June 12, 2010
What's for dinner?Some variation of this was. It was pretty good too. I think R. might have snapped a shot before we ate, but I didn't. We don't have a real camera anymore either, just cell phone cameras now.
June 6, 2010
Enable SATA AHCI on Gigabyte GA-G33M-S2H motherboard with Western Digital 1.5 TB drivesI've had a few posts before about my desktop computer, mainly that first one about putting it together, and an entry about replacing the power supply when that blew up.
Well, two days ago I decided to do a system update (Ubuntu kept complaining at me for a week or more) and on reboot, there were some disk read errors, and eventually the OS couldn't boot. I had two 500GB hard drives internally in a LVM group, which is nice because it lets you use the space between the two in a unified view, but bad because it makes it hard to troubleshoot the disks with simple tools. I have had to try to recover broken LVM setups before, but it has always been pretty tough. Hopefully the rescue and recovery tools will get a bit better there, but since I don't need to do it all that much, whatever.
Since the last time I had to do that kind of recovery (lost an entire weekend and lots of files) I have been regularly backing up to two external hard drives. Of course, I have been lazy lately and my last full backup is probably a week old, but still, not that bad. Probably I'm not even going to lose anything important. Well, I might lose one chapter of a manga that I translated recently, but no huge loss there.
So I made the trip out to Akihabara yesterday, and picked up two 1.5TB hard drive (Western Digital Caviar Green drives) that spin at 5200 rpm and should be a bit slower but more energy efficient and quieter than my previous two drives.
I had spent hours on this, and for the life of me have not been able to get a good OS install. First, I want to go back to Fedora, and use the latest version in 64bits. So I tried installing Fedora 13 x64. The DVD I burned for that (while a good burn) won't boot. I don't know why. I did get the live 64bit cd burned, and could get that working, but it was slow. It took maybe 5 hours to go through the install process. I eventually let it go the whole way (I tried a few other things first) and when I boot from the internal hard drives it was extremely slow. 20 minutes to log in. Just horrible. I couldn't understand why.
So I tried the 32bit version. Same thing.
So I tried Ubuntu. Same thing. The strange thing is that the 32bit versions could boot off of the live CDs just fine, and things are great. I even mounted the new hard drives and copied over a few gigs of data no problem. But when I booted internally things because super slow and unusable. Why!? It is like there are disk errors, but the disks are brand new.
So I finally started poking around in the bios, and noticed that I did not have AHCI mode enabled. I enabled that, and the 32bit OS seemed to be fine. I should probably try to install 64bit again, but at this point I just want to get a Fedora install that works and start copying my backed-up data back over again. That will probably need to run overnight (about 800GB of data.)
My new plan is to run on 1 1.5TB drive, and then set up a script to mirror the data to the second internal drive nightly. Why not run in RAID? It seems like if there are any problems I have had a lot of trouble dealing with LVM and RAID would only make that worse. Probably. But just having a second drive that I could mount in another linux install and copy data off of seems pretty easy.
The long term plan is to put together a Drobo or something that I can back up to, and then add the second internal drive to the LVM (which I know I complained about, but is kind of nice) when I need the extra space. I should be pretty good on 1.5TB for a while though.
May 17, 2010
A small bar in IkebukuroLast Friday, R. and I went to a small bar in Ikebukuro. Our aim was to find the small bar Afiya, run by a friend of a friend. It is a really small wine bar that has a focus on food from Senegal. The place has maybe room for 8, so a very cozy atmosphere. We actually headed down a bit early (because I am an early to bed, early to rise kind of guy) but the place wasn't open yet. We called the proprietress and it turns out she wasn't planning on opening until 8pm, so we had about an hour to spend.
Luckily, right around the corner was Ete, another wine bar. It was a themed night. The place is actually very nice. I highly recommend it. They had some nice French food, some nice French wine, and the staff was great. The chef was a pretty taciturn guy, but the waitress / bartender was a very friendly young lady, who I later learned was much later younger than I thought! (23. Why does age always come up in conversations in Japan so often? I don't know.)
