2017-Jul-14, Friday 11:07
dorchadas: (Perfection)
Prime Day happened and we didn't pay much attention, but we did take the opportunity to grab some new cookware. A replacement for the crockpot we've had since we got married, a new lunchbag to replace the tattered one I've used since I started my current job, and something else that [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd found that got me really excited:

Tamagoyaki Pan
A tamagoyaki pan!

[personal profile] schoolpsychnerd makes dashimaki for me every time we eat breakfast together, and the pan we've been using is adequate but obviously not designed for the purpose. Since we have next week off together, I'm really excited for all the new delicious dashimaki I'm going to get to eat! Emoji Fairy La
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.
dorchadas: (Blue Rose)
Last weekend [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd and I took a vacation, sort of! We went out to Portland for [twitter.com profile] faylynne and [twitter.com profile] ntcomplete's wedding, and unlike the last time we were there in 2015, the weather cooperated. For Portland, anyway. It was cool and cloudy--just the way I liked it--and being next to the Willamette meant that sometimes there were passing boaters, though at least they cut the motor when they noticed that there was a ceremony happening. But everything else was lovely. I especially liked the sling that the maid of honor, [twitter.com profile] faylynne's eldest sister, had rigged up to allow her new baby to participate in the ceremony.

I also loved how most of the wedding party entered to the main hobbit theme from The Fellowship of the Ring, while the bride and groom entered to an instrumental cover of the Legend of Zelda fairy fountain theme. Link smilie

The ceremony was extremely short and to the point. After a brief opening, the couple gave their vows--almost inaudible to us sitting in the back, but from what I could tell a variation on the traditional ones--and then exchanged rings, soldiering through [twitter.com profile] ntcomplete dropping them when the best man handed them to him and [twitter.com profile] faylynne initially trying to put the ring on his right hand. Then they kissed, the ceremony was over, and the guests all went back to the hall for drinks and snacks before the reception. I drank red wine and gin, [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd drank white wine and cider, and our friend [facebook.com profile] aaron.hosek does not drink, but we were all united in our love for the snacks. Caprese skewers and grilled cheese shooters, with a tiny bit of grilled-cheese sandwich stuck in the top of an ounce or so of tomato-basil soup in a shotglass. It was delicious and I'm amazed that I haven't seen it anywhere else.

Inside, we took our seat at the labeled tables, each themed after a specific fantasy setting. The three of us were seated at the Tortall table, which immediately made [facebook.com profile] aaron.hosek text his girlfriend. She was unable to attend due to a family emergency, but despite not really being geeky at all, she's read the Song of the Lioness books and would have instantly recognized the table title.

Then was a buffet dinner and dancing. I was initially a bit worried that no dinner preference had been specified, but [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd correctly pointed out that it was almost certainly a buffet. And it was, with nothing that we can't eat. The salmon and asparagus were especially tasty. Weeee smiling happy face

We did not dance, at least for my part because none of the songs being played are the kind I like to dance to, but the dance floor wasn't particularly well attended. There were a lot of people chatting and eating, and then speeches and cake.

I don't like most cakes, but they did look wonderful. And they were made by the maid of honor. I heard a couple people asking [twitter.com profile] faylynne if her sister was a chef, and her reply was that her sister had taken a pastry class one summer.

As we left, we got a bit of a chance to chat with both of them. [twitter.com profile] ntcomplete tried to sell [facebook.com profile] aaron.hosek on attending PAX and mostly succeeded and both of them told us about their honeymoon in Japan and how they wanted us all to go back in 2020 when the new Ghibli Theme Park will be opened. I mentioned that was also when the Nintendo Theme Park would be open and that's in Ōsaka, far away from the Tokyo crowds. [facebook.com profile] aaron.hosek suggested making the Japan trip a biannual thing and you know, that sounds like a great idea. Walking chocobo

[twitter.com profile] faylynne also mentioned that she had been practicing Japanese on DuoLingo and how shocked she was when the writing suddenly changed and she realized she had to learn another syllabary. All I could do was nod, half sagely, half sympathetically. I've been there.

She wants to get to conversational Japanese in time for 2020. I wish her good luck. She will need it. Sad pikachu flag

Other things I did in Portland!:
  • Stayed with my sister, who kindly put us up in her apartment's spare room!
  • Went to House of Ramen, which featured build-your-own ramen so [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd and I could have porkless ramen. We got a small size bowl, also known as "the size ramen is served in Japan." My sister and her boyfriend split a regular.
  • Went to the farmer's market and bought a bunch of cheese and smoked salmon. They also had delicious macaroon cookies but we were too full to eat them.
  • Bought some Edo Jidai-era lacquerware at the going-out-of-business sale at Shogun's Gallery.
  • Went to Moonstruck chocolate, which I obliquely wrote about here.
It was a lovely way to spend a weekend.

Ten years!

2017-Jun-09, Friday 17:21
dorchadas: (Link and Zelda sitting together)
And many more to go!

Today is [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd and my ten year wedding anniversary. Kawaii heart emoji As I posted on Facebook, to put that into perspective, I made sure to set my AIM away message to "AFK, getting married" on my wedding day.

Unlike most events, since ten years is a nice round number we actually bought presents for each other. Usually our celebrations consist of going out to dinner or lunch, and we did go out to lunch today at a pretty good restaurant, but here we made an exception and also bought gifts.

click for pictures )
It's been a great ten years and I think it only looks up from here! Kirby heart

Chiyoda!: Friday

2016-Jul-22, Friday 23:29
dorchadas: (Chiyoda)
One benefit of staying in a ryokan is that you get both dinner and breakfast, so after sleeping in almost until the last minute, I was awakened by [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd with exactly enough time to make it to breakfast after a quick shower. And such a breakfast:

Get in my mouth.

We had to eat a bit quickly in order to make the ferry, and originally I thought we were going to miss the shuttle from the ryokan to the port and would have to walk. What was I thinking? This is Glorious Nippon, after all. They held the bus for us, loaded our luggage into it while we paid for the room, and then drove us down in time to catch the 8:25 ferry and the street car that was just leaving after that.

We didn't try to make the 9:40 bus after arriving at 9:35, so we popped into a 7-11 to withdraw cash and get snacks--I got a melon pan, om nom nom--and then up to the bus center, where we bought tickets and asked for the proper platform to board the bus. I thought it was eight, but I was misremembering. It was nine, like it's always been.

Also, [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd accidentally bought us children's tickets instead of adult tickets and we were worried for a moment, but we were being silly. This is Japan, and the ticket counter exchanged them for free. They were actually the same price, so I'm not sure why the 北部 line even offers separate tickets.

On the bus, we learned that Pokemon Go had finally gone live in Japan, causing a frantic burst of activity as [livejournal.com profile] tropicanaomega captured every unclaimed gym in sight.

And then, we arrived in Chiyoda.

From the highway. That building with wings is the community center.

Kaminaka-san, Hattori-san, and Sunada-san were all waiting to meet us at the bus center, and after a round of hugs (hugs! In Japan!) we started on our short tour. First we went to the Geihoku Cultural Center, new since we lived here, that had exhibits about local folk crafts like weaving and rice growing, about kagura performance, and about the festival of Mibu no Hanadaue. Then we went to Mibu itself, walking down the shōtengai where the festival takes place and ending at Mibu Jinja, where we went for hatsumōde our last year in Japan.

Not as impressive now, without the snow and lanterns and crowds of people. I wish I had a picture of that night...

After that, we drove up to a viewpoint on top of a hill, and after a short walking path, we found our way to 壬生城跡 (Mibu shiroato, "the ruins of Mibu Castle"). I didn't see anything that looked remotely like a castle had ever been there, but there was a spectacular view:

Facing toward Ōsaka.

