximately 90 people who didn't brush their teeth and change their clothes that morning...

After such a bad experience with Air France (twice for me!), we didn't have much to expect from them other than just get us where we want to go safely. As usual, almost on cue, our new flight was delayed for an hour because the cabin crew couldn't ascertain the correct number of people on the flight and they kept counting and counting from back to front and front to back. Amazing!

When we were stuck in the airport, the three of us started to play a little game called, Renaming Air France. The objective of the game is to come up with the best definition for the acronym AF. Sakai won the game with a new acronym for Air France..... AF - Always Frustrating!

Monday, October 17, 2005


It finally rained in Algiers after several months of drought, on the day of my arrival. Mabrouk to all the farmers here who have been bearing the brunt of crop shortage. The view of the mountains nearby the airport was of exceptional clarity because the rain has washed away all the dust and smog.

This period is also the period of Ramadan, which means that people will stop eating, drinking, and smoking after sunrise and resume food-intake after sunset. I'm quite familiar with Ramadan because of the large population of Muslims back in Singapore. Unlike in Singapore and Lebanon, Algerians are more strict with their observance of Ramadan, so there is no food and drinks sales anywhere throughout the day.

Our group of visitors to Algeria decided among ourselves that we should probably observe the local customs as well. Which means for the Japanese, no alcohol at all, which is a big sacrifice for them! For the past few days, we have either skipped meals or reduce our food intake drastically to just a bottle of water or a piece of fruits for lunch. Today was my second day of full fledge fasting and I think it is doing me good because it is reducing my stock of fats which, I have been diligently accumulating. Since yesterday, I opted to begin eating only one meal in the evening for the entire day. Its nice to be able to observe the local customs to show one's respect I think. A good way of gaining local respect through genchi genbutsu.

Still three hours and a half to go until the official breakfast time at 6:30pm. Everyone looks hungry (locals included) and we were just a while ago discussing dinner plans at a local pasta restaurant at the hotel and the visit to the El Khaima (traditional Ramadan performance) after dinner. Pasta sounds very good indeed!

Monday, October 10, 2005

Luggage Lost and Found...

I lost my luggage in Paris when I was flying back from Morocco on the 4th last Tuesday...

My flight from Charles de Gaulle Aeroport was delayed for two hours because there was a strike involving French transport workers, including those working at the airport. My luggage must have gotten lost. I realized that my luggage was missing at the baggage collection point along with 20 over people from the same flight. To register for luggage claim, I have to queue for another 2 hours.

It was a terrible experience because almost everything I own in Lebanon, I carried in my luggage. One of my colleague helped me by lending me some clothes to wear. Other stuffs, I had to buy. I even had to go to a colleague's "posh" wedding dinner without any formal wear! So...Tak Glam.... =(

Today morning, the company recep told me that they found it. Finally! A colleague drove me to the airport and I had to get through the bureaucracy to retrieve my luggage. It was almost one week due....

In post mortem analysis, the main culprit for this inconvenience is........AIR FRANCE !!!

A few colleagues and superiors had taken the same flight before and also had their luggage lost.
Yes, not everything European are first class. In fact, Air France is quite sub-standard. The service wasn't something to yell about...There was no procedure for lost luggage handling. You lose your luggage? Too bad! Don't complain and wait until it comes....No bloody mention of compensation for the delay at all!

Take Air France at your own risk....Have a nice FRIGHT!

Grrr....Have to get even....I want to watch The Last of The Mohicans movie DVD again to see the French get their ass kicked!

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

When will I go diving again?

Darn! I haven't dived since July with Xinyi. Almost three months has passed.

My basic gears are still sitting in a DHL box ready to be shipped over from Singapore, once I have the official address for my apartment in Beirut.

To rub salt to the wound, the office in Morocco has a full view of the Atlantic ocean which made me longed to be out at sea rather than stuck in the office for meeting the entire weekend. Sigh...

A colleague in Beirut told me that the underwater landscape of Lebanon is dotted with sunken ships and planes. Really hope to be able to explore them.

I have to get out and blow some bubbles soon. Bloop bloop

Plus, I've yet to complete my PADI Underwater Banana Eating Specialty!

Monday, October 03, 2005

No Guys Allowed....

On a flight to Morocco, I read in Newsweek that some prominent hotels are wooing female customers with guest rooms exclusive with ladies. Quoting a top exec of a UK hotel, the article said that many hotels are realizing that 50% of business travellers are female and they hope to cater to this trend. Exclusive female guestrooms will have features that appeal to the lady traveller, such as feminine interior decorations, pink couches and other amenities. Also to come in the future, entire wings of hotels and resorts will be made exclusive to the female traveller. One hotel manager maintains that this is not discrimination.

Yeah right! That means that the next time I travel to a hotel, I will have half the chance of getting a room because the other half is reserved for the ladies, whether they turn up or not. I certainly will object to staying in a room with complimentary sanitary napkins in the drawers and pink fluffy pillows on the bed. Worse, I will be totally barred from an exclusive female wing of a hotel.

Seriously, I have never even considered that guestrooms are unfriendly to womankind. Aren't they neutral? Moreover, good hotels tend to be flexible to their customers' needs and give them almost what they want. Other than class and status, since when is gender an issue?

Without a doubt, this is certainly a marketing gimmick to pander to the rising spending power of women at the expense of men. Indeed, rise in women consumerism is bit by bit eroding the notion of men as the stronger sex. I'm not arguing that men should be the dominant gender but stating that this notion is sometimes far from the reality...We can be the weaker sex at some point as well, ladies...