Maneki Neko!

Behold Halloween in all its Japanese glory!

Yes, I have figured out how to post pictures here. I did a long time ago. However, I'm lazy.

Actually Halloween is rather underwhelming here, possibly because of the lack of pervasive advertisements for costumes, candy, ghouls, goblins and cauldrons. However, in addition to the epic teamwork's victorious effort depicted above, there was a pretty cool Halloween party hosted by Jason last night. Apparently the multitalented BCA director and professor also makes his own alcoholic beverages which I politely abstained from.

I went as a pathetic excuse of a pirate. I had made a newspaper hat and sword. I was No-Beard, who continually complained about how pirating these days was extremely difficult. Apparently, pirating in international waters results in liability for taxes from each and every nation in the world. When told that being a pirate meant you could break rules like that, No-Beard would respond, "But that's unethical."

I hope that you all had a great Halloween!

Jason the rather dead person and No-Beard say, "Kanpai!" and "Arr!"


Film at 11

Yesterday I went on a second Onsen trip with my host parents. This trip was infinitely better than the first, touristy one last weekend.

We traveled first to probably the single more beautiful place in Japan I've been to. I realized that despite planning otherwise the night before, I'd forgotten my camera.


Thankfully, Hiro had a cheap EZCam with him, which takes pictures the old fashioned way. You know, that crazy film stuff loonies like my sister use because they're artsy? Pssh, digital age go!

I bought postcards there, sporting some of the nice views, which I will send out to select people.

The wind there was something else. I enjoyed it, my host parents commented on how I must have ice in my blood, as it was certainly not warm out and the wind coming off the ocean wasn't either. I was too busy taking my mind off my camera and trying to enjoy the beautiful sights.

After that, we went to the Onsen, and I'll tell you that for the second time I found that being naked around a bunch of other naked people isn't too big of a deal, although I still gave myself plenty of personal space. I explained to Hiro that in America we do not have hotsprings and public baths like this. Partly because Americans are uptight about the whole "naked with everyone you know" thing, and partly because the number of volcanicly active areas is quite small, meaning such baths would require artificial heating, which in turn would be expensive.

The Onsen was outdoors, and had another great view of the ocean. It was an excellent experience. It was not without a lack of strangers either. This was an apartment building trip, meaning all the neighbors were there. I got a lot of comments concerning my remarkable skill with chopsticks, my good manners, and my ability to eat a great variety of Japanese foods (including raw fish).

Yesterday was also the first day I showered three times in one day. Once before getting into the Onsen, once before getting into the Onsen a second time after a visit to the Sauna, and a third time before returning to the world of fully clothed people.

In retrospect, the title is in reference to my lack of a camera, and not to taking any pictures of naked people, although three guys there had a picture taken from behind of them looking out to the ocean, one hand each raised in a victorious pose. It was funny to watch.

If any of you come to Japan, go to an Onsen, it is a really nice experience (especially after a lot of Kendo, your muscles will praise you).



There's been continual buzz going around the gaming community. Exactly why this heightened state of matters came about is hard to touch on. Some might cite the upcoming console releases, but I think it really comes down to something simpler.

There buzz has been every little legal action and political sentiment expressed towards video games globally. Not a day goes by where slews of blogs and famous geeky websites are plastered with the latest in legal woes to befall the industry. This is not because it attracts gamers, but because we're afraid.

Quite simply, I've been around the internet a long time. I've been around the gaming and computer geeks on the internet for just as long, and we've always made fun of the government. We're largely a logical, calculating bunch (computer science geeks anyway), and as such anything as buereaucratic as the government is easy pray for our cold reason.

To have something viewed as so wholly inept suddenly blunder its way into our domain is like a multicloaked hobo wandering into a nudist colony, we notice, we look alarmed, and we pay attention.

While very few people on the internet are doing much about these bumbling steps by the government, save for talking very thoroughly about them, it's only a matter of time before we take full offense to the politicians manhandling of our world. The storm of e-mails and letters the Florida Bar Association recieved regarding the ineptitude of Jack Thompson is just the tip of the iceberg. If the ignorant continue to scrape against us, we're going to scrape back.

This next section may really be me being overly hopeful, given the continued downward spiral of the nation, but I think it isn't too far off. There are illogical computer people, and certainly illogical gamers, but I'm pretty sure that those of us 18 and over are intelligent enough to pull the following off.

Quite simply, scraping us is the worst thing the current generation of politicians could ever do for themselves. Ever seen two children fight over a controller? You know how fanatical we can be over video games. Ever seen the anger and shock manifested when in the middle of playing an authority robs the child of the controller? Good children like me fume in our rooms for the rest of the day, bad children get vicious.

The difference here is, there are millions of us, and we're over 18. We're not children anymore, but we're just as fanatical about video games as we've ever been. We've never trusted politicians, we've never trusted the government, but we didn't care because we had video games. We were content to live in the real world, because we had our fantasy ones.

Washington has our attention now, because they're stomping about in the foothills of our mountain domain. We are watching from above, carefully analyzing everything they do, and we aren't liking it. We see an elephant and a donkey stomping around, making like they own the place in the land of the behemoths. If they start to ascend our holy mount they will be struck down.

In less flowery speech, if Washington starts legislating what games we can play, if they start making our habit difficult we will make their lives difficult. We are a vast, largely intapped voting audience and ticking us off is going to mean as many if not more than twenty million votes for the intelligent man in town. That's not just the presidency, thats each and every senator, house representive, governor, and school board official. Mention 'murder simulator' at your own peril.

We the gamers of the world are watching. For the longest time we decided the game of politics wasn't fun. The rules were silly, the players were stupid, and we had better games to play. If you the idiots in charge want us to come out and play, we'll come out and play. We'll march straight on Washington in numbers not scene since Martin Luther King Jr. was in town. We have more than enough dispensible income to plaster your streets, your homes, and your televisions with support for our cause, and we certainly have enough sway over the internet that you can kiss support here goodbye too. Every blog and banner ad will carry our message home, and you'll be washed down into the ocean to drown when you open up this floodgate.

We are watching, waiting, and ready.


Saru Mo Ki Kara Ochiru

The phrase above translates directly to "monkey too tree from fall". More meaningfully, it translates to the saying "Even Monkeys fall from trees." It is said after a failure, as a way of noting, "I may have failed, but even the best slip up once in a awhile." It's sort of conceited, but effective.

