Back to boring everyday living again…

These days trying to save up as much money as I can to help purchase a place in Vancouver hopefully next year.. ideally I want to 1) get my mortgage down to $200k 2) leverage my current SF home to get a home equity loan of at least $310k and 3) save up at least $60k this year in cash.
I want to take advantage of the US dollar strength because $310k + $60k = $370k which equals roughly $500k CAD which is just enough to get a decent 1 bedroom condo in a decent location in Vancouver. Of course, I want to purchase a home back in Canada for several reasons.

One is that the US is not particularly friendly to immigrants and especially so since Trump took office, and I get harassed every time I go across the border, since I am not a green card holder, and the TN visa is not a dual intent visa which means I cannot apply for a green card on that visa. Furthermore, recent changes to the H1B, the only dual intent working visa, have made it more difficult for programmers / software engineers to obtain. This means that my time in the US is likely limited.
Two is that Canada is the place that I want to start a family and retire anyways. I have often said before after all my travels, is that America is the best place for working due to the high salary and low taxes and low cost of goods; China and Europe are the best places to travel due to all the history and natural beauty; Korea is the best place for nightlife and having fun; and Canada is the best place to start a family and actually live, since it has a combination of European and American culture, the tuition fees are lower, the healthcare costs are lower etc. And Vancouver is unique as the warmest city in Canada as well as being on the lovely West Coast, and having lots of Koreans (Long term workers not just students) there doesn’t hurt my future plans either.
Three is I want to finally be able to purchase my own place with my own money. I always felt like my SF home is kind of my parents home, since they helped out with 40% of the cash. I want to finally purchase a place all with my own cash and call it my own.

So I’m trying to save a lot of money, but of course this being myself I do buy some things still… among the things I purchased recently is the Milkman Amp 1 Watt Plus model. This is a Class A Tube Amplifier that was handmade in San Francisco so I thought I might support a local shop here. But don’t I already have a Class A hand-wired tube amp? Yes I do, the Swart Atomic Jr. But this one has more wattage (10W vs 5W), 12″ Alnico Blue speaker (vs the 8″ Ceramic in the Swart), built in attenuator (goes from 0.5W to 10W) and is better for traveling due to the tubes being covered (the Swart has uncovered tubes which makes it risky to travel with it, despite being lighter).

It definitely has more headroom than the Swart does. I’ve also finalized my pedal board! My pedalboard contains 10 pedals. I’ve gone through tens of different pedals in my career, and I’ve finally settled on this configuration (for now): (from first to last in the chain)
BBE Wah -> Boss Waza Tuner -> Dunlop EP101 Preamp -> Wampler Euphoria -> RambleFX Marvel Drive -> Keeley Magnetic Echo -> Xotic SP Compressor -> BBE Sonic Stomp Mini -> Hermida Reverb -> Boss RC3 Looper
Retired my Maxon TBO9 (served me well) and the Keeley Oxblood Germanium (might use as backup to the Euphoria), and had to get the Hermida Reverb due to the Milkman amp not having onboard reverb. It was a compromise I had to make, the bigger Half Pint model had onboard reverb, but it was also 5lbs heavier.

And I want to get rid of my Gretsch White Penguin and Traynor Amps, even though the Gretsch is a great guitar, it has intonation problems, and is still a bit heavy for my tastes. It’s definitely the best looking out of all my guitars though. So ideally I want to keep the custom Partscaster that I built (Fender Telecaster Thinline ’72 deluxe with Filtertron/WRH pickups) as my main jazz/blues guitar, with the Fender Stratocaster doing rock and blues as well, and the Martin OMJM as my acoustic doing mostly pop tunes.

I’m doing a lot of jazz guitar these days. I love it! Playing a lot of Larry Carlton and George Benson these days. And I also love that John Mayer’s new album (Search for Everything) has great funky jazz-type riffs like ‘Moving on and Getting over’ and ‘Still feel like your man’. That man is a genius. Best album for me since Battle Studies (Continuum obviously still everyone’s favorite). Here is my ranking of John Mayer albums btw (from best to worst) as well as my favorite songs from each album.

