All posts for the month April, 2007

Yesterday I went to Steve and Cindy's wedding in the beautiful Wente Vineyards, famous for exceptional whites. Their Chardonnay was tasty, without any of the acrid pepper in other places we've been to. Our table was all red wine drinkers, and we were all impressed (the champagne was good too).

Being a guest at a wedding of our peers was so different than our own wedding, and I enjoyed it enormously. There is an aspect of surprise and drama in someone else's wedding that you don't get when you plan and obssess over yours months on end. Steve and Cindy are an odd couple, their personalities seemingly worlds apart. But Steve, although a focused, deconstructive mind who absorbs technicalities and figures unlike any person I know, has a special ability. He's an incredibly fast learner. And though I remember he was loath to discuss the word "marriage" a few years ago, he mastered this new skill as quickly as he mastered programming and art.

A relationship, which is just a game, is tough to master, even impossible for some. But I think you get better with it with practice. I think, win or lose though, what matters is you play your best, you learn some skills, and if you fail… well round two is just around the corner. Looks, money, fancy cars, education, all that matters, as life is as much an itemized treadmill as WoW. But in the end, it's a numbers game. The more you play, the better your chances, and the more skillfully you play, the more chances you get. If you couldn't jump over the sonic boom, you'd have stopped putting quarters in. Guys know what I mean.

Do you think that would apply to The Act, a interative cartoon game where the gameplay is as simple as applying the right amount of "charm" in the right context with a twist of a knob? It wouldn't surprise me at all. Art, after all, imitates the game of life even when we don't realize life is a game.

Recently, Xstine (who found a new job at Activision as a leading artist :hat: ) and I have had way too much gaming to cram into way too little time. At the moment, I'm juggling Super Paper Mario, Marvel Ultimate Alliance, WoW, Neverwinter Nights 2, and Guitar Hero II all in the same time-space continuum. I've devised a macro-recording system to help me farm gold in WoW, something my honorable early-WoW self would have disapproved, scripts of repentance in hand. Today, I've learned to play for fun. I'm so glad to be out of those medieval times of dark, virtual chivalry. Now I see the rest of the players as what they are… a bunch of fucking kids.

I like kids, don't get me wrong. I just can't play online RPGs with them, where any second their mom may tell them to get off the computer, even as we stand before the climatic last boss of a dungeon that took two hours to traverse. I will be sure to learn my child some manners; they should at leaast apologise before just disconnecting into the void.

However, what really threw off my gaming rhythm was this gem of concentrated addiction: Desktop Tower Defense. The way TD-style gameplay delivers an IV drip of satisfyingly explodable monsters and perfectly timed upgrades. You feel compelled consume sequential waves of baddies with your arsenal, and even as you play you see what you will do different next time. The wholly deterministic tower placement makes efficiency so tantalizingly attainable before the edifice of your strategy falls apart. The genre is incredibly organic. I think the carrot it dangles was bought at Whole Foods.

There is a tragic flaw in the modern American character. Would it be jingoism, world ignorance, or hypocrisy? No, I find all those to be but charming idiosyncrasy, as innocent as apple pie, and as harmless as a cute .38 snubnose concealed gingerly in an embroidered leather holster. I speak of a greater flaw: the inability to accept due responsibliity, especially when none is due.

My thread from my heart to my tearducts was strained uncomfortably this week, and my agnostic prayers go out to the fine community of Virginia Tech. Who would have known a crazy gunman would wreak havoc on their idyll lives. Actually, I would have guessed… Korean student going for an English Major? I can only imagine how much his asian parents approved of that.

But for all my sympathy, I can not stand the immediate scapegoating that followed. Suddenly, the university was to blame for not alerting 25,000 sleepy college students that they didn’t know a crazed gunman was loose since they only started investigating a domestic-dispute homicide. Maybe they were to blame for not knowing the exact location of the gunman on their 2500-acre campus, and making the silly assumption that he had made a run for it the way 99% of criminals do.

Oh but it got worse.

Infamy whore Jack Thompson, a leech, a pox, played the video game card before he (or the rest of the country) had a damn clue about what had transpired. It should have been blatantly obvious to the press that the uber-violent video games that the unknown gunman was not known to have MUST have caused this killing spree. The Washington Post demonstrated remarkable journalistic integrity by reporting the gunman was a hardcore afficiando of Counterstrike. A day later, that statement was removed from their article, surely with only the best intentions. Didn’t I just write about this?

Do we have to find someone to blame? Parents, games, guns, police, media, or whatever the hell is near any disaster, why is it we pick one and not all (or none) to blame? It’s like a need to put a face or identity to the blame. This kid was just fucked-up, and the gestalt of his recipe for insanity is at once everything and nothing. In fact, because it is everything, it is nothing. We need to focus on healing, acceptance, and have everyone learn pre-emptive empathy. It is nonsense to find sense in senseless violence. Let’s learn more about the victims and what they could have been, and not let the 15 minutes of each new accusation rob them of what is really their time. They have been robbed of enough.

Taxonomy. Isn't that when you mix taxes with astronomy? Because that sure seems to be how complicated it can get. For folks like me who are still unfamiliar with 90% of the tax code, it's more astrology than astronomy.

And then there are people who know it inside and out, or think they do. I have to share this article about the twenty most ludicrous tax deductions. For example:

4 – Fake Boobs – YES
This one is infamous. A stripper going by the name of CHESTY LOVE used her hard-earned savings to boost the size of her boobs, to the eye-popping size of 56-FF (do they even make bras in that size?) She figured it would get her more tips. And the write-off was allowed, being considered a stage prop essential to her act. Ha!

