Final Fantasy X

I played the first three hours of Final Fantasy X the other day.

Let me put that statement into perspective. My entire experience with video games in the past consists of the first two levels of SuperMario Bros. for Nintendo, jumping on little mushroom-men to stay alive (they kill you if you don’t) and collecting gold coins.

Brandon the Pirate bravely undertook the task of introducing me to the game, and with apparently infinite patience sat beside me and coached me the entire time. For this reason, Tidus—the main character—still has a life and a task to do, something beyond wandering around trying to figure out how to get off that first level where all the kids want him signing autographs.

And, now that I have actually begun to experience a serious video game, I have to say: Cool. Video games do not fit the idea I had of them till recently, which was something along the lines of Pac-Man with guns. Wander through the halls and shoot stuff. No, they have a plot, and a point, and even deep thought. For instance, the evil power in the game goes by “Sin.” Whether “Sin” is the translation of the Japanese word, or the Japanese word itself, I have yet to determine; it makes for some interesting ideas, though, from the characters’ conversations about it.

I enjoyed finding out where Tidus would go next, and killing piranha-like fish with huge teeth, and the fact that Tidus, Ahron, Brandon and I outlasted the tentacled tower thing in fair battle. I also enjoyed watching the story progress.

As for my current position in the game: I like the Hawaiian sort of a place where we left Tidus about to play blitz-ball with the surfer-dudes. Wakku, the head surfer-dude, cracks me up. He seems good-hearted and loveable. That girl with the bad taste in clothes got left in the last level, which was fine by me; as Kate Hudson says in Alex and Emma, “She’s flighty, she’s flirty, and she’s a flawed character!” Now we have a pretty, gentle girl who just called down a hot-pink eagle-looking thing. I like her. If I have anything to say about Tidus’s destiny, which I doubt, he’ll marry her.

Anyway, Tidus has begun his journey. We’ll see where he goes from here… provided the piranhas don’t get him.

P.S. I’m completely, over-the-top excited about actually making a hotlink in my own text! After a full day of studying SGML, markup languages rank tip-top on my cool list. Hopefully I’ll feel the same way about PERL tomorrow evening… wish me luck :)


The Annual Hockey Game

I don't really know exactly how it started. There's quite a mental and physical leap from Bible Study every Wednesday to street hockey every Memorial Day... unless, perchance, the demographical makeup of your group includes at least one Canadian, as well as a bunch of people who quote Strange Brew and talk like Canadians, even if they aren't from the Great White North, eh?

Ah well. However it began, it exists now in such well-rooted tradition that Brad comes down from Alaska and Matt and Darcy come up from Portland, and the Schaarschmidts and Van Deusens come from--well, right next door to each other. I go down to Anacortes from Bellingham, because traditions are sacred. One doesn't miss the hockey game.

The goals were homemade by Bill or Joel or Zack or all three, and I don't know where they got all of their hockey sticks. Or where Brad and Matt got those goalie pads. Or (and this may bring down the wrath of the hockey gods) which teams the many jerseys come from.

Nor do I know how to convey the hilarity of hearing Brad and Matt yell trash-talk at each other from the opposing goals. They generally dissolve themselves, each other, and their teammates into laughter whether or not the game is in progress. They've been known to stomp into the middle of the playing field and stick-gloves-shirt each other (you have to see the Mighty Ducks to understand that.)

Everybody plays at least a little bit. Sometimes a few of the boys wear roller blades, but most of us just strap on the good old Nikes and run around.

The hockey game brings out a side of Jennifer that shows itself only on rare occasions. Soft-spoken, ladylike me takes a day off. I don't play hockey like a lady. I put my stick right down on the pavement and throw myself into the fighting circle with the boys. The day after the game I feel more sore than at any other time during the average year.

Nobody tackles, but we all get a few bruises. This year, I blocked the ball once with each of my big toes, which would have mattered less had I worn real tennis shoes and not my Old Navy canvas shoes. Lesson learned.

The classic comic moment--and the reason for at least half my current soreness--came when Rusty V. and I ran off the pavement and into the just-rained-on grass "out of bounds" after the ball. We reached the ball, went to fight over it with our sticks, and at the same moment slipped. In an instant, both of us were on our backs on the ground. Everyone roared with laughter, none harder than the two of us. Too bad no one got that on tape. We could've sent it to Funniest Home Videos.


Only on the Drive To Work

...alone in my car...

