Got a little sick on Friday, been on and off ill this weekend, still waffling on calling in sick on Monday or not. Blarg.

In other news:

* Thanks to Craigslist, my Gaming Table went up a level. It is now a Level Four Gaming Table (+1d4 followers, +2 Comfort Points). New awesome/comfy Crate and Barrel chairs at 1/3 the price, basically.

* Wow, the market’s been really interesting the past few weeks. Turns out I made out on CREE, and thanks to sticking to my plan and not revising in the face of emotion (“OMG, the stock price just jumped up! Maybe I should cancel my options and re-buy in at $70!”), I’ll still be making 10% this month. Up to 20% if CREE hits or exceeds 70 by the third Friday of July.

* Writing, revising, editing on Tenra. My files are kinda scattered, I think I need to spend 1-2 hours re-architecting my data to be clearer as to which files are done, which are in-flight.

* We never go to Crabtree Mall, because the parking sucks. However, using a coupon for a restaurant took us to the area, so we went. Turns out, as faceless shopping emporiums go, Crabtree is far better than Southpoint for one reason: The rent for the stores is cheaper. That means less “every mall chain store” stores, and more unique stores. Like the LEGO store, and the “Teavana” store, where I got some really awesome tea. My leg is shaking as I drink their Creme Earl Grey. Strawberry Puer-eh is delicious, too.

* Bought one of the coolest T-Shirts I saw at Sears. It was on sale for $9. Turns out it was actually $5. Score. I love Sears: Banding with Structure was the greatest merch move of the last decade.

* Also, I now have an awesome, well-made Ganesha T-Shirt. I’m throwing away crappy old shirts and rotating in new shirts.

* Exercise: Not going so well. Will be kicking it back up this week when I’m less sick.

* Red Dead Redemption. Awesome. But wary of the time-sink, I’ve got other things to do.

Thoughts on a Wed^H^H^H Thursday

* Started writing a post yesterday, found myself lacking in time, deferred to today.

* Sleeping schedule messed up again, starting to feel sick, will need to reset again this weekend: Due to some insomnia, I’m only sleeping like 3-4 hours a night, so I go to work and bust ass: After work, though, I’m so drained I can barely think. So I take a nap after work, only planning on sleeping about 30-40 minutes to refresh. 3-4 hours later, I wake up again, feeling tired, trashed, but awake enough to do some follow-up leftover work. Do the work, check some email, crash again. Repeat. This has only been happening this week, but man it’s a bad cycle. Need to stop it. Thinking about dosing on Yerba Mate before I get home so I don’t nap, and just go to bed early. Will be trying this tonight.

* Had to pick up a few new T-Shirts: The old ones were getting… old. And when 3 years ago my company *stopped* giving us free T-Shirts every other week for some small new product release I *was* happy at the reduction of waste, admittedly… but some of those were alright, and now I’m starting to even lack a typical “the company where I work” Tee.

Been looking specifically at religious iconography: Got a cool “OM” shirt, and stumbled across an excellent picture of Ganesha on a shirt. Unfortunately, most such T-shirts are either lame, “funny” (but not really), or just tacky/plain. There’s no Buddhism-themed T-Shirts (yeah I know how weird that sounds, but bear with me) that are interesting. Kinda made me think about going back to some calligraphers and maybe doing up some prints.

* Helping redo the kanji in the margins for John Wick’s Blood and Honor. It’s an interesting process. If you have the game, the Japanese in the margins is (currrently: “some sort of”; soon: “actual”) Japanese traditional proverbs and the like. Gonna aim to do it all up pretty-like, like the cover of Kagematsu.

* On that front, I found some AWESOME resources for classic Japanese proverbs and expressions, which include both the Japanese and English translations. I’ll tell the whole story later, but basically 80% of the proverbs/sayings that are on websites that collect proverbs from around the world and attribute them to Japanese… are bullshit. Turns out they simply don’t exist, or exist in a form so unrelated it should be stricken. But since these expressions/proverbs websites copy content from each other without fact-checking or noting the original Japanese, these fake expressions continue on. More on that later. But for now, the good sites/google books that have true, real proverbs (which honestly are more awesome than the fake ones anyway): <– The Japanese proverb section is very well thought out! Tons of great stuff here. <– Tons of classic expressions with complete explanations. I might try to score the original print on Amazon later. The original Japanese is not noted, but the romaji version of the original Japanese IS noted, so that means the proverbs are both Real and Relatively easy to find on Japanese language sites. <– Also great, includes original Japanese, romaji and hiragana.

* Market has been interesting for the past few days. Pulled out all my ESPP shares, putting that money back into the market (75%) and a new screened-in porch (25%). I need to follow up on that last post re CREE in July: That was an interesting play, and it paid off, but I’m still following the rollercoaster that’s been happening on that stock the past few days.

