Wednesday, April 26, 2006

I call it the Rubik's Cube for masochists.

Between job applications, one-off gigs, and freelance writing/design assignments, I have a stupid amount of free time, which allows me to pursue other interests.

I had a Rubik's Cube when I was a wee lad, but with my attention span being the way it was, my idea of solving it involved re-arranging the stickers. By extention, given the shortness of my attention span at the time, only on rare occasions would I be able to arrange the stickers in the proper colour configuration.

While the Rubik's Cube was long-lost to moving and transitions from childhood to adolescence (either that, or I just left it somewhere and forgot where I put it), I eventually discovered something called a Square-1, a variation on the Rubik's Cube. While it is constructed in three layers (similar to the Rubik's Cube), the vertical layer is offset at an angle. As a result, the configuration will not always be in a cube shape. With my attention span still shredded (and then attending film school, which left me no spare time whatsoever), my idea of solving it didn't involve rearranging the stickers (it would be pointless, given the variable shape of the puzzle), but entering the data into a computer program, after which it would give instructions on how to solve it.

A few years later, I rekindled my interest in cube puzzles and then purchased a whole whack of them from and Many of them sat on the shelf and collected dust until the past few weeks, where I downloaded all of the necessary guides from the internet and actually learned how to solve them.

The Pyraminx (manufactured by Mefferts) is one of the first 3D puzzles made. As it only has four sides (hence, "Pyraminx"), This can be solved in about 12 or so moves. I remember bringing it to an interpersonal communications class on the last day of classes, as our assignment was to do an oral presentation on interpersonal communications and to bring along a metaphor. I solved the Pyraminx in under 10 seconds, while I held up a Rubik's Cube, unable to solve it. My rationale for the metaphor was that solving a puzzle such as the Pyramix will often leave one side happy ("solved") while the other side dissatisfied ("unsolved"). But, with proper technique and practice, one can maintain balance between sides and have a positive outcome.

In the class held the hour before, one of my classmates mixed up the Rubik's Cube, thinking I knew how to solve it. I didn't at the time. Another classmate mused, "You mixed up his metaphor!"

The Rubik's Cube is the one everyone knows and loves (or hates). The solving record is under 15 seconds. It took me about a week to memorize all of the steps one needs to solve it (start with top edges, then corners, then middle edges, then bottom corners, then edges) and it takes me around 2 minutes to solve it.

The Megaminx is particularly challenging, considering that it has 12 sides. As the version I got had stickers that were already falling off, I elected to custom paint it instead, which eliminates the ability to re-arrange the stickers. Unfortunately, given the panels, if the faces aren't perfectly aligned when turning, pieces tend to pop off. I can't solve the puzzle without it falling apart in my hands, so it stays on the shelf.

The Professor's Cube (pictured) is considered a harder variant, although it's not so much as more difficult as it simply takes more time to solve. Since it has 5 layers (as opposed to Rubik's 3 layers), it requires many more steps. However, once one figures it out, you do not actually need to memorize specific steps to arrange the pieces (at least in the earlier steps). The current official record is under 2 minutes. It takes me about half an hour. Because the version I have utilizes permanently glued-on plastic tiles, one does not have the option of re-arranging the stickers. What makes this puzzle harder is the mechanics. Two versions are manufactured, one by Mefferts/East Sheen and the other by Rubik's. The Rubik's version is notoriously fragile (they actually sell replacement parts on their website), while the Mefferts/East Sheen version uses a superior mechanism, which is more durable, but tends to jam up.

Apparently, Rubik's is in the process of designing and manufacturing a 6-layered cube. Given the fact that it would be 6 layers by 6 layers by 6 layers, I suppose that would quite figuratively make it the Rubik's Cube from hell.

I seriously need a girlfriend.

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Friday, April 21, 2006

Under most normal circumstances, I would probably welcome a shorter working day, but considering that I don't have anything better to do otherwise (and I really need the time to get my stuff done), I'd prefer to have the time.

And then some dullard decided to phone in a bomb threat.

While doing a one-off gig for UBC Applied Research and Evaluation Services, I was working away at my latest ***** **** ******** (censored by order of Non-Disclosure Agreement) when I was called into the meeting area for an emergency meeting.

"We're all getting a raise, right?" I quip.

Not exactly.

As we gather around, we quickly learn that somebody phoned in a bomb threat. Given the very convenient timing of this event, this is something that UBC deals with on a regular basis, especially during final exams (they did the same thing in the movie Road Trip). The RCMP is confident that this is merely a hoax, but no one really can afford to take a chance on this one, especially if it turns out to be real.

