I just had a dream about D&D. It was totally...


I just had a dream about D&D. It was totally rad! I was playing with one of my oldest and most beloved characters: a ninth level, shapeshifting druid! Only problem was, I couldn’t find his character sheet among all my RPG papers. Damn! Even more awesome, I was playing with Gabe, from Penny-Arcade. We were a two man team against some dorks.

Then the egg woke me up. ๐Ÿ™

This was a birthday present from Umeji-san. Basically it has an antenna and when it detects the frequency that cell phones transmit messages on (new calls or email), it starts to kick its legs and dance. This is kind of good for me because I can never find my phone, so I miss calls, but it’s kind of bad as I get a lot of spam on my cellphone. Note the the face and the “Omedetou!” (congratulations) text bubble. Those are Umeji-san add-ins. ๐Ÿ™‚

Your weekly lesson of what not to say in Japanese...

Your weekly lesson of what not to say in Japanese

Characters: Me, 7-11 clerk
Setting: Tuesday night, during a typhoon

ใ€Œ้›จใŒ็›ฎ่Œถ่‹ฆ่Œถ้™ใ‚Šใพใ™ใญใ€‚ใ€(Ame ga mechakucha** furimasu ne./It’s mixed-up raining.) -Me
ใ€Œใˆใ‡๏ผŸใ€(Ee?/Huh?) -Him
ใ€Œ้›จใŒ่‰ฏใ้™ใ‚‹ใจ่จ€ใฃใŸใ€‚ใ€(Ame ga yoku furu to itta./I said it’s really coming down.) -Me
ใ€Œใ†ใ†ใ‚“ใ€‚ๅฐ้ขจใงใ™ใ€‚ใ€(Uun, taifuu desu./Yeah, it’s a typhoon.) -Him
ใ€Œใใ†ใญใ€‚ใ€(Sou ne./Yeah.) -Me

**”Muchakucha” is some slang used for emphasis that was especially popular in early 1980s.ย  The guy was probably younger than me, so I might have well just said “That’s some wicked rain out there.” Then again he probably was just surprised that some dopey guy with a mustache was making chitchat at quarter to eleven.

Feeling miserable I took today off, though fortunately...

Japanese health care

Feeling miserable I took today off, though fortunately with less guilt this time as the voice of my superior when I called in had a ring of concern that somewhat eased my fears of the rising tide that will invariably await me upon my return [somewhat].

I watched my beloved “team of idiotsbeat the tar out of the stupid Yankees, so that made me feel better. The icing on the cake was that my favorite BoSock of them all, Johnny Damon, smacked the bejeezus out of two singular pitches to rack up six RBIs.


Still, no game playing was done today, but I took a couple leisurely rolls around the neighborhood, and got the dishes and laundry under control. Oh, and after tearing through Onegai Teacher in two days last weekend I’m halfway through Evangelion now and liking it even more.

On one trip out I sought to alleviate my sore throat and bring some credence to my absence from work with a visit to the doctor. By chance I picked a small, one-man clinic and ended up waiting over an hour to get my five minutes with the head reflector-wearing dude. Fortunately I had a fresh volume of Dr. Slump with me for just such an occasion.

Things went all right, I guess; better than the last time I went to the doctor at least. I filled out the brief questionnaire with little difficulty, except for the last two questions in a bold box at the bottom. Luckily I remembered to bring my PDA with me so I could look up the kanji and ascertain what the question was asking before I marked yes or no. The receptionist and I had a good laugh when she came back, for just about that time I figured out that framed inquiries were asking if I was currently pregnant or planning to be so in the near future. I suppose I could have left them blank, but I was a little dazed and went ahead and circled “no” instinctively.

It’s always a little disconcerting when the doctor takes a look at your throat and recoils with a shudder. I guess my uvula isn’t going to draw any portrait commissions anytime soon. Anyway, I got my throat swabbed with two unlabeled liquids: one brown, one clear. At least he asked me if it was okay before he did it. My take on what he had to say was that I have a bacterial infection or something, so I got five days worth of “medicine” to knock it out. To be honest, I started thinking I was on the up and up by the time I was in the waiting room for an hour, but I guess that doctors don’t want you to feel like your medical insurance money goes to waste.

