February 2014

You can take the girl out of Hello!Project…


…but you can’t take the H!P out of the girl. Former ℃-ute member Erika Umeda has a solo album coming out.

Erika Umeda solo album

It’s, um, not going on my wishlist. Not because her new wranglers are obviously short on feathers, rhinestones, flair, and clashing fabrics, or because her grin appears to have been borrowed from the Joker; no, I just think it’s going to be a terrible album. Now, if she’d released a bikini DVD like fellow former member Kanna Arihara, I’d consider it; their music does nothing for me, but as they’ve grown up, the girls of ℃-ute have become quite attractive women.

Cheek Enhancers


Wandering through San Francisco Japantown on Sunday, we came across a large display of the following item in a shop:

Up Kettsu rump-enhancer

Simply put, Japanese women tend to have flat asses, and this bit of padded gear is designed to mask that little genetic quirk. The product name is literally “Ass Up”, and the box promises a beautiful hip line through increased volume. Interestingly, the pictures at Amazon include a fully translated box, with the name “Up Shape”; I guess they thought the English-speaking market wouldn’t be as receptive to the blunt approach.

Nude photographers tend to deal with the flat-ass problem by using wide-angle lenses up close to create perspective distortion. This tends to produce images ranging from the goofy to the grotesque, but they do it so often that it’s clear that Japanese men want cheek.

Itasen


Coming soon: a Bentenmaru model kit with Marika painted on one side and a bikini-clad Chiaki on the other. Sadly, it’s a kit, which means painting and gluing, or getting someone else to do it for you. I’ve already made that mistake once when buying a figurine, and I don’t plan to do it again.

A rare example of good male cosplay


Porco Rosso at Wonderfest 2014

(via the mostly-forgettable gallery here, where one of the few others I recognize is LOAD-kun; sadly, no Utsutsu-chan, although it has been done)

Valentine’s Day Candy


Eye Candy, that is.

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Fitbit Force recall


Fitbit has started a voluntary recall of the Force fitness tracker, due to people experiencing allergic reactions. Initially, the reactions were thought to be caused by indifferent cleaning practices leading to sweat and grime buildup, but they’re now thinking it’s a combination of allergies to the nickel content and to the glue used to bond the wristband.

I’m betting on the glue, because while I haven’t had an allergic reaction, mine developed a strong, foul odor that definitely wasn’t due to lack of cleaning. In fact, the Japanese Type Cover 2 that I bought for my Surface Pro 2 arrived with the exact same odor, although not quite as strong.

I started an RMA to have mine exchanged for a new one, but when they said it would take 4+ weeks to process, I decided to see if I could deodorize both the Fitbit and the Type Cover myself. I was successful, so I canceled the RMA a few days ago.

My weapon of choice was a pound of activated carbon, purchased in the fishtank aisle at the local pet shop. I buried them in the stuff for several days. For the Fitbit, I taped over the display and the charging port (being sure to cover the two small holes for the altimeter), and for the Type Cover, I taped a paper towel over it.

Fitbit is working on a new model, and I hope that in addition to switching materials, they come up with a new clasp design that’s less likely to catch on clothing and pop open.

In the next episode…


…Shiroe gets Delicious Cake.

Microsoft Understatement ™


From the Windows 8.1++ announcement:

"Some of those touch affordances weren't really tuned as well as we could do for those mouse and keyboard users. We found people weren't aware of where they should look in the UI. Those are the things we've really started to improve for this update coming this spring."

Cheesecake: Miwako Kakei


A rising star in the magazine-cover business is almost-20-year-old Miwako Kakei (筧美和子). An image search will turn up many pleasantly distracting images, of which this is one.

Miwako Kakei

In full makeup, she tends to look about as Japanese as I do, but that has more to do with stylists than genetics. She looks thoroughly Japanese in most of the photos on her blog.

