Wednesday, September 15, 2010

#3: What were they thinking?

This weeks blog is going to start off with some visual aids. First off, here is a GoogleMaps image of the i405-i710 exchange:

I tend to use this exchange everyday I drive anywhere since the 710 goes a few blocks from my apartment, and the 405 connects it to the rest of Southern California. Everyday I drive to work I take the 710E to the 405N. It looks a little something like this:

Once a week I try to go visit my bestie in Newport Beach. When I drive home from there I take the 405N to the 710W. Here is what that route looks like:

Ok Shawn, that's fancy and all that, but what's your point? Well it's quite simple, here is what these 2 routes look like together:

What is going on here is that the people trying to get off of the 405 have to crisscross with the people that are trying to get on to it. I don't know who planned this. In a part of the country full of people who aren't really known for their driving abilities, who thought it would be a good idea to put this "cross swap" (phrase I just made up regardless of what the 4,000+ search results say on Google) in an exchange for 2 of the busiest highways in Southern California? This is one of the few places I have ever seen this (if I'm not mistaken there is one close to downtown LA as well, which is just as brilliant).

With how much time, money, and planning that goes into the building of the United States highway system, it amazes me that something like this could be done. Very shockingly, I have yet to see any sort of an accident occur in this exchange, but really, it's only a matter of time. One thing I have seen is a major slow down of traffic due to the "cross swap".

The worst part about the 405-710 mess, the type of vehicle that would be using this the most. Semi trucks are probably the most common vehicle that uses the 710 as it heads to the docks. The distance that one has to do the merge onto or off of the 405 is really only about the length of 2 semi's with a regular trailer (an Optimus Prime if you will. Cartoon version, not movie). I don't have any idea what would happen if they ended up meeting at this point.

The really strange part about this whole thing, I can't really figure out how it is different from other exchanges. I have to really stop and think about how a regular one works in order to figure out why they don't need to do a "cross swap" (that's 3 times now, it's mine!). We drive on highways everyday, but we don't really stop and think about how meticulously planned out they are. Every single detail had to be thought about. The mind really starts to reel when you think about the mega exchanges that have elevated ramps and multi-layers. There are some here in Southern California where I swear at a single point, there are 5 levels of road on top of each other. Yet somehow in the extreme cases, they still didn't have to go with the "cross swap".

I think the point I'm trying to make here is, next time you are driving on the highways, take a moment and just think about how amazing some of the engineering that went into designing the system that we use everyday actually is. It really is one of the greatest feats of modern civilization. But if you're in Southern California, don't think about it too long, or you'll most likely end up in an accident!

P.S. How bad are the drivers in So-Cal? In my first year here, I saw more cars on their roof (completely upside down) then I saw in all 26 years in Colorado before that, and it's never snowed here.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

#2: What the hell is a ShabeRaven?

As you can see from the title of my Blog, for some reason I'm calling myself ShabeRaven. Those of you who are friends with me on XBOX Live, PSN, Steam, Raptr, or follow me on Twitter know that this is my name there as well. But how many of you actually know what it means? Well, here's the origin, plus some places it has been used and/or modified. I warn you now, this post is going to get super geeky. Plus I'm going to start a new innovation to my posts, pictures!

Lets start off by getting the second part out of the way as there really isn't any explanation as to what it is, only why it's in my pseudonym. Well for that we have to travel all the way back to October 25th, 1990. The second season of the Simpsons had been going for 2 weeks. They decided to do a special Halloween episode, and as a result, the first edition of the "Treehouse of Horror" was born. In this episode, Bart and Lisa are exchanging scary stories in the treehouse (this being the only "Treehouse of Horror" episode to actually take place in the treehouse). Bart tells a story about the family moving into a new house which is possessed, then about aliens attempting to eat them. Finally Lisa reads a scary poem, "The Raven" by Edger Allen Poe. This was the first time I had ever heard this poem, and I instantly fell in love with it. Shortly there after I had to do an English report. I chose to do it on "The Raven". I read an essay that Poe had written about the process he went through when writing the poem. In this essay he explained why he chose a raven. It's because he needed to have a bird that can talk but he wanted it to be black as well, and ravens are the only black birds that can be taught to talk. I found that amazing as I'd never heard that before. From that day, they became one of my 2 favorite animals (maybe I'll tell about the other someday).

