Wednesday, November 25, 2009

This is Truly Comical


FROM: Charterd Finance & Securities


REF/PAYMENTS CODE: CF&sc/02354 $500,000 USD.

This is to bring to your notice that we are delegated
from the UNITED NATIONS in Central Bank in conjuction with the WORLD BANK GROUP OF THE UNITED STATE OF AMERICA to pay you victims of
scam $500,000 USD (Five Hundred Thousand Dollars). You are listed and approved for this payment as one of the scammed victims to be paid this amount, get back to this office as soon as possible for the immediate payments of your $500,000 USD compensations funds.

Send a copy of your response to official email:

PHONE: 009 234 705-535-0111

CF&sc/02354 $500,000 USD.

You are advise to foward your contact details to me
immediately to enable us proceed and pay your compensation fund to you,such as your name,address,phone numbers,and country of origin.

Note: YOU ARE GOING TO PAY A FEE OF $155 Usd for the delivery of your parcel, if you are not interested please do not contact Mr. sanusi kayode.

Yours Faithfully,

I don't need to belabor the comedy of an e-mail scam centered around assisting victims of e-mail scams. Or how Mr. Max Brooks (author of The Zombie Survival Guide and World War Z) recommends sending your official request to the official address of Sanusi Kayode. Now they're just scraping for the absolute stupidest people online.

The Seasonal Tug-o-War

In the building that houses the State Theater, the Palomino, and Rock Bottom Brewery, this is going on.

My camera wasn't operable when it was just a row of empty planters resting on a tiered platform of painted black wood. The tiers tend to slope slightly forward, I noted, so I hope no disaster happens involving an avalanche of poinsettias.

And though my camera's resolution is super-crappy right now, on account of my tiny SD card (I can store 50 crappy photos or eight decent shots), I think this picture turned out okay. It's kind of expressive, inadvertently.

Spellcheck informs me I started to spell "inadvertantly" wrong, which means I've been misspelling it for several years. I'm grateful to learn of my errors, but I hate to think I've been embarrassing myself for several years.

This kind of seasonal thing, I think is awesome. I like flowers and plants and tiny white lights. Those are very nice-looking and frequently tasteful--I'm not going to go so far as to suggest it's hard to screw up plants and lights, because empirical study shows me this is in no way an accurate claim. But plants and lights are also a good foundation for attractive, heart-warming decorations, and they shouldn't be shunned just because of a few bad apples.

On the other hand, observe the picture below. It would be one thing if this were a regular group of carolers. And there is, in fact, an organization in the Twin Cities dedicated to Victorian recreation of carolers, down to the stitching in their costumes, and I also think this is an awesome thing. Surprising? Yeah, I surprise myself sometimes, but I do think this group is admirable.

The kids below are not associated with this group. Study their expressions: most of them don't even want to be associated with each other. This ragtag grab-bag of resentment, sullenness, and awkwardness was compelled to sing carols in front of Macy's at the Mall of America for no reason nobler than promoting Jim Carrey's animated A Christmas Carol movie. That's it, just shoddy marketing. Had these kids even practiced with each other before? I'm guessing not, based on how off-balance their sound was. Things like this detract from, not contribute to, the spirit of the season for me.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Country Apples and Self-Worth

Just to have something to write about, I'm going to talk about a recipe I like to make. I won't actually post the recipe here because I don't have the recipe book from which I got it, but it's fairly simple.

Every fortnight, a group of coworkers hosts "Yum Club," in which a pair of people make lunch for the rest of the group. The responsibility rotates and the pair decides who will produce what. Sometimes there's salad and pasta, one guy made an amazing curry chicken dish, another one tried his hand at pie, &c.

When my turn came around, I made a very simple and reliable crockpot dish, "Country Apples." Oatmeal, raisins, apples, flour, brown sugar, cinnamon (I used a sweet Vietnamese variety from Penzey's--is it reasonable to love a spice store as much as a book store? Oh my gods, I need to open a stationery shop that also sells spices), stuff like that. It's served over ice cream: I recommend vanilla bean. Not vanilla, not French vanilla, not New York vanilla. Those are all delicious but vanilla bean is civilization. Put it in your coffee, scoop it onto your pie--it will not steer you wrong.

