Off to DC

 Japanese Language, Travel  Comments Off on Off to DC
Nov 302013

I headed to DC today. The roads were a mess, because it’s the Thanksgiving weekend.

Actually, a mess is understating it. It was most unpleasant. But I got there.

I’m staying at the same hotel I did last time. It’s a nice hotel, if a little bit pricey, but it’s close enough to Georgetown for me.

I studied some, and I’ll study some more, then go to bed. Then I’ll get up early, study a little more, then head to Georgetown for the test.

Thanksgiving, Black Friday, N1 Coming

 Food, Japanese Language, Music, Technology  Comments Off on Thanksgiving, Black Friday, N1 Coming
Nov 292013

Thanksgiving was nice. We had our usual fried chicken, because turkey is boring, and takes too long to make. I made some killer fried chicken this year.

We did NOT go to any stores. It’s Thanksgiving– it’s not a day to shop. That’s what Friday is for.


I’m also looking out for good deals. Ever since the Propellerhead User Forum got shut down, I’ve been relying on Rekkerd’s Deals page a lot for info as to what’s going to be on sale this weekend and beyond.

The coolest thing I found was Native Instruments‘ massive software sale. Full versions of some of their software is half-off, everything except Komplete.

But it’s not what you think.

If you get a cross-grade from the full version of an NI product, you can get a big discount on Komplete, and Komplete Ultimate. The way it worked for me was that I bought Kontakt for half off ($199), then got the Komplete Ultimate cross-grade for only $374. Considering it retails for $1099, and usually goes for around $999, that’s a great deal.

I’m looking forward to playing with that. A lot.

I also scored a great deal on a new dryer. My dryer has been making scary noises and giving off weird smells, so rather than have the house burn down, I bought a cheap dryer. Really, all I need in a dryer is a low setting and a timer.

So long as it fits, dries my clothes, and doesn’t burn the house down, I’m happy.

N1 Coming

Tomorrow I leave for Washington to take the JLPT N1 again. I’m studying as much as I can.

Study-wise, I put a couple of N1 grammar books into Anki. It’s not enough, but it’s all I had time to do given the time I had. Studying for the A+ (and getting it) took up a lot of time.

Music Composition // Bargain Hunting

 Music, Technology  Comments Off on Music Composition // Bargain Hunting
Nov 232013

My music composition class is going pretty well. I finished one piece, and just finished another. They’re just little musical doodles, but I like them. I’ve been using MuseScore a lot to do the writing, then I’ll output it as a MIDI, then import the MIDI file into Reason.

MuseScore’s playback is a fine, but the sound quality isn’t as good as I can get in Reason. Then again, MuseScore is free.

MuseScore is pretty solid, and it’s free. I like free.

I tried using the composition software in Cubase 7.0, but it wasn’t as flexible or easy to use as MuseScore. I might try again later on, because it would be pretty cool to have composition and production software all in one.

Bargain Hunting

I’m starting to check out what’s going to be on sale next weekend. Black Friday and on is a good time of the year to get deals on all kinds of music-related software and hardware. My big hope is that Native Instruments’ Komplete Ultimate is on some kind of sale, because I’m eager to branch out into some new sounds. I’m also really interested in Kontakt as a sampler.

Also, Nine Volt Audio is going out of business, so they’re selling all of their software in one big bundle for $199. (Except their Taiko v.2. Dang.) The bundle has some really good sounds in it. The sale ends in early January, and then that’s it. No more.

I picked up the bundle and downloaded it. Getting the downloader to run was a little troublesome, because my anti-virus kept wanting to call it a virus. (It wasn’t.) But after that, it was simply a matter of entering codes and downloading. Some of the libraries are Kontakt-only, so if I can get Kontakt, I’ll have some nice third-party sounds to play with.

Going Home in the Snow

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Nov 122013

I woke up and looked out the window and sure enough, it was snowing.

Fortunately for me, it wasn’t sticking.

I got all packed up and got out the door by about 9 a.m. with the help of my SO’s parents. They’re wonderful people.

The drive back was pretty uneventful. The snow stopped by the time I got to New Jersey, and it was never really an issue while driving until I got to Durham, NC. It was snowing hard when I went to Costco to pick up some supplies, but it still wasn’t sticking. I got home around 7 p.m.

The N1 is coming up in a little over two weeks, so I don’t have time to breathe. Gotta get on it.

Celebrating Pocky Day in Manhattan

 Food, Japanese Language, Photography, Travel  Comments Off on Celebrating Pocky Day in Manhattan
Nov 112013

Happy Pocky Day. (11-11!)

I celebrated by heading to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The recommended donation now is $25! Ouch! I saw a lot of exhibits at the museum that bring back memories of my childhood, like the Egyptian section and the Temple of Dendur. We used to come to the MMA when we lived in NJ, and I always looked forward to it. It’s one of my favorite museums in the world.

After looking at the Egyptian section, I looked at the American Decorative Arts section, then at the sculpture garden, then another favorite section of mine, Arms and Armor. I’ve always been fascinated at the various inventions humans have created to protect themselves from… other humans. And plate armor just looks cool. I’d hate to wear the real thing, though.

