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8/10/2016 Virginia

Now that I'm caught up on Washington, it's time to talk a bit about Virginia. But first, I'll be at Otakon this weekend (expect a travelogue about that too). Just for fun, nothing official. Maybe next year though... Anyway, if you're going to be there, feel free to say hi if you spot me.

August 4th - 9th (Thursday - Tuesday): Moving to Virginia
As described towards the end of my last Hawaii travelogue, I had to somewhat unexpectedly leave Hawaii. But I found a job in Fairfax, Virginia, so Connie and I packed up for the move. We stopped in Washington state for a couple of days on the way. Well, actually I was only there for a couple of days, Connie stayed behind a bit longer so should wouldn't have to spend too much timing roughing it in Virginia before the movers arrive.
Anyway, I left Washington Thursday afternoon but, due to the time difference, I didn't get to Virginia until pretty late. I had a hotel booked right near the airport, complete with a free shuttle, so that was easy.
Come Friday morning, it was time to make my way to my new apartment in Fairfax. Fairfax is only about half an hour from two major airports. I could have made it there super cheap via public transit (a combination of bus and metro), but I had three suitcases and a backpack (because of moving) and I didn't want to have to drag them all over the place. A lot of people worried that getting a taxi to the Fairfax would be super expensive, but I think they got carried away. I used uber, which only cost about $30, so I can't imagine a regular taxi would have been more than $50 or so. Once there, I got into my apartment would any trouble. It's a pretty nice one (far better than any apartments I had in the past). That said, it's certainly a downgrade from having my own house. Though, if things go well here, maybe in a year or so... If you're looking for pictures...I'm going to hold off on them until the furniture and stuff actually gets here since it's pretty bare right now. On that note, I fully expected that I might have to wait a week or two (possibly a little more) before the movers arrived. And that meant either buying a lot of redundant stuff, or roughing it for a while. I chose the latter. Unfortunately, I didn't have a car at that point either and, not wanting to spend a lot of money on uber rides, I decided to limit my early shopping to whatever was in walking distance. Fortunately, the apartment isn't that far from a good grocery story, a Walmart, and the like. The bigger limitation was what I could actually manage to carry back from the stores. I can walk for miles, no problem. Carrying heavy shopping bags for long distances, however, is tough. So I spent most of the day unpacking and running to some stores. Found a pretty good pizza place nearby too, and some local ice cream. The really good news was that my car arrived a lot earlier than planned. I was originally not expecting it until late the following week but I got a call while in Washington estimating a Saturday delivery and then I got a call on Friday offering to deliver it around midnight. Unfortunately, the delivery guys must not have had a good GPS and, when they called me to say that they were at my building, they were actually a couple of blocks off and I spent quite a while wandering around before I found them. But I eventually got my car, which would make things a lot simpler going forward.
Saturday being shabbat, I didn't really do too much. Checked out the services at nearby synagogue and then hung around the apartment and did some reading.
Come Sunday, I was ready to do all the shopping I couldn't do on Friday. Namely, stores that were too far to walk and stuff that I couldn't carry long distances (like an air mattress, so I wouldn't have to keep sleeping on the floor). It also gave me a chance to start exploring my surroundings a bit more. My first stop was a nearby farmers' market I heard about. It wasn't very big, but there were a lot of vegetables and some fruit. I should probably enjoy the farmers' markets while I can since, unlike in Hawaii, they don't run year around here. I also walked around old Fairfax a little, since I passed through it. Turns out there's a comic store there, which is good to keep in mind for the future... After that it was a bit of a blur of shopping. Bed Bath & Beyond, Whole Foods, Costco (note to self, never go to the Costco here on a weekend), etc. I also checked out the various plazas and stuff I passed along the way (gotta learn what's where) and tried Yemani food, which was pretty good. On that note, I'll probably start doing some restaurant reviews for this area sooner or later, but not today. I might start them again soon, or I might take a break for a while. We'll see.
I was a bit burned out after all the shopping, so I decided to mostly stay home on Monday and focus on something else on my to-do list, updating all my shipping and billing addresses. That went...mostly well. There were a couple that gave me problems. By the time I finished, it was late afternoon and I was sick of sitting around in front of my computer. Since the sun sets pretty late here, I decided to walk to a nearby shopping plaza I'd been wanting to check out. It was a pleasant walk, and I made good time, so I decided to keep going and check out the shopping mall as well. While the mall here looks rather plain and boring from the outside, the selection of stores is more what you'd see in a moderately fancy one. It has some nice restaurants too, though I decided to keep it cheap and try a local burger chain that features grass-fed beef (always a plus). It was pretty good, though with both a Smash Burger and a Red Robin nearby, I've got a lot of choices when it comes to hamburgers. Might have to visit them all a couple of times to decide on favorite...
And that brings us to Tuesday, my DMV day. Fortunately, there's a DMV office in the mall. I got there right about when it opened, but there was already a long line. It moved pretty quickly though, at least at first, and I'd gotten all my forms filled out and signed the night before. Unfortunately, they had a state wide issue with their computer network that started when I was about half way through the line and really slowed things down, turning what would have probably been one hour into a bit over two. As far as the license and registration process here... Well, I didn't need to bring as many documents as I did in Hawaii, though I did still need my social security card and they require quite a lot of information to get a vehicle title. But both the license and registration fees here are way cheaper than in Hawaii (which always struck me as rather expensive). They do, however, require you to get annual safety and emission inspections for you car (one of the few states that does). The web site made it sound like you had to get them before you could register your car, so I was actually expecting to make two trips to the DMV. Turns out, I was able to register my car right then regardless, so long as I got the inspections within 30 days, which was a welcome surprise. The problem is that they don't tell you where you can get the inspections (the lady at the DMV didn't even know). So that became my afternoon project. But first, since things took so long as the DMV, and I had to go looking for a service station afterwards, I tried out a sushi buffet at the mall and was pleasantly surprised by both the quality and price. So far I haven't seen any kaitenzushi (conveyor belt sushi) around here, but I think that place will make a good substitute. After some driving around, checking out different areas, and doing some searching online, I finally managed to find a place to get my inspections done. And, after that, it was time to call it a day. Only one item on my moving to-do list to go and then it's off to Otakon!

Random Virginia Comment: License Plates
To be blunt, the normal Virginia license plate is about as boring as you can get. Black on white with no design or anything. Honestly, I think they do that on purpose since the state offers an utterly ridiculous 200+ different designer plates that you can choose from for a small fee. Quite a big difference from the one or two designer plates I'm used to seeing in many other states. You can even order them online as souvenirs, without a car, and hang them on your wall or something. Since the normal plate was so dull, I decided to spring for a designer plate for the first time ever. Though, at only $10 a year, it wasn't much of an expense, especially considering how much cheaper car registration is here compared to Hawaii.


8/8/2016 Seattle

Well, I'm in Virginia, I've got internet, my car, and I've got almost all my basic shopping done. What I'm missing is furniture, and a whole lot of other things. I don't have a date from the movers yet (though probably sometime in the next week or two), and I don't want to buy stuff that I already have. Anyway, after totally roughing it for a couple days, I did get an air mattress and a chair yesterday, which helps a lot. But I'll talk more about Virginia in the future. For now, I've got one more travelogue entry for Washington state.

August 3rd (Wednesday): Seattle
My family isn't in Seattle itself, but a smaller town nearby. We could have driving into Seattle but there's a toll bridge and, like most big cities, parking can be a pain, so we took the ferry. Plus, there's the view and everything. Interesting note, taking the ferry into Seattle is free, they only charge when you take the ferry out of Seattle. A little odd, but I guess they figure that if you go one way you'll probably go the other as well, and it saves them the trouble of hiring ticket takers on both sides. It was kind of cold and cloudy at the start, but the sun began to come out by the time we drew close to Seattle itself.
When we disembarked, we happened to see a policeman training a dog to sniff out bombs or drugs or something. At least I think it was training. Not sure why they were doing it at the ferry terminal, but it was kind of interesting to see. Anyway, Noah (my brother) and Hannah (his wife) had a loose itinerary planned so we headed off. From walking around, Seattle seems like a fairly nice city. Clean, neat, and somewhat hilly (though nothing like San Francisco in that regard). Out first stop was the gum wall. Yes, you heard that right. It's a wall where people stick gum. Well, actually, it's not one wall but an entire alley. Not exactly my choice of attractions but it was kind of fascinating, though disgusting at the same time. The whole place even smelled like gum...
Moving on, we came across the first Starbucks...or not. Actually, it was a newer location done up to look like the first Starbucks (complete with the first Starbucks exclusive merchandise). Presumably, the goal is to help reduce the lines at the real first Starbucks, which we came across a bit later in the day. Didn't go in though, since we probably would have had to wait in line for an hour.
Instead, we spent some time wandering around Pike's Place Market. It's a famous indoor farmer's market and crafts fair of sorts. It's pretty big (we didn't see the whole place) and has quite a lot of variety, including a number of local products. It was fun to walk around and we ate at a Persian restaurant inside. It was my first time trying Persian food, though my dad's been big on it lately. At his recommendation, I got a pomegranate chicken stew of sorts. I can't say it was a favorite, but it wasn't bad either and it was certainly unique. They also had kabobs, which were more typical Mediterranean fare.
Aside from the first Starbucks, there were some other really popular shops and restaurants in the area with pretty long lines. One was a seafood stall where they occasionally toss fish to each other, another was a chowder restaurant, and there was also a cheese shop (I tried some at their airport location the following day, it was really good). There was also a pretty impressive street performer hanging out nearby.
After leaving the market area, we made our way towards the Space Needle. It's actually not as tall as I would have thought, and is somewhat dwarfed by Seattle's less iconic skyscrapers. In the end, we decided not to go up to the top and went to the nearby Chihuly Museum instead. If you're not familiar with Chihuly, he's an artist whose primary focus is glasswork, a lot of which is very large, colorful, and detailed. The museum starts out with a series of rooms, each dedicated to a particular piece or theme, before opening up into a large glass chamber and, finally, a flower garden with glasswork interspersed. I've seen Chihuly's work several times before, at various locations, and it's always impressive and beautiful, if sometimes a bit weird. While the museum isn't huge, it has a large variety of interesting pieces and we enjoyed slowly making our way through.
Once we'd finished in the museum, we started making our way back to the ferry, with a stop at Starbucks (we were in Seattle after all), albeit a normal one that wasn't super crowded. Since the weather had improved, the ride back had better views, including a hazy glimpse of Mt. Rainier in the distance.
While it wasn't a full day, I got a decent feel for Seattle, which strikes me as a pretty nice city with a good culinary scene and a lot of things to see and do. I can certainly see why people like it, despite the weather, and wouldn't mind exploring more in the future.
That, however, will have to wait since I left Washington the next day. But that's a story for another travelogue...

Random Washington Comment: Weather
Everyone I've ever talked to who lives or has lived in Washington state says that it has really great weather...for about three months of the year. The rest of the time it's cloudy, rainy, and cold, though much of the state doesn't actually get all that much snow. Being early August, I was there in the summer and what is supposed to be kind of the height of the good weather. But that's not really what it felt like. The days (though I was only there for like two and a half of them) started out with overcast skies and cool temperatures (to the point where some people would want jackets). By late morning or so the clouds were clear and everything would be bright, sunny, and warm. Though even then, it never got "summer" warm / hot and there were often cool breezes. Really, it felt more like fall weather to me. Then, come night, it would cool down quite a bit. If you hate the heat, that might sound great but, if that's really as warm as its gets in the summer, it would certainly make me think twice about moving there, especially considering that most of the year it's supposed to be dark and cool the whole time. But, when it comes to weather, I suppose there are pros and cons just about everywhere, even Hawaii.



8/3/2016 Stopping in Washington

Connie and I are currently on a stop over in Washington (the state) on our way to Virginia. I've got a travelogue entry coming up but first, just a reminder that I'm not entirely sure what my internet situation will be like for the next few days, so there may or may not be updates on Friday and Monday.

August 2nd (Tuesday): Berries and Yak
My parents, brother, and sister-in-law recently moved to Washington state so Connie and I decided to make a stop-over there on our way to Virginia. We arrived yesterday night and I'll be heading out on Thursday. Connie will be here for a while longer (she's hoping to arrive in Virginia after our furniture, while I'll be roughing it for a little while. Anyway, since I only really have two days here, we're spending them doing some touring. Tomorrow is Seattle but today we went to Sequim, a rural area two or three hours outside Seattle.
Our first stop, a berry farm! Now I love berries and I also love picking them but haven't had the chance to do so for years. And this was Connie's first time going berry picking. They had quite a big variety. Raspberries are a little out of season here, but there were still some blackberries and lots of blueberries, even some boysenberries and logan berries (which I'd never had before). That was a lot of fun, and I'll be eating tons of berries over the next couple of days. I wonder if any are still in season in Virginia...
Then it was off to Olympic Game Farm, an animal park. Interesting side note, they used to provide trained show animals for use in Disney movies then, when that business dried up, started the farm to take care of the retired animals. The main part is a self-guided driving tour (though you have to pay by person, rather than by car, which is a little annoying). Anyway, after getting tickets, and buying a loaf or two of surprisingly cheap whole wheat bread, you're off. Basically, you drive through open animal habitats while feeding them bread. First up, yak! Despite trying yak milk, yogurt, and meat when I was in Yunnan last year, I don't remember seeing live ones before (though I might have at a zoo at some point). Anyway, the yak (or is it "yaks"?) were cool. They hang out by the road and will walk up to your windows and eat bread out of your hand. There were even some babies. After the yak, we came across some llamas, which turned out to be rather snobbish. They refused our bread, but did eat some from another car. There was a zebra too, though it unfortunately wasn't in the mood for bread at the moment. Then there were some birds scattered about. Some were pretty normal, but there were a lot of peacocks, including babies. After that, we came across the park's most famous animals, Kodiak bears. The bears are trained and will sometimes even wave to you. Naturally, they can't come right up to the cars, but you can still feed them. Leaving the bears behind, we came across some elk. They were a little more aggressive and would stick their heads into the windows, hoping for bread. But they had nothing on the bison. You're actually not supposed to stop when you're in the areas with the elk and bison, probably because they'd swarm the car and you'd neve be able to get anywhere. Anyway, the bison were fun to feed but they were really aggressive and would stick their heads and long tongues way into the car if you let them. It got a little crazy at some points. There were some cute European deer mixed in as well, though they were more mellow, only coming up to the car after the bison had lost interest. There were also a few other animals, which you couldn't feed, in cages such as tigers and emu. Driving through and feeding all the animals was a lot of fun and that's the main point of the park, though they also had a small reptile house and aquarium, along with a few other animals including a couple of very cool birds and a goat with a pretty amazing beard.
It was a really fun day and I'd definitely recommend Olympic Game Farm (and berry picking, if it's that time of year) to anyone in the area. As a side note, the one thing I didn't talk about was the weather here. I do have some things to say about it, but I think I'll save that for a Random Washington Comment to go with tomorrow's travelogue entry.


8/1/2016 Goodbye to Hawaii

Well, today's the day... Connie and I are leaving Hawaii. I might slip in a few more restaurant reviews later on but, with that possible exception, I'll be wrapping up my Hawaii travelogue today. At least until I come back on vacation or something, though that probably won't be for at least a year, possibly longer. For now, it's off to Washington state to visit my family, though only for a couple of days (for my, anyway, Connie is staying a bit longer) as I'll be flying to Virginia on Thursday. I'll likely do a short travelogue about Washington, since we'll be doing some touring there, and Virginia will naturally get a travelogue as well. Though all that might have to wait until next week. I'll probably be able to update the site on Wednesday but Friday and next Monday are rather uncertain. And, even if I am able to update, I might not have time to write much, so we'll see. But anyway, on to the travelogue...

August 1st (Monday): Goodbye Hawaii
It's been just a little over two years since I moved to Hawaii and now it's time to leave. I've lived in a lot of different places, especially over the past 10 years or so. Sometimes, when it's comes time to leave, I've been perfectly ready (or even eager) to move on. Others, I just find myself wishing that I'd had more time. And this is definitely one of the latter. Despite the high cost of living and some issues with the local government and the like (see some of my previous travelogue entries), I've really enjoyed living here. I'm going to miss being so close to both the mountains and the beach. I'm going to miss all the shopping and restaurants (especially all the really authentic Asian ones). I'm going to miss the excellent weather. And I'm going to miss the steady stream of festivals and other special events. On a more personal note, I'm also going to miss living close to my parents. While they only spent about half the year in Hawaii, they don't spend any time living near the eastern US. The list could go on and on, but that's a few things anyway.
And, while I'm glad I was here to see the new Shirokiya, I'm a bit disappointed that I won't be around for the opening of the new shopping malls (including one that's right where I lived), another Japanese themed food court, and the light rail. Then again, I could probably stay here another five years and still not be around for the opening of the light rail the way they're going...
Then there's my job. Which, aside from the issues with a certain dubious senior administrator and my contract renewal, I really enjoyed. Honestly, it's my favorite job so far, with the possible exception of my first teaching job in Japan.
On the plus side, I think I really made the most of my time here. Well, I didn't get to do a ton of things this year with all that was going on, but I really have seen and done a lot. Though, even with all that, there are a few things on my list I never got around to. For example, I never made it to the mission house, planation village, or Sealife Park. Not to mention a bunch of hikes and restaurants. I'd also wanted to make some short trips to all the other islands, but in the end I only managed to do the Big Island with my family. I really wanted to go to Maui too... Well, I'll probably get my chance eventually, at least for some of those things. On a related note, I'd also always planned to get a board and get more into surfing. Guess it's a good thing I didn't...
Anyway, I did get to do most of the things on my list. And, if the current offer on my home goes through, I should more or less break even on living here. So, despite all the extra work and stress of two long distance moves (especially one that I was more or less forced into), I'm glad I moved here, even if it wasn't for nearly as long as I hoped. Living here has been amazing and, while I don't know if I'll ever be able to do it again, if nothing else, I'll certainly be coming back from time to time. Goodbye, Hawaii. It's been great and I'm sorry I couldn't stay longer.


7/29/2016 A few more days...

Use the TWC button to vote and see the new bonus comic!

I have to say, as much of a pain as moving is, this move really has gone about as smoothly as possible so far (well, other than the movers charging me more than I think they should have). My house even got an offer (at asking price) just a few days after going on the market. Of course, it's not going to close for around a month, but that's still pretty impressive. Now, if the car, furniture, and everything can just arrive in Virginia on time and without any losses or damage, it'll all be good. I'll try to do my farewell to Hawaii travelogue post on Monday, though it might get pushed back to Wednesday depending how things go. I've been thinking of doing a last two or three restaurant reviews as well. Today though, I'm just going to keep things quick. Yesterday was productive but very busy and I could use a rest.

Have a good weekend!


7/27/2016 Living in Hawaii

Aside from working through various things on my to-do list and watching a whole lot of Lost (Connie is really hooked), I've been trying to do a few things to take advantage of my last bit of time in Hawaii. Walking around and visiting some favorite restaurants mostly, but I also did some snorkeling and spent some time at the beach. I am going to miss living here. Less than a week to go now...

Speaking of which, I'll be leaving Hawaii next week. PV will update normally on Monday and probably (though not 100%) Wednesday. Friday and the following Monday, however, are a bit more uncertain depending on how smoothly things go when I get to Virginia.

Moving on, I've got some RHCs for you...

Random Hawaii Comment: State Government
I don't normally talk about governments, state or otherwise. And, as is abundantly clear, every government has its share of problems. But one thing I've noticed living in Hawaii, compared to every other state I've lived in, is just how dysfunctional the local government is here. Despite the fact that every tax except sales tax is through the roof, the government here just can't seem to get things done. Every big project, even the ones that are supposed to be high priority and fast tracked, gets bogged down, running way over budget and years behind schedule. Just look at the light rail, or the recent initiative to add air conditioning to more school classrooms. There's a lot of reasons behind things like that. Horribly inaccurate cost estimates, attempts to cram a bunch of extra stuff into projects, too many unions and special interest groups, way too much time and money spent on studies instead of actually doing anything, etc., etc. Not all can be blamed on the government itself, but quite a lot can. Heck, even when they have more than enough money, they still can't seem to get things done. The state government actually got in trouble with the federal government not long ago for failing to spend a large portion of the money they'd been given for road work, despite a massive amount of roads needing repair. And even privately funded projects tend to hit a ridiculous amount of red tape, drastically slowing them down or throwing them into limbo. Then there's all the corruption scandals from many different departments (mayoral, finance, education, health care, police, even ethics and oversight). Then there's the ridiculous stuff like how one certain government department was eating up a notable chunk of the entire state's internet bandwidth since everyone was streaming stuff on Netflix every day instead of actually doing their jobs.
Something else that really doesn't help is that there's a notable chunk of the populace, both government and regular citizens, who are extremely resistant to change. Anything new or different, regardless of how much better it might be, is met with a massive amount of scepticism, if not outright hostility. And if that thing comes from the mainland US, it's even worse. There's a strong Hawaiian sense of identity here, at least among some, which isn't necessarily a bad thing, but often gets channeled into an anti-anything not Hawaiian sentiment. And, once again, a very strong resistance to change, not matter how beneficial it may be.
So, while there are a lot of great things about living in Hawaii, the highly dysfunctional state government certainly isn't one of them. Hopefully it'll improve over time as different people get elected and laws get changed but, for now, it's got a lot of issues that probably won't be cleared up any time soon.

Random Hawaii Comment: Living in Hawaii
So, after two years, what do I think of living in Hawaii? Well, first off, the good points. You've got what's probably the most consistent nice weather year around, there's great beaches, and great hiking. If you like the outdoors, and aren't a big winter sports lover, this is really one of the best places to be. There's also a vibrant mix of cultures, great shopping and dining, and one of the strongest Asian influences you can find outside of Asia itself (at least on Oahu, the other islands don't really match up in those regards). And, in general anyway, people are friendly and helpful.
On the down side, taxes, and the cost of living in general (especially housing and utilities) is extremely high. Job opportunities are limited unless you're in a few specific fields, which is a bad combination with the high cost of living. The local government is a mess, there's a strong resistance to any sort of change (even very positive ones), and there are some people (not a majority by any means, but some) who harbor a strong bias against those who weren't born and raised in Hawaii. Not to mention the big homeless problem, the horrible traffic, and few other issues. Finally, leaving the islands is both time consuming and expensive.
So, with all that said, I really loved living in Hawaii. Maybe I would have gotten a bit stir crazy after a few years on a relatively small island but, then again, with so much to see and do, maybe not. I certainly wasn't fond of the high cost of living, but I loved all the outdoor stuff, he events and festivals, and the variety of shops and restaurants (especially the Japanese ones). However, if any of you are thinking of living in Hawaii, make sure you know what you're getting into. Don't even think of moving here unless you have a job lined up (it's way too expensive and work in some fields is too hard to find) and make sure you know what you're going to be getting into. Look into the cost of living, especially in regards to housing (preferably near where you're going to work, unless you want to deal with the extreme rush hour traffic, and make sure that you'll be able to support your lifestyle off of whatever salary you'll be getting. You may also want to spend some time on whichever island you're thinking of moving to before hand. Ideally a few weeks, but even a few days is better than nothing. Get a feel for the island and the culture so you know whether or not it's a place you'd be comfortable living. And, finally, don't forget about the moving expenses, which can be pretty high.
There's a lot of great things about living in Hawaii, but there are drawbacks as well, some of which are pretty significant, so it's not a good fit for everyone. But, if you like the lifestyle, can manage to find a decent (and hopefully stable) job, and have a bit of money set aside in case things go wrong, go ahead and give it a shot.


7/25/2016 Pokémon Go

Well, I've had a chance to spend a decent amount of time with Pokémon Go, so I'll take a break from travelogue stuff today to talk about it. By now, whether or not you've played Pokémon Go, you've almost certainly heard about it. Whether how it's been breaking all sorts of mobile game and app records, or how it's led to some people causing trouble and/or getting into trouble. First, the basics. Pokémon Go is a mobile game developed by Nintendo's Pokémon Company division and Niantic, a mobile developer known for their alternate reality mobile game Ingress. Actually, Pokémon Go borrows a lot from Ingress, but anyway... When you first start, you link it to either your Pokémon Network ID or Google / Apple account, create a trainer (with very limited customization options), and choose your starting pokémon from bulbasaur, charmander, and squirtle. Unlike in the regular pokémon games, your choice doesn't really matter much since you'll be constantly replacing your pokémon with stronger ones as you catch them. And catching new pokémon is most of the game. Pokémon Go presents you with a map of your surroundings (GPS needs to be on to play the game). There are three things you can find on the map. The first are pokéstops, which tend to be located at points of interest (notable buildings and businesses, statues, fountains, murals, etc.). If you're standing close enough to one, you can tap on it and spin the image around to get a few random items (pokéballs, potions, etc.). Pokéstops have to recharge between uses, but the time is fairly short (several minutes) so you can hang out near one and farm items for a while if you want to. Next is gyms. They're also centered around points of interest and, while they're fairly common, there are far fewer gyms than pokéstops. Upon reaching trainer level 5, you join one of three teams and can either train at and help defend a gym belonging to your team, or challenge and try to take over a gym belonging to a rival team. Finally, wild pokémon will periodically appear on the map. Tap one and the game brings up a view of your surroundings (using your phone's camera). Look around and you'll spot the pokémon (bringing them into real life, sort of) and can try and capture it. Capturing pokémon is pretty simple, just swipe to throw a pokéball (you do need to aim a little) and hope it works. Though you can get a little fancy with your throws (aiming for good timing or adding spin) to increase your chances and get some bonus experience points if you want. You can also pull up a list of nearby pokémon and try to walk around to different locations and track them down, though I've never gotten the tracker to work right. You can also use certain items on yourself, or a pokéstop, to make pokémon appear more frequently.
And that's most of the game. Walk around, get items from pokéstops, and catch pokémon (right now, the original 151, minus legendries and ditto, are available). And you want to catch lots of pokémon. Even if you've already caught 50 pidgys, catching another will get you experience, stardust, and candy. Experience, which you get for doing pretty much everything, increases your trainer level. The higher your level, the better items you can get and the more powerful the pokémon you can encounter (though still expect a ton of weak pidgy and ratata). You can power up and/or evolve your pokémon using stardust and candy, though in most cases it's way more efficient to wait until you level up a bit and just catch some stronger ones (unlike in the regular Pokémon games).
The other part of the game is gym battling. Though the battles mostly come down to tapping on the screen as fast as you can (with the occasional swipe to dodge if you can get the timing right) and winning either through sheer power or attrition. Don't expect a lot of depth or strategy. Do training battles at a gym your team owns and you increase its prestige and might even be able to leave a pokémon there to help defend it (giving you occasional free stuff). Battle an opposing gym to lower its prestige and eventually take it over. Gyms tend to change hands pretty quickly, as even someone with weaker pokémon can take them down via a war of attrition (assuming they have enough items on hand to heal their pokémon after battle), especially when attacked by a group.
A few warnings. First, remember not to do anything you wouldn't do normally. Don't trespass, stop in the middle of the road, or walk around dangerous areas. Second, Pokémon Go drains your phone's battery very quickly, even in power saving mode, so expect to charge your phone often and bring a portable charger if you plan to be out playing for a long time. Finally, the way the map is populated, you'll find lots of gyms and pokéstops in cities, but little to nothing in rural areas, so you might not have much to do if you try playing while in the country. I should probably also mention that Pokémon Go is very buggy game (no, I'm not talking about bug pokémon). While it has steadily improved since launch, the servers still go down frequently and it's not at all uncommon for the game to free, stop responding to taps, and the like.

