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.

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