Country Apples also goes in crepes, if you know how to make crepes, which I don't, and the cookbook recommends that it goes over oatmeal. What an insult. Say you're a batch of oatmeal, you've been simmering and softening up, absorbing moisture, you're all ready to disseminate fiber throughout the consumer's body to attach yourself to various toxins you'll carry on your way out. You're feeling pretty good about yourself: you have a job to do and you do it well. Suddenly, someone adds to a bowl of you a dollop of something like you but much dressier. You're a bowl of oatmeal, and someone spoons a lump of Oatmeal Plus Flavor right into the middle of you.

Would you feel redundant? Would you suddenly become self-conscious, abruptly made aware of the fact that your consumer doesn't think you're very tasty? You have an important function to fulfill, yet you fall short in an aesthetic arena so reserves have been enlisted to compensate for your inadequacy. You're brusquely introduced to oatmeal, slow-cooked for six hours with cinnamon, brown sugar and fruit and, like federal officers do to hard-working New York City cops all the time in TV and movies, you've been informed they'll be taking over the operation.

Actually, I can relate to that. After years of working on my humor and conversational ability, a woman stated in blunt terms that she wasn't interested in dating me because of the color of my hair. Unless she was trying to be kind, preferring to appear shallow rather than out-and-out saying I'm an unlovable sack of failure, very ugly on the deep-down inside.

Huh. I hadn't considered that.

Friday, November 20, 2009

MMO Review: Grand Fantasia

For no better reason than my having asked for it at some point, I'm included in the closed beta version of Grand Fantasia. I got a little e-mail notification with extra incentives for beta-only swag, so I thought I'd check it out.

It has a youngish feel with young characters and a pervasive messaging around children saving the world and children training to do whatever, on and on. I get it, kids, children, young adults, it's pounded into my head.  There's no age check-in at the point of registration, though, so it's not like the players themselves are supposed to be a certain age. It's just cartoonish like Asda Story with old kids and preteens like Mabinogi in a fantasy setting like... well, many fantasy MMOs. Why pick one out over another?

Each feature of character design has several choices, like some very manga-style eyes or some pretty creative hairstyles. You can start out as a character class in the beginning, or you can run around as a Novice and decide what you want to be when you hit level 5.  That's a new twist I haven't seen around specifically as such.  Games like Shin Megami Tenshin: Imagine let you allocate your skill points where you like, giving you the control to tailor your character's abilities, but Grand Fantasia adds your skill points for you and you work within a career path.  Personally, I find this a less complex system and it's kind of nice: rather than think about skill trees and remembering which stats will boost which abilities, all I have to think about is what weapon I'm saving up for next.

And there's a new feature: the Sprite. You get a little companion who bounces along behind you as you sprint across the landscape. You can customize your Sprite's look within narrow parameters and it does several things for you. You can have it follow you around and grab the loot as it drops from monsters you defeat, while receiving whatever stat bonuses you've appended to it, or you can dispatch it for a couple minutes and have it do your mining and skinning for you! You don't actually see it run off and attack or dig around, it just leaves the little cottage where it lives and returns after a period of time. It even knows some abilities to help you damage or disable your foes in combat. It's slightly temperamental, however, and sometimes requires special treats to kick up its vitality or motivation. Further customization comes in the form of little knick-knacks with which you can decorate its personal cottage. These tchotchkes not only set an atmosphere but also boost your Sprite's ability to forage/hunt/mine, either by increasing the rate of success or potentially boosting its haul.

Gameplay is fairly intuitive: rushing through the instructions, I figured out how to run around with WASD controls, navigating with the mouse, with a point-and-click option as well. Equipping armor and weapons from the backpack is quite simple, as is activating skill abilities and potions. Note: lots more right-clicking here on items and characters than in other games. That takes a little getting used to. Your character can pretty much run around objects, rather than getting stuck behind them: not quite as smooth as in Asda Story but still better than Megaten and significantly better than World of Kung Fu's comically random trajectory. And at least you can run across the countryside faster than in Ys Online, that really stands out.

