Catmull, Chapter 6

-> Failure comes with baggage - Don't let your past experience with failure prevent you from doing what you need to do. Failure is painful, but not something to be ashamed of.

-> Fear is a barrier - "Uncouple fear and failure-- to create an environment in which making mistakes doesn't strike terror..."

-> The antidote of fear is trust - Be candid and show trust by sharing information. Show your employees that there is nothing to fear.

Catmull, Chapter 5

-> Honesty is an institutional goal - To enforce honesty, your organization must reinforce it as a tenet and strive to bring out the honesty in people.

-> Good notes challenge others to improve - Great feedback gets others excited and ready to rise to solve the problem.

-> Make your own solution group! - You can put together your very own Pixar-style 'Braintrust'. Find a group that can be honest, make you think smarter, and be quick to generate actionable solutions.

Catmull, Chapter 4

-> Quality is THE goal - Remind yourself and your team constantly about your ultimate goal. Because other needs like efficiency or speed will try to take the spotlight.

-> "Quality is the best business plan" - John Lasseter

-> Take personal responsibility in the process - The process doesn't operate without your input and continuous tending to it. There's always something to improve, repair, take care of, and your product will not succeed without a hand-on-approach to the process.

Catmull, Chapters 2-3

 -> Do not abandon your vision - Don't take deals that require you to compromise and abandon your vision. Pixar declined Steve's first offer to buy the company, because their goals were entirely different.

-> Trust your storytelling instincts - continuously making changes based on external input will land your story and characters far from where their core should be. Trust your instincts and the story that you want to tell.
-> Everyone should be treated as first-class citizens - Dig deep to find friction between team members and resolve that by making sure everyone is a peer and can contribute without fear or restraint.

Catmull: Chapter 1

Learnings from "Creativity, Inc." by Ed Catmull.

-> The long table trap. You won't notice the problems with your process while you are in it.  The long table at Pixar hindered communication and make the team develop bad habits like creating a hierarchy and name-cards.

-> The collaborative, supportive community. An inspiring group will add to the quality of everyone's work.

-> The lifelong goal. Catmull aspired to create computer animation at the age of 26, and then expanded his goal after finishing his PhD to: making the first computer animated film. This was an extremely long term vision, without a concrete plan. But it helped set the foundation for his life's work.

Pop up Covid Testing


Last week we visited this site on Tully. The sky was hazy from the nearby fires, and all the nearby attractions were closed.

Luckily, testing was simple and only required driving up and a swabbing of the nostrils.

Progression Ideas for Valorant BP

The pass is locked to the existing daily/weekly quest system for progression (This is the base system in the game for unlocking heroes.)  Expand options for pass progression:

  • Alternate sources of progress like Event Challenges (based on skilled execution or rare events) or Social Achievements could reinforce positive behavior and reward play.
  • Quest Diversity (involve specific heroes for diverse play, and habit forming activities to build retention).
  • Playstyle Rewards: a Battle Pass Exclusive bounty with Bonus Battle Pass EXP for winning with each hero, or with each role.
  • Story Driven Progression. The Valorant rollout is designed around an unfolding story around the Agents. Battle Passes were titled as Episodes and Acts, but only hint at a story through cosmetic rewards.  


Animals are cute! I blasted through this show over 3 days and it just kept ramping up. Pacing was exceptional and Trigger did a good job keeping emotional moments from becoming lulls in the action.

The best parts of the show was the character design, expressions, and voice acting. Every character is is just full of wacky faces and they aren't afraid to show it.

Story-wise, it kept me wondering if anything was a red herring, so I was definitely hooked on the mystery of Anima-City and the history of beastmen. Truth and misdirection was laid out in the open most of the time, instead of trying to force viewers into surprise moments.

The decision to make it a character led show turned out for the better. Even with its detective noir backbone, the show does not lean too heavily on that aspect. 

My Experience with 3 Riot Battle Passes

I've played through a battle pass each for Valorant, League of Legends, and Legends of Runeterra.  Back in Season 1 I grabbed Fortnite's pass to learn from their practices.  I completed some and left others unfinished.  Sometimes it was a roller coaster of emotion between the elation of achieving a reward versus the futile realization that I would not have enough time to grind it out.  Today, I'm also in the midst of active passes in Dota 2 and Brawl Stars. 

