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December 29, 2003

Taking care of nenga-jo (new year's postcards)

New logic board for my Macintosh G3 arrived at about seven o'clock at night, and I finally got my Mac back alive. Thinking about G3 not recovering, I almost went insane. Thanks to Yahoo! Auction (in Japan, that is) for parts like these would have been so much harder to get or they'd cost me much more at a store.

I'm still blogging from my Toshiba lap-top for now, because the first thing I had to do after getting Mac G3 back to life was to print out all the addresses on the "nenga-jo", the traditional new year's postcards in Japan. If my Mac was still dead after getting a new logic board, then my wife and I would be writing 90 addresses and messages by hand.

We still have to write the messages, but that's not a problem, becuase thinking of what to say to some people you haven't seen in a long time can be fun. It's the addresses that kill. I can't believe people in the past have actually written hundreds of nenga-jo addresses by hand. Once you get used to the technology, there is just no way of going back.

Like last year, we made our postcards on the internet. We picked out one of the best photograph for the year, scanned it, did the layout on the web, and ordered it right from our house. We used Fuji's service, and they'd have the postcards at the local supermarket (which you can choose) a week later. How convenient. Again, thank god for letting us use the internet.

But then when I come back to think about it, my wife and I are still traditional in one way for sending these new year's postcards. Some people these days send their cards on the web. Some people don't send them at all, saying that we should go out and have good time rather than spending so much time writing cards near end of the year.

We like new year's postcard. For one, when my wife and I go out on a trip, I take my camera and probably take photos worth two rolls of film a day. So like this summer when we went to Fiji for eight days, I used up sixteen rolls of film (36, you know). So there's the fun of picking out the picture. And of course, we have to show off to people that we are very happy with our married life.

I think people are like that. One of my friend started sending me nenga-jo last winter. This guy was never a kind to do such a thing. But now he's got a kid, he has to show off his baby's picture at any chance he has got. It's alright. We like kids, and we like looking at our friends' baby's pictures. They are cute. So we let 'em see our photos too.

December 28, 2003

A drag in Yamada-Denki

Last night, my wife went to a rental video store and got "Pirates of Caribbean." So we sat down ready to watch the movie while having dinner, and pressed PLAY button. Then the video tape recorder makes a weird noise and turned itself off. Seems to be broken. This VTR happens to be a "TV-VTR all in one" kinda model, and now we can't even see a regular TV show. What a week I'm having at the end of the year... It's only been four days since my Macintosh broke down!

My wife and I tried pressing every single button on this TV-VTR machine. Tried unplugigng, tried turning on and off for about fifty nine times, even tried punching and kicking. But never came back to life. So be it. I've been using this thing since Nov. 1994 and it's about time I get a thin LCD TV and a HDD/DVD recorder.

So we went to Yamada-Denki in Jiyuga-oka today. We looked through some of the LCD TV's and although we knew that they weren't going to be cheap, we were sure that we better make a good choice on this thing or we could really regret spending over 150,000 to 200,000 yen on a TV. Especially after seeing a regular CRT TV (with VTR) selling for only 40,000 or so. We could spend next three or four years with those cheap CRT TV, and get a LCD when they become about half the price. I mean, prices of these electric appliances really go down fast.

But we decided to buy a 20-inch LCD TV, just because there was no reason to cut down on spendings. My wife and I both have been working hard and felt that we deserve something descent. We thought we could spend little less than 300,000 yen for a new TV and a HDD/DVD recorder.

Problem came after deciding which TV to buy. We went to the DVD section, and geez, do they have enough choices for DVD recorders for you. There are those with or without HDD, some can handle DVD-RAM and some cannot, and some of the ones that covers DVD-RAM cannot use DVD-RW, and so on. The sales said that if you buy DVD recorders with LCD TV's, you get half off of selected DVD recorders. We figured it would be best to buy one that can handle both DVD-RAM and DVD-RW (all of them can use DVD-R), but none those selected machines that we could get for half the price could do that.

