July 2006 Archives

No E3 for 2007?


MacBook Pro Battery Problem


I realized yesterday that I have a bad MacBook Pro battery -- you can actually see the battery bulging out of the compartment. The battery would only hold a charge for about 2 minutes without the power plugged in, and then it'd abruptly die without warning.
I exchanged the bulging old battery for a newer thinner one this morning and everything seems fine again. I'm back to 4+ hours of battery time. A MacBook Pro with a fat batterybelly is just not very attractive.

Spicy Tuna Tartar

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I always wonder if I'm being too much of a geek when I pull out my camera and photograph my food before I eat it. Given the size of the camera that I reveal, I also wonder if they think I'm a food reviewer for a paper or something like that, instead of being a blogger. Sometimes the food is so pretty that I think for a moment that the food is too pretty to eat. That thought goes away once I have captured the food on the camera, and I happily enjoy the once-pretty food (which is why my food photographs are always "before" photographs and rarely ever "after" photos.)
The Spicy Tuna Tartar was marvelous: raw tuna, topped with avocado, salmon roe, black caviar and a quail egg was the perfect starter for the 48-piece sushi dinner which included sushi staples like King Crab, Hamachi (Yellowtail), Sake(Salmon), Ika (Squid), Hotate (Scallop), Hokkigai (Surf Clam), Maguro (tuna) and of course Uni (Sea Urchin).

My little OCD AC town

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Before leaving for Comic-Con last week, I picked up Animal Crossing: Wild World. I named my little town Avalon, and started working at Tom Nook's to pay off the debt incurred by having a house in the town. Of course true to life, as soon as you pay off the mortgage, you've got pay for the improvements being done on the house, and so forth. As a player of the old GameCube version of Animal Crossing, I know the basics for the game, and as soon as I was able to buy the axe from Nook's store, I set about a massive town improvement project.
In Animal Crossing, each town has a native species of fruit tree - in my city of Avalon, that fruit is Peach. Peach fetches a mere 100 bells (bells being the monetary unit of money of Animal Crossing). Exotic species of fruits are worth five times as much, selling for 500 bells apiece. After cultivating a couple of exotic fruit trees (apple, pear, orange and coconut), I set about chopping down all the barren trees (trees that don't drop furniture, fruit or money). Then I set about chopping down the peach trees (culling about 90% of the peach trees) to clear land for the new cash crop of exotic fruit. I then began to plant the trees in nice, neat rows. The little row of Palm trees by the beach is almost done, and I surmise that in a month or two, the town improvement project will be finished.
In Animal Crossing, you can also pick up flowers. I've secretly been stealing all my animal neighbors' flowers and transplanting them into the area I call the Avalon Botanical Gardens (which also happens to be right outside my house). The neighbors don't appear to have noticed this yet.
I'm sure that in time, I'll undergo a different project where I attempt to rid myself of the animal residents that I don't like in the town by slumifying where they live (by dumping junk and other undesireable things) and then gentrifying afterwards.

Tour de Comic Con 2006: Post Mortem


This year's San Diego Comic Con was the biggest one yet, with over 150,000 people in attendance. Team Uni gained two new members in this year's gathering, which allowed us to attend more panels and gain more free schwag. I don't think anyone on Team Uni was prepared for the high turnout at the Con this year (although it should be expected now that Preview Night is no longer the calm before the storm, but rather the begining of the storm) .
What went Right:

  • Camera.

    Really indispensible item. The 16-35 served well for the show floor, and the 75-300 was good for the large hall panel. The 24-105 did well as a general purpose lens for the show floor and the smaller rooms, but it's quite possibly a lens that could be left at home next time. The 50, while brought wasn't used at all. A smaller compact digital with decent zoom could likely cover the same range as the 24 - 105. The camera also introduced me to various artists.
  • Nintendo DS Lite

    This item came in handy while on the airplane, waiting through the line to Masquerade, and also during the Masquerade for the non-entertaining entrants.
  • Poster Tube

    While it was a pain to carry at times, it served as a good drafting tool, and the tube stored quite a few posters (although it seems the posters have shrunk both in quantity and size over the previous years).
  • Sketchbook

    While I didn't gather as many sketches as I have previously, it was still handy to carry around.
  • Pre-Registration

    The fastest way to get into the con without waiting in some ridiculous line.
  • Irish Breakfast

    Carbs are essential for the Tour de Comic Con, and there's no better way than the traditional Irish Breakfast with the coffee and Guiness.
  • Caffeine, Juice Drinks and Chocolate

    Everyone needs to stay hydrated and sugared up to make it through the day.

