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Wednesday, June 28th, 2006 - 11:30 PM

"The Torcibels of Technology"

Due to the fact that we have a new person in our department (I am training her to do part of my responibilities so I can focus on the web), our network administrator purchased a new computer. It came in today. And guess who gets it, the new person? No, me! Woo hoo! I guess there is somewhat of a torcibel of technology where I work. Those that need the technology tend to get it first, which is logical... and fun for me: tee hee! Since I task the computer probably more than anyone in the company - except maybe my boss and those in the art department - I tend to get pretty lucky when it comes to upgrades. I recently got a memory upgrade and a graphics tablet. Spiffy stuff. The new computer that came in was built with my needs in mind, I suppose. I think it will pack quite the punch compared to what I have been using. The new person will get my old computer, and someone else might get her present computer. And so go the Torcibels of Technology. Now that you know what they are, do you have such torcibels where you work?

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Wednesday, June 28th, 2006 - 10:10 PM

"Bake-Time Relief Efforts"

Blizzards are your friend... or wintery demise via caloric absorption

Yesterday, John brought us Dairy Queen delights. That was a wonderful break from an otherwise ridiculously hot, long day. Thank you John! It was astoundingly good. Too bad Gretchen missed out, eh? So, y'all: What is your favorite Dairy Queen treat? Leave a comment with your answer. Just for the record, my favorite is a Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Blizzard.

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Sunday, June 25th, 2006 - 10:38 PM

"MIDI Equals Fun (Subgum Chow Mein)"

I've always considered MIDI music as pretty cheesy, low quality and annoying. The only thing that makes MIDI music even bearable is a really good sound card like the newer Soundblasters that have MIDI wave tables built into the hardware. This detracts a little bit from the clingy sound that makes everyone say, "Ew, MIDI!". The concept of how the files are created using keyboard input has long fascinated me, moreover. I've always wanted a MIDI cable and a keyboard with MIDI output functionality.

Over the father's day weekend, I mentioned my interest in MIDI technology to my dad. He has a large collection of purchased used software (back when used software stores were common), and he thought he remembered picking up a music application that included a MIDI cable in the box. After a long search through his boxes, he found what he was looking for and gave it to me to play with. I borrowed my mom's keyboard which has MIDI input/output.

I'm no musician by any means, but I have an ear for the basic quality of such. I don't know a thing about music theory, notes, measures, or anything of that matter. I simply like to play random melodies and repeating chords. As with most of the songs I have "written", I almost always start with a simple set of random chords. Then I discover a melody that fits in. So the songs end up being quite repetitious, but they are somewhat relaxing to hear - at least for me as I am playing them. In the past I have used tools such as Mod File trackers (Modplug Tracker, Fasttracker 2, ScreamTracker), as well as the awesome Buzz, a powerful freeware music synthesizer and tracker.

Friday night I stayed up a little late and came up with my first simple MIDI composition. It's no masterpiece, not even a song per se. I didn't edit or enhance the music at all on the computer - though I have software to do this. I recorded it raw, untouched. What you hear is mostly the first attempt. I played along a few times prior to recording so I could get the fingering down on the keyboard without constantly hitting 3 keys at once (I have no piano training). This song is a combination of 4 recording passes using an old program called Midisoft Recording Session ("for Windows", as opposed to DOS! - cool because it formats like notated sheet music, so I can learn a bit about all that. Longest paren-pathetic statement in history!). Each pass I added a different part. It's nothing special; feel free to plug your ears if necessary. Perhaps later I'll take out the rough notes, synchronize it to a clear and consistent rhythm, lengthen it and give it some depth, but probably not. I have entitled this little ditty "Alma Alto". It has no particular thought driving it or words to accompany. I generally play music to help me contemplate and to give honor to God, my Father. My spirit is often lifted simply by roughly playing a good ole Christian chorus on the keyboard. I guess that mood is where this melody came from, a lifted spirit (soul).

Listen Here

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Wednesday, June 21st, 2006 - 8:55 PM

"Restless Foot SocSum"

SocSum Basic Click here to view the instructional SocSum video on Google.

Monday I invented a new soccer juggling exercise called Restless Foot SocSum. It is in fact a family of exercises with some similar traits: they all involve incremental counting, juggling with one foot, and rigorous challenge. Monday night I set my first personal SocSum record by matching my left leg's sum of 45 with my right leg. Please let me know of your success with the exercise.

