Life

Weird Twist of Fate at the Game Store

Had to drop off the Honda Fit for service near Southpoint. When I was done, I took a detour up to the SciFi Genre game store in Durham, my favorite local place to pick up boardgames and the like. I wandered around for a bit, when I came to the “Discount Shelf Area”. There, for the marked down price of one single dollar, was my favorite Japanese tabletop RPG: Doublecross (2nd edtition), in perfect condition. Even the “Scene Player” card and survey form was intact. I asked the employee when I bought it what the deal was, but while he was aware of it (“I was waiting to see who would pick that up!”), he had no idea how it got there.

Now it’s mine. That’s fate kicking me in the pants, saying “Finish up Tenra, then run a Doublecross campaign for your friends.”

Random Wednesday Thoughts:

* Moved all my investing/Scottrade cash over to OptionsFirst (“options.scottrade.com”), and have begun experimenting with various option platforms. Currently have a few contracts of CREE, Jan 2011 expiry, a call with a strike of 30. Next, from now until then, I plan to lease it out by making covered calls against it. We’ll see how that does. It’s definitely interesting to make the same amount of money with only a fraction of the overhead of owning the stock in full.

* P90X: Day 3. Tightness kicking in. Totally wiped out after the *warmups* for Plyometrics, but it’s solid. And amazingly enough, it’s pretty fun too. I didn’t expect the fun part…

* PS3: Picked up Riddick: Dark Athena and God of War III. GoW is… well, not surprising at all. But the graphics are really, REALLY pretty, plus the reconceptualization of the Greek Gods is pretty cool.

* Currently reading “Gakuen Kakumei-den Mitsurugi” (“Mitsurugi: Tale of the School Revolution”). It’s probably my current favorite comedy manga (Saint Niisan in a close second place), I’m really enjoying the mini stories. If you read Japanese and dig surreal/human comedy (not so much slapstick, but watching twisted people make bad decisions over and over), I highly recommend this series. Plus, the art is gorgeous.

* So, aside from getting in shape, I’m also (stupidly enough) also getting better at making Parisian Macarons. I bought the “I Love Macarons” book from Amazon that I originally borrowed at the library, which started my descent into this party frenzy. I already have ideas of what to do for my next batch: Basically strong vanilla/vanilla-bean macaron shell, and buttercream in several flavors including Grand Mariner Orange, Vanilla, Matcha, and Ligonberry. While at the same time being careful not to eat too many, as I’m simultaneously dieting/exercising. This kinda feels like Greek Hell, but far more delicious.

Red Cliff – Guide for Whitey

Guan Yu has 140 Wei spearmen exactly where he wants them

So on Easter we had a really fun meetup at my place with about a dozen people: We celebrated the Resurrection by watching a ruthless tyrant* get his shit smashed to bits on the Yangtze.

* According to the Romance of the Three Kingdoms, which was written by the descendants of Shu/Liu Bei’s camp. Otherwise, he was just a ruthless yet charismatic, skilled, and even brilliant statesman, strategist and warlord just trying to bring a country together.

So anyway, we watched it on Blu-Ray, both parts, with a little hour intermission in the middle. It was flat-out awesome, a great movie overall in tone, scene and definitely action. There were roars of “Woah!” and applause, usually when Guan Yu or Zhao Yun stepped into the scene.

I spent years in Japan, and in Japan the Tale of the Three Kingdoms (and the Romance of the Three Kingdoms, the classic Chinese fictionalized account of the war; sort of the Braveheart job done to post-Qin China) over in China and Japan (possibly Korea as well?) is like the tales of King Arthur over here, only moreso. Pretty much everyone in Japan knows the major players by name if not by deed.

Plus, if you’ve played any of the Koei war sims like Romance of the Three Kingdoms, Kessen, or the Dynsasy Warrios/Sangoku Musou series, you know who the major players are. If nothing else, you’re like “Oh yeah, Zhuge Liang is the one who fires lightning out of his feather-fan, Sun Shangxiang is the one who flies around with these giant ring-weapons, and Gan Ning is the dude with all the tattoos and the giant ringed broadsword!” Despite the mythic powers they’re given in video games, at least having some grounding in the games helps you sort out who is what.

Anyway, for the big day I went ahead and pulled a bunch of pics off of the awesome redcliff.jp website (the English Red Cliff site is a pile of crap in comparison; it just talks about the movie, while the Japanese and Chinese sites give history, relationship maps, etc). Here it is, I actually did some research on Wikipedia, Three Kingdoms Wiki, and other places. I summarized the major generals and leaders that appear in the movie into 1-2 sentences each. Folks at the party said it helped them, so here you go. The only change I made to the original was that I removed Huang Zhong and replaced him with Lu Su: Even though Huang Zhong has a big role in the battle (he’s the one that sets fire to the ships historically), he appears far less in the movie than I expected of Lu Su.