After that, we went to look at our old house, still pretty nice looking and still sitting next to the abandoned twin house next to it, and and then off to Chiyoda High School! Unfortunately, due to the Japanese policy of transferring teachers after only a few years, very few of the people that [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd taught with were still there. There were a couple, though. Umeki-sensei, who teaches math, and Nishihara-sensei, who teaches science, and the school nurse were all there. We also ran into Koyama-san, mother of Kazu, who I wrote about in this post and who is now a high school student. We didn't talk for very long because Kaminaka-san had set us a schedule, but we looked around for a bit in the school and then continued on to the Yae-sogo Communtiy Center for lunch, where we were met by Nakamura-san, the other Hattori-san, and Bōno-san.

Lunch was amazing. They had remembered I liked sake a lot and brought two small bottles for me, one of local sake from Chiyoda and one from Saijō, where the sake festival is held every year in late August. We had conbini bentō and okonomiyaki, as well as dessert jello from somewhere. I got a grape and aloe jelly that tasted exactly like the drinks I used to get from vending machines. We chatted, and I did a lot of translating to and from Japanese, and there were only a couple times where I just brought the conversation to a halt because I couldn't think of how to express an idea. It was amazing. Why did we leave?

Oh yes. So [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd could go to school and fulfill her dreams. It's a good reason! And yet, when I'm here, walking around Chiyoda, speaking in Japanese in a way that I was very uncomfortable doing when I lived here the first time...

If I had moved here before knowing as much Japanese as I know now, I'd be conversationally fluent. But, well, there's nothing to do about that now. I just have to keep trying and keep studying.

また今度, I said as we left. "Until next time..."

And we will be back, someday. Sooner than five years.

After a three-hour meal, we had to catch the bus back to Hiroshima, so we took the taxi Kaminaka-San had chartered and packed away the hand-made pottery pieces he had made for each member of our group, including [facebook.com profile] aaron.hosek, who wasn't there due to having not been in Hiroshima with us, and we got on the highway bus and started the trip back. After the trip, we walked to our hotel--not Hotel Active, sadly, because there was a weekend price spike that made it not worth staying in--but in Toyoko Inn on Heiwa-Ōdōri, which was further but not significantly so. We were scheduled to meet some old friends from our Japan days, who happened to all be here at the same time in a weird serendipity, and after we checked in that's what we set out to do, though [livejournal.com profile] tropicanaomega and [livejournal.com profile] tastee_wheat stayed behind because they were still incredibly full from lunch.

The tabe・nomihōdai was at Sōgo, not Mitsukoshi like we originally expected it would be, so it took a bit longer to get there than we thought it would. Not too long, though, and once we made our way through Sōgo to the special beer garden elevator and went up, we had a couple hours of drinks and food with friends. The food wasn't that great, but I got some nice use out of the bottle of sake that it didn't seem like anyone else was drinking from, and a lovely time talking to people I hadn't seen in years. And some Japanese practice with an acquaintance, though I think because of the beer, she forgot that I'm not that great and just launched into full native speed and I followed along as best as I could.

At ten they threw everyone out. Some people were going on to a bar called Koba and originally I was planning on joining them, but on the walk there I started getting more and more twitchy in a way that told me that it was time to go back to the hotel. So I said my goodbyes, walked back to the hotel with a friend, and read until [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd came back and then went to bed.

Steps taken: 14050.

Note: If you're interested in more about Chiyoda, I did a whole blog series about it here.
dorchadas: (Genbaku Park)
Woke up early again, though not as early as [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd, who woke up in a panic at 1 a.m. worrying that she had somehow screwed up the hotel reservations and then couldn't get back to sleep. I woke up at 5:30 when she came back in from her morning run and then likewise couldn't get back to sleep, so after trying a failing for a while, I got up and met the others at breakfast. After toast and a bit of [livejournal.com profile] tropicanaomega's leftover chicken curry, everyone went back to their rooms to pack up and get ready for the trip to Himeji to see the castle.

We got a later start than I liked and went the slightly longer way around the Yamanote Line to stick [facebook.com profile] aaron.hosek, who was getting off at Shibuya in preparation for going on to Matsumoto and walking through the mountains there. When we did get to Tokyo Station and the Shinkansen stop, we took the second train out west because it went straight through to Himeji rather than requiring us to change trains in Shin-Ōsaka, so we waited for a bit, bought train station bentō, and boarded the 11:03 for Okayama.


Riding the Shinkansen again reminds me how much of an embarrassing pile of trash every single American attempt at mass transit is. It's true that Amtrak was designed to kill passenger rail, but even with all its failures it's still running because mass transit is part of a civilized society and it's something that Japan has absolutely got down. The average Shinkansen arrives within six seconds of the posted time and is roomier, and far more pleasant to ride than an airplane, so it's all we took for intra-country travel when we lived in Japan.

Also, Japan is clearly gearing up for the olympics, or perhaps they realized that Malaysia is very close, majority Muslim, and has 500 million people. I doubt I could find kosher food anywhere in Japan, but I found a halal bentō for the train ride:

"Kebab Bentō." Super good.

The ride from Tokyo to Himeji is almost three hours long, and while there are a few interesting views along the way, large portions of it take place in tunnels because Japan is full of mountains. I spent the time listening to podcasts and catching up on my RSS feeds while [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd tried to sleep, and around 2:45, we arrived at Himeji.

The weather in Himeji was typical Japanese summer--33°C, why, how do people live like this--but we were able to walk on the shady side of the street on the road to the castle and once inside the walls, it was actually pretty cool. The baileys were shaded with enough windows that there was almost always a cool breeze blowing through, and the main problem became that we hadn't actually officially stopped for lunch coupled with climbing a bunch of stairs and walking through wooden halls, as well as the occasional foray out into the sun and the heat.

Autocorrect almost wrote "the sauna and the heat" there, which is pretty accurate.

The last time I was here, Himeji-jō was under renovation, but this time the main keep was finished and the renovations had moved on to one of the walls not that far from the front gate, well out of the way of the view from the castle keep or most of the outbuildings. And what a view:

Also called 白鷺城, "white heron castle."

Matsue-jō, the other intact castle I've been to, has more interesting inside, with the armor displays and full storerooms and so on, while Himeji is mostly empty rooms with the occasional small display. Despite that, I like Himeji-jō better because it's more awe-inspiring. From seeing it when you exit the train station at the end of the road ahead, to climbing up all the wooden stairs and through the walls, to the way the darkened interior halls look and smell, it has a grandeur that Matsue-jō lacks.

Hiroshima-jō looks impressive from the outside, but it's a replica built of concrete, for obvious reasons.

It took a little over an hour to see the castle, and afterwards we stopped in the gift shop where I bought a sake cup to supplement our collection, some of ours having broken over the years. It was there that we learned the real name for the round mascot of Himeji that we've been calling Himeji-tan: しろまるひめ (shiromaruhime, "white round princess"). Then we went back outside the castle and down the street, stopping briefly, at a shop for [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd, another friend, and I to get ほうじ茶 (hōjicha, "barley tea") soft serve ice cream. It was amazingly tasty, though of course, the heat may have had something to do with that.

Then we bought Shinkansen tickets with our JR Rail Passes and got on a bullet train ten minutes later. I love Japan's transit system.

I forgot how many tunnels there are close to Hiroshima, so I mostly just read during the trip since the Internet was constantly cutting out. And then we arrived.


It was really like...coming home, when I stepped out of the station and saw the train cars, and walked down Aioi-dōri and saw all the stores I remembered and the skyline. Hondōri with Parco at the end, looking down Chūōdōri and remembering Tōkasans past... I'm not from here, and at this point I've spent longer in Chicago than I did in Chiyoda, but even so, this almost feels more like home to me.

We walked from the train station to Hotel Active, our old haunt, and checked in. Yumi-san isn't working here anymore, or at least wasn't working today, though I did recognize one of the staff who checked our friends in. He didn't seem to recognize us, though, and we had never really talked with him before so I didn't bother to do so now. All the reservations checked out okay, and after we paid and dropped our stuff off in our rooms, we reassembled in the lobby for dinner. I had suggested kaitenzushi, specifically Nonta-sushi, over in the Pacela building next to the bus terminal. One person wasn't too interested in fish and headed off to find different food, but the rest of us made the trek only to find that it was near closing time and there wasn't actually any sushi on the conveyor. We ordered by hand, though, and people seemed to enjoy the food. I talked up fatty tuna a bunch and that came through for me, at least!

