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Wednesday, March 26th, 2008 - 9:42 PM

"Jugglisk XXV"


jugglisk: noun

The act of one person keeping a soccer ball from touching the ground using feet and other legal soccer hits (ie. no hands). Quite often the number of hits is counted and recorded.

Additional Information

Today's jugglisk numbers look pretty dismal. There are three reasons for my abnormally low rallies:

  1. It was quite windy outside. The wind was enough to change the path of the ball, normally affected by simple gravity and easy to predict. Fortunately my skills are honed enough to adapt for the most part, compensating by kicking a bit at an angle, against the wind. However, this added effort makes for lower numbers, especially since the wind comes and goes and varies in speed and direction. I generally find these little challenges make it more fun rather than annoying.
  2. I was specifically focusing on speed juggling. I try to just barely tap the ball with my toes, and it remains below the level of my knees for the most part. It is more challenging because I have less time to react, and it expends much more energy due to increased foot activity. When I'm in this speed mode, I'm attempting to improve control skills, quicken reaction times, and get more exercise. High numbers are not really expected or hoped for. The challenge is to see how small and rapid the kicks can be.
  3. I was wearing pants. Normally, if I want total flexibility and am going for serious numbers, I'll wear shorts. Jeans don't allow much bend in the knees and are heavier in general. Not to mention that the bottom of the pant legs sometimes bunch up near my shoes and can interfere with the normal bouncing action.

Jugglisk XXV Chalcord

Jugglisk XXV Chalcord
26 51 20 248 38
157 123 153 48 104
11 81 97 153 46
504 35 56 87 31
Total Recorded Hits: 2069 Average Hits Per Volley: 103.5
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Saturday, March 22nd, 2008 - 4:29 PM

"Video Game Arcades Are Dead"

Other articles on the topic say "are dying", but I think "are dead" is more accurate. I grew up going to video game arcades as a kid, especially the nickel variety. Back when it was affordable and there were good games (better than console), it made sense to go to the arcade. Nowadays there is essentially nothing worth going to the arcade for, and the games are far too expensive (some arcades charge $0.75, $1.00 and more per game). It's probably nearly impossible for both game vendors and arcade owners to make a profit, and most noteworthy arcades in the area have either closed entirely or downsized severely, almost entirely crippling the attraction.

I remember still enjoying arcades when I owned fourth generation video game systems and games (I still have my Super Nintendo, Sega Genesis and games, but will probably sell them off soon). Shortly after that, in the early 1990s, the consoles began to match or outperform arcade machines, so people opted to stay home rather than going somewhere to play games. In a way it is somewhat of a shame because video game arcade culture has its own distinct fun factor.

Last Saturday Jim invited us to the arcade as part of his birthday celebration. All the Jim Guys were there, as well as Scuba Eric and M.B.S. We went to Wunderland Electric Castle on 103rd & Halsey in Portland. Man, have things changed there! The first thing we all noticed after browsing the game selections is that they got rid of anything resembling FUN! All that is left are racing games and first-person shooters that use guns as the controller. All the fun shooters and action games were nowhere to be found. Crowding out the video games were countless ticket games, where you insert nickels to hopefully win tickets in exchange for prizes. Since the video game selections were simply put-you-to-sleep boring, I spent much of my time winning enough tickets to get some seriously brilliant prizes!

video game arcade prizes
Click the image to see my prizes on EsoShow

Saturday was my first trip to the arcade in a number of years, and it may very well be my last. Soon this dying bread of business may entirely cease to exist - at least until V.R. rooms gain in popularity. When that day and age comes, I hope I'll already be gathered into the heavenly realms. I see that next stage of technology as ushering in an entirely new level of mind-altering corruption, desensitization and blatant evil. Along with each new technological invention eventually follows all sorts of wicked applications, which are becoming more and more acceptable in the world as it degenerates. My interest is still back in the 2D era of video games. I am impressed by the graphics and realism of the newer games, but I prefer the relative innocence and simplicity of ages past.

