Friday, 28 February 2014

BLOG -- Recap of February

So February, like January, was a very hermit-like month for me. It was way too cold. Unless I was going over to my sister's place, I didn't want to do anything that would delay me from getting home from work. I also tried to spend most of my time playing Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn, taking as much advantage as possible of my free month trial.

Outings/Events in February:
- Had a very surreal dream (I know this means nothing to you, but it means a lot to me).

- Stayed over at my sister's place x2.

- Had a game day with my sister and friends.

- Hung out with a friend x1.

- Witnessed one of my neighbours get arrested! I don't know why it happened. I was peeking at the scene from home.

- (restaurant) Congee Wong -- This place has yummy food.

- (Anime): Dragon Ball -- I finally finished watching it -- all 153 episodes! Of course that just means I still have Dragon Ball Z and Dragon Ball GT, but I think I'll take a breather before starting those (I also don't have the DVDs for them, so...). I really like the Tenkaichi Tournaments in Dragon Ball -- they're so exciting! And it is really neat to see Goku when he was young. :)

- (3DS): Shin Megami Tensei IV -- It was a long 100+ hours... but it was absolutely worth it. At the end, I had the Chaos ending and Neutral ending open for me, but I took the bad ending (because I know I will replay it again). Expect a review from me sometime in the future. :)

- Nothing this month.

Playing (not all at once):
- (PS4): Resogun 
- (PS3): Borderlands 2 
- (PS3): Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn
- (DS): Legacy of Ys: Book I & II 
- (3DS): Mario's Picross
- (3DS): Bravely Default
- (GBA): The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Anniversary Edition
- (PSP): Persona 
- (PSP): Crush
- (Wii): Fortune Street 
- (PS2): Atelier Iris 2
- (PC): UnEpic  
- (PC): King's Bounty: The Legend

- (TV Show): The Walking Dead (Season 3) 
- (Anime): Yu Yu Hakusho (don't remember)
- (Anime): Shakugan no Shana (don't remember)
- (Anime): K-On! (Episode 1)  
- (Manga): Judge by Yoshiki Tonogai 
- (Manga): Midnight Secretary by Tomu Ohmi (Volume 4)

That's it for February. Since I was such a hermit this month, I don't have many photos. Here's what I got, plus another Youtube video:

The chocolates my sister and I made on Valentine's Day.
It took almost the whole day, lol.

A poor attempt at a Triforce chocolate.

A funny comment in Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn.
All identifying things have been blocked out.

"Jiyuu no Tsubasa" from the anime Attack on Titan.
This version is performed by Animenz Piano sheets (Animenz) and anime pianist ishter-kun (TehIshter).
This song really pumps me up! I can feel the intensity.

Thanks for reading! As always, feel free to comment or ask about any of my experiences / exposures (though I kinda had none this month). Have a good weekend! :)

Sunday, 23 February 2014

BLOG -- A Couple Aftereffects of Working in the Market Research Industry

NOTE:  If you read this entry before February 24th, 2014, 8:45 PM, you may have read an earlier iteration that contained a couple of misinformation and vague terms. Well, vague-ish terms will still be there, but hopefully, the misinformation has been cleared up.

I don't know how interesting this entry will be. It's kinda been on my mind for a while, so I figure, why not blog about it? This entry won't be a knock against the Market Research Industry -- just a couple of observations I've made.

So I've been working in the Market Research Industry for a while now. Since I never took any Market Research-focused programs before employment, pretty much everything was new to me and I had to learn my butt off (I still have more learning to do). Of course, working in Market Research has resulted in many aftereffects (like my love of Excel), but here are two that I consider most... "aftereffect"-like -- like a lingering habit you just can't kick.

1. Brand Awareness Goes Up OVER 9000 -- Before working in the Market Research Industry, I probably only knew a handful of brand names for whatever categories I was interested in. Back then, I was able to gloss over brands I didn't recognize when grocery-shopping. That's not the case anymore. 

One question that gets answered quite often in Market Research is how a client's brand is doing against the competition. And when I say competition, I don't mean just the major competition -- I mean the big names PLUS others. How would I come up with the other names if I didn't already know them? Research the category to see what comes up, exposing the brand's name to me. If I'm ever involved in a study that includes a virtual shopping exercise, there's a good chance that I may have to go out and buy the products or test the environment when it's ready. Either actions expose me to the brand and its packaging. One such study (study with a virtual shopping experience) actually affected my shopping preferences!

