April 6, 2018
The Garcia Girls visit Japan
Table of Contents
1 Arrival, 2018-03-27, Tokyo
On Tuesday, March 25th our cousins, the Garcia Girls, came for a visit to Japan. We often stay at their parents' place in Washington state when we visit, so we are super excited to show their kids around Japan. Their flight was supposed to arrive at about 5pm, but it was delayed by an hour and didn't get in until 6pm. When I asked them for the reason of the delay, I was pretty surprised: they had been in the air for almost an hour, then turned around. The airline said that they let off a sick passenger before they got going again. I've never seen such a thing happen myself.
I was happy that I recognized the girls, and they seemed to know who I was, so there's that. We headed down to the train station and waited in line to change in the vouchers for the JR Rail Pass. Anyone coming to Japan to visit should at least look into getting a JR Rail Pass. For about the price of a round trip Shinkansen ticket from Tokyo to Kyoto you can get a ticket that lets you ride JR trains for free, even including the Shinkansen (except for the fastest service, "Nozomi" trains, which sadly are also the most frequent). It is an amazing deal, which probably explains why we had to wait for about an hour to exchange the voucher. Once we did though, we were able to go to the Narita express and they could ride that for free.
We met up with Lisa and Alan, and then had Ramen for dinner.
We had a busy evening planned, although that was, to some degree, an accident. I knew that they left on the 24th, and told Lisa that is when they would get here, but of course the flight lands a day after it arrives. Since we were going to travel with them, we thought it would be fun to make it unique, and also do some things that we would enjoy. Alan really loves trains, so we made a reservation on the Izumo Sunrise Express, which is an overnight sleeper car train. They have various classes of service, and we reserved four individual berths. Each berth was super tiny - I could only stand up in the doorway, the rest of the berth was the bed, and my shoulder could almost touch each wall when in bed. It was longer than I was though, for which I was grateful. Lisa and Alan slept together - and the mechanics to get that to work must have been pretty difficult. She said she didn't get much sleep with all his moving around.
The Sunrise Express does have a shower on it, but you have to pre-purchase tickets for the shower from a vending machine. By the time we had settled in the tickets were sold out. Too bad. I hear that the showers are only six minutes long, but I'm sure the girls would have appreciated a shower after the long flight from Seattle. Sadly, they didn't get one.
I changed into the Yukata provided with the berth, prepared for bed, and then laid down. It was a strange feeling, trying to sleep on a moving train. We stopped every once in a while, and I realized that, but I feel like I got some refreshing sleep all the same.
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March 20, 2018
RAGE 2018 Spring New Generation Esports event
RAGE 2018 Spring New Generation Esports is a large gaming event held on March 21st in Makuhari Messe Hall 6 with a variety of tournaments attached to it. The main events are Street Fighter V, Shadowverse, and Splatoon 2. The venue opens at 9am, things start at 10am, and things should end by 8pm. The website says that entry is free and anyone can go and watch / support the players.
I think you can go to Makuhari Messe and check things out - there are Cosplay competitions and booths, and lots of other stuff going on there. You might also be interested in going to the special event at Akihabara E-sports Square (Map) from 1pm to 10pm where there will be casual setups to play SFV if you just want to play.
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March 18, 2018
P2G Gaming Event at Redbull Gaming Sphere Nakano
On Sunday, March 18th, Shinobism's Project Gaming Girls (P2G) held a multi-title gaming event at the RedBull Gaming Sphere in Nakano. This was a multi-title event, with Capcom's Street Fighter V, Nintendo's Splatoon2, Blizzard's Hearthstone, and Capcom's MVCI. The event was from 1pm to 5pm, with the various P2G members hosting activities for the games that they play.
First, what is P2G? P2G is a gaming team that Chocoblanka and Momochi started last year, and have expanded this year. They sponsor women specifically, but probably not in way that you would think typical of gaming teams. Here are some excerpts from the P2G page:
- The goal of Project Gaming Girls is to increase the number of women that enjoy playing games and to create a community of women who love games.
- It is difficult for women to entry existing gaming communities. There are not as many commonly accepted ways for women to start getting into games, and because there are few women they often stand out and can be subject to good or bad attention.
- Games are for fun, and we would like to increase the number of women that enjoy playing games. We'll try to do what we can to help support that goal.
- We want to support women who enjoy playing games.
- We have two requests for the women we support: please continue to keep playing games, and interact in a positive and fun manner with people at offline events.
- P2G supports all people who love games without regard to a person's particular skill at a game, aiming for all people who love games to continue to express the joy they feel gaming. [TL: Super loose translation!]
So P2G has as a goal expanding opportunities for women to get into gaming, and to continue doing it. I think that is a great goal, and I also think it is an obligation of every gamer to be friendly and welcoming to all people joining the community, and to treat everyone fairly and without bias.
This is the first event that I've been able to attend hosted by P2G – and it might be the first one they've held, since I've been following since the beginning and don't remember any other events.
The event was held at the new RedBull Gaming Sphere, which is a very nice space in Nakano. Admission was free, which is amazing if you think about it. Somehow P2G was able to organize support from a variety of sponsors. That explained the presence of Nissin, who also had a big hand in sponsoring EVO Japan 2018. There was pre-registation for the event, but there weren't so many people that it was overcrowded. The space was separated into stations by game.
- 7 SFV setups
- 8 Splatoon 2 setups with monitors
- 8 Splatoon 2 setups just on free standing Switches.
