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January 30, 2005

Valley of the Dolls

This is Petal, so named for her floral print dress.

We started with a fabric homunculus bought at the crafts store. Then Kelly and I sewed her outfit together, and we sewed a wig out of prepackaged hair. This is, I suppose, a representation of Laura Ingalls Wilder, since Kelly is doing her book report on a biography of that worthy.

But in the end, this looks less like a character from Little House on the Prairie, and more like someone you might see playing shuffleboard on a cruise ship. Still, I had fun making it with Kelly, even if tempers ran thin now and then.

Posted by dpwakefield at 06:59 PM

January 29, 2005

Aces Go Places

This is the movie I loaded onto my iBook to watch during this morning's acting class.

As the linked review says: "Sure it's dated, but it's also quite entertaining. That is, if you can get past the fact that's it's dated." Actually, it's not only dated, but comes from that same school of forced jollity and madcap wackiness that the My Lucky Stars movies also sport.

I guess I was more in the mood for it this time, as I enjoyed this one enough to give it a tepid thumbs up. I may actually go ahead and get Aces Go Places II at Expo this summer!

Funny, originally, I thought this movie starred Jackie Chan, but the lead is Sam Hui (Koon Kit), who bears a familial resemblance...

Posted by dpwakefield at 08:48 PM

January 27, 2005

Kung Fu Hustle

Apple's got a trailer up for Kung Fu Hustle now, and news is that it's getting a theatrical release in March. Sony Classic Pictures is handling it, so maybe it won't get the Miramaxe treatment.

For those of you who don't know, this is Stephen Chow's latest movie, which is breaking Asian box office records left and right. I've been a big fan of his for a long time, and own a few of his movies, foremost of which are God of Cookery and Shaolin Soccer. Needless to say, I'm rather excited that there'll be a (possibly well treated) theatrical release of this, and I'm planning to see it, even if I have to take vacation time to do it!

Posted by dpwakefield at 08:36 PM

January 26, 2005

Vitals

I finished reading Vitals by Greg Bear last night. I read it on the strength of Dead Lines. Looking back on my notes on that one, I find that both books suffer from weak endings. He wants to end with mystery, but instead it seems a bit of a copout after the fine elaboration of the premise. Still, I enjoyed it mostly.

Posted by dpwakefield at 07:43 AM

January 24, 2005

Jiang Hu

I forgot to mention that I finally got around to watching Jiang Hu. This was a present from James, one of my anime buddies. He bought it at last year's Anime Expo (held every year over the July Fourth weekend), so that should give you an idea how long I can sit on a DVD.

I actually enjoyed this movie, though I watched it in patches, usually on my laptop while waiting for Kelly to attend one class or another. When I finished it, I didn't get quite the buzz I had watching Zatoichi, but that's hardly a fair comparison.

Is it worth watching in general? Probably not. Only a hardcore Asian film junkie will appreciate it, and even that worthy may walk away disappointed.

[P.S. - I'm posting this from the parking lot of Kelly's dance instructor. Wireless rocks!]

Posted by dpwakefield at 05:33 PM | Comments (2)

January 23, 2005

Sew So

Kelly and I attacked her prairie dress project today, in earnest. We did the bodice, or upper part of the dress. Lacking a functional sewing machine, all sewing was done by hand. So all our stitches look like basting stitches, and I don't hold out much hope for the thing holding together longer than it takes to do the show and tell.

Even though this is a Simplicity pattern, I had to read the directions several times to figure things out, and we still have some exposed seams, and one reversed piece of fabric. I'm hoping the skirt portion goes a little more smoothly.

As for the bonnet, I'm hoping Kelly will lose interest before we get there!

Posted by dpwakefield at 09:18 PM

Today's Dish Is...

Cashew Chicken. It turned out quite tasty. Jean thinks it has too much garlic (is that even possible?) but still seems to like it. She wants to try another recipe we found online that emphasizes cabbage next week.

About my only complaint with this recipe is that it created so much, but since it's tasty, that's not much of a complaint.

Posted by dpwakefield at 09:11 PM

January 21, 2005

The Eye of Ra

Just thought I'd add a link to a gallery of photos of endodontists training on their honking microscopes. I swear the objective lens was as big as a saucer. Of course it was about two inches above my mouth, and hence hovering next to my eye.

Dr. Lampert must consume no caffeine. He's chattering with his nurse about measurements in the 1-3 millimeter range and using his hands as guided by this humongous microscope, and not a twitch. If I had to do what he does, I'm afraid I'd only be able to do 'group' root canals.

Posted by dpwakefield at 11:33 AM

January 20, 2005

The Downward Spiral

Back from the Endodontist, Dr. Lampert. The left side of my face is numb and puffy. Haven't had time for the novocaine to wear off and let me feel the soreness.