I have government coverage, which basically means the feds (or emperor, or however you want to look at it) steal away about a hundred and twenty dollars a month from my paycheck, and in return I get bargain basement prices for treatment in the unlikely event I actually do get sick. Just look at all the goods I received, in addition to my appointment, for TWELVE DOLLARS!!

Pick a pill, any pill. I feel like I should get one of those plastic sorters with an oversized label for each day of the week.

“You call this a storm?!” (Too much...

“You call this a storm?!” (Too much rain over paradise)

Japanese in general seem to believe that a hot bath can do wonders for one’s health, so much so in fact that nearly everyone in the family takes a soak in the tub before sleep. I’ve heard that it’s supposed to wash away the stress and trouble of the day, leaving one fresh and prepared for a wholesome night’s sleep.

I’m not sure exactly when, but sometime around the end of high school I stopped being able to spend any significant amount of time in the tub [when I think about it, about the same time when I started worrying about nearly everything], so much so in fact that if I stayed in more than ten minutes it became a physical struggle to remain there. This does not seem to speak well at all for my attainment of inner calm.

Accordingly, all attempts to enjoy hot water, onsen (hot spring) or otherwise, have just been a waste, and that makes me feel even worse. I usually try to read a book to get my mind off the fact I’m just sitting in water [wasting time as I can’t help but see it], but I’m usually so uncomfortable I never get through more than five pages. This is a far cry from the days in my teens when I could spend literally hours in the bathroom, just tearing through a third of one of Terry Goodkind’s early novels. This was usually far long past the point when the water had grown tepid. Commonly, the deciding factor for me getting out in those situations was the fact that the bath had grown quite cold, and I had used every last warm drop in the heater.

So anyway I tried taking a bath again tonight, with of course the same results: full tub, six pages, out in eleven minutes practically clawing at the tile. I started reading Gulliver’s Travels because I thought something in my native language would be easy and satisfying. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Aside from the fact that reading the three hundred year-old English was depressingly confusing and laborious, it seemed entirely wrong that I was reading left to right from the top of the book.

This probably makes no sense to you, as it shouldn’t, but the truth is I’ve been reading vintage manga so fastidiously the past two months that I’ve grown completely unaccustomed to western print [Japanese material commonly reads right to left, from the “back” of the book to the “front”]. Sure, webpages are still left to right, top to bottom, but bound material is a whole new world of thinking paradigms. As if I needed anything else to bully my ego today.

I took off yesterday because I was exhausted and slept through my alarm like it wasn’t there. I thought the rest would do me well, but instead a typhoon came and it’s been raining ridiculously ever since. My health has fallen with the weather, and run into one of the overflowing drains downhill. I went to bed at eleven last night (eleven!) and went to work early, though feeling suspiciously depressed and powerless. Somewhere in the afternoon I got a fever and a sore throat, and lost my ability to think clearly. It doesn’t help that my glasses are nearly opaque from scratches. Anyway, I came home at five-thirty, sloshed the fifteen minutes home in the rain with my broken umbrella, and have been so lifeless I don’t even feel like playing a game.

My jinbei are still outside, now sopping wet in the cold, dirty, rain, and I’m running out of dishes and clean underwear. I have a bad feeling that even if I go to bed right now and don’t wake up until eight-thirty I’m still going to be useless. On top of it all I feel so guilty about not going to work that I can’t even begin to stage a recovery.

Moaning done. Poor attempt at rest now.

Today I participated in the 45th annual Honmachi...

I am not fast

Today I participated in the 45th annual Honmachi undoukai (athletic meet). Unfortunately I couldn’t get out of bed until close to one as I celebrated a little too much the night before at my twenty-fifth birthday party, so my only assistance to higashi Honmachi came in the form of a late entry write-in for the two hundred meter relay (I was placed in the thirty year-old male bracket).

Despite my best intentions at running on a jittery body sorely in need of electrolytes, I couldn’t make up enough time to save our small corner of Shibuya from finishing last. The race was run on the dirt courtyard of the east Honmachi middle school, so footing was less than ideal. It took everything I had to not have my feet slide out from under me on the turns, thanks to my abnormally high center of gravity. I reaffirmed that I am not fast at all, even though I have been told once before that my soccer form is graceful like a gazelle. Still, I gave it everything I had, pushing aside wondering why I’d never run a relay before in my life. Apparently the announcers took a fancy to me as I’m told my name came up several times on the PA during the race.

