Showing posts from 2014

Advent Calendar 24 Dec: NORAD Tracks Santa

This is a re-post from previous Advent Calendars, both because it's still relevant, and because it's one of my favorite stories ever. Once upon a time, in a long-ago era known as "1955", the world was a dark and scary place. The Second World War was over but certainly not forgotten, and behind every addlepated political press conference lurked the spectre of those godless heathen Ruskies, who were just itching for an excuse to start a nuclear holocaust. There were no such things as the Beatles. Brylcream reigned supreme over maddeningly impractical haircuts. In order to telephone someone, you had to physically find a telephone, which was tethered to the base with a cord and to the wall with another cord, and it was the Official Property Of The Phone Company And Don't You Forget It. The moon landings were over a decade away, and the internet almost two. It was a frightening time.

The government felt it could do little about telephones and Brylcream, frankly, but i…

Advent Calendar 23 Dec: It's beginning to look a lot like RAT-mas...

I decorate the rat cage for Christmas every year. I don't have the space or the budget to decorate my own home, and also I'm somewhat insane. I spend far too much time and effort on this, especially considering that the critters demolish my adorable holiday tableau within minutes of being re-inserted into their house. This year, I drafted my roommate, Jazmin, into the process, on the grounds that she was home, she likes my critters, and her phone has a less crap camera than mine.

Photos of our joint madness below the fold.

Advent Calendar 22 Dec: Chip & Dale Christmas Compilation

A collection of Chip & Dale holiday cartoons. Yes, it's got the one where they sneak in with the tree and make an absolute catastrophe of Donald's Christmas. They used to show these every year, but I haven't watched regular TV in so long I've no idea if they still do.

Advent Calendar 21 Dec: "A Muppet Family Christmas"

Keep an eye out for Jim Henson, making a cameo appearance in his own movie.

Advent Calendar 20 Dec: "The Nutcracker King"

Enjoy, all. Myself, I will be spending this evening working as an usher at The Slutcracker, the local burlesque version of the classic ballet.

Advent Calendar 17 Dec: Carollers Ftaghn!

Today's amusement is a set of sanity-lowering Christmas Carols, courtesy the H P Lovecraft Historical Society, via someone or another at MIT.

For those of you who are not following my Facebook feed, I have a tablet now. Jazmin and I decided to rummage through the front closet, which isn't so much of a closet as it is an oversized junk drawer of things abandoned by previous deadbeat roommates when they skipped out. Aside from a giant pile of clothes, we found a wireless keyboard and mouse set, some brake shoes, another pull-up bar, a television, and a boxed-up BlackBerry PlayBook. It's several years old, and a few minutes of investigation suggested that it got boxed back up and thrown in the pile because the battery was run all the way down, and it wouldn't charge over a USB cable hooked to a computer. 
Thirty seconds on Google told me that this was a common problem with PlayBooks, and could be overcome by using a BlackBerry rapid charger plugged straight into the wall. By sheer stupid coincidence, I happened to have one -- I bought my droidphone secondhand, and the first wall wart the shop guy disentangled from …

Advent Calendar 16 Dec: "Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer" (1944)

The very first animated version of Rudolph. The story is not terribly old; it was penned in 1938 for a children's book used as an advertising gimmick at Montgomery Ward department stores. This piece was directed by animation legend Max Fleischer, whose studios were responsible for inventing about half of the fancy equipment animators used right up until the point where computers took over. This is actually the 1951 reissue of the theatrical short; the famous song performed by Gene Autry, was not written until 1949.

Advent Calendar 15 Dec: Top Gear Middle-East Christmas Special

Less "Three Wise Men" than "three wiseguys", really.

Everything I know about cars, I got from Top Gear and Car Talk. It's probably a good thing I don't drive.

Advent Calendar 14 Dec: "Ernest Saves Christmas"

A Christmas movie so cheesy you can serve it with crackers and wine.

