Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Teas, Wines, and Day 403 of Daily Sketch Challenge

Day 403 of Daily Drawing Challenge

I drew this for a Daily Drawing Challenge on Facebook.  People just sharing their drawings based on a photo. This is Day 403 of the Challenge.  I drew this on my sketchbook using watercolor and red wine. Red wine was 2014 Green Fin Cabernet Sauvignon from Trader Joes.  Pretty good.  Very fruity for a Cabernet.  Quite tasty.  Should be good with any kind of light foods.  Perhaps not with a thick steak, though.  I tend to go for a deeper, somewhat more bitter Cab to go with heavier foods.

I have this whole week off...which is generally after New Years. Pretty sweet! So much time that I don't know how to best use.  I walk longer in the mornings now, while listening to podcasts.  I went bowling yesterday with a Meetup group.  Also, finished up some freelance drawings.

I've been drinking a lot of teas lately.  Different varieties. A recent tea I got into is Honeybush Tea, which is similar to Rooibos, but sweeter. I got a Rooibos and Honeybush Tea from Trader Joes, which went for under $3 for 20 tea bags.
2014 Green Fin Cabernet Sauvignon

Tea Bewing Mug and Wine Preserver

Got more into teas..
I recently got a super cool Tea Collection (10 different teas in a glass tube) from a White Elephant Gift Exchange. I could never find where they sold this. Looking up the UPC Barcode or looking up the name on the web got me no results.  I been trying a different tea a day.  They're all quite different and flavorful.  I like the Caramel Rooibos and Darjeeling.  Since they're loose-leaf teas, I needed a tea infuser. From Target, I got a Primula Tea Brewing Ceramic Mug With Infuser for a little under $9 (cut price). A nice little thing to have if you have loose-leaf teas and not part of a tea party.

Since I also have some wine, I got a Houdini Deluxe Wine Preserver at Target for around $9.  The air pump keeps with wine fresh as you pump out the air after you have opened the bottle.

I could never find this tea collection (top left).  Primula Tea Brewing Mug (lower right)
Houdini Wine Preserver (lower) include an air pump with two rubber stoppers

Added a Pothos houseplant to my apartment and
cilantro to my herb garden.  It's a little more green.

I drew this when I went to see Star Wars with a friend in Alhambra.
This is a view from Izakaya Akatora restaurant in Alhambra, CA
Overall, the week has been going fine.  I may plan a trip with some friends this week to make the most of my one week vacation.  Admittedly, just a bit of R & R with teas, wines, and art is not a bad idea either.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

My Review of 'Star Wars--Episode VII'

A little fan art I made using the style of The Foos

So I finally wrote up the review of Star Wars: Episode VII which I saw on Friday.  Great fun.  My review can be found here.  The review isn't super clean as I was in a bit of a rush trying to write it right after seeing it.

Here is an excerpt:

This film is currently playing in theaters everywhere.

Directed by J.J. Abrams, "Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens" continues the "Star Wars" saga with a bit of the familiar, but more of the new. This story takes place 30 years after the fall of the Galactic Empire (which happened in episode VI--"The Return of the Jedi"). The galaxy is now facing a new threat--a faction called The First Order, led by a ruthless Sith named Kylo Ren, who are determined to conquer the Galaxy and destroy all who oppose them. Opposing the The First Order is a group called The Resistance, which include General Leia (Carrie Fisher), Han Solo (Harrison Ford), and Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew), among others. They are looking for the last Jedi who can restore order to the galaxy and revive the Jedi ways--Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), who has gone missing. They are joined by newcomers Finn (John Boyega), an ex-First Order Stormtrooper, and Rey (Daisy Ridley), a scavenger from planet Jakku who discovers a map inside a droid named BB-8 that may lead to Luke Skywalker. Meanwhile, Kylo is determined to locate and kill Luke, the last Jedi, once and for all.

