1 pixel fragments


I attended an event called ichi pixel. This is actually the second time I’ve been to this event. The first time was sometime in January. It happens to be the event’s first anniversary.

The event officially starts at 19:30 but after an hour or so, presentations by people involved with video games start. I actually wanted to try to give one too about the simple game I made but I missed the deadline. I’ll try again next time. I managed to talk to one of the people giving a presentation, and it was apparently his first time giving one. I got to try out a game he made himself called 海のカケラ (Fragment of Marine). He’ll be showing it off at the Tokyo Game Show this year, which I thought was pretty amazing considering he’s still a student.

The presentations were interesting and it’s nice to learn about what people are working on and their thought process in making a game.

After the presentations, I talked to a group of people who were actually university students learning about game development. After some chit-chat, I showed them the simple game I made, which was more like a demo. The person tried it and eventually made it to the goal. (I had to give a hint though). Before I let them try it though, I asked to give me feedback if they could. It was actually very enlightening to hear what they said, which involved some advice in level design elements. I then tried a game one of the programmers made and it was actually quite fun, I couldn’t beat the boss though. He was actually thankful that he showed it to me because he too learned about what he could improve too.

This experience helped motivate me in making a better game and think of new ideas (which I am currently experimenting with now). I’m glad I went and I’ll go again if I can.

 

 

Coming home

I watched Spider-Man: Homecoming today and enjoyed it. I loved how they were able to connect it to the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Story-wise, this is another reboot of Spider-Man, with a new actor set in a new universe. I’m glad it’s not another origin story because it’s honestly unnecessary at this point since almost everyone knows how Peter Parker became Spider-Man. 

It’s also nice that they introduced a new villain, The Vulture, portrayed by Michael Keaton, who played Batman in the Tim Burton movies, and also starred in Birdman, whom I thought was a great casting choice. Oh and Tom Holland is pretty likeable as Spider-Man. I already liked his appearance in Civil War so I’m glad this movie made me like his version of Peter Parker/Spider-Man even more. It was nice seeing him learn how to use his gifts and getting used to them while learning about power and responsibility (sorry). I also liked how Tony Stark/Iron-Man acted like a mentor to Peter/Spider-Man.

I had mixed feelings when I watched The Amazing Spider-Man 2 despite being pretty hyped but Homecoming was a spectacular experience from start to finish and I look forward to future MCU Spider-Man movies.

Rating: 9/10

Riverside fireworks

The Yodogawa fireworks display. (Disclaimer: I just took a pic of the TV screen.)
The Yodogawa fireworks festival is one of the largest fireworks festivals in Osaka. This year it was held on August 5th.

Funny story, I actually wanted to go see the fireworks back in 2014 so I bought (rather expensive) tickets for good seats near the river to go with my then-girlfriend-now wife, but because of a heavy rain forecast, it was cancelled. I was luckily able to get a refund. I then learned that it was possible to see the fireworks from my in-laws’ house’s veranda. It wasn’t the best view, but it was decent enough. So since then, we just watch the fireworks from there. The fireworks display is actually broadcast on TV as well so what we actually do is watch the fireworks and then sometimes glance at the TV to see the fireworks clearer albeit with a slight delay. I personally think it’s a great experience because I don’t have to deal with crowds and it’s FREE! The fireworks themeselves are pretty to look at with some nice designs and colors and it lasts for around an hour or so. 

I’ve talked with friends that have actually went out and gotten good seats and said it was worth it so I may try going again in the future and if you’re reading this and you like fireworks and/or rivers you should check it out too.

Do you still play video games?

The Vanishing of Ethan Carter – pretty even on Medium Settings

Yes…yes I do. I just haven’t been playing as much compared to previous years. I used to finish at least 10 games a year. This year, so far I think I’ve only finished two, The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Seasons and Breath of the Wild. I meant to finish Oracle of Ages before playing BotW but I only managed to get halfway through before BotW was released in March.

Now why am I not able to play as much? It’s not that I’m tired of gaming, I don’t think I ever will be. I still read news about the gaming industry and game announcements everyday though. It’s just that I have a family to take care of and they’re obviously the priority now. I’ve also been trying to actually try making a game myself through a game engine called Unity since trying it out in March this year. I’ve gotten used to the interface and can use most of its basic features. I haven’t actually made a game yet though nor have I gotten used to scripting. I hope to improve even more this month.

