A Week In [Mostly] Tinton Falls – Aug 7-14

I suppose I haven’t done A Week In… post in ages have I? Honestly, I haven’t really had anything to share. The last summer break I’ll ever have has been pretty uneventful. This past week really has been the only week I’ve done anything worthwhile. But the purpose of this post isn’t to complain. Who needs to read another rant, right? Anyway, to business.

Sunday, August 7th, 2011

I really don’t know why I bothered to include the 7th in here. I actually don’t even remember what I did on the 7th. I don’t know what I should think of that. Should I be concerned that I don’t remember? The fact that I don’t likely means I didn’t do anything special and probably nothing productive either. Should I be happy that I’ve had the summer to relax? Or should I be angry at myself that I’m not taking full advantage of it? While this summer has been a very nice break from Drexel, I do kind of miss having something to do on a daily basis. I miss being able to spend my free time exploring the city of Philadelphia (and trying not to get shot in the process). I like that the town I live in back home is quieter, but that does mean that there is less to do around here. Fewer places to see. Less public transit to take to explore. I have a car, yes, but personally I prefer having an automated train take me where I want to go over driving. Sure, it means having to share my ride and more stops, but it also means I’m less likely to get lost (I’ve done that plenty of times driving). If you know of anywhere worth seeing in the Monmouth County area, please drop me a line. I need something to do.

Monday, August 8th

If my memory serves me correctly (and I’d like to think that it still is), Monday I spent the day shooting a short film with a friend. It’s still in post production, but I have posted a trailer to YouTube. The whole thing was pretty much unscripted with plenty of bloopers and not always serious behind-the-scenes footage. We call it Vegi Ninja (yes I’m aware veggie is spelled veggie, we intentionally spelled it that way).

As you should’ve been able to gather by now, it’s basically us slicing rotten vegetables (and by us I mean me on camera and my friend doing the slicing). It’s a moderately serious project that will eventually see the full short film uploaded to YouTube, a separate behind-the-scenes video, and photos from the shoot. Release date is sometime in 2011. There is actually a fair bit of footage to edit.

Tuesday, August 16th

Finally. The one day that I’ve wanted to do all summer finally arrived. The day I took a day trip to New York City. Originally I was planning to go with a friend, but they were unable to. However, as this was my only shot at getting to go to NYC before the school year began again, I stuck to my plans and just brought my mom along instead. The ride into NYC was the usual, take the train from Little Silver to NY Penn, until we hit Newark-Penn station. This was actually before a NJ Transit train derailed. We ran into the signal problems and congestion. And by congestion, I mean a full one hour delay. As a result, the train we were on parked at Newark-Penn behind at least three other trains, at which point we were told we could wait an hour for a train or get off and transfer to PATH for free. I took PATH for the first time that day. The ride on PATH was not what I was expecting.

We were on a brand new, fully automated, state-of-the-art train designed by Kawasaki Heavy Industries. Short of the Acela, the train we were on was by far the most beautiful train I have ever been on in the US. It was an absolute engineering masterpiece, whose Japanese roots was very clear. The train was spotless, everything worked, doors operated in perfect sync (and were smart enough to reopen for late passengers), every announcement was perfectly clear, and transfers were outrageously easy, just walk right across the platform. Needless to say, SEPTA could take a few hints from PATH. A lot of SEPTA’s rolling stock is produced by Kawasaki, but many of it is very old now. Just like the Broad Street Line cars, the PATH cars were virtually silent in operation. No bumps, no jolts, no horrendously screeching brakes. The PATH experience we had was the perfect example of what travel in the US should be like globally: painless.

Following our adventures on PATH, we eventually arrived in New York at the World Trade Center. Immediately visible upon stepping outside was the brand new tower.

Honestly, if we weren’t detoured via PATH, I never would’ve gotten that shot. I wouldn’t have even been anywhere near the WTC site. I have to say, I’m glad we were. That is one impressive tower. After snagging that quick shot, we proceeded to the subway to take the E up to Sony.

