Birthday #24

I turned 24 yesterday.

Generally uneventful birthday, as usual. I’m glad I got the whining done in the last post. Spent the night before at David’s (whose birthday is a couple of days before mine). Dave, Mon and I played approximately seven hours of CvS2, watched a Jet Li flick then played around eight hours of Warcraft III. WC3 is the bomb! (And it further highlights my craving for a new computer) Anyway, went home the next morning, got some sleep. Then the usual birthday food in the evening, and some new pants.

I had forgotten to go to Church that morning (curse you Warcraft III!!!) so I decided to go to Church this morning. Before going I was stiull a bit down about being a 24-year old bum, but somehow going to Church gave me back a bit of hope. Funny how although I’m not a very good practicing Catholic, a few quiet moments with God are enough to change my perspective on things.

In any case, this is the start of a new year, hopefully one better than the last. I don’t know where fate will take me this year, but I will face life with open arms, overcome all challenges and spit in the face of destiny. All things happen for a purpose, hopefully soon i will know mine.

They Don't Know What They're Missing

I’m pissed off.

Today I went to Ortigas for a job interview with a nameless IT company where my cousin Rachel works. I was quite optimistic too — the position was for a “Java Trainee.” I was more than willing to be trained, and a trainee position meant you didn’t have to be proficient in Java right? Turns out I was wrong. =( Apparently they needed someone with some experience in Java, preferably with a project or two under his belt. I tried to convince the interviewer that I had a lot of raw talent and learn pretty fast anyway, but I haven’t got any high hopes. That pissed me off.

Even worse, I had gone to Ortigas with just enough cash to make the trip back and forth. I had left a good two hundred bucks at home ‘coz I forgot to pick ’em up and put ’em in my wallet. I was thinking of trying out the arcade version of Capcom vs SNK 2, maybe buying a CD or two. But no! Now I couldn’t even grab a bite on the way home. That pissed me off.

Later that night, my mother was watching “While You Were Sleeping”, and I was feeling so depressed I was wondering what would happen if I ended up like Sandra Bullock at the start of the movie — alone, and working a dead end job as a ticket seller. Sigh

It’s not just the fact that I’m still unemployed — it’s been a good nine months now and I’ve kinda gotten used to that. It’s the realization that despite whatever work I’ve done in school, I can’t get a job. It’s as if everything I learned in college was useless.

When I was finishing up in UP, everything seemed simple — I’d graduate and all my troubles would be over. I’d get a job at maybe Canon or Intel, save a bit, buy a new computer and a PS2, et cetera. To tell the truth I was probably spoiled by those teachers that kept telling us that simply being graduates of the State University was good enough to land a job. I ought to sue those teachers for mental anguish or something. I graduated from one of the hardest course at one of the best universities in the country, and I can’t land a job. Gosh darn it all.

After thinking about this, I thought I’d evaluate my own skills to see what could be done. Lemme see, I can do:

  • Embedded software. Since I did two thesis-level projects involving embedded software, I reckon I’m fairly good at this. The problem is that I’ve only come across one job opportunity where this skill would be useful, and I never got a callback (and
    I thought it was a pretty good job for me too.)
  • Programming. This would be great, until I acknowledge that while I’m a programming genius, I don’t actually have any application-level programming experience under my belt. I’m good a coding, optimizing programs, finding solutions to tough problems, but I’ve never been part of a large-scale software project, even though I could probably do it all myself, in theory.
  • Web Development. I know HTML and various scripting languages, can use Macromedia Dreamweaver and Flash, what can’t I do? The problem comes up again: I know it all in theory, but lack the experience. It’s not like I’m churning out webpages at a dime a
    dozen, and most places looking for web developers ask for some level of experience. Curses.
  • Write. Or at least I like to think I can. But it doesn’t sound very profitable to be writing for a living…

Sigh, that’s it. Pretty sad, huh? The main problem seems to be most of what I can do is self-taught and relies on my raw talent instead of actual experience. What is it with the world? Why can’t they just recognize my genius and overlook my lack of experience? I learn impossibly fast anyway, anything I don’t know I can pick up quickly. Argh.

