Tuesday, September 30, 2008

More App Store BS

Look's like Apple has made the situation worse - removing the 'all apps' listings. So none of the lists are unfiltered (except for top apps?). This means you have to waste more time searching for apps and there is no way to get unbiased, listings unaffected by promotions.

I sent this feedback to Apple and hope that others will similarly do so:

I'm offended that Apple does not represent apps in the app store appropriately, and has removed the best option for finding an unfiltered listing of recent apps. I could care less about the iTunes store recommendations for apps. Don't need it, won't look at them. 
Every category (except top paid/free apps) is filtered through some kind of promoted or featured system which doesn't reflect what is actually available. Even the "New" listing does not reflect all the new apps - just what the iTunes store recommends. Worse, the best option for finding unfiltered content (all apps for iPhone or iPod Touch) has been REMOVED. What's up with that? 
This is totally bogus and offensive to consumers. Let us make the judgement of what we want, not your advertisers or app developers or staff. And I'd have to say it's a non-Apple way of doing things - or at least was. 
Fix this, like yesterday or expect more pissed off customers.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

App Store Listings Unethical

Nope, I'm not talking about developers adding special characters or numbers to their app names to get attention, I'm PO'd about Apple engaging in false presentation of apps.

A "Featured" list would be fine to display apps whose developers pay advertising revenue to Apple. I would think the apps in the banners at the top of the AppStore or in that band below "New" listings would fit that bill.

Unfortunately, Apple seems to be deliberately making all their lists on the splash page "featured" lists, making it difficult for consumers to find and choose apps. This is misleading, and unfair.

For example, I browsed the app store on launch day, and want to check to see if any new apps have been released (updates I don't need - get them automatically). You would think that the place to look is at the top of the apps store under the new heading. Unfortunately, if you click to display 'new' you get a very abbreviated list of apps, many of them not new at all. Furthermore that list comes presorted with 'featured'. If you sort by 'release date', you get reverse chronological order, but again it is missing many, many apps. For example, there are no apps listed for 17 July there. See this screen shot:

AppStore New

If you go to the pane on the left of the app store, and select "All iPhone (or iPod Touch) Applications", and then sort by "release date" you get a very different list that isn't included under the "New" heading. Yup, several released on 17 July. Sure, some of these are updates, but not all of them. Apple isn't doing us any favors by misleading us, and is wasting my time in particular.

Another example is from the "Games" listing in the left sidebar. If you click that, you get a page with frames for different categories of games, such as Action/Adventure, Casino/Card, Family/Kids, Racing/Arcade... I was trying to find a Solitaire game that I was playing as a web app - Cookie Bonus Solitaire. I clicked on the "See all" link for Casino/Card Games and I get this very small list of games:


There, that's it. Just eight games! And no Cookie Bonus Solitaire. I could find CBS by searching for its name in the PowerSearch. And if I search for "solitaire" alone, I get TWENTY TWO apps (including a few MahJong type games).

WTF is going on, Apple? Are you deliberately misleading customers to make certain developer's products fail? Or are you truly this selfish that you cannot do what's best for the consumer? Very, very disappointing, unethical, immoral, and plain stupid.

Please fix this yesterday.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Top Ten Reasons I won't be getting an iPhone (in Japan)

10. SoftBank will run out of them quickly.

9. Some SoftBank dealers are racist and charge gaijin extra money and/or won't sell to them if they can't show a long-term Japanese visa.

8. I wouldn't be able to activate one right now anyway.

7. SoftBank's signal coverage is worse than AU, my current carrier.

6. The iPhone isn't waterproof, like my Casio G'Zone

5. My wife won't switch to SoftBank, so texting will be a bitch, and cost more.

Even ¥7300 yen per month is too much! My wife and I have two phones for ¥5000-6300 per month (total) with AU. Beat that, SoftBank.

3. Another "Made in China" product.

2. I rarely use the phone anyway, and I already have an iPod Touch.

And the number one reason is:

1. Frankly, I spend too much time on the internet already. I don't need more access to online content.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Wussy Nation #1

Note: Often foreigners living in Japan encounter things they can't understand or rationalize. These may both amuse and infuriate us at the same time. Posts under this heading in MacKenchi will describe such experiences.

