Wednesday, 21 June 2006

Of technology and trims

OK haven’t posted for a while, as I am sure you have noticed, but this can be blamed fairly and squarely on the Association Football World Cup, currently being played in Germany. It’s their fault as the early afternoon kick off in Europe is a TV friendly 10pm here in Japan, i.e. exactly when I would normally be musing on things to write in this here blog. So today I have taken the bold but necessary step of trying to write something during my lunch hour – and 86 words so far is a good start.

Now I don’t normally post about work as I don’t want to think about work whilst I am at home as it is bad enough having to go to work, let alone think about it at home. But sitting here in the office I still don’t want to think about work, so whilst some of you might want a post about work, you’re not going to get one from this wage slave today.

But what I’m sure you do want to read about is more brushes with technology that I have unfortunately had to make (and no, I am not going to talk about my iPod even though it is my blog and I can write what I want.. but I will say that I am sitting here listening to Beethoven on my iTunes as I type, how civilised). So, around the time the world cup started the grand old Yomiuri printed a schedule with all the games, what time they were on and which channels would be showing them. As I read I became a tad disheartened – Japan has 7 domestic TV channels that everyone can watch in the Kanto area, plus 2 satellite channels run by NHK, the Japan equivalent of the Beeb (and who no one pays the subscription for after some scandal a year or two ago that I cannot now remember – and of course no foreigner ever pays for because as soon as the collection person comes around you put on your best ‘dumb gaijin’ persona (not that difficult), refuse to answer even the simplest question if it’s in Japanese and then try to mime, at great length, that as a foreigner you only watch videos as you can’t understand the local lingo – apparently, so I’ve heard m’lud). Anyway the world cup was to be spread over most channels but predominantly on NHK’s domestic and satellite channels, with certain, high value games only on satellite.

So this is OK as we have satellite so no problem there. But the video is. It is about 400 years old and was given to us when we arrived. It has provided sterling service, no doubt, but its limitations were cruelly exposed by the world cup schedule as it cannot record the satellite channels (and no, before anyone starts on about it, especially those who have never been to Japan and know nothing about the broadcasting and/or home electronics systems (you know who you are), it can’t). this then means that we are going to have to spend some cash on getting something new that can record these programs and so, on a rainy Sunday after the Paraguay game, the Guru, youngster and I troop off to our local Yamada denki to purchase new consumer electronics.

Of course it is not that simple. One, no one buys a simple video deck anymore, not even sure if they make them. Second, there are an awful lot of acronyms out there. And third, in 2011 Japan will go wholly digital so unless you want to spend money now and again in 5 years time, you had better buy something that is savvy with all types of inputs. The choice was, of course, bewildering and the Guru and I (the youngster sensibly fell asleep), did not have much of a clue what we wanted. Well, I say that but we figured we needed something that could record DVDs, something, if it wasn’t too expensive, that had a recordable hard drive and something that, most importantly, could record the analogue satellite broadcasts from NHK that show the footy.

So we looked at all these sleek, expensive boxes in Yamada denki, prodded them, poked them, wondered what the difference between a DVDR, DVD-R, DVD+R, DVD+/-R and DVD-RAM was and generally became confused. Then we saw the most popular, biggest selling model. ‘Absolutely great’ the sales chap assured us. ‘Does everything including make your dinner’ he intoned. ‘All ready for the digital age, in fact the only one that is’ he claimed. ‘Even have big baseball star Hideki Matsui advertising it on the telly’ he added. “Does it record DVDs, have a hard disk and can record the existing NHK satellite channels?” we asked with serious faces. ‘Oh yes, all of the above, sir, just you wait ‘til you get it home’.

So we bought it and a bunch of DVD-RAMs (that I subsequently looked up on wikipedia so now know at least what they are) that set us back the best part of three hundred quid. Got it home and low and behold it could do all of the above – with the one exception of actually being able to record the NHK satellite channels that we expressly bought it for. Bugger. It can record the NHK Hi-vision channels, the new digital ones that will take over fully in 2011 and on which many games are being shown, but that’s not much good if you aren’t hooked up to those channels, which we aren’t, or the building you are in doesn’t want to get the cables put in, which they don’t.

So now we have a jolly complex DVD/HDD recorder thing, which is very cool and does have great features, like being able to start watching the program you are recording whilst you are still recording it, but it still doesn’t do what I really wanted it to do, so this morning I had to get up at 4am to watch England vs. Sweden, as I couldn’t record it, and what a pain that turned out to be and now I am flagging as lack of sleep kicks in. oh well.

Otherwise the other big news this week was a haircut. Not mine, though I did have one last night, but the youngster’s. Yes, at the tender age of 1 year and nearly 2 months he has had his first trim. We, the Guru and I, have been going on about this for a while and...

