Wednesday, April 24, 2019

30th Bday, prep for Ludum Dare 44

This month is definitely a bit of a rush...after coming back from the Asia trip, I had but a short time to catch my breath and then it was onto the celebration of my 30th.  I had better write about that now I guess?

This was quite definitely the best birthday I've ever had.  Of course, it also tends to sometimes fall around the time of the spring Ludum Dare event, so sometimes the timing is weird, but even without taking that into consideration, this was by far the best it's ever been.

I wrote in 2012 that "birthdays are a reminder of how little attention people put into me and how often I can be taken for granted, as well as a reminder of the imbalances in my relationships with other people." and that sentiment was definitely an honest one at the time.  Whether these perceived imbalances were ignorantly self-inflicted or through no fault of my own is up for debate, but I definitely had not found the types of social connections that I had truly desired, and would not until the coming years (though I had at the least gotten a lot closer than before).  It was because of this (along with my own knee-jerk reactions to oppose social trends) that I originally started to deactivate my Facebook account every time my birthday rolled around -- it left me with a disgusting feeling really, that horde of people who now suddenly bothered enough to type a meaningless message to me, but only because of an automated Facebook reminder.  Realizing that that automated birthday reminder had spurred them onto more action than anything else of our relationship during the 364 other days of the year was a terrible thought.  Of course, the family celebrations didn't really help, as usually they feel like little more than rituals for their benefit and not mine (still working on that one -- but at least I have gotten them to start picking from my wishlist so I don't also leave with wholly impractical gifts).

Yet somehow after 30 years I managed to get together a great group of people whom I not only cared about but who also cared about me.  It was pretty astounding when I thought about it, I really was struck by the group that surrounded me that day and I think that day may ought to really serve as a sort of marker for myself in my life.  I planned some great activities, we had a lot of fun, and I had great help as well.  From one friend helping with tea, another helping with food preparation, another helping with miscellaneous logistics, it was truly amazing to finally have gotten together such dependable people.  Just read that post from 2012 that I linked -- what a difference!

Of course, we also totally rocked the Roosevelt Escape Room -- great success, and I felt quite proud of the team.  I think we had a great mix of both people who tried to think very quickly on their feet (me) and people who tried to be more methodic and careful (i.e. catching everyone else's mistakes).

And with that, all those people sending me short messages, somehow didn't really feel so bad anymore.

Of course, that being over, it's right into the next thing...Ludum Dare 44 is coming up this weekend!  I've been doing a bunch of prep, including updating to Unity 2019, testing some things to make sure they still work, and also setting up and testing some things for! is sort of like the "Bandcamp of game distribution" and I've always been a fan of them and the developers that gather on their platform despite not having used them.

I do plan on trying to copy over all of our existing games over to itch, but it looks like that might (???) have to wait until after the dust from LD44 settles, as most of our recent games are actually domain-locked to avoid nasty people coming and stealing them onto their own sites.  I've added a rule to allow for hosting and tested that all to make sure it works, but I still have to go about recompiling all of the old games (probably also updating them to Unity 2019, hopefully not breaking anything in the process?), and setting up each of the project pages, etc etc etc. and that is something I just don't have the time for right now.  But I am at least set up to upload our LD44 entry onto itch.  Part of the reason I wanted to set up in the first place is because I think it does great discoverability for LD games, especially since the LD site itself has never been great at that.  (Not to mention, I might want to use itch to distribute Rhythm Quest as well!)

Anyways, Unity 2019 seems to be working well (the tests also gave me some chances to verify that older games are working fine after the upgrade, which is important since there were some bugs that I had been working around and the workaround are deprecated, so good to know that the root issues were also fixed), and I've updated my unity template project as well as forked it over and made the repo.

