Monday, December 29, 2008

Crawl Bloopers

Don't mess with the "Shreriff."

Especially not on "Wenesday."

Sunday, December 07, 2008

The Pan of Destiny

Me: So, if we get this new "au gratin pan," is there room in the kitchen to store it?

Her: I'll hang it up in the kitchen on the wall, I already have a place in mind for it.

Me: Oh, I get it, it's a big trophy item, kind of a way of saying to people without au gratin pans: "Ha! In your face, losers!"

Her: You know what's funny about that?

Me: That it's true?

Her: No.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

The Economy Post-Game Show

Lately when I see government officials on TV talking about the economy, I feel like I'm watching one of those post-game sports interviews with the coach of the heavily-favored team that just got clobbered by the underdog after fumbling the ball eight times. And the coach sort of hangs his head and scowls and talks about how they just "didn't execute" today the way they planned, and they are going to have to put this behind them and work harder next week.

The trouble is, it is now mathematically impossible for the Economy to make the playoffs. We're already looking ahead to next season's draft.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Air Traffic Chaos

I've been playing a clever little game called Air Traffic Chaos for the Nintendo DS. It's been said that the sign of a good game is that even when you lose, you feel like you almost won. That's what keeps you coming back for "just one more try." This game works that way. You play as an air traffic controller trying to manage the traffic at one of 5 airports. The early stages are very easy, almost boring, but by midway through the levels things really get interesting, and you have to be juggling multiple arrivals and departures on multiple runways all at once. I also like this game because each level is fairly short, so you can play it a little at a time.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Credit is Time Travel for Money

Credit is like time travel for money. When you take out a loan, your future earnings travel backward in time so you can spend them in the present. As time passes and you arrive in the future, you find that you have less money available because you are paying back the loan, in effect sending the money back to your past self.

Some people look at today's "credit crisis" and ask "but where did all the lost money go then? What happened to it? Does that mean it never really existed?" I prefer to think of the time travel analogy and imagine that the lost money disappeared into the past.

(This is just a metaphorical story of course, not a technically accurate explanation.)

Friday, October 17, 2008

Silly String

Coworker 1: Should the code check whether the value equals null, or should it check if it equals the empty string? Or both?

Coworker 2: It should check whether it equalsIgnoreCase the empty string.

Me: Right, because that way it still works even if the user had Caps Lock on when they typed in nothing.

Friday, October 10, 2008


The global financial markets are in big trouble. The funny thing is, the first time I heard about some of the dangers that contribute to this, it was in a book called The Death of Money by Joel Kurtzman. That book was written in 1993. I got my copy off the shelf to look at it this morning, and I noticed that the blurb on the cover said this:

"The message in this well-organized, lucidly written book should not be ignored." -- Publishers Weekly

I guess it was ignored.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Longboard dance

I made this video a few days ago, just goofing around with the skateboard and my camera. I tried to include a few longboard dancing moves that I haven't seen before. The kneel-down stance swap is a move that I worked out just minutes before I recorded it.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The Three-Liar System

A brief look at our financial world.

Part 1: The One-liar System

Liar 1: Lend me lots of money!

Sucker: Sure!

[Later . . .]

Sucker: Pay me back!

Liar 1: Sorry, the money's gone, I gambled it all away!

Sucker: Frak!

Part 2: The Creation of the Two-Liar System

Liar 1: Lend me lots of money!

Sucker: I don't trust you.

Liar 2: No problem. I will sell you insurance that guarantees that if Liar 1 doesn't pay you, I will. See? Now you will be paid no matter what.

Sucker: OK, it's a deal.

[Later . . .]

Sucker: Pay me back!

Liar 1: Sorry, the money's gone, I gambled it all away!

Sucker: Wow, good thing I have the insurance.

Liar 2: About that . . . it seems I sold too much of that insurance and I don't have enough reserves to pay all the claims. You get nothing.

Sucker: But I thought insurance was a highly regulated industry?

Liar 2: Well, this isn't exactly insurance, it's a complex derivative that acts kind of like insurance. It's a total free-for all.

Sucker: Frak!

Part 3: The Three-Liar System

Liar 1: Lend me lots of money!

Sucker: I don't trust you.

