Tuesday, February 27, 2007

And now for something a bit different (paca)

We have new neighbors in the apartment behind us - a young couple - and the guy has gold nipple rings. They both seem very nice and friendly, though I heard one of his buddies once say, "Don't be so racist," which isn't a good thing to hear. Actually, I'm not being fair as my neighbor could have been the one to tell his friend that. Anyway, every time I talk to him I have to think, "don't stare at the nipple rings, don't stare at the nipple rings." It doesn't help that I've yet to ever see him with a shirt on.

Yeah, they're surfers.

Fair weather sports reporter 3 (paca)

In my continuing role as Fair Weather Sports Reporter guy, in which I only report sports news when things are going well, the Nashville Predators have once again this season moved into first place in the entire National Hockey League. I'm well aware that most casual sports fans are not aware that Nashville even has a hockey team, but that lack of fame doesn't prevent their number 1 status from being true. Things are really bunched up at the top, however. The Detroit Red Wings are only two points back. This means that with two Detroit wins (or a win and an OT loss) and a Nashville loss that the Predators could drop from 1st in the entire league to 4th in their conference alone. But the Predators do appear to be serious this year about going for the Cup. They just traded for Peter Forsberg from the Philadelphia Flyers (though he was most famous as a member of the Colorado Avalanche) who 4-5 years ago could be argued to be the greatest player in hockey that year. Unfortunately, that was the Forsberg of 5 years ago, not today.

We'll see. Since I have written this up, the Predators will certainly lose the next 4 games in a row.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Why you don't put kids on the witness stand (paca)

B is only 4, but finding out what he did during the day is already like confronting a hostile witness as he ignores most questions about his activities. One game they often play with the college kids who take care of them is "monster" where one of the, sorry, not kids, uhhh college adults, let's just go with students chases them around the playground. There's one student who's mostly in charge on Friday afternoons, but I couldn't remember if her name was Angela or Heather.

Paca: Who was the monster? Was it Angela?
B: Yeah.
Paca: (not sure about the name): Was in Heather?
B: Yeah.
Paca: (hmmm, details are sounding dubious): was it Keoki?
B: Yeah.

The key here is that I just completely made up the name Keoki and I'm pretty sure there is no Keoki, though there is a greater chance of a Keoki here than back in Tennessee.

For the record, it remains a mystery who played monster that day. If monster was played at all. If B was even actually at school that day. If his actual name is B....


Friday, February 23, 2007

"Compared himself to a flight recorder..." - Llama

Everyone should know I'm a Titans fan. The Tennessean, in an article on the team's strategy in the up coming draft, introduced a quote by Mike Reinfeldt, the new General Manager, this way:

"Mike Reinfeldt, the new GM, compared himself to a flight recorder."

Now if you are like me, you are scratching your head. How can a GM be like a flight recorder? Then they proceed with the quote:

"It is kind of a black box," he said. "They won't have any track record of what I've done in the past. I think we can do what we need to do and people won't be that good at predicting us. That might be helpful. At the same time we need to make the right choices."

OOOOhhhhh, THAT'S how it's like a flight recorder... because a flight recorder is a black box that doesn't allow the tracking of information. Oh, wait, that's not right... a flight recorder's entire purpose of existence is to track and report on information... Perhaps (and I'm going out on a limb here), Mr. Reinfeldt's analogy was meant to imply that his intentions are inscrutable, just like you can't tell what's inside a "black box;" and that it has nothing at all to do with a flight recorder.

I make more than my share of stupid mistakes... but this is a professional reporter! He gets paid in part because of his command of the written word! Doesn't he realize that his analogy makes no sense?

Inspired by this reporter, allow me to suggest some other items that Mr. Reinfeldt might have intended by the phrase "like a black box."

Mike Reinfeldt, the new GM, compared himself to satellite receiver.
to a voting machine
to a Blackberry
... to a Prince/Jayzee/Metallica album
to the Mars Rover
... to a chemical toilet
to Dick Cheney

Ok, admittedly, that last one is a bit of a reach... let me clarify:

Darth Vader is like a black box... Dick Cheney is like Darth Vader... therefor, Dick Cheney is like a black box!


Vader parodies (paca)

Here are a couple Darth Vader parodies I stumbled across looking for more Japanese children's programming. Yeah, I don't know how either.

