Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire : 4 of 5

I've really enjoyed all of the Harry Potter movies, and I love being surprised by everything since I haven't read the books. My pal Melinda was nice enough to see this one a second time since I wanted to go, and I definitely enjoyed it - quite a bit more than the last one, actually. In Prisoner of Azkaban, I thought the kids looked older than they should, but somehow in this movie they seem just right (they have cool long, messy hair that would be fun to wear for a while). The effects are really well done, especially when Harry is chased by the dragon - in particular, when the dragon is crawling on the roof and digging its claws into the shingles, it looks amazing! I thought the big dance was fun, especially seeing Hermione swoon for the guy from one of the visiting schools - it's nice to see more character interaction and a little less complicated mystery. But speaking of mystery, this one has a great plot with puzzles that are fun to try to figure out, and the fact that the Tri-Wizard Tournament is kind of episodic gives the film a nice pace. Unfortunately, the film ends totally bleak with the return of Voldemort, and there's absolutely nothing the movie can do to make you feel better before you walk out of the theater. It definitely makes you ready for the next film, though! This is certainly one of the best Harry Potter movies out of the four, so I'll certainly be looking forward to more of the saga.


A party of pie

My pal Jonathan always has a "pie party" to kick off the holiday season in style, where everyone shows up with a bottle and a pie and no one goes home hungry. This year it was tons of fun - there was lots of good pie, pizza, Jonathan's excellent margaritas, and two fires going (indoor and outdoor) to keep us toasty. My usual gang was there, and we had a good time catching up with Jonathan's other pals that we always see at get-togethers like this one. Of course, there was a little music jam and some fun with Jonathan's funny hat collection, too!

View photos: Pie party


The crunch is back

Since I've limited my food choices in recent months, the thing that I miss the most is crunchy foods. I just want to bit down on something with a nice chomp to it! I think I've found a great substitution. When I was in Waco recently, my parents and I ate breakfast at the free breakfast bar in the hotel, and I decided to eat some Cheerios (very low calorie cereal, by the way). Since milk is my enemy (my tummy's choice, not mine!), I decided to just mix the cereal with yogurt. It was great, since I love yogurt anyway. So, when I got home, I bought a box of Grape Nuts, one of my favorite cereals from my former "giant bowl" days, and it's fantastic with yogurt! Oh man, the crunch is fantastic! It kind of feels like eating cereal with milk, except the milk is like pudding. Anyway, I love it, and my teeth are enjoying themselves again. I also decided to start eating dry Cheerios as a snack, so I even have more crunch in my life!


Christmas begins

Now that Thanksgiving has past, this weekend I did my 20 minutes of Christmas decorating (which means putting up one string of indoor lights and setting out some Disney Hallmark ornaments). I also started drinking my beloved Holiday Brew coffee (delicious!) and watching Christmas shows on DVD! I have several Christmas classics (and I may buy some new ones this year), but I decided to start with How The Grinch Stole Christmas (the original animation, not the Jim Carrey piece of junk!). I can remember watching this when I was pretty young, and I thought the Grinch's teeth were scary. I love how he slips those big candy canes out of the hands of the little sleeping Whos - so creepy! But I think my favorite thing about the story is the crazy Dr. Seuss rhyming - nonsense words are cool. This sounds like a fun Christmas morning to me!

They'll blow their floo-floobers! They'll bang their tah-tinkers!
They'll blow their hoo-hoobers! They'll bang their gah-ginkers!
They'll beat their trum-tookers! They'll slam their sloo-slonkers!
They'll beat their blum-blookers! They'll wham their woo-wonkers!


