Lighthouse Ventures and a Criticism of Recreational Photography

This gallery contains 5 photos.


As a kid, I wanted to work at a lighthouse for a living. Nothing beat sitting up there turning the mirrors, lighting the fires, and letting the salt of the sea blow in your face. That dream died quickly when … Continue reading

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Goodbye, Flappy


...forever.

…forever.

At noon on Sunday, February 10th, 2014, mind-numbingly popular iOS game Flappy Bird mysteriously disappeared from the App Store. Strangely enough, the game was one of the top-selling titles at the time and generated around 50,000 dollars a day for Vietnamese game designer Dong Nguyen. Why did such a successful game suddenly die out?

As it turns out, at 1:00 PM the afternoon before the disappearance, Nguyen posted the following on Twitter:

I am sorry ‘Flappy Bird’ users, 22 hours from now, I will take ‘Flappy Bird’ down. I cannot take this anymore.

-@dongatory

Soon after his famous app became a success, Nguyen had received many hate emails and even death threats regarding the game. Others hated him for ripping off Internet Flash game Helicopter, even though Angry Birds itself is a rip-off of Internet Flash game Castle Crushers and plenty of other apps are reskins of previous games.

But I have an inkling that 99% of the criticism came from jealousy. After all, anything famous is bound to have a little negative reception. For Dong himself, he was an extreme case. I feel sorry for him. As his Twitter profile description says, he is a “passionate indie game maker” who programmed games for fun. Should a dreamer be ridiculed for doing what he wants to do in life? I don’t think so.

This isn’t the first time this has happened. Too many times have video game designers been oppressed by the same people they’re trying to serve, causing many to leave the industry altogether. I can name a few instances off the top of my head.

Phil Fish, creator of computer game Fez, is a particularly interesting example. Despite generally positive reviews from critics, Fish was horrified by even the slightest insult against his game to the point where he cancelled its sequel. On his website, he wrote:

“Fez 2 is cancelled. I am done. I take the money and I run. This is as much as I can stomach. This isn’t the result of any one thing, but the end of a long, bloody campaign. You win.”

Well, that’s depressing. But what Phil needed to understand is that part of being an artist is being able to take constructive criticism, and that goes for all forms of media, not just game design.

Furthermore, upon the release of highly-anticipated Mass Effect 3, many gamers were, to say the least, not too thrilled over the game’s ending. One actually marched straight to the Federal Trade Commission to complain over false advertising. Bioware managed to keep a reasonable stance and stated publicly: “We would like to clarify that we are actively and seriously taking all player feedback into consideration and have ruled nothing out.”

In a fairly distressing case of fan overreaction, John Riccitiello, former CEO of Electronic Arts, a video game publisher, resigned from his position last year after a series of financial issues. It also happened to be the same year the new Sim City installment hit the shelves. Despite selling well, the game was panned almost unanimously by fans for both its lack of substance and its use of online-only DRM, a type of copy protection that requires players to be connected to the Internet continuously when the game is running. In under a few hours, Sim City became the lowest-rated item on Amazon with around 3,322 one-star reviews.

Even Markus Persson, better known as Notch, original programmer for Minecraft, isn’t safe. What happens when he adds new features to Minecraft? An militia of fans complain that the game is “ruined forever” by anything new. What happens when there isn’t an update for a while? People accuse him for neglecting his job. He possibly started focusing his attention on other games for this reason.

Nonetheless, there are still some strong-willed developers out there. These kinds of people take criticism as an opportunity to do better rather than a blow to their self-esteem. That’s why I’m a fan of Hideo Kojima and Gabe Newell, makers of Metal Gear Solid and Half-Life 2 respectively.

I’m not trying to preach a moral lesson here, but this is the bottom line. No matter what media industry a creator is apart of, no matter what kind of entertainment he contributes to, no matter the quality of the work he produces, negative reception can be found anywhere. But it’s the creator’s reaction to these kinds of setbacks that sets him apart from the woodwork.