Oh well, at least now I feel better, having put my thoughts into words. This journal thing is probably really healthy for me. I get to whine without burdening anyone with my problems.

There’s still some hope, at least. Sir Louie, the ECE guy Tito Ferry set me up with, said he’d ask around, although he did recommend I learn a few more skills by taking some short courses at APC, an IT school near SM North. I’m a bit hesistant about that though — short courses will undoubtedly cost money, and I don’t want to bother my parents about cash any more than I have to. It’s bad enough I can’t help them make ends meet…

Anything else? Lately we’ve been watching Excel Saga (ridiculosuly funny! Pedro!!!) and Scryed. AXN is showing two new anime series: Ayashi no Ceres and Gensomaden Saiyuki. And they brought back Monday night anime, so more anime all around. Oh yeah, the A/V cable for our PSX is apparently busted. Which probably explains why I got rather pissed off today. Just when I was gonna get adult Rei back into the party! Without the PSX to distract me, I had no choice but to face my real-world problems

=(

In any case, I guess I have no choice but to keep going and hope for the best. I got a nice quote today from Castaway, from Tom Hanks of all people:


“I know now I have to keep on breathing. Because the sun will rise tomorrow, and you never know what the tide will bring.”

rant.07.12.2002: personal websites

I originally wasn’t going to have a rant today, but while surfing the web I thought about one of the things I like about it: personal websites.

That’s right, personal pages. Some people might argue that personal pages are like the dregs of the internet. And they’re probably right. Given that any random joe-on-the-street can get on Geocities and build his own website, (like royness.vze.com for instance) we’re certainly bound to see all sorts of stuff (and accordingly, all sorts of crap) on the internet.

See, that’s the thing: “All sorts of stuff.” It’s pretty much the same way Forrest Gump describes a box of choc’lates: You never know what you’re going to get. And occasionally, you get some good stuff. And for people like me, who are obsessed with the trivial, stuff is good. The same way that people browse through bargain bins looking for good deals, I like to browse through personal pages looking for something read-worthy (or even better, download-worthy.)

The problem with most personal pages on the ‘net however, is that they are crap. Don’t get me wrong there are a lot of good ones out there. (Try Toastyfrog or maybe Seanbaby) But the fact is that a whole lot of websites are done by people just learning to do HTML or trying it out. Not that being a newbie is a bad thing; the bad thing is when you make a website just for the sake of having one, just so you can say you know how. Websites built in this manner typically end up the sort that’s filled with all sorts of tricks like animated GIFs, scrolling marquees or a ton of Javascript. Lots of flash but not much content really.

Here are some tips for people who want to make their own website:

Have something to offer. Many people build personal sites with the attitude of “It’s my website, what do you care what I put on it, anyway!” Yeah well, if you don’t care what people think about it, why are you putting it up on the net? Leave it on your computer if that’s your attitude. Websites are put up for public consumption, so there has to be something there for people to consume. If you’re going to put up a website, make sure you have something to offer the public other than an “under construction” page. Otherwise, you’re just wasting people’s bandwidths aren’t ya? When you’re just starting out with the idea of “I want to have my own webpage”, it might be hard to think of what your webpage can offer the world. It doesn’t have to be anything big or extra popular, you can start small. I originally put this website up just to host some fanfiction. (And then I put up more and more stuff…) You can put up your writings, reviews of things you like, links to interesting places, info about yourself, announcements about events you’re involved with, etc.

Be original. This is hard to do in today’s web. Most of the things people put up on their websites can undoubtedly be found elsewhere on the web. What can you do to set yourself apart from the crowd? Use more original content, or if you’re lacking in that department, look for different ways to present your content. An example would be when I was first learning HTML, I tried to make a Rurouni Kenshin web site. At first I was going to put in info about the characters, story etc. But after looking around a bit, I saw that there were already many websites around for this popular anime series. So instead, I put up info about the fighting styles and techniques of the RK characters, something that I couldn’t find at that time. (Don’t try looking for this so-called RK site of mine, I took it down a long time ago. I still have the files and may revive it someday though.)

