30 May 2015

needle

It's very pleasant spending an hour or so just drinking tea.


 The last of the DHP that I bought with my teapot.

My brews are still rather inconsistent.
The first infusion was surprisingly rough tasting, given that brewing in a clay pot is suppose to soften the texture. In contrast, the second infusion was extremely creamy and smooth feeling. The subsequent brews remained smooth, and the characteristic (at least to me) 岩茶 taste came out along with sweetness.

I finally took a satisfactory photo of the tea leaves inside the pot:

Here you can clearly see the red edges that's unique to oolong teas.

29 May 2015

twirl

Newly discovered Keaton Henson, been on repeat for the day.




The cello, omg.

28 May 2015

execution

my take on the latest chapter of Magi:
It's more important to be able to evaluate the worthiness of your goals than to have the determination to achieve them.

This is via Judar questioning why Aladdin and Hakuryuu holds Alibaba in such high regards, and way earlier in the manga where Sinbad makes a remark about hating how he has turned out for the sake of Sindria.

27 May 2015

breeze

This is a very representative photo.
psst, A1, A6, and A9 are my favourite vsco cam presets.

A related quotation from A Primer on Sustainable Buildings:
A building should be like a tree, it should thrive on the sun's energy while enhancing its surroundings.
And yet I'm uncomfortably cold with the AC on the lowest fan setting wearing a hoodie, long pants, and wool socks. Both are motivations for making the right choices when I get to stamp documents.

25 May 2015

spears

Today is a beautiful weekend day.


Tea is good.
The first infusion was like dew.

Socks are cozy.
For some reason, I'm wearing wool socks, long pants, and a hoodie. Am I even in the south?

Books are stacked up.
Finished Metamorphosis, which I didn't get.  My edition even has explanations of the text and critical essays, but they were difficult to read. The translation notes were insightful though, especially the explanation about "ungeheueres ungeziefer" (monstrous vermin) which the original German had the connotation of "without a part in a family".
Also finished A Primer on Sustainable Buildings, which is fantastic. It is comprehensive and pretty relevant for something published in 1999. It's also not very technical, I'd definitely refer my parents to this once they are considering major renovations.

PS. Bonnouji is the manga to read if you are ever in need of a large dose of heart-warming (aka after Katanagatari).

24 May 2015

3w et al

So far I haven't felt that the magical civ fairy has visited me and delivered sudden understanding. But marks are finally out:
  • Reinforced Concrete: 92 (better than expected, considering my disastrous midterm)
  • Geotech II: 95 (I see why taking the geotech option for PE is advised)
  • Transport II: 90 (woah I derped on the final)
  • Municipal: 91 (could've been better if I wasn't stupid on the quizzes)
  • Sustainable Energy: 94
  • Eng Math II: 89 (ugh, could've had all A+ if not for this)
A little sad to see my average drop, but that's really to be expected.

OH WELLS, school is over so I now have time to read leisurely again!

Making good progress on Murakami and other books that's been on my reading list for years. But really I should be reading thesis ;_; but ugh in a mood for fiction.

22 May 2015

the fried side

I'm lucky that my north facing window gets a glimpse of sunlight right around sunset time. Unfortunately I've been unable to take a good photo as it washes a corner of my room a golden tone.
 So here's the next best thing: my basil soaking up that light


Yeah...it's probably not going to survive much longer. So gotta eat it quick haha.

