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Pochi

Isn’t he cute?  He’s even cuter when he has a little green check above his head!

I took this picture, then another one of my inventory with the key and my game name, which I sent off to the event email.  I hope I made it in time!  I played this game hardcore all week, and now I’m really tired…
Now to get on with my Fright Spinner story and then try to get to lvl 20 and take on the Monster Wrangler event as well!  I wonder how many keys I can get before the beta is over?

If you want to be blog buddies, add me to your blogroll!

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My cat, Shadow, was howling the “I’m upset, where are you???” cry just now. When I called out, “Shadow, what’s wrong? I’m in here!” she came running in, still meowing, and dropped a piece of meat on the floor. She was so excited, at first I thought it was a mouse! But on closer look, it was just a piece of blogna.

Bologna? Where did she get that? I guess it was on the floor in the kitchen, but she ran in from a different room. And nobody else is home right now, so who dropped the bologna and how long has it been there? And why was it so exciting that she had to show me? She didn’t even finish eating it afterward, just dropped it on the carpet.

Weird cat. :p

Did I mention that I spent a year in Japan three years ago?

It’s well nigh impossible to live in Japan for any period of time without developing at least a little bit of nostalgia for bento.  Bento is simply a boxed lunch, but is usually arranged in the box to be food for the eye as well as the body.  You can buy them at 7-11s if you are a busy office executive. If you are ★really★ lucky, however, you have a Japanese mom who gets up at 5am every morning to pack you a lunch before school.  7-11 doesn’t do hot dog octopi.

  

These pictures are NOT of *my* cute little lunches– they are pictures posted on the Bento Challenge community at Live Journal.  Every week the mod posts a new theme and the members make their lunch look like the theme.  This week’s theme is “Under the Sea,” and the lunches people are posting are so cute I HAD to blog about them.  The neat thing about American bento lunches is that they contain food such as chili, bologna sandwiches, or Indian blintz.  They don’t always have a bed of rice, and the ingredients are often creative ways of reusing leftovers from last night’s dinner.  Americans may be starting to care more about making the food look good than even the Japanese do!
When I studied abroad in Tokyo for a year, I was living in a hotel room and couldn’t do any cooking beyond heating water to pour over Cup Noodle. So I mainly lived off of convenience store bento.  Imagine, 7-11 actually sells whole meals that aren’t that bad for you.  They usually consist of a bed of rice, a meat patty, maybe some tiny meatballs, a cup of noodles, a few steamed vegetables, and then a compartment of either pickled vegetables or a seaweed salad.  It’s decent food, but I lost a lot of weight due to the small portions, and the lesser quality of the vegetables and meat as compared to buying fresh ingredients and cooking for myself.  And that wasn’t good, as I’m already underweight.


The above is a typical convenience store bento, found on The Google. I lived off this stuff for a year.

And this is a typical homemade bento I found on someone’s blog.  I think those are probably hardboiled quail eggs in the lower right compartment.  7-11 put those in their bento too.  I definitely ate them, but was never 100 percent sure of exactly what they were.  They were chewy and good though!

There was a small shop near my school that made bento to sell to business people who worked in our neighborhood.  These lunches were superior to the 7-11 ones because they had freshly cooked tenpura and a whole baby octopus.  The tenpura was always good, especially the fried sweet potato slices! YUM!  But the octopus had more variable quality.  One day, my friend Anna said she wasn’t sure she wanted to eat her octopus.  The color was more of a dull puce than the usual high saturation of reddish purple.  I told her, “That is one sad little octopus,” But I was intrigued because I’d never seen a whole one before, just small chunks of larger octopi used in sushi.  I asked if she was going to eat it, and Anna said I could have it if I wanted it.  I can’t believe I ate the whooooole sad little octopus!  Anna asked me how it tasted, and the only response that seemed to do it justice was,
“It tastes sad.”

+

+

= sad little octopus!

(A Googled dramatization of the Sad Little Octopus.)

When I came back to the States, I wanted to try packing my own bento.  I found Cooking Cute to be a great resource for recipes and packing strategies. (Even though the lady who writes it is a Hawaiian mom living in on the West Coast, so she sometimes uses stuff from Trader Joes or Asian groceries that I don’t have access to.)  I tried and love the recipes for Spam musubi and tri-colored donburi.  However, I had to be stealthy with the Spam, because my roommate would flip out if I tried to fry Spam while he was in the house.  But really! Spam tastes good fried with teriyaki sauce! I swear! I wouldn’t eat it any other way.  And it DOES NOT make the kitchen smell bad if you don’t overcook it.

