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Bakuphoon’s Anything and Everything Blog: A “Forget-Me-Not” for Memories and Musings

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Bakuphoon’s Anything and Everything Blog:
A “Forget-Me-Not” for Memories and Musings

by InfiniteBakuphoon
Welcome! This here is a place where I’ll be recording life recollections and random thoughts about random things (“memories and musings”) in my head that might normally either disappear instantly or fade away over time if left to their own devices. Both are very transient yet also very precious things indeed, as anyone who’s had trouble remembering things can attest to, or anyone who’s had an idea or thought at the tip of the proverbial tongue but can’t quite get it out for some reason. As someone who has ideas constantly swirling in their head and who spends a lot of time reminiscing on many things, I can definitely relate to all of that as well. And as a writer, I’ve been taught that the best way to ensure that one’s thoughts and ideas don’t disappear or fade away is to write them down as soon as possible, no matter what they are or what it takes to do so. And so here we are with this blog: my “forget-me-not”, so to speak.

Meanwhile, there’s another dimension to all of this as well. All too often people have thoughts and ideas that are left both unsaid and unrecorded, left to be buried with their owners. And if there’s anything that certain things that I’ve been going through as of late have taught me, it’s that you’re never guaranteed time to do what you want to do, or to say what you want to say. You can look as this blog as “insurance”, then; the kind that ensures there will always be some record of me that says that I existed, that I was here, and that I had thoughts and ideas to share with the world: a “forget-me-not” in another sense, you could say.

…or, you could say that this is simply my contribution to the ever-popular and growing list of personal blogs here at Bulbagarden, and that you can pretty much expect to see, well… anything and everything here, all posted pretty much whenever. Yeah. Whether you see these kinds of blogs as serious business or if you’re just looking for something fun and interesting to read, I hope you enjoy reading the random things that I have to say about random stuff!

(Comments are welcomed and encouraged, by the way! Within the bounds of forum rules and basic human decency, of course.)

Five most recent entries (from latest to oldest):
01. [2022/12/31] A Resolution…
02. [2022/12/22] I Saw A Cloud.
03. [2022/12/17] Anniversaries, Again
04. [2022/12/10] Just a Really Good Day Yesterday!
05. [2022/08/04] Anniversaries

Index of all entries (from oldest to latest):
 
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[Entry #1 — 2022/06/29]
Sanctuary

Anniversaries can be really funny things sometimes, can’t they?

…well, at least for me they can be. To those of who you have jumped in and taken a chance on this blog: hi there, and welcome! Oh, and know one thing above all else: I’ll be talking a lot about anniversaries and such on this blog, haha. Today, for instance, I’ll be taking a deep dive into one momentous occasion that happened around this time a few years ago, marking the beginning of a very special and important time in my life.

To begin this little “story” here, I’ll suppose I’ll begin with a little backstory, starting all the way back to my college years (and even a little bit before that). During this time, I had something of an awakening after spending an extended amount of time — mostly high school — being largely checked out of the things that previously made me happy, and made life worth living beyond just surviving. “Surviving” meaning such fun necessities like getting good grades, earning enough scraps at your minimum-wage job to have at least a little taste of financial autonomy, and so on. To use a frame of reference that I’m sure that of many of us here can relate to, one of those “happy” things that I ended up losing happened to be Pokémon. A series that had defined the better part of my early childhood as I sucked up the games, the anime, and eventually the larger fandom in the form of fanfiction and other things. All of which soon disappeared out of my life — along with, again, many other things that I loved — after real life demanded that another part of me take over in the name of securing my future in the tough, merciless, and — in retrospect, rather ridiculously so — high-stakes world of high school. But college, while also being quite tough in its own ways, offered a few breaths of fresh air that allowed me to explore things about both myself and the wider world around me that I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to otherwise. As part of these little “explorations”, I took a look backwards and discovered just how much of “life” I missed during my high school years; a different kind of “life” than the one that most of the adults in my life at the time would be referring to when using the word. The kind of “life” that actually made life worth living, bringing me happiness during times both bright and dark while fueling the creative and passionate sides of me that my life once proudly revolved around before the cold reality of the my soon-to-be-adult future forced them out of focus.

Despite this, however, my “awakening” wouldn’t be nearly as rosy as I’ve would’ve liked during that critical transitional period between college life and that of the real world. And perhaps more importantly, my living situation with who I’ll simply refer to here as “my relatives” (as my family as a whole is a bit weird regarding, well… closeness to other family members; I’ll just put it that way) during those trying times was… tense at best, and often flat-out toxic at worst. The details of that would be something that I’d expand on another time — should I indeed ever choose to go there in this place one day — but to summarize things in the most abridged yet descriptive way that I can: I didn’t feel like I could truly be “myself” there; not without consequence, anyway. That’s not to say that there weren’t good times with my relatives, of course — for all of their shenanigans, I do love them, and they’re not exactly complete evil or anything — but most of my truly happy moments in that house were never with them during the day. Rather, most of them came under the cover of night, where I would spend many late hours on my computer and on the internet exploring what had become my true passions in life without fear of some passive-aggressive expression of contempt from one of my relatives, if not flat-out hostility from them towards the things that I valued that they… let’s just say, did not. Or alternatively, said moments would also often come when they left the house on the odd weekends to go elsewhere, leaving me alone for just over 24 precious hours to do whatever. Which, in that case, included everything from breaking out the speakers that I had bought for myself (“for when I move out one day,” so I justified to my relatives) and blasting out my favorite music, or making a movie night for myself on the 4K TV that I had also bought for myself (also “for when I move out one day”, invoking many instances of “alright, Bakuphoon” from my relatives), or even just going outside for a walk through our rather lovely neighborhood, sometimes while bringing something back with me from our city’s “restaurant row”, haha, that I could have as part of a special breakfast, lunch, or dinner that I wouldn’t have been able to do as freely otherwise.

As you can imagine, for all of the joy that I was able to eek out of the rather unpleasant situation that I was in, all of the stress and secrecy wore down hard on my soul after dealing with that for what ended up being four and a half whole years since I graduated from college. Lots of very important milestones did happen within that time, though, namely me joining Bulbagarden (arguably the single most important thing that I did during that time — or even ever, actually — for reasons that I’ll elaborate on in other entries), and — eventually, after a painful year of failed attempts — getting a job. That last one was key, because while I was living under someone’s else roof that whole time, it did have one major benefit: the ability to save massive amounts of money. Indeed, even with the somewhat lower-than-average wages that I earned at my job, having nothing of necessity to spend it on meant that by the end of the three years that I ultimately spent working there, I had, let’s just say… a very substantial amount of cash in the bank. As in enough money to move out even with my lower-than-average-paying job, substantial. And after, again, four and a half years of dealing with a lot of crap under my relatives’ roof, I was more than eager to do that post-haste. The only problem, then, was actually finding a place: one that was decent in quality yet also wouldn’t completely fleece me, either. I worked very, very hard to find somewhere that I could call my own — my “sanctuary”, if you will — calculating numbers in my head for hours on end and touring all sorts of places in secret: after work, on the weekend, and everywhere in-between. Despite all of that, however, I found myself unsuccessful at actually securing a place, given that everywhere that I liked was either unavailable or hideously expensive for someone like me. With the months flying by and the pandemic having now arrived at this point to tear its way through everything, my future seemed pretty dire…

…until, through what appeared to be a moment of pure serendipity, a certain apartment just… showed up, pretty much, at the perfect place and at a seemingly impossibly perfect price. Opportunity had just struck out of nowhere, and through all of the work that I had done previously, I just happened to be completely prepared to snatch it right up right then and there.

And so, within less than two weeks I had gone from being someone living with relatives and being completely at their mercy — except when I wasn’t, at great personal and emotional cost on my end to achieve such reprieves — to standing right in the middle of a place of my own place with keys in hand, documents signed, and deposits paid. At long last, I had found my sanctuary, and everything that I had dreamed about doing in my life was now possible, all without anything — or anyone — holding me back.

For the “youngins” in the audience here: if you’ve never had the experience of having your own “sanctuary” where you can do things however you want and live life however you want to live it, there’s nothing like it. You may or may not have a pleasant enough relationship with your parents now, but trust me: there’s always somewhere in a young person’s heart that wants to “break free”, to to speak, and do things that their parents would either do differently or… not do at all, let’s just put it that way. After all, you’re all different people! And there’s nothing necessarily wrong that, so long as boundaries are respected… yes, on both sides! Even with that latter point in mind, though, one fact will always remain: when you’re living in someone else’s house, they’re the boss, with everything that implies. Again, this can become… tiresome, even in the best of circumstances, and flat-out toxic and draining during the worst of them. There’s perhaps a debate to be had about the balance of power in this scenario between parent and child, host and guest, and everywhere in-between. But in any case, there’s only one way to be completely free to do whatever you want to do and be whoever you want to be, and that’s to step out on your own and find your own roof to live under.

And for the most part? Oh man, was life good under my own roof! In fact, I can say with confidence that the one year that I ended up spending in my “sanctuary” was probably the single best year of my life up to that point. Yes, even as I was living alone. Yes, even in the middle of a pandemic! It really is amazing how a simple change in scenery — and company — can change things for the better, and I was definitely much happier here in this “sanctuary” of mine. All of the nagging I got from my relatives about how I was so wrong for doing things a certain way soon became a distant memory, as I now doing things my way and, what do you know, the world didn’t explode when I did things like that! And all of their little comments about how the things that made me smile or laugh or otherwise make me feel “more alive” basically sucked soon felt like the nonsense that it all was, once I was able to indulge in those things freely and think about nothing else other than how happy they made me feel. There were even random little moments where I would just stop, look around, take everything in and say to myself: “Wow, I can’t believe that this is actually my life right now! I can’t believe that actually got to this point!” Because of course, the relatively blissful existence that I was living at the time is no guarantee for most people in this world, not even for the more fortunate or otherwise well-off of us. After all, just as much as you can live on the street and be miserable, you can live in the nicest place in the world and feel the same. And so I felt so happy that — after a long time feeling not nearly as good about my life than I deserved to — I was finally in a better place both literally and figuratively, with nothing but the promise of even better times ahead.

And yet, in a weird way, now that I had all of this time and freedom on my hands in a beautiful place that I could call my own, I can’t help but feel, retrospectively, that perhaps I didn’t take quite as full advantage of the opportunity as I could’ve. I mean, when I was living under my relatives’ roof, I went to unimaginable lengths in to gain even the smallest amounts of joy in the things that I loved in an environment where achieving that often seemed impossible, and where it was indeed often extremely difficult to do that. But now that I was free to do anything I wanted, it all — in a funny kind of way — almost began to lose some of its luster, you could say? I mean, certainly, I did take many opportunities to do what I wanted to do before: watch movies, blast out my favorite music, take long walks all sorts of places, and eat copious amounts of delicious food from both outside and inside my house, and all of that. And I did also become exposed to all sorts of new things that gave me purpose, spoke to my spirit, and soothed my soul. On the other hand, there were also many weird moments where I felt rather lazy and lethargic, content to simply bounce around idly on the internet or just basically sit around and do nothing. Which is fine and all in moderation — I certainly earned at least some of that — but I definitely could’ve made a more active effort to go down the long checklist of things that I’ve always wanted to do. I certainly had the means — provided by both my sizable “free funds” and all of the free time made available by what was otherwise a horrific pandemic — but what ever happened to all of that drive?

Unfortunately, I was never able to address that while I was actually in my sanctuary, for a darkness would soon loom over my life and threaten to destroy everything in its wake. As the saying goes: “You never know what you’ve got until it’s gone”, and I was about to learn that the hard way with one of the single most precious things that I had: my sanity. To this day, I’m not exactly sure what happened to cause such a sudden and staggering mental decline in me. But to summate what I ultimately ended up going through: the things that I was able to do that I completely took for granted for pretty much my entire life basically became no guarantee at best, and at worse they were completely eliminated as even the simplest and most innocuous things both in my mind and in the outside world — including my house — constantly triggered me into a non-functional state. What was once a sanctuary had become a trap: one that triggered the most paralyzing and traumatic impulses in what was now a highly sensitive and vulnerable mind: one that was one the very precipice of total collapse. And so, with great difficulty and disappointment, I had no choice: I had to leave my sanctuary. Leave there, and then run back into the arms of my relatives, as there was no one else for me to turn to at the time in my moment of need.