Download It Here. It’s not super-pretty, but I did it in Word in about 30 minutes the night before watching the movie. Hopefully it will help other people who didn’t grow up in Asia or come under the influence of the tale still enjoy the movie that much more, with just a touch of inside/deeper knowledge of the events and people of the Red Cliff battle.

-Andy

chobisleep

Chobi: 1997-2010

What a great run. 13 years, FIV positive cat. We had to put him to sleep tonight due to some really bad lymphoma. He was the last of the three cats we brought to America with us from Japan in 2000.

When he was born, his bent tail meant that he wasn’t picked from the litter, so Orie kept him. He was a runt, so he was named Chobi (ちょび), kind of a play on “small” in Japanese. Man, he turned out huge and strong, though. His bent tail basically led him on an adventure that had him come to America from Japan at age three, where he lived the rest of his life here.

Yeah, it’s sad, but he had a great run for a cat I think.

-Andy

Feelgood music for a shitty week!

Health: Almost completely better, only mild stomach funk left.

But work’s been a real monster. I’ve been reading Kitchen Confidential in my off-time, and this week work’s been feeling like a prep line during a week-long rush hour.

So some feelgood music from Japanese Soul artist “bird” (バード):

Mondo Grosso feat bird

bird: BATUCADA

And heck, some feelgood breakdancing at a popping/locking competition.

Brief: Stockplay! Gaming! And Writing!

Praxis: Back in the saddle on writing: Did two pages of translation last night, it felt plain good.

Gaming/Japanese Translation: Shinobigami: Wow, whatta game. I’m only about 20% understanding how it works based on the replays and rules text (for me it’s got a high time vs return rate than other recent books, still it’s not that long so its just a matter of time). I like how fights end the first time anyone takes damage. I also like the

Gaming: Owl Hoot Trail: The simplicity of the classes (hearkening back to Red Box Hack) and system, plus the anachronism of the setting, kept things really interesting. I loved diving into character without keeping track of Angst points and Innuendo Scenes.

Gaming: PS3: Just Cause 2 and Resonance of Fate are on their way from Amazon now. Not a lot of time to dedicate to either right now (they’ll mostly keep me busy during summer downtimes). But after playing the JC2 demo about 20 times, I figured it’s prudent to get the real deal.

Fitness: Wow. So not in shape, and not even due to all that gaming stuff above: Mostly poor meal choices at work and being sick/lethargic. Spring is now kicking my butt, though, so I’ve been doing more. Just need to do more MORE.

Stocks/Options/Other: So a bit ago I talked briefly about the option types I was playing around with: Namely diagonal spreads (avg goal: 10% gain/month) and riskier vertical spreads (avg goal: 20% gain/month, with spikes up to 35%). I forgot to mention that I fell in with the new wonky-trade branch of Scottrade, “Options First” (options.scottrade.com). What’s cool about this site is that like some other sites, you can create an account, put no “real” money in it (or associate it with any real money accounts), and simply practice your trades with “play money” for some time to become familiar with the system. I started last month with $10,000 in “play money”, and now have $11,500. %15 in one month, pretty nice! (this was from a one year/two month diagonal against APOL, and a two-month vertical against CREE) These are slightly riskier than owning stock and putting options against it, or making put/call orders when real stock is on the line, which basically means “I need to check my account for about 1-2 minutes every day or two”.

But otherwise, I’m liking what I see here. Unless the market totally crashes and we star buying up shotgun shells and dog food, I figure that I can maintain a zero-tau against my mortgage, house utilities and food with a starting pool of $20k… just need to get to that level first.

Orie: Kicking ass and taking names at CCCC. She’s near the top of her class at one of the hardest veterinary tech programs in the country, and she doesn’t even speak English as her first language. CCCC is a kind of mixed bag: They want to be taken seriously, but they try too hard. A lot of the professors just plain suck at teaching, handing out “busywork” as assignments. Still, Orie’s mauling the program like a wild animal.

Interesting story: So, while she’s kicking ass, she’s putting a lot of extra effort in due to the language issue. When she was in the registrar’s office, she mentioned to the admissions advisor something like that, like “Sometimes it’s really hard though: I bet I’m the first international student you’ve ever had here in your vet tech program.” The registrar/admissions advisor said, “Oh, no, not at all! We’ve actually had three international students go through the program, yessiree! Two of them were from England, and one was from Australia…”

Orie couldn’t think of anything to say in reply.

Thursday Thoughts

*  On the last legs of my sickness I think. Still feel woozy sometimes, dizzy due to inner ear gunk.

* Feel like I’m going to go home from work today and sleep until tomorrow.

* I was going to write something here but now I forget. Huh.

