Wednesday, April 27, 2005

The Top 9 Action/Adventure Movies for Geeks

This is how much of a nerd I am, that I found this funny:


April 26, 2005

The Top 9 Action/Adventure Movies for Geeks

9> The Firmware

8> The Great Escape Key

7> R.A.I.D.ers of the Lost Archive

6> Courage Under Firewall

5> A Wheatstone Bridge Too Far

4> The Eigenvalue Sanction

3> Missionary Position: Impossible

2> The Terminalemulator

and the Number 1 Action/Adventure Movie for Geeks...

1> The Checksum of All Fears

[ Copyright 2005 by Chris White ]
[ ]

World Intellectual Property Day

From Slashdot:

Posted by Zonk on Wednesday April 27, @07:52AM
from the break-out-the-party-hats! dept.
Dotnaught writes "The Business Software Alliance wants everyone to know that today is World Intellectual Property Day, 'an initiative to educate young people about how intellectual property rights foster innovation, creativity and economic opportunity.' To mark the occasion, CopyNight, a monthly gathering of people interested in restoring balance in copyright law, is hosting a get-together tonight in various cities throughout the U.S."

Which led to this comment:

A Bitter Protest Against Copyrights (Score:5, Interesting)
by argoff (142580) Alter Relationship on Wednesday April 27, @10:18AM (#12354088)

Well I for one intend to celebrate by reposting this ....

A Bitter Protest Against Copyrights

If they said there was no incentive to do good things unless the government could choose your religion ... or they said there is no incentive to grow food, unless farmers could rip up your garden ... most people would see these as the awful values that they are. But if they say that there is no incentive to make beneficial or creative works without the power to restrict what people copy (copyrights), then all too many people just take it on faith. They don't even question it, as if incentive makes rights, as if society would fall apart without them. But just as much of the Renaissance happened without copyrights so should the information age.

Calling copyrights "intellectual property" is intellectually dishonest. The moral and historical foundation of property derives from mutual respect and the fact that not everybody can posses something at the same time. The foundation of copyrights derives from kings who granted publishers monopolies in return for not publishing bad things about the monarchy. Copyrights are about control, censorship, and not a free market property. In fact, they cheapen property rights by treating things that have natural limits in supply such as food, shelter, and medicine like information that does not.

Worse, is how people who copy are slandered with names such as "thief" and "pirate", as if copying was akin to boarding a ship and murdering people. They are even accused of stealing food out of the mouths of starving artists. Yet these verbal assaults hide a cold and calculated lie, the one that says "copyrights benefit creative people". The truth is that for every artist or writer that has made it "big", there are unmentioned thousands whom copyrights haven't helped a bit, hindered, or even destroyed. Some are even barred or sued from sharing their own creations in public, while others die with the world never truly knowing their artistic genius as the mass media drowns them out. Most creators are far better off sharing and distributing their creations freely to make a reputation for themselves. Copyrights not only cause them to be drowned out in a sea of hype, but do so deceptively.

However, these aren't the only problems related to copyrights. They are just a sample of many that are constantly blown off, glossed over, or ignored. Like the failures of Hollywood culture, the failures of big media to offer quality material, the failures of the market to offer competitively priced books for college students while tabloids are dirt cheap, and massive anti-trust behavior in the software industry to name a few. Their hypocritical pleas like, "how will we make money without copyrights?" is like a mobster asking "how will I make money with out victims to extort?"

The burdens of imposing copyrights might have been bearable a quarter century ago when the biggest issue was copy machines. But today in the information age there is no technical distinction between copyright content and free speech content. Information is so easy to copy and manipulate, there can be no "middle ground". Our society must make a choice: Our communications will either have to be monitored or free, our privacy will either have to intruded or protected. Our speech, writing, and free expression will either have to be abridged or unabridged. Any institution that has the power to control one, must have the power to control all. Copyrights are like a vine that will never stop growing to choke off our freedoms until we cut it off at the root!