1. Continuum (blues/pop masterpiece) – Best song: Slow Dancing in a Burning Room
2. Room for Squares (great acoustic pop) – Best song: St. Patrick’s Day
3. Try! (his best guitar album, great blues/rock songs) – Best song: Gravity
4. Battle Studies (more great guitar-pop) – Best song: Friends, Lovers or Nothing
5. The Search for Everything (blends all his previous styles + adds funk/jazz) – Best song: Moving on and getting over
6. Born and Raised (acoustic-folk pop) – Best song: Walt Grace’s Submarine Test 1967
7. Inside Wants Out (like Room for Squares but more raw) – Best song: Victoria
8. Heavier Things (some songs are great, others not so much) – Best song: New Deep
9. Paradise Valley (not many songs I liked from this album) – Best song: Who you love

In other news I’ve also been playing games with my friend, being bored a lot at home these days makes you do that. We still play Far Cry 4 a lot despite it being a 3 year old game just because of how amazing the co-op experience is. I think I have like 30 videos on Youtube of our play sessions together. I even made my own map and published it!

Other games I’ve been playing are the fantastic JRPGs Persona 5 and Yakuza 0. I’ve loved both these series (wayyy more interesting than Final Fantasy XV for me) so that’s no surprise. Also finished Root Letter (it was alright, but the ending was unsatisfying), and both Blazblue Central Fiction (love that series) and Steins Gate 0 (also love that series as well). Also bought Ghost Recon: Wildlands and Mass Effect: Andromeda mainly because both of them have co-op but both of them were letdowns for me. And of course still playing Hearthstone, which just released a new expansion (Journey to UnGoro).

Also looking forward to: Fire Emblem Echoes (3DS).. Akiba’s Beat (Vita).. Agents of Mayhem (PS4).. Quake Champions (PC).. Super Mario Odyssey (Switch)

And that’s the state of my life right now.. everyday work, go home and play games, and save money. Boring existence. When’s my next trip to Korea?

Top 20 Greatest video games of all time

Yay.. another top 20 list!! Here we go.. the topic is Video games. I’m going to list the video games in order of influence, and mention the developer, the first console it was published for (starting with Atari, not gonna count Space War or Pong since those were before consoles), and the first year it was released in.

1. Doom

Doom made FPS games popular
Doom made FPS games popular

Developer: id Software
Console: PC (MS-DOS)
Year: 1993

This game is the most important of all time because it made first person shooters popular. There were FPS games before Doom like Wolf3D and Catacomb Abyss, but this was the most well known one. Without Doom, we wouldn’t have the multi-billion dollar gaming industry of Call of Duty and Halo like we do now, its that simple. I remember my parents wouldn’t let me play this game because it was “violent” at the time. Now seems silly cause its so pixellated.

2. Space Invaders

Space Invaders pioneered shooting games
Space Invaders pioneered shooting games

Developer: Taito Corporation
Console: Atari 2600 (first port)
Year: 1978

Space Invaders has become synonymous with video games because of the pixellated space alien character. It pioneered space shooting games which were popular in the 1980s, and video games in general because without it, the modern video game industry wouldn’t have been born. This is the game that made Atari 2600 popular, and thus making video games a viable industry as a whole.

3. Pac-man

Pac-man is one of the most enduring popular arcade games of all time
Pac-man is one of the most enduring popular arcade games of all time

Developer: Namco
Console: Atari 2600 (first port)
Year: 1980

Pac-man, like Space Invaders, made video games accepted and popular among the masses. It was a brilliantly addictive game that continues to be widely played today. This game and space invaders helped create the video game industry and pave way for more advanced games, both on arcades and on consoles.

4. Tetris

Tetris is one of the most popular games of all time
Tetris is one of the most popular games of all time

Developer: Alexey Pajitnov
Console: Gameboy (most well known)
Year: 1989 (for gameboy)

Tetris is one of the most addictive and popular video games of all time. Designed by one Russian programmer, it has led to numerous versions and remixes, and continues to be widely known and played, much like Pac-man. This was the game that sold Game boy to the masses.

