Sunday, October 30, 2005
This was my first time seeing a full-length Gilbert and Sullivan production (I've seen Trial by Jury before), and I enjoyed the experience. The Mikado presents a deliberately naive Victorian fantasy of Japan, utilized as a satire of the absurdities of the British judicial system, among other elements of English existence. And surely many of the production's points are applicable to our society today as well. Lyric Opera San Diego's production was sure to insert some jabs at our local political messes, with Pooh-Bah's multitude of meaningless titles now including the mayor and various city council seats currently unfilled in San Diego, thanks to the pension mess and some corruption convictions. Most additions of this kind were amusing, though I cringed when they slipped in a Lorena Bobbit joke (which left me wondering when the Judge Ito joke would surface). The cast was uniformly strong, with Nanki-Poo and Katisha standing out (I don't have the program in front of me to recognize the actors by name). The stage design was spare but effective, and the orchestra was wonderful. The acoustics of the venue were adequate--there are better venues in town, but there's really nothing to complain about. Overall, I enjoyed myself. This was my first Lyric Opera San Diego performance, but will most likely not be my last.
Friday, October 28, 2005
Thursday, October 27, 2005
Wednesday, October 26, 2005
Monday, October 24, 2005
This quarter hasn't gone that great. It'll be fine, I've just slacked off a lot, not put in much effort. There weren't really any classes offered that would fill the last few holes which need to be filled to graduate, so this quarter really seems rather inconsequential. So even a very easy assignment (like the four-page paper mentioned above, for a lower-division class) seems like too much trouble. I'm sure it'll all turn out fine in the end, but I'll be glad when this quarter is over, and I can maybe accomplish something in the spring.
Sunday, October 23, 2005
Saturday, October 22, 2005
It took me awhile to get the new iPod set up, but it's working fine now. I'm very happy with my decision. The color screen is a nice touch, and the firmware for the iPod photo is definately improved from that on my old iPod. The clickwheel is more responsive, it seems, and Podcasts are in folders, with the date of each episode clearly displayed (I still wish they would display the oldest podcast first, instead of last, but that's a minor issue). The firmware takes up more space, so that the 60 gig iPod only has about 55 gigs of available space (the firmware on my old iPod was well under 2 gigs). I was somewhat upset by this until I realized the new iPod OS works better. But part of the space is no doubt taken up by the photo technology, which is underwhelming. It's not why I bought the iPod, so it's no big deal, but the photos don't look that hot on the tiny screen. But that just makes me happier I didn't pay extra for a video-capable iPod. I don't think a half-inch larger screen will make the experience of watching videos any more appealing than watching pictures on this iPod. And the video viewing software probably eats up a bit more of the available space. So I think I made the smart move, and hopefully won't have to upgrade again for some time.
Friday, October 21, 2005
The waste isn't my main concern. It seems a good use of some of my recent gambling winnings (though my ugly turn at the casinos today makes it harder for me to treat gambling as a magic cash machine), and seeing as I use the iPod a lot and feel that the purchase of my first iPod was a life-changing event, who am I to begrudge a few hundred bucks? I mean, if I don't buy the iPod, I'm not sending the money to starving people in Nairobi. So, my main worry at the moment isn't so much that, but rather a concern that a new iPod will be released in early 2006, that will dramatically improve on the video iPod concept. So I'm tempted to hold out for awhile longer. Further complicating the issue, the UCSD Bookstore has the old iPod Photos on sale. So I can get a 60 gig iPod Photo for the same price as a 30 gig iPod Video. I don't really care about the ability to play videos, but I'd rather have the feature than not have it. But I'm more interested in space. So I think I'd go for the old 60 gig model over the new 30 gig. But for $100 more, I could get the 60 gig model with all the latest features. But $100 is not chump change, exactly. I'm leaning very heavily towards getting the old 60 gig model, but I can't quite make up my mind. I might swing by the bookstore tomorrow, after the Chancellor's Challenge, and see if I can take a look at the old iPod. Unless it's a lot bulkier than my 20 gig model, I can't see paying the extra money for the sleek new model. Of course, that sidesteps the question of whether I need a new iPod at all. But seeing as I'm going to the trouble of typing out this long rambling post just to talk myself into doing what I know I'm eventually going to do, I guess I've made my decision on that count.