Other things I still need to do before LD44:
- Draw some 100x100 pixel art for this month's "Monthlies" album.  I knew this would sneak up on me even before I left for Asia...I was going to try starting this today, but then I got sidetracked by some more of the stuff and now this blog post...ugh.  Will have to try again tomorrow.  Need to get it done before LD since the end of the month is really soon after LD ends.
- Do the obligatory "I'm in" post on the LD website.
- Laundry!
- (maybe?) upload some more stuff to NetEase since I haven't for a long while
- Do a big grocery run on Friday and get lots of food and snacks :D
- If I have time, there's a boatload of letters I could probably catch up on...but not sure if that will happen =X  maybe will try to at least get to one or two...
- Keep recovering physically and don't get sick...

Things that will NOT get done before LD44:
- I have a famitracker song that I "sort of finished" on the trip to Asia but might try to flesh out (or just call it done and master it).
- Have a music commission on deck (due mid-july)
- Also a remix to do for an arrange album (due august)
- All the stuff
- Potentially hosting a GCC dance on the 18th, but leaving that up in the air based on what I feel like doing.
- There won't be another full-on JaSmix event for this quarter, but I will host the usual Summer event.  I've already done an initial reachout, now I just need to pick a good date.

Well, on the plus side, I'm somehow still cruising along and handling everything despite having a full-time job.  I do feel like I'm taking care of a lot of things...just keeping on chugging along like I do best.

Friday, April 19, 2019

Beijing/Tokyo/Hakone trip 2019

Aaand we're back!  I was out all last week for a trip to Asia with my best friend and am finally posting about it now.  Since I've been back it's been a quite strange mix of fast and slow, with the days both rushing by quickly yet also seeming to drag on at times.  The flow of time has been really strange for me this week as I'm dealing with some jetlag and some of the strangest sleeping hours I've had in recent history (sleeping from 3-10....PM).  I've had some times when I crashed in the afternoon and set an alarm for one or a couple hours later, only to end up snoozing it a billion times.

I've got Friday off work this week, which is nice, though it also contributes to feeling that the flow of time is weird -- did a week really pass?  I've had what feels like some "extra days", especially after sleeping from 3-10PM and waking up and having so much extra time at night, yet somehow the week still passed by relatively quickly.  Thankfully, I've been able to start catching up on various things, such as putting away all of the things that I bought on the trip and even running some errands including a trip to the DMV (yay..........).  Physically I am still definitely recovering though -- I don't have the strongest constitution and the trip definitely got me a bit sick.

Anyways, enough about all that -- I know you're all here for the photos anyways!  This was a ~10-day trip to Asia, first stopping by Beijing where my friend was visiting family, and then to Tokyo where we met up and stayed with another friend (with a side trip to the Hakone area for hot springs).

I'll admit I'm not usually a huge photo-taker (anymore?) but I tried to be good about snapping some every so often.  Even if I don't actually end up looking at them later, I've found that they're at least good for showing to other people, and for recounting some various things that happened (e.g. for this post itself).  I took more photos than just the ones below, of course, but somehow I'm feeling like it's better to just post the more relevant ones rather than dump a whole bunch at you guys.  Well, let's get to it...

Beijing was like an weird mix of SF and Tokyo, though the smaller and more old-fashioned streets were a bit unique in their own.  Whenever I travel I'm always a little struck by how nice the trees and foliage are, I think it's because the areas I frequent here in California don't really have that much of that.

We saw some stray meowmies, and even got to pet and play with a meowmie at the tea house we went to, which was really nice :3

Sitting and having tea at the teahouse was a pretty cool experience, not really because the tea was amazing (though it was quite nice), but because of the atmosphere.  Time seemed to flow differently, I'm not so sure it was the place itself but more just the circumstances...It's almost never that I just sit around letting time pass by so freely without really a care as to what I need to do next.  Thinking about that was a bit elucidating for me, I think.

Speaking of tea, I used to be super into white tea but currently am pretty into grain-based flavors, like genmaicha and barley or buckwheat tea.

The air quality was actually not too bad, or at least not bad enough to bother me noticeably, though of course I ended up getting a bit sick at some point over the course of the trip (not surprising really, but it wasn't terrible thankfully).  Around the airport area it was quite bad though, enough to bother me -- couldn't tell whether it was just that area or maybe just the construction they were doing in the airport itself.

