So, I’ve returned from my little road trip to Las Vegas, and I bless the kind soul who let me know that Angela was the X-Mate for this month in ‘X - An Erotic Adventure’ at the Aladdin.(Continued on Page 127)
I guess I’m just an Internet Lemming at heart:
The Tōkyō Metropolitan Area 首都圏 in particular, although less than 2.0 percent in terms of area, has a concentration of 23.4 percent of the national population.
This is from Japan: Profile of a Nation (Kodansha International, 1999). Surprisingly readable, despite the high information density.
If the Fundies are going to insist that science is just another religion, I think it’s only fair that we have our own religious art.
Update: hubblesite.org finally has a page up with details and more images, so I updated the link.
Spent the weekend at the Motorcycle Safety Foundation’s Basic RiderCourse. After an oddly compelling dream and the subtle prodding of a certain Mr. Lion, I felt the need to at least investigate riding a motorcycle again.(Continued on Page 1933)
After much thought, tire-kicking, and riding, I’ve settled on a 2005 BMW F650CS as my first motorcycle. I’m sure this will disappoint a certain Ducati-loving Lion, but that’s the way it goes.
Why the CS? Comfortable riding position, good balance, some interesting features, terrific mileage, and the friendly sales support of California BMW. Lots of pictures to come, as soon as the bike finishes its cross-country trek to the dealership.
Why not a bigger bike, something I was seriously considering? Because I decided that I’d rather have two very different bikes than one compromise. That and I decided that while you can learn to shoot with a .45, you’ll be able to practice longer and more effectively with a .38 (just don’t take either one out on the highway…). I could carry that analogy farther, but I spent two days riding a 250cc mini-cruiser for the MSF class, and it just doesn’t have the continuing appeal of a good .22. :-)
I put 150 miles on my new motorcycle today. No pictures, yet, because I was too busy improving my skills.
Kind of embarrassing, really. I made it through the MSF Basic RiderCourse with no problems, and a bunch of test rides on different bikes, but when I rode out into traffic on my own bike, I stalled it at least a dozen times trying to get into first gear. That’s why yesterday’s ride primarily took place in a parking lot down the street.
Today was fine, though. Drove around the neighborhood for a few minutes to convince myself that I was past that little shifting problem, then headed up to BMW of Santa Cruz County in Watsonville, to pick up a Wunderlicht rear-seat bag. The F650CS comes with a decent-sized tank bag, but I wanted a little more storage while I figure out what sort of hard luggage I’m going to install (BMW has a top case, but it’s been delayed; Riderhaus has a very sturdy-looking mount for Krauser side and top cases, but they’re ugly; Happy Trails seems to be the best of the bunch, with a custom mount for Givi side and top cases).
Next stop, the Borders in Seaside, which was an uneventful trip down Highway 1. Picked up the obligatory copy of the Return of the King DVD, then decided to find out if I was up for something a bit more twisty, Carmel Valley Road. Early on, some clown in a pickup truck decided that the van ahead of me was moving too darn slow, so he passed us both on a double yellow. Never saw him again, and the van turned off soon, so I pretty much had the road to myself. I went a little wide on one turn, the sure sign of a novice rider, but it wasn’t until about a minute later that a Miata came zooming along in the other direction, so I got the lesson without the adrenalin or the damage.
Around 3pm, the wind really picked up, so I decided to cut over to 101 at Greenfield. Same wind, and faster traffic, but on a road that I know well, with no surprises. Besides, it gave me an excuse to see how fast I could go without exceeding the 5000rpm limit recommended for the break-in period. The bike claimed 80mph, but my GPS insisted I was only going 75. Top speed is supposed to be in the 110 range, but I think I’ll wait a bit to test that.
Tomorrow? Well, I sort of took half the week as vacation, so I can do whatever I want. There’s an MSF course layout painted on a parking lot down at the rodeo grounds, so I’ll stop there for some quick-stop and tight turn practice, and then I think Point Lobos would make a nice backdrop for pictures of the bike.