Since I'd always liked comic books, I had always thought what my super hero name would be if I ever got powers of some kind, and Raven is what I chose from then on. I got an idea for a costume based on a Storm Shadow GI Joe figure that had kind of a ninja hood. Then I put that away in the back of my head for who knows when. Maybe someday I'd get good enough at drawing or something where I could make that actually happen.

Cut to many years later. I was late to the computer age. I didn't get a computer until after I had graduated High School. Once I got online, I started going to all kinds of bizarre web sites. One of them is this one, the Star Wars Name Generator ( This site has a simple formula that will generate a Star Wars name for you, as well as an honorary title, which I'll admit is kind of lame. The basic formula is this:

First 3 initials of your first name + First 2 initials of your last name=Your Star Wars first name

First 2 initials of your mothers maiden name + first 3 initials of the city you were born in =Your Star Wars last name.

So using this formula for me you get "Shabe McEng". This quickly became something else that was put on the back burner.

So here we are, we have the 2 parts of my pseudonym, how did they get together? Well in the world of MMORPG's of course. In case you don't know, a MMORPG is a Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game. Basically its a game with a persistent world that has hundreds of thousands to millions of people playing it all at once together. The first one I ever played was "Dark Age of Camelot". Shortly after that I heard that they were making a Star Wars MMORPG. Finally my chance to actually make Shabe McEng. I saved him for the day I would be able to make a special character and finally one day I did make him, but I didn't play that game much longer after that. Especially once I heard about a new super hero MMO coming out, "City of Heroes".

Finally, I would have the chance to make the character I always wanted to, Raven. I wanted to make a special E-mail address to deal with all the stuff for this game because the one I had been using as my primary address was getting a lot of spam in it, and the second one I had was just for work stuff. So I went to AOL and started making my 3rd E-mail address. I tried Raven, I tried Raven79, I tried TheRaven79, all of these things were taken. Finally I realized I'd have to put something in front of Raven that no one could possibly have. Ah ha, my Star Wars name. So with that became my new E-mail address.

So that was a pretty long story for a pretty short pay off wasn't it? Oh no, it doesn't just end there. Did I ever get to make Raven? Did Shabe McEng ever exist again? Well, the story continues. I got into the Beta of "City of Heroes "(the beta is when they open a game up to a select few members of the public so they can test how it will run once it's released to everybody). The first character I created was going to be Raven. Of course being such a simple name, it had already been taken. I had to add a prefix of some kind. I wanted it to sound similar to my new E-mail without being stupid. So I picked the word Shade. Shade Raven became my first character.

He has gone through some changes over the last 5 years, but as you can see, the basics of the Storm Shadow figure above are still there. The second character I made was based on Bestie D (See future blog to find out who that is). Finally the 3rd character I made was an Irish Ninja. His name, well of course it's Shabe McEng.

Someday I'll maybe tell the back stories I've come up with for all these characters. As it stands now I have 27 of them, and each one has a unique back story.

One last thing on this topic. When I finally got an XBOX 360 and it came time to pick my Gamertag, I actually tried to get ShadeRaven first. But it was already taken. So I went with ShabeRaven since I already had so much with that anyway. Stupidly though I decided to capitalize to B to accentuate the origin of it, which really ruined it. It will now cost me $20 if I want to change ShaBeRaven to ShabeRaven. Oh, and funny thing, I recently checked and Shade Raven was available all along :/ Guess a space makes a difference.

P.S. Ok, I know that this one really isn't all that funny, which was the point of this blog to begin with. I just felt that I needed to explain why it's ShadeRaven's Thoughts. Plus, it's early, and I'm still figuring out exactly what this is going to turn into.