Thursday, February 22, 2007

It's a girl's world

I get to explain away my failure to update often with an ostensibly lame excuse: I'm a boy. And it seems to carry truth when you compare the journals of a normal guy versus that of a girl.

I'll share my findings with you and admit that most of the material is in the LiveJournal spectrum. Indeed, if you look at my friends page, you won't find too many updates by men like us, and when they do, they're concise and abbreviated. soanevalcke's journal is a good example aside from mine; his updates are far and few between and the latest post at time of writing suggests that the practice has become boring for him, which is backed up by the statement in writing and the length of time it took to come up with what's called a 'meme' (which I assume to be a diminutive of 'memory', a tool available on LiveJournal that I've never had the patience to experiment with).

Now look at a post by any of the women and compare. Here is a public entry made by the blogger mentioned before:

Walked in the park today. And then, as a bit of side time to burn off, Lucas (my dog, might I remind most of you), Vincent and I decided to jump across the river. Vincent said that I wouldn't make it, and I did. Lucas swam across, eager to get back to me. He got his toes wet.On the second try, I wasn't so lucky. One leg of mine made it across, the other slipped into the smelly creek. My shoe's currently out to dry, and I quickly ran home to wash my right leg. Lucas got drenched all over. D:

Then look at a post that otherwise would have a similar mood, this being by lightningchan:

Right, so skipping over early morning stuff since it's just whining about cramps and no one cares. So. School.

I got there around eight and only read one of the signs on the door, and even then only half of it. XD I thought all the homerooms were posted in front of the caf, so I had to shove my way through a MASSIVE wall of people to try to see, since god forbid the kids go to their frigging classrooms, or move out of the way, or even INTO the caf so that people can see the lists, or even move around in that huge hallway. Anyway, I figured it out a moment later and went to the gym where I figured it would be anyway. XD It was there and I got my room number and headed off.

Dude, I know almost EVERYONE in my homeroom. There are only...5 people I've never seen before? And even then, I think I've seen them, just not had any classes with them. It's insane. o_o Of course, best part is how Dean, Lisa, Mara and Alyssa are all in the class, too. :D Yay. Our lockers are RIGHT there too. Mine's a palindrome and third-closest to our class. XD; I'm not upset about them moving the lockers around now. I have no classes on the side of the school that Physics is at, so it'd just be annoying to still have my locker there. Anyway, we really didn't do very much in Philosophy. Just looked at quotes and then wrote down what we think Philosophy is and what we want to get out of the course. I copied Dean's second answer: "a 90." XDD; Then I drew Axel and Marluxia on his paper. Which evolved into all the Obvilion Orgy members. That was fun.

Next was Discrete with my old Calculus teacher. WHAT FUN. actually wasn't bad. It really is just my Physics class over again with less people. XD; There are only two or three people who weren't in it. The teacher handed out a review sheet that was just a lot of simple trig. The hardest thing we had to do was rearrange the formula for the cosine law to find an angle. The other side was pretty much the same, but with graphing, so we didn't do that. Overall it was pretty good though, and the only question on the front that we didn't know, we actually got a lesson on. o_o; And I understood it after he taught it, too! If he actually teaches like that every single day, I may do well in this course. How exciting. XD;

After this class was English. In a portable. DX I managed to ask someone in my Calculus class where P7 was, though. Didn't have to though, since I was right in assuming the seventh one was one of the newer ones, right out one of the nearest doors. XD So I went there and saw Ann sitting at a group of desks in the corner. I don't know her amazingly well, but we sat next to each other in Grade 10 Science so yeah. I sat with that group. Sharon's there too so at least I know people. We didn't do very much in that class. Just took papers, she explained our CPT and wants us to choose our books by Monday (wtf! so early!) and then we did some brainstorming on the word "fragmentation." XDD We ended up talking about asexual reproduction since, technically, it could be a type of fragmentation. :[ It involves cells splitting apart or whatever.

