Curiouser and Curiouser!

Latest

Chill Day in Asakusa (Japan – Autumn 2018 Day 3)

I barely remember falling asleep last night. As I lay my head on my pillow I wondered what time that Joy and Fredrik would make it back home after their evening of tasty beverages of the adult sort. I knew that I needn’t worry, so I closed my eyes and apparently, fell immediately to sleep.

I had doubled my bedroll to give me more comfort and that seemed to do the trick. I remember only waking once that night so a very solid night of rest was had! I woke refreshed – at 6:30 am to find that Zach was already awake… Joy and Fredrik had shown up sometime in the middle of the night and I never heard them come in. Turns out they made it home not terribly long after I had retired for the night myself.

Both of us went downstairs and consumed the foods that we had bought the night prior in preparation for this morning’s need for breakfast and talked for a while. I did some photo editing and posted the link to my blog post from the day prior to Facebook, organized some photo files and caught up on news. Zach was playing a game on his Switch and then I remembered that I had packed mine as well so I relaxed and played Breath of the Wild for quite a while.

It was now around 10 am… Joy, Paulina and Fredrik were still fast asleep. I busied myself with more tasks on my MacBook and coordinated a meet up with Chris for that day.

Chris was going to take around 40 minutes by train to reach Asakusa, where we decided to meet up for some sort of good food to eat… we decided to walk there since it would only take about a half hour to reach Asakusa station and the weather was beautiful despite being rather humid.

Walking to Asakusa – typical average Tokyo neighborhoods are very quiet.

I saw the Tokyo Skytree along the way.

Art on the Sakurabashi Bridge in Tokyo on the way to Asakusa.

Once in Asakusa we decided on eating GyuKatsu at a tiny restaurant close to Senso-Ji – again you sat at the counter and could watch them prepare your food, which I find infinitely fascinating.

GyuKatsu – Beef Cutlet in citrus sauce with shredded daikon.

Food adventures continued on Orange Dori in Asakusa… this is a street lined with old shops and tourist traps alike, and alive with plenty of events almost year round. It is often packed with tourist both local and from afar and it is not difficult to see why with the variety of things to see and purchase there.

We personally were seeking sweet treats… our diligent search was rewarded at a place tucked into a building from the early 20th century… I wish that I knew the name of the place because it was quite cute. They tried to keep a style reminiscent of the 30’s or 40’s European-ish decor that was quite charming! We sat in comfy chairs and shared three desserts: Sweet Potato Ice Cream Sundae and a Matcha Ice Cream Sundae… also a red bean dessert that was just okay and not spectacular.

Sweet Potato Ice Cream and Matcha Ice Cream sundaes… along with some sort of red bean dessert that wasn’t as good.

 

Oh yay I look quite tired and my hair is quite angry about all of the humidity – so much for perfectly straightened hair!

After treats we headed to Akihabara to meet up with Joy and Fredrik… but before we did, one more treat right next to Yodobashi at the Akiba Station… Croissant Taiyaki at Gindaco… it was filled with roasted chestnut paste did not disappoint! That croissant crust was delicious and the texture would have been perfect if it hadn’t been just a little too done. The chestnut filing seemed a little too sweet but I have to wonder if perhaps my opinion about that was affected by the consumption of our other sweet treats not long prior to this.

Chris needed to go get some studying done so he split off from me and Zach and the two of us went to a store called Animate – my main reason for going was to find a few Persona 5 items and they definitely had a nice selection to chose from! A few things may have made it into a shopping bag and came along with me.

We met up with the guys and sat across from that Dragon Quest Lawson again… Zach went off to do something, I don’t exactly know what and I sat with Joy and talked a fair amount about all sorts of important matters as we do… then Zach came back and Fredrick showed up – Chris messaged and it turned out that he had been sitting perhaps 100 feet away when he messaged asking where to meet up with us!