- A bunch of tablets for Hearthstone and Clash Royale, one or two of which were connected to larger monitors.
- 1 lonely MVCI setup, alone, feeling a bit sad.
- 1 "hidden" DBFZ setup in a room that nobody noticed except the cameraman who was in training mode for quite a while.
The staff was checking names to make sure you had registered, and they asked you whether you would be OK appearing on stream or not. If not, you got a red lanyard and a name tag to write your name on. If you didn't mind, you got a green lanyard. In Japan, people are very concerned with personal privacy. You often will have notices posted at events if there is streaming, and I like that hear that have a nice little solution with red/green colors to make it clear. None of my photos should show people with red badges, and I tried to choose pictures without many identifiable features for the non-P2G members (who I assume are ok with it, since they do media appearances - although thinking about it now, I should have asked).
Mostly during the event people played casual matches. I wandered around and looked at some of the other games. I've never played Splatoon, so that was interesting. I get lost in real life though, and 3-d games like that are tough for me. I would have to play that game with the map on all the time. It does look pretty fun though. I'm going to stick with 2-d games on single plane though.
Harumy is the SFV focused P2G member, and she was playing people on one of the setups. At some point, she called for people to take part in a 5-5 team battle, and we did that. The team battle mode in SFV is really pretty fun. We later did a tournament for a random 3-3 team battle, which was lots of fun too. The winner took home a case of Nissin spicy cup noodles.
The other sections had various tournaments and activities as well, but I spent most of my time in the SFV area, playing games and talking with people.
Near the end of the event, the P2G members held a group rock-paper-scissors competition to distribute various prizes. The event was lots of fun, and they announced that they plan to hold similar events in other locations across Japan. That is another interesting point - right now, Tokyo and to some degree Osaka (thanks to Cyclops esports basement) are the only two hotbeds of SFV activity. I'm not as aware of other scenes, but it is really nice to see things happen outside of the two major population areas.
Keep your eyes out for P2G members, and give them some support if you can!
September 7, 2016
Street Fighter V at E-sports Square in Akihabara, Tokyo
On Wednesday I went to e-sports Square Akihabara for the first time. I've been meaning to go for over a year. It is an e-sports Cafe, and every once in a while (once a week?) they run the "Fighter's Crossover" event. That currently seems to be focused on Street Fighter V, which I enjoy. It is out in Akihabara, a place where I almost never go any more - even though I would like to. Akihabara has changed since my seminal memories of the place when I went at the young age of 13 - there were electronics everywhere, and not a maid or anime thing in sight.
The e-sports Square is a quick walk from the Akihabara JR Station. I didn't know anyone there, but the staff were welcoming. You just have to sign in with a little bit of information (in my case, name and age.) They didn't need proof of my age, but I guess that would change if you were younger-looking.
They give you a little card on a lanyard that tracks when you enter, and you can charge drinks and food to it as well. You pay on the way out. They have two hour, three hour, and all day plans.
When I got there it was pretty empty, but after an hour or two the place filled up. I think there were close to 40 people. They had about 30 SFV setups - most of them were head to head, so you had your own screen and played someone sitting across from you with their own screen. There were LP limitations on some of the setups, so there were some systems for beginners, some for intermediates, and the rest were unlimited. The signs said that you should play best 2 of three, and the beginner and intermediate machines only let you have a 5 game win streak. The other machines were winner stays on.
I had a lot of fun, and I'm going to try to go back in the future. Late night Akihabara on a weekday is pretty crazy. There were lots of lights and some maids were still out. That place is weird.
January 2, 2015
2014 Year in Games Review
Snapshot of Games I've played from Steam
Shadowrun Returns: Dragonfall
Divinity Original Sin
June 30, 2013
More on Baldur's Gate on a Kindle Fire HD 8.9" with GemRBBaldur's Gate Trilogy WeiDU. I installed that. I also followed more or less exactly this post from gog.com to enhance the gameplay which includes some other mods and restores some extra content. This time around I took some screenshot with the game in 1920x1200 resolution with the original fonts, then with some large fonts (overran the content areas for the most part) and finally at 960x600 (my preferred resolution) with the droidserif font. It looks pretty good, but the font is still a bit big, and the "p" is cut off (probably it is too wide for the space allocated to it?) but still it is all very readable. Unfortunately I have some some problems. I keep finding hard crashes when I explore around the map. They are repeatable, and I have a save game for them so I'll try to get in touch with the GemRB community to see if they can help. My guess is that the BG2 engine with the BGT mod and the additional content plus other mods that I added just hasn't been tested much. So I think I will just install Baldur's Gate 1, and the suggested mods for that, and then try again.
June 28, 2013
RPGs on the Kindle Fire HD 8.9"I've had a Kindle Fire HD 8.9" model for a few months now. I really like it. I am able to read email (personal and work) and set up calendar entries (personal and work.) I can do some light web browsing, and check up on FaceBook with it.
Every once in a while there are deals on Apps. In a recent deal, I picked up the game CHAOS RINGS from the Amazon Appstore.
It is a pretty 3-D game with what look to be pre-rendered (or at least fixed camera position) backgrounds. The story is simple, and very Japanese. Combat is a JRPG style system where the two opposing forces line up and take turns attacking each other. I love turned based combat, so that is a bonus in my book, although I prefer games that blend strategic with tactical combat like the old Gold Box games, or Infinity Engine games. Still, this game is very easy to pick up for a few minutes, grind out a few battles, and put back down. They have a few puzzle stages that have all been variations on a theme (sliding block puzzles, teleporting block puzzles, things like that) but they have all been fairly easy. The maps on the overwold have so far been very simple, there is an automap, and zero need to take notes.
