The Nicest Military Office

The military experience varies wildly from person to person. You could be living in a tent or on an isolated beachside home on base. You could be in a shack guarding absolutely nothing or you could be a full time student living with a frat at MIT. There’s a huge diversity to explore and while I’m not sure what asbestos filled warehouse is the worst military office, I’m semi-confident I’ve found the nicest one.

Across the street from Los Angeles Air Force base is the home one of the Space Force’s software factories, Section 31. Recently their organization has been absorbed into their parent, Kobayashi Maru; however, primarily only the former Section 31 members work in this office (a more accurate nomenclature for them now is the Kobayashi Maru Organic Software Teams formerly known as Section 31).

The building is modern and industrial, neighboring other similarly designed office spaces. Walking in the front door one finds an environment more reminiscent of silicon valley than a military organization. Directly inside the door is a huge 20 foot screen displaying a view of the Earth from space. Past the lobby is the common room with a shuffle board and a ping pong table. The ping pong table had high quality paddles and the wax/sand on the shuffle board table well maintained. In the other corner of the room you could work on your golf game with the phi golf swing stick or pretend you’re at the course with the golf arcade game. Also in the room were two Pelotons that probably encompassed the entirety of the gym budget (there’s a shower in the downstairs bathroom in case you were wondering); the Space Force has an odd affinity for Pelotons and it’s common to see senior leaders on the platform. The downstairs kitchen featured multiple beers on tap, a fridge of other bottled drinks, and organization branded glasses, mugs, and silverware. Fenced in a small outdoor eating area was a brand new unused grill.

The second floor features an open office concept with large windows and glass meeting rooms. Rows of standing desks enclose software teams in casual clothing, military uniforms are rarely seen here. The majority of the desks are empty, their computers remotely controlled by others working from home or wherever they felt like vacationing. Working from home was common even before the pandemic at tech giants; in fact, if every member of my team was in the office, there would not be enough space at our station for all of them. My team’s space had team specific stickers, matching costumes for developers who were “pair” programming, and wine that was somehow branded “Vandenberg Air Force Base” (not sure how they got the licensing to make that).

Also on the second floor is a kitchen stocked with a variety snacks, energy drinks, a coffee maker, and rotating kombucha tap. The kitchen features a large balcony and more Kobayashi Maru branded glasses/silverware. Lunch options rotated by day, I saw Chinese food, lasagna, and fried tacos catered by local restaurants.

Out of office fun there was an invitation to a beach day with food and jet skis that weekend.

I believe the intent behind this is to imitate silicon valley’s tech environment and encourage talent to work here. It’s worth noting that very few here are active duty military and even fewer are permanently assigned, most are civilians and contractors that could find better salaries elsewhere. While it’s nothing compared to the Google office, it’s a huge step in the right direction away from the quiet cubicle floors of neighboring LAAFB. I hope that other software factories around the service are also imitating this kind of culture and that the rebranding from” Section 31″ to “Kobayashi Maru Organic Teams” changes KM to be more like S31, not the other way around.

Becoming an English Anime Dubber

So my friend sent me a snapchat of the Boruto dub the other day and it was… pretty bad in some places. Of course I appreciate that dubbing is no easy feat, especially since they probably don’t get much rehearsal, the lines need to be translated in a way that matches what’s on screen, and the anime style just fits better with Japanese than English. If you’ve somehow stumbled here instead of a reputable source, note that this is a blog about stupid plans/ideas, not actual advice.

Well that got me thinking… I love anime and would love to contribute to a production in one way or another. How would I land a gig? Well… most voice actors would probably call their agent and ask them to get them on an anime but getting picked up by an agent is not trivial and doing this full time is probably a good way to destroy my finances.

