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Disney Heroes: Battle Mode

Disney Heroes is almost exactly the same game as Star Trek Timelines except it’s featuring Disney heroes. I didn’t pick the game because I liked Disney, but because I had heard good things about the game and it seemed time to try something new (I always knew that Star Wars: Galaxy Of Heroes was a similar game, but that universe never appealed to me enough to try it).

The game has only been out 2 months (another factor in starting it) but surprisingly, it is already a more full-featured and polished game than STT is after 2.5 years. I wouldn’t be surprised if STT is just poorly designed, but it looks like Battle Mode has put thought into the IAP, ramping and balance (or they copied other successful games in this genre).

Like most of these games, the first couple of days is intense with a lot of gameplay. I expect that to level out as I get into a rhythm of what needs to be done at what time. However, the fact that it is a lot more fun than STT (even at the beginning) is promising.

While I will continue to play STT (e.g., keep up my collection); my goal is to play Battle Mode as a pure F2P and slowly build up my hero roster here. Let’s see if that plan continues!

Game Maintenance

I’ve been playing Star Trek Timelines for almost 2 and a half years now, and spent about $200 on the game (sunk cost). I still enjoy it from a collection/completist POV, and play through it every day because of that. The game itself isn’t very fun, but it strikes a balance between the collection and other aspects that other games couldn’t achieve for me (looking at Pokemon Go).

Because I’ve been playing for so long, I am at a point where progress is minimal. I don’t have a complete collection, but I have a large collection that one could reasonable achieve without being a whale on the game. The gameplay every day is more maintenance than anything else, continuing to climb really tall mountains.

In a way, it’s a lot like Hearthstone, where there is a continual maintenance to complete quests -> farm gold -> save for expansions. Farming is easy, especially because you can complete quests by playing “friends”. However, it ends up being a drag because the rewards are minimal compared to the effort required.

I actually pulled back on Hearthstone this month. I stopped trying to maximize my quest/gold farming and maybe I will just focus on getting the season card back for the next little while (I did the same thing when the Goblin vs Gnomes expansion came out). I’m also trying to compress my STT gameplay into shorter bursts because I picked up a new game to play now – Disney Heroes: Battle Mode.

Pocket Queue 81

  • ‘I was a teacher for 17 years, but I couldn’t read or write’
    What’s it like to not know how to read? And to live the lie for most of your life? While becoming a professional in a field that requires reading? That’s an interesting story and this article shares the highlights from it.

    In one exam the professor put four questions on the board. I was sitting at the back of the room, near the window, behind the older students.

    I had my blue book and I painstakingly copied the four questions off the board. I didn’t know what those questions said.

    I had arranged for a friend of mine to be outside the window. He was probably the smartest kid in school, but he was also shy and he’d asked me to fix him up with a girl by the name of Mary who he wanted to go to the spring formal dance with.

    I passed my blue book out the window to him and he answered the questions for me.

    I had another blue exam book underneath my shirt and I took it out and pretended I was writing in it.

    I was praying that my friend was going to be able to get my book back to me and that he was going to get the right answers.

  • The Man Who Cracked the Lottery
    This story is about someone who was able to cheat the lottery system, but did so in a semi-intelligent manner to hide his tracks for a number of years.

    Three months after the winning ticket was announced, the lottery issued another public reminder. Another followed at six months and again at nine months, each time warning that winners had one year to claim their money. “I was convinced it would never be claimed,” says Mary Neubauer, the Iowa Lottery’s vice president of external relations. Since 1999, she had dealt with around 200 people who had won more than $1 million; she’d never seen a winning million-dollar ticket go unclaimed. “And then comes Nov. 9, 2011.”

