Thursday, September 21, 2017

Yesterday was pretty nice!  I went to bed later than I probably would have liked, but I caught up on quite a variety of things, including:

- Blogging
- Folding laundry
- Wrote a letter
- Wrapped / packaged up some presents / letters
- Read through letters that Kiki wrote to me
- Checking a bunch of websites that I haven't frequented in a while, read some interviews and articles
- Got some nice TGM practice in (TAP Master S9 on stick!)
- Made some progress on an art project that I need to finish for next month
- Browsed through clothing online
- Downloaded 117 new Little Twin Stars wallpapers from here
- Updated my official song listing

Today I finally caught up on DeviantArt postings as well.  Hoping to get some more progress on Rhythm Quest today, or maybe drawing...

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

"While you were quiet and sometimes a very calming presence, I remember you were quite loud inside that fragile body, with a wildly beating heart, wondering when someone else's wings would fold around your shoulders and lift you gently from the stream.  I didn't know what to do sometimes, except to show you the pebbles and bark on the trees, remind you the little joys, that not every rock crumbles -- at least not while you see it, are with it."

It doesn't matter that you went away from my life.  I'll keep our friendship in my heart forever.

Thank you so much for these letters -- these fleeting feelings and thoughts, made permanent by the magic of ink and Sanrio stationery.  Like a magical incantation, they are a portal into a time already lost long ago, buried within the recesses of our memories.  It is only by taking the time to listen to the past that we are able to hear the voices of those who are no longer with us in their current form.

Rain World

Oh!  I forgot to mention too, we finished playing through Rain World, at last.  We of course didn't explore all there is to explore in the game (spoiled ourselves by reading up on the lore online instead), but we at least brought some neurons to Big Sis Moon before heading to the Depths to finish the game.

The ending was...kind of a mindf*** to be honest, and I think left us a bit confused and unsatisfied, but makes more sense after reading up on the lore of the game some more.  Still though, it was quite sad overall, thinking about little slugcat and all the things it went through over the course of the game.  It was surprising how much I really cared for that little guy, after spending so long with it.  The main musical theme of Rain World, too, is really forlorn in its melody.  Associating it with slugcat's journey, the intro, the ending, and also Moon is just...ahh, it's a bit emotional, to be honest.  Poor little slugcat...

It was a great game!  I can't believe how engrossing and alive that world was; it really surprises you and grows on you and it's really rewarding going through it and learning more about it as well.  You will be missed, Rain World.

But now it's onto other things for now.  Shantae and the Pirate's Curse has been very...unextraordinary so far, so perhaps it's time to start on something else, like Mother 3!

Camping, CrunchyRoll Expo, Rhythm Quest Overworld Map

Time for another update...

I went camping for the first time over Labor Day weekend!  We went down south somewhere in the middle of nowhere, it was...sort of intense.  I did about as well as could be expected, with the number 1 nuisance being the flying buzzies that bothered me constantly.  I had my earbuds in for most of the day, otherwise I probably would have gone insane...past that, it was stifling hot so we spent a good deal of time in the creek.  We had a nice night hike and glowsticking session, which was fun!  The clouds were actually covering most of the sky, so we didn't see any stars, or hardly even the moon (which was super bright when it was visible), which was a bit disappointing, but I actually didn't mind much -- to be honest, I thought it was actually really cool being out in the middle of nowhere with not even the stars out, especially since it was so quiet in terms of ambient noise.  (And the buzzies were asleep, YAY) It was a special kind of quiet, I think.  Anyways, overall a fun trip, though not something I'd be looking to do again, haha.  I was pretty drained after coming back home -- it has been a while since I have felt so socially depleted; I remember I really just didn't want to interact with any human beings.

Before that I also went to Crunchyroll Expo!  It was fun overall, and very convenient and close to get to -- very laid back, very easy.  I'd definitely go again!  It's smaller than an event like Fanime, but surprisingly large despite it being only its first year.  I brought my Journey cosplay, as I always do nowadays.  Here's a photo of me along with this super cool Hyper Light Drifter (!) cosplayer!


By far the highlight was getting to meet the OneShot devs (!!!) who apparently were holding a table at the artist alley!

Official merch omg!!!  I fangirled for a while here, looked at all of Nightmargin's cool art, picked out a ton of stuff I wanted to buy from them, and traded contact info (I had one of my spiffy business cards with me, aw yeah!).  So cool, I never thought I'd get to meet the devs in person, like they are real people sitting right there on the other side of that table and they made one of my favorite games wahh @_@


This week I'm actually taking the week off from work!  Taking some time off after working hard for our PAX demo, which seems to have gone down pretty well!  As you might guess, I'll be trying to spend the week focusing on more development for Rhythm Quest, music production, hopefully some art, and overall just catching up on things in my life.  It's been going pretty ok so far!  I've made some good progress on Rhythm Quest and pushed out a new song as well.

My current big focus area for Rhythm Quest is adding a whole new part to the game -- overworld maps!

Up until the beginning of the week, the level selection UI (which, admittedly, was placeholder) for Rhythm Quest looked like this:


Pretty boring, right? (though a lot more exciting than before when it didn't even have stage names)  But it works just fine, and is even optimized for touch controls (Rhythm Quest is designed for mobile!) and if you look at my other rhythm games, you'll see that it's the same basic menu template as before.  Here's Ripple Runner Deluxe:


...and here's Melody Muncher, which adds a little more detail with level info and high scores:


But I really wanted to have more of a sense of progression for Rhythm Quest, especially since, unlike Melody Muncher, there aren't going to be high scores or anything, just a pass/fail, with a special bonus if you clear the stage without dying at all (just like Ripple Runner).  I actually think that was one of the strengths of Ripple Runner's design when compared with Melody Muncher -- even though Melody Muncher was a much "deeper" game mechanically, there is a certain simplicity of "have to get this section right" and "one more try!" that I think keeps players engaged, as opposed to the more DDR/Guitar Hero-like mechanism that Melody Muncher uses.  Of course you need to be a little more cautious with the difficulty because now you either pass or fail (and failing means not progressing!), but I think there's also a better and more concrete sense of accomplishment after doing a section well.

Anyhow, I wanted to have more of a sense of progression and was throwing around ideas about how I should handle level/world selection (I knew for sure that I wanted to divide the stages up into "worlds" with different themes).  I couldn't really come up with any simple menu/ui-based schemes that really felt compelling, so I started thinking about map screens -- and more specifically, ideas that would meet the criteria that:
- They make sense with touch controls (but could work on PC builds as well)
- They provide a clear sense of progression
- And most importantly, they are doable in terms of my artistic abilities

That third point is always the limiting factor for me, as that's certainly my weakest and most time-consuming point in my trio of skills between coding, audio, and graphics/animation.  I knew that doing some sort of map system would be testing those skills, but maybe it would be an opportunity for growth!  I've actually already gotten WAY better at pixeling over the years than I used to be, after all.

So I started thinking about map screens that would make sense, including some sort of Kirby's Adventure-style platformer-based level selection with doors and a level layout -- which seemed doable in terms of art assets (platformer tiles!) but didn't make too much sense with the rest of the game, and made zero sense to do with touch controls.  So I settled upon some sort of overworld map system, with dots or circles that you would tap on in order to select a level.  I ended up pulling very heavy inspiration from the Super Mario World overworld map style, which looks like this:


I thought this would be a great fit, as it was roughly tile-based (good -- limiting myself to working with a grid makes things much more structured and easier for me) and the graphics themselves were relatively simple.  I could even use the "roads" to mark progression, as SMW did, which would be great!

I had a few false starts, and went back and forth on what to do with my color palette -- Rhythm Quest has an interesting facet of its design where the level tileset is drawn using a 4-color palette, but hue shifts to different colors at different points in the song.  This is the same technique I used in both Ripple Runner and Melody Muncher, to great effect -- 4-color monochromatic palettes are an absolute joy to work with for me, as they simplify everything a lot and allow me to really concentrate on values rather than worrying about coloring.  It's worth noting though, that as with other aspects of 8-bit style, Rhythm Quest breaks this rule in other areas -- the character and enemies and obstacles and UI, for instance, don't actually fall into the same palette, which makes sense because it's important to be able to still recognize red enemies vs orange enemies, etc. and neither spikes nor the character wouldn't be able to stand out as much if they adhered to the same palette.  So it's an interesting mix.

