Monday, November 09, 2009


Travel thoughts

Some arbitrary (not to say “random”) thoughts from Friday/Saturday’s travel to Hiroshima:

The description of the power outlets in the airplane says that they’re 110-volt outlets that accept two-prong plugs. “These 110v power outlets accept plugs from the U.S. and other select countries.” Now, the adjective “select” does not mean “certain ones, as opposed to others.” In fact, it has the connotation of something special, better than other, non-select ones. As American Heritage puts it, “Singled out in preference; chosen: a select few.” Or “Of special quality or value; choice: select peaches.” I know we think the U.S. is “of special quality or value,” but, really, should we be shoving that in the faces of all travellers?

People who are allowed to board before most others are still “boarding” the plane, despite the airlines’ insistence on calling it pre-boarding. There’s nothing “pre-” about it. “Early boarding” would be a better term, but I’m afraid we can’t defend ourselves against the marketing juggernaut. But... who decided that “pre-boarding” sounds better than “early boarding”?

This is my first trip to Asia, which also makes it the longest trip I’ve ever taken: 14 hours in a plane, and 5 more in trains. I noted that five hours into the flight, the equivalent to a flight to California, I still had longer still to go than I’ve ever flown before.

It’s also the first time I’ve flown over Alaska, and, despite flying over Anchorage, not Juneau (nor Wasilla), I had images of us as a bird leaving droppings on Sarah Palin. OK, you had to be there, and maybe it was a result of already being too long in a metal tube more than seven miles up.

-88 degrees F (-67C) outside at 39,000 feet (12,000 meters). Yow, that’s cold!

My first real exposure to Japanese culture was something I hadn’t been told about and wasn’t expecting: when train personnel left one Shinkansen car at the front, to go to the next one, they opened the door, turned to face the passengers, and bowed, before turning again and going through the door. The conductors did this, and so did the young women pushing the food carts. Every time.

The Shinkansen trains are very cool, fast, quiet, and comfortable. And on time.

The meeting is at the ANA Crowne Plaza hotel in Hiroshima, and I was told to tell the taxi driver, “Ana ho-teh-ru,” which I did. He confirmed, “Clown Pra-za Ana ho-teh-ru?” “Hai,” said I, “Arigato.” I find the apparent reversal of the “l” and“r” sounds to be interesting: in fact, it’s not a reversal, but a blending of the two into one. To our ears, because neither is “correct” in the borrowed words, they sound reversed. (There’s also the vowel addition going on there, in “ho-teh-ru”, but maybe that’s a separate post all its own.)

The tiles in the bathroom are nice, non-slip tiles. On the other hand, the tub is very slick, and there’s no rubber mat. If I don’t make it home, there’s a good clue why.

I want this at home: a shower control calibrated in degrees C. I wonder how accurate it is. In any case, 37C (nominal "body temperature", though mine tends to be closer to 36) feels uncomfortably warm, and 33 to 34 seems about right.

They’re quite serious, here, about reducing waste. The soap, shampoo, and hair conditioner in the bathroom are in large (300ml, 12 oz) refillable bottles with pump tops, so there’s no throwing away half-used bars of soap or half-full mini-bottles of shampoo when a guest leaves (or, as some hotels do, during the guest’s stay). Great!

Yes, the toilet seat is heated, and it has a “shower” built in. It does not appear to be one that dries you after it cleans.


Thomas J. Brown said...

Just today I was thinking about a digitally controlled shower where you could program in your temperature preference.


I'm not surprised that Japan has beaten me to it.

Barry Leiba said...

The video monitor on the Narita Express train was also advertising a liquid-proof mobile phone. It showed someone spilling orange juice on the phone, and then rinsing it off under the kitchen tap.

This is definitely a place of innovation.

Benny said...

While your body temperature is about 37°C, your skin temperature (or outer body temperature) would be around 33°C as far as I know.

The Ridger, FCD said...

I think Benny's right - otherwise they could take your temperature by touching your skin instead of shoving something inside you...

I find it interesting which vowels get added - it's governed by the consonant preceding it. The L/R is the same thing that often makes us here W for V when Russians speak English, as their "V" isn't the same as ours.

Barry Leiba said...

Right, core temperature vs skin temperature: duh. Sometimes we (read: I) don't see the obvious.

lidija said...

I saw the shower in deg C in a hotel in Germany too. You and K would have some interesting notes to compare from your trips to Nagasaki (I am hearing some of the same topics of interest/fascination).

D. said...

There are thermostatically showers available here in the US; while not in common use, most bath supply stores feature them in their showrooms, and they are a standard part of the newer, luxury "spa" shower systems that are being used in high-end baths.

Unfortunately, the technology doesn't integrate with older systems, so it's not really possible to get it without doing a bathroom remodel.