moving and shaking
weill in japan: day 12
Some things never change. I've been here for more than a week, and I'm
settling into a routine now. To underscore the whole continuity thing,
my host mother even went out and bought McDonald's food for the whole
family earlier this evening.
rumblings in tokyo
Milestone: I have survived my first earthquake.
I was standing in my second-floor bedroom at around 9:00 PM local time on
Saturday evening when the floor started to shake. I originally wrote it off
as a side effect of the alcohol I had drank earlier that evening, or perhaps a
passing truck. Still, a passing truck might make a wood-framed house like
this shake for a fraction of a second; this shaking lasted several seconds.
Nothing happened after that: no special report on the radio, no words of
instruction from anyone in my family. It was only this morning when they
confirmed that Saturday night's shaking was in fact a small earthquake.
Moral of the story: as long as I have enough alcohol, earthquakes are
same routine, different continent
Today, my plan was simple: get up, do a little cleaning, and get my
homework done. All of that was going along smoothly until about 12:00 noon,
when my parents here asked me to go with them to a local electronics and
computer store to help them pick out a new digital camera and printer. After
meticulously explaining the concepts of CCD resolution, optical zoom, and
memory card technology in Japanese to my 60-year-old host father,
we settled on an Olympus C2 Zoom camera. It should be a good, simple camera
for taking snapshots on vacation. Then we decided to look for an inkjet
Right now, if you were to buy an inkjet printer, the box would contain
little more than the printer itself. Most printers include a small "starter"
cartridge with half the ink of a normal cartridge, a CD with drivers, a
manual, and a power cable. That's it. Two sheets of photo paper in the box
could print maybe eight pictures, provided that the ink cartridges hold up.
No USB cable is included, meaning that the company effectively assumes that
you keep extra USB cables around. A "starter kit" for about $20 more contains
some essentials, while a set of real ink cartridges will cost over $60. I
told my host family to hold off on buying these accessories until after they've
used the printer a little. They got a very good-quality photo printer that
can print small shots on rolls of paper (sold separately), and which can print
pictures straight from the memory card. That's good, because the software
used to extract pictures from cameras is almost as bad as consumer-grade
scanner software. Hopefully my host family will be able to use the memory card
slot on the printer effectively; it looks simple enough. Considering how
much all these new toys cost, I think my host father is eager to make it worth
Although the selection may be larger and the prices slightly more
reasonable, the whole consumer electronics superstore idea carried over
virtually unscathed from the U.S. to Japan. There are salespeople working on
commission stationed everywhere, like the young woman who sold my family on
the high-end printer. I peppered her with questions and made side comments
to my parents about how printers have so many hidden costs; my parents
not-so-tactfully relayed some of these comments directly to the saleswoman.
Somehow, I don't think I made the best impression on her.
It's tough to get back on a college work schedule when I'm still effectively
living at home; I have regular meal schedules rather than the 1:00 AM food runs
that I usually do at college, for example. Talking with my host family and
watching TV are two things that help me learn the language, but they cut into
homework time. I also want to some more sightseeing, but that's yet another
time killer. Finding the right balance will help me get more than 5-6 hours
of sleep when I have homework to do.
Speaking of which, it's getting late now and I've got a train to catch in
the morning. Good night.