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News Archives - November 2005

: (Weather!) Part XI

November 30 2005

This is week 11 of the Pants Japanese weather translations, sometimes referred to as the weekly "animated-GIF-o-rama" update. This week's broadcast had a lot more 'Pants-worthy' content than most typical weeks, which meant that I've had to condense the action for readers because I prefer to keep each update limited to 3-4 panels. The animations were also trickier (yet fun) to create this week though, trying to optimize everything for lower bandwidth users. :)

  • 1. Welcome
    The opening video montage this week was filled with images from the Kanazawa Castle Park, including autumnal trees, bridges and the castle itself.

    Looking at the information Wikipedia has on the castle, it appears as though it's had quite a troubled history, being rebuilt 7 or 8 times due to various wars, fires and earthquakes...

  • 2. Gettin' Jiggy With It
    After a few minor technical issues with the virtual set/backdrop, we head straight into the weather. What we see is... well, I'm not too sure exactly.

    It looks to me like some European region's traditional dance, perhaps Russian or something like that. If anyone knows what that type of dance is called or where it originates from, please post a message on the forum...

    Actually, if anyone knows how this could possibly relate to Japanese weather you should also let me know via the forum... I'm lost on this one...!

  • 3. White Men Carp Can't Jump...
    Ignoring the shenanigans above, we then move on to something which I actually do understand.

    The forecast tomorrow tells us that a pink man playing bongos in a cloud will cause fish to jump out of the water, all under the constant observation of a nearby snowman.

    Although not shown here (for space reasons), some of the suggested activities for tomorrow include gazing lovingly into your partner's eyes while wearing an unsuitably large hat, and/or getting your overweight friend to wash your soiled clothes & undergarments for you...

  • 4. Ice Cream Or Ice Scream?
    After the helpful suggestions from the forecaster, we see vision of the older blue-faced guy appear on a horse, then gallop past the fish-watching snowman to a spot in the top-right corner.

    Out of nowhere the sun appears, spots the snowman and his umbrella, then gestures to take a bite out of them both! You can see the poor snowman scream in horror as his brief (but chilled) life flashes before his beady little eyes.

    The cruel sun may only be teasing the snowman though, because we see his mouth close ever so slightly but we never get to see what happens next. Perhaps the censors realised that kids may be watching so they pulled the vision before it got really violent...? I'll keep everyone posted when I find out more... :)

: Upside-Down Devil In A Trendy White Shell

November 25 2005

Let me tell you a little story...:
Back in April of this year, I bought an iPod. This purchase (a newly-released 60gb iPod Photo) was the beginning of my somewhat shaky relationship with Apple. You see, my iPod was out of action for the first few weeks because the trendy little white headphones that came with it were faulty. As much as I loved listening to low-frequency static, I had to organise replacements.

To their credit it didn't take long for the new ones to come in, infact I understand that dodgy headphones are a common issue with Apple for some reason... So I got new trendy headphones so I could listen to my music, but then I ran into my second problem - the iPod was also dodgy.

Aside from the instability of the unit when attached to the computer (it continually disconnected & reconnected itself, making file transfers almost impossible), the iPod had an incredibly low 'standby' battery charge. According to the manual, from a full charge the iPod (if unused) should retain charge for 2 weeks or more, yet I was lucky if it lasted 8 hours. You can find more details & bitching about it over on the forum but basically I had to organise a replacement. Again.

To their credit (hah) it only took about 5 weeks for a new iPod unit to arrive at my doorstep. Some people might be pissed off if it takes them 2 months to actually use a product they bought, but I'm a fairly passive sort of consumer. I wasn't going to stick it to "The Man" or complain to management, really I was just happy that I finally had something that worked.

Which leads me to this:

This is a photo I took a few days ago, where I was on the cusp of hitting song #1000 on my album shuffle'd iPod. Although I had put all the iPod trouble (mentioned above) behind me, hitting this minor milestone reminded of how much effort it's actually taken me to get this far.

Playing Trent Reznor's Reptile (a beautiful love song, dedicated to his pet iguana Susanna) from TDS: Deluxe Edition, you can see that out of 2142 songs, I am currently at #999 (the upside-down number of Satan). Back in June when I got my (working) iPod, the plan was to put a block of albums onto the hardware, listen through everything then add another block, listen through everything again & so on... But the chaps at Apple didn't want this to be an easy task, did they?

