Monday, December 31, 2012

I Wish for the Stars

Hello, 2013!

To all of you, readers, a very happy new year. 2012 has been a very eventful year for a lot of us. But new years also mean new dreams and new experiences to look forward to. And I wish all of you the fulfillment of your dreams, an infusion of joy, and the return of wonder.

In this day and age of speed and efficiency, awe and wonder are things that have become hard to come by. I miss being awed. I miss feeling overwhelmed by the feeling of elation when I am face to face with something big and wonderful and almost impossible.

So, dear readers, allow me to share to you that this 2013, I wish to see the stars.

Not the city night sky we always see, where you can actually count the number of stars you see. No, I'd like to see the one where it looks like Someone had thrown silver dust against the black sky, where the expression "countless as the stars" isn't an expression, where you can actually see the Milky Way. I've seen it only once in my life, when my clan spent the night in a beautiful but remote resort on Samal Island for my grandmother's 83rd birthday. I hadn't been awed like that in a while. Looking at the stars, I felt small and not so very powerful. But that was alright. Because I also felt peace, and that it was okay to not be too powerful at that point in time. It suddenly made me realize how self-absorbed I had been. And how God was so terrifyingly awesome.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Breakfasts and Writers Meets

I went on a vacation to my hometown, Davao, this Christmas season. And there were just things there that I found I really missed. I still like Manila when I'm doing business because the companies I need to meet are here. But, even if my cousins don't agree with me on this, I like certain things about the way we socialize in Davao.

Breakfasts
I actually have friends in Davao who happily meet with me for breakfast. Some people would just drop by our house in the middle of my family's having breakfast. I have 10am social meetings! I don't know if it's just coincidence, but I don't have friends from Manila who would actually ask to see me for breakfast. If there's no work, none of them want to get up early. They will normally curse you for dragging them out of bed at 9 in the morning. I love breakfasts. And I wish I could find friends in Manila who would have breakfast with me on a Saturday morning.

House Calls
People there actually visit you at your house when you're in town. My friends in Manila visit me at home sometimes, and me them, but it seems such a hassle. And I don't know why house calls in Davao are a little more formal and respectful. Probably because when they visit, they visit the family. And people are expected to do it out of courtesy. Sometimes the social obligations get tiring, but I like that it's expected. It feels proper, and it would be nice to have a bit more of those in Manila, where work usually takes precedence over family obligations and propriety.

Writers Meet
Every month or so, a friend of mine met with a group of writers. I met his writers group once. It was composed of men and women of different ages. They would meet at one of their houses and just talk about stories. No plans. No projects. Just talk about the stories they were writing and the stories they've read. I have writer friends in Manila, but we never do this. Well, the fact that we all lived so far away made it hard to meet regularly. Also, we were good friends who didn't really hang out. Would be nice to have a group to meet regularly like that, though. I think I did before. Before everyone got busy.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The Mean Princess and the Ring

I came home and asked my siblings, what must one do to look more appreciative? What must one do to make the people around her know and feel that she is happy with them when words don't seem to be enough?

Their unanimous answer: smile.

Fake it, my mother said. Smiles, fake or not, will release endorphins. And so after you fake-smile, it becomes a real smile.

Bite a pen, my brother said. Do that Japanese smile exercise where you bite a pen horizontally so that your cheeks will get used to it. And eventually, you'll do it naturally.

Wear a ring, my sister said. Do you remember the story of the mean princess and the ring? It made me smile just thinking about it. I don't even remember the title. But I remember the story. Let me tell it to you.

There was a princess who was known to be mean and ill-tempered throughout her kingdom. She didn't like herself very much. And she felt ugly and unattractive. Then one day, an old lady came to her and said she had a spell to make her beautiful. She gave the princess a ring and told her to smile at the ring three times a day. At first, the princess didn't believe her and didn't want to do it. But her subjects urged her to try. There was no harm in trying anyway. So she did. Hidden, at first. Then she started to do it more openly. And more than three times, eventually. Then after a time, she didn't need the ring anymore. She was beautiful.

Maybe I'll wear the old woman's ring tomorrow.


Sunday, December 2, 2012

Loneliness and the Value of the Self

I have only recently just appreciated how much of an impact our relationships have over how we react to experiences in our lives. In the past, I judged bad experiences based on what I considered the "bad"-ness of the circumstance. But recently, I have realized that there really is a different scale in each of us when it comes to experiences. And that underneath the circumstances, it all boils down to the feeling of being loved and valued.

I've been there. I've been to a point when you feel unloved. And you feel that you deserve to be unloved because you're unlovable and unloving. Of course, that's a lie spoken by a treacherous heart that's just been hurt. Treacherous because it doesn't want to cooperate with you when you tell it to calm down and be quiet. A lie because there are actually people who love you. Like your family and friends.

But whether there really is someone who loves you or not, at that particular point of time, when you don't feel loved or valued, when you feel alone and unnecessary, that's when despair kicks in. I have a friend who was betrayed by her boyfriend of ten years. And to her, life sometimes becomes unbearable because she doesn't feel like anybody actually cares. That if she dies, nobody is going to miss her. Whether that's true or not, that's what she feels. And this feeling is what would drive her to consider permanent escape and other such unpleasant things. (I care, though, so don't do anything stupid. Please.)

When I was in Japan, people ended their lives for what some of us would consider petty things. Like not being able to find a job, or not being able to fit in, or getting embarrassed. But underneath it all, they ended their lives because they felt unloved. They killed themselves because they felt they were all alone in this world. Most of the cases I heard about were students from outside the capital coming to Tokyo to study. They would live alone in Tokyo. Then when they felt they couldn't fit in or make friends, they jumped in front of the train. And we can't really judge them because the feeling of being alone is really intensified in a very polite society like Japan. I've been there. I know.

I also heard of a case of a woman jumping off the 24th story of a building in Ortigas recently. They said she took her life because her husband, who was a seaman, was coming home, and she was three-months-pregnant with another man's child. Some people would say she didn't have to kill herself. Some people would say she could just have ended the pregnancy. Or she could have confessed to her husband. The marriage could end, but hey, life goes on. But we really couldn't judge her because we don't know what she was going through. It's a high possibility that she felt that she had to deal with this daunting problem alone, and there was no one there to help her.

Things happening recently has made me stop and think. If depression and despair strikes me again, are the current relationships in my life enough to make me feel loved? I believe in God, and He has been my Anchor through my dark days. But I know that having good relationships help make going through the dark days easier. The people around us are God's gifts to us, after all.

On the other side, I also had to think, will my friends feel alone if they are struck by depression and despair? The answer is already a yes for one of my friends. Do I care about my friends? Yes, I do. Do they know that? Do they feel that? And the answer is no.

I'm going to remedy this. This is not going to be easy for me. I'm not really an expert at showing affection. But I'm going to try. Because the truth is I value my friends highly, but many of them don't know that. And I don't want them to go into depression thinking that nobody cares. I care.

I appeal to the people reading this. In this day and age, it is so easy to get caught up in our own lives and our own busyness that we forget friends or take them for granted. Or we think that what they're going through couldn't possibly be worse than what we ourselves are going through. Let us reach out again. Let us re-connect. Really re-connect. Let's have coffee. Let's have lunch. Heck, let's have breakfast if that's all we could spare. And let us show each other that someone actually cares.

