April 2007 Archives

links for 2007-05-01


Aging Gamer Syndrome


Last week, I picked up Elite Beat Agents, the U.S. version of Ouendan. There happens to be a point in the game where no matter how often I practice and I play, I can't beat the stage. My reflexes just aren't fast enough to place the stylus where it needs to be. Perhaps this is the toll that a quarter century of console gaming puts on the body. Like an old boxer past his prime, I am an old gamer past my prime. I'll still take on anyone who dares challenge me in games of Tetris or Puzzle Bobble, but in a matter of twitch gaming, where speed or rhythm counts more than strategy, I am a non-contender. This weekend, I downloaded the classic Ice Climber onto my Wii, and I remember Ice Climber being much easier when I was 13.

This 8-year old can kick my butt in Guitar Hero II, and he can probably kick yours too.

Train Man : Densha Otoko


Train Man : Densha Otoko

Last year at Comic-Con, I sat in on various manga panels -- and at nearly every panel, one series was mentioned: Densha Otoko (Train Man). Based on a true story, the Densha Otoko story was a book, became a movie, then a TV series, and then adapted into manga (by seemingly every manga publisher under the sun).

This weekend, we watched the Train Man (Densha Otoko) movie and enjoyed it immensely. Train Man tells the story of an otaku (obsessed fanboy). In this case, Train Man is an Akiba-kei (someone who really likes Akihabara) who stops an unruly passenger on the train from harassing others on the train, and as a result, gains the admiration of those on the train, including an attractive, slightly older woman. At the police station, as the passengers involved fill out the report, the attractive woman asks for his address so she can send him a thank you gift. He posts his story on the internet, and being an otaku, has no idea what to do, and asks the members on the message board what to do.

This past February, Viz released the movie on DVD in the States with a very good job on the subtitles.

Jon Stewart on Virginia Tech Shootings


I wasn't going to post anything on the subject initially, but this Daily Show clip is totally awesome, so I'll let Jon Stewart speak for me:

Cross-Licensing Games, Comics and Movies


A couple of years ago, Hollywood figured out that a great source to tap for stories was comic books -- the concept was proven, and for the especially popular series, the audience was built in. For years, Wizard Magazine had a feature that was essentially dream casting Hollywood adaptations of comic book movies. Being a comic book fan, I hear about projects being adapted for Hollywood, and while some definitely fall into the "can't wait to see it" category, there are also a bunch that fall into the category of "what were they thinking?"

With comic book movies, the trend that I've noticed is that first-tier comic heroes -- those popular characters that have multiple titles per month do really well, while those with just one title per month seem to tank (and quite badly, I might add). X-Men, Spiderman, Superman, and Batman for instance have more than one title a month, while characters like Catwoman, Daredevil, The Fantastic Four and Ghost Rider only have one title a month. But worse yet are movies that center on characters that don't even have their own monthly comic book titles (Elektra).

Marvel has completely used up all their available franchises with multiple titles -- what remains is a bunch of second tier comic books and spin-off characters to work with. They could do an Avengers movie, but they seem to be happy with giving Avengers members their own movie (Hulk, Iron Man, Thor, etc), and I can't think of a storyline with the Avengers that would be interesting enough for a story.

DC has the same problem. What they've got left are second string comics that don't have a huge following, which concentrate on a second tier character: Green Arrow, Green Lantern, the Flash, Aquaman.

Hollywood has also been dipping into the pool of limited series, graphic novels and non-mainstream comics to produce movies lately -- the last few years have given us The Road to Perdition
, V for Vendetta, Ghost World and Art School Confidential.

As easy as it is to create new movies based on existing franchises, it seems to me that unless Hollywood is willing to make movies based on non-mainstream properties, comic books are no longer the source for a summer blockbuster success. Games, on the other hand are becoming the next source from which to poach settings from. The Resident Evil line of games has spawned 3 movies (all of which are very loosely based on the games), while Final Fantasy has succeeded in bankrupting Square, and Tomb Raider has become synonymous with Angelina Jolie. Just as is the case with comics, there are a finite number of games worth licensing which have any kind of in-depth character, much less any with a story that feels like a story and not a game story (i.e. seek out the 7 widgets of that which will save the world, or else we're finished!).

