Saturday, December 30, 2006

Christmas 2006

The new banner photo shows my propensity for fixating on food, captured in a set of holiday gifts from my wife. You can see a small sample of other photos in this photo set. Another favorite of mine is this selection of stocking stuffers, which also accurately reflects my character.

I know my daughter is growing up, when so many of her gifts are items of jewelry and fashion accessories. Anyway, it was a fun holiday. Since I bought Jean a copy of Brain Age, I haven't really played either of my DS games. Seems she's always using it whenever I'm in the mood.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Mo' Music

The mash-ups and obscure 60s Japanese Surf Guitar have been kind of fallow of late, so I gave in and bought a couple of albums that have been in the queue:

Bring Me the Workhorse - My Brightest Diamond

Waking the Mystics - Sophe Lux

The latter are actually a Portland band!

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Near Dark

I got Near Dark from the library after reading that it was an original take on vampire tales. It takes place in modern-day Oklahoma and surroundings, and relates the story of Caleb Colton, a young farm boy who falls for a young woman who turns out to be a vampire, and is abducted by her 'family' after she inadvertantly turns him.

Trailer trash vampires? Yeah, it got more than a little silly here and there, but it was a fun movie. Cale was played by Adrian Pasdar, who is now, some nineteen years later, playing budding politician Nathan Petrelli in the television series Heroes. I knew I'd seen him somewhere the whole time I was watching the movie, and about midway through figured it out. Funny.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Xmas Party 2006

Tom held a Christmas party at his house this weekend. The usual gang was there, and it was a lot of fun.

I'd been talking about how Renee wanted to put together a costume for the next Kumoricon, and Valeska offered an old Singer sewing machine she no longer uses for Renee and I to noodle on. I picked it up at the party, receiving a brief tutorial on loading thread, the bobbin and stitch patterns. I'm really grateful to Valeska and her husband for parting with it.

I think the food choice was Lisa's idea. We had fondue. Three actually. There was a cheese fondue for dipping vegetables and various breads in. Then we had a hot oil fondue for cooking bits of shrimp, pork and tiny sausages. Finally, there was a chocolate fondue with banana slices, marshmallows and apple slices. I sampled a bit of everything, too much, really. It was all quite good. I ate a lot of raw veggies, as they were good. I brought some raw veggies and a bottle of wine to go with the cheese.

Tom's idea of the gift pool worked out great. Great for me, anyway. I'm afraid my gift idea was a dud. My enthusiasm for a book I'd been reading lately, Mind Performance Hacks, was not shared by the gang. John Jackson got it, and though he is normally laconic, I think he was a bit more somber than usual. "I don't know what it is."

The way the gift pile worked was that we all piled our gifts in one area, then we drew lots to determine the order of drawing gifts. If you saw a gift that someone had already unwrapped that you knew you liked, you could 'steal' it from them, and give them your number. Well, I was second or third, and got the DVD box set for season one of Robot Chicken. I'd have been quite satisfied with that, but Alan 'stole' it and gave me his number. When I drew again, I got an art book for Disney's Fantasia. Can't remember who stole that, but I was back in play.

In the end, I got the last package, and it turned out to be a perfect fit: Akiba Biyori, a collection of cosplay photos interspersed with photos of Akihabara, by photographer Yoshimitsu Takano. This is a lovely little paperback book, and a perfect collection of ideas for Renee as she ponders costumes for Kumoricon.

As if that was not enough, I retrieved a book that John had brought for me the previous month at Tom's. I'd forgotten it, even though it was really cool, a gift from him after his trip to Anime Expo 2006. The book, Kamikaze Kaitou Jeanne - A Tanemura Arina Illustration Collection. The artist illustrates one of the characters Renee and I have followed in the past, and has a very beautiful style.

After the gift unveiling, we went downstairs and Alan demonstrated his new game, Viva PiƱata. He more or less accurately described it as the Xbox 360 version of Animal Crossing. He guessed that Renee would like it, and given the number of hours she's logged on Animal Crossing, I figured he was right. But she assures me that she has no interest. Go figure.

All told, it was a very nice evening, and I'm happy to have such cool friends.

[caught in the time trap... posting this a week late]

The Flute Recital

Thursday evening was Renee's flute recital at Hazelbrook Middle School. She's been taking lessons since this Summer, and now she's had a chance to strut her stuff. The young woman she's playing a duet with in the image above is named Ashley, and they appeared to get along famously, unlike some other famous duets.

I didn't want to use my SB-600 flash in such a setting, so I was constrained to ambient lighting, and of course only own fairly slow glass. So apologies that the image is not crystal clear. Maybe next time, I'll just use the flash and irritate all the other parents...

Monday, December 4, 2006

Onmyoji II

Onmyoji II is, as the title suggests, a sequel. I watched the original several months ago, and only now got around to the second title. I think I liked this one better than the last one. It's a bit darker, and while it still has the borderline Power Rangers monsters, I am sufficiently 'child-like' to go with the flow and enjoy the story.

Saturday, December 2, 2006

Ugly Mug

I decided to try out the Photo Booth application the new iMac comes with. It's a gimmick, no doubt, but I suppose it would be nice if I wanted a webcam. Anyway, feast your eyes.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

The Eight Diagram Pole Fighter

It's late, so I'll just note this review and background article on The Eight Diagram Pole Fighter, which I watched on a whim this evening. It's considered one of the classics, and though occasionally flawed, I'm glad to have seen it.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Revy Lives

In keeping with my habit of naming my computers after annoying anime females... that I'm currently enchanted with:

I could have taken a cue from Ergo Proxy and named it after the occasional heroine there, but then I'd have to decide if it was named Ril or Lir (come on, guys, it's obviouslyLil Meyer).

But no, instead, Black Lagoon (now in it's Second Barrage) wins out, and Revy takes the title.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Camelot 30K

The "30K" in the title of this book stands for "30 degrees Kelvin", pretty cold. Like most books by Robert L. Forward, it is rich in physics puzzles, filled with fascinating xenobiology, and equally weighted with clunker characterization and story. As always, I had to ask myself seriously if I wanted to continue, as it's a battle as to which wins out, the great 'hard' science fiction or the painful fiction.

In the end, I stuck with it, and was rewarded with a wonderfully imagined alien race. Not so much their culture, but their biology and their reproductive cycle. If you like that sort of thing, it might be worth the trouble to read...


The last couple of seasons of anime have been an onslaught, and I kinda spread myself a little thin, especially considering that I hardly ever make time every night for a show. I just decided to drop a few shows and dump them off my computer, so just as an exercise, here's what I'm crawling through at the moment:

  • Black Lagoon: The Second Barrage

  • Death Note

  • Demonbane

  • Ergo Proxy

  • Ghost Hunt (with Renee)

  • Gintama (with Renee)

  • Hataraki Man

  • Innocent Venus (don't know how much longer this will last)

  • Kemonozume

  • Garo (live action)

  • Night Head Genesis (another possible cut)

  • Wallflower (Yamato Nadeshiko Shichi Henge - with Renee)

  • Yakitate (with Renee)

Holiday Menu

Jean and I tried to stay out of each other's way this Thanksgiving. Instead of making everything at once, she had control of the kitchen most of yesterday. She made the turkey, the homemade cranberry sauce, the brussel sprouts, the blueberry muffins and Renee's mashed potatoes. She stripped the turkey carcass and she made Renee a shepherd's pie with the remains. In all, many tasty and nutritious dishes. Thanks Jean!

I made the pastry dough for my pumpkin pie Wednesday night, and in the late afternoon Thursday, I made the pie filling (from a recipe supplied by Alan Batie) and baked the pie. I also soaked a batch of pinto beans Wednesday night, and precooked them yesterday. Today, while Jean was at work, I made my fave, Blue Ribbon Tofu Chili! Creating my mis en place ahead of time, the work was actually pretty easy this year. And I had some for lunch. Very tasty.

Come Christmas, I'll probably make my more standard pumpkin pie recipe, from The Best Recipe baking book. Much goodness. Needless to say, I won't be making any special dishes over the weekend. No room in the refrigerator!


My friend Nami asked me if I could record the Madonna special on NBC this week. It's a mark of how out of touch I am with most mainstream television that I had no idea it was happening, but a young woman in Fukuoka, Japan did. I set up the downstairs VCR, which is used mostly for playback by my wife. Jean set up her VCR in the living room. Mine didn't work, but Jean's did, so I'll be mailing off a VHS videotape at the beginning of the week.

It's been years since I've listened to anything by Madonna. I never really paid a lot of attention to her stuff. I watched and enjoyed her film performance in Evita, and even bought the album, but that's it. I watched snippets of the videotape to ensure that it had completed recording.

Synchronicity struck, as part of the spectacle was a group of athletes, running around the concert performing acts of Parkour and free running. It turns out that Sebastian Foucan, who played the Parkour-performing bomb-builder in Casino Royale, was also the choreographer for this aspect of the concert. When you're hot, you're hot...

Saturday, November 18, 2006


I'm now the first few episodes into Black Lagoon - The Second Barrage, and all I wanna say is that my next computer almost certainly has to be named Revy. Nothing says geek like naming your computer after a fictional sociopath bounty hunter, eh?

Honors Student

Renee got her grades for her first term at Hazelbrook Middle School. 4.0! And that's counting taking a course in math one year advanced. She has every right to be proud. She's got native smarts, but she's busted her chops working some late evenings to learn and absorb. So now she's an honors student, and I think rightly so.

