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.