Thursday, September 24, 2009

Valve opens up strange feelings within me, makes me want to gush

I switched over to my formal email about half a year ago, forwarding all mail that goes to my old address to my new one and even taking the hourssss required to switch my subscriptions over to my formal account on Google Reader. Somehow I neglected to pass on writership to this account as well, but now that's that and I'm here.

I'm tempted to start using Google Docs to allow easier access to my writing, but I'm starting to get a bit worried about Google's presence in my life. True, most people could care less about my secret muffin recipe, but sometimes it's a good thing to spread yourself out on this cloud networking schema.

At the same time, I love Google. It's hard not to like a company that explicitly states "Don't be evil" as their mission statement. Google has simultaneously pushed for change while keeping their shareholders happy. Of course, they are not exempt from cutthroat competitiveness, but you love the scoundrels nonetheless.

While not everyone is unanimous in their love for all things with 100 zeroes, I strongly believe that people would be hardpressed to love Valve. (Well, aside from disregarded girlfriends and stupid redneck boycotters)

As a video game software development company, Valve has really really made a name for itself. And I do mean really. Their business sense and dedication to quality and to their fans is exemplary. The two really go hand in hand for them too, as their free (and constant) updates and Steam powered store work to prevent and discourage piracy of their software.

You can also tell that Valve is a great place to work as well. People there seem to have a great sense of humor and for no good reason, as only a few of their games (Half Life and Portal) really need stories.

Proof of point: recently a fan mocked up a pseudo update introducing a brand new class for Team Fortress 2, which I have been getting back into.

As with the fake Spy update, Valve caught wind of it. Impressed with the workmanship and the amount of thought put into the fake update, they made an official response to it in the form of a letter from Saxton Hale (funnily enough, the name of the Australian CEO is an anagram for Hot Anal Sex).

If you're wondering why I'm so subliminal today with all these parentheses, this letter is partially to blame.

Seriously, I love these guys

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The Difficulty in Justifying Transit Commutes

My day job requires me to drive daily to Ladner, a 20km trip. The best time I've ever gotten in my Prius is around 20-25 minutes. Average trip is typically 30-35 mins, but the longest commute I've ever had was over an hour.

Since I'm going counter traffic, the main bottleneck on my journey is the Massey Tunnel, which normally has two lanes going either way but switches to 3 lanes rush traffic and 1 lane counter flow. This means that up four lanes of traffic will need to merge into a single lane before we can squeeze through the tunnel and pop out on the other side and spread back out. It's this wait that causes the ridiculously inconsistent drive time.

If I had a car pool buddy it would make a huge difference, but unfortunately that's not an option. I can, however, take the bus. With the new Canada Line complete and the buses rerouted to take advantage of that, I can make the trip in style with one quick skytrain ride and one comfortable and stress free bus ride. One transfer and roughly 50 minutes later I'll be at work, with a few blocks of walking to add valuable steps to my day to day activities.

The only thing stopping me is the price. It costs $5 to travel three zones, which makes a round trip a daily toll of $10. A book of 10 tickets is $38 while a monthly pass is $136. A tank of gas for my Prius costs around $35 ($25-$40 depending on rates) and lasts me the whole week (and a bit) including trips to Burnaby for Kick Boxing and night-time/weekend entertainment.

I most certainly will not be using the bus on weekends or on Monday/Thursdays when I need to rush home to prepare for Kick Boxing. Other days may get scheduled down the line as well, making a monthly pass a poor purchase, especially when it is just $4 cheaper than driving the whole month. Additionally, the average commute time is worse and does not allow for me to exercise in the morning before I take off.

What I will gain, however, is freedom to do whatever I want during the commute. Assuming the average commute was 30-45 minutes, that's 5-7.5 hours a week, 20-30 hours a month. If I was working during those times and earning minimum wage, I am losing $160-$240. And I can use that time for writing, no problem. But I'll also be napping, playing games, and reading the daily paper.

So you can see, it is hard to gauge whether taking the bus to work makes sense. There is no clear winner when considering time, cost, stress, convenience. When it snows later on this year, I will definitely be taking the bus, so those 3-zone tickets I bought yesterday is not money down the drain. In the meantime, I simply don't know if I want to make this a regular habit.

Monday, September 14, 2009

That's so Gamer Guy

Have you noticed that some of the buses in Vancouver have been sporting some hi-tech gear? I speak, of course, of the electronic ads on the exterior side that play full videoes. I saw one today at 41st and Cambie and it caught me by surprise. The display was bright and was playing a Telus clip. The resolution looked to be about the same as the large electronic signs outside of Casinos and sports stadiums in our area. I wonder if we will be seeing more them?

Speaking of ads, I have been meaning to talk about this ad campaign against homophobia (PAX recap will have to wait):

Essentially the ads aim to get people to rethink their usage of the phrase "That's so gay". Other adds in the campaign uses the jock and generic blonde with some other choice words and stereotypes.

Personally speaking, I don't feel that the ads work that well. Especially with the gamer guy one, the wording is just so confusing that you really don't get the message the first or second time around. Whether this will spark discussion or entice apathy is uncertain. Nonetheless, it's a nice idea and noble cause.

Excuse, I have to go sell a few games so that my life will seem a bit more balanced.

Monday, August 24, 2009

PAX 2009 Schedule

Whoo, such a lazy bum am I. First I failed that maintaining my exercise regiment and then I slack off this blog for two weeks.

For good reason, however. I'm busy preparing for my trip and there is a lot of work to do to cover my arse during that one week.

If you want to find me during PAX, here's a rough schedule of where I'll be during the event.

10-11 Omegathon 1
12-1 HAWP
1-2 Breaking into the Game Industry the Educated Way
2:30-3 Star Trek Online Demo
3-3:30 Scribblenauts Demo
4-4:30 Rockband Beatles Demo
7-10 Hudson PAX Party @ Tap House

10-10:30 Big Fish Games: Faunasphere Demo
11-12 Muramasa and Nostalgia Demo
12-1 Lord of the Rings, D&D Demo
2:30-3:30 Omegathon 3
4-5 Nexon Demo (Combat Arms, Dungeon Fighter Online, Dragon Nest)

10-11 Omegathon 5
12-1 Hudson games demos
2-2:30 Hello Kitty Online Demo
5-6 Omegathon Finals

Like last year, I'm attending every Omegathon I can in hope of being an Omeganaut next year :p I've cut back on the number of panels I'm attending this year as I haven't really enjoyed them as much as I thought I would in previous years. Instead, I'll be spending more time doing media demos, walking the exhibition hall, and playing table top games.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Brilliant or Bland?

I can't seem to decide if this is brilliant or just plain ol' vanilla bland. Don't get me wrong, I have much respect for DDB, who is a part of the largest advertising/PR conglomerate in the world. I also love vanilla ice cream.

Here's the dilemma, the ads work in drawing in attention, using alternate space, and in selling the product. However, it does nothing really for the branding of the product. While McDonald's already have a strong brand, this campaign does nothing to further it, or even reconfirm it. As such, the ad seems to fall flat. Half the response and comments towards this ad is a simple "I don't get it" or "Is that it?". Because McDonald's has such a strong personality and their brand is instilled into the very core of people's logospace, they expect more from it and from its ads.