Anyhow, I was really having trouble drawing out a good "Grass Land" map using my 4-color palette that featured a nice green-ish ground color but also had tree tiles and such, as well as a lighter color for the road.  I also knew I wanted a lake or river so that level 1-3 could take place over the water.  At one point, I decided to throw the 4-color palette to the wind and started drawing up a more expansive color palette, with blues for the water, greens for the grass and ground, and some yellow colors for the road and dirt.  I started to try pixeling some trees and such using that palette, and it was going pretty decently well!  But then after that I realized that with a few replacements and adjustments, it actually worked just as well (if not better) with the original 4-color palette after all!

Here's what I ended up with:


Again, the blue circles (which are the actual interactable buttons) don't obey the 4-color palette.  It's inconsistent, but in a consistent way I guess!  Anyhow, I'm really happy with how it turned out so far, and it was a bit of a relief to be honest that I managed to get something workable.  With that body of work out of the way, my next task is to actually hook up all the buttons and dialogs (partly done already), and then do a bunch more coding work to get it so that your level progress is saved, and so that the roads actually fill in dynamically like they do in Super Mario World -- that should be really cool once I get it all working!

Tuesday, September 5, 2017


Perhaps we should try to reach out to one part of our past each day.  It doesn't have to be the same thing; or even be something that succeeds or matters in the end.  But bit by bit, those feelings and thoughts will accumulate into something that you can look back on without regret.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Kiki, and dealing with the past, for my own sake

"Have you ever waited for something so long, you thought it would never happen?

I'm not sure how to explain how I feel right now, but that this is both an end, but also not an end.  A beginning, too.  I guess, it wouldn't even matter how it happened, to be honest.  Only that it did.  That it happened at all, is a miracle.  That, by itself, is...

Oh, how time has passed.  And if I could, I might give you that time back.  But perhaps, it's better to look forward, and not back.  I always looked back, hoping I could find you.  But just maybe, if I turn around, I would catch a glimpse of you in the road ahead.  I don't know if I would ever meet you.  Perhaps I wouldn't.  But that would never stop me from calling out.  Even if I knew you wouldn't hear.

I told you once, that there's no meaning in a letter not read.  But that's not true.  Not true at all..."

I wrote the above 3 years ago, in November 2014.  It was after I had received a letter from the person who I refer to here as "Kiki".  It is the last letter I have ever received from her.  Before that I had last seen her in January of 2013, and before that in September of 2012.

Throughout the years Kiki has come to symbolize much more to me than the actual relationship I had with her alone.  I began to saw the relationship with Kiki as the representation of bonds that had been lost through time.  She was so important to me; I loved her very much, and yet, as with so many other things, she slipped out of my life and into some other time, some other place, some other life that I was not a part of.  And despite my efforts to reach out, I could do nothing to bring her back into my life.  Over time, this became apparent to me, and it became increasingly clear that I would not be able to reach the same place, same time, and same life as her.  Yet, I could not accept that loss.  Had I simply not tried hard enough?  What could I do?

Would I simply have to accept the fact that sometimes, no matter how important something is to you, it can disappear into the sands of time, with you powerless against it?

I think that is something that I have never wanted to accept, even to this day.

When I wrote above that "this is both an end, but also not an end", I meant that hearing from Kiki again was a sort of closure for me.  In June 2014 (an aside, I don't actually remember all these dates offhand!  But my log of "people making my day" really helps here) I realized after a lot of thought and some conversations with my best friend that my way of coming to terms with that loss was simply to "keep trying", even despite knowing that it was "futile" in that it would never bring Kiki back, but it would be a way for me to keep her in my life, even if I could not truly reach her.

It wasn't until January 2016 that I finally saw Kiki again.  It was a surreal feeling, really -- I couldn't believe it was happening.  If only I could trace that moment back, and keep it with me forever...  Before we said goodbye, I talked to her a bit, about our relationship.  I asked her, too, what I should do about it.  I asked her if I should keep on sending letters to her, and whether it was ok to be like this.  She answered -- something more or less the same as always, some thoughts that I knew were nice but not practical.  And I realized later that it didn't really matter what Kiki thought about it -- that what was more important was how I felt about it, and what I was okay doing.  Of course, if she had said "I know you have been trying very hard, and waiting very long.  I am sorry that I cannot be a part of your life anymore...and I could make promises to you, but we both know that for now, this is the way that things will be.  But if it helps you to cope, please continue writing to me.  At the very least, I will receive your feelings."  Well, besides the fact that that would have been amazing, that would also have strengthened my resolve a bit.  But if she instead had told me, "Timm[ie], I fear that you are only bringing yourself pain by continuing to hold onto me.  I wish I could be a part of your life too, but I have things I need to do, and places I need to go.  I think it's better if you say goodbye to me for good.", then what?  Would I really be able to say goodbye to her, move on, and try my best to not dwell on past memories?  I don't think so.  How could I throw away something that was once so important to me?

One of the reasons that I think it is so important to hold onto connections and to hold onto the past is simply because I desire that from others.  It's not just that I don't want to move on -- it's that I don't want others to leave me behind either.  For a great deal of my life, I have believed in a world where connections can survive the passing of time, if we will it with our continued and dedicated effort.  Not only that, but I believe that is how things *ought* to be.  And if I believe in "forever", it has to start with myself, too.  I must be the absence of change I wish to see in the world.

Of course, nothing can actually last forever.  But the act of believing in that, and trying in my own way, forms a large part of my human condition, I think.  And so it became more about what I wanted, what I needed for myself to move forward, rather than anything that Kiki needed from me.

Every once in a long while, though, something from the past comes back to visit me.  Even a small thing, can make a big impact on me, when it's something like that.  It's an amazing feeling.



Wednesday, August 23, 2017

More Rhythm Quest progress, cooking, gendered dance

Despite this being our busy week at work (deadline!), life is going surprisingly well.  This also despite a pretty myemie day on Monday my attempt to fix the washer didn't work and, even worse, I cooked a pretty poor meal for dinner.  It doesn't happen too often, but sometimes dinner really just doesn't go right...this time I had some miso black cod which I cooked in the toaster oven, but it really didn't sit well with me.  The fish was relatively fresh, so not sure if it was just something that didn't jive with my stomach that time, or because I hadn't marinated it very long, or what.  I ate it with some pickled radishes (those at least, were fine), rice, and some premade rolled egg/tamagoyaki thing which was...meh.  But yeah mostly something about the fish.  I feel like I cooked it well enough so I don't really know.  But I'll pass on black cod for a bit before trying it again.

I haven't had that much success with unagi at home actually -- they have been "ok" but not really super great (using the pre-packaged vaccum-sealed ones, of course).  I have been wanting to try umaki though (unagi rolled in tamagoyaki), so I'll give it a go the next time I stop by Nijiya for food.

Anyways despite all that, as I said, life is going pretty well.  I've returned back to working on my side indie game Rhythm Quest in full force, which has been great fun and extremely motivating -- I've basically been doing that for my train rides to and from the city, which is especially great because I don't really have any games to play on the train at the moment.  Haven't decided what I'm going to play next, but it could be Mother 3 (!), or maybe something I'll buy on Steam like Flinthook.  Or maybe I'll go through Undertale's "Hard mode" segment, since I never ended up doing that?

In any case, Rhythm Quest has gotten a bunch of work done.  Last time I worked on it I added both flying and double-hit enemies, and now I've added a lot of extra visual feedback for elements reacting to the beat as well as working on better particle effects, and cool visual effects for when you successfully hit a note/obstacle.

Most recently I rearchitected the whole audio syncing system and I'm now using Unity's AudioSettings.dspTime absolute timeline and scheduling all of my music segments precisely.  My previous solution relied on taking the current music playback time and having all of the elements of the game be based on that...except, if you do that naively, it's really jerky because the music playback time isn't updated smoothly at all.  So you end up having to track your own time, and do your best to sync your timeline to the music playback time.  That actually worked reasonably well, to be honest, but it wasn't perfect.

I was adding a feature similar to bit.trip runner on death such that when you die, a background loop plays such that there's still a persistent beat going through your respawn -- and when you finally reach your respawn point, it's downbeat-aligned, so it all snaps into place.  Very nice, very bit.trip runner, no breaking of flow or anything.  I had that all working with the old system actually, and it wasn't too bad, but I wanted to see if I could go the extra mile and use the audio scheduling functions to get sample-perfect playback.