UPDATE: Apparently, I have met Chad Vader. I was looking at the credits for it and noticed Aaron Yonda - who is Chad Vader himself. This name kept ringing a bell, and the more I saw it, the more I became pretty certain that Aaron Yonda and John Lee, another name there, were old buddies of my college roommate junior year, John. John, Aaron, and John (and others) used to write and create a cable access TV show (think Wayne's World) called Splu Urtaf. That gang came over from Wisconsin to Minnesota once to pick up John. (llama, this is the John that you met and that went on the great Twine Ball adventure with.) Anyway, I did a little research on Chad Vader and, yep, here's http://www.splu.net with a Chad Vader DVD. I went through the site but could find no evidence of my college buddy. John's a doctor now and came to my wedding in 98 - last time I saw him. It looks like his friends having been doing Splu now for 14-15 years. Just another weird coincidence in life. It's also evidence of my weird memory, because I haven't seen Splu Urtaf since 1994.

Darth Vader - Smart Ass

Darth Vader - Day Shift Manager

Colossal squid or no? (paca)

I'm just confused by this. There's a science article on Yahoo that some New Zealand fisherman caught a colossal squid - the actual common species name - off the coast of Antartica while fishing for Chilean sea bass. The squid is supposed to be 36 feet long, and they say if you make calamari rings from the tentacles, they would be as big as a tire.

Thought 1: That's a big squid.

Thought 2: It's cool that they found it, but is it good that they caught it and that it's now dead?

But the confusion comes from this picture. Is this supposed to be the colossal squid here? The tentacles sure don't look 36 feet long, but maybe they are, since I can't see the whole thing. And aren't squid supposed to have beaks? That looks more like a hole for a mouth there. And they have these kind of tube/cone-shaped bodies. And they have 10 tentacles (turns out to be 8 arms and 2 tentacles), while I only clearly see 8 in that picture. And I've never seen a live squid, but the little ones you buy in the store here are all white to tan or so. This things purple which is exactly the color of an octopus. So what I gather from all this is that it's not just that this picture is not THE colossal squid. It's not a colossal squid. In fact, I don't think it's a squid at all, but a large octopus.

And when you see the pictures of squid here, wikipedia, I think you will agree that the Yahoo picture is no squid. Instead the New Zealand ministry just sent whatever pic they had lying around of a fisherman and a cephalopod. At least it's a sorta big one.

Am I wrong?

UPDATE: Maybe I'm wrong. There are 9 pictures at that Yahoo link. If you look at the other ones with the squid in the water, it's clearly a squid and not an octopus. Then you look back at the original picture that confused me and maybe all that purple back behind the tentacles is the huge squid body. As for the beak? I guess it's just somewhere else. The colossal squid looks really different from the giant squid tentacle-wise.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Blogger Challenge Meme (paca

I have an idea that I'd like to try out here on blogger. I just did it to llama through email, but let's try it here as well.

The idea is to present a blogger friend with a challenge. The challenge is something that you think they'd enjoy doing, but you're pretty sure that they just never get around to it. The challenger must act as a friend, so the goal given to the challengee must be reasonable, and possibly enjoyable. It should also be fairly particular to them - nothing generic. For instance, if you think I'm hopelessly academic, my challenge might be to... go to a dance. (are there such things? or does it just mean a club when youre adult?) But remember the challenge has to be something you think they would enjoy. So if you know your husband hates dancing, then challenging him to a dance club just because he should like dancing isn't the idea. Instead, if your husband likes jazz but he hasn't heard any live in three years, then that might be a challenge. It could also be something edgier, but you have to keep their best interests in mind.

So, does anyone want to receive a paca challenge?

Since I am hoping to dole them out, I of course have to be willing to accept them. So if you have some idea for a challenge for me, send it my way.

I already have something in mind for -e if she's game, but I haven't worked the details out yet.


Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Monday, February 19, 2007

Cambodia (Llama)

I've returned from Cambodia. Some of you might not have even known I was going... if so, you need to sign up for my new "telepathic" blog. I was thinking about the trip for weeks beforehand; those of you who can read my mind would have known this...

Anyway, it was a busy, busy time. I was originally scheduled to be there for four days, but it kept getting pushed back so that I actually stayed for 11... working 12 hours each day. It was very busy and quite stressful, at times. I'm glad to be back here in Bangkok.

I was in Pnohm Phen. Very interesting place. It was the land of So... just a bunch of So's everywhere... writing bicycles and motorbikes, cooking meals, fixing computers. It was sort of surreal. None of them had a hick Louisiana accent though. At least not that I could tell. Oddly, though, I think the original So would be a giant in this land. So's a pretty big guy; even before he joined the army he was sizable. Broad. Not small. These Cambodians? Pretty tiny. Decades of poverty and malnutrition will do that to you, I guess.