Anyway, a glass of wine and some appetizers later, we headed down to Afiya and met up with Kei, the owner. Then we had more wine, and some great Yassa chicken. Highly recommended. The regulars were also really nice and fun to chat with. Ben, one of the regulars, beat out a mean rhythm on the drum.
And we had a bit much to drink, but did make it back home eventually. If you are in Ikebukuro sometime, check Afiya out!
May 4, 2010
Musical Robots, Chocolate, and Alice in Wonderland
Le Chocolat De H chocolate and coffee
Tea and Cake
Skate Park Art
Musical Robot video
Before that though, we made a stop at Le Chocolat de H, a chocolatier in Roppongi Hills. I had their chocolate and coffee combination. The three types of Chocolate were cinnamon (a bit spicy), regular (very nice), and goma (normal, but a nice crunchy texture.) I think I liked the cinnamon the best. They are all chocolate though, so you can't really go wrong. R. got a nice cake with a tea. I really enjoyed the relaxing cafe break, and love chocolate, so I might be stopping there again in the future.
We then went on to visit the museum, and there were lots of cool things there. I really like the upside down Japanese flag (but you could only tell because of the placement of the mounting rope) but my favorite by far were the three musical robots. They are cool. They make strange noises from electric guitar pickups and recycled home stuff (blenders, vacuum cleaners, car stuff, etc.) Really cool.
They also had a nice skate pipe setup that was painted. They have periodic live painting shows with skaters too, and we'll try to go back for that sometime in May.
After the museum, we went to the theater and saw Alice in Wonderland. It was in 3D, which I'm not a big fan of. I just don't really see 3d. So that left the story, which also wasn't all that great. I was really hoping for a new re-interpretation of the source material that would be more nuanced and sophisticated. It was anything but. Caricatures and exaggeration. The computer graphics were nice though. It certainly wasn't worth the $60 or so it cost (2 $24 tickets, drinks and popcorn.) I'm going to try to avoid 3D in the future; it gives me a headache and seems to be a mask for movies with weak stories.
April 24, 2010
Wilco at Zepp TokyoLast night R. and I went to see Wilco at Zepp Tokyo. Zepp is pretty large, but has a really good and clear sound system. We did a lot of waiting, and ended up with sore feet, but it was a good concert.
They played for over two hours, which was great, but I realized that a lot of their music isn't exactly rock out high energy music, and I don't listen to them that way either. I like to have them on when I'm coding at work.
Jeff Tweedy was interesting when talking with the crowd - he wanted to talk to and perform for the Japanese in the audience, but of course the Americans were the most vocal. He told them that just because we're all from America, it doesn't mean we are friends. He seemed to have a handle on (or dislike of, or interest in) the sort of concept of foreigners in Japan feeling entitled and special, and did not want that to become a theme of the show. I guess. Maybe I'm reading too much into it. It was some interesting banter though. A good laugh was had by all. I totally agree with the sentiment that just because we're from the same country that does not give one any right to assume friendship or intimacy; that is just crazy. You would never do that back in the US.
Next up: The Wedding Present. I'm super excited for that one. We also have Mika in the near future. Also, Fuji Rock.
Fafhd and the Gray Mouser: finally getting around to a classic
April 3, 2010
Pizza!good looking pizza recipes but none of them were for convection ovens) so in the end I checked the Japanese cookbook that came with my convection oven. It has a recipe so I used that. First off, the dough from scratch. I didn't know there was both strong and weak flour, so I had to get some of the strong kind. Making the dough was pretty fun; it was the first time I used yeast and watched the stuff rise. Pretty impressive. I had to make a lot of use of a metric conversion chart and a lot of guessing, but in the end the dough turned out pretty good. I also used this recipe for tomato sauce which turned out pretty good. At the same time, since I felt a bit bad about always making American food for Risa, I wanted to try something with fish. I decided to try a salmon fillet en Papillote because it sounded like fun, and my convection oven cookbook had a recipe also. My book didn't have good directions on how to do the heart-shaped cooking bags, so I checked this page, but in the end my paper bags were too small. It turns out we were not hungry after the first pizza, so I just put those in the fridge and I'll try to salvage them tomorrow. The pizza went well. I made the dough, let it rise in the oven (which has a setting for it,) let it rest, and then put on the ingredients and we were off to the races. I did more chopping on this night than I ever had before. The sauce turned out great, and on the pizza I had mushrooms, some sausage, and cheese. It was great. The recipe actually made two pies, so one of them went into the fridge. I'm really happy with the experiment though; I foresee more pizza in my future.
