A note on a small story

Today, I revisited a movie (which claimed its first broadcast in Japanese terrestrial TV) that reminded me of a story in the past. Remarkably, this day marked an important milestone in that story as well.

That story was a short one yet it was full with memorable moments. The movie quite emphasized on time and logic, yet the former is visibly significant, in my opinion. As I liked to put it, time is the only resource that one cannot earn again.

Things that happened were preserved in the memory archives, never be rewritten. As much as I would like to kick myself for letting incidents happen, it remained as a solid not-to-do in the present and the future. I am deeply sorry, to this day. I kept on thinking, had the incidents do not happen, would it change how the story ended? At times, I doubted. Sometimes, I cheerfully thought it might change the course of the future. It was indeed a thorny past. In the amidst of thorns lied a gem that briefly shone… and dimmed.

I wish you good luck and happy always.

The tunes of the dusk

Everyday, a tune lasted for 1 minute is played through a huge speaker set outside the company building. Even though the windows were tightly shut and people were talking, a certain broadcast still can be heard faintly (it can be heard louder when it is autumn or winter — the windows were opened to allow cool air to flow in).

The first tune, an instrumental version of Yuuyake koyake 「夕焼け小焼け」 (“Sunset”, a Japanese kids song, shown below), is played at 4:45 p.m.. A broadcast is also included by the local municipal council while the tune is being broadcast, announcing that it is almost 5 p.m., and urging kids to go back home as well as asking the locals to look over the kids as they went home.

Yuuyake koyake (“Sunset”)

I also noticed that the time the tune played changes over season. As night fell earlier in the autumn and winter, the Yuuyake koyake tune is played at 4:30 p.m. during autumn , and 4:15 p.m. during winter.

Whenever the tune is being played, it is also an indication that it’s almost time to go home (not quite so in the winter). I felt relaxed and became slightly energetic as I continue pounding the keyboard throughout the afternoon. When the need for overtime work arose, it essentially became my motivation for the dusk.

Gaijinpot blogged that Yuuyake koyake is a tune being broadcast everyday through the speaker systems being set up. The purpose of the speaker systems is to convey disaster information to the residents, but when there is no disaster (thankfully), the relaxed tune will be played instead.

This system is widely applied across country, and the period of the tune being broadcast varies between region, typically between 4 p.m. to 6 p.m..

At 5 p.m., another tune unique to the region where I worked at, Yuube hoshi 「夕べ星」 (“Evening stars”, shown below) played. The atmosphere and the tune in its entirety was very relaxing; as if the stars in the sky can be brightly seen. Nevertheless, it marked the last 20 minutes before calling it a day. Update: noteworthy – this tune only plays at Wednesday.

Yuube hoshi (“Evening star”)

At days other than Wednesday, the Narashino city song (orgel version) is played instead in the 5 p.m. slot (shown below). Nevertheless, its unique variation also appealed me.

The Narashino city song in orgel version

In the place where I stay, the tune played at 5 p.m., titled No bara 「野ばら」(“Wild rose”, shown below). I found it amusing that different places and regions have their own variation, like the train jingles.

No bara (“Wild rose”)

When these tunes were broadcast in the weekends, it signified that the day is almost over. Depending on the day and context, either I happily pack up for the day, or quietly prepare for the new day ahead.

Reflecting 10 years

10 years ago today, I attended my first Japanese class in secondary school. It was at class 1A, where the Chinese class for students from different classes were gathered at to be attended. In that fateful year, a Chinese teacher who was transferred from other place opened the school’s first Japanese class. At first, it was opened as a trial class where students can join by just filling the names onto a piece of paper which was passed around in the class.

I didn’t know about the Japanese language in general. The naive me thought that it was a language mixed with Chinese (due to the use of kanji), and even a corrupted version of Chinese (again, I was naive back then). “Since it’s free of charge, why not give it a try?”, the 13 year old me thought as I filled my name in the form.

The first class

The first Japanese class started in Monday afternoon, 15 June 2009. As I recalled, it started with aisatsu (greetings). We weren’t taught the writing systems immediately, but the first contact in regards to communications in the classroom.

Sensei, konnichiwa! (Good afternoon, teacher) and Sensei, sayonara! (Goodbye, teacher) were the phrases we say when we began and ended the class that day. The experience of learning a new language was unique to me – stepping into an unknown territory.

I nearly gave up of learning Japanese in my second year of learning – I nearly failed one of the tests and struggled to understand them. Learning new things definitely were not easy.

Setting up targets

In 2011, a Japanese language assistant teacher who hailed from Osaka, Japan, was stationed in my school for 1 year. Ms. Nishikawa, a sweet, helpful, and approachable person taught us about the Japanese culture in general. Under her guidance, I mustered my courage to dance on stage performing soran bushi, a traditional songs and dance in Japan (even now, I can listen to the music being played automatically in my head…).

She left after a year, leaving myself to continue wading across the course as I continually absorbed the required knowledge. In 2012, I joined a national Japanese speech contest held in Kuala Lumpur as a secondary school student under the appropriate category. Although I didn’t obtained the coveted prize which allowed the contestants to travel to Japan, I did leave with strong determination to try again sometime in the future. Three years later, I joined the national Japanese speech contest again, this time, as a college student.

