Friday, February 25, 2011

Discovering the Heavens with Space Shuttle Discovery

Today we begin on the sad journey to say farewell and thank you to the most travelled spacecraft in history - Space Shuttle Discovery. This morning, it made it's final takeoff which will ultimately end its nearly 27 year old story 15 days later.

Discovery first lifted off not long before I was born in 1984. Six years later, it went into space on mission STS-31 to bring one of the most fantastic objects ever invented by man to occupy the heavens - the Hubble Space Telescope. Even though the telescope was fraught with problems in its infancy, what Discovery delivered not only gave us amazing images of the universe we live in, calculate the age of it all, but it gave us an amazing new perspective on life - we are so small and insignificant in the grand scheme of things, why all the hate, why all the misery?

Today, on it's final mission, STS-133, I feel quite sad because it's the end of a fantastic era. An era of reusable spacecrafts and cheaper travel to space, the place where human race will eventually have to make better use of. I've always wanted to see a launch of the amazing beast that's the Space Shuttle. Sadly, I don't think the chance would ever come...

Thank you Discovery, for you have improved our world and our understanding of the world we live in and the greater universe out there. Maybe, one day we'll meet at the Smithsonian.

- Coming straight from my iPad


Monday, February 21, 2011

And The Winner is... "Prii"

You may have remembered my two posts on the innovative campaign to get the US (and somewhat worldwide) public to vote for the plural of the Toyota Prius, by Toyota Motor Sales in the US. The results have just come in, and it's the one I've been championing all along: Prii (my pronunciation is "pree-eye").


Saturday, February 19, 2011

Cricket World Cup Gets Underway

Just spent the day watching the opening match of the 2011 Cricket World Cup. It turned out to be a little boring to be honest. India scored 370/4 in the first innings with Bangladesh coming in and putting on a brave fight to finish on 283/9. Not to put Bangladesh down or anything... When the first team in whacks nearly 400 runs, it becomes a bit predictable. On only a handful of occasions did the second team in emerge victorious.

But, anyways, the CWC has started and life is better with it. It'll keep me occupied in case the 2011 Formula 1 season gets off to a bad start if Bahrain GP is cancelled.

I must say the scheduling is pretty stupid though this CWC. Tomorrow, Sunday, when nothing is happening on TV, they decide to stick through games with Canada an Kenya. I watched Canada play the Netherlands at the CWC in South Africa several years ago. It was fun, and the atmosphere was great. They actually played a really good game.

But when it's on TV and without the atmosphere in a freezing cold apartment in Brussels... Well, it just isn't the same! Annoyingly, all the interesting games are on weekdays for now, and in the mornings. Why?!

- Coming straight from my iPad

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Oh, the Shame...!

I arrived in the office in a pretty foul mood. The traffic this morning was probably one of the worst I've seen so far (on the way to work that is). I think from my house up to the motorway, about 1-2 km, took nearly an hour. Quite strange since I haven't been impacted this much by traffic for months now. Albeit, I've been trying to avoid it.

Anyways, when I got in, I noticed that the road into town was still blocked at around 9:30 AM. So I asked a general question to my colleagues to see if there was something that I missed. It turns out, the Brussels public transport went on strike. Nothing new, this happens about twice a year on average. We just get through it.

This time, though, it wasn't simple striking for wage increase or anything of the sort. No, the conductors of the trams, busses and metros walked out this morning to protest about something that happened last night. Apparently at the end of one of the metro lines, when the conductor had to walk out of his cabin to change ends, he was attacked. No serious injuries, luckily.

I was appalled by this information. It's absolutely disgusting to do something like that. These guys are working hard to earn an honest living. And by doing something like this, you end up hurting the million people who live in the city, and the other hundreds of thousands who have to commute in and out for work or other reasons.

For the first time then, I fully support a strike. Something has to be done. When I used to take public transport, I saw more than my fair share of abuse towards the conductors and a general disgusting behaviour towards public property. Yes, the public transport system in this city is pretty lousy compared to the neighbouring cities around Belgium. This doesn't give anyone the right to be stupid.

Strike I say! I'll just leave for work earlier, and come back home later! You have my support and solidarity!

UPDATE: Well, it turns out the security video footage shows that the conductor let loose the first blow to the offending member of the public. So I'm not as convinced about the right or wrong of this case in particular anymore. However, violence towards the public transport guys cannot be tolerated. This point alone makes it reasonable to strike...

Image source: STIB/MIVB

Monday, February 14, 2011

Humanity Stolen

I read some terrible news this weekend coming out of Egypt. No, not the political saga that's been going in. Although, it's definitely related.

It seems several pieces of priceless historical artefacts have gone missing from the Egyptian Museum. We are talking about pieces of history, older than all of the established governments in the world, running the show.

For me, I find this heart-wrenching. These artefacts are not priceless just because they are so old. No, it's impossible to recreate something like this, in every single detail. But more than that, these items are what tells us about ourselves, as human beings. It tells us where we came from and it also shows us the way we are going.

Why is it that when there is some kind of political turmoil that the museums get ransacked? This happen in every single conflict, including the Iraq War with the US and the World Wars. If anything, they should have been protected with every last ounce of force possible. We are talking about humanity, and that stands above any power-hungry dictator in history.

During the Civil War in China, Chiang Kai-Shek ensured that some of the greatest historical treasures in the 5,000 year old history of China is preserved. He tasked a good part of his military might to travel with the artefacts from place to place to avoid the bombings and ransackings. Eventually, these were crated once more and found it's home in Taiwan.

They are now on display in the National Palace Museum on the beautiful island. All 6,000 plus years of humanity, on display for generations of boys and girls to learn and to discover. Most of all, we can all find in these things, some way, our future too. How fortunate Generalissimo Chiang had this foresight, of all the items would have gone with the Red and their Cultural Revolution - "out with the old" massive wave of destruction.

We need more leaders like that to protect humanity...

- Coming straight from my iPad

Image source: BBC News, AP

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Toyota Corporate Blog - Car building with heart and soul


At the recent Detroit Auto Show, President Akio Toyoda spoke about the care Toyota and its members worldwide put into making cars. He said: “we will put heart and soul into our cars just like when a mother makes onigiri (Japanese rice balls).” This poetic image reminded me of the love and care my mother used to put into preparing my lunchbox for school every day.

For all of us working for Toyota in Europe, we have always worked hard to ensure we offer our customers the best possible automotive product. Needless to say, we have taken on the challenge laid down by President Toyoda to use that same loving care in everything we do. Already, we can see the fruits of our hard work through the various awards and accolades we have recently received. Some of these have even come directly from our customers!

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