dorchadas: (Kirby Spaceship Happy)
It's farmer's market season, and we live pretty close to a large farmer's market. [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd had the idea to start going there every Wednesday and make dinner using fresh ingredients from the market, since right now she's working the summer school shift and so gets done with work just after noon, and yesterday was the first dinner she made. And it was delicious.

Food pictures )

Everything tasted amazing, and it wasn't particularly expensive either! Less expensive than going out to dinner, which only makes sense since we had to cook and clean it up. This was a trial run to see if we wanted to make it a Wednesday tradition, and it came off splendidly. And tasty.  photo Emot-happycat.gif
dorchadas: (Equal time for Slime)
Well, no more Shabbat dinner! [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd's strep caused two people coming to cancel, since they just spent a while passing strep between them and their son and don't want to risk another round. Then another person pulled out because their partner's grandmother died unexpectedly, and with half the attendees unable to come, we thought it was better to postpone the dinner.

My parents invited us out to dinner for Mother's Day, but we also had to turn that down. I mean, [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd does have strep throat and still needs to recover, and while I think I'm safe, I won't really be sure until Monday.  photo _s_by_stevanov.gif So better to stay home and rest.

I won't lie, though. I got a little happy rush when I didn't have to agree to plans that would disrupt my whole weekend at the last minute. Now I know it's coming and I'll be happy to go.

I might go get a manicure this weekend with my free time. My nails now are long enough that I'm having trouble typing this post and haven't broken, so it's probably worth it getting them shaped so they won't interfere with my typing but I don't have to cut them all off before ACEN next weekend. I already typed my entire Majora's Mask review with them and that wasn't fun either.
dorchadas: (Link and Zelda sitting together)
So what am I doing in these, the last days of the American republic?  photo emot-911.gif

This Friday is another of [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd's and my Shabbat dinners. After the turning of the year, we decided that once a month we'd invite a handful of people over, eat dinner, and then discuss whatever that week's parshah is. This week it's Emor, Leviticus 21:1-24:23. We've tended to get really good discussion out of even the more "the lamps shall be made of beaten gold" parashot, and Emor has a lot of material in it. Some of it especially discussion-worthy, like the ban on people with disfiguring injuries from giving offerings to G-d. I don't find this to be as jarring as some people, because I don't have a universalist concept of G-d, but there's good commentary on it out there I've found that I'll try to bring up during he discussion.

I just went and found a bunch of Legend of Zelda icons and added them. Since I'm only using half my icon space, and since I'm on a quest to play through every Legend of Zelda game, I might as well. And maybe I need a Legend of Zelda tag, too... Hmm.

(done)

Speaking of which, I ordered a copy of the Legend of Zelda Ocarina of Time manga in Japanese! I've learned that the best way to get me to actually study is to make it an accompaniment to something I already want do--hence playing all these video games in Japanese--and when I idly posted about whether I should read it, [facebook.com profile] kelley.christensen1 mentioned that she had fond memories of reading it as a teenager. That's enough of a recommendation for something I already wanted to do anyway, and now it's in the to-read pile.

We bought tickets for [twitter.com profile] faylynne's wedding next month. Due to waiting so long because we needed to figure out [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd's summer program schedule, they were more expensive than I was hoping. I was expecting $750 and it was closer to $900.  photo emot-byodood.gif Fortunately, my sister lives in Portland and has offered to put us up, so we don't need to also pay for a hotel. [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd promised to cook for her to pay for our keep. Delicious! Kawaii heart emoji photo heart_emoji_by_kawaiiprincess2-d51re77.gif

We didn't do much of anything last weekend, or at least I didn't, and I'm looking forward to more of the same next weekend. Majora's Mask is longer than I thought, especially since I'm trying to get all the masks, so while I thought I would be finished already I won't be done until tomorrow at the absolute earliest. Probably more like Saturday.

I hope everyone else's weeks are going well!

Edit: It turns out that [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd has strep!  photo _crying__rvmp_by_bad_blood.gif The doctor said she's cleared for Friday, though, so she'll stay home from work tomorrow and then Shabbat dinner will continue as scheduled.
dorchadas: (Awake in the Night)
This is normally a day when I'd be writing up a summary of our Warlords of the Mushroom Kingdom game last night, but it was called off at the last minute when one of the players came home to find their apartment had been broken into! The thiev(es) didn't take much, fortunately--they even left the WiiU behind, which seems like a joke itself--but that's not that much compensation. And they are moving in a month...  photo emot-ohdear.png

So instead, I spent most of last night playing Majora's Mask doing the Woodfall Temple. I'm not sure how I feel about Majora's Mask's yet--I've already lost about an hour of time due to freezing and the save system only allowing saving by restarting the three-day cycle, but I love the focus on a small city and the people who live there. I can definitely see a continuation of Link's Awakening, with its weird characters doing strange things and Link stumbling into the middle of it all and trying to sort everything out. I just wish I had a better sense of what's going on.

It's the problem with trying to learn a language. I don't want to read children's books or play games with little dialogue, because then I'm not actually getting any practice in. Studying requires pushing into areas I don't know. But that means that I'm never quite sure I understand the plot. I've got a walkthrough open in the background because of these issues, and I've already made a couple major errors that confused me until I went to check, like thinking that the monkeys in the swamp had captured someone instead of being captured by someone (Xに捕まえられています). The broad strokes I understand just fine, but in a game where it's very important that I'm in particular places at specific time, I need to understand the nuances to be able to play.

I redid the background image on my Dreamwidth page so it's locally hosted and shows up in 1080p. I tried a couple images of Tokyo in the rain, but they didn't display up well--with everything else on the page, it was just a blur of neon barely visible in the background. Which I suppose is accurate to some nights I've spent in Tokyo, but it doesn't make for a good aesthetic.  photo emot-fuckyou.gif

Looking forward to a low-key weekend and hopefully being able to finish Majora's Mask!
dorchadas: (Do Not Want)
There was a hashtag about gaijin confessions on Friday on twitter. My favorite is probably "Also told someone I wanted to buy a human instead of a carrot once" (Carrot is 人参 ninjin, human is 人間 ningen), but there's a lot of good stuff collected here.

