The week, not just the weekend in review.

May 27, 2008

A couple of weeks ago, one of the trailers that was shown before the movie Iron Man was for a theatrical showing of the live-action movie based upon a popular manga and anime series called Death Note. As Lyssa and I are both fans of the series (she of the manga, I of the live-action movies), we made it a priority to hit the one night only showing at Tyson's Corner AMC last week. Mika was kind enough to score tickets for us early (she had to, because they were almost sold out by the time we got into line), and the three of us, joined by Hasufin, joined in the fun after a quiet and tasty dinner at one of the restaurants on the bottom floor.

If you're not familiar with the premise of the series, a Death Note is a black notebook that never seems to run out of paper from the world of the shinigami, the Japanese gods of death. Anyone whose name is written in a death note will keel over of a heart attack within forty seconds. If a cause of death is specified for a particular name, then they will die in the manner prescribed by the death note. Somehow, a death note with the rules underlying its use written inside the cover has found its way to Earth and into the hands of a brilliant college student, Yagami Light, who obsesses over justice... I'll not go into more detail because this also means giving away some important plot points but I will say that the story is an excellent psychological thriller, with two twisted geniuses locked in a life-or-death battle.

About a year ago, I bought copies of the first and second Death Note movies on DVD. They were subtitled with decent translations from Japanese, so I wasn't sure what I was in for when it hit the silver screen. Unfortunately, Viz Pictures chose to dub the soundtrack to the movie rather than keep the subtitles... while they had to at least make an attempt at matching the motions of the actor's mouths to the new soundtrack, the delivery came across as stilted and kind of cheesy (in a "Kung-Fu Theatre" sort of way) and some of the translations were, in a word, awful. They also overdubbed some new lines for 'L' that better explained how the character of Misora Naomi was brought into the movie with little warning - it ties things in with the novel Death Note: Another Note (which tells the story of one of L's earlier cases nicely). Round things out was Kaga Takeshi as Police Detective Yagami Soichiro - Light's father. Fans of the original Iron Chef will recognise the actor instantly... Some of the things that were cut out of the movie were just as interesting as the overdubs. One notable scene depicting Light constructing a booby trap that would destroy the death note if he was surprised in his room was completely deleted, as were a few other scenes that I don't quite recall off the top of my head. All in all, it wasn't bad, but I really wish that they'd gone with the subtitles rather than the voice-dub cast of Bleach filling in. The Viz Pictures DVD is supposed to be released in the states on 18 September 2008, so we'll see what happens then.

I didn't get much done on Friday night because I passed out sometime around 2230 EST5EDT on the couch. I'm told that I mumbled something about moving planets around and feeling rather poorly for the effort, so maybe I was working on a project or two that I'd forgotten about. I'm not sure.

Lyssa and I didn't do much on Saturday aside from running a couple of errands. I did stop at our local arts and crafts store and stock up on the rest of the supplies that I needed for my experiments with resin casting, a reasonable cash outlay for something that I will probably get quite a bit of use out of in the next few weeks. It's nasty stuff, I won't lie to you: the resin itself and the solidification catalyst are highly toxic, and you don't want to get either of them on your skin. Furthermore, if you ever do any resin casting, forget setting up an exhaust system for your workshop, go outside on a breezy day and stay upwind of your molds. Close your windows, too, because the fumes carry.

All of that said, if you want to embed things in transparent plastic, or cast your own beads or faux jewels for various and sundry clothing or costuming projects, this is the way to go. I bought a sheet of small molds to teach myself the techniques, and I discovered some interesting things. Firstly, boxes of surgical gloves really are a good investment if you do any messy craftwork. Secondly, junkmail is your friend if you don't have a subscription to any local newspapers, because it's good for minimizing the mess incurred by spills, big or small. Third, spray two coats of mold release on your molds, just in case. Let the first coat dry, and re-spray just before you mix up the epoxy/catalyst combination. Fourth, it's very difficult to find graduated disposable cups; Lyssa and I had to drive all the way to Rockville to Perl Paints to find them. Fifth, it's getting harder and harder to find eyedroppers in drugstores because so many things come in dropper-bottles this way. I didn't realize that my vial of hardening catalyst was such a bottle. Also, be very careful when portioning out the hardening catalyst. Too much catalyst means that too much heat will be generated, and thus the resulting plastic will either be cloudy or cracked due to the temperature differential. Too little catalyst means that the plastic won't set all the way, and might even stay tacky to the touch... like most of the castings that resulted from my initial experiments. I doubt that I'll be able to use my test castings for much of anything, but I have a better idea of what I'll have to do for my eventual project.