Liar 2: No problem. I will sell you insurance regarding Liar 1 . . .

Sucker: But I don't trust you either.

Liar 3: I am a ratings agency. I will rate Liar 2 as "AAA super-sparkly investment-grade chocolate bonbon."

Sucker: Oh, well in that case, it sounds great! Let's do the deal.

[Later . . .]

Sucker: Pay me back!

Liar 1: Sorry, the money's gone, I gambled it all away!

Sucker: I'll rely on the insurance then.

Liar 2: Sorry, I'm broke too.

Sucker: But how did you get such a high rating then?

Liar 3: About that rating . . . I just "downgraded" Liar 2's debt to the new rating of "ZZZ- completely toxic rat droppings." Sorry.

Sucker: What good are the ratings then, if the original rating was a meaningless fraud?

Liar 3: They help keep money flowing through the system.

Sucker: Frak!


Adding more liars to a system does not make it any safer. All three systems are essentially the same. It is "turtles all the way down" as the old saying goes, or in this case, liars all the way down.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Overheard at the coffee shop

Guy talking on cell phone: "Has he got what you need? You want it? Yeah, you want it? Take it. Yeah. Take it. Is it big? Take it. Yeah."

[Other people who overhear this start laughing.]

Guy on cell phone: "Hold on a second. People are laughing . . . What? What's so funny?"

Me: "Uh, well . . . it's just that your half of that conversation sounds really dirty. It's like you're in a porno. What are you talking about?"

Guy on cell phone: "She's buying a new stereo."

[Guy then thinks back on what his half of the conversation was, and cracks up laughing.]

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Kumoricon 2008 Sunday Cosplay

These were some of my favorite pictures from Sunday at Kumoricon. My full article about the convention will be up at JLHLS in a few days.

More photos:

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Kumoricon 2008 Saturday Cosplay

Today I went to Kumoricon 2008. I attended a panel called "Shakespeare and Anime," and another panel called "L vs. Kira" that organized a debate about the two Death Note characters.

As usual, my full article about the convention will be up at JLHLS in a few days.

Update - more photos:

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Cape Kiwanda Longboard Surfing Contest

I went to watch the longboard surfing competition at Cape Kiwanda today. The conditions were not ideal, with high winds and fairly small waves, but the surfers still put on a very entertaining show.

See more photos of this event in my Flickr set.

Saturday, August 02, 2008


A surfer wipes out at Cape Kiwanda, Oregon. What I love about this is how relaxed the surfer looks through the wipeout. Sort of like, "may as well enjoy this!" This could be one of those motivational posters, with a title like "Accepting the Inevitable."

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Skateboarding Terwilliger To Tram

On July 12, I completed a skateboarding adventure that I had been thinking about, daydreaming about, talking about, and planning for more than a year. It was a complete success and I really enjoyed it. Before I tell you about it though, I have to put in a disclaimer.

Disclaimer: This story is absolutely not a recommendation for anyone else to try what is described here. The activity described below is extremely dangerous and -- as the saying goes -- may result in serious injury or death. Skateboarding on the street is legal in the city of Portland. If you are an experienced skateboarder and feel comfortable skating down Mt. Tabor, this route would probably work for you. On the other hand, if you are more like, "Mt. Tabor, what's that?" then this route is not for you. Wearing protective gear is a must on a route like this. I wore a helmet, knee and elbow pads, and wrist guards.

I should point out that I'm no Tony Hawk, and the closest I ever get to doing amazing skateboard tricks is in video games. I'm also not a high-speed downhill rider. I like to carve turns and always be at a speed where I feel comfortable and I can quickly stop if needed. But I do like to do "adventure rides" on the street.

Last summer I had been doing a lot of street skateboarding around Portland. My favorite run was to skate the back roads down from the Zoo to Goose Hollow, then take the MAX train back up to the Zoo, almost like using the MAX as a ski lift. So I started to wonder if it would be possible to do the same thing using the Portland Aerial Tram as the "lift" instead of the MAX. I asked around a few skateboard shops to see if anyone had heard of this being done before. The reactions I got were always either, "no, that's nuts!" or "no, but hmm, that's kind of a good idea."

