Archive for October, 2010

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From print to screen

October 25, 2010

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It’s been long proclaimed that print media is dead. In my opinion, it’s not really dead. Not yet, at least. As I strolled around in Borders a few days ago, books are still going strong. Of course, it’s kind of a sign of the times when next to the bestsellers shelf is a little table set up that displays a e-book reader and the promise of carrying all the latest titles. Actual book carrying is fading ever so slowly. I’ll use myself as an example.

Recollect and consolidate
Over the summer, I wanted to tackle my personal reading list. When stacked up, the amount of books I wanted to read would literally tower over me. Reading all of them would be difficult and just gathering them all in one place was a daunting matter. I ended up just leaving my books in their various scattered locations and typed up a list on my phone. I grabbed a few to start and began consuming. However, I was always plagued by one thing, light.

You see, I was always able to see my reading list because my phone had light. But the act of reading the novels themselves was limited to the amount of time in which light was visible and thusly, the text. I found myself closing a book earlier in the evening far too often due to my eyes getting tired of reading in dim light. Combining that with awkward positions when I did have light and I just gave up reading hours sooner than normal. I was able to acquire an .epub e-book of a few books and actually read them on my phone. I even read a few chapters worth on my desktop computer!

Tired eyes or just trained?
For many people, the thought of reading on a screen is tiring. The light from a screen causes stress on the eyes and over time will makes readers shunt it. Hence, most e-book readers such as the Kindle or the Nook use e-ink. It’s a screen technology that simulates printed font, making reading and focusing easier on the eyes. But e-ink still poses the problem of being too dark to read in low light conditions.

But, I see a difference of opinion in our generation. Some are experience eye strain like the older folks while others are flying through easily. What I mean is that we’ve been raised with reading on computer screens. I have no problem working and reading on a computer monitor for hours. And I’m sure there are many out there like me. When it came to reading on my phone, I simple reduced the brightness a bit as to not blow out my retinas and I was on my way. I have friends who do reading entirely on their iPads. The only problem is the weight of the iPad makes it annoying to hold after a long time.

Still curl up
Don’t get me wrong, I still love paper books. There’s a distinct feeling when you buy that latest hardcover or pick up a paperback. And it’s much more satisfactory laying in bed with a paperback. Besides, you can throw a book into your backpack and not worry about it being crushed. Well, maybe the corners will get bent a bit, but that damage is minimal and I regard them as battle scars. Also, the next big feature of digital books is the ability to lend them to your friends, something that you can do with physical books for the last…couple thousand years?

Physical books won’t be going away any time soon, they’re just scooting over a bit to make room for the new guy. Digital books still need to develop a pricing model that makes sense. As it stands, they require less work to produce yet still cost quite high. Hopefully, they’ll be able to make digital books and physical books coexist in a way where neither steals each other’s lunch every single day.

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Blogging past and future

October 19, 2010

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I love blogging. Writing about my day, random topics and thoughts are one of my favorite things to do. Sadly, I don’t do it as often as I wish I did. Couple that with my penchant for change and it’s a rarity for one of my blogs to really get a good run.

This current iteration of The Brain 2 U has only been in existence since March of 09. Before that, I had been using Blogger and had a number of blogs there. After many years, I migrated to WordPress and carried over a few posts.

I also started a lot of purpose blogs that I call project blogs. Here are a few of them:

techOnce was a project blog where I got to talk about tech news once a day. I stopped posting back in March but I should be posting back on there again soon. It’s a place where I give my thoughts on one chat-worthy topic per day.

Years Delight was another blog that stemmed from a video I saw. Yes, it was a blog that involved taking pictures of food. The idea was to take a picture of what I was eating once a day for an entire year. Sadly, that got old fast because I found myself eating similar things over and over. It stopped being interesting and starting turn into a chore. The blog is deleted now but the idea still lingers with me. Someday, I’ll reprise it’s entity into another weirdo project blog.

Moonlight Scribbles is the home of my ever-incomplete and non-active story. It’s an entirely fictional short story I wrote almost 5 years ago for a forum I used to frequent. By the way the story progresses, people didn’t guess that it as written by a sappy guy in real life. I used to have many more chapters but after the old forum shutdown, I was only able to find these 5 chapters. The story is very light-hearted and lovey-dovey. It’s much lighter reading than our old epic Storyboard. I plan to go back to writing more to this story later on, but my mood has to match the mood of the story. Until then, it sits as an archive and my personal reminder.

Entropial Stream is a private blog I use to post my own thoughts. It’s like a secret journal. I don’t share it but there are thoughts posted on there that eventually grow into posts on other blogs.