Yesterday, while riding on the JR Yokohama line to Hashimoto, a ko-gal (high school girl) sitting on the other side of the train from me tried to get the attention of another young woman sitting one person down from me. Although the train had few riders, this in itself was unusual for Tokyo, as strangers rarely talk, interact, or even look at each other.

The kogal was trying to tell the other woman that there was a butterfly sitting on her shirt. When the woman realized what the deal was, she tried to shoo the insect away - but the butterfly was having none of it, and kept its grasp. The butterfly woman started to cringe and panic, so I stood up and motioned her to be still. I carefully grabbed the insect by its wings (it was clearly tired and trying to rest) and released it as the doors opened for a stop. It was just a small cabbage butterfly - utterly harmless and probably close to dying.

Well, I returned to my seat, nodding my head to the woman as she thanked me - assuming the ordeal was over. For whatever reason, the door stayed open as we stopped for perhaps a minute. The poor butterfly lazily fluttered around outside the train for a bit, then surprisingly flew back inside. I watched as the two women looked on horrifyingly at the butterfly desperately trying to find something to land on that was solid and unmoving. It finally settled on the raised underside of a man's shoe sitting between me and the first butterfly victim. He was asleep, so I thought that was the end of it. He was thin, in his early 20s, dressed in an inexpensive suit and shoes with elevated heels. So the butterfly had space under the arch of the shoe. 

Then both women started talking to the guy and he eventually woke up - a bit confused. When he saw what they were pointing to, he groggily tried to shake the poor insect off with increasing vigorousness. Then he started to panic a bit and looked worried as the train left the station, while he struggled to get the butterfly to release its grip. At this point, I had had enough. I couldn't watch this pussiness any further. I shook my head and walked to stand next to a door further down; my stop was coming up anyway.

The dude kept shaking his foot to the horrified commentary of the two women until finally the train conductor came out of his compartment (we were on the last car of the train) and plucked the poor butterfly off the shoe with his gloved hand. I think he released it out the window, but I was too disgusted to watch anymore.

I mean, GEEZUS, what the F is wrong with this young man? I guess I could understand if he was a little girl with insect phobia (like my wife) - but this was a guy, you know a dude or male of the human species. I guess he didn't inherit any balls from his father. A REAL man would have just picked it off with his bare hands and let it go out the window - or even smack it against the seat frame and kill it. And it's not like it was something icky like a cockroach or dangerous. This guy chose to show what a complete helpless ninny he was.


I'd like to think this is an isolated instance of spinelessness, but my experiences here suggest otherwise. 

Sometime I'll tell you how a little moth fluttering around a dining room in Okinawa turned 5 Japanese science graduate students and their professor into a pack of screaming idiots.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

WWDC SteveNote Redux

OK, it's been a week since we got to hear about new Apple goodies from Pastor Steve. I'll give my analysis, FWIW.

First, this was a gawd awful boring presentation for the first 75%. Nobody wanted to hear about all the new iPhone partner yadda yadda. Kudos to Engadget for not trying to candy-coat everyone's displeasure during their live coverage.

Second, iPhone/iTouch games. Yeah it's nice that we get some games on the iPhone/iTouch. But frankly the games announced don't give me a woody and it's like 9 months too late. I would bet most touch users would be thrilled with a version of solitaire or minesweeper - or crossword puzzles - something simple and addictive. Unfortunately, the games being touted (e.g., Cro-Mag Rally, Enigmo) aren't high on my list and the fact that they might take advantage of some special iPhone/iTouch features isn't that impressive to me. As I said, the games are late in coming. We should be past this point already. Developers had to drag Apple kicking and screaming to release an SDK, and now we are paying for Apple's sonambulism.

Third, other iPhone apps. Most of the apps being touted are also not very thrilling. I mean - eBay? Who would track this stuff on their iPhone/iTouch? TypePad? Hello? Has anyone actually typed a sentence on their iPhone/iTouch and felt it was a quick and easy experience? Not happening.

