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Wednesday, April 30th, 2008 - 12:34 AM

"Tweet Tweet"

It almost seems like I'm trying to break my personal record for number of blog entries in a single month. Either that or I'm trying to emulate Twitter, which is a pretty ridiculous web site and concept IMHO. Sure, I'll probably join the bandwagon one of these days, but only if I can figure out a way to get it to display the tweets on my web site - not that anyone in the multiverse cares one bit what I'm doing moment by moment!

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Wednesday, April 30th, 2008 - 12:27 AM

"Yahoo, I Earned a Two"

My blog page finally earned a Google page rank of 2. Yippy Skippy (Peanut Butta). I must have gotten a link that broke the camel's back (poor camelus dromedarius).

Sorry, Google, for using your competition's name in my blog post title. It was more of an exclamation of joy than a sign of mixed loyalties (though I have no such loyalties). This posting may just earn me a downgrade in pagerank. Oh well, it's not exactly a sensible system anyway. It certainly doesn't help me find anything on the web, since no search engine's search results have much intelligence, including Google's.

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Wednesday, April 30th, 2008 - 12:13 AM

"One of Those Days"

recycle bin wheel

I came home from work really bored today. I walked extremely slow because I was bored. When I arrived at home, I was so bored that I wheeled the garbage and recycling bins out to the curb for tomorrow's pickup (not that I don't do that every week, but I did so today with an extra air of boredom). It was so exciting that I took a picture of the wheel of the recycle bin. Truth be told, I took several other pictures of random things. They were all horrible, so I just deleted them.

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Tuesday, April 29th, 2008 - 11:50 PM

"Fix, Fix a Font, Fix a Font Next To You"

And sing "La la", I suppose: as boring and stupid as that sounds.

I need to fix my handwriting font, but I don't feel like it. I slopped it together in CorelDraw just so I would have something to work with. It's really not all that bad. There are a few letters that are spaced a bit oddly, but it's not horribly noticeable since it's handwritten. Such a mistake would be unforgivable if it was a regular font with nice lines and curves. The worst thing about the font is that the line height, font size and baseline are all messed up. Adding underlining to a section makes a line ridiculously low, in front of the next line of text.

Oh well. One of these days I'll fix it. I am considering loading Ubuntu (Linux) on my computer alongside Windows. There is a cool open source font making program, FontForge, that I'd like to try. I tried loading the Windows version a while ago, but it requires too much technical fiddling to make it work, since it's not a native Windows program.

And you ask, "Why on earth would you write a blog entry about something you're going to do, instead of waiting until after it's done, so there's something to show and tell?" Very good question. I guess I don't care about writing quality content anymore. Nobody reads it anyway :) Besides, I've been writing in my journal more lately, and I tend to journal in segments and interrupted thoughts (or in overly expounded and huge arguments).

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Saturday, April 26th, 2008 - 8:16 PM

"Jugglisk XXVIII"

Listen

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

Listen

chalcord: noun

A recording of data or events, written using chalk on a surface such as pavement or a chalkboard.

Additional Information

Listen

chalcord: verb

To record data or events, using chalk on a surface such as pavement or a chalkboard.

Additional Information

It Was the [Second] Best of Times, It Was the Worst of Times

I juggled today for the first time in a while. The weather hasn't been all that inspiring lately. Since it finally cleared up to become a beautiful day today, I decided to take advantage of it and get outside a bit. When I first started juggling, I felt horribly uncoordinated and amateurish. I could not get over 100 hits consistently, which is really bad for me. I'm not sure what it was. Perhaps it the fact that I got new shoes a while ago, am used to them now, but went back to my old shoes for juggling (don't want to get my new ones dirty yet). Perhaps it was the heat - normally I don't get horribly tired from juggling. Today I was sweating almost immediately because of the sun. In the end, I don't really know the reason. I was simply lacking focus. I can't remember every doing so consistently horrible - EVER!

I decided toward the end of my session to do some SocSum to see if that would help. I have claimed and "advertised" that SocSum is an excellent way to improve one's focus, balance and soccer ball juggling skills. Well, today I put that ole theory to the test! So I did 4 or 5 rounds of SocSum Advance, one time getting as many as 17 (sounds so small, but it's just one below my personal best!).

Immediately after doing the small amount of SocSum, my focus improved drastically. I went back to regular jugglisk , and the chalcord below clearly demonstrates the improvement. The last three bouts were achieved after SocSum. Everything prior to that was hit and miss. The 3 bouts after Socsum were consistently really good. In fact, the last bout ended up being my second best score EVER: 4738. I actually thought I was going to break my record, but then I suddenly lost focus for a brief second, and the ball exited my sphere of control.

So I went from the worst ever to almost the best ever, all in about an hour! I have a hard time believing that is pure coincidence, as I was trying as hard as my brain allowed the entire time. So it's proven: SocSum, especially the Advance variety certainly has the potential at improving one's soccer ball juggling skills.

Jugglisk XXVIII Chalcord

Jugglisk XXVIII Chalcord
6 32 40 31 26
56 72 84 122 169
143 27 7 26 103
109 58 19 100 170
142 68 347 824 4738
Total Recorded Hits: 7519 Average Hits Per Volley: 300.7
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Saturday, April 26th, 2008 - 6:02 PM

"Flixster, Movie Reviews and Social Networking Sites"

Writing movie reviews is something I enjoy doing, at least in my own format on EsoBlog. I tend to be a bit wordy in my assessments, though generally not as picky as some move watchers. My list of good movies is about ten times bigger than my list of bad movies - well, mostly because I avoid watching movies I don't think I will like!

