November 2010

Really, Toy Designer? Really?

by Joey deVilla on November 21, 2010

“To infinity and beyond”, indeed:

buzz lightyear wrong sippy cup

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I’ll Be at Gamercamp Today

by Joey deVilla on November 13, 2010

gamercamp today at toronto underground cinema

Gamercamp takes place today and tomorrow in Toronto! Billed as “two days of living, breathing and playing video games”, it’s a conference for people who make – or aspire to make – videogames, love to think and talk about them, and of course, play them.

I’ll be there today, catching the keynotes, and tomorrow, demoing XNA, Xboxes with Kinect and Windows Phone (yup, Microsoft’s a sponsor).

Gamercamp spans two days (here’s the agenda), with a different location for each day:

If you’d like to attend, tickets are available at the door and also online. Here’s how much it costs to attend:

  • The Gamercamp Festival Pass goes for $30.00 and gets you into the main sessions for Saturday and Sunday.
  • If you’re attending Gamercamp and want a ticket to the 1UP Party (featuring musical acts Anamanaguchi and Starscream), tickets for 1UP are $12.00.
  • If you just want to attend 1UP and not Gamercamp, tickets are $15.00.

This article also appears in Global Nerdy.

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Yellow Peril 2.0

by Joey deVilla on November 12, 2010

nma anchorsIt’s the 21st century, and that means it’s time to get your news the 21st century way: not read by some Western talking head on TV, but in the form of Chinese computer-generated animation!

Ever since my first encounter with the Chinese news organization NMA News’ animated take on the Tiger Woods car crash/infidelity story, I’ve been checking on their YouTube channel regularly to see their takes on various news stories, from less-serious stuff like the clash between Jay Leno and Conan O’Brien, their hilarious one-minute synopsis of the Facebook movie The Social Network and their coverage of George W. Bush’s new memoir

…to more serious pieces like the Tyler Clementi suicide and the emergency go-around that a China Airlines jet had to do to avoid landing on an EVA Air cargo plane still on the runway. You might not understand the language of the voice-overs, but you will get the gist.

NMA News are aware of their popularity of their YouTube postings and have since expanded to create a “World Edition” version of their channel in English. The latest posting to this channel is an amusing gangsta rap number that does a pretty decent “101 level” introduction to the currency battle between the U.S. and China, as rapped by Hu Jintao and Barack Obama:

macleans asian student

Money is not the only resource over which “Westerners” and “Asians” seem to be doing battle – universities are another one. The Canadian magazine Macleans (for those of you outside Canada, think Newsweek with a more conservative bent) publishes an annual issue in which they rank Canada’s universities and feature stories on university life and other issues surrounding post-secondary education. As they are wont to do, Macleans went straight for the cultural “hot button” with an article titled Too Asian?, which starts off with these paragraphs:

When Alexandra and her friend Rachel, both graduates of Toronto’s Havergal College, an all-girls private school, were deciding which university to go to, they didn’t even bother considering the University of Toronto. “The only people from our school who went to U of T were Asian,” explains Alexandra, a second-year student who looks like a girl from an Aritzia billboard. “All the white kids,” she says, “go to Queen’s, Western and McGill.”

Alexandra eventually chose the University of Western Ontario. Her younger brother, now a high school senior deciding where he’d like to go, will head “either east, west or to McGill”—unusual academic options, but in keeping with what he wants from his university experience. “East would suit him because it’s chill, out west he could be a ski bum,” says Alexandra, who explains her little brother wants to study hard, but is also looking for a good time—which rules out U of T, a school with an academic reputation that can be a bit of a killjoy.

Or, as Alexandra puts it—she asked that her real name not be used in this article, and broached the topic of race at universities hesitantly—a “reputation of being Asian.”

Those of you who know me well know that I went to one of the “white kids” schools – Crazy Go Nuts University, a.k.a. Queen’s. For me, it’ wasn’t that University of Toronto was too Asian, but too close to home; going there felt like flying to Paris and eating at McDonald’s. Queen’s, and for that matter, the other “Canadian Ivies” Western and McGill (where my sister did her undergrad), were popular choices with those Asian students who wanted to work both sides of the cultural divide. I led an experience more akin to Harold and Kumar than Long Duk Dong, but still majored in computer science. Crazy Go Nuts University let me sharpen both my computer programming skills and schmooze-fu, and both have proven to be a handy yin and yang that have kept me quite recession-proof (I even ended up benefiting from the econopocalypse of 2008).

The article hints at the possibility of Canadian universities establishing secret – or perhaps not-so-secret – quotas on Asian enrollment. It’s not the first time that people have talked about the insidious presence of a visible minority with a reputation for academics, and it’s just as creepy this time ‘round.