I scouted the route by bicycling before attempting it on a skateboard. Then I did various shorter sections of the route separately before trying to link it all up.

View Larger Map

My basic plan was to skate down Terwilliger Boulevard into downtown, then from downtown skate to the waterfront, then along the waterfront, connect to Moody Ave, then to the lower station of the Portland Aerial Tram, then ride the tram back up to OHSU and skate down Terwilliger again. I started early in the morning on a Saturday, in order to minimize the number of cars that would be around.

View Larger Map

I started at the intersection of SW Terwilliger and SW Capitol Hwy. I walked up the jogging trail to the parking lot across from Westood Drive. Then it was time to put on my pads and helmet and start skateboarding in the street. It was going to be almost all downhill for several miles from here. My skateboard for this run was the Arbor Hybrid longboard, completely stock.

One nice aspect to Terwilliger is that there is a bike lane the whole way. So there is always room to move into the bike lane and let cars go past.

I wanted to skate in the street or bike lane the whole way. So this trip did not involve skating in the jogging path, that would be bad for several reasons: because it would annoy joggers and walkers, and because it is not really wide enough to carve good turns.

The route is almost all downhill, though there is a short uphill section near Hamilton Street, where I got off and walked up the jogging path until I got to the top of the hill again. The last section of Terwilliger from Campus Drive until SW Sheridan is probably the most fun. The hill right before Terwilliger intersects Sam Jackson Park road is a bit steep, so I had to do a lot of foot braking here. By the time I got to the Lilac Garden area, my legs were pretty tired. This is quite a long continuous downhill.

Once Terwilliger turns into 6th Avenue, the downhill cruising part of the ride is over and the ride becomes a downtown adventure. Riding on the streets downtown is fun, but the streetcar tracks are a hazard, and of course there are more cars coming from more different directions. Going down 6th I could keep up with the car traffic because of the low speed limits and the need to stop for so many red lights. 6th and Jackson is tricky because of cars coming in from the freeway off-ramp. There were one or two blocks here where I got off and walked, because the road construction made it impossible to have enough margin of safety if a car tried to pass me. I turned right on SW Market St and headed down the hill. Most of the time traffic was very light so I skated this, but here again there were one or two places when there was traffic coming in all lanes, and it made more sense to walk for a block or two instead of risking disaster.

When I got to Naito Parkway I crossed at the crosswalk, skated down to the waterfront, and turned right onto the wide multi-use path. This was all low speed flat pushing. From the path I turned up to River Parkway and then south on SW Moody Ave, back to skating on the street and bike lane again. The skate down Moody to the tram is very nice, most of it is very slightly down hill. The total distance from where I started at the top of Terwilliger all the way to the tram station is about 4.36 miles, almost all of it downhill or flat!

By the time I got to the tram, it was about 8:45 am, so I had to wait until 9am for the tram to make its first run (because this was a Saturday). After riding the tram to the top, I walked through the OHSU building, bought some coffee at the shop near the back, then went out the back door to walk down to Terwilliger along SW Campus Drive and take in the view.

This section (above Terwilliger) should be walked and not skated, for many reasons. First, I believe this section is private property, so skating may not be allowed there. Second, it is much too dangerous to skate there anyway. It is very steep with no bike lane, sharp turns, bus traffic, and cars pulling in and out of parking lots. The chances of disaster are too high to make this worth it. It's a great little walk though, with amazing views of the city.

Once I got back to Terwilliger, I had closed the loop. I repeated the lower part of the route as far as Naito Parkway and then got on a bus home. I had finished my dream route without injury.

HD Quote of the Week

Me: Wow, I haven't seen this show in HD before. It looks good. She looks good!

Her: You already knew she was pretty.

Me: Yeah, I knew she was pretty, but I didn't know she was "HD pretty!"

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Ghost Streets

Lately I have seen a noticeable decrease in car traffic on some of the streets around SW Portland. People seem to be changing their habits due to high gas prices. In some ways it is nice to see the streets a bit emptier: it makes it that much more pleasant for me to bicycle and skateboard. But there is also something eerie about it. It reminds me of going out on the streets during the Super Bowl or some other occasion where most people aren't out driving much. It feels like the beginning of a very slow transition into a weird kind of ghost town where the buildings are still inhabited but the streets are empty.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Cuteness Gap Widens

At the start of 2008, the cutest 1% of Americans had 39% of the total cuteness. This represents a substantial jump from 1998, when their share was only 22%. Kitten futures, traditionally a leading indicator of the cuteness economy, have spiked in recent months, though some economists blame this on international speculators.

