Monday, June 30, 2008

Playing for Keeps: 8.25.08

Mur Lafferty's Playing For Keeps is set to be released on August 25, 2008. Mur is a pioneering podcaster, SF author, wife and mother, and Geek fu Master. She has written and narrated two very popular independent audiobooks (why haven't you listened yet?) Heaven and Playing for Keeps. The former is the story of the adventures of a young man and young woman in the Afterlife, and the latter is a very interesting take on the superhero genre.

Playing for Keeps is the story of Keepsie and her friends, a group of citizens with mediocre powers caught in the middle of a conflict between devious super-villains and arrogant super-heroes. The story has already been available for free (check the link above) as an audionovel, but soon it will also be available in print from Swarm Press on August 25. If you're interested (and you should be; she's a heck of a writer), please check out the site (link above), give it a listen, and support Mur if you like what you hear.

Wow, three posts in one day. That's gotta be a record.

Check this out, part 4

Like video games? Enjoy listening to podcasts or watching vidcasts? If any of the above is true, you have to check out The Game Heroes. Founded by Handsome Tom and Perfect Liz when they broke away from ScrewAttack due to creative differences, this two-month young site is already chock full of entertaining and funny takes on video games. They talk about new and classic games, and every episode of the main podcast features at least one wacky video game commercial from back in the day that will make you laugh or cry or cringe.

The personalities on the show vary among all sorts of geeks and non-geeks and for the guys, there's some visual eye candy (you'll see what I mean if you watch). It's probably NSFW due to language, but if you've got a set of headphones or you're alone, I highly recommend it to any sort of game enthusiast.

Unlike most podcasts, a pretty decent portion of their operation is based on user submissions, whether they be user-submitted videos or just questions from the forums. For an up-and-coming podcast, it sure has hit the ground running, and it's got my attention. So you should... check it out!

Customer Service

My dad and I were at OfficeMax the other day. We were looking for something to clean his computer's DVD drive because it was either broken or dirty. Cleaning it would be an easy fix. If that didn't work, well, at least we could keep the cleaning kit for another time. So we went up to the first OfficeMax employee we came across and my dad asked him whether or not they carried a "CD drive lens cleaning kit." Without hesitation (and without thinking), the tall-ish white guy with short brown hair and a goatee closed his eyes, shook his head, and uttered a curt "no."

Despite this, we continued on into the store, and when we were out of earshot, I said, "I'm willing to bet that that guy doesn't know what he's talking about." We looked around, and sure enough, I found a CD drive lens cleaning kit. Knowing that they did carry the thing, my dad asked the same guy the exact same question for the second time, and this time he said "oh yeah, we have those."

Now, I don't know the guy, and I won't draw any conclusions about whether I think he's a nice person or not, but I am sick of people like him. I used to work in retail at a sporting goods store. I met and worked alongside many high school or college-age people there who made it abundantly clear that they didn't want to be there. Sure, it's not the greatest job ever, but it beats several alternatives. I certainly made the best of it, despite feeling out of place nearly the whole time. Anyway, these people went through every workday seemingly trying to help as few customers as was physically possible. Sometimes they'd give customers the runaround, and other times they'd do what OfficeMax guy did and simply say we didn't carry it. In all cases, it was simply because they didn't want to expend any effort to help.

Having been on both sides of customer service, I know what it's like to receive quality help, and I know what it's like to give quality help. The aforementioned people don't know it, but sometimes the latter is more gratifying than the former. Seeing the laziness and selfishness of people my age manifest itself in this way is really discouraging.

Sometimes even I go through the motions, when I don't want to be doing something. But when it comes to helping others, especially when it is your job, I just don't understand some people's reluctance, laziness, and lack of concern for others' needs.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008


They say that graduating from college is the end of one story and the beginning of another. I don't really feel like this is a new chapter. Maybe it's because I am still living in the same apartment for now, or because I haven't started working. It just hasn't hit me yet. I'm more of the kind of person who, when faced with a big change, looks back and reflects. Well, here are a few things that I have come up with upon reflection.

- You have to find some way to stop and smell the roses. Sure, at times, I took some extra long study/project/homework breaks to catch up on my shows or play games, but I didn't really do anything that I couldn't do elsewhere. If you're like most people, you probably go out and "do stuff" more than I do. When you're at a place like UCLA, that's what you need to do. I told myself that I'd go "do stuff" more this year - my last year, but all the classwork prevented me from having the time to do so. At least that's how I justify it to myself. Those people who are able to juggle classes, work, and other activities, well, hats off to them, especially if they're engineering majors. I don't care about the whole "oh wow, I'm finally away from home. I can go crazy and experience the college life. I found those people annoying. But I do think that whether or not you believe it, you need to seek out something interesting that only this place can offer in order to get a feeling of fulfillment when you finally leave. I don't think I did.

- Going to class and keeping reasonable hours is important. Maybe you're very lucky, or maybe you have a photographic memory for everything. But for those who aren't, being lazy is not the way to go. One day during the first month of my first year in college, I decided that the walk from Hitch Suites to class was too long and arduous, so it was okay to skip class. I was going to be late anyway, and that would be embarrassing. Also, without parental supervision, staying up late was now an option. I'd never felt any need to stay up past 1:00 a.m. before, but after getting to college it seemed the norm. So I'd be like... "oh, it's 3:00 a.m. already. Oh well, I don't have an 8 a.m. class anyway, so I'll be able to get up." If you can wake up for a 9 o'clock class with less than six hours of sleep the previous night, then kudos to you. But I could not. This lethal combination of supposedly justifiable class-skipping and pointless late nights set a dangerous precedent and would haunt me later... or rather, sooner.

- Going to class is important, again. As part of the whole fulfillment thing, it's important to note that some classes are actually fun to go to. I might be talking to a minority here. Not a racial minority, mind you, because believe me, the few African Americans that were in my engineering classes were probably the smartest, and they always went to class. But there is a sizable group of people in the engineering school that just vanish during the quarter, showing their faces only on the first day, to size up the professor, and during midterms and finals. Sometimes they don't even show up to the midterm because they missed the (in-class) memo. After having a mid-career epiphany, I had much more fun going to class than I did skipping it, especially after the grades came out. Engineering classes might not all be fun and games, but if it is your major, you should be able to find some enjoyment out of your required classes. Who knows, you might actually learn something.

- This one isn't something that I learned during my stay at UCLA, but it's important to note anyway. 103 national championships speaks for itself. If you're not interested in sports, or for some reason against them, then you damn well better change your attitude. It's really a special thing to be part of a university with a combination of elite athletics and elite academics. If you can't be the greatest student or athlete here, then you can at least be one vicariously through our basketball, volleyball, or water polo players. It is quite a waste not to at least be aware of our teams' successes.

I've grown a lot in the past five years, and at times I wish I would've done things differently knowing what I know now. The above is just a tiny glimpse of what I've observed in my time at UCLA. Perhaps I will write about more later - once my thoughts become unscrambled.

Check this out, part 3

Like games? Like sarcasm? Then this one's for you. The Sarcastic Gamer is filled to the brim with articles about games, gaming lifestyle, and the gaming industry. They can be silly, verbally abusive, sardonic, or serious, but it's always in good fun. If you're bored with the traditional gaming sites that blindly report the news, check out this one. You won't be disappointed. Oh yeah, and they have a podcast too. If you like the articles on the site, you'll like the podcast. Check it out!