What went Wrong:

  • Backpack

    A backpack doesn't suit the comic con well -- a messenger bag is how I've done past cons, but the shoulder strap always hurts after a while. With the backpack, I didn't have as much strain on my shoulders, but it may be worth experimenting with a messenger bag for the next year.
  • Buying items on Saturday

    For short stock items, I think Preview Night is the ideal night to make purchases, since the length of time neccessary to hold onto said item is the shortest on Preview Night. Purchases on Sunday become reading material for the airport and the plane ride, and serve a dual purpose.

Tour de Comic Con 2006 - Weekend Report


My Saturday run started with a run to the Hasbro Toys Booth (across from Wizards of the Coast) so that I could pick up some exclusive Comic Con toys (repaint variations of already existing toys) : Darth Vader Tie Fighter in Gold (normal is Titanium), the 501st Stormtrooper (in honor of the Imperial Stormtrooper fan group the 501st Legion) and Nemesis Prime, the black Decepticon repaint variant of the red Autobot Leader Optimus Prime. Following that, I joined the rest of Team Uni at Wizards where we got some stamps but didn't manage to stand in line long enough to roll for the prizes, because Quick Draw was about to start. Quick Draw was enjoyable as always, which was followed by the disappointment at the Wizards booth from seeing the prizes decimated to only promotional minis. A tactical decision was made to hold onto the cards until the next morning, in the hopes that there would be better prizes available the next day. The exhibition floor was mobbed with people, and littlestar and I fought our way to the exit and headed for the Nickelodeon Comedy Panel upstairs, which we were locked out of. Instead, we were directed to the line for Avatar (which was what we were headed up in advance for anyways). Parakkum arrived as a reinforcement a few minutes later, and we were treated to an excellent presentation of the upcoming season of Avatar. Following the panel we received some awesome blue Avatar T-shirts and made our way up to the second row to claim seats for the Brisco County Jr. DVD panel starring Bruce Campbell. I felt that Bruce was restrained from being his usually candid witty self by his Warner Bros. handlers who were sitting with him during the panel.
Most of Team Uni refueled with sushi while ota went to listen to JMS, and kwc attempted to make it into the Spider-Man 3 panel. We regrouped outside the Sails Pavillion, joined by Team Condo (which may as well be Team DSLite) -- and Mario Kart Double Dash and Tetris DS was broken out for some really crazy DS Lite multiplayer action. The Masquerade was mostly devoid of entertainment value except for a group skit called the Nintendon'ts which parodized many classic and cult movies (and which was actually well choreographed). The best moment of the skit is of course where Pikachu is beheaded as part of their Highlander parody.
This was the last day of the Tour de Comic Con, which I spent walking the remains of the exhibition floor. Sunday is the "kids' day" of Comic Con, with a good portion of the programming aimed at the younger attendees, and I wasn't very interested in attending the panels being offered. Not nearly as crazy as the previous three days, the convention seemed a little more relaxed -- the frenetic and crammed feel of the exhibition hall was mostly gone, lines were short and the time seemed to be good to gather up those old demo cards and redeem them for prizes -- which we did in the form of Magic boosters and starter packs.
I received one sketch today from an artist who wanted some camera tips, and a sketch of Zoe from Pete Abrams of Sluggy Freelance. I purchased a copy of Yoshitaka Amano's "HERO" from BOOM! Studios (limited edition, certificate of autheticity, numbered, signed, blah blah blah). I really love Amano's work (plus the fact that he did the character designs for FF3/6 adds extra geek cred).
At 3, kwc and I left the exhibition hall in search of a cab to take us to the airport. The flight was of course full, and many a travel voucher were given for those on overbooked flights at the airport. I sat and caught up with my town in Animal Crossing while I waited at the airport.
(Pictures to come when I have time, for now, sleep)

Tour de Comic Con: Friday


No starting line fiasco like yesterday, and we started off strong, gathering a few free freebies from Wizards of the Coast and Gentle Giant. Afterwards littlestar and I each picked up a Fruits Basket hat (she bought the black/white Hatsuharu cow hat and I bought the yellow Momiji rabbit hat. The hat is nice -- it hides the bedhead I get from my recent shorter haircut.
I sat in on a couple of panels today and mostly avoided the exhibition hall -- Battlestar Galatica was a really good panel, as was the Snakes on a Plane panel.


