Monday, August 24, 2009

Yet another appointment, Howl's Moving Castle audiobook, Ponyo, fanlistings, "My World, My Way", Wii Sports Resort

I had another appointment today with Dr. Feder, the guy I am seeing to try to get an Asperger's diagnosis. This is the third appointment and we haven't gotten a diagnosis yet, which kind of frustrates me, especially since I felt I met a lot of the diagnostic criteria I saw in a table in a book on Asperger's Syndrome that I consulted for my sociology project (which involved creating a center for youth with autistic spectrum disorders). He's going to e-mail my dad with some observations, so we'll see how that goes. The next appointment is for September 23, which is the same week as the writers' conference I want to go to. With that, school, and the appointment, I'm thinking I may just take my vacation time that week, rather than trying to get so many days off in that week.

Yesterday, I finished "reading" Howl's Moving Castle via the audiobook version of it I got with one of my "free book" Audible credits. It's an interesting book, much more detailed than the Miyazaki film based on it (which was my first encounter with the story, and the motivation for me wanting to read the book). The basic storyline is pretty much the same, but most of the details are different. Howl seems more heartless, Calcifer seems more like a demon ought to be (he seemed a little too lighthearted in the movie, especially in the English version where he was played by Billy Crystal), and even Sophie is a little more interesting. The novel also has more of a traditional fantasy novel feel to it, and it even utilizes the classic novel technique of naming chapters for what happens in them, like "In Which a Royal Wizard Catches a Cold" or "In Which Sophie Expresses Herself with Weed-Killer" or "In Which the Moving Castle Moves House." We read one such novel in my U.S. lit class last semester, and I found it somewhat annoying, because it felt like you were told what was going to happen before it happened, rather than finding out on your own. But when doing study guides and essays these chapter titles are rather useful, because it can be a pain in those situations to remember what chapters something happened in. It also utilizes some fairy-tale tropes, like the idea of setting out to seek one's fortune and Sophie believing that nothing interesting will happen to her because she's the eldest (invoking the common fairy tale trope of only the youngest son succeeding in seeking his fortune). The author also cleverly uses John Donne's poem "Song" as the words of the Witch of the Waste's curse on Howl.

Speaking of Hayao Miyazaki, I saw his most recent film, Ponyo (called Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea in Japan) at the theater last Friday. It was very well done. The English acting (since this was of course the English dub done by Disney) was very well done. Liam Neeson was the best in my opinion, though the film's two young stars -- Frankie Jonas, the Jonas Brothers' kid brother, and Noah Cyrus, Miley Cyrus's little sister -- did really well too. Disney does cast these films really well. The last Ghibli film I saw before this, My Neighbors the Yamadas, had John Belushi in it as well as Daryl Sabara (Juni in Spy Kids).

Having seen Ponyo, I have now seen 9 of the 18 Studio Ghibli films: Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, Castle in the Sky, My Neighbor Totoro, Kiki's Delivery Service, Princess Mononoke, My Neighbors the Yamadas, Spirited Away, Howl's Moving Castle, and Ponyo. The ones I haven't seen yet are: Lupin III: The Castle of Cagliostro, Grave of the Fireflies, Only Yesterday, Porco Rosso, Ocean Waves, Pom Poko, Whisper of the Heart, The Cat Returns, and Tales from Earthsea. All of these have been released in the U.S. except Only Yesterday, Ocean Waves, and Tales from Earthsea. Only Yesterday and Ocean Waves have never been released in English, though Ocean Waves is set to be released as a subtitled DVD in the UK next year, with the theatrical release of Ponyo. Only Yesterday has been "shelved indefinitely" for dubbing by Disney due to some not-family-friendly content in it. Tales of Earthsea, Studio Ghibli's most recent film before Ponyo, is due to be released in the U.S. next spring. It's also the first film to be directed by Hayao's son Gorō.

I managed to get my first fanlisting up, a Hina fanlisting called Forgotten Girl, but the join form isn't working (you can enter data into it, but it doesn't go anywhere). I need to figure out how to fix that, and I hope to be able to do that with the fanlisting I'm working on at present, a Mamoru/Hina ship fanlisting called Earth and Sun (because Mamoru has the kanji for "earth" in his name and Hina has the kanji for "sun" in her name). The PHP stuff for fanlisting scripts, scripts that are supposed to help you manage your member list, I can't make any sense of.

