December 28, 2009

A shocking iPhone story ()

by fluffy at 11:14 AM
So I heard from a friend of mine who knows somebody at Apple so he totally knows what's going on with it that part of how they make iPhones is they take dessicated cockroach remains because cockroach antennae make the best antennae for mobile phones, but anyway one time they accidentally used too much of the cockroach and so there were a bunch of eggs in this one phone, and so the person who used the phone got the cockroach eggs in their ear and then the eggs hatched and they had cockroaches in their ear and it was really really gross. And then they went to the doctor and got the cockroaches taken out but then there were a few other eggs left behind and they ate the person's brain.

December 24, 2009

How does this even happen? ()

by fluffy at 8:29 PM
Some time today I appear to have lost a filling. I have no idea when, where, or how. This time it's a rather large one, and there seems to be a bit of tooth rot underneath (which probably partially explains the "how" at least). So of course I've left a message on my dentist's "dental emergency" line. It would of course be completely unsurprising if I can't get it taken care of tomorrow, although he's normally open on Saturday so hopefully that will work.

Chase Bank extracting as much money from me as possible ()

by fluffy at 4:10 PM
Two reasons why I'm mighty sore at Chase Bank right now:

First off, a month ago I withdrew some cash from a non-Chase ATM. The non-Chase ATM charged me $3, which I was expecting. Chase charged me another $2, which I was not, what with them loudly proclaiming many times that they don't do that.

Second, and more importantly, they never sent me a "your statement is available" email this month, which is what usually prompts me to pay my credit card bill (the last one I received was on 10/31). As a result, although my payment was due on 12/23, I didn't realize I hadn't made it until 12/24, today. I have gone through all my Procmail logs and have no record of them sending me a statement notification for December (although I have one for every other month). They did send me quite a few "important changes to your online legal agreements" emails but none of those had anything to do with alerts - just stuff like me agreeing not to "reverse-engineer the website" and other such nonsense.

I have a feeling they're going to charge me interest and some huge late fee. I already sent them a customer service message explaining the situation. We'll see how that goes.

Meanwhile, I checked my "account alerts" settings and it looks like somewhere along the line, all credit card alerts got completely disabled. I think they overhauled their alerts system, and didn't bother to reapply old settings. I think there will be a lot of people surprised by massive unexpected late fees. I think Chase will make a lot of money off of this.

Yeah, I know, it should be up to me to know to pay my credit card bill every month, but I've always just used the receipt of the "you have a new statement/payment due" email as a reminder. I guess I should just set this up as a recurring calendar item instead, because no way can I trust a bank to not screw up when their screw-up potentially costs me money.

5:35 PM Wow, this is surprising:

Thank you for providing me with the opportunity to assist you today in regards to your request to remove the late fee recently assessed to your account.

Please be advised that I have credited your account for the $39.00 late fee and this adjustment will be reflected on your December billing statement.

Well, then.

December 5, 2009

Hey hey Seattle friends ()

by fluffy at 11:53 PM
My friend Rachael (who posts here and other places as R343L) is about to move up to Seattle and it would mean a lot to me if people were to accept her into their social circles as they were so readily accepting of me. <3

Order me a soda water ()

by fluffy at 12:10 PM
So, lately I've been using my soda siphon again, especially at parties. A soda siphon is a little pressure vessel that takes a liter or so of water and a small CO2 cartridge, and combines them to make fresh seltzer at home. They are best known as a classic prop comedy device. They are also much more convenient than bottled seltzer since you can keep about a hundred liters' worth of CO2 cartridges in the space of about one 1-liter bottle, and they're also much more environmentally-friendly because you're just using municipal water, and the shipping of the cartridges takes very little fuel (I'd estimate at about a 300:1 ratio compared to the premade equivalent), and the discarded cartridges are 100% recyclable aluminum (unlike plastic drink bottles which degrade very quickly in the recycling process). Also, if you can get a good deal on cartridges, it ends up cheaper (or at least no more expensive) than the bottled stuff. The main downside is that the resulting seltzer isn't as bubbly as commercially-prrepared seltzer, but it still has most of the mouthfeel (especially when it's fresh and made with ice-cold water in an ice-cold siphon).

Since people have been interested in getting their own, there's not a whole lot you need. There are several soda siphons available (I have the iSi Soda Siphon Brushed Aluminum 2248), and then as far as cartridges go, you can often find them at restaurant suppliers or wholesalers (e.g. Cash and Carry). My most recent shipment came from Creamright, which specializes in these things (they also have N2O cartridges for making whipped cream and/or getting high); I just use their generic CO2 cartridges. They also have slightly better deals on siphons, too.

Anyway, the other part of the equation is that after you have a source of seltzer (and this works with bottled seltzer too), you can make your own soda with Torani syrup, which comes in a bunch of flavors, and is sweetened with sugar instead of HFCS (and they also have diet versions). I just buy that stuff at BevMo.

If you want soda that's brewed in a more traditional way, there are plenty of recipes out there for home-brewed ginger ale and root beer using a fermentation process, or you can cheat and get (or make) an appropriate syrup and mix it with seltzer (typically by making simple syrup and combining it with a flavor extract). That does generate a slightly different flavor, though, and a fermentation approach also produces a bit of alcohol (not enough to get drunk, but enough to cause problems if you have an alcohol-sensitive medical condition).