After thinking and talking for hours, we decided to get a DVD-RW type with 80GB hard drive. We were kinda tired by then. When I saw a long line of people at the cashier, probably around 20-30 people, I almost snapped. Shoppers spending nearly 300,000 yen do not deserve this!

So instead of waiting in line for half an hour, I decided to go to a cashier at the digital camera section and paid for my TV and DVD recorders there. I didn't even know if that was possible, but I thought it might be worth trying. Yamada-Denki should make an announcement to let people know that they don't have to use the cashier at the entrance of the store... What good is it for them if they have their customers waiting in line for such a long time, and sales people not doing much at other parts of the store?

Anyway, when I was about to pay for the TV and DVD recorder, I found out that I have to buy a LCD TV bigger than 25 inches to get the "half off" deal. They never said that on any of the sign (or if they did, it must been written in a 2point font), and I got pissed off and decided never to buy a DVD recorder at Yamada-Denki. I did buy the TV, and it's coming on the 30th.

Point of this stupid boring blog is that shopping is so stressful when you HAVE TO buy something. If I was to get this TV and DVD recorder before my old TV broke down, I would've spend enough time looking through catalogs and asking friends for advice. I probably knew where and which ones to buy for how much, and there would've been no problems at all. I felt like I was being punished for using those old equipments for such a long time...

I did get a new logic board for my Macintosh G3 at the Yahoo auction last night. Hopefully it will arrive tommorow night and put my Mac back to life. That will hopefully take some of the stress away.

December 27, 2003

G3 still dead, but some hope

My Macintosh G3 (blue and white) is still dead, and I'm still stressed and depressed about it. But seems like I may avoid the worst situation, paying so much for nothing.

My G3 died after trying to put in a new accelerater, PowerLogix G3 900Mhz Zif. Actually, it worked once on the 23rd and died the next day. After that I put in the old CPU (350Mhz), and it came back to life just once, but then died again soon after.

On 24th, I called the support person and the guy told me to send in the PowerLogix, so I did. Next day, the 25th, I called them again to know when I'll get my new CPU, and they said it could be after January 6, because they go into a new years break.

So that left me with a situation where I can't even tell if there was something wrong with the new CPU or the motherboard until then. My wife and I have to take care of about 100 New Years Postcard (nenga-jo), printing out all the addresses from our computer like we did last year. We have three other computers at home, but did't have the data backed up (now, there's a lesson).

So the best I can do is to gather more informations on G3's troubles. I did learn a lot from looking through the web. There are so many super mechanics, they tell and show you hot to tune up your computer. I also checked some the BBS, wrote on them, and found out that I probably have to get a new motherboard. That is what I'm going to do before I'm done with 2003.

Then the pleasant surprise. The new CPU from PowerLogix support arrived today. On a paper they put in with the CPU, they said if this one doesn't work, I can return it to the store. It also said that if the store doesn't let me return the CPU, I can call the PowerLogix support again and they will handle the problem. This was a big surprise because with these parts of computers, I thought they would just blame the malfunction on me and not let return the thing.

I thought I had wasted 35000 yen on a CPU just to break my own motherboard, but if I get my money back, well, the worst is avoided. I will have to get a new motherboard, but this shouldn't cost me too much. Even if the new motherboard doesn't work, and I end up buying a new computer, I feel just a bit better by getting my money back for the accelerater.

So I'll have to see what happens once I get a new motherboard.

December 25, 2003

Mad Cow disease for everyone

Now we know that there is mad cow disease in the United States of America too. We've had it here in Japan since two years ago (or maybe even longer), and people have had it much longer in Europe, especially Great Britain. Well, we still have Australia and New Zealand to go, but we sure do have our mother nature striking back at us now.

In Japan, we only supply 40% of what we eat (in calories). So if all trade gets shut down -- I know it's unlikely, but you never know in a time like this -- we would really starve ourselves to death. I'm not saying that we should protect our farmers. No. But do we really have to import so much food?