I finally managed to get past the part I was stuck on in the DS game My World, My Way, which was to beat the Succubus Queen. She has, like all the bosses thus far, WAY too much HP compared to the player character (200 compared to the 85 HP I had at the time) and her attacks hit pretty hard. I figured out a strategy of not attacking her with my weapon (since that does very little damage) and cooperating with Pinky, the mimic slime that follows you, to alternately use damaging items like Holy Bombs and Ice Bombs and use magic spells like Ice Shards to whittle down her HP. So, to beat her, I recommend:

1. BUY POTIONS. This seems obvious, but it is really useful. Having Potions will allow you to heal so you don't have to waste your MP using the Heal spell. I bought 5 I think, which is generally enough for this dungeon since you also have a healing spell handy. If you're lucky enough to have some Magic Potions (which heal MP) handy, bring those too. They're rare because you can only buy them in some of the shops in the game, though monsters occasionally drop them. Plus, they cost a lot. If you need money for potions, fight a bunch of enemies with the "I hate being poor" pout in effect (which temporarily makes the monsters give you more money) or sell off those useless monster drop items like False Boar Fur and Venombug Down, as well as weapons you and the mimic slime don't need. You can also choose the cheaper meals at inns to save money.

2. Try to avoid other monster fights on the way, unless you need experience. You can do this by using a pout while walking in the dungeon that makes the monsters go away (I forget what the pout is called) or by using the "This is annoying!" pout at the beginning of battles. Before getting to the Queen, most of the monsters on the dungeon's bottom floor are hard-hitting regular Succubuses, so you will want to avoid those. This will allow you to keep your HP high and save your MP.

3. The Succubus Queen is rather weak to Ice-type spells, probably because her own spells are primarily fire-based (except for Reaper Slice). To exploit this weakness, buy some Ice Bombs from shops (or hold on to any that were dropped by monsters) and make sure Paro (the bird that casts all your spells for you) learns the spell Ice Shards from the snake-archer monster in the flower-filled room on the first floor of the dungeon. The Queen is also weak to Holy Bombs (as one might expect), so get some of those too. Unfortunately, unlike some other holy-magic-weak monsters, she's not affected much more if you use the Holy Sword spell (which imbues your weapons with holy power) than she'd be if you just used your weapon on her normally, so it's not worth it to waste MP using it.

4. Make sure to heal frequently, either by using the Heal spell or by using Potions. This will help you survive when the Queen uses Reaper Slice or Fire Curtain, spells that both hit for a lot. Also, have the mimic slime primarily cast spells, if it has the ability to do so, to save you from wasting your own MP (since it tends to have more MP than you).

5. Once the Queen's HP gets down to around 80 or so, you can probably risk using your weapon (although this won't do much damage) or other spells, such as Magic Arrow (which Paro can learn early on from Wizardrills). One benefit of using your weapon is the random chance that you will cause a status effect, preferably stunning (which makes the Queen temporarily unable to attack). If you got the Snake Bow from the snake-archer guy, use that as it has a chance of causing the Poison status, which takes 1 HP from its victim per turn. Another benefit of using your weapon is that most weapons have a 2-4% chance of landing a "critical," a hit that does a very high amount of damage (sometimes as high as 300). However, the chance of a "critical" happening is random, and you have no control over when or how often one happens.

Anyway, once you beat the queen, leave the dungeon via the shortcut near the lower floor entrance. Then return to town (you can do this instantly by pressing L, which lets you cast the Return spell) and speak to the innkeeper, who gives you the key to the next gate. Fortunately, you don't have to fight a boss at the next gate (like you did at the other gates) since Nero (the guy who's been shadowing you and setting up the gate monsters and the dungeon) decides to let you off easy. After going through the gate, you can return home.

I thought that would be the end of the game (even though the story up to this point only takes about 10 game hours), but the cutscene at the end has the adventurer guy Elise was trying to impress by going out on an adventure dump her YET AGAIN, stating that the Succubus Queen is only a minor enemy and that any amateur hero could take her down. So Elise decides to try again, and a whole new "adventure" begins! It's essentially the same as before, the same sort of stuff, except in new locations.

We'll have to see just how far this game goes, I guess. It's a good game, with classic RPG elements mixed in with a unique twist on character development and gameplay using the pouts and such. The monsters are not terribly creative, with many being variations of previous monsters (like the Firedrills I'm now fighting, which are essentially Wizarddrills with red outfits and firey bows, and the Firebug and Venombug, which are variations of a normal green bug monster). But it's still interesting.