Dong Nguyen’s biggest mistake up to this point was to give into his critics’ demands. By taking down the app, he accepted defeat in a rather shameful manner. However, as he said in a later tweet: “…I still make games.” Good for him. His perseverance will pay off in the long run. I’m sure of it.

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Baised Overview on Reddit


What do you get when you take the news aggregator website Digg and combine it with a larger user base and the reliability of an intoxicated New York Times journalist? You get a social news and entertainment website with a geeky slant known as Reddit. As mentioned before, Reddit is a blatant ripoff of Digg, which is acceptable since Reddit is a decent ripoff of Digg.
Think about it like this. Let’s say you have a particular subject you’re passionate about, whether its programming, stand-up comedy, soccer, or just about anything. How could you build on this passion? You could start a club in your community, but it’s hard to find people who have just as much interest in the subject as you do. You could publish advertisements and send out invitations, but that would be difficult and time-consuming. A viable alternative would be open a new community on Reddit. Reddit is a place for people of similar tastes and mindsets to collect together and talk about their common interests. Unlike Facebook, where you’re confined to whatever happens in your friends’ lives, Reddit collects interesting events in lives of people from around the world.
Areas of common interests are organized into groups called “subreddits”. Redditors interested in the same subject post Internet memes and pictures for topics like anime and archeology. Subreddits include “/r/gaming,” “/r/comics,” and even “/r/mylittlepony,” the Internet’s hotspot for the Brony subculture. “/r/todayilearned” contains a staggeringly large list of fun facts. Most notable of the subreddits is “/r/iama,” where celebrities hold question-and-answer forums. How else are we supposed to know that Weird Al Yankovic writes children’s books and Jamie Hyneman doesn’t know how many berets he owns?
The content of Reddit is comprised of user-submitted entries known as “posts” shown in a bulletin-board system. Other users vote on entries using voting arrows. “Upvotes” denote good submissions; likewise, “downvotes” denote overused jokes and inane bantering. The front page effectively becomes a list of high-quality entries with a substantial number of upvotes. Occasionally, bad posts do end up in the front page, but usually receive comments as sarcastic and tongue-in-cheek as the first paragraph of this article.
The voting system contributes to the concept of “karma,” in which each Reddit user is given a score based on the number of upvotes he receives. Redditors are thus motivated to make better posts, yet critics of the “karma” system claim that it encourages content plagiarism, of which the website is not particularly fond.
But what really allows Reddit to leave its predecessor Digg in the dust is its surprisingly good comment system. Comments themselves are voted on by users, resulting in (usually) more intelligent conversations being shown at the top. This selling point puts the website above its competitors since abysmal and pointless discussions usually end up at the bottom away from sight. Certainly other websites might learn something from Reddit. *cough* YouTube comments *cough*
Sometimes, Redditors manage to take it a step further and bring their interests under one roof in Reddit meetups, where people of the same interests physically gather in social circles. These redditors practice their social skills while at the same time have the opportunity to voice their opinions.
Reddit can essentially be described as an “open-world” edition of Facebook. On Facebook, you’re limited to posts by your friends. On Reddit, you experience the best content coming from people all around the world.

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Xbox One: Microsoft Just Doesn’t Get It


One thing's for sure: Microsoft still can't count.

One thing’s for sure: Microsoft still can’t count.

Update (June 19th, 2013): Scroll to the bottom of the post.

Whether you are a gamer or not, most people should know about Microsoft’s new competitor in the gaming industry, the Xbox One, which was recently introduced at E3 to the applause of absolutely nobody except a few Microsoft employees backstage.

To be fair, it’s about time for a new Xbox to enter the ring. With the eighth generation of gaming consoles hitting the market this year, including Sony’s Playstation 4, Nintendo’s Wii U, and Valve’s Steambox, Microsoft had to take a step to stay in the competition; a step backward, that is. But instead of boring you with all the details, here’s a rundown of its major issues:

No backwards compatibility. The Xbox One does not offer backwards compatibility with 360 games. Not only that, Microsoft is probably going to do what they did a few years ago: pull all previous console games off the shelves and force you to buy only games for the new one. Say goodbye to your entire 360 library.