Advent Calendar 13 Dec: "Frosty's Winter Wonderland"

Advent Calendar 11 Dec: QI Christmas Special, Series G

QI, if you have not seen it before, is a "panel quiz", i.e, a show where they get a bunch of witty people together and ask them questions mainly designed to prompt wiseass answers. This one is hosted by Stephen Fry, World's Smartest Comedian. They do a Christmas special every year, as many British programmes do, and for Series G, they decided to invite David Tennant as their special guest. They had not, to this point, had anything even resembling a sane Scotsman on the show -- they ask Ross Noble back a lot -- and so far as I know, they still haven't.

Advent Calendar 10 Dec: Never Mind The Buzzcocks

I watch far too much of this show. I don't even live in the service region for BBC television. I feel less guilty watching it on YouTube knowing that Hell will freeze solid before anyone could ever manage to negotiate enough music clearances to air this anywhere outside the UK.

There are loads of these, if you poke around. This is one of the first to pop up. And also I love Noel's dress and makeup. You'll see.

Advent Calendar 09 Dec: Miyavi, "Jingle Bell"

Lyrics, with transliterations and translations, here. You may notice that Miyavi pitches some random French in there with the Japanese and the patchy bits of Christmas-themed English. He does that a lot. One of his recent ballads is half and half Japanese and English, and the video helpfully subtitles whatever language he's not singing in at the time. He makes it a point to do his intros in the local language whenever he goes touring, and occasionally some of it sticks. He's married to a Japanese-American lady who grew up in Hawaii, and apparently they speak English to the kids at home.

(His English is weird sometimes, you might protest. So it is. Let me assure you that his Japanese is weird in exactly the same way. His English vocabulary progressed in hilariously wonky fashion over time, mainly because of his total lack of attention span. He impressed me a lot quite a number of years ago now by not just knowing the phrase 'pigeon-toed', but knowing there was an Engli…

Advent Calendar 08 Dec: Weinachtsmarkts

Christmas markets, also known as Christkindlmartks, Weinachtsmarkt, or Marché de Noël, depending on where you are, are sort of a cross between a flea market and a street fair, all with a Christmas theme. Originating in the German-ish area, they've since spread to more French-ly places in Europe. 
Images of a handful of Weinachtsmarkts in Germany via tabkatta's tumblr.

Advent Calendar 07 Dec: A Garfield Christmas... Minus Garfield

Because the internet does not know how to leave well enough alone, someone has extended the concept of Garfield Minus Garfield to the animated Christmas special.

Advent Calendar 06 Dec: Rankin-Bass "'Twas the Night Before Christmas"

The Rankin-Bass classic, "'Twas The Night Before Christmas", aka "the mouse cartoon".

Advent Calendar 05 Dec: David Bowie and Bing Crosby, "Little Drummer Boy/Peace On Earth"

Advent Calendar 04 Dec: "Santa Baby" sung by Eartha Kitt

Advent Calendar 03 Dec:TSO's Carol of the Bells

Trans-Siberian Orchestra's bombastic classic, "Carol of the Bells".

Advent Calendar 02 Dec: Finland's Brutal Christmas Carols

From depressingfinland:
A song about a young boy who walks alone in the cemetary to lay a candle to his mother’s grave. The boy wonders if he’ll be ever able to celebrate Christmas with laughter like others do as his home feels like it’s not blessed at all. He hears a voice of the child of the Christmas who takes him back in time to witness the first Christmas ever.  Find more in the original post, courtesy Moggie's tumblr.

Advent Calendar 01 Dec: Pimped-Out Hot Chocolate

Let leftover season begin! The critters have been enjoying such traditional rat holiday recipes as, "stuffing mix crumbs drizzled with last of eggnog," "wilted vegetable salad," "bowl of turkey parts (misc)," and the coveted dessert item, "food-paper from chocolate cupcake." They are filled with scavenger-ly joy. And sleep. Mainly sleep. They spend most of the day snoozing in an amorphous wad of rat fur, with the occasional tail poking out. But when they're awake, they're thrilled.