We settled on going to an izakaya that wasn’t terribly far away – I do not recall the name of the place and apparently forgot to check in on Swarm so I can’t find it now… you will understand the whys of this thing as you read on…

Toward the beginning of our evening at an izakaya – I was only a little tipsy at this point.

We laughed and talked and ate… I had a yuzu shochu, which is plenty enough to get me tipsy… ordered more food and Chris had a bottle of warm sake brought out with glasses for everyone… one glass later and I was definitely feeling it and was getting just a little more silly than usual… Joy didn’t enjoy the warm sake (he prefers cold) so I drank his down too.

Another round of warm sake came out, another cup poured for me… then I finished the last cup after my last chicken and leek yakitori… things were definitely a bit wobbly for me after that, but I was having a gooooood evening! It was decided that we should go to the amusement center in the Donki building down the street for some DDR and ufo catchers – everything was so hilarious that I could not contain my laughter… in the photo below, I remember watching Fredrik try to win an adorable Shiba Inu stuffed animal, but for the life of me I cannot remember what was so funny!

“You’re not drunk… I’M drunk… why is this crane game so funny?!” haha

Joy tried to win a prize… the Shiba that I wanted – psh. That was not pleasing because he did (but I was also happy for him)

Joy won this Shiba – on the first try. That’s an expensive stuffed toy for only 100 Yen!

 

I played for a shiba too… I won a little baby shiba! Not certain how I had my wits about me enough to win this haha.

Wan Wan! I won a little shiba in a shiba hoodie on MY first try!

At this point Chris decided to leave because he was very sleepy as he is having a difficult time adjusting to the Tokyo time zone on this trip, poor guy. I then tried my hand, I mean feet at Drunk DDR… I did surprisingly well according to Joy, who mentioned that I was impressing the local Japanese guy at the machine next to me. I attribute my accuracy to the fact that I only played charts that I practically know by heart so that took any of the alcohol hinderance away from the equation.

Three rounds of DDR later, I cut myself off for fear of falling off of the pad or dehydrating myself too much. Silly Boo, Joy and Fredrik all had a merry ride home on the train and a relaxing early Autumn walk home. Excellent excellent day!

Akiba Antics (Japan – Autumn 2018 Day 2)

This morning found me well rested after a full uninterrupted night’s sleep on my bedroll – our AirBnB has traditional tatami mats on the floor of our bedroom – the five of us share a common bedroom area that has space enough for 10 people to lay comfortably if there are two people per bedroll.

I awoke at 4:30 am to find Joy up and ready to get some breakfast… we took the short walk to Lawson’s to get coffee and breakfast foods while the others stayed in bed.

It was so great to sit and talk with Joy after three years of not seeing each other in person – I wish that we lived closer… it can be so difficult when dear friends live so far away. After talking with Joy for quite a while, he decided to go back to bed while I was not sleepy at all so I decided to shower and then soak my aching muscles in our wonderful deeeeeep bathtub.

About the time that I was finished relaxing, Zach and Fredrick awoke, and Joy followed shortly. The guys went out to run an errand with Zach and I stayed behind with Paulina… they returned and we all laughed and talked for a great while as we decided what we wanted to do for the day.

You have been blessed by the Suntory Lemon Man!

It was decided that we would go to Akihabara to play games at a gaming center for the most part and also check out some shops but since we were all very hungry we started looking for food immediately. Go!Go! Curry sounded good, so we stopped there for some comfort food – I ate the small tonkatsu (pork cutlet) plate and even that amount of food was actually a bit too much! This Japanese curry chain regularly has a contest for people to completely eat a ridiculously large amount of tonkatsu with rice and curry – it’s impressive to see their wall of photos with people who have actually completed the challenge!

Me and the Sweet Swedes at curry lunch.

Bellies full and satisfied, we moved on. I have them convinced that next time they crave curry that we should go to CoCo Curry to see if they like that the same or better… I have a definite favorite but I did not reveal that to them for fear that it may affect their opinion one way or the other!