Oh, yeah; my throttle hand is cramped, my butt is sore, my left calf is hurting from the effort of keeping the bike upright when I tried to walk it through a tight u-turn on a dead-end street at the top of a hill (novice, remember?), and I really need to pack the earplugs next time, but I can fill the gas tank for less than $9, and I had fun. Guess there was something to that dream after all.
So, after my Thursday riding plans were cancelled by a database crash, and my group scheduled an all-hands meeting for Friday afternoon, I decided to take the bike into work to show it off. Officially, I’m on vacation, so I was really just riding 70 miles, hanging out for an hour, and riding back. Hopefully getting past San Jose before the southbound traffic got too heavy.
It worked, too, but I didn’t get away quite soon enough to avoid the slowdown around Morgan Hill. Coincidentally, I needed to stop for gas, so I figured I’d cut over to Monterey Road for a few miles, then get back on 101. This worked out reasonably well, but when it came time to get back on the highway, I went into the turn too fast on the on-ramp, and the bike started edging closer to the yellow line and the end of the pavement.
“What do you do? Lean more!”
I pushed on the low grip, the bike leaned over farther, and my turning radius tightened up. One of the many reasons I’m glad I got professional training before I bought my motorcycle.
Rode into work this afternoon (through ridiculous winds), and took advantage of the late afternoon sun to get a few pictures of the bike on campus. More coming, once I coax Photoshop into doing batch conversion of Olympus ORF-format raw data files. And buy a bigger CompactFlash card to hold them…
What don’t I like? The current lack of support for hard luggage. BMW’s top case has been delayed due to mounting problems (and now that I’ve seen pictures, I understand why; the added “support brace” bolts onto the plastics, not the frame!), and is pretty small. The Happy Trails mounts for a full set of Givi cases look quite sturdy, but even if you just buy their side-case mounts, you have to take off the stock luggage-rack mount, which changes the lines of the bike. The Krauser side cases still look ugly to me, and Riderhaus seems to be in the middle of switching their online sales to Twisted Throttle. Hepco & Becker have mounts for side and top cases that look nice, but not only do you have to relocate your turn signals for the side mounts, there’s also just enough of a design change in the ’05 bikes that only one of their side-case styles will fit.
So, if I give up on the side cases for now, there are two basic options: Hepco & Becker and Givi. Unlike the current mount for the BMW case, both of these have supports that bolt onto the frame, and the cases you can mount are a lot larger (up to a 45 liter Givi scooter case or a 48 liter H&B). The price is about the same. I’m leaning slightly toward the Givi.
What’s the problem with side cases and bags? The gas cap. It’s located on the right side, below the passenger seat (where the logo is on the left side). All the standard products cover this space; many soft saddlebags would also extend through the space occupied by the luggage rack. The Happy Trails and Krauser side mounts partially obscure the rear turn signals; the H&B relocates them. Of course, the F650GS has the same design, but everyone’s worked around it; the CS seems to be the redheaded stepchild in the current BMW lineup.
Update: Still looking for a good Saki or Beemah graphic to use, but for now, I think I’ll go with this image from the free Girl Genius Holiday Gift Tag collection:
Of course, if someone else pops a mimmoth, he’d add mine to his collection, but that joke will only make sense to people who’ve played the Girl Genius card game.
So, after carefully disassembling major portions of my motorcycle so that I could install BMW’s add-on trip computer, I discovered that the dedicated socket it’s supposed to plug in to isn’t there.
Not in the mood to run out to the store for a splitter, nor to assume that I should split off the cable that powers the heated grips, I called a nearby dealer and scheduled time to chat with the one person there who has experience with this particular part. No doubt he’s the one who originally told me it was a piece of cake to install…
Update: They were overbooked for service, so they’ll install it for me next week.
