Thursday, October 27, 2011

I am a hired man.

Yeah, God knows what they were thinking... (seriously, thank you Teresa x 1000)

It is true -- I have a new job now. After all, I am in my last semester at SFU and if I were to get some job experiences under my belt before I dive into the world of poverty -- the time would be now. Seeing how I am only taking three classes, I started job hunting -- well, the iPhone 4S is not going to pay for itself. Neither will the rent. Nor the surging gas prices. And this is ignoring all other expenses such as *long gasp* foodgroceriesphonebillscablebillsinternetbillshydrobillscarinsuranceandetc.

This was about the time when Teresa told me that her workplace is hiring, so I gave it a shot. Next thing I knew, I got myself an interview. Et voilĂ , I got myself a new job. I know I know, I don't know what they saw in me either.

In all seriousness, it's been over a year already since I had a proper job -- the last one being Zephyr, where I had to make what felt like a million bubble tea drinks per night to satisfy the sheer thirst of the people of Richmond... and myself. Don't get me wrong though, I loved the place.

Still, it has been a while since I worked. So when I stepped in yesterday for my first shift, I was naturally rather nervous -- like a rookie at a training camp (which is coincidentally the title they came up with for their training manual, appropriately.)

So it helps when I realized that it wasn't only my first day on the job, as I was starting my job training with four other people. It definitely helps to know that you are not the only one who is utterly clueless about everything (unlike say, me in a math class where I am mostly the lone idiot), but that there are also new people to start at the bottom of the learning curve too. Although one of them was an employee who transferred from Nova Scotia... So she knows everything.

Anyways, we didn't actually get to do much either. Much of the day was spent going over the training booklet and the rest spent on a guided tour of the entire store to get a good feel of the place. Everyone was nice and seemed to enjoy themselves.

It felt less like a first day at work but more like it's the first day at school -- it was relaxed, and people were given the time to let things sink in to make sure that everyone was on the same page. In other words, it was nice -- if this was at T&T, people would throw you an apron and tell you to get out there to be consumed by an angry mob of Asian housewives (otherwise known as weekend at Metrotown).

So yeah, I'd say the first day went splendidly. Plus, here I am, hired with my very own name tag, a Sport Chek t-shirt and everything. And if you be nice to me, I'd let you use my discounts.

The best thing though? I get to wear my Canucks jersey at work on game days. Booyah.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

2008 SFU Draft: A look back.

Part two of the final-semester-at-SFU series.

2008 - 2009 was really, really meh. My second year was plagued with issues such as having my car vandalized (in Surrey), having it broken into (in Surrey), having its tires sliced by a knife (in Surrey), got stuck in a humongous snowstorm (in Surrey... mainly), and being shot at (okay that was in Langley... but it's close enough to Surrey. Someone shot a paintball at my car). Not to mention that there was a GTA-style gang war as well. Guess where?

On top of those, I actually thought that it was a good idea to take four communication courses in the same semester in fall -- as the essays fell on me like an avalanche, needless to say the semester ended like a Greek tragedy. Towards the end of the fall semester I wrote over 14000 words in essays, projects and take-home finals... Yeah, that wasn't fun.

That said, there were some major developments though. I've pretty made up my mind about majoring in Communication at this point (despite some horrible courses in second year), and also decided to kick the tires in the political science department -- with some unexpected success. Even though these poli-sci courses usually meant more essays and readings... Something that we communication students really don't get enough from our courses.

Anyways, most important thing is that I survived the second year at SFU, and here's part two of a recap of all the courses I've taken.

2008 SFU Sophomore Draft.

1st Round (September - December, 2008).

1st pick: CMNS 221 -- Media and Audiences.
Potential: After the horror that was CMNS 130, I wasn't sure what I should major anymore. My cage was rattled, my confidence was shaken. Communications didn't seem quite as appealing anymore. What were my options? Psychology? English? Nah. I didn't have high hopes for this course, but somehow I was crazy enough to take 4 CMNS courses in a single semester after one disastrous outing.
Reality: The result? As it turns out, it didn't go that well. The course content was interesting enough -- it talked about advertising and marketing, as well as various aspects of capitalism that has infiltrated all levels of media, like product placement. Those were real fascinating stuff. And then the prof started talking about modernism and postmodernism, which was right about the moment when he lost me. On the bright side? Teresa Li also took this course. Also an interesting observation: Female turnout rate was unusually high, but that probably has nothing to do with the fact that the professor is a well-dressed guy in his 30s with hair that even Roberto Luongo would be jealous of.
Boom or bust?: Boooooomehhh.