But after a very long period of all kinds of struggles that I can’t even begin to describe with any justice in this one blog post, I’ve managed to crawl my way back to some semblance of functioning and normalcy. Not enough to be at 100 percent, no — I don’t even know if I’ll ever truly get back there again, really — but enough so that I’m at least able to make decisions and, well, make things happen, period. Because yes, somehow, I’ve managed to keep hold of my sanctuary for this long, when I could’ve easily lost it as my funds — once a vast ocean of dollars — get closer to zero, even as I’m typing this right now. Having perhaps been reminded more than a little over the past year why I wanted to move out in the first place, the tables have now turned once again: my sanctuary has returned to becoming, well… my sanctuary, and my relatives have once again become, well… let’s just say people who I’d rather keep my distance from at this point after some particularly questionable decisions on their part, to put it lightly. Decisions that, had I allowed them to go through unquestioned, would’ve probably destroyed me. Sadly, I do not exaggerate there: those were exactly the stakes that I was facing. And knowing that full well even in the deepest throes of what I’ve been going through, I’ve done everything in my power to protect my sanctuary, so that whenever I was well enough to return and actually view it as my sanctuary again, I would be ready.

And at long last — and at great cost on multiple levels — it seems that I’ve finally won. For now, that is — because there are still many, many challenges ahead for me in the immediate future regarding both my sanctuary and everything else in my life — but even a single victory, big or small, is still a victory nonetheless. And with what I’ve been going through teaching me above all else to be grateful for the little things, that’s something that I should definitely feel happy and proud about, indeed.

Oh, the stories I could tell about what I had to do to protect my sanctuary! How I could express just how close I was to losing it multiple times, and how I could describe the strength that I had to pull out from deep within myself to protect the future that it represented, not just figuratively but in very real and practical terms. But those are stories for another time, should I one day choose to tell them here. For now, though…

…I’d like to instead conclude this early by reminiscing about that day when I first visited my sanctuary, having signed the lease and did everything else that I needed to do not long before. That day when I walked into that empty apartment with no furniture or belongings or anything; just bright windows shining their light on nothing, and the promise of it all one day becoming something beautiful under my ownership. That day when I felt the AC blow on top of me as I entered, almost as if greeting me as it cooled me down from the long walk that I had taken outside on that warm summer’s day. That day when, having went through so much just to get here, I walked over to my empty bedroom, sat on the floor near where I knew my bed would be not too many days later, relaxed myself up against the wall, and just took everything in as the sun shined brightly and beautifully from the open window, a clear blue sky visible from my vantage point on the bare carpet floor below.

This, at long last, was my home now. This… was my sanctuary!
 
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[Entry #2 — 2022/08/04]
Anniversaries, Part 1

Anniversaries, again, can be a really funny thing sometimes. And yesterday’s events in particular are making me look back at memories from a certain other anniversary, as I make memories now that will no doubt become an “anniversary” of its own many years from now.

Back in May, for instance, is the anniversary of when I got my second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine back in 2021. Or more specifically, the anniversary of when it reached full efficacy in my body, and thus when I actually effectively “got” it. Sounds like kind of a silly thing to recognize the anniversary of, but remember that this was back in the earlier days of the pandemic when things were quite a bit scarier and less certain than they are now, given that the concept of a vaccine for the virus was still relatively new back then. This was also the point when the vaccines had only just been released to those in the younger age brackets (essentially, people like me), which made it something to look forward to (because not dying from a deadly virus is definitely something to look forward to, haha).

I had gotten the second dose roughly two weeks earlier on a Friday that I took off, which I did so that I could have the weekend to just lay in bed and rest during the widely-reported period of symptoms that many people experienced after getting each dose of the vaccine. In my case, the first dose’s symptoms weren’t so bad, being basically equivalent to a mild cold without the sore throat; in other words: annoying but not unbearable. The second dose, however, pretty much knocked me the hell out for the better part of the weekend, with a pounding, unpleasant headache now in the mix along with a general feeling of just being really tired and not wanting to do anything. On both days, I made an effort to take it easy, which basically meant staying in bed and watching TV all day, all while doing a few special things for myself when I did (for at least one of the weekends, that meant a egg-sausage-biscuit-and-orange-juice breakfast, a favorite of mine on an indulgent day).

Meanwhile, actually getting the vaccine was quite the adventure. Due to circumstances related to where I live, I had to travel basically halfway across town by train in order to get to the vaccination site assigned by my insurance provider. For most people, I’d imagine that such a journey would be an epic pain in the ass to take, and I wasn’t exactly happy that I had to do so. But because I generally kind of like the experience of just traveling around my city on even a random day, I didn’t mind the trip quite as much as I otherwise would’ve. I was actually more worried about being around a bunch of people — including those without masks — but I figured that I was going to take the risk, then I might as well take it in the name of what was probably the single most important thing that I had to do for myself at the time.

The vaccination site itself was very interesting, as far as how they did things and how many people were there. Regarding the former, it basically boiled down to tents on top of a parking garage in a very makeshift yet also still fairly professional-looking setup: something very much reflective of the times. Meanwhile, the whole operation was very well-organized both times I was there, with social distancing and all of that practiced without fail (thankfully); the only real issue I had was that it sometimes wasn’t clear which of the two tents I needed to go to (leading to some mild embarrassments on my part). As far as the latter went, there were quite a few people there from pretty much every demographic you can think of (with perhaps a tad more older and middle-aged people than young people around my age). That was for the first visit, though. The second visit two weeks later, however, was much more empty (and again, with a bit of a skew towards older and middle-aged people, perhaps more so this time).

It was a rather cloudy day on the Saturday that came two weeks later, to the point where I was somewhat afraid that I was going to get rained on during what was supposed to be a carefree day, haha. Nonetheless, when I stepped outside for the first time knowing that I was vaccinated against the virus and that I could effectively do whatever I wanted (relatively speaking, of course), there was a kind of liberated feeling in my spirit that I hadn’t felt in a very long time. Or, to put it more realistically, it felt so good to be able to be more comfortable about doing some of the “normal” things that I had put on the back burner out of fear of, well, being exposed to a potentially deadly virus during those dark days where the ever-changing facts about the virus weren’t always very well-communicated by the powers that be.

One of the first things that I did on that “free” Saturday is take a long walk around my neighborhood, again even with the risk of rain hovering over the proceedings like a cloud (no pun intended, haha). In my case, walking through said “neighborhood” basically boiled down to “taking a stroll through the city”, given my unique — and in my case, favored — living location at that time. It was about a third of the way through my walk that I just stopped and took everything in like, “wow, isn’t this just so incredible that I’m able to do this now?” Again, there was a lovely liberated feeling that I had at that moment, even as I of course knew that the pandemic was far from over and that I still had to be very careful in order to avoid slipping up and catching the virus anyway (or giving it to someone else) even in its lesser, not-so-deadly form that I would’ve encountered as a (then-)fully vaccinated person.

(It did ultimately rain on me, by the way, but I managed to find a nice patch of cover where I stood idly for several long minutes, just observing the sheer beauty of the rain (being someone who actually likes rain, so long as it isn’t accompanied by thunder and lightning which I absolutely do not like, to put it mildly). I believe that was as far as I went, more or less, before I turned around and went bace home.)

The only thing I really remember doing after that was spending some time with my PlayStation 2, on which experienced some of a game that I had recently acquired: Tenshi no Present (or Angel’s Present), a Japan-only sequel to one Rhapsody: A Musical Adventure (a name that you might be more familiar with, or perhaps La Pucelle or Disagea, its much more well-known spiritual successors). The relatively cute, charming, and light-hearted nature of that game — including some of its music that I was also really anticipating taking a listen to — ended up being a fine way to continue what ended up being quite a special morning.

The rest of the day was pretty much just me chillin’, doing what I typically did on Saturdays as far as I can remember (the days in general kind of tended to blur into each other back then). It was an overall very pleasant day, one that’s unlikely to leave my memories any time soon.

And now, we fast-forward to today, where my life circumstances are very different than what they were back on that fateful Saturday in May, to put it lightly. And when it’s just now that I’ve went ahead and gotten my first COVID-19 booster shot. “Bakuphoon, what the hell is wrong with you?” you might be asking at this moment. Well, a lot of things, haha, but let’s just say that I wasn’t exactly in a position where I could get something like that done without also feeling as safe and comfortable as I should’ve been with such an important and monumental thing. But now I am, so at the first opportunity that was given to me to get that taken care of, I just went ahead and did it.

This time, of course, was quite a unique experience compared to a year ago, as much has changed regarding the pandemic — and more specifically, people’s handling and attitude about it — since then. Whereas I had to take an epic journey just to get to a vaccination site previously with many people in line before and after me doing the same, today I simply had to walk a few blocks down the street to an extremely convenient vaccination site where I met exactly no one on my way to the vaccine itself, which was administered to me in less than three minutes, if that. As kind of eerie as such ridiculous ease was compared those iconic last times a year ago, I definitely did appreciate just how easy it was for me to get back up to speed on something that I needed to do for quite a long time at that point.

Some other things were done on that same day, since I figured because I was already out, why not? Perhaps the single most important long-term thing that I was able to do is get my new medication, which I’m hoping will help flatten out some the anxiety that’s kind of been bearing down hard on me for the past few months, and especially during the stressful, uncertain patch that I’m going through right now.

Other notable things included going to the store and picking up some much needed food on an ultra-tight budget (money is not the most stable thing for me right now, haha, to put it mildly) and as dire and kind of embarrassing as that situation was for me, there was a weird part of me that almost had fun seeing how far I could make that dollar stretch (weirdness or coping mechanism in a crappy situation, you decide). I was able to get enough stuff for me to make dinner for at least a week (pasta, a favorite of mine), as well as some awesome indulgent sugary drinks (strawberry lemonade is the best!) and some random things that reminded me of home (turkey sandwiches with fries and an… unusual yet very tasty kind of condiment for both; essentially salad dressing with many fine uses beyond its original intentions). Finally, I was able to get some stuff for my ultimate favorite: banana bread (a family recipe, kind of, that I’ve myself made into my own), which I plan on making enough of to last for several days of what’s often uncertain breakfast. The only thing that I disliked about the trip — besides it being more stressful than usual due to the kind of anxiety that I’ve been dealing with — is freakin’ inflation, geez! Being basically the first time that I’ve bought food for myself for a while now, I definitely felt it as I was forced to budget for myself instead of other people paying for me (and, again, with a crazy low budget). If there’s any doubt from anyone reading this, I assure you: it’s real, and it sucks, like highway robbery for a lot of things that were already quite spendy to begin with (even as there were still some deals too, including a few that saved my ass when it came to some things that I really wanted or needed).

(Oh, and I got pizza, too! Because pizza is always fun. Who doesn’t like pizza? And yes, I still have some left even now, although it certainly won’t be there by the end of tomorrow, haha.)

Now, as far as the inevitable vaccination side effects go, they’ve again been highly unpleasant so far. A headache and a really ominously warm feeling throughout my body – the kind that you feel when you’re sick — have been ever-present and ever-annoying not unlike last time. Although it’s actually kind of leveled out even as I’m typing this, probably thanks in no small part to a much-needed nap that I took a little while back. I’m not sure how much worse it’s going to get from here, but as usual I’m hoping that the symptoms will go away pretty quickly, or at least enough that I can reasonably function tomorrow. I’m optimistic!

And now I conclude this post and my tales of the little adventures within. Now, yesterday might not have been quite as interesting as last May, surely, but I take all of the victories that I can with what I’ve been going through all of this time. And I’m sure that I’ll remember this time almost as fondly as I did the others, in a unique way (regardless of what may or may not happen with me afterwards). I’m certainly looking forward to the kinds of memories that I’ll be making two weeks from now, and I’m hopeful that I’ll find some kind of beauty to appreciate on that Thursday, just as I did on that Saturday.
 
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(Comments are welcomed and encouraged, by the way! Within the bounds of forum rules and basic human decency, of course.)
I'll offer myself as the first comment here, I think. Sorry that this isn't exactly a comment relating to the posts here, I'll say that I've read them and enjoyed hearing what you've had to say.

So, why I'm here.

Lately, although I think it's been always, I've been noticing that Bakuphoon has been very... outwardly kind? Of course, I'm very aware of your penchant for acting as such, but I feel as though it's been happening more lately? Or perhaps, in areas in which I've been fortunate enough to observe it. That's very likely the reason why.

