Best bouncy castle ever.


Old-school potpourri

Liberal repellent

It doesn’t say whether it’s an English or an Aromatic, but I’ve often thought that a good pipe tobacco would make a better potpourri than the usual overpowering seasonal mixes. People seem to like the room note of Captain Black; wonder if I could get away with a little dish of it in the living room when the family comes out for Christmas.

Or maybe I should sprinkle some on my incense burner.

I like the future

Amazon Prime Now has expanded to the SF Bay Area. While I doubt I’ll ever order the ice cream and frozen pizzas, there’s some comfort in knowing that if you really need a 1080p home theater projector before midnight, they’ve got you covered.

Or if you find yourself running out of candy on Halloween…

I expect it to mostly benefit people like my sister, who often finds herself in business hotels, frantically working on events and presentations.

Dash, Dash Button, and Dash API

Amazon has three new entries in the Internet of Things That Buy Other Things space. Dash is a wifi-connected magic wand that uses voice recognition and a barcode scanner to replenish your stock of household consumables. Dash Button is a wifi-connected magic button that orders a specific product when pushed. Dash Replenishment Service is an API that allows anyone to give their Internet-connected device the ability to order its own consumables.

At this time, I am not the target market for this. I buy an awful lot from Amazon, but I buy bulk consumables at the local Costco, so Dash wouldn’t do much for me. And I can’t think of any single item that I buy in bulk that would merit a dedicated Dash Button. Okay, maybe ammo.

What would be fun is a Dash Reward button, which purchased a random item from your wish list. “Hey Amazon Japan, I’ve been working out really hard this week; send me a Bluray from my ‘busty cheesecake’ list.”

Ninja Nonsense

This is just… kinda sad. It’s one thing to cater to the wannabe-ninja crowd by selling outfits and weapons that are as historically-accurate as the katana from Highlander, but $140 for this is pure sucker-bait:

This hand forged Shuriken set is not only made according to Meifu Shinkage Ryu specs but also include a certificate of authenticity signed by Yasuyuki Otsuka himself, Soke of Meifu Shinkage Rryu.

We are also glad to present with this Shuriken Set our original and unique carry pouch. Made from durable canvas and double layered in the Shuriken tip area this pouch is perfect to carry the Shuriken to your Dojo.

At least if you buy these, you’ll be getting hand-made iron spikes that are good for something. And that won’t get you unpleasant attention from law-enforcement.

I understand the need to cater to the wannabe-* crowd. It’s hard to stay in business as a martial-arts supply store that only sells to serious students, and the high margins on goofy/cool-looking stuff pay the rent, much the way Gil Hibben’s multi-pronged fantasy knives used to.

(I should also note that I have nothing against the various “ninja” schools; apart from their historical claims and taste in weapons, they seem to be legitimate modern martial arts, and there’s nothing wrong with being modern. After all, while Judo was invented in 1884, it didn’t really spread until it was made part of the 20th-century middle-school phys-ed curriculum (along with a newly-standardized Kendo, and Naginata-do for girls), and Aikido and Karate came after WWI. In fact, the art that Aikido is based on, Daito-Ryu Aiki-Jujutsu, may have been invented about the same time as Judo, despite claims to a 900-year history)

Skype auto-translation: this will not end well

Microsoft just demoed real-time translation in a Skype call. They wisely chose the relatively-compatible English and German languages for the demo, but there are so many ways it can go wrong even between such close cousins.

And when you think about expanding beyond the simplest cases, well, consider the following tray of meatballs:

Meatballs in translation

Amazon Fire TV

Yes, I bought the Amazon Fire TV as soon as it was announced. It’s tiny, sleek, a pleasure to unpack and set up, and very responsive. I haven’t tried the optional game controller yet, but I did buy one, and you get a free game with it.

The voice search works quite well, in my limited testing. Sadly, while it correctly recognizes “Stargate SG-1”, it cannot directly navigate to “Stargate SG-1 Season 4 Episode 6”. Someday.

Also, it doesn’t appear that the Crunchyroll app has been ported yet, which means that the anime selection is mostly limited to dubs. I hadn’t realized how wretched the voice of Hermes was in the dub of Kino’s Journey.

[Update: I took it over to a friend’s house, and we couldn’t get any audio over HDMI, using two different cables. Works fine at my house, completely silent at his. We tried every option that was available on both his TV and the Fire TV, but no luck. I don’t see any mention of the problem anywhere yet, so it may be limited to a specific hardware configuration.]

Generating hanko in Adobe Illustrator

A somewhat-belated follow-up to my earlier hanko braindump, here are two bits of ExtendScript (Javascript) for generating decent-looking square seals (kakuin) in Illustrator and then resizing them to see how they’d look at different sizes when sent off to an online dealer who has a laser engraver, CNC mill, or photopolymer (e.g. Brother) system.

sample square seal

The first, make-seal.jsx, takes a string of kanji/kana and formats it into a traditional-looking square or rectangular seal, with options for changing the font, spacing, etc. You need to have some sort of kanji fonts on your system, of course; the script goes looking for anything by DynaCom or Hakushu, and if all else fails, will let you use Meiryo and MS Mincho/Gothic. Overriding the font menu is on my to-do list, along with creating double borders and some other features used in real hand-carved seals.

The second script, seal-sizing.jsx, takes whatever artwork you have selected and creates a new document scaling it to various common seal sizes (by default, the ones offered by Inkan Honpo, who accepts Illustrator files directly; most dealers want black-and-white GIF/JPG). Useful for printing out and seeing how good your design really looks at different sizes, which is important for the seals I’m designing for some local martial-arts instructors.

For extra credit, here’s what I’m using to lightly distress the resulting seals, adjusting the outlines to look a bit less computer-generated. I’d save this as an Illustrator action, except that actions aren’t capable of recording everything any more, sigh.

  1. Select/Object/Text Objects
  2. Type/Create Outlines
  3. Effect/Distort & Transform/Roughen...
    0.15%, 67/in, Smooth
  4. Object/Expand Appearance
  5. Object/Path/Simplify...
  6. Select/Inverse
  7. Effect/Distort & Transform/Roughen...
    0.2%, 83/in, Smooth
  8. Object/Expand Appearance
  9. Object/Path/Simplify...

(I could rant about how Illustrator CC for Windows forces the pixelAligned property for all RGB documents created in ExtendScript, or how ScriptUI windows are mis-sized on HiDPI displays, but I’ll save those for bug reports)

I have some notes on making round seals, but automating those in a way that looks half-decent is actual work.

[Update: because it amused me…]