The Guardians of Children

My sisters and I watched "Rise of the Guardian" today. And I loved it. The story itself is simple. But it does speak so much about how we sometimes feel in this world. And it reminded me of what I had as a child, but had lost growing up.

Invisibility and Belief
Most of us know how it feels to be invisible. Like nobody believes in us. I know the feeling. And I can totally relate when the Guardians lost power when people didn't believe in them. I lose power, the feeling of magic, the feeling that it can be achieved, whenever the people I value shoot down my ideas. I feel the disappearance of my wings, the sudden onset of tiredness, and how small and powerless I suddenly feel. Then I feel the change, the desire to turn into a bogeyman, the feeling of bitterness taking root, pitch black darkness covering my heart, and the need to strike fear in the hearts of those who didn't believe in me. But underneath it all, there is that tiny speck of fear that I feel, myself. Fear that I have no power. Fear that I will be invisible and worthless, just as my ideas had been.

The Guardians
The things that can save me from that darkness, I have observed, are those Guardians: gifts from the Man in the Moon, my Lord and my Light in the darkness. I recall the happy memories with the ones who shot me down, and remember that these people do love me, and didn't really intend to make me feel bad. They simply didn't understand. I look to other things and feel wonder and awe, and I can create new plans, new ideas. And my wings grow again. I have a little bit of fun, and the darkness disappears. And I can dream again. I can hope again.

Conversely, if I don't try to recall happy memories, if I don't have fun, if I don't find wonder around me, it is hard to fight off the darkness. Dreams die. And hope becomes so hard to find.

I had struggled with this for a time. Broken dreams have released Pitch Black into my world. And I didn't want to recall memories. The happy memories were locked right along with the sad. I didn't find wonder in my world. It's so difficult to find wonder in this world nowadays. And fun? I don't even remember how to have fun anymore. My world was a collection of responsibilities and duties. Of things that had to be done. Of things that had to be taken care of.

I had forgotten the Guardians. They no longer defended my world. I had grown up and stopped believing.

Conclusion
We need these Guardians. I believe the five are really Guardians of children. I believed in them when I was a child. I want to again. But I will not hold on to these Guardians' past glories. This is an age where it's a little difficult to convince children of the existence of Santa Clause because National Geographic shows what the North Pole actually looks like. And people nowadays don't really sleep anymore, so it's hard to convince kids nobody just ever catches the Tooth Fairy. The time of these forms has come to an end. These Guardians must shed their old forms (Santa Clause, Tooth Fairy, Sandman, Jack Frost, and the Easter Bunny), strip down to what they really are at the core (wonder, happy memories, dreams, fun, and hope), and don a new form more suitable to this current age.

And we, who have believed, we need to help them out. We need to revive them and give them power once more before they completely vanish from the face of this Earth. We must help them have a new form, and become relevant to the people of this age, not just for the children, but for all the hearts in this world. Because they are in our hearts, in a constant battle with darkness and fear. And you know what? The darkness is strong in this age.

We must remember them, and remember them for what they are: gifts from the Man on the Moon. Gifts to chase away the fears and the nightmares, Guardians of children. Guardians of the child in all of us.

It is no wonder the Man on the Moon says it is the children who will enter His Kingdom. When we "grow up" and stop believing, it is so easy for the darkness to swallow us.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Komikon Loot

This year's Komikon was held on October 27, 2012 at the Bayanihan Center. We got a booth to promote our newest card game, Flirt, which is coming out in bookstores in November. We also sold LikeMan comics, which was a strip series that our Lead Developer (yes, programmer) created and drew (Komikasi peeps are hybrids!).

The sad thing is, my friend's iPhone, and apparently a lot of other things from other people, got stolen. Even a sketchbook! Now, it may not be very important to some other people, but a sketchbook, as some creators would agree with me, is a precious thing. This is where we pour out our hearts and minds. And I grieve for my friend and his loss, because not only did he lose a phone. He also lost the enjoyment I wanted him to feel coming to Komikon.

We all have to be extra careful with our belongings next time. I don't fault the organizers. But I wish the thief would leave Komikon alone. This is a place we look forward to go to. I want it kept a good place.

Anyway, I wasn't able to go around much. But I was able to get myself 3 comic books: Sean, Kanto Inc. 4, and Trese 5.

Kanto was alright. I particularly liked the art.

I liked Sean. I've always wanted to make comics like these. Light love stories (although I know Sean gets darker). Pacing and storytelling are great to me. Art is also great. Maybe, more backgrounds in the future! But definitely see me getting hooked to this.

I loved Trese. I loved the references. I loved the Kambal's banter. Although, they were funnier in the previous books. I loved how Trese is becoming more "female". I mean, she doesn't need to be sappy. But I think it's a good idea to use her being female. I mean, Trese's cool. It's only proper to give her some admirers. Especially rich kid tikbalangs who are full of themselves and like to show off. Hmm, I think it would be fun to see Trese flustered. Just a little.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Romance and the Objectification of Men

I read a book recently that talked about sexual objectification. The writer said that, in our contemporary culture, there are two wrong statements that many of us believe in. These were that (1) all sexual desire is good, and (2) all sexual desire is evil.

In our present culture, the church, particularly the Catholic Church in our case, seems to imply that sexual desire is evil. Some would even go as far as to say that sexual relations should not be enjoyed, and should only be done for the purpose of reproduction. But in contrast to that, the rest of the world seems to think that there's nothing wrong with it, that it, in fact, should be done because it feels good. Because it's a natural thing.

Realistically speaking, I don't think even the devout Catholic couples would go out of their way to kill the pleasure in the act. But at the same time, I think sex does hold a sacredness, a spirituality in the joining, which is why I think it shouldn't be treated so casually, either. The writer of the book goes on to say that the problem comes from, not the sexual desire per se, but the objectification of the other person to fulfill a desire in one.

Now, this discussion of lust and objectification usually talks about porn and is usually addressed to men. But the writer mentioned that, if it was porn for men (and some women), it's romance novels for women.

I stopped. I loved romance novels. A woman's first reaction would be, of course not! How could you group porn and romance novels in one? We don't stare lustily at men parts. What we're reading is just a story. But after you calm down and think about it, the writer has a point.

When we read romances, sometimes (or many times) we get to a point where the story is no longer the main thing we're after. We're in it to feel good. That's why formula romances still work. Because the innovation in the story no longer matters. What matters is that there's a hunky handsome man on a white horse who will save us and whisk us away to his castle to live happily ever after. Just like porn, it fulfills a desire in our hearts. But for us, women, that desire is to be taken care of physically, emotionally and financially. Now, there's nothing wrong with that desire. What's wrong is when we allow our minds to be fixated on the idea of the knight in shining armor, that when we look for a man, we don't actually look for a man, but a collection of attributes. We look at them and don't see "John," we see "Vice President of This-and-this Company, fair complexion, lives in Ayala Alabang." (that's just an example)

I'm guilty of this. And I didn't even realize it until one time recently, I met an old business acquaintance. I told my mother I met him. And mom asked, "Is he cute?" I didn't remember. Because I had labeled him by the name of his company. And when I looked at him, it was his company logo that flashes in my mind. Objectifying a man. Sorry. Now I feel awful.

It's not just romance readers. A friend of mine had asked me what kind of guy I liked. And I made a blog entry of the attributes I was looking for in a man. I felt uneasy after writing it, though. Like something about the list didn't quite add up to the actual. I thought maybe it was just because I've always thrown the list out of the window anyway. But then now, I realize, it was because if I looked for the attributes first, I'll never have a real relationship with a person. They'll never get past the checklist.

