A Full Stack Engineer's Perspectives on Technology, Startups, Software Engineering, and UI Design

Japan: Mount Fuji and Typhoons

Posted: October 30th, 2007 | Author: | Filed under: General | No Comments »

Last weekend, I finally got a chance to go to Mount Fuji and it’s famous amusement park, Fuji Kyu Highland. Unfortunately, that was also the same time a typhoon hit the area, shutting down almost all rides and making Mount Fuji hidden by clouds. I wasn’t expecting much when I went there but I was pleasantly surprised by the amount of fun you can have in a giant poncho with friends.

Chiaki and I at Fuji Kyu

Chiaki and I at Fuji Kyu

In the morning, the rain and wind wasn’t too bad. It was slightly drizzling and everything seemt rather okay. However, when we got to Mount Fuji, it was chilly and the rain fall had kicked into overdrive. The clouds were everywhere and I kept having to ask, “Where is Mount Fuji?”. It wasn’t looking too good so far.

Although the rain kept most of the major attractions closed (like the roller coaster pointed AT Mount Fuji, which was my compass for the day), we still managed to get into some of the rides. Some of the rides that were still open were the ferris wheel, Zorpis (shooting targets), Gundam Crisis, Biohazard, and some “Scary House”, which was off a childhood cartoon for Japanese people. Let me just tell you that the Japanese love to get scared. Biohazard was a messed up old hospital where there are zombies who pop out of nowhere and chase you. Although it is just a show, they do a great job making the whole atmosphere real and can really freak you out.

Monsters at Amusement park

Monsters at Amusement park

Anyways, after going to the rides, getting our feet soaked, we went over to the Onsen at the hotel. It was simply short of fantastic as it is a great vacation from the ordinary, difficult working style of the Japanese, which I have become so accustomed to. Along the way to the onsen, I found this funny sign below. It pretty much says that coming in 2051, there will be a human powered Geisha roller coaster going at a whopping 12 km per hour. Damn I wish Canadian’s had the same kind of humour.

Coming Attractions

Coming Attractions

And at the end of it all, we took our bus back to Shinjuku and enjoyed some delicious Turkish food. Part of living in Tokyo is getting the advantage of having many times of cuisine. Canada has this benefit as well but perhaps not to such a large scale as Tokyo. Here is a photo of that wonderful course.

Turkish Dinner

Turkish Dinner

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AS3: Apple’s Leopard Time Traveller Tutorial

Posted: October 25th, 2007 | Author: | Filed under: General | No Comments »

Okay I lied, this isn’t really a tutorial. This is just everything you will hopefully ever need to create this beautiful, simple user interface from my favorite designers down in Cupertino. In this “tutorial”, you will learn about how to create assets, initialize the time traveller class, and customize the effect for your own website. Could it be any easier than this?

What you will make:
[FLASH]/img/blog/2007/10/timetravel_example[/FLASH]

First, you will need to download the package below. It contains a working example file with all classes required to create this beauty. Also, you might want to check out the actual TimeTraveller class located in package com.ayanray.ui. It contains detailed documentation for your learning as well as for general use.

LeopardTimeTravel_20071024.zip [80KB]

Now that you have the files, give it a quick look-over. It is extensively commented and should be descriptive enough to allow you to make your own unique example or site built off of it.


Step 1: Create Assets

In the example, I create mock assets and store them in an array. You don’t have to copy the example code for this but you do need to have the assets created and on the display list (on the stage). Also, I advise you to store the assets in an array and keep track of them. After creating the assets, pass them over to the Time Traveller for management.

// Create Assets (you should use your objects)
for(var i=0; i<15; i++) {
var window = new Window(); // creates window from library items
window.name = "window"+i;
window.visible = false;
this.addChild(window); // adds to the display list
assets[i] = window; // adds to assets array
}


Step 2: Initialization

Next step is to pass the time traveller the assets that you would like it to control for the time traveller user interface.

Method 1: Time Traveller does not immediately start

timeTraveller = new TimeTraveller(assets);

Method 2: Time Traveller immediately starts

timeTraveller = new TimeTraveller(assets, true, this.stage.stageWidth, this.stage.stageHeight, settings);


Step 3: Starting the Time Traveller

If you followed Method 1 from Step 2: Initialization, you will need to start the time traveller manually. You can do this by calling the following code:

timeTraveller.init(this.stage.stageWidth, this.stage.stageHeight, settings);


Step 4: Playing with the Settings

I created that nice little demo above just for this purpose! Play around with the settings until you find an animation style you like. Link up the numbers in your own file for your own unique Time Traveller. The actionscript files are all commented extensively so please look at those for more details if you have more requirements.


Other Examples

Using the test example above, your own positioning system, and your own graphics, you can make each time traveller truly unique. Here are some examples of where I’ve used this interface.