I did get some time this weekend to play a game from my queue, and the game I chose was, “The Vanishing of Ethan Carter”, a game released in 2014. Immediately upon starting, I noticed that it was made using Unreal Engine 3 (the “Redux” version was done in Unreal Engine 4). It’s funny how I used to ignore what game engine a game was made in, but now that I’m actually dabbling in trying to make a game, it sort of sticks out now. Anyway, about the game itself, I immediately noticed that it is gorgeous to look at, even at mid settings, but what I found most interesting and unique about it was its lack of in-game tutorials/guides, and that made it more rewarding to explore and solve the puzzles in the game.

Other than Ethan Carter, I’m trying to play through Phoenix Wright:Ace Attorney/Gyakuten Saiban (逆転裁判) in Japanese, which I can proudly say that I actually understand most of the text now. Let’s hope I can knock out a few more games by the end of the year AND develop a game while making sure I don’t forget my responsibilities in life and work.

2017 New Year’s Resolutions and Where to Find Them

Another year has passed and I consider it one of the hardest I had to go through in my lifetime. Quite a few things happened and despite it not being all bad, it still was a rough trek.

I’d rather not call them “resolutions”, but instead I will refer to them as “tasks” because that is what I’m used to and when I call it that, it usually (but not always) gets done.

In order of priority:

Get a full-time job or something stable

I actually work as an assistant language teacher as my main job and work part-time on weekday evenings but I would like to someday (this year) just have one job, where I don’t have to worry about income.

One thing that I have is noticed is that I have gotten better in teaching and have more confidence in teaching, I also feel I’ve learned and honed techniques that I could possibly use in other professions/jobs such as speaking in front of people, giving presentations and working with a computer. Of course, as long as the job I find is stable, I could still continue teaching.

Even if I say I want to get a new job, I actually enjoy what I do in my current job, the people I work with are really easy to get along with and I have had no problems in the workplace. The students are some of the smartest I have taught and most of them have very interesting personalities.

Well finding a full-time job has been a difficult task, I’ve been joining career fairs and sending resumes here and there since last year. I even managed to get a few interviews, which I am thankful for but feel bad since I didn’t manage to pass them. Only thing I can think of at the moment is push forward and step up my game. Maximum Effort!

Improve my Japanese even more

My Japanese has definitely improved since I first got here in 2010 but the goal is to be able to speak legit business level Japanese, so that I can use it in my (future) full-time job, personal satisfaction, so I can fit in more, and communicate with my wife better.

Most of my Japanese learning has been from my wife, JLPT books, Japanese TV, daily life interactions and listening to other Japanese people speak. While these things have helped tremendously, I still feel I’m not at the level I should be. Learning a language is a continuous process so I’ll be steadily improving my Japanese throughout the year.

Be more organized

I’ve slowly made different systems for organizing things like clothes, files, data, cables, the refrigerator, trash and various other things thanks to the internet, books, and experience. I’ve always wanted to be an organized person, someone who knows exactly what to do, knows where to get things, keeps things in order, and isn’t a mess. Again, even though I feel I’m more organized than I was before, there’s still things to improve, systems to refine and habits to change.

The other things…
There’s actually quite a few more tasks I want to get done this year such as playing the guitar more, finishing more video games, exercise more, eat healthy and some others but these are of less priority or things that I have some control over. Writing about them would just make this longer that it should. Anyway, 2017, here we go!

I’m Steven Cayco and This is How I Work (2016)

I read Lifehacker a lot, and one of my favorite parts to read are the How I Work sections. Although we’re halfway done through the year, I thought I’d give it a shot myself.

Location: Osaka, Japan
Current Gig: ALT (Assistant Language Teacher) at a Japanese High School
One word that best describes how you work: Systematic
Current mobile device: iPhone 6S Plus and an iPad Air 2
Current computer: NEC Windows 7 laptop that my school let’s me use. It’s actually not bad. At home, I use a custom PC I built in early 2014 (code-named “Phantom Vengeance”) which I sometimes use for work-related things.

What apps, software, or tools can’t you live without?

Apps:
iOS Calendar, Reminders, and Notes – I like the fact that they sync between devices.
Evernote – If I’m not connected to Internet, I use Notes first then move to Evernote (yes, I’m still using Free version).
Dropbox – Great for accessing files quickly.