Japanese government says it'll stop importing beef from the United States. This will probably put some beef selling retailers and restaurants out of business. There were some back two years ago when this nation panicked over BSE.

Back to the food safety issue. There once was a fuss over vegetables being poisoned by dioxins in Tokorozawa, Saitama. This news by Asahi Television turned out to be wrong, but people really freaked out and no would buy their vegies anymore. But people still buy apples and other fruits covered with wax because they look nice. And what about insecticides?

I see more healthy food stores these days, but they don't make a huge business like all other supermarkets out there. Even convenience stores like Lawson comes out with their "Natural Lawson" selling some healthier foods, but hey, those convenience store foods are covered with all kinds of preservatives and artificial falvors and artificial colorings and so on... What good is it to eat some healthy food once a week?

Thinking about those kinds of things just makes me want to give up on eatings healthy. I should avoid having too much sweets, and I should also stay away from fatty stuff, but I'm not really sure if there is a way to be free from all those chemicals. Some of those toxic stuffs are inthe air. Some are in the water and some are in the soil. Can you really avoid them? Is there really a way of knowing how bad they are to our body?

So I tend to think, don't bother worrying about mad cow disease. It's just one of numerous things.

December 24, 2003

Mac G3 Dies

I just wrote about how happy I was after wandering around Akihabara yesterday. Now I am totally stressed and depressed because the new accelerater no longer works with my Macintosh G3 (Blue and White).

It was working yesterday. Didn't seem to have any problems. It was a PowerForce G3/900Mhz Zif. I've heard some people having problems with it on the net, but for some reason I'd never thought that this would happen to me.

Anyway, I called up a support person at Kanto Kinzoku Kogyo. They are the wholeseller of PowerLogic products in Japan. The person said that if I send in the CPU with the warranty paper, they'd send me a new one.

What I am afraid of now, is that they might come up with a reason that voids the warranty. I can't think of anything I've done wrong, but who knows. There are so many conditions written down on those warranty papers and it basically covers every single excuses for not giving me a new piece. Well, I just hope I get a new one soon, and it better work!

December 23, 2003

Walking around Akihabara

Akihabara is fun. I'm really not a mechanic nor am I really a computer freak, but I still enjoy walking around Akihabara. Which is what I did today.

When I lived in Michigan back in the late 80's and early 90's, there just weren't enough computer stores to amuse me. It was really tough to get computer parts for my Apple IIc or Apple IIgs. I also didn't have places where I can buy some decent softwares. I used this service called GEnie (a smaller version of Compuserve, much cheaper though) to get some sharewares and freewares, but myself being a high school student, I couldn't take the risk of buying commercial softwares without seeing it's packages or demos in the stores.

So, when I go to Akihabara, I have access to just about everything I need (and somethings I don't even need). I wonder if there are places like that in other nations in the world, because it makes me feel like Akihabara is the "Heaven on Earth" when comes to shopping electronics and computer goods.

Today, I went there to buy a keyboard. Yup, a keyboard. Because I use Macintosh, there aren't enough choices when I go to electronic stores like Yamada-Denki or Bic-Camera. They have a whole bunch of supplies and equipments for Windows machines, but only few or often none for Macinotsh. My wife has been complaining about the stiff keyboard that came with my Macintosh G3 (Blue and White), and I myself started to feel like I'm stressed because of it. After all, I've used it for more than four years, so I thought it would be worth buying one.

So I went to Laox, and found one that feels right, but this one says I need MacOS 9.2 or higher. I have MacOS 9.1 in my computer, that wouldn't work. I asked the sales person in the store, but this guy didn't seem to know much about Macintosh. Also in that store, I found out that you can't buy MacOS 9.2 all by itself. It comes with MacOS X 10.1.4, but I already have X and it's version is 10.2.8. I would have to buy X 10.3 and pay 2500 yen to Apple Computer to send me 9.2, and that would be ridiculous.