In the end, I actually enjoyed this arcade experience - but mainly because I was with the best group of friends possible, and we all had a good laugh at how sad the game selection was. We did end up finding one shoot'em up game that we spent the time and nickels to beat. Afterwards the birthday celebration continued at Jim's house, with a delicious barbecue and traditional style Jim Guys console game playing. This time we stuck mostly to retro games, though a Halo party ensued after some of us left.

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Friday, March 21st, 2008 - 6:55 PM

"Earned My Broken Guitar String Badge of Courage"

my first broken guitar string

Up until Wednesday, over a year after starting to play guitar, I had never earned my Broken Guitar String Badge [of Courage]. Granted, I don't play every single day, nor do I hammer on my guitar. I think I pick relatively gently. In fact, I don't even use a pick at all. I never liked the feel of a pick in my hand.

Interestingly enough, the break coincided with my discovery of a new type of pick. In reality it's not a pick at all, but rather a creative implement. Just out of curiosity, I have several times tried small pieces of plastic that are not "ordained" as picks just to see if they work just as well. For example, the other day I was strumming with a strip of old credit card. It worked alright. My new discovery is a CD spindle washer. It is one of those translucent plastic rings that often tops a cylinder of 50 or 100 blank CDs/DVDs as bought at a retail store.

One of the main reasons I don't like standard guitar picks is their cumbersome shape. Their triangular configuration dictates being held at a specific angle - so the point of the triangle is toward the strings. Since everyone instructs not to hold too tight to the pick, it naturally starts rotating in one's fingers - ANNOYING! I also don't like how the pick can catch strings very roughly if not held at the correct angle when striking. In addition, I don't like the slapping sound the pick makes as it strikes each string. Nor do I like the fact that it puts your hand a bit farther away from the strings, making it harder to create rhythms by partially muting the strings with the side of the thumb or hand. So there are many reasons I don't like picks. I realize all these annoyances can be mostly overcome by diligent practice. However, I don't see any particular reason to try to overcome what I see as an annoying and cumbersome implement. Especially since I like the sound and feel of strumming with my fingers. Maybe there's not as much "volume", "brightness" or "clarity" to the sound with fingers, but I find it easier to create a variety of sound, even if it is slightly muted.

CD ring guitar pick
My great discovery - the CD Ring Guitar Pick

That said, this CD ring pick is by far the best pick I've found so far, and I'm inclined to use it. It's shape overcomes a couple of the annoyances of a traditional pick. It doesn't matter at all if it rotates in between the fingers because it is round (the same from any angle). The large hole in the center makes it easy to grip several different ways. It can be gripped by the far side of the ring so much of it strikes the strings, or held so just a small bit of the plastic edge is exposed beyond the hand. When held close like this, it more closely resembles the motion of strumming with the fingers and allows easy motion to string muting and other hand striking because the hand is much closer to the strings. It's circular perimeter also makes it less likely to grab a string with too much force. Nevertheless, the CD ring pick certainly has a different sound than a standard guitar pick or fingers. My ears forgive whatever difference, as I don't know if it is a "better" or "worse" sound. Probably accomplished guitarists wouldn't like the sound, but I don't care much. I see it as simply different, not so much qualitative.

A grip that allows the hand to be close to the strings

The Wednesday break occurred on the first string, near the third fret. When I looked at the string closely, I could see it was quite worn at that spot. Probably due to my playing a lot of G and D majors (I keep to the simple stuff). I decided to replace all the strings in what was also my first guitar stringing experience. I still had the pack of strings that came with my guitar. The only hitch that accompanied my first stringing was losing the bridge. The small white plastic (bone?) piece simply fell out when I removed the old strings, and I only noticed the next day when I started re-stringing. It ended up in the bin of the paper shredder, blending in perfectly with the white strips of paper. Phew!

It is absolutely amazing how new strings can so drastically improve the sound of a guitar. It had been so long since I had new strings that I had forgotten what my guitar sounded like when I first bought it. The new strings breathed new life into my playing. It's quite a nice realization. I'll likely not replace my strings extremely often, as I tend to use things as long as possible (still have my first digital camera!), but I will certainly remember the benefit of new strings.

