Road Trips Are Awesome

Seriously, they are. And I’m someone who loathes driving. It turns out that all I hate is driving on city streets. (I use the term loosely; it’s not like Gainesville is really a city, but I do know I’d hate driving in SF.) Driving down the highway can be pretty amazing, though.

When the BF and I moved from Gainesville, FL, to San Francisco, CA, we took 1-10 west all the way through Texas. We stopped in San Antonio along the way to see the Alamo and eat some tasty, tasty roadside barbecue. The barbecue place was just this random little gas station restaurant with a smoker out back, run by a guy with a cowboy hat and a handlebar mustache. If you’ve never stopped at a place like that, you’re missing out on a valuable life experience in the form of an amazing pulled pork sandwich.

If you see this place at an exit after San Antonio, just eat there.

If you see this place at an exit after San Antonio, just eat there.

After Texas, we stopped in New Mexico to see the Carlsbad Caverns; I highly recommend that national park to anyone who can even remotely appreciate cave formations. It’s the prettiest cave system I’ve even seen. We drove north to Roswell next, but unfortunately, the UFO museum was closed down by the time we got there, along with the rest of the town. There weren’t even any funky alien gift shops open! It was a shame, but at least we managed to snag an alien coffee mug at a gas station up the road.

Next we spent a few days in Arizona, a state I’ve decided that I love. The Painted Desert and the Grand Canyon were stunning, and Flagstaff was a great mountain town. The only downside was that we got to the Grand Canyon on Memorial Day weekend. It was packed to the brim with tourists. Without the canyon, I would have thought we were in Disneyland instead.

The Grand Canyon, in all its majesty. I'm not the best photographer ever, but hopefully you get the general idea.

The Grand Canyon, in all its majesty. I’m not the best photographer ever, but hopefully you get the general idea.

When we made it to California, we actually had to drive through an inspection point for the first time the whole trip. It was weird, but they didn’t actually search our car, so it wasn’t bad. I guess we didn’t have the agricultural parasites they were looking for?

We didn’t linger in southern California, and we ultimately finished the trip within a little over a week. Along the road, though, we saw some incredible sights. Watching the landscape change was one of the most interesting parts of the journey. We went from the lush, flat southeast to scrubby but hilly areas in Texas. Then, we moved into the arid desert, complete with dust spouts and tumbleweeds. (For some reason, I was giddy with excitement at seeing my first tumbleweed. It just really felt like we were in the desert then!)

Once we got into northern New Mexico, we found ourselves in the mountains, and the mountains stuck with us all the way to San Francisco. The mountains have always been one of my favorite things about California, and now I live in a city where I can see them pretty much any time. :)

Me after every visit I’ve ever made to California.

This journey wasn’t just awesome because of the scenery, though. I also learned a lot. For example:

  • Road trips don’t take as much planning as you’d expect. Apart from arranging to have the rest of our stuff moved, all we really did was pile into the car and drive. We didn’t even plan out our hotels beyond knowing we needed to stay somewhere that allowed pets.
  • Speaking of pets, a cat can actually be a great road trip buddy. Our kitty, Annika, was wonderful, and we never even had to put her in the pet carrier. She spent most of her time in someone’s lap or laying on top of our pile of stuff in the back seat.
  • Snapple Apple is hard to find, even outside the south, so if you see it along the way, buy it. (That stuff is addicting and tasty!)
  • You can get sunburned while driving if the sun hits you through the window long enough. So, kids, always wear your sun screen!
  • Keeping a captain’s log of the trip (times when significant things happened, your impressions of events, etc.) can leave you with something amusing to read later.
  • Taking pictures of yourself and making them look cool is tough. Fortunately, some people will be nice enough to help you out and take the photo for you.
  • Having the right company on a long trip makes all the difference.
Our kitty found lots of cozy places to snooze in the car along the road.

Our kitty found lots of cozy places to snooze in the car along the road.

Whoever said that it’s the journey, not the destination, that counts, must have loved road trips. This was only my first one, but I’d like to try another. Perhaps I’d want to try traveling a shorter distance, though, and take along a third driver. A whirlwind week on the road was exhausting.

As much as I enjoyed the trip, I am definitely glad to be in San Francisco. It’s an awesome city; now, it’s my city, too. I’m happy to call it home, and I can’t wait to find lots of nerdy things to do. (If you have any suggestions, feel free to leave ’em in the comments!)

Letting Go of Books is Hard

Definitely not my art, but it’s so true. Check out this tumblr by Airiz. Lots of amazing bookish drawings.

It’s getting closer to moving day, and my boyfriend and I have been doing our best to downsize. It’s been tough, though. We’ve both accumulated so many books, movies, and games over the last several years (Holy crap, have I really been in this college town since 2007?), and we’re pretty attached to a lot of them. The books are the hardest to let go, though.

Whether it’s a reference book or a fantasy novel, there’s just something about holding a physical copy and flipping through it that makes me pause when I hover over my “to donate” pile. A lot of my books bring back nice memories for me. I picked up my Circuits 1 textbook, and it just made me smile because I remember loving that class so much. Unfortunately, since we’re making a cross-country move into a tiny apartment and paying for it ourselves, we have to be choosy about what we pack into our shipping container. I have a couple of other good electronics books that amount to about half the volume of that circuits book, and they cover the most important bits and then some. So, the circuits textbook isn’t coming with me.

