Saturday, August 27, 2005


Been a busy week.

Monday @ Work--wiped my 2000-Pro OS off my laptop and did fresh-install of XP-Pro. Took appx. 6 hours to complete. Not technically hard, but very time-consuming with file-backups, format, reinstall, patch, driver updates, fix wrong driver updates, reinstall applications, and re-tweak settings and desktop.
Monday @ home--grocery shop after work. Sleep.

Tuesday @ work--part of section team responding to Esbot virus outbreak in our company. Have to go out with 2 others to each field-site and scan, clean, update virus application, and fully patch W2K pc's. (no--we can't do it remotely in an effective way...)
Tuesday @ home--meet Dad for dinner (Bar-B-Q)

Wedensday @ work--same as Tuesday.
Wedensday @ home--Lavie mentions something about the "service engine soon" appearing on her dash.

Thursday @ work--same as Wedensday.
Thursday @ home--Lavie adds detail about engine stalling when backing out at work at end of day.

Friday @ work--same as Thursday. At 4:30pm the network analyst on my team finds a pc at work loaded with malware, Windows Updates site fails, cpu cycles getting eaten alive. Asks me to stay late. He runs a W2K repair--no help. Runs CCleaner. Cleans a load of stuff off. Still wacked out. Lets me take a crack. Boot in safe-mode and run HiJack This. Find loads of stuff. Clean and's back. Tried to kill it with ProcessExplorer--respawns process with a new name. Not a good sign. Two hours later I get the system cleaned up and running like a top again. Ended up having to swap out malware exe files with text files using same name, locking files down in 2K security settings to keep from executing, fixing LSP sockets, reinstalling IE6 several times, re-registering cryptographic services. The bad boys were Nail.exe/Aurora. See they tracked down the Zobot virus writers. Good! Now if they can find and beat senseless the Esbot guys that are ruining this week and probably the next month for me. Yuck--got home at 8pm.
Friday@home--Ate a Hungerbuster combo from the local DairyQueen. Got a couple of Oreo-Blizzards for Lavie and Alivis as a makeup treat for coming home late. Watched Kim Possible on tv with Lavie and Alvis, then read chapter 13 of the HBP to the girls. On tv--flipped between Astros@Dodgers and the History Channel.

Saturday @ home--
This morning found a tool that might help save some time in the future with the Nail.exe/Aurora just. Decided to take Lavie's car into the dealership. It's a 2001 with only 33,000 miles. Diagnostics say it is a failing air-flow meter (hardware). Think they can fix it before 2pm today. Hope so. Need to take out 2nd mortgage to afford part. Don't ask how much it is.... Going to fold some laundry, play some KingdomHearts on Alvis's PS2. Sulk.

see you in the skies.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Dad's Stained Glass Window....

I've been meaning to get this posted for quite a while. Back in May 2002 Dad completed work on this stained glass windows. The window is 46" wide and 30" high. It has about 2000 pieces and took about 8 months to complete (not counting designing the pattern, etc). The center section is from Tiffany's "Irises and Magnolias" window and the right, left and bottom section detail he added to turn Tiffany's vertical window into a horizontal window. It is mounted over his family's whirlpool soaking tub in their master bathroom. Dad can leave more details in the comments if he wants, but I believe he won a couple of competitions with it. Seems to pretty for just visitors to the bathroom to see. Go to my Flickr page of this photo or here for a large size image. Good work Dad! I know you are really proud of it!

Growing up, Mom and Dad both did lots of stained glass work for a hobby. We had beautiful windows all over the house. Even my brother and I got into the act. The smell of burned flux, the clink of breaking glass, and the high pitched tear of glass cutting filled the workshop end of our home as youth. Our parents are very crafty.

Lavie, Alvis and I caught "March of the Penguins" last night. What a wonderful movie. It had some harsh moments (real-life circle of life stuff). The detail they captured on the penguins' feathers is spectacular. The whole movie theatre was packed. We usually get there 25 min early so we get good seats. Lavie likes to sit in the top back seats so she can get up and stretch often. Of course, we usually end up eating all the snacks before the movie gets too far in, oh well.

Of course that experience leads me to want to make a list....