Eternity is our group blog. We’ve all found places to write our own life stories, but as our posts became erratic it became increasingly difficult for any of us to follow up on each other. Thus, Eternity came to fruition. The premise is that when any of us made a post on our own respective sites, we’d put a notice post onto Eternity. This would give everyone else a heads up. Even though it’s a shared blog, I like to call myself the proprietor. As of late, activity has stemmed from just Raj, myself, and occasionally Arthur. I imagine the other members are busy…

Blogging isn’t limited to Blogger nor is it limited to just writing about how your day went. Livejournal, Tumblr, TypePad as well as WordPress offers users a place as their internet home. Whether you write about your day or a topic of interest, it’s about expressing your thoughts and opinions in written form. It’s your choice where and how you do it. And how many places.

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Korean drama My Girlfriend is a Gumiho

October 18, 2010

It’s been a while since I watched a Korean drama. So, with great anticipation I set out to find something recent that was getting good reviews. I stumbled upon a series that not only starred people whom I knew and liked, but also had an interesting story to go along with it.

Gumiho is pronounced goo-me-ho. It means nine-tailed fox that in Korean lore, turns into a beautiful woman and seduces men to eat their livers to survive. Why their livers? According to them, the liver contains the essence of life since it helps process food.

In My Girlfriend is a Gumiho, this whole premise turns out to be the result of a rumor that was spread 500 years ago. The gumiho just enjoys eating meat, not even human meat at that. Instead, the gumiho here enjoys beef and chicken very much so.

She starts off trapped inside of a scroll painting. Drawn as a fox without any tails, she remains here for 500 years until the start of the drama series. Our main hero stumbles upon the scroll painting as he hides out at a temple after having run away from home due to scholastic pressure from his family members. The gumiho is able to speak to him and is able to scare him into drawing on nine tails, thus freeing the gumiho from the scrolling. Henceforth, the gumiho continues to stick close to our main hero as she is new to our 500-year different world. Laughter, tears, and misunderstandings ensue between all the people in the main characters life, including his family members, close friends, and love interests.

All this from only the first 4 episodes! That’s all I’ve watch so far because I’m still in the process of downloading the entire series. However, even at just a few episodes watched, this series is a very fun watch and I can’t wait to keep going.

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Being sick is not cool

October 11, 2010

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This is a given, duh.

I don’t get sick too often during the year. But, when I do get sick, it sucks. It creeps in slowly and then makes itself comfortable, sticking around for 2-3 weeks! I hate it.

Sneaky, sneaky.
I’ll be going out at night, staying up late, and even wearing thin clothing in cold weather but I won’t get sick. My immune system is pretty good when it comes to that. However, my immune system does a sort-of reboot yearly and that’s when it’s at it’s most vulnerable. And I won’t know it’s doing it so I’ll get this weird feeling in my throat one day. Next day, my voice starts to go. Oh NO!

It’s starts… Or not?
Then, it goes away! After a day or two of feeling an onset cold, I feel fine. That’s just a trick, kind of like the calm before a storm. Next day, I’m hit. Hard. Half my senses are dulled, the other half go on vacation. My throat hurts and my voice comes out at an octave higher than normal. I start getting the sniffles, I’ll cough randomly, and my eyes start tearing at the most conversationally awkward moments. Just normal symptoms of a regular cold. Should clear up in a few days or so, treat it with meds, fluids, rest, the usual shabang.

*cough cough*
Those random coughs start becoming more regular. Waking up often gets followed by this weird face I make after I stare at the sink in disgust at what I just coughed up. Great, the cold has turned into a cough. At this point the regular nose-related symptoms will start to go away so I can breathe again! Only problem is that taking a deep breathe invokes a struggle with my lungs and air fighting it’s way through my body. I spasm awkwardly as my body jerks involuntarily with coughs. Grrrr, not fun. When I was really little, I actually ended up in the hospital because a cold-turned-cough was wreaking too much havoc on my respiratory system.

Mental slip
This is where it starts to get a little funky. No, I don’t go crazy, but more along the lines of my mental state going… all over the place. Some days, I’ll be normal, able to be serious and focus on all matters at hand with a clear mature state of mind. Other days, I could be as mature as a 6 year old. I’ll cheer at the most random of things and be disappointed at the most little. I’ve hacked my iPhone while sick and was only starting to feel satisfied when I found out I got email. O_O

Final stage…the long draw
At this point, all symptoms will be cleared except the occasional light cough. Which is annoying because it’s not a full on cough. I call it a puppy cough, a light scoff here and there, “oh!” here and an “oh!” there. It’d quite annoying mainly because of people’s reactions. Either they think I’m faking it at this point or they think it’s cute. It is not fake nor is it cute. It’s a perversion of my near-ending sickness. Grrr, again.

