Saturday, February 22, 2014

New Stuff

I bought a new electric kettle. The accompanying instruction booklet is longer than the one that came with my new iPad Air. The kettle instructions are simple: plug it in, switch it on and in a couple of minutes the water boils. With the iPad, same thing - except all you do is turn it on and after a minute or so it comes to life and tells you what to do. Nothing boils.

The box for the iPad is about the same size as one which would hold a 1/2 ream of paper. Not so long ago, I can remember that a large vehicle was required to get a computer home. Once you muscled it into your house, you'd spend a day getting set up and loading on all the software. There were several instruction books - one for each piece of software. I purchased my first computer from Montgomery Ward in Oxnard. That's how old I am. 

Look at this user guide!  These are the instructions for my tiny belt-clip pedometer which I still can't get set correctly after studying the guide several times.  All I want to know is how far I've walked!!! It's impossible to get a single function. This thing attempts to tell me the number of steps I've taken, the distance traveled, the current time, the number of calories I've burned plus it incorporates a stop watch. It's unnecessarily complicated! Because they've put 5 buttons on the tiny case, you can't touch it anywhere without accidentally erasing or re-setting something. The data of the function you are operating is impossible to read - stuck in the corner, in print finer than motes and abbreviated in a strange way.

These things are entombed in plastic at purchase so you have no idea of how poorly they function until they're disinterred. I'd take it back to Sports Chalet, but the packaging is long gone. 

My sister had a friend with a ski repair shop. When he was interviewing a prospective employee, he'd hand him or her an electronic watch with instructions -  the kind you unfold like a piece of origami, printed on tissue thin paper with a #2 size italic font, poorly translated from the original Japanese/Chinese/Korean.  He'd ask them to set the date and time. If they could manage to accomplish the task, they'd get a job. I seriously wonder if you asked anyone today under twenty to do this if they could - just because of their short, short attention spans. 

It must seem like I've been shopping up a storm. Here's another purchase of note -  my new wallet. I bought it because it's just cannot jam too much stuff in it. My current wallet is always crammed with receipts and it has a change purse which makes it bulky and hard to handle. The new one holds only a few credit cards and a few bills. Originally $12.99 it was marked down three times to $3.88, less than I pay for a drink at Starbucks. An incurable bargain hunter, I can't pass up a deal like this one, even though the design is strange. It required no instruction booklet. 

Thursday, February 06, 2014

Japanese Love Hotels

Getting hotel rooms booked for Kyoto has been little frustrating. The city is packed in April because of the damn cherry blossoms; it'll be beautiful, but crowded. After much hunting through on-line reservation sites, I finally got three rooms (there are six of us traveling together) for our dates and pressed the "reserve" button. That's when I noticed to my dismay, in brackets after the hotel name, the words "love hotel". Thanks to my recent Japanese research I know what that means! Ugh. It's a "hot sheets" hotel. I've kept the reservation as a fall-back, but I hope we don't have to resort to it. 

I wonder what the hotel people will make of us: a senior couple, a same sex couple and two aging sisters? They'll know immediately we couldn't book elsewhere. No doubt, they won't be surprised as I'm sure they've hosted some extraordinary combinations and entertained scandalous requests. 

Rooms, they say are rented by the hour with an economy all-night rate applying after 10:00 pm. 

Here's the Wikipedia explanation of these hotels. 


The history of love hotels (ラブホテル rabu hoteru?) can be traced back to the early Edo Period, when establishments appearing to be inns or teahouses with particular procedures for a discreet entry or even with secret tunnels for a discreet exit were built in Edo and in Kyoto.[6] Modern love hotels developed from tea rooms (chaya (茶屋?)) used mostly by prostitutes and their clients but also by lovers. After World War II, the term tsurekomi yado (連れ込み宿 lit. "bring-along inn"?) was adopted, originally for simple lodgings run by families with a few rooms to spare. These establishments appeared first around UenoTokyo in part due to demand from Occupation forces, and boomed after 1958 when legal prostitution was abolished and the trade moved underground. The introduction of the automobile in the 1960s brought with it the "motel" and further spread the concept.
The original term has since fallen into disuse within the industry itself thanks to the euphemism treadmill, and an ever-changing palette of terms is used by hotel operators keen on representing themselves as more fashionable than the competition. Alternative names include "romance hotel", "fashion hotel", "leisure hotel", "amusement hotel", "couples hotel", and "boutique hotel".[5]

I've read that some of these places collect your payment via pneumatic tube. At others, you never register at a desk, but rather select a room from an availability chart, insert your credit card and a key drops out of a dispenser. You have to admire the systems in place to protect your anonymity. The Japanese are very careful about respecting each other's privacy. 

After fretting over these rooms for a while, I began to wonder really what's so terribly wrong with a "love hotel"? Wherever you reserve a room, you never know the history of that particular space. There could have been wonderful things taking place in a room: a honeymoon night, celebrations of various kinds, parties, reunions. Or turning to the dark side there may have been a murder, rape, robbery, suicide. No disclosure is necessary for hotels. At least with this place it's unlikely there's been the really bad things happening. Would you check into a "love hotel" to commit a murder? 

Looking at some of these places on-line, they appear gaudy and almost circus-like. In Tokyo, there's one shaped like a UFO, another with a statue of liberty on top of it. The rooms are fantastically decorated with such items as carousel horses, Japanese bridges and the usual mirrored ceilings. 

If you hear of any available rooms in Kyoto, April 10 - 13th, let me know. PLEASE.