chester's blog

technology, travel, comics, books, math, web, software and random thoughts

A Trip to Japan

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Judging by how much of my life I spent reading manga, watching anime and tokusastu, playing Pokémon on Nintendo, eating tempura, yakisoba and mochi, learning kanji, and so on, it just had to happen: Bani and I went to Japan!

After a daunting half-day flight and timezone shift, we spent a couple days in Osaka, followed by a 9-day travel package that took us to Koyasan, Hiroshima, Kyoto, Hakone, and finally Tokyo – where we had five more days of hectic fun.

Our adventures included a sleepover on a Buddhist monastery, volcano-boiled eggs, giant robots, purification rituals, a deer-populated sacred island, bullet trains, psychedelic dances, a manga museum and – why not – ear channel violation.

My Experience With PiScreen

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Even though you can plug a Raspberry Pi to any modern TV/monitor, its diminutive size screams for a smaller screen, ideally a touch-sensitive one. PiScreen was one of the first (relatively) inexpensive screens like that. Excited by the video below, I backed its KickStarter in April, received it in October and just found the time to build it.

I had some fun, and I will still do some interesting stuff with it. Some projects are more suited for it than others, so you may want to check my experience and decide whether it suits your needs.

It Was Easy to Plug This Atari In…

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I just had to:

  • Connect the Atari antenna output to a Coaxial (F-type) to Female RCA adapter;
  • Plug that in the antenna input of a the VCR;
  • Use 3 RCA cables to feed the VCR A/V output into an AV-to-HDMI adapter;
  • Connect the adapter HDMI output to the monitor;
  • Configure the Atari to the “Channel 3” position;
  • Select channel 3 on the VCR.

Easy, right? :-P Now I can play my homebrew (2048 2600) on the real thing.

By the way, if you want to buy a physical 2048 2600 cart, Good Deal Games sells them. I have no participation in that (other than coding the open-source game and pestering Jenn Harrison into drawing the cool cartridge front art), but I’m really happy to have my game on a real cart!

Space Nutrients Station 100%FOOD (Meal Replacement)

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I got pretty excited when I first read about Soylent. Don’t get me wrong: I do like food (otherwise I’d not need to track everything I eat to mantain my weight), and I also understand its social aspect. But having to decide what to eat, preparing/going after it burns a time I’d rather spend on more fun things.

Unfortunately, Soylent doesn’t deliver in Canada (yet). But I found an alternative in Space Nutrients Station 100% Food. It is a mix of different foods that, just like its creppy-sci-fi-named competitor, claims to offer all the nutrients you need on a single meal. After a quick exchange of emails, I purchased an 8-bottle sampler kit with PayPal and had it here in about a week.

Building Bash From Source (Shellshock Mitigation for Ubuntu 13.04 and Other Unsupported Distros)

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Shellshock is a serious server security issue that was made public yesterday. The best fix is to apply security updates from your Linux distribution, as they become available.

If that is not possible for any reason (e.g., unsupported distros, like the Ubuntu 13.04 boxes we have not killed yet), you will need to compile bash from the source (including all the patches) – which may be confusing if you are not used to build C/C++ software “by hand”.

There are some scripts that compile and install a new bash (like’s curl | sh), but they assume you are ok with the latest bash version (4.3), and I needed to stay with 4.2. Here is how I did it:

Canada Day Comics

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CC-BY Curly TurkeyAn untrained observer would infer I’d spend this Canada Day lazily reading comics. That isn’t true: to honor the spirit of the day, I’ve been lazily reading Canada-related comic books (by author or subject).

Having already read everything from Alpha Flight on Marvel Unlimited, I’ve started with Sam Logan’s Sam and Fuzzy (one of my favorite webcomics of all time) and two Ty Templeton works: the latest Batman’66 meets The Green Hornet (a team-up brought by a team-up with Kevin Smith and Ralph Garman) and The Northern Guard.

The biggest surprise, however, was Archie Goes to Canada: it collects stories from multiple periods that are not (much) stereotypical, and even doubles as a cultural/travel guide of sorts.

But my day wont’t be just comics: there is also the Captain Canuck animated series, available online for free. It is modern-looking and (judging by a peek) very action-oriented, so I expect a very un-canadian punch-to-apology ratio. Anyway, it’s the red-and-white that counts, so…. Happy Canada Day!

BONUS: Alpha Flight cameo in 90s X-Men: The Animated Series

Netflix Brazil Dribbles FIFA With a Word Game

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In Portuguese, the word “copa” isn’t just a reference to the FIFA World Cup, or any generic cup. It is also often used to designate a pantry, or a small dining room inside a kitchen – some people even use the term interchangeably with “cozinha”, the word for “kitchen”.

Netflix Brazil used this in a smart commercial that dribbles FIFA’s Orwellian (and borderline unconstitutional) countrywide media ban on expressions (which includes things like “Christmas 2014”). The spot showcases the freedom of not watching any important soccer match (a non-trivial luxury in Brazil, trust me) by playing entirely as a double entendre. Here is a rough translation:

Guy: “You know what? I’m gonna watch Netflix on the [copa].” (grabs a tablet)

Girl: “Oh, you and this [copa], [copa], ewww.”

Guy 2: “Yeah, why not on the living room?”

Guy 3: “…or the office, the bedroom, the porch…”

Guy (walking to the “copa”): “I watch Netflix WHEREVER I WANT. And I want it ON THE [copa].”

Guy 2: “So I can watch movies… on the [copa]?”

Guy 3: “…pausing and returning on the [copa]?”

Guy 4: “Watch exclusive series… on the [copa]?”

Guy: “See? Netflix changes everything!”

Narrator: “Netflix on the [copa]? Why not? Movies and series for you to watch whenever and however you want. Subscribe now.”