Tag Archive | winter

Return of the Coffee Review: A Maxim Adventure

I’ve been staying up way too late recently. I’ve also been able to sleep in very late but that’s mainly due to a sharp decline in my “working schedule” due to a number of students either moving away, going on long trips, or just…vanishing into the maw of the city. Which means they don’t answer my emails. But I’m happy and healthy and progressing in things I love which is nice.

Anyway, where was I? Oh right, coffee.

Now since most of my business takes place in coffee shops I’ve become quite an expert on coffee. Like did you know that most coffee shops call the wringings from the cleaning rag a “small regular coffee”? Now you know.

So usually I get tea at most places. Being from the South, however, I have an affinity for ice tea which takes far more work at home to produce. (Wait for the tea to cool? Why I never!) This lack of willingness to exert any effort on these beverages is what first led me to the idea of the “instant” coffee sticks. You might remember when I reviewed those with the Blendy coffee stick brand. In fact as I write this I am drinking from a cup of 1/2 calorie Blendy blend brew. Which, hilariously, is in fact literally only about half as much powder as a normal stick. Cheeky bastards.

I was in the store the other day when this other brand of coffee sticks caught my eye because they were on sale. For about 10¥ less than the Blendy brands. So, thinking there might be a blog post in this somewhere I snatched up a box of each type they had on offer. Not the best idea perhaps given my financial prospects lately but we have to press forward. Read More…

Advertisements

Never apologize

A rather harsh title some might think. Of course I think you should apologize if you’ve done something demonstrably wrong or misguided.

“Oh, seems you’ve set my house on fire.”

“Yeah, sorry about that but there was a sale on kerosene at the hardware store…”

“Well, as long as you’re sorry….”

Now that situation is a time when you should apologize. Lord knows I learned that the hard way.

No what I’m talking about is something I’m starting to see more and more as I try to focus my efforts away from boozing and snoozing to creative creation. This is the idea that “the artist” shouldn’t apologize for his or her work. That’s not to say that should the work be crap it’s OK to accept that and not want to improve. You should apologize only to yourself, the audience doesn’t want to hear that junk.

It’s like dogs and fear. The audience can smell fear in the artist. Apologizing is like kicking the chum bucket over the side of the boat then diving in after it. You’ve just got to push forward. I’ve picked this idea up from spending a lot of time with musicians lately. In music you can’t stop when there’s a live audience staring at you looking for a good time. I’m sort of a writer and I’m lucky in that I have things like spell checker that keep my outrageous mistakes to a hopeful minimum.

The average person is more skilled at picking out spelling mistakes, however, than out of key notes. At least, I can’t, but that has more to do with my complete lack of musical talent and taste. Though if you stop the show to apologize for the wrong key on the downbeat (I’m just making shit up here) then I think you’ll have bigger problems on your hands. Like refund hungry drunk people with glass bottles in ready supply.

It’s good to hate your mistakes and want to improve. Heck I think everything I make is garbage but that’s because I have self-esteem issues stemming from my lack of reptilian pets in my younger days.

Still reading? Good. Strive to improve in all you do but as long as you’re creating, never apologize.

I went for a walk and took some pictures! Camera deets: Nikon d5100, 18-105mm f/3.5-5.6G lens (yes it’s a kit but it’s the good kit). Coloring and effects done in Lightroom 3 & Photoshop CS5.5 (Legal copies to boot! Shocker!)

Sorry about the watermark but you can’t trust the internet these days.

*looks at the post title*

Shit….

Photo shoot Shinjuku

So I bought a camera recently. A very nice camera. It takes pretty pictures. Well sometimes that is.

I’m learning quickly that the key to taking photos is volume. Thankfully that’s much easier nowadays what with the digital realm. I used to have a film camera much in the same vein as my new one, but they’re two very different things. With film you have to be more careful with your shots and then hope it turns out OK. Very difficult to learn on. With the digital cameras I’ve taken plenty of shots that are just tests of different aspects of the camera.

I’m still learning how to adjust everything manually. But it keeps me sane having something creative to focus on. Sort of.

Though today I found out that the store I bought said camera from lowered it’s price by about $200 US two weeks after I bought it. So….fuck you store.

It’s not so bad really, I got a nice desk chair and a tripod off the loyalty points they gave me so not quite as much a rip.

Also today in the bad news department, I got my first actual rejection (in writing as opposed to no response) of my fiction for publication! Allow me to tack it to the wall here as a trophy in all it’s bloody glory.