Consider parallels to other periods of transition like the industrial revolution:

History teaches that during the 1800's there were many people who believed that the entire meaning and purpose of the industrial revolution was to leverage inventions like the cotton gin to expand their plantations for unlimited growth and profit. Ironically just the opposite was true;the industrial revolution demanded a mobile and skilled workforce.

First, they responded by making slavery last forever, and making laws so harsh you couldn't even teach a person of color how to read. Then they responded by trying to micro-regulate the northern states, then they responded by trying to break off from the Union and fence themselves off from the rest of the world causing all hell to break loose.

Today many in media circles believe that the entire meaning and purpose of the information age is to use inventions like the Internet to leverage their copyright holdings to the far reaches of the Earth for unlimited growth and profit. Ironically, just the opposite is true; the information age demands the unrestricted flow of information.

First, they responded my making copyrights last effectively forever, then they responded by making it so that illegal copying could be punished worse than rape, then they tried to micro-regulate the technology industries with the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) and now they are trying to fence the information they control off from the rest of the world with Digital Rights Management (DRM). We are now at the point where society must tell them to go to hell.

Just because an institution calls something a property right doesn't mean that it is. Just because an institution calls something an incentive, doesn't mean that it is. Just because an institution looks successful on the surface, doesn't mean that is is. Just because an institution has been around awhile, doesn't mean it can't or shouldn't fail. An institution backed up by law and the full force of government is worthless if it is unjust. It is time for time for the institution of copyrights to die in the history of the information age!

Unethical laws like the DMCA, endless copyright extensions, billion dollar lawsuits, are not just about problems that haven't been worked out yet, but symptoms of a poor belief system being brought to its logical conclusion. All efforts to find a "middle ground" have failed. All those who've tried have been exploited to pacify the masses as the next generation of restrictive laws is rammed down our throats. But they have failed not in that they have lost the "middle ground" but that they have not seen that contrary to copyright monopolies, the right to copy, share, and distribute information is a right!

Like freedom of religion, and freedom of the press, the right to copy things is a moral right, a right that exists above government. It is an inherent right that describes a nature of human existence that lives in us from the time we are born. If the rules of politics were created because it is better to fight wars with information and discussion than with bloodshed, the rules of copyrights must die because it is better to fight unjust control of these with defiance than with systems.

Defiance by believing that people have rights even when they appear contrary to the system or the popular mob. Defiance, by shedding the guilt and shame that those who impose copyrights try to impose on us and understanding that they are the ones who should feel guilty and shameful. Defiance by believing that free markets are about just property rights and economic freedom, and not fraudulent "property" definitions. Defiance by using and making free software, media, and open formats whenever possible. Defiance by copying and sharing creative works whenever able, and embracing new technologies like peer-to-peer networks. And finally, defiance by rejecting and challenging such lies as - copyrights "benefit artists", people who copy are "pirates", copyrights are "intellectual property", copyrights are "protection" ... and so on.

In my humple opinion, only then can society reap the benefits the information age has to offer.


David Christy

Man, I love Slashdot.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

NJ: Slashdot Hates My Posts

Just about every time I read Slashdot, they give me Mod points. Now, for those that don't read Slashdot, if you use Mod points you can't post, and if you post you can't use Mod points.

I think they really REALLY don't want me to post. There have been times when I have used 4 (of 5) Mod points and when I got down to 1, they put me back up to 5. This week, I managed to get there before they gave me more Mod points, but that lasted about two minutes.

I try to get rid of them as fast as I can, but usually by the time I've seen 5 posts worth modding up (I almost never mod down), I'm usually done with the front page. :-( I would turn modding off entirely except for the overwhelming number of bad mods I see. Don't believe me? Go meta-moderate sometime. There seems to be a significant number of moderators who don't even seem read the article for the post they're moderating!


NJ: Hiatus

I know I haven't been blogging much recently. That just means that I've been busy.

Ironically, I've often been busy chatting on instant messengers about the same things I normally blog. If I had just posted them first, I might have saved some time (and therefore had time enough to post them). Catch-22.

Anyway, please stop e-mailing me about it. I'm fine.