I told her that she didn't have to be an honors student for me to be proud of her (I really am proud of you, Renee), but she should be justly proud of her accomplishment, since she got there by her own effort. Congratulations, Renee!

Friday, November 17, 2006

Casino Royale

Okay, it's over six hours later, and I still can't get over Casino Royale. I took the day off to rest after getting hit hard with a cold, and I decided to go see the new Bond flick.

From the opening graphics (and the great pop hit blending in with the action, Chris Cornell's "You Know My Name"), I was settling in for at least a decent treatment. I'd tried not to get my expectations too high, after reading repeated assertions that this was a return to roots. Even to the extent of trying to be more faithful to Ian Fleming's original story. Well, it's been way too many years since I read that book, so I can no longer remember the details, but the spirit is there.

This movie, like Batman Begins, returns to the origin of the exceptional individual. Fleming's Bond is both clever and brutal. As is fitting, we're introduced at the act that transitions him from, what? No past, just a mention by M that maybe he wasn't ready, but here he fulfills the criterion, to become a 'double 0'. I know that sounds a bit incoherent, but I don't want to give away plot points.

The first chase scene is classic. No helicopters, no speedboats, not even, to begin with, an Aston Martin. This was a footrace. Fast, brutal, athletic. If you've never heard of Parkour, this sequence is as good an introduction as any. Much of the movie is like that, pure, basic animal energy. Daniel Craig is disgustingly fit, and seeing him put on a full-on sprint like a cheetah rushing to bring down a gazelle, well, it's just spooky.

Another thing I can appreciate is that the pace of the movie varies so widely. First quiet, then frenetic, then conversational. Several portions of the movie center around a high stakes poker game (Casino, duh!), and for most of those scenes, it's light dialog, hooded stares, no action. And they let it happen.

Are there gadgets? Sure. They pop up when needed, and in service to the story. We don't have a curmudgeonly Q introducing a raft of exploding household appliances and every accessory a sports car nut could ever dream of. Don't get me wrong, in the Connery days, those sequences worked. But over the years, the gadgets have come to overshadow the story. I like the Bond who moves effortlessly between the country club and the dark alley, and the clear indication that any person he meets is a potential enemy. Cold war psychosis distilled.

How about explosions? Yes, they have them too. And fast cars. And plenty of fights. But somehow it all seemed just enough, rather than more, more, MORE! And in most cases, the fights felt like a guy who really felt like they were for keeps. Brutal, and pretty short. Not glamorous. Not 'manly'.

Fleming's Bond is both more and less than human, a bit of a sociopath, but maybe a bit of a Da Vinci as well. Daniel Craig carries that mantle well.

It says something that tonight I've been thinking of Dr. No and Goldfinger, two of my favorite Bond movies of all time. Some time must pass, I'll have to see this on DVD, on the telly late at night, juxtaposed with other pop culture. But I think it'll pass the test of time.

Sunday, November 5, 2006

Tom's Place

Tom should turn his place into a pub. Or an arcade. I was over to his place for what's turning into a monthly gathering, with a mix of friends I've come to know over the years, mostly met at NOVA. Yesterday evening, it was Alan, Bo & Lisa, Chris & Valeska, Aidee and John Jackson, of all people!

I watched demos of Destroy All Humans 2, Marvel Ultimate Alliance and of course, the scandalous Lumines Live!.

John Jackson had gone to Anime Expo this summer, as he does every summer, and he brought treats for everyone. He gave me an artbook for Kamikaze Kaitou Jeanne, but stupid me, I forgot it when I went home. Hopefully Tom will stash it safely for me until next month's shindig.

We went out for Asian, some chain joint with adequate Chinese food. I tried their Kung Pao chicken. Very different from the restaurant in Wilsonville, or Wu's Open Kitchen. Good enough, though.

And when we got back, I also got to see Chris playing Elite Beat Agents, the American adaptation (remake?) of the smash Nintendo DS game Osu! Tatakae! Ouendan. Both are rhythm games, where you use the DS stylus to tap areas of the touch screen in time to the music. I suck at these sorts of games, but I still enjoy them, and I may eventually get a copy. I tried to see if Renee would like one, but while she found it cute, I don't think she had any desire to try it herself.

Lots of game-themed activities then, and lots of fun conversation. Both Tom and Alan got quizzed by me on a science extra-credit project Renee has from school. It's poorly specified, whether due to the teachers' keeping it informal or my daughter flaking, I'm unsure. But the project is to find/make an object which will float in water, neither sinking to the bottom nor floating at the top. This is a fairly delicate balancing act, trying to match the density of water, without over or undershooting. Most of our attempts failed miserably, but a few were at the borderlines (Jean thinks she's gotten the closest, as of today, Sunday, using a saltwater solution in a four-ounce seal-able plastic container). Tom thought it was possible but probably required more than an eleven-year old should be expected to come up with. Alan made some useful suggestions, and if the clock doesn't run out, I'lll try them. But right now, I'm just urging Renee to write up what she's tried and her reasoning behind it. I think that's the real purpose of the experiment, to hone their observational skills and experimental design instincts.

Looking forward to the next bash. For now, it's goodnight!

Black Bean Soup Returns

I made this recipe before, but I had to substitute black turtle beans for the black beans I used before, and it did make a material difference to the recipe. Not as thick, different taste. Still, it tastes better than the average soup, and I loves me soup. I put a few servings away in the freezer as I was worried that we wouldn't be able to use it up before it turned, but the weekend is not over yet, and the larger tupperware bowl is down to about one serving.

Pity this recipe is so time-consuming to make. It takes upwards of two hours, with frequent attention required. So I won't be making it weekly, but my it's good!

Friday, November 3, 2006

One More Year

Posting late because there were ISP problems where I host this weblog...

Tuesday night was Halloween, and it was pretty neat. I'd called Renee's friend's mom a few days before and we'd agreed that I'd stop by their house with Renee around 7pm on All Hallow's Eve. So I was at work, working with a coworker on a subtle and annoying bug, saying "I have to get out of here by 6pm at the latest." I figured that would give me plenty of time to get ready.

So it's six o'clock and I go back to my office to gather up my stuff, and my cellphone is vibrating. I rush to pick it up, and the first thing I hear is "are you on your way home? Kaitlin wants to start trick or treating."

"What? I thought we agreed on 7pm?"

"Yeah, but she wants to start now."

So Renee's friend bumped up the timetable, and I just got home, put my work stuff away, switched into my winter jacket, and Renee and I drove on over.

Kaitlin is quite a bit shorter than Renee, and pretty skinny. She was wearing a cat costume. While petite, she's got a surprisingly deep and sonorous voice. We started walking around her neighborhood, and she and Renee are jabbering and cracking jokes the whole time. While the evening was pretty crisp, it wasn't nearly as bitterly cold as last year. Still, Renee's costume included a short skirt, and she refused to wear a jacket, since that would hide her costume, so I'm sure she was courting hypothermia.

We walked away from Kaitlin's home for about half an hour, doing the usual trick or treat drill at every lit house. About then, Kaitlin said, "I think we should be heading back. I don't recognize anything here." I assured her that even though this wasn't my neighborhood, that I felt confident that I could backtrack. So we started back.

On the way we encountered a police car, whose female officer confirmed we were heading in the right direction. She also gave us candy!

Eventually we got back to Kaitlin's house, and Renee and Kaitlin sat around swapping loot while I talked with Kaitlin 's parents. Finally it was back home for Renee and I. Hot showers all around, and end the night.

So I don't know if this will happen again next year, but I'm grateful to have had one more year of Halloween with my daughter.

Sunday, October 29, 2006


Okay, the event has yet to happen, but Renee spent part of today working on her costume, and Friday evening I called her friend's parents and got the address, so it looks like Halloween is on for Tuesday! Cross your fingers. I'll give a report after the fact.

In the meantime, enjoy last year's banner pumpkin!

Icons of Fantasy

I've watched most of the movies of David Cronenberg, and there was a time in my life when I read everything I could get my hands on by J. G. Ballard. I also spent many years very impressed and somewhat disturbed by Ridley Scott's Alien. I knew that it had originally been shopped around to different directors, so finding this pastiche, the result of a contest in Interzone magazine, was a little gift from Heaven:

David Cronenberg's Alien (novelization by J. G. Ballard) (the true author of the pastiche is Lyle Hopwood)

Noein Complete

This really isn't current news. Renee and I finished Noein last weekend. It's just that, now, a week later, I am continuing to miss it. This is a science fiction drama which fully embraces the idea of a multiverse, and even more so, a multiverse with versions fading in and out of existence as observers confirm or deny their state.

I was first drawn in by the artwork, then the quirky story, and finally the evolving characters. In some sense, this was just another time paradox scifi story, just with an added 'dimension'. But it really entertained, both myself and Renee. It took us forever to finish it due to non-overlapping schedules, but now that it's done...

Now to work our way to the finish of Yakitate! (which incidentally, Meg Hourihan has discovered).

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Has Halloween Been Saved?