It's been a week since I got here, and I'm slowly acclimatizing. Here are some initial impressions:
  • Much bigger trees lining all the major roads. Not sure if this is because of the city being older, the climate being warmer, or better policy, but woah I really, truly appreciate the shade & aesthetic improvement. 
  • It's also windy here, yes even compared to Toronto. This also helps to offset the heat, which is only going to get worse from now on. 
  • Pedestrian traffic signal is also just a mere suggestion here.
  • Not enjoying the dominance of cars, it really is impossible to get to most places without driving. The frequency and reach of Atlanta's public transit is even worse than Toronto's, especially the subway. Luckily my commute is serviced by 2 lines, so together there's a train roughly every 5 minutes. 
  • I learned how to use to espresso machine at work, aka I can now be alert throughout my mornings. Though I'm sure the workload will pick up enough that I won't have time to feel sleepy. 
  • All of my non-work related conversations with my coworkers are about food, but that's about the only common interest I've yet been able to find since the other predominate topic is sports. At least my stomach is in good hands :) Kidding I like my team haha.
  • Steaming is now my favourite way to cook dinner, so easy to clean since no oil and the food doesn't even touch the pot. Drizzle some evoo and crack some pepper and we're good to go.
  • Unfortunately, my building is super old and I've frequently seen cockroaches in my unit. It was not pleasant at first, in fact I had a dream involving life size cockroaches. But now I don't really bat an eye and just squash them. 
  • Edit: haagen daz ice creams are regular price for $3.98 !!! This is wonderful yet terrible news at the same time. 
Looking forward to the long weekend, sleeeeeeep. 

21 May 2015

Katanagatari

Yay I finally have internet at home (after much trials and tribulations).

Been otherwise watching Katanagatari after work, which really isn't many hours considering how early I sleep now to get to work at 8. Anyways, quick thoughts:
  • Togame and Shichika are too adorable together. Loved watching their dynamics change as they actually fell for each other. 
  • Art is so stylish, especially liked the episodes with brushstroke outlines. Overall art and setting reminds me of Saraiya Goyou.
  • Good pacing and scope of the story. I like how this doesn't over-promise on what it can deliver (cough Zankyou no Terror cough). Sure it's not the most engrossing story full of deep, complex characters, but it doesn't need to be and the episodic characters do a good job delivering their point.
  • Enjoyed watching variation in the ending sequence.
  • Hitei-hime and Togame are good rivals, the pun on their names is great. 
  • I'm very much in pain from Togame dying, but I never expected the series to have a happy ending. Her confession + Shichika's "I'd kill myself for you" is a bullet straight through the heart (Bride of the Water God also has a similar exchange). Objectively, the ending is good and consistent with the theme of "burdened by history", but subjectively I was willing to forgive any bad writing as long as I can have Togame and Shichika being adorable together forever.
Like they are here:
 image via.

I shall take solace in Shichika's final costume & recover with some shojo.

17 May 2015

ATL masterplan

It's the day before work, so let's start off with an overly ambitious plan and see how much actually get accomplished aha...

Compulsory:
  • Study for GRE. Ugh I've been trying to avoid standardized testing for so long (see John Oliver) but that would narrow my grad school choices to 3 programs, and 2 of which is at Cambridge. I'm really not confident that I can get in and/or afford to go, so let's get through this hell.
  • Determine topic of bachelor thesis. This should come naturally as I learn more about my work, but will also supplement this with lots of reading other people's thesis. Might as well kill 2 birds with one stone and look up professors at my interested universities along the way too.
Priority:
  • Visit New Orleans. Hopefully taking the train there too. Unsure if I want to go during a quieter (and cheaper) time or to go fro jazz festival.
  • Play Bravery Default & Fire Emblem: Awakening. It's time to get a 3DS for some more variety. 
  • Read more books. Namely finish Vonnegut, more by Murakami and then the Discoworld series. Along with a couple of food writing and some classics that I've been meaning to read since forever. I'm very much in a fiction phase right now. I'd also like to visit a lot of used book stores and find some books on various cultures' mythologies, but it's such a hassle owning physical copies of books. 
  • Learn enough Japanese so I can visit non-touristy areas. Though the eventual goal is to be able to read raws of manga so I don't need to experience antagonizing wait for scanlations to release.
Nice to have, but let's be real, I've been talking about these for a really long time already:
  • Brush up my Chinese, because it's really a shame and extremely disadvantageous to lose a language. My dad will be visiting me, so that will be a good opportunity. But I think the most effective way would be to find an interesting yet easy enough book to read. 
  • Draw more. This appears on my new years resolution every single year and I've made laughably little effort to follow through. But hey at least I packed my oil pastels.
  • Go through and understand The Divine Comedy. I forget where my obsession with this comes from, regardless it's there. Tien promised to go through GEB with me after I'm back, so I'll tackle this by myself. At my aid are Georgetown and Yale. The plan is to dedicate a month or so to this once I'm sick of GRE studying. 
  • Visit San Fran if tickets are cheap. I need to experience this west coast magic, or just to eat at Tartine for all my meals.