Surface Pro 2


So, right after Christmas, I caught the brief window where the Microsoft Surface Pro 2 was back in stock in my preferred configuration (8GB RAM, 256GB SSD), and bought one, along with the only keyboard cover that was available in a non-hideous color, the first-generation Touch Cover. Since they still haven’t released the Power Cover that gives you real keys and an extra 50% battery life, I made do with that for a while, and then got a good price on the second-generation Type Cover at Amazon Japan.

[Note: for the last few releases, it’s been a lot less painful to switch keyboard types in Windows; you used to have to hack the registry when you had US Windows and a Japanese keyboard, now you can just add the correct layout and manually switch. It still can’t auto-detect different keyboards the way the Mac has been doing for a long time, but it’s progress.]

There are a few quirks that have been discussed in the many reviews of the Surface Pro, but it’s genuinely good hardware, marred only by the immaturity of Windows’ handling of high-resolution displays. Basically, every piece of software that isn’t rebuilt to use the (apparently-incomplete, at least that’s why Adobe says they’re having so much trouble) HiDPI APIs will be scaled to make the text readable, and this breaks all sorts of layouts. For many applications, your choices are “big and fuzzy”, “way too small”, and occasionally “missing most menus and dialog text” (yes, that means you, FontExplorer Pro). “Way too small” is particularly annoying with a touchscreen, but the pen and trackpad have the resolution to handle tiny targets. And the problem goes away if you connect an external HDMI display.

My only complaints about the keyboard covers have to do with the trackpad. First, there’s no way to shut off tapping. There’s an app that claims to offer this feature, but it simply doesn’t work on the Pro 2, and there’s no hint of an update. On any tap-enabled trackpad, I’m constantly mis-clicking while trying to move the pointer across the screen, and it drives me nuts. They’re just too damn sensitive about the amount of pressure required to “tap”.

The second problem with the trackpad is that it often doesn’t work if you plug a USB device in. Because Microsoft’s own USB/Ethernet adapter is a 10Mbit USB2 device, I bought a third-party USB3 gigabit adapter that also includes a 3-port hub. It works great, but if I plug in the adapter and then wake up the tablet, the keyboard cover doesn’t get enough power to run the trackpad. Reverse the order and all is well.

Typical battery life is 8+ hours, unless I’m playing Skyrim, in which case I get a bit over 4. It never gets uncomfortably warm, and the fans are nice and quiet. The two-position kickstand is a nice upgrade over the first-generation Pro, and makes it possible to play Skyrim in bed on a lap desk. The speakers are quite loud for a tablet, and better than most laptops I’ve used.

It’s fantastic for Illustrator since the last update, but until Adobe gets the resolution problems sorted out, Photoshop is annoying to use, both because you need a hack to make the icons visible, and because the 64-bit version has issues with the Pro 2’s graphics drivers. Lightroom is fine, and InDesign is reportedly working well, too. [all of these being the pay-to-play CC versions, which is a rant for another day. Let’s just say there are some cranky pros out there annoyed by a combination of incompatible changes and workflow-crippling bugs]

The “app” market is, as expected, filled with iPaddish crap. I’ve deleted most of the apps that I’ve tried, and I haven’t found a lot of good ones to try. If I had to choose between a standard Surface and an iPad, I’d buy the iPad and complain about it; instead, I get to enjoy the Pro 2.

How do I feel about Windows 8.1? It was designed for a tablet, works well on one, and sucks elsewhere. There are some compatibility issues compared to Windows 7 (VPN software, assorted third-party drivers, etc). On the little netbook I upgraded, I needed to hunt down a Start-menu replacement to make it tolerable; not good, just tolerable.

Oh, and how did I pay for it? A friend sold off a bunch of my old Magic: The Gathering cards on eBay. Just a handful of high-value cards paid for the tablet, keyboard, gigabit adapter, HDMI adapter, and a new Bluetooth mouse, with money left over. We still need to go through the rest of my cards and put them all up as a big batch. And then see if anyone wants to buy a big batch of INWO, black-border Jyhad, XXXenophile, etc…