For Hollywood, it's much more beneficial for them to create a story (and then that way they can license out the game rights), while the reverse is true for the games industry -- they'd rather Hollywood pay for the licensing rights -- they get a movie that (hopefully) raises their sales of their games, and they get Hollywood to pay them for licensing their characters, without the need to create a game that ties into the Hollywood movie (the exception being Street Fighter: The Movie: The Video Game). Comics of course, love it when they are licensed by Hollywood or Games -- both things can help their main business model, and elevate the value of their creations that much more.

There are titles in genres that deserve all three to be made, but in most cases, things only work for one or two mediums, and then require heavy adaptation for the third. For instance, imagine if the top grossing movie of all-time, Titanic was to be made into a comic book. Easily enough done. A video game, however, just wouldn't be very interesting -- it'd have to be a slew of mini-games that loosely followed the plot of movie, and ultimately, I think that's the deal-killer in movie-to-videogame adaptations -- who wants to spend 40 hours to complete a game, when they can pop in the DVD and watch the movie in 2 hours and get the same story? On the other side of equation, is that 2 hours for a movie is a short medium of entertainment -- with TV series, video games and comic books being a much longer medium with which to spin stories around, I never feel that characters are as developed in a movie as they can be in other forms of media.

On the other side of the matter, if creators can focus on the strengths of their media, while integrating factors from outside without becoming the other media, it ultimately strengthens the core product.

When Freeways Collapse!


Early this morning, a fuel tanker became a giant fireballon the MacArthur Maze in Oakland, destroying two freeways. Traffic was already pretty bad through the Maze at peak commuter hours, and traffic will continue to be a nightmare in the area until they rebuild the damaged structure. The Chronicle has several photos of the damage to the freeways, as some structures are completely melted.

SFGate has a list of alternate routes.

links for 2007-04-29


links for 2007-04-28


The Simpsons parody MMOGs


While not as machinanima as the South Park episode, this brilliantly scripted Simpsons episode is probably more humorous (even for those who aren't WoW players)

Woot-Off Currently in Progress


Wooty Woot Woot

Woot! has these woot-offs every so often where in their continuing effort to get rid of their overstock inventory list items one after another. One it's sold out, it's gone. Sometimes they have pretty good bargains, other times the items are pretty sad and just sit there for hours (usually until the woot! gods decide that it's simply no longer moving). This morning included the following eclectic items: a left handed putter, an 8 person poker tabletop, and a Battlefield 1942 Limited Edition Mouse. Items change throughout the day -- the ultimate prize is their "bag of crap" which is sort of this random grab bag of junk (though sometimes the junk is a 48-inch projection TV).

Smart in 2008

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Smart is coming to the US in 2008, and they're taking $99 reservations for their vehicles. Very popular in Europe, these tiny cars are basically Daimler-Chrysler's ultra compact fuel-efficient cars, and they've attained something of a cult following. Getting around 40 miles per gallon, the smaller footprint of the Smart fortwo allows it to park perpendicular to the curb (like a motorcycle).The smart fortwo basic starts at a mere 12,000, while the cabrio convertible is only 17,000.

links for 2007-04-26


links for 2007-04-25


APE 2007


One of the nice things about getting a membership for the San Diego Comic Con is that admission to APE (Alternative Press Expo) is free. Since APE is focused more on indie comics and publications, it is a much less frenetic convention than either WonderCon or the SDCC.

We sought out to find the Nucleus/Flight booth right away, and Kazu was nice enough to let us see the working draft of the first book of Amulet, a five book series to be published by Scholastic this fall. It looks great, and I'm really looking forward to its release.

As we wandered the hall, we came across the Greatest Coffee T-Shirt Ever which makes for a great gag gift, but I'd be shocked if I ever saw anyone wearing it.

I picked up a copy of the Ancient Book of Myth and War, which is this beautiful orange book put out by Pixar artists Scott Morse, Don Shank, Lou Romano and Nate Wragg. Three of the four were there at APE, and they painted and drew on my book.

