Sunday, October 31, 2004

Candy Taxonomy

Halloween was fun again this year. I don't know why I enjoy it so, but I do. Kelly was dressed up as a cat (photo banner to follow when I get some time). As usual, she alternated between racing from house to house in an attempt to maximize candy collection, and engaging in lengthy conversations with homeowners about her costume, or cute pets greeting her at the door. Speaking of cute pets, I visited with at least three cats wandering the neighborhoods this evening. I'm surprised folks let their cats out on Halloween night, especially that one black cat I petted.

We started at 6pm, and around 6:45, I let Kelly know that we should wrap things up by 7:30 so she could get her shower and what-not. She groaned, but agreed. 7:30 came and went and we were far enough away from home that I moved the deadline to 8pm. By this time Kelly was starting to tire out and get cold, so I received no argument. When you see the picture of her costume, keep in mind that she wore no jacket or hat with that outfit, as she didn't want to hide the costume. I on the other had, had my winter jacket, muffler and sock hat on.

My timing on the second deadline worked out almost to the minute. We got home with two buckets full of candy, only to discover that Jean had candy left over from our own bowl of treats. She said that we only got about twenty-five kids visiting our house. Funny, I'm certain Kelly and I visited at least twenty-five houses tonight.

So Kelly's teacher strikes again. I was warming up, fixing Kelly a snack, and she was in the living room counting and sorting her candy. She does this every year, but this year she was writing it all down. I finally realized that her teacher had given her a handout assignment to count all the kinds of candy she got, chocolate, hard, soft, etc. Then she had to write the total. "What do you do if something is soft and chocolate? Do you count it twice?" I asked. Jean caught my eye and shook her head. Oops. Still, I couldn't help but smile.

So now Kelly's had her shower, tooth brushing and good night kisses, and is snuggled under a record number of blankets and comforters, trying to fall asleep. Jean's already abed, and I'm winding down. Score one for another fine Halloween.

Gamer Halloween

Kelly and I did a 'reconnaissance' walk around the block, and no one is TnT-ing yet. No one really outside except for a scary guy with a chainsaw stumbling around cutting wood inside a big trailer. I just know I'm gonna see him on late night news this evening...

Anyway, waiting to go out and freeze my tuckus, and saw this cartoon on Penny Arcade. Too neat, if you play videogames.

I may give a report after the TnT quest, but I'll probably be too beat. Later.

Not Sweet At All

In her role as nurse (student), Jean has a glucose monitor kit. This morning we measured my blood glucose:

  1. Eat breakfast.

  2. Wait one hour.

  3. Measure glucose.

I hate all things pokey (needles, stinging insects, small children ()), so this is a major sacrifice, but since it's Halloween, and Kelly will be sure to cram one or two sweet samples into my maw whether I want 'em or not, hey, gotta be sure I'm not diabetic, what?

Drum roll, please...

91. This is considered good (64 to 110 is normal), so I'm safe for one more holiday!

What's This, What's <em>This</em>?

I spent a large part of this morning riffing through my iTunes music collection playing Halloween appropriate music for Kelly. It started when I was at the music store and saw they had a Halloween playlist, and visited it. Nightmare Before Christmas was prominently displayed, so I played a number of samples for Kelly. She liked it, so I went hunting for my Danny Elfman stuff, playing some of his soundtrack music (Beetlejuice, Tales From the Crypt) and his work from Oingo Boingo (Dead Man's Party, Weird Science).

I played Glass Tubular Bells, explaining it's origin in The Exorcist, and what that was all about. Sifting for words like ghost, witch and monster yielded still more goodies, though I stretched the point and played Ghost Riders in the Sky (instrumental version by The Mermen). Finally we went back to the thirty second sample land of the iTunes Music Store, and Kelly played Jack's Obsession about a hundred times. So now I'm at work, and Kelly is at home in the den listening to the entire soundtrack to Nightmare Before Christmas, since I had to buy it after the hundredth repeat of Jack's Obsession. Welcome to Halloween!

Saturday, October 30, 2004

Katamari Kelly

As if my own awkwardness wasn't enough, there are other impediments to my progress in Katamari Damacy. Kelly has decided that even when I replay a stage ('build a star 4', for instance) and double the size of my katamari, I should abandon my progress if there is a danger of replacing a 'cute' star name with a less cute one. After a few minutes of frustration I finally copied over the game save to a second memory card, and I'm now allowed to save my new gains without damaging her aesthetic.

I wonder if there's a name for forces outside of a game limiting your progress in that game? Oh yeah, 'life'!

