June 21st, 2007

Kevin and Lisa

Japanese Ham License

Lisa wants to be able to take some of her amateur radio equipment with her to Japan and to operate there, at least a little bit. After a bit of investigation through the ARRL, we found that we needed to submit an application via the Japanese Amateur Radio League and pay a fee of JPY8000 (about USD67). Unfortunately, JARL says they don't accept credit cards (that would be the easy way), and the only way to pay is by bank wire transfer or by international money order drawn in JPY. The post office here says that they only issue IMOs in US dollars. My local Bank of America branch said, "You could apply for a draft online and they'd mail it to you in a few weeks." But we need to submit the application at least sixty days before we arrive in Japan, and it's pretty close to that now.

So there was nothing left but to do a wire transfer. It's annoying to have to pay $20 in fees for a $67 payment. Now I have to wait one day for the wire to cycle through Bank of America's system so that it shows up in my online banking and I can print out a record of it having happened -- BofA does not send fax confirmations anymore -- and include it with the application form, so that JARL can match Lisa's application to the payment they'll receive tomorrow.
Conrunner Kevin

Taking the Plunge

In case you haven't heard, LiveJournal has put Permanent accounts on sale for a short time. I decided to take the plunge and plunked down the $150. My only regret is that my annual account renewed only a month ago, so that's wasted money.

Update, 10:30: I obviously wasn't reading the details closely. Comments have informed me that I can transfer the leftover paid account time to another account. Any suggestions as to where it would be usefully applied? I could transfer it to basfa or worldcons or worldcons, but is it worthwhile doing so?
Wig Wag

Taking the Slow Train: Catch-22

As I've mentioned, Lisa and I are buying 21-day JR rail passes (the "green car" passes to boot, entitling us to use first class where available) for our trip to Japan, which as it happens will be exactly 21 days long. (Arriving Japan August 28, leaving September 17, and yes, that's local time in Japan.) Because we were able to save money on the hotel reservation during the con itself (compared to what we were prepared to pay), I thought perhaps we might splurge on something else, specifically the Twilight Express overnight sleeper train from Osaka to Sapporo. In particular, that train has a single "Royal Suite" at the rear of the train that looks spectacular. And such information as I could find about it suggested that the sleeper surcharge (our rail passes covering the transportation charge), while expensive, was not impossibly so.

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We bit the bullet and told them to go ahead and try to make the booking anyway. But instead of paying around $500, it's probably going to be closer to $1700 if it happens in the best-case scenario. (It will cost less if they can't get the Royal and we go down to a smaller compartment.) That's painful. I keep telling myself, "It's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity," but it still hurts.

We won't know if we got anything until around August 10-12, and since a bunch of other plans have to be worked around that trip, it leaves about four days of the trip in limbo. I don't like leaving things unplanned.

We're also thinking of taking a sleeper from Saporro back to Tokyo, but in that case, we're going to take a chance on a compartment of any sort being available for September 13 or 14 when we get our JR passes on August 28. In this case, we should able to actually use our rail passes and only pay the sleeper surcharge.

If we can't get the overnight train, we'll have to take an extra hotel night somewhere and travel during the day. I'm sure we'll manage, but I hate leaving loose ends in my planning.