27 June 2015


Last saturdays

25 June 2015


I'm convinced that kimchi is the greatest ingredient there is. It taste delicious, full of fermented goodness, and is so versatile. Goes good with meat (chicken in the photo above), rice, stews, by itself as a side dish. It's almost like cheating.

Mark my words that I will be making my own once I get back.

24 June 2015


 base image via.

Made another wallpaper to soothe my woe of video game deprivation. If only my credit card can arrive in the mail faster so I can buy a 3DS and start playing Fire Emblem. I mean I bought the game and paired up all the characters already ;_;

22 June 2015

1Q84 - 1

Finally finished reading the first book of 1Q84, not sure if I have the ambition to finish the second before it's due on Saturday. The story started out slowly, but Aomame and Tengo's stories are starting to come together.

image via.

I'm quite fond of this cover design, and the quotations below:
The role of a story was, in broadest terms, to transpose a single problem, into another form. Depending on the nature and direction of the problem, a solution could be suggested in the narrative. Tengo would return to the real world with that suggestion in hand. It was like a piece of paper bearing the indecipherable text of a magic spell. At times it lacked coherence and served no immediate practical purpose. But it would contain a possibility. Someday he might be able to decipher the spell. That possibility would gently warm his heart from within.

Time itself was uniform in composition, but once consumed, it took on a deformed shape. [...] by adjusting time this way to suit their own purposes, people probably adjusted the meaning of their existences. In other words, by adding such operations to time, they were able - but just barely - to preserve their own sanity.

That's what the world is, after all: an endless battle of contrasting memories

21 June 2015


Third of the Verdant tea samples, this time it's a Yunnan white jasmine tea.
This smelled strongly of jasmine when I opened the pouch, but does not taste strongly of it. Perhaps I'm use to the style where the actual flowers are left in and brewed with the tea.

I learned that the proper way to take macro shots is not to physically position the lense as close as you can, but just crop afterwards. Also the clarity slider in ACR is amazing at sharpening.

I don't like this tea much aside from the look of the dry leafs. The first brew had a strong off-taste, almost chemical-y, while the remaining brews lost its strength fast.

20 June 2015

buttered toast

I would be really irritated waiting for Gamestop to pick up my call if it wasn't for tea.

Today is Laoshan green, which surprised me by smelling like toasted grains when I opened the sample pack.

19 June 2015

brown sugar

This has been a decently eventful week despite zero posts about it. I originally intended on writing a thoughtful reflection on my first month in Atlanta, but had so much trouble organizing my thoughts and so gave up.

There was:
  • E3: I am so so excited for SE's Tokyo RPG Factory, but otherwise not that into the other big releases (namely remake of FFVII, but damn the graphics look good)
  • Open House at work: ice sculptures, chocolate fountain, and the best pound cake I've had (the texture was perfect: not overly dense and a crisp crust). There were also a ton of leftover food for lunch.
  • More tea! Got my Verdant Tea sampler, plus even more that my dad is bringing next week. Also bought a Zojirushi hot water bottle because the only hot water at work is dispensed from the same nozzle as coffee. 
Trying the Laoshan black tea:

 dry & wet leaves

The dried leaves look beautiful. 
I really did not like the first brew, and don't know enough about black tea to attribute the error to either my inexperience brewing or the tea. It was really sour and had a prominent roast taste. However the subsequent brews tasted good, very sweet with just a hint of the sourness.

13 June 2015


For all the restraint that I have against buying clothing, I am so easily parted with my money when it comes to food and tea.

It's never good to browse online shops on a Friday, mental fortitude is at the lowest after a week of work. Especially if that Friday was a pay day. Financial responsibility is replaced by a nagging sense of ~you deserve a treat~

Having given all of this preamble, I only ordered a $5 tea sampler from Verdant Tea. But that was after putting more than $200 worth of tea in shopping carts across 3 other vendors. I guess one good thing about ordering online is that there's two stages of gratification, and one is free from just putting stuff into shopping carts.
Then I found this teapot and periodically glanced at its page throughout the evening ;_;

Then this morning I went to check out a farmer's market nearby and spent $12 on one bag of peaches and one basket of tomatoes.

But damn those are the most fragrant and tasty peaches I've ever had. Georgia is worth all the peach branding it does. The tomatoes, on the other hand, also taste fantastic but it really hurts after years of getting free ones from Sky Garden.

On the other hand, I ran through a quick budget and realized that I can cover my current living expenses, and save enough money to pay off tuition and rent for forth year. That's a little over $20k to save (thanks yet another tuition increase), which is around 40% of my pre-tax earnings.
 First I was pretty depressed because saving that amount would leave pretty little discretionary spending money. But then I realized that if I can live on half of what I make, that would allow me to take entire years off, travel and do whatever the hell I want. That was a rare moment of feeling grown up.

10 June 2015


I think this is the better way to take sunset photos. Though I'm ready to accept that the human eye is the far superior optical instrument and there's nothing I can do to capture that glow.

Sigh I'm having a moment of obsession with Leica all over again. Currently deciding how crazy it is to drop 2k on a lense (obviously after I am full time employed)...

09 June 2015


This is only the second time when I thought I cooked something really good.

Perhaps I got lucky and bought really good young radishes from H-Mart. I even cheated using chicken bouillons. All it takes is boiling some chicken stock flavoured with ginger and black pepper and radishes (both the root and leaves which are later added).
Spoon the boiling soup over some leftover rice, minimal effort for dinner.

Maybe I'm just craving simple food.

08 June 2015

Colourless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage

Second Murakami since the summer's started (I don't have much to say about After the Quake, I like my stories longer), feels similar to Norwegian Wood in both the subject of loss and the big role that a piece of music plays in the story.