Wednesday, October 19, 2005
Or maybe I made both posts at work, and I'm not familiar with Macs, and did something wrong. Or maybe Blogger sucks (thought I haven't really any problems besides two missing posts). Or maybe the computer is trying to serve as a judicious editor for me.
Tuesday, October 18, 2005
Still, I'm beginning to wonder about my long-term future in poker. I think I've been pretty fair in my self-assessments here. I don't claim to be a poker god. I think I am somewhere between a slightly-below-average player and a slightly-above-average player. In fact, I may just be, god help me, average. But that's okay online, for two reasons. The casino's take is much smaller online (they might rake $0.50/$1.00 out of a pot that a brick and mortar casino would rake $3.00/$4.00), and there are a lot of real shitty players online. But while the house take may be smaller, you still have to be a good enough player to overcome that take. If you're a weak player, a lower rake just means it will take the casino longer to drain your bankroll. And I'm finding fewer and fewer fish at my favorite casinos. And recent reports about stagnation in the online poker industry, which have led investors to hammer away at the stocks of online gaming company, do not bode well for the future of the poker ecosystem.
But perhaps I'm just being negative. I mean, I made a solid four-figure win this week, and I'm complaining about the game? Sure, I got lucky, but getting lucky's the only way to win at this game. Everyone gets lucky sometimes; the trick is not losing too much money between lucky breaks. Anyway, I'm not writing off the game of poker entirely. I'm just saying, in my gut (which Steven Colbert assured me last night is what I should be listening to), I don't see me getting rich off online poker. And I think I'll keep my attention directed more firmly on Vegas.
Monday, October 17, 2005
As an aside, I will mention a pang of guilt I felt in reading the above article. A co-worker was telling some bizarre story about a website that rents children, that apparently has been all over the news lately, yet no one at work had heard of it besides her. Though I'm sure I made some lame crack at the time, it was not until reading the above article, and encountering the lyrics to "Love Story," that I realized I missed an opportunity to make a lame Randy Newman joke in response to this apocryphal news story. It was the same regret I felt recently, after encountering a link on another site to an article I also linked to, regarding David Byrne's musical factory. Nowhere in my link to the news did I make the screamingly obvious joke, which I encountered in the headline, "More songs made by a building, no food." Funny? Not really. That's not the point. Failing to make the joke, however lame the joke is, makes one even lamer. So let me just say, that unless Stockholm has a greater audience for conceptual art installations than this country, around this factory you won't find long lines, but rather (Nothing But) flowers. A big old factory like that sounds plenty spooky, though--I'd hate to be in there with a psycho killer, qu'est-ce que c'est? But really, why waste time on such trivial projects when we're living life during wartime? I wonder if David Byrne will appear in the exhibit naked? And so on.
Sunday, October 16, 2005
In any event, the article doesn't add too much to what was already known, though it is probably worth reading for discussion of the difficulties for the Times in covering the case while defending Miller's pledge of privacy. And for those wondering where the grand jury is heading, from what one can gather from the description of grand jury testimony in this piece, it seems purjury charges against Libby might be in the cards.
Saturday, October 15, 2005
Wednesday, October 12, 2005
Sunday, October 09, 2005
Anyway, I got an e-mail from an online friend, whom I've met in real life a few times at Randy Newman-related activities, offering me two tickets to the Lovett concert if I knew anyone who wanted to go. Now, I had thought about bringing my mom to the concert, because I took her to see Lyle Lovett with me as a Mother's Day gift, and she was disappointed, because he kept trying to sound like Harry Connick, Jr. (I understood her point, but enjoyed his jazzy and blusey numbers as much as his country songs) So I thought she'd enjoy a more acoustic, country show. But as I was buying a series subscription to make sure I got a seat for the Randy Newman concert, there wasn't a practical way to get a ticket seated with me for her as well, so I dropped the idea. But now, due to Ralph's generosity, my mom can go to the show (though she wasn't too thrilled when she found out, as a condition of attending the concert, she had to return to the Autry museum), I get a much better seat for the show, and I can pass my ticket on to another member of the online Randy Newman community to enjoy. Should be a fun night.
