Sunday, May 27, 2007


I just got back from a brief walk around my neighborhood, and just as I was approaching home, a family of four cottontail rabbits charged over from the church lot next door, crossed in front of my path, then ran into the bushes in front of the apartment building. Then they decided that wasn't where they wanted to be after all, so they bounded out of those bushes, passed right by me again, and ran back to the church. One was slightly larger, so I presume it was a mother with her nearly-grown kits. They didn't seem particularly fearful, and two of them came within a yard of me.

I bet it's good luck when four rabbits cross your path, and doubly good luck when they cross back again. That's thirty-two lucky rabbit feet! (All the more lucky, since they're attached to living, healthy rabbits.)

And it's not like the rabbits touched me or anything, but my cat is all over me right now, sniffing everywhere. If not the bunnies, I wonder what he's smelling? I didn't touch or brush against anything, and I took off my shoes when I came in the door.

Baked Beans on the Doorstep

Since sometime yesterday, a large can of baked beans has been sitting on my neighbor's doorstep, right in the middle of the welcome mat. Very strange. Makes me want to know the story behind it. Probably it's just as simple as someone borrowed some beans from them and came by with a replacement can when they weren't home. But it's more fun to imagine that the beans mean something, that it's some kind of "go here and do that" signal.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

PlayStation 2 Controller Deconstructed

Wow, I must have been more worn out from my friend's move than I thought. I went through one closet, and ran out of steam on my weeding project. Maybe I'll do more tomorrow.

But I did something else fun. I had a broken wireless PlayStation 2 controller, and instead of just throwing it away, I did what I always do with dead electronics--I tore it apart just to see the insides. There is no socially redeeming value to this activity, but that's not the point. Actually, I'm not sure there is a point. But it is entertaining. To me anyway.

Anyway, here are some pictures . . .

Here's the inside of the receiver.

Here's the inside of the controller, just after removing the back panel. You can see where the rumble pack nests. There's an unused space on the other side for a second one, not that I care, given that I despise the rumble feature.

This is the array of the controller's guts, before and after disassembling the buttons.

Everything else I was able to unscrew or pry apart easily, but the rumble pack was a tough nut to crack (literally). Getting inside it required the not-so-gentle application of a hammer (shown). Unfortunately, this stopped the nifty spinning action and totally ruined the magnet. (Alas. I'd been hoping to keep the magnet and put it on my fridge.)

By far the COOLEST part of the controller was the mechanism for the analog sticks. The steel pin inside the stick was hinged in one direction, and the bar it was attached to would rock in the opposing direction. A curved piece with a long track fit over the bar. It rocked when the lever moved on its hinge, and allowed the lever to slide freely through the track when it moved along the opposite axis. One of these two rocker bars had an extra long bit on the end, which clicked a small button when the analog stick was pushed straight down.

Here are all the parts. Since there were two analog sticks, I only tore one mechanism down to its barest bits, but kept the other intact for my trophy (I keep a trophy from every piece of electronic equipment I demolish).

Any other broken junk laying around here for me to dismember?


Well, the weather decided to cooperate after all, despite the report I read this morning. It rained only lightly once we got started, and before we finished, it stopped altogether, and the sky cleared.

The move in general went very well. A friend of my friend's father brought some of the people from his church, and wow, but were they ever a well-oiled, precision moving team. Their stunning efficiency turned what we expected to be an all-day ordeal into a few short hours. It's true as they say, many hands make light work.

And I got to do my favorite job: standing in the U-Haul and stacking, wedging, and finagling stuff into place, like a giant game of Tetris. I'm worthless for heavy lifting, but I am pretty darn good at packing, if I do say so myself.

But let me tell you, there is nothing like helping someone move to make me want to go through all of my closets, drawers, and shelves and look for stuff to get rid of! So I expect that tonight, I shall be doing just that.


I'm helping a friend move today. I'm supposed to meet her in forty-five minutes to pick up the U-Haul. Of course, it's pouring rain, crashing thunder and lightning, and the forecast says that it's probably going to continue all day. Looking out the window right now, I can barely see across the street.

Oh yeah, this'll be fun.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

"My Bike Ignites!"

Woo! I got my DVD of Kamikaze Girls today. I ordered it the night I finished reading the novel, because the book was so great. The movie follows the book for the most part, but the plot does diverge a bit, especially towards the end. But that's okay, because the movie is grand fun in its own right. Actually, in many ways, it's even more quirky and bizarre. The screenplay didn't just change the story; it successfully augmented it. The additions they made suited the spirit of the story marvelously. The alterations, including a significant change in the order of certain key scenes, worked well enough. They took full advantage of the medium to create a spectacular, lush, vivid visual feast. In short, it was as beautiful as it was strange. And of course, it was supremely high in cheese. Not bad cheese like Cutey Honey, but good cheese like Moulin Rouge. My only problem with it involved a bit of scatological humor, because I really don't like that sort of thing. However it wasn't worse than various scenes in Shrek.