I cannot help but think that this campaign would have been better if it was saved for something like, I don't know, a rock concert.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Get your mini-muffin updates

I don't always have time to sit my lazy ass down and write something thoughtful or persuasive here on my blog. However, I always seem to have time to update my twitter and I always seem to have something spontaneous to say (though that spontaneity is sometimes mundane). Does this make me a twit?

In either case, if you're really craving some muffiny-script goodness, then follow me tweets. I'll still be updating here once every week or so, so don't fret too much!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

An interesting turn in ads

I noticed a few interesting trends with ads recently. Unfortunately I don't have any visual or recorded samples for you so you'll just have to close your eyes and use your imagination.

First up, the new Lotto 649 billboard ads caught my eye recently. In the past, they have always pushed a "Can you imagine?" mindset with their ads, making people think about how nice it would be to win. You could bully people that were mean to you, spend it on frivolous things, or just celebrate like crazy.

The new ads, however, moves away from a "Oh that would be nice" mood to a "I need this!" train of thought. The ad that I noticed had the word "RENT" written in a large water streak with the 649 logo on a yellow sponge wiping it away. Essentially, the image they're trying to portray here is that winning the lottery will take care of all of life's necessary bills, like rent.

It's a smart move made in the wake of the recession. People are penny pinching and may not want to spend those $2-3 on wishful thinking tickets. So, instead, the brilliant advertisers working with the national lotto opted instead for a campaign that makes the lottery look like something necessary to survive.

The other ads that got my attention were a couple of radio ads for Chrysler cars. I believe they were Columbia Chrysler and Maple Ridge Chrysler. Both ads were done using old-school ideas, similar to how the King of Floors work:

The difference was that one ad really worked while the other did not. (The King of Floors mostly work, IMHO). Naturally, with the decline in car sales in general and drastically for all American cars, adverts are necessary to reel in the buying frenzy.

The Columbia Chrysler ads uses the "We're so Crazy!" styled ads, complete with random sound effects to drive home the fact that they're "stark raving mad" and selling cars for low low prices. This ad works. The sound effects and the timing of the ad really makes it stand out from the other ads and connects the message with the consumer in a strong and definite manner.

The Maple Ridge Chrysler ads, on the other hand, fail epically. The announcer is mono-tone and drones on and on. It took immense effort for me to even remember the name of the car dealer. So much, in fact, that I cannot even recall what the selling point of the ad was, except that it had something to do with low prices and you should be excited about it. This ad fails to stand out and fails to make an impact, representing everything you can do wrong with a radio ad.

Budget advertising is something that we can look forward to for at least another year. Hopefully, more people will learn from mistakes of others in the past and do something interesting with that knowledge.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Freudian Hearing

I might have talk about this before, but it's still pretty neat and funny.

I have a tendency to mishear things. More often than not, especially with actual conversation, I twist people's words around on purpose. So something like "I like it" can become "I like tits". It's not always crass, but it's always fun and serves as a great mental training for puns, which in turn is a great way to practice thinking about things from different perspectives.

However, there is just something about song lyrics that just seems to beg to be misheard. Some singers really don't know how to anunciate and it makes learning lyrics off tracks very difficult. Without printed lyrics, it would be impossible to learn a song. I can't find it now, but there was a TV commercial for a radio station once where they showed people mis-singing various pop songs.

Take a look at this song:

The line "There ain't no motive for this crime" could easily be heard as "There ain't no love before this time" which could also fit the rest of the lyrics just as well and, in fact, I prefer singing along to this song using this refrain for the first chorus and the proper lyrics for the second one.

I'm not the only one that does this. Now, it may be a bit of my playful personality rubbing off on other people, but my wonderful fiancee misheard something really hilarious in this song:

"Gotta get 'cha off my sister"
"Gotta get 'cha off my sister"


Thursday, July 16, 2009

How I did it

I once read somewhere that a proposal should reflect the person that is doing the proposing. That way, not only do you express your sincere feelings to the person being proposed to, that person also gets one last good look at the things that define you as a suitor. This is something that I had taken to heart.

Naturally, I'm not going to do something ridiculous that would more likely get me dumped than hitched. One must highlight their good traits, and unique ones, throughout the process. Immediately, I tossed out any notions of a big public proposal. No sports arena, no huge crowd-attracting announcement in a busy public space, no tightly choreographed musical and dance sequence:

No matter how badly I wanted to.

I had to respect the preferences of my dearest love and also create something that is well suited for her as well as myself. Jasmine had already mentioned in the past that, though sweet and nice, such public displays were not for her.

Instead, I settled for somewhat of a compromise. My idea would involve a good handful of our closest friends who would be a part of the process, but ultimately out of the way during the actual proposal.

The idea was a puzzle trail, sort of like the one that Robert Langdon follows around European cities in Da Vinci Code and Angels & Demons. Both Jasmine and I nurture romantic notions like messages in bottles and secret rooms hidden behind bookshelves. That sort of thing.

I've create puzzle trails for Jasmine in the past for various occassions. These usually consist of no more than five steps and I typically plan them to be completed within an hour. In the past, Jasmine had surprised me with her quick wit and have even surpassed what I thought to be a hard trail in a quarter of the time expected.

Given that, I plotted another five clue trail that would retell the story of how my relationship with Jasmine started, complete with small narration along with the clues. The trail went something like this:

-- Set up --
First, I had to get Jas started on the trail. I had previously written out all the clues and simply copy and pasted the email from the master copy and sent it. Then I called Jas and told her to check her email while I had to go and "run some errands"

I suppose this is technically the first clue, but it was an easy one. I wrote a simple riddle that would guide her to the high school where we first met (it was in grade nine math if you were wondering). One of the hardest things to do for these clues was to make the answer obvious, but just barely so. This was the first puzzle trail that required Jasmine to leave her house and, since she was driving herself, I did not want to risk her driving aimlessly around town, which is a surefire way to incur her wrath instead of invoking passion.

-- First Stop: High School --
Jasmine's work involves school and I arranged to have some of her occupationally appropriate friends wait for her at the school to hand her the clue. The clue itself was coded and Jas had to decipher it in order to know where to go next. The code is my own unique one, but it is one that Jas and I share and I had included the key in the previously mentioned email in case she forgot it. Turns out she didn't really need it.

Solving the cipher took around 10 minutes, which was within my calculations. What I didn't figure was that her friends would ask her "skill testing questions" prior to forking over the clue! This, and the conversations that followed afterwards, would delay Jas for about half an hour in total, throwing my guesstimate of one hour total for the puzzle trail out the window. Whoops!

-- Second Stop: Mutual friend's house --
Although Jasmine and I met in high school, we did not start dating until after we graduated. A major event that led to that was a chance meeting at a friend's party (a mutual friend that we didn't know was a mutual friend). This house was the second stop and other mutual friends had the next clue.

This clue had a list of co-ordinates that was meant for Jas's Go board. After meeting again at the mutual friend's house, we arranged to meet again for a game or two of Go, a game as ancient and popular as Chess. When a go stone is placed on all the co-ordinates, it would spell out the next location, which was a McDonald's, where we first ate together.

