Our Christmas Tree

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Growing up, I never had a real Christmas tree. Every December, my parents would drag our plastic tree out of a box in our garage. My brother and I would then erect it in our foyer and meticulously place our frayed decorations on its flimsy branches. It wasn’t glorious, but there was a lot of heart.

This year, Bael and I wanted to get a real tree. No real reason. Just YOLO, and all that. So we drove to a local tree lot, picked out a medium sized tree, threw it into the back seat of my sedan, and headed to Target to get some decorations.

As awesome as it is to have a real tree in our apartment, we are now firmly of the opinion that plastic trees are more practical. Real trees need water. Real trees drop needles. Real trees are heavy as hell to carry up stairs.

The stand we bought at Target ended up being too small. We couldn’t fit the trunk into the hole and had to hack away at it with a Chinese cleaver. If we had an axe on hand, we would have used it instead. But in any case, the cleaver was just as effective.

It took us about 2 hours to decorate the tree. It’s standing proudly in a dark corner of the apartment, filled largely with blue and silver balls. It’s a little wobbly and lopsided. But damn it sure is pretty.

Happy holidays, everyone.

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I Got LASIK

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I look terrible in this picture. There’s tape over my eyes and a set of eye shields underneath the shades. The good news is I got LASIK and fixed my severe myopia and astigmatism.

My eyes were pretty bad. -9.5 in both eyes. I could not see without glasses. I realized how helpless this made me feel when I scratched up my glasses in Cancun and spent the next two weeks with horrible headaches. I knew I had to do something about my eyes sooner than later.

My optometrist in Foster City recommended that I get a consultation at the Pacific Vision Institute. Thankfully, my corneas were thick enough to qualify for LASIK. Many of my friends with thinner corneas had to get the alternate treatment (called PRK) and spent two weeks with burning, itchy eyes. For me, the entire process was quick and painless.

In fact, I don’t know why I was so nervous. The entire process took only about 15 seconds per eye. I was told to look directly at a red dot. Zap! Zap! Before I knew it, I had great vision.

My eyes are still not 20/20. Dr. Lynn told me that it will probably take 3-6 months to achieve ideal vision. But for now, I’m seeing well enough to drive myself to the follow-up visit. Funny story is I still haven’t seen the face of my surgeon, Dr. Faktorovich. My glasses were off when I first met her and the image was a blur. After I got off the operating table, I was told to keep my eyes closed so again missed an opportunity to see her.

I look forward to life without glasses and seeing what Dr. Faktorovich actually looks like. Most people wouldn’t trust their eye health to someone they’ve never met. But personally, I care mostly about results.

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Cancun And Chichen Itza

Bael and I went to Cancun for vacation. We had wanted to travel for a while but either couldn’t decide on a destination or figure out a time that would accommodate both of our schedules. Finally, we settled on Mexico. The entire vacation was planned by Bael. So kudos to her extraordinary logistical prowess.

We stayed at the Hotel Fiesta Americana Condesa, one of those amazing “all-inclusive” resorts where all the drinks are free and there’s no good reason to leave the premises. Aside from some minor hiccups (i.e. our room had a leaky air conditioning unit and a repairman had to come clanking in the middle of the night), it was an amazing trip.

The highlight: Seeing Chichen Itza in the middle of a thunderstorm with rain pouring down on us and lightning strikes in the distance. Definitely happy to check it off my bucket list.

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Here’s a view of the sunset from the pool at the resort.┬áHit the jump for more photos.

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First Day At Zynga

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I started my new job as Product Manager at Zynga today. I had to come to the main office in San Francisco at 7:00 AM this morning for orientation.

Next week, all of the new hires will be put through a rigorous boot camp to learn the fundamentals of spec writing, reporting, and game design. It should be interesting.

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I accepted this job in January of 2013. It wasn’t an easy decision. Zynga, as you know, fell on pretty hard times due to over-reliance on the Facebook platform for its social games. While companies like King and Supercell have dominated on mobile platforms, Zynga has been slow to pivot.

At the time I signed my offer letter, Zynga had just completed a round of layoffs. When the news broke, I seriously considered looking elsewhere. But then, some of my friends who worked at Zynga convinced me that things were actually much rosier than they appeared from the outside looking in. Specifically, the company was doubling-down on big mobile bets and branching out into Midcore games (e.g. casual games with competitive and strategic elements). Most of the layoffs were to close down satellite offices. Additionally, a new CEO from Microsoft was coming in to inject life into the studios and shake things up. I realized that it would be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to join a company that once tasted runaway success, felt that success slip away, and now looked to reinvent itself.

So that’s where I am today. I’m a new grad who’s hungry and eager to learn about mobile platforms, game mechanics, and data-driven design. I realize that a lot of hardcore gamers hate Zynga because they feel it’s cheapening games by turning what are essentially passion projects into money-making Skinner boxes.

As a hardcore gamer, I see things a little differently. Zynga designs games for a completely new audience: moms, grandparents, etc. The company is teaching basic game mechanics to people who know nothing about games. The fact that I can have a conversation about my mom about experience points, levels, and timed challenges without a puzzled look on her face is great.

Hardcore gamers can always fall back on their hardcore games. Casual gamers can be surprised and delighted by their casual games. There’s no conflict here.

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Painting Mansions Of Madness Figurines

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I can’t say that I’m an expert on H.P. Lovecraft or Cthulhu. But when I saw images of Mansions of Madness’ customizable game board at a local Barnes & Noble bookstore, I knew I had to buy it.

Mansions of Madness, or MoM, is a turn-based role-playing game in which players explore a creepy mansion. One player takes on the role of the “keeper,” which is just a fancy way to say “Game Master.” The keeper’s job is to destroy the other players by manipulating the game’s monsters and traps. The other players band together to find clues and solve the game’s mysteries.

With my downtime, I’ve started to paint the game figurines. It’s actually quite therapeutic. I’ve added some photos below the fold.

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