Over all, Pokémon Go is very different, and much more simplistic, than the main games, though that's not necessarily a bad thing. There's something special about tracking down and catching pokémon in real life (now they just need to combine it with Google Glass of the Microsoft Hololens), and the game encourages you to walk around and explore your surroundings (whether to find pokémon, visit gyms and pokéstops, or hatch eggs), which is pretty cool. It may even lead you to some interesting locations you've never visited before. Not to mention all the opportunities it presents to meet other players. As a nice bonus, micro-transactions are in no way necessary (you can buy extra pokéballs and other items), providing a useful service without imposing any real hardship on players who don't want to spend money. Whether or not you're a pokémon fan, I'd recommend giving it a shot for a few days and trying out life as a pokémon trainer.


7/22/2016 Enjoying Hawaii

Remember to vote with the TWC button to see the new bonus comic!

While there has been a lot to get done before the move, I'm trying to do a few fun things as well, so here's a couple more normal travelogue entries.

July 17th (Sunday): The Ukulele Festival
The Ukulele Festival is an annual event held at Kapiolani Park at the end of Waikiki. There's a handful of booths with food and ukuleles for sale, but it's mainly a day to listen to a variety of ukulele performances. I went last year for a while with my parents and this year I went down for a couple of hours on my own. I mostly went to see Willie K, one of the more famous ukulele players. He played a mix of Hawaiian music, classic rock, and some other stuff. While he's not as creative and as high energy as Jake Shimabukuro (who wasn't there this year), he's still really skilled. Despite a little rain, it was fun to watch and listen for a while, though I doubt I could last all day without getting bored.
On an unrelated note, there was a big rainbow later in the day, which actually continued over the canal rather than stopping at the ground. First time I'd seen that, and pretty cool.

July 19th (Tuesday): The Full Moon at Makapu'u Lighthouse
I've done the Makapu'u Lighthouse hike multiple times, and written about it as well. Anyway, it's also popular as a night hike, especially when there's a full moon. Though, as a note, they close the parking lot around 7:30 so you'll want to park on the side of the road instead. I've tried to do the full moon hike a couple of times in the past but I seem to have a knack for picking the full moons when its too cloudy to see anything, so I gave up both times. Well, since I'm moving soon, I decided to give it one more go. Unfortunately, my luck hadn't improved all that much.
Anyway, I arrived around dusk and started up the trail. There were a decent amount of people, and I think about half were Pokémon Go players. Surprisingly enough, there were a few pokéstops and a couple of gyms on the trail. Aside from pokémon, I also spotted a mongoose and feral cat on the way up. It was dark by the time I reached the top. Unfortunately, due to a mix of clouds and haze, I couldn't see the moon at all. Though I did get to see the lighthouse all lit up. The moon did eventually peak out, though not for very long, and all the haze made it look rather like a blood moon. Kind of neat, but not really the full moon hike I wanted. Ah well, maybe I'll try again next time I'm in Hawaii, whenever that is.

Have a good weekend!


7/20/2016 Moving

So far, I've spent most of this week running back and forth between my parents' condo and my house to get things ready for the move, but most of that's finished now, so things will be calming down. Expect some more touristy travelogue entries on Friday. Today though, here's a bit more about moving.

Random Hawaii Comment: Moving Away from Hawaii
Moving from Hawaii to the mainland US is a lot like moving from the mainland to Hawaii. In a nutshell, it's expensive and a lot of extra work since Hawaii is a chain of islands in the middle of the ocean. You can't just load up a car or moving van and drive to your new home, you've got to have everything shipped by boat (well, air freight might be an option if you're rich) to California, and then transported by land from there to wherever you're moving. That includes your personal possessions (unless you can fit them all in a couple suitcases to take on the plane), furniture (if you have nice furniture, it's still more cost effective to ship it than to buy new stuff), and your car (if you have one). On the bright side, shipping things from Hawaii seems to be a bit cheaper than shipping them to Hawaii for some reason. Unless it's just the difference in gas prices since my last move. Also, since living in Hawaii means you're guaranteed to be living near a port, you can actually arrange a specific date for the movers to come get your stuff (rather than the vague "sometime within a week or so" range I was giving in Florida) and you can drop off your car whenever you want (though keep in mind that the port in Oahu is a couple miles away from the nearest bus station, so have a friend or a taxi or something ready). You still do need to pack your stuff well (unless you want the movers to do it) and make an estimate about the cubic footage, which is what you're billed on. I measured everything very carefully this time around, but the movers still said I was way under (a claim I'm a bit dubious about) and charged me extra for it. Still, if you over estimate, you have to pay for the estimated amount, not the actual one, so you pretty much lose either way. As for the car, it needs to be washed, empty, and very low on gas.
Finding a house or apartment can be a pain since, unless you have friends or family there who can help, you need to either make arrangements sight unseen, or take a trip out there just to do apartment / house hunting, which can be kind of expensive. And, when you do have a place to live, keep in mind that it can take 1 - 2 months for your stuff to get shipped there so, whether you're staying in Hawaii until the last minute or moving early, you'll be stuck without your car, furniture, and everything else for while.
This time around, I also had to list my house (and all the things that entails). And then there's all the usual moving stuff like changing your address a zillion a times. So yeah, moving in general is a lot of work and expense, but when you throw Hawaii into the mix it increases both of those, especially the expense.


7/18/2016 Preparing to leave

I'm rapidly working my way through my pre-move to-do list. So, let's talk a little bit about why...

July: Getting Ready to Leave Hawaii
After about two years living in Hawaii, and a bit less than that in my house, it's almost time to move back to the mainland. While the weekend of July 10th was when everything started to kick into high gear, this is something that's been coming for quite a while. I can't go into all the details. Well, I suppose I could. Honestly, I rather want to. But, in the interest of being professional, I'll leave some things unsaid. Long story short, I moved here a couple years ago to start a game design program at University of Hawaii - West Oahu. And it got off to a good start. Enrollment was good, students loved my classes, and I was getting along well with my co-workers (who also gave some good feedback on my work). So what happened? The way the system is at UH, after two years you come up for your first contract renewal. According to everyone I talked to, and all university precedent, the first contract renewal is pretty much a sure thing, assuming you've been doing your job. It's mostly just for checking in and giving you advice on what you should focus on in your next two years. Last fall, the program was going well, my job performance was good, and I got a positive recommendation from my contract renewal committee and department head, so I wasn't really worried.
Then came mid-January when I got the official notice and everything started to fall apart. Since I got hired, the university had a lot of changes in upper management and one of those newer higher-ups decided to go against all precedent and make a unilateral decision to ignore the committee recommendation and refuse my contract renewal. Why? I'm still not entirely sure. I was given an official reason, but it was very clearly bogus. The administrator in question even said the reason was invalid when questioned by various faculty groups, but never offered any alternative. I wasn't the only professor targeted either. At first, I was sure it was a misunderstanding and that I could explain things and work it out. But, as the situation persisted and others began to side with me and get involved (to no affect, unfortunately), it became clear that this person would not change their decision and it was either due to some secret personal agenda or back room politics.
While there were some recourses I could take to try to get the decision overturned, they take a lot of time and, despite how dubious the entire thing was, there was no guarantee that things would play out my way since the decision was technically, more or less, that person's to make. Actually, at this point, that process is still underway. But, I couldn't really afford to just wait around for months when there's no guarantee I'll get my job back so I began a job search and ended up finding a new position (more on that another time). Unfortunately, I wasn't able to find anything in Hawaii (at present, game development on the islands is almost nonexistent), which means moving back to the mainland US.
Am a happy about this? No, not really. The new job and location have their good points, so I'll make the best of it. And hey, in the long run, I may even like it better there. But I enjoyed both living here in Hawaii and my job at UHWO, and I had planned to stay for at least a couple more years, possibly quite a lot longer. Not to mention that the entire situation really gets me. If I had been denied renewal for a legitimate reason that would have been one thing, but all the deceit and double talk... Sigh... Anyway, I did all I could, and I'm going to see my appeal here to the end on principle if nothing else, even though I've already decided to move on.

July 5th: My House
Before I start writing about the whole moving process, I want to jump back a few days, get a bit self indulgent, and talk a little bit about my house one last time. It's the first house I ever owned and I really loved it and put a lot of work into improving it, picking out the right furniture, and making it what I always wanted (well, within reason; my real dream house would be a custom built mansion). So here's one last look at it from before Connie and I started packing everything.
While there isn't too much of a front yard, it had a patch of birds of paradise, which are one of my favorite flowers. The guest room was right inside. Connie and I had both hoped to have a bunch of our friends visit, but that unfortunately never really happened. Just wasn't enough time, I guess. Moving on, we have the kitchen. I really liked the kitchen. I love to cook, when I have time, and having all the drawers, cabinets, and counter space was awesome. The dining room and living room were nice too. All the windows were great, though it left less room on the wall for pictures. At least I get to keep the furniture. Anyway, moving on, here's the master bedroom. Had a large attached bathroom and closest too. Once Connie and I got married, I'd intended to get a dresser to complete things, but had to put it on hold since we would likely be moving. Upstairs had a large room which I set up as an office, complete with all my figurines. Had I known that I wouldn't even have the house for two years, I probably wouldn't have spent so much time arranging them all... I had intended to eventually turn the other half of the room into a lounge of sort, moving up the TV from downstairs (after getting a bigger one for the living room), hooking up my older game consoles, and putting in some recliners or beanbags or something, but I never really had the chance... Then there's the third bedroom, which I turned in a library (a room I always wanted). There was a decent bit of empty space in there too, which I had been thinking of turning into a sitting area, extra bedroom, or maybe a LEGO area. And, finally, we have the back yard. The plumeria tree was there from the beginning, but I added the dwarf coconut and the papaya and lilikoi in this photo. Then there's my Buddha's hand, the first thing I planted in the back yard not too long after I moved in. It was only a couple of feet tall at the start, but it really took off. Got a few flowers too, though unfortunately I all my trees were too young to get any fruit yet.
And that's the house, or at least the highlights. There are a lot of things I'll miss about my life here and the house is a really big one...


7/15/2016 Packed

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Well, it took more boxes, tape, and bubble wrap than I thought (to the point where I had to run to the store multiple times over the last few days), but everything is packed and the movers are coming today to ship all the stuff to Virginia. Meanwhile, Connie and I will be staying at my parents' place for the next couple of weeks before bidding farewell to Hawaii. Sigh... Anyway, I still have some stuff I need to arrange before then, but things should be a lot calmer for the rest of the month. Today though, I have to get some rest and then meet the movers. I'll plan for a big travelogue post on Monday going into more detail about the how and why of this move.

See you later!


7/13/2016 So much to do...

In a bit of luck, the movers are actually able to come on Friday. That means I won't have to live in an empty apartment in Virginia as long as I expected. It also means that Connie and I are in a bit of a frantic rush to finish packing. Not to mention all the other arrangements I have to make (plane tickets, utilities, etc.). Sigh... Moving is always a lot of work and much more so when it's a really long distance (like, say, Hawaii to anywhere else). But, I still think I can get just about all the packing and other prep done this week, leaving a couple of mostly relaxing weeks before leaving Hawaii and having to deal with the second half of the move. Anyway, I've got to get some sleep than get back to packing. Still have to do the kitchen, my clothes, and then start sealing everything...


7/11/2016 Moving on...

Well, I got the official job offer I was waiting for so there's no way around it now, Connie are I will be leaving Hawaii and moving to Fairfax, Virginia. While I'm not thrilled about leaving Hawaii, especially under these circumstances, Fairfax seems like a pretty nice area and it's close to Washington D.C. and Baltimore, so there's a lot to do. It's even within day trip range (though barely) of some parts of Pennsylvania I'm familiar with, including Hershey Park and the big corn maze at Cherry Crest Farm. Not to mention Otakon, which I'll most likely be able to attend this year. As for the job itself, I'll talk more about that another time. But anyway, I need to be in Fairfax by mid-August, and I want to get there a bit ahead of time (probably the beginning of August) to get settled (though Connie might come a bit later), so we're in the midst of moving prep. Considering how long it takes to ship stuff between Hawaii and the mainland, we need to get packed and get the movers here ASAP. Even then, there'll probably be a nice (annoying) lag period between when I get there and when the stuff gets there. So yeah, things are kind of frantic at the moment. Though, with a bit of luck, we might be able to get all the major things taken care of by the end of the week (or even earlier) and then enjoy the rest of our time here in Hawaii. Expect a few more Hawaii travelogue entries in the coming week. I'll do a formal one sometime soon about what led to this move and the whole process of moving out of Hawaii, and a final one with my thoughts about living in Hawaii. In between, there will probably be some more normal ones with outings and restaurant reviews. And, in the future, of course, a new travelogue for a new location. PV updates will probably continue as usual, though my internet access may be a bit spotty during the move itself, so we'll see what happens.

So, seeing as this is a Pokémon comic, you might be wondering why I haven't mentioned Pokémon Go yet. Well, I downloaded it Wednesday night and played around for about half an hour, but it was too late for me to go very far from my house. I caught a few pokémon, called it a night, and intended have a better go at it the next day...only to find that the servers were overloaded and I couldn't sign on. I assume they fixed that by now. Then, Friday morning, I got the official job confirmation, which kicked off this moving frenzy, and just haven't had any time for it since then. Anyway, I'll get back to it once things calm down and let you know what I think.



7/8/2016 Limited time

Vote to see the new bonus comic!

I'm still waiting on things, which puts serious limits on how much I can prepare. But still, it's almost certain I'll have to move. Hard to believe I probably only have a few weeks left here in Hawaii. I've been thinking a bit about what things I want to do before I leave (beach day, snorkeling, favorite restaurants, etc.). Though I have to leave time for all the packing and moving prep (which I can't do too much of until I have confirmation), and I'm trying to make some progress on various projects of mine, which have been going slowly this year thanks to the MFA and job search. Speaking of the MFA, I'm likely going to have to cancel that since my almost confirmed new job has different (and very strict) terminal degree requirements, which the degree I've spent so much time and money on doesn't meet. Sigh...

Anyway, complaining about it doesn't do me any good. For now, I just have to try to strike a balance between the things I have to do, my projects, and enjoying whatever time I have left here.


7/6/2016 Fireworks

Still not 100% sure about the move, but I'm starting to get some things ready since the timing is already tighter than I'd like. Of course, I can't really commit to anything I can't back out of in the off chance that things fall through. Sigh... Anyway, let's talk about something considerably more fun.

July 4th (Monday): Independence Day
In case there is any confusion, I'm referring to the holiday also known as The 4th of July, not the movie. There's a few big celebrations for the 4th on various parts of Oahu, and the biggest fireworks show is over the ocean by Ala Moana beach in Honolulu. Connie and I went in a bit early and spent the better part of the afternoon walking around by Waikiki. Being a holiday, it was naturally crowded, but what surprised me was how many boats were in the water. I've never seen half that many at once. Anyway, we spent most of the time in the Royal Hawaiian mall, and eventually ate in the food court there. It's expanded a little since my last visit, adding a couple of Japanese sweet shops to the mix. It doesn't beat the food court (regular or Shirokiya) in Ala Moana, but if you're looking for variety and low prices around Waikiki, it's probably your best bet.
After dinner, we headed out to the beach to watch the sunset, something I always enjoy but haven't had the chance to do for quite some time. This might actually be my last chance for quite a while, so I'm glad we got to see it. Once the sun was down, it was just a matter of finding a comfortable spot on the beach and waiting for the fireworks. On that note, for convenience, we opted to watch the show from Waikiki Beach rather than Ala Moana, but they're close enough that you still get a good view. It was a really nice fireworks show. Long, and with a lot of diversity, including one type of firework I've never seen before. A bit less crowded than the one at New Year's too. Due to all my summer traveling over the last few years, I've often been out of the country over the 4th, so it was nice to be here for the holiday and join in the celebrations for a change.


7/4/2016 Happy Independence Day!

I hope everyone in the US has a great Independence Day this 4th of July. I'm hoping to take the day off from things, relax a bit, and enjoy the fireworks. Of course, besides enjoying the holiday, it's also good to remember what it stands for. Namely, the founding of the US, the freedom this country gives its inhabitants, and how much good it's done in the world. The US hasn't been perfect, but it's done a lot of great things and, for the most part, set a very strong and positive example for the rest of the world. And if you don't think so, you really need to take some history lessons. Anyway, if I go any further on that subject, I'll likely get into politics, at least a little, which I really try to avoid on this site. So anyway, to all my US readers, enjoy the holiday and be glad you live in the United States of America.


7/1/2016 The new Shirokiya

It's time for a new travelogue entry! Unfortunately, there probably aren't many entries left in my Hawaii travelogue, at least in the near future. While it's still not 100% (somewhere in the high 90's, more like), Connie and I will most likely be leaving Hawaii in the not too distant future. For me personally, I probably only have about a month left here. Sigh... Not really happy about it, but that whole thing is another post for another time. I'll get into a bit more detail, along with my final thoughts on living in Hawaii, when it comes time to wrap up the travelogue. For now though, here's a more fun post.

June 29th (Wednesday): Shirokiya Japan Village Walk
If you've been to Honolulu, or been reading my travelogues, you probably know that Shirokiya is a Japanese department and food store in Ala Moana mall. At least, it was. A couple months back Shirokiya closed its longtime location in order to focus on a new and somewhat different location in the mall's new Ewa wing (it's on the ground floor, across from the soon to be opening Foodland). Personally, I wish they kept the old Shirokiya as well, but anyway, I've been looking forward to the new Shirokiya Japan Village Walk ever since I first heard the announcement last year. It opened last weekend, and Connie and I made sure to thoroughly explore it as soon as we got the chance.
The new Shirokiya takes the old one's Japanese food court and significantly expands on it. The interior is done up sort of like old Japanese streets with wooden ceiling beams, lanterns, and hanging flowers. The halls with seating are fairly spacious, while the ones without can be a little claustrophobic (which, honestly, makes it more authentic from a Japanese perspective). Every single wall is lined with food stalls (40+). Most are some type of Japanese food, though I did spot one Korean, one Thai, one bubble tea and smoothie, and one pizza place. There's a massive amount of variety, with relatively little overlap, covering a wide spectrum of Japanese cuisine. The price and style also runs a huge range, with everything from cheap premade bento boxes to fairly high end (and similarly priced) entrees. There's some representatives of the stranger side of Japanese cuisine as well... It was a lot of fun to explore and I had a really difficult time deciding what to eat before finally settling on wagyu beef curry (from one of the fancier places) along with some yakitori and dango. I think I could probably eat there every day for a month without getting bored. Unfortunately, I probably won't have too many more opportunities to visit in the near future, but that's a different subject...
In addition to all the food, one wall is dedicated to some Japanese crafts (mostly rather expensive pottery and glass work). There's also a stage and a display of guardian deities, complete with shrine maidens selling charms. And, of course, with a Japanese village theme, it has to have a Buddha statue.
Despite the extreme crowds (which will hopefully thin slightly after opening week), I absolutely love the new Shirokiya. There's so much awesome food in one place, including many things you rarely see outside of Japan, and the atmosphere is a lot of fun. It really felt like being in one of the themed mall and dining areas I've visited in Japan (though with more English). I do miss the assortment of Japanese knickknacks and seasonal items that they used to have in the old Shirokiya, and the convenience of having Book Off right in Ala Moana (though there's now one in both Don Quixote and Ward, neither of which is that far away), but the new Shirokiya is awesome and absolute can't miss destination in Honolulu.


6/29/2016 Mighty No. 9

If you follow game news, you'll know that Might No. 9 recently launched. It's a game designed by Keiji Inafune, creator of Mega Man, and supposed to be a sort of spiritual successor to the original Mega Man games, since Capcom seems to be entirely uninterested in doing anything with the series right now. Mighty No. 9 started life as a Kickstarter campaign, where it become wildly successful, attracting a lot of attention and getting nearly $4 million in pledges. Well, after a lot of time and multiple delays, it's finally out and it's getting slammed by many reviewers and players (though it seems like half the "players" tearing into the game haven't actually played it themselves). Well, here's my take.

For full discloser, I backed the original Kickstarter and at a moderately high level. Not a ridiculous amount, but a decent bit higher than the game's retail cost. And, while I haven't beaten the game yet (I've been busy with other things), I'm pretty far into it. So, is Mighty No. 9 perfect? No. It has its problems, some of which are obvious enough that they really should have been addressed before launch. That said, it's really not a bad game by any means. The gameplay has a heavy dose of old style Mega Man. It's a 2D side scrolling run and gun game. There's eight levels you can play in any order (followed by a few final levels), each with a boss whose power you can steal. Sound familiar? There are some differences though, primarily the dash and absorption system, where you can weaken enemies and dash into them for a temporary power-up. It encourages you to play a bit faster and more aggressively than most Mega Man games and makes for a kind of fun twist, though the level design doesn't always support it as well as it could. If you want a somewhat nostalgic and somewhat new take on classic Mega Man, Mighty No. 9 will give you that. Personally, I'd give it maybe 7.5 out of 10. So why all the hate? Let's go point by point, looking at the major complaints and my thoughts on them.

The Graphics Suck:
No, they don't. Are they the amazing epitome of PS4 / Xbox One level HD? Definitely not. But this is a cartoony 2D platformer released on every imaginable platform without an especially large budget. Do the in-game graphics look like the concept art? Not exactly, but that's normal. It's extremely rare for a game to look just like the concept art. Sometimes, the differences are very striking. So while I can understand people not being happy with the graphical style or quality level, the graphics aren't bad and are totally reasonable for this type of game so it's nothing to go ballistic about. Some people have also mentioned notable slowdown, but I've yet to encounter anything like that on the PS4.

The Cut-Scenes, Story, and Voice Acting Suck:
First off, no one plays classic Mega Man for the story, so if you go into Mighty No. 9 expecting a masterpiece of game storytelling, you're obviously going to be disappointed. The story isn't anything special but it works, and has more effort put into it than most Mega Man stories (at least as far as the original series is concerned). The English voice acting, meanwhile, is ok. No one will be winning awards for their performances, but there's nothing bad about it either (you want bad voice acting, I can point you to some games, this isn't one of them). And the cut-scenes... Ok, people have a point there. That cut-scenes tend to be seriously lacking in animation. The characters mostly just stand around without even their lips moving. Considering this game uses 3D models, it wouldn't have taken that much more work to add some simple lip flaps and a little more movement to the characters, which would improve the cut-scenes quite a bit.

It's Too Much / Not Enough Like Mega Man:
Is Mighty No. 9 a lot like classic Mega Man? Yes, especially the earlier titles (note: the original MM series, not X, ZX, Legends, etc.). Is it exactly like them? No. If you're expecting a revolutionary reimagining of the style, this isn't it. If you're expecting a totally faithful recreation, this isn't that either. It's somewhere between the two and, while it doesn't always strike the perfect balance, it's not a bad one either.

The Level Design Sucks:
This isn't Super Mario class level design by any means, but Mega Man never has been. Yes, some of the levels are a bit generic, but some are rather different and clever. And yes, there's a lot of tough sections with one hit deaths (pits, spikes, etc.). But, honestly, that's how levels have been for the entire Mega Man series. Mighty No. 9 isn't the pinnacle of level design for the Mega Man series, and some levels could, in my opinion, benefit from some adjustment, but for anything in a Mighty No. 9 level that people are complaining about, I can point to that same element in classic Mega Man levels. So there was no reason to suspect that Mighty No. 9 would be any different.

I'm Mad the Game Was Delayed:
Delays are always annoying, but they're better than getting a rushed and broken game. Yeah, Mighty No. 9 was delayed a lot, but that happens to practically every Kickstarter project. Inafune may be a veteran, but it's pretty much a given in game development that something is going to happen that delays the schedule. Plus, Mighty No. 9's success on Kickstarter led to the size and scope of the game being drastically increased via stretch goals. Which, of course, meant that it would take longer to make. Inafune's team probably should have been more clear about that from the start, but if you expect every game to be released on time, you know nothing about the game industry. All that aside, how long the game was delayed shouldn't affect your impression of the finished product.

I Don't Like How the Campaign Was Handled:
I can't comment too much on this one. I read the periodic e-mail updates (which I thought were frequent and detailed enough), but didn't get involved with the forums or anything. But yeah, I thought the e-mails were fine and so far I've received my physical and digital pledge rewards when I'm supposed to. I heard a small number of people haven't received their rewards on time, and that's unfortunate, but not unexpected given the huge amount of contributors from all over the world.