Quest pick-ups and drop-offs show up on your little mini-map. The color of monster names does not determine their level but rather whether they're aggro or not. That was also a rude surprise, but I adjusted quickly. An interesting feature is the quest for a level boss, when you've more or less wrapped up a quest story line. The two that I encountered required party cooperation, which in the beta audience isn't necessarily forthcoming. Not the game's fault at all: I just happen to be gaming at a time when people are busy doing their own thing and resisting cooperating very much.

The graphics are excellent and the animation is very smooth. The environment is generally very attractive, with lush vegetation and rolling hills--no sparse plains with token scrub grass intermittently distributed. It looks really nice, and the outfits your character moves through are quite picturesque as well, an anime interpretation of Victorian action gear. The jumping action is feeble: you only gain a little height and no distance, so I'm guessing it's just a dressing rather than an ability you'd actually need in an adventure. The music isn't very interesting: in each realm it's just a sample song that repeats once in a while, and the rest of the time is silence. I didn't notice any insurmountable translation errors so English-speaking players will have no problem getting into the game and following the action. That is to say, translation isn't perfect, but it's close enough to have practical value.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Keep Your Head Down

Mid-September, I was biking home from work and saw a grey card-shaped object with a photo on it lying in the gutter. I was curious and picked it up: it was plastic and thick, like it contained a magnet or a simple computer card inside. It had a young woman's name and photo on it, but no business name or address to return the thing.

I brought it home and looked up the name online. Rather than leaving it to the vagaries of Google or searching for this common surname in WhitePages, I took a chance on Facebook. The woman looked young enough to be on either Facebook or MySpace, I reasoned. As it happened, I found a match in name and location. I e-mailed the woman to let her know that I found this thing and to ask how to return it to her.

After a month of silence, I chucked the badge in the trash. It was just sitting on my dresser, being in the way, and its owner either never logged onto Facebook or was not interested in talking with me. But a few weeks after that she did speak up, asking whether I'd found her state ID.

There wasn't anything else in the area where I found the grey badge, but it sounded like she'd been robbed and the thieves had dispersed her property down the street. That happened to me when I first moved to Minneapolis, the contents of my wallet strewn down an alley until discovered and gathered by a kind soul who left them at a nearby bank for me to retrieve. That was awesome, and I never found out who did the good deed.

I explained it was not a state ID and again described it as I did in the first e-mail, and apologized for throwing it away, but reiterated that I'd held onto it for a month after not hearing from her. She wrote back today, explaining that it was her work badge and that she'd already gotten a replacement, but sarcastically thanked me for throwing her badge away.

A few years ago I wouldn't have thought twice about mixing it up with her and attacking her fucked-up logic. Now, however, there's a large portion of me insisting that I'm an adult, she's just a rude little idiot "raised" by inadequate parents, and nothing useful will come of laying the smack down. She was not grateful that someone tried to help her, and she was not understanding that perhaps a month and a half was a long time to wait for someone to speak up, and even though she had a replacement badge (probably gotten a month and a half ago), she was still resentful that I threw away the one she herself lost. It really sounds like it would have been best for me if I hadn't tried to help at all, hadn't been curious about my environment and hadn't tried to answer a need.

I'm having a hard time letting this go. I'm not going to respond to this idiot, but the incident is making me angrier and angrier. There's so much wrong with it, it is so unreasonable. She's emblematic of a generation of old children bred with an insane sense of entitlement, a product of parents who don't have any clue how to raise children. It's really hard to focus on anything else right now.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Xenic Culture

It's a big world, right, everyone has different experiences and everyone's entitled to their point of view. I get it.

Regardless, there are some attitudes I wish didn't exist and it depresses me to see them flare up and manifest. I'm not saying that some government should enforce thought-policing, I'm saying that in my blue heaven this degree of assholishness would never find ground.