Spider-Man / The '67 Collection : 2 of 5

I used to love watching the old Spider-Man cartoon when I was growing up, and I've known all the lyrics to the theme for years. I was really intrigued by this DVD set, since I could barely remember the show, so I decided to pick it up since I got a fantastic deal using a Barnes & Noble coupon. The first couple of discs were really fun - my nostalgia totally kicked in! I loved seeing the classic Spider-Man villains like the Green Goblin and the Lizard, and all kinds of scenes triggered lots of fun kiddie memories. The early episodes were made up of a couple short stories, so I was looking forward to watching a couple every day for awhile (even though Spidey says "Wallopin' websnappers!" way too much). Then suddenly, the whole show starts to suck - I can't believe how it instantly transforms into complete trash! I've read about how budget constraints and Ralph Bakshi totally ruined things, but I never knew how bad it could be. The backgrounds become blobs of LSD-inspired watercolors, every single bad guy gets green skin, and the reuse of old animation is so bad that sometimes mouths move when no dialogue is spoken! The stories get really stupid, too - they ditch all the classic baddies and end up going back in time, fighting plant creatures or taking on monsters from Atlantis. Spider-Man was never meant for villains like these! I could go on and on - it took serious dedication to make it through the whole set. If you can borrow or rent the first two DVDs only, enjoy!


It's all in the basting

Another wonderful Thanksgiving has come and gone, but the holiday weekend remains! Yesterday I had a fantastic Thanksgiving dinner with my pals at Chris & Eliza's house - Eliza always cooks up a fantastic feast. Here's this year's "basting shot", which has become a tradition - I take this photo every year. Someday I will be able to publish a book of Eliza's basting skill! It was nice to have Tom back at Thanksgiving, since he missed the last two years (he also made me breakfast, which is a nice bonus). After having lots of wine and stuffing ourselves (oh yeah, there was pie and ice cream, too!), we watched some old video I brought of past Thanksgivings, and then watched a pretty good movie on DVD. It was a nice relaxing time with lots of laughs, and now I'm in full-swing Christmas anticipation!

View photos: Thanksgiving


Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! I wonder how many blog posts today are titled, "Happy Thanksgiving"? I'm posting early today because I'm about to start my Thanksgiving morning ritual - watching the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade! I always get excited about seeing the new balloons - this year I'm looking forward to Mr. Potato Head, but I also want to see Puffy AmiYumi (it's weird to see cartoon versions of Japanese pop stars in a parade for a holiday that doesn't exist in Japan!). Later today I'll be at Chris & Eliza's house for our annual feast - I'm so thankful to have close friends during the holidays! I'll have Thanksgiving photos later this weekend, but for now, here's the awesome SpongeBob balloon (for my true SpongeBob fans, Matt & Kumiko!).


A cool utility, a cool site

I do most of my computer activities on my iBook downstairs, but I like to be able to print to my shared printer on my Power Mac upstairs, and control iTunes on my iMac upstairs, too. I always leave these machines on, but of course, they go into sleep mode where I can't use them remotely. That's where WakeUp comes in - one of the simplest, yet most useful, utilities I've seen (and I use it just about everyday!). WakeUp uses the hardware address of a remote machine to send it a special signal that will actually wake it from sleep mode (just like if you move the mouse or press a key), so when I want to print, I can just wake up my Power Mac and do it - without dragging myself upstairs!

Forty Faces is an interesting website with a single purpose - every time someone posts to their blog, their photo appears on the site. It stays there until 40 other bloggers post, which could be a really short time, but while it's there people can click the photo to visit the blogger's site. I signed up for it soon after it started, and I actually do get a little bit of traffic from it. I like the idea and the clean design, too! If you're lucky (and have good timing) you might see my face there.



Today Ryan and I went shopping at lunch - I needed to get some new mechanical pencils (to write in a new Japanese exercise book), check on new manga releases (two new volumes were out!), and get the DVD of The Polar Express, which was released today (I'm really craving Christmas movies now!). We had a quick lunch at McDonald's, so I checked their website for calorie information first. I had a salad with grilled chicken, plus a really yummy yogurt/fruit parfait, and got away with only 380 calories! Tonight I had a pretty good Japanese lesson - I'm feeling a little more positive about my studies lately, but I wish I had more time to study. I'm really excited about Thanksgiving weekend - four days of fun, friends, food, and video editing (of course)!

