August 05, 2008

How in Hell did I get Talked into this?

To augment poor cell phone coverage when we're gallivanting around the hinterlands, I've been talked into Amateur (Ham) radio. After blasting through the Technician-level test a couple weeks back, it took the FCC almost two weeks to get me in the ULS. (No, I'm not going to put up my callsign. I'd like to keep a fig-leaf of Internet annonymity. You can get a lot more than a name from a callsign.)

Until I figure out exactly how much vandalism I'm willing to do to the interior and exterior of my truck, I'm sticking to a (not-so) simple 5W handheld radio. (A base station is simply out of the question. I don't want to invest in that much equipment. I'm really not in need of another neglected hobby, and the HOA would have my nuts if I tried to put up a decent antenna.)

So far, I've been using the wide-band receive to listen in on a couple of nearby repeaters and some aircraft frequencies. I now know that the airport tower near me shuts down at 9pm and re-opens at 6. Beyond that I haven't so much as "kerchunked" the radio.


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July 27, 2008

Time for a Video Dump

The good (Surprisingly spoiler free, and absolutely hilarious, if you have my sense of humor)

The sad (Before my time, but still carries a powerful message)

The Fugly (Blame The Hostages for this one)

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July 24, 2008

Team Fortress 2 Followup

If there's one word to describe the pace of the sequel compared to the original, it's "slow."

Respawn delays and much longer engineer build/upgrade times really ruined this game for me. While I'm sure respawn delays are a server option, the fact that every server I tried had them drove me nuts. Eliminating grenades was moronic, particularly the engineer's EMP grenade. In the handful of games I managed to play before getting bored, there were a half-dozen shit-head Demos that kept mining the spawn doors in 2fort. EMPs were great for stamping out that sort of nonsense.

Soldier rockets didn't seem to travel to target as fast. Shooting enemy spies doesn't cause a helpful blood splatter. The Pyro's rocket launcher is gone (awesome for supressing snipers).

Basically a huge disappointment.

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July 12, 2008

Who needs Ambien?

I've been dealing with bouts of insoma lately. I'm really not big on medicating this sort of problem, and none of the million sure-fire home remedies has worked.

But believe me when I say, the Silmarillion will knock you on your ass in ten minutes. At my current pace, I'll probably finish the book some time in 2046.

Posted in Books by: Will at 01:36 AM | No Comments | Add Comment
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July 08, 2008

Gurren Lagann 1

So far so good. The video transfer looks sharp. Audio is clean. The "extras" are a little sparse, but I expect they're saving those for the eventual dub release.

Pro subbers still seem to insist on translating XX-dan "Team XX" instead of "XX Brigade." Team lacks a certain militaristic punch if you ask me. It's also odd that they chose to use the "kick reason to the curb" motto on the DVD packaging, but then they didn't translate it that way in the subtitles. I'm gonna have to guess that decision came down to limited screen real estate.

Otherwise things seem to have translated cleanly.

[Update:] Ok, so I've watched all nine at this point. Episode 6 seemed to have a helluva lot cut out for broadcast. Still not a nipple one, but I don't remember any accidental kanchos or breast-squeezing remote controls. I'm not feeling inclined to go back and make a scene for scene comparison just to confirm.

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July 07, 2008




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June 25, 2008

Visual Oddity

Something very odd happened to the image of this KC-135 taking off out of Williams-Gateway Airport. Whatever captured and processed the image managed to break the outline apart from the color. It looks like a grey blob being followed closely by Wonderwoman's personal tanker aircraft. The strange purple blob in front of the aircraft's shadow is even more confusing.

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June 13, 2008

Into the Breach Once Again

It's been a long time since I did any real online FPS twitch-gaming. For a long time I was addicted to Team Fortess Classic. I could spend hours upon uninterrupted hours turning other people into digital kibble. Back around Christmas I took a shot at Call of Duty 4 online and was "deeply humbled". (It doesn't help that I'm playing the PC version which is far more vulnerable to cheats and exploits than the Xbox version)

So I picked up The Orange Box a couple weeks ago on a whim. I'd been itching to play the second episode of Half-Life 2, and Portal had been receiving rave reviews, so it was well past time to make the investment. But what I'd really been waiting for, the part I'd truly been anticipating, was the inclusion of Team Fortress 2. Oddly enough I haven't touched that part of the suite yet. Why?

Well, I've been damned busy. There are several anime from the winter season I haven't had time to watch through to completion (and not for lack of interest). There's also a measure of anxiety involved. I loved the previous edition of this game. Am I going to be left out in the cold by the sequel? Am I going to have to cut my teeth again and completely relearn how to play? I don't have that kind of time to invest anymore. I'm hoping this weekend will afford me an oppurtunity to sit down with the game and put in one long solid play session that will let me know if I still have what it takes.

