Á-lô, is it me you’re looking for?

A friend linked me to “Foreign tongues don’t always come easy” on CNN’s website with the note “Is this you at all Paul?”

(As a quick summary of the article, the author laments his English-language monolingualism, and makes the following points: Anglophones have it easy because everywhere else, English is the fallback language of dealing with foreigners; and that the best approach is to get over your what you lack when speaking a second language, and work with what you have. But he puts it much more amusingly. Read that article. Maybe in a new window or tab so you don’t forget to come back here.)

I identified quite strongly with the author’s experiences of performance anxiety in high-school language class onwards, and the feeling of frustration when one knows precisely what one wants to say in one’s native language, but lacks the words, the grammar or simply the finesse to express it in another language.

So the quick answer is “yes, this is totally me”.

— If you’re bored already, or you came here looking for more “ugly cake”, then this is a safe point for you to stop, without leaving loose story threads. It’s going to turn into a mess of story threads shortly, of course.

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AmazonJP digs smart chicks like me

For reasons which I suspect are more due to the purchase of のだめカンタービレ 特典 のだめの鍵盤ポーチ付き than DS陰山メソッド 電脳反復 正しい漢字かきとりくん and 漢字そのまま DS楽引辞典, Amazon has emailed me to recommend this:

Now, my Japanese is not exactly spectacular, and rikaichan proved unhelpful as well, but this appears to be to be a 3-month exercise cartridge for women to increase their 女ヂカラ. As the joke goes, you fuck just one goat…

(Japanese is my best non-native language, too. My knowledge of Modern Standard Chinese currently extends only to 你有好乳房 “You have excellent breasts” and 你的妹妹有十六歲嗎 “Is your sister 16?”, although if pressed occasional other words, interspersed with Japanese and the occasional mumble will emerge. ^_^)

Now of course I need to go assert my masculinity by buying something like this:
(The infamous witch touching game)

Granted, I’d have bought this game whether Amazon was trying to make me buy girly things or not and I realise that my other purchases (Kakitorikun, Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon DVDs, for example) may have given Amazon the impression that I was a female Japanese primary-school student, but seriously, who gives a credit card to an eight-year-old girl named Paul?

Of course, my last AmazonJP shipment went to a female friend who was in Japan, maybe they assume I’ve been pretending to be a foreigner all this time to avoid sales tax? (Which is the opposite of online games, where I usually claim to be from very very south Okinawa, on the grounds that they don’t actually ask what country you’re from, just which prefecture of Japan…. This isn’t a problem, both because I am roughly south of Okinawa, and because Japanese MMOs lost their appeal to me once I realised that the Japanese seem to produce nothing but grinding MMOs.)

On that topic, I was disappointed to see that the Romance Of The Three Kingdoms MMO, at least from the two gameplay videos posted on YouTube, looks like another grinder. A translation of a beta test announcement however suggests that some level of facitonality will enter into it. Shame, really. ROTK would have been an excellent setting for the MMO I’ve been dreaming of creating. And sadly, the link to Dynasty Warriors Wave on the Wii is still not actually a link, at the Koei site. They showed this at the Tokyo Games show in 2005. And after the wonder experience The Godfather turned out to be, I was so looking forward to uniting China under the kingdom of Wu with nought but a pair of chakrams, a Wiimote, and the sweat of my brow (and other body parts). I guess I’ll just have to grab Dynasty Warriors DS: Fighter’s Battle when it ships somewhere in English.

I just now finished watching Dexter, (Warning, Wikipedia article contains unmarked spoilers) which I enjoyed quite a lot. I have to say though, I’d have been frustrated to be watching it week by week. And the second half of the season involved me yelling at him a lot for being an idiot.

Oh, and I joined Mensa the other day. I’ve spent all week telling people I’m a card-carrying genius, which is a bit of an exaggeration, as I don’t know if I get a card (I’ve been too busy to check my post office box.)

Just to reinforce my genius status, I tonight completed all the character writing and drills for the grade 1 of Kakitorikun. That’s 80 kanji, and technically I’ve got an academic transcript that says I know several hundred, but… yeah. That’s not as impressive when I write it down, it turns out my level of Japanese approaches that of an particularly uncommunicative six-year-old. But I have gotten a stamp for every day this month so far. ^_^

I get proud about completely the wrong things, sometimes.

