February 2009

Pajamas fall, everyone dies

As the leaders of Pajamas Media abandon their ad network and focus on their new streaming-media venture, it’s important to remember that they tried to tell their members that it wouldn’t last:

"...the next phase in the democratization of ideas has begun"

Sure enough, it was just a phase.

How socialism works

(from Duke, via Marginal Revolution)

For most of us, it is hard to fathom the rationale for a market in burnt-out light bulbs. But in the scarcity-driven Soviet economy, the market was entirely reasonable. Light bulbs were rarely available to individual consumers, but were obtainable for state-sponsored activities. Thus, it would be difficult to purchase a light bulb for a new lamp in one's home, while burnt-out bulbs in state-run offices or factories were routinely replaced. So if someone purchased a new lamp and needed a bulb, he would buy a used light bulb for a small fee and replace a functioning bulb at work with the dud. He would then take the functioning bulb home for the new lamp, while the burnt-out bulb at the office/factory would be replaced with a new functioning bulb. Meanwhile, the maintenance person at the office/factory would take the used bulb and sell it on the used light bulb market.

Dear Amazon,

I’m just not seeing the connection here.

Amazon Shower Fail

Cultural notes: another helping

The opening song on the Aya The Witch concert dvd is pretty darn good. It’s the sort of rock song that Aya Matsuura wasn’t really capable of when she recorded it at age 16 (iTunes preview), but pulls off very nicely at 21 (Youtube) (updated many years later to a still-valid link).

But what the hell does it mean? It’s one of the many that’s missing a translation at the Project Hello lyrics site, and their quick attempt to translate the title was obviously wrong.

From That Sky~替え玉メンで~

"From That Sky -- The Substitute Is Rigid"

Romanized, the subtitle is “kaedama wa kata-men de”, where most dictionaries will tell you that kaedama means “substitute, stand-in”, kata means “hard”, and the most plausible choices for the phonetically written “men” are either 面 = “face; mask; surface” or, well, “men”. Someone associated with the site gave it their best shot and gave up.

JMdict has an obscure second meaning for kaedama, though, and when I saw it, I understood:

second serving (ball) of noodles (to add to previously purchased ramen)

While ramen is often thought of as typical Japanese food, it’s a Chinese import, and the name is always spelled phonetically as ラーメン. And as any poor college student knows, the noodles are often sold dried. Hard, that is. Shortened to four syllables in the usual way, 硬いラーメン becomes 硬メン.

So does it really mean “a second helping of dried ramen”, or is that just as nonsensical as the original attempt? The answer lies in the rest of the song, which starts off with the singer’s phone ringing with an invitation to go out for baikingu (one of my favorite loanwords), and later mentions standing in line for… famous ramen. Ta-da.

Do a Google Image Search for 硬メン, and you’ll find two things: bowls of ramen, and the cover of Aya’s second album.

Stretch Marketing

In the mailbox: a hearts-and-flowers promotional mailer from my car dealership, offering a sweetheart savings on… replacing the cabin air filter.

In email: a web-bug-filled promo from Asus that says: “Spread the Love. Give the Eee PC. “

If I open my front door, will I find a door tag from the local pest-control company, telling me that the best way to show my love is to get sprayed?

Love & Ramen

Now that I know what the title means, it’s time to take a stab at translating the lyrics. There’s at least one line I have little faith in, and four that simply can’t be translated in a way that preserves the line breaks from the original. And, of course, there’s the subtitle.

From That Sky ~替え玉は硬メンで~

From that sky – “Hey ramen vendor, put some more noodles in this!”

歌詞:つんく 作曲:つんく 編曲:鈴木俊介


When I went shopping the store was closed. I was feeling down-hearted, when I got a phone call. Dating is a big decision.

あらま どうしましょう

The skirt button that won’t stay put was breaking my heart, when I got a phone call, inviting me out for smorgasbord. Oh, no, what shall I do?


The 21st Century is somehow different than I’d imagined. Hey! If we can’t have flying cars, at least there’s kissing, right?

From That Sky 羽ばたけ

From that sky, flap your wings with the idea of freedom!