Right now, I’m actually going through the slow beginning cough stages. I’m blasting meds and vitamins like crazy, hoping I can get through this cold as fast as possible.

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Online radio.

October 7, 2010

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I know everyone’s a big fan of Pandora and I am, too. The only problem with Pandora is that it’s only good for American Music. That’s fine and all when I find a song I like, but then the recommendations are all over the place. Half the time, the songs are either from people I’ve never heard of or they’re all old songs. Sure, the old songs aren’t bad, but I want rec’s for new stuff.

I used to use Last.fm years ago, I think around time I changed the layout on my very, very first blog. That’s a long time ago. Back then, the reason to you use Last.fm was because there was a widget you could install on your blog and it’d display the last song you listened to on your computer. That was cool and all but I had no idea about the online radio part of it. After a few months, I stopped using it altogether. I just started using it again a few weeks ago.

Scrobbling…
So, there’s this process they call scrobbling where it identifies the songs you’ve played, be it on your computer through iTunes, Winamp, or Windows Media Player, or iPod/iPhone. Then, it too recommends songs to you to listen. Pretty neat. Here’s the differences it has with Pandora that play a huge part for me:

Other Languages
1. It’s multilingual! Holy crap is that a big deal. All the Korean music I listen to would show up as squat in Pandora. Every once in a while, something would get recognized but the station would instead be American songs entirely. Now, they get identified correctly through Last.fm. It works along with the Japanese and Chinese songs I have, it’s like, finally my music collection is recognized.

How it recommends is different
2. In Pandora, it uses the DNA of the song (beats, harmonies, vocal patterns, etc…) to define and recommend similar sounding songs. Cool in essence, but I end up with literally a whole station of the same sounding stuff. Last.fm makes the recommendations based on the tastes of people who have listened to similar songs as you. So, when you listen to a song, it’ll find other people who listened to that song and find stuff those people liked. It’s more user/community driven. The caveat is that you need to scrobble songs to last.fm first before it can really start making good recommendations. I actually set my computer to scrobble my iTunes collection overnight for a few days to get a jump start, but over time, you’ll get the scrobble count up.

There’s a community for that
3. Artist Info, album art, message boards, music videos, photos. It’s got tons of stuff and more can be posted up by users. That’s pretty cool.

Next please
4. Skipping songs. Sometimes, that song just recommended to you isn’t so great. Let’s skip it. In Pandora, you’re limited to six skips per hour. In Last.fm, no limit. "But Brian, skipping a lot means the system fails at recommending!" You might say that, well, what if it works in recommending songs I like, but I’ve heard them all before and I want to try new stuff? I don’t want to have to wait an hour just to discover a possible new song. I want it now.

But…
Of course, I’m not just going to sit here and bash Pandora straight up. Pandora’s web interface is very nice and simple. And it’s fast, both through the web and it’s apps. Using last.fm on my phone there is a noticeable lag (about 2-3 seconds) between songs as it buffers up. Pandora has about half the lag.

Last.fm isn’t a perfect online radio/recommendation service for everybody. But to me, it fits well and I enjoy using it.

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Mafia, the party game

October 4, 2010

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Today was a pretty interesting day. Lenny held a BBQ at his house and invited a ton of people. Mingling, munching and finally marauding into his house, a whole bunch of us got together to play Mafia. It was the first time playing this game for a few of us, including me. Ironically, I now remember that it’s quite similar to a game I’ve heard of called Werewolf, which follows along the same style of gameplay. There are a ton of variations on the Mafia game and many rulesets.

The gist of the game
The game is divided into two phases, Night and Day. During the Night, “Mafia” members secretly Kill a player, while the Nurse secretly saves one player, and the Detective works to identify who the Mafia members are. During the Day, all players must come to a consensus selecting one person to “lynch” as a possible Mafia member all the while keeping their own identities a secret. The game is directed by a Narrator who does not participate in the game but instead provides a story and directs the players along.

Micro-expressions
It’s quite fun and you start seeing interesting trends as games progress. Some people grow very quiet when they are a part of the Mafia so as not to draw much attention to them. Others will hold a very active role in the deliberations. Players will often find even the smallest reasons to accuse other players of being a Mafia member.