List #1--Top 10 Reasons I don't often go to the movies much any more!
  1. Cost--I could by a DVD for the price of our three movie tickets/snacks--and keep it as a souvineer!
  2. Snacks--I see them popping it, but the popcorn just tastes like packing pellets.
  3. Sticky floors--enough said.
  4. Crappy movies--same old formulas, same old plots--almost nothing orginal.
  5. Undisciplined children #1--The isles/stairs are not playgrounds for your kids during the movie people!
  6. Nasty bathrooms--Lavie says there never is enough toliet paper in the ladies' rooms.
  7. Undisciplined children #2--I paid to listen to the movie, not listen to your child chatter all movie long to you, to me, and to his/her imaginary friend.
  8. Public behavior--Even though it is dark, it is a public space--not your living room people--act accordingly!
  9. Cell phones #1--People holding long and loud conversations on their cell phones.
  10. Cell phones #2--TURN IT OFF!
Good thing--we caught the trailer to the new Harry Potter movie--The Goblet of Fire. Awesome! Also saw one for Tim Buron's "The Corpse Bride." Trailer here.

Stayed up way too late last night (early this morning?) flipping between "Dune" and "Thunderball/Goldfinger" on cable TV.

Quite a few people are putting up random music suffles from their iPods. Here is todays. (I have quite a few Japanese titles where the kanji doesn't convert to Unicode--I haven't figured out how/if I can display the kanji on my iTunes. My iPod handles it ok, though.) The Rules: Shuffle your entire music collection, click Play, and report the first 20 tracks, no matter what. This week's list is formatted as song title, artist, and album (in italics):

List#2--Top 20 iPod shuffle list
  1. When I Fall In Love, Celine Dion, The Colour Of My Love
  2. You Found Me, Kelly Clarkson, Breakaway
  3. Cloud Age Symphony, Shuntaro Okino, Last Exile O.S.T. 1
  4. Bright Sunny South, Alison Krauss & Union Station, New Favorite
  5. Photograph, Please Twins, Please Twins
  6. Leaving Hogwarts, Hollywood Star Orchestra, Music From Harry Poter And The Philiosopher's Stone
  7. Amigos Para Siempre (Friends For Life)(With Jose Carreras), Sarah Brightman, The Andrew Lloyd Webber Collection
  8. Selfish-b, Shinkichi Mitsumune, FLCL Fooly Cooly OST 1 - Addict
  9. Too Much Food, Jason Mraz, Waiting For My Rocket To Come
  10. Only One Road, Celine Dion, The Colour Of My Love
  11. Big Red, Count Basie, Count Basie: Verve Jazz Masters 2
  12. Aim For The Heart, Yuki Matsuoka, Magical Shopping Arcade Abenobashi OST: Abenobashi Magical Music Mansion
  13. The Chamber Of Secrets, Hollywood Star Orchestra, Music From Harry Potter And The Chamber Of Secrets
  14. Kaspar's Audition; Journey to Vienna, Philharmonia Orchestra, The Red Violin
  15. Dear Joan, Rob Thomas, Something More
  16. The Trees, Rush, The Spirit Of Radio - Greatest Hits (1974-1987)
  17. Moon Marguerite, The Pillows, Penalty Life
  18. Wakaranai yo, kimi no kimochi, Please Twins, Please Twins
  19. Say It Ain't So, Sarah Vaughan, Verve Jazz Masters 18: Sarah Vaughan
  20. You And I Both, Jason Mraz, Waiting For My Rocket To Come
See you in the skies!

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Me Sick, W2K Sick, Harry Potter Podcasts.....& oh yeah! Japanese Shrine Maidens too!

Ok...Dentist said my teeth looked great for not seeing a dentist in so long. No cavities, just some cleaning. Doctor found an infected gland under my jaw. Believes pressure/pain spread to my lower jaw/teeth. That what has been bringing on the headaches. I've been eating antibiotics all week. Yummy.

I'm finally getting used to my new glasses. Our friendly family optician realigned them and that has helped. My sunglasses came in as well. They are wicked-bad looking--now I need to get my abs cut! Only "problem" is that the extreme curvature of the lenses seems to change the depth-of field slightly on the peripherals. If I look directly through the center it isn't a problem, but when I am driving and glance at the dash or walking and look at the ground without moving my head-it is a little off/wierd. I've just had them since Tues. so I hope my eyes will figure it out in a while.