Places like BeautifulPeople and ASMALLWORLD are sources of negative energy and evidence that humanity truly never wants to leave high school. They do nothing--nothing--to improve quality of life on this planet and only engender resentment and alienation. They are, to the mind and soul, the equivalent of the $25,000 sundae: wasteful, decadent, and myopic to the extreme.

Why would someone create an organization whose stated aim is to purposely exclude as many people as possible?  Why would someone establish a business model upon insult and antagonism?  Why would someone go out of their way to engender hurt feelings on the basis of the most trivial, irrelevant, and perishable value system possible?  Why does it feel naive to wonder why someone would endeavor to profit off of making this world an awful place in which to live?  I'm intelligent and I can usually see issues from multiple perspectives, but I absolutely cannot relate to the kind of mindset that wakes up and brainstorms for ideas to be as contemptuous and hostile to as much of the world as possible.

It's not even world domination.  I can relate to world domination, the quest for power.  But the producers of these networks want nothing more than to be the most popular girl in high school, and that's it.  That's the end result, the loftiest goal, the noblest aim.  That's the best they can do, to strive for envy.

Culturally relevant?  I am so sick of this phrase.  What is culture: a spiritual fable handed down through generations, or a garish ensemble of unlikely fabrics and cut that few people can afford, will never be seen in public, and fades out of "fashion" within three months?  What is culture: a colloquialism unique to an indigenous population, or charging $20,000 to make an appearance in a club?  "Culturally relevant" has as much to do with culture as "intelligent design" has to do with intelligence.

When the system is structured to promote people not on the basis of character, intelligence, or talent, but rather on arbitrary genetic fluke and money, we need a new system.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Guilt and Pleasure

I don't know what you call this thing. I'm sure its manufacture is no trade secret, no proprietary confection. We can call it a "chocolate star," though as soon as I wrote that, I realized how dirty that sounded. Oh well, we can't let the language be held hostage by a group of giggling high school sophomores.

There was a bowl of these in the break room at work, a couple days ago. A nice square, white ceramic bowl with a dozen of these left after the initial pick-through. H1N1 concerns aside, I can't bring myself to eat these simple, unadorned sweets. It's not even an aesthetic matter: I've had excellent chocolate, like Ice Cubes and Toblerone, and I've had Hershey's, and I've had much, much worse chocolate than that. I'm not a chocolate snob by any measure.

Guilt is what precludes me from eating this, a guilt that has blistered up intermittently throughout my life.

When I was six or seven years old, and my brother was four or five, our parents took us on a routine grocery shopping errand. We tagged along as they went through produce, boxes of processed food, commented on prices of meat, all the usual things consumers around the world and throughout time have always done while shopping for groceries.

In the produce section, however, was something quite out of place. If I had to reconstruct the incident, I would guess that someone had a plastic bag of these chocolate stars from the nearby bulk candy section. Whether by accident or due to malicious, obscure intent, they spilled this pile of candy into the produce shelving by the tomatoes and avocados. That's where I found them, a pile of chocolate stars on green plastic mesh, between two paper cartons of vegetables.

My brother and I looked at them, stunned as little kids are by the sight of candy. But this was different: the candy didn't belong here. We probably passed it in the bulk section, our perceptual filters up because we knew we couldn't have any if we asked, so there was no point in agonizing over it there. But now it was here, in the vegetables.

I took one. My brother took one. "Are we allowed to eat this?" he asked me.

I made a judgment call and spoke to him as authoritatively as only an older-by-two-years brother can. "Because these candies aren't in the right section," I announced, "we are allowed to eat them." This sounded just fine to my brother, in his role as Lousy Devil's Advocate.

But my parents just as quickly formed an opposing view point. Mom glanced back to see what her suddenly quiet two young boys were up to and saw us putting food--she didn't know what kind--into our mouths. "They're eating something," she hissed to our father, and all I remember after that was a blur. I knew something was wrong and repercussion was forthcoming so I shoved a few more into my mouth; wrist was grabbed; butt was spanked. In one minute my brother and I were locked in the car while our parents finished their shopping. We probably got another spanking after that, later, when we got home. I don't recall.