Know what contrast is. Look at this site and you’ll know what I mean.

Don’t try to do everything at once There are people who make websites with the idea that their site will be “next big thing” of the internet. It won’t, trust me. Not anytime soon at least. Although there are a lot of crap sites, there are also a lot of good sites, and the best ones have developed from small sites with a limited following to being read by millions. You, with your meager resources and staff of (probably) one can’t hope to achieve that overnight. Start small, focus on what your site can provide to your viewers right now instead of trying to be a really big thing. See that site I linked to above? The front page says “Your number one sorce for your anime needs.” Not only is that misspelled, but it’s so far from the truth.

Know how to spell and know how to write proper English (or whatever language is your choice). I’ll cite the above link as an example again. How do you expect your readers to take your website seriously if you can’t even spell “sorce” properly? Go back to school first, then make a website. Additionally, you may want to leave the l33t sp33k for mIRC, unless that’s what your audience expects.

Write for your audience That way, they can come back later. Don’t do things like writing in l33t when your viewers will probably hate it. For a personal site, your initial audience is probably going to be mostly you, and maybe some friends and family. When you want to start attracting more people to your site, you may also consider writing for people who think like you. This are the best kind of viewers, as they will like what they see and will usually come back for more.

Know how to take criticism Actually, this is advice for being on the internet in general. Remember that the internet is a public medium, and anything you offer on the internet can be criticized by anyone. A lot of stupidity on the internet comes from people not knowing how to take criticism. Study the criticism and correct your mistakes. Accordingly, I want to apologize in advance to the owner of the site I’ve been using as a bad example — I have nothing against you, yours was just the website I had open at the time of this writing.

Have links. Links are always good because if the rest of the website is bad, at least there’s a chance of finding something better to read. If your website could have only one thing, have links.

Dang, this turned out longer than I thought it would. I have a lot more to say on this topic, I’ll say them next week. Later!

Cheap Rushing

[Posted on the GameFAQs message board
in response to endless whining about rushes.

Last I heard, Battle.net had a competitive ladder system,
meaning if you want to go up on the ladder, you have to win. If
rushing is the means for that win, you should go for it.

What does this mean? If you don’t want to be rushed, don’t
play on Battle.net, because on Battle.net people play primarily
to win and secondarily for fun.

Get a bunch of friends together and hook up a LAN and play
amongst yourselves, where you can have your own rules like “No
rushing!” or “Announce before attacking!” or “No building fifty
million towers!”

If you insist on playing on Battle.net, don’t play 3v3 or 4v4;
it’s in these formats that rushing is a very viable strategy. I
find that 2v2 is best, as there is little human interaction in
1v1.

If you think that rushing makes the game “no fun”, then maybe
you should be playing another game. Warcraft III is a *strategy
game*, the “fun” is in finding strategies to beat your opponent.
Rushing is a strategy, just like any other, and it can be
defeated just like any other strategy (otherwise 100% of people
would be rushing, which isn’t true)

Do you always get beaten by rushes? Maybe you should look at
your build order to see how you could improve speed-wise or get
more defense early on. Look at replays to see how people beat off
rushes. Scout ahead to know they are coming. Practice against two
or more computer opponents to test yourself. The key to improving
is not to whine about things that are “cheap” or “no fun” but to
study ways to beat those things.

As a note, I am not a rusher. Not often anyways. I will rush
every so often, but only for variation. I attack when I can,
creep when I can, and tech as fast as possible.

Interview With Texas Instruments

Sometimes my still being unemployed depresses me greatly (Although my periods of depression typically last no more than thirty minutes.)

The biggest problem in my job-hunting woes is the fact that the type of job I want varies greatly from what I have training in. I want to be involved in IT or programming, but I don’t have a lot of the skills necessary to succeed in those fields. I will probably always regret not shifting to Computer Science or even Computer Engineering early on in college. If I had I would’ve probably had a much easier time.

