Monday, December 31, 2007

Happy New Year everyone!

Drive carefully and have a good time doing whatever it is you plan on doing. For myself our church is having a party from 8-10 and then a praise/preaching/prayer service from 10-Midnight. I am bringing my Harry Connick Jr. Karaoke CD and 100 jalepeno poppers as my contribution to the party. I will try not to set the karaoke bar too high... :-P

Should auld acquaintance be forgot and never brought to mind... If that were the case you wouldn't have been thinking about them and certainly wouldn't have written a tune about it. Silly Scotts and their drinking songs. *Cheers*!!

KC Kendo Club

For a while now I've been considering taking up a martial art as something I could do with Nathan and I think I've found a good fit. My son's life's ambition for quite some time now has been to become a Jedi Knight... this is in spite of my admonitions that as there are no such things as 'The Force" or light sabers, it would be difficult to actually become a Jedi. I've been reading a bit about Kendo (the art of Japanese sword fighting) and also discovered through a friend that there is a local Kendo dojo that is actually free! They practice outdoors (referred to as an aozora 'blue sky' dojo) in a park in Overland Park twice a week.

I am going to visit a couple of the practice sessions when we get a little nearer Spring and speak with the sensei (to see how he feels about a seven year old starting in his dojo). This will also give me time to save up a little for the equipment investment (bokken - wooden sword used for kata $20, shinai - split bamboo practice sword $20, keikogi/hakama - uniform $60, and then eventually when we get good... the bogu which is the Kendo armor $300!... all times 2... sword fighting with my kid - priceless).

kckendo.com

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Call of Duty 4 (for Christmas)

I have to say I am extremely impressed with this game on almost every level. This is the first military shooter I have liked in a long time that wasn't made by Red Storm Entertainment. I am a huge fan of the Rainbow 6 (Tom Clancy) series of PC games with my favorite being the original Ghost Recon. Even though the graphics engine is very dated, the game is still a blast and I love non-linear gameplay where you are out in the open and can go wherever you want. Now this game is in fact very linear (at least in the single player campaigns), but since you are a soldier in a squad and not the leader, you just follow your group around and it still feels rather non-linear with all the paths in the game being sufficiently wide to perpetuate that illusion.

You actually sort of jump around as different characters in different battlefield roles and situations but the game has a certain continuity to it and the story line and scripting are extremely entertaining. The story is set somewhat in the future and is your typical Middle East/Russian vs. the free world conflict so you get to see LOTS of different types of landscapes.

Now the gameplay itself is a complete BLAST! It's like watching the movie Saving Private Ryan but you are IN the movie running around getting shot at and of course shooting back. Activision really did a good job of capturing what I imagine to be a realistic battlefield simulation (I've never been in one myself)... sheer chaos! Bullets whizzing over head and through the walls, explosions everywhere, and you get more than the mere insinuation of large scale warfare in that you can see tracers and explosions happening blocks away from where you are at any given time. Now those are the city battles... there are plenty of recon missions where you are sneaking through country fields or bogs and hiding in the grass from the bad guys, and in the opening section you are dropped aboard a huge cargo ship on raging ocean waves in the Bering Straight. You get to use multiple weapons and can pick up dropped weapons at any point. You can dodge, dip, duck, dive... and dodge. Well ok not exactly but you can crouch, lie down, crawl, sprint and jump over obstacles. There are even a few missions where you serve as gunner on aircraft.

Below I've recorded one of the coolest sections (in my opinion) of the entire game and you aren't even running around with a machine gun. Instead you get to cycle through one of the three gunners aboard an AC-130 that is circling a night time ground operation. You get to choose from the 25mm gatling gun, the 40mm L60 cannon or (my personal favorite) the 105mm M102 which would take out most of your back yard with one shot.

This one section is probably the most realistic military simulation I have EVER played... hopefully the smallness of the video won't diminish the effect, which on a 22" widescreen LCD is stunningly cool!!

video

Here is a larger version you can download (but don't send the link around... I don't want to have my bandwidth killed) - http://66.166.220.58/users/COD4-scene.wmv

Obviously I am giving this game a big thumbs up... if you are into the military shooter genre, don't miss this game!!

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Of Hobbits and movies... (nerd alert!!)

OK well given that soon the media will be buzzing with the news that the Peter Jackson vs. New Line Cinema conflict has been basically settled and also the movie rights to the Hobbit have been put into the right hands, I feel that I should speak my piece ahead of time... we will definitely be seeing a Hobbit movie at some point in the next couple years or so (with Jackson as Executive Producer though rather than director).

My thoughts on this... I should premise this by saying I frequented one of the more noteable fan sites for Lord of the Rings (www.theonering.net) from about 1999 until the release of Return of the King late in 2003, after which my visits to the site gradually diminished. Well now with the advent of another Tolkien film I am feeling compelled to start hanging around there again. This is primarily because there are some very like minded Tolkien geeks who also hang around there which makes for good discussion.