While walking to the area with the most arcades we kept coming on shops that sell collectible figures… we stopped in two or three and spent a bit of time when my friends decided that perhaps we should stop getting so distracted and get to the arcades.

A Sega arcade was the next stop where there were many rounds of UFO catcher plays – we met up with Chris there. He was kind enough to share his stash of SIM cards with me so now I can roam freely without having to find wifi hot spots… they are abundant but rather flaky at times for connection if you are moving about quite a bit. Thank you, Chris! having all of the data GeeBees is definitely better than relying on flaky WeeFees! XD

At Sega Arcade

Everything is cute in Japan.

Tokyo Leisure Land was the destination because they have a large selection of rhythm games… which we did not get to right away because a couple of my friends (*cough* Joy and Paulina) became obsessed with winning a couple of figurines from a redemption game… after some tries they did win! I made myself content with winning a few small prizes, including a squishy orange Slime from the Dragon Quest (I have a slight obsession with these adorable characters!) series of games and a little plush kitty with a mustache.

YES! DDR in JAPAN!

Paulina won the Alice figure she was after!

My sweet squishy Slime! I won one for Chris too

We spent a few hours at this spot – time passes quickly when you are having so much fun and in such good company! Some rhythm games were played as well, but I did not partake because I felt that I was already sweaty enough with the humidity, which was around 80% yesterday. My poor hair is lamenting this weather – it seems that Japan will never allow my hair to look nice while I am here because my curly hair reacts so poorly to high humidity. Ah well it’s okay! I can still have fun whilst looking like a goof!

After the arcade we came upon the Dragon Quest themed Lawson store! SLIMES EVERYWHERE! I need to back to get better photos and a video of this place – very cute theming!

I FOUND IT! The Dragon Quest themed Lawson in Akihabara!

Late in the afternoon Joy and Fredrik broke away from the group to go home and take a nap… Paulina, Zach, Chris and I went on to a wagyu beef restaurant called Roast Beef Ohno… it is a small restaurant which I guess only seats up to 30 from a quick glance about this small restaurant. Part of the seating is at a couple of tables but the main portion of seating is at the L-shaped bar that borders the kitchen so you can enjoy watching your meals being prepared.

The menu selection is small… literally just the wagyu donburi bowl or the Australian beef donburi but you do choose the portion of rice that you receive. I opted for the small portion.

Wagu Donburi is delicious!

My dinner was accompanied by Oxtail soup – yummy.

The printed menu offers instruction for how to best enjoy your meal, first starting with tasting the meat on it’s own, then mixing your egg and dipping the meat in that and the small trail of Japanese mayo, then trying the pickled vegetable (which I think was cabbage) with a bit of mountain wasabi and cream cheese in addition to your bite of meat. However you decided to combine your tastes, this was a superior donburi for certain! I think that I could eat this meal a couple of times a week and not tire of it.

Instructions for how to best enjoy your meal.

I had requested that we go hunting for some gatchapon (Japanese capsule toys) so Chris did a quick look on Google Maps… on our way there we ran into Joy and Fredrik, who had initially said they were going to go home and take a nap before karaoke with a friend… they never made it home because the made a side trip to a Maid Cafe – Paulina and I were a little cross and disappointed because we wanted to experience that with them, but overall we heard some great stories from those two and I’m glad that they had so much fun. Once again we parted from Joy and Fredrik who departed to go find some Japanese libations and Chris continued to  guide us to a store filled with row after row of gatchapon dispensers! They had signs everywhere that asked customers to please not take photos so I respected that while I was actually in the store. Once I was in, I remembered that I had visited this exact place on my very first day in Japan in summer 2014!

I found two of the VAG series that I was looking for! Morris!

On this visit I found some of what I am diligently seeking… dispensers that sell the VAG (Vinyl Artist Gacha) series! These are special limited edition gasha designed by some famous vinyl toy artists. These particular figures are quite detailed and usually have the distinction of having one or more parts that are moveable so that you can pose your figure! They are 500 Yen so more spendy than the average of 200 – 300 Yen, but definitely worth the price.

