Saturday, March 18, 2006

To Japan and Back!

Well I was trying to post wonderful things from my little jaunt across the world to Japan, land of the megalopolis, but alas, I was not able to...I was too cold in that rainy island weather to type anything with frostbitten fingers!

I went to Japan for two simple reasons: 1. check in on a buddy teaching english there to a bunch of 2nd and 3rd graders (cute!) and 2. check out all the cool electronics yo!

Day 1 started out simply enough. I woke up, I was in Tokyo. I got out through immigration at Narita airport without a snag. Little do they know of my sordid history! haha! The bathrooms at the airport were all sensory-type commands, pretty nifty! I got on a bus to go to a city called Yokohama. To my surprise, the bus got there on time, left on time, and I got to my destination on time. Odd!

I went to hang out in Shibuya the first couple days I was there, and all I could do was walk and walk and walk. I ended up going through Douganzawa, a district that has a very grey history. Legend has it, the guy's name I had just misspelled above used to hide in this far off hillside and rob all of the lovers going to the area for their trysts. Obviously this is the area where you'll find the infamous love-hotels of Japan.

This brings me to my first hot topic. LOVE HOTELS of Japan. What a brilliant idea! For those out there unfamiliar with a love hotel, these are the hotel or 'motels' in American vernacular that you can rent for a couple hours during the day for reasonable rates, or stay in overnight starting around 10pm. They are affordable and come with exciting themes such as Christmas, Disney, Hello Kitty, and the list continues as the rates rise. Because Japanese live in 2 and 3 generation homes, many share rooms and it is difficult to bring a lady or gentleman home to do the deed when little sis a nd her puppy sleep next to you in the room.

I stayed in one of these wonderful love hotels while I was in Kyoto and let me tell you, this thing was a suite! It had a full on huge bath, with separate shower and tub, bidet, living area, kitchenette, and when you checked in, the shade is drawn over the attendant's face so that everything is done annonymously! And did I mention while my travel buddy and I were selecting our room, another couple walked in and stood behind a bamboo divider until we left?! Damn! Even when we checked out, I waled into an older couple in their 50s or 60s about to leave, and once they saw me, they shut that door right quick. They were hooligans. I could see it in their eyes.

Another thing I discovered about Japan has to do with their food. I went there not expecting much except the best sushi of my life. Let's just say I got that, and much more. I went into a sushi bar at around 9 am for some soup (it was the only thing open) and they were all about kicking me out. It was 9 am and people were eating sushi. What happened to a little light hot meal to get you going?! Not here. sure you could have ramen or udon anywhere else, but for some reason, I was visiting a legendary fish market on it's only day off, like a smidiot (smoking idiot). Damn. But I have to say, the Japanese food was delicious; expensive, but incredibly delicious, and then I got tired of eating tempura, then it all went to crap. Just kidding, I enjoyed myself some Okinomyaki and it was good too. The Japanese like their sweet brown sauces.

As for the electronics, I went to Japan to see if I could see any new products or trends that will hit the US anytime soon, and sadly, I didn't. If you've been to Best Buy and Times Square in NYC, well multiply all of the electronics and kiosks there by about 1000, add Vegas lights, and a whole lotta Japanese people, and voila! you've Akihabara, the area almost all Japanese consider nerd central. I liked the area a lot...It is the area where you can wish for the wildest gadget and turn a corner and there it is. It is the place where you can find Maid Cafe and massage bars, where women dressed in maid outfits service you (and not in a dirty manner either. They get you food or massage your feet. But you have to talk to them about anime. They will not allow you to relax and sleep). I think the themed cafes used to be called Mei as in Anime character cafes, but since the Maid thing is so hot, and cafes are going out, you see a plethora of massage parlors. Go Japan! And yes they have a couple 'Comic Book Guy's there - and only there. As for the products, the only two things that really impressed me were the iRiver u10 MP3 player, which uses a 'D-click' system for controls. That means you tap on the sides of the screen to make it scroll up, down, etc. It is horizontal, a total break from the usual vertical built videoplayers, and is a slick looking black face. But hey, it'll be here in the US in like oh 2 hours. So not really a find.

the other thing that impressed me was the Ricoh 28-200mm (35mm equivalent) super zoom camera. I really liked the idea of having such a large zoom, but it made me wonder, well with Ricoh's image quality issues, will having such a large zoom make the image noisier than it really needs to be? Then I remembered Sony is coming out with an DSC-H5 and DSC-H2 models which boast 7.2 and 6 megapixel images respectively. Now if Ricoh's zoom was impressive, well Sony's 36-432mm zoom are a 14 year-old girl in R. Kelly's eyes. I only hope he doesn't pee on the cameras too. Although I didn't see all the new gadgets I had hoped to discover, I did get to see how temporary each of the gadgets were to the Japanese. And how bulky phones are the winners in this culture. tell me, can you really tie all those stuffed animals to a RAZR? I don't think so!

Tokyo is a major hypermetropolis that at night resembles Vegas, with the bars, party goers, and fun. What it adds is a sense of order and clean. All the public areas are incredibly clean, and there are no trashcans in existance throughout the entire city thanks to the 1996 gas bombs. The people are polite and enamored with Western culture. It took me a bit to find the Japanese core of Japan, but when I did, I loved it. The people love their country, they love their history, the geisha are like moviestars and links to a past that has all but been forgotten. And it stretches farther in the future than anyone else in the world. Well except for one thing, you cannot get the mayo on your sandwich to be put on the side. They can't understand the concept of altering the way things are. Some call this tradition and respect for life's way of being. Others call it pure insanity. It's gaddamn mayo! leave it off then!