The economy seems pretty poorly balanced to me. The only thing I think you need gold for is to buy keys to open locked chests, and at this point I have more gold than I know what to do with. You can buy weapons and armor (as well as "gems" and items) but for everything except the item, there is a linear progression in power and zero choice involved. I either find something better than what is for sale in the dungeons, or I buy the best that is available (it hardly makes a dent in my amassed wealth) and that is it. The items can be somewhat useful, but so far the battles haven't been well tuned either and I think that giving up a turn to apply a buff just isn't worth it.
So I'm still going through this RPG, even though the story seems a bit simplistic, contrived, and the characters are annoying. It is a fun diversion.
GemRB and Infinity Engine Games
The other thing I came across recently is GemRB. GemRB is a "Game Engine Made for pre-Rendered Backgrounds" that is an implementation of the Infinity Engine that powered the BioWare and Black Isle Studios RPGs (Baldur's Gate, Planescape: Torment, Icewind Dale, etc.)
I had known about GemRB for a while, but since I heard that Planescape: Torment wasn't really playable in the current build, didn't go to too much effort to try it out. The other day though, Good Old Games had a D&D bundle for a ridiculous price which included six or seven infinity engine games for like $20. So I bought it, and then started to play around with getting it to run on my Kindle Fire HD 8.9".
First off, I basically followed this forum thread on how to set up GemRB for Android. I ran into a few problems, but not too many.
First, you have to install the game on windows. That went well. Then, you have to decide what resolution you want to play at. There are mods that modify the game engine and data files to allow resolutions that were not supported at the time the game was written. In my case, I thought I would try out 1920x1200, which is the native panel resolution on the Kindle Fire HD 8.9".
That didn't work out so well; I was able to play the game, but the controls were so tiny that I had a real problem reading text and hitting controls.
I then re-sized the game using the tweaks and fix packs and the widescreen mod. There is an option to install for GemRB, which I did. I changed the resolution to half the native panel resolution, so 960x600. The controls are still a bit too small, but they are at least mostly reliable. Text is still smaller than I would like, and a bit hard to read due to the raster fonts being scaled.
It turns out that GemRB supports TTF fonts, and people have been able to get that to work on the android version so I'm going to look at that next.
I wanted to find out what fonts are already on my system (so maybe I can just set the fontpath to that), so I started up an ADB shell session. It looks like the Kindle Fire HD 8.9" (first generation) fonts are stored in /system/fonts/, and the following are available:
I think I'll try Droid Serif Regular.
In the GemRB.cfg file, which is /sdcaard/Android/data/net.sourceforge.gemrb/files/GemRB.cfg, I had to edit it and add in
The thread I linked to says to edit the override/pst/fonts.2da file, but that file did not exist. Knowing how these things sometimes work, I copied the file /sdcard/Android/data/net.sourceforge.gemrb/files/unhardcoded/pst/fonts.2da over to /sdcaard/Android/data/net.sourceforge.gemrb/files/override/pst/fonts.2da and edited that to include the DroidSans-Regular file.
Unfortunately, that didn't work. My fonts.2da file was seemingly deleted on program launch? I came across a message suggesting that the GemRB binary directory might be getting unpacked on launch, but that you could put the fonts.2da file in the game's override directory, so I added it and modified it in the /sdcard/gemrb/pst/override/ directory. That caused the program not to be able to launch, and the log file revealed that it couldn't find the font DroidSerif. It turns out that I had a space like: "DroidSerif -Regular" so that is not going to work. After fixing it, it worked! But a lot of the text was too big at 24 point... And when I tried to talk to someone the game crashed. Setting the size back to 14 for two of the entries seemed to fix it. Not bad. Not great, but not bad.
December 22, 2012
A quick review of the US Kindle Fire 8.9" tablet
- Check my email. Note that this almost positively involves writing email in Japanese.
- Browse the web
- Keep up on my RSS feeds, which I currently do with Google Reader
- (Optional) Play some games
- (Optional) Keep up with FaceBook. Note that this almost positively involves writing in Japanese.
- (Optional) Video chat with family
- (Optional) Play around with programming this thing
- Backup the Japanese keyboard (that I like, not the default one) from my phone. I have one keyboard that I like, Jellybean keyboard. I needed to back that, and its Japanese dictionary up. I was able to back them up using File Expert, which has an option to save the APK files for apps that you have installed on your phone to the internal memory. Since I don't have access to the Android App store I used the 1mobile appstore file expert download. Note that you need to enable loading 3rd party apps in the Kindle, which is buried somewhere in the preferences but that isn't too hard to do.
- Hook up the phone to my computer and copy the backed up APK files to my computer.
- Hook up the tablet to the computer and copy the APK files over with the now installed 1mobile File Expert app.
- Run File Explorer, locate where I copied the apps, and run them. Run the Jellybean Keyboard app and it pulls up preferences that let you select the language to use. It looks like actually just installing the Jellybean keyboard would have worked, but I need the Japanese dictionary to type Japanese. For some reason, the keyboard itself could not download the dictionary, so it is good that I copied it over.
- Hey, Japanese works!!