The clue was written so to almost give away the next location. I figured the go puzzle was a bit too much and had instructed the clue bearers to just give Jas the answer if she guessed correctly right then and there, saving her a trip home. However, she never guessed aloud and opted to head home to whip out the ol' Go board. Oh well, in total this clue only took 15 minutes.

-- Third Stop: McDonald's --
Jasmine's best friends were waiting here (another was back at station two) with the third clue. This clue was a cinch. All it contained was an address that she had to punch into her GPS system.

The next location was far away and I didn't want her stressed out before driving. In fact, at this point, all the clues become easier as I did not want Jas to get annoyed with the whole she-bang. If the solving time got shorter as the trail progressed, she was more likely to complete it in a speedy manner. It was approximately one hour since I called her at the start of the trail when Jasmine started making her way to Burnaby.

-- Fourth Stop: Burnaby --
I lived in Burnaby when Jas and I first started dating, which was about a 20 minute drive from Vancouver. On the day that I asked Jasmine out, she was visiting SFU, a university that was close to Burnaby and we had arranged for her to visit me at home. The first stop in Burnaby was the bus stop was the rendezvous point wherefrom Jas and I walked back to my house.

Waiting in Burnaby was my two best friends. We left pretty early on, around after Jasmine solved the first clue, in order to get a head start. We waited together at a McDonald's of our own and, after we got the call from the third station, we all went to our respective spots to wait for Jas.

The clue at the first Burnaby stop was simply a picture of us dining at Pizza Hut, where we officially had our first dinner together. All Jasmine had to do was recognize the location and head there. From the bus stop, it was only 5 blocks to the restaurant.

-- Fifth Stop: Pizza Hut --
At this point, Jas was getting a bit displeased as we were an hour and a half into the trail. The last clue handed to her here was a hand-drawn map with a route and instruction marked leading her to the final destination, the look-out point behind my old house.

-- Last Stop: The Look-out Point --
The lookout point was the place where I had originally wanted to ask Jasmine out six years ago. Instead, I got tongue-tied and ended up doing it later on that same evening in the past. We had regularly visited the location several times in the past for various occassions and, for that reason and more, I wanted it to be the place where we got engaged.

The map was fairly easy to follow. Burnaby is full of huge hills and my old house was near the top of one. From the look-out point, I could easily look down three block and see when Jas was coming up. I saw her, made sure she saw me, and went over to prepare the stereo and flowers.

When I turned around, imagine my surprise when I saw that Jasmine's car had disappeared! I had expected her to follow the route and my instructions and park in the dead-end alleyway that no one uses but she instead decided to try and circle around the lookout point in search of a parking spot. I quickly called her on the cellphone, she sounded quite grumpy on the phone, and guided her back to where I wanted her to be.

When Jas stepped out, the music played and she began to smile. I whispered my short proposal speech and brought out a temporary ring that was to serve as our engagement ring until we went out and shopped for the real one.

She said "yes", by the way.

After that, we had lunch at the Pizza Hut and I drove her car back to her house, where my car was parked just a block away. We grabbed our luggage and headed up to Whistler for the weekend to celebrate.

I had all my friends and mutual friends to thank for their patience and co-operation throughout the whole process. I originally planned to proposal a few months earlier, in April, but the timing wasn't quite right, so I waited until our sixth year anniversary to do it.

Overall it was a success. The total time it took for me to propose since the phone call at the start was two hours, about twice as long as I anticipated. Jasmine did get a bit hot under the collar, but she forgave me and I promised that I would never do it again :)

Now that this complicated plan is done, it's time for the next one to start.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Alienating Diamonds

Since I got engaged this month, part of my weekends have been spent with my fiancee shopping for an engagement ring. We finally decided on one with a neat design from Spence Diamonds. It looked something like this:

I like the three stone look and Jasmine likes the hearts in the setting (which you cannot see in the image). We picked a 18K yellow gold ring and rocks that added up to exactly 1.5 carats.

Whenever people think of Spence Diamonds, they recall those annoying radio ads that everybody seems to hate. People often wonder aloud "What were they thinking?". These ads are certainly an unorthodox way of branding yourself.

However, insofar, only a small handful of people have been completely turned off from Spence so much that they do not even want to step into one of their stores. Rather, the ads are extremely effective in being retained in people's mind. When they think diamonds, they think of Spence and all the benefits and offers they have. While the ads are dodgey, the stores are utterly brilliant and professional in contrast and, along with the staff and products, are designed to impress.

It really is just a simple practice in being stand-out-unique. If they went with traditional ads, they would just blend in with all other jewellers regardless of how good their offers are. However, the annoying guy's voice just cuts through the white noise and what he says is heard and embedded in your mind.

On top of that, the awfulness of the ads have picked up a viral mode of transportation, spread by word of mouth as people share their mutual dislike of the commercials and positive impressions of the product itself.

It isn't something that can be pulled off easily or consistently. You always run the risk of alienating your customers. Therein lies the ingenuity of the Spence Diamond radio commercials. Not only did they pull it off, but they did it with great and continued success.

Thursday, July 9, 2009


This tauntaun sleeping bag is utterly amazing! The lightsaber zipper is a very nice detail that makes my inner geek explode with giddiness. I absolutely hope that they'll be able to produce these.

Oh, in other news, I got engaged last weekend. I suppose I should make a blog about a later time!

Monday, June 29, 2009

I don't usually whore myself out to promote products...but when I do, I prefer Dos Equis.

You've probably seen these ads or heard them on the radio by now. Dos Equis' fictional spokesperson does indeed seem interesting and intriguing, almost like Sean Connery before he aged into his old and gross phase.

I may have mentioned it before, but the products that require the most advertisements and branding are those that need to differentiate itself from similar products. This is why there are a lot of ads for alcohol, clothing and perfume.

While the ads are quite neat, the branding and target demographic is quite clear with Dos Equis' ads. We can see that the most interesting person in the world is an elderly gentleman, a man of the world even. He is like George Clooney, a bachelor for life who never fails to be seen with a woman on his arm.

Indeed, one must be greyed a bit in order to accumulate the experiences that makes a person the most interesting in the world. This is what Dos Equis is aiming for: men who are perhaps past their prime, but want to believe that they are not out of the game and that their age is an advantage. Even the commercial's film quality reflect this targeting. You will note is a bit grainy and faded, like an old Bond film.

By branding itself has a sophisticated and classy drink, Dos Equis can justify a premium pricing and their customers can buy their way into an excellent first impression.

On the opposite side of the spectrum, here's a Heineken ad:

Nothing too bad at first glance, just people who really love their beer. However, this is starkly contrasted by some print ads and earlier branding attempts by Heineken. While the commercial is targeted at party lovers and frat boys, in the past Heineken has tried to appeal to a more upscale taste.

In fact, around Vancouver I have noticed a few "Carpe P.M." bus ads for Heineken. These ads obviously refers to Carpe Diem, which is latin for "seize the day" meaning the ad is telling you to "seize the afternoon". However, in order to get that, you would need a bit of an education and not just a squealie, excitable persona.