I also picked up the Kamikaze Girls manga, as long as I was at it. However, I found it to be rather disappointing. The adaptation of the novel's story was lackluster and didn't do it justice at all, and the additional stories included in the book were just not that good. ("Ichigo's Case" was decent, if not great. But if "The Pinky-Ring Princess" and "The Middle-Finger Princess" were not bound together with the other stories, I would actually throw them away. I feel like they are contaminating my bookshelf.) I recommend skipping the manga altogether, but read the novel and watch the movie.

I'd have to say I still like the novel best. There is such a richness to the story, so many subtleties that weren't conveyed in the movie. But the movie was a hilarious blast, definitely worthy fare.

(Oh, and if you were wondering about the title of this post, "My bike ignites!" is the opening line of the movie. That pretty well sets the tone, don't you think?)

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Cutey Honey

At my friend's monthly DVD-and-dinner party, we watched Cutey Honey, the live action movie based on a 1970s anime. Now, I've been avoiding Cutey Honey in any form for years, on account of the giggle and jiggle factor. However, the movie actually turned out to be fun. I won't lie and say it was a good movie, because it wasn't. But it was very entertaining.

The movie opened with what my friends and I dubbed "leg cam." Basically, the camera was positioned in the actress's lap, looking down her legs as she took a bubble bath. It would not be the last time we saw leg cam. During fight scenes or swinging in the park, the director apparently thought we occasionally needed to see the view from her crotch.

Underwear scenes and scanty costumes littered the movie at every turn, but it never crossed the line. Thus we were spared any actual nudity. Likewise, no sex.

The villains, costumes, and fight scenes were right on par with, say, Power Rangers. Occasionally, they splurged on low-quality CG special effects. At other times, typically during fights, they cut to choppy animation because apparently they couldn't budget for actual stunt performers. But for the opening credits and during flashbacks, they actually tried for a better quality of traditional animation.

Ah, the opening credits. The Cutey Honey theme is a J-pop classic. I've had a Euro-dance mix of it in my playlist for years.

But, oh dear, seeing the lyrics of that song subtitled was, shall we say, a bit traumatic. Ahem, "She's the popular girl with the big, bouncing boobs."

Oh. My. God.

I've been listening to WHAT for all these years? I can only hope that this song never came up on my random shuffle when I had Japanese friends over at my home. If it did, they were too polite to mention it . . .


Anyway, back to the movie. Opening theme, leg cam, and all that aside, it was a cute story about a superhero, a policewoman, and a plucky reporter against a bunch of really ugly, really over-the-top bad guys. At some point, I found myself thinking, "This kind of reminds me of Iczer One. Or maybe it's more like Iczer Three, what with the four lackeys serving the main villain and all. Anyway, it would definitely fit in the Iczer-verse." A few minutes later, one of my friends said, "Hey, this is just like Iczer One!" So perhaps the similarity was more than passing.

One of the lackey villains seemed, well, not exactly cool, but at least less uncool than the others. Until his personal string quartet showed up to provide music as he whipped out his microphone and guitar-shaped pitchfork/axe/spear/whatever to do battle. Goodbye, mote of cool.

At another point, we were "treated" to a long montage of Honey wandering the city, changing into a diverse array of ludicrous costumes. "Oh my Lord, she's having a music video," groaned one friend. Her husband described it as "follow the moping fashion victim."

There was a nice bit o' lesbian subtext, which I wasn't the only one to notice. That was a definite plus. No kisses, though, so that adds a minus. But neither woman ends up with a man, so there's another plus. So on the gay-o-meter, it tips slightly (but only slightly) to the queer.

Anyway, I should stop now. I can't quite say, "It was so bad it was good." But I'll say, "It was so bad it was hilarious," and leave it at that.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

To Err is Common

I feel like a fool lately. Well, that's not accurate--I've felt like a fool for as long as I can remember. But lately, it's been amplified.

Yesterday, one of my favorite cousins got married, and I had the honor of reading scripture at the wedding. I chose 1 Corinthians 13: 1-8a, 13, and I rehearsed and rehearsed until I had it down. I read it several times flawlessly, with perfect timing and inflection. And then yesterday, when I was actually in front of people, I read much too fast and I flubbed verse 2. D'oh!

The day before yesterday, I got an e-mail regarding my fanfic "Azumanga Daioh Plus Six," which I wrote in late 2002-early 2003. It continually amazes me that I wrote a fic good enough that I occasionally get fanmail even now, four years later. None of the other fanfics I've written generated much if any comment even when they were new. (And since I haven't actually published any of my original works, I have no idea what kind of response/nonresponse they might garner.) So I'm actually rather proud of "Plus Six."