How about Loopt - a social service that lets you track your friends and be tracked? I just can't see anyone other than a 16 year old teeny bopper really finding this a useful, fun app. Maybe it's just me, but I DON'T WANT my friends to know where I am 99% of the time.

MLB.com's video baseball highlight app - what?! How about actual LIVE video coverage? You can't be serious that anyone would get off on watching a highlight pseudo-real-time or otherwise, given that there are often only 2 or 3 highlights per ball game. (And yes, I love baseball.)

Even the AP app sounds lame - turn everyone into an amateur video reporter. Yuck! You'll get Sally's intimate video of her gross friend Zoey hawking a loogy on an expensive sports car parked at the 7-11. **sigh**

Fourth, OSX 10.6 Snow Leopard... no PowerPC support, no new features for users... **yawn**

Fifth, iPhone OS2.0 comes in July. Yay. Free for iPhone, but gonna cost iTouch users $9 - WTF! They should give this to touch users for FREE for having to put up with substandard features and lack of functions from the iPhone that they had to pay for already.

Sixth, Mobile Me replaces .Mac.... hurray?? Kudos for doing something to improve .Mac but the Me name is limp, and the logo is even worse. Given that I can't even get some basic .Mac features to even work, such as Back to My Mac - I'm skeptical Apple can do it right the second time around. Push mail thing might be OK, but with only 20GB of on-line storage I can't see it as a real home base for all your files. Having the functions in the basic form of web apps that act just like your desktop apps - hmmm. Do we really need this? Unsure at this point. Do you think that Windoze users will actually sign up for this? Nope - not happening.

And finally - the iPhone 3G! The phone Apple should have released in the first place comes July 11th in like 22 countries simultaneously, then many, many others. And yes, it's even coming to Japan on that date! Unfortunately, you could hear the collective groans of all of us in Japan when it was confirmed that SoftBank would be the sole carrier here. My colleague's spouse was so upset he declared he was actually angry that Apple didn't partner with a more reliable or established carrier. My guess is that Docomo wouldn't kowtow to Apple's model or demands and that SoftBank, the most desperate to improve their market share was more flexible. I guess nobody bothered to tell Apple that SoftBank is like the third owner of the company in 6 years, and that their infrastructure is still behind AU and Docomo.

Jobs claimed that the iPhone 3G price will be capped at $199 for 8Gb and $299 for 16Gb with a 2 year contract. But it's not clear if this is US-only, and I'd bet that in Japan it will sell for ¥30,000-50,000 if SoftBank has its way. And you can be sure that we will get gouged heavily for 'packet charges' for using internet features over the 3G network. The SoftBank people I spoke with had no idea on costs or anything else. I'm wondering if this is still under negotiation. It's also unclear whether a Japan iPhone will work transparently in other countries with iPhone service with roaming charges. This would be key for me, as would the possibility of changing contracts if I move to another country.

Functionality and features of the iPhone 3G are fairly impressive, if Apple's numbers are accurate - particularly for battery life. The 2 megapixel camera is not thrilling, but GPS sounds sweet (though I bet it won't work in English here). There is some concern over whether the iPhone will succeed in Japan, given its consumer's idiosyncracies and the better overall choice of phones and feature sets here compared to the US. One-Seg TV tuners are somewhat popular right now, but perhaps the better content available on the iPhone via iTunes or personal library will win folks over.

The burning question for me is will I purchase one? I'm not really moved to do so, but will definitely see what pricing plans are available. My guess is that most of us here in Japan feel the same way.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Nifty Little Mac Apps

So much for my MBA review... maybe I'll have time on my upcoming break. 

Recently, I'm impressed with the spate of small, useful apps out there for the Mac. I'll share a few of my favorites, and some new ones for you to try.

Twitter is an interesting webapp, which I've begrudgingly started to use. Unfortunately, it's no fun powering up the browser or opening up an new browser window to access your account. If you have an iPhone or iPod Touch, you can use the web app Hahlo from Dean J. Robinson.