  (This was found on The Google.  It would be easy to make and I really wanna try it sometime.  The rolls on the right are just tuna and egg sandwiches.)

I don’t have much reason to pack my lunch today, but I like looking at and reading about other people’s lunches.  When I have kids someday I want to do the Japanese mom thing at least on special occasions like the first day of school or their birthday.


Here’s another one. Hi, I’m a 25 year old female artist currently living in Kentucky. I’m into art, video games, art as games, games as art, Japanese language and culture, and lots of different music but mostly punk or jazz.

And look, it’s an orange! My mom grew it on my back porch and it was juicy and delicious:

Currently playing: Persona 3 FES, Hello Kitty Online, and Astroboy (GBA)

Currently listening to: Charles Mingus, Frank Zappa, The Buzzcocks.

More fun facts about me:

* I love to paint in Photoshop and am starting to learn some Flash.

* I once lived in Japan for a year and I really miss it.

* TV shows I am crazy about: Mystery Science Theater 3000, Doctor Who, and Ugly Betty.

* If I could live anywhere for the rest of my life, it would be either Seattle WA or San Francisco CA.

* I love the color scheme of black, white and red. Or autumn colors.

* Fish are friends AND food! Sushi, takoyaki, and donburi for the win!

I can also be found on my site at http://euphoric-designs.net if you would like to learn even more about me :)

E - >}}}*>

 Ok! Back to happy upbeat things for a while!  Fun weird fact: while I was taking a bath this morning, Ennio Morricone’s theme from “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly” got stuck in my head.  I haven’t listened to that in forever, and I don’t think I was thinking about anything related, so it’s kinda odd that the chanting Indians and whistlers and guitar players decided to join me while I was washing my hair.  Lol, I should draw that.  It would be a funny picture.

But on to the subject at hand– Photoshop sunrays.  You’ve probably seen this everywhere but haven’t noticed it but now will see it everywhere because I’m pointing it out:

sunrays

It’s on the internet, in TV commercials, and on the labels of half the products in my kitchen and bathroom.  And you don’t even have to be able to draw to make this perfect design.  I made the above just by Googling the phrase “photoshop sunray tutorial” and following the first tutorial I found.  All it is is a linear gradient from two colors that is then altered with the wave filter and the polar coordinates filter.  I don’t understand the math behind it at all, so I’m glad my computer and Photoshop work out the wave functions for me!

If it’s this popular (just a little bit ahead of the ink blots and organic vine designs that I have yet to learn how to create) I wonder how much longer it will be cool to use such a trendy design.  But oh well, I’m not a graphic designer officially.  I just learn the tech and try to apply it appropriately to my own artwork.  I’ve temporarily lost access to the drawing that I wanted to apply this to, but after some noodling around yesterday and experimenting with the distort filters, I made this banner:

 

But I discovered a weird problem that I’m going to post to a Photoshop forum because I don’t understand what’s going on.  When I tried saving my distort filter experiment files using the “Save For Web” option to shrink the file size, the colors got all washed out!  Like this:

 Whaaaaaaa??? …the Hell?

But I could keep the intended coloring by saving the file as a giant .jpg without saving for web.  Weird.  I don’t like saving big images like the first one, because the file size is like five times what it should be and it takes twice as long to load the picture on a web page! Even Flickr gets tripped up.

It just goes to show, no matter how well you think you know your tools there is always something more to learn! 

I’ve mentioned before that I have muscular dystrophy, and I think this Sunday is a day I can write about it without getting all bitter and self-absorbed. I don’t want to talk about it when I’m feeling at all negative, because then whatever I write would evoke pity. And if I’m evoking pity, I’m misleading my sympathetic audience and furthering ideas that I don’t believe in. Disability’s just this thing, you know? It’s always a part of who I am, but I don’t think about it until I have to. And I certainly don’t feel bad about it except for when I’m already feeling sorry for myself about other things.

The particular type of muscular dystrophy that my brother and I have is charcot marie tooth, and the specific type of *that* is dejerine sotas. Those labels are worth mentioning only so you don’t confuse what I have with something more serious like multiple sclerosis or one of the many other types of muscular dystrophy. (MD is not MS, I’m a doctor not a missionary…if you need a mnemonic device to keep them straight) What it all means is that the nerves controlling my arms and legs are like unshielded power lines. The movement signals get there much slower than normal, so my reflexes aren’t so good and it takes more time and energy for me to move. My muscles aren’t used properly, and they weaken. I also have low endurance, poor circulation, and a poor sense of balance. I trip and fall a lot. It’s not fatal but is progressive– I may need to get a cane and/or a wheelchair in the future, but I’m hoping to have a career and family established before it gets to that point. At present I can walk (better) with or (worse) without orthotics, and I can still drive though I am considering applying for hand controls in the next car I get.