After that, we went down into Shareo and over to Stick Sweets for dessert, where I think I surprised the shop attendant. She was cleaning and I came in and asked if they were still open, and she kind of nervously nodded, and asked if we wanted to eat in. I asked if it was okay and she said yes, but I'm not sure if it was just Japanese customer service or not...

Regardless, we ate our sweets (gateau chocolate and strawberry mousse for me!), and headed back. [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd and I split off about halfway through to go check out if one of the bars we liked was still there while the others went back to the hotel, and on the way we found a fooddrink truck:

Sponsored by Bacardi. All mojitos, all the time.

The bar we remembered did exist and was open, but we were pretty tired, sore, and sweaty, so we bought mojitos and drank them while reminiscing about days gone by as we watched the crowds on Hondōri. Then, tired, sore, and sweaty, we went back to the hotel.

Steps taken: 18856

Tokyo: Sunday

2016-Jul-17, Sunday 22:40
dorchadas: (Eight Million Gods)
We woke up at various points from "before dawn" to "early morning" and eventually all made our way down to the cafe across the street from the hotel, where we took advantage of the ¥350 all-you-can-eat breakfast. It was super simple--coffee and tea, bread and butter, and soup of the day--but six of us ate it and the seventh got beef curry while we talked about what to do. The attendant came over and asked us in halting English if we were all friends, and I explained in Japanese that [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd and I had lived in Japan and were showing friends around. She asked if she could take our picture, we agreed, and now I wonder if it'll be up on the cafe wall eventually

Food done, and with a brief stop at Lawson to get some more snacks including the first store-bought onigiri I've had in five years, we headed off to Meiji Jingu, past the line of billboards with Password-senpai and User-kōhai encouraging people to strengthen their computer security.

Back again.

Meiji Jingu is the first place I went my first day in Japan, so it has a special place in my heart. But the other reason we went there is that nothing else was open, so we didn't hurry too much, even paying to get into the Treasure Museum and look around at the articles of the Meiji Emperor and taking the long--and much less crowded--route through the forest to get back to the main gate. Then it was time for lunch.

After wandering up and down Omotesandō and finding several restaurants that looked good but had lines out the door, we went to our old standard of Chaiyaphum, a Thai restaurant on the fourth floor of 原宿八角館, at the south corner of the 神宮前 intersection. It was still open and still delicious, and while I apparently confused the waitress when I asked for a dessert menu, we managed to order dessert too. Coconut ice cream with toasted coconut in coconut milk for me and durian ice cream for [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd, which pretty much was like using chemical weapons on the table.

[twitter.com profile] xoDrVenture also had a quote after using the bathroom in the building:
"Toilets here are either holes in the floor or robots."
After a quick stop at Baby, the Stars Shine Bright, where [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd bought a set of hair ribbons on sale--as cute as most of it is, it doesn't have much practical utility or opportunities to wear it elsewhere--and then we set out to walk to Shinjuku Gyōen, since it wasn't that far and we'd get to see some of Tokyo along the way. And we did, working our way through the crowds until we passed a shōtengai and the crowds thinned out like they had been cut off by a knife. The rest of the walk was just us and a few people out and about, as well as a sizable police presence by the Turkish Embassy.

Shinjuku Gyōen has a lot of amazing trees:

It's like someone twisted a couple trees around each other.

We got turned around a few times and walked probably more than we had to, but we checked out the Japanese garden and the lakes before the fact that we had been walking for nearly ten hours finally caught up with most of the group, and we headed back to the hotel to rest before dinner.

Dinner was at Seikōan, a yakiniku restaurant that we found after a bit of wandering around and having our original choice be totally full. Filled with meat, we went to Penguin Bar to see if we could get in and see the penguins, but an ¥800 cover and a two-drink minimum drove us off. Instead, we headed to Taito Arcade, where two people split off to play a game called Gunslinger Stratos, where about all I could tell from a quick watch is that one of the characters (the schoolgirl, of course) exists only to provide panty shots. [livejournal.com profile] tastee_wheat and [livejournal.com profile] tropicanaomega found a Pokkén Tournament head to head setup, and [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd played Taikō no Tatsujin a bit. Then another friend challenged me to a game, and while that was going on, [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd snuck off and won me a Neko Atsume plushie from a crane game!

I'm a real-life kitty collector!

After a quick stop at Mister Donut for dessert, several people expressed the desire to go back to the hotel and get some water, because it turns out that constantly seeping a thin film of sweat due to gigantic humidity and walking all day requires extra water to avoid dehydration!

And all that walking and dehydration kind of caught up to us, and we went to sleep pretty soon after.

Steps taken: 21704

ACEN 2016

2016-May-22, Sunday 15:31
dorchadas: (Perfection)
This is the 11th year since I started going to ACEN and the 10th year since I started going with [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd. She couldn't make the first year because of a small convention she was running at Knox College, but she came the year after and every year we've gone since, which is all of them except 2009-2011 (when we were in Japan) and 2013 (when we had no money). A couple years ago I wasn't sure if I wanted to keep going but thought it was nice to see friends, and last year I had a great time. This year was somewhere in between, but weighted more toward a great time than toward not bothering.

A full accounting follows.

Read more... )

I was surprised how much I liked cosplaying. I haven't done it since before we moved to Japan--I haven't even worn a Hallowe'en costume for years--but I was looking forward to it this year and it was a lot of fun, especially doing a joint one with [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd. We've already started planning for next year, when we're going to do another non-anime cosplay with me as Mairon and her as Melkor. Often it's couples with a man playing Melkor and a woman playing Mairon, but [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd wanted to switch things around, and also if you do a google image search for Mairon, you'll understand why that's my role--examples here, here, or here. That'll probably take a while, so we're planning it early.

We didn't do as much participating in the actual convention this time, so I can see why some of our friends don't bother buying badges and just show up to meet with other friends. But buying earlier means badges aren't that expensive, and while the massive explosion of the internet and the way that nerds have taken over popular culture means that the dealer's room is no longer the only place to find a lot of the things we want, it's still worthwhile for telling us that those things exist, as well as letting us try on any clothing before we buy it, though there's more shops catering to [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd's taste in clothing than to mine. And I did go to a couple panels, and had a couple more on the schedule that I didn't make it to.

Looking forward to next year!
dorchadas: (Warlords of the Mushroom Kingdom)
Last night was the final session of the short Warlords of the Mushroom King game I ran, and almost the entire session was a battle with the Super Mario Galaxy 2 Bowser Music playing in the background. That sounds like a nightmare, but we run relatively short sessions and got a bit of a later start, to a combat with nine major characters--the protagonists and the Blossom Guard that Miyamoto had sent for against the warlock Kurome; his lieutenants, a kappa Brother of the Hammer and a mycon Cultist of the Broodmother; Kurome's summoned demons, and the surviving bandits.

The protagonists opened up the battle by sending Chi's familiar, a self-reassembling bob-omb, walking up to the group and exploding. It rolled 8 successes on seven dice, none of the bandits saw it, and so the protagonists had a huge advantage as they attacked from stealth while the bandits were in disarray. Daiju charged straight at the Brother of the Hammer while Kabocha and Miyamoto attacked the Cultist and Kaeru started carving his way through the bandits. No one got near Kurome, especially not after the demon materialized to guard him.

The Cultist went down quickly, but the Brother of the Hammer took a bit more time due to his thick armor and his Charm-enhanced toughness, but once he started hurting a bit, Miyamoto managed to wrestle his hammer away from him and hurl it into the forest. Deprived of his martial prowess--hard to be a Brother of the Hammer with no hammer--he died quickly after that. Kurome and his demon vanished before the protagonists could turn their attention to them (I'm sure they won't show up again next game!) and the remaining bandits, confronted with the death or disappearance of their leaders and the fact that a single warrior had killed a quarter of them, threw down their weapons and ran. The protagonists let them, figuring the flora would take care of them. They then returned to a heroes' welcome in the village and walked off into the sunset.