Reflecting the past and looking forward

Fast forward to today, I am working as a software developer in Greater Tokyo, Japan. It has been a “kill two birds with one stone” approach for me, as I am able to utilize languages in both linguistic and technical aspect. I had never thought that I could achieve this 10 years ago.

On this day, I received my gift in the form of helping hands from everyone over the past 10 years. It is not an overstatement to say that I wouldn’t be what I am today without the people in the past. I owed deeply to the kind, helping hands offered by my friends, mentor, and my family. My girlfriend had also played a huge role in this as well, to which I remain grateful to this day.

What would the second decade be like in the 21st century? That, I had yet to set.

It is hard to detail everything in the span of 10 years, but I will always be grateful to all the experiences I had; be it sweet or bitter. Dozo yoroshiku onegaishimasu!

A huge Showstopper!

I love things about Microsoft, particularly stories behind the scenes. From the “why does a feature behave like so” to “here’s why so and so happened” type of stories by Raymond Chen (a prominent blogger and senior programmer of Microsoft) to various podcasts and technical tips from different Microsoft employees, I have been searching for in-depth stories, particularly stories that depict the process – from the beginning to the end of a development process. There have been (mini) stories from people like Kraig Brockschmidt, Larry Osterman, Ben Bathi (on Windows Vista’s predecessor Longhorn) and others.

Until I stumbled upon this book.

Showstopper! The Breakneck Race to Create Windows NT and The Next Generation at Microsoft (phew, what a title) (or, Showstopper! for short) describes the story of the development of Windows NT. The story of the birth of the underlying engine which powered the Windows operating system we know today was told in a vivid way. With a huge number of people working on the project which spanned several years, Dave Cutler and the gang shaped the future, literally.

When I first read the beginning part of Showstopper!, I was quite excited for the journey the developers are about to embark – to develop a new operating system that is portable/universal, and is shaped not for the current moment, but for the future. It reminded me of the excitement when a new project phase began. Potential ideas were explored and deep thoughts were given whether to implement and how to implement. It all seemed fun on paper.

As I continue reading, I got nervous as they hit a lot of road bumps. Missed deadline, huge amounts of bugs, bug catching and solving that seemed never ending, and countless disappointment and anger across the team. Yet, they never gave up, continue squashing the “priority one” and “priority two” bugs, and the infamous showstopper bugs — problems within the system that prevented from normal use, e.g. system and program crashes and destruction of data. The team leads were understandably furious of the appearances of these classes of bugs as they rushed against time to meet the deadlines for various schedules.

A late release constitutes to missed opportunities.

Software developers or people who enjoy stories about software in general will definitely appreciate this book where it detailed aspects about software and project management. I get stressed out when I read the part where Dave raged towards his team, as if I was in his team. Thankfully, my workplace did not have this culture hence the calmer side on my part. However, the story written was quite vivid (in my opinion) that I felt the atmosphere and emotion together with the team. From the part where they hyped towards success, especially killing bugs, to facing depression from various aspects of life, of which it was derived from the moments and atmosphere of Windows NT development that affected them deeply, the various perspective being told added elements of the human aspects in the software development side.

I had re-read this book twice (as of this writing). At times when I opened Kindle, I would jump to a chapter I find interesting and continued from there. I often ended rewinding to earlier chapters to pursue the fun of reading this book.

This book has been translated to Chinese and Japanese, and has received positive reviews too. I plan to buy the translated copies sometime in the future…

You can read a sample (preview) portion of the book, which covered the Introduction and the first chapter, Code Warrior, which introduced Dave Cutler, one of his days in the Build Lab (a place where a new, incrementally built copy of Windows NT being produced), and his younger days and days prior joining Microsoft.

Have you read this book before?

Hi there! (again)

(I have written countless times of this introductory post, but hey, here we are, again.)

Hi there! Welcome to White Journal Black Ink. I write about random things; some are with centered themes, some are purely randoms. I try and express my thoughts in a written way where I couldn’t do so verbally.

I have attempted to blog in three languages simultaneously – English, Mandarin Chinese, and Japanese, but with little luck. Updating three blogs in sync are more like a chore than enjoyment, so I stopped this approach (for now). Mandarin Chinese is my mother tongue, and I use English and Japanese often in both casual and work environment. I speak Mandarin Chinese with the Malaysian variant as I hailed from the South East Asian country, which bordered Singapore, Thailand, Brunei, and Indonesia. I have not written blog posts in a while, hence my language is getting rusty (and may have errors along the way too!)

The name, White Journal Black Ink, was inspired from WordPress’s 2010 theme – Twenty Ten. The design was clean and simple, something I adored about in various aspects, even in technology. The name, derived from the theme’s design, is about writing things in black ink onto a white journal (black colored typefaces against a white page), as simple as that.

I might share some tips covering variety aspects, from travel to programming (as I liked both!). Sharing is caring, as I learned from many generous travel and programming bloggers as I learned a lot from them. Saying that I owed them a lot is definitely not exaggerating at all.

I generally welcome constructive comments, e.g. pointing out mistakes in lingual and factual aspects. However, spam/advertisements/profanity/offensive comments are strictly off-limits and will be deleted without further notice.

Happy reading, and have an enjoyable day ahead! – Adrian