Here are my experiences with Riot's passes:

League of Legends - The must have content (Prestige Riven) drew me to playing and earning it.  I had to dedicate myself to the game, playing a few games a day to complete missions and getting the points to purchase the skin.  My goal was super clear from the onset and even though I don't play riven that much anymore, I felt I had to complete my collection.  I might play another one of these League events if another of my favorite characters gets a skin.

Valorant - I nearly finished this pass by grinding alone, but in the end I shelled out an extra 600 VP to reach the last tier.  Towards the middle of the pass timer, I was getting burnt out on Valorant having to play everyday to keep up.  The spike rush mode became more attractive over time and I stopped enjoying the game. 

This pass didn't have a wow factor to the skins, which made me set a goal of grinding to the end (a detrimental goal given the effort required).  I think this pass burned me out on the game instead of allowing me to enjoy it at a reasonable pace. 

Legends of Runeterra  - The first reward in the Runeterra Spirit Blossom event was a cute fox.  This was a great entry point into the pass, as I was able to quickly discern if I wanted that fox or not.  The highest tier reward was a prettier, dressed up variation of the fox.  Great thing there was that even though I did not get the ultimate fox at the end, I had the basic version of him.  I didn't end up getting to the end of the pass-- there was no option to purchase progression--but I completed all the event quests and got fairly far.  I missed out on 2 premium cosmetic rewards but don't feel bad about it.

Story Before Visual Polish

From Creativity, Inc. by Ed Catmull:

"For all the care you put into artistry, visual polish frequently doesn't matter if you are getting the story right."

As I improve my approach to creativity and creation, I am discovering that the most sticky ideas in my head--the ones that present themselves most clearly--are the ones with a story.  Even before a character's form and attire or an environmental structure comes to life, the journey that they take on captivate me.  They appear not as static fixtures but as dynamic forms that will change as the story unfolds.  Thus, they present in my mind at once as slices of a timeline of what could be (what will be).

My Shelf

Does the name inspire function or the use beget a name?

My bookshelf is not tall. 
It is wide. 

It is a TV shelf without a TV (a shelf).
It is a shelf with books (a bookshelf).

A TV shelf makes a good bookshelf, too.
The shelf is just a shelf until I imagine what might it carry.


"All things change in a dynamic environment." - Ghost in the Shell

Change is always tough to bear when we are facing it. It brings adversity and discomfort. But to change is necessary and we have to take it head on and accept that the past will not be helpful in the future. Change doesn't have to happen all at once. Day by day, consistent, minor improvements will add up over time. Evolution does not happen overnight. But in the long run, we change by immersing ourselves in a dynamic environment and by adapting along with it.

Repairing a Room

Take care of the spaces that you spend your time in.  Your surroundings have a subtle impact on your mentality, and the better maintained, comfortable spaces will give you productive energy instead of sapping it.

I repaired the room in the house that I spend my down time in.  The floor is partially carpeted, a large bookshelf sits under the window, and I can relax there at the end of every long day.  Though it's not quite perfect (missing curtains and a new coat of paint), it still gives me a sense of personal comfort.

Jam City

Started today with the awesome Panda Pop team at Jam City!


My Bookshelf additions

I added the first set of new books to my bookshelf last week.  I'll be learning about Disney, Pixar, and Daoism!


The Ride of a Lifetime, Robert Iger

Understanding that this account is from a personal lens, I found Robert's learnings and experiences on leadership to be forthright and exemplar.  In the former half of the book, he expounds on the great mentors of his career, challenges he faced in rising to management, and his most prideful projects at ABC.  In the latter half, he chooses to focus on the largest acquisitions that he personally led in the role of CEO of Disney.  The mundanalities and regimen of corporate leadership are set aside in favor of highlighting the importance of vision, relationships and ethics. 

Of all the stories I think the most memorable are that of his interactions with Roone Arledge and Steve Jobs.  From Roone he learned to innovate.  And from Steve he found deep friendship and the courage to be bold.  If there's one thing to take away from this book it is that the quality of your relationships have a huge impact on your ability to overcome challenges. 