I learned this at probably an opportune time, or perhaps I should have seen it as a warning of what was to come. In any case, what I knew had to happened eventually, just not when, came about last night.

I lost at Monopoly.

At first, this may seem like a large buildup to a rather trivial revelation. When you play monopoly, at least 50% of the people playing have to lose, and that's only when two people play. It can get as high as 83% when you have six people playing. So, how is it strange that I lost?

The simple fact is that every Monopoly game I've played for the past year, excluding one which I took over for someone else 75% through the game (and was sick at the time to boot), I've won. Starting fall semester last year, I was unbeatable. I have no idea why this was, but it was. Every time I sat down at a Monopoly board, everyone looked at me with suspicious eyes, afraid of my every roll and deal.

I never expected to win any of the games I played, I just did. Every game the people around me would build up their cash piles, their heaps of land, and I would be penniless and sporting some mediocre assets. Yet, I would turn these into lucrative monopolies with the more bizzare and suicidal trades which would, miraculously, bring vitory. Despite that at the end of each trade, my position was technically the worst of anyone's in both layman and expert opinion, I still won.

It didn't matter who I played, my College pals, my family, even the Japanese. Everyone fell before me as I sat around baffled as to why. I was always struggling up from the bottom, making dire trades by the skin of my teeth, just barely making it and suddenly bursting out from behind like a car from an explosion in a Hollywood action flick.

I kept telling myself "this is the game I'll lose, it'll all be over, and people will stop acting like I'm some kind of Monopoly expert". It never happened as I thought.

Yesterday, however, it all changed. I lost.

Saru mo ki kara ochiru.

It wasn't even close, in truth. I was the first out of the game. I once had money, power, and honestly the best postition of anyone. I had landed on Pacific, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania (those green ones before Board Walk) before anyone else and claimed them as mine, I'd built them up, using my easy start to my advantage. I felt certain of victory. It was my turn to be the big and powerful, looking down on the little ones below me struggling to even make ends meet. It was my turn to not have to work and sweat for victory.

How ironic it was that I wiped out so thoroughly.

I can look back now and analyze what went wrong. I can cite a silly trade on the part of my Okaasan, where she gave a monopoly to my Otousan for a pittance of cash, and one property that netted her little. I can cite a stupid trade of my own, where I traded a monopoly to my Okaasan for an extra one for me, when I didn't have the money for anything anyway. However, whatever the minute details that contributed were, one thing is certain...

...I haven't had dice rolls that bad since last spring's debacle of a Risk game.

Quite simply, if it was possible I was going to land somewhere bad, it happened. If it was possible for my opponents to avoid my spaces, it happened. I watched as my already small wallet vanished, and I finally kicked the bucket.

Quite simply, it was like skiing at full speed down a slope into a huge piled of icy snow, shocking and numbing.

For while, I just sat there, neglecting my job as banker for uttering various phrases, English and Japanese alike, describing how unbelievable the whole thing was.

Saru mo ki kara ochiru.

Looking back, there's a sense of both loss and relief. I had something special, a winning streak the likes of which I may never see again, but the stigma it attached to me was almost suffocating. I think I can understand a little how my uncle felt when he was killed early on in a game of Mafia. We feared him because we knew he was clever, we knew he was persuasive, and we thought we knew he would only be working for his own ends. Turns out he was the police officer. Whoops.

In any case, while it was always put in jovial terms, suggesting a game of Monopoly, or at least my participation therein, immediately brought cries of my coming victory. People looked at me as though I were an old and wizened sword master, suggesting that we have some sparring matches. As nice as it was to win as often as I did, hearing people say "we know you're just going to win anyway" has an odd effect. Whether or not it is meant to, there is some bitterness in the very idea that stings like the thousand needles one feels after a limb loses feeling.

Hopefully, this will be one in a long line of losses that will convince people that really, as impressive as my trade skills may be, I win because of luck.

Hopefully, when I return home and suggest we play Monopoly, I'll hear, "Now that you've lost, we're going to beat you!"

Saru mo ki kara ochiru.

Ze Te Katsu!

Awesome stuff happens sometimes. The title today is Japanese for "I will win!"

Yesterday in American Culture class we carved Jack o' Lanterns for Halloween. Everyone formed into groups of three or four, and emptied the pumpkin of its innards, came up with designs and completed them. After we were done, we had a contest where we voted for which pumpkin was the best.

My group decided on, and carved the Maneki Neko or "Beckoning Cat" seen in many Japanese stores. I ended up doing a lot of the fiddly bits because I had the greatest skill to bring to bear on the task.

The pumpkins were lined up, their candles ignited, and we voted by writing numbers on a sheet of paper and putting them in a bag. No one was allowed to vote for their own pumpkin, but given the less than rigorous methods of checking to make sure this was true, no one knows if everyone obeyed the rules.

In any case, there were nine pumpkins, and the voting ended up like so.

1: 0
2: 2
3: 2
4: 5
5: 5
6: 5
7: 2
8: 2
9: 0

The Professor, Jason, had abstained from voting for just such a circumstance. He had actually prevoted and kept his vote in his pocket, which gave pumpkin five the victory.

Guess which pumpkin my groups was.


It was my team's pumpkin that was presented to the University President as a gift. How much does that rock?

I'll post a picture here of the winning pumpkin come Halloween. Look for it!

The other awesome news is that I just submitted next semester's schedule to Messiah College. I had been a little aprehensive about it, as there was a possibility that an important course I needed to graduate might not be offered in a fashion wherein I could take it and as such would have to try to wrangle together an independant study at the last second. However, it has all worked out well, very well in fact.

So well in fact, that if even my less desirable second choices are the ones I have to settle on, every weekend will be a four day weekend for me.

Yeah, that's right. Save for a two hour Phys Ed course late Monday evenings, I'll have no classes on Monday, Wednesday, or Friday come Spring.

Quite honestly, that will be an utter Godsend for a vast number of reasons.

1. I'll need the extra time for my Senior Project.
2. I'll need the extra time for setting up interviews for prospective jobs.
3. I'll need the extra time for going to places such as Baltimore to interview for the previously mentioned jobs.
4. I'll need the extra time for relaxing from the stress of the previous three reasons.

Quite simply, getting up for an 8AM class every Tuesday and Thursday isn't a pain when you don't have to get up at all on Monday, Wednesday, or Friday.




A logical proof that killing monkeys solves problems. Not entirely perfect, but pretty convincing.