It Doesn't Feel Like a $4 Million Game:
Speaking as someone in the game industry, that is stupid. First off, how does anyone know what a $4 million game should be like? Most game companies don't make their budgets public so most of the people I've seen complaining about this tend to be comparing it to Kickstarter campaigns for various indie games, especially Shovel Knight (which is great, but that's besides the point). Thing is, that doesn't really work. To start off, while $4 million sounds like a fortune to a lot of people (myself included) that's really not a very big budget for a modern video game, especially one that's released on consoles, especially multiple consoles (you need to buy dev kits and pay various application fees for each one, and that's just the start). Not to mention a lot of that money couldn't go to the game's development to begin with. Kickstarter takes 5% off the top as profit and another 5% or so for processing fees. Then there's all the money that had to be set aside from the physical rewards (the t-shirts, physical copies of the game, etc.), which cost quite a bit to design, manufacture, and ship. In the end, I'm sure Inafune's team still had a much bigger development budget than Shovel Knight. But you have to realize that one of the main reasons indie games like Shovel Knight have such low budgets, is that the developers tend to work for free, or at least drastically reduced rates, working on the game either in their free time while working regular jobs, or living off their savings. Until they hit it big (if that ever happens), their projects are more like very time consuming hobbies that often lose money. Inafune, on the other hand, had a staff of full time employees to support. So yeah, anyone complaining about the Mighty No. 9 team wasting the money just doesn't understand how much a game costs to make.

Whew, that ended up being pretty long, but I think it hit all the major points of contention. In the end, I think people just expected too much from Mighty No. 9 due to Inafune's track record, its big Kickstarter success, and the (relatively) long development time. They were expecting something utterly amazing and instead got more or less what had been promised, a fun though not perfect throwback to old Mega Man games with some modern twists. So yeah, when looked at on it's own, Mighty No. 9 is a fun, if imperfect, Mega Man knock-off. When looking at it with unrealistic, sky high expectations, it's bound to disappoint.


6/27/2016 Steam

The Steam summer sale is currently going on, which means it's a great time to get a whole lot of computer games for really cheap. The question of when I (or any of you) will find the time to play all those games is another matter entirely... Actually, I haven't bought much so far this year. I spent around $10 grabbing a few games that have been sitting on my wish list and that's about it.

Anyway, if you're looking for some games, Car Washer: Summer of the Ninja is 50% off through the end of the sale. It might not be for everyone but, if you don't mind a simple concept and old style sprite graphics, it's a fun little action casual game. Even with all the time I've spent on it, I still enjoy it and even find the later levels pretty challenging. If you do pick it up, here are a couple of tips.

1. If you're an experienced gamer, you'll want to choose the "Skip to the Action" option (in red) after completing the first level so you can skip the rest of the tutorial levels (since the game was designed to accommodate casual gamers, the tutorial levels are kind of slow for more experienced players). Don't worry, you won't miss any upgrades or story scenes and you can even go back and replay the skipped levels later on if you want.

2. I recommend moving around the cars pretty frequently (at least every few seconds, though faster is fine (better even, after you've gotten some upgrades)). Don't worry too much about how clean each side is. So long as you keep moving around at a good pace and frequently hitting each side with the appropriate tool, you'll clean the car quickly enough.

3. After the first few levels, the game starts to speed up quite a bit and gets a lot more frantic as stronger enemies are introduced.

See you Wednesday!


6/24/2016 Another show ending

Remember to vote with the button on the left to see the new bonus comic.

It's outside of the regular season, by another one of my regular TV shows has drawn to a close. This time, it's Person of Interest. CBS kinda screwed it over when it came to this final season. Despite its popularity, they only ordered a half length season and, after months and months of waiting, stuck it in this weird early summer slot. Still, the writers went into the season knowing it was the end, so they were able to prepare a fitting final act. Anyway, it's a great show and I believe the previous seasons are on Netflix so I recommend checking it out if you want something new to watch.

In other news, there is no news yet on my job situation. There's a good chance I'll be moving to take a new job, but it's not 100% yet, so I can't really do much to prepare. Moving out of Hawaii, if I do, will be a real pain, especially on a tight schedule. Moving here was complicated as well, but I had my parents' condo to use as a stop gap while I find a place to live and got settled. And that's something I wouldn't have this time around. Anyway, I'll write more about that whole process if and when it happens.

See you Monday!


6/22/2016 Lost

So, who remembers Lost? My family started watching it two or three seasons in. I picked up the first season DVD set out of curiosity and we quickly got hooked and binge watched it until we caught up. It was a great series and hugely influential. Without it, prime time TV here in the US would look a lot different. Anyway, Connie didn't see Lost back when it was on TV and it's been on my list of shows to introduce her to. We started a few days ago and are making steady progress through the first season. If you didn't know, Lost was filmed here on the island of Oahu. Coming back to Lost, after having spent two years here in Hawaii, I can pick out a lot of the places where they did the filming. Some are pretty well disguised. Others, such as the "Korean" building where Jin proposed to Sun, they were clearly banking on people not knowing any better (it's a replica of a Japanese temple, totally different architecture than real Korean buildings). But anyway, I've been enjoying rewatching Lost on its own merits and identifying the sets is proving to be a fun little addition.


6/20/2016 Summer...

Wow, it's already been more than a month since the start of my summer vacation. This summer seems to be going both very slow and very fast. A lot of that is due to the uncertain nature of what I'll be doing and where I'll be living come fall. There's a good chance I'll be moving pretty soon, which will involve lots of travel and a very hectic schedule. On the other hand, there's a chance I'll stay here, at least for a while longer. In which case Connie and I might actually get to do a little bit of leisure traveling, though that's not looking too likely. Sigh... Well, I can only hope that next year will be a lot less crazy and stressful than this one.

Anyway... Things are more relaxing now, though still extremely uncertain, so I'm enjoying the (probably) short break and taking the opportunity to get some things done. Mostly assorted projects and to-do list type stuff, along with my MFA work, though I might have to take an extended break from that soon, depending on how some other things turn out. Still playing Lego Dimensions too, though I've nearly done (three more adventure worlds to go), at least until the next wave of sets and expansions come out this fall. Actually, there's a lot of games I'm looking forward to this fall, though I probably won't have time for half of them.

Well, that's it for now. Assuming there are no big developments in the next couple of days, I'll find something else to write about on Wednesday, instead of my current (and rather frustrating) situation.



6/17/2016 Wait and see

It's Friday, so vote with the TWC button (on the left) to see the new Blooper Reel comic.

So, that big news I mentioned? As you might have guessed, it's related to my job search. And, as you may have also guessed from a couple of my previous posts, I may be leaving Hawaii soon. Honestly, I'd planned to stay here for at least several years, maybe even permanently, but things don't always turn out the way you want, even if you do you everything right. But anyway, nothing is 100% confirmed yet, so I won't go into any more detail. There will be plenty of time for that if / when it's official. For now, I need to wait and see for a bit longer...

Have a good weekend.


6/15/2016 The Pan-Pacific Festival

I might have some big news coming on Friday, or perhaps next week. But we'll deal with that at the appropriate time. For now, here's a travelogue entry...

June 10th - 12th (Friday - Sunday): The Pan-Pacific Festival
I'm sad to say that this may very well be one of the last entries in my Hawaii travelogue. At least for quite some time, though probably (and hopefully) not forever. But more on that another time, when things are more certain. For now, let's focus on the festival...
The Pan-Pacific festival is a big annual event, and the first festival I ever went to here in Hawaii, back during my big summer vacation here in 2012. I wasn't in Hawaii at the right time in 2013 or 2014, but did get to attend the festival again last year, making this year my third time. To give a quick summary (since I've already written about it twice before), the Pan-Pacific Festival is a three day event featuring a large number of performing groups spread across several stages around the Waikiki and Ala Moana areas of Honolulu. The performers are mostly from Japan, but there's usually a few groups from other parts of Asia as well. In addition to all the performances, there's also a block party (booths and lots of performing stages) on Friday night and a parade Sunday evening. On top of all that, there's the King Kamehameha festival and parade Saturday morning. It's a big, fun event with lots to do and see. This year they even added a street dancing event and a small cultural showcase in one of the hotels.
Anyway, due to a combination of a busy schedule and Connie not feeling well, I didn't get to spend as much time at the festival as I have in the past. In the end, I didn't make it to anything on Friday, and missed the Saturday morning parade. But I did get to watch some performances Saturday afternoon and take in a lot of the Sunday performances and the final parade. Here are a few highlights...
First off, I can't go without mentioning Pan Village All-Stars (a steel pan music group) and Youth Theater Japan (a music and dancing school). They're regulars at the festival and always a lot of fun to watch. There were also break dancers, lion dancers, lots and lots of hula dancers (as usual), and Elfin, a newly formed J-Pop idol group. Then there was this. Yeah... Not really sure what to make of that, other than that it was put on by the local Taiwanese association.
The parade contained quite a lot of the performing groups singing, dancing, and the like down the street. Though there were also some mikoshi, odd sponsored groups, and, for some reason, a giant tengu mask.
So, despite not getting to see everything I wanted to, I still enjoyed the festival quite a bit. It's a fun time to be in Honolulu, whether you're a local or a tourist.


6/13/2016 Festival weekend

This weekend was the Pan-Pacific festival. It was the first festival I attended in Hawaii, back in the summer of 2012 when I stayed here for around six weeks during my first summer vacation after I started teaching. And now it could very well be my last. Kind of fitting, I suppose. Well, nothing is certain yet, and I don't want to leave. But there's a pretty good chance that I'll have to move back to the mainland for a new job. And if I do have to move, it'll probably be kind of rushed. Then again, I might be here for a few more months. Or maybe I'll get my job back (or a new one here) and get to stay. Honestly, all the uncertainty is driving me crazy and the thought of another big move (even if it's for a great new job and/or to a location I really like) doesn't thrill me (to say the least). But what can I do? Not much at this point, just wait and see what happens.

Anyway, expect a travelogue entry for the festival later in the week.


6/10/2016 Relaxing a bit

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I've been able to relax a bit this week, which I really needed. Though I have had some work to do along with a few errands, one of which involved an early morning trip. Add in a random late night or two, and I've gotten a bit behind in my sleep. Hopefully I can do something about that over the weekend. Though there's the Pan-Pacific festival in Honolulu, which I want to spend some time at...

Expect some restaurant reviews and maybe a travelogue entry next week. For today though, it's time to get some rest.

Have a great weekend!


6/8/2016 Hmm...

I...honestly can't think of much of anything to say today. While things here are calming down a bit, at least for the moment, I'm a bit burned out from all that's been going on so I'll just leave you with today's strip and think up something to write for Friday's update.


6/6/2016 Back in action

Sorry about missing two updates last week. Wednesday was planned, but I really thought that I'd be able to update on Friday. Unfortunately, that didn't end up working out. But now I'm back home and updates should continue regularly. And I've also got the commentary for strips 299 - 300 done, finishing the current batch.

In other news, my Mom is visiting for the next week and a half and some family friends will be coming for part of that time as well. So I'm looking forward to taking things a little easy and joining them in a bit of touring before jumping on the next item on my to-do list.



5/30/2016 Heading off

Huh... Looks like Friday's strip updated to the archives but not the main page. I hate it when that happens... Anyway, since that means msot of you probably didn't see it, here it is again. If you did come across it in the archives, sorry for the repeat. But there is some new commentary for strips 295 - 298.

As a reminder, I'll be doing some traveling this week. It's for a job interview though, so I doubt there will be anything travelogue worthy. Due to the timing of my flight, there will not be a PV update on Wednesday. I should be able to update on Friday, though I can't say it's 100% certain.



5/27/2016 Travel plans

Since it's a Friday, you can see the new bonus comic if you vote with the TWC button on the left.

The schedule for that interview trip I mentioned has been set. I'll be leaving Tuesday next week and returning on Friday. As such, the updates for Wednesday and Friday are a bit up in the air. If I had to guess, I'd say that Wednesday's update will probably be skipped but there will be a normal update on Friday. But I can't say for sure, it'll just depend on how things go.

In other news, I was able to replace my garage door opener and the new one is working perfectly. While I can't say I especially enjoy doing stuff like that, I don't hate it and it's kind of satisfying to fix something around the house and learn some new skills. Though I did hit one snag which detracted from that feeling a bit. See, since the only broken part was the box with the motor, I figured that I could just replace it with a similar one without having to redo all the other parts. So I got the cheapest model, which didn't come with any extras. While the opener itself ended up working out just fine, it turned out that the newer models don't work with old remotes and wall panels, even if they're the same brand. So I had to go out and buy new remotes at $42 each. Plus, a proper wall panel is another $20 or so. So that's an extra $100 dollars, give or take, above what I paid for the opener. Thing is, I could have spent an extra $50 for a model that came with all of that and saved myself a bit of money, an extra trip to the store, and a lot of frustration. On a side note, how the heck can a garage door opener remote cost over $40? It's cheap plastic, a small circuit board, and a wireless transmitter. They can't cost more than several dollars, at most, to manufacture and it's not like they have multi-million dollar development costs or anything. Talk about a crazy markup...

Anyway, I didn't have time to get any commentary done for today, but hopefully I'll have another set ready for Monday so I'll see you then.


5/25/2016 One after another...

Continuing with the commentary, strips 291 - 294 are up.

I just can't catch a break this week, or this year for that matter. On the bright side, Connie's health has been steadily improving over the last couple of days. But on top of her being sick, and the extreme amount of studying I've had to do, all the ongoing stuff (the job search, etc.), and some other things I don't feel like talking about, my garage door opener broke. No, not the remote, but the motor assembly that makes the entire thing work. Over all, that's a relatively minor thing (though it'll probably be a couple hundred dollars and a few hours of work to replace) but it's kind of adding insult to injury in an already busy and stressful week that's been just the latest part of a busy and stressful year. Honestly, I think this is the most stressful year I've ever had. Mentally, I'm relatively calm and in-control at this point (though there have been some really bad days here and there), but the only other time I can ever remember being this stressful was when I was in Japan during the Fukushima incident and was spending every day worrying about the reactor and radiation. And that was only for a week or so. This has been going on, to one degree or another, since mid-January and doesn't really show any signs of letting up. Some of it it has been my fault, some bad luck, some just general business, and some due directly to the (at best) very dubious actions of other people, but it's all combined into a big mess. Sigh... I'll get through it, one way or another, but I would really appreciate it if some things would start going a bit more in my favor. Or at least stop taking the Murphy's Law approach.

Sorry for the rant, but it's been a tough week / year. See you Friday.


5/23/2016 Continuing the commentary

Here's the commentary for 289 - 290.

Well, things certainly haven't gotten more relaxing yet. Connie's sick, so I've been taking care of her. And my current MFA class seems to think it's totally ok to give about a day and a half for around 200 pages of reading and a test. Followed immediately by a moderate length project (due the next day), then more project work and another test of the next few days. Yay... I have some job interviews coming up as well. Which is good, but also tiring and time consuming. Especially since one of them is going to require a brief trip out of state. So yeah, still no sign of a relaxing summer. Quite the opposite so far. But, with how this year has been going in general, I suppose I can't be surprised. Meeting Sakaguchi was awesome, and Connie and my wedding day went pretty much perfectly (not so much the rest of the trip though), but that's been about it. Sigh...

Anyway, I don't know the details about that short trip yet, but it will likely be rather short notice and I may have to skip a PV update depending on the scheduling. So if I do miss a strip this week or next week, that's probably why.



5/20/2016 More commentary

You can vote to see the new bonus comic! Also, more commentary! This time from strips 285 - 288.

Have a good weekend!


5/18/2016 Commentary!

Gotta say, this summer break isn't off to a relaxing or stress reducing start. Hopefully that'll change soon. Hopefully...

Anyway, I started on the commentary I owe everyone for last's months donations. Commentary for strips 281 - 284 is up and you can expect more soon.



5/16/2016 Fun with Legos

I've been playing a lot of Lego Dimensions lately. Yeah, it came out last fall, but I've been busy. Anyway, I've played other Lego games before but Dimensions is far and away the best of the bunch. While the likes of Lego Star Wars and Lego Marvel are fun and humorous takes on favorite licenses, they're a bit limited. Why settle for just one when you can get a huge mashup? Want to see Gandalf beat up the Wicked Witch of the West? Help Batman unmask a Scooby Doo villain? See the Doctor meet GLADOS? Yes, seriously. Doctor Who and Portal are actually in there along with Ghostbusters, Back to the Future, classic Midway arcade games, and many more. It's utterly crazy, often hilarious, and sure to please fans of pretty much any of the licenses in there (especially Portal, since Valve is probably never going to make Portal 3).
As far as the gameplay goes, it more or less follows the standard Lego game style. Fairly simple platforming and fighting, the occasional puzzle, and lots and lots of smashing Lego structures so you can collect the studs. Though Dimensions seems to be the best iteration of the formula so far, or at least of all the Lego games I've played, with better balance and pacing and smoother controls (especially for driving and flying). Unlike other Lego games, however, you don't unlock new characters and vehicles by playing the game. Dimensions is a toys to life game, which means you need to buy actual Lego figures and models and assemble them. It can get kind of expensive, especially if you want to get all the character needed to access every bonus area and collect every gold brick, but you get the added fun of putting together and playing with real Legos. In fact, one of your earliest tasks in the game involves looking away from the screen and spending 30 - 60 minutes (depending how good you are with Legos) assembling the portal and you'll find yourself occasionally modifying it and your vehicles as you go (though, if you're lazy, you can cheat since the game can't actually tell if you put them together correctly). There's a ton of different characters and vehicles, each with their own set of abilities. While you can beat the main game with only the ones in the box (Gandalf, Wildstyle, Batman, and the Batmobile), collecting everything in each level will require a lot more. Though some figures also give you access to bonus levels and fairly large themed worlds to explore, which can add on several hours of gameplay a piece and are all very much worth the price.
Personally, I stuck with the default characters my first time through the story and am now in the midst of going back and collecting everything. By the end of ever play session, I have a small army of Lego minifigures lined up, but my go-to party tends to include Superman, the Wicked Witch, and the Delorean, with the Doctor and Marty McFly getting frequent use as well. And, as if having all these characters on the screen together isn't enough, many of them even make occasional quips and comments about each other, like the Doctor comparing the Delorean unfavorably to the Tardis, or Superman commiserating with Chell. You never know what combination will lead to an amusing comment and it just adds to the fun. Usually, I find that the Lego games tend to get a little dull in the late game when you're going around trying to collect all the remaining knick-knacks but the variety and humor in Dimensions has managed to keep me continuously entertained so far and I don't see it letting up any time soon.
Even if you're on a budget and don't want to spend the money amassing a huge collection of awesome (though slightly pricey, unless you wait for the occasional 50% off sale) Lego minifigs and models, I highly recommend just picking up the base set and playing through the main story. If you love even one or two of the franchises featured in Dimensions, you'll be glad you did.


5/13/2016 Basic explanation

Remember to vote to see today's bonus comic!

I've been mentioning an "issue" for the past few months. Some of you already know the details but, for those who don't, here's the gist of it.

Anyway, if you've been reading these news posts for a while, you'll know that I moved to Hawaii back in 2014 so I could take a job teaching at a university here. Well, it's been a great job. The work environment, the students, my coworkers... I've been really happy with it in just about every way. On top of that, my classes have been very popular with good enrollment and excellent student feedback and I've gotten good feedback and recommendations from my colleagues and supervisors as well. Unfortunately, through no fault of my own, I most likely won't be returning in the fall due to a rather vague and mysterious administrative agenda. This isn't the time or place to go into the full details (which would probably devolve into a rant anyway), but if you know me and want to hear more, you can talk to me on e-mail or Facebook. Anyway, I really like this job and Oahu so I'm doing all I can to keep my position. But, unfortunately, it's mostly out of my hands and isn't looking too good at this point. So I've been job hunting, which is both time consuming and stressful. It doesn't help that there are very few opportunities on the island for someone with my skills, so there's a good chance a new job will mean a big move, just when I was finally thinking I'd settled down for the foreseeable future.

So that's the story, more or less. The whole thing has eaten up a lot of my free time over the past few months and is the main reason Connie and I don't have any summer plans yet. There may be interviews and/or a move, plus it's good not to spend too much money when we may be without income for a little while.

No real positive way to end that topic, other than that I'm sure things will work out in the end, one way or another. I'll just do everything I can both for my job here and my job search and see what happens.

Have a good weekend!


5/11/2016 Travel?

Ever since I started working as a professor, my summers have always been arranged around big trips. Hawaii, Japan, China... This year, however, that may not happen. Or maybe it will. I do need to be in Hawaii during the first part of June for a couple of different reasons, so I don't think I'll be leaving the island before then. But what about afterwards? Well, Connie's green card interview is one of those June things, so that'll be one big issue taken care of. Though until she actually gets the card international travel is out. Which means any trips to Asia or any other area outside the US are probably not in the cards. Traveling around the US mainland would be a fun possibility, if significantly less exotic. Though that largely depends on that ongoing issue I've had this year. Best case, it'll get resolved in June as well and Connie and I will be free to do whatever we want with the rest of the summer. However, there are a lot of other potential outcomes which could leave us stuck in Hawaii all summer due to scheduling and/or financial issues. Or it might end up with a little (or a lot) of business travel but nothing for fun. Gotta say, it's always annoying when I can't plan this kind of stuff far in advance. But, unfortunately, there's nothing to be done so I'll just have to wait and see.



5/9/2016 Art

Well, the semester is over and... I'm not sure, exactly. There's a few reasons for that, which I may elaborate on later, but for now, it's time to finally get caught up on the travelogue.

May 1st (Sunday): The Honolulu Museum of Art
I've been meaning to go to this place for ages but never got around to it. Anyway, they happened to have a touring exhibit that Connie was interested in so we finally decided to visit. The museum is a nice complex, comprising a number of gallerias and courtyards. A pretty significant chuck of it is dedicated to Asian art, especially Chinese and Japanese. Nothing I haven't seen before (not with all the museums I've been too in Japan and, to a lesser extent, China), but a fairly nice collection. They also had art from countries that I haven't visited, including Korea and India, which was interesting to see.
After finishing the Asian half of the museum, we made a very brief tour of the contemporary art area, the majority of which didn't do anything to change my unfavorable opinion of modern art, though there was some nice glasswork outside. Then it was on to the special exhibit halls. There was one of Chinese art from the six dynasties period, which is what Connie had wanted to see, and there was also a selection from Utagawa Hiroshige's One Hundred Famous Views of Edo (Tokyo), a famous collection of Japanese woodblock art, which I really enjoyed.
Next up, the Arts of Hawaii...which was a bit disappointing since it was mostly modern art by Hawaiian artists. The final wing of the museum had some more modern art (meh), a few nice European masterpieces, and a section containing a bit of a hodgepodge of every other part of the world, which had a couple of nice American paintings but otherwise didn't interest me much.
Over all, while I've been to better art museums, the Honolulu Museum of Art is nice, especially in regards to its overall design and its Asian collection. Depending on how much you like the various types of art, you can probably spend 1 - 2 hours browsing the permanent collections and a bit more on whatever the current special exhibits are. It's not a must see in Honolulu, but it's not a bad choice either.


5/6/2016 Hiking

Remember that, since it's Friday, there's a new bonus comic up! Just click the TWC button on the left and vote to see it.

April 25th (Monday): Waimano Valley Hike
Connie and I were looking for a short hike and decided to try the Waimano Valley loop. It's a fairly short and easy two miles. The first part of the trail went down though a fairly uninteresting stretch of forest but after getting to the bottom of the valley it started following a stream, which improved the scenery quite a bit. The forest became a bit more picturesque as well. Before too long though, it was time to begin the ascent back up and out of the valley. A large section of the ascending trail goes along a ditch, which is more interesting than it sounds since there are occasional tunnels which you can walk through if you want to (or, if you want to be boring, you can just stay on the trail and bypass them). Near the end, there were even a couple of view points, which was a pleasant surprise.
As I said at the start, it's a pretty short hike that can be easily finished in under an hour if you move quickly, and not especially strenuous. There's nothing amazing about it, but there's a nice variety of scenery (forest, river, tunnels, and a view) to keep it enjoyable. So, while there are better hikes on the island, Waimano Valley is a good choice if you want something quick and easy.



5/4/2016 Japanese food

It's finals week, which means lot of grading, but also means that it's just a few more days until the end of the semester. My MFA program started up again though so, combined with that ongoing issue and I'm still going to be pretty busy, at least for now. But, we'll see what happens...

I mentioned a restaurant review, so let's get that out of the way and get to the last couple travelogue entries on Friday.

Restaurant Review: Osaka Teppanyaki Kawano
Type: Japanese
Location: McCully Plaza
I pass by McCully pretty often, and I eat a lot of Japanese food, so it was only a matter of time before I stopped at Kawano. It's a fairly small bar and restaurant, with only a handful of tables. I've never seen it overly busy, but that might just be my timing. While the restaurant is neat and clean, it's not heavy on the atmosphere.
But anyway, the menu consists primarily of teppanyaki style grilled plates and fried items, such as tempura, yakisoba, okonomiyaki, and a handful of other entrees, along with some appetizers. While the selection may not be huge, most people should be able to find something they're happy with. And the prices are surprisingly good, especially for the area, with most entrees costing only $7 - $10 (though rice and other sides may add to that). I'm also happy to say that the price isn't the only thing Kawano has going for it. The teppanyaki, tempura, and okonomiyaki are all great and even the salmon ikura bowl is surprisingly good, loaded with slices of raw salmon in addition to the ikura. My personal favorites so far are the shabu shabu teppanyaki and the modanyaki (an okonomiyaki variation which includes noodles). The fact that they offer beef okonomiyaki, which can be tough to find sometimes, is also a big plus for me.
Connie I liked Kawano enough on our first visit that we actually went back and ate there again the next day. The combination of good food, low prices, and a convenient location is hard to beat and I'm sure I'll be back again soon.


5/2/2016 May crashes

While the image is a little out of date, the donation gauge hit $25 last month (thanks!), which means I'll be writing commentary on the next set of old PV strips in the not too distant future, so keep an eye out for that.

Speaking of writing things, at this point I've got two travelogue entries and a restaurant review left to go to get totally caught up in that area. I was going to do some of that tonight, but I was running late to begin with and then my web editor decided to crash repeatedly while I worked on this update, delaying things even further. At this point, it's really late and I'm really tired so any more writing will have to wait.

