Sunday, May 30, 2004

A better picture

Thanks to Fetafetish on BigDaikon for providing me with a bit of information about Yokota and the surrounding area. The following is taken from a JET guide book of some sort, written by other ALTs (Assistant Language Teachers).

Both towns are very beautiful with rich environments, clean water, delicious Nita rice and kind people. Yokota is a rural farming area with this being its main industry. It's famous for manufacturing abacus and about 70% of Japan's abacus are made here. The tallest mountain in Shimane is a 10 min drive down the road. Except for winter, almost anytime of the year is a good time to sit in the backyard with a cooler of beer and a BBQ going. In the wintertime, there's skiing. If you don't have a car, it can be inconvenient to get around. Both towns have outdoor swimming pools, Nita holds a mountain bike race in the spring, and there are ski resorts and many onsens nearby. The Shimane Design School is in Yokota and offers classes to the community such as pottery, jewelry design, furniture making, and computer gaphics. There is a museum for the Tatara Iron making method, a metal-working technique used in making swords. There is a taiko drumming group that gives classes. In Aug there will be several festivals in the area. There is a Karaoke place but no dance clubs or anything like that. There are two grocery stores in town. There is a Juntendo store which is like a Home Hardware store (very helpful). There are one or two convenence stores but maybe only one that is 24 hours.

Yokota also has a train station. Woo!

Saturday, May 29, 2004

Hard-knock life

I am now the proud owner of a new digital camera. (Note that I paid roughly 80USD less than the estimated retail price... or I will have, once I receive my rebate, and I got a free extra 64MB memory card, in addition to the 16MB one that comes with the camera. Good things happen when you stumble in on the beginning of a 4-hour sale at CompUSA.)

I'm also seriously considering a new notebook computer, which has a built-in 6-in-1 memory card reader. I now have two xD-Picture Cards for my camera, so I wrote to the computer company to ask if this type of memory will work in their reader. The owner (it's a small company) wrote back: "I have never heard of memory media by that name. I wonder if it is really SD memory, but with an Olympus twist."

So I check the back of the package containing the 64MB card to see if it offers any new information.

Compact and durable, the Olympus xD-Picture Card is the ultimate reusable digital media ... offering compatibility with any manufacturer's xD-compatible device... (emphasis mine).

Thoroughly unhelpful.

Talking about this with the Shambly Hermit earlier, I remembered a similar feeling of frustration I had at Best Buy. I wanted to upgrade the operating system (Windows ME) on Mom's old/my new desktop, so I was checking out the Windows XP versions, trying to decide if XP Pro was worth the extra $100. An employee came by. "Can I help you with anything?"
"Yeah, what's the extra hundred dollars for?" I asked, gesturing toward the XP Pro box.
"Well," he said, "This is XP Home, and this is XP Pro."
Not to be deterred, I said, "I know that. I'm just wondering what the real differences are."
He picked up the Pro box. "Well, it says here..." he proceeded to read. I was really hoping for a human interpretation to the back-of-the-box information, but it seems that day I was out of luck.

Sunday, May 23, 2004

Litmus test

A coupla links from Stewart's blog:
Dear Overhaulin
Dear Maury

In short, both of these links point to (a blog which points to) blogs which, for one reason or another, have been mistaken for TV show websites, and have been deluged by comments, mostly from people who want to contact the shows. Most of the remaining comments are from people sadly shaking their heads, or taking pot shots at the misinformed.
From "Waitak," who posted a comment on the Maury entry:

I've just read through this thread. Honestly, I find it more heartbreaking than funny. The desperation in these posts is stunning. It's true that the people writing to "MUARY" don't understand that this is Ryan's blog (kudos to you Ryan for being relatively even-handed in your responses).

Stupid and uneducated people aren't the same, though. True 'nuf - lots of people don't know how to spell, lots of people don't "get" the Web, let alone the Internet, and lots of people get themselves into all SORTS of awful situations.

But to my mind, this is more about one culture (prospereous, educated, Internet-savvy) suddenly staring through a window into the soul of another (poor, mostly uneducated). It's hard to miss the insights that the responses give into BOTH of them. Lots of us have treated this thread as a sort of litmus test for intelligence. Maybe it's a litmus test for other things as well, like compassion and kindness.

Saturday, May 22, 2004

Shimane-ken!

Got another nice fat manila envelope in the mail today from the good folks at the NY Consulate. Seems I'll be going to the prefecture (like a state or province) of Shimane, and more specifically to the town of Yokota.

There's more than one Yokota in Japan, just as there's more than one Springfield in the US; here's the one where I'll be.

I've already started a thread on BigDaikon, so if anyone there has some information about the area, you, my faithful blog readers, will know about it when I do.

This looks like the town's official webpage, but unfortunately for me it's all in Japanese, and most of the links on the homepage are gifs, not text, so Babel Fish can't translate them. What Babel Fish can translate, however, is the population of the town:
  • 7,895 people
    • 4,109 women
    • 3,786 men
  • 2,364 households

Yep, it's small.

Tuesday, May 18, 2004

Je suis Nono, le petit robot...

We've been singing little snippets of the Ulysse 31 theme song in Vacuum Energy HQ for several months now (mostly just the first couple bars: "Uuuuu-lysse, Uuu-lyyyyyysse!"), and I finally decided to dig up the mp3 again. It's got the makings of a classic, even in French. (Especially in French.)

Credits:
MP3: http://perso.wanadoo.fr/simonin/Ulysse31/ (I think the little pop-up says something about two downloads per person per day.)
Lyrics (en fran├žais): http://www.topkool.com/comicsbdmangas/oav-ulysse31.htm (Scroll toward the bottom.)
Intro video (in English): http://www.sfxb.co.uk/animated/ulysses31.html (A bit of nostalgia for those of you who remember watching it as kids; I think I'd just turned one year old.)

Incidentally, while I was double-checking my French on Babel Fish just a moment ago, I discovered that it leaves instances of "c'est" untranslated, from the French to English. While not a major inconvenience for myself, I find it a bit diappointing, since "c'est" (roughly translated: "this is") is used frequently in the French language, and easy enough to translate.


Late Night with Conan O'Brien recently aired a segment on Stargate. Recently, as in last Thursday. I watched Conan Wednesday night, and Friday night, but for some reason I decided I had something better to do Thursday night.
But no worries: it airs again on NBC this Friday at 4am. I've set my alarm (on my cell phone) to wake up at 3:50am. Watch me, I'm so gonna do it.

Thursday, May 13, 2004

By popular demand

It seems a shame that Blogger released new templates just after I'd gone through all the trouble of figuring out the last one and tweaking it. Now I have a new (far more complicated) template to tweak.

And I'm far from finished. I'll get the old stuff back in the sidebar, fix any overly large photos so that they display properly, and figure out how to implement the in-Blogger comment feature. Don't worry: all the old comments have been saved in text files, and I will provide links to them at the end of the posts in which they were made (see the previous post).

Overall, though, I see this as an improvement. I mean, it isn't really anything I couldn't do by myself if I were really, really good at designing webpages; but I'm not, so this is a change for the better.