While I had visited it once alone before, I wanted to return to the Sony Wonder Technology Labs to see what was new. If you’re not familiar with them, I’m not surprised. Other than inside Sony Plaza in New York, I’ve never seen them advertised, let alone ever mentioned by Sony. I honestly think that is a downright shame. You don’t need to know a single thing about technology to enjoy the labs. While it is of course aimed at school children, I do highly suggest stopping in at least once. It’s free. Yep. Free. The only museum in NYC that I know of that is. However, the downside to this is that you will always see the place packed with groups. Luckily, the tickets are timed, which does help with congestion and only entry is timed. Once you’re in, you’re welcome to spend as much time as you desire. The museum is four floors and you can track your progress through each exhibit via the Felica card you are loaned on entry. The Felica card is a paper-thin, transparent rfid card designed by Sony. It is commonly used in smart cards in Japan, such as PASMO. Rather than give the full sales pitch, I will simply say the labs are an excellent way to spend a couple of hours and learn about various technologies in layman’s terms. No Bachelor’s of Science in Information Technology needed.

One of the things that I love about Sony Plaza is that they have a Starbucks right in the lobby. Needless to say, Starbucks was lunch, giving my the opportunity to finally try a Bistro Box. The Sesame Noodles I had weren’t too bad, but I don’t think I’ll repeat them. Too dry for me. While my mom was finishing up her lunch, I headed over to the basement of Sony for the Playstation Lounge. I was actually a bit surprised that it hadn’t changed at all since my last visit. All the featured games were still the same. The games they carried of course had been updated, but it looked just like my last visit in March. Sure, that isn’t much of a time difference, but Sony has released new titles since then. I do still approve of the music selection though. The only thing I recognized this time was a music box cover of Destiny Islands from Kingdom Hearts (at least I believe it was that track. It might’ve been a theme or Traverse Town instead.) After Sony, it was time to head out in the rain to MoMA.

I’ve been to MoMA once before, as part of a field trip for my AP Composition class my senior year of high school. I was a bit disappointed to see that save for the gift shop, the entire sixth floor was closed this time around for renovations. Despite that, MoMA proved to be as awesome as ever, with a brand new display of things to see (and I mean everything had been switched out). There were of course the “This is really art?” moments in some of the paining galleries and some rooms that were just “OK, look left. Now look right. Moving along.” but overall I’d say the experience was an enjoyable one. My personal favorite exhibit from this visit was the Talk to Me exhibit, one that showcased technology used in art. I guess that isn’t a fully accurate description. The art on display was various pieces of technology and I personally would indeed call each and every last piece that was on display a masterpiece, perfect examples of what you can do with technology.

Equally impressive was the pixel art wall entrance into the exhibit. Overall, it was a very well thought out and put together exhibit. I wouldn’t mind seeing it return someday. For more photos from MoMA, check out the Photo Gallery.

After MoMA, it was time to head off to Book-Off, a used bookstore from Japan. Book-Off was a store I had intended to stop in last time I was in NYC, but I was never able to find it. I believe now that I may have had the wrong adress for it. Nonetheless, Book-Off is an absolute must for any Otaku. While all the materials in the store are used, they are all in excellent condition (that I saw) and at bargain prices. Can’t read Japanese? Neither can I! Not to worry, there are English materials as well, but the manga selection is of course larger in Japanese. That said, if you can read Japanese, you should have no problem finding something in this store. In addition to manga, Book-Off carries movies, CDs, fiction and nonfiction books, and video games. They are located at 49 W 45th Street. After Book-Off, it was time for a quick trip to Kinokuniya.

If you’re looking for manga and whatnot in English, you may actually have better luck at Kinokuniya. Do expect to pay sticker price though as everything there is new and anything imported is going to run you quite a few dollars, especially anything Ghibli. I think the best way I can describe Kinokuniya is that they would be the Japanese equivalent of Borders, minus the bankruptcy part (they will bankrupt your wallet though if you aren’t careful). Sadly, the trip this time was a bust and I left the store without anything new.

By the time we left Kinokuniya, it was roughly 7:30pm. Worn out from the long day, we decided it was time to head home, stopping along the way to the station to eat dinner at a chinese food place. When we finally got home, it was 10:30pm. Day well spent.

Wednesday, August 10th

Wednesday was mainly recover from the NY trip day. I slept in until somewhere between 2 and 3 pm and pretty much sat on my butt the whole day, legs too sore to really go anywhere. The only places I went were Borders to pick up the Girl Who Leapt Through time on Blu-ray after waiting for three months, Lowes for a battery for my Pokéwalker that crapped out on me while in NY, Radio Shack for a battery for my Poken, and our local library to return the manga I read on the train to NY. Following all that, I just hung out with a friend.