When I shop now, either in a supermarket or wherever, I notice way more brands. I don't know if it's a good thing or a bad thing. Having more options is nice -- but I worry for my wallet, haha.

2. Meta-Self-Evaluation -- So this is something that I've been thinking about for the past few weeks. I was recently involved in a study that had a Conjoint exercise. Even though I've worked on studies with Conjoint in the past, somebody else always did the analysis of it, so I never bothered to learn about it. In all honesty, the set up of Conjoint and its outputs always intimidated me -- it looked so complex that I thought I would never understand it. Now, I understand it a little -- at least, I think I do -- and it is interesting stuff.

To talk a bit about Conjoint (it is actually a little lengthy so please bear with me), it is a method that runs with this idea in mind (if this is way off the mark, somebody tell me!):

When deciding to do an action vs. doing another action, or choosing between one product / service or another, we subconsciously assign a value (our own, personal value) to each of the various factors that could affect the decision. This could be the physical look of a product, the specific type of service that's offered, or whatever else. The choice we make in the end would be the decision that has the highest total value.

Conjoint essentially tries to determine the value of each factor and the importance of them.

The design for Conjoint often involves the evaluation of many different scenarios with varying combinations of features, but for the purposes of this blog length (don't want you scrolling like crazy!), let's just go with one scenario (unless you walk into a store and decide to evaluate your options elsewhere, one scenario is kinda close to a real life situation): 

Let's say I am trying to buy between, I don't know, three magical potions. Assuming that bottle shape and colour are the same, below are the various features / factors that I subconsciously notice for each potion.

Potion #1:
-tastes like strawberry 
-grants me the temporary power to see through walls
-lasts for 30 days
-any side effects: temporary blindness for 7 days
-costs $300

Potion #2:
-tastes like wood
-grants me the temporary power to read people's minds
-lasts for 2 years
-any side effects: amnesia for 30 days
-costs $5,000

Potion #3:
-tastes like BBQ chips
-grants me the temporary power to breathe life into my fantasies, either drawn or written
-lasts for 7 days (creations remain alive until the original source is destroyed)
-any side effects: none
-costs $20,000

 So, let's just say I have enough money to afford any of these potions. When presented with these three options, I may subconsciously value the features / factors like below (NOTE: This is just to illustrate; Conjoint analysis would involve determining these values from many different combinations, using an algorithm that has nothing to do with this blog):

Potion #1: (Total value:5)
-tastes like strawberry (0 -- eh... strawberry flavour is okay, I guess) 
-grants me the temporary power to see through walls (1 -- this is kinda nifty)
-lasts for 30 days (2 -- 30 days is a nice duration)
-any side effects: temporary blindness for 7 days (-1 -- don't like this effect)
-costs $300 (3 -- okay price, I guess)

Potion #2: (Total value:3)
-tastes like wood (-1 -- who wants to taste wood?)
-grants me the temporary power to read people's minds (2 -- this would be awesome!)
-lasts for 2 years (3 -- Oh yeah, 2 years of reading people's minds!)
-any side effects: amnesia for 30 days (-2 -- I can't stand the thought of losing my memories)
-costs $5,000 (1 -- Yuck, but do-able, I guess)

Potion #3: (Total value:7)
-tastes like BBQ chips (3 -- I LOVE CHIPS!)
-grants me the temporary power to breathe life into my fantasies, either drawn or written (3 -- way cool! I'll never be alone!)
-lasts for 7 days (creations remain alive until the original source is destroyed) (1 -- darn, but at least my creations stay alive)
-any side effects: none (3 -- now that's what I like to hear!)
-costs $20,000 (-3 -- Oh my...)

Looking at the total value of each potion, I would buy Potion #3.

Now, let's change up my feeling about buying the potions. Let's say I was really hesitant to buy any of them -- I heard about these potions from a friend of a friend (how reliable is that??). Now, even though it's not presented as a physical option, "none" is also an option, and I can subconsciously assign a value to that as well. Even before I could finish typing that last sentence, I knew that I did.

Going back to my original attitude (laidback and keen on buying a potion), let's say I subconsciously value "buying no potions" as 5 (which is lower than Potion #3, so Potion #3 still wins). BUT... now that I am really hesitant, I may subconsciously place a higher value on "buying no potions"... to a 9. Assuming that I still subconsciously value each feature / factor the same as before, I would NOT buy any potion in this case, because "buying no potions" has the highest total value. Isn't this stuff so cool?