It definitely took some work, but it's all working well now!  I've split my track into multiple segments, which are queued up and scheduled according to an absolute time.  I still detect drift between the "game time" and the audio dsp time, to ensure that the two sync up within some error margin.  When you die, the background track is already looping, so I just have to set its volume to 1 and stop the playback of the current music segment.  Then I do a bunch of magical calculations in order to figure out how long to let the background track play (for the respawn) -- and I schedule the new music segment to kick in exactly on time at the beat at which you respawn.  I also schedule the background track to stop playing at that same time.  So the music transitions are totally aligned, totally synced, and it's wonderful.  At some point I'll do a test with some sine waves or something just to make sure that it's actually sample-perfect.

Now there are some limitations though.  I did lose one of my features, which was playing and pausing the song willy-nilly and even changing playback speed for slowmo and rewind during debug play.  None of that works if I want to use the absolute audio timeline, so I dumped those features for now.  Sad because going through the song in slowmo and being able to rewind it was super cool, but ultimately those aren't really that necessary, and if I end up needing them I can do some sort of workaround.

The only remaining issue is that because audio latency and buffering is still a thing, *game*-related sounds that are supposed to be beat-aligned won't actually be played on beat.  This is simply a problem by nature and there's not that much you can do about it -- if your player presses attack perfectly on beat, you'll end up queuing your sound to play on that frame, but it won't be until some milliseconds later that you end up hearing the song because of audio buffering and latency.  In some cases you can try to be predictive and queue up the sound beforehand -- I will probably end up doing something like that for my checkpoint sounds, for instance -- but for sounds that depend on player input you can't really predict if/when the player is going to press the button.

So there's still some work to do there in terms of having coin sounds / checkpoint sounds be scheduled using the same audioDsp mechanism.  I also could be a =little= smarter about catching drift between game time and audio dsp time -- use some sort of adaptive heuristic or at least some smoothing in an attempt to find the best relation between game time and audio dsp time, but that doesn't appear to be a huge issue at the moment.  I also would like to try and clean up the code now that I've finished the refactor for the most part -- see if I can split off the new audio scheduling/timing logic away from the rest of the main gamestate logic.

So that's all cool!  One thing that is NOT cool is how disproportionately gender affects our social dance community and experience, though (as it does with the rest of our lives too).  I know this might be coming out of left field, but yeah.  I'm over it today, but I remember yesterday while walking back home from the station I had some thoughts about it and I ended up just feeling upset.  Ugh...it's just really sad.  I don't think we are doing nearly enough about it either.  I should try and be more proactive about setting a better example, if I find it in myself.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

I've been firing up SNES chiptunes at work for a change of pace, listening to SNES music to get me through the day.  It's been great so far!  I actually listened to the Kirby's Dream Land 3 soundtrack and wow, it's actually really legit, despite me not remembering the game much.  I remember not being super impressed with the game itself, you know, especially compared to the golden shining purity that is Kirby Super Star, but yeah, I'm digging this.

Monday, August 14, 2017

JaSmix 2017, Perseids, etc.

The past week or so has really felt like a rush of activity for me.  But it was satisfying to work through it all and have enjoyed it a lot.

Work has been getting steadily busier as we approach our deadline for getting a demo build out for PAX (which is at the beginning of September).  There is plenty to get done and at this point it's mostly a matter of working hard and making sure that we are prioritizing the right things, as well as pacing ourselves and making smart decisions.  The pacing part is especially important for myself, as I learned from experience about half a month ago that it's really unsustainable for me to try bringing work home with me.  That kind of thing always tends to sneak up on you before you even realize it was happening, but it's important to be cognisant of it.  Since then I've tried to be better about setting boundaries for myself and understanding (through experience) my own limits and what works best for me.  After all, if you aren't the one who is going to understand that, then who is?

I also had a brief stint keeping an "energy log" of sorts where I was tracking physical/mental/emotional energy over the course of the day -- not very rigorously or anything as I wasn't aiming to get much quantitative data, but more just general observations to understand the kind of things I need to stick to or avoid to make sure that my days are closer to the way that I would like them to be.  It probably comes as no surprise, but I figured out that I basically need to keep in mind 4 pretty important things -- #1 is not taking work home with me, #2 is getting enough sleep, #3 is not eating heavy meals, and #4 is a more general not getting distracted by "junk" type activities.  Out of those the first three are really the most important as without those in place it's really hard to have good habits anywhere else.  Again, no real surprises here, but perhaps it was at least helpful for me to see the more direct correlations between things here and there.

We went again to go watch shooting stars (the Perseids meteor shower) this year!  Viewing conditions were a lot further from ideal this time and we didn't get to see nearly as many as a result, but it was still a good time for sure and I was glad to have good company for it.

JaSmix finally happened and it was a smashing success!  I actually barely had enough time to prepare for everything, due to multiple factors all compounding together...I hadn't been getting a great amount of sleep that week but still had to make sure I was prepared to teach both my WCS and waltz workshops, as well as help co-dj.  Except, last minute it turned out that I had to be the only DJ, whoops!  We went to go see the Perseids the night before (and thus stayed out really late) so I slept in the day of, and I actually basically did nothing else for the entire day besides JaSmix stuff, lol.  I woke up and set to work preparing 2 extra sets worth of music, then after that I wanted to run through my WCS class one more time to make sure I had it under my belt...then we packed up everything, picked up food, and went off to campus...

Despite all the minor snafus that happened along the way (including the brief stint of time where we were just teaching WCS out in the courtyard since we couldn't get inside) I really couldn't have asked for a better event.  The classes went well, a lot of people showed up (a surprising amount of people showed up on time too!), I saw people having a lot of fun, and everyone seemed to like the music too.  Definitely checking this one off as a success in my book.

Teaching the classes was pretty fun, though of course stressful in terms of preparing (especially for Intro to WCS) as well as a bit nerve-wrecking.  Before this I've actually taught two other waltz classes -- a class on waltz musicality last year at JaSmix 2016 (which I also ran), and then a class on role-reversal variations (a.k.a leading from the follow position) a few years ago at JaSmix 2014.  I've come quite a long way since 2014 -- I remember teaching that class and feeling quite stiff about it, though I think it still went "more or less alright".  It's also a weird feeling (and kind of sad) that so few people at JaSmix this year were around for that class -- I could probably could them on a single hand...

Anyways, these two classes were quite a bit better (improvement, yay!).  I think part of that is due to having better class structure -- especially for the WCS one, where I really tried to think about what order to go over things in (there's a lot).  The other part of that I think is just my own skills having improved a lot in the intervening 3 years.  My WCS is still very sloppy but it's at least somewhat improved since then (...I think...), but especially in waltz I feel so much more knowledgable about how the dance functions than I did before.  Nowadays when I dance together with someone or even watch them dance I think it's very easy for me to understand what is going on with their dancing and what (if anything) they should be working on improving, whereas before I could probably sense it on an intuitive level but could never pin it down.  I also understand a lot more about really what goes into the physics of leading and following and that has immensely helped me in becoming a better waltz dancer.  WCS actually has done a lot to help me in that regard, as things like prepping, connection, acceleration/tension, and being relaxed are really emphasized a lot more in WCS instruction and are super applicable to the social waltz that we do.  One of my weak points as a teacher is that I find it really difficult to adapt and react to how people are doing when I teach to a large group -- it pretty much takes all of my mental focus to remember what I'm supposed to be saying and teaching so I don't have a lot of bandwidth to watch people and try to analyze how they are doing, but this time I actually felt like I was able to do that a few times, which was quite helpful.

As for specifically how the classes went, I think WCS was a "valiant effort" at instilling some good fundamentals in people, but of course it was difficult since there was such a wide range in experience levels -- there were some people who had never done any social dance before, so there's only so much you can expect from them, really.  Nevertheless, I think at the very least people were having fun and at least trying things out, which was the most important part (it is an intro class after all), and hopefully some of the more experienced dancers at least walked away from the class with some better understanding of anchoring or technique or footwork or...anything really.