To say there has been much anticipation for this film would be putting it lightly. With George Lucas no longer at the helm, director J.J. Abrams worked on the script with Lawrence Kasdan ("Empire Strikes Back") and Michael Arndt ("Toy Story 3"), looking to figure out the best way for the series to continue. After seeing this film, it feels apparent that they have succeeded in this endeavor. This film is a worthy sequel and a solid progression of the series. As the familiar characters from the original trilogy begin to reach their inevitable decline, the new characters are now taking center stage. What works really well here, however, is the reverent yet somewhat realistic take on the older characters. The last film may have ended happily, but their post-war lives aren't quite the fairy tale one might have wished.

The newer, less-known cast are fully competent here. Daisy Ridley's portrayal of the young scavenger Rey feels natural and fits perfectly within the universe. Rey is headstrong and carries a sense of adventure, wonder, and innocence akin to Luke from "A New Hope." Her gradual growth in the film is intriguing and one cannot help but follow along with her journey. John Boyega brings most of the film's humor as Finn, a stormtrooper who decides to defect from The First Order to join Rey. Finn is a character who clearly doesn't have it together, but wears his heart on his sleeve, improvising his way out of sticky situations, not unlike a less cooler version of Han Solo. Oscar Isaac, despite his small role, is fun as Poe Dameron, an expert X-Wing pilot who befriends Finn. It is a treat to see Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher again to reprise their roles as Leia and Han Solo. Much of the fun of seeing them comes from nostalgia, admittedly, and Han Solo does play a substantial and important role in the film. And, the rest of the familiar cast reprise their roles quite well. Mark Hamill does make a very effective appearance, but one cannot say much without spoiling. In the end, the film is still mainly about the new characters, and one will find that they are quite capable enough to take over the series, which is saying a lot.

The rest of my review can be found here.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Organizing My Herbal Garden

My sketch of my Herbal Garden on my Sketch Journal

Lately, I've been working on organizing my herbal garden on my window sill in my kitchen right next to my drawing table. It's looking pretty good, I admit. I have about 9 herbs here, organized based on how much water they need in terms of frequency.  
On the left are Chives, Peppermint, and Mint, which requires plenty of water.  The next three are Sage, Rosemary, and Oregano. Generally, the rule seems to be that they just need well-drained soil but can be watered regularly.  Right section is Tarragon, Parsley, and Basil which requires less water as long as the soil is damp.  

The herbs plants themsleves are fairly cheap.  They are usually around $3-$4 each, sold at Trader Joes, Sprouts, Whole Foods, and other organic markets.  
For the cool wooden boxes seen here, I got them from the Japanese market Daiso, which has a lot of cheap but cool items.  These wooden boxes were around $1.50 each.  A great deal. They are in the organizing boxes section where they have trinket containers and tiny drawers.
Generally, I keep the boxes there to keep the plants secure, organized, and not let too much water get on the windowsill. 

I keep my herbal garden on my window to let the sunlight in. I
also do sketches here when I have time to sketch things.

My herbal garden. I separate them based on how they are watered.
On the left are Chives, Peppermint, and Mint, which requires plenty
of water compared to the 
other herbs. In the middle are Sage, Rosemary,
and Oregano, 
which generally need well-drained soil.  In my right are
Tarragon, Parsley, and Basil, which just needs damp soil and less water. 

Eating my morning cereal.  I don't put herbs in the cereal. Maybe on tea.

I've noticed that seasoning herbs they sell in stores are dried, crushed, and condensed.  As a result, they can be more flavorful given their small amounts.  Technically, you don't really need fresh herbs if you're mostly using it to flavor your food.  I suppose one can say the same about non-organic and organic food in general when it comes to general flavor. I kind of like it fresh and somewhat more earthy, I guess.

For cooking, I find that Chives and Basil have been my favorite. Chives taste like grassy green onions. Basil, of course, has a flavor all its own. Mint is good, too. I could only think about using it for just tea at the moment.  If I ever decide to have Pho at home, I can see it being used.  For breakfast, I tend to sprinkle some of these herbs to go with my eggs. I admit I tend to use onions a lot, which tend to overpower things a bit.  The herb flavors are more subtle.

