Saturday, November 20, 2004

Turning Points

We all need to change, to grow, to mature, to evolve. However, we all resist this process in one way or another. A number of us don't like change; we're happy with who we are now. We might want more things in life, but we fail to see that in order to achieve that, sometimes, we must alter who we are (for the better of course), at least a part of ourselves.

The gap between a one-year old child and a three-year old child is big. The former is totally dependent on the parents. The latter, while perhaps not wholly independent, is capable of a number of things, such as the ability to walk, to speak, and most importantly, comprehension. However, this all came at a price. I mean as one-year olds, we had a keen sense of smell, for example. As we grow older, we might regret this loss. But we must also remember that we gained something in return, sometimes something more substantial than what was lost.

One of most significant turning points in my life was when I was eleven. At that time, I was focused on me, me, me. I mean when me and my family went to Hong Kong, one of the people who welcomed us there was one of our former maids who was now an OFW. One of the things I insisted was getting a gift (or "pasalubong" in Filipino) from her since she's been staying there all this time. And of course, since this was me, the gift that I requested was something more or less expensive (it's the Mario Paint kit for the Super Famicom that comes with a mouse and mousepad). Did I think that the money that was spent to buy me a gift could have gone to her relatives in the Philippines? Did I think that the gift I wanted was a luxury while the maid had worked hard to earn that amount? Unfortunately, the realization came too late. I was already back in the Philippines, with the gift in hand. It then made me reflect on other matters as well. When I invited my friends over, for example, I was usually interested in playing video games with them. However, when it came to let other people play, I was strongly against passing the controller. I was selfish. I needed to change. I'd like to think that it wasn't a time of growth more than it was of changing my moral outlook. And in that, I became a better person.

The second significant turning point in my life was during my freshman year. When I was in my last year of grade school, there was a sense of dread as we were going to be moving on to high school. One of the things we feared the most was the class reshuffling, which entailed that my classmates for the past seven years in grade school would not be my classmates when I entered high school. What gnawed at me was the possibility that I wouldn't have any friends when I entered high school. Sure, my old friends would be in the next classroom, but that wouldn't be the same as having them sit right next to you. And sure enough, first year high school was difficult for me emotionally. No one really liked me. I was that annoying and pesky kid who wanted to be your friend, but you found too annoying to really accept as part of your group. Perhaps what was worse was during our Acquaintance Party (interaction between the freshman students of our all-boys high school with the nearby all-girls high school), there was no one I really bonded with. I was that guy in the shadowy corner with no one to talk to (well, some of my old friends did occassionally stop to say hi and they moved on to dancing with their new friends). I was rebuffed with "group dancing" ("I'm with this group... you can dance with the group if you want" and they never looked twice at me) whenever I'd ask someone to dance. I was tired of being pathetic, of always being left out, of being the person no one wanted to befriend. The easy path perhaps could have been conforming to those I was around with (well, at that time, I was one of the two people in class who didn't cheat and everyone encouraged me to cheat and "mutually" help each other). Thankfully I didn't take that path. I sought a different way to solve my dilemma, and I could only have done that by developing myself and growing more mature. I committed myself to growth, and grow I did.

The third time I encountered significant change was just before I was about to graduate from high school. I fell in love. And that moved me to do greater feats I didn't think I'd do, such as actually go and visit the all-girl's school opposite of ours (and I was a very shy person at that time). But that eventually led to heartbreak. I discovered a number of valuable lessons at that time. One is that beauty isn't skin deep. Her mind and personality was the driving force behind my attraction. Second is that I could commit, that I could imagine myself taking the long road of monogamy. Third is that while I've grown from who I was in grade school, there was still a lot of room for improvement. And fourth, of course, is the heartbreak. I was devastated, depressed. But I eventually recovered and became a better person because of it.

When I entered college, that was another significant time for me. Recovering from the recent incident of heartbreak, I made it my mission to meet a lot of people and make a lot of friends. It was a culmination of all my previous failures. I mean if I thought losing my grade school classmates was hard, college was an entirely new level: new people, different classmates on each class and subject, and it was co-ed. But hey, I made my goal of making one new friend a week (what else would you expect from a stalker, hehehe). Not that I didn't have problems of my own. I rediscovered love... and had my heart broken once again. Part of that was good news to me, since I realized I could fall in love again. But of course, heartbreak is anything but easy nor comfortable, and I had another round of depression. It was during this depression that my relationship with some older friends began to crumble, and even until now I'm feeling the effects of it (you can't imagine how many people cringe when you mention my name). But that was another hurdle to overcome, another aspect of my life that I needed to change.

And I'm proud to say that this year marked the lastest turning point in my life. But the year isn't over yet, and I'll save that story for New Year.

