In the States, we have pretty incredible Internet connectivity into our home.
Due to our close proximity to the Chicago El tracks, which serves as a convenient right-of-way for all sorts of fiber in the city, it was (relatively) inexpensive to pull eight pairs of fiber directly into our house. I only lit one of the eight pair and and ended up an OC3 (155mbit/sec) away from Chicago's largest private peering point. When we rented our place out, I turned the fiber down, but it still runs into our place, waiting for our eventual return.
Luckily, fiber to the home (FTTH) is commonplace here in Japan. For around $50/month, NTT will give you a dedicated fiber pair that runs from your home to their central office (CO). If you are willing to share your 100mbit/sec of bandwidth with someone, it's even cheaper.
NTT only provides you with transport to the CO, though. You need a separate contract with an Internet provider to actually make the line useful. NTT offers this service through OCN, their ISP subsidiary, but other firms offer better performance. RBB Today provide real-time, real-world performance reports on the various providers you can use.
The world is out to get me, though. We live in a compound, of sorts, made up of 13 centrally-managed condominium buildings. While a number of folks in our complex have fiber service, the management company stopped allowing new installs so they could step in and muddy the waters. This debate has been ongoing since before our arrival in November 2003. Meanwhile I am "stuck" with 45mbit/sec DSL from Yahoo! (real world performance, about 5-6 mbit/sec down, 1mbit/sec up) and a slow-as-molasses cable modem that I use as a backup connection, in case the DSL goes down.
But, thanks to Yukari's telecom connections, I got an update last week. Our benevolent condo managers are supposedly going to select a fiber vendor by the end of August, which means I could be at 100mbit/sec by the end of the year.
I sure hope so, because the most galling thing about being fiberless in Tokyo is that my father-in-law, who lives in Osaka, had fiber turned up in his apartment before he even moved in. And he doesn't even appreciate his annoyingly good luck. I've threatened to move in with him until my fiber gets turned up here, but I'm afraid I'd come back and Yukari will have turned my home office into a TV room or something.
Spotted the ad below (tagline: Suica Diet!) on my way to Osaka on Friday. It displays a sense of humor/irony that is remarkably absent in most Japanese advertising. Most ads here fall into one of two categories: incredibly serious/techy (any Panasonic ad) or incredibly cutesy (almost any other ad).
The ad is for JR's Suica card. You load the card up with Yen and then wave your wallet at the turnstile and JR automatically deducts the correct fare. By carrying around this contactless IC card, instead of coins and cash, you can instantly lose a few hundred grams!
You can also do shopping with Suica now in some stores. On a lark, I tried to use my Suica card at a grocery store, but was rudely rejected. Yukari's card worked, so my card must have discovered that I am a foreign barbarian and implicitly untrustworthy.
As an aside, JR implemented an identical system in Osaka, called Icoca (mascot: a platypus). Of course, it's incompatible with Suica, at least until August, when they are supposed to link the two systems together.
Hello Kitty, Sanrio's flagship charcater, turns 30 this year. In celebration, Sanrio has organized Kitty Ex., the definitive (?) Hello Kitty art exposition. It opens at the Mori Museum in Roppongi Hills on the 31st of July. I'd direct link to some of the more amazing bits of "art" that will be featured, include a self-portrait of Lisa Marie Presley with little Kittys hanging off her breasts, but the site is chock full of annoying flash. Sorry.
If you want to help advertise the upcoming Expo, there is a self-inking stamp at the Roppongi Hills exit of Roppongi Station. Stamp body parts, pets, or other passengers! Sample below -- it sure was hard to get Yukari to stand still while I scanned her forehead, so I hope you appreciate it!
OK, vast audience, I've been bad at updating lately. But in the spirit of renewed blogging enthusiasm, I toss you an excerpt from an incredibly funny letter, supposedly from the Smithsonian to one Dr. Herman Smith:
3. The dentition pattern evident on the skull is more consistent with the common domesticated dog than it is with the ravenous man-eating Pliocene clams you speculate roamed the wetlands during that time.
(Followup: Dr. Herman Smith appears to have been a real archaeologist who worked in Belize until he passed away in 2000. But google gives a big goose egg for the cleverly named "Otis T. Thudpucker". The letter was written for a column that Dr. Smith did for the local English-language newspaper in San Pedro, Belize.)
Most of the trains on the JR Yamanote line have been equipped with LCD screens that, when they aren't displaying an endless stream of bizarre commercials and notifications of which lines aren't running due to suicides, provide useful information like weather forecasts.
While we were coming back from Ikebukuro last night, Yukari noticed that one of the screens included a beer forecast -- a helpful page showing how good beer will taste in various cities in Japan today and tomorrow.
I really think the US morning news shows could capitalize on this. Who wouldn't tune in to hear Matt Lauer and Al Roker riff on the upcoming beer forecast?
"Well, Al, how's the beercast looking for today and tomorrow?"
"Thanks Matt! In NYC today, that cold Budweiser is going to be tasty, but tomorrow it will be downright delicious!"
When I was in Germany a few weeks ago, I heard about 20 seconds of the most incredible cover of ABBA's "Super Trouper" in my hotel's lobby. The sound was low and tinny, but I could have sworn that it was a full-on lounge version of the song. I kept meaning to ask what CD was playing before I left, but somehow forgot and ended up back in Tokyo still wondering what I had heard.
After a few weeks of poking around through the huge numbers of ABBA covers on amazon.de, I finally turned up the track. Turns out, it's not lounge at all, but cabaret by Max Raabe & Palast Orchester. The song totally works as a cabaret number, I think.
A (fair-use-sized) clip is available here.