June 28, 2005
Nightmares & Fairy Tales Vol. 1
Last night I finished reading Nightmares & Fairy Tales Vol. 1 by Serena Valentino. I really like her stories, and she always finds great artists to illustrate them. Nightmares & Fairy Tales is partially completely new content, and partially dark renditions of classic fairy tales like Snow White and Cinderella. The artist for this volume is an artist from Singapore named FSc (Foo Swee Chin). The Asian influence is quite obvious at times.
Successful Suspended Animation
It was reported today that scientists have successfully created zombie dogs. Or more precisely, successfully drained all of the blood from a dog and replaced it with a freezing saline solution. The dogs ceased all biological activity and remained at 7°C for three hours, before the saline solution was drained and replaced with blood. Their biological functions were restored by providing a 100% oxygen environment and an electric shock to their heart. Tests indicate absolutely no negative side-effects. We're almost there.
June 26, 2005
I came over to Shannon + Yvonne's house yesterday around noon so we could use a $6.95 lunch coupon at Black Angus. It was very good and we all got stuffed. When we were there, Mei-Ling said that this was the celebration for Yvonne's junior high graduation. But we don't really believe her.
Afterwards, Mei-Ling went to Du Jin Ban while the rest of us went to Borders because I had some 30% off coupons. They were playing the original 1971 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory so we sat to watch it. I bought Nightmares and Fairytales Vol. 1 by Serena Valentino. Yvonne bought Prince of Tennis Vol. 7 and Shannon bought Naruto Vol. 4.
Then, back at their house, I saw that they had 99¢ coupons for movie rentals at Hollywood Video. So Shannon stayed home to play with Arthur and David outside while Yvonne and I went to rent movies. We ended up getting Ghostbusters, Monty Python and the Holy Grail, and The Princess Bride. Shannon fell asleep during Ghostbusters since we watched it so late. And Yvonne is now obsessed with Monty Python and the Holy Grail.
Since it was so late, I slept over. Now we are going to go pick up some of my relatives from Hsiuli's house.
I am Sakaki
I took The Azumanga Daioh Character Quiz and I am Sakaki!
You are Sakaki-san! I want to meet you. In fact, everyone does. You're the coolest person out there. You are just inherently cool. But... you wish you weren't. You'd give it all up for being cute. Really really cute. You become obsessed by things and focus on them 100% of the time... and never with any results. You get easily embarrased and are very shy. You rarely feel comfortable in your own body. You try to protect your friends, and you always win whatever you do... without even trying. You'd like to be good with animals, but they ussually just use you... and sometimes abuse you. But they are the most important things in the world, along with cuteness and emotions. You tend to try to hide your inner shyness with a mask of indifference, but really, there's nothing to hide. You are just really cool. Your best friend would be a Kagura, and you should defenitely go into whatever field suits you best. You are good at everything, so just do what you love doing!
June 20, 2005
Shannon + Yvonne Sleepover
Last night, Shannon and Yvonne slept over. I picked up Yvonne from her volunteer job at The Discovery Store and then got Shannon from home.
After that we watched Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind. I originally didn't want to watch the movie until after reading the manga, but then I learned that the movie only covers part I of the manga. So I figure it's okay, especially since Miyazaki Hayao was so involved in the film's production. There were some slow-moving parts, which bored Shannon. She has a very short attention span.
Then, since we didn't have anything else to do, we went to The Tech Museum of Innovation. They had some pretty cool stuff there, and it was lots of fun. But we got there pretty late around 3:15pm and they close at 5:00pm. So we didn't get to go through the whole place. We'll probably go back some other time. For dinner we ate at Johnny Rockets.
June 18, 2005
The Cat Returns
I just watched The Cat Returns, a movie from Studio Ghibli but not by the famed Miyazaki Hayao. It's an entertaining, but simple movie. Good for the family or for anyone who likes cats, but nothing special. It's also a bit short at only 75 minutes, but that's probably better for its target audience.
A few days ago, I stopped by Orchard Supply Hardware and picked up some liquid for killing grass and weeds. I bought one that would sterilize the ground completely for a year, and one that would just kill whatever it touches. Today I used the latter to spray some random places in the concrete and in the backyard, near trees and near my neighbor's property. By tomorrow evening, those plants are supposed to be dead.