Anyway, this email wasn't exactly fanmail, but it did show that this gentleman was a careful reader with a thorough knowledge of the source material. He found an error not in the story itself but in my notes. I thanked him, and in my response, I blithely misidentified Chihiro as the unnamed "Female Student B." He emailed back and (kindly, gently) called me on it. So I feel like quite the idiot.

When I wrote AD+6, I watched Azumanga Daioh repeatedly, both with and without subtitles. (Without because at the time I was studying Japanese, and I was using AD for listening practice.) I knew it backwards and forwards. I could quote some of my favorite scenes in Japanese.

I have not watched it since 2003, and just like my Japanese and my German before it, I have forgotten. Use it or lose it. It's lost. It's gone the way of my aviation history knowledge and my one-time ability to sing along with Billy Joel's "We Didn't Start the Fire" without missing a single word. The information is probably somewhere in my brain, but the filing indicators have gotten garbled.

Then this morning I read "Democracy and Things Like That" by my favorite essayist Sarah Vowell (in The Partly Cloudy Patriot, New York: Simon & Schuster, 2002.) She talks about how the 1999 talk by Al Gore at Concord High School was misconstrued, and she sympathizes with the reporter who wrote down one word wrong. And she admits that she herself has ". . . publicly misspelled names, confused Sinclair Lewis with Upton Sinclair, and gotten who knows how many things wrong over the years . . ." (p. 54). And I felt better about misreading the 1 Corinthians 13: 2, confusing Chihiro and Female Student B, and assigning some debatable call numbers to music CDs.

I guess screwing up is just part of being human. Thank you, Ms. Vowell, for reminding me that I'm in good company.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Almost but not quite Writer's Block

Hanging around home, I was just screwing around on the web, doing nothing useful whatsoever. I decided to try the coffee shop thing again, to remove myself from the temptations of the web and video games. I went to Caffeine Dreams, which I've been to many times. But while I like the atmosphere for hanging out and gabbing with friends, it turns out to be terrible for concentration.

I got a decaf latte and settled down at one of the shiny steel tables. These tables are asymmetrical works of art. I stared at the screen for a while, trying to tune out the somewhat annoying music they were playing. Finally, I managed to start writing. I didn't get very far, however, when the angle of the sun through the window grew low enough to drive me from that seat. I found another funky steel table, but it turned out to be a different height, very uncomfortable for typing. So I moved to a third table, a standard square of wood. The height was fine, but I was directly under a hot light, which made the top of my head quite uncomfortable. So, after barely a page and a half of writing and less than half of my coffee, I gave up and left the shop.

I came to the library where I work. I don't like coming here when I'm off duty, because I'm always afraid people will recognize me and ask me to help them find things. But it's summer, so there are hardly any patrons in the building, so I'm relatively safe. Aside from whispered conversations at nearby tables, other people typing on their laptops, and the muffled traffic noise beyond the window, this is a decently quiet environment.

Alas, I only wrote one more page before stalling out. After staring at the screen for a while, I've decided that I'm done for tonight. But now I'm gong to take advantage of the library's wireless network and post my first blog entry from the laptop. Woohoo!

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Kamikaze Girls

I just finished reading the Japanese novel Kamikaze Girls by Novala Takemoto, English translation by Akemi Wegmüller (San Francisco: VIZ Media, 2006). I picked this book up because the cover blurb described a plot so silly I just could not resist. A Lolita and a Yanki on a road trip to find a legendary embroidery artist? What the tweet?

And this turned out to be one of the most enjoyable books I've read recently. For the first few chapters, I found Momoko, the Lolita, to be so misanthropic and, well, almost wicked that I didn't like her. However, everything she said was so incredibly outrageous that I had to keep reading, out of morbid fascination.

And then Ichigo made her appearance, and I loved her from the first sentence. A foul-mouthed, ignorant, hard-core biker chick, Ichigo was the absolutely perfect foil to Momoko's ruffles and Rococo lifestyle. And as their relationship grew, I came to like Momoko. It turns out she wasn't senselessly coldhearted. She just had never before encountered anyone who wasn't utterly worthy of contempt. The bizarre friendship between these two girls strengthens and transforms both of them. It's a dual coming-of-age story, as well as a wildly fun ride.

If you are bothered by profanity, be warned. Ichigo rarely utters a sentence without it. Otherwise, I can't say anything against this book. It's one of the rare, delightful stories that I can imagine reading again and again throughout my life.

Incidentally, and this really has nothing to do with anything, "Momoko" means "Peach Child" and "Ichigo" means "Strawberry." The last eight-pack of Activia yogurt I bought had alternating peach and strawberry cups. Coincidence? Well, yeah, probably so. But I digress.