See you Wednesday!


4/29/2016 Con time

It's Friday, so vote to see the new bonus comic! And now for more travelogue...

April 8 - 10 (Fri - Sun): Kawaii Kon
Kawaii Kon is the main anime convention in Hawaii. It was my second year attending, but Connie's first. Actually, it was her first time at any anime convention and she enjoyed it. Since I wrote about Kawaii Kon last year, I'll focus more on the highlights. The main thing to know is that it's a medium size con that, thanks to the location, tends to attract a pretty impressive guest list. This year was no exception, though a couple of the guests I wanted to see only had sessions at times I couldn't go. Aside from introducing Connie to the con scene, the main highlight for me this year was Garnidelia, a J-Pop group known for doing one of the Kill la Kill openings, among other things. They had a concert and I was also able to get an autograph. They didn't allow video, but Joe Inoue (known for a Naruto theme) did. All in all, it was a pretty great con. Well organized, lots of vendors, good guest lineup, and always plenty of things to do. I'm already looking forward to next year (assuming I'm around).

Have a good weekend!


4/27/2016 Keeping it quick

I have a couple Hawaii travelogue entries left to do, but I've got to sort a few photos first. Plus, I seem to have gotten a pollen allergy. That's really rare for me but it has happened a couple times before, always right after a particular stressful semester, and this one certainly qualifies. So I'm going to keep it short today. Hopefully I've be over this by the weekend...

Oh, on a completely unrelated note, Lego Dimensions is awesome, especially the ending. I might even do a review sometime...


4/25/2016 A concert

Only two weeks left in the semester... Time has really flown this year. Normally, I really look forward to summer break. And, on some level, I am this year two. However, that (still) ongoing issue has left a lot of things, including my summer plans, highly uncertain. It's eaten up a lot of my spare time this semester, drastically slowing the progress of other projects, and now it looks like it's unlikely to be resolved any time soon and will eat up a lot of my time over the summer too. Sigh... And no, still can't go into detail, at least not here. Though if you know me, feel free to hit me up on e-mail or Facebook if you want the details.

Anyway, the wedding and honeymoon travelogue is finally done, but I've still got a couple of Hawaii travelogue entries to do. So here's one of them

April 2nd (Saturday): Neil Sedaka in Concert
If you follow my travelogues, you probably know that I'm a fan of oldies music (60's and early 70's mostly) and tend to catch various singers and groups from that era in concert when I can. Well, the latest was Neil Sedaka, famous for songs like Calendar Girl, Breaking Up is Hard to Do, and Laughter in the Rain. Though, aside from his singing, he's also a prolific song writer and has written a number of popular songs for other singer and bands as well.
Yvonne Elliman opened and, while she did a pretty good job, I only knew one of her songs (If I Can't Have You). She also joined Sedaka for a duet later on. For most of the concert though it was just Sedaka and his piano. He's a great piano player and still a pretty good singer too. One thing that sticks out about Sedaka is how bright and cheerful most of his music is. It's a pretty big difference compared to most modern music (at least in the US), and honestly kind of a nice change. All in all, it was a fun concert. Even Connie, who wasn't very familiar with Sedaka's music, enjoyed it so, if he's coming to your town, you may want to check it out.


4/22/2016 Happy Passover!

There's a new bonus comic so use the TWC button on the left to vote and see it!

Happy Passover, for everyone who celebrates it. It's actually one of my favorite holidays and Connie's sorta first in-person (she celebrated it in China last year, though we had to do things over Skype), so it's should be fun. And now to finally finish that wedding and honeymoon travelogue...

Mar 27th (Sunday): The Phoenix Renaissance Festival
Since Noah and I got back to Phoenix Sunday morning, there was time to do one last thing from our original trip plan, a visit to the Phoenix Renaissance Festival. I did a travelogue entry for it once a long time ago. Anyway, there are Renaissance fairs and festivals all over the country, but Phoenix's is one of the bigger ones. It goes every weekend for a couple of months every year in a permanent location that's the size of a small theme park. When I lived in Phoenix, I always loved walking around, checking out the shops, old timey atmosphere, and the shows. This was Connie's first time going to anything like it and she was rather enamored. Hannah, my sister-in-law, had never been either. She wasn't too keen on the concept at the beginning, but ended up enjoying it as well. I think the giant turkey legs and pickles in a barrel helped.
After everything that had happened, it was nice to get in one more fun day to wrap up the trip before flying back home on Monday.


4/20/2016 A sad trip

Still more travelogue...

Mar 25th - 26th (Friday - Saturday): An Emergency Trip
So, my grandma... Despite being 96 years old, she'd always been in very good health and was actually planing to attend Connie and my wedding. Unfortunately, she took sick a few weeks before and, due to what appears to be a combination of age and not so great doctors, her recovery was slow. That said, she was out of the hospital and seemed to be getting better, until she took a sudden turn for the worse. She was always rather stubborn and decided she didn't want to go back to the hospital no matter what and stopped eating as well. My parents ended up flying back there almost as soon as they heard the news with my brother and I following Thursday night (Connie and I cutting our honeymoon a bit short).
I won't go into detail. I got to visit with some relatives I hadn't seen in a while but, overall, it was a very somber trip. My grandma was in pretty bad shape by the time I got there, but I was able to spend some time with her. Noah and I spent two days there and returned to Arizona early Sunday morning since we both had things we needed to get back to come Monday. We weren't there for her passing (which happened Sunday evening), but we got to talk to her a bit (one sided though) and see her one last time, so that's something.

And, yet again, it's late and I need to stop here. Check in on Friday for the last entry in this travelogue.


4/18/2016 Vegas continued

Let's get back to that Vegas travelogue entry...

Mar 22nd - 24th (Tuesday - Thursday): Exploring Vegas (Continued)
Other than hotels, another fun thing about Vegas is the restaurants. And there are a lot of restaurants covering about every price range and type of food you can think of. Since Connie and I were staying in New York New York, we ate at a couple of different places there. The first time, I went for a real "New York" experience and got a foot long hot dog Reuben style (sauerkraut, swiss cheese, and thousand island), which was good (and fairly cheap). The other time, Connie and I went to a a burger place. Judging by the number of restaurants on The Strip, gourmet burgers are a current trend in Vegas. The New York New York place had fully customizable grass fed beef burgers for a very reasonable price and it was the best burger I've had in quite some time (I haven't been overly impressed with the places I've tried in Hawaii).
Of course, you can't really go to Vegas without eating at a buffet. The buffets range from cheap ad generic to high end and fancy. We went to the very unoriginally named The Buffet at Aria, which is one of the nicer ones. As a note, the food selection at The Buffet (and most buffets) change a little between lunch and dinner. Usually the dinner buffets have a few more high end items, but the cost is a decent bit higher as well. Anyway, we went to The Buffet for lunch and there was still a very impressive selection. It's not so much what did they have, as what didn't they have. Classic American, Italian, Chinese, Indian, Mediterranean, etc., etc., etc. Not to mention the dessert bar, complete with gelato and sorbet. The individual foods ranged from good to excellent and the whole place was bright, clean, and classy. Definitely worth the price. As a note, you're limited to two hours (which seems reasonable). Also, if you go anywhere near meal times, expect a line. Getting there a bit early is a good idea.
Finally, out of curiosity we tried a Mexican / Chinese fusion restaurant in Cosmopolitan. Weird combination, right? Though actually not the first time I'd seen it... Anyway, it had a very interesting menu with both variations on classics and some highly unique items. The food was good and interesting to try. The down side was that, while the prices for the individual dishes (which are mostly meant to be shared, Chinese style) weren't bad, the serving sizes were a bit small so you'd have to order quite a lot of them to make a full meal. In the end, we spent more there than we did at The Buffet...

The other way we spent our time in Vegas, besides the hotel exploring and the restaurants, was going to shows. As you may know, I'm a big Cirque du Soliel fan. Connie didn't have any experience with Cirque, but thought they sounded more interesting than most of the other Vegas shows, so we got tickets for both Ka and O.
Ka: I saw (and wrote about) Ka last time I was in Vegas and it was just as amazing the second time around. It's got much more of a story than the average Cirque show, makes incredible use of a special set of floating / rotating stages, and features a number of very impressive stunts. At this point, I'd say it's probably my favorite Cirque show, though La Nouba is right up there too...
O: I've heard quite a lot of people say that O is the best Cirque show in Vegas, so I was very much looking forward to it. O follows the classic Cirque format. There's an extremely loose and dreamlike narrative along with a cast of strange recurring characters that pop up here and there. The show itself is a series of acrobatic performances (complete with excellent music and elaborate costumes), with a few clown scenes tossed in (as I said, classic Cirque format). What sets O apart is its use of water. Like Ka, it has a special stage. But this one has a lot of sections that can rise or lower and fill with water, forming a variety of pools, ranging from deep enough for a high dive to shallow enough to for just the thinnest coating of water. They make very good use of both the wide and the different depths, allowing for a variety of acts that you can't see at any other Cirque show. I found the part with the swinging diving boards to be especially impressive. Overall, I'd say it was probably the most beautiful Cirque show I've ever seen and I highly recommend it. That said, if you can only see one Cirque show in Vegas, I'm not sure if I'd recommend it over Ka, which features a more impressive set of acts. Though really, you can't go wrong with either one. (As a note, I've yet to see Mystere or Zarkana, the other two non-music Cirque shows in Vegas, so I can't comment on how they compare. Next time...)

Now for a quick rundown on the trip itself... Having arrived Monday night, Connie and I had planned to stay in Vegas through Thursday night and leave at some point on Friday. However, on Tuesday afternoon my grandmother, who had been recovering from some kind of illness, took a very sudden and unexpected turn for the worst, throwing everything for a loop as most of my family began planning an emergency visit to the east coast to see her. In the end, Connie and I ended up cutting things a bit short and returning to Arizona on Thursday so I can fly there with my brother. So we had all day Tuesday and Wednesday to explore Vegas then left Thursday after lunch for the drive back. That certainly put a bit of a damper on things, but we did our best to enjoy the time we did have.

Well, that's all for today. I'll aim to get the travelogue entries for the rest of the trip done on Wednesday, and then I can hopefully get caught up on my Hawaii travelogue entries on Friday or Monday.


4/15/2016 Vegas

Vote with the TWC button to see the bonus comic! Instead of doing a new Blooper Reel this week, the way this election year has been going, I decided to bring back and appropriate strip from the past.

And now back to the travelogue...

Mar 22nd - 24th (Tuesday - Thursday): Exploring Vegas
While Vegas is known for gambling, there's plenty of other things to do there. Which is good, since I tend to have horrible luck when it comes to games of chance. In the end, Connie and I only ended up spending (and losing) a few dollars gambling. Actually, I had been thinking about giving black jack or poker a try, but didn't end up having the time (more on that later).
Anyway, we stayed in New York New York, which is near the south end of The Strip. It's a pretty good location, though the north end of the Strip is a pretty decent walk from there. Instead of going day by day, I think I'll just summarize the main points by category, more or less.
Connie and I spent the majority of our time walking around the different hotels. While quite a lot of them are very impressive from the outside, not all are really worth a visit, unless you're going for a specific restaurant or show. Connie and I made it to most of the major ones, so here's a quick rundown.

New York New York: The theme is pretty obvious. Aside from the casino, the inside has a section done up like New York streets, which has a decent selection of of reasonably priced restaurants. There's a few other shops as well, including the fairly large Hershey's Chocolate World, which features a Statue of Liberty made from chocolate (and others made from Twizlers and jelly beans). There's also the roller coaster, which I finally got to try. While it's nothing amazing, it was a pretty decent ride, much better than I expected. It's a bit expensive, but if you stay at the hotel you get two tickets for the price of one.
Excalibur: Castles and King Arthur? Well, the outside looks kind of neat, and I believe they still have their outdoor Merlin show at night (though I didn't check), but there really isn't anything worth seeing inside, unless you need a big arcade to leave your kids.
Luxor: Luxor's giant pyramid (Egypt themed, obviously) really sticks out but it's one of the older theme hotels so I wasn't expected much. However, the inside was actually rather cool. Worth a visit.
Mandalay Bay: Not really sure about the hotel itself, but it's got a rather nice shopping mall (which is also connected to Luxor) which includes an ice bar (one of two or three on The Strip).
MGM Grande: There's really not much of anything to see inside unless you're going there for a restaurant or a show.
The Monte Carlo: Also not really worth a visit if you're just looking around.
Aria: The hotel itself isn't all that interesting inside, but there's some art galleries outside and the Crystal Shops mall right next door is worth a visit.
The Cosmopolitan: It's so pink... It's worth walking through for the décor, and to check out the shops and restaurants inside.
Planet Hollywood: I actually stayed in this hotel many years ago back when it was the Aladdin. It's since been rebranded, but it's still more or less the same hotel with different decorations. Its Miracle Mile mall is huge (it's literally around a mile long) and still has a bit of the old middle eastern theme, making for a fun place to walk around.
Bellagio: The big pool out front, complete with musical fountain show, grabs the most attention but the inside of the hotel has a neat sorta Japanese garden and the world's largest chocolate fountain. There's also some assorted shops and the hotel itself it just ridiculously big and fancy, so Connie and I spent a while walking around and admiring the art and the marble floors.
Paris: It's fancy and it looks pretty neat from the outside. There's a nice shopping street inside designed to look like it came out of Paris (duh), though it's also really small, so don't expect to spend much time there unless you stop to eat.
Caesar's Palace: The Forum Shops are pretty big (though not competition for Planet Hollywood) and fun to walk through thanks to all the Greek / Roman statues and architecture. This is another one of the top hotels to visit.
There's lots of other hotels Connie and I didn't make it to, but I think the only other ones really worth visit (at least just to walk around) are The Flamingo (only if their pool and garden area is open to the general public, which it might not be any more), The Venetian (I remember it have a really cool shopping street complete with a canal when I went years back), and maybe Circus Circus (though it's a lot further away).
Other than the hotels, there's also some shops, restaurants, and other things on the strip. Some, like the M&M building and the outdoor shopping area near Paris are worth a look too.

And once again, I find myself running late... Looks like I'll have to finish this post on Monday. Ugh, I'm never going to get caught up at this rate... Anyway, have a good weekend!


4/13/2016 Canyon visit


Mar 21st (Monday): To the Honeymoon
Connie and I had originally planned to get an extremely early start on Monday but, thanks to some help from my family, the two of us didn't need to take her mom to the airport at 3:30 in the morning, so we were able to take things at a more leisurely pace. Anyway, our plan for the day was to drive from Phoenix to Las Vegas. We settled on Vegas for the honeymoon since it was nearby (no need to fly) and has a lot of fun stuff to see and do. There were some more elaborate honeymoon ideas discussed but, with the short time frame, Vegas just worked best. And there's always the possibility of other trips over the summer.
Anyway, we took a detour along the way so we could stop at the Grand Canyon. No big hike this year, but Connie and I did get some nice views from the rim and took the first part of the trail I hiked last year down to Ooh Aah Point (a fairly easy couple of miles round-trip). Didn't see any animals other than some birds, but the canyon itself is plenty impressive on its own.
As a note, if you do visit the Grand Canyon, I recommend doing at least a short hike. If you have the time and fitness level, the full hike to the bottom and back is amazing, but even a short one will provide a much different perspective and make for a more interesting experience. Of course, remember that the weather can be iffy and cold at the top. I actually think it was warmer than when I went last May, at least from a temperature perspective, but there were some strong and cold winds to negate that.
Between everything, we didn't get into Vegas until pretty late, but fortunately our hotel has great parking and I managed to find my way into the garage just before my phone ran out of power.

Sigh... I really wanted to write about Vegas today, and I have all the photos ready, but it's late so I think I'll wait until Friday.


4/11/2016 Post-Con

Well, Kawaii Kon is over, but I spent Sunday evening catching up on some thing now that it's done (I pretty much took the weekend off for the con). I've also got a rather important meeting today that I need to prepare for, so the travelogue will have to wait until Wednesday. I'm hoping to get most of the honeymoon posted then, wrap up the big wedding / honeymoon spring break trip on Friday, and then next week I can write about a couple of things I did here in Hawaii (including the con) and finally get caught up.



4/8/2016 The wedding

It's time for Kawaii Con (the big Hawaiian anime convention). Expect a travelogue entry...next week maybe? Whenever I get caught up. For today, it's time for a very special entry...

Mar 20th (Sunday): Wedding Day
This day was the whole point of the trip, Connie and my wedding. So why Phoenix? Well, my family is there, which made it convenient. Plus, while we weren't expecting a huge turnout at the wedding (our friends and family are scattered all around the world), Arizona was a lot cheaper and easier for most people to travel to than Hawaii. I decided not to post too many pictures, but here are some highlights.
We had the wedding and reception at the Scottsdale Marriott at McDowell Mountain Ranch. It was a really nice venue. Everything went well and the staff was excellent. Great scenery too. The ceremony was essentially a Jewish one, with a few adjustments and it went perfectly, with David getting some great photos afterwards. The weather was excellent, which is good since we had everything outdoors. While a bit hotter than usual for Phoenix in March, there was a pleasant breeze to balance things out.
The hotel provided a surprisingly excellent buffet and got us a deal on the cake too (which was also great, half apple spice, half lemon). Speaking of the cake, the Chinese character is double happiness, which is used at weddings. And the figures on top? If you think you recognize them, you're probably right, though a piece is missing in that photo. And, like any good wedding reception, there was dancing (something I rarely do unless DDR is involved) and, like any good Jewish wedding reception, there was lifting the bride and groom on chairs.
All in all, it was a great wedding. Big thanks to my family, Baron and Kayla, David (both David the rabbi and David the photographer) and the hotel for helping it go so well. And, of course, thanks to everyone who came. But, more than anything else, thanks to my beautiful wife, Connie.


4/6/2016 More pre-wedding

I think the write-up for the wedding itself will have to wait until Friday, but let's at least get up to it.

Mar 18 (Friday): Desert Botanical Garden
My parents' house was pretty crowded. In addition to my parents, my brother and his wife are staying there while they're between apartments and not long after Connie, her mom, and I arrived, one of my cousins and a family friend came for the wedding, and they stayed in the house too. Fortunately, it's a big house and we all managed to fit.
Some of us went to the Desert Botanical Garden that afternoon, for fun and to show Connie's mom a different kind of scenery. Unfortunately, Connie herself wasn't feeling too well and ended up waiting near the entrance while the rest of us walked around. Made it rather hard to talk to her mom, but we tried to point out things of interest, at least.
It was fun to visit the garden again. Being in the desert, it focuses on desert plants like cactus. If you haven't been, you may have a hard time believing just how varied desert flora can be. Even better, being spring, everything was starting to flower. We only walked around for an hour or so, but you can easily spend a lot more time there. It's definitely worth a visit if you're in Phoenix, especially if you haven't spent a lot of time in the desert.
We finished by going to Chompie's (a New York style deli) with a bunch of friends who came in for the wedding. Other than Connie's iffy health, it was a fun day. It's was great to catch up with everyone, some of whom I hadn't seen in-person for quite a long time.

Mar 19 (Saturday): Pre-Wedding Hangout
Since a lot (relatively speaking) of people were coming from out of town for the wedding, we decided to have a casual get together on Saturday afternoon to give everyone a chance to spend more time together. Before that though, some of us did a synagogue service kind of like the ones we had back in Colorado, which was really nice.
The get together itself was a lot of fun. As I said before, I hadn't seen some of the people in-person for months or even years in some cases. I also got to meet Connie's friend David, who was both a guest and our wedding photographer, and a pretty cool guy in general. We also used the opportunity to sign our ketubah. The ketubah is a traditional Jewish marriage contract, which is usually signed a bit before the wedding. They come in a myriad of different designs and, while there is a traditional block of text, I chose a more modern one for ours, as the traditional text is really dated.
That night, a few of us went out to do some bowling. I hadn't bowled in years, but it was fun and I had one fairly good game. I also got introduced to root beer beer, which turned out to be one of the few alcoholic drinks I've tried that I don't dislike. On the other hand, it can't beat a good regular root beer for taste and it costs more, so yeah...

Well, that's enough for today. Wedding write-up and photos coming on Friday, assuming things don't get too busy.


4/4/2016 Pre-wedding

I'm pretty much over the cold, though it did a number on my throat and my voice isn't back to normal yet. But I've got a lot of travelogue to catch up on so let's get that started...

Mar 14 - 17 (Mon - Thu): Connie's Mom Comes to Hawaii
With Connie's family all being in China, we knew most of them wouldn't be able to come to the wedding. Her mom, however, was able to make it. Since she doesn't speak any English, and had no experience with international travel, we decided it would be nice if she came to Hawaii first and then traveled with us to the wedding location a bit later. Unfortunately, she caught a bit of a cold on the flight over, but we were still able to show her around the island a bit when I wasn't working. Hopefully she enjoyed it. Unfortunately, my lack of Chinese and her lack of English kept communication between the two of us pretty limited, since everything had to go through Connie, so I couldn't always tell how she was feeling. Anyway, we just hit some of the basics (Waikiki, for example) that I've already written about, so I won't go into detail.
When leaving Hawaii for the mainland, quite a lot of the flights are red eyes (overnight), so we ended up leaving Thursday night for Phoenix. Some people love those flights since they can just sleep and wake up at their destination. I can't. But I can usually manage one night without sleep if I've been getting enough otherwise and it gives me extra time to play games, so it's not all bad. But yeah, the flight went by without any big problems and we arrived in Phoenix, Arizona on Friday morning.

Hmm... I was planning to get one or two more travelogue entries finished today (especially since that first one is more setup than anything else) but it's late so I guess I'll have to wait until Wednesday. I'll definitely try to catch up fairly quick though, seeing as I've got some stuff going on here in Hawaii to write about as well...


4/1/2016 April!

No April Fools joke today, and no travelogue for that matter. I did get all the non-wedding photos sorted, which is a step in the right direction, but I still have some things to catch up on and, more importantly, haven't quite shaken that cold yet (though I'm way better than I was) so I'm going to turn in a bit early.

See you Monday, almost certainly with the travelogue.


3/30/2016 And we're back

And PV is updating once again. The wedding went great (though the rest of the trip had some serious ups and downs). I was planning to do a travelogue update today but Connie and my return flight to Hawaii was seriously delayed so I'm operating off a lot less sleep than I'd like, plus I seem to have picked up a small cold on the way back so I need to keep this short. The travelogue for the wedding and trip as a whole will get underway once I'm feeling better.



3/16/2016 Festival time

As a reminder, Pebble Version may or may not update this Friday and won't update at all next week. Though I may post guest comics if I get some good submissions (see the previous news post for submission rules). Regular strips will resume on the 28th or 30th, depending on how things go. But first, here's a travelogue post.

March 13th (Sunday) The Honolulu Festival
The Honolulu Festival is an annual event celebrating...not Honolulu so much as all the different cultures that converge here. Though it's primarily dominated by Japan, to the point where it's almost a Japanese festival. Like last year, there was a lot of booths and performances in the convention center. About half the booths were a mix of Japanese culture and tourism, though there were also a lot of local crafts and a kids' area. There were snacks too, of course. Connie and I tried the odd, but fairly good, combination of french fries and okonomiyaki sauce. We didn't get to see too many of the performances this year, but there was a mix of traditional Japanese, not so traditional sorta Japanese, and hula. We also watched a short anime movie called Garden of Words. Beautiful animation, though the story was a little weird.
After the events at the center finished up, there was a parade down by Waikiki which featured quite a lot of the various performing groups that had come for the festival. In addition to all the Japanese groups, there was some Chinese and Taiwanese, Philippine, Korean, Mexican, and even Italian. And, like last year, there was a big inflatable dragon to help wrap things up.
And, finally, it all ended with a fireworks show put on by the Japanese city of Nagaoka. It was a pretty good one, with quite a large variety of fireworks and made for a great way to end the day.
So, now that I've attended the festival for two years, I can confirm that it's one of the bigger and better ones here on the island. Maybe not for food (the selection at the convention center was rather limited), but between the booths, shows, parade, and fireworks there's something for everyone and it makes for a a fun day. I wouldn't travel all the way to Oahu just for it, but if your trip happens to be at the same time, it's a nice bonus.


3/14/2016 Guest comics and TV

As a reminder, I'll be taking a short break from Pebble Version so there will be no new comics or news posts next week. This Friday's update is iffy as well, due to my travel schedule. Updates will resume on either the 28th or 30th. However, I'll be up for posting some guest comics over that time if some of you guys feel like making some. Rules are:
-Comics should be Pebble Version and/or Pokémon related.
-Keep the rating PG (appropriate for all ages).
-Comics can be any art style (sprites, hand drawn, etc.)
-They should be jpg or png format.
-Any size is ok, though keep in mind that I might have to resize especially large entries.
-Entries should be e-mailed to me.

On a different topic, now that it's March, all my TV shows have started up again...except for Person of Interest, which hasn't even gotten a start date for season five announced yet (no idea what's going on there). I did watch two mini-series, season two of both Agent Carter and Galavant, over the winter, both of which were good and comparable to their previous seasons.

On my dad's advice, I also started watching Quantico (getting caught up via on-demand), and I'm glad I did. It's one of those shows that grabs you and doesn't let up, while keeping you guessing the entire time. My only worry is that they'll try and stretch it out too far since, given the plot, I get the feeling that trying to make it any longer than a single season could easily ruin it.

I was much less impressed with the first episode of Kings and Prophets. It seems like they really wanted to make Game of Thrones, but it was already taken so they tried to do the same thing with the Biblical story of Saul and David. On the one hand, there's just enough detail there to tell me that they did actually read the story. But, on the other hand, they waste no time diverging from the source material in nearly every way and the end result just feels like a sloppy rip-off of Game of Thrones. The plot is just plain lousy and the actors don't help it one bit. And don't get me started on the setting. It's supposed to be ancient Israel (as in, the middle east of about 3000 years ago) but both the sets and costumes looks like they came from a low budget version of Medieval Europe or Westeros. And it doesn't help that all the actors have European accents (of several different types, at that). I actually think that the story of David could make a pretty cool TV drama if done right, but Gods and Prophets completely misses the mark and one episode was more than enough for me.

