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Chipmunk on the Way to Seokguram

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Adorable chipmunk on the way from the Seokguram grotto in Gyeongju!

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Game Review: Assassin’s Creed Rogue

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Assassin’s Creed Rogue is the fifth game in the series I ever played, after AC II, AC Brotherhood, AC Revelations, and AC III. Having been away from a game console for more than 2 years, I never got to play the acclaimed Black Flag and the highly anticipated Unity. I have also installed the first AC game in the series in my PC but never got around with keyboard control.

During the Thanksgiving holiday last month, I got this opportunity to borrow a PlayStation 3 console from my cousin. Rejoiced, I immediately ran to a local E-Mart (a Korean equivalent of Wal-Mart)  and purchased the very first Assassin’s Creed game I found in the shelf with a relatively huge amount of 59,800 Won (68.93 Canadian dollar -_-;;) compared to the Canadian price of $29.99. (Yes, electronics are more expensive in this country for a reason not yet known to me…) Anyway, I repeatedly convinced myself that any price was worth for fulfilling my longtime thirst of an AC game. (Really?? -_-;)

So, here it was. It took roughly two weeks for me to complete all the main missions. Far before actually playing the Rogue, I was intrigued by the novel and striking feature of a Templar protagonist, in opposite of all his Assassin predecessors. Yet, I was baffled to meet Shay Patrick Cormac introduced as an Assassin in the beginning. So I had to be patient to witness his dramatic transition almost in the middle of the game.

*SPOILER ALERT*

Compared to the callous one in the Third (the last AC game I played and the main frame of reference in this post), Shay was a generally likable and complex protagonist. I guess Shay is the most ambivalent protagonist in the AC history, having been both an Assassin and a Templar. I lost most of my faith in the quality of AC’s storytelling since the Revelations, but the plot of Rogue was sufficiently engaging with the sudden turn of the sides and the ensuing process of butchering Shay’s old colleagues, which was more heartbreaking than Connor butchering his daddy.

Like many previous titles, Rogue also features several plot points that just don’t make sense: the Morrigan appearing out of nowhere after Shay escapes Davenport, seeing a secret gathering of the Assassins Shay did not personally witness  (we’re reading Shay’s memories when we play Rogue…), Shay not killing Achilles in the end (Because Achilles appears in the Third for Christ’s Sake!) and so on.  Since the Revelations, I realized the story is no longer a  primary concern in the AC games, solely for the interest of gameplay. So it was fine with me. (sarcasm)

In terms of gameplay, most was fun except the ship upgrade part… I don’t remember the Third had this feature but I do remember it wasn’t this baffling. Collecting metals was the hardest part in this game… The naval battle with Adéwalé was memorably challenging. I put all the collectibles and side missions aside to come back as soon as completing all main missions, only to find there wasn’t a lot of side missions as significant as the Homestead missions or Assassin’s Tombs in the previous games.  So for the first time since AC II, I’m navigating every corner of the map to obtain all collectibles.

I’m planning to entertain my newly installed PS3 with another AC game, most likely Black Flag. Yes I know I’m far behind, since the new game of the series, AC Syndicate, is to be released today. I don’t know when I shall be holding the new-gen console… 😦

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Celebrating the nationwide legalization of same-sex marriage in the United States

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Last week was a historically triumphant moment for one of the most discriminated minority groups in the world. After decades of heated debates nationwide, the Supreme Court of the United Sates finally guaranteed a right to same-sex marriage. Watching each of my friends rainbow-fying their FB profile pictures, I felt like joining the celebrating mood, though the only thing I added to my profile picture was a Hello Kitty doll on my bed. I sincerely congratulated the gay rights activists in the U.S. for their long-sought victory, but I wasn’t ready to defend their rights against an angry friend of mine who ranted on Facebook against the historic Supreme Court decision.

She is a devout member of my Catholic parish. I’ve always admired her deep faith and her amazing sweetness, but I never got a glimpse on her conservative stance on a controversial issue like this until now. She was so convicted of the essential “sin” of homosexuality, for it only concerns the momentary and carnal pleasure that never sees its fruit (i.e. babies). Though she made predictable comments about respecting minorities but her speech was overflowing with disgust and rage against the “love” of gay and lesbian people, showing how devoted she was in God’s way. I was confused: what can I say to her? How can I articulate my empathy for LGBT people who must have been subjected to discrimination and injustice for so long? How can I defend their rights against people who are so sure of the “sinfulness” of their unions? After all, how can I challenge her point that homosexuality is essentially wrong?

There are certain things that I consider ‘wrong’ or ‘unethical.’ I’m against prostitution, divorce, adultery and casual sex. I’m able to say this because all of these concern my personal choice: I’m able to say I’m against prostitution, for I can choose not to pay or be paid for sex. I’m able to say I’m against divorce because I can choose not to divorce from my future spouse. I’m able to say I’m against adultery because I can choose not to have sex with someone other than my spouse or someone else’s spouse. I’m able to say I’m against casual sex because I can choose not to have sex casually with someone I do not love or want to have children with. But on what grounds shall I say I’m against or for homosexuality or same-sex marriage? I cannot choose to love or marry someone of same sex. I only understand those LGBT people as the ones who have the same feelings, intellect and desires as myself. I only wish them happiness in every possible way and I want them to enjoy all the rights that I enjoy, too.  I don’t think I’m in a position of judging, criticizing or sympathizing with them, only because they are different from myself.