Which brought me to the thought that maybe the reason why so many girls are single nowadays is because of this. We objectify men. We see them as a collection of attributes, thinking ourselves merely practical for thinking so, but never really seeing them. I seem to have come to this disturbing conclusion that we, women, may be worse than our porn-loving male counterparts when it comes to objectification. Gasp!

Anyway, the above is merely the thoughts of a woman, and the thinking need not be mutual. But it's something I give you to think about this week and shake the mindset a little.

I'm not about to suddenly stop reading love stories. But it is good to stop and reflect where what you do takes you. Words are, after all, powerful things that have the ability to change minds, and thus, worlds. But we must always be alert to see how they're changing our worlds. I still believe that Romance will change the world, and more than ever now, I think, some worlds need changing.

Have a great week!

Saturday, October 13, 2012

This Is My Confession

I have a confession to make. I am not a geek.

If we define geek as someone who likes comics, fantasy, and games, then yes, I am a geek. But if we define a geek as one who has a deep, extensive, almost obsessive knowledge in one particular thing, which I believe is the more correct definition of a geek, then I'm afraid I am unworthy of such a title. I, my dear friends, am a jack. I do not have great knowledge in one particular thing. I have just slightly more than average knowledge in many things.

I wouldn't be so arrogant as to call myself a jack of all trades. But I am a jack of many trades. Since I have succeeded in turning my hobby/interest into my full-time work, I am on a quest to find a new hobby. And what I'd like to do now is play on my interest in trying out new things, and try my hand at various hobbies or trades and posting them here on my blog.

So, allow me to start with what I challenged myself with last week.

Origami
The Challenge: Make an Origami Dragon
Materials needed: Origami paper
Personal Difficulty: Low
How I Fared: Passed!
Interest Level: 6/10

Got myself some pretty origami paper from Saizen. Then, I found a nice little site called Origami-Instructions.com that gave step-by-step instructions on how to make an origami dragon. The results are below. Took me a second dragon to make a cleaner version. But yes, took me two tries to come up with a dragon that I was happy with.

My Second Dragon.

My two dragons.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Future App Idea: Temple Run... for iTreadmill

Today is an idea-filled day for Komikasi. Brainstorming. Fooling around. Which leads to weird ideas. Which people here take seriously. Which leads to more brainstorming. It's a fun Thursday. Now, I can't disclose what foolishn-- ah, I mean, plans we have, because we're actually developing some of them. But here's an offshoot idea of my mine.

Need exercise? Imagine if Imangi Studios really did come up with Temple Run for the Treadmill! Exercise would probably be a bit more entertaining. The treadmill speeds up as you go along. And the treadmill has balance sensors, which reads where you're leaning as a left or right swipe. Crouch to slide. Jump (yes, in my head, treadmills would be able to take it then) to jump over obstacles.

Orig Photo by: Rico Shen [GFDL], via Wikimedia Commons.
Temple Run, Imangi Studios.
Then, after a nice workout running away from temple creatures, don't forget to Share. :)


Komikasi is the developer of the Starstruck Game. Slap your stress away! Download Komikasi's Starstruck on your iPhone now!

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Sound Experiment 2: Marie

Today, I tried doing the Cymatics experiment again. (You can view my first attempt here.) This time, with my sister, Marie, as my voice subject. I took videos! So you can see how the experiment works. And also so you'll see why I need someone with a bit more voice training.

Marie: "I feel bad that I don't have a very nice voice."
Me: "That's alright. We're still producing... Stuff."
Marie: "I wonder if my sarcasm has a particular shape."

My sister, Marie





Monday, August 27, 2012

Sound Experiments

I've always wanted to do Cymatics experiments. If you haven't heard of Cymatics before, it's creating patterns from sound. I think it's really cool. Imagine what we can do with it! I've always imagined documenting the various patterns created. Then maybe we could create a language. Its written form will be those patterns. Its spoken form will be wordless. Just sounds. Of course, the language itself will be a lot less complex than one with words. But it will be more emotive and melodic. Fun!

Unfortunately, I don't have an amplifier, or a subwoofer speaker that I can dismantle. But I will get there soon. For now, I tried a method that's a bit more crude. It involves PVC pipes, a balloon, and one's voice. The result, passable for a first try, and using such crude equipment. Still, it was exciting when the patterns started to form. My brother helped me with it. And we only managed to create a few. The problem was mostly because we couldn't project, much less sustain, a musical note very long. I need a singer. But here are some images we were able to produce.

Lower note.

Higher pitch.

My brother did this. I couldn't replicate this myself. 
But he made this multiple times.
Basically, we made a sort of drum with the PVC Y-connector and a balloon. Then we sprinkled it with salt. Then, through the long pipe, we made a sustaining sound, and watched as the salt vibrated into a pattern.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Marriage and my Parents

It's just amusing to note my parents' different views on marriage.

Mom: Our children have to be practical when it comes to marriage. They have to find someone with enough means to support their lifestyle.

Dad: As long as they find someone they love and who loves them, they can weather any storm.

Didn't quite expect that answer from Dad. 

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Dream Recalibration... or rather, Path Recalibration

Was talking to a friend of mine yesterday. And he said he felt a little lost. When asked to expound on it, he said, he felt that, he had a dream, but what he was doing didn't seem to be getting him anywhere near it. Also, his walk in life showed him that he wasn't good enough to fulfill his dreams. "I'm not one of the best artists out there," he said. "I'm not even one of the best at stories."

He's better now. And just for the record, he may not be a great artist or writer, but he's a great motivator (+10 morale area of effect). I seem to have several friends like that. Nice! And as I pointed out to him, that's why we're a team. Because the combined skills of a team entity is better than an individual.

But this got me thinking, what are my dreams? Am I on the path to reaching it? Or am I allowing myself to be swayed to a different direction by what I think is necessity? By what I think it takes to keep my company afloat? I think it's good to verbalize the dream every now and then to remind us where we're trying to go. Also, I think it's good to verbalize the dream to friends because sometimes, it takes more than just the individual to reach it. And friends, if they truly are friends, would be more than happy to help you reach your dreams.

So let me start by telling you my dream.

Short answer: To change the world.

In detail: I'd like to influence the minds and hearts of people, to cause them to change for the better, to instill in them chivalry, goodness and virtue; to remember the value of God, family, and friends; and to keep them believing in the power of love, in the worth of values, and in the truth that dreams do come true. And I'd like to do that through stories.

My friend's dream isn't far from mine. He wants to focus on games, particularly, as is medium. And his focus is on the young, to instill honor, respect and love. And we'll do something. We'll collaborate, just like we did in high school.

What about you? What's your dream? Verbalize! Maybe we can help each other out. :)

Monday, August 20, 2012

The Goose Girl

Just finished reading "The Goose Girl" by Shannon Hale. My verdict, it's a comfortable read. Shannon Hale is one of my comfortable authors. I liked very much what she did with Princess Academy. And for Goose Girl, Hale delivered. Although, the prince conveniently falling in love with the goose girl before he knew she was the princess... That, I think could have been done better. Selia, the lady-in-waiting, was really annoying, which was good. And the reason why she couldn't just march up to the king was plausible.