August 17, 2012
The Wedding of Jana Evans and Marco Rosichelli
The family dressed up
The wedding venue
Uncle Jon, Grandpa Kirk, Lisa, and Alan
Lisa, Alan, Aunt Jane, and Dad
Scout and papa
Jana and Marco
Jana and Marco
Lots of family
Dad, Jana, and Marco
Grandpa and Jana
Jana, Scout, and Alan
Jana and Marco
Polka dot cake by Laura Kirk
And of course, dancing
So, as I mentioned in my last posting, my younger sister Jana Evans got married! Jana's been amazing since I knew her. It must have been tough growing up five years behind a pair of rambunctious twins, but she managed it. She also moved at about the start of high school from New Jersey to Texas, just to ensure that she would end up with a ridiculous accent. Or maybe because her older siblings and father all moved en-masse to Southern Methodist University. It was one or the other, I forget.
Well, she was always a kind younger sister, and never caused any problems. That I knew about. And now she's marrying a exemplar gentleman, Mr. Marco Rosichelli. Lisa, Alan, and I flew out from Tokyo for their Wedding in Helena. I had never spent much time in Montana (if at all!) so it sounded like a lot of fun to me. I was also excited to introduce Lisa to a new state and location, since we always seem to only go to one of a few pre-determined locations: San Francisco (really, Palo Alto, for work); San Diego (for my twin sister); Dallas, Texas (for my father); Seattle (for work); various small towns in Washington state (for family); or New York (for my friends.) So Montana is new to us. I also thought it would be fun to do an old-fashioned road trip.
I looked it up, and we could have flown from Seattle to Helena, but with a kid flying is tough, and I also wanted to stop along the way and visit with family. Since that would mean way too many flights to some tiny airports, instead we rented a car. And drove it 1,400 miles in a week and half. All told, it was fun. Alan slept very well in the car seat, and when he wasn't sleeping he is at the age that it is pretty clear what the problem is (bottle or diaper basically.)
We were able to stay with family and friends of family along the way, so didn't incur much in the way of hotel costs. I enjoy driving in the US, which is a change from driving in Japan, and after a good day on the road, we arrived in Helena (after staying overnight with family in Wenatchee.)
We spent some time with Jana and the family in Helena, taking a tour, hitting a Carousel, and things like that. The day of the wedding, which started at about 8pm in the evening, we dressed up and took off. (After a great steak dinner at Chubby's bar.)
The wedding was a the home of one of Jana's friends, up in the hills surrounding Helena, Montana. It was a beautiful home built into the side of the hill. Of course, all sorts of family was in attendance, as well as many friends of Marco and Jana. They both have been at the Archie Bray Foundation for Ceramic Arts and have made many good friends there. A friend of their officiated the wedding, which included a traditional (of some tradition) binding using a large rope. It looked like it was pretty permanent.
Our Aunt, Laura Kirk, made the wedding cake. The cake was a quirky as Jana; a standard seeming cake on the outside, on the inside were brightly colored polka-dots of cake. It was apparently quite a trick to figure out how to do that. I don't really know the technical secrets behind it, but I think it involved cooking multiple small polka-dot shaped multi-colored cakes into a large cake.
The dancing went on into the night, and I think we just made it home before midnight. It was a great wedding, and I wish the best to the newlyweds!
June 25, 2011
Premium Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides
Eggs Yummadict. From 37 Steakhouse
It says Premium
Hung out with these guys too
Last weekend R. and I went to see Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stanger Tides. This is an unusual occurrence because since I moved to Japan and got married, I generally see only about four movies a year. So going to see a real movie in a real movie theater is a pretty big deal for us. I'm not really sure why that is, but it probably comes down to two things:
- Movie tickets cost a lot here in Japan
- R. and I usually don't have the same days off, so we don't have a lot of time together
Pirates looked like it would be fun, so I checked out the times, and we could make it last Sunday. We headed down to the Roppongi hills in time for Brunch, and stopped off at 37 Steakhouse. They had an excellent Eggs Benedict. I hadn't had a real American style brunch in a long time, and I really enjoyed it. We are going to have to do this more often. R. enjoyed a nice lunch steak, but I think I was the winner with the eggs and delicious bacon.
We also stopped by the Roppongi Mini Cooper dealership and checked out the new Crossover model. It is much bigger than the Mini Cooper we have now. But I don't really think we need a car in Tokyo, and certainly not a new one.
We were a bit early to our show, but that was ok because we had Premium Seats. I've never had Premium Seats before. I wasn't even sure what that entailed actually. It turns out that means that the chairs in the theater are a bit better. They have a really nice reclining function, and a small table for drinks and stuff. There is also a special bar and each ticket entitles you to one drink. A beer or wine or juice or something. So we sat down and had nice drinks and conversation in a little bar while waiting for the movie to start. The theater itself was pretty nice, and the seats were great. The place was also packed. You also could take a little blanket if you were cold. The theater was a bit on the hot side for me, but R. took two blankets, and most of the women there were taking a blanket also.
How was the movie itself? Pretty good! Not great, but a really fun adventure with Johnny Depp doing a great job being funny as Jack Sparrow. I think the movie was a bit weak on some of the motivation points (I am not sure why the love interest did a lot of what she did) and there were many points of contrivance to make things work for Jack and/or the plot. But who cares? It was a fun romp.
Also, as a bonus, the day before I hung out with Eric, R., Ami, and her boyfriend. We had a great Chinese dinner. Actually, I need to try to make it out to Ami's family's restaurant more often. I'll put it on the list of things to do. Like finish writing blog entries.