It made me think of my own #gaijinconfessions, so here's a few of them:
  • To this day, my breakfast is miso soup, rice, salmon, and pickles while sitting on the floor at a low table. This despite that most of our students ate "bread and milk" for breakfast, including the kimono shop owner who met his wife through a 仲人 (nakōdo, "marriage broker").
  • I also took the trash out at night, because there's no way I was getting up at 8 a.m. on Saturday just to get the trash out by 8:30.
  • Japanese cheese is garbage and we happily paid $20 a pound for good cheese at the import foods store.
  • The first winter I was there I survived mostly off canned chicken soup from the Foreign Buyer's Club because we hadn't quite gotten used to proper shopping for our 3/4th size fridge yet.
  • We spent a week in Singapore in and I thought everyone was unconscionably rude because I was used to a Japanese level of service.  photo emot-nyoron.gif
  • I got used to being able to talk about anything I wanted and would happy tell off-color stories secure that people around me almost certainly couldn't understand me.
  • Even though I'm American, I actually don't own a gun or eat hamburgers every day.
  • My favorite onigiri is the kimchi-ume one I bought while we were in Ōsaka for [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd to take the GRE. It was only sold in Ōsaka and the Japanese people we told about it thought we were making it up.
  • I was never sure whether to use Japanese or English with staff in Indian restaurants.  photo shrug2.gif
  • I once boarded a bus twice with the same ticket after I forgot my laptop. I disembarked and took the light rail back into Hiroshima, retrieved my laptop from the ramen shop, and got on the next bus on the same line using my same ticket. The attendant looked at me nervously, wondering why a gaijin was going to Innoshima, and I flashed the ticket and walked on. Saved me ¥4000.
dorchadas: (Default)
Well, the time has finally come.

I've had a Dreamwidth for years, even since the initial migration, and I've always kept it updated with content from my Livejournal just it case. It turns out that case has arrived. I'm still waiting for the comments to import again, but a lot of the conversation on my posts has moved to Facebook and Twitter anyway. I'll be sad to lose some of those old comments if they don't import, but not too sad. And I'm not super interested in making sure that my blog follows the laws of the Russian Federation with respect to political or sexual diversity content.

I'm not looking forward to fixing all the internet links on my posts. Since I extensively link to things I've already written, there's a lot of Livejournal links buried in everything I write. I'll get to it eventually, probably starting with stuff like my video game reviews and my let's play of Baldur's Gate II, and move on from there. If you're someone who looks through my old posts, I ask for your patience.

Sigh. I used LJ for 14 years, but all things end. 永遠のものがない, after all.  photo shrug2.gif
dorchadas: (Office Space)
For the last couple of years, we've been ramping up to switch database software at work. This makes sense--the old database software was 19 years old and has been running on twine and duct tape for roughly the last decade, never conclusively overhauled because we were just going to replace it, so why put too much effort into it? Well, we finally replaced it.

You can tell from the title what I think of it.

Some of it is sour grapes. They made an effort to ask us what we thought of the new system and get our input on its development as we did testing, and as far as I can tell, they completely ignored every suggestion we made. For my part, the UI is still garbage. The new system is completely mouse-driven to the point that it doesn't accept hitting enter and you have to click the Search button like some kind of animal. The search window hides the original record and can't be moved, so checking to refine the search requires cancelling the search and losing the results, and searching takes long enough that I just have to chant the other bits of data myself to remember them like some kind of Leibowitzian monk.

A lot of old complaints don't even seem to be fixed--searches are still slow and it crashes roughly twenty times as often. It still offers suggestions for matches that are completely unrelated--different name, different state of residence, different specialty, different everything--to the record in question. Furthermore, the old database kept sending us the same records to research month after month with no way to tell the system that no, we were never going to find out who this physician is so stop asking, and the new system does the inverse by repeatedly popping up people who are already identified and asking me to identify them.  photo _thisorthat__or__compare__by_brokenboulevard-d4tole3.gif

And this leads to my main complaint. My work doesn't have great social value and I'm not saving the lives or children or anything, but at least I was accomplishing something. There was data, and I sorted through it, and I made the resulting output better than the raw input was. I no longer have any indication that's the case. I come in and I have 500 records to look through, around 99% of which the system already seems to know the answer to but just wants to waste my time with, and that number goes down as I work. But when the system inevitably crashes or logs me out for no reason and I login again and get back to work, that number is back to 500 again. Every day I am moving sand from one pile to another, one grain at a time, and then the wind blows it all back overnight.

And this is the system after it was delayed for six months.  photo emot-psyduck.gif
dorchadas: (Dreams are older)
Just a grab-bag of things that have been happening lately.

I got my yearly bonus and annual raise this week. Higher than average on both, because we managed to exceed our department goals by a respectable amount and I did pretty well. There also wasn't as much pressure to hold down salary increases this year, so I got more of a salary increase and less of a bonus. And I put it all into tax withholding and 401K contributions. Well...that's responsibility.  photo 58-2nsylaw.gif

Yesterday was also the last day that we're using the old database system, and over the weekend they'll be switching over to the new system that they've spent the last two years working on. And true to software project form, it was a complete mess until the last week, where it was pulled into at least semi-reasonable condition. That also meant that I couldn't do anything involving the database on Friday, and since my work almost entirely involves editing database entries, I had to make work for myself. On a co-worker's suggestion, I did some prep work so that when the new database is up and able to accept new entries, I can go add in all the disciplinary actions to the appropriate physician records without having to scan through state board orders for what the doctors did wrong. Unless the database upgrade doesn't go well, in which case everything will be on fire.  photo onfire.gif Hopefully it all goes smoothly, but these are computers we're talking about.