Flixster

At any rate, I've thought on and off about joining some movie review site but have never done it until now. I finally joined Flixster. I wish there was a site where you could embed reviews from your own web site or external source, or at least provide a list of links or something. I haven't look deep enough into Flixster to see what sort of API or scriptability and linking it offers. I see it has some widgets you can embed elsewhere, and I'll probably eventually put one of those on Esotropiart somewhere.

For now, here's a link to the simple profile I created on Flixster:

My Flixster Profile

A "Movie Wall" created by one of the Flixster widgets:

Please feel free to add me as your friend on Flixster if you already have a free account. If I know you, you seem like a decent person, or I share interests, I'll probably add you back. However, I'm probably not going to be spending ridiculous amounts of time on there, so check back here on Esotropiart if you are really interested in what I have to say (ha, yea, right!).

One of the things I think that is REALLY STUPID about Flixster is that data is not spread throughout one's profile, lists, widgets, etc. For example, there is a text-based list of favorite movies, actors and so on for the main profile page. You have to type these, there is no way to grab the information you already created in the lists sections. To create the above widget, I had to remember what order I already spent time creating the lists for favorite movies and actors because the widget creator also does not pull from your already built lists. It is the lamest thing I've ever seen, and I would expect better from such a famous site.

I've also noticed that Flixster widgets that utilize Adobe Flash technology make use of the <embed> HTML tag, which is bad. It's not W3C standards-compliant within somewhat modern XHTML coding practices, and isn't really the best way to do things. I'll probably try to find a better way, like using the SWFObject by deconcept. The problem is that I'll have to look at Flixster's widgets in-depth to see if it's possible to convert all their variables and such so it will work with the Javascript-based SWFObject.

I'm not really interested in maintaining much on these social networking sites because it requires double the work that I already do. It takes me a long time to write material for my own web site. Sites like MySpace, Facebook, Flixster, Digg, StumbleUpon, etc. take massive time to maintain and make worthwhile. While I have accounts on some of these sites and others, I don't do much with them.

What most people don't realize is that by spending all this time on these social networking sites, they are simply making money for the already super rich. I'm not particularly interested in making money with my own web site, it's more of a personal expression and hobby. However, I would like to get more traffic from like-minded people. The best way to do this is to have a site with good content. Also important is to develop links to your site from sources that are likely to build traffic related to your interests. This is the part I don't like investing in. However, I'm willing to put a little effort into the ones that allow some sort of connection with my site - since that's ultimately where I want the visitors to come.

I just tied in my Flixster account into my Facebook account. Whoopie. Now 2 sites that I don't use much are all synced up!

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Wednesday, April 23rd, 2008 - 8:27 PM

"Prose Poetry III"

Sadie has not been in the greatest condition lately. The other day she vomited in our bedroom. Lately she has had a very red and swollen right eye. She is getting a bit better now, we think.

Dogs Are Dummies For Dummies

a prose poem by Phil, April 20, 2008

A big yellow book that describes how canines bark barf and make amends a mess. No remorse for brown, blobby slop; move on to no attention span with a tail that goes flip flop, making slappy sandals click and clack in envious dismay, for the fast and furious tic-toc no one's home except a cuckoo display.

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Wednesday, April 23rd, 2008 - 8:21 PM

"How About a Short Poem?"

I've written a fair number of short poems. Most of them are rather meaningless or silly. Here's another. As suggested, it was written while draining lukewarm bathwater. Also implied is that I like taking really hot baths. Since moving into this duplex, a hot bath is a rare occasion. The water heater seems to work on its own timetable, and it has nothing to do with running out of hot water.

Stupid Water Heater

a poem by Phil, April 20, 2008

Water wasted, soothed me not.
Didn't give me what I sought.
Down the drain, wave Sayonara.
Wasn't even slightly hot!

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Wednesday, April 23rd, 2008 - 8:13 PM

"Prose Poetry II"

Now that I've declared this particular style as fitting into the literary category of prose poetry, I don't care how reviling my judgement is. High born academics would probably argue until an artery bursts that my writing is base and unworthy of any classification. I don't care. It's not really just regular old prose, and it's not poetry. So I'm calling it prose poetry. So there! Na na na na na na (categorize that statement - poetry?).

Existence is Really Something

a prose poem by Phil Steller, April 20, 2008

What will, force, love, mind, heart, intent, motive, idea, experiment, curiosity, chance, misdealing, luck, destiny, plan, action, consequence brought me into being? For which of these or for whom do I continue and wrestle on? To what end or purpose? What is my lot, my assignment? If nothing can separate, what exists that escapes the nothing to become something? Why are my eyes blue? I can't see in the dark, nor are my eyes blue there. Even so, there are things that don't change in spite of my changing perspective or tantrums, whining and disbelief. My desire is to leave it all behind as I walk away, never looking back, to never be seen or recognized by the familiar, but kindred and known to the strange and the stranger. An unattainable ideal, wretched and impossibly distant. Nowhere, here and forgotten, unnoticed and shadow ill.