March 27, 2010
Tokyo Anime Fair and Hanami
Tokyo International Anime Fair 2010
Tokyo International Anime Fair 2010
Sakura in Ueno Park
Sakura at Ueno Park
March 24, 2010
(Real) Taco Night
The big deal for me was making tortillas from scratch. I found a recipe online and went for it. I did burn the tortillas, and they were a bit small (I cut the portions in half and still had leftovers) and a bit stiff, but edible. And good. And kind of fun to make. I also got an avocado, cut that up, a yellow pepper (need some color), a head of lettuce, hamburger, and mixed seafood. Also some great jalepeno cheese. I made a bunch of cheesy mixed seafood, which was great, and standard hamburger meat for the taco (also great - but could have used some cheese) and away we went.
I think we both ate a bit much, but it was fun, and R. was suprised that Taco night didn't involve octopus.
March 16, 2010
Chicken Cordon Blargh
March 14, 2010
Virtual Game Developer's Conference via blogsJust a heads up to a series of great posts over at http://www.sirlin.net/ about the Game Developer's Conference. So far I've read Sirlin's report on the pre-GDC day, day one, and day two.
I follow Sirlin's posts on his blog. He's a game designer that knows street fighter in-depth (worked on balancing Super Street Fighter II Turbo: HD, which I really wish was available in Japan) that I learned about back in my days on alt.games.sf2. If you don't know what that is (most people probably don't) then don't worry about it; USENET is basically dead now anyway. But it was a great forum back in the day talking about Street Fighter and game balance in that area. A few of the people from that forum have gone on to lead interesting lives in the game development community.
Me, not so much. But I really enjoy reading about game design. One of the reasons I don't think I'll ever play any Facebook games (and to some degree, MMOs) is because when you look at how these things are designed, a lot of the time they just break down to skinner boxes. I'll stick to Street Fighter (competition and natural dopamine) and RPGs (interesting stories, some number crunching and optimization) thank you very much.
Definitely check out Sirlin's posts though, starting from the pre-GDC day, day 1, and day 2.
March 7, 2010
Japanese that Japanese people don't know
February 16, 2010
I've been doing some Cocoa Programming for Mac OSX lately. I've been using Aaron Hillegass' "Cocoa Programming For Mac OSX" and have really had an easy time following along with the book. Before ordering the book, I tried to dive into OSX programming using online material, and while I was able to get some things done, I was having a real hard time trying to wrap my head around general concepts (how does the general cocoa interaction model work? how do I try to understand when to hook things up with connections in interface builder and when to code things? What things are done for me automatically?) and found that this book has been good at explaining these things.
The book itself is pretty easy to follow and has extensive screenshots, not normally something that I would think is important in a programming book, but for XCode and Interface Builder this is surprisingly helpful. Oh, I have to drag from this to that, or that is the pane in the inspector I need to be looking at. A surprsingly large amount of "programming" so far has involved knowing what key to type in which box in interface builder to get some control to watch some value in some object. And knowing which objects that Apple already provides has keys that can be watched to do what you want.
I'm coding on snow leopard (10.6) and the book was written for 10.5 so there are some disconnects there, but so far I haven't run into any errors with the code that I can't figure out quickly. The biggest so far has been an example in Chapter 11 which looks like it is a bit hairy to fix. The amount of commitment I need to make as a student to something that is easy (binding in Interface Builder) compared to writing a (granted, very small!) custom class and using it to basically just type cast is pretty big. It seems like a simple type cast operation could also be accommodated in the bindings / core data paradigm (and it is, using transformations, and a small custom class) but at any rate I have really been enjoying this book.
It makes it much easier to get a handle on where to start, and since I have programming experience (C / C++, Java user interfaces, and perl mostly) I have been able to get through about a chapter per session while doing the examples and challenges.