I bought the next two books in the series. Let's see how these go.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Storytelling to Storyselling

On July 26 and 27, 2012, the Department of Trade and Industry, Half Ton Truck, ActivAsia, Inc., in cooperation with Cinemalaya and the Cultural Center of the Philippines gave us "Made in the Philippines," the 2012 Film, Animation and Gaming Congress. This year's focus is "Storytelling to Storyselling." And as part of the congress, they invited Ralph Guggenheim, co-founder of Pixar and CEO of Alligator Planet; Eli Noyes, Oscar-nominated animator and President of Alligator Planet; Doug Barry, creator of Cartoon Network Online; and David Kostiner, founding partner of Counsel LLP, to share what they knew in the art and business of storytelling.

I know. Horrible picture-taking on my part. That's Pixar Co-founder Ralph Guggenheim with his back to us.  And with him are Film & TV Director Mike Alcazaren and Cinematographer Giboy Vistan.

Locally, they also invited representatives from content creating organizations to be part of a panel in discussing Filipino Original Creative Content on the first day of the congress. The panelists they invited included Miguel del Rosario, President of Toon City Animation; Niel Dagondon, President of Anino Games; Ben Banta, Studio Head of Gonzo Games; Film Director Benito Bautista, and other local film directors and cinematographers. They also invited people from the government and the private sector to talk about the business and legal side of storytelling on the second day.

I think it was a wonderful two days, filled with learning and a whole lot of useful realizations. Ralph Guggenheim and Doug Barry made keynote speeches, and the rest of the time was spent in panel. This gave everyone, speakers, panelists and audience alike, an opportunity to explore and draw our own conclusions on the current situation of creative work in the Philippines. More than the learning (and I learned a lot, especially on the legal side and marketing side of things), what I think we, Filipino creators, really needed, and I think realized during the congress, was to understand where we were exactly.

Most of us focus on creating content, but alot little thought and resources on marketing our work. We also have a tendency to look to foreign entities for approval before we accept a piece of local work, whether they're other Filipinos' or our own. I think this is beginning to change now, but for the longest time, we did not consider something successful unless it had made it big outside first. I'm sure this is not new to most of us. But it helps to have it articulated.

Another thing we realized was that there was very little communication, and thus, collaboration, between the different local creative industries. The directors didn't know the game development companies, who didn't know the music licensing organizations, who probably didn't know the social media peeps, and so on. I ran out of cards, not because of the speakers, but because of the other attendees, most of which were affiliated with other local creative organizations.

Consul General Marciano Paynor, Jr. giving the closing remarks. Some of us from the Game Developers' Association met with the Philippine Consulate in San Francisco last year. And one of the things they were really trying to push was marketing the Philippines to the young Filipinos who were born in the States. It's great that they were able to get in contact with Audie Vergara in SF, and this event came about.

And I guess the biggest thing I realized during the event was this: We can actually do this. Foreign investors are nice. And getting foreign icons to speak and share their experiences are certainly most welcome. But we can do this ourselves. We have local investors. We have local content. We have local marketers. But at the moment we're separate pieces of a large puzzle. I think it's just a matter of piecing the puzzle together. And once we're able to do that, I think it's going to be one awesome picture. :)

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

iPads and Children

Nielsen did a study among households with tablets in 2011, and they found out that 7 out of 10 kids below 12 are using iPads. I don't even need to go far. All my friends who have iPads and who have children rave about how their kids just figure out how to use the iPad even without the parents teaching them (which shows me that their kids do frequently use their iPads). Now, sometimes, it seems wrong to just let kids play with tablets so that they'd behave themselves. But it is a fact that apps fascinate kids and hold their attention.

Have you seen kids nowadays? They're so... active... most of them seem to have ADHD. But give them an iPad and they can sit there and play with it for a long time (an average of 43 minutes, according to study). This got me thinking. I'm sure a lot of you have thought of this, too. But maybe it's time to change the format of how we teach.

Speak in front of kids. You'll be lucky to get 10 minutes of their undivided attention. Give them a tablet. They'll give it their undivided attention for almost an hour. Why? Because it's interactive. They can explore apps. Traditional teaching requires them to just listen. It's one-sided. With apps, they can go with their own pace, and for most kids, that's faster than the classroom's pace. They move around a lot because class is too slow. They're bored.

I know the government is doing something about our education system. But maybe implementing K-12 isn't the solution. Lengthening the time they spend in class doesn't seem like the right move. This is merely my opinion, of course. But what if we introduced a new game with a new story each grading period, instead of introducing a new lesson. The lesson will be integrated in the game and would come out as just a means to progress in the game instead of the actual point of it. Maybe, just maybe, we should start looking into edutainment as a mainstream form of education, and not just a supplement. What do you think?

Monday, April 9, 2012

The Storytelling Guild

A friend of mine once gave me a book called "The Way of the Storyteller" by Ruth Sawyer. And I can never really get past the first chapter of that book. Not because it was boring, but rather because, even at the very first chapter, I am already flooded with thoughts that demand me to put down the book and question, plan... imagine.

I really should finish this book one of these days. But for today, let's talk about Storytelling.

What I like about what the writer said is her wish for Storytelling to be a guild, just like trades in the old days. I was in Hanoi a few years ago, and the shops around Hoan Kiem Lake clearly demonstrated to me the concept of guilds. Each area had its own specialty. There is the concept of master and apprentice. And learning is passed down, not by books, but from one practitioner to another.

This is what the writer hopes for Storytelling. And I cannot help but wish for it as well.

One would probably argue that the mentor-apprentice style of teaching is not really relevant anymore in this day and age. I disagree. Rolex disagrees. Did you know that Rolex has a Mentor and Protege Arts Initiative?


Maybe locally, we could come up with something like this. I sure wish so. Whether it is oral or written Storytelling, I do believe that we need to interact and learn from people who actually tell stories. I'm sure some of us tried to come up with a mentor-apprentice program, too. I guess we weren't ready yet, then. The reasons are different for each attempt, but here are some that I have observed:

Comfort in Solitude
The problem with some of us writers, and I, myself, am guilty of this, is that we often tend to be solitary creatures. We often think we can figure things out for ourselves if given enough time. And maybe it's true. But wouldn't it be so much more interesting if a mentor actually took the time to teach us. Or, if we have some experience, wouldn't it be nice to have an apprentice to pass what we know to? Think of the speed of the progress in Storytelling we would have as a country if, instead of keeping techniques to ourselves, we could share it, and thus, develop it faster than if we would do it by ourselves.

As humans, though, we have an innate need to connect to other people. And some of you may argue that we actually want to connect with other writers. Except, where are they? And how exactly do you connect with them? (Once you figure that out, let me know. But I think book groups are one way to draw them out. Speaking of which, anyone interested in forming one?)

Lack of Time
Also, in our case here in the Philippines, most of us don't do writing as a full-time job. We just can't afford to do so. During the day, we have our work: doing business, practicing law, teaching, working in IT, etc. Then at night, we have our passion: writing. Already, we have little time for our passion. Mentoring someone is just too difficult time-wise.

Limited Range of Genre
Another problem we have locally is the limited range of genre we study. The folks at the university (and I love them) don't often have fantasy as a required reading. The required readings in school are not often the books our readers normally read. But that's because other genres are still quite new for most of the country. And so, there are not enough experienced writers for a lot of genres. For an aspiring writer whose chosen genre is, say, dystopian fantasy, do we have many experienced writers in that genre to act as mentors? Most likely, the answer is no.