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Wednesday, April 23rd, 2008 - 7:07 PM

"Self-Declared Prose Poetry Writer"

I was in a somewhat odd mood Sunday night, and as the result was writing prose. I just looked up prose, as I was curious if my usage of the word was accurate to the content of my writing. It is a general term that can be used to describe any writing that resembles everyday speech. Probably most of what I write fits loosely in this very broad category. However, the following work is probably more accurately described by the term prose poetry. My writing often contains bits and pieces of structure, meter, versification and so on, halfway between prose and poetry. Prose poetry is the perfect term to describe how I often write when in introspective moods. I consider it a high compliment to have my writing fall into a similar category to how King David wrote Psalms. Of course his words are far more emotional, poignant and structured. When translated into English, moreover, some of the original Hebrew literary devices are lost, and the result resembles prose poetry.

Sometimes I specifically set out to write poetry: using rhythm and rhyme. When I'm not trying any particular literary style, my normal writing style is rather boring, lengthy and unworthy of any particular title or style declaration (some CSS for thought: .philsDefaultWriting { style:none; }). For now, I'm going to share some of my recently written prose poetry:

Writer's Block, Cell & Hell: Don't Throw Away the Keys!

a prose poem by Phil, April 20, 2008

The obvious has sunk in: these pens will be my utter undoing. Or rather they are the least of my worries. Sometimes it is the silent ones gone unnoticed, flying under the radar, that end up having the most profoundly sinister effect. Three sentences in and I already haven't a clue, lost track, lost sight, strayed, off on a tangent, incomplete thought, badly formed sentence. Each sentence is a verdict: guilty for life, self-condemned without trial or jury. The lines become the rigid iron bars upon which I ponder, to bend and escape. Even so, I have nowhere to retreat, and so I give in. Doomed to plod on and on without a pause, without applause, without cause, just because.

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Monday, April 21st, 2008 - 10:11 PM

"Forbidden Kingdom: a Jaw-dropping Juxtaposition of Jet and Jackie"

The Forbidden Kingdom

I'd say it's about time to do another movie review. It's been a while. The crowd goes mad, my faithful readers return... okay, perhaps not. They are long gone, without hope of return (ever since I detached from Blogger and set out on my own).

Jet Li and Jackie Chan brilliantly collaborate in a long overdue movie tag team in The Forbidden Kingdom, released in theaters last Friday April 18, 2008. It's taken so long, it's like waiting for a movie with Batman and Superman together. Jet and Jackie claim they have been close and friendly acquaintances all along, but why the long wait for the team up? Perhaps the delay was to build up the excitement. Both Jet Li and Jackie Chan have worked with countless other Hong Kong action stars, but something kept the two apart. I'm just happy Jackie Chan survived long enough for The Forbidden Kingdom to be made reality. He's notorious for performing all his own stunts, and has evaded death or permanent injury by a slim margin on numerous occasions. A sentiment many martial arts film fans no doubt share is that I hope to see more of this type of cooperative work in the future.

Martial arts film is a truly unique, misunderstood and unappreciated genre in the United States. Most quality (properly executed) martial arts or "kung fu" films originate in Hong Kong. Dedicated fans can immediately see the difference Chinese cast members make on the look and feel of the final product. Hollywood alone simply cannot deliver. American movie makers simply don't "get it". Martial arts cinematography in particular breaks all the rules and puts the most creative cameramen out of play. American movies typically show flashy angles, closeups of random features and change focal length constantly. A good martial arts film will have a much more steady angle for longer periods of time. The reason being fans and directors alike want to realize and take in the entire bodily form at all times. Cut the camera angle a hundred times like Americans do, and you don't get to see the movement of the hands, the hips, the feet - all working together in a flowing unit. Many of the best old kung fu movies record a lengthy fight scene (too much time spent on one element - another "no no") at a relatively wide angle, so all the combatants can be seen, and all the forms and movements captured.

Jet Li

Kung Fu cinema has been popular and a primary focus in parts of Asia for many decades. Martial arts are ingrained in Chinese culture in particular. The average Chinese citizen is more likely to have an appreciation and understanding of the significance and unmatched beauty of kung fu film genre than a typical westerner might - though thankfully in my time, this is finally changing. The import and success of Hong Kong film to America didn't even exist until the early seventies, when Bruce Lee opened up the mostly untapped market. More widespread recognition and circulation took much longer. Stars like Jackie Chan and Jet Li had significant influence in spreading the popularity of their specialty to the western world en masse.

Jet Li and Jackie Chan, generally speaking, personify two distinct branches of martial arts film. Jet Li's career has largely followed in a more traditional and epic path. The characters, stories and martial arts styles depicted in his work tend to communicate precision of movement and method. A practiced martial artist or kung fu/t'ai chi enthusiast will jump for glee at seeing Jet's perfectly executed, imaginative, high speed techniques.

Jackie Chan

Jackie Chan developed his own style of film and storytelling that fits into the relatively new "action comedy" movie genre. Rather than focusing energy on performing perfect martial technique, Jackie explodes with humor in his movements, lasting expressions, and the use of otherwise inanimate objects surrounding him. No prop is too lowly to be called on for a title role in Jackie's movies. He shows us how ladders, skis, stilts, jackets, ropes, pots & pans, and more can all be transformed into inventive weapons, acrobatic apparatuses or distractions. Much of Jackie's fame and success stem from the fact that his humor and personal charm gain him the attention of viewers that might otherwise be turned off by the limited scope of martial arts film. Since comedy speaks to every audience, Jackie has succeeded in extending the potential audience of martial arts in film exponentially by infusing it with inevitable laughs and outright buffoonery.

