Sushu blogged more about the wedding
Here. It has our vows and pictures of the rings. Go read!
I am TOTALLY MARRIED now. Sushu is MY WIFE and I am HER HUSBAND. WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOT!!!
Pictures & video forthcoming.
Hey everybody, my wedding is tomorrow, so this is my last bachelor blog post. Here are some straight-up facts about the wedding.
First, the wedding is being "webcast" live. It is at 10:30am Pacific time (12:30 Central, 1:30pm Eastern, etc). If you want to watch it, you will need to use the most cutting-edge technology of 1997, RealPlayer. (When I found that out, my first thought was: "RealPlayer still exists??" and my second thought was: "Man, why can't San Mateo County get with it and use a proper video format?". But really it's nice that they're even making it an option at all, so I can't complain too much.)
To view the wedding you should click on
at around 10:30am Pacific. (It won't work if you click on it earlier.)
Next: We will be wearing the following super awesome and totally posh clothing choices:
I'm all like "Two imperialist island nations in one! Confused Meiji Period gentleman for the win!" and Sushu is all like "Equal parts British noblewoman and 1920s Shanghai heartbreaker!"
Oh oh oh guess what else, Mitcho made us this lovely wedding registry: tinyurl.com/jonosweddingregistry. You have to click on that link.
Finally, travel plans. HONEYMOON travel plans! Next week I'm going to be at work as normal; then July 4 we are flying off for Tokyo. We spend a week in Japan, then a week in Shanghai (if they let us into China and don't quarantine us because Americans are suspected of having swine flu), then a week in Beijing. Huzzah! My internet access will be sporadic and coming from the wrong side of the Great Firewall of China so blogging may be minimal, but I will get lots of cool pictures to show y'all loyal readers when we get back.
The Plunge is a wedding planning site "for men", based on the assumption that "real men don't plan weddings".
It's one of the most remarkably offensive websites I've seen lately. It manages to be sexist both ways.
It's sexist against men because it assumes we're all beer-drinking, remote-control hogging, sports-watching man-children who are trying to weasel out of being involved in our own weddings.
It's sexist against women because it assumes they're all frilly-magazine-reading, gold-digging Termagants who, when proposed to, turn into Bridezilla and become intent on never letting you have fun again. (Um, why would I be marrying someone like that, exactly?)
It also assumes that wedding traditions, especially expensive ones, are unquestionable and must be obeyed no matter how much you dislike them. Forget doing what you and your bride want to do; the wedding industry MUST be obeyed. But since you're a man, you're going to be pouty and passive-agressive about it.
Finally, The Plunge assumes I am engaged to a woman with whom I have such poor communication that I need a website's advice about how to talk to her. It's full of "How to talk to your bride about..." articles that basically recommend being disingenuous and evasive.
Why am I reading this? It's like a train wreck from which I can't tear my horrified eyes.
Their attitude is summed up in this direct quote:
"It [wedding planning] makes you play along with a fake smile, bored and bitter, creating the illusion that you give a damn."
Oh no, I have to spend months and months planning all this boring stuff I don't care about and buy all these expensive things that I don't want, because Bridezilla is going to make me, boo hoo hoo!
Seriously, what the hell is with this whiny attitude? Am I a man or am I a spoiled little boy? A man decides what he wants and then does it. A boy does things he doesn't want because of peer pressure, and then complains about it. Boys should not be getting married.
And if I can't reach a reasonable compromise with my woman than why would I be marrying her? I don't get it. Talk to your partner, figure out what you're gonna do, and then do it. What's so hard about that?
The one good thing about The Plunge is that it has made me want to be more involved in wedding planning, just so I won't be the kind of guy they're talking to. Was it all reverse psychology? If so, it worked.
Yesterday me and Sushu went to Japan Town in San Francisco to shop for cool stuff to wear to the wedding after-party.
I got these awesome geta:
I have been clomping around in them all day. They make walking slightly harder, but more fun! And noisier.
I got them from a small, quiet kimono shop which is built on the bridge between two mall-type buildings. The shopkeeper was a quiet, fragile-looking old Japanese man.
Me and Sushu were going back and forth between the Chinese and Japanese readings of the inscriptions on various items in the shop, like "Spring summer winter fall:"
"haru-natsu-aki-fuyu" in Japanese, "chwen(1)-xia(4)-qio(1)-dong(3)" in Chinese. The shop guy overheard us so he asked if I read Japanese, so we started talking in Japanese. I told him I had lived in Iwate for three years.
