Bring In The Stunt Double!

The obligatory link: Stand-in mistress sought to take wife's abuse

This is definitely one of those stories that sounds too odd to be true. Then again, I'm still sitting on another one about what is essentially rent-a-wife, so maybe this does fit right in. Essentially, a guy wants to hire a lady to take the fall as his mistress so that his wife won't find out about his real mistress. Not quite enough to set one's head to spinning, but it's certainly getting there.

Still, all things considered, as long as the guy can keep knives and heavy weaponry out of it, the equivalent of $2,400/hour isn't exactly a bad take...

Another Trope Bites The Dust

The obligatory link: Petrol lit with a cigarette? Only in the movies.

Sounds like an episode of Myth Busters to me, but apparently tests have been done by the ATF to see whether or not a lighted cigarette can cause gasoline to combust. Unsurprisingly (if you read either the title or the link title), it won't. Not even if the cigarette is currently being puffed on (which increases the temperature by 200 degrees Celsius or so). Now it's just another thing requiring a suspension of disbelief.

The real question here is, "Why doesn't it work?" After all, the temperatures seem conducive to it. Unfortunately, the folks conducting the test don't have an answer for us. And since it's a rather obscure focus for further scientific study, the world may never know.

Not As Bizarre As The Headline, But Quite Dangerous

The obligatory link: Anti-Jewish cartoon angers L.A. Koreans

I know, I know... It's not exactly the kind of headline you expect when anti-Semitism comes up in the media.

Reality is much simpler, thankfully, in this case. Apparently there's a publisher in South Korea that publishes the cartoon in question. While I can't say that I ever thought of the far East as being a hotbed of anti-Semitism, I have to say it's a good idea to catch it and stomp on it firmly now. Doubly so since, as is mentioned rather late in the article, the cartoon in question is part of a book aimed at "teaching children about other countries". Kind of makes one wonder what's written in the other books in that series...

Japanese of the Week

族 (zoku) n,n-suf. - tribe; race; group

I'll grant you, this is rather an odd one. It wouldn't have come up, except that I was reading a story by Doug Giles where he referred to the "heterosexual tribe". Now, that one doesn't have an attached term in Japanese as far as I know, but Giles was using it in relation to homosexual men, for whom a term has been coined: 薔薇族 (barazoku), the rose tribe. (For the sake of completion, the term for homosexual women is 百合族 (yurizoku), the lily tribe.)

Until and unless someone can show me that the Japanese have already coined another flower tribe term for heterosexuals, I'm banking for the 菖蒲族 (ayamezoku)... The iris tribe. Why? Well, beyond the fact that it's a nice-looking flower(link goes to GIS), it's the favored flower of Narumi Kiyotaka in "Spiral ~Suiri no Kizuna~". In other words, I'm being influenced by what I'm reading again.

As to why I know all this (and you're getting this one as a bonus), chalk it up to this word:

豆知識 (mamechishiki) n. - trivia; bits of knowledge (lit. - bean knowledge)

Surprising That They'd Even Consider It

The obligatory link: Post Office may issue "forever" stamp

Even though the post office is provided for in the Constitution, I can't say that I really like the fact that it still exists as a government entity. After all, haven't plenty of private companies proven that they can do a better, faster job?

Anyway, on the table today is the post offices' attempt to raise stamps three cents (again). I understand they need to cover things like fuel costs, but the thing is, with the admission that usage of first-class mail is declining, it looks more like an attempt to pad their numbers.

As to the "forever" stamp, the concept is to print a stamp with no valuation on the face, so people could buy them at the current price when they were issued (figure the three cent increase goes in, so that'd be 42 cents), and they would remain valid even in the case of a future rate increase. There is certainly a chance to speculate on the price of stamps here, particularly for people who use a great deal of them. Of course, what happens if they later go off and "un-forever" the "forever" stamp? Sure, it sounds rather illegal, but a government entity could probably get away with it, if it tried hard enough.


Mr. Fusion, Is That You? (What Have You Done With Your Hair?)