Jet Li's and Jackie Chan's similar yet distinctive styles of film-making can better be understood by taking a quick look at their upbringing and training. From an early age Jet Li trained rigorously in traditional Chinese martial arts (wu shu). His speed, accuracy and brilliant accentuation gave him quick favor and success as a performing martial artist. For five years straight he was the Chinese martial arts poster child, with numerous medals under his belt. It is only natural that Jet's films express his mastery of the martial arts. Jackie Chan was enrolled in the Chinese Opera Academy, also at a fairly early age. Similar to Jet, Jackie was also disciplined in traditional martial arts styles. However, much of his training was steered towards performance, rather than for the sake of competition and mastery. It was therefore more natural that Jackie kept the audience in mind throughout his career, and his movies reflect this goal to entertain a broad audience. Of course both Jet and Jackie have worn each others' shoes. Much of Jet's work is also quite successful in the humor department, while Jackie certainly doesn't lack a perfectionist eye for detail and well-executed martial arts. With these things in mind, it should be clear how significant it is to see Jet Li and Jackie Chan finally come together to make a movie.

WARNING: The following may contain spoilers. Read at your own risk!

Aside from the obvious spectacle of seeing Jet Li and Jackie Chan together, bigger than life and doing what they do best, The Forbidden Kingdom had all the necessary elements to satisfy the martial arts film enthusiast's appetite. The storyline of the movie, the characters, and the action are all very mystical and imaginative. The Forbidden Kingdom is a wonderful excursion into Chinese legend and fables.

As westerners have their elves, trolls, wizards and unicorns, Chinese tales must have mystical heroes, assassins, emperors and soldiers. The boundaries of reality and science as we know it are not observed in such tales. The main characters exhibit such a high level of skill that what they are able to do either dances on the border of impossible, or simply leaves science and logic in the dust. As the famed Jedi in Star Wars use the mystical force to step beyond the normal physical realm, martial arts masters and villains have domain over more than mere physical prowess. The Forbidden Kingdom makes no mistake in extending into the realm of fantasy while delivering highly believable and mind-bending martial arts choreography fit to be performed by the best in the industry (thanks to no less than the most well-known action director in Hong Kong film, Woo-ping Yuen).

As far as a creative storyline and interesting twists, The Forbidden Kingdom went beyond the call of duty and deserves high marks. Many martial arts movies are admittedly predictable. Scenario One: Clueless and clumsy teen gets beat up by bullies, is rescued by old grimy kung fu master, retrained and sent out to conquer level after increasing level of skilled martial arts villains. Scenario Two: Martial arts super master fights against odd religious martial arts cult leaders who are trying to uncover insidious plots by the British government to seduce the Chinese into blindly giving up their national treasures and resources (or the hero too is fighting against this "foreign evil"). Scenario Three: Instead of fighting against foreign corruption, Shaolin or other rebels narrowly escape extinction and fight against the tyranny found in their own feudalistic and imperialistic society. The Forbidden Kingdom breaks free from these predictable plots lines, compiling a number of mystical and legendary characters and stories together into a collage, something new.

Most of the main characters depicted in The Forbidden Kingdom have had screen time elsewhere in other films. The Monkey King (played by Jet Li), the Jade Emperor (played by Deshun Wang), Lu Yan (aka Lu Dongbin, leader of the Eight Immortals, played by Jackie Chan) and others have made appearances in other films and can also be found in Chinese folklore. It is common for martial arts films to pull from a colorful selection of fantasy characters. A prime example of such a character (not depicted in The Forbidden Kingdom) is Wong Fei-Hung. Interestingly enough, both Jackie Chan and Let Li have played the role of Fei Hung on more than one occasion: Once Upon a Time in China (Jet Li) and Legend of the Drunken Master (Jackie Chan) (note: watch both of these gems for a great sampling of the individual achievements of Jet Li and Jackie Chan!).

Some may find the childlike humor in The Forbidden Kingdom to be a weakness of the film. The comedy in the movie is not along the lines of Jackie Chan's prop utilization hilarity. It is a combination of American slapstick and Chinese silliness. Jason, the main character of the film ushers in the American humor style. He is a kung fu movie slinging fool teen from Boston who somehow finds himself in ancient mystical China with a mission of grave importance set before him. The way he enters the world, has his effect on it, and returns with boldness and confidence (and martial arts skills in this case) closely resembles the plot outline of another of my favorite movies, The Neverending Story. The similarities between the movies largely stop there, however. Fortunately for this particular fan, the slight annoyance of seeing a goofy looking American boy thrown in wasn't enough to ruin the movie for me. Michael Angarano put in his due training (like Keanu Reaves in The Matrix, Jason was not a martial artist prior to the film) and contributed a couple decent fight scenes, to his credit. The magic of seeing Jet Li and Jackie Chan, and the believability (and comedy) of their characters in the film created an interesting synergistic dichotomy (I know, polar opposites - that's the point!) when put in juxtaposition with the horribly out-of-place American boy. This was enough for me to overlook any negative feelings of the clear intrusion of culture and unreality. In other words, the writers and director knew the boy was out of his element and didn't fit in at all - that's the point entirely! (and probably why such a boyish faced actor was chosen)

The other side of comedy seen in The Forbidden Kingdom surely to receive mixed reviews was the giddy, childish humor sometimes found in other Chinese fantasy films. An example of this would be the Monkey King's playful fighting with ape-like gestures and facial expressions (ironically monkey style kung fu is a valid martial arts form, one which Jet Li is fantastic at in real life!). Some viewers might find this silliness too much in contrast with the seriousness of the situations depicted in the film. On the other hand, I delight in it. The seasoned fan will not be shocked to see such goofy presentation and awkward counterpoint. Some of my favorite Jet Li films have this aspect of humor in them. The Monkey King's character could be compared to a jester in a king's court, or Puck in Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream, though with more of an innocence in the case of the Monkey King. The Monkey King, clearly with powers and skills beyond measure, is curious and playful, much like a fairy (what more can be expected from a monkey?). This playfulness gets him in trouble, as it seems he is too good-natured to recognize the deceit of his mortal foe, the Jade Warlord. So in the light of this innocent, playful fun, I embrace the Chinese silliness. Hopefully this explanation lends itself to an appreciation for this type of humor and character contrast to others as well.

