May 2005

Words to live by

I have a long way to go learning to read Japanese, but it’s nice to find the occasional phrase that my brain decodes automatically without stopping to translate:


The picture was cute, too.

Update: my, all of the online translation engines really make a hash of this one. I think BabelFish’s is the most glorious failure, though…

Only cops should have guns, part 351

Well, maybe if they could actually hit the target at least once, instead of managing to fill a suburban neighborhood with bullet holes. Yes, officer, when you spray ammo at a fleeing suspect, the bullets that miss him actually hit something else. Remember that rule about knowing what’s behind your target? Didn’t think so.

Best Tiger feature so far…

Open the Keyboard Viewer. Click the Zoom/Maximize button. Compare to its “zoomed” size under Panther. Thank the person responsible.

Mac OS X Keyboard Viewer, Tiger vs. Panther

(of course, to reach this point you must first open System Preferences and select the International preferences, switch to the Input Menu tab, and check the Keyboard Viewer palette and “show input menu in menu bar” boxes; only then will you actually be able to use the Keyboard Viewer. I think this is one of the most convoluted methods of enabling an essential utility yet devised, and I can only hope that Apple moves the damn thing into Dashboard real soon now.)

Bacon on the grill

I woke up this morning with the sudden realization that I have never attempted to cook bacon on an outdoor grill. My first thought was that the large amount of grease would cause dramatic flare-ups. My second thought was that, like some other foods, it might not work well on the coarse-grained grates of my Weber Genesis Silver B. My third thought was that bacon comes out best when it has time to render out the fat, and my grill is, well, nuclear.

My fourth thought was to fire up that bad boy and give it the old college-dropout try. I’m glad I did, because not only did the bacon come out perfect on the first try, it didn’t spatter anything with grease, and the cooking odors stayed outdoors. Obviously, there was no leftover bacon grease to cook other things with, but I never really used the stuff anyway.

By preheating the grill on low and turning the heat up to medium after the grease started to render, I was able to keep the cast-iron grates from leaving burn marks. This also kept the bacon from sticking to the unseasoned cast-iron grates (unseasonable, really; at the setting I use for steaks, the grill surface is close to 750°, which quickly burns the stuff off).

Macophile?!? Them’s fighting words!

Okay, technically it’s one word, but an amusing one nonetheless, coming from an unexpected source. I haven’t mentioned it here before, but when I interviewed at Apple last year, the off-the-record explanation for why I wasn’t hired was that I just didn’t seem to be enthusiastic about the company. That, and I kicked off my sandals during the interview, which really freaked somebody out.

Never mind that I walked in with a PowerBook, an iPod Mini, two decades of Mac experience, an ADC membership, a NeXT connection going all the way back to the original beta hardware, a thorough understanding of the job, a friend in the developer group that made the product, plenty of experience doing what they needed done, and a willingness to at least discuss the likely $25,000 paycut compared to what I get at “that other company”. I wasn’t enthusiastic enough.

What he meant was that I wasn’t a starry-eyed zealot who would give his left nut for the chance to be on the inside, where the magic happens. You know, a “macophile”…

[What am I, then, if not one of those? A Unixphile, BSD flavor, with a side order of Photoshop. It was the combination of these two features that made it possible for me to once again become a Mac user, after I abandoned the platform way back in the Eighties. I still supported it at work, I just had no use for it personally.]

Okay, who flipped the switch?

As of Friday morning, over 90% of my spam is either in German, about the T_rk_sh g_n_cd of _rm_n__ns, or both. None of it is getting into my main mailbox, of course; what manages to escape my usual spam filters ends up in my Quarantine folder, due to the unknown senders. After the first few get through to there, the filters learn to recognize it.

[Note that I disemvoweled that phrase to keep it from getting into search engines. I know better than to invite traffic from the folks who can’t even see a recipe for Christmas {large bird} without being compelled to post multi-page screeds about that history. I’m already getting email spam about it, I don’t need to clean out my blog comments as well.]

4 - 1 + 1 - 1 = 5 (“3, sire”)

I have three Macs. One is the G3 iBook that I bought back when Apple finally delivered the first practical desktop Unix. It was very nice, but these days it mostly just runs my Rosetta Stone language software. Current OS: 10.4.1. Hostname: Cyberdoll.

The second is a dual 1GHz G4 tower attached to a 20” Cinema Display. It’s still quite nice, and does a decent job with Photoshop and other applications (most recently World of Warcraft). Current OS: 10.4.1 and 10.4 Server. Hostnames: Arrin-Ken and Tai-Tastigon (Server).