From That Sky 彼方へ

From that sky, to beyond, the goddess of victory! I’m the goddess!

眉毛 描かなくちゃ

When I went to the sauna, I caught a cold. When I had the chills, he came to see me. Awful! I wasn’t wearing makeup. My eyebrows weren’t drawn!


The 21st Century is more easy-going than I’d imagined. Famous ramen that I want to eat, even though there’s a line.

From That Sky 轟け

From that sky, roar [like thunder] toward a future lover!

From That Sky 恋する

From that sky, the goddess of romantic victory! I’m the goddess!

From That Sky 羽ばたけ

From that sky, flap your wings with the idea of freedom!

From That Sky 彼方へ

From that sky, to beyond, the goddess of victory!

From That Sky 轟け

From that sky, roar [like thunder] toward a future lover.

From That Sky 恋する

From that sky, the goddess of romantic victory!

From That Sky 轟け

From that sky, roar [like thunder] toward a future lover!

From That Sky 恋する
勝利の女神さ 私が女神さ

From that sky, the goddess of romantic victory! I’m the goddess!

Dear Amazon,

Seriously, where are you getting these associations?

Pyrex Babydoll

Abuse of Google

One of the other students in my reading class has a habit of typing in his material really small with no space between lines, in a gothic kanji font. His vocabulary lists are done the same way, and have some other formatting quirks as well.

Several weeks ago, he brought one in that runs to a page and a half of small print, plus an equal amount of vocabulary, and he’s showing signs of becoming a bit cranky that we keep passing it over in favor of other material. He’s a nice guy, if a bit intense, so I figured I’d take a stab at it this weekend, so I’d be ready to read the first few paragraphs out loud at the next session.

Yeah, well, screw that idea. With no room to write in notes or furigana, reading the old-fashioned language of a classic fairy tale was just not worth it. So I went looking for an online version that I could print out in a more useful format.

The story is “Tengu no Kakuremino” (“The Goblin’s Invisibility Cloak”), and I found at least a dozen versions of it, from the modernized to the dumbed-down, but only one seemed like a very close match. Problem was, the hosting site just wouldn’t let me read it.

The site is bunko.channel.or.jp, and it’s not available outside of Japan. It’s apparently a free e-book site for cellphone users, and while they let Google in for indexing, their PHP code rejects attempts to retrieve the complete page. No problem, says I, clicking on the ‘cached’ button, but they had a surprise in store for me: Google’s cache won’t show me the second page.

I know they’ve got it, because I can search for text that appears only on the second page, and see it highlighted with a sentence or so of context. Hmm…

So I’m extracting it a sentence at a time with carefully defined searches. This is still faster and easier than trying to read my classmate’s tinyfonts version and type it back in. And I’ve already caught four errors in his version, so now we have another good reason not to read it this week…

[Update: my classmate got his version from japanesepod101.com, a for-pay podcast, and apparently they never noticed the mistakes when they were recording the story.]

[Update: this story is most definitely in the public domain, so there’s no reason for me not to post the reassembled text below the fold… (formatting will be cleaned up later)]


Ooh, that hurt

The punchline in today’s Darths & Droids is painfully good. And the screencap works perfectly.

Um, he what?

Quoting from my local paper, regarding recent incidents of police shootings:

Police said Dorado had pulled a loaded AK-47 out of his waistband.

Dear VMware,

Thank you.

Selecting the option Optimize for Mac OS application performance has no effect on performance
This issue is resolved in VMware Fusion 2.0.2. VMware Fusion now uses significantly less memory when the performance option is selected. This fix applies only to Mac OS X versions 10.5.5 and later.

Free as in "can I use this to swim to Miami?"

Cuba is creating its own Linux distribution. Everything’s backwards-compatible and memory is free, but there are no drivers, and everyone has to share the same library.

Networking support, is, of course, limited to the CCCP protocol.

Smoke = Surprise

After we finished translating the story about the goblin’s invisibility cloak, we didn’t have much time left in class this week, so I quickly handed out the lyrics and vocabulary sheet for “Oo-Edo no Hikeshi”, the kabuki-orchestra cover of “Smoke on the Water”.