Then I look at my mismatched collection of Narnia books, all of them paperback, some still sporting tacky WalMart stickers. A couple of them are even raggedy garage sale copies. But I remember how as a kid, I would carefully save my allowance until I wanted a book or game, and I remember buying those Narnia books myself and devouring them. Still, when I move, I can get a better set to put next to my lovely hardbound Lord of the Rings novels (which are most definitely coming with me!). Hopefully, some other kid will read and enjoy my Narnia books at a local library.

I also have a garage sale collection of Sherlock Holmes stories that found its way into the donation pile. I did hesitate (it’s hardcover!), but if I’m honest, I’ll just use it as an excuse to pick up a nicer copy that actually contains all of Holmes’ adventures. I will, however, keep the dog-eared Sherlock Holmes paperback that has a lovely note from my uncle’s mother inside the front cover. That one was a gift.

It’s not always so difficult to pass on some books to other people, though. There are textbooks from classes I’d like to forget and a ton of less-than-awesome Shannara trades that I am more than happy to donate to someone else’s library. I have sorority sisters who would be able to save money by using some of my engineering textbooks, and some of my other friends have already taken a load of paperback novels off my hands.

Basically, it looks like I’m only keeping my favorites (sorry library, but you’re not getting Snow Crash, The Blue Sword, or a single Harry Potter book) and reference books I hope think I’ll use in the near future (I’ve got this book on Ruby, for example, that I’ve been meaning to sit down with but just haven’t found the time for…), and that’s okay. I had several classic novels that I kind of wanted to bring, but I realized that I probably wouldn’t read them again any time soon. As much as I love To Kill a Mocking Bird, Catch 22, and Jane Eyre, I read all of those before I graduated high school, and I haven’t opened them since. It’s time to let someone else experience them.

Of course, that doesn’t mean I won’t pick up a new copies when I’m finished moving. I’d probably even be excited to read them again. :)


Studio Ghibli Songs + Jazz = Awesomesauce Remixes

All That Jazz Album ArtI seem to be on roll lately with discovering new music (particularly good remixes of songs I already love), and when one of my roommates introduced me to a series of official jazz arrangements of songs from Studio Ghibli movies, I knew I had to get my hands on them. Seriously, these tracks are pure gold, and I can’t stop playing them. Give this version of “Kaze No Tani No Nausika” (from Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind) a listen.

Tell your ears I said you’re welcome. :)

Fortunately, you can get your hands on tons of jazzy Ghibli goodness for less than $10 an album on Amazon, as long as you’re cool with MP3s. I grabbed the first two, and they have been quite enjoyable, though I’m probably going to end up buying the live album eventually. Some of those tracks are even better than the normal recordings.

What are some of your favorite remixes of video game or anime music?

Every Day’s Great with 8-bit Persona 4 Music

Hi folks! It’s been a while. There’s been some craziness in my life in the last few months: in the beginning of the year, I managed to find an amazing job as an editor! I feel unbelievably lucky to be doing something I enjoy and getting paid for it. I’m trying to get myself moved to a new city for said job in the near future, too, so there’s been plenty to do in that regard. Between that and my G.A.M.E.S. blog writing, my personal blog wound up falling by the wayside. Anyhoo, I don’t like it when I neglect the blog for so long, and I had some breathing room today, so I thought I should pop in to say I’m still here. I want to post more often now that things are settling down, though when the move starts, all bets are off.

You know you read the post title in Nanako’s voice.

Of course, you didn’t click through to read about why I’ve been gone. You wanted to hear that music I mentioned in the title, right? I’ve been playing the heck out of Persona 4 Golden every chance I can get, and I’m loving it so much. One major reason I like it is that I get to hear lots of Shoji Meguro’s awesome music.

When I fall in love with a game’s soundtrack, I tend to poke around YouTube to see if I can stream it. As I was looking for P4 music, I discovered that someone uploaded 8-bit remixes of several tracks from the game. Some of them, like this version of “Reach Out to the Truth” are pretty darned good. If you liked the 8-bit version of “I’ll Face Myself” that plays during the Void Quest boss fight (I don’t know for sure, but that version of the song might only be in P4G.), you’ll love this.

You can find the whole playlist here. I have no idea whether these are official mixes or not, but I’d love to track down the actual album if it exists. If it’s not an official remix album, I’d still like to find the original artist who did this arrangement, so either way, if you can shed any light on this, do leave a comment. :)

P.S. No spoilery comments on anything past the Secret Laboratory dungeon! I never played the original P4 on the PS2, so I’m going through this game for the first time.

These Guys Made Mario Kart Real

I always get warm fuzzies when people do awesomely geeky things with hardware. Some brilliant people from Waterloo labs put an RFID tag inside a Koopa shell plushie, put a tag reader on a go-kart, and then rigged up the kart to react to the shell–thus creating Mario Kart in real life. This is, of course, a gross simplification of their system. If you want to learn more, check out their page on the project. Meanwhile, here’s a video showing the karts in action. They even had item boxes, and someone ran a traffic light like Lakitu. 😀

(Waterloo Labs via Hack A Day)