NJ: Wikipedia Is Awesome

I was just browsing Wikipedia for information on how the NBA Playoffs work, for the English board at school. I spotted a couple of spelling errors. I clicked '[edit]' and fixed them. Voila! It's instantly corrected on the page.


NJ: Cool Tips (from Slashdot)

Try this, 'tis most excellent! Makes Reader load in 1/2 sec or so, terminates quickly, and hardly ever crashes. It seems it's all those damn stupid bloated plugins causing the problems. To fix:
  1. Install Adobe Reader 6.0 (or 7.0+) and notice where it is installed.
  2. Navigate to that folder in Explorer, locate the plug_ins subfolder and rename this folder to plug_ins_disabled.
  3. Create a new plug_ins folder.
  4. Move the files EWH32.api, printme.api and search.api from plug_ins_disabled to plug_ins.
This fix is also described in MozillaZine.

An even better solution is to uninstall Adobe's Reader, and install FoxIt PDF Reader, which is free.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Learning to Drive II

Lewis Packwood Lewis said...

I'm so glad I don't have to take the test - it sounds like an absolute nightmare.

Oh, it definitely is a nightmare. Not because of the test, per se (the test is mind-numbingly simple, FAR simpler than the test I had to take in America). The test isn't hard, it's exacting. Another frustration is the fact that if I want to go practice on the course, I have to be accompanied by someone who has had a Japanese license to drive for more than three years. Meanwhile, I can STILL DRIVE ON THE STREETS. Why do I have to be accompanied? I could understand it, if I didn't have a license AT ALL, but I HAVE a license! I'm legal to drive! Argh!

(deep breaths)

:-) The truly sadly coincidental part of it is the REASON Americans have to take the test.

Some countries (like Canada, if I recall correctly) have reciprocal agreements with Japan. Have a Canadian license? You can get a license here. Have a Japanese license? You can get a license there.

Another part of it is safety. If you are from an area with relatively low frequency of accidents, you are deemed safe enough to drive here.

Here's the coincidental part: Japanese drivers have more accidents than Americans (especially here in Fukui, because of the high ratio of car ownership).

Here's a fun quote from the Japanzine Danger Meter (mirrored here):
Car accidents were the fifth leading cause of death in the year 2003. Although the roads are getting safer thanks to anti-drunk driving campaigns and tougher penalties for reckless driving, driving a car on Japan’s roads is infinitely more dangerous than skydiving, eating mochi, or living in Afghanistan.
The only things that beat car accidents were:
  1. Cancer
  2. Heart Disease
  3. Cerebrovascular Disease (strokes)
  4. Pneumonia
Things that killed less people that car accidents include suicide, old age, renal failure, liver diseases, and chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases.

So, even though Americans, on average, are safer drivers, they don't fall into the same category as Canadians because the statistics aren't broken down by region. Sure, Americans are safer, on average, but what about Americans from Washington State? The paperwork hasn't been submitted, and probably won't be, because if you have a Japanese license, you can't automatically get an American license (possibly because of the aforementioned accident statistics)! So, it's not reciprocal.

Here's a better worded explanation from the AJET Driving in Japan book:
Q: We're Americans. Why do we have to take the practical test and not the Canadians? They drive on the right, too!

A: Three reasons. First, American licenses are done by the state government and not the federal government, making a reciprocal agreement tricky since they would have to look into 50 states (as opposed to only 13 colonies in Canada - which did take years to accomplish). Second, the Japanese have to go through an even harder process to get an American license since their international driving permits are valid for less than a month. Third, because they're evil.

Tomorrow I take the test again. We shall see just how many tries it takes me.

Monday, April 04, 2005

Learning Japanese

I'm changing the way I study Japanese. No more half-efforts. I found this pdf of the first section of the first book in James W. Heisig's "Remembering the Kanji" trilogy. In the introduction, he talks about all the wrong ways to study, the mistakes most people make, and what frustrations they will encounter. It was like he was spying on me! I was doing everything he said, and having all the problems he mentioned.

So, I thought I would give his method a try. It wouldn't cost me anything but time, and I've tried so many study methods, what was one more?

