Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Mini Travel Log: Tokyo, Japan (2)

More than 6 months after the tsunami and Fukushima nuclear disaster, life is almost back to normal here in Tokyo. There is no more strong aftershocks and power cuts. At night, buildings and landmarks are lighted up back to their former glory. While tourists are still shunning away from Tokyo, the local businesses are badly affected until the government has to give away 10,000 free air ticket to attract tourists back to Japan.

While the world news are fanning panic and exaggerating things, the actual situation here is very calm and normal. The atmosphere is so peaceful and the place is as beautiful as ever. While strolling in the beautiful Hama Rikyu Garden nearby Tsukiji Market, I can see life goes on for the people here. They remained calm and resilient as they try to rebuild the country and deal with the nuclear crisis.

So now you know the actual situation, let's put down your thinking cap and plan your next Sakura trip to Japan. This is the opportunity to have a cheap but great holiday. And it will be even better if you manage to get the free air ticket giveaway. "Minasan yokoso nihon!"

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Related link: Mini Travel Log: Tokyo, Japan (1)

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Mini Travel Log: Amsterdam, Holland (2)

Ooo...what's that pungent smell on the street. Ahh...the familiar smell of marijuana smoke emanating from the "coffee" shops. Yup, I was back in Amsterdam to sniff the "fresh" air in the city. It was clear blue sky, how lucky was I. Just when I thought I've seen enough of the city, the beautiful weather coaxed me out from my room. Again, I did a little tour for my new colleagues and enjoyed the sun and photography myself. There were protests in the city by "Occupy" activists against the greedy and corrupted bankers. This is a worldwide protest going on at the moment inspired by the "Occupy" New York activists in Wall Street. I do agree with them that this world is controlled by the greedy rich bankers collaborating with governments to cheat the poor's money to make themselves rich. Since the abolishment of the currency backing against gold, banks have been printing worthless "money" from nothing, which in turn sell it to us in the form of savings and loans. And from "nothing", those greedy bastards are making money from the interests charged on loans to other people which are actually our savings money. Just because we don't use our money and left it in the bank, the banks conveniently use it to create even more loans. Based on "nothing", soon the economy will just run out of steam and resources when more and more people go bankrupt. And when the whole world goes down, the greedy bastards are still laughing their way to the banks with their loot of insane bonuses; while the poor people are starving on the streets and being forced out from their homes. When the meltdown happens, I am very sure that we will not be able to retrieve a single cent from the banks if all of us were to queue up together to withdraw our money. It is because our money which we thought worth a dollar, are actually not worth a dollar. They are sliced up to share with few thousands other and the banks work on this theory that we do not need the money at the same time. So why not use our money without our knowledge, and sell it off as loans to others while charging high interest rates. While they make lotsa money from the interests, they don't pay us back anything for "lending" them the money. And if the loan goes bad, the bank just use more of our savings to cover up the bad debts, yet they still pocket their annual bonuses for the losses they incurred. Evil bastards.

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Day 2, I decided to get out from the chaos in the city. I joined a tour to the peaceful student town of Delft. Delft is also famous for its' pottery and china wares. Chinese porcelains were of course invented in China. But because of the rarity in ancient times, the price for such wares were extremely expensive. Therefore, the Dutch decided to copy the making process and produced it themselves. Thus the birth of the Delft pottery business in this town.

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The finale to this tour is the trip to Mini Holland, Madurodam; not far away from The Hague. If you are short of time but want to see the whole of Holland, then this is the place to see them all, in miniature size. I loved this place as the miniatures are very similar to the real ones and beautifully created. I was having my great Gulliver's Travel fantasy in this lovely place, imagining myself as the giant. And lastly, the plane of my company is proudly displayed here as well.

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Related link: Tulip Mania: Spring in Holland
Related link: Mini Travel Log: Amsterdam, Holland (1)

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

The Summer Catalunya Tour

Weather was perfect for the weekend in Spain. Coming over from Milan, I really looked forward to the weekend for some summer heat and fun. 3 years ago, I backpacked Spain which included Barcelona. But it was such an amazing race that I did not really spend much time in one place. This time , I have a lot of time and planned to discover not only Barcelona, but the Catalunya region as well.

First stop was of course Barcelona. Hoping to get into the forever-in-construction Sagrada Familia, my hope was dashed once again. To my dismay, the queue line was just too long; snaking one round across the church's perimeter. Sensing not worth the wait, I jumped into the subway train to some parks which I did not visit from my previous trip. I came into a Ceramic Museum in the park which also features interior home designs and fashions from the old age to modern times. Surprisingly to discover that things invented 80 years ago that were deemed too futuristic, were actually what today called in-trend and in-fashion; being copied by designers and sought after by blind fashionistas who didn't know they were actually wearing outdated designs. The fashion section also showed an interesting shift in a woman's body from big bust and bum into the walking stick of a modern woman wearing loose fitting dresses.

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Day 2 was my excursion trip out from the city Barcelona. I headed up to the famous mountain of Montserrat. Here lies one of the oldest monasteries in Spain built on the spectacular jagged mountain of peculiar rock formations. Many pilgrims make their pilgrimage here to see the Virgin of Montserrat or more commonly called the black Virgin Mary or Black Madonna. The Montserrat Boys' Choir was the highlight of this tour. They are the oldest boys' choir in the world and their concerts around the world are much sought after. I was so lucky to be able to catch their performance in the monastery itself.

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What a great way to end the tour other than having an ice cold mojito by the beach, enjoying the summer heat and hot looking nude babes. Sitges is the place for the rich and famous. I visited the Bacardi house, founder of the famous Bacardi rum. Here I was served ice cold mojito expertly mixed by the bartenders. The best mojito I've tasted so far. Mmm...

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Related link: Travel Diary: Spain

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Iphone 4S(illy)

I can't help myself from laughing after watching the videos below. It is funny but it is also very true. Unless you speak perfect American or British English, Siri will not make you cool, but make you look very silly indeed. Without any localization, it will not help you find correct places. It will also call or send your messages to the wrong people. Reason being Siri cannot pick up names that are not in English. Try ask Siri to call your Chinese contact, or navigate to a Malay named road or place. Chances are it will give you rubbish replies, just like the videos below. Now add in our local accent, Siri will give you one helluva laugh. 10 points for entertainment. 0 point for functionality. And 10 points for the silly-factor. You don't really need to spend over a thousand dollar to look silly. There are many silly things that can be done for free in this world. Siri is not one of them.

Singlish anyone? (This is a parody video. But I bet it will be the same scenario if using the real Iphone 4s)

Poor Japanese. At least he tried many times. But Siri didn't even get one right.

Scottish. The guy tried so hard to create a "reminder".

But then some people still think that Siri is cool because they think this is a new technology. Just so if they don't know, this technology has already been around for more than a decade. Even Google had it for more than a year on Android phones. Back in the days when Internet just took off, AI bots were created and people were already having conversations with it, without the accent problems of course. So if your Siri is giving you trouble, it's time to dump your useless "girlfriend". Talk to A.L.I.C.E. instead. At least she's got a better name than Siri. Try it here:

Oh and Alice is really a decade old. 16 years ago, she was already doing what Siri is doing now, minus the voice feature. Don't believe? Read it here:

Cleverbot is 2 years younger than ALICE. But is much smarter. Try it here: Type in the box and hit enter. Wait for the reply. Hehe.