Sunday, February 15, 2009

February comes and February goes

Well, February is dear to me for obvious reasons. I was born on this month some years ago, back when the Berlin Wall was still erect and people had not heard of email let alone 'blogs'! Well thats history, so lets fast forward to 2009! Here I am in Japan, away from home for the first time on my birthday since even during college days I commuted from home. Apparently the end of January and early February were fertile times all over, since there were 3 other colleagues who had birthdays within a week before or after mine. 25 'gaijin' joined in as we went to World Porters in Yokohama for an Italian buffet at the Fiesta Garden. It was 2000yen per head, which thanks to my buddies, me and the other birthday people did not have to pay! We took up a quarter of the restaurant space and went all out for 90 minutes! I have already written about Malaysians and buffets, but apparently all Asians share the same attitude lol! The desserts alone were worth the price of the buffet as there was ice cream (7 flavours with toppings!), crepe (make your own), cakes, jelly and the pick of the bunch, the heavenly cream puffs! The soft drinks were free flow and the buffet spread was decent, if not incredible.

The company of my friends was more filling than the food (Ok, I won't get all emo on you guys). We all went back lethargic that night, struggling to fit into the elevator(as one pic below shows), filled to the brim!

I did not have the luxury of sleeping in the following day since a bunch of us had plans to snowboard! Woke up at 5 and was in Tokyo station to catch the Shinkansen (bullet train) to Nagano by 6.40am.
I was joined by 5 other snowboard enthusiasts as the shinkansen sped west towards Mt. Asama, the volcano that had exploded a few days prior. As we reached Sakudaira after a 75 minute ride , the volcano was visible, and still spewing smoke! I woke up that morning in Yokohama and thanks to the bullet train, we were on the slopes by 9am. 4 of us took some beginner lessons to get our basic footing before going it on our own. A full day of falling and getting up again followed us I tried to get a hang of the toeside turn. We stopped at 4.30pm and took the shuttle bus back to Sakudaira Station and managed to get seats on the 5.30pm shinkansen back to Tokyo. We were back in Tokyo by 7 and in Tsurumi before 8pm, aching all over and wondering why we spend so much to get bruises all over our bodies! But once the pain subsides, you start aching a different ache, aching to go snowboarding again! As one friend put it, aches are a sign that you are improving! lol.

February was also an eventful month as far as our training was concerned. Among other things, we had Six Sigma training, where we shot rubber balls with catapults and then used Six Sigma methodology to improve our shooting to achieve a smaller standard deviation, thus improving performance. We also had a robot building competition where we built robots with Lego and programmed them to go through an obstacle course, retrieve a soda can and transport it to the target area. Our robot achieved the goal, but was extremely slow compared to some of the other robots so we took consolation in having made it to the end.

We had group presentations and ended the first half of February with a manufacturing workshop where you're given a cylindrical and cuboidic metal pieces to create whatever your mind can conjure up. The aim was to let us feel the joy of creating something from scratch apart from letting engineers know how hard hands-on work was. It was also an eye-opener in the sense that not all designs on paper can be transformed into workable models on the machines. Tools at our disposal were primitive, only saws, hammers and smoothers. I decided to make an Olympic flame with the Olympic rings formed from the cylindrical piece. I painted mine to make it resemble the Olympic logo and turned out pretty well in the end, if I may say so myself. Some of the others had some pretty nifty ideas and churned out some cool pieces. I couldn't resist bringing my camera and using selective color photography hehe. Here's mine and some of my favorites by the others.

The rest of February will be spent performing on the job training at my future designation before heading back to the training center in March for the home stretch. I had the most romantic Valentine's Day, all alone in my room finishing up my report to hand in to my superiors on Monday! No big deal, since most of the hype for Valentine's comes from chocolate companies and greeting card companies who make a fortune on that day. But then again, I'm just being sour grapes lol. Well just like Valentine's, February comes and February goes, where it takes you, is entirely up to you....

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