Thursday, December 24, 2009

Many run, but who's run to save oneself?

Many people are into running now, but I bet only a few had run to save themselves. I had this kind of experience, more than 2 years ago. Running is experiencing a revival in my social circle, so this old blog entry (over at Multiply actually) is seeing a repost, with a few edits.

I had a dinner with some of my P&G colleagues in the G/F restaurant of 6750 (the one before Lolo Dad's), and after nice food and talk, I finally left for home at around 1030PM. I commuted home.

At the time of this event, I lived in San Nicolas Street, a few meters from Chinatown Steel Towers, the 28-storey building in Chinatown (of course). It was already 1130 by the time I got there.

To help visualize the path, I have to walk along the Asuncion street side of the Steel Towers, and make a left turn into San Nicolas Street where my house was located. Asuncion is a brightly lit street, San Nicolas is a darker street with many vehicles parked alongside.

As I turned the Asuncion-San Nicolas intersection, I noticed two men sitting on a stump near the intersection. Being naturally observant, I took a quick glance at them - one guy seemed to be sleeping and the other was looking blankly into space. They didn't seem to be dangerous. Anyhow, I walked past them and around the intersection, into the darker street.

I was now walking along San Nicolas. Have you ever experienced that at times you can somehow feel if someone's looking at you, or even following you? I got this weird feeling a few seconds after turning the corner, and trusting my instincts, I turned around a few seconds after.

And, I saw the guy who was staring into space at the intersection. He was walking silently behind, following me. He must have been following me for about five seconds already.

There was absolutely no one (awake) within my immediate vicinity. There were a few sleeping people, but they were behind a truck and couldn't see me. Even if they were awake, I'm pretty sure these people wouldn't help me (the bystander effect). I've experienced it once before: I was robbed in broad daylight at knife point, and people saw it but just stood there, passively.

As I turned around seeing the person, the person's face suddenly became aggressive and started to chase me.

I carried a heavy bag, I was tired, and my mind was rather preoccupied with work. But seeing the person start to give chase (I only got to see his face and some features, I couldn't make out what he carried, he is probably carrying something), I had no choice but to run. For a split second, I thought of fighting - but I also remembered that this guy had at least one companion - who knows if he has more companions on the other end of the street.

Run on a silent, dark street at 1130 in the evening.

I ran, and I shouted while I ran to call attention nonetheless. I made a quick turn behind a truck, got near the sleeping people, and darted to the door. The guy must've panicked when I did that (again, I can't be sure, everything is so blurry). That noisemaking, along with the facts that I have a much longer stride than the guy, and there were people and street lights around 30m away, might have bought me time and I managed to get to safety and get into my house.

No one woke up when I shouted. My legs felt extremely tender then, and I felt that at anytime during the chase, I could've fell down. But it was just a short chase, probably lasting less than a minute.

The local government or the baranggay should be making sure its constituents are safe... Or, people can be more vigilant and form some kind of group. I am not sure.

What could have happened if I didn't trust my instinct and turned to see the guy? What could have happened if I fell down? We can never know for sure. Somewhere in the multiverse, my friends there know - if the multiverse exists.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Peace in the middle of the fire.

Thích Quảng Đức was a Vietnamese Buddhist priest who set himself on fire as protest against the abuse of Buddhists by the government. This singular act was seen as the pivotal point that ultimately toppled the then-reigning regime.

But that is not my main point in writing about him. I'd like to mention what journalist David Halberstam wrote after witnessing the event:

I was to see that sight again, but once was enough. Flames were coming from a human being; his body was slowly withering and shriveling up, his head blackening and charring. In the air was the smell of burning human flesh; human beings burn surprisingly quickly. Behind me I could hear the sobbing of the Vietnamese who were now gathering. I was too shocked to cry, too confused to take notes or ask questions, too bewildered to even think... As he burned he never moved a muscle, never uttered a sound, his outward composure in sharp contrast to the wailing people around him.

This is courage. You have to wonder how he endured that until the very end.

I oftentimes quit some endeavors even though I haven't poured out all my effort into them. Sometimes I feel I lack guts, or the determination to press on. I can learn some things from Thích Quảng Đức.

