New TV cabinet

TV cabinet with lighted curio shelves, TV

It’s taken me ages to persuade Nana to get a new TV, but the moment she’d done that she wanted a custom cabinet made to go with it. We went to the same designer who did the bookcase / folding bed unit and desk for my den. In addition to the new TV cabinet, we wanted to ask for ideas to earthquake-proof the bookcase, which I’m using mostly for CDs.

It didn’t take long for the designer to come up with a cabinet we liked, and he gave us a couple of ideas on the bookcase. We agreed to have a low wooden lip installed on each shelf. Then it was just a matter of agreeing on the price and having a worker visit to verify the measurements, and after that the wait for it all to be ready.

When we visited the showroom they were featuring a grey color scheme that Nana liked, but once we were back home and she saw how well the bookcase matches the flooring and wooden doors in our flat, she agreed it would be better to have the TV cabinet match as well.

It’s magic!

The designers had measured carefully to fit the cabinet between the blinds and the TV, with cutouts for the wall socket behind and the utility outlet up near the ceiling (intended for an A/C we will never have installed here). We were supposed to have the TV mounted midway between the right edge of the cabinet and the opposite wall, but I was at the office the day it was installed and it somehow ended up smack in the middle of both walls. But no mind — it fits.

TV cabinet glass-and-veneer door
Magic veneer door

The DVR and region-free DVD player are in the bottom of the cabinet. To allow the remote signal to reach these devices, the door is made of glass with a very thin veneer of wood — just 2-3mm. Nana has already tested it and indeed the devices respond to their remotes with the door shut.

Enough of your lip!

On to the bookcase! For some reason I’d imagined the cabinetmaker would use some kind of router to make grooves in the shelves for the lips, but in fact he just screwed them onto each shelf as it was (after carefully measuring, of course). I’m happy with the result, and Nana is breathing easier.

The final bit of work today (it was the first undertaken, actually, and the one that took the most time) was to level up the two halves of the bottom shelf. In the two years we’ve had the bookcase, one of the shelves has warped and sagged noticeably compared to the other. Now, after the cabinetmaker’s efforts I’m sitting at the desk and can hardly make out the seam. (Seen from above, as in this photo, there’s a darkened edge on one shelf which makes it look uneven, but when I run my finger across it I can hardly tell where the seam is.)


Empty wooden shelving unit

Nana finally got a new TV, and we ordered a cabinet to go with it. We’re getting the cabinet from the same designer who built the desk and bed / shelving wall unit in my den.

Ever since I stocked up the shelves with CDs, Nana has been worried about what could happen in an earthquake — particularly if someone was sleeping in the fold-out bed beneath the shelves. So we asked the designer for recommendations, and he suggested adding a low wooden lip to each shelf.

The cabinet will be delivered next weekend, and the workers will modify the shelves at the same time. So in preparation, I had to empty the shelves and clear out the space around the unit.

Stacks of books and CDs on wooden floor
No quakes, please!

All my books and CDs will be stacked up in the dining room for the next week. I sincerely hope we don’t have an earthquake during that time!

Receiving the benefit of the doubt

Just back from the doc, getting a refill, where the following conversation happened:

You’ve lost a kilogram! That’s good!
Guy Jean
I’ll bet you’re not going out drinking as much these days because of the Coronavirus, right?
Er … right.
A lot of people are drinking out less, and losing weight as a result.
Interesting theory …

Well, we’ve cut down going out a little bit. But it’s not as if we’re not making up for it at home …

Rat? Or a middle-aged man?

My colleague gave me this hand-written card along with some sweets for the new year. I tossed the card on my desk and there it remained for a couple of days, turned sideways.

I glanced at it one day and made a startling discovery:

Hand-drawn illustrration of Year of the Rat greeting
Mouse, or ojisan?

This was definitely unintentional, as when I pointed it out to her it took her more than a minute to realize what I was talking about. And then she said, “A western ojisan, possibly! Not a Japanese one.”

Preferred pronoun: he

Nana has been wanting to buy a Roomba since we moved, and last week she spoke to a salesman at Bic Camera about the various models. She also was interested in the Braava model which automatically mops the floor. (We have all hardwood floors, no carpet.)