I realized there was a third demon that Kurome had under his control--a decanthrope, if you're curious--that I should have had launch itself from bandit to bandit the way it's described in that entry. I genuinely forgot about it, though.

Kurome didn't do much in the battle. He conjured an aura of fear around himself, called on the demon to defend him, and then stepped through the shadows to get away as soon as the battle turned against him. That's a bit by design, though. One of my goals was the sorcery is more broadly applicable than martial arts, but in direct combat, sorcerers have very limited options because spellcasting takes time and blasting spells are highly limited. That's why Kurome had demons to defend him, and why he left early. Maybe he could have turned the tide if he had gone on full offense and sent the demon to attack the protagonists...but that would have been a risk, and he didn't become a powerful warlock by taking risks.

Also the game was almost over, so that did influence my decision making. But only a bit. I didn't conceive of Kurome as the adventurous type.

I learned from this game that Exalted is a great gritty system where Charms and Exalted ruin everything! It worked really well, especially when I introduced the glass beads for players tracking their timing. I called out tick, everyone tosses one into the center, anyone with no beads gets to take an action. It worked really well, and the limited selection of powers meant that combat never really got bogged down. No dice pools with 30+. I think the highest number anyone rolled was 14, and that was Miyamoto disarming people. No one got hurt, so I still didn't get to test my new Medicine mechanics. But next game!

I've mentioned I always learn something from the games I finish. Here, I think I can sum what I learned down to two bullet points: 1) The Seven Samurai is a great plot and I can see why it's been ripped off so many times and 2) Exalted, at its core, is not as terrible as the internet makes it out to be, but it's a bad system for actual Exalted. At the mortal level, with dice pools from 4-12 or so, it works great.

Next Warlords of the Mushroom Kingdom game starts next week!
dorchadas: (Exalted: One True RPG)
Last night was another session of the Warlords of the Mushroom Kingdom short-run game I'm doing. There was another session in between this one and the first one I wrote about, but I didn't have anything insightful to say about it and I'm not going to do a blow-by-blow recounting of this game, so I skipped it.

I'm writing here because this was the first session where we had actual combat. Part of the reason I wanted to use the Exalted system, even with all the ill-will it has on the internet, is that I'm convinced the base of the system is an interesting, crunchy timing-based (as opposed to round-based) engine and all the problems come when dozens of Charms have to interact with it. Also flurries. And the combat we had would seem to support that conclusion. It had seven participants, ran about half an hour--almost no one had played in an Exalted 2e combat before, so a lot of that time was explaining things--and went pretty smoothly.

Rather than use a battle wheel to keep track of timing, I used some glass counters I bought specifically for the purpose a while ago. Every time anyone took an action, they took counters equal to its Speed, and then I'd say "tick" and everyone would throw a counter in the pile. It made it obvious when people got to go again and kept things moving pretty well. I just wish that Daiju had gotten to participate, but he failed a Temperance roll, went off to investigate some pretty lights, and got beguiled by a faerie.

I did love my players' expressions when I said, "Faerie blood heals wounds. Just sayin'."

Since each player only had five or six Charms to pick from, all of which were from a single martial art and so focused on a particular combat style, there wasn't a lot of dithering and pouring over long lists. Chi used sorcery to link the group closer together so they could make group Stealth rolls, and then opened the battle against two kappa and two mycon bandits with Binding Filament Strands to take a prisoner. After that, he mostly just hid. Miyamoto leapt into the middle of the remaining three and laid about him with fists and feet, knocking one of the mycon out and getting a few hits on the kappa, though most failed to do much damage against its thick shell. Kabocha used her sticky tongue to snag the other mycon and chewed on it, eventually biting it in half. The final kappa ran after the other three bandits were incapacitated and Miyamoto and Kabocha chased it down, tackled it, and killed it.

Things I realized I forgot to do
  • DV Tracking: Uh. Oops. I forgot to penalize people's defenses for the actions they took. It was mostly just attacking without anything complicated, but DV is an important part of the rules and if I really want to see how well the combat system works we need to track it.
  • Combat Tactics: This is mostly because our printer is broken and I couldn't print out the reference sheet for actions, but I really should have had the sheet in front of everyone with the actions and DV costs on it. It would have helped people decide what to do.
  • Knockdown: I forgot that checking for knockdown is based on the raw damage of the attack, not the post-armor and -soak damage. There were at least two attacks Miyamoto made that were reduced to a one or two damage dice that should still have checked for knockdown (kappa have 8L/8B armor just from their shells).
I did remember to track most everything else, including movement. I found a blank sheet of paper was fine for tracking all the of the enemies they were fighting. No extras, either--everyone had full stats. And I didn't have worry about bleeding, chance of infection, or disease, because none of the PCs even got hurt. The only one who got attacked was Miyamoto, and he handily dodged every attack directed at him.

The PCs also followed a trail the bandits hadn't done enough to disguise and found out their their camp is apparently within the boundaries of the Forest of Shadows. How are they surviving in there without drawing the wrath of the forest spirits or the carnivorous flora? Mysterious!

Things I need to do for next time--get that combat actions sheet printed out, stat up walking trees and forest spirits, and come up with a set of rules for Shaping combat (Chi is planning to use dream sorcery to interrogate/brainwash their captive) that aren't 1) overcomplicated and 2) terrible.
dorchadas: (Enter the Samurai)
Imagine the perfect NES game. A game with the tight controls and world map of Super Mario Brothers III, the variable weapon choices and themed bosses of Mega Man, the item design of Castlevania, and the bounding pogo jumps and treasure hunting of Duck Tales. Imagine that it could be made for modern systems and wouldn't be bound by NES limitations like four-color sprites and no independent background scrolling. And then realize you don't have to imagine it, because the game I'm talking about is right there in the subject line and I'm not fooling anyone here.

I've known Shovel Knight was great for a long time since basically every review is blasting praise around like it's a game of Splatoon, but I have enough of a backlog that I wasn't willing to buy it until I found a sale on it, and that wasn't until around a month ago. And of course as soon as I started playing it I wondered why I had waited so long because this game is amazing.

This, uh, isn't going to be an impartial review.

I've seen plenty of these screens before.

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Oregon Vacation

2015-Jul-19, Sunday 14:58
dorchadas: (In America)
I tend to write pretty detailed posts about my vacations because even though they're mostly only of interest to me, I like to have a record for when I go back and reread old posts. But this time I was gone for two weeks and, taking into account how verbose my blog posts tend to be, a detailed account of everything I did would run for 10,000 words and be exhausting to write, so I'm going to do what I did when we first moved to Japan and didn't have any internet and write a series of smaller segments and put them all in one post.
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dorchadas: (That is not dead...)
I was tempted not to even write a post about this since so much of it is reminiscing and catching up with friends, but I do go back and read my old posts occasionally. It'll have value for me even if it's boring for everyone else.

Nothing much exciting happened on Friday. We went to the airport after work, waited for our plane, got on ten minutes late, sat on the runway for half an hour, then took off. About the only memorable thing was the pilot subjecting us to a credit card advertisement halfway through the flight. Is that a thing now, or did we encounter a special case? I really hope it's not a trend that I somehow managed to miss before now...

We landed only fifteen minutes late, ran and got our bag, made it to the train with five minutes to spare, and headed out to our hotel, where we promptly went to sleep.

After waking up early (accounting for time change), we lounged around for a couple hours and ate some Kind bars after discovering that the hotel wanted $13 for an omelette, plus $5 if you wanted any meat on it. We didn't eat much, though, because just after eleven we headed out to meet up with [livejournal.com profile] spacialk, her husband [twitter.com profile] Damionw, and another couple at Reading Terminal Market for lunch.

I'd been to Reading Terminal Market once before, when I was in university, I was honestly really provincial and almost never got off campus. Now that it was within ten minutes' walk of our hotel, I thought it was a great time to go back and take [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd along! I forgot how incredibly crowded it gets at any time close to when most people have meals, though, and while we managed to get seats and make our way through the crush, it was pretty claustrophobic. After [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd and I picked up Indian food, we ate it and chatted for about half an hour before we moved to the basement of the Bellevue, where there was a food court that was essentially empty. We stayed there until it was time for [livejournal.com profile] spacialk's nail appointment, then we all parted ways.