Whatever the reason is, I think that's a very great quality of yours—and I'm sure you've made the days of many. Thank you for cheering us all on... I personally am grateful for the impact you're giving to others, and the positive force you're being around here. Sometimes it takes a lot of effort to be kind, and other times it doesn't, but no matter under what conditions you're doing it, it's a very great act, isn't it? Any hope to give anyone is life-saving, in a way, I believe.

And well, thank you Bakuphoon. I believe you're a friend to many here, I think, and that's a good thing, of course.

(Oh, and I got pizza, too! Because pizza is always fun. Who doesn’t like pizza? And yes, I still have some left even now, although it certainly won’t be there by the end of tomorrow, haha.)
Is there still pizza, I wonder...?
 
@lisianthus
Hello, Lisia! I honestly didn’t expect to see you here quite like this, but nonetheless, thank you for your very kind words above, haha. I’m kind of flattered to have another person talk about me like that, even if the reality of things when it comes to me is… complicated.

You see, for as much as I may appear to be this bright and wonderful person who likes to cheer people up and is always friendly to others and all of that, the truth is that, really… I’m actually quite a painfully shy person, both in real life and online. It often takes a lot of effort from me to speak up for myself, to say how I’m feeling, or even just to talk about anything to anyone, especially people who I don’t know very well (which, because of my shyness, is a lot of people). Meanwhile, I’m also not a perfect human being by any means, personality-wise. Or an angel, as people like Blanc have kindly called me, haha… no. I’m just as flawed as anyone else on this planet, and there’s plenty that I have to improve upon as a person. I mean, that’s not to say that makes me a horrible human being by any means, even as younger me has had some problems realizing that, and even as those feelings still sometimes haunt my mind even now as a young adult. Funny enough, this is a trait that I almost admire in myself in a morbid kind of way. because as terrible as that makes me feel sometimes, it does hold me accountable to my lesser self when so many people out there either fail to hold themselves accountable or even fail to recognize that they have anything that they need to change or reflect upon in the first place. That’s not to say that I’m superior to said people — I have plenty of flaws that I’d like to ignore or rationalize away too, as all human beings do — it just puts me in a different place in life, with different places where I have to learn and grow as a person.

Also with that said, though, if there’s one thing that always threatens to bring out that not-so-nice side of me, it’s being surrounded by people who claim to know you because of some superficial similarity that they share with you — race, age, gender, generation, disability, pretty much anything can qualify — even to the point where they think they know more about you than you know about yourself. To me, that’s even worse than being surrounded by people who explicitly, unequivocally hate you, because at least with those kinds of people, you know exactly where they stand. But when the people in your life who supposedly know you and care about you use their alleged shared experiences as license to tell you how you should think, or that what you think is wrong because your unique thoughts and values don’t fit the tiny, rigid boxes that they’ve already set up for you; the ones that they’ve set up from the moment they know how old you are, or if they realize that you’re neurodivergent, or when they look at the color of your skin, or when they see you do anything that’s not supposedly “[X]” enough. The list I could make for that latter one alone is endless, but the ultimate point that I’m making here is that putting people in a box is a special kind of hate to me: not the kind that gets people killed or abused or put out into the street or anything like that (or not immediately, anyway), but rather the kind that kills slowly: a death not of the body, but of the soul. A cruel, almost causal dismissal of all the things that make each one of us uniquely and beautifully us, in favor of the lies and falsehoods that seem to spread like viruses more potent and more destructive than anything that nature could ever come up with. There are few things in life that make me hate humanity more, or that can send me to a place where I wonder whether fighting for what’s good in this world is even worth it. Because it becomes so hard to see any good in those dark places, whether that be in a box that someone made for you, or one that you’ve made for yourself in order to hide from all of the bad, scary things in the world.

However, even with all of the above said, one thing has always remained true. I don’t really like to say it aloud because it kind of feels like I’m sounding almost narcissistic when I say it (even as people like therapists have assured me that I don’t), but I think that enough people have said it that I can repeat it here with confidence: I have a really big heart. I’ve always cared about the well-being of others, even people who I’ve never talked to or been around before. I’ve always wondered how they’re doing, or if they’re happy or sad, or so on. But the problem I’ve always had is expressing all of that in the right way, or what I felt was the right way without completely embarrassing myself, or without getting hurt by people who were… less than compassionate, let’s just say. So most often, I rarely expressed myself at all, instead just watching everyone at a safe distance and hoping that they were “OK”, for lack of a better word.

However, that kind of approach to things had its downfalls. I have one distinct memory of something that happened in 10th grade or so, involving someone that I liked. A crush, if I had to be honest with myself. Anyways, we were part of this little “desk group” of four for a while, so we all knew each other, and everyone was pretty friendly towards me as well, even as I remained shy as always. One day, we were doing class presentations, and this person that I liked… didn’t do too well, I’ll just say. They were a rather sensitive person, so upon returning to our desk, they were visibly upset. And although they tried their best to hide it, they looked like they were about a second or two away from bursting into tears in front of everyone. Now, of course I noticed this, and I felt for them, not just because I liked them, but because I’ve never liked to see people in pain; I likely would’ve felt something similar for most any other person in that position, I think. So what did I do to comfort them in this situation? Unfortunately, nothing. Not because I didn’t want to, but because I literally had no idea what to do. Or perhaps more likely, I did know, deep down, what to do, but I was too afraid to actually do it because I wasn’t confident enough to actually truly know, if that makes sense. In short, I kind of just froze, basically. And so in the end, I just sat there, feeling like a total asshole while someone in pain — someone that I liked! — could’ve felt at least a little bit better with a kind word or two from someone that they trusted.

I remember that day as a particular moment of failure in my life. And whenever I find myself afraid nowadays to express my feelings towards others (mostly here on Bulbagarden more so than in real life), I continue to remember that moment, and while things still aren’t perfect on my end, it’s helped to push me along on more than one occasion. At least, when it is hard. Sometimes, though, it’s been surprisingly easy, or at least relatively so compared to that failure. And I’ve had many victories in the time that I’ve been here. Long before you were here, for instance, we had a very different version of the blogs than we do now which were completely separate from the rest of the site, but where people more or less talked about most of the same things, including some more personal stuff from time to time. I distinctly remember two users who I got closer to via the blogs as a result of moments of courage on my part (neither are active anymore, so out of respect for them, I won’t name them).

The first person was a moderator, I think. They were suffering from a debilitating mental condition (which I won’t name) that they were able to somewhat manage by themselves for a while before realizing that they needed medication for it, which stressed them out greatly. I just happened to come across their blog post where they vented about this, and I felt for them as I read about their worries and struggles. That could’ve been the end of that right there, but I did find that I had many things in my head that I could say to this person. And, pretty much out of the blue, I ended up writing them down, and posting it. It pretty much boiled down to: “hey, I have no idea what you’re feeling right now, but I know that your situation sucks and I feel for you, so hang in there!”, and it seemed almost kind of silly for me to write that at that time, even as it simultaneously felt kind of good to get those words out there, to be honest. Imagine my surprise, then, when that person replied back to me not too long after thanking me for their words, while (I believe) saying that they didn’t actually expect anyone to respond and that they appreciated someone doing so.

That experience taught me a valuable lesson: even the simplest, silliest kind words can make someone’s day better, even if just a little bit. And even that little bit can mean a lot to someone who could use it. In retrospect, that little victory there would be the stepping stone for many, many more, both back then and in the present day.

Meanwhile, the other person was just a regular user, but also one of the more prolific ones, I think. They were an absolute freak for anything video games, comic books, and anime, and their love for them shined through in nearly every post that they made. However, they also suffered from depression and had a rather rough childhood, causing some trauma that occasionally unraveled in their blog posts. At the same time, they used journal writing as a kind of coping mechanism for all of this, and I believe that they also expressed interest in doing fiction writing, as well as possibly a blog. In any case, I kind of felt a connection to this as a writer myself, so I reached out to them. The details of exactly what I said to them are more than a bit blurry, to be honest, but I think it was just some words of encouragement saying: “hey, if you really want to do this, go for it!” Again, I think. In any case, I definitely remember then responding happily to what I told them, and expressed their hope for me to fulfill my own dreams and desires as well! So I actually got a little love back from them, haha (of sorts, anyway). And you know what? That Sun & Moon demo respective blog that you may or may not have seen in my signature? The creation of said blog was directly inspired by this person! Basically, I kind of made a promise to myself to make that blog in their honor, and if it weren’t for me reaching out to them, it likely would’ve never even existed! Now, said blog was never actually finished, oof, but maybe one day I’ll finally be able to completely fulfill that promise.

So yeah, things have gotten better with me when it comes to talking with people, haha! Perhaps more so here at Bulbagarden than in real life, but progress, right? And I think that really good because there’s kind of a sense of responsibility there, I think; that fine line between fear and cowardice, if you know what I mean. I don’t like to consider myself a coward — I don’t think anyone does, really — but imagine how different those two Bulbagarden people’s days would’ve been if I didn’t write to them those days. Or indeed, how different my classmate’s day would’ve been on that fateful day had I been brave enough to say something, anything to them when they were in distress instead of doing nothing. As much as we humans don’t like to think about it too hard or too much, actions have consequences, as does inaction. Yet said consequences don’t have to be bad things (and I believe that thought might be part of what makes us afraid, really). They can good things, too, as my actions on these forums have apparently been to a lot of people. And that makes me happy, not to mention braver, which in turn helps me to do it again and again and again.

Still, almost every time I hit “post”, there’s always at least a little bit of that fear that’s stuck with me since I was little. That fear that maybe I’ve said the wrong thing, or that I’ve embarrassed myself somehow in ways that aren’t obvious to me until they blow up in my face in spectacular fashion. And partially because of all of that and partially because I suppose that’s just who I am, there’s always a part of me that’s still that shy little kid who has so much to say to the people they care about yet, for one reason or another, just can’t, or at least it’s far from easy for them to do. That said, things are easier for me here at Bulbagarden because I feel like the people tend to be, on average at least, more forgiving of those little human slip-ups of ours that perhaps happen more often, and more catastrophically, for some people more than others, especially in real life where talking to people is almost invariably harder, and where the stakes tend to be much higher. That’s not to discount how important communication is here, though, or even on the wider internet, as has been proven time and time again with how words and thoughts affect others and their feelings. For me, at least, I don’t think there’s really any such thing as the “real world”, as if everything that happens on the internet, or even places like grade school, is meaningless. On the contrary, any place where there are consequences for your actions is the “real world” as far as I’m concerned. This is true in the most tragic of ways (most sadly), but also, happily, in the most beautiful of ways, too. Indeed, as this place has taught me and as you yourself so wisely pointed out, a simple kind word really can be a positively life-changing thing for someone.

Now, remember those four characters I did in Picrew in the Writers Workshop thread a little while back? Well, sometimes I feel like Haruka, who so deeply cares about everyone yet so often has trouble expressing how much she does. Or like Nadine, who’s so bitter at the world yet simultaneously so craves its acceptance. Or like Natsumi, whose heart tells her to keep a positive view of everything even as every other part of her tells her no. Or like Kaname, with her almost instinctual desire to please people, even when she herself isn’t always pleased with how many of those same people treat her. Yes, I often write a lot of myself into my characters (should you ever read Mirror Adventures, Mirror Ash is basically me in a lot of ways, yet Mirror Serena also is in many others, in a weird, seemingly-but-not-really contradictory way). And sometimes I find it therapeutic to see them exist in some way, and to not only see them struggle, but to see them win… at least a little bit (and often after a lot of said struggle). But I digress, perhaps.

But yeah, I think I’ve written enough of an essay here to be its own entry by itself, haha. Thank you again for your kind words, Lisia! They mean as much to me as I hope my words have been to you, and to everyone else here at Bulbagarden. Perhaps one day, the whole world might get to hear the purest form of my heart through words, too. In any case, I hope to continue seeing you around, and that your own life treats you kindly during these times.

And on one final note…

Is there still pizza, I wonder...?
No. :LOL:
 
[Entry #3 — 2022/12/10]
Just a Really Good Day Yesterday!