But things are tough at the bottom: after inflation is taken into account, the bottom 25% of Americans are actually less cute than they were ten years ago. Some could have flirted their way out of a speeding ticket in the past, but now struggle to get strangers to make eye contact. Others only manage to get by with the help of federal assistance, such as the Cute Stamps program. Some drop in cuteness might be expected with an aging population, but this does not explain the phenomenal gains at the top. Cuteness inequality is rising, with no end in sight.

We risk becoming a two-tier society, where masses of barely-cute and plain citizens are reduced to begging for attention, while the mega-cute become so appealing that they can essentially get away with anything.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

The New Guy

Today I went to a Walgreen's drug store to buy some razor blades. When I walked up to the counter, the guy working there looked at me with a shocked and horrified expression for a second, then he recovered and said, "oh man, you scared me, I thought for a minute that you were a new employee." I didn't understand what he was talking about at first. Then I realized that I happened to be wearing a blue shirt that was the exact same color as the employee uniforms. He thought at first I was some new employee he hadn't met yet.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

The Cheese Tech Inversion

Price of a cheap DVD player: $24.99

Price of a pound of blue cheese: $36.00

Good thing gadgets aren't made out of cheese!

Thursday, June 05, 2008


Overheard at New Seasons: "But Whole Foods ice uses instant water."

Me at New Seasons: "Are there any of these cheeses that we should buy for investment purposes?"

Overheard at the L.A. airport men's restroom, some guy talking on a cell phone: "Tucson, this is Monkey Butt. Call me back. Bye."

Saturday, May 24, 2008

My new T-Shirt

I created this T-Shirt from a photo I took of one of my favorite road signs. The text says:

"The essential is to excite the spectators." - Orson Welles

Monday, May 19, 2008

The Interview

Bob: "So you got new, expensive, fancy shoes. Where are you going to wear them? I mean, I guess you could wear them to an interview for . . . what would you be interviewing for?"

Me: "Galactic Pimp Daddy?"

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Quote of the day

[On the way in to the theater to see a play, we pass a sign that says something like, "Warning: tonight's play contains adult themes, sexual situations, and nudity."]

My mom: "Well, as long as there's nudity, I'll see it."

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Chair Zoo

"Chair Zoo" is my description for a certain way of decorating a room, where the apparent objective was to fit in as many chairs as possible. Often many different types of chairs are used, adding to the menagerie effect.

It can be awkward to walk through a chair zoo because not enough space remains for comfortable traffic patterns through the room. I like having open space, and I like a room where there is enough space to lie down on the floor and make the "snow angel" motion without hitting anything. My house still has too many chairs, though, and I'm about to get rid of at least one.

Creators of chair zoos often argue that chair zoos are practical because at any moment a huge number of guests could arrive, and they would all need somewhere to sit. But I've found that at parties, most people do not sit anyway. They stand, wander around, and mingle. So the best rooms for parties are ones with a generous amount of unobstructed floor space.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

The Cost of Energy

With high oil prices in the news, a certain talking point has gained traction, and it goes something like this: "When conventional energy prices get high enough, it will make alternative energy sources economically viable." This argument astounds me, because it is both literally true and at the same time not very helpful. It is bad news made to sound good. It is much like saying that once the price of a glass of water reaches $100, drinking a glass of Dom Perignon champagne instead will be economically competitive. That's great, except that most of us won't be able to afford either one.

What this talking point really means is, "in the future you might have a choice between expensive alternative energy and expensive conventional energy." That may be good news for the environment (if it results in less pollution and other undesirable side effects), but it is certainly not good economic news.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Friday, April 11, 2008

Tiltan's Tale

One misty morning, a clever young bookbinder named Tiltan Stumbledown prowled through the forest hunting for mushrooms, only to encounter the most beautiful young woman he had ever seen, trapped within a dome of shimmering magical energy. She waved at him, or maybe at something behind him. He stepped forward for a closer look.