(img from Wikipedia)

Monday, December 21, 2009

My favorite "athletes" #1 - Lee Jaedong

I think that Filipinos in general take "athletes" to be basketball/football/tennis/track-and-field/boxers/etc players. While yes, of course they are athletes, I think there's many more athletes that many Filipinos quite ignore. Let me talk about my favorite "alternative athletes."

Thanks to for the image

Pro-gaming - Lee Jaedong
20 year old Lee Jaedong is a Zerg progamer, and in my opinion one of the best Starcraft players ever. He has extremely solid mechanics. (very fast hands - over 400 actions per minute. Think about that. One action could be selecting a unit or morphing a larva or attacking a unit. 400 apm is close to 7 actions a second!) But more than mechanics, he has amazing game sense (timing), effective scouting, and even more effective aggressiveness/harassment. More on this later.

I can say that pro-Starcraft is a combination of several facets of other sports:
-> It is as strategic and rigorous as chess. "Build orders" or the order with which you build units, buildings, expansions, and upgrades are studied and practiced - think chess openings. As an example, in Terran vs Zerg, if you miss the timing for producing missile turrets by just 15 seconds, mutalisks will have already come in and ravaged your mineral line. Likewise, if the Zerg misses the timing for Dark Swarm upgrade, Terran siege tanks will have already destroyed your natural expansion. Which is why scouting your opponent's base is critical in Starcraft, to determine how your opponent opens, and know the appropriate timings of their attacks.
-> It requires as much alertness as contact sports like basketball.  On the spot decision making is critical in Starcraft. When an opponent attacks your base, do you pull your forces back, or do you counter? In Protoss vs Zerg, a lone dark templar left unchecked can kill dozens of drones unless you bring detectors and attacking units to fend it off. And more often that not, you only see it as a blip on the minimap. A sneaky shuttle dropping a high templar on your mineral line, if not stopped, will often kill your entire mineral line in a few seconds. Pros need to see these things and move their miners out a few seconds before the enemy drops, or take it out with scourge (Zerg)/placing anti-air (Terran and Protoss).
-> Apart from these, it requires multitasking like no other sport. Harvesting resources (and controlling idle workers), creating unit-producing buildings, producing attacking units, upgrading, attacking your units, harassing enemy bases, expanding. All these have to be done in rapid fashion to keep up. This is especially true for Zerg, as units are fragile, and the units require a lot of clicks to manage (lurkers, clumped mutalisks, defiler/ling/ultra combos, scourge suicide attacks). I can not multi-task like this, so while attacking, my production buildings are not running at full throttle. It's amazing because pro-gamers can simultaneously attack, defend, build units, expand and more.

Take a look at this recent Jaedong game. You can see how the points above come to life.

The level of decision making these players have to think about are generally split into two: micromanagement and macromanagement. Good explanation here, and I quote: Good micro means efficient and precise use of individual fighting groups in specific encounters, and good macro means economic expansion, mass unit control and production, and appropriate technology choices. While a few years ago great micro was enough to dominate, today the emphasis is much more on well-rounded players with macro skill that will make up for errors in their micro control. In other words, Starcraft continues to become more and more competitive even at its highest levels.

The only bad things here are that you have to do this sitting down, your hands will eventually give up, and your eyes will be messed up. Which is why some teams require their players to go to the gym.

And this guy is a practice freak - according to a coach, "The gamer that possesses everything a coach wants is Jaedong. Not only he has an amazing record, his mindset and attitude and everything else is flawless. For example, when a coach asks a gamer to practice over 100 games to win a game, many gamers complain. However. JD takes such a demand for granted - a natural way to improve himself. That's the difference of mindset." This is the Nadia Comanece principle.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Our DLSU LEADERS student projects

So the DLSU run of LEADERS (Leadership course, taught by retiring P&G Philippines General Manager Jim Lafferty) has come to a close. I'm happy with how the class has turned out, especially with the great projects done by our students. There were 10 groups all in all, and here they are one by one:

Note that these projects were taken from conceptualization to execution within a time frame of 8-9 weeks, by students who are pretty much busy with their other academic commitments, so the scale of their projects are not that big. Due to these constraints, these projects effectively served as "proofs of concept." There's definitely potential to make these projects even bigger, if the right organizations are tapped in the future!