Fiasco de Comic-Con: Thursday


While pre-registration ran smooth (and continues to run smoothly as I am told by ota who arrived yesterday), the Tour de Comic-Con started with a major fiasco yesterday as convention goers were made to go up and around in order to enter the main exhibition hall. The reason for this roundabout way into the con was reportedly because the convention organizers wanted to get people off the street level and opened the doors late (again). Fire marshalls were in attendance at all the larger panels, and comic con organizers hurriedly forced people into seats from standing positions. (Personally I think the only reason they stayed for the entire session in the larger sessions was because they wanted to watch too). Lines for panel sessions are long, and panel hopping is pretty much a thing of the past as most rooms these days are much too small to accomodate the number of people who want to sit in on it. The show floor seemed nearly as busy as preview night, dashing my hopes that it was likely because preview night corresponds with when people get off work that Wednesday night was so crowded. Thursday was long and it's hard to believe there are three more days remaining, and that Saturday is yet to come.
I managed to get sketches from Fred Gallagher, Scott Kurtz, and Gabe, as well as Steve Purcell, the creator of Sam and Max.
Flickr: San Diego Comic Con 2006: Thursday


Preview Night 2006


Usually Preview Night at Comic-Con is a rather calm affair -- vendors and artists look wistfully hoping someone will come by their tables and talk to them, or even better, purchase something from them. Preview Night yesterday was not like that at all -- with crowds lined up outside the exhibit hall doors, one could easily mistake the crowd for a Friday crowd, or even a Saturday crowd. The floor was packed right from the start, and on an empty stomach, the Preview Night was nigh undoable, and Team Uni and I left after about an hour to carbo-load at Nati's Mexican Restaurant in Ocean Beach with parakkum's parents.
My MacBook Pro seems to be having power issues -- random shutdowns when operating on battery power, so it's rather likely that I will save myself 5.6 lbs of weight by not carrying the laptop with me during the Tour de Comic-Con. With 6GB of photo storage, it's unlikely that I will need to do a photo dump during the con to warrant the weight.
Flickr: Comic Con 2006 - Preview Night


The Feng Shui of Everyday Things


For the last two weeks, I've been unpacking and getting settled into my new home. This is always something of a traumatic and stressful experience for me, but this latest move has made me realize a few things. I've always been really slow with unpacking. Most of the time the only things that get unpacked are electronics, books and dvds. Most everything else stays in their boxes and they get dragged with the rest of my belongings as I move from place to place. When people see all the dvds and books on the bookcases, they think "he's got a lot of stuff", and it's absolutely true -- I do have a lot of stuff. But what you see "out" is only a fraction of the stuff I have. I have closets full of boxes, full of stuff.
More stuff on stuff, energy and the plan of attack after the fold.

New Super Mario Bros. Stomps the Competition


Not only was New Super Mario Bros. the top-selling video game in the U.S. in May, but it was also the
top-selling videogame in the U.S. for June as well, selling over 400,000 copies , and combined with May sales (of which it only sold in the later half of the month) netted over half a million copies sold. Considering that there's only something like 1.2 million DS console systems out there, it's a pretty substantial number of copies sold. For me, it's further evidence that what gamers want is not hyper-realistic graphics, but rather good solid gameplay. Xbox 360 and PS2 titles fared well on the top 10, but the PSP seems rather like a dead platform, not having a single title make the top 10.
The list of the top 10 games (console and pc) in the extended.