All that said, I can't think of one thing I didn't like about The Forbidden Kingdom - even the charming and clever double role served up in the end by both Jackie Chan and Jet Li. It was a fantastic movie in nearly every respect. Perhaps for a true Chinese fable enthusiast or one who ascribes to taoist beliefs and practices, the movie could read somewhat like an offensive circus spectacle, with too many oddly intertwining characters (like a Batman movie with a plot that tries to fit in every known villain, or worse yet, twists the plot so that somehow Joker ends up killing Batman's parents or depicting the Penguin as a dirty mutant lunatic who lives in the sewers!?). However, being that I'm not Chinese, and I'm certainly not taoist, I don't get to be turned off by such buffoonery (my new word of the day, apparently)!

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Tuesday, April 15th, 2008 - 7:54 PM

"Inventory Doodle"

Two weeks ago Saturday March 29, I was at work for a mandatory inventory. We have these twice a year now (used to be just a year end inventory). The fist times I partook in inventory I didn't mind it so much. Of course it is always annoying to have to go to work on a day not normally scheduled and cutting into the already too short weekend. It's also horribly dirty and dusty, pulling boxes off the shelf. However, there are some pluses:

  1. Extra pay (or extra time off to equal out the time)
  2. Lunch (and sometimes dinner) provided
  3. A break from the normal routine
  4. Get to see products that I don't normally notice walking through the warehouse. Being that it's all art supplies, I enjoy seeing what's new.
  5. Get to converse and interact with people that I normally pass by, and everyone's usually in a more relaxed mood and in casual attire in comparison to normal work days.
  6. The time usually passes relatively quickly

This time, however, I was pretty much completely bored. I benefited from #1 and #2 above as usual, but otherwise I simply didn't want to be there. I guess I don't have any clear buddies or groups I fit in with at work, so I just sat around during the dead times. I could have been more social and jumped into random conversations, but didn't feel like it.

The largest time of sitting around usually occurs between the completion of the first count and the start of the second count, when variance reports are being printed and analyzed. It was during this time I noticed my boredom, and I decided to doodle to pass the time. The scrap below is what I came up with.

Taking Stock of One's

Taking Stock of One's

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Monday, April 14th, 2008 - 10:34 PM

"Journaling Again... in Circles and Loops: Wandering Fist III"

Last week something occurred that caused me to be interested in keeping a handwritten journal again. This is something I've been doing on and off since high school, and I have a number of books filled with memories, thoughts, writings and studies. I miss some aspects of journaling that cannot be fulfilled in a blog. So now I guess I'm doing both. Perhaps it won't last long, but that's not important.

Every once in a while I'm going to post a journal entry on EsoBlog. When I do this, I make efforts to give it a handwritten feel. The following entry is a bunch of circular, momentary thoughts. I pretty much just wrote down what came to me at the time, with little pre-calculated notions of what would spew forth. So here it is, unedited, exactly as it is written in my journal (complete with spelling errors!). Please feel free to download my newly created handwriting font (download link below) and install it on your Windows system so you can fully appreciate the journal appearance.

Download Phil2008 Handwriting Font (most common install folder is c:/windows/fonts/ - just throw the file there after downloading)

Thursday April 10, 2008

Am I on the verge of blindness as I speak (write)? Or is there another, not-so-physical and scientific explanation for these sudden sporatic flashes in my peripheral? Perhaps it is insanity knocking at the door. Shall I answer the call? I think he's already home. I don't want to answer, for I am the new tenant here. There's no room for two. How's that for psycho-fodder? Have you painfully caught your lip on my baited hook? I certainly hope not, for I have not the strength to reel you in. Your fate is to bleed until you close this book and stop reading! If you only knew I am writing to fill a book, recording/chronicling whatever comes to mind. If you knew that secret you'd not so seriously ponder the meaning of my words. But then, you might miss something... like the bus! Turn around in time to see the noisy engine flame on, like the human torch. Such tragedy this paragraph. Perhaps now we have come full circle. Truth be told, I am indeed writing to fill a book. I tire of this one and generally wish a new beginning to see a new writing surface... and new pens... NOW WE ARE GETTING SOMEWHERE!

Ironically that brings me back to where I started: journaling. Speaking of that, I hope these words don't fade into oblivion. That green one didn't have a good start, and all these pens are already old (though suffering from severe neglect until now). More support of the inner looping sub theme element of needing (wanting; needing excuses and justification) to buy new, spiffy pens... like the ones I saw Kim got. What? Have I returned upstream? Am I finally back to where I presented myself with two options: the straight and narrow, and the tangent broad and destructive path to oblivion?