1. "Leading them out of poverty" - This project jumpstarted a livelihood program (haircutting, etc) in a community in Tondo. The students had to find a community, and also an NGO that specialized in teaching livelihood skills. Since the entire training program lasts 6 months, the project was transitioned to an organization in DLSU.

2. "Flush less, save more" - This project aimed to reduce the water consumption within DLSU by putting water banks in DLSU's (old, high water consuming) toilets. They were able to perform a test in one toilet with considerable improvements, and is now being considered for scaling up.

3. "Budget management 101" - This project helped security guards in DLSU manage their own finances by partnering with BPI to administer a budget management seminar to them. The guards found this useful, and are looking to make this a regular activity.

4. "Let's make way for volunteerism" - This project was an NGO awareness week held inside DLSU. The students invited 6 NGOs to spread their advocacies in the school (a rarity) and also to get sign-ups from students. Many students visited the NGO booths and a good number also signed up.

5. "Taft guys think green" - This project advocated the use of hemp bags as an alternative for plastic bags. The students had to handle the entire supply chain and were able to sell a good number of bags. Proceeds went to Gawad Kalinga.

6. "sTARP it" - This project collected used tarpaulins and partnered with a business establishment to convert them into usable items like bags. They also sold these bags within the University and a store outside. Proceeds went to the environmental fund of DLSU. The store now wants to continue the sale of tarp-bags.

7. "Health alert" - This is a health awareness campaign specifically targeting Business students. They partnered with the Physical Education department to heighten awareness and increase reach. Additionally, their materials are going to be used by the department in their future activities.

8. "iMedical" - This project created a web app that contains data of hospitals within the Philippines, presented with a Google Maps-like interface. (They started with 50 hospitals entered in the system). To manage the site after the course, they partnered with an outside group.

9. Tree planting for kids - This project took a few dozen kids from a certain community to a tree-planting activity, with the intent of helping foster environmental awareness in these kids. The students were able to invite student volunteers to help out in the actual activity.

10. Course introduction videos - This project aims to help high school students make the right decision on what course to take up in college. A series of introduction videos for courses have been shot and recorded and uploaded in youtube. See an ECE sample.

So what did I like about the projects in general?
  • There is much diversity in this class, as seen in the projects they did. It is also nice to see people from different course backgrounds collaborate and come up with unique ideas.
  • It's interesting to see that this course provided a venue for the students to do something they probably would not have done otherwise. I have not done something like this in my college years.
  • It's also leadership in action. Since this is a leadership class, we wanted the students to practice leadership in practical situations. It's nice to see people applying the frameworks on leadership and project management that we shared during the course.
  • Finally, with their projects, they have helped some people in their own ways.
It was a great opportunity co-facilitating this class!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Places I want to go to - Socotra

This is a place I want to go to at least once in my life! Socotra or Soqotra (Arabic سُقُطْرَى ; Suquṭra) is a small archipelago of four islands in the Indian Ocean and is presently part of Yemen. Many blogs I've read regarding the place describe it as the most alien-looking place on Earth. I agree and you'll see why later. That's the reason why I want to go there!

The island is very isolated and DRB said it's been isolated from Mainland Africa for 6-7 million years, and so a third of its plant life is endemic to Soctra, in other words it's found nowhere else on the planet. If you're a plant or animal enthusiast, then this will be heaven on earth.

Socotra is famous for the so-called Dragon's Blood tree. It's a unique plant found only in Socotra, and you can see how its trunk suddenly spreads out into tiny branches in a mushroom-like manner. (photo thanks to besthike) It is called dragon's blood because the sap of the tree is a bright red color.

Another famous plant in Socotra is the Desert Rose (adenium obesium). People describe it as a blooming elephant leg. (img from fun2fun)

Another famous plant in Socotra is the Dorstenia Gigas. It's a very tough plant, and can plunge its roots down solid rock. (img from Flickr).

Apart from fascinating plant life, Socotra also has very unique animal life. According to ftiyemen, at least 80% of Socotra's reptiles are endemic. Some animals here include 20cm giant centipedes, huge spiders which spin yellow webs across woodland gaps, and the Egyptian vulture.

It's not just plants that are cool here. Check this out, Al Hajarah. (img via Christopher Fowler)

Or the beach, or the shipwrecks.

Want a slideshow instead?