English teacher let us out early, so I went to the caf and bought food. It was good, and we've all got the same lunch again, so this semester should be fun. :D I've missed having lunch with the whole group, even though not everyone was there today for some reason or another, including a bunch of guidance visits which for Dean's we took the liberty of eating his pizza so it wouldn't get cold. XD

Last but not least as Calculus. Fomg, I zoomed through the worksheet she gave us. :B I didn't finish, but damn I remembered everything. So proud of myself, even if it was just simple things like evaluating functions, expanding, factoring, and finding roots. XD; Ann's in that class too so I sat beside her and Mitch sits in the two-desk row beside us. So yay, I know people. I got 75 last year (or was it 74? I dunno.), but I want higher. Hopefully I'll get a much better mark this time. We're doing review today and tomorrow and then we start the course. :D It's sad that Calculus is probably going to be my favourite class this time around. Philosophy will be fun, but I miss being good at math and having already taken this course, I'll probably be good at it.

Now I'm home. Gonna wait for Bryan to come home so I can open the door for him, considering he's too lazy to take out his key, then go get changed and then...start on my homework, I guess. Two math worksheets to finish up, got to pull together a few binders and organize them for my classes and then...get mom and dad to write out cheques for my textbooks.

Hey, I can use my school:calculus tag again! XD

Blimey. I admit I don't make it a point to detail the school day, given that I'm pretty much restricted as it is as far as classes go and not much goes around socially since the school is so remote. And even if scenes were made every day and the school I attended was in a more urban area, I probably wouldn't find it in me to record it.

The conclusion then comes from my stepmother: It's a matter of them being more vocal. Now you wonder why there are so many books in the library written in the point of view of girls — seventh-grade Bebo users, ninth- and tenth-grade MySpace users and clubbers, all ignominiously leaving out the boys in such roles, except perhaps as hot crushes or concerned relatives. I know that there are some boys out there who probably love to document their outings, and many of them have pictures that generally take the place of words, but when it comes to the Internet, a vision I have been seeing seems to have credit: In the Internet, it's simply a girl's world. It's a world where cute animated backgrounds, pink and black stripes, fluorescent colours, and stars are accepted fixtures. It's also a world where, whenever the aforementioned is absent, animé characters, Photoshop images and icons, and text smilies dominate. And a lot of it can be attributed to the impact women have had on the Internet. And that's being masculinely conservative about it.

So what can be said in conclusion about the men? I really don't know. I believe we should leave it to the women to say that.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

St Valentine's Day: Just a vestige?

No, I'm aware of all the public hullabaloo and the pressures on many of you with significant others today, and I'm sure your endeavours may have been worth it, but this screed is, once again, about me.

I can't help noticing how vapid this day is. Like I said, it's oriented toward those with actual infatuation or love in their lives, but as far as the man who writes a blog, had a few fleeting infatuations, had been chewed out by a friend of one of those objects, and hasn't been subject personally to a shred of the theme in the past four years, the day is, I have to say it, terribly inflated. I even believe that the ones who celebrate it often suffer — not necessarily at the hand of their significant other, but themselves as a result of trying too hard. Yes, I know it's nice; no, it's not a day to reserve for only a spastic draught of 'I love you', since that should be present as much as possible. I'll say this about myself about the day: It was only up until grade four that I actually had to go out of my way to buy those Valentine cards for the class, and ever since the day has just avoided my attention, save for the two I got from a pen pal four or five years ago.

So as far as I go, I don't know the pressure that most people are under today, but I still feel sorry for those who adhere to it. As is is today, I just find the idea to just be a needless acme. This day is on par with Mother's Day, Father's Day, and any other subject-specific holiday only in the idea of theoretically dedicating one day to a certain person and screwing off the rest of the time. While I can understand honouring your relatives for raising you well (with an emphasis on the word), I just don't see the point in reserving one day to demonstrate how much you love another. When it comes to love — and I'm being theoretical here — you need to exhibit it as long as you feel it, in moderation, without putting too much pressure on yourself. If you just wait for today to let it peak, it will eventually end up being systematic and irrespective of feelings that you might really have.

