Trip to Japan
Well, I went over to Japan for work and I have to say that I was completely blown away. Prior to leaving I had always thought that America, far and away, had the best standard of living. I guess that it is always going to be dependent upon what you consider a good standard of living. If you don't like small rooms, apartments, and houses then Japan probably isn't the place for you.
The first thing I noticed when I got there was how completely quiet the Airport was. That wasn't so strange, I was getting in just before rush hour so it should probably be fairly quiet. The service in every restaraunt was way better than it is here, and the city I went to, Makuhari near Chiba, was incredible. I truly intend to pursue the learning of Japanese, just so that I can communicate better, and I think the language is beautiful.
Makuhari was like the best and newest city in America, sort of like Denver. The hotels there were excellent also, although hard to book a room in if you don't do it way in advance.
Probably the most impressive thing to me once there was the scale that everything was on in and around Tokyo. It is like New York City on 'roids. Not in a bad crazy way, I didn't see people walking around looking angry and chain-smoking for example. But buildings, signs, and the people in the area were larger than life. My favorite place was the Akihabara Electronics District, especially the Yodobashi Camera mega-store down there. They had everything that anyone's techno-lust could want. That store is, while not a rip-off, less of a value than the other stores around there. It is a really good idea to shop around.
I satisfied the digital demon on my shoulder with the White PSP. It is better than the one in the U.S. mainly because it is white. I got a couple of games that aren't available here. Setting it up to work for me wasn't hard at all, especially since it asks you on power-up which language you want to use.
I am able to play U.S. and Japanese games since the region encoding is only enforced with UMD. I don't really intend to use UMDs so this isn't an issue for me. The PSP should have been able to destroy the iPod years ago. I had played around with the PSP before, but I had never owned one. Once you get a memory stick pro duo with a decent amount of storage and some way of converting video to h.264 you are in business. It works great for surfing the web, listening to podcasts, and watching anything. Its support for file formats is staggering.
Probably the coolest thing is that it will play my unencrypted AAC files with a change to the extention from .m4a to .mp4. The PSP recognizes them fine. The screen is really remarkable, and the sound is decent. If it had even a 4 GB hard drive it would make me stop carrying around my iPod. That thing is really the swiss army knife of computing. I love that it has three ways of connecting, via Wi-Fi, or USB, or even infrared. I also love the UI. But the best part is that when I pull it out to play it everyone stares, especially the hard-core gamers because they know what it is. I'm completely happy with the PSP so far. And I am definately going back to Japan as soon as I can!