In somewhat more age-appropriate educational news, I’m finally getting back to uni this coming semester, taking Morphology part-time. Work’s pretty good about flexible hours and stuff, so this will hopefully only consume time from my life, rather than life from my veins, as per my previous attempts at part-time study. It helps that this time I’m not travelling interstate to work and further again to study. However, I think I’m going to have to withdraw from the ANUAS comittee, as I’m going to be even more pressed for time than I am now.

If anyone from the ANUAS exec is reading this, sorry. I’ll prolly make an official announcement this week, although given the way things are going, that’s about as reliable as everything else I’ve promised I’d do for the exec.

At least this won’t crimp my social life. My social life couldn’t be crimped by an angry hairdresser with an AK-47 crimping iron, since it’s basically completely absent.

If only I could find an amazonian smart Japanese chick who digs me… Although frankly, I’m flexible on nearly all those details.

Speed of math

Assuming 8 equals 6, it takes the Milky way most of a day to travel as far as light does in a minute.

Just in case you were wondering…

Oh, and server upgrades mean the blog’s back online and working. ^_^

I’ve recently become quite entertained by Nodame Cantabile, having been flicking through a donated volume of English-language manga and then quite co-incidentally seen the first episode of the anime at an ANUAS executive show-selection screening.

So I was quite surprised to see that the recently-released NDS game… existed. I was subsequently surprised to see it at number four in the weekly Japanese video game charts.

At this point unsurprisingly, but still very pleasingly, there turns out to be a live-action series too (predating the anime) which I’ll be looking long and hard at including in next semester’s ANUAS drama screenings.

I also bought SSX Blur for the Wii on the weekend, as well as borrowing the work copy of Need For Speed: Carbon. Both games are by EA, and both suffered the same control problem, namely that the nunchuck-rolling movement only registers properly if you hold the nunchuck with your wrist fully extended on top. (ie stick your thumb out as far as you can, and then make it parallel to your forearm, palm facing inwards. That sort of wrst position.) This of course works fine when you think about it, but it’s not the natural position for the nunchuck, nor is it particularly comfortable.

That of course was not the only problem I hit. NFS: Carbon I found very very very frustrating to play, as the cars would tend to get stuck to a wall, and then come off only to hit the other side at an even sharper angle. Shifting into reverse with an auto gearbox also seemed to take an inordinate amount of time, leading to the situation where if I hit any wall on the course, I couldn’t win. Granted, I’m not that good at driving games, so I wasn’t exactly expecting the gaming experience of a lifetime, but even so I enjoyed NFS: Underground 2 on the Xbox a lot more.

SSX Blur, on the other hand, was a sharp disappointment. As well as the nunchuck issue, the other problem was that the Ubertricks seemed to be unwarrantedly difficult to pull off. I only managed to get the movement recognised in-game twice, and only once was I far enough off the ground by that point to actually be able to hit the button to end the trick and land. Seriously, this game element could have been saved by simply dimming the screen the button was held down, slowing time, and showing the player the movement the Wii was reporting, rather than continuing to hurtle downhill at breakneck pace while trying to draw Zs and love-hearts in the air.

However, the biggest gameplay disappointment in SSX Blur (Compared to the last one I played, SSX Tricky, against on the Xbox) is the loss of the character chat. It was a great gaping hole in the game that I could no longer enjoy the continuous mutterings of the character (Kaori, in my case, who used to chatter away in Japanese) and was in fact hearing nothing but the sound of board on snow and the inane pseudo-surfer sound of the DJ.

Also, the DJ was very annoying. >_<

The other major loss in SSX Blur was the rider customisation options. In SSX Tricky, I worked repeatedly over the various competitions and challenges, trying to save up enough money to buy the many many many neat, cool and downright weird rider outfit components available. There was something about unlocking peaks and whatnot, but seriously, I don’t care that much about snowboarding that I’d take the game as its own reward.

Fast-forward to SSX Blur, and after winning three races and one 1 on 1 challenge, I was first on the leaderboard, and had unlocked the second of 25 sets of skis/boards and 0 extra outfits. That’s 0 extra, I still had the one I started with. Out of four! Seriously. Four outfits? And they were whole outfits, not the mix-and-match fun of SSX Tricky.

