Sunday Links

A crackling fire, hot soup, Lord of the Rings, and you.

First, a Comic-con coming to Chicago in 2010? That ought to make up for the all the fun with Blago and Burris. Makes it being worth two hours away. Now if we can just bring Worldcon to Chicago, life would be ducky.

Bummer. Google Notebook is no longer in development, which means that if you’ve been thinking about using it, but haven’t gotten around to the site, it won’t let you, since they aren’t taking on new users. Luckily, those who do use it, like me, will still be able to use the service. We won’t just get new updates or anything. Sad.

Hey, Inanimate Alice fans! The British Council is looking into using the game as a vehicle for teaching English. To help boost this on, they’re asking people to play the game and rate how good it is. The more high ratings they get, the likelier the chance that we get new episodes. Go vote!

Writer’s Digest has a good article: "10 Disciplines for Fiction Writers". I found a good motivational tool these past couple of weeks.

And for fun:

I didn’t know that Mur Lafferty was a They Might Be Giants fan. She’s taken to writing flash stories for each of the tidbits in the "Fingertips" song from the TMBG album "Apollo 18". Right now, I’m banging my head, thinking, "Why didn’t I think of that." Of course, the last time I wrote a story based on a song, it became much longer than a flash…

And what’s Garfield minus Garfield? Actually, pretty hilarious, and slightly disturbing. Check it out!

More Friday Fun with Vocaloids

Moving back into my regular schedule of posting, I got some more vocaloid video fun. It’s Anime Music Night at the Cafe!

Miku Miku ni Shite Ageru

So ever since I’ve gotten into Vocaloids, I’ve been getting more into Miku Hatsune. There’s also a proliferation of 3D vocaloid videos as well which are fun to watch. This one, “Miku Miku ni Shite Ageru” is a promotional video that introduces Miku. No subtitles, but it’s fun to watch.

Do – Dai

Here’s Rin in 3-D! This happens to be one of Daniel’s favorite videos. And yes, Daniel watches Vocaloid videos. What’s it to ya?

I included the video above so the next video would make more sense:

Virtual Insanity

This is Jamiroquai’s “Virtual Insanity“. The makers of this video using Jamiroquai’s original vocals, but they’ve done an awesome job of matching all of his movies.  There is a way to see a comparison of the two videos here. I particularly like what they substituted for the ‘bugs’ in the original video.

Baby’s Star Jam by De De Mouse

Pay attention to the shooting stars. This is my favorite Vocaloid video. It’s so beautifully crafted–wonderful use of light and percussive rhythm. It makes you feel like you’re attending a Japanese Festival.

And finally, because you can’t have Vocaloids without being weird:

Pylori’s song

The Japanese title for this is “Pirori kin no uta”. “Kin” in English is “bacteria”. “Pirori” refers to the Helicobacter pylori that resides in the stomach and has been linked to ulcers and cancer. And “uta” means “song”,  so what we got here is a “Pylori’s Song”, a cute little song about a stomach-eating bacteria.

I kid you not. I actually figured out the lyrics to this. Now mind, I’m not terribly good at translation, but the most I’ve figured out goes something like this:

Inside your body there is (a)
Pylo, pylo, pylo, pylo, pylori kin
A stomach eating bacteria
Pylo, pylo, pylo, pylo, pylori kin

But it has a somewhat cute name
The Fast name
“Helicobacter Pylori” kin
Pylo, pylo, pylo, pylo, pylori kin
Pylo, pylo, pylo, pylo, pylori kin…

But it has a somewhat cute name
The stomach eating, wonderful bacteria
“Helicobacter Pylori” kin
Pylo, pylo, pylo, pylo, pylori kin
Pylo, pylo, pylo, pylo, pylori kin…

Yeah. I know.

Have some Pop Candy to wash all that sweetness down.

Saturday Links: Educational, Functional and Just Plain Fun!

I got three links on today’s menu for your reading pleasure.

The first one is a educational initiative. Long ago, a while back, I wrote about watching the 1st season of Electric Company. Well, it looks like they want to bring it back. The people behind the Sesame Street Workshop are applying for a $1.5 million project grant from American Express–but they need votes to get their project, ‘Bridging the Literacy Gap for Millions of Kids’, nominated onto the voting round.