Breakfast with fresh basil and chives. 
Herbs go fairly well with meat.

Lately, I've been watching Anthony Bourdain's food traveling shows on Netflix like The Layover and Parts Unknown.  I love how food and culture mix together.  It reminds me I need to travel more again. Perhaps I'll make some plans soon.  And bring my trusty Sketch Journal.

Off topic, I found out I won second place for the New Matter Christmas Ornament Contest!  Pretty sweet!  So I got a $25 Starbucks gift card.  Will be taking some coworkers out for coffee soon to celebrate.  I'll post the 3D print of the ornament once the New Matter people print it out.

Monday, December 7, 2015

The "Santa Glitch" Ornament

It will soon to be a Merry X-mas and a happy Foo year!  A bit too soon, 
but it always feels that way whenever you hit close to October.  
I mean, it's December now, but...

My full-time job is being an artist for a mobile game called The Foos.  Within our building, there's a 3-D printer company called New Matter who are holding a contest to make an ornament for X-mas.  Essentially the best 3D model will win a $50 Starbucks card. Then, it will be printed in 3-D. It has to be a certain size and it has to be function-able.

Upon a suggestion from my team member, I decided to build it off our game's Glitch character and a Reindeer Foo I made recently for marketing.  Below is the original character and design. I am not the original designer of the Glitch, although the reindeer is mine.

Below is what I've come up with that I sculpted in Zbrush.  Glitch will have a bag where you can place your candy (thus, being functionable).  I will likely just refine it a little bit more and cut them into sections so they'll fit together nicely.  There's a certain way it has to be printed and put together. I may have to look for the best way to do this.

This isn't the first time I've built something for 3-D printing.  The previous one (a test run) was also of the Glitch:

I recently went to Daiso, bought some wooden planters (they're not meant for use in planting originally, but they were cheap) and organized my herbal window garden.  I will post some photos of those up pretty soon.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Growing herbs

Since I got a new apartment, much closer to work, I've been trying to add more greens to the place.  I've now got something of a small indoor herbal garden going.  I say if you want plants in the apartment, why not have them smell nice and edible?  And, you can always use some of these for your tea.

So far, I got basil, parsley, mint, peppermint, thyme, rosemary, oregano, a tarragon.  Although I know where I would use most of these herbs, tarragon is a bit of a mystery.  Basil is probably the least easy to control, but it seems to grow just fine now.  I tried to be careful when growing basil by using little water as recommended, but in my case, it seemed to backfire.  Also, the chill of the air from the open window probably didn't help. 70 degrees F is best recommended.  The other herbs seem to do just fine. I mostly got the plants from Trader Joes and Sprouts.

Basil has always been a bit of a favorite, as well as mint, because they have the most distinct flavor personality, if you will.  Basil does pretty well on pizza, and any kind of meat.  Quite common in Thai food, of course.  Still, for my cooking, my general go-to is still mostly the good ol' sesame oil and sea-salt, which tends to go with any kind of meat I know.  From what I can tell, herbs, being more subtle, tend to work best when your food is a bit bland.  I tend to find this best to use when grilling fish.
I've been checking out a page on Garden Glove
(not Garden Grove) which has some interesting ideas of organizing herbal plants using old items.

I'm hoping to add even more plant life in this apartment.  More nature, less walls.  More greens, less white.

Several years ago, I used to wok at a landscape architecture company as a graphic designer and a 3D artist. Aside from learning to distinguish between a Mexican Fan Palm tree and a Canary Island Palm tree, I remember something one of the landscape architects told me that had always stuck with me.  He said there is always a competitive animosity between architects and landscape architects--architects always want show off their building, while landscape architects always want hide them. It is an interesting dynamic. One can't have just the building or it'll feel lifeless and one can't have just the trees or it'd be a forest.

This is all pretty fun for me since I'm a big fan of life-hacks and DIU (do-it-yourself).  Yesterday I unclogged the garbage disposal using the stick end of a plunger, inspired by a Dummies site.  I didn't even know they had a For Dummies site.