I will concede that snowballs were an interesting new feature in SSX Blur. But there’s only so many snowballs you can throw at your opponents before you miss the ability to board into the shop and buy a cuter and fluffier backpack.

I’ll be trading in SSX Blur tomorrow for The Godfather: Blackhand Edition, since I believe I’m less than six hours away from finishing The Legend Of Zelda: Twilight Princess and The Godfather got good reviews on the Wii. I’m a little apprehensive though, as it is another EA game… If they turn out to have fizzled the controls in this one too, Wing Island is an option. If I keep swapping games around, I’ll either find something good, or one of the holy trinity (Super Smash Bros Brawl, Super Mario Galaxy or Metroid Prime 3: Corruption) will ship.

Speaking of video games, a friend of mine will be in Japan next month, so I’ll be taking the opportunity to score some NDS games to help with my Japanese.

I’ve attached AmazonJP links to the DS games I’m considering… I’d love to hear some thoughts and feedback on these or other suggestions… I’m particularly keen on some kind of fairly simple kanji learning/memorisation game, and something I can scribble kanji into and get dictionary lookups from.

I’ll be modchipping my Wii soon, so any suggestions on Japanese-released Wii games that’ll be playable with my remarkably poor command of the language would be appreicated too. ^_^

Things to do in Sydney while the wireless is dead

Well, now that I’m back on the ‘net fairly reliably, I can post on what I’ve been doing for the past few days.

Firstly, I was off the Internet because I was flat-out busy on Saturday, in transit on Sunday, and wireless did not arrive at International House until about 11pm Monday night. That time I did spend on the ‘net today, at the conference, was spent in a combination of processing CBIT emails since Friday, and wrestling with my wireless network card.

My local build of the d80211 version of the bcm43xx driver got signal, would even get traffic through, but when it tried to reassociate to a different AP (all the APs here are running on channel 11… Although I was sitting next to someone who saw one on channel 1, which I’m guessing was rouge… I also saw some IBSS networks on the same SSID….) it would corrupt something nasty, kick the screen brightness up to full and oops with slab errors in short order.

The 2.6.18 (2.6.18-3-powerpc Debian build) bcm43xx softmac driver didn’t crash or anything, but generally performed worse, and when the Debian miniconf’s theatre (Mathews A) was full, my connection suffered or would completely fail to dhcp. >_<

On the plus side, the presentations were great. AJ gave us a rundown of debian-devel (ie 12 months of flamewars) and other significant Debian going-ons. Keith Packard produced a whole bunch of neat X things slated for X.org 7.3 (input hotplugging, dynamic output selection and modesetting, which is exactly what I need to get the projectors I keep plugging into to work better than 640×480…). Russell Coker talked about the various security gaps still remaining in Linux.

In non-conference goings on, I was talking to someone on IRC who’s gotten Second Life Viewer building under Linux/PowerPC (a previously unsupported platform) and I’m going to see if we can get a .deb built. I’ve already created an ELFIO package, and have the OpenJPEG source to try packaging tomorrow. I’ve also sent off an email to the person who ITP’d secondlife-client for Debian already, to see if he wants to co-operate, or if I’m just tooling about.

Speaking of tooling about, I decided it’d be a good idea to upgrade my bcm43xx-d80211 build to something more recent than mid December, but it seems the 2.6.20 workqueue changes mean I can’t compile it against 2.6.19 anymore. The rt2x00 d80211 stack has backwards compatibility macros for the workqueue stuff, but I don’t really feel like hacking those into bcm43xx, it’s already a large and unsteady beast.

BTW, cogito’s update could handle resuming better. Although it happily detected it was resuming a failed update, it had to keep refetching the packs. I eventually realised it would eventually time-out a fetch if I didn’t ^c it and happily try again, presuming I had in the meantime walked outside or reloaded the driver.

Anyway, so I’ve decided tonight (while I was still off the wireless) that I’d finally bite the bullet and build myself a custom dscape.git kernel, to see if the pain I keep suffering from the bcm43xx-d80211 driver is just my cheap-ass backport. That was still building when the wireless came up, and then barfed because KConfig happily let me include both the PCI and SoC versions of the OHCI USB host driver, which provide the same symbols. I must remember to file a bug report about that, or at least check linus’s git tree in case it’s already fixed. (Both drivers recommended yes, but are patently incompatible as they require different endianness of the host interface). I’ve restarted the make-kpkg, hopefully that’ll build overnight and I can try it in the morning.

