Retroflakes

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I can’t prove it, but I think there’s a good chance that this is the same packaging that Kellogg’s used when Episode IV first came out. Wait, no… There would have been a toy enclosed inside if that was the case. I forgot that all breakfast cereals used to include a special toy that we would fight to get when the box was first opened.
The unspoken rule was that all of the cereal from the previous box had to be finished before the new box was breached, so the strategy to prevent someone else from being the first was to leave more cereal than one person could consume in one sitting. Of course, the limits of gastronomical endurance were pushed to the threshold, and calculations of who could eat how much had to be adjusted and given further consideration. Add secret alliances, deception, and treaties to the mix, and you can see how complicated the simple activity of eating cereal could be.
Of course, someone always eventually called on the parents to make things “fair”, or older siblings would just invoke “might vs. right”. Perhaps it was the ugliness of humanity that surfaced due to competition over who had right to the toy that forced the cereal companies to stop including them in the packaging. Nah, on second thought I think they’re just cheapskates.
The worst part of the transition to the no-toys-included state of cereal today is that they printed lame masks, coloring sheets, and activities on the back to try and compromise. I think that was even more disappointing than not having anything at all.

Sounds like cyberpunk

From the moment I first saw the video Clint Eastwood on MTV, I was hooked on the Gorillaz (here’s a great interview from Wired). It was amazing to hear a band that didn’t really exist play music that spiced and grafted genres, resulting in a Frankenstein-like album. The band was much more versatile than any other band could ever be, because they became whatever their creators wanted them to become without anyone’s ego getting in the way. At the end of the day, they only exist as pictures and sounds.
The album has the same kind of magic that A Young Lady’s Illustrated Primer, a supercomputer from the book The Diamond Age that is designed to teach personalized independent thinking and uses actor-like technicians to watch over and educate their client, has.
The characters in both forms of media are fictional, but real people are lending their talents to flesh out the personalities that they portray in both cases (in static and real-time formats). It is ironic that these contrived characters and groups have a more profound effect on their audiences than their “real” equivalents.
So are the Gorillaz an anomoly, or will more virtual bands gradually start to take over?

Brian and Rebecca

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It seems like a lot of people that I know are either getting engaged or married these days. On this coming weekend (Saturday, July 2nd, 2005), Brian and Rebecca will finally get hitched after being together for (correct me if I’m wrong) about six years.
These two met each other in a room in Anacapa. I think it might have been one of those nights where Brian and I lugged my mini TV and VCR deck all the way from San Nicholas, so that we could watch a movie and have a drink away from the freaks in our dorm (not to say that we weren’t freaks, or that the people that we were hanging out with weren’t either).
After the Doctor Pepper mixed with Jose Cuervo and the pizza ran out, I think we all noticed a subtle difference in the way Becky (as we called her back then) looked at Brian, and the way that he avoided making eye contact with her. I am not saying this to poke fun in any way, but it was truly a precious moment.
From the very beginning, their relationship already looked kind of like they were already married. They shared hobbies (I still can’t wrap my head around how, exactly, Brian got Rebecca to get interested in the card game Magic: The Gathering…), helped eachother to study, and always worked things out in a fairly peaceful and balanced manner.
I am happy to say that their relationship is proceeding like I thought it would. Nothing seems to have changed too much from how things started with these two, and for that I am comforted. It is said that life changes after you get married, but this relationship might just be the exception to the rule.
Congratulations Brian and Rebecca. I wish I could be there in person to celebrate your wedding, but know that I will be celebrating here in my own special way. I still haven’t decided whether to toast you over Long Island Iced Teas, Hurricaine Punch, or a nice warm can of Natty Ice…

Of Amakusa and Kyushu in general

There are some great photos and accounts of traveling around Amakusa (the islands off of Kumamoto) on Gumbies, maintained by Leanne and Rik Brezina. Amakusa is a beautiful place, and I wish that I had more time and a sea-kayak, so that I could better explore it like these two.
Being away from Kumamoto has made me realize what an awesome place it is. I appreciated living in Kumamoto, but I love the place even more now that I’m away. Don’t get me wrong, Kansai is a great place too, but Kyushu would be the place where I would want to settle down and live out the rest of my days.
So those of you who are still in Kumamoto, remember to enjoy your time there. Outside of Kyushu, it is hard to find a good tonkotsu, well-prepared basashi, or a nice loaf of karashi renkon. Go out into Aso and enjoy hiking up the magestic mountains, or diving off of boulders and waterfalls in Kikuchi gorge.
Get out to the beach in Amakusa, or Ashikita, and get a tan- remember that the red jellyfish are the ones that hurt. Throw barbecues outside with your friends as much as you can, and bring enough fireworks and some extra.
Make sure that you explore all of those random roads that you always pass, but never seem to have the motivation to turn off and pursue. Just make sure you have enough juice in your keitai in case something goes wrong… It will make for a good story later on, I promise.
I did all of those things, and have no regrets- only fond memories of making the most of my time during the last days I spent in Kumamoto. I will return.

