September 2006

Shaken, not squeezed


Despite my lifelong admiration of the female breast, I can honestly say that this never occurred to me:

Other Japanese men engage in the all-too-common handshake scam, where a friendly man pretends to want to shake your hand Western-style, then fondles your breast at the same time.

This comes from the “Women Travellers” section of the Lonely Planet Japan guidebook. Their stuff is generally reliable, as long as you ignore their fondness for treating alternatives to Western medicine and logic as simple fact, and it’s no secret that groping is a significant problem in Japan, so this is probably an accurate and necessary warning.

By the way, their World Food Japan book is excellent. I have a slight preference for What’s What in Japanese Restaurants, but more for the presentation than for the content; more kanji, and they don’t keep using the phrase “traditional restaurant-cum-bar” to describe izakaya (their other Japan books just call them pubs, like everyone else does).

WWiJR is also slightly harder to lose than WFJ; I know I’ve got a copy of it around here somewhere, but it must be hidden under a CD or DVD. I had to use Amazon’s search-inside feature to look up its euphemism for pub. Which, by the way, appears to be censored on some pages, or else their scanning/viewing software has an odd glitch that accidentally deletes the “-cum-bar” part about half the time without affecting anything else on the page.

[and now I dread the search-engine referrals I’m going to get for having those two words in close proximity…]

This should be easy…


I have a large stack of unencrypted (well, they are now…) DVDs. Each one contains several short video clips, correctly separated with chapter marks. I want a new DVD containing a subset of those clips, arranged in the order of my choosing, with a simple menu structure, and without re-encoding any of the videos. A mix disc, as it were, with no quality loss. So far, every Open Source or free tool I’ve tried has choked.

I’ve tried three different VOB-splitting tools. All of the available author-from-VOB tools choke on them, because they’re missing the embedded tags that make it a real DVD-compatible VOB (e.g. muxed with “mplex -f8”). Demuxing (either directly from the DVD or from split VOBs) produces an audio track that none of the tools can read, not even the same tool that just demuxed it; they all claim it’s unsupported. mplayer, ffmpeg, ffmpegX, mjpegtools, dvdauthor, transcode, etc, etc, all the same. mplayer cheerfully plays the DVDs (and the single-chapter VOBs), but it only successfully demuxes if the audio is AC3 or MP2; mine are all PCM.

[side note: ffmpegX and HandBrake both have a tendency to produce garbage in either audio or video when used to transcode and compress DVD video; there are options that work correctly with both, but many things that should work don’t.]

It seems the only realistic solution is to rip to DV and drop them into iDVD, accepting the quality loss from re-encoding. Everything else involves spending more money than the task is worth.

A day’s worth of Japanese spam


[update: well, this one’s straightforward: 「女の子の足を開かせる」]

I figured I was getting more Japanese spam recently because there’s Japanese text on this blog, but no, that’s not it. Almost all of it goes to addresses harvested elsewhere, including one I that I can never remember the origin of (“j.nwo@…”). Only one in this batch was even sent to an address in the dotclue.org domain.

The subject lines make for fun reading. One thing to note is that the structure of the language seems to be keeping them comprehensible. Either Japanese spam-filtering is a lot more primitive, mangling it to evade spam filters and still be readable is a lot harder, or both. That might explain why my teacher has trouble sending email from a US Yahoo account to some ISPs in Japan; it’s easier to just refuse messages from specific domains and IP blocks tainted by spam.

  • おっぱいを素敵な男性にも吸われたい・
  • 迷惑メール届いてませんか?
  • 美咲よりjgreelyさんへ
  • 突然申し訳ございません
  • 火遊び?プリーズ!
  • 孤独に死んで行くおつもりですか?
  • 写真みてくれましたか?
  • 今日待ち合わせできますか?
  • ネット版ハプニングバーへようこそ!
  • サクラゼロの優良サイトから無料パート
  • サクッと軽く性欲解消
  • ご指名されました
  • H友100人できるかな♪
  • ☆逆援助相手、真剣交際相手☆
  • ☆☆確実な出逢いで今日から楽しい
  • ■目的別で交際相手を探してみませんか
  • ■即アポ確実■
  • 【淫らな人妻、派遣いたします】

Accident update


Just got a status update from my insurance agent on my car accident. They reached the owner of the vehicle responsible for the hit-and-run, and got the following information:

  1. He's insured.
  2. That night, the car had been borrowed by a friend who was visiting from out of the country.
  3. The friend claimed the car was damaged in a hit-and-run.

#1 is the most important, of course. #2 is amusing, because the person driving the vehicle made a quick escape from 101 to 85 to Central, not something you’d expect from someone who didn’t live in, say, Sunnyvale, where the car is registered.

#3 is true, from a certain point of view… :-)

Unhappy homecoming


So, work took me to Kirkland, WA for a week. Not so bad, even if the fact that my work was critical to the company failed to motivate IT to prioritize my tasks above whatever else it was they were doing.

