All posts tagged xstine

Photos from Day 1
Photos from Day 2
Photos from Day 3

Our first vacation in a long time, Xstine and I went to New York City for the first time. Ok, actually second for me, but the first time I barely left the hotel. Part of the reason for going there was for the Naughty or Nice press event where I demoed LPSO to all sorts of different media to demonstrate that the tidal wave of casual was coming, but the other part was because Xstine and I just needed to see what all the fuss was about.

And I think I understand now. I may not want to be a New Yorker, but I envy those who had a chance to be. The Manhattan skyline is a massive, complex, unblinking slab of history and industry dropped onto the poor island like a living henge to capitalism and discovery. New York does not need to sleep to have the American Dream because every waking moment there is drowned in that hope that, ironically, was originally born from those who left the city for the endless lands of the New World.

New York is the first real city I’ve been to. Even LA and it’s sprawling sun-drenched hills filled with douchebags and wannabes have nothing on NYC, where Broadway is a nightly ration of magic accessible to everyone, not just those at Universal Studios. There, Times Square is timeless, the subways are escalators, the people are raindrops, the food venues set like parking meters down every street, all in a more genuine multi-cultural mix than anything the pretentious Cali affirmitively-activated immigrants could claim.

New Yorkers are proud. Where in San Francisco you see claims of “NY style pizza!” and “Texas BBQ!” and every other imported mimicry, in New York you’ll never see California mentioned as anything more than “Napa-style sandwich”. There is almost nothing (except BBQ) that New Yorkers don’t do bigger, better, and around every corner at every hour. Once in a while you’ll see a kindly nod to Chicago and it’s pizza too, but otherwise it’s a powerfully oblivious place. There is a lack of want there that you can’t get enough of.

One thing I came back with a newfound appreciation of was the ungodly grace of a bagel sandwich barely clamped down on a smoky fresh filet of salmon, lettuce, tomatoes, and a pancake of cream cheese… unbelievable! Time to smoke my own salmon to toast a great city!

The last two weeks, Xstine and I made some house-hunting trips. At the moment, I believe that the end of 2008 will be a prime time to buy a house in the Bay Area if you plan on staying at least another 5 years. In many counties, prices have fallen over 25% with supply volume soaring. I'd like to catch a deal before 2009 when non-conforming loan limits drop. This coming winter, a cyclically low season, will be the perfect time to do so.

My God it's a disaster out there. We went out to Brentwood, the edge of flat earth, and found massive tracts of abandoned new construction. It looked like a city that tried to cash in on rising property taxes, but with no facilities to keep anyone there. Nothing but endless residentials. A surburban wasteland.

It's absolutely hilarious to me that angry forum posters on Zillow.com are threatening them with legal action, claiming the site's price estimate algorithm is destroying their property values. Aside from some isolated errors, I'd say their house values are being overestimated, and if they want to sue for "defamation" or whatever, they need to show proof that the site cost them damages. Which means you sell for significantly more than the estimate. Which none of them are going to be able to show because prices continue to plummet.

We decided we like the beautiful Concord/Walnut Creek area, which has had excellent price drops and lies in mostly convenient, comfortable location. A local Fry's Electronics and Rasputin's Music didn't hurt either. With this spring taking such big hits (with the exception of February), I am quite excited that such a great deal has come along in our lifetime. If this sounds predatory, so be it. Americans need to learn to spend only what they can afford.

Finally assembled our pics, after getting submissions from many friends. I tried to make a short photo-essay with my comments on with our wedding photos, split into these albums: REHEARSAL, CEREMONY, and BANQUET.

I had a lot of fun recalling the stories from that day, but their accuracy, filtered thru the heady haze of the day, may leave much to be desired. 😀

Now that this institutional is concluded, life awaits the next milestone. Birth, school, love, job, marriage, children, retirement, and death. These are pillars of the American life, and though you don't need them all for a steady foundation, the more you have the steadier you seem.

When we saw how the wedding had completed, we knew we had grown up. And that, in retrospect, is pluperfection.

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.

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.

