Sunday, 9 August 2015

The far east

So I've spent almost another week at RIKEN, Wako, in Saitama prefecture, Japan. Or Tokyo, if you prefer. Went on a little shopping trip in Ginza and Shinjuku today. No, not clothes or shoes, I bought two Platinum 3776 Century pens, and some lovely 15x15 cm2 origami paper. I'm very new to the fountain pen "scene", I decided only recently to improve my handwriting. Fortunately, Tokyo has a remarkable selection of fountain pens, and I spent quite some time oogling through panes of glass at every price range (3,200,000 JPY was the max I believe). I tested the one model I bought, the Sailor 1911 standard, and the Pilot Custom 74. Very similar and they look very much the same. My recommendation for other confused newcomers is to just throw the die and grab one, and enjoy actually writing. (My choice was based on a huge set of forums posts, which on average said that the Pilot is the most difficult when brand new, the Sailor is the scratchiest (confirmed), and the Platinum has the most reliable flow even after a very long time of no use). I also looked at calligraphy tools for copperplate, but that seems to be more comfortable to get online since it's really cheap stuff.

The food and drinks are lovely too of course, still my favorite.

That was my nerdy weekend in Tokyo, time to work properly again tomorrow!

EDIT (2015-08-22): Finally I tried karaoke in Japan! It all started with dinner like it always does, quite a few drinks, then a casual question related to karaoke, and things went bad (in a good way) very quickly. I still don't know how, after all the food, beers, shochu and sake, I managed to down that last pint of beer in one go in ~6 s that someone else could not finish after we figured that we should have left the room a minute earlier. Ran and waddled around town to find cash at a 7-11 and get back to RIKEN, and then pack, change accommodation, and work the morning after with a hangover and a constant feeling of sick... Oh well, some say I'm still young, seems like they're right. But I should probably not do this too much...

Bandai Perfect Grade Unicorn RX-0 + LED unit. Or Astray Red Frame. I want both :p

Friday, 17 July 2015

Friends from far away, suddenly really close by!

Time for yet another stint in the US! Just like last time I'm staying in the house of a good friend of mine, and they're all really nice. It always strikes me how nice people are when going to both the US and Japan, and it shows immediately already on the plane. It's strange they get so much hate from the rest of the world (also strange how that politeness and niceness produce huge national debts).

I went to Sweden for a bit for my 30th birthday, didn't think much of it. But I took care of my nephew a bit, and he's already a pro at micro-naps. He puts his head in a couch or on the floor for 3 s and he's fully recharged, ready for action. It was tiring, but a bit motivating, I need to find that energy inside myself again.

While in Sweden, I decided to stay off my laptop for a bit. My interest in computers is slowly disappearing. I need to finish the things I want to have finished, before who knows what happens :p

I finally got hold of the "missing" violin books I ordered when I was in Sweden. I'll read through the Bach sonata/partita book from time to time to boost my violin interest. Oh my, do I want to be able to play the BVW 1004 or what... And I'm still playing without the shoulder rest. I tried a few times with, and even though it gets easier for my left hand and I can hold up the violin with just my head, the rest of my body does not like it much. I like the freedom.

Going to Japan for another month, August. I _completely_ forgot about the to-scale Gundam statue, gonna see that.

Time to do stuff!

Monday, 15 June 2015

Doom 4

This warrants its own post.

Because it's not Doom 4. It's yet another swamp gas sucking reboot, and it has been named Doom. And it looks like rubbish. As expected.

Perfect, more time for playing the violin and programming my own things. I looked into the chin and shoulder rests on my violin yesterday, and after some research decided to throw away the shoulder rest. I was never (for the few months I've had the violin) comfortable with the setup, and eliminating one part of the problem should save me some money. So now that I won't have to buy 10 shoulder rests until I'm happy, I can focus on the chin rest. My shoulders are rather tall and far back, so I should get a chin rest that covers the tailpiece. Thinking about getting some doughy thing to put on the violin that I can depress with my chin to see what shape I should go for.

Playing without a shoulder rest comes with pros and cons (of course). I'll start with the one, single con: It's bleeding difficult. A minor con people might think of is that unless you're really "fleshy", you will not be able to keep the violin up only with your head, you have to provide support with your left hand. However, if the violin is under you chin, you're probably playing the thing, so the left hand should be on the violin anyway. Now for the several pros: one less thing to worry about (i.e. cheaper!), less "stuff" on the violin (improved tone according to some, definitely less weight to hold up), improved poise (no chance you can slouch), you are forced vehemently to relax (or fingering/vibrato will be impossible), left hand technique gets lighter and better (since you cannot grip anything due to the need to relax), and it's just the cooler way to play :p I like the simplicity of it, and if it comes with major benefits only for being much harder, then what's the problem? Ergonomics is as much about adapting as finding the perfect adapter.

Programming-wise, doing a lot at work and started a new unit tested widget toolkit for my htools repository. It only provides the logics, input and output (i.e. user events and drawing) have to be provided.