Below the fold are the TF2 promotional videos released to date.


Posted in Videogames by: Will at 11:56 AM | Comments (5) | Add Comment
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June 09, 2008

Requiem for the Exhausted

How is it I do less relaxing on the weekends than I do during the week? Tore an engine down all day Saturday out in the heat, then spent all day yesterday helping a friend move (that'll teach me to offer help... three months ago when it was cooler). I feel like I could liquify and leak out of my seat at any moment.

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May 29, 2008

Old Hobbies

There was a time in my life when I really wanted to do stuff like this. I wouldn't say those days are completely behind me, but I know now that I don't have nearly the patience for the kind of detail required in top-tier scale modeling. It may come to pass that someday I'll have the resources, but I see myself trying to push performance limits more than detail.

Ever since I quit the job at the hobby shop in early 2002, I've been hauling all my old RC airplane equipment around with me from house to apartment to house hoping that some day I'll have the time to really get back into the hobby. I have several engines that have had little to no time put on them. Most of my balsa airframes are dried out by now, and who knows if my radios still meet FCC specs.

For years AM was the "standard" mode used by most radios. Only the really rich guys could afford FM radios. When the FCC doubled the number of channels occupying the same frequency space in 1991, FM became the new default mode (AM being too prone to bleed-over from other now very-much-closer channels) and PCM became the new hot-ticket mode. I haven't checked in on the market for a while. I suspect PCM is far more common than it used to be.

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May 27, 2008

Mario Plays the Hits

There are times in a man's life when he begins to reflect. What have I done with my life? What have I added to society? Have I left my mark?

Then there are those other times when you begin to ask the same questions of other people.


Let's see... we've got Haruhi three times, Lucky Star, Madlax, Air, several video games. Yep, he hit all the nico-nico meme highlights. Interesting little project.


Posted in Anime by: Will at 08:42 AM | Comments (2) | Add Comment
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May 19, 2008

Not Dead, Just Busy. Might as Well be Dead, but Too Busy for That.

Hoe-lee-krap, has it been one of those fortnights... Don't let those poor bastards in the housing market know that commercial construction is going balls-to-the-wall. It could mean we get a break around here, heaven forfend.

I haven't watched a single episode of the spring anime season. As a matter of fact, I haven't watched any anime in the last month, not since finishing Shingu (a show I just can't seem to find anything to get riled up about, good or bad). I get home and all I want to do is veg out watching a baseball game, where I don't feel inclined to use my brain.

Blew through Medal of Honor: Airborne in a couple nights. There used to be several distinct differences between the Medal of Honor and Call of Duty series. Now they play almost identically, and I suspect it's because they're both being consolized. It used to be MoH played as a more "realistic" depiction of WW2 battle situations, while CoD seemed geared more towards placing the player in cool action sequences. But in a rather bizarre twist, CoD4 pushed realism as much as possible, while MoH:A started to look like Wolfenstein in the latter levels with it's Nazi super-soldiers and preposterous "Flak Tower" level design. I fully expected to run into Mecha-Hilter sporting fire breath and shoulder-mounted rocket launchers. Gag.

So far I give the month of May a 4.5/10.

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May 05, 2008


Frys (the grocer, not the electronics superstore) makes the best goddamn sugar cookies you can buy for $2/dozen.

That is all.

Posted in Random Debris by: Will at 06:53 PM | Comments (1) | Add Comment
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April 28, 2008

When does "Inspired by" become Plagiarism?

Here's a good example of how I hope to use "Random Debris" from now on.

There are only so may ways to arrange notes. Repetition is inevitable. So when I first played through the third episode of the Xenosaga franchise, one track in particular tickled that portion of my brain I mentioned previously that gives me (annoyingly selective) Rainman-like ability to remember a bit of music.

The track is called "Survive." Give it a listen.

Now, play this mp3 of track 17 from the Waterworld (1995) soundtrack.

You can only take "inspired by" so far. Hans Zimmer caught flak for his heavy-handed use of Holst's Planets when composing tracks for the Gladiator soundtrack (I've heard them both, and I'm much more on the side of the Holst foundation than the article's author). I like Yuki's music, but this sounds a bit suspicious.

Posted in Random Debris by: Will at 08:54 PM | Comments (11) | Add Comment
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Weird Wide Web - 1

I decided I'm going to make up a new category for the random crap I come across while surfing and leave the "Random Debris" category to more serious subjects (Hah!). Basically I'll just link-dump stuff I find either humorous, cool, bizarre, or some combination of the three.

Today is a monk theme.