At APE, there was also a booth promoting the Super-Con, to be held in San Jose Convention Center on June 2 and 3. So, it's beginning to look like downtown San Jose will be invaded for two weeks in a row -- first by anime fans for Fanime, and then by comic book fans for Super-Con.

links for 2007-04-22


links for 2007-04-20


Spider-Man Through the Years


In just over two weeks, Spider-Man 3 swings onto the big screen. I thought it might be kind of fun to look through past Spider-Mans on the small screen:

Spider-Man (animated series, U.S.A, 1967-1970)
I remember watching this show on afternoon re-runs when I was kid, and who can forget the catchy theme song?

Spidey's Super Stories (U.S.A, 1974-1975)
As part of the PBS show the Electric Company, these were incredibly low-budget productions. Spidey uses word baloons to speak!

The Amazing Spider-Man (U.S.A, 1978-1979)
I never watched this show, though I saw videotape bootlegs available over the years at comic conventions and the like.

Spider-Man (Japan, 1978)
Wow. In Japan Spider-Man rides a motorcycle AND has a flying robot.

Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends (U.S.A., 1981-1984)
I remember watching this on Saturday mornings as a kid. I think the original X-Men pilot cartoon aired as part of this show.

Spider-Man: The Animated Series (U.S.A., 1994-1998)
The longest running Spider-Man television series, it's a great adaptation of most of the good story arcs in the comics.

Spider-Man: The New Animated Series (U.S.A., 2003)
MTV's short 13-episode CGI cel-shaded animated series didn't last long. I didn't even know about it until I found it on YouTube.

And of course, there will be a new animated Spider-Man series in 2008, called "The Amazing Spider-Man", which will restart with Peter Parker as a Junior in high school, giving them a chance to re-introduce all the characters in the mythos.

links for 2007-04-19


Ouendan 2 : Partial Songlist


A partial list of the songs to be featured on the new Ouendan 2 videogame for the Nintendo DS has been revealed: (links go to the YouTube videos for the songs). I can tell already that Okuru Kotoba is going to be one of the harder stages, while Ken Hirai's Pop Star feels like an Ouendan level. There's supposed to be 19 songs total in the game, so this is just a sample of what's to come.

Going Underground - VISTA

Mihimaru GT - Kibun Joujou

Homemade Kazoku - Shounen Heart

Smap - Bang! Bang!

Ayaka - I Believe

Kimura Kaela - Real Life Real Heart

Flow- Okuru Kotoba

Sukima-Switch - Zenryoku Shonen

Checkers - Oh, My Julia

Yaida Hitomi - Go My Way (the YouTube video uses animation from Laputa: Castle in the Sky and Nausicaa)

Hirai Ken - Pop Star

NeoGeo coming to the Wii


Earlier this week, SNK announced that NeoGeo games would be headed for the Wii on the virtual console, at a cost slightly above SNES games.

In the early 90s, SNK launched a game console known as the NeoGeo. With a hefty price tag of $649, the system was more or less dead on arrival -- even with 2 arcade joysticks and Magician Lord bundled in, the NeoGeo was sold mostly to game enthusiasts with large pocketbooks. With games costing $200 (because they were essentially the same cartridges that arcade machines would use), the game system never achieved success in the United States. That being said, there were a good number of games on NeoGeo that were favorites of mine in the arcade: Samurai Showdown, Bust-A-Move, Magical Drop and SenGoku, which I hope to see on the Wii.

Protecting LCD Screens


One of the things that I hate is getting scratches on LCD screens. Judging by the thriving iPod screen protector industry, there's probably a lot of people out there that agree with me. Last year when I bought my camera, the first thing I did was to get a screen protector for it. I went to camera shops and asked if they had anything that would fit my camera. They did, but the item they were offering was a chunky piece of black plastic which also acted as a glare protector.

I ended up going to Fry's and picking up some HORI PSP Protective Filters. (I would have preferred DS Lite screens, but they were all out). You can also use HORI DS Lite Protective Filters which might actually be the better bargain, as you get two sheets of plastic instead of just one. If you measure the screen and cut accordingly, you'll have one that should fit your screen precisely. The best part is that because these filters are made for electronic devices, they don't leave any gunky residue behind, nor do they affect the clarity of the screen.