In any case, I’m going for an interview with Texas instruments on Friday. The job is not an optimum one for me — I don’t really want to work as a product engineer although I am qualified. (Heck the chances of my being accepted are probably too small for me to even consider — I have the requirements but I’m sure a lot more qualified people will be applying. I’ll have to wow ’em with my incorrigible attitude). But the pay is probably good, it involves overseas training and if I get accepted it’ll mean I have something to do in the meantime as I try to earn the skills needed for a job that I _would_ enjoy.

Hopefully the TI guys never read this. O_o

The One Where I Run My Mouth, As Usual

Well I finally decided to start a full-blown web journal. I used to keep one some years ago — I think it greatly helped me develop my english skills. Or not. Anyway, I tend to run my mouth off for paragraphs at a time anyway, and so many things run through my head at any given time it probably makes sense to put down at least some of it on paper (or in a computer at least.)

Anyway, I decided to make over this site because nothing much of anything else has been happening around here lately. With Mon in town, the two of us and David have been spending every other day at David’s wonderful airconditioned room playing Capcom vs SNK 2 and Final Fantasy X. Mon mentioned that modded PS2’s are now able to play copied PS1 discs, so it’s probably a good time to buy one now. Assuming of course, that I have cash.

I’m still for the most part unemployed. Oh who am I kidding, I’m still a bum. Or “employment challenged.” Whatever. At least Mon and David aren’t working either. =P I really need a job — seeing as how I really want both a new computer and a PS2. In fact, I’m already seriously considering a call center job, however dead-end it may seem.

Another time.

Hoshigami: Ruining Blue Earth

First off, I haven’t finished the game yet, I’m somewhere in Chapter 5. I stopped playing the game a month or so ago out of sheer irritation.

For the uninitiated, H:RBE is a tactical RPG for the PSX, released during the last year the PSX. The game is similar in some respects to games like Final Fantasy Tactics and Tactics Ogre, with an emphasis on turn-based squad-level combats. Unlike FFT and TO’s similar Active Time system, H:RBE uses a system called RAP, where each character can perform as many actions as he wants provided he still has the RAP gauge to pay for it. The more RAP you use, the sooner your next turn comes, and vice versa. I bought this game hoping it would be at least comparable to either FFT or TO. Was I disappointed? Read on.

The Good:

* RAP. RAP is good. The fact that you get to decide how to allocate your time, and the fact that you can control when your characters get to act. This is good.

* Shoot. Shoot is good, a nice ability that adds a different tactical angle to the game, emphasizing the importance of position.

* Session. Since Shoot is good, it follows that Session must be good.

* Difficulty. Yes, difficulty is good, to a certain extent. Hoshigami brings a new level of difficulty to the table that we didn’t get to have in the ridiculously easy FFT. Veteran gamers were looking for a level of difficulty closer to that of the old favorite, Tactics Ogre. The game’s difficulty is actually still good (albeit good on the masochistic side) but the actual difficulty is overshadowed by the fact that it’s _tedious_. Read on.

The Bad:

* Lack of variation. You basically have only five things to do: attack, shoot, move, cast spells or use items. And spells do only one of three things: deal/heal damage, or create/heal status or break equipment. Where’s the Haste spell? Protection spells?

* Long battles. The lack of variation wouldn’t be so bad if you didn’t have to endure it for hours at a time.

* No saving between successive battles. That was a bad, bad, design boo-boo. You’ve been fighting for hours on end, and you’re almost finished, when a lucky archer drops the bomb on Elena.

* Bad AI. You know what I’m talking about. Archers who don’t understand the trajectory of their weapons. Enemies who kill each other. Soldiers who attack even if the hit chance is 0%.