Now I just have to mention: this is just ONE kind of analysis that Conjoint provides. I did not mention anything at all about interaction effects, share of preference, etc. I am just scratching the surface, which is enough for me to get to my next bit (also, I am still learning, but that's besides the point).

So where am I going with this? Well, after learning about Conjoint, I've been thinking about my own choices! Hahaha. I wonder about what factors may be really important to me -- what could get me to "choose it". Like, when Rightstuf was having their Holiday sale last year, I made a lot of blind buys. Besides often feeling agreeable with the story synopsis of whichever show described at Anime News Network, what other factors came into play? I know that fairly high ratings for each show was considered, but to what degree? 

And then, of course, comes my thoughts about my video game-buying behaviour. There are some video games that I am willing to pay full price, day one. There are some video games where I wouldn't mind picking it up later on. What sort of factors am I evaluating here? How do I decide which one goes in the "DAY ONE, MOTHERF***ER!" pile and which one goes in the "I WILL WAIT" pile? I already have some ideas about the kind of factors I consider, and I may blog about it in the future.

Here's another situation that's happened recently. It's not something I wonder about, but I think it illustrates the evaluation of a couple of factors nicely. It also gives me a chance to mention it *squee*! Last weekend, my sister, her fiance, and I visited a travel agency to book tickets to Japan in May (yeah! I'm going to Japan in May!). We asked if the rep could also make hotel bookings for us and my sister's fiance listed two hotels he had in mind. He chose those hotels because a) they were fairly close to a station, and b) the user ratings were high. 

The rep contacted somebody to see if we could get any discount on the hotels. The rep told us that he could book either of the two hotels for us, but there wouldn't be a discount. He also offered another hotel option that would be farther away from the station but would cost us $200 less. My sister's fiance checked the hotel online and it had a 3-star rating. After discussing it amongst us, we went with one of the hotels that was on my sister's fiance's list. In that situation, closeness to the station was more important than price (at least, more important than a discount of $200).

Now, I've almost always been self-conscious / analytical about my actions, but this Conjoint stuff just takes things to a whole new level!

That's it for this week. Thanks for reading!! If you have any comments, feel free. If you have any suggestions of where to go in Japan or what to check out (no promises about whether they will be experienced or not), please let me know as well.

You all have a good week! And I hope you don't start meta-self-evaluating yourself. :)

Monday, 17 February 2014

BLOG (PERSONAL) -- A Few Blatherings About My Singledom

DISCLAIMER: I just have to tell you that in two days, Unlimited internet will kick in for me, and there's a good chance that you may not see me as often while Final Fantasy XIV has its hold on me. Sad to say, but I am very addicted to the game, and my free month trial is still going on. I'll still keep trying to blog, but they may be delayed (like this one) or sporadic.

I guess I'll have this disclaimer on (though a shortened version) until I move onto another game. Okay, with that out of the way...


Happy Late Valentine's Day! I purposely took a day off work on Friday to get away from celebrating this event, and seeing flowers and candies being delivered to co-workers who are in a relationship, feeling jealous that none of those were sent to me (I'm joking here).

I've been single for over two years now -- and I think I'd like to stay that way for a little while longer. Of course, having been through five relationships in a span of 10 years or so (NOT all that the same time, mind you!), I sometimes miss being in a relationship -- the physical, emotional, mental connection; the kind of comfort, knowing that somebody is there for you -- or rather, the kind of comfort, knowing that you're not alone.

After my last relationship, it was difficult to adjust to being single. I was so used to being in a relationship by then that I actually shivered some days, scared of the thought that I was alone. I'm sure I felt this way after every relationship ended, but I remember feeling it much more prominently in my last one.

That feeling is actually one of the reasons why I'm opting to stay single at this time -- I don't ever want to feel scared of being alone again. Another reason is my family is nuts and I don't know if I'd want to subject anybody (especially somebody I love) to that. ;) I don't have to think too much about the latter, though, since I don't think any guy is interested in me right now -- so I am just trying to be "one with being alone". There are other reasons why I prefer to be single, but I'll keep them to myself for now. No promises if I will ever blog about them.

So, what did I do on Valentine's Day? I went over to my sister's place and made chocolates! *sigh* I still can't get away from the Japanese tradition of making chocolates for Valentine's Day. We tried a new recipe so they didn't look very pretty... but I think they tasted pretty good. I'll share a pic of our chocolates in my end-of-month blog.

To end off, here is a Youtube video of a song that's caught my attention recently. It's the ending theme to anime series Panty & Stocking With Garterbelt. I've never watched the series, so I have NO comments about it. I do, however, really like this song.

