New Camera!

Author: mirai  //  Category: All Posts, Rants and Raves, Techie Stuff

After nearly two weeks without a camera, the new camera finally arrived.  I was a picky this time, because I am not exaggerating when I say how much I loved my old Canon Ixy 1000.  I didn’t want to replace with just anything, not even another newer Ixy.  The newer models oddly enough have LESS functions than the older ones.  I guess the whole idea is to sell less complicated cameras,so  that the majority of the public can use them easily.  Unfortunately, something that is just point and shoot is not enough for me.  I like some degree of manual control so that I can manipulate the photograph. But nowadays, most of the cameras being sold are pretty dumbed down so anyone can use them.

The Ixy 1000 that we’d been using for the last 3 and half years was nice in that it had fully automatic point and shoot mode, and a manual mode where I can control lighting through ISO settings, etc so that I could take pictures without using the flash (even dark areas).  The newer cameras always try to select the right settings for you automatically  so that you get a good picture, but often times turn out to look like an amateur took the picture.

Through my research, I found that Canon’s Ixy 3000IS is the last model that Canon made that featured a fully manual mode.  Nowadays, if you need a camera where you want to be able to control light settings, you would have to buy a DSLR camera.  I don’t mind DSLR’s but they are a bit big and cumbersome to carry for little trips here and there.  Also, it takes too much care, as you have to disassemble lens and and body, clean them, and store them separately so that they don’t collect dust and scratches, or even break.

I looked all over for the Ixy 3000IS, but they were last sold in 2008, and have somewhat become a rare and premium item in Japan.  Even the used ones are being sold over retail price.  And of course, the electronics shops only carry the latest cameras, so it’s impossible to find the 2 year old model in brand new condition.

My only options at this point were to either settle with what is available on the market today, or scour the world wide web for an Ixy 3000IS in brand new condition.  I chose the latter.  In the UK, the 3000IS goes by Ixus SD990IS and in the US, it goes by PowerShot SD990IS; I guess western countries don’t like the name Ixy…I wonder why.

I noticed that both the US and UK also carry high premiums due to the rarity of this camera. In the States, I have seen them go for as high as $1000.  The retail price is only $399.  In the UK, the price is a bit more reasonable -about 320BP.  I lucked out and found one I the States in brand new condition for $290 (over $100 off the retail price), so I ordered it right away.

So far, I have had for less than a week and its quite nice.  It’s a bit more complicated than the Ixy 1000, but its a lot more reactive and faster.  The below photos were taken with my iphone, not the Canon.


Author: mirai  //  Category: All Posts, Comic relief, Life in general, Rants and Raves

A brief caveat on myself and on the contents of this post before you read:

I am NOT a people hater, but I do hate it people do things that make absolutely no sense at all.  So if you agree with me so far, keep reading and see if you are still with me at the end of my rant.

In Japan almost everyone and their mothers have lunch between the hours of 11AM and 1PM, so almost every restaurant you go to during these 2 hours  are jammed packed full of people.  Often times, you are told that there will be a wait to get a seat. The wait can be anywhere between 15 to 45 minutes just to be seated.  This doesn’t even take in account for the time it takes to get the attention of  a waiter or waitress to take your order…or the time it takes for your order to be prepared and delivered…or the time it takes for you to eat your food.  And then, you have to wait to pay for your food, because in most cases you cannot pay through your waiter or waitress, and you have to stand in line  with people who like to squabble over who should pay the bill at the cash register.   Not fun, especially when you usually only have an hour to spend for lunch.  So logically, the best thing to do is avoid going to any restaurant during these hours, which I normally do.

McDonald’s does a very peculiar thing these days.   By the way, I would not recommend going to any McDonald’s in Japan during the hours of 11AM to 2PM if you are even slightly in a bad mood, or it’ll only serve to make your mood even worse!  Having said this, in my own defense I was not in a really bad mood today, and I did go after 2Pm, but they still  managed to annoy me none the less.

You see,  in Japan, McDonald’s has this “brilliant” idea of making almost everything on their menus cheaper during peak lunch hours  (between 11AM to 2PM), which has got to be absolutely THE single worst idea in the history of fast food restaurant management because it only pours fuel on the overcrowding situation.

Before I go on, I must correct myself to avoid any misunderstandings.  McDonald’s didn’t make their menus cheaper during peak hours, but rather they made their menu’s more expensive during non-peak hours.  For example, once upon a time, not too long ago,  a Filet-O-Fish Set (Filet-O-Fish w/ medium fries and a medium-sized soft drink) was 490 yen (about $5.60USD) no matter what time of the day you went.  Now, you can get a Filet-O-Fish Set for that price only during peak hours.  If you’re even 1 nano second late, then you pay the “normal” price of 590 yen ($6.70)… except that 590yen is their new inflated price.

So, what’s the result of McDonald’s fabulous idea of lowering normalizing the prices of their menus during peak hours?  Well for starters, you get an overcrowded restaurant where you absolutely cannot…I repeat CANNOT get a table in some areas.  Since there are no real loitering laws (or at least none being actively enforced) you get people who buy one small cup of coffee and stay in the restaurant for fricken’ hours -sometimes taking up two tables (one for themselves and the other for their bags, briefcase, laptop bag, or whatever.  Today I saw just that – a man with an empty Styrofoam McDonald’s coffee cup in front of him, completely fast asleep while people carrying trays of food aimlessly look for a place to sit and eat their lunch.