People have Problems.
If People have Problems, Then People complain about Problems.
If there is/are Problem(s), Then there is a Cause.
If there is a Cause, then it is a Person, Group or Entity.
The Cause of Problem(s) does not complain about the Problem(s) it causes.
Monkeys do not complain about Problems.
If and Only If there is no Cause, Then there are no Problems.
If a Monkey is set on Fire, Then the Monkey dies.
If all Monkeys die, Then there are no Monkeys.

People have Problems.
If People have Problems, Then People complain about Problems.
Therefore, People complain about Problems.

People have Problems.
If there is/are Problem(s), Then there is a Cause.
If there is a Cause, then it is a Person, Group or Entity.
Therefore, a Person, Group or Entity is a Cause of Problem(s)

The Cause of Problem(s) does not complain about the Problem(s) it causes.
Monkeys do not complain about Problems.
Therefore, Monkeys are a Cause of Problems.

If there is/are Problems(s), Then there is a Cause.
Therefore, If and Only If there is no Cause, Then there are no Problems.

Monkeys are a Cause of Problems.
If and Only If there is no Cause, Then there are no Problems.
Therefore, If and Only If there are no Monkeys, Then there are no Problems.

If and Only If there are no Monkeys, Then there are no Problems.
If a Monkey is set on Fire, Then the Monkey dies.
If all Monkeys die, Then there are no Monkeys.
Therefore, If and Only If all Monkeys are set on Fire, Then there are no problems.

Setting Monkeys on Fire will allow for the end of Problems.



Why the Borg were Scary

Note the past tense. That is there because in recent years overapplication of the Borg to solve failing Star Trek series' problems turned them from a truly terrifying villain into just another face in the Star Trek villains' canon.

But I digress.

When the Borg came onto the scene in The Next Generation, they were quite simply the single most scary thing the series had come across. Certainly, Q was infinitely more powerful, but he wasn't so much scary as he was funny (while pointing out fundamental flaws in humanity). The Borg weren't hanging around to play. They were serious, intent, and efficient.

Exactly what made the Borg scary was the subject of recent musings of mine, and I came up with the following explanation.

Every TV series, movie, and book has had its nigh invincible enemy. Sauron had but one weakness, The Emporer a vast army and functional Death Star, etc. However, something about the Borg struck a chord with people that sent chills down their spine and filled their nightmares with cries of "Resistance is Futile, you will be assimilated."

We can cite the invincibility of the Borg as a factor in the fright they generated. In the first encounter, the Enterprise blasts the faster Borg Cube, stopping it in its tracks. A sigh of relief is breathed, until we are shown the quick progress being made in its self repair. Several torpedoes and some panic later, the Enterprise finds itself without any weapon capable of defending the flagship of Star Fleet.

However, invincibility alone does not make one frightening, as Superman and other intrepid comic book heroes show. So while a factor, we must continue through the other attributes.

The Borg are adaptable. This is often only viewed in the "You shot me a few times and now I've analyzed your weapons frequencies" invincibility category, but it is important as a whole. Often, people have cited the adaptability of mankind as proof of our continued existance. Whole movies depict battles of weaker human forces defeating greater ones, sometimes alien ones, not because of greater intelligence but because of adaptability and creativity. The Borg, however, can instantly draw upon the combined intelligence and creativity of millions to analyze your every move, adapt to your every defense, and crush you. The one trait of humanity that is truly special to us (we think) is granted to the Borg in greater quantities.

That is scary, but not quite hitting home yet. People are often disgusted by a trait in someone else that they themselves have in excess, but this isn't quite the scariness we're looking for. Onward we go.

The Borg are a hive mind, operating as one gigantic orchestrated conciousness that cares less for its drones than a young boy does for the ants he stomps on. Everyone is expendable (even the Queen apparently, as losing one only warrants replacement), and so long as the supply of new drones exceeds the expenditure, all is well. This, I think, is the beginning of what really scares people. The hive mind means a loss of individuality, which is especially precious to us in America. We like to choose how we live, what we wear, who we like etc. While a lot of these choices may not be original, they are still choices. The Borg present us with the ultimate extreme of choicelessness. Any one person is instantly compelled at any moment with a task they will complete regardless of self will. It is an entirely efficient system, but it kills all individuality, all expression thereof, and all appreciation for anything, save efficiency.

We're almost there...

Lastly, the Borg are technological. While retaining some of the flesh that initially comprised the person prior to assimilation, people are turned into machines. The ships the Borg travel in are a bizarre mix of simple geometric shapes and a complex interweaving of technology. Most importantly, anything and everything they have influence over is transformed into this same ethic. Worlds have their atmosphere changed, people their discerning features lost, everything becomes the same under the banner of technology. Here is, perhaps, the greatest and most frightening feature of the Borg. An all invincible, all consuming, individuality killing machine, powered entirely by and for technology. It destroys art and simple living in the sake of better living, all the while taking away from us that which we have, value, and often forget. It takes the ethic of improving life via technology to an extreme no one wants, and that is truly frightening.

Technology, quite simply, is a form of magic to many people. Even computer nerds and geeks are incapable of understanding much beyond their specific specialization, and that's just computers. The intricacy of a car engine alone, which once an average man could deal with, is so staggering there's a radio show which people call because their regular mechanic can't solve their problem. To anyone in an field not directly related, anything beyond setting the VCR, checking e-mail, and visiting a news website is complicated enough, let alone the inner workings of the whole deal. Technology might as well be run by little green men hiding in the black box we call a DVD player for all the majority of the populace knows.

It is this unknown that frightens a lot of people, myself included. Technology is growing beyond leaps and bounds, growing to the point where it is increasingly difficult to understand any one aspect of it, let alone the whole of it. More frightening is that this unknown force is stronger everyday, invading the home, the garden, the streets and the skies. It creeped its black tendrils slowly and softly into every aspect of life, and most of us are realizing a little late in the game just how dependent we are. Most frightening is how Technology begins to make people the same. Barriers of communication are broken, so that now everyone recieves the same news from the same people at 11, or at least ones who are little different from any others. Styles instantly traverse mountains and oceans, hitting a GAP near you which is exactly like everyone else's. This is frightening.