June 17, 2005
The majority of characters lacked depth, and the few that had more presence were superficial in their characterization. McDevitt also seems to lack a descriptive imagination; the only things described in any form were those things which are based off known reality. Anything new was often given a single word description, like horrible or terrific or unrecognizable.
Plus, the science behind the things didn't always make sense. For example, releasing mass during flight will not increase your forward velocity, unless the mass is pushed away in the other direction. Simply letting go of it does not do anything. And in a vacuum, with no fluid matter surrounding a ship, sticking your arm out of the window should not slam your arm backwards. Your arm does not lose momentum or skip out on the total acceleration. It is, after all, still attached to your body. And your body is still moving with the ship.
Simply put, I think the plot was captivating, but the characters and science mediocre.
June 16, 2005
On a hot day, the hushbox I just made can be a problem for the Hitachi PJTX100's fans. The heat will be generated faster than it leaves the box, and the fan will start working harder, thus more noisily, and the bulb lifetime will be decreased. So I rigged together a computer case fan, 9V battery, and switch that will turn on a fan to pump air into or out of the hushbox, depending on its orientation and position. This does help, but I need to figure out the best arrangement. Ideally, I will want to add more fans and replace the switch with a thermal trigger.
June 14, 2005
Ceiling Mounted Rears
I stopped by Good Guys today and picked up another pair of OmniMount 20.0 Ceiling speaker mounts, for my rear surround speakers. I pulled them out 18" from the back wall and they are now suspended about 6" inches lower. The sound is much clearer coming out of them now. A significant improvement. I've also got all the surrounds pointed directly at my primary listening position now, instead of mostly parallel to the ground plane.
June 13, 2005
Szu-Huey came over this afternoon and we washed our cars. My car was pretty dirty because I hadn't washed it in a long time. Afterwards, we watched Porco Rosso. It was a pretty good movie about a man cursed to become a pig after World War I. There is some ambiguity about what meaning the movie might have, beyond the action and straightforward plot. In particular, Porco sometimes reverts back to his human form. There is also a particularly moving dream sequence, or flashback, depending on how you look at it, about the pilots that died in the War.
June 12, 2005
Shopping with Alla
After coming back from Berkeley on Saturday, I dropped Yvonne off at The Discovery Shop, for her volunteer work. Instead of going home, I went to Alla's house in Fremont. I went to Fry's with her, Sasha, and their mom. She was looking to get a digital camera but instead of buying it there, she ordered it online later for much cheaper. Instead she got a USB key as a gift for her cousin for when she goes to see him.
After Fry's, we went to the Great Mall. Sasha and I mostly tagged along as Alla and her mom went shopping for shoes and clothes to take on her trip to Israel. And of course, after Sasha carried a bunch of the shoes around the mall, Alla went back to return three of them.
I did stop at MediaPlay to see if they had volume two of Azumanga Daioh, but it was $28. I did pick up copies of Porco Rosso, Nausicaä of the Valley of Wind, and The Cat Returns because they were each $16. Since these are Disney releases, finding them at this price is actually a deal when it wouldn't be for other movies. Disney never lowers their children's movie prices. Ever.
[Hm, this is interesting. The woman on the Great Mallstore directory page is the same as the one I have seen in magazine advertisements for learning a second language.]
After shopping, I ate dinner at Alla's house. Her mom cooked a lot of really good food. And we didn't get close to finishing it. I didn't eat a whole lot because I was still pretty full from eating pizza from Zachary's.
After dinner, I came home to take care of the kitties and fish and turtles. But went back to Alla's apartment for a little bit to help her pack. Georges was there too. Most of the time I was actually just doing stuff online.
Taking Yvonne to Berkeley
On Friday night I slept over at Shannon & Yvonne's house, because on Saturday morning Yvonne needed to go to Berkeley for her summer class orientation. She is taking two classes, one on tort law, and one on geometric trigonometry. I always thought a tort was a lawsuit against a big company for doing something wrong, like the cigarette companies. Turns out a tort is any injury or wrong committed to someone or something. So pretty much anything you might sue a person over.