Update: Sigh. There’s a new data harness for the ’05 bikes, and they didn’t have it in stock. Naturally, this took three hours to discover (partially because BMW hasn’t shipped all the service manuals yet, and they had to play phone tag). It’s now on order, and when it comes in, I can finish up the installation myself. At least I was right about where it was supposed to plug in, although I apparently traced the other end of that cable to the wrong thing. :-)
Many years ago, I got my hands on a few titles from the classic Rick Brant series of boy’s adventure novels. One that stands out in my memory (that I currently don’t have a copy of…) was The Egyptian Cat Mystery. The cat in question is a small stone statuette, the possession of which gets Our Heroes into the usual hot water.
Great fun, and as was typical for the Brant series, the science was both plausible and well-explained. I think it’s the only juvenile novel in existence that gives a decent explanation of how SETI works.
Anyway, a while back I decided that I wanted to have Rick’s cat sitting on my mantel, for the benefit of the six people in the world who might walk into my home and realize what it’s supposed to be. Every time I stay at the Luxor in Las Vegas, I check out the gift shops for an appropriate cat. It needs to be around six inches tall, plain (no gaudy gold paint, please!), and apparently constructed of smooth dark stone.
Imagine my joy when I spotted this in the bazaar last weekend:
Imagine my crushing disappointment when I picked it up and discovered that it was chipped in several places, and was the only one they had. Sigh.
[oh, and this is the first photo I’ve posted from my Motorola V600 cellphone. Reduced to 50% and Leveled in Photoshop to fix the low contrast, I’d say this is fair representation of the image quality.]
Not a bad night for trick-or-treaters. 60 degrees and clear skies brought nearly twice as many kids to my house as last year, so I went through about 35 pounds of candy. I’ll try not to eat the remaining 15 pounds of the stuff myself.
Update: dumped the leftover candy in the breakroom at work. It’s all gone now.
hole in arm closing
biopsy was negative
springtime is bike time
I kept waiting for something impressive to happen.
This is not a good sign when you’re dealing with a troupe whose reputation is built on delivering something impressive. Kà is entertaining, but if you’ve seen any of the other three Cirque de Soleil shows in Las Vegas, it’s a bit of a letdown.
What’s wrong? First, the lack of any “wow” moments; they deliver a number of decent pieces, loosely strung together by a half-page of storytelling, but nothing that really stands out. Second, the attempt to pass off the usual acrobatics as stylized combat; half a dozen scenes were marred by dreadful “fight” choreography. Third, the balance between technical gimmicks and artistry was weighted heavily toward the former; it looks like the production was built around the hardware, not the other way around, and much of it seems to be used simply because it’s there.
It can’t be a coincidence that the director of O and Mystère was off working on a show for the new Wynn Las Vegas casino…
Did it suck? No, it’s just not worth planning a trip around yet. There are plenty of talented performers in the show, and the sets are technically impressive; once they arrange a proper marriage between the two, they’ll have something. Except for the combat scenes; those really did suck.
[other shows this trip? The reliably terrific Blue Man Group, and the mostly-amusing George Carlin; his political material has always been weak, but the farther the rest of us get away from the early Seventies, the harder he tries to drag us back there. “No thanks, Uncle Dave”]
In the small pile of mail I found when I got back from Kublacon, there was a nice letter from the Wynn Las Vegas casino/hotel, inviting me out for three free nights in their shiny new place. Good only from 6/5 through 6/9.
As much as I’d enjoy giving the PM of my current project a heart attack by taking three days off next week, I just need a little more lead time for a road trip to Vegas. The artificial urgency created by the letter just doesn’t work on me; they’ll send me another offer later.
Lots of people upload videos to Youtube. Lots of people upload music videos to Youtube. Lots of people upload music videos from the 80s to Youtube. This guy cataloged a whole bunch of them. And for every one he’s got listed, there’s a half-dozen more linked to them. Days could pass before I escape this trap.