Scuppered Again

I think I've mentioned before that getting books from the library reservation system has a couple of disadvantages. One, you get the books when they arrive, rather than when it would be most convenient. So I put in requests for books that are checked out, and I'm sometimes sixth or seventh in line. Then one day, three or four of these long-term reservations become available at once. Take 'em or leave 'em. Right now, for instance, I've got two on hold and one 'shipped'.

The other problem is that the local library system gives you two renewals on any given book, unless someone else puts in a request. Then you try to grab one of those renewals through their online system, and oops!, can't renew, so sorry. That happened this morning with Stalin: Court of the Red Tsar by Simon Sebag Montefiore. I'd only gotten about twenty percent into the book, but I was just starting to pick up steam, so now I have to screech to a halt until I can get it again. I could buy it, but I'm not sure yet whether it's a keeper.

Which brings me to the upside of the 'federated' libary system. They have enough of the titles I'm curious about that I can reserve titles, browse them and return them without having to drop twenty or thirty bucks on every book I hear about on Booknotes. This is a good show, by the way, if you get C-SPAN. The host, Brian Lamb, is almost transparent, asking brief drawing questions, and then fading into the background so the night's author can hold forth. I've gotten several ideas for books to read by scanning this show. As the show motto goes: "One Author, One Book, One Hour". Fifty-two weeks a year. Bound to be some hits.

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Audrey Tatou

Heads Up, Tom!

A new Audrey Tatou movie on the horizon: A Very Long Engagement. From the same director who brought us Amelie.

Halloween Traditions

Last night Kelly and I took a small pumpkin and went to her school to participate in that cherished tradition, Pumpkin Math Night. No really. Measuring, weighing and graphing our pumpkin, all the while ripping it's guts out and carving arcane symbols through it's skin. Much fun was had by all.

We took a tablespoon and one feeble little pumpking carving implement. Some of our neighbors had Exacto knifes with a dozen blades, others had plastic marking tools, multiple saws in different grades and stencils. I joked to myself that what we really needed was a Dremel kit. Imagine my surprise tonight reading Slashdot when I find a pointer to the Dremel Pumpkin Carving Kit.

I hunted around and found some posts of other peoples' experience using the kit, and the phrase 'orange liquid spray' seemed to occur a lot. I guess I'll skip this one.

Sunday, October 24, 2004

The King's Coat

I finished The King's Coat by Dewey Lambdin last night. This is a naval adventure set during the Revolutionary War, told from the viewpoint of an English midshipman. As the point of the series seems to be the coming of age and success of a ne'er-do-well illegitimate son, it's hard to see how he can sustain victories over several volumes (given that, you know, we won). But the first book was entertaining, and I'm gonna at least try out the second one before burning out. Overall, it was better than the usual David Weber space naval adventures I've been reading recently.

What's up next? Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar, by Simon Sebag Montefiore. This is a huge book, 800-some pages, so I've no hope of finishing it in the nine weeks I can spin out from the library (assuming someone else isn't waiting in line before one of my renewals). As usual, in this case, I'll use the time I've got to determine if this is such a fine book that I actually want to buy it. Nothing to report yet.

Friday, October 22, 2004

<em>The</em> Inter<em>net</em>

Alright, stop it. Some people have decided that it's cute, or something to pluralize the Internet, as in "I found it on the Internets." I first noticed this on Boing Boing (bad Boing Boing, no linky for you). Today i was listening to a podcast from Engadget (likewise, stinkers), where they repeatedly used it, in arch tones, stifling giggles and everything.

Who started this? Who thinks it's cool? The Internet is the network of all connected networks. To have two Internets, they'd have to be not connected, got it? Like one is on Mars, or something. So get over your coy abuse of terminology and use the right terms, okay? Also, unless you wish to have a midlife career change to soprano, don't let me catch you ever saying "the Interweb."


Thursday, October 21, 2004

Gojira 'Versus' 'Zilla

Funny, I just read in this article that Toho is making a 'final' Godzilla film for his 50th anniversary, sounding sorta like Destroy All Monsters. Aliens attempt to invade Earth using ten classic Godzilla foes, and one 'wild card', the Tri-Star CG Godzilla which was just an undercranked iguana, here referred to as Zilla, to underscore it's imposter creds.

The kicker which draws me to see this cheese fest is that it will be directed by Ryuhei Kitamura, the creator of Versus, a totally cheesy and fun apocalyptic battle for supernatural supremacy in a zombie graveyard.

Can't wait!