It really doesn’t matter whether I am for or against homosexuality, or agree or disagree with same-sex marriage. It’s about justice and equality that must be applied for all people, regardless of age, gender, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation and so many things that define a self-identity. I also consider myself as a God’s child but I also believe in the boundless compassion and progress of humankind as well.

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Best moments in 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics

As far as I can remember, the Olympic Games occurring every four years always fascinated me, largely due to its quintessentially global nature. It was just magical to see the athletes from all around the world competing equally and fairly, completely free from any political, ethnic, and geographical differences. However, having little interests in sports, I was not that keen to watch over the races and matches myself, except for those of a few major athletes who have been popularized by media. (Yuna Kim for South Korea, for example) All I used to do to enjoy the Olympics was merely searching for the medal rankings on the Internet.
But my feelings for this Sochi Winter Olympic Games was different. I was more than eager to keep track of the daily broadcasting schedules and staying up all night to watch the games to cheer for the national team. Maybe it was because I got back in my native land in thirteen years,
or because I had the time and means to do so. No matter what, the global games in such scale can be a great diversion from routine.
The last thing I cared about was the political concerns surrounding the Olympics, about the western efforts to discredit the Russian host of this Olympics. No matter what they say, this will be the first Winter Olympics I thoroughly enjoyed.

Here are several best moments I don’t want to forget.

1. Best Player – Victor An
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The personal history of the likely MVP of this Olympics is pretty well-known: born, raised and trained in South Korea, he represented his native country in 2006 Turin Olympics and won three gold medals but was later mysteriously excluded from the national team for 2010 Vancouver Olympics. The power struggles within the national sports associations are notorious in South Korea, so the short-track genius has chosen to go and settle another place for which he could compete freely. Angry over the corrupted officials who clearly mistreated an excellent athlete, the South Korean public compassionately supported An’s decision to be naturalized and represent Russia. With no ace to replace An, the South Korean male competitors flunked this Olympics, bringing no medal after a number of crashes and penalties. But the remarkable achievement of An (3 gold medals from 1,000 m, 500 m and 5,o00 m relay and one bronze from 1,500 m short track race) kept my eyes on the male short-track games. His emotional triumph after winning 1,000 m race brought tears to my eyes.

2. Most memorable race- Sven Kramer, Speed Skating 5,000 m
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I first laid my eyes on the speed skating races for the depending champion, Lee Seung Hoon, who this time was surpassed by the Dutch who took 23 medals from this category. The media labelled the male 5,000 m speed skating race as Kramer vs. Lee from which I learned the name of this unrivaled Dutch hero. From his race, I learned the joy of watching long-distance speed skating. It was stunning to see his remarkable race in which he magically reduced his lap time (32 secs -> 29 secs) towards the end, shortening the record by eight seconds.

3. Most controversial medal – Gold for Sotnikova, Women’s Figure Skating
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Yuna Kim’s successful defense of her championship was largely anticipated across the globe. I stayed up til four in the morning to watch her Free Program and hear her score of 144.19, five points short of the Russian Sotnikova’s 149.95 who snatched the gold. Well, the controversy around Russia’s home buff has been publicized from the beginning of the Games, so this result did not surprise me a lot. But it was clearly not okay with the rest of the world. There are evidence that Sotnikova’s skills do not surpass those of Yuna, and people are harshly criticizing the home advantage Sotnikova must have enjoyed. This case just proves how unpredictable the Olympics are compared to other international games. I know it is enraging sometimes, but this randomness is what makes the Olympics fun.

4. Most tearful moment – Asada Mao after Women’s Figure Skating, Free Program
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Asada Mao has been a longtime rival to the former champion, Kim Yuna, since their junior years. After she settled for Silver after Yuna in 2010 Vancouver, the media seemed no longer interested in their rivalry. Even so, Asada remained as the beloved skater in her native country, Japan, who widely anticipated her victory this time. However, Asada disappointed her supporters by continually crashing while executing her triple axel jumps in early in the Games. As if trying to make up the disappeared hope of getting on the podium after being ranked in the shocking sixteenth place in the Short Program, she masterfully cleaned her Free Program and burst into tears. Right at that moment, she was nothing but a soft-minded girl who must have suffered a lot by her steady decline from the top of the world.