[personal profile] schoolpsychnerd and went out and kept walking on to South Street, a part of Philadelphia filled with a lot of quirky and fun shops. Most of the ones that I remember going to in university were still there--shops like Mineralistic, Armed and Dangerous, Garland of Letters, and Hats in the Belfry. Even Digital Ferret CDs, where I bought most of the music that shaped my college music tastes, is still around, though I only know that after checking the internet because they moved and changed their name. We popped into most of those, checked out the Wooden Shoe (an anarchist bookstore), Atomic City Comics (which had an X-Men arcade cabinet in it! But we didn't have any quarters...) and a thrift shop before it was time to walk over to [twitter.com profile] tweetjoshtweet's apartment.

It was a big longer than I thought--Philadelphia blocks are shorter than Chicago ones, but 15 blocks is still a hike--but we made it with enough time before dinner that we had plenty time to chat. We sat down, ate some veggies and spicy dip, and played a game called We Didn't Playtest This at All. Each game took about 2-3 minutes before someone (or no one, in one case) won, and [twitter.com profile] tweetjoshtweet told us that his board gaming friends will often use it to decide who goes first in the real games (so to speak) that they're playing. After a couple hours, we had to make it to our dinner appointment, so we said goodbye and set out for the subway.

After buying tokens--SEPTA still uses them to my bemusement and [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd's astonishment--we got on the Blue .line and headed out to West Philadelphia to meet up with [livejournal.com profile] daveax for dinner. [livejournal.com profile] gurami and [livejournal.com profile] greyselke couldn't make it, but [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd and I got a tour of his old Philadelphia row house, a century old and in great condition, filled with books and pretty much the model of what I want my house to look like someday. After that, we grabbed the wine, got into the car, and headed out to Sapori Trattoria.

[livejournal.com profile] daveax had known the owner for over twenty years, but friendship can't magic up empty tables, so we arrived at a packed restaurant and waited forty-five minutes for a table. When we finally sat down, though, it quickly proved itself worth every second. I didn't take pictures of all the food, to his chagrin, but here is secondo:

Philadelphia 2015 Sapori dinner

It was even more delicious than it looks

And here's the full list:
  • Antipaste: Salad with grilled octopus and farro; Tomino cheese wrapped in speck and grilled, with balsamic vinegar on the side; Pork/fennel/provolone sausage with lentils on polenta.

  • Primi: Fettuccine with pork and veal; Tagliatelle with tomato and veal ragú; Risotto scoglio with clams, mussels, shrimp, and calamari.

  • Secondi: Front: Orata (cooked whole, shown after deboning) with EVOO sauce; Left rear: Veal Stew, mashed potatoes with mascarpone; Right rear: deboned rabbit rolled with prosciutto and herbs, butternut squash and fennel on the side.

  • Dessert: Tiramisu, profiteroles, Sicilian ricotta with orange peel.

  • Alcohol: 2011 Roero Arneis, Tintero (Langhe); 2011 Valpolicella Ripasso, Secoli (Veneto); 2014 Brachetto d'Acqui, Banfi Rosa Regale (Alba); Cioccolatto cello (owner's private make); Grappa Affinata Gewürztraminer, Marzadro (Alto Adige).
We ended up staying for hours in classic Continental dinner fashion, drinking wine with the owner, another man our friend met outside while on a smoke break, and some of the waitstaff. By the time we left, it was after midnight and nearly everyone had long since closed up and cleaned the restaurant out. It was one of the best meals I've had in a long time and a real example of the benefits of being a regular.

After that, we drove back, [livejournal.com profile] daveax dropped us off at our hotel, and went to sleep.

We didn't have anything to do Sunday morning and only had to get to lunch at noon, so we lounged around for a bit on Sunday until we decided it was time to head out. We somewhat misjudged the time, though, and ended up on Penn's campus half an hour early. With so much free time, we walked around a bit and I pointed out some places to [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd, like the English department at Bennett (now Fisher-Bennett) Hall, the parking lot where the unnamed food truck that I always used to get spaghetti and meatballs from before Professor Potok's Irish lit class was, Locust Walk, the bizarre new anti-plagiarism signs everywhere ("Nursing--you wouldn't share needles. Don't share your work."), and the LOVE sign. Of course, that led to touristing:

Philadelphia 2015 Upenn LOVE sign

I know about Love Park, but this will always be the original to me.

It took twenty minutes to get a picture because of all the other people who were doing the same thing, and by the time we finally did it was almost noon, so we headed over to Houston Hall and Pari Cafe Creperie, formerly a food truck over by the gym and now a takeout place in the building. After some confusion where I couldn't remember exactly where it was, I followed my nose upstairs and we snuck up behind [livejournal.com profile] jdcohen.

While we were waiting for [livejournal.com profile] greyselke and her husband and daughter to arrive, [livejournal.com profile] jdcohen told us about his new job as an attorney for the city of Philadelphia and the bone-chilling terror he now feels when he sees the phrase "any and all records pertaining to." We swapped stories for a while--mostly [livejournal.com profile] jdcohen and [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd, as I deliberately chose a boring job--until the others arrived, and then we got crepes. Huge crepes. I remembered them being as big as my outstretched hand, and they were exactly the same as I remembered, just with more varieties. I got a gyro crepe with feta spread, which didn't exist when I was an undergrad.

We finished our crepes and chatted while [livejournal.com profile] greyselke's daughter picked all the strawberries and Nutella out of her crepe, and when she was finished when took a tour of the campus. Much of it was as I remembered, including the brutalist high rise dorms that I spent three years in, but there were some changes. The old movie theatre where we watched The Fellowship of the Ring had vanished along with the entire block it was on, replaced with some shops and a black and silver apartment complex that looked like it should also be a moon colony. We stopped for gelato in one of those shops, and I found a treasure on one of the shelves that I was really tempted to steal:

Philadelphia 2015 Penn campus gelato book

I couldn't deprive others of the joy of discovery, though.

After eating gelato, we walked over to see if the Indian buffet place we ate at so often was still open (it was) and walked by the Chili's we ate at so often, which is now an Asian fusion place called Tarka. [livejournal.com profile] greyselke's daughter was loaded with sugar, and demanded that she be allowed to walk everywhere. She lasted a few blocks until her parents put her back in the stroller, and she was hugely unhappy about that for about five minutes until she was out like a light and stayed asleep as we went down to the new riverwalk on the east side of the Schuylkill. According to [livejournal.com profile] jdcohen, they wanted to put a riverwalk there but the railroad didn't want anyone walking too near their tracks, so their response was, "Sure, we'll just build it on the river, then."

We walked up and down the river a bit, then [livejournal.com profile] greyselke had to leave, so we all said our goodbyes and [livejournal.com profile] jdcohen, [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd and I walked the dozen blocks to his apartment past lovely row houses and cute shops. Once we got there and said hello to his wife, we settled down with glasses of grape/cherry juice blend (we bought that basically by the case in university) and loaded up Soul Calibur II to determine whether the soul still burned.

And it did! The situation was pretty much the same as it was a decade ago. [livejournal.com profile] jdcohen is better than me and I'm better than [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd, but all of us are close enough that no match was a total stomping unless one of us discovered a long-forgotten cheesy move again. We played that for an hour, remembering old times but with much less yelling nowadays, while [livejournal.com profile] jdcohen's wife did some work, then we shut it down and chatted for a bit until it was almost time for our dinner reservations, so we headed out to Brauhaus Schmitz.

I hadn't realized how much I missed German food until I got there. The last time I had it was over a year ago when we were in D.C., and much to my disappointment, there's no German restaurant that's convenient to our apartment in Chicago, so I pretty much dove face-first into the communal cheese plate and the roast beef, sauerkraut, red wine vinegared cabbage, and potato dumplings I ordered. After a delicious and satisfying meal, we said our goodbyes to [livejournal.com profile] jdcohen and headed back to our hotel where, other than the people in the next room deciding to sing an aria at 11:30 in the evening, nothing of note happened.