It appears that the iPod's playlist counter is easily forgotten. What happens if the unit locks up (the Apple equivalent to a blue-screen)? The counter gets reset. That one's understandable I suppose, but what if I don't use the iPod in 24 hours? The counter gets reset. Or what if I plug the iPod into my PC to recharge it? Yep, the counter gets reset. Argh! Stupid stupid stupid.

These issues, plus a few other software & firmware design flaws (iTunes' dodginess with ID3v2 tagging, no iPod "album skip" or "playlist scrubber" options) mean that after five months I still haven't listened to my first 'block' of music (2142 songs, ~12gb) in one contiguous playlist listen. I haven't even got half way yet! Since I've hit 1000 now I may as well give up getting through everything in one run - I have 100gb+ of music I could be listening too rather than the same 2000+ songs I've heard over & over again every time my iPod crashes & I have to start again...

So I was thinking of this stuff a few days ago while looking at an upcoming product called Apple Aperture, an extremely useful piece of software for people like me who (in theory) take a lot of photos & need an all-in-one workflow solution for the high-end DSLRs they use. I then had this epiphany (or should that be iPiphany?) that my iPod experience typifies the thoughts I've always had in those unavoidable Windows vs. Mac arguments.

My realisation is that Apple as a company make some damn fine products, unfortunately with the one proviso that you must use the products exactly as they intended you to use them. Don't get me wrong - I think my iPod is great, such a simple & elegant design. But there's just a few conflicts between their design concept and my actual intended use for it, and there's no chance of me just toggling an option to change what I dislike. I imagine that's what I'd feel about their Mac OS X and that Aperture program as well. Compromising flexibility for increased usability, so long as your idea of usability falls in line with what Apple want you to think...

[/blog]
PS: This may be my last Pants update depending on whether this guy forgives me for my rant.

: (Weather!) Part X

November 23 2005

Welcome to week 10 of the Pants Japanese weather translations! Geez, it's surprising I've managed to keep up the weekly pace for two and a half months now, and even more surprising that it's all passed without any form of cease & desist letter from the NHK legal department.

  • 1. (Pre) Welcome
    Regular readers (also known as "fools") should try & think back to a few weeks ago. Remember the Russians? Then do you remember the skateboarders from Canadaland? OK, what about all the Olympic references last week...?

    All these things suggest that someone at NHK 10 reads my website, so it would seem. Some have said it's merely an eerie series of coincidences, but the proof is in the pudding if you ask me...

    The sweet, oh-so tasty pudding I refer to is my childhood sweetheart Yumiko Udo of course. Back in week 8 there was a bit of controversy because she made a minor change to her hair style. I commented that I liked the old style better, and I whinged in week 9 because she hadn't changed it back.

    Well here we are at week 10, and I'm happy to say that the beautiful Yumiko Udo has changed her hair back again! I can only think of two possible causes for this - either she really hates Zippy (who's the only person I could find that liked the new style better), or she changed it back because she is the mystery person at NHK who reads Pants. Dude!!!

  • 2. Welcome
    The female weather co-host is back this week; only time will tell if she's pregnant as I secretly suspect she is... The video montage today was of workers installing some sort of tall guard-o-rails alongside a stretch of highway.

    Thanks to my ever-increasing translation skills ("guard-o-rails" is Japanese for "guard rails" by the way...), I can tell you that they were actually there to dampen the effects of high-speed winds.

    For an extra bit of translation trivia, behind the rails pictured here is one of the many rice fields in the Yamagata prefecture of Japan. Although I doubt it was mentioned in the broadcast, there's also a town in Yamagata called Sakata which was where a little company was founded over 50 years ago... That company is now the worldwide market leader in crappy-tasting rice snacks.

  • 3. And The Winner Is...
    I can only assume that the old wavy-moustache guy won his way into the 2006 Beijing Olympics after the qualifiers were shown here last week... He probably needs to work on that victory dance.

    Some of the suggested activities this week include frowning when the sun comes out and getting run over by a firetruck or an ambulance.