On to the afore mentioned thoughts... I will say that I did enjoy the movies (Lord of the Rings) on many levels, but there were also many levels on which I detested them. My main beef really comes down to what is referred to as a director's 'interpretation of the source material'. Now to me what that says is "If I [the director] wrote this best selling novel... it would have been like 'this'..." But the fact remains that you did NOT write the best selling novel and the question then remains, have you the right to change things? I imagine if you could write best selling novels, you'd be doing that rather than directing fillms. I understand of course that to make a book into a movie you are changing media... you are taking what exists in the three dimentional space of the imagination and converting it to the two dimentional space of a movie screen (although granted the sound track will travel through three dimentions... as I suppose will the light before it reaches your retinas, but you hopefully understand my point). In such conversions obvious concessions will need to be made. I have no problem with tightening up a story line to accomodate the 3 hour attention span of the modern audience, and if for example all of the changes Peter Jackson made to the 'source materials' were to accomodate said span I would have no argument. But the majority of his changes were to match what he descibed as 'his vision' of Tolkien's work. That is blatent arrogance... it is a lesser artist recreating the work of a greater artist under the delusion that the lesser will make the greater 'better'. That is my rant against movie director's who do 'adaptations'.

Now that is said and done... Jackson's movies are made and further discussion won't change the fact that he changed a great book. The current debate on such sites as theonering.net is whether the hobbit film/s (yes they are talking about creating a sequal to the hobbit based on loose references from Tolkien as to what happens between "The Hobit" and "The Fellowship of the Ring"... Arggg!) should be faithful to Jackson's version of Tolkien... or Tolkien's actual material. One post in particular recently stirred a railing rebutle from my inner nerd... One individual says that "To make a hobbit movie faithful to the source material would be ludicrous because dragons and trolls DO NOT TALK!!!" He made this statement with all seriousness as if dragons and trolls in fact existed, which I hope you realize do not. His point was that in Jackson's LOTR movies the trolls don't happen to talk and seem rather stupid albeit fiecely violent. However in the LOTR books, trolls are said to be evil and cunning and in the hobbit even the 'dumb' ones can speak. Also in all of Tolkien's stories involving dragons... they are always portrayed as very intelligent, cognizant speaking creatures.

The fact is that The Hobbit was written as a children's book and the Lord of the Rings was written for adults... taking the children's story and creating a darker, slightly less fairy tale world in The Lord of the Rings. Peter Jackson definitely made LOTR as an adult fantasy film and in that he did well. However to create The Hobbit with the same intense dark mood as Jackson's LOTR would be to stray far beyond the source material... even further than was strayed from the LOTR source material.

Well that is how I feel... and yes I am a complete nerd when it comes to Tolkien. I am comfortable being labelled as such. Merry Christmas by the way.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Irony

I spent the day at the office doing things I can't do during the week because users are... well, using my servers. Defragging, patching, general house cleaning. I spend the work week making lightsaber wielding solder jedi and spend the weekend actually working.

Irony.

Now I am looking out my window enjoying the falling snow... so are my dogs (enjoying the snow, not looking out my window.)


Thursday, December 20, 2007

IT IS FINISHED!!! Behold the Jedi master!!

(The scene with the llama had to be cut due to time and budgetary considerations, however it will most likely be included in the director's cut special edition DVD. This will be released at some point after everyone has purchased the theatrical release DVD)

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Well... I should have the animation done by tomorrow sometime...

Then I may get really ambitious and add sound. I have to say I am rather impressed with myself so far on this project.

Stay tuned to see the awesome power of Jedi Master Soddyr Wyre... 30 seconds of stop motion coolness... 620 frames of pixelized precision... I hope I am not talking this up too much.

You can decide. I'll have it up on youtube in a day or two.



SODDYR WYRE
Jedi Master

Monday, December 17, 2007

Ahhhhh... a freeware animation program.

This certainly has more bells and whistles than my simple Logitech stop motion utility.

http://www.giantscreamingrobotmonkeys.com/monkeyjam/

If I don't blog for the next several days it is because I am working on a masterpiece.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

My mind is/was/has been... blown!

Kurt Elling was smoking last night... he was in the words of my nearly hip uncle "bad to the bone". His vocals were flawless and he as it turns out has a great stage presence. I found his manner to be very entertaining and engaging. It was like listening to a CD track it was so 'right on'.

The band was likewise amazing - drums, stand up bass and grand piano were all equally virtuoso in their soloing as well as their groovelicious time keeping. The swing was swingingly swung. The band had a 12 hour flight from Chicago... and anyone who has flown to or from Chicago knows that a 12 hour trip in either direction is never a good thing. They literally dropped their things at the hotel without checking in so they could get to the Folly on time and even in their rush they just nailed every aspect of the performance. The vocal highlight was hearing Elling sing note for note an entire John Coltrane sax solo to words he'd written for his daughter. He has got a serious set of lungs not to mention an incredibly articulate skill for scatting.