Unlike the other two days, we got up early and headed straight out because we wanted to get tickets for a tour at Independence Hall. They had some available for 10:40, do we picked them up,and walked over to the Liberty Bell. I remember coming to see it right after they built the current enclosure, but it had been a much more bare-bones affair then. Now there are displays all over about freedom and liberty and, somewhat to my surprise, how slavery of Africans and genocide of Native Americans doesn't have much to do with either of those. There was even a mention of how when the crack in the bell first appeared, it ran right through the word "liberty" on the bell itself. Poetic.

After some photos of the bell, we headed over to Independence Hall, where we got a tour from a ranger that I would best describe as quirky. She showed us around the lower floor, where the Declaration of Independence, the Articles of Confederation, and the Constitution were all debated and signed, and then led us up to the upper floor and let us look around for a bit until the next tour group had to make it through. After that we still had a bit of time before we were meeting a friend for lunch, so we bought some peppermint tea and went to Washington Square, where some small children were running in circles around the fountain, before heading over to Campo's for cheesesteaks.

We ate as our friend told us about blacking out while waiting for a student to show up for a lesson, and then after we were done we parted ways. He went back home to finish recovering, and we headed over to our hotel to drop some stuff off and sit down for a moment before walking over to the Constitution Center north of Independence Hall. It was new the last year I was in university, and [livejournal.com profile] greyselke and I went soon after it was opened, but now they had a huge display of American history and various interactive elements to go along with it. For example, here's president-elect [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd at her inauguration:

Philadelphia 2015 Constitution Center

I solemnly swear...

There were "no photos" signs everywhere, but the employee standing nearby is the one who asked if we wanted to be sworn in and told me the best place to take a picture, so I had official sanction.

After looking around upstairs, we went to to an exhibit of Jacques Lowe photography on the Kennedy family. The exhibit portrayed it as the first real attempt at photographic mass media management--portraying Kennedy as athletic when he actually had back problems, the whole "Camelot" thing, etc. There was also a neat section about how they created the photos from restoration work on other prints, since the negatives were stored in a vault in the World Trade Center.

Around 4 p.m. we left the Constitution Center and walked to Elfreth's Alley, the oldest continuously-inhabited street in North America and one that's mostly in original condition, barring electrification and installation of other modern conveniences. There was a museum, but I had been led to believe it wasn't open January through March when it turned out it was just closed on Mondays. [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd did get this picture of me while I wasn't looking, though:

Philadelphia 2015 Elfreth's Alley

And he walked into the Hedge and was never seen again...

Dinner that night was at Morimoto, which also opened the last year I was in university and which I hadn't gotten to go to before. [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd described the decor as like being inside a cyberpunk movie, with low colored lighting and a funky soundtrack and curvilinear white furniture, but the meal brought me back to the sushi we used to get at the sushi shop in Chiyoda. We ordered the bone marrow appetizer, [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd got a roll, and I got the chef's selection. They still put too much rice on their nigiri--the fish should be draped over all the sides, not flush with the rice underneath--but the taste was exactly what I had been hoping for at basically every sushi restaurant I've been to since I came back to America. It was exquisite. Absolutely worth the money if you're ever in Philadelphia.

After we were finished with dessert, we took a brief detour to a CVS to pick up some things and then headed back to the hotel to sleep and get ready for our early flight.

Not much this day for the same reason as Friday. We woke up and, having packed the night before, threw on some clothes and went down to wait for our shuttle bus. While on board, we chatted with the only other occupant besides the driver, a crisis management specialist who bonded with [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd over interventions and told us about her sudden decision to take a trip to Thailand.

Then we got to the airport, got on the plane, and came home.

It was really fun! It was the first vacation we took post-Japan--we've gone other places before, but it's been for an event, like a wedding or one of [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd's conferences. This is the first time we've just been somewhere to go since the last time we went to Tokyo, and if you count times we went by ourselves, it's the first time since we went to Singapore. And we'll probably be back, since we have a lot of friends there and there's a lot we didn't get to see. We missed eating at the City Tavern, or visiting Penn's archeological museum, or going to the Art Museum and running up the steps, or eating dim sum in Chinatown, which admittedly we can do in Chicago but we spent the entire last year of our undergrad days talking about going to dim sum and we never did it.

It was a great trip and I'll be glad to go back. Hopefully sooner than ten years down the line! Kawaii heart emoji
dorchadas: (Dreams are older)
The Aethra Chronicles is on Archive.org!

The Aethra Chronicles has the distinction of being one of two shareware games I ever mail-ordered the full version for. Or, more accurately, asked my father to mail order the full version for, the other being the excellent Castle of the Winds, an early graphical roguelike which is sadly a Windows 3.1 game and thus not likely to be included in archive.org's collection. It also doesn't run on 64-bit systems, so I installed Windows XP emulation entirely so I could play it, but that's a story for another post once I beat it and post a review.

It's also the second game that I've assembled a soundtrack for myself, the first being the top-down space shooter Solar Winds I: the Escape, and the only one where I manually recorded the audio from the game and assembled the mp3s by hand. Which admittedly wasn’t hard, because there’s only a handful of songs and most of them are 15-20 second long loops, but still.

Anyway, The Aethra Chronicles has the somewhat dubious distinction of being the only CRPG in existence to be based on Rolemaster. And similar to Rolemaster, it's extremely obtuse without pouring through the game's documentation, which of course I didn't get until I sent away for the full version after I had done everything possible in the shareware version. After doing that, learned that I should have maxed my main character's Wisdom instead of his Intelligence, since he was a Ranger and of course Rangers get their magic from Wisdom. Oops. No wonder he barely had enough spell points to turn into a bear.

Most of the Rolemaster heritage didn't matter, because as an early CRPG non-combat interaction was basically non-existent and there wasn't anything really approaching the Movement & Maneuver Tables. There definitely were critical hits, though, even though they were rolled behind the screen and most of the Rolemaster's color and flying limbs were lost. One of the skills you could put points was called Deadly Strike, and as near as I can tell it it gave you a massive boost on the critical hit severity. Later in the game, you get a chance to hire a thief named Chrissta, and the best course of action is to do that, max her Deadly Strike every level, use a wizard to cast Summon Shadow Guardian to duplicate her, and have two permanent cuisinarts murdering their way through everything. That could reasonably be considered to be breaking the game, but it's how I beat it so I have a soft spot for it regardless of its cheesiness.

Aethra Chronicles Screenshot

Image found on the internet so I didn't have to run though character generation to get a good picture. You can tell I didn't take it because the main character isn't an elf.

There were some elements of the story that showed up in my imagination for a long while afterward, like the demon-slaying Grey Swords or the Oracle whose powers come from actually being from another dimension and wanting to get home. The game is also somewhat of a white whale for me, because while I did finish the game and beat all the bosses, including the optional Kahzreen Vader, I didn't beat him "legitimately," which is to say that I didn't solve the puzzle required to get to him, I just cast Pass Through Stone and walked through the wall to the room where he was hiding and fought him that way. I've been tempted to play again to see what I was missing the first time, since I've checked walkthroughs now that the internet is a thing and as near as I can tell I was doing everything right, but it has been twenty years.

I actually think that at least half of the interest I have in running a game of Rolemaster comes from this game, the other half being from Middle Earth Roleplaying. If you like old CRPGS, it's a great game.
dorchadas: (Zombies together!)
The first thing that hit me when I was coming up the stairs to our apartment was the smell. I feel like I start a lot of these blog posts talking about the smell, but I think it makes sense. It had that kind of normal curry smell when I was outside our apartment, and I didn't think much of it because there have been other occasions where I've been led astray by that. But when I got into our apartment, the smell changed completely, becoming a lot more complex and rich. The apartment smelled inviting and warm, and it instantly made me disappointed that the curry wasn't quite done and I had to wait before I ate.
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dorchadas: (JCDenton)
Today is Overclocked Remix 15th anniversary!