Hey, mark one off the list!
August 15, 2010
Summer Comic Market 78 in Tokyo
Comic Market Catalog
Waiting in the parking lot for the Comic Market to open
A crowded Tokyo Big Site
Comic Cure Sports Drink
Captain Jack Sparrow
Saint Oniisan: Jesus and Buddha
Some Giant Robot
Ginrei from Giant Robo
On Saturday, I decided to take a trip out to Tokyo Big Sight to stop by the 78th Summer Comic Market. I've never been to one of the comic markets before, and have always been interested. They are a large forum for the amateur (although quality can be extremely high) clubs to sell their work. Usually they write comics (同人誌, fan comics) that use characters from popular series, or sometimes their own creations entirely.
Since I've never been to one of these things before, I just kind of winged it. I left the house at about 8:10am, and arrived at Tokyo Big Site at about 8:30am. We live pretty close. The first thing I didn't expect were the crowds. There were lots of people. The first thing I noticed were the staff out there to direct the crowds. I followed the signs for "general admission" (一般参加) and eventually got herded into a large parking lot. A very large parking lot. With other people. Lots of other people. While we were lining up I stopped and bought one of the Comic Market Catalogs. It is about the size of a phone book. It cost 2000 yen. Apparently there are also CD-ROM versions of that thing, which would probably be even more useful for people preparing a strategy for the comic market. We were herded into the parking lot and then told to hurry up and wait. That was at about 8:45am or so.
Checking the Catalog, I learned that the comic market opens up at 10:00am. Crap. I didn't bring a long sleeve shirt or sunblock. I didn't bring much of anything. All I brought was a book (Haruki Murakami's Kafka by the Sea, which I've been reading for two years now) and a camera. I am terrible at sitting on the ground. The line didn't start moving until about 10:30am. I didn't get in to the venue until about 11:00am. I think this was a bit harder to handle than Fuji Rock, because I just was not prepared for it, and also the attendees didn't seem to be as well groomed as your standard Fuji Rock attendee (just joking. Kind of.)
Once inside, Tokyo Big Site was crowded. Very crowded. I kind of went with the flow of the crowd and ended up in East Hall 1-2-3, which isn't where I wanted to go. I had studied the catalog a bit before going in, and that hall had a lot of stuff that I'm not into (mostly groups focusing on Full Metal Alchemist, Naruto, and women's comics.) I wanted to go to East Hall 4-5-6, which had some stuff from Ultra Jump. I was hoping to find some Tenjo Tenge and Dogs: Bullets and Carnage stuff, which are two manga series that I enjoy. I just had a hard time fighting the crowds, and figured I would come back a bit later. On the way, I picked up a sports drink. I was interested in getting "Comic Cure" - a kind of special drink for the Comic Market I guess - but passed on it. A normal Aquarius was 50 yen cheaper.
First, I wanted to check out the Cosplay portion of the Comic Market, which it is pretty well-known for. What is Cosplay? It is generally people dressing up as characters from manga or anime series, and people taking pictures of them. Since I didn't really know what I was looking for, I thought it would be most fun to go and check out the costumes and take some pictures. So I headed over to the cosplay area.
The cosplay area was out in the garden of Tokyo Big Site, outside. Apparently when it is rainy sometimes they cancel it altogether. The weather was nice, but started to get a bit hot. There was an incredible number of cosplayers and probably more photographers with varying degrees of pro-sumer DSL cameras. Some of the people had really incredible gear. I took a bunch of pictures, and some of my favorites are listed below:
- Captain Jack Sparrow
- Jesus and Buddha from Saint Oniisan.
- Some Giant Robot
- Ginrei from Giant Robo
- Usavitch Rabbits
- Xbox Man
You can see the full set here on Flickr, which includes a few women in skimpy outfits.
After the cosplay, I wanted to get something to eat and head back to the East 4-5-6 hall. All the restaurants were packed. So I just grabbed something quick, and tried to go to the East Exhibition hall. The place was jam packed. The hallway to get there looked like it wasn't moving at all. Since it was about 1:30pm, and I needed to get home to prepare for the fireworks in the evening (which I had somehow been roped into providing pizza for) I just decided to call it quits and head home. Without ever seeing any of the main Comic Market that I originally intended!!
So, based on my first foray into the Comic Market, what do I think I need to do to improve the experience?
- Find someone who knows what they are doing. Since I don't really have any Japanese friends that are into manga, this might be hard to do. I would like to make more friends though, so maybe I can look into the communities for this and do a more organized outing.
- If I can't get a guide, the next best thing to do would be to prepare beforehand. Decide what groups I would like to see, and find out where they are. That means buying a catalog in advance, and doing a lot more preparation work learning about the different circles and what they do.
- Prepare for longer lines better. Bring a small portable stool to sit on. Sunblock. A fan. Some snacks.
- Buy a bigger zoom lens. I was starting to feel inadequate next to all these people with large DSLR setups!
- Or, forget about it and just play it by ear again.
Overall it was a pretty fun day. Took a lot more time than I expected, and was more tiring than I expected, but I think I will give the Winter Comic Market a try too. Probably do a bit more up-front prep work and might just go later to avoid the long lines, but it isn't that far from home and was pretty interesting.