But despite these obstacles, I think we can come up with a program to help writers improve. We have university fellowships, and I think that's a good start. I still look forward to a mentor-apprentice program. And I do believe we'll get there. First things first, though. I think we should start connecting.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Character Practice: The Weird Character

“The human mind is not a terribly logical or consistent place.”
- Jim Butcher



Make a character who is so weird, he's endearing.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Character Practice: The Woman

Men will always delight in a woman whose voice is lined with velvet. 
- Brendan Francis


Create and describe a character based on the most interesting woman you've ever met.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Natural Fashion in African Tribes

While waiting for my turn at the dentist, I read in a magazine about the Surma and Mursi Tribes of Ethiopia. And I was fascinated with their body paint and decorations. Below are pictures by Hans Silvester. I encourage you to buy his book. This would be a wonderful collection at home. I, myself, am thinking of getting myself a copy.

Source


Source

These tribes take natural fashion to a whole new level. But I find it beautiful. They're like... a whole new different creature. A whole new different being.

Source

It's lovely. It brings to mind Miyazaki and forests and unearthly things. And it's inspiring me to draw, to create, and to dream up of stories. Wonderful, wonderful stories.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Writing Prompt #3 Life to Try

This wish on my heart may be a little difficult to pull off at the moment given the responsibilities I have. But someday, I'd like to travel the world for two years, staying two to three months in each city before moving on to the next. And all I'd do is talk to people, listen to their stories, and write.

Write about a life you'd like to try.

The King of Attolia: Favorite Quotes

I was making a paper for my Strategic Planning class. And I was using the book, The King of Attolia, by Megan Whalen Turner, as my book report. The bad thing about using a fiction book you love for your book report is you keep getting drawn into the book, and thus, you find yourself reading instead of writing.

I love this book. I love the loyalty of the Queen's subjects. I love how the Queen is cold, but needs to learn mercy so that she doesn't hang her most loyal people. I love how the King is torn between his love for the Queen and his dislike for his role. And so, I'd like to share with you some of my favorite quotes from the book.

"She is ruthless... And it is a good thing she is, because she wouldn't be queen if she weren't."

(Aristogiton, Squad Leader, Queen's Guard)

"She is brilliant and beautiful and terrifying. It's a fine way to feel about your queen, not your wife."

(Aristogiton, Squad Leader, Queen's Guard)

"No, Relius was right and I was wrong. You are My Queen. Even though you cut my head from my shoulders, with my last breath as a noose tightens, to the last beat of my heart if I hang from the walls of the palace, you are My Queen. That I have failed you does not change my love for you or my loyalty."

(Teleus, Captain, Queen's Guard)

"It isn't revenge, Sejanus... I wouldn't destroy an entire house to destroy one man. But I would destroy a man to destroy a house."

(Eugenides, King of Attolia)

"You were jealous... of Dite?"
The king, the master of the fates of men, before their eyes was reduced to a man, very young himself and in love. Picking again at the coverlet, he answered, with eyes cast down, "Wildly."

(Irene, Queen of Attolia, and Eugenides, King of Attolia)

"Do you think I didn't know, from the very beginning, that this was where I must end?"
"Would you have served her if you did?" the king asked.
"Gladly,"snarled the secretary.

(Relius, Secretary of the Archives, and Eugenides, King of Attolia) 

"If I were here for fifty years," he said, gasping, "and she released me, I would crawl, if that was all I could do, to her feet to serve her."
The king shook his head in amusement and disbelief. "That is impossible. After what she has done to you?"
"It is what I taught her to do."
"So you would serve her still?"
"Yes."
His amusement and disbelief wiped away, the king leaned closer. "So would I."

(Relius, Secretary of the Archives, and Eugenides, King of Attolia) 

"I am here to make sure that you stay in bed, Your Majesty, because if this offends you and you order me summarily executed, it is no loss. Politically speaking."

(Costis, Lieutenant, Queen's Guard)

"She is strong, and you assume that strength has no end, no breaking point."

(Eugenides, King of Attolia) 

"If she pardons people because she loves them, someday someone that she loves will betray her and all Attolia with her. A queen must make sacrifices for the common good," Relius said.
"And if what she sacrifices is her heart? Giving it up a piece at a time until there is nothing left? What will you have then, Relius, but a heartless ruler? And what becomes of the common good then?"

(Relius, Secretary of the Archives, and Eugenides, King of Attolia) 

"He didn't marry you to become king. He became king because he wanted to marry you."

(Relius, Secretary of the Archives)

"I am tired of driving people and forcing them to my will. I am like a war chariot with bladed wheels, scything down those closest to me, enemies and my dearest friends alike."

(Irene, Queen of Attolia)

"He has had very little company in his life and he isn't used to it. But there are other words for privacy and independence. They are isolation and loneliness. Drive him out. Whether he likes to or not, he belongs in the open. The world needs to see what a king he is."

(Relius, Secretary of the Archives)

"Take care. Take care, my dear friend. I am an exceedingly effective scythe."

(Irene, Queen of Attolia)

"And you may mow me down a hundred times, My Queen, with my best wishes."

(Relius, Secretary of the Archives)

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

The Monarchs

Here's an old story I did in 2007. Hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.

**********

         “Here they come!”
         “The Monarchs are here!”
         The kitchen was teeming with rushing servers, screaming cooks, and the best dishes a small inn by the border could possibly prepare. That night was an important night for the people. That night would test just how much influence lowly peasants had over their rulers.
         “Remember,” the head of the kitchen reminded her staff as they hurried about. “Everything must be perfect! The Monarchs must have nothing to complain about.” It had been dawn when she started preparing the inn for the evening's gathering. She had given long hours overseeing the cleaning and cooking for this event. She was tired, and her disheveled appearance was evidence to that.
         “Fine,” a young waitress grumbled as she brought the head of a roast pig, almost dropping it a couple of times, to the kitchen counter. “I don’t know why all of you are being so fussy about this. Monarchs do this all the time. It’s not like it’s anything new. I ought to deliberately trip and dump this roast pig on the Queen. That would spice things up a little.”
         “Don’t you dare!” The kitchen head shook the young server in annoyance.
         “I-I was j-joking!” The waitress stuttered, startled at the violent reaction of the older woman.
         “You silly girl! Don’t you realize that if the Monarchs don’t sign that contract, we, being located at the border, are going to suffer most once they decide to wage war against each other?! And patience is a virtue neither the Queen nor the Emperor possesses.”

*****

         Fifty or so peasants were present at the gathering. Most of them had lent a hand in fixing up the inn for the arrival of the Monarchs. They had repaired the damaged wooden rafters to the best of their abilities. Their wives had polished the creaky wooden floors until they almost shined, and their children had done their best to scrub the dirt and grime off the cracked walls and its two tiny windows. They had done everything they could. Now, all they could do, as they held their breaths in suspense of how the Monarchs would react, was hope and pray that the leaders would succumb to their request.

         “His Majesty, the Emperor of the Northern Empire of Kuron.”
         The entire common room fell silent as the imposing figure of the Emperor entered. He was tall. Every fiber of his being exuded regality and power. His pale face was like that of a statue, chiseled and ageless. And his golden eyes, though not unkind, demanded loyalty and obedience from all who beheld them.
         He walked through the room, all eyes following him and the eight men that comprised his party. The men who followed him were big and brawny. Though the men wore the colors of the Empire, they did not appear to be soldiers. If they were armed, they did not show their weapons.
         They followed their ruler as he walked to the middle of the room and stopped before a low table prepared for him. He did not sit down but stood waiting.