I'm not actually sure how I first heard about OCRemix. I know I was in university when I started listening to it, and I'm almost positive that my acquaintance with them began with [livejournal.com profile] sephimb telling me about "Terra in Black," which is still one of the best mixes on the site over a decade later:

My musical taste was different then, with a lot more goth and industrial music, but OCRemix found a pretty prominent place in WinAmp (remember that?) and I listened a lot to Ormgas, back before it went offline and was replaced with rainwave, which is much nicer since it has links to the songs and I no longer have to Google them and keep a Word doc full of links to download and sort later.

I lost track of it for most of the latter half of the 2000s, and I think activity dropped off on the website then too--they had 1000 mixes by 2003 but didn't reach 2000 until 2010. They're currently over 3000 (the 3000th song is quite good, as well) and still going strong, and they've gotten a much more prominent place in my listening rotation, which is almost entirely taken up with podcasts now but still consists of music to and from work.

Here's a few more of my favorites:

There's some guy's list of the Top 75 remixes I found, and while I haven't listened to all of them, there are enough on there I agree with that I can recommend the list as a guide.

Thanks for years of great music!
dorchadas: (Gendowned)
When [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd first told me that this week's curry was lamb with spinach, I was a bit worried. Not because I thought I wouldn't like it--as I said in last week's curry post, I love green vegetables and everything to do with them--but rather because I thought it might be too much like last week's curry. I don't have a problem with eating the same thing week in, week out, and I've eaten the same thing for breakfast and lunch for years now, but the entire point of Fifty Weeks, Fifty Curries is to shake up my culinary repertoire and find some new tastes that we can mix in to our usually monotonous curry night. I already said that aachar gosht tasted like paneer last week, and this week was palak gosht, and since palak paneer is one of my favorite dishes at Indian restaurants, well...
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dorchadas: (Awake in the Night)
After I beat Morrowind, I polled my friends about which game I should play next between Earthbound and Planescape: Torment. Counting people who voted multiple times as legitimate contributors, Earthbound won by a million to one. That was a pretty strong endorsement, so as much as I kind of wanted to ignore them and play Planescape: Torment, I figured I would bow to the wisdom of the mob. So I load up the game, go through the intro, and then immediately set to my main task during the game--cruelty to animals.

Gameplay in a nutshell!

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dorchadas: (Equal time for Slime)
Last night, I went to...well, hmm. I called it a pop-up restaurant when I mentioned it briefly on Facebook, but that's not entirely accurate because it's always in the same place--namely, the host's apartment--and runs on a regular schedule. But it's not exactly a supper club either, because there's a definite chef and servers who don't eat with the diners. I guess "underground dining" works as well as anything.

I learned about it because there was a note about Relish winning best underground dining, which True Nature Foods reposted on their Facebook page, the connection being that True Nature is where we go to get most of our groceries and Julia works there. So I looked around a bit, read another article in the Chicago Reader, thought it sounded pretty neat, and signed up.

On the appointed day, we walked down to the address we had been given and, after a moment of confusion about why the door wouldn't open until I found the special technology known as "the knob," we climbed up the top floor, looked for the door that had "Relish Dining" written on it, and went in.

Inside, we were greeted by another couple who were also attending and pointed out the drinks and mason jars laid out on the table. To the left of the door was the menu, including the source for all the food served:

Excuse the cut-off bits. Not visible to the right was the third panel with the mission statement.

...and the rest of the room was a combo apartment dining room/living room. We chatted with the other couple, whose names I sadly don't remember, as a few more people slowly filtered in and then one of the servers came out and took a head count of how many vegetarians and how many meat-eaters were present. Then they brought out the meals as they were completed, announcing whether they were vegetarian or meat eater, and on the second round of meat eating plates I grabbed one.

I'm not sure this conveys just how delicious it was.

It was amazing. The chicken wings were the worst part, and they managed that ignominy merely by not being as good as the rest of the food. The Vietnamese tacos especially were fantastic--I don't usually like sour cream at all, but whatever was done to the sour cream here made me love it. The dressing on the salad was much more substantial than I was led to expect from the name vinaigrette; it might have been the cilantro mixed it, but it was almost more like a guacamole in the center of the salad that I ended up mixing in with the rest of it.

I didn't manage to get a picture of dessert, but it was avocado ice cream with chocolate-covered toasted coconut on top. I wasn't the biggest fan, but that's only because I don't like avocado. [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd was over the moon from the moment she took the first bite.

Julia also came out to see how the guests were doing and how they liked the food and gave us hugs when she saw us. (^_^*) I spent a bit of time gushing over how great the tacos were and how they overcame even my hatred for sour cream, and then we chatted a bit, and soon after [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd was feeling a bit tired and we wanted to make it home to light the Shabbat candles, so we left a tip in the tip jar and excused ourselves. Which turned out to be slightly sad, because some of the other people from True Nature that we see every week also turned up after we left, and it would have been nice to chat with them in a social context now that we actually have places that we're regulars at.

Next month is Vietnamese pizza. Now, I usually don't like pizza unless it's margherita pizza, which is apparently the archetypal pizza so now I'm going to claim that my love of pizza is pure and unsullied by the last century's degeneration of the pizza concept, but on the other hand I don't usually like sour cream either and Relish made me like that, so I'm willing to give it a try. The only thing that gives me pause is that it's always on the second Friday of the month, which is also when our synagogue's Shabbat dinners are, so I'll have to pick.

But yeah, it's awesome and you should go.
dorchadas: (Zombies together!)

As of today, [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd and I have been married for seven years! And on the balance it's been pretty fantastic. I'm going to quote what I said on Facebook about it because I liked it:
I'm supposed to put in something about it seems like yesterday and blah blah blah, but it doesn't, really. Time has passed--a lot of it, relatively--and we're better for it. Part of our wedding vows were to help each other grow into the person we want to be, and my wife has done a lot to help me toward that goal, and if there's a long way for me to go still, that is no reflection on the effort she has expended, but only on my ability to put it into action.

Seven years! That means we beat the odds, but I always knew that was going to happen. I'm usually a pessimist who assumes the worst, but on this I had no doubt.

I love you, dear! Here's to seven times seven years more. 💛💙💜💚❤️💗💞

בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְיָ אֱלֹהֵֽינוּ מֶֽלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם שֶׁהֶחֱיָנוּ וְקִיְּמָנוּ וְהִגִּיעָנוּ לזְּמַן הַזֶּה
The bit at the end in Hebrew is the Shehecheyanu, the blessing for doing new things or doing things for the first time. I think reaching seven years of marriage counts.

And the hearts are a bit odd. Well, that’s the problem with translating emoji to Unicode.

[personal profile] schoolpsychnerd are pretty iconoclastic when it comes to relationship customs. We don't get each other presents for birthdays or holidays, we celebrate Valentine Day's and White Day instead of Valentine's Day, and at most, we'll go out for dinner as a celebration. So tonight, we went for hamburgers with friends. Sure, $6.50 for fried pickles is ludicrous, but the burgers were fantastic. And the buns are made at Red Hen Bakery, where we get pretty much all our bread. 11/10 would nom again. Just...hopefully with a different waiter who didn't constantly forget our requests.

Oh, speaking of our vows, there are a lot of people we've met who haven't heard them, and since we wrote them ourselves and I still have them, I'll repeat them here:
Me: [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd, today I take you as my wife and companion. I promise to share your happiness and be with you in your sadness. To always be open and honest with you, and to help you grow and become the person you want to be. And though our vows are short, they are merely a summary of all the promises we have already made to each other, over dinner and on walks, and as we gazed into each others’ eyes.

[personal profile] schoolpsychnerd: [personal profile] dorchadas, you have been my best friend, accomplice, confidant, and my greatest comfort. I promise to share your happiness and be with you in your sadness. To always be open and honest with you, and to help you grow and become the person you want to be. And though we will have our differences, they will never be so wide that we cannot hold our hands across them.
I've heard it said that the best thing for an introvert is to have someone you can be alone with. And as I sit here, writing this blog post and playing Fall from Heaven while [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd checks Facebook on the couch behind me and we both listen to our favorite podcast, I'm reminded again of how true that is.