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

[reblog] Boxer's brutal, realistic take on eSports

Slayers_Boxer (Lim Yo Hwan in real life) talked about the current state of eSports in Korea. Boxer, being the man who almost single-handedly created the pro-gaming industry and creating countless Starcraft innovations (M&M play, Dropship play, micro in general), tells the brutal truths in today's pro-gaming scene. This is so eye-opening I had to repost from Teamliquid.

I am a pro-Starcraft fan, and I'm a fan of current players Jaedong and Flash. This article is not going to talk about the basics of Starcraft, so don't expect to know about how the game has matured over more than a decade - more info on Starcraft pro gaming is here.

On the past 10 years of eSports

It's a big accomplishment to have a market this big, from nothing. In the beginning, players worked as freelancers trying to win the competition prizes. It was the time when a sense of professionalism and teamwork didn't exist. It was basically playing for fun and going on to tournaments when they came around. After that, the team system was established because practice partners and a system were necessary. Still, there was nothing but the tournament prizes. Back then team managers didn't have other revenue models and things went on like that.

Then ProLeague started and corporate-sponsored teams were established. There was salary for players who aren't necessarily good or win tournaments. It was a good period as the team system got implemented.

Honestly, nowadays fans are leaving. When the time was good we should have pulled more corporations, embraced the existing fans, and attracted new fans. Even looking at ProLeague now, things are awkward for players. It's a feeling of not perfectly modeling it as a sports. It's the positioning of a half of sports and a half of entertainment.

One reason that fans are leaving is that the biggest chunk of eSports, StarCraft, does not have a big market globally. It's popular in Korea and there are tournaments, but oversea there isn't much attention. I felt the limit as I won WCG twice. It didn't feel great even after I won the gold. Not much attention from Korean media either.

The scale is different for basketball or other sports. Fan service is different, and with cheerleaders, gifts, and events, fans are totally occupied. You can even eat in stadiums. eSports stadiums don't sell food, and there's no entertainment beside watching the game. Fans concentrate when games are exciting, but when game are boring they lose focus. eSports is emotional, so more investment in fan service is needed to grab audience's attention continuously.

Replay is a big problem too. The retirement of old progamers was influenced by replay. Even when Nal_rA and others pulled off an interesting strategy, copying it a day or two after is possible because of replay. As the old progamers went down, fans left. More effort was needed to hold them, but such effort is insufficient nowadays.

When I met the former Korean president Roh, I asked for a government support to grow eSports. But the government said that since Korea is eSports' home and it will grow on its own, let's just watch it. No special attention.

I hope that government helps it grow more. Instead of just supporting baseball, basketball, and soccer which came from abroad, I hope that the government supports the domestically-grown eSports. Instead of just growing it in Korea, I hope that those who had their foot in Korea go abroad and help develop eSports. There's no answer unless things go globally.

On StarCraft 2

I haven't played it. But I hope that it spreads globally. When StarCraft 2 comes out, or even some other game gets to be competed internationally, it might be bigger than StarCraft-oriented eSports. When PC cafes are spread, popular games get support, so when StarCraft 2 comes out and other countries open more PC cafes, people might play it more. I'm worried that even if StarCraft 2 leagues are developed, they become a Korean thing after couple years.

On the gaming culture

Society's perception on gaming is still not good. When I was practicing in ACE, an army officer took a kid to the practice room and asked me, "He's so into gaming. Please tell him to stop playing." I was in the army, but it was awkward because I was still a progamer. It's not enough for me to tell him to keep trying, but how could I tell him to stop. Parents know that it's a tough path and they know about the income distribution of progamers. It's difficult for reporter-loved progamers to come out either. Fans are diminishing too. It's a bad cycle.

On SKT T1's Chinese player

The company had expected much, but he didn't meet the expectation. Even before that, bringing in non-Korean players for Hexatron failed. Unless eSports becomes really a sports, I'm worried that we might have to buy some broadcasting rights from China. Talking about it isn't enough. Specific plan needs to be laid out. Korea has better driver experience, but China has better engine. You can't ignore China.

Monday, December 14, 2009

What does AIDS awareness and Adolf Hitler/Josef Stalin/Saddam have in common?

An ad campaign is the answer.

