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Contemplation

Quote of the day:
“It has long been an axiom of mine that the little things are infinitely the most important.”
– Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Often we find ourselves jammed in a corner, thinking to oneself, “Should I? Or should I not?” This has nevertheless occurred to me time and over again because of little conflicts and disagreements in the way I think compared to others. It’s hard to say that I fit well in society because of that particular trait. I don’t really spend time with anyone outside of my family circle, simply because they’re not exactly people to get intimate with, or rather, there is less productivity, in the way I define it, that results from such activities. Similarly, I’m not one to spend time outside much as well unless it’s beneficial. I really just don’t see the point of going to some place just to talk or as people normally say hang out. Come to think of it, the idea is time wasting, money wasting and ultimately, you can always do something better. While you might not even be doing something better, I definitely still disprove of it; why should one waste his or her time when there’s an opportunity of bringing up something useful? Unfortunately society believes otherwise; a lot prefer to spend time outside because it is indeed “useful”.

Social circles aside we then have my family. Sure enough I’ve inherited a lot of my dad’s traits. He and I both don’t like to enter malls much unless there’s some kind of purpose. In fact it doesn’t just apply to malls; it can quite literally be anywhere in the world. Yet a similar situation occurs again today. For what seems to be the third time in my life, I’ve been ditched by my family as they hit 1U for Chinese New Year clothes shopping. I’m not exactly dissatisfied with the idea of ditching me; I’ve never liked shopping much anyway, but the idea of leaving me alone seems quite painless to them. Worse to say this automatically means I’m not getting new clothes of my own; not that I don’t have enough clothes already. For this situation, yet again, I have the personal option of choosing to go or otherwise. Initially I considered it, but three things came into play. First, my presence has no impact on them; second, my so-called “brother” made it sound as if me not being there is fine, or would be preferred; third, aside from clothes, do I really need anything else? I think I might as well confirm my answer here.

Hard to say if there’s ever a right time to point it out, but they’re really cold-hearted if the importance of parking space can level my presence. My brother is also another useless one. For the amount of support the rest of the family gives, and the pride that we throw off just to please him; nothing is ever reciprocated. One of the worst feelings you get is when you help someone out so much, and in return, his or her personal pride still stands in the way of what’s supposed to be right.

Times like these you might just wonder who’s really out there looking for you other than your parents. There’s still else to be said about these things, but if I can’t even rely on my family for something so little, what’s my position in the world in the future to come?

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Of emotions and confusion

Quote of the day:
“There is always some madness in love. But there is also always some reason in madness.”
– Friedrich Nietzsche

So in the recent days, 13th December to be exact, our university, or at least the first semester engineering students anyway, had a solar boat competition; details to come soon. Everything was going rather well until boredom and fatigue got the better of me. I did something I never thought I’d do, especially to her, in a very long time. To put it short, I was hitting on her; I had absolutely no idea why I did it but I was completely aware of the situation.

We talked about it later that night and it pretty much went better than I originally expected. To simplify, the thoughts weren’t reciprocated, but I did however manage to assess myself on everything that happened earlier in the day. So I’d consider this as my first true and actual move on some girl, but it’s all strange and what not. I mean why would I do such a thing? Especially to one of my closer friends. I understand how that shouldn’t be a problem and all but still, something got messed up somewhere.

Things were clearer over the phone and nothing awkward happened. Eventually, she confronted me to see if anything was wrong, and to make sure that our friendship isn’t at all disrupted in any way. I mostly attributed this to once again boredom and fatigue but clearly this was something else. Basically, after a series of chats and days of downtime, I finally came to my senses; well sort of. In the end I guess I acted mostly on impulse.

It’s been almost 10 days since the incident and nothing much sparked at all. There were news of an iPhone 5 and I did offer her my current iPhone 4S though. Regardless, I suppose what “would” truly happen is that things go back to normal the next time I see her. I mean I’ve been missing the whole week by taking a family trip to Penang. Nothing says downtime like half a week of the beach and some food-hunting. There were much more things I wanted to touch on before this, but clearly my memory’s lost to an unknown void so.. That’ll be it for now. I’m just glad I logged this before I completely lost it.

Recent transitions and IU

Quote of the day:
“Happiness is not achieved by the conscious pursuit of happiness; it is generally the by-product of other activities.”
– Aldous Huxley

The same old blabber story about not updating often yet once again comes into play. It’s not like I could help it; most of the time I have now is spent either resting or picking up on other interests I’ve never had the time for. So long story short, life’s being more and more filled with experience, and every little thing picked up on the way will account for a pretty awesome logbook in the end. Well, inspirational words and lack of updates aside, it’s December, and that time of year again when we should all do a little reflecting on how the year had possibly went. I guess this time around, I’m not going to follow any particular chronological order and just jump around to things that I’ve really found myself deep in.

First thing’s first, there is a girl by the name of IU; her true name is Lee Ji Eun. She’s a Korean singer and she’s of the same age as me, except born several months earlier. By the lunar calendar, we are both already 20 but Gregorian (Western) calendar wise, at this time of post, we are simply 19. So newer people would probably ask why she has IU for a name. It’s a pretty simple concept where “you and I can be connected through music”. I first knew about her through one of the Running Man (this is gonna take a long time to explain and log..) episodes that she guest starred in. On a first impression basis, I kinda thought she was pretty, but I definitely expected her to be a year or two older and that’s where I was proven wrong.

Ji Eun here, or rather IU, isn’t just a pretty face; she’s nicknamed the Nation’s Little Sister, and looks don’t just make up for that title. She was active since 2008 while popularity rose somewhere in the middle of 2009. It wasn’t until about a week ago that I knew about her and realized how many years behind and outdated I was; this will be another long and painful story. So I admit, I know very little about IU as of now, but from what I could pick up in such a short time, she’s got a fantastic voice, she’s got truly supportive fans and she’s one of the few people who actually replies to her fans through any sort of media. IU herself is a renowned performer in South Korea, earning herself over 30 awards as well as producing songs that constantly top the charts. And no, it’s not just her looks (in which again I must emphasize, she’s extremely pretty in my eyes), but her vocal range can span a huge 4 octaves. That’s about double the range of notes I can hit. Result? Songs with great vocal power, and a pretty IU to follow up in the video where applicable.

Relating to IU is the fact that I’m starting to pick up the Korean language. Now I have to admit, in the past about a year or two ago, I had developed this sense of disliking or hatred for K-pop cultures or anything related to the sort. At times, this attitude of mine even led to criticizing Koreans as a whole. All that has changed in the recent days when a few friends introduced me to Running Man, a variety game show type of series airing weekly in Korea. As of now, that particular series runs with 7 main cast members presented with different challenges with each episode. Each episode is also filmed at different local landmarks throughout Korea. The developers class the series as a sort of “new genre of urban races” or something similar to that, and I have to say I’m quite impressed with what they’ve achieved. Each episode as mentioned, poses different challenges, but the most common format is that of elimination where every participating member has a name tag stuck to his or her back, and he or she gets eliminated when his or her name tag is ripped off. These challenges may be presented in an every-man-for-himself style or even team play. The involvement of guest stars, such as IU herself, makes the show far more interesting.

After a long paragraph of delaying, the short story is that I’m learning Korean not because of IU or Running Man (okay maybe a little bit of both; make that a lot), but it’s because after actually giving it a shot, I could manage to read the Korean script after about 20 minutes of self-learning. Honestly, I don’t think many people can learn it that fast. However, the problem with the language is that you can’t exactly do anything just by knowing the script. The grammatical component of Korean as I know it is far more complex and a little too flexible even when compared with Japanese. While English uses an SVO (subject-verb-object) format and Japanese uses an SOV format in most cases, Korean sentences can follow any format and arrangement provided that it ends with a verb. Variations can include SLOV (where L is location), SOLV, LOSV, OSLV, OLSV and so on. These sentences because increasingly complex with more and more elements, making it one of the easiest languages to read, but also one of the challenging languages to actually understand.

I personally think that this post has been more of a success relative to my previous posts, but figures I, like many other people, easily forget what I want to say sometimes. I guess this is it for now. But until then, let’s all support IU!

General reflections

Quote of the day:
Sometimes the appropriate response to reality is to go insane.
– Philip K. Dick

So after what looks like a few weeks of inactivity, I’ve returned here once again to reflect on certain things in life. Anyway here’s a quick rundown of what’s been happening since June.

