Spy work

One of my clients sent me on a slightly bizarre mission that has nothing to do with translation, at least not directly. I was charged with taking my trusty digicam and shooting some pix of a couple of car dealerships in the area. Not too hard, but I was worried that either I’d wind up shooting from a great distance, and the pictures would be useless, or I’d wind up getting chased away from the lots.

In the spirit of sneaky spy-stuff, I decided to go at night. This neatly avoided the above two problems, but created a new one: it’s hard to take sharp pictures in the dark. (And one of the dealerships did have a watchdog, but he was asleep, so I let him lie.) So the results from this outing weren’t very usable.

I went out today and shot some more, and was surprised at how dead both dealerships seemed. I thought Sunday would be a busy day for them. Then I went to go investigate buying a boombox, and the Best Buy was closed. Weird.

Then I got home and discovered it was Easter. I tell ya, I’d forget my own birthday if my parents didn’t call to wish me a happy one every time it came around.

Yahoo was pretty cool, once

Yahoo was pretty cool, once upon a time. Now they’ve got their hooks in us and they’re turning evil. If you are a member of a mailing list hosted at Yahoo, or have ever bought anything through a Yahoo-affiliated store online, or have a “My Yahoo” page–basically, if Yahoo has any information on you at all–then read the following and take appropriate action now:

Yahoo has sneakily added something something called “Marketing Preferences” to your account that gives Yahoo permission to send you spam through e-mail, the U.S. mail and phone, unless you check the “No” option of a series of buttons.

At the moment, Yahoo has defaulted all the buttons to the “Yes” option. To keep them from spamming you — “with your authorization” — you need to go to your account page and check the “No” buttons.

Go to http://groups.yahoo.com and sign in. At top-right of the page click on “Account Info.” You will be asked to confirm your password.

Once on your account page, scroll down to “Member Information” and click on “Edit your marketing preferences” (the link immediately below your email addresses).

On the next page, you’ll find a list of “Special Offers & Marketing Communications,” followed by the line “I would like to receive information about…” and a list of services Yahoo is offering. You’ll also find all the “Yes” buttons checked.

Check the “No” button of each service you do not desire.

Now scroll down to the bottom, where it says “Other Delivery: Indicate other ways you want to receive the special offers and marketing communications you have selected.”

You’ll find the options “via U.S. mail” and “via phone” checked “Yes.” If you don’t want these options, check “No.”

Finally, at bottom-right, click on the “Save Changes” button.

Blogging considered dangerous

From MSNBC’s report on PC Forum, an annual tech-industry gathering:

But we’re only beginning to grasp how weird it is to have wireless Net access all the time. One harbinger: during Tuesday morning’s session with Qwest telecommunications CEO Joe Nacchio, several conference participants were typing their impressions into personal ‘Web logs,’ online diaries available to all on the Internet. One of these ‘bloggers,’ Doc Searls, got an e-mail from a friend across the country, who noted that Nacchio’who at that moment was onstage complaining about how tough life was in telecom’had sold huge amounts of stocks over the past two years. Searls located a page from Yahoo Finance with the particulars and linked it to his log. Another blogger in the room read Searls’s log, and copied the link to his own site, acidly commenting on the inappropriateness of Nacchio’s whining. Though it’s not clear how many in the room were reading the Web logs, apparently there were a lot. In any case, it seemed that the room palpably chilled toward the pugnacious executive. This is a dangerous trend for public speakers.

Dangerous? No. I love this.

Post-trip check-in

Been a while since I checked in here. Not for a lack of things to say–the opposite, if anything. So this’ll be an omnibus blog entry.

Two weeks ago, had my first light-up with the staff. This went well. There’s definitely an added rush with something new, and the staff is an inherently appealing apparatus.

I was in headless-chicken mode for a while trying to tie up several loose ends. I needed to make a bunch of fire equipment for a fair, I had to put together my tax packet for my accountant (ouch–my gross translation income in 2001 was slightly less than half the 2000 figure). Had regular translation work to do. Had to get ready for my trip to New York.

Then I went to New York. As before, I had a ball.