See you Wednesday!


3/11/2016 Cooking is so fun

It's Friday and, as always, that means a new bonus comic.

Connie and I ended up taking a cooking class on Wednesday. Although cooking is a hobby of mine, I'm mostly self taught (books and stuff), and I've learned a few things from my mom. I don't normally take cooking classes. But there was a Japanese one that sounded interesting at Whole Foods so Connie and I ended up going. I'm glad we did. It was put on by ABC Cooking Studios, which is a Japanese company that runs a whole lot of cooking schools in Japan, and various other parts of Asia. Thery're thinking of expanding into the US and were running some test classes (if you live in a major city, keep an eye out, they might visit the mainland in the future). Their experience shows. The class was really well done and easy to follow, even for people without much cooking experience. We made dorayaki, okonomiyaki, and green tea lattes. While I'm a fairly experienced chef, it was still fun and I even picked up a couple of tricks that I didn't know before. And, considering you get a meal and an apron out of it, the price wasn't too bad either.

We also saw Zootopia, which was fun and clever. You have to admire Disney, most of their major movies turned out really well. I can name a couple flops, but most range from good to amazing. What's even more impressive is that they continue to pull that off without relying on an endless stream of sequels. I can't think of a single other movie studio (or game company, or author, for that matter) who has comc close to maintaining that level of succes for so long across so many new properties.



3/9/2016 Guest Comics

For the first time in years, I'll be taking a short vacation from Pebble Version. The exact dates are a little iffy. There will be no updates during the week of the 20th. The 20th is my wedding, and I'll be off on honeymoon for the rest of the week. So that's one week, though the updates for the 18th and the 28th are a bit iffy due to travel times. So PV will updated normally through the 16th (next Wednesday), might or might not update on the 18th, and will resume on either the 28th or the 30th.

While this won't be the first time I've taken an extended break from the comic (as in, skipped multiple updates in a row), the last time was years and years ago. But anyway, while I could just not post anything for that time, I wouldn't mind posting some guest comics if any of you guys want to make some. Here are the rules:
-Comics should be Pebble Version and/or Pokémon related.
-Keep the rating PG (appropriate for all ages).
-Comics can be any art style (sprites, hand drawn, etc.)
-They should be jpg or png format.
-Any size is ok, though keep in mind that I might have to resize especially large entries.
-Entries should be e-mailed to me.

So, depending on if any of you have some spare time and are feeling creative, we might have some guest comics coming up. For now though, I'll see you Friday.


3/7/2016 Farewell to busting

Only two weeks to go until the wedding, and one until Connie's mother comes to visit...

Well, I did get a decent amount of work done over the weekend, and Connie and I got a hike in as well. Other than that... Now that it's March all the TV series are starting back up so I'm getting back into them. Mythbusters, however, just ended it's impressive 14 year run. While it probably was time for it to go, I'm going to miss it. They really did a lot of fun and ground-breaking stuff and there's quite a lot of episodes that stick in my mind either for the practical usage or just because the results were so interesting. I wish the cast all the best with their future projects, I'm certainly curious to see what they do next.


3/4/2016 Something, something...

New bonus comic for everyone who votes!

This has been one of those weeks where hardly anything seemed to work out like planned. Sometimes that's not a big deal, sometimes it's a huge inconvenience, and sometimes it changes your perspective on things. Over all the week turned out mostly ok, though some things didn't get finished when I wanted them to, or took longer than planned. Though there were some things yesterday that really got me rethinking some things, and not in the most positive way.

Anyway, I'm looking to get a lot done over the weekend. There's papers to grade and some things I want to finish and/or get ahead on before Connie's mom comes to visit in a week and a half.

Have a good weekend!  I'll hopefully get a bit of relaxing in as well somewhere...


3/2/2016 The checklist

Well, just because I don't have to worry about my MFA classes doesn't mean I don't have plenty of other things to do. At the moment, I'm busy working through a checklist. And, of course, other stuff tends to pop up from time to time. Take Monday, for example, when my printer broke down in the middle of printing some important documents, requiring an unplanned trip to Best Buy to get a replacement. Fortunately, there was a sale and I had a gift card, so the whole thing wasn't nearly as bad as it could have been. Still annoying though. Anyway, I'm making progress and spring break is only a few weeks away...


2/29/2016 The first in four years

February 29th... There hasn't been a Pebble Version update on this date since... Well, since the last February 29th in 2012 actually. Looks like PV updated on February 29th in 2008 as well. In 2004, however, the 29th was on a Sunday so no update then. Three out of four ain't bad though. So what about 2020? Nope, the 29th then will be on a Saturday. And, aside from that, the comic should be finished long before then anyway. It's still got some time left but, with Brendan and May having collected all eight badges, it's definitely entering the home stretch.

And, on a different note, happy 20th anniversary to the Pokémon franchise! Looking forward to hearing more about Sun and Moon...

Well, have a fun leap day. I've got exciting plans like paperwork and house cleaning...


2/26/2016 Lightning strikes in odd locations

As always, Friday means a new bonus comic so click the TWC button and vote to see it!

Well, I'm moving into the weekend on a positive note. I've finished everything I needed to do this week (though I do have a couple small things to do over the weekend), I'm done with MFA work for the next month, and there's actually a hopeful development in that issue I've been dealing with (it's nowhere near resolved, but it's nice to have some good news for a change).

In other news, here's a poster I saw the other day in the window of a Louis Vuitton store while walking down Waikiki. Notice anything strange? If not, take a closer look and you might realize that the model isn't a real person, but a very high quality CG character. And not just any character, that's Lightning, heroine of Final Fantasy XIII (as well as a major supporting character in XIII-2 and heroine of the the final XIII game, Lightning Returns). I'd actually heard a little while ago that they were using her to model some new Louis Vuitton line, but it was weird to actually see it while walking around the city. This isn't the first time Final Fantasy has done a cross promotion; for example, Final Fantasy IX and Coca-Cola had a big campaign years back. But it is a bit puzzling. From a character perspective, Lighting isn't the type of girl to care much about fashion. Though, in Lightning Returns, you do get different outfits which are used to give her different stats and abilities so there is that. More puzzling though, is the timing. I'd understand if this promotion was running around the same time as a new game launch, but the last game featuring her, Lightning Returns, was released in 2014 (unless you count the late 2015 PC port) and there aren't any new FFXIII games planned. I'm curious to know how this whole thing came about. Are there some Square Enix and Louis Vuitton guys who are friends or work in the same building (like Square and Disney with Kingdom Hearts)? Maybe the designer is a big Final Fantasy fan? I'm also curious how people react to the ads. Are there a lot of Final Fantasy fans who buy Louis Vuitton stuff? How many people will even recognize Lightning? Heck, how many will notice that she's CG? I wonder if they're using her images at all their US stores, or just here in Honolulu because of all the Japanese tourists. I do appreciate that games, especially ones I like, are becoming more mainstream, but things like this are still weird.



2/24/2016 Agu!

Things are starting to calm down (though that annoying issue is still ongoing), and I've decided that today will be tax day. Yay... On the plus side, I'm pretty sure I'll be getting a refund, so that's something. Anyway, let's get to one of those restaurant reviews I've been meaning to do...

Restaurant Review: Agu
Type: Ramen
Location: Ward Center, Kapolei, and other locations
Since I can't eat pork, I rarely get ramen out. It's just too hard to find non-pork broths. Fortunately, Agu has me covered with both vegetarian and jidori chicken broths. Personally, I find the vegetarian broth little strong, but still good over all. And the jidori is excellent. Add in some great noodles and toppings and you have a bowl of ramen that's worth the price. Even if said price (low to high teens) is a bit on the high side for ramen. There's a few sides and non noodle dishes as well, though the ramen is big enough to make for a complete meal if you're not super hungry.
The restaurant itself is kind of small, but classy and modern. It can fill up quickly at peak times, so be ready to wait a bit if you don't get there early.
Though it's a little expensive, Agu has great ramen and the different types of broth assure that there's something for every diet. I'll certainly be popping in from time to time.


2/22/2016 School and taxes

It's a new week. So what's in store? Other than work, of course (spent a while yesterday making some PowerPoints for one of my classes), I've got one last week to go in my current MFA class, and I want to get my taxes done. Those are the top priorities, though I've got some stuff related to that ongoing issue to work on after they're done. So yeah, fun. Though at least I don't have any grading to do this week. Got to say, I'm really looking forward to March. There's a few reasons for that but one of them (not the top reason, but still on the list) is that I can take a break from the MFA classes. So far, there has been a little bit of interesting new information, but nothing I couldn't have easily learned from a book. Having to spend lots of time going back over things I already know well, along with some busy work, gets old fast. Especially when there's a lot of other things I could be doing with my time. But hey, I can take things a bit easier this week so that's something, and March isn't too far off... After that...well, we'll see. The rest of spring and the upcoming summer could be fairly calm and enjoyable or extremely hectic, depending how things play out. Nothing to do but wait and see...

For the first time in while though, I've got my PV strip buffer rebuilt (we'll see how long that lasts) so I can spend a bit more time on these news posts. Maybe come Wednesday I'll finally get around to those restaurant reviews I've been meaning to write...


2/19/2016 Continuing on

It's Friday, so vote with the TWC button to see the new bonus comic!

This has been a long week, but it's drawing to a close and I've actually gotten done everything I wanted to. Does that mean next week will be calmer? A little, probably. But I already wrote about all that the other day. Honestly, I'm a bit too burned out to think of anything particularly interesting to write today. Sorry for all the fairly generic news posts lately, but that's just how it has to be every once in a while.

Anyway, have a good weekend. Hopefully I'll get to relax a bit between the next bunch of things on my to-do list.


2/17/2016 Making progress

I got a lot done yesterday, though there's still plenty left to do. Nice to be making progress though. Just hope I can get though the coming weeks (and this semester in general) without burning out...


2/15/2016 Zzz....

Well, I've had a nice, if rather busy, weekend. And it looks like the momentum is only going to ramp up over the course of the week. It would be a busy week to begin with but, thanks to that issue I'm still dealing with, I have a lot of extra work that needs to be done on top of everything else. When are things going to calm down? Well, some weeks are busier than others (this week, for example, I've got a bunch of papers to grade and some paperwork that needs to be done in addition to other things), but I expect to keep very busy at least until the end of the month. In March, I'll be taking a break from my MFA work, which will free up a lot of time, though there will be my wedding (and all that entails) in there. And, until that issue is resolved (one way or another), there will be plenty of extra work related to it as well. Sigh... That whole thing really disrupted my plans and workflow this semester and, unfortunately, its repercussions have the potential to last for months, maybe even the rest of the year. 2016 really isn't off to the best start for a lot of people, myself included.

Anyway, I'll get through it all one way or another. And hey, Valentine's Day went well, so there's that. I hope all of you had a nice Valentine's too (either with your significant other or on your own).

See you Wednesday!


2/12/2016 Nothing much to say

It's Friday so vote with the TWC button to see the new bonus comic!

This week has been a lot less busy than last week was, which is a relief, though that unresolved issue is rather draining and causing me a lot of extra work. Next week, things will probably ramp up a bit, though hopefully it won't be too crazy. I knew this semester was going to be busier than usual with the MFA and the upcoming wedding but ugh... This issue has made things a whole lot worse.

Anyway, I'm doing my best and that's all I can do right now. So, have a good weekend and I'll see you Monday.


2/10/2016 A little fun

No updates on that situation. And I've been putting a good bit of time into preparing for if it doesn't improve. But I still have done a few fun things lately, so here's a quick travelogue entry.

February 7th (Sunday): The Windward Side
Some family friends were in town over the weekend so Connie and I met up with them and my parents. We started out with the Makapu'u Lighthouse trail, which I've previously written about. They did, however, recently clean up and repave the entire thing, making it a really smooth and easy hike that's appropriate for just about anyone. The lookout at the very top isn't quite finished yet, but there's still plenty of good views. We were even able to spot some whales in the distance. I got lucky and managed to snap a photo of one as it came out of the water. The zoom was a bit far out, but considering how hard the things are to photograph, especially from the shore, I'm pretty happy with it.
After a snack in Waimanalo (a small nearby town known for its produce), we made a stop at Bellows Beach. I hadn't been there before but it's really long and has some great sand (albeit with a lot of driftwood). The down side is that it borders an airforce base and they only open it to the public on weekends.
If you're wondering, yeah we did watch the Super Bowl after that (well, half watched thanks to DVR fast forwarding). It was a fun day and a nice break from all the other things I have going on right now.
Finally, while it's not really related, here's a video clip from last week's lion pole dance at Ala Moana Mall, in celebration of Chinese New Year. Like last year, it was pretty impressive.


2/8/2016 Good and bad

On the bright side, I had a nice and fairly relaxing time on Sunday hanging out with Connie, my parents, and some visiting friends. I've got a travelogue post in the works (along with that lion dancing I mentioned last time), but didn't quite have time to finish it today so expect it on Wednesday.

On the down side, things are not going well with that issue I've been dealing with. While it might still work out in the end, that's looking increasingly unlikely, which means a lot of extra work for me since I need to start preparing for if things completely fall through. Honestly, the whole thing is extremely annoying (to use PG language) and part of me wants to just rant about it, but this isn't the time or place. I might explain it here eventually, but not now. As I said before, it's not health related and, as aggravating and problematic and it could be, it's not disastrous, so don't worry too much.

That's it for now. See you Wednesday with the travelogue and, hopefully, some better news.


2/5/2016 As predicted

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As predicted the last couple of days have been just as busy as the first part of the week. Though I'm still getting a lot done, which is good. Connie and I did get out for a little while yesterday evening to see some lion dancing, which was a nice (if short) break. I'll probably post a movie next week. For now though, it's late and I'm worn out.

Have a good weekend!


2/3/2016 Moving along

It's been a busy, but fairly productive couple of days and it looks like today will likely be more of the same. I've got a lot of papers to grade for work at the moment, which always makes things a bit busier, but I've also moved onto the next class in my MFA, and the professor clearly doesn't know what a reasonable reading assignment is. Accelerated format or not, you just don't assign around 450 pages of reading in a single week (most classes don't reach that in an entire semester). Not to mention the 120 pages or so he recommended reading twice... So yeah, that'll be fun.

In other news, for those of you who like to read Pebble Version on your smart phone, but don't like the way the site looks on it (this site was designed before smart phones became a common way to access the internet) a fan made a simple Android app for reading the archives. You can check it out here or search for it on the Google Play store.



2/1/2016 Still waiting...

And the results of Friday were...wait and see. On the one hand, it wasn't a negative result, which is good. On the down side, it wasn't positive either. The best I could get was a "we'll think about it" situation, which means I just have to give it some more time. Sigh...

Other than that, nothing much to report. Work and the like are progressing normally and Connie and I are working on getting legally married (which is a bit more work than you'd expect, at least here in Hawaii). The actual wedding is in March, but the sooner we get her green card paperwork in the better, and that requires a marriage certificate. Kinda exciting, but mostly just paperwork.

I have a restaurant review or two I should do sometime soon, but not today.



1/29/2016 Here it goes...

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Well, it's Friday and that means it's finally time for that big thing I mentioned a couple of times before. If things go well today, everything will be fine and I can relax and fully focus on my work and other projects. If things don't go well, life is going to be a lot more stressful and complicated for a while... Don't worry, it's nothing utterly catastrophic (no big health problems or anything like that), and I have a backup plan or two that may still turn things around if today doesn't work out. And, failing at all that... Well, I've got some other plans if I need them.

Anyway, have a good weekend and I'll see you Monday, hopefully with some better news.


1/27/2016 Sakaguchi

Yesterday was as great as I'd hoped. Connie is back, for good this time. Though you guys probably don't want me to get into a bunch of romantic stuff here.

The other big event was that I got to meet one of my idols, Final Fantasy creator Hironobu Sakaguchi (here's a group shot with Sakaguchi, me, and a few other people who were at the event). I helped run a video conference presentation he did last spring, but this time he came to my campus in-person. There are very few game designers who have had as influential and successful a career as Sakaguchi. He's had a huge impact on the industry as a whole and is also one of my absolute favorite game designers (along with Shigeru Miyamoto, Hideo Kojima, and Testuya Nomura). On a more personal note though, it was Sakaguchi's games, especially Final Fantasy VII, VIII, and IX, which convinced me to become a game designer. More than that, their stories were, along with the Harry Potter series, some of the primary influences on my writing and storytelling style as well. Without Sakaguchi's games, I probably wouldn't be on the path I'm on today, so it was a real honor to be able to meet him. And hey, he's been doing more and more work in Hawaii over the years. Who knows, maybe this will eventually lead to something more and, someday, I'll be able to work with him on a game. Well, that's probably wishful thinking, but it never hurts to dream.


1/25/2016 Chicago

So, that big thing I had to deal with today? It got pushed back to Friday. On the plus side, it gives me a chance to de-stress a bit and spend most of this week focusing on good things like Connie's arrival and meeting Sakaguchi. On the down side, I really would have liked to get it dealt with so I could (hopefully) stop worrying about it.

Anyway, yesterday was fun. Got to hang out on the beach for a while, which I hadn't done for a while, and then my parents and I went to see Chicago (the rock band). Here's a quick travelogue entry.

January 24th (Sunday): Chicago in Concert
As you probably know if you follow my travelogues, I like a lot of 60's and 70's rock and have managed to see quite a number of groups in concert over the past few years. Well, Chicago had added a Honolulu show to their latest tour, so my parents and I got tickets. Unfortunately, video recording wasn't allowed so I'll just have to write about it.
Chicago is a bit of an interesting group in that none of the members are especially famous as individuals, it's more the group as a whole. Even the vocals are split between multiple people. They also put a heavier emphasis on the music than a lot of bands (especially modern ones) do with lots of complex musical interludes and some of the members can play an impressively large range of instruments (including a lot of brass).
Four of the nine members have been with the band since the beginning and both they and the newer members do a great job. They saved the majority of their more famous songs (or at least the pre-80's ones) for the second half, but some of the newer music was pretty good too. While none of Chicago's songs quite hit the level of my absolute favorites, they're all pretty solid and fun to listen to. Definitely worth seeing in concert if you get the chance.


1/22/2016 Not the greatest year...

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So, it's a little over three weeks into 2016 and it has not been a great year for me so far. Hasn't been a great year for the world in general for that matter. On my end, there hasn't been anything absolutely disastrous (so I can't complete with the big news stuff that's been happening), which is good, but after the first week of January things have just gone downhill. I already talked a bit about last week. Well, like that week, this one started out fairly good only to take a serious dive in the middle. I don't want to go into detail, but it made my issues from the the previous week seem pretty minor.

So, what about next week? Well, Sunday should be good. I don't think I'll have too much work to do and I'm going to see Chicago in concert (I'll probably do a travelogue entry for it). And Tuesday should be awesome. Not only is that the day Connie returns from China (for good this time), but I'm going to get to meet one of my heroes, Final Fantasy creator Hironobu Sakaguchi.

The problem is Monday. That thing I've been dealing with this week will be coming to a bit of head then. Depending on how it turns out, Monday could either be excellent (if things go the way I want and it's all resolved) or terrible (if things go poorly and I'm forced to resort to my fallback plans, which will drag the issue out for a while and may or may not work out in the end). Or maybe neutral if the issue gets pushed further down the road without any sort of resolution. So yeah, at very least next week will have a couple good days, but Monday's the big question and, if things go poorly, it could lead to a lot more stress and trouble in the future as well. Sigh... Well, I've done as much as I can about it for now, nothing left except to hope and pray it works out.



1/20/2016 No new comic today

Unfortunately, there will be no new PV strip today. I really hate to do this, especially without an advance warning, but I got back home from Honolulu yesterday night and was just settling down to finish up today's strip when something really big and important came up out of the blue that required my immediate attention. And just when I was starting to relax and de-stress after last week too... Well, I did all I can on it for the moment, though the matter isn't resolved yet.

Anyway, that ate up all the time I had set aside for Pebble Version and then some, leaving me with the choice of staying up really late to get the comic done or just giving up on it for today. Since I've already had too many late nights already over the past week, I decided on the latter.

Sorry about that. Friday's update should be done on time.


1/18/2016 Recovering

I'm still pretty burned out from last week, which isn't a great way to be only a week into spring semester. Took things somewhat easy over the weekend though, so that helped. And, if nothing unexpected happens, this week shouldn't be too bad. Hopefully I'll be back to normal in a few more days. Hopefully.

On a side note, turns out it'll take more than all weekend to download and install everything on my new PS3. You never realize just how many downloadable games and DLC you have until you need to redownload them all... Haven't even started on the disc based stuff yet.

See you Wednesday.


1/15/2016 Goodbye PS3...

This week started out nicely enough. Sunday left me fairly recharged and ready to go. Monday and Tuesday were very busy, but otherwise fine. Wednesday, however, things really went downhill. First off, there were some very last minute changes made to my teaching schedule (pretty much out of my control) at the start of the week. Turns out, those changes were problematic and had to be changed again, except no one was really sure what to change it to (once again, I had very little say). It seems to have gotten worked out yesterday night, though I'm not 100% sure. The end result isn't too bad, though it does make my work schedule a little less convenient. The whole process was pretty stressful though.

The other thing with Wednesday has to due with the title of this post. I have a launch model PS3. I didn't actually get it at launch, though not for lack of trying. I camped out twice (once for a pre-order and once for the actual launch) only to fail the first time due to a bunch of line crashers and he second time because some store employees decided to grab a few consoles for themselves at the last minute. So I got mine on ebay while later (after the prices dropped to retail level). And, even since I got back from Japan the first time, it's been my most frequently used console by far.
Ever since I moved to Hawaii, it's been running very hot and loud. It never shut down on me, though it did pop up heat warnings a couple times. Anyway, to try and prevent any problems, I decided to get it cleaned and have some new thermal paste and cooling pads put in to avoid any future problems. While that's something I might be able to do myself, I don't mess with the inside of electronics very often so I decided to play it safe and have the pros do it. So I sent it to a place on the mainland back in December. On a side note, I'm wondering if the local UPS Store ripped me off, seeing as the price the repair guy gave me for return shipping via UPS was about a third of what they had charged me to send it there...
Anyway, I got my PS3 back on Wednesday and hooked it up back up. The first thing I noticed was that it was running really cool, which was great...for a few minutes. At that point, despite the low temperature, the fan kicked into overdrive, I got a heat warning, and the system shut down with a yellow light. I tried a couple more times with the same result. Seems that the cooling system wasn't the main issue, and said issue has rapidly gotten worse. It's the dreaded yellow light of death which seems to hit most old model PS3s eventually. While I really wish the repair guys had noticed that before sending it back to me, they did offer to fix it for free (though I'd have to pay shipping). Problem is, once a system gets the YLOD, its days are numbered. By just about all accounts, including the repair shop's, the fix is only temporary. At best, it can work for a couple of years, at worst it might only work for another month or two. Now I'm rather attached to my PS3 since I've use it so often for so long. And, being a launch model, it's one of the few models with PS2 backwards compatibility, which is pretty convenient. Not to mention all the money I just sunk into the upgrades (they did promise me a refund, minus shipping, so that's something). But spending a lot more money on shipping (probably $100+) for only a short term repair just didn't make much sense.
Losing my favorite console was rather depressing, but it did last me eight years, so it's not like I didn't get my money's worth (even with the wasted upgrade costs). In the end, I decided that my best option was to get a new PS3 (and there goes more money). On the bright side, I have all of my game saves backed up via Plus (aside from a couple that are locked (thanks, Sega), though downloading and reinstalling all my games and DLC is probably going to take all weekend (my old system can't stay on long enough for a transfer). And hey, the newer PS3s are smaller and more power efficient. But they also don't have any PS2 backwards compatibility, meaning I'll have to get my old PS2 and memory card out whenever I want to play DDR or my other PS2 games (hopefully it won't be failing any time soon).
Sigh... Well, goodbye PS3. We had a really great run and you'll always be one of my favorite consoles.


1/13/2016 Work, work, work...

Not much to say today. It's another busy week between my MFA work and getting my spring classes up and running. Hopefully I can get enough done that upcoming weeks will be a bit calmer, but we'll see. I'll try and write more next time. Right now, I'm just too worn out.


1/11/2016 Semester start

Here we go, the start of spring semester. Well, my first class isn't until tomorrow, but yeah. Specifically, spring semester for my teaching, my MFA program started back up a week ago. Sometimes the first week of semester isn't all that busy, since there isn't any grading to do. This time around though, I've still got lots of prep work to take care of so I'll be keeping busy this week. And next week, I'm sure. But anyway, I did get a bit of a break this weekend, which was really nice. Went to the Ohana Festival at the Japanese Community Center and then did part of the Pali Highway hike with my parents. I wrote about both before, so I don't think I'll do a travelogue entry, but it was fun.

Anyway, back to work. I'll see you Wednesday.


1/8/2016 So much to prepare...

I've spent most of my time this week focusing on school work, both for the classes I'll be teaching and the current MFA classes I'm taking (number 2 of 12). It's been a fairly frantic pace, and one that'll likely continue for another few days at least. I'm running a new class this semester and I still have a lot of material to make for it. I don't think I'll get everything done before the class starts, but I should at least have the first few weeks finished, which will hopefully ensure I stay ahead of things for the rest of the semester. Fortunately, I have been making a lot of progress, so I think I can take Sunday off to go to a Japanese festival. That should be fun, and a nice break.

Anyway, for now it's back to work for me. See you Monday!


1/6/2016 New Year's Eve

I did mention some fireworks pictures, so let's do that.

December 31st (Thursday): New Year's Eve
I didn't do anything too elaborate for New Year's. Thought about going to a party, but didn't really feel like it on my own. Instead, I went out for a slightly early birthday dinner with my parents (review to follow) and then stayed up with my mom to watch the fireworks on Waikiki. It was a pretty nice show. They had a lot of interestingly shaped fireworks, including a parasol and a peach, and some that just had a whole lot of different colors. And, of course, there were plenty of normal fireworks as well. It was a pleasant, if somewhat low key, way to bring in the New Year.

