Unhaggle | The World’s Most Spectacular Roads

Ghostwritten by Elliot Chan for Unhaggle.com | March 25, 2014 |

The world is full of spectacular roads that wind and stretch, extending from our boring highways and traffic-congested cities to majestic mountains, sea coasts and the far reaches of exotic lands. These roads remind us of the joys of owning a vehicle that go beyond the grind of paying off your Impala or getting that 4Runner checked up again. Sometimes you just want a vessel and the freedom to explore, which is what these roads are all about.

Icefields Parkway: Alberta, Canada

Scenic Mountain Views

Cutting through the heart of the Rocky Mountains, Icefields Parkway is a perfect road for northern travellers seeking untouched wildness. Connecting between two of Alberta’s tourist hotspots and national parks, Icefields Parkway offers those passing by a permanent memory of the vast landscape of mountains, lakes and glaciers, as well as occasional encounters with moose, elks, caribous and bears. There aren’t many roads in Canada that offer such a variety of photo opportunities and breathtaking views, which truly capture the essence of being Canadian.

Lombard Street: California, USA

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Eight hairpin turns lead you from the top of Hyde Street down to Leavensworth Street in hilly San Fran. World famous for forcing travellers to slow down and enjoy its narrow complexity, Lombard Street reminds drivers to indulge in the novelty of the mundane. Cars venturing down this one way street become participants of this obstacle course of a road as spectators watch on with fascination. And upon completion, drivers will be sure to breathe a sigh of relief, having achieved the thrill of that suburban challenge.

West Coast of the South Island: New Zealand

west-coast-of-the-south-island

This six and a half hour road trip along the scenic coast of the Middle Earth replica allows drivers to appreciate the majesty of land and ocean and the convergence of the two. Slipping through small towns and farmlands, and up into the great heights of New Zealand, one could only image the exhilaration of being a trail blazer, setting eyes on the pristine world for the first time.

Trollstigen (Troll’s Path): Norway

Trollstigen

Road tourist will need to take a trip to Norway and experience the serpentine road eerily named the Troll’s Path. The steep mountain side road will test the driver’s tact as he or she pilots the vehicle towards a plateau overlooking a waterfall and the navel of Scandinavia. During the height of tourist season, Trollstigen receives over 2,500 daily visitors, but the roads are subjected to close during unruly weather conditions and during the winter months.

Guoliang Tunnel Road: China

guoliangtunnel

Considered to be the most dangerous road in the world, Guoliang Tunnel Road in China is a free-for-all path that hangs off of a mountain ridge. Twisting and turning through the tunnel as pockets of light seep in from stone windows and blend with the sudden darkness of the burrow, drivers narrowly dodge each other as they make their way through the prehistoric road of the Taihang Mountains.

Los Caracoles Pass: Chile to Argentina

los-caracoles

Choosing the Los Caracoles Pass to cross the vast Andes Mountains of South America takes you through a topographically diverse landscape, from the vine yards of Argentina up to the rocky and icy desolation and down to the green valleys of Chile. Truly such a trip makes even the largest vehicle seem insignificant in comparison.

Orchard Road: Singapore/Las Vegas Strip: Nevada, USA

las_vegas_strip_orchad

Not every great road needs to be carved into a mountainside or branched off into the ocean. Orchard Road in Singapore and the Las Vegas Strip incorporates all the urban wonders that make night time driving so exhilarating. Neon and marquee lights dance down the avenue as you pull into a snazzy place for a meal or just a little spot to rest up and prepare for the next leg of your trip.

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FIXO Manages the Communication Between Property Managers and Their Tenants

FIXO-3

Home. It’s where our heart is—or at least it’s where our things are.

Regardless, it’s pretty important. So it only makes sense that the care for the house and the livability aspect is something that property owners, private landlords and tenants should be able to communicate without having to play cat and mouse.

FIXO, a new communication app designated for residential property managers and their tenants is eliminating the lost messages and the neglected bulletin board postings of a bygone time. Having an accessible mobile solution to such an old relationship is proving to create many new opportunities for both parties that otherwise might have been ignored.