The Borg are so scary because they are Technology. They are a seemingly unstoppable force, robbing us of our freedoms, robbing us of our individuality, robbing us of even our souls it seems. They cannot be understood because of the sheer complexity they have obtained, they can not be reasoned with because of the sheer logic they use, and they can not be stopped because of the power they posess. They might even be scarier for computer geeks, who understand some part of the horror that is Technology. Knowing a super complicated circuit brings you a greater understanding of just how complicated one part of that car's engine is. This connection with Technology the Borg have is what accentuates the scary parts of their other features. Moreover, the hairline victories the Next Generation crew managed to pull at the last minute did little to ease the fear, as there were always more Borg to come, and this time the world might not be saved. In life, this represents the day to day battles we have against becoming overly dependent on technology. Even when we feel we've made a small victory we, like Picard gazing at the fleets of dead ships, wonder at what cost it took, and whether next time we can pull a victory. Sometimes, we simply have to fall back, unable to hold onto some precious parts of life (Picard's Furious speech in First Contact concerning where we draw the line comes to mind).

That is why the Borg were so scary. They were a single, simple looking object, that suddenly when it came close turned out to be a huge monolithic cube of intertwining complexities that could not be destroyed, could not be reasoned with, and came to eat your soul.

Sadly, the Borg have lost much of their fright, which I think climaxed in First Contact, which is probably my favorite Star Trek movie. After First Contact (a very successful movie), someone high up in the chain became convinced that by application of the Borg into Voyager, the series would grow more popular. Unfortunately, multiple Borg cubes are not scary when you immediately introduce something that can not only destroy one, but just about all of them on its own. Quite simple, a nigh invincible enemy loses its ability to scare once it is effortlessly destroyed by another. Unless you intend on replacing said enemy entirely, its simply a mistake. Over the course of Voyager, the Borg became increasingly applied to the series. This might have helped the series, but in the end it killed the Borg. They became so often, and so quickly, defeated that the fear of losing disappeared. Technology was not only no longer unstoppable, but could be defeated every hour, once a week, without anything more than a few shattered consoles, a couple dead red shirts, and some out of a hat solution.

I'm not supporting any ideas of Amish style living. Technology can be a wonderful thing, and I'm certainly addicted to it. However, often some of the best things in life such as art, nature and individual, unique people are swallowed by the technology powered life. Some of my sister's work is incredibly beautiful and awesome, whether painted, photoshopped or photographed. I still don't see her on CNN.

Actually, it might be pretty sad to see her on CNN, because that'd mean she'd mean eaten alive by the soul eating media machine, or was about to be.

Essay done, sister's art plugged, obligatory swipe at American Media check. I'm done.


How To: Understand Console Press

It struck me that there is a lot of lingo that goes around the gaming world in reference to Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo as hardware companies. These bits of seductive jargon can be hard to decode, so here's a crude guide, and my responses.

1. "This console/handheld is in it's infancy."
This is usually used to explain away problems, such as hardware defects and little in the way of decent software. The jargon here is really the word 'infancy'. This is meant to imply that while small, it will grow into something big. Unfortunately, since the typical over the hill point (where everything is downhill from) for any console/handheld comes in about five years saying something is still an infant after a year is accusing a ten year old of not being potty trained. If it's true, that ten year old has some serious problems.

2. "We want to satisfy both hardcore gamers, and the casual crowd."
This is the mantra of everyone, and who exactly is going to pull it off is the matter of much 'debate' (read, internet forum flame wars). In any case, the idea presented is that the gaming company wants to bring in more people who play games casually, but not ruin the hardcore gamers experience. The shifty bit here is in 'want' (sometimes aim). It gives them leeway in failing to do either. Also, it's pretty easy to see that they're really just trying to make more money by having more people to sell to.

3. Anything that has "console war" in it.
Microsoft throws this around a lot, probably because they are imitating the gaming
populace they sell to. Sony uses it occaisionally, and Nintendo hasn't mentioned it as far as I know. In any case, the concept of "console war" dates back to the NES and SNES's thrashing of all other consoles quite thoroughly and beyond doubt that they had 'won' the "console war". However, because we were all children at the time the only real measure we understood was that eight out of seven friends had an SNES. Because of the dimness of most childhood memory, the exact measure of what exactly 'winning' or "console war" are is very vague. Exactly who won the last "console" war depends on who you talk to, and they all use different measures. Nintendo people cite the profitability of their company (and the lack of profit in others), kids, and killer first party titles (which Sony and Microsoft struggle with). Sony people cite the sheer market share of the PS2, the wealth of games, and Sony's megacorperation status (and a little bit of profit). Microsoft people cite the purpose of the Xbox being to build future market share, Halo 2, Ninja Gaiden, and Xbox Live (carefully noting that the Gaming Division of Microsoft's losses are merely a strategic output from a super wealthy company, pocket change even). The fact is, there really isn't a console war at all. People own multiple systems. The whole point of citing a "console war" is to try and get consumers to buy and only buy your product as opposed to anyone elses.

4. Anything including "Hardcore Gamer".
Basically, ask anyone to define this and you'll get different responses. One person will cite excessive amounts of play, another will cite variety, and another skill. Basically, this is so indefinable that trying to do so is foolhardy. Because of this, it's a great phrase to use because anyone who really cares about gaming will assume they are a part of it, and feel good about themselves because they are hardcore, or perhaps because they aren't one of those crazy nerds who rant about whatever is the next greatest game. It, and casual gamer, are great terms for dividing people and making them glad they are one thing and not the other. Shifty if ever I saw it.

Brief, but I hope helpful for the one person, me, who really cares about such things.


Iroiro Gemu Apudeitsu

For the nihongo comprehension less, iroiro is Japanese for "various", and nihongo is Japanese for Japanese. So, the title today is "Various Game Updates", the later two words being phonetically spelled in Japanese. If someone could tell me if there's a difference between Japanese and japanese I would appreciate. I suspect one is a language, and one is a people.


First, I've made some modifications to my translation agenda. After translating at least one hundred difference sentences saying nothing more than, "My pokemon are going to beat yours", atleast one hundred sentences saying, "Holy crap! How did I lose!" and at least another hundred saying, "Wow, your pokemon are extremely strong!", I think it isn't necessary to continue doing so. More than anything else, it was making a part of the game that should be rewarding me for my hard work, more work.

Basically, it became like trying to eat every last crumb of your cookie. Quite simply, it won't be a delicious endeavor. Your big bites you can take are nice, but when you have to lick the crumbs of the floor and plate, you just taste floor and plate.

In any case, this has reinvigorated my translation efforts, which were lagging because of the near endless amounts of text I faced. Now that when I venture out of new towns I just worked very hard translating, I don't slam into another wall of text, which honestly wasn't informing me of anything anyway.