The funny thing is that this day started out as a generic Catholic holiday to honour any priest condemned in the Roman Empire before the time of Constantine. The pertinent feast coincided with the feast of Lupercalia, in which runners would streak through town and touch women in the hopes of aiding pregnancy (such a scene is present in the first act of Shakespeare's Julius Caesar). According to legend, St Valentine of Genoa, one of the martyrs the Church chose to celebrate, happened to have secretly arranged marriages and possibly fell in love with a jailer's daughter. Along the line, Geoffrey Chaucer associated the day with romance in a poem. It was later left to modern commercialism to introduce the notion of giving jewellery and chocolates.

As a result, you'll only see the Vatican holding on to the tradition of honour, whilst all the world uses the holiday to go out, don red and pink, and scoop up anything red and in the shape of a heart with which to shower another with the affection they've ostensibly accumulated throughout most of the year prior.

Bah humbug.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Youth summit #4

Yes, I know, I promised you all another youth summit summary, so here I am. The thing I want to address now is that my throat is not in the best of conditions first due to congestions and then karaoke singing and some speech I had to make for the rest of the table. (It's called laryngitis. Gah.)

The first thing I did on Friday was sweep right out the door without telling anyone; I'd reserved the day for it and notified work and school, and it was nearing 7.30am, when I would have to appear at the church for transport. This time we were headed to another Elks conference, so that meant I was rearing to get my iPod going via a transceiver, but since we could not find one to purchase on the island, I had to crank it to full volume whilst the girls in the van found their iTrip and blasted rap and punk rock the whole way. (Even worse, the pastor was in a separate car, so he had no iPod of his own to counter with.)

Normally the summit would be held at a hotel in New Brunswick, but since it was closed for renovation we were shunted into one in Princeton, where, unfortunately, pilots were sleeping before their next flight and could not be disturbed. This did not stop the conference from becoming its noisy and cluttered self; on the first day my room was one of a few that received silence orders, which my room-mates continued to flout. When we got there, we put our luggage away as usual, but it was in a partition that was removed later as the day wore on; I put my coat on a rack provided in a room, but once the partition was removed and I had collected my luggage, the rack disappeared; the coat was never announced during lost-and-found claim calls. As a result, I now have no winter coat other than two fleece layers.

First, we had our luncheon and opening. When I sat at my group's table, I found it hard to concentrate on a new map I was drawing (an area I called Rana'l, a collection of cities on a ragged seashore) since the others (we know who they are) were throwing ice cubes, napkin bits, and crumbs across the table. This continued for the next three meals I had with the group before I finally sat with another group, one from East Plainfield. One of their number had come across my map and told the rest of the group; since they turned out to be a happy bunch I basically stuck with them for the remainder of the conference.

After lunch, we had the first of our workshops. Again, we never stuck with our workshops; there were no schedules and everyone just flooded to wherever space was free. I ended up in a tobacco seminar that revolved around a hidden code of ethics in RJ Reynolds' corporate policy that, needless to say, was never heeded (the header even said VOLUNTARY CODE OF ADVERTISING ETHICS). Before the seminar, however, we had an icebreaker round, which many of you will know to be some sort of jive or game that helped you identify other members. This round, though, devolved into factional madness, with one party representing 'Kool-Aid' and turning out to be extremely obnoxious and the meek other representing 'Sunny D'. The first was 'If You Love Me You Smile': we had to get a member of the opposing team to smile by saying 'Honey, I love you, will you smile for me?'; the other will either smile and join the proposing team or hold it back and turn the proposing member down to force him or her to defect to the opposing team. Then, we played a human 'Guess Who' followed by a tournament of rock-paper-scissors, which all devolved into confusion and bickering. Needless to say, it ended rather quickly.