Mis-matching your branding is a bad idea, especially if your catchment is huge. If people are confused about your brand, you lose your entire target demographic since no one can decide if the beer is "them" or not. I'm not saying that all frat boys are uneducated, they are in post-secondary after all, but I am saying that some party goers are not cultured enough to get the bus ads. Which is a pity, because I really like them.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Brilliant Anti-War Ads

These ads are genius-calibre. I wonder if there is a standard size poles in the area or if they modify a bunch for special locales?

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Soft Skills and Video Games

The video above demonstrates a hard skill that I possess. Now, I do not mean hard, as in difficult, ninja shirt fold is actually easy with some practice, I mean hard as in limited in use. Ninja shirt folding is a skill that can only be applied to folding shirts and maybe some other garments. While being able to fold shirts quickly would be handy for a, say, merchandise manager, it definitely would not be helpful at all for a plumber or project manager.

Soft skills are the opposite of hard skills. They are skills that are extremely useful no matter what job you are doing. In fact, another name for them is "transferable skills". These include: leadership skills, self-motivation, attention to detail, etc.

Surprisingly, I've found that video games are great for helping people develop many soft skills. Video games have already been shown to improve other skills, such as spatial visualization and navigation, so why not communication, foresight, and learning from mistakes?

Of course, you'll get things like short attention span, lack of focus and procrastination along with it, but if you are able to keep those things under check then you will come out ahead with a decent set of skills that you can back up with examples.

For instance, teamwork and team management is usually a biggie for manager positions. If you have ever been a raid in WOW or worked with other survivors in Left 4 Dead, then you have probably exercised those skills for countless hours.

If you took the time to think about the games you enjoy frequently, you will start to recognize all the little things that makes the difference between a good player and a poor one. And if you are able to nail down these skills with fancy business words, then you are certainly able to impress others, both in your application and one the job.

Now, I'm not saying put video games down in your resumes and cover letters. Make sure that the situation is appropriate and always back up your statements with "real" work experience anecdotes that can be confirmed by your references. At the same time, if the job is right or if an interview is going well and seems informal enough, you can use video games as an example to buff up your skills. Just make sure you take the time to explain it well and avoid leaving things to inference.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

The Modern Renaissance Man

We live in an interesting period of time where common sense is not that common, seemingly because of the existence of really stupid people, but also because common sense now encompasses a lot more than it ever has.

Most people around you know how to use a computer and access the internet. Those that really know how to work the search engine and information highway have access to a limitless source of knowledge that can enable them to do so much more than anyone has in the past.

As humankind's collective knowledge expands, it is natural to expect that people will specialize, afterall there is too much for a single person to know. Every community will be able to sustain itself, having different people specializing in various essential areas covering each other's backs.

However, somewhere along the way in our pursuit of knowledge, we went offtrack. Instead of specializing, we instead became jack-of-all-trades and began acquiring knowledge and experience in a multitude of areas. Think about people you know: most individuals today are proficient in several sports, at least one instrument and another language, have several hobbies, and are utter geeks about quite a few things.

In many ways we modern people are like the enlightened of the Renaissance. A true renaissance man was a philosopher, artist, scientist, inventor, poet, etc. Think of Leonardo da Vinci and the vast number of accomplishments and trials he attempted. Many motivated people, especially late adolescents and young adults, are motivated to take up personal side projects and the ilk.

The internet helps in many ways, providing a compedium of knowledge that can support that of which we already know while filling in any gaps. The internet can turn us into make-shift doctors, plumbers, even (especially?) IT techies.

It is the blessing of the modern age that we have enough time to seek and gather so much knowledge and skill, in the past, aspiring renaissance men had to seek out patron to sponsor them. Beyond that, we have to thank the global village that is the internet. Its existence alleviates the need for most of us to specialize in anything as there is always someone covering some topic. There are, of course, still people who are hyper-specialized in certain topics, and we as a global community benefit from that.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Professional Writing

It's been pretty busy here on the home front. As you can see, my casual writing (aka the blog) is usually the first victim cast aside when crunch time settles in.

This weekend was my girlfriend's birthday and every day was spent with a different group of friends/family. It was tonnes of fun, but I had an Escapist article that was due on Monday. Luckily, I already had all my notes written out and organized, which was more than half the battle. I managed to squeak by this time. For the next article I'm writing for the big online magazine, which is due in two weeks, I'll be jumping on it early so that I don't have to worry anymore.

So that was my weekend. Last week was E3 and I was assigned to summarize the event. I didn't get sent over to it (maybe next year?) but there was still plenty to do. I had a queue of about 60 articles that I referenced for my own articles. The research for this alone took several hours and it was difficult to write and then edit down the word count to an acceptable level.

Freelancing is fun, I complain a lot but I love it more than anything. If possible, I would like to be able to just sit at home and write for various publications. Perhaps, if I could find time, I would finish my novel ideas and then become a professional writer for real. As it stands however, I'm wiped out after every deadline. I won't say outright that it is affecting my enthusiasm for video games and writing, but it is hard to do these things for personal enjoyment when you have a stack of related work that needs to be done.

I have my digital audio recorder and the personal blog file is flashing a 3, which means there are 3 blog ideas in there that I haven't written out yet. I met my deadline for Kidzworld pretty early this week so maybe I'll be able to tackle that and do some future posts. Early completion ftw!

Thursday, June 4, 2009

State of Misinterpretation

Contestant: I'll take "State of Misinterpretation" for 2000, Alex.

Trebek: Answer: You, the pimp, lost your only employee.

Snoop: What is "I'd a ho?"

Trebek: "I had a ho" or "Idaho." That is correct.

Monday, June 1, 2009

How Archie avoids anachronism

So, apparently Archie is going to marry Veronica this fall. The media buzz around this seemingly trivial piece of information is astounding, I take my hat off to the media relations people at Archie comics that made it all happen. The news spread quickly and deep, hitting the far reaches and recesses of everybody's information network.

Word of mouth and social networks, like facebook, helped get the word out, but we must remember that certain criteria needs to be satisfied before any of this can happen.

Firstly, the news must be relevant to people's general interest. Archie, being quite iconic in North American society (you can't buy groceries without seeing an Archie comic book), is immediately identifiable and relatable, meaning people can make conversation with their friends and associates with that as a topic. Obscure topics would need to find a strong and dedicated niche group to enjoy similar widespread growth.

The next requirement is simplicity. If you remember the kid's game of telephone, you'll know that complicated phrase and difficult to describe concepts often get muddled as it goes from person to person. The message being spread here is quite simple and, again, it is thanks to the media relations people who works with the media, aka people who condense and simplify all information for easy digest.

The remaining requisites have already been mentioned: concentration, frequency, and initial impact. The last thing is controversy. The fact that Archie picked Veronica instead of Betty, the fan favourite, is sure to stir some discussion, which is a designed move to keep Archie as a topic of discussion for as long as possible. It is also a good move to draw in readers. If people are satisfied with Archie's choice, they won't bother to read how it happens, they already know the ending, or at least as much of the ending as they care to know. However, since it is Veronica, some people may read the comic in hopes that things will turn out differently.

