October 2008

Not the best way, but effective


I had planned to take a few days off work to relax, maybe do a little cleaning around the house, catch up on my Japanese studies, pay a few bills, perhaps even watch a little anime. Your basic five-day weekend.

Then I caught a cold, and by the middle of last week, was feeling pretty miserable. I spent the first two days of my mini-vacation lying around the house with a box of tissues and my last remaining caffeine sources. On Sunday, I finally managed to get a start on my spring cleaning. Spring 2007, that is.

Good thing, too, because I’m refinancing the house, and the appraiser was going to show up on Tuesday afternoon. I didn’t need to impress him with my housekeeping skills, but I did need him to be able to get into every room without tripping over the clutter or sneezing himself to death in the dust.

I’m not a very good housekeeper, you see. I’m a clutter-slob, and my usual practice is to let the stacks of books and piles of clean laundry accumulate until I can’t find a path from A to B, then spend a day tidying and call in a maid service to do the actual cleaning.

Unfortunately, I’ve been pretty busy at my current startup (now in 250 Best Buy locations, arriving in all Micro Center and Frys Electronics soon!), my office is 75 miles from my house, and I rarely have the (sweet, satisfying) luxury of telecommuting. The house has basically become an oversized hotel room that doesn’t have a housekeeping staff. The nicest thing I can say about it is that it didn’t smell; I can tolerate almost infinite clutter, but I can’t stand a mess.

[this, by the way, made life interesting in my rental days; clutter-slobs should never share a place with mess-slobs, but even worse is having two clutter-slobs reinforcing each others’ behaviors]

All told, I did about 24 hours of tidying, cleaning, and honest-to-gosh scrubbing around the house. By the time the appraiser arrived, I was getting unnerved by the sheer wrongness of having so much open floor space around the house, and I’d burned out most of the cold.

If I ever get the chance to retire, I’m hiring two maids. A sturdy middle-aged woman to do the cleaning, and a hot cosplaying coed to tidy up the clutter. Or maybe two of each.

Realistic dreams


Last night I dreamed I was looking something up in Wikipedia.

The page had been vandalized, and was now about various sex toys and how they’re used.

“Hello, my name is…”


“​…Kanna Arihara, and on behalf of the Hello!Project costume designers, I’d like to ask you all a few questions.”

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Credit crunch?


Last week I signed preliminary paperwork to refinance my house, saving about $300 per month. Tonight, my mailbox contained letters from seven lenders offering to beat the deal offered by CitiMortgage. Also the usual weekly credit-card offer from Capitol One, and two “helpful reminders” from my current credit-card companies about their extremely low balance-transfer rates.

It seems when banks can’t figure out if other banks are worth lending money to, they fall back to something more reliable: gainfully-employed consumers who pay their bills on time.

Runway tip of the day


[Update: that wasn’t the worst costume; link below the fold, for your protection]

If you’re a fashion designer whose specialty is putting outrageous costumes onto models, things no one would ever possibly wear in real life, and you need women to wear the stuff, who ya gonna call?

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Pretty Girls + TV Show - Voice Training = Idoling!!!


I’d like to support Fuji TV’s pet idol group Idoling!!!, and it’s true that with sufficient voice processing, their singles are pleasant to listen to, and quite catchy, but I could never watch their show. Never never.

This video explains why. Be sure to watch the high-quality version to get the most out of the eye candy, and keep your hand near the mute button to protect your ears. There’s no voice processing for the show, you see, so you hear what the girls really sound like. And most of them are awful, making the worst of Hello!Project sound good.

In their defense, the show is pitched as a boot camp for aspiring idols, and they spend more time getting hit in the face with pies than they do singing. None of them have solo CD releases, but several have DVDs and photobooks, and there are a few calendars as well. Unlike Hello!Project, the girls are from a number of different agencies, and most of their promotion isn’t tied directly to their presence in Idoling!!!.

In looks, they range from cute to stunning. Two of the first-season girls who stand out are the tall, Western-looking Rurika Yokoyama and the short, busty cutie Erika Yazawa (who must need an icepack after every performance; honey, if they won’t buy you a bra, bring your own. Then again, you’ve got three solo DVDs, two photobooks, and a calendar, so “never mind”).