5. Super Mario Bros

Super Mario Bros made platformers popular and revived the video game industry
Super Mario Bros made platformers popular and revived the video game industry

Developer: Nintendo
Console: Nintendo Entertainment System
Year: 1985

Super Mario Bros made platformers popular in the late 80s/early 90s, and revived the video game industry from the crash of 1983. It is one of the most well known and important video games of all time. The success of this game led to the success of games like Sonic, and Super Mario 64, and other platforming games, but this is the original.

6. Grand Theft Auto III

GTA3 made sandbox games popular
GTA3 made sandbox games popular

Developer: Rockstar North
Console: Playstation 2
Year: 2001

Hard to estimate the impact of this game. In 2001, games were mostly linear, requiring you to finish a set of goals in a certain order. When this game came out, people were blown away because of the freedom they had. I had friends who played this game for days on end, because there was essentially no “end” to it. You could just not do the missions and just go about the city. This was and is a landmark title for video games for that kind of influence.

7. Halo: Combat Evolved

Halo changed the FPS genre
Halo changed the FPS genre

Developer: Bungie
Console: Xbox
Year: 2001

This game single-handededly saved Microsoft’s ass, and revitalized the FPS genre to boot. When Halo came out, it popularized the notion of using vehicles in FPS, and using shields instead of health packs, and only carrying two weapons. In comparison to 90s FPS like Doom, Quake, Duke3D, Unreal Tournament, which focused more on how many weapons and powerups you could get. Without Halo, there wouldn’t be Call of Duty or Battlefield or modern FPS’s.

8. Street Fighter II

Street Fighter II popularized fighting games
Street Fighter II popularized fighting games

Developer: Capcom
Console: Super Nintendo Entertainment System
Year: 1992

This game made the fighting genre popular in the 90s, and spawned other games like Killer Instinct, Mortal Kombat, Soul Calibur, etc. Anyone ever heard of Street Fighter I?? No, everyone talks about II, because this is the one that made it to the USA and made it popular. This is the one that had like 20 different versions.

9. World of Warcraft

World of Warcraft is the first popular MMORPG
World of Warcraft is the first popular MMORPG

Developer: Blizzard
Console: PC
Year: 2004

World of Warcraft was the first popular MMORPG. Yes I know there was Everquest and Ultima Online, but WoW made the genre really well known in the public mind. People died over this game. People starved their kids to play this game. Anyways, its immensely influential, and you can see its influence in MMORPGs today like League of Legends and Guild Wars.

10. Legend of Zelda

Legend of Zelda was a landmark adventure game
Legend of Zelda was a landmark adventure game

Developer: Nintendo
Console: Nintendo Entertainment System
Year: 1986

Legend of Zelda was a landmark adventure game for the genre. It established elements popular in the genre including the overhead map, puzzles, role playing, etc. The influence of Zelda can be felt in virtually every adventure and RPG game today.

11. Final Fantasy VII

Final Fantasy VII popularized JRPGs in the west
Final Fantasy VII popularized JRPGs in the west

Developer: Squaresoft
Console: Playstation
Year: 1997

Final Fantasy VII made Japanese RPGs popular in western culture.. before there were a minority of players playing great classics like Dragon Quest and Chrono Trigger but JRPGs really became popular after Final Fantasy made it. Final Fantasy established the traditional JRPG formula, and blended it with great graphics and great storytelling, and spawned a legion of cosplayer fans everywhere. Final Fantasy VI and Chrono Trigger are considered amongst the greatest RPGs of all time, but I think FFVII still wins based on influence.

12. Angry Birds

Angry Birds made mobile games a force to reckon with
Angry Birds made mobile games a force to reckon with

Developer: Rovio
Console: iOS
Year: 2009

Angry Birds is the game that really made mobile games a force to contend with. They were such a runaway hit, and spawned such successful sequels that now iOS and Android can compete with PSP and Nintendo DS in the handheld market. In 2009, no one thought mobile games would be that big. Before Angry Birds, mobile games were essentially the equivalent of flash games and facebook games. But Angry Birds really proved how successful mobile games could be.