Robert's willingness to take on responsibility of risk and failure put him in a position of trust and leadership.  Understanding others also enabled him to effectively manage and resolve conflicts. 

Iger, Leadership

Learnings from Chapters 6 & 7 of Ride of a Lifetime, by Robert Iger:

-> You can't let blows to your ego get to you
-> Focus on who you can be
-> Convey your 3 Priorities

Iger, 5

Learnings from Chapter 5 of Ride of a Lifetime, by Robert Iger:

-> Balance ambition with opportunity.  Tend to your responsibilities well before focusing your efforts on getting where you could eventually be.
-> Don't be a lame duck
-> Lean on the power of others

Super Time Force Ultra

What a blast!  Once you get a hang of the time rewinding, it's so fun to go ham on shooting.  There's a balance here between playing for time score, completion, and life efficiency.  Each run can be good in any one of these, so completing a level feels well deserved!

The biggest frustration for me (a personal one), is that I get very weary of repeated deaths that happen over and over.  Even though the game is lenient in giving me plenty of lives, I still feel terrible when my guy dies.

It's a fun take on time-travel, filled with jokes, and ultimately let me strategize with my past self and correct my own mistakes.  Though the tone is absurdly light, there's a meaningful message here of responsibility and self-forgiveness.

I'm not compelled to complete all the levels, and I had trouble performing clean runs (where all time force teammates are saved from death), but the core game loop of live die repeat was executed perfectly.  My go to strategy was spamming shields and rockets.  Halfway through the game I discovered that saving a teammate gave me assist powers when using a charged attack, so I doubled them up and spammed them even more. If I were to replay the game, there's a ton of things I could do to change the experience (using different characters, going for clean runs, discovering secrets).

Iger, 4

Learnings from Chapter 4

-> The relationship of the 2 at the top affect the whole team
-> Manage your time and respect others' time
-> Explain how it will work (Don't decide just based on hope)

Iger, 3

-> Faith gives Courage
-> Be Humble and take risks (Innovate or Die)
-> Leadership is Knowing who you are
-> Own your Mistakes

Iger, 2

Learnings from Chapter 2.

-> Build Trust and Camaraderie in your team
-> Ask for Help
-> Be Honest when you don't know
-> Accept New Challenges, Make Life an Adventure

Where Games Are Heading

Meow In Verse's first article: "Where Games Are Heading"

Publishing on Medium & WeChat, for a global launch!




Learnings from the Prologue and Chapter 1 of "The Ride of a Lifetime" by Robert Iger.

-> Wake up Early and give yourself time to Think.
-> Strive for Perfection
-> Don't take No for an answer; Find another Way
-> Balance the Product and the People


I love the art and the music presented here: The character designer Ngoc Vu created very memorable designs that eek personality in every way. The music kept the tension up and the catchy bits stayed in my ear for a while.

Playing through the game was a little slow paced for my taste. The story was intriguing at the outset, but took a long time to build up into the any sort of activity-filled scene. The game is more of a slice of the cafe's ongoings, with heavy emphasis on the development of character relationships.

The characters' internal struggles have a hard time surfacing. They become a bit lost on the audience with the sporadic switching between scenes. With every jump, time became more lost on me.
For a game about the scarcity of time, this made time extra difficult to digest. I acknowledge that the scenario--a Terminal where spirits pass, run by quasi-immortal beings-- lends itself to a feeling of timelessness. But at the story's core, the dead only have 24 hours to stay. I don't think I felt that as strongly. I felt lost with regards to feeling time progress.

The presentation as a 3D environment with stealthy camerawork was an attempt at cinematic drama, but without voice acting, it is more reminiscent of the old silent films. A bit difficult to digest.

Interestingly, the parts of the game that put me most at ease were the Memories (text-only excerpts of dialogue, story, and lore). These sections let the writing speak for itself, without the complication of messaging through the contemporary set and characters.

Superhot: Mind Control Delete

The sequel to SUPERHOT was really simple to pick up:  node level selection, wave based combat, and cryptic, unobtrusive story.  It really fit into the modern schedule:  short bursts of entertainment that doesn't try to overstay its welcome.  I was happy to play it, being given access for free as a I already had SUPERHOT in my library.