Cambodia, for the most part, uses the US dollar as it's currency. I didn't expect that. The official currency is the rien. The conversion rate is 1 dollar = 4,000 rien. The rien is pretty much just used for transactions smaller than 1 dollar. ATM's dispense dollars, not rien. There are no coins, it's all bills. The smallest I saw was 100 rien. Though I only stayed in the capital city, others report to me that this dollar usage is prevalent even in the more rural areas.

The government is pretty much worthless. The entire system is corrupt. Even the police are for sale; if you are approached by the police, they'll ask for a bribe. Pay them and they'll leave you alone. Pay them more and they'll arrest the guy that accused you. A couple of policemen were charged with murder. Their trial was scheduled for a couple of weeks ago. There was a story in the newspaper that they didn't show up to the trial. The reason? They were too busy to attend a trial. Another story... a fellow was driving his motorbike the wrong way down the street ( a common event, btw... there are no stop signs, very few traffic lights, and people just drive wherever they can... even on the wrong side of the road). This fellow has an accident and falls off his bike. The police start to come, presumably to give him a ticket for driving on the wrong side of the road. A mob of people then proceed to surround the guy and chase the police off. The idea that police intervention might be a good thing never crossed their minds, apparently.

Dogs... lots of dogs. Couldn't tell if they were stray or not. What was odd was that most of them were mutts... street dogs. But not mutts like I am used to seeing... that shepherd/labrador based mix of short hair, brown or black, long snouts, maybe 18 to 24 inches tall. These mutts looked like a pack of horny pickanese had run rampant through the city. Probably half of them had those short snouts, long hair, and fangy teeth that stick out from their lips, and nearly all were short and long like a hot dog. It was odd.

I had many observations to write about, but that's all I remember for now. Hopefully it'll suffice.


Saturday, February 17, 2007

Gmail ads (paca)

I got a gmail account a few months back so that I could use its chat function to speak with my former classmate, now in Seoul, about our projects. It's worked just fine for that, and so I am pleased with gmail on that basis.

However, today I noticed the normal old Google ads next to my Inbox and actually read them. Lo and behold they are all about Korean, language learning, and the like. This means that their ad software is actively scanning my emails and using it do deliver content-relevant ads to me.

I'm not sure that's OK with me.

I realize that everyone says that email should be treated like a postcard, but the truth is that that isn't how people actually use email anymore. They actually use it like mail. And I'm not positive I want a 3rd party scanning it and using it to query a database. I assume there is privacy protection built in so that the program only pulls content and doesn't log my email address as the recipient, but I don't really know. Unless the program scans anew everytime, then they are keeping some sort of profile. A profile with a randomized ID? I dont know. (but I'm sure I could look up if not so lazy).

Anyone else use gmail and have you noticed this? What do you think? Do other free email programs do the same thing? I just looked at my paca yahoo account and those ads look entirely generic.


Thursday, February 15, 2007

A writing tip from me to me (paca)

I've calmed down a lot on reading my various writing, agent, and publication sites. I used to look at several a day, but lately it's just Evil Editor and mostly because it's funny. However, periodically, a really nice comment will pop out there that is really worth saving. I was just writing my own comment on that site about a new spy thriller query, and I ended up writing something which at the end is very important (to me):

"Here's a pet peeve. Does there HAVE to be a dad-dying connection? A lot of people can care about a horrible disease just from regular normal people dying from it. Similarly, does the beautiful uber-environmentalist have to have ties to his past? Maybe she's just beautiful and uber and that's enough. She doesn't also have to be someone from med school that dumped you just before that exam. These "ties to the past" connection is a pet peeve of mine in that many people seem to think that whatever their plot is just isn't compelling if all of the people didn't grow up on the same street together as children. It's insta-conflict. Just add and stir. Instead of making the uber-femme have ties to his past, make the uber-femme so freaking uber that all the readers want her desperately and break out in a sweat when her name is mentioned."

I started off just talking about something that happens to irritate me and is of no real writing consequence. We've all watched a movie where it turns out that the evil overlord is actually HIS FATHER! or the assassin is HIS HIGH SCHOOL GIRLFRIEND!! or whatever. Sometimes it works. It kinda, sorta works for old Darth Vader because Darth Vader was already cool (and his name is dark father). But more often than not, these seem just thrown in like incidental music. Instead of making a scene frightening, you just blast music at the audience. In this case, you write boring characters with boring conflicts and then suddenly try to make it all important because it's HIS MOTHER!!.