(Ministry of Silly Walks, from Monty Python )

My walk has grown rather sillier over the years, often making me late. As compared to John Cleese in the Ministry of Silly Walks sketch, my silly walk has a bit less leg movement (I can’t lift my foot that high) and my upper body kinda sways side to side like a metronome. Gee, that’s too many words for, “I walk like a penguin,” isn’t it? I lost the ability to run and to ride a bike sometime around the end of elementary school, had a small orthotic inside my shoe in high school, and got plastic braces up to my knees the first year of college. If I misjudge how long it’s going to take to go somewhere, I can’t just move faster to make up time. And I can’t do more than a 10 minute walk without stopping (one or two large blocks), and that takes me more like 20 minutes.

Other personal side effects include:

* I don’t drink more than one or two drinks at a party (alcohol being a nerve poison). One rum and coke or gin fizz, and I nurse it all evening.

* My brother was the local ambassador for the Jerry Lewis telethon for several years.

* I hold on to stairrails with both hands while using stairs.

* I decided not to pursue an acting career during middle school when I realized acting would require more physical movement than I am capable of. I *have* considered voice-acting, but I have my thumbs in too many other pies for it to be more than a hobby. Did I mention I don’t like my voice?

* Most American street curbs are too high for me to step up on without leaning on a friend’s arm or walking allll the way down to the wheelchair ramp. Sometimes the ramp is too steep and will roll me back on my braces, which are designed to roll me forward as I walk. Japanese street curbs are on average lower and more accessible. Yay, Japan! Despite their buildings not having elevators as predictably as American buildings do, and some train stations having nothing but stairs.

* I stopped marching in marching band when I started high school, and dropped my flute in favor of xylophone/marimba/vibes/chimes/bells (and timpani, that one time), which were soooo much more fun because I got to play jazz more often, *and* during my junior year I was a co-section leader with my boyfriend the funky drummer : ) Someday when I have my new family life all established, I’m getting a set of vibes or a marimba.

* I can’t work in restaurants because I can’t carry heavy trays without dropping them a la the “10 Banana Cream Pies” sketch on Sesame Street.This kinda sucks in a town where fast food is the most reliably hiring industry. Retail is barely doable but wears me out from standing for so long. This is what worries me most right now. I don’t have enough experience to be hired for anything that would use my brain, and I don’t have the physical skills for the jobs that are actually hiring. It seems like it is actually easier to go back to Japan and be an English teacher than it is to get any sort of piddly day job in my hometown. I am currently starting work on a graphic design portfolio for advertising, and am going to have to start cold calling people to offer them advertising designs. You don’t need physical ability to be an artist, but you do have to work hard and put yourself out there. I also have my longterm dream of being a concept artist or animator in the game industry, and I’m learning Flash to become more hirable in that arena. But I’m going to have to move to a town with an industry scene before I have much chance at that. And the portfolio has to improve a lot before I can get hired in the art department.

* This is also the main reason that I’m shy offline. I don’t feel like I can just ask people to hang out with me, or invite myself when my friends are going out, because if I’m along the transportation time doubles and there is a lot of waiting added to the evening. And if they invite me, I have to know how far away everything is and how far we have to walk and can I drive and is there parking near where we’re going to be and…. at this point I’m exhausted from trying to work out the details. I hate being such a control freak slave to plans, so I almost never initiate group outings.

But the most common one that annoys me? Shoes.

I hate shoes. No shoes are awesome, all shoes suck, and YouTube’s Kelly can fight the lady in TV’s car commercial for them. It’s hard enough for me to find a pair I can walk in every day, and dress shoes are a nightmare. I added the Shoes application on Facebook just so I could start riffing on them. Why do women put so much pressure on their feet that they need botox injections to stop the pain??? And Chinese foot binding? That’s actually kinda close to what my weak tendons are doing to me– I’ll spare you the gorey details, but my feet would hurt all the time if my brain weren’t sending so many endorphins down there. Why would anyone do that to their feet on purpose? I had fun laughing at the girls at my middle school when they asked my friend and me to watch their platform shoes while they went to dance barefoot, and I’ve revived that cynicism in my daily shoe riffing on Facebook.