Dr. Lampert tells me that the shadow on the x-ray is not my damaged root, but rather bone loss next to the tooth. Bacteria in the dying nerve were leaking out into the surrounding tissue, and overrunning my immune system. So he wants to see me in three months to make sure that, now that the bacterial source is removed, my body is able to get a leg up and start rebuilding that bone.

So in addition to having to see my regular dentist to get the permanent filling on top of the root canal, I now have to wait months to find out if my final prognosis is good. Needless to say, i am a tad vexed.

Posted by dpwakefield at 04:37 PM

January 19, 2005

Appleseed

I won't try to write a full review, as it's late, but I finished watching the second part of Appleseed tonight. It gets across the kernel of the manga story, and conveys Masamune Shirow's beautiful art design. The motion capture for the characters was pretty detailed, but I generally felt I was watching mannequins when there was a need for subtle facial expression. Not quite Uncanny Valley territory, but stilted.

On the whole, I enjoyed it most when they were covering the backstory of the Appleseed universe, and I yawned a few times during the chases and spidertank battles. I'm happiest when Shirow's talking heads take the front rank.

Still, a beautiful movie, with lots of fetching detail. It was worth the gander.

Posted by dpwakefield at 10:41 PM

January 18, 2005

Tooth Ogre

Today's banner illustrates why you should never be honest with your dentist. I told my hygienist that I had been experiencing some aching in my upper teeth, and she took an xray. "I don't see anything, maybe it's sinus pressure."

Then Dr. Kierkegaarde came and took a look. "Oh, my. Look at that. Look at that! Tsk, tsk." To the trained eye, there is a shadow on the root of one of the teeth in this image. See if you can find it...

Dr. Kierkegaarde doesn't want to guess, but she unfortunately mentioned internal root resorption as a possibility, which sounds nastier than a root canal, one of which I've had in my life. She asked me if I'd had a bump in the face recently, perhaps playing with a child. Quite likely, given how Kelly and I play. I hope this turns out to be an inflammation, or at worst a regular root canal.

I've got to call some guy in downtown Portland for an appointment. We'll see.

First Update

I spoke with a receptionist, and told her the tooth number and Dr. Kierkegaarde's diagnosis, and she used the words 'root canal', so I'm at least back in familiar territory, i.e. I'm not worried that they'll actually jerk the tooth. I had a root canal done a few years ago, and while I didn't enjoy it, I got to keep the tooth.

That could change of course, but I had a lot of probably unnecessary anxiety after following that dental school link above...

Posted by dpwakefield at 09:33 PM

January 17, 2005

Open Access

I took Kelly to her Irish Dance class tonight. It's in one of those 'warehouse business park' affairs (just North of Durham Road in Tigard), really just units that are big insulated garages. The teacher rents one out and holds her dance classes in the big open space. Really no spectator spaces for parents, so you either go run errrands or sit outside in your car. Since I don't like leaving Kelly without 'emergency transport', I sit outside.

This evening, I thought I'd be clever, and take my laptop, so I could watch the first half of the Appleseed movie (the class is one hour long). I suppose there's a miniscule risk of being mugged for my laptop, as this is a parking lot in a business park, but it seems fairly busy with parents coming and going, and isn't otherwise a pedestrian traffic zone, so I took the risk.

After dropping Kelly off with the teacher, I settled in, fired up my laptop, and noticed that the wireless icon was giving me 1 to 2 bars (about 25% to 50% signal strength). I checked the connection, and I was hooked up to a network named 'linksys'. Since this is the name of a company that makes wireless routers, I realized I was looking at a wireless access point that had never been taken beyond its default configuration.

One of the nice things about the iBook is that when its wireless card is turned on, it looks for open networks, and if it finds them, it just joins them. No fuss, no hunting. So I'm on the Internet! In addition to watching the first 45 minutes of the movie on my laptop, I also spent fifteen cruising Slashdot and all my usual browsing haunts.

I do love my technology!

Posted by dpwakefield at 09:41 PM

January 16, 2005

Chicken Success

So the experiment with General Tso's Chicken went well. It takes a bit less time to make than Kung Pao Chicken, but is still a middling complicated recipe. Probably the two longest recipes I know (discounting pies) are my Tofu Chili recipe and my whole wheat bread recipe (which takes around seven hours!!!). So these two Chinese chicken recipes are a 'cakewalk' compared.

The General Tso's Chicken recipe needs some tweaking, in my opinion. The sauce base is 1/3 cup soy sauce, 1/3 cup vinegar and 1/3 cup water. As you may imagine, it's really salty. And it doesn't really reduce enough for my tastes either. I want a sauce that isn't watery, and in the entire time I was 'wokking' it, it was still fairly thin. Still, with the ginger, garlic and hot peppers, it was tasty.