Well, for the most part, anyway. I’ll get to that, but for now…

One thing that I think needs to be known about me in order to understand what I’m about to write is… that I absolutely love taking walks. Wanderlust is my affliction, haha, and I “take care of it” by pretty much going anywhere, anytime I feel like it, often just for no reason other than the sake of it. It’s not unusual for me to go out and find myself somewhere where I never even planned on going an hour earlier.

Yesterday wasn’t actually one of those times, yet also kind of was. I had an errand to run that justified me going outside, but at the same time, this was also the first time that I had been outside in quite a while. You see, while I again love to take walks and would ideally do so as much as I can, life hasn’t exactly been kind to my mind lately. Mainly because I’ve found myself preoccupied with a lot of things indoors, and I ended up establishing a kind of daily loop revolving around that which is comfortable and predictable: two very good qualities for my days to have when you’re experiencing kind of “stuff” that I’ve been going through. But on the other hand, there’s always the chance of becoming too comfortable in that loop, to the point that you become stuck in it. Ultimately, I think that’s what ended up happening to me after a while, to my detriment.

That said, there are also times where I just get the feeling to try something new, and yesterday, with that errand I needed to run, seemed like the perfect opportunity to do that. So I did! And all in all, I’m very happy that I did. Not just because, yet again, I love talking walks, but because there’s a kind of nostalgic element in play here, too. You see, talking walks was a major part of a certain period of my life around three or four years ago, before I moved into my “sanctuary” (as described in the first entry of this blog). I lived with one of my close relatives at the time, where I worked on the weekdays and relaxed on the weekends. But on some weekends, said relative left for outside business, leaving me alone with the house all to my myself. Which was a very special thing for me because, well… me and said relative didn’t get along very well, to put it lightly (but that’s a story for another time). So when I was alone, I felt more… “free”, I guess I could call it, to be myself and live life in my perhaps unconventional but nonetheless very “me” way.

There were certain things that I would do on said weekends. On Saturday mornings, I would typically go out for a long walk in my city, which isn’t big (certainly not as big as say, New York City where I used to live at one point), but isn’t exactly a sleepy town, either. Being part of a larger metropolitan area, there were always plenty of places to go. It wouldn’t be until I moved into my sanctuary that I would venture out far into said metropolitan area, but I nonetheless enjoyed the relatively narrow area where I hanged out. This could be just as simple as the city streets, but my city also happens to have a “restaurant row” with several very good places to eat there, and sometimes I would end up bringing stuff back with me, haha! Everything from breakfast (muffins!) to lunch (the hot bar!) to dinner (the local Italian place!) to dessert (cookies, anyone?) was fair game. Also, my city also happens to be near a large body of water, which gave me the opportunity to enjoy that — including looking at all of the boats nearby and everything on the other side of the water from a distance — on the occasions when I chose to travel that far.

Meanwhile, on Saturday mornings when I didn’t choose to go outside, they would often consist of me pulling out my stereo speakers (which were unplugged and out of sight on a normal day, haha) and just blasting out some music, which would usually be of the video game variety. On such days, walks usually happened in the afternoon. Speaking of afternoons, most other Saturday afternoons usually consisted of me being lazy, or enjoying whatever food I happened to have gotten when I was outside. On other occasions, I would hang out in the lounge in my apartment complex when I wanted a change of scenery, and I would often end up doing a lot of writing there, whether it be for my stories or for the blogs that I was really into creating at the time.

Finally, Saturday nights almost always consisted of me firing up a movie and enjoying it on my large 4K TV and aforementioned stereo speakers that I had set up. I would often be accompanied by a special meal that I prepared for myself that I normally wouldn’t make, such as pasta in that unique, special way that I make it; just the process of cooking these things was just as lovely as actually eating it, haha.

The next day would be when my relative would return, but I still had most of Sunday morning to myself. On such mornings, I would almost always get breakfast from either the nearby Panera Bread (where I would typically get a wrap) or the nearby Whole Foods Market (where I would create a large breakfast for myself at the hot bar). I normally don’t go to those places very often for that kind of stuff because they tend to be very expensive and I’m not made out of money, but they were indulgences that I was willing to pay for as a little treat to myself, haha. And when I returned, I would go ahead and do what I probably remember most fondly during those special weekends to myself: watch some Pokémon! Which, at the time, meant Pokémon XY, along with many of the movies that I had yet to see back then. You see, when I had first discovered the Japanese version of the anime, I wanted to explore everything, so I basically ended up reserving the Sunday mornings that I had alone for that, which eventually became almost kind of a tradition that would persist even long after I moved out to my sanctuary. I would probably watch about two to three episodes at a time, or one movie, and immersing myself in the Japanese version’s unique way of doing things for the first time was always a wonderful experience.

So, what does all of that have to do with what happened yesterday? Well, it’s just that… I miss those days, somewhat. Not entirely, because there was also a lot of pain that surrounding that joy as well, and the latter was also defined by the former in a lot of ways. Nonetheless, I really wanted to experience that joy again, so… I did! The walk was short but lovely, and I instantly felt that nostalgic feeling wash over me from the moment I walked outside and felt the cool, refreshing air around me. I felt more free than I had in a long time as I took in the familiar sights around me, all while having the lovely “On the Avenue” from Tokimeki Memorial 3 in my head for almost the entire time: the perfect theme for the kind of carefree happiness I was feeling then.

Oh, and at the end of it all, I came home with this little thing:
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That right here is a “New York-style” cheesecake from Whole Foods, which is something that I would order a lot whenever I went out all of those years ago. This was the first time that I had bought it since then. While I don’t know about the “New York-style” part, haha, it’s certainly pretty good for what it is, if rather expensive (again, it’s definitely an indulgence!). This also happened to be the dessert to the hot bar lunch that I had bought alongside it. Basically, I found myself in Whole Foods as part of running my errand, and walking around in there made me feel kind of nostalgic for those old times. So in the end, I ended up just saying: “why not?”. No regrets; it was a lovely experience just to do everything again, let alone eating anything at the end (which was delicious).

So yeah, good day yesterday, one that I expect to remember for a long time just as I remembered all of those other great times from a long time ago. Even if the day didn’t necessarily end great, unfortunately; I ended up feeling kind of lost and tired (both figuratively and literally with that latter one) by the time the sun went down. I’m finding that’s happening a lot, actually; this time of year — when the sun goes down sooner — is often really tough on me mentally because I thrive in the bright light of the sun and tend to shrink in the darkness of the night. I tend to do a lot of somewhat mindless internet browsing around this time, which I think is my attempt to find some kind of light to help me through the darkness. Especially because what I browse tends to be a lot of fanfiction, or things related to brainstorming for my own fanfiction. It all rarely fails to put a smile on my face, but sometimes I wish those experiences were wrapped by better circumstances that sometimes threaten to taint those memories as well.

Anyway, that’s all I really have; I just wanted to let out my feelings about yesterday here. Here’s hoping for more great days, with more great memories to be made!
 
[Entry #4 — 2022/12/17]
Anniversaries, Again

So I got my fourth COVID-19 shot a few days ago, along with the flu shot: two things that I’ve been wanting for a while now. While I’m not usually one to buy into the sometimes sensational nature of the media, I tend to take things more seriously when it comes to news about the pandemic. Or at least, it certainly doesn’t hurt to wear a mask or get a bunch of shots or do whatever to protect yourself in these times, so why not? So with talk of the so-called “triple-demic” of worse COVID, worse flu, and whatever the hell is going on with children (that I’m so glad that I don’t have to worry about), I took notice, and with that, I went ahead and planned out my great adventure!

…Yeah, no, it wasn’t an adventure, haha.

What was pretty remarkable about the visit was just how completely unremarkable it was, really, not unlike the last time I did this. The only real “adventure” in it was that I came in late and therefore I had to wait a little bit longer than last time… oh, and also the fact that, indeed, I got two shots this time. And maybe how I insisted that I get jabbed with the COVID-19 vaccine on the left so it would match the other three times where I got it in the same spot, because I’m weird like that (I was kind of tickled by the idea of having them all on the same side). But otherwise, everything was almost hilariously easy and simple. Which doesn’t really appeal to my sense for adventure, yeah, but then I remember what I had to go through last year to get the vaccine, which kind of makes me go “OK!” at it all in the end.

So with that said… the end; have a nice day, everyone? Nah, haha! Since pretty much absolutely nothing of note happened on that day, I think I’m going to go left field and talk about a totally different yet totally related subject. Are you ready for it? Right now, we’re going to be talking about…

Needles!

Oh, how needles were the bane of my existence when I was younger. I was freaking scared of them! Fun little memory I have from when I was really little: there was one time where I was so afraid of the idea of getting a shot that I pretty much sent all of the adults on a chase throughout the whole doctor’s office, running around in order to stall the inevitable for as long as I could. I think I lasted for at least fifteen minutes or so, if not longer, before I was “convinced” to be brave (probably with the help of some promise of a treat, I’d suspect) and get the shot. I still remember that unpleasant feeling my young self felt when the needle was stuck into my skin, an unpleasantness that would stick with me and make me afraid to go in for shots for a long time afterwards.

That said, said fear seems almost silly now for me as an adult, haha. But it’s not quite as simple as you might think. I remained afraid of needles well into my young adult years, actually, which in turn made me kind of afraid to go the doctor’s office as well (not really a good thing, that). However, I think that two things helped turn things around for me.

The first thing was my first few COVID-19 shots, back when they first came out. I still didn’t like needles then, but even so, there was absolutely nothing that was going to stop me from getting a life-saving vaccine in the middle of a deadly pandemic, so there was that, certainly. And when it came time to actually get jabbed, I was kind of afraid, but in the end… it wasn’t nearly as bad as I had expected it to be. It was only slightly uncomfortable, like a quick, slightly awkward-feeling sting more than any real pain. It was surprising, really, which kind of gave me the idea that perhaps needles weren’t really as bad as I had convinced myself they were so long ago, and that maybe, maybe, I could do this again. And again. And again…

(Ironically, the second jab was actually quite noticeably more painful, albeit still not painful, if you know what I mean. That surprised me because in my head I was like, “I can totally do this again!” and I ended up being confronted a familiar unpleasantness that I wasn’t expecting. Even so, it certainly didn’t make me go backwards with my attitude towards needles or anything. So my newfound courage remained!)

The second thing was a certain trip to the hospital that I took not too long ago that kind of forced me to confront my fears further, I think, and ultimately ended up dulling them almost completely. During said visit, I was jabbed with all sorts of needles, mainly as part of the nurses’ various daily checks on me during the multiple days that I was in there. I also had an IV attached to me, for fluids and such. None of these were pleasant (especially the IV, which was oh so painful and awkward to put in, oof), but I knew that I had little choice in the matter, which helped me get through things. It also helped that, despite my fear, I wasn’t nearly as emotionally fragile as, say, my younger self on that fateful day at the doctor’s office so long ago. Plus, I had my previous experience with getting my COVID-19 shots to fall back on, and to help me say to myself: “this isn’t so bad, right?”. Well, to a point, anyway (since, again, that IV most certainly was quite bad), but every little bit helped!

So, moving forward to the present day… I still don’t particularly like needles (and I certainly wouldn’t want to be poked constantly with them if I can help it, as I had to at one point for the sake of post-hospital bloodwork, oof), but I don’t really think that I’m afraid of them anymore. Or at the very least, I have ways to push through my fear, should it ever come to rear its ugly head on me again. And that can’t be anything but a wonderful thing, right?

Ah, now what do I talk about? Should I end it here? Oh, wait; there’s actually one more thing…
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Another little treat for myself! Although probably the last one for a while, since even those are getting hit by inflation (they used to be $2 flat and now they’re $2.50!), and that along with the hot bar is really putting some serious holes in my wallet, haha. This right here is a blueberry muffin that I bought not long after getting my shots, because why not, right? Now, blueberry muffins are something that I’m actually kind of a geek about, if you can believe it (or as much as a geek as one can be about blueberry muffins, anyway). The reason that I’ve become one is because since I was a little kid, I’ve been chasing a certain taste from my favorite blueberry muffin of all time, which I got from a shop that I visited frequently during my childhood days. Said shop no longer exists (in that location, at least), and in any case I’ve long since moved away from the area, so it’s been literally decades since I’ve last had it. So for just as long, I’ve been trying to find a blueberry muffin that has the same taste, or least as close to it as possible. I haven’t had much luck, but even so, I can say that I’ve enjoyed all of the various blueberry muffins I’ve sampled for what they are, and I rarely fail to enjoy them as one of my favorite indulgent treats.