I have been faring less well. I haven't posted much because I've spent the past couple of months cycling between being in a phlegmy coma and being in a state I can only describe as "annoyingly high". I caught some kind of respiratory something in early October, and every time I start to get over it, I catch another thing. Or relapse, I'm not sure. I keep wobbling between able to medicate myself back to stupid but otherwise normal, and hac…
So, a couple of months ago, I went to a casting call in Cambridge. Someone on Model Mayhem had asked for runway volunteers for an alternative couture show on New Year's Eve. I like runway shows, because I get to wear mad things that I am in no way responsible for storing or dry cleaning afterwards, and I thought it might be a good idea to have something to do on NYE besides watch movies and get the rats drunk.

I went down to the call, which happened to be at a tiny gallery I knew mostly because I passed it every time I walked to the dance studio. It's well-known locally for reeking of weed in the evenings (common) and being the home of a very large, very friendly creature who is either a small bear or a Siberian husky, and who will occasionally try to follow you down Prospect Street, if you look like you might have food or time for ear scratches (less common). I managed to forget my runway heels and had to borrow from another model, but did bring a hoop just for the hell of it…


Just so's y'all know how my night is going:

I finally found someone who could repair my Wintel machine for a price within my budget ("Would you accept payment in baked goods?"), so Natasha is back in my custody, and charges once again. Since she's been gone, I've been working alternately on an Ubuntu 12 laptop (Maleficent, pictured at left) and a Macbook on loan from Circlet (Nekomata, pictured at right). Maleficent is fine for web browsing and she does technically run the software I use for work -- I switched entirely to using GIMP, Inkscape, Scribus, Neo/Open Office, and Chrome/Chromium specifically so that everything would work the same across all machines, in fact -- but she is elderly and slow, and does not like my graphics tablet. Nekomata works dandy but is a Mac, therefore not my favorite, and also not technically mine, so I daren't touch most of the stuff on the HDD.

Now that I have Natasha back, I have the unenviable task of migrating all of my …

Reasons I should not read comments basically anywhere ever

I have a confession to make: I'm starting to really hate the word 'zie'. Sometimes 'xie'. I have begun to twitch whenever I see it.

I have no quarrel with the job it's doing; being a gender-neutral singular pronoun is perfectly respectable work. If you ask me to use 'zie' when I talk about you, I'll do it, because I believe in giving basic respect to all humans. Hell, I'll refer to you in third person, if you want. But I will secretly in the very back of my mind cringe and start to think of you as one of those people who demands Special Snowflake Status just for the sake of getting it. It's a marker. Sort of like there's nothing I find inherently offensive about being Texan, being Christian, or being Republican, but anyone who makes it a point to tell me they are all of these in the same conversation is also implying a lot of other things about their beliefs and politics that make them someone I probably don't really want to talk to.

I don't know if you've ever run into it, but there's a thing on YouTube called the "accent tag". It's a list of vocabulary words and questions that you're supposed to answer on camera in whatever your native accent is, basically to show people on other parts of the planet how you talk. Most of them are pretty ordinary, but occasionally you get a fantastic mashup.

This young lady here popped up when I was searching for "transatlantic accent". She has not actually got one -- it's a specific regionless accent, popular among actors and some of the American upper classes prior to and during WWII -- but she dubbed hers this, as she picked it up accompanying her father on a lot of ocean crossings as a kid.

The word list is really just a collection of shibboleths, and it's very heavily biased towards American regional accents. "Wash" turns into "warsh" in Missouri; "caramel", "New Orleans", "mayonnais…
Something which is often overlooked when studying media history is the history of individual pieces -- you can find a history of "silent film" or "Charlie Chaplin's silent films" or "Charlie Chaplin's last silent film", but rarely if ever do you find an investigation of one particular copy of that work. Most media historians I've met don't even know how to do this sort of archaeological excavation of a image. Some A/V engineers I've met have, but they don't; they're more concerned with observing the various tell-tale aberrations and eliminating them from the signal chain. The closest thing I know of would probably be a forensics position of some kind, dedicated to identifying sources and forgery.