It's probably no secret that my favorite holiday is Halloween. I'm not even sure I can articulate my reasons, though of course a big one has been the nearly decade-long tradition of escorting Renee on her appointed rounds, bilking friendly neighborhood victims out of candy. From the early years when she alternated between fear of all the odd costumes to running up to doors and shouting "I want candy!" to the year when I was little more than an ambulatory freight container, every pocket bulging with her overflow loot, I've enjoyed each and every Halloween night. Dark, cold or warm, raining or not, it's been a joy.

I could see the writing on the wall when she finished fairly early last year, and hardly ever dug into her candy in the ensuing weeks. Earlier this year, we were talking about holidays, and I asked her what she thought. I told her I wouldn't be disappointed if she felt she was too grown up to do trick-or-treating this year (I lied). And she said, yeah, she didn't think she'd be doing it anymore. Oh cruel world!

Remember how I 'failed to mention' Kumoricon to Renee, and she found out about it anyway through her network of friends? That time, it worked to my disadvantage, leading to standing in long lines for hours, though I tried to console myself that this would be a substitute for those lost Halloween nights.

But now, it turns out that one of her buddies has proposed to Renee that they go trick-or-treating together, dressed as anime characters! The details have to be ironed out, and they may fold when her friend finds out that I require they have an adult escort (yeah, I'm gonna let a pair of eleven-year olds wander around a neighborhood after dark unprotected). But maybe it'll happen.

Honestly, as a parent I must require that there be a bodyguard along for the trip. But just as honestly, I hope it's gonna be me.

Social Butterfly

Last weekend it was a cooking party, this weekend it was time for the once-a-month-or-so gathering at Tom's. Used to be twice a month at NOVA, but the only people whom I care to see no longer go there, so it's down to Tom or Alan to throw a wing-ding.

This time, in addition to the much appreciated conversation and geeking out over videogames and anime, was a trip to a pretty nice strip-mall restaurant in Beaverton that Tom had discovered. I don't recall their name (Tom?) but they have a menu themed on Hawaiian cuisine. Lotsa pork and chicken dishes, some curried dishes. All in all, pretty tasty. I had the coconut milk curried tiger prawns, with sides of steamed Asian veggies, yakisoba and kim chee. Tom ordered another fave of mine, Taro Fries, and shared 'em with us. Reminds me, I owe Tom a couple of bucks there!

Later in the evening, Tom floated the idea of a Christmas party, with a gift exchange wherein the participants just get something nice-but-inexpensive, and there is random gifting amongst the individuals. That would work out great for me, as over the last few years, my gift list kept getting larger, and I got more and more angst driven trying to find something cool for everybody, until I finally just bailed on the whole gift giving thing. That would have relieved the stress, except that most everybody else just kept giving me gifts. This way is gonna be much less grievous, or so I hope.

Saturday, October 14, 2006


Q-Unit: Greatest Hits is another mash-up album. Moreover, it's another mashup of a rap artist with a 'melody' artist. In this case it's 50 Cent and Queen. The mashers this time are called The Silence Xperiment, an electronica group.

Did I like it? A little. Would I buy it? Nah. Whereas Wu Orleans felt like a genuine fusion of period Dixieland jazz and rap, this feels like somebody playing Queen kinda low, and then dumping a rap track on top. In other words, not a lot of creative modification here. Rather like noticing that some of the lengthier space rock tracks from early Yes seem to synch up perfectly with your favorite anime, or overlaying Dark Side of the Moon onto The Wizard of Oz.

So give it a listen, then move on...


To paraphrase Churchy LaFemme, "Friday the 13th come on a Friday this month!" My left shoulder started hurting, dunno what I lifted wrong, pushed wrong or slept on wrong, but it was bothering me whenever I reached for something the wrong way.

Woke up this morning, and my range of motion is much more restricted, at least without pain. I've been through this once before a year or so ago with my right shoulder. The joint just decides to get all tetchy. Course of treatment, as per Dr. Selby, is to slam it with NSAIDs (basically a lot of Alleve) and after a couple of days begin the gingerly stretching.

As my old high school chum Mike Wendell would say, "defective body, trade it in!"

Monday, October 9, 2006

Have Santoku, Will Travel

I need to find more excuses to cook with other people. Yesterday was my friend Burr's 50th birthday celebration. It was held at his mother-in-law's house in Woodburn (which he lovingly calls Deadburn -- ooh, like Deadwood!!!). I managed to get lost briefly on the way down, but not for long. Ten people got together to cook, dine and giggle.

Burr orchestrated the central theme, which was sampling ribeye from various breeds of cattle raised in different ways. We had five different samples, two of which were grocery-standard beef (Angus?) and tasted totally blah to me. One was a grass-fed local, which scored high marks with me, another the same type of animal, but aged beef, again high marks, and finally Wagyu beef, which is the American equivalent of Kobe beef. That came in a close second after the tied two just before it.

In all, two of my favorite three ribeyes were grass-fed. So much for Jean's mother, who claimed the last time they visited us that "grass-fed is tough, it's just awful. And the taste is not nearly as pleasant as grain fed!" When I tried to tell her I'd been reading articles about the various breeds and feeds, she pulled the "I'm an old farm girl" card on me. Can't argue with that. But now I can state from first-hand experience that some grass-fed beef is definitely superior to grain fed.

Burr had been taking cooking lessons for the last year from a friend of his who is a chef, so he was cooking the steaks, and directing the preparation of the vegetables. I got to prepare the tomato salad, composed of Roma and some other (Beefsteak?) tomatoes, gorgonzola cheese balls and balsamic vinegar (to taste), tossed with a pinch of salt. It was great. I'm afraid I had three helpings of this dish alone.

The other dish I got to prepare was a root vegetable casserole. Various potatoes, carrots, garlic, asparagus, herbs, etc. Baked until tender. Yum! Another dish that I ate too much of!

Both of these dishes were prepared with the help of my new favorite knife, my santoku! I carried it down with me to the party (in the trunk of my car, so I wouldn't get some paranoid cop cuffing me for a concealed weapon. Fun fact: America's Test Kitchen did an evaluation of santokus, and all through the segment, Adam and Christopher referred to them as santukos. Only an effete snob like myself would take such pleasure in belittling their fumbled terminology!

Alan Batie served up some truffly coconut cookies and two pumpkin pies, and Toby and his mate served up custards prepared in cooked squash! I had to try that one, given my history with creme brulee and my love of squash. It was excellent!

During the festivities, Burr's wife Lori unveiled her big present for Burr, a chef's hat and a set of chef's whites. Needless to say, Burr looked ever so cute in his new chef's get-up!

So anyway, doing all my cuttting, dicing, hand folding of ingredients, oven watching and every five or ten minutes shouting out "hot oven opening behind you Chef!" was just more fun than I can truly convey. Burr has to be my most conventional, white-bread friend, but this idea was pure genius, and really reached into my core. I hope he gets another fifty.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Takeshi Terauchi

And Bunnys!

This album is not as captivating to me as Wu Orleans, but it is pretty neat. Recorded in the Sixties, this is Surf Guitar music seen through the lens of Japanese minyo. Takeshi Terauchi was apparently inspired by The Ventures, who did a tour of Japan in 1962.

At last count, I've played the entire album maybe five times!

Tuesday, September 26, 2006


Been reading mostly on the Web lately, and lots of technical papers. While I dip into a lot of non-fiction, which you'll occasionally see on the sidebar to this site, I don't usually finish them, as they're generally sorta browsy items. In fact, the last non-fiction item I read cover-to-cover, The Big Con, took me several weeks, even though it was only about 300 pages.

Anyway, I'm now giving in to a spate of fiction reading again. And not just fiction, but fantasy and science fiction. Just finished Jhereg, by Steven Brust. While I've been aware of Brust for years, I've never taken the plunge, being only a lukewarm reader of fantasy. Usually it takes a Roger Zelazny or Gene Wolfe to get me interested. But recently, Cory Doctorow waxed enthusiastic about Dzur, the latest book in Brust's main series, and I decided to take the plunge.

No write-up, follow the link. I'm noting it here so I'll remember which books of his I've read. And yes, it was more than entertaining enough for a light read.


A couple of the guys whose weblogs I read have publicly announced that they are switching away from Mac OS X to Ubuntu Linux. Individually, I'm sure their arguments are subtly different, but it seems to boil down to dissatisfaction with the proprietary lock-in of various file formats (iTunes, iPhoto, etc.). In a couple cases, vocal anger over DRM factors in as well. I admit that I dislike the DRM on iTunes music, even if I've purchased a number of tunes since the store opened. The fact is, were it not for the DRM, I'd be a lot more cavalier with my money. So I can understand where these guys are coming from, even if I'm not ready to abandon Mac OS X.

Anyway, some but not all of these folk claim that Ubuntu fills all their needs, and is just as easy to use as Mac OS X. Curious, I decided to install it on my laptop for a week or two, just to see for myself. The experiment has been concluded, and my laptop is running Mac OS X again. This in itself is not a judgement, as I fully intended to put it back after some period. However, I'm here to tell you that Ubuntu is not fully baked yet. Maybe in a year or two, since they seem dedicated to improving. But right out of the gates, I ran into obstacles. The wireless networking doesn't work, and a laptop without wireless is too annoying to contemplate. Sure, you can grab fwcutter and an open source driver for the wireless card used in iBooks, then patch the kernel and tweak some config files. You can also drive a nail into your temple, but it wouldn't be half as much fun.