The food we had was quite tasty!  The mapo tofu and other sichuan-style dishes were really yummy, and the pork belly + mustard greens were really great too, and of course the Peking duck.  It wasn't wholly different from Chinese food back here in CA though, so it's sort of nice knowing that I'm not really missing out on all too much when I'm at home either.

I'm not a huge fan of la zi ji (sichuan style spicy chicken -- which basically just looks like a plate of dried chili peppers), but gotta have it while I'm here right?  Definitely had a lot of sichuan peppercorn numbing flavor...

We spent a day walking around the Summer Palace, which is an imperial garden with a bunch of trees and lakes and really old buildings.  Some parts were nice, others were more crowded with tourists.

The weather was nice for the most part on our trip, but we got hit by one or two unexpected rainy days, which I definitely had not packed for.  Fortunately it worked out OK in terms of the timing and the weather at the Summer Palace was quite nice.

Lots of red and gold and green everywhere -- and all the ceilings had fancy designs like these.

Lots of water rock formations everywhere...

Some pretty flowers.

Some of them looked quite nice!

Lots of these long corridor-like walkways, too.

More flowers...

Gold-colored roofs...

Got to try some candied Bingtanghulu (candied hawthorn).

Lots of extra high bridges over the water too.

Suzhou street, a shopping street with river running through it.

Having some homemade zha jiang mian, a common beijing dish made of noodles topped with ground meat and fermented soybean paste, along with various veggies.

Cow followed us on the trip!  Was borrowing him from a friend to use as a pillow pet.

Of course Hello Kitty shows up in Asia all over the place.  Here she is as some sort of robot in the Beijing airport...

Sometimes the simple food is the best.  This bowl of porridge we got at the airport really hit the spot...

Finally off from Beijing and taking the air to fly to Tokyo!  I noticed that there were all these green-colored areas that we could see from the air, wondered what they were.  Maybe tarps to cover the dirt?


It was cold and raining when we landed in Tokyo...luckily our friend was so gracious to meet us at the station with some umbrellas, and they also had a kotatsu at their place :O  We were really in their debt for much of the latter half of our trip...

Tsukemen dipping noodles!  We have them here in the states as well but I don't think I've ever gotten them before.

Putting Little Twin Stars on your product is a surefire way to get me to buy it.  These cookies were yummy~

We were in time to catch the tail end of the Sakuras blooming, though we had missed peak viewing time.  Still, it was nice to finally get to see these famous ephemeral flowers that is such a big deal in Japan's culture.

Potato corn dog!  It's like eating a corn dog and some french fries at the same time...definitely much better than your average corn dog.

While in Tokyo we mainly went around the Harajuku/Shibuya area, filled with a lot of shops and fashion establishments, both upscale malls and more hole-in-the wall places alike.  There were also a bunch of just...very interesting places, including this place with a whole bunch of bath bombs arranged in a mesmerizing display.  It really felt more like an art installation than anything else.  Lots of tourists and foreigners around these areas too, which is unsurprising.

One of the more fun things we got to do was go to Harry hedgehog cafe in Harajuku -- where you get to pet live hedgehogs!!!

They are apparently nocturnal, so a lot of them were kind of just sleeping or dozing around.  They just look like fat hairy blobs!

We had a more active one that we played with a lot.  Here it is drinking some water...they give you some little mealworms to feed to the hedgehogs too :3  So cute...

The other one was sort of just sleeping there for the most part...

You wear gloves to pick them up and play with them!  They were really fun <3

Some more of them just sleeping together in the corner.

Such good product marketing...we of course bought one of these little plushies to take home with us.

Here we are in the top floor of Kiddy Land -- a place I've been to all 3 times I've been to Japan now!  They've got the Sanrio/San-X goods on the top floor of Kiddy Land, as well as other various things on the other floors (Ghibli/Disney/Marvel/Peanuts)

We also got to check out the "Kawaii Monster Cafe", which definitely feels like something you wouldn't see anywhere other than Japan.  It was pretty interesting seeing this end of the broad "kawaii" spectrum.