2nd pick: CMNS 235 -- Introduction to Journalism in Canada.
Potential: Not much either. The only reason I wanted to take this course is simply because I wanted to see if I could survive studying journalism.
Reality: As it turns out, I can't. It had a ton of readings (which I didn't do), it had a presentation (which I didn't do... well), it had two papers and a final exam. I didn't do too well in them either. In fact, I don't even think I showed up to even half of the lectures -- it wasn't because the prof was bad or anything (although he was about as monotone as a 40s' LP record), but because the lecture hall was incredibly stuffy and the seats were incredibly uncomfortable. Try sitting in a room like that. It'll drive you insane in 20 minutes. Oh, and the professor I had looked like Steve Jobs.
Boom or bust?: Urgh. It wasn't good at all.

3rd pick: CMNS 253W -- Information Technology.
Potential: I was a bit unsure about this one -- it was another W course which either could mean there'd be an insane amount of writing or almost no writing at all. To make it even more ambiguous, it talks about information technology. The last time I took a course on IT was back in highschool, and I didn't do particularly well...
Reality: Fear no more. This turned out to be a course that talks about the internet and how technology has shaped the media. So naturally, a lot of discussion was also focused on social networking sites like Facebook and YouTube. And it shows -- everyone in class was actively visiting these sites on their laptops. Nah, I kid. The class was pretty good. What's even better, it reused one of the old textbooks from the first year TECH courses so I saved a bunch of money there. Also good? Live online screening of the lecture, so I can have the class right in my bedroom. And the professor, Richard Smith, is one of the best in the faculty.
Boom or bust?: This is a class in which I wrote about blogging in all THREE of my (very short) essays. By the end of the semester the professor took us to Whitespot for lunch. Whaddyathink?

4th pick: CMNS 259 -- Acoustic Dimensions in Communications I.
Potential: Not much to speak of. By the time I chose my fourth course of the term, most of the CMNS courses out there were already taken. So I went for the one still with available seats instead. It'd be almost fair to say that I chose this course after a very intense session of eeny, meeny, miny, moe.
Reality: So what is the acoustic dimensions in communications? Sounds. That's right -- this a course about sounds. Cue first suicide. The textbook? Sounds. Essays? Sounds. Hell, we had like eight weekly SOUND journals (700 words each -- they were hardly journals). What were they about? Bloody writing about sounds. Cue second suicide. The first essay required us to sit in a public place for an hour and then write a paper commenting on everything we heard. Bizarre? No no no... X-files was bizarre. This is Bellevue. The big league. The real deal, where no crazy has ever been before. It also doesn't help when the prof was incredibly monotone, with low volume and little frequency changes -- oh hey! I can comment on sounds too! At least the TA was pretty cool.
Boom or bust?: Bust.

2nd Round: (January - April, 2009)

5th pick: CMNS 230 -- Cultural Industries in Canada.
Potential: Unfazed by the sea of mediocrity that was the previous semester, I went for more CMNS courses the semester afterwards. This one had some promise though, talking about music, television and movies. Shouldn't be bad.
Reality: There were three essays. The first one was a 100-word "essay" (although I wouldn't call it that) writing a profile for myself. The second essay was a profile on an actor / actress of my choosing. So I went for Robin Williams and researched by watching his stand-up shows. Third essay? You guessed it! Yet another profile. On who? P.I.X.A.R. So yes, some lengthy research (read: movie watching) has went into this one. There was a final too which worth quite a lot though. No worries, it was an open-book and notes-allowed exam. The final was 6 pages long. We had 3 hours to read our notes.
Boom or bust?: Two words: A minus. Pure awesomeness.

