August 2004

Got sleeping pills? Need some?

The iTunes Music Store has put up free audiobooks of the DNC speeches. Knock yourself out.

No, really.

If it saves twenty-five lives? Or is it fifteen? Or maybe none?

Okay, this story claims, without providing any of the details, that “safe gun storage” laws cut the teen suicide rates since their adoption in 1989. That is, the news report claims this, while the research paper (published in JAMA) simply says they may have cut suicide rates.

But by how much? First, they mention 300 less suicides between 1989 and 2001 for the 14-17 age group, and then they segue into a discussion of the number of suicides in the 14-20 age group. Sloppy reading on the reporter’s part, or is this a reflection of the actual research? And where are the rates that are mentioned in the headline? All I see are raw numbers.

Looking for real data, I found that the with-gun suicide rate for teens age 14-19 (and for other groups) has been declining for a while, but it peaked in 1994, five years after the “safe storage” laws in question. Interestingly enough, suffocation seems to be taking up the slack, although it’s not enough to stop the overall decline. It is enough to possibly account for the “prevented” with-gun suicides…

Um, how was that again?

" offers a nonpartisan analysis of the PR-driven deception that has come to define George W. Bush's presidency..."

Yup, that’s how you describe your new book when you want people to believe it’s (cough) fair and balanced.

Bikini Exterminators

The Sun is apparently trying to become the premiere tabloid for SF fans. How? By putting a Dalek on Page 3.

Local copy of not-safe-for-work picture follows:


One for the road

Under the influence of powerful pain-killers (going in for a root canal on Monday), I spent some time this morning preparing a new music mix for an upcoming trip. It consists entirely of songs from the opening and ending credits of anime series, mostly ripped directly from the DVDs with Audio Hijack Pro (with some minor touch-ups done in the free multi-platform audio editor Audacity).

It’s only 52 minutes so far, since I’m deliberately selecting the tv-edited versions that average around 90 seconds. There are a few songs I can’t include because those discs are out on loan, but otherwise it’s a fun mix. Fortunately the person who’ll be locked in the car with me for six hours likes anime. :-)

  • Agent Aika, Silent City (OP)
  • Agent Aika Special Missions Promo
  • All Purpose Cultural Cat Girl Nuku Nuku OVA, Happy Birthday To Me (OP)
  • Angelic Layer, Be My Angel (OP)
  • Daphne in the Brilliant Blue, Asu No Blue Wing (OP)
  • Dirty Pair OVA, By Yourself (OP), Summertime From Autumn (ED)
  • Dirty Pair TV, Ru-Ru-Ru-Russian Roulette (OP)
  • Excel Saga, Love (Loyalty) (OP)
  • Galaxy Angel, Galaxy Bang! Bang! (OP)
  • Green Green, Guri Guri (OP)
  • Hand Maid Mai, Hand Maid De Ne! (ED)
  • Hand Maid May, Jump---Hug Me As Tight As You Can (OP)
  • Happy Lesson, Telescope (OP), Yume no Miyako Tokyo Life (ED)
  • Happy Lesson OVA, (OP)
  • Hyper Police, That's Hypertension!! (OP), Hey Hold Up! (ED)
  • Jubei-Chan, Forever (ED)
  • Kaleido Star, Take It, Shake It (OP)
  • Kiki's Delivery Service, Lipstick Message (OP)
  • Magical Project S, Yume mireba yume mo yume ja nai (OP)
  • Mahoromatic Summer Special, Hiryu Musume Ha! Date Ondo (ED)
  • New Cutey Honey, Cutey Honey (OP)
  • Ninin ga Shinobuden OP & ED
  • Puni Puni Poemy, Puni Puni Densetsu Ppoi (OP)
  • Ranma 1/2 Season 1, Don't Make Me Wild Like You (OP)
  • R.O.D OP
  • Rune Soldier, Twinkle Trick (OP)
  • Steel Angel Kurumi, KissからはじまるMiracle (OP)
  • Super GALS!, A-I-Tsu (OP)
  • Tenjou Tenge, Aishitene Motto (ED)

This is actually a secondary use for Audio Hijack Pro; I bought it primarily so I could record streaming audio from Japanese internet radio stations (such as Radio Japan, Morning Freeway, and MBS Broadband). Having a variety of native speakers discuss different subjects is very handy for language practice, especially since my primary source, anime, isn’t known for its realistic dialogue and proper grammar.

