November 27, 2017, 1:01pm
Lutetia and I spent this Thanksgiving, like last year, with her sister in New York City. It's no secret that I love New York so when I found myself on my own this Black Friday while Lutetia was out with her sister, I embarked on a mission to walk from our AirBnB in Bed-Stuy (the Brooklyn borough notoriously home to Jay-Z and Biggie Smalls) to Manhattan, and beyond.
In total, I walked 29 miles from 197 Hull St, Brooklyn to 125th Station, Harlem, then took the A-train 29 stops back to where I started.
I started the day by sleeping in, watching online GDC lectures and pushing some code for the day. I left my Air BnB around 11:30am.
I wanted to visit Prospect Park, so I started down Fulton St.
Tom Brady knows that hydration is the key to success and this Brady does too. A side-effect of this is that many of my adventures involve searching for a restroom. I found myself on such an adventure very early in my journey. It proved more difficult than I imagined, as there were not many public restrooms in Brooklyn. This park had some but they were sadly chained shut.
I've had a life-long infatuation with pizza so Brooklyn's abundance of cheap, delicous pizzerias was amazing. I hadn't eaten yet so when I passed this $1 slice joint on Nostrand Ave. I had to check it out.
This wasn't my favorite Brooklyn slice (that honor goes to the $2 slice at Kennedy Pizza and Chicken further up Nostrand Ave.) but it instantly triggered memories of elementary school cafeteria pizza. To be clear, the pizza tasted cheap but that's not a bad thing: the childhood flashbacks were worth the price many times over.
I still hadn't found a restroom and the situation was gaining urgency. I came across the Brooklyn Museum of Art but ignored it in search of better accessibility.
I passed a couple of cafes but none of them seemed to have restrooms. Also, I spent my last dollar on that delicious slice of pizza.
Fortunately, I discovered, there are Chase banks and ATMs EVERYWHERE in New York.
Ultimately, my bladder found salvation at the Brooklyn Library, although the bathroom wasn't easy to find.
Walking down Fulton St., I felt a little self conscious taking pictures on my phone. There were lots of people walking around who would openly stare with an expression like, "Why's this jerk taking pictures of that sign?" With my bladder relieved, I found a couple of fun art books to flip through while I charged my phone for a bit. I also took a selfie, just because.
After the library, I took a stroll through Prospect Park.
I found a nice spot to sit and finish this book from the Playdom game designers book club which I've carried between four different apartments and across 12 states before finally cracking it open on this trip. WOW, this book is amazing! Very relevant to my current work.
Autumn in New York is pretty magical.
I still hadn't eaten a proper meal and was looking forward to some chicken over rice from a Manhattan Halal cart so I started walking again.
First, I had to refill my wallet.
I passed by Barclays Center just as the Brooklyn Nets were wrapping up their game against the Portland Trailblazers.
I'd been following the game on my phone for the past hour and was excited that it was so close. For those who don't know, the Nets are known for their famous owners: most notably Russian billionaire, Mikhail Prokhorov, and Brooklyn hustler, Jay-Z. They are also famous for short-sighted trades for washed up players like old Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Timofey Mozgov for draft picks that became young superstars like Jaylen Brown, Kyle Kuzma, and Markelle Fultz (whom the Celtics turned into Jayson Tatum and Kyrie Irving). The Nets have been over-achieving this season and were competitive with the hot Blazers until the final seconds, when they choked away their lead. I sat outside and watched the sad New Yorkers stream out of the stadium, then bought a Nets beanie for $5 from a dude outside.
Many believe that the the Bay has overtaken NYC as the wealthiest American city and that LA has claimed the food, art and culture crown. I don't know about all that, but I do know that this street art stopped me dead in my tracks and I can't remember the last time that happened. I'm uploading this one at full-res: it's worth your data.
I've eaten a lot of West-Coast pizza in my life and concede that NYC slices are in a class of their own. I've given a lot of thought to what makes them so exceptional since my inagural NYC trip last year. As a kid in LA, I experienced pizza in four ways:
In college, I'd pick up an occasional late-night slice at Blondie's or Fat Slice but by then, my go-to was La Burrita. These slices were always kept warm under a heat lamp and served directly to you on a plate. Also notable is The Cheeseboard Collective, which served local, organic vegetarian pizzas that were quite delicious, but always had a long line and is only open during the day.