– An 87-day long break since A-levels.
– University commencement on the 27th of August.
– Made a handful of friends which needs elaboration.
– Developed a very strong interest in cars.
– Joined the Taylor’s Racing Team.
– Played a lot of bowling and pool lately.
– Got tasked to do some kind of solar boat.
– Quit the Taylor’s Racing Team.

So, it’s the 26th of September which means my birthday is coming up in just a few days. Fun fact, my Gregorian calendar birthday coincides exactly with my lunar calendar birthday which is the 14th day of the 8th month, otherwise known as the day before Mid-Autumn festival. Now I have no idea what this is supposed to imply, but when you get two birthdays on the same day, I think that pretty much counts as something awesome that happens only once in a blue moon. Moving on!

So the 26th of September also marks the 29th day since university started; another coincidence, 29, gotta love that number. Almost 5 weeks have passed since the orientation and one could say I’ve adapted pretty well to the environment they have there. The structure of the building for one makes it more convenient and less tiring to move around as compared to A-levels. And as for the timetable, late starting hours and on certain days, late finishing hours but the gaps in between, where applicable, are often 2 hours long or more. What do I do in my free time? I would be either eating, or playing pool in the student centre or even enjoying a movie in the mini-theatre they have in the library. If it’s not that, then it’s sleeping in the library I suppose.

University has been different in the sense that students now have more free time than whatever their previous level of education was. Despite all this however, university has a way of tiring you out by the end of the day. Classes are often allocated in such a way that they have really early starting times for each first class of the day and really late finishing times for the last class of the day. Sure one may have all the breaks, complete meals, free time, whatever really; but in the end the late hours will eventually kill you. It’s even worse for those participating in extra-curricular activities because those will kill you even more.

And now for my favorite part of the post – cars. In the recent days, or rather a few days after university started, I seemed to have picked up really strong interest in cars. This of course is in part due to a couple of new friends I made. I mean really, I’m enrolled into a mechanical engineering degree program so this is only expected. Weeks before university even started, I even got my hands on Need For Speed: The Run for PS3. Before classes started, I was only a mild player, having completed the main events and had several multiplayer rounds but as of recently, this pretty much got onto a larger scale. Initially, I sucked; enough said. Lately, I’ve been coming out top, not only from the practice, but also some of the knowledge acquired from this newfound interest.

In any case, this post was supposed to be out weeks and weeks before this point in time, but I strictly don’t remember what I was going to write so I’m just gonna let it slide. Up next however, would be some elaboration on long-term plans; something I initially disliked, but found its importance, and of course, things I didn’t cover in the bullet point list above.

Views of the world

Quote of the day:
I write down everything I want to remember. That way, instead of spending a lot of time trying to remember what it is I wrote down, I spend the time looking for the paper I wrote it down on.
– Beryl Pfizer

Easily said, a month has gone by and while I haven’t really been doing anything truly useful for some time now, it’s not to say that I’ve experienced absolutely nothing. As per the title of the post, there has been several views of the world that I came across and frankly, these views have been nothing less than annoying, selfish and downright stupid. In light of the London 2012 Summer Olympics, a myriad of events have been cleared and medals have been awarded to participants all over the world. The one that sparked my mood for this post was the badminton’s men’s singles final and gold medal match between Lee Chong Wei of Malaysia and Lin Dan of China. Both players squared off nicely and the end result came to a win (21-15), a loss (10-21) followed by a second loss (19-21). This would be Chong Wei’s second consecutive silver and Lin Dan’s second consecutive gold in the event since the last Olympics.

My first opinion covers how the match has been played. Lin Dan himself is recognized as the world #1 player from fans all over the world. And admittedly, while I didn’t like his play style and confidence in the past years, I completely acknowledge the fact that he’s a fantastic and spirited player. But that’s why I’m writing. The first match they played put Lin at a loss, not because he was weak, but he was loosening up. Weaker shots, lack of smashes, lack of that “kick” I was expecting in every round between the two. In the second game, things turned more seriously and the lightning fast smashes started to return. While I was disappointed that Chong Wei himself was trying extremely hard to keep up, I’m happy at the same time that the second game was far more real than the first. Eventually, they went into a tiebreaker round.

But here’s the thing. Lin Dan had already won the past 2008 Olympics gold medal. Chong Wei on the other hand, had a silver. Both players have already known each other since far many years ago. Each player knows very well what the other’s strengths and weaknesses are. It’s definitely not the first time they’ve faced each other; it’s probably at least 30 matches they’ve played with each other previously. They can maintain contact with each other at any time, and more importantly, what is set at stake for this year’s Olympics. For Lin, there is nothing more from obtaining a second gold medal. For Lee however, many bars were set by the government and the local citizens’ cheering doesn’t help reduce any of the pressure at all; it was already his second encounter with Lin in the Olympics.

So the third match came to a close at 19-21. Lin had opened many shots while feigning some for Chong Wei to pick up the lead. However, something went wrong throughout the later phases of the game. He kept making mistakes, over and over again until Lin had a two-point lead at 19. Lin had significantly weakened his shots since that mark but yet, Chong Wei continued committing net shots, overshots and out shots. Of course in the end, I could only guess that they’ve had the match set up before hand. From the perspective of a long-time badminton player, I would’ve guess that Lin allowed Chong Wei to take the gold but somehow, things didn’t turn out as I expected. When Lin scored that last point, he was in a celebratory mood. As per the commentators, one man’s fall to the ground was out of happiness, while the other man’s fall to the ground was out of despair and lost faith. Newspapers since that night had been mentioning how Chong Wei is only destined to get at best a silver medal.

Now what does all this have to do with views of people? Prior to the match, Baskin Robbins Malaysia had promised that if Chong Wei were to net the gold in the 2012 Summer Olympics, every Malaysian citizen would be entitled to one free scoop of ice cream at any outlet nationwide, save for a few locations, at a stipulated time after the match. What infuriates me the most of the reactions of the local people when Chong Wei didn’t attain the gold medal. Reactions included how there would be no free ice cream, or why Chong Wei didn’t try any harder (for the ice cream). The country needs to know that Chong Wei is playing for his gold and his bars, not for citizens nationwide to simply claim a scoop of free ice cream. Even though they claimed to be joking, I cannot help but be angered because it disgraces the entire sport, and it defeats the whole purpose of Chong Wei attending the Olympics in the first place.

In the end, I don’t know what to say about these people. There are several other views I would touch on but unfortunately, memory doesn’t serve too well when things get delayed time and over again. As a badminton player myself, I was really disappointed, even though it was just a simple joke. Chong Wei has been a national symbol of our country and the best these citizens could do was joke around about not getting free ice cream? These lousy behaviors were further exhibited when I took a short trip to 1 Utama on the event date. The funny thing is I don’t understand how 200 people, a rough estimate, can queue up in a single file, from the Baskin Robbins stand in the intersection, all the way to the old wing without any chaos ensuing. This would be an easy way to see how desperate people are for a cup of ice cream, just because it’s free; not to mention the trouble they have to go through for something so petty. Worse yet, this doesn’t even happen in common daily activities. So conclusion, don’t create order in daily life, only create order when there’s free stuff! Absolute sarcasm intended.

I didn’t bother much; I simply went downstairs, grabbed a cheap McD ice cream cone, there was no outrageously long line, and that was the end of my story. At least now I’d know how people react whenever they can get free stuff just like that; and on the account of another man’s pure hard work. Nothing can be funnier than this.

Moment of recollection

Quote of the day:
“We have so much time and so little to do. Strike that, reverse it.”
– Roald Dahl

And so the last post I’ve written properly was recorded some two, maybe three months ago. It’s the first of July and I can’t exactly determine the right way to calculate the months; but that doesn’t matter. Many things have occurred in the past 182 days of year 2012, today being the 183rd day of the year. Given how much attention this blog had lacked, I figured it’s about time I did some actual logging of some sort. The best part is I just had some good ice cream, and I have good music to accompany while this post is being composed.

Again, it’s the start of July; a whole half year has passed since this year had started, and judging from the total number of posts I’ve accumulated this year, things have been rather busy, stressful, enjoyable at times, but all meaning to say I should begin the storytelling. At times like these, the numbers from my Facebook would prove to be extremely useful. So let’s recall what’s happened since this year started, beginning with New Year.