As a participant in The Next 36, a SFU business student, and an aspiring property manager, FIXO’s co-founder, Chantelle Buffie, wanted to take part in a project that she herself will find value in. “The biggest complaint is that tenants don’t see a resolution or their maintenance issues fixed right away,” Buffie tells Techvibes Media. “And a lot of that comes with the inefficiency of current communications tools used by property managers.”

While Buffie recognizes the complexity of being a property manager, her business partners and fellow co-founders of FIXO, Jonathan Yam and Armin Mahmoudi have seen the problems from the tenant’s perspective. It’s not easy living with a predicament, addressing it to the property manager in an email and then feeling forgotten due to a messy inbox. With no on-the-go and easily accessible tool, property managers are challenged when it comes to prioritizing issues and inquiries, in addition to organizing documents and contracts. FIXO establishes mutual respect by bringing the needs of residents and renters out of the junk folder.

But FIXO is not only a platform for tenants with “complaints”; it also works as a communication centre between a property manager and all his or her tenants. FIXO is a paperless option for building notices, a chore often left to the property managers, security guards and the friendly door guy/concierge/whatever his actual title is—whatever he’s nice.

“If something is happening in the building, you’ll want to know,” said Buffie. “That is why we are working to incorporate building notices and mass-group notices across the platform, or just general inquires. At the end of April we will be testing [FIXO] out with a student residency in Toronto. Our focus is going to be student residency first, because students live on their phones.”

Hear ye! Hear ye! As our communities grow, town crier jobs are harder and harder to get. Yet the number of communication tools will increase. Even property managers have multiple options when it comes to performing their duties: CRM software, web apps, customized portals, emails and of course, in-person communication.

“Where we see having the advantage is that a lot of them don’t focus on having a mobile application,” said Buffie. “What we want to do is have instant real time communication, where we can get Push notifications instantaneously. For instance, if there is a fire alarm testing you as a property manager can send out a quick notification in the app and it’ll get Pushed to the tenants automatically, so they won’t have to fish through their emails and they won’t have to read a notice on the door.”

Unhaggle | Can Smoking Pot Make You a Better Driver?

Ghostwritten by Elliot Chan for Unhaggle.com| March 18, 2014 |

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In Canada, smoking pot might not be as frowned upon as it once was, but driving while high is still questionable. While some consider it an impairment akin to drinking and driving, others say that marijuana increases awareness on the road and focuses the driver, allowing him or her to be more cautious. But as any experienced driver knows, traffic can be unpredictable. It doesn’t matter how aware, cautious or slow you are going… sometimes things happen.

So, does one ever really feel confident “blazing” down the “high” way in a Hyundai Sonata? Can one ever be certain that a Toyota Venza won’t pull out of an intersection unexpectedly or merge without warning? I ask: should an accident happen, would you want to be sober and competent or would you rather be panicky, high and paranoid? You make the judgement.

High On DUI

In the British Medical Journal, researchers found that the risk of accidents double should a pot smoker choose to drive within three hours after smoking. Although there wasn’t an exact correlation between driving high and accidents, the journal found that those involved in a collision have higher levels of tetrahyrocannabinol (THC), a key compound in marijuana.

The research states, “[TCH] concentrations might also be important, with minor collisions more likely than fatal collisions to involve drivers with lower concentrations of cannabis.”

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has stated that approximately 18% of fatal accidents involve drug consumption other than alcohol, and that statistic includes weed. In addition, one in nine drivers involved in fatal collisions will test positive for marijuana, according to Guohua Li, director of the Center for Injury Epidemiology and Prevention at Columbia.

Marijuana use, although is becoming more lenient, is also causing law enforcement to reconsider the term impairment. An article from the 2009 American Journal of Addiction showed that, unlike alcohol, smoking weed has a different effect on different people and measuring impairment may be trickier than conducting a breathalyser.

“We have this notion that since we have a magic number for alcohol, we are going to have a similar number for marijuana,” Paul Armentano, the deputy director NORML said in a The New York Timesinterview“The problem is that marijuana is not metabolized and absorbed by the body in the same way alcohol is.”

But in terms of medical use, the same way some patients shouldn’t operate heavy machinery on certain pharmaceutical medication, so shouldn’t stoners. Mothers Against Drunk Driving is recommending a zero tolerance rule, while roadside officers are willing to put suspected impaired drivers through a physical coordination test called Standard Field Sobriety Test. Failing the test will result in an evaluation from a drug recognition expert and advance on further charges from there.