[update: to no surprise, the rights-holders in Japan have finally caught up with Youtube, and forced the removal thousands of video clips. I’m not upset with them about it, particularly for things available on DVD (I own import copies of all of the concert and PV footage I linked below); I just wish it were possible to legitimately watch the ephemera.]
This is just a placeholder for links to random videos on Youtube:
Luxor Steakhouse: not what it was a few years ago. The meat isn’t as good, and with the loss of their pastry chef, dessert has descended to the ordinary.
Nobu: just say “omakase, traditional”, and you will be rewarded with something wonderful. The nigori sake was also quite tasty. Cover your ears when the American employees attempt to shout “irasshaimase”.
Mandalay Bay: the cocktail waitresses are now in dresses. If this is progress, I want no part of it.
Wynn: it seems there’s a second tier of cocktail-waitress outfit, reserved for special places and exceptionally well-formed employees. I enjoyed the brief exposure I received, but on a future trip, I’ll have to find out where they keep them. Perhaps the next time they send me a cheap room offer, they won’t have filled up by the time I’m able to accept it.
Other than that, the free suite room was nice, the scenery was reasonable, and I remain only lightly bound by the laws of probability.
On the way out, we once again were pleased to find the middle-of-nowhere bonsai dealer on highway 58. Sadly, he wasn’t there on the way back, possibly due to the ridiculous winds between hither and yon, so we didn’t buy any.
Also, in a moment of pure serendipity, we discovered that there’s a Jersey Mike’s on Paradise. Jersey native Dave was stunned by this, especially since he’d just finished saying “is there any chain that doesn’t have a restaurant around here?”. A quick check of the phone book dug the knife in even deeper: this place that is home to mysterious delights peculiar to the Jersey shore, and which cannot be found within 100 miles of the Bay Area, has six locations around Vegas.
Culled from the blur of the last two weeks. Likely to be updated with pictures and additional commentary.
There are some nice restaurants in the Kintetsu mall near Kyoto Station. While perusing the menu outside of one of them, the muzak system turned up a familiar-sounding tune. I just couldn’t place it. Dave didn’t recognize it at all, and then it hit the refrain, and was revealed to be this.
The next time we went by that place, they’d cranked the silliness higher, with a muzak version of this.
There’s a perfectly good reason why the Japanese cowboy is para-para dancing. If you were hanging out with these Shibuya gals, wouldn’t you?
This is claimed to be a real product, not just a design concept, but I can’t imagine anyone actually using one. Certainly not in a home with kids, pets, or, say, people. I understand the motivation, but antlers at ankle level?(Continued on Page 3191)
Gosh, I can’t imagine why…
(now available on DVD from Amazon, it’s Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog!)
In the new World of Warcraft expansion, Death Knights are a playable class of formerly-dead, formerly-enslaved minions of the Big Bad. Even freed of their loyalty to the evil Lich King, they’re, um, not very nice people, specializing in pestilence, disease, corruption, raising the dead, and assorted other unsavory hobbies.
Naturally, this led 99.94% of the customers who created one to choose a grim, death-y, stupid name. I went a different route. In the previous expansion, the race of draenei were added to the game with “Hollywood Russian” accents, so I created a female draenei with a name that used the accent to project her cheery outlook on after-life: Vanakudl.
The armor available for the first ten levels made me wonder if I shouldn’t have named her HelloSailor, but eventually she acquired a grim, cold-blooded killer look that just wouldn’t do. So I followed Arthur’s advice and made her an herbalist, sending her around the world to gather flowers.
This morning, I was presented with a bit of commisioned fan-art:(Continued on Page 3283)
Out of nowhere, I remembered her first name, and Google turned up a solid link to her last name: Jennifer Collins. Sadly, her career in the circus arts doesn’t seem to have prospered enough to turn up any news since 2003. I don’t know how she compares technically to other contortionists, but as an entertainer, with a warm, funny stage presence, she’s top-notch.
My sister’s in town for business, so…
No, wait, let me start again.