Restaurant Review: Asuka Nabe
Type: Shabu Shabu (Japanese Hot Pot)
Location: Waialae Ave.
There are a lot of shabu shabu places in Honolulu, so it's takes something special for them to stand out. Asuka is one of the standouts. The decor isn't anything special, but you're probably not going to go up to Waialae for fancy decor, what matters is the food.
While Asuka has a few sides and other dishes on the menu, the main focus is shabu shabu. They have all the usual meats, vegetables, and other ingredients, which you can order in sets or ala cart. Nothing too unique there, but the quality is good and the prices aren't bad. What really sets Asuka apart though is the broths. They have an extensive selection, a number of which are very different and unique (though most are only available on the dinner menu). On my visit, we tried the Rainbow Mushroom and Herb broth (a vegan option with a bit of an Italian flavor) and the Hiroshima Lemon broth. Both were excellent, and I especially liked the Hiroshima Lemon. Personally, I never would have thought of using a lemon honey broth for shabu shabu, but it works surprisingly well. I also have to mention the dipping sauces, all of which were fantastic.
The servers were friendly at attentive as well, making for an all around enjoyable experience. I don't know if I'd call Asuka my favorite shabu shabu restaurant, but it's definitely high on the list and I'm already looking forward to my next visit.


1/4/2016 Again?

You know, I went to a lot of trouble to make sure that I'd have the site and comic ready to update on New Year's, despite staying out late for the fireworks (I might post some pictures later in the week). And, despite all that, the comic didn't update on the main page. Everything else was fine, even the title, but it displayed the old comic image. Sigh... Well, here's the comic that was supposed to be up on Friday. If you did see already (it did update to the archives), sorry for the repeat. Not the greatest way to start the year off here on Pebble Version, but hopefully it won't happen again any time soon (or ever).

See you Wednesday!


1/1/2016 Happy New Year!

Not much to say except wishing everyone the best for 2016! Also, there's a new bonus comic so vote to see it and all that.


12/30/2015 Goodbye 2015

When I was a kid, a year seemed to last forever. Now, it feels like they go by a lot faster. 2015 has been a fairly eventful year. Not as much as 2014, but I did travel to Arizona, China, and the Big Island, got engaged, rereleased Car Washer on Steam, and, most recently, started on another Master's degree. Not to mention my work at the university and progressing on Aurora's Nightmare. So what's going to happen in 2016? Well, there's the wedding. And lots of teaching and studying, of course. Beyond that, I'm not quite sure. I'll just have to see what happens. International travel is, unfortunately, not too likely though.

Anyway, have a great New Year!


12/28/2015 Kayaking in Kailua

Only a few days left in 2015... But anyway, I've got a travelogue entry to write.

December 24th (Thursday): More Kayaking by Kailua
I first tried kayaking back in October with Connie, Noah, and Hannah. Well, my mom got a good deal on rentals so the two of us decided to go out by ourselves. Like my last kayaking trip, we started from the beach in Kailua (which is, by far, the most popular kayaking spot on the island). This time, I had a single kayak instead of the double I shared with Connie before. Surprisingly, the single one really wasn't much (if any) smaller than the double...
The weather was weird that day. The forecast wasn't bad but, while we were picking up the kayaks, it started to rain really hard. Luckily, it stopped by the time we left the rental shop. Though, for the rest of the day, the weather kept going back and forth between sun and rain.
Since I hadn't made it there last time, we decided to start by heading towards Mokulua Island. Of the two nearby islands that you can land on, it's the largest and the furthest from the shore. Paddling over there was fairly easy up until the last stretch, when the water started getting rather choppy. Fortunately, kayaks are more stable than they look, though it took a good bit of effort to get to shore. It didn't help that the wind and rain suddenly sprang up in the middle of it (though it did make my approach more dramatic). My mom, who came in a bit behind me, managed to hit a calmer patch. Yep, photos! I really missed having my camera with me last time, so I decided to risk bringing it on the kayak. I ended up putting it in two layers of carefully sealed Ziplock bags, which worked very well. I might have been in trouble if the kayak had flipped but, fortunately, that didn't happen.
Anyway, we weren't the only ones kayaking that day. Being Christmas Eve, there were quite a lot of people out on the water, and on the island. Mokulua Island is situated right near another small island, though you can't land on that one since it lacks a good beach. Both islands look pretty similar though, since they're pretty much just large hills. You're not allowed to climb the hill, to avoid disturbing nesting birds, but you can make your way around the coast. One direction from the beach leads to a rocky shoreline, while the other features a narrow foot path through the tall grass.
After exploring Mokulua Island for a little while, we set off once again. After the initial launch, getting back into the open ocean wasn't too hard. Since we still had a decent amount of time left on our rental, and it was on the way back anyway, we stopped at Flat Island as well. Like I mentioned last time, Flat Island really lives up to its name. As with Mokulua, you can walk along the perimeter, but you can't go too far inland to avoid disturbing the birds. I didn't actually see any birds, though there were a lot last time. What I did see were some surfers. Kailua isn't really much of a surfing beach (it's all about kite surfing), but apparently there are some decent waves out off the side of Flat Island. After circling the island, and spotting some neat little inlets, we headed back to the beach to begin the hardest part of the trip, loading the kayaks on top of my car.
It was a fun outing, and great upper body workout, though more constant weather would have been nice. But, then again, I did get a bit sunburned (I lost a lot of my tan over the past month and a half thanks to a busy schedule and a lot of rainy days), so having some clouds was probably a good thing.
Later in the day, I ended up in Honolulu with my parents. My mom and I went out to eat (see the review below) and then we all walked around Waikiki for a bit. We stopped to check out the gingerbread display at the Sheraton but, unfortunately, the main chef who used to make them isn't at the hotel anymore, so the display was a lot smaller this year. Though the other Sheraton (there are a couple on Waikiki) had a large sand sculpture. After that though, it was time to head back home.

Restaurant Review: Bombay Palace
Type: Indian
Location: Ala Moana Blvd. near the Hilton
Bombay Palace, or Monsoon India as it was known until recently, is a place I've walked past countless times but never actually eaten at for whatever reason. But my mom and I were out for Indian food and didn't feel like walking all the up to King, or further, so we decided to give Bombay Palace a try.
It's actually a bit smaller inside than I expected, though not cramped or anything. All in all it's a bright and pleasant looking restaurant. There's nothing especially eye catching about the décor, but it works. Of course, what really matters is the food. The menu has a pretty decent selection of classic Indian dishes at reasonable prices (mid to high teens, mostly) especially for that part of town. In an interesting note, it's the only Indian restaurant I've ever been to where they ask if you want your food mild, medium, or hot. We got the chicken tikka masala and a lentil curry, both medium, which was a decent bit spicier than I'd normally expect those dishes to be. Rice was included, which was nice, seeing how annoyingly uncommon that is here in Hawaii, and we also ordered some naan and paratha. Everything, including my mango lassi, tasted fine (spice level aside) and the portion sizes were good.
Really, I don't have any complaints about Bombay Palace but, at the same time, there wasn't anything that really jumped out at me either. I've been to many Indian restaurants and, while Bombay Palace is good, there isn't really anything about the food, menu, or restaurant itself, that pushes it from good to great. Would I eat there again? Yes. Though, it wouldn't be my top choice since there are better Indian restaurants out there, if a bit further away from Waikiki..


12/25/2015 Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas to those who celebrate it! And if you don't, like me, merry Christmas anyway. No reason you can't appreciate the sentiment.

I decided to do something different this year and do a holiday special for once. It's canon, though takes place at an unspecified time in the future. There's a new bonus comic too if you use the TWC button to vote.

See you Monday!


12/23/2015 Star Wars!

Well, it's a few days late, but I got to see Star Wars Episode VII yesterday and I really enjoyed it. It definitely pulls a lot of beats from Episode IV (maybe a few too many), getting a very heavy nostalgia vibe. But it's big, epic, fun, and has its share of twists and big moments as well. Anyway, I don't want to spoil anything if you haven't seen it yet. But make sure you check it out, especially while it's still on the big screen.



12/21/2015 Half a break is better than none

It feels great to finally be on winter break, even though this will be one of my busiest breaks in a long time. My break from work may last for a month, but I had my MFA class over the first week and will have another one starting up during the last week of break. So I really only have two weeks free in total and I've got a number of things to take care of during that time. Wedding prep mainly, though I have some web design work as well, and some things for Aurora's Nightmare. Not to mention class prep for spring... Well, anyway, it's still a break of sorts and I'll take what I can get. Honestly, I can't really complain. Being a professor gives me a lot more time off than most jobs.

So enjoy the holidays and however much time off you get!


12/18/2015 Finally!

It's a Friday and, as always, that means you can vote with the TWC button to see the new bonus comic!

Well, my first MFA class is finally done! I've got a work event today, and one last piece of paperwork I need to deal with, which I'll hopefully also finish today, and then I'll be fully on break...and free to work on some other stuff. Now for that restaurant review.

Restaurant Review: Ireh Restaurant
Type: Korean
Location: McCully Plaza
This is Ireh's second location, though I haven't visited the original, so I can't comment on how similar they are. Anyway, I pass by McCully pretty frequently and I hadn't had Korean food in a while so it was only a matter of time before I gave this new Ireh a try.
While the restaurant isn't especially large, it's extremely clean and nicely decorated with an assortment of little Korean knickknacks. The servers were quick, attentive, and very friendly, giving me a great first impression. Of course, what really matters is the food, and it didn't disappoint. Being a Korean restaurant, the meal naturally started with a few sides. I got good cabbage kimchi, a very spicy picked vegetable dish (well made, though not quite to my taste), and a mild cool noodle dish, which made for a nice contrast to the others. For my main course, I ordered the noodle soup with rice cakes and beef. And it was excellent. The race cakes has the perfect soft and chewy texture, the soup was flavorful, and nothing was over or under cooked. Really, I can't imagine how it could have been improved.
Prices are reasonable, with most dishes (sides included) costing in the mid-teens. All in all it was a very enjoyable meal. I'll definitely be going back and, if Ireh's other dishes are just as good, I may have found a new favorite Korean restaurant.

See you Monday!


12/16/2015 Final stretch

It looks like Monday was one of those rare days when the new comic updated to the archives but not to the main page for some reason. Since things have been so busy, and I've got a lot that I need to do for the rest of the week, I decided to just post Monday's comic properly this time. Most of you probably didn't see it then anyway. If you did pick it out of the archives, good for you. There will be a completely new comic on Friday.

Speaking of Friday, I think I'm going to put that restaurant review off until then as well. Sorry, but I need to get some sleep and then get to work. I've had a whole lot of late nights recently due to work and stuff and am trying (with mixed success) to break the habit.



12/14/2015 Half vacation

Grading is very nearly done (I'll be finishing it today), and with that I'm on winter break...from work, not from my new MFA program, which has a much shorter break that doesn't start until next week. I've got a restaurant review to write but I'm running late, again, so it'll have to wait until Wednesday. I'll have a kind of cool announcement later in the week as well, but you'll just have to wait and see what it is...


12/11/2015 So close...

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With final projects pouring in (well, they should be done pouring in by now seeing as the due date has passed), it's getting even busier for me. But grading will be done in a few days. Not that I won't still have a lot to do after that, but it's progress. At very least, I'll probably be able to think of more interesting things to write about here.


12/9/2015 Chanukah time

Chanukah began a few days ago but today I'm finally going to fry some latkes and sufganiyot (traditional Chanukah foods) so today is going to feel more like it. Looking forward to that.

I'm making good progress on my to-do list, but there's lots left to do. And probably will be for another week or so. But I have been able to start playing Metal Gear Solid V again, so that's fun. Maybe I'll actually get it done by the end of the year. At least I hope so, my game backlog just keeps growing...



12/7/2015 Finals Week

And so it begins...sorta. Because my classes are project based, I actually don't have much to do for the first half of finals week since I'm not giving any big tests. However, later in the week I'll need to start grading all those projects, and that's a lot of work (much more than grading the average test). But I've got plenty of other things to work on until the grading starts so it should be a fairly busy week over all.

Anyway, happy Chanukah and I'll see you Wednesday!


12/4/2015 Almost there...

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Well, winter break is nearly here. Just about a week left, or maybe a little longer depending on how long it takes to get my grading done. Classes are already finished (final week will be starting on Monday), though there's the aforementioned grading and some other stuff that still needs to be done. Really looking forward to the break though, between prepping for spring classes, studying for my MFA, doing some wedding planning and prep work, and (hopefully) working on Aurora's Nightmare, it's not going to be one of my more relaxing breaks. Still, that's better than nothing and I'm looking forward to it.


12/2/2015 Anime Matsuri

Here's a quick write-up of that anime convention I went to over the weekend.

November 27th - 29th (Friday - Sunday): Anime Matsuri Hawaii
Honolulu has been getting a lot of new cons this year. Kawaii Kon (back in the spring) has been around for awhile but this year featured the launch of two comic conventions and a second anime convention, which is where I spent much of the weekend. If the name sounds familiar, the Hawaii version is actually a spin-off of the main Anime Matsuri in Houston, Texas, which is one of the larger ones in the US. Because of that, they knew how organize a con and were able to bring in some notable guests, including one of the cofounders of Studio Trigger and the super skilled armor cosplayer Goldy. They also have a larger focus on Japanese fashion than others cons I've visited, which was reflected in the vendors' area. It could have used a few more panels and anime viewings, but overall it was a very nicely done con. The one thing it was a bit lacking in was attendance. Not sure if wasn't advertised enough, or if the decision to hold the con on Thanksgiving weekend cost them a lot of attendees, but it always felt a bit empty.
I got to see the US premiere of Little Witch Academia 2 (a bit milder than I expected from Trigger, but fun). And, despite not knowing either of the bands, I checked out the concert as well. The opening act was Brilliant Kingdom, the members of which double as fashion designers. A lot of their songs seemed to have stories behind them, though I wasn't able to make out enough of the Japanese to figure it out (songs are often harder to understand than regular speech), but they sounded pretty good. The main act was DaizyStripper, a visual kei group. Visual kei is a band style which involves pretty boys dressing in a very stylish (and often rather feminine) manner. It's not really my thing, but the music itself wasn't bad.
All in all, Anime Matsuri Hawaii was a good con. Not on the level of Kawaii Kon yet, but it was a very strong start and I can see it growing quite a bit in the future, though they may want to adjust the dates a little.


11/30/2015 Post con catch up

I spent much of the weekend at an anime convention. It was a nice change of pace, but now I'll busy catching up on a few things that I left undone so I could have a more relaxing weekend. I'll have a write-up for the con on Wednesday. In the meantime though, I've had way too many late nights over the past week, so I'm going to get some rest.


11/27/2015 More TV

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Hope all my US readers had a great Thanksgiving. Mine was a lot of fun. I even baked a turkey by myself for the first time.

As a followed up Wednesday's post, here's the new TV shows I've been watching this season. I'll leave out a couple anime (Akame ga Kill and Parasyte Maxim) on Cartoon Network's Toonami block, since those aren't technically new, though it's their first time on American TV.

Heroes Reborn
The original Heroes was always a show that had its ups and downs. Some of the characters and story arcs were great, others were kinda dull, and there were way to many plot holes that worked their way in. Heroes Reborn is a mini-series that picks up several years after the original show ended. Many of the original cast have returned, which is cool, though a couple of the most important and powerful characters are MIA. So there's always that nagging question in the back of my mind of why Peter and Syler don't just show up and solve everything. That aside, Heroes Reborn has a lot in common with the original show. Some characters are great, others are a mess, and the plot bounces back and forth between gripping and mediocre. And, once again, there are a number of plot holes that keep popping up. So yeah. I'm enjoying it, and it's fun to see some favorite characters back, but it's a shame they never fixed any of the problems that dogged the original show.

I first got a look at Limitless at the Hawaii 5-0 premiere a few months back and I liked it enough to start watching. It's actually a spin-off / sequel to the movie of the same name. Watching the movie isn't required, but it'll give you a lot more insight into one of the characters. Anyway, Limitless is about a guy who ends up in possession of NZT, a drug that, for 12 hours per dose, essentially makes him the smartest person in the world. Due to his seeming immunity to its side effects, he's recruited by the FBI as a consultant. It's mostly a crime or mystery a week format, though there's a larger plot involving Senator Mora (the main character from the movie) and the origins of NZT. So far, Limitless provides a solid mix of mystery / crime drama and humor, kind of like Castle though a bit more free form All in all, it's the strongest new show I've see this season.

The Muppets
The recent movies got me back into the Muppets and I really like them and the old Muppet Show. But while The Muppet Show was a variety show, The Muppets is trying to be The Office. The setup is that Miss Piggy and Kermit have broken up, but he still acts as producer for her new late show. From that point on, it follows the format of The Office (complete with monologues). Anyway, it keeps the Muppets' personalities intact, which is good, and it has some laughs, but I never got into The Office and I don't especially appreciate the format or the primary type of humor. As such, I think The Muppets is ok (mainly for the characters) but I would have much rather had a revival of the original Muppet Show format rather than this new "modern" version.

If you're not up on DC Comic's lore, Supergirl is Superman's cousin, Kara, who was also sent to Earth before the destruction of her home planet. However, her spacecraft got stuck in limbo for a while, resulting in her arriving many years after Superman. In this new take on the Girl of Steel, Kara is assistant to the head of a media conglomerate and trying to live an ordinary life without her powers. But when her adopted sister's plane is about to crash, Kara reconnects with who she really is and decides to follow in her cousin's footsteps. There's some plots going on with escaped prisoners from the Phantom Zone and the mystery of what happened to her adopted father and how he was connected to the secret government agency she ends up working with. So far though, the whole show is just ok. A lot of people are giving it props for focusing entirely on a female super hero, but the story and characters just don't stand out. It's got the potential to pick things up, but it's hard to say whether or not that will happen. Either way, it's got a number of things that bug me, even as only a casual super hero fan. For example, going to such efforts to give Kara a support network rather than having her go it alone (they're pulling a bit too much from the structure of Arrow and The Flash). Then there's the fact that Jimmy Olsen left the Daily Planet to work at the same company as Kara. Plus he somehow became black. I mean, I've got nothing against racially diverse casts (Heroes, Lost, SHIELD, etc.), but I dislike it when they change the race of a well established character in the name of political correctness. Anyway, I'll keep watching Supergirl for a bit, but right now I don't know if I'll stick with it for very long.


11/25/2015 TV

The new TV season has been going on for a couple months now, so here's a rundown of what I've been watching (specifically currently running TV shows, not reruns or the stuff I watch on Netflix and Blu-ray).

New Seasons of Returning Shows

Adventure Time
Still weird, but entertaining and moderately funny. Some episodes, such as the recent multi-part story arc focused on Marceline, have been better than others, but so far the season has been solid.

The Amazing Race
For the first time in awhile, this season doesn't have any teams I actually hate, which is a definite plus. I'd still love to compete sometime, but for now I'll have fun watching it instead.

Bizarre Foods
This is one of those shows that never really changes but, being both a world traveler and a bit of a foodie, it's fun to see where Andrew goes and what he eats, whether those things look delicious or disgusting.

While I can't say I'm especially invested in the new "big mystery" they're slowly unraveling over the course of the season, the fun characters and solid mysteries keep this one of the more entertaining mystery series currently on TV. Though the whole "he's a mystery writer" angle seems to be all but forgotten, which is shame since, being a writer myself, I really enjoy that aspect.

Doctor Who
If you're a big fan of the darker scarier episodes of the series, this has been a good season for that. For me personally... I think the latest season is ok. I'm liking it better than last season, and it's given me a much more positive view of Capaldi as the Doctor. That said, he's still not one of my favorites and the series' penchant for plot holes and inconsistent writing continues. So yeah, it's a mixed bag. Though I should note that my opinion on the season as a whole could go up or down a bit depending on how they resolve the current story arc over the next couple of episodes.

The Flash
I really enjoyed the first season of The Flash, and season 2 hasn't disappointed. The new main plot line brings in a lot of classic DC elements and some cool new enemies and allies. It's an all around fun super hero adventure.

Elementary had a really late start this season, so it's hard to say much. Honestly, I don't find the characters nearly as engaging as the ones in Castle or many of the other mystery series I've watched over the years, the mysteries themselves tend to be clever though, which keeps me watching.

Gotham's second season starts to introduce more Batman villains, along with some solid original characters. This season is subtitled Rise of the Villains, which is fitting as it seems to be going even darker than season 1. Gotham is still a bit strange in that it tells the story of Gotham's biggest heroes and villains long before Bruce Wayne puts on his hood and cape, but it's got a lot going for it.

Hawaii 5-0
While the episodes remain moderately fun, and I'm a fan of some of the actors, one of the main reasons I watch Hawaii 5-0 is still for the local scenery. The story lines and characters are decent, but but not big standouts. If it weren't for the Hawaii angle, I'm not sure if I would have stuck with it this long.

Marvel's Agents of SHIELD
Season 3 of SHIELD revolves around the fallout of the events of season 2, specifically the rise of Hydra's new leader and the war with the inhumans. So far, this season hasn't grabbed me quite as much as the previous ones, but it's nice to see Colson back in charge and the show is still entertaining. I'm looking forward to seeing where the big new plot twist from last week goes once the show resumes after winter break.

My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic
Honestly, I don't think this season of MLP is one of the better ones, but it still features solid writing and a good sense of humor. Enough to keep plenty of people besides little girls watching a show about cute magical ponies.

Once Upon a Time
The latest season of ABC's twisted fairy-tale series introduces new lands and characters (most notably from the King Arthur mythos and Brave), with the usual mix of big plot twists and the blurred lines between heroes and villains. I still enjoy it, but I have that nagging feeling from last season that they're dragging it out longer than they should. I mean, is there really any good plot reason for everyone to still be in Storybrooke? Plus, the whole amnesia element has been used way too many times, the writers really need to come up with a new approach.

Person of Interest
After the amazing fourth season, and its big cliff-hanger ending, I've been really looking forward to Person of Interest's return. And waiting and waiting... While the fifth season is confirmed (though with only 13 episodes), they still haven't announced the starting date. Guess I'll just have to anticipate it for a while longer.

The Simpsons
Everyone has their opinion of when the show was at its best, but I still find it funny and often quite clever as well. Nothing much has changed, but that's fine.

Star Wars Rebels
I never quite fell in love with Rebels like some Star Wars fans have, but it's a fun adventure in the Star Wars universe and a bit more even in plot and execution than Clone Wars was. The question is if they'll properly address the potential plot holes it introduces in regards to the films.

Whew, that's a long list... Anyway, that's all the returning shows (aside from a couple that won't be back until 2016 (Agent Carter and Galavant). Next time, I'm go over the new shows I'm watching.


11/23/2015 Movies

Well, the film festival is over, so here's the rundown.

November 15th - 22nd (Sunday - Sunday): HIFF 2015
The Hawaii International Film Festival is in it's 35th year, though this is only my second year attending. Connie and I went to four different movies (all Japanese) over the course of the festival. Here's the quick reviews.

Our Huff and Puff Journey
Four Japanese high school girls run away from home with little money and even less of a plan to see their favorite band in concert in Tokyo. It's basically a teen road trip comedy that's about half regular film and half videos taken by the girls. All in all it was...ok. It was kinda amusing but not especially funny, so it's didn't really grab me with the comedy, and the whole road trip story was fairly generic. That really just left the characters. Unfortunately, they seemed to give up on character development about halfway through the movie, dropping the handful of threads that had been started. So, in the end, you have a movie that's ok, but doesn't really stand out in any way.

Kakekomi is a word referring to woman who ran away from their owners or husbands. See, in ancient Japan, only men could file for a divorce, with one exception. If the woman ran away and made it to Tokeiji Temple in Kamakura (a city a short distance south of Tokyo), she'd be protected and allowed to live there for two years as a nun, after which, her husband would be forced to divorce her. Kakekomi (the movie) is about several such women, each running away from very different circumstances, who meet on their journey to Tokeiji. It mostly focuses on their time in the temple and their relationship with the family running one of the nearby inns. It's a period piece and, as far as I can tell, fairy historically accurate. The movie description listed it as a comedy action movie, but a handful of jokes and a couple fight scenes isn't enough to quality it for either. It's really a drama with a little bit of romance mixed in (though that isn't really the focus either). While I found the incorrect description annoying, it's still an interesting movie and grants a rare glimpse into the role Tokeiji played in Japanese society. That said, there are just too many plot threads to cover in a movie. The main three fair decently, but the rest feel rushed and underdeveloped. Seeing as the movie is based on a book, this is probably due to trying to cram too much of the source material into the film's limited time frame. While it doesn't ruin the film as a whole, I get the feeling that it could have been a lot better had they dropped most of the subplots and just focused on the main characters.

Hana's Miso Soup
This seems to be one of those movies that primarily exists to make its audience cry. It starts out as a romantic comedy, but takes on a much more serious tone when the main character is diagnosed with breast cancer. From then on, the film tracer her life as she and her husband struggle with their situation and, eventually, the challenge of raising their young daughter, Hana. There's no grand lesson (other than, perhaps, make the most of the your life) or larger plot. It's pure bittersweet emotion from start to finish. Very well done, but not the type of thing I'd normally watch. How much you enjoy it will really depend on how you like that type of movie.

The Boy and the Beast
The latest anime film from Mamoru Hosoda (Summer Wars, Wolf Children, etc.), The Boy and the Beast follows Ren, a young runaway Japanese boy who stumbles into a world of magical beasts (creatures about halfway between animals and humans). He's taken in by Kumatetsu, a bear man skilled in the martial arts but unable to keep a pupil due to his belligerent attitude. Over time, the two begin to bond but, as Ren grows older, he finds himself torn between the beast world and the human world, giving the film a bit of a Jungle Book vibe. Add in the competition between Kumatetsu and his rival Iozen to become their city's new lord, and some drama related to the darkness within human hearts, and you have a fun and moderately touching shonen adventure. The story is the type that will appeal to just about all ages and the animation is great (not Ghibli level, but still good).
I enjoyed it quite a bit (more than any of the above movies), though it doesn't quite surpass the barrier between very good and excellent. I know some people are calling Hosoda the next Miyazaki, but I don't see it. Hosoda does great movies, but they just don't reach the impressive bar set by Studio Ghibli in either art or story. Honestly, I think Anthem of the Heart (which I saw a couple weeks back, though not as part of the festival) came far closer than any of Hosoda's films. With all that said, I definitely recommend The Boy and the Beast. It's not at Miyazaki's level, but not much is. Enjoy it for what it is and you've got a fine movie.


