September 20, 2014

Exchange rates

Starting about the first of the year, someone began to actively manipulate the Dollar/Yen exchange rate to keep it stable at about 102 yen to the dollar. I presume it was the Bank of Japan, but I don't actually know for sure.

I keep an exchange rate gadget on one of my computer desktops, showing USD vs JPY, just because I'm curious, and it's been preposterously stable for quite a long time. Exchange rates don't do that unless someone is fiddling with them.

Starting about a month ago they stopped doing it, and now the exchange rate is 109 yen to the dollar and trending up rapidly. Over the last ten years it's been as high as 128 and as low as 76. When the Yen was very strong, it caused all the disadvantages for Japan that we all know and love: making their exports expensive, presumably reducing their sales.

Which, I suspect, is why (I presume) the Bank of Japan began buying dollars with yen, to inflate the yen relative to the dollar. I wonder why they stopped?

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September 19, 2014

Cloudy, with a chance of conflagration

The Weather Bureau's forecast for my area looks like this:


Where the heck do they think we're going to get smoke from? I looked and the nearest fire (and it's a bitty one) is 40 miles away.

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September 14, 2014

NyaaTorrents returns

I noticed that links to it started showing up on TokyoToshokan. There's probably a story behind all this but I doubt we'll ever learn what it was.

On to other things: Is Sherlock Holmes trademarked? The stories are out of copyright now, but trademarks don't expire as long as they're properly defended. Reason I ask is that the next "Phoenix Wright, Ace Attorney" game is going to feature Sherlock Holmes.

And Watson: Iris Watson, 8 years old, supergenius with a Ph.D. in medicine and author of a series of books and articles about Holmes. She has pink drill twintails and looks like a refugee from steampunk.

Apparently it is normal for there to be cute underage girls hanging around in this series for no obvious reason.

Perhaps I should say "common" instead of "normal"...

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September 10, 2014


Archie McPhee (king of kitsch) has a bacon store.

If you ever visit Seattle, it's worth visiting the place just because it's so mind-blowingly tacky.

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September 09, 2014

Nerd Alert

There are certain signals which indicate that you should back away from someone slowly, and not meet their eye. Used to be that a pocket protecter full of pens in a shirt breast pocket was such a signal. Now Apple has given us a new one.

Ace says:

Apple has two advantages in this regard:

1. The company places a very high value on aesthetics, and there's no avoiding the fact that watches are generally understood to not merely be functional, but a form of jewelry. So maybe Apple can design a fake digital watch that you wouldn't be embarrassed to wear.

2. Apple's customers are slavish idiots and will buy dog feces if Apple puts them in a unibody aluminum casing.

That used to be true when Jobs was still alive, but I'm not sure that Apple as tribe/lifestyle/personal-brand/cult is still as potent a force as it used to be. A lot of glamour died when Jobs died, and these days keynotes are "Tim Who?"

There are still people like that, of course, but I don't think there are enough to let Apple get away with releasing junk and thinking it will sell just because of a fancy case and a logo. They couldn't even when Jobs was still alive, for instance the original iMac was a flop. (Beautiful case design but underpowered electronics. Word got around fairly quickly that as a computer it was second rate.)

So now we have the Apple Watch. (No "i" in there anywhere?) And none of the pictures I've been able to find show it on anyone's arm, so that we can get some idea of how big it is. It isn't available yet, anyway, and I think all the publicity shots that do exist are all renders. I didn't see anything that looked like a real photograph.

The thing is, there's a tradeoff here: if the screen is too small, it's useless. If the device is too large, it's a nerd alert and anyway it's uncomfortable to wear. Is there a sweetspot in the middle? Apple must think there is, but I am not sure. It may be a sour spot where the unit is both too small and too heavy.

There's a women's size and a men's size. They don't call them that, but it's obvious. The women's size is 38 mm tall; the men's is 42 mm. That isn't all that big a difference, and it isn't clear what proportion of that is screen and how much you lose to the bezel.

And no matter how big it is, there is no damned way that it's going to be reasonable as a way of entering text. One shot includes receiving a text message, but how can you answer it? The only answer I can see would be Dymo-mode: you turn the rotary control until the next letter you want is showing, then click the button to move to the next position. Believe me; this is not convenient.

Also, battery life? More battery means more weight. Since it turns on every time you lift your arm (so I read) it's gonna burn a lot of power during periods when the owner isn't actually looking at it. How do you recharge it? And how often?

I confess that Apple's industrial designers have scored again. It really does look nice, at least in the rendered publicity shots. But will it look nice on someone's arm? Or will it become a nerd alert? I know which way I'm betting.

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September 05, 2014

It's deja vu all over again.

A charter jet flying from Afghanistan to to Dubai was in Iranian air space and got intercepted by Iranian fighters and was forced to land at an Iranian airfield.

It was carrying about a hundred Americans (and a couple of Canadians).

For the time being authorities are saying, "Nothing to see here; just routine; they'll be on their way again soon..." but I won't be relaxed until that jet is out of Iranian airspace again.

A hundred Americans being held by Iran... where have I heard this before?