I remember the last bomb threat on campus. This was about the spring of 2001, when I was an extra on the set of Stark Raving Mad. As parts of the film were shot at the Chan Center Building for the Performing Arts at UBC, when they called in the bomb threat, everyone had to evacuate the building. That was a good thing because they actually paid us for the time we spent waiting for them to clear the building.

But anywho, the RCMP supposedly searched the buildings and found nothing, and then downgraded the threat, but we still vacated the offices at 3:30. That cost me an hour worth of productivity. I'm wondering if someone's done a study on how much money is lost to hoax bomb threats annually just because one student felt that he or she needed more time to study for a final exam.

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Sunday, April 16, 2006

In memoriam:
Victor Pui-Kay Yim,
July 5th 1937-April 16th 2004

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Friday, April 14, 2006

For the past week and a bit, my laser printer has told me that it's running out of colour toner, namely yellow, cyan, and magenta. The main reason why I decided to get a colour laser printer was due to the fact that inkjet printers tend to burn through cartridges much faster, and are by extention more expensive to maintain.

This is referred to as the "razor and blades" business model, in which a relatively inexpensive peripheral requires the purchase of consumable products. In this case, the printer cost is negligable until you factor in the consumable ink. As well, clauses within the warranty indicate that using ink and toner "not recommended by the manufacturer" will void the warranty.

Which brings us back to the story. According to the diagnostic tools bundled with the printer, I am down to less than 1% toner in the colour cartridges, which means that i only have 8 pages left, based on a 12.5% page coverage. After a few quick phone calls and searching the 'net, I determine that replacement cartridges will cost around the nighbourhood of $99.99 USD + conversion if ordered directly from HP, while they don't seem to be available from outlets such as London Drugs.

So, I call up the local toner refiller shop and they'd be willing to refill preexisting cartridges for $99/throw. Noting that I still have "8 pages left," I decide to burn off as much toner as possible by printing up numerous copies of my Major Studio Production cover. About 30 or 40 pages later, I still have "8 pages left."

I really don't know who I'm supposed to believe at this point. Given the number of shenanigans that computer printer companies have been known to play with consumers, this doesn't really surprise me at all. My printer is equipped with 2000-sheet capacity colour cartridges, of which, it has only printed about 700-some odd pages. Even after 30-40 pages on the "8 pages left" status, there is no deterioration in image quality.

Methinks I still have several months to go before it actually starts running out of toner. Considering that I haven't been doing tons of colour printing and it's been running for less than a year, there's really no reason for this at all.

And then I discovered a company that sells compatible catridges (4000-sheet capacity) at $89/throw, shipping included. And they're local too. I'm going with them when my printer toner goes for real.

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Saturday, April 08, 2006

With school officially over and done with, having handed in my final assignment on Friday, I am summarily tossed out into the cold and scary world of job seeking and student loan repayment. But at least I still have access to the Print Futures work room.

Speaking of which, hey, all three colour cartridges of toner are on their way to emptiness on my printer.

All things considered, though, life is good, although I'm too busy fighting the crack-addicted den mother of all colds to notice. I've been coughing up all sorts of crap slimy and salty, like I haven't been able to get over a cold that I caught in February. So, either it's the same cold, or I've caught three different cold viruses and wasn't immune to any of them.

So, I'm quasi-employed at this moment -- freelance writing assignments still need to be handed in (more than likely for Monday, I'm-a-thinking), although I know I have more coming up (one local filmmaker wants me to cover his next film in August). I still have to go through Craigslist and Jeff Gaulin to see what's out there (I'm in the process of de-stressing right now...that's my excuse and I'm sticking to it).

However, I did my first small payment for my work just last Saturday. As part of my program graduation, my peers and colleagues all present their portfolios to prospective employers. As everyone has an individual table, they have little giveaways like business cards and resumes. Not to be outdone, I self-published about a hundred comic books, all printed on double-sided 8.5x11" paper, folded in half, and stapled. Being that it only cost printer toner and paper, I decided to try my hand at selling these to local comic book shops. I made one sale to RX Comics on Main and Broadway and I currently have two copies on consignment at The ComicShop on W. 4th in Vancouver.

So, my next step is self-promotion. There are more shops in town that I need to approach, plus there is an upcoming comic book convention in June which I would like to attend as a guest. Additionally, there is a show on CiTR radio called InkStuds, which is about comic books.

Right now, I'm upgrading my skill set by teaching myself Adobe Illustrator CS2, having continued to milk my student status by purchasing a piece of software that normally retails for $1200 for just over $300. Yes, I purchased Adobe Creative Suite 2, which gives me access to Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, and Acrobat. Sure, I could find the fell-off-the-back-of-a-truck version and use that money to buy more important things like paper and toner, but this way I know I support the hard-working folks at Adobe who need the money to support their caffeine addictions.

Now it's back to work for me.

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