Though a lot of voice acting gigs could be done remotely (I do have some pretty nice sound equipment), since anime is serialized I imagine it’s still done in person meaning you’d have to live near the studio. Dubbing is done in Texas and Los Angeles. (Amazing write up on why by Justin Sevakis linked here)

Texas Based:

  1. Funimation, probably the most well known
  2. Sentai

LA Based:

  1. Studiopolis (probably responsible for the Boruto dub that inspired this)
  2. Bang Zoom
  3. NYAV Post
  4. Dubbing Brothers
  5. SDI Media
  6. and other post production studios…

Well luckily for me I’m from LA and intend to return within a few years. So all I have to do is get together a good foundation in acting before then. So what job training do I need?

Going back to our largest dubbing company, Chris Rager and Sonny Strait from Funimation host classes. Bang Zoom hosts an official class directly associated with their company. Typically these classes are done in a recording studio but are available online right now from the pandemic.

Bang Zoom hosts their own classes called “Adventures in Voice Acting”. They have multiple levels ranging from $160 at the intro level to $400 at the intermediate level. Classes range from 2 to 4 hours and the length of instruction seems to have no bearing on the cost. This could possibly be due to some classes being more in demand due to a known teacher. The reason why these courses are first is their “Intro to Voice Acting” class is designed for those with “no prior training in acting or voice over”. Yep that sounds like me, a perfect first step.

Sonny Strait’s Class, “Basic Anime Dubbing” sounds like a perfect course for us by name. This class used to record lines and create a demo for you but I don’t think they’re currently doing this due to the pandemic. I hope to attend this class if they ever bring back the sound engineer to create demos. The online class is currently $450.

Chris Rager’s class, “The Sessions: Voice Acting in Anime and Video Games” is $600 for four classes. From comments online it seems they also bring in VA guests and directors. While this seems like an amazing experience, I would hate to make a bad impression to anyone in the industry as a total newbie. So this class is going on the backburner. Chris Rager also recommends other classes on his twitter.

So this is where my plan will likely come to an end and differ from those who actually want to become voice actors. If you want to become a real VA… why are you reading this? The next step is probably to find an agent and network. The entertainment industry is pretty much always about who you know. The Voice Actors Network offers a way to do this by attending their clinics, you can see a lot of the companies I listed above being represented there. They require “at least two years of basic acting classes, at least one year of VO specific training, and professional VO demos” before attending their clinics.

I on the other hand will probably just randomly throw my hat in the ring and call it a fun experiment. Do they companies even do public casting calls? Funimation randomly does open auditions and requests resume’s/demos at voice.acting@funimation.com though they don’t exactly check this email often. Sentai has done open auditions in the past, limiting it to the first 200 in the door but the post I saw was from five years ago. Bang Zoom does open auditions at Anime Expo, Anime Central, and probably other conventions. Though from what I’m reading online, it get’s crowded so a spot is far from guaranteed. Well, this is just a fun side hobby anyways. If I ever even audition I’d count that as a win.

So to summarize the plan:

  1. There are 2 places that dub anime, LA or Texas, move there to be near the studios.
  2. Bang Zoom has an intro class for complete acting amateurs, I’d start here.
  3. Sonny Strait’s class is anime dubbing specific and will create a pro demo for you. Chris Rager’s class seems to have a solid guest list and is recommended by others.
  4. The next realistic step is finding an agent and getting your name out there and land an audition. The voice actor’s network hosts clinics to rub shoulders with industry professionals once you’ve had enough training.

As a casual attempt, I will probably get a demo together and send it off to Funimation or attend open auditions at an Anime Convention with Bang Zoom. Putting my best foot forward in an open audition will be the goal for my journey. Practically everyone with a voice thinks they can be a VA, I’m not so disillusioned that I think I can do better than those with a real passion for the art.

Caption: The featured image is Shizuka from Shirobako. The show is about making anime and follows the production staff while they interact with the rest of the process from animation and computer graphics to scripting and directors. (Spoilers Ahead) When everything starts looking up for the other characters, things still aren’t going her way. VA is probably the most difficult job to land and while all her friends end up on the same anime production out of luck, she fails the audition. She has a day job at a restaurant, embarrasses herself on jobs / auditions, and even hushes her friend Miyamori when she attempts to network her to others in the industry when they stumbled into her restaurant. I know she’ll land a job eventually cause it’s a cute anime but they really depict her struggle well.