I am off to Germany tomorrow, wish me luck on the flight and I will write from there. Do you all need some brautwurst?

Sunday, March 05, 2006

poop and a GPS

I was innocently having lunch with a girlfriend of mine, catching up on each other's lives Saturday afternoon. It was a beautiful day with bright sunshine, the kind that comes after a rainstorm in southern California, so we decided to take a table under a tree. We both ordered salmon burgers with fries, and as soon as I had my third bite, a pigeon decided to open his dastardly bombay doors and let us have one. He pooped on my food! Damn him. That pigeon is a bastard filled bastard of a winged bastard. There goes $7.50, my appetite, and $2 for parking. I wanted to hit that bird upside the head and say, 'why the hell haven't you evolved from this free-wheeling shitting foul?' Gaddamn!

So TomTom just released a new GPS for two-wheeled vehicles (ie. motorcyclists and scooter aficionados). They call it the TomTom RIDER, and it will retail for about a grand. Now being an ex-scooter and motorcycle rider myself, I thought, how awesome! Finally I can get directions for my lost-ass as I travel through the streets. The thing that stopped me in my tracks is this: the price. I can get another scooter for that kind of cash-money. Or I can just pull-over and ask for directions. Being on a bike allows you flexibility like stopping quickly, riding up on the sidewalk to accost a dog walker, buying milk without ever having to get off your ride. But I digress.

When TomTom designed the RIDER, they did think a couple things through that make this device really cool. For example, it is waterproof, so you can mount it on your bike and fa-ge-a-bou-it! But what happens when you park your bike outside a shady diner for a bite to eat? Well with this device, you can't just unmount and put in your glove, but I am sure it has an easy unmount - or at least I hope. I have not gotten to play with a model yet, as they haven't been released in the US.

The other thing is that the TomTom comes with a Bluetooth headset that speaks the directions into your helmet, so you aren't forced to look down at the monitor mounted on your handlebars. Sure that voice in your head may get jealous of the incoming competition, but I think with time, the RIDER's voice and your crazies will make friends, and you can keep those stealthy riding eyes on the road, or on your cell as your dialing....Not only that, but you need never fret about the volume at which that voice yells the directions at you. It intelligently adjusts as you speed up or slow down.

And if you're worried about riding your scooter with the hells angels in the sunlight, and not being able to see the RIDER, fret no more. The system comes with an anti-glare screen, so they can clearly see your embarrassing bike, and your need for directions. Those Hells Angels are so judgmental. This GPS does incorporate all the usual stuff, like integrated GPS antennae, multiple destination calculation, choice of route, and the touchscreen responds to glove contact as well, which is important for you riders. And when you want to get into a car, well the RIDER can come along too. It comes with a car mounting kit that allows you flexibility in your car as well. IF you're paying a straight G for this, it'd better dance for you too!

All right, I'll close this preview up with just a couple more words about the RIDER. It is impressive that the RIDER automatically switches from motorcycle glove mode to in-car mode. It allows you to make and take calls using the touchscreen, and it speaks over 30 different languages. I always liked that feature.

But alas, we'll see how well all these 'smart' features really work out if I get to play with one. I'll let you know when I do.


Here are the tech specs for the RIDER:
Integrated GPS receiver based on SiRF Star III with 20 Channel All-in-view tracking
CPU: 380 MHz
3.5 inch, 320 x 240 TFT colour LCD touchscreen
115mm x 92mm x 58mm, 310 grams
Internal rechargeable Li-Ion giving approx. 5hours
Operating temperature: - 10 to + 55 °C
Water resistant and protected against any wet weather conditions
(test: TomTom RIDER was subjected to a sustained jet of water at high pressure from all directions and suffered no harmful effects)
Battery Talktime: 5 Hours
Battery Standby: 250 Hours
Memory card (SD card) with software and maps
USB port and cable for PC connection
Bluetooth headset included for clear wireless spoken instructions
Alternative power source: 12V motorbike battery
Mounting kit (4 pieces) to fit most bikes and scooters

Friday, March 03, 2006

STUFF Magazine

Guess who will have a two page spread on the top 10 gadgets on the market come May?!??! That's right! Your dog's mom. And me! Yeah, so pick it up on newsstands, then write in about how my wit and style make you want to continue reading, even though the gadgets aren't ALL blow your socks off immediately, but most are. So give me that my brothers and sisters. I would love to post some of the excerpts here, but I think that is not allowed, but once it hits newsstands, I will do immediately.

Looks like I am headed to Tokyo, Japan for a little vacation! And to see one of my best friends. I am really excited, and although I have been taking a break (read unemployed) for a couple weeks now, I have decided to make the most of my sad ass and take some time to regroup and figure out what the hell I wanna do with my life. What good is it to dedicate yourself to the technological advances of consumer electronics if you can't make a living off of it? I ask you this!

So I am headed around the country to do an investigative report on the who, what, and especially why Hello Kitty reigns supreme in a country with more than 14,000 people per square mile. I know some of those are adults. We don't live in the land of Charlie Brown for god's sake.

More news to come.