I posted a few photos of my Waco trip with my parents. I had never taken photos at a cemetery before, so it was kind of interesting to shoot a few - it also feels good to capture those images as part of my family history.

View photos: Waco visit


500 calories of yum

I actually have nothing to review for once (I'm in the middle of a few DVD sets, but I need to watch them all before I write a review), so I have to stoop to anecdotes from my day! Today Ryan and I went to Marie Callender's for our Thanksgiving week pig-out (Barron & Mariko joined us, too). I played it safe and ate only a salad and some delicious coconut cream pie - it was so good, but I decided lunch would be my only meal of the day since the pie alone is about 500 calories! Ryan went all out - he started with soup and salad, then had turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes, vegetables, and a slice of key lime pie, too! Barron ate the same thing, but he didn't seem nearly as full as Ryan did! Tonight I did two Yourself!Fitness workouts to offset the pie (added to my weekend eating, which was capped off by Boston Market meatloaf!). Now I can eat light for a couple days before Thanksgiving!


Back from Waco

I had a nice three-day weekend to celebrate pre-Thanksgiving with my parents. We met in Waco and spent time with family members there - Mom & Dad and I always have fun when we're together. My parents gave me a wonderful old photo of Dad when he was a little boy (graduating from Sunday School in a white cap and gown!) - I love old photos of my family! I kept up with WEBmikey posting (with a little cheating) since the Hampton Inn in Waco has free internet access in every room - that's a pretty nice perk for a budget hotel! Today after driving home I enjoyed some of Mom's party mix (one of my first "tastes of Christmas" each year), worked on my video project, played several games of Pump It Up, then read all of the manga version of Socrates in Love (so sad!). I'm all set for Thanksgiving week now!


Chobits Character Song Collection : 2 of 5

This is the third CD of music from one of my favorite anime series, but unfortunately it's the worst. Thankfully I found it really cheap online! The idea is that there are new songs here sung by each of the characters of the show, so there are tracks for Chi, Hideki, and even Sumomo (and though you think it might be cute, her track is the absolute worst!). There are a couple more instrumental tracks that I think were used in the show as background music, but for the most part this is all original material that wasn't heard in the show. I like the ballads the best, but there are a few good upbeat tracks, too. But for the most part, these songs just don't really do much for me, or even bring back memories of the show that I enjoyed so much. It definitely didn't last very long in my car CD player, which is my usual measurement of coolness! Anyway, I wouldn't really recommend it unless you're crazy about Chobits or find a good price like I did.


Azumanga Daioh Vol 5 : 4 of 5

Oh, how I love this series, and it's so hard to explain why. The stories are so simple, yet I totally burst out laughing at this show more than any other right now, and usually get some nice lumps in my throat, too. The girls are now seniors (which means a new school uniform), and by this time you really know all the characters - they all seem like old friends, and their personalities are really developed. When the school year starts, poor Kaorin has been put in a different class - now she's stuck with Mr. Kimura, the semi-perverted teacher who always has his mouth open, and he starts grossing her out right away. They girls go on a big senior trip to Okinawa, and there are some cute scenes of them sightseeing, scuba diving, souvenir shopping, and even speaking Okinawan dialect. The best thing that happens is that Sakaki, who loves cats to death but always gets bitten, makes friends with a wildcat kitten - when she gets to hug that kitty it's like her whole life has new meaning! When they leave the island, she waves goodbye on the boat with tears in her eyes. Finally, the final sports fest makes for a fun episode, complete with fun events like a bread-eating contest (where the bread is hung from a string) and even a "costume race". I can't believe there's only one DVD left for me to rent! (Of course, I'm planning on buying the set and watching the whole thing again!)


