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Some things never change. I've been here for more than a week, and I'm settling into a routine now. To underscore the whole continuity thing, my host mother even went out and bought McDonald's food for the whole family earlier this evening.
Milestone: I have survived my first earthquake.
I was standing in my second-floor bedroom at around 9:00 PM local time on Saturday evening when the floor started to shake. I originally wrote it off as a side effect of the alcohol I had drank earlier that evening, or perhaps a passing truck. Still, a passing truck might make a wood-framed house like this shake for a fraction of a second; this shaking lasted several seconds. Nothing happened after that: no special report on the radio, no words of instruction from anyone in my family. It was only this morning when they confirmed that Saturday night's shaking was in fact a small earthquake.
Moral of the story: as long as I have enough alcohol, earthquakes are manageable.
Today, my plan was simple: get up, do a little cleaning, and get my homework done. All of that was going along smoothly until about 12:00 noon, when my parents here asked me to go with them to a local electronics and computer store to help them pick out a new digital camera and printer. After meticulously explaining the concepts of CCD resolution, optical zoom, and memory card technology in Japanese to my 60-year-old host father, we settled on an Olympus C2 Zoom camera. It should be a good, simple camera for taking snapshots on vacation. Then we decided to look for an inkjet printer.
Right now, if you were to buy an inkjet printer, the box would contain little more than the printer itself. Most printers include a small "starter" cartridge with half the ink of a normal cartridge, a CD with drivers, a manual, and a power cable. That's it. Two sheets of photo paper in the box could print maybe eight pictures, provided that the ink cartridges hold up. No USB cable is included, meaning that the company effectively assumes that you keep extra USB cables around. A "starter kit" for about $20 more contains some essentials, while a set of real ink cartridges will cost over $60. I told my host family to hold off on buying these accessories until after they've used the printer a little. They got a very good-quality photo printer that can print small shots on rolls of paper (sold separately), and which can print pictures straight from the memory card. That's good, because the software used to extract pictures from cameras is almost as bad as consumer-grade scanner software. Hopefully my host family will be able to use the memory card slot on the printer effectively; it looks simple enough. Considering how much all these new toys cost, I think my host father is eager to make it worth his investment.
Although the selection may be larger and the prices slightly more reasonable, the whole consumer electronics superstore idea carried over virtually unscathed from the U.S. to Japan. There are salespeople working on commission stationed everywhere, like the young woman who sold my family on the high-end printer. I peppered her with questions and made side comments to my parents about how printers have so many hidden costs; my parents not-so-tactfully relayed some of these comments directly to the saleswoman. Somehow, I don't think I made the best impression on her.
It's tough to get back on a college work schedule when I'm still effectively living at home; I have regular meal schedules rather than the 1:00 AM food runs that I usually do at college, for example. Talking with my host family and watching TV are two things that help me learn the language, but they cut into homework time. I also want to some more sightseeing, but that's yet another time killer. Finding the right balance will help me get more than 5-6 hours of sleep when I have homework to do.
Speaking of which, it's getting late now and I've got a train to catch in the morning. Good night.