The punishment for DUI is different in each province, but one thing is certain, the consequence is definitely not something to get high about.

Green Means Go

Pot smokers are known to overcompensate for their diminished motor skills by being cautious and slow on the road. In incidents where officers have pulled over drivers suspected of smoking and driving, the suspects were recognized to be coherent and respectful. There have been many examples where suspects have been acquitted in court due to limited evidence.

Unlike alcohol, which is often known as the aggressor and accelerant for rash decision-making, pot is a relaxant and is much safer than alcohol. But should drivers drop their guard and be relaxed on the road?

“When you’re high, you’re supposed to be relaxed,” 18-year-old Madelyn told Teen Vogue. “But when you’re driving, you technically can’t be! I went numb. I wasn’t sure if I was pressing the gas or the brakes or if I was moving at all. It was really intense, and the colours from the cars and the headlights were all blurring.”

While traditional-thinking people are against pot use and driving, others are presenting new studies that say weed is in fact making our streets safer.

“Our research suggests that the legalization of medical marijuana reduces traffic fatalities through reducing alcohol consumption by young adults,” Daniel Rees, professor of economics at the University of Colorado Denver and co-author of the study said. Rees added, “Although we make no policy recommendations, it certainly appears as though medical marijuana laws are making our highways safer.”

Because there is so little information available about the result of driving high, researchers are looking at the stats on total fatalities on the roads in relation to the legalization and increased usage of marijuana.

Don’t Be a Dope

Whether you are on your way to White Castle or to watch a delightful movie, we must understand that the driver will always be responsible for their actions prior to stepping behind the wheel. If you are tired, you shouldn’t drive; if you are drunk, you shouldn’t drive; if you are high… you probably shouldn’t drive either. After all, wouldn’t you rather just chill than burn out?

Prezi Rethinks the PowerPoint with Engaging Presentations for Better Storytelling

The recruitment team at UBC understands that boring slideshows and unmemorable PowerPoints just aren’t doing it anymore. For their presenters whose goal is to engage the next generation of innovators, they need to be innovative themselves. That is why they have turned to Prezi, a cloud-based presentation platform.

Prezi captures landmarks, directing the audience from one checkpoint of knowledge to the next and then back to the central idea. In another word, instead of telling the story from a linear perspective, Prezi performs more like a tour guide leading the spectators through the presentation from one key point to the next. More like a blueprint, less like a timeline.

“What we are learning now is understanding how our brain works,” said Peter Arvai, CEO and cofounder of Prezi. “Let me illustrate this with a question to you: If I was to ask you what kitchen appliances you have in your home right now.”

Microwave, kettle, a toaster oven…

“Right,” Arvai continued, “and I guess what you just did was first imagined your kitchen, and then you imagined the counter in your kitchen. You zoomed in to your microwave. And then to remember the other things, you took a step back, you zoomed out and you looked at another part of the kitchen. And you remember the other things there.”

“Now, it’s equally important to observe what you didn’t do,” he added. “What you didn’t do is what you often see in PowerPoint slides. You didn’t have a list of words organized alphabetically or in another way.”

Prezi has figured out that people rely on landmarks to remember important information, whether it is navigation or trivial facts. Landmarks helped cavemen leave the caves to hunt and gather during the dawn of time, and now landmarks are helping presenters reach out to a wider audience. UBC have seen the value in Prezi’s ability to create landmarks and have been relying on it since to recruit new students from all around the world.

Two years ago, UBC made a conscious decision to switch from their customized Flash-based presentations to Prezi. Whether they are showcasing at high schools, community events, etc. the presentation is the main tool for the recruiters when appealing to perspective high school students.

“Depending on the group of student watching the presentation,” said Steve Taylor, prospective student marketing communications and social media specialist at UBC, “it’s really important that they have the ability to customize the presentation and tailor it a little bit for the group.”

The ability to modify on the fly is a big advantage for presenters since their audience are different every time. The cloud-base solution enables users to change aspects of the presentation on the way to the event and present it on any operational platforms. This allows for a more collaborate workflow that gives every member on the team a chance to chip in in real time. Flexibility, reliable support and visual appeal were the three aspects that made swapping over to Prezi worthwhile for the UBC recruitment team.