One of the controversial things seems to have been the introduction of "dot notation" in Objective-C 2.0. This post on Big Nerd Ranch explains pretty well how I feel about it. It is confusing to me. I like the @property and @synthesize tags added to the language a lot; being able to use dot notation sounds convenient, but only if the class is accessing properties. Otherwise it can be confusing. Is that a method call? Is it doing anything tricky with memory? Do I have to worry about it and check the setter / getter selector? I'm going to stick with bracketed notation until I get a better handle on these things.
I also like that Objective-C 2.0 introduced garbage collection, but I also want to do explicit memory management with release / retain for a while.
I've been really impressed with how easy it is to create user interfaces in XCode / Interface Builder. All I have to compare with is Java's Swing platform, and I never used any GUI interface builders with that. I know things are getting better in that area with NetBean's Matisse and some of the Eclipse plugins, but every time I have looked at those they don't seem to save you from writing much of the boilerplate code that you need to navigate user interfaces. With XCode and Interface Builder you really don't have to write much code and things are saved out as data.
I am sure that similar systems exist for Java out there by now, but I don't know where I would start with them and they are certainly external to stock Java vended from Sun (Oracle?)
The other thing that has really impressed me is Core Data. Apple makes it really easy to do the common things, and not hard to difficult things. In my experience with Java, it is as hard to do easy things as hard things (they are both surprisingly difficult.)
I've got a project in mind for Cocoa on OSX, which will probably take a few months (I do not have much free time!) but once I finish up with that I am really interested in looking at iPod / iPad development. It's too bad that there are major differences in the APIs available to the two platforms, but that might be the next thing I look into. I guess I would have to get an iPod Touch or iPad at that point though. :-)
January 31, 2010
BigShot Camera: a camera for kids and education
Computer Science Professor Shree Nayar at Columbia University has a pretty cool project in the BigShot Camera. It is a digital camera designed to teach kids about optics and electricity and all sorts of other things. I think it looks really fun. They include a power generation explanation that is exemplified by a hand crank that you can use to charge the camera up. It also has three different lenses that you can use to change the types of images the camera takes.
I think this is a really fun way to introduce kids (even high school students and college students…) science.
Too bad they aren't available for sale. They would make absolutely great toys. I should also note that Professor Nayar is a really great guy; when I was a grad student in Computer Science at Columbia University I had really good interaction and experiences with the faculty there. So I'm probably biased (don't bloggers have to disclose their biases now?) and just wanted to write something up quickly when I saw this project in the recent Columbia Magazine that I received. It also had a cool piece about the new Northwest Science Building that I really wish was around when I was there!
January 30, 2010
Thexder Neo (A.K.A. Jon is cool)
Back when I was young (hard for me to remember that far back, but I'll try) I had moved to New Jersey. Now, don't get me wrong, I really like New Jersey. Now. But then again, I also have a fond spot in my heart for Texas, and we all know what they say about Texas (Beers, Steers, and what now?)
Anyway, I was young, and a new kid in a new place. By the chance alphabetization of last names, I quickly befriended Jon, a great guy with a great last name. Anyway, I remember that Jon had an Apple IIGS. It was a great computer. I was jealous. My family had an Apple //e but that couldn't come close to matching the amazing 320x200 (well, 640x200 under special circumstances) graphics on that thing.
One of the games Jon had was Thexder. It was amazing. Great sound. Great graphics. And a giant robot. At the time my friends and I were all into Robotech (uh, Macross, sorry I forgot no true Anime fan would ever watch Robotech!) so this game where you could change from a jet (just like Robotech!) to a Robot (just like Robotech!) was awesome!! The game was hard. I don't know that any of us ever beat level 2. But we sure did play a lot of level 2. And the music. The music was great. To this day Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata is one my favorite classical songs. (It doesn't hurt that it was also the B-side for Little 15.)
So, for a good portion of my life I was convinced that Jon was cool because Thexder was cool. It is the transitive property of coolness and "my friend has a cool computer". Actually, truth be told that is still why I think Jon is cool. I imagine him hanging out in Tonetown, having Tass Times even now with Sabrina in tow.