Last but not least, I finally picked up Wii Sports Resort, which I had reserved at GameStop. I traded in a bunch of games the same day, adding up (with extra credit thanks to my Edge card) to $41.45 in store credit, meaning I only had to pay about $13 myself for the game. I've played it, it's pretty cool, though the Wii MotionPlus accessory (which comes included with this game) is still new to me. I've played Swordplay, Cycling, and Table Tennis so far.

Well, I'm going to go have some lunch (I requested the day off from work today for the appointment, so I am at home). Bye for now!

Monday, August 10, 2009

Major shock, new store, Twitter/Facebook much?, Tashica is gone, iFight Shelby Marx, fanlistings, projects, Kamikaze Kaitou Jeanne

First, I have to write about a major shock I had today. After work, I decided I wanted some real food for lunch. So I went to this sit-down restaurant near my new store called The Money Pit (I know, doesn't sound like a restaurant...but then, neither did "The Max" from Saved by the Bell). I spent some time looking at the menu board to decide what to order (since, though it's sit-down, you order and pay first), because it was my first time there. Then, when I finally got in line, there was this couple in front of me. Then, out of nowhere, the guy in the couple started collapsing! I don't think he fainted, because after it happened he seemed conscious. He could've had a heart attack for all I know (though he didn't show signs of it). I was too in shock to do anything, and just stood there for some time because I thought I needed to stay in line (the line had moved though without my knowing it). Another patron had enough composure to yell to the employees to call 911. Eventually, even though I got in the right line, I didn't want to stay there, so I left and went to Taco Bell instead. I called my parents, but only reached my dad. I was really freaked out! The paramedics got there (I saw them from the window of Taco Bell) so hopefully the guy is ok.

I've just started my second week at the new store. Things seem to be going smoothly, although on days like today when I didn't get much sleep the night before, the day seems longer than it is. I'm working GMC stuff, specifically HABA (health and beauty) and doing pretty well at it. I was off yesterday, and today I helped Tom Green (a GMC who's sort of my supervisor) finish going through a pallet of tubs from Saturday. We managed to go through all that was left. Hooray! I have to do bake shop by myself a couple days this week, probably Friday and Sunday since I'm coming in at 6 a.m. those days. I don't know for sure yet, though; Tom said maybe I'd be working it on Wednesday since there's usually no one working the bread or bake shop on Wednesdays because there are no deliveries. We'll see.

My next topic is "Twitter/Facebook much?" (this is written in the fashion of a show I like called Totally Spies!, where they often said things like "Rude much?"). Granted, I am not against Facebook or Twitter; I've been on Facebook for a while now and I just recently gave in and joined Twitter, for the sake of promoting my writing (although I have a "personal" one as well, ostensibly for my personal site; I twittered to it using my iPod Touch about the collapsing incident as soon as I had wi-fi). But now it seems like EVERYONE has a Facebook and/or a Twitter (or both). Even TV news programs are getting them now. Just the other day, I saw a "find us on Facebook" logo on a copy of Do It Yourself magazine (a magazine that teaches you how to do DIY projects, supposedly) in the checkstands at work. It just seems like overkill. Now these networks have their advantages, look at the young Iranian Twitterers who twittered about the riots involving the elections there. But this is just TOO MUCH for me. I don't even know how to work the vast social network circuit. How will I ever use it to promote my writing? I'm in over my head.

Today I watched my DVR recording of the latest episode of HGTV Design Star, a reality show where designers compete for their own show on HGTV. I got into it last season, and now it's back for season 4. One of the designers on it is a girl named Tashica. She seems nice and all, but she keeps doing badly on the challenges and then somehow surviving to fight another week. [SPOILER] But this week she messed up again, and after some suspicious whispering between the judges and host Clive Pearce, she was eliminated (or, to use the show's terminology, her "show has been canceled") before they'd even gone through everyone else in the traditional elimination fashion (it was a double elimination this time). So at least we won't have to see her mess up everything anymore. [END SPOILER] She did seem a little annoying to me, though I haven't really picked a favorite designer yet. I like Antonio (the set designer) though; he takes the lead well and he does a good job at what he does.