My feet have high arches and have naturally grown into the shape of a Barbie doll’s feet. I could wear heels, but I couldn’t do much better than the doll does at standing by myself in them. I approve of my sister’s ballet flats, but I can’t wear those either because there’s nothing to keep my feet inside them. Sandals used to work as long as they had uppers that covered the heel and straps over the arch, but my ankles are really too weak for them anymore. I might try them one more time for my wedding day, hmmm… What I actually wear everyday are black Chuck Taylor high tops, which are nice and flexible over my braces and also hide the plastic. And for dressy occasions, I go punk rock with my huge goth boots (I’ve posted a picture of them before when talking about my senior art show). The boots also look natural over the braces, as opposed to most formal shoes which are too narrow or look like boats if they actually fit the braces. I might just wear the goth boots to my wedding. Who says wedding shoes have to be white? They’re heavy, but I can walk in them and can stand in them for a long time before they start hurting. Punk rock.

What I want to make absolutely clear is that I am not waiting around for a cure. Sometimes my brother is told that people are praying for him, as he is in a wheelchair and is more visibly mobility impaired than I am. In my case, the word bravery comes up a bit more often. That’s so weird!!! I don’t know what to say to them. I can honestly thank them for caring about us, and I suppose “Thank you for the kind words” is reply enough. But I believe bravery involves a personal choice to take on a dangerous situation. There’s no courage or bravery about muscular dystrophy– we do what we have to do in our daily lives, same as anyone else.

My brother studies psychology and I am an artist. We aren’t Jerry’s “kids” anymore. It would be stupid to expect a magic sugar pill to change our gait overnight. That said, there are some interesting things on the research front — the gene for muscular dystrophy has been identified and some Japanese researchers are working on something very mecha looking to strap on to one’s legs and improve walking. I think that at least assistive technology is on the horizon. But I’m not waiting for a cure. I’m not waiting for anything other than for my boyfriend’s Navy contract to end. And Christmas. He’ll be home for Christmas!

If you read all this, I’m amazed. Sorry to rant so long– I don’t talk about this often and there’s a lot to cover if you’re hearing it for the first time. I just wanted my online friends to know that the words “Mind if I tag along” are not in my vocabulary and if I ever waddle up to you in person, I swear I’m not drunk.

E->}}}*>

We returned to my uncle’s vineyard this week to help him harvest the last five rows of grapes.  This time it was just an intimate party with my aunt/uncle and several of their good friends.  For those of you playing along at home, the mystery of the mystery grapes  was simply that Uncle Bruce planted them thinking they were the same variety as the other grapes.  Then when they came up, they weren’t what the label on the seeds had said they were at all.  Moreover, even the university experts in Lexington were unable to identify them.  They must be some variety of wild grapes that got mixed in with his seeds.  Whatever they are, the bees love them.

This is the shed I’ve been sketching.  Um, it’s still not finished yet.  The sketch, not the shed.  The shed used to have a horse inside, back when my uncle tried to keep animals.

These are the grapes of wrath.  Harvested just before the onset of the winter of our discontent.

Everyone, meet Kate.  Kate was a major reason I didn’t finish my sketch yesterday, but she’s such a sweetie I have to forgive her.  During the bigger harvest party there were too many people and she hid in the barn the whole time.  I didn’t get to meet her until just yesterday.  Kate runs from people walking toward her, but she loved me because I was sitting still most of the time.  So she would follow someone out into the vineyard until she got bored or spooked and then she would come back to me for lovins.  If I didn’t immediately drop what I was doing and tell her what a good dog she is, she would push on my arm with one of her paws and get all up in my face with her doggie breath!

The fungus among us.  Aren’t they amazing? Click the pictures for a closer look.  These mushrooms and lichen were growing all over a stump near the shed.

The vineyard from far away.  I was distracted from my sketching and decided to go for a walk.

“In the souls of the people the grapes of wrath are filling and growing heavy, growing heavy for the vintage.”
- John Steinbeck,
The Grapes of Wrath, Chapter 25

“Man, unlike any other thing organic or inorganic in the universe,
grows beyond his work, walks up the stairs of his concepts, emerges
ahead of his accomplishments.”
- John Steinbeck,
The Grapes of Wrath, Chapter 14

(I *think* that’s my uncle in that picture.  I don’t remember exactly.)

