Life after moving

The Bay Bridge
The Bay Bridge

So I’ve been working in my new company, ezRez Software, for a few weeks now, and been in San Francisco for roughly a month. How do I feel about things? Well, they say that the grass is always greener on the other side. I do think that there is truth in here. I came to California expecting my life to have a significant upgrade, learn new things, make new friends, enjoy nice weather, etc. I now have to revise my expectations downwards a bit. While working at the new company is exciting, people are friendly, and I have a place close to work, there is a few things that disappointed me about moving here.

  • Weather is colder than I thought. Living in SF can get cold in the summer. While Toronto is currently experiencing a heat wave of ~100 degrees, SF is a cooler 50s-60s. This takes some getting used to. So much for hot California weather… maybe I was thinking of SoCal. 
  • Immigration here is difficult. The US makes it as hard for people to immigrate here as possible. Canadian credit doesn’t matter here, so I had to begin a new. Everything expensive requires your SSN and a security deposit if you don’t have credit. Also, since I’m on a TN visa, if my employment situation ever changes, I have to leave the country and apply for a new one. I also cannot apply for a green card while on a TN.
  • Cost of Living. SF must be the most expensive city in the US to live in. I thought Toronto was expensive, but California has the same tax rates, and some foods like cheese, are even more expensive. I don’t get it… aren’t a lot of foods produced in California? Why does it cost more here than in Canada? Rent prices in the city range from $1000 to $3000+ for a studio room. Yeah, there goes a significant portion of my paycheck…
  • Loneliness. I never thought about how lonely it would be here. No family and friends here. I always thought I could make new friends, but I miscalculated on how exactly I could do that. It’s always fun to go to new events and meet people, but you can’t exactly ask them to hang out with you after meeting them once. There are only a couple co-workers around my age, and I’m unsure of whether I can just ask them to hang out with me either. And being the shy guy I am, I’ve never considered going to bars or clubs to meet people…
So yeah. The working life… it seems depressing when you think that you’d be working and/or looking for work the rest of your life. Currently, I don’t have any social life due to just moving here, and so my life is just working right now. But I guess that’s what I signed up for when I moved here. Hopefully things will improve as time goes on. 

Duke Nukem Forever Review

Duke Nukem Forever
Duke Nukem Forever

Alright, I usually don’t do video game reviews, but with this one, I felt like I should because this game has been basically torn to shreds by most critics and the general public.
Duke Nukem Forever is a game that has been in development hell for 14 years, it is the sequel to the acclaimed Duke Nukem 3D and upon its release, sites like IGN, Gamespot, 1UP, gave the game scores from 0 to 5.5 out of 10. Which to me is unjustified.

I’ve been playing DOS games since I was a child, and Duke Nukem 1 and 2 were amongst my favorite Apogee games to play. I’ve also played Duke Nukem 3D of course, as well as other FPS’s of the time like Doom, Quake, Rise of the Triad, Shadow Warrior, Blood, Hexen, Heretic, Powerslave, etc. So I’m an old school gamer. And after playing through Duke Nukem Forever, I’d like to address some points that critics made.

  • The game is too short. The game is longer than most FPS’s today, including COD, Halo, Battlefield, Bulletstorm, etc. 
  • The humor is too childish / offensive. It’s Duke Nukem. It’s meant to be offensive and childish. 
  • The load times are too long. This is actually legitimate, but it’s much shorter on the PC version, and it’s not that long as to be unplayable. It’s only because Duke dies so much that makes it annoying.
  • The graphics suck. This isn’t Crysis 2. Still, I didn’t find the graphics to be that bad, besides a bunch of texture pop in, which I can live with.
  • Too linear. Yes, it may not have the exploration of Duke3D, but remember now you don’t have to search for key cards anymore. Also, ALL games are linear to some degree. Anyone played Serious Sam? or Call of Duty?
  • Bad AI. I’m not sure what we are judging AI on here, different kinds of games will have different AI. But I remember this game being pretty challenging so the AI must be doing something right.
  • Duke has a shield and can only carry two weapons. I can see where people are coming from, but Halo had a shield and two weapon limit, and that game got good reviews didn’t it.
  • Platforming / Puzzles / Boss fights / level design / etc too boring and uncreative. Really? In what other game can you drive a miniature RC car, get shrunk and fight shrunken pig cops in an electrified kitchen, microwave a rat, smoke a cigar, eat steroids, play air hockey with someone, play a version of your own game on xbox 360, go inside the cogs of a generator, drive a monster truck over a canyon, and freeze / shrink enemies with a ray gun??
  • There’s no story. It’s Duke Nukem. 
  • Framerate issues. Played the Xbox version and had little to no issues with framerate. They weren’t noticeable to me.
  • Multiplayer sucks. The multiplayer can have some lag issues, but the gameplay itself is old school deathmatch, which I see no reason for complaining about.

So I dunno what’s with other reviewers giving this game a 3/10 or 4/10. Maybe they were expecting too much, they were expecting a game with beautiful graphics, iron sights, “realism”, etc. But as an old school FPS fan, I was satisfied with this game. It’s not perfect, but I think after all the game engine changes, it’s far from unplayable. All the weapons (except the mighty foot) and the enemies from Duke3D are here, which is nice. Overall, I would score this game a 6.5/10 for overall gamers and 7.5/10 for old school gamers like me.