We worked through it quite seriously, with the teacher interjecting cultural notes and correcting translations, and then I played the video. It had exactly the effect I had anticipated, with almost everyone catching on quickly.

One surprising exception was the fiftyish American woman who made it all the way through the song without even a vague hint of recognition. None, nada, zilch, zippo. I can understand not being a Deep Purple fan, or avoiding classic rock in general, but how on Earth did she manage to never hear one of the most famous guitar riffs in rock? The song has a frickin’ monument!


[Yes, I’m chasing Aya this week. In my defense, she’s A) talented, B) gorgeous, C) funny as hell, and D) an adult (well, now…).]

In addition to her CDs, concerts, commercials, and action-packed ass-kicking delinquent-detective yo-yo movie, she has a regular gig on late-night radio. In one of her shows, she played a song that she wrote herself, that hasn’t appeared anywhere else. Since I generally buy licensed products rather than download, I didn’t hear about it until it made Henkka’s list of underrated H!P songs.

He had no idea what it was about, he just thought it was quirky and cool and way too much fun. I agreed, and gave him a quick rough translation of one of the verses. This, of course, made the song even cooler.

His embedded Flash player didn’t work well on my machine, so if you can’t hear the song clearly, here’s a download site that has it (with the usual warning about popups and flash ads).

Danger: it’s an earbug.

My translation is necessarily very rough, because there’s almost no grammar, and a whole bunch of mimetic expressions to suggest the sights and sounds of… a washing machine: pashi-pashi, suton, tsurun, buku-buku-buku.

[note to Henkka: this transcript is slightly different from the one I put in your comments; I just caught another line that Mattthecat misheard while transcribing the lyrics (“suichuu” (underwater) should be “sui, kyuu” (the water, suddenly))]



パシパシっと いい形
すとん つるんっと いい心地
パシパシっと いい形
すとん つるんっと いい心地
やはり 大好き お洗濯

“Swish-swish”, we’re in good shape. “Thump, slide”, it’s a good sensation. “Swish-swish”, we’re in good shape. “Thump, slide”, it’s a good sensation. Because of how this can make me feel, Of course, I love laundry!

白 黒 色 分けきっちりと
しみぬき、漂白 しっかりと

Whites, darks, colors, carefully separated; Trash in pockets, none-none-none; Spot remover and bleach, firmly applied; Preparations OK! Go, go, go, go! Go, go, go, go!

パシパシっと いい形
すとん つるんっと いい心地
パシパシっと いい形
すとん つるんっと いい心地
やはり 大好き お洗濯

“Swish-swish”, we’re in good shape. “Thump, slide”, it’s a good sensation. “Swish-swish”, we’re in good shape. “Thump, slide”, it’s a good sensation. Because of how this can make me feel, Of course, I love laundry!

まずは水 急ぶくぶくぶく
左右 右左 踊ります
ぎゅ ぎゅ ぎゅ ぎゅっと しぼられて
お日さま 今日も ヨロシクね ヨロシクね

Now, in the water, suddenly bubbles-bubbles-bubbles, left-right, right-left, dancing. Firm-firm-firm-firmly wrung out, then Mr. Sun, today again, take care of me, okay? Take care of me, okay?

パシパシっと いい形
すとん つるんっと いい心地
パシパシっと いい形
すとん つるんっと いい心地
やはり 大好き お洗濯

“Swish-swish”, we’re in good shape. “Thump, slide”, it’s a good sensation. “Swish-swish”, we’re in good shape. “Thump, slide”, it’s a good sensation. Because of how this can make me feel, Of course, I love laundry!

やはり 大好き お洗濯

Because of how this can make me feel, Of course, I love laundry!

The RosyPants Money Machine strikes again...

This time, Our Favorite Monster Girls are releasing a cover album of well-known idol songs. And, yes, they’re singing them in character.

(note that the second season had seven CD singles)

Dear Hello!Project Costume Designers,

I’m reading Kanna’s mind here, and she’s thinking, “I’ll kill them later, but y’know, I think I can actually work this outfit.”