Fallen Angel by AimeeB
I want the karaoke track so I can sing it!

Thanks for reading! Have yourself a great week! :)

Sunday, 9 February 2014

EXPOSURES (VIDEO GAMES) -- Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn (PS3)

So, I didn't blog last week. The reason? Well, it was Lunar New Year -- I am entitled to take a break that weekend. The real reason? I started playing Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn. I actually mentioned in my monthly recap blog that I might not blog that weekend, anticipating this outcome.

I bought this digitally months ago when the Collector's Edition was on sale for $15 for Playstation Plus Subscribers. Knowing how crazy-busy I was at work and knowing that logging into the game for the first time would start the free month trial, I put off playing it until now.

This is my first dive into a paid MMORPG (I think I will blog in the future about the pros and cons of paid vs. free-to-play MMOs) and I am pleasantly enjoying it!

NOTE: For the rest of this blog, I will refer to Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn as just Final Fantasy XIV.

Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn

Playtime Length (so far): 30-ish hours
Platform Played on: PS3
Language: English
Type of Game: MMORPG
Pricing Model:
-$12.99 USD for 30 days for 1 character per server
-$12.99-$14.99 USD for 30 days for 8 characters per server (pricing depends on the length of a fixed subscription)
Game-specific Details: I'm currently leveling an Archer class, Botanist class, and Weaver class. If at all possible, I want to level up as many of the crafting and gathering classes, especially Botanist and Culinarian (they just sound cool!). As of this writing, I am not part of a Free Company.

My Impressions
Well, I've been playing it every chance I get -- I think that means I am enjoying the game. The main story isn't grabbing me so far, but it makes up for it with pretty much everything else. There's just so much you can do! You've got: Main quests, sidequests, class guild quests, levequests, guildhests, dungeon-runs, Fates, job / class-levelings... I know there's more, but I just haven't unlocked them yet.

Of the various quest types, I currently enjoy doing Fates the most. Fates are timed events that pop up every now and then on the world map (in specific areas). They usually either involve taking out a bunch of specific foes or one big foe. If you run into the area and if you are within level, you are automatically in the Fate and can participate. If you are over-leveled, you have the option to "level sync", which would lower your level so you can participate. The thing I like about Fates is that it is generally quick (max 15 minutes long) and anybody is free to join in. You don't ever have to wonder, Would this person be pissed off if I attacked the same thing he's attacking? You know that any help is welcome.

One thing that I really like is, besides the guildhests and dungeon-runs, partying up not a must. In fact, a lot of the main story quests that I've come across so far can only be done solo. This works for me because I tend to like doing my own thing, at my own pace.

With that said, doing dungeon-runs where you have to party up (and with a specific number of players and class types) are just okay so far. It is not my favourite thing to do at this time, but it is definitely fun when I am running them with friends. You know... when I see a dungeon, I just get the urge to explore everywhere and Leeroy Jenkins the place. But since I currently have no interest at all in playing a Tank character type, I know that for the sake of my party, I shouldn't. :(

I should also mention that partying up with random players for dungeon-runs is a pretty smooth process.

Another thing that I really like are the various jobs / classes my character can be. From my impression of MMORPGs in general (please correct me if I'm wrong), one character can only be one job / class type. With Final Fantasy XIV, that idea is thrown out the window! Yes, in the beginning, you will be stuck to one job / class type. After clearing a specific job / class guild quest (around level 15 or so), you'll be given free rein to be whatever you want. One single character is capable of being every job / class type available. The really nice thing is that each job / class carries its own stats and abilities. Progression for one job / class doesn't affect the other. It is really like playing a new character each time.

One thing to note is that sidequests and story quests can only be done once for a character. If you anticipate playing multiple jobs / classes, leave some sidequests for your other jobs / classes to complete. Otherwise, you might end up needing to grind the other jobs / classes.

I also have to say: the graphics are very beautiful. Just look at my pretty character (and the pretty background!):

My pretty character in her Archer outfit. 
In case you're wondering, I set her eye colours that way.

Okay, I think I blabbed enough about Final Fantasy XIV. One thing that I should mention again is that this is my first dive into a paid MMORPG -- I have no other experience to compare it to. I don't know if everything I've listed is unique or standard fare. One thing that I do know is that I am enjoying Final Fantasy XIV -- I already know that I will spend some money on this and subscribe :)

Thanks for reading my blog! Feel free to comment on anything. :)

Next week is Valentine's Day weekend. If I feel up to it, I might blog about something personal. Have a good week!