“Before I knowed it, I was sayin’ out loud, ‘The hell with it! There
ain’t no sin and there ain’t no virtue. There’s just stuff people do.
It’s all part of the same thing.’… I says, ‘What’s this call, this
sperit?’ An’ I says, ‘It’s love. I love people so much I’m fit to bust,
sometimes.’… I figgered, ‘Why do we got to hang it on God or Jesus?
Maybe,’ I figgered, ‘maybe it’s all men an’ all women we love; maybe
that’s the Holy Sperit-the human sperit-the whole shebang. Maybe all
men got one big soul ever’body’s a part of.’ Now I sat there thinkin’
it, an’ all of a suddent-I knew it. I knew it so deep down that it was
true, and I still know it.”
- John Steinbeck,
The Grapes of Wrath, Chapter 4

“How can you frighten a man whose hunger is not only in his own cramped
stomach but in the wretched bellies of his children? You can’t scare
him–he has known a fear beyond every other.”
- John Steinbeck,
The Grapes of Wrath, Chapter 19

( Those are my parents, folks.  Dad says Durhey. )

“Whenever they’s a fight so hungry people can eat, I’ll be there.
Whenever they’s a cop beatin’ up a guy, I’ll be there… I’ll be in the
way guys yell when they’re mad an’-I’ll be in the way kids laugh when
they’re hungry an’ they know supper’s ready. An’ when our folks eat the
stuff they raise an’ live in the houses they build-why, I’ll be there.”
- John Steinbeck, The Grapes of Wrath, Chapter 28


“Fear the time when the strikes stop while the great owners live -
for every little beaten strike is proof that the step is being taken …
fear the time when Manself will not suffer and die for a concept, for
this one quality is the foundation of Manself, and this one quality is
man, distinctive in the universe.”
- John Steinbeck,
The Grapes of Wrath, Chapter 14

The barn Kate likes to hide in.  My uncle had a TV and mini fridge in there so the guys could watch the game.  UK vs. ‘Bama — we lost, but we played better offense than they did, or so I hear.  I’m not ready for some football.

The view from the back porch.  It’s times like these I think to myself… I gotta get me a piece of bottom land.

“Is a tractor bad? Is the power that turns the long furrows wrong? If
this tractor were ours, it would be good - not mine, but ours. We could
love that tractor then as we have loved this land when it was ours. But
this tractor does two things - it turns the land and turns us off the
land. There is little difference between this tractor and a tank. The
people were driven, intimidated, hurt by both. We must think about
this.”
- John Steinbeck,
The Grapes of Wrath, Chapter 14


“The migrant people, scuttling for work, scrabbling to live, looked
always for pleasure, dug for pleasure, manufactured pleasure, and they
were hungry for amusement.”
- John Steinbeck,
The Grapes of Wrath, Chapter 23

We grilled bratwursts for dinner, with baked beans in a metal crock, and my cousins’ grandmother made some amazing apple crumble and banana pudding.

And to finish, here’s some Autumn imagery for ya: some great pumpkins and a cute little jumping spider.

Before my uncle’s farm became a vineyard, he tried raising various types of livestock on his 10-15 acre plot in the Brown Valley out near Utica.  Horses are too much work, and goats have a nasty habit of escaping from their pens to eat garbage and climb on top of cars.  He may or may not have tried cows, I don’t remember.  I’m just glad he never raised pigs because I visited a classmate’s pig farm once and that smell is an affront to good sinuses.  Anyway, Uncle Bruce finally gave up the giant critters and started this grape ranch instead.  This weekend was the annual raisin roundup, and unlike the past three years, this year I was able to attend!

The grapes were especially sweet this year!  So sweet that the harvesters sampled them without a care for the amount of pesticide or fertilizer on the surface of each one.  Mmm, poison-y!  The honey bees didn’t mind the inedible coating either, and if one wasn’t careful, it was entirely possible to pick a bee instead of a grape.

Without the bees, there wouldn’t be any grapes.  But boy were they annoying!   As Uncle Bruce drove down the row on his tractor, my sister backed into a grapevine only to find she was mere inches away from being… wait for it… COVERED IN BEES!!!  They were especially thick on the “mystery grapes.”  (What mystery?  It was explained to me at one point but I immediately forgot.  Life is better with some mystery left to it anyway.  Feel free to comment with your own solution to the mystery of the mystery grapes.)  Sadly, my sister hasn’t seen The Wicker Man OR Eddie Izzard, so my goofy chanting of, “No! Not the bees! AAAAUUUGHHHH!” fell on deaf ears after she recounted her experience between the vines.  She did, however, find the Eddie Izzard reference funny after I explained that part of his routine to her.