Adventures in China

Well I just got back from my 2 week vacation in China, and it was a great experience for me. My first time back in my home country in 19 years! (I moved here when I was 4).  I went to Beijing, Nanjing, Wuxi, Suzhou, Hangzhou and Shanghai. Each place was amazingly beautiful, and completely different than North America. I’ve never been to a place with so much natural beauty and history before. Cities such Nanjing, Wuxi, Suzhou and Hangzhou will have bridges, canals, rivers, lakes, temples, right in the middle of the city! Something that you won’t find in North America. Of course, China has thousands of years more history than US/Canada, so everywhere you go you will find some historic relic.


Me at Beijing's Great Wall
Me at Beijing's Great Wall (万里长城)

The capital of the PRC, Beijing is a city of 13 million people, built on flat desert. The city is quite big, and there is a lot of mountainous terrain. There is a lot of history, due to it being the capital of the Yuan, Ming and Qing dynasties, as well as the current administration. The Forbidden City with its 8,000+ buildings, Summer Palace, Tiananmen Square, Great Wall of China, Temple of Heaven, and Olympic Stadium (Bird’s nest) are all great icons of Beijing.


Me at Nanjing's Sun Yat-Sen Mausoleum
Me at Nanjing's Sun Yat-Sen Mausoleum (中山陵)

Nanjing (or Nanking), is a city quite unlike Beijing. The capital of the Ming, Republic of China, and currently Jiangsu province, Nanjing is full of rivers, bridges, and lakes. It is a city with immense natural beauty. The nightlife on the streets, Sun Yat-Sen Mausoleum, and Yangtze River bridge was a few of the places I visited. Overall, a very beautiful city that is often overlooked by foreign visitors.



Me at Wuxi's Xihui Garden
Me at Wuxi's Xihui Garden (锡惠公园)

Another beautiful city in Jiangnan, Wuxi is an ancient city split in half by Lake Taihu. It has a great variety of temples, rivers, canals, that make it a great place for sight seeing. I visited the Xihui garden, and Three Kingdoms city, both of which has cultural history spanning over 1,000 years. The city is not as big as Nanjing, but I still highly recommend it if you’re touring China.



Me at one of Suzhou's many temples
Me at one of Suzhou's many temples (苏州庙宇)

Suzhou is a city in China famous for its natural beauty and scenery. There’s many canals, rivers, and temples right in the middle of the city. There’s a saying in Chinese that goes “上有天堂,下有苏杭”, putting Suzhou and Hangzhou equal to Heaven on Earth. Suzhou’s history spans thousands of years, and along with Hangzhou, is not only well known for its scenery, but also for its 美女 (beautiful women). One of the ancient four beauties of China, Xi Shi, was from Suzhou, and there’s a bridge dedicated to her there. I visited many of Suzhou’s temples, all of them breathtaking, as well as its many beautiful gardens, such as the Humble Administrator’s garden. Suzhou’s ancient roads such as Pingjiang road are also a feast for the eyes.



Me at Wuzhen
Me at Wuzhen (乌镇)

Wuzhen is a small water town in Jiangnan, that is often referred to as the ‘Venice of China’. It’s many canals and old houses certainly make it worthy of that title. I went on a boat ride through Wuzhen, and agree that its old bridges and canals make it a great city for romantic sightseeing.



Me at Hangzhou's West Lake
Me at Hangzhou's West Lake (西湖)

Hangzhou is another beautiful city in China famed for its West Lake. The capital of the Song dynasty, and currently Zhejiang province, Hangzhou’s West Lake is famous for being the site of many ancient Chinese writers. Many famous pagodas and bridges have been built, and there’s certain places you can stand to get a famous poetic scene (called West Lake’s 10 Scenic views). It truly is something you will never see in North America. I also visited ‘Song City’ which had a great performance detailing the history of Hangzhou in the Song dynasty, and contains a Buddhist shrine as well.


The Pearl of the Orient
Shanghai's Pearl of the Orient (东方明珠)

Shanghai is the biggest city in China, with over 23 million people, and the most modern and expensive city to live in. I’ve never been to a city quite as big as Shanghai. I thought New York city was big, but Shanghai is three times the size of that, and there’s rows and rows of apartment buildings as far as you can see. Spiral bridges lay on top of one another, gigantic shopping malls, and skyscrapers as tall as in Manhatten is what you can expect to see. Shanghai does not have the history of the other cities I visited, but there’s still a lot to do. I visited Yiyuan garden, City God temple, the Bund, and of course the Pearl of the Orient in Pudong district. Shanghai is a vibrant city, the city that never sleeps, and is probably one of the best places to go shopping (especially Nanjing road)!

Overall, I think China is a great place to go for vacation, or sightseeing. Bring your family, or bring your boyfriend/girlfriend, there’s lots of great natural beauty, and romantic scenery to enjoy. I went alone, but that’s because (as usual) I couldn’t find anyone to go with me. Still though, your money can go far in China. Some things are cheaper, some things are more expensive. Generally, food will be cheaper. A good meal costs about $3 USD including drinks, a subway ride costs only $0.30 USD, and China-branded clothing can be much cheaper. On the other hand, foreign brands will always cost more. Living in China can be quite different, especially in Shanghai, where the high cost of living, and high work pressure might put off many American expatriates from working there. Chinese people work very hard. Many get up early in the morning, work until late at night, and probably only get paid a fraction that Americans make. Everything is stricter there, manners and courtesy is important, every worker you see will probably be wearing a uniform, and males are definitely more dominant over there. That said, there are still alot of foreigners there, and Chinese people in general are very friendly. I will definitely go back in the future, and maybe have some time to visit my hometown (Shenyang) as well!