Late in the evening Lyssa and I invited Orthaevelve over to hang out and work on some other craft projects around the dinner table. I finished repairing a couple of my watch fobs (I'm amazingly hard on them) and started work on another bookmark, this one with braided leather instead of chain, but when everything was said and done I messed up the length of the braid - it's now too long, even for the encyclopedias in the library. Back to the drawing board.

Sunday afternoon was our yearly Memorial Day cookout at Hasufin and Mika's place on the other side of town. Lyssa and I had a few last minute errands to run for food because we were in charge of bringing meat to the picnic this year. Lyssa mixed up a batch of her famous baked beans while I got things buttoned away at the last minute and checked my e-mail (for the first time in over a week, incidentally) and then I drove everything over while she stayed behind to wait for Laurelinde. After the problems incurred when last she tried to find Hasufin and Mika's place, it was decided that Lyssa should direct her to the right place while I went on ahead. By the time I got there, the grill was heating up and the chocolate-dipped strawberry line was already in operation.

Much of the afternoon was spent sitting around eating whatever came off of the grill, talking, joking around, adding to my .plan file (to be updated later), and bashing on each other in the back yard with the shinai and wiffle bats from the trunk of the car (I bet you wondered why I always carry those around...). Scraun and Fishy had finished their move a couple of weeks ago (though not the unpacking part) and Jade had come down from New York to join in the festivities, so there were some new faces to add to the day. We had also rented a kid for the day (as Hasufin put it) - the daughter of a friend was spending the afternoon with us at the picnic, so we had to rein in some of the more outre' comments. Among the other entertainments were arguing over whether or not Folgers Coffee still came in metal cans that could be used as barbecue chimneys (I thought they did; Hasufin disagrees), plotting the trip to HOPE in a couple of weeks, trying to figure out how to climb the tree in the back yard without killing ourselves (the tree is so old that there aren't any real hand-holds to be found, and thus climbing equipment would be required), and modifying Jade's cellphone to get better range in the DC area by applying Clarke's Third Law.

Lyssa and Laurelinde left around 2000 EST5EDT; I left about an hour later because I was feeling kind of people'd out and wanted to curl up for a while with a book. I wound up hacking around with some software that I've been writing on Windbringer for a while and re-checking the math on paper to make sure that I've got the method down, and went to bed around 0100 EST5EDT on Monday morning.

For some reason, Lyssa and I were completely wiped out yesterday. I don't know if it's how bright the sun has been lately (so much light reflects from the surface of the pool in our apartment complex that the entire apartment is lit up during the day), the heat (mid to high 80's Fahrenheit yesterday), or just the long weekend, but neither of us much felt like doing anything yesterday. Still, I did manage to get my winter clothes swapped out for another two dozen t-shirts and the rest of my business casual wardrobe, put away the laundry that had the useful side effect of cleaning up the bedroom, and discover that it's actually cheaper to wait for the limited number of washers and dryers in the apartment building to free up because our local laundromat charges $2.75 per load, fully a dollar more than the washers in the basement. We did, however, run the TARDIS through the car wash because it was several months overdue for a wash, even though the tree pollen in the neighborhood made this a pointless exercise overnight.

Lately I've been playing around with Songbird, a Mozilla-based music management application for Windows, Mac OS, and Linux that is still in the early stages of development. Out of the box it tries very hard to pretend to be Apple iTunes, but doesn't do it very well. Only development builds are available for download right now, which is probably the reason for some of the slowness and general glitchiness of the user interface (the heights of individual text lines are a constant and yet the font sizes aren't, which makes it damnably difficult to read song titles most times), so I can't write it off yet, but I have to be honest, I'm not terribly impressed at the moment. There are some good extensions available for it, however, and you can download new skins (referred to as 'feathers') for the application if you so choose. I might do that soon and see if one of the more lightly colored themes makes it easier to use. iPod support is sketchy in v0.5 right now and requires a plugin from the Songbird extension library (free to download and use but you have to search for it); v0.6 is supposed to have better MP3 player support, I've read. Because Songbird is based upon the Mozilla application framework, it supports tabs in the same way as Firefox, so you can have your music library open in one tab, browse an online music store like eMusic in another tab, read Wikipedia entries on your favorite bands in other tabs, and still check your e-mail if you so choose. I haven't profiled memory usage yet on Windbringer, but from the unscientific glance at the memory utilization graph on the toolbar, there wasn't much of a hit incurred after it finished indexing several thousand .mp3's.

Honestly, I'm still more of a fan of the "keep music organized in directories as much as possible" method of music indexing and using Audacious to listen to music, but I'm willing to give it a try once iPod support stabilizes a bit.

As if it wasn't a busy enough week, my temporary crown popped loose this morning while I was brushing my teeth. I managed to stick it back on but knowing that the cement's loose has me a little concerned. I'm considering picking up some emergency dental cement on my way home tonight to ensure that it stays in place until Friday, when I go in to have the permanant crown installed.