Saturday, 23 May 2015

Göteborgsvarvet, and Berlin

No, I did not actually participate in Göteborgsvarvet (pay for something that I can do for free?), but I did run remotely with my friends. Found a variant of a route I tend to run around GSI/FAIR, which included a repeating a long section once, but at least I never got lost. 21.4 km it seems. So how did it go? Well considering I got up at 11.30 or so, had oatmeal for a darn long time until 12.45, went off at 13.03, and finished at 14.42, I'd say quite ok. Ah yes, I had only done three exercise rounds (12.3, 13.2, and 14.x km) about a week and a half before this. So, the "official" time is 1h 37min 36s for 21,097 m. Maybe that'll get better next year.

But before that, just after the Ascension holiday, I went to Berlin for the first time in my life. The real reason was the last thing I'll mention, but I deciced to do some sightseeing as well and will tell about that in chronological order.

2015-05-15: Took the train(s) in the morning and arrived in Berlin at 15.30 or so. Walked through the city center and to my hotel, which was really close to Tiergarten, around which the most famous things are located. Relaxed a little, and went to the Dunkel Restaurant that I had heard about from Stephen Fry on QI, possibly on the program about Germany? Anyway, fun, kinda costly though. Food was fine, not at all brilliant. Great stuff if you have company, I'm sure. Contemplating the experience in solitude felt a bit weird, although some nearby tables did sound rather quiet at times. I thought I didn't need the camera (at least for that place I didn't), which was too bad since I walked through the city center again in the evening and should've taken some photos.

2015-05-16: Went to Potsdam, and esp. the big park where the Sanssouci Schloß is located. Very pretty around there, and I like to stroll around aimlessly so this place was perfect. Very big area of gardens, parks and old beautiful buildings, more to the French than the German style (hmm, sans souci might be a French expression ;) ). Spent most of the day there, went back and walked around the city. Found a French restaurant (Ganymede?) where I had veal kidney and sweetbreads. Lovely. I do feel bad for eating veal, I tend to avoid it, but I wanted to have veal sweetbreads at least once in my life... Pretty much it.

2015-05-17: Found a boat trip from the Hauptbahnhof up and down the Spree. It was very cold that morning, I had my jacket zipped all the way up and plugged it with my little head as far down as I could get it. I like boat trips, so still nice. Landed, went to the Sony center and watched Mad Imax (Mad Max on Imax, to the max). Great action-movie, not as warm as the old ones, but the action was top notch. And when will they stop f*cking around with fake 3D, I hate that sh!t! Ugh. Anyway, found a place to eat, walked around a bit, and then it was time for the big finale, the reason I went to Berlin.

Hilary Hahn performing the Beethoven violin concerto, with the Berliner Philharmoniker Orkester. Just, very good. Among the best things I've ever done. She gave a surprise performance of a piece of a Bach partita as well, very pretty much appreciated. Then something else afterwards with only the orchestra which felt like a very jumpy composition. The grace of Beethoven had me in trance still however, so all fine.

Anyhow, time to eat, might link some pictures later to give this post the beauty treatment it so deserves. Itadakimasu!

EDIT 2015-05-26: Learnt that Donald Duck will get a new car. Without the 313 number plate. *sigh* Dang it all to smell.
Anyhow, got me thinking about Donald Duck comics from my childhood, and for some unholy reason I'll just list some artists that I liked:

  1. Don Rosa - Because he's the Don.
  2. Carl Barks - Old-school heart-warming stories, but not as fantastic and engrossing as those of the Don.
  3. Bas / Mau Heymans - I never looked into the differences, but my goodness their drawings are hilarious.
  4. Marco Rota - Has the softest, most haunting and mystical style.
All the others have done a lovely job too, but I will forever remember the comics or certain pictures by the above artists. To think that I wanted to be a comic artist many many years ago... And a magician. In a way I'm glad those impulses passed.

Sunday, 26 April 2015

Life goes on

Nothing much new, except I've been to Sweden twice now, only a few weeks apart. One week in Värnamo with my family for Easter, now for two weeks to finish off the muon sculpture thing at Chalmers.

The weather was exquisite this Sunday in Göteborg, so I took a ride out to Saltholmen, had a long walk-about, and took some pix:

Sweden's really nice at times. I really would have loved to have taken the ferry, but I had booked a table a bit too early at a restaurant, so I had to get back downtown rather early.

I play the violin, the guitars, I do some coding. Oh right, I bought a pair of these, the slime-green variant:
Saucony Kinvara 5
I should have taken photos, I know, but I didn't. Maybe after my first run, I bought them when I was ill and I didn't get well until I went to Göteborg. Will buy some practice books for the violin next, apparently there's a place in this city where they sell some recommended books for relatively little.

Tired, it was a long day, will take a shower and sleep.

EDIT (2015-05-06 (0:24)): Folded a little 30 years present, made out of... 30 modules! Each module is made out of 2 papers however, so 60 papers. But still 30 modules, for the 30 edges of an icosahedron. Cut and folded the paper in my hotel room in Poseidon, Vasastan in Göteborg. Pex:

I need to sleep now.

Tuesday, 17 March 2015

Getting pummeled

I've been breaking my one-post-per-month rule lately, I suppose this is a way to make up for some of the lacking activity around here.