Thanks for you submission for the [name withheld]. Yours was one of dozens of submissions and we were impressed by the high quality of your work.
However, I’m afraid that at this time it is not a good fit for our purposes.
We will be looking for more new content for the October-November period, and welcome your submissions at that time.
The story I submitted was about a mechanic from The South that moonlights as a corpse burier for the local KKK. So, maybe not the best choice but in my defense that was all subtext.
.
 Anyway, interesting day. Back to my point about volume when it comes to photos. I took about 85 shots around Shinjuku. After deleting the ones that were worthless I was down to around 35 that I allowed on to my computer. After editing I am down to 9 which I will share with you, my loyal readers.
.
Of which, I like maybe 2 or 3.

Flickr Photo Story Challenge

Another weekly addition to the anthology of Chuck Wendig flash fiction writing challenges. This week we were to write a story about three photos taken randomly from Flickr. These are the ones I got.

Photo 1 / Photo 2 / Photo 3

Here’s what I wrote!

The first alarm I’d set went off. I snoozed my phone back to sleep. The second alarm I’d set went off five minutes later. I managed to snooze it as well without opening my eyes. The cycle of alarms went on like this for about thirty minutes. That’s usually the amount of time my brain takes to activate. I started to calculate how much time I had to waste in bed. I was on vacation, so I let the dance go on for a while past my normal limit.

My father banged on the door to my room once. He didn’t believe in the over expression of emotions but his displeasure communicated through that one act well enough. I buried my head in the cool sheets wrapped around me. I tried to ignore the nagging thought that I would miss breakfast if I didn’t get up right away. Once I felt the tug at my stomach, however, I gave up on the idea of more sleep. So I threw off the covers and stomped over to the window. The early morning sun blasted into my room after I opened the curtains. It drove the winter chill away from my bones and the cobwebs of sleep from my mind. Behind me, the third alarm I’d set went off.

When I came downstairs my father was in the kitchen poking at a cast iron skillet with a plastic spatula. Bacon sizzled within the skillet, the fat popping and snapping. I poured myself a cup of fresh coffee while my father carefully pulled finished strips out to set aside on a thick pad of paper towels.

“Need any help?” I asked before taking a sip of my coffee. He shook his head.

“Got to make the toast yourself though,” he said. I put my cup down and went to a cupboard to get a few slices of wheat bread to feed to the toaster.

My father was wearing his favorite hat while he continued to cook the bacon. Brown, cracked and wrinkled as he was, he called the old fedora his ‘driving hat’. He added a few fresh strips to the skillet.

“Today’s the day, isn’t it?” I asked as I set the bread on the journey to become toast. My father dropped the skillet down on the stove with a bang. A small fire flared up as some grease spilled but it went out quickly. The stench of scorched fat hung thick for a moment before my father reached up and turned on the vent. The fan hummed like a nest of overweight hornets.

“Yes that’s right,” he said. He adjusted the hat on his head making sure it was on tight. The toast popped up from the toaster so I grabbed a plate from next to the stove. I added some bacon to the toast and then went to sit at the counter with my coffee. My father soon finished cooking so he turned off the heat and set the skillet aside.

Instead of loading up a plate for himself, he went to the window across from the stove and stood staring out at the driveway. I looked at him as I crunched on my bacon and sipped my coffee. He stood there, with the yellow sunlight staining his face, for about two strips of bacon, half a piece of toast, and most of my coffee. He turned away as I got up for a refill. As I poured my second cup of joe my father got his breakfast. I wondered if his cough was getting better, it didn’t sound quite as ragged as before.

He took a seat next to mine, after moving the box packed with the dinner glasses first. He glanced at the newspaper headlines as he ate but flicked the pages back and forth not settling on any article for long.

“What time are you meeting the collector?” I asked.

“He told me around eleven,” my father said.

“Sure going to miss that old car,” I said around the last bite of my toast. My father grunted a noncommittal response.

“You want me to follow you so I can give you a ride back?”

He shook his head without taking his eyes off the paper.

“Your aunt said she’d give me a ride,” my father said, “We’ll probably stop for lunch in town.” I’d finished my breakfast so I stood up to take my plate over to the sink.

“I’ll try to get the garage finished before you get back then.”

“You’d better,” he said. He finished the last of his bacon then handed the plate over to me. My father set the paper aside, grabbed his keys from the counter, and headed out the door without another word.

While I was finishing the dishes I could hear the old engine roar to life, sputtering only a little in the cold air. I went to the window to watch my father pull his classic car out of the driveway for the last time.

Chinese New Year 2012, Year of the Dragon

Well it’s that time of year again. The beginning of the new Lunar calendar and the only time of the year that I take a interest passing interest in horoscopy (horoscopoppy?). Yep, I love following the new Chinese Astrology/Zodiac readings. Hopefully if I say Chinese Horoscope Zodiac enough times it’ll drag some of those delicious hits off of the googles into the space here instead of one of those “well designed” sites that are chock full of astro-magical goodness.