The answer to that particular question is most assuredly and excitedly "NO!" (with exclamation, both implicit and explicit [what does that even mean? {I don't have the foggiest notion}]) Actually, that excitement may have been premature or uncalled for because the answer afterall may be a resounding (or reserved, unsure, embarrassed) "yes." However, if I have indeed returned to the decisive fork of streams, clearly I have echoed my former decision and have reinitialized the hopeless cycle... but hopefully neither toward oblivion nor destruction, but rather to hope... for an end... which is now in site... or is it? sight - oops, I'm a web designer, what can I say? (apparently a lot!) LOOP WHILE 1 = 1.

So it is with me: I hope my words last long enough to count for something. Shall I start the inevitable? One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, IX, X, XI, XII, XIII, XIV, XV, XVI, XVII, XVIII, XIX, XX, and so on... Does that count? I guess it counts for something. Hurrah and sunny days ablaze, my words lasted long enough to count for something! Now i just need to figure out what "something" is. Apparently something is a mix of spelled-out English numbers and Roman numerals. Now that I got all that figured out, I just need to explore the reason why I incorrectly forgot to capitalize the "i" a few sentences back! Isn't that something!? I guess it is. No wonder Roman numerals are scarcely used anymore. I probably earned myself twenty spam points with all those "X"s in proximity back there! Surely this journal will be blacklisted in this digital age!

All that to say (streaming technology) it would be sad to invest all this time writing only for it to be lost into oblivion or destruction. Perhaps in a round about way this is all a cry for attention, in hopes that Someone out there is listening, reading my thoughts, searching my dreams, re-recording them all on the everlasting, archival, lignin free, PVC free, acid free pages of His heart. If He takes notice, I am free. Burn the rest, take all of me. As I am, poor and unqualified. Hopeless and full of things that separate. Write in me, my pages are empty. For all I have written is corruptible and already fading. Write in Your own hand, even if it means writing in Your own blood. Seal me in it forever, I am Yours. I, who am lost and crying, undone and dying. Your love alone can rescue me. I too can live forever if You only say it is so. Your words are like silver refined seven times. Your words, unlike mine, last forever.

Finally, after looping seemingly forever, I am back full circle where I started. Again I am presented with a choice: will I somehow choose the straight and narrow path, "The Road Less Traveled"? Hmmm... more pages filled... and then all to dust! Perhaps for once one will not equal one, and the cycle will be broken, and all the ineffective and lifeless rules cast aside?

So the completion of the story goes like this:

Today I saw some Pro Art Sketch Books and Staedtler Mars pens on Kim's desk at work. That vision sparked a conversation after discovering that Kim is considering to start journaling. I told her that I used to journal a lot in earlier years but now struggle to motivate myself and make time.

I explained how I really like the results of the investment, but I wish there was a shortcut solution, since hand writing takes HOURS! I was reminded of my handwriting font I made a number of years ago. I don't remember now, but it wouldn't surprise me at all if I originally created it as a hopeful compromise/solution to the problem of hand written journaling taking so long, but a remaining appreciation for the less digital, more organic and spontaneous results of old-fashioned, time-consuming journaling.

In the end, my honest revelation to Kim of my journaling frustrations and history may have contributed to discouraging her from starting. I certainly hope not. Journaling is not for everyone. But for me, Mrs. McCormick's famed words, "Write down your ideas, " may very well sum up the very story of my life. Whether that story is one worth telling or hearing remains to be seen.

And thanks to Timmy, the McWorthless Water Heater, for once again waiting until after I'm done with my bath before offering nice, hot water!

I decided this journal entry resembled enough past Wandering Fist posts (Wandering Fist I, Wandering Fist II) to be worthy of the title. Though it is a lot of rambling, read carefully, there are tidbits of sense, looping parallel ideas and heartfelt emotion. Don't look too hard though. It was more an exercise for me. I don't expect anyone else to get much out of it. If you do, however, or have something similar to share as a personal reflection or "safe" vent, please do. I have found that "writing down my ideas", whatever they may be often clears the mind and opens new pathways that may have been overlooked. The most annoying and arbitrary assignment I ever received in school has become an important part of my self-discovery. Who knew? Mockery has turned into appreciation.

By the way, isn't it amazing how the text above - which fills 10 pages of a journal and took more than 2 hours to write - took mere minutes to type, and looks rather small on the screen? This is part of my dilemma in deciding to commit time to writing in a journal. I think the rewards are worth it, but man it's hard to discipline in doing it when there are easier, faster digital options!

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Monday, April 14th, 2008 - 10:17 PM

"Tara in Deep Paint"

I quickly painted this simple abstraction in Deep Paint 2 to be the background in a Weekly E Special. I always come up with some sort of background element, and Deep Paint is my latest toy for such creations. It's easy to go overboard with the realistic 3D paint effects, but subtly lit, the results can be quite tasteful and realistic.

Tara

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Sunday, April 13th, 2008 - 11:49 PM

"New Handwriting Font Creation - Phil 2008"

Phil 2008

Well, I made a new handwriting font finally. The first version of my handwriting font was made about eleven years ago. I figured it was time to make a new one. Not only has my handwriting changed over that period of time, but I felt there were some inadequacies in the way I created the first one. I have slightly better software now, and I wanted to see if I could get better results.

Believe it or not, the primary software is the same. 11 years ago I used CorelDRAW 8 to export to a TrueType font file. I did the same today. So if that didn't change, what did, right? Well, for starters, I got a better scan of my handwritten characters (glyphs in font language).