Though strong in second place for most of the competition, higashi Honmachi began to tire late in the afternoon, slipping into a three-way tie for fourth after the relay. Notice the long and underdeveloped legs of the novice runner. This Italian-American may have stamina, but there’s no power in those tiny calves.

In any case, a good time was had by all, and we will try again next year. Upon arriving at the after party fifteen minutes late, I was chagrined to walk in to applause and cheering. Perhaps it was because I was the only person attending between the ages of ten and thirty, or perhaps because I was the only foreigner in the entire competition. Regardless, I got to hold babies and play with children, something that always lightens my heart and makes me feel good and secure, so that’s a plus. I walked home with a handful of onigiri (rice balls), juice boxes, and laundry detergent among other novel fourth place prizes, so I suppose all in all it was quite a successful outing. Now about that marathon in January…

Things are kind of broken right now. Well, not...

Bad work offset by unbelievable music

Things are kind of broken right now. Well, not broken, it’s more like, watching a NASCAR race with the leader cooking around Daytona at 160 mph on two blown out tires: for the most part, things keep zipping by and it’s all pretty boring, but from time to time your eyes come into focus on the actual car and you’re like, “How the hell is he still moving?”

I got less than five hours sleep last night, and sat at my desk under the loft for a full fifteen minutes after waking up, literally arguing with myself about the rationality of getting up at this time again. But I think I was so exhausted at that point that I didn’t have the strength to get back up into bed, so after the groggy anger wore off I took a shower and got to work at eight. Fourteen hours later, I wasn’t really surprised that I didn’t leave at 6:30 like I swore I would. At 9:23 it took all six of my jets to run and catch the next train home, avoiding an excruciating twenty minute wait. Anyway, I swear (again) that I will go home at 6:30 tomorrow. If I can get something done other than core data structure redesigns thanks to changing specs and breaks in the communication line. Whatever.

I have my beer (which I tell myself saves my sanity), and uh… oh yeah, I said things were broken. When I say things of course I mean Parasite Eve 2 (as I knew deep down all along), and I cannot finish the game, much like Johnny, thanks to a seemingly flawless looking CD that just can’t load past a certain point. Of course there is no chance Square is going to give me another one since I bought it as a gift from my mother at a Circuit City in Virginia in 2000 (even though it really is the publisher’s responsibility to cover faulty discs). I’d ask my friends at Square-Enix, but I know the answer I’d get, something along the lines of the US and Japanese branches not being related hardly at all in terms of employees getting product for whatever reason. We can’t even get any more copies of Gitaroo Man. So, the upshot is I’m mildly pissed and not knowing what to do as I really don’t have the energy to start another game now. And I’m all out of Next Gen and Chobits episodes to watch, so it’s really a scavenging hunt to find something else to finish (if only I had Quantum Leap on DVD).

In other, more positive news I listened to Rabbit in the Moon today at work and it gave me wings. I don’t think I would have finished as early [ha..ha..] as I did without it. Seventy-five percent of the tracks on FlooriD.A. are decent. Actually, they’re so incredibly decent that you end up playing them all like 2.4 times each, which accumulates to more than an EP’s worth of jive (if you’re willing to fiddle with the audio player).

Rabbit in the Moon sprung from the great, invincible titan of my electronic birth that is Humate, and it grew at a time when I really needed the music. Fortunately RITM was so much more than a quiet companion. In fact it turbo-charged my mitochondria and kicked my synapses into generating such an intense recoil that I swear I lived three years in the period of fourteen weeks.

When you have a chance, listen to the “Handled with Care”, and “AK 1200’s Epic Lounge” mixes. If you are like me, you will gradually grow a stencil across the nerves in your brain, and every blink of the eye will overlay another hollow scene of gazing up at meticulously shorn trees brushing the sky between the interstate north and southbound lanes. There are pictures in my mind so tangible and fixed that from them I could master a photograph by hand, and you may stare motionless and tranquil, in awe of the incalculable detail. These pieces go hand in hand with Hybrid‘s “Finished Symphony“, as they will undoubtedly become subjects of my filmmaking at some further point in my career. But those stories are for another day.