Saturday, October 08, 2005
Friday, October 07, 2005
The fundamental game play is unchanged. Controlling the katamari, a ball, you roll up anything you can, starting with small things, then bigger things as you get bigger. So at first you're picking up postage stamps and erasers, and later you're picking up trees and bicycles and people. The controls are very simple, utilizing the two analog sticks like tank controllers. Your mission is to get your katamari as large as possible, as fast as possible. One change from the original is that, on the basic levels, you first try to get as large as possible within the time limit, and then on your second time you just try to get to a certain size as quickly as possible. After meeting both goals, on future tries you can choose either goal. Having two (similar) goals to choose from, and the fact that your starting point on each level changes each time (from a few set start points) increases the replay value.
The most obvious changes from the original game involve some of the less traditional levels introduced in this sequel. Like the original, there are several levels that involve rolling up as many of a particular type of item (i.e., flowers) as possible. I never enjoyed these as much as the basic levels in the original, and feel the same here. They're fun enough, but there are better levels (though the level where you are at a school, and have to roll up 100 children, is fun, though disturbing, if you start to think about it). So far, I haven't encountered a level where you have to roll up exactly one of an item (i.e., roll up one cow), and you have to avoid rolling up small cows until you can roll up a big cow (I hated those in the original game). Instead, We Love Katamari has many levels not really comparable to the original. On one level, instead of a katamari, you're pushing a sumo wrestler. You must get him enough food, so that he gets big enough to knock another sumo wrestler out of the ring (you get added honor if you can win the match by roll-up, rather than simply knocking the other sumo down). This one is a lot of fun, with the oval shape of the sumo wrestler changing the feel of the game, and creating new challenges. One game involves making a snowman, while another involves a race, where your katamari is constantly moving, and all you can do is direct it. Some, like the snowman level, fall flat, but other levels, like the racing level, are pretty fun. My first reaction on encountering some of the more bizarre levels (i.e., the sumo level) was that the game designers were just adding cheap gimmicks to a game that didn't need any improvement, but after giving these levels a chance, I have to say I approve.
So just based on gameplay, the sequal is pretty darn good. Unfortunately, when it comes to the more general tone and feel of the game, they just can't quite top the original. It feels like, with Katamari Damacy, there was no expectation of the game being successful, and so the makers figured they could just do whatever they wanted. Yet with We Love Katamari, you can feel the desparation to achieve the success of the original, and the charm of the game suffers for it. It was a clever idea to make the original game's success part of the storyline. And some of the stories the King tells during load times are cute (of course, the original didn't have any loading time in the middle of a level). But the cut scenes telling the story of the King of All Cosmos' childhood can't quite match the oddity of the astronaut's family story in the original. The music also is a tad disappointing. The opening theme is great, and most of the songs are good, but just not as crazy as the original's. The J-pop tune is quite enjoyable, but just feels a little too slick for this game.
But whatever I say, it doesn't change the fact that We Love Katamari is, when you get right down to it, a great game. Katamari Damacy is a great game, too, and probably a better game (and cheaper to boot). That said, I've found We Love Katamari as addictive as the original.
Anyway, what this means for the dedicated readership of this blog--both of you--is that you can now see my music profile, and learn what I was listening to, and when (though I can't figure out how to set my local time zone, so you might think I've started getting up at six in the morning). I've added a link to the profile near the top of the page. At the moment, Randy Newman, the Love Hall Tryst, and Pete Seeger are in the top three most-played artists, but just between us, I think Pete Seeger is on his way out. But only time will tell. Send in your long-distance dedications for Seeger now! (Which reminds me, we got our tickets for Arlo Guthrie in the mail a few weeks ago, and got box seats, which for two tall people is good news. Should be a fun show)
Thursday, October 06, 2005
This seems a reasonable time to update you, dear reader, on my own online poker exploits. This was a bad week. Real bad. I do believe I cried at one point. Bad. I was in a bit of a funk earlier this week, and probably should have known I was not in a good mindset to play poker with discipline and patience. But instead I gave back what it took me a long time to win. Plus a few bucks. It's not a catastrophic loss that will force me to swear off gambling forever, but it's still frustrating that a few hours online can wipe out the benefits of a lot of hard work. I'll be taking a break for a few days, and sometime next week I'll start building back up my bankroll. And hopefully I'll be a little wiser, having learned not to chase losses, and not to play when depressed (though I already knew that, and fat lot of good it did).
Monday, October 03, 2005
While at Target, I also picked up We Love Katamari. The clerk who assisted me was very enthusiastic in his praise of the game, saying it's better than the original (hard to imagine how that's possible). My review will be forthcoming.