I finally threw my gamepad in the trash bin and installed DSFix + DSMFix, and made my way to the Undead Burg without too much trouble. And suddenly Dark Souls became incredibly good. Just for fun I made a new character and wasted the Asylum Demon on my first try (not yet on the first encounter, that will probably come later, and no black firebombs as a starting gift!). Currently trying to kill dark knights for gud lewt, but my parrying must have taken a dive. Did two in a row in the beginning, but suddenly I cannot do it anymore. Now that I know I should do light instead of heavy attacks after a successful parry.
Bottomline: Screw all of the people who say you must play with a gamepad, the game plays great with keyboard + mouse + fixes.

Playing the violin pretty much every day now until my neck hurts. Fortunately, all of my typing exercises at work keep my fingers and hands in shape so those parts are fine. I really do need to get a proper chinrest soon however, can't put a big wad of towely material on the violin forever. I'm almost able to play the first three Etüden from Wohlfahrt with good intonation all the way through again, the next step will be better bowing. It took just a few days to go from bowing all over the fingerboard (even when looking) to keeping the bow in the proper +-cm area. For 15 years, my 7 years of childhood playing was hiding deep down in my heart, and now I'm letting it blossom again. The big hurdle right now is to finally learn proper beautiful vibrato, which is the main reason my neck is clamping down on the violin like a vice. Ave Maria by Schubert...

Might start _the_ big origami project soon. Still thinking about whether to use one 1.5x1.5m^2 or two 2.0x1.0m^2 pieces. The big version would be magnificent, but I'm not sure if I would ever be able to forgive myself for the joint in the middle :p

I should order a Teensy and hack my HHKB, the warranty is over by now anyway. Would be great to have any flashed keyboard layout wherever I go with my HHKB. I read about an idea to use CTRL-tapping for ESC since I'm a vim:er, and that sounds incroyable. I should also finish my own keyboard layout optimizer, I have a scoring system which is rather different from most where Normal does very well, and I'd like to see what the optimal layout would be this way. The scoring is based on which would be the most comfortable key to press next, rather than which keys are most comfortable to press overall. The latter produces a lot of funny stretches and tension (Colemak...) which my scoring tries to eliminate.

Power is off in parts of the cave, cannot do much. So I did this. And thinking about what to topple on my todo-list.

Monday, 2 March 2015

Just getting out of jetlag...

So... Long delay was long.

Went to Japan. RIKEN, in Wako, Tokyo. Worked morning 'til evening almost every single day. A co-worker planned and I strung along for a single trip outside of Tokyo, to the bonsai village in Oomiya and a way too late sightseeing tour on foot of a few parts of Kawagoe. When I say "planned", I mean that after a few hours of walking around a diffuse area of a few square km we asked for directions in Japanese, and fortunately I knew just enough Japanese to pick out some keywords. The trip to the bonsai village took about 3x longer than expected, so it was pretty much dark when we arrived in Kawagoe.

I did go twice to Akihabara (of course), and tbh, that place is too nerdy for me. I know that sounds like a blatant lie -- I did enjoy trying all the amazing keyboards they make in Japan, and I bought two old SNES games in mint condition boxes for a friend of mine as a wedding gift -- but the other trip was much nicer... This was strictly business. I'm the producing kind of nerd, not the consuming kind.

And the food... Nostalgia and colors and delicate flavors and everything that is Japanese cuisine for me... The one thing I regret is that I didn't have enough of the shrimp snacks that I love so much. Another co-worker told me "these snacks were made for you, I can see it from the way you're eating them". And he's Japanese. I actually know _exatly_ how and where to put them into my mouth, infallibly, one after the other.

Calpis concentrate!

I also ordered a violin from a company in the UK while in Japan, a Romanian Gliga Gems 2. As mentioned in another post, I had picked up the violin back in my family home and enjoyed it so much I wanted to start playing again. The seller sent it to me immediately (after some nerdy requests from me, esp. that I wanted the original tailpiece and just a single fine-tuner on the E, like the professionals have it), but it took about 2 weeks until I had sorted out the payment, but now it's finally paid for. I'm practicing my vibrato at least every evening, together with intonation and some bowing that's become a bit shaky. I want to play so many songs now...

And the jetlag title. Well, ever since I came _to_ Japan, I've woken up at 4-5 o'clock in the morning. And this didn't stop until just yesterday. I've lived off of ~5h of sleep every night for over a month. I'm exhausted. For some other reasons as well, but, uh, not important (I know, you don't have to :p ). Anyhow, I've been practicing my vibrato some mornings at 6 o'clock as well, that was the point with this paragraph.

There's really a whole lot more to say about Japan even if I didn't go out much, but I think the best way to explain it is to force you to just go there. It's such a nice place. First day after I came back to Japan, I went into the GSI cantine and thought "open mind, fresh thoughts, let's enjoy German food!", read the first sign saying "Pommes Frites und Putenschnitzel" and then I turned around. Figuratively.

Pics because it all happened:

Fyi, Grim Fandango remastered.