Before doing the brunt of the work in creating the various font glyphs, I tested several types of pens and paper. Both pen and paper choice are vital to getting a good scan. A bad pen will skip, smear, smudge and produce an inconsistent line quality. Of course, if a font file could capture all these imperfections, the results would be more realistic. However, the nature of how fonts work limits this sort of realism. I'll outline some of the key limitations of font files in a minute. I found that a fine line art pen is a good choice. This type of pen is used commonly in technical illustrations, comic and manga art. Some examples would be a Staedtler Mars Pigment Liner (what I used - 0.05 to be exact), Sakura Pigma Micron, Copic Multiliner, etc. Usually such pens come in a variety of thicknesses, denoted in decimals of a millimeter (0.1, 0.05, 0.03, etc.) The thickness used for the purposes of making a handwriting font depends on the look you are after. If you wish the characters to be bold, a thicker pen nib is in order. Thin, crisp lines require a thinner point.

Paper choice is at least as important as pen choice (more in my opinion). Most paper is quite absorbent, and this is not a particularly good thing for making fonts. Since ink is a wet medium, it will not only soak into paper, but it will spread or "bleed" ever so slightly. To the naked eye, this blurred edge is not very apparent. However, when the characters are scanned into the computer at a high resolution, all the irregularities and fuzzy edges inhibit a clean looking result. There are several papers that are so smooth that their surface resembles plastic. Vellum, mylar, very tightly pressed bristol, polypropylene, etc. Some are so plastic-like that the ink can smudge or smear easily (Yupo is a type of plastic). These types will give a perfectly smooth result, but care has to be taken not to smudge the letters, especially in the scanning process.

Besides giving special attention to choosing quality pen and paper, I also used a new vector tracing tool. Vector tracing involves converting bitmap graphics (composed of grids of limited resolution squares called pixels) into mathematically calculated lines and curves called vectors. This conversion process is the key "magical" step between scanned handwriting samples (bitmap) and a formatted font (vector). Back in 1997 the only halfway decent tracing software I had was CorelTRACE. By todays standards this program isn't very good. Out of all vector tracing software I've used (a bunch) I have found Inkscape to be the best and most reliable. The results are stunning. Even when compared next to VectorMagic, an online tracing option, Inkscape comes out on top or at least equivalent. Inkscape is a free, open-source vector illustration application along the lines of Adobe Illustrator, CorelDRAW, Serif DrawPlus, Xara, Microsoft Expression, and so on. Not only is Inkscape free, but it has an immensely powerful set of tools. In some areas it is better than all the above listed commercial applications. It lacks very little in functionality that the big, expensive alternatives have to offer.

Okay, now for the font caveats:

  1. Fonts are composed of vector graphics. This means that all the letters and symbols have to be converted to mathematically calculated lines, rather than a matrix of pixels, like bitmaps are composed of. This vector quality of fonts is what allows them to be scaled to various sizes and not lose their visual quality and smooth edges. This is why it is important to choose a good pen and paper, so the edges of the drawn letters do not bleed.
  2. Most known font formats only allow one graphic per letter or symbol (aka character). This means that an "A" will always look the same. Look at the following repeated characters and how each one is exactly the same: A A A A B B B B C C C C x x x x y y y y z z z z. While natural handwriting varies greatly (try writing one letter ten times in a row - each one will look slightly different), fonts can only present one version of each letter. To capture the essence of one's handwriting attention has to be given to draw the letters naturally. Fortunately most people don't realize each letter looks exactly the same in a handwriting font because in natural writing rarely more than 2 of the same letter occur in sequence. Unless you do comic book captions and type stuff like "AAAARRRRGGGGHHH!!!!"
  3. Because of these and other factors, not everyone's handwriting can be accurately made into a font. My handwriting is fairly ideal because I draw each character separately with some space in-between. Most people's handwriting has some pieces that connect between letters, and these connections vary depending on what letter comes next. Other handwriting is almost entirely cursive or really sloppy. None of these types of handwriting can be made into fonts - at least with current font "technology" and file formats. I've often thought fonts should be more robust and offer intelligent ways to accommodate some of these caveats. I've got "better things to do" than help the world by creating an improved font format though. Sorry.

Why is cursive handwriting a barrier for fonts? Well, think about it. In cursive, a single flowing line forms each word. Each the letters are connected by trailing loopy lines. The problem is that these connections don't always occur at the same point in vertical space. Most of the connections occur at the baseline or bottom of the letters. However, some occur higher up - consider the lower-case letters b, o, v and w in standard cursive writing. The little connecting loops are at the top. Well, if each separate letter is a static graphic, how can a loopy line up high connect with a loopy line down at the baseline? Truth is, they cannot (unless you do a little trickery by making each meet in the middle, cutting the length of each in half - blah blah blah). Most people's handwriting is far more complex than having only 2 connection positions, as the presence or absence of connection between letters varies depending on which letters are written and in which order (and on which day, what their mood is, etc!). Maybe someone connects a d and e when they follow each other as in the word "deputy", but otherwise a d and e never have connecting loop tails when combined with other letters. A standard font cannot account for this type of variation. The best handwriting candidate to be made a font is printed letters that are each separated by some space.