The waltz class was a blast I think, and it seemed like everyone really enjoyed it, despite again there being a wide range of experience levels.  I think I had a better "spread" of concepts in that class where there was a lot to soak up for the more experienced dancers but there were also some low-hanging fruit for newer folks to digest more easily -- I'll have to remember to keep that in mind if I ever end up teaching again.  The most difficult part of the class was actually getting everyone to be quiet and pay attention so that I could keep the class moving along, but since I was moving along at breakneck pace I actually managed to cover a *lot*...looking back on it, there were only like...3 figures that I didn't end up going over, and I don't think those would have been a particularly great fit for the class anyways (though they are still very cool).  If nothing else, I'm at last satisfied that I was able to do my rant about pattycake->free spins because that has been a pet peeve of mine FOREVER now and I am tired of seeing that mistake be made over and over again.  It seemed like that concept really clicked with people so here's hoping that at least that alone will have done a little bit to raise the proficiency of our lead/following...

One thing I forgot to do is ask if there were any students who were interested in forming an organization to host workshops and practice sessions in order to work on more stuff like what I taught.  You might remember that I was turning that idea around in my head quite a while ago but in the end after pursuing it further decided that there was no point in considering it until some student stepped up to make a VSO of some sort.  Of course, now that I'm thinking of it more, maybe a regular weekly practice session isn't quite the best format after all -- maybe I could just randomly host a workshop + practice again, like a mini-JaSmix of sorts during the year -- more like a waltz weekend-type thing.  But that is neither here nor there...I'm ready to be done with dance planning for a good bit now.

Ludum Dare rating has been continuing to go on and there's still about a week left -- I've been going through games here and there and have rated 24 so far (our game has gotten 32 ratings).  People have really been enjoying our game and its style/character which has been great!  Despite almost killing ourselves on Sunday night while making it, it all came together really well and I'm pretty happy with how it all went.  I'll be writing the postmortem either sometime this week, or maybe after voting ends and results come out.

Things have been a bit slower on the music front recently as I've been busy with other things (namely, preparing for JaSmix and everything), but we've still got half the month left, and I hope to come up with one or two more "Potpourri" mashups to finish off my album, so that should be good.  I'll be reaching out to a fan artist pokemon007 soon to see if I can get them to help out with the album artwork for that -- would be awesome if that actually ended up happening!

We are finally starting to get a little bit of glorious fall weather now and I'm happy that we made it through another summer.  I can't tell you how excited I am to be walking to the train station in the morning under cloudy weather again, hahaha.

I've definitely been slacking on letter-writing (and connecting in general) lately, so hoping to spend a little more effort on that, I think.  It seems crazy (probably because it is), but in just a handful of weeks it's already going to be time to start thinking about Christmas letters again.  Yes, it's that time of year again already, hahaha.  I actually have a special letter project that I'd like to try doing before all that though, so I guess that should be my next goal as far as writing is concerned.  Then I can also try to take care of the birthdays between now and xmas, and after that, start on xmas 2017...

This week is a fresh start and it feels like I actually don't have a lot weighing me down right now.  Let's all do our best!

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Last night I made progress...I don't know how it happened or what caused it, but...
I was having another band dream, I'm pretty sure it was concert band not marching band.  Except this time I wasn't actually at rehearsal or anything at the time.  My memory is pretty foggy, but I just remember thinking to myself "gee...why am I even still doing this? -- I really don't feel like doing this anymore."

And just that simple thought feels like a huge breakthrough for me.  Unseating these past feelings has proven to be really difficult for some reason, but somehow I've taken a step in the right direction.  That even when my mind thinks it's back there in that stressful situation, I'm now able to check myself and realize that I don't have to be there.

yay.......

Ludum Dare 39 was a success!  We made it out alive and with a game.
I'll be catching up on life and posting about it later...

Thursday, July 27, 2017

FearofDark's new album "Exit Plan" released this past weekend.  FearofDark has always been super talented and writes awesome chiptunes and tracked music but this album really knocks it out of the park.  Recommended!



Monday, July 24, 2017

Feeling cautiously optimistic about life.  Let's keep this update short and to the point.

Ludum Dare is coming up this weekend!  I'll be making my "In" post at some point, maybe later today.

Have another small art project that I need to get done in the next 5 days.  I already started on it and I think it's going to turn out well!  It actually came at a great time and I'm feeling very hopeful about it.  I was working on it on the train a bit this morning already.

This month is rather slow in terms of music-making but I still actually put in a decent number of hours this past weekend, making another Potpourri mashup and also remastering the other 3 old ones that I've already made.  I strung all four of them together and put them up here, if you'd like to stream a whole bunch of chiptune goodness.

JaSmix is confirmed for August 12th and things are coming along nicely -- only one or two more logistical things to iron out, but I think it'll all end up working out, phew.  I still have to sit down and really prep for my workshops but there's no real point in trying to do that until after Ludum Dare.  But I can at least start preparing music beforehand, I guess.

There's some other stuff, but that's the main gist of it...

Monday, July 17, 2017

Life seems a bit scary to me right now.  Despite getting enough sleep, I felt a lot of weight pressing down on me today.  I don't know where it is from, but I felt really sad because of it.

Wish for you to keep me safe.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Pragmatism is my jam!!!  Let's get things done, yo

Looks like Soundcloud is finally (?) going under for real this time and...I feel a little guilty for saying this, but I'm actually somewhat glad.  Not that it was a bad platform or anything, but just...SoundCloud was always the platform that I had the most trouble managing, and to be honest anyone who listens to my music would be better off going to Bandcamp (which is the REAL site that I want people to go to) or even YouTube for streaming.  As good as I am at managing multiple platforms, I think it's a win for me if the amount of fragmentation is reduced.  Of course, if all those people end up just running off to Spotify instead that's a different story, but...what can you do.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

OneShot

Well, I finished OneShot (and Solstice).  What a game...very similar to Undertale in what it manages to achieve, both in terms of player connection with characters and world, and in narrative direction.  Both have their own merits, of course.  But yeah...OneShot.  It was certainly worth every minute.  I'd recommend it highly.

It's been a while...

Quite a lot of things happened, I feel like.  I've been doing well in general, but the past few days haven't been very great -- just in terms of a general feeling.  Pretty sure it's just stress...I can feel it in my chest sometimes.  Annoying...

I made an effort to get some additional sleep last night and almost succeeded but I think something ended up waking me up and it wasn't quite a success.  So I didn't end up waking super easily, but on the plus side at least I don't feel lackluster in terms of energy level, so that's definitely a start.

I've been doing a pretty good job of bringing food to work almost every day (though I didn't yesterday).  It feels great knowing that I'm saving money by making my own food...initially the reason that I wanted to cook lunch for myself at least once a week was just because I like making my own food, but after a while every time I went out to buy something for lunch I kept thinking about how much more expensive it was and decided that I'd do something about it.

JaSmix date still isn't solidified, but I'm really hoping that it ends up working out.  Last Friday I worked out a bunch of my current toolbox of figures that I'd potentially go over in a workshop, which was quite interesting because I discovered that my leads on a lot of them actually are very imprecise in terms of timing and followers' footwork.  That's actually more or less fine in terms of just getting them to work, but it surprised me just how much I was glossing over even for figures that I do on a regular basis.  So I learned a lot there, though not necessarily things that I'd actually go over in the workshop itself.

Perhaps the most exciting thing happening right now in my life is OneShot, which has proven to be a real gem of a game.  Before I write anything about OneShot, though, I should take a moment to talk about Rakuen, which I played through and finished.  Rakuen was...honestly, kind of disappointing and overhyped.  Which is not to say that it wasn't enjoyable, and I think it had some nice moments, but I really don't feel like it was deserving of such high praise as I heard it lauded for.  I honestly felt like the game design as a whole wasn't as "clean" as it could have been and I think the storytelling in Kan Gao's games (To the Moon, Quintessence) was actually much better.  As a whole Rakuen was a lot more formulaic and played into many more RPG tropes (in a not so great way).  But I do think that it did some things right.  The way that you went around everywhere with Mom and could talk with her every so often was super nice and I think the relationship with Mom was actually really sweet and well-done.  The little stories that Sue shared with you too, I think that was another highlight of the game.  So I mean, it's not like Laura didn't put any heart into the game, or anything like that -- just that I feel like it definitely has its flaws too.  And I think that as artists we can try to hold ourselves to a better standard.  Ah, but of course, that's easier said than done.  Making games is difficult after all.