I'm trying to treat my taxes like a video game. It's a virtual conveyor belt of hazards, like Donkey Kong's skeletal skyscraper of death, so cleverly rendered on glass at UC Santa Cruz. Oh how I wish it were more like the visceral goodness that was God of War 2. With every W-2 there would be pools of blood and eviscerated public officials, and I upon struggling with heaps of 1099-DIVs and 1099-INTs, I would burst into Rage of the Titans and annihilate my financial details, my sharpened Gainskeeper in hand.

Alas, taxes remain mundane. That's one video game idea I hope never comes to fruition… navigating THE MAZE OF TAX ARCANE 2: UNCLE SAM'S REVENGE!!!

Yes, I love tax week.

On my crusade to show a little more effort in reviewing my investments, I decided to do some analysis premptively, state my objectives, and commit myself in writing to my decisions. A golden opportunity came my way, as I recently decided to build a portfolio I didn't have to watch every day like my daily trading one. I trade for fun, not just profit.

Principal: $50,000
Timeline: 5 years
Risk Tolerance: Medium Low
Strategy: Mainly catching long-term cyclical uptrends, with diversified padding.

Here's my plan… …

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I want to warn people who have otherwise the best of intentions. This week's supreme court ruling, while absolutely the right decision, underscores a disturbing logic deep in the ranks of knee-jerk environmentalists.

Let's throw out all you know and hate about this administration for a second. To place the lion's share of blame for global warming on their ~6 years of reign over the subject, taking into consideration the two centuries of damage from industrial overrevolution, and the relative youth of climate studies (read: last 30 years), it's hardly fair to make it seem like Bush is singlehandedly destroying the environment.

One must not forget that the abundance of modern energy, material, and functional conveniences, allows us the luxurious living standard where we can affluently worry about global warming. One must not believe the US has done nothing, or that our disproportionate contribution of greenhouse gases has nothing to do with our disproportionate contribution to global productivity. One must not naively ignore to what heathen unregulated countries that companies will move their pollution to when we crack down too fast and too hard.

I am not afraid to admit that I protest the Kyoto protocols alongside our behated preside-dent. It asks nothing of economies like China and India, who are on the fast track to out-polluting us. The gullible say that we only need to show leadership and dominoes will fall green. They assume we've shown no leadership, and that countries rising with econo-lust will care.

I recall the fine quotation from the movie Spiderman 2 about choosing between what is right, and what is easy. Polluting used to be easy. Right now, raking in money for a hyped-up cause isn't too hard either. Given the past paranoia over the destruction of the earth by nuclear bombs, overfilling landfills, and other urban myths not remotely true, I think we should hear out Mother Earth on the subject. After all, we are but a minute of her day.

Believe it or not, the first thing I did when I walked in the door was check my stocks, then check for info on the new version of the Opera Wii. I was shocked to find out that, after a week of being in the spotlight of a whirlwind wedding, this blog was also Member of the Week. My reserves of gratitude were tapped again, and I gladly give thanks to this wonderful community! April, I am your love fool!

The joke, however, is on all the wedding couples who avoid April 1st. We had a day with significant cost savings, few competing couples, and a fortune-ripe day according to the chinese lunar calendar. And it was. For the first time in over a decade, all of Xstine’s family, otherwise disassembled by circumstance and affairs, flew in from all corners of their lives to meet, repair, and rebuild their bonds. Their grudges, divorce, resentments, and regrets melted away as we held what was literally a Hollywood wedding to them. We melded their asian cultures into our Americanized version, and it was beautiful and unthinkable.

For my side, I was assaulted in force by the closest friends, dearest relatives, and people I haven’t seen in over a decade. Teachers, principals, even the mayor of Cerritos were on hand to exalt their wholesome sense of extra-family. Over 220 of my parent’s circle came, and I was roasted with a taiwanese rendition of a country line dance by a middle-aged troupe choreographed by my mom, and serenaded by my dad. One must not underestimate the hydroelectric potential of an asian karaoke flood at peak enthusiasm.

I think the details of the night’s atmosphere will be better told when our dedicated photographer, a generous friend of my dad, gives us the extravagant pictures. For now, this poem I recited to Xstine during the banquet will have to do.

Love, in struggle, is defined,
not just in the vines of fate entwined.
We fought,
we taught,
we wove the bond we wrought,
for no one inherits the divine.

No, love is mortally confined
between the tenuous breadth of lines
of life,
of strife,
of fractures drawn by trials
in earth eroded over time.

So, marriage in love is beheld,
not simply a ritual tale to tell.
These vows belie our beliefs
that love defies and dispels.

Love, by trust, is refined,
a lens of ancient sands combined.
Our acts,
our pacts,
our fossils not lost ‘neath the past,
we still see silently in our minds

that love is forgiveness applied,
a daily layer of demands denied.
a force of feelings reforged,
clairvoyant for our heart’s mind’s eye.

But union is not stone nor sand,
not stem nor leaf grown in light bent by our own hands.
We strove
to grow
this seed to passioned grove,
and wield the fruit as lovers can.

The fruit of love is transitive,
a word that takes what persons give,
and shares
and bears
beneath its lush and blossoming care
the love for the soul, infinite and sensitive.