Take That, John Chow!

After many link trains, and commenting on several hundred blogs with the "Do-Follow" function enabled, my site is now ranked number one in the Blogosphere!  Not bad for a site with such a piddly Authority value.

Technorati Number 1This is, of course, just the result of another glitch in Technorati's ranking system.  It seems that the site has had quite a few problems over the last few months, and it makes me wonder if perhaps there are just too many demands being put on the systems in place.

I can't pretend to know exactly how Technorati does their ranking, or the amount of processing that's required to accomplish such a feat but, without some kind of consistency in the system, people will lose faith in the company's ability to accurately handle the load.

Technorati's site is the second page loaded right after checking my blog's stats.  I typically visit my favourites from here after reading a snippit from their latest post.  I preferred this to the RSS applications used in the past, but perhaps it's time to return to the tried and tested programs.  While it's fun to watch the progress of j2fi.net's Technorati ranking and authority, the seemingly constant hiccups created with their upgrades and maintenance defeats the purpose.

Perhaps Technorati can change their rank update schedules.  An update once a day rather than every six hours would be sufficient.  While the authority and rank values shouldn't be anything more than a simple agent job run against a SQL database, changing the schedule might lessen the load on their servers.

Has anyone else noticed these issues with Technorati?  Do you use the site as anything other than a blog search or a place to check your ranking?

Direct from Portland

Who would have thought that luggage would be sent the same distance as the circumference of Earth title="j2fi.net - Spending the Night in Portland">for the sake of a missed flight?

Reiko's cell phone rang last night at ten-thirty, and the airport was on the other end to say that my luggage had finally arrived.  Unfortunately, I had given the airport the wrong home number, but I had offered Reiko's cell as a backup.

From the conversations that I had taken part in or over-heard since arriving in Japan, my luggage has made the trip around the world; travelling from Vancouver to Portland to Tokyo to Nagoya to Tokyo to Portland to Tokyo and back to Nagoya.  A distance of almost 27,000 kms.

It's a good thing the shipping was free, as I'm sure it cost quite a bit in fuel.  When pricing out the cost of sending the items from Vancouver to my home in Japan, UPS wanted $450 while FedEx offered a bargain of $380.  This was per parcel, up to 28 kilos (50 lbs).  Because of the hassle, NorthWest paid for the delivery to the home, and also offered a $25 coupon for the next time we use the airline.  After everything that's gone on, and considering the number of people here that have had problems with the company, I'm not sure if we'll be using their services in the future.

So, after what seems like a full week, the move from Canada to Japan is mostly complete.  I'll keep everyone up to date about what happens next, and the fun things that a gaijin learns while struggling while being a stranger in a strange land.

Canada Shows Some Teeth

Earlier this week, Russia continued to push forward their claim on the North Pole in an effort to gain control of the natural resources that are buried beneath.  In an odd moment of strength, the Canadian government has put their foot down to say "No, you can't have it."

Canada has not been seen as a forceful nation since the end of the World Wars when we would commit hundreds of thousands of troops, machines and resources in an effort to protect the world's status quo.  Since this time, we have seldom had to say 'no' to other nations, and would often only say this to the native peoples politely asked for some of their land back.  So it was a little surprising to hear Peter MacKay say that Russia is employing 15th century tactics in order to stake their claims to otherwise virgin soil.

Currently the northern waters are shared by five nations, but Russia is attempting to expand their claim right up to the northern pole, stating that the Arctic seabed and Siberia are linked by a single continental shelf.

It will be quite interesting to see how this plays out in the near future.  The UN has already said that nobody owns the North Pole, just as nobody owns Antarctica.  The five nations that border the Arctic Ocean have their economic territories of 320 km (200 miles) from the nearest shore, and that's worked great for years.  If nations could once again travel somewhere and plant a flag saying "This is mine", then it could be the start of another colonial-type race.  The northern islands of Canada would be a prime target for dozens of sea-faring nations as they race to get in on the Northwest Passage potential, and other nations would jump at the chance to plant flags at the bottom of the ocean in other resource-rich international waters while stating some ill-worded legislation.

The arctic shouldn't belong to anyone.  Nor should it be mined for resources and gutted like the rest of the earth.  Regardless of the amount of potential fossil fuels, fish stocks, diamonds and other minerals, the land should not be dirtied by our greed and poor resource planning skills.

500 years ago, the fish stocks at the mouth of the St. Laurence river in Canada was so full of fish that fishermen would hear the sea life beating against the boat.  Now the stocks are so sparse that they could not maintain a single town's fish supply.  Diamonds often bring out the worst in people, and Sierra Leone is just one recent example of the depths we'll sink to in order to obtain the stone.  As for fossil fuels, well … we sure are dependant on these things.  But we will never switch over to another fuel if there is always another source for the black crude.