Speaking of which, I'm slowly making more progress on Rhythm Quest again.  So far I've added two additional enemy types and even designed a whole second level/song, which is great progress.  My next to-do items are dealing with the issue where the expected timing of the sword slash notes doesn't quite match up with what players are expecting visually -- probably because the sword slash animation extends a bit longer than the hitbox.  So I might need to adjust enemy placement a bit.  Also maybe toning down the difficulty of the second level.  Definitely a challenge to adjust difficulty for these things, but hopefully I can manage to get it right.  If nothing else I'm making sure to put a lot of checkpoints in the early levels, so that should help.

Anyways...OneShot.  I wasn't quite sure how much to expect out of it at first, but it's certainly managed to deliver in a big way.  It's reminiscent of Undertale in more ways than one, and so far I'm really appreciating almost everything about it, including both the storytelling and worldbuilding, as well as the narrative choices interwoven with player agency.  It's been quite tasteful and I'm really digging that.  I'd definitely recommend it.  It's something that has been something that I look forward to in my days, which is great.  The plot has been nothing short of gripping.  The emotional flow, too, has been really good.

Trying to get back in the swing of drawing again...I think I realized the thing I'm really interested in is drawing characters and cute things, so even just doodling things I think would be fun.

I released my "Sentience" album finally and it's been doing quite well so far!  I'm really happy with it and also pleased that other people seem to be enjoying it, even though it's not normal fare for me.  I'm also happy with how the CD prints turned out -- they look pretty cool!  Not really sure what is next for me in terms of music...to be completely honest I'm not in a great place to work on artistic things at the moment, though.  The anxiety that's in my chest is really not conducive for it. =(  Hopefully that can go away soon.



Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Core values

A friend of mine recently showed me a prompt about core values that I thought might be an interesting exercise to go through myself.  Here's the prompt:

Across cultures, religions and time itself, people have admired and aspired to the same universal values--among them integrity, generosity, courage, humility, compassion, loyalty, perseverance--while rejecting their opposites--deceit, greed, cowardice, arrogance, callousness, disloyalty and sloth. To begin to explore more deeply the values that are most compelling to you, we suggest that you set aside uninterrupted time to respond to the following questions:

- Jump ahead to the end of your life. What are the three most important lessons you have learned and why are they so critical?
- Think of someone that you deeply respect. Describe three qualities in this person that you most admire.
- Who are you at your best?
- What one-sentence inscription would you like to see on your tombstone that would capture who you really were in your life?

The end goal of all of this was to sift through and realize what "compelling values" you hold, but let's first sort through these bulleted questions, as they are not only related but also interesting in their own right.



- Jump ahead to the end of your life. What are the three most important lessons you have learned and why are they so critical?

Already a tough one to answer!  I think the first and most obvious one that pops into my mind is one that I feel like I've been explaining and talking about with others a bit more nowadays -- that of my relationship with the past (of course, you know it had to be something to do with the past).  Specifically, what I learned through several life experiences -- that a lot of the time I cannot move forward in life if I feel that I am leaving something behind.  And moreover, the fact that I *need* to pay my respects to the past and feel connected to it.  This is something that I've struggled with my whole life because somehow the idea of change and loss is really hard for me to cope with, and I think things became a lot easier for me once I realized that even though nothing lasts forever and I will always lose things, it is still necessary for me to hang onto rememberances and try to retain what I can, as a coping mechanism.  And that to do otherwise casuses me great emotional distress.  This is basically the Kiki lesson, as she is the presence in my life that I associate most strongly with this question.  You could also call it the "Star" lesson.

I guess second would be that it's important to put yourself in healthy environments and good situations.  More specifically, that you don't have to (and shouldn't) subject yourself to suffering and sacrifices in order to do things that are worthwhile.  This one is the Marching Band lesson, basically.  I think growing up there were many many times when I was put into situations that were really toxic to my well-being, including but not limited to "bonding communication time" when I was at my most introverted and withdrawn states, being super super stressed out about band, and in general just dealing with a whole host of people who were not supportive to me.  I think with Marching Band in particular it was such a meaningful and important experience to me that I was totally willing to put myself through a lot for the sake of it.  However, later on in life it became apparent to me that there are many other things in life that are just as good without being toxic at the same time.  Basically, this lesson boils down into "treat myself right" and don't be in unhealthy relationships.

A third one?  I guess I would say just in general how to try to sympathize with others and not just see everything from my own point of view.  Basically...human connection.  I was terrible at this because I was always a super loner and really introverted as well not to mention I had a bit of a pride issue and stubborn streak.  So I think I was really judgmental and bad at seeing things from other points of view or even just respecting other people's different opinions or ways of being.  Part of this was also my upbringing because the examples that I grew up with did exactly this so I'm glad that I was able to realize that it is actually a big problem.



- Think of someone that you deeply respect. Describe three qualities in this person that you most admire.

All these multi-part questions!  I don't think this will be a single person but rather, spread across multiple people, as a more general thing.

I think one is the ability to be an "anchor" (no, not in the West Coast Swing sense...), or rather, that quality in people where no matter how many years go by it's still the same thing.  That seeing them again almost brings a sense of nostalgia, because they still are who they are.  Of course everyone has this to some extent -- it's not very often that people change in a very core way.  But certain people really make me feel it very clearly, and it feels super refreshing and actually gives me a really hopeful feeling, that something can stay so untouched amidst a world of such sweeping changes.

I think another is open-mindedness.  I think seeing people embrace new things and create meaningful life experience because of it is really inspiring to me, in large part because I prioritize comfort and routine so new things are really deprioritized in my life...so when I see other people having such success with them it sometimes really makes me think and make sure that I'm not just being complacent.  New things (Ne) is my weak point and I'm really bad at it but I'll never grow as a person without it.

Also, empathy and being able to understand, connect with, and help others.  As I mentioned above I am not really good at this but I actually value it a lot and I think it's really really inspiring when I see certain people being a positive presence in others' lives.



- Who are you at your best?

Comfortable and at peace!  I am living in my routine and doing the things that I am always doing.  Everything is "in its place" and because I feel so comfortable and "in my element" I actually feel more willing to try one or two new things.  Basically I am at my best when I feel like I am secure in my comfort zone and that is the time when I am willing to see what is outside of it.

At my best I think I am proactive in reaching out to people, 100% dependable, always following through with everything that I planned, and taking care of everything that needs to be taken care of.  I am reaching towards achievements and goals while at the same time being happy.  I am "in the zone".



- What one-sentence inscription would you like to see on your tombstone that would capture who you really were in your life?

I donno...something about the past.  Or something artsy that has to do with the fact that I have finally "moved on" from life.  Like,

"Always" was what you said.
Except...
you also didn't stay.
You, who longed to be with the stars.

No...that's probably bad to put as an epitaph, huh. xD  Yeah, probably just something about the past.  But you know, as my best friend pointed out recently -- when I do have a tombstone, it will mean that I am part of the past, too.  I will finally be a part of that "past" that I am always looking back on.  If my soul still exists at that time, I feel that my entire perspective about everything will change so much.  But I guess that would be true for anyone.



To bring this back to core values, I think it's no surprise that the thing I value most in general is dependability, persistence, and loyalty -- or more specifically, a resistance to change.  Since a large part of my life seems to be centered around trying to keep things the same while coping with necessary change, it's extremely important for me to be able to stay the same as I once was, and to have people around who also would not change as well.  I think it is this value that drives many facets of my personality.  For example, one reason I seem to have such a diverse set of hobbies (music, games, dance, writing, art, blogging, calligraphy...) is because I don't want to drop any of them.  A lot of the time when I talk about being "true to myself" or "being Timmie" what I actually mean is staying consistent with what I have done in the past.  Not just because the past is important in an abstract sense, but because what I was in the past was =known to be good= and thus I begin to question any deviations from it.

The second thing that I seem to value is comfort.  This usually goes hand in hand with being consistent because for the most part what is consistent *is* what is comfortable.  But in general, making sure that one is taking care of themselves and putting themselves in good situations, as well as making time to stop and smell the roses.