16 May 2015

regrets taught me how to make any hard decisions

Next up from BECK is another two versions of the same song, though this time there's a minor difference in lyrics.

As much as I love "Moon on the Water", these two are my favourite songs from the entire soundtrack. The lyrics really resonate with me, it might as well be my anthem haha. The lyrics are like a positive version of this song.

BECK adaption:

Original:

I don't know since when I changed to such a cold-hearted guy
I have to warm this frozen, icy, lonely heart to thaw
I like being wrapped with warmness more than anything else for sure
I'm gonna make my coming days to be filled with laughter and joy

I let myself down that I'm more cruel than I thought I would be
I'm just a loser who ends up by caring for my soul
I don't give my heart to no one cause I don't wanna waste my time
I tried to love this loneliness to slip out of this lonesome hole

Sorrow is what I hate but it's grown my sensations
Regrets taught me how to make any hard decisions
Peace is always by my side but I've never felt it once
Love is not the word only for the sweet romance

Well, I'm scared, scared, scared, scared to death
And I'm scared to keep on going on my way
Well, I'm scared, scared, scared, scared to death
And I'll tell myself I'm special till the end

Recalling my torn, broken, aching heart of these long days
And all the memories I wanted to forget for making leaps
Recalling, breaking, aching, crying, making sure to me
And I take all and grin at my future on the way

Sorrow is what I hate but it's grown my sensations
Regrets taught me how to make any hard decisions
Peace is always by my side but I've never felt it once
Love is not the word only for the sweet romance

Well, I'm scared, scared, scared, scared to death
And I'm scared to keep on going on my way
Well, I'm scared, scared, scared, scared to death
And I'll tell myself I'm special till the end

I don't give my heart to no one cause I don't wanna waste my time
I tried to love this loneliness to slip out of this lonesome hole


These two lines
I don't give my heart to no one cause I don't wanna waste my time
I tried to love this loneliness to slip out of this lonesome hole
was originally
I've become a man from a kid and now turn back to a kid again.
I can now show and give my love a little more than before.
In the reverse order, as in adaption to original, it's as if the song grew up.

15 May 2015

floating like a bird resting her wings



from some time ago

14 May 2015

gently in the night of one fine day

Since I'll be without internet for a couple days in Atlanta, here's a couple of scheduled BECK songs.

Let's start with two versions of "Moon on the Water", which I love as much as I love "Goodnight Julia".

Ver. Dying Breed ft. Koyuki


Ver. Maho and Koyuki, with Maho having substantially clearer pronunciation.


Full moon sways, gently in the night of one fine day
On my way, looking for a moment with my dear

Full moon waves, slowly on the surface of the lake
You are there, smiling in my arms for all those years

What a fool! I don't know about tomorrow
What it's like to be, Ahh
I was sure, couldn't let myself to go
Even though I feel, the end

Old love affair, floating like a bird resting her wings
You are there, smiling in my arms for all those years

What a fool! I don't know about tomorrow
What it's like to be, Ahh
I was sure, couldn't let myself to go
Even though I feel, the end

What a fool! I don't know about tomorrow
What it's like to be, Ahh
I was sure, couldn't let myself to go
Even though I feel, the end

Full moon sways, gently in the night of one fine day
You are there, smiling in my arms for all those years

13 May 2015

Zankyou no Terror

Last anime before going away!
It's a little embarrassing that the episodes sat unwatched on my laptop for half a year. I recently found out that this series is done by one of my dream duo of Shinichiro Wanatabe x Yoko Kanno (of Cowboy Bebop fame most notably), which finally pushed me to watch it.

tl;dr: beautiful aesthetics (especially the background art, which I found out was done by Kunasagi unsurprisingly), and beautiful sound. Decent story for what 11 episodes can provide, but it's more so a social commentary, which very much reminds me of Higashi no Eden.

image via (I also like these: 1, 2, but they contain spoilers)

-spoilers-
To be honest, I expected a much better story & character.