This was the first time I ever drove to the new airport, and the first time I’ve used long-term parking, ever. But I’ve had bad luck with cabs, the blue van demands a huge amount of lead time to guarantee an on-time arrival, and the express bus (which I really like) doesn’t run early enough in the morning for the early departure I had scheduled. Turns out that, although it offends some abstract sense of transportational propriety that I have, long-term parking isn’t a bad option for a trip of, say, less than 10 days. The long-term lots are actually closer to the terminal than the short-term lots at O’Hare, and at $6/day, pricing winds up being about the same (over a week) as cab rides both ways.

Anyhow. Departed 6:00 AM, Wednesday, March 20. Got into La Guardia around noon after a transfer in DFW. I was staying this trip, as before, at Dori and Jeffery’s loft, so I hung out with them and had fun catching up. That night I went into Manhattan. My friend Lisa is now loosely kinda-sorta associated with the Bindlestiff Family Cirkus, which has an “open mic” night on Wednesdays. Not sure what that’s supposed to mean, but I met her at the Mazer Theater where Bindlestiff is currently based. The open-mic thing closed up pretty quickly (I was the only person in the audience who wasn’t a part of the circus), and then Lisa, Stuart (her boyfriend, the Bindlestiff’s production designer, and the medium through which Lisa is associated with them) went to the Pink Pony for comestibles and libations. That lasted until some time after midnight.

Thursday I met with the one of my clients, MSAPR. We went out to lunch at a Japanese joint that was very much like any businessman’s lunch place in, for example, the Sanbancho part of Tokyo. Went back to the office and actually did some translation work on the spot. It was certainly useful to meet with the folks at the office, with whom I’d barely even spoken on the phone before. At the end of that, I wandered south through Manhattan–the weather was nice, and wandering around New York is probably the finest form of entertainment there.

Thursday night, I got together with Scott at Joe’s Pub for a performance by Oscar Brown and his daughter Maggie. A $25 cover (yeeouch) for a set that lasted less than two hours, and $7 for a pint of Guinness (ouch again). But the bar struck me as a sort of Ridley Scott idealization of a Manhattan jazz joint, with a sleek, dark, comfortable interior and a tiny stage in a corner with acoustic baffling on the walls next to it. I joked that this was my authentic New York experience. When Scott, a friend of his, and I were breaking up for the night, we all asked where the others were headed. I said I was on the JMZ line, and Scott’s friend exclaimed “Oh, how exotic! I don’t know anyone on the JMZ line.”

Friday, I went into Manhattan with Dori, accompanying her as far as the market where she works. The weather was especially nasty that morning–cold, windy, threatening rain–so we delayed the inevitable by stopping in the Au Bon Pain nearby for coffee and pastries. Eventually she decided she had avoided work long enough, so I headed north on a walking expedition to the Met. Now, this is one hell of a long walk–from Broadway and 4th to 5th and 80th, approximately, and I took a slightly meandering route (but now I know exactly where Gramercy Park is). The weather was unpleasant, but I still enjoyed just being out and about. When I was close to the museum, I reached back for my phone and discovered my phone-holster was empty. Uh oh. I had just gotten a small new phone, and had gotten a holster for it. I already knew that I didn’t much care for that particular holster (too bulky), but I didn’t imagine it would fail in its basic holsting function.

Once I got to the Met, I borrowed a phone book, looked up Sprint’s number (which was toll-free, good thing), found an isolated pay phone, and took care of business. I had them disable the lost phone, and they helped me locate a place to buy a replacement phone that was only about six blocks away. So I took care of that, and apart from all the numbers that had been in the speed-dialer that I lost (and foolishly didn’t have in hard copy either), I was back in business. This meant there were one or two people I was hoping to be able to contact but couldn’t, unless they contacted me first.

This busywork attended to, I was able to go back to the Met and enjoy it. There was no way I could take it all in, but I certainly enjoyed the parts that I looked at. It would take five solid days to do justice to that place, I’m convinced. I spent about five hours, and my eyes were practically quivering from the visual overload at the end of that. There were entire halls where I raced through, almost with my hands beside my eyes to blinker out the peripheral vision, lest I get sucked in and go completely over the edge. I did look at the European decorative arts section, musical instruments, armor, art glass, Impressionists, and a little bit of ancient Greek stuff. Amazing.