As quickly as the news spread, the interest in it, like most pop songs, died within a few days. While most people have a soft spot for Archie from their hayday, most agree that the comic is not for them now.

Most were willing to write off the entire escapade as a non-canon entry, one that will be written off by the writers themselves in one way or another (either a dream/fantasy sequence or some contrived plot device). Archie comics follows an old tradition where the characters remain the same age constantly.

While the Simpsons are able to hide this fact well by avoiding most pop references, Archies often try to reach out to the current generation with constant references to pop culture, especially to current pop stars and trends. There was a time when Betty listened to Bruce Sprucesteen and Jughead loved the Hula Hoop.

Each generation has their own picture of Archie and friends. This is contrasted to whatever image they portray currently in the comics and often it turns older readers away, much like older parents who try too hard to show their kids that they're still "cool" and "hip".

So, as much as Archie is trying to draw in people with this so-called new development, it is more likely than not that people will forget about the whole thing or become desensitized to it by September.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Self Censorship Fun!

Lots of writing this week, it's almost unbelieveable. So I'll just keep this short and sweet.

The subject of swearing came up recently, last weekend in fact. For most of us, we swear inadverdently, without conscious thought. As such, it can be difficult sometimes to control ourselves when we are with formal or younger company.

Myself, I've always had this bad habit. I think it originated with my father, who favours the word 'shit', and the behaviour was reinforced by the usual media: TV, movies, books, peers, video games, etc.

I first got into quote/unquote "serious" (super emphasis ftw!) trouble for swearing in high school. During the Grade 8 walk-a-thon, my shoe got stuck in the mud and I almost tripped. Without thinking, I slipped a 'shit' in front of an elementary school teacher, who promptly reprimanded me. I ended up writing an essay for her; but, in actuality, I wrote a semi-speech about how swear words are simply words without social weight on them. Not that fancy worded, mind you, but something to that effect.

However, while the argument stands true to this day, the opposite is also true. We really do not need special words to help us express ourselves better and, in fact, due to social conditioning, swear words can sometimes do us a disservice. Instead of being taken seriously, the words distract people from the message.

Nowadays, I try to avoid swearing in all instances. Instead, I have fun with my expletives. I try trading 'schnauzer' for 'shit' and I find more satisfaction in saying it. As well, dragging on the word 'fudge' and emphasizing the annuciation of the 'dg' at the end is equally entertaining. Lastly, another fun self censorship practice I enjoy is replacing 'shit' with 'ship' in cases where it confounds or even improves the connotation (for example: I have a ship load of work to do).

While jumbling up words still distract meaning from a sentence, I only do so in jest and, thus, it doesn't really matter if anyone takes me seriously. What it does do, however, is chisel away at any unconscious habit to swear and, hopefully, it will ultimately improve my day to day oration.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Kinetic Typography

I'm not an artist. I like to be creative but my artistic capacity is a bit underdeveloped. I realize that, with some practice, I may become somewhat decent but, truth be told, I'm fine with the way I am.

When I studied graphic design in university (for two semesters), typography really interested me. It presented a wonderful chance for me to be visually creative without relying on free hand graphics or even regular graphic manipulation.

I studied how to mix san serif and serif fonts together and all the little things that can make a block of text look good while still being legible. I was quite delighted when a program I made for my girlfriend's tutoring student's solo harp performance gain some minor acclaim. It is not often that people comment about spacing, font size choices, and kerning.

Typography, of course, is the arrangement of text on a page. More often than not, the graphic designer has no control over what text is meant to be on the finished work. However, the designer does have the liberty to arrange the text however he/she likes. I don't have any ads or personal sample available, but the internet has something even better: Kinetic Typography.

While normal typography can be used to make something simple and pristine, or cluttered, or hint at images, etc, kinetic typography takes the whole thing up a notch by representing the action and emotion in the words. In a way, it is trying to compensate for anything that is lost in context, connotation or denotation.

Here you can see the words fly, the disorientating shouting and the meek replies. The creator of this Kinetic Typography sample did really well to convey the pacing and gravity of the speech.

This example is a bit simpler, with the words being arranged in a way that is pleasing and artsy. It is more of an example of different layouts than an attempt at expression. Still, the overall effect is beautiful and enjoyable.

Kinetic Typography have been popping up in commercials all the time in some small way or another. However, it is prominently used here, in the F150 ads which consists of voice over, kinetic type, and some live action/CG shots of the truck.

You can see that it is not overly extravagant, but there is still a fair bit of playing around with the text. These ads succeed on several levels, the liveliness of the words on the screen keeps viewers watching and superliminally passes the advertiser's message to the consumer.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Mafia in the House Party

Although my birthday was on the 10th, I had my party about a week later, on the 16th. The main reason for this was because of Mother's Day, I simply didn't want to put my guests on a spot.

In total, we had about twenty people drop by and party for awhile. Being the geek that I am, the party revolved mainly around board games and table top games. While we did run 2-4 different games at a time, there were moments when we all came together and played a massive game.

The staple massive party game seems to be Mafia, a game originating in Russia and possessing many forms and variations. We ended up playing two rounds of Mafia, also known as Werewolves, one time with a smaller group and another game with all but three guests (who showed up half way through the game).

The game is a battle between an uninformed majority and an informed minority. A quarter or a fifth of participants are randomly and secretly Mafia members (or werewolves). Usually this is determined by dealing different kinds of cards to people. After the roles have been assigned, everyone closes their eyes and then the secretive members open their eyes and meet for the first time.

After this, there is a process of nightly murders and daytime, public lynchings. The majority, called the villagers, call suspicion on various people for different reasons. The mafia members, pretending to be villagers, do the same. The villagers aim to accurate find the mafia members and lynch them through an open voting process. If there is ever a majority, then the player, mafia or villager, is dead and eliminated from the game.

The mafia, on the other hand, seek to become the majority. They do this through the manipulation of the lynching and by their nightly murders. The villagers win once they eliminate all the mafia members while the mafia wins by having their number be equal or greater than the villagers.

Some variations include special roles, such as a Psychic Seer, who can secretly see someone's allegiance by having the moderator confirm his/her guesses. There might also be a Sheriff or Doctor hidden among the villagers who can save someone if they were targetted at night.

The variation that most people are used to involves repeated nights where everyone goes through the cycle of one daytime lynching and one nighttime murder where everyone closes their eyes. This eyes close part is how the mafia members, Seer, Sheriff, etc, remain secret, with the moderator/narrator being the only person who knows.

However, this was not the original version of the game. In the original version, the only time people close their eyes was at the very beginning. Once the mafia members knew who each other were, everyone opened their eyes and the lynching began. Instead of just one lynching, there can be multiple ones: any time a majority occurred, someone died. As well, people can do an open vote to go to sleep, which is when the mafia will start their work.

Instead of having people close their eyes and having the mafia members point at their target, night time activity is done through a paper vote. Villagers simply wrote "Honest", "Villager" or something similiar while the mafia wrote the name of their target. The only time someone is murdered at night is when the mafia unanimously wrote the name of a single person.

The moderator reads the votes so that people's handwriting is concealed. It is through this vote that the villagers know how many mafia members are left to be lynched. The paper voting and need for unanimity also means that the mafia members need to find a way to communicate their target. However, these activities may draw attention, which is good for the villagers, who normally get next to no clues to go on in other version of the game.