Secondly, you get a lopsided business model.  Ideally, you would want a steady stream of customers all day long, and not just a peak/dead situation which I normally see at these restaurants.  Except, McDonald’s seems to encourage this which makes no sense!  If you know that the majority of your customers consistently come to your restaurant between certain hours of the day because of the robotic way everyone was programmed to do things at the same time everyday when they where children, wouldn’t it be smarter to raise prices (if you’re going to raise prices at all) during those hours?  Wouldn’t it also make sense to encourage people to come during  hours, which are normally are dead by lowering the menu prices during those times?  Am I missing something?  Do I not make sense?

One other annoyance that I’ve had is with the smoking policies that some of these restaurants have.  Most American-based companies such as McDonald’s, Denny’s, or Starbucks (although Starbucks isn’t really a restaurant) are pretty good about segregating their smoking and non-smoking areas.  One exception is Subway.  They are HORRIBLE at  with separating smokers from non-smokers.  A non-smoking table can literally be right next to a smoking table.  Apparently, the Subway restaurant managers are unaware that smoke can travel through the air and annoy a non-smoker sitting at a table 2 feet away.

Hey, I get that most of the Subways are really just big sandwich “stands”, and aren’t really restaurant per se, but if I were a manager of small sandwich shop with limited seating, and I had any business sense, or common sense which these managers seem to greatly lack,  I would realize that the last thing I would want is someone sitting in my restaurant sitting there for 2 hours smoking a cigarette and taking up valuable space.  I would want people to sit down, eat their sandwich as fast as humanly possible and get the hell out, so that my next customer can sit down, eat their sandwich as fast as humanly possible, and get the hell out.

What Japanese restaurant managers need to realize is that  restaurants are there for consuming food and drinks, not taking an afternoon snooze, …or having a long cigarette drag,… or making it into your own private office, …or having a geeky little game fests with your geeky little gamer friends.  It’s annoying!!!  Stop encouraging it with your business models that MAKE NO SENSE!!  And for the people who like to loiter, have some decency and respect for other people who have to share that space by not annoying them!

3D Television -do we really need it?

Author: mirai  //  Category: Life in general, Rants and Raves, Techie Stuff

The other day, I visited my local electronics store to buy a new hard disk to replace the broken one in my blog server. Yes, that’s the third hard disk this year, but that’s another rant.  In the process, I got a first had look at the new 3D LCD television sets. In Japan, there has been an enormous amount of hype amongst the media on how wonderful these things are, and how it is the next generation in the home theater experience. Well, here’s my take on it:

First, let me make a comment on 3D “technology” in general.  Not to sound like an old man who’s letting the progress of time leave him behind, but in general I think that this whole 3D thing -whether it’d be movies, television, or artwork, is a bunch of hooey (to put it politely).  I remember back in the days when I was a kid, a local TV station in my hometown in the states would periodically broadcast movies in 3D.  You would have to manipulate the color settings on your TV set and buy these really dumb looking cardboard 3D glasses with red and blue lenses (like that one guy in Biff Tanner’s gang use to to wear in the movie Back to the Future) from the local convenience store for like $2.50.  It never worked too well, and I never got it to work well enough to get the 3D effect.   I mean, what are we? back in the fifties again? Why now? Why again with this 3D movie craze?  Don’t get me wrong;  I’ve watched Captain EO and Honey I Shank the Kids at Disneyland, and it’s all fun and well, but I also think that 3D has it’s place, and a correct way of using it.  The living room is definitely not the place, and it has been way overused in movies today,in my opinion.

3D has become the new CGI (computer generated imagery).  With the exception of some good movies like Terminator 2, which has a pretty good plot, I personally think that all CGI really is, is big band aid for a poorly written script.  And 3D is pretty much the same.  The movie, Avatar is a good case in point. Although it received pretty good ratings and pulled in a lot of money at the box office, if you take away the 3D  and all of CGI special effects, what you have is a really stupid movie with a very cliche plot.  It just goes to show that if you pour hundred of millions of dollars into eye popping special effects, then you can create an instant  box office sensation out of a very mediocre story line.  Here is where I think 3D effects would work well: any Star Trek movie.  The Star Trek franchise has always coupled award winning special effects with a good engaging story line, and I would definitely go to see a Star Trek movie in 3D.

Going back to the original topic that I hopelessly strayed off of, I see 3D televisions as just another gimmicky gadget that no one really should want or need.  While I was in the electronics store, I put on the funky Bret “the Hitman” Hart look-alike glasses (or maybe they look more like the glasses that the aliens from the 1983 television show “V” were wearing) …anyways I put them on and watched a soccer match in 3D. I was hardly impressed.  Instead of seeing eye-popping effects and objects that seemingly leap out of the screen at me, it was more like looking into an aquarium with little people in shorts running around back and forth. Hardly impressive.  Afterward, I felt a bit light headed; it was sort of the same feeling I get trying to look at the 3D image hidden in a stereogram.

So my general impression is that I don’t think its worth shelling out the extra cash for just the new 3D technology in these TV’s.  I wouldn’t mind too much if they became standard equipment on all TVs in the future as long as I can turn the 3D off when I didn’t need it, but there is no way I would want to pay extra for it.  It’s just not worth looking like a retro 80’s reptile alien, or an old washed up professional wrestler just to get the awkward fish tank effect. I could definitely live without it.  And yeah,I get it… I am sure that if I watched the right movie with the proper effects, the experience would be tons better, but I still ain’t buyin’ it!