But really as a writer, your job is to create people and situations that don't need that. The new love interest doesn't need to be from the guy's past to be interesting. She needs to be interesting already.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Working for the consulate (paca)

-e has been collecting a couple of terms for submission to the urban dictionary over at her blog. This includes the words lessonate and funjackal. I'd like to add my own one here, an urban idiom, which is:

working for the consulate of San Marino.

This can be shortened to simply "working for the consulate," "working for San Marino," and less frequently, "he's pulling a San Marino."

Definitions. 1) Most clearly used to say that someone has an unbelievable cushy job. 2) Describes doing work that is work in name only: everyone knows that this supposed job is really just a way to relax and live the good life. When used, the phrase conveys an attitude of good-natured envy on the part of the speaker. Also used, 3) when someone is able to obtain the easiest chore that is possible in a set of chores being handed out. When you are scrubbing stacks and stacks of Thanksgiving dishes and your brother somehow lands the job that only seems to involve a lot of wine and flirting with your cousin's new girlfriend, then your brother is "working for the consulate." 4) The phrase can also be applied to those people who seem to go from one amazing "employment" to another with no effort. The guy who barely passed law school who ends up earning $150,000 a year doing space law in the South Pacific is "working for the consulate." Bootch of Bootch and Chalmers fame is someone who works for the consulate.

Etymology. When driving along the southern coast of the island of Oahu in the state of Hawai'i, one rounds the ocean-facing slope of Diamond Head Crater and sees a large seaside estate, which is the Consulate for the Most Serene Republic of San Marino. The republic of San Marino has a total population of 28,000 people. It is hard to imagine that they need an individual consulate in Hawai'i at all, much less, a multi-million dollar complex in one of the wealthiest sections in the United States. It's clear to all that this is the perfect made up job and that the internal battles in San Marino to become the "consul" for Hawaii constitute one of the nation's major pastimes.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Hawaii Trip Days Three and Four

For our new and honored guests.... crickets chirp... oh, no new guests... to bring you up to speed, your one and only super loving paca lives with the N and the B on the I..sle of O. A. hu. But, the N, the B, and the me took a 5 day trip to the Big Isle of Hawai'i in mid-January. Here are the pictures from Days Three and Four.

Day Three started off at the beach park right next to our hotel. It's mostly a snorkeling beach, but there's a bit of sand as well. A couple dinosaurs came along.

In case that wasn't enough water for an almost 4 year old, who is no longer almost, we went back to the hotel pool where they kindly left toys lying around for us as we didn't have any. Bewareth the ominous shadow standing overeth the innocent angeleth.

After our water extravaganza we headed into Kailua, the main town on the Kona coast. Along the way, however, we stopped for some car insurance.

When we got there, there was an entire car insurance store:

Tired of shopping for car insurance over and over, B tries to escape into a king's home.

It turns out that in Kailua, there's a beach as well. Whodathunkit? The paca gets cool with the cheap sunglasses he bought 5 minutes eariler due to being tired of squinting.

Attempting to get home, we get pseudo-lost and stumble upon a botanical garden. The view down:

And the piece de resistance, a quite nice family photo:


psst, let me tell you a secret. I started off thinking that all of this was one day and created the post that way. Then I realized that was impossible because it put me in two places at once. But I was too lazy to start over, and therefore, you ended with two days in one post. Shhh....

On Day Three, we had gone into Kailua because N wanted to "go see little shops". Kailua didn't really do that request properly, so we tried again on day four. This time, we headed into a little artsy town about 1000 feet up the mountain ridge from the Kona coast. It's nice homes, art galleries, and little coffee farms. Here are a couple pics of what the town looks like.

We also stopped for some more car insurance.

We then headed down the mountain again and went to this pseudo-industrial zone near the airport built on top of an old lava flow. The reason was to go to the Seahorse farm, where, yes, they actually breed sea horses. I wanted to bet my money on the bob-tailed nag marine-style, but their tour schedule didn't work with us - an hour of lecturing about sea horses seemed dubious to the young one, so we took off and went to... the BEACH! Surprise, a beach in Hawai'i.