SocSum Basic

Objectives: to get as many hits with one foot as possible without touching the ground, and to then match the number with the opposite leg. If the specific rules are followed a weakness, lack of dexterity or balance in one leg will soon be improved until both legs are equally skilled and responsive.

To Play: Start by choosing a first leg: left or right. Begin kicking the ball in the air with the starting leg and keeping track of the number of hits. The total number of hits achieved before the ball or your foot touches the ground is called a sum. Remember this number or write it down before continuing.

Switch feet and attempt to match or exceed the same sum with the second foot. When the first leg's sum is attained, it is called a matched sum. Sums that are not matched cannot be recorded as a completed SocSum.

Only when the first leg's sum is matched by the second leg can you switch back to the first leg (unless you decide to start from scratch with a new sum session - all previous numbers are void at this point). If the second leg's sum exceeded the first leg's, you must now beat this second sum in order to match it and count it. So the legs alternate each time the previous leg's sum is matched. Continue in this fashion as long as desired.

This activity will greatly increase one's ability to juggle a soccer ball, one's balance, leg strength, focus, confidence and health. It forces people with favored leg to step out and improve the weaker leg because nothing is achieved or recorded until the previous leg's sum is matched. More time will be spent on the weaker leg until it is improved to equality. When both legs are equally skilled, the game will never end - until exhaustion. This is great practice for intermediate to advanced jugglers as well because it requires a more intense focus and balance than freestyle juggling. In addition, each player will reach his limit. Even if someone achieves perfect technique, eventually the active leg will tire from being suspended in the air and in constant motion. It is a satisfying and healthy strain on the leg muscles and great exercise if not overdone.

Dos and Don'ts:

  • Any hit made by the active foot or knee counts. Hits must be reasonably discernable. A roll down the leg does not count as six vague hits!
  • In SocSum Basic the starting kick to get the ball off the ground counts as the first hit. If the sum is begun by dropping the ball from the hands, the first hit occurs when the ball contacts the active foot.
  • The ball must never touch the ground, another deflecting object or body part besides the various surfaces of the kicking leg. The sum is over if the ball touches anything significant besides the active leg.
  • Hitting the ball with the leg that is not active (the one planted on the ground) is not allowed.
  • The active kicking foot must not touch, graze or skim the ground. If this happens, the sum ends with the last valid kick before the ground contact.

Tips:

  • It might be more realistic to start with your weaker leg. If you get a hundred with your right and try to match it with your left, you may as well give up right there - unless you are really good (or left-handed)!
  • Start with small sums like three or five. You will be more likely to achieve this number with your second leg. A matched sum of three hits with both legs actually counts as a record, while 100 hits with the right count for nothing if not matched by the left.
  • Depending on one's level of control and balance, it might be necessary to twist the planted foot or even hop to follow the movement of the ball. This is perfectly acceptable as long as the active foot doesn't touch the ground. I noticed that initially I had to hop quite a bit with my left foot because my control and balance were lacking. This hopping helped me to quickly develop quick reaction times and to sense where I would need to be next in order to receive and hit the ball.
  • If one leg is better than the other, take note to how you are succeeding with the strong foot and try to emulate the motions and hits with the weaker foot. Similarly, if your balance is much better on one foot, observe of the angle of the successfully planted foot and the relation of your body to your foot so you can do the same on your weaker side.
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Tuesday, June 13th, 2006 - 11:28 PM

"Kickle Cubicle"

Cubicles are EsoFun

The last couple days my department has been kickin' the ole cubicles around. We are gaining one person (who will take over a lot of what I'm doing so I can do web design full time), and our part-time web programmer will be allocated a space. So we will have a total of six people in cubes instead of four - though we only have three extra feet of length to make it all happen. We are running out of cube panels. Life is full of missing cube panels. The moral for the day is partially completed, messy office spaces.

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Tuesday, June 13th, 2006 - 12:02 AM

"What's In an EsoName?"

Original Esotropiart Logo
The original EsoLogo

A coworker recently asked me to reveal the significance of the name Esotropiart. I didn't take the request seriously at the time, but I was asked again today, so here goes...

