May 5, 2009
Review of the BBC Series Survivors (2008)I recently watched the BBC Series "Survivors", which is apparently a remake of a 1975 - 1978 British TV show. It came out in 2008 an concerns a virulent flu outbreak that kills off all but about 1% of the population. Put this on the TV and see if you can convince people that it is a documentary on the current state of the H1N1 "Swine Flu" epidemic going on in Britain. You probably won't get too far with it, but it really is a pretty scary presage of what could happen. I enjoyed the series quite a bit. It has a lot of the flavor of 2006 TV Series Jericho, itself an end-of-the-world descent into de-civilization via not disease but nuclear war. Both deal with similar issues and are a lot of fun. They also both remind me of J. Michael Straczynski's Jeremiah, a TV series about a post-nuclear world where ... Hm, I get the feeling that this could go on a for a while. So I'll cut it out now. Anyway, I enjoyed Survivors a lot. It has apparently been renewed for a 2009 season, so that is something to look forward to (along with the BBC standby of Doctor Who.) I usually try to put in a few pictures because I know that people won't read blog posts without them, but I didn't manage to get any pictures this time. Bummer. Just imagine a very empty Britain, like something out of Children of Men, or 28 Days Later or ... wait, I started doing it again.
April 30, 2009
My first, and last, Kart Racing Experiencereally amazing Tokyo Aqualine Tunnel and got there a bit early. I didn't know until then, but R.'s Mini Cooper's GPS unit has a TV tuner. So we watched some TV. Also, it has a remote control. Seriously? It is very hard to get any farther than an arm's length away from the GPS unit in that car even if you tried. But still, a remote control. Wow, we are lazy. Anyway, we had a total of 19 people. That means we had to split into two groups. The fast group, and the slow group. We determined who was in which group by a time trial. Before that we had a 15 minute practice period. I have never ridden in these little carts before, and I'm bad with motion in general. I get car sick easily, I hate landing on airplanes, basically everything at Disney Land or any of those amusement parks makes me throw up, most elevators make me a bit quesy... So sitting a few inches off the ground, zooming around and making hard turns is probably not something that would be good for me. So on the practice laps I was very slow. I wasn't sure if what would happen on the turns. I was worried that taking one at high speed would mean I would flip over. Scary. By about the tenth time I got passed on a corner though, I began to figure out that maybe I wouldn't flip over if I was going a bit quicker through the corners. So on the time trial I gave it more gas, and promptly spun out. My best lap time in the time trial was the second worst time in the whole group, so I was solidly in the second, slow, group. R. made it into the first, fast group. The slow group was first. I finally decided that I might as well try to gun it as much as possible. The race was set up for 22 laps. By the third lap I actually figured out that I basically only had to let up on the gas on two corners. I started actually passing people. I went from second to last to first. With five laps to go, I thought I had it won. Then I spun out and fell back to 3rd place. I was just barely able to make it to first place with 3 laps to go. I am honestly really impressed that I managed to do that. Unfortunately, the last five laps or so I was starting to feel pretty ill what with all the cornering and skidding and fast moving and whatnot. So basically after I finished, took the picture with the flag, I got out and felt like throwing up. I didn't though, and I managed to get some water, and about two days later I was feeling find again. R. did well for her group, came in 4th. As the winner of the slower group, my best lap time was only better than about half of the best lap times of the people in the first group. All told though, it was a lot of fun. Except for the sick part. I'm glad I was in the second group and not the first, but I know that is not something I will be doing again.
April 14, 2009
Sakuracon 2009By pure chance our hotel was next to the Seattle Convention Center. The week before was the big comic book convention, ComiCon. The day we left Seattle was the first day of the Sakura-con, an anime-themed convention in Seattle. Apparently. R. and I had a few minutes before leaving, so we popped into the convention center and took some pictures. She was too shy to take the pictures, but really got a kick out of seeing everyone dress up. I took all the pictures, and I asked every person if it was ok. Everybody was super excited to get their picture taken, and they almost always posed in some way appropriate to their character.