Then there was the first of our speakers, 'Dr Mike'. Although his message ('good choice, bad choice, my choice) applied well to the mass, especially the poor chap who was handed a toy car, radio, phone, and banknote to denote freedoms and then drawn back with a fishing line for each represented shortfall, his matter was quite juvenile; this was reflected in a wrap-up session.

Then there was dinner, and a hypnotist (I could have sworn that I'd seen him at the first or second Youth-to-Youth summit) came on-stage and selected a handful to subject to hypnosis. One of our members arose. Once he'd gathered his few, he put them in chairs and coerced them to sleep, and then he proceeded to force them to imagine a variety of scenarios. Some were tapped out when the hypnosis failed; some that remained slumped on each other. At the end, they all got up, evidently dazed at reality.

That ended, and we were down in the conference rooms at the base of the hotel for any of a few sessions of films and karaoke. I chose to go to the karaoke and, despite my nagging throat, registered to sing. I was called up to the surprise of many, especially those that had seen the map. One member in my travelling group responded with what people at PC call a 'glomp'; one wanted to dance. I shook them away and took the microphone, singing to emulate Garth Brooks as best I could without cracking. Although I got through with it and received a large ovation, it was nonetheless the first step to a nasty throat.

The following morning, we were in the ballroom for breakfast and a speaker — Josh Shipp. I'd seen him at my first Youth-to-Youth conference and expected him to carry on with his story of the exploding lasagne and the ensuing reaction from his mother: 'Bless your heart!' In other words, he was later told, he was supposedly stupid. That he was not, as I'd known; he did have attention deficit disorder, but he nevertheless carried out a witty and intelligent session with the mass. (I asked him during a recess whether he had actually appeared at the Youth-to-Youth conference; I was right.) Then came a 'town meeting', in which selected students would come up and share stories that explained why they were there. While plenty others were standing up, no-one at my table seemed willing to say anything. Then I had an idea come into my head as I wondered why the hell I was there. My idea was that everyone was unique and not fit to follow a mould (okay, I took the idea from another speaker in the mass), so I gathered up what to say about that and, trembling, got up to motion that I wanted a say. 'We are here because we are all unique!' I managed to proclaim. 'We are here as we choose to embrace our identity and thus use it to become leaders!' I nearly fainted, and the destruction of my voice was complete. Still, it was the largest ovation of any for the town meeting.

After lunch, there were two workshops, again subject to availability. I managed to get first into a seminar on prescription abuse; it included a video of a woman who drank Robitussin on a daily basis for a high as well as a teenager who hanged himself in a 'roid rage'. Once that cleared, I ended up in what was probably one of the most interesting sessions I have ever attended: perception. The speaker first sorted us out and had us come up with an answer as to his lowest maths score, manufacturer of his car, and nationality of his mother (97 percent, Nissan, Greek). Then, he presented us with a matrix of nine dots. I knew the trick; you had to connect them all using a certain amount of lines. The trick was that it was oft assumed that they had to be straight and you could not let the pen leave the paper before all dots are connected. However, he assured us that we had to see instructions as to these puzzles for what they literally were; the problem could be solved with one line with a paint roller or with zero straight lines by crumpling it or scribbling. That's something I should have showed my psychology course had this taken place before the senses class.

That finished, and we had two hours to ourselves, in which the East Plainfield students rehearsed a poem to read at dinner. Dinner came and they performed beautifully. Once dinner ended, you guessed it, it was another Motivational Productions feature. This one was called 'freedom', intertwining the tale of a kid whose father was at war and who was coping with a crowd that was notorious for partying.

Since there was no talent show, of course, we had the dance afterwards. The staff had been generous and let us stay out an hour longer than intended; I simply stayed out of the main frame and stayed with some Plainfield students who had a paper game going in the foyer. This did not, to my surprise, come without a few girls demanding rather flatly that I come in and dance with them (the ratio of girls to boys at this conference was 3:1, guaranteeing all the boys a potential partner, which many would see as beneficial to me). I did enter the ballroom a few times and prop the map out, but alas, I didn't have another follower. I decided once again, though, that I was not capable of getting in there and dancing.