This ease of jumping into and out of the game let me play through in about 7, one-hour-long sessions over the last few weeks.  And I certainly enjoyed it.

SUPERHOT: Mind Control Delete had very appropriate and creative theming (MORE, MORE, MORE).  It continued the fourth-wall-breaking computer simulation veil, with a bit of self-aware critique.  The narrative suggested that I was yearning for more, and feeding an addiction to the game.  While partially true (I did want to overcome its challenges to see what it had to offer next, I thought that it was better viewed as a commentary on media consumption in general.  The messaged goaded me on and kept my curiosity up: "Why would the game prod me about playing too much?". 

It was a sensory stimulating experience, very well integrated with its marketing strategy and ability to stand out as a unique game.  I think it was a great idea to distribute free copies to generate interest and dialogue about it.  If not for that I would not have picked the new game up, as the original superhot was a wholly complete experience that did not ask for MORE.

Check out the replay system!

My Android App Homescreens

I live on my phone so much these days that it's important to keep organized and eliminate inefficiencies. These are the latest homescreens that I use.

On the dock:
Evernote - I use this for my dream diary, daily writing and notes. Experimented with alternatives for a while, but Evernote has the most pure experience that gets me straight into writing.
Twitter - You can follow me @shuandang. Personally, I am still building my tweeting skills. This app is great for me to discover and keep up with creative people and their work.
Camera - I got the Pixel 3 because the camera could come close to replacing my point-and-shoot. Very important for capturing moments. I don't use it enough.
Podcasts - Last year I listened to a lot of audiobooks. This year, I discovered so much great podcast content out there I can't possibly listen to it all. This reminds me to play a few when I have the time.
Maps - Though I'm not going out a lot these days with the coronavirus pandemic raging on, Maps is core to my smartphone lifestyle. I'm using it to mark off places that I want to visit someday-- once we're able to travel again.

On the first page:
Mostly communications tools, productivity, photos, and music.

On the second page:
A bit of news, lifestyle, and arts.

On the third page:
Games that I'm playing. Some regularly, others sporadically.

After that (not shown):
A few random games that I'm trying out.

Sold Out Lamps

We went shopping for a lamp, a desk, a mat, and a shelf at IKEA yesterday. The store funneled us in to prevent crowds. It was uncomfortable to be near others even though everyone was wearing a mask.

From my shopping list, I had a vision for the bookshelf that I wanted (based on my previous visit). We really liked the design of the Besta shelves. In my mind I knew roughly that it would go underneath the window, and that the color would match the decor of the room. But in the store, the pieces didnt come together. From the options shown I had the choice of mounting a floating tv stand to the wall, or stacking a shelf and a short-shelf for the desired height.

I had no vision for a lamp, though I did like the tall cylindrical ones. My family requested a desk, but called to tell me they changed their mind.

We found a nice lamp, and after deciding to purchase it, found that it was out of stock.

We found a single soft floor mat in a heap of exterior door mats. It was out of place and we couldn't find where it had come from. I wanted to see if there were alternate colors, to no avail. We took the mat.

Towards the end of the trip, I walked into the as-is section to buy a set of Billy shelves. Again, the color matched, but it didn't feel like the right shelf. I passed, and circled around a few more times.

Serendipitously, perhaps by the hand of fate, I finally noticed the discontinued Besta standing tv- shelf. It was the right size and all.

There really was no choice for me that day in shopping.

Change Happens

We measure progress with tests and metrics. We measure performance with tests and metrics. These tests are simply measures that help us confirm that changes have happened, that improvement and progress has been made. They aren't a necessary condition, and shouldn't be the only way progress is achieved.

Change happens whether we measure it or not. Time flows without us constantly watching the clock.

Daily Habits

There are a plethora of books about how to build habits, but you must create it by acting it out. Ultimately, it will be a very personal journey that will allow you to build the life that you want. 

A natural requirement to being a human on Earth is that we have a daily routine: Waking up and falling asleep with each turn of the planet. Use the sun-rise and sun-fall as universal anchors and build your day.