"At last, someone has come," she said. "I am Aliarru, and you must rescue me!"

Tiltan approached the roiling barrier and sniffed it. Its bright purple color and aroma of fresh-baked bread told him it was Yi-yi Ka'tun, one of the most expensive imported brands of magical energy, worlds apart from the crap produced locally. With cheap local materials, he thought, a magic barrier would disintegrate in the first stiff breeze, or simply collapse from the shame of its inferior workmanship. But this, well, you could really stub your toe on this, couldn't you? Tiltan pictured a large black bear, charging at the barrier in deadly fury and then bouncing back off, and he thought about how hilarious that would look.

A pounding came from within. "Hey! Aren't you going to ask me how I got here, and how to get me out?"

"The first part has something to do with a wizard with a lot of money," Tiltan ventured, "and perhaps some sort of . . . breach of contract? I'm still working on the second part." He glanced around.

"No," she said, "you don't understand! The only weapon that can shatter this barrier, the Three-edged Sword of Meddling, lies far away in Spiral Cave, a place of great peril." Aliarru sighed. "Peril," she said, rubbing her shoulder with one hand. "Peril."

"You keep saying peril," said Tiltan.

"I like the sound of it."

"Oh. I bet you do. Anyway, go on." Tiltan picked up a rounded rock, considered it, then dropped it again.

"You'll have to descend to the bottom of Spiral Cave, where the sword is guarded by a vicious . . ."

"Dragon," said Tiltan, nodding.

"No, what's wrong with you? You believe in dragons?" Aliarru grimaced. "It's a Giant Frog!"

Tiltan chuckled and made frog noises. He picked up a flat, medium-sized rock and looked quite pleased with it.

Aliarru stomped one foot. "Don't take it lightly, it's extremely poisonous! If it even touches you at all, you are completely screwed, alright? First coughing fits, then mild hallucinations and difficulty operating machinery, then headache, then paralysis, coma and death. It is real peril. I mean true, all out, no-limits peril."

"That does sound p- . . . does sound like a nasty beast. This 'Giant Frog' is what, 20 feet tall? 30?"

"You're high right now, aren't you? I knew it. What's the biggest frog you've ever seen?"

Tiltan shrugged and put his hands about a froglength apart.

"Right," said Aliarru patiently. "So it's called a Giant Frog because it's giant for a frog. Like jumbo shrimp, or a giant clam, or an extra large hoodie. It's a frog up to two feet long."

In Tiltan's opinion, a 30-foot frog would have been somewhat more awe-inspiring, and he said so as politely as possible.

"Think about it," she said, "how would a 30-foot frog even get in there? Do you think Spiral Cave is over 30 feet in diameter the whole way? Haven't you ever gone caving?" In fact, Tiltan had indeed gone caving, and part of him suspected that a 30-foot frog could have entered whilst still small and then grown, like those obese people you sometimes hear about who no longer fit through their own front doors. But he chose not to make an issue of it.

Aliarru caught him smiling at the flat rock again, and she made a little snorting sound. She reminded him that no mere rock could shatter the barrier, that only the Three-Edged Sword of Meddling could do so. She explained that though the giant frog was the final guardian, reaching Spiral Cave was no easy task. As she listed out each segment of the journey and its many dangers, Tiltan put down the flat rock and picked up a stick. He walked around and around the barrier and examined it from all angles.

". . . climb up the waterfall and turn left at the twin pillars," she was saying. "Then enter the Swamp of Sorrows to find the amulet in a silver chest."

"Uh huh," said Tiltan. He leaned on the stick for a while.

"Are you paying attention?"

Tiltan nodded.

"What did I just say then? Repeat it back," she said.

Tiltan twirled the stick. "Something something swamp, something something breast."


"Same thing."

"No it's not! You're not even listening!"

"Look," said Tiltan, "how do you happen to know all this? I mean, what are the odds that you'd know about the one thing that can destroy this barrier, and where to find it, and everything?" Aliarru replied that it was no coincidence, because she had learned these things on good authority from the wizard himself, remember him? The expert on the barrier because he created it?