Today was the first session of [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd's 7th Sea 2e game! I read the book through to make sure I knew the system and I had some misgivings--it's much more loose and narrative-styled than the systems I tend to prefer--but in play it worked out really well! And doing a silly Russian accent and coughing at the republican and revolutionary talk for my Ussuran nobleman was a lot of fun. He's not that great in a fight, but he has magical powers. He's also really rich, which is kind of like a magical power! The star moment was when I called a raven to our jail cell where, we had been treacherously imprisoned for a crime we didn't commit, and asked it to fetch the keys in exchange for a bauble from my nobleman's clothing. I then let everyone out, locked the cells behind us, and left. The legend grows.

I paid our 2016 taxes. Last year we owned an enormous amount because I forgot to take into account [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd's new job and thus that our salary was commensurately larger. This year I spent more time modeling our income vs. taxes paid and I came a lot closer--we owed 4% of what we owed last year, in terms of additional payments beyond our normal withholding. I'm not sure how much we'll owe on state taxes, but the state is usually much better at figuring out how much we owe than the federal government is and we rarely get a large refund or have a large deficit, so I'm not that worried. Edit: We owed more on state taxes than federal taxes. Looks like I spoke too soon!  photo shaking_fist_emoticon.gif

We're going to see Hamilton on Thursday. I've successfully avoided most news about it, so while of course I know the subject matter and the characters, I haven't listened to a single song all the way through, nor do I know what parts of history the musical covers. I'll probably write about it after I go, but until then, it's a mystery! Question block photo emot-question.gif
dorchadas: (Darker than Black)
It's a yearly tradition for [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd and a friend and I--and I can say that, because this is the third year we've gone--to go to Svea in Andersonville for brunch. They have a Christmas Plate they offer for the weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas that's $16.50 for a giant smörgåsbord with pickled herring, cheese, ham, korv, limpa bread, potatoes, meatballs, tomatoes, and a glass of glögg. It's also the time of year that the owner comes out and sings songs whenever someone orders lutfisk. It's amazing and I'll be really sad if the restaurant ever closes.

This year, after we finished eating, we all went to the Middle Eastern Grocery Store next door to pick up some hummus and cheese (and baklava at my urging), and I noticed some chocolate by the cashier. [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd suggested it for Darker than Black but was worried because it was only 60% cacao, and normally that would be a bit low, but I want a bit of variety here and I have seen that chocolate before and wanted to try it, so we bought it. And then moved it to the top of the list, since the only other chocolates we had aren't as interesting as this one. I mean, it's in Turkish! Who knows what it contains! Certainly not me. I don't speak a lick of Turkish.
Read more... )
dorchadas: (Cherry Blossoms)
I never used to care about the leaves changing or the flowers blooming. When we'd take trips to Oregon, my parents would go to a garden and I'd sit by the pond and watch the water striders because whatever, who cares about flowers. But I got into the mood of leaf-watching when we lived in Japan, both the cherry blossoms in the spring and the colors in the fall, and while there are no masses of cherry trees here, there are still colors.

I didn't get much of a chance to go leaf-viewing this year because the cold came so late--when we went out for the Scarecrow Festival, it was 25°C and sunny--but I've enjoyed looking at the trees in our neighborhood. And a couple weeks ago, we found a momiji tree only a few blocks away! Momiji are famous in Hiroshima, to the point where the local manjū are momiji-shaped, and we'd go every year to Miyajima to see the momiji change to that deep, uniform crimson color. It was a lovely touch of nostalgia to see.

Then last weekend, it snowed, and I took this picture:


Last month snow fell in Tokyo, and there were a ton of articles about it because everyone knows that Japan is Tokyo and Tokyo is Japan (and also it had been 54 years since the last time but whatever). The photos of snow on fall colors were amazing, though, and I'm glad I got to see a taste of it in Chicago.
dorchadas: (Awake in the Night)
[personal profile] schoolpsychnerd doesn't like the dark. I do. That's the way of it. Left up to myself, I leave most if not all the lights in the apartment out, since the light filtering in from the alley outside through what few openings are left in the curtains we have up is enough for me to see by. Even at night, I usually don't bother to turn on the lights when I get up and move around. The apartment layout doesn't change, after all, and my night vision is pretty good. But sometimes, when I come home, the curtains are open and all the lights are on as [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd soaks up the light.  photo Dawn.png

The last couple nights, I've been reading a Let's Play of a Japanese RPG Maker game called Corpse Party. You can probably tell what kind of game it is from the title, and even though the links to the music and sound had vanished into the internet ether--sadly, since they're the highlight--I still found it creepy enough that before I went to sleep last night, I left the living room light on.

It would have made more sense when we lived in Japan, since we basically lived in a J-Horror house. We literally had an abandoned house right next to ours, plus another abandoned compound just down the street. We had steep stairs with no railing that a spirit could easily have pushed us to our deaths down.  photo japan001.gif But here, where three quarters of the apartment is always visible from any other point in it?

Well, it's the dark. [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd was worried that I would think less of her when she told me that she didn't like the dark, but I don't. The dark is scary! And who knows what could be out there. I can tell myself whatever I want, but my instincts are the instincts of a savannah-dwelling ape who stayed with the group or huddled by the fire and lived, while those who knew there was nothing out there were eaten by lions. So it took me a long time to fall asleep, and while I didn't have nightmares that I remember, I woke up an hour and a half before my alarm.

Maybe it's also that the game takes place in a school. I taught in a Japanese school, and I've been in other schools. They're all laid out pretty similarly, so it was easy for me to convert the minimal RPG Maker graphics in my mind into what a decayed, rotting school would actually look like. Maybe more effective than if the graphics had been more realistic.

Usually I'm fine in the dark, but it doesn't take much.
dorchadas: (Chicago)
Not at the same time, obviously.

Yesterday, my parents came into town and [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd and I went down to meet them at the Shedd Aquarium. They're members and go a few times a year. They're much better about it than we are--while we were members of the Field Museum for the last year, I'm not sure we went once--and often we only end up going when they come in to visit. This time, it was pretty fortunate that we were meeting them. The line was out the door, down the stairs, and stretching out into the park in front of the aquarium when we arrived, but we were able to skip all that and just walk in the member's entrance.