That said, this blueberry muffin that I bought is probably, legit, the closest thing that I’ve ever gotten to that classic taste I’ve been chasing for so long, and I literally couldn’t believe it when I tasted it. (Warning: blueberry muffin geekery ahead!) I think I’ve pinpointed three things that contribute the most to the perfect blueberry muffin: the bread, the streusel, and, of course, the blueberries themselves. This muffin nails the latter two, with the streusel being pleasantly crunchy with a surprisingly refined amount of sweetness for a store-bought muffin, and the blueberries having that perfect balance between sweet and sour that gives every bite a burst of soft, fruity flavor. The only thing that it kind of misses is the bread, which is good enough but also definitely has that more processed taste to it, having a bit too much obvious sugar in it versus something truly fresh, or at least more balanced in that sugary taste.

Or in other words: tasty muffin; would buy again, haha!

I think that’s about all I have for this entry. Until next time…
 
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[Entry #5 — 2022/12/22]
I Saw A Cloud.

Not the kind that you need a window to see (if you know what I mean). Quite literally:
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I have no idea why this cloud that I encountered on a walk a few days ago was so interesting to me. It’s probably nothing special if you’re a cloud expert or something, but for me, there was just… something about it, to the point where it made me grab my phone on the spot and take a shot of it. I mean, it just looked so… fluffy, I guess, not to mention it looked like one giant ball of fluff, rather than the sometimes wispy form that your typical, everyday clouds tend to take. It was unlike anything that I ever remembered seeing before, and it was something that a part of me thought that I wouldn’t see again for a very long time, so I pressed shoot, and here we are.

That’s, um, pretty much it, really. No elaborate backstories or wordwalls here, haha. Just exactly what it says in the title: I saw a cloud. Until next time, then…?
 
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[Entry #6 — 2022/12/31]
A Resolution…

…to the age-old problem of New Year’s resolutions. Quite simple, really! Don’t make them. Or at least, that’s become my resolution to them, haha.

As you can probably tell, I’m not a fan of making resolutions. For me, doing so is the easiest way to guarantee that you’ll fail at meeting them. That’s how it’s been for me, at least. Your own mileage may vary, although culturally speaking (here in the US, anyway) I think that we hold too much stock in the idea of resolutions, to the point where people around you tend to pressure you into making them. But the reality of things is that everyone approaches problem-solving and goal-setting differently, or at least in their minds and in their truest hearts of hearts, they do. With the more impatient and intolerant people in our lives, perhaps we have to pretend sometimes that we follow society’s prescribed ways of doing those things, but reality is of course unkind to pretending. And I myself have been done pretending for a long while now.

This next year coming up is a bit different, though. I’m still not making resolutions, but I do have goals, as well as things that I want to do along with things that I just expect to happen, really. They cover all sorts of things, from the trivial to the critical and everything inbetween. Just a few of them off of the top of my head include:
  • For me to explore manga and light novels alongside my ongoing “anime awakening”. I already have a largely unread omnibus copy of the first few volumes of Full Metal Panic! sitting on my bookshelf as of now, which would certainly be a start in the right direction…
  • To get back into drawing after what’s been over a decade of dormancy on my part. I’m currently in possession of an Apple Pencil to go with my iPad, along with Procreate. And I’ve never had any shortage of ideas or imagination, least of all now. All I really need are the skills. As well as lots and lots of courage…
  • To get a MIDI keyboard and really start to get into music theory and learning how to play music. Or at least well enough for me to use those skills for creating arrangements of things, possibly with a DAW or some kind of sequencing program. Doing 8-bit arrangements via something like Famitracker or Furnace is a big possibility for me, but maybe sample-based music (think orchestras and such) might be in my future, too.
  • To do at least beginner’s work at learning a new language. Which will very likely be Japanese. That language calls to me for some reason…
  • To perform a certain paradigm-shifting life decision that I’m in no readiness to speak of at length here at Bulbagarden right now, but is nonetheless very, very important.
I expect that at least some of those will most certainly happen, while some of those most certainly won’t. Others may somewhat happen, but not exactly how I might expect them to, or to a degree that I might be completely satisfied with when I look back at it all this time next year. It’s all a mix of total inevitabilities and wild dreams. Who knows what will happen? In any case, what I do know is that I’m going to continue trying to be kind to myself and taking things as they come as I’m dealing with my “stuff” among other things that I have to deal with nowadays. Getting at least some of the above stuff accomplished, to the best that I know I was able to pull off at the time, is enough of a resolution achieved for me.
 
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[Entry #7 — 2023/01/04]
Pills, Pills, Pills

Pills, pills, piiiiiiills
Can’t pay the medical biiiiiiills
Just wanna chill for reaaaaaaal
So hey, what’s the deaaaaaaal
Put me through the rack,
Yeeeeeeet I still feel like crap
Duh-da-da, da-da-da


(To be sung to the melody of a certain 90s pop song that rhymes with, well… you can guess.)

So, today’s subject is going to be, you guessed it: pills! Or the somewhat less suspect synonym of that: medication.

Basically, with the “stuff” that I’ve been going through for the past… year and a half now? …I’ve visited therapists and psychiatrists and all sorts of people in my journey towards getting to a better place mentally in all of this struggle. And one of the earliest parts of my journey was the revelation, made by said therapists and psychiatrists, that I needed medication to deal with the many crippling symptoms of my “stuff”.

In all honesty, I kind of had mixed feelings about the idea of taking medication at first, or perhaps more specifically some fear about it. All sorts of questions How long would it take for me to feel any better with this stuff? What kind of side effects would I have, and would they be worse than what I needed the medicine for in the first place? Would I be disciplined enough to take my medication every single day, at the right time, and what would happen if I forgot it? Would I have to rely on this medication forever, just so that I could function? And finally…

…did having to take medication mean that I was weak?

A lot of those questions seem kind of silly now, haha, because thankfully, things went much better than I was fearing, albeit after a lot of struggles. I actually felt pretty optimistic about things after taking my first dose, since things didn’t feel so bad and I looked forward to a possibility of a life with fewer symptoms, and to taking the first steps towards something resembling normalcy again. That said, I did end up neglecting to take my medication a lot for a good while, for reasons related to my symptoms which, again, make it harder for me to do things. And at one point I even stopping taking it entirely, which of course wasn’t a very good thing.

Now, perhaps part of the reason for that lapse there is because, at the time, I didn’t really know just how much I needed that medication, and how much it helps me with getting through each day. Because it does, certainly! I mean, it isn’t a cure for anything that I was going through by any means, even after so long since I’ve started taking it (with increased doses and all). But it helps just enough, I think, for me to have a fighting chance to get through the things that hold me back from a functional life, as opposed to me drowning in a tsunami of symptoms that I can’t handle so well on my own.

So I’m glad that, after a long while of struggle and apprehension, that I was able to get back on track with taking my medication, to the point where I made it a priority in my day-to-day life as part of my routine in the fight against my “stuff”. I don’t always succeed with it, of course, as there are days where I forget or where my “stuff” gets in the way. But I’ve been working hard with taking it regularly, and really, I can say that I’m actually kind of proud of myself for getting to this point, haha. I’ve come a long way! Even as, of course, the battle never truly ends so soon, if ever. But I’m optimistic, and that’s rarely a bad thing.

Oh, side effects! Right… that was something that I was actually really worried about when I started taking my medication. But thankfully, I only really have one big side effect from it all, but it is a doozy. Basically, the medication, more often than not, makes me really, really tired. Enough so that I’ll often find myself taking little naps throughout the day just to get some of that energy back. And considering that sleep and I don’t have the best relationship to begin with, it makes my days somewhat chaotic in that sense where I tend to wake up late in the mornings (which almost never happened before I started taking this medication!) and stay up late into the evening. Usually, anyway. It also depends a lot on when I take my medication, because taking it around 7 or 8 PM or so means that I’m bound to crash within an hour or two (especially after eating). However, I usually find myself taking my medication relatively late into the evening, more like 11 AM or even midnight, which means that the tiredness usually bleeds into the early morning hours instead. So things certainly could be better when it comes to side effects (because things affecting sleep can be very annoying, haha), but they could certainly be a lot worse, too, so I’m grateful, all things considered.

Feel free to ask me any questions about my medication if you’d like! It’s good to de-mystify this kind of stuff, I think, and make it less “scary”, if you know what I mean. I hope that writings like this can help with that. Anyways, until next time!
 
[Entry #8 — 2023/01/18]
Making New Memordies~♪

Please forgive that horrific pun there, haha…. A quick update! Guess what came in the mail a few days ago:
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Yes, that’s a Yamaha keyboard you’re seeing there! A burst of inspiration near the end of last year led me to want a keyboard for quite some time since then, and some after days — and then weeks — of research, along with some shuffling my finances, I went ahead and took the plunge. It’ll definitely be my last big purchase for a very long time, though, haha.

Here’s what it looks like outside of the box:
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This is going to be extremely useful in my ambitions to get more into music! And once I get my hands on a DAW (digital audio workstation, for the uninitiated), then I can really spread my musical wings with all kinds of sounds… who knows what kind of places I can go to with that? But until then, I’m going to see if I can use this with programs such as Furnace (a tracker for various game system sound chips), which will make sequencing a lot easier than it would be with just a keyboard and mouse. And in the near future, I might see if I can even get some keyboard-playing lessons too, probably from the internet or some other financially kind place, haha. Imagine being able to play some of my video game music on piano, and what that’ll sound like…

Until next time!
 
[Entry #9 — 2023/04/17]
Pictures from My Recent DC Trip!

No clever or pithy titles this time, haha. This is exactly what it says it is: a collection of pictures that I took during my recent trip to Washington, DC, around late March!

One of the main reasons that I wanted to go there was to go see the cherry blossoms (or "sakura trees", as I call them here) when they were in perfect bloom. I also wanted to go there just because, as I’ve been there a few times in the past — albeit a rather long time ago since the last time — and I wanted to take advantage of my current situation to take a few days’ trip there and see what’s there to see nowadays!

Another reason that I wanted to do this is because, as a photography lover, I wanted to put my very capable camera and lenses to work somewhere that their capabilities would be especially useful. My "stuff" has prevented me from doing this kind of thing for a long time, so I’m happy to have the opportunity to take some pictures again!

So with all of that said, I suppose that I’ll go ahead and begin!

(Note that due to the large amount of pictures here, this post will be split into two parts. Also note that the images themselves are rather large, or about half a megabyte each on average.)

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(from left to right)
Minolta AF 50mm f/1.7 | fast mid-telephoto prime lens
Minolta AF 70-210mm f/4 | semi-fast telephoto zoom lens
Sony DT 16-50mm f/2.8 SSM | fast wide to mid-telephoto zoom lens

For the uninitiated, "fast" is, in layman’s terms, basically a reference to the maximum amount of light that a lens can take in. Smaller f/values (or aperatures) mean "faster" lenses! The smaller the f/value, the lower the depth of field, the more background blur (or "bokeh") you get at any given distance, and the more light you can get in a dark scene! Also, the faster shutter speed you can use for any given shot while keeping the same level of exposure, hence the terminology "fast".

As for the elaborate acronyms… AF simply means autofocus (and not what else you might be thinking of, haha). DT, in Sony terminology, basically means "designed for APS-C digital" (which is what my camera is). SSM, also in Sony terminology, refers to a fancy autofocus system that’s supposed to be fast and silent (not that it really matters because I barely use it, haha; more on that later).

All images are straight out of the camera with no crops or edits!

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Day 1 @ 06:48 PM
Minolta AF 50mm f/1.7 | 50mm | f/2.8 | 1/800 | ISO 100

To start, the main reason that I came here: sakura trees! Although things ended up quite different than I was expecting because I got here much later than I wanted to. But sometimes that’s part of the adventure, haha! And it provided me with an opportunity that I probably wouldn’t have had otherwise. I call this shot "Sakura Sunset", which of course reflects the time of day at which it was taken! A time that I’ve never taken pictures of sakura before. Which is a good thing, I think. After all, it wasn’t too long ago that I was in DC for another cherry blossom festival, where I took many, many pictures of the various sakura trees that year. It was quite the experience, least of all because it was my first one. But this time around, I found that I kind of embraced the new circumstances that I found myself in time-wise. Because now I could take this new kind of sakura shot that I’ve never taken before! Something different from the same old thing, you know? And although I certainly wish that I had more time to take some more shots (among other things that I wanted to do that day), things didn’t end up too badly here, either. And that can’t be anything but a good thing!

