My good deed for today

I’m supposed to blog when something interesting happens to me, right?

This morning as I was passing through Shinjuku Station, I saw a woman take a dive down a short flight of slippery stairs and lie crumpled on the wet ground with a quickly expanding pool of blood under her head. (That freaked me out.) I’ve lived here long enough to know that you can’t assume someone else is going to help so I rushed down her, tore off my headphones (and my glasses–oops), grabbed a towel from someone who pulled one out, knelt down and held the towel to her head while resting her neck on my thigh.

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A post from my Japanese blog

And no, I won’t tell you where it is. It’s super-secret.

Every time I see a woman doing her makeup on the train, I wish I could pull a battery-operated shaver out of my pocket and do my face. That’s an old joke, isn’t it. But today I really did forget to shave.

It got laughs.

I wonder if anyone has ever been seriously injured while doing their makeup on a train. SeemsĀ  like there’s a strong possibility of poking out an eye with a mascara brush or choking to death on lipstick. Wouldn’t that be fun to watch. How much do you want to bet that nobody would help.

The First Law of Troubleshooting

I’m going to tell you a story that might not be very interesting, but who knows, it might come in handy someday.

Here’s the short version first: Whenever there’s a technical problem, check the wiring before you do anything else. Even if your intuition tells you otherwise, ignore it. They actually teach you this in networking courses. Really.

OK, here’s the story. On Saturday, our home Internet connection went out. (or “went off” or however you say it. Couldn’t connect to the Internet.) This happens every so often, so I waited for it to fix itself and kept checking the router syslogs for any good news. (About 100 times in eight hours.) In the meantime, I configured my laptop to leech off the neighbor’s wireless. (Don’t worry, it’s OK, I scanned their network first and found out they didn’t have any PCs using it at the time.)

Day two: still no joy. I can see in the syslogs that the router is dialing out over and over but the other end of the line isn’t picking up.

Day three: Tony’s going through some serious Counter Strike withdrawal and Andy’s whining because he can’t play Gary’s Mod. Not to even mention what it’s doing to my sex life. (Ha ha, just kidding. Well, OK. Not just kidding. But yeah, anyway.) So I decided to check the wiring. First, I checked the phone line that we use for ADSL. Well whaddaya know, no frikkin’ dial tone! Just for kicks I unplugged the splitter (the little box that splits the incoming phone line into two: one that goes to the phone and the other that plugs into the ADSL modem) then plugged the phone directly into the wall. Voila, we have dial tone!

At this point I’m guessing the splitter is broken, although I can’t imagine how some stupid little box with no moving parts or power supply could break. It just sits behind the desk collecting dust bunnies and splits the incoming frequencies (or is it bandwidth?) into to separate streams. But whatever, so I hop in the car, buy a new splitter at the local home electronics store, bring it home and plug it in. So now the phone works when it’s plugged into the new splitter.

But still no Internet, dammit. However, since my laptop still works thanks to the involuntary generosity of my neighbor, I give up for the night.

Fast forward to this morning. I want to update my podcasts, but I have to do it on my desktop PC, not the laptop, so I check the wiring again and discover that last night when I plugged the phone into the new splitter, I forgot to plug in the $%$# modem!

Moral of the story: Check the wiring first. And then, check it again.

P.S. The only reason I’m telling this story is because I haven’t written in a while, but nothing interesting has happened lately. Truth is, I spent most the three-day weekend just studying Java, pulling weeds, doing laundry and horsing around with the kids. For excitement, I installed Ubuntu on my laptop via Wubi. Hey, what can I say, I’m a real fun guy.

[tags]anecdote, geek stuff[/tags]

Regaining my youth is killing me.

There’s a definite pattern to events when Oliver and I meet up.

  1. We eat till it hurts.
  2. We drink till we’re about to burst at the seams.
  3. I fall asleep outside of Koga station.

Oliver has a superpower I wish I had: the ability to strike up a conversation with anyone, and optionally get them to buy him free drinks if he’s thirsty. Perhaps you can guess by the fact that I haven’t put out a podcast since it was -10 degrees outside, but in real life I’m a very quiet person; the diametrical opposite of gregarious when there’s more than two other people around. It’s been almost 40 years and I still can’t decide whether to embrace my neuroses or take up some kind of heavy addiction to counterbalance them. (It would have to be something inexpensive. That’s what makes choosing one so difficult.)

We ended last night in a crowded basement bar that had a touch screen MP3 jukebox, on which we took turns trying to play the worst song ever. I actually broke the machine with my selection. It would play Barry Manilow’s Copacabana all the way through, crash, reboot and play it again. And again. And again. It was the sound of victory.

Obon and other stuff

This week is Obon, the yearly holiday season similar to Dia de los muertos in Mexico, when people go back to their hometowns to visit living relatives and spruce up the graves of dead ones. It’s believed that the spirits of your dead relatives come back to visit, which is a nice thing to believe–you never feel too distant from the ones you’ve lost. There are many local “bon odori” festivals that involve dancing, taiko drumming, eating, drinking, etc. People take off work en masse, and many banks, city halls, supermarkets and small stores are closed. This is also the time of year when traffic jams miles and miles long make the news.