He looked shocked and said "Iwate? I'm from Iwate! What city?"
I said "Kamaishi" and he said "I'm from Miyako!"
Miyako is, like, the next town over. Map:
He was suddenly much friendlier. I told him I was going back to Iwate in a few weeks as part of my honeymoon travels. We had a pretty good conversation.
That made my day. Man, Miyako! Who would have guessed?
We also browsed through a much larger antique-furniture and clothing store, where we made a cool discovery. There was a shelf with a bunch of old papers, books, and writings. On closer examination, some of them turned out to be very old indeed. It was all pre-war; some was early Showa period, some was Taisho and some was even from the Meiji era. There was a Japanese literature textbook, a book of lyrics to a Noh play, and a bunch of other things we couldn't identify.
What was it all doing on that shelf? Was it to be sold as knick-knacks to people who just wanted to decorate with random japanese written material they couldn't read? The thought made me very sad. It seemed like they should be in a museum or a library or something.
The shop lady didn't know anything about where the books had come from. We ended up buying a bunch of them to take home and analyze. I'll blog about them more once we've gone over them and deduced what we can.
Look, I'm not someone you'd call a stickler for fonts. Unlike some coworkers I could mention, I don't go to watch documentaries about Helvetica, I don't cringe at the sight of Comic Sans or Papyrus (hell I have Papyrus in my website logo), and I don't explode with rage when someone mentions Arial.
But there are some typographic crimes that even I cannot forgive. Like my pet peeve, the Curvy Triangle Font.
Using the Curvy Triangle Font is a great way to say to the world, "I am proud of my total ignorance of Chinese culture. Or maybe Japanese culture. Not that I would know the difference."
Here are some choice examples from DaFont.com:
So, I guess that curvy triangles are supposed to suggest "oriental". Which is funny, because they look more like fucked-up Cuneiform to me.
Actual Chinese characters are mostly straight lines and right angles and can be written in a variety of styles, from stylized brushtrokes to square blocky machine fonts to cartoony bubbles for lil' kid stuff. Here's a few example fonts for actual Chinese.
Curvy triangles don't resemble the way actual Chinese characters (nor Japanese hiragana/katakana, nor Korean hangul) are written, nor do they resemble how the Roman alphabet is written in Asian countries. So where did they come from? Who thought them up? Was it based on exaggerating certain features of a certain calligraphy style, or did it come straight from some American typographer's stereotype-addled imagination?
I have been trying to find information on where and when the curvy triangle font first originated, but I haven't been able to turn up anything from Google yet.
Wherever it came from, the curvy triangle font is now used in everything from Ninja-themed kitsch to ads for sketchy karate schools (that's from an interesting article about the history of martial arts ads in comic books) and from onesies for adopted Chinese babies to the rather horrifyingly racist signs in a laundromat in Indiana.
People, it's time to stop using curvy triangles to signify Asian-ness. If you absolutely need to advertise Asian-ness to English speakers (and I'm not sure why you do), why not use some actual Chinese characters, accompanied by English translation? (I know, I know, that might require educating yourself, or knowing someone who speaks another language, both of which are hard and scary.)
This is a follow-up to my previous post about creating your characters as a group activity and the conversation you should be having about how all your characters relate to each other.
Primetime Adventures calls this conversation the "pitch session", like you are pitching an idea for a new TV show to the TV execs (and by "to the execs" I mean "to each other"). So you're trying to pin down the tone, figure out who the major characters are and how they relate to each other, what the main plotlines will be about, etc.
A relationship map can be your number one tool. Think of any show you like; you could probably draw a diagram from memory with a circle for each character and arrows indicating who's friends, who's enemies, who's sleeping together, the grudges, the unrequited loves, etc. etc. (Old-school anime fandom alert: I think Ranma 1/2 was the show that taught me this concept, or at least the first time I saw an actual relationship map on paper.)
Here's a relationship map, from a one-shot game of Primetime Adventures I played back in December. It was a near-future sci-fi sitcom set aboard a run-down space refueling station at one of the Earth-Moon Lagrange points. (Picture the outer-space equivalents of the losers who end up working at a gas station their whole lives; that was our characters.) This piece of paper shows the output of our collective brainstorming process:
(Notice we have "the station" itself as a character.) I can glance at this and remember that my guy (Biff, the surly short-order cook), is smoking buddies with Bev, works for Lydia (that arrow totally goes the wrong way), is some kind of friends with Ewan (who is an anarchist and the station's resident scam artist), and I don't yet know how he relates to Charles Smythewhiteford or Christian Turner.