The one more was the RIGHT one. It's what makes writing Petition (a 19-stroke kanji) into writing Meadow+Head (10 and 9 strokes, respectively), and Meadow is Cliff+Spring (2+8), and Spring is White+Water (5+3), and White is Drop+Sun (1+4), while Head (actually, Page) is One+Drop+Shellfish (1+1+7), and Shellfish is Eye+Animal Legs (5+2). So, Petition is Cliff+Drop+Sun+Water+One+Drop+Eye+Animal Legs (2+1+4+3+1+1+5+2), and the 19-strokes is broken down into elements 5 strokes or less.

Of course, I don't think "Cliff+Drop+Sun+Water+One+Drop+Eye+Animal Legs" when writing Petition, I think "Meadow+Head", and if I get confused on Meadow, I think "Cliff+Spring", etc. I think as needed, when I don't remember, but I usually remember.

If this doesn't make sense, download the file and read it yourself. It really really makes it stick. That doesn't mean that it's EASY (it's really really not), but it is EFFECTIVE.

I started on Thursday of last week, and I studied Thursday, Friday, and Monday, and I'm up to 172 kanji. I should have 3000 kanji (University level) memorized by the end of this year (reading+writing+meaning). My goal is to pass the Japanese Language Proficiency Test Level 1 (the hardest) by the end of next year. This seems like a reasonable, attainable goal.

Karaoke Revolution

So, we went to a karaoke bar for the 2nd party.

I sat between two of the leaving teachers (the two that spoke English, that I will miss the most). Of course, just about the only thing in English they said to me was "Which song are you going to sing?"

Singing, like everything else, is apparently mandatory.

Well, I thought to myself, how bad can it be? I was reassured that you didn't have to be able to sing, to sing karaoke.

So I started to pore through the foreign section of the song book, while listening to my co-workers go crazy on their favorite songs.

My co-workers...were already drunk at the end of the enkai. Really drunk. Or really acting like they were drunk (possible, in my mind). And they kept drinking at the 2nd party. So it was getting crazy. Some of them started to take their shirts off, but stopped when they got down to just a t-shirt.

And almost everyone sang almost every song. Some song would come up, and everyone would start singing together. It was cool.

But...then I realized...if I chose a song, it would be in English, and they wouldn't know it, and they wouldn't sing. So, I would be singing on my own. Well, that's no good.

And then a teacher sang a song on his own. Aha! I thought, if he's not so good, and everyone still has fun, I'll follow.

Well, let's just say he wouldn't get kicked off American Idol. So I backed out, and didn't sing, which was sad for me, because it's the last time I'm going to be in a karaoke bar with two of my favorite teachers (who both wanted me to sing).

But worse was the realization that I don't really know any songs. At least, not any songs in the songbook. I know that the words are on the screen, I'm refering to the melody. I kept trying to think of how a song would go, and I couldn't picture it. I really stopped listening to music in 2000, when I went to university. I would still listen to some stuff while programming or doing homework, but not always. And now I am completely out of touch.

I saw this game, "Karaoke Revolution" for the PS2, where you sing the songs, like karaoke, and the game scores you based on how closely you follow the melody and stay on pitch. I really, REALLY want to get this game now. To the point where I'm almost willing to push back paying off my credit cards a little bit, to order it. Of course, I would still need to order a PS2 as well. I found this site (, a Canadian company that sells pre-modded PS2s, and it looks like they even still have non-slim PS2s in stock (I don't like the slim PStwos, they can't be upgraded). Unfortunately, the system I want is $329.99, the HD-Advance with adapter combo (because I have a hard drive just sitting here) is another $59.99, and shipping to Japan is $127.79!!! I don't HAVE $517.77 to spend just to learn to sing, and that's not even counting the game itself, which is another $30. They can ship to US/APO addresses for $20, but I don't have an APO address. Sigh. Once again, so close...and far.

