Reading Usenet with Emacs gives new meaning to the phrase “garbage collecting.”
—J Greely

Thursday, December 18 2014

Bugs I could do without

I have no idea why, but the order of the output of the permute() function in the Perl library Math::Combinatorics depends on the number of elements in @ARGV. This resulted in a rather frustrating debugging session, in which it was assumed that the output was deterministic, and one could reliably shift off the null permutation.

Seriously, when the mere act of adding a command-line option that is completely ignored by the program changes the output, your library is kinda fucked.

Tuesday, December 16 2014

Dear Amazon,

Please stop handing packages over to USPS. Two-day shipping is now four if I’m lucky, on a package that will be completely useless to me soon, since they didn’t even try to deliver on Monday, and then (allegedly) showed up at my office today at 6:04pm and found the front door locked.

Sunday, December 14 2014

The 3,855 Interlacements of 17-strand Shigeuchi

No, I’m not actually going to include all of them. Not only would that be worse than visiting an endlessly-scrolling Tumblr full of animated GIFs, the vast majority of them are just plain ugly. In addition to the Carey diagram, I’m just going to post six reasonable ones and six random ones, to give you an idea of what’s available.

I’m not going to try an exhaustive search on 25-strand Shigeuchi; 2^17 was bad enough…

[Note: these diagrams are not compatible with ee0r’s 17-strand taka-on-maru braid, which looks pretty much the same, but obviously has a different braiding sequence. Mine is described at the end of this post, and I’ll do a real step-by-step with pictures later.]

(Continued on Page 4509)

Thursday, December 11 2014

9-strand Shigeuchi (繁打九つ組)

The most common sageo (mounting cord) for a katana is a 9-strand braid normally done on the takadai, but instructions for making it on a marudai are here (my own instructions on how to make it on a foam disk are here, in abbreviated form). After a little practice (and the acquisition of a set of 240-gram tama), I made a quite nice one for my primary iaito, using DMC embroidery floss (6x 4-meter strands) to get just the right color combination. It’s extremely quick and easy, especially if you follow Tada-sensei’s pictures and lift two tama at once.

Commercial Shigeuchi sageo are only found in two styles, solid and 2-strand zig-zag (221111111). The reason for this is that most of the other interlacements kind of suck. Shigeuchi is an oblique 2/2 twill pattern, and the progression of strands across the braid is much more regular than most kumihimo braids. Here’s the Carey diagram for the front side (the back is just a 180° rotation):

Carey Diagram for 9-strand Shigeuchi

As you can see, every strand follows the same ordering in every column, severely limiting the possibilities. In fact, the standard “clockwise from the top” numbering system obscures the regularity a bit; if you numbered the five strands on the right 1-5 from the top, and the four on the left 6-9 from the top, the numbers in the above diagram would all be in order, which quickly became obvious in my 9-color test braid.

Viable three-color patterns are even harder to find, and the only three I’ve found that are worth mentioning are 111113322 (double zig-zag), 113323332 (crossing double-zig-zag) and 111223332 (sort-of triple-zig-zag). I’m sure there are others, but my script didn’t do a good job of reducing the search space, leaving me with 674 GIFs to pick through.

(Continued on Page 4508)

Monday, December 8 2014

Amusing enough to get a link…

My family’s coming to town for Christmas, so I went looking for things to do and places to eat. The most amusing thing to show up was this Freedom Festival, which turned out to be an ad for Diaz Brothers Bail Bonds.

Sunday, December 7 2014

Tank-ful New Year, Duck Edition

Perhaps someone will want this to help make 2015 brighter…


Saturday, December 6 2014


It turns out that Rolling Stone has all the honesty and integrity of Penthouse Letters. Or perhaps less.

I hope no one was surprised.

Friday, December 5 2014

Uncle Santa’s Gift Boxes

The details of the Toys-For-Cops program have been neatly sorted, and while almost all of it is appalling and ridiculous, these two jumped out at me in a quick scan:

Monterey County Sherrif Dept:
    COFFEE MAKER,AUTOMATIC        2   $1,081.52
Monterey Park Police Dept:
    PISTOL,CALIBER .45,AUTOMATIC  5     $293.55

I think we’ve found the world’s worst .45 pistols, and the world’s best coffee-makers.