The salesman told us the Roombas need 10cm of clearance, so we decided to measure the clearance under our bed and sofa before proceeding.

Yesterday we were preparing to go to Bic again, and I measured the clearance under the bed: 8cm, and not a millimeter more. The sofa is fine at 14cm.

So we talked to the same guy again and he said (despite varying appearance) all the Roomba models are the same height. I confirmed this with the spec sheet and in fact they’re all 9.2cm. Nana told him to let the maker know we wanted a slimmer model. He said that was a popular request, but the spec hasn’t changed on that for the past 15 years.

So we looked at other makers. We thought we might find a Panasonic or Hitachi. They had models on display. We couldn’t find the specs, but they looked about the same size as the Roombas (and I hadn’t brought a tape measure). Then we found one that clearly said it was only 5.7cm high. It was quite a bit cheaper than the Roombas — only one-third the price. Nana asked the salesman about it and he confirmed it’s a Chinese company: Ecovacs.

We looked around a few more minutes, but it was clear this was the only one that would fit under our bed. And we were surprised to discover that it combined the sweeping and mopping functions, so we don’t need two separate machines. For the price we knew we couldn’t expect much, but we decided to take the leap.

Not a Roomba

The moment we got home I unboxed the thing. “Do they have instructions in English?” Nana asked. I pointed to the quick set-up guide: it’s all diagrams and iconese. Within a couple of minutes the robot was scuttling around our flat, quieter than we’d expected, and Nana had immediately decided it was a “he.” “Where is he now?” she’d ask. And when he got tangled up in anything, she’d say, “He has to learn to do that.”

(I’m not sure how much learning capability this cheap model has, but we were joking about its giving all our information to the Chinese.)

Nana would take to following him around the flat, worrying where he was from minute to minute and going to watch as, for example, he was busy pushing all our shoes around in the entrance foyer. “That’s more entertaining to you than the TV, eh?” I asked her. (I’d include a video of her following the thing around, but she’d have my head for it.)

Robot vacuum stuck on the pedestal
Easily fooled

Things that he gets caught on or confused by:

  • The table pedestal
  • The chair legs, unless we push them close to the pedestal
  • The window blinds
  • Electrical cords
  • The bath mat
  • Papers or other bric-à-brac on the floor (as in my den)

I’m sure we’ll discover more to add to the list.

After leaving him to charge up all night, we’ve set him going again this morning. We’ve left the bedroom door open, but so far he’s ignoring the allure.

X-T3: The Unboxening

Fujifilm X-t3 with zoom lens and accessories

Nana reminded me recently that the consumption tax rate will increase in October from 8% to 10%. “Is there anything you’ve been waiting to buy? You should get it before then.” Well. Carpe, as they say, diem. We talked about the TV and the vacuum cleaner, and then I mentioned that I’ve been waiting to buy a camera. She has heard me mention this from time to time, and I’ve just been putting it off in recent months because I spent so much on a bike tour of England and Scotland.

That conversation was a couple of weeks ago. Meanwhile, the TV has been on the Fritz, coming and going. Mostly it works OK but occasionally it blanks out. When this happens I remind Nana of the tax increase. Today I seized the bull by the horns and said we’re going to Bic Camera. She agreed, but I overheard her talking on the phone with her mother about it and she has seen right through me.

Anyway, we got to Bic in the late afternoon, after stopping to get shinkansen tickets for next month’s Tour de Tohoko. I was following Nana and didn’t realize we went right by the TVs on our way to the cameras. Bic Camera has scaled back the camera department recently (go figure), and so after a couple of minutes looking around in vain for what I wanted, she asked a worker and he guided us right to the spot.

I already knew what I wanted but I wasn’t seeing it on the display. With a little looking around I found a price tag listing the camera and lens combo, but again, there were none on display. Nana noticed the tag and expressed some astonishment at the price.