The bees also wanted to cover my soda, as I sat by the barn sketching the small shed that once had a pony in it… until it died and my uncle decided to stop keeping horses since my cousin was allergic anyway.  It was a tiny shed but it had this awesome clump of trees and pot of begonias in front of it, and sketching is the best way for a shy person like meself to relax at a public event.

When you have an open sketchbook, you are freed from the pressure of finding things to talk about and people will come to you instead because they are curious. They have the security of the sketchbook as a conversation topic, plus the excuse of not wanting to disturb your work if they run out of things to talk about.

I was approached thusly by my boyfriend’s dad’s girlfriend, who wanted to know if I had heard from our sailor recently.  When it became clear that neither his dad nor I had heard from Eric in the past three weeks, we were all quite relieved because that just means he is busy and can’t contact anyone.  He didn’t die and he doesn’t hate me! Hooray! Now I just have to send a follow-up email apologizing for the nasty things I said in the previous one.  (Not really.  I just asked if I still had a boyfriend.  After all, one can’t expect to find one’s lover unchanged after not speaking to him for three days.  To loosely paraphrase Confucious.)

I didn’t finish the sketch because 1) I was taking my time since I’m relatively weak with pencils and often rush with them so I can get to the ink and the paint and the fun, and 2) there were people and chairs between me and the shed, so I would stop sketching and rest or eat whenever a large group of people blocked my view.  I also stopped to say, “Thank you,” and talk to the people who noticed what I was doing and wanted to talk about drawing.

I most enjoyed talking to George who is a friend of my uncle and who owns the local Greek bistro downtown.  His bistro catered the harvest party, and that Greek food is what is referenced in the title of this post.  George is a really nice guy, and he said he enjoys art as well.  He agreed with me that charcoal is much easier to use than pencils are, and he seemed excited when I told him how I usually prefer to paint on the computer.  “Photoshop…Photoshop…Photoshop…” he repeated so he could remember.  Who knows, maybe he’ll go buy a tablet now, when he has some time away from the restaurant.  I think that would be a rare occurrence though.

Anyway, I didn’t finish the sketch before it got too dark to see.  But we’re going back in a few weeks to help with the grapes again.  I’ll post the sketch here when it is done.

Amazing.  Practice really does make perfect!

I’ve been a huge Harmonix fan ever since Frequency, but on Frequency and Amplitude there was always a bar of difficulty I couldn’t cross.  I would ace the single player game on both easy and medium, and then hit the bar in the middle of Hard and progress no further.  In both Frequency and Amplitude, Hard mode meant there might be extra notes you could barely hear in the music, and you had to play 16th or 32nd notes on a single button.  That’s hella hard when pushing buttons on a PS2 control pad.  Also, if there was one especially hard part in the middle of the song, you couldn’t just practice that part of the song.  You had to survive the whole song to clear it, and play all the way through up to the point you were having trouble with to try that again.  It was really a shooter, albeit disguised as a music game, and eventually my reflexes just couldn’t take that much abuse anymore.

I haven’t had much time with Guitar Hero on the PS2, but the DS version has definitely fixed the game and made it more like playing a musical instrument.  When you fail a song in Career Mode, it gives you the option to switch to Practice Mode.  (The option is also in the main menu of the game, so you can start a play session with practice.)  In Practice Mode, you can choose any section of the song and have just that section play over and over until you hit Start to bring up the restart-or-quit menu.  And it tells you how many of the notes you played right!  So you know that practicing is actually helping!

Also notable:  playing 16th and 32nd notes doesn’t suck anymore because you can actually strum on the DS touch screen.  My wrists are most grateful, though my left hand is getting a little bit more exercise than it is used to from fingering all those chords.  I’ve gotten to the point where the game is giving me three finger chords and making me switch from 1st and 3rd to 2nd and 4th “frets” a lot.

Last week, I was stuck on “Breed” by Nirvana on Hard.  This week, I finished Bloc Party’s “Helicopter” and am currently working on “I Wanna Rock and Roll All Night” by Kiss.  I’m averaging one or two songs on Career Hard mode and a whole venue in Guitar Duels Medium each day.  I didn’t pass the Kiss song today, but I did go from 20% to 80% completion in just an hour.  So, I’m fairly confident I will clear it tomorrow.

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