November 30, 2006
The Eight Diagram Pole Fighter
It's late, so I'll just note this review and background article on The Eight Diagram Pole Fighter, which I watched on a whim this evening. It's considered one of the classics, and though occasionally flawed, I'm glad to have seen it.
November 28, 2006
In keeping with my habit of naming my computers after annoying anime females... that I'm currently enchanted with:
I could have taken a cue from Ergo Proxy and named it after the occasional heroine there, but then I'd have to decide if it was named Ril or Lir (come on, guys, it's obviouslyLil Meyer).
November 24, 2006
The "30K" in the title of this book stands for "30 degrees Kelvin", pretty cold. Like most books by Robert L. Forward, it is rich in physics puzzles, filled with fascinating xenobiology, and equally weighted with clunker characterization and story. As always, I had to ask myself seriously if I wanted to continue, as it's a battle as to which wins out, the great 'hard' science fiction or the painful fiction.
In the end, I stuck with it, and was rewarded with a wonderfully imagined alien race. Not so much their culture, but their biology and their reproductive cycle. If you like that sort of thing, it might be worth the trouble to read...
The last couple of seasons of anime have been an onslaught, and I kinda spread myself a little thin, especially considering that I hardly ever make time every night for a show. I just decided to drop a few shows and dump them off my computer, so just as an exercise, here's what I'm crawling through at the moment:
- Black Lagoon: The Second Barrage
- Death Note
- Ergo Proxy
- Ghost Hunt (with Renee)
- Gintama (with Renee)
- Hataraki Man
- Innocent Venus (don't know how much longer this will last)
- Garo (live action)
- Night Head Genesis (another possible cut)
- Wallflower (Yamato Nadeshiko Shichi Henge - with Renee)
- Yakitate (with Renee)
Jean and I tried to stay out of each other's way this Thanksgiving. Instead of making everything at once, she had control of the kitchen most of yesterday. She made the turkey, the homemade cranberry sauce, the brussel sprouts, the blueberry muffins and Renee's mashed potatoes. She stripped the turkey carcass and she made Renee a shepherd's pie with the remains. In all, many tasty and nutritious dishes. Thanks Jean!
I made the pastry dough for my pumpkin pie Wednesday night, and in the late afternoon Thursday, I made the pie filling (from a recipe supplied by Alan Batie) and baked the pie. I also soaked a batch of pinto beans Wednesday night, and precooked them yesterday. Today, while Jean was at work, I made my fave, Blue Ribbon Tofu Chili! Creating my mis en place ahead of time, the work was actually pretty easy this year. And I had some for lunch. Very tasty.
Come Christmas, I'll probably make my more standard pumpkin pie recipe, from The Best Recipe baking book. Much goodness. Needless to say, I won't be making any special dishes over the weekend. No room in the refrigerator!
My friend Nami asked me if I could record the Madonna special on NBC this week. It's a mark of how out of touch I am with most mainstream television that I had no idea it was happening, but a young woman in Fukuoka, Japan did. I set up the downstairs VCR, which is used mostly for playback by my wife. Jean set up her VCR in the living room. Mine didn't work, but Jean's did, so I'll be mailing off a VHS videotape at the beginning of the week.
It's been years since I've listened to anything by Madonna. I never really paid a lot of attention to her stuff. I watched and enjoyed her film performance in Evita, and even bought the album, but that's it. I watched snippets of the videotape to ensure that it had completed recording.
Synchronicity struck, as part of the spectacle was a group of athletes, running around the concert performing acts of Parkour and free running. It turns out that Sebastian Foucan, who played the Parkour-performing bomb-builder in Casino Royale, was also the choreographer for this aspect of the concert. When you're hot, you're hot...
November 18, 2006
I'm now the first few episodes into Black Lagoon - The Second Barrage, and all I wanna say is that my next computer almost certainly has to be named Revy. Nothing says geek like naming your computer after a fictional sociopath bounty hunter, eh?
