Christmas in LA


I just got back from 10 days in LA visiting friends and family. It was really nice but with only 10 days it wasn't much of a vacation since every other day was going somewhere else to see someone else.

Still it was great to see my friends and family. I got my nephew Rick a PSP for Christmas so now all his friends are jealous. 😛 My other nephew, Gene, at 3 1/2 is now able to talk so that was nice.

Even though I was back in LA last May I was more aware of differences between my life in Japan and LA this time. All my friends and family have nice large places to live by Tokyo standards. I'm trying to figure out how to change that here. It's not so much about having more space but at least about having a nicer space. If you watched Sex and the City there was an episode where Carrie dates some 25 year old guy, wakes up at his place and after seeing how messy it is decides she can't deal. Well, as silly as that might sound that feeling kind of describes how I feel in my 330sqft apartment in Japan.

There was a progression from high school through collage to living with roommates and then to living alone until I had bascially made a home for myself with matching sofas, a king size bed, a dinning room, etc. My place cleaned up well and looked like I suspect most typical 30 something American apartments look like. Then I came to Japan and it's been back to college like dorm living for the last 4 years. Sleeping on the floor, computer is on my coffee table and I kneel at it, my place is low on storage so there is stuff everywhere, etc.

Driving was of course fun. On the one hand I could feel myself getting fatter even as I tried not to eat too much since I was driving everywhere instead of walking. On the other hand it was really nice to be able to go shopping and throw my purchases in the trunk or backseat instead of having to carry them for the rest of the day. It was also nice to listen to music loud in the car, listen to NPR or KWCR, sing along, etc. Things I don't get to do here in Japan.

There was something about the style of American brands and stores that mostly turned me off. I'm not sure what it is. Lots of really gawdy packaging I guess. I don't get blackberry at all. Japan skipped that and went straight to e−mail on cell phones. According to my friend Evan, in America cell phones only have SMS which sucks compared to e−mail on your cell phone since SMS is not compatible with e−mail. It would suck ass to have to carry both a blackberry and a cell phone. You'd think the cell phone companies would have already added e−maill features just to try to take the market and money from the blackberry crowd. Still, the pre-paid phone I got had really crappy text input. What were they thinking?

I can't believe how cheap PCs are now. I got my grandmother a new PC for $199 from Fry's. I was one of those machines with Lindows or Linspire as it's now called. I had an unused license for XP Home so I immediately reformatted and installed that. It all seemed to work. My grandmother used to have 233mhz PC running Windows 95 with 32meg, broken CD drive. Now she has like a 1.5ghz Sempron with 128meg ram, 40gig HD, working CD drive. Hopefully it's working for her. I got her a router for the firewall features, upgraded to SP2 and locked her machine down so she's a limited user. She only uses e−mail so that should prevent her from becoming victim to viruses, spyware or adware. I might have left it with Linspire installed if she wasn't already used to Windows and Outlook Express. Plus, I just don't know Linux as well.

Best Buy was even selling a Compaq PC including Windows, a 15inch monitor and printer for $299! But it was actually $650 with like 5 rebates. To much of a pain.

Again I noticed how many fat people there are in America. It makes me embarrased to be American. I'm not just talking about a few pounds overweight, I'm talking pretty much every where you look there are some grossly obese people around. EVERYWHERE! Unfortunately I think Japan is more likely to get fat rather than America get thin. It's all about market competition I think. Brand A gives you 20% more food for the same price. Brand B increases their offering. Escalation leads to almost everyone eating more.

Otherwise, just before I went to Japan I saw the preview for War of the Worlds and so decide to read the book. I think my mom read it to me in 6th grade as I needed do a book report but I didn't remember any of it. My memories are only of the older movie.

I saw some documentary on it on A&E or Discovery a few years ago that claimed the old movie was fairly different from the book, specifically in that the movie kind of ends on a religious theme and the documentary claimed the book didn't have that theme at all. Well, the book was fairly different than the movie although the basic plot was the same.

Martains arrive, have superior tech and would have destroyed us but end up dying from infectious diseases

Some significant differences from the old movie though. The cyclinder that crashed to earth in the movie was maybe 3 meters across. In the book it's 30 meters!!! 100 feet! In the movie they have slow flying ships about 20-30 feet across. In the book they have multi-legged walkers 100 feet tall that can RUN, i.e., they go VERY FAST! They do have a flying machine in the book but the main character only hears of it, he never sees it. Also in the book they manage to kill one machine earily but the martians come up with countermeasures.

I was surprised how short the book is and how little actually happens. There is very little "action". The biggest parts of the story are going from town to town trying to get away. A scene where 6 million people are leaving london all at once and a scene where the main character is stuck in some rubble near the martians for 15 days are the biggest parts.

It will be interesting to see how they modernize the story in the new movie since at the time the book was written, wireless communication didn't seem to exist (the martians communcation by signals) and as well, you'd think any civilization that made it far enough to travel across space would have invented space suits to save them from infectious diseases. .

Also, on the way home I watched 4 movies on the plane. If you are flying to and from Asia take Singapore Airlines. They are consistantly rated #1. Even in coach they have private TVs for everyone and now they have movies on demand. Before when I flew a couple of years ago they had private TVs for everyone but the movies were just on rotation. This time they are both on rotation AND on demand. If you just cycle through the channels you get movies on rotation. If you go through the menus you get movies on demand including controls for fast forward, pause and rewind, etc.

There was some poor interface design though. They main menuing system used one set of keys but then getting into some other parts of the system the key system changed. Another was that when the crew makes an announcement they cut off your soundtrack. That's fine but it would be nice if they paused your movie. I guess it wouldn't have been a problem if I could have rewound a little but the button for rewind was broken off on my controller. 3 of 4 times the crew cut in on a critical piece of dialog. Murphy's Law I guess.

Anyway, I watched I-Robot which was better than I expected. The ending battle, 20−30 stories up was silly in that it was clearly designed for an action scene and had nothing to do with how a real system like that would be designed but other than that the basic story was pretty well done I thought.

The Bourne Supremacy was fun but forgetable. No major problems but also nothing really memorable either.

Elf, which by just the poster I thought looked really lame, was actually not bad. My nephew recommended it. It wasn't that great either though and the turning point for the dad was pretty unbelievable.

Finally I watched Anchorman. I probably only watched it because a few stores I went to in America were pushing the crap out of it making it look like it must be good. I'm sure in the right frame of mind it's funny as hell but with 8 hours already on the flight when I started I just wasn't getting into it.

"Nice" means Stupid