The obligatory link: The prophet of garbage

I can't say I ever really thought of "Back To The Future" as science fiction, though the claim could certainly be made. Follow the link, though, and you'll find that someone has apparently turned into science fact what was science fiction when the movie came out in 1985. Next thing you know, he's going to tell us that we don't need any roads.

Let's Go Fly A Kite

The obligatory link: Pakistan: 11 dead, 100 injured in kite flying festival

Okay, I expected the deaths from stray bullets. What I didn't expect where the sharpened kite strings. ... ... ... Yes, you heard me right. I said, "Sharpened kite strings."

And yes, the article is going to tell you how such a thing happens. Instead of thread, or maybe fishing line, the use of wires or glass coatings is involved. What possible reason could there be to turn kite flying into combat, though? I don't get it.

Geoff Reviews - Rozen Maiden (v.3)

Title: Rozen Maiden (volume 3)
Media: Manga
Text: English (translated)
Story: Peach-Pit
Art: Peach-Pit
Publisher: Tokyopop (originally Gentosha Comics)

I have to start this off by being nice, since Tokyopop got its act together a bit in this volume. Suiseiseki actually did gain a mode of speech in place of her ever-present "desu". They translated "desu" as "yes", yes. Also, they almost weaned themselves entirely off of "impish" as a translation for "chibi".

The actual volume entails more maneuvering, along with the proper introduction of the third (or is it the fourth) doll in the Rozen Maiden series, Souseiseki. (Please, don't blame me for forgetting whether Suiseiseki is 3rd and Souseiseki is 4th, or the other way around... They're twins, after all.) It's also nice to see Jun growing as a character in this volume.

So, at this point, we know there are six dolls, and we've been introduced to all but the second one. I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that last introduction is going to happen before anything serious happens in regards to the fights that make up the "Alice Game".

One open question from the volume is, who are the brothers Jun witnessed, and how do they tie in? (Well, we know about one of them, but that's a spoiler for the volume.) Also, on a related note, how and why was Jun able to witness this, when it wasn't part of his past experience? Sure, we can relate that back to the existence of magic in the world if we need to, but it seems like the kind of thing that ought to be explained at some point. Something to look forward to, perhaps.


Tricked By The Cover

The obligatory link: Dems urge GOP to halt immigrant prank

Wouldn't you think that the GOP was actually doing something? Well, aside from the fact that they can't be troubled to do much in the way of actual work on illegal immigration, anyway? No, unfortunately, all the ruckus is about the College Republicans "Catch an Illegal Immigrant" bit.

The sad part, though, is where the RNC actually reponds:

Tracy Schmitt, a spokeswoman for the Republican National Committee, said "we find these activities both egregious and offensive and condemn them wholeheartedly." But she noted the College Republicans are independent of the RNC: "We do not control their activities."

Egregious... Merriam-Webster has it as "conspicuous", often as in "conspicuously bad". Of course, the only reason the whole thing is conspicuous at all is that people keep writing stories about it. Which leads us right into the next part. People are writing stories about the event, making it conspicuous, as it were, because they're "offended". (And yes, that belongs in scare quotes if anything does.) Frankly, I take issue with people who condemn as offensive folks who are essentially trying to get out a message of, "Hey, there're people over here breaking the law... Y'all wanna do anything about it?"

Well, file it under "there's no such thing as bad publicity", I suppose. Maybe if it stays in the public view long enough, people might actually get the idea. ... ... ... Then again, maybe not.

Maybe Heinlein Was Right

The obligatory link: Flying Beverage Cup Has Another Driver In Hot Water

Actually, I've thought this way for a while, but there really may be something to the whole "an armed society is a polite society" idea. After all, if you think about it, isn't road rage a whole lot like some of the rants floating around the internet? You know, the kinds of things that wouldn't happen if there was the barest chance that the target could fight back, whether or not they did?

It's a project beyond me, but looking into the decline of such things as individual weapon ownership and pistols at dawn in relation to the statistics of assault, the rise of road rage, and so on. The level of insanity needed to do such things would likely rise as the chances of the target being armed rose, at the very least.