11/20/2015 Busy week ahead

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The past couple of weeks, while they didn't leave me with quite as much free time as I hoped, have been nice. Next week though, things will likely get pretty busy again. Some of that's a good busy, with Thanksgiving prep. On the other hand, work is going to be ramping up soon, with finals only a few weeks away. Though, that also means the semester is almost done, which means winter break. Though I'll have some class prep to do over that so it's not a total break from work. The main thing coming up though is that, on Monday, I start on my second Master's degree. It could be a kinda interesting program, though I'm not thrilled about the time and money involved. Unfortunately, there are reasons I have to do it so that's that. Hopefully it won't eat up all my non-work time, since I've got plenty of other things I need and/or want to devote some time to as well. But there's nothing to do except wait and see.


11/18/2015 Late night

I was out late yesterday at the film festival, so no time to write much here. But you can expect a write-up about the movies I saw at said festival next week once it's over.



11/16/2015 Revisiting the cultural center

Running kind of late today (had some time to Play Metal Gear for the first time in awhile and had trouble stopping), but let's get that travelogue done quick...

November 11th (Wednesday): Back to the Polynesian Cultural Center
I had the day for Veterans' Day, so Connie and I met up with my mom and an old friend of hers at the Polynesia Cultural Center. I've already written about Polynesian Cultural Center (see the December 23rd entry), but to quickly summarize, it's a theme park of sorts divided into villages based on various Polynesian islands. Each village has a show and often a few smaller activities to teach you a bit about its culture. By the way, if I didn't mention it before, the Samoa and Tonga shows are the ones you really want to make sure to see, along with the Hawaiian movie.
Anyway, they recently added an old Hawaiian themed marketplace right outside of the park entrance. One thing the cultural center was actually a bit lacking in before was shops and restaurants (unless you got one of the dinner show packages), so it's a welcome addition ad makes the whole place feel more like a proper theme park. They've got a fancy restaurant and a set of smaller food truck style booths with a nice selection of Hawaiian and Polynesian food. And, since it's actually outside the park, you don't need admission tickets to check it out.
Marketplace aside, we had a nice afternoon at the Cultural Center and I managed to see a couple shows I'd missed on previous visits, like the Tahitian Wedding Ceremony. I still need to do the whole dinner show thing sometime though...


11/13/2015 Fixing stuff

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Well, I do have a travelogue entry planned, but no time to finish it right now. Ended up with a bit of extra work due to some job related stuff. Among other things... For example, one thing about living in a house, as opposed to an apartment, is that you can't just call the office if something breaks. You've got to either hire someone or fix it yourself. Since moving in here, I've certainly had to hire repair men from time to time, but I've tried my hand at fixing some things as well. Which usually means trying to teach myself how to fix the object in question since home repair isn't something I ever really studied before. Sometimes, I've been pretty successful. Others, not so much. Yesterday, I learned how to fix the pull chain on a ceiling fan. And by that, I don't just mean snapping an extension on, I mean opening up the fan, taking apart the switch casing, putting in a new chain, and (the hardest part) getting it back together again. Took a while, and I'm glad I was able to find a video on Youtube, since I got stuck at one point near the end, but I got it done and could probably do the whole thing a lot quicker next time. Then again, Connie's lesson for the day was not to pull the fan chains so hard, so maybe there won't be a next time.

Have a good weekend!


11/11/2015 Holiday!

It's Veterans' Day here in the US, which means I get the day off of work. Got some stuff planned which may lead to a travelogue entry for Friday.

Apparently, it's a holiday in China too. Sorta. According to Connie, 11/11 is "single's day". I'm not really sure if it's meant to celebrate the single lifestyle, or just depress everyone without a significant other. She did say it's a big shopping day though. Anyway, just thought you might find that interesting.



11/9/2015 Weird wearables

Got a travelogue entry for today, so let's get right to it.

November 6th (Friday): Wearable Art
Connie and I needed to be in Honolulu Friday evening, so we went in early and paid a visit to the Bishop Museum. I visited, and wrote about, it once before, but this was Connie's first time. The main building's Hawaiian history and cultural exhibits are the same as last time, that it to say quite interesting and well done. As was the planetarium (though they've added some new shows). The other two buildings had changed though. One of the temporary exhibit halls is now the science adventure building which has a bunch of interactive exhibits about Hawaii (wind, the ocean, volcanos, etc.). It's kind of geared for kids, but fun.
The other hall is still for temporary exhibits. The one this time around featured a collection of outfits / costumes from the World of Wearableart (yes, that really should be "wearable art" but I guess they figured that WOW was a better acronym than WOWA). Anyway, it's a fashion show / performance based in New Zealand (judging from the video they were showing at the exhibit, it looks a little like a Cirque du Soliel show without the crazy acrobatics). Anyway, as the name implies, it features very unusual outfits designed more for their artistic merits than fashion or practicality. It seems they have a contest every year to find new designs. A couple of the ones on display were even designed by students from Connie's old university in Shanghai. Anyway, a few of the outfits looked like they could have come out of a fantasy movie or maybe a Lady Gaga show, but many were just plain weird. And honestly, those pictures don't even show the strangest ones. I really wasn't expecting much from the exhibit going in, but it was actually pretty interesting. To the point where I'll go see the actual WOW show if I ever get the chance.
After the museum, Connie and I picked up my mom and we went off to get dinner...only to find that the restaurant just happened to be closed that one day for some reason. We had a time limit, so that left us scrambling to find a difference place to eat. But that actually ended up working out pretty well...

Restaurant Review: Yakitori Glad
Type: Japanese (Yakitori)
Location: Honolulu, Kapahulu Ave.
I spotted Yakitori Glad ages ago while walking on Kapahulu and always meant to check it out, but I rarely get to that part of Honolulu, so I just never got around to it. Now though, I'm really going to have to make the trip more often.
Yakitori Glad is an extremely authentic Japanese place focusing on izakaya type food, mostly (as the name implies) yakitori. For those of you not too familiar with Japanese food, yakitori is chicken coated with salt or a teriyaki-like sauce and grilled on a wooden skewer. It makes for an awesome snack, or a meal if you get enough of it. And getting enough is not a problem at Glad. Everything on the menu (food and drinks) is only $3.90, and serving sizes are surprisingly generous (I'd recommend 2 - 4 plates per person).
While various types of yakitori dominate, the menu is actually fairly diverse. I did most of the ordering for my group, getting us a wide assortment of yakitori and yakiniku (the beef equivalent), along with some agedashi tofu, stuffed mushrooms, and rice soup for variety. The yakitori and yakinuku were all excellent (some of the best I've had outside of Japan), as were the rice and mushrooms. The tofu was a little unusual in that it was served hot and used a very soft type of tofu, but still quite good.
We all enjoyed the meal and plan to return. Glad is one of the restaurants that's makes me feel like I'm back in Japan and the affordable single price menu just makes it better. Whether you want to relax with friends and snack, or make an entire meal out of it, if you like yakitori you really need to visit Yakitori Glad.
As a note, you may want to make reservations ahead of time. We got there a bit early and managed to snag a table, but most of the others had reserved signs sitting on them.


11/6/2015 Oops...

So, it looks like Wednesday's comic didn't display properly on the main page (though it did get added to the archives). Still, I suspect most of you guys missed it, so I decided to make sure it gets posted properly today and save what was going to be today's comic for Monday. If you did end up seeing Wednesday's comic at the proper time, sorry for the repeat, but you've still got a brand new voter bonus comic to check out.

If you missed Wednesday's news post, my previous indie game, Car Washer: Summer of the Ninja, finally had its Steam launch. While it's not raking in money, I'm getting some sales and feedback so far has been generally positive, which is nice. Remember, it's 15% off for the next few days and I don't know when it will go on sale next (Valve has a lot more control over that than I do) so, if you want to grab it at a discount, now's the time. And if you do pick it up and start playing, feel free to hit me up if you get some cards you want to trade. Being the developer does not get me any of the Steam trading cards or badges. Never really cared much about them before, but it is my game and all...

On an unrelated note, if you get the chance, check out The Anthem of the Heart. It's an anime movie currently getting a limited theatrical run here in the US and it's really good. It's got a little bit of a Ghibli vibe and is one of those movies that will appeal a lot to many non-anime fans as well (Connie and I went with my parents, who also enjoyed it).


11/4/2015 It's here!

The Steam edition of my indie game, Car Washer: Summer of the Ninja, launches today (the exactly time will vary a bit depending on your time zone). As a special bonus, it'll be available at a discounted price for the first few days, so pick up a copy soon and save a bit of money. And hey, the profits will help fund other cool stuff like Aurora's Nightmare (my in-development visual novel).

I'm looking forward to the launch. I've already gotten a lot of requests for review copies and the like, which never happened back during the original release. Being on Steam really makes it feel like more of a big deal. I'm looking forward to reading reviews, seeing what people think, and all that. At the same time, I'm mentally preparing myself for the inevitable onslaught of bad reviews and negative posts too. Honestly, that's the way the industry is these days. Even the best and most popular games have a lot of nasty stuff said about them on the internet. Now don't get me wrong, Car Washer isn't a game for everyone and, as a game designer, I know that it's not perfect. It's got some flaws and elements that could be improved. Every game does, really. That said, I know plenty of people who have liked Car Washer as well. Once you get into it, it really is a fun little game. Heck, even after all the time I've poured into it during development and testing back for the initial release, I still had fun replaying things to test out the Steam version. I even plan to keep playing a bit here and there for a while just for fun and to get the remaining achievements and trading cards. Is it perfect? No. Could I improve it? With more time and money, of course. But I'm fairly happy with Car Washer as is. It was never supposed to be the greatest game ever, just a fun little side project (though it ended up taking more time and money to complete than I expected) to work on with some friends. And, at that, it succeeds Some people won't like it, some will probably hate it. But I think that, if they give it a chance, a lot of people will enjoy it as well, and that's really what matters.


11/2/2015 On to November

What do I have planned for November? Not all that much, at least for the first few weeks. And that's a good thing since it will give me time to get some assorted tasks (game development stuff, wedding planning, etc.) done. Late in the month I do have some fun things planned (including Thanksgiving and a convention) but I'll also need to start on my second master's degree, which could eat up a lot of time. On that note, I hope I can get some gaming in over the next few weeks too. It's kind of sad that I'm not even halfway through MGSV yet...


10/30/2015 Coming up...

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I'm happy to announce that Car Washer: Summer of the Ninja's new Steam edition is out of testing and just about ready to launch. The specific date hasn't been settled quite yet but, assuming nothing goes wrong, it should be released within a week (week and a half at most). I'll let you know the exact date soon as soon as it's decided on, but just know that it will be soon and that there will be a launch discount as a little bonus for early buyers.

I should also have a really exciting announcement about Aurora's Nightmare on my dev blog come Sunday, so remember to check it out too.

In the meantime, have a good weekend!


10/28/2015 A little more Big Island

It's pretty late, but here's the last travelogue entry for my trip to the Big Island.

October 18th (Sunday): Kona
We woke up Sunday morning to a nice view of Mauna Kea, but it wasn't too long until we set off. The goal was to fit as much in as we could before our return flights that night.
We started out by going to the nearby resort area (one of the few on the island) and walking along the beach. That might not sound too special, but it was a rather neat beach covered with a mix of white coral and black lava rocks. Eventually, we ended up in the Hilton, which was pretty cool (and huge). They even had their own dolphin pool. It certainly looked like a fun place to stay.
After a bit of a drive, during which we mostly passed through fields of lava rock, we ended up at a coffee farm near Kona. If the name sounds familiar, Kona is the main tourist town on the Big Island, but it's also famous for its coffee. I'm not sure about the rest of the US (I don't like coffee, so I usually don't pay much attention to it), but here in Hawaii Kona coffee is pretty famous. After sampling some of their different coffees (nope, still don't like it) and watching some Jackson's Chameleons crawl around on the nearby citrus trees, it was time for the farm tour. While I don't drink coffee, it was still interesting to learn about. Apparently they have to hand pick the berries (or cherries, depending who you ask) because they all ripen at different times. After that, they need to be fermented and dried before the beans can be roasted. Kinda similar to chocolate, actually.
We stopped at a farmers' market for lunch and then continued to the city of refuge. It's an old Hawaiian village. Well, more like the site of one, seeing as there isn't much left of the village itself. Originally, it served double duty. Part of it was exclusively for the use of royalty and included a temple. The other section was meant as a temporary refuge for people who needed protection, such as soldiers whose side lost a war. If they could make it to the city and stay there for a while, they'd be able to safely leave and either return to their old life or start a new one. As I said, there aren't many huts or other structure remaining (and I think they're all recreations), though the old wall is still there. And the coconut palms. Lots and lots of coconut palms. Anyway, it was interesting to visit and there was a lot of tide pools around with little fish, crabs, and even some sea turtles.
Finally, we arrived in Kona proper. It was the biggest and nicest looking town of all the ones we'd visited on the trip, and definitely geared for tourists. It's on a dryer part of the island, which was a nice change. On the down side, while we hit it on a good day, it often gets a lot of vog (smog from volcanic smoke) instead. There was a big farmers' market going on, which was fun to walk through. Got some great local popsicles and ice cream as we went. On a side note, there were a lot of geckos. Not that they're unusual in Hawaii (I see them near my house occasionally), but I've never seen so many before. I snapped a really cool picture of a couple that snuck into a fruit stand. I didn't even know they liked anything besides bugs.
Eventually, everyone except my dad went out for a dinner at a nice restaurant right on the coast. It was a neat place with good food, a skilled musician, and great views of the sunset. It really was a good way to close out trip to the Big Island. After that, it was off to the Kona airport and back to Oahu.

Random Hawaii Comment: The Big Island
The Big Island was fun to visit and I could definitely go back for some more hiking and swimming. It's much bigger than the other Hawaiian islands so you have a bigger diversity when it comes to scenery and types of terrain. Things are cheaper there as well, which is always nice. On the down side, the population is relatively low so there aren't any cities and there's less going on than on Oahu. It also takes longer to get from one part of the island to the other. From a weather perspective, it's a bit uneven. You can actually get snow on some of the mountains (the only place in Hawaii where that can happen), and some areas get way too much rain, not to mention the vog. Still, that's all about timing and which part of the island you're on. If you're don't mind renting a car and spending your time in more rural environments, the Big Island is a great vacation spot. Not sure if I'd want to live there (I'd be worried that I'd get bored after a while), but that's a different matter. If you want to see a more rustic part of Hawaii, go up an active volcano, or get an amazing view of the stars, the Big Island should be on your list.


10/26/2015 Into the valley

Still a couple of days left to go in that travelogue, so let's get back to it.

October 17th (Saturday): Waipio Valley
My parents got to catch up with some more old friends today, so quite a lot of the day was spent hanging out and chatting. I'm not quite sure how the topic came up, but eventually they offered to give us a ride down into Waipio Valley. Anyone can drive to the overlook but getting into the valley requires a good driver with a four wheel drive. There's only one road, it has an average 25 degree grade (which is pretty steep for a road), is on the side of a cliff, and is generally only wide enough for one car (despite being a two way road). Just to make things worse, it doesn't seem like it's been repaved in decades and is full of cracks and potholes. Honestly, I think it's probably the worst road I've ever been on. Noah, Hannah, and I road in the back of the pickup. It was kind of fun, but a bit nerve wracking as well. As a side note, if you don't have a good enough car, or don't trust your driving, you can simply hike down the road if you've got enough time to make the trek.
Once on the bottom, we continued on an equally bad (but less dangerous, due to not being on a cliff) road to a black sand beach. Probably not the best place to swim, but the view was nice. We hung out there and looked around for a while before getting back in the truck and heading deeper into the valley.
We passed some houses along the way. Gotta say, it's hard to imagine living down there. I mean, if you want to get away from it all and grow some fruit trees it may be exactly what you're looking for, but getting in and out is such a slow and harrowing process that it would makes a lot of things really difficult.
Anyway, while the scenery was nice, the highlight of the drive back into the valley was the views of Hiilawe Falls. At 1,450 it's one of the tallest waterfalls in Hawaii (and a really tall waterfall in general, though not close to being a record setter). As far as I can remember, it's the tallest one I've ever seen and it's pretty impressive. Some people hike to the base, but from what I've heard the trail is a little dangerous and requires some trespassing on private property, so it's probably not a good idea.
After taking in the falls, it was time to head back up out of the valley. The truck seemed to be struggling at times, but we made it. Though there was a tense time when a descending SUV completely ignored the rule that it was supposed to yield to vehicles going up the road, leading to use getting stuck nowhere near a section wide enough to pass. That was worrying, though in the end the SUV managed to back uphill enough for us to pass them.
Having successfully survived the ascent, we stopped at the lookout for a bit before going out to grab some good hamburgers and call it a day.

Random Hawaii Comment: Big Island Weather
Like on Oahu, the Big Island has its wet areas (like Hilo) and it's dry ones (like Kona) but, like the island, they're larger and seem a bit more pronounced. The wet side seems to be the cheaper (if a bit poorer) area to live, though you'll have to get used to the rain. The dry side has its own problems, getting a lot of vog (volcanic smog) from the volcano, so neither side is perfect.


10/23/2015 More from the Big Island

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And now on with the next part of the travelogue.

October 16th (Friday): Hawi and Waimea
My family had plans to cover quite a lot of the Big Island during our stay, so we left Hilo right after breakfast and headed north. Our first stop was Akaka Falls. While you can go straight to the falls from the entrance, there's a nice little loop trail through the rainforest. The flora and fauna were great and the waterfall itself is one of the better ones I've seen. It probably helped that it rained a whole lot the night before, making the falls extra impressive. From there, we made a brief stop at a state park (looked like a good spot for campers) then had a long drive through rolling hills, which offered a very different type of scenery than we'd encountered so far.
Eventually, we ended up in a little town call Hawi. Despite the old hippy vibe, judging from the art galleries and the like, it must get a decent number of tourists. We met up with an old friend of my parents' and went to lunch at a rather interesting vegetarian restaurant then walked around the town a bit.
Moving on once more, we stopped at the top of a valley overlooking a black sand beach. Noah, Hannah, and I hiked part of the way down towards the beach, but the weather was bad and the beach didn't look all that amazing so we doubled back before reaching the bottom.
A bit more driving, and we made it to our hotel, a bed and breakfast in a town called Waimea. After unpacking, we took a quick trip to a nice nearby beach to watch the sunset and wrap things up for the day. Not quite as jam-packed as the previous day, but still enjoyable, and the change of scenery helped keep things fresh.

Random Hawaii Comment: Hotels
The Big Island, and actually the Hawaiian islands in general, are somewhat lacking in normal hotels. Back on the mainland US, just about every town, even smaller ones, has, at very least, a Super 8 or Holiday Inn or some other basic chain hotel. Hawaii, however, limits its hotels to certain areas. On Oahu, for example, just about all the hotels are by Waikiki Beach in Honolulu, with a few others grouped in Ko'Olina and one odd man out (Turtle Bay) up on the north shore. Other than that, there really isn't much of anything and most of those hotels are fancy resorts. On the Big Island, meanwhile, there are hotels in Hilo and Kona, and a grouping at the coast by Waimea (once again, mostly resorts). Beyond those, your options are pretty limited, though there are some little bed and breakfast type places scattered about if you really want to stay on a different part of the island.
So, in the end there isn't really a lack of hotels in Hawaii, but you choices as far as hotel type and location go are a bit limited so keep that in mind when doing your trip planing.


10/21/2015 Visiting the big island

Ok, time to get started on that travelogue of the family trip to the big island.

October 15th (Thursday): Off to Hilo
As you may know, the state of Hawaii consists of several major islands. The one I live on is Oahu, which is home to the capital city of Honolulu and is also the most popular tourist detonation. I've visited most of the other islands in the past, but it was a long time ago. Since moving here, I've been meaning to do some short trips to explore them more, but so far the timing and money just never aligned. However, with Noah and Hannah visiting, my parents decided it would be fun to squeeze in a big family trip over the weekend. I was pretty busy with other things, so I left the trip planning to them and, in the end, we set off for the Big Island (also known as Hawaii).
Although the Hawaiian islands are all pretty close to each other, unless you own a good boat, the only way between them is by airplane (with Honolulu airport acting as the main hub). I heard there used to be a shuttle boat at one point, but not anymore. At least the flights are short and relatively cheap. And you can get some nice views from the plane (that's the Big Island).
The Big Island actually has two airports. The one we landed in was Hilo. It's an old town with a strong 60's or 70's hippy vibe. Unfortunately, it's also a bit on the rundown side, though some of the buildings are pretty nice. Our first stop was a farmers' market and the local health food store for breakfast. They do have Oahu beat when it comes to prices on local produce, no contest. Nice healthfood store too.
We didn't stay in town too long before driving off (if you're going to explore the Big Island, a car is a must) to Rainbow Falls. It's a pretty nice waterfall that's also really easy to get to. But there wasn't much to do except enjoy the view, so it wasn't too long before we moved on.
Next stop, Kilaeua Volcano. We happened to arrive just in time for a tour with one of the park rangers so we joined in, walking along an old highway (abandoned after it was half destroyed in a earthquake decades ago) until we got a view of the volcanic crater. It's dangerous to get too close to the crater, so they have a lot of the area closed off. It wasn't especially active then, so the only way to actually see the lava would have been to take a helicopter tour. Though if you go to a different viewpoint at night, you're supposed to be able to see the glow from the crater. While there, we also visited the Thursten Lava Tube. Lava tubes, by the way, are underground tunnels left behind by lava flows and they can be found all over Hawaii. There was a short trail around and through the tube, which made for a fun stop.
Leaving the the volcano park, we stopped at the Mauna Loa mac nut factory (they're one of the major brands of macadamia nuts here). They've got a rather interesting self guided factory tour, though we rushed through that a bit faster than I would have liked, and, of course, a gift shop with samples.
Keeping up the quick pace, we returned to Hilo to drop our stuff off at our hotel and explore the town a bit. Specifically, we visited a Japanese garden in one of the parks, and walked down Banyan Drive. Banyan Drive is, perhaps Unsurprisingly, lined with large banyan trees. What makes it unique is that each tree was planed around 80 years ago by someone famous (including former presidents and a king of England). Though, to be honest, I had no idea who at least half the people are.
After that nice break, it was back to the van to visit the Boiling Pots (another waterfall with some little pools that sometimes appear to be bubbling), and then off to Mauna Kea (a mountain park), while snacking on some wild guavas we'd found.
We ended up inside a cloud during the drive, lending the lava rock covered landscape the perfect otherworldly atmosphere, before arriving at the visitor center. The center is actually quite a ways from the summit. If you want to go all the way up you can drive (if you have a good four wheel drive car), hike (though only if you have the better part of the day to devote to it), or pay for a shuttle bus. We didn't have the time for that but after learning about invisible cows, most of us hiked up a nearby hill to get a good view of the coming sunset.
What Mauna Kea is really famous for though its telescopes. Something about the mountain makes it one of the worlds best locations for high end telescopes and the like. The weather was a bit iffy but it thankfully cleared up when the rangers rolled out some more ordinary telescopes after sunset. While the weather didn't hold forever, we got amazing views of the stars themselves now. the moon and Saturn (I took the picture with just my camera). When we finished stargazing it was finally time to go back to Hilo, get some food, and call it a day.

Random Hawaii Comment: Hawaii
While the name Hawaii is typically used to refer to the islands as a whole, it's actually the official name of the Big Island. The "Big Island" name refers to the fact that the island is larger than all the other Hawaiian islands combined.


10/19/2015 And back

Well, I'm back from the Big Island. It was a fun trip and I'm looking forward to writing all about it...on Wednesday. The return flight was late in the day to begin with and it got delayed a bit on top of that. Plus, I didn't have much time to work on Pebble Version while I was gone. So yeah, the travelogue will begin a little late.

For now, have a great week!


10/16/2015 Kayaks

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Well, I'm on day into my family trip to the Big Island. But I think the travelogue for that can wait until Monday. For now, let's get the last of the pre-trip activities done...

October 13th (Tuesday): Kayaking in Kailua
While Kailua Beach isn't much for surfing (not the regular kind anyway), it is a popular spot for various other ocean activities, including kayaking. I'd been meaning to give it a try at some point, and Noah and Hannah felt the same so we all headed over early in the morning.
We ended up getting two two-person kayaks (one for Connie and I and one for Noah and Hannah; my parents stayed on the beach). Getting started actually proved to be fairly easy. I was expecting the kayaks to be unstable but we went the entire time without tipping one over. Rowing in tandem took a little practice, but wasn't too bad either, and my arms held up surprisingly well for the three hours or so we spent on the water. I wasn't even very sore the next day.
Aside from just rowing around, a lot of kayakers set out from the beach to reach one of two small nearby islands which are only assessable by boat. We got very close to the furthest of the two, but one member in our part got a bit spooked by the current there so we turned around and eventually made our way to the aptly named Flat Island. It's actually pretty neat place to visit, with a number of strange rocks, birds, and event some flower I don't recall seeing on Oahu itself.
The weather could have been better, as it was overcast and windy all day with occasional rain. Still, it did mean we didn't have to worry about sunburns. In the end, kayaking was fairly simple and enjoyable. I don't think I'll start making regular trips, but I'd be up for going again some time.


10/14/2015 Big weekend

Starting tomorrow, I'll be headed to the Big Island (the actual island of Hawaii) with Connie and my family for the weekend. PV updates should continue as normal and there will be travelogue entries and all that. Speaking of which, we went kayaking yesterday, which is worth an entry as well. Though I'm still running a bit behind on things (starting to get caught up), so that'll come on Friday. At least assuming my hotel has decent internet.


10/12/2015 Hiking

Time to talk about that hike I mentioned last time...