[but I, having promised my manager that I wouldn’t Speak Truth To The Peter Principled At High Volume With Expletives Not Deleted, was a shimmering fountain of sweet reasonableness]

The flight up was packed, but on time, and I got through security in less than five minutes. My map to the hotel proved useless, since they’d changed their name a few months back, and it wasn’t until I called the front desk that I found out that the Doubletree Bellevue was now the Hilton Bellevue … with really horrible wireless Internet access provided by a company called Waypoint. They’ve promised to refund my $10 eventually.

I put in about 65 hours resurrecting our build service, eventually giving up on the last two brand-new servers that were supposed to have been configured and ready before I arrived. Perhaps someone will get to them this week. Or next. Hey, it’s not like they’re needed to, oh I don’t know, PRODUCE OUR ONLY MONEY-MAKING PRODUCT.

[but I, having mostly mastered the art of Not Caring Because They’re Laying Me Off At The End Of The Year, made no fuss, worked around their limitations, and got the hell out of Dodge]

The flight home was uneventful. $50 got me upgraded to first class, and I had a nice limo ride home from the airport, expecting to relax, have a nice meal, go pick up my car from the body shop, and relax some more.

Naturally, I was greeted by the stench of a broken refrigerator filled with spoiled food. Yummy. And very relaxing.

Tuesday night was spent attempting to clean the damn thing, and then surfing the Sears web site when it became clear that the smell couldn’t be removed without more labor than it was worth, assuming it could be fixed in the first place.

Wednesday morning found me waiting patiently for Sears to open, and then dropping $1600 on a new fridge (Kenmore Elite Trio, by the way), to be delivered Friday. Then I spent half a day at work starting the break-in process of one of our replacements, with much more to come on Thursday.

[Nice lady, who’s coming to realize she’s in over her head. I wish her well, but expect she’s doomed. We’re busy keeping things running, so whenever she gets time with us, the knowledge transfer process is a lot like drinking from a fire hose. And she also needs to pick the brain of someone who’s already left, and is available for only a few expensive hours a week. Worse, she needs to rely on the folks in Kirkland once we’re gone…]

Friday, I will rest. Saturday, I will fill up my new fridge. And rest some more.

Sometime soon, I get to figure out why everything I’ve got that can read certain ClarisWorks 4JP documents can edit and print the Japanese text in some of my teacher’s old documents just fine, but nothing can export them to Word as anything but garbage. I’m pretty sure I got it to work once before, but now her ClarisWorks install is refusing to export to Word (with error messages in Japanese), and everything else spits garbage.

It’s particularly annoying that the OS X-native AppleWorks 6 reads them fine, but exports garbage, even via cut-and-paste.

[update: if I export from AppleWorks 6 as RTF, and then run textutil -inputencoding X-MAC-JAPANESE -encoding UTF-8 -convert rtf foo.rtf on the output, everything works fine. I still shouldn’t need to do this, but unless I can coax another copy of ClarisWorks 4JP to export directly to Word, I think it’s the best I can get.]

New fridge good


After the violent death of my not-so-very-old fridge, I found several things to like about the new one.

First, it showed up an hour early.

Second, it has a button labeled Rapid Cool, which does exactly what it sounds like. The intended use is for when you’ve had the door open for a while, or you’ve just put something large and warm inside (like a big pot of leftovers), but I saw no reason not to push it as soon as it was installed, and about an hour later it was cold enough to stock with food.

Third, it has a button labeled Quick Cubes, which also does exactly what it sounds like. It adjusts the freezer compartment to optimize for making ice cubes, which is perfect for breaking in a new fridge, where you want to throw the first batch of cubes away.

Fourth, the french doors reclaim about a foot of clearance in my kitchen, making it slightly more practical to have two people trying to cook at the same time. The bottom freezer comes out quite a ways, but you don’t open that as often in the middle of cooking.

Fifth, it has an extra door seal between the french doors, and an audible alarm if the doors stay open for too long. Fridges that don’t always close reliably can ruin a lot of food. Not as thoroughly as ones that break down while you’re out of town for a week, but close.

Sixth, it has a full-width, full-depth, pull-out meat drawer. Actually, I should probably have listed that first…

It looks like you can’t link directly to product pages at Sears’ web site, but if you click on appliances and then type 76602 into the search box, you’ll see what I bought.

The sweet smell of paranoia


I cherish these people. From the wipe manpage:

I hereby speculate that harddisks can use the spare remapping area to secretly make copies of your data. Rising totalitarianism makes this almost a certitude. It is quite straightforward to implement some simple filtering schemes that would copy potentially interesting data. Better, a harddisk can probably detect that a given file is being wiped, and silently make a copy of it, while wiping the original as instructed.

Recovering such data is probably easily done with secret IDE/SCSI commands.

My guess is that there are agreements between harddisk manufacturers and government agencies. Well-funded mafia hackers should then be able to find those secret commands too.

Don't trust your harddisk. Encrypt all your data.

Did you know?


Why doesn’t anyone ever tell me these things?

First, I learn from Daring Fireball that holding down the Shift key turns your Mac mouse’s vertical scroll-wheel into a horizontal scroll wheel.

