March 2009

Shameless Pluggery


The Roku set-top box is supposed to be pretty cool. And you may be aware that in addition to their Netflix Watch Instantly support, they’ve just added Amazon’s Video On Demand service. If you hadn’t heard about any of that, then gosh-golly-wow, doesn’t it sound just spiffy?

And doesn’t this sound like a paraphrased press release that includes a sponsored link to buy the product on Amazon? It should, because that’s what it is! I just got email from Amazon this morning letting me know that I should take advantage of the buzz and earn money for every Roku Digital Video Player that I help them sell.

So, you know: $99 bucks; streaming video on your TV set; apparently doesn’t suck. Let me know how it works out for you.

Proof I’m not the target market


Spam headline: “This is the solution to all your ED woes”.

J’s first thought: “ED’s are pretty dull; I usually just watch the OP”.

Master of Slut-Fu


[Update: I really ought to finish watching all of the DVDs I already own, namely トランプ. I knew I’d seen her hair like that before… (this concert also includes an energetic and lightly-clad performance by Mai Satoda and Ayaka)]

Original, extremely girly version of the song here. Even in this one, Boss Siatou’s curves makes her stand out like, well, the only grownup in a room full of 15-year-olds.

I’ve seen her do the song in concert in the original style, but I hadn’t known about this:

Or this:

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The truth about Death Knights…


In the new World of Warcraft expansion, Death Knights are a playable class of formerly-dead, formerly-enslaved minions of the Big Bad. Even freed of their loyalty to the evil Lich King, they’re, um, not very nice people, specializing in pestilence, disease, corruption, raising the dead, and assorted other unsavory hobbies.

Naturally, this led 99.94% of the customers who created one to choose a grim, death-y, stupid name. I went a different route. In the previous expansion, the race of draenei were added to the game with “Hollywood Russian” accents, so I created a female draenei with a name that used the accent to project her cheery outlook on after-life: Vanakudl.

The armor available for the first ten levels made me wonder if I shouldn’t have named her HelloSailor, but eventually she acquired a grim, cold-blooded killer look that just wouldn’t do. So I followed Arthur’s advice and made her an herbalist, sending her around the world to gather flowers.

This morning, I was presented with a bit of commisioned fan-art:

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Lingering effects


So I’ve been sick for about two weeks now, with whatever cold/flu/sinus bug is going around, and most likely I’m getting reinfected whenever I feel well enough to get out of the house and go into public. This is in addition to the problem I’ve been dealing with since June, where a combination of sinuses and “silent heartburn” conspired to wreck my voice.

And, of course, getting sick again made that problem even worse, to the point where I was in a conference call early Thursday morning dealing with the fallout from a power outage, and people could barely understand the frog-like sounds that came from my throat.

Off to the ENT again this afternoon. Hopefully he’ll have something better than “try taking Prilosec for three months”, which helped a little, but not enough.

[Update: …and the word for the day is “endoscopic fundoplication”; something to investigate when I get back from my upcoming vacation]

How could they leave out Titanic?


[Update: yup, they’re region 1 NTSC!]

List of (most likely region 1 NTSC) DVDs presented to the British Prime Minister, according to those crack journalists at MTV. Dear ghod, I hope they’re kidding.

  • 2001: A Space Odyssey
  • Casablanca
  • Chinatown
  • Citizen Kane
  • City Lights
  • E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial
  • It’s a Wonderful Life
  • Lawrence of Arabia
  • On the Waterfront
  • Psycho
  • Raging Bull
  • Schindler’s List
  • Singin’ in the Rain
  • Some Like It Hot
  • Star Wars: Episode IV
  • Sunset Boulevard
  • The General
  • The Godfather
  • The Graduate
  • The Grapes of Wrath
  • The Searchers
  • The Wizard of Oz
  • To Kill a Mockingbird
  • Vertigo

Pardon me, but Lawrence of Arabia? Never mind how stupid and thoughtless the gift is in the first place, but Lawrence of Arabia? What, didn’t anyone think that Brown might already be vaguely familiar with this insanely famous and critically acclaimed British film?