To anyone who’s a bit freaked out over Asians taking over universities, I have two things to say:

  1. Would it kill you to crack open a math book once in a while and solve for x?
  2. Remember the sage words of “Jack” (the TV exec on 30 Rock played by Alec Baldwin): “This country was built by immigrants. The first generation works their fingers to the bone building it from the ground up. The second generation goes to college, drives innovation, and makes a better life for their families. The third generation…[sigh] snowboards and takes improv classes.”

This article also appears in Global Nerdy.

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In Which I Go a Little Whiteboard Crazy

by Joey deVilla on November 9, 2010

wp7 whiteboardClick the photo to see it at full size.

The “Ask the Experts” (or in French, “Demander aux experts”) area of the TechDays Ottawa conference sports whiteboards that were looking a little too blank for this recovering cartoonist’s tastes. Taking matters into my own hands, I started working on a whiteboard “tapestry”, adding to it during lulls that happened in the conference centre as sessions took place. By 2:45 p.m., the whiteboard was full and the result appears in the photo above – click on it to see it at a larger size.

This article also appears in Global Nerdy.

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Seen in the elevator at the hotel I’m staying at in Ottawa:

intermittent drilling

Heh heh heh.

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In Ottawa This Week for TechDays

by Joey deVilla on November 8, 2010

ottawa bound

I’m on VIA Rail train 42, bound for Ottawa as I write this. As a student at Crazy Go Nuts University (some of you may know it by its other name, Queen’s) with friends and family in the Toronto/Ottawa/Montreal triangle, riding on VIA was a ritual in which I partook at least a half-dozen times a year. If I were to go solely by outward appearances, my student self – I was a student from 1987 to 1994 – would recognize just about everything on this train car; to my eye, it looks exactly the same as a circa-1994 one does, except for two things: the power outlets and the sticker above the window announcing the availability of wifi.

TechDays Ottawa, the Ottawa edition of Microsoft’s cross-country conference from developers and IT pros, starts tomorrow. Hence my presence on this train: I’m heading to the nation’s capital to help the conference along with my fellow evangelists Damir Bersinic, Rick Claus and Christian Beauclair. Once you factor in the travel to and from airports, the airport security dance and all the waiting around you have to do, the time difference between travelling from Toronto to Ottawa by train isn’t all that difference from getting there via plane. Within 15 minutes of arriving at Union Station’s front door, I’d acquired my ticket, bought breakfast, taken my seat on the train, fored up my laptop and gone online.

via rail speedtest resultsFor those of you curious about the wifi on the train, SpeedTest.net reports that that I’m getting a download speed of 0.77 Mb/s and an upload speed of 0.76 Mb/s (you can see their report to the right). It’s usable for email, web, social networking and even for testing networked Windows Phone 7 apps in the emulator. It’s certainly not for downloading large files, and they block access to high-bandwidth sites like YouTube. It’s still better than the complete lack of internet access on most flight, and if I had higher-bandwidth needs, I could always switch to my internet stick.

I’m making a mental note to favour the train for any business trips to Ottawa or Montreal. This is especially useful for Montreal. since their Gare Centrale is right under the Fairmont Queen Elizabeth, Microsoft Canada’s preferred hotel.

The train left Toronto at 9:30 and will arrive in Ottawa’s so-called “Downtown” station at around 2:00 p.m.. VIA Rail is playing a little fast and loose by calling the Ottawa’s main train station “downtown”, but for my purposes, it’s at a convenient location: TechDays Ottawa’s venue is the Hampton Inn Conference Centre on Coventry Road, which is barely a kilometre away.

This afternoon, I’ll be helping set up the presentation rooms, hooking up the presentation computers for both developer tracks (Developing for Three Screens and the Cloud and Optimizing the Development Process) as well as the Local Flavours track, and then heading to speaker dinner later this evening to catch up with the presenters. Tuesday and Wednesday will be all TechDays, all the time, with Day 1 being a 14-hour day starting with the professional-focused TechDays during the day and the student-focused Go DevMental conference in the evening. Day 2 is a relatively languid 10 hours. Thursday puts me on a return trip to Toronto, this time in the form of a road trip with Damir, my road-tripping buddy from last year’s TechDays.

Watch this space (plus the other blogs, Global Nerdy and Canadian Developer Connection) for more reports from TechDays and the road!

This article also appears in Canadian Developer Connection.

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Get Your Pist On! (or: Come to the Party)

by Joey deVilla on November 5, 2010

accordion birthday party comic

If you’re looking for something to do tomorrow night, Saturday November 6th from 8:00 p.m. on, I’m throwing a little birthday wing-ding at The Piston (937 Bloor Street West, just west of Ossington subway station). The Piston doesn’t really have a sign – it’s got a black storefront with a big garage door and a blue light, and it’s between Long & McQuade and the “adult magazine” shop. The beer’s great, the food’s nice and the music’s pretty good. Come on down for rock and roll, bacchanalia and birthday celebrations!

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