See, that's why I use Macs at home. My sysadmin activities are usually limited to running Software Update a couple of times a month, and doing regular backups. The tools I use work. Sure, some of the tools have proprietary formats, but if I care, I can use open source tools on Mac OS X. I don't have to switch to an entire other operating system. And in practice, I manage my data just fine where it is. Should the world change and DRM go away, I'll be the first to celebrate. In the meantime, I'll just spend a little less money at the iTunes Music Store than I would otherwise. And while I'll save RAW files from my digital camera, if a particular image is important to me, I'll convert it to a TIFF or JPEG. So I'm still in control.

And in the meantime, I won't be spending my evenings tweaking the kernel of my OS.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006


Real life or videogames? Hmmm....

Since I've been tending to play at most an hour, more likely a half hour, on weekday evenings, and sometimes not at all, I've discovered that I'm reliably lazy. Dead Rising requires some degree of work to make progress, and for my clumsy reflexes it's relatively easy to get killed. Then I get to start over from the beginning, albeit with a slightly stronger character (nice feature). Since that gets tedious when playing in half-hour batches, I've defaulted to playing Enchanted Arms almost exclusively. Unlimited saves at any point in the game (excluding narrative cut scenes and battles) make it very easy to move forward in the storyline in tiny bites.

Tomorrow night I am the elected proxy to attend Renee's back to school event, so I doubt I'll fire up the 360 at all. Maybe over the weekend I'll take a stab at some Dead Rising. It really is a fun game! I'm just lazy, is all...

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Brute Force Wins

I mentioned earlier that I accidentally mangled the super-seekrit code for my first purchase of Microsoft Monopoly Money. After much scrutinizing with a magnifying glass and a bright light source, I concluded that there were four characters which were most in doubt. One could have been a 'C' or an 'O'. Another could have been a 'P' or an 'F'. And so on... Holding all the other characters constant and generating all the permutations meant that there were 24 possible matches.

I wrote up a quick program in Python to generate all the possible strings, then sat down and started trying them, one after another. On try number 11, I succeeded! Glad I only had to try less than half the combos, since 'typing' with a game controller sucks.

Just for chuckles, here's the Python 'brute force' program, with the fake 'constant' characters to protect the innocent:

def gen_stuff():

ONE = "PX"
TWO = "MN "
THR = "EF"
FOU = "G 12345 67890 HIJ"
FIV = "Z"

for ONE_ in ["C", "O"]:
for TWO_ in ["P", "F"]:
for THR_ in ["E", "F", "P"]:
for FOU_ in ["E", "F"]:
print ''.join([ONE, ONE_, TWO, TWO_, THR, THR_, FOU, FOU_, FIV])


The bonus of this geeky little exercise is that I -- all unawares -- turned a problem into a 'problem', and got a giggly little boost instead of a headache!


I decided I liked the example program better with 'real' letters, so I amended my sample above with substitutes. That allows me to inflict the result on you:

PXCMN FEFPG 12345 67890 HIJEZ <== TeH Winx0rz!!

Yeah, something like that.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Games and Goofs

So Monday I took back the new router and the Xbox 360 wireless adapter for credit, using it to buy a copy of Enchanted Arms, a longish cat5e ethernet cable and 1600 Microsoft points. Now that the rig is all set up, complete with neatly tucked-away ethernet connection, I've been alternating between Dead Rising and Enchanted Arms. I'm barely started on either, but having fun with both.

I expect that I'll never catch up with Alan on Dead Rising, for two reasons: one, I spend maybe a half-hour or an hour at a time playing, preferring to take time with Jean in the evening before geeking out. Two, Alan has the magic god-hand, and I have nerve-less fists. Dead Rising requires some dexterity, which as we have established over time, I have none of.

Enchanted Arms appears to be a standard Japanese RPG, and so far lacks any of the action-oriented 'enhancements' of Shadow Hearts or Magna Carta. I.e. there are no 'judgement rings' or timed button sequences, which the earlier games require in order to let you even try to launch an attack. I've managed to enjoy both those games, but in spite of the action gimmicks, rather than because of them.

Renee's RPG-Radar is functioning beautifully. I've been sneaking sessions of Enchanted Arms in during her evening shower and bedtime prep rituals, hoping to get a bit into the game before she starts to insert herself into my sessions. However, tonight she popped out of the bathroom wearing a towel and dripping, and creeped into the den, asking "what's that?" Before I knew it, she was smashing barrels wherever they appeared.

As for Microsoft points, or MS Funny Money (tm), I bought a card with some of my exchange credit at Fry's, thinking that I'd save the bother of trying to use my credit card online with Xbox Live. The card has a scratch'n'sniff window where the security code for your credit resides. I didn't have a coin handy, so I used a nail file. Unfortunately, the plastic was so fragile, that I scratched off part of the underlying code. I'm hoping either Xbox Live or Fry's will show me some mercy. Otherwise, I'm kinda sour on the whole MS Monopoly Money experience...

Sunday, September 10, 2006

The Protector

Tom pointed out yesterday that the new Tony Jaa film, The Protector, was in general release. That is, showing in regular theatres in the 'burbs, not just arthouse theatres downtown where I'd never get to see them. Given that I had to miss the theatrical release of A Scanner Darkly due to a limited downtown release, I knew I really wanted to try to see this one. Ong-Bak, the first Tony Jaa action vehicle, is in my collection, as a VCD, no less, and is one of my favorite martial arts movies.

So I cleared it with Jean and ran off to the theatre with money in my sweaty fist.

If Ong-Bak was a classic Asian martial arts movie, heavy on action, stunts and angst, light on plot and character development, then The Protector ... well, let's just say that director Prachya Pinkaew has pared things down to the 'bone' for his second film with Tony Jaa. Ong-Bak might have been twenty percent plot, but The Protector is lucky if it is five percent. After a brief, sentimental, narrated opening montage to set the scene, we are plunged into ten straight minutes of foot and vehicle chases through Thailand, culiminating in two tail-boats shooting off a ramp into a mid-air collision with a helicopter (helicopter go boom). Occasional pauses for motivational plot elements links the following action sequences, but this is condensed Muay Thai, here.

I like the fact that Tony Jaa speaks Thai throughout the film, with his conversations (and shouted challenges, imprecations, curses...) being subtitled for the benefit of the audience. The rest of the actors are ostensibly members of the Chinese mob, or Australian, as the chase (after Jaa's kidnapped friend and ward, a baby elephant) has led to Australia. Chinese tong leader Xing Jing has had the adult mother of said baby elephant poached because the symbol of the elephant will grant her power, like the ancient Khans. Yeah, I know...

Fights include random encounters with masters of other disciplines (wushu, capoeira, some sort of machete master), two or three huge hyper-muscled, adrenaline-drenched thugs who must hail from professional wrestling, and of course, the obligingly serial stream of cannon fodder who rush forward one by one to be mangled by Tony Jaa in the grand Bruce Lee tradition.

There was a lot more shouting, angry aggressive posturing and running attacks in this movie than in Ong-Bak. But there were still a number of the impressive, poetic battles and ballet-like stunts which made Ong-Bak such a joy. In sum, I have to give Ong-Bak the crown, but I'm just happy to see this crew getting wide-release treatment, and hope that when they find their stride again, they are allowed to debut in the 'burbs again.

P.S. - Jackie Chan had a movie called The Protector in 1985, a rather sad attempt to break into the U.S. film market. So it's amusing that he does a ten-second uncredited walk-on where he bumps into Tony Jaa at the airport. Jacky is still the king, but he pays his respects to the young pretender.

360 Converging

I'd like to thank all the little people... Jean for watching Renee after getting home from work while I went over to Tom's place, Tom for letting me haul my Xbox 360 over to his place and plugging it into his network in not one, but two places...

Anyway, with Tom's help, I was able to confirm that the ethernet port on my Xbox 360 was dead, dead, DEAD! Out of the box! Okay, after all my other diagnostic work, I was pretty sure that was the case, but Tom allowed me to get concrete evidence of same.

Afterwards, we went out to dinner at the Beaverton Wu's Open Kitchen, where I had the Kung Pao Shrimp, which was tasty, but strangely subdued. I spent a couple hours at Tom's chatting, then back home for an early evening.

This morning I went down to Fry's and returned the Xbox 360 for an exchange. I hooked up the new unit to my router -- via the ethernet port -- and yes! It connected to Xbox Live immediately! Thank you Jean and Renee for your patience. Thank you Tom for your help. Thank you Alan for your moral support in encouraging me to do the final diagnostic. So nice to have working hardware.

Saturday, September 9, 2006

The Big Con

This review is a decent summary of the book I just finished, written by David Maurer in 1940. In The Big Con, what started out as a linguist's attempt to document the argot of a criminal brotherhood became a sociological study and a document of all the popular "big cons". Somewhere out on the Internet I read how this book had served as the inspiration for The Sting, which I'd seen as a kid, and I had to read it.

Nowadays I seldom finish a book, browsing for the highlights instead. But I finished this one. Let that be a testament.

Tuesday, September 5, 2006

Wu Orleans

My current favorite hit on my iPod, playing over and over, is Wu Orleans, a mash-up of Wu Tang Clan and Dixieland jazz by djBC. I've never been much of a fan of Wu Tang Clan, but set their rap/hip-hop to artfully selected jazz from New Orleans, and it just works. I wish I could buy this album. Guess I'll have to buy some Wu Tang Clan to support their work, even though it's this mash-up that I really like...