Funny little aside. I mentioned how Jean had made a sort of conceptual leap from General Tso to Governor, remember? So I was at Hunan Kitchen in Wilsonville with a couple of my work friends having lunch, and I told them about it. I got to the punchline just as the owner was leaning over setting out our tea. She chimed in, "uh huh, Captain Chicken, Sargeant Chicken..." We all cracked up that she just joined right in.

Posted by dpwakefield at 09:59 PM

Simplicity?

Too soon to say. But Kelly and I pinned the patterns for the Simplicity dress onto our fabric, then she did the cutting, and I did the marking (with an ordinary #2 pencil, since we lacked the 'chalk' pencil mentioned in the directions). Now all the bits of cloth are sitting patiently in the bay window where Mr. Sun can get to work fading the floral prints!

I told Kelly yesterday that she was going to have to hand stitch everything, and she immediately asked "don't we have a sewing machine?" I told her about the antiquated machine sitting in the garage, and assured her that at 30+ years of age, it probably didn't even work. But she had me haul it in anyway. The complete absence of a power cord quickly put an end to that fantasy. So sometime during the week, we'll begin with the stitching. Cross your fingers!

Posted by dpwakefield at 09:45 PM

Lorem Ipsum

Perhaps the most comprehensive explanation of Lorem Ipsum I've seen. I hope this stays on the web, as it also has a generator, allowing such swatches of pseudo-Latin as:

"Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetuer adipiscing elit. Sed tristique, quam et placerat imperdiet, lorem dolor aliquam ante, vestibulum scelerisque ipsum erat in odio. Donec luctus, nunc in accumsan rhoncus, metus mauris fringilla elit, a venenatis metus mi vitae lorem. Donec quis sem nec mi lacinia venenatis. Nulla sagittis sem in ante. Integer id enim in augue fringilla fermentum. Duis vulputate, est nec aliquam sodales, purus erat imperdiet leo, id facilisis libero mauris ac arcu. Phasellus aliquam venenatis massa. Praesent aliquet adipiscing metus. Aliquam vulputate. Nullam tincidunt nulla sit amet eros. Proin turpis felis, suscipit id, accumsan id, ultricies ac, pede."

Note that this is just one facet of the phenomenon labelled greeking. The other is to simply represent text as illegible graphics resembling small lines of printed text. In both instances, the practice is to allow layout designers to judge a text layout without being distracted by content.

Posted by dpwakefield at 10:10 AM

January 13, 2005

Sonatine

I watched Sonatine on my laptop while Kelly played Simpsons Road Rage.

I've seen a few of his movies on cable, but only seen this and Zatoichi on DVD. However, I'm prepared to state that if you've seen one Takeshi Kitano movie, then you will recognize others by his distinctive style. I'd give Zatoichi 4.5 out of 5 stars, while this rates a solid 4.

Posted by dpwakefield at 09:20 PM

Dance Hall Crashers

Damn, I can't believe I waited this long to put this CD on my computer and iPod. I've owned it forever (okay, eight or nine years) and it was sitting in a shoebox, fercripesakes!

I really like the Dance Hall Crashers. They remind me of No Doubt before they ditched their Ska-rific notes. So now I'm really digging the songs while riffing on code here at work. Yeah!

Posted by dpwakefield at 04:22 PM

January 12, 2005

Eleven Secret Herbs and Honorifics

So our exeriment with Kung Pao Chicken went so well that I was bubbly. I told Jean that I wanted to try my second-favorite Chinese dish, General Tso's Chicken. She encouraged me, and that seemed to be that.

Then yesterday, Jean handed me a sheet of paper. "I found that recipe you wanted to try." And there it was. A recipe for ... Governors Chicken.

Posted by dpwakefield at 07:58 PM

January 10, 2005

Foul King

I was fiddling with my iBook tonight trying to prove to myself that I could play region-coded DVDs without 'flipping the code' of my DVD drive. I'd read that a video player I already have installed on my iBook is able to play any region-coded disk as if it were region-free. While I can already play my Region 2 and Region 3 disks on my PS2, I'm always interested in new ways to stick it to the man!

Initially I stuck in the Korean movie The Foul King, a disc I've had for two years. I mistakenly assumed that it was Region 3, being from Korea. It's been so long since I watched it I forgot it was actually Region 0. Anyway, it refreshed my memory about what a strange film this is. It has a lot of comic elements, but it is definitely not a comedy. It is the story of an underdog, but the underdog never really succeeds in overcoming his underdog status. And while it doesn't have a conventional happy ending, I was nevertheless satisfied with the story.