  • 4. The Tables Have Turned
    It was only a few weeks ago that a poor innocent sun was ambushed (and then eaten) by two gigantic clouds in an unprovoked attack.

    Today was the day when the sun finally seeked revenge, chomping down on a smaller cloud and putting a smile on the face of that frazzled man.

: (Weather!) Part IX

November 16 2005

Welcome to week 9 of my Japanese weather translations. After my mention of the Olympics in last week's update, the weather report "coincidentally" takes on a decidedly sporty theme today. On to more important issues, Yumiko Udo's hair remains up this week, but I'm going to keep leaving messages on her voicemail until she realises she's hurting the people she loves...
I don't speak Japanese & she doesn't speak English, but creepy can cross all language barriers.

  • 1. Welcome
    The female presenter was absent this week so the guy was by himself. The video montage was following a group of older Japanese people as they enjoyed a peaceful boat trip down a river.

    While it may not look obvious to Pants readers, there are several reasons why I watch the Japanese news whenever I can. Obviously it's an easy way to steal create content for site updates, I find their culture fascinating, and I'm now the number one Google result for Miss Yumiko Udo.

    As well as all these things, I'm using the NHK broadcasts to teach myself Japanese the old-fashioned way. You could probably replace "old-fashioned" with "stupid" or "lazy" because I'm not using any reference or instructional books at the moment. It may have taken me a while, but with the help of Google this week I translated my first sentence.

    In the boat montage before today's weather, I'm fairly certain a fragment of an old lady's speech translated to "As for the face however it is cold with the air outside". I won't say how many hours it took for that one phrase, but yeah, I'm really proud of myself. :)

  • 2. She Works Hard For The Money
    Straight into the weather this week, we see a red-faced guy in a tracksuit do a little warmup before sprinting madly across the screen.

    I imagine this was the same red fella who was training in last week's forecast. This week he looks like he has some competition though...

  • 3. On Your Marks...
    The blue wavy-moustache guy is becoming quite a regular character these days... The first few appearances made him look evil & menacing, but I think he may have just been misunderstood...

    He still kinda looks angry and bad-ass, but I don't think anyone will take him seriously if he keeps on skateboarding and doing this athletics stuff.

: (Weather!) Part VIII

November 9 2005

Wow, here we are at week 8 of the Pants Japanese weather translation. That's two months of weekly site updates that no one (except Googlebot) will ever read. It turns out that a lot can happen over the span of two months, but this update shows that when it comes to Japanese weather, even one week is enough time for change.

  • 1. (Pre) Welcome
    Before we even launch into the actual weather forecast today, let me bring your attention to our hostest with the mostest, the lovely Yumiko Udo. I know I'm veering dangerously into psychotic weirdo stalker territory here, but this week she changed her hair style ever so slightly...

    Here's a comparison of Yumiko Udo's hair from last week (left) to this week (right). Basically her hair is up this week when normally it'd be down.

    Although whatever she does with her hair is up to her entirely, I (as her creepy internet admirer) personally prefer the old style better... :)

  • 2. Welcome
    I think I'll quickly brush past the video montage this week (birds again) and the fact that the female presenter's microphone pack wasn't working, because there's another thing that has changed this week - the NHK 10 weather set.

    Keeping with this week's theme of comparisons, here's what is different from last week. We've gone from flowers to autumnal trees, complete with leaves gracefully floating to the ground.

    It may not be clear by these shots, but rather than a 'real' set they are in a virtual, 3D-rendered set. The presenters here are filmed in front of a green screen (much like most weather segments), but there's one major difference to every single other live/real-time television broadcast I have ever seen.

    It's hard to explain but I find this sort of technology fascinating... Here's a brief/crude animation (609kb) showing what I'm talking about. Rather than a static backdrop and a static camera, the NHK presenters are in a green set where the cameras are moving around them, all with the 3D virtual backdrop appropriately matched with the camera's motion. It's basically like a motion-controlled rig (with a synchronised 3D backdrop), only the camera & human movement is not predefined and the fact it's all done in real-time.

    Every NHK 10 weather segment features this technology but it's also used elsewhere in the news broadcasts, and it is extremely impressive to people (like me :) who appreciate the technical 'behind-the-scenes' stuff that occurs on television & film productions...