Adobe Creative Suite won't install Photoshop CS


A couple of days ago I installed a new hard drive to replace an 5-year old 40GB HDD in my Apple PowerBook G4.

I first imaged the old 40 using CarbonCopyCloner, replaced the old hard drive with the new one, and then used Apple's Disk Utility to copy the image data onto the new 100GB HDD. Everything seemed fine until I tried to use Photoshop CS. The program suggested I re-install. I tried to re-install using the Creative Suite package, and got the strange error. "This installer cannot be run independently. Please install this product using the suite installer."

After being puzzled by this error, I stumbled upon the solution.

It appears that for whatever reason Photoshop CS dislikes drives that are Journaled and Case-Sensitive. A MacOS Extended (Journaled) formatted drive works fine.

This error, as far as I know, only applies to Photoshop CS1. CS2 and CS3 users don't need to worry.

links for 2007-04-18


Whiteboard Commercial for UPS


UPS has a new commercial campaign using white board drawings which I found interesting. The basic premise is that in these commercials, a whiteboard is used to illustrate one of the many features of using UPS. The commercials are surprisingly gripping, given the simplicity of the concept.

It turns out that the commercials are directed by Errol Morris, Academy Award winning director of "The Fog of War: Eleven Lessons From the Life of Robert S. McNamara", while the man in the commercial is Andy Azula and he is the creative director of the campaign. Initially Andy Azula had videotaped himself and other co-workers to show UPS a proof-of-concept, and after showing both actors and Azula giving the same commericial, focus groups repeatedly chose him over other actors that they had been shown.

The music you hear in the background is, ironically enough, from a band called "The Postal Service".

Guitar HeroNoid


Last week at Fry's, littlestar and I played a bit of Guitar Hero 2 that they had out for demo purposes. While it did take some time to get used to the controls, we eventually got it, and it was alot of fun. Garage Geeks has built the Guitar HeroNoid, an android which takes the visual input off the tv and converts into the appropriate action, making for a perfectly played song everytime.

A robot that plays the videogame for you just feels wrong (of course, I could be accused of being a hypocrite, having enslaved Kuro with rubberbands to gather a million roses)

Free Cone Day at Ben and Jerry's


Today is Free Cone Day at Ben and Jerry's. Not a bad reward for finishing your taxes.

links for 2007-04-17


links for 2007-04-16


links for 2007-04-14


Friday Bunny Cuteness



Oolong, the amazing bunny who could balance objects on his head. A gallery of his bunny photos taken by Japanese photographer Hironori Akutagawa including the most famous photo Oolong balancing a dorayaki on his head can be found here. An explanation of his bunny photos in english.

The act of balancing objects on their head is not uncommon, as domesticated bunnies have a natural tendency to lower their heads for grooming and pets. Sadly Oolong passed on in 2003, after 8 years and 5 months, but he has a new bunny now -- Yuebing (mooncake), a mixed Netherlands dwarf.

links for 2007-04-13


Satura Cakes


The other day, I had a craving for a Chestnut Cake from Diamond Bakery in Southern California. Since a trip to L.A. was out of the question, I looked for the next best alternative: Mont Blanc. The search for the Mont Blanc led me to Satura Cakes. Located on the middle of University Avenue in busy downtown Palo Alto, it serves a variety of baked goods (mainly the dessert variety) including cakes, cream puffs, rolls, and tarts.


Mont Blanc

The Mont Blanc is a traditional Italian cake/roll with a topping of chestnut puree, which resembles the mountain of the same name. The version at Satura is a more Japanese rendition of the dessert, which amounts to a crispy cookie/tart layer, followed by layers of whipped cream, chestnut, chestnut puree and topped with a candied chestnut and powdered sugar.