January had been excruciatingly bland as far as I could recall. It was a new year like every other year. School would’ve resumed for my brothers on the 3rd, but being in college, I had an extra week to myself and would only resume on the 10th. My CD which I use in my car of course was gradually expanded, but all the while different in content if I were to compare it with today’s content. Somewhere before 2012, I got myself a Lego Technic Supercar model which consisted of some 1,200 plus pieces. I remember spending three non-consecutive days working on it, even ignoring meals at times just to speed things up. The car itself has a motorized trunk, doors and spoilers too which could be controlled by a switch at the rear of the car when it was completely assembled. Measuring about half a metre in length, the car now sits on display in my room. The AKB48 Request Hour Setlist Best 100 for year 2012 took place from the 18th to the 22th of the month. Sometime later in the month, Chinese New Year came around. If I recall properly, it’s that same day when the AS results were released. To my relief, I managed to score all A’s but one B for it. Not too bad a performance, but it honestly could have been better. My classmates had some previous celebrations in light of the festival; a little more extravagant than the ones I had during secondary school anyway. And as with every year, I made a visit to my grandparents’ home all the way in Negeri Sembilan but this time, the family was introduced to the Alienware. The CD I had continued expanding from here, and I had already pre-ordered what seems to be Team S and Team KII’s stage recordings.

Surprisingly, I had absolutely not much of a record for February at all. Facebook provided little information. And my hunch was right; I had become busier around this time due to preparation for the upcoming exams. The 5th of February was my brother’s birthday and like every year, he seems to complain about it to some degree. The package I ordered in January had still been placed on hold. After all, the item would only be released on the 14th of March. Having said so though, I had received it a day earlier than expected. On the 22nd of February, due to a sleeping error on my part, I encountered what seems to be my first “proper” car accident. I was late one morning, or maybe exceptionally late one morning, and had to drive in a rushing fashion. As I was about to switch lanes, I didn’t notice an oncoming motorist on my left and as a result, he drove and crashed into the front left side of my car. He immediately fell off his bike, without much injury apparently, and left my front bumper hanging. I would explain the details more in-depth, but the idea is I had to rely on my cousin to hit college for the next few days and my car required some three-day maintenance. Oh, and worth noting is how this year is a leap year, so we have a 29th of February this time around.

And once again, the oddity that I have little record whatsoever starts to show itself again. Now that I think about it, the A2 trial exams were carried out sometime in March. Of course, the A2 trials weren’t to be underestimated. And even though I recall doing not so well, it was a rather troublesome time back in those two months. Every day, hour and minute of my life was clouded by the fact that these exams are so important. Not a moment goes by, whether I’m relaxing or doing something else, without worrying about those exams. It might be just the trials, but that alone seems to have panicked my every move, deciding whether or not I should’ve done any activity at that time. It’s also around this time when I completed my UCAS applications, only to ignore them several months later. That would be another story entirely. On the 13th of March, I received the package containing my two stage recordings of Team S and Team KII. Sometime later, maybe a day or two, I also received my first proper ALL48 photoset; that of Takayanagi Akane of SKE48. From March 27th onwards, my A2 trials would have started.

As I go into April’s memories, I remember that Mass Effect 3 was released on the 6th of March. Despite the trial exams that were going on, I had actually attempted to rush and end the game within three consecutive days, spending at least 10 hours on the game per day. It’s not like that was the end of it. Even after the trials, moving into the holidays, nearing April, I had been replaying the first two games to achieve what some call the perfect ending. That alone took considerable amount of time given how I was being rather “completionist” for those runs. The trial exams have ended on the 7th of April and my class decided on watching a movie right after the exams, The Hunger Games if memory serves. That same night, I had another movie with my family just for the sake of relaxation. This entire month had been nothing but thinking and exam preparations. Almost every syllabus of A-levels was done by the end of this month and students would be left to do whatever preparation it takes to gear up for the exams. Despite all of that, I had four other sets of photos of Takayanagi Akane on the 23rd of the month. Without anything else particularly interesting, the month ends just like that.

May was the month when everything counted; when you start realizing things you were supposed to realize a long while back. It was more of a contemplating sort of month, when you would reflect everything you’ve done in the past 18 months, or in my case 15, as a Cambridge A-Levels student. The exams were coming and no doubt, every student would wonder where to go once the exams have ended. The actual A2 exams would’ve commenced for our class on the 14th of May. Despite knowing how close the exams were, I managed to find some time to catch up on the How I Met Your Mother series and picked up several lifelong lessons along the way. The only reason this is possible is because the papers I had were split rather far. Some papers had gaps of two days in between and some had five, making studying a little easier, albeit the subjects were still difficult to begin with anyway. Some time towards the end of May, but still in the midst of exams, I brought myself to complete a drama I’ve been watching last year but never managed to finish it on time, five months late to be specific. The drama was entitled 私が恋愛できない理由, literally translating to The Reason I Can’t Find Love. A rather short drama of 12 episodes spanning about 47 minutes each, the drama elaborates on the lives of three characters as they deal with their daily problems and jobs. Of course it sounds simple to actually describe it like this, but to watch it is another one. I would continue describing, but there’s simply not enough space and time for that. And so May ends with our last papers, the further mathematics papers. After the paper on the 1st of June, that would mark the end of the entire A-levels program.

With the closing of May draws June, the sixth month of the year and unofficially the midpoint of the year. As mentioned, the first day of the month served as a closing door for the A-levels program and for some of us, possibly the last time we see each other until the far future. That same day, all but one of my classmates had already arranged for a movie right after the exams, namely Men In Black III. After the movie ended, we said our last few words, but all hope wasn’t to be lost, for there would be prom on the 15th later that month. On the 4th, I’ve managed to obtain yet another two sets of five photos of Takayanagi Akane to my collection while also getting other necessities for what came next. So on the 5th of June, my family had arranged for a trip to Penang Island for three days, mostly to try some local food and doze off half the time. For the first time in my life too, I was in charge of the long drive from home to Penang and the return trip. The distance to Penang was a rough 330 kilometres for both the forward and the reverse trip, and each trip took about 4 hours and 6 hours respectively. I admit, even though I was exhausted badly after the two sessions, it was fun to have the responsibility of taking my family there. Some of the food in Penang was particularly exquisite, including the simple hawker food in Gurney Drive, as well as the luxurious Italian cuisine restaurant Bella Marino in Straits Quay, which had been around for about a year or two. On the 6th of June, while I was still in Penang, I managed to catch AKB48’s 27th Single Elections live from the hotel. Even though the 3G reception from my phone had been laggy from time to time, it was still watchable nevertheless. And as per my guesses, Oshima Yuko won once again, having yet another opportunity to lead the next single.

Once we were done with Penang, life was pretty much stagnant for me from that point on. My brothers had school to get on with, while my parents resumed to their duties. It was from the 8th of June until today that I’ve yet to do anything particularly productive. I had my eyes opened to a few windows of life and picked up several other things along the way, but nothing practically useful. Having realized what free time I had, I spent them on The Legend of Korra, a sequel to the original series Avatar: The Last Airbender which was around several years ago. It was nothing short of amazing and it had just ended its first season in the recent days. Despite how great it is though, I still found the plot too fast-paced and this might sound strange; too modern. As mentioned earlier, prom was also held on the 15th. I honestly had no idea what a prom would’ve been like, and frankly I’m still not sure until today. All I know is I got a blazer, a really expensive one at that too, almost arrived late, had some dinner, took a few pictures, and danced rather senselessly into the midnight before returning home exhausted. And it was that time when I would finally see my classmates one last time until the next time in the far future. A few days after that, or something along those lines, I had the time to “revisit” my previous times by watching the second and third season of Avatar: The Last Airbender.

Towards the end of the month, I found myself deeply interested in higher-end cars. On the 22nd of June, my car got itself an upgrade; the upgrade being a subwoofer. Depending on what music one plays in the car now, it could sound either a billion times better or a billion times worse. But in most cases, the music gets better and better. While the upgrade and installation was taking place, for about two hours or so, my dad took the liberty of taking me to a Toyota showroom nearby and let me test drive a Camry 2.0G. I must admit that car was by far more luxurious than what I have now, and it’s certainly gave me an idea of what I would like to drive in the future; but that’s not the end of it. Apparently the newer Camry 2.5V model had already been out, but no unit was particularly available for testing at that moment. However, it still gave me something to ponder about. In those recent days, I also found myself to drink a lot of Tonino Lamborghini chocolate; just some really good chocolate powder we got from the Italian cuisine restaurant in Penang. One must take care to mix the right ratios of ingredients, and of course, take care to make sure the powder doesn’t run out that fast; it is that good after all. Five days ago on the 27th of June, I managed to snag a look at an actual Camry 2.5V while I was shopping for other things with my brother at 1 Utama. Toyota had a roadshow that day so I figured I take a good look or two. Other models including the Corolla Altis, Vios, Prius, Prius C, and 86 were on display as well.