Maybe everyone was trying to forget the election. There was a large protest downtown yesterday which my parents walked by. My father mentioned that he wasn't sure what good it would do, since Trump was a terrible person but he had won the election, so I pointed out that it's more to demonstrate that Trump doesn't have a mandate despite any claims to the contrary. Though I admit, in some ways I share his cynicism. I remember the Iraq War protests and how much effect those had.

We had tickets for the cetacean show at 5 p.m. so we didn't have a lot of time to look around, but we did hit some highlights. The otters for [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd, the special frog exhibit for me--that's a special exhibit of frogs, not an exhibit of special frogs Emoji Kawaii frog photo croaking_frog_emoji_by_kaidahthedragon-dabw3kq.gif--and the penguins for my mother:


"I solemnly swear..."

The cetacean show was a lot more focused than I remember it being. I think the last time I saw it was twenty years ago, and then it was much more about simple entertainment. This time there was a conservation message heavily woven through the show, including a rescue dog that the aquarium keeps. There were no dolphins somersaulting through hoops, but I think I appreciated the show more.

After a dinner at Chicago Curry House, where even my spice-averse parents found something they could eat--though since they have the appetites of birds, they were pretty much full after the samosas we ordered as appetizers--we said goodbye since we had to make our performance:


Link smilie photo lhappy.gif

We first went to Symphony of the Goddesses in 2013 and this is the third time we've been. It's slightly different each time--the first time we went was the "Second Quest" arrangement that featured a medley of the music from Ocarina of Time, and the second time we went was the "Master Quest" and had a feature of music from Link's Awakening. This time was more similar to the first concert, though with the addition of some music from Triforce Heroes and A Link Between Worlds, both of which came out since the last time we went to Symphony of the Goddesses. There was also a piece I remembered from Phantom Hourglass, though I say "remembered" in the loosest terms since I can barely remember anything about that game. That didn't stop it from being a great performance!

I think the loudest crowd cheer was when the conductor reached into her coat, pulled out a perfect replica of the Wind Waker baton, and then started conducting the theme from Outset Island.

There was a little girl, maybe four or five, cosplaying Princess Zelda sitting in the seat in front of us. She fell asleep during the intermission and [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd exploded from cute overload.  photo wheeeeee_emote_by_seiorai.gif
dorchadas: (For the Horde!)
I didn't get to sleep until 1:30 or so last night despite going to bed at 11:15. Some of that is on me--I was up later than usual finishing up my Baldur's Gate II post and getting the last few steps in to make it to 10,000--but some of it is definitely due to our neighbors downstairs.

A while ago, they had a new baby. Back then they lived diagonally from us, but a month ago they switched apartments with the neighbors below us because, having a baby, they wanted the larger space on our side of the apartment building. Since then things have been noisier overall, but I've occasionally noticed that I can faintly hear the sound of the baby crying through the vents and last night it went on for hours. photo c9a2ed93dbfb11e324f5b3e281e5e1b2.gif Along with people talking, maybe the television, and some thumping sounds. And that kept me up far past my bedtime.

I'm really bad at sleeping in general. My insomnia has gotten better, but I still have a very hard time falling asleep if there's any light or noise around. Even the very quiet sounds I heard last night were enough to keep me awake.

And there's really no solution here. The most obvious advice is earplugs, but I tried that when I lived in Ireland--I had a roommate who snored like a buzzsaw--and while it did help me sleep, it also meant even odds of whether I would sleep through my alarm in the morning. I used Rain Rain with the sleep timer to try to drown out the noise, but I couldn't find a good medium between the app being so loud that it kept me awake itself and loud enough to drown out the baby's crying. I went through two entire 30-minute sleep timer cycles with no effect.

The downstairs neighbors told [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd that we should tell them if the sound was keeping us up, but why? I mean, babies cry. It's what they do. They don't need to be told that the noise is keeping people up, because it's keeping them up, and if they had a way of quieting their child down on command, they would already be using it so they could get more sleep.

That doesn't help me feel less tired today, though.  photo emot-11tea.gif
dorchadas: (Default)
Nearly every year since we moved back from Japan, [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd and I have made time to go out to visit my parents in October because in addition to seeing them and getting to eat my mother's delicious food, St. Charles's Scarecrow Festival is held that month. We last went two years ago, noting that the scarecrows were better than when we went three years ago, and last year we didn't go because I kickstarted tickets for the H. P. Lovecraft Literary Podcast live show and it turned out that was the same weekend. But this time we didn't have to worry about that and so after work on Friday, we took the train out to the suburbs.

We originally thought about going out to Kuiper Farms to go pick apples, where we went with [livejournal.com profile] uriany two years ago, but my mother mentioned that my father couldn't come because he was playing in the community band at Batavia Octoberfest. I asked her what else was going on there and she said that she had no idea, because it was the festival's first year, so we decided to go there instead. After walking from my parents' house to downtown and being disappointed that the leaves were mostly still green, lunch at East China Inn, the Chinese food that I grew up eating which I'm pretty sure hasn't updated the prices since I was a child either, we walked over to River Street just in time to see the band performance.

When we got there, I was in for a surprise:


That's Mr. Heath on the right, directing the community band. He was the band director at Batavia High School when I was a student there and played euphonium in the band, like my father before me. And speaking of that, my father is in the band, though out of the shot to the left, sitting next to my middle school band director Mr. Stiers who is playing the tuba.