It's nice to see Canada stand up to Russia's publicity stunt.  Perhaps this means the country will finally start to play a much more proactive role in world matters.

In Japan

This is the 300th post, and it's also the first post since officially moving to Japan.

The weather is pretty good, so far.  30+ degrees celcius and 400% humidity.  I'm excited to see my first typhoon, even though it's far enough away that we'll just see the edge of it, and I look forward to the challenges that this country will bring.

Reiko and I met up at the Mietetsu Gifu station shortly after 10 pm local, and went for dinner afterwards.  After such a long and tiring trip it was good to see her smiling face and hold her hand again.  Hopefully we never need to use the webcams with MSN as our primary communication tool ever again.  Technology is a wonderful thing, but nothing beats seeing someone with your own eyes.

Aside from the stress of title="j2fi.net - The Missed Flight - Spending the Night in Portland">being refused boarding to Tokyo, the incredible legwork done by Reiko and myself in order to keep the trip going, the unexpected night in Portland, and the total loss of my luggage, the flights were alright.  Having had an emergency door seat for the long flight to Narita, the leg space was quite enjoyable.

I'll write more later … right now my head isn't really working.  Such is the trouble with jet-lag and the lack of coffee :P

The Missed Flight - Spending the Night in Portland

Edit:  The original post was written after a long day at the airport, where I had sat in a rage for most of the afternoon.  In order to eat, as well as sleep, I needed to laugh at myself a bit and wrote this.  However, I didn't do a very good job of saying just how much Reiko did to help me.  From the time I woke her in the morning until the time she went to bed, Reiko was busy on the phones trying to get some resolution from the airlines, and making sure that my luggage was going to be safe in Japan.  She's done so much for me in the past, and today was no different.  Never in a million years did I expect to find someone like Reiko, and never in a million years could I find someone just like her.

Thank you, my Reiko.

Wow … what a busy day!

After mailing my cell phone off to my sister, I went to the airport with two good friends of mine.  We parted ways, and I was off to conquer Japan!

NWA JetThe line for entry into the United States was pretty long, but the agents were pretty good at getting the people through in a respectable amount of time.  From what I can tell, of the 200 people ahead of me, less than a dozen were pulled aside for whatever reason.  That's pretty cool considering how many people needed to get their fingerprints and pictures taken.

Afterwards, things were pretty easy.  Getting through security wasn't a problem and I didn't have to undergo any "personal space violations" like the last time I travelled through the US.  I even managed the trek from the one side of YVR all the way to Gate 9-billion, where my flight was scheduled to leave from.

Everything was going great.  I was where I needed to be two hours before departure.  I wasn't hungry, and didn't have any particular odor that might have upset fellow passengers.  Best of all, I even managed to strike up a conversation while on the flight from Vancouver to Portland.  The man reminded me so much of this one uncle of mine … I should really give him a call.

But, alas, once I reached the United States, the English-Only country had conspired against me!

After landing, I made my way to the terminal and started looking for the international gates.  After walking up and down the corridors several times, and asking a few uniformed people where I might find the international section, I found myself surrounded by domestic travellers.  The departure boards all showed US destinations, and my flight time was fast approaching.

Asking another kindly worker where I might find the international section, I was pointed towards a corridor I had yet to walk down, and lo!  It was good.  Only half an hour was wasted, but there was still another three-quarters of an hour before boarding.

After arriving at the gates, I found that it was just the one I needed, so figured Dame Fortune was starting to smile.  But it wasn't to last.

After checking in, I was told that I would need to buy an exit ticket from Japan, as Canadian citizens could only stay in the country for 90 days and air carriers are fined if people enter a country with no exit strategy.  Laying out a plausible timetable for withdrawl was no good … the airline was no better than the democrats, demanding an exact date that I would be leaving Japan!

Luckily they did offer to help solve my little quandry by searching for a plausible flight that I could purchase a seat on.  It would have been a fully refundable ticket (less the $20 ticketing fee, of course) that could have been cancelled shortly after arriving in Japan.  They did manage to find something to Guam for a price of $550, but I would have had to pay right then and there.  Usually this wouldn't be a problem, but I had a few hiccups with my situation.

My credit card is now set for use in Asia, not the US.  I could have called the card company, sure, but my flight was due to leave in 10 minutes.  Anyone who's ever had to call a company with an automated voice system knows that 10 minutes is the minimum amount of time you'll spend on the phone before getting a human that can help.

I had $440 CDN on me, and I could have pulled more from my Canadian bank account.  Problem was, if I couldn't pay by credit, I had to pay by cash.  American cash.