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Katamari Fumble-fingers

Except for the more deliberative RPGs and turn-based strategy games, video games almost all require two or more of:

  • Quick reflexes

  • Fine motor skills

  • Grace under pressure

This applies to platformers, action/adventure, fighting games, the list goes on. Unfortunately, I lack all three of these skills in spades. I'm undoubtedly the slowest on the trigger of any gamer around. Where the controller requires a light touch, I almost always peg the joystick all the way over. And get me in a fight with two or more enemies and my conscious decision making falls apart in a cascade of button jabbing. I can't help it.

So it should come as no surprise that I've stalled out on Katamari Damacy. I cannot for the life of me complete 'Build a Star 7'. I'm given 10 minutes to complete a katamari that's 6 meters wide. I've never been able to get above 4.5 meters. And I've tried a lot of times.

My friends who've seen me play know this about me, but some haven't really internalized it. Adam still tries to get me to play various flash games requiring coordination, and while he makes a nod to my awkwardness when talking up various games, he still keeps pointing me at the challenging stuff. Maybe when I tell him I got stuck 'making a star', he'll really understand what a clutz I am.

In the meantime, I'll be replaying the levels I can finish, trying to rope Kelly into playing versus mode, and conning her into using her young reflexes to overcome 'Build a Star 7', though it'll take practice, which for her is usually too much like work. I've read that '7' is one of the hardest levels, so if I can Tom Sawyer her into beating that one for me, I might be able to enjoy the following levels myself!

Taking My Money - By Strategy

I know where I'm going to drop my next thirty bucks. I was browsing Asian Mack Super Filter ("We sift through Apple's iTunes Music Store so you don't have to!") and there was a link to Viva! Roxy Music. I followed it, which opened iTunes and went to the music store. Then I checked out an iMix labelled AllEnoRoxyFerry, and clicked. And there was the pot of gold. Three of the pop rock albums by Brian Eno, which I glided through college on:

I can't tell you how many times I listened to these albums, on vinyl. Eno was as innovative in pop as he was in ambient and new wave, and I'm buying all three of these suckers the next time I do an iTMS purchase. I've been cursing Apple that they hadn't gotten the rights to sell these, for the longest time; now I'm cursing them for getting them all at once!

Sunday, October 17, 2004

Conspiracy Done Right

I always maintained that the one thing I never liked about the X-Files was the -- interminable -- government conspiracy plot. I loved the weaving of Fortean phenomena into an otherwise pedestrian police procedural plot. I vastly enjoyed the episodes where they placed tongue firmly in cheek and took themselves not one whit seriously (Clyde Bruckman's Final Repose with Peter Boyle being a marvellously understated example, Bad Blood a less understated, hilarious one). I'll even admit to enjoying the appearances of William B. Davis, the 'cigarette smoking man', who was otherwise unnamed throughout most of the series.

But the constant side stories of government projects, Area 51, alien-human hybrids and super soldiers undermined the fun of the show. I'm pretty sure Chris Carter, the creator, intended this thread all along, but as it came to dominate more and more episodes, I lost more and more interest, until I was watching mainly out of inertia. The suggestion that the sinister cigarette smoking man shot Kennedy, and then that he might be Mulder's father ("Luke, I am your father!), left me shaking my head. I'm still planning to see the second movie if it ever gets made, but I think the series died a deserved death.

So it comes as a bit of a surprise that I'm not really averse to government conspiracy stories. Last night was a NOVA meeting (and also our Halloween party, as this is the second and last meeting of October), and Bob, our show coordinator, showed the last two episodes of season one of Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex. The entire season has been one long story arc, though it wasn't always apparent, especially in the beginning.

Players such as The Laughing Man, an uber-hacker who quotes J. D. Salinger, a host of sentient tanks called tachikoma and a diplomat infatuated with an android seem unrelated. But all come to play a part in the larger story.

I'm not reviewing GitSAC or handing out spoilers. I just wanted to note that this season is how a conspiracy story should be done. It is intricate, consistent, does not talk down to the audience, and manages to contain a surprise or two. Moreover, by the end of the story, the players have not so much won as they have held back the tide for one more day. Much more satisfying than simply sweeping the slate clean.

Also notable from this weekend's meeting, my friend Tom managed to find DVD images of the original editions of the first three Star Wars movies (V, VI and VII) from the Laserdisc releases. So now I can show Kelly the DVD boxed set edition where Greedo-shoots-first-but-Han-is-quick-enough-to-duck-and-shoot-back, ridiculous as it is, then I can show her the original, where Han simply shoots Greedo sucker-punch style. It makes for a much different character, believe me.

After the meeting, there was talk of seeing a movie or going out to get some food. I'd eaten freely of the Halloween junk food, so when they decided to go to the Raccoon Lodge for afters, I took a pass and went home early. I'd been there once before, and it's farther away from home than the meeting place, so I decided to just get my rest. Maybe we'll get to see something next meeting, in November.

