Japan

How I use the iPad

People still ask me ‘Do you actually use that thing for anything??’. I use it all the time.  I use it so much I don’t even think about it anymore. It’s like a wrist watch, only more useful and non-chafing.

Morning

I rolled over in my futon and checked email, then read for a bit using Kindle and Instapaper.  While eating breakfast I checked RSS feeds using Reeder, made a few moves in a relay game of Scrabble with a friend, checked my work email, and scanned Twitter.  I then wiped away the stray bits of food that found their way onto the screen and headed to work. On the train I watched queued TED videos and read a few more articles in Instapaper.  

Midday

Sporadic use at work. Taking notes, tracking tasks with OmniFocus, and playing scrabble with my friend.  

Evening.

After work I headed to my weekly gaming session in Kanda. On the train I read a PDF magazine via GoodReader.  While gaming, Numbers and GoodReader displayed my character sheet and let me browse PDF rulebooks. The train ride home was spent watching more TED videos, and the walk from the station listing to music via the iPod app. Before falling asleep, I turned the brightness down all the way and read for a while.  

I use it all the time, but the iPad has at least one major flaw: text input. The lack of a Dvorak software keyboard is frustrating, but I understand why it isn’t there. Even if Apple were to implement it, typing would still suck. Pairing the iPad with a bluetooth keyboard seems like a solution on the surface, but in practice it isn’t.

Setting up the iPad with the keyboard in the first place together feels vaguely wrong. Placing the iPad and the keyboard so that you can operate the ipad but still type comfortably is surprisingly awkward. Once I get all this set up I can type comfortably, but feel rather ridiculous. Switching between tapping on the screen and pounding the keyboard feels halting and strange, and the two devices take up more surface area than a comparable laptop. I start to feel like I should stop being stubborn about it and use a laptop instead.

Even with the input problems, I still use the iPad every day, all day long. It will be exciting to see how the platform evolves in the years to come.

Japan

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6 Points on a Japanese License

I’ve been caught for speeding since upgrading to a larger motorcycle. My old 250 could exceed the speed limit, but it had to fight for it. My current bike though has a hard time not exceeding it.

Each time I was awarded points. I never really kept track of these though, and only had a vague notion of how many points i’d accrued, or even how many were needed before bad things started to happen. Thankfully, the Tokyo Drivers Licensing Office cleared both of these points up for me in the form of the mailer on the left.



I had accumulated 6 points, but because each incident was regarded as a ‘light infraction’ (3 points or less) I was selected to attend a daylong safety course. This sounds like a drag but attending the course removes every point from your license, giving you a blank slate. The alternative to the course is having your license suspended for 30 days, and keep the points.

So this morning I headed not to work, but to the Fuchu Licensing Center in Western Tokyo.

Entering the lobby on the first floor, I had no idea where to go. Waving the mailer they sent me resulted in a guy laughing and then telling me to go to the fifth floor, where a bunch of other violators were waiting for the events to begin. It was an odd crowd but the guy poorly bleached hair visibly, and constantly, scratching his crotch made everyone else seem pretty normal and down to earth.



Eventually an energetic Japanese man in a suit and a yellow sash gathered us and started to explain our options for the day: Course A or Course B. Each course would have three hours of lectures in the morning. In the afternoon, those who chose Course A would drive around town with a Safety expert, receiving pointers. People in Course B would don a bright yellow Transportation Safety sash, ride a micro bus to a crosswalk somewhere, and then hold up a flag whenever people crossed. In the rain.

Surprisingly, most about 2/3rds of the people assembled chose course B. It was 4000 yen cheaper, but sounded remarkably frustrating and useless. I went with Course A.

The morning sessions were pretty tame. I was expecting gruesome videos of accidents, followed by safety statistics, and a refresher on various traffic laws. Instead, they ran us through a ‘driver personality test’ consisting of a bunch of rapid fire yes/no questions. I was classified as type A personality, meaning i like to show off and impress people by driving aggressive. Which is rather silly, I drive a little crazy because it’s fun and I’m sure people are more annoyed with me than impressed.

