2014 January

馬年快樂! Happy Chinese New Year!

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新年快樂! 祝馬年行大運!

Happy Chinese New Year to everyone and hope you all have good luck in the Year of the Horse!

Below is a pomelo I bought near my apartment which a lot of families eat around Chinese New Year. Many people even make hats out of them, usually for kids to ‘horse’ around with. CNY pun intended.

Chinese Fridge Website Redesign

Chinese Fridge Website Redesign

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Just in time for Chinese New Year (Friday), I decided to do a much-needed redesign of the Chinese Fridge website.

For those not familiar with Chinese Fridge, it’s a growing suite of Chinese learning game apps that I started a while back on weekends to help my friends who are teachers entertain their students while also providing reinforcement for vocabulary.

The old website was just a really basic implementation of Twitter Bootstrap that I threw together out of nowhere when the project was getting started. It was a good learning experience in the realm of responsive design, but this new version is much swankier.

While putting it together, I even picked up a few new tricks to use at work, which I recommended to my design colleague. One such resource is Font Awesome, which is a font that includes tons of useful icons instead of letters.

Why use font awesome? The reasons are many:

  • They scale beautifully with CSS, unlike images — in fact, they scale “INFINITELY” which sounds mind-blowingly amazing, right?
  • Instead of loading several separate images, you simply load one font file (kind of like an image sprite) — and less server calls = faster load time = nice SEO benefit as well
  • I’ve seen images randomly disappear from our Amazon cloud hosting, which wouldn’t happen with this unless the single font file went missing — and even then you can actually load from an externally hosted location on a CDN that Font Awesome provides the URL for
  • The designer I talked to expressed great joy at the idea of potentially not having to design very standard icon images anymore (common symbols representing things like download, delete, edit, copy, arrows, quizzes, videos, play buttons, etc.).
  • What about fancy dropshadows and whatnot? Simply apply CSS styling, my friend
  • Retina display ready

Drawbacks? Everything has drawbacks:

  • The designer pointed out the CSS file size is 21.1kb so technically if you only use it for one or two icons on the page it might not provide much benefit in terms of speed, but the more images you can eliminate with it, the more utility you get from it
  • If you need a fancier UI with a more distinct look, these may not have enough personality for you
  • If that file path breaks, all of those icons break

Well, looks like I went on quite a tangent there. Hope it was interesting. Stay tuned as I’m starting to pick up the app project again and will release some new vocab sets soon.

Chinese Fridge Burgers

New Chinese Fridge Apps Coming

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I’ve been quite busy in my personal life lately, which unfortunately led to my project Chinese Fridge getting a little neglected.

However, I’m happy to say things are picking up again and I hope to release at least a few more apps in the next few months!

Above is a sneak peak at some of the art from the upcoming game covering American Food vocabulary words. Pretty cute huh? I found myself a pretty cool designer who I think really fits the game’s personality well, so things should move a lot faster now as I’ll mostly be handling the mobile development and publishing end!


Going Back to Australia

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Recently found out my friend in Australia is getting married, which means I’m going back to where it all started for me — my birth country!

I’m super excited for my friend and also glad to have an excuse to visit the Land Down Under 10 years since my last visit. The photo above in this post is from when I was the ripe awkward age of 17, sporting some pretty radical shoes.

I guess I should renew my Aussie passport eh?

Recent Hearings: Deltron 3030 Event II Takes Lyricism to a Higher Level

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I’ve been listening to Deltron 3030 Event II for a few months now, and while almost everyone I talk to likes the first Deltron 3030 album a lot more, this long-awaited followup definitely holds its own.

It probably didn’t help that it took 13 years for Dan the Automator, Del tha Funkee Homosapien and Kid Koala to release the sequel, irritating rabid fans. It was a little weird Del partly blamed Automator’s “hella dusty” basement for delays. No matter what the reason, a lot of people built up so much anticipation that it would be almost impossible to meet the expectations they held in their minds.