The final day was uneventful, save for the loss of the coat and the lack of a map for the return trip, forcing me to call to mind a few interstates to get back home.

You know better, Max. What was this all for?

Again, you've beaten me to the kerb. You'll have noticed in the screed above that I was drawing a map again, and you also should have noticed that many of the gawks were from women.

Okay! I admit it! I used it to pick a few up. No, the decision to go wasn't prurient; I did learn from the conference, and I did increase some of my confidence as demonstrated by the karaoke session and the speech (albeit at the expense of my throat), and I was still without a thing to do but wander around, and I needed a few more ideas for another large map I've been planning. But yes, I caught on to the gawks and tried to run away with them. Sure, I didn't has much interest in the whole scenario this time, but if you go back in time, you'll find that most of the time I've drawn a map and demonstrated it at least one girl would respond. It's happened, first with little motive but to just brag, then with, I admit, a few other things in mind that I later wrote off as they proved to be too whimsical. I caught on to the notion that whatever I could offer would be a decent pick-up line.

I'm such an idiot. But hell, I did do something great. Anyway, now isn't the time to jump into an entry about this, Blue and Natsuki with the Dawson factor, and other things along the line that I can possibly think of. As I said, my throat's trashed, and I'm waiting for it all to set into stone before I can reach a viable conclusion.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Beauty gimmicks

It's not very odd to see something like this happening, but the surprise of the news coming made sure that I didn't hold you lot over until I returned from the next youth summit, for which I leave tomorrow. As a result, we have a new rant on how the world has to be improved. By following the link you'll find that former Playboy Playmate Anna Nicole Smith, burdened with the death of her son, the spectacular failure of Trimspa (which we'll look at), and a new husband and daughter, has died today of causes yet undisclosed. This does not stop me, however, from inculpating a lot of gimmicks she's gone through — plastic surgery, pills, you name it. Smith is no hero, yet beauty gimmicks are worse.

Alongside the tendencies I've noticed in the past, pills, eating disorders, and plastic surgery are things that I can personally do without. First, we have pills and other 'medications' and regimens that promise spot reducing (Cortislim was nailed for this in particular). Many diet pills offered on television are often not evaluated by the FDA, yet their advertisers still aren't afraid to boast, with as much information they can ply us with about secret ingredients, herbs, and such, that they'll catalyse a dramatic yet seemingly safe drop in weight. The truth is that most of these pills just don't work — many of them are addictive or are toxic to the body. The most incriminating thing of all about them is the lingering history of the CDC diet, based on Herman Taller's Calories Don't Count book, which allowed you to eat as much as you wanted whilst taking tablets that really contained nothing but safflower oil.

Then there's plastic surgery. I can excuse this for the removal of cysts or severe weight, but to just reshape your face is something I question. Many times these surgeries leave the patient looking even more hideous than before, and a few times they actually addict the patient. Beauty consciousness is not an excuse to me, unless it cures something that can lead to infection or removes something that hampers normal movement. Not as bad as constructing the face, but still something to abhor, are breast implants (not reductions, as those actually releve pressure on the mammaries from what I hear) — do we have to go over the fact that they aren't a sexual organ but merely objects of eroticism in most beliefs? Simply put, and I admit that I've been stymied otherwise, if you're proud of how you look, you do look good. If not, you don't; it's not always in the eyes of the beholder.

Then, we have, quite unfortunately, eating disorders. This is not something we can get rid of easily, but I suppose it'll die once people start thinking for themselves. Not too recently, a model named Ana Carolina Reston died of heart failure due to anorexia, and at the time she had a strict vegetarian diet and weighed a measly 88 pounds (39 kilograms). This coincided with advisories put out by Milan and Madrid over model stature, the latter requiring a body mass index of at least 18 in order to be in the show. The lesson, folks, is that there is a thing called 'too thin', and if the tabloids and activist groups are the only other public forums shouting about it, I'm going to cry. The rest of the media will not necessarily bother with minimum weight or BMI; they'll do anything to get money, even if they inadvertently create a sex definition. Yes, I realise that there's too fat (circulatory failure in that territory too), but it's no use whittling girls to the bone or compelling them to whittle themselves.