* GenCon is six weeks away. Yikes! Gotta buy plane tickets. Let me know if you’re going, we’ll meet up.

* Mark Causey is an awesome human being. He stepped up to help me out with last minute doc changes on Tenra. We’ve got a weekend set aside as a failsafe; “If I don’t have any time to do this work between now and then, we’ll have a marathon session and get it all done then.” That’s exactly what I needed.

* Watched two time travel/comedy movies from Japan recently, both were funny and fun (the latter being more “scientific-ish” than the former): “Bubble Fiction: Boom or Bust”: About a girl sent back in time to the year 1990 through a time-travelling washing machine by the minister of finance, on a goal to A) find her mom, who went a few days previous but hasn’t returned, and B) stop the Japanese economic bubble of the early 90s from ending so catastrophically (imagine our S&L scandal on top of our housing bubble, multiply that by 10, and that’s what happened in Japan in the early/mid 90s). Lots of funny “this is what the 90s were like” moments, charming story, fun all around. The other  is “Summer Time Machine Blues”, a more “time travel/paradox realistic” yet still as silly/laid back movie about a bunch of boys in this school “SF club” who happen upon a time machine and initially try to use it to get back a broken air conditioner remote control. The results are basically Primer-level paradox-upon-paradox which eventually all  have to get resolved by the end. Without melting your brain, even.

I highly recommend both: Bubble Fiction is more for the anachronism lols, Summer Time Machine Blues is the better SF movie yet still wrapped around a fun, youthful plot.

* Money goal: If this investing continues to pay off, I’m thinking about going back to school specifically for Japanese study. Not even for a career change or anything, just because it’s something I love and want more time/resources to dedicate to getting better at it.

* d20 cuff-links on etsy: Bought.

Oh Crap, 196 new Joyo kanji!

So for those J-Learners, the Joyo (Jouyou, but Hepburn can kiss my ass) kanji are the kanji that it was determined all literate people should know. I think the stats are something like, “Aside from place/people names, any given piece of literature (read: The Newspaper) has to be 90% (95%?) readable given the 1945 characters of the Joyo kanji pool.” In other words, if you know all the Joyo kanji (and presumably their combinations, etc) you can pretty much read anything.

Looks like this move was made to increase not so much the “kanji you need to know back and forth, read and written”, but rather “kanji you need to at least recognize upon reading, as they appear more often in this generation”.

I just got word that the total is increasing to 2136, adding 196 kanji and removing 5.

At first, I reacted as per the title of this blog post. But then I saw the list, here:

Originally found out about it from this blog over here.

Uh… OK. That’s actually not that bad at all. Out of the 5 being removed, I only knew one anyway. And of the 196 being added, just by reading normal stuff (manga, news, books, etc) you already know most of them anyway. Seriously, “Ore” (the manly “I” pronoun) wasn’t a Joyo kanji already? Huh.

In fact, going over the list at the link above, there is only… 36 I can’t read/recognize. Double Huh. That’s not so bad.

An interesting side note: A lot of these I learned directly from Japanese tabletop role-playing games.妖(bizarre, “Ayakashi” in the game uses this kanji)、刹(shrine, but it is also the second kanji of “Rakusatsu”, or “Rakshasa”, an evil spirit)、爪(claw)、脇(side/ribs)、瑠(treasure)、虎(tiger)、駒(horse/cavalry)、嵐(storm)、怨(grudge; like from the movie)、斬(to slice with a katana; “to kill” in samurai-speak)、溺(drown)、呪(curse) alone I picked up from Tenra Bansho Zero. Others like 呂 I picked up from equally geeky sources (It’s part of Lu Bu’s name, the terror of the Three Kingdoms era).

So, interesting. I’ve got almost 40 new kanji to learn at some point, and not nearly as bad as I thought. Cool. And if it sounds scary, don’t sweat it. Most of them you’ll pick up from comics or daily life anyway (丼、串、俺、尻、旦、嗅、etc), not to mention place names.

CREE: Decisions, decisions…

I’ve got 5 contracts of Cree (100 shares each), at about a value of 60, expiry Jan 2011. Currently waffling on placing a covered call for July, at 65 or 70.

If 65, option will almost certainly divest (if not, then whoppee I can lease it out again at no loss), total gain $1750 instantly, and an additional approx $2500 if its above 65 on the third Friday in July.

Or, do I go for a strike price of 70? Total gain $850 instantly, which is less of course. Also, lesser chance of it hitting 70, which means I could then lease it again in July, meaning more potential future profit. But if it does hit 70 (CREE’s gains are often swift, so it’s pretty much a coin toss), there’s an additional $5000 payout.

Hmmm, will have to do some thinking…

UPDATE: A few hours later, and the above numbers shuffled a little, I’m rolling with the 70 strike price for July.