Just to touch on a different part of this story for a bit, it should be interesting to see what kind of a sentence this guy gets (the maximum is ten years, according to the article), since the previous instance mentioned involved a woman who got sentenced to the minimum (two years) and then let out after seven weeks. For some reason, I'm not expecting a comparable sentence.

Some People Don't Learn

The obligatory link: Ill. mom accused of giving teens beer

There's a kicker to the headline, though. This lady's son had been killed a year and a half earlier in an alcohol-related accident. Sorry, but am I supposed to be able to muster sympathy for someone like that if they get the book thrown at them for giving alcohol to minors? I mean, don't people who lose loved ones in accidents involving alcohol join organizations like MADD, normally?

Now, the more I look at this, the more mean-spirited it seems, but I can't bring myself to pull it. The influence of public derision may still be worth something, after all.


How To Shoot Yourself In The Foot

The obligatory link: Immigrants who wire money get help from the Fed

In a way, I feel like this story goes hand in hand with the one earlier about having the IRS go after eBay sellers. Again, we have the government, in a bid to gain extra revenue, doing something that actually holds revenue down. Of course, this has the added "bonus" (if you can really call it that) of tying in with the illegal immigration issue.

Actually, it's a lot like the Bank of America story from a couple weeks back, too... which, not surprisingly at all, gets a mention in the article. It's another way that we could be getting locks on illegal immigrants for deportation, but even though we're spending money to do things like keep National Guard units on the border, easy solutions like this to the problem of finding the illegals already in-country never see use.


I have a few things kicking around that aren't going to garner posts from me, but they are worth a read. So I'll go ahead and link 'em up.

A Political History of SF - Talking about the history of libertarianism in science fiction. Not to be missed for any SF fan. It has the added bonus of mentioning many books, so its probably a good place to start if you're looking to put together an SF reading list.

Lottery can become a game of no chance - About how the state lottery commission in Texas lets those scratch-'em games go on long after all the prizes worth talking about have been claimed. "Idiot tax", anyone? Oh, and a note to the couple of people from the lottery commission there who have dropped by just to read this, welcome.

Al Gore An Energy Hog? Say It Ain't So! - Brainster, on that champion of conservation, Al Gore.

Also, since I have a bit of space on this one, I'd like to thank everybody who's turned up and kept coming back. If I had anything remotely resembling artistic talent, I'd do a "Thanks for 200 hits" image... but I don't. I know, it's not a lot, but I did manage it in the shortest month of the year, thanks to you all. Before I start sounding too much like a mangaka in an afterword, I'll cut this short. Let's go for 300 in March.

Squeeze Every Last Drop

The obligatory link: IRS urged to go after eBay sellers

Sure, some of these people are running eBay-based businesses, turning profits, all that good stuff. My question is simple: So what? The money they make gets into the economy and gets taxed some way or another eventually anyway, so why do we need to create even more red tape for entrepreneurs and other small businessmen? If anybody even says, "Because it's not fair not to tax them", I think I'll just scream. There's nothing remotely fair about the tax code as it stands now, anyway, so what's another little injustice in it, more or less?

It can't possibly be a question of the government needing more money. I seem to recall any number of stories recently about how revenues are climbing, after all. Well, as long as everyone wants their own little government cut, there'll be more calls like this to have the IRS go after this or that group of folks who've found a way to make money.

Punish success more, guys. The outcome, while likely dystopian, will probably be entertaining... in a morbid kind of way.

Voice... err... Video Overload?

The obligatory link: Videos have Net bursting at the seams

Essentially, we have people saying that the 'net is going to explode due to the fact that we're all YouTube addicts, hogging the bandwidth. I'd link the Daily Show clip of "The Internet Is A Series Of Tubes" here for added levels of sarcasm, but that's been pulled due to copyrights (as expected). That's rather aside from the point, though.

Here's the meat:

Having monitored Internet growth for a decade, Odlyzko said he sees parallels now to earlier ploys from telecom executives. Nearly five years ago, when computer users started to hold voice conversations using Internet telephony, industry insiders fretted that bandwidth demands would exceed capacity, he said.