Anyway, I decided today to browse the PS3 network on my Japanese account and see what they had. Mostly I wanted to buy Flower for the PS3 (I did, and got Lumines Supernova while I was at it) but then I saw Thexder NEO. What what what??
It is a remake for PSP and PS3 I suppose. I downloaded the demo. It was exactly how I remember it: really hard and frustrating with amazing graphics (now updated and 3d) and sound (still old and 8bit and awesome.)
Jon is still cool!!
The further adventures of Flat Everett
Flat Everett visits Tokyo Disneyland
Tokyo Disneyland New Year's decorations
Flat Everett Visits Meiji Temple
Flat Everett in front of the Sake
(This post is very late, please forgive the tardiness.) In my previous post about Flat Everett we met our flat friend, and took him around Tokyo. Over the New Year's break we took two more trips with him. First off, Japan doesn't have a big Christmas break, but they do have a big break over the New Year's holiday. Usually people get the 30th and 31st off, with a few days around the New Year, going back to work around the 4th.
Over the break my wife's sister and her daughter came to stay with their parents, who live just down the street from us. One of the big events was a family trip to Tokyo Disneyland. We all piled into the car the morning of the 31st, and headed out to Chiba, about an hour away or so by car. The place was very crowded. Since the day before there were people waiting (out in the cold!) for the 6pm start of the Disneyland New Year's celebration. We weren't going to stay for the evening celebration - you have to win a lottery drawing to be invited for that - so just headed in.
I got a picture or two of Everett in front of the Disneyland entrance, and some of the 2010 New Year's signs, but didn't get too many other pictures of him. He was enjoying the rides from inside my bag. The most exciting ride we went on was Space Mountain. I'm sure Flat Everett enjoyed it, but I have never liked roller coasters, and had to go to the Nurse's Station (where R. works actually) and rest for two hours. Then I went home while everyone else stayed at the park.
I really don't like roller coasters. I know R. does though, so I thought I would try to tough it out with her. I barely survived. (Flat Everett seemed to have enjoyed it all.)
Flat Everett's First Temple Visit
The other thing that people in Japan do after the new year is go visit a local temple. The "first temple visit" of the year is traditional, and people buy various charms for good luck for the new year. I decided to take Flat Everett to one of the most popular temples in Tokyo, Meiji Temple. The temple is very popular, and when I went on the second (I think) Flat Everett and I had to wait about three hours total in order to get into the temple itself. The place was absolutely packed. I got a few pictures with Flat Everett, one in front of the temple archway (the wooden gate structure, called a Torii), and also in front of a collection of sake barrels that are donated to the temple by local businesses. The final picture is Flat Everett in front of the main temple structure.
That concludes my travels with Flat Everett. He has since moved on, and arrived in New York. I'm curious to see what sort of trouble he gets into in my old stomping grounds, New York City.
January 17, 2010
Review of Lawrence Watt-Evans' "The Unwilling Warlord"
So a few days ago I finished reading the second book in the Ethshar series by Lawrence Watt-Evans. It took a bit of time for it to get going, but I liked it in the end. The third book, The Unwilling Warlord, was quicker to get started. What I have really enjoyed about the Ethshar series so far is that the protagonists are more or less normal people. They don't want to save the world and generally just want to do what they can to lead a comfortable life. The second book in the series was a bit tougher to get into because I didn't like the (lack of) work ethic in the protagonist. I didn't have that problem with the protagonist of the third book. He seemed like a bit of an opportunist, but not lazy and not stupid. He takes a fairly straightforward approach to things, and the story one of the magic systems in Ethshar (Wizardry) in depth.
I really like the multiple forms of magic in Ethshar and am looking forward to seeing more stories in the world that explore more of the magic system. This entry in the series focuses on a gambler playing dice for small stakes, who finds out that he is the hereditary warlord for one of the small Southern Kingdoms. He's forced into service there and of course hijinx ensue when the small kingdom faces a war on two fronts. He falls back on his gambler instincts and decides to use magic to cheat.
That's basically the summary from the back cover, so I'm not giving anything away. I would really like to see a story set in this area a few years down the road to see what came of Sterren's story. I enjoyed the book quite a bit. I wonder how it has been that I didn't find Lawrence Watt-Evans' work before. I know it can't be because of the name; he's got a great name. He apparently has another well-known fantasy series The Lords of Dus. And a few others it looks like.