It was still an interesting little exercise though. Most people answered ‘correctly’, and their questionares back with a ‘You have no personality issues’ result. There were a few outliers though. One older guy answered so honestly he was classed as B, C, D, and E. Personality Issue Class E sounded a little harsh, summarized as ‘It seems that you do not care at all about driving safely.’

There were some statistics, which actually turned out to be pretty interesting. He was understandably happy, and proud, that the numbers continue to decline.

The afternoon found me in a car with the instructor and 2 other minor criminals. The instructor drove us around a little bit, covering a few basic safety tips and stressing that we should always come to a full stop before the white line and be careful of cyclists. Which is good advice, the roads are nowhere near as crazy as china but are a lot of cyclists, scooters, and motorcycles, all of which tend to lurk in your blind spot. We each took a turn driving around town and then the instructor pulled us to the side of the road and told us what we were doing wrong.

My big problem was holding the steering wheel wrong. I have a bad habit of driving with only one hand on the wheel. I actually felt pretty good about that. If his main concern was the way I was holding the steering wheel, then I guess my driving is not too horrifying.

In addition to the real car, they also had us run through a simulator. There were only 4 women in the class, but every one of them complained that the simulator made them motion sickness. I wasn’t sure if it was a plot, an odd coincidence, or if japanese women just tend to get motion sickness from video games easily. They ended up sitting the simulator out, but the rest of us went through what felt like a poor man’s Gran Turismo. It had a force feedback steering wheel and a bucket seat, but only 4 available cars and very short courses. I saw the guy to my right kill a little boy, cream a cyclist, and crash into another car, which was pretty funny. I was able to leverage the massive amount of time I’ve wasted playing video games and completed each simulation unscathed, receiving the coveted rank of ‘A’.

After all this were two more lectures. First they explained the point system in detail, though I still find it confusing. During the second, we actually answered essay questions. It felt a bit like celebrity Jeopardy. The instructor stressed multiple times that this is not a test, and there are no wrong answers. Whatever you write, is correct. You have to write two lines. But if that’s difficult, just write bigger. Seriously.

It was an enjoyable day because of the novelty of it, but I didn’t really gain any insights, and don’t fell that I’m a safer driver. I will still speed where I feel it’s safe, and illegally park my bike if I think I can get away with it.

Having those 6 points removed and avoiding a 30 day suspension sure is great though.

Japan

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Confirmation Bias

Yesterday boingboing posted that a sizable percentage of American teens did not know who Osama Bin Laden is (or more accurately, was). I just glanced at the page and said ‘yup, makes sense’, because I tend to be overly skeptical of US education in general.

My friend Will on the other hand, actually thought about it and saw that the post was meaningless:

Correct reaction: According to a blog post (which is questionably-written enough to repeatedly use the figure “100,00%”), among people who use Yahoo search, who searched for something about Osama bin Laden on May 1st 2011, who phrased their search in the form of a question, the sixth most common question they searched for was “who is osama bin laden”, which amounts to an unknown number of searches, and which is unrelated to whether they have any idea who Osama bin Laden is; and two-thirds of people who searched for that question, who searched while logged in to Yahoo, who might be in the USA or maybe anywhere else in the world, are supposedly teenagers, according to their Yahoo demographic data, which may or may not be correct.

Something like this is easy to believe and lament over without really thinking about it, particularly if you don’t question the beliefs you already hold. In this case though, closer inspection shows that the numbers don’t mean much.

Google Trends gives a slightly better idea of how meaningless this really is. Although you cannot see hard numbers, you can compare trends to get an idea of how many times something was searched for.

If you limit results to the last 30 days the query ‘who is osama bin laden’ shows an increase of 30x. But this is compared to how many times people normally search for osama bin laden.

If you compare the same osama search to a more common search like ‘iPad’, the Osama search falls off the graph.

Comparing the Osama search to something with less international appeal such as ‘Maine’, you get a graph showing that the ‘Who is Osama Bin Laden’ search is comparatively tiny.

That said, there is still much to be sad about:

Japan

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