Also I was reminded of just how excellent the acoustics of the Folly theater are. For an encore Elling came out without the band and without using a mic, improvised a 4 minute or so scat solo and from the top of the balcony I could hear every note perfectly.

For a pretty good idea of what we heard last night (stylistically speaking) check out the samples at the bottom of this page: http://www.amazon.com/Live-Chicago-Kurt-Elling/dp/B00003W87S/ref=pd_bbs_sr_5?ie=UTF8&s=music&qid=1197758934&sr=8-5

Friday, December 14, 2007

Anticipating some excellent jazz this evening!!!

The wife and I have tickets to see Kurt Elling at the Folly Theater tonight and I am as they say 'stoked'. This guy is just an outstanding jazz vocalist. Here is an illegally posted mp3 for your listening enjoyment: Fill it up. **About halfway through the song he goes into a really incredible scat solo!

I'll post a review tomorrow.

I love this optical illusion

In the full sized picture you'll see two squares marked 'A' and 'B' and you have to decide whether they are different shades or the same.

click the image -


It illustrates how easily the human eye can be misled when it is offered a perceivable contrast... and how often our impressions can be completely inaccurate until we take a closer look.

From a spiritual perspective, it reminds me of the verse in God's Word which says "...but they measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise. " If you look at the life of someone like Ted Bundy, you may feel that you are a relatively good person... when in reality, from God's vantage point we are ALL equally...

click the image -

...in desperate need of a Savior!!!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

I always wanted to be Boba Fett but couldn't afford the 'good' costume...

Now for a mere 1/4 Million (in addition to the costume) you to can fly around in your own real jet pack. Of course I have no idea what the refills cost.



http://www.trendhunter.com/trends/jet-packs-international

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Of coffee and its masters...

Yesterday I got to take a tour of the Parisi Coffee factory/plant/office where a friend of mine works. He was nice enough to give me a tour and try to teach me in brief the ways of coffee... which are many and varied and mostly over my head. Coffee serves to wake me up in the morning but someday I would like to learn to appreciate the taste which apparently has 700 components compared to the meager 400 for wines. I wonder how many flavor components a good brewski has? I have another friend who's Bro-in-law works at Boulevard Brewery so mayhap another private tour lay in my future.



So anyway I started the tour with a cup of Rwandan coffee. Now granted I've only recently started drinking coffee without sugar and cream (and that is on and off), but this cup was actually enjoyable to my noobish tastebuds. I learned that two coffee beans come from a single cherry like fruit. I got to witness (well hear) something called 'cracking' where during the roasting process the sugar molecules are actually splitting and creating a sound similar to popcorn popping as they carmalize on/in the bean. Of course I am probably getting this all wrong... like when Tim Taylor is explaining a newly learned "Wilson" concept to his wife Jill. Anyway I was impressed with how much goes into making a good cup of coffee. One day I will try their espresso... one day.


This morning (actually as I type) I'm enjoying a taste of Ethiopia... Also quite good! Thanks Gregory for the free lb. (They always give you the first taste for free don't they? Once you are hooked then they know you'll be a lifelong customer.) Now that I am an "expert" of African coffees I'm ready to move on to the Americas. Actually I think this bag will last me a while, but I'm looking forward to tasting their other many varieties. I will for the sake of the blog pretend I could taste the subtle differences and nuances between the Rwandan and Ethiopian coffee... But not really. Perhaps one day I will "arrive", but for now it's all just good coffee.

Monday, December 10, 2007

very bored at work today...



Drat! I bumped the camera at the end with my mouse.

Ah... my kind of humor.

Are you a Democrat, a Republican, or a Southerner?

Here is a little test that will help you decide. The answer can be found by posing the following question:

You're walking down a deserted street with your wife and two small children. Suddenly, an Islamic Terrorist with a huge knife comes around the corner, locks eyes with you, screams obscenities, praises Allah, raises the knife, and charges at you. You are carrying a Kimber 1911 45 ACP (Nic, is this a good one???), and you are an expert shot. You have mere seconds before he reaches you and your family.

What do you do?

DEMOCRAT'S Answer:
Well, that's not enough information to answer the question!
- Does the man look poor or oppressed?
- Have I ever done anything to him that would inspire him to attack?
- Could we run away?
- What does my wife think?
- What about the kids?
- Could I possibly swing the gun like a club and knock the knife out of his hand?
- What does the law say about this situation?
- Does the gun have appropriate safety built into it?
- Why am I carrying a loaded gun anyway, and what kind of message does this send to society and to my children?
- Does he definitely want to kill me, or would he be content just to wound me?
- If I were to grab his knees and hold on, could my family get away while he was stabbing me?
- Should I call 9-1-1 ?
- Why is this street so deserted? We need to raise taxes, paint and make this a happier, healthier street that would discourage such behavior. This is all so confusing! I need to debate this with some friends for a few days and try to come to a consensus.