My Favorite Vietnamese Restaurants in Little Saigon, CA

It may come as a surprise to hear me say that I don’t particularly like Vietnamese food, despite being Vietnamese. There are however, a few dishes, at a few places, that do make the cut. Little Saigon and surrounding area is home to the largest population of Viet people outside of Vietnam so I’d be willing to bet this list includes some of the best Viet food outside of Vietnam. I’ll start with everyone’s favorite dish:

Pho: Phở Vè Dầy Dòn with quail egg at Pho Quang Trung. I prefer the one on Westminster over the one on Bolsa. Something about the cuts of meat, they do it very right here. They’re usually out of quail egg unless you’re early.

Photo of Cococane - Garden Grove, CA, United States. ($6)

Nuoc Mia: The Original Cococaine with kumquat at Cococaine. Right next to OK water, this store keeps true to it’s FOB heritage by being half fruit market, half juice store with amazing taste in EDM music. They’re usually out of kumquat… our community has some supply chain issues.

Photo of The Vox Kitchen - Fountain Valley, CA, United States. The Vox Kitchen

Bo Luc Lac (aka shaken beef): SALTADO at The Vox Kitchen. They do Viet modern fusion really well.

Photo of Tan Cang Newport Seafood - Santa Ana, CA, United States. 5lb Lobster Noodle

Lobster Noodles: Newport Special Lobster at Tan Cang Newport Seafood. A staple at weddings but if you have a family to feed I bet they’d love this.

Photo of Kim Su Seafood Restaurant - Westminster, CA, United States. Clams with ginger and green onions

Clams at Kim Su: I can pretty much finish a plate of these my own and I use the rice to soak up the sauce. As a kid this was my favorite food, my cousins and I would stack clam shells practically to the ceiling we ate so much.

Photo of Song Long Restaurant - Westminster, CA, United States. Salmon Hollandaise

Salmon with Hollandaise sauce at Song Long: You know why we make such good bread and sandwiches? Because we were colonized by the French. And we got this dish out of it too.

Photo of Brodard Restaurant - Fountain Valley, CA, United States. Grilled Pork Spring Rolls  Nem Nuong Cuon

Spring Rolls at Brodard: Honestly I’m not the biggest fan of spring rolls but this restaurant is a staple for this iconic food so it gets a spot on the list as well. Don’t take it to go, it looks like something that can be packed for later but once it gets soggy the magic is gone.

Valentino Couture, The American Psycho’s Suit of Choice

If you haven’t seen the famous American Psycho credit card scene, here it is:

Don’t try to look up Dorsia NYC btw that restaurant is fictional. So back to Bateman’s suit, Valentino Couture. The Valentino brand is famous but do they even make suits? (Couture usually means something made to measure. If you’re into designer clothing over bespoke clothing many times you’ll have to settle for made to measure over fully bespoke.)

Valentino’s site doesn’t have a category for suits or fine menswear. They do make jackets listed under “outerwear”. A search from their website turns up one suit in three different colors, black, navy, and grey.

So they do make suits! But more importantly from here, do they make made to measure (couture) suits for Mr. Bateman over here?

A deep dive reveals an article from Vogue talking about Valentino’s menswear store expansion in 2016 making room for their new made-to-measure service. If the service was new in 2016 and the movie was made in 2000, Bateman probably had some special connections to have his suit made. Even cooler to think about is perhaps this made-to-measure service could have been inspired by Bateman himself.

The article also gives us a price of about €2,600 for a tuxedo which is a reasonable ask in my opinion considering the ready to wear suit I found above and many other casual items from Valentino already command that price.

It’s been five years since that Vogue article was written, does Valentino Couture still exist as a made to measure menswear service? A google search doesn’t turn up much besides that article. From what I can tell the store they are talking about is the Paris Rue St. Honore which is thee Valentino Menswear store. A picture from May 2015 clearly shows us that it’s a menswear store:

And it seems like that store is still there despite not having a dedicated website or anything like that. Although a picture from 2020 shows us that the interior isn’t like that anymore.