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One thing I noticed were micro-expressions are very hard to read but can tell quite a lot. They can reveal emotions that they are experiencing, such as: disgust, anger, fear, sadness, happiness, surprise, and contempt. Something as simple as someone biting the left side of their lip or double blinking to more cryptic expressions such as raising one’s eyebrow. But it’s fun once you’ve spotted something and you’re suspicion comes to fruition. Poker players also call this a “tell” and will find ways to hide their own tells. I’ve played poker with John a lot so I can spot a tell on him. Too bad he offed me when I saw it in game. Grrr.

Even friends can’t tell

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Another funny thing I noticed was that even close friends were having trouble figuring out if the person they knew so well was lying to them or telling the truth. In our first round, I was the Mafia Don and I was able to capitalize on that and take out a lot of people before they realized that I was too quiet during some of the deliberation. Some people are very good at lying and was able to hide among the innocents till the very end. You people know who you are…

Crazy deliberation
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Some rounds were very intense as deliberations got heated. Accusing someone based on the smallest reasons such as “You’ve been talking too much” or “You looked at him funny” slowly became the norm. Defending oneself is quite hard and literally involved coming up with a substitute to take your place under the butcher block. Lots of yelling, screaming and laughing takes place during this phase of the game. My favorite thing about this game is that many times, people were literally changing their minds nonstop about who to accuse. When you lynch an innocent person, the whole group feels bad about it because you not only took out a regular player, you’ve allowed Mafia member escape. But when the group nails a Mafia member, it’s awesome. Applause and high-fives abound, this moment of glory is a small break from the continuing carnage of Mafia hits, drawing suspicions, and mob mentality.

Love it.

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Munching while typing

October 3, 2010

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One of my favorite things to do while I’m typing away on a paper is to munch on Pocky. Most of you have seen my Quest for Pocky video and it would suffice to say that the passion is still there. As I’m typing up this post, I have a pack of original Strawberry Pocky open on my desk. My mom actually bought it for me because she saw it and remembered I liked them. There are a lot of Pocky flavors out there!

Other choices?
Of course, Pocky isn’t the only munchie I enjoy while I punch furiously away on my keyboard. M&M’s are great to have because they don’t melt in your hand when you move them from packet to mouth. White Rabbit candy is awesome because they last for quite a bit of time before they fully dissolve. Granted, that rice paper peel flies everywhere when you first unwrap a piece.

image Pick up a pack a Costco

And it’s not really food, but chewing gum is a nice flavor inducer. I’m a huge addict of Trident Original. It has a nice kind of minty flavor to it, it’s approved by the ADA (American Dental Association) so it’s actually good for your teeth, and each pack has 18 pieces. I usually have a pack on my desk for the times where I feel the need to chew on something.

Not so great choices?
Basically, anything that get’s your hand dirty or drops crumbs. I’m typing, for goodness sake. The last thing I need is for my fingers to feel sticky or for them to be coated in red or yellow cheese powder. And crumbs in your keyboard? That’s just not sanitary nor fun. If I’m blasting away on the keyboard, I’ll be staying away from chips. Gotta love Flamin’ Hot Cheetos, except when you need to type a sentence and your fingers are bright red. They actually have a term for that called “cheeto fingers.” It’s fun and tasty to lick them clean, but it’s kind of gross when you know that afterwards you’ll be placing those said fingers onto your keyboard.

imageNot my fingers

And chips break when you bite them. The ensuing crumb rain will make your keyboard cry out in agony like you’re dropping edible spikes on it.

image Crumbly. Fear glazed donuts, it’s like snowfall.

Cookies, donuts, pastries, and pretty much any baked good is a no-no while you’re working the keys on your ‘board. Cookies drop crumbs and donuts drop sugar. Pastries are great until you bite into them. Crumb bits are the least of your worries there as any gooey filling inside is sure to wind up outside. If it’s sweet and sticky, it should wait until you’re done.

Stuff with utensils?
That’s an interesting choice. Cut fruit with say, a toothpick, can be a nice healthy munchie while typing. Remember to keep the service plate/bowl under you while you eat so as not to drip juices on yourself/keyboard. Cup noodles aren’t really a munchie as they are a food/meal item. The cup prevents droppage and you’ll be using chopsticks/forks. But, it really does take away your hands from the keyboard.

imageHow real men eat fruits. Ok, not fully true.

Just a habit
Sure, it might not be a great or healthy habit, but munching on something while typing up code or a blog post makes time fly by a little faster and makes the wait for real food less painful. Of course, you could just stop typing and go get some real food, but where’s the fun in that?

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