I had another recording to watch after Design Star. I don't know if I've mentioned this, but I've gotten into the Nickelodeon show iCarly. For those of you who haven't seen it, it's about a girl named Carly who does her own comedy webshow with her friends Sam (who is a girl, btw) and Freddie. The starring cast is rounded off by Carly's crazy sculptor brother Spencer. Anyway, they had a special hour-long iCarly movie the other night, and that's what I watched today. It was called iFight Shelby Marx. [WARNING: spoilers here]. Guest starring Victoria Justice (from Nickleodeon's Spectacular! and Zoey 101) as teen martial-arts fighter Shelby Marx, the movie has Carly and Shelby agreeing to a charity exhibition fight after Carly teasingly challenges Shelby to a fight. But chaos ensues when Carly trash talks Shelby at the conference thanks to Sam's coaching, and Carly accidentially falls on Shelby's grandmother and is accused of tackling her. Carly chickens out of the fight and gets avoided at school for it, so she goes and explains the situation to Shelby and agrees to fight. But then Nevel (the iCarly trio's archnemesis and owner of a website review site called Nevelocity) shows Shelby a clip he faked from the press conference showing that Carly meant to push Shelby's grandmother. This infuriates Shelby, and she fights Carly for real, to Carly's surprise. Carly barely wins, and later Nevel's plan is revealed. Carly and Shelby make up, and Shelby appears on iCarly (not the TV show, but Carly's webshow, which also has the same name). The B-plot of this movie involves Spencer being so frustrated over his allergies he agrees to take an experimental allergy medication from a doctor in his and Carly's apartment building. While it does seem to cure his allergies, it has some strange side effects: first intense itching, then severe sweating, then uncontrollable thirst, then short-term memory loss, and finally involuntary muscle spasms. It's all majorly exaggerated, but funny. I sure would never take that medication, no matter how annoying my allergies are.
[end spoilers]

The four-week deadline for both of my fanlistings is approaching. My Hina one is pretty much done, I just need to do a final detail check and test the join form to see if it works. Right now, I'm just going to add people manually, until I figure out how to use a fanlisting script like Enthusiast or phpFanlist that can do it for me. I need to work on my Mamoru/Hina relationship one. It's going to be called "Earth and Sun," because Mamoru has the kanji for "earth" in his last name (Chiba) and Hina has the kanji for "sun" in her first name (Hina). Combining the earth and the sun also shows a sense of compatability, which is how I feel about their relationship.

As for my school projects, my Sacred Texts paper is done...halleujah. I have been prepping for it for a while, but I finally wrote and finished it yesterday in many long hours of work. I'm so glad it's done. As for my sociology project, I have taken notes from some books about autism, now I need to put everything together in terms of the website I'm making for the project itself. It's going to be hard, but I think I can do it.

Oh one last thing. I started watching the anime series Kamikaze Kaitou Jeanne (Divine Wind Thief Jeanne), which is based on a manga by Arina Tanemura, who also created Full Moon wo Sagashite. When I first heard about this anime ages ago, I was somewhat offended by it because the heroine is the reincarnation of Joan of Arc (Jeanne d'Arc in French, hence the "Jeanne" in the show title), who is my hero. I thought it awful that she was being trivialized like that. Now I realize that idea was silly. I've seen the first three episodes, and it looks pretty good.

Well, that's all for now. As Jeanne would say, Adieu!
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Monday, August 03, 2009

New store...again, Wizards of Waverly Place, fanlistings, projects

As of today I have been transferred to yet another Stater Bros., this time the one in San Marcos. The nice thing is it is smaller, this week I am working mornings and get off at noon, and it's a short walk from the nearest Sprinter station (and one Sprinter stop away from school, should I have to go to school and work on the same day, as I have to tomorrow because of the way things were scheduled).

The drag is that if I should choose to get myself to work, I shall have to catch the bus around 5:30am, meaning I'll have to get up rather early. I can't just get up at 5, it will have to be earlier. I am thinking of trying this tomorrow so I can figure out how to get there. I'm not sure which way to take though, because either of the two ways I could take will get me there rather close to my start time, with little margin for error. I might be able to get there about 6:40 taking the 305 from Palomar College, and I think it stops fairly near to the store (based on what the lady from 511 told me). If I take a bus and then the Sprinter, I'll have to walk half a mile from the station, which is fine going home but not great for when I have a time constraint as I would if I were going to work (although tomorrow I will have a time constraint going to the station because I am going to school after work, but I think I can still make it).

Today was my first day. I assumed I'd be working bakery, but I wasn't sure so I brought my floor GMC apron as well as my bakery apron and visor. It's just as well, since it does appear I'll be doing mostly floor GMC stuff, helping bakery as needed. I did work bakery for a while today though. The bakery manager, Cassie, had not been told of my coming and was thus rather surprised. I found out later I'd been switched for a girl named "Mo," who I worked with before at Encinitas (her real name is Maureen, but she prefers to be called "Mo"), who had done most of the HABA (health and beauty) ordering there.