I really really want to learn to sing though. We sing in class, too, and I feel like an outsider, because my singing makes children cry. I would take lessons, if they were cheap and effective enough, and I had spare time (which I don't, but one can wish). I'm going to add that to my goals list for Japan:
  • Learn Japanese enough to pass the JLPT Level 1 test.
  • Travel: Hiroshima, Kyoto, Hokkaido, Okinawa
  • Travel: Guam, China, Thailand, Singapore
  • Eat more fish

Drinking Parties are Mandatory

So, last week we had two Enkai, one farewell party for the teachers that were leaving, and one welcome party for the new teachers arriving. Actually, since I work at two schools, I imagine that there were four parties, but I was only invited to two of them, for which my liver is eternally grateful.

The first one was on Wednesday. I was given directions, and told to come at around 5:30. I worked at Itou that day, because I was trying to get my driving license, so I couldn't get a ride with anyone (different school).

So, I get home, and I get ready, and I dig out my notes on where the place is, and as I'm heading out the door at 5:30, the phone rings upstairs. I kick my shoes off, and run upstairs, but I miss the call. Then I wait by the phone for a second to catch my breath and see if they will call back.

I really need an answering machine.

Anyway, the phone rings again, and it's a JTE from Asahi asking me where I am. called my home phone....and I answered........hmm...where could I be? It's a mystery.

Anyway, it turns out, THEY WERE WAITING FOR ME. Apparently, everyone had to be there BEFORE 5:30, so they could start at EXACTLY 5:30 on the dot. I was told that I should have been there at aroudn 5:20 or so.

OK, people, I've been here for NINE MONTHS. Surely you have noticed that I'm not often on time to ANYTHING, right? I heard that the boss kouchou was really mad. This highlights an important distinction between my Asahi kouchou, and my former Itou kouchou. My Asahi kouchou will get mad at me for being late (even though I was never told to be there BEFORE 5:30, nor was I told that they would be waiting for me before they could start). My Itou kouchou would have told me to come at 5:15, and not to be late. That's the difference. Asahi = Get mad, that will solve past problems. Itou = a little more forethought, and we won't HAVE problems to get past. Sigh.

Anyway, I rush over there, (instead of riding my bike, since it was only a few blocks away), but there's NO PARKING (doh! I'm in Japan!), so there's another few minutes gone. Eventually, when I got in there, they HAD started without me (aha!). And everyone was wearing a suit.


No one said ANYTHING about wearing a suit. I happened to be dressed especially nice that day, because I had gotten my picture taken for the driving test, so while I wasn't in a suit, I did have a dress-shirt and tie on. So, it could have been much worse.

Dinner was 90% seafood (which I am becoming less and less able to eat), and 10% vegetables and THE BEST BEEF I'VE EVER HAD. Seriousy. It wasn't even prepared the way I like it, and it was still the most amazing beef. I will really REALLY have a problem with food when I return to America. Sigh.

And there was drinking. We started with a sake toast (kompai!), which was the best sake I ever had (of the three times I've had it), and after that it was tea or beer. Since I'm male, I had to drink beer. I don't know why females get to drink tea, but it wasn't an option for me (I found that out the hard way at a previous drinking party).

Now, I'm not much of a drinker. I can drink, but I generally won't spend my own money on it. So, I wasn't accustomed to the constant beer consumption. It's tradition to pour drinks for other people, and there was a steady stream of people coming by to refill my beer glass. And if I hadn't had any, and the glass was full, I HAD TO DRINK SOME so they could refill it. I'm sure fraternity hazing is worse, but this was still much more alcohol than I normally consume (which is to say, more than nothing). And it went on for hours.

Then there was the smoking. I guess I was living in a fantasy world at school, where smoking is forbiden (like dancing, and Go). At the enkai, they let loose. So many people were smoking (especially at the second enkai, where I sat directly next to the smokers), I could hardly see the other side of the room, and I really really wish that were an exhageration. Cough.

Then, after the enkai, was the 2nd party. Again, attendance = mandatory. It's an odd social world here. We went to a karaoke bar. Sigh.

Learning to Drive

I have to get a Japanese license to drive. My international driving permit expires this Summer, and I need to drive to get to work (not every town has public transportation to every possible location).