Please don’t disappoint me…


[Update: threw them away. They may have used the right flavoring, but they used maybe half as much as they should have, on an inferior chip.]

This had better not be one of those “New Coke” deals. I get mean when somebody replaces a classic with inferior crap.

Taco Doritos Live?

PS: Never visit doritos.com. The term “steaming pile of Flash” was coined specifically to refer to that sort of content-free bullshit.

42


Ah, the joy of random surfing. How else would I come to know that the novel published in English as “Life, The Universe, and Everything” was released in Japan under the title 「宇宙クリケット大戦争」, or “The Great Space Cricket War”.

Dear Steve Ballmer,


I know you’re rich enough to afford the best drugs, but you really shouldn’t take them right before giving an interview (emphasis added):

"You know, they like to act like Macs are lightweight, there are much lighter weight PC notebooks. Macs—do they have the best battery power? Of course they don't have the best battery power. Macs tend to have nice screens, but can you get nicer screens for a PC? Of course. Do Macs work in business? No, they do not. Can you get Macs made in your own country? Because in some countries, there's a lot of sort of, you know, what do you call them? Import duties? Taxes? You can't get Macs made in those countries, they make them basically one place in the world, and therefore they get even more expensive.

"You know, there are so many—you know, can you find Macs in—I'm very sensitive to exactly what mouse I have on my laptop. Can you find a range of choices? Of course you can't find a range of choices. You know, anyway—can you find the applications you want on the Mac? Well, you don't really get full Microsoft Office. Everything from Apple is available, there are still tons of business applications and there's games—anytime somebody does client software—over time they'll do a Mac client. Maybe nowadays people do the Mac clients mostly to save time, but that's only on the high-volume applications."

Maybe I should remind Steve about the years that I ran 600 Solaris servers for him from my PowerBook. With a Microsoft Mouse attached…

He’s right about Office, though. Whose fault is that, anyway?

Mercury ticker


It is currently 34 degrees Fahrenheit in my neighborhood. At 8:30am. In central California.

Apparently global warming is tied to the stock market.

Loli Cute?


As I mentioned earlier, I think Erika Yazawa is very cute. She’s also rather stacked (34E-24-34, at only 4’11”), with an on-screen persona that’s as bouncy as her barely-restrained chest.

However, her latest photobook says, right on the cover, “loli-cute looks and 88 bust with G cups”. Sorry, but I’ve found a lot of pictures of her (coughcough), and even in her debut at 15 in Idoling!!!’s first video two years ago, she didn’t look particularly young (no higher-res streaming version available, but there’s a download link off of Acchi Muite Pie!!! (named after a common event in their tv show)).

Cute? Definitely. Loli-cute? Um, no. I’d be a lot less interested if she were working that end of the fetish aisle.

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Dear Erika Umeda,


I respect your ability to work this outfit.

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Lol, cats


Sankaku Complex is a non-worksafe site that mostly posts pictures and stories related to anime and idols, with an affection for certain common Japanese fetishes that I do not share. That is, I visit for the adult models wearing bikinis and less, and run away screaming from their lolicon-bait.

Posting this little number makes up for all their sins:

Soft On Nyanko

Transcribed and roughly translated:

  1. ろり&ぷちNONSTOPやり放題24時間, "Rori & Puchi non-stop doing whatever they want for 24 hours"
  2. ちっちゃいたちががんばっちゃいました!, "These tiny kittens gave it their all!"
  3. ろりっ仔は好きですか?, "Does L'il Rori like it?"
  4. 甘く齧られて抱きしめて…!, (sweetly/lightly) (have something nibbled) + "hold me"

I’m not sure what to do with the passive te-form of the transitive verb kajiru “to chew/gnaw/nibble on something” in that last one. The kitten’s the one doing the gentle nibbling, but then she’s asking you to do the hugging. If the intent is “let me nibble”, I think it has to be causative “give me your causing me to nibble” rather than passive “give me your being nibbled”.

The Invasion Begins


Hello!Project’s most active adult member, Natsumi Abe, turned up at the Hollywood premiere of High School Musical 3. After a three-hour high-speed chase that ended in a hail of gunfire, she managed to elude her stylists and dress herself as an elegant, lovely yamato nadeshiko.