They played several songs, most of which I didn't know because they were by a local composer, and then struck the set to clear it for the next performance. While they were cleaning, my father pointed me out to Mr. Heath, so I got to talk with him for a bit, introduce [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd, tell me about how we lived in Chicago and had taught English in Japan. And then on the way out, we had almost the same conversation with Mr. Stiers, who looks like he hasn't aged in the last twenty years, though my father later mentioned that he's had some health troubles. I only got to stay about twenty minutes at the Oktoberfest, but it was a great twenty minutes.  photo wheeeeee_emote_by_seiorai.gif

After a stop into a tea shop that had just opened called The Tea Tree where we bought some banana tea (which was delicious), we all piled into the car and drove to St. Charles to see the Scarecrow Festival. Unlike previous years, and unlike the weather forecast had suggested, it was cloudless and sunny, with little wind, so the relative temperature was probably around 25°C and it was much more crowded than I've ever seen it in the past.

There were some good scarecrows, though:


That was one of three Pokemon-themed scarecrows. My parents are of the opinion that the scarecrows' quality has been progressively going down over time, and while I sort of agree, I thought this year was pretty good. In addition to that one, there was a giant headless horseman, and a Calvin and Hobbes on a sled, and, in a major surprise to me, a R.O.B. scarecrow, which is a real deep nerd dive. I think I liked this year's scarecrows just because of that one, though the various Pokemon scarecrows showed me that pokemon translate very well to painted spherical objects.

Then we bought some fudge at the craft fair and before returning, we took a detour out to Gould Cider and Apple Pressing to get some apple cider.  photo heart_emoji_by_kawaiiprincess2-d51re77.gif I've been drinking it for years, ever since my parents found out about it sometime when when I was in university, but this is the first time I've ever been to the actual location. I'm still a bit amazed how abruptly rural the countryside gets just by crossing Randall Road. Only a couple mintues of driving and it was farmhouses with barns and fields of corn, and then the cider farm with a goat wandering around outside. Inside was the operating cider press, a wooden frame with wooden boxes covered with cheesecloth and filled with apples being pressed. It probably violates any number of FDA regulations, but damn if it doesn't churn out some delicious cider.  photo latest.gif

Then we went back to my parents' house, ate their barbecue, and then took the train home to avoid the Chicago Marathon crowds.
dorchadas: (Office Space)
Got a new computer at work as part of the upgrade process for our upcoming database overhaul. The computer itself is pretty neat. It's about as wide as my hands together and square, and then maybe 3 cm thick, and it works great. But.

(Of course there's a but)

There's a suite of applications I need to do my job that auto-loads with the computer, and then I log in. And for some reason, the new computers--all of them--can't log in to those applications. We get security errors and then get locked out.

IT has a solution, though. They're having us do remote login to the database, from our own work computers, because that's a different validation process and that lets us actually access the system. And it works. It's slow, the interface looks like it hasn't been updated since Windows XP, and it sometimes randomly logs me out and I have to restart the process, but it works.

Computers
dorchadas: (Dreams are older)
I signed up with the iPhone upgrade program last year when I got a 6S, so my time had come, and yesterday I made an appointment and went down to the Apple Store to pick up a 7.

If I had gotten a 128gb model last year, I wouldn't have bothered to get get a new phone. It's not a huge upgrade in performance or battery life and the removal of the headphone jack is an active inconvenience for me, since I listen to podcasts for my entire time at work and thus go through about a battery and a half in a workday. But the other active inconvenience for me is that every smartphone I've ever bought, I've never had enough space on it. I've always thought that I'd have plenty of space when I updated phones and I've always been wrong, so this time I sprung for the 256gb model...and now I have 150gb unused after stuffing it full of podcasts and putting almost all my music on it. It does mean I'm future-proofed, at least.

The actual process went fine, other than the AT&T activation, which required none of the info I had brought and did require info I didn't have. Though the account password turned out handy, when I had to log into AT&T after my phone had already been reset to get my father's cell phone number since I was calling from the saleman's phone and so my parents didn't pick up because it was an unregistered number. Once it was all sorted out and I had tested it by calling [livejournal.com profile] softlykarou, I got home, updated the backup, and everything was good to go.

I'm amazed that I'm still using the same information from my first iPhone from 2008, but I've never had a phone get corrupted or anything get reset. For me, it really does Just Work.

Also already ordered a case that's in tune with my aesthetic.
dorchadas: (Kirby Walk)
I don't really like being the center of attention at an event. I don't even like being the soft center, which is why I haven't had a party for myself in years--not since high school, I think. I thought about having a birthday party this year, but eventually decided against it. Maybe next year when I turn 35, since that's more of a milestone.

Which isn't to say that I'm one of those people who hates birthdays. I celebrate every year, just quietly, and this year was no different on that score. [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd met me on Friday after work and we walked the two blocks from my office to Benny's Chop House for the first of two birthday dinners. It wasn't my birthday, but August 19th (until sundown) was Tu b'Av, an ancient festival that died with the Second Temple and was forgotten until the Israelis revived it as a kind of Jewish Valentine's Day. I only know about it because of the Jewish holidays calendar addon I have in my phone calendar, but it's as good a reason for a fancy dinner as any, even if half of Benny's menu is an abomination before Hashem.

The parts that are good are really good, though:


Filet mignon with a red wine reduction and black truffle on top.

[personal profile] schoolpsychnerd told me that my whole face changed when I took a bite. It was probably the best steak I've ever had in my life.

The next day, I woke up to a thunderstorm just like I had on Friday, which is probably the best weather I could have wanted on my birthday. My parents came into down and met my sister, who was already here meeting up with high school friends before her flight to Costa Rica today, and we went out to breakfast at a French-Vietnamese restaurant nearby. I got duck curry, because curry for breakfast sounds amazing to me at all times, and then we went back to [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd and my apartment until they all left to avoid the traffic. Then we mostly stayed at home until dinner time, when [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd made me even more duck:


Crispy duck with mango-cilantro salsa, roasted cauliflower, and asparagus.