Watching the picture -- not the contents of the picture, necessarily, but the raw unprocessed image -- can tell you a lot.

In 1914, a man named Winsor McCay made a short animated film called "Gertie the Dinosaur". It was uplo…
I spent six whole hours of my life in Lowell this past weekend. Unless you have some sort of fetish for former industrial mill towns, I don't recommend you ever do this. It's a collection of old, rusted-out hulks being slowly overtaken by a collection of slightly-less-old hulks that haven't quite completely rusted out yet, broken up by a brief section of town that is being restored by a bunch of hipsters to a condition where it appears to be in the process of rusting out, but isn't. I understand there are people who enjoy this, in the same strictly-intellectual way I understand that there are people who enjoy living in the Sonoran desert. I am very much a city mouse, so mainly what it looks like to me is civilization giving up in its senescence, settling into a grayed-out state of minimal survival while it waits to eventually die.

The signs on the Commuter Rail fascinate me. They don't quite match the newer signs on the T. The typeface is subtly different than the …
Dear Facebook:

I do not think you are good at this computering thing.

I have a droidphone. Your app is on it. This is a native Android app whose purpose in life is to send and receive fairly small amounts of ASCII or Unicode text, plus sometimes some tiny-to-medium sized pictures.

I also have an app called SCUMMVM. This is a homebrew project. It purpose in life is to run games. The way it does this is by pretending to be an x86 architecture CPU (it isn't; it's a Qualcomm chip) running MS-DOS (it doesn't; Android has its own operating system) taking input from a PS/2 keyboard (no external keyboard; you can bring up the on-screen buttons if you need them) and a serial mouse (no mouse; it captures motion from the touchscreen and maps it onto a phantom 'touchpad'), and sending output via a set of DOS IRQs (that don't exist) to a SoundBlaster-compatible MIDI instruments table and FM sound chip (which is translated in software and passed to the speaker) and a 640x480…

State of Affairs, Part III

I've gotten back into performing again. I'm doing my second show with a troupe called the Post-Meridian Radio Players, who do this sort of hybrid of live theater and radio plays. The actors are in some kind of costume, and we have a live audience, but the only blocking is 'move from this mic to that mc', and the shows are written to be understandable to someone who hasn't got the visual cues. Much of the fun comes from watching the Foley people do their work live, at a table downstage left.
This year's Halloween show is built around the works of Edgar Allen Poe, which is convenient, as the city is unveiling a statue of Poe down by the Public Garden this weekend. I'm in a very loose adaptation of "Masque of the Red Death", not that there could really be any other kind -- if you've seen the original story, it reads like Poe was scrawling down a capsule summary for his editors, making sure to include the one really cool line of dialogue that popp…

State of Affairs, Part II

I'm also still working for Circlet. We did more mailing this week. You know, after the last time, when we stuffed envelopes and sent out seven hundred little 'order some paperback smut!' pamphlets to bookstores across the country. (A few went up into the Democratic Republic of Canuckistan.) Collecting that list was my job. Even a list of seven hundred sex shops gets really boring really quickly when you have them in a spreadsheet, and need to convert them into mailing addresses.

I left a 25lb box of meticulously-packed pornography sitting on Boss Lady's dining room table, waiting to be sent out to a burlesque troupe in Nashville, for their Halloween show. I was uncertain what reaction I'd get to the suggestion that we ship four dozen books to Tennessee gratis, but it turns out that this seems like a perfectly sensible idea when you bring it up after the Editor-in-Chief has herself devised a plan to clean out the basement stockroom into other people's swag bags.…

State of Affairs, Part I

My life has become a whirlwind of activity lately. I'm still working for Nokia, in a QA role that is rather akin to evaluating the sanity of something that is closely along the lines of Google Map's Search Nearby function, only it's specifically for Nokia phones, and occasionally the gaps in its reasoning systems are filled in with Insane Troll Logic. It is my job to review the queries people submit in juxtaposition with the answers our map search app gave, and then to explain, with citations and links where appropriate, why someone who is standing in Singapore and searching for "coffee" is not going to be happy with an answer pinpointing the town of Coffee, GA, USA.