5. Glad to learn the fun of – Curling, Team Pursuit Speed Skating
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I used to glimpse at the Curling games in Canadian TV but never cared to watch the full game until now, largely due to its complicated strategic gameplay. This year, the female South Korean team made their entry to the Olympics for the first time, but sadly missed the ticket semi-final by 3 wins and 6 losses in the Round Robin. But it was sufficient to drive the whole nation into the fun of Curling.
I discovered another joy in watching a formerly unfamiliar game called the Speed Skating Team Pursuits, a vigorous, thrilling race by two teams running their hearts out to take over the end of the other team from the other ends of the track. The fun of it is that you can never guess the winner until the end because they always reverse the leading team. In the third-place match, Poland surpassed Canada by two seconds in the end after racing behind the exact amount of time in the first six laps. A same thing also happened in the semi-final match between South Korea and Canada. It was another game that proved the Dutch supremacy in Speed Skating. I hope they would get pretty tired at Pyeongchang, so other nations may have some more chances. 😉

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My Prayer

Dear God,

Thank you for blessing me with the most loving and supportive family in the world.

Thank you for giving me the fair skin, good physique and pleasant smile.

Thank you for inspiring me with the genuine sense of morality, sincerity and humility that has built the very essence of my personality.

Thank you for sending me the most caring, honest and encouraging friends one can ever meet.

Thank you for instilling me with the genuine appreciation of the greatest arts, music, and literature that have made the world such a beautiful place.

Lord, I am yet too blind and selfish to properly perceive and appreciate and  so many other blessings You have bestowed upon me. Even though I audaciously bask in Your grace, I am not yet feeling I am living my life the fullest in You. I am yet too immature, weak, self-indulgent and fearful to be the person You will be happy to see in me.

All of my wishes are to please You. One day, I dream of living the life that will make You happy and proud. Please guide me through the way by helping me vanquish this phantom of self-doubt and self-torment that have haunted me all throughout my life. Please allow me more poise and confidence that would enable me clearly communicate and articulate my thoughts. Please inspire me with more positive thoughts that will become my source of power to present myself as a charming, confident and faithful daughter of Yours forevermore–

2013.3.12

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Using KOBO Touch e-reader

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I bought KOBO Touch e-reader yesterday at a local Chapters for Canadian $99.99. After months of fruitless research, I concluded it’d be best to get one e-reader for myself and play around with it in order to get full knowledge of its features. Despite its well-known benefits (portability, paperless, weightless, capability for over 10,000 books, etc), I was kind of stricken by its inflexibility that won’t contain the free ebooks downloaded from elsewhere. I have to take some time and training to get friendly with this device that clearly distinguishes from any other mobiles I have been familiar with (i.e. cellphone, iPhone, tablet PC, mp3 player) .

After all, I am happy to save myself from exhaustingly walking down the alleys to seek the copies of books I want. I was beginning to get tired of Chapters and Indigo’s commercialness that overlooks the importance of classics to readers. Kobobooks.com has a decent list of free Classics ebooks I can enjoy (but not Thais by Anatole France and Swann’s Way by Marcel Proust!! :(), but I won’t refrain myself from paid books whenever I am determined to get through the reading. I purchased The Pearl by John Steinbeck for the price just same as the physical book, which was just worth spending.

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My Holiday with an Assassin’s Creed game

For the past three years, I have enjoyed a wonderful way to spend my end-of-year holiday with the awesomeness of the Assassin’s Creed video games that have been released faithfully in each year since 2009. From the critically acclaimed Assassin’s Creed 2, I have been among the ones who would wait in the line to get the first copy of the new game of the series that has grown into a global franchise. But spending my holiday with the game does not make me a common video game addict like one of your brother’s friends. Let me tell you, Assassin’s Creed is the only video game I play in the entire year, and I am glad I have found the joy in something other than clinging to some kind of a careless man who never knows how to please me.

I am very much into history, so that explains a great deal about my love for the games. I just cannot resist any medium that features a faithful medievality in it. To tell you the truth, I never played the first Assassin’s Creed game, that took place in the Crusade, after a disappointing review. But I did grabbed the chance to play the second Assassin’s Creed, the first one that features Ezio Auditore de Firenze, arguably the most charismatic Assassin in the whole series. I rolled my eyes at the glittering and breathing Renaissance cities of Florence, Venice and Rome they relived in the screen. The Renaissance is always a fascinating historical period to visit, either visually or scholastically. Of course it’s vain to debate about the historical accuracy of the game but it was just amazing to run through the medieval cities the gamemakers revived with amazing details. Since then, I have seized any sequel that was available, including the Brotherhood (2010) and Revelation (2011).

With so much anticipation, Assassin’s Creed 3 was released last November. From what I heard, the new game is not as sensational as the last ones (especially the Brotherhood that is said to be the peak of the series), but it is likeliest that I will be spending my 2012 holiday just like I did in the past three years. I already bought a copy for 49.99 and am waiting for my brother to bring the console. Yes, I am totally at the mercy of my brother who claims the ownership of the console.. (poor me) Though AC is an amazing series, I have felt a few pitfalls in terms of the narrative, which is understandable for it’s just a ‘game’ not a ‘book.’ They are making a movie with Michael Fassbander, which I am looking forward to, but not expecting much from it.

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