Dead Stop

Thursday, August 27, 2009

I want to be selfish for this post. I want to talk about myself for just a few hundred words. I don't feel like cracking jokes at the moment, so if your visit to this site is for that purpose, sorry. Come back in a couple of days and we'll continue our laughs.

When I was in gradeschool, I forced myself to stay at the top section so I can make sure I stay in the same school in highschool. When I was in highschool I forced myself to get decent grades so I can enter a good college. When I was in college I tried hard to graduate on time so I can get myself into a decent company with a decent salary to support a future family. When I entered a decent company I worked hard so I can get myself a higher position. And a higher position. And a higher position. All the while, I felt like I have my life on track and I'm smoothly moving along.

Last month, I finally got the position that I've only dreamed about as early as college. I got the goal I've been looking at for a very long time now. I should be happy, really. It's just that one of the mornings after, I woke up realizing I've nothing else to do. And quite frankly, in terms of career, I feel like I've hit a pretty solid dead end.

Yes, there are still higher positions out there. And yes, I think there's a remote possibility I may go higher, but you know, somewhere along the way, I just realized that ascending the corporate ladder is like climbing a mountain. The higher you go up, the harder it gets to breathe. I'm starting to think if I get any higher I'll just choke and die.

Literally, a dead end.

Work's gotten twice as heavy compared to as recent as three months ago and looking at things, I'm now doing more work than when I was still in my previous company (which I left for reasons of overwork). Despite doing exactly what I visualized I would be doing, I suddenly don't feel like I'm enthusiastic about it. My new line of work changes my appearance to a lot of people, and moreover, it changes me.

I used to think if I were presented with the opportunity, I'd grab it because I wanted it. Somehow, things didn't turn out to be that way. In the end, I got to where I am now not because I wanted it, but because I can and I should, for many reasons I cannot discount.

There's a silver lining to every cloud, and I should be thankful that I even got as far as I did at my age. It's quite an achievement, and yes, I feel blessed to have what I have now. However, as far as fulfillment goes, I couldn't find it where I thought it would be.

We can't always get what we want.

But sometimes, even if we do have what we want, we still don't get it.

At least right now, I don't.

Starcraft : Top 5 Influential PC Multiplayer Games In The Philippines

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Starcraft wasn't exactly a groundbreaker in many things. By the time it got released locally in 1998, people in my school were already playing real-time strategy games like Total Annihilation and Red Alert, both of which already had a relatively loyal fanbase. Selected internet cafes were already offering head-to-head local area gameplay for these games as well.

More after the jump.

Thinking about it, despite its hype overseas, the reception of the relatively small PC gaming community of this game locally was far from impressive. Of course, not many people had internet connections at the time so we didn't know what the world thought about it, and game magazines were imported and reserved for our rich pompous asshole classmates who had relatives overseas. We were left to our own devices to find out about Starcraft, but like many good things like porn and torrent, it was more of an inevitable discovery than a lucky break.

Gameplaywise, Starcraft featured three distinct races that basically had zero common units that played differently, which made games like Red Alert and Total Annhiliation look like boring chess variants. Starcraft also limited the number of maximum units that could be created in the game, forcing players to manage resources and construction time better. Suddenly, multiplayer games were no longer about who could click the fastest alone (although rushfags will always exist). Personally, I'd like to believe this was the turnkey feature that enabled RTS to be turned into an electronic sport. Strategy was brought into the limelight, where it would stay up to this day.

As another revolution to gaming locally, Starcraft featured a dial-up connectivity mode, enabling anybody with at least a 28kbps baud modem and an unguarded phoneline to connect to a friend from miles away for some head-to-head/co-op games. Considering prepaid internet would not be introduced until a year later, and would not become mainstream for at least 2 more years, the dialup function gave local players a taste of what it felt like to rape somebody ingame, at the comfort of their own home. On a lighter sidenote, Starcraft also introduced the first time parents got angry over the overusage of telephone lines for a reason other than "telebabad".

With its amazing sprite graphics, flexible multiplayer-for-poor-people capabilities, fluid gameplay, and robust support for abusive zerg players, Starcraft invaded local networking haunts and served as the standard way of settling disputes about who has the bigger e-penis among the select few network gamers for a veeeeeeeeery long time.