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Day 1 @ 06:49 PM
Minolta AF 50mm f/1.7 | 50mm | f/2.8 | 1/800 | ISO 100

Also, I took another sakura shot with the same settings which is basically the same thing, except vertical. You can decide for yourself which one, if either, is best!

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Day 1 @ 06:56 PM
Minolta AF 50mm f/1.7 | 50mm | f/5.6 | 1/4000 | ISO 100

Magic happens when you turn down the shutter speed when the sun goes down, haha. This looks absolutely nothing like how things actually were outside, but that’s part of the fun here, isn’t it? The hill and surrounding areas of the Washington Monument make for some mighty dramatic shot opportunities, haha.

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Day 1 @ 07:08 PM
Minolta AF 50mm f/1.7 | 50mm | f/2.8 | 1/400 | ISO 100

This is a rather silly shot, honestly, but it was quite fun to take, haha. And if you’re wondering, yes, I did touch it! The first time I ever did so, as a matter of fact. Quite the weird experience. But really, the entire Washington Monument is architecturally kind of weird, in a way. Such a tall, majestic monument that you can see from miles away, and yet the base of the thing is barely more than a fourth of the size of my old apartment. I just find that weird, and kind of funny…

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Day 1 @ 07:35 PM
Minolta AF 50mm f/1.7 | 50mm | f/2.0 | 1/200 | ISO 800

There were a large number of ducks in the pond here at the WWII memorial (which I’ve visited before, albeit about a decade or so ago under very different circumstances!). A number of shots didn’t come out as great as I wanted them to, mostly on account of me not having a telephoto lens handy. But this shot came out pretty decently, I think. This particular duck is just minding their own business, basically, with water fountains surrounding them and the Lincoln Memorial in the far background, all at sundown. A nice recipe for the kind of shot that I can appreciate (even if I still curse myself for not bringing a telephoto lens, haha).

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Day 1 @ 08:34 PM
Minolta AF 50mm f/1.7 | 50mm | f/2.0 | 1/50 | ISO 800

I made my way over to the Lincoln Memorial a little while later. It’s another major DC destination that I’ve visited before, albeit a very long time ago. I found myself rather bored — and a bit frustrated — trying to take that requisite shot of the Lincoln statue with the very large crowd that had turned up there at an apparently very busy hour (many of which included young kids, ugh). So instead, I ventured out to the back, which turned out to be a much more peaceful and rewarding experience, haha! One fun feature of the back was a series of bright backlights that helped illuminate the memorial, presumably so that even people from far away could appreciate its majesty… or something, anyway. This had the additional effect of creating massive shadows of everyone who walked in front of the lights. You can guess where this went… that person waving in the picture there is me! Hi everyone, haha!

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Day 1 @ 08:43 PM
Minolta AF 50mm f/1.7 | 50mm | f/2.0 | 1/50 | ISO 1600

Eventually, I did make my way to the memorial proper and got my requisite statue shots in. I decided that this was the best out of all of them, as the angle is just the right one to make it almost look like Lincoln is staring down at you, haha, in all of his massive sculpted glory (likely as the original artist intended). Oh, another secret of my photography that I’ll spill the beans about here: I don’t use flash, ever. Which means that, yeah, this is a completely natural image here! You can thank the large f/1.7 max aperture of the Minolta for that, which I took (almost) full advantage of here.

On an unrelated but still kind of related note, I was remember being somewhat tickled by a small sign beneath the statue that said something along the lines of: "Please show respect by remaining quiet". A quick look — and listen — around at the crowd and… yeah, "quiet" and "respectful" my ass, haha.

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Day 2 @ 05:14 PM
Sony DT 16-50mm f/2.8 SSM | 16mm | f/3.2 | 1/200 | ISO 100

The second day in DC begins! Rather late, mind, as I had business to attend to in nearby Alexandria, but I was still confident that I could still get some fun in afterwards.

This first shot here is what the inside of a DC Metro train looks like! Well, one of the more standard-looking (read: crappier) ones, anyway. Certainly beats a New York City subway train in any case, though!

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Day 2 @ 5:16 PM
Sony DT 16-50mm f/2.8 SSM | 16mm | f/6.3 | 1/200 | ISO 100

Meanwhile, this second shot is of the downtown Alexandria stop, a major transportation hub for the wider DC metropolitan area. The street pictured is King Street, which leads to Old Town Alexandria and its bustling commercial district that includes, among other things, an extensive restaurant row. Also there are attractive walking trails along the Potomac River, where you can see various DC monuments from across said river. I’ve visited Old Town Alexandria more than a few times during my various adventures in this area over the years. Would recommend! But do be prepared to spend money — and lots of it — if you want to make the most out of the commercial areas, haha.

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Day 2 @ 06:11 PM
Minolta AF 70-210mm f/4 | 70mm | f/4.0 | 1/250 | ISO 400

And now I present to you all the sequel to "Sakura Sunset"; I call it "Sakura Picnic"!

Once again, shots like these are the kind that almost make me glad that I got to these sakura trees late, haha. And that I brought my Beercan this time! Oh, what’s a Beercan? It’s a nickname for the Minolta telephoto zoom lens that I used here, famous for its long, metal body that supposedly resembles, well, a beer can. Not being a beer drinker, I can’t exactly vouch for that, haha, but I can vouch for the kinds of images that it can take. This is pretty much the only sakura shot that I took that day, actually. Not only because it was late, but because I already had a large collection of sakura shots from a previous visit to DC, so I decided that there was only but so much that I could re-invent the wheel there. Instead, I decided to just bask in the joy of walking around and actually taking in all of the trees, walking the trail route that I explored in its entirety (about a two hours’ experience overall, albeit with many pauses). This was also a good idea because, well, let’s just say that I wasn’t the only one taking pictures of stuff, and that things were much more hectic overall than this relatively peaceful picnic shot might suggest, haha.

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Day 2 @ 06:11 PM
Minolta AF 70-210mm f/4 | 135mm | f/4.0 | 1/250 | ISO 400

Meanwhile, this second shot here is exactly the same thing as the one above, except at 135mm instead of 70mm!

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Day 2 @ 06:25 PM
Minolta AF 70-210mm f/4 | 70mm | f/9.0 | 1/4000 | ISO 100

Lots of helicopters passed by that evening, but this one’s mine, haha. This is one of those imposter syndrome-inducing kind of shots, I think. "Did I really take this?" I sometimes ask myself with shots like these. Luck plays a great role with this kind of stuff, but at least this time, I kind of-sort of knew what I was doing with dialing that aperture down, which I had to do very, very quickly in order to get that look that I wanted. Even then, though, the framing is pretty much pure luck here, haha. Especially since I didn’t even use my camera’s continuous shooting abilities here!

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Day 2 @ 07:15 PM
Minolta AF 70-210mm f/4 | 200mm | f/4.0 | 1/200 | ISO 800

This cute little dog was quite the star, haha. Thankfully, neither dog nor owner seemed to mind. I took some shots of them that were sharper than this, but none of which got their face quite this good. Manual focus doesn’t always cooperate with me, haha (more on that later).

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Day 2 @ 07:17 PM
Minolta AF 70-210mm f/4 | 210mm | f/4.0 | 1/200 | ISO 800

After a while, I kind of got bored with the idea of taking shots of cherry blossoms, so I focused on candids from here on out, especially now that I had the one lens where I could really take advantage of that compared to last time. The compression of the 210mm really helps here, I think, but I also feel that I kind of got lucky here with how everything just seemed to line up perfectly: the Washington Monument and building lights in the background; the sakura tree on the right; the water below; the dusk sky above; all of that. Even everyone seemed to be doing more interesting-looking things than average, haha.

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Day 2 @ 07:43 PM
Minolta AF 70-210mm f/4 | 70mm | f/4.0 | 1/80 | ISO 1600

Once the sun started to go down in earnest, opportunities to take advantage of my Beercan became increasingly scarce; there’s only so much that one can do even with a f/4 maximum aperture. In these moments, darkness actually became my friend as much as it was my enemy, especially when contrasted against what little light remained in the form of background lights and such. One of my more successful attempts at a decent shot around this time is this portrait of a goose in the Tidal Basin, swimming rather peacefully and contently. I had an idea of what I wanted with the reflections in the water, but the bokehed-out lights in the background were kind of a lucky grab, I think.

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Day 2 @ 07:43 PM
Minolta AF 70-210mm f/4 | 70mm | f/4.0 | 1/80 | ISO 1600

As for this other shot here, taken at the same time and with the same settings, I think that this is one that could’ve really benefitted with more darkness rather than less, actually. At least the sky looks pretty, though.

All in all, I’m glad to say that these are probably the kind of shots that are only possible on a Beercan, haha. Or at least it’s the only lens that you can get for less than eighty dollars that can pull them off!

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Day 2 @ 07:57 PM
Minolta AF 70-210mm f/4 | 70mm | f/4.0 | 1/80 | ISO 3200

If you’re going to shoot ISO 3200 at night on the camera that I have, you’d better make damn sure that it’s worth it, because believe me, this is as far as you’d want to go in darkness like this with this camera, haha. With everything pushed to the limits here, I was just able to get these final two shots of the night with the Beercan.

This first one was taken at 70mm on the steps of the Jefferson Memorial where I rested for a few minutes…

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Day 2 @ 08:48 PM
Minolta AF 70-210mm f/4 | 210mm | f/4.0 | 1/80 | ISO 3200

…while this second one was taken at 210mm on the lawn near the Washington Memorial. I wouldn’t put either of these on a postcard, but they both came out somewhat better than they had any right to be, I think.

By the way, I was witness to lots of helicopters arriving and departing from the White House around this time, but I didn’t bother keeping any pictures of them because you really need to be closer — or have a longer, and probably faster, lens handy — to appreciate their full majesty in the darkness here.

(continued on the next page…)
 
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Day 3 @ 02:30 PM
Sony DT 16-50mm f/2.8 SSM | 16mm | f/2.8 | 1/200 | ISO 800

For the third day, I took the train to DC again! This is one of the nicer cars compared to the one I rode in last time, haha. And you can see that we’re underground this time; most Metro stops down there look like this. The trip itself wasn’t particularly pleasant, however. Because of "increased activity" due to an apparently larger-amount-than-average people wanting to go see the sakura trees that day (it was the weekend), Metro management decided to handle that by having us wait 10 to 15 minutes each station for them to, well… I have no idea exactly how that was supposed to help, actually. In any case, the crowds that I encountered after finally reaching my destination made me very, very glad to be triple-vaxxed, haha, and to have a mask handy. So perhaps they were onto something there. Maybe. At least I was able to take advantage of my 16-50mm all the while, though, which I barely even touched last time.

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Day 3 @ 03:19 PM
Sony DT 16-50mm f/2.8 SSM | 16mm | f/2.8 | 1/2000 | ISO 100

Speaking of the 16-50mm, and of taking pictures in general, I’ll let you in on another little secret; one that I’m kind of proud of, haha. Every single shot that you’ve seen so far — and 99 percent of the shots that I take in general — were completely manually focused! This shot, meanwhile, happens to be part of that one percent exception to the rule. I have to be inconspicuous, after all, when it comes to close candid shots like these! That includes being quiet, which the fancy SSM autofocus motor helps a lot with (the noisy autofocus of the Minoltas being a big reason why I don’t use it for those especially, besides just the weird fun and satisfaction of manual focusing). I kind of subconsciously went for a Dutch-ish angle here, likely because of my mind viewing a straight angle as boring in comparison. I also think that I got kind of lucky with getting the Washington Monument in the shot, too. Not to mention the whole way these three appear to be strolling down the street, too, like they’re a real crew or something, haha. Really, you could say that this whole shot is pretty much luck in a photo! Although you could also say that candid photography is a lot about luck in general, haha, as much as it is about skill and patience.

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Day 3 @ 03:42 PM
Minolta AF 70-210mm f/4 | 210mm | f/5.6 | 1/2000 | ISO 200

Taking that requisite White House shot, the smart way (away from them, that is). Actually, I was initially kind of bored with the idea of a White House shot, so I decided to shake things up with a shot of people taking shots of the White House instead, haha. This required use of the Beercan, which was used at its highest possible focal length here. The "smart" location that I chose was a flat of grass a hundred or so feet away where people were flying kites and stuff, and where the White House was blocked by a standard gate right in front of me in addition to all of the other ones you’d expect (you can see it in the picture if you squint, although it’s mostly out of focus here).