Then I broke for lunch. Lunch was in the basement cafeteria, which is the cheapest place to get lunch.

First I had to find it. It took a little wandering and map-consulting, but I found it.

It was about $25 for lunch, but it was good. I just wish I could have gotten a plain turkey sandwich, instead of something with cranberry mayonnaise on it. I like cranberries, and I like mayonnaise. I would just rather pick the dressing myself.

I swung by the medieval statues I saw on the way to the basement, and snapped a few photos with my phone, then snapped some more of the statue garden on my way to the modern art section.

I wandered around the modern art section, and finally found my favorite painting in the building. It’s a Jackson Pollock painting called “Autumn Rhythm.” I don’t know why I love it. I just do. That’s art.

By then it was about 2:30, and time to head out. I found souvenirs for everyone, headed out the door. I got a few shots of the building on my way out with the Nexus 5.

On to Times Square, and Kinokuniya

I grabbed a train to Times Square, then headed to Kinokuniya to do some more shopping, but really, by now I have all the books I need. This was more of a “make sure” trip. I really wish I had a Kinokuniya or similar book store nearby.

Then I headed back to the apartment to clean up and get changed. I was going to meet up with some friends in Greenwich Village for dinner. I got all cleaned up, and headed out.

Oh, My Battery!

We met up at Oh! Taisho! at around 7 or so, and had a nice conversation at dinner. The food was good. It was yakitori and other bar-style food. We talked forever, then went over to Starbucks and talked some more. It was a lot of fun.

But my battery was almost dead by 9. I had to borrow a portable battery charger from a friend of mine. I wasn’t happy about that. This is after recharging the battery once while I was changing. I’m not sure if it’s a driver thing, or a Kit Kat thing, or a Nexus 5 thing.

By about 10 or so, I had to head back, because I don’t want to be out too late and wake up my SO’s parents, so we said our goodbyes.

Tomorrow I go back home. It’s supposed to snow.

Back in Manhattan.

 Japanese Language, Travel  Comments Off on Back in Manhattan.
Nov 102013

The drive to New York City was uneventful, until I missed the turn for the parking garage and had to drive around for 15 minutes to get lined up again. That’s the one thing I don’t like about Manhattan– it’s really easy to wind unable to get where you want to get to, even if it’s just right there!

I got in and got unloaded safely, and flopped down for 10 minutes. Then I headed to Kinokuniya to stare at their books. There wasn’t really anything I had to have this time. It was just nice to wander around and look at stuff. I wish there was an easier way to find potentially interesting books– at least the fiction books. Non-fiction and other stuff is pretty easy to go through, but it’s hard to tell if a novel is going to be any good without reading it.

I got back the apartment and had dinner with my SO’s mom and stepdad, who are lovely people, and then relaxed for the evening. I haven’t done that in a few days.

Career Forum Day Two, etc. etc.

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Nov 092013

Day two of the Career Forum, and my last. I’ve seen everything I want to see, and talked to everyone I want to talk to. I talked to a few companies, had a couple of brain cramp moments, but generally feel okay about it.

If something comes through, great! If not, I’ll keep freelancing.

I headed back to the hotel, changed, and had lunch. Then I got my stuff together and headed to the USS Constitution, to get a good look at it before the last tour of the day. I just made it to get on board, but I missed the last guided tour. I did get a chance to take some photos with my NEX and my Leica 21/2.8M ASPH lens, though.

I went back to the hotel, rested for a little while, then headed to the same Japanese restaurant I went to last year, Shiki in Brookline. It’s about a 45 minute trip by the green line. I had 20 minutes to kill before my table was ready. There wasn’t anywhere to wait, so I waited outside.

I had udon. It was good. The service was a bit on the slow side this year.

Tomorrow I head to New York.

Career Forum, Day One.

 Travel  Comments Off on Career Forum, Day One.
Nov 082013

Today is the first day of the Career Forum. I set a bunch of alarms on my new Nexus 5, but one didn’t go off. I think the travel charger I use isn’t compatible with it, even though it’s USB. The phone starts freaking out when it’s plugged in, and acts erratically. It charges, though, and that’s all I can ask for.

But it would have been nice to wake up on time.

I hurried to get ready and dashed to the Convention Center.

Not much has changed since last year. I did lots of walking, talking, and listening to companies’ pitches.

I talked to some really nice and interesting people at a number of companies, and we’ll see where it goes. I’m not going to get my expectations too high. Recruiters say a lot of things to a lot of people. Sometimes they come through, and sometimes you don’t hear anything, ever.

When it was time to head out, the wind was screaming, and it was cold. The weather here is nasty, especially the wind. I grabbed some food at a 7-11, then headed to the hotel to collapse. My feet were done for the day.

Lots of Yellow and Red…Made it to Boston Anyway.

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Nov 072013

I slept in a bit today, because I figured I would leave around noon and just toodle on up to Boston. I didn’t have to be there at any particular time, so I took it easy this morning and lounged a bit.

Okay, not really. I lounged for about 20 minutes or so, then got cracking.

Google Maps said it would take 5:45 to get to Boston. I laughed. I’ve made this drive before, and no way will it only take 5:45.