  1. Wilson Japan: Technologies
  2. Wilson Japan: Catalogs
  3. Wilson Japan: Feelit Catalogs
  4. Suunto Japan: Catalogs
  5. Precor Japan: Product Images (click the button underneath the price)

That’s it! Post up your examples too and show us some great uses of the time traveller! Also, bug reports and comments are appreciated =).

Brought to you by myself and the good people at ComQuest Inc., where I first learnt how to do this in Actionscript 2.

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Korea: Transportation and Getting Around

Posted: October 22nd, 2007 | Author: | Filed under: Korea | No Comments »

Transportation in Seoul is one of the best systems in the world. You won’t need to look far to find a bus or a subway station and there are plenty of taxis around for the rush travellers. There are a number of things though that are very interesting about transportation in Seoul, Korea.

Tour Bus System: In Seoul, they have tourism on their mind with their every 30 minutes daily tour bus that travels all around the city to all major tourist locations. There are 3 lines for this tour bus system and each comes with a different experience. We got the Palace and Seoul Tower package, which was roughly $10 CDN for the entire day and you can buy this ticket right on the bus from the tour guide. Amazingly, the tour guide also speaks 5 languages: Korean, English, Chinese, Japanese, and French. Damn I wish I had the time to learn 5 languages.

Subway System: The subway system is a vast network of lines all owned and operated by the same company. When looking at Japan, you will notice that Japan has at least 3x as many stations and more companies that operate the subway system. However, Seoul is a relatively compact city and thus does not require such a massive subway system as Tokyo.  Korea also has the Korean equivalent to the Japanese bullet train called the Shinkansen. Although the Korean version of the Japanese Shinkansen is uglier and less comfy, it is still just as fast as the Shinkansen here in Japan. Also, the subway cars in Korea are much larger in comparison to the subway cars here in Japan. They are also more dirty and stinky >.<. Interestingly enough, some of the stations enclose the train line within a giant plastic box, which has doors that open when the train arrives. Apparently, there were a number of suicides and people falling on the lines that caused the government to respond by encasing the train in a giant box and only opening it when the train has stopped moving. Luckily, Tokyo does not have this problem.

Korean Bullet Train

Korean Bullet Train

Roads and Cars: The roads are relatively straight forward and are definitely not as complex as Tokyo’s road system, which was designed to confuse foreigners. About cars though, while on the tour bus, I counted the number of Hyundai cars out of 30 that I saw. It was about 70% (21) cars that I saw were Hyundai. Also, the drivers are often assholes. I was walking on the street in the photo below, and a car was coming into the crowd. While approaching us, the side mirror hit my arm. On another note, when I was waiting at a bus stop, some guy was transporting his house or something on a motorized scooter on the sidewalk. The side of his house or box or whatever hit me in the shoulder and that really hurt.

Hongik University, where all the young people are at!

Hongik University, where all the young people are at!

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Korea: Shopping in Seoul

Posted: October 17th, 2007 | Author: | Filed under: Korea | 5 Comments »

Shopping in Seoul, Korea is a unique experience that has something for everyone. Electronics are cheap, you can find great brand name clothing, you can find great fake brand name clothing, and almost everything you can bargain for. This is far different from shopping in Japan, where almost everything is set price, nothing is fake, and strictly speaking, electronics are expensive.

Korea has a very nice shopping scene. My favourite part of Seoul shopping is a nice little place called Dongdaemun, which is open until 5 am every day. This allows street shop owners to stay out all night in their shanties or near their tables and allows stores to pump up music both outside and inside as if they were some sort of club. It is fun walking around at 11 pm and start to see more people than there was at say 9 pm. There’s frequent stage performances near the more popular stores that draw large crowds and are fun to watch. Check out this video, it’s funny. You might need to let it load for a minute or two because that giant white spot below is for the video, not for “style”.

[VIDEO]/img/gallery/2007/08/korea/videos/01.flv[/VIDEO]

As for shopping malls, many of these stores are really just giant clothing stores of hundreds of small shops. It is very crowded because of the 6ft aisles and with hundreds of shops, there is a large selection of clothes to choose from. All shop owners will and successfully rip you off because they know you do not speak Korean and they know you do not know the real price of any of the clothes. I got suckered into buying a $30 100% Korean shirt by trading in a 500 yen coin and 20 000 Korean wan. I think I got a good deal in that trade by negotiating to pay in Japanese yen but perhaps not because he was too entertaining that I felt he deserved more just for the big commotion he made about Chiaki and I coming from Japan. A little weird, but it was a lot of fun. Everyone competes for your business in the shopping malls by screaming at you and yelling at you if you make eye contact with them or any of their clothes. Example: “HEY, THIS WOULD LOOK GOOD ON YOU!”. No photos of that deal, sorry -> gomenasai! We also got Chiaki’s brother a nice 500 yen Nike shirt that looked seriously good.