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Day 3 @ 03:42 PM
Minolta AF 70-210mm f/4 | 210mm | f/5.6 | 1/2000 | ISO 200

Eventually, I did just go ahead and take that requisite White House shot, as you can see in the second image here. All things considered, I actually think that it came out pretty nice, especially if you have the original full-res image to zoom in on. And at least I didn’t have to join that crazy crowd in order to get that shot!

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Day 3 @ 03:47 PM
Minolta AF 70-210mm f/4 | 210mm | f/5.6 | 1/2000 | ISO 200

Ooh, looks like someone watched me watching them! I was spotted here by these two and they seemed more tickled by me anything else, haha. Much to my relief, honestly. Meanwhile, you can get a sense of just how many people turned out to the wider kite-flying, sakura tree-visiting festivities in the background; Metro wasn’t kidding before. You can see the Jefferson Memorial in the background, too!

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Day 3 @ 03:51 PM
Minolta AF 70-210mm f/4 | 210mm | f/4.0 | 1/2000 | ISO 400

OK, so I lied slightly; I did edit this one (but only this one, I promise!). Mostly to edit out the kid in the shot in a somewhat more elegant way than just, I don’t know, blurring out their face or something. But I’ll also admit that I zooming in on these adorable little puppies worked out a lot better compositionally than I thought it would be, haha! After all, that’s what we’re really all here for, right? Such kawaii little things… can you tell that I love dogs?

Fun fact: the zoom that I applied here makes this shot equivalent to (roughly) a whopping 420mm! Anyone got a 420mm f/4 telephoto lens handy for next time? LOL…

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Day 3 @ 03:57 PM
Minolta AF 70-210mm f/4 | 210mm | f/4.0 | 1/800 | ISO 200

Welcome to the streetside of DC tourist commerce! Expect to see very high prices here on things that you don’t need and don’t want to pay for, but what you totally want and probably will pay for anyway. But that’s all part of the charm, I think. If I had the money for it, I would’ve been all over that hot dog stand in particular, and I’d no doubt have pretzel in hand within a minute, and perhaps an ice cream cone or something in the other by the next, haha. Too bad I didn’t have enough money for that today, though. Tough times and all of that. But hey, maybe next time!

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Day 3 @ 04:02 PM
Minolta AF 70-210mm f/4 | 210mm | f/4.0 | 1/4000 | ISO 200

Why do these two just scream "boss" to me? Trade in their casual wear for business suits or something and you’d think they own the place or something, haha. Maybe. Another completely random candid shot here, but with a good old Dutch angle and the aforementioned bossery to make things at least slightly more interesting than average, I think.

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Day 3 @ 04:02 PM
Minolta AF 70-210mm f/4 | 210mm | f/4.0 | 1/4000 | ISO 200

Watching you watching… someone else, I guess. I don’t know why I always love shots like this, haha. Their camera is another Sony, by the way: a full-frame mirrorless camera with a 28-70mm f/3.5-5.6 zoom lens (And yes, I had to squint very, very hard in order to read that out). The stuff of my dreams, in other words; the camera, at least. Maybe one day…

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Day 3 @ 04:32 PM
Minolta AF 70-210mm f/4 | 210mm | f/5.6 | 1/2000 | ISO 200

This is pretty much just a "showing off" shot, taken just because I could. These kinds of shots never fail to be pretty no matter where you take them, I think!

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Day 3 @ 04:40 PM
Minolta AF 70-210mm f/4 | 210mm | f/4.0 | 1/2000 | ISO 200

There was no peace for this duck (or whatever it was; I’m no bird expert) this afternoon, as everyone was pointing cameras at it! Myself included, haha. It stayed in this rather guarded-looking position for most of the time that I was there. I personally prefer the background blur on the first shot, but I give kudos to the second shot…

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Day 3 @ 04:43 PM
Minolta AF 70-210mm f/4 | 210mm | f/4.0 | 1/2000 | ISO 200

…for catching the duck with what appears to be its eyes rolled back as if it’s in the middle of being possessed or something. Not something that I’ll be forgetting for quite a while, I think.

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Day 3 @ 04:46 PM
Minolta AF 70-210mm f/4 | 70mm | f/4.0 | 1/2000 | ISO 100

Kite parade, haha! 210mm would’ve been interesting, but I do appreciate the more sweeping feel that the wider telephoto setting brings to the table with this shot.

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Day 3 @ 06:09 PM
Sony DT 16-50mm f/2.8 SSM | 16mm | f/2.8 | 1/400 | ISO 200

As the sun was about to go down soon and I’d already been through that song-and-dance twice here in DC so far, I decided to take a visit to one of the many museums that the city has to offer. This is from the National Archives, which, like most Smithsonian museums, are pretty lax about taking pictures in there, to my benefit! Not that I actually took many pictures, though. This particular area — a multi-level gallery of various paintings and artifacts — gave off a strange yet pleasantly intimate feeling with its narrow hallways and stairways, mostly void of people at this quiet hour of the day.

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Day 3 @ 06:34 PM
Sony DT 16-50mm f/2.8 SSM | 16mm | f/2.8 | 1/50 | ISO 100

This has always been a particularly pretty area of the Archives for me. It’s also the first time that I’ve been there at golden hour, which presented an especially lovely picture-taking opportunity, I think. In this particular room is a kind of "pool" that serves as an attraction of sorts (and yes, you’re allowed to walk through it!). I took a few shots here — including a wider shot emphasizing the room as a whole — but I kind of wanted the reflections of the water to be the main attraction for a lot of them, including the one that I chose to present here.

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Day 3 @ 07:03 PM
Sony DT 16-50mm f/2.8 SSM | 16mm | f/2.8 | 1/2000 | ISO 400

Pretty much everyone was over there at this obviously awesome shot-taking opportunity, haha. I like to think that I had somewhat of an advantage with a wider-than-average focal length available to me, though! Lens flare makes a predictable presence here, but I think that it adds to the shot in this case. Although, in retrospect, perhaps closing the aperture up to create sunstars would’ve made for a more interesting result here (I certainly had the headroom for it, if you look at the shutter speed). But I didn’t figure out that out until later, unfortunately. Maybe next time!

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Day 3 @ 08:03 PM
Sony DT 16-50mm f/2.8 SSM | 16mm | f/2.8 | 1/40 | ISO 800

I was really tired at this point, haha, but I wanted to get a shot of the Capitol in before I called it a night. At first, I had a somewhat nice diagonal shot from the right side, but moving around revealed this to be a more dramatic and satisfying shot, or at least I think so. This is one of those shots where I’m glad that I had a f/2.8 lens with me, haha. And I’m especially proud of being able to get the moon in the shot, too!

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Day ??? @ 05:07 PM
My Phone | 5.23mm | f/1.8 | 1/24 | ISO 500

This was courtesy of an old Starbucks gift card that I found at a totally random moment in my camera case. Gift cards really are the gifts that keep on giving, even years after you remember that they even existed, haha. Red velvet has always been a favorite of mine and I’ve never had it at Starbucks before so… yeah. It was actually pretty decent, I thought!
 
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[Entry #10 — 2024/05/07]
Pictures from Yet Another Recent DC Trip!

Surprise, haha! Yes, I went on a trip to Washington, DC yet again; almost exactly a year since the last time, in fact. And also again, I've taken a bunch of pictures that I'm sharing here! I would like to say that I've improved at least a little bit since last time, or that at least I was able to take better advantage of certain circumstances.

A few differences from last time: I actually just spent one day in DC this time. However, I've had more of the day to myself for just exploring and such, which is why there are actually more photos here from that one day than there were for three whole days from last time, funny enough. As for things that stayed the same: the lenses that I used, with the exception of the Minolta AF 50mm f/1.7 which I had no particular need for this time.

Let's not waste any more time, shall we? I’ll go ahead and begin!

(Note that due to the large amount of pictures here, this post will be split into two parts, like last time. Also note that, again like last time, the images themselves are rather large, or about half a megabyte each on average.)

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Day 4 @ 12:04 PM
Sony DT 16-50mm f/2.8 SSM | 16mm | f/2.8 | 1/160 | ISO 1600

My adventure — as far as I'm sharing in these photos, haha — starts at the foot of this massive escalator leading up from the Metro to the street! I'd argue that it actually looks smaller here than it is in real life, if I must be honest. But you get the idea, right? I took this at the widest that my lens could go, by the way.

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Day 4 @ 12:05 PM
Sony DT 16-50mm f/2.8 SSM | 16mm | f/2.8 | 1/160 | ISO 1600

If you look behind where I was with the last shot, this is what you'll see; if you're interested in what the actual Metro looks like. I decided to take this picture because the bright light above looked interesting to me!

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Day 4 @ 12:06 PM
Sony DT 16-50mm f/2.8 SSM | 16mm | f/2.8 | 1/160 | ISO 1600

Because I'm kind of insane, haha, I decided to take a photo while I was on the escalator, pointing the camera behind me. I wonder what the other person down there was thinking when I was doing that... no, actually; I don't really wonder. Nothing stops me from taking the perfect photo! Not that this is that, certainly, but I like having fun with my wide end of my lens like this in any case.

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Day 4 @ 12:34 PM
Minolta AF 70-210mm f/4 | 120mm | f/4.0 | 1/2500 | ISO 200

Woof! Welcome to the Wharf, a highly developed commercial area of DC near the water with various piers built there. This is one of them, and apparently it was Dog Day there or something because there were tons of dogs there including this little one, haha. Anyway, before this day I've only been to the Wharf once, so this is kind of a return of sorts for me!

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Day 4 @ 12:35 PM
Minolta AF 70-210mm f/4 | 75mm | f/4.0 | 1/4000 | ISO 200

If I were one to give my photos names, I'd probably call this one "Between the Sails". I have no idea what attracted me to take this candid shot, but I went ahead and did it. Do you think that it's worthy of its name?

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Day 4 @ 12:36 PM
Minolta AF 70-210mm f/4 | 210mm | f/4.0 | 1/2500 | ISO 200

Woof woof! Didn't I tell you that there would be a lot of dogs here, haha? And a rather big one this time. The shot itself isn't anything special, but I liked the fact that I was able to get this particular pose, in any case, where it would appear as though they're looking up expectantly at their owner.

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Day 4 @ 12:39 PM
Minolta AF 70-210mm f/4 | 210mm | f/4.0 | 1/3200 | ISO 200

Yet another dog, haha. They're so kawaii no matter how many times you see them, huh? Do note that this photo is zoomed in a bit from the original to crop the nearby kid out. I don't exactly remember what he was doing there in the first place, actually. Maybe he was trying to say hi to the dog? Well, whatever. By the way, I was actually kind of tempted to say hi to some of these dogs myself, but I was kind of in the zone with the photo-taking, so... yeah.

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Day 4 @ 12:43 PM
Minolta AF 70-210mm f/4 | 75mm | f/4.0 | 1/3200 | ISO 200

A short telephoto shot that gives you an idea of what the waterside of the Wharf looks like. There's a bit more going on in this picture than you might realize, actually. Who's that on the bottom, for instance? Or perhaps, what's that, haha...

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Day 4 @ 12:43 PM
Minolta AF 70-210mm f/4 | 75mm | f/4.0 | 1/3200 | ISO 200

I do wish that this was exposed a bit brighter, but this nonetheless gives you a decent idea of what the piers of the Wharf actually look like from a slightly more intimate perspective than the previous photo.

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Day 4 @ 12:47 PM
Minolta AF 70-210mm f/4 | 210mm | f/4.0 | 1/3200 | ISO 200

Meanwhile, not visible in the previous photo is this somewhat (in)famous part of this particular pier: a slope that forms from the walkway from the left that gets steeper as you go. Should you go far enough on said slope, you'll inevitably fall. How the hell that kind of thing got past city planning, I have no idea; this looks like an accident (or a lot of them) waiting to happen! Nonetheless, it's somewhat fun — if still a bit worrying — to see people try their luck in getting as far as possible without sliding off or otherwise realizing that being there is a really bad idea and that they should stop now. This kid in the picture didn't get too far before they clearly started to think the latter, haha.