Runner up : Warcraft 2
Warcraft 2 is the direct prerunner of Starcraft and had many of the features that made Starcraft a staple game for many of us. However, it was a game well ahead of its time, and could only be enjoyed by the select few who already had computers capable of running the game, which wasn't a lot. (I got my first pentium around mid '96, but didn't start playing games on it until the following year, when Red Alert already existed)

5 Games That Changed The Philippine PC Multiplayer Gaming Landscape

Nowadays, one of the biggest subsets of the video gaming culture in the Philippines is that of the Multiplayer PC Games category. With games like World of Warcraft, Counter Strike: Source, and Defense of The Ancients (DoTA), pc multiplay has permeated so deeply into the culture of youth that not knowing anything about these games could actually make you feel "weird".

This has not always been the case, of course, and as somebody who grew up during the coming of age of multiplayer video gaming in general, I can tell you that the road to the current state of things has been long and detailed, filled with games that tried, failed and succeeded, revolutionizing gaming as we see it today.

In a series of 5 articles, we will discuss the 5 games that actually contributed to the evolution of the local PC gaming landscape, so that future generations can savor the unique double-edged experience of "total pwnage".

#5: Starcraft

Bear Politics

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Spice and Wolf Economics Explanation

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Okay, normally I don't really take too much time writing about the anime I watch because one, it highlights how much of a nerd I am and two, anime is supposed to be readily digestible cartoons made for hyperactive children and needs no further elaboration.

Spice and Wolf has continually proven itself as an exception. Set somewhere in a medieval world, the story follows the exploits of a merchant named Craft Lawrence as he moves from city to city to earn money through trade. Joining him is a wolf goddess who wants to go back to her home town in the far north, livening up Lawrence's life along the way.

While the premise is simple enough, the concepts of the anime uses to keep things keep on surprising me, as complex ideas like short selling, marginal profitting, and psychological price resistances are routinely presented to what I can only imagine as a core audience of 14-18 (the likely age where nearnaked cartoon characters should sell the most)

(spoilers and actual explanation begin after jump)

After looking around the internet for some existing explanation for the last few episodes (Season 2, ep 1-6), I couldn't find any. Granted I've been studying the very same things in a more localized scenario lately, I've decided to write down and share what I've been able to make of the show.

The climax of the arc is about Lawrence selling off his partnership with Horo (the wolf girl) to that other merchant Amati (guy with crush on Horo). Amati strangely reminds me of Quatre Winner of the Gundam Wing franchise, actually.

Anyway, all the while a festival is going on in town. In the middle of it, a strange commodity called Pyrite is accumulating demand for the hype brought by a travelling fortuneteller. Hype usually increases the price of a commodity more than its actual production value, the same way trendfags pay wads of cash for iPods that pretty much do whatever other cheaper products do.

Amati, being the trader that he is, planned to gain the amount he needs to pawn off Horo by accumulating a large amount of pyrite early on and waiting for the demand to push the price higher up to a target price that will enable him to sell his stash at a value equal or greater than 1000.

The price Amati is waiting for is called the Target Price or Target Exit Price, and this sort of baseline can be seen even in our modern commodity/stock markets. The behavior exhibited by Amati is called the Target Price Oriented Action Strategy (PAOS)

The town's market in Spice and Wolf has its own primitive commodities/stock market control, similar to our country's Philippine Stock Exchange. The primitive board is actually a display board of the number of people willing to buy/sell a commodity at a certain price.

In case you're wondering what the big board does, here's a breakdown:

One row on the board represents one commodity whose symbol is indicated in the middle. The roman numerals basically display the current price of a commodity if you sell it (highest buying price) on the left and the current price of a commodity if you buy it (lowest selling price) on the right. The wooden bars show the current stocks of merchants willing to sell/buy at that certain price.

Not too different from what we have.

If the stock gets exhausted from buying and nobody is willing to sell at that price anymore, the price goes up to a price where people are willing to sell again. If the buyers are all given what they want and nobody wants to buy anymore, the price lowers until people want to buy again.

For the case of Pyrite, the demand is so high, nobody who holds pyrite wants to let go of their stash. The stock exhaustion kept on happening and the price of pyrite skyrockets. Meanwhile, Amati, having lots of stash at hand, is a happy sunnovabitch.

Craft Lawrence, realizing he's going to get screwed if the trend continues, then devices a plan to "jockey" the pyrite price. To jockey a stock means to artificially introduce stimuli into a market to influence the people, and consequently the price, to behave in a certain way. This concept is widely used even in our existing markets, specially in smaller commodities/company stocks.

His plan is to incite panic to the Pyrite market by making it look like the price is going to crash. While it looks devious, it's perfectly legal in most situations, as long as nobody loses an eye, dies, or gets pregnant.