I also put some time into my Remembering the Kanji book. I was going to do an hour, but after about a half-hour (with a break to configure and fire the kernel build off) I was yawning, and figured I’d prolly left the imaginative-memory zone. I was going to watch some Gokusen but thought I’d take a last wander over to the IH whiteboard to see if the wireless was up. Bizarrely, it was.

So I wandered onto the ‘net, checked email, volunteered myself to package Thousand Parsec for Debian, added the Kanji I studied to Reviewing the Kanji (a web site for reviewing the stuff you learn in Remembering the Kanji) and updated my blog.

Which funnily enough, is where we came in

ごくせん Vol.1ごくせん Vol.2ごくせん Vol.3

Confessions of a mercenary programmer

Just a quick note, in the aftermath of the vote to decide where Anthony Towns, Debian Project Leader did something good for Debian, bad for Debian or indifferent to Debian with the Dunc-Tank.

I, Paul Hampson, hereby confess that I too earnt money for doing Debian work, specifically packaging FreeRADIUS and getting it sponsored into the archive in time for Sarge to ship.

Mind you, I didn’t earn much money, since Bandwidth Unlimited (for it was they) went bust without paying me much, but they did pay me. And you might argue that I’d been looking for a package to help out with in Debian for nearly three years at that point, and I would have worked on it for free, and that when I was being paid serious money to administer an ISP, I didn’t do much FreeRADIUS work at all.

To which I’d say that I’d never have picked FreeRADIUS were I not running an ISP, and I would not have been running an ISP had I not planned to become rich and buy the world’s largest chocolate bar from the experience. And I didn’t get a lot of my job functions done when I was running an ISP, so lower-priority things (like FreeRADIUS, cleaning my desk, a full night’s sleep) were often pushed aside.

I have to say that until I recently became a professional, regularly paid, programmer, I was highly envious of people who get paid to work on Open Source stuff, let alone Debian stuff. Now I’m just envious, although that’ll prolly upgrade back to highly envious after linux.conf.au 2007 (or as I like to think of it now, clitoris.conf.au)

This whole thing puts me in mind of my experience at the Sydney 2000 Olympics. I was one of the IT volunteers, and we basically picked up the less-interesting jobs the IBM-paid staffers gave us. At the time I felt a bit put out that I was there volunteering, and these guys were being paid to be there doing nothing that I couldn’t have handled. Obviously that was decidedly unfair, and from my days of “I’m as good as or better than anyone else at computers” phase. But the unfairness of my attitude isn’t actually the issue, the issue was that I really wanted to be paid to do that sort of thing, and didn’t see why others should get paid but me not be.

Now of course I want two things: To get paid, and to do the things I love. I’ve finally reached the point where I can combine them, and I no longer begrudge those who, through luck, skill or otherwise, get paid more to do the same things, or get access to cooler toys to do them on. I’m envious, obviously. How do you not envy someone who gets to bring up Linux on a 128-way Power5 machine on the quiet? But that doesn’t make me unhappy, it just makes me want to strive more, and work harder. One day I’ll be the one submitting a paper to Linux.conf.au on some stupendously cool thing I’ve done. ^_^

Anyway, my short-medium term goal is to leverage the experience of the current MicroForté work, plus finishing my Japanese studies, to go work for a games company in Japan, combining my two favorite pipe-dreams into one, and making it reachable in a little as two years. Maybe I’ll be lucky and MicroForté will open a Japanese office or something, or I’ll luck out and end up working on a Japanese MMORPG with a Linux client and a measurable dose of serious cool. Or somehow end up programming at Nintendo…. Oh, sparkley eyes! *_*

And a by-the-by, it’s two and a half months in, and I’m still totally thrilled to be working at a video games company. I mean, seriously, I’m like all, wow. I thought it was cool when I was working at TransACT, and my testing procedure involved firing up a video stream, and watching it on a TV. I had a TV on my desk, for work purposes, and that was the high-point of my career. Now I don’t have a TV on my desk, but when I’m hacking on combat-handling code, part of my procedure involves firing up a game server, and playing.