[finishing this off back home now]

...well, basically neither of us could pluck up the courage to go anywhere near the little fella with a pair of scissors. So off we trotted to a local hairdressers, which is a bit of a grand sounding word for a cheapie in-and-out-in-10-minutes kind of place, where to our surprise one of the chaps there said he’d have a crack at a one year-old’s hair. On we plonked the little ‘un on to the booster seat and then, much to our surprise again, he stayed absolutely stock still, probably paralysed in fear and wonderment, as the chap did his stuff. He snipped, judged, snipped again with a flourish , as artistes do and after about 3 of our allotted 10 minutes, the youngster was done.

And it worked as the hair cut has taken years off him, which at 14 months is a pretty impressive thing to do.

Tuesday, 6 June 2006

One step closer

Now if you remember back to here, I started an aural exploration of my ipod recently with a view to listening to each and every song on there, just to say that I had. So recently I was walking along when the U2 track “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For”, track #643, came along. Just to digress for a moment, there are 30 song titles in my ipod that start with the pronoun (that, for all you grammarians out there, is a noun that has lost its amateur status) ‘I’ – this is more than the 17 ‘alls’ that I remarked upon earlier, but in my opinion is not as remarkable as all the alls as I just seems like a more song-y kind of word to start wit. I will spare you the list of 30 songs as I can’t be bothered to note them all down. (NB. I will also not be counting the hundred or whatever songs that start with the definite article as that would just be silly).

Anyway the U2 song with the long title came on and it got me a-musing, as these things are wont to do. The muse went along the line of ‘hmm, I remember this...haven’t heard it for a while...[interlude of half humming half singing long forgotten words]...biggest seller on the planet about it in Q magazine ages ago...hmmm,1987 it was released........1987! Holy Shit that’s 20 years ago...TWENTY YEARS AGO!! (I don’t often do double exclamation marks, but this moment was a definite double).

Normally this would have been an issue, but in that week my dear Ma had written to me with contact details of a bloke who I’d known at school and college, we’d played rugby together for about 8 years, but with whom I’d lost contact with around the start of university. Anyway my mum met his mum, she passed on his email address and we got in touch. It had been 15 years, or something very near that. He didn’t know I live in Japan even though I’ve been here for the best part of a decade. It blew me away.

So it all got me thinking about that fact that I’m getting older. It had to happen sometime, I know, especially after the youngster was born, but I didn’t think I would sneak up on me this way – I bet everyone says that. So ‘I Still...’ was off the Joshua Tree album that was released in 1987 which is about 20 years ago, and as my mind did strange things with mental arithmetic it said to me “wow, so, the Joshua tree was released 20years ago and, like, if you go back twenty years from that you’re in, like 1967, which is like another planet”. That’s when I began to lose it a little. It only seems (sort of) like yesterday that I got a copy of the Joshua tree and played it for the first time, but twenty years before that is like soooooo long ago – but if course it’s not, it just seems that way to me.

So anyway, as I was mulling all this over, my disappeared youth and the fact that policemen and doctors are looking younger everyday, fate in her fickle way decided to make me feel really bad.

In our office at the moment is a guy named Joe. He is from New York and is an intern. He came to Japan a few months ago and is studying at a university in Chiba but on a Wednesday he comes to our office to gain valuable experience in business and to use his rapidly expanding Japanese vocabulary (the fact they put him on the only set of desks containing foreigners who are all English speakers seems to have escaped his handlers, but there you go (and he’ll learn an awful lot about how companies operate from that piece of planning...)). So I was talking to Dave about this whole ‘getting older’ thing and we were both looking in wonder back at the nineties and eighties, wondering where they had gone, and so, knowing it would hurt, asked Joe how old he is. “Twenty” wss the reply. We both do some mental arithmetic, but get confused so ask his date of birth. “October 1985” he answered.

It then dawns on us both, Dave and I that is, that pleasant Joe from New York was not even born when the original Live Aid concerts were on in the summer of 1985... OMG. And to make it worse is that he looks at us, as our jaws (and jowls and waistlines) sag, with a kind of ‘yeah, I’ve heard about it but it was, like, so long ago man, ancient history, it had those kind of drug dudes from like the seventies in there, the hippy stuff, yeah, whatever...’ expression. He probably looks at the original Live Aid the way I look at Woodstock – yeah, I know it happened but like get over it, it was ages ago and no one cares about it anymore, live in the now, man – or something like that. (God knows what Joe thinks of Woodstock, probably reads about it in history class).

All the markers of my formative youth, things like the Falkland’s war, Bhopal and Chernobyl, the first shuttle launch and then the Challenger disaster, Gazza, the Mary Rose etc – this kid has no first hand knowledge of them whatsoever. Completely freaked me out, I can tell you – but what is it going to feel like when the youngster grows up...?

PS up to track #730 now, Kashmir by Plant & Page off their MTV (sort of) unplugged album No Quarter.