Strolling through Bic Camera the other day, I stopped in the handheld electronic Japanese dictionaries aisle and had a quick look at prices for a laugh.

Seriously, who still buys these things?

My guess is: people who also just purchased a brand new Sony Minidisc player1 and/or will only use devices that bears the same comforting look as the pocket calculator they had back in High School.

I don’t see why else anybody would willingly spend up to twice the price of an iPod Touch on a tool that will, at best, do roughly what any iPod/iPhone does… minus the thousands of non-Japanese-related features.

Trust me, I am very receptive to the argument of the simple tool that does one thing and does it well, without the clutter and confusion of a myriad peripheral features… But if that’s what it takes, buy an iPod Touch, forget it can be a music player, a web browser or a gaming platform and use it solely as a Japanese study tool: you will still be getting a better deal than with one of these ridiculously overpriced/underfeatured denshi jisho.

In case you are considering such a purchase, or if you already own an iPhone/iPod Touch and wondered what apps you should get in order to turn it into the ultimate Japanese studying tool, here are my three picks:

  1. “fit up to twenty tracks in your pocket!” []

The PoS cellphone I use when travelling abroad has the bad habit of accidentally triggering all sorts of functions when I forget to explicitly lock the keyboard (stupid brick-body designs). Instead of staying nicely asleep in my pocket, it will kill time by calling random contacts from my address book or navigate half a dozen menu down to some obscure settings…

Last week, upon glancing at my message logs by chance, I realised it decided to send half a dozen empty messages to the first contact in my address book. It then topped that series with an audio SMS: 30 seconds of muffled sounds from whatever crowded bar I must have been in, that night.

All that while using a throwaway number on a prepaid German SIM card (thus unknown from most of the people in my address book).

Meanwhile in Europe, my friend Abigail is probably ever so slightly worried by that mysterious German caller who sent her all these creepy empty messages.

a.k.a. “We really have no idea how we still are in business, but it shouldn’t last much longer…”

When it comes to services and subscriptions (cellphone, ISP, banks, heroin dealer…), I am a company’s wet dream customer: one that never leaves for a competitor. Not that I develop any particularly fuzzy feeling for whatever nameless corporation happened to have a branch on the right street-corner on the right day, but when it comes to going through endless paperwork again, moving my account data, updating everything: I just. can’t. be. arsed.

Which is why I have been a faithful customer of AU for over 5 years: not because they are great (Docomo is cheaper, Softbank has better phones…) but because I will always endure a sizable share of customer abuse and groundless fees, rather than having to track all my friends and acquaintances to send them my new contact info (and when you think of it: these things have a price too, so I am not doing it all out of pure apathy).

Why won’t I be a customer of theirs for another 5 years, then? Well, read on and learn how a company loses a customer without even noticing it.

The end keeps nearing. Last weekend in Berlin. Feeling ever so slightly gloomy, for all sorts of reasons. Luckily I have the thought of warm Spring days ahead, plus many exciting plans for the months to come, to keep me from thinking about it too much. Also: it is about time that I resume working on that thing they call a PhD.

As usual, way behind in the note-keeping business, but a few random tidbits instead:

  • Gotta love a city where catching an afternoon performance of Mahler’s Third by the Staatskapelle Berlin conducted by Daniel Barenboim (brilliantly filling in for James Levine), is as simple as: picking Nino fresh off her plane at Alexanderplatz, walking over to Staatsoper and buying three (very cheap) last minute-tickets.
  • Used the excuse of miscellaneous out-of-town visitors to check a few of the more touristy items off my Berlin list.
  • For an artist squat long past its underground heydays and part of even the most casual touristic tours of Berlin, Tacheles was still surprisingly fresh and unassuming: with some cool art, a relaxed atmosphere and a funky bar to grab a drink at in the middle of the night. You can also buy “Kultur kann man nicht kaufen” postcards for 1.30€ there.
  • I apparently look very fetching in a tiara. A comforting thought, in case I finally quit research to pursue my lifelong dream of becoming a pretty princess.
  • Only major piece left missing to our Berlin nightclub collection, Berghain was actually sort of a letdown: not bad, but definitely nowhere near what the legend gave it as. Perhaps just that particular night. Had fun anyway.
  • Also caught Jazzanova (or a two people subset thereof) at Icon. Rather unimpressive DJing skills (at least before the 5th Vodka mit Red Bull), but some damn awesome blend of everything Latin, Jazzy and Danceable (from Calypso to Cumbia, with your fair share of random house beats in the middle). Funnily enough, threw the same Led Zep nod as Theo Parrish at Yellow, a couple years back: except they played Whole Lotta Love, not Kashmir