Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Immediate Concerns Alleviated by Technology

In six days I’m on my way. The immediate concerns before any trip seem to crowd in on you but for a 3 month trip I’m finding that the pressure isn’t as severe. I’ve accomplished many of the things I needed done before departure so what remains is touching base with everyone to say goodbye.

I think the internet also alleviates a good portion of my concerns because many of the things I do in Arizona I can do from Japan. For instance, banking. The movement of funds from account to account is easily done from Japan. Non-automated deposits were a concern but I’ve managed to get deposit slips made out and my son will do the leg work. I manage two accounts for a distant elderly relative but deposits and post-dated checks are taken care of so all I have to do is transfer funds.

Just-in-case checks have been made out for people whose services I may need while I am in Japan and my girlfriend will fill in the amounts and get them in the mail when needed. I could mail checks from Japan but that would add a week to the delivery time.

The JIC checks are for my editor who will be working on my second novel with me while I'm in Japan. As mentioned earlier, I am a writer and I use a free-lance editor for my novels. The writing world has seen major changes in the past decade; a major one being full service publishing houses dropping in-house editing services. Publishers now expect to receive well polished fiction so they don’t foot the bill for the editor’s work. As a result, the editing staff for many publishing houses have been let go and they have offered their services for hire.

This is also true for the publicity side of the industry and many of the publicists formerly employed by publishing houses are offering their expertise directly to the writer or to the smaller publishers. The publicity campaign for my novel will be executed by a book publicity firm of this nature. I will be working with them on the campaign over the internet and via Skype.

Another example is my fantasy football leagues for the upcoming NFL season and the ability to watch games. It’s the same internet in Japan as it is in Arizona so things won’t be a whole lot different I can participate in the fantasy drafts and monitor the Sunday action.

One would think I wouldn’t be able to watch my team’s games from Japan but I did some checking. I subscribe to DirectTV which offers the NFL Sunday ticket. I receive all games for the entire season in HD. This year I was automatically enrolled (for an additional $9.99/month) in the NFL Online service. This allowed me to watch any game during the season online. At first it sounded like exactly what I was looking for and then I checked it out.

The service is provided subject to local blackout rules as defined by the NFL. The subscribers local blackout area is based on the address listed on his DirectTV account. So, if my team is blacked out I don’t get to see the game even though I’m not in the blackout area. I can see being blacked out if I’m in the area but not if I’m traveling. With today’s technology DirectTV should be able to tell where my point of entry to the internet is located and if it isn’t in my local area allow the video stream to be delivered. What if I’m a business man and I have to work in another city one weekend and the hotel doesn’t carry all the games? It would be nice to be in my hotel room watching over the internet.

So I then figured, at least I will be able to watch the away games and the local ones that aren’t blacked out. I was comforted by this until I read some fine print somewhere on the DirectTV site that the game would also not be shown on the DirectTV channel if the game was simultaneously to be shown on the local Fox or CBS affiliate. All of the games, home and away, are on the Fox or CBS affiliate on Sundays so I or anyone with this service will never get their local team's games online.

I suspect there will be a clearing house somewhere on the internet so that people who want to see the Arizona game while they are in another city or when their home games are blacked out can swap logins and passwords with someone from Houston who also wants to see his team play their game.

I have figured out a different solution and again, the internet makes it possible. I plan to use Skype. As mentioned elsewhere I bought my girlfriend a netbook and loaded Skype on it so that we could communicate via Skype rather than by phone. With a PC camera in my PC and my girlfriend’s netbook we can also see each other during conversations.

I will have her setup her netbook so that it is focused on the television and I will be able to watch the game. Not only that, I will hear the broadcast and I will be able to talk to her while she watches the game with me. She is a football fan and has some attachment to another team so the problem with this whole scenario is that I won’t have access to the remote.

Technology and Skype is also providing communications with home. The football viewing aspect was an after-thought, the real reason for the Skype setup was for regular conversations with people at home. I initially only wanted to put it on my girlfriend’s netbook but then I thought my kids could install the software on their netbooks and out of the blue one day my brother called me and asked me if I had Skype. Now my sisters have installed it and we can stay in touch better than if I wasn’t going to Japan.

The 16 time zones between us aren’t really a problem. Ten o’clock in the morning in Japan is six o’clock in the evening (of the previous day) in Arizona. By mid morning I will be fully awake, and hopefully have accomplished something, when my friends and family will be getting home from work. At 2:00 PM I could call to say goodnight.

Television is another concern I have while I’m away. I want to be able to watch and understand Japanese television so I will be watching a lot while I am there. It is a good way to hear the language spoken and it’s a sink-or-swim environment because you can’t ask the speaker to repeat their words again more slowly. However, I won’t want an exclusive diet of Japanese television, there are shows in the US that I follow and I would hate to miss them while I’m away.

Thanks to the internet I will be able to follow my shows when the new season starts in September. Some of the cable networks only provide recaps but all of the major networks provide full episodes for free, at least for now. I wonder if providing them for free is just their way of getting us all hooked on internet entertainment and in the not too distant future there will be a charge for each show watched.

I think that thanks to the internet long term travel doesn’t have to be as emotionally stressful as it has been in the past. Using this blog and, as many travelers do utilizing travel blog websites, I will share trip experiences shortly after they happen to provide the people back home a small feeling of coming along with me. For me it will be more than a small feeling, it will be the tie to my real world.

My thanks to all the computer technicians and software development companies that created the technology that we take for granted today. The internet has become a utility like electricity, water works, garbage pickup and even streets and roads with the background infrastructure of professional engineers, administrators, clerks and laborers required to deliver what people expect from their technology.

During the 80’s I went to a computer seminar and the speaker, who’s name I can’t remember right now, talked about how computer intelligence was being added to almost every aspect of people’s daily lives. He said that one of his party conversation starters was to take any common daily used item and put the word ‘intelligent’ in front of it then ask his conversational companions to define how such an item would work. The example he gave in the seminar was an intelligent-lawnmower.

What he and his friends came up with was a small, maybe 8-12 inch wide robot with wheels and a spinning blade that could be programmed to ‘graze’ the lawn. You would place the mower in one corner of your lawn and enter the command via the remote control, to go forward. When you reached the other side of the lawn you would tell the mower to stop, turn 90 degrees in one direction, and then go forward again. You would do this type of programming the first time you used the mower and when you finished cutting the lawn you would store the program. For curved lawns or pattern cutting the optional joy-stick could be purchased.

The next day you could place the mower in the starting position and tell it to execute the program you had saved and off it would go but, this time you could go inside and watch television. You could then have this small mower ‘grazing’ on your lawn every day because you don’t really care how much grass is cut off the top; you just want it to be kept at a certain length. The only reason one cuts his/her lawn every week or so is that one doesn’t want to do it every day. With a robot mower, who cares if it’s done every day or if the device is in a constant state of ‘grazing’?

The most interesting thing about the mower is that it exists today. So does the intelligent-vacuum cleaner and it is programmed in the same manner. What ever humans can imagine can eventually be created. Once it is imagined it’s been invented, humans just have to execute the development portion of the invention.

Because of this human imagination, the internet exists, Skype exists, entertainment on demand exists and travel with lesser amounts of stress exists.

I’ll probably write once more before I leave and then I will recap how the day of travel to Tokyo went. Did all the best plans of mice and men get executed well or did they all go out the door?

If you’re interested in my novel and what it is all about please check out my author page at www.pensmithbooks.com.

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