A large part of my life actually revolves around finding a balance between persistence and comfort.  As I mentioned earlier the two are often synonymous, but oftentimes persistence dictates that I make sacrifices because keeping up a pattern can be difficult given varying circumstances -- after all, that is the whole reason why keeping patterns is hard in the first place!

For the most part I try to defer to remaining consistent, but I have definitely gotten into trouble with this and have needed to take a step back and recenter myself, especially when my persistence goals are unrealistic (writing Christmas letters to every single person I've ever written to???).  This is one of the reasons I value my best friend's company so much; because she helps me be more balanced in terms of letting go of my consistency in favor of comfort.

On the flip side, though, if I don't adhere to consistency enough it really does come back to haunt me.  I think this comes up in two main ways.  The most obvious one is that if I don't feel connected enough to the past, I just start thinking about it more and more and eventually become depressed and have to lose myself in it for awhile.  I think at its core this is just because I look backwards to the past to make sure that I am going in the right direction at the present.  If I find that I have strayed from the course drastically, it's really unsettling for me because I won't be able to stop looking at the path that I was on previously and remembering how good it was, and I'll really question everything I'm doing currently and why I gave up all that I had before.  The second way that consistency comes back to bite me is if I haven't been keeping up with a given thing -- like for example if I haven't worked on any game dev in a week or two, maybe because I'm feeling lazy or something.  When that happens it keeps on bugging me and if it continues you'll often hear me write about it in my blog or letters over and over again that I haven't done it in a while and need to get back to it.  Even when it's not something that I "have to do", it still feels like a responsibility to me because I don't want to drop anything.

And then I guess my third core value would be empathy and caring for others.  This is more of an aspiration than something that I actively feel like I have, but I think that when my first two values of consistency and comfort are in a good balance, that is usually when I start thinking more about my connections with others in a more truly empathetic way (or at least attempting to).  I think by far and large I actually defer to consistency in maintaining most of my friendships -- which basically means writing letters and messaging them with the same sort of small talk initiation all the time, for better or worse.  But I think there comes a point when I need to be a little more proactive and focused in order to really connect with people.

So there you have it: my three values are consistency, comfort, and empathy, in that order (not sure if those three words are the exact correct ones, but you get the idea).  In terms of MBTI, the first two are definitely my Si (introverted sensing) at work (consistency more than comfort) and empathy is my Fe (extraverted feeling).  Ti (introverted thinking) didn't really make an appearance at all, but Ne (extraverted intuition) actually did come up, because I mentioned I admire open-mindedness.  I don't think that's a core value for myself though.



Saturday, June 24, 2017

15 hours in and I've finally hit the end of the song I'm working on.  I can't wait to get this released.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

An insane amount of effort has gone into this song so far, at least for my standards.  It's definitely going to be the capstone of the entire album, representing pretty much everything that I ever wanted to accomplish and achieve with it.  It's already been multiple sessions of working on it and it's still not at an end.  Might be close?  Not sure, it'll really depend on how the music decide to flow the next time I sit down.  I don't think the composition process has ever been so much of a "journey" for me though.  It's quite something.


This song is really good in a totally different way than the rest I've made.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Bingo

Bingo! Jumping on the bandwagon with this...how much do you have in common with me? =)


Monday, June 19, 2017

When I think about my past, I am often filled with strong feelings of guilt or gratitude.  I can't help but echo those sentiments to the people who are involved, saying either "sorry" or "thank you".  It is not only a form of coping but also a way of honoring those memories.

Though it's important to not get "stuck" on the past, it is perhaps equally important to express one's feelings toward what has happened on their road to the present.  There was a video that I saw a number of years back about happiness and mindfulness/gratitude where people were asked to pick someone very important to them and write out why this person was so important.  The twist is that they then hand a phone to the subject and tell them to read their letter out loud to the person they wrote about.  You can sort of intuit what happens next, of course.  I think that is a sort of thing that I value -- the expression of these feelings.


Hour of Devastation previews have started and I just wanted to point out that the new "Afflict" mechanic that's in the set is basically exactly the same thing as the "Soul Drain" mechanic that I developed myself as an Orzhov mechanic in my custom "Return to Gatecrash" set.  See http://ddrkirbyisq.blogspot.com/2014/10/a.html for proof!

Not the first time that WotC has independently come up with nearly identical mechanics as I did (see Conspiracy 2).  Good to know that I was on the right track!

Monday, June 12, 2017

Overrated/Underrated Songs

I actually don't often get personal feedback on a specific level from other people on my music (besides generic "wow this is cool"), but as an artist I still definitely feel like some of my works are underrated or overrated.  And some are also "justly liked".  In this post I'll go through a handful of them.  Audio links included!


Overrated:

Probably the top offender here.  This is one of my most popular songs, but I really don't even like it that much.  It's one of those remixes where I think the original actually has a better feeling.  I think the main thing is the chorus -- the rearrangement is really uninspired and in general the chords used in the original don't really mesh with my general sense.  It's not even mixed that well -- this was in the old days back before I had the equipment to hear a lot of my mixing mistakes.  I remember having a lot of trouble getting a chorus that featured the original melody yet still sounded great.  Probably my favorite parts of the song are the ones where I was able to break free from the original -- specifically, the countermelody at 1:45, and the whistle lead at 2:23.  I will concede that the drum solo is pretty bangin though.

Once upon a time I thought this version of the song was okay but I really don't like it anymore...it's sooooo slow....really loses all the feel of the original song.

Might be a controversial one because this song IS actually quite good.  However I do think it might be a tad overrated, especially considering how well it's known.  The mixing actually has issues (again, this was before I got better at that), and overall the song isn't as "clean" as some of my newer works.  Comparing this to Illumination Reel, especially -- Illumination Reel takes the cake easily.

Underrated:

This song doesn't really seem to have been discovered by the general populace, I guess because it's not yet on youtube or soundcloud (something I can fix?), but I'm actually quite proud of it, especially the Dustforce OST-style first section and in general how I highlighted a subtle melody that was really good in the original.  This remix in general goes a lot of places and actually ends up being really interesting despite being over 7.5 minutes long!

Also another lesser-known song, but I just reallllly love the feel of the melody here.  The beat is jammin, even the chords are really good too.  There's really nothing to not like here.

Criminally underrated.  This is one of my proudest works ever!

Everyone likes Love Everlasting and this is more of the same!

This is hidden in my Ivory album but is actually one of the most poignant things that I've created.

Twin Wings (entire album)
Collaborating with A-zu-ra was great fun and there is actually a =lot= going on in this album.

I'm not actually sure if this is underrated or not but it's really good!  It's really chill, really happy, and sweet.  Like something super nostalgic.

This easily earned its place in my "Best of" album, despite being really out of place compared to all the other pumpin 9-bit tracks.

Justly liked:

Probably the first song that ushered in the "new era" of DDRKirby(ISQ) productions entirely.  I made this over 3 or 4 one-hour sessions and I can't believe how well it turned out.  This song has really stood the test of time, too.

Love Everlasting (entire album)
My most popular album -- it's actually a slight deviation from my usual style, believe it or not.  Not by much, of course, but rearranging aivisura's music really had me doing some things that I didn't normally do at the time -- which led to great things!  I had a lot of fun with this album and I think it pushed me to reach a little outside my comfort zone in a great way.

Maybe my proudest work to this date, or at the very least the most hype.  I really wanted to make something special for my Patreon supporters, and I think I really succeeded.  I love this song.

The best danceable waltz I've made.  Nuff said.

Out of all the irish/celtic style stuff I've made, this one definitely has the others beat.

A lot of people like this one and I actually agree.

I can't believe how much of a club banger I was able to make with this.  I don't really do much work with these sorts of tracks so the fact that I was able to have this much fun and awesomeness with these basslines and such was super awesome.

Cleeeaaannn.  The mixing and arrangement was way ahead of my time here, and the overall sound is just super crisp.  This song was the first dance song that I wrote and it really set the stage for everything else.  I kept on using this as a model to follow for creating waltz songs because it was so awesome.



Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Your presence keeps me safe.  Keeps me from feeling scared, though there is everything to be afraid of.


=====

"What is your goal?"

I'll be honest -- life hasn't been the greatest recently, as you may or may not have noticed already.  It's not anything poignant -- just a general down cycle, punctuated by some times when things are better; not too bad; even happy and exciting.  The thing that worries me most is that looking at it from an objective standpoint I do think that it has had a pretty high correlation with when I started having to commute so far.  But then again, there were other things that also changed in my life at that time as well.