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Day 4 @ 01:52 PM
Minolta AF 70-210mm f/4 | 210mm | f/4.0 | 1/1000 | ISO 800

Depending on how you feel about fish, this is either going to really creep you out or really make you want to eat one of them, haha. Perhaps appropriately given its proximity to the water, there's a long-standing fish market over at the Wharf that appears to get plenty of customers. They sell cooked fish in all kinds of varieties, but they'll also happily give it to you raw, as in straight-from-the-sea kind of raw as you can see here. I mean, imagine buying one of these things whole and taking it home to create some kind of epic feast like you're some kind of master chef, right? Or at least someone who knows their way around a fish's insides and a knife. At the very least, you could probably put something like Red Lobster to shame without much effort. It would probably be cheaper, too... one day I swear I'm going to try this!

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Day 4 @ 01:59 PM
Minolta AF 70-210mm f/4 | 210mm | f/4.0 | 1/400 | ISO 400

Yes, they sell crab too! Speaking of which, did you know that the DC area is apparently a great place to get a good crab-based dish? If this here is as straight-from-the-sea as it looks, then perhaps that explains a lot, huh?

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Day 4 @ 02:34 PM
Minolta AF 70-210mm f/4 | 210mm | f/4.0 | 1/2000 | ISO 200

My adventure at the Wharf came to an end at this point and here I'm at the Smithsonian Castle! Or rather, the garden at the front of it. The castle itself closed a little over a year ago for renovations. (Trivia: I actually aimed to go there last year, but alas, circumstances at the time said no.) Well, at least I really like flowers, so it wasn't too much of a loss! This photo is from a plot of (what appears to be) roses in the front, but the actual flower that I took a picture of first is this. Whatever it is... or perhaps was, given its apparent condition. Not the greatest flower photo ever, but I do enjoy how it contrasts with the blurred-out roses (are they even roses!?) in the background.

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Day 4 @ 02:50 PM
Minolta AF 70-210mm f/4 | 75mm | f/8.0 | 1/1000 | ISO 400

This is from the back of the garden near the castle itself, facing where I came in from. There was... something going there with those people down there; a party or celebration of sorts, perhaps? In any case, I went for a short telephoto shot here that I thought looked interesting with the building in the close background and the flags above, as well as the road in the far background and how that all was juxtaposed with the compression provided by the focal length that I was using.

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Day 4 @ 02:52 PM
Minolta AF 70-210mm f/4 | 75mm | f/8.0 | 1/1000 | ISO 400

This is the same focal length — and even the exact same settings, actually — but with the camera moved lower and focus placed instead on a kind of compass that was there a little bit in front of me.

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Day 4 @ 02:55 PM
Minolta AF 70-210mm f/4 | 210mm | f/4.0 | 1/4000 | ISO 400

Finally, a photo of the actual roses (???) this time, right?

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Day 4 @ 03:38 PM
Minolta AF 70-210mm f/4 | 120mm | f/8.0 | 1/800 | ISO 200

A little under an hour later, my adventure reached the Capitol building. No pictures of the Capitol itself yet, though. Instead, have this sweeping telephoto shot of the National Mall leading towards the Washington Monument in clear view and the Lincoln Memorial in the really far distance. These types of shots never get old, huh?

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Day 4 @ 04:08 PM
Minolta AF 70-210mm f/4 | 75mm | f/8.0 | 1/1600 | ISO 400

The rear of the Capitol. (Or is it actually the front? I could never really tell. Is there even an official front?) I fondly remember this from a certain night from last year's visit when I was able to get the moon in a pretty nice place along with the Capitol itself in a wide shot from this almost this very location. I attempted a similar shot around this time but quickly grew bored with the idea, and even so, a telephoto lens isn't exactly ideal if you want the whole thing as opposed to just a small, zoomed-in part of it. So I decided to go the opposite route, instead indeed zooming in an attempt to get a kind of "small person, big building" kind of shot that a telephoto lens with its compression tends to be pretty great for. I wasn't as immediately successful as I was hoping, but do I believe this to be one of the stronger examples of what I was going for.

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Day 4 @ 04:09 PM
Minolta AF 70-210mm f/4 | 135mm | f/8.0 | 1/1600 | ISO 400

This is one of those "I can't believe I actually got this!" kind of shots, candid version. It's a toss-up as to whether or not I prefer this to the previous one, I think.

(continued on the next page...)
 
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20.jpg

Day 4 @ 04:40 PM
Sony DT 16-50mm f/2.8 SSM | 35mm | f/5.6 | 1/800 | ISO 100

Lens switch time! While I was in the middle of doing so, I got the idea to take a photo of my photo-taking equipment, haha, against the backdrop of the Capitol (and the Washington Monument, too, if you look closely). It took more than a few tries for me to get a version of this shot that I was satisfied with, actually. And a bit frustratingly so, actually. But I think that the effort was worth it in the end!

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Day 4 @ 04:54 PM
Sony DT 16-50mm f/2.8 SSM | 35mm | f/4.0 | 1/1600 | ISO 100

Finally got a wide shot of the Capitol, but from the other side of where I got it last time and with a more "street-side" view of it. Not much more to say, really...

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Day 4 @ 04:55 PM
Sony DT 16-50mm f/2.8 SSM | 35mm | f/2.8 | 1/3200 | ISO 100

...except that a minute later I took the time to take a photo of these berries growing on a tree nearby, with the Capitol in the background!

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Day 4 @ 04:55 PM
Sony DT 16-50mm f/2.8 SSM | 35mm | f/2.8 | 1/3200 | ISO 100

And this tells you exactly what said plant actually is. I took a picture of it because I couldn't help but be reminded of a certain user here associated with that name...

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Day 4 @ 05:42 PM
Sony DT 16-50mm f/2.8 SSM | 35mm | f/2.8 | 1/800 | ISO 100

This was a really weird squirrel, in a good way! As unlike most other squirrels, this one wasn't shy about being near humans. Because of that, I was able to get very, very close as it moved around the street, again strangely unafraid to be there. I was almost somewhat worried that it would attack me, haha, rather than the other way around as you'd expect from a squirrel. I actually could've gotten even closer than this, but I intentionally restricted myself to 35mm as, for most of the time that I was using this particular lens, I was practicing with that focal length specifically (as you might be able to tell from the long string of photos I took at 35mm; that's not a coincidence). Oh, and while we're on the subject of this squirrel and its movements, I figure that now would be a good time to mention that — contrary to last year's visit here — I used autofocus for this and many other shots, kind of as an experiment. The good news is that my lens — as an SSM lens — was mostly able to keep up. And while this particular shot is just slightly defocused if you look closely, I found that it was the best-looking pose from the squirrel out of all of them, so there you go!

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Day 4 @ 06:10 PM
Sony DT 16-50mm f/2.8 SSM | 16mm | f/4.0 | 1/2500 | ISO 100

A pretty standard shot of the Washington Monument near dusk, but there's something about the sheer simplicity of it all that prompted me to include it here anyway.

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Day 4 @ 06:24 PM
Sony DT 16-50mm f/2.8 SSM | 16mm | f/4.0 | 1/4000 | ISO 100

This was later at dusk with the shutter speed set very fast to give the both the sun and a sky a bit of a darker look. This is also where I had no problems seeing things like lens flare here, and if anything I actually think that it improves the shot!

27.jpg

Day 4 @ 06:33 PM
Sony DT 16-50mm f/2.8 SSM | 16mm | f/2.8 | 1/3200 | ISO 200

And so me and the sakura trees meet again. I actually wasn't too excited to be here at first because I was already pretty satisfied with the pictures of said sakura trees that I took last year, and I couldn't imagine that I'd take anything better than that. How wrong I was, haha... but in any case, that lack of enthusiasm led me to try to be a bit more actively creative with my shots this time. And from my first attempts at such creativity came this. Let's call this "Sakura Road", where the emphasis is as much as said walkway below as the flowers above themselves. Does the sight of the sunset light shining down make you want to take a walk down that road? Just watch out for everyone else with their own plans, haha. Indeed, it was quite busy during this time!

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Day 4 @ 06:33 PM
Sony DT 16-50mm f/2.8 SSM | 16mm | f/2.8 | 1/3200 | ISO 200

As I continued playing around with my camera looking for something interesting to shoot, I increasingly realized that the sun was my friend here. It wasn't long before I went for a more atmospheric, almost "abstract" approach to things, with said sun more often than not becoming the focal point of my photos. This particular one is a quitessential example of that. Also note the use of the wide-angle focal length and relative shallow depth-of-field in my attempts to create a "dreamy" kind of feeling here.

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Day 4 @ 06:35 PM
Sony DT 16-50mm f/2.8 SSM | 35mm | f/2.8 | 1/3200 | ISO 200

And this is... just a pretty plain photo of a sakura tree, actually. But the light of the sunset really does a lot of the heavy lifting where everything else doesn't, I think.

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Day 4 @ 06:42 PM
Sony DT 16-50mm f/2.8 SSM | 35mm | f/5.6 | 1/4000 | ISO 100

Going back to my more "creative" ways with this one, haha, this time featuring the water. Which was also really my friend here, I think. As well as the lens flare, too, I think! Together with the sakura tree leaning down towards the right, I could've down a lot worse than this given the circumstanes!

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Day 4 @ 06:49 PM
Sony DT 16-50mm f/2.8 SSM | 35mm | f/4.0 | 1/1250 | ISO 100

More "dreamy" shots featuring the sun, lens flare, and a lot of background blur. Ironically with the latter given that this even isn't maximum apeture for some reason... but anyway! Everything is purposefully a bit underexposed here in an attempt to emphasize the light of the sun shining gently though the sakura flowers. How does it compare to the other shot that featured the sun shining through said flowers, in its landscape position versus the portrait one used here?

32.jpg

Day 4 @ 06:58 PM
Sony DT 16-50mm f/2.8 SSM | 35mm | f/2.8 | 1/250 | ISO 100

And now we're back at maximum aperture! You can really see how the light of sunset changes things here. It's photos like these that make me glad that I came to see the sakura trees during this time versus in the middle of the day or something, you know?

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Day 4 @ 07:08 PM
Sony DT 16-50mm f/2.8 SSM | 35mm | f/2.8 | 1/1600 | ISO 100

I have mixed feelings about this one because at this close distance combined with the fast aperture, more of the sakura flowers were out of focus than I would've liked. Nonetheless, they looked really pretty under what was becoming a much more intense sunset at that increasingly late hour.

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Day 4 @ 07:09 PM
Sony DT 16-50mm f/2.8 SSM | 35mm | f/2.8 | 1/2000 | ISO 100

With that said, finding the sun about to totally set between these trees here led me to try portrait instead, with almost the same settings and indeed the same fast aperture. The result was this! Which was probably another one of my "did I actually just take this!?" kind of shots, haha, if I must be honest with myself! As well as a lovely shot to end the night on, I think, as I was getting somewhat tired of taking photos at this point, if you can believe it.

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Day 4 @ 07:28 PM
Sony DT 16-50mm f/2.8 SSM | 16mm | f/2.8 | 1/200 | ISO 100

However, that would not be the last photo that I would end up taking. I reached the Jefferson Memorial on my way to find a suitable Metro station to leave in, and from a distance I took this quick snapshot. You can tell that it's a snapshot because it's actually slightly out of focus, oof. The early evening light makes even crappy shots like this one look at least slightly more interesting, though.

36.jpg

Day 4 @ 07:56 PM
Sony DT 16-50mm f/2.8 SSM | 35mm | f/2.8 | 1/60 | ISO 800

Finally reached the Metro station! Before I left, I wanted to take a picture of the Washington Monument from the National Mall, but at that point it was much too dark for my lens to handle. And so the first few shots here were frustratingly unsatisfying. In a moment of what I can only assume was pure serendipity, however, I realized that things actually looked more interesting when everything was out of focus, especially with the "bokeh balls" on the sides (from whatever lights were shining there through the darkness). So placing my focus instead on the nearby fence, I took the shot and... here you go!

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Day 4 @ 07:57 PM
Sony DT 16-50mm f/2.8 SSM | 35mm | f/2.8 | 1/60 | ISO 1600

At the same place and right before I left for the Metro, I turned around and did pretty much the exact same thing. It was quite a bit darker due to the sun being in the other direction, though. Can you tell that it's the Capitol building in the distance there? Or did I have to say that it was the Capitol building first, haha!
 
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