When it's thoroughly confused, it tends to default to picking a nearby answer off of what I am beginning to believe is a list of every pharmacy and post office on the face of the Earth. Other times, it just jumps off into East Hyperspace. This occasionally involves a foray into Wikipedia articles…
FYI, I figured out how to propagate my blog posts to tumblr. I hate the interface there with the firey passion of a thousand burning suns, so I'm using IfTTT, which just loves to redirect things from one feed to another. You can follow me at

Hi, my name is Arabella, and I'm an Ace Attorney addict...

Ace Attorney Investigations 2: Prosecutor's Path has eaten my brains. No, you didn't miss an English-language release of Gyakuten Kenji 2 -- Capcom inexplicably decided not to do one. A fantranslation group put out a patch in Xdelta and BEAT formats a few months ago, and I finally got around to trying it. I'm not giving you any of the files, on the grounds that if you can spell at least 50% of the relevant search terms correctly, it'll come up in about 20 milliseconds on Google. It works flawlessly on an early revision Japanese DS Lite with an R4 flashcard running Wood 1.27.

(Not that I would know anything about any of these questionable third-party products, nosireebob. I don't have any family history of clever media conversion, and I certainly did not just convince someone to buy a DS emulator for her droidphone so she could play the original Ace Attorney games that Capcom inexplicably only released for iOS. And I would never dream of spending several of my more …
Just for everyone's amusement, here are my business cards for Circlet promotions:

I have no problem posting them here, because 1) Circlet does not care if I work under my legal name, and in fact several of our editors don't; and 2) I cleverly have not put my phone number on there, because I don't answer.
They do, however, say "Porn Fairy", because for some reason when I ask 'should I have official business cards?' Cecilia says things like 'just order them yourself' and then doesn't think I need supervision. My rationale for this is that anyone who thinks it makes a mockery of Longstanding Tradition and the Serious Institution of Business Cards is by definition not part of our target audience, and we needn't consider their opinion.
A friend of mind poked me on Facebook not too long ago and asked me for advice on promoting a book he'd written. It's a good book -- I've read it, and I loved it -- but for some reason his publisher seems to have assigned his promo to Malfunctioning Eddie, and as soon as the initial sales burst dropped off by two or three books, sprockets started popping off everywhere. It's his first piece of standalone fiction. Having an overactive imagination is a prerequisite for a writer; it's great when you're crafting a novel, not so good when you get out of the shower in the morning and find you already have three or four urgent voicemails from Chicken Little that are long on hysteria and short on details. Eventually, he realized he was spending far too many billable hours going back and forth between calming his publisher and running down the checklist of heart attack symptoms, and that it would be easier to do it himself.

So he asked me what he was supposed to do. I a…
I really hate it when people tell me that 'mindfulness' is the cure for depression. I am mindful of the details of life all the goddamn time. If that worked, you'd think I would have noticed this by now. It can help with anxiety, yes. If you tend to wake up from nightmares about the Apocalypse like I do, it is much easier to convince yourself that it is rather unlikely that the world has ended and they forgot to CC: you on the memo when you realize that someone has, for reasons unclear, left a gargantuan piece of construction equipment idling loudly right outside your window. Somerville public works crews would definitely take the end of the world as a sign that they needed a smoke break, and turn that fucker off. No matter what state I'm in, life goes on.

But seriously, 'mindfulness' does not make you feel better. It just shuffles the terrible feelings around. Or at least that's all it does for me.

When I get upset, I go out and walk. I used to do Tufts Un…