Click to see pictures and ... read more (747 words)
From SFO to SeattleR. and I were in Seattle. Click "read more" to see a bunch of pictures and words about it. read more (1775 words)
March 10, 2009
Dwarf Fortress tutorialDwarf Fortress is a game that I would like to play. I haven't had time to look into it though, and it looks hard to to learn. When I get a chance, I should check out these Dwarf Fortress tutorials.
And set up some machine that can play it. I hope it runs under WINE.
February 25, 2009
Jeff Bezos and Kindle 2 on The Daily Show
Let's see the clip. Oh, this isn't a movie?
I think it is really cool that Jeff went on the Daily Show to promote the Kindle 2. I took a few screenshots, and added what I thought were funny moments. The first shot Jon acts surprised when "Kindle 2" isn't a movie. He gets lots of movie guests. In the second shot he was poking fun at shipping costs, and Jeff introduced the Amazon Prime program ($79 a year, all orders shipped 2day shipping at no further cost) and Jon gave him a bit of ribbing about that. If you order a lot from Amazon it is a great deal. If not, then it isn't such a great deal. But just wait until gas prices rise a bit more...
The third shot is the actual Kindle hand-off, and the fourth shot just has the crawl info for Jeff. Thought it was interesting.
What a surprise. R. said I was entirely too surprised when this came on, but I don't see the director of her hospital on the Daily Show. :)
February 11, 2009
Amazon's Kindle 2their ebook reading, the Kindle. It is a nice looking piece of hardware. I actually tested a version of this a few months back when I was in Palo Alto. I really would like to get one of these devices, but it is only being sold in the US currently because of the included wireless internet service. I assume. I will definitely buy one of these if they are released in Japan, but I think I can wait until then.
I have an OLPC that I use to read ebooks on, so that should last me for a while. I'm also a bit unhappy that the books are Digital Restrictions Management on them so you can't read the books that you buy on other hardware. I wonder if the books will be accessible in 20 years or so. I know that my real paper books will be, as long as I manage to store them that long.
Anyway, a cool looking device that I really want, but I'll wait until we get a Japanese approved version out.
February 8, 2009
Game Center CX: So totally nerdy, it has to be Japanese
Arino-san up close. He's afraid of "the concept of (a) time (limit)!"
Game screen shots with little explanations of the game characteristics. In this case, rappelling action is the key to the strategy.
Of course, as with almost all funny people on TV, Arino-san is from the Kansai region. I'm not really sure why he is so funny, but he is really funny. He's playing some game, and gets up to the end boss. He pauses the game and is like "What's that? It's HUGE!" but the way he says it is hilarious. I've watched the first 5 rental episodes of the show (there are 6 total) and have enjoyed each one.
The "Division Chief" (課長 - Arino-san) plays some tough games. I was interested when he played Prince of Persia (the Super Nintendo version.) I played Prince of Persia on the Apple //e (after Karateka), but I never got very far at all. So it was really interesting to watch Arino-san go at it. I'm glad I didn't put much time into the game: it was super crazy hard!
Anyway, check out the Wikipedia link. It is comprehensive. Nerds. I highly recommend the show. The Japanese is fairly accessible, it is super funny, and even if you don't understand Japanese just watching the games is pretty cool.
February 7, 2009
Things I've been watching on TV
The Terminator TV show has been excellent. The second season has started to air, and I'm really looking forward to watching that. I haven't had the time to watch it yet though. (I probably spend too much time writing pointless blog posts.)
I have also been watching "It's always sunny in Philadelphia" but honestly it is ... a bad series. But I'm somehow hooked on it. It is a low-class sort of humor, written and acted by idiots, idiotically. Slapstick and lowbrow. And yet somehow fascinating. Danny Devito randomly shows up after the first season. It is worth a look, but I can't explain why I keep watching it.