Drawing a map like this helps you figure out whether the main characters are connected enough to each other -- Do they need more things in common (or more points of potential conflict)? It also helps you figure out what secondary characters (important recurring NPCs) you're going to need. And, when you think of another character to add, using the relationship map helps you figure out where to connect them.
The relationship map helps you make characters who are not just "a motley crew of strangers thrown together by fate" but rather a set of people with lives who are connected to each otehr in believable ways. Make the characters mean something to each other! You can set up love triangles, family relations, rivalries, political intrigue; the sky's the limit.
Finally, relationship maps are great for running improv games, because whenever you're stuck for what should happen next, you can just take a look at the chart to see who's been affected by recent developments and figure out what they would be most likely to want to do next.
On a previous post, Googleshng left this comment:
Also, on my whole character fits the game notion there, while it's true that you can't ever be absolutely sure a character you're creating is going to have a personality that meshes perfectly with every situation that ever comes up, it's an area that I really thing more games/GMs/gaming groups need to work on some. Like, for instance, let's say I'm going to run a GURPS Space Opera game. I tell this to everyone who wants to play, they go off and make their characters, we go to sit down and play the first session, and suddenly I'm trying to figure out how to keep the group from self-destructing when we've got a spaceship crewed by a 40k Space Marine, Captain Picard, a robot raping drug smuggler, and some sort of pink feathered 6 armed monkey with an advanced degree in botany. That's not likely to work out well.
Oh boy, does that sound familiar. I know exactly what you mean. But I think I have a solution for you. The source of the problem is this:
> they go off and make their characters
Unlike a lot of RPG social problems, I've found that this one has a simple solution: Don't allow characters to be made in isolation.
Making characters at home, alone with a rulebook, and then bringing them to the game to introduce them to the other players, has never worked out well for me. I can have all these great ideas in my head about my character's checkered past and psychological depths, but then I get to the game and I have no way of bringing any of that out into play because it's got no relation to what we end up doing in play. I end up feeling alienated, not getting to do the cool things I imagined my character doing, not connected to the other characters, and not connected to the GM's plot. It sucks!
Why did we ever start this practice of making characters in isolation? I blame the school of game design that says you need 15 bazillion different mechanical options for your character ( GURPS is a good example, as are D&D 3rd and 4th editions ). When character creation takes four hours, there's a huge incentive to do it as a solitary thing. That means players not talking to each other. Instead of sharing ideas with the other players, you're confining them to the space between your imagination and the rulebook. Is it any wonder each character ends up being an island?
On the other hand, if I'd said it's going to be a Star Trek-like game, or a Lensman-like game, or a crazy dark badly lit metal grating ships sorta game, hopefully the players are going to make characters that work well together. Not necessarily in a team work way, but at least in a we-live-in-the-same-universe way.
That's a good start. Laying down more specific color, e.g. "It's Star Trek like", can get you to the "We belong in the same universe" level, but like you said, that's a pretty low bar to aim for. You can do better! With chargen as a group activity, you can achieve the "I am interested in your character level, where players are as invested in each other's characters as they are invested in their own. That's the benchmark I try to aim for; that's where it gets really fun.
(It doesn't have to be "team work", by the way; it can be that your characters have lots of conflicts with each other, but they are conflicts that you want to role-play, that make the story more interesting, instead of conflicts that come out of clashing player visions and cause social strife.)
That's why my rule is now: Make sure all the players are in the same room, at the table together, talking to each other. Don't even start making characters until you've first had the "What is this game about?" talk. The talk should cover not only setting, but also tone, color, themes, what sort of things are appropriate as character goals, and how the characters are related to each other. (Starship crew? All members of the same family? Leaders of rival nations? Infinite possibilities here beyond the cliche "mercenary company" that so many RPG groups fall into by default.)
During this talk, there is no GM. Maybe we haven't even decided who will be the GM, yet. Everyone is sharing ideas as equals. Agreement, and enthusiasm, has to be unanimous before we move on to the next stage; if we can't find something we're all excited about, we don't play the game, simple as that.
Only after you've had that talk do you start making characters. And when you're making characters, don't let anybody bury their head in a rulebook or write down "my secrets" on a piece of paper. This is a time for everything to be out in the open, because you are not just making your own character; you are contributing ideas to each other's characters, and you are creating the relationships between your characters, which are as important to role-playing as the characters themselves. The goal here is to get as excited about the other players' characters as you are about your own.