Anyway, Cassie had me help her out. San Marcos is slightly different in that they have only a bake shop, not a full bakery (as I've worked in previously). Most of the same rules apply, and the product is pretty much all the same, except that most of it comes in frozen and pre-made (even the cakes!). The workspace is also very small, squeezed into some space along the same hallway as the breakroom, janitors' room, bathrooms, and office. It was somewhat difficult for Cassie and I to work together in this small space, but we managed. I learned mostly the basics of how things are run in that bakery, as well as how to input an order (since I may be doing this next week when Cassie is on vacation), that we have to cover the store's very small service deli as well, and how to make Mountain High Strawberry Pies (the pièce de resistance of Stater Bros. bakeries great and small during the strawberry season). I showed her how I packaged gourmet cookies, my scale trick for finding hard-to-calculate code-out dates (some items are good for like a month, and that can be hard to calcuate in your head), what Vegi-Wash looks like (since I thought we were supposed to use it to wash the strawberries), and how to test the sanitizer concentration. Cassie was pretty happy that I already had bakery experience, and that I mostly needed to learn how to use those skills in her smaller bake shop setting.

When Cassie no longer needed me, I changed aprons and went out on the floor, where I stocked HABA items. This was hard to do since I didn't know where things go (this being a new store), but I used the aisle signs as a guide and so I managed all right. I wasn't able to finish before I was off though, but I got pretty far. I also think I accidentially inhaled some gas from the broken lightbulbs I found in the first box I opened, because the box smelled funny, and something in my mouth and stomach didn't feel quite right the rest of the morning. I'm ok, though.

Things look like they shall go well. I don't know how long I'll be there, though. We'll see.

I have been working on finishing a website for a YouTube singing group I'm a part of, LaraAmyReilia Productions. AmyMizunoPGSM, a.k.a. Amy-chan, was telling me we were going to sing special solos, and hers was going to be a song by Selena Gomez that is from the Disney show Wizards of Waverly Place. I heard of this show when it first came out, but never watched it (I haven't been watching Disney Channel at all lately since Kim Possible hasn't been on). But the last couple days I watched it. They are currently in a 4-part series about the Russos, the wizard family that stars in the show, having a feud against a family of vampires, the Van Heusens, who open a sandwich store (called Late Nite Bite) just down the road from their sandwich shop, Waverly Sub Station. The problem is Justin from the wizard family falls in love with Juliet from the vampire family, and so chaos ensues. Alex (played by Selena Gomez) is sort of in the background of this saga. Anyway, the show seems interesting. It's currently part of the "Summer of Stars" lineup, which includes (besides Wizards) an animated show called Phineas and Ferb and the live-action shows Hannah Montana, Sonny with a Chance, Jonas (starring the Jonas Brothers), The Suite Life of Zack and Cody, and its sister/sequel series The Suite Life on Deck.

I have little time to make my fanlistings that were approved a short while ago. But I am at a loss when it comes to fanlisting scripts. I tried phpFanlist, but I've never worked with PHP so I was really confused. I switched to Enthusiast, and I'm still confused. I'm just going to try to take it slow on that corner, but after that's over with, I can focus on the design and text (the easier part).

I have a paper due soon for Sacred Texts and my sociology project to do, which won't take too long to actually execute (I think), but is really hard to plan. The class I'm taking is clearly for sociology majors, which I am not. But sociology was all I could get at short notice, so I'm stuck. My teacher hasn't answered my WebCT e-mail asking about the project, or she has and I haven't gotten the message (I had some problems with that before). I may have to consult her during her virtual office hour tomorrow, even if it means doing it during my Sacred Texts class (since her virtual office hour is between 12-1pm).

My Sacred Texts paper is going to be comparing and contrasting the consequences of the fall of man in Islam and Christianity. I have books marked up with little flag markers, I just have to take notes from them, which I failed to do this last weekend. (I had to get up early to get myself to work while my parents were gone this weekend, and even on the days I got home early, the heat didn't make me want to do much). I might be able to get some of them done tonight though, with enough motivation. I can take some of the books with me tomorrow perhaps, and take notes on the bus (which I do sometimes to speed things up) if I have to.

I am also still doing pre-writing for my sci-fi novel Darkly Bound. I finally figured out how to do the one-page synopsis today. I was doing it all wrong before.

Ok I'm going to go so I can get through my e-mail and stuff and work on those notes. Bye!