"So some guy imprisons you, but then he turns around and gives you detailed, step-by-step instructions about what it would take to get out? That seems unlikely. He was just messing with you. Or it's a trap."

"Obviously he was taunting me with the solution, knowing I couldn't use it."

Tiltan looked thoughtful. "That's not a very good taunt, it's more of a clue, or a spoiler. A taunt would be more like: ooooh, look at this delicious cake just outside the barrier, bet ya'd like a taste of that, wouldn' ya?"

"He made a mistake in the heat of the moment," said Aliarru. "It's one of those character flaws. You need to go to Spiral Cave and get the Three-edged Sword of Meddling."

"Does it really have three edges?"

"It really has five, they just didn't want to brag."


Aliarru giggled for a long time, and finally said, "no, it's just a mistranslation."

"How many edges does it really have?"

"Zero." She winked at him. "OK, one. I mean it this time, it really has just one edge, and you really have to go and fetch it. Will you?"

"I have a much better idea." He leaned on the stick hard enough to push it into the ground, then laughed and grasped the flat rock again.

Aliarru tensed. "A rock can't shatter the barrier. Say it with me, a rock can't shatter the barrier. It's rated best in its class for rock-proof-ness."

"The barrier only goes down to ground level," said Tiltan. "We dig under, then you crawl out." He began to dig near the barrier using the flat rock.

"What? Dig? That won't . . . you're wasting your time."

After a short while of digging, Tiltan had moved enough dirt to create a roughly Aliarru-sized opening beneath the barrier. She wriggled through it, stood up, and brushed herself off. "Thanks," she said, and started to walk away.

"I imagined you'd be happier to be rescued," said Tiltan. "Happier, more impressed by my cleverness, more grateful, those sorts of things."

Aliarru stopped. "You didn't even try to get the sword. You didn't even make an effort. You just dug a hole."

"If I were on my way to Spiral Cave now," Tiltan said, "you'd still be trapped in that dome. I could be gone for days or weeks, and in the end maybe the frog would poison me after all. This way was quicker and much more reliable."

"Anyone can dig a hole. I could have dug myself out."

"Yes, but you didn't think of it! Most people wouldn't think of it. It's an elegant solution."

"Are you saying I'm not smart?"

"No, no, nothing like that. Just . . . most people wouldn't think of it, that's all."

"It's kind of obvious, actually," she said.

"It's only obvious now because you already know about it."

"I would have thought of it eventually."

"Eventually? You mean after the frog killed me and you had to go to Plan B?"

"No, if you had tried you would have triumphed and gotten the sword, I know it. Probably."

"Wouldn't you rather be free right now than eventually?"

"Of course. I said thanks." She started to walk off again.

"Wait, I just want to ask you one thing. If I had done all that business, and killed the frog, and gotten the sword, and come back and shattered the barrier, then would you have been impressed?"

Aliarru nodded. "In that case, yes, I guess so."

"So even though you got exactly what you wanted you're not impressed, but if only I'd used a worse solution that took much longer and had a high risk of failure, then you would be?"

"I guess so."


"Because anyone can dig a hole."

And so it was that Tiltan learned an important lesson. A valuable act can create a hero, but only if it is also very inconvenient.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Sakura-Con Report

I just posted my full Sakura-Con Report, with even more photos than the ones below, at JLHLS.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

The Slants, at Sakuracon 2008

The Slants -- a band from my own home town of Portland, Oregon -- performed at Sakuracon in Seattle. I'll have more to say about the concerts, and the convention in general, later on JLHLS. These are just some photos to tide you over while I get my article organized.

One thing I noticed was that their recorded material sounds like retro-80's synth pop, in fact it reminds me of Duran Duran. But their live show has much more of a hard rock sound.

Update: read my full Sakura-Con Report

Monday, March 31, 2008

Sakuracon 2008 Dance, Part 1

Here are some photos from the rave dance on Saturday night at Sakuracon 2008. I will post more dance images here later.

Also look for my full convention report, coming soon at JLHLS.

I like how the photo above turned out, it looks like a ghost materializing, or someone being teleported in, or maybe like an apparition coming from the mind of the girl sitting on the floor.

This (above) is the guy with the big blue glow bar.