REPUBLICAN'S Answer:
BANG!

SOUTHERNER'S Answer:
BANG! BANG! BANG! BANG! BANG! BANG! BANG! BANG! BANG! Click..... (Sounds of reloading) BANG! BANG! BANG! BANG! BANG! BANG! BANG! BANG! BANG! Click...

Daughter: "Nice grouping, Daddy! Were those the Winchester Silver Tips or Hollow Points?"

Son: "Daddy, Can I shoot the next one?"

Wife: "You ain't taking that to the Taxidermist!"


I guess I would be the Republican... but I lack the gun at this point.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

What to do on a miserable day...

1. Clean out the garage enough so that you can actually squeeze a car inside it. It feels good to have achieved goal number one and to be honest it makes me feel more like a real home owner when I have a car in there as strange as that may sound. The last time that happened was the night before the last major ice storm we had in Raytown (2 years ago I believe). Not that I am expecting a major ice storm... but I would rather not spend 20+ minutes tomorrow morning hacking away at my car with a cheap Walmart scraper.

2. Clean the rest of the house and rearrange furnature to accomodate the ever so contraversial 'Christmas tree'. Every year I catch the dispute raging on at least some unobtrusive level in the media or in print. Half of the objectors do so because of the possible pagan origins in the deep past... the other because they view it as an offensively Christian symbol. I just like them because my grandparents always had one and as a youngster in a single parent home, christmas was the one time a year I could depend on thoroughly enjoying despite any external circumstances. So the tree 'feels' like Christmas. Forgive me for being sappy which is contrary to my norm... and forgive the pun (although the tree is a fake).

Maybe tomorrow we'll get the kids together and decorate it.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Website of the day...

http://www.rememberingpearlharbor.org/index.html

Articulation does not equate to musicality...

I have to say this was by far one of the most mechanical, robotic performances I have ever seen. It simply has NO soul... I mean sure the guy has chops, but at what point does impressive technique trump the pure spirit of music and artistic expression. This performer will never make it into a major symphony orchestra.

http://www.breitbart.tv/html/10264.html

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Who am I kidding?

I am not cut out to be a blogger... there is absolutely no way I will have anything to say on a regular basis that would hold anyone's interest... for... ... that's cool... Oh what? Sorry I was watching a youtube video... See I can't even hold my own interest!

Well I suppose I could do what many bloggers do and post whatever happens to me on a given day and try to make it sound more interesting than it really was. Or I could simply use this space as a journal to post my thoughts, ideas and mental meanderings... whiiiich are all basically thoughts... so yeah I could use this as a place to post my thoughts. It would be sort of an Internet log so to speak... a web log I guess. If my 'W' or 'E' key ever got stuck simultaneously I would have to call it my 'blog'... OOOOOOOHHHH I get it now... ah ha very clever whoever is in charge of the internet version 2 jargon committee.

Why bother calling it the Net 2.0? That to me is just silly. The Internet has been a continuously evolving entity and it isn't like one morning we all woke up to social engineering sites and blogs and youtube. I mean before jpgs and gifs were widely in use and people still used gophers and BBSs and before we started calling the Internet the World Wide Web... it wasn't called Net Pre-release candidate. So how did we get to version 2.0? I never even got the patch for ver 1.1.

Well clearly today I don't have any work to do. I am what you call a "short timer hopeful." I don't know quite yet whether I am a short timer as the interview I went to yesterday will not culminate in a phone call for another 2-3 weeks... but in the mean time I am acting as though I were a short timer with the full intention of making up for my lack of effort in the event of and at the time of a formal rejection from my possible future employer. So at the conclusion of this post I will probably enjoy a few more youtube videos or peruse a social engineering site or maybe even read a fellow blogger's blog before heading home in the from what I hear 'terrible' driving conditions. Well I am out of prose... so consider this concluded.

My last and therefore final post... maybe.

Umm... well I never thought I would start a BLOG. In fact I'm not at all sure I believe that I am doing so now. Of course the apparent reality would indicate otherwise as I am currently conscious and have not to my knowledge ingested any mind altering chemicals other than a few mg of caffeine earlier today.

Well I must then presume that the hitherto unthinkable has occurred and that I have indeed started a BLOG. Of course there is a very real possibility that this post will be my final farewell post... in which case I want to thank all of you who have been faithfully reading these few paragraphs with me. It has been quite a journey and I couldn't have done it without your support.

ok... ummm what else. Oh! Don't see Beowulf... it was dumb.