"Star Wars: The Clone Wars" is surprisingly good. The movie got panned, but I have really been enjoying the TV series. It is an old-school Flash Gordon style serial (that reminds me, I watched the first bit of Sci-Fi's "Flash Gordon" remake, but stopped because it wasn't good Sci-Fi, wasn't good Fantasy, and just generally wasn't good.) The Clone Wars has some annoying characters, but it does some very interesting things. The first few episodes have annoying characters with bad accents, but get past that (or just skip them) and it is very good. One of the things that I really like about it is that they show things from the point of view of the clones. They also kill them, and don't just have the clones act like throwaway killable ... clones. It would be very interesting if they would look more at the morality of the war, and the war from the point of view of the soldiers (they do this a bit), and the social position of the jedi and power they wield. It could become a really cool sociological study. Also, the space battles are totally cool. I recommend it!
"Flight of the Conchords" is amazing. The second season has just started. I am looking forward to that a lot. I tried to show R. the first episode. She didn't get it. Although, thinking about it, you really have to be good at English to catch the subtleties. It is hilarious. I'm positive I would not understand the same sort of thing in Japanese.
"Battlestar Galactica" is also excellent. I need to start watching the next season.
Also, I have been watching the new Knight Rider. It is bad. But I still keep watching it. Probably because all the actors are beautiful in it. And the opening theme music is amazing.
Actually, I think I watch too much TV. Man I really miss basketball. I used to be an NBA League Pass subscriber, and I would watch one or two games a day. But now I am lucky to find one game every other month or so.
February 1, 2009
Cool Amazon Robot Party
Large Danboard Robot (peeking over my cube wall)
Mini Danboard Robot
Danboard and mini Danboard hanging out together
I envision that the start of the human-robot wars will look something like this
January 20, 2009
I need to check out 紅虎餃子房 or 万豚記According to Famitsu, the restaurants 紅虎餃子房 and 万豚記 will have SF4 themed menus from 2009-02-12 to 2009-04-12. There are a bunch of either of those places in Tokyo, so I should be able to find one. Didn't look like there were any in Shibuya though.
Also you get a card with a QR code and can download a character voice to your phone. Or something. I hardly use all the crazy stuff that my phone can supposedly do.
January 17, 2009
I really hate ZangiefActually, Zangief is totally my favorite character. I love him. This guy apparently doesn't though. A rap from Balrog / M. Bison's point of view. Really funny. Man, I want to go play some SF4.
January 12, 2009
Crayon Physics Deluxe
Crayon Physics Deluxe Menu
The level select GUI is cool too
Pivots! They are part of Physics!
Make your own pivots!
In the past three or four years, I've bought maybe three or four games: the Orange Box (for Portal mainly - I haven't gotten anywhere on HL2 really, it is too scary, Galactic Civiliations 2, which is totally awesome, World of Goo and now this one.
I have only played a few levels, but it is really fun. You basically get to draw stuff, and they follow a reasonable physics model. So far as far as I have gotten there are little pivots points that you can use to make pivots, but so far most of the game involves drawing bridges and using weights and stuff to make the ball move around.
There is a really nice pace to the game where each level takes only a few minutes. It is slowing introducing me to how to use the game's controls and idioms, and probably will get harder once they have introduced all the game elements.
The music is really nice, and the GUI is very pretty with a child-like crayon-based feel to it. I highly recommend this game. Go and get it!
January 8, 2009
Another brief roundup: cheap ebooks, cool indy games, and a neat graphics library
First up, cheap $1 ebooks from Orbit. It looks like this publisher is selling one ebook per month at $1, which is a deal that you can not pass up, even if the books are DRM-encumbered. I'm seriously considering buying at least the first two books, The Way of Shadows by Brent Weeks, and Ian M. Banks' Use of Weapons, even though I can't DRMd books on my OLPC with FBReader.
I highly recommend Use of Weapons by Ian M. Banks, but you should probably wait until next month to pick it up for $1. I have the paperback sitting right in front of me and I'm still going to buy the ebook.
Next, an interesting looking programming language for visualization and graphics. I wish I had more time to look into stuff like that.
Finally, Game Tunnel's list of 2008 best indy games - I want to check these out when I have more time.
December 7, 2008
Marketing in Japan
Aomori Marketing Mascot?