There are some Mac Twitter clients that have been out there for a while, such as Twitterrific ($15) and TwitterPod (free). I encountered two new clients while browsing new apps at iUseThis that look very promising. The first is twhirl, a small client that uses Adobe Air tech. This app is currently in v. 0.8.1, so it is still being developed. It's free, cross platform, and I really dig the setting to adjust the opacity of the window when the app isn't active. The color of the twhirl window is not so great for some, however.

The other new client is NatsuLion, which means "Summer Lion" and is from "akira" - a Japanese developer. NatsuLion windows look more like an OSX app, and you can change the color of the text/background. I didn't install NatsuLion, but apparently some people think it's quite good.

Screen capturing seems to be the rage, and even TUAW bothered to review several screen capture apps recently. When reading that review, I was bothered that they didn't include ScreenSteps, which uses screenshots to help you build step by step instructions. But one surprise I saw was the app Skitch, which previously looked like eye candy nonsense when I first encountered it. Skitch allows users to take screenshots or webcam shots, and immediately upload them to an online storage site. From there you can share these via easy to copy urls, so you can upload them into blogs, flicker, etc. You can even determine the level of sharing for each image (private, secret, public). You can take timed shots, and the crosshairs that Skitch uses to select what you want to shoot are balls. Skitch has some very catchy annotation tools (text, arrow, shapes), and is fairly simple to use. I like the convenient menu bar access to pop up the Skitch window. Image resizing isn't clear to me, nor how to dump the current contents without losing them. My original dislike for this app is the color scheme of the logo - too pink, and too gay. However, with this functionality, I can over look it. Skitch is free for now (in beta stage) and you need to sign up an account with them.

A similar app to Skitch that wasn't in the TUAW review is GrabUp. GrabUp installs as a pref panel and remains active in your menubar. GrabUp intercepts the usual OSX screen grab command (shift+apple+4) and sends the output to an online database. You can access the location of your image via the GrabUp menubar icon, or you can just do a paste command (GrabUp automatically puts the image url into your clipboard). This is very handy for quick and dirty screen caps when writing blogs or uploading images on screen to some photo site. Interestingly, you don't sign up with any particular account to use GrabUp, so I'm guessing that there is a common online database that stores these images. So, it seems you won't be able to access your GrabUp images from another computer via the app, and I have to wonder how long they will store your images on line. GrabUp is a compromise compared to Skitch, because it allows very, very quick screen grabs, but you sacrifice global access to your images. Grab up is FREE, though, and Skitch will move to paid status eventually. Hmm...

The third app I want to talk about is another one in beta, Evernote. Evernote is a 'by invitation only' beta (I have 20 invitations left if anyone wants them). Actually, you can download the app for free, but the internet account requires an invitation. Evernote is crossplatform (Win/Mac) and I would describe Evernote as a hybrid notebook and image collector. You can use iSight to photograph something, or just drag and drop images, clip a screenshot, clip a screenshot of a webpage. Evernote will upload those with any text you add to the image to your online Evernote account. It keeps each entry you upload, and allows easy syncing between multiple machines. Apparently, any uploaded image will be scanned for text and the OCR will make those terms searchable in your entry. I tried it with the TUAW article mentioned above, and it worked great. I could search for any word and it would be highlighted. You can also tag each entry, and use several notebooks. I was a bit bothered I could not shrink the size of images in the Evernote notebook window. This seems to limit its use for note taking if the captured images overwhelm the text. Syncing between two different machines seems to work perfectly, and I have to say that this app has a lot of possibilities. You can also upload (and view) content from your mobile phone - making this a very useful service, even when you aren't at your computer.

Well, give these apps a try, and see what you think. Each of them is very nice, and will undoubtedly be improved in the near future.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Hiatus, MWSF, and MBA

Wow! ひさしぶりです! It's been a LONG time since MWSF and I've not posted jack. 

I just want to quickly run down what I thought of the new Apple stuff at MWSF (OK, it was almost 3 months ago), and why I bought an MBA right away.

- AppleTV Redux: Apple was desperate to boost its flagging sales and give some functionality that users actually need or want. The new software is supposedly a major improvement. For me, I'm not that thrilled. I just am not sure I need a way to move my Mac content to my TV. But then again, we don't have a very large set or watch much more than news, sports, kids shows, and the occasional Japanese drama.