Update: Mostly successful, but I have to redo many of the audio captures, because of a little feature in Apple’s DVD Player that’s on by default: Dolby dynamic range compression. It’s hard to notice with laptop speakers, but with headphones or in the car, it’s quite annoying. Good thing I picked the short versions of the songs…

Update: Ah, that’s better. No more fluctuating volume. While I was at it, I added a few more:

  • Chobits, Let Me Be With You (OP)
  • Cosplay Complex OP
  • Galaxy Fraulein Yuna OP
  • New Cutey Honey, Circle Game (ED)
  • Those Who Hunt Elves, Angel Blue (OP)

Update: A few more.

  • Cosplay Complex, Cosplay Ondo (ED)
  • Re: Cutie Honey OP

First rule: save all the parts

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. :-)

Anime Endings: Cosplay Complex

Okay, it seems a bit silly to review the ending of an OVA series that’s only three episodes long, but in fact the ending is the only thing that really stands out about Cosplay Complex… and not in a good way.

Based on the trailer and the fact that it comes from the director of Hand Maid May, I expected a funny, sweet, well-acted fan-service comedy with a plot that makes Kleenex look sturdy, and, sure enough, that’s what it delivers. They push the limits a bit with one character who can be accurately described as a lesbian pedophile, but while it may sound odd to American ears to say that her obsession is played for laughs, it’s true, and her most serious attempt at seduction ends in a failure that scars her for the rest of the episode.

The cosplay that is the heart of the show is taken very seriously and executed very well. The end credits are built around photos of real Japanese cosplayers, set to a bouncy ondo song that works perfectly. It’s also used for the special feature that identifies all of the costumes shown, and it’s quite a list.

The plot, such as it is? Think Major League with cute high-school girls instead of baseball players, and leave out the climactic victory. Our perky team of underdogs works to make it to the World Series of Cosplay, battling personality conflicts and bonding as a team, but we never see the payoff. We get to see a cosplay battle with last year’s big winners, but instead of the big game, the end of the third and final episode consists of events and new characters that are clearly intended to set up a second series.

Unfortunately, they really don’t have enough good material (or costumes!) to extend the story much, and the new stuff doesn’t even fit that well, so it’s unlikely that a sequel will be produced any time soon. So, if you enjoy well-drawn girls in and out of sexy costumes and don’t mind the lack of resolution to the story, it’s fun.

And who can resist Ikariya cosplay?

Ikariya costume in Cosplay Complex

Ippeichan Yakisoba Noodles: pretty tasty for instant

Acquired from the usual suspects (available online here), this stuff’s pretty good, and pretty filling.

Ippeichan Instant Yakisoba

It’s funny; after all the time I spent in college living on mac & cheese, pot pies, and ramen noodles, I was sure I’d never eat any of them again, and for twenty years I was right. Either the stuff has gotten a lot better since then, or I’ve finally gotten over it. Maybe both.

Free software? Good. Free speech? Only for the Left.

I guess you’d call these folks Geeks Against Democracy:

"We want to bombard (the Republican sites) with so much traffic that nobody can get in"

House of Blues, Pile of Shit

Back from another quick road trip to Vegas, and I regret to report that the Las Vegas House of Blues is a terrible concert venue. Ten minutes into Liz Phair’s set, we walked out, and vainly attempted to find someone in a position of authority to complain to.

We weren’t the only ones. From my position on the side of the room (where I was trying to escape the sonic assault), I’d say that at least 10% of the crowd walked out before we did, after struggling through the relentlessly terrible sound of the previous acts (Charlotte Martin, Katy Rose, and The Cardigans). There was nothing wrong with any of the performances; it was all the result of the morons in charge of the sound, whose work would have been a disgrace in a high-school gymnasium.

Charlotte Martin was accompanying herself on the piano, with no one else on stage. Her music was, in theory, softer and quieter than the other acts, which explains why she occasionally had to ask the drunks at the bar to shut up. I say “in theory” because there were at least four distinct echoes on her vocals (along with an occasional vicious feedback squeal), the piano was amped so loud that you couldn’t tell what chords she was playing with her left hand, and the many out-of-tune high notes were loud enough to draw blood. I have no idea what the lyrics to most of her songs were; she sang clearly, but never had a chance.

Someone apparently persuaded them to turn the bass down from 11 to 10.5 for Katy Rose’s set, which was actually tolerable (if not by any stretch of the imagination good) if you left your seat and hid behind a column, watching her on the monitor. I’d like to hear her in a decent club, to find out what she really sounds like.

The Cardigans did their own sound check before coming on stage, but while this ensured that the inputs were working, the clown running the board apparently thought they weren’t loud enough, so he cranked it back up to 11.

There was a long delay before Liz Phair took the stage, with much rearranging of equipment and another sound check, but nobody tested Liz’s mike, so her voice was completely buried by the bass (now set to 11.5, if not higher). I gave up after the third song. I knew the words, and I couldn’t understand a thing she said. I risked a quick trip back to my seat to retrieve my friend (who was looking longingly at his bottle of ibuprofen), and we left.

