Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Sakuracon 2006, Part 5

Cosplayers as Sonic and Tails at Sakuracon 2006.

Sakuracon 2006, Part 4: "Club Sakura"

On Saturday night at Sakuracon, one of the convention halls turned into a nightclub and became "Club Sakura." This photo shows dancers wearing glowsticks, dancing to the J-Rock music. I felt this room before I was close enough to see it, because so many people were jumping up and down that it shook the whole 6th floor, even in other parts of the building. It felt like an earthquake.

(Read my full report on Sakuracon 2006 at JLHLS)

More pictures:

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Sakuracon 2006, Part 3

I thought this costume was beautiful. This cosplayer told me it was an original design, not based on any anime character. I tried my best to capture it, but I don't think the photo can really convey how cool this is. The shoulders and sleeves are just amazing -- a very nice design. She was sitting at a table, not seeking a photo op, but the costume caught my eye from across the room.

(Read my full report on Sakuracon 2006 at JLHLS)

Sakuracon 2006, Part 2

Another teaser photo from Sakuracon. Sakura means cherry blossom in Japanese, and the blossoms can be seen in the background of this photo. Seattle has been having surprisingly good weather during this convention.

One convention tip I'd like to pass on is that the food at the sidewalk crepe vendor just outside the convention center is quick and delicious.

Sakuracon 2006

I'm in Seattle covering the Sakuracon anime convention for the Journal of the Lincoln Heights Literary Society, where I review anime and manga.

(Read my full report on Sakuracon 2006 at JLHLS)

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

The One Tip That Rules Them All

An article called My Top Ten Tips on how to become a Rock Star Programmer has been circulating on the net. It is probably well-intentioned, but I'm afraid it misses the mark.

How to be a Rock Star Babysitter

Let's start with the title. There is no such thing as a "Rock Star Programmer," so if you want to become one, you already have problems that reading a blog post can't fix. Rock stars get sex, drugs, parties, limousines, fame, glory, dates with supermodels, and Rolling Stone covers. Good programmers get . . . uh . . . fewer compiler errors. Or fewer runtime errors, depending on which language you're using. So let's not pretend that "Rock Star Programmer" makes any more sense than "lighter-than-air paperweight" or "Rock Star Babysitter."

Tips 1, 2, and 3 advise using a fast machine, a big monitor, and all the features of your IDE. This is like telling people to become better guitar players by buying a more expensive amp and turning the volume up to 11.

Tip 4 says not to learn APIs too well because they might change. This is like telling a musician not to learn a scale "too well" because the next song might be in a different key.

Tip 7 says to "go back and enhance your old code" because "you learn oodles of things reading your own crap, which old code always is." Sorry, but you don't learn how to write good code from reading your own bad code, you only learn why bad code is so aggravating.

Tip 8 says to eat your own dog food, and write something using your own API. This is decent advice, but just like tip 7, you won't learn how to write good code by using your own bad code, you will only learn why your own bad code is just as hard to use as it is to maintain.

This list overlooks the one obvious tip, the one tip that rules them all and in the darkness binds them.

The One Tip That Rules Them All

You don't learn about good code by studying bad code. You learn about good code by studying good code.

  • Reading bad code won't teach you about good code
  • Writing bad code won't teach you about good code
  • Using bad code won't teach you about good code
  • Compiling bad code faster with a faster machine won't teach you about good code
  • Seeing more bad code on the screen at once with a bigger monitor won't teach you about good code
  • Writing bad code faster with IDE shortcuts won't teach you about good code
  • Performance testing bad code won't teach you about good code
The best way to improve is to study code that is better than your own. Read good code written by experts, in a variety of programming languages. Study it until you understand how it works and what makes it good. That's it. That's the one tip. Oh yeah, and also take the money you would have spent on a faster machine and a bigger monitor and send it to me.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006


Last night somebody broke into my apartment and replaced everything with exact duplicates... When I pointed it out to my roommate, he said, 'Do I know you?'

-- Stephen Wright

But life does imitate art. BPS Research Digest reports:

Capgras syndrome in which the patient believes their friends and relatives have been replaced by impersonators was first described in 1923 by the French psychiatrist J.M.J. Capgras in a paper with J. Reboul-Lachaux.

Now Alireza Nejad and Khatereh Toofani at the Beheshti Hospital in Iran have reported an extremely rare variant of Capgras syndrome in which a 55-year-old woman with epilepsy believes her possessions have all been replaced by substitute objects that don’t belong to her. When she buys something new, she immediately feels that it has been replaced.