Then, just now, I accidentally hit my scroll-wheel while watching a video in QuickTime Player, and it scrubbed through the video. Remarkably useful.

Uplifting International News


September is ending, school is starting, my job is alternately tedious and annoying, and the world is filled with people desperate to pretend that everything will turn out all right if we just stop offending the delicate sensibilities of murderous savages.

And so, I spend my afternoon ogling pretty girls from Japan, modeling new bikinis and hawking gaming gear.

And if that doesn’t work, there’s always Ayaka teaching English to Morning Musume.

涼宮ハルヒの商標問題


From reviews and pictures, I’ve become interested in the recent anime series whose title translates fairly well as The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya. Recently, I’ve seen some comments from fans lamenting the fact that it hasn’t been licensed yet, despite its obvious popularity. Indeed, when I was in the Seattle Kinokuniya recently, there was a display table covered with Haruhi novels and tie-ins.

While watching a few good AMVs, I realized they’ve got a serious problem, and it may not be possible to license the series in the US in its present form. Why not? Because Playboy’s lawyers have no sense of humor.

Haruhi-sama, first-rate bunny girl

That’s not just any bunny-girl costume, it’s the Playboy Bunny costume, and it’s covered by a registered trademark in the US. I looked it up, and Playboy still has active marks covering the bow-tie bunny girl; they’ve never stopped using it for promotions, and with their recent activity in Vegas, it’s becoming more visible again. And, yes, they care about things as minor as short animations produced for a con, and one of the US Dirty Pair comics was retouched to put Kei and Yuri into generic cocktail-waitress outfits.

Colonel Jeff Cooper, RIP


It’s hard to write a tribute to someone you never met, but if you shoot, you should know his name, and find the world a slightly smaller, duller place without him. Local news report here.

“Configured Maximum Connection Time Exceeded”


I was working from home yesterday, and connecting to the office via VPN. In the past, this hasn’t been a big deal. This time, just as I was getting set up to start Something Important, the connection went down. Deliberately.

Secure VPN Connection terminated by Peer.
Reason 430: Configured Maximum Connection Time Exceeded.

Connection terminated on Sep 28, 2006 18:28:40   Duration: 0 day(s), 08:00.12

Good thing they bought a new VPN server to replace this one. Oh, wait; the new one’s still in beta, has been for months, and recently stopped working. Feh.

Sad, really


A 1.25GHz G4 PowerBook plays World of Warcraft far better than a 2.0GHz Intel Core Duo Macbook, even with 2GB of RAM, even with the video settings set lower on the MacBook. Civ IV, on the other hand, runs fine, something that’s not true on the G4. There’s got to be a bug in the video drivers, because that just doesn’t make sense, even with shared video memory.

[and why did I buy a MacBook instead of a MacBook Pro? Partially because I already have gaming hardware at home (and, at least for now, a work-owned MacBook Pro with 2GB of RAM), partially because I wanted the slightly smaller form factor and increased battery life, partially because Sony launched the α100 with a 135mm f/1.8 Zeiss lens…]

[by the way, I replaced the stock drive with a 160GB Seagate from OWC. I never even booted off of the supplied 60GB drive; I just moved it into an external enclosure and copied everything over with SuperDuper!]

[Update: I expected the problem to be related to the variety of shapes and textures used for player-character armor and weapons, so that having more people around made the performance worse. Nope, it’s geometry. I can run through a crowd in Undercity at 15 f/s, but I can’t stare at a single complex building (such as Light’s Hope Chapel, with no players in sight) without the frame rate dropping to 4-5 f/s. The crowds of people around the bridge in Ironforge aren’t what slows the MacBook down to 2 f/s; it’s the buildings themselves. The game is perfectly playable away from architecture.]

[Update: Damn. I mean, damn. I just finished putting the latest Boot Camp beta on the MacBook, and tested WoW under Windows. The frame rate was 3-5 times higher, across the board. Exact same hardware, exact same game settings, ridiculously fast. So I turned the settings up, restarting every time to see when it would choke, and found myself riding past the bank in Ironforge at 10 f/s with every setting at maximum, on Saturday night at 9pm. I realize that a reliable OS can’t let random drivers get as chummy with the hardware as Windows does, but damn. “Dear Apple. Fix this. Love, J”.]

By golly, I think this spam isn’t spam


Going through my Quarantine folder, I found something that had all the hallmarks of spam: a hotel reservation confirmation for a city I’ve never visited (Orlando), sent to an email address I would never have handed out for that purpose (_______@mac.com), with graphics and links coming both from the real site and elsewhere.

When I read the raw source of the message, though, I started wondering. All the Marriott links actually go to the Marriott web site. Everything is spelled correctly, with no attempt to hide spammy keywords. The headers all look legit. Even the links to elsewhere go to legitimate travel-related sites.

Then I remembered My Evil Twin, who, by the way, lives in Boca Raton. I guess the other Jay Greely and his lovely(-sounding) wife are off for a little R&R, and they mistyped their .Mac email address again.

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