I still translate battles with my rival, any Gym Leaders, or other plot important ones. However, offsetting this is the removal of translating the people in shops and pokemon centers (they just tell you about items and pokemon anyway. I think after playing Red, Blue, Green, Yellow, Gold, Silver, Crystal, Sapphire and Ruby, I'd know my way around).

Other game updates are that a friend here in Japan aquired a computer, a copy of Guilty Gear XX, and a pair of controllers. Despite my recent bashes of games of that type, I do remind you I still enjoy them. It's been fun.

Jack Thompson has continued to perpetuate stereotypes of people concerned about the effect of violent media on children. Actually, that isn't very surprising.

Microsoft has continued to try to draw as much attention as they can to the Xbox360, building up to its launch date (which is just around the corner). Unfortunately, as far as I can tell their attempts to do so in Japan are pretty bad. Quite simply, the amount of space the original Xbox gets in a Japanese gaming store is next to nothing, and the amount of space, effort and time given to the upcoming launch is less than nothing. At one major retailer they have in front of the entrance a list of upcoming game and movie releases going into January, the Xbox360 isn't even there.

While it might take off in the states, or the UK, or Micronesia, I don't see it penetrating the Japanese market at all. I see hordes of Gamecube, PS2, PSP and DS commericals touting games and hardware, but I have yet to even see Microsoft's logo anywhere but on the computers I use in the library.

The inherent problem here is that Nintendo and Sony can surely subsist off of the Japanese market. There are very few potential scenarios currently that show either company losing enough of their Asian side market shares to warrant any worries here. In the states, experts are probably using a random number generator, taking three numbers, and turning them into a fraction that equals one hundred percent. While this leaves all sorts of scenarios open, all of them leave Sony and Nintendo ready for a another round in the console generation after this upcoming one.

Quite simply, Japan was only ever successfully invaded once, and it doesn't appear that they are going to let it happen again.

Random Thought: It is now 5:30 back home. I've been up that late playing video games before.

Owarimasu. (Finished).


Worst Fears

The idea had struck me, but I didn't want to mention it anywhere because I didn't want to give anyone any ideas, that restricting posting to only registered members wouldn't solve my problems. The major reason for this being that someone could very easily register an account, and have a bot run around commenting everywhere with it.

I hate it when I'm right. Moments ago, I axed a comment from some 'person' named Rob that was an advertisement. I really had been hoping that Blogger would axe such accounts, but this doesn't appear to be the case.

It might be hard to understand from the calm, emotion censoring nature of the internet, but this really gets to me. There's a large button on me labeled 'Ruining a good thing for profit' right next to the 'Ruining a good game for other players' one. To my knowledge, these are the fastest and most direct ways to get on my nerves, and push me past the point of rationality.

Quite simply, I utterly and completely detest with passion of a child for candy, with the power of a mountain crashing down, and with the vigor and fury of a hurricane the size of Alaska, when something incredibly cool, awesome and useful is perverted.

I honestly want anyone, even people I don't know, to comment here. I want people to tell me exactly what they think, good or bad, about me. Barring a bad case of indecency, it was never my intent to wave the hand of censure at my Blog. I didn't care if someone random Joe from Montana commented on my blog a twelve page epic story that wasn't in the least bit related to my post on chicken peas, censure was not going to happen.

Part of what bugs me about this whole thing is that it's advertising. The people who come here are looking for me, and maybe for the other people who are. They were not looking for the latest and greatest ways to save money on lumber.

The other part of it is that it goes beyond the purpose of this blog. The ultimate purpose of this blog is centered around me, finding me, and commenting on me. Advertisements are a "Hey, you're neat but this which has absolutely positively nothing to do with you, wouldn't interest you one bit anyway, and is utterly useless would be great for you to check out!"

The last part of it is that this is, in a way, a me space. I am, to a great extent, the lord and ruler of this small domain. Having advertisers come through and have their way with the place is like having McDonalds paint a mural of Ronald on the side of your house. It's nothing short of vandalism.

I need to find these companies and sue them on that premise.


The reports (from me) of reaching the first boss in Pokemon Emerald were, I'm sorry to say, inaccurate. I mistook for the first boss a man who spent several decades explaining the very simple concept of, "Throw a pokeball at a pokemon, and catch it!" You can argue that my one sentence simplification doesn't go into the finer points of pokemon catching, such as weakening it first. However, neither did he.

Today I finally reached and beat the first boss, although I have yet to translate all the text involved. Having spent almost every free moment working on this since Wednesday, it's really suprising how small a nick I've put in the vast tree trunk of text I have yet to even see, let alone copy and translate.

It really doesn't help that it seems to pe a prerequisite for NPCs (Non Player Characters), as part of being in pokemon, to take thirty minutes to explain a simple concept like "This building here is the Pokemon Center".

Anyway, what was really odd came in an e-mail from my supabro today. Apparently Gamestop called me, offering me a job. Having applied there every summer for the past four years or more, there is some sense of triumph in that this year I've recieved two offers from Gamestop for a job (there being two Gamestops near my house). However, the irony of it all is that I couldn't accept either offer. What's funny is that apparently, supabro fielded the call, and after informing them of my current global position they turned around and offered him the job instead! The greatest irony is, he already has a job and couldn't accept the offer either.




First, those of you who couldn't comment recently, I apologize. Blogger is a little too smart, auto-translating all the menus and everything into Japanese. As such, it was very difficult to find the option for restricting comments to registered members, let alone selecting the right option. It should be fixed now, but if it isn't or if it still allows anonymous posting please tell me.

In other news, I have just now reached the first boss in Pokemon Emerald. This is after, about, (calculation noises) twenty to thirty hours of work. Any normal person would take at most an hour to reach where I'm at. The game itself is normally between thirty and sixty hours of playtime.

When am I going to finish this? The Lord only knows...

Fun though.

I can feel the vocabulary seeping into my brain, it's slimey.



Before the angry, rage filled content below, I'll note that I'm hopelessly addicted to translating Pokemon Emerald. I've spent about 12 hours on it now, and I'm only just now able to actually do anything in the game. Somehow, I don't think I'll finish before I fly home.

Begin the wailing and gnashing of teeth.

Some of you may have noticed, but overnight I was nailed by about eight or so "Comments" that were really advertisements. This had happened before, but had abated for some time and life was looking good and happy.

The unfortunate truth is I do not, will not, and can not conceive of this blog as being used for anything other than a place for me to spew my creative energy into, and for people to see and comment. This is not someone's billboard.