Stonemill Kitchens Three Cheese Pepperoncini Dip


This is good dip. I’m sure it has applications beyond spreading on crackers (preferably Pepperidge Farm Harvest Wheat), but so far it hasn’t lasted long enough to test this theory.

Dear Apple,


So, let me see if I’ve got this straight: the new iPod Shuffle has no controls at all, making it usable only with the supplied earbuds or your in-ear headphones that cost as much as the player; the interface on the new remote includes double-click to go forward, triple-click to go back, and press-and-hold until it speaks the name of a playlist; and it’s smaller than most of the flash drives that people are constantly losing.

I ask because my beloved 2nd-generation Shuffle has shown some signs of near-future failure, and it sounds like I should grab another one as soon as the clearance sales start, before this new widget is all that’s on the shelves.

[not that that would leave me pod-less; I’ve yet to have one fail completely, so I’ve still got a 30GB, a 60GB, and a Mini that all use the old-style remote control, which I find best for car use. I’ve also got a Touch (for apps) and a Nano (a gift), and someday need to sync them all up with a machine that has my complete music library.]

Dear Steve Jobs,


I like buttons.

Sony Discman

I know you think buttons and cables and ports are all bad things, and should be hidden from the user whenever possible, but you’re going too far again. The new Macbook Pro that you can’t plug two even slightly oversized USB cords into, even on the 17-inch model that has acres of free space along the one side you permit ports to appear on? Yeah, that’s pretty stupid.

And the new Shuffle that can’t be controlled without the supplied button-starved remote control that apparently has difficulty registering its array of clicks-and-holds when operated with sweaty fingers? Yeah, that’s looking pretty stupid too.

Now, I have to admit that you’re not alone in your hatred for visible controls. See that picture up above? Way back when, the retailer almost begged me to take it off his hands, because no one had ever bought one, and since they’d been discontinued, he couldn’t get it out of the store fast enough. Customers walked in, looked at the sea of buttons, and bought something else.

I, on the other hand, walked in, looked at the device, and said “Look, look! Logically different operations on different buttons! It must be mine!”.

Lazy Copy-Protection Scheme #37


Fans of Japanese music often scour the net looking for printed lyrics. Many of the sites that host them “protect” their content from being reprinted elsewhere, usually with lame Javascript hacks.

The oft-reviled uta-net.com goes high-tech, wrapping lyrics in a Flash app. I’d never looked into the specifics of their method, because everything I was looking for was available somewhere else, but today I had a song from 1968 that was obscure enough that they were the best choice.

I’m a fairly clever fellow, says I, so surely I can use one of the many free SWF-decoding tools to crack this open, even if it’s compressed and obfuscated. So I downloaded the Flash-encoded lyrics, and, just on a whim, opened them up as a text file. I found this:

FWS^FD^@^@x^@^D^^@^@R^@^@ ^A^@C^B^M^L^A^@^D^@^DUTF8^@^@^B^@^? ^C^@^@^B^@^?<84>$^ ^@8^A^@^X^A^@^@^@^@^@^@^@<^@^@(セリフ)それは去年の秋でした 一人の少年が町で会った女の子に恋をしました 少年は胸をときめかせながら・・・・ そしてついにいったのです。「好きです」

きのうケメ子に会いました 星のきれいな夜でした ケメ子と別れたそのあとで 小さい声でいいました 好き好き 僕はケメ子が好きなんだ

僕はケメ子が好きなのに ケメ子はなんにもわからない 僕の気持をお星さま ケメ子に伝えて下さいな 好き好き 僕はケメ子が好きなんだ

僕はケメ子の夢を見た お手々つないでハイキング 大きなおむすび十個持ち ケメ個が八つに僕二つ 好き好き だけどケメ子が好きなんだ

私の名前はミス・ケメ子 あなたはかがみをもってるの はきけをもよおすその顔で 私を好きになるなんて キライキライ 私はあなたがキライです ^@<86>^F^F^A^@^B^@^@@^@^@^@

Yup, stopped me dead in my tracks, you did. That’s some fine security work there, Lou.