Though quite belated, here are the winning shots...

Stand and Deliver

Though quite belated, here are the winning shots from Honmachi’s Fall Festival last month. I am wearing a happi (pronouced as you would laugh, “ha ha”), given to me on loan by my fellow townsfolk. My particular happi bears the kanji waka, meaning ‘young’, as I represent the youth and strength (supposedly) of our burg. This coming Sunday, I need to play this role again at the Shibuya-ku undoukai (athletic meet).

Anyway, what I am doing is carrying our town’s omikoshi (a kind of portable shrine), around the park and shouting “wa-shoi!” which is kind of like a battle cry. Some omikoshi are quite heavy, but fortunately (or unfortunately if you want the “real” experience), ours wasn’t bad at all, despite being made of lacquered wood and gold.

Even if though the omikoshi wasn’t that heavy, I think we were supposed to make all the spectators believe it was. I have clearly failed my in duty as I’m grinning like I just finished a solo of “All I Want for Christmas Is My Two Front Teeth“.

Games, walkthroughs, and the friends you (don’...

Games, walkthroughs, and the friends you (don’t) meet

So I beat Parasite Eve on Thursday, in less than a week, as planned, with a very respectable 7:45 of play time. I would like to extend my thanks to Phan Nguyen Khanh Dan, aka “Mysticcat”, for his wonderful walkthrough. The game walkthrough set is another one of the internet communities which I hold with the highest regard. People spend hours and hours making these incredible support mechanisms for what may be otherwise tedious and arduous adventures for those of us with less time and dedication to ferreting out every hidden power up. GameFaqs is, as I said, an indispensable nexus of worldwide game enthusiasts working together to create indie, public domain material that rivals and I’m sure often surpasses even the greatest of Prima guides. These people know the games better than the folks that made them (like me). But walkthroughs aren’t just dry JFK analyses of the known facts, they’re often written by incredibly witty and humorous individuals that spread their unique personality all through the ASCII maps and plot summaries. Tony pretty much hits the nail on the head here.

“I love walkthroughs, especially with big games. You feel like you’ve made a new friend for the duration of play time.”

So very, very true. Even though PE was completed in less than eight hours, it seems to me that Mysticcat is one of the great Dave Barrys of the Asian gaming circuit.

“Then head to the bottom left. This room exhibits the samples showing the history of humans and creatures. How beautiful it is. But you must continue your adventure anyway…”

It’s apparent from the walkthrough that Mysticcat is not a native English speaker, but nonetheless quite accomplished, and he writes in such a warm, friendly tone, that I can’t help but feel like I want to take him out for a drink.

“Ben is calming Sheeva but all of those are just useless. The dog is
affected by Mitochondria cells and it is going to transform. Douglas
Baker tries to protect the child while Sheeva is transforming. What a
terrible scene ! But Aya has come :”


No Phan, not “you”, “we”. ๐Ÿ™‚

So, after cleaning out the second Square PlayStation RPG in as many weeks, I thought it was prudent to get some balance and play the Cube. I OD’d a little on Donkey Konga last night– in addition to unlocking half a dozen new sound effect sets, I got a good crick in my neck. So, I have left tambourine covers of “Ashita ga Aru Sa” [“There’s Always Tomorrow”] and induldged my ulterior motive by beginning Parasite Eve 2.

I’ve never completed PE2, partly because I kept running out of ammo in the mine, and partly because my grad school housemate Johnny Lee told me the game kept freezing on him right before the last boss. I’m willing to put both of those strikes against the game (and the lame character control scheme) to rest, and give it another shot. This time with the aid of the great comic Efrem Orizzonte from Italy.

“This guy is too stupid to be real. You may fight it normally, but why take unnecessary risks at this point in the game? Turn around and have a table between you and the monster, then just target it and shoot it down. You can use Pyrokinesis to make things even easier. You’ll end the fight unscathed.”

I think Efrem and I are going to have a great adventure together. But for now, I have to go make like a normal urban professional and have drinks at a bar, leaving all my toys and pixelated fantasies in the AV rack. With that, I’ll leave you with Efrem’s wonderful take on the characters of PE2.