Took the bus down to Dori’s market and checked in with her, then headed back to the loft. That night, I hung out with them and a friend who was visiting, Lars.

Saturday, I was planning on doing more wandering around in Manhattan, but with little relish because my right knee was complaining a bit after the epic walk the day before. As soon as I set out though, Scott called and invited me over to his studio. He’s got a couple of artist friends who teach a class, and the class was going to be coming to his studio to get his story on what it’s like to be a working artist. So I’d be able to see everything that he’s been up to. I got there a while before the class, and we chatted some. The class seemed to be high-school kids, most of whom had the typical mix of shyness and would-be coolness that prevents them from participating much.

Saturday night I went and saw the Bindlestiff’s show, “Buckaroo Bindlestiff’s Wild West Gender Bender Jamboree.” It was fun. Highlights were definitely the aerialist (who I had seen when the troupe came through Austin) and the rope-trick artist. This show was racy but not nearly as raunchy as their other show (if you ever see that one, you’ll never think of plate-spinning in the same way).

Sunday, I spent most of the day with Jen, a friend who was down visiting from Philadelphia. We met at the Pink Pony, ate hung out there for a while, and then strolled up and down Orchard, where the street was closed to motor traffic and the leather shops had set out stalls in the street. That was fun, watching the haggling and such. Jen obsessed over knock-off purses, carry-on luggage, and gloves. We eventually fetched up in a shop selling imports from Turkey, the Mid-east, and North Africa, where Jen obsessed entirely too much over a small hexagonal box made out of an aromatic wood called thuja (too-yah), apparently related to cedar. The boxes were very nice, with natural figuring in the grain that reminded me of burled walnut or birdseye maple.

We thought about going into Katz’s, site of the famous orgasm scene in When Harry Met Sally, but discovered the whole process of dining there was extremely bureaucratic. Take this ticket, don’t lose it, wait in this line for this or that line for that, check out with your ticket when you’re done. I don’t have the patience to learn a new administrative system just to eat a fucking bagel, so we left immediately. We wound up at Yonah Shimmel’s Knishery instead. That was more fun. We had knishes (surprise, but they do have blintzes and a few other things). The place is keeping up with the times in some ways, serving froo-froo knishes with mozzarella and mushrooms, but you get the sense that for the most part, they haven’t changed much in decades.

We wandered around Soho a lot. We went into the Prada showroom, which was designed by Rem Koolhaas. It struck me as gimmicky, and apparently I’m not the only one who thinks so. Good people-watching though. We espied several model-type creatures, and some large, thuggish guys with mail-order girlfriends from Russia, one of whom stepped discreetly behind one of the suspended clothes-display modules (near where we were) to adjust her garters. Oh yeah, and there were clothes there. All the men’s clothing looked like thrift-store merchandise. I wouldn’t wear a stitch of it. Some of the women’s clothing seemed like something I might like to see on a woman, but I hear the prices there are on the high side.

We eventually decided to have dinner, and wound up at a Brazilian joint, Cafe Colonial, in Soho. Good food–we both had fishy-type dishes. We split a desert of passionfruit pudding over ladyfingers. The time came for Jen to get on a train, so after a bit more walking around, we said goodnight and I headed back to Williamsburg.

My flight was leaving Monday at 1:20 PM, which left me the morning to do something. I had made plans with Lisa to get together, and we met at a dingy diner near her place, where we had dubious food and lots of weak coffee. I had my bag with me, but it wasn’t too heavy, and the weather started looking a little more promising, so we went walking all over alphabet city for, oh, a couple hours. I held off as long as seemed prudent, but eventually caught a cab to La Guardia, where I got through formalities with plenty of time to spare. Trip home (with a transfer in Cincinnati) was unexceptional except for the numerous toddlers on my flights. Arrived home to find things as I had left them.

This was the first trip I’ve gone on in a while where I bothered to check my e-mail. This was facilitated by the fact that Dori has a computer with a full-time connection plus the fact that I found an mail-to-web service that works with any POP account. This was nice, but mostly to cut down on the amount of spam I’d need to delete when I got home. I tell ya, I want to find a way to throw an e-brick at every scumbag who’s ever spammed me.