The poor woman is living inside a Stephen Wright joke. I dread the day when someone replaces all my blog postings with exact duplicates.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Portland Anti-war Rally, Part 5

These demonstrators were dressed like Abu Ghraib prisoners. Posted by Picasa

Cheerleaders at Portland Anti-war Rally

These cheerleaders were organized and had a great sense of humor. They performed a variety of anti-war protest cheers. Posted by Picasa

Trashy Chicks for Peace

I thought "trashy chicks for peace" was one of the funniest signs at the anti-war rally in Portland today.Posted by Picasa

Portland Police at anti-war rally

Though the Portland police do make mistakes sometimes, it annoys me that we only seem to hear about them when something goes wrong, and we don't hear about the good job they do most of the time. At today's protest, the police were relaxed and professional. I heard them talk to people in the crowd in a friendly way. A few protesters seemed to be trying to provoke the police by walking through their group in a way that was not violent or illegal, but was rude and somewhat odd. The police did not react. I saw nothing but professional, reasonable conduct from the police downtown. Posted by Picasa

Portland Anti-war Rally, Part 1

Thousands of people took to the streets in downtown Portland today to protest the war in Iraq. One of the funniest things I saw was when a pair of skateboarders stood on the sidewalk, pounded the ground with their boards and chanted "We're in the wrong gulf!" They meant that more American troops should have been in the Gulf of Mexico to assist with the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, rather than being in the Persian Gulf. But most people did not understand their slogan at all. It seemed that most protesters mistook them for a pro-war counter-protest, and gave them dirty looks. The skateboarders grew frustrated, and said, "ask us if you don't understand!" Then they pounded the ground more vigorously and said, "This is how you f***ing protest, you gotta get mad!" Posted by Picasa

Just Believe In Yourself, Except When You're Wrong

I recently watched the Lindsay Lohan movie Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen on TV. Like a lot of Hollywood movies, it has a message that goes something like: "just believe in yourself, no matter what anyone else says, and eventually you'll triumph." That is a sweet sentiment, but in many ways it is often bad advice. For example, when everyone else begs you to stop working on your perpetual motion machine and do something useful for a change, maybe you should listen. Only paying attention to one's own ideas and ignoring all feedback from the outside world is a bad strategy.

In the recent American Idol open auditions, many of the first-round rejects walked away saying that the judges were completely wrong. They vowed to keep following their dreams and become pop stars. For a tone-deaf singer, this is just a terrible waste of their time. The sooner they quit singing and find something else they are more suited to, the better.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Footballers' Wives

OK, I'm counting on my British readers to explain this to me. Is Footballers' Wives only funny to me because I'm an American, or is it funny to you too? What I mean is, the show seems to focus on the sort of things that Americans find funny about British people. I imagine it must be similar for you to watch Baywatch or Seinfeld or Dallas, and laugh at Americans. BBC America is showing this here, and I think it's hilarious, but I can't quite explain why. The same plot in an American show would be boring.

My Favorite Podcasts

My current favorite podcasts:

Friday, March 10, 2006

Alert Level

The International Earth-Destruction Advisory Board currently rates the Earth Destruction Alert level at "Green: Current Earth Status: Not Destroyed."

They also have a helpful guide to how to destroy the Earth.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Just Like A Dead Weight

I was listening to the SXSW episode of The Next Big Hit, and I found this song called "Safety Net" by Twin-A.

how's it gonna be
when I'm not there to catch you
catch you when you fall the way you do
when you hit the ground
just like a dead weight
you know exactly how it feels to be with you

Wow, those are some of the meanest, bitterest lyrics I've heard in a long time, and because of that the song makes me laugh and I kind of like it. It's like a male version of Alanis Morissette's You Oughta Know.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006


Not sure what to buy for me as a present? I'll take the Monkey Full Bedskirt. With a name like that, you know it means quality.

Sunday, March 05, 2006


Someone I know, who does not want to be identified in this post, was explaining to me that her new purchases were great because they looked much more expensive than they actually were. I said, "That's frontin'." She said, "What's frontin'?" I had to explain it.

I was shocked to discover that I knew someone who did not know what frontin' meant. That doesn't seem like super obscure slang. In fact, I thought it had reached the status of slang Esperanto -- which is slang so common that even middle-class white people (like me) use it without any intention of self-mockery.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Games Explained

Video games are under attack again. People are worried that 25 to Life encourages kids to kill cops, and Getting Up encourages vandalism. Sure, that is what video games do: they instruct people to literally imitate whatever is in the game. Frogger makes kids play in traffic, Super Mario Brothers tells them to experiment with magic mushrooms, and Pokemon teaches them to capture a bunch of small animals and force them to fight each other.

More traditional games have the same problems. Chess encourages people to attack kings and queens. Bridge teaches people that spades are more valuable than diamonds -- obviously a crazy, warped system of values. Mouse Trap urges people to rely on unnecessarily complex and unreliable devices.

Games work this way because all art works this way. People who sit around "interpreting" art are just wasting their time, because there is only one interpretation. Art is nothing more than a literal instruction manual for how children should live their lives by precisely imitating everything depicted. Shakespeare's plays teach kids to get into swordfights, kill their lovers, disrespect their parents, commit suicide, invade France, and take misleading advice from witches. And when kids walk into an art museum and see an oil painting of the crucifixion, that is just encouraging them to go around nailing people to crosses. If they happen to see a Jackson Pollock painting, that teaches them to spill things.

The only reasonable video games would be about what kids should do in real life. "Timmy, did you finish the game yet?" "Well, I got through the cleaning your room level, the doing your homework level, and the lawn mowing level, but now I'm stuck on the eating broccoli level. I need to get the hint book."

The following titles will be coming soon for Playstation and Xbox:
  • Good Night's Sleep
  • Refraining From Jaywalking: Legend of the Cautious Pedestrian
  • Picking Up Litter Tactics
  • Wash Grandma's Car
  • Sit Still and Study