Girls, I pray you, put down the pills, consult your legtitimate, certified doctor, and work out a healthy diet that encompasses as much of the food pyramid as possible. And exercise.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Too many moderators?

Number of forums: 901. Number of members: Upward of 120,000. Number of moderators: 123.

Hang on, 123. Why does that number come into play as far as management is concerned? The common justification is that there are enough forums on the board to warrant a staff that large, yet counterexamples seem to be everywhere. For one, we have PKMN.NET, which makes do with seven administrators, three active super moderators (Bre and Continue don't count) and really one active page moderator; things move smoothly since there are more people who are prepared to intervene in conflicts on the forums (whilst the others work on main-site projects), including a few who act in times when the big boys are out to lunch; the only weakness is that all active staff members (except one) reside in the British Isles. Then we have the Pokémon Community, which, I've come to observe, probably has a larger staff than it really needs (I'm pretty sure some other moderator could whisk my post away, especially given what's happened with a bungled rule in OVP and the stalking issue); we have more than twenty page mods and we end up having the higher staff doing the bulk of the work. In all honesty, I personally believe the site could run quite fine if a couple more higher staff members were added, a couple of page mods who do their job enough stay at post, and all the rest cleared out in a mass lay-off.

And now the subject is SuperCheats. It's got 123 moderators among 120,000 members or more and 901 forums. What seems to be the problem?

I remember having a disagreement with a new, haughty member over the subject, but in a way he had a grain of truth in him. I'm not sure as to what the genesis for the mod application idea was when Rich decided to implement it (I only remember being told in advance of a democratic system), but after it was implemented, the vast diversity of the forums seemed to require it. Many of the 901 forums aren't venues everyone on the forum can access and relate to — and I don't mean small differences such as between the Pokémon TCG and Game Boy games, but individual games from all different franchises altogether. One person who has enough knowledge in games of one franchise, say, Grand Theft Auto, that he can help others progress through the games and mediate discussion thereof is bound to have as little enthusiasm in Final Fantasy or Kingdom Hearts as he has much in Grand Theft Auto, so he probably would not be an excellent candidate for a position to moderate a large swath of video game boards (although he could stand a chance as a super moderator, but that's a different story). The natural response to such a deficit would be to hire someone with enough interest in the Kingdom Hearts or Final Fantasy games.

If the concept seems to work, why isn't it? The problem isn't in the diversity of the games, but rather in the number of people assigned to one specific game forum. And mind you, forums are not set necessarily by franchise, but by individual product. That means you have a forum for Grand Theft Auto III, Vice City, and San Andreas with a different moderator or two for each. Add the different forums for different platforms (I don't know whether this issue has yet been covered) and you have an ideal maximum of 18 posts between the three instalments and the two platforms (PlayStation 2 and Xbox), with a maximum of three mods for each instalment. Occasionally you'll have more than one of these posts held by the same person, but often the ones holding the posts are vastly unique.

I'll be blunt here: There are simply too many moderators, and they're causing too many problems for the site. And it's not necessarily the application system, but the number of people Rich wishes to have working for him. These days, unfortunately, we have plenty of skirmishes over who's going to get the last toss-up for a general board position (each of which usually has five spots); the most recent one was for Team and Clan Boards, which I'll admit has a few management issues. The facts are clear, as in the aforementioned sites: A better choice would be a set of well-rounded staff members who know enough about franchises and can easily go through a set of forums labelled under one franchise such as Grand Theft Auto. Failing that, we could probably use a couple more super mods who come around more often; we're down to three already.

Here's the type of overhaul I'd recommend, in short: Reduce the number of normal moderators on the forums and increase the amount of moderators who can easily work in more than one forum by adjusting to the expectations therein. PKMN.NET has it right.