Sort of a creepy + cute vibe all around.

The food was super interesting, especially this dish, which looks disgusting but actually tasted not too bad.  It was like a sort of beef curry with rice, and the pink frosting-looking thing is some cheese-based sauce.  The mysterious red candy balls are actually quail eggs!!!  Was so impressed by that...

I also got to try some monjayaki for the first time!  It's kind of like okonomiyaki, except with more of a watery broth, so it's more runny.  You spread the raw ingredients around on the grill and then pour in the broth, which sort of thickens as it heats up from the heat.  It ends up barf, really.  Not the most appetizing thing, but tastes quite alright despite that, lol.

Some more close up photos of the sakura.

Now just imagine that all of them were still pink lol.

Apparently Sanrio was doing a collaboration with It's Demo, a sort of fashion/convenience store.  This is a beautiful Pochacco design!  The best I've ever seen out of this pup.  Real props to whoever did the designs for this.  It's super refreshing to see that this sort of aesthetic is still going strong over there in Japan, even though it has basically disappeared from the US -- you can only really find these things online now or maybe at Kinokuniya / Maido-type stores, and even then, you don't see such great stuff.

Ah, really, that is one of the greatest things about being over there in Tokyo -- such great aesthetics.  So many pretty people and cute things, great designs and good fashion.  Definitely something I miss every time when I have to leave.

While we were in Hakone we took a side trip to the Petit Prince museum!

Some more sakura at the Little Prince museum.

They had lots of little quaint pretend building setups like this one.

Along with figures of the titular character.

Some japanese explanations of some things from the story.

The fox that the prince befriends by "taming".

A pretty cute place!  It was fun to go through, though also definitely made me a bit sad.

Last time we stayed at a ryokan we had traditional new year's food (Osechi ryori) which was....sort of weird.  This time we had more of a standard kaiseki dinner which was much more tasty!  Had so many different foods (more than what is in this photo, this is just the first set), including some really fatty steak, sushi, pickles and rice, sake, fish, miso soup with clams, soba noodles, tofu, and more.

Window leading out to the balcony of our room.

Private bath out on the balcony of our room, which had a view overlooking the river.  Of course, I couldn't really take a photo of the public baths for.....obvious reasons.

Same window, in daylight this time.

More awesome food, this time for breakfast.  Don't know if I've ever had such a fully-featured breakfast lol, goodness.  Had everything from soba, grilled fish, miso dengaku egglant, tamagoyaki, fruits, more rice and pickles, sushi, ...

Nice aesthetic in the other room...

We decided to write something sort of silly in the guestbook lol.

The rest of the Hakone area was very pretty, lots of river scenery with many trees growing all over the hillsides.

We even got to see a glimpse of Mt. Fuji in the distance while we were taking the train back to Tokyo (didn't notice until the group of westerners on the car all stood up and started snapping a whole bunch of photos omg)

Closer look at the Sanrio x It's Demo collaboration -- ended up going there and buying a keychain :)

Finally made it to Takeshita Dori, the sort of "main" fashion street in Harajuku!  It was WAY more crowded this time, dunno if it's just gotten more crowded over the years or maybe we had gone during a weekday last time (it was a Saturday this time).  It was packed with people but not actually too bad.  Many of the shops were super cramped (in terms of the amount of space there) though, nothing like the La Foret mall we had gone through which was more in the Shibuya direction.

Of course no visit to Harajuku is complete without some yummy crepes from one of the famous crepe places!  Mine had banana, nutella, and of course an exorbant amount of cream...

Made it to Sanrio Vivitix in Harajuku, which had quite a great amount of stuff that I ended up buying, including a bunch of Sanrio shirts/tops (!) and a whole bunch of really nice Cinnamoroll merchandise.  Yay Cinnamon!~

Put in all my votes for the Little Twin Stars!  Pom pom purin was actually the most popular character at this store -- kind of interesting to see him making such a comeback, as he was also featured in Sanrio Danshi (which I still have not finished watching lol).  Though it may also be because the Pom pom purin cafe is on the upper floor of the same building...