And the 2015 picture was from before their second floor expansion so we’re seeing the same floor of the same store here. It could very well be that while the store location exists, Valentino Couture made-to-measure men’s suits are no longer a thing.

On the off chance that they are still in existence the only way to get a Valentino Couture suit would be to fly to Paris and find this specific Valentino store that makes no mention of its services officially online. I’ll check it out next time I’m in Paris.

A Quick Review of Keycap Keychains

So I’m into keyboards. Being a programmer and gamer it’s no surprise. I’ve accumulated a few hundred dollars in keyboards / keyboard parts and I hope my obsession doesn’t go much further. As a fun way to tell others about my hobby I’ve put some keycap keychains on my lanyard. Sadly, I had a hard time finding a quality product. Here’s a review of three of them.

Amazon Keycap Keychain: Pretty much came apart in the packaging. Mine had an LED so it may not be the exact one pictured but the light didn’t work well either.

20 Bomb Keycap Switch Keychain: Got this from mechanicalkeyboards.com and it held up for a while on my lanyard. Eventually though after being put into my pocket and dragged around for a few months the switch separated from the backing and I lost the parts that weren’t attached to the housing. I threw this away as I didn’t want to put another switch in there to be lost again.

Razor Chroma Keycap Keychain: So finally I got this one at an eBay auction because you can only get it from a special razor promotion. It’s not built to come apart like the others and the only part that you can swap out is the keycap. The entire keychain is basically a razor green built into the housing. It also has an LED that changes colors as you hold it.

If you’re in the market and find one on sale, buy the razor. All the other keycap keychains come apart and you will have to replace it once you’ve realized your switch and keycap came off somewhere.

Taco Maria, America’s Michelin Starred Taco Restaurant

Tucked away in Orange County California is America’s only Michelin starred taco restaurant. Now that claim is solely based on the Michelin guide’s online results for the word taco but it makes for a good title.

Service

Tacos Maria is small, upscale, and contemporary with attentive staff and unique flavors. We sat outside in lovely evening weather, the surrounding center was empty and quiet. They turned on the heater at our request later in the evening. My friends and I had to make a reservation two weeks in advance and we took the last time slot for the week at 8 pm on a Thursday. Their service was excellent serving silverware to the correct positions, never letting our drinks empty, and resetting chairs / napkins when a guest stepped away for the restroom. The food however did take a while to get to us after we ordered.

Menu

As I understand it the menu changes and this one was labeled Summer 2021, a mixture of the food they were serving before the pandemic and the take out they were serving during the pandemic. Between my friends and I we ordered everything on the menu. With a bit of sampling I can confidently say everything they serve tastes amazing. I ordered the molle de pato, the duck was cooked well and came right off the bone. The fig mole had a very strong flavor in my dish and perhaps they could have toned that down a bit. The arrachera was my favorite of my friends’ dishes and I’ll probably try that one next time.

Drinks

My favorite drink was the classic margarita made with agave wine instead of tequila and came with a rim of black salt. The agave wine made the flavor smoother than tequila and although I was a bit bummed at first, if they eventually get a liquor license I hope they keep the agave wine option. Something of note, the texture and taste of the salt stood out to me as well. I attempted to have them put that salt on more of my drinks but they couldn’t accommodate my request due to strict portioning.

Vegetable Accompaniments 

The entrees could have been eaten alone but we all put them into the blue corn tortillas to create tacos. I’d say the charred avocado and the jalapenos are a must for the building the tacos. They also give you a dark “salsa” that reminds me of the chili oil found in Asian dishes.

Other Thoughts

Some people tell me that like good sushi ruined regular sushi for them. These tacos may as well have been their own genre of food. I’ve tasted no Mexican food like it.

Cost

Dinner came out to be about $120 a person for shared appetizers, shared vegetables, two drinks each, and one entrée each. We all agreed that it was worth it.

