November 2002 Archives

BlogTV Japan: Manga Causes Crime

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Shocking surveillance video has revealed a direct link between manga and crime, and FujiTV brings us the evidence. This short 6 minute video, in Japanese with English subtitles, shows these manga criminals in action, trafficking in their illegal comics, as well as the efforts of the police and decent citizens to eliminate this menace.
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This shaky surveillance video shows the crime in progress, as the manga thieves shoplift stacks of expensive comics from bookstores. The narrator asserts that the bookstores lose 1% to 2% of their stock to shoplifting, representing an annual loss to each store of 2.1 million yen (about $17,250).
Suddenly, store security chases after a band of three manga raiders. The camera dashes and darts forward jerkily, and the faces of the thieves are masked with a video effect, since they are minors. The 3 youths are interrogated by the store manager, and they cough up their loot, but give unconvincing alibis. A burly policeman bursts upon the scene and and is determined to teach those bakamono kids a lesson. They are forced to write a letter of apology to their parents, since they have shamed their family name with such a petty larceny. This will be a black mark upon their permanent record that will follow them for the rest of their lives. Still, their apologies are unconvincing. The band of thieves admits they were strictly in it for the money, they intended to fence their stolen goods.
And here is where the real tragedy of the crime lies. Jr. High and High School children across Japan are learning that the bookstores are easy targets. I myself have witnessed bold teenage children swiping comics at bookstores, it is a fairly common sight. These poor innocent children are being corrupted by the manbiki shakai (shoplifting mindset) that will surely lead them to greater crimes and a life of degeneracy. And such a risk for such a tiny return. That annoying woman from Mesamashi TV appears, showing us how to turn the illegal loot into cash yen at a used manga store. The clerk gives her 16% of the cover price. Then we learn how thieves steal the manga that will have the highest resale value, and how to get lists of the most sought-after manga, and where to sell them for the most profit. I never have understood this particular aspect of Japanese investigative journalism. In the effort to expose the crime, they demonstrate how to commit the crime, and in the process have taught thousands of impressionble youths exactly how and where to shoplift and fence their stolen goods. Oh well, at least their intentions were good.
The expose closes with the stern commentators expressing their concern that this evil crime wave represents the downfall of orderly society. They compare Japan's reputation as a crimeless society against the United States, where it is said to be a shoplifter's heaven and people will steal anything that is not secured. How could Japan have come to resemble the lawless Americans? It is an evil influence that all right-thinking citizens should resist. This manga crime wave shows no sign of ending, but somehow, it must end.

QWest DSL Still Sucks

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The Disinfotainment server has been offline, there were intermittent network outages due to problems in the QWest network. This is frustrating because it's been going on for two days. As soon as I think it's cleared, the line goes dead again. It appears to be fixed now, but just as soon as I say that, it will surely fail again.

New Japanese Design Magazines

I just got the latest design magazines from Japan, and this month is the usual excellent package of amazing graphics tips. This month's MdN has a special paper cover, it's a laminated plastic with sparkly holographic pixels all over it. I was especially interested in GW magazine, they have a lesson on 3D CG modelling of the eye. This lesson focuses on a particularly Japanese characteristic, the eyelid and epicanthic fold.


The problem is that none of these designers really understands the bigger picture of cranial anatomy. These models are skin deep, they do not have the presence that is possible if the figures are based more accurately on familiar human anatomy. These diagrams are from "Anatomy for Artists" and dates back to 1923.

Anatomy of the Eye and Orbit

The author of this anatomy book is an eye surgeon, and describes ethnic variations on the eye structure in detail, such as the epicanthic fold in the corners of the eyes of Asians. However, the underlying structure of the orbit, supranasal prominence, and malar bone are fairly universal between all human genotypes, and are not accurately proportioned in the Japanese CG design. The face is too flat, the eyes are not set deeply enough, without sufficient depth in the structures of the nose, cheekbones, and eyes. The nose and lips are too low because the maxilla structure is incorrect. You can clearly see the differences since both of the illustrators show the same profile.
The theme of most western academic drawing studies is anatomical, to build figures from the skeleton and musculature outwards to the skin. The Japanese diagrams illustrate the surface of almost the same area, but there are differences in proportion that are not very realistic. I notice that Japanese designs tend to exaggerate the size of the eyes, like comic books. Unfortunately this doesn't work very well in 3D work, since the face is viewed as a whole and any changes in proportion are instantly obvious. The subtle changes made by the CG artists can't really be accounted for as stylistic variants, since they're trying for accuracy in these demonstrations. The fact is, this is CG art by nonartists, who do not know the underlying skeleton and musculature that makes a face work.

The $250,000 Gloves

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The $250,000 Glove
If you handle photographic negatives and prints, you need a nice pair of white cotton gloves. Most people use the crappy disposable Kodak gloves, but I don't like them because they're too small for my big hands. This is one of my favorite gloves, it is one of a pair of gloves that cost $250,000. Or more accurately, it came free with a $250,000 DaiNippon Screen drum scanner. Most of the scanner operators liked to do oil mounting when scanning transparencies, so they didn't use cotton gloves. I liked dry mounting for scanning, so I always used these gloves, and I adopted them for myself. The scanner ended up having a lot of problems, the engineers were always coming over from Japan to fix it. I left the company shortly afterwards, but I heard the scanner went back to the manufacturer for redesign. So all we got out of the deal was a pair of nice cotton gloves.