(If you're dead set on playing a heavy, crunchy ruleset, and you have limited face-to-face time, at least use the face time to hash out the fictional qualities and relationships of your characters, then go home and do the translation into game stats on your own time.)
Just making this one change — making characters as a group activity — has dramatically improved the amount of fun that I have in role-playing. Yeah, the brainstorming might take up the whole first session, but it's totally worth it.
(About the only time I break my rule is when the characters are supposed to be strangers to each other; E.g. the ronin in The Mountain Witch are meeting each other for the first time at the beginning, and that's part of the point. But at least the fact that they're all ronin samurai on a mission means they'll have something in common.)
I made pasta from scratch Monday night! I am getting in touch with my non-existent Italian heritage.
I have been following Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking by Marcella Hazan. She has a certain way with words, and tolerates nothing that falls short of her exacting standards:
"Do not be tempted by one of those awful devices that masticate eggs and flour at one end and extrude a choice of pasta shapes through another end. What emerges is a mucilaginous and totally contemptible product, and moreover, the contraption is an infuriating nuisance to clean."
"If you have absolutely no access to fresh rosemary, use the dried whole leaves, a tolerable, if not entirely satisfactory, alternative. Powdered rosemary, however, is to be shunned."
It makes the cookbook a lot of fun to read, but makes me worry that if I don't obey her exact instructions Marcella will materialize in my kitchen and beat me on the knuckles with her rolling pin (no doubt a geometrically perfect thirty-two inch solid cylinder cut from the heartwood of a Bolognese oak tree and passed down in her family since Italy was a collection of warring city-states.)
Anyway, here's pictures of me making pasta.
Pasta has only two ingredients: Flour and eggs.
Unless it's green pasta. Then it has has flour, eggs, and finely chopped cooked spinach. I made some of each.
The right proportions of flour to eggs is easy to figure out: You keep adding flour until no more will stick.
Scary Italian Lady calls the dough kneading/rolling/stretching/folding process a "ballet of the hands" as well as "a race against time" and includes many dire warnings that if you do any part the least bit different from what she says, you will ruin everything and have to start over.
But it's not really that hard. It took me a lot of time to do all the kneading and stretching, but I figure I'll get faster with practice.
And this is how you make fettuccine. No magic trick to it — it's just folded, cut into strips, and unfolded again.
Dinner is served.
Along with the pasta, we also made a simple potato soup with carrots and celery and crostini (I started it, but Sushu did most of the work while I wrestled with dough.)
Next time will be even more hard-core as I attempt to make both the pasta and the sauce from scratch.
The audio files are pure sine waves (e.g. the A above middle C is 440 Hz) generated by Audacity and saved in .ogg format (an open-source encoding).
Unfortunately it will only work in a browser that supports HTML version 5, which as of right now is pretty much only (shameless plug) Firefox 3.5.
The weirdest thing about the San Francisco Bay area (or, as locals call it, "thebayarea") is that it does not have seasons. I've been here for more than a year now and my body, trained by years in Chicago and in northern Japan, is still wondering when winter is going to start.
But the second weirdest thing about this area is the way people give directions. There is a major street called El Camino Real (pr. "Ray-al") — "The Royal Road" in Spanish. (Locals abbreviate it to "El Camino", or just "The Road"). When people give directions around here, they define all directions relative to El Camino. "Go north" does not mean go north, it means "Go parallel to El Camino Real in the direction of San Francisco". East, west, and south are defined on the same compass.
Up on the peninsula, El Camino Real runs nearly north-south, but down here on the south side of the bay it runs west/northwest to east/southeast, so the directions people use are at an almost 90 degree angle to the real directions.
Before I learned this, I once tried to give a guy directions to my house using the actual compass directions, and got him lost as a result. I won't make that mistake again!
I'm working more on my Python music theory library. I'm going to hook it up to a web interface, so eventually you'll be able to play with it by just going to evilbrainjono.net/music or something.
Currently I am trying to program in the concept of "swing". Swing is where, instead of giving equal time to two notes, you make the first one a little shorter and the second one a little longer. Like, if I had two measures of quarter notes, I could play them like:
daaa daaa daaa daaa, daaa daaa daaa daaa (not swing)
daa daaaa daa daaaa, daa daaaa daa daaaa (swing)
One of the reasons most computer-generated music sounds so artificial and phony is that it gives exactly equal time to each quarter note unless you tell it not to. Human musicians don't do that; humans will normally play unevenly, hanging on some notes more than others, even if they're trying not to.