My own local cops got an MRAP and 30 M-16s, so those vegetable-pickers better mind their manners!

Thursday, December 4 2014

Fast Rope, Tassels, and Speaker Wire

The basic four-strand round kumihimo braid, Maru Yottsu, is a quick and easy way to create a strong braid with simple color patterns.

It’s not a Japanese invention, however, since pretty much every culture in the world figured out how to braid four strands together shortly after the invention of string (or perhaps before, if they had long hair). It can be done on a rope-making stand, a cardboard disk, a marudai, or just with your hands.

Weavers think of it as a way to create tassels and cords, weekend warriors think of it as a way to make tactical climbing rope, and one clever fellow recognized a completely different use, in a comment at the weaving link:

DIY Speaker cable leads. No I’m not kidding.

Weaving four insulated smaller wires in the B-A-A-B pattern results in an Interlaced Dual Twisted-Pair cable. In your example, white would be one twisted-pair, orange is the second twisted-pair. This weave pattern yields a cable of lower electrical resistance, while providing noise rejection that a single thicker wire doesn’t have. Key for high-current delivery and/or to low impedance speakers (exotics, cars). Also great when you only have smaller gauge wire than you want for your application.

To get the Interlaced Dual Twisted-Pair noise cancellation, once the weave is done, you cross connect the twisted pairs. Which means: join one white and one orange at one end, join the same two wires at the other end (continuity meter), then join the remaining white-orange wires together at each end. Run your positive/live through one of the new white-orange pair, and the negative/ground through the other.

Extra credit to the guy who built an oversized marudai out of tires to make a 12-strand climbing rope for Crossfit.

[Update: finally found the page I was looking for in The Ashley Book of Knots, where he describes both the finger-braiding method (#2999, 4-Strand Square Sinnet), and using a table (#3037, #3070) that’s basically identical to a marudai. Amusingly, where marudai braiders are extremely finicky about the smoothly-polished texture of the table’s surface, Ashley drives 1-inch brads into the edges to keep the strands neatly separated.]

Monday, December 1 2014

Life’s too short to wait for spinning disks

Everyone started playing WoW again, and while I had left my accounts lapsed for the past two years, on discovering that I didn’t have to buy the previous expansion, I reactivated an account and started playing Mists of Pandaria. Maybe when the next expansion comes out, I’ll play Warlords of Draenor. :-)

The Surface Pro 2 handles the game just fine, although the small high-DPI display takes some getting used to, and the keyboard has a tendency to treat the “w” key as a toggle (only in this sort of game; some firmware limitation on really long keypresses, I suppose).

I still have the Asus gaming laptop I bought a few years ago, and while it’s not an everyday portable, it’s ideal for our weekend food/gaming parties. However, when I transferred the updated client over and started playing, I was reminded that load times exist. Asus shipped a nice pair of 7200 RPM drives in it, but everything starts up so slowly compared to the Surface.

So I bought a pair of Crucial MX100 512GB SSDs; I could have bought smaller ones, but $190? Sold! They even come with an Acronis license to do the data transfers.

Why the Crucial, besides the price? I’ve had a 960GB M500 in my Mac for a year and a half, and it’s been fast and trouble-free. The Amazon ratings agree.

[Update: oh, yes, that’s much nicer. Also significantly faster for video editing in Premiere]

Tuesday, November 25 2014

“Please form a line and take turns”

I’m guessing that after a few more muggings, this little snowflake won’t be quite as sympathetic:

“Who am I to stand from my perch of privilege, surrounded by million-dollar homes and paying for a $60,000 education, to condemn these young men as ‘thugs?’” asks Friedfeld. “It’s precisely this kind of ‘otherization’ that fuels the problem.”

Police also aren’t the solution to the problem, Friedfeld argues.

“If we ever want opportunistic crime to end, we should look at ourselves first. Simply amplifying police presence will not solve the issue. Police protect us by keeping those ‘bad people’ out of our neighborhood, and I’m grateful for it. And yet, I realize it’s self-serving and doesn’t actually fix anything.”