- Time Capsule: As a hard drive, it's rather expensive. But you could justify the extra cost because it serves as a full fledged WiFi-n base station. There is a USB port for printer or another hard drive, as well as 3 Gigabit Ethernet ports. The problem I see is that if you purchase Time Capsule, it's an all in one solution. You are stuck with this hard drive, no matter what. Furthermore, Apple is billing this as the only wireless Time Machine solution. 

Although a recent Airport firmware update finally enabled the ability to use hard drives plugged into your base station with Time Machine - Apple is stating that this feature is unsupported. Perhaps they are doing this to boost Time Capsule sales, which may not be doing very well. I notice on the Apple Store's Time Capsule page, several very poor ratings. This doesn't bode well.

- Google Maps, Mail, and more for iPod Touch: This should have been free. I paid for it, because I needed the Mail app alot, and didn't want to hack my Touch. Shame on Apple for not providing this for free, regardless of the accounting BS allowing them to do so.

- MacBook Air: I saved the best for last. F-f-f-f-finally! Apple makes a lightweight laptop! I will still maintain that they didn't need to add all the bells and whistles to make a lightweight MacBook. However, when comparing it to lightweight Wintel laptops, some that came out in response to the Air, it comes out ahead on the best balance of features. And given many of us don't need a speed demon to take our show on the road, the MBA really suits the bill. I ordered mine the night they were announced, and received it in the second week of February. In my next post, I'll give a comprehensive review of the MBA, complete with unboxing photos.

OK, there were a few other things at MWSF too - like vid rentals. And I'd have to say my prognosticating was pretty good this time around, if you check out my previous post.

Monday, January 14, 2008

SteveNote Game

This is pretty cool.

Jan-07 MacWorld Predictions

I think:

Small MacBook - at a hefty 5+lbs, the current MacBooks are not really portable. Whether Apple overdoes it with a functionally crippled ultralight MacBook or just a thinner, small screen version of the current line - I'm not sure.

Regardless, either would be a welcome move by MacKenchi's standards. (Less than this is not acceptable for us folks in Japan!)

Speed Bump MacBooks - could be the whole current line up, and maybe upgrade the screens of the 17" Pro to backlit.

Monitor Refresh - new versions of the current crop with built in iSight and more ports (USB/FW).

16GB GSM iPhone - no 3G yet.

MacTV 2.0 - BluRay whatever.... Yawn

iPhone/Touch SDK Kit - Announced, but not shipping until at least Feb.

iPhone/Touch firmware 1.1.3 - Watch out modders!

iPhone/Touch Games
- Way late, but hey.

iTunes ≥v.7.6 - Vid rental, whatever.

OSX 10.5.2 - Make things like Back to your Mac and Spaces actually useful.

Mac Mini - no change in configuration, but decreased price.

Some of the product upgrades won't be announced at the Keynote, but be discovered as new products on the Apple Store - like before.


Friday, January 11, 2008

New Hip in Japan

Since my return to Japan on Nov 15th, it was clear that my life was going to be different, and improved.

- My daughter was more active and mobile, pushing me to push myself to keep up with her.

- I was relatively pain free (hip-wise) in my daily activities, and felt more motivated to get out and do something.

- The crutches were quickly becoming an afterthought. In fact, I gave them up at home after a week altogether, used a cane for about two weeks and since Xmas have been cane-less.

- I wasn't struggling to stand up from couch, chair, or even the floor.

- I was gaining muscle mass (and unfortunately flab), because of increased swimming and stationary biking (and unfortunately appetite).

The biggest early drawback was trying to limit myself from doing something too much too soon.

- My daughter is right on the borderline of what your are supposed to lift (20lbs).

- I found myself at times nearly running to catch trains (I should wait until April for that).

- Carrying a backpack with laptop was harder on my back than my hip.