I like the way the same dancer is in this photo twice, on the left and the right side.

I think the other JLHLS photographer got better pictures of this dancer, but I like how the laser beam appears in this one, as if she is holding it.

Update: read my full Sakura-Con Report

Quote of the Day

TV Advertisement: "Some nights, it takes more than a pillow to fall asleep."

My girlfriend: "Yeah, it takes a hammer!"

Sakuracon 2008 Cosplay, Part 1

I went to Sakuracon in Seattle this past weekend, to cover the convention for JLHLS. Here are a few cosplay photos. Look for my full convention report at JLHLS soon. The cosplayers above are dresed as characters from the Soul Calibur video game. They had great costumes and poses.

The costume in the photo above looked amazing. I've seen professional costumes from movies that did not look this good.

I have a lot more photos that I will post later, including concert photos and pictures from the rave.

See also:
Update: read my full Sakura-Con Report

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Get A Grip

Some people seem to be having trouble grasping the credit crisis:

"But the overwhelming majority of homeowners are doing just fine. So how is it that a mess concentrated in one part of the mortgage business — subprime loans — has frozen the credit markets, sent stock markets gyrating, caused the collapse of Bear Stearns, left the economy on the brink of the worst recession in a generation and forced the Federal Reserve to take its boldest action since the Depression?" -- The New York Times

Look at it this way. The overwhelming majority of football players are doing just fine. So how is it that a late score in one football game could ruin so many problem gamblers?

A bad bet on a football game can cost you much more than the price of the ball.

A lot of the money in the economy is riding on bets. They're complicated bets that a lot of people don't understand, but in simple terms, they're just bets.

That shouldn't be so hard to understand.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Pink Unicorn Cocktail

Tonight I invented a new cocktail that I think is one of my best yet: the Pink Unicorn.

Pink Unicorn recipe:
  • 1 part coconut juice
  • 2 parts Absolut Mandrin vodka
  • 4 parts watermelon juice
  • add a bit of fresh grated Meyer lemon zest
  • stir and serve over ice
This drink is delicious, its only possible drawback is that the ingredients and the name are somewhat girly. So I also created a much more masculine, heroic version, called the Pink Unicorn With A Rocket Launcher. The recipe is the same, except add two dashes of bitters.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Oblivion Sigil Stone Mad Dash

I've been playing Oblivion lately, and you have to close Oblivion Gates by getting to the top of these big towers and reaching the Sigil Stone at the top. Up until recently, I had been doing this the obvious way, by fighting my way through each room and level, then healing and repairing my weapons and moving on to the next, until I finally reached the top.

But then I realized something that should have been obvious. All you have to do to close the gate is get that stone at the top, nothing says you actually have to fight anyone! If you're fast enough, you can make a mad dash to the top, dodging and running from all the enemies until you finally tag the stone. They will chase you but they may not catch you. Sometimes you have to jump to get past enemies so they don't block your way, so Acrobatics helps. Athletics and speed enhancements are useful, and some healing potions are also helpful for when an enemy gets in a lucky hit as you swoop past.

You don't get any treasure or skill points on the way if you do this, and it isn't very heroic, but it is super funny, which is reason enough to do it at least once. It's the "Run, Forrest, Run!" strategy for closing a gate.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Bank Invents Time Machine For Losses

The New York Times reports that French bank Société Générale has put their 6.4 billion euro losses behind them, so to speak, by claiming that they occurred in 2007:

In moving the loss from 2008 — when it actually occurred — to 2007, Société Générale has created a furor in accounting circles and raised questions about whether international accounting standards can be consistently applied in the many countries around the world that are converting to the standards. -- The New York Times, March 7, 2008

In related news, though I lost money playing video poker last week, I am revising my statements to show that the events occurred when I was a small boy, and the experience helped
me get through the second grade. Once I perfect the technique, I plan to send my losses even further into the past, so that my distant ancestors can pay them off in goats and stone knives.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Expensive Placebos Are Better

Science Daily reports that expensive placebos work better than cheap ones:

Half the participants were given a brochure describing the pill as a newly-approved pain-killer which cost $2.50 per dose and half were given a brochure describing it as marked down to 10 cents, without saying why.