October 8th (Thursday): Wa'ahila Ridge Hike
It's been a little while since I last did a Meetup hike, mainly since they just haven't fit my schedule lately. Well, this one did and Connie and my mom came along as well. The hike is a little bit north of Honolulu and starts in the middle of a forest. Actually, you're in a forest most of the time. The sections where you come out from under the trees are few and far between. The path is mostly fairly flat with some small ups and downs, though there are a few steep areas where you have to some very minor climbing/scrambling over rocks. The plant life was nice, but what really stuck out was that a very large percentage of the trail was lined with strawberry guava trees. Strawberry guavas are a small bite sized guava that grows wild in Hawaii. They taste great, but they're not sold in stores or even at farmers' markets. I'd never seen so many at once, and it was fun to pick and eat them along the way. We really came at just the right time. Anyway, fauna aside, there were some views here and there of Honolulu and the surrounding mountains.
Overall, the hike itself is decent. Not too strenuous, but an enjoyable trail. And if you go when the strawberry guavas are in season, that's a huge plus. The views aren't bad either. Though, if you're mainly looking for an impressive view, there are better hikes in the area.


10/9/2015 Getting late...

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I went on a nice hike yesterday with Connie, my mom, and some people from the hiking Meetup group I've done some things with before. I'll have some photos and a travelogue entry...but not today. I'm running really late and have a lot going on, so it'll have to wait until Monday. In the meantime, have a great weekend!


10/7/2015 Family visits

The next week and a half or so should be interesting. My parents are returning to Hawaii today. Of course, they're here half the time, so that in itself isn't especially out of the ordinary. But then my brother and sister-in-law are coming in on Friday for a little over a week. It'll be their first time meeting Connie in-person, and we've got a lot of family outing stuff planned, including a weekend on another island. It's going to be busy (especially since I'm not on a vacation from work or anything), but should be a lot of fun.

I was thinking of doing a restaurant review or two today but I'm running a bit late so I think I'll save them for another day.



10/2/2015 October...

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Where has this year gone? There's still so much I want to get done before 2016 rolls around... Anyway, the one weekend event I didn't write about last time was the super blood moon Saturday night. The reason? I didn't really get to see it. Connie and I were planning to join up with some others for a night time hike to get some good views of the moon. Unfortunately, the weather had other ideas and thick clouds blanketed the sky pretty much all night. We did catch a couple glimpses of the super moon (when it wasn't red) but that was about it. It's too bad, but that's the way it goes sometimes. And we did get a really good look at last year's blood moon.

So what's happening this weekend? Well, nothing too special for a change. But maybe that's for the best, I've got some things I need to work on...



9/30/2015 Moon Festival

So, the weekend had some snags, but here's a travelogue entry.

September 26th (Saturday): Chinese Moon Festival
The moon festival is a Chinese holiday that involves moon watching and eating moon cakes. There's never been a big celebration for it here in Hawaii before, but the Chinese Association decided to start one up this year, so Connie and I headed over Saturday night to check it out. Naturally, it was in the cultural plaza in China Town. I was expecting quite a lot of food booths, like at the Chinese New Year celebrations. On that level, it was a little disappointing. There weren't as many booths and most were decidedly non-Chinese snacks. Still, I got to try ice cream made with liquid nitrogen, which was pretty cool. Didn't really taste any different (good ice cream though), but still cool.
Back to the festival, aside from the booths there was entertainment running throughout. Connie and I saw a little bit of old Chinese singing, face changing (not quite as impressive as the last face changer I saw, but fun), some martial arts demonstrations, and a dragon dance. All in all, it was fun to visit, though I hope they have more food next year. I mean seriously, I would have at least expected to see a lot of moon cakes. On that note, due to the lack of food, we ended up going out to eat nearby...

Restaurant Review: Little Village Noodle House
Type: Chinese
Location: China Town
Little Village is one of the more popular Chinese restaurants in China Town. Though I should note that, unlike many of the restaurants in the area, it's not a dim sum place. Anyway, there menu is pretty large, continuing a number of dishes from various parts of China, including some from Hong Kong and a few that are more American inspired (such as orange chicken). Whether you want meat, poultry, seafood, or vegetarian, you'll have lots to choose from. We got shredded roast duck meat rice noodles, tofu with bamboo fungus, and lemongrass chicken. Neither Connie or I had any complaints about the food. Portions were large and everything tasted great. While I wouldn't say any one dish totally jumped out at me, they were all well made and tasted great.
Food aside, the restaurant is nicely decorated and the servers were quick and courteous. It honestly felt a lot like being back in China. If you're in China Town and want something other than dim sum, I recommend giving Little Village a try. I'll certainly be back.


9/25/2015 A busy weekend

The weekly bonus comic is up so just vote to see it!

There's a lot of stuff coming up this weekend, which should make for some cool travelogue entries. Unfortunately, you'll have to wait until Wednesday to hear about them. Monday is the first day of Sukkot, so I won't be able to update. On that note, sorry for all the skipped updates anyway, it's just one of those years when all the high holy days fall on Mondays and Wednesdays. Anyway, this Monday and next Monday's updates will be skipped, but that should be it.

So have a good weekend and happy Sukkot!


9/21/2015 Another con

As a note, there will be no update on Wednesday due to Yom Kippur.

Connie arrived ok and here's a quick travelogue update.

September 20th (Sunday): Amazing Hawaii Comic Con
This is the third convention I've been to here in Honolulu this year, and the second comic convention (the first, Kawaii Kon, was anime). So how did this one measure up? Well, like Honolulu Comic Con (which I visited back in July), this is the first year for Amazing Hawaii Comic Con. And, while they both could use some work, Amazing Hawaii definitely had the better debut. It had a pretty impressive guest list (including Stan Lee) and a really nice vendor area. As such, it was a lot bigger and busier than Honolulu Comic Con. However, it still suffered from a lack of things to do compared to what I expect from a con. Outside of the vendor area, there were only two panel rooms to choose from and no game rooms, viewing rooms, or other special areas or events.
That said, Connie and I had fun walking around and taking in a panel. I would have liked to get into Stan Lee's panel, but it was very limited admission (guess they didn't rent the really big ballroom) and the line was ridiculous (I suspect everyone rushed it the moment the doors opened). Ah well. Stan Lee is cool, but I'm definitely more of a anime / manga fan than I am of American comics. Anyway, it was a pretty good debut there's a decent chance I'll go back next year. Though, unless they expand a bit, a one day pass will probably be enough.
On a side note, Connie and I stopped by Shirokiya (the Japanese department store in the mall) afterwards. Turned out they were having a special event involved some Japanese heroes, Kikaider and Kamen Raider. There was a little stage show with various costumed heros and villains, autographs and photos, a drawing, etc. What really surprised me though was how many people came out for it. The store was packed and there was a really long line (not Stan Lee long, but still impressive). Considering that neither Kikaider nor Kamen Raider have much of a release history in the US, I really didn't expect there to be so many fans, even here in Hawaii.

That's all for now. See you Friday!


9/18/2015 Keeping busy

It's Friday so, as always, you can use the TWC button to vote and see the new bonus comic.

Not much to say today. I spent nearly the entire week trying to get a whole lot of different things done. In the end, I wasn't able to get through everything on my to-do list, but I did finish a lot of it (along with some unplanned things that popped up along the way). I normally would have spaced some of those tasks out a bit more but, with Connie coming today, I didn't want to be too busy over the coming weeks.

For now, I got to run. Still a little more to do...


9/16/2015 Coming soon...

Over the weekend I went to see the annual Hawaii 5-0 season premiere on Waikiki Beach. I wrote about it last year, so I don't think it's worth a new travelogue entry, but it was fun. The episode itself was fairly good and, like last year, it was more than just a chance to see the cast and watch the episode a couple weeks early. There was also a short concert by Five for Fighting (who did the theme song for the 100th episode) and the premiere of the upcoming new show Limitless. It's a spin-off / sequel to a movie of the same name, which I wasn't familiar with. But knowledge of the movie isn't really needed (and I looked it up on Wikipedia anyway). While the new show they played last year (<Scorpion>) didn't really interest me, Limitless gets off to a really good start. I'll definitely tune in to see if the following episodes manage to keep up the momentum.

Look for some actual travelogue entries coming soon. Connie is coming this Friday (for another vacation while we're waiting for her visa application to go through), just in time for a comic convention. And then next week there's the moon festival, and various other things coming up after that. Got some restaurant reviews I've been meaning to write as well... As a note though, there will be a few more days over the coming weeks that updates will be skipped due to holidays, the first being next Wednesday.

For now, I'm off. See you Friday!


9/11/2015 Always remember

Vote to see the new bonus comic. As a note, there will be no new comic on Monday due to Rosh Hashanah.

September 11th... It really wasn't all that long ago, but I wonder how many people are even going to remember the anniversary at this point. The US is a really resilient country, which is great in a lot of ways. Wars, depression, terrorism, we recover from them all remarkably quickly. The downside is that a quick recovery makes it easy to forget the disaster. And, more importantly, the lessons that should be learned from it. They say that those who don't learn from history are doomed to repeat it and that really does happen. Many people just keep repeating the same mistakes of the past over and over. Either because they don't remember, or they naively assume that it'll be different this time, despite no evidence to support their overly optimistic viewpoint.

Well, life goes on and that's a good thing. But we should never forget the past and the lessons its taught us.


9/9/2015 Worn out

As the title suggests, I'm pretty tired at the moment. The weather here lately has led to larger waves than usual so I decided to spend some time surfing yesterday. You know, when I moved here, I meant to go surfing regularly but, for various reasons, this is actually the first time I've surfed in the past year. And I am really out of practice. I never built up the arm muscles you need to paddle a board around (it uses different ones than most arm exercises), so I wore out my arms fairly quickly. And, as before, I also need a lot more practice when it comes to learning how to catch waves on my own. I started to figure that out last time, but seem to have lost whatever little bit of skill in it I had. So yeah, if I want to get more into surfing, even as just a casual hobby, I need to figure out a good arm exercise and, of course, practice more. Maybe take another lesson or two as well... On the bright side, renting a board is actually really cheap. Which is good because they're kind of expensive to buy. I kind of doubt I'll ever be one of those people who goes surfing every chance they get, but I'll certainly do it more than I did this past year.


9/7/2015 Okinawan Festival

And the weekend activities continue.

September 6 (Sunday): Okinawan Festival
Hawaii really has a lot of cultural festivals, the majority of which are Japanese. The Okinawan Festival, however, is a bit different than the others since it's focused on the culture of Okinawa, the collection of small islands to the south of Japan. So what makes Okinawa different? Well, until the 1870's, Okinawa (or the Ryukyu Islands, as it used to be known) was an independent kingdom. For several hundred years, it actually served as a major trade hub for much of Asia, developing a unique culture that included elements from Japan proper, China, Korea, and Thailand. And, while it has since become a part of Japan, elements of that culture have remained.
As a side note, I haven't been to Okinawa yet myself (though I would like to go at some point). I didn't make it to the Okinawan Festival last year either, since it was on the same weekend as my brother's wedding, so this was my first time going there. The first thing I noticed was that, judging by my past experiences, it's the largest of the small cultural festivals (bigger than the Greek Festival, Korean Festival, and the like, though a good deal smaller than the Pan Pacific Festival and the other huge ones).
There were quite a lot of tents, some guarded by shisa (Okinawan lions). Naturally, there was plenty of food, including a tent that just sold packaged Okinawan snacks and cooking ingredients to take home. So what is Okinawan food? Well, some of it is standard Japanese food, but they're known for a wide variety of pork dishes (which I don't eat, so I'm glad there was chicken too) and andagi (fried dough balls that are a bit like donut holes (though not as sweet)). There was also a bunch of kids games and a cultural tent, which had several displays about Okinawan history and culture. Not quite a full museum, but interesting to look through.
And, of course, it wouldn't be a cultural festival without lots of performances. I didn't get there in time for the martial arts shows (Okinawa is the birth place of many of Japan's martial arts styles, including Seibukan Shorin Ryu Karate, which I've studied for the past 18 years or so), but I did catch a number of traditional dance and music performances. I'm not sure someone without much knowledge of Japanese cultural would notice, but Okinawan dance, music, and even clothing is actually quite a lot different than Japanese. There are some clear Japanese influences, but the Chinese and Korean ones are just as clear, along with some things from other countries and Ryukyu itself. All in all, it was a fun festival and, for me, an interesting mix of familiar Japanese elements and a new and different culture.


9/4/2015 Another weekend

Vote to see the bonus comic and all that.

Well, I haven't gotten too far into MGS5 yet, but it's pretty great so far. Not much to talk about today though, and it's getting kind of late. Here's hoping all the rain the island has been getting lately lets up in time for the Okinawan Festival this Sunday...


9/2/2015 The end of an era

I remember playing Metal Gear Solid 4 seven years ago, not too long after returning from my first job in Japan. It was actually the first game I played on my PS3 (which was sitting around unused in the US since I hadn't brought it to Japan with me). For that matter, I remember playing all the MGS games over the years, ever since the first MGS on the original Playstation. Over the years, it became one of my favorite series and its creator, Hideo Kojima, one of my favorite game designers. Well, at long last Metal Gear Solid V is here. It fills in the final gap in the story's timeline and, according to all the reviews, is one of the best games, not just of the year but ever, making a fitting finale to the series.
And it probably is the last MGS game. Or at least the last one worth playing. While details are still murky, all signs point to Kojima and probably most of his team leaving Konami for good. I'm sure Kojima will go on to create more amazing games (with his skills and reputation, I can't imagine he'll have any trouble starting a new studio or joining an existing one), but the licenses for MGS, Zone of the Enders, and his other games will remain with Konami. They might get sequels...or they might not. Konami's games division has been falling apart lately, losing a lot of top talent, letting great brands languish, canceling promising projects, and switching focus to mobile games and pachinko machines. Not to mention the reports that have circulated recently about the extremely poor way they treat their employees, sounding more like a prison than a modern company.
Konami used to be one of my favorite game companies but I think MGSV is actually the first Konami game I've bought since 2013. And, unless they make a drastic turnaround, it very well could be the last. Sure, Konami says Metal Gear is still an important brand, but its future without Kojima is iffy to begin with and with Konami backing away from console games... Well, I wouldn't be surprised if the next "big" Metal Gear title is a freemium mobile game. And, while I have nothing against mobile games (and there's some I really like), that's when I'll stop following the series.
So, goodbye Konami. I'd really love to see them turn things around but and become a top game company again but, right now, all signs point to things only getting worse. I'll always have my memories, and collection of awesome Konami games, and I'll be sure to follow Kojima, Igarashi, and other top ex-Konami developers in their future ventures. But, once I finish Metal Gear Solid V, I think I'll have no choice but to bid a fond, though sad, farewell to what was once one of the best and most innovative game companies out there.


8/31/2015 Greek Festival

September already? Well, almost. Time continues to fly...

August 30th (Sunday): Hawaii Greek Festival
While not quite as unexpected as the Scottish Festival, the fact that there's a Greek festival here in Hawaii surprised me when I first attended last year (see the August 24th entry). While I certainly enjoy all the Asian festivals, these European ones are a nice change of pace. Like last year, there was plenty of Greek music and dancing. You know, now that I think about it, it's kind of interesting that virtually every culture developed some type of circle dance. Just about every European, Asian, and Middle Eastern country I can think of has one of some kind...
Anyway, there was also plenty of Greek food, of course. I tried ouzo sorbet, which was good and really refreshing. For some reason, I had it in my head that ouzo was citrus based (guess I got it confused with kitron), so the taste completely caught me off guard. For the record, ouzo is a liquor made with anise, giving it a liquorice flavor.
Next year, I'm kind of tempted to go to the festival in the evening instead of early afternoon, since it may have more of a party atmosphere later in the day. On the other hand, it's probably a lot more crowded and I bet that they'll have sold out of a lot of the food by then (I arrived an hour after the festival opened and they were already out of a couple things), so maybe not...


8/28/2015 Weekend activities

It's Friday and that means a new bonus comic so vote with the TWC button to see it!

Seems like there's something going on every weekend for quite a while. Last weekend was the Made in Hawaii Festival and that mini anime convention. This Sunday is the Greek Festival and the one after that is the Okinawan Festival. After that? The Hawaii 5-0 premiere on the beach. Then Connie comes the same weekend as a comic convention. And the weekend after that is the Chinese Moon Festival. Expect travelogue entries for at least some of those.

Anyway, things could potentially get pretty busy for me in another couple of weeks (it's still a bit up in the air), but there should still be plenty of fun stuff to look forward to this fall as well.


8/26/2015 Long day

I took my car in yesterday for some basic maintenance. The kind that usually takes an hour or two. But, despite having an appointment, they got really backlogged and I was stuck there for around five and a half hours. Which wouldn't have been quite so annoying had I brought something to keep me busy. Sigh... My fault for not being prepared I guess. Next time, I'm definitely bringing something, even if I don't expect the appointment to take very long.


8/24/2015 Class time

Well, I had a pleasant enough weekend. Got some work done, spent a bit of time at a mini anime convention and the Made in Hawaii festival (a collection of local vendors). I could swear I wrote about the festival when I went last year, but I can't find an entry... Meh, it's a collection of vendors, there really isn't that much to say. I also saw Mission Impossible 4, since the timing worked out well and I had a free movie ticket. It was fun. No deep plot, serious character development, or anything like that, but fun.

Now, to work. Last week was meetings and stuff, but classes start today. I get to run my History of Video Games class on-campus this semester, so that should be fun. Though, as always, it'll be a few weeks before I really get a feel for my new students.

See you Wednesday!


8/21/2015 Assorted stuff

Another Friday, another new Blooper Reel comic, just click the TWC button on the left and vote to see it.

Anyway, let's see if I can get the rest of that travelogue stuff done...

August 19th (Wednesday): Roger McGuinn in Concert
If the name isn't familiar, Roger McGuinn was the lead singer of The Byrds (a 60's group famous for, among other things, their versions of Mr. Tambourine Man and Turn! Turn! Turn!). The group isn't together anymore, but he does a solo act. It was fairly low key. He played a variety of songs, of course. Some from The Byrds, others from various points of his extensive career. But he also spent a lot of time talking about his career as a singer and song writer. It was actually pretty interesting, so no real complaints. His voice still sounds really good too, though there were some songs where it was nearly impossible to tell what the lyrics were. All in all, it was an enjoyable show. Not one of my top oldies concerts, but worth seeing. (Pictures and video weren't allowed, sorry.)

As a note, the following restaurant review was meant to go back last week when I hiked to the Pali Lookout and hung out in Kailua.

Restaurant Review: Hale Kealoha
Type: Hawaiian
Location: Kailua (near Whole Foods)
Despite living in Hawaii, I actually don't eat Hawaiian food all that often. Well, other than poke (which is sorta half Hawaiian and half Japanese), but I was in the area and felt like doing something different. Hale Kealoha is a no frills type of place, though they do have real plates and silverware instead of paper and plastic. Their menu isn't very large, but it covers a lot of Hawaiian classics like chicken long rice and various types of lau lau. Nothing too fancy, but it's well made and you get a lot of food for your money. I have to also mention the extremely friendly server. It looks like they may have live music at times too, though they didn't when I was there.
While I don't think I'll be counting Hawaiian food among my favorite types of cuisine anytime soon, if you're in the Kailua area and want to give the islands' equivalent of comfort food a try, Hale Kealoha is a good choice.

Well, there's actually one more restaurant review I want to do, but I think it'll have to wait. Enjoy the weekend!


8/19/2015 A firework show

After two more failed installations, I've given up on upgrading to Windows 10 for the timing being. I may give it another shot in a month or two after they've had time to make some more updates and patches. But I may just have to wait until I have time to upgrade off of a clean system. I seem to be the outlier in this whole upgrade process though. It's worked fine for most people I've talked to. Honestly, I always seem to get stuck with the most obscure computer problems. The ones that hardly anyone gets and even fewer people know how to fix. When it comes to simpler computer problems, I either avoid them entirely (I take good care of my system) or can quickly fix them. But every now and then some crazy issue like this comes along. And honestly, this computer has been a little quirky from the beginning. Maybe I should have just formatted it and stated from scratch back then...

Anyway, I think I'll get that other travelogue entry done today and save the restaurant reviews for Friday.

August 15th (Saturday): Celebrating Peace
To commemorate the 70th anniversary of end of World War II (though it's technically not for a couple more weeks), they had a special fireworks show near Pearl Harbor. I'd actually first heard about the show months ago, but had all but forgotten about it. Fortunately, they had some articles in the paper earlier in the week.
For the show, they opened up Ford Island to the public. It's a small island off of Pearl Harbor. It's mostly military housing (not sure which branch) so access is normally limited. Though the USS Missouri and the Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum are there too (which you can take a shuttle bus to). Anyway, there were some restrictions on what you could bring (including water bottles, annoyingly). Fortunately, I arrived before it got too crowded and found a nice spot in the park where the festivities were taking place. There were some food vendors set up (though by the time the sun had set and I got around to looking for food, the lines had gotten ridiculously long) and various local groups playing music As time went on, there were eventually speeches by various Hawaiian and Japanese officials (the fireworks show was run by the city of Nagaoka, which is famous for its annual fireworks festival). They even brought J-Pop singer Ayaka Hirahara to perform her song, Jupiter (sorry for the poor sound quality, the strong wind made it hard to get a good recording), which was one of the songs they set the fireworks too. As you can see, I decided to try something different this time and do a little video recording of the fireworks instead of just taking photos. Though I took a few pictures too. This is the first time I've tried photographing fireworks with my new camera and I noticed that its fireworks mode uses a much longer exposer time than the one on my old cameras did. That has some pros and cons and, in the future, I'm not sure if I'll rely on it or just use some custom settings. Still got some good shots though. As you can probably tell from the photos, it was a pretty great show (the second I've seen put on by Nagaoka (which really lives up to its reputation)) and a fun evening.


8/17/2015 I hate computers

As much as my life revolves around technology, I consider my laptop one of my most important possessions, and I'd have trouble going for more than a couple of days without it, sometimes computers drive me crazy. This past weekend, for example, I tried to upgrade to Windows 10. "Tried" being the key word. I know lots of people have been saying how smoothly it has gone for them. Well, not for me. So far I've had three failed installations. On the bright side, it perfectly rolled back my computer to its pre-installation state each time so I haven't lost anything except a bunch of time.
I eventually started doing some troubleshooting which mostly involved driver updates and fixing an issue with my video card. Though I'm note sure if that video card issue was caused by the failed installation or happed a while back and somehow managed to escape my notice. And then there was the point where I thought I may have bricked my laptop since it just kept booting into the BIOS over and over (fortunately, I was able to resolve that as well)... Not fun at all. Anyway, I'm going to give the installation one more go for now. If it fails again, I'll probably have to resort to formatting my system and going off of a clean Windows 7 installation and, with work starting back up tomorrow, there's no way I'm doing that until winter break (reinstalling all my programs and getting the settings right is both time consuming and really boring).

Anyway, thanks to that I'm running kind of late today. I have two days of travelogue entries to do along with a restaurant review or two, but some of that is going to have to wait for later in the week.

August 13th (Thursday): Pali Lookout Hike
Remember that Likeke Falls hike I did a couple weeks back? I believe I mentioned that it's just a side path, and that the main trail goes all the way to the Pali Lookout. Well, the hiking Meetup group was going to do the full trail so I signed up.
For most of the week, the weather forecast for today was looking kind of iffy. Until yesterday, when they said the weather would be fine. Turns out that the earlier forecast was the more accurate one... It was raining when I arrived but everyone else decided to do the hike anyway and I figured that, since it's in a forest, the trees would make for good cover. Actually though, I think the trees somehow made it worse... Still, rain can enhance the scenery sometimes. As a note, aside from the turn off for the waterfall, there's a couple other places where the path splits and the most obvious looking route isn't always the right one.
The path starts out going through the forest. It's bound to be a little muddy most of the the time, much more so when it's rainy. Kind of slippery too. After a while though, shortly after the rain stopped, we left the forest behind and ended up on the old Pali Highway. Since being replaced by the newer and wider Pali Highway, it's been closed to traffic and is slowly fading away into the forest, but it's easy to follow and walk on. Speaking of the new Pali, the trail eventually goes underneath it then continues on the old Pali along the side of the mountains and up to the Pali Lookout.
I know I wrote about the lookout once or twice in the past. It's a popular tourist spot since you get a great view with no hiking required. Of course, our cars were down at the bottom so, after hanging out for a bit, the rest of the group and I headed back down the trail.
All in all, I think it was maybe two miles (give or take) each way. While it is a bit of a climb, it's not an especially steep or strenuous hike, though it can be rather slippery when wet. And you get both a nice forest and some good views, not to mention the waterfall if you want to go a few minutes out of your way.
I was originally planning to spend the day in Kailua, since I drove all the way out there. The iffy weather left me a bit unsure but since it was clearing up by the time I got back to my car, I decided to give it a go.  So I got lunch and hit the beach for a while. The water was nice, though it actually did rain again for a bit... Fortunately, not for too long, so the big farmers' market went off without a hitch. I hadn't been to the Kailua one in months, or any big farmers' market since before my China trip, and it was nice to pick up some hard to find items. In the end, it was a nice day, despite the problematic weather.


8/14/2015 Late again?

It's Friday and that means a new Blooper Reel comic for everyone who votes!

I went hiking yesterday and was hoping to get the travelogue up for today's update but it's late and I'm not nearly done so I guess it will have to wait until Monday.

Have a good weekend!


8/12/2015 Happy anniversary!

Today marks the start of Pebble Version's 13th year. Hard to believe I've been doing this comic for so long... Then again, it's kind of hard to remember when working on Pebble Version wasn't part of my daily routine. The question now is how many more years it's going to go. Brendan and May only have one gym left, though there's still the Elite Four and, of course, Team Rocket to deal with. So it's not over yet, but Pebble Version is defiantly getting towards the end. As for what comes after that, well, we'll talk about that closer to the time. For now, here's to another year.


Pokemon and all related images and trademarks are copyrighted by Nintendo, one of my favorite games companies who would certainly never waste their time by trying to sue me. Especially since I'm protected under the Fair Use Rule of the United States Copyright Act of 1976. Aside from that the actual site content is copyrighted by me, Josiah Lebowitz 2003.