11 episodes is too short to develop anything, I'm becoming highly reluctant to watch any non-light hearted single season animes. This review sums up my thoughts on the story accurately. There's also a lot of symbolism (eg. wings, the seasons, why Iceland?) left unexplained. Compared to Monster*, which has a similar premise, was adapted to 74 episodes. However it is a good show if you see it as a fable with a message to deliver.

While I don't have a problem with Nine and Twelve being rather static characters since it's interesting to guess their motivation, I do have problems with Lisa, Five, and Hamura.
Lisa felt too useless for the majority of the series, and her significance is revealed too late. In hindsight I can understand why Twelve was attracted to her, but their romance still seems forced and it was seriously annoying to see her be so weak for the majority of episodes.
Additionally, I would've liked to learn more about Five. Then again I'm a huge sucker for the type of relationship between Five and Nine. Her farewell to Nine seems so disconnected with her usual obsession about beating him. I'm unsatisfied to have her simply be obsessed about winning, but then again I had the same complaint regarding Fukubei's motivation in 20th Century Boys*.
I also had hopes that Hamura become more useful, and progress into the hope in the police rather than just being a convenient sidekick for Shibazaki. The ending scenes could have been:
Hamura shows up together with Shibazaki. As the US starts shooting Twelve, Shibazaki jumps in to try to save Twelve, but dies as a martyr. Hamura holds Nine back from detonating the bomb (though I have doubts that the bomb is real) and is the one who heads the investigation about Project Athena.
I do agree with the review linked above that there is too little death in the series. It feels weird that so little sacrifice was made. Destroy and Revolution does a far better job at depicting terrorism.
Overall, these 3 characters could've been used to create more impact by changing Twelve, Nine, and Shibazaki respectively, instead of being stock to advance the plot.

The saving grace of the ending is that it shows the irony of having Twelve killed to cover up US' involvement when the motivation behind Sphinx's actions are to reveal the secret Project Athena.

PS.
The ED sequence is gorgeous! The art style!! I'm a fan of Aimer's voice so that's a bonus.



The credits sequence is also gorgeous, which nicely parallels Bebop's.

*Sidenote about Urasawa Naoki's works since I didn't post about any of them: they're good but I don't get why they're that great. They remind me of Dan Brown's thrillers: fantastic page turners, twisting plots, and consistent across the different titles. But both also don't feel very deep nor contain a message, although I could be missing the point. I would suggest Santuary instead.

PPS. Now that I'm putting more effort into these posts, they sure take a long time to write. This confirms my believe that my writing skills lie in editing, which is really disadvantage in testing situations "orz

12 May 2015

Moonbeams

Today's packing day, so here's a BECK song.

11 May 2015

BECK the movie

Coincidence that the only other live-action adaption of a manga that I've watched is Solanin?


Overall this adaption is well done due to two main reasons:
1. The acting brought out each character's charm, especially Koyuki's awkwardness and Chiba's impulsiveness.
2. Good choice of what was modified from the original story and left out...

...except I wish they spent more time showing how special Eddie is to Ryuusuke. They could've easily included the explanation for why Ryuusuke got so mad at Koyuki when he broke the guitar lent to him (it was Eddie's). They could have also included the subplot about how Leon Sykes killed Erica, and her link to Eddie. That would've also added to the fearsome image of Sykes, which I felt was inadequet. Ran also wasn't scary enough relative to how much of an obstacle he was in the manga. Lastly, I can't believe that Koyuki's rebuttle to Yoshito re: Maho at Greatful Sounds wasn't included, it's such an important indication of his growth.

I grudgingly accept that not including Koyuki's singing voice is a good decision. It was a huge disappointment since my main motivation to watch the movie was to hear him sing, but I would've felt even more disappointed if his voice wasn't as magnificent as it should be. Given how high the standards are set, it's a practical decision to leave it out.
However, I can't accept that the soundtrack doesn't include any of the actual songs from the movie. What the actual fuck? But I'm appeased by the choice of Oasis for the ED song, although "Stand By Me" would've been more appropriate.