The Quest For Gas

I wanted to gas up at the nearest Costco, because in NC, they’re the cheapest places to get gas.

“Okay Google, where’s the nearest Costco?” 10 minutes later I got there… and they didn’t sell gas. Doh.

“Okay Google, where’s the nearest truck stop?” 10 minutes later, a closed onramp and a long detour later, they were out of gas. *Facepalm.*

“Okay Google, where’s the nearest gas station?” 10 minutes later and I finally found an establishment willing to sell me gas!

Yeah, it was that kind of day.

The George Washington Bridge is Never Green

I was listening to a lot of traffic info on the way up the NJ Turnpike, because I know how NY/NJ traffic is–it changes from minute to minute from smooth as butter to clogged up and not moving at all. “The GWB is green, the GWB is green,” I kept hearing that, so I decided to take the GWB across the Hudson… and hit a 30-minute delay right at the toll booth. Yay.

The whole time I’m driving, I’m also fighting the new version of Google Maps. The old version would let me seek alternate routes. The new version does not. I don’t like this improvement at all, but since I have a new phone, I can’t roll it back.

The phone keeps telling me to take weird routes I’m not used to taking, and I can’t tell if I’m actually going to save any time at all. It’s really frustrating and annoying. I don’t want to take the Merrit across Connecticut. It looks like a big red line of non-moving traffic from the map and from behind the wheel.

So I moved back to I-95. It didn’t move much, either, and Maps was still trying to get me to go back the Merrit. Ugh.

Before I left I-95, I pulled off at a service area to get gas and some food.

I finally got off on to I-91 and things were moving again, but this jaunt across Connecticut probably took 3.5 hours, when it should take two, max. The traffic was horrible on all of the east-west roads.

I got to the Mass Pike, and everything was smooth again, but the drivers were all crazy. And just as I’m pulling into Boston, the GPS drops, and stops giving me directions, and I wind up who-knows-where. When I got out from underground, it kicked in again and figured it out, but it was annoying to have to guess what it wanted to do next.

So my 5:45 trip took about 8 hours.

The hotel is nice. Expensive, but nice.

Off to Boston… Again.

 Travel  Comments Off on Off to Boston… Again.
Nov 062013

After a lot of running around and getting ready, I left for Boston. The drive up I-85 and 95 was pretty uneventful.

The NC QuickPass transponder worked on the EZ Pass lanes in Maryland and Delaware. That was a relief.

I made it as far as Newark, DE the first night, and stayed at the same Holiday Inn Express I stayed at last time. It’s a nice clean hotel, and this time I was on the first floor, which makes getting out a cinch.

Nexus 5 Arrived

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Nov 042013

My N5 was waiting for me when I got back from Greensboro today.

First impressions: I love the look of Kit Kat. The phone feels good in my hand, too, although I think it’s going to become a grease magnet. I’m not a huge fan of the sharp edges, though. They’re a little sharper than I like, but they help me keep a grip on the phone.

The OS has a lot of changes under the hood, and some cosmetic ones. Google Now is on the left sweep from the main screen. I’m not sure I like that yet. Also, there are only 2 screens to put icons/folders on. I’m not sure how I feel about that, either. I’m used to 4-5.

Stock Android is my favorite version of Android. Very little “stuff” gets in my way.

Compared to the GNex, there is no comparison. It looks better, works faster, and takes better photos.

There’s an auto HDR mode, but it’s slow. Slooooow.

I had to go by T-Mobile to get a new SIM card for it. It uses the smaller SIM cards. I’m wonder if that’s going to be an obstacle for traveling or not. I’ll still keep my orange cave-phone with me, just in case. The T-Mobile folks were nice about making a quick swap of SIMs.

I need to start packing, so I’ll use it more on the road.

Kindle // Nexus 5

 Technology, Travel  Comments Off on Kindle // Nexus 5
Nov 012013

I finally bit the bullet and got a Kindle Paperwhite a few days ago. The first one showed up with a defective screen, and Amazon overnighted a new one out right away.

The display is really easy on the eyes. It’s the sort of thing you can just sit and read for hours. I read a lot on my tablet, but the Kindle makes it so I can read for hours and not feel any appreciable eye strain.

I’m looking forward to taking it with me to Boston and New York.

Oh, a New Nexus!

The Nexus 5 was announced earlier today, and I managed to order a 32GB model before they all disappeared. It was a fluke that I caught the announcement just as it was happening, or else I wouldn’t have gotten an order in on time.

My Galaxy Nexus has been a good phone for the last year and a half, but sadly, it can’t keep up anymore. It won’t be getting any more OS updates, and I’m tired of only hitting the 16GB storage wall. (It’s really less than that with the system overhead.) Some people virtuously declare that they don’t even need 8GB. I’m happy for them. I’m not one of them. I have a lot of music, e-books, and other “stuff” I carry on my phones all the time. I need that extra space, and I wind up using it all.

I hope the N5 arrives before I have to leave for Boston. I want to really put it through its paces on a long road trip.

On the other hand, it would suck if I had to leave it on the front porch for a week while I’m gone…. I better call somebody to have them check my porch in case it doesn’t get here in time.

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