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Steve-o Stonebraker

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Jen's Kit Kat blog [Dec. 20th, 2009|12:03 am]
Steve-o Stonebraker
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Oh my goodness. I was just talking about Kit Kats with twotone, and did a Google search, and found this blog entirely dedicated to sampling and documenting different flavors:

http://jenkenskitkatblog.blogspot.com/
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Ponyo! [Aug. 17th, 2009|12:51 pm]
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Miyazaki's latest film came out in the US last weekend: Ponyo. I went to see it last night with Maggie and Jessica S (formerly known as Other Jessica). I was happy to see about 20 other people in the relatively small theater our multiplex had it in. I was afraid, especially since it was Sunday evening, it might be one of those screenings with only like two other people in the whole venue. And... there were a bunch of kids there, too! Yay!

Anyway, the movie was great! Super cute and pretty funny, although I think I'd still say "The Cat Returns" is the funniest Ghibli film.

As twotone said in her little review, it reminded me in a lot of ways of "Totoro", mainly in that the main characters -- Sosuke and Ponyo -- were very young children (five years old) instead of more like ten for Spirited Away and teenagers in most Ghibli films. They were adorable, and frequently acted like real kids instead of adults in tiny bodies.

Sosuke's mother, Lisa, is voiced by Tina Fey in the dub, and her performance was really great! The character was written pretty well, too. Human and flawed, but also generous and such a caring mother! She's careful (when not driving...) but not overprotective, and when crazy magic stuff starts happening she acknowledges that it's crazy but doesn't miss a beat in protecting and taking care of the people around her.

There was a moment where she was upset that her husband had to stay out on his ship for a few more days, and she was pouting and grumpy, and tells Sosuke they're going out. He reminds her that he needs to stay home in case his lost goldfish comes back (!), and she immediately realizes that the nurturing thing to do is to play along. She's frustrated by it, but she goes along with it anyway. Later she's still a little upset, but then Sosuke says something sweet and innocent and she just looks at him for a moment and then grabs him in a huge hug, exclaiming, "You are SO GOOD!!!" A great character.

I think my favorite visual aspect was how a lot of the art, particularly the opening titles, veered pretty far into "look at me, I'm a drawing" territory instead of just sticking to standard Ghibli house style. There was an extended storm sequence, for example, where the waves were these impossibly steep mounds of water. I felt like part of that was to emphasize that it was a magic storm, but at the same time, I also felt that the shapes and behavior of the water were being abstracted to emphasize that the vehicle for this story was hand-drawn animation. Sometimes when I've shown Ghibli films to people, they've said afterward "I kind of forgot partway through that it was even animated." In many ways that's a compliment, because it means that they found the film compelling enough that they weren't distracted by its artifice. But it also means that they probably weren't appreciating the artistry of the animation itself -- it became transparent to them. I don't think that's something people will say about this film.

Anyway, here's a link to a nice LA Times article about Miyazaki that eithnie gave me last week. It talks a little about his appearances in California last month:
http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/news/la-ca-miyazaki9-2009aug09,0,7541470.story?track=rss

Everybody go see the movie! It got the widest US release yet for Ghibli, on 900+ screens. Looks like it made about 3 million in its opening weekend. Go help it out! It grossed over $160 million in Japan, so we have a lot of catching up to do. :)
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Fun at the Ohio State Fair [Aug. 9th, 2009|08:25 pm]
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The fair was lots of fun! Growing up in Indiana PA, I used to go to the Indiana County Fair almost every year, but the last time I went to one was probably around my senior year of high school, so... 15 years? I was actually kind of excited to walk through barns and see farm animals, like old times.

We spent most of our time looking at animals. The first place we went to was the sheep area so we could take sheep pictures for Graham. Then we headed over to watch a little bit of a horse show. I'd never seen one before, but it was kind of neat! It was a special show of Friesian horses which are apparently uncommon in the United States. We saw some walk-trot-canter action and totally called the winner -- the other horses looked like amateurs in comparison. There was also a "costume" round where women in fancy dresses rode around.