See, the Pyrite market is already at an "overbought" condition, which is basically what happens when the demand is so high that the price is driven up waaaay beyond the actual price (pryite is just a rock but is currently being sold as a talisman, so we can just imagine how much overpriced this is). When a commodity is already overbought, current holders of the item tend to get antsy to let go of their stashes, because they start to think the price may no longer go any higher (and what doesn't come up will most certainly go down)

The jockeying idea of Craft is to become the first few people to start cashing in at the highest price. When somebody sells, the other merchants may take it as a cue that the price is no longer going up and the second market condition (no more buyers) will drive the price down. Volume helps support this idea, which is why Craft needs a lot of pyrite from Deanna - to make his action more psychologically significant.

Another idea he had as a supplement is to let a kid say something about now being the right time to buy wheat, while in a public area. The logic behind this is that the antsy merchants who are already earning good profits may suddenly think that the underpriced commodity of wheat to be the next place where profit can be made. This commodity exodus can also drive a selling spree which will drive the prices of pyrite down due to overstock.

In the end, Horo helped Lawrence out by dumping her share at the same moment as Lawrence, triggering the price crash that he actually needed.

As for the deal that Lawrence did with Amati where he bought some pyrite on credit, this is what the modern stock world calls Short Selling, which is basically selling somebody a computer you don't have and promise to deliver it after 3 days, and then buying at the last day when a stock is already at a lower price. In effect, you bought stocks today cheaply and sold it yesterday at a higher price, which is kinda like timetravel trading.

For Lawrence's case, he sold pyrite to Amati 2 days before he crashed the market, and then bought pyrite after he crashed the market and gave Amati the stash, telling everybody how to earn even from a market that's already tumbling down. This activity is not contributary to the main story, but it's the author's way of saying LOL I LOVE TRADING

Short selling drives the market even lower, but helps maintain a healthy price movement range. It's illegal in some countries including here in the Philippines.

Alright. That's basically it.


The Peter Pan Syndrome

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Here's one trend I've observed from hanging out in messageboards that are usually geared towards interests that are normally for kids (Ragnaboards, 4chan's /a/, some other anime web forums). People who stay there long enough and hang out with the people who also visit the site tend to slow down their rates of social maturity, if not halt it altogether.

The Peter Pan Syndrome is a term for people who tend to get stuck in the childhood phase, and for the duration of their lives stick with whatever things they took interests in as juveniles. While the causes of this psychological state are often attributed to childhood trauma or hormonal imbalances, there is a growing evidence (at least for me) that the conditional environments brought about by social networking through the internet can cause PPS as well.

I've personally stayed in a site called Ragnaboards for many years already. I remember starting to stay there at age 18, at a time when the average age of the people who also hang out in that place is 18. Back then, people were talking about things 18 yo were talking about, enjoying things that particularly nerdy teenagers enjoy (anime, videogames, porn etc). Overtime, I grew older, but the core age of the messageboard stayed 18. The older people went away, the newer, younger people arrived, and the interests were kept the same.

Because people in a message board are basically nameless, these shifts in the identities of the people I interact with are negligible. From my perspective, they're all about my age, and they're still talking about things that are for teenagers. Becuase of this, I tend to get the conditioning that for my age, these teenager things that I enjoy are still normal to enjoy even as I got older.

By contrast to real life, we are forced to stick a more constant set of people whose core age increases with time as compared to the staticness of an online clique. People, as a peer dynamic, tend to move on from childish interests to more mature ones becuase others do too.

It is basic instinct for the animals to take behavioral change cues from peers. In human society, the same case is just as prevalent albeit not as apparent. Because the cues that normally exist in society are attenuated online, the human developmental cycle misses the cues it needs to move on and social maturity is halted.

It must be such a good time to become a psychologist.
With the advent of the internet, a plethora of new dynamics have been introduced to existing psychoses and at least a dozen new ones become available every few months.

I could write a thesis on this just to smack the faces of useless psychology graduates who just copy shit from books and journals and call it a thesis.

But then again, I'm lazy. Ill write an article about it here on my blog, sit on it with my ass, and wait 5 years for some douche to figure out the same thing and personally message him that I've done it before.

Arrogance is a luxury.

Human Nature

Monday, August 10, 2009

The past few years in genetics has been pretty awesome. I doubt any of the generations previous to us have had the privilege of being witness to a literal explosion of information regarding human. Nowadays, discovering which gene influences us to do what has become so prevalent that sometimes we are now led to question how much of our actions are actually dictated by free will, if it even exists.