In the end, there's no way a 2.5hr movie can do justice for a 34 volume manga. So definitely read the manga first, and watch the movie for nostalgia and how cool Koyuki looks when he sings.

10 May 2015

Basara

tr;dl: Cliche premise but with tremendous characters development and explores the difficulty of forgiveness. Magi would be it's the shonen equivalent. Should be studied in English class instead of Romeo and Juliet.

image via.

-everything below is packed with spoilers-

Basara is essentially a story about forgiveness. Forgiveness and atonement, rather than hacking and slashing towards the enemy, should really be the central theme (sorry English teachers that the term theme is incorrectly used here) of many more mangas. It's too easy to demonize the enemy, so I'm glad that this was a struggle that the characters had to go through and resolve. This culminates in the scene on the battlefield where Sarasa fixes her gaze on Shuri as he's announcing his true intentions of having returned to the royal family. If there is only one lessons learned from this manga, it would be to not close your eyes in fear, but rather seek to understand.
I'm reminded of two quotations, first by Cheryl Strayed in her book Tiny Beautiful Things:
She understands that attention is the first and final act of love, and that the ultimate dwindling resource in the human arrangement isn't cheap oil or portable water or even common sense, but mercy.
and also from Ender's Game (forever grateful that Mr. C read this to us in grade 8):
In the moment when I truly understand my enemy, understand him well enough to defeat him, then in that very moment I also love him. I think it's impossible to really understand somebody, what they want, what they believe, and not love them the way they love themselves.

The ending is one of the most conclusive that I've read. This is a huge relief since I was frantically reading spoilers once I realized what a cliche set up (star crossed lovers) it was. Wasn't going to risk being immersed in a new world if the ending is unsatisfactory. Specifically, I'm glad that the author decided to give Asagi a happy ending instead of easily writing him off as a victimized character. The bonus chapter of Sarasa and Shuri in volume 27 showing their struggle to reconcile wrapped up their relationship nicely too. That chapter ought to be an epilogue instead of a bonus. Luckily Basara didn't win awards for nothing.

I also really respect the growth of Sarasa and how she prioritized. I was so sure that she'd pick Shuri over Asagi without hesitation, but it was in fact the opposite since she deemed her role as Tatara as more important. It's refreshing seeing a strong female lead that does her fair share of rescuing and being rescued. Of course, in the end she ran into Shuri arms when she was pressured to kill him, since by then she accomplished her objective as Tatara and could return to being herself.

This is literally the only manga that I'd complain there wasn't enough scenes with the OTP. I bet that out of 27 volumes, their scenes together wouldn't barely fill one. I'm such a sucker for them being in love and having the same belief too. There needs to be an entire bonus volume of those two kicking ass and being cute together. Another bonus chapter in volume 27 has appearances of their kids (and their friends kids), whom are absolutely adorable, I wish there was a bonus volume of their adventures too.

Lastly, another strong point of Basara is that it focuses on the inglorious parts of war, such as the civilians that gets caught up (both through getting killed in the crossfire and being burdened to fund the war), and how to deal with the aftermath. The hardest part is how to transition into a better regime afterwards, which also ought to be the focus on more mangas. Again, I must mention Ares because it's the manga that best depicts the sadness of war. Sarasa/Shuri pales in comparison to Ares/Baroona/Mikael. This is partially because a longer portion of Ares' plot was devoted to building their nakama relationship, and partially because those 3 didn't get a happy ending, damn it pains me to recall that arc.

08 May 2015

BECK

Beck is a masterpiece.

There's so many emotions inside me about this manga that I'm having a really hard time finding words that express them. I settled on "masterpiece" after a lengthy internal debate about what adjective to use. Was originally going with "magnificent", but Beck's greatness is subtle.

They have awesome parodies of famous album covers, I recognized Coldplay's Parachutes too.

To me, its biggest strength is the pacing, which is perfect. The biggest compliment I can give is that Beck's pacing is as great as Honey & Clovers. Koyuki can totally be Takemodo and Ryuusuke can totally be Morita...well the parallel ends there haha.