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 (“”), 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 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.



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.


Tuesday Thoughts

* Been going to the work gym at lunch lately. Been a while, I didn’t know they had a new use-and-toss towel system. Feels good, but I really wish there were more free weights: The Smith machine for straight up-down lifts only gets you so far…

* I love all that I’m reading/seeing of the game “Sleep is Death”. Unfortunately, due to the two-punch combo of old Linksys router (no UPnP) and Vonage router, I can’t broadcast/receive on the port required to host a game, I can only play. I’ll have to look into that later.

* Pulled out of options this month on basic Scottrade while I basically move my cash over to Scottrade’s Options First getup. I like the services it provides, but it’s not as second-to-second accurate as Think-or-Swim: So I’ll probably need to use Options First to actually set my spreads, but ToS to do the planning.

* I’ve started practicing kanji again, doing about 10 a day: Mostly ones that I already know how to read, but either never learned (or forgot how) to write. Last night I went through 路,機,関,到,局,故,発 and a few others: All ones I could easily recognize or read, but totally forgot the stroke count, or would draw a blank when trying to write. Also, 機 (machine) I realized I never learned to write properly, so that was good practice. I’m going through the best books in the biz for learning kanji, the Basic Kanji Book (vol 2), Intermediate Kanji Book, both sets by Chieko Kano/Bonjinsha.

* Watching classic Shaw Brothers movies recently: The “Dragon Dynasty” studio has been remastering and re-releasing them recently, and they’re doing an incredible job: Most of them are so cleared up that they look like they were filmed last year, camerawork anachronisms aside. Watched Heroes of the East (ninjas in a kung fu movie!), My Young Auntie (silly parts are silly, but otherwise a phenomenal work with tons of budding kung fu legends) from Netflix, and I went out and purchased the remastered Five Deadly Venoms (五毒).

I realized after watching Five Deadly Venoms again – this was THE movie that got my young child brain interested in martial arts and The East – that it was much slower than I remember. It also has a far more solid, intricate plot that I expected, including an entire suspense/mystery/conspiracy. The characters are memorable even outside their animal stances (particularly “Toad’ and “Lizard”), and I found myself even sympathizing with “Cobra”.  Must have been the first “movie twist” that my eyes ever saw. And I figured out that, while there’s not as much constant kung-fu action as other Shaw Brothers flicks, the dress, mannerisms, styles and “powers” of the 5 leads take them from “kung fu badasses” and puts them into the category of “superheroes”. On the playground back in Baton Rouge in kindergarten and first grade, the boys didn’t play Cops and Robbers or Superheroes, we played “Five Deadly Venoms” (“No *I* want to be Centipede!”). Even after all these years and a wash of nostalgia, the remastered/Dragon Dynasty version of this flick is excellent.

* All my shoes are suddenly getting old. Or better yet it’s probably more appropriate to say that I finally am noticing that all my shoes are getting old. So I’m buying sneakers, hiking boots and sandals all at the same time. Ordered some sneakers to try from Zappos; traded in my ECCOs (which I love, but the size was never quite right for hiking socks) for Merrell/Vibram waterproof hikers; tried on several pairs of sandals (my ECCOs are wearing out, the velcro straps coming apart) from Teva but nothing fit quite right, instead picked up a pair of Sanuk flip-flops for work. Kinda expensive, but I tend to keep shoes for like 6+ years a pair, depending on wear, so I just have to suck it up.

* The new season of Japanese Dramas is here with a vengeance: I’m downloading left and right, will take a few days to watch the first 1-2 eps of each and separate the wheat from the chaff. For now, I’m kinda both looking forward to and at the same time dreading “Keibuho Yabe Kenzo” (Kenzo Yabe of the Police Department’s Public Safety Wing). It’s a spinoff of one of the side-characters from one of my favorite dramas (one of the most popular in the last decade), “TRICK”, which is a bizarre, surreal murder-mystery drama. Yabe Kenzo is the bumbling detective/comic relief, so while I appreciate the TRICK connection, I’m not sure if the series can stand on its own. We’ll see, I guess.

* Movies: Red Cliff (epic!), When the Last Sword is Drawn (totally awesome, but kinda long in a few places), Kick Ass (very fun), Hot Tub Time Machine (loved it), Time Crimes (cool time travel movie; poor girl), I Love You Man (cute).

GOZU is on Netflix Live…

Seriously, it was one of the most messed up (in terms of pure surreal), crazy movies I’ve ever seen. Imagine Twin Peaks times two, plus gangsters. I loved it, but you may have different reactions. If you like Lovecraft, you have a higher chance of digging it I think.

Google Japan’s April Fools’ Joke was Funnier…

Google develops a keyboard system ore friendly to the Japanese written system.

Check out the link, above for “Concept Art”, close-ups of the pads, and the keyboard in use.