So now these chocolate stars are inextricably linked to a strong sense of guilt and punishment in me. I can't look at them without feeling an emotional tension and aversion. Even when they're sitting in a bowl on a table in the break room, even when they're free and I'm an adult and it's perfectly okay. Can't do it.

Monday, November 9, 2009


This is good attention (yay).  This is bad attention (booh).

Guess which I'd like, and guess which my plate is heaped with a steaming pile of.

If anyone knows how to rectify this ratio, oh my gosh, would I love to hear from you.

Special thanks to Alleen Brown, and kudos to my fellow Mpls-based bloggers.


I'm participating in a health awareness campaign called "Movember."  What this means is: in order to direct awareness to the matter of men's cancer, I'm growing a moustache for the month of November.  Here's my profile page on the site.

Why am I doing this?  There are a few reasons.

Obviously, any life-threatening medical concern deserves to have attention paid to it.  Donations are what we're after, and I hope that by subjugating my vanity for a month people will understand my level of commitment to this cause.

It's also a useful opportunity to get over myself, an important lesson in self-improvement.  I would never grow a moustache to look good or portray an image, with my negative connotation with moustaches.  They look good on some people but not me.  It's worthwhile to do something that makes me look and feel awkward, so I can focus on my inner strength and detach myself from my physical constraints.

Lastly, a few of my coworkers are joined together on a team for this cause and I thought I would show support.  Building unity and cohesiveness can't be bad.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Lookin' Out My Back Door

Huh. Looks like someone started a little fire in a trash container behind CVS/pharmacy (which always struck me as an unusual name for a store, though I guess it depends on what "CVS" stands for).

I was wandering around the office and glanced out a window. Two blocks south of me there was a large plume of dull white smoke spreading across Hennepin, coming from around the pharmacy and originating in the parking lot. Maxing out my camera's physical and digital zoom capacities, I got a couple shots of firefighters calmly extinguishing an extremely localized fire, a very low arc of water lazily falling out of their hose to put it out.

Several people gathered nearby to watch the procedure. What with the bright lights and loud noises, who could blame them? Five minutes later I saw the truck and crowd had cleared out and the receptacle was back in place, hardly the worse for wear, apparently.

Further bulletins as events warrant.

Nothing is New

I very nearly saw an accident this morning.  This car raced up to an intersection whose light had turned yellow while she was a considerable distance away.  Consequently, it turned red before she entered the intersection and she intended to blow through it.

Problem: in oncoming traffic, another car was already lazily wheeling through a left turn, so it was nearly T-boned by the lady in this car as she roared up.

By the way this car rocked to a stop, it seemed she only reluctantly applied her brakes while wrestling through second thoughts (and third thoughts) about maybe darting around the turning car, estimating how she could sneak around the front or whether there was time--which there absolutely was not and never had been--to skate around the back.

Frustrated, she simply came to a rest in the middle of the pedestrian section, almost completely past the thick white line in front of which cars are supposed to stop.

What made me laugh was her bumper sticker advocating motorcycle awareness.  It's my guess she only spots them in order to run them down or shove them off the road.

And no, I'm not going to regularly update this blog with egregious traffic offenses.  My general mindset suffers when I'm constantly on the lookout for the shit people will try to pull (and Minneapolitans are a self-important, lawless, and inept population of motorists and cyclists, so there is always something going on), so I have to block it all out.  I haven't ridden my bike to work in weeks--as the swelling ring of fat around my gut may testify--opting to take the bus and zone out with Podcasts.  It just happened that this very nearly was a violent accident and I happened to look up at the right (or wrong) time.

...Yes, I can see this person isn't from Minnesota, but this little incident indicates she feels right at home here, weather excepting.

Monday, November 2, 2009

MMO Review: Dream of Mirror Online

Dream of Mirror Online (DOMO) looks simple. The characters are cartoonish with clean lines and bright expressions, and they make cute noises when you move them about. The movements are not sophisticated: they don't sway naturally like characters in World of Warcraft. They move like animated action figures as you run around the continent from village to village.