There's a balance of the highs and lows, but with just the right amount of pauses so that you're not overwhelmed and can appreciate the growth of the characters. The story spans 6? years, which is a realistic time frame for a tremendous amount of character development, heck you can even see the appearance of each character growing up. My only two complaints are 1) that Izumi never re-appeared, since she played such an important role int he beginning; and 2) the rivalry with Eiji didn't receive a proper conclusion.

Beck also has a strong set of characters, including all the supporting characters. The struggles and set-backs that each character experiences is also realistic and easy to relate to, which is another similarity with H&C. Beck does such a good job of drawing you into their world, I feel left in such a daze now that it's back to real life. No worries, going to watch the live-action movie after making this post. 

The soundtrack (for the anime, and a tribute album) is great as well. You really ought to listen to them as you read the manga. It may seem odd to read the manga about music instead of watching the anime where you can actually hear the sounds, but I feel strongly that there are a couple scenes, especially between Koyuki and Maho, that work much better in panels of image. Also I read the Japanese voice actors pronounced the English lines pretty badly, but for the soundtrack, that adds character haha. I'm saving my favourite songs to post later as filler material for when I start working, but Moon On The Water occupies the same space in my heart as Goodnight Julia from Bepop. 

Needless to say, from my comparisons to H&C and Bebop (honestly the highest praise I can give), that is my favourite manga. Heck I don't even remember what my previous favourite was (probably Ares, which I also love dearly and is severely underrated!!!). Oh this also very similar in subject matter and premise as Solanin, again severely underrated and you should definitely watch.


06 May 2015

Death Parade

Woah it's been almost half a year since I've watched an anime. Looking back at my posts, I haven't gotten better at writing about them at all haha.

I watched Death Parade on the recommendation of Jeff, and also because the internet says Psycho Pass s2 is bad. The main plot involving Decim is done really well, especially it's conclusion. There was a good balance between the episodic stories and his over-arching plot. I do wish more time was given to the subplots, especially Nona. In the main EP sequence, there's a dummy with roughly the same colour as her and I'm super curious as to whether there's a relation. If there are to be a second season, please let it be a prequel with Nona as MC *u*

A honorable mention goes to Death Parade for having such opposite OP and ED, whereas the OP is bubbly and upbeat (and catchy as hell), while the ED is serious and slightly creepy.

The first couple of seconds really reminds me of Bebop's OP.

vs

I do like how several episodes have custom ED sequences. 

04 May 2015

fluevog

I ended up getting the Fluevog double monks as my second pair of primary work shoes. They're far more comfortable than my loafers ah ha...
 

I expect that these will age well, my last pair of oxfords lasted around 3 years, so let's try to make this one last 5. The first step to do that is to get rubber protective soles, and then not to be lazy with wiping it down after every wear. Luckily shoe maintenance is not a chore to me (eg. spent the entire morning today conditions all my shoes). I do wish that these come with shoe trees though.

psst. my mini review.

03 May 2015


It's been a while since I've seen the moon. Living in a single digit floor downtown is not great for sighting astronomical objects.

02 May 2015

waterfront

It's been a whirlwind of catching up with friends before I leave. The last outing was a photowalk with Amy, since we both don't use our cameras enough.

I tried shooting raws in manual mode for the first time outside, which made me realize how terrible I am at composition. I'm also bad at the other aspects, but luckily those are more easily fixed in post-processing. Shooting in raw is beautiful, no need to worry about white balance, and there's so much control over each colour separately. I am converted.

Out of 118 photos, 4 turned out to my liking. Let's try to improve this ratio.


I tried emulating the first photo here, which was my favourite photo of last summer not including survey camp. Ironically that and the survey camp photos were all shot on my phone.

This also reminds me of a survey camp photo:





Ugh saving these 2 in .jpg really messed up the colour rendering. It's not this magenta I swear. The split tone between blue and magenta reminds me of Monet's water lilies.



There were a bunch of canoes and kayaks along the pier, they make for a good subject. I exaggerate the saturation, it feels somewhat nostalgic.

We also caught St. Andrews church in really fantastic lighting. Except I over-exposed every shot and thus you can only imagine the glorious light that imparts a golden glow to the bricks. Sigh.

01 May 2015

a fine farewell