Saddam Hussein, Josef Stalin and Adolf Hitler figure in an AIDS awareness campaign. What I like about this particular campaign is the shock value - it doesn't get more shocking than this. The creators of this probably wanted AIDS awareness to be discussed widely and yes, they were successful.

If this was done in the Philippines, they can utilize the recent Maguindanao massacre in place of the three.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Make love, not porn - an interesting (but tricky) TEDtalk

Make love not porn. Cindy Gallop talks about how hardcore pornography has influenced how young men think about sex. Since porn is readily available, it has become the default sex education of young men. Because porn is generally not realistic, argues Cindy, young men learn sex the wrong way. She also argues the need to reeducate and reorient their thinking.

Watch the TEDtalk below. There's graphic language but I think with the way she delivered the talk, that's fine.

My Nov 2009 HK experience in pictures

This is my HK experience in a few pictures. Blogger isn't a very user-friendly blogging platform for uploading photos so I'll upload just a few.

Dinner at Cafe de Coral! The food there tastes good!
Majority of the food is already inside the pot.

At Stanley Market. We met two cute Spanish toddlers here. Charmagne wanted so much to take a photo with the kids.

At The Priory, we met three new friends there - Neva, Tami and Colleen. Hoegaarden was great - not cheap though - 65HKD (~400PHP) for 1 pint.

One of the attractions at Ngong Ping is the Tian Tan Buddha. You have to climb 268 steps in order to get to the top. It was foggy then so I couldn't get a clear picture of the Buddha.

Below the Tian Tan Buddha, there are several statues giving "offerings".

Nice view of the pillar, e? :) This is in the Buddhist temple.

Jet Li

A tourist's best friend- the always reliable MTR.
Bruce Lee.

My TEDxManila experience, and 3 things I've learned

Social business, environment, and education topics were the recurring themes in the Philippines' first ever TEDx event held in the Malcolm Hall of the University of the Philippines last Dec 5.

TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) is a nonprofit devoted to "Ideas Worth Spreading." While originally starting as a conference focusing on Technology, Entertainment, and Design, its scope has gradually increased to cover more topics like science, arts, politics, education, culture, business, global issues, technology and development (wikipedia). TEDx stands for an independently organized TED event.

Roughly 200 people from the academe, industry and civil sectors attended the event.

Tony Oposa talked about the environment, and the misconception of consumption and extraction (of the Earth's natural resources, to a point it exceeds the rate of replenishment) being used to gauge a country's progress. He advocates for a change to CPR economics - Conservation, Preservation and Restoration.

Mark Ruiz shared his idea of social business, specifically his work in Hapinoy and how it has been improving the lives of small sari-sari stores in the country. Illac Diaz illustrated his many ideas of using locally available materials to build sustainable and durable housing materials for people. More than being reactive to natural disasters Illac maintains that we should be proactively preparing for these. His way is by building these durable houses and empowering the locals to build them on their own.

Graham Glass emulates the Swedish system of knowledge schools in his educational venture called Edu2.0 and shares his vision of the future of education. Edu2.0 is an online learning management system offered free to schools. This enables students to learn at their own pace and in the comfort of their own homes. Glass believes that adventure learning leveraging games would be big in the near future. Mel Tan shared the progress of the government's elearning initiative eSkwela. Since 2007, 2500 learners have benefited from the program.

TED videos shown during the event included William Kamkwamba's brilliant innovativeness in building a windmill for his community using only materials found from the scrapyard and a few books. Pranav Mistry stunned the audience with his revolutionary SixthSense technology, a technology that brings the digital world into the physical world.

What did I learn from Ted?
1. The alternative view that an economy based on extraction and consumption is wrong. Primarily because this is not sustainable. As Tony Oposa illustrated, the Earth is like an inheritance of money from our forefathers. We should use only the interest and not eat up the capital. But at the rate we're using the Earth now, there would be no capital left for the next few generations. Global warming is the accumulated consequences of what we've done so far.

2. The right mindset in battling natural disasters should be prevention through proactive methods. Focus on the high-risk areas, but utilize cheaper alternatives so it can be reapplied faster. Social business can play a part in making this happen.

3. There are many things that can be done in life, we've got to go ahead and try them.

A small cocktail outside the Malcolm Hall after the event - This is where conversations happened.

Illac Diaz is a genius. Loved talking to him after TEDx. How he cools and lights his house is amazing!