I was surprised to find one the winter 2018 releases still available! I am now the very happy owner of two Morris figures, which is a cat-deer combination… a design by Kaori Hinata, also known as Hinatique. http://hinatique.pupu.jp/ – such a talented artist! My keen eyes will continue to keep a lookout for more VAG dispensers on this trip for sure.

VAG (Vinyl Artist Gasha) figure Morris in the two variants that I most wanted!

Our happy hearts and weary bodies decided that it was time to head home. Zach, Paulina and I said goodnight to Chris with wishes expressed to meet again for more fun tomorrow… we rode the train back to our station, Higashi-Mukōjima, and walked home. Soon, bedtime and blessed sleep.

 

 

Planes, Trains and Dying Batteries (Japan – Autumn 2018 Day 1)

Literally the only pic I snapped yesterday… and it was accidental… forward facing camera oops for the win.

This trip started out about as ordinary as it could be… I fussed over packing my necessities, then unpacked, sorted and re-packed… about 5 times. I stayed up late the night before my flight to acclimate my sleep schedule to that of where I was traveling to. I made a loose list of places I would like to see when I visit. I hopped onto a plane and had an un-eventful, and even pleasant flight with no one sitting in the seat next to me.

Then little things started to unravel… my sinuses decided to become swollen and painful… the line at immigration was looooong – it took more than an hour to get through when usually it’s no more than 20 minutes. Lines looked long for train tickets…. and then I learned why. One of the express lines was not functioning due to “electrical failure”… another of the local lines was not running either so I decided on the Narita Express, which I would normally take anyway (but wasn’t going to this time because it wasn’t a direct route to my end destination).

The line to purchase those tickets was L O N G. Like wait for 45 minutes long. Ticket bought, I proceeded to the platform to wait for my train to be cleaned from the prior run.

Boarded train, settled in… time to go! Train does not go. Five minutes later: train does not go. Announcement says that the track is being cleared of something… my heart sinks because I think that it must be a jumper. Five more minutes pass… then another 5 and another 5. In Japanese they ask us to disembark the train and go across the platform to another one… we all do so and sit there for another 15 minutes.

Train is a local one so it stops at every station. Soon we come to Chiba, where we are told to get on yet another train, which apparently everyone else in Tokyo was also getting on to. It’s raining. It’s humid. People are grumpy and shoving onto the train like they’re packing a sardine tin. I feel guilty for having so much luggage, especially when I actually prefer to travel very light. Aching muscles and exhaustion were making me really grumpy… you get the idea.

I made it to the neighborhood where my friends had rented an AirBnB only to have my phone die right as I got the the block where it was supposed to be… EVERY door on that block had the same number so I was confused as to which one I was supposed to enter! Eventually after waiting for my phone to charge enough to turn back on (and it ended up not turning on for another 15 minutes) I knocked on a random door  – a very kind older woman answered and her face lit up when she saw me, which was a reassuring comfort that I really needed at that moment. In very broken Japanese I told her that I was looking for an AirBnB and she knew right where to take me to – she waited until Paulina let me in before she left my side! What a kind woman!

All in all it took me 5 hours from when I left immigration to make it into the AirBnB… exhausted starving and half drenched from a soaking rain I dropped my bags and then immediately walked down the block to a Lawson’s to grab some snacks… that was actually just a few minutes ago. I am completely exhausted and at this writing I can barely keep my eyes open so it’s time to wander upstairs to my tatami mat and lay my weary head to rest. Day 1 of Japan Autumn Trip complete!

Dropbox vs Google Drive – A Frustrated Photographer’s View

As with anyone who deals with a large amount of photo and video media I have a fair amount of trouble managing all of my files, especially since disciplining myself to properly sort said files once I am home from whatever photography excursion I have been on has largely been a task that I have failed in.