But getting a license here is difficult. It is generally accepted that you will be failed the first few times you try. That's just the way it is. Even if you drive perfectly. They need the money from repeated attempts, apparently.

My kouchou sensei, the Board of Education, and some of the JTEs called around and figured out where I had to go, and what I had to do, and even arranged a specific day for a teacher to go with me to translate.

And they all told me I didn't have to take the driving test, just the written test.

I can't tell you how happy that made me. Everyone said the written test was a piece of cake, and the driving test was a motherbrat. The appointments were made for Monday (preliminary paperwork) and Wednesday (THE TEST). These aren't normally days I work at Itou, but the kouchou arranged to swap with Asahi.

It's quite the drive to the testing station (only one testing center in this area conducts the written in English). I felt like it was an imposition on the JTE who took me, because I didn't know whether or not the kouchou had forced her to accompany me, or if she volunteered (and I didn't ask). The poor girl had absolutely nothing to do for most of the time at the center, besides sit and read magazines. I'd say "Now you know how it is for ME during the breaks!" except she's not the Asahi kouchou.

Anyway, paperwork was done on Monday, and surprise! I get to take the driving test after all! Joy.

Wednesday rolls around, and the time of the tests arrived.

The written test is just as easy as everyone says it is. I had read the Rules of the Road (in English, $10), and that's all you have to do. I would be surprised if I didn't get 100% (but they didn't give me my score, so I don't have proof). The hardest part of the test was trying to understand the poor Engrish questions.

One question was something like "If there is a yellow line on the road, with a white line running parallel to it, in your lane, is it possible to change lanes?" This is not the actual question. The actual question was about three times longer, but that's the essential point, AND the essential problem. In which lane is the white line? If it's in your lane, you can change lanes. If it's in the other lane, you can't. Those darn commas render it ambiguous. The actual question was even worse, and worst of all was the picture! They included a picture, but colored in the WRONG LINE (I know it was the wrong line because I actually read the Rules of the Road). Sigh. Anyway, I figured it out eventually.

Then came the driving test. Actually, then came waiting for forever, and THEN came the driving test.

The driving test is on a closed course behind the center. A TINY closed course. Like, the size of a soccer field. So, you loop around a bit. And you take the test in one of their cars. My car is a Daihatsu Mira. I'm not saying it's small, but if it ever broke down I could put it in my back pocket and walk to the nearest service station. So, I'm saying it's TINY.

The test cars are huge in comparison. True beasts. Also, another fun fact is that if you take the test in an automatic, you can only drive automatics. My car is a manual, so I had to take the test in the manual car. That a bit sensitive, and you aren't given time to get used to it. Maybe I'm just used to my car, but I stalled the test car while PULLING OUT to take the test. I'm pretty sure I was failed on the spot, but the instructor didn't say anything.

Then there are the side mirrors. Or, I should say, the FRONT mirrors, because their on the front corners of the car. This was another thing I wish I had had more time to get used to. I kept looking at the sides, where the mirrors are SUPPOSED to be, and nothing was there. Plus, perspective-wise, the mirrors didn't really tell me much, being that they were so far away I could barely see anything.

Anyway, I had read notes about the test and the course from other JETs who took it previously, so naturally they changed the course for this year, but it was close enough that I understood. But, one thing the notes suggested was looking at the side mirrors when making a turn, even the mirror on the side you are turning away from. Well, apparently, that's a no-no, and was one of the reasons listed why I failed.

That's right, I FAILED. Sigh. Anyway, the reasons were:
  1. I looked at both side mirrors when making a turn.
  2. I didn't get close enough to the side line before making my turns (apparently, you still have to get close to the line, even on a four-lane road when YOU ARE IN THE TURN ONLY lane, which makes absolutely no sense to me).
  3. My bumper went over the stop line once.
So there you have it. Clearly, I'm unfit to be behind the wheel. Of course, I still drive to work, legally. Hmm.

I go back again this Friday. I don't know when I'll go back after I fail that one; I'll have to see how my schedule fills up.