The deadline for the first round of voting is September 1, 2008. To vote, go to the Project Voting Page at the American Express website and nominate the ‘Bridging the Literacy Gap for Millions of Kids’ website. You will need to sign up as a Guest Member, but once you do, you’ll be able to vote for the project. Let’s bring the Electric Company back to the airwaves!

The second one has me bouncing on my toes in excitement. A new upgrade has been released for Writer’s Cafe. Far be it from me to promote another cafe here, but Writer’s Cafe is an excellent writer’s program I’ve been using for roughly two years now. It consists of many tools that help you organize your writing: the scrapbook, for instance, keeps track of your research, websites and notes. The Storylines tools is a storyboard where you can pin scenes of your story up and move them around as needed. The program also comes with a journal, a notebook, writing prompts, a timer, and an option to display inspirational quotes and writing tips upon startup of the program.

The new version is vastly improved over the old version: in the past, Storylines and Writer’s Cafe were two separate programs. The upgrade meshes them together in one. It includes a name generator and a pinboard where you can post notes and ideas. It opens on a start page where you can place shortcuts to your works-in-progress, Wikipedia and other pages, shortcuts within the program, etc.

What I like most about Writer’s Cafe program is the technical support. The program was created by Julian and Harriet Smart, the latter being a novelist. They are constantly looking for ways to improve the program and welcome suggestions. While I was beta testing the upgrade, I found myself using the Notebook to freewrite first drafts of stories and wanted to know how many words I’ve written. I suggested this to Julian, and with the next beta release, the word count feature was included in both the Journal and the Notebook! That was pretty nice.

For a download of $45 bucks ($65 if you want a CD-ROM version), it’s well worth the price. If you’re wary, you can download the beta and test it out here. But to me, this is the best writing software out there. Check it out now!

And finally, a YouTube video from CollegeHumor called “Font Conference”, for all you people who work with finding the right font to write in. Enjoy!

Links of Interest: Keys to Publishing Contest & ARG News

I know the contest has already started, but I wanted to get this link up while the contest is still happening. There’s a contest that the people behind Adventures in SciFI Publishing and I Should Be Writing are collaborating on called “The Keys to Publishing”. You basically listen to their podcasts, starting with AISFP #56 and ISBW #94, listen for the key and write it down, and when you have all six, email them to with “Keys” in the title. Two lucky winners will receive a set of books from publishers Tor and Pyr SF, featuring their latest titles.

So why should you care? Because each ‘key’ is given by a well-known author, as well as the reasoning behind that key’s title. Sean Williams, Jay Lake, Tobias S. Buckell, to name a few. And it’s fun to listen to, even if you don’t plan to enter the contest. Either way, aspiring authors will get a lot of it.

The only other link I have today is not a writing one, but a (surprise!) gaming one. After the experience of reading the Artificial Intelligience: A.I. ARG, I decided to take the plunge and try out an ARG for myself. There are many websites that speak about ARGs, but the ones that stood out to me was ARGnet, which blogs about the ongoing ARGs that are in play on the Net, and Unforum, a great forum for players to talk about the latest games as well as post rumors on new ones. Through the both of these, I’ve learned of a game that will be put on, by all places, the Smithsonian called “Luce’s Lover’s Eye”. (You can read an article about it here, and to see the actual entry point into the game, you can go to this page here and find the secret link on the upside down writing). I don’t know what’s going to happen when the game starts in about a month, but I’m sure it’s going to be quite an experience.

Contests and eye games, oh my! Looks like the rest is of my summer is going to be pretty busy. Oh yes, and I’ll be writing. Can’t forget about that. Yeah. Writing.

What’s on LaShawn’s iPod? Well, nothing since I don’t have an iPod…but I do have a reasonable enough facsimile…

So I’ve been listening to a lot of podcasts lately. It’s been an unexpected benefit of working part-time. That’s not to say that I haven’t been listening to podcasts before–in my SAHM life, it’s mainly what I did to keep from turning on the TV to, say, Oprah or The View. Cleaning time was done to podcasts. Playtime with Daniel was done to podcasts. Writing was not done to podcasts, because it distracts me. And besides, I got the Geico commercial for that…

But ever since I started working, I’ve been using my mp3 player a lot more than normal. I use it when I’m walking to work. I use it at work when I’m filing. I use it when I walk to Daniel’s daycare to pick him up. And I use it when I’m at the Circle M farm, pulling weeds or planting seeds.