People have a bad habit of going broke underestimating the resilience and expansion of computing power over time. Until we actually see the internet browning out from overuse of linking YouTube videos, I'm not buying it. Until then, please follow this link and watch every video that's still up.

Geoff Reviews - Crossroad (v.1-6)

Title: Crossroad
Media: Manga
Text: English (translated)
Story: Mizuki Shioko
Art: Mizuki Shioko
Publisher: Go!Comi (originally Akita Shoten)

No aliens, magic, weird planets, or extraordinarily skilled people? What's a story to do? Live on the strength of its comedy and drama, of course. There's nothing terribly special here outside of the characters, but they're the point and focus of the story anyway, so that's not a bad thing. As the American publishers said as the preview for volume five, anything I could really tell you about the story would be a spoiler... so, I'm better off not saying anything. I could just quote the blurb from the back of volume one, but it's exceptionally misleading, so I can't in good conscience do so.

As shoujo manga go, this is one of the better ones I've read recently. While the technical definition of "shoujo manga" is "comics for girls", that doesn't really cover the concept. If you can say shounen manga as a whole goes about character development through training and combat (please, use these terms training and combat loosely, this can cover everything from martial arts to racing cars to baking bread), then shoujo manga is more character-relationship driven. Put another way, most shounen-series characters develop their abilities, while most shoujo-series characters develop as people.

I only have two real gripes about the series. First, I had to turn off my brain just a bit to keep from bludgeoning it on the 900 pound deus ex machina in the room, otherwise known as how the main characters wound up together at the beginning of the story. Without spoiling it, let's just say that I had to promise my suspension of disbelief a week's vacation if it would overlook that one plot point. The thing is, I don't think I would've actually taken issue with it if the rest of the series weren't so incredibly normal.

Second... It's over already? Sure, I had a bad feeling about it when the mangaka commented in volume one that she'd already covered half of the story as she originally saw it, but all of a sudden, I'm staring at the upcoming release of volume seven as a resolution for the story? It's not impossible, if by resolution it means clearing up the storyline of the two primary characters... but all the other major characters seemed to have stories worth telling as well, and one volume isn't going to be time enough for nearly all of them (or any of them, really, if the focus is where it should be, in wrapping up the primary line).


Marketing Lingo For A Laugh

The obligatory link: Coca-cola redesigns cans

"This new campaign invites people to create their own positive reality, to be spontaneous, listen to their hearts and live in full color." So says Coke's senior V.P. in charge of... something. If you're not laughing too hard at that line of marketing crapspeak, you can click on the link above to find out.

So, I can drink Coke, create a reality of my choosing, do stuff 'cause I feel like it, and I can finally step out of this monochrome TV set? ... ... ... This is fine, but a ballplayer drinking a beer constitutes misleading advertising? There are plenty of words to describe this, but I hesitate to do so where they may be found by women, children, and other people of upstanding morals. Oh well, a giggle, guffaw, or belly laugh is fine, too.

Dismissing Jurors

The obligatory link: Judge Dismisses CIA Leak Trial Juror

My fascination with this (admittedly obscure) topic began back when I read the book "Runaway Jury", which, unlike the movie, was rather gripping, and quite the page-turner. Anyway, with all the exhortations from the judge in that book not to see or have other contact with material about the case outside of the courtroom, the story was obviously setting up to play on that point (it did)... but I couldn't see for the life of me how real people could actually do such a thing. As I've found in paying attention since then, though, judges orders to juries seem to be along the lines of a "wet paint" sign. (What do you do when you see a sign that says "wet paint"? You touch the paint to see if it's still wet, naturally. It's an action to regular human curiosity.) Really, it says a lot more about human nature than it does about the nature of judges and juries.

Meanwhile, of course, normal case watchers are just waiting for the verdict to come in. That should be interesting in its own right.

Washington On Patriotism

"Citizens by birth or choice of a common country, that country has a right to concentrate your affections. The name of American, which belongs to you, in your national capacity, must always exalt the just pride of Patriotism, more than any appellation derived from local discriminations." - George Washington

This seems to be turning into a regular comment on these, but it sure feels like we've come an awful long way from this idea, and we're not exactly heading in the right direction.