Not visible there is the flourless chocolate cake she also made, this time with real vanilla extract. It's in the recipe, but [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd usually left it out because we don't use vanilla for that much and it would just sit around otherwise. But my parents gave me a bottle of it for my birthday along with a few other spices, so why not use it? And I think I could taste the difference, too.  photo getin.001.gif

I was feeling a bit off for most of my birthday, and I think it's because while I wanted to have a quiet weekend I still ended up with a lot of stuff to do--yesterday I woke up at 8:30 and it still seemed like it was dinnertime before I had even blinked. Today has gone a bit slower, though I still haven't gotten as much time as I'd liked. But we never have enough, do we?  photo darksouls.001.gif

I got to read more The Lord of the Rings to [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd today and have a quiet breakfast inside with her, and even though it's taking place today instead of yesterday, it's one of the best birthday presents I could have asked for. I don't mind getting older as long as those are the opportunities that it will bring.
dorchadas: (Default)
One of the benefits I get from my job is an extra day off during the summer, taken in two half-day increments, and since last Friday was the last Friday that [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd would be free before she returns to work next week, I cashed in the second and last of my half-days and we went out to lunch. And after lunch, we followed a suggestion from [livejournal.com profile] drydem and went to the Art Museum to check out an exhibit of Japanese period maps on display.

I've actually known about this for a couple weeks since [livejournal.com profile] drydem first sent us the email, but we didn't get around to going until now. And it was great, especially so since we just got back from Japan! My favorite parts were the maps of Kyōto, which is where we spent the majority of our time, poring over them and looking for all the temples that we had visited. We didn't find all of them, or maybe it's just that I can't read some of the pre-Meiji kanji and didn't know what I was looking for, but I did find some. Including [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd's favorite temple:


North is to the left.

Look at that detail. That's the layout of Sanjūsangendō--our recent visit to which you can read about here--with the long hall in front and other buildings in back where the garden is. The river at the bottom of the picture is still there too, and I remember crossing it when we walked from Kyōto Station to the temple. The whole map was like that, obviously made by someone who had been to the temples or had excellent descriptions from people who had been there, with relief maps of the mountains all around Kyōto. Mountains filled with temples because of course they are.

That turned out to be the only thing we saw at the art museum and it was worth the price of admission. There was an exhibit of 1930s American art called "After the Fall," but it was a special exhibit that required a ticket, so we didn't go.

We also went to get more tea to replace the enormous amount we drink, and while we were there I finally bought a 茶碗 (chawan, "tea bowl") so I can stop making tea in our rice bowls. And today, I got the chance to use it to make tea:


Tea and sweet!

It was much easier. The depth allowed me to whisk without having to worry as much about spilling tea everywhere, and the bowl is just the right shape to make gripping it to drink without spilling easy. Basically I don't have to worry about spilling it anymore. I think that's why it took me so long to get the proper amount of foam, because the vigorous whisking necessary for it is pretty hard to do when you're concentrating mostly on not launching tea all around your kitchen.

And it was delicious. Yum.  photo emot-qfg.gif
dorchadas: (Do Not Want)
Like I mentioned, I ordered a new pair of shoes to take to Japan. The first pair of sneakers I've had in probably over a decade, not counting the pair that my parents bought me for the trip to Hawai'i--Kauai's red dirt famously permanently stains clothing it contacts--which lived in the back of my closet for years and then eventually got thrown away without being worn more than once.

And they look pretty good!


Yes, of course they're black

The mistake was thinking that they're sneakers so I don't need to take too many precautions to break them in. And they are sneakers, but they're not exercise shoes and they have a bit more structure to them. So I wore them walking to a friend's going-away party and now I have blisters on my toes.  photo c9a2ed93dbfb11e324f5b3e281e5e1b2.gif So now I'm stuck wondering if I'll heal fast enough to do a bit more walking in them and hopefully break them in more, or whether I should give up and take my boots to Japan. Or try one of the tricks like taking a hairdryer to the shoes or putting in water-filled bags and freezing them.

It won't be a disaster if I have to take my boots, since they're easy to take on and off and they're already broken in, and I have sandals to bring as well. I'm mostly just annoyed at myself because this is what I already do when I get new shoes.
dorchadas: (Cherry Blossoms)
At least, I hope so!

We bought our plane tickets back in March, and while they would have been a lot cheaper if we bought them a month later and we would have gotten a direct flight--right now we're flying Air Canada to Toronto and then Toronto to Tokyo--but there's no use complaining about that now. We reserved our hotels in May and got pretty good prices (~$110 a night on average) and close to shinkansen and transit lines. On Monday, I ordered our JR Passes from JTB, and yesterday they arrived. On Tuesday, I went to the bank and got new debit cards sent out. Chipped versions, so we can use them in 7Bank ATMs.

Then there was trading our currency. I asked about it at our bank and the banker told me not to do it there, do it somewhere else, but I asked for a quote to compare. Then I checked against the place she suggested and the rate was worse, so I looked around and found a third place and asked [livejournal.com profile] softlykarou to go there and make the trade. Then that place didn't allow credit card payments over $500 and slapped a surcharge on top of them to prevent fraud, didn't take her debit card for some reason, and didn't take checks, so at the end of the day yesterday I asked her to go back to the bank and just do it there, since they can easily accept payment since they already hold our money. So that went through.

Then the Brexit vote happened and the yen took off like a rocket. When we did our trade, it was 104.5円 to the dollar minus fees and so on, so we got something like 99円 to the dollar. Today the yen is already trading around 99円 to the dollar (though up to 102円 at the time of writing). The Nikkei is down over 1300 points and when I went to sleep, they had suspended trading when it lost 1000 points in an hour. Who knows what the Bank of Japan is going to do--Kuroda is already trying negative interest rates and it didn't help at all.

I just got a phone call that our yen is waiting for us at the bank. This is pretty much terrible news all around, but at least we managed to get lucky on something small.
dorchadas: (Dreams are older)
I set my new computer up, as well as the external hard drive that Newegg paid me to take off their hands--it cost $90 for a 2 TB external hard drive, and I got a -$120 sale credit for the bundle, and with an offer like that, how am I going to turn it down--and spent Thursday to Friday taking all the data off my old computer and transferring it to my new one. As of the time of this post, it's pretty much done. I have a Backup folding sitting on my desktop with some of my old User folder in it still in case there are any saved games or setting files that I'm going to want, but once the Backblaze backup of my new computer is finished, I'm going to wipe the external HD and copy over my new computer's settings, and everything will be fixed.