Dongdaemun's shopping district.. stylish.

Dongdaemun's shopping district.. stylish.

Electronics in Korea can range from normal price to dirt cheap. My friend Nadia told me that if she wanted to, she could go over to Yongsan Electronics Market, a popular electronics area, and get me a cellphone for $40 Canadian dollars. I have no idea how good it would be, but that’s a risk that I should have taken if I had more time. Needless to say, there is a large amount of fake electronics in Korea outside and even inside the stores. I got myself a nice pair of fake Sennheiser Open Dynamic Headphones (CX300) ($100 CDN) for just under $20 CDN. I find it difficult to tell if they are fake or not because the quality is so high. I’m guessing LCD TVS must be cheap too because at the train station in the photo below, there’s an unsed LCD TV that was just hanging on the wall. It wasn’t even in a popular area. Damn I wish Samsung was Canadian.

Random unused LCD TV in a random station near the hotel

Random unused LCD TV in a random station near the hotel

Finally, the weirdest thing about Korea is the weird dancing traffic guards infront of the parking lots of malls. I only saw them when we were travelling in our tour bus around the city, but these weirdos were moving their hands around like butterflies and waving people into the parking lot. They seemt more like mimes, unaware of their surroundings, and just dancing weirdly in the street rather than actually doing any job at all. Perhaps you can find something about it and post up a comment. I briefly tried with google them but found no media on the subject. This is the most interesting thing I have seen since Shaolin Soccer.

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Korea: Food and Dining

Posted: October 13th, 2007 | Author: | Filed under: Korea | No Comments »

Korea has a plethora of offerings in terms of food and dining. They have a varied but small selection of multicultural food from most corners of the globe and of course their home-grown korean restaurants. When I was there, we had a traditional style Korean breakfast, which consisted of Kimchi (spicy cabbage that is a staple of Korean culture) and oily soup. For lunch, we had kimchi pot, which is a mixture of tofu, kimchi, and a mixture of veggies. The photo below is of kimchi pot I had on day 2, oishii!! And for dinner, I got a chance to have real Korean BBQ! Sugei!

Kimichi Pot for lunch on Day 2

Kimichi Pot for lunch on Day 2

In Canada, we have many Korean barbeque places and I thought Korea should have the best Korean barbeque in the world. Well, in fact, barbeque is just barbeque. The thing is, due to this hype, many places charge ridiculous rates for Korean barbeque. Luckily, on Day 3, I went with an old friend who is Korean that helped us find a good place to eat (and affordable!). Most of these places are located near City hall (if you plan on going). And sorry, there’s no Korean dessert that I know of.

Korean BBQ with Nadia on Day 3

Korean BBQ with Nadia on Day 3

Also, an interesting thing happened on the day we went to Korean BBQ with Nadia. Some Japanese tourists were looking for a restaurant that they had reserved and they didn’t speak any English or any Korean. So my girlfriend translated into English for them and Nadia took them to the restaurant. Moral of the story: knowing multiple languages is definitely useful :D .

Finally, on the first day, we went to a 100% authentic Korean restaurant. It was located in the busy nightlife of Dongmyo (I can’t remember if this is the right name but it seems right >.<). This restaurant was family owned and had fusion Korean and Italian food. The Italian fusion was really just an Italian name with a Korean name and the food came with more cheese lol. I didn’t take a photo of the food because I was starving, but here is a photo of the restaurant:

Korean Family Owned Restaurant

Korean Family Owned Restaurant

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Korea: Finally talking about it

Posted: October 11th, 2007 | Author: | Filed under: Korea | No Comments »

In August, I went to Korea for a brief 4-day trip with a Japanese tour. I haven’t really talked about it all too much so now I will take a chance to reflect on my experiences in Seoul.

Seoul is a very beautiful city. Unfortunately, it was raining for 2 of the days I was there, but that just made the other 2 that much better. Seoul has rougly 10 million people living there and is a very simple city to navigate around. There are city buses running every 20 minutes and they take you to all the major tourist attractions that Seoul has to offer. There’s around 30 of these attractions and you can buy a day pass and use the bus all day to get to these locations. I went to Seoul Tower and a few of the temples around. Check my photos for more information on these locations.

As for differences between Japan and Korea, it is surprisingly similar. Many Koreans are taught English and Japanese in school and are also familiar with the Kanji from China. This gives them an advantage in learning Asian languages as they are forced to start early in school. Both of our tour guides were Koreans who spoke fluent Japanese and it was incredibly difficult to tell if they were Korean or if they were Japanese.