Mysterious man claiming to be a private detective.

I don’t like this guy. He comes out of nowhere, does nothing most of the time, and sometimes produces a handgun more powerful than Han Solo’s blaster. And he’s stupid, too… he finds a blacked out Aya and doesn’t take advantage of the situation the way any other man would :). You see… stupid.


Aahh, this is a good one. He’s got brains and doesn’t talk too much. Plus, he finds info about everything, and he’s very friendly to Aya. I’d just like to see him in combat.


What would a story like this be without a guy like this? He lost his family in the Manhattan accident back in 1997 and now everything he wants to do is to destroy NMCs. Too bad he gets his arm injured very soon (but not before he saves Aya’s life at least once). He’s been in the FBI for quite a while, but he doesn’t recognize a detonator when he sees one. Hmmm…

ERIC “HAL” BALDWIN, Age: 50, MIST director and Aya’s supervisor

Another good one. He gives you orders and papers and _sometimes_, answers the phone when you call. He spends the rest of his time with women (well, what else could he do?). I wonder if there’s someone in MIST doing his own job but Aya and Pierce…

GARY DOUGLAS, Age: 56, Vietnam veteran. He lost a leg in the war and was decorated.

This guy is awesome. He’s got two legs, a caravan packed full of firearms, an incredibly intelligent dog named Flint, and he treats women very kindly. Just awesome. You’ll like it.

I honestly have so many sticky notes that my wallet...

Drowning in a sea of sticky notes

I honestly have so many sticky notes that my wallet won’t close, and my satchel is one big, linty, yellow blur. Each one holds several ideas in loose conjunction that I want to write about, half of them in reference to 80s songs and memories gleaned from my daytime addiction to [internet radio station] Club 977. There are so many great (to me) stories to tell. As Pepe’ Le Pew’s French love interest would say, “le sigh…”.

Usually I don’t comment on news stories, but...

Yes, this is my hometown

Usually I don’t comment on news stories, but (un)fortunately, this one helps put my ‘burg on the map. Formerly known only slightly as a filming location for Outbreak (we have a disease/epidemic research center), us Frederick-tonians now have the distinction of being generalized as child pornography maniacs. [sigh]

Tornado makes for an interesting discovery – CNN

BTW, it’s a little weird to see that Scott Rolle is still the County State’s Attorney. I remember my mom driving me to the bus stop in elementary school and seeing campaign signs for this guy stuck into the front lawns of houses on Rosemont Avenue. I mean, really, how long can you be County State’s Attorney? I think it’d get so boring I’d quit halfway through my swearing in.

The summer I was glad to be wrong

It’s true; the hubbub is warranted. Ichiro has proven Paul Molitor and myself wrong and done well in doing it his way. Don’t be fooled by the paucity of my Mariners posts, I’ve actually been intently watching the multi-hit wonder Ichiro since mid-August (and afraid to say anything for fear of jinxing it), scrupulously analyzing and computing any number of scenarios into my head, factoring in a vast number of statistics (I even finally learned what OBP and OPS mean).

This year was different. Unlike summers past where Ichiro faded and the Mariners fooled us Seattlites into one more foolish daydream of ALCS games at Safeco, the world has been turned on its head (well, of course not the almighty senior commentators at ESPN, who have seen this like everything else in clairvoyance from Michael Jordan’s third return to OJ’s acquittal) [Ditch the chip on your shoulder, Gammons! He’s good dammit!].

“They have five days to get the magic back — two more against the Ichiro Suzuki Dancers, and then three against the Angels with all the chips in the middle of the table.” — Ray Ratto, speaking of the A’s end of the season against the Mariners.

Yes, the Mariners pitching took the season off, half due to injury and half to age (be it mental or physical), which left the offense in the dubious position of saving the team (which has really almost never happened for lack of playmakers and sluggers). And after all but a few promising prospects had melted or been traded away, we were left with the insanely great, methodical hitting Buddha, Ichiro.