Been a bad day for the Windows 2000 world. Almost all of my time this week at work has been spent responding to the Esbot/Zotob virus outbreak that brought down a lot of other companies. Been cleaning and patching lots of desktop machines since we don't seem to have a very good patch/update policy (?political group turf issues?). But that isn't my area, I'm just an end-stream sysadmin who has to clean up the mess.

So, what can you do? Well, get patched first. Get ALL your Windows Upadates, but if you don't, at least get this one that fixes the hole this worm is taking advantage of. Next--if you don't have an antivirus program--scan/clean your machine. Use the Symantec standalone cleaners or the Microsoft Malicious Software tool. If it were me, I would download the tool and run it off the local drive--it is very fast.

Mugglenet is now offering Harry Potter Podcasts for discussions of the series by fans. It is pretty fun to listen to. They have two podcasts right now and also offer transcripts if you don't want to download the honkin-big .mp3 files.

I'm thinking of starting a campaign to get MegaTokyo's Piro to Podcast his anime-convention appearances. He mentioned considering it at the very bottom of his blog. Let's hope so!

Bonus Linkage:

March of the Penguins -- going to see this movie this afternoon with Lavie and Alvis.
KeyPass -- freeware password manager software--updated version.
MPUI -- freeware video software -- plays DVD files!
XPredit -- freeware XP registry setting tweaker.
Milky Way Bar -- scientists discover there really IS a MilkyWay bar out there...who knew?
Psychopathic Boss Quiz -- find out if your suspicions are true!
Solving the Enigma of Kryptos -- for all you spy fans out there.
Japanese Shrine Maidens -- beautiful photo-spread--kawaii!

See you in the skies!

Sunday, August 14, 2005

New Goggles....

I guess I really should say "new glasses." After 8 years since my last pair, I started to feel some eye-strain so found an eye-doctor on our insurance and got a new Rx. He said it wasn't a very big change at all and just increased the power slightly. Alvis needed a new new Rx also. That was about 2 weeks ago. We got our new glasses in from our local optician last Thursday. Alvis has adjusted quickly to hers. I am still having a little bit of problem. Of course, I've been in bed since Thurday with a massive headache (migrane Rx meds didn't even faze it). Last night my back molar starting hurting on my jaw as well. Lavie says she thinks I have a toothache and that could be causing the headache. Now she says the right side of my face looks a little puffy as well. Great...back to the doctor & dentist. (Come to think of it, I don't think I've seen a dentist in almost 10 years. Hmmm. Kids, don't try that at home.)

Inside the house I don't seem to have much of a problem with the new glasses. I went outside to cut the yard and my vision felt a little off. Of couse, I understand that it might take up to a week to adjust to the new strength. And laying in bed watching tv and trying to ignore my pounding head for the past several days doesn't help. I really need to get outside and make my eyes train/work at distance viewing better (I am near sighted) with the new Rx.

The frames are pretty cool. I think they call them "rimless". My previous ones had a conventional frame on the top and rimless bottoms. They worked out great. I picked the new ones out so that top-frame rim wouldn't bug me as much looking at the computer screens as much. Plus when I tried them on, they melted away and almost disappear. Lavie really can see my eyes now. Kawaii! Only drawback is they are much more delicate. Almost like a lacewing. (So light I don't know they are on and might fall asleep in them.) I also will have to go back and have the optician adjust them (no I haven't sat on them!).

The lenses seem to be slightly "out of plane". The right one sits just a little bit more forward than the left. Maybe that is also causing the problem. We use a local family optican, not the "budet" eyeglass places. And the link is just for illustration, not a recommendation for that online eyeglass dispenser. Oh yeah, I also had them coated with the latest version of that anti-glare stuff. Supposed to help much more with florescent (can you say sysadmin cubicle?) lighting as well as night-driving headlight glare. We will see. These are much easier to keep clean than the first anti-glare coatings I had over 12 years ago. Those were very green when tilted in the light and were horrible to keep from getting streaky. I didn't have my most recent (former) pair coated with that stuff because of it. I think these have Zeiss anti-reflective brand coatings.