My BGM for this book. Now I've found the complete first year, so currently listening to that and different performances of the jazz piece (love the opening notes) that was also mentioned in the story.

I don't have much to say about this book either, but there's quite a few quotations that stood out to me, either because the content resonant with me, or because of his very peculiar way of describing things.

We truly believed in something back then, and we knew we were the kind of people capable of believing in something - with all our hearts. And that kind of hope will never simply vanish.
It's a remarkably happy ending compared to the opening sentences. The opening did immediately captivate me, but that's more because I enjoy reading stories about loss.

I really should have died the , Tsukuru often told himself. Then this world, the one I. The here and now, wouldn't exist. It was a captivating, bewitching thought. The current world wouldn't exist, and reality would no longer be real. As far as this world was concerned, he would simply no longer exist - just as this world would no longer exist for him. 

But even if had dreamed, even if dreamlike images arose from the edge of his mind, they would have found nowhere to perch on the slippery slopes of his consciousness, instead quickly sliding off, down into the void.

Alienation and loneliness became a cable that stretched hundreds of miles long, pulled to the breaking point by a gigantic winch.

Whatever the truth was, I didn't think it would save me.

How much of this is real? he wondered. This wasn't a dream, or an illusion. It had to be real. But it lacked the weight you'd expect from reality.
but he woke up once more in a dream. Strictly speaking, it might not be a dream. It was reality, but a reality imbued with all the qualities of a dream. A different sphere of reality, where - at a special time and place - imagination had been set free. 

Dreams always play a big role in Murakami's stories, which is interesting because I feel reading his books are like dreaming. In contrast, I'd describe Vonnegut's books as darts.

07 June 2015


My list of gaming backlog is even more depressing than my reading backlog.
(Just finished Colourless Tsukuru, post about that tomorrow)

Item number 1 is definitely FFXV.

This is the most recent tech demo, so much respect for how much care they put into the minute details. It made me almost forgive the long development time.
Then I found out in the latest ATR that a major change from Versus to XV is that they took out Stella completely. So now I'm mourning for the death of Versus rather than anticipating the release announcement in August.

Okay other games are as follows.

Lots of indie releases for this summer. Most notably Dragon Fin Soup, which I'll probably pour lots of hours into! Then a more casual game of potato blacksmiths, which hopefully gets a mobile port. 

There's also Transistor that I still haven't played.
And also the second play through of Xillia, which I'm about to give up on because I still can't face going through Alvin's story again. That's probably at least 60 hours saved. In other Tales news, there's waiting for Zestiria's NA release and the newest Tales title have just been announced. 

I considered getting a 3DS while I'm in the states, but I way overestimated my free time, so this will be indefinitely delayed. Bravery Default and Fire Emblem Awakening are the two games that I was the most looking forward to. Maybe I'll pull the trigger if the new Fire Emblem comes bundled with a limited-edition 3DS.
(Here's hoping that FFXV comes with an LE PS4!)

Also on the JRPG front is Suikoden, but there's a long time before I retire my PS3.

Other, far away, games are City Bound for reliving my SimCity days, and recently discovered Dragon of Legends for reliving my RO days (norse mythology and dabbling in pixel art from all those signature making).

05 June 2015


Back to BECK soundtrack: this is the song that I actually hum the most.

02 June 2015

Then We Came to an End

A concise and accurate description of the book is "Catch-22 set in an office".
If you liked either book, you'd like the other. The structure is very similar: a series of stories about the people around the narrator that reveals a great deal about the human condition. For example:
Every lovelorn jerk is the victim of bad timing, good intentions, and someone else's poor decision making.

We were hired guns of the human soul, we pulled the strings on the people across the land and by God they got to their feet and danced for us.
What, then, were we to make of an empty sketch pad or blank computer screen? How could we understand our failure as anything but an indictment of us as benighted, disconnected frauds? [...] we had no real clue how to tap basic human desire, we lacked a fundamental understanding of how to motivate the low sleepwalking hoards. [...] Our souls were as screwy and in need of guidance as all the rest. What were we but sheep like them? We were them.
I do enjoy the first person story telling of Then We Came to an End more. By using "we" instead of "I", the reader is made part of the gossiping group but at the same time is a step removed.

01 June 2015

fig tree

It's been a while since I've made any sort of wallpaper, let alone anime ones. But intense feels for Katanagatari coupled with its beautiful ED sequence is a powerful motivator.


(I uploaded in its original size in case anyone wants it)

Unfortunately this wasn't a case of taking a screenshot and being down with it, since aspect ratios meant that there was a black bar of roughly 50px on the top and bottom. Originally I tolerated those bars for a couple of days, but they really did look ugly. Bad enough for me to overcome my reluctance to patch them up.

Luckily about 50% was super simple. The patch tool solved most of those. But then I came to the section with flowers, and that was not simple. I ended up using a combination of straight copy & paste and the patch tool to fill up the large areas. Then it's about half an hour of manually painting in details. I'm rather terrible at digitally painting, especially on a track pad (well at least the new macbooks are stepping in the direction of pressure sensitivity). In the end, I slapped on a couple of textures and my favourite trick (taught by Donna and Eva way back in middle school) of duplicating the layer and setting it on soft light. The textures helped tremendously in hiding my ugly paint job.

Furthermore, here's a Ruler of the Land (another manga whose art style is so much more polished now that we're 60 volumes in) wallpaper that demonstrates the true power of the patch tool.

The original image was only 50% as wide, all of the left hand side is patched. Another amazing feature I used is the content awareness transform to stretch the ground a little.

I am in awe for Adobe's code. If I was in compsci, my dream company would be Adobe...then Autodesk. I started learning Revit today, and damn I wish some features carried over to AutoCAD.