In New York, each slice is moved from the display to an oven and heated to perfection while you wait. This result is a crisp, toasted dough (none of the sogginess characteristic of heat lamp slices) with a beautifully thick layer of melted cheese on top. Once handed your pizza, you turn and walk out the door and you're in bustling, vibrant NYC. Strutting down the street with a fresh Brooklyn slice is a wonderful experience and the inescapable reason NYC will remain the king of pizza for the forseeable future.
I've crossed the Brooklyn Bridge twice before so I decided to walk the Manhattan Bridge this time.
Unlike its westward neighbor with a clear view of Lady Liberty and a glut of tourists, the Manhattan Bridge was much more utilitarian, with chain links and non-descript buildings on one side and girders, trains and traffic on the other. Grimy.
After a few minutes, there was a gap in the buildings and I caught a glimpse of a highway. Being from LA, I've seen plenty of highways and I was not impressed.
As an aside which will soon become clear, in Japanese garden landscape design, there is a concept called miegakure, or hide-and-reveal. Here is a description from japanesegardening.org.
Miegakure refers to this aesthetic when it is applied to landscape design. Vistas are artfully arranged so that they may not be seen in their entirety from a single vantage point, but constantly shift as the viewer progresses along designated routes or paths. Since the vistas move in and out of view as the visitor progresses along a route, the term is often translated as “hidden and revealed”. The philosophy behind such an aesthetic concept is strongly allied to the Buddhist belief in the illusory or transitory nature of the physical world, and, in particular, to the Zen notion of the emptiness or nothingness of the universe as experienced directly and non-verbally (mu). Aesthetically, it relies on a manipulation of space and perspective. As Tadahiko Higuchi puts it, miegakure “relies heavily on the principle of overlapping perspective and involves making only a part of an object visible, rather than exposing the whole. The purpose is to make the viewer imagine the invisible part and thus create not only an illusion of depth but also the impression that there are hidden beauties beyond. Miegakure is, in short, a means of imparting a sense of vastness in a small space.”
The "hide" is accomplished in a variety of ways, including leading the guest down challenging terrain (like a rock path through a stream) that draws their attention down toward their feet, then coinciding the terminal moment of relief and conquest with an upward gaze that reveals the most beautiful view of the garden. Why do I mention this? Well...
This view took my breath away.
I mean, are you kidding me??
Soon, I stepped off the bridge into the heart of Chinatown. What a contrast.
I was a little hungry so I picked up a pork bun and rice ball from this bakery.
I then walked a few doors down to a fancy dessert shop. Despite being known for their handcrafted ice cream, I only ordered a black coffee.
This was a fantastic pork bun and only $1!
This rice ball was tasty but for the price, I'd rather have a slice of pizza.
I'd walked along West Manhattan already so I turned East, knowing that I'd miss sunset over the Hudson. I came across the Williamsburg Bridge and knew I wanted to be on it. Unfortunately, I was already by the water and had to backtrack half a mile to the bridge entrance.
Finally, made it!
This bridge was pretty ugly and the nice views were all obscured by fences. Hardly any tourists.
The ground was covered by interesting graffiti.
Despite being on the wrong side of the fence and the city, sunset over the Manhattan skyline was still beautiful.
The pink girders were a nice complement to the soft, warm sunset colors.
I love the layers of paint on this sign.
I was disappointed that all my pictures contained garish fence links in the foreground but I realized that they were integral layers to the city view.
Earlier in the week, the sky was pouring rain but the sky was crystal clear this entire day.
I didn't cross all the way to Williamsburg but the East River was quite nice.
It's not clear from this picture, but I was struck by the multiple moving layers as I walked. The fence, girders, trains, cars, lights, pedestrians and skyline were at different speeds and different distances and created a nice parallax effect. Maybe I should have taken a video.
Sunset behind the Manhattan Bridge from Williamsburg Bridge.
I turned around and headed back to ground-level Manhattan and continued to walk along the East River.
I've always liked walking/running by the water.
I was getting a little tired so I found a quiet spot alone to rest my feet. Between the beautiful autumn weather, I was surprised more people weren't out in the park.