There is apparently a Kamikaze Girls movie out, which why the book got translated into English in the first place. I'll be placing an order tonight for that. I must see it!

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Black Tongue

When I brushed my teeth this morning, my spit came out black. I looked in my mouth and discovered to my great alarm that my tongue had a nasty black coating. The parts I could reach came off with the toothbrush, but it went all the way down my throat, and I couldn't scrub back there without triggering my gag reflex. Gargling with Listerine didn't remove the color.

My first thoughts were that this might be related to either my acid reflux disease or to sinus drainage. I'd felt headachy and nauseous all day yesterday, but I had assumed it was my usual reaction to heat and pollen. I've never awakened with a black tongue before, though, so whatever was going on was most certainly not usual.

Afraid I'd caught something horrible, I turned to Google. This led me to a MedHelp forum post that said the black tongue was caused by--I kid you not--chewing Pepto Bismol tablets the night before! The Mayo Clinic website confirmed that this was a possible cause.

Whew! I'm glad it's nothing serious. But I swear I'm going back to liquid Pepto after this.

Thursday, May 03, 2007


Last night I knew I should try to write, but I knew that if I stayed home, I would just play video games. So I took the laptop and headed off to a coffee shop downtown. I decided to go to a place I'd seen, but never actually been to before.

I had to circle and crisscross the four-block area several times before finding a parking space. Of course, it was on the furthest corner of the Old Market from the coffee shop I planned to go to, but that was fine. The weather was nice, so the walk was pleasant.

The coffee shop, called The Meeting Place, has a lovely atmosphere. Very cozy and homey. (Actually, it's more of a bistro. The food looks very good, although I didn't have any.) I committed sacrilege and ordered a decaf mocha latte. (Too late in the evening for me to handle caffeine. Plus I'd already had a fully-loaded latte that morning.) The total came to $3-something. At first, I only saw three one dollar bills in my wallet, so I reached for the five. Then I noticed that there was another one crumpled to the side. So I gave him four ones, but my short-term memory got stuck on the five I had planned to get him. So when I got my change back--coins only--I thought I was missing a one. He corrected me, and when I looked in my wallet and saw that the five was still there, I knew he was right. He probably thought I was trying to rip him off, but he was very polite. I felt so embarrassed.

So . . . writing. I picked a nice spot by the window, not near any outlets but I figured I should have a decent charge on my battery. I hit the power button and nothing happened. So I moved to the next table, beside an outlet, and plugged in. Nothing happened, and I noticed the green lights on my compact surge suppressor were not lit. I wandered around the room for a while. Because of the shape of my surge suppressor, I could not plug in to the top outlet if someone else is plugged into the bottom. So it took me a while to find a spot with an open outlet, at about the worst spot in the place, right by the service door.

There, the green lights on the surge suppressor lit up, so I knew the power was good. But the laptop still did not start. I physically removed the battery and reinserted it. Then, still plugged into the wall, the laptop finally started. I nearly wept with relief. But then it got about halfway through the OSX startup sequence, and the screen went blank. The startup chime sounded again, the machine came up with OS 9.2. Keep in mind that either startup sequence on my laptop takes somewhere in the three-to-five minute range.

OS 9.2 finally came up, and I went to the startup disk control panel to change to OSX. Word only works in OSX, so if I wanted to work with my existing writing files, I couldn't stay in 9.2. Except the startup disk panel only showed 9.2. I closed and relaunched it, twice. It still didn't recognize the OSX system. I rebooted the computer, then went to the startup disk panel again and had the same problem, three times in a row. I launched the startup disk panel a fourth time (seventh, if you count the times before the reboot), thinking that I would just have to give up and accept the fact that OSX had somehow become damaged and was unusable. I was nearly in tears.

Finally, the OSX folder appeared, so I selected it and restarted. At last, the laptop was functional and in the proper operating system! All told, this took about a half hour, and by now I had finished my coffee.

Well, since the battery indicator showed an 80% charge, I unplugged the machine and moved to a more desirable table by the window, with no outlet. This was the fifth table I'd sat at. Of course, I kept my empty coffee cup close at hand to make it look like I still had something.

But now that the computer was finally working, my brain was not. I stared at the screen for close to a half hour before finally writing anything. I barely produced more than two pages, and--quite frankly--they suck. So I gave up and came home to play video games. I dropped a two dollar bill in the tip jar, because the guy had to put up with a lot, what with my confusion over the change and my game of musical tables.

Only two good things came out of the evening. One, the mocha at The Meeting Place was fabulous. Two, later in the evening, just before bed, a good friend who I haven't heard from in close to a year called me from Japan, and we had a wonderful chat. That cheered me up immensely.

Tonight after work, I will try again to write. I hope I manage to be significantly more productive. (It would be hard to be less.)