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?

Toronto trip, new job, new videos

Haven’t updated in a month, so here it is. I traveled back to Toronto and Orillia (my hometown) for the first time since Dec 2011. I finally got to visit my friends and family again, which was really nice as I haven’t met my friends especially for a long time. Here are some pictures, including some of the childhood pictures that I drew back then. I’m shocked at how much time I had back then. I’ll never forget my roots, that I came from a poor family in a small rural town in Canada.

My elementary school, Couchiching Heights, Orillia
My elementary school, Couchiching Heights, Orillia
My high school, ODCVI, Orilia
My high school, ODCVI, Orilia
At my alma mater, the University of Toronto
At my alma mater, the University of Toronto
My adorable cat, who is 10 years old now...
My adorable cat, who is 10 years old now…
I drew all the Gundam mobile suits...
I drew all the Gundam mobile suits…
As well as all the DBZ characters...
As well as all the DBZ characters…
As well as all the weapons from every DOS game...
As well as all the weapons from every DOS game…
As well as all the Gundam Wing pilots...
As well as all the Gundam Wing pilots…
As well as all the D&D Dark Sun monsters...
As well as all the D&D Dark Sun monsters…
As well as various superheroes..
As well as various superheroes..
As well as 10 versions of Mew...
As well as 10 versions of Mew…
As well as all the characters from Metal Warriors and One Must Fall 2097
As well as all the characters from Metal Warriors and One Must Fall 2097
As well as all the Digimon..
As well as all the Digimon..
As well as various other monsters..
As well as various other monsters..
As well as all 150 Pokemon...
As well as all 150 Pokemon…
As well as all the DBZ characters AND their transformations
As well as all the DBZ characters AND their transformations

…Yeah I had a lot of time back then as a child. I even created games back then based on this obscure DOS game called Sir Bombalot but basically I would create “pieces” for the game that had different abilities like mimic moves, freeze other pieces, mind control other pieces, move in different patterns, magnetize pieces, explode, etc. It was cool, unfortunately I couldn’t find those pieces that I made as a kid, but I remember doing that.

Future plans

“Only after we lose everything are we free to do anything” – Fight Club

Going to Korea really opened my eyes and changed my life. So much so that I realized that the so called “American Dream” is built all on a life of consumerism. Having a big house, a fancy car, the best gadgets and making a lot of money, that is what is advertised to people. I realized that this is all nonsense. Life is all about experiences, not about making money and consuming. To that end, I’ve been trying hard not to spend any more money on what is not necessary, be a true conservative and rein in my spending. Get rid of all the things that I don’t need. Stay tuned… but my future plans involve renting out my place and moving somewhere else to start over. I need to get away from here. It’s ironic saying this as my dream for many years was to come to California, but now my life has turned a different direction. The next step in my life. It’s better I realize this sooner rather than later.

In other news…
I got a job at Walmart. Yes, the Walmart e-commerce division which manages the website. Having this job means I can finally say that I’ve worked at every level of industry (as my former PEY director once said): Government, Startup, Small company, and Corporation. Getting into a big corporation finally is ironic because I’ve been wanting to find success at this level since my PEY days when my friends all got into IBM and I got rejected. Take that! 5 years later and I’m finally there working for the Fortune #1 company. Can’t get bigger than that. Plus, I get to work remotely, which is awesome for my future plans [hint, hint].

I’ve also got a Korean tutor now. That’s not to say going to Sejong Institute was a bad thing, it is a good place for Korean beginners, but I’m at the point where I really need to work on my conversation skills, listening and speaking, and a personal tutor is the best for that. I feel like it really makes a difference as now I can understand what words Koreans are speaking at a fast pace now, just need to work on the vocabulary part so I can translate it in my head.

I’ve been playing some pretty good Japanese fighting games recently. No not Dead or Alive or Tekken, but ones that focus more on story than fighting. Both BlazBlue Chrono Phantasma and Persona 4 Ultimax are pretty amazing games, both capable fighters but with pretty good stories underneath. They are 2 of the few games that I actually beat. They might be my favorite storyline games since Yakuza 4‘s amazingly twisted storyline and Catherine‘s morally twisted storyline.
I also played Xblaze Code Embryo, my first graphic novel, and it was pretty fun but frustrating when you don’t know why you got a bad ending.

Xblaze Code Embryo, A visual novel
Xblaze Code Embryo, A visual novel

…and I’ve finally switched to Android!! I’ve only used Apple iPhones for 2 reasons: 1) because they are small and compact and 2) because it has a good camera, and now that Apple has switched to larger phones just like Android devices and the cameras for Android devices have gotten better, I’ve finally made the switch.

Sony Xperia Z3C
Sony Xperia Z3C

Yup, I’ve decided NOT to support my beloved Korean companies Samsung and LG this time in favor of the Sony Xperia Z3C because: 1) its got the same footprint as my iPhone5S, 2) 20.7MP camera, 3) waterproof and dustproof, 4) HD audio decoding, 5) microSD slot, 6) 2 day battery life, 7) PS4 remote play
I mean need I say more? This is hands down the best compact Android phone out there right now, better than the Galaxy, LG, HTC One, Huawei, Xiaomi, Lenovo, ZTE, Archos, what have you.
Sony needs to advertise this more. 2+ days of battery life!

Videos
As always, I try to be productive all the time to record videos, and I’ve retired my faithful Canon HFM40 that I’ve been using for over 3 years for outdoor recording and music video recording in favor of my iPhone 5S for outdoor recording and the Sony Music Video Recorder for music video recording. Here’s some gadget reviews and music videos I’ve recorded.

Yakuza / Sleeping Dogs Review

A year ago, I posted this article, which talks about the lack of Asian representation in todays media. In there, I talked how cool it would be to have an Asian style GTA, like Grand Theft Auto: Shanghai. While GTA V is NOT going to be set in Asia (It’s going to be LA, yet again, bah), I did find two other open world games set in Asia that follow GTA’s style: Yakuza 4 and Sleeping Dogs.

Yakuza 4
Yakuza 4

Yakuza 4 is a Japanese video game that follows four protagonists as they unravel a mystery involving the Tokyo Police and Yakuza. The game follows an open world setting in Tokyo, with a unique combat system.
The best thing about this game is the story. Incredible. You get to play as four completely different people (a loan shark, a former yakuza chairman, a police cop and an escaped convict) and each of their stories revolve around this mysterious woman and entwine together at the end, revealing many betrayals and conspiracies. It’s better than the majority of the movies out there.
The gameplay is also quite good. Every character has a different combat system. There are many different activities to do, some unique to the Asian setting. Massage parlors, Hostess Clubs, Mahjong, Blackjack, Pachinko, Arcades, Bowling, Karaoke, are many things that make the game more Japanese, and more interesting. Overall, a pretty cool game. I beat this game, and that says alot because I often get too uninterested in games to beat them.

Sleeping Dogs
Sleeping Dogs

Sleeping Dogs is the Chinese version of GTA I’ve been asking for. Set in Hong Kong, the protagonist is a Chinese-American (from San Francisco!) undercover cop infiltrating the Triads and knows Kung Fu. This game does everything GTA does, and better. Great combat system, great driving system, great storyline, parkour style movements, and lots of cool activities like cock-fighting, kung fu training and karaoke. Its like GTA meets Assassins Creed meets Uncharted meets Just Cause 2. I haven’t beat it yet, but so far it looks like what I’ve been asking for.

Props to Sega and Square Enix for making these great games with Asian protagonists!!