My biggest complaint about Korea is their poor water system and their uncleanliness. You gotta put your toilet paper in a little garbage bin beside the toilet because the sewage system cannot handle toilet paper. Also, the subways and streets are often very dirty, versus Japan where they are cleaned weekly. I even think the trains here in Japan are cleaned every morning but since everyone is much more clean here, I am not sure about that.

I had many experiences in Korea so I will talk about them individually in a short series of posts about the food, people, tourism, and transporation.

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Japan: Recycling and Garbage

Posted: October 7th, 2007 | Author: | Filed under: Japan | No Comments »

In Japan, there is a unique way of recycling and garbage disposal. The Japanese take great care in dealing with their garbage, which I believe Canada and North America could benefit greatly from. Even McDonald’s have to conform to this unique style, which I have to say was very interesting when I first got here.

The garbage here is divided into combustibles and recyclables. Okay nothing different. So let’s take a look at the McDonald’s example. Say you buy a Big Mac combo that comes with a Big Mac sandwich box, fries box, drink container, drink lid, drink straw, and all the food of course ;) . In Canada, after you are finished eating, usually you would just throw everything into the garbage bin. However, in Japan, you would first take the lid off of the drink, pour whatever is left of the drink into a special funnel at the top of the garbage box, put the straw and the drink lid into the recyclables bin and the sandwich box and the drink into the garbage box. A little extra work than Canada eh? Well everyone does it here, so I guess we should too. Oh yeah, other fast food restaurants take your garbage from you and do it for you! That’s really nice I think.

As for the garbage every week, the garbage collectors come twice a week and the recycling collectors (cans and plastic only) come once a week. I think because Japanese homes are smaller, the garbage collectors have to come more often since we don’t have a backyard or a safe place to store the garbage. Keeping it in the kitchen can really stink up the place >.<

Finally, the most unique thing about Japanese garbage collection is the truck they use to collect it. In Sanda City where my girlfriend’s family lives, when the garbage people come to pick up the garbage, they play some sort of MIDI track that has a very addicting tune to it. Just to note, a MIDI track is like an MP3 but it came before the MP3. Arguably, if we had not gotten rid of the MIDI track, computers would not be as popular today. A pretty loaded statement, but I think that can be supported pretty well. Anyway, I have a video of that funny music the garbage people play when they come to collect your trash. I will definitely put it sooner or later.

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Japan: My Birthday Part 1

Posted: October 2nd, 2007 | Author: | Filed under: Japan | No Comments »

Japanese birthday’s aren’t different from Canadian birthdays. You celebrate them just the same way. You sing song, eat cake, have fun, and do what you do. I’m writing about my birthday because there were things that I did that was unique to Japan, and here they are…

On Saturday, the 15th of September, 1 day after my birthday, I planned to go golfing with Kenji and Kaz, two of my friends who work at NEC. We rented a car and drove to Chiba for about an hour and a half to get to the golf course. First thing that differs greatly from Canada is that the cars here seem to all have GPS built-in and are incredibly spacious but small from the outside. When driving on the highway here, the highways have sound detterant walls (not so unique) and about 1 tollbooth every 50 km that charge ridiculous rates for highway use. We spent perhaps $100 dollars in total for the trip on highway tolls alone.

Golfing: Golfing was incredibly fun. We suck though. It took us about 3 hours to finish the first 9 holes, and another 2 hours to finish the last 9 holes. Anyway, what’s different about golfing in Japan and golfing in North America? Nothing =P. I just wanted to tell you we sucked but had a hell of a time playing. Old Japanese golfers are also just as good as old American golfers I think.

After golfing, we went to a nearby onsen. An onsen is a japanese hot spring that is used for relaxation and is very therapeutic. Everybody gets naked, gets into the earth-heated water, and just minds their own business. This onsen was a ridiculous $3 CDN entry charge! How is it so cheap? I am still wondering about that…

On our way home from Chiba and the onsen, we took an express highway over Tokyo Bay. Usually, it would take about an hour to go around Tokyo Bay and back to Gotanda where we rented the car. However, this time, Kenji had planned a stop at the Aqua Line rest stop, which is a small shopping complex in the middle of Tokyo Bay. After the Aqua Line rest stop, you plunge into an underwater tunnel through Tokyo Bay and come out at some place I don’t know. See the photos by clicking on the link at the bottom, it was truly a unique place.

Dinner: After dropping the car off in Gotanda, we headed off on foot to a nearby Sushi restaurant. The sushi at this restaurant was the best I have ever had. We ordered the 3 person platter at ($60 CDN), a half-dozen of “king” Kirin Beers, kami-meso soup (crab and meso soup), and assorted tempura appetizers. For dessert, we had crab brains and some sorta seaweed soup. In total, we spent about $150 on dinner… man, I’m glad we don’t do that every night.

I hope you enjoyed reading this post and learnt a little more about the Japanese way of life. Please enjoy these photos

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