I have run into a few problems with the new computer, though, mostly related to finally have separate OS and data drives and using Windows 10. Here's some thoughts:
  • Rarely have I longed for the days of DOS games, where everything was stored inside the game directory in a folder marked "Save," as much as I did when copying user files over. The User folder is a snarled mess of data from programs everywhere, and I have basically no hope of ever untangling it. Steam Cloud saves got most of them back and the only other games I'm in the middle of are games that do store their saves in a folder mark Save, but I wish people would come up with some kind of system.

  • Now that I have the OS on a smallish SSD, I have to worry about programs that don't give you a choice of where to install them. Windows lets you move the Documents, Music, and so on folders, which takes care of a lot of it, but I had to solve the problem of iTunes storing all backups on the OS drive, which is a problem with a 64 gb iPhone, a 128 gb iPad, and 128 gb SSD. I found a program that makes an NTFS Junction automatically and lets you decide where the backups go, so I moved them onto D: where they belong. But really, as multi-drive setups like this get more common, this is only going to happen more and more often.

  • I only have six USB ports here. The old computer had ten, which means I don't have enough for all my peripherals. Fortunately, I don't need them all at the same time, but it still requires me to do more plugging and unplugging than I had to.

  • The lack of start menu is disconcerting, and I didn't realize that Cortana had taken over the start menu's functions, though with a ton of clutter from the internet. Once I cut off all of Cortana's internet access, the box says "Search Windows," which is exactly what I want.

  • Goodreader wifi sync to my iPad doesn't work anymore. I have no idea whose fault this is.

That said, I'm pretty happy overall. Modded Skyrim, which on my old computer hit the VRAM memory limit all the time just with walking around the countryside, runs smooth as butter with the High-rez texture pack enabled on my new machine. It's fast and quiet, with even the GPU under load not making much noise (and speedfan tells me it doesn't get above 80 C, which is what it's supposed to do since NVidia has a program designed to overclock it to that temperature). As long as it doesn't collapse into flames in the first thirty days, I should be set for a while.

I named it after Sovereign, the only Reaper who was actually interesting. I think it's time to go back to my old tradition of computers named after AIs. Skynet and Helios never gave me any problems at all.
dorchadas: (Grue)
Yesterday, my computer died. Right after I finished playing Shatterhand--literally, like two minutes afterward--the screen went black. Restarting the computer produced a restart loop where the dark colors had an alternating pattern of blues lines, and while it booted into safe mode and worked fine when I uninstalled the graphics drivers (well, relatively fine since the blue lines were still there), installing a new graphics driver in an attempt to figure out if it was a corrupted driver installation caused it to completely shit the bed.

When I left this morning, it had run a full CHKDSK and found nothing, then failed to start Windows and Startup Repair wasn't able to fix the problem. I left it running MemTest this morning, but even if that does find and fix a problem, my computer's days are now sharply numbered. Now that it's catastrophically failed--there was no warning and no performance problems, it just stopped working--I can't trust it.

Fortunately, I've got backups. I know that backups are like Schrödinger's cat and they are of indeterminate quality until used, but most of my stuff is redundant. I have a full cloud backup, a lot of my books and documents are backed on my iPad, my music is on my phone and an external HD (where my media is as well, plus another backup of the documents), some stuff is on [livejournal.com profile] softlykarou's computer as well...I certainly have plenty of places to go to get my information from. The only problem will be getting it onto the new computer, since pulling down 1 TB of backup will take forever. Though not as long as it took to upload it!

I already ordered a new computer and paid a bit extra for faster shipping and same-day processing. The computer that just failed I built, and it worked for five years, with the only problems that ever cropped up when I tried to play heavily-modded Skyrim and the budget Nvidia GFX 570 I bought in 2011 couldn't handle it. Other than that, my gaming tastes have changed. Now, the games I anticipate are ones like Chasm or Eitr or I Am Setsuna, games that I'm pretty sure my old computer could run flawlessly. Of course, my stomach is trying it gnaw its way out of my body with worry--what if I wasted my money, what if it arrives defective, what if it fails just outside the warranty, what if, what if--but there's nothing I can do except wait and remind myself that the ratings on that particular model are good and the tales of computers arriving with massive problems are not automatically representative.

Well, it was five years old and it served me well. I was planning on replacing it anyway, just not for another month or two. In the meantime, I still have my phone and my tablet, so I guess I'll be doing more reading for the next couple of days.
dorchadas: (Dreams are older)
Thursday we had [twitter.com profile] xoDrVenture over to watch Revolutionary Girl Utena, and then after she left I got a bit overwhelmed by my upcoming schedule and the fact that the pants I ordered arrived and didn't fit, and I ended up lying down in a dark room for fifteen minutes while [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd did some work in the kitchen.  photo emot-glomp.gif

The next day I sent back the pants and the replacements are in the mail, and then I got home from work, devoured dinner, and immediately turned around and headed out to Call of Cthulhu, which you can read about here. Then we came back home and went to bed.

Saturday was LARP and shopping day, taking up a large portion of the afternoon and all of the evening, but also the day where I received an email from my father with the subject "$" and then checked my bank and noticed a pending transaction for a substantial sum of money. Enough to pay for our upcoming trip to Japan multiple times over. When we called my mother for Mother's Day the next day and asked about it, their reasoning was basically that they're not getting any younger and who knows what might happen. So if you wonder why I'm all #doom all the time, well...

Sunday was the aforementioned phone call and the Beach Party of Hope, scheduled in February. Fortunately the weather cooperated, but those again took up a big chunk of the day. We also wrote a letter to Kaminaka-san, one of our old students from Chiyoda, since we're planning to visit Chiyoda on our upcoming trip to Japan and wanted to let him know! That took a bit of time mostly because I had to hand-write Japanese, which I'm not very good at and which always makes me nervous.