Strawberry Tiramisu

As you can see, instead of a rum soaked ladyfingers on the bottom, it's a mix of strawberry puree and white sponge cake. The result is delicious, with the perfect blend of sweetness and creaminess.

links for 2007-04-12


links for 2007-04-11


Canon PowerShot SD800 IS 7.1MP Digital Elph


Canon PowerShot SD800 IS 7.1MP Digital Elph Camera with 3.8x Wide Angle Image-Stabilized Optical Zoom

Last year, I bought the Canon SD550 digital camera, to replace my ancient Canon S200 Digital Elph (2.1 megapixels!). It was quite different from my S200 -- smaller and lighter, with a large screen. While the S200 was a chunky block of stainless steel, the SD550 by contrast was a slim and svelte form of chrome and plastic. The S200 looks like a digital camera built in the cold-war era, strong enough to withstand drops on the pavement, while the SD550 looks much more modern, and also much more frail. At 7.1 megapixels of resolution, the SD550 churned out pictures that on the whole, I wasn't very impressed with. My Maker Faire photoset on Flickr from last year shows the results of my testing with the SD550. Unhappy with the capabilities of the camera, I returned it, and waited for the Image Stabilized successor, the SD700 IS.

How quickly time passes -- when the SD700 IS was released in late May last year, I told myself I'd pick one up after I got back from Japan, but I never quite got around to it, and before I knew it, there was a successor to the SD700 IS -- the SD800 IS.

The SD800 IS is a mildly improved version of the SD700 IS -- 7.1 megapixels, ISO 1600 and DIGIC III vs. 6.0 megapixels, ISO 800 and DIGIC II, but where the SD800 gains in ISO and megapixels, it loses in lens range. Whereas the the SD700 IS has a lens range of 35-140 with 4x optical zoom, the SD800 IS has a lens range of 28-105 with 3.8x zoom, meaning that you do get a marginally wider angle lens with the SD800, but your range is bit shorter. It was a hard decision choosing between the two, as the price difference between the two cameras is now only about $50 -- but ultimately I opted for paying a bit more for having the wider lens on the SD800 IS than the longer range. (I figure if I'm taking long-range shots, I'm going to be on the DSLRs)

My main problem with tiny cameras like these has always been an inability to hold the camera steady while taking the picture -- but serving as an effective remedy to my unsteady hands are an Image Stabilizer and a large LCD viewfinder . The digital viewfinder is viewable in direct sunlight, making those outdoor tourist photos a breeze. There's also a standard viewfinder you can use if you don't mind smudging the screen.

The SD800 IS also includes 16 MB SD card, which is far too small for a 7.1 megapixel camera. Get a bigger memory card when you purchase this, and you'll be golden.

This is your basic point-and-shoot compact consumer camera with Image Stabilization -- want RAW, aperture priority or shutter-priority? This camera isn't for you -- a PowerShot G7 or A640 would probably serve you better. But if you just want something you can tuck into your jacket pocket for a quick snapshot, you can't go wrong with the SD800 IS.

links for 2007-04-10


A Steam Powered Artoo


Last year at the Make Faire, Crabfu was showing off a bunch of radio controlled, steampunkish creations. It seems that their latest creation is a Steam Powered R2-D2. By taking the shell of a broken R2 toy, they've crammed in a steam boiler, and create a functional droid. the result can be seen below.

links for 2007-04-09


Goonies (NES)


Of all the NES games I owned, probably the most difficult to complete was The Goonies (based on the movie of the same name). The game had nothing to do with the movie, and involved killing rats and getting keys to rescue your fellow Goonies. This video is a mashup of the original gameplay and the real version of the Cyndi Lauder song (rather than the 8-bit version).

links for 2007-04-08


LOTR: The MMOG Annotated


Earlier this afternoon, parakkum and I were chatting about the dissonance between game players within the MMOG and the fantasy setting. While everything under the sun has been made into a MMOG, the fantasy genre is the most successful of the settings, so it should be no surprise that they are releasing a Lord of the Rings: Online massively multiplayer game.

The new game should be quite different, and it's easy enough to explain the hordes of orcs and trolls that one player might have to face, but how do you explain an ever-respawning Balrog or a thousand players a day destroying The One Ring?

Back in the old EQ days, we used to joke about what a LOTR game would look like if it was designed by the same people who did EQ. I've annotated the dialog in italics to attempt to explain the EQ speak.