Soon I realized I wasn't alone -- As the sun went down, the rats came out. Still, they didn't bother me so I didn't bother them.
This stretch of road was pretty unexciting so I started taking selfies as I walked.
Lots of cars, joggers and bikers on this road.
My urban style can best be described as Hobo Ninja.
Picking up a comfortable pair of walking shoes was a life-changing purchase and so was this backpack. On this hike, I carried my laptop, a book, a notebook, a light jacket, hat, gloves, scarf, phone charger and glassses for the entire 29 mile NYC hike and my back was fine. A good backpack is well-worth the investment.
Pretty nice, but I was starting to get hungry again.
As expensive as NYC can be, I'm amazed by how much great food you can get for cheap. This burger and beer at The Globe was only $12 and was delicious.
I found a little private nook where I had a TV to myself and could stretch out my feet. The usual problem with nooks like this is that the wait staff can never see you. I was impressed by The Globe's use of mirrors, as they gave the bar a direct view of my table and they would swing by as soon as my glass was near empty.
I utilized the mirrors for a quick self-portrait.
Then I suited back up...
...faded into the shadows...
...and was back on the street.
I wanted to walk through Central Park and head back around midnight so I set off with Columbia University as my destination.
Walking up Madison Ave. on Black Friday was quite different from Fulton St. in Bed-Stuy. I was the same person, but I went from being a harmless street oddity to a threatening weirdo that the obscenely rich pedestrians would eye nervously as I walked past. In both cases, my trick was to maintain a fast walking pace so I'd be gone before anyone was inclined to give me more than a passing thought.
I was close to Rockefeller Center so I swung by to check it out. It was a madhouse!
I really like walking through large crowds, contorting my body and slipping through seams without breaking pace. Here's a fun chest-level view of what that looks like.
In case you're curious about the hottest style in NYC, it's poofy fluffs on Uggs.
Finally made it to Central Park!
I saw signs saying the park was closed after 10pm but there were some people walking around and the paths were all lit. I was a little nervous that it would be dangerous at night, like say Golden Gate Park or People's Park, but there were no vagrants (aside from a few rats) and I felt completely safe.
While walking through the park, I stumbled across the Met.
Lutetia once told me she likes that I'm an artist but is sometimes disappointed by what kind of artist I am. What she meant is that she likes to go inside museums during the day while I'd rather creep around and take pictures outside late at night. Hey, relationships are hard.
If I die without a sculpted bust of my head somewhere prominent, I'll consider it a wasted life.
Even late at night, there were many people jogging and walking dogs around this huge lake in the middle of Central Park. This was my last clear view of the Manhattan nightscape.
Foot fatigue was really starting to set in so I took a quick rest on this bench.
Just me and the rats.
I made my way out of Central Park but ended up in another park.
This one had a lot of stairs and dead ends.
Water makes me happy.
Finally, I found a non-dead-end exit.
Columbia was locked up and guarded so I visited the Hudson River one last time.
On my way to the subway, I passed Grant's Tomb. Maybe it's more impressive during the day.
Outside Columbia was a Halal Truck so I picked up one more meal for the road.
I usually get chicken on rice but thought I'd try the lamb instead this time. The chicken is better.
The 116th St. subway was closed so I walked up to the 125th St. station through Harlem.
Once I made it to the subway, it was a direct 29 stops down the A-line back to Brooklyn.
And so concludes my 29-mile Black Friday NYC walk!
July 08, 2017, 8:32am
June 12, 2017, 12:25am
Exactly one year ago today, Lutetia and I pulled out of Berkeley with all of our belongings packed in the back of a U-Haul truck. In many ways, it was a day like today: the sun was shining, the Warriors had commanding a 3-1 Finals lead over the Cavaliers and everyone was talking about Donald Trump. Underneath the surface though, much has changed.
Late Thursday night, I hopped on a bus for a spontaneous trip to the Bay to watch Game 4 of the NBA Finals. Even though the Warriors lost (I still root for the Warriors despite living in Cleveland) I enjoyed walking around. The Bay Area and I have both changed and grown a lot over the past year but I take comfort in knowing that a lot has stayed the same too.