May 4, 2010
Musical Robots, Chocolate, and Alice in Wonderland
Le Chocolat De H chocolate and coffee
Tea and Cake
Skate Park Art
Musical Robot video
Before that though, we made a stop at Le Chocolat de H, a chocolatier in Roppongi Hills. I had their chocolate and coffee combination. The three types of Chocolate were cinnamon (a bit spicy), regular (very nice), and goma (normal, but a nice crunchy texture.) I think I liked the cinnamon the best. They are all chocolate though, so you can't really go wrong. R. got a nice cake with a tea. I really enjoyed the relaxing cafe break, and love chocolate, so I might be stopping there again in the future.
We then went on to visit the museum, and there were lots of cool things there. I really like the upside down Japanese flag (but you could only tell because of the placement of the mounting rope) but my favorite by far were the three musical robots. They are cool. They make strange noises from electric guitar pickups and recycled home stuff (blenders, vacuum cleaners, car stuff, etc.) Really cool.
They also had a nice skate pipe setup that was painted. They have periodic live painting shows with skaters too, and we'll try to go back for that sometime in May.
After the museum, we went to the theater and saw Alice in Wonderland. It was in 3D, which I'm not a big fan of. I just don't really see 3d. So that left the story, which also wasn't all that great. I was really hoping for a new re-interpretation of the source material that would be more nuanced and sophisticated. It was anything but. Caricatures and exaggeration. The computer graphics were nice though. It certainly wasn't worth the $60 or so it cost (2 $24 tickets, drinks and popcorn.) I'm going to try to avoid 3D in the future; it gives me a headache and seems to be a mask for movies with weak stories.
March 14, 2010
Virtual Game Developer's Conference via blogsJust a heads up to a series of great posts over at http://www.sirlin.net/ about the Game Developer's Conference. So far I've read Sirlin's report on the pre-GDC day, day one, and day two.
I follow Sirlin's posts on his blog. He's a game designer that knows street fighter in-depth (worked on balancing Super Street Fighter II Turbo: HD, which I really wish was available in Japan) that I learned about back in my days on alt.games.sf2. If you don't know what that is (most people probably don't) then don't worry about it; USENET is basically dead now anyway. But it was a great forum back in the day talking about Street Fighter and game balance in that area. A few of the people from that forum have gone on to lead interesting lives in the game development community.
Me, not so much. But I really enjoy reading about game design. One of the reasons I don't think I'll ever play any Facebook games (and to some degree, MMOs) is because when you look at how these things are designed, a lot of the time they just break down to skinner boxes. I'll stick to Street Fighter (competition and natural dopamine) and RPGs (interesting stories, some number crunching and optimization) thank you very much.
Definitely check out Sirlin's posts though, starting from the pre-GDC day, day 1, and day 2.
January 30, 2010
Thexder Neo (A.K.A. Jon is cool)
Back when I was young (hard for me to remember that far back, but I'll try) I had moved to New Jersey. Now, don't get me wrong, I really like New Jersey. Now. But then again, I also have a fond spot in my heart for Texas, and we all know what they say about Texas (Beers, Steers, and what now?)
Anyway, I was young, and a new kid in a new place. By the chance alphabetization of last names, I quickly befriended Jon, a great guy with a great last name. Anyway, I remember that Jon had an Apple IIGS. It was a great computer. I was jealous. My family had an Apple //e but that couldn't come close to matching the amazing 320x200 (well, 640x200 under special circumstances) graphics on that thing.
One of the games Jon had was Thexder. It was amazing. Great sound. Great graphics. And a giant robot. At the time my friends and I were all into Robotech (uh, Macross, sorry I forgot no true Anime fan would ever watch Robotech!) so this game where you could change from a jet (just like Robotech!) to a Robot (just like Robotech!) was awesome!! The game was hard. I don't know that any of us ever beat level 2. But we sure did play a lot of level 2. And the music. The music was great. To this day Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata is one my favorite classical songs. (It doesn't hurt that it was also the B-side for Little 15.)
So, for a good portion of my life I was convinced that Jon was cool because Thexder was cool. It is the transitive property of coolness and "my friend has a cool computer". Actually, truth be told that is still why I think Jon is cool. I imagine him hanging out in Tonetown, having Tass Times even now with Sabrina in tow.
Anyway, I decided today to browse the PS3 network on my Japanese account and see what they had. Mostly I wanted to buy Flower for the PS3 (I did, and got Lumines Supernova while I was at it) but then I saw Thexder NEO. What what what??
It is a remake for PSP and PS3 I suppose. I downloaded the demo. It was exactly how I remember it: really hard and frustrating with amazing graphics (now updated and 3d) and sound (still old and 8bit and awesome.)
Jon is still cool!!
June 29, 2009
Tokyo Giants vs Yakult Swallows and Cosplayers
On Sunday, Risa and I met with my friends T. and M. for a Tokyo Giants vs. Yakult Swallows baseball game. T. is a huge Giant's fan, and I've gone with him once a year to see a game. I was excited to go this year because I hadn't seem him and his wife in quite a while, and it was the first time I would go to a baseball game with my wife.
We got to the stadium pretty early. Strangely, there were lots and lots of people dressed up in anime costumes. So-called "Cosplayers". Risa and I ran into the American Version in Seattle where I commented that I thought that American anime nerds were pretty low, lower than the Japanese ones because it isn't even their culture. But Risa countered today with her appraisal that the American nerds are at least learning something about the Japanese culture (outside of their own) while the Japanese nerds were just nerds. She's got me there. (Of course, I have to confess that I myself am a huge nerd, and probably incurable.)