The Brooks Brothers Tuxedo, An Amazing Budget Option

A tuxedo is a pretty hard pill to swallow. Do I really want to invest a thousand dollars in an outfit that I’d wear about once a year? So I never had one despite black tie being my favorite look. Then Brooks Brothers ran a sale, a tux jacket and pants for $300, usually they retail together for $600. I imagined I’d get a tux made for some special occasion but this “budget” option could hold me over until then.

As a 5’8″ 140lb skinny Asian with a runner’s build I went with the Milano (slim) fit jacket in 36S and Regent (regular) fit pants in 30 (they didn’t have Milano fit). I have to say, this was the luckiest I’ve been with an off the rack suit. It fits me perfectly. Both the jacket and the pants run one size small, I’m usually a size 35 jacket and 29 pants. I was so excited as I slowly realized that I wouldn’t have to tailor any of it. The tux is beautiful and its construction is much better than I expected. The fabric comes from Vitale Barberis Canonico in Italy and I believe I saw on a tag that it was constructed in Egypt.

If Brooks Brothers runs this promotion again, I would highly recommend it, especially if you happen to have a coupon from them at the same time.

If you’re a bigger guy I found a tux at the Hugo Boss outlet around the same time as I bought this. It was much looser and would have required significant alteration to fit me. The Hugo read regular fit though honestly I would personally call it a relaxed fit or loose fit. However, it was only $180 for the set plus further discounts depending on how much your total was in store (spending over $300 gets you like a 15% additional discount or something like that).

There Are No Good Beginner Keytars Sub $1000

TL;DR:

  • Korg 100S2, Roland Ax-Edge: too expensive
  • Alexis Vortex, Roland AXIS, Roland Ax-7: no voices / midi only
  • Yamaha SHS-10: not instrument grade
  • Yamaha SHS-500: poorly designed
  • Yamaha SHS-200: too rare
  • Roland Lucina Ax-09: doesn’t look like a keytar
  • Yamaha SHS-300: Met the minimum for essential features but honestly just not good enough overall (my factors of consideration being looks, build, design, and voicing).

My most recent obsession has been keytar. I can play piano, I can play guitar. I can’t play piano well enough to be in an orchestra, I can’t play guitar well enough to be in a band, even in my dreams. So in an attempt to go jam with my friends and live out my dreams I figured I could master the keytar; how hard could playing with one hand be? Primarily I just want to quickly jam out to some synth solos I come across. I found that there are really no keytars that meet my requirements which I think are pretty basic requirements. In this article I’m going to overview what I perceive as the entire keytar market as found by a beginner consumer. If there are more keytars that aren’t on this list, they’re not easily found. If I’m missing any sub $1000 keytars let me know.

I figured that a beginner keytar should at least…

  1. Work as an instrument stand alone. This mean’s I’m not going to include midi-only keytars. It should have its own voices ready to use. Beginners probably don’t have the software prepared to power a midi-only instrument. I actually do have some setup ready for that since I use a launchpad but I’d much rather “plug and play”. The Alexis Vortex falls into this category and so do the the cheaper Rolands like the AXIS and the Ax-7… and the Mad Catz Rock Band 3 keyboard.
  2. Look like a keytar on stage so I’m not going to include basically strap mounted keyboards. The Roland Lucina Ax-09 fits into this category in my opinion, some of you may disagree but it’s my article and I want a keytar, not a keyboard with a strap.
  3. Have at least something close to instrument grade build quality.

So here’s what I found that matched all my requirements:

1. The Roland Ax-Edge

Wow, this thing looks so cool. Did I mention it’s over a thousand dollars?

2. Korg RK100S2

This one is my favorite and the most instrument like of all the options mainly because it’s made of wood. If I had a thousand dollars burning a hole in my pocket, I’d get this one.