I have those old ones still and am tempted to swap back out since my head hurts so much, but figured if I have made it this far, one more day shouldn't be too bad.

Alvis got hers in the photo-sensitive style so hers change to dark outside. That will probably help her with her headaches and light-sensitivity. I got a pair of new sunglassess also--but they are a sport-style with a dark tint. I had them polarized (I love that!) and a light blue mirror reflective coating added as well. Alvis calls them "cop-classes." She thinks my current sunglass style is more "federal-agent" like. Those are still in production so I haven't got them yet. Otherwise I would be comparing the Rx between the two new pairs to see if that is a problem as well.

Next month, Lavie gets her "googles" updated.

Busted! ...Lavie caught me blogging. Back to bed....

Working on seeing you in the skies (clearly!)

Friday, August 12, 2005

Identity Theft Trojan Scanner now available....

Sunbelt software has now released their stand-alone scanner for this id-theft Trojan. Get it now. It is small, fast and good. (I was clean--of course. Are you?) Many anti-virus companies are now adding it into their DAT list as well so make sure your DATS are current.

As I posted over in the TechBlog comments:

Regardless of the "who-found-what-first" or "it's-a-variant" game. I must say, I really appreciate the fact that Sunbelt Software posted a stand-alone application scanner/remover for this trojan. I think it goes a long way for a company's ethics that they care enough about the general web-public to research, design and then post a product that will help all web-users verify the integrity of their system.

Now, I don't use Sunbelt Software's applications. I use my own "holy-trinity" of applications I have tested over the years as a sysadmin. But I will be downloading the trial version of their primary malware tool to review very soon. Good job guys.

As Eric Howes Rogue Anti-Spyware list shows, many unscrupulious vendors claim to detect problems, then offer to sell you their cleaning tool to fix 'em. What you get are a lot of "false-positives" a download full of malware masquerading as anti-malware and a lighter wallet.

So when a company finds a problem, could make a buck off your misfortune, but offers a SMALL, FAST and FREE standalone scanner--Kudos. I personally use Grisoft's antivirus program, but likewise am impressed with McAfee offering their standalone anti-virus/trojan scanner known as STINGER. No it doesn't scan for everything, but having a little FREE stand-alone scanner (kept on my flash-drive) to scan possibly infected systems is a real plus. Keeping these apps small is a real plus for the folk still on dial-up. Many don't have the time or patience to leave their pc on overnight to download a 10+MB application to scan/clean their pc.

On the otherhand, I find it "interesting" that while identity-theft news stories are pretty "sexy" right now, no major media outlet (cable/broadcast/radio) has picked up this identity-theft case and the implications for users. Unless you are in IT or know someone who is, or maybe follow some malware/IT blog, there is a chance your pc could be infected, your identity snatched, and you are still clueless and wouldn't begin to know how to respond to check/clean your pc.

Wow. Now THAT is really scary.

--edit-- This message thread at CNet seems to indicate that some users are getting some false-positives on their systems with this tool. Not real clear yet what is going on. If you are getting results that indicate you have this trojan with this tool, might want to check back with Sunbelt's tool download location and see if they update the tool version in the next couple of days.

Also that thread mentions this PCWorld article. In it a freeware security tool is mentioned to check the Protected Storage area of your Windows pc. It is a tiny app that you might find reveals some information that you would rather not list. The tool is called Protected Storage Passview (PSPV).

Hope to see you in clear blue skies!

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

(Please welcome our Grand Stream Dreams guest blogger...Alvis)

Hi, I'm Alvis!

I like to write, draw, paint and play soccer. I watch a lot of anime. right now I am working on a story called "Hope 'n Evil". I'm going to start my 2nd year in soccer soon.I love to spend lots of time with my family, especially my cousins: Ed, Winry, and Ally. Ed is 7, Winry is 3 and Ally is 2. Well, since I told you about me...

See you in the skies.
Waterpark visits and keylogger ID theft Hell....