6th pick: CMNS 260 -- Empirical Research Methods.
Potential: Not so awesome? A course about math. Even worse? A course about math that is compulsory. Worse to the point that it makes you want to be a homicidal maniac? A compulsory course about math, and has a class 2 days a week at 8:30 in the morning. This is that course.
Reality: It sucks. People seemed to love it, but they are psychos. Who the heck would have statistics class at 8:30 in the morning? And I just want to throw this out there -- if your English is less than steller, don't fucking teach. I've had it up to here with incompetent teachers trying to teach -- as if I didn't see enough of those in Hong Kong already. I had such a hard time trying to comprehend what my Chinese TA was talking about, it's tragic. I am Chinese and even I didn't know what he was saying.
Boom or bust?: This course is the equivalent of a trainload of kittens crashing into a busload of babies.

7th pick: CMNS 262 -- Qualitative Research in Communications.
Potential: Yet again another course that I was forced to take. Well, when I say "forced", I meant there were three courses to choose from, of which I had to pick two. CMNS 260, the one I mentioned previously; CMNS 261, which allegedly had a 20-page research paper and an 80% student suicide rate (okay I made that up); and this. Since I wasn't insane, I went for this instead.
Reality: This class wasn't bad though, albeit a tad forgettable. The course wasn't that hard at all -- with three moderately long essays but all with pretty interesting topics. One of my essays required me to go to a public venue to record audience response. So we went to see the State of Shock in a concert. Awesome, no? Okay, I had no clue who they were, but it's a concert with a lot of noises and flashy lights. What's not to like?
Boom or bust?: Solid.

8th pick: POL 101W -- Introduction to Politics and Government.
Potential: Since we had to take a certain a mount of elective courses, I was rather stumped as to what to go for. Although it should be noted that this was roughly the same time I discovered the wonderful awesomeness that is the West Wing, the NBC drama that centered around the White House. So this was a bit of an experiment for me to see just how much the knowledge I got from the TV show translated to... Well, a poli-sci course.
Reality: As it turns out, it was pretty darn good. Everything in the course was pretty common sense and straight forward. And after the train wreck that was the previous semester (where I had close to 20 pieces of writing to do), I can pretty much take anything this course throw at me. So I did. The prof for this course was a white, middle-aged guy who was originally from South Africa -- and would occasionally speak with an African accent whenever he caught us napping to liven things up mid-lecture. If this was Hong Kong, the professor would've thrown a fit already.
Boom or bust?: As predicted, not a bad course at all.

3rd Round: (May - August, 2008)

9th pick: LING 110 -- The Wonder of Words.
Potential: As a lot of you may know, I am a huge fan of Stephen Fry -- mainly because he has this almost unnatural way of turning words into something of an art form in the most effortless way possible. Seeing this, I thought LING 110 would offer me a similar thing -- how to have fun with the English language. Hell, even the title "The Wonder of Words" speaks volumes about the potential for this course. What could go wrong?
Reality: Sigh. I had no idea that the professors in the linguistics department were such similar with the freaks at the math and science department -- their idea of "fun" usually concerns equations and memorizing theories like a zombie. In this case, it was "exploring" the origin of words, and pretty much simply memorizing the Latin / Greek / Old English / Middle English form of each bloody word. It is hardly what us normal people would consider fun. Not to mention the utter misleading nature of the course title too. The "wonder" of words? More like "memorize memorize memorize memorize and memorize some more just to get your SODDING ANSWERS COMPLETELY WRONG IN THE FINAL EXAM!" WHAT'S THE BLOODY EFFIN' FUN IN THAT? Needless to say, this was the only course other than CMNS 130 in which I got a C in.
Boom or bust?: $*#&^@)(!#@$%&$@^@#shit@$&#!)!*&&^!

10th pick: POL 151 -- The Administration of Justice.
Potential: After POL 101, I decided to give poli-sci courses another crack at it. This was the only other course in the poli-sci department that was offered in first year. So I took it.
Reality: Ignoring the fact that my professor shared a great resemblance to Richard Attenborough from Jurassic Park, the course was a delight. Yeah yeah, the materials were a tad boring, but as long as they weren't ridiculously hard, no? One awesome thing: I managed to find the textbook used online on Amazon (also authored by John Hammond the prof), so I managed to get it dirt cheap. Even better? Sonia Mak took this course too. Although this meant that she'd study the exam notes that I typed out and somehow get better grades than I did. That douche.
Boom or bust?: Decided to declare a minor in Poli-sci after taking this course, so yeah it was good.