SCENE: Rivendell. Elrond is studying.

GANDALF: Ach! Damn it!

ELROND: Gandalf! Where did you come from? ... You-re naked.

When characters die in EQ, they return to their bind bind points naked

GANDALF: Stupid halflings who can-t play their class, that-s what happened.

ELROND: What? Where?

GANDALF: Moria. We were in the safe hall at Balin-s Tomb and Aragorn was going to pull some orcs to clear the way to the zoneout.

Pull -- in which a player targets the monster and drags it back to camp

ELROND: Which halfling messed it up? Frodo?

GANDALF: No, it was Pippin. I didn-t even want to bring him along but Frodo did insist. Aragorn was going to pull some orcs but out comes Pippin to "see what Aragorn was doing- and manages to aggro half the zone.

Aggro: to become the target of the monster

ELROND: So you got wiped out by a horde of orcs? Yuck.

GANDALF: Oh, no. They were green to most of us, so we cut through them all right. I was impressed by Legolas- bow crits. But then the Cave Troll got aggroed.

Green: EQ has a color coated xp system: green means that the monster is below your level

ELROND: But there were nine of you, you could have handled the cave troll.

GANDALF: Oh, and we did. Except Frodo didn-t know how to manage aggro properly. The troll started beating on him.

ELROND: Oh, no. Poor Frodo.

GANDALF: No, actually, Frodo was fine. He had a mithril chain tunic on.

ELROND: Jeez, just because he-s friends with Bilbo, does Bilbo have to twink him like that?

"Twinking" is when a higher level character gives a lower level character better equipment than they should have.

GANDALF: Yeah, no kidding. So the troll ran and Pippin of course forgets to snare.

Snare is a spell to reduce a monster's run speed

ELROND: Aragorn-s a ranger, why didn-t he snare?

Rangers and Druids both have this spell, but normally the Ranger doesn't snare since it pulls aggro, and Rangers get beaten to a pulp pretty quickly.

GANDALF: He was our main tank and was busy keeping the orcs aggroed on him. Pippin was just sleeping on the job. So the troll ran, and before we finally cut him down, he chain aggroed the Balrog.

ELROND: Oh, no. Stupid halfling dr00ds.

In EQ, halfling druids are the most looked down upon, because they have an xp bonus and the highest base wisdom, so it's often powerlevelers who play them. They were nicknamed dr00ds to reflect the 'leet' mentality of the players.

GANDALF: Yeah. So naturally, I decided to take it on the chin. I told everyone to run and I tried to hold off the Balrog by rooting him.

Wizards have a root spell in EQ, but it sucks.
ELROND: And he got you.

GANDALF: No, actually, I had my shield up, and I just chain-nuked him.

Wizards also have a damage reduction shield. Chain-nuking is when a player casts a direct-damage spell over and over.

ELROND: You SOLOED the Balrog? Wow.

GANDALF: Yeah, one hell of an XP hit too. But then when he fell, I turned and slipped off the ledge. I 10Ked when I hit the bottom of the Balrog pit. Didn-t even have chance to loot his corpse. And there went the XP from the orcs, the troll, AND the Balrog. Stupid Verant.

In EQ, when one takes falling damage from a great distance, they take 10,000 hp of damage, which results in instant death..

ELROND: Your corpse is in the bottom of the Balrog pit?

GANDALF: Yeah. But no worries, I think I know a way to drag it out of there.

ELROND: That-s good.

GANDALF: So, can I bum a SoW off you for a CR? I want to get back there before the Balrog respawns.

SoW: Spirit of Wolf -- Increases running speed. CR - Corpse Run.Running back to your corpse was what a person did after death.

ELROND: This is Rivendell. We-re high elves. The wood elves are in Lothlorien.

Players would beg for SoW from any elf, but only druids and ranger can cast SoW.
GANDALF: Nadgers. Which is where we were headed in the first place. Oh well, I-m a wizard at least, and there-s a portal not too far from there.
Wizards could teleport to portal locations within the world in addition to their bind points.

ELROND: Good luck on your CR. Why were you hanging out with those noobs anyway?