The horse show concluded with a very long section of "liberty" performances. In these, the horse ran around with a rider, and one or two trainers in the ring just made noise or waved whips to direct the horse around. The audience was also called on to Part of the judging in this competition was "obvious enjoyment of performing". Oh yeah, and they played music. Stuff like "Get Ready For This" and "Eye of the Tiger". And sadly most of the horses seemed preoccupied with this one section of the coliseum where some spectators were standing right up by the wall. I'd say 3/4 of the liberty horses never even went on the other half of the show floor because they kept trying to dodge their trainers so they could stand by that wall. That was kind of disappointing. One of the better performers, though, had this really sweet ending -- when the music ended, most horses kept running until their trainers came over to lead them away, but this one responded to the end of the music, and sauntered up to its trainer in the center, and stopped right in front of her with its head down, and then the trainer touched her nose to its snout like a little eskimo kiss.

Over in the pig section of the fair, we overhead the end of a hog contest in which the announcer, a man in his 50s or 60s got all choked up -- it was really cute. He talked about how much hogs mean to him and that he feels so honored and lucky whenever he gets to judge a really fine hog show. Unfortunately there was quite a crowd around the show area so we couldn't get up to see the amazing pigs that had touched his heart, but it made me happy to hear him feeling so earnestly happy himself.

From there we moved on to the art show. There were some really impressive paintings there of kids swimming with animals -- the rippling water looked almost photographic from a distance. It was an amazing reproduction, done with individual streaks of paint layered on top of each other almost like a topographic map. I saw some photos I liked a lot too, including a road bending off into the night and a pair of nervous-looking feet off-center, with most of the frame showing receding floorboards.

Then we went to see the chickens, which surprisingly turned out to be the highlight of the afternoon. I'd seen footage before of carefully-bred pigeons with bizarre plumage, but I'd never seen it done with chickens. I was surprised by the variety of sizes, colors and patterns even on the "normal" chickens, and then the more "showy" birds were just amazing. Meanwhile, there was also row of turkeys, and my god -- they are so disgusting. The bulbs of skin all over their heads and necks you see in photos (including but not limited to the wattle) are all soft and barely attached, so they flop all over the place, stretch out and contract spontaneously and they basically look like a big pile of convulsing flesh from a monster movie.

To get those images out of our minds we looked at rabbits for a while, but despite their cuteness we couldn't help but think, "the chickens were better." The rabbits were just too samey. I wanted more variety.

At this point we finally made our way to the rides area, stopping briefly to take a look at a "Masters of the Chainsaw" demonstration. I was interested to see that the sculptor actually had two chainsaws with him that he switched between, although I didn't figure out what the difference was -- like one was better at fine detail and the other for large cuts, or something.

It was approaching 7 PM by this time and we all had things to do, plus the rides are pretty expensive if you don't buy a ride-all-day and take advantage of it ($2 or $3 per ride when paying with tickets). There were two little roller coasters there -- a Wildcat and a Crazy Mouse -- which I would have really enjoyed, but the lines were pretty long and we were sort of winding down, so we only took one ride, on an off-brand Wave Swinger. Always a strong choice.

Heading back to the car, we stopped into a little NASA exhibit truck where they had some crappy computer terminals that didn't do very much, a bin of Duplo bricks that was sealed with duct tape so you couldn't play with them, and a piece of moon rock sealed in resin and being talked about by my former student Kevin D. That was a pleasant surprise. He was wearing his FEH program polo shirt and said the NASA guys hadn't given him a NASA shirt. It was the next-to-last day of the whole fair, NASA! What gives? Kevin totally deserves a shirt for helping out with the only interesting part of your dumb trailer.

The last stop on our way out was a little fresh-brewed root beer stand. (Pictured by someone else here, my camera had died by this point.) The guy running it was really cool -- apparently it's just a hobby but he goes around to a bunch of shows every summer to sell. He even has giant tin mugs to sell that he gives cheap refills for. I had a root beer, and it was *amazing*. Among well-known brands I'd say it was closest to an A&W, very creamy and frothy. Maggie got some cherry stuff which was also really good. I would have loved to try his other flavors... cream soda, a birch beer, and even an orange cream soda he calls "orange zippy"! He only sells in person at fairs and festivals and doesn't even have a website, but I will definitely look for him next year! Oh, and he had a fancy "Root Beer Man" logo shaved into the back of his head. Awesome.