Monday was session six of Warlords of the Mushroom Kingdom, which i haven't written about yet because over half of it was Small-time Peddlers of the Mushroom Kingdom, so I'll do a combined six + seven post next week and edit in a link here when it's written.

Tuesday was Japanese class again, which actually went pretty well. 世界の中心で愛を叫ぶ is getting better now that they're getting into more characterization, and at least with the most recent chapter, I went into class thinking I had a lot of trouble with the reading and it turned out that I actually understood almost all of it. Aya-sensei mentioned that it's easy to get caught up in a couple small things you don't understand and assume it means that you don't understand the larger picture and that's simply not the case, and that's definitely true. I think at this point I'd keep reading the book even if I didn't have class anymore.

Tonight, I have nothing scheduled and I'm going to play Castlevania: Symphony of the Night and watch Aria with [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd, and the only thing I have scheduled that is of any importance is that we're going to write another card to one of our students in Japan. And this Friday we're going out to eat at Travelle and then I don't have anything scheduled for the rest of the weekend.  photo emot-effort.gif Other than beating Symphony of the Night and finishing up my Ender-kun costume for ACEN. Just need to do the grass block!
dorchadas: (Office Space)
In furtherance of Darker than Black, because I really like chocolate, and also because they sent me a promotion for a free month, I signed up for a subscription delivery from Raaka Chocolate where they deliver three bars a month. I figure I can do at least one of those each month for Darker than Black, or save them up, or whatever. Or just eat them. Chocolate is good.

Except some asshole stole it. I'm pretty sure that it was one of our neighbors, because the package was sitting open on the inside stairs when I got home from work. It wasn't inside a bag and didn't have a slip like it had been damaged in transit, and the non-chocolate parts--the cacao bean samples and the informational leaflets--were still inside. So someone probably saw it said "chocolate" on the address label, ripped it open, stole the chocolate, and put it back.

I've already followed up with the post office, our property manager, and Raaka. Raaka agreed to resend another box of samples, which is pretty generous since we're still in the free month and haven't actually paid them yet. The post office is looking into it, and I haven't heard back from the property manager.

Hopefully it's a one-time thing and doesn't happen again. We'll know when the second package arrives.
dorchadas: (Chicago)
A few things.

Dreihaus Museum
A month ago, my parents suggested going to see the Downton Abbey clothing exhibit at the Dreihaus Museum, a 19th century house downtown now converted into, well, a museum. I haven't seen a single episode of Downtown Abbey and know almost nothing about the show--they I have read To Marry an English Lord, one of the books that inspired the show--so I didn’t really care about the clothes, but I loved the rest of the house. Big portions of it were done up in dark wood with wainscotting as high as my waist, tiles or dark wallpaper, extremely high ceilings, and lavish carvings. It’s exactly the kind of decorating I would do if I had infinite money.


I would gladly put everything in this picture in our apartment.

Though there’s a bit too much light in that picture for me. Draw all the curtains, put a fire in the fireplace so there are shadows dancing around the room, and I’d be happier. Sure, I’m a stereotype, but it’s comfortable here.

I was a bit disappointed in the audio tour. There was the occasional cue on the various plaques throughout the house, but 80% of them related to the Downton Abbey exhibit. I was hoping there would be a bit more context for the original inhabitants of the house, but I suppose that’s not the draw. You can tell that because my parents originally wanted to get tickets for over a month ago but they were sold out until this weekend. They added another month to the exhibition and now that’s sold out too. The only tickets available are a few daily walk-in tickets.

Boots
This took place before the museum but wasn’t as important. My parents thought that we could get in to see the non-exhibit part of the house first and then go see the exhibit when our ticket time came up, but it turned out that the exhibit was spread out throughout the whole museum and so we couldn’t get in at all. So we went shopping for new boots, since my current boots are literally falling apart on my feet and if there were a particularly rainy day my feet would get absolutely soaked. We looked around a bit, and then we walked into Macy’s, I went over the sale rack, and I found these:


Black. Pre-distressed. Narrow. Suitable for scavenging through the fallen ruins of our once-glorious civilization. And they were up for 80% off so I got them for $27. When the salesman rang them up, he said apologetically that he couldn’t provide any further discount on top of that. You know, I’m okay with that.

Now I’ll just have to make sure to break them in before my old boots lose what little structural integrity they have left.

あん
After that, we met [livejournal.com profile] drydem and his wife [twitter.com profile] ameliaaldred for dinner at Sable Kitchen and then headed down to the Gene Siskel Film Center to watch a movie they had suggested. It was called Sweet Bean on the advertisements, but the original title is あん.

It was Japanese in a way I’d have a bit of a hard time describing to someone who didn’t already know what I meant. If the movie had been American, there would have been a whole section dedicated to the evils of stereotyping and fighting to make sure that Tokue was able to keep working at the dorayaki stand, or maybe the schoolgirls would unite with the dorayaki baker to stage a protest against the owner’s plans to remodel the place where they stop in for a treat every morning before school. But, well, しょうがないな. Some things you just have to accept. It’s how you react to them that matters. I tend to take that approach to life too, which is why I think I liked the ending so much even though a lot of reviews I saw said it was overly sentimental.

I don’t know that much about cinematography, but I found the shot composition interesting. Almost all the shots were close-ups on one character at a time, occasionally with other characters blurry on the edge of the framing. A lot of the other shots were shots of nature: cherry blossoms, autumn leaves, that sort of thing. And other than maybe a few minutes here and there, there was no music whatsoever. I don’t watch enough movies to really give a good opinion of how ordinary this is, but I thought it was a neat stylistic choice.

I’m glad I could understand the Japanese, too. There were a few bits here and there with subtleties that I would have translated differently than the subtitled did, and an untranslated bit at the end just as the credits begin to roll where some children run up and order dorayaki, and when he asks how many they want, one shouts out, “Ten!” It was a lovely ending.

Also, I would kill a man for some taiyaki right about now.

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