UPDATE: A couple of days ago, a young man in GB used a machete to hack off the head of an 82 year old woman. He was eventually taken into custody. The announcement about it said, "There's no terrorism involved in this."

I'm getting damned sick of being told "Nothing to see here, folks." They say that every damned time even when it's obvious that there is a terrorist component to it. In this case, later reports were that the perp was a recent convert to radical Islam.

The Obama administration has taken the euphemism game to a new high. Having painted yet another red line that no one takes seriously, in this case that a Russian invasion of Ukraine was completely intolerable, then when the Russians went ahead and did it anyway the US State Department refused to call it an invasion. It was an "incursion", I believe they said. An incursion isn't an invasion so we don't have to respond to it like Obama effectively promised he would.

Even after all this time, they refuse to admit that the crazy Arab military psychiatrist who shot up an American military base and killed 13 people and wounded 30 more was engaging in jihad. "Workplace Violence", folks, nothing to see here; move along. Never mind that recently he asked to be granted citizenship in ISIS. (Fat chance; he's in Leavenworth under a death sentence.)

Our leaders are less concerned with us being safe, or us being honestly informed, than they are with an imagined uprising of knuckledragging rednecks engaging in violence against Muslims.

Now never mind that there's never been any such thing happening. Not even after 9/11, which was Islamic terrorism, beyond any dispute. American rednecks did not rise up and reign reciprocal terror on American Muslims after that, nor has anything like that happened since. The ethnicity which has most often been victim of various kinds of abuse (including violence) was before, and still is, Jews. And a lot of that has been by Muslims.

So let's review two facts:

1. The vast majority of Muslims are not terrorists.

2. The vast majority of terrorists are Muslims.

Americans understand principle #1. Authorities are trying their hardest to paint over #2, even though everyone knows it.

It would be a pleasant experience for our government to be honest with us for a change, wouldn't it? And to trust us?

UPDATE: The jet is now in Dubai. Whew!

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September 04, 2014

Kindle Fired

When I heard that the Amazon Kindle Fire HD was going to have ads, I was a bit worried. After I bought mine, it didn't turn out to be all that bad.

When you first turn it on, there's an ad displayed. And there are two "pull it" bars. One gets you to the regular bookshelf (or into the book you were reading last). The other gets you into an extended ad.

If you go to the bookshelf, you never see advertising again, which was what I was mainly worried about. It isn't obnoxious. The ads have been a mixed lot; some for cars, some for computer games that run on the Fire HD, various other things. But for the last month, it's been the same one: for Amazon itself.

It looks like a place holder. I wonder if they aren't having much luck selling the advertising slot?

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August 29, 2014

From the Land of Sky Blue Water...

That's the title of a post over at Powerline today. I hadn't heard it in years, maybe decades. I knew it was from an ad for beer, but I didn't remember which one. So I hit the old search engines, and found a youtube of the ad itself. Turns out it was for Hamms beer.

I got curious to see if that brand still exists, so I looked it up. It was acquired by Heublein, who sold it to Olympia Brewing. Which was acquired by Pabst. Which in turn was acquired by Miller. Miller was purchased by South African Breweries. Which merged with MolsonCoors to form MillerCoors.

Gad. Made me wonder which other classic beer brands from around here still survived. Blitz didn't, I know.

I went to a private high school, the ritziest in town. There were two kinds of students there: bright kids on scholarship (me!) and rich kids. The two familes who owned Blitz had their kids there when I was there.

Anyway, Blitz Weinhard was purchased by Stroh, who sold it to Miller. The brewery was shut down in 1999. (Sob.)

The Olympia brewery in Tumwater was shut down. The Rainier Brewery in Seattle is no more.

I never drank any of these, back before I quit drinking entirely 19 years ago. (It wasn't good for me; I couldn't control it.) But I do remember that Blitz and Rainier had some really clever advertising back in the day, and... you know... home team and all that.

Seems like the brewing industry has undergone some ridiculously large amounts of concentration while I wasn't looking. I know Budweiser isn't an independent company any longer. (Lessee... search search search... Owned by someone called "Inbev".)

My favorite beer was Anchor Porter. My god, Anchor Brewing is still independent!! So I guess there's hope.

Actually, while all this consolidation of traditional brands was going on, little bitty craft breweries were springing up all over the place like mushrooms. I bet there are more breweries and brewing companies now than there were when I was in college.

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July 12, 2014

Torpedo, please

They're going to refloat the Costa Concordia next week, and if all goes according to plan, they'll tow it to Genoa, where it will be scrapped.

Greenpeace has announced that it's sending the Rainbow Warrior to block the movement to Genoa. They want it to go to a nearer port.

Imagine our joy.

I thought that sucker had been sunk. By the French? Something like that? (Aha; that was the First Rainbow Warrior. This is the third one.)

Posted by: Steven Den Beste in Weird World at 05:18 PM | Comments (1) | Add Comment
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What a concept

"Army to replace 9mm pistol with more reliable gun packing better 'knock down' power"

I've got an idea: How about this one?

Posted by: Steven Den Beste in System at 03:37 PM | Comments (4) | Add Comment
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