         “Her Majesty, the Queen of the Southern Kingdom of Ginta.”
         The Queen entered and the silence among the people turned the whispers. She was indeed as beautiful as the rumors said. And as frightening. Unlike the Emperor, the Queen was visibly young, no more than eighteen summers. Though she was a head shorter than the Northern Monarch, she was no less imposing. The dark gold curls that fell down the sides of her cheeks made one expect an angelic young lady, sweet and smiling. But her delicate features and slightly tanned complexion ran in direct contrast to the iciness in her lavender eyes. She and her entourage of six armed ladies-in-waiting and two royal guards proceeded to another low table across from the Emperor's.
         When the Queen stopped before the table, she and the Emperor took their seats.


         “Ah, your Majesties!” Their host, the bespectacled innkeeper with oily hair, stood beside the Queen. “It is a very great honor to have you here today. We have prepared a feast for you. We have also made sure we have ample supply of wine at your Majesties’ disposal.”
         While the innkeeper droned on about how privileged he and the people were to have the Monarchs accept their invitation to this gathering, if one would pay attention to the two rulers, one would see that their eyes never left the other’s, whether it was because they were sizing each other up or because they were watching the other for any sign of an attack.
         Their host slipped a piece of paper and a quill on the table before the Queen.
         “We’ve prepared some diversions but perhaps her Majesty would like to get the business part over with?”
         “No,” the Queen answered sternly, still without taking her eyes off the Emperor. She took out her fan and started fanning herself.
         “Ah! Of course,” flustered, the innkeeper quickly moved the contract away from the Queen. “Business can wait until later.”

         He cleared his throat, and announced, “Now for some entertainment.” After he clapped his hands twice, three young girls in long flowing skirts with fans in each of their hands came up on the stage.
         “This is a very special type of dance,” the innkeeper explained from beside the Emperor this time. “It involves what is called the Language of the Fan. Does his Majesty know of it?”
         “I know it,” the Emperor answered.
         Though his voice and face were devoid of emotions, his eyes were anything but uninterested as he watched the Queen draw her fan across her palm.
         I hate you. That was what it meant.
         “I know it very well.”


         Dinner was a simple three-course meal of roast meat and in-season produce. Though the Monarchs ate little, they made no complaints, and dinner proceeded uneventfully. It had just finished and the second set of distractions had just begun when the Emperor discreetly took out a fan from within his sleeve.
         Forgive me, his hands said. Holding the fan open, they were clasped together in a silent plea for pardon.
         No! The Queen’s fan responded with an obstinate tap on her left cheek.

         “And now,” their host announced, oblivious to the wordless conversation that had just occurred between the leaders, for although the dance he had introduced was called a Fan Dance, he knew nothing of the true language of the apparatus. “Our talented harpist will play us a song.”
         As the harpist started playing, the Emperor closed his eyes. He knew the song. It told of war, of love, and of loss. It reminded him of every reason why the peasants wished to get him and the icy Southern Queen to enter into agreement.
         After a few seconds, the Emperor opened his eyes and caught the Queen’s cold gaze. He had asked her to come, and he knew she was not happy with his method of ensuring her attendance.
         He touched his fingers to the tip of his fan. I wish to speak to you.
         But her reply was to cover her left ear with her fan. I wish be rid of you.
         The Emperor frowned slightly. You are cruel, his hands said by opening and closing his fan several times.

         The Queen looked away uneasily. She hadn’t meant to be rude. Though he had used the circumstance involved in their first encounter as blackmail for her to attend this gathering, the Emperor wasn’t forcing her to sign, and was acting very gracious before her.
         She stole a glance in his direction. He was still looking at her. She quickly turned away.
         You have changed. She brushed her fan over her forehead.
         The Emperor smiled, and then mimicked her last fan movement. So have you. The turning up of the edges of his lips was slight, but his smile was pleasant and warm nonetheless.
         Blushing, the Queen tore her gaze away from the Emperor and fanned herself furiously. Please! I am engaged now.
         The Emperor gave a knowing smirk. Not yet, the tap of the fan on his left cheek said.
         Negotiations are underway, her wriggling index and middle finger said. Then with as much haughtiness as she could muster, she fanned herself again. I am practically engaged.
         But the Emperor persisted by opening his fan wide and slightly inclining it to her direction. I have been waiting for you.
         The Queen’s fanning slowed down and stopped. Though his message was equally affecting, what caught her was the Emperor’s intense gaze. Strong emotions emanated from the dark depths of those eyes, and the Southern Monarch couldn’t help but wonder what it would be like to be at the receiving end of those emotions.
         The Queen caught herself staring. She quickly looked down, but not without a blush and a satisfied smile.

         The harpist stood up. The audience clapped and cheered. But the Monarchs were preoccupied with other things.
         The Emperor touched the handle of his fan to his lips. Kiss me.
         The Queen, surprised and a little scandalized by such a request, blushed profusely. She tapped her closed fan on her palm in a manner she hoped looked threatening. Do not be so impudent!
         The Northern Ruler smiled. He held his fan in his left hand and made one small fanning movement toward him. Then come and talk to me.
         The Queen looked to the side. Still blushing, she twirled her fan in her left hand. We are being watched.
         When may I be allowed to see you then? The Emperor asked, touching his closed fan to his right eye.
         The Queen looked about uneasily. She was not used to this type of flirting. She was not used to any type of flirting. What she was used to was respect and distance.

         When the Southern Monarch did not respond, the Emperor repeated his question. When may I be allowed to see you? Then he partially opened his fan to reveal eight sticks. Eight? Seeing that the Queen’s full attention was focused on the fan and his hands, the Emperor slowly and sensuously pulled one more stick. Nine? The expression on his face was one of teasing, one that was proposing certain possible activities later in the evening.
         The Queen blushed redder. No! Her hand screamed as she practically slapped the fan on her left cheek.
         Amused, the Emperor covered half of his face with the fan on his left hand. I wish to know you better.
         Why? The Queen asked, her closed fan resting on the right side of her head.
         The Emperor’s expression became serious. He positioned the fan before his heart. Because you have captured my heart.

         The Queen was taken aback. Then her expression turned serious, too, and a hint of sadness found its way to her face. She tapped the closed fan on her nose. You lie.
         The Emperor’s expression softened. He rested the fan on his left cheek. No, I do not lie.
         But the Queen quickly put forward her open fan. Stop! With a sad expression, she held the open fan over her mouth, her hand making a ‘p’ sign by touching her thumb to the first knuckle from the base of her index finger. We both know it’s politics.
         Holding the middle of the fan’s first stick, the Emperor made a small hitting movement that sent the other sticks of the fan cascading downwards, opening the fan. This time…
         Then he made an upward movement that quickly closed the fan, and he grasped the fan tightly. …I’m just being selfish.
         He opened the fan and brushed it lightly on his right cheek. I love you.
         The Queen let out a small gasp.
         The Emperor closed the fan and extended his arm forward, offering the fan to the Queen. Do you love me?