Looking up

It was a special day in class when my first grade teacher brought a TV into class, and told us that we were going to watch something historical on this day. She pulled the knob, the picture on the tube sprung from a white point, boinging out first vertically and then horizontally, reverberating with a static crackle until the image of the Challenger came onto the screen.
The muffled countdown from Mission Control coupled with the image of Challenger’s rockets belching out flame and steam were burned into my young mind. It seemed to take the rocket forever to finally break away from the ground, and it ascended slowly and gracefully, unlike the rockets I had seen in Bugs Bunny cartoons. And as the teacher began a class discussion on the significance of the Challenger mission, it blew up into a billion pieces like the Death Star. I don’t remember anything after that.
That was a truly sad day, and I think it may have traumatized our teacher more than it did my class, for I don’t think that we were old enough to truly comprehend the concept of death, or the significance of the multi-ethnic crew who were only just embarking on a truly special mission aboard the Challenger. Challenger, and other space programs of that time, sparked my imagination and got me interested into science and science fiction in general.
I remember reading books on how Mars was going to be transformed into another Earth, and to a five year-old, it seemed plausable that this was going to happen well before the year 2000. As time passed, the space program fell into the limelight. Most of the projects from the space program were not well publicized, government funding was at a low point, and the exciting space program became a vague memory.
But this has all started to change from relatively recently. A meteor from Mars was found to have microscopic structures bearing a strong resemblance to single cell organisms, reviving the debate as to whether Mars is, was, or will eventually be capable of supporting life. Probes have been sending back tantalizing images and information about Mars and the moons of Jupiter among other areas around our solar system. Scaled Composites won the race to space among private developers of space vehicles. Solar sails are being deployed by non-governmental agencies, more than a hand full of companies are developing plans to make space flight available to those who can afford to pay, and plans to get space hotels up and running by 2010 are being worked on.
It seems that the momentum for space exploration has regained its rightful place in the government’s and the public’s interest. This is a long-term goal, that will be a never-ending project. It is something that transcends all political boundaries, ethnic, and for that matter, all of the boundaries created by man and society. It cannot be comprehended by conventional scales of measurement that we are used to thinking with. Space exploration and colonization is a good metaphor for the road to the enlightenment.
And it’s just cool to think about all of the cool methods of ultra-fast travel, BFGs, and other hi-tech stuff that is fiction right now will likely materialize sooner than we may expect.

Amadai

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This was a cool looking fish. It looked as if it had something to say.
For some reason, it reminds me of story about the magic fish who grants the old fisherman 3 wishes in exchange for tossing him back in to the sea.
Except that I know for a fact that this fish was delicious.

Running on ethanol

While the US struggles with the question “should we replace MTBE in our gas with ethanol?” Brazil is using it as fuel for their automobiles instead of an additive. Their cars run on Pinga!
It’s not a question of whether we will convert to a hydrogen economy instead of a petroleum based one, but when. It will be great to see the day when petroleum, coal, and other fossil feuls become unnecessary for every day life.
It’s strange to think about, but pretty much all the energy that we harness is essentially solar energy. Plants that took eons to change into petroleum and coal were fueled by the sun. The same thing applies to the corn and sugar cane from which ethanol is distilled. Wind (and hydroelectric, via evaporation and precipitation) is generated from the sun’s energy. Geologic and nuclear are pretty much the only extra-solar sources of energy that we are tapping, and they really don’t account for much.

Art that rings true

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This silkscreen painting is hung in the corridors, across from the teachers’ office. “A world where the stronger prey upon the weaker.”. In this setting, the words are true in so many ways.
The third year students will graduate this coming December. Most of them have no idea what they want to do, other than satisfy their immediate urges and act on impulses. They can get away with it for now, but many are going to be in for a big shock when they finish school and find that employers and co-workers aren’t going to put up with their nonsense.
I was told that some students come to school for the sole purpose of getting into fights with other students. You can tell who the thugs are, but so far I haven’t seen any violence. However, disrespect, laziness, and Attention Deficit Disorder are things I see in bulk here every day. You have to be a predator in this environment and assert yourself, or they’ll eat you alive. Some of the teachers here didn’t learn this, and you can see how it has shaped them into wraiths of their former selves.
This painting is the first thing I see when I climb the stairs each morning. As if on cue, the drum and bass from “Built for the Kill” loads in my head and gets me ready for the day. If I get cornered, I’m not going out like a Thompson’s gazelle. I’ll go hippo on their ass.

Carabiners and a squeegee

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Walking into work today, I saw this and felt envious of the guy cleaning the windows. This is a janatorial job, but who cares if you get to swing around on a rope on a tall building in downtown Namba?
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I’m sure that this job is not as romantic as it seems, but seeing him swing by my desk like Tarzan on a vine is urging me to jump out the window and rappel out of this office, so that I can escape into the urban jungle and enjoy this hot and humid Friday.