So looking at the clock, and knowing that I had passed both a foreign exchange and an ATM previously, I dashed back down the corridors in search of money.  The foreign exchange was closed by the time I arrived (at 2:30 pm local time … wtf?) and the ATM was down for repair (naturally), so I had to throw caution to the wind and go outside the security zone.  It was a super risky gamble … chances were that I was never going to make the flight with all these delays.

I managed to find a foreign exchange that would convert my Canadian dollar to the less potent US counterpart, but was advised that I'd have to use an ATM to pull money from my Canadian accounts.  So with the nearest ATM less than 40 feet away, and the plane less than 5 minutes from cut-off time, I run.

Oddly enough, the ATM was also down.  As was the 2nd … and the 3rd.  Does nobody in the United States of America use automated tellers?!?!?!  By this point I'm exhausted and my throat is incredibly dry.  I've been running with both my notebook and a carry-on and, while they're not particularily heavy, they do add drag.  But finally, after talking to someone inside one of the USA Bank branches inside the airport, I manage to get an ATM that will give me the rest of the money I need.

There's only one little problem … I've missed the plane.

So … with nothing left to do but try and recover the situation, I buy a phone card to call Reiko and let her know that I wouldn't be meeting her in Nagoya that evening.  Now … where can I find a phone card?

Fifteen minutes and $20 USD later, I have a phone card.  Now it's time to try and find my luggage, and perhaps an internet connection.

Long story short, my luggage is en route to Tokyo … my $20 phone card wasn't good for calling Japan.  The 6 minute conversation I had with Reiko came out to $18 USD.  I was not happy.

The WiFi is free at the airport, and the power outlets actually work.  Vancouver could stand to follow this example, because no person in their right mind would pay $10 for an hour of internet at YVR while all the power outlets remain scandalously unpowered.  Well … I shouldn't say that … I've paid that $10 in the past.

With the help of some of the airline staff, I managed to score a seat for tomorrow's flight to Tokyo, and then on to Nagoya.  I've already reserved my seat, and might even get the upgrade to business class.  They provided me a cheap rate at a decent Marriott, and even a shuttle both ways (which saves me about $55 USD in cab fare each way).  I managed to purchase the exit ticket for less than the previous ticket value, and have even had help from friends when I needed it most.  While the day has not been one of my better ones, both friends and family have pooled together to help.

Words cannot express the gratitude I feel.

Since calling Reiko, she's been calling the travel agent, the airlines, the airports and everyone between.  She's made sure that more is done for future passengers when they're making this trip (since I should have been warned in Vancouver at the time of check in), and talking to the appropriate people to make sure that my luggage was safe at Narita and not stored for a fee.  The airline has received several letters saying that the service was unacceptable and that more should have been done by the clerks when they realized the problem, instead of pushing me aside until it was too late.

Because Reiko cannot meet me at the airport now, she's helped me find the times that the train will leave for the station closest to her.  I should be getting to Nagoya by 8 pm, which will give me about half an hour to get to the right train.  I'm really fortunate to have met someone like Reiko.  She's given me the strength to keep fighting, and even given me the names of the people I need to talk to.  Without her help, I would have probably just been another person that missed his flight because he didn't do enough beforehand.

Tomorrow I'll be going to the airport four hours early, and I'll be first in line at the gates.  As soon as a person is behind that flight desk, I'll be working the business class upgrade.  But even if that fails, I've already been given the window seat at the emergency exit.  On the plane I'm taking, that means extra leg room and a nice view of the world below.

Let's hope that my luggage is not lost in Narita before I get there….

Stuck in Portland

Can my day get any worse?

Today I flew from Vancouver to Portland, to then make the flight to Tokyo before going to Nagoya.  That was relatively fine … the flight was good and I was talking to a man next to me who just happened to have lots of views about the economy and where it's going.

Then when I reached Portland, I couldn't find the international gates.  Nobody could tell me where the fight was, however, a cleaning person pointed to a large NWA plane and said "Try there".

Well … "there" was a good kilometer away and I was carrying things that don't like to be run with.  So I make the long trek over and then sign in.  But then another problem … I can't be granted entry onto the plane.

NWA can't grant people access to Japan unless that passenger has a flight out of the country, as well.  Allowing a passenger without return flight plans will result in some fines, and we wouldn't want that.  But, after a half hour of the agents helping others, I was finally helped as they tried to find another country that I could fly to in a few weeks, which would then let me into Japan.  The ticket would have been refundable, so it would have worked quite well.

Big problem … the cheapest ticket was a meager $550, and I didn't have that much on me.  I had to find a foreign exchange as well as an ATM.  Two ATM's were down, and the foreign exchange in the secure area of the airport was closed.  I had to leave the secure area.

I finally get the money, but it's too late.  The plane has left.

Now I'm stuck in Portland.  My bags are en route to Japan.  I have no home, and money is running low ….

What the heck do I do, now?

Off to Japan!