We got there at 9am and the orientation was held in the Pauley Ballroom. I dropped Yvonne off outside the building and told her to go in while I went to park, but instead of going in she just stood there reading until I came back from parking. The orientation was kind of boring, but she met her two teachers and got her first homework assignments. For her law course, she is going to have a mock trial in a real courthouse before a real judge.
Then we went to Ned's Bookstore to get her books. Everyone at the orientation went at the same time, so the crowd in a single aisle and the line was super long. We should have gone back to get the books after visiting her classrooms. I had some trouble remembering where Boalt and Tolman are. I got Boalt mixed up with Cheit, and Tolman mixed up with Dwinelle. Going to the classrooms after buying books also meant having to carry the books everywhere.
After that, we drove to Solano and got a Stuffed Chicken pizza from Zachary's Chicago Pizza. I haven't gotten a pizza from Zachary's in a really long time, since there are only two locations: Berkeley and Oakland. It was really good.
Yvonne's Puppet Show
Thursday afternoon I was in Redwood City. I was done at 5pm so I decided to go to Shannon & Yvonne's house instead of going home, since there was so much traffic. Crossing the Dumbarton Bridge did not have as much traffic as 101S. Yvonne was recording her puppet show of a scene from A Midsummer Night's Dream with Sonia and Michelle. Michelle isn't actually in the show; she was only recording it. Since I'd left work early to go to Redwood City, I spent most of my time there working.
June 7, 2005
What I Did for Love
I found this really good short story by a Vietnamese girl who wrote under the pen-name VAL. It's titled What I Did for Love, and is about a pair of alienated teens who through unfortunate circumstance find each other. There's also an interview with the author.
I cleared the last of vines out of the backyard today. The ground is pretty yucky looking, with all the dead vegetation and leftover bits, but at least it isn't overgrown. I'm going to have to do something more to make sure it stays that way, as tall grass is already starting to grow back in the areas I cleared out weeks ago. Next stop is to buy some of that grass and weed killer stuff and spray it everywhere. I do still have to clean-up the plants growing in the little shelf area along the back fence.
Unfortunately, today I saw that part of my back fence had fallen down. It looks like the entire back fence that is adjacent to one of the houses is almost completely rotted away and the rest of it is likely to fall soon. The back fence that is adjacent to the other house is still in good condition. It doesn't look as old.
June 5, 2005
Hushbox Acrylic Cut-out
I discovered yesterday that the acrylic front to my hushbox was creating a ghost image, due to the index of refraction and slightly imperfect positioning. Unless the incoming light is exactly perpendicular to the surface of the acrylic, a ghost image would be created. Since I cannot perfect the position, I decided to cut out a hole. I used a circular saw to cut out a rectangular hold in the acrylic. It's not very pretty, but it works.
Yvonne and Sonia are supposed to re-enact a scene from A Midsummer Night's Dream in a puppet show, video tape it, and show it in class. So I went over today and the three of us built a puppet box out of plywood and 2"x4"s. They painted it using green and brown paint and some glitter to have some trees and bushes. It came out pretty good.
I also brought Quest for Glory: Shadows of Darkness over for Shannon. It was a little tricky getting the old game from 1993 to play on Windows 98, but after tweaking the sound settings it worked. She is playing as a fighter.
June 4, 2005
I finished building my hushbox and it looks and works pretty well. The acrylic plastic is held onto the front using some construction brackets I spray-painted black. By applying pressure onto the plastic when screwing in the brackets, I was able to get the plastic pushed tight against the frame, to minimize any air leakage between the plastic and the frame. Unfortunately, the plastic makes the front heavy, so I added a couple more brackets into the rear interior to hold a large block of mass. I used the push block we used to install the wood floor as the mass. Photos are up in my gallery.
House of Flying Daggers
Movie night was House of Flying Daggers. Szu-Huey, Rodney, and Zhao attended, plus three new IBM interns: Tracy, Tiffany, and David. The three of them had a coop dinner before hand, so they pretty much just showed up for the movie. I thought it was a very well done artistic movie, but unless you appreciate that aspect of the film, it can seem like there are things that don't make sense or are silly. But I do have to agree that dropping your weapon is a stupid thing to do, regardless of what is going on.