While I’ll admit some of the lyrics sound like they were just mailed in, there are truly some gems on this album. In particular, the song “Pay the Price” (included in the video above) really found a way into my heart. I wouldn’t say it was mind-blowing for me, but after a few times of hearing it play in my car, the sheer depth of the lyrics are awe-inspiring.

In the song, Del breaks down all kinds of social issues like economic exploitation under the guise of equality, social manipulation of blind believers, and the drawbacks of prioritizing profit above all else — all artfully masked in a science-fiction prose that would probably impress famed writers like Isaac Asimov and Ray Bradbury. Like Asimov and Bradbury, whether or not you agree with their social commentaries, the artistic craftwork of the allegory is worthy of universal appreciation.

Some of the snippets really gave my brain a tingle.

Early on he smoothly and discreetly slips in a really astute philosophical statement on how much of our universe is built on binary relationships (something anyone who’s worked with computer science can appreciate), and how refining complex situations down to their binary building blocks can provide greater clarity and understanding:

We all know of imposing forces
Existing in space in time, matter coursing
Up and down, right or left, good or bad, black and white
Even day and night
Moon and sun, negative and positive
This is one of the first stages of blowing all the mist
To clear the window of perception
Of what is universally right and corrected

Del’s sci-fi alter ego, Deltron, crash lands on an alien planet where people allow themselves to be exploited by illusionists, which immediately conjures up visuals of real-life overaggressive marketing to the detriment of the consumer.

Dude thought he had the golden touch like Midas
It’s like a planet-wide spell was cast
Everyone I asked, accepted the baloney and trash
And it’s only a mask
Worn by a character who wants what you have
He thought I bought his ticket to this station
Because beliefs have infinite room for manipulation

Deltron wants to address the mass societal willingness to be manipulated, but realizes the person in power that he’s dealing with is someone who can’t register his arguments due to a single-track worshiping of profit:

I wanted to talk, more of the people
He said “For what? duh, we all equal”
Everywhere I smell the place stink
And I told him man, “Seems like y’all gotta think big.”
I said introduce deeper concepts
He told me “Hell nah fool, it wouldn’t profit”
What do you mean it wouldn’t?
What do you mean it wouldn’t?

Sometimes “equal” isn’t really equal:

Dude obviously made it in the ranks of elite
Who sabotaged history to make it unique?
In aspects of superiority
He said “One for you, more for me”
I see, we ain’t really equal

Clear commentary on the financial sector collapse that took place in the last decade:

You part of the disagreeable people
Who broke off into a smaller pack
Who were dubbed the hard headed holograms
Ya’ll remember that they thought they was all of that
Lost all they had and came crawling back
After daddy had more jaw to jack
Said it’s our fault calamities were caused, in fact

When you really dig your brain-teeth into these lyrics, you can really see that Del has reached a truly high level of lyricism. I feel like he refined and condensed an entire science fiction social commentary epic into a four minute song.

Some people talk about how some hip hop artists and songs have great social statements, but this song goes beyond that. This isn’t just coming out and saying “fight the power” or “don’t discriminate by sexual preference” (not that those songs don’t have a value), this is a more complex and layered artistic construction.

This carefully-crafted allegory has the power to make the audience immerse themselves in an alternate reality only to understand that the injustices of that reality are actually a mirror image of their own reality. In some cases, this type of allegory can even “trick” people into understanding situations that they would otherwise immediately disregard due to the influences of preconceptions that they bring to the table when interacting with the real world.

When the puzzle is unraveled and your brain is rewarded with that prize of deeper understanding, it’s a pretty gratifying feeling. That’s how I feel about this album — once I got the chance to really let it sink in, unraveling that allegory really provides a new level of appreciation and enjoyment.

And if that wasn’t enough, Automator has some solid beats and Kid Koala did a great job maintaining the same style of cuts on the turntables.

What do you think? Does Event II live up to the first Deltron 3030 album?

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