         It was not only the Queen who was speechless. The host and the peasants stared at the two Rulers in confusion and fear. Why was the Emperor pointing at the Queen? Was it a declaration of war? Until now, all each Monarch had done was to glare at the other and fan his or herself. What had triggered the Emperor’s displeasure?
         The innkeeper was beside the Emperor in no time. “I-is there something wrong, your Majesty? Did… Did the harpist not please you?”
         While their host was busy trying to appease the Emperor, and all the other peasants were staring and hoping that the Emperor’s irritation would abate, nobody quite noticed the Queen looking at the Emperor with a soft expression on her face.
         The Queen pulled the contract and quill that the innkeeper had left on her table towards her, and signed it. Only when she stood up did the people’s attention shift to her.
         The Queen covered half of her face with the fan on her right hand. Follow me. Her fan told him. With a teasing smile, she placed the half-opened fan on her lips. I just might allow you to kiss me. And she turned around and left.
         The Emperor smiled. He stood up and approached the Queen’s table. He stamped the contract with the seal on his ring, and proceeded to follow the Queen down a narrow corridor.
         In the hall, both Monarchs’ parties were in confusion, not quite knowing what they were expected to do, and wondering whether they should follow their Monarchs to their chambers.

         And their poor harassed-looking host just stood there, dumbfounded, with the paper the Monarchs had signed in his hand. They had signed it. He thought, not quite daring to believe it. They had actually signed it. But they didn’t even talk. And it even seemed like they were on the verge of war.

         But it didn’t matter now. The people had triumphed. The Monarchs had signed it. That was what was important. There would be no war between them. The Marriage Contract in his hand was binding.

Writing Prompt #2 Night Child

It's been said that in a certain tribe in the Philippines, they keep a girl protected and hidden from the sun. As a result, she has the fairest skin in the village. And her role is Storyteller.

Write a story about this Storyteller and her village.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Writing Prompt #1 Ghost River

We will go down he will drown drown, deeper down 
The river wild will be our last ride 
We will go down he will drown drown, deeper down 
The mills grind slow in a riverbed ghost town
 
-Ghost River, Nightwish

Write a story set in a town where it's inhabitants are said to have drowned in the river.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Broken Shoes and Melon Candies

On March 1, 2012, I gave a talk on Building Game Worlds at La Salle University Ozamis. This was my third talk this year, and my first trip. My talk was at eight in the morning, and I was a bit concerned about people showing up at such an early time. Many of my students at the College of Saint Benilde came in an hour late when I used to have 8am classes. But to my surprise, the auditorium was just about filled to its 200-people capacity. Some of the attendees had come from as far as Bukidnon for the conference. I had given talks to bigger crowds before. The Y4IT Conference at the University of the Philippines two years ago had a crowd of about two thousand. But here in Ozamis, it was my first time to give a seminar-workshop to a group of this size.

Thankfully, the talk went quite well. The students seem interested. One of the participants even had this in this notes:



But all the while, I was battling not to feel very conscious about something... My shoe had broken. And I could see some of the students looking at it! I couldn't very well leave the university to go buy new shoes in the middle of the 3-hour workshop. And no super glue was in sight. So I had to ignore my smiling shoe and pretend I hadn't noticed. I thought it more prudent than to go, "Oh look, my shoe broke!" to the entire assembly.

But the workshop went well. I was spent, though. I made it a point to check each table and answer all their questions. And I found that the most effective way to make a group enthusiastic is to be enthusiastic yourself. That took a lot of energy, though. But I think it was worth it. If even just half of the assembly learned something, it would be worth it.

After the talk, I went back to the hotel and had lunch. After lunch, I went to the department store nearby and bought myself a pair of sandals to replace my damaged shoes. They didn't have a lot to choose from, but I found something decent. So I went to pay for my purchase. My change was supposed to be P20.25. And this is what they gave me:



And I was, "This is vaguely familiar."

All in all, it was a good day. It's not over yet, though. We're going to a beach resort tonight for Socials Night (yes, as part of the 3rd ICT Convention), where the guest speakers would choose the King and Queen of the night.

Lord, thank You for all this. It's an experience.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Disney Leadership Strategy 1: Everyone is Important

As part of our leadership module in MBA class, we had to read several books on leadership. One of my favorite books was entitled "Creating Magic: 10 Common Sense Leadership Strategies from a Life at Disney." And the first strategy is this: "Everyone is Important."

Disney, my Strategic Planning Professor told us, was a company that had no vision statement. All they had was a mission statement, but by that alone, they are a company that has a very good direction. Their mission is simple: to make people happy.

It's all about people. Your employees, not just your customers, need to be taken care of. They need to feel included. The company is as much theirs as it is yours. Leaders have to respect, appreciate and value everyone, from the Chief Executive Officer to the janitors. We have to make sure everyone matters, and make sure that everyone knows it.

Know your team. Take the time out to eat with them. Se how they're doing, not just in the job, but also in life. Also, let your team get to know you. Open up a little. Let them know you're a living breathing human being, too. When you greet people, do it sincerely. Reach out to everyone on your team. And make yourself available. When it comes to communication, listen to understand. No backstabbing, no complaining behind someone's back. And no late feedback. Communicate clearly, directly and honestly.

Stand up for the excluded. Care about people. Forget about the chain of command. Get off your high horse and BE part of the team, and not just someone who gives out orders. Don't micromanage. Give your people some freedom to be responsible for their own work. Design your culture. There is no need to conform to what society's standards are.

And very importantly, treat your people as you would want your customers to be treated.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Vision and Leadership

There is this book I just read called “Maestro: A Surprising Story About Leading by Listening” by Roger Neirenberg. The book was written in a narrative format and follows a man charged with reversing the downward slide of their company's profits. Not knowing why his leadership style wasn't working on the people who worked under him, he sits in during the rehearsals of an orchestra whose conductor seems to motivate and drive the artists effectively.

One of the most important things I got from this book is this: "The most important thing a leader can bring his organization is a vision that his followers would want to bring life to."

What the author is saying here is that, an organization is more creative and dynamic and effective when its focus is not on the leader, but on the shared vision. I agree to this view on leadership, especially for companies in the creative industry. It is more common for leaders to be used to just being the boss, expecting that their people would follow whatever they say. And while that may seem effective, it kills something in their people. As the author put it, by making one's feedback supreme, a leader actually renders his people more passive.

The Vision
For a leader's people to follow a vision, it has to be strong. According to the author, a strong vision can lead people away from focusing on their part alone toward being aware of the whole. They have to know that they are part of something bigger than them. And the vision has to be grand enough to move and make people feel challenged.

Surrendering Control
For a vision to be shared, members of an organization have to feel that the work is as much theirs as it is their leader's. To achieve that, the author suggests that the leader let go of some control. For many leaders nowadays, myself included, letting go of control is not an easy thing. What if the employee doesn't perform well? What if his output is not the style the client is expecting? What if he doesn't finish on time?

There are so many worries in our minds. But I've been there, and done that. For the longest time, I controlled everything. I was breathing down their necks, so to speak, and my people were on edge. But when I let go of some control, and allowed them to put in their ideas into the work and gave them more freedom to be creative, the work finished faster and better. And now, when there are problems, they would be the ones to volunteer the solutions. So, I really think surrendering some control, though scary, is a beneficial thing for an organization in many instances. But of course, there would be some instances when a tight grip on everything is better for the organization at that particular point in time. Sometimes, especially in the beginning, members of the organization would want to see how their leaders want things done first. So for the first few months, while they're studying the attitude and direction of their leader, it could be more beneficial for them to be told exactly what the leader wants. But after that, once they've found their boundaries, it is good to let them explore some problems with their own creativity. It shows that the leader trusts them enough not to be hovering behind them all the time.