In prepping for this trip, I made the handy discovery of compressor bags for clothes. They’re a little overpriced for what are basically big, high-tech ziploc bags, but they’re great for the dedicated carry-on-only traveller, and also mean that you’ve only got, say, 5 things floating around in your bag rather than 15.

Anyhow, a good trip. I had a ball.

Pato’s Tacos burned down

Pato’s Tacos has burned down. This used to be where the local firedancing community met for practice, though we stopped using it in May 2001 when they started construction on the empty lot we’d been using. It’s still too bad to see that it’s gone. No, the irony of the fact that it was consumed by a fire is not lost on me.


If you have an interest in the Japanese language, Rikai.com is a startling, fascinating website. It takes other websites (or whatever plain text you feed it) and displays them with a translation layer, so that when you point at a word in Japanese, the translation appears.

Unfortunately it’s a bit buggy, and it seems to work better with Navigator than IE, but I’m still very impressed.

Translatorese tidbit

This Audi press release contains a fun mistranslation: Bearing in mind its performance figures and ample interior space, with room for five occupants, this is an unbeatably low value.

Usually these press releases are pretty good, the typically German problem of logorrhea and marketing claptrap notwithstanding.

Webberville-Manor short loop

Rode the Webberville-Manor short loop today. 36 miles. Managed to keep my average speed at about 17 mph, despite very strong winds that seemed to be against me for most of the ride (funny how that works). The weather was otherwise beautiful, though.

Two-movie day

Yesterday was a two-movie day.

First saw A Beautiful Mind with Tracy. Good movie, though a bit schmaltzy. Does a good job of drawing you in and then quietly pulling the rug out from underneath you. The movie does fall into the “heartwarming triumph of the human spirit” category, but that doesn’t make it bad.

Also saw the midnight showing of Mulholland Drive. I’ve decided that David Lynch has become a self-parody. His use of gratuitously weird imagery, situations, etc, is just getting in the way. And am I the only person who thinks the Bum in this movie is a retread of the Man in the Planet from Eraserhead? That said, I do think the movie is interesting. I don’t regret having seen it. Shoot, he could have had Laura Harring just standing there for two hours and I probably would have been entertained.

Disturbing Auctions

Disturbing Auctions. I laughed till my sides ached. Check out the Dean Martin Hand Puppet (under the category of “Emotionally Scarring Toys”).

E-bay is good for much more than I ever imagined.

People are…

Someone recently said to me “Complete this sentence: People are ___.” Had I just seen this when she asked, I would have used the word “morons.” People willing to bid $100,000 for a scooter. Ok, it’s a Segway, but come on. You can buy a scooter for $50.

Black Hawk Down

Saw Black Hawk Down last night. Very intense movie. Very. Although I have one friend who walked out on it, I thought it was very good myself. Hard to watch, but good. I was struck by how, in the heat of combat, the notional reasons for the troops being in Somalia became completely irrelevant. The ways technology would help, and the ways it could be so easily stymied: a field radio rendered useless because its operator was deafened by gunfire, a megabuck helicopter that’s a sitting duck for a rocket-propelled grenade that probably cost $50.

Learning CSS

I’ve been studying up on CSS positioning, a potentially powerful technique for writing web pages that can make the code for a page much simpler, while allowing the author to do all kinds of neat things. Note the weasel-word “potentially.” It seems there are all kinds of things one might want to do (all of which I seem to be the first things I thought of) that either don’t work quite as expected, or aren’t implemented correctly in the most popular browsers. For example, you can have a section of the web page (graphics, text, whatever) stay locked in place in the browser window–very much like with frames, but without all the drawbacks of frames. The problem with this technique is that it renders any links in the fixed section dead. Oops. It’s not a feature, it’s a bug. Oh well. I’ve put up a test page, which at any given moment may be incredibly ugly or attractive. Or both, since you can associate one page with multiple style sheets and toggle the active style sheet as desired. Yeah, that’s one of the cool features.

Sir Finks

Went and saw the Sir Finks at the Carousel Lounge last night with Tracy. The band has been augmented with a chick on keyboards, wearing her Carnaby Street finest (as were some folks in the audience). The smoke and percussive volume (they’re usually not that loud) started getting to us after a while, so not long after her friends Georgia and Cheryl finally showed, we wound up leaving.