So yay to us, and yay to many more long years of marriage!
dorchadas: (In America)
I guess good things really can happen for those who wait.

I wrote here a while ago about how annoyed I was with the Japanese Pension Office’s continued inaction. Well...they finally acted. I checked Mint this morning, because it's payday and I wanted to check my credit card bill before I paid it, and I noticed that my checking account said there was a lot more money there than I remembered there being. Investigating revealed an "incoming wire transfer" currently waiting to clear, which left me super confused until I remembered that, in my research into why the Pension Office hadn't paid us yet, some people mentioned that they had received a letter letting them know their refund was coming and some people had just received a wire transfer out of nowhere.

Either there’s a bizarrely coincidental bank error, or the Pension Office finally paid us. Yay! High five!

Now we can apply for a refund of the taxes that they automatically deduct before they send you the remittance and wait three more years for that, but that's a much smaller amount of money, so my annoyance should proportionately be smaller. In the meantime, though, I will concentrate on my luck winning the day once again.

Graduation Time!

2014-May-12, Monday 18:14
dorchadas: (Zombies together!)
Not mine, [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd's. After three years of schooling, on Wednesday she finally got her Education Specialist degree and is now fully qualified. Yay!

...well, other than having to finish out her internship. She mentioned that even though she was graduating, it didn't feel like much because she had to wake up and go to work the next morning. There's only a couple weeks of school left, after which she has to find something to do during the summer so she won't go insane, and then we'll be a DINK household once again.

I was surprised at how short the ceremony was, probably because I was remembering the enormous production that was my own graduation. It wasn't a general ceremony, though--it was just for the School of Education--so there were only about a hundred people there and the whole thing took maybe an hour and a half. The speaker was some guy from somewhere who gave a speech whose impact on me you can probably tell by how well I remember who he was. I was honestly a lot more affected by the way the announcer kept saying magnum cum laude instead of magna cum laude. It's petty and stupid and it annoyed me way out of proportion to the severity of the offence.

[personal profile] schoolpsychnerd has an official hood now, which she's occasionally been wearing as proof that she's equivalent to Superman. Sadly, it's not structured the right way for her to wear it as a wizard's cowl.

She'll probably be going back for a Doctorate in Education, but that's a question we'll deal with in a year or so. In the meantime, yay!

P.S.: 祭 (matsuri) isn't really the proper Japanese for this--graduation ceremony is 卒業式 (sotsugyou shiki)--but damned if I'm going to split tags that finely.
dorchadas: (Teh sex)
I originally got the iPhone 5S over the 5 because of the pedometer after I saw that LoseIt included step tracking and would automatically adjust your calorie thresholds based on distance walked. Even though I know that calorie counting is worthless, I still do it because of my mania for self-quantification. Originally, I'd just walk as much as I normally do and treat any day where I got over the threshold set by LoseIt to get extra calories off (7250 steps) as a bonus, which wasn't that often.

Then I downloaded Pedometer++. All of a sudden, I had color-coded feedback on how far I had walked, and for some reason, that kicked the RPG player in me into gear and I had to make the numbers go up! Must turn the bars green! Must beat arbitrary threshold!

So I started walking around in empty conference rooms on my breaks at work while reading books, because previously I just sat at my desk reading and I figured I might as well get the walking time in then, because walking back and forth in my apartment took forever and was pretty monotonous. The cleaning staff would occasionally see me, and they always said it was fine, so I kept doing it.

Yesterday while I was walking in a conference room on my floor near the end of the day, one of the cleaning staff came in to check that the room was empty. Unlike the other times that had happened, he mentioned that he had seen me earlier walking around and went to his boss to see what was going on, and his boss mentioned that yeah, I did that and maybe it was just a relaxing thing. So I mentioned reading, and we chatted a bit and he told me that seeing me walking in circles had inspired him to try the same thing around his apartment, and how relaxing he found it!

Well, he said that originally he literally copied me in the only way he could find and wandered in circles around some parked cars near his apartment, but that he pretty quickly realized that other people would not only find that weird, they might find that threatening or suspicious. So now he does it in his apartment, but it remains relaxing.

It's a nice feeling being inspiring. (^_^)
dorchadas: (Perfection)
That was the hashtag that was apparently decided on by the participants.

Yesterday was [livejournal.com profile] tropicanaomega and her fiance's wedding. [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd and I arrived late thanks to having failed to correctly predict traffic and, not being sportsball fans, not realizing there was a Cubs game that would foul things up. Also, a bus was late, which added ten minutes to our arrival time right there. We assumed that it would be like most social events and start slightly late due to last-minute difficulties that would crop up before hand and have to be fixed, but it was much better-planned than I was expecting and started apparently a little early. When we arrived, there were some people waiting out in the hallway who mentioned that the door opened almost directly onto the front of the auditorium. After a brief argument with [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd about the propriety of just barging in, I just barged in--well, barged in quietly--and came in during the solemnization, so at least we didn't miss the important part!

The ceremony was quite short. We were only maybe five minutes late, and it was over a few minutes after we arrived.

The bridesmaid/groomsmen speeches were a nice insight into the past, because [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd and I were in Japan for quite a while and missed a lot of the context for [livejournal.com profile] tropicanaomega and her S.O. meeting. Apparently, he was originally spoken of as "that jerk at work," and it turned into one of those situations where everyone else is just waiting for the...whatever the happy version of "for the hammer to fall" is. For the rocket to take off? That would fit the wedding's theme. Anyway, by the time we moved back, when we came into Chicago looking for an apartment and called [livejournal.com profile] tropicanaomega to see if she wanted to get dinner while we were in the city, she asked us if it was okay for her to bring her new boyfriend. And, well, it all worked out wonderfully.

The reception was in the same building, with a great view of the Chicago skyline as the sun set behind us after we moved upstairs from the wedding area to the reception hall. The reception was nice, with a lot of small cozy tables that were sci-fi ship themed:

I haven't played Final Fantasy VII, but I can't complain too much about that one. If I had a complaint at all, it'd be that I didn't get sat at the Epoch.

Oh, and [livejournal.com profile] tropicanaomega's dress was fantastic. It had a high collar that made her look like a space princess, and having seen it now I'm pretty sure there was nothing else that would have been more suitable. Edit: Now with pictoral evidence!:

In more personal news, I revealed to [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd another one of the secrets I've been keeping for a while. I posted on Facebook that "If I can kill Super Mutants to it, I can dance to it," but I hadn't told [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd that I had taken swing dance lessons a long, long time ago, back when the swing craze was in full swing. Not very many, it's true, and not for very long, and at this point it was almost 20 years ago, but I at least remember enough not to fall over and to be able to keep my feet in place and swing [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd around. I pulled off a dip, too, though not as gracefully as I might have liked. And it was fun. Maybe I should give in and attend those dance lessons.

[personal profile] fiendishfanfares and her husband were there too, which caught me by surprise even though in retrospect it was totally obvious that they would come. It was nice to see them again, now that we're all old and scattered to the winds and only unite for major social events like this.

So yay. Mazel tov!
dorchadas: (Dreams are older)
Insert appropriate sound effect here.

We got our yearly bonus checks today and the notice of how much our raises would be for the next fiscal year. My yearly review back in December was really good--4.1/5, on a "no one ever gets a 5" scale--so I’ve been looking forward to seeing what the amounts would be for a while. Well, my raise was stereotypical, but my boss told me that was basically a mandate from on high to keep raises standardized and not a reflection on my performance.

My extra bonus on top of that, though, made up for it. The AMA did better than we had expected on our various metrics, so the bonus amount was correspondingly raised, and then my boss's boss put all the extra weighting of my performance review onto the bonus, so it's double what it was last year. It's even higher than the group rating percentage that dictates bonus calculations, which is apparently really rare. And since the bonus is expressed as a fraction of my salary, I can deal with having a lower raise than I was expecting in exchange for getting it up front and being able to do what I want with it.

And with my newfound riches, I...bought iOS Final Fantasy Tactics for $13.99, and I'm probably saving most of the rest. Some things never change. (^_^;)


dorchadas: (Default)

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