Quite a while ago I discontinued the About page because I didn't like how it was written. With later site revisions and additions I have come to reassess what I consider to be the purpose of Esotropiart. However, most of the original About page description is still accurate to the purpose and origin of my site, so I am including a link to it here (the answer to the question can be found here). Yes, it is a vastly different look and style. I am not ashamed of it. Rather, it shows how far I have come, especially when it comes to the way I write code. Man this old code is bad! For a complete history of changes made to my site, and to truly see the site's process, browse through the archives of EsoLog. This page tracks everything that has happened from the beginning. I also intend to create a new About page that more accurately communicates the history and purpose of my site (and tells a bit more about me).

The new theme of Esotropiart is "In Process". Literally, it is in process because I am in the process of formulating a better idea of what the purpose is. But more literally, the theme is the two words, "In Process". In other words, the theme is that nothing is finished, nothing is perfect. All things - people especially - are in process. Only God is perfect and complete. All of us are on a journey where not one has arrived. No one is complete, no one has finished all they can in this life until they are taken from it. No one should entirely retire from life. All have a purpose and something to accomplish. God put us here for a reason, and each moment is precious and meaningful. One of my favorite movie quotes is by Gandalf from Lord of the Rings (J.R. Tolkien), "All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us." Those words are amazingly powerful in the context of the story. They virtually bring me to tears and always cause me to become extremely thoughtful. It is in this spirit and for this purpose that I present Esotropiart.

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Monday, June 12th, 2006 - 11:08 PM

"Not Your Run of the Mill (Junk) Animal Movie"

Because of Winn Dixie

Because of Winn Dixie exhibits two entirely opposing qualities. The first half of the movie is one ridiculous and whimsical catastrophe after another. It is just about the most predictable and unbearable drivel I've ever witnessed. I'm generally carefree when it comes to enjoying children's movies, but this one just starts out BAD! There are a couple brief comical moments, but most of it is impish if not outright obnoxious. About halfway through, the movie makes a complete 180 degree turn and entirely repents of its horrible ways.

The movie is absolutely rich in its character sketches. Each individual has something to say about humanity, especially in the area of grace. The strongest message or moral of the movie is this: Those that have experienced the most severe pain or rejection are often the best at both receiving grace and offering forgiveness.

Gloria Dump

Gloria Dump is the embodiment of grace. She is the town's Boo Radley or Quasimodo. Most of the townfolk have her labeled as a witch or social outcast, and she lives in solitude. She is not pretty, is mostly blind, and has a dark past. Despite her faults, she is perhaps the most caring, wise and generous character in the movie. Her past does not haunt her much, for she has learned to accept grace. She doesn't forget her sins, but remembers each one and how each of them is redeemed and lost because of her choice to become new. She is the ideal person to communicate love to the hurting. She can touch others where no one else can because she "has been there". She has the ability to overlook faults in others and extends a caring gesture to anyone, even an enemy.

The Preacher (Dad)

The preacher is another important example of good character. I appreciate his commitment and integrity. Though his role in this story was mostly an object of ridicule, it is clear that he invests wholeheartedly into his life and ministry. Meanwhile he is portrayed as someone very real, with hurts and fears like everyone else. It seems that the movie's general depiction of the preaching profession is one of "boring" and "not worth listening to". It is suggested that pastors may as well be ignored because their words and sermons are bound to be just a bunch of "fluff". This is an unforunate overtone yet, it is not one that is overly harsh or emphasized.

While it is probable that the preacher had partial fault in his wife's leaving (marriage always involves two people), from the movie's material it seems very likely that he tried with all his heart to resolve the situation. It seems the wife/mom is simply a heartless, uncommitted woman in the end (though maybe she didn't start out that way). There is no indication that she ever came back or ever would, even to visit her daughter who obviously needed her. On the other hand, Opal's father continues on with dedication to his ministry and does his best to offer Opal a good life and caring relationship. It is also very clear that he still loves his wife even though she left with no hope of return or restoration.

The father endures excessive shame, embarrassment and rejection, yet his attitude and actions resemble that of Christ. Though the townsfolk rarely show fondness for him, his daughter disrespects him and he is constantly exposed to embarrassment, he continues to forgive and press on. The scene where he allows the dog to run rampantly through the mobile home during the storm is an especially stark illustration of forbearance. After the initial response of intervening care, he simply lets go and allows the dog to have its needed time of energetic emotional release (the dog has a pathological fear of thunder). Throughout the tantrum the father reacts with pure love instead of anger - something I certainly couldn't do if I was in his shoes. No doubt God sometimes sits back and lets us scream, rant and run back and forth - demonstrating His ultimate patience even when we deserve harsh punishment and correction. The preacher is not particularly glorified or exemplified in the movie, but I think his attitude and character shine through as one of the brightest and best.