A saleswoman came along, a Fujifilm employee, and she pointed out the special offers and rebates available. I could get 10% points (usually 1%), or if I wanted the five-year extended warranty, then I would only receive 5% on points. An easy choice, since there’s no money out of my pocket. There’s also a cash rebate through the end of the month on the camera and lens combo amounting to almost $200. Then she guided me through all the discounts I could get on the add-ons since I was buying everything at once: the memory card and neutral filter, mostly. She came with us to the checkout and when I presented a credit card, she talked the cashier into letting me keep most of the points. (There’s apparently a hit to your points if you pay by credit card. Not a bad way for a retailer to deal with the fact they have to pay a percentage on credit card sales.)

Bic Camera shopping bag
Wotcha got inna bag, dad?

So with the camera in the bag, I guided Nana back to the TV floor. She looked around for a couple of minutes. A 60-inch 4K Japanese brand TV can be had for considerably less than what I had just dropped on the camera. Nonetheless, after a quick look around during which she spent more time looking at wall mounts than at televisions, Nana declared that our current TV was still working. Well, OK. I know by now how to recognize when I’m removing sand from a beach with tweezers. We left the store and went to dinner.

Fujifilm camera box
The box

Fujifilm X-T3
The naked camera

Unboxing the Fujifilm X-t3 and accessories
All the bits n bobs

Language choice on camera screen
English please

Fujifilm X-t3 with zoom lens and accessories
Ready to roll

It took a minute to pair the camera with the app on my phone. It took considerably longer to attach the strap to the triangular loops on the camera body, and I ended up using a screwdriver to complete the job. But with that done, I was ready to hit the mean streets of Shinjuku in search of first light — the first images with my new camera.

Ladies on the sidewalk in kimono
On the fly

Sometimes a shot walks right by before you recognize it for what it is. The camera turned on in a second and I was able to capture a fleeting image on the fly.

Tokyo Metropolitan Goverment building with Olympic illumination
Tokyo Metropolitan Goverment building with Olympic illumination

My goal for the evening was Tocho — the Tokyo Metropolitan Government building. It’s been illuminated the past few weeks in honor of next year’s Olympic Games, but I haven’t been able to get a good picture of it. I shot off several and my new toy was up to the task.

Tokyo Government Building and police box
Tocho and koban
Nishi Shinjuku Park House Tower
The ol’ homestead

I watch stuff like this

I watch stuff like this and I think, Yeah, I don’t have to throw away that rusty pair of scissors in the closet.

Also: I bet they have a pair of scissors like that at the Y100 shop.

Also also: I bet it’s about $170 to get a pair of scissors in that size made with rosewood handles and watered steel quenched in the blademaster’s own viscera …

Time Zones and Geek Levels

Seafood omelet, lox and a schmear

On our way home from visiting my family, we had a two-hour layover in Seattle. We decided to stop in a café since Nana hadn’t had any breakfast. We were working on the Eastern timezone and so wanted some lunch, but in Seattle it was still breakfast time. So we ordered a local IPA and had a seafood omelet and a lox and a schmear.

That turned out to be too much food for us, as Nana only finished half the omelette and didn’t have any of either the sourdough bread or the bagel. But I was eager to sample the lox in Seattle, so I did my best to plough through it all. (As a result, I skipped the meal service on the flight home, but that was no great loss.)

A little early in the morning for that sort of thing?

Anyway, as we were enjoying the food and the IPA, I noticed that one of the waitresses was upselling on the beer. Whenever a patron ordered a beer, she would suggest a shot of bourbon for an additional $5. Where I come from that’s a boilermaker, and I was amused to hear the waitress pushing them at 9 a.m. local time. (I did not verify if everyone having alcohol in the café was, like us, working on a different time zone.)

There are levels of geekdom

The other thing I noticed while we were enjoying the food and drink was that the two waitresses kept talking about a machine that wasn’t working. I didn’t hear what machine they were discussing, but they were agreed that it wasn’t showing any sign of power. “I pulled out the plug and then plugged it in again, and I reset the breaker,” one of them said.

I briefly thought about offering to have a look, but to be honest my geek is more on the software side of things. Give me a couple of hundred thousand pages of content to be repurposed and I’m all over it. Sorting out a shorting bit of commercial kitchen hardware? I didn’t even have a continuity tester on me.

I think the ladies really needed someone like this guy:

(There are hundreds of these videos, and I can sit and watch them for hours.)