Final Fantasy Posters
Final Fantasy Posters
Final Fantasy Posters
Final Fantasy Posters
The second one I'll point out is a bunch of new Final Fantasy posters I've been seeing around the subway stations. I believe that this is tied into a new artbook (or possibly postcard art book, I'm not clear on that) that is coming out in a few days. The posters are advertising "Final Fantasy Drink Potions" - I've seen these before back when the last final fantasy came out, little drinks made in the shape of the potions from the game. I think it is pretty geeky-cool, so I'll pick some up even though I haven't played a final fantasy since Final Fantasy VII. I really would love to play more video games, but I just haven't had the time (but do see my most recent post on World of Goo.)
Mini Manga Reviews 2: Crossfire and Yotsuba volume 2
Crossfire is a pretty nice and easy read. There were two words that I learned, basically accelerant (促進) and pyrogenesis (I think that is the English for it - someone that can cause fires with their mind.) The author, Miyuki Miyabe is known for murder mystery and suspense novels. This one has a bit of a supernatural tint to it, since the main character has the ability to start fires. (Hence the title.) I think that makes things a bit interesting, since I like to read about things that are bit divorced from the normal reality that we live in. If I wanted to read about arsonists, I could find that in the newspaper just by looking hard enough. The manga was a pretty quick read, and has furigana for most of the complicated words, but is probably more of an intermediate than beginner level. I thought it might be self-contained, but it ended on a clear cliffhanger, so it looks like I'll have to keep my eyes open for volume 2. This manga was just released back in September so it is fairly new. There is also a DVD movie version of what looks to be the same thing, but I'm not enthralled enough to want to search that out. I might rent it if I come across it in Tsutaya though.
Next up is the second volume in the Yotsuba to series. I really like this series: it is funny, each chapter is short and self-contained (makes for good reading when you only have five or ten minutes here or there, which is generally the situation I am in) and the Japanese itself is pretty basic. It has full readings given for the kanji, so it is very accessible to beginners. I also think this series is great for foreigners because of the whole "unusual aspects of Japan" that is explored from the point of view of a naïve (or possibly very stupid, putting her on a level I can relate to :) ) young girl. Highly recommended.
As always, you can click on the links to the left to hit the Amazon.co.jp pages for the books, but they have my referrer ID in them so I clearly am trying to make money off of you. :)
December 2, 2008
Those guys over at 2-d Boys are really cool: buy World of Goo
Anyway, the other day I heard about the high piracy rate for World of Goo (over 80%?) I had vaguely heard of the game before, and I think played the entry into one of the Independent Games Festivals that started the seeds for making the real game.
Since the game is reasonably priced, only $20!, and the bit that I played before was fun and interesting, and there were no monsters chasing me and trying to kill me, I bought the game. You should too: World of Goo. It is a really good game. I've played the first two levels (I know, I should really play more and get a real review out, but I just don't have the time!)
But the coolest thing so far is that when I bought the game and payed with PayPal, things didn't go well for me. I got a reply from PayPal, but not from 2d-boy. So I went to their site and went through the automatic tools for saying "I paid, but didn't get my download link". That didn't work either, so I sent an email off, and then thought, "well, that will take a few days, so I'll just go to bed."
Before I could finish up with other net stuff though, withing five or ten minutes, I got a reply from Kyle Gabler at 2-d Boy who told me that PayPal was doing some server mantainence, and passed on the download link. I was amazed. You are lucky to get a real human at most companies, and I would never expect a message from one of the founders!
One of the other nice things is that you can download both the Windows and Mac versions (and Linux soon!) That is nice for me because I have about 5 computers laying around, and end up using different ones for different things (based on what jobs I'm working on usually.) Also, a great thing about the game is that there is no DRM. It is easy to install, and doesn't treat me like a theif. I'm glad I bought it. It is a fun and cute game, totally recommended.