Leonid Meteor Shower November 19

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The Leonid Meteors are coming, and there is a small possibility that we will have a good show. The Armagh Observatory makes annual predictions, and there is a small chance this might be a shower of historic proportions. Earth will be in the same position as the meteor clouds that caused huge showers in 1767 and 1866, when it was said that meteors fell like rain. The peak should be visible at about 4:30 AM in my area.

The End of Democracy

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Republicans have stolen control of the Executive Branch, and now they have bullied, lied, and cheated their way into control of the House, the Senate, and the Judicial Branch. There is nothing to stop Republicans from destroying what is left of America.
The Democratic Party leadership is solely to blame for this fiasco. Daschle and Gephardt must GO, they must be removed from any leadership role. DNC Chairman Terry McAuliffe should resign and hand the reins of the party to someone who can stand up to Republicans.
Due to the lack of effective Democratic opposition, there is nothing to stop Bush from stacking the Judicial Branch, including the Supreme Court, with right-wing judicial activists. With a majority in both branches of Congress, the Republicans will begin systematically dismantling America, and selling it to Big Money special interests. The Rich will get richer, and the Poor will die.
This is a sad day for America, it marks the beginning of America's slide into tyranny, the beginning of America's destruction. Today, I am ashamed to be an American.
Yet another Iowa Football thug has been arrested. Jermelle Lewis was arrested just after midnight, in front of a bar, for kicking and damaging a car and assaulting the driver, mere hours after winning the title "Hawkeye of the Week" for his standout performance in a game against rival Wisconsin.
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Lewis definitely deserves the honor of Hawkeye of the Week, he represents the finest traditions of Iowa Football: drunken postgame rampages, destruction of public property, assault with intent to commit injury, etc. Congratulation to Lewis, for showing us what Iowa Football is all about!
I found the news coverage of this incident by KGAN to be quite typical of local sports attitudes. KGAN is "Home of the Hawks" and since they televise all their games, they are a booster of the team. Their first concern is how this arrest might affect the Iowa Football team, rather than the threat the Iowa Football team represents to public safety. The sportscaster notes that this is Lewis' first "brush with the law" (that we know of) so the penalty is likely to be light. Lewis was charged with 4th degree criminal mischief and disorderly conduct, both misdemeanors. If this had been anyone but an Iowa Football player, they would have been charged with Aggravated Assault.
The fix is already in. Iowa Football Coach Kirk Ferentz has announced he will hush up the incident personally, and mete out whatever private punishment he deems appropriate. Since Lewis' performance helped shoot the team to #6 in the national rankings, and the team has already lost one 1st-string running back, Lewis will certainly continue to play with the team. The typical penalty is to suspend the player for a few months, as long as those months are during the off-season. Fortunately, the Courts are not so forgiving, even under pressure from the Iowa Sports juggernaut. Unlike the last case involving an Iowa athlete, where a rape victim was afraid to come forward, it is likely that the assault victim will have no hesitation to press charges.
As disgusted as I am with Lewis, I am even more disgusted with KGAN sportscaster Roland Glembine. He sees is role not as a journalist, but as a sports booster. He softpedals the story, assuring us that Lewis is a nice boy and deserves a break. I know Glembine is just a third-string reporter in the worst TV station in town, but the public really deserves better coverage of the continuing series of crimes by local athletes. The story should be handled by the main newsdesk, not by sportscasters whose existence depends on sucking up to the coaches.