Guitar EsoShow
I couldn't help but take a few pictures of my guitar.
Click the image to see them on Esoshow

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Sunday, March 9th, 2008 - 10:19 PM

"Eat Eat a Game, Eat a Game Next To You" eat a game and sing "La la!"

A couple nights ago I was playing with my Nintendo DS while eating big Cheez-Its. I tell you right now, this is a bad idea - don't ever do it! The reason being, my hand somehow mixed up a game cartridge with a cracker (both of which I had in either of my hands at the time) and popped it in my mouth! I quickly and thoroughly cleaned the game off and made sure it still works - yup. Phew! Here's a picture so you can see how this was even possible. They are almost exactly the same size!

Big Cheez-Its and Nintendo DS game

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Sunday, March 9th, 2008 - 8:44 PM

"C2F Spring 2008 Web Site Theme"

C2F Spring 2008 Web Site Theme
see a sample in action

Oops, I forgot to post on the new web site theme again. Well, here it is, a few days late. I reused much of the same functionality of transparent PNGs that I researched last season. I'll likely reuse this whole transparent idea for the next several times. I also decided to go for an intentionally more graphically lean design. While I like the bold look of the Winter design, I felt the need to go back to basics. Another conscious decision related to simplicity was to take a photo of a group of products for the home page rather than collaging together individual product photos already taken. It's more laborious since it involves pulling the product and arranging, etc., but I think the effect is worthwhile.

Previous Posts About C2F Themes:

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Sunday, March 9th, 2008 - 8:09 PM

"Jugglisk XXIV"

It seems weather in Oregon is impossible to predict. Last week it was supposed to rain all week, and it was perfectly nice every single day. Yesterday they were saying that the clouds and rain would roll in today and the high temperature would be around 55 degrees. Instead, it felt like one of the warmest day so far this year, and there was no rain that I saw. So of course I juggled a bit. Why do I juggle so much? Well, most people run, walk or ride a bike to get their exercise. For me that's boring (I enjoy riding my bike - but not like I used to) and hard on my legs and lungs. So juggling is my exercise of choice. It's actually fun!

Nothing special to say about my numbers today. Pretty average. I did decisively give myself a short haircut prior to starting because I was getting tired of my messy, big hair. Plus, I tend to get hotter when juggling when my hair is long. It's now back to being so short that I don't even have to comb it - that's how I like it :)

Jugglisk XXIV Chalcord

Jugglisk XXIV Chalcord
35 211 115 174 390
277 347 27 305 215
Total Recorded Hits: 1706 Average Hits Per Volley: 170.6
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Sunday, March 9th, 2008 - 12:55 AM

"Jugglisk XXIII"

Today marks the best score so far this season, the best average, and the most hits altogether. A good day, I guess. I was too fatigued to concentrate on doing well, and dropped the ball at less than half of my record. When I start getting in the thousands, the kicking starts to be hypnotic. Kinda like when you are amazed after driving across town, not even remembering having done so, half asleep. I start kicking somewhat instinctively, without giving it any thought. My legs just know how to keep the ball up. I have to struggle against the effect, otherwise I fall in a trance of sorts and lose the ball.

After regular Jugglisk , I proceeded to doing my two favorite specialized juggling practices: high kicks and SocSum. I generally finish off my sessions with these exercises. Today I was doing unusually well with my left foot in SocSum Advance. My problem was with the counting. I miscounted a couple times and had to start over even though I hadn't dropped the ball. It's hard to remember to restart counting each time the ball switches feet, and I sometimes forget what number I'm on. I think I broke my record of 18, but I can't record it for sure because I think I miscounted.