Pretty cool.

Monday, November 9, 2015

My Review of "The Peanuts Movie"!

So I was able to watch "The Peanuts Movie" on Friday, which I was quite impressed by.  As some may know I also write movie reviews for Examiner.com.  So, I'm posting the review I wrote here.  On the left is myself "Peanutized."  You can get your own "Peanutized" image at The Peanuts Movie Website.  Pretty sweet!

Review: 'The Peanuts Movie' re-introduces the familiar like a warm blanket

"The Peanuts Movie" (2015) Rated G. Dir:Steve Martino

This film is currently playing in theaters everywhere.

In this 3D-animated feature version of late Charles M. Schulz's famous comic strip "Peanuts", the lovable loser Charlie Brown falls head over heels in love for a new girl who has just moved into the neighborhood--a girl he refers to as the "Little Red Haired Girl." Feeling this could be an opportunity to turn over a new leaf, he attempts to make some changes in his life, and decides to enroll in a talent show to impress her. Things do not quite work out the way he expects as situations always seem to be conspiring against him. Meanwhile, his dog Snoopy takes to the skies and his imagination to pursue his arch-nemesis, the Red Baron.

One probably does not have to explain what "The Peanuts" is about, except for some of the young ones and a few people who live in foreign countries where "The Peanuts" comic strip hasn't been translated. To merely say that I've been a "Peanuts" fan is an understatement. It's perhaps the first comic I've ever read. I even remember picking up a hardcover of "Go Fly a Kite, Charlie Brown!" that some neighbor "donated" next to the dumpster. I've learned to appreciate Beethoven and Van Gogh from reading these comics. I remember Snoopy had a Van Gogh painting which was lost in a fire when his doghouse burned down that one time. And, of course, one can't forget the annual Charlie Brown specials that always played during the holidays.

So, being a fan, I admit I was pretty skeptical when I saw the trailer. The line work is pretty much what gave the original comics its personality and turning it into 3D seemed like a bad idea. The characters now had texture yet there were 2D lines for the eyes and expressions. The 3D also looked somewhat flat to try to accommodate the 2D-style. Anyways, after seeing the film, I have to say that they pulled everything off quite perfectly. It truly feels like "Peanuts," The 3D aspect didn't bother me at all. The characters and the spirit of the story remained consistent. The original humor and the nuances are still there. Admittedly, it was surprising how faithful they tried to match it to the spirit of the cartoon series. Peanuts characters are all about getting the expressions just right, and Blue Sky Studios, who did theanimation, nailed it.

I should note, though, that this movie is definitely made for the fans and for kids who are not familiar with the characters. People who were never fans at all will probably not get anything new here. There are many familiar elements here that one will recall from previous Charlie Brown specials, including many visual in-jokes. One memorable scene is a dancing scene that is reminiscent of "A Charlie Brown Christmas" special, complete with the hilarious "Peanuts" gang dance moves. The Red Baron scene is pretty awesome and action-packed, and is some of my favorite parts of the film..... 

The rest of my review can be read at Examiner.com below:


Saturday, October 3, 2015

Photo Entry: The cafe with free food inside Zynga in SF #ninjasonmotorcycles #reference #zynga #codespark #thefoos #colab #food

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Photo Entry: You can find The Foos now at Apple stores all over! This one is in Pasadena. You can see The Foos icon on the lower left of the screen. #thefoos #codespark #reference #ninjasonmotorcycles

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Photo Entry: Inside Instagram building in Facebook campus in SF #ninjasonmotorcycles #reference #facebook #instagram

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Photo Entry: Facebook HQ in SF. #ninjasonmotorcycles #instagram #facebook #reference

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Photo Entry: Inside Facebook. #sanfrancisco #reference #facebook #instagram #ninjasonmotorcycles

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Photo Entry: Bicycles at Facebook campus in SF #sanfrancisco #facebook #reference #ninjasonmotorcycles

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