I've really enjoyed Ethshar though because they are a bit light-hearted and fun.
Stuff I've been (cooking and) eating lately
Honey Glazed Ham
Big American Texas Poster
Big American Texas Burger
Big American Texas Burger
Last night R. and I invited our friends A. and D. over for dinner. R. was working, and I had the day off so I spent the morning and afternoon in the kitchen cooking up dinner. A few weeks back we had some friends over for a Christmas dinner and that went pretty well, so I wanted to try it again. I scaled back the menu a bit, but still it took a lot longer to cook everything up than I expected. I'm a pretty poor cook, so that probably explains it.
Anyway, what was on the menu?
- Honey Glazed Ham. I liked the ham I made last time, and wanted to try a larger-scale version of it. The problem: when I finally went shopping for hams, I couldn't find one as large as what I would expect to find in the US. The ham I did get, a Rosenheim 750g gift ham was about a third of the size that I would expect of a US ham, and more expensive to boot. Ah well.
- Buffalo Wings. R. requested this, and it was a good call. I was originally going to buy some ready-made wings, but R. didn't sound too happy about that, so I decided to go from scratch. I dug up a hot sauce recipe and cut up some chicken wings. Also, made the sour cream blue cheese sauce for the wings, and bought celery (never had the time to cut it though.)
- Mashed Potatoes. Made these from scratch this time, since someone on Flickr chastised me for using frozen mashed potatoes before. It was really easy to make them from scratch (took longer though) and since I often have potatoes laying around I'll be doing this more often. Might try french fries sometime too.
- Corn. From a can. I love corn.
- Butter and Soy Sauce Sauteed mushrooms and carrots. I like butter sauteed mushrooms, so threw some carrots in there too.
- Ambrosia fruit salad.
- Chocolate chip cookies
Pretty good! Our guests arrived and brought a bottle of champagne, so we had to try that. Actually we swapped that bottle out for one we had in the fridge, and then later moved on to beer. Dinner went well, and I think everyone had a great time. We somehow ended up on Youtube.com watching old Knight Rider and Baywatch videos. Not sure how that happened. Then The Cribs' Cheat on Me with Johnny Marr.
So, dinner was great. Today I'm just relaxing (I feel like I'm coming down with a cold) so I'll take it easy, write some blog posts, and catch up on paying bills and finances, as well as some cleaning and washing I suppose.
What else have I been eating lately? Well, you know I can't miss out when McDonalds Japan introduces a new burger: the Texas Burger. Looks like it is a 650 calorie burger. The picture on their site looks better than the ones I've got, but that isn't surprising. They are doing a whole series on Big American Burgers with Texas up first. It looks like it will be around for about 3 weeks before they move on to the next burger, the Big America New York Burger. Third is California, and finally they have Hawaii. (See the list with pictures here.) The Texas one looks best to me, with Hawaii coming in second. I'm not sure what the differences are on California and New York, so I guess I'll go and translate their descriptions.
The wild flavor of this Texas Burger will have the wilderness of Texas floating right before your eyes! You can enjoy two different sauces, the spicy BBQ sauce and a refreshing mustard relish along with a huge quarter pound of beef (2.5 times larger than the normal beef patty.) The elasticity of the trio of carefully hand-crafted well cooked buns is the special characteristic of this burger. And you're going to love the crunchy fried onions, cheese, and accents of bacon filled with umami in this burger.
New York Burger:
This stylish New York burger will make you think of a plate from a corner cafe in New York. This burger is based on the club sandwich that is said to have originated from here. It's got a juicy quarter pound beef patty (2.5 times the size of a normal patty) with the refined harmony of Monterrey Jack cheese that was originated in America, bacon full of umami, tomatoes and lettuce. It is accented by a spicy mustard sauce. It has an unrivaled compatibility with the specially-made graham (all flour) buns.