Dae Ho is a bank clerk bullied by a boss who literally puts him in a headlock whenever he feels the need to establish dominance. Dae Ho eventually comes to the conclusion that if he can just once break the headlock, he will break out of his stale life. So one evening when he coincidentally passes the delapidated gym where some bush-league professional wrestlers are trained by a washed up retired masked marvel, it only makes sense that he would decide to beg to be trained as one himself.

He gets given the role of a wrestling 'cheat', The Foul King, and stumbles into the role with relish. Still working as a bank clerk during the day, and training or attending matches at night, it's a wonder he manages to stay awake, but somehow he has deep wells of stress to draw on from his years of repression.

I won't risk giving away the remaining plot. I'll only say that I really enjoyed this, moreso after I'd had some time to think about it. Four out of five stars.

Oh, and a test with Killer Clans, a Region 3 disk, confirms that I can play region-encoded disks on my iBook!

Posted by dpwakefield at 09:47 PM

January 09, 2005

Sewing

Or not. Today Kelly and I embarked on the first steps in her project to supplement her book report on the life of Laura Ingalls Wilder with a doll in a hand-sewn prairie dress. Clever lad that I am, I suggested that we start with the bonnet, which would surely be simpler than a dress, and let us earn our chops before starting on something more complex.

However, the directions were cryptic, the pattern was larger in it's smallest choice than the head of our doll, and I spent the afternoon scanning patterns into Photoshop and scaling them down to 50% of the original. Finally, I swallowed my pride and asked Jean if she had any insight into the pattern we were trying to decipher. After much discussion, her verdict was Simplicity itself. That is, "what you should have done is use Simplicity patterns. They're much easier to use."

Turns out the bonnet pattern, by a company called Burda, was intended for advanced users. So simply limiting myself to a mere hat wasn't gonna make this a cakewalk. I have yet to look at the dress pattern, but have at least some mild hope of an improved understanding.

Posted by dpwakefield at 09:04 PM

Kung Pao Shricken

Today I made Kung Pao Chicken, using chicken breasts, and a recipe for Kung Pao Shrimp. The only flaw seems to be that in order to get the chicken cooked perfectly, you have to accept any chicken fat into the bargain. That accepted, the dish turned out excellent, if I do say so myself.

Posted by dpwakefield at 08:49 PM

Asian Movie List

Because I've had a couple of my friends ask about borrowing various movies from me, and since this is an Anime Expo year, where I typically buy a spate of new Asian movies in the Dealers Room, I decided to post all my movies here. Friends can reference the list and find out what they'd like to borrow, and I can check it to make sure I don't buy something I already have.

So I'll update this list as I add new members to the family (or sell/recycle disappointing items). Note: I may have forgotten when a movie is in fact region-controlled, so let me know and I'll correct it. I'll add real links to reviews as time permits, but for now, most are dummy links. Forthwith, the list:

DVD, Region 0 or 1

Should be playable on any DVD player.

DVD, Region 2 or 3

You need a multi-region or region-specific player for these...

Laserdisc
VCD

Will play in many DVD players.

Posted by dpwakefield at 09:09 AM

January 03, 2005

Napoleon Dynamite

Jean and I saw Napoleon Dynamite when it was in theatres, and really enjoyed it. Now it's out on DVD, so we bought a copy, and watched it over the holiday break. It's just as funny and engrossing the second time around.

There are extras, including deleted scenes, which make it clear to me, at least, that they made all the right cuts. The extra scenes are nice, but they don't add anything to the movie. Also, the parts of the commentary I listened to were fun, but I actually preferred my own interpretation of events to the director telling me who the woman on the bike was.

Posted by dpwakefield at 09:58 PM

January 02, 2005

Kelly's Next Project

And so, to a certain measure, my next project...

Kelly read a biography of Laura Ingalls Wilder for her January reading project. In addition to writing a book report, she's got to do some sort of project to bring the book alive. She's decided that she's going to hand sew a prairie dress and bonnet for a fabric doll.

So today we ventured out to Jo-Ann Fabrics, where we searched patterns, looked at bolts of cloth, and stood in two diffferent lines, one to have the cloth cut off the bolt, and the other to pay. I don't plan to do any of the sewing, but I expect I'll be helping with the pattern cutting. Stay tuned for updates!

Posted by dpwakefield at 06:57 PM

Culinary Holiday Swan Song

Tomorrow is my last day off work, though it's already filling with chores. So it is fitting that this weekend saw the last of my 'fancy cooking'. Saturday I made a recipe for Turkey Tetrazzini, which was great hot out of the oven, and perhaps even better this evening after a day marinating in the frig.

Today for lunch I made Pork Tenderloin Medallions. We've had this before, but it turned out great all the same. Dunno when I'm next gonna do a special dish, but I think it needs to be a pie, to try out my stocking stuffer pie weights.

Posted by dpwakefield at 06:42 PM