I don’t have off today, but my wife does, and she’s is taking our kids to see the new Harry Potter movie, which means I’ll have to download watch it by myself later.

Last Friday Oliver dragged took me to a live house to listen to a singer/songwriter he met during his travels. Let me say this–although I do like some music loud, to which my father will attest, there’s a point where “loud” becomes “way too loud.” When the venue is in the basement of a building behind two sets of vacuum-sealed soundproof doors, it’s a good sign that your eardrums are in for some serious punishment. I used my sound isolating earbuds for earplugs and it was still too loud. It was sparking my “fight or flight” response, and I spent half the time in retreat on the opposite, quiet side of the double doors and the other half wanting to pick a fight with an innocent bystander. On the bright side, I took full advantage of the “all you can drink” deal that was included in the entrance fee and spend the night curled up in a dumpster outside Koga station. (I nicknamed one rat “Fifi” and the other one “Cuddles.”)

So here I am at work today, having no luck finding a function in JavaScript for converting HTML entities like & and ” back into their proper characters. It looks like you have to roll your own. Stupid language.

Oliver and I almost recorded a podcast, but I was too inebriated and in a pretty foul mood. We started one before the gig, but it wasn’t turning out all that well so I’ll throw it in the chumbucket later.

[tags]music, Oliver, anecdote, podcasting, geek stuff, work, family, holidays[/tags]

Crazy Japanese podcast

Tell me what you think of this idea.

Last weekend when Oliver was visiting, Tony and I started playing a new game. I’d say something totally insane in English like, “May I please poke your eyes out with my chopsticks?” or “I made you a bracelet from my nosehair. I hope you like it,” and he’d translate it into Japanese. Or he’d say something equally strange in Japanese (usually having to do with poop, because he’s nine years old) and I’d say it in English.

Would this work as a podcast with audience participation? I think it would be a fun way to learn English/Japanese. Of course we’d keep it clean. Believe it or not, Tony still doesn’t know bad words in English, and I want to keep it that way. Although he did say to my mother once when he was about two years old, “You’re a FIRE BITCH!” He was just putting sounds together, and that’s what came out. You should have seen the look on her face. Priceless.

So disgusting that I have to share it

Yesterday on the train ride home I was smooshed up against a middle-aged man with a head full of dandruff the size of corn flakes.

But that’s not the gross part.

The rotating ceiling fan was blowing them off his head and onto other commuters. I was this close to shrieking like a little girl.

Fixed!

Nothing too interesting here, but I managed to fix my home PC this morning. I guess the C drive is starting to crap out intermittently. It probably got stuck or overheated, and when the machine rebooted the BIOS couldn’t find it and promoted the next drive on the list to startup. All I had to do was designate the correct drive as the boot drive and it worked.

I warned you, not interesting.

Speaking of not interesting, lately I’ve been spending all my weeknights in a Starbucks somewhere, reading the Japanese translation of Catcher in the Rye. Had I not lost my iPod I probably wouldn’t have bought the book. I use my retro-cool Sony Clie as an electronic dictionary (it kicks the Nintendo DS’s ass eight ways into next Thursday) and footnote all the new words and phrases in red pen. On the train home (usually the last one) I re-read everything and try to think of ways I’d use in daily life the phrases that are new to me, so that I’m “owning” them instead of just trying to memorize them.

The company I work for is in negotiations with a major international publisher to produce a podcast for them. One of the biggest publishers in the world by far, but you’ll never guess in a million years which one, and when I can finally tell you you’ll smack yourself in the forehead. I can’t even give you a hint. I won’t be the voice, just the producer, and when you find out who the publisher is you’ll understand why. If all goes well, it’ll start in July.

Disemvowelling: I love this idea

Cory Doctorow of BoingBoing fame wrote about ways to prevent trolls from destroying an otherwise tranquil online community in an article for InformationWeek. One of the strategies he mentions is to remove all the vowels from hostile posts. To me this sounds like a good way to let people know you disapprove, without being too heavy-handed.

Every so often–more often when I’m actually putting out content–someone decides to drop by here and leave a steaming pile of bile. Whatever their problem in life is, they had it before they came, so I don’t get too bothered by it. What does bother me though is it feels like having a gathering of good friends in my living room crashed by someone whose attitude problem pollutes the atmosphere. I know how I’ll react, but I don’t know how others will, and that worries me a bit. The next time it happens, I’m going to give disemvowelling a try.

Someone recently had a toxic reaction to the mouthcam video I made while playing frisbee with my kids. I can just picture this teenage kid in his basement, trolling Google for videos of a dick’s eye view of the inside of a scaly crackwhore’s mouth but instead finding frisbee with primary school aged boys and lashing out because his wee little pecker lost its boner. Life’s tough, wanker.