    A man named Philip Johnston, a lawyer from Quebec, called the Iowa Lottery and gave Neubauer the correct 15-digit serial number on the winning Hot Lotto ticket. Neubauer asked his age — in his 60s, he said — and what he was wearing when he purchased the ticket. His description, a sports coat and gray flannel dress pants, did not match the QuikTrip video. Then, in a subsequent call, the man admitted he had “fibbed”; he said he was helping a client claim the ticket so the client wouldn’t be identified.

    This was against the Iowa Lottery rules, which require the identities of winners to be public. Johnston floated the possibility of withdrawing his claim. Neubauer was suspicious: The winner’s anonymity was worth $16.5 million?

  • The Promise of Vaping and the Rise of Juul
    A fascinating look at the teen sub-culture of vaping, especially the brand Juul. Since I’m too old, I guess I will only find out about this stuff by reading it second hand.

    I talked to a sixteen-year-old girl in Westchester County, whom I’ll call Leslie, to keep her from narcing on her classmates. Juuls caught on at her school last summer, she said. Upperclassmen bought them, underclassmen tried them at parties, and suddenly people were Juuling in the cafeteria, charging Juuls on their laptops, and filling their Instagram and Snapchat feeds with Juuling videos and GIFs. “Dealers will announce on Snapchat that they’ve bought a hundred of them, and they’ll write the price, the date, and the meeting place for kids to show up with cash,” Leslie said. She described her classmates Juuling in locker rooms, and on the trail behind the school—where people also drink and smoke weed—and in the quad, if they’re ballsy. “But the biggest spots are the bathrooms,” she said. “There are so many people Juuling sometimes that all the varieties of flavors just get morphed into one big vape. Some days I’m just, like, why do you need to do this at 11 A.M.?”

  • Japan’s Rent-a-Family Industry
    This article starts by talking about people who need to rent family, but it really touches upon how people form connections.

    Ishii says that, two or three times a year, he stages entire fake weddings. The cost is around five million yen (around forty-seven thousand dollars). In some cases, the bride invites real co-workers, friends, and family members. In others, everyone is an actor except the bride and her parents. The rental best man gives a speech, often bringing the rental guests to tears. When Ishii plays the groom, he experiences complicated emotions. A fake wedding, he says, is just as much work to organize as a real one, and he and the client plan together for months. Invariably, Ishii says, “I start to fall for her.” When it comes to the kiss, some brides prefer to fake it—they touch cheeks so it looks like they’re kissing—but others opt for the real thing. Ishii tries to pretend he’s acting in a movie, but often, he says, “I feel like I’m really getting married to this woman.”

  • How Anna Delvey Tricked New York
    The story about Anna Delvey’s con, which is more fascinating than your average con because it seemed to affect many well placed and rich individuals in New York. Strangely, her downfall was not that she got too greedy (e.g., wanting money), but because she became too aspirational building her foundation (which might have been a proxy to greed).

    If Aby Rosen, the son of Holocaust survivors, could come to New York and fill skyscrapers full of art, if the Kardashians could build a billion-dollar empire out of literally nothing, if a movie star like Dakota Johnson could sculpt her ass so that it becomes the anchor of a major franchise, why couldn’t Anna Delvey? During the course of my reporting, people kept asking: Why this girl? She wasn’t superhot, they pointed out, or super-charming; she wasn’t even very nice. How did she manage to convince an enormous amount of cool, successful people that she was something she clearly was not?

War For The Planet Of The Apes

This was a movie with no expectations that I watched while the kids were beside me. I picked it because I had seen most of the movies on the flight and I was always interested in the world planet where the apes ruled – although not so interested that I saw all the movies in this franchise (I’m pretty sure I’ve seen at least one of the remakes, but I can’t find a blog for it).

Reading the title and preview, I expected War for the Planet of the Apes to be a full-out war between the apes and mankind. The movie started off with a guerilla campaign by the humans against the apes (although the humans were subsequently slaughtered). That seemed like the movie I chose to watch. But then, it started going on a different, and surprising track.