Monday, September 4, 2006

The Long Weekend

Thursday evening I brought home an Xbox 360 and Dead Rising. I played for maybe half an hour or an hour, then tried hooking it up to my network. Simple summary: it doesn't like my network. There's nothing wrong with the ethernet cable; I can use it to hook my laptop up to the router and see the Internet, no problem.

Thinking the problem might be imcompatible firmware / old hardware, I hooked the 360 directly up to the router. I only got slightly further before hitting a wall. On Friday I bought a new router for hardwired network experiments, and the 360 wireless adapter to see if that would work. Friday was spent mostly powering down and up all the hardware in various configurations. The final verdict is that for the time being, I can get the 360 online using the wireless adapter, but not any combo of hardware ethernet. Next Saturday I'm gonna haul the 360 and the router over to Tom's to see if my hardware (in any combination) will work on his network. If not, I'll conclude that the ethernet port on the 360 is defective and take it back. Otherwise, I'll just stick with the wireless adapter.

So to summarize, mostly for my own fault memory:

  • The ethernet cable is fine. I can use it to connect my laptop to the internet through the Linksys BEFSR41 V4 router (with what is apparently the most recent firmware, 1.04.05) with no magic settings.

  • Hook the Xbox 360 up to the router, and it reports that the router is "Disconnected", though I can use my desktop computer to access the Internet when it is hooked up to the same router.

  • Hook the 360 up directly to the DSL modem (Fujitsu Speedport R14) and I get a connected message, but obtaining an IP address "Failed". I think this is due to the fact that Verizon identifies the router by MAC address, and needs around eight hours of idle line to reset, so it was unwilling to give the 360 an IP address.

  • Switching over to the wireless router, which plugs into the USB port, not the ethernet port, I am able to connect to Xbox Live immediately. Speeds are about what I'd expect for my connection type (tested by downloading both the Prey Demo [1.17 GB] and the Condemned Demo [~500MB]).

Friday wasn't spent entirely noodling with my network. I took a lunch break and went to see Crank, the new Jason Statham movie. It's really over the top. Definitely not something I'd recommend seeing with the parents.

I expected that I'd spend Saturday playing Dead Rising and maybe fiddling with the network, but that plan was shot down when one of Renee's friends sent her an online message asking her if she was going to be at Kumoricon. This is an anime convention held in Portland, small by the standards I've gotten used to over the years of attending Anime Expo. I had not planned on going, never have. I chose not to mention it to Renee, as I really didn't want to go. So she got this message and immediately hit me with "can we go, can we go?!?!?"

I told her I'd already blown my allowance for the next three months on my new toys, but she offered to pay her own way with birthday/Christmas money. "Still doesn't pay my way in" I said, but she decided that she'd try to sweet-talk Mom into finding money in the household budget. Since Jean works on Saturday, it was decided that Renee and I would do a single day badge at the convention, and there went my Saturday.

We drove up and got in line around 9:30am, and 2.5 hours later we got our badges. Renee complained the entire time we were in line. I told her "welcome to an authentic anime convention activity." I ran into Chris Arneson, and he said that the Friday night pre-registration line was just as bad. Four people running the registration table, 1800 pre-regs. Seems they are even more disorganized than Anime Expo staff.

The first thing we did on entering was to visit the Dealer's Room. It was tiny compared to Anime Expo, but Renee managed to blow her entire remaining cash in the space of ten minutes (when we went to lunch and I paid for it out of the funds Jean allotted, she said "if there's any money left, we can go back to the Dealer's Room!" I nixed that in a hurry).

We saw the anime music video (AMV) contest, and Renee was just tickled. She especially liked that she got to vote for best videos in various categories. We did a lot of walking around the convention, checking out the costumes. Renee is now convinced that she needs a costume for next year (that's right, next year, I'm committed already). Especially as she met her friends Elaine and Bleu, both dressed to the nines. Bleu was a not-too-elaborate Loli-goth (at twelve years old) and Elaine was some primary-color character I didn't recognize. I didn't see an adult within 50 feet of them any time we ran into them. And they're twelve. Renee better not get any ideas on that count...

Our last activity was to check out a panel. The Kumoricon program was printed out in tiny print in a 2" square booklet, so I had trouble making out what was happening where. But I spotted a panel called "So you want to be a cos-player?" Since Renee was talking about needing a costume for next year (Sakura from Tsubasa -- the older, more romantic version of this character) I suggested we check it out. We stood at the back and listened for half an hour as the young woman up front talked about the various issues in hiding her bosoms so she could pretend to be a boy character. It was only then that I discovered that the name of the panel was "So you want to be a Cross-player?" Fortunately, Renee took the info in stride, deciding that it would help her to play an older and more mature Sakura as well.

We finally went home, and Renee was bubbling and buzzing for the rest of the evening. A more loving child you never met. She thanked me dozens of times for taking her, and she thanked Jean for finding the funding to support the trip.

Sunday was mostly chores, lotsa laundry.

Today, we went to the Japanese Garden. I took scads of pictures, but most of them are uninteresting, out of focus or repetitive. I'll try to cull a few and post them soon. The trip itself was a lot of fun. So now it's off to bed, and back to work tomorrow.

Oh, and Renee is heading to her first day of school on Wednesday. It'll be just a orientation day, but it's a new school, so she's pretty nervous, though she tries not to show it. Fingers crossed!

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Weekend Update

Saturday I went over to Tom's house for a BBQ. I wasn't sure how many folk would be there, so I got to the Beaverton Farmer's Market early and stocked up on ingredients for salsa. As I proposed before, I made four batches: food-processor with cilantro, food-processor without, hand-prepped with cilantro, and hand-prepped without. And a comment to Valeska (Tom, you can forward this, as I don't expect Valeska will see this otherwise): the food-processor recipe and the hand-prep recipe differ in a few ways. They are not identical, but other than texture, I guess I can see how they'd be difficult to differentiate.

The tomatoes themselves were the stars. I walked the whole market sniffing and squeezing, looking for the best tomato for my salsa. In the end, I settled on two varieties at the same stall. I asked the farmer what he thought of each, and he recommended one (Celebration? I can't remember all these cute breed names). I asked if it was too sweet, and he just cut a chunk off one and handed it to me! And boy, howdy, was it ever rich. So I hied myself home, and began the work of cutting, dicing and mincing, using my new favorite, the santoku.

I need to pause here and say that I realize I may be more enthusiastic about the salsa I make than any given friend who eats it. Part of the fun for me is in the assembly. It just tastes better to me when I make it myself from fresh ingredients. I'm afraid I may have bored folks with my 'waxing rhapsodic' on the virtues of these salsa recipes. By the end of the night, the four small tubs of salsa were at most half depleted, and Tom was suggesting I take them home. But I wanted to follow my original plan and just leave them with Tom. I doubt he'll finish it off, even with help from Alan and James and crew...

Anyway, Bo and Lisa, James, Alan, Dan, Valeska (and later Chris) and Tom's card playing friend (sorry Tom, can't remember his name) were there for the festivities, and everybody brought something to eat. So it was a real spread. I ate a burger, but mostly nibbled on and off throughout the evening. Alan's hummus was very tasty. Not to slight any of the other food, I'm just a hummus nut.

After the eats, I spent quite a lot of time downstairs with Alan watching him demo Dead Rising and Ninety-Nine Nights on Tom's Xbox 360. You'll recall that I said that if anything could get me to buy a 360, it'd be Dead Rising. Well, nothing I saw changed my mind. DR is a fun game (with a sick sense of humor), though I expect the key combos will escape me. Alan has a way of making that sort of gameplay seem easy, when it's really not.

I even spent a little time chatting with Adam, who was comfortably ensconced up North, playing Texas Hold'em on Xbox Live when Alan logged on. I don't know if someone with a Silver account (the free version of Xbox Live) can audio-chat with friends, but it's a nice feature.

Around 11pm I decided that I'd better get on home, since I have been trying to assemble a presentation on Design Patterns for work. So anyway, thanks for inviting me, Tom. I hope we can get together again soon!

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Jean's New Mix CD Purchases

  1. Love Shack - The B-52's

  2. Dance This Mess Around - The B-52's

  3. Word Up - Cameo

  4. Keep Your Hands To Yourself - The Georgia Satellites

  5. Our Lips Are Sealed - The Go-Go's

  6. Mr. Big Stuff (Remix) - Heavy D & the Boyz

  7. Mr. Big Stuff - Jean Knight

  8. What'd I Say, Pt. 1 - Ray Charles

  9. Straight Up - Paula Abdul

  10. In the Midnight Hour - Wilson Pickett

  11. Walk This Way - Run-DMC

  12. Shake It Up - The Cars

  13. Girls Just Want To Have Fun - Cyndi Lauper

  14. Cut the Cake - Average White Band


Jean thinks I should mention all the songs on her mix CD, including the ones I already owned, so here is the remainder:

  1. (We're A) Bad Trip - Camper Van Beethoven

  2. Down and Out - Camper Van Beethoven

  3. (Don't You Go To) Goleta - Camper Van Beethoven

  4. Galang (Radio Edit) - M.I.A.

  5. Me Myself I - Joan Armatrading

Monday, August 21, 2006

More Songs About Buildings and Food

No pictures this time, sorry.