Here is a link to the photos I posted on Facebook:
http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=2625136&id=12445111

And my videos as well:
http://www.facebook.com/video/?id=12445111

Enjoy!
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A day of twists and turns [Dec. 31st, 2008|07:01 pm]
Steve-o Stonebraker
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So last night Jessica went out, and since her car needs some maintenance, she took mine.Long story.Collapse )

I got home, Other Jessica showed up, we got my car and her bags, and I went home, finally sitting to relax nearly 6 hours after leaving for lunch with Jessica. I am very happy to be just sitting around doing nothing now.
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Nice game review site [Sep. 23rd, 2008|02:41 pm]
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My favorite video game reviewer is a guy named Tim Rogers who used to write for InsertCredit.com, and then for LargePrimeNumbers.com, and has apparently just moved to a new place called ActionButton.net. His reviews are... well, extremely long and meandering. I'm sure a lot of people would consider them pretentious. Even I, who love his reviews, frequently skip paragraphs in order to find parts that are more interesting to me. (His old review of "Shadow of the Colussus" was nearly 8000 words long, and he frequently goes longer.) But he is always right. His ideas about game design are so clear and deep that everything he writes about them seems not just reasonable but objectively correct. If you have any interest in game analysis beyond 1-5 ratings on graphics, sound, gameplay, etc., you should try taking a look at his articles.

Anyway, the neat thing about this new site is that they have posted a "best 25 games of all time" list with each entry linking to one of their absurdly long and thoughtful reviews. I usually enjoy that sort of thing even though the lists are always pretty predictable and samey. The awesome thing about this list though is that it isn't. It is almost totally different than any other "best games" list I've read, and it's really interesting to see the choices they made and why they made them. The writers at ActionButton have a very exacting idea of what they like and why, and it's a bit off from the mainstream. For example, the list includes a Castlevania game, but it's not "Symphony of the Night" (most best-game lists put it within the top five). It has "Secret of Evermore" but not "Secret of Mana" or a single "Final Fantasy" title (most lists feel compelled to list FF7 even though 4-6 were better). It puts the indie, developed-by-one-guy-in-his-spare-time adventure title "Cave Story" in the top 10 (most lists don't include it at all). And the number one entry is a barely-known PC game from the late 80s which, like Cave Story, was made by just one guy.

And yet at the same time that they make all these unusual choices, it's not a snooty example of "here's the games that are *actually* good, unlike those other lists". The list also includes common, popular picks like "Half-Life 2" and "Gears of War"... and things you might think are too plain for a best-games list like a soccer title and a racing game, and "Spartan: Total Warrior" which I always sort of assumed sucked.

Here's their list. Take a look for yourself and let me know what you think.
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Yourmorals.org survey [Sep. 16th, 2008|01:39 pm]
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Pic and Obs took the morality survey mentioned in one of the articles I linked yesterday, so I thought I would take it and show mine, too. It's the "Moral Foundations Questionnaire" at their site, if you want to try it out.



I'm actually a little surprised by the harm and authority scores. On harm, I figured I would be higher... but it probably ended up there because I consider harming others to be, in many cases, inevitable. The authority score is a bit more surprising. I got a "typical" liberal score on that dimension, but I expected it to be lower. I don't consider heeding authority to be a moral issue; it's a practical one. So I answered somewhat affirmatively on, for example, "children should be taught to respect authority". But not because I think authority is intrinsically important... simply because it is an invaluable social shortcut for evaluating expertise.