Perhaps the most amazing thing is that in our quest for knowledge, the closer we get to the truth of human nature, the more the human aspect disappears and the more the nature aspect becomes prevalent.

As recent as two hundred years ago, everybody believed in the soul. That we are creations of God made in His Likeness, our actions only guided by our ability to follow divine rules that will judge us after we depart this earth.

Advances in evolution have told us that we were not made by an Omnipotent being from scratch. We were humans that evolved from lower life forms over the course of millions of years.

Not too long after discovering that, advances in genetics told us that we are in fact a few genes different from the great apes, and only a significant genes shy away from the rest of the animal kingdom.

Advances in behavioral sciences have also started chipping away at the idea of higher thinking, that in the end most of our actions are still dictated by hormonal surges and preprogrammed synaptic reactions to stimuli. Altruism is a trick played on us to perform communally in the interest of the species. Mob mentality is just herd mentality for humans. Love is just a reproductive impulse processed by our neural networks and sugarcoated to work around our Freudan egos.

Genetic isolation have given us the "aggressiveness" gene, the "docility" gene, and more recently, the "slave" gene and "master" gene, giving out the possible uneventual conclusions that wars, peace, and even the pervasive pyramid has a primeval, basic, biological origin.

And perhaps it's the biggest irony, that we have to rise to the levels of obtaining divine knowledge about our constitution only to discover that we are in fact, above anything else, animals.

It took a while for us to know.

Knowing is one thing, and of course, acceptance is another.

3rd Fully Booked Graphic Fiction Awards Contest Results/Updates/Winners

Friday, August 07, 2009

It's been almost a year since the 3rd Full Booked Graphic Fiction Awards was started and up until now there still have been no winners. Having entered myself in the Short Film category together with Team Digiworx, I'm already slowly losing hope that the contest will actually ever be concluded. Because of this our hardworked entry is in hiatus. We could not release it for public viewing while any possibility of winning was just as negligible.

A few days ago I finally lost any semblance of patience and sent Fully Booked one last mail before I decide to go to DTI and force the results from Fully Booked.

My name is Red Kinoko and I wrote this letter to enquire about the results of the 3rd Fully Booked Graphic Fiction Awards contest. It's been almost a year since the contest was first announced and up to now, there's been no information on the winners of the contest (or the lack thereof, as stipulated in the contest rules). I've tried to contact your customer care hotline regarding this already before but so far the only answer I've gotten is that they do not have any advisory regarding the promotion.

Now I would like to know if this contest is already concluded, what its current status is, and why there was no notice given to the participants on the outcome of the contest.

I would like to get any information on the matter as soon as possible.

A few days later, I finally got their reply:

Thank you for your email. To give you an update, we are in the deliberation process to determine the winners for the Prose, Comics and Short Film categories so the announcement of winners haven't been released yet. We have been waiting for Neil Gaiman's availability to come to the Philippines for the awarding ceremonies but as of last year, he hasn't been able to give his confirmation due to his busy schedule promoting Coraline and other prior commitments this is why there has been no set date for the awarding ceremonies.

Apparently, Neil Gaiman's too busy to even bother with this contest so until he wises up and remember that there are people waiting for his ass to come here to hand out moneyz and autographed stuff (which can be sold), there will be no conclusion to this contest.

I hope this also answers the questions of other people like me who's wondering what happened to the magically disappearing contest. :)

Finer Points: Riding the Jeepney

Monday, August 03, 2009

The jeepney is a mode of transportation unique to the Philippines, and is the prefect combination of economy, efficiency, and the good old Filipino spirit of "bahala na si batman". The experience of riding a jeep is half transportation and half extreme sport, specially when the driver is a spunky 19yo who likes to listen to "Banananana" in full volume while treating the gas pedal with the delicacy of prison rape.

That said, here are a few things you may want to know in order to properly make use of jeepney rides:

1. Knowing which Jeep passes where

About 70 years ago, just as our grandparents were deciding how to rebuild our country from the ashes of war, a couple of engineers went on to redraw the map of manila from scratch, overcoming the challenges of not knowing how to draw straight lines or how to count. Because of this, we ended up with a city plan more convoluted than the varicose veins of a school librarian, named with only the most random names possible (it's not impossible to find a 34th street beside Balete st. and McArthur avenue)

The jeepney drivers, being obviously pissed at the city map, made their routes just as confusing sometimes moving around in a concentric pattern before zigzagging its way out of a district like some sort of organized city tour. This is so as to pass on the frustration to the unwitting commuters who still wonder why the fuck Zapote, Makati is 40km away from Zapote Kabila, Las Pinas. I dont know how to break it to you, but there is absolutely no fucking way for you to know where a jeep will pass even if they post at least 100 signboards written in cryptic ancient aramaic (e.g. ZAPOTE KABILA dadaan ibabaw crossing bubukas ang bulaklak...) Also, you will have to read without the aid of any lighting device while the jeep is going at twice the speed of sound. To your benefit however, these routes are also written at the side of the jeepney, so you know that the jeep is going where you need to go, the very moment it passes you.