If you wanted to express swing in classical music notation, you'd have to write the precise length of each note -- so maybe an eight followed by a dotted eighth, and then figure out what you need to do to the time signature and what duration of rests you need to put in so that the measures still line up.
Jazz musicians don't do that. They just write them all as eight notes and then make a note to play it with "light swing" "medium swing" or "heavy swing".
These are the two ways to approach understanding music. There's the precisely mathematical, systematic, intellectual way, and there's the more intuitive, body-movement-oriented way. But they both lead to the same place.
Mozilla is moving to a new office building. Among the many other things that are getting taken apart, here is our now partially-disassembled pool table:
I just think it's kinda cool to be able to see the inside of a pool table and finally understand how the balls get back to you after they fall in the pockets.
This Vietnamese market on El Camino Real in Mountain View had a perfectly reasonable name until the Internet came along and made it funny.
I was having fun experimenting with the Korg DS-10 but I ran into the limits of the software pretty quickly. It's really designed for making techno loops, not lengthy melodic compositions. It only allows a maximum of 16 unique measures in a single song (though you can repeat measures as much as you want); also each instrument track is monophonic so you can't really do chords.
Even worse, from a UI standpoint, is that the sequencer interface only lets you edit one measure at a time; to edit another measure you have to back out to the main song screen and then click back in to the new measure. That makes it very aggravating to create any pattern longer than one measure.
I've started teaching myself music theory, and so I really wanted a tool to experiment with real composing, with harmonies and chords and arrangements and stuff. Korg DS-10 wasn't cutting it, so I went looking for a better composition tool.
First I tried Garage Band, Apple's program that came with my Mac. I quickly found out that Garage Band isn't designed for composition. It's designed for recording instruments, editing and remixing, adding loops and samples, etc. So while it seems to be decent for working with sound in large chunks, its interface for editing a track on the individual-note level is atrocious, almost unusable.
I looked at a few other audio sequencers, but they all have complicated GUIs that look painful to learn. I would rather learn a new programming langauge than a new GUI in most cases (I'm weird, I know). So I decided that what I really want is something like a domain-specific programming language where I can declare rythms and melodies methematically and have them compile to music.
I looked into Python sound-generation APIs. There are a lot of them. Unfortunately, Python is so high-level that it can't access the OS sound APIs directly; it needs to go through a C module. And that means getting OS-specific C code to compile locally before Python can do anything; many of the available libraries have Windows-only C components, and even the nominally cross-platform ones are primarily set up to compile on Windows. I futzed around with getting something to compile on my Mac but quickly got into dependency hell with the C linker and the paths to libraries and oy vey, that was too much work for something I was trying to do as a fun project.
Then, just this week, I found my answer. MIDI! MIDI files are a simple, standardized binary file format, which Python has no problem reading and writing all by itself, without C's help. The resulting file can then be played anywhere.
The drawback to this method is that interactive sound generation isn't possible. The workflow is to edit the python, run the python, and launch Quicktime Player on the resulting MIDI file to hear the changes. I wrote a little AppleScript to automate this process. It's little indirect, but it works.
To actually write the bits to the file I'm using a Python MIDI library I downloaded from Danish site mxm.
Using that library requires knowing the frequencies you want to play, the code numbers for the instruments and channels, the start and stop times in microseconds, etc. So last night I hacked together a higher-level abstraction layer for it that takes a song specification in music theory terms, and turns it into the data that the MIDI file needs.
I call my library MusicTheory.py. You are welcome to download it and try it out, but it is extremely hacky right now, in flux, not guaranteed to not destroy your computer, etc. Using mxm's Python Midi library and my MusicTheory.py, I can write a song using code like this:
chords = InstrumentTrack("church organ", beat_time, volume=60 )
chords.set_scale( Scale("c", "major", octave=3) )
chord_progression = [ 1, 4, 2, -3, 1, 4, 2, 5, 1]
for base_note in chord_progression:
for x in xrange(2):
chords.major_chord( base_note, int(beat_time * 2.5) )
chords.add_note( base_note, int(beat_time * 1.5) )
And run it to produce a midi file like this:
(It's 1.8 KB, LOL. You can download the source code: python_minuet.py, 2.4 KB)
So, this is a pretty cheesy song; go easy on me, I'm just learning. The important thing is that I got to write it using something almost like a music theory programming language. I think that's pretty exciting.