  • 3. Build It Up, Tear It Down
    Moving on to the actual weather for a change of pace, it turns out there wasn't much actual weather content in today's forecast. All we really have is some red guy who looks like he's either terribly excited about something or he might just be in training for the next Olympics...

    The suggested activities for tomorrow (but not pictured here) include visiting a temple with your family, and gazing lovingly into your partner's eyes while wearing an unsuitably large hat.

: Happy Tightday!

November 7 2005

I don't know what's come over me recently but I've found myself doing a lot of reminiscing recently, not just looking back at the crapload of crap here on Pants but basically just looking back in general.

Mr Tight, who should be familiar to many readers, celebrated a birthday today. This event today spawned another session of nostalgia for me, as his birthday seems to coincide with a few 'anniversary'-type events from the past 12 months...

See I've known Tight for a long time now, (occasionally) working together for the past 8 years, sharing the pain so to speak... Depending on who you ask, we have also shared the same girlfriend for around half a year too, although I don't know if he has actually noticed this yet.

I bring this up because exactly three months ago to the day, as reported (exclusively) on this site, Mr Tight got engaged. While nothing much has changed since then, it makes the hidden passion much more forbidden between "Libby" and I.

Although the website timestamps may suggest otherwise, Tight's birthday last year also became host to a beginning-of-the-end deal of sorts, eventually leading to the great teddy bear boycott of 2004. One year later, and I'm willing to lift the boycott safe in the knowledge that there'll be busloads of opportunity if I'm patient and not so damned ambiguous...

Finishing the trifecta, it's almost been a year since I bought my fatboy camera. While the Pixels section doesn't suggest it, I have been getting a bit of use out of the camera. Later on, after a few other projects get moving ("PantsCorp" & "Cargo") I'll try to get back to the camera more than I've been lately.

Why am I saying all this? Do I really think anyone's actually reading this? What happened to the stupid/witty comments? And why am I covered in honey?

Happy birthday Mr Tight. :)

: (Weather!) Part VII

November 2 2005

Week 7 of the Japanese weather translations. The timestamp fraud continues but I'm slowly closing the gap on my blatant laziness. By this time next week I would have caught up to last week & started working on today's update. Wait, I'm not too sure if that even makes any sense?

  • 1. Welcome
    The opening video montage this week was of the beautiful Mt Fuji-san just west of Tokyo, often also referred to as Mt Fujiyama & simply Mt Fuji.

    The "Fujiyama" name became obsolete long ago however, and "Mt Fuji" sometimes gets people confused with another famous mountain/airship.

    For some additional translated trivia from our presenters, Mt Fuji-san has an elevation of 3,776m and is the highest mountain in Japan.

  • 2. Hitchin' A Ride
    Jumping into the actual forecast, we first see vision of a blue-faced fellow who looks quite depressed. I think this is the same blue blob that we've seen several times before and just like the previous appearances, he makes his way up to his normal spot in the north east.

    But today is slightly different. In addition to his face of sorrow, he is burdened by a giant Japanese symbol that he is wearing like a backpack. This slows him down considerably...

  • 3. Big Munch Box
    After the blue blob's unexplained "walk of shame" we see two giant clouds (twins, I assume) swoop in and eat our poor innocent incandescent friend, who was just loitering over central Japan minding his own business...

  • 4. He Was A Punk, She Did Ballet...
    Returning after his appearance last week, we see the elderly blue face guy with the wavy moustache. He is obviously not listening to Russian music anymore because his head is moving left-to-right rather than up & down.

    The horizontal head movement by itself is not enough, but it's fairly obvious to assume he's listening to Avril Lavigne's Sk8er Boi song when you notice that he's zooming around the screen riding a skateboard with his red-faced buddy.

    As if you needed any more proof after last week, this is yet another obvious indicator that someone at NHK reads the Pants website, because it was way back in July 2004 when I reviewed the latest album by everyone's third-favourite Canadian (note: Bryan Adams recently bribed his way to second spot...). From the Ruskis last week to the Canucks today, there's bound to be a Britney reference or two coming up soon...

There's more where that came from...: Return to the News Archives index.