I can recommend this beach. Drawback? It's right next to the airport, so jets literally fly over your head, but it's amazingly good if you have young children. Large waves hit a rock wall right there

But the rock wall stops all waves, and then behind it is this wide expanse of the calmest water you can have with tiny little fish and snails. The water never gets more than 4 feet deep and it's shallow enough in places that a baby could crawl around. It's also kind of rocky, so if you are a beach novice and don't like the icky sand between your toes - admit it some of you are like this; I was when I was a kid - you don't get any icky sand. At least not while in the water. Moreover, it isn't exactly crowded.

As a final stop for the day, there's a new desert park they are putting in. Hawaiians once had large aquaculture sites here and they are restoring some of them. But mostly, I just wanted to go out on this picture, because that statue guy frightens me.

As a final note, I wanted to remind everyone that this all happened in mid-JANUARY! Hah, take that, mainlanders!

overheard in Hawaii (paca)

While sitting at Boston pizza at dusk on Thursday night, a couple are discussing tickets to the Pro Bowl. She suddenly shivers and says, "It's supposed to get down to SIXTY tonight!"

Take that, New York State!

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Wow, this is just.. just... (paca)

A classmate of mine (Kaori) who knows my sense of humor sent these to me. Wow, did she get it right.

Where to begin in all the wonderment that is Pitagora Suichi!

Sing it! Pitagora Suichi!

Can't sing it yet? Well, if you take the time to watch these videos, you will be able to soon. What I'm ranting about is an educational / children's show in Japan: Pitagora Suichi or Pythagoras Switch. One thing they feature is a whole series of those little contraptions where a ball rolls into a cup which triggers a pulley which moves a lever which makes the bucket tip over which... rolls across a sign reading Pitagora Suichi. Watch a collection of them here:

Pythagoras Switch - Rube Goldberg machines

Ah, but the little machines are nothing compared to the glory of...

Arugorizumu Taiso!!

Algorithm March. Here's the basic version.

Arugorizumu Taiso - Simple

Not funny yet, right. So far, it's just kinda odd. Ah, but would it be funny if you added a few bus tour guides?

Arugorizumu Taiso avec Tour Guides

OK, so you are only slightly amused. Well, then I'll see your bus tour guides and raise you one Japanese Polar Research Team! (I keep thinking about the movie Happy Feet watching this.)

Arugorizumu Taiso avec Polar Research Team

Hmmm. Not enought? How about.... Dancing Sony Robots!

Arugorizumu Taiso avec dancing robots

OK, you didn't find that funny, either. You are a tough customer, a hard cookie to crack, but, oh, I will amuse. Yes, I will.

NINJAS!!! (skip to 1:00 in if you can't wait for ninjas).

Arugorizumu March - Ninjas

Ah yes. I win.

But in case you were still wondering how exactly this is educational, here is another segment where the little girl, Kanoko-chan, calls out syllables to use and the father puts them into a word or phrase.

Father switch segment of Pitagora Suichi

"OK, fine," you say, "Slightly amusing to me and slightly educational to Kanoko-chan, but what did I learn from this?"

I bet you learned more than you realize. For instance, you now know the word Wari. "No, I don't," you protest. To which I say, go watch the Marches a few more times.

Arugorizumu Taiso Wari!

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

I love you man! (paca)

Well, I know I need to feed the beast that is blog. I've had several ideas through-out the last couple days about blog entries, but it's now 2:00 AM; I just sent a bunch of journal emails; and so I'm going to bed. You guys probably didn't want to hear about the derivations of the number e anyway. No, I guessed not.

Instead here's a link to one of the biggest hawaiian music stars. Perhaps the biggest. He even beats out Jasmine from American Idol... 2 or 3 or something. Jake Shimabukuro

Monday, February 05, 2007

400 million ways to say you're cool (paca)

A South Dakota banker just gave away $400 million to improve/build a children's hospital. He's apparently worth about $2.5 billion, which means he's got a nice chunk of change left to live off of, but, regardless, anyone giving away 1/4 - 1/5 of their wealth on a single day deserves a lot of paca points. He's got 'em.


Funny and true (paca)

Cracks me up anyway.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Big news of the day (paca)

The big news of this Thursday, February 1, 2007, is this: Language Learning & Technology

That's the journal that I'm the editorial assistant / managing editor for, and we published the latest issue today. 117 pages of academic journal goodness. If yu seee anee taipoes: yel. knot thaat u ekspect anee, sense eye neferr maik misteaks onn mai blawg.

Those of you who have no interest in language teaching or technology might still find a couple of the columns on the left - On the Net and Emerging Technologies - of interest. On the Net for instance profiles the BBC's free web-based language learning sites.