Here's the Pom pom purin cafe!  Didn't actually eat anything here unfortunately -- had other things I wanted to get to, and not the hugest fan of Pom pom purin, but he is definitely cute!

Looks really nice :)

Went back to Kiddy Land to see if there was any more stuff we wanted to get, haha.

Just look at these Cinnamoroll designs!!!  Gah!  Miyuki Okumura is the designer and character illustrator for Cinnamoroll and she really does a great job.  She is the designer for Wish Me Mell too!

More collaboration stuff -- this time Little Twin Stars x Gintama.

Eating some yummy sushi after another day of shopping!  Last time in Japan we had some amazing sushi at one of the big name places in Tsukiji fish market, but this time just had some at a place in Harajuku.  Like with Beijing, it's sort of nice knowing that the sushi over here in CA isn't super far off from what is in Tokyo.  Which is not to say that it wasn't good, of course :)

Yay shopping~

Had some very yummy fluffy pancakes as well before getting ready to leave :)

Some food from the grocery market too :)

The haul of all the stuff I got :D  Lots of clothes, including some interesting (and expensive!) stuff that I didn't expect to bring back, but am very glad I found -- I'm always craving more good Asian styles for my fashion, so I'm super happy to have brought back some nice clothing in my haul, since it's so hard (basically impossible) to find over here in the states.  Also a metric ton of stationery, a bunch of assorted cute things, a nice water bottle, and some other random odds and ends.  Success!

Assorted thoughts on the trip overall...

- Being in Tokyo was super nice.  I could never live in Asia I don't think, because of a lot of things, but there are things about Japan and Tokyo that I definitely appreciate a lot.  I already mentioned the aesthetic and good design sense, and of course public transit is awesome, but also just the efficiency of everything is great.  If I was there for too long I would probably just feel like a cog in a machine, but for a short bit it was certainly nice.
- I did alright overall with nausea and flight over there was relatively fine, but I didn't end up catching any sleep on the way back, so I was pretty tired and fatigued, ugh.
- Having an epipen on me definitely made me feel a lot safer about eating things.  I luckily didn't end up having to use it for anything -- caught quite a few things with disciplined awareness and care -- but it's something I definitely will always have for any future overseas trip. (not such a big deal for here in the states)
- The experience involved quite a bit of ups and downs, but was smooth overall.  I got stressed out a few times though.  Nothing new really, just the same old types of things.  I don't think there is any way to really improve at it except by trying again and again, and perhaps sucking a bit less every time.
- Came back from the trip overall with some assorted thoughts on people and life.  Nothing revolutionary, nothing mindblowing, just some refreshed perspective.
- I actually got some nice chunks of work done on Rhythm Quest done during the flights and some of the downtime lol.  I guess I really do decompress by.....doing more work.....sigh.
- Traveling with a wifi hotspot was infinitely easier than the past two trips where we traveled completely offline lol, especially when it came to trying to meet up with people who were also traveling, yeesh.  Traveling offline is definitely more than possible, but maybe there's not really a good reason to do it anymore.
- Having a friend hosting us also made things infinitely easier, gosh...

Since coming home I've been up to a variety of different things, including work, putting away all the stuff that I bought, reorganizing my wardrobe, running some various errands, One Hour Compo, playing Risk of Rain 2 (has been fun so far!), etc.  I also reorganized and revamped my soundfont collection and converted quite a bit of them into .wav files (much easier to work with) so it should be much easier to make SNES-styled music in the future -- I'd like to try to make an album like "SNESQUE" at some point.  Cooking at home again has been lovely, as well as simply just being home in general.  It was a good trip but I definitely was excited to be back.  This Saturday I'm hosting a little celebration for 30 -- side note, I went over to disable timeline posting only to find that it was already disabled since last year lol.  Should be fun!

Until next time...