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Wednesday, November 17, 2004

The Joy of Collectible Card Games

All of us have hobbies, whether it's sports, video games, or collecting items (whether it's stamps, cars, or toys). One hobby that I fell in love with a few years ago was the concept of collectible card games (CCGs): it's essentially trading cards which you can actually play with by following a unique set of rules. But of course, since it is a commercial vehicle, there are some challanges for the consumer. For starters, it's sealed in packs and the distribution of cards is random. I mean a typical booster pack contains 15 cards, and there's probably 300+ cards in the set. But just to make it a little bit more difficult and so that you don't complete the entire set by just purchasing 20 booster packs, there's rarity. Usually, cards fall under one of three categories: common, uncommom, and rare. Common cards usually make up most of the booster pack, something like 11 out of the 15 cards will be common. Uncommon, as its namesake, is a bit more difficult to obtain. Around 3 of the 15 cards will be uncommon. And of course, rare cards would comprise the last remaining card in a booster pack. So if everything was that complex, why would a person pursue such an activity?

Upon retrospect, CCGs actually target several kinds of people. I'll start with the most obvious. First is the collector. I mean a collector collects things for the sake of it. I mean aside for aesthetic purposes (and for some, the financial incentive), why do stamp collectors collect stamps? I'm sure each one has their own reasons, ranging from the historical importance of stamps to the sheer challenge of obtaining such uncommon relics. But simply put, they collect to collect. The more I have, the more happy I become. Perhaps what you don't notice is that stamps is actually a great thing to collect, because most likely, you'll never be able to collect all the stamps in the world! Why? Because new stamps are being produced everyday around the world in addition to the difficulty of obtaining old stamps. Unless you have an organization of dedicated people willing to scavenge stamps for you, it's an uphill battle. But at least you'll always have a goal. And in the same way, that's the beauty of CCGs. I mean one of the oldest CCGs is perhaps Magic: The Gathering, and that started more than a decade ago in 1993. Even until today, they're regularly churning out new cards and new expansions for their card game. It's a collector's dream come true. And of course, while it may be difficult to obtain a particular card, the more gratifying it is for a collector when he or she finally obtains that specific card (or has multiple copies of it).

Of course the cards of CCGs contain more than just text. They contain art as well. Some people may not be interested in playing the game or the collection of cards per se, but they may be interested in the art. Soon, these art aficionados find themselves collecting cards as well, either of a particular artist or a particular theme (i.e. dragons, vampires, angels, etc.). And of course, these people who are interested in CCGs just for the art is perfectly legitimate. I mean if artwork wasn't so important, why bother putting them on the cards, right?

Third is the gameplay itself. Let's face it, as human beings, we need entertainment in our lives. CCGs are a form of recreation. And perhaps what's attractive to me is the fact that it's a competitive sport. I mean playing solitaire, for example, is nice when you're extremely bored. But wouldn't you rather be playing something that involves other people, such as poker or bridge? It's different when you're playing with other people. It adds a random variable to the challenge. And for some, defeating other players, especially those with better skills and/or reputation, can be quite gratifying. Wizards of the Coast, distributor of Magic: The Gathering, holds regular tournaments worldwide, and some are even covered on ESPN 2. Playing card games holds the same thrill as playing basketball, or soccer, or boxing.

Fourth, some people get into it to hone their bargaining skills. I mean CCGs are commercial enterprises and that means money moves around with them whether you like it or not. It takes money to bring them to the store, money to buy booster packs, money to purchase specific cards. A lot of people I know don't like this aspect of CCGs but hey, the designers of CCGs never claimed that CCGs wasn't a business. It's a fun game, yes, but it's a business enterprise as well. There are people who buy cards cheap and sell them at a profit. There are also people who specialize in trading the cards. There are even people who earn a lot by buying them cheaply here in the Philippines and selling them over the Internet at its international price. It might not appeal to some people but remember, it takes two to tango. If people weren't willing to buy it at a particular price, then there would be no sellers or traders. One can treat CCGs like a business and in certain respects, it's a good training ground for enterprising people. Some people hate them for that but I think that's being unfair. You don't have to trade with them (and remember that in any trade, both parties consent to the rules of the trade) and these people actually help other CCG players by giving them options.

Lastly, CCGs are portable games with instant gratification. I don't need electricity to play a CCG. It's all pen and paper (and for some games, counters, dice, and other non-electronic paraphernelia) and of course, my cards. And since it's cards, it can be played nearly anywhere (well, perhaps not in a swimming pool...).

Everything seems simple now that CCGs are popular. But more than a decade ago, it took someone really creative and innovative to come up with such a successful idea.

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Tuesday, November 16, 2004


I'd just like to advertise that the Comic Quest website is now up, as well as the mailing list for the latest updates on what's arriving this week.

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Monday, November 15, 2004


One of my biggest weakness is perhaps my constant need for sleep. Don't get me wrong, sleep is good, especially when you're deprived of it. I know several busy people who'd kill just to be able to sleep. Yet for me, sleep is a double-edged sword. Too much and you end up slowly killing yourself, albeit not in the physical sense.

An exagerration would be wanting to go to sleep even if you've already slept for the past 12 hours. Why is that bad? That's time that could have been spent elsewhere, whether it's finishing your work or tasks to be done, meeting up with friends and family, or in my case, doing some writing. Yet the lure of sleep is strong. For one thing, it's a simple decision. I just have to close my eyes and relax. Everything else is automatic. Nothing to compute, nothing to think about. Everything is effortless. Wouldn't life be more enjoyable if everything was that easy?