Jugglisk XXIII Chalcord

Jugglisk XXIII Chalcord
78 206 156 197
279 2406
Total Recorded Hits: 3322 Average Hits Per Volley: 553.7
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Friday, March 7th, 2008 - 11:23 PM

"Anime Studio 5 and My First Animation"

Mystic the tiger

I am always keeping a close eye on software deals and spring on them like a tiger on its helpless prey. This prey, in the case of a tiger, is probably an animal that a tiger can realistically take on, like a mule, wombat or duck. Sometimes tigers eat other animelts because tigers are what are known as carnivorous beasts. Unlike elfs, tigers are part of the animal kingdom. Some people know about the stripes that tigers have - the colors and struggle tragedies - but not me. Stripes aren't my specialty of knowledge. One of my favorite places to check out for insane sales and rebates is the weekly Fry's ad. Honestly, if you have a little patience, it is a decent chance that you will find what you are looking for and save big. Take anti-virus software, for example. Seemingly every month (certainly far more than annually) Fry's has both McAfee and Norton Anti-virus (or even more full packages) for absolutely free after mail-in rebates. No lie. There is no excuse for paying for anti-virus ever again! (of course many have switched to AVG which is free anyway)

Anime Studio 5

Last week Fry's had Anime Studio 5 for $9.99 after instant savings and 2 mail-in rebates. The software is normally $49.99 (there is a Pro version that costs more but offers more). I downloaded the demo of this animation program some time ago and was fairly impressed. What is really impressive is the gallery of animations people have made using the software. In fact, it seems Anime Studio is one of the most widely used animation programs on the market (within a reasonable price range). There is an enormous community of users sharing their work, tips, advice and tutorials - especially on the Lost Marble Anime Studio Forum. Take a look at the artists' work and prepare to be impressed! There are countless amateur artists as well as experienced professionals, making the community a very friendly and approachable venue.

Several weeks ago I was pulling my hair out after trying to do some simple animations in Serif DrawPlus X2. As cool of a program it is, the recent keyframe animation add-in leaves much to be desired. It is well known to be extremely buggy and pretty much unusable for character animation - aka keyframe animation! So, in frustration, I left some projects unfinished that I was hoping to be able to do in DrawPlus (the keyframing addition was the primary reason I was enticed into buying the upgrade to X2). After seeing what Anime Studio can do, I'm fairly certain it will be way too easy in comparison - once I get up to speed with the program's overall functionality and tools.

Naturally any animation program is better than using Flash. I seriously don't know how anyone can use Flash for creative animations. Sure, it has the absolute best support for advanced scripting (like Actionscript, database connectivity, etc.) and other Flash-specific technology. For animation it absolutely stinks. I still can't get a grip on using it for that purpose - and I find that many extremely experienced people in the industry think the same. I doubt many professional firms use Flash to produce quality character animations. It's simply a waste of time and money when better solutions exist. Anime Studio is one of several animation packages that far outshine Flash. Not only can Anime Studio produce SWF Flash animations, but it can produce significantly higher quality movie files that can contain far more sophisticated visual effects than mere Flash vector animation affords. We're talking prime time TV or Hollywood quality animations if you know what you are doing, folks!

Just to illustrate how sophisticated Anime Studio can be, I'm going to post my first animation ever made using the software. Okay, so it sucks. I realize that. I'm not ashamed to show my process of discovery. I'll start with simple effects and experiments, then move on to worthwhile projects - and hopefully short films (my dream).

In this first animation, I was just playing with one of the key features that sets Anime Studio apart from relative weaklings like Flash and DrawPlus (sorry, Serif - keep working at it!): bone based animation (inverse kinematics). With Anime Studio it is possible to set up fairly advanced skeletal structures for such things as character animation. We are talking the thigh bone is connected to the ear bone here! Um, that would be messed up, but you know what I mean. Your pre-drawn character can be assigned a spine, shoulder, arm, forearm, hand, fingers, etc. Each bodily feature can be posed in any number of positions. Keyframes allow these poses to quickly become smooth animations.