Yes! We FINALLY got our hands on a Wii. Xstine had been calling every EBgames and Gamestop every week for the past godknowshowlong when she had nearly given up on it, and handed the torch to me. Calling the service centers for Best Buy, Circuit City, and Fry's, I had them scour the whole of the bay area for any remote shard of salvation. It was futile. I typed "Wii tracker" on a whim, letting Google do my searching. Wal*Mart was the only online vendor with available Wii's and even then, there were only their 7-game mega-bundles.

I decided to call Wal*Mart anyways, even though I had foresworn never to shop their again after buying three shattered Kingdom Hearts in a row from one. A teenager so greasy you could sense it through the phone static answers me.

"'Scuse me, just wanted to know if y'all have any Nintendo Wii consoles." You can tell how jaded I was.

"Yeah, just got a shipment in, they're selling fast."

I screamed at him to hold one for me. I damned his ancestors when he said he couldn't. I tore downstairs into my car, crushed the pedal, nearly side-swiped eight old ladies and a dozen squirrels as I barreled down the freeway. I glared at each car I passed, wary of their intentions on my Wii. MY WII.

Fifteen minutes later, I was on the other side of San Jose. I forgot to wear a belt, but I charged into the store anyways, holding up my pants. Hoochimamas cocked their eyebrows at me. Had they never seen a geek in the wild? Breathless at the software counter, I yelped for a Wii, but the lady there seemed to already know what I wanted. In a cute latina accent, she told me there had been ten in the shipment, and now I was staring at two remaining.

"Do you want any games, sir?"

"I have to pull myself together first. There's time for games later."

As I stood jubliantly at the check-out, like Robert E. Lee at Manassus #2, like Alexander the Great looming over the frayed ends of the Gordian Knot, like Sir Galahad preparing to spank the virgins, a phone rang.

"Hello, Wal*Mart electronics department. Sorry sir, there's only one left. No, we can't hold it for you."

I nearly shouted out "SUCKER!" but I was already dashing out the door. Long story longer, it's all hooked up, and in fact I'm looking at my blog right now on my telly, amazed at how fantastic Opera Wii is. And last nite, Xstine and I watched Robot Chicken on Youtube, on our couch! Brilliant! The packaging, the interface, the feel of the console, it's all so planned, so… Nintendo. Critics of materialism wouldn't get it. There is something very immaterial about the Wii. It's like owning a physical brick made out of accessibility. For the nerdcore in me, it also represents bloodlust and victory, something hitting 70 in WoW hasn't even given me. I'll post more, after I take my medication…

Xstine hit 70 on her rogue, and I'm half a bar away, and we're dying to get into the arena season. Didn't take too long to get there I guess, although thanks to powerleveling, I've missed about half of Outlands. So far, Netherstorm is my favorite area, and I love the impaled dragonflights on the spikes of the Blade Edge mountains. Their art is phenomenal, and I've never seen better leveraged art assets in any game. How they get away with that amount of reuse leaves me boggled. My only quibble with Burning Crusade is that now that Alliance have shamans, shamans are being buffed big time, and now that Horde have loladins, they're getting nerfed.

Coincidence? I think not. Still not seeing many 70 Dranei though, and the few Dranei shammy I've killed were incapable of controlling some form of totem-frostshock diarrhea. You can check out our characters at the new (sloooow) Armory site: me and Xstine.

Another thing to check out is this gameplay footage of Bioshock timed with GDC. I'm very impressed with the AI, the animation quality, and just the overall atmosphere… or should I quip "bathysphere." While the mannequin hand could use some tuning. Why do they even need those conventions? Press to draw and point gun, release to fire. I hate the FPS tradition of putting an awkward looking sidearm hand stiffly into the screen corner. But I digress, enjoy:

In the deft hand of a chessmaster, 2007 was swapped sharply with 2006, a cumulation of the years gambols and decisions, and the two were abreast just a moment before 2007 secured its checkmate, and 2006 was whisked away to join the year-end spoils. For me, time is a game, neither linear nor predictable with its human players, but played for a finite round before we try to wash the board to start anew. Yet players remember. There was a lot to remember this year. And that makes the next game different, even as we knock off dates in the same sequence.