Anyway, I snapped a few shots, but I didn't really feel like trying to do the full question and shoot treatment. I did talk to one group, who didn't seem all that happy to talk to me, and found out that there was a … "thing" for "people" that "dressed up" like "that", and it was not related to the baseball game. I was pretty clearly not in the target audience (you were either someone in a costume, or an overweight balding man with an awesome DSLR taking pictures of the cute girls in costumes, and I didn't fit either of those categories.)
Anyway, on to the game.
The Tokyo Giants are my favorite Japanese Baseball team. I don't really like baseball. I'm a huge basketball fan, but don't really care too much about baseball. I enjoy a game with friends though. I'm a Giant's fan not by default, but because I have a good reason: I hate the Hanshin Tigers with a fierce passion, and that means I am by necessity of Tokyo Giant's supporter. I definitely have to see a Giants - Tigers game sometime soon. Anyway, I have enjoyed all the games I've seen live.
This game was no exception. Before I knew it, it was the 7th inning. The Giants demolished their cross-town Tokyo Jinguu rivals, who have an open-air stadium right near where I work. I prefer Tokyo Dome though because it is a dome and as humanity has developed better and better technology I am all for using it to keep us out of the rain and humidity, which Tokyo has in abundance, especially in the rainy season, which it is now.
In the end, the Giants won 7-2 (wow!) and we went to dinner, and drank a lot, and then went to a bar and drank more.
The next day at work was difficult.
June 13, 2009
Using NTT DoCoMo's P906i as a tethered bluetooth modem for internet access with Mac OSX 10.5.7
Finding your phone
Access the internet with it
Set up the access information
Wouldn't it be nice if you could use your phone for internet access with your computer? You know, what they call tethering? That sounds super cool. Since my phone has bluetooth, it is theoretically possible to have the phone in my bag, computer in my lap, and tell the computer to connect to the phone then get to the internet that way. It turns out that this is possible.
DoCoMo has a page (not that I can find it now) that says as long as you use your tethered computer for (light) web and email access they won't get after you. They definitely say no file access though. Actually, it looks like they want you to join their Mopera service which lets you access the internet on your computer. It works overseas as well. If you don't you can use a separate internet access plan for your phone, but it has a bunch of stuff written there about needing to pay separate fees and to arrange for an internet provider. You can also just use FOMA which is their standard data access plan as far as I know. I finally found the page that shows what you can use and it looks pretty good. You can't do streaming video, peer-to-peer, VOIP, and online games but most other stuff looks good (mail and web is what I am primarily interested in, but they make a point that flash videos are ok. Also system update and some other stuff like that.) This page isn't the one I found earlier this morning which had cute pictures of things that you could and couldn't do, but it has the information, so that is good to know.
So, knowing that this is possible I was interested in doing it. First up: my Mac. Why? Because I looked into doing it on linux initially and that is super hard. So let's see if Apple can get this right.
1.1 Pair your phone and OSX
The easy part: set your computer up to talk to your phone.
Open up the Bluetooth Preferences control panel. Make sure that "On" and "Discoverable" are checked.
On the P906i open up the Bluetooth control application. On my phone that is on the Menu button -> Life Kit -> Bluetooth. Click the Search button (upper-left softkey, the mail key on my phone, サーチ.) The Bluetooth devices in your area should show up. In my case, Blanka, my MacBook Pro shows up, so I select it (center menu button) and it says that this device is not registered, would I like to register it? (未 登録機器です 登録しますか？) So of course I check the "YES" option. It then asks me for my phone's password (端末暗証番号は？ 4 digits, enter your own) and asks to enter the bluetooth passkey.
Then at that point I should be able to see a thing show up on the MacBook, but it can not find it because the phone has not turned on bluetooth yet. Really. So you can fix this by going to the 4th option in the Bluetooth list (ダイヤルアップ登録待機 - wait for a dial-up registration) then click the "+" button the Mac to add a device. Have it search for phones (or any device) and when you see your device click it. It will take you to a screen saying that it needs to get some more information about your phone. Let it do that. It will probably time out and give you an error. Back to the phone, put it back in the waiting for dial-up connection mode, then go back and press the "continue" button.
Then your phone will pop up a confirmation about a connection from your mac. Click yes, then it asks for your password, then the passkey for the bluetooth. The Mac should through up a passkey now. Enter that. If things go well, you get a screen that says "Access the Internet with your phone's data connection". Make sure that is checked and click "Continue".
It might ask you to store some stuff in the keychain, let it do that. You should get a screen that asks for your Phone Vendor. Select NTT DoCoMo. The phone model, use "P/FxxxiX (Bluetooth)". For Username and Password you can use anything I believe. Probably best to keep both less than 8 characters and no special characters. For "Phone Number" enter "*99***1#". Apparently when you are overseas "*99***3#" should work. I like to keep the modem and bluetooth icons in the menu for easy access. Click continue, then Quit. You are done!
To start the internet connection, click the modem icon in the menu bar and "Connect Bluetooth". Keep your phone handy if you need to do something there. For me I didn't have to do anything. The phone just went into a magic bridge mode. Seems to work ok.
According to Speedtest.jp my phone connection is like, a Skateboard level. Good for small movies. Maybe. A bit faster than ISDN but that's about it. It says 301k. Checking with Speedtest.net which is a better tester, it says 357 ms ping, 0.35 Mb/s download and 0.24 Mb/s upload. I seem to see from 10 KB/sec to 40 KB/sec in this super short use, so that sounds reasonable to me.