...can I crank up "My Heart Will Go On" and belt it out at the top of my lungs, without having the rest of America tell me to turn off the World's Most Overplayed Song.

All right, I know it's cheesy! It also takes a heck of a lot of work to sing--good strong breath support, clear resonance on those high E's, and all the hyped-up emoting a girl can muster. All good nine-to-fivers build up a little stress by Friday morning! I'll guarantee that an over-the-top soulful power-performance of that song makes a superb tension release.

Hah... it doesn't make a very good mental picture though, does it? Ah well. Live a little. Don't fear to sing out when you're stopped at a traffic light. It gives those other drivers something to tell their friends about that day. Just don't close your eyes.


Spring Green

In twenty-eight years of life, I have never so looked forward to the spring.

Seattle, for eight months out of twelve, holds her own among the cities of America for beauty; the south side of Bellingham, if possible, is even prettier. We've got Mt. Baker on one side and the bay on the other, quaint little neighborhoods, and Western Washington University's campus. Western has so many hidden beauties that to appreciate it fully, one has to walk it once during the daylight, again at sunset on a clear day, and again at night, preferably in that order.

We pay for the glories of spring, summer, and fall during the winter. Everything goes gray. The sky, the streets, the buildings, the trees, the ground, the rain, the air. The clouds move down and close in on the valleys, and this girl--raised under Montana's Big Sky--finds it hard to breathe at times.

The day I could finally look out my window and see green this year made my week. And just this week, the weather changed too; the chill left the air, and even the rainy and windy days feel... well, like May instead of January.

I know that the comparison between seasons and life ranks high on the list of overused, overtired ideas, right up at the top with "You'll understand better when you grow up" and keeping Christmas in the heart all year long. So I'll just say that maybe spring this year matters not just because I missed green and blue and purple and pink and yellow so much--oh, I missed them!--but because so much of my life from December of 2004 through the past few months seems to have been about the winter cycle of dying back for the sake of regeneration.

What it all means... I don't know yet. Fair enough. God will have his little secrets. Life wouldn't be the same without them, I guess :) But of all the verses in all the books in the Bible, here's one of my favorites:

"Rise up, my love, my fair one, and come away;
For lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone,
The flowers appear on the earth,
And the time of the singing of birds is come..." Song of Solomon 2: 10-12


AI5 Finale

I just watched the American Idol results show, and I'm happy.

I got to see Clay Aiken sing.

Even with the funny little kid freaking out on stage next to him, trying with helpless tone-deaf fervor to sing along, it sounded incredible. It took me a minute to recognize him, though! Some stylist took the spiky hair and... well... let's just say that all traces of nerd got removed, leaving me with oh my GOSH! Anyways, I had no intention of watching the complete two-hour results show, but Clay made it all worth it.

And yes, it was good to see Taylor win. He accepted the honor with true grace. Katharine played her part well, too, and all in all it was a good show.

Not having watched the beginning auditions, I didn't hear this till yesterday, but in Taylor's audition he said something that I respected. If for no other reason, I'm glad he won for this. One of the judges had asked him something along the lines of "Why are you trying out for American Idol?" He answered:

"I want my voice heard."

"Why?" Simon asked.

"Because I think I have one."

Way to go, Taylor Hicks.

...And, that's all for American Idol this year.

AI5 Three Hours and Counting

Yes, I intended to post yesterday, but yesterday kept me too busy. I almost didn't get the program watched. Of course I watched it though... well, most of it.

Seeing Chris Daughtry smiling in the audience did my heart good. Finals night wasn't the same without him.

I can't retract last week. Taylor should win. He sang last night like he'd already won the competition; it would surprise me big-time if he didn't.

That said, Katharine McPhee still stands as one of my favorites of the season. Her performances get lower marks from Simon and the gang sometimes, but usually I have no idea why. Maybe they all hold memberships in Ella Fitzgerald's fan club, and they don't like anyone else singing her songs.

Which brings me to my next point: Who does the writing for the "original songs" that form a part of the finals every year? I could write songs like that in fifteen minutes, while talking on the telephone and washing dishes. Well, maybe not quite that fast. But the shameful excuses they put out for "possible first single" just gag me, and they get worse every year.

My opinion on the business is that the AI songwriting machine made short work of Clay Aiken's career, which could have gone on for decades fed by writers of Art Garfunkel's caliber. His rendition of Bridge Over Troubled Water was ten-minute-standing-ovation good. The same could not be said of Invisible, or worse yet, The Way (anyone even remember that song?)