“The biggest thing for us is that the recruiters need to feel comfortable with the tools that they have when they are out on the road, because it is the most important thing they are bringing with them,” said Taylor. “And we feel Prezi fits that bill.”

At this moment, Prezi is currently working on features that help companies collaborate more effectively as a team, in addition to developing more seamless functionality between platforms, since users are creating presentations on tablets, smartphones, laptops, PC, etc.

“We’re deepening the user experience,” said Arvai. “We are adding important things that enable people to focus on the ideas and avoid having to spend energy on the technology.”

The Adventures of ROFL Cat: A Tale of Internet Slang

In late 2013, I had an opportunity to work with Jeff Allen, Dana Renaud and Maggie Clark, as well as the talented Cody Klyne, in bringing to life an idea I had stowed away in my head for many years. For that I say, thank you.

rofl

When you produce content regularly, not every piece of work stands out. Time passes and some fade away without any recollection—in fact, sometimes I don’t remember writing a piece at all when I reread it over the course of a couple months. I don’t think I’ll have to worry about forgetting ROFL Cat anytime soon… it is a project I can genuinely say I’m proud of. Not just because it was an idea that sat passively and patiently with me for so long (ideas are known to vanish before I get a chance to write it down), but also because those that contributed to the book did such an amazing job. I’m sure my pride for it is justified.

If you have not seen the works of Avery Monsen and Jory John, search them up. They are authors of the hilarious illustrated series All Your Friends Are Dead and K Is For Knifeball: An Alphabet of Terrible Advice. Those hardcover children’s book with adult humour was what I wanted ROFL Cat to be like: funny, in an adorable and rude kind of way.

Since the book is produced as a part of my professional writing program at Douglas College, we were offered limited printing. I would love for everyone to have a copy of ROFL Cat on the coffee table and bookshelf, but that simply doesn’t seem possible at the moment, as the demand is quite low—that being said, I still want to share it.

Here is the product of a bunch of talented people working together on one of my silly ideas:

ROFL

The Adventures of ROFL Cat: A Tale of Internet Slangs

 

– Elliot Chan, April 21, 2014

Highlights of 2012-2014: Memories of a young writer

10261738_10100261539296113_907550627_nHere are a few of my proudest work from 2012 to 2014. Enjoy!

The art of being alone
Nothing in life is permanent
A love letter to the capital cursive G
As POF Eliminates Intimate Encounters, Ashley Madison Makes Them Easier Than Ever
The calm before the glitter storm: profile of Top Less
Got too much on your plate?
Curse those cussing kids
The boomerang generation
What is love? Baby, don’t hurt me

Flash back to 2012: It has been five years since I graduated high school and four years since I graduated film school. The momentum I had after graduation in 2008 had faded, and I was still on the perimeter of the entertainment industry.

Sure, I have successfully landed a few auditions, got myself an apprentice status in UBCP and written and directed a few short films that I couldn’t help but be proud of, but realistically I was just fooling myself into thinking that I actually wanted to climb that ladder.

First rung: I worked as a background performer. Second rung: I did two years of stand up comedy. Third rung: I acted as production assistant for multiple companies and productions for literally four days. Fourth rung: I performed in some student films. Nope, it wasn’t a stepladder I was climbing—it was a Stair Master. I was going nowhere and I needed to get off.

Bam!

It happened all in one single night. I might have been in bed, but for dramatic reasons lets have me pacing through a rainstorm. I was drenched from head to toe and the only sign that I was still alive was the streetlights illuminating the next few steps I was going to take. There in the depths of my quarter life crisis I asked myself: What do I still want to do? Acting, Directing, Standup, Kitchen Prep, Writing.

It wasn’t an epiphany—I don’t get those—it was more of a “duh!” moment. Writing was the fuel that powered all my other previous passion from directing to standup. It was something I did without ever taking credit for because it was a mean for something else. I took it for granted. And it was a bit upsetting to realize all that wasted time was for not.

I don’t know what it’s like to have a divorcé, but I do know what it was like to call it quits on a dream and start all over. I know what it was like to say bye to a childhood passion and welcome a slightly more mature (but not really) alternative.