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Japanese text formatting in Mac Word


I’m once again transcribing written pieces for use in my reading class, and I keep coming across little nuggets of information that I thought I’d gather in one place.

  1. Mac Word has two completely separate editing modes, English and Japanese. You can use either language in both modes, but some behaviors differ, and documents originally created in Japanese mode will show their heritage on other, non-Japanese-enabled computers.
  2. Switching between them not only requires restarting Word, but locating the "Microsoft Language Register" application inside the Office folder. In Office 2004, you drag the Word icon onto the Register; in 2008, you run it like any other app.
  3. In Office 2004, it will always switch you into Kotoeri input mode when you launch Word. Also, installing updates will revert you to English mode.
  4. In both, it will change your default settings, including margins, preferred units, and paper size (A4). Once you override these, it doesn't screw them up again.
  5. The two most obviously important features you get out of Japanese mode are vertical text (in the Format/Document and Format/Text Direction menus) and furigana (in the Format/Phonetic Guide menu).
  6. Do not attempt to type or edit in vertical-text mode; it's like watching paint dry. You can switch back and forth with the convenient Change Text Direction button on the toolbar, or switch to Draft view to edit.
  7. Furigana isn't on the standard toolbar. You can open the Extended Formatting toolbar, or bind a key to the FormatPhoneticGuide command (I use Control-Option-P).
  8. Don't add furigana until you think you're done with all other editing. The font and size of the furigana are set when they're created (font used for base word, half its size), and words that have been glossed can't be searched for. They're now equations, you see.
  9. When you add furigana, Word often supplies the correct kana. If it doesn't know the word, or can't guess the correct reading when you're glossing only the kanji, it will usually default to the first on-reading for each character, but will sometimes just give up. Keep an online dictionary handy, and cut-and-paste between the two windows.
  10. Particularly for vertical text, line and page breaks can be very tricky to control. There are two places to tinker: in the Format/Documents menu on the Document Grid panel, and in the Format/Paragraph menu on the "Indents and Spacing" and "Japanese Typography" panels (including the Options window). My usual settings:
    • On: No grid
    • Indentation, Special=First line,14pt (for normal paragraph indents)
    • Spacing, Before=0, After=0, Line spacing=At least,24pt
    • On: Don't add space between paragraphs of the same style
    • Off: Snap to grid when document grid is defined.
    • On: Allow hanging punctuation
    • Off: Allow punctuation at the start of the line to compress (I wish this also suppressed compression of kana at the start of the line...)
    • On: Compress punctuation and Japanese kana (that is, use proportional spacing)
  11. For stories, I set the top and bottom margins to 0.75in, and the left and right to 0.5in. That leaves room for headers and footers, which are always printed horizontally.
  12. Word's default Japanese font is MS Mincho, which is actually quite nice, but I prefer Apple's Hiragino Mincho at 14pt. I think it's a bit easier for students to make out all of the strokes, and using 14pt sets the default furigana size to 7pt, which is also easier to read.
  13. Don't manually select a heavier weight of a kanji font to get bold text; it might work, it might not, and it might appear to work until you print. Just hit the bold button.
  14. Always print to PDF, and always check the results out in Preview before really printing. Take particular note of things like vanishing bold text, unexpected compression of character spacing, and punctuation characters that didn't rotate correctly for vertical layout.
  15. Specifically: “ ” … : ⁉ ‼ ⁈ ⁇ (and maybe a few others I haven't found yet). For most of these, Word has simply used the Latin font, and you can just force it to use the kanji font. For the quotes, you need to switch from the usual Western style (“”) to the fullwidth straight style with the close at the bottom (〝〟). For the ques-bang combos, though, you can either give up, or insert a very small inline horizontal text box into the column that contains the correct character. Be sure to drag that text box off to your scrapbook for later reuse.
  16. Also, Word regularly hoses page numbering when printing; this seems to be tied to the "quick preview" in the print dialog, so wait for it to finish.