Clay Aiken's Christmas album, on the other hand, showcased his true talent. That boy can outsing just about anyone on the pop charts nowadays. He's also much more likeable than almost anyone on the pop charts nowadays. Ahhh, there I go ranting... I know he's just as happy helping special needs kids as singing, but I miss the guy. Forgive my tirade.

Best wishes to Taylor and Katharine, whatever happens.


AI5 Top 3

Taylor should win.

I felt bad for Katharine. She's obviously had a rough week. To overcome that with a strong performance takes a lot of nerve. She sang beautifully--yes, Simon, even on the Ella Fitzgerald song--but her face didn't seem to show a lot of hope. I missed her usual dazzle.

The unofficial news tells me that Elliot went home. Fair enough.

Taylor's attitude, stage presence, and ability to sing well while dancing (it's not easy, trust me) set him apart. He sang like he'd already won. He should win. Anyways, how could anyone not like someone so uninhibited and happy?



During my school years--both homeschooled and in public school--I liked test days. Tests meant no homework.

Too bad that doesn't apply to the rest of life. The past few weeks have felt remarkably like a test, only it's all homework. Let's see how Jennifer handles this problem. And this one. And this...

Despite the Bible's "Consider it all joy when you encounter various trials" (James 1) I have to say that joy has not totally been my response. At least not every day. If you'd asked me how I was Friday before last, I might have said, as Jim Carrey did in Liar Liar, "I've slipped into the seventh circle of hell, thank you!" Last Friday, I probably wouldn't have had the sense of humor to say that.

Today, the sun is out, the mood has lightened, people have encouraged me, and I get a little sense of victory from overcoming some of the difficulties. There's the joy...

Anyways, I haven't gone mostly blogless over the past two weeks out of lack of things to say. I've had too much to say, and not enough time. Maybe some of it will make its way onto this little journal eventually.


AI5 Top 4 Results

Chris Daughtry went home? Chris?!

Ryan Seacrest said that the votes have spoken. But all that proves is that reasonable people don't necessarily have time to spend two hours with the telephone every week, calling and re-calling the same phone numbers.

Out of loyalty to Katharine, I will probably watch next week; but if she leaves, would I watch a finale between Taylor and Elliot? I don't know. Taylor at least entertains me. Both guys can sing, but if it weren't for my respect for Heather's and Jessi's opinion--two good friends of mine who like his music and image--I might make a snide comment here about Elliot's ten fans and their phone-dialing skills.

The departure of Chris Daughtry poses another question: Is American Idol really well set up to produce superstars? How many of today's top rock, country and pop stars would do well in such a competition, being asked to sing different styles of music which might or might not be suitable for their voices or personalities?

Ah well. I will say this: If Chris makes an album, I'll buy it. If he makes an album with Walk The Line on it, I'll buy it the day it comes out.


AI5 Top 4... Yes, I Did Watch It

...but only because Mom taped the Gilmore Girls.

May I just say that I have never disagreed so much with Simon Cowell in any given Idol episode?

I've got to hand it to Elliot, personal taste in music aside, because he really did fight for the win last night. Despite that, I still think he's the least marketable of the four remaining, although the question of whether or not Taylor has marketing potential still has me befuddled. Of the four contestants, Chris Daughtry makes by far the most sense as an eventual superstar.

Mostly last night I just felt bad for Katharine, whom I thought sounded and looked very well till the end. At the end she seemed to tire slightly, just at the very end of her second song; and after Simon fussed at her about her evening, her expression said that she felt she'd lost already.

I personally thought that "Hound Dog" came across as likeable and fun, and that her rendition of "Can't Help Falling In Love" had a cool feeling to it. I liked the rock flavor in the bridge. Make of that what you will, Simon Cowell.


AI5 Top 5

I have to confess something.

Last night, I completely forgot to watch American Idol... much to my chagrin. Oops. I'm sure it was good. I'm sure Chris and Katharine still stand as the greatest, and Taylor as the funniest.

On the positive side, I did get my piano moved, so I don't have to relocate furniture every time I go to practice. Also, my sister Beth, who is living with me for a few weeks, hung out for one of those long, satisfying, fun girl talks that every woman needs now and again.

So... good evening for me, but if you're looking for information on American Idol, unfortunately I can't help you :)