And yet, and yet...

There is something addictive to this game that has me anxious to come back.

The theme of the game is that of legendary China: the architecture and default costumes are very properly Chinese--the zombies themselves are an artifact of Chinese tradition, momentarily baffling to uninformed Western eyes. DOMO is a heavily social game, as well, with missions and dungeons requiring the player to form a group (short- or long-term).

An interesting feature of the game is the "Thread of Fate."  When you start up a character you have to create a birth date (day and month) and a year, but the latter is according to the Chinese zodiac. The combination of these factors determine certain players in the game who will be linked by fate to you.  The link is quite literal: I was minding my own business when suddenly a long red line like a laser sight shot out of my neck and stretched off-screen somewhere.  My headphones filled with the heavy beating of a heart (ostensibly mine), whose pulse quickened as I ran in the direction of the line.  I found myself connected to a complete stranger, standing with a group of friends in a plaza.

A Penny Arcade forum figured out that you may get certain bonuses by connecting with these people.  The DOMO Wiki actually breaks these relationships down further, and they could be with lovers or even rivals from a past life.  And being that DOMO is such a social game, there are in-game wedding ceremonies; indeed, there's a wedding facility (currently only supporting heterosexual relationships, unfortunately) and a money-making industry behind it.

That said, these "Fate Fated" relationships are not exactly compelling to other players, from what I've seen.  I tried to approach a player with which the game suggested I was mystically bound and she was supremely disinterested, greatly preferring her clutch of illiterate social retards to a rugged, handsome stranger who could offer her stat bonuses.  So it goes.

The controls are fairly intuitive: WASD, where A and D are only strafe directions--you point yourself with your mouse and run with the keyboard.  Or you can click on the mini-map or its full-sized version, click on your destination and your character will run there automatically.  Unfortunately, this function isn't as polished as it is in the game Asda Story: your character is guided around objects, but the trajectory function is erratic and your character will appear to run blindly in several directions at once.  Their path, however, averages out to your destination.  Generally.

Big disappointment: no music to this game!  What the hell?  So much opportunity for traditional Chinese orchestration!  You get a few little musical stings with leveling up or certain other achievements, but there's no soothing or inspiring background music to get you through the long stretches.  The overwhelming silence announces itself as  you run through town or slog through the mountains.

Customization is limited to five or six choices, though you can adjust the physical dimensions of your character somewhat.  The story writing is clear and amusing, and the translation to English is usually spot-on.  There are a couple lapses but they do not negatively impact gameplay to any extent.  The Penny Arcade forum  noted that there is a lot of grinding, staying in an area and killing scores of monsters over a long period of time, and that's true.  I made the mistake of upgrading my sword beyond my own level, so now I have to fight with my fists until I'm powerful enough to use my own sword.  That's annoying: punching and kicking my way through 40 flying pigs is taking four times as long as it needs to.

And yet, and yet...

Translation Wars: Bing in the Ring

Once in a while it becomes necessary for me to translate a block of text from another language into English. I'm not fluent in any language besides English, but I am something of an amateur linguist and can usually parse out the meaning of an oblique copy. A translator need not be perfect, is what I'm saying, for me to understand what's being said.

But some translators are better than others, so I'm going to compare Babelfish (my first and favorite, then bought from Altavista by Yahoo) versus Google Translate. Oh, and isn't that cute: Bing thinks it has a translator too! Let's take it for a drive.
Yahoo! Babelfish
The ukulele the created where [jieiku] [shimabukuro] and the corporation high peak musical instrument factory give dream to the children in the joint production world The [chiyaritei] organization 'MUSIC IS GOOD MEDICINE which ukulele player [jieiku] [shimabukuro] and the management TOASTMAN and INC. manage (alias: MIGM) Announcing the new ukulele where', the corporation high peak musical instrument factory and the cooperation production which worldwide are the famous guitar manufacturer were done it reached the point of. This ukulele was produced upper quality and the fact that the convenient ukulele is delivered to purpose in the children in the world as a main project of active program “Four of the same organization which [jieiku] has managed long time Strings For Kids”.