More emphasis on television than gaming. If Internet rumors are true, the One purposely does not have high-end graphics, simply because someone at Microsoft thought it was a good idea to focus on general entertainment (i.e. Skype, movie-watching, etc.) than gaming. The limited number of gigabytes allocated to the OS renders the console incapable of being anything more than “a voice and gesture based tv remote box”, as Minecraft creator Markus Persson says on his Twitter feed. It includes a Blu-Ray player, which most people don’t need anyway.

The death of video game rental. Once you buy a game, you need to register it online. The game will be connected to your Live account, and your account only. Want to let your friends borrow it? Too bad. They have to pay a fee to play it, a fee that’s equal to the price of the game itself. Seriously, what were they thinking? Video game rental stores are completely obliterated, not to mention Gamefly, a video game rental service similar to Netflix.

The stalker, Kinect. This one doesn’t annoy me as much, but imagine having that big eyeball connected to the console at all times. Whenever the Xbox One is on, the Kinect will always be watching, and it just so happens to be connected to the Internet. Privacy issues abound. As far as I know, the device is mandatory, and there’s no telling what Microsoft will do with that footage of your house.

Sweet dreams!

Sweet dreams!

Online DRM (A bigger problem than you think). I was really hoping Microsoft would know better. Shouldn’t they have known EA’s SimCity 5 was immensely panned by critics for having online-only DRM, in which the game had to be registered on the Internet every time just to check for piracy? What if your Internet connection broke in a storm. No games for you, despite singleplayer games not requiring the Internet anyway. In the case of SimCity, EA’s CEO abdicated the throne in frustration after the game received thousands of one-star reviews on Amazon. I wonder how long Gates will be up there.

Lack of descent games. Sure, Call of Duty: Ghosts, Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag, Battlefield 4, and Watch Dogs are coming to the system. But those games are still available on other platforms, most of which allow you to share the game with friends without having to pay a “used game” fee. At the E3 conference earlier this year, very few games were showcased.

Downright ugly design. The Xbox One looks pretty good… had it been released in the seventies. The console’s simplistic design looks more like an old VCR than a technologically-advanced gaming device.

The only positive I can think of is the design of the controller and how the joysticks offer vibration feedback. I can’t wait to use it on Steam Big Picture.

Conclusion: If you’re into gaming, upgrade your PC, buy a PS4, or at least get a Wii U, because Microsoft just failed twice in one year. First it’s Windows 8, an absolute flop in the OS market, and now it’s this One big step back in the gaming industry. Sorry, Microsoft. I’m sticking with my PC.

UPDATE (June 19th, 2013): http://news.xbox.com/2013/06/update

Okay then. It seems Microsoft does care. They completely reversed the online-only DRM decision and removed the used game fee (hence the nickname “Xbox 180”. I think I’ll pre-order the console now. After all, even large companies like Microsoft can’t ignore their customer’s voice for too long. I appreciate their decision to follow public feedback.

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Current Speculations on Google Glass and Its Possible Negative Effects


ImageI’ll start off with one word in advance: I am by no means a technology enthusiast. Neither am I an anti-progressive. However, Google’s new projects are certainly interesting: Google Fiber, automatic-driving cars, and Google Glass. The most controversial of the three is a topic of major discussion.

Google Glass, Google’s ambitious and highly-anticipated project in the field of augmented reality, is a pair of glasses equipped with a camera, a GPS, a microphone, and a user interface projected directly at the user’s eyes through the glass. It also offers bone induction sound, i.e. vibrating the skull to stimulate the inner ear. The device is planned to be released in late 2013 or early 2014 at the same price as a smartphone.