BlogTV: Electronic Voting Machines

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BlogTV presents a primer on electronic voting machines, and the voting theory. Recently CNN presented a demonstration of several electronic voting machines that will be used in the 2002 elections. Unfortunately, the demonstration merely shows how the machines are used, and does not adequately explore the problems inherent in these voting systems.
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Before we go further, please read this primer on paper ballot systems written by one of the foremost authorities on paper and electronic voting systems, Doug Jones, a computer science professor at the University of Iowa. Jones' series of papers on voting are a revelation. They treat voting like a problem in logic and mathematics, yet are written in plain language that anyone can understand. Jones does an excellent job of explaining an ideal voting system, so I will not belabor those points. Jones also does an excellent job of explaining how the voting system is designed to deter fraud. Let us examine how flaws in these electronic voting systems might be used to commit fraud and overthrow an election.
The most fundamental issue in American voting is the secret ballot. Secrecy must be absolute, nobody is permitted to know which ballot was cast by any individual voter. To insure secrecy, all ballots must be indistinguishable from any other, and must not contain any marks or numbers that might identify any specific ballot to any specific voter. Votes must be deposited in the ballot box in plain view of the voting public. Ballots should not be deposited in the ballot box in the sequential order, if they are deposited sequentially, the ballots should be jumbled together and randomized before counting. Even the voter must not be able to identify his own ballot, so he cannot prove he voted any specific way, so he cannot prove he cast his vote for any specific candidate, this prevents a voter from proving he voted a specific way, to someone seeking to buy votes. Votes must be randomized before counting, or else someone could match a list of incoming voters to the order ballots were deposited.
None of the new electronic voting systems meet these strict criterion, allowing numerous opportunities for fraudulent manipulation of the voting system. The systems were designed primarily to prevent overvoting and undervoting, and not with the goal of preserving security of the secret ballot, nor with the intent of preserving the overall integrity of the voting process.
Note that the voting systems all use an ID number for each voter, and each electronic ballot is tagged with that ID number. Normally, with paper ballots, the voter ID is written on the ballot stub which is detached before depositing the ballot, which removes any identifiable data that can track the ballot to the voter. With electronic voting, each registered voter is assigned an ID, either manually entered into the machine, or contained on a smart-card. There is no way to assure that ballot IDs are not stored with the ballot data. In practice, the ID must be stored with the ballot data. This completely strips away the privacy of the secret ballot. This opens up the system to vote buying. When secrecy is not maintained, it is easy for someone to prove they voted for a specific candidate on a specific ballot, and claim their reward for casting the vote. It also allows partisans inside the system to identify opposition voters and spoil their ballots.
Another violation of our ideal voting system involves the public deposit of votes in the ballot box, to prevent vote stuffing. The electronic ballot box is an incomprehensible device connected to the voting booth with wires. Nobody can see the votes being deposited. There is nothing to prevent an unscrupulous election official from secretly handing someone a dozen smart cards or ID numbers, in the privacy of the shielded voting booth they could vote many times without detection.
There are many other flaws in these electronic systems that are not immediately evident. Jones' paper also focuses on counting the votes, another opportunity for fraud. We cannot know how these electronic vote counting systems work, the internal mechanisms are top secret, and not open to public scrutiny. This is derisively referred to in the computer programming world as "security through obscurity." To prevent fraud, transparency of the system is essential, yet the voting mechanism is absolutely opaque. You have no idea if a rogue programmer has inserted code that discards every 10th vote for a certain candidate. You have no way to verify your vote was recorded, there is no physical record of your vote inside an electronic system. Votes can be manipulated instantly, secretly, and en masse.
This essay cannot possibly enumerate all the flaws in these systems, as the specific details of the electronic systems are not public information. This is the most astonishing fact of all. We have handed the voting system over to computer programmers working in secret, one programming error will affect all voting machines. In a paper ballot system, one unscrupulous official may spoil a precinct's votes, but not the whole system's votes. This is the biggest fraud of all.
My major intent in publishing this essay is to acquaint the public with the fine work of Professor Jones. His essay on paper ballot systems should be read by any voter who seeks assurance that his voting system is properly administered, whether it be on paper or electronic. Please examine his paper at length, and if anyone can suggest other potential flaws in the electronic systems in the video, please leave a comment.

Basketball Star Gets Away With Rape

University of Iowa Basketball star Pierre Pierce has escaped punishment for Rape. Instead of a mandatory minimum 1 year sentence (max 10 years) for Felony Rape, and a lifetime registration on the Sex Offender Registry, he has escaped all penalties by plea bargaining down to a misdemeanor assault, with 1 year probation, and after a year the conviction will be expunged from his police record. According to local press reports, the plea bargain happened because the rape victim did not want to come forward in court. This is perfectly understandable, considering how sports-crazy people are in this town. Once her name was revealed in court, she would have needed to hide, in fear of her life, for daring to accuse the local basketball star.
When rapist Pierce was arrested, the coach suspended him from the team until the case was resolved. Now that the case is resolved, the coach has announced he will be redshirted, he will not play in games for 1 year, but will be allowed to practice with the team, and resume playing next year. This is a positve reward for rapist Pierce, he will have a 5 year career in the NCAA.
This is the most despicable thing I've ever heard from the University of Iowa sports department, and I've heard many horrible things. As a typical example, a freshman and potential star quarterback quit the team (and the university) because he was attacked and beaten by another team member. He was injured so badly that he was taken to the hospital by ambulance, but Coach Bob Bowlsby actively worked to block criminal charges. I personally don't mind if football players kill each other, but when they start raping and injuring the local residents, I must draw the line.
Our football and basketball teams have a wide variety of brutal thugs, rapists, drunk drivers, etc. My father was always a big contributor to U of I sports programs, I would always argue with him that he was throwing away money, but he insisted that sports progams bring prestige and honor to the University in general. I fail to see how rapists, drunks, and vicious thugs can bring honor to my alma mater. I recently discovered that quite a few years ago, my father (without my knowledge) donated tens of thousands of dollars to the Basketball stadium construction fund in my name, and that my name is etched on their wall of donors inside the front door. I refuse to be associated with rapist Pierce or any of the other abhorrent "sportsmen" on this team of thugs, and I'm going to make sure my name is taken off the wall, even if I have to remove it myself with a hammer and chisel.