Now every other sub-$1000, non-midi-only, keytar basically comes from the same Yamaha lineup:

2. Yamaha SHS-300

This is probably the defining entry level keytar at the moment. It retails at a reasonable $200 and has a front facing speaker for casual jams alone or with softer instruments. However it doesn’t really look like a keytar, it’s small and would likely be out of place on stage. Second, it only has twelve voices: 3 synth, 3 piano, 3 other. This is currently my top contender and if they have it at my local guitar center I will likely pick one up. Though seriously my first keyboard from the 90s had 100 voices.

3. Yamaha SHS-500

This is the 300’s older bigger brother. It has 30 voices which I find much more acceptable and though it looks slightly bigger, I still don’t like the look. People honestly might not recognize it has a keytar on stage, more of a strap mounted keyboard though in Yamaha’s defense they don’t advertise these as keytars. Now the main problem with this keytar is well covered by keytar youtuber Pink. The instrument was made by retooling the VKB-100 Vocaliod from Japan. This means that the design of the instrument is not made for purpose. Buttons, knobs, and features are in weird places such as the speaker being on the back. To learn more about the shortcomings of this keytar’s design see youtuber Pink and the Keytar Cat.

4. Yamaha SHS-10

This may be the most famous keytar. It was released in the 80s and it’s the grandfather to the two SHSes above. The keytar is small but the shape is more recognizable as a keytar than its modern equivalents. I’d be getting this one if the build quality wasn’t awful. These currently resell for over $200 and most of them have broken battery covers and most importantly broken strap buttons. If the strap button breaks off well… you just have a keyboard.

5. Yamaha SHS-200

The SHS-10’s larger variant. I believe it’s more rare than the SHS-10 and in my opinion it looks so over the top that I like it. It has stage presence, works stand alone, and has a variety of sounds. I expect a perfect example of this to sell for around $300. However as of this writing there are only two available on eBay, neither of them are in fully functional condition and one of them is across the Pacific ocean in Japan.

[NS-PCY5BMA] Insignia – Bluetooth 4.0 USB Adapter Drivers

So you needed a quick Bluetooth adapter, went to BestBuy, and picked up an insignia adapter model NS-PCY5BMA? But now it’s not working despite its advertisement as “plug and play”? And the manual is no help at all? Then you went looking for a driver but the Insignia website has nothing? Then you find out that this it uses Broadcom hardware and their website says all their drivers are part of windows updates but obviously it isn’t installed by default? Well you’re lucky you’ve found this obscure blog on the internet. Here’s how you download the driver:

  1. Go to the Microsoft update catalog. Or attempt to use this direct download link and skip to step 4. The direct download link likely won’t work on Chrome, it also may just 404 over time.
  2. Search “Broadcom Corporation driver update for Micro size USB to Bluetooth Dongle”
  3. Click the download button (I just used the top most recent result) and click on the download link from the pop up. If it’s not downloading it’s probably because Chrome recognizes the file as potentially malicious. If that’s the case then repeat these steps in another browser, I used Edge.
  4. Extract the cabinet file you just downloaded. If you don’t see an extract button just enter the cabinet file with windows explorer by double clicking then drag/drop the files out of the window to a new folder.
  5. Open your device manager, right click on “Bcm20702a0” and select update driver. Select “browse my computer for drivers” and select the folder with the extracted cabinet file.
  6. The driver should download and you should see Bluetooth in your device manager.

Amazing Tacos and the Western Space Launch Range

If you’re stationed at Vandenberg Space Force Base (and all space operators will start at Vandy Land for tech school) you probably live in Lompoc (pronounced lom-poke) or Santa Maria. While Lompoc is cheaper and a shorter drive to base, if you want things to do, I’d recommend Santa Maria. Lompoc’s saving grace however was its amazing Mexican food. It’s close enough to Vandy to stop for lunch as well. My favorite tacos are from Angela’s. They’re underrated compared to Floriano’s though I will concede Floriano’s green sauce is the best sauce. The best move is to stash a bunch of Floriano’s green sauce on an occasional run there and get Angela’s tacos the rest of the week… yeah I had tacos everyday. If you don’t want to go to two places, Angela’s makes a great spicy salsa for their chips that pairs well with the tacos. #justspaceforcethings