Often I am not intending to go on an excursion with the express purpose of taking photos and video but inevitably this is what I do… I have that wonderful device called a smartphone with me everywhere I go…. lo and behold, I return from wherever with many photos and videos. “I will just sort these out later” I say to myself and the digital files upload to my iCloud and Dropbox.

I was pondering this very conundrum this past weekend as I had holed up at home because I was not feeling well and was exceedingly bored. I decided that whilst resting I would be productive and finally sort all of my photos and videos into properly dated files, and perhaps also by subject matter or location. Little did I know that I was about to embark on a journey that would lead to nowhere but frustration.

Dropbox has been a tool that I have used for years and thought nothing of sitting down at my PC to do a little folder housecleaning. I logged on to the website and began my task, quickly noticing that everything was taking a LONG time to click through. Checking a box of a file to move… 10-30 seconds for a checkmark to appear… okay, well perhaps my computer is lagging for some reason… click out of the browser and into a program – no problem. Try another website… fast as fast can be… go back to Dropbox, click “move files” – two minutes before any sort of indication that there was something affected.

4-1/2 hours later and I had barely made a dent in my organization – I was left with frustration and a long but friendly email to Dropbox was written. In the meantime, I am not one to let grass grow under my feet as I wait so I looked to my Google Drive account, where I also have a few files stored.

Three years ago I had moved away from a trial run with Google Drive to Dropbox again because at the time Drive was not an effective way for me to move my digital media from my phone or my camera – it was unreliable and tedious, with the app often hanging and then crashing which made it un-usuable for my particular needs. I had hopes this time that perhaps a few things had been improved and I was not disappointed!

Google made a Drive app specifically for photos and videos and oh my have I been pleasantly surprised! Fast reliable transfers and it even sorts things by date and location, along with a proper way to search for your photos whether it be by that date or location but also by person! It finds photos of people and asks you for their names so you can search by name too! That part is simultaneously awesome and a little creepy as well.

After the app backs up all of your photos, it asks you if you would like it to also delete the media from your phone – 32,524 media files still remain there because I cannot bear to delete a one of them… maybe tomorrow!

Addendum: There is so much more to the Google Photos App that I want to talk about, so look for a proper review soon!

 

Boo is BACK!

WELL HELLO THERE!

Last year my domain lapsed… a long and uninteresting story for you, Dear Reader and I will spare you that misery.

Sufficient to say that what seemed to be a minor miracle happened in the form of my BEST FRIEND and SWEETHEART Chris revealing that he had retained my domain AAAAAND had my archived posts! JOY OF JOYS! My backups had been lost on an external hard drive that failed two years ago and ever since this domain lapsed I had been lamenting the loss thereof, but now NOW I can relieve all of those memories in blog form once again!

My plan going forward is to update here weekly and possibly more often if I feel inspired to wax long about some topic or post a bazillion photos. Speaking of photos, I do have a Mini Rant: Instagram is starting to displease me more and more as they have introduced more of the Facebook-like features such as only showing you the most popular photos in your feed and not having photos in chronological order. My own photos visibility has DRASTICALLY shrunk as well… my posting habits had slowed down quite a bit and for the first few photos I posted in the past couple of months my photos were receiving above average likes… mostly from random people and not my followers. Now, I am receiving BELOW average… usually I receive around 20 likes but for the past two or three I have had… 7 – 15 likes.

Seeking attention or popularity is not what I am all about regarding Instagram… I just want to connect with other photographers but it seems that the algorithm is specifically designed to under-expose your posts to prompt you to post more content which would in turn might motivate users to open the app more often, thus increasing the probability that you will interact with their advertisers. Shady in my opinion, but effective because human nature is, if nothing else, quite predictable.