It’s weird. Ever since I started working again, it’s freed up a lot of listening time. I like it, because it’s allowed me to catch up on a lot of writing podcasts that’s been building up in my iTunes. And I’ve even been able to add a couple of others I’ve been meaning to get to, but never had the time–such as short story podcasts and indie music. Having gotten around to start listening to novels, but I’m working on it.

Anyway, since I’ve been listening to so many podcasts as of late, I’ve decided to make it a weekly feature at the Cafe to give brief links to the ones I find interesting. I’m hoping to bring a bit more exposure to good stories and interesting topics. For instance, I just listened to a short story on Podcastle called “Fourteen Experiments in Postal Delivery” by John Schoffstall, a surrealistic tale of a woman receiving ‘notes’ from her ex-boyfriend. The woman comes across as rather pedantic (I’ve been dying to use this word all day) and bitchy, but the things her boyfriend sends her are hilarious and touching. I mean, what would you do if your ex sends you Spain to try to make up with you? It gets a little gory near the end, and that’s a lot from a surrealistic story, but I do have to say that the ending itself is a very nice touch.

I’ve also been catching up on my writing podcasts, which is awesome, because by the time I get home, I’m itching to write. Mostly good interviews: Mur Lafferty interviewed Matthew Wayne Selznick on “I Should Be Writing”. I just finished listening to the “Adventures in Sci Fi Publishing” interview with Kelly Link, and oooh! They just put an interview with Neil Gaiman in the feed! Better load that up!

So I’ll going to try to make this a regular feature at the Cafe. Gotta spread the love, man.

Friday YouTube Fun with Vocaloids!

So now that things have settled, I’ve been catching up on Youtube–seeing what’s out there. I stumbled upon a very interesting phenomenon: vocaloids.

Vocaloid is a synthesizer program that creates vocal music. Simply put, it is a synthesizer for the human voice. You can program it to sing, talk, do anything vocally. In Japan, there’s a special series called the “Character Vocal Series”, where each voice is assigned a ‘character’, with a name, age, and “favorite” type of music it likes to sing. The voices are based on samples from Japanese anime voice actors. Just input the music and lyrics, and out pops a song.


What’s cool is that not only are people create songs, they also create music videos that are uploaded to the Net. Most range from flat, amateurish pap with only a crudely-drawn sketch, to beautifully-drawn moving portraits.

Below are a few videos that I thought was done extremely well. The music’s wonderful, and at times, you forget that it’s only a program that singing, not a real person (though the voice is based on a real person–aw, you know what I mean…) All the singing’s done in Japanese. And yes, most of the videos below are of the young blonde hair girl, because I like her. She’s called Rin. The boy next to her is her brother Len. Both are done by the same voice actress, Asami Shimoda.

This video is called “Salvage”, and it’s about Rin learning that her brother accidentally got deleted. So she goes into the Recycle Bin to save him. Yes, it sounds hokey, but it’s actually more moving than you think.

This one is called “Kokoro”. It’s subtitled in English, so I won’t go into details, other to say that KOKORO in Japanese means “Heart” or “Soul” or “Mind”. This one happens to be my favorite video.

This one is the same is Kokoro, except it’s done by the point of view of the scientist, using Len’s vocals. It’s not subtitled, but if you’ve seen the one above, you get the gist of it.

This one is rapidly becoming my favorite as well. It’s subtitled, it’s twisted, it’s demented, and it’s absolutely divine.

And just to show that I do listen to other Vocaloids other than Rin/Len:

You can find more vocaloid videos at YouTube. Just type in “Vocaloid”. Watch out though. You just might get hooked.

After many years of waiting, the Quest is in sight (maybe)

I only pray that it’s animated. But still–exciting news nonetheless. Hmm…so giving stuff out for free can have some good in it after all…


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