A day or two after, an old friend of mine introduced かたわ少女, Katawa Shoujo, to me. The title literally translates to Disabled Girls and is a visual novel about a male student who suffers from a heart attack and is transferred to a school for the disabled. There, he meets five girls, each with a unique and different disability, and depending on the choices you make throughout the novel, he would lock paths with one of the characters. From there on, the story develops and a positive, neutral or negative ending could be achieved depending on the character as well as the choices. The novel itself was inspired over four years ago by a non-profit organization. As a result, the novel is fully available in English and can be downloaded absolutely free of charge. The novel itself has changed my outlook in several ways; if one needs to know, then he or she needs to really try the novel out. Even though the novel was created out of a non-profit group, the effort they put into the novel has been nothing short of outstanding and unbelievable. From the story to the art and the music, I have to say this novel hasn’t failed in any aspect whatsoever. More importantly, how touching it can get and the feeling the novel gives you that you just want to inquire what’s just going to happen next. So far, I’ve completed three of the five paths, and I would find some time to clear the rest of them in a short time.

As for the 30th of June, well this day needs a paragraph or two of its own. So I woke up in the afternoon like any other. My first brother had his first awards ceremony in four years and returns surprisingly late, due to a new plan by the school. So my dad returns home with my mom, brother and his friend, and invites me out for some simple food and a chance to look at other cars for a change. After several slices of bread and some Milo, my dad take me over to a showroom of sorts containing mixed cars from BMW to Mercedes Benz to Audi to Wolkswagen somewhere around Penchala. In the end, we managed to sit inside about 5 of the cars, just to get a feel of handling the wheel. Due to it being a showroom however, there was absolutely no test driving involved. Moments after viewing a few Audi models, we went over to the main section of the building containing Wolkswagen models. While some of the model names were particularly weird, all of them seemed rather exquisite. After even more viewing, we walked over to the BMW dealer showroom to take a look at some of the higher end models including the 328i, 335i and 520i models. If it’s anything every car we sat in had in common, it was the crammed and congested rear seats. While the exterior looked particularly sharp and attractive, the interior was another story. I get the feeling that while the driver might have some comfort, and that’s not all-comfort, the rear seats were rather tight. For cars which seemed so big on the outside, the inside was contradictorily small. After taking a few brochures and concluding our small trip, both of us happened to agree that the most comfortable cars would still be the Toyota Camry or Mercedes Benz models. All this discussion really brought out the prospective of getting a new car; but I’m certainly not ready for it yet. After all, my current car is only less than 15 months old.

The night resumed as per normal as well. After having what seems to be a late dinner, I resumed with Kawata Shoujo. By midnight, I would’ve finished the third character’s path, and as with the other two characters, contemplated about the story and started appreciating the designer’s efforts quite the bit, up until this time of the post. The same music that was playing since the beginning of this post is the exact same track right now, and is actually part of the Katawa Shoujo original soundtrack. The soundtrack of the game is too available for download without charge. And as per the album title, the songs are definitely nothing short of enigmatic. Maybe enigmatic isn’t a good way to describe it, but why the music is so good could be described as such. The usage of guitars, light drums, and some other wind instruments, arranged in such a way, proves to be just so soothing and without fail, indeed music to the ears.

I’ve probably been on this post for about an hour or two now, but it was definitely great to write something this long without too long of a pause. I’d promised myself to compose something for so long already that writing some 3000 plus word post just seems about right. If it’s any consolation, it would also contribute to anything I may lack in the future; but the past has already caught up to the present. What the future holds will be yet another mystery. Until then, it’s time to let life resume, and the time to blog, will be another day to come.

Catching up

Quote of the day:
“One of the most obvious facts about grownups to a child is that they have forgotten what it is like to be a child.”
– Randall Jarrell

As one would have noticed, this little blog hasn’t been updated in a very long time. Sure the last post might be a day or two ago but the previous one before that dates probably months back. So what is the purpose of this post? As a reminder that I have a blog and I should do my fair share of work to keep it running for whatever purpose it may have, for as long as possible. As per the quote, time moves by so quickly, especially at my age. Most of us probably wished we were older when we were kids but looking back, there’s much more to life than meets the eye. That being said, my school years were over, but I do wish I could travel back in time every now and then. Unfortunately that won’t be possible until a while later so I guess I’ll have to make the most of life now while I still can.

Now, exactly what needed catching up? Long story short, I did so many things that I could put them into a list of sorts.

In no chronological order:
– Got a Lego car set thing. Consists of almost 1,300 pieces and completed it in 3 days.
– Purchased 2 other singles and 1 album of AKB48, and 2 stage recordings of SKE48.
– Recently completed trial exams, and am currently having a two-week break.
– Watched a couple of movies, as well as the first time I’ve been to a karaoke box.
– Played, completed and replayed the Mass Effect trilogy which includes Mass Effect 3.
– Completed UCAS processes and to date, received two offers, each from Warwick and Sheffield.
– Learned the fact that Maeda Atsuko, centerpiece of AKB48 is stepping down soon.
– Performed yet more translations of favorite songs which I’ll probably put up soon.
– Started a mini-collection of unique photos, compiled into a somewhat empty album.

There’s definitely more to add to the list, but I’ll add them next time around since I can’t remember all of them just yet. If it’s anything, life needs to be recorded just because our memory systems are never fully functional. Also, watching a few things gave me an opportunity to learn even more new things. What might these new things be? I don’t know how to put it in words exactly, but whatever it is, I can feel it; and it’s given me a never-give-up kind of spirit. Certain people continue to give me hope, and I will continue to follow these people if that’s what keeps me content.

Quote of the day:
Anyone who can handle a needle convincingly can make us see a thread which is not there.
– E. H. Gombrich

As much as I mentioned that this post would take yet another great amount of time, I realize that I don’t really have that much time on my hands. I also still want to keep this Japan log as a single piece or two consecutive posts anyways so here I go again. This next part will cover a different side of Japan that is the Kanto region. For many who do not know, the simplest example of the Kanto region is basically the central area of Japan where Tokyo and its surrounding cities are located. And now, the storytelling continues.

Day 4: Summary
– Departure via coach to Shizuoka
– Visited Owakudani (大涌谷, lit. Great Boiling Valley)
– Visited another temple, but unfortunately, forgot the name of it
– Stopped at an upper level of Mt. Fuji
– Checked into Fuji-Mihana Hotel, Mt. Fuji, Shizuoka

Day 4: Reviews & Details
We woke up that morning rather early and had breakfast, though I can’t exactly remember what I ate that morning. Anyway, with that settled, we went on for another one of those long bus rides, maybe about an hour or two, on a journey to Shizuoka where Mt. Fuji was located. Along the way, we stopped at another R&R for another toilet break. While we knew we weren’t in Shizuoka whatsoever, there was an extremely clear view of Mt. Fuji along with its snow cap. It was only normal that the ride got delayed due to photo shoots.

Some background information on Mt. Fuji; it is currently Japan’s tallest mountain at 3776 meters high and it is considered to be a dormant volcano with its last eruption occurring some 300 years ago. Despite being the tallest mountain however, it is rather short compared to others around the world. Mt. Fuji is also another symbol of Japan and is one of the most beautiful and rare mountains thanks to its almost symmetrical cone shape. That being said, I’ve seen Mt Fuji from many different spots and it seems to look the same all the while. Mt. Fuji is also a mountain made from three other mountains over a long time ago. The climbing season of Mt. Fuji usually occurs around July every year and local citizens would climb it to witness the first ray of sun. The reason for this is that Japan is the first country in Asia to receive sunlight, hence the nickname “Land of the Rising Sun”.

Now while Mt. Fuji was within sight, we weren’t anywhere near the mountain exactly. Our next stop was Owakudani (大涌谷, lit. Great Boiling Valley), a volcanic valley with active sulphur vents and hot springs. Similar to Jigokudani in Hokkaido last year, it was a volcanic zone and the area wreaks of the smell of sulphur, commonly known to be the smell of rotten eggs. The lower grounds didn’t pose too much of a problem but the highest point where visitors can reach had that foul smell choking me a little. The valley is also a popular tourist site for its kuro-tamago (黒玉子, lit. black egg), a local specialty of eggs boiled in the hot springs themselves. As a symbol of longevity, eating one is said to extend your life by 7 years. One could eat up to two and a half eggs for a total of 17.5 years but eating three whole eggs isn’t advised for some apparent reason. Later on, we descended and had lunch, a set lunch as usual. There was a stunning view of the lake in front of the area. There happened to be a moving ferry at the time as well. Before leaving, I bought a set of photographs of Mt. Fuji from a souvenir shop below.