  • For my first dream for the Year of the Pig, I dreamt that I ate my cat, and she was very tasty. Therefore my New Year's Resolution is to NOT eat my cat, and use guilt as an excuse to post cute kitty pictures.
  • Also for the New Year, Xstine's company Emdigo released their Actionscreens on the Verizon network, and you can check out the Marvel deck here. Some of their cards are absolutely lovable, especially the holiday set.
  • Bungie warms my heart by letting our troops beta-test Halo 3 for Xmas. Halo still sucks, but at least it sucks festively. 😉
  • IGF's list of this year's finalistsfor best independent games is here, and it's time to get crackin' at it!
  • I learned how to play Mahjong. Actually I didn't, I learned that the game mechanics of Mahjong, while simplistic, belied a wealth of playing etiquette that for the Chinese culture were as important to the "play" as the rules. While the culture shock led to quite a bit of stubbornness on my part trying to wrap my head around what was essentially a game of manners and custom designed to facilitate social gestures, it did show me why the appeal of Mahjong is so strong to the asian community. Western and Japanese game design is a far cry from being able to capture the casual asian gamer market that I saw.
  • Finally, we begin the new year with 90% of our wedding logistics taken care of, a huge relief for us in return for a hectic week in L.A. I'll be expecting you all to be bringing your hot girlfriends and rich boyfriends. Right? RSVP for two, don't be shy.

So I had my first two days of sit down time with the Nintendo Wii. I stopped by Dan's place Friday nite, and he brought it over to Xstine's little birthday party the nite after.

The verdict?

I'd be kicking myself for not buying one if I wasn't so goddamn sore.

The thing was seriously fun, although I've wrecked eight different muscle groups trying to throw 94mph fastballs and hitting rabbits in the face with a plunger gun. The Wiimote was alot smaller and lighter than I expected, but once you were trying to hit a homer, you forgot about stuff like that. Golf was addicting, boxing was a workout, and somehow only a girl was able to throw the bowling ball straight. Proof that spin comes from the left… brain.

I woke up in the morning paralyzed from the neck down. Yeah, we got THAT into the stupid minigames it had. We spent a good amount of time playing the Rayman Raving Rabbids game, trying to pump a mine car into a roadblock so that it's bunny passenger in the Superman suit would eat a pail-full of dirt 150 yards away. The only weakness with the system is that while we were laughing our lungs dry the whole time, it's probably not as exciting solitaire. For that, I can only wait for Metroid…

It's been a long week for us, and it continues in fashion. Xstine's dad is in town, and we are obliged to keep him and her newly MBA-minted lil sister occupied with the diverse exotic that is the Cali americana. It was quite a challenge to balance their distaste for American prices with their desire for American products, but such contradictory stances are common in the Asian tourist.

In fact, after a night of supping them with fresh caught Half Moon Bay crab, we went late into the nite trying to explain to Xstine's sister the intricacies of Western sarcasm, which for us is a both a style of humor, and also a social tool to introduce potentially socially inappropriate subjects by being literal and rhetorical at the same time. If that sounds confusing, then you must not be American. See? Admittedly that bit of sarcasm comes across poorly on the internet, but it is almost culturally absent from Asia. Her sister's stories of improprieties towards her by us residents often underlined cultural misunderstanding more than actual insult.

I found it funny that while we still could not convince her that the ABC she was dating wasn't necessarily wrong to respond to her comments about Taiwanese girls trying to hook a citizenship through ABCs here with a sarcastic "well what are your intentions then," she hammered in a day's end irony by stating she didn't like the guy anyways, and dated him just to learn English. The Chinese tend to speak very directly about their feelings, or not at all. Rarely do they use jokes as a way to accomodate dissidents. We experienced that once with a Romanian friend as well, whom we didn't know it was inappropriate to rib poke with more risque ribaldry. Perhaps as an ABC myself, I see nothing wrong with what he said, nor find it rude not to want to divulge details about how much I earn, what my parents do, etc. on a girl I may stereotype as golddigful. Unlike FOBs, I won't introduce what my parents do before introducing myself.

How whimsical is other peoples' etiquette!

We'll be busy with Dungeons & Dragons Online and my new remastered Aeon Flux DVD set until the typhoon passes.