The third is a 15” 1.25GHz G4 PowerBook. It is the center of my existence, holding all my email, projects, ripped CDs, games, toys, downloads, etc. Current OS: 10.3.9 (mama didn’t raise no fools). Hostname: Slots.

At work, there’s a Windows machine that I use for scheduling meetings and filing expense reports. Nice hardware, pity about the OS.

I have purchased quite a few songs from the iTunes Music Store, and all four of these machines were authorized to play them. When I was rebuilding Arrin-Ken last week, I deauthorized it, wiped the disk, installed a fresh OS, and then reauthorized. iTMS says: 4 machines authorized.

Today, I decided to deauthorize the Windows box at work. I just wasn’t using it for music much. When I was done, I logged into the store from my PowerBook and checked the authorization count: 5. Not good, so I checked it from the Windows machine: 3.

Belatedly, I realized that I might have actually done things in a slightly different order when creating Arrin-Ken, namely wiped the disk and then deauthorized it (it had multiple partitions, and only one had ever run iTunes). The authorization count was correct afterwards, so I didn’t worry about it. But I checked it on the machine that had just been reauthorized, and now it seems that the answer you get depends on where you’re standing when you ask.

Officially, doing things in the wrong order uses up an extra authentication slot:

Make sure you deauthorize your computer before you upgrade your RAM, hard disk or other system components. If you do not deauthorize your computer before you upgrade these components, one computer may use multiple authorizations.

But the count was correctly four when I checked it from that machine after the upgrade, and is now correctly three when I check from the Windows box. The obvious thing to do is to attempt to authenticate a completely different machine (say, the Windows laptop at home that only exists to make VPN connections to work), and then see how many authorizations they all think exist.

Worst case, I can exercise the once-a-year wipe option and remove all of my current authorizations, real and imagined. But that’s overkill if it’s just a glitch.

Update: glitch. All of my machines now report the correct authorization count.

Revenge of the Sith

Once again (and hopefully for the last time), Lucas proves that his best movies are those written and directed by someone else. It’s very pretty, though.

It was difficult to keep from analyzing the gaping holes in plot and logic, but somehow I managed often enough to enjoy the experience. I suspect I’ll manage to watch it once more when it comes out on DVD, but that’s it. There’s not enough meat to it to reward multiple viewings.

The unifying theme of the Star Wars prequels

Like many geeks, our entire office went out to see episode 3 today on the company dime. Reflecting on the experience during the drive home tonight, I realized that I finally understood Lucas’ vision.


Zippo: for protection

The TSA has reluctantly conceded that new, never-used Zippo lighters are not a threat when placed in your checked baggage. This doesn’t help people who wish to travel with lighters that have ever been lit, even if they’re empty and sealed in the cargo hold, but it’s a minor step back from the idiot’s abyss that is modern airport security.

Before this landmark ruling, someone had tried to board a plane with a toy digicam that fits into a Zippo case. He failed; the camera was okay, but the Zippo case was not, even though it contained no actual lighter components.

This is obviously an instance of the creeping abuse of “screener’s discretion”; it doesn’t have to be on the banned list, it just has to get the attention of a flunky who doesn’t have to take responsibility for his decisions.

So I found myself wondering, what would happen if people started aggressively pursuing alternative contents for Zippos? After all, their primary charm for many people is not so much the ability to make fire; Zippos are Americana in action, often granted sentimental value far in excess of their price tag.

What could you fit in a Zippo case? At first I considered gadgets like that digicam, such as a voice recorder, but then it hit me:


Maria Yamamoto

For some of us, Memorial Day is a time to reflect on what’s really important: role-playing games and anime voice actresses. Okay, I’m kidding about that, but I did spend the weekend helping a group of friends run a large D&D adventure that used massive quantities of Dwarven Forge 3-D dungeon tiles. Also, on Saturday I slipped away for a few hours to visit one of the other conventions in the Bay Area, Fanimecon.

They had a dealer room that probably looked impressive to people who didn’t live near San Jose, but all it offered me was the chance to buy DVDs without paying sales tax. However, their web site also mentioned that popular singer and voice actress Maria Yamamoto would be present, so I figured I’d make a quick pass through the dealer room and then try to find her autograph session. Eventually, I succeeded:

Maria Yamamoto at Fanimecon 2005

She was very friendly and sweet, and if I had been permitted more than 30 seconds of her time, I’m sure I’d have enjoyed it. As for Fanimecon in general, I’ll be kind and say that I was unimpressed with their organizational skills, and that nothing could persuade me to ever attend another of their shows.

No-Wynn Situation

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.

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