Friedfeld suggests that the “privileged” adapt to normalized crime, until the wrongs of the past are righted.

I suggest to Friedfield that it will be my privilege to respond to “normalized crime” with 230-grain hollowpoints, because his blaming criminal acts on the “wrongs of the past” makes him a bigoted racist idiot.

Monday, November 24 2014

Dear Rosalie Nelson,

I count 30 two-color interlacements of Edo Yattsu Gumi (often written as “yatsu”, which amuses me because “Edo Yatsu” sounds more like “Tokyo Punk”). Excluding the 180° rotations still leaves 26, so I don’t know how you got down to 24 for your book. Script error (mine or yours?), or did you just ignore two of them as unattractive? Perhaps 11122212 and 11212122?

[Update: Ah, I see the light! 11212221 is the color inversion of 11122212, and ditto for the other one. So, 24 it is, ignoring the rotations (two of which are also color inversions)]

(I didn’t feel like paying $20 for an admittedly well-made book containing printouts of computer-generated braiding patterns; I preferred writing my own script…)

Large collection of pattern GIFs below the fold, using the standard Carey diagram. When I get a chance, I’ll change the script to generate PDFs as well as GIFs.

(Continued on Page 4498)

Sunday, November 23 2014

On Cosby

There are a lot of accusations surfacing. It’s still all hearsay, and much of it is decades-old and can never be substantiated, but now that a friend of mine has come forward as a victim, I believe it to be true. I have no doubts about Victoria Valentino’s integrity.

Of course, the people who gleefully latched onto it as an excuse to undercut his advice to the black community are also despicable, just not criminal.

Thursday, November 20 2014

Suddenly I feel better about that quake…

Upstate New York:

Global Warming strikes again!

8.5 miles from my house:

minor earthquake in San Juan Bautista

I only felt two of the little quakes they had in San Juan Bautista over the past day, and both of them were short, sharp shocks. Generally, anything on the other side of the hills goes unfelt in my area, so it was more surprising than anything else, especially since it felt more like the pressure wave from an explosion than the usual ground effects.

Wednesday, November 19 2014

Dear Amazon,

Well, I suppose they’re both covers…

Umbrella for Kindle

Saturday, November 15 2014

Missing: glasses and cat ears

Found on Amazon Japan. I can’t imagine why they recommend these things to me…

Twintail and Machine Gun

Tuesday, November 11 2014

Free Kindles!

Well, free 30-day trial, anyway, of the Paperwhite, the HD 7”, or the HDX 7”.

I haven’t used them myself (I kind of lost interest in Android/iOS tablets after I bought the Surface Pro 2), but I like the fact that you can download a lot of the Prime video collection for offline viewing. That would be handy.

Wednesday, November 5 2014

Peter’s Progress

(Capaldi, that is)

Early in this season of Doctor Who, those of us who found the reality not living up to the hype were scolded for leaping to conclusions without adequate evidence. Also reminding us that Smith had some real stinkers his first season.

Well, we’ve now got 11 episodes, and for the third week in a row, it’s Wednesday and I still haven’t gotten around to watching the latest one yet. In fact, it wasn’t until just now that I checked my Amazon account and realized that I was behind; I still thought the tree thing was current.

I’m still watching Doctor Who. In fact, I’ve watched five episodes in the past week: Aliens of London, World War Three, Dalek, The Empty Child, and The Doctor Dances. I’m just not the least bit impressed with this season. Capaldi has had a few moments where he really felt like the Doctor, but most of the time, it’s not working for me.

[Update: finally watched 11. Missy was just as annoying as her teaser appearances promised, and the Big Reveal elicited only a small groan of pain]

[Update: watched 12 last night. Reaction: meh. Seriously, that’s what they spent the entire season building up to, with Clara’s love life and the Doctor’s assholiness and Missy? Lame as fuck, and they don’t get a pass for referencing the Brigadier, especially after Osgood.]

Monday, November 3 2014

Dear developers,

Regardless of the flaws and limitations of the specific tool, saying “it will slow us down” is not a valid argument against code reviews.

Saturday, November 1 2014

A thoroughly random image collection

From here:

“Need a clue, take a clue; got a clue, leave a clue.”