CR - Corpse Recovery, noobs -- short for newbies -- beginning players

GANDALF: I promised Frodo I-d powerlevel him in exchange for him completing the Cracks of Doom quest with me. He has the quest piece - the One Ring.

Powerlevel -- helping a player level faster.

ELROND: That-s NODROP, isn-t it?

NODROP items were items which could not be traded to other players.


ELROND: What do you get for completing that quest?

GANDALF: Robe of the White and Staff of the White. Those would be serious upgrades to my Grey robe and staff. I-ve had this gear for way too many levels anyway.


GANDALF: Anyway, I-d better go. Do you think you could get someone to go to the Moria zone to rez me once I get my corpse pulled there?

Rez - short for Resurrection, in which some experience loss from dying is returned.
ELROND: I-ll try to find a guildie.

guildie - someone within the same guild

GANDALF: Thanks.

links for 2007-04-07


links for 2007-04-06


Drawing with a Wacom Tablet


A couple of years ago, I bought a Wacom Tablet to help me touch up my photos. I played with it for a little while, but things got so busy that it has been mostly left to gather dust beside my computers. Because I felt like drawing some things, I dusted off the Wacom and plugged it in. At first I was very frustrated with the Wacom because everything I drew looked like I had drawn it with a felt tip marker, even after switching brushes and playing with the settings on Photoshop. The problem was that I had forgotten to load the drivers for the Wacom tablet; after that, everything worked wonderfully. What a difference pressure sensitivity makes!

Mike being frustrated by Wacom Tablet

Castlevania on Pipe Organ


At Yale, on a Pipe Organ from 1903.

Where are all the Wiis?


Way back in November, when the Wii was released, analysts were predicting that March would be when the supply of Wiis would be readily available. Well, here we are, in the first week of April, and there's not a Wii in sight.

Nintendo has sold over 2 million Wiis in the U.S. since the November launch, outselling every other console. In fact, it's beginning to look as if the Wii is the gotta have it device of 2007 the same way the Nintendo DS was in Japan a year ago -- selling out within minutes of becoming available. Nintendo has stated that they expected to release 6 million consoles by the end of their fiscal year (end of March 2007), in which I believe they met their target (while some regions have kept their numbers updated, some have not had their numbers updated since the initial launch -- total tally thus far has been 4.76 million units)

Back in January, following the post-Christmas release of Wiis, I noted that it'd be June or July before we saw supplies of the Wii adequately meet demand. I maintain that predicition, though it seems to me that it's still about 50/50 in those who have one, and those who want one -- which means possibly that the supply of the Wii won't stabilize for another 4 months.

Nintendo's got some nice games coming out in the next few months too. I cannot wait to get my hands on the new Super Paper Mario, and Mario Party 8. I think what I find most interesting about the Wii is the broad demographic that the console has reached, and that the Wii takes a different stance on video games -- instead of the other consoles which isolates the game player, it has moved the video game back into the living room and invites all watchers to participate.

Naruto Language Lesson: Datte bayo


One of the phrases that Naruto uses quite often is "Datte bayo".

In Japanese, there are many ways of ending a sentence -- one of the most common is desu, which loosely translated in english as the verb "to be". Desu is the polite form, while da is normal form. Naruto isn't exactly the most polite character, so he uses normal form of spealking. The --tte ending of da indicates that something is occuring at the moment, while the bayo is a phrase that puts emphasis on what was said before. A common English analog would be the phrase "you know".

In the English dub of Naruto, this is translated as "Believe it!", though I think a more emphatic "you know" could serve the same purpose.

links for 2007-04-05


Watching Naruto


One of the series that has been released in the States in recent years is Naruto. For a long time, I dismissed the series as a Dragonball Z-ish clone, filled with non-sensical story elements to fill the time when they weren't engaged in a battle for the fate of the world. I am glad to say that this is not the case. Despite Naruto's outwardly similar orange jumpsuit and spiky hair, Naruto is not Son Goku, and the similarities pretty much stop there.