Here come the calories

The holiday pig-out parade is on the way! This weekend I'll be in Waco with my parents for "pre-Thanksgiving", then on Monday my pal Ryan and I are going to Marie Callander's for our recent traditional of holiday lunch with pie, then I'll be enjoying the fantastic meal at Chris & Eliza's on Thanksgiving day, and then Jonathan is having his annual pie party next Saturday! Wowee! I'm going to seriously try to enjoy everything without consuming a million calories, though. I've just reached my next weight goal, so now I weigh less than I ever have since I moved to Austin! To celebrate, I bought the new Pump It Up Exceed for PS2, and I danced about two hours yesterday (I always go crazy with a new dance game).


Nami Tamaki / Greeting DVD : 4 of 5

As I've written before, I saw Nami Tamaki's video for Prayer on Bento Beat Box, and her dancing moves really impressed me. So, while I was still excited about the quality of cool music videos I saw in Japan, I thought it would be nice to order my first Japanese music video DVD (while I was ordering CD singles), so I picked this one since I knew I would enjoy at least one video on it. As you might expect, I loved all four videos, and now I want to start a music DVD collection! Each of Nami's videos follows the same form, which is to put her in front of several other dancers and let them work some awesome synchronized magic. The only thing that changes is the costumes and choreography, but all of the dances are completely creative and cool - it's almost like para para, since they do so much with their hands! Besides the four videos, there are several quick TV ads for each single, as well as some fun making-of segments. It's fun to see Nami freak out with glee when it starts snowing during one of her shoots! The other fun feature is that two of the videos have a single-shot version, where you can watch the dance from start to finish with no cutaways, proving they can actually do those intricate moves with no mistakes! I really enjoyed watching all of these, and I felt like I was in Japan again for a little bit. Whose videos should I buy next?


More J-Pop singles

I recently went through my notebook that I kept in Japan, and I decided to order some more CD singles of the songs I enjoyed watching on Matt's cable TV. First, I got Boa's new single Make a Secret, which is a cool song (though pretty different from her other stuff). The CD only has one other song on it, plus instrumental versions of both (which is always the case with Japanese CD singles - they should definitely do this in the US!). Next I got the Kumi Koda single Butterfly, which came with the video on DVD - she's definitely all about "male excitement", so this video includes everything from sexy office clothes dances to soapy car wash antics! Next I got O's single Anata to Naraba, which is just a peaceful and pretty song sung by a cute duet. The extra tracks on the CD are kind of interesting, since they include the regular version, an all instrumental version, then a version with only one girl singing her part, and then a version with the other girl (so you can sing harmony with either one, I guess)! There are three different songs, which means 12 tracks! Finally, I had to get Eien no Natsu by Sasuke, because this video was so great that it made me cry (I wish the video was included, but I'm happy just to hear the song again). I love the acoustic guitar and male vocals (which are too high for me), and the extra songs on this CD are awesome, too (sappy, but cool)! If I only had access to Japanese music videos all the time, I would probably order from YesAsia at least once a month!


Celery & peanut butter

Since I'm one of the laziest people around when it comes to food preparation, I like to buy celery sticks precut (and ready for some yummy peanut butter!). Recently HEB started selling these in an "aqua pack", which seems kind of bizarre, but it really works! The celery comes in a container which is completely full of water (so it's pretty heavy), and it seems to stay fresh much longer than it did in the plastic bag container I was used to before. Weird, but cool.

Speaking of peanut butter (for the celery, remember?), I discovered that Peter Pan Whipped has 50 less calories per serving as the Peter Pan Reduced Fat (I have to buy Peter Pan because that's what Mom bought for me). Almost every brand in the store has the same amount of calories, and then suddenly this whipped kind has less, and I wonder why. My only guess is that the "whipping" puts air in the butter, so a two tablespoon serving is actually less mass because of the trapped air. Oh well, I really don't care - I'll just save the 50 calories and eat more celery!


