Snow in Tokyo. We didn't get any at all last year. The year before, we got some heavy stuff, though I wasn't around to see it.
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Today's my birthday.
My girlfriend called at 6:15 this morning from Bolivia, I was still happy to hear her.
Yesterday my girlfriend came by, though she barely had two hours to spend. And one thing she needed to do was go to the local internet cafe to print out a report that was due the next day.
She's been living in a dormitory for two months now, training for her overseas volunteer service, and she's incredibly busy with classes in Spanish, health, and economic development, which was the subject of her report.
The first time she asked about printing out a report, she asked if I had "Japanese fonts" on my computer. So I corrected her, saying she probably wanted to know if I have Microsoft Word, and the answer was no. The only Windows I have is English-language 98SE, and I don't have any Microsoft Word. Yeah, I've got Linux with KDE and OpenOffice and some other MSOffice-compatible office suite, but I didn't have high hopes that they'd handle Japanese Microsoft Word files, especially printing. I do have a Japanese printer, an ALPS MD-2010J.
So I suggested she just bring her computer over. I've got Windows drivers for the printer, I'd install them on her machine, which has Japanese Windows 98 and Japanese Microsoft Word. And it won't cost a thing. But no! I don't want to bring the computer over. It's too heavy.
So twice so far she ended up spending Y600 at the internet cafe, and I had to kill half an hour at the local konbini waiting.
We were walking home yesterday, and she told me, "They charge Y50 per sheet to print! Isn't that expensive?"
I asked her how the other people in the dorm print their documents. "Oh, they use the printer there."
"The printer in the dorm."
You mean there's a printer in the dorm? Why aren't you using it?"
"Oh, I've never tried it before, and other people are always using it, so I wanted to be sure I'd have this report printed out on time. And I like that net café, anyway."
The funny thing is, I think the net café is smelly and full of creeps who are just killing the midnight hours reading manga, checking net auctions, and smoking.
It's a five minute walk from her dorm to the subway station, and five from my station to my place. If she can't even lug a laptop computer for fifteen minutes, how's she going to survive in Bolivia??
Saturday evening, on the way home from the swimming pool, I stopped at the local temple, Meguro Fudo, as they were having their monthly festival. It's the time of year in Japan when the plum and peach trees are in bloom, so the local residents were out selling flowers and bonsai trees.
The temple building itself was also open, though when I arrived around 8p.m. they were closing up. There's a big incense burner out in front, with several bundles of lit incense. Three or four people were gathered around, gently scooping up the smoke and spreading it around their bodies. It's believed that the smoke brings good luck, if not good health. It certainly didn't do me any good when I visited on a chilly New Year's morning last year, and the smoke merely aggravated my asthma. Well, Catholics have their holy water, and Buddhists have their holy smoke.
I wandered through the various food stalls, and got myself a serving of takoyaki - chunks of octopus in balls of griddle-fried batter, smothered with sauce and sprinkled with seaweed flakes. I also bought a bag of sembei (rice crackers), and as I was about to leave, I found a stall selling traditional condiments like pickled vegetables and dried fish. They had my favorite, inago no tsukudani. Locusts cooked in a soy and sugar sauce. Crunchy, full of protein, and delicious on a steaming bowl of rice.
Anyone want a bite?
A few weeks ago I was walking home from the train station around 9pm, and a block from my apartment, I noticed a PC on the sidewalk. It wasn't exactly on the sidewalk, it was sitting on the driveway of a house, but close enough to be indistinguishable from garbage. Just so there was no doubt, though, it had an Oversize Garbage sticker on it. In Tokyo, regular garbage must be sorted into burnable, non-burnable, and recyclable, with different collection days for each. Other items such as domestic appliances are classified as oversize garbage, and require an additional fee to be collected, and the sticker indicates that the fee's been paid.
As it was rather dark, I had to take a closer look to see that it wasn't just an empty case, and sure enough it had at the very least an ATX motherboard. Then I noticed that sitting next to it was an LCD monitor. And a small wooden shelf.
I got home, and on the phone with my girlfriend, I mentioned the stuff and asked her what she thought. Should I take it? After all, it was clearly garbage. But it was a PC!
She thought it was probably OK.
About half an hour later, I stepped out, walked down the block, and stealthily grabbed the monitor and brought it back to my room. It had a VGA cable connected, but it needed an AC adapter, so I couldn't try it out. So I put it aside, and went back to get the PC.
The case was a tacky, cheap-looking affair with faux-iMac trim around the front. I immediately opened it up and removed a network card, SCSI card, and 1394 card, all pretty old, from the PCI slots. There was no hard disk, no floppy, but a 32x CD-RW was still attached. I grabbed a power cable, plugged it in, and tried turning it on. Nothing. OK, so it was probably a dud. It was garbage, after all. So I swapped it with the power supply from my other dead PC. It came alive. It tried the original power supply again, and this time it worked as well.
I hooked up my monitor and booted it up again. 1GHz Athlon, 512MB RAM, nVidia GeForce. Runs fine. I've been using it for several weeks now, with no problem. I've kept the Oversize Garbage payment stickers on the case, though. Just in case anyone asks.
What am I doing here?
I just found out the
This will go down on your permanent record