Monks chanting the Lotus Sutra (long, with a strange but cool acoustic shift about 7 minutes in, shamelessly stolen from the Hostages).

Which reminded me of another bizarre monk vid I saw at some point (@ Hop Step Jump I think). I think it's a piece of software (like a midi tracker) that allows you to have these "monks" sing various parts and turn it into a song.

The original song is a classic Yuki Kajiura piece. After that, it looks like somebody threw together a choir of anime character impersonators to sing the track.

Less weirdness and more music (video-heavy) beyond the jump.


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April 25, 2008

My Kinda Woman

Over the years, I've observed something about myself. When it comes to females in anime, I'm a sucker for the sensible ones. The women who have their act together, and in the absence of plot contrivance, are perfectly functional people. If there's Shipping to be done (which, oddly, doesn't seem possible with most of my choices) , I'm usually Shipping in their direction

For example:


Posted in Anime by: Will at 09:05 AM | Comments (6) | Add Comment
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April 23, 2008

Planetes - Extended Aftermath

I had some thoughts on the show that didn't really fit with the comments in the other post. Most are holes in the "realism" of the premise that I think are interesting.

For a show touted as "realistic," it seems to be full of highly dysfunctional people in positions where dysfunctions are normally filtered out in the application process. Psych evaluations are a big part of going into space right now. That would have been an interesting direction for the show to explore. The world is full of people who have no business going into space for various reasons, but if we commercialize space to the extent shown in Planetes (and dreamed of by guys like Glenn Reynolds), how do you handle the competing needs of access and safety for fellow travelers?


I know the Japanese are still in love with tobacco, but what company would spend the time and money building something as hair-brained as a "smoking room" into a moon base? Some people maybe be disappointed (angry even), but I fully expect space to be a default No-Smoking Zone, no exceptions.


How the hell do they feed all these people in space? I wasn't looking very closely, but I didn't see anything resembling dome-agriculture on the Moon. If I ever go back to watch it again, I'm going to keep an eye out for exactly what they eat and where they might get it from.


I'll keep adding to the list as I think of things.

Posted in Anime by: Will at 09:48 AM | No Comments | Add Comment
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April 21, 2008

Planetes - Aftermath

This is an old draft (4/9/08) that's been sitting in the list waiting for me to finish it up. The problem is that I still feel exactly like I did when I wrote it, and I don't have any interest in going back to give the show a second chance.

It must be the novelty of "hard" sci-fi. That's the only explanation that makes sense for the praise this show receives. (Or the socialist prosthelytizing going on constantly throughout the second half.)

The management of the Debris Section are a couple of screw-ups that would never be let within sight of a functional rocket in the real world.

The ending felt tepid. Maybe all the glowing reviews inflated my expectations. Maybe moving in the middle of working through the show colored my experience. Maybe the show's the greatest thing since sliced bread, when viewed in the right place, time, and frame of mind. None of that does me any good right now, because I have no interest in re-watching the show at all right now.

Maybe in a decade.

Posted in Anime by: Will at 12:39 PM | Comments (10) | Add Comment
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April 18, 2008

Shingu - Red Pill or Blue Pill?

That's basically the choice in this show. How much do you dare to know about what's really going on?

It's a show full of characters. Sure there are some eccentricities (I guess all aliens are fun-loving goofballs), but it looks like everyone's up to pulling their own weight when the chips are down.

On the other hand, you can tell the show doesn't take itself too seriously. Fourth wall breaks appear in just about every episode (mostly by Hajime in the narration, but occasionally someone else will ham it up and talk to the camera).

Oh, yeah, you can probably guess I found my Shingu DVDs.

Posted in Anime by: Will at 07:45 AM | Comments (2) | Add Comment
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April 17, 2008

In a bit of a Jazz mood today

One of the songs I most enjoyed playing during my short time in the junior high jazz band was Birdland (named after the jazz club Birdland, which was itself named after a jazz musician nicknamed "Bird"). It was one of the first songs we played that gave us a chance to improv solos, and when we finally had it down, it was probably one of the fastest tunes I've ever played.

(Somewhere just north of 180 bpm when we were really pushing it. We never performed at that tempo. We just did it to see if we could. It was ridiculous amounts of fun at that speed. The director would have to break in to cut-time so he didn't look like he was trying to take off.)

It's a song I haven't heard in a while, and being jazz, there are about N+1 arrangements and variations out there. This is the cleanest recording I found so far.


The other song that was always a lot of fun was Malaguena. It's also another song with N+1 arrangements and variations (because in addition to being a jazz band favorite, it's also really big with marching bands)

Here's an indoor performance of the song from Blast! (a show everyone owes it to themselves to see)

Posted in Random Debris by: Will at 09:06 AM | Comments (9) | Add Comment
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