Wednesday, October 13, 2004


For my own reference, here's the MySQL command to close comments on posts over 20 days old:

% mysql --user=me --password
UPDATE mt_entry SET entry_allow_comments=2 WHERE entry_allow_comments=1 \
AND TO_DAYS(NOW()) - TO_DAYS(entry_created_on) >= 21;


And... It works!

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Continuing Theme

Continuing on the theme established in this post, I should note that my latest computer, the iBook, is named Mikura, while my iPod is named Sumomo. Still anime females (though Ryo-Oki was a cabbit (cat/rabbit) and Sumomo is a miniature robot, fitting for the iPod).

You Found Me!

Okay, either you followed my note on the old website, you got redirected from that home page, or you've been using (good for you), which redirects to this new location. Anyway, this is the same ISP, same basic directory, just a fresh tree to support using MovableType 3.11 and mySQL. I'm hoping the improved comment management facilities will let me tame the comment spammers while allowing those occasional helpful comments I still get. Crossing fingers!

Monday, October 11, 2004

Deconstructing Derrida

Looks like Christopher Reeve isn't the only famed one to die on Sunday. Jaques Derrida also passed on, aged 74. If you don't know him, read up on Deconstructionism. Neat, huh?

Sunday, October 10, 2004

Videogames, Game Music and Too Damn Little Time!

I've been sitting here thinking about what games I've had the time and energy to play recently, and what have I been listening to while pondering? The soundtrack music to Katamari Damacy. I grabbed it off the net because it struck me while playing various levels with Kelly that it would make wicked cool background music. And it does! Now that I've sampled it, I'm afraid it's time for a trip to CD Japan to see if I can get a legal copy.

Never one to spend great wodges of time playing videogames (no really, Jean, Final Fantasy X, Resident Evil: Director's Cut and Silent Hill are the exception!) I've certainly been buying a lot of them recently. And paying full price too. Of course, Katamari Damacy wasn't too painful, at $20 new. But before that was Fable, at full price, and before that was Tales of Symphonia (full price), and before that was La Pucelle Tactics (another chunk of great music, by the way), again at full price. I promise I'm going to cut that out, having blown my allowance right out of the water.

And I've enjoyed playing every one of them, though I hardly seem to start them before the next one rolls along (katamari, hah!). Fable is languishing downstairs, Symphonia is on hold as the Gamecube has moved back to the living room. At least Katamari Damacy is holding up. I played last night and got through another level (added another star to the sky), but then failed on the following level and got roundly dressed down by the king. He really tears into you.

I was so disappointed () that I popped La Pucelle Tactics in and cleared a couple of stages (still in the training phase, I know, I know). It reminded me how much I enjoy this type of game, and how I was disappointed that I'd missed it's predecessor, Disgaea. It's back in the stores again, but at full price! Remember where I swore off buying games at full price? Especially if they've been out for awhile?

And to make matters worse, the follow-up to La Pucelle is out now. Phantom Brave sounds like a lotta fun, but is of course full price. So I'm gonna be a good guy and just put it on my want list for the future. Okay, so final confession. Remember when I was talking about Shadow Hearts? Gamestop's web store was offering it as a freebie to those who pre-ordered Shadow Hearts: Covenant. It turns out, in the fine print, that this was "while supplies last." Translate that as "lotsa luck, bub." So I succeeded in skipping buying a full price game, even if bundled with a free one.

So I was at Fry's looking for an extra Katamari Damacy for Jean's nieces, and there on the shelf, directly above Shadow Hearts: Covenant, was a $20 copy of Shadow Hearts. So okay, I bought it, and have yet to open the sucker. I might do it tonight after putting the little women to bed, and I might wait for a week or two. It wouldn't be my nature to just sit down and play the darn thing!


Funny! Winding down for the night, I'm reading the MP3 weblog Music (For Robots). I go there for ideas for new music, only occasionally finding something I like (they're really into house, hip-hop and the like). But tonight, TONIGHT, the headline review is for ... Katamari Damacy Soundtrack. They like it a whole lot, too!

And for reference, CD Japan has it, and yes, it costs more than the game. Ugh.

Cookin' Weekend

While I was somewhat busy with the usual weekend chores, the big adventure this weekend was cooking. And at that, some folk will consider this tame (Brenda). But for me, I really cook so infrequently that it's a fun outing.