Software:
Microsoft Office – I mainly use Word, Excel and Power Point and I’m trying to get to Intermediate level in terms of using them.

Tools:
Post-it notes – Good for leaving messages for other people and adding notes to books.
Small notebook – Despite having a smartphone, I still like writing stuff down.

What’s your workspace setup like?

At work, I have my own desk, which I try to keep as clean as possible by not leaving anything unnecessary on top. There are times where it does get pretty messy though, especially during busy days.

At home, I have a small computer desk in the living room where I use my custom-built PC.

What’s your best time-saving shortcut or life hack?
Along with using to-do lists and calendars for schedules, I make use of the Pomodoro method along with a Pomodoro app called Be Focused when I do tasks I need to do. This method is basically where you work on a task for 25 minutes without doing anything else, and do your best to get it done in time. After 25 minutes, you take a 5 minute break, then repeat the process again until the task is finished.

What’s your favorite to-do list manager?

Reminders (iOS)
I use this app for tasks that need to be done. When I finish a task, I just cross it off. When I make tasks, I try to make them as specific as possible and make it so that it’s easy enough to complete. If it’s one big task I usually list tasks as steps I need to do to finish it.

Evernote
I use Evernote of as more of a checklist for things I need to bring, for example on a trip. I make use of checkboxes and just tick the boxes of the items I have prepared.

Besides your phone and computer, what gadget can’t you live without and why?

Portable Scanner
I’ve been using a Doxie but have been having problems with them suddenly not working for some reason. When it was working, I used it a LOT. I’ve been trying to go paperless when I can.

Portable battery with a charging cable
I own 2 Anker chargers, one high-capacity one and a smaller one. I bring one depending on how long I’ll be outside or how much I think I’ll be using my mobile devices.

Nintendo 3DS LL
This I usually bring for train rides if I’m bored. I’m currently playing Super Mario 3D Land.

What everyday thing are you better at than everyone else?

I’m not sure if I’d say I’m better than anyone else but I feel like I’m pretty good at sorting things. I also think I’m pretty good at planning and making schedules. Lastly, I make an effort to remember the people I meet.

What do you listen to while you work?

I don’t really listen to any music at work since I feel that it would make me look unproductive. I do sometimes listen to music during the commute to work. It’s usually Fall Out Boy, Green Day, Linkin Park or Incubus.

What are you currently reading?

I’m not much of a reader, but I do try to read as much news articles in Japanese.
I will mention a book I actually read last year called The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondo, which I felt has influenced me a lot in terms of being a more organized person. Basically, it’s message is to get rid of anything that doesn’t spark joy.

How do you recharge?

Video games! Not at work, but usually once I get home. If I’m at work, power naps and coffee usually help me get through the day.

What’s your sleep routine like?

Although I’ve been trying to be an early bird, I guess I’m a night owl. I usually play a video game before sleeping and fall asleep around midnight. I have an alarm set up across my bed for 6:00 which I usually turn off as soon as it starts alarming and head back to bed. I then wake up for real from anytime between 6:30 to 7:00. I then leave home for work around 7:25.

Fill in the blank: I’d love to see _________ answer these same questions.

My siblings.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?

A penny saved is a penny earned, something my Dad used to tell me.

Living in Japan for almost 6 years

I find it hard to believe that I’ve been in Japan for this long. It’s also hard to say exactly how I feel. If I asked myself I were happy, I would probably say yes. There are so many things I feel I’ve yet to do or accomplish, though.

もうすぐ6年に日本に住んでるなんて信じられない。今の気持ちははっきり言えないけど...「嬉しいですか」聞かれたら「はい、嬉しいよ。」で答えると思う。でも日本でいろいろなことはまだやらなければならない。

When I arrived in Japan in 2010, I had almost no knowledge of the Japanese language. But to be honest I had initially thought that I had enough to get by…I was wrong. I knew this when I took a placement exam for Japanese classes, that I couldn’t communicate what I wanted to say at all. Daily tasks were a challenge too, finding things at the supermarket, going to the bank, sending mail, getting a phone, and making Japanese friends. Even now, there are still things I have difficulty in, like making a phone call in Japanese, finding the right words to explain something, reading kanji (writing is even worse), and keigo (polite Japanese).