Sleep, more often than not, is also my way of running away from my problems. I mean don't you have those days when you don't want to wake up for fear of what might happen on that day, be it exams if you're a student, or deadlines if you're an employee? As long as we continue to sleep or as long as we refuse to get up from bed, those problems are temporarily staved off. It's the perfect excuse to procastinate. And of course, we never tell ourselves that "we've had enough sleep"; there's always time for more sleep. Unfortunately, there's not enough time for everything else.

There's also the fact that you dream when you sleep. In moderation, dreams are good. They might give us inspiration, or give us something to hope for. However, if we cling to our dreams too much, we might end up falling in love with it too much that we start distancing ourselves from reality. I mean when I was depressed, all I wanted to do was go back to sleep and dream. At least in my dreams, I'd find satisfaction. And when I'd wake up, my immediate goal was to get some more sleep, instead of finding ways to make my dream into a reality. Dreaming is good, but it should never be our ultimate goal. Making our dreams a reality, that is good. Believing that our dreams is reality, on the other hand, is something we should shy away from.

Right now, it's also tempting to just go to sleep at the slighest sign of sleepiness. Even if I have chores to do and tasks to be accomplished, getting some sleep seems like the perfect excuse not to do anything. But in a way, that's like reverting to being a baby. I mean when we were babies, sleep was important. We were constantly cared for by someone else, and we could do whatever we want at any time, whether it was to eat, sleep, or play. Unfortunately, most of us don't have that option nowadays. The only person who can truly take care of us is ourselves, and there are other things we need to do other than eat, sleep, and play.

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After spending most of the day at home watching anime and getting some writing done, I find myself with a need to go out, at least to regain my sense of balance and rhythm.

Of course when I enter the mall, one of the first people I run into is someone who dislikes me (and well, the only thing that's more difficult than someone who's angry at you is when you have someone who's angry at you and you don't know the reason why). I'm complained about it before and this probably won't be the last time I'll be talking about it. I think it's reasonable to say that in the long run, it's easy to make friends. I mean when you meet complete strangers, it's probably a practice by a number of people to give them the benefit of the doubt. Thus when you introduce yourself to someone you don't know, there's a good chance they'll believe what you say, unless you have a reputation looming behind you. However, keeping your friends (and in the case of some people, your girlfriend/boyfriend/spouse) is perhaps the more difficult aspect of a relationship. And perhaps we can all agree that losing the friendship of someone you already know is more painful than getting turned down by a stranger (like when you offer friendship, or perhaps ask a stranger for their phone number). I find it ironic that the people we usually doubt the most are the ones we're more familiar with. Take for example my class in high school. When a mobile phone got stolen, the primary suspects were our fellow classmates (on a side note, I do think it was most likely one of my classmates that stole the phone). Or perhaps in the case of some boyfriends/girlfriends, they're the ones who immediately jump to conclusion at the slightest sign of infidelity (which may or may not necessarily actually be infidelity).

Perhaps the real question is how do we behave around these former friends, people who we were acquainted with but now treat us with emnity. Personally, if I just run into them alone, I have no problems with that. I mean they're the ones that usually avert their faces. I tried talking to some of them but they usually spurn me. So nowadays, I ignore them unless they're willing to actually give me their attention. I mean I can't talk to someone who doesn't want to be talked to now can I? But more often than not, as was the case earlier today, the person is with a mutual acquaintance. Obviously, you don't want to suck the mutual acquaintance into the vortex of your conflicts. But you can't say hi to one person and ignore the other person, at least without it looking improper. Well, that's what I usually do. Thankfully, the mutual friend probably got a hint of what was going on and so didn't bother introducing me to someone I already knew. But what if they didn't know there was conflict between me and the other person? That's some shaky ground you're treading on, and of course, at the back of each of our mind's, there's always the voice asking what if the other person is telling all these nasty things about you (which may or may not be true) in the hopes of persuading the mutual acquaintance that deep down, you're really an evil person. My best advice for that is to move on. I mean I will always have people who will dislike me (whether justly or unjustly so) and all I can do is hope for the best that if we have mutual acquintances, the mutual acquaintance will decide for himself/herself what their actions will be. I mean I do know some people who immediately take the side of one and antagonize the other. There are also those who are forever stuck in the middle, isolating the two people from each other whenever possible while still maintaining a good relationship with both. I'm not saying which is the right or wrong method. All I'm saying is that hopefully, you base your decision based on your own actual decision rather than merely be swayed by either party.

Of course over the past few years, perhaps that's not the most painful thing that I've encountered. There are instances when people I thought were my friends were actually backstabbing me or stopped associating themselves with me, setting up a false front all this time. Or perhaps I find myself misjudging a person and being guilty of jumping to conclusions. But there are also satisfying moments, such as rekindling an old friendship, or making amends with someone you quarreled with. Perhaps the best philosophy I can espouse is to be open and willing to forgive. People, after all, change with time.

Today was sweet since I did get to hang around with Vin at his shop, as well as meet up with Robert, whom I haven't seen in quite some time. But of course, there's still a lot of friends whom I have yet to meet.

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