December 3, 2009

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December 1, 2009

Beatmania: Still king of rhythm games (, )

by fluffy at 9:54 PM
So the recent release of the abysmally complex and un-fun DJ Hero inspired me to pull out my old Beatmania stuff and play it a bit more. It is still an excellent game. So I brought it to work and played it a bit during a break, and it was disappointing that everyone who walked by thought I was playing DJ Hero and wondered why the graphics "were so 8-bit." All modern rhythm games owe so much to Beatmania (it was the first to have the "notes falling toward a controller" layout, and the first to have a mock musical instrument for a controller, and so many aspects of its design and presentation are things that are copied pretty much exactly in the more "modern" rhythm games) and it's almost criminal that most hardcore rhythm game players don't even know that it exists.

Things I like about Beatmania:

  • It has an incredible variety of music. When R343L came by she said, "Oh, it's like Rock Band but with techno," but she just happened to come by when I was playing a techno track. If she'd been there for the previous one she'd have heard some Motown-style funk, and the next one was new-wave fusion jazz. There's also classical and rock and pop and IDM and who knows what the hell else. Much of it is hard to classify, like most of my broad tastes in musical styles.
  • You are actually playing the music. On most rhythm games you're just hitting buttons, and hitting the wrong button will make the overall pre-mixed track mute, or (on a good day) play some random jarring instrument noises. On Beatmania, though, you are actually playing a sampler keyboard, whose sample triggers are changing as part of the timeline. It is totally transparent to the player, BUT it means that if you mess up the timing or miss a note or play the wrong key, you actually get off-time or partially-missing or wrong samples. Another side-effect of this is that you really have to play with your ears as much as your eyes, and so it doesn't matter that there's no way to calibrate it for display lag because if you're looking at the event line, you're doing it wrong.
  • Relatedly (and completely unlike DJ Hero), when you are scratching it is actually scratching. Okay, it's not speed- or direction-sensitive, and the metaphor of the turntable can vary often (sometimes it's a scratch, sometimes it's a spin, sometimes it's just another sample trigger) but when you're on a scratch-heavy track, every scratch you make produces a separate scratch sound. You have to be able to count small numbers very quickly, which is a lot harder than it sounds.
  • You get a hell of a lot of music on each disc. Yeah, in the days before DLC, you had to buy additional CD-ROMs to get more songs. But each disc has about an hour's worth of songs. (Because the tracks are composed of samples, and often have the same samples used across songs, you easily get a CD's worth of music, sometimes more, even with all the audio tracks being separate.) Yeah, some of the later mixes have repeats from the previous discs, but so what? Each disc is a unique gaming experience.
  • The visuals! Most rhythm games give you basically nothing interesting visually. Oh, yay, a band on stage, big deal. Beatmania gives you fun semi-interactive music videos that react to the song and to how you're doing. And the visuals are fun, with crayon scrawlings and tongue-in-cheek discotheque visuals and occasional IDM-ish weirdness.
  • Winning doesn't involve just not failing, but ending on a high note. (Actually it's possible to completely bomb out at the beginning and then recover towards the end. Finishing strong is more important. Except in expert mode.)
  • Even though it's over 12 years old it's still fun and challenging, and the later mixes took it a bit further and provided multiple difficulty levels and even multiple arrangements of the songs. Okay, sure, Guitar Hero and Rock Band have the multiple difficulty levels, but that's just adding more events you have to hit more or less on-cue to keep the same sounds going as always. On Beatmania, the fact you're playing the notes directly means the advanced difficulties actually start to fall apart in different ways, and you know it. And there's always new challenges, too — expert mode (where you have a budget for mistakes for an entire setlist), double mode (two controllers one gamer), special challenges (key randomization, hidden/sudden/extra-fast note markers), and probably lots of other stuff that isn't even occurring to me right now.
It is a shame it took Konami so long to release a version for the US. It is a shame that by the time they did, reviewers thought it was just a Guitar Hero ripoff. It is a shame that the US version also lost much of what made the game so much fun (the visuals were genuinely "serious," the song selection was oriented towards American pop and bland mainstream electronica, and the Konami original songs seemed to be selected based on fitting in with that rather than based on the fun factor). It's a shame that even with how abysmal DJ Hero is, people think DJ Hero is some sort of genre-defining thing. (Not even the mashup aspect of it is new — Beatmania has had several mashups in its oeuvre, albeit mashups of other Beatmania songs).

It's also a shame it's so hard on my wrists because holy cow did I miss playing this wonderful game.

I have basically every worthwhile mix for the PS1 (except Sound of Tokyo, which I should be receiving soon, having finally sourced a copy on eBay), and the first Gameboy mix, which is basically a "best of" for the first few PS1 mixes, in chiptune form, and the chiptunes are exceptionally well-done. Right now I'm considering also getting either an import or modded PS2 so I can start building a IIDX collection, even though IIDX didn't really seem so much fun (since it seemed to be all about the difficulty instead of the fun). It's just too bad I didn't get back into this stuff a few years ago when it was still easy to source a PS2 modchip. (Maybe not so bad for my wrists though.)

Webcomic convention thingamabobber ()

by fluffy at 6:54 PM
For anyone who wants to meet me in person and, I dunno, watch me work on my comics or something, there's this thing going on that I will be at, December 12 at the Cartoon Art Museum. I'm scheduled to be there 11 AM to 1 PM but I'll probably stick around for more than that.

12/3 Of course, this being the Cartoon Art Museum in San Francisco, CA.