* Unforgiving design. Permanent death. Underlevelled party has no chance against higher level party. Masses of enemies thrown at you. It’s like the designers decided that instead of simply working on tactically challenging battles, they would throw lots of enemies at you, at higher levels than you would expect and hope that you have the tactical ability to overcome this. It was a good idea except for the fact that LOW-LEVEL CHARACTERS STAND NO CHANCE AGAINST HIGH-LEVEL CHARACTERS. Even if you’re only two levels behind, your damage and hit rate become so pitiful that you simply won’t survive one-on-one, what more two-on-one. The game would’ve been 300 times better if either a) story battles had the same level as you; or b) The number of units on each side are comparable. As it is, the only real reliable way to win in battles is through either Coinfeigms or leveling-up. Which wouldn’t be so bad except that…

* Levelling-up is tedious. Since you will almost never meet enemies in the Towers who are at the same level as yours, you’re stuck fighting lower level goons while occasionally hitting yourselves for EXP. And not only that…

* Levelling up Coinfeigms is tedious. Yes it is. The interface is so bad; every time you engrave your coin, you must go back to the top of the list of seals and look for the seal again. Given that you often want to engrave your coins multiple times with the same seals, the game becomes unnecessarily tedious. Adding to this is the “random” factor involved in engraving. I’m sure during development it seemed like a neat concept and all, but in practice all it means is that you have to occasionally save in-between engravings.

* Deity/DEV system. Good idea, poor execution. Some of the abilities are simply worthless, and some are strictly better. You will seldom need to change your abilities around. Status-enhancing abilities are generally useless at 10%, slightly better at 25%. Champion sounded cool, except in practice you never want to have anyone with low HP. Furthermore, the system is unbalanced. Sonova people simply suck, despite their HP Bonuses.

* No randomness. All battles are fixed. No hoping to meet an Uribo here, folks, each battle gives you the exact same opponents every time.

The Ugly

* that sad, sad battle theme. I end up unplugging the audio cord on the TV whenever I play Hoshigami.

All in all, what went wrong in this game? The thing is that the designers thought people wanted a difficult game, so they made a difficult game. The problem is that they achieve that difficulty through repetitiveness, redundancy and tediousness. On the GameFAQs message boards I read an analogy comparing Hoshigami to Chess. The difference between Hoshigami and Chess is that in Chess, both sides start with the same pieces, and you win or lose based on your own tactical decisions. In Hoshigami, not only does your opponent get more pieces than you, they’re all bishops and knights while you’re stuck with a platoon of pawns. And you have to play that game of chess some 50 times, without losing, ever.

Jobless: Is there even any hope?

I stood there wordlessly, inching my way through the unending mass of people. There must have been several hundred people crammed into less than two hundred square meters of mall area, interspersed with some twenty cubicles filled with various displays and banners. What madness is this you ask? What product could be so enticing that hundreds of otherwise sane people to participate in such a gathering, jostling for space and risking being elbowed, stepped on or maybe even pick pocketed? The answer was employment. That most important symptom of security that people crave especially in tough times such as these.

Yes, my friends, it is a job fair. Hopeful job-seekers from all over the capital converge upon this establishment in the commercial district and hope to find gainful opportunities in these otherwise difficult times. I am one of such hopefuls. Weaving amongst the crowd and perusing various company paraphernalia, I search for the perfect job for one of my skills.

Here’s one, an engineering job, sounds promising. Oh, it’s in Bulacan, a good three hours away from home. No thanks. Hmm, there’s an opening in this Japanese company. Wait, I already applied for that a couple of months ago. How about a teaching job at some technical college? No thanks, there are better schools out there for me to teach at.

I chuckle at my own audacity. For someone who had been unemployed for a good six months now I was being extremely picky. How many job applications had I botched over the past six months? At least three that sounded promising. And for no apparent reason aside from the vague “I wouldn’t like it there” or “It’s not the right job for me.” Sometimes I wonder what it is I really want.

Or maybe that’s the problem. For someone who spent the last few years of his engineering studies whining about how he should have shifted to another course, I had no real idea about what it was I wanted to do. Well, no practical idea at least. I know I eventually want to work in interactive entertainment software (read: computer games), but that’s not really a plausible option right now. Aside from that, nothing. I have no idea where to go or how to get there.