Lost World / Osamu Tezuka : 3 of 5

Since I wasn't really overwhelmed by Nextworld (even though I love Astro Boy, of course), I wasn't in a hurry to buy Lost World, which is a really early Tezuka work, originally published in part in the 1940s! But I still keep lots of books on my Amazon wish list so I can throw them in with other items to get free shipping, and that's why I ordered this one. The title of the story refers to finding a world full of dinosaurs, but in this case it's actually another planet called Mamango, which was formed from a piece of the earth, so it has the same evolutionary development. Just like in Nextworld, the heroes are supporting characters from Astro Boy - Mustachio is there to solve the mysteries, and Kenichi is pretty much the hero, although he's a musclebound scientist rather than a school kid! The art work is pretty simple with not much going on for scenery. The whole thing really feels like a Betty Boop style cartoon, everything from the character poses to the weird jokes. At the end of the book there's a huge crowd scene where Tezuka includes tons of other American cartoon characters, including the Disney favorites, Warner Bros. stars, and even Popeye (who actually gives a speech!). Lost World was fine to read piece by piece, but I definitely wouldn't call it a masterpiece.


Zathura : 4 of 5

I definitely wasn't expecting to be impressed by this movie (when I saw the trailer, I couldn't believe that the makers of Jumanji would make another movie with basically the same plot!), but I'm happy to say that I really enjoyed it! The basic idea is that two brothers at home alone one day find an antique board game in the basement (the design of the game is really cool - someone needs to make a replica!), and when they play it, the things in the game become real, right down to the fact that their house is soon floating in outer space. The two boys do a fine acting job - pretty impressive considering their age and the fact that they have to make us believe in quite a make-believe world. The opening of the film is a little slow, since they have to establish the brothers, their overworked dad, and their lazy sister, but once things get rolling the action doesn't stop. In fact, some of it's really nerve-wracking (being chased by killer robots, seeing large chunks of their house getting blown away by alien missiles), so much so that a kid next to me was pretty freaked out (but he survived the ordeal and enjoyed the adventure). The special effects are really nice, too, and hardly ever have that too-cheap CGI look (in fact, most of them are old-school minatures). For an exciting story from a kid's imaginative point of view, Zathura is really fun!


30 minute multitasking

Last night I made up for my slacker time by doing my "30 minute multitasking" method. Whenever I feel like I have too much I need to do (or want to do), I can't decide what to focus on and I get paralyzed into doing nothing! To prevent that, I like to do one thing for 30 minutes, and then switch to another for 30 minutes, and so on. After a few hours go by, it feels like I've been working on everything all at once - just like a really slow multitasking processor! So, last night I cycled between video editing, Japanese study, and DDR. I went through my cycle three times, so everything got equal attention, stuff got accomplished, and I felt good about it!

Speaking of DDR, I finally unlocked Endless mode on DDR Extreme 2 (it takes a lot longer to unlock things when you have to save up points to "buy" them)! Endless mode is my favorite way to play, so I did about 20 songs straight this morning. But then I accidentally reset the game (since I have to press tiny Start and Select buttons with my feet), so I lost today's points. Oh well, at least I didn't lose the exercise!


BoA / Peace B. Remixes : 3 of 5

I bought my first BoA CD on one of my earlier Japan trips, and since then I've been a fan and bought several other CDs online. During my last Japan trip, Matt spotted this CD (which was released in 2002) in a bargain bin, so I snatched it up for a cheap price. This is kind of a typical remix CD, with a few of the same songs remixed twice on the same disc. However, these are some really amazing remixes, often giving the song more or less energy, and even making it seem drastically slower in tempo (but I think it's an aural illusion). One of may favorite BoA tracks, Amazing Kiss, is included twice, and both of the versions are great - one has an awesome new guitar riff in the background, and the other includes a gentle keyboard sound that really mellows out the tune. Every Heart, which was originally more of a ballad, seems like a perfect DDR song on this CD, and Share Your Heart sounds kind of tropical with its heavy accent on each second beat. Some of the tracks have additional vocals added, which is generally OK, but sometimes it's just some guy grunting "uh-huh" too many times. I really like the CD, though, and BoA looks so great on the cover (in fact, I took out the cover liner and have it on my fridge)!