In my junk animation here, you can see that I have two simple shapes that might represent the two major segments of an arm, performing a straight punch, then an upward elbow block (T'ai Chi, flowing style = use your imagination, okay!). I employed what might be called "cut-out animation" style, where each body feature is a separate, disconnected object. Anime Studio offers much more natural looking animation by allowing the user to draw an incredibly detailed arm, and then assign bones to that shape or group of shapes and morph that shape as the bones are bent. It is similar to how bones work in 3D animation software, where the mesh surface wraps around the bone much like muscles, tendons and skin. The simple animation below could not be done in Serif DrawPlus (I know, I tried! Objects tend to jump around randomly.), and it would take some effort to make it look right in Flash. Bones make everything easier, and the results can be amazing!

My First Anime Studio Animation (Test)
If you are reading this, you need to upgrade your Flash Player or enable Javascript.

By the way, I purposely left out a link to Smith Micro, the company that currently owns Anime Studio, because by the time I finished writing this blog entry, the program will probably have changed ownership several times. As an example, here's the colorful ownership history of Poser, another program currently owned by Smith Micro: Fractal Design, MetaCreations, Curious Labs, Curious Lbas / e frontier, e frontier, and now Smith Micro. The sale of e frontier to Smith Micro was a mere $6 million, which sounds small to me in comparison to so many of the huge mergers in recent memory (Adobe chomped Macromedia for $3.4 billion, for example). It's amazing that these program titles have survived through all those exchanges. One would think that so many takeovers and buyouts would devalue or kill the sales of a product (stubborn!).

For more on vicious tigers, avoid the following web site: MicroDuck.

Billy the tiger

P.S. though most tigers stand on their hind legs and speak seven languages like Billy here (see above), don't approach a tiger in the wild. It may be of the make-you-tasty-treat-to-his-tummy variety. Don't blame me for misrepresenting the tiger family. I'm no expert on tiger familiarities, kinship and cousinry.

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Thursday, March 6th, 2008 - 8:04 PM

"Jugglisk XXII and Jet Li's Beating Stars"

Today was the perfect juggling weather day. I am the broken record without breaking a record. In other words, I'm repeating myself every blog entry because I don't know what else to say other than I juggled. I felt pretty balanced, coordinated and in control today. While I attained no exemplary number of hits, I felt somehow energized to perform with a bit more style. When I'm in that rare form, bits and pieces of my martial arts appreciation tend to surface, with kicks and stances reminiscent of my favorite Hong Kong heroes... well I don't look that cool, but the influence is obvious! When I'm exercising I often remember Jet Li's exercise invention called "Beating Stars". It involves hitting a bunch of balls suspended by cords and poles.

Jugglisk XXII Chalcord

Jugglisk XXII Chalcord
179 68 160 353
166 286 313 83
282 30 105
Total Recorded Hits: 2025 Average Hits Per Volley: 184.1

[ pause ]... Okay, so during that massively lengthy pause in writing (feel free to sit there and do zip for 2 hours to get the full effect), I made this pointless graphic. I think it is the official Beating Stars Graphic because I couldn't find one anywhere else. Certainly no one before me put all the effort into the logo and everything :) I couldn't find a single picture of Jet Li's exercise on the web, and it took me a long time looking through my movies to remember which one has the footage in it (Dragons of the Orient and The Master). Originally I intended to pull a frame just so I could illustrate the exercise I'm talking about... but then I went overboard, as you can see. But now the internet has a feature that was missing before. Yippee! Almost as cool as DaColas: T'ai Chi and Wu Shu Fruit of the Day.

The Semi-Official (One and Only?) Jet Li's Beating Star Graphic

Jet Li's Beating Stars Graphic

I have to admit that Jet Li looks kinda like a goofy young punk in this footage of him hammering on the poor [volley?]balls affixed to his hand-made apparatus. I think it is a pretty cool device though. I wonder if he can still be found doing this exercise, now that he's super famous and quite a bit older. I'm guessing not, but you never know. It'd be fun to juggle with Jet. I bet, even though it's not one of his many physical disciplines, he could pick it up fairly well. I have always attributed my heightened awareness, focus, discipline, balance and speed to my [long] past martial arts experience. I suppose anyone with significant training in such things would be a decent juggler.

If I could see a diagram of the shape and configuration of Jet Li's apparatus I could make a better, more suited logo. I'm not really sure how "stars" fits in. I wonder if he sets it up the same way each time.