More as I’m reminded of them…

J, かく語りき


[Correction from the comments: “かく語りき is bungo forこう語った or こういうふうに語った”, where bungo = “literary language; formal (or archaic) written style based on Heian-period Japanese”. So, “thus spoke X” is actually probably the best English for it. Thanks, Thomas.]

Here’s today’s stumper, blogged for the benefit of anyone who runs across the phrase 「かく語りき」 (“kakukatariki”), usually in the form 「○○はかく語りき」. It’s not in your dictionary. It’s not in my dictionary. It’s not in the Tanaka Corpus. It’s all over Japanese web pages. Google for it with a variety of whitespace options, and 99% of what you find will be references to the game Xenosaga Episode III: Also Sprach Zarathustra, where it’s used in the subtitle as the Japanese translation of “also sprach”.

This suggests that it means “thus spoke X”, a deliberately archaic way of saying “X said”. But can you trust the translation of a video-game title, in a country where “Life, The Universe, and Everything” becomes “The Great Space Cricket War”? After about two hours of digging, I can report that the answer is “yes”.

After more than a dozen false leads, I found the answer in Google Book Search. According to Hepburn’s 1886 Japanese-English dictionary:

Ki キ A contraction of keri, used as a pret. suffix to verbs, also to mark a pause or end of a sentence: katariki, said; ...

Not being a true grammarian, I also had to look up “pret.” = preterite = “past tense”. かく is “to write” (see correction above), 語る is “to say”, and you put them together with a past-tense verb ending that was current 120 years ago, for “Here are written the words of X”.

Where did I find it? In the book ちっちゃい矢口真里のでっかいあなたに会いに行くのだ‼ (loosely “Incredibly Tiny Mari Yaguchi’s Giant Interviews!”, literally “It’s Super-chibi Mari Yaguchi’s going out to meet giant you!”). She’s chatting with veteran television actor Masatou Ibu, her co-star from the daily drama series Sentou no Musume!?, and the phrase appears as a section header when their conversation turns to his advice on acting.

Here’s a picture of them from the book:

Mari Yaguchi and Masatou Ibu, dressed as their characters from 'Sentou no Musume!?'

Free kittens to good home!


The hot news in the idol world is that Hello!Project has announced the “graduation” of every member over the age of 22. Some of them have outside careers that have been providing most of their work for a while (Yuuko Nakazawa, Mari Yaguchi, Mai Satoda, Miki Fujimoto), two of them were semi-retired into motherhood (Kaori Iida, Nozomi Tsuji), two of them were just spun off into their own, hideously-dressed (even by H!P standards) group that will be part of H!P’s parent agency (Rika Ishikawa, Hitomi Yoshizawa), and as I mentioned yesterday, the only one of the grown-ups they were actively promoting just turned up in Hollywood (Natsumi Abe).

The other fifteen or so? Pretty much doomed. Not only are most of them poorly-equipped for solo careers, but the agency owns their music, image, band names, and every picture taken of them since about age 14. No more fan club, no more merchandise, no more occasional appearances to remind fans that they exist, etc.

The oldest remaining member is just-turned-22 Ai Takahashi, who by a strange coincidence just got a lead role in a tv drama series. Good call, Ai-chan; this is not a good time to rest on your laurelsgiant pile of photobooks.

“Imagine a boot…”


Here’s what the election comes down to, says The New Yorker in a current piece labeled as humor:

To put them in perspective, I think of being on an airplane. The flight attendant comes down the aisle with her food cart and, eventually, parks it beside my seat. “Can I interest you in the chicken?” she asks. “Or would you prefer the platter of shit with bits of broken glass in it?”

Now I really want Obama to lose, so his followers will choke to death on their own hatred, intolerance, and bigotry.

〜だらけ


All the J-E dictionaries I’ve checked either insist or at least imply that the suffix -darake (“full of ~; covered with ~“) always has a negative meaning. Certainly the vast majority of uses are negative, but the reason I looked it up in the first place was a clearly positive example, an illustrated guide to the Imperial Japanese Army called ドキッ乙女だらけの帝國陸軍入門 (literally, “exciting filled-with-maidens imperial army introduction”).