Just for comparison, on my Fiber connection, I get a 12ms ping, 35.71 Mb/s download, 18.77 Mb/s upload.
May 28, 2009
1 Thursday 2009-05-28
Hanauma Bay Stamp
Overlook of the bay
Oysters (Risa loves them)
Chinese steamed snapper
Ahi Katsu. This stuff was seriously delicious.
Bacon Wrapped Steak. I can not think of a better thing in which to wrap steak.
Dinner at 360 on the Rise
Chocolate Wontons. Those are some good Wontons.
1.1 Snorkeling at Hanauma Bay
We wanted to do another Hawaii-like thing today, so it was off to Hanauma Bay for snorkeling. This was by far my longest time in the sun, and I am really happy that I managed to not get sunburned.
Anyway, we got there at about 8am, got the 8:30am educational film, and then rented our stuff. I had forgot the main rule of Risa Club: "Feed your Risa before going out". So we had to go back and get something to eat. Then we made it back down and relaxed on the beach while we digested. We did some snorkeling and I did a lot better this time than last time, but I still eventually got freaked out and went back to the beach to read. I had to move to the shade of a palm tree because I was worried that I was getting sunburned.
There were also lots of Japanese people at this beach, but again, that isn't a problem for me. The fish were much better here than at the Turtle Bay place. I saw some big and great fish. Risa saw some turtles. I also got some reading done, and really enjoyed the scenery. We spent a few hours there, and probably left by about 1pm.
We went to a Safeway and did some omiyage shopping. Risa also somehow managed to lose her voice, so I got her some throat stuff. I think she will be ok. Right now I am enjoying baiting her in her non-argument-capable state.
1.2 Dinner at 3660 on the Rise
Before dinner we headed out to the Kahala hotel to pick up the chocolates for gifts - apparently the chocolates at the Kahala are famous (they should be for what they cost!) - and also pick up the leis that we left there by accident. Then we had a bit of time, so we drove up to the observation point that is on the way to the Hanauma bay and saw the city at dusk. Nice.
Then we headed to 3660 on the Rise. The place came recommended from Lena, and seemed to have pretty good reviews so I thought it would be a nice place for our last dinner in Hawaii. I was interested in the Ahi Katsu, which did not disappoint. The Wasabi-Ginger butter sauce was great. We also got some oysters which were nice - they had a very sweet sauce on them that made me like them more than I usually like raw oysters (Risa is a big fan though.)
For drinks, I had a Merlot, and Risa tried 4 different whites before settling on one. The waiter was great in helping her choose and giving small tastes of each of the alternatives. I think in the end she actually picked the wrong wine because she had moved the glasses around, but they were all pretty good, so no harm done.
After that we moved on to the main dishes: I had a bacon-wrapped steak (man, I had a lot of steak on this trip!) and Risa had a Chinese-steamed Snapper (I think) that was in a very delicious sauce. I thought both the steak and the fish were great. What made me really happy though is that they had an option for smaller portions, which we both took advantage of, and still we both had too much to eat. We were really full.
I had told them when I made the reservation that we were just married, so they made some nice Macadamia nut wontons with chocolate. Crazy! We also ordered their trio of desserts and ended up nearly exploding. With tea and coffee afterwards. It was a great dinner.
We drove home, and then started to pack. Actually though since we were both full, we ended up take about a two hour break on the bed. Then we finally started to pack. That took a while. I was pretty surprised at how much stuff we were actually able to take with us. We did have to leave the last 10 people's worth of leftover Wedding Cake though. Otherwise, we got it all!
I think I finally crawled into bed at about 2:30am, and we were set to wake up at 5:30am to get up so we could leave at 6:30am for our 10:30am flight.
May 14, 2009
Awesome Three Wolf Moon Tshirt review at Amazonpositive and the negative one) and lots of fun. And what a cool shirt.
May 6, 2009
Shamus Young's PixelCity Screensaver
Pixel Ctiy: a procedurally generated city screensaver
Colored Block Buildings See all the screenshots of PixelCity that I took.
Get the screensaver from Shamus Young's site.
May 5, 2009
Review of the BBC Series Survivors (2008)I recently watched the BBC Series "Survivors", which is apparently a remake of a 1975 - 1978 British TV show. It came out in 2008 an concerns a virulent flu outbreak that kills off all but about 1% of the population. Put this on the TV and see if you can convince people that it is a documentary on the current state of the H1N1 "Swine Flu" epidemic going on in Britain. You probably won't get too far with it, but it really is a pretty scary presage of what could happen. I enjoyed the series quite a bit. It has a lot of the flavor of 2006 TV Series Jericho, itself an end-of-the-world descent into de-civilization via not disease but nuclear war. Both deal with similar issues and are a lot of fun. They also both remind me of J. Michael Straczynski's Jeremiah, a TV series about a post-nuclear world where ... Hm, I get the feeling that this could go on a for a while. So I'll cut it out now. Anyway, I enjoyed Survivors a lot. It has apparently been renewed for a 2009 season, so that is something to look forward to (along with the BBC standby of Doctor Who.) I usually try to put in a few pictures because I know that people won't read blog posts without them, but I didn't manage to get any pictures this time. Bummer. Just imagine a very empty Britain, like something out of Children of Men, or 28 Days Later or ... wait, I started doing it again.
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