13. Starcraft

Starcraft is one of the most influential RTS games of all time
Starcraft is one of the most influential RTS games of all time

Developer: Blizzard
Console: PC
Year: 1998

Starcraft was one of my most beloved games when I was young. I used to make mods and conversions for it, and played the LAN multiplayer all day with my friends. It is one of the most influential RTS games of all time. It is so successful in Korea that they have 24 hour channels broadcasting tournaments there. The races are perfectly balanced. The story is great. The cinematics are awesome. And the multiplayer is very addictive. Even 15 years later, my Korean friends are still playing it.

14. Goldeneye 007

Goldeneye 007 made FPS the multiplayer genre
Goldeneye 007 made FPS the multiplayer genre

Developer: Rare
Console: Nintendo 64
Year: 1997

I’m also going to put Quake in this entry as well, but basically these two games changed FPS’s from Doom-like clones and dungeon shootem ups to a genre with more realistic graphics and awesome multiplayer abilities. I remember playing Goldeneye for hours every day after school at my friends house, and the multiplayer was just awesome. All those cheats, levels and mods were great. A very influential game in the genre.

15. Half Life

Half life gave FPS games more story and depth
Half life gave FPS games more story and depth

Developer: Valve
Console: PC
Year: 1998

Like Goldeneye, Halo, Doom and Quake, Half-life evolved the FPS genre. Where Goldeneye and Quake made FPS’s more realistic, Half-life gave them more depth, making use of scripted dialog to make the game feel more like a cinematic film rather than a typical shoot-em up. Without Half-life, there wouldn’t be Halo, and without Halo there wouldn’t be modern FPS games like Call of Duty.

16. Commander Keen

Commander Keen made smooth scrolling platforming possible on the PC
Commander Keen made smooth scrolling platforming possible on the PC

Developer: id Software
Console: PC (MS-DOS)
Year: 1990

Ahh.. how I loved playing Commander Keen in my childhood. This was the first game to use smooth scrolling platforming on the PC, and it revolutionized platform gaming on the PC. After Commander Keen came out, all these DOS games that were basically platforming clones of it came out as well. Commander Keen itself was based on the smooth platforming of Super Mario, that wasn’t done on PC at the time until John Carmack figured out a way to do it.

17. Sim City

Simcity made simulation games popular
Simcity made simulation games popular

Developer: Maxis
Console: PC (MS-DOS)
Year: 1989

Sim City (and by extension, the Sims), made simulation games a viable genre. Before Simcity, there weren’t any really good simulators out for things like playing God and building your own city, or controlling your own inhabitants. Its legacy can be felt in virtually all Sims games by both Maxis and other companies.

18. Pokemon

Pokemon revolutionized handheld RPGs
Pokemon revolutionized handheld RPGs

Developer: Game Freak
Console: Game Boy
Year: 1998

Boy, was Pokemon a huge fad when it came out. Pokemon cartoons, stuffed animals, trading cards – kind of like how Angry Birds is now. Anyways, it was a huge deal when it hit the US, because the concepts were so unique. Catching monsters to battle?? Trading monsters?? TWO versions of the same game?? It was such a unique idea at the time, and it was executed so well. Millions of children became addicted to the game, and I still don’t mind playing it today.

19. Deus Ex

Deus Ex is considered the  best PC game of all time
Deus Ex is considered the best PC game of all time

Developer: Ion Storm
Console: PC
Year: 2000

Deus Ex is a game of magnificent proportions… released by Ion Storm (the same studio that made the ill-fated Daikatana) in 2000, the game combines FPS, stealth, adventure and RPG genres, and does it seamlessly. For the great blend of elements, gameplay, graphics, storytelling and sheer scope, its often considered the best PC game of all time. Its legacy can be felt in virtually all sci-fi FPS’s since then, including Bioshock and Fallout 3.

20. Wii Sports

Wii Sports made casual and motion gaming popular
Wii Sports made casual and motion gaming popular

Developer: Nintendo
Console: Nintendo Wii
Year: 2006

Wii Sports, along with Guitar Hero, made casual games part of social parties, and made motion/peripheral gaming popular. Without Wii Sports, its arguable whether or not Nintendo would have sold so many Wii consoles, and its influence on casual gaming is pretty vast, having influenced pretty much the design of the PS Move and the Xbox Kinect, and all those motion based games as well.