Later that afternoon, we visited another temple, but once again, I have failed to take notice of the temple’s name whatsoever. My only indication is that it is a Buddhist temple of sorts and is extremely uphill. At the top, one can find what seems to be a white Buddha statue. Before reaching the statue, one is certain to walk by many other statues which have a country label on them. I wasn’t too sure what the place was for but if I were to guess, it’s still a Buddhist temple. From the end of the temple where the white statue is located, there is an incredible view of Mt. Fuji. Obviously, I had to take pictures of it. Better yet, at the time of the photo, Mt. Fuji had small clouds around it, adding more photographic value to some of the ones I took.

Descending the temple, we moved on to climb Mt. Fuji, although not literally. Due to the cloud formation on Mt. Fuji, it wasn’t possible to reach the higher levels of the mountain. However, we did manage to head up to the third level of the mountain just for the sake of visiting it. While there, I bought a bunch of souvenirs related to the mountain such as a few key chains and some 3D block crystals. The outside temperature at the time was approximately 5 degrees Celsius and snow was clearly visible on the roads, although not as soft as the one in Hokkaido. Coldness really went to a new level considering temperatures elsewhere were only approximately 10 degrees. After that, we descended to visit Mt. Fuji’s visitor center for a video of the history of Mt. Fuji including its formation and present activities. Aside from that, the souvenirs mentioned earlier could also be obtained here.

Once that was done with, it was time to check into our hotel at the foot of Mt. Fuji. Considering it was Mt. Fuji and its surroundings, the temperature was approximately 0 degrees throughout the night. We had buffet dinner in the hotel itself and one thing to note about he hotel was its hot spring availability. A year ago, I had three hot spring opportunities in Hokkaido but I had denied all of them for this rule; not a single strand of string must be on you. I decided to forgo that problem of mine and went for yet another first of experiences and it was just amazing. Waters were at temperatures of 41 to 42 degrees Celsius and the hot spring was divided into an interior and and exterior one. The exterior one feels much hotter for some apparent reason and after having a 10 to 15 minute session in the springs, your body is so warm that you feel nothing even when standing outside at a temperature of -2 degrees Celsius wearing thin clothes.

Later that night we walked to the nearest 7-Eleven to grab refreshments and just have a leisurely walk. I also happened to get a limited edition 7-ElevenⅹAKB48 card that comes with purchase of 2 specific items. Do note however that “nearest” was an approximate 20 to 30 minute walk from the hotel. Given how it was so late and cold, it was painful for me to accept it in the first place. I was originally going to watch a local Japanese drama that night but having that AKB48 card compensates for it all the same. Either way, we slept tatami-style, that is we slept on floor mattresses for the night. Being extremely exhausted, I went to sleep as soon as I returned to the hotel and cleared everything up.

Day 5: Summary
– Departure via coach to Asakusa, Tokyo
– Passed by the Diet Building and Imperial Palace
– Visited Ginza St. a.k.a shopping haven
– Visited Shinjuku St. a.k.a another shopping haven
– Visited Harajuku St. a.k.a yet another shopping haven
– Checked into Keio Plaza Hotel, Shinjuku

Day 5: Reviews & Details
The listings in the summary may prove to be somewhat familiar; this is because the itinerary today was exactly the same as the year before. In other words, today was a second chance to revisit any places that we might not have been to the year before. But this time, there was a bonus that I didn’t get in the previous year. To begin the day, we had breakfast in the hotel before we checked out. Today’s breakfast had a little more variety, but I resolved to having a number of pancakes and hash browns; or more than just a number of them. In any case, we departed for Asakusa via coach immediately after breakfast.

Having mentioned that the day is almost identical, we arrived at the same place, that is the Asakusa Kannon Temple. Referencing my earlier post, the temple itself resembles an ancient looking one and it itself is a Buddhist temple. Away from the temple is the long shopping street hidden from public view which left the impression of Chinatown the last time. We did our common walking and wandering as usual. Similarly, we advanced with the tour guide to a local agency and confirmed our tickets for Disneyland, just as we did last year. Not only that, but we also had advances on our lunch venue. I’ll be skipping the actual details on lunch like I did before too, because the details are really scratchy, and it is again set lunch to begin with. The only new thing this time is the amount of AKB48 exposure I’m noticing; something I couldn’t pay attention to before I knew about them.

As with the itinerary, our next spot, or rather road, is Ginza street. As a general overview, Ginza is a shopping street guaranteed to empty the wallets of heavy spenders. And to make a correction to my entry last year, the street is only closed on weekends and not on holidays in general which meant traveling across roads is comparatively more difficult due to the stretch of the road itself. Referencing previous entries, the length of the road spans a good kilometer or two. Among some of the newer things we did here was actual shopping. While I did no actual spending on clothes, my brother took the liberty of grabbing several lines of clothes which weren’t presently available in our home country. What I did spend on however, is on CDs. While traveling along the long road, I happened to notice a music store selling some of the latest AKB48-and-related singles and I couldn’t help but buy them myself. The result of it: My first three singles, and the latest ones at that, from AKB48 and related groups. The singles I bought included AKB48’s 上からマリコ; AKB48’s subunit, French Kiss’ 最初のメール; AKB48’s subunit, Not yet’s ペラペラペラオ and SKE48’s オキドキ. My brother also got himself an iPhone case and a screen protector from the same gigantic Apple store we visited last year. I too originally wanted to buy a pair of headphones, until I found out it cost half a thousand MYR.

This next part is an additional bonus that first, wasn’t available last year and second, wasn’t part of the itinerary in the first place. Our next destination, instead of Shinjuku, was Harajuku. We left Ginza around 4 pm the afternoon and made our way to Harajuku which, as mentioned, wasn’t originally part of the tour. Honestly, my first impression was that we got to visit a new place and that the day wouldn’t be completely identical. But little did I forget one thing; the moment we stepped down the bus, my brother called me and pointed out a building which had the label “AKB48 Harajuku Official Shop”. The whole time, my illness shrouded me badly enough to make me forget that Harajuku had an official shop of AKB48. But first, an overview of the street itself.

The street that the shop is part of is comparatively much smaller, much shorter and definitely much narrower than the one mentioned about Ginza. It was your typical street, narrower than usual, consisting of many stalls, shops and restaurants. Relatively speaking, the street resembles a modern and more advanced night market, if the description fits. For the most part, we did as much as the usual walking and made a few toilet visits. If it’s anything that we didn’t do, it was purchasing anything in particular. However, the statement proves to be untrue for one part of it.

The AKB48 Harajuku shop is almost a street corner shop with the actual corner shop being a pharmacy or convenience store. The shop itself has two levels; the lower being the general shop and the upper being restricted to only certain people with SMS codes, if not mistaken. The shop, like most official merchandize dealers, has a myriad of items ranging from collectible cards, calendars featuring specific members, foodstuffs, but most importantly, CDs, both singles and albums, as well as DVDs of all sorts ranging from general variety to special events such as the Request Hour. We were allocated two hours, but I spent about the first hour and a half just staring and thinking about what I should get. Skipping the long waiting time, the general conclusion is that I bought
three additional singles: AKB48’s 会いたかった; AKB48’s ヘビーローテーション and Maeda Atsuko’s Flower, as well as two packs of trading cards; these were just for show. In the same amount of time I spent staring at the items available, my brother took the liberty of visiting a sports apparel mega store and got himself a limited edition Barcelona jacket.

When the time was up, we went back to Shinjuku, just as we did last year. We didn’t do our usual traveling however. Instead, we followed another family who knew the location of a ramen restaurant. As a result, we had ramen for early dinner and the aforementioned family treated us. Seeing as we spent most of our time eating, there wasn’t much remainder time by the time we were done. Unfortunately for us, the next location was our actual dinner. In the previous year, we had a tempura set dinner in an office block of sorts. This time, the food was almost similar, but quoting our tour guide, the one we had this time around was better. In terms of location, it seemed to be yet another commercial office block. With dinner done, our next stop was Keio Plaza Hotel, where we checked in, and we were never to be seen for the rest of the night.