Opal (Spoiled Brat)

Opal's character on the other hand is massively annoying to me. She shows zero tolerance toward any variance from her exacting demands. She constantly insists on getting her way and insinuates that her father is a bad person if he doesn't immediately meet her every whim. It is natural for parents to desire the best for their children, and children should not be invariably denied happiness or joy just for the sake of cruelty. Nevertheless, there must be a time when lines are drawn and when "no" really means no. I can't recall one instance when Opal shows respect by obeying her father's instructions or limitations. She entirely loses her ears when it comes time for correction. She continues with her whining demands as if nothing negatory was ever said. I also don't like that she refers to her dad as "the preacher" instead of using a more respectable title. I realize we are in a new generation and different things are acceptable, but I always knew to call my parents "mom" and "dad" or some variation thereof.

Also, whenever the dog causes ridiculous catastrophes, Opal doesn't respond with shame at all but simply adds to the scene by chasing after him. Rather than trying to correct the situation, taking some sort of responsibility or showing any remorse, she evades punishment by throwing in a trite joke or an "oh well, these things happen" sort of comment. I hope she doesn't grow up to be like her mom. Hopefully she will absorb some of her father's integrity or longsuffering - or even Gloria Dump's wisdom and appreciation for second chances.

There are several other characters with unique traits that must be seen to be appreciated. All in all, there was enough beneficial and thoughtful content in Because of Winn Dixie to warrant a recommendation. I wouldn't suggest it to the cynical or rigid. Be light-hearted, and I'm sure you'll find something to enjoy... at least in the second half!

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Saturday, June 10th, 2006 - 6:13 PM

"Historic Distortions"

The New World

I recently watched The New World (2005), yet another rendering of the historic account of Pocahontas and John Smith. Though recorded history of the detailed interaction between these two characters is limited, enough is known to confirm that this new movie is yet another Hollywood distortion of truth for the sake of marketable cinema. Supposedly more pains were taken to produce a higher level of historical accuracy than Disney's animated Pocohontas (1995), but both stories contain myth and are factually inaccurate.

From a cinematic perspective, The New World was endearing. Though there is no historical evidence of any romance, I enjoyed this film's depiction of internal conflict. John Smith's love for Pocahontas led him to struggle with his desire to leave all things England and join his muse in a wild, dreamy life of love. His experience with the native culture led him to believe that their way of living was more real and less polluted with passion, greed and strife. When he returned to the English fort after his "capture" he found nothing but disease, death and despair. The few who survived bickered and argued over meaningless things, and those with pride fought for a controlling position. These dreary, muddy images were quite effectual. I was thinking, "Ew, Smith. Just go back. Go back to your rich newfound love. Live with the natives and enjoy their apparently more basic existence." Such is Smith's debate. In the end, he chooses duty and perhaps the promise of restoration and importance.

The film's power is in its imagery. The dialog is very limited, the story told through a series of emotive images and interactions. As I was reading what some others have written about the movie, I noticed two opposing reactions. Many praise the movie for its beautiful imagery, religious implications and flim presence. Others write it off and nearly walking out of the theater, bored out of their minds. I can appreciate both reactions, but I tend more towards appreciation. The plot was a little incomplete and broken in places, and there were many periods of almost emptiness, silence and peace. Though there were a couple dead moments my attention was not lost, and I wanted to see the story completed.

In the end, I was a little lost in the relationships, and perhaps my hopes for resolution were disappointed. The end is somewhat odd when the perspective of the film moves to Pocahontas' life after John Smith leaves for England. She is in deep sorrow, convinced that her invaluable love is lost forever. But then she moves on, and there is a strangely depicted love triangle in the end. Too comlicated, I think.

If the director would have looked more into the historical account of Pocahontas (Matoaka), he could have avoided some of the strange unresolved relational situations. History gives us absolutely no indication of a romance between John Smith and Pocahontas. Pocahontas was a mere 10 years old when John Smith arrived, and Smith simply related to her with fondness and friendship. It's interesting to me that the movie never refers to Pocahontas with any name except "Rachel", her Christian name given her when she is accepted into English society. "Pocahontas" was a name the colonists gave her because of her playful nature. Her real names were Matoaka and Amonute.