The sideeffect of that is that from here on out you're going to have to register to post here.

I didn't want to do that because this forces any friend or family of mine who wants to comment to either register or abstain. The former option being a pain to do, and the latter being a nuisance. There's nothing more annoying than reading something in an environment created for response, and being unable to respond.

However, this is the only weapon I have to fight with. It's like nuking a small peasent uprising, but it needs to be done. I don't have any swords, arrows, or armed forces. I have me, fifteen minutes of spare time, and a Comment Delete button. I'm not in Japan to spend my time checking my blog every day to make sure I haven't been creamed by another wave of stupid advertisements.

I'm terribly sorry, but these explicitive deserving morons who continually are finding new and more efficient ways of making the internet a hellhole of a place to try and navigate and live with have forced my hand.

I hope to still see a good many of you commenting.

Emerald Dreams

A trilogy of topics today. Don't miss out on the other two.

I have taken up a project aimed to increase my japanese knowledge, vocabulary, reading comprehension and speed, as well as my handwriting, patience and more. The brilliance of this project is that it combines both my passion for video games, and my passion for the Japanese language. Even more brilliant is that I can do it with tired limbs.

This started, to some small degree, with the purchase of my Nintendo DS and the quirky, untranslated titles of Jump Superstars and Osu! Tatakae! Ouendan! I did some translation in those, but storyless they presented little which needed to be translated.

My life as a translator is now in full force, as I bought a couple note pads from the hundred yen store, a pair of fresh pens, and a copy of Pokemon Emerald.

The basic theory is, the game is meant for children, I have Japanese language skill of a very young child, and so the game should be the best thing for me to translate. Last night, I spent several hours doing just that. The drive that pushes me onward is that in order to actually play the game and have any idea whatsoever of what I'm doing, I have to translate it. Pikachu isn't using Thunderwhatsit if I can't read it.

So far I've translated the introduction of the introduction, and some menu screens. It's a slow process, but extremely enjoyable. I may actually get to play the game sometime this week, but I still have untranslated text from a lecture my in game mom gave me, as well as a horde of townspeople to talk to and all the droning on and battle instruction that will be given when I actually go to get my start in the world, plus the likelyhood that all the villager text will have changed after I get my first Pokemon. Give that it took me three hours to get as far as I have, I may not even be halfway through the game when I get home.

Other Japanese news is that I got a notebook for practicing Kanji, which we will shortly be doing in class. I aced my exams I had Thursday and Friday, easily. I'm speaking more and more Japanese every day, and enjoying it all. Watching my favorite anime in Japanese minus subtitles is an experience as well.

In short, Japan rocks.

Whacky Jacky

I'm late to talk about this subject, but I didn't think it terribly important. It's really just another episode in the monthly bundle of insanity known as Jack Thompson. The short of it is he's offered any game developer $10000 to their charity of choice if they'll make a game of his design specifications. Basically, a game where the story blames all sorts of violence on games.

Gamers everywhere reacted, some in laughs, most in ridicule.

Apparently one of the Penny-Arcade guys sent Jack Thompson an e-mail telling him about how Penny-Arcade's Childsplay charity had raised half a million dollars in toys and cash which went to children in hospitals everywhere. Apparently he forgot his phone number appeared in his signiture, because Jack called him back and yelled at him a bunch, telling him never to e-mail him again.

Honestly I've passed the point of amusement.

I could sit here and bash Jack all day, I could cite him as reason to wave off his cause, and I could end satisfied that I was right, and he was stupid.

Stupid he may be, attention hogging and extremist as well. However, more than anything he is a travesty. There is nothing worse, I think, for the gaming industry than to offhandedly dismiss the potential damage violence in the media can do to our children. Unfortunately, Jack Thompson provides gamers like myself with the easy opportunity to do so. When the primary spokesperson for a cause continually makes a fool of himself in front of the lights and cameras of the world, it's easy to forget how important what they're misrepresenting may be.

Something should be done to address the problem, but those of us who know games the best do nothing. We have unfortunately taken the position of calling parents who buy M-Rated games for their children idiots, as well as the people like Jack Thompson who try to react to a problem they don't fully understand. Instead, since we hold the keys of knowledge in this area, we could very easily be solving the issue once and for all.

As much as Jack Thompson is a travesty, so are we the gaming populace for not proving him a moron by solving the problem he champions in spite of him.

Kendo Hurts

It has become extremely apparrent to me that Kendo is a painful activity to pursue. This is probably the result of aching limbs, sore muscles, blisters, and bruises. Practicing Kendo for two hours will leave you exhausted, and Saturday practice takes three.

I wouldn't trade it for a Revolution Devkit.

Quite honestly, I don't think I've been quite so intent on learning any combat specific art in my life. Certainly, I took Karate. Definately, I did the firearms and archery workshops at summer camp. However, I was never really truly dedicated to either of them, only giving basic attention to them and dropping them once hard work was unavoidable.

Kendo is addictive.

I don't know if it's because week by week I can feel and see the progress I'm making (apparently my progress is extraordinary, as people simply do not learn Kendo as fast as I am. Although, I'm skeptical that I'm really that special), or if it's simply because swinging a stick around that represents a sword has been an activity of mine ever since I was obsessed with samurai and medieval knights. Either way, I enjoy it a heck of a lot, and I really hope that God will place me somewhere after college near a serious Kendo Dojo.

Seriously, not only is it fun to do (if you're up to feeling constantly handicapped by sore limbs), but it's a blast to watch the guys who know what they're doing. Seeing them practice their swing by swining two weighted Shinai (Kendo Swords) in one hand is incredible, and then watching them smack each other lightning fast because of the built up strength is doubly incredible.

Yes, fantasies of Samurai Gaijin Man have come to mind, but the reality is so good they aren't necessary.



Recently, some footage of a large procession in North Korea celebrating either the country's or its rulers' birthday was displayed on the news here in Japan. Aside from the thought of how, "Any country that trains its troops to march exactly in step like that is wasting time, in a bad way, or both" and also the Nazi feel of the whole thing, I had some not so random thoughts.

I thought about how somewhere, someone must have (though I have not seen it) made a poster or shirt which said something like, "Important Dictators the American People should know about." Followed by pictures of Saddam, maybe Kim Jung Il and then Bush. I thought of how stupid a T-shirt that would be, because my perception of things is that actually, the Republican and Democratic parties are really the dictators, and the symbols for each should go onto the shirts.