Day 6: Summary
– Departure via coach for a second trip to Tokyo Disneyland
– Had dinner at the same place as last year, buffet-style
– Checked into the same place as before, Narita Marroad International Hotel

Day 6: Reviews & Details
Today’s itinerary, as I am completely sure this time, is exactly identical to the one we had last year. This year’s Disneyland was simply a second chance to cover anything we may have missed before. We already had most of our fun last year thanks to the Fastpass tickets we found on the ground before. The roller coasters, as mentioned, were probably the greatest attractions there so it was only normal that we rode them again. Due to the lack of time last year, we didn’t manage to ride Splash Mountain. This time around, we rode it and we even got a commemorative photo to bring back home as well. As far as Space Mountain is concerned, I rode it once, but suffered a terrible headache later. This led me to leaving my brother and a new friend of ours, Tristan to ride Big Thunder Mountain without me.

Almost all the attractions were the same. There was a new Philharmagic 4D theater performance introduced this time but it wasn’t anything that we haven’t experienced in Hong Kong already. As a drawback, the attraction was done in Japanese too. Fortunately for me, I had the grounds to understand a partition of what was being said. The others however, I cannot say the same. This 4th D is similar to the one in Universal Studios. Seeing as we traveled alone this time, with Tristan in the group, we were literally free to roam in any direction we chose. There’s nothing much to be elaborated on the attractions as they were mostly the same. Decorations however, have been changed to suit the winter season. The same was done in the previous year, but newer additions were placed, including a fully decorated Christmas tree close to the main entrance. Our Fastpass tickets weren’t put to a total advantage, but we did what we could. We did however, wait about 40 minutes for a Monsters Inc. Ride n Go Seek attraction we missed before this. The attraction involves pointing a beam of light at the Monsters Inc. insignia to score points. The true score however, is not provided at the end of the game.

Some of the souvenirs we got this time were, in a sense, remarkable and memorable. Among the things I got upon leaving the aforementioned attraction included a T-shirt which I now wear to college occasionally, an almost completely decorated plastic cup, and a flashlight. Note that while it looks like a normal flashlight, it was bright enough to be blinding. Some of the other things included a 3-in-1 magic set, containing tricks involving coins, a seemingly broken pencil and a deck of cards. Another item I got was a magic book, which, if handled properly, can show pictures of blank pages, black and white pages, and fully colored pages. I also happened to pick up a Disney Lego set for fun during our last few shopping moments. I learned a while later that the set is only a small part of a larger collection and that the set can actually be obtained from local stores. A little decorative item among the stuff we got was a Mickey and Mike Wazowski Nano Lego figure. Made of extremely small parts, the item has to be hand-assembled, and the actual item will appear to be a block-shaped character. And as with the previous year, more key chains and other small decorations to go around.

Last year, we had our chances to eat smoked turkey legs. This time around, we had ice cream sandwiches and pizzas of different toppings. I personally made it a special lunch of sorts to have 3 slices of that pizza. The pizza in mind is a typical double meat, probably chicken, pizza topped with a lot of cheese and several slices of onion. This pizza is also served in a special box and is much larger than the typical size. Having 3 easily stuffed me but I swear I could have more if I wasn’t so sick at the time. My brother and Tristan tried some of the other toppings including mushroom, shrimp, some vegetable related topping, and it was our main source of food there. So to sum things up, we went into, got into a few places, ate ice cream, went into the Philharmagic, got into a few more places, had pizza for lunch, rode a bunch of roller coasters, had even more pizza because it was too awesome, went into the Monsters Inc. attraction, bought souvenirs, bought more souvenirs, bought even more souvenirs and when it was dark, we finally took leave. After that, we proceeded to buffet dinner.

This last day wasn’t as vibrant as before. The crew this year was more separated and were more inclined to stick to their bunch of people. So anyway, my brother and I had our own table and I was in charge of most of the frying and grilling. I took a reasonable amount of meat including chicken, beef and pork and basically grilled everything to a pretty good degree. The only problem was how weird the food looked. Well, I’m no expert chef, but at least I could tell if a piece of food was edible. Following the main course was the free soft-cream dispenser. Technically it was included in the main fees, but I’ll treat it to be free anyway. Compared to last year’s count of 3 serves, I had 5 or 6 this time around. Once we were done, the typical habit of stopping at each and every supermarket of sorts continued seeing as there was one downstairs of our dinner venue.

Carrying on, we checked into our final hotel, Narita Marroad International Hotel, where we claimed our “special orders items”. Similar to last year, we bought a bunch of snacks, a bracelet for my mom this time, some dried scallops. Well maybe it’s not as much as I expected, but we did spend some huge amount on that list, that’s as much as I remember. After collecting our stuff, we did a quick delivery of everyone’s orders. Some of the other clusters have ordered huge piles of items; which made deliveries somewhat problematic for a few of the rounds. After all of that was done, we pretty much did nothing except sleep because like every other thing, this holiday has to come to an end. So we made final checks, rearranged all our items, zipped everything up and went to sleep.

Day 7: Summary
– Had breakfast at Narita Marroad International Hotel
– Departure to KLIA, Malaysia @ 11 AM
– Arrival at KLIA, Malaysia @ 5:45 PM
– Hit home safely

Day 7: Reviews & Details
Today, like most other last days, is pretty self-explanatory. Today being the last day, I decided to wear the Monsters Inc. shirt for the rest of the day. So we got up, did yet another check for our items, and out for morning breakfast which included your typical international setup, break, milk and juice. Also to note, we bought two cartons of chocolate milk back from 7-Eleven near the Fuji Mihana Hotel. Ever since that night, those two cartons of milk had traveled with us to every other hotel we checked into. Figuring that is wasn’t allowed to go to waste, I consumed them despite my fullness since airport regulations state that there cannot be outside liquids present inside the airport.

Once the ticketing was complete, we were left with about an hour or so before our flight commenced; this meant more shopping. So what I did was buy two of those “I (heart) so-and-so” T-shirts; a white shirt reading “I (heart) Tokyo” and a black shirt reading “I (heart) Japan”. Among the other things I got were several key chains as well as the Shiroi Koibito biscuits we got from Hokkaido last year. After that, it was only waiting time before we headed home. The flight was another direct one to KLIA, and spanned about six and a half hours. I was watching movies throughout the flight, but I did take short naps somewhere in between. Lunch was also provided, and it was some sort of Japanese fish. It came along with some cheese and some non-sweet and non-spicy sauce. Unknowingly, I ate it and frankly, I thought that was the cheese. Regardless though, I loved it, and the actual cheese. Following the lunch was a small cup of Japanese-brand vanilla ice cream. After the long flight, we finally touched down in KLIA somewhere in the evening.

We last parted with Lee-san when we saw our father through the transparent glass separating the pathways. When we saw him, we had our last words with Lee-san and carried on. We loaded the luggage into my father’s car and rode an hour ride back home, stopping at an R&R for a short drink before heading back. We unloaded everything, I got out of my long johns, did more unloading, totaled our spending and kept the rest of the money while returning the USD denominations. After that, we had a taste of local food once again before we closed the night. I opened up my 7 singles and played them throughout, even watching some of the DVDs included with the singles. Before sleeping, I took the time to set up the Nano Lego Mickey Mouse figure; it sits on the table in my room now. The next day, everything had returned to normal and we had stories to tell everyone.

Quote of the day:
“I find that a great part of the information I have was acquired by looking up something and finding something else on the way.”
– Franklin P. Adams

This is gonna be heck of a long post, that’s all the warning I can give this time. Reflecting the quote above, I actually learned many things through that particular method. Take for example my interest to which some may call an obsession, AKB48. It was in fact NMB48 that led me to learning about AKB48 in the first place. From that point on, I picked up Japanese and guess what, I ended up in Japan once again for the second year in a row except this time, I was more prepared and the country didn’t seem so foreign to me anymore. I was heavily criticized for not picking up Chinese, my supposed birth language, and instead picking up Japanese, something else completely unrelated. It didn’t matter much what anyone had to say about it because in the end, I knew I would find some good use in doing so and the effects were clearly positive. Before moving on to the main topic, it’s Christmas Eve at the start of this post so Merry Christmas to all and Happy New Year 2012. Now, I shall get back to what will be an even more detailed post about how my second trip to Japan was my ticket to a few new things.