I was reading Keeper's blog today. He has been blogging about the trials of finding swim-shoes this late into the season (been there-done that) and moved on to his adventure at Splashtown, a local waterpark here in North Houston. So the times I've gone I've always been stumped on what (bare-minumum) to take into the waterpark, and how to hold onto it when your there....

In Houston, you have to drive everywhere, even to get to the waterparks. Yes we do have public Metro transportation (buses) and a Metro light-rail train that has a vehicle crash count--so far--that just reached it's 100 collision today. (Houston drivers can be dense.) But really, you have to drive everywhere to get anywhere here in Houston. Oops, I'm going off on a tangent!

So you have to take (1) your car key since you want to lock your car up. If you are a guy, next we have to settle with what to do about the wallet. Leave it locked in the car--I guess? An uncomfortable decision at best. Maybe your drivers license (2) can come with you. If it's in good shape, the plastic cover should keep it protected. Credit/debit card (3)? And (4), cash.

What do you put them in now? I picked up a waterproof bag at Academy once. (I've seen the "torpedo-tubes" you can seal up and put around your next, but they look clunky and uncomfortable.) The waterproof bag idea worked medium well. Everything was damp (cash was soaked) but the key/cards were ok. I guess you could get a locker, but I don't trust them with anything so valuable. What do you do? What is your plan when you visit a water park. Ladies? Any suggestions from your side?

This keylogger/spyware identity theft issue is getting worse and worse. If you don't know what I am talking about, read this for an intro. Sunbelt Software now has some more results on their initial analysis posted on their blog site. Susie at Spyware Warrior has some good tips on a response if you think you got infected with this bad-puppy. They report they are working on a standalone scanner for it. I hope they get one out fast. From the Sunbelt blog site:


– It’s footprint is extremely small — about 26k.

– It seems related to the CoolWebSearch gang, but that is still not certain.

– It is related to the Dumador/Nibu family of trojans. The keylogger executable is winldra.exe.

– It runs under Internet Explorer (IE), so it is generally undetectable by a software or hardware firewall. So much for my ranting about the need to run a software firewall.

– It turns off the Windows firewall.

– It steals data in the IE Protected Storage area.

– It steals data from the Windows clipboard

– It steals logins and passwords from a number of programs, including WebMoney, Far Manager and Total Commander.

– It modifies the host file to stop access to Trend Micro,,, Etrust/Computer Associates, AVP, Kaspersky, F-secure, etc.

Please, please, please! Run an anti-virus program on your pc and keep the DAT files up to date. Run at least one anti-spyware scanner on your pc. Run a firewall on your pc (besides the XP one!). There are LOTS of great free ones. Yes there are others besides the ones I linked to. Just pick some and stick with them! Use them! Ignorance is not bliss on the internet, it is $$$EXPENSIVE$$$. Good luck.

See you in the skies.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Passings, Landings, and Surprise Bloomings....

Sunday night I was checking out the landing times for the shuttle mission and saw the notice that Peter Jennings had passed away. Back in the "pre-cable" days, Peter and Tom Brokaw were the two men who helped interpret the changing world around us. When Tom retired, Peter remained a calm, professional, yet warm voice who helped me make sense about the world. He didn't chatter. Didn't raise his voice and bark on-screen. He knew his stuff and guided us through the confusion. He was a consumate professional. I think he really gave an excellent example of what I expect a news leader--no--a true journalist to be. He soothed our frayed and distraught nerves and heat during the 9-11 days. We felt pride when he took American citizenship and joined our country (one that his special programs about America helped show us who have always lived here a perspective only his could deliver). And we felt concern when he stepped off the air due to his illness. I felt sadness watching and listening to his final goodbye on air that night. Peter will be missed, and he will never be replaced.

Alvis and I have been getting up in the wee morning hours for the past two days hoping to catch the shuttle's landing. Today it finally paid off. It was so exciting watching the landing. Good job team (that goes for the whole NASA family)! Alvis announced that she wanted to be an astronaut so she could work on the moon. I remember in the home I grew up in...there was a small coat-closet underneath the stairs. If you crawled behind the coats, there was just enough room to make a hidden clubhouse. I had gotten somehow a collection of NASA publicity photos of space ships and things. I covered the walls with them and an old National Geographic poster of the moon's surface. It was awesome. There was probably more space in there than the Gemini capsules. I really wanted to be an astronaut. I even flirted briefly with going to the Air Force Academy. Yesterday, Alvis wanted to be a teacher, today an astronaut. Aren't the dreams and hopes of youth a precious thing? We will miss the shuttle when it is retired. I hope that the Johnson Space Center gets one for permanent display. The new CEV that will replace it doesn't seem near as cool looking, but then in consideration, the Apollo landers look pretty clunky but were awesomely cool. In an age spoiled by sci-fi special effects, coolness reigns, but in real space, form always follows function.