What may not be entirely obvious is that this is actually a love triangle movie, and not a martial arts action movie, or one with a particularly driving plot. The focus is instead of the differing aspects, beliefs, and emotional issues that come out of love. Especially when a person is asked to choose, but cannot because love, duty, and morality disagree or introduce uncertainty into one's decisions.
June 3, 2005
I started building a hushbox for my projector today. I am using 1/2" plywood for the base and sides, 1/4" plywood for the top, and 1/4" acrylic plastic for the front. The inside will be lined with 1 1/2" insulating foam. I'm letting the foam stick out a little bit in back so I am less likely to bump my head on the wood. Plus, if the hushbox does get knocked, the foam should protect the projector. I used liquid nails for the initial construction, but need to add some metal bracing to make sure it stays in one piece. I'm going to try and cover the outside with black felt so it doesn't look too bad. The finished unit will hang off the projector mount; I just hope it isn't too heavy.
June 2, 2005
I just watched the 2004 version of Appleseed and it is absolutely spectacular. The audio was immersive, perfectly mixed, and fully exploited. The visuals were distinctly Masamune Shirow, from the extremely detailed renderings to his distinctive drawing style. And since Masamune is a perfectionist, there were absolutely no corners cut during the production of this film.
The audio was across the board in 5.1 Dolby Digital and DTS (Japanese only). Extremely low frequencies for when the ground was supposed to be shaking, with aftershocks included. High frequencies were not cut, keeping those sounds realistic. The musical score and electronic soundtrack made the mood complemented the action without becoming the center of attention. Everything from shattered glass to grenade explosions to shuffling was accurately mixed in. And the mix was very precise about locating the source of sound, allowing me to pinpoint the speaker and really feel like things were happening all around me, exactly where they should be. Without sounding like they are from the speakers.
The English voice actors were excellent. No stuttered speech to match the mouth movements, as it would appear the animation was done with English in mind. I haven't watched with the Japanese audio track yet, but it's likely that they can match the English mouth movements easier, as English gives more play with the length and pacing.
The video had no stupid static scenes so the artists don't have to draw as much. People move. Eyes move. When you are looking at people, their bodies are not artificially rigid. Great pain was taken on realistic facial expression and character movement. There are a few instances where CG and artistry still weren't equal to a real person, but those were few. If you're willing to accept the visual style as without artifice, then the effort put into capturing human movement is exceptionally convincing.
And all of the depth and intellectual stimulation that Masamune puts into his works is still present. This is not just an action film, just as his manga work is not just pretty pictures. He has real vision and ideas about what the future could be like, both for the better and for the worse.
This film is so good I just ordered the Limited Edition version. I'll give this copy to my brother Dennis for his birthday.
SV Subwoofers Exchange Good
I received my replacement 16-46PC+ today, and set it up exactly as the one I sent back to them. This one is indeed moving an amount of air equal to the one I kept from the original pair, and it is working great. The guys at SVS have been absolutely great throughout this, and I can't thank them enough.
June 1, 2005
Vines Almost Gone
I've got almost all the vines out of the backyard now. Created another huge car-sized pile of plant material in the street again this evening. I also killed the remaining two pricker bushes; the last one was almost 7 feet high. I used my soil spinning tool to get out the roots for the original pricker bush and one of the ones from today. But the last pricker bush's roots are still deep so I wasn't able to get it out this time. I have about 40 square feet of vines and plants to get rid of. I also trimmed the banana trees so they don't look so horrible anymore.
Tiger is Faster
I have an old iBook Special Edition that I bought back at the end of 2000, and I'm currently using it as my music console in the home theater. I was running Mac OS 10.3 on it but 10.3 was slower than 10.2. So I downgraded to 10.2. Unfortunately, support for AirPort Express streaming music was added in 10.3. So I decided to try loading Mac OS 10.4 on it and it is actually faster than 10.3 and 10.2. Apple continues to make me happy.