I still wonder what I would be doing if I didn’t make that conscious choice to become a writer. But I like to think that I haven’t given up on being a filmmaker. Life, after all, is quite long—or it could be—I’m just taking another route, an elevator. And it’s one that I’m currently enjoying. A lot.

I have spent the past two years with some of the most inspiring and generous people. Attending Print Futures at Douglas College and working at the Other Press has introduced me to a world of writing I wouldn’t have discovered otherwise. It took me out of my comfort zone, introduced me to new challenges and presented me with opportunities I could not have found from the comforts of my own home. It gave me confidence and made me adventurous. Failure was inevitable, but I wasn’t doing it alone anymore. More important than my education and my skills, I now have supporters. People whom I can turn to when I mess up a line or miss a grammatical error. I’m safe now. I’m on the right path… the climb continues.

 

– Elliot Chan, April 17, 2014

Foko Promotes Photo Taking at Work To Strengthen Communication and Solve Problems

Ottawa-based Foko understands that photographs are the new quick, text-free way to communicate.

Whether it’s sharing our vacation photos, showcasing our accomplishments or taking a quick pic of our afternoon snack, our pictures can tell a story worth a thousand—maybe—more words. And that experience should not be withheld in the workplace.

Communication within an organization is paramount to the workforce, but recent trends have shown that internal communication platforms such as Intranets garner little traction. “There is around 10% [of employees at a given company using Intranets],” said Foko’s cofounder and CEO, Eric Sauve. “If you get 20% you are a hero. I came to a conclusion that companies are really missing out on connecting their employees.”

Simplicity became Foko’s focus as they tried to understand the barriers of communication in an enterprise environment. The result is a familiar Instagram-like app that enables workers, employers and all other members of the company to recognize each other through a medium that is easy to use.

“We came to photos,” said Sauve, “because you don’t need to know English and you don’t need to be a good writer; you just need a [camera] phone and you can participate. Photo sharing is the consumer Internet, from web apps (Pintrest and Imgur) to social networks to new services—the ones that are growing the most are photo centric—like Instagram and SnapChat. So let’s bring it to companies in a way that they can get everyone involved.”

Entering an ecosystem with so many different photo-sharing platforms, Foko finds its uniqueness in terms of privacy, security, and exclusivity. In another words, Foko caters to a corporate-audience. Ones that understands that when dealing with the behind the scenes photography of Fortune 100 companies, a few potential problems need to be addressed, such as HR problems, IT leaks issues, etc. Foko builds the community around the workers; only allowing those associated with the company the ability to view activities within.

This internal communication enables stores and offices in different geographical areas to work together to strengthen merchandise sales, etc., and colleagues with different schedules to catch up and discuss the happenings at work. In addition, Foko also helps enterprises share and promote events and occasions that stems from the workplace, such as charity events, volunteer opportunities, conferences and company parties. Photos are also a friendly way of introduction and acknowledgement, especially in big companies where workers seldom see each other. The ability to welcome a new employee or to acknowledge an old one is something every company, large or small, should have the capability to do.

The use of social media and other consumer platforms are often frowned upon at workplace. If you spend your time posting pictures on Instagram at work, you are probably wasting time, but if you post something on Foko while working, you are building workplace cohesion.

“It’s all in how you used the social media,” said Sauve. “It’s the fact that it’s private that makes all the difference. If you take a picture at work and share it on Instagram: are you sharing secrets, are you sharing embarrassing stuff about the store and does it meet with the branding guidelines of how we interact with the public? But if you share it internally, nobody cares about that stuff.” Sauve added, “Sharing within a constrained group really changes the nature of social media.”

In the upcoming week, Foko is also introducing the private messaging feature to their application, enabling workers to communicate with individuals in the company. Instead of sending a photo to the entire company, you can select the co-workers you would like to receive the picture and reach out to them privately. Say, they forgot their mints at work, well what better way to notify and reassure them that it’s still there—untouched— than with a fresh picture of it?

Sacred cinema

The bible shouldn’t be Hollywood’s only source for religious inspiration

By Elliot Chan, Opinions Editor
Formerly published in The Other Press. April 8, 2014

I belong to a growing demographic of non-religious North Americans. Although I came from a Buddhist heritage and live in a country with a large Christian population, my curiosity stems further than my beliefs, my family’s beliefs, and my neighbour’s beliefs.