Day 1: Summary
– Last day of college; two tests and under bad health conditions
– Arrived home around 5 PM for last minute preparation
– Left house around 7 PM for departure to KLIA
– Departure to Kansai International Airport at 11:45 PM

Day 1: Reviews & Details
Okay, there isn’t much to be detailing this day just like last year because it simply counted as an itinerary day and nothing more, but there are details outside of the trip that may be worth noting. The day of our flight happened to be my last day of college for the second semester as it was. I had two somewhat important tests in store that day and I was struck with influenza A H1N1 several days before this day. It was troublesome enough to experience fever, flu, weakness, cough and several other symptoms so there was the suggestion to yet again forfeit the trip for health reasons. After the tests were concluded, we, my brother and I, decided that it’s not that big of a deal and chose to go for this valuable trip anyway and so we did.

We made last minute preparations at home, got scolded, advised and many other things one could expect from parents before a long separation. We left home later that evening for the airport but stopped at an R&R to have a last cup of “teh tarik” before flying off for the next 7 days. After that little dinner, we met up with the same tour guide we had as we did the year before. About that last cup, it wasn’t the last cup exactly. I had another vanilla milkshake before departure. After passing through the immigration gates and splitting from our dad, we basically just stood around until it was time for flight. This time around, we took one of the Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 airliners and I have to admit, it is definitely something to be reckoned with. The flight commenced close to midnight and we remained in the air for the next 6 hours. Unlike last year, we were not nervous, but instead, horribly ill. It was very cold the next morning. Our next destination was Kansai International Airport, Japan.

Day 2: Summary
– Arrival in Kansai International Airport at 6 AM local time
– Went to Universal Studios Japan, Osaka
– Checked into Cross Hotel, Osaka in the evening
– Dinner and leisurely walk after dark

Day 2: Reviews & Details
Basically, I could hardly sleep through the flight because external temperatures had already dropped below -10 degrees Celsius and I haven’t got my winter clothing prepared at that time. In addition to the cold weather, I had the window seat so it was rather difficult to stay warm. Add that to the illness and things weren’t just going your way. We had landed in the morning when the sun was just rising. Upon arrival in Kansai, we quickly changed into thicker clothing and proceeded to our first and only highlight of the day, Universal Studios Japan. Also to note, Kansai International Airport is actually a sea airport.

Just as we did the previous year, we tasted Japan’s fresh, cold air once more. The coach ride from the airport to Universal Studios itself took about half an hour so I took the time to observe Osaka’s roads. As it seems, Osaka looks like what seems to be an industrial prefecture with many reactors within sight. Aside from that, Osaka looks like a highly populated prefecture to be in. From a far distance, Universal Studios seems to be an ordinary looking theme park with a roller coaster that encompasses about half of the air region of the place. I do regret however, not enjoying everything the place had to offer. This was mostly due to health reasons, lack of time as well as overly long queues.

Universal Studios introduces a number of attractions which exhibit some of the most amazing effects used in entertainment. One of the attractions related to Spiderman has its 4-D feature where the 4th D is given by effects such as heat, actual flames, motion seats, water sprays, and several other things that make the scene look as if it was happening live. Another attraction called Backdraft, introduced a set of flames, literally. The attraction was primarily reenacting a scene from the movie “Backdraft” where a factory fire starts spreading and causes more destruction. While the entire thing was planned, everything seemed to be very real. The flames made the set look as if it was really burning but in the end, it wasn’t burning at all. Another attraction is the Terminator one which involves transformations between actual reality and virtual reality. One moment, they were playing a specific scene through a screen and when you least realize it, the character actually appears on stage. Think about a bike coming at you, playing on the screen. Moments later, there is a bike on the stage with a real person operating it.

Overall, Universal Studios displayed some of the commonly used techniques in filming entertainment. Among other things include the roller coaster and several other attractions which had overly long queues as stated earlier. In short, besides showing these effects, the place is a theme park in general, similar to Tokyo Disneyland, except much smaller in scale. We got in at 9 am and left at 3 pm later that afternoon and it was a direct check-in to our hotel for the day. After about 30-45 minutes, we were in the heart of Osaka. Our hotel that day was not a building on its own, but rather one of the lots on the side of the road. Nevertheless, it was still a 5-star hotel which had an amazing bathroom, at least compared to the other hotels we visited throughout both trips.

About a half hour after our check-in, we walked out for an early dinner and our dinner that evening was shabu-shabu, commonly known as steamboat. Unlike typical steamboat meals however, instead of soup, only plain water was used and instead of a fixed course, it was a buffet. Meats and vegetables of any kind could be added into the boat at no extra charge. Once we were done with that, we walked around the place, looking for anything notable to purchase but in the end it was just a casual walk. We then returned to the hotel around 7-8 pm and basically called the night to an end just like that. Comparatively speaking, this was rather early for us so I took the liberty of watching some TV and use the internet since I’d brought my laptop this time around. Among some of the things I watched, I managed to catch a live performance by AKB48, SKE48 and NMB48 by pure coincidence. It seems that there was an award show going on at the time of the broadcast. After that, I took a long bath and I almost forgot, the hotel had yukatas, commonly known as Japanese robes; the same ones I had described last year. I’d used them throughout the trip and this hotel was no exception. With much time to rest, the night closed in quietly. Our next destination the next day would be Kyoto, former capital of Japan.

Day 3: Summary
– Departure via coach to Kyoto
– Visited Kiyomizu-dera (清水寺, lit. Kiyomizu Temple)
– Visited another temple, but unfortunately, forgot the name of it
– Visited Kinkaku-ji, (金閣寺, lit. Temple of the Golden Pavilion)
– Departure via coach to a bullet train station, passing through the prefecture of Nagoya
– Experience a bullet train ride to the hotel area in Hamamatsu
– Checked into Okura ACT City Hotel, Hamamatsu

Day 3: Reviews & Details
Today was a day dedicated to Kyoto, the former capital of Japan. Kyoto has been quoted, phrased or even named a living museum. This is due to the amount of temples, national sites, world heritage sites that exist in this very city. Because of that, our visits today were mostly temples; not one, not two, but three of them. We woke up in the morning, in Osaka and had our breakfast. Since it was only our first night in Japan for the tour, things got messy once again and I screwed up, causing the both of us to have a really rushed breakfast. Not that I can help waking up late since my sleeping hours were already imbalanced anyway. After a reasonable breakfast, we left Osaka and traveled to Kyoto. Upon a half hour from departure, we made our stop at Kiyomizu-dera, one of the most popular tourist zones in Kyoto and also a world heritage site.

The temple itself has history dating back to 778 and from what information I could find, the present state of the temple was a result of restoration to the structure back in 1633, meaning that the structure has remained this way for a minimum of 375 years. Another thing to note that the structure is made of strictly 100% wood; not a single nail has been used to construct this temple. The naming of the temple comes from the waterfalls within the temple with kiyomizu meaning clear or pure water.

Kiyomizu-dera has multiple interesting things to note including some traditions. One of them was to jump off the stage of the temple. In the past, it was said that if anyone could survive a jump from a 13m height, his or her wish would be granted. This however, was too dangerous and is no longer allowed at the temple. Another popular activity involves a pair of stones called the “Love Stones”. Set apart along a pathway of length 6m or so, if a person can walk from one stone to the other with his or her eyes closed, he or she will find true love. Aside from that, there is as a waterfall in the main hall in which three channels of water fall into a pond below. It is said that the water has wish-granting powers. As a result, it is common for visitors to catch the water and drink it themselves. Last but not least, there is a stunning view of Kyoto from the temple which cannot be described by words. However, it is also the same view that exists all over the internet. The primary difference, the four seasons of the year. The view however, amazing.

A small thing to add about the temple is the road that leads up to the temple. It was a rather constricted road as we went higher which means only pedestrians were able to use that road. Along the sides of the road were many shops of all sorts including one that sells non-official AKB stuff. I took the liberty of grabbing a few simple key chains while I was there. Meanwhile, others would buy snacks, maybe even Japanese souvenirs of sorts. We then had lunch which happened to be a Chinese course. Having said so though, it doesn’t feel like those at home. Either way, we went on to our next location when we were done.

The next destination was unfortunately a temple whose name I couldn’t remember. It was a temple however, decorated in red and has a very large gate. The temple happens to be a former castle, if not mistaken and the road is paved with small rocks, slightly larger than sand. They used these rocks because it would ward off ninja in the past because even if ninja could slip unseen, they would not slip unheard. This was particularly interesting information for me as I was mostly complaining about the small rocks. The temple itself as I remembered was a popular site for a tradition in Japan known as the Shichi-Go-San (七五三, lit. 7-5-3). It is a traditional rite of passage for three- and seven-year-old girls as well as three- and five-year-old boys held annually on 15th November and guess what, we were there on 15th November itself; talk about pure luck. On that day itself, we found many children all dressed up in hakamas and kimonos for the first time in their lives. Aside from that, photography of the children is a rather common thing there. We didn’t stay here for too long however, spending only about a half hour there.