Nobody was around who had even the vaguest hint of authority. They don’t have any form of comment card, either, so we were reduced to a quickly-scrawled letter of complaint and a promise to never return. I wouldn’t go back to that pit if Jesus were playing.

And that’s without even discussing the smell and the awful, cramped seating.

Airport Express: call me when it's ready

I wasn’t surprised to find that my receiver takes a second or so to sync up to a new digital audio stream; this is not an unusual flaw. I was surprised that Airport Express isn’t sending a continuous audio signal to the receiver when it’s active, and that iTunes sends each song in a playlist as a separate digital stream.

Net result? My Kenwood VR-407 loses the first second or so of every song unless I set iTunes’ crossfade option to at least four seconds. With that, the first song is still chopped, but as long as I don’t change tracks manually very often, the majority are ok.

This would be acceptable as a short-term workaround, even though I despise crossfade, except that the device isn’t terribly stable. Several times in the first hour, the audio stream simply locked up and had to be restarted.

Bottom line, until there are updates for both iTunes and Airport Express, it won’t get much use at my house. I could switch the connection to analog to avoid the crossfade, but that won’t do anything about the unstable connection.

Wanted: Rick Brant's egyptian cat

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:

Rick Brant egyptian cat

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.]

Vice advice on photography: only 80% nonsense

This is amusing for how it reveals the biases of (cough) “hip young media,” but outside of the context of submitting photos to them, it’s not worth much.

Thank goodness for gun control!

Just think, if it weren’t for their tough gun control laws, Canadian criminals would have access to dangerous weapons. Oh, wait:

Inside the van, police found 15 guns and as much as 135 kilograms of explosives. The firearms included automatic weapons, semi-automatic machine guns and handguns.

Extra credit to the ignorant or malicious reporter who wrote the absurd phrase “semi-automatic machine guns”.

Note that they don’t say why they think the van belonged to an organized crime group rather than, say, terrorists. It’s not like it was parked next to embassies or anything like that.

Oh, wait.

"I'm going to dance at them"

John Perry Barlow on how to freak out Republicans attending the Convention:

Along with fifty or sixty others, I'm going to dance at them. Dividing ourselves into several platoons of guerrilla dancers disguised as ordinary pedestrians, we are going to roam the sidewalks in Republican rich zones, periodically erupting into wild and inexplicable explosions of dancing. We will sustain these for a few minutes before melting back into the crowd and heading off to strike someplace else. I believe this will throw them off their game just slightly, since most of them don't or won't dance and are unsettled by those who do.

Emphasis added. Can you be a little more clueless, Johnny?

Update: Al Franken’s even dimmer, not that this should have surprised anyone. He wants people to respond to Bush’s convention speech with, well, primal scream therapy, and he honestly seems to think that people like him are a clear majority:

On September 2nd, 2004, at approximately 10 pm, George W. Bush will appear on television screens nationwide. For some of our fellow citizens, this will be a moment of joy. But for most of us, it will be the low point of an incredibly exasperating week.

The more I see this sort of nonsense, the more I expect a landslide victory for Bush. Not that the Left will accept the results as legitimate, of course.

Vote Kerry: your inner child will thank you

Assault, resisting arrest, prank calls to 911, arson, and lobbing piss balloons at cops. Michael Moore and Jesse Jackson just melted right into this crowd of thoughtful adults peacefully exercising their right to interfere with someone else’s free speech.

Thanks for reminding everyone that the Left is filled with angry children who throw tantrums when the grown-ups don’t let them do whatever they want. Now if only they’d all take their balls and go home.

Hmm, that didn’t come out quite right…

Update: …and it continues. More arson, more violence, more anti-war activists attacking people who disagree with them, and, yes, all cops are once again pigs. Oink, oink.

Maybe they should have asked the firefighters to help out with the security. Their service on 9/11 seems to have rendered them relatively immune to the typical Leftist contempt for authority, and in a pinch they could really bring back the old days by turning the hoses on these clowns.

Update: As for how the mainstream media is covering this compared to the web, I’m reminded of this scene from MIB:

Agent K on believing what you read

"Hey, where did the pictures go?"

I took the web site down for the night. We’re trying to diagnose an odd TCP error that keeps some people from seeing any of my sites, and the current suspect is the packet filter.

Of course, no packet filter means no bandwidth throttling, and no bandwidth throttling means that all those pictures of happy smiling Playboy models get downloaded a lot more. This gets expensive rather quickly…

Update: back now. Definitely something in either PF or my ruleset that’s interacting badly with Fedora’s latest update to TCP window scaling. The only thing I can think of is the scrub rule, so I’ve commented it out for now.

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