Aside from FaceBook’s disagreeable tactics in regard to Instagram, that app has also become a place where everything is a cookie-cutter copy of certain styles and content. I am tired of the buildings, food and fashion all under white-washed filters. To be fair, when this style was first gaining popularity (particularly with VSCO app users) I did give it a fair shake and it wasn’t for me… I know that some very much like that aesthetic. The intent of mentioning this style is not to poke fun at people’s preferences but rather to point out that there is more and more of the same sort of photos being published on Instagram and not the creative variety that was prevalent in the early days of the app.

Noticing the sameness has caused me to take a thoughtful look at my own Instagram grid and I think that perhaps my own photography could use a boost of creativity so I am making it my challenge this spring and summer to push my creative boundaries in regard to my photography and video editing along side regular blog posts – keep your eyes peeled for more content here soon!

Day #76 – A Photo A Day 2013

It’s late! I’m just now getting around to posting today’s pic, one that I snapped two weeks ago when I was roaming around San Francisco. (I miss my new home! Returning there in two days yay!)

San Francisco has no shortage of interesting things to look at and in turn, for me to photograph. 😉

The Holy Cow Mascot

The Holy Cow Mascot

This cow hangs above the door of The Holy Cow Nightclub – when I first moved to San Francisco, this cow was one of the first things that greeted me but then he was a metallic gold! I walked past here hoping to get a better pic than I did last time, but now he’s such a lovely shade of neon pink that I didn’t mind that the gold was gone. 🙂

I used Tangled FX and Photo FX to edit this photo.

Day #75 – A Photo A Day 2013

Pre-existing image templates provide a world of creativity that really sparks my imagination. It’s fun to see what other photographers have captured and it is a challenge to incorporate those photos into my own to make a blending of two people’s creativity.

So many apps have these images available either for free or for a nominal download fee but so far my favorite has been Filtermania 2 from Dropico. I used images from their library on today’s photo, which began as some stormy clouds that were outside of Ultrazone when I was there on Friday evening:

Into the Woods

Into the Woods

Using pre-existing image templates for enhancing or completely changing an edit is something that I have frequently done but I think it’s time that I start making my own templates. I’m having fun with these pre-existing templates and they are a creative tool that is wonderful to have at my fingertips, but I would like to add more of myself into my projects, and I feel that this is one way that I can accomplish this.

Day #74 – A Photo A Day 2013

Another quick post for the day!

I snapped a quick photo as I was driving east on Hwy 14 in Vancouver, WA – Mt. Hood is in the distance:

IMG_9453

Tangled FX with multiple effects layered, then I did a bit of a tilt-shift effect to soften the clouds and bring the focus down to the vanishing point.

Day #73 – A Photo A Day 2013

A quick post for today – a snap I took on Mount Sutro last week:

Mount Sutro Sunshine

Mount Sutro Sunshine

I used Tangled FX layered with a couple of effects and then altered the trees and tree tops with ElastiCam. I obsess over the details, so this edit took quite a bit of time.

Day #72 – A Photo A Day 2013

Gosh, being sneaky with your iPhone to take pictures is HARD sometimes. Today’s shot is a perfect example of this. I found it to be one of the most difficult shots that I have edited lately.

Adorable Boy Riding on BART

Adorable Boy Riding on BART

This little guy was SO ADORABLE and he kept playing peek-a-boo with me… everything in me wanted to set up the shot and leave his Mom out of the picture – I felt like her white shirt was going to be really distracting in the frame. Also, I didn’t want the boy to lose his un-inhibited playfulness by putting the phone up to take a photo.

After I got on the plane at SFO I started looking at all of the shots that I got – the boy’s mom had on that annoying white shirt, and it was ruining this shot!!! What should have been a simple edit took a better part of the flight to do because I just could not seem to find a way to diminish that shirt enough to my liking.

A ton of masking and layering went on. I wanted to age the photo but not make him get lost in the edit. I’m only half liking the results but I could not think of anything further to rescue this photo. In the end I suppose what matters is that I captured a sweet and cute moment and treasure that rather than obsess over what I feel is lacking in the composition of the photo that captured it.