Thursday, August 11th

Despite still recovering from the New York trip, Thursday was another day trip. This time, it was spending the afternoon in Ocean Grove, NJ. Ocean Grove is south enough from us that it is a bit of a drive, but not a terrible one, but also south enough that it’s not infested with Bennys. It was moderately crowed and the water pretty darn cold, but it was a nice way to spend the afternoon. The beach is nice and long, situated between Asbury Park and Bradley Beach, gets good waves, and is a reasonable $7 to get on. Parking is a pain though, you’re stuck trying to find one on a street. In addition to the beach, there is Main Ave, which is lined with various mom and pop shops, mostly selling various knickknacks and a couple of clothing shops. If you’re looking for a good family beach that shouldn’t be overcrowded, give Ocean City a shot.

There might not be much to the boardwalk, but there is a very cool abandoned casino that marks the border to Asbury Park. The building is currently being restored, but you can walk through it and see the shell of the building. It is currently scheduled to become a market (not quite Reading Terminal, but possibly something similar).

You can see more pictures from Ocean Grove in the Photo Gallery. One last note, while the boardwalk may not have any shops until you reach Asbury Park, Main Ave is within walking distance and makes up for it.

Following Ocean Grove, we headed back home briefly for dinner and then spent some of the evening at Jenkinson’s Boardwalk. That, on the other hand, was PACKED. Packed enough in fact that it looked like we were back in New York. Finding a parking space was a pain, walking the boardwalk was a pain with all the Bennys stopped right in the middle yapping away, and finding where anything was was a pain as they still don’t believe in maps at that boardwalk. I think there was one, and that was just for the rides. Now too old for the rides, I headed to the arcade with a friend. I was happy after spending $20, although my winnings were pretty small. I didn’t bother trading my tickets in for anything as nothing in the low thousands grabbed me and everything else was way out of my range. On the bright side, ticket balances never expire, nor do the new cards they use for game credit (they take credit cards now). After grabbing a few sweets and some ice cream from one of the shops, we decided it was time to call it a night. I believe it was 10, if not 11pm when we got home.

Friday, August 12th

Oh Friday, how welcome you were this past week. Friday was another lazy recovery day. I just stayed home and relaxed at last.

Saturday, August 13th

Saturday was another quiet day. I mainly spent the day catching up with the anime I watch on Crunchyroll. The only work I did was spending roughly an hour helping my dad with the roof to cover up where we removed a chimney from our old oil boiler. We’re now on gas. It was in preparation for a bathroom remodel we’ll be starting soon.

Sunday, August 14th

Sunday, or now yesterday, was spent driving around town doing some research. I’m looking to upgrade my computer speakers to a better 2.1 system than I have now. If I had the budget for them, I’d pick up the Soundsticks iii, but they’re just a little too high in price point for my right now. I’m looking for something with good sound that won’t bust my wallet. I also did a bit of research for a new computer mic. The one I have currently works, yes, but it’s part of an uncomfortable, cheaply made Logitech headset, and the sound quality could be better. I’m also still looking for a decent case or backing for my iPad. As a result, I elected to check out the local Best Buy, Sony, and Apple Freehold Raceway. Best Buy I was greatly disappointed with the selection, Sony was closed due to a power outage, and Apple was packed, as always. That said, I’d call the research done a bust. On the bright side, Freehold does have a Starbucks in it, I had a card for a free drink, and I had been wanting to order something special for a couple of weeks now.

I give you the Nichijou, so named for this episode of the anime Nichijou (My Ordinary Life). Ordering instructions are here. Warning: it’s a mouthful, but entirely worth it. This was easily the best drink I’ve ever had from Starbucks. It also got the best reactions I’ve ever seen from the Baristas XD

And so with that, I believe this entry will be a record breaker as my longest yet. If you’ve read all the way down to here, thanks for sticking around. I haven’t the slightest idea when the next time I might have a Week In… post will be, let alone a post this long. Hopefully this can hold you over for a while 😉 Of course, that is no excuse to not continue updating this site. I hope to have more to share soon.

Until next time, remember you only have one life on this planet. Don’t live it being a copycat. Don’t live it doing something just because it pays. Do what you love. Chase after your dreams, no matter how crazy. You never know when your’s might happen.

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