Unfortunately, I became quite ill for 8 days from 28 November through 6 December. I had some sort of GI virus (not a flu virus) that literally kept me in bed or on the toilet for 6 straight days. The Japanese GI specialist I saw felt that my recent operation may have left my immune system a bit weaker. I ended up taking antibiotics, and some 'good bacteria' powder (biofirm) like the stuff they put in yogurt to help your gut recolonize the beneficial E. coli. I've come to realize that antibiotics (whose frequent use I oppose) may be a reality in my future because of my implant. I have to get antibiotics whenever I get dental work done or other invasive medical work.

The upshot of my stomach 'cold', as the doctor put it, was that it set my recovery back a week or more - as I couldn't do my stretching exercises, swim or bike. And I think I regressed a bit in flexibility. Worse, I had just located an American PT specialist on base, and the illness postponed my PT plans into the holidays - when I wasn't able to sign up. At this writing I still haven't set up a PT session and will have to get a new prescription to do so. My job and lab responsibilities have also increased, giving me less available free time, other than for exercises.

At present, I feel I'm close to being where I should be - my leg strength improves daily - but I'm still frustrated by my flexibility. Worse, I'm starting to feel stiffness and some soreness after sitting for long periods in a variety of chairs - finding that I limp more than I thought I did previously. I'm unsure if this is a result of poor posture, bad furniture, or just the recovery of feeling in my operated hip. It makes me want to sit less, but it also makes me question my progress and lack of initiative on signing up for PT.

So, I still have no regrets for having my hip replaced - the pain relief alone is amazing. I'm only disappointed a bit in my perceived lack of progress in rehab. Yet, I still had a mobile holiday that I could only have dreamed of a year ago.


Wednesday, January 02, 2008

N-Y-C-U Later

Sadly, I've not posted here for the last month - but that's because I've been busy and distracted. I'll catch you up.

NWA - Service? No way!
I returned to NYC on 13 November, checked into my hotel, and took a cab to HSS for my appointment with Dr. Su. The NWA flight was OK - better getting folks off and on. But the flight attendant refused to help me with my bag (lifting or finding a place for it). This really pissed me off, especially when she told me I should have checked it in. Yeah - right - check in my laptop. What happened to airline service?? NWA should be ashamed of their lack of service for disabled people.

I was fortunate to have 2 good cabbies both from Laguardia airport and my hotel. And my hotel had a surprise in the form of a first floor room, actually cheaper than the one I originally reserved, so I could crutch around more easily.

Last dance with the Doc
I was able to get to HSS around 10am - quite a bit earlier than I expected. The cabbie that took me there even knew the hospital from the address. (That, my friends, is a rarity in NYC.) My doctor's office was not expecting me until later, but I was able to get in anyway. Unfortunately, Dr. Su was not available so I was checked by his PA, Blair, a nice woman that was around for all my previous visits. Blair found no complications and was satisfied with my recovery. I was using only one crutch the whole time, and even showed her I could ambulate easily with no crutch. She showed me a new series of exercises/stretches for 1month+ postop folks. I was a bit disappointed that they were quite difficult - much harder than the ones I was doing for PT. One involves lifting both knees to your chest, and lowering the operated leg flat for a stretch. Another has you sitting, and slowly lifting/pulling your operated leg up and across your good leg with the eventual goal being able to sit cross-legged.

The other thing I learned was how to inject myself with Lovenox. Dr. Su gave me a prescription for this earlier, but I didn't need to fill it until I had a long flight. Lovenox is another blood thinner, and I picked up the self injectors from the pharmacy before I came to the office on this visit. I was unsure how to inject these (but not squeamish), and surprisingly the pharmacist didn't give detailed instructions. Blair had a nurse in the office pool show me the procedure - which involves pinching a fold of your belly skin and injecting subcutaneously. I have a nice layer of insulation, so no problem. The only other issue was the timing of injecting. The prescription said before the flight, but it was unlikely that I could take them past the security check. So, we concluded I should inject one late at night and the other before I left the hotel.
For parting gifts, I got a plastic card with an explanation (and illustration) of my implant, plus a PT prescription. I've been told the card won't really help at airports with security, but it's definitely a conversation piece so far at parties.