My lovelytalentedarticulatestylisheducatedsensiblesuccessful sister’s in town for business, and arranged to come in early so we could spend Saturday together in San Francisco, and Sunday down at my house.
Friday, while working from home, I prepared for her visit by lighting up the smoker and preparing a double batch of spicy smoked chicken thighs. I think she’d have disowned me if I’d shown up at the airport without them.
Saturday, I picked her up at SFO and handed over the chicken, then we bummed around Japantown and Chinatown for a few hours (praising the heavens that our mother was not along to see the everything-must-go final-auction-starts-at-noon Chinese antique shop), sat impatiently in the bar for several hours while the hotel prepared our rooms, and then headed out for dinner and Spamalot. Since both hotel and theater were in the theater district (which should be renamed the theater&bum district), all we needed was a good place to eat, and a Zvents search turned up Ponzu, an asian fusion place that has some delicious food. Whatever else you get there, order the kalbi beef and the fried chickpeas, and eat them together. Trust us on this one; we ordered a second helping of the beef to use up the leftover chickpeas.
After that, it was off to Spamalot, which Ticketmaster shamelessly lied about the cast of, but the touring cast was by no means a disappointment. It’s a terrific show, very Python but hip, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it came back to SF for a longer run in the future.
Inexplicably, the rows in front of and behind us emptied out completely at intermission, and we heard one of the groups complaining about John O’Hurley’s inauthentic British accent. In Spamalot. Monthy Python. Farce. They just couldn’t get past it. Either they were season-ticket-holding Serious Theatre Patrons™, or they inhaled a bit too much of the pot smoke that was drifting in from the nearby exit door, and were just friggin’ high.
Sunday morning, it was off to my house, which, for a change, was quite clean in the rooms that weren’t sealed off. More chicken was consumed, and for dinner, giant juicy Costco steaks, coated with rub and tastefully incinerated on my nuclear grill at a safe and comfortable 725°. Served with cheesy toasts and wine, life was good. Also surprisingly grownup-like, with candles and music and a centerpiece and both of our laptops shoved firmly to the side. Not at all like my usual combination of a frozen dinner and a web browser.
Dessert was the fresh peaches she brought from Chicago, sliced, sugared, and milked, on freshly-baked canned biscuits, topped with crushed Shouga Tsumami (aka “Ginger Pinch”, aka “Ginger Crack”, aka “Ohmygodthesearegoodgivememore”).
Need something to do in San Francisco?
…when they come for you.
(and, yes, it’s actually called Rubber Duck Project 2009, or, locally, アヒルプロジェクト2009; both searches will pull up some decent pictures)
This picture satisfies certain deep-seated needs.(Continued on Page 3442)
Now this is how to motivate students!
The reader poll asks about the appropriate punishment (setting aside that whole “is it true?” issue…), offering fired, suspended, warned, or “no punishment”. They left out the most obvious choice, “tell-all book deal, followed by appearances in men’s magazines and on late-night talk shows”.
A little something from The Random Recipe Generator:
You will need:
I mean, I didn’t see one catgirl in there. How can this be the future?
…or at least little monsters. Earlier predictions for rain tonight have changed, and while it will cool down, I expect a significant number of trick-or-treaters and their attractive young mothers, so my 48-quart cooler is ready for action.
(yes, this is about forty pounds of candy; I give it out in roughly half-pound handfuls)
[8pm update: all gone]
The invading forces haven’t reached my cube yet, but my folding screens and cardboard roof can’t hold them off forever!
(now, this one can invade any time…)
My Camry Hybrid is for the most part a sedan that happens to be a hybrid, not a Lifestyle Statement that apologizes for being a car. With just under 2,000 miles on it now, it’s averaging 37.5 miles/gallon, and delivering a quiet, comfortable ride. Operationally, it’s just a car, and the only “green” button you can press is one that’s hidden from casual view, that merely reduces the effectiveness of the heating and air-conditioning. I will never press this button.