You probably won’t believe me when I say that my earlier prognosis was actually drawing greatly from the need to express disappointment with every member of the team (I didn’t _want_ to be so hard on the guy), because of course we all know that an annual thirty five stolen bases and two hundred hits are a crying shame to the Bud Selig tomfoolery that is the institution of baseball. But yes, Ichiro gave me something I have been complaining about lacking to my mother of late, he gave me a hero again. Someone to look up to, someone to emulate. Someone who was so much better than me but enough the same that I could see that internal conflict behind his eyes.

I’ve burned every frame of that striking, imposing setup into the back of my mind.

Two hundred and sixty two hits.

A league-topping .372, confusion and befuddlement to virtually every pitcher, mystery, prowess, amazement, and five more hits than anyone EVER made in the professional sport over the course of a season. And yes, even the great Ted Williams could feel the wind changing, blowing ever so slightly from the northwest, or was it the far east?

“In the first inning when I ran down the line, I was really dizzy and didn’t know if I could even run straight. To me, it felt like having four beers, for me. The next time it was three beers, the next time it was two beers. It didn’t go to zero beers. Maybe the last time was one beer.” — Ichiro, after being hit in the head by a pitch

So Ichiro, I thank you. I thank you for the hopes and the dreams you’ve rekindled in my own expatriate soul. I thank you for the weekly lunch visits to the Ichiro-loving curry house with satellite, so I could watch you live in good company. I thank you for doing exactly what you strive so unflaggingly for, being the very best hitter in baseball.

I thank you with the scores of headline-bearing newspapers I scrambled to find the day after, I thank you with my thirty one days’ of Ichiro goatee growing, to celebrate those thirty one in August that were fifty seven. I thank you with my beaming proclamation that we’ll have a drink downtown together one day. I thank you with the way in which I visualize how productive I will be this week at work, going 4-for-5 today and bug fixing .428 for the week.

So thanks Ichiro, thanks so much.

“I don’t feel like I’m in a zone. I’m going out and doing the same things I always do… I’ve kind of run out of things to say. You could say that I’m happier than happy.”

Happier than happy.

After at least a month of binge-ignore-binge, I...

Beauty in silicon

After at least a month of binge-ignore-binge, I finished Final Fantasy VII tonight. It took the old PlayStation I got from Brian Salomon third year (who originally bought it from Dennis Linden) [I only know this because he wrote his name on the inside of the CD tray], but I beat it. The PS2 kept freezing for some reason in the final battle, I must have been too cut for the game. After defeating both the Ruby and Emerald Weapons, Sephiroth was a complete joke. I didn’t even get to use Mime once, my KOTR took him out in one W-Summon shot (since I did about 9K damage with each of the thirteen hits).

Where has your heart flown away to, my Aeris?

Technical jargon aside, I beat the game because it’s a beautiful, terribly engaging piece of craftsmanship that is well deserving of its victory in the GameFAQs poll for best game ever. I’ve beaten it a couple times on the PC, but this was the first time on the PS. Actually, it’s better because you don’t notice the aliasing as much. Oh right, I said no more technical jargon.

Final Fantasy VII is a wonderful title because it excels in virtually every sense of what makes a game great, and it’s a great reminder why I got into this business (which is sorely needed after the last three weeks). As sad as it is to say, I actually have more than several old Square RPGs still in the shrink wrap because they take so much time, and I end up playing my favorites over and over, all the way through (Final Fantasy IX and VI are the reigning champions of that vice). I really should open up Saga Frontier 2, Chrono Cross, Legend of Mana, and FF: Tactics. That’s to say nothing of Star Ocean 2 [abruptly stopped one-fifth the way through thanks to the naming-game-heroines-after-your-current-GF curse] and the still incomplete Parasite Eve 2.

Speaking of Parasite Eve, I think I need to beat that next. Fortunately, that is a game that can be done in under nine hours, so I can tear through it in an afternoon if I use a walkthrough (which of course I will by now the fourth time). Actually, that’s not a bad idea. I may even start right now (after an obligatory trip to Sunkus for some kind of vibrance-inducing beverage). Forget the fact I’ve slept just barely more than the time I’ve spent on the train and at lunch. Pshaw! Great gaming awaits! (Damn Aya Brea looks nice, despite having been on the hideous cell mutation beat for seven years…)

And they ask why I became a Master of Entertainment Technology