So what is Google Glass attempting to accomplish? Google Glass is a major pioneer in augmented reality, which, according to Wikipedia, is a “view of a physical, real-world environment whose elements are augmented by computer-generated sensory input such as sound, video, graphics or GPS data, “ thereby enhancing one’s perception of reality. For instance, if you look at a national landmark, say the Gateway Arch, Google Glass will instantly detect it and display facts, dates, and other information about the Gateway Arch right in front of your eyes. The same concept can be applied to GPS navigation, detecting and booking hotel rooms, and recognizing faces in a crowd.

Will it be useful? Obviously yes. Having information from the Internet appear right in front of your eyes wherever you are is already a step up from smartphones, which require buttons and/or a touch-screen. Google Glass will be controlled through voice commands. Saying “okay, Glass,” followed by a phrase such as “take a picture,” or “take a video,” or “search [in Google]”. Apple’s iPhone function Siri already proves that technology is now capable of accurately processing human speech, and Google Glass will soon be used to dictate emails or write documents. The idea of recording video itself is an interesting concept. Seeing sporting events in first person from a player’s perspective might become a new trend. Racecar drivers and cyclists might want a speedometer and a GPS map placed in front of their eyes. Future developments may add night vision and binocular modes.

Like many new technologies, several controversies, dangers, and drawbacks exist for Google Glass. First of all, privacy issues exist. You probably know someone who is “camera-shy”. Not everyone enjoys having their every move recorded on camera, and Google Glass’s camera can be activated effortlessly and almost instantly and can record silently and secretly. Paranoia will almost certainly be common. Employers with very little concern for privacy may require their employees to wear forms of Google Glass to track their location at any time, as well as seeing anything they’re seeing. Such precise monitoring is considered as an invasion of employee privacy by modern social standards.

A dive bar in Seattle has already become the first public establishment to ban Google Glass on its premises. Similar rules will soon be enforced in schools, where cheating is much easier when the entire Internet is discreetly right before your eyes. Additionally, video evidence in court cases might become a commonplace. Police may wear a modified version of Glass and have all the details of a crime recorded and ready for studying. Court cases will become nothing more than two-minute viewings of footage, and defendants are much less likely to be given a chance in their arguments.

Additionally, Other than just looking like an idiot, many users will face the same problem bluetooth headsets users are facing: using a device that makes you look like you’re talking to yourself. Not to mention the clumsiness of Glass users, whose vision is blocked by windows of text and images, causing them to run into anyone and anything while walking… or driving.

Just as important, because the amount of information presented to a Glass user is too much to process with both reality and digital elements mixed together, many Glass users will find themselves hesitating and staring emptily while attempting to read several things at once. The same issue regarding smartphones will also apply to Glass: an increase in anti-social behavior. Many smartphone users find themselves spending much more time with their Twitter and Facebook feeds than with other people. Google Glass brings this to an even deeper extreme, especially with voice commands. The catchphrase of this generation will soon be “he talks more to those glasses than he does to me!”

And there’s also the possibility of Google being a filthy capitalist. Google, like almost all companies, loves greenbacks. And there’s no better way to earn them than through Google Glass. You think pop-up advertisements on a computer are annoying? Monentisers will soon find a way to blast video, audio, image, and text ads directly to your eyes. At best, these ads will simply be annoying. At worst, they might distract a driver. Also, the device will utilize Google Plus, Google’s attempt at a social networking site, in video “hangouts,” driving more revenue toward Google’s wallet. Further, the possibility of Google owning a monopoly on mobile devices is imminent. With further developments, Google Glass will cause smartphone sales to drastically decrease as the glasses will be capable of playing music, showing movies, making phone calls, and sending emails and messages all with simple voice commands.

But the real question is how are we going to balance these dangers with the advantages of Google Glass? Once the devices hit the markets later this year, their influence, advantages, and disadvantages will resonate throughout the mobile device market.

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Speculations on Life of Pi (Movie Adaption)


These people fail to realize that it is on the inside that God must be defended, not on the outside. They should direct their anger at themselves. For evil in the open is but evil from within that has been let out. The main battlefield for good is not the open ground of the public arena but the small clearing of each heart.