I finished the Madoka series again -- what a great show.  Surprisingly, I actually had forgotten quite some powerful moments...I guess it has been quite a while, after all (or perhaps I didn't find them as powerful the first time around?).  I debated watching all 3 movies next, but I think for the moment I'm going to skip ahead to Rebellion as there aren't =too= many significant changes in the first two films to warrant it for now.  Perhaps after that, I'll go back to the movies, and then write some general reflections in terms of my thoughts and feelings.  I realized again that I'm actually pretty bad at discussing these sorts of things with other people and I'm not sure if it's because I'm just bad at explaining myself or because I'm just afraid of putting forth my own opinions...

Hyper Light Drifter is done done!  I didn't 100% it, but I actually got more than I thought I would -- I got all 8 modules in each of the four areas, and also found all the monuments.  I didn't do all the challenges and I'm still missing some upgrade bits and one last key, but I didn't really want to bother with those as I had gotten most of the "main" stuff and explored all the areas at the very least.  Good game!

Next could be OneShot, but I'm actually more looking forward to Rakuen, so I think I might go ahead and go through that next.

Of course, I can't forget mentioning Monument Valley 2, which -- surprise! -- just got released (wow!).  I'm waiting to sit down with that one and enjoy it fully when I have the chance.  Honestly, just seeing the trailer and knowing that that game exists restored some of my hopefulness in life in general.  Perhaps I just need more art in my life?

More food experiments!  A few weeks ago I experimented with some different cuts of meat, including a top blade/flat iron steak (was ok.  I also tried out the jaccard on it, which I can't tell whether was a good or bad idea), and a lamb flank steak (!), which actually turned out quite decently -- basically a lamb version of a steak.  I might have to try cooking flank steak a little more often -- I think it's good practice to experiment with these less pricey cuts, both for variety's sake and for my wallet's sake as well.  I've heard skirt steak can be pretty great too.

Just yesterday I fired up the Anova sous vide machine and used it to sous-vide some bratwurst sausages with beer, which I then seared over the stovetop (no grill for me!  That's foreign territory still).  Served it on toasted hot dog buns, along with whole grain mustard and beer-braised sauerkraut (plus a bit of bacon).  A very wholesome meal indeed, and the sausages were definitely very juicy.  Not bad!

Something else I realized is that some of my happiest times are in the grocery store, lol!  Somehow just being by myself and skipping along while thinking of what foods to get really makes me happy.  Maybe I'm destined to be a housewife...

=====

I was talking with my best friend the other night and I realized that one of the reasons that the blogging "audience" and social media audience in general that I find myself writing among has changed so much is not just that facebook and everything has exploded and has everyone and their mothers on it, but also that I no longer have a smaller exclusive group or community of peers that I can point to as my social media "community".  In high school it was actually a big thing to me, that me and my high school friends (and some not-yet-friends that I was able to connect with) had this online "space" where we could interact with each other.  Of course, many (but not all) of our xanga sites were public in the first place, so it's not like it was artificially restricted to just those people (and indeed that was part of the charm of it, that I could connect with people whom I only vaguely knew about), but the notion was still there.

Yet, I, along with many other people, have more or less lost that aspect of life and online presence now -- the idea of a tangible "cluster" of people.  It's not just a matter of social media changing and FB becoming...well, whatever you want to call it.  But now I have dance friends, college friends, friends from my past, friends of friends, ...

And of course I try to hedge myself in the other direction -- try to consciously retain =some= semblance of an "inner circle", but the reality is that that doesn't really exist anymore for me, not just online but in real life too.  Yes, I =do= have a collection of close friends that =I= feel comfortable sharing more details with, but those friends themselves often aren't connected to each other in the same way, let alone at all.  There's no one thing tying us all together, so of course it feels like less of a community.

Perhaps that itself is what I missed most about those days, is the feeling that it was a community of sorts.  The good news is that despite all this I'm sure those sorts of communities still exist, they're just harder to find and form.  But the herd of progress seems to be moving further and further away from it -- in the direction of scrolling tickers, feeds, reddit, tumblr, and twitch.

Meanwhile, I'll just be over here in the corner writing my snail mail...

Monday, June 5, 2017

I thank all of my friends who continue to make this life worthwhile.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Life is difficult enough as it is...
I guess we should try and put ourselves in spaces and situations where we are surrounded by supportive people, and try to be supportive ourselves.  Perhaps I have been underestimating just how important that is.

I'm feeling kind of "tired of life", right now, just sort of off of it.  Not from anything in particular, but just lots of little things.  Accumulated negativity, you could call it.

In other news, I'm working on putting all of my LD post-mortems on my website, and I've also been watching the Madoka anime again -- starting with the main TV series, which I'm already up to ep 9 on.  Also following through with analysis and commentary from the wiki too.  Maybe I'll write up some reflections once I'm done with it all.

But yes, somehow it feels as though there is really a lack of good energy in my life right now.  I think that's why it feels like I just want to be alone.

Are lambs better than people?

Monday, May 29, 2017

Fanime 2017 Day 3 - Dance and Goodbye

My last day at con!

The day was =quite= a long one for me, as I started off by getting up early and having to pick up and drive parents from SF in the morning.  After that I went back home, packed up my stuff, put on some eyeliner, and headed back to con.

I didn't have much planned for the day, except I was supposed to drop in for a wcs private, and also play melee with Eddie.  So after I grabbed a sandwich from Subway (yep!  Still snuck in a visit to subway), I made my way over to the B&W ball room, where I met both Bleu and Eddie, and then worked on some WCS stuff.  It was a bit helpful I think -- not sure though, will have to practice it the next time I actually go WCS dancing.  Which I'm not exactly jumping out of my chair to do anyways...

After that I sat down there with Eddie and we played melee on my laptop for a while while they were teaching a bunch of group lessons in the room.  We played quite a bit, until eventually my laptop ran out of juice and that was that.  We made our way around to the Artist Alley where Eddie ended up buying two prints from the artist who work for this site.  Funnily enough I just looked them up and I have actually played one of their VNs a long time ago, Phantom Seeds, which was released back in 2010.  What a small world...

Next I headed over to the gaming room where I said bye to Eddie, met up with Allen at the TGM3 machine, and proceeded to dump a whole bunch of quarters into TGM and play a whole bunch of Master mode (along with one go at Shirase, which went pretty decently actually).  I had some good games; and especially after that Shirase game I could feel the adrenaline, haha.

I walked back to my car and put my laptop and controllers away and packed my dance shoes to get ready for B&W ball which was starting at 6PM.  On the way back, though, I ran into Isabelle Wendy Kotaro and co who were going to dinner, so I tagged along!  Ended up having poke, which was not too bad.

They needed to go back to their hotel room so I decided to just go straight to the ball where I met up with Lann Alex and co.  Very surprisingly, I actually ended up staying at B&W Ball until midnight when it ended!  I danced with Lann and co a bit, and also found some of the B&W ball staff to dance with at some points, but then Isabelle Wendy Rebecca Eddie and Russell showed up and we had a mini Stanford crew thing going on, which was quite fun.  Lewis Joy and Mindy showed up later, which was really pleasant surprise!  It was nice getting to catch up a bit, hang out with people, and of course do some dancing too.

I ended up staying until the dance was officially over, at which point I bid farewell to the other Stanford kids, did one final loop around the gaming hall and main hallway, and left Fanime.  Along the way I passed the Subway store (which was still open) and had a brief flash back to two years ago when I grabbed food there after I left con on the last day and had someone take my photo and strike up a short conversation.

As much as I'm currently off of dance and keep on talking it down as being not the highest priority for me, I think tonight really did show me that I should give it a little more credit, just because it's through dance that I have these friends that I can hang out with and be in good company.  Granted, I definitely could have just checked out B&W ball briefly and left after an hour or whatever, and maybe that wouldn't have been so bad, but it felt really nice to see everyone there and have our own little mini dance crowd.  This might sound crazy, but I may have ended up having more (???) fun at b&w ball than big dance this year -- which is not to say that big dance is the worse event, because =clearly= big dance is the more awesome event, but I think due to a combination of unfortunate factors I wasn't as into it this year as I could have been.  (better luck next time I guess!)