Then I crashed continually earthward, rolling along a spiral staircase down into the depths of how bad one can percieve the US situation to be.

Basically, I had to then account for the fact that, while less important, the other political parties were really no good eggs either. Then, remembering I have a few good friends intending on becoming politicians, I had to accept that there are two groups, good politicians and bad politicians. So, I had to accept the fact that some of these politicians were in all parties.

So, the question began to be begged, "Why, if there are good politicians in all political parties as there must be, does the whose system seem to be such a bloody mess?" I may have my opinions on abortion and gay rights, and those are important humanitarian issues, but generally there are vastly greater issues to be dealt with, or at least there should be.

It strikes me that government, as with any mechanism, requires maintenance, otherwise it begins to deviate from its proper operation. It surprises me that the American government currently suffers from rather gaping flaws, which it routinely refuses to fix. The first is that, although I will accept it could be argued otherwise, that preemptive problem fixing is all but gone. What seems to be the normal course of things is that they are employed until broken, at which point they are fixed. This isn't an entirely wrongheaded way to do things, as many parts of life work the same way. Generally, it would be hard to annually unearth all of your plumbing and electric wiring to make sure it was in working order. However, your plumbing and electricity, assuming they in particular fail as opposed to everyone's electricity and plumbing, are not an immediate threat to you life if they fail unexpectedly. Inconvenient for sure, but not deadly. Government strikes me as more like planes, trains, and life sustaining medical devices. If any of those were to wait until something broke before it was fixed, no one would fly planes, ride trains, or trust life sustaining devices. There would be so many accidents from bad brakes and rusted out rails, loose bolts resulting in lost wings, and device failures it would be obscene.

The government controls all the millions of lives in the country, making it supremely important that it run properly. The eventual decisions regarding gay rights and abortion will be a part of that. However, it strikes me that no direct issues of government were important voting reasons the past presidential election. The closest thing was anything relating to the war, but that was more an issue of the running of the Iraqi government that anything else.

So, I have some deep concerns about government. As it stands, I have two close friends and budding Republican Presidential hopefuls sometime around when I'm 40. While I'm praying that things get fixed sooner than that (I'm not sure if we'll last long enough for them to save the sinking ship, or if there will be much to save when the time comes), I think I'm realistic in hoping and praying for a Rhea/Nolte '24 victory.

You two know who you are, go out there and whip those crocthety old fogey corrupt politicians into shape.


Fighting Games

Exactly why fighting games have recently become something for my mind to chew on is somewhat confusing, even for me. For the longest time, I didn't really give a second thought to the various incarnations and series and methods of play. However, lately they have occupied the portion of my mind reserved for lamenting the lack of inventiveness in the FPS genre of late.

To begin, there are three major fighting game types. I make my distinctions based on the method of how a character's moves are accomplished. Between the first two categories, some overlap occurs, but not much.

In all categories, a few basic truths hold. Basic attacks are simple. Hit a button, an attack happens. Hit a button and a direction and a different basic attack happens. While how one's health is measured, whether there's a special meter or not etc. can be up in the air, I've never found a fighting game yet where an attack button is pressed and nothing happens at all. Also, there are always quirks that differentiate the characters from each other, meaning playing a different character is almost like learning half theg game over again. It is in the areas of combos (a chain of attacks one after the other without pause) and special attacks where everything differentiates.

First is the Super Attack category. Street Fighter, Marvel vs Capcom, and Guilty Gear (the game series I will go more indepth with) fit this category. Special attacks and moves are done via specific motions with the directional pad or joystick, such as starting by pressing down and rolling the pad counter clockwise until the forward direction is reached. Other, more complicated motions are required for the most powerful moves. In order to combo well, specific ordering and timing of the proper attacks needs to be learned. Both special move motions and combos will vary from character to character.

Second, is the Chain Attack category. Tekken, Virtua Fighter and Soul Caliber (which I will primarily cite) fall into this category. Special moves usually require time to charge up for full effect, although a lesser effect (more like a basic attack) will occur if the charge isn't held. Some won't let you decide how long the charge is, and will charge up fully no matter what, leaving you open to attack. Combos are, for the most part, preset. You hit button A twice, button B once, and then C, to perform a combo designed by the team that programmed the game. Sometimes these combos involve hitting a direction and a button, holding buttons and more.

The last category is the Brawling category. Jump Super Stars and Super Smash Brothers are the major players (if the only) in this category, although the category can be cited as having roots in the old River City Ransom games (there was one which allowed four players to brawl with each other all at once). Special moves are accomplished by pushing a special move button and a direction (including no direction) which indicates which special move to do. Combos are entirely 'free form', depending more on where your opponent flies from your last hit more than anything else.

Before I go into an indepth analysis, I'll state exactly why I'm going to all this trouble to divide fighting games into categories, and discuss them. I've played a fair amount of Guilty Gear XX, and a large amount of other games of the same type. I've played Soul Caliber II quite a bit as well, and some Tekken 3 for that category. And I've played excessive amounts of Super Smash Brothers (and recently Jump Superstars). However, in most of these cases, the enemy AI wasn't difficult enough to be so difficult that it was frustrating, and the people I played with were as flawed and unskilled (or flawless and super skilled as we are in Super Smash Brothers) as I was.

Recently, I've encountered players in Guilty Gear and Soul Caliber who, basically, play the game so well it is awe inspiring. I've encountered similar players in Super Smash Brothers, who routinely best me thoroughly. I come close to victory sometimes in all, and in Super Smash Brothers I even win sometimes. However, I noticed something odd about my attitude towards the games.

The more I played Guilty Gear and Soul Caliber against these people, the more frustrated I felt. Yet, even when losing as consitantly in Super Smash Brothers, I was simply envigorated to try harder. For a while I wasn't sure why losing in one was different than the other, as typically anytime someone can best me in video games thoroughly I get excited because of the appearance of a real challenge. Eventually, I discovered it wasn't that I was losing that was getting to me, it was my perception of why.

When playing Guilty Gear and Soul Caliber, I didn't feel that I was losing because I was less skilled in fighting games, or because I had poor strategy. In fact, the one thing that would keep me from being entirely wiped out was my ability to think ahead and predict what my opponent would do, and given my fair amount of experience with Guilty Gear XX (the game that really got to me), I couldn't be called unskilled. It wasn't even the difference in skill that was troublesome, as my opponent had the obvious benefit of a greater wealth of experience and skill to draw on. What got to me was the interface.