I can't help it...

Every time I think about Aya Matsuura’s new single “Chocolate Soul”, which attempts to fuse her newer adult-contemporary style with a less-manic version of her early goofiness, I hear a completely different song.

First, here’s Aya:

The problem is, the word for soul is “damashii”, making the song “chokoreeto damashii” チョコレート魂, and you know what that means…


"Great idea!"

“Hey, that’s a really cool 45K JPG that’s perfect for the front page of our manga review site! I bet this guy will really appreciate the traffic he’ll get when we link directly to it!”

“Hey, why is the picture now upside down, backwards, grayscale, and low-resolution? And why did it disappear when I reloaded the page? And why can’t I see his website at all any more? It’s almost like he’s completely rejecting any traffic from anyone who ever viewed that picture on our site! I can’t even ping his server!”

[Update: “Hmmm, I can reach his site from a different machine, but when I try to load our home page that still has the link to his copy of the picture, I get this funny error code. I don’t speak any English, so can someone tell me what ‘403 some bozo deeplinked’ means?”]


Q: What happens when you print white text on a black background?

A: The black ink bleeds into the letters, making them thinner and obscuring fine details. The extent of this problem depends on the specific printing technology, but a good rule of thumb is to use bolder fonts when you do white-on-black.

Q: What happens when you print white kanji, really small, on a light gray background that’s constructed as a color halftone?

A: Garbage.


Yep, that ought to be secure!

Web site account activation system:

  1. Ask new user for name, email address, password
  2. Send confirmation email containing:
    • carefully randomized confirmation URL
    • name
    • email address
    • password (helpfully converted to lowercase for ease of use)
  3. Provide no method of changing email address or password

(site name omitted because no one has any reason to give them a credit card anyway)

Why you hire copy editors...

To prevent things like this:

Xenon - 8 SP1
3D finesse without constraints, solid & surface modeling, drafting, rendering.

So, what features does it have?


I find myself wondering if this verb has ever caused a problem with female tourists in Japan: ぶら下げる = bura-sageru = “to hang; to suspend; to dangle; to swing”.

J Explains It All

My loathe-hate relationship with the Hello!Project Costume Designers is no secret. They specialize in converting rather pretty girls into walking, dancing, singing, eye-searing fashion disasters. My goal in these little critiques has a long history in Japanese culture: hammer down the nail that sticks out.

Sadly, it doesn’t work. And it can’t, because a while back I figured out their real goal, and there’s nothing I can do to compete with that audience.


Dear Amazon,

You’re not fooling anybody, you know.

"Because you bought a pocket tripod, we think you'll be interested in a protective case for Kindle 2. Oh, and because you said you owned VMware Fusion, we're sure you'll like this leather cover for Kindle 2. And now that you've bought that new electric toothbrush, isn't it time to order Kindle 2?"

Dear Amazon Japan,

I don’t care what I’ve bought from you in the past, just trust me on this one: I am not interested in purchasing a comic book with the title 「ぶっ☆かけ 3」. Don’t ask, don’t offer. Do. Not. Want.

[Update 4/12: I hadn’t even noticed at the time, but this series is from the mangaka responsible for Eiken, which only increases my lack of interest…]

Dear LG,

I’m not sure, but I think you’re trying to sell some sort of consumer electronics device in this picture. Power strip? Remote control? What is it?

Melons in a nutshell

I think the first thirty seconds of this clip perfectly defines the roles of the four members of Melon Kinenbi. I can just see them raiding the wardrobe dungeon together to come up with these outfits: Smoky, Quirky, Psycho, and Bambi.

[…and when you add this clip, it’s clear that Boss Saitou is the true Master Of Slut-Fu.]

Dear Reuters,

When reporting that a popular scholar has been detained by the Chinese government, it doesn’t sound good to suddenly switch to the past tense in the last two paragraphs:

He was a popular commentator in the Japanese media and appeared at panels and a symposium on Sino-Japanese relations.

Jin was from Yanji, an ethnically Korean area near China's border with North Korea.

I can’t decide if it’s a simple editing mistake, or a sudden outbreak of honest reporting.

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