Adding another to the camera collection

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Ever since the Canon EOS 5D was announced last August, I've lusted after its full-frame goodness. After almost a year of consideration, I've decided to purchase a 5D. Canon seems to follow an 18 month cycle for releasing new SLR cameras, so I'm hitting the end tail of the 5D's life, but with a shutter lifetime of 100,000, it should last me a few years (although I estimate that my current 20D has over the course of the past 18 months taken close to 30,000 pictures). I'm looking forward to fieldtesting the 5D in the Tour de Comic Con next week, though I suspect that for the majority of the distance shots the 20D with 1.6x crop factor might fare better (and thus the telephoto will be on the 20D). While I see my camera related expenditures dropping substantially after this, I'll need to get a flash eventually for the 5D. One of the interesting things about this upgrade is that my lenses (with the exception of the 20D kit lens) are now a bit more versatile -- for instance, the 50 prime that I have will be a 50 prime on the 5D and also an 80 prime on the 20D.

UPDATE: It looks like the Comic-Con fieldtest for the 5D is not going to happen -- Amazon is being a little slow about shipping it out.

Freaky Friday




The Canon EOS 20D SLR camera doesn't have the capability to film video, but director
Patryk Krebisz took 2,000 stills using a Canon EOS 20D, stitched them together and created a short film called "Between You and Me".

I Keep Everything...


I'm a huge packrat. I keep things that I ought to have thrown out long ago. The current state of my bedroom with its boxes filled with "stuff" should be evidence enough of that. While attempting to clean some clutter, I stumbled across an item I thought I'd share with you all. The ticket stub to Toy Story on November 24th, 1995. (I always thought I had seen it on opening night, but I guess not). Yeah, it's an eleven-year old ticket stub.

Man Trades Paperclip for House


Kyle MacDonald had a red paperclip and posted an ad on craigslist, offering to trade it for something bigger and better. His goal? To trade his way into a house. After a year of trading from doorknobs to snowmobiles to meetings with Alice Cooper, to a snowglobe, it looks like tomorrow is the day that his trading days come to an end as he trades his way into a 3 bedroom house in the town of Kipling in Canada.
One Red Paperclip

Black Thumb


I started a garden yesterday on the apartment balcony. A couple of herbs, and a couple of fruit-bearing plants. I'm not a great gardener -- I've definitely sent my share of plants to the Botanical Intensive Care Unit (from which they are never seen again). Yesterday in all the excitement I left a lone plant in the back of my car -- when I unloaded the car this morning, I found it, yellowed and limp, like a vegetable someone had boiled too long. I chopped off all the yellow limp bits, leaving very nearly nothing of the plant. Poor plant. I may just need to get a replacement if I can't save it.
I even started a little composting project. Now, if I only knew more about worm bins...

Working towards a perfect world


New Australian Music Video by David Hasselhoff

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Before David Hasselhoff became a star on Baywatch, he drove a Black Pontiac Trans Am in a cheesy 80s show called "Knight Rider". As a kid growing up in the 80s, Knight Rider was kinda cool with K.I.T.T., the talking gadget-filled car and the fantastic "Turbo Boost". Of course looking at the show now, it was a program that only 10 year olds enjoyed because we didn't realize how stupid ejection seats in a car were or how "Turbo Boost" doesn't really work like that. But, to sully our memories of Knight Rider even further, Hasselhoff did a cover of "Jump in my Car" in which he rides around in a right-hand drive K.I.T.T. picking up chicks. You can watch the horror below:

Neurogenesis and stress

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Seed: The Reinvention of Self, about how stress can limit the growth of neurons.

    The realization that typical laboratory conditions are debilitating for animals has been one of the accidental discoveries of the neurogenesis field. Nottebohm, for example, only witnessed neurogenesis in birds because he studied them in their actual habitat. Had he kept his finches and canaries in metal cages, depriving them of their natural social context, he would never have observed such an abundance of new cells. The birds would have been too stressed to sing. As Nottebohm has said, "Take nature away and all your insight is in a biological vacuum."

Two of my favorite superheroes got married this weekend...

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In many of my friends, I see qualities and talents that are so amazing, they seem like superpowers. The first time I met Bryan and Joy, we talked about the worms they had in the backyard composting their garbage for them, and I thought "wow, this couple is really considerate about the environment". Then they started riding around on electric scooters and started growing their own herbs and vegetables, and the more I got to know them, the more I admired them for who they were. How many people do you know who would ask for donations to their favorite charities instead of receiving wedding gifts? Or decide on the officiant of the wedding through a random drawing amongst friends and family?
Today they allowed their friends and family to share in the happiness and love that they have for each other as we watched two become one:
Congratulations and Best Wishes, Joylette and Bryan!