I’m learning to take my time with things a bit more. I’m now much less worried that I won’t speak six asian languages, play the piano, have my name someone in the Linux kernel that doesn’t share a sentence with “blame”, have invented an entirely new way of interacting with computers, master four different styles of martial art, earn my first dan in three different Japanese weapon styles, hold two masters degrees in disparate subject areas, earn infamy in the Debian community or even the admiration of my peers by 30. Or 40. I’ll be pushing it to get there by 50. But the advantage of youth is that you get it when you’re young, and only lose it if you let it go.

I guess on reflection, my goal has become to be a polymath ronin… For those familiar with anime, I think I want to be Kintaro Oe when I grow up…

Side-note: I’m now the secretary of the ANU Anime Society. Two days before the AGM, I wrote in an email to the then-executive committee that secretary was the one position I’d never take. Time makes fools of us all. ^_^ Congratulations to Cathy Ring on stepping up to the presidency, and to the other executives, old and new, for stepping up to what I expect (knowing Cathy) to be a hard-driven and successful year coming.

Oh, and someone asked this week about getting the GTO Live Action box set. So here’s my AmazonJP links…


Wii are excited, but stable

Two things…

Wii.com has gone live, along with a news release from Nintendo Japan announcing ship date and release pricing for the Wii.

For those who don’t read Japanese and can’t puzzle it out (it’s up the top, above “WiiTM”) it’ll ship on 2nd December 2006 for ¥25 000. It also says that schedule and pricing for foreign countries will come in the next few days.

Following some links from wii.com back through the Wii page at Nintendo.co.jp we get to see a video of the Wii software lineup, as follows:

I’ve highlighted launch titles, and indicated by-the-end-of-the-year titles as per the Wii software lineup page.

  • Wii Sports
  • Forever Blue
  • Mario Strikers Charged
  • Excite Truck
  • Dragon Quest Swords
  • Dynasty Warriors Wave (December 2006)
  • Red Steel
  • Fire Emblem
  • Swing Golf Pangya
  • Super Mario Galaxy
  • Necro-Nesia
  • Super Surgery (Card?) Chaos (Tenative name)
  • Sonic and the Secret Ring
  • Wing Island
  • Pokemon Battle Revolution (December 2006)
  • Bleach Wii (December 2006)
  • One Piece Unlimited Adventure
  • Dragon Ball Z Sparkling Neo
  • SD Gundam Revolution (Tenative name)
  • Crayon Shin-chan (December 2006)
  • Tamagocchi
  • Introduction to Wii
  • Elebits
  • Rayman (December 2006)
  • Super Monkey Ball Oook Oook Party Great Gathering
  • Fishing Master (December 2006) (Tenative name)
  • Festival Master
  • Furi Furi (December 2006)
  • Harvest Moon Wii
  • Twiilight Princess
  • Colorinpa
  • Metroid Prime 3
  • Warioware Dance
  • Super Famicon Wars W
  • Bomberman Land
  • The Dog Island
  • Wii Music
  • Wii Yawaraka Head Training
  • Road Cool Domino
  • No-miso connecting puzzle Takoron
  • Cooking Mama (December 2006)
  • Project H.A.M.M.E.R
  • Biohazard Umbrella Chronicles
  • Twiilight Princess (so good, they showed it twice!)

I count 43 titles there. ^_^

Also, NES games will be ¥500, SNES games ¥800 and N64 games ¥1000.

The Wii Preview slides are a goldmine, and include videos of the Virtual Console.

Did I mention that Zelda: Twiilight Princess is a launch title?

Along with 15 other launch titles, and another 11 titles by the end of the year.

Oh, dude, yay!

Oh, and the second thing…

17:01 <@usotsuki> Debian’s definition of “stable” is different from what most people call “stable”

17:01 <@usotsuki> that’s good and bad

17:02 < TBBle> Nope, it’s pretty much what everyone except computer users mean by “stable”. Think about it in the geological sense, for example. Or the chemical sense.

17:02 <@usotsuki> lol

17:02 < TBBle> ie “If you don’t touch it, it won’t randomly explode”


Edit: Found the Wii software lineup page, and so fixed my video listing above.

Edit: Forgot the AmazonJP link. ^_^