The basic premise is that Naruto is an orphaned ninja who desires to be the leader of his ninja clan, and along the way him and his classmates have adventures. Pretty standard for shonen (boy manga), but the series so far has been completely gripping, leaving us eager to view the next DVD. (We've watched through volume 5 thus far, which ends at episode 20).

There are two editions of Naruto available -- one is the english-only dubbed version (which is what we've been watching), while the other is the uncut Japanese version. The edits mostly have to do with the opening/closing credits and removal of some scenes of blood and explicit toilet humor.

Super Mario Bros. 2 on Percussion


Whenever I see musicians performing pieces like this, I wish I had even a ounce of musical talent:

links for 2007-04-04


Eating Well, Just on Castro


This weekend, we had a friend visiting from out of town, which meant that we had an opportunity to be serviced by some of our favorite restaurants in the area.

Castro Street in Mountain View offers a myriad of options, and we begin our culinary journey at Xanh, the modern Vietnamese restaurant of Castro Street.

We ordered some old favorites which pleased our appetites:

    Soft-shell crab spring rolls to start as an appetizer. The warm crispiness of the fried crab complemented the coolness of the lettuce and spring roll skin.

    Spicy Tuna Tartare. This food choice would ultimately feed our desire to have sushi the following day. Chunks of fresh raw tuna, mixed with avocado and dashes of wasabi and lemon made this dish one in which the food simply melts in the mouth, leaving you wanting for more.

    Grapefruit Salad. Carve out a grapefruit, and fill the rind with pieces of grapefruit, shrimp, apple, vermicelli rice noodle, and a touch of fish sauce, and the result was delicious enough that it simply disappeared off our table.

    Shaking Beef. Cubes of Steak served on a bed of fresh greens. While I did not partake of this particular dish (other than some greens), everyone else seems to have happily enjoyed it, commenting that next time, they'd like a large.

    Catfish in a Claypot. I love this dish, as it reminds me of home cooking -- the sweet and salty sauce brings out the moist tenderness of the catfish, and goes great with both the jasmine or the coconut rice.

    Hazelnut Mousse. I can't get enough of this dessert -- my friends always tease me for ordering one for myself, refusing to share, but that's just how good it is -- the distinct taste of hazelnut, the crispy crust and the muted sweetness of the mousse is pure heaven for me.

Golden Wok Restaurant

This is by far, the Chinese Restaurant we frequent most often for Dim Sum. While their selection of dim sum items is limited and subject to change, it never fails us in our staple of shanghai dumplings (xiao long bao), barbeque pork buns (char siu bao), sesame balls (zhuma cho) or sweet glutinous rice. Their fried meat dumplings are also very good.

Sunday Evening was a fiasco of sorts, as our friend met up with a friend for dinner at Spice Islands (unknowingly ordering Mango Chicken and not ordering the gem of Spice Islands -- the Roti Prata) , and we set out to find a Japanese restaurant which was not closed. Sushitomi gave us their usual round of excellent food with unattentive service, as we dined on softshell crab, onigiri, and our standard fare of sushi (hamachi, uni, amaebi, saba, king kani, sake) and we sampled the blue fin chutoro.

Sunday evening was finished off with some cream puffs from Beardpapa's before we all happily went into food coma.

Lunch of Monday was at Shiva's, which had a lunch buffet. I'm a big fan of Shiva's food for dinner -- and their lunch buffet is quite tasty -- which is where the problem lies -- you end up eating so much at Shiva's for lunch that you can still feel the Indian food hours later. Stay away from the donut holes soaked in sugar -- it is an overwhelmingly sweet dessert, and opt for the praline cakes instead.

Being Level 70


In almost all MMOGs, advancement of levels is what drives a player to play. In the gaming circle, we call this the level treadmill, because the player gets on, and doesn't get off until he reaches the end. But what happens when the player reaches the maximum level attainable? This is when in most MMOGs the end-game content opens up. In WoW, it is no different -- and quite varied in the amount of content that becomes playable at 70.

New dungeons and new items become available to better your character, and ultimately that is what drives players to play and continue playing. With my characters at 70, there's no longer the drive to level (which consumes massive time) , but to just play and enjoy the game on a less hardcore and more casual basis.