I imagine that if the questionnaire weren't so brief, and hit each dimension more times with slightly different questions, I would have higher harm and lower authority.
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Strange visitor [Sep. 11th, 2008|06:56 pm]
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I was looking around under the bed and dressers today and found something unexpected:

Photobucket

I have seen very few mantises in my life, especially this close up, and would not have guessed I would run into one this way. He was sitting on a piece that was broken off the front of Jessica's dresser, so I just sort of lifted it very gently and walked him over to the open window. He was quite reticent to let go of the wood and rejoin the world around him. It was really awesome to watch him cleaning the spines on his arms by running his mouth along them. A mantis is so much more humanoid than most insects, I couldn't help but imagine an intelligent agency operating in that tiny triangular head as I watched the way he moved and looked around.
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Nausicaa [Aug. 4th, 2008|09:29 pm]
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On last Wednesday I went to see "Nausicaa of the Valley of Wind" play at a local arthouse theater. I was thrilled when I found out that it was playing... it seems likely that at some point in my life -- assuming I live several more decades -- I will get a second chance to see this movie projected from film instead of on a TV screen, but I didn't want to take the chance, so I made sure to catch a screening. The print they showed had a moderate amount of damage. Especially near the beginnings of reels there were scratches, and at one point a single bright green scratch ran down the center of the screen for about three or four minutes. Also, there was a point where the film had obviously broken and been spliced back together... because right as Asbel is sinking into the quicksand, the entire film turned upside down for several frames (less than half a second). That was kind of amusing.

I've never really been able to say what my "favorite" Ghibli film is, but I can point at a loose cloud consisting of Nausicaa, Totoro, and Mononoke, and say that these are the three with the most weighty emotional impact for me. (But "The Cat Returns" is the one I find funniest, easily.) I'm not sure exactly why it is that it hits me so hard, but a big part of it probably comes from having read the manga. Miyazaki worked sporadically on the Nausicaa manga for roughly 12 years. The movie is based on the first of seven volumes, and naturally is much abbreviated and simplified. The film has several flaws, but all I can see in it is the idealized, internalized version of the story that I carry inside myself. The Nausicaa manga is one of the most meaningful things I've ever read. It is deeply, deeply personal to me.

Lots of talking about a movie most of you don"t care about.Collapse )
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Moving [Jun. 21st, 2008|10:32 am]
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The M.Ed. program started this week. Seems okay so far. I will usually refer to it as "MSAT" which stands for Math, Science and Technology, since it's specifically a program for teachers in those disciplines.

The big news, though, is that David, Maggie, Jessica and I are moving from our tiny apartment to this house:

Photobucket

We're just renting, but, it's exciting. We're picking up the keys in half an hour.

Figured I should break my posting silence to mention it.
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Various: School, GF, birthday, Smash, mucus [Mar. 25th, 2008|12:31 pm]
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Yesterday I finally received my acceptance into the M.Ed. program!

--

Last week was spring break for both OSU and Metro school. I spent pretty much the entire week with Jessica. Things with her are just fantastic. We're together all the time and still aren't sick of each other. :)

--

I guess my birthday is coming up? People are asking what they should get for me and I don't really know. Here is the stuff left from my Christmas list that I don't have yet:

DVD:
Teen Titans - The Complete Third Season

Music:
Hem - any album, just discovered them this year
Imogen Heap - any album, same deal
Nick Drake - Five Leaves Left
King Kong (1933) - this edition from Marco Polo, none other

Games:
Wario Ware: Smooth Moves for Wii
Wii points cards
Magic: The Gathering booster packs (any expansion set)


Another option would be for people to chip in and get a nice collapsable card table and some folding chairs so we would have someplace to play games in the apartment.

--

I put my Smash Bros number into the database in the #wiigii! Yahoo group, so if you're in there, please look me up and add me. I put in a bunch of people's numbers but a lot of them still said "awaiting registration" or something the last time I checked.

--

I've been a little sick the last few days. Not sure where I picked it up, but David (and to some extent Maggie) also have something. Post nasal drip is such a pain the in neck. I never used to get it, but sometime in my mid-20s it started happening every time I got sick and it really pisses me off. I could deal with having to spit all my excess saliva into a cup every 30 seconds if that were the whole thing, but the fact that it prevents me from falling asleep is just cruel.
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