Slacker night

Well, I had plans to do things I "should" be doing tonight, but it just seems like a slacker night for some reason. I just feel like jumping from one mindless activity to the next (and enjoying all of it)! First I ate some dinner while watching an episode of the 1960s Spider-Man cartoon (which just seems to get worse and worse, which means funnier and funnier), then I flipped through some catalogs (I got about eight in the mail today, since "they" know I'm an online Christmas shopper). Then I started playing around with DTV (which I just discovered yesterday) - it's so much fun to explore all the cool video that's out there. I've been watching short videos from Japan, old Apple commercials, and some awesome animation, too. Then I caught up on some blog reading, and now I feel like getting into some new manga I have waiting on me. Wow, I'm so productive! Instead, I should be studying Japanese conjugation, since I've decided it won't just rub off on me like I hoped it would. Kazuki and I spent a long time last night on verbs, and I every time I see rareru I freak out! I also definitely should be working on my end-of-year video project, because time is flying by. I'm not going to stress about it, though - I will magically get it finished on time!


Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith : 5 of 5

Waiting for a Star Wars DVD is almost as fun as waiting for the movie release itself, since the bonus material is always so cool! I pre-ordered this DVD from Wal-Mart, just because they included an exclusive extra DVD (which turned out to be C-3PO narrating clips from the other five films), and it showed up it in my mailbox right on time. I love to watch deleted scenes, and they are pretty good here (though Lucas cheated a little by not completely finishing the effects on the best one!) - it's cool to see the first meetings of what would become the Rebel Alliance! The documentary features are actually way better than the deleted scenes. The major feature, Within a Minute, focuses on a single scene in the film (during the Mustafar battle) and dives into every single department that made the scene possible - even the catering department! It's really a fascinating documentary - it's cool to see George approving and nixing things at all the various meetings. I had no idea that some of the lava was actually filmed when Mt. Etna was erupting in Italy! I also really liked the web documentaries (since I hadn't seen any of them), since it's fun to watch bite-size segments of info. The biggest revelation for me is that Wedge (Red Two, of course) is Ewan McGregor's uncle! Of course, the movie itself is great to see, though I miss the big screen feel (it makes my 32-inch TV seem so tiny). By the way, you've got to see the hidden dancing Yoda clip! I definitely don't need to tell you to buy this DVD, because you probably already have!


Coffee season

Even though it's still too damn warm in Austin (it's 81 degrees even though it's totally dark!), I'm glad that Autumn is here. One of the things I look forward to each year is the release of Einstein Bros seasonal coffees! It sounds silly, but the fact that they come and go so fast (they never have very much available in the store) makes it fun for me, and they taste great, of course. I've been drinking this year's Autumn Roast like there's no tomorrow! The little hint of chestnut flavor makes the whole house smell terrific (I even cleaned my coffee maker with a special solution first so it would be a true brew). I was a little bummed that they didn't have a whole bean version available, but it's been kind of nice to be lazy and skip the grinding. I can't wait for the Winter blend, because it's always perfect with Christmas sweets!

I finally got around to taking some new macro shots today, and you can take a gander at my Casey Jr. Engine at the end of my Disney Collectibles set. I think it looks really cool, but that's a biased opinion of a Casey Jr. maniac!