The original version of the game features no special roles beyond Mafia and Villager. Besides being difficult to implement, the game is actually fairly balanced in the original version whereas other versions usually have a very strong mafia who are nearly guranteed a kill every night.

I think I prefer the original version over other variations. The only hassle is the paper vote. If only there was a way to pass around an electronic device that will scramble the order of the votes and then tally it automatically. Maybe I should make one...

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The speed of thinking

I'm not sure if everyone expiriences this, but I've always known that my thoughts tend to move at astronomical rates. I can recall basically every scene in an entire movie in a few seconds or go over every second of a driving route in my mind, looking at all the houses and landmarks along the way, and get there in my head faster than humanly possible.

This can really mess up word association games, especially if you like to take mental two/three-steps-at-a-time like I do. In a split second, I can go from balloon to the Stanley cup (balloon->hot air balloon->Jules Verne->Around the world in 80 days->Jackie Chan movie->Jackie is inspired by Charlie Chaplin->Charlie Chaplin's moustache->playoff beard->playoff Hockey->Stanley Cup), but it's fun to do and it's great for things like math and chess as you're able to consider multiple paths at the same time.

I was thinking about this the other day when I was driving home from work. You see, I normally go under a tunnel on my way home, so the radio would go static for about 30 seconds. If there is a song playing at the time, I would usually try singing along in my head and see if I can come out of the tunnel on beat with the music.

However, no matter how hard I try to keep with the tempo, I always seem to end up about 5 seconds faster than the song. I guess that's just the nature of things.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Overcast Weather

I went out for a run this morning. Distressed with my tightening pant waists, I had long ago decided to wake up early in the morning to run. Unfortunately, I'm not a morning person and I tended to sleep past the alarm.

For a while, I was tempted to try Steve Pavina's method of training yourself to wake up on cue by practising, in the evening, getting out of bed when the alarm rings over and over. I would have done it, except that I thought it was a bit over the top.

Instead, this Saturday I woke around when I normally do for work (7am) and went for a quick there and back run to see how much time I need to put aside for my weekday runs. Turns out that it only takes me 10 minutes to get to the gym and back, even when I'm tired.

This morning, being a statutory holiday (Victoria Day), I tried the morning routine again, but added in the stretching and half hour at the gym. I still managed to run back home from the gym in 10 minutes even after some good cardio work.

I'll be focusing mainly on cardio because I want to get my stamina in top shape again and, really, I just want to focus on fat burn rather than muscle gain.

The weather was brilliant today. I love overcast, it has to be my favourite weather condition. No rain, not too bright, but still warm. And sometimes, if you're extra lucky, just enough wind for kite flying. It's funny because I was just talking about favourite weather conditions with my girlfriend yesterday. Yes, we were talking about the weather, but we also talked about other things in case you're wondering if our relationship took a dive.

While mine is overcast, she likes sunny weather, but only just barely/mildly so. It was essentially my favourite weather but with less clouds. It's neat that we can still find things in common even after six years.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

FedEx - It'll get there

Before I graduated from university, I took a few courses in graphic design as an aid for my future in advertising (still looking!). As such, I've began noticing logos, layouts and typography all around me.

Since last year, I've been looking at the FedEx logo. It seems to be designed so that the E and X at the end formed an arrow in the white space, which I thought was extremely clever. So clever, in fact, that it should be subtlely used in ads.

Selling points like "Going places" or "Fast. Really, fast" or even "It'll get there" would work, but you combine this catch phrase with a closeup on the white space arrow before zooming out to reveal that it's FedEx that you're talking about.

For example, you can have the ad follow a parcel or letter on its journey, using a moving arrow along the way. As this visual is running, have a voiceover talk about reliability, speed, or world coverage. After the parcel is received, pan the camera back a bit to the arrow, which is now at an extreme close up and have the selling point go as the camera pulls back to reveal the FedEx logo. FedEx. Express.

Simple ads work fairly well in times when there is a lot of clutter and, usually, there is a lot of clutter. A nice, simple, three color ad with a clear voiceover and selling point would have great branding potential and the relative inexpensiveness of the ad would allow for greater distribution and impact, much like the Bell white and blue ads that popped up a few months ago.

Monday, May 11, 2009

You know you're old when...

So yesterday was my 24th birthday (yaaaay). I tend to forget about my own birthday because I usually celebrate with friends the weekend before or after. That's because my birthday tends to land on Mother's Day weekend. There's a fifty percent chance that it will be the Mother's Day weekend (with the help of leap dates) and the other half of the time it's in the middle of the week.

My forgetfulness aside, there are perhaps other indicators that I am getting older and maturing no matter how much I don't want to. One thing I noticed recently, and more and more often, is that my taste buds have seemed to mature.

I used to eat everything and loved it. I especially love chocolate and sweets in general. I recalled being addicted to sour candy and would always jump for joy when I got them. Since then, I've lost a bit of my sweet tooth. I find myself unable to finish a chocolate cake because it was "too sweet." As well, I avoid sour candy and a lot of hard candies now too because the sour shards tend to wreck havoc on your tongue.

Worst of all, I've developed a stomach for grown up food. Well, I mean I always liked broccoli, spinach, prunes and onions. But I never expected that I would like coconut chocolate! Ugh, maybe it was just a one time thing. I'm still not sure if I want to test it out to see.

In either case, with all this eating, I need to find time to do some cardio and burn off excess calories. If only I can convince myself to wake up earlier in the mornings...

Friday, May 8, 2009

I can't remember medical discourse

I wrote a blog article on games as educational tools for Kidzworld the other day and I mentioned in passing how the news media outlet loves the Swine flu because it meant that people would be tuning in more and boosting viewer ratings.

While definitely a cynical look at the matter, I realized afterwards that I had studied a bit on medical discourse in popular media, but I only remember bits and pieces of what I had studied, as is typical for most students.

In either case, check out the article and play some of the games. Just like SARS before and other things, we are not screwed. Educational and common sense plays a huge role in controlling and containing disease outbreaks. Cover your mouth when you sneeze and wash your hands frequently.

On the other hand, after watching the movie Knowing, one of the lines near the end of the movie really made me think. A gas station clerk is shown talking to a stranger during mass public panic and looting. He says something to the effect of "It's just like with Y2K, they're going to feel pretty stupid in the morning" when, obviously, he was wrong and shown to be stupid for being a doubter.

While I'm not outright dismissing the Swine Flu, or Hamthrax as some call it, I am saying that we don't need to give it *that* much attention. We just need to know what we can do to help the fight against diseases and do our role.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

On Humor Through the Ages: Simpsons and Shakspeare

Last night I was thinking about timely and timeless humour. Simpsons jumped to mind immediately, with their recent venture to mainstream/core video games with their episode on Halo.

Specifically, last night I was chuckling to myself, as I do every night in preparation for my inevitable rise as a world dominator, over the Lieutenant LT Smash joke from the Simpsons episode about sub-liminal Navy recruitment. The evil need to find things to laugh about aside, I wondered why such an old joke is still funny.