Walking Too Much
After goodbyes, I decided to treat myself to some good java at a coffee shop near HSS (forgot the name) that I enjoyed previously. Although I was a bit reluctant not to leave without seeing Dr. Su, I was getting very antsy and decided I would enjoy the rest of my day the best I could. After coffee, I started walking south, hoping to catch some Manhattan sites and maybe an electronics store in a couple blocks before taking a cab to the hotel. Well, I couldn't find what I wanted and ended up walking forever - like 15 blocks. One of the hardest things for me at that time was realizing that I had limits, and that I shouldn't push it. At one point, even walking on one crutch was decidedly painful on my left arm and other parts of my body were also sore. I also felt a bit cold. So, I found a place to eat where I could sit down relatively undisturbed (another rarity in NYC) and after an excellent deli meal I was invigorated. I found that I was actually close to the Apple store, and walked a couple more blocks - then treated myself to a case for my iPod Touch. I caught a cab back to the hotel, where I promptly fell asleep for 2.5 hours.

Although my Manhattan hike was overly ambitious, around 5pm I went out and walked again several blocks. I was starving for dinner, and worried about getting gifts for folks back home (a Japanese tradition that adds another headache for travelers). I found a great video game store, where I was able to pick up a new Wii game for a friend of mine, then after walking way too far, settled on getting organic chocolates from a Whole Foods market near NYU. I also bought my dinner there - way too much food. I was struck by how difficult it was to navigate around the store with one crutch on a crowded evening. It was really annoying, frustrating, and embarrassing. Yes, I had had enough of NYC. And I slept really well that night with the thought that I would be leaving soon.

Manhattan Transfer
I used a private car service (Dial 7) to get to JFK airport the next day. I highly recommend it to anyone that is leery of using cabs or has mobility issues. You have to make a reservation in advance (a day or more is best), and they actually call you when they arrive. And they arrive on time, and get you there on time. Injecting myself was no big deal, just a bit uncomfortable. Even if I didn't get all of the second injection in, I knew it would be OK. The Lovenox was a precaution, and given that I was mobile enough, the risk of blood clots was pretty low. I only wondered what the hotel cleaning folks thought when they saw the empty syringes in the wastebasket.

At JFK, I used curb-side check-in again. I was a bit upset there wasn't a wheel chair ready for me, but I was early enough that it wasn't a big deal. Doing the security check from a wheel chair really saved a lot of wear and tear on my hip (and crutch arms), plus gets you through quickly. Although my mother capriciously used this to avoid getting lost in airports (she is still quite ambulatory), if you are on crutches from something like hip replacement - take advantage of it. The wheel-chair attendant was great: very helpful and quick. The security check was more involved than that at Laguardia or Detroit airports, but the security folks did their jobs well, and relatively efficiently. My implant didn't seem to set any detectors off that I could tell, but I wasn't asked to walk through the detector - just patted down.

Getting on the plane was easy, and the staff kindly switched me to an open window seat row with lots of foot room. The American Airlines crew was mostly American, but they were very helpful - offering to get my crutches whenever I needed them, because they couldn't be stored near my seat. Like the way over, this was a 12-13 hour non-stop flight, and despite having 3 seats I was never really comfortable and couldn't sleep well. The inflight movie selections were impressive and repeated (several movies, several channels), but I still felt restless. My hobby was going to the bathroom, which I seemed to have to do a lot. Despite the empty seats in our plane, there was rarely a time I could get an open bathroom when I needed it. Plus, other passengers weren't thrilled to see my crutch. Aisle space was quite narrow, and although I tried to be careful - I put the crutch on someone's foot a couple times. Oh well.

Arrival in Japan was great, as the airline folks really went out of their way to help me get out of the plane quickly, to an express desk for immigration (actually the office itself) and customs. One guy did it all, even pulling my bags along. And I didn't even have to tip him - it's not a custom in Japan. :-)

But the best part of arrival at Narita airport was the reunion with my nearly 1 year-old daughter. I hadn't seen her for a month and was afraid she had forgotten me. It was a little awkward at first, and she was afraid of me. But she warmed up in a few hours. And I was very thankful that I could actually make it back for her first birthday.