Closeup of the Logo Portion

Jet Li's Beating Stars Logo

And just when you thought that was the end, THERE'S MORE!!! Since I like monkeys in general, and we need something to balance/complement all this overuse of blue, here's an orange image for your enjoyment (or bewilderment). Ironically, this is indeed an image of Jet Li - though I think it's a photo-editing job, not a photograph of him in costume (but why spoil the fun?!). Even more, he will be playing a mythical Chinese character called the Monkey King in the upcoming (awesome) movie where he teams up with Jackie Chan - The Forbidden Kingdom. By the way, didn't Jet Li already make his last martial arts epic film? Just wondering... I guess this one doesn't qualify to be placed in that very narrow and specific genre (nor Warlords - while epic and a period piece with fighting, it seems to read more like a more generic action/drama - haven't seen it yet). Sorry Jet, I didn't mean to make fun... in fact, keep making them, PLEASE! PLEASE!! PLEASE!!!

Jet Li as a big orange monkey?

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Wednesday, March 5th, 2008 - 10:47 PM

"Jugglisk XXI"

I spent the early evening after work juggling the old soccer ball again. Though broken records would be nice, I generally make it a minimum goal each session to get an cumulative 1000 hits. One thousand in a row would be nice, but I don't require that of myself. Though it felt like a short session this evening, I managed to get the most cumulative hits this season and the second highest rally.

Jugglisk XXI Chalcord

Shoey So XXI Chalcord
21 45 28 179
13 234 32 922
27 19 188
Total Recorded Hits: 1708 Average Hits Per Volley: 155.3
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Monday, March 3rd, 2008 - 9:52 PM

"Jugglisk XX"

Sunday also afforded quite nice weather, and I had some free time, so why not get in some more jugglisk ? I'm noticing this last break from juggling has noticeably weakened my skills. It will take some mental and physical training to get back into record setting mode (though my record last fell when I was in surprisingly bad shape). However, as is the case each year, I am surprised how well I did after such a long break. I should also mention that our driveway is fairly irregularly paved asphalt, so it's not the best surface. The ideal surface is perfectly flat and free of most texture. Sometimes I lose my balance or trip over divots and mounds in the ground. Grass, while a sensible surface for playing soccer, is a much more challenging surface for me to juggle on.

Jugglisk XX Chalcord

Jugglisk XX Chalcord
100 58 97 78 123
29 213 640
Total Recorded Hits: 1338 Average Hits Per Volley: 167.3
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Monday, March 3rd, 2008 - 9:40 PM

"Jugglisk XIX"

The nice weather continued through the weekend, and last Saturday I juggled for the second time this "season". I'm hoping to juggle as much as possible this year so it will become an effective health-improving exercise. Though it is best described perhaps as a strange interest, hobby or skill, it is equally a good exercise. Restless Foot Socsum (especially the Advance variety) really transforms juggling into a strenuous and effective exercise. My freestyle, more relaxed jugglisk is perhaps more likely to be aerobic, furthermore, since it is typically sustained regularly over a longer period of time.

Jugglisk XIX Chalcord

Jugglisk XIX Chalcord
32 88 505 48
257 6 76 171
Total Recorded Hits: 1183 Average Hits Per Volley: 147.9
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Monday, March 3rd, 2008 - 9:29 PM

"Jugglisk XVIII"

Jugglisk Season is official open (or has started?). Last Friday was my first official session, an opportunity made available by unseasonably nice weather. Since our neighbors recently moved out, we have the whole driveway to ourselves, and I have made it my new platform. It can feel a little weird doing something of that nature in full view of the neighborhood, but I don't really care at this point. It's less likely that other people will interfere since it is not exactly public property. There were a couple times I felt I had to give up my space when juggling at the park because others came along, and I don't like to hog something that everyone should be able to use.

Jugglisk XVIII Chalcord

Jugglisk XVIII Chalcord
24 24 61 297 1265
Total Recorded Hits: 1671 Average Hits Per Volley: 334.2
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