In the full-price group, 85 percent of subjects experienced a reduction in pain after taking the placebo. In the low-price group, 61 percent said the pain was less.

That settles it. From now on, I'm only using the most expensive, designer brand placebos. None of those cheap ones for me, only the best.

Also, wine tastes better when it costs more, even when it is the exact same wine:

The subjects consistently reported that the more expensive wines tasted better, even when they were actually identical to cheaper wines. [. . .] When subjects were told they were getting a more expensive wine, they observed more activity in a part of the brain known to be involved in our experience of pleasure.

So here's my plan. When I'm at a restaurant, I'll order a bottle of wine, then ask the waiter, "could you please charge me $10 more for it? I want it to taste a little better than normal."

Sunday, March 02, 2008

World's Widest Border?

I recently heard about someone's theory that terrorists who "had been in Iraq" then "slipped across the border into Afghanistan." That would have been quite an amazing magic trick, possibly involving that teleportation gun from the video game Portal, since the two countries do not share a border.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

A Piece of Rock

I've been pricing kitchen upgrades as part of planning some remodeling. You know what blows my mind? The price of granite countertops. I mean, it's a piece of rock. How can a piece of rock wind up costing more than a plasma TV? More than a computer? More than a pretty nice mountain bike?

It's a piece of frakkin' rock!
It's not like it has internet access. It's not like it has complex moving parts. It's not like it has . . . parts. It has a part. It's a rock. A big rock. It's not even carved into something interesting, like the heads at Easter Island, or Michelangelo's David. It's a rectangle. I mean, a really expensive rectangle of rock is just one step above a really expensive dandelion.

Someday, someone will ask me, "Tom, just out of curiosity, what is the most expensive thing in your house?" And I'll have to say, "My bionic appendix, of course!" No, even worse, I'll have to say, "it's that slab of rock in the kitchen." Ugh. No, I won't be able to do it. I'll have to lie. I'll say "it's my genetically-engineered cat, a perfect replica of a cat from 100 million years ago that sat on the beach and ate pterodactyls." And they'll say, "Of course, I thought it had a funny look in its eye."

Thursday, January 31, 2008


A feature that is very hard to explain can be worse than a bug. At least with a bug, you can fix it and it will go away. But a confusing feature will keep confusing users forever, and you will keep having to explain it over and over again.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Their Purpose

Me: [Talks about seahorses]

Friend: I don't get it. I mean, what do seahorses do? What is their purpose?

Me: Well, what is our purpose?

Friend: To destroy the Earth.

Friday, January 25, 2008

A Message Back In Time

Recently I saw a thread about what you would say if you could send a message back in time to yourself, 20 years in the past. For me, I would say something like this to myself 20 years ago:
  • Oddly, many of the bands you hear on the radio now will still have fans and still be touring 20 years from now
  • Oddly, many of the video games you are playing now will still have fans and still be played 20 years in the future
  • If this message cannot change the course of history, you will get in a bad motorcycle accident. But don't worry, you'll recover. In the long run, it won't be that bad.
  • On the other hand, if this message can change the course of history . . . slow down and veer left :-)
  • Computers get much faster and more powerful, as you might expect, but they do not get any less frustrating. In some ways they seem slower.
  • Nothing truly disastrous happens to you in the next 20 years, so stop worrying.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008


I posed a question to my brother the other night. Why, I asked, do people so readily admire the qualities of confidence, certainty, decisiveness, and charm in others? These could be good qualities, but they could just as easily be the typical traits of a sociopath. A sociopath is confident and certain because he has a delusional sense of his own superiority; he is decisive because he is impulsive and reckless, and doesn't care about the consequences of his actions; and he is charming because he is a natural liar who tells people whatever they want to hear. So these traits actually ought to be red flags that make us suspicious, certainly not things to instantly admire.

Why then, don't people instead prefer the type of person who says, "I'm not 100% certain, but from the information we have now, it seems like A is our best option. We also need a plan B in case it turns out that was wrong. And let's keep an open mind so that as new information comes in and the situation changes, we can take that into account and improve our understanding."

"Because," my brother replied, "that type of thinking gives most people the heebie-jeebies."

I think that says a lot about our world.