On the big screen, you can pull up the animated picture of where power is coming from and going to, as well as a bar chart of the current trip’s average mileage, but this is more to amuse the front-seat passenger, since you shouldn’t be looking at the silly thing while driving.
For the driver, there’s an analog gauge with a lightly-damped instantaneous MPG needle, and a small LCD that can show estimated range, long-term average MPG, battery charging/powering animation, and a little “eco drive level” score chart for the current trip (as well as exterior temperature and odometer). When your score changes significantly during the trip, it will briefly switch to that screen before returning to your chosen setting, but otherwise it stays out of your way.
Yesterday I noticed something else it does with that screen. When I arrived at the office and put the car into the park, it switched to the score chart and flashed “Excellent!” at me, praising me for my perfectly ordinary highway driving. I guess they needed to do something to replace the Prius’ smug filter.
The effect on me was perhaps the opposite of what was intended, though. It made me want to drive badly, just to see if the car would scold me, or simply offer less exuberant praise. Is it a stern taskmaster, or a feel-good peer-group-promotion union teacher?
And I found myself wishing that bland statements like “Excellent” were replaced with audio prompts like the ones in Unreal Tournament: “Rampage!”, “Double Kill!”, “Multi Kill!”, “Unstoppable!”.
If you’re going to make a game out of optimizing your mileage, it should at least be a fun game…
They use bigger fonts.
Seriously. If you compare a naughty novel (of the sort I’ve been collecting covers from…) to a regular novel with the same page size, the one with larger kanji is the one full of hardcore sex scenes. Light novels, mysteries, literature, food guides, science fiction, etc: small font, variable amount of furigana. Porn: 20% larger font, very little furigana.
So after many delays, we finished moving the company to the new building. We had a few small issues to work out Monday morning, and I spent the evening on the phone with someone in China who needed to bring up a new VPN connection, but All Is Well.
My reward, apart from an Amazon gift card, new business cards, a coffee mug full of candy, and a Blu-ray box set, was that on Tuesday night, our Shinkendo dojo did tameshigiri for the first time.
Nothing like cutting up targets with a katana to take your mind off of work!
Ah, Amazon recommendation system, how I’ve missed you.
When, and more importantly why, did Russian spammers decide that “cune” was an English word relevant to the performance of sexual acts? Recently my spam folder has been filling up with messages of the form “Russian slang-for-woman want/are ready/wanna to sexual-act for/with you”, and one of the randomized values for sexual-act is “cune”.
It could be a simple typo, but I prefer to think that highly-educated Russian women are offering to write on clay tablets in Sumerian. Talking dirty, as it were.
I have absolutely no idea what this spammer is trying to say in the italicized sentence.
Hello! What is your name? At supervision of your structure I very much have become interested in you. My name is Anna. If you want with me to communicate then write to me. If you write to me do not forget to specify yours e-mail of the address that I could answer to you. I hope you write to [email deleted]
Found originally as an animated GIF; fortunately, Google image search let me track back to the Youtube link.
(or, “fun with obscure fonts that are hard to buy outside of Japan”)
This is the cover of Miko-Ama-Sister!, a serious exploration of religion in modern Japan, in which a scholarly young man probes the depths of Shinto, Buddhism, and Christianity with the help of a shrine maiden and two nuns.
Nah, just kidding, it’s a porn novel.
So we did our usual Shinkendo demo at the Northern California Cherry Blossom Festival, and while it went over well, the crowd was a lot happier to see the followup act, Performer Kana, a street performer from Osaka. Can’t say that I blame them.
(picture from Oyaji no Hitorigoto blog)
“I can’t believe I just got rickrolled by your cubicle.”
…because I taped this to the wall.
Don’t practice martial arts barefoot on artificial turf, on a hot sunny day. My sunburn and my rugburn are competing to see which one is the most annoying. Apart from that, the Shinkendo seminar was terrific.