We have some hibiscus plants on the side of our home that the former owner planted. They recently got over the roof-line and needed to be trimmed back. They bloom almost non-stop. I felt really guilty about cutting them back a little bit. I read on the internet when the best time to prune was, how to do it, and about saving cuttings. The middle of summer was not described as an optimal time to try. Oh well, what do I know. Lavie and I collected the most promising looking clippings, dunked them in some rooting powder, stuck them in some large pots and watered them. 80% have died out, but the remaining 20% are leafing out very nicely and one or two even bloomed those humongus red-pink blooms! Wow. Who would have guessed. I hope we have 4-5 survivors when the summer is over. It would be nice to be able to plant them alongside their original bushes.

See you in the skies.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Linux Live CD's

Who needs a Linux "Live" CD? -- You do.

What is a Linux "Live" CD? -- It basically is a bootable CD that contains a version of the Linux operating system. If your pc is able to boot from your CD drive, you have a good chance of being able to use one. (See the Wikipedia for more information about "Live CD's.)

What can you do with a Live CD? has a list of 10 things. (Those and some more with my preferences noted instead below...)

All of these are FREE! A broadband connection is best for attempting downloads as sizes of the ISO file can run between 45-800MB. There are lots of good books out on these, my all-time favorite is Knoppix Hacks by O'Reilly Press. It is awesome! and comes with a cd of the Knoppix distribution. Some distributions even support booting a pc from a USB device (assuming your motherboard supports it...)

Once you have downloaded the ISO file, use your preferred cd-burning tool to burn the ISO image to disk (don't burn a copy of the ISO file to the cd, burn the ISO file contents to cd--read your burning software help-file for more info.)

I carry several of the above distributions with my in my sysadmin CD case collection at all times. I pick and choose depending on what I want to accomplish. However, my "daily-use" pick is Damn Small Linux.

Even if you are not ready to take the Linux plunge and switch. These are a great way to find out what all the Linux talk is about, get your feet wet, and do some learning. All without touching your current pc setup's hard-drive configuration!

  • side note--I'm not really happy with my current blog font. I will be experimenting for a while with other fonts to decide which I like best. Please be patient!

See you in the Skies!


Saturday, August 06, 2005

Yatsubato! (...and thinpack sets)

A new manga series we are reading now is Yatsubato! Volume 2 was just released this month. It is the wacky brainchild of Azuma Kiyohiko (blog) who wrote the cute manga series Azumanga Daioh. Yatsuba is a 6-year old child full of energy. She sees and responds to the world around her in the way only a 6-year old's wisdom can grasp. It is a delightfully refreshing comedy. There is some seriousness about it, but it is very nice to laugh again at the sillyness of the release of 1000's of ciacada's in a home by a well-meaning 6-year old.

Innocence is a precious commodity these days. (We're not Afraid! and Runny Babbit Tales)

We started watching Azumanga Daioh in the anime form before picking up the manga version as well. It follows the high-school adventures of a group of very diverse (personality-wise) Japanese girls. From first year to graduation. We couldn't help but fall in love with them. It isn't deep. At all. More like a light spring breeze. It comforts you then moves on. Comparisons have been made to Seinfeld. (Samples of Azumanga Diaho manga series here.)

Lavie and I have been picking up quite a bit more manga than we used to. We started out as anime fans (and still are) but now tend to bring home 4 or more manga for every one DVD we get. Price is not really a factor. Al has her own manga series she likes. So why the switch? Well, it's not really the tie-in factor (where you get manga versions of an anime series). We do have some of those. No, I think it is the fact that the manga can tell an even deeper storyline and provide more fleshed out characterizations than the anime can. For instance, Lavie loves the "Love Hina"manga as previously blogged--even though she has never seen any of the anime versions. And I really enjoy Video Girl AI in manga--despite having seen the anime version.