Renee got her grades for her first term at Hazelbrook Middle School. 4.0! And that's counting taking a course in math one year advanced. She has every right to be proud. She's got native smarts, but she's busted her chops working some late evenings to learn and absorb. So now she's an honors student, and I think rightly so.
I told her that she didn't have to be an honors student for me to be proud of her (I really am proud of you, Renee), but she should be justly proud of her accomplishment, since she got there by her own effort. Congratulations, Renee!
November 17, 2006
Okay, it's over six hours later, and I still can't get over Casino Royale. I took the day off to rest after getting hit hard with a cold, and I decided to go see the new Bond flick.
From the opening graphics (and the great pop hit blending in with the action, Chris Cornell's "You Know My Name"), I was settling in for at least a decent treatment. I'd tried not to get my expectations too high, after reading repeated assertions that this was a return to roots. Even to the extent of trying to be more faithful to Ian Fleming's original story. Well, it's been way too many years since I read that book, so I can no longer remember the details, but the spirit is there.
This movie, like Batman Begins, returns to the origin of the exceptional individual. Fleming's Bond is both clever and brutal. As is fitting, we're introduced at the act that transitions him from, what? No past, just a mention by M that maybe he wasn't ready, but here he fulfills the criterion, to become a 'double 0'. I know that sounds a bit incoherent, but I don't want to give away plot points.
The first chase scene is classic. No helicopters, no speedboats, not even, to begin with, an Aston Martin. This was a footrace. Fast, brutal, athletic. If you've never heard of Parkour, this sequence is as good an introduction as any. Much of the movie is like that, pure, basic animal energy. Daniel Craig is disgustingly fit, and seeing him put on a full-on sprint like a cheetah rushing to bring down a gazelle, well, it's just spooky.
Another thing I can appreciate is that the pace of the movie varies so widely. First quiet, then frenetic, then conversational. Several portions of the movie center around a high stakes poker game (Casino, duh!), and for most of those scenes, it's light dialog, hooded stares, no action. And they let it happen.
Are there gadgets? Sure. They pop up when needed, and in service to the story. We don't have a curmudgeonly Q introducing a raft of exploding household appliances and every accessory a sports car nut could ever dream of. Don't get me wrong, in the Connery days, those sequences worked. But over the years, the gadgets have come to overshadow the story. I like the Bond who moves effortlessly between the country club and the dark alley, and the clear indication that any person he meets is a potential enemy. Cold war psychosis distilled.
How about explosions? Yes, they have them too. And fast cars. And plenty of fights. But somehow it all seemed just enough, rather than more, more, MORE! And in most cases, the fights felt like a guy who really felt like they were for keeps. Brutal, and pretty short. Not glamorous. Not 'manly'.
Fleming's Bond is both more and less than human, a bit of a sociopath, but maybe a bit of a Da Vinci as well. Daniel Craig carries that mantle well.
It says something that tonight I've been thinking of Dr. No and Goldfinger, two of my favorite Bond movies of all time. Some time must pass, I'll have to see this on DVD, on the telly late at night, juxtaposed with other pop culture. But I think it'll pass the test of time.
November 05, 2006
Tom should turn his place into a pub. Or an arcade. I was over to his place for what's turning into a monthly gathering, with a mix of friends I've come to know over the years, mostly met at NOVA. Yesterday evening, it was Alan, Bo & Lisa, Chris & Valeska, Aidee and John Jackson, of all people!
John Jackson had gone to Anime Expo this summer, as he does every summer, and he brought treats for everyone. He gave me an artbook for Kamikaze Kaitou Jeanne, but stupid me, I forgot it when I went home. Hopefully Tom will stash it safely for me until next month's shindig.
We went out for Asian, some chain joint with adequate Chinese food. I tried their Kung Pao chicken. Very different from the restaurant in Wilsonville, or Wu's Open Kitchen. Good enough, though.