Feedback
Feedback is very important in an organization. But how does one give feedback? The author says that, as leaders, we have the authority to appoint one's self as the fountainhead, the sole source of judgment. But this was something he discouraged. In the book, the Maestro, instead of telling the orchestra that they were too loud, told them to focus on the soft playing of the clarinet, to let it be heard for its beauty.

There is a bit of transparency that comes in here. Instead of just giving them an order to do a particular step in the process, the conductor shows them what he wants to achieve. Again, doing it this way, I believe, is a better approach. If a leader's people know what exactly the leader wishes to achieve, it is easier for them to follow. For one, they know why they're doing it. And secondly, they can adjust what needs to be adjusted to the level that is required by what the leader wants to attain.

In my experience with my company, I've observed that people feel more secure when they know exactly what the leader wants, they know what exactly the steps to do it are, and they know exactly if they did a good job or not.

Machine vs Organism
It is not an uncommon picture to see an organization as a clock. Each member of the organization would be cogs and gears, working in unison to make the clock move. But the author presents the organization in his book as a living breathing organism and not as an unfeeling mechanical thing. In the book, the author presents the idea of “the flow.”

Sometimes, for some leaders, it is easy to extract the feelings from the work and be like the clock. The problem with an organization being like a clock is, though it may seem efficient, is that people are more concerned in just doing well in his own department without considering the rest of the organization. If they just trust the system and do their work well, then everything will work well. But we forget that the members of the organization are humans. Sometimes, certain tasks take us longer to execute. Sometimes, problems at home prevent us from giving the work our best. And going with the clock approach makes us inflexible and, sometimes, uncaring.

If, however, we see the system as a living breathing organism, considering its strengths and weaknesses and listening or being aware of each member's humanity, then we can adapt and help each individual to fulfill his tasks.

In Conclusion
In conclusion, I think an organization is a living breathing organism, and the role of the leader is to provide the vision to incite people to act and move the organization forward. It is not a rule-based thing where, if I do this, this will certainly happen. There is no right or wrong in leadership styles, and the effectivity of the leadership style is dependent on the circumstances and the make-up of the organization.

Monday, January 2, 2012

My Stats Bars

Yes, alright, I'm a nerd. But I couldn't help it. If you look on the right-hand side of this page, you'll see my Stats Bars. XD It's something to help me keep track of my progress, and help me reach my goals for the year. The bars keep track of how much EXP I need to get to the next level.

And here's a little explanation to the numbers. For HP, they say it takes three weeks to form a habit. Plus, I'll give it another week or so for good measure, that will give me about a month to develop a healthy lifestyle of sleeping well, exercising and taking care of my skin. I'm giving myself 100 points a day for full score. There are days when I fall a little short of my target. Those days get EXP for effort, but not the full 100 points. If I slack off, then that results to a negative EXP. So far, I have given myself 90 points as of today, out of the 3100 total points for a month. So this means slacking off means I need longer time to level up.

Same idea goes for MP and the rest of my stats, but I've given MP a full quarter to get used to, giving it a total 9000 points to level up. Diplomacy falls under MP for me. And if my heart, and cascading, my tongue, can be taught to be pleasant for the next three months, then that will be a level up for me.

ATK is again, a longer-term thing. It's not quantified by month, but rather by project. If I could achieve the ten projects with quality, integrity and creativity, then I will have leveled up. DEF is a monthly thing. I give it half a year as the summer will test my DEF. So, 18100 points. Whew, that's a lot. But my DEF plan is not so hard.

INT is always the stat I like leveling up. I'm a learner. I love learning. But usually, my INT goes up at the cost of my DEF. But let's see this year. This year, that's three things to learn, plus two quests: Chicago and Singapore. A month each for the three things, a week each for the two quests. That's 10400 points.

For SPD, I give it half a year. It's easy to start but difficult to follow through. So I'm working on the follow through. So 18100 points also.

Man, looks like I've got a long way to go!

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Leveling Up in 2012

Aside from my plans for Komikasi, I told my siblings I also wanted to improve myself this year. But what aspects should I level up? And, true to my siblings' nature of not being able to be serious for long, they said, HP and Mana Points. And Attacks and Defenses. And don't forget the Armor. You had to level up your Armor.

They were joking around, but I found some sense in what they were saying. Besides, I run a game company. It was just fitting. So, I took what they said and based my leveling up on those. It certainly helps in organizing my thoughts. So, here are the stats I'm leveling up this year.

HP [Health Points]
Health and Wellness

There are three things in this aspect I need to do: fix my sleep cycle, develop a regular exercise routine, and take care of my skin. Fixing my sleep cycle is simple enough. I just need to finish watching all these seasons of Inuyasha already so I would sleep earlier. If I sleep earlier, I could wake up earlier, have a longer quiet time in the morning, have time to exercise, and not be rushed when I go to work. Next, exercise. I need to exercise. This lack of exercise makes me feel sluggish and tired all the time. So, I'm going to run three times a week starting tomorrow. Running also helps me think. Next, skin. I will be vigilant and put on sun block. I will exfoliate regularly and treat my skin once a month.

MP [Mana Points]
Spirituality

Towards the later part of last year, I had become so busy, my prayer life was affected. I couldn't pray properly in the evenings because I kept falling asleep after "Dear Lord." In the mornings, I'm rushed. So, I would just tell myself, I'll do it at the office. But it would get busy, and before I knew it, it was evening already again. I need my morning quiet time like I need my coffee. Without it, I get cranky. It's my time to organize my thoughts and align them with the precepts of my King. It's a time for me to make pre-decisions, and to condition my heart and my mind. So, the level up plan is to follow the HP level up plan and wake up early so I can have a full hour for my morning quiet time, when it's really still morning and still quiet. I need quarterly solo retreats, too, to recharge. My brother thinks I require recalibration so quickly. But I think it's just for now. Once my mindset is fixed and stable, it would probably go down to two a year.

ATK [Attack]
Plan of Action

My plan of action is simple. Go on your quests with hope, faith and love. Then attack anything thrown at you with integrity, quality, and creativity.

DEF [Defense]
Contingencies and Back-ups

Save a fixed amount of gold pieces each pay period. Have a spending plan and stick to it. I need to have a substantial back-up because of my impulsive tendencies.

INT [Intelligence]
Learning

This year, I will learn three things: how to drive, how to swim, and how to cook. So, friends, you know you're close to my heart when I invite you to risk your life and taste test my cooking. This year, I plan to take up my MBA. If I can gather all the requirements on time, I start this month. I will also travel a lot this year. Six quests in line so far.

SPD [Speed]
Social and Stature

I was thinking about the speed attribute. In games, it's the stat that determines which of you will attack first. And so I thought that would be one's stature or social position. Well, this attribute I am developing for Komikasi. I intend to join one more organization to help promote the company (fondly referred to as "the Empire" or "the Countship"). I'm also stepping in as President of Soroptimist International of Paranque in June this year. This one is personal. And I intend to do some real changes.

And there you have it. That's my level up plan. In terms of Armor, here are what I've chosen: The Belt of Truth, The Breastplate of Righteousness, The Shinguards of Peace, The Shield of Faith, and The Helmet of Salvation. They require a little bit of getting used to. But they're powerful defenses. And for my weapon of choice, The Sword of the Spirit. It has a high MP requirement. But I think I'm more of a mage than a warrior anyway.