When learning about Shakespeare, one of the things that is often discussed is how the bard's tragedies are timeless while his comedies are less so. In fact, what is defined to be comedy way back when is different that the accepted definition we hold now. While this makes some lick of sense, I can't help by think that I really do enjoy Shakespeare and it's usually for the humour.

One could argue that what I'm enjoying is the modern interpretation of the literary and the layer of directoral comedy that is super imposed on top of a performance. However, when reading the plain text, I still perceive lines as humourous. Whether this is intrinsic in the writing itself or another figment of my personality appearing in my personal interpretation of the tome is left to be determined.

Perhaps we could look at another artist, such as Chaplin. If you would recall from Shakespeare in Love, the playwright has to compete with things such as extreme slapstick and cock fights, which explains partially why there are often vicious combats sequences in his plays. Signs point towards timeless comedy as we can still slapstick sticking around at least until Chaplin's era.

However, I personally don't see too too much merit in ol' Charlie's movies these days. Then again, maybe I haven't been watching the right films. Those that derived their work from Chaplin, such as Jackie Chan and Rowan Atkinson, I find funny.

I guess the big question is, how much does novelty play in humour? There are some jokes that are extremely funny because they are timely. It's the "funny because its true" genre that loses its context over time as people forget how their predecessors lived and the social influences of the time. For example, Bush jokes are a laugh a dozen, but only for the last decade. Wait until a present day newborn is of age, and she'll probably not find it funny to talk smack about a former president.

On the other hand, it is not fair to label the entirety of comedy as timely and incapable of withstanding the test of time. There are some things that ring true always. As well, comedy evolves, as slapstick did and the evolution does wonders in helping people appreciate and connect with prior work.

So, while there may be some jokes in Shakespeare's work that we will never understand, we can find relief in knowing that some of the things that we find funny now will still be funny in centuries to come.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009


I dream a lot, but I don't usually remember too many details. Last night, I recall dreaming that my family members had exceptionally long fingernails and toenails. Perhaps they were trying to beat some crazy world record or something, I don't know.

Of course, there are sources for these dreams and I'm pretty sure that the fingernail thing is from the father of a kid that I tutor. The kid's parents is a close family friend to my girlfriend's family and, so, we attended his birthday lunch last weekend, which is when I noticed the father's fingernails.

Only the pinky fingernails were long and they were more like the guitar picking nails than the absurdly long ones in my dream. When I asked about it, my girlfriend commented on how lots of people in Asia grew their pinky nail out a bit, perhaps to help with everyday chores like peeling, picking, and opening containers and small battery case lids.

This morning, after waking up, I had fingernails on the mind and proceeded to cut them. When I was little, I used to bite and pick at my nails with my hands. I'm not sure why, but I hated having long nails as they seemed to get in the way and I scratched myself a lot. Maybe I just like the feeling of touching things with the tip of my fingers.

So, whenever I cut my nails, I always try to take as much of the white as I can. Force of habit I guess.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Canucks lost, but I'm giggling away like a schoolgirl

Canucks lost today in a heart breaking game where they looked like they were going to win handily before getting kicked in the nuts five times.

Anyways, one of the webcomics (among many) that I read, xkcd, did a comic the other day and it was a bit weird, since I was just talking about mash-ups.

That's one of the reasons why I'm in a chipper mood that the rest of Vancouver currently. The other is watching SNL with some good friends while playing Bohnanza. But mostly, it's friggin Rickard's White pissing-in-the-cup commercial:

Now, I've mentioned in passing that the bartender looks like he was pissing in the cup more than once in the past. However, after reiterating the fact to a bunch of sleepy, giddy friends, we saw the commercial again and, at 0:06, the dude ordering the drinking totally did a "Hey, why are you unzipping your pants?" look and the bartender simply smiles, revealing that the beverage that everyone in the bar was enjoying was one of his own concoction. It was hilarious.

And now I'm all smiles.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Really difficult to read street signs

I was listening to the radio on my way to work today and heard that the VANOC committee (that oversees planning and execution of Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics) is asking the federal government for 2 million dollars to make all the signs from Richmond to Whistler bilingual.

The radio jockeys were joking around and saying how we need all the signs that say "Olympics" to say "Olympiques" as well. It was mutually understood by all that French is a major component of Canadian heritage, even if Mandarin and Hindi speakers outnumber the Quebecois in BC a billion to one. The DJs joked that, if French is required to be on the signs, then we might as well add Chinese and Sanskrit as well to be fair to all.

Funny as it may be, I can almost imagine these signs popping up here and there all over Vancouver (and, in fact, there is lots of these signs already, like in Indiatown or Chinatown). If fully implemented, it would be the epitome of Canada's propensity of being a cultural mosaic. It would also demonstrate how silly the whole thing can be :p

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Monster Mash

This last week or so, I've been listening to a lot of mash-ups. Mash ups are songs that are made up of two or more songs mixed together. Some are really quite brilliant and listening to how different songs from different artists (and sometimes from different eras and genres) flow together is like finding a hidden gem that you can enjoy in secrecy. It's the same feeling, I suppose, that allows grassroot campaigns and viral advertisement to succeed. The feeling of personal exclusitivity can really make you feel special and, thus, the source of it would have a special place in your heart and mind.

Here's one of my favourite mash-ups:

Party Ben
has a lot of great mash-ups available for download and instant enjoyment. Just pick anything with an artist or song that you recognize.

I think the pleasure I find in mash ups has something to do with how I tend to be a big picture kind of guy, which is one of the reasons why I renamed my blog to refer to holistics and Gestalt psychology. In either case, sharing is caring, and it is also how grassroots and viral campaigns prosper, so enjoy and share with others!

Monday, April 27, 2009

Trucks in the Left Lane

I am highly critical of other people's driving. Not while I'm riding in someone's car, mind you, that's just rude. Rather, I tend to express my thoughts aloud to no one in particular when I witness other people driving stupidly on the road.

Since I work out in Ladner, I drive myself to work every morning. I am going against the main flow and typically, without traffic, the commute is a mere 20 minutes. However, because the main flow is going towards Vancouver, the highway lanes are manipulated in such a way so that there are three or four lanes going to Vancouver and one or two going South.

This is a pain because there is a huge bottleneck just before the Massey Tunnel where essentially all Southward traffic is funneled into a single lane. After a week or so, I acquired a good sense of timing and steering to essentially merge into the single lane as late a possible with little effort. This made the difference of about 10-20 minutes. Without it, my commute would literally double in time.

However, starting about two weeks ago, trucks began using the left lane, aka the passing lane, which is ludicrous. Trucks are slow and have absolutely no ability to merge seamlessly with the main traffic flow. As well, trucks, especially large load bearing trucks, are not supposed to be in the left lane at all. The fact that my trip is lengthened every day of this last couple of weeks due to a selfish or unskilled truck driver really drives me up the wall.

I realize that I am being a bit hypocritical here since I am budging myself. However, I do welcome any other car in the left lane along with me and I do allow people to cut in front of me all the time. I have no problem with that as long as the drivers can do it smoothly. However, there are some people that really shouldn't be trying it, especially large trucks.