Anyway to bring it back on track, I guess I like the Chinese zodiac better than the boring Western style (I’m a Virgo by the way) for a few reasons.

1: The horoscopes are only given once a year, at the start. I guess this gives the people coming up with these things more time to make up some more interesting assumptions. The old western style horoscopes need to be cranked out every week or month or day in some cases. Seems needy to me. Nope, once a year is good enough for me. Month to month? Week to week? Don’t have time for that much bullshit in my life thank you kindly.

2: The actual Zodiac is much cooler. For example in the western Zodiac I’m a Virgo, the virgin. Lame. In the Chinese zodiac I’m a Dog. A Water Dog in fact. So the best damn kind of dog in all of the Dog Space-Time Continuum. (Golden Retriever is on that list. Thesis proved.) And don’t get me started on other combinations.

Fire Monkey. Boom! Metal Dragon. Double Boom! Need I go on?

3: Because it’s based on year and not month it’s a good way to figure out someone’s age. I’ve actually seen bouncers use it at clubs as a test when people try to pull the “I left my ID card at home” excuse. Really sneaky and would never work with the other zodiac.

So I’m a Dog and apparently Dogs and Dragons don’t get along very well. Too much awesome I guess. But fortunately the more you look around eventually you’ll come across a prediction for the year that isn’t so bad. The majority seems to think that it’s a bad year for my money and my health, but a decent year for my job and my social relationships. So….cool? Money I can see, been spending a lot. Hopefully my health will get better though, I’ve stuck to working out and gave up the other bad things in life so should be ok. We’ll see. Going to try and expand the job thing as well. So bring it on Dragon. Bitch.

Well the other thing about Chinese New Year is it’s kind of a big party. I went down on Monday to Yokohama’s Chinatown to catch some of the festivities. I’ve been to the area before but didn’t really explore very much. The weather was pretty bad for enjoying time outside and taking pictures but I think I managed to come away with a few decent shots. Also I stitched together a pretty crude first video from my new camera. HD capability but it sucks down battery power like a Roppongi bar fly does drinks.

Here’s to the new lunar year. Kung Hei Fat Choi!

New Year’s 2012

So thing’s been pretty heavy around here recently. Back to our regular programing!

So I went out to Yokohama for New Year’s to see some fireworks. Now, I was expecting some fireworks on the same level as the last time I went to Yokohama. These were nothing quite the same but still pretty. Anyway here’s what I got.

Kinda lame wasn’t it? Yeah. I saw a video of the show down at the countdown party and to be fair it was pretty cool. A lot of the fireworks were small bursts in time with the music. It looked much cooler up close. Also, if you watched it all you might have heard me narf to myself about if a certain song was Nine Inch Nails or Led Zeppelin. Apparently it was the new cover version of a Led Zeppelin song done by Trent Reznor, frontman of NIN.

So my confusion was justified and I felt compelled to clear that up for some reason. Moving on.

After that we went from Yokohama to Tokyo to visit a shrine. For the uninitiated it is a Japanese custom for people to visit a Shinto shrine sometime in the first few days of the new year. You chuck some money into a bin, usually one of the lucky though near worthless 5 yen coins, clap your hands twice and make your wish/prayer for the new year. (I bet you can guess what mine was)

You can go anytime in the first three days or so, however, since most people are out and about that night, or just awake when they usually aren’t, many people go to shrines shortly after midnight. We went to Meiji Jingu, which is the shrine dedicated to the Meiji Emperor who ruled during the Meiji Reformation during the Meiji period. So pretty important dude. (Even though I misspelled his name throughout the entire video I made (>_<) )

Isn’t iMovie neat? So this shrine happens to be one of the most popular shrines to visit in the largest city in the country so…it’s crowded. We had to wait at least an hour and a half just for our one minute prayer ritual. But like climbing Mt. Fuji, a wise person does it once and only a fool does it twice. (Unless you’re into the exercise when it comes to Fuji, I know some people like that.) It was an experience let’s just say.

You can also buy all kinds of charms, knick knacks, fortunes, etc. after you make your prayer. I bought a Hamaya which literally means “demon-breaking arrow”. Which sounds pretty cool when you think about it.

Pretty wicked no? Apparently I’m supposed to return it to the shrine for burning next year or all it’s luck protection powers will be for nothing. I’d like to think that it stores up the bad luck and if you don’t burn that shit it’ll all come back to you at once. A whole year’s worth of bad luck? No thank you.

Anyway it was a fun time and certainly something I’m glad I got to experience. As far as starts to a new year, this one wasn’t so bad. Questions, comments? Leave them after the pictures and debut of my terrible movie. (^_^)

Warning: some NSFW language.