Chicken Little : 3 of 5

Disney's first CGI animated feature is finally here, and my pal Melinda and I went on opening day, of course! I had read enough reviews that I was prepared for a less-than-perfect storyline, and the reviews are correct in that respect - Chicken Little feels just like a DreamWorks film, with quirky humor, fast editing, and cultural jokes popping up everywhere. I really wish that Disney could recapture the "heart" that makes a Disney film spectacular - it's like they didn't even try to get tears out of me this time! With all that said, though, it's also important to say that Chicken Little is a hilarious film, and I loved it. The story does get a little wacky - you can almost feel where they switched gears to the science fiction tale, and it's pretty jarring! The animation is definitely nice, though, and the characters are really funny - especially Runt of the Litter (with all his drama and disco tunes), but my favorite is Fish Out of Water, since he's so cute and always cheerful. I got to see the movie in the brand new Disney Digital 3D process, and the results are spectacular! This is the first time I've watched a long 3D movie and completely forgot I had glasses on - usually my eyes get tired from "forcing" the effect, but not this time! I have to mention the closing "movie inside the movie" sequence, because it's completely hysterical - once again, it doesn't really seem like Disney, but man, was I laughing! I think Disney desperately needs another Little Mermaid to give the art of the animated feature a real boost, but for now I can be happy laughing at the great gags in Chicken Little.


Four priorities

I've gone though periods in life where I really didn't feel focused - I just didn't know what to do with my free time. This definitely isn't one of those times! Lately I feel like my priorities just developed on their own, and I'm pretty happy with them. There's really no order to them, but I seem to be constantly focused on: learning Japanese, staying healthy, continuing projects, and total fun. Learning Japanese is just something I've become obsessed with - I really enjoy it, and it's become my number one hobby, mainly because it requires daily effort in order to keep progressing. When I'm filling up some free time, there's always several Japanese study tasks I can choose from! My health finally became a priority this year when I finally lost some extra weight (which surprised even me!), so now I always try to be conscious of what I'm eating and I make sure to play some DDR regularly for exercise. Next are my "projects", which are big efforts like video editing or ongoing things like shooting macro photos of the toys I buy (and I guess writing WEBmikey fits into this category, too). Finally, when all those things are taken care of, I just want to have complete fun - I'll always enjoy getting together with my pals, gobbling up media (DVDs, movies, TV shows, books, CDs, websites) and of course, taking trips to Disney parks and other cool places. Someday I'm going to have a lot more free time to explore all of these things - having "weeks of weekends" is a dream of mine! But right now it feels great to know what I like to do with myself. I just can't imagine being bored right now.


Full Metal Panic Vol 5 : 3 of 5

After the light-hearted episodes of Volume 4, this volume goes in a totally different direction. The first two episodes continue the story of Sosuke as a part of another fighting force going after Gauron in Sosuke's childhood home, and there are plenty of flashbacks where we learn that Sosuke has been a fighting guerrilla since he was eight years old! There are some super-dramatic battles in these episodes, full of intensity that kept me fidgeting! Sosuke's childhood mentor turns out to be one of Gauron's cronies, so it's an emotional moment when the two friends have to fight each other. He gets to use the Lambda Driver again against Gauron (who escapes to fight again in the future, no doubt). Kaname is really only in the third episode, which is a pretty funny one, since she is whisked away to their submarine where Tessa throws her a kind of appreciation party, complete with karaoke and a special bingo game where the prize is a kiss from Tessa! I thought it was interesting that the lyrics to both the opening and closing themes changed for some reason on the third episode. I guess they are just continuing the arc of the characters via the songs, or something. Guess I'll have to pay more attention, rather than just trying to sing them! So, I'm still enjoying this excellent series, but I'm glad Sosuke is back with Kaname where he belongs.