* I’m a stress eater. This week, re work, I’ve been eating and drinking *a lot*. It’s not so much the Redvines (thanks, Joe), it’s the cheesy Easter chocolate. And not been to the gym in a few days. I can actually feel the fat cells multiply. Time to get over to the gym and into the Gyroscopic Mecha Exoskeleton (aka Adaptive Motion Trainer from Precor) then hit some weights.

i contain multitudes

I’m wearing my favorite T-Shirt, the Che Guevara one I got from Nikolai.

And I’m currently checking my NYSE stock profile on my netbook.

-Andy

hmmm, then again, it does say “hasta la victoria, siempre!” …it might be indicating a fight onwards towards success with capitalist stock investments? :-)

Juuuust About Better…

* So 5 days of illness, starting with a nasty throat condition where I couldn’t speak, then switching gears to a horrible sinus condition of sorts (I still am stuffed up in the ears, but I think sinus infection/ear infection chances are low at this point)… Alllmost over it. Still, body feels a little weak today, very tired. Just wrote a little and watched some Netflix streaming movies. “Outsourced” was a really cute movie. “My Faraway Bride” was about as telegraphed and empty as a pop-idol choreographed dancing. Binging on classic Shaw Brothers Kung Fu stories now, and pre-ordering Red Cliff for an eventual RTP group movie-watching… thing.

* Went to the gym today to do a little, because after like a week of doing nothing I feel lethargic and sluggish. So they added two pieces of new equipment to the LFF gym I go to: This thing called an “adaptive motion trainer“. It was both awesome and bizarre: It’s basically like strapping into a resistance exoskeleton, basically all the benefits of a stair and elliptical in one, where you set your pace from step to step. Brilliant: It was bizarre when I realized that I was having so much fun that my heart rate was like between 155-170 for about 40 straight minutes. Every time I measured my heartbeat I had to back off so I WOULDN’T DIE. Then I’d forget and “have fun with it” again, only to realize I was back up to 168.

Part of that was because I’m out of shape due to busy/sickness. But most of it was because you’re having so much fun you don’t notice.

I swear, if they strapped a 14″ monitor to this thing, where it gives you a visual like you’re in a robot suit stomping/running across an alien landscape, bounding over boulders and canyons (because that’s what this thing feels like when you use it), I WOULD NEVER LEAVE THIS DEVICE.

* Not ready for this “hour later” thing. It’s 8:00 but it feels like it’s 5:00. I know, it just moved up an hour and all, but I’m still recovering from all this sick so it’s having that much more weight.

Anyway, bed early tonight, work early tomorrow…

The Sickness

Always happens around springtime: Mmmm-mmmm. Sinus infection. Or just “allergies” which, while not creating a full-blown infection, feel like a curb-stomp to my face and breathing.

Tired, achey, face full of solid snot which is rapidly turning to liquid snot thanks to Day-Quill Sinus… Hope this clears up by tomorrow…

If you were interested in the teaching power of manga/comics, watch this…

So this show called “imagine-nation” is running in Japan: It’s a show in English about mostly “otaku-y” stuff like manga and video games, interviews with artists and producers, etc.

This time, they have a huge interview with Saibara Rieko. Who is hands-down my absolute favorite manga artist in Japan. I’ve been a fan of hers every since I saw her stuff back in 1998 in Tokyo Walker, and her “Chicken Head Travel Journal” manga series about her travels all over 3rd world asia. She does awesome things, then uses manga (and often interjects real photographs as well as a kind of “Scrapbook”) to describe those events.

Here’s a lengthy Japan Times article about her, including translations of some of her manga.

And a second article about her life, and a one-on-one interview (huh, didn’t know she was that poor, or got thrown out of high school)

I was flat-out shocked that someone did a piece on her: Even though she’s really popular with adults in Japan, she has absolutely zero “otaku power/cred”. NOTHING. Her drawings are cheap and sweet and often terribly offensive, her journeys through south asia and south america are incredible and interesting and full of cool vignettes but nothing about Akihabara or panty shots or mecha. None of her works are becoming (or can become) anime, so no one will ever hear of her in America, which is a total fucking shame.

Anyway, after reading her unique comic style I pretty much became obsessed with this kind of “travel journey” manga, and even saw the format replicated in RPG-themed actual play manga as well. In fact, I’ve kinda waffled on doing my own slice-of-life/journey manga about stuff that I did in Japan, or stuff that happened at work or the like.

Anyway, Saibara Rieko: Awesome. Adventurous. Tumultuous. And an explorer of using manga in totally new ways.

Here’s a link to the d-addicts torrent post: http://www.d-addicts.com/forum/viewtopic_82786.htm

Here’s a direct link to the torrent file: http://torcache.com/torrent/8038072E8EB14D13B08E680015B97424CF5CE3C3.torrent