Renee thought up a menu this weekend, and we picked up the ingredients for it so she could cook and serve her own personal dinner tonight. Fortuitously enough, one of the staples was ground pork, so we just got more when getting my maxed-out meatloaf fixings. Jean already had it cooking on the stovetop when I got home from work.

Renee practically jumped on me: "Dad! Would you like to help me make my dinner tonight?"

"Just let me put away my gear, and I'd love to help out." I swear she was bouncing up and down like a maniac.

So here's the menu:

Stuffed Tomatoes

  1. Hollow out two tomatoes. Her original plan was to use the tomato innards as part of the stuffing, but once she saw the seeds embedded in the gelatinous guts, she discarded that plan.

  2. Fill about two thirds full with pre-cooked ground pork.

  3. Add diced onions

  4. Add a small amount of garlic

  5. Mix ingredients

  6. Place tomato 'lids' onto stuffed tomatoes and put tomatoes onto a greased cookie sheet.

  7. Bake in a pre-heated oven (350) for fifteen minutes.

While that was cooking she had me help her assemble, on three separate plates:


  1. Lay down a layer of grocery-store tortilla chips.

  2. Distribute a light layer of ground pork.

  3. Drizzle home-made salsa (made by Dad over the weekend) on top.

  4. More of those diced onions...

  5. Hand sliced olives are added next (Renee did this with a small knife, but it was sharp, so I was nervous--turned out okay)

  6. Finally, add slices of cheese on top, microwave each plate until the cheese is melted.

Renee set the table while I cleaned up the counters and loaded the dishwasher. Jean and I were each given stuffed tomatoes (that was the grown-ups only portion of the meal, apparently), and we all got her pork nachos. Honestly, it was very tasty, if very rich.

Renee asked leading questions which amounted to "how much do you love it?" We gave appropriate praise, and she just beamed. I expect her to come up with other recipes in the future.

I had a great time working in the kitchen with her.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Maxed-out Meatloaf

I came across this recipe in a book I've been reading from the library: The Fifth Taste: Cooking With Umami by David and Anna Kasabian. Today was the day to try it, with some substitutions and omissions. Anyway, you can see it in the banner, and a series of photos on Flickr. Apologies for the presentation. It tastes much better than it looks!

Serves 6 to 8 for Dinner

  • 2 tablespoons (plus 1) of extra virgin olive oil

  • 2 medium onions, diced medium (I used red onions, as I had them handy after making salsa)

  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced (fresh from the farmer's market yesterday)

  • 5 ounces of cremini or other mushrooms (I skipped this as I don't like mushrooms)

  • 1 medium red bell pepper

  • 2 eggs

  • 2 pounds ground beef (I substituted ground pork, as Jean doesn't let Renee eat mad cow)

  • 1 ripe red tomato, diced small and then crushed (I added a roma tomato for more flavor, and removed seeds before adding to recipe)

  • 1 cup corn

  • 1 cup fine dry bread crumbs (I used store-bought whole wheat, diced it, toasted it in the oven, then used the food processor to crumble it)

  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce

  • 2 teaspoons white truffle oil (sorry, local grocery store doesn't carry this...)

  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt

  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

  • olive oil for brushing

  • 1/2 pound sliced hickory-smoked bacon

I know, this is starting to sound downright evil, isn't it?

  1. Preheat oven to 450.

  2. Heat EVOO in a large skillet. Add onions and saute until translucent (4 minutes). Add garlic (and mushrooms if you dare) and saute until the mixture is carmelized (6 minutes). Set aside to cool.

  3. Core and cut the red bell pepper into quarters. Coat with EVOO and broil until barely cooked through. Cool, chop roughly and save.

  4. Beat eggs in a large bowl. Add ground beef (pork), cooked veggies, tomato, corn, bread crumbs, soy sauce, truffle oil if you have it, salt and pepper. Gently mix in, but don't overdo it.

  5. Spray a pan with olive oil. Put the mix on the pan, shaped twice as wide as it is tall. Drape bacon (!) diagonally across the whole thing, completely covering it. Stake the suckers in place with toothpicks.

  6. Place in the middle of the oven, turn the heat down to 375. Bake for one hour, or until internal temperature is 155 degrees. Let rest for 10 minutes before serving.

Yes, it's ridiculously rich, and Jean was worried about overwhelming her digestive system, but it is really good! I had two slices, I'm sorry to say. So anyway, I had to transcribe it so I could make it again some day. Difficulty: medium.

There's one other recipe that I hope to try from this book before I have to return it, but it'll have to be just for me, since Jean doesn't generally go for soups (except that black bean soup, yum!)...

Next time: Japanese Pumpkin Soup with Spiced Candied Pecans

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Speaking of Food...

I went to the Beaverton Farmer's Market this morning and picked up fresh ingredients for the 'manual prep' version of salsa. I made it this afternoon and it turned out great. I'm looking forward to making both recipes to take to Tom's next weekend!


I actually took vacation time (Flexible Time Off) to enable me to see Snakes On A Plane yesterday. All I will say is that the movie was exactly what I was expecting and did not disappoint me in the least. The only thing that could have improved it is if I had attended with my old movie crew from NOVA. We've gotten out of the habit of doing movies together, but this would have been the perfect serving of cheese.

Monday, August 14, 2006

The Notebook

This morning I noticed a notebook laying on the floor. On the cover, in my hand, were the words "Computer Prog. I". It was on a stack of drawing materials that Renee has been using to draw 'manga' this summer. Inside the book, again in my hand, was our address in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, where Jean and I lived when I got my undergraduate degree, decades ago.

All my old class notes had long since been removed, but the first batch of pages contained notes on photography that Jean had taken while teaching herself to be a better photographer. I don't know if this was while she was doing yearbook work as a teacher in Ohio, or during her stint as an editor for an in-house magazine in Portland, but it was in either case years ago.

So this single notebook has been used in the education of three family members, over the course of decades, and there are still blank pages. I'm tempted to tell Renee to leave a few pages blank in the back for her own child...

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Practice, Practice

Baked chicken Saturday, no fancy additives, just lots of onions, a touch of garlic and a coarsely chopped jalapeno. I'm really liking those roasting bags. You can cook a bird for an hour and not worry about drying it out. It was quite tasty.

More to the point of the title of this post, I made one of my two salsa recipes today. The food processor variety. Maybe next weekend I'll do the recipe that is all hand prep. Then when I've gotten both of them down again, I'll make both at once and take them over to Tom's place. Make sure that you're there then, Adam!

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Fear of Flying American’s chance of being killed in one nonstop airline flight is about one in 13 million (even taking the September 11 crashes into account). To reach that same level of risk when driving on America’s safest roads — rural interstate highways — one would have to travel a mere 11.2 miles.

Steve Berliner Johnson

Wednesday, August 9, 2006

The Era Continues (Probably)

I came home yesterday to find the package from (aftermarket parts and repair shop, not affiliated with ReplayTV). In the box: one ReplayTV formatted hard drive (rated 125 hours, 5400rpm); one 'stealth' fan. I had decided to try out a fan inside the box to see if that would extend the life of the hard drive. The guy at says he has the same model of box I do, and that he has the same model of hard drive I bought and has been using it, without ventilation, trouble free for several years. Apparently the 5400rpm drives run a good deal cooler than the 7200rpm drive I installed myself a few years ago. Still, I was experiencing some paranoia, what with programming freezing every minute or so, and I ordered a fan.

After dinner I took apart the Replay box and swapped out the hard drive. Installing the fan was easy, though it's clearly an aftermarket hack, since the model of ReplayTV I have, a Panasonic Showstopper, was never engineered with a fan in mind. The shop supplied an extender post that screws into the motherboard; the fan has a metal arm (melded into it's plastic frame) that screws into the extender. Then the fan has a splitter that vamps on the power supply leading to the hard drive.

First thing I discovered is that when the unit is plugged in, the power supply to the hard drive is always on. The motherboard sends signals to the drive over the data line to tell it when to spin up or power down. As a result, the fan is on all the time. A hack, as I said. More disturbing is that this Vantec 'stealth' fan made a huge amount of noise. I closed the door of the entertainment center for the first time that evening, and it was still annoyingly loud. "This could be a problem," I thought.

I resolved to let it run at least until the weekend, and open the box and fiddle with the post mount on Saturday if it didn't quiet down with operation. [I noticed it was much quieter, though still audible, this evening.]

Once I'd programmed in my standard shows, I set it to record something showing right then to test it out. After watching it replay for about fifteen minutes without any glitches or hangs, I decided it was passing the smoke test and went upstairs for the night.

This evening, Jean and I watched a show from beginning to end without hangs, and I watched one show by myself that had a single glitch. I'm not sure yet if this was due to the ReplayTV or embedded in the program stream. I deleted the program after watching it, so now that I think of replaying that stretch where the glitch occurred (a pause in the show that corrected itself), it's too late to check.

It's early days, but I'm provisionally convinced that the hard drive replacement was all that was needed. In a few days I may pull the fan out due to noise, and trust that the 5400rpm drive is cool enough to run for at least a few years. Cross those fingers!

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Finance for Non-Financial Managers

The McGraw-Hill 36-Hour Course In Finance for Non-Financial Managers was an interesting book, surprisingly. I have a phobia about financial planning and budgeting, so I'm thankful that my wife is so good at it. But Cooke is an entertaining writer, and in twelve chapters (plus appendices) he introduces many of the concepts of finance, financial reports and budgets. I don't think any of this will stick, but I felt the urge to read it after seeing an article on my company's financial reporting practices (which are mostly well within GAAP boundaries, I'm told).