2. Jeepney Fares

First thing you should learn about fares, in case you have never EVER used a jeep before, is that the minimum fare is 7.50 pesos. When you know that, you know about as much as the expert commuters, because in truth, there is no standard fare and we're all just guessing how the fare system works. Sure, you'll see laminated paper matrices that look more dilapidated than a 10,000yo papyrus stuck on the passenger part of the jeepney sometimes, but if you pay attention to the really small letters, they're either from the Marcos administration, or they do not make sense AT ALL.

Baclaran - Edsa ---- 7.50
Baclaran - Pedro Gil ----- 9.00
San Miguel - Preferred Shares ---- 1023.34
Bose-Einstein Coefficient ----- 432.876335
Pacquiao - Cotto ---- 1:15

Best thing you can do if you don't know how much to pay for your destination is to just give a whole bill, to which the driver will politely identify your fare cost and reply in a well-meaning way "Syet naman, wala bang barya?" ("doth thou hast coinage" in driver speak) The driver may look alarmed, but dont fret, he will give you your change as soon as possible, which is on the average, about 1-1.5km after you've passed where you're supposed to hop off.

3. Flagging jeeps down

You don't have to. Jeepney drivers are descentants of ancient Altantis dwellers and are capable of reading your mind. If you don't believe me, just stand on the side of the road and think of a jeep that you want to ride. After five minutes, expect a jeep to pull beside you and tell you where you want to go and your lucky numbers for the day. Did I say jeep? I meant caravan.

Being run privately and not as part of a government scheme to milk money, this means every jeepney is a competitor of every other jeepney on the road. Any attempts to flag one jeep down will attract every possible jeep down from a 2km radius, with a magnetic force stronger than Magneto during orgasm.

4. Getting off (the jeep, and not what you're thinking with your filthy filthy mind)

At some point in your journey, unless you have fallen asleep, or passed out from the massive G-forces excerted on your frontal lobe, you will have to get down from the jeep. While at first it seems to be easy, when you realize that you have to notify a driver sitting 20 meters away from you while loud remixed music is playing on the sixteen speakers strategically placed under the seats, just telling the driver you WANT to stop is already an act worthy of a Nobel prize. Screaming and banging anything that might attract attention is acceptable, unless it's somebody's hot wife we're talking about.

Because jeeps give you the freedom to get off anywhere, timing is also everything. Jince jeeps aren't exactly the most accurate stoppers in the world. The time delay you need to consider before notifying the driver can be expressed using the following factors:

Td = target time delay
Vj = Velocity of the Jeep
NAj = negative accelaration of the jeep when stopping
Gr = Grip constant of the road ahead
Rt = overall responsiveness of the driver, who might have a hearing defficiency

Which has the relationship Td = Vj/Naj(Gr/2.3445959 + (square root of Rt))

Given this formula, you can easily compute the time delay needed in a matter of hours and never have to miss your stop ever again.

4. Sitting Arrangements

Every jeep has been carefully engineered to be able to sit the maximum number of people comfortably, but jeep marketing people always manage to do their jobs of what I presume is making commuters miserable by marketing those same jeeps with the capacity of maximum + 1. That means on either row of the jeep, there's always one person who gets to spend his entire trip relying on the power and flexibility of one buttcheek.

Whereas the common idea of sitting in public people is that people who get in first go to the back end to faciliate the ease of sitting of the people who come in next, jeeps work the other way around by promoting people sitting as close to the exit as possible for some reason, which I assume is that the closer you are to the exit, the safer you are from becoming sterile from the loud loud music coming from the belly of the beast.

Sitting for men is limited to the one-nut position, which is roughly translatable to the minimum angle of spread of your legs that you can make without crushing both your nuts.

5. Religious figures

Jeepneys always have religious icons somewhere in the jeep so passengers can pray more effectively when the jeep is courting death and hell by moving around like a deranged car chase from "World's scariest police chases".


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