Saturday, I tried a recipe from a magazine I subscribe to, Cook's Illustrated. The dish was Pork Tenderloin Medallions. I've had pork chops before, but never tenderloin. This is quite tasty and tender (as named). Two tricks from the recipe: one, brown the tenderloins in a pan on all sides, to seal in juices; two, bake in the oven, but judge how done it is by the temperature from an instant-read thermometer. This lets you cook the meat just enough, so it is neither dry nor tough. Even Kelly found it great. I skipped the suggested sauces as neither Kelly nor Jean were interested. Kelly went so far as to mime gastric eruptions at the suggestion, but she's at that age...

Tonight was something even more homespun: macaroni and cheese. Now I won't call this 'from scratch'. I didn't make my own cheese, or even milk the cow. And I didn't roll my own elbow macaroni. But given those basic ingredients, I did all the rest homestyle. What we ended up with was very rich, with a nice texture to each mouthful. There was enough for a couple plastic containers to set aside for more meals. Kelly said that Kraft's Macaroni and Cheese, which she went through a phase of living on, rated a five out of ten, while this recipe rates eight or nine. Coming from Kelly that's high praise indeed.

Next weekend, I might try my hand at their recipe for Chocolate Caramel Walnut Tart. Since I'm usually the one to try main dishes and Jean is the baker, this'll be a bit of an invasion, but who cares!

And when Thanksgiving rolls around, I've got a use for all that leftover Turkey: Turkey Tetrazzini. Go, man, go!

Thursday, October 7, 2004

No Accounting

For taste, that is. Pat Holmes, writing for the Portland Tribune, gives Ghost in the Shell: Innocence two thumbs down. He's really quite nasty, and can only think of Blade Runner (it's superior inspiration) and The Matrix (another example of shallow trash) when talking about it.

I wonder if he's seen any of Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex, and if so, whether he thinks it stinks so badly as well? Seeing as how GitSAC is my current favorite anime series, that would pretty much shoot any credibility he might have with me.

Sunday, October 3, 2004

Police Procedural

God help me, I'm old. Saturday afternoon, with the consent of my loving wife, I took off two hours early for NOVA, and drove downtown to meet my friends so that we could see Ghost in the Shell: Innocence at Cinema 21, the best art theatre in the metro area.

I've enjoyed the various incarnations of Ghost in the Shell for years, starting with the manga by Masamune Shirow (a genius with many other great stories, don't even get me started on Appleseed). Next was the first movie, which I've seen, but don't yet own (now I have to go get it!). Most recently I've been enjoying the hell out of the first season of the television series, Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex. The television series more or less ignores the continuity of the movie, what we anime/sci-fi buffs call an alternate timeline.

What I like so much about these stories is the intricate plotting, with deep twists and turns, of crime in the future. We get all the attention to detail that Larry Niven gave in his early years when technology impacts human lives. Here the crimes are cyborg-augmented violence, computer aided graft, diseases inflicted on the post-human mind. The theme threaded throughout the series (manga, movies, television) is declared in the umbrella title. The Ghost in the Shell. Soul, spirit, animus, whatever breathes life into clay, the ghost investing the shell with more than simple motion, mimicry.

So is it any wonder that I was excited to see the second movie, set in the same timeline as the first movie, but with a major emphasis on Batou, who is the cyborg policeman best fit to a role in film noir? Alan doesn't like the art style of Production IG, the company doing the graphics for this movie, but I thought it was delicious. And the plot was Philip K. Dick, Blade Runner perfect, a plot to -- oops, I know none of my regular readers (all three) are going to care about a spoiler, but I'll skip it nevertheless in case someone googles here. Suffice to say that it was most satisfactory.

At the end, as the house lights came up, I noted that GitS was a prime example, perhaps the only one, of a proper science fiction implementation of that tried and true genre, the police procedural. James said "what?" I said, "you know, a police procedural." It turns out none of these guys has ever heard the term before. Is this just me? Is it my reading and movie history, or has this term gone out of vogue? Oy, do I feel old!

Rolling Along

Kelly and I are now playing Katamari Damacy. Rather, I'm playing and she's watching, commenting and directing me. At least in this game she's not demanding to play, then throwing the controller at me whenever there's a battle (leaving me to fumble for the controller during the crucial first moments of conflict).

Penny Arcade (more specifically Tycho) reviewed the game, and said "Katamari Damacy is, in no uncertain terms, the finest 20 dollars I have ever spent on a new game." I have to agree. For $20 I usually am buying a used game, a 'greatest hits' game, and many of these have been tons of fun. But $20 for a new game rarely yields this level of fun.

Now if only I can get far enough along to rope Kelly into playing versus mode. I think she's fast enough to beat me, and I know she'd be tickled to roll over my guy with her ball, and watch him wiggle his little legs as he gets swept away!