I have always been a sucker for stories, even if they have a moral at the end, and some of the greatest stories ever told are locked within sacred text: the Bible, the Qur’an, Sanskrit, Torah, etc. Tapping into these ancient texts will open our eyes to a world we are often ignorant of, and I believe that will be a significant step toward global tolerance.

We North Americans enjoy watching comforting movies, stories that we’re familiar with. But exploration is equally as entertaining. Noah offers a lot of epic scenes that make the job for the marketing team easy, but I also know that there are millions of other stories based in other religions that could contain the same amount of drama, special effects, and even Russell-Crowe-in-sandals scenes. As someone who has no defined religion, I’m more inclined to see a movie about an unfamiliar story than one constantly used in analogies.

I don’t believe religious movies are meant to convert someone’s beliefs. I believe that they’re simply created to entertain, earn a profit, and start a conversation about something that is losing effect in Western culture.

Religion turns a lot of people off these days, which is upsetting since religion is a significant part of the human identity. We should embrace it. Not just one religion (Christianity), but all of them. If we want to be a global community, we should explore all cultures, heritages, and of course, religions.

Harmony needs to start at home, and movies have always been a medium to bring people of all classes and beliefs together. Hollywood has made many weak attempts in telling stories from foreign sacred texts; that’s because they always try to find a Western perspective. It’s true, casting Keanu Reeves in a story about Buddhism is a recipe for chuckles. The key to adapting a story properly is honesty. Instead of catering to an audience, the filmmaker needs to simply tell the story the way it’s meant to be told, while finding the cinematic appeal.

Hollywood needs to team up with those of other cultures to create these impactful movies. They have to find the soul of it—the heart of the religion. By communicating the essence of those stories, the audience will be able to see how unique tales can shape so many different people from all reaches of the world. In our own comfortable way, we will be enlightened. It might not change our mindsets, but for a brief moment we can see from another’s point of view, and isn’t that what filmmaking is all about?

When you can’t find the needle in the haystack

Should mysteries end without resolution?

By Elliot Chan, Opinions Editor
Formerly published in The Other Press. April 8, 2014

It has been one of the biggest mysteries of our generation: the TV show-like disappearance of Malaysian Airline’s MH370. After roughly a month of searching, speculation, and outrage, the airliner carrying 239 people on board is still lost. Although the search team consisting of 25 countries has narrowed the area of disappearance to somewhere between Kazakhstan and the South Indian Ocean, the searchers have nothing to show for it. So, I must ask: can we move on without closure?

The history books are full of unsolved mysteries: from serial murders to paranormal activities to geographical phenomena such as the Bermuda Triangle. I’m aware that giving up on MH370 might not be an option—not with so much tension built, and not with such a tantalizing storyline following it. Perhaps it might even be found by the time you’re reading this.

Regardless, once the initial shock of the tragedy has dissipated, I think we can all appreciate the suspense of a good mystery. But while we, the distant and detached, continue living our lives and checking in occasionally, the family members, the search teams, and the people affiliated with the lost airliner are living in the aftermath of (pardon my language) a shit storm.

“Never give up hope” is a common saying when challenges seem insurmountable. But then again, we also say, “Let’s cut our losses.” There is no timeline at the moment for the search, but I believe one needs to be implemented soon. The longer we keep searching with no results, the harder it’ll become to give up. Like gambling, we’ll have placed too much on the line to walk away. When all we’re playing for is less than breaking even, I can’t help but feel that regardless of finding the airliner or not, the sensation will still be the same—it’ll be sorrow.

We must continue with our own lives, and not let the loss diminish our happiness. The world is full of inexplicable mysteries. Why do bad things happen to good people? Why do we work so hard for nothing? What is the meaning of life? These are all questions without answers that we live with every day. Although it might bum us out every now and then, we still wake up in the morning, put on clothes, and face the cruel reality. I’m sorry to say, but “What happened to MH370?” might be another one of those questions to keep us up at night.

It’s human nature to seek resolution. Discovery is a great triumph and it can define a generation, but unsolved mysteries are not defeats; they are proof that life on Earth is more than problems and solutions. Life is full of wonders, conundrums that keep us guessing and imagining. If we consider ourselves gamblers in a celestial casino called Earth, we must also remember that we are playing by house rules. Sometimes we need to know when to fold.