November 24, 2008
Review of Charles Stross' AccelerandoSingularity" genre. I have written a bit about the Singularity concept before and don't particularly think it will happen anytime soon: the idea that technology will become so advanced that human will not be able to understand it, and become surpassed by or transcend through technological means just doesn't seem realistic to me: I know too much about computers to think that there will be any really advanced Artifial Intelligence anytime soon. I think that is forty or fifty years out at least before we start seeing real learning systems that do not depend on humans to supply them with a framework to run inside.
This novel focuses on one family as they travel through the singularity point. Stross as an author is a joy to read: funny, and he has a great knack for explaining technology. He throws in a lot of references to computer science concepts, and does something that is rare in media: he doesn't make technology do ridiculous things. Hollywood movies are the worst, but you come across it even in science fiction as well. Of course I only notice it when the author writes about things that I know about, and I'm sure that generally any expert in a field will find problems with the popularizations of things that they know about, but it is really nice to see things done well.
This novel has a bit of a flavor of Neuromancer, and is reminiscent of Rainbow's End as well. The book kind of flirts with the unreliable narrator gimmick that I sometimes like and that sometimes annoys me, but you are never quite sure after reading it exactly how the narrative structure is set up. There are interesting questions about conciousness and what it means to be human and sentient, but that isn't anything new to these kinds of novels.
It also has a very interesting take on the Fermi Paradox that I did find original, but I haven't been scouring the world for books that address this issue (although see also A Fire Upon The Deep (Zones of Thought) for more on that.
I really enjoyed this book, and think that anyone interested in the Cyberpunk / Singularity stuff will find it interesting too. Best of all: you can get it from Amazon (like I did) or you can download it for free from Charles Stross' website. That is really great that he has made the book available for free. I wish I had known that because then I would have read that first, then probably bought some of his newer stuff. I do have one more of his books on my pile of "to read" books, but it would have been nice to get some of his other stuff. I really like what I have read so far though, so I plan to buy his other novels (assuming they have reasonable priced versions on the Amazon Japan site - which isn't always the case.)
November 15, 2008
Quick Manga Reviews
So I thought I would write some very quick, very basic reviews. The first manga I read was けんぷファー (Kenu fau? Supposed to be some sort of German word) volume 1. It is completely awful, and totally cliché. The story starts with our hero, whose name escapes me, wakes up and is a girl. A high school girl (well, he was a high school boy so that makes some sense.) He has a stuffed animal that talks to him (some sort of tiger) and tells him that he was chosen to be a Kenpu fau who fights other Kenpu fau, who are all apparently high school kids. The reason they fight was never explained, but clearly that is supposed to be the interesting mystery to the story that draws people in. It just annoyed me because the fictional world makes no sense. Also, there are many gratuitous panty shots and the like. Why does the guy get a high school girl's uniform when he transforms for no reason? Yet in the middle of the story, he says he has to go shopping for clothes because he doesn't have any women's clothes (except for the magic schoolgirl outfit?)
It rates half a star. Out of however many stars you want (at least 5 though probably.)
Next up is よつばと！ (Yotsubato) which is apparently written by a well-known author, Kiyohiko Azuma who also wrote another well-known series Azumanga Daioh. The reason I ordered this manga is because in one of the chapters, the main character Yotsuba creates a robot out of a cardboard box. The author designed a toy for Amazon that uses Amazon boxes, which I wanted, and then when I tried to order it Amazon recommended the first volume of the manga. So I bought it.
What is the story? It is a cute look at Yotsuba, a young (naive or stupid?) girl who has everyday adventures. It is very easy to read, with full furigana, and simple enough that anyone can understand it. I think it is very accessible to foreigners because the humor is based on this young girl not knowing about her surroundings - a somewhat familiar situation for a foreigner in Japan. I read the first volume fairly quickly, and ordered the second volume. I haven't started in on it yet, but plan to read it on the subway.
My wife told me that I shouldn't read it on the subway though because people would think I am a nerd. Since I am a nerd, I didn't take her advice, and plan to read it on the subway.
November 5, 2008
Another site with SF ebooks for freeCheck out StarRigger.net for some free SF ebooks. I haven't heard of this series, but I've downloaded the first three books, and if they are fun I plan to donate to the author. This just makes it so easy to check new stuff out.
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