This California burger will make you feel the natural blessing of the sunshine that falls down on the state. The main point is the specialty sauce that uses white wine from California. The full quarter pound beef patty (2.5 times the size of a normal patty) is made with a mellow smell and deep flavor. You'll be fulfilled with the luxurious harmony between the tomato, lettuce, bacon with lots of umami, and Monterrey Jack cheese that was developed here. Don't forget the fragrant specialty buns topped with powdered cheese.
We have locked in the world-famous beloved flavor of Hawaiian Loco Moco in this burger. A thick special gravy sauce is on the large quarter pound patty (2.5 times the size of a normal patty) with a jiggly egg, bacon full of umami, cheese, and lettuce make up this wrapped up harmony. You also can't look past the fragrant specialty buns topped with powdered cheese.
Huh, sounds like they are all mostly using the same ingredients. Still, it should be interesting to see what the upcoming hamburgers are like.
January 11, 2010
Lawrence Watt-Evans "With a Single Spell"
A few days ago I started reading Lawrence-Watt Evans' "With a Single Spell". At first, I didn't like it. It took a while to get into the book. I didn't like the protagonist. He was a lazy, entitled, selfish boy. I had a really hard time empathizing with him. I feel like I've worked for where I am. I was never the smartest or strongest in high school, but I was determined, and I studied hard. I didn't get great grades, but I got into the advanced classes, got some college credit, and kept that work ethic up through an (admittedly relatively unknown) undergraduate program, and went on to an ivy league school where I felt like I got a great education at the graduate level. Now I'm somehow in my mid thirties, married, own property, and live in a foreign country. I never once felt like I was doing just enough to get by, and have worked hard, and enjoy that.
So the first two chapters of this book were really hard to me to get into. I almost stopped reading. But I kept at it (not so much out of perseverance as much as a feeling that the first book was so good this was bound to get better. Also, I had to go to the restroom and wanted something to read…)
Anyway, yesterday, and a bit more today (on my day off) I found myself getting more and more into the story. It is a good story. I really like this world of Ethshar which seems to have a well-thought-out magic system and a plausible history and geography. I liked this book in the final acts when it really got into the wizardly magic bits of things. It reminded me of reading through the old Advanced Dungeons and Dragons Second Edition Dungeon Master's Guide with all the spells. What could you do with all those spells? How did they work? How would they fail to work? That is some really interesting stuff. I remember as a kid I would spend lots of time thinking about that, and planning out just how my moving castle would work. (I vaguely remember some sort of moving abode spell, can't recall the name now) and stuff like that. This book hits on some of those areas.
I also like the idea about the implications of a single spell and how it can be very useful when well-used. I always thought that the cantrips in AD&D could be more useful than people thought…
Anyway, I did enjoy the second book in the Ethshar series, but definitely the first book grabbed me more. I enjoyed this one enough to go and buy the third book, The Unwilling Warlord (although truth be told, I got it from fictionwise.com instead of Amazon, which just kills me as an Amazon customer. I can't bring myself to purchased a DRM-encumbered version of an ebook when I can get it without DRM.)
So, uh, four stars? Our of ? some stars? I enjoyed it, maybe you will too!
Movie Reviews: Up and Avatar
Grandpa Carl's flying (in the sky) houseA bit before the new year, R. and I went to see the latest Pixar movie, カールじいさんの空飛ぶ家. Simply "Up" in America, and "Grandpa Carl's flying house" in Japanese. I've noticed this trend before in Japanese movie titles, where the title is more expositive than the American title. Like, for example, 2012 might be "The day the world ends: 2012" or something like that. It is a little strange, but certainly makes the general idea of the movie a bit easier to grasp.
I don't see many movies in Japan: it is expensive here. There also just isn't the same culture we have in the US of heading out to the movie theater and showing up ten or fifiteen minutes before the movie starts. Every movie I've seen we have either bought our tickets online, or shown up one to three hours early to get the tickets. It is also expensive. R. and I have been seeing a few more movies recently because with her job at Tokyo Disneyland she gets an employee discount at the Disney-owned Ikspiari themed shopping mall that brings the ticket prices down to about $12 each. So we probably will be seeing more movies there.
I'll try to write a little bit about them here. If you want to keep reading, be aware that there are probably spoilers for Up and Avatar. Click the read more link to keep reading.read more (1935 words)
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