— Yann Martel, Life of Pi

Life of Pi, a fantasy adventure novel written by Yann Martel, won the Man Booker Prize for Fiction in the United Kingdom shortly after its publication in 2001 after being rejected by five publishing companies before its release. The narrative revolves around an Indian 16-year-old named Piscine Patel, who shortened his name to Pi for obvious reasons. On his trip to Canada from India, the boat sinks. Having lost his family, Piscine is forced to spend over a year on a lifeboat lost at sea with a tiger named Richard Parker.

Some who have read the book might recognize that Life of Pi is an “unfilmable” book. In fact, the appeal of the book comes mostly from its message: a story intended to make the reader believe in God. Such a theme is difficult to translate to film. However, director Ang Lee surprisingly does an excellent job doing so, as proven by eleven Oscar nominations for the film.

The film itself has its theme, that everyone has their own way of discovering God. Out of an infinite number of ways to find God, Patel’s story is one of extraordinary drama. Pi must take the nearly impossible mission of surviving in the middle of the ocean to discover his God.

The 3D effects provide an excellent backdrop to the story. Scenes of the boat sinking and Richard Parker’s attacking Pi are key moments where the 3D effects really shine. The storm effects, as well as the island’s beautiful flora and fauna, are animated so well that they look completely realistic.

However, in my opinion, the action and plot approach too slowly, especially at the beginning. The side-story cutscenes describing Patel’s discussion with a potential author disrupt the storyline at unsuitable times and tend to divert the viewer’s focus away from the theme. Also, the apparently “emotional” scene does not receive enough pretense; therefore, the climax is vague, if not nonexistent.

Nonetheless, Ang Lee’s masterpiece still proves to be an excellent film adaptation to Yann Martel’s marvellous tale, which United States President Barack Obama praises as “an elegant proof of God, and the power of storytelling”.

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The Sad Politician: The Election from a Non-Political Standpoint


Well, election season is over. What a relief. All the days of political advertisements, campaigning posters, and heated debates won’t be around for another four years. And finally all people without any interest in politics can have a rest from all those political arguments on Facebook posts and Twitter updates.

There’s one fact I need to point out: I am by no means a politician. I don’t know what’s happening with the United States government, other than the increasing trillion-dollar debt and the apparently tanking economy.

My parents, on the other hand, do have opinions, conflicting opinions at that. My father the Democrat voted for Obama, while my mother, the Republican did the opposite. Her argument was that since Romney was rich and owned his own successful business, he should know how to get America out of its economic crash. At least that’s what I heard from the conversations at the dinner table.

However, Obama’s victory in this year’s election surprised me. After all, as a President in his first term, he received mountains of criticism from people calling him “Hitler” and “the worst president ever” and such. Also, his performance at the first debate was… less than satisfactory. Even from my non-political standpoint, he sounded indifferent to the country’s problems, whereas Romney knew what to say and how to say it.

If you were following the statistics on Google recently, it seemed Romney was winning at first, receiving the first few votes. But even my mom admitted he would probably lose.

There’s one thing I’m happy for now that the election is over. We can finally stop discriminating each other. I seriously didn’t care about who won; I was just sick of people hating each other for their political opinions. A website I visited a while back used to ban commenters who supported Romney, calling them “trolls who don’t belong here”. Seriously?

Not to mention my friend in high school. He wore a jacket bearing the Canadian flag to school the day after the election. When asked about it, he said “Now that Romney lost, I’m moving to Canada. It’s not safe to live here anymore.” Yeah, buddy. What do you know about Canadian politics?

I found this picture on Reddit a few days ago. Apparently, Mitt Romney is taking his loss quite badly. Just think about it; even if you don’t support him, you probably feel bad for him. He studied like a college student for the Presidential Debate and spent countless hours getting campaigning posters together. Yet all he’s going to hear is “there’s always next election”.

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