It is arguable that my next point can be chalked up to being lazy, unwilling to commit myself to anything etc. However, I've thought about that myself and come to the conclusion that such isn't the case. Even if it is, it is simply another example of why games are being more exclusive to the people who have always played them, and perhaps shortly people who have always played .

In Guilty Gear, What was frustrating to me was that I percieved my loses to happen more because my attempts to pull off special move X at opportune moment Y would fail to produce a special move more often than not. Even something as simple as rolling counter clockwise from down until the rightward direction was reached would succeed as often as a fish flies. If the move had been pulled off when I wanted it to, or even a few moments thereafter, I would have hit and damaged my opponent heavily. As it was, I simply did some random, useless basic attack and opened myself up for pain. And this isn't even bringing in crazy moves that require you to roll from front to back and then foward again.

In Soul Caliber, a similar frustration took hold. In order to proper use a character in the least, you had to memorize every possible combination. Not only that, but some combinations were only accessible from particular battle stances, which could only be reached through specific actions etc. In a fierce competition, remembering to hold the B button after the A C C combo, or was that C A C, or A B B.... It's a little crazy. On top of that, try a different character and now you have to memorize everything all over again.

However, in Super Smash Brothers, everything is the same. Certainly, every character has different basic attacks, different special moves, and different hit strengths, recovery abilities etc. However, everything is done exactly the same way. In order to do Captain Falcon's Falcon Punch, you hit the B button. That's all there is to it. The instant you want the move to happen, you hit the B button. Need a different special move? Hit UP and the B button, or DOWN and the B button. This is exactly the same for every single character. No one has to pause the game to look up special moves, combinations, or anything. If you can use one character, you can use them all.

What I am lamenting right now in fighting games is the backwards nature of the controls, something Super Smash Brothers addressed in the most beautiful fashion. Most fighting games require complex motions or button combinations to do what usually amounts to a very basic thing. It doesn't make any sense. When, in a soccer game, Pele needed to head a ball into the goal, he didn't have to wave his left arm in a circle and tap his belly three times with his right. When we check our email, we don't spin in a circle, yell, "ZAP" and then click the button labeled 'check email'. We simply do the action instantly.

This is what I like about Super Smash Brothers. If you want to do something, you do it. I'll admit, remembering what the different attacks are, and what they do can take a little time. However, an entire, gargantuan level of difficulty is missing simply because the difficulty of actually doing the attack is gone. In other games first the move is called to mind, then what it does. This happens a few times until s decision is made as what move to use in the situation. Then the complex pattern needs to be recalled and an attempt made to utilize that pattern, hopefully with enough speed so that the opportune moment isn't missed. Super Smash Brothers removes the difficulty of that last step by replacing it with a simple mechanism to pull off the move. There currently isn't anything simpler in the genre then hitting a direction and a button to pull off a special attack.

The obvious counter argument, as noted earlier, is that with practice the movements are easy. A person skilled in Kendo had to first learn how to properly swing the Shinai (Kendo Sword), and now is able to do it without thinking. The same is true of moves in fighting games.

So here's the question, how many people want their fighting game to be like learning Kendo? Honestly, if I have to put in that much effort into a game just to have fun, I'd rather go learn Kendo. I'll say it myself, I've had a lot of fun with fighting games like Soul Caliber and Guilty Gear. However, that was because no one involved at the time had the 'mad skills' the games really called for. Once someone did, the fun really stopped.

I'm certain if I took the time, I could get extremely good at Guilty Gear and Soul Caliber. Heck, I could probably be good enough to compete in tournaments with cash prizes. However, the unspoken (until now) issue which strikes the heart of gaming is that of casual vs. hardcore gaming. Games like Guilty Gear are neat, but ultimately they aren't what casual gamers play. In fact, games are getting to the point where hardcore gamers rarely even leave the safe pastures of the games they are familiar with, because games like Guilty Gear have a steep learning curve to scale if you want to play with the hardcore gamers familiar with the series. When I walk down the corridors of dorms and club rooms of universities and colleges, I see two kinds of games. Games that we grew up with, such as Super Mario Brothers, Duck Hunt, and Mega Man, are one kind. We're already familiar with them, we all know how to play them, and so casual play is easy. The other kind are games like Mario Kart and Super Smash Bros. These are games with simple control principles, and they still manage a lot of depth. Driving is a simple thing to do, hit an accelerator, turn left and right. It makes sense, it's easy to pick up, and it doesn't ask you to memorize the Constitution in order to play.

So there's my speel. I'll tell everyone here straight out that I enjoy games such as Counterstrike, Warcraft and Guilty Gear. I love the competition, I love the skill that can go into it. However, more and more I see each series becoming an exclusive club for people who are familiar with it. I lost touch with Counter Strike because I didn't have a PC, and with Warcraft III because of a computer ill-equipped to handle the polygons it used. I tried to come back to the series, and I've enjoyed doing so. However, the amount of time required to pick up the slack left from months, even years, of other people playing without me is difficult, probably too difficult for most.

So, that's why I'm going to stick with Nintendo. Microsoft knows that the industry isn't reaching casual gamers, but they are applying the wrong medicine. They think that marketing will solve the foreseen shrinking market. They've missed the fact that the problem isn't in awareness, it's in the games themselves. You can spend $500 million in advertising, and if the game is forbidding people will go right back to what they know. Nintendo knows this, and they're doing something about it.

Yeah, I'm probably a Nintendo fanboy at this point. I can't call myself unbiased anymore when it comes to this. I own a Playstation 2, enjoy it as well, but that's because I'm hardcore. I'm a crazy, eccentric nut without social skills who therefore resorts to video games for entertainment. The thing is, I'm a minority, and I understand that. The Playstation 3 will be good for people like me, but will be an expensive paper weight for the casual crowd.

So, Viva La Revolution.


Ouendan Addendum

Just a few notes on Ouendan that I've come across.

Firstly, I may have mentioned downloadable play in my review, but my information was not correct. For multiplayer play, everyone must have a copy of Ouendan. What's downloadable to other people is the tutorial.

Secondly, there's an Insane Difficulty mode. I don't know if my arms will be able to take it after all the Kendo I've done this week.

Aside from that, here in Japan there's a Mario 20th Anniversary ad campaign going on that has some of the best remixed Mario music in it I've ever heard. It's all a bid to sell Gameboy Micros on nostalgia, but I see the Gameboy Micro as more a special anniversary thing than an actual effort at a new gameboy.

That's all for now.