Unlucky Moyers

Jean's parents are having a spate of bad luck. After the reunion, they were going to do a car tour of Washington and Oregon, staying at B&B's and hotels along the way. They planned to end their tour this Monday at our house, spend a few days, then head back to Michigan.

Well, early last week they showed up at our doorstep. The hotel they were staying at had lost their reservation. So they spent the night with us, then went on to continue their tour. Then, yesterday, Jean began to worry about the fires in eastern Oregon, as that is where her parents were headed next. And guess what? They had to cut their tour short due to fire! They are here a day early, with pretty cool pictures of fire crawling up hills right next to their car. I'll try to see if Jean's dad can't upload one or two of them to my computer so I can post them here.

Here's hoping that nothing else happens to mess up their itinerary on the way home!

Thursday, July 27, 2006


One side effect of the family reunion is that every evening after retiring, I watched at least one episode of Sh15uya. Sunday I finished the series. At the end of the last episode, I feared that they were going to go for the stark, bleak ending. Small spoiler: it ended 'happy'. All told, I liked this series quite a lot. Twelve episodes was just about perfect. Some repetition, but mostly in the service of the story.

I really enjoyed the role of Piece (yes, that's the correct name), the 'supernatural' executioner who reaps the 'broken' 15-year olds in Shibuya 15. He was played by Mark Fulenwider (stage name Mark Musashi), who made no effort to erase his Western pronunciation of the random Japanese proverbs they had him spouting during battle. It was a chuckle every time he appeared. (Just search YouTube for 'Mark Musashi' for some interesting demo tapes).

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Butterflies Are Free

When we got home, we discovered that the butterflies had emerged. I'm glad I insisted that we leave some orange wedges in the canopy. We waited until it cooled off a little in the evening, then Renee and I took the canopy out to the back balcony. One of the butterflies fled immediately when we opened the canopy. A couple more escaped as I was adding a fresh wedge of orange. There was one straggler climbing around, looking a bit weak. I checked again this evening and it's gone. So that's it. Renee is a naturalist!

Family Reunion

Jean's family reunion is behind us now. The banner photo is of the gang, in Pike Place Market. This image looks good on my LCD screen, but is too dark on my wife's CRT. Apologies if this is true for you too...

We had a petit deja vu when Jean's parents showed up this evening after their hotel reservations nearby got screwed up. They were planning on showing up next Monday for a few days, after touring Washington and Oregon, and this is still the plan. But for now they have a somewhat less fancy hotel than they may have planned on.

Highlights of the trip:

Pike Place Market, of course. Renee spent forty or fifty dollars on rings and bangles she found among the artisans here. I walked around with her, but bought nothing of my own. I just enjoy people watching. Mind you, if I'd had a place to do kitchen prep, I"d have dropped a bundle on fresh fruit and veggies, yum!

We dined at Elephant and Castle the first night (Friday). Jean's sister Ann tried to coerce Renee into ordering a salad with lettuce, seemingly aghast that my child might not want to eat it. After Ann moved on to other machinations, I assured Renee that I was in her camp. "Lettuce is a waste of space!" Long live spinach!

Saturday included trips to the Experience Music Project (didn't know Jimi Hendrix was a Seattle native, shame on me; also didn't know Quincy Jones was from there, perhaps not so shameful) and the Science Fiction Museum. At EMP, Renee used the interactive exhibits to discover that she likes drums. They are in fact more intricate than simply banging on a noisemaker, and I think she twigged to the notion that this was a real-life DDR rig. Jean was amused when I jumped in right on cue to sing along to "How Many More Times" by Led Zeppelin.

I have to say that I've read a lot of science fiction in my life, so the SF Museum was a lot of fun for me. Moving from exhibit to exhibit, saying "read that, read that, not familiar with that one, read that..." probably got pretty tiring for Renee, but I was tickled.

Saturday night dining was at Pike Pub and Brewery, which is pretty much as you'd expect it. Lottsa concrete, raised ceilings, linoleum and concrete flooring. The food was good, but the acoustics were trying most of the time.

Sunday was a 'free day', and I used my time to hook up with Adam, my "anime pal that's fun to be with!" I've known him for years, after Tom introduced us at Anime Expo. We went to lunch at Gordon Biersch in the Pacific Place mall. The Teriyaki Chicken Stir-Fry was excellent, as was the Hefeweizen. I forgot how huge those wheat beer glasses get, though!

After lunch we just wandered around downtown Seattle for an hour, then I hooked up with Jean to make sure she got her key (our room got moved on Sunday). Then Adam and I hopped the bus and ran over to Uwajimaya. After searching for some wasabi root and discovering that it was $67/lb. I gave up on that notion, and instead we went into Kinokuniya to look at books, videos and cds. I ended up buying two tankouban for Renee, and again, nothing for myself, although now I wish I'd bought Kamikaze Girls. I had not heard of it when I was in the store, but just today I read a review that made it sound fun. Strange.

Monday we got all packed up and drove ourselves home. The trip home was much faster than the trip up. After unpacking, I decided I needed to decompress, so I went to a movie: Clerks II. Not a family picture! But fun for me, nonethelesss.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

End of an Era?

Around October of 2000, I used an unusually large bonus to buy myself a treat, the ReplayTV digital video recorder I've been using ever since. At the time, I paid for a 'lifetime subscription' to Replay's online programming guide, which is really what makes the thing so useful. By the way, 'lifetime' translates to 'lifetime of the unit' (or more ominously, 'lifetime of the original management of the company behind the programming guide'). Still, it's paid for itself in years of timely programming with little commercial interruption. I don't ever want to go back to traditional network-scheduled television.

When I first got the unit, it had a thirty hour disk, which means thirty hours at the lowest quality recording level ('Extended'). Around fifteen at 'Medium' (a level somewhat better than VHS), which is what I preferred, but I stuck with extended. After a few years, it started behaving flakey (freezing, failing to respond to button presses on the remote) and I found online that this was a symptom of a failing hard drive. According to one post from a repair site I found, the Replay manufacturers used a lower-grade hotter-running consumer disk that was prone to block errors over time.

So in 2003, I decided to do it myself and replace the hard drive, upgrading to the maximum size disk while I was at it. This worked beautifully, and gave me over sixty hours at Medium quality -- a capacity I've never filled up.

Now it's three years after that project, and the box is acting all sick again. This time, it's much flakier still. It's been hanging repeatedly on various shows for the last few weeks. Last night, I tried to watch an episode of The Venture Bros and had to perform 'magical workarounds' that effectively skipped over frozen sections of the program approximately every minute. That will not do.

So this evening, after clearing my queue of Venture Bros programming, I performed triage. I tried Refresh Partition, with no results. Then I did a Reset to Factory Settings, which erased everything, from recorded shows to recording times for upcoming shows to preference settings. Waiting for the unit to phone home, download updates and programming guides takes awhile, so I spent the time on my laptop computer IRC'ing with Adam up North and logged into work checking my email.

So I've done all the triage, and the ReplayTV is now happily recording a show. I plan to let it record about a week's worth of programming, after which I'll watch them and look for glitches. Cynically, I expect that this will be a failed attempt, in which case the next stage is to try putting in another hard drive. Online sources say that 95% of all video glitch problems are fixed by putting in a new drive (but then, 95% of statistics are made up).

Unfortunately, Burr sold his PC, and the RTVPatch software is Wintel specific. Rather than hunt down another friend who meets the very specific requirements:

  • Windows or Linux PC with two available IDE bays

  • Close enough that I can drive over with the ReplayTV

  • Patient enough to let me open up their box and run alien software with foreign hard drives attached.

I decided this time to find one of those plentiful online merchants to do it for me. If I need to go there, I'm gonna pay a premium of $40 over doing it myself, but given the extra effort and impact on friends, I think this is an acceptable way to go.

If I go that route, and that does not fix it, do I go Tivo? They gouge the bejeebers out of you over the online programming guide (they don't even have a lifetime subscription option anymore), so I'm really hesitant, but I surely don't intend to go back to watching television live, so I've got my fingers crossed on resuscitating my little ReplayTV...


This evening I was in the downstairs family room trying to zip through an episode of one of my favorite shows, so I could move on to reformatting the ReplayTV (more on that later) when Jean came down to ask for my scientific opinion. Good luck with that, eh?

Renee got a Butterfly Canopy kit for her birthday. It's a mesh cylinder habitat. You send away for live caterpillars, which arrived in a box that the Post Office left on our porch in the hot sun a week or so ago. Fortunately the little buggers were still alive. They were in a small plastic jar, the bottom of which was filled with some packed food medium, looking a little like light caramel fudge. They ate like the dickens, grew triple or quadruple their original size, and then began their crysalis stage.

A few days passed, with Renee postponing the transfer of the cocoons to the habitat. Turns out she feared damaging them and killing them. Once we explained that leaving them in the tiny jar was a guarantee of certain death, she got moving. So there I was, watching my show, and Jean wanted help deciding how the transfer was supposed to go. I read the directions, and shared how I thought they were to be interpreted.