So I went around looking for 9.2 to maybe about five or six stores. One store did sell 9.2.1 separately, but it's price was something like 14000 yen! Why pay 14000 yen just to use a keyboard that sells for 7000 yen? So my search went on. The last shop I walked into had an updater CD for 9.2, where you need 9.1 installed. This would work for me, and it would only cost me about 2000 yen. I asked the sales person to make sure if it would work with my Japanese MacOS 9.1. He told me that I can just download it from Apple's website.

Hey, why didn't I know that?

It's probably because I'm all tied up with my work and don't spend enough time collecting informations on Macintosh anymore. Also, I know that it will take few more years before I start using MacOS X on daily basis, so I stopped buying all the computer magazines. I'm all satisfied with my Macintosh G3. Looking through computer magazines would only make me want to buy a new computer just to have a new computer. You know what that is like.

Anyway, after I found out that I don't need to buy MacOS 9.2 for 15000 yen, I got a new keyboard. It's Macally brand and it's made like a lap-top's keyboard: shallow keystrokes is what I like.

I also bought an accelerater. This one boosts my clock speed from 350Mhz to 900Mhz. Hey, I know Intel and Motorola are already onto Gigaheartz, but this still works fine for me.

Witches of East Wick

I went to see a musical at Yuraku-cho's Teikoku Theatre with my wife yesterday. It's title was "Witches of East Wick". It was a comical one. It was O.K., I guess. I'll just be honest and say, that I just haven't seen enough musicals to judge if it was really good or not.

I've only seen two musicals before in my life, and I saw them both in the United States. One was "Les Miserable", and another one was "Cats". I think I was in high school when I saw Les-Mis in Detroit, so that makes it almost fifteen years ago. I saw Cats in New York when I went there to visit my sister just before I graduated college, so that goes back almost eight years.

So yesterday was my first time seeing musical in Japanese. It's rather amazing how they translate the songs into Japanese because often times, when you translate songs into another language, either the melody or the lyrics needs to be changed a lot. But I wasn't really moved like when I saw Les Mis, nor was I totally amused like when I saw Cats. It was somewhere in the middle in many ways.

...O.K., it's the price that didn't like. It cost me 12,500 yen. 25,000 yen for both of us.

I shouldn't start talking about how things are so expensive in Japan. People are crying over deflation all the time, and I know that you can buy so much stuff in 100-yen shops these days. But there are certain areas where prices have not gone down at all. Movie theaters still cost me 1800 yen for each movie, and newspapers still cost me almost 4000 yen every month (make it 4300 yen for Nikkei). And these musicals and ballets and rock band concerts have never gone down.

Why? I wish I knew. All I know is that it didn't cost me $125 to see Cats in New York. I respect everyone who make those musicals possible, and I respect all people who work with some kind of art. But someone must be taking too big of a margin. There must be a way to make these tickets cheaper, don't you think?

Well... I'll stop here for today. After all, the seats were filled so I guess there are enough people who think it's worth paying the price.

December 22, 2003

Christmas for Lovers

Christmas is coming. It's only three days ahead. Even people at my work are talking "what you gonna do for Christmas?"

Ah... wait, why bother talking about it if we don't even get a day off from our work? In Japan, we have a national holiday on the 23rd. It's Emperor's birthday. I don't know if people actually celebrate Emperor's birthday, or do people even know how old he is now?

I don't expect people in Japan to get holy over Christmas, after all, like always said, Japanese people are mostly unreligious. Not that people don't believe in God, people believe in any God or Bhudda.

That's why people ask each other "what you gonna do for Christmas?"

It's a day when you have to spend time with your lover. Otherwise, you're a sad person! I mean, no one ever say that, but there's always the atmosphere like that.

I personally think that Japanese people are good at celebrating. People can celebrate for no good reason and still be happy about it. But when it comes to Christmas, you just can't celebrate without talking about a lover.

I can't figure out why.

Just to start off

Ok, Here I go with a new weblog in English, talking about daily life and current events in Japan. So if you're curious about what life is like in Japan, check up from time to time.

Just remember though, I am rather sloppy with my English. It's been a while since I lived in United States, so bare with me, if you can.