Once, a truck cut right in front of me and tried to hold two lanes to prevent any more people from passing. Sometimes cars do this and I find it really funny because it is hard to hold two lanes. Cars tend to jut out more into the passing lane because they want to prevent cars from passing. I tend to merge behind the offending car and then see if I can squeeze them out of the main lane and effectively turn them into what they hate the most. Anyways, this truck was trying to hold two lanes and it had to move a bit back into the right lane because the truck behind it thought it was actually changing lanes. I ended up squeezing through on the left side and merging to the main lane a block later easily.

If a driver is unconfident or too passive, they should just go to the slow lane and wait it out. If a driver tends to merge too early or too late, they will disrupt the flow in both lanes. The easiest places to merge is in front of a slow truck or in front of another car that just merged, since they have less stake on the lane and don't really mind letting people in front of them. I let in merging cars after I merge as well as common courtesy. However, I encourage everyone to bully out trucks that are trying to merge in order to discourage the behavior in the future.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Happy Belated Earth Day!

No, I didn't miss Earth Day. In fact, I posted the revival post on Earth Day with the intent to write a later post but I got lazy (certainly a theme with me).

We got some recycling bins in our office this week and, on Earth Day, my boss asked me to write a memo to go out to the office so that they know what the bins were for. I don't think she realized it was Earth Day, I didn't but I was looking for some clip art to add to the memo (her request) and searched Earth Day for inspiration and there it was serendipitiously.

The clip art I eventually picked was something off the theme of "Make Everyday Earth Day" and I'm happy to say that I feel like I am doing something towards that cause. Since I was little, my parents taught me things like save water and electricity. Not that the environment ever entered into the equation, frugality was the topic in question, but as I grew up and got educated on sustainable living, I realized that I was already doing most of these green activities and it motivated me to pursue it more.

And, really, that's the reason why a lot of big companies invest in greener policies. Not only do they save money in the long run (only the short term set up costs are restrictive), but they get to market themselves as eco-friendly, which helps to attract similar minded customers.

Recently, six months ago in fact, I got my first car (that is, one that is solely for my personal use and enjoyment). Despite being male and asian, I really didn't know much about cars and didn't have a "dream car" vision, except for the impossible to get Vision SLR and Aquada. I was following various blogs from the Gawker network and one of them had an article about the top 5 cars with best mileage.

At that time, gas was really expensive and I really didn't want to bother with filling up all the time. Plus, my parents were offering to cover a good part of the car tag price, which really gave me leg room to look around. Naturally, topping the top 5 list were hybrid cars, including the Prius and the soon-to-re-released Insight.

My conditioned urge to save money and motivation towards reducing my carbon footprint essentially made the Prius the only car for me. I had a bit of a disliking towards Honda cars at that time, driving my family's Accord around, as I found the body of the vehicle large in the rear area and very unwieldy. So I went out and hunted myself down a Prius.

The Prius has a 45L tank, which is really quite small, comparable to a smaller class vehicle. This means, that to fill a tank, it will only cost me 25-35 bucks. Yet, this tank can last me 1.5-2 weeks and I'll be driving to work in Ladner every day, Kickboxing in Burnaby three times a week, and out on dates at least 3 other times a week.

What's really great about the Prius is the in-dash display that tells you what your current km/100L rate is. Watching this real time meter, though dangerous, really helps to show you where and when you spend the most gas and, through some personal discipline and trail and error, you can use the meter as a guide to improve your driving so that you can go further with less gas.

I took an entrepreneurship class when I was still in SFU. Our prof talked about one of his previous groups that went on to start their own business, designing, producing, marketing and selling a device that can monitor how much power you're spending at home and link the information to a handy gadget that connects to an outlet on your wall or detaches and can be carried in your pocket.

Since then, I have noticed exactly that device in the new condos going up for Milennium Waters and the Olympic Village, which is great for my fellow alumnis. However, it is also great for the gold LEED standard building and will, with no doubt in my mind, definitely guide even non-green minded inhabitants to lead a lifestyle that is healthier for the planet.

At our current consumption and population rate, it is said that it would take about 100 Earths to sustain the hunter/gatherer lifestyle that our pre-evolutionary ancestors led. With current technology, it is said that 85% of the land would be needed for cultivation purposes in order for us to live a sustainable life, which is still huge, but is much better than what we had before. Certainly, technology will play a huge factor towards our goal of long existence. While the monitors and meters don't do that much, they do help a lot in terms of motivating otherwise uncaring individuals to led a better lifestyle.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Back strong with fifty belly dancers

Wow, it's really been a long time. My novel really hasn't progressed much if at all :p Maybe this is the year, who knows. Before I get to that, I figure I should provide an update, explain why I'm restarting this blog and what the new posting mantra will be.

First the update. Since I last posted, I wrapped up my studies at SFU. That was last August and I received my diploma during the graduation ceremony, which was last October. Right after graduation, I decided that I wanted to take my project management skills to the gaming world. I love video games, why not work with them? Project management is not that far off from Production and I started to poke around to see if anyone would take me.

During PAX 08, I met Ron Gilbert and he introduced me to Su Skerl who was a member of Vancouver's Artery, a group of artists that met regularly at Draw Jams to drink, chat and, well, draw. I couldn't draw very well, but it was a good crowd to hang with. Not only did they have connections to the gaming industry, but we all shared many interests and had lots to talk about.

Around this time, I was still poking around different companies in Vancouver, including Hot Head Games, Slant Six, EA, Radical, Relic, Blue Castle, Action Pants, Nexon, and even Planet Penguin, which was in Kelowna. I also looked at Redmond (Nintendo, Microsoft, NCsoft, etc) and Montreal (Ubisoft). I basically got a big "no dice" from everyone seeing how I didn't have much relevant experience aside from my education. All my previous jobs were really marketing and event management focused.

After 3-4 months of this, I finally decided to look outside the gaming industry and began pursuing marketing, PR and project/event management related job. I was still keeping an eye on the gaming scene just in case I could squeeze myself in somewhere. I was active on, submitting game design ideas for their weekly contest.

Around November, while exploring around Game Career Guide's forums, I came across a section for writers and thought, hey this is perfect for me. I applied to a few places and began writing for At first I was paid peanuts, but I didn't mind as I was having fun and gaining valuable experience and references. Liking writing so much, I looked everywhere for paid freelance work and managed to get a comission from the Escapist magazine, which was awesome. Eventually, I landed a regular freelance spot with Kidzworld, where I earn an equivalent or more of what I make at my full time job.

That's right, I'm working full time right now. I managed to find a marketing assistant job for a marketing company in Ladner through Things are pretty good here, but there is plenty of downtime now and then, which is why I played around with the idea of restarting my blog.

To be honest, I'm not confident in my creative writing. The many times I've started my novel, I've essentially crumpled up the paper and tossed it aside because I was never happy with it. Currently I'm playing with the idea of writing out one of my other novel ideas, but in the mean time, I'll play around with the blog and write to my heart's content.

My goal here now is not to be totally thoughtful or whatever. I think I just want to write what's on my mind and perhaps make myself look and sound interesting. Who knows where this will go. There is no plan, just random and weird thoughts.