The weather in Berkeley was unbelievably beautiful. Everyone always talks about the California sunshine but it's the cool Pacific winds that makes it perfect. Even on the hottest days, I could always open the windows to get a cross breeze and it would be fine -- no AC needed. The salt air blowing through the Bay is clean and crisp, unlike the humid, muggy air that travels over Lake Erie to Cleveland to make both me and my electronics overheat in the summer.
May 23, 2017, 4:55pm
Last Saturday night, I arrived back in LA for the summer. It was the culmination of my first year in Cleveland and also the 10th year since graduating from UC Berkeley. In any case, it’s cause for reflection.
I was planning to post this two days ago, but I got sick. It’s the first time I’ve been sick all year and also the most sick I’ve been in many years. It came after my trip to the Bay Area earlier this month, which was also the self-imposed deadline to finish work on my latest game (more on that later). I hit the deadline and enjoyed a great trip, then after returning to Cleveland, promptly fell ill.
I’m finally feeling well enough to be productive again, so here are some reflections of the last year, and 10 years, of my life.
The EECS (Electrical Engineering/Computer Science) department at UC Berkeley was, like many of the other departments at Cal, focused on history and theory over practical skills. The idea was that students could learn practical skills on the job but college was a time to explore the origins and nuance of various fields of study. I remember a professor saying, “UC Berkeley graduates start their careers behind everyone else, but after 10 years jump ahead to the front.” I can attest to feeling behind for the first 10 years of my career but now that I’ve reached the 10 year mark I wonder what, if anything, am I at the front of?
This is perhaps difficult for me to determine because I am still in the midst of it. In 10 more years, maybe I will be able to look back say with certainty, “At age 31, although I didn’t realize it at the time, I was breaking new ground with my ideas.” That’s my goal, anyway. The most important lesson I’ve learned in this first decade of my career is that for every idea, hundreds of hours of work are needed to make it into reality. I have tons of ideas, but to bring them to fruition I either need to be an inspiring, visionary leader or be willing to do the work myself. Perhaps I’m not cut out to be a leader but I’ve found myself to be a willing and capable worker.
Starting in March of last year, I built 35 games in 35 weeks. Some were great and some were terrible. On October 17th, 2016 (my 31st birthday), I posted my 26th weekly game: a block game hybrid between Tetris and Puzzle Fighter. At this time, I was also in the midst of applying for Google so my mind was racing with graph theory and optimized run-time algorithms. It’s interesting to see how this, and deep reflections on the elements and seasons, combined to form this unique game mechanic, which I am incredibly proud of. For week 28, I added some musical elements and knew I had something special on my hands.
After taking a break to do some freelance work (gotta pay those bills), I decided to put the weekly games on hold to build out features for the block game, which is now named Godai. I spent six weeks pushing myself to the limit, writing front end (C#) and backend (Ruby) code, composing music, building art assets, and designing the game’s user experience. Again, I am quite proud of the result and encourage everyone who reads this to give it a try at br80.io.
When people ask me how I like living in Cleveland, I point them to Godai. Moving from California to Ohio was a drastic and difficult change but I am happy with the work I accomplished. Staying productive was difficult but I managed to push code every single day and the results speak for themselves. Much like my UC Berkeley professor predicted, I feel like I’m finally hitting my stride as a coder 10 years in.
April 01, 2017, 1:00am
Today, I beat Shinryu in Final Fantasy 5. As is often the case with these games, I was leveled to the point where he hardly posed a threat.
ExDeath, the final boss, followed shortly after and wasn’t much more difficult.
ExDeath’s final form, NeoExDeath, was supposed to represent the four elements (the story revolves around reviving the power of four elemental crystals) but I really don’t see it.
FF5 is usually praised for its implementation of the Job system, allowing you to customize your characters however you choose. I found all of the characters to be quite bland and forgettable though. There was no one I really cared about or even liked in this story. In FF4, by contrast, all of the characters were very memorable and each character's personality and role in the story were directly related to their job class.
The next game in the series, FF6, would return to fixed job classes only to return to generic battle classes in FF7. FF6 was incredible and FF7 is my favorite game of all time so even though FF5 became a chore to grind through to the unmemorable ending, I enjoyed revisiting the roots of this great franchise. FF6 is next!