It came up in class this week in one of the standard examples, 血だらけ, “covered in blood”. Mud, idiots, lies, mistakes, demons, and holes are also very commonly used with this suffix, but a quick search of Amazon Japan turns up book titles featuring cats, dreams, cat stickers, angels, women, haiku, mysteries, riddles, and, in the adult DVD section, a variety of special-interest items.

So, usually negative, but can be positive in anything from children’s books to fetish porn.

Wishful thinking…


The only email spam I read is the stuff that arrives in Japanese. Every once in a while I’m tempted to print one out and take it into my reading class, but so far I’ve resisted. I’m trying to avoid the “creepy older guy on campus” image.

My English spam seems to focus around filter-evading euphemisms for chemically-induced potency and larger body parts, but the stuff I get in Japanese is about 90% “come to our site if you want to meet women”. The pitch varies from week to week, and the current one is hilarious: 逆援助.

Literally, gyaku-enjo would be “reverse support”, but enjo means something special in the minds of Japanese men: enjo-kousai, which can be translated as either “subsidized dating” or “schoolgirl prostitution”, depending on your mood.

Reverse enjo, then, is every struggling salaryman’s dream: beautiful younger women who’ll pay you for sex. Keep the dream alive, guys.

Tasty breads


The folks at Boboli have a new line of flatbreads under the Ambretta label. I picked some up at Safeway last night, and this morning’s breakfast consisted of their rosemary flatbread, toasted and combined with roast beef and cheddar cheese into traditional sandwich form. The house now smells like rosemary and butter, which is never a bad thing.

’nuff said


“Hey, kid, say hi to Joe the Plumber for me…”

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What’s good for Malaysian religious authorities…


…is bad for Malaysians. Last week they outlawed women in pants, this week it’s yoga. Yoga because it could “damage their faith” (perhaps physical flexibility leads to the mental kind), but pants and other “tomboyish” behavior because they could lead to lesbian sex.

It would be hilarious if these ’tards weren’t deadly serious. I hope the two Malaysian women I met in Japan aren’t caught up in this mess; they were very Westernized, spoke decent English, and, yes, looked great in pants. If they haven’t already left the homeland for good, I recommend America. West Coast, perhaps the San Jose area…

Malaysian tourists at Lake Ashi

Ponzu?


Makoto’s t-shirt says 「先生‼男子がポン酢をかけてきます」. All I can tell you is that the design came from Mari Yaguchi’s old radio show, and a bunch of H!P girls have been spotted in it. Apparently they get a bit goofy sometimes, if that wasn’t obvious from her expression.

Makoto Ogawa says, 'Sensei! Danshi ga ponzu o kakete kimasu'

  1. Read spam. 2. Click on link. 3. Profit?


[Update: …and the real Network Solutions sent out notices warning about the scam today, which suggests it was pretty well-distributed]

[Update: already another one today, to a completely different address, also not associated with any domain registrations. This one came from a German IP address that’s pretending to be Yahoo, with disguised links leading to a different Russia-based domain owned by the same “Shestakov Yuriy”, through yet another Chinese registrar. Long ago, I set up a special filter rule for anything coming from a .biz domain; I think it’s time to apply the same rule to any mention of the TLD, in email or browser windows]

This is one of the more transparent scam emails I’ve seen recently.

  1. It's going to a randomly-scraped address that has no connection to any domain registration.
  2. It doesn't mention any domains that the recipient owns.
  3. It claims that this unnamed domain's registration has lapsed, and as the former owner, the recipient is entitled to a percentage of the sale price to someone else.
  4. It insists that the only way to claim the money is by clicking on the link (and, of course, filling in a great deal of personal information).
  5. The link is labeled "renew your domain", and falsely claims to point to Network Solutions, with ".sys62.biz" (Russian "commerce" domain set up through a Chinese registrar) hidden in the HTML.
  6. There's nothing in the link to identify an individual recipient; you won't even be greeted by name if you're dumb enough to click it.
  7. According to the headers, it allegedly originated on a machine in Australia that happens to have an IP address in Turkey.

I figure 5% of what they send out will slip past spam filters, 5% of the people who see it will click the link, and 1% of those will be stupid enough to enter the information necessary to have their identities stolen. If they sent out 100,000, that’s two identity thefts. And they probably sent out a lot more than 100,000.

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