Other than language, hurdles I had to face were

  • renewing my visa, so that I could continue to stay in Japan. There were no major problems, just the time and effort it took to get all documents needed
  • countless rejections from girls and friends
  • missed job opportunities
  • finding an affordable apartment

On the bright side, I do know I’ve become a better person.

  • I have confidence in getting around in Japan, using the train, buses and biking.
  • I have more confidence in speaking Japanese
  • I can understand most Japanese TV programs
  • I have passed the N2 JLPT (before coming to Japan I had failed N4)
  • I am more decisive now
  • I can do many things independently, without help from others
  • Interestingly, my skill with computers has increased too. I have a way better PC now, too
  • I feel more comfortable with a Japanese (JIS) keyboard
  • I can navigate most Japanese websites
  • I am more organized now: my room, the money I spend and save, my work area, etc.
  • I am responsible in sorting and taking out trash, this was something I had always cared about though since arriving. So much better than other countries I’ve lived in.
  • I know most Japanese culture, rules and holidays
  • I am more up-to-date with news now
  • I have a lovely wife that gets my jokes most of the time or at least puts up with them. I also get along well with her family too

Things I hope to get done are:

  • Pass the N1 test this July
  • Find a stable job for 2017
  • Save more money
  • Improve my confidence in speaking Japanese even more
  • Learn and improve Japanese-English translation skill
  • Keep my wife happy
  • Get into practicing the guitar again
  • Finishing the video games in my queue
  • Getting better sleep and thus waking up earlier in the morning
  • Keeping fit
  • Get work done faster and more efficiently
  • Learn about teaching English grammar

OK this post is getting long. I’ll end it here for now.

Whopper Fools

So it’s April Fools’ today, and I’m kind of surprised Japan actually participates in this event. I’ve read about a few today including one from Capcom about an Ace Attorney (逆転裁判) game with a dog as the protagonist, something I’d actually want to play.

But I’m also surprised that Burger King Japan had something that should be an April Fools’ joke but actually isn’t. They had a campaign where they sold Burger King perfume only on this day but they also had this one where you could buy a card and eat a Whopper meal a day from April 1 to 30 for 5000 yen. I actually went to my nearest Buger King and got one around 4PM and found that there weren’t much people.  Thought it was worth it since I actually like Whoppers, so I could see myself going at least 6 times this month to make up for the cost.

Waiting for my Whopper meal, which didn't take too long.
Waiting for my Whopper meal, which didn’t take too long.

Punkspring 2015

I love listening to music and punk rock is one of my favorite genres to listen to. I also like going to live concerts or music festivals when I can. So every year, there’s this punk rock music festival that’s held in Tokyo, Kobe, and Nagoya called Punkspring. I actually went to the one in 2012 since the lineup was pretty good.

It started around 12:00 but I got there around 13:00. Here’s a quick rundown of the bands I saw and my impressions of their performance.

13:35 My First Story – Very One Ok Rock-esque imo, and apparently related to the band Another Story who played as the opening act but I didn’t get to see them. 7/10

14:30 Knock Out Monkey – Pretty good, and loud. I enjoyed listening to their performance. 8/10

15:15 SiM – They’re reggae punk it seems. Interesting mix, I think I’ve seen some like it before. 7/10

16:10 Rise Against – I started listening to their stuff in 2013 because of Rocksmith 2014 and like some of their songs. I actually thought they gave a solid performance. 7/10

17:10 Man With a Mission – Good music. I got comments in Facebook about how good they were and I have to agree. Solid 8/10

18:05 Zebrahead – Pretty good, they had a collaboration with a Man with a Mission, crude humor reminded me of Blink 182. Not a huge fan of their stuff but they did entertain. 7/10

19:05 Fear, Loathing in Las Vegas – Weird band for me because of use of vocalization software. Could not get into their music, just not my thing. 4/10

20:00 Rancid – Plain good, despite me not being a big fan. This is what punk rock should sound like to me. 9/10

21:15 Fall Out Boy – I love this band, and I really like the way Patrick Stump sings. I knew all the songs they played and sang along to them. They even played “Immortals” from the Disney movie “Big Hero 6”. 10/10

I left around 22:00 because I was worried about making it back home on time while avoiding crowds. I probably won’t be going to another concert anytime soon because I want to save money but I’m glad I went to Punkspring this year.