This concludes my second year.

Read about first year courses here.

Coming soon: 2009 SFU Junior Draft.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Death of a Giant.

"Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do."
- Apple, Inc, "Think Different", 1997.

It sounds incredibly petty, but I wouldn't blame Nokia if they held a collective sigh of relief after they learned of Steve Jobs' passing.

After all, this is a company that dominated the global cell phone market until Steve Jobs invented the iPhone and pushed Nokia off the map for good. Same can be said about Sony too, who was the face of mobile music players in their CD and MD Walkmans until something called the iPod came along and pissed on their parade. To a lesser extent, same can be said about Microsoft too.

Steve Jobs really was something. And it wasn't until his death when I realized how much he has influenced my lifestyle.

Case in point: I've been a PC user since 1996 (and will continue to be). It has never occurred to me until now that I've been to the Apple website many times before -- whether it be to check out the iPods or the iPhones -- and the Microsoft website? Exactly 0 times.

And it's easy to see why.

Going to the Microsoft website, and one will get the impression that he is navigating through an instruction manual -- everything is very organized, it's filled with information, and everything is very practical. On the other hand, taking a visit to the Apple website and it feels like you're going through an IKEA catalogue -- tons of pictures, a very simplistic layout, and what's most important -- it only tells you what you need to know, and usually in two or three sentences. It intrigues you, and sucks you into a vortex that is the world of Apple.

Of course, it also helps when they have products like the iPhone, the iPod, the iPad, the Macs, and Macbooks. Are they the best products in their classes? Not necessarily. But that's the thing: Samsung may make the best smartphone in the world, and Microsoft can continue to make the best PCs and an OS that would put the Macs and the Mac OS X to shame, none of them will ever come close to doing what Steve Jobs can do so effortlessly -- presenting an idea and make it automatically desirable to everyone.

And it's also why I'll continue being an Apple customer.

This, my friends, is how much of a difference good marketing makes. In Steve Jobs' vision, advertising is not about the product. It's about what it represents, and how it will impact your life. The "Think Different" ads and the Mac vs. PC ads are all great examples of inspired marketing that is years ahead of their era. If a rival company presents their product wearing a business suit, Steve Jobs does it wearing a black turtleneck and jeans. The products may not be the best (although I would argue fiercely that they often are), but one of the most important things is that it is fashionable. He took the nerdishness away from technology and made it simple. And cool.

I remember the moment when I saw the first iPod. It was in 2003 and it was my friend Leo's 3rd generation iPod. It looked like nothing I've ever seen before. I was initially so drowned in jealousy I took the iPod away from him for a couple days and wouldn't return it. The design was neat, and it was so damn easy to use. It had four buttons and a clickwheel for crying out loud. My own Korean mp3 player at the time had a million buttons and a menu screen that even a nuclear physicist couldn't comprehend.

It's the ultimate form of simplicity -- everything is so logical and so easy to use that even a guy like me can start using it in a matter of minutes. Unlike other manufacturers at the time, Apple did not throw gazillion random buttons and random flashy blinking lights to make it look impressive and geeky (what I call the Sony syndrome). All it took was a clickwheel and a simple menu screen. To this day, my iPhone 3G was the only phone my mom can just grab it off my hands and start using.

Needless to say, I badly wanted one. It took me another two years to get my first iPod -- the iPod Video. It was everything I ever wanted from a mobile music device -- A big capacity, a simple software to organize all the songs I had, and a simple design. What's even better, I can watch videos on it. So my morning hour-and-a-half bus commutes to school were accompanied by Third Eye Blind, Blink-182 and an episode of Friends. It also looked much better than my Sony Walkman, which could only play my collection of The Beatles CDs.

So the rest is history.

I have an iPod nano (my 4th in total -- after the iPod Video and two iPod Classics), and I had an iPhone. I am about to get a new one (even though I ridiculed Apple for not releasing the iPhone 5 like I predicted). I've spent money on Bose speakers and a radio transmitter for my iPods. All the songs in my iPod come with their album names and the covers (yes I am a bit of a nerd like that). I wouldn't be spending so much time and money on them if they weren't so damn attractive and easy to use.

This was also a guy who developed iTunes in a time when the entire music and entertainment industry was up in arms fighting a war with Napster, WinMX, Kazza and Limewire, and successfully changed their attitude towards music downloading.