Google Translate
Takashi Mine Musical Instruments Mfg. Co., a joint production with Jake Shimabukuro Ukulele give birth to children around the world dream

Management and ukulele player Jake Shimabukuro TOASTMAN, INC. Operated Charity organization 『MUSIC IS GOOD MEDICINE (aka: MIGM)』 is a world renowned Co announced a new ukulele and Takashi Mine Mfg. Co., a manufacturer of musical instruments guitar Led to. This ukulele is a program run by principals of the organization for many years that Jake's "Four Strings For Kids" as the main project has been produced with the goal of delivering quality and affordable ukulele to children around the world.

Bing Translator
Jake Shimabukuro and ukulele birth ukulele player Mfg. co., Ltd. Takamine musical instrument is made of joint work all over the world for children that dream Jake Shimabukuro TOASTMAN the management, INC., were to announce new ukulele guitar manufacturer world famous Mfg. co., Ltd. Takamine musical instruments and joint production 'MUSIC IS GOOD MEDICINE (alias :MIGM)' charity organization managing,.This ukulele, that high-quality and affordable ukulele to deliver children all over the world as the main project of the same organization that operated for many years by Jake subject program "four strings for kids", was produced purpose.
What's noteworthy about this?  For one, Google was the only translator program that acknowledged and retained carriage returns, for one: Bing and Yahoo each spat out a constant stream of text without the line break that was entered.  It makes a difference.  Google: +1

It's interesting to me that Google and Bing were able to incorporate the "untranslatable" name of the ukulele player as well as the word charity within smooth, flowing text.  Yahoo isolated these words and represented them in their Anglicized forms... except "chiyaritei" is a Japanization of the sound of charity.  Yahoo's program doesn't have a database of English words the Japanese have adapted for their own purposes.  Google, Bing: +1

Jake Shimabukuro: Facebook, MySpace, official page.

While none of these translations were flawless, some were more readable than others, clearly.  Yahoo's translation reads like a hilariously inept copyediting job, where someone sat down with a dictionary and rewrote the text word for word without any concept of grammatical structure.  This is usually comedy gold for English speakers abroad, taking photos of restaurant signs and T-shirts with ridiculous linguistic concepts.  Bing was only slightly less inept than that and the average reader would still have a hard task of gleaning sense from that block of translation.  Google's translation is not perfect, but it is the most readable of the three samples.  Google: +1

Two of these translation tools struggled over the company name.  Yahoo called it "the corporation high peak musical instrument factory," which is completely inscrutable.  Google came closer with "Takashi Mine Mfg. Co." but that's still not quite accurate, as the mountains near the factory are called Takamine.  Bing wins this round with "Mfg. co., Ltd. Takamine"--the words are out of order, but the company is called, as per their Web site, Takamine Guitars.  It's important to get a company name (or geographical landmark) correct.  Bing: +1

If you're curious, this is how the text is supposed to look (from Jake's Facebook site):
Jake Shimabukuro, Takamine Guitars Strike a Chord to Benefit ‘Four Strings for Kids’

Music Is Good Medicine (MIGM), the nonprofit organization supported by Jake Shimabukuro and his management company, TOASTMAN INC., is pleased to announce the creation of a brand new ukulele developed by the renowned musical artist and the world-famous Takamine guitar company. The newly minted instrument will play a key role in supporting “Four Strings for Kids,” a program dedicated to making the ukulele available to children all over the world.
So, to sum up: Yahoo - 0 pts.  Google - 3 pts.  Bing - 2 pts.

Bing actually did better than I expected it to--being number two, the saying goes, I guess they try harder. I was pleased with Google's performance but surprised they lost a point on the company name.  For that point I estimated getting the name of the company right was more important than the word order of the company name.  I could have dinged Bing a point for that but didn't feel it was a significant hindrance to comprehending the text.