Plus, you can read and take it all in at your own pace. Anime is kinda like riding a roller-coaster. You get on, you have a blast. You get off, a little dizzy. Then you go back to the end of the line and wait forever in mixed excitement for the next ride. Manga is more like that jungle-riverboat-adventure. You get on, you slowly cruise the ride, you get time to pick out the various sights along the way and linger your attention on those that interest you. Relaxing. Manga is also gaining in popularity with the general public.

Which brings me to my second issue--anime "thinpack" sets. Generally, when you buy anime titles you spend at least $29.99 for a single DVD that may run about 90min in length. Anime shows can average anywhere from 2 or more DVD's in the series. Some have over 10. That adds up to a hefty investement. Plus you have to often wait a month or more between episode releases. Granted, you may get some "extras" with these: commentary inserts, collectible pins, art cards... On the other hand, anime distributors have recently been releasing complete sets. Sometimes in a "thinpack" set (where each DVD is housed in a thiner DVD case without most of the extras), sometimes in a "brick" set where the DVD's are housed in one DVD case, and sometimes a compilation set where the epsiodes have been crammed together on one or two DVD's total.

I'm really mixed on this (as are a lot of anime fans). Anime collecting is a pretty expensive persuit--not at all for the faint-of-heart. If it is a series I am just blown-away by (like Last Exile) and I have to have all the art/collectibles--then I will lean to picking up the individual DVD's. If it is a series that I like, but not crazy-wild about (or has more than 4-5 DVD's in the entire series), I will almost certainly wait the extra 6 months to a year and get the the box-set (thinpack/brick). This is usually much cheaper as well. I bought the Magical Shopping Arcade Abenobashi series one-by-one at an overall investment of $120. Now it is coming out in a thinpack set for $49.99. See what I mean? Did I like Abenobashi? You bet! Kinda like the Marx brothers on celluloid crack--with Texas accents...who wouldn't like that?! Would I rather have spent $50 on it, yep. Now, I do plan to pick up the individual series DVD boxes on Ghost in the Shell: Standalone Complex, AIR, Ah! My Goddess (TV) and CowboyBebop-Remix. On the other hand, I think I will be waiting for the thinpacks on R.O.D. : the TV, Kino's Journey, and MadLax. Now, if I could just get word that Yotsuba is going to be made into anime....

Tangental topic: I was driving home yesterday from work listening to NPR and heard that August 6th, 1945 is the date Hiroshima was bombed with an atomic weapon. They had an audio copy of an eyewitness's account of the bombing from an English speaking Russian emigrant who lived just outside the city. A photo gallery here. It struck me how far we have come in the (60 years?) since. Our family eats at a local Japanese sushi-bar. We buy loads of Japanese anime and manga and music. We watch Korean and Japanese movies and TV dramas weekly. Lavie works at a local German-owned chemical manufacturing plant, and I am a 7th generation German American. I did not live in the WWII America. I will never know the anger and pain our nation felt during that period of our history. I have only seen the pictures. I am deeply and utterly moved by the Pearl Harbor Memorial. Many historians believe the decision likely saved hundreds of thousands of lives (civilian and soliders) on both sides had American forces invaded Japan by force.

I am deeply proud of the sacrifices America and its soldiers/citizens made for my family during WWII. I am deeply proud today to be an American (and Texan!). At the same time, I also think we are all still living with the ongoing cost of the aftermath.

I just feel sad thinking about it...that's all. Geesh, now I've got to go watch some more Azumanga Diaho, right after I give Alvis and Lavie a hug.

Bonus linkage:
Finally, I have finished reading Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince to Lavie and Alvis (along with the other 3/4 of the world's population). Wow. Didn't expect all that. What the #%#^@#$ was JKR thinking? So much to think about....while we have to wait another 2 years or so for the final volume. Oh, this was pretty funny, but don't go (spoiler warning!!) HERE unless you have read the entire HP&THBP book first (or if you just don't care and want to save $20).

See you in the skies.