Sunday, December 30, 2001

It`s the third day if my stay in Japan. I arrived in Japan off of one of the best flight I have ever taken. With seats that fold into beds, Delta business class is the only way to go.

Right now it`s about 6:30 in the morning and I can`t sleep any more. Luckily, I`m staying at a really great hotel just outside of Tokyo in Koiwa. Though it is a traditional Japanese hotel, it has a brand new computer with an internet connection in the lobby. The Ryokan Fuji is a family owned Japanese Inn with traditional tatame mat floors, and nice warm futons. Breakfast here is pretty cheap and they serve it in your room on lacquered trays with all the green tea you can drink. This place is run by a mother-son team who seem very eager to please and the service has been excellent so far yet the rate has been cheaper than an American hotel.

Yesterday we went all over Tokyo. First we met up with Clark`s former host brother and went to the convention center at Tokyo Big Sight. I was under the impression that we would be entering a large book fair type setting, but instead we were herded into a field where we waited with thousands of other young people to be allowed into the convention building. I have never seen such huge crowds in my life; inside the convention center there were literally acres and acres of people looking at comic books. My estimate would place a 100,000 plus people milling around the center. I am terrible with huge crowds, but this was something I had never seen before. I was sucked into currents of people and alternatively pushed and crushed as I tried to follow my friends from one room to another. It felt like the air was being sucked out of my lungs by thousands of Comiket goers. Out of the all of the convention goers, saw only two other non-Japanese people besides Clark and myself. It was very odd to have so many people looking at us and saying "Ah! Gaijin!" After walking into a giant room filled with naughty doujinshi (fan written comics) I was ready to go. The crowds on the streets of Akihabara were a relief compared to over-stuffed convention center.

posted by Alison 12/30/2001 04:57:00 PM : (0) comments : splink

Thursday, December 27, 2001

It's been almost two weeks since I last posted, but after spending two weeks in AI research hell I decided that it would be best if I stayed away from computers for a little bit. It's strange to be back in your hometown after a long absence. It seems that all of the little local farms have been dissolved by suburban tract housing. There are a few left alive and kicking, but I think this area has been officially turned from the fringes of suburbia into full-blown suburbia.

That aside, I've had a great holiday with my family. Sadly, tomorrow it will be ending when I get on a plane that will take me to Japan. I'll be spending a few days in Tokyo before moving in with Keiko and Sado Takahashi, my host family. They seem like nice folks so far, but I wonder how much they will put up with my technology obsession. My host dad is in his sixties and my host mom is a few years younger, but this is exactly the type of host family I wanted. Neither speaks English, but I've been told that they'll teach me how to cook the old fashioned way. A few friends have told me that going to Japan is like traveling back to the 1950's only with cool cell phones. To me this means that there might me a hot meal waiting for me when I get home everyday. That is something that I haven't had since I lived with my parents and even that didn't happen very often.

This means that posting will be a bit sparse until my semester starts. Hopefully by then I'll have some great photographs.

posted by Alison 12/27/2001 09:42:00 PM : (0) comments : splink

Friday, December 14, 2001

My AI project is nearing completion. We've been running experiments for days and tweaking the code after each one hoping that we'll be able to get something significant. Tomorrow we'll start analyzing data, but after spending all of my waking hours in the lab spending a few sleeping ones in there, too doesn't sound too bad.

posted by Alison 12/14/2001 11:38:00 AM : (0) comments : splink

Thursday, December 06, 2001

Hooray! A new Mersenne prime has been discovered and it's the largest one yet. The new number, expressed as 213,466,917-1, contains 4,053,946 digits and would take the best part of three weeks to write out longhand. Sweet!

posted by Alison 12/06/2001 10:15:00 PM : (0) comments : splink

Wednesday, December 05, 2001

Yesterday I hoofed it 3.2 miles all the way up to the Japanese and back to pick up my visa. It only took 24 hours to process and they didn't even charge me for it. My study abroad program had sent me a stack of forms and confirmation letters. They swore the paper work would take a month to process and cost me about $30 (3700 yen). Furthermore they gave me a form that would need my parent's signatures and an official notarization. Unfortunately, my parents were four states away in Georgia and I didn't think I had the time to get their signatures. However, when I shoved my stack of letters and forms across the visa office counter, only two pieces of paper were plucked out and the rest was shoved back. It makes me glad that I hadn't gone through the trouble to get that one form notarized. Yay for speedy Japanese visa service! Plus there was a big TV showing satellite TV from Japan, although much to my disappointment it wasn't showing any of those crazy game shows.

I also had a chance to walk up and down embassy row and look at the different shapes and sizes of consulates and embassies. I liked the look of the Turkish Embassy the best. The Croatian one had a great statue of a saint studying while bent over a book. The Korean Embassy has a big fountain filled with polished stones that made me want to run my hand over them. The Caribbean and African nations all seem to have scrubbed looking townhouses with gothic stonework. I also got a nice chance to glare at the Venezuelan Embassy as I walked past (don't think they noticed). Plus it was a spectacular 70 degrees outside. I'm loving this unusually warm December weather.

posted by Alison 12/05/2001 11:07:00 PM : (0) comments : splink

Tuesday, December 04, 2001

The fire I saw 2 nights ago apparently killed one of my neighbors, a 92 year old woman named Vera Kunsak. Personally, I'd never seen evidence that anyone lived in that house other than the bird seed left out for the pigeons. Usually students are pretty friendly with the people who live in the campus proximity, with the exception of anyone who thinks GW is ruining Foggy Bottom. Students are pretty noisy and probably hard to approach, but if anyone saw her sitting in annaversary park alone they'd probably at least say hello. I can't even remember one time where I even saw someone coming or going from that place. Now that townhouse seems much more ominous, especially since most of its windows were broken in the fire.

posted by Alison 12/04/2001 12:10:00 AM : (0) comments : splink

Sunday, December 02, 2001

firefighters on the roofOne of the townhouses next door has caught on fire. I don't see any flames, just clouds of smoke. I can hear the fire fighters breaking the glass windows to let more of the smoke out. It's pretty late, but it's a Saturday night so there are already crowds of gawkers standing about.

I've seen a lot of false alarms, but I think this is the first time I've seen a house fire since I was a little kid. Maybe houses are much less flammible now or the people who fall asleep smoking have switched to asbestos sheets.

posted by Alison 12/02/2001 02:23:00 AM : (0) comments : splink

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