After lots of packing and moving about, my home is (practically) empty and I'm ready to make my way to the airport.

Unfortunately, I don't really have the time to write a decent post, so my next entry will be written from Japan. Hopefully I can find some free WiFi at the airport.

Bringing the Cell Phone Tower Home

We do some pretty crazy things for the sake of a single bar of reception on our cell phones.  In the 10 years since getting my first mobile phone, I've succumbed to standing in the corner of a room, climbing to the top of a stairwell, going outside in the cold and even holding on to something metal.

ip.access femtocellBut soon the days of despair that occur when you arrive home only to find your new handset does not get any coverage in your house may be over.  Femtocells are starting to be issued on a trial basis, and if the hype is to be believed, it could end signal problems forever.

Femtocells are about the size of a paperback book that plug in to our home network and, by extension, our internet connection.  When we make a call near a femtocell, instead of routing the call through the carrier's towers, we would instead be using the femtocell and having our conversation over the internet.

Until recently these devices have been the preserve of big business.  However, they may come bundled with our mobile phone contracts in the near future.

ip.access, a femtocell producer based in the UK, has just launched a 3G femtocell targeted diretly at home users which would also bring high-speed mobile broadband into the home.  It is one of several offerings from companies like Airwalk or Ubiquisys, which recently gained some media attention when Google invested in the firms.  Not to be outdone, the world's largest network operator, Vodafone, has also announced they will trial the technology.

In my search for greater information, I tried to find out whether we could be using a carrier's tower while on the way home, then seamlessly switch to the femtocell once we were within range, or if your cell phone could use the femtocells at a friend's home.  Unfortunately, I couldn't find anything saying whether this was possible or not.

But that said, the technology goes beyond simply mopping up the people who cannot make calls on their network.  In a very real sense, this will be taking on mobile WiFi.

Femtocells use 3G technology, which has download speeds upwards of 7 Mbits/sec.  This is just a bit better than most Canadians have in their home.  Grabbing an increasing share of the market would be atractive to mobile carriers as this could lead to the integration of 3G technologies right into notebooks.  This would then give mobile operators the ability to take a bite back out of the WiFi market, which has been eating away at mobile for years.

Wireless connectivity on handsets along with VoIP has allowed people to cut the cost of calls by bypassing the mobile phone network altogether.  Companies such as Skype and Vonage have gotten in on this and made their mark on the world.  If mobile carriers can get femtocells into the home quickly, they could potentially prevent the rise of VoIP over home WiFi.

Of course, because these femtocells use 3G technology, there is not much chance of this appearing in North American markets anytime soon.  But with the UK and Asia being almost all 3G, there is a good chance I might be able to review this technology while in Japan.  I am curious to know what kind of offerings the cell phone carriers would offer customers who use femtocells, though.  If we're using our own internet connection, would we really accept the same usage fee?

The Blogging Tip Meme

So many link exchanges have been going on lately, and I've been a bit behind the ball with my upcoming move to Japan.  But after being tagged by Ms. Danielle, I'll certainly take part in this one started by Bob Buskirk.

The Blogging Tip Meme

1. Look, read, and learn. **** NeonScent
2. Be, EXCELLENT to each other. **** BushMackel3. Don’t let money change ya! **** TheRandomForest4. Always reply to your comments. ***** ChattieKat5. Spell check is your friend. ** ThingsByMike6. Be the blog. *** MeAndMyDrum7. Your readers are your treasure.** BrownBaron8. Learn From The Pros. ** ShaunLow9. Pay a visit to your visitors. Be active in your community. ** LeoChiang10. Make Your Blog Your Own. * BobBuskirk11. When you don’t feel like writing, just write. * MsDanielle12. Substituting reality for something else.  Jason J²fi

With such a light list, I think I'll tag Kelly, new father title="LongCountdown.com - Nick Ramsay's Japan and Fatherhood Blog">Nick Ramsay, and Nick Phillips on this one.  If I didn’t tag you, fear not.  You can add the meme to your blog, include your own tip and URL, then tag your friends!

Exhaustion Setting In

For two weeks I've been without work, yet it seems I've been busier than ever in the quest to prepare for this Tuesday's move.

My home is almost empty and my data has been secured for the flight.  I still need to scrub the apartment down to eliminating all traces from the 30 months spent here, as the new tennants will be coming in within hours of my departure.  They seem like a nice bunch, and I hope they enjoy the home as much as I did.

The flight has been confirmed, and some of the luggage is prepared.  Items that I no longer need have been tossed, donated or otherwise given away.  Yet as I look around, all I can do is sigh and see all the work I have yet to complete.  I know I should wash those three glasses, the plate and frying pan … but I'm just so tired.

I think it's time for some sleep, though … I still have two more nights to finish packing.