And when we got back, I also got to see Chris playing Elite Beat Agents, the American adaptation (remake?) of the smash Nintendo DS game Osu! Tatakae! Ouendan. Both are rhythm games, where you use the DS stylus to tap areas of the touch screen in time to the music. I suck at these sorts of games, but I still enjoy them, and I may eventually get a copy. I tried to see if Renee would like one, but while she found it cute, I don't think she had any desire to try it herself.
Lots of game-themed activities then, and lots of fun conversation. Both Tom and Alan got quizzed by me on a science extra-credit project Renee has from school. It's poorly specified, whether due to the teachers' keeping it informal or my daughter flaking, I'm unsure. But the project is to find/make an object which will float in water, neither sinking to the bottom nor floating at the top. This is a fairly delicate balancing act, trying to match the density of water, without over or undershooting. Most of our attempts failed miserably, but a few were at the borderlines (Jean thinks she's gotten the closest, as of today, Sunday, using a saltwater solution in a four-ounce seal-able plastic container). Tom thought it was possible but probably required more than an eleven-year old should be expected to come up with. Alan made some useful suggestions, and if the clock doesn't run out, I'lll try them. But right now, I'm just urging Renee to write up what she's tried and her reasoning behind it. I think that's the real purpose of the experiment, to hone their observational skills and experimental design instincts.
Looking forward to the next bash. For now, it's goodnight!
Black Bean Soup Returns
I made this recipe before, but I had to substitute black turtle beans for the black beans I used before, and it did make a material difference to the recipe. Not as thick, different taste. Still, it tastes better than the average soup, and I loves me soup. I put a few servings away in the freezer as I was worried that we wouldn't be able to use it up before it turned, but the weekend is not over yet, and the larger tupperware bowl is down to about one serving.
Pity this recipe is so time-consuming to make. It takes upwards of two hours, with frequent attention required. So I won't be making it weekly, but my it's good!
November 03, 2006
One More Year
Posting late because there were ISP problems where I host this weblog...
Tuesday night was Halloween, and it was pretty neat. I'd called Renee's friend's mom a few days before and we'd agreed that I'd stop by their house with Renee around 7pm on All Hallow's Eve. So I was at work, working with a coworker on a subtle and annoying bug, saying "I have to get out of here by 6pm at the latest." I figured that would give me plenty of time to get ready.
So it's six o'clock and I go back to my office to gather up my stuff, and my cellphone is vibrating. I rush to pick it up, and the first thing I hear is "are you on your way home? Kaitlin wants to start trick or treating."
"What? I thought we agreed on 7pm?"
"Yeah, but she wants to start now."
So Renee's friend bumped up the timetable, and I just got home, put my work stuff away, switched into my winter jacket, and Renee and I drove on over.
Kaitlin is quite a bit shorter than Renee, and pretty skinny. She was wearing a cat costume. While petite, she's got a surprisingly deep and sonorous voice. We started walking around her neighborhood, and she and Renee are jabbering and cracking jokes the whole time. While the evening was pretty crisp, it wasn't nearly as bitterly cold as last year. Still, Renee's costume included a short skirt, and she refused to wear a jacket, since that would hide her costume, so I'm sure she was courting hypothermia.
We walked away from Kaitlin's home for about half an hour, doing the usual trick or treat drill at every lit house. About then, Kaitlin said, "I think we should be heading back. I don't recognize anything here." I assured her that even though this wasn't my neighborhood, that I felt confident that I could backtrack. So we started back.
On the way we encountered a police car, whose female officer confirmed we were heading in the right direction. She also gave us candy!
Eventually we got back to Kaitlin's house, and Renee and Kaitlin sat around swapping loot while I talked with Kaitlin 's parents. Finally it was back home for Renee and I. Hot showers all around, and end the night.
So I don't know if this will happen again next year, but I'm grateful to have had one more year of Halloween with my daughter.