IMovie HD & iDVD 5: The Missing Manual / David Pogue : 4 of 5

I'm starting to work on my usual end of the year video project, and since I'm using my new Power Mac G5, Mac OS Tiger, and the latest iMovie, I thought it might be a good idea to read the latest edition of this excellent book. I read pretty much the entire book in a day, skimming over sections that didn't pertain to me (such as all the QuickTime compression options, since I generally only burn DVDs), and actually there's wasn't a lot of new material that I didn't know. I don't mind, though, because it always helps to have a refresher course, and this is the best book for that purpose. This edition is printed completely in color, so all of the screen shots look fantastic! I also really appreciated the excellent chapters on professional editing techniques, which give a great overview of general film school knowledge. Reading stuff like this always makes me want to do some serious projects (and now I want to buy a mini steady-cam unit!). I also really like how the author lists every transition and effect that Apple provides, complete with ideas of when you might want to use each one. There are also some great website recommendations for plug-in vendors and sources of free background music. All in all, it's a fantastic book that will help anyone to push iMovie to the limit!


Random Coolness

It's time to mention a whole bunch of stuff that I've been enjoying lately, so here we go!
  • Since I lost some weight, I've been T-shirt crazy! I like to find and wear obscure shirts, so Threadless has become my best friend. The site is such a good idea - designers submit their stuff, people vote on the ones they like, then Threadless prints up a "limited edition" on excellent quality shirts (in a color that compliments the design). Folks like me buy the shirts, and the designer gets a hunk of cash, too! Sometimes they have $10 sales, which is great when I can't decide which designs to buy. If you see something you like, buy it quick, since the really cool stuff sells out quickly!
  • I currently keep up with almost 100 blogs using Bloglines, but I've only scratched the surface of video blogs (or vlogs). I'm getting addicted to Rocketboom, the most professional, witty, and often useful (as far as keeping me up on cool web content) vlog I've found yet! There's a new episode every day, and Amanda Congdon is such a great example of the quirky, beautiful geek that a lot of guys would like to meet. (They have a neat T-shirt for sale now, too!) Since you can watch video blogs on the new iPod, it's really tickling my upgrade urge!
  • I love video editing, and sometimes you want to pull a little snippet off a DVD to put in your latest project. It used to be a real pain in the oshiri to do, but suddenly Handbrake has appeared, and now it's a fantastic one-step process - and totally free! It runs amazingly on my new Power Mac, too.
  • Apple's .mac service is often cooler that people realize, and my favorite thing is bookmark syncing. I love finding some new site on my iBook downstairs, bookmarking it in Safari, and usually by the time I go upstairs, Safari on my Power Mac has already been updated with the new bookmark. It's magic!
  • Flickr does photo printing now! I placed an order just to try it out, and the prints are awesome (including your Flickr photo title on the back) and only 15 cents a piece. You can also get them printed at your local Target within an hour (too bad I hate shopping at places like Target!).
  • Speaking of Flickr, one my photos was commented on by Cory Doctorow, who's totally web-famous (since he's a primary Boing Boing contributor) and author of Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom, a truly fantastic science fiction tale set in Walt Disney World. The web is so amazing, since you have the chance to interact with people you admire and otherwise would never meet!


Halcali / Bacon : 3 of 5

Near the end of my last trip to Japan, my pal Matt played me a song called Giri Giri Safuraida (Surfrider) by Halcali. I had never heard of the group, but I was definitely hooked on the song, which combined a cool, singable chorus with awesome rapped verses. So, when we went CD shopping, Matt found this album for me, and I'm really glad I got it! Most of the songs here are really similar in style, and many have a retro feel to them, almost as if the music was sampled from some 60s bands or something. Besides the track Matt played me (which is one of the best), my favorites are Tandemu and Atsukare Summer - that one has some neato horn parts, and the rap is really fast and funny! There are a few so-so tracks, of course, such as Peek-a-Boo, which attempts to put the girl's voices into more of a 30's jazz feel, but it doesn't really work well for me. Sometimes they decide to get away from their usual style, too, especially in Hello, Hello, Alone, which is a wonderful song that doesn't really sound like the same band. I'm definitely happy I got this CD, and I've been listening to it over and over! You can't go wrong with a nice looking fast-food meal on the cover, either.