Another thing that made Steve Jobs exceptional was his ability to envision what the consumers potentially want, and his ability to prove me wrong. At first I thought the idea of a smartphone was ludicrous. All I wanted from a phone was to be able to talk to people. Why would I care about going online on my phone? Of course, within two years I was checking my email on my iPhone, tweeting and Facebooking.

To be fair, I still ridicule the iPad from time to time, because I do think it's a sized-up iPod Touch that doesn't fit in your pocket anymore. That said, Steve Jobs probably has the last laugh as iPads flooded classrooms and lecture halls, while getting everyone obsessed with Angry Birds like drug addicts.

Like his products, hate his products; there is no denying that Steve Jobs' legacy extends far beyond the computer industry. His impact is seen everywhere in the music and entertainment industry, he revolutionized smartphones, and changed the way technology is marketed. And he did it facing Microsoft, many antagonistic record companies, Nokia, and Google. On October 5, 2011, the world has lost a true giant -- one that has changed the world on a scale that is comparable to the likes of Edison, Einstein, Ford, and Bell.

That's quite some legacy for one man.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Show me what you got, Apple.

Chances are, the "talk" won't last very long before the audience raids the stage to rip the phone off of Steve Jobs.

As you may all know, my beloved iPhone 3G was stolen from me while I was vacationing in Hong Kong last year. Almost at the same time, my iPod Classic 80GB decided to kamikaze itself to death. In other words, I've gone from having two Apple products down to none.

Since then, I've tried to survive this Apple drought with an 8GB 4th generation iPod nano to combat the lack of music between travels; and a LG phone that I've had since grade 10 to combat... Well okay, no one ever calls me anyway. How have I done? Well, I've gone nearly suicidal when we ran out of music to play during the one-week roadtrip to Wyoming (always prepare over 2000 songs for a trip that long), and my gigantic dinosaur of a phone -- man, that thing deserves a paragraph by itself.

My old LG phone has quite the character. The flip screen flops about like a dog with its ears sticking out a car window; it has the reception performance of an old Soviet radio tower; and when it does get calls, it drops 'em faster than a drunk man walking on stilettos. On the bright side, sending a text message feels a lot like going on Twitter -- in that it has a 100-character limit before it bans me from sending a message. It forces me to be creative.

Suicidal, too.

My, you have no idea how long I've waited to retire you again.

Obviously, to hold out for this long without a proper iPod and a smartphone turns out to be, well, quite a challenge. I've always maintained that the release of the next iPhone -- the iPhone 5 a.k.a. the-most-anticipated-Apple-product-since-the-last-Apple-product-that-rolled-out-of-their-factory -- would be nigh.

Yep. I started saying it since March. It's October now, and it hasn't happened yet. Like Harold Camping, we both aren't very good at predicting the Second Coming. (the method being something along the lines of: "March! No? April! No? What about May then? Oh bugger... June! July? August?..." etc etc)

Unlike Mr. Camping, however, I finally have proof that the rapture-- I mean, the release of the iPhone 5, is happening.

And yes bitches, it's happening tomorrow. Already rumours have been flying all over the place -- the phone will have a new A5 chip that would put the hadron collider to shame, a camera that could rival the Hubble Telescope, an operating system that could cure cancer, a storage that can store thousands of hours of music (or around 10 songs by Pink Floyd), and a brushed-Aluminum case that is smoother than a baby's bottom.

Oh, apparently there's this crazy rumour about how you can use it to call your friends too. Although obviously you won't have any friends, because you'd be too busy locked in your bedroom playing Angry Birds on the Retina® display.

You Android and Blackberry fanboys just weep in your misery while I get my hands on my future iPhone 5. Sure, it'll probably bankrupt me and I'll probably be doing time for all the banks I robbed to get my hands on one. But hey, it'll be worth it. Anything that could put my cell phone back in retirement would be great. All those time I spent waiting for a new iPhone will soon be over. I can have an insane amount of songs with me everywhere I go again. My life will be complete.

Can't wait to see what Apple has up its sleeve tomorrow. Apple, you've managed to get me all hyped up.

... So if it isn't good, I will come to California to shove my old LG phone up your ass.