I know I need a job. Heaven knows I’ve sponged off my folks long enough. But what job? I look at the hordes of people applying for boring, everyday office jobs and I shake my head. I don’t want to end up some office drone who can’t break out of his routine. I don’t want a job that is tedious and boring. I don’t want to be some staff engineer doing the same things day in and day out. I want to learn, I want to be challenged, I want to expand my horizons. I want a job that’s exciting, constantly unpredictable, a job where being unable to adapt can only cause disaster. I don’t want a job that asks me to be tied down for two to three years. I hardly have enough attention span for a semester of classes, how could I stand being in the same job for several years? I don’t want a job that’s mundane, mediocre or ordinary. I want something different, something exciting, something that amazes people when they ask.

Maybe I’m being unrealistic or a bit too idealistic, as is common for me at times. But I remember one time when I asked one of the guys I went to college with what he was planning to do after his studies. He said something about joining a big company and rising up the corporate ladder. What kind of dream is that, to be someone else’s employee? And this was someone who would later on graduate with honors! I would rather be self-employed, risking my own money on a venture that may or may not succeed. If you fail, then you try again. At least you rise and fall through your own decisions, your fate belongs to you, and not to some anonymous board of directors.

Alas, that’s not possible for me right now, not when I don’t have a shred of cash. And until I do, I am left with little choice but to undergo some mind-numbing mundanity of a job. Gainful employment is a necessary evil for now, so onward I march, ever searching for an ideal job that will tide me through until such time that I find the means to take my destiny into my own hands. My time will come, someday.

Someday we’ll all look back and laugh.

So the ECE board exams are now over. Six months (okay three) of hard work and preparation (well alright, occasionally glancing at my books) and what do we get? A bunch of questions chosen seemingly at random. The Math and Electronics parts were good enough actually, and I felt pretty confident there. The second day was bad. The Communications exam might as well have been a random set of questions about cookie dough and displacer beasts. Me, Marc and Dennis went through at least a hundred questions in various topics an hour and a half before the exam but not one of the stuff we reviewed came out. Instead we’re bombarded with questions about obscure standards and various laws. *Sigh*

Or maybe I’m just sour-graping because I didn’t make the top ten [link broken]. Then again I was expecting at least Dennis to make it in, but no such luck. Are there any other UP studes in the top ten? I don’t know, and I’m not sure I care anymore. Oh well, that’s the breaks.

I finished Tales of Phantasia yesterday, finally. I must’ve been playing it for about half a year before I managed to finish it. Emulators are really bad for your attention span — I’ve got a Seiken Densetsu game near the end but I haven’t touched it for maybe a year now. Anyway, I went and kicked Dhaos butt, even though I wasn’t able to complete the better subquests, complete Arche’s spells or even get Gremlin and Shadow. Maybe another time. Or if Namco decides to be nice and release it for the PSX. Oh yeah, I put up the ending save state here [link broken]. Hopefully one of these days I can finish the Ranma RPG, SD3 and DQ5, not necessarily in that order.

So I’ve been playing Hoshigami lately. When I first bought it and tried it out I thought it was a horrible game. It’s quite hard, and you will easily die if you don’t know what you’re doing. Now I realize the reason I was having such a hard time was because I was trying to play it like FF Tactics or Tactics Ogre. Instead, the RAP gauge encourages an entirely different way of thinking. You have to learn how to conserve your RAP, to know how to use the turn sequence properly, when to shoot and when not to shoot, and when to attempt a session. Granted, knowing all this stuff doesn’t make the game that much easier — but I find myself enjoying it once I familiarized myself with the different tactics. Sadly, very few people will be able to appreciate this game. I’m in Chapter 2 and I’ve already burned 20 hours of game time and probably a lot more in real-time — I tend to lose battles often. =P

The following web sites are graciously hosting some of my fiction, so be nice and visit them: Icy Brian’s RPG Page and Laura’s Sailor Moon Shrine [link broken] (although why a SM shrine would have FF fanfiction is beyond me. =)

Last week we saw The Count of Monte Cristo. Two more weeks before Spiderman, and a full month before the next Star Wars movie.

Lastly, and have you ever wondered where you could get RPG Books online [link broken]?