I left Fanime, saying a mental goodbye to the con-goers, to the convention center, to the wonderful atmosphere, and to Fanime itself.  I was sad that it was over, but at the same time wouldn't go to more even if there was much more to go to.  It's been a tiring but good weekend.

I think looking back on this year, this Fanime will mainly stick out for two things -- one is the absolute lack of plans and normal con-scheduled activities that I had; I spent a whole lot of time just hanging out and not really doing much of anything!  The other is staying through b&w ball the whole time and having fun with the Stanford dance crew.  Shoutout to all you guys!

Edit: Oh, right, duh.  This year's Fanime will also stick out for AiviSura's concert which was really epic!!!

Photos from today:

Holy crap!  It's Vile from Mega Man X!  This was a huge surprise and was quite awesome.



The character from Transistor!  I don't know much about this game but her sword thing lit up and was so cool!



This cute girl had on a Little Twin Stars shirt and I couldn't help but ask to snap a photo!  She saw my phone case and charm, haha, yay~  Fellow fan~



A Morrigan cosplayer who definitely had attitude...



Majora's Mask!



The con at midnight...still tons of people milling around in certain areas.



So long Fanime...see you again next year.


Sunday, May 28, 2017

Fanime 2017 Day 2 - Hanging Out

Saturday -- Day 2!

It was a really chill day overall today -- not that I really minded much!

I got up slightly earlier than expected and decided to do eyeliner-only for my makeup -- a decision which I definitely don't regret!  I was out of the door a bit earlier than expected and parked at Safeway again...which, I now realized afterwards, was a mistake -- the parking lot across the street is cheaper, both on weekdays and weekends!  I probably realized this on previous years too but just totally forgot about it.  So I'm making (another?) note to myself here that I should park in that lot instead.

Anyhoo, I headed to con and met up with Angela, whom I ended up hanging out with for basically the entire day! :D  We ate lunch at this Malaysian place which was not half bad at all, then while I was photographing this Merida cosplayer (yay Merida!) this super random lady came up and said something about the Malaysian food and that we should go again something something she's there something something (????).  And she asked us if we were from Malaysia (uhhh, no?), and where we were from (uhh...here?).  Very odd.  I basically said "okay okay okay sure okay okay whatever" and that was that.  Our best guess is that she worked at the place we had just come from and ....saw me there or something?  but had left, and then recognized me again on the street from my distinctive costume.  ...  or something.  We were quite confused.

After that we spent a good deal of the day just wandering around and doing random things, including skimming through the dealers hall a bit, and going through the first two rows of artist alley (which I had skipped yesterday).  We also spent some time in the gaming hall, where I played some more Tetris, including a pretty good master run where I topped out somewhere in the 800s or 900s and got an M1 (M2?) rank.  Nice!  We didn't get to play Bishi Bashi, but I did hop onto the 3rd strike machine and beat two other people pretty handily (heheh), despite my execution being pretty off (I'm going to blame the sticks, as fighting game players are prone to....but for good reason, stick differences REALLY do throw you off a lot, especially when it's a different type of gate or stick than you like to use).  We also had a run on Beatmania 3 (not IIDX, sadly -- there was no IIDX cab this year due to some issue or another), which was kind of fun.

We spent some time wandering back and forth -- also I ran into a record number of people from MZ today for some reason O_o -- and also at one point stopped by Stage Zero to watch the B&W ball staff perform some random dance stuff (we said hi to Russell at this point too).  After that we plopped ourselves down on the floor to the right of stage zero where I sprawled out my dress (every year I try and make some time to just sit on the floor with my dress laid out in a circle), and we chatted, people-watched, and had people take photos of me.  Jeremy also said hi to us at this point, having just made it into the final bracket for smash 4 (go Jeremy!), though he would end up getting knocked out thereafter.

We met up with Nate and he wanted to check out the tail end of the AMV contest, so we went into that and got to see the last few, which were on the comedy side.  We split off from Nate and I met up with Lann, Alex and co in the Gaming Hall, got a photo and chatted a bit, and then it was time to start thinking about dinner!  We briefly said hi to the RWBY cosplay group before venturing off on our own to dinner...which we decided to get at Safeway!  It was not only convenient since it was right where I had parked, but also ended up being pretty tasty too -- I got myself a toasted sandwich with salami, cheese, veggies, and pepperoncinis -- which I had literally the hardest time communicating to the guy on the other side of the counter, "pepperoncinis" partly because this was the first time I realized how that word was actually spelled (seems that it's also spelled "peperoncino" sometimes too!), and partly because the other guy thought I was talking about pepperjack cheese or something.  I also didn't realize he was going to ask whether he should toast it and then ask for toppings afterwards.  The end result was that he eventually understood what I wanted but put the pepperoncinis (peperoncinos?) on before he toasted the sandwich, which was...I guess unusual.  Communication is hard, lol.  Fortunately the sandwich tasted great anyways, and I got to pair it with a Naked juice smoothie -- my favorite treat, Orange Mango! (which I still have not seen a large size of....)

That was it for Fanime today!  After that we drove off to the Art Boutiki where Aivi & Surasshu were going to perform.  Turns out we were wayyyy early and nobody else was there and they weren't ready to start checking people in either, so we just hung out outside at some tables and ate our dinner while chatting some more.  We went in, waited around, and surprise -- ran into Vu and Rose, who were there for the concert too!  We caught up a bunch, chatted, and then enjoyed the concert, which opened up with Noah Hafford (very fun, good stage energy), Omniboy (great music, pretty progressive sound, but also really hit the spot with some sweet rhythms and stabs and such), and Slime Girls (I wasn't as big of a fan, but they seemed fun!).  And then it was onto our beloved Aivi & Surasshu (whom I had gotten to say hi to earlier before they went on)!

Aivisura had a great set and I was so happy for their performance!  They played a handful of stuff, including Lonely Rolling Star (ahhhhh!! *squeal*), Here's How! (very fun, very groovy, a song that I didn't realize was so great to listen to while standing up), a cover of Yuri on Ice (which holy crap, gave me chills -- just...the emotion...wow), a song from their new album (so cool!), and a final song from Steven Universe for all the SU fans.  Lonely Rolling Star (I keep typing "Love Everlasting", haha) was great as always...the song from their new album was super interesting and you can tell that their musical style has really developed since The Black Box and all the work they've done for SU.  And they really did great in terms of performance this time too!  It was super fun and surasshu's jammin was less awkward-adorable and more just plain fun and awesome :D  The highlight was Yuri on Ice though, wow, I really felt that in a big way.  I haven't even seen most of the anime, and have only heard that song like once before, but man...

And that was it!  I stayed behind for a bit to say hi to aivisura, give them my shiny new business cards, as well as two special ones with the Love Everlasting art on them.  It really makes me happy to know that they are still thankful for Love Everlasting, but even more happy to see them still making great things that I can connect with, as a musical artist.  It made me smile, too, to see another fan telling them that their music helped bring him through difficult times in his life.  Looks like I'm not the only one, heh.

Photos from today:



Link taking a selfie......



...and an actual photo, lol.




Merida!  A really well-done outfit.  This was also right before we were ambushed by confusing Malaysia lady...



Adventure time!



A REALLY legit group of Marvel heroes.  Look at that Gambit!!!



 A first-run reddie!



Giant moogle!



Dragon Maid.  I don't know anything about Dragon Maid, but this costume was so pretty, wah!



A random assortment of characters, lol!



Aivi & Surasshu setting up for their awesome gig :D



More loot!  I picked up this cute Sumikko Gurashi folder for just $2 at the Dealers Hall :)



That's it for today!

As for tomorrow...I didn't get contacted regarding speed dating so I'm assuming that's off the menu (shrug...).  First things first, I gotta get up and drive all the way over to SF in the morning to play chauffeur for some people (zzzzzz).  But then I'll be relatively free for the rest of the day -- technically I'm supposed to have more private instruction time from 12:30-1:30 at the B&W ball place but I'm not even too concerned about that to be honest, I might just let them know I had my share already.  B&W ball itself is tomorrow night, but aside from that I'm mainly just hoping to hang out with Lann, finally get to play Melee with Eddie, hang out at con for the last day that I can, and play some more games of TGM3.

Things have been pretty good so far.  Let's keep it up!