Time passes, and Renee comes down with the habitat in hand. Stop the show again, march upstairs. All the survivors of the first stage are transferred to the habitat. Three are dangling from a paper disk which Jean pins to the side of the habitat. A fourth has fallen to the bottom of the jar, but the instructions assure us that if we place it gently on a clean napkin at the bottom of the habitat, it will survive. I am skeptical, but we try it anyway. Funny thing. Jean goes searching for a pair of tweezers (at my suggestion) that she can "sacrifice to science". I tell her she should just pour a little hydrogen peroxide on them after the transfer (thinking silently that all I'd do would be to run a little water over the tweezers, or even just rub 'em on my shirt). But she is apparently squeamish about the idea of "butterfly spit".

I thought we had finalized the project, and I returned to my show. However. It turns out that there was no perfect spot in the house from which to hang the habitat. It must be not-too-hot, not-too-cold, not-too-breezy. So I got enlisted to help find the perfect location. In the end, I suggested the den, where I keep my desktop computer. Said den has the window blocked to prevent glare, so it's perfect for snoozing butterflies. Now I have to be careful where I point the fan, but it's only for a few days. Chances are they'll hatch out while we're up in Seattle. Have to remember to shove some fruit into the habitat before we leave...

Then finally I went downstairs and finished off the show, leading to my next post...

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

First <A HREF="">Pink</A> Gone

Syd Barrett, one of the early creative brains of Pink Floyd, and one of my early musical favorites, is dead. Damn.

Thursday, July 6, 2006


Sh15uya is the graphical title for 'Shibuya 15', a live-action 'anime' currently running (or recently finished) in Japan. I grabbed the first episode almost on a whim. It reminds me vaguely of Zeiram, and is, I guess, merely a trendy cousin of the Power Rangers. Still, the first episode amused, so I'll check out the second in due time...

New Music

Pickin' 'em up in dribs 'n' drabbles of late:

  • Mission Impossible - Lalo Schifrin

  • Rapper's Delight - The Sugar Hill Gang

  • Perhaps, Perhaps, Perhaps - The Swingin' Swamis

  • Beyond the Sea - Bobby Darin

The first is the original television theme, although a longer orchestration. I got it so Renee could hear what can be done with flute besides scales...

Got 'Perhaps' after watching the first three episodes of season one of Coupling, where it is the opening theme music. It just reminded me of how much I like this song.

Monday, July 3, 2006

Field Trip

It's the long weekend for me, and so, while Renee was at Willowbrook, an arts and crafts day camp, Jean and I did our own little field trip. We went to the Discovery Museum at the World Forestry Center. We'd been under the impression that this was a general forestry museum, suitable for all ages, but really, it's a kid's museum. In fact, Renee would probably find it a bit too young for her tastes. So the trip served a purpose, as Jean had been thinking of taking Renee there for a mother-daughter trip this summer, and now knows not tot bother.

Once we completed this trip, we went down to Wilsonville to dine at Hunan Kitchen, a restaurant I frequent with some of my work friends. I had my usual Kung Pao Chicken, and Jean had the tangy pork slivers. Good!


Jean got her shift cancelled again this Saturday, so I was able to attend another NOVA meeting. Of course it was the Fourth of July weekend, so there were only about six people total attending. I sat and talked for awhile, browsed the web on my laptop, and eventually hooked up with a friend to go out and see a movie. We went up to Beaverton to see A Prairie Home Companion, Robert Altman's adaptation of the Garrison Keillor radio show, based on a script written by Keillor.

This is an interesting cross-product of the typical Altman ensemble movie with Keillor's wry, sometimes wicked sense of humor. I still listen to A Prairie Home Companion, after all these years, though now it is more often in the car, 'on the way', than deliberately arranged. Decades ago I made a point of tuning in, while working at a bookstore in East Lansing, or later, doing my weekend cleaning chores in our apartment in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio. It's hard to believe that this show has been on the air for over thirty years, and knowing this makes the movie's plot more sensible. The angel of death walks the stage, and even by the end, it's not clear if she came only to claim a cast member or the very show itself.

Garrison is great, in his deadpan sort of way, and I finally got to see many of the regular musicians I've listened to over the years. Of course the cast is filled out with many actual actors, but they manage to fit into the Prairie Home mentality pretty easily. If you don't care for PHC, the movie won't change your mind, but if you like it at all, you should enjoy the movie as well.

Sunday, July 2, 2006

Photography QOTD

"Big cities like New York, Paris, etc., have permit requirements for shooting on public streets. While it is another layer of hassle, I do not want to hear anyone moaning that they live in Paris/London/Tokyo/etc., and that this is a huge disadvantage."

David Hobby

Friday, June 30, 2006

Movie Day

As it was the beginning of the Fourth of July weekend, I took some vacation time and went to an early showing of Superman Returns before going down to work. I don't think I had any expectations to speak of, so I hope my reactions were mostly unbiased. I enjoyed the movie, liked Kevin Spacey's Lex Luthor, and felt that they were mostly faithful to the general concepts of the comic character. It's also nice to get the taste of Superman III and Superman IV out off my mouth after all these years. Now I can just pretend they were a bad dream.

Still, all the while I was watching it, I felt less like I was watching a sequel than a review. It felt like we were being given an overview of the principal characters to remind us of what we were supposed to know. Sort of as if this was a dry run, and that the franchise will really take off with the second movie starring Brandon Routh. Assuming they get the box office response I imagine they will, I'm sure I'll find out in about a year...

As if that were not enough, when I got home this evening, I decided that I wanted to watch something on my den television, as I'd had such a good experience watching Koi...Mil Gaya. So I dug through my pile of Asian movies I keep in store for re-run season, and pulled out the DVD I bought on Max's say-so: Bayside Shakedown. The supplied link gives a fair assessment of the movie, so I won't repeat all the same info here. Suffice to say that I enjoyed it plenty, and thank Max for the reference.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Musical Interlude

Tonight has been a musical one. Renee turned 11 on the 20th this month, and one of her presents was a dance pad and Dance Dance Revolution Ultramix 3. So when I got home, she and Jean were taking turns doing the dances.

I went upstairs and had some supper, watching a movie in the den. The movie is Koi ... Mil Gaya, which apparently means "I've Found Someone". Like so many Bollywood movies, it is a musical. This is my first Indian musical, and I have to say I'm pretty fond of it. Production values are low, the choreography is strange at best, the storyline is charitably characterized as a kid's movie, but it still tickles me.

After I ate, I paused the movie and went down to watch Renee DDR away. She's manic, and I got nervous just watching. I got on the treadmill for some exercise, since I knew it was futile to try to hit even one arrow in the game. I actually stumbled a couple of times watching the arrows scroll up the screen while walking!

Soon the DDR extravaganza was over, and I went upstairs, took a shower, and returned to my Bollywood movie. Eventually Renee joined me, and confirmed my suspicion that Koi ... Mil Gaya makes a pretty good kid's movie. We watched it right up to Jean's bedtime, when I had to stop it, since the den is right next to the bedroom. Two and a quarter hours have elapsed in the movie, and the final crisis hasn't even occurred! How long is this thing?

So anyway, looking forward to finishing it, hopefully tomorrow night after work. I think my next Bollywood movie will be a horror movie ... and of course, a musical.

Monday, June 26, 2006

A New Salsa

At Jean's behest, I prepared a new salsa recipe tonight (at America's Test Kitchen, free but eventually to be behind their paywall). This is the second Cook's Illustrated salsa I've tried. It's a bit more work than the first, and while I'm sure it tastes different, I'm not so sure it's any better. I will have to do a side-by-side comparison sometime later this summer.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006


My little girl is growing up <sniff>. And it's really annoying...

Renee turned 11 today! But there will be no banner photo of the event, as she asked me not to. She said "Dad! Stop doing that! [taking pictures as she unwrapped presents] And don't put a picture up on your weblog!" (doesn't mean something might not show up on my Flickr account sooner or later, though...)

So what does an eleven year-old do? Well, she takes her first flute lesson, apparently. Jean took her to this august event earlier today. The teacher was trying to encourage Renee to blow harder by asking her if she ever got mad at her brother/sister. Renee said she didn't have one. Jean said, "you get mad at me sometimes..." and Renee blew real hard!

In the evening, we all went out to eat at Yeatsy's, an infrequent but favorite spot. Afterwards we went home to unwrap the presents, during which I snapped a few pics, much to Renee's annoyance. She got a 'know thyself' quiz book, which alternately charmed and enraged her. She also got a crystal growing kit, a butterfly ranch and Dance Dance Revolution for the XBox. I expect to get a report tomorrow on her experiences with that.

We postponed the inevitable birthday party until this weekend, so some of her friends could go with her to a local Laser Tag emporium. I'll report on that afterwards.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Search and Return

I tore apart three closets today, working up a dusty sweat. I was looking for a book that the corporate librarian at my workplace said I had checked out. I know I checked it out, say, six years ago! She even offered to renew it for me! Enough time has passed, even, that the book is out of print, superceded by an expanded volume, CJKV Information Processing.

So on the off chance that I'd stored it along with my own Japanese books (kanji dictionaries, course books, manga, etc.) I started tracking down that box. In the end, I found it in the garage, and not in a closet at all. So it goes back on Monday.

On the bright side, I found a box of CDs in one of the closets, including one I'd been looking for for the longest time, Mel & George "Do" World War II. I'm now ripping it into iTunes so's I can listen to it on my iPod tomorrow while tracking insidious bugs...