Pocahontas portrait This is the only portrait of Pocahontas made during her lifetime. All others are even more europeanized, so there is no way to tell what she actually looked like. I can see Hollywood straying from this likeness though - this simply wouldn't sell! I think it's probably a bad likeness anyway - looks more like an 80 year old man than a vital 21 year old.

The movie made it seem as though John Smith left for England due to his battle of conscience, not able to commit to his passion for the girl. In reality he went to England due to an injury, and Pocahontas was later told of his "death". John most likely didn't intentionally mislead her in order to detach himself for his conscience' sake, as the movie suggests. A few years later, she married John Rolfe. Interestingly enough we have Rolfe, a deeply pious man, to thank for being the first to commercially cultivate tobacco in the New World! The emotional conflict in the movie would have been better attributed to Rolfe, for history records his deep love for Pocahontas, his conscience battle, and his letter to the governor explaining his desire to marry a "heathen". Some years after their marriage, Rolfe and Pocahontas traveled to London, primarily for the purpose of gaining more support for the Virginia colony by way of impressing royalty with a "tamed" native. While in London, Pocahontas met John Smith, having heard of his being alive before she left Virginia. After a period of emotional awkwardness, she refers to him as "father" and ensures a restored friendship. When she, Rolfe and their son Thomas were to return to the colony Pocahontas became very ill and died. She was only 22. Perhaps the movie's most accurate piece was her final words, "All must die. 'Tis enough that the child liveth.".

I'm glad I took the time to look up this information on Pocahontas. It would have been easy to accept Hollywood's version as fact and enter into conversation and thought patterns based on such historical inaccuracy. It's somewhat unfortunate, furthermore, and I think many Americans are mostly blind to cultural and historical truth, partially due to this sort of misinformation. Oh well, it's all fictional and for entertainment, and no one is obligated to tell the truth on film, I guess.

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Tuesday, June 6th, 2006 - 10:04 PM

"Cheap Video Game Controllers"

Just a tip for fellow gamers out there in case you didn't already know: Buy cheap video game controllers at Ross. Then hold up your find - like Link in Zelda games when he finds significant items - and scream at the top of your lungs, "I got it at Ross!" Ross regularly has extremely cheap, good quality off-brand PS2 and X-Box controllers. I just bought an X-Box controller for $7.99. The normal price for the official Microsoft controllers is $29.99. I really like the feel of the one I bought. It has no problems and works great (perfect response). Some people only buy the official controllers, but I don't really care about brand. All controllers wear out eventually, no matter the brand or cost. I prefer to save money. PS2 controllers are abundant at Ross. X-Box controllers are a little harder to find. As far as I know, Ross does not carry X-Box 360 controllers - at least not yet.

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Sunday, June 4th, 2006 - 9:49 PM

"Avid Book Readers Don't Make Good Movie Watchers"

I am coming to realize that perhaps the reason I am not such a good film critic is my somewhat brainless enjoyment and lack of in-depth analysis. There are certain stories or situations where I find myself picking apart the details and criticizing every inconsistency, but most of the time I am easily impressed and distracted by flashy special effects. It is rare that a movie with well-engineered effects will leave me entirely disappointed.

Secondly, I don't read much literature, namely books. Most people I know read far more than I do. It is simply not something I prioritize. Just today I was talking to someone at church who expressed the benefit of watching Lord of the Rings before reading the book by J.R. Tolkien. The more I thought about it, the more I realized he is right.

When I do read I find myself, as many do, totally transported into the story. I tend to read very, very slowly. Some people say they "read slowly", taking a week to finish a book that others would finish in a day. Apparently I am the master of slow, because it often take me years to finish a book! I read a chapter here, another there. Usually I end up having to review previous pages to remember where I left off between sessions. Such is my way. Nevertheless, I can appreciate getting wrapped up a book and its details and the disappointment of not seeing these played out on screen in their entirety.

The medium of film dictates such license, however. No one wants to watch a six hour movie - the time it would take to leave the content of most novels untouched and unabridged. Well, to tell you the truth, I would love to see such a movie. After watching the Lord of the Rings trilogy, my mouth was watering for more. It's like, "Didn't he write more?" Where's the 4th, 5th and 6th movies? Aaargh!

I am very visual, and a solitary minute of motion picture can often speak an entire chapter of words. When you sit down and think about how many words are spent describing a scene, a character or object, it is amazing how instantly it can be represented on screen or in an illustration. Even so, most movies leave out much important content from the books they are based off of, and often totally mess with the plot and chronology. It is almost always best to first watch before reading.

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