Just so you can appreciate my new font, I'm going to copy this entire blog entry into an image using the new font. Other than changing the color on different paragraphs and adding lines for effect, the text is rendered using the new font. Eventually I'll have the font for download on my site because I want to write some entries using the font so it looks like I hand-wrote them. At that point, visitors will have to actually download the font to appreciate the viewing experience. By the way, pretty cool that I was able to get an image that is 600 pixels wide by 2635 pixels tall to be around 200K, huh? :) My little secret - well, not really. The file could have been even smaller if I didn't go color crazy! (check this out - 135K). And if you noticed a few differences between the text below and the text above - too bad! I made the image, copied it to the blog entry, and then made some revision to the blog entry. I don't want to remake the image... too lazy (not that anyone would ever notice that!).

Phil2008 font demo

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Saturday, April 12th, 2008 - 10:21 PM

"Duck Lawn Ornaments"

Each spring it's inevitable that a pair of ducks get confused and think our neighborhood is their stomping grounds. Fanno Creek and Greenway Park are directly behind our row of dwellings, but these ducks seem to prefer human contact. I can't be sure if it is the same couple each year, but it surely happens. I'm always worried their lives will end in tragedy due to carelessness of people around, but hopefully not (or they'll figure out where they sound be, fifty yards away).

Last year, ducks were seen in our driveway. A few days ago they made it to our backyard, where they are pictured below. I was able to get less than five feet away without them stirring to action. I didn't want to disturb them, otherwise I would have got some macro shots of their eyebrows and nose hairs. Perhaps they are returning to us because they see that we are peaceful people. I would certainly never intentionally hurt them. However, I'm sure there are those who would, either on purpose or by accident.

duck couple

duck couple

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Thursday, April 10th, 2008 - 10:16 PM

"Right Hemisphere Deep Paint 2"

In my attempts to make sure I'm taking advantage of all the best freeware or open source graphics applications, I regularly search the internet for gossip on the topic. I learned about a couple such programs (Artrage, Artweaver) though a fellow blogger, Cartoon Monkey (Chad Essley). Since learning of these natural media programs that take advantage of features offered by graphics tablets and pens, I've been enthralled to make sure I'm not missing out on anything cool.

Deep Paint logo

I recently came across a forum thread that mentioned Deep Paint, a formerly commercial product made by Right Hemisphere. The final release of Deep Paint (version 2) was released as freeware. Since then, the software has been revamped and released as a more powerful tool called Deep Paint 3D / Deep UV, with more of a focus for 3D texturing. After a bit of poking around the web, I found the freeware download and installed the software.

Deep Paint is an interesting natural media simulation graphics application. The brush tool is Deep Paint's primary attraction. It has a host of configurations that afford an incredible range of strokes and effects. Brush presets range from regular flat bitmap and textures to image hoses, cloners and image processing. The most interesting of the brushes are those that closely resemble natural media like acrylic, oil, watercolor, charcoal and so forth. Deep Paint, aptly named, offers pseudo three dimensional material manipulation. As a paint-filled brush is dragged across the screen, a malleable substance takes shape. Successive strokes reveal what appears to be some sort of liquid substance. The resemblance to real paint is uncanny. The effect seems to be very much like a low profile 3D displacement map.

I'm quite impressed with Deep Paint's brushes, but there are caveats or limitations to the illusion. Where the 3D material ends, there is a very stark contrast of texture that doesn't look quite natural. It is difficult to transition between the 3D look and other flat bitmap brush strokes, as there is seemingly not enough fine levels of depth to blend the two seamlessly. In addition, the lighting that gives the paint its 3D appearance tends to give artwork too much of a plastic look. Fortunately the direction and intensity of the light can be changed to create a more subtle effect. Lighting adjustments can entirely change the appearance of the image.

Deep Paint is a bit unstable. It has crashed a couple times while I was painting simple designs. I'm assuming this relates to all the 3D calculations going on. It's important to save your work regularly to prevent loss.

Advanced bitmap editing features are mostly absent from Deep Paint. It's no Photoshop replacement for sure. However, who would expect to find such features in a paint program? (not me - especially not for free!) Once a basic painting has been laid out, it can be exported to a variety of image formats (including Photoshop), and edited further using other software. Moreover, there are some basic graphics staples like masks, paths, layers, and a couple mainstay filters.

Here is one of my first experiments using Deep Paint. I drew out a simple bezier path, converted it to a mask and painted inside with a simple wet material brush. I then realized the shape loosely resembles a head, thus the name.

Deep Paint Blue Head

Deep Paint Blue Head

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Thursday, April 10th, 2008 - 9:02 PM

"Me, Myself and I"

This image already appears on the EsoShow from my latest cabin trip. I figured the work involved makes the image worthy of inclusion on EsoGallery as well. As is my ongoing practice, artwork also finds its way to EsoBlog to make sure those who look only at my blog are informed of the latest additions. Nothing like repetition, eh?

Me, Myself and I

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Wednesday, April 9th, 2008 - 10:12 PM

"Silly Easter Sadie"

What's a blog? I think it's a place for people to write a bunch of stuff about themselves that no one else has any interest in. I do a pretty good job of this with my blog, I think (I hope you sense the sarcasm). So here's some more of that junk...

Here are a few photos I snapped of Sadie at our Easter dinner at my parents' house. I'm not the type that adores pets and puts them on an equal or higher level than people. But these are just too funny. Besides, she's not going to complain when I put her silly pictures here, while the people who were there might.

Sadie

Sadie

Sadie

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Thursday, April 3rd, 2008 - 8:38 PM

"Signs of Spring 2008"

I actually took these pictures some time ago - more of the standard fare, taken while walking to and from work, along the Fanno Creek Trail.

Signs of Spring 2008
Click the image to see these pictures on EsoShow

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