Later that, we departed for Kinkakuji (金閣寺, lit. Temple of the Golden Pavilion). Another one of those world heritage sites, Kinkakuji was a temple one can call a golden temple at first sight. While the details of construction isn’t too clear, I know that it was once before burned down to the ground. The temple as we see today is a close replicate reconstruction of the temple completed in 2003. The temple on its own was a simple villa which was then converted into a Zen temple when it was bought by a different person. The temple consists of three stories in which the top two are covered with pure gold leaf and it serves to house relics of the Buddha. This building also serves to be a model base for the Ginkakuji (銀閣寺, lit. Temple of the Silver Pavilion) as well as the Shoukokuji (相国寺), another temple in Kyoto. There isn’t anything too interesting to do around here except for the view of the temple which sits in the middle of the lake. I guess that trait is already common for sightseeing; just simply stunning views.

That pretty much concluded most of the day. After that temple visit, our next stop was Hamamatsu. However, the trick to that is the fact that we needed a minimum 3-hour ride from Kyoto all the way there, passing through one of Japan’s larger cities known as Nagoya or as known to me, the home of SKE48. As stated however, we were only passing through and we didn’t make any stops in Nagoya whatsoever. It was already a pretty hectic day considering most of today’s activities involve mostly walking. This bus ride gave us a chance to rest and sleep to refresh ourselves. An interesting thing to note was when we stopped on a highway R&R for toilet breaks. It is there that I managed to find an AKB 2012 calendar box set which would eventually become my first purchase of an official item belonging to AKB. To think that if I didn’t need the toilet at the time, I wouldn’t have got it. I came to find out later that the box set was actually limited, so that’s a real lucky time for me. The trip then continued until we reached a train station. I wasn’t too clear about where the station was, however. I only knew we were headed to Hamamatsu.

And for the last part of the day, or rather night, we experienced a bullet train ride for the first time. The bullet train system runs on a Maglev technology, standing for magnetic levitation, and is technically a non-contact system. The huge mass is levitated by a magnetic system and is said to experience near-zero ground friction. This means that the train can potentially accelerate to extreme speeds in just a matter of a few seconds and the highest speed recorded by a Maglev train was an experimental 518 kilometers per hour. That is approximately 4.7 times the speed of a typical highway car. For commercial trains, this can range between 250 km per hour to 400 km per hour. Despite traveling at that speed however, due to it being a non-contact system, the ride was unbelievably smooth and one could sleep in the carriage without feeling a single thing. Standing outside the train while waiting however was another story. Whenever a train was passing through a station, a huge force can be felt as though the train is sucking you towards it. The train was moving so fast that anything very near to it would’ve been sucked in if there was no resistance. Even non-moving trains could experience the same force and this was due to Bernoulli’s principle.

After an approximate 15-20 minutes, we arrived in Hamamatsu and went for our dinner first in the station itself. I couldn’t quite remember what the food type was, but I clearly remember having a lot of fish and green tea to go along with it. Later that night, we walked to our hotel which was just a short distance away from the train station. We checked into Okura ACT City Hotel which happened to be a base for performances. As an addition, we had ramen once again, and a first time for this trip a while after our check-in. I was also then introduced to the ordering system done in some, or many of Japan’s restaurants. One would need to insert bills or coins into a machine and similar to a vending machine, one would need to choose the food of his or her choice. Once that is done, an order is sent to the restaurant and any change would be returned. Later that, the waiters would automatically serve you your food just as you ordered it. After sharing 2 bowls of ramen among 3 people, we went back to the hotel and closed the night in. The next destination the next day, was Mt. Fuji, Shizuoka.

Now due to the present length of the post, I’ll probably split the logs into two just as I did the previous year. Also, as I just noticed, I had divided the past logs into Hokkaido and Tokyo separately. I realize this time that I could break the logs into Kansai and Kanto. Well, that’s about it for this round. The next one shall continue sometime soon.

To be visionary

Quote of the day:
There is no abstract art. You must always start with something. Afterward you can remove all traces of reality.
– Pablo Picasso

In the recent days, I kept telling myself; I shouldn’t be the person I was several years ago back in secondary school. I was always one to think with logic and nothing but pure logic. Everything I did had to be based on intuition and calculated risk. Clearly, if the risk wasn’t worth it, I wasn’t supposed to do it. This nature has also led to a big problem with pride especially when related to intelligence. To date, I still carry that trait and I’m trying to reduce it even if it means defying myself.

Ever since the ending of SPM times and the beginning of this whole AKB fandom, to an extent some may call an obsession, I’ve been trying to readjust myself to be more balanced. I don’t just want to be the smart guy and that’s the end of the line just like that. I want to carry on whatever I have, release some of this pride and be more creative, more outgoing and more visionary. I’ll add another quote from a picture I found some time earlier. We should have clear sights of our goals, but we don’t want to just stare at it and do absolutely nothing. A vision must come with an action. However, the said vision must start from something in particular. With that, one must be forever optimistic and ignore all obstacles along the way.

The AS final exams have begun for me at least a week and a half ago and so far, it’s been progressing rather well. The practical paper for chemistry wasn’t that dreadful while the physics paper was comparatively easy compared to the previous experiments we did. With relation to goals, I still don’t have a particular one in sight when it comes to my life in full. All I can say for now is that I need that perfect score from my exams. Whether that is achievable or otherwise, that is another question.

Now onto the real reason of the post. Weeks ago, probably a week or two, I’ve read of a story where a lucky boy got to literally hang out with members of AKB48 during the 「Everyday, カチューシャ」 single recording period in Guam. The boy, whose father was a loyal fan of AKB48, informed him of their arrival and decided to snag a quick look at how things went down at the set. He was a local resident himself and he was living the dream. Management took notice of him when he appeared and even gave him tasks for the girls in order to make it look as normal as possible. He had plenty of conversations with the girls and the best part was that he got to take pictures under the condition that he needed to maintain strict camera rules and regulations.

Pictures would explain this further but that paragraph above alone is enough to explain how much I want that to happen in my own life. This isn’t the only event that’s compelled me to write this post. I may be crazy or obsessed or whatever, but I had a number of dreams that were related to some of the members themselves. There’s no point into explaining how the dream went considering it was totally nonsensical and impossible to occur in this world we live in. Some say that people who appear in your dreams could be people from the past or the future. I’ll never know if that is true or otherwise but maybe it’s an indication?

Now, some information on the ’48 groups themselves. AKB48’s sister group, NMB48, has recently started a big chain of releases starting a couple of weeks ago when the AS exams have just started. While NMB’s and AKB’s singles have been released, SKE’s latest single is next in line, followed by a couple of subunit tracks. Thus far, I have added 3 new songs into my CD and readjusted a couple of tracks, bringing the total number of tracks to 34. That’s as much as I have for now.

A very important event of AKB48 is about to take soon, namely the AKB48 Request Hour Setlist Best 100 for 2012. News indicate that the event will no longer be held at Shibuya-AX, but rather at the larger Tokyo Dome City Hall, reported to be able to seat 3,100 people instead of AX’s 1,500-person capacity. The upcoming concert will span over 4 days as usual but have newer restrictions which limit the set list to strictly singles and stages only. All subunits and solo tracks will be performed in a separate event sometime later. The event will be held from 19th to the 22nd of January. I don’t know what the odds are of me attending that event live, but I certainly hope there’s that chance. If at all that fails, maybe I’ll have to resolve to downloading from scratch and who knows how long it would take for them to upload the entire thing.

To have a dream, a goal, or a vision means to have something set in mind. With that, a plan must be formed, carried out, and set in stone. With all that aside, I still have the intention to meet Maeda Atsuko in person one day. There are currently way too many limiters that I myself cannot identify. At this point, I’m really lost of words. I’ll put it this way; you want to do something but there are so many things that prohibit you from doing such things. Maybe some time in the future, I’ll get to meet her even if it is just for a couple of minutes, or even seconds. All I have to do is to remain continuously optimistic and hope for the best. Until then, I have to work my way to that stage. I just know, somehow, I’ll be able to do it someday.