(the version of the song I’m interested in is from the out-of-print Hello!Project album Folk Songs 4; Kemeko no Uta is sung by a lovestruck guy who shyly confesses his feelings to Kemeko, only to be shot down brutally in the last verse. The amusing bit in this version is that the last verse is sung by Kei Yasuda, whose nickname is, of course, Kemeko)

Dear Apple,


What moron decided that browsing the iTunes Store should involve a “svipp” sound every time a new page loads or you switch tabs? Including the act of leaving the store to go back to your music?

[Update: …and as mysteriously as it arrived, the sound has gone away again…]

Hello!Project Telepathy Project


Reading Sayumi’s mind, I hear: Mommy, please let me come home. I don’t like it here any more. I promise I’ll finish school and clean up after my pets and marry a nice salaryman, just pleasepleaseplease get me out of this contract.

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A glint of silver


The oddly-named band Bump of Chicken has had a number of hits in Japan, with their songs being used in commercials, games, anime, and, of course, my reading class. Not all of it is to my taste, but I liked the latest one enough to pick up the album last time I was in Kinokuniya.

The designer was an asshole. The front, back, and spine are snow white, with lightly embossed text. Until you get it out of the shrink-wrap, it’s almost impossible to tell that there is text on the cover, much less figure out what it says.

But the fun doesn’t end there. A while back, I complained about the moron who decided to print the liner notes for Aya Matsuura’s latest album in 6-point gothic kanji, including one illegible song that had white text on a light-gray, color-halftoned background. The halftoning made sure that you couldn’t even scan it and blow it up to a reasonable size; the text just disappeared into the dots.

The person responsible for the liner notes in Present from you avoided the halftone trap by printing the lyrics on a nice, clean white background. In 6-point metallic silver ink. Unless you’re under carefully-diffused lighting, you can’t even get an entire line of text to show up clearly at the same time, and the eyestrain from reading 6-point reflective type is insane.

The only good news is that metallic silver is a spot ink, not a process color, so if my scanner can cope with the reflections, I can blow it up to a decent size and hack the contrast into something legible.

Now that’s sexy


Also overpriced and underpowered, but isn’t that always the way for sexy young things?

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Double Feature


We’re planning a bad-movie marathon for some upcoming weekend. I’ve already acquired DVDs of some of my more memorable college rentals (in particular, Video Vixens and The Perils of Gwendoline in the Land of the Yik Yak)), but our planning reminded me of two others that weren’t available last time I checked:

…and now they’re mine!

Hello!Project Telepathy Project


Reina says, “You can call yourself an artist all you want, shutterbug; the bikini stays on.”

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Ah, evolution…


Pirates who attacked a ship off the coast of Somalia got more than they bargained for when it turned out to be a naval vessel - from an international force against piracy, Nato said.

The pirates apparently mistook the FGS Spessart for a commercial merchant ship when they targeted it in the Gulf of Aden, between Somalia and Yemen.

(via The Daily Express)

It’s not a new idea, but it would be nice if they sent a few more merchant-ish naval vessels into the area, to thin the herd.

Dear Microsoft Exchange Team,


Why is plaintext email converted to HTML on the server? I ask because it’s clear that you’ve never seen what happens when Entourage tries to display the daily log output from a moderately busy mail server. It takes several minutes to render the message, during which time the single-threaded client is completely unresponsive.

I don’t dare kill it, of course, due to the risk of database corruption; I just listen to the fans as they crank up to full speed, and find something else to do.

[side note to the Entourage team: why does resizing the window that’s displaying an HTML-formatted message trigger yet another multi-minute formatting lockup? Did someone hold a gun to your heads and demand that you use an HTML library that was written by four-year-olds?]

Pop Quiz


Q: What do the following sentences have in common?

  • Dinner is ready.
  • This cloth will make me a coat.
  • A pool forms.
  • A son was born to them.
  • Mushrooms grow well in damp places.
  • Watermelons are produced here.
  • Some business turned up and prevented me from going there.
  • His income enables him to live a decent life.
  • He is good for nothing.
  • A tender understanding seems to have been formed between the two.

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