In fact, this movie was not about an all-out-war. The apes’ numbers weren’t huge (they had a healthy number, but it was more like a refugee camp than an army) and the humans was a single battalion under a leader that was more cult than colonel. The movie actually spent a lot of time showing scenes of family – I don’t know if the scenes were more believable because they were trying to humanize the chimps (if it were real humans acting the scenes, they may be corny), or if they were actually effective. The movie also introduced an idea that a mutated Simian Flu virus was changing humans into primates – a role reversal of what the apes have become.

Overall, I was pleasantly surprised that this movie was not simply a slaughter fest. It’s not good enough to get four stars, but I thought it was better than 3 out of 5 stars.

May 2018

After a long month in April, May started out pretty calm. I didn’t have work travel (for the most part) so the first weeks was spent at home. For Victoria Day, we headed out to a family vacation to SoCal, staying at the Legoland Resort (and visiting Legoland) for a few days, then up to Los Angeles for Disney and some children’s museums. It turned out that the entire trip was basically one long theme park/museum visit so the kids sure loved it!

Katana grew up a lot during that trip, I guess she had one of her Wonder Weeks. She now knows how to say a couple of words to refer to different things (her feet, brothers, food, etc) in addition to the usual nodding and shaking of her head. She’s also finally out of her infant car seat (we left our infant stuff behind on vacation) – so she’s officially a toddler now!

SoCal was surprisingly cold (sweaters almost every day), but when we came back, Toronto turned surprisingly hot! Summer seemed to have hit while we were gone. I had to make a short trip down to NY to close out the month.

Black Panther

I saw Black Panther with high expectations, after hearing rave reviews about how it had a narrative that reflected and discussed world issues. While that was somewhat true, because there was an overarching theme about leveling the playing field for oppressed cultures (whether the right way to do this is by arming them, is a sub point), that was the only world issue that was prominently discussed.

In fact, I would say that Black Panther is your typical action hero movie. The cast is almost all black (makes sense for a movie situated in Africa), but of course the American roles are played by whites. There is a jaunt to Asia to make the film more exotic (how many films feature Africa as the locale?), and the fight involves two superheros in similar suits (otherwise how would it be a fair fight?). Women have empowering roles, but they also hang around as eye candy.

I just don’t see Black Panther as a progressive film, or one the is remarkable beyond the seasonal Marvel fare. It’s not bad – I enjoyed it as much as Man Of Steel, but it’s only a 3 out of 5 movie.

Pocket Queue 80

  • San Francisco’s Big Seismic Gamble
    The West Coast and the Big One is another one of my pet interests. Here’s another article on some information about how SF is (not) being prepared.

    Right now the code says a structure must be engineered to have a 90 percent chance of avoiding total collapse. But many experts believe that is not enough.

    “Ten percent of buildings will collapse,” said Lucy Jones, the former leader of natural hazards research at the United States Geological Survey who is leading a campaign to make building codes in California stronger. “I don’t understand why that’s acceptable.”

    The code also does not specify that a building be fit for occupancy after an earthquake. Many buildings might not collapse completely, but they could be damaged beyond repair. The interior walls, the plumbing, elevators — all could be wrecked or damaged.

    “When I tell people what the current building code gives them most people are shocked,” Dr. Jones said. “Enough buildings will be so badly damaged that people are going to find it too hard to live in L.A. or San Francisco.”

  • The Chinese Workers Who Assemble Designer Bags in Tuscany
    In order to slap a “Made In Italy” label on their bags, fashion houses are employing Chinese people in Italy to assemble their bags. Fortunately, the Chinese are getting rich from it.

    Just outside the city walls, in Prato’s Chinatown, well-to-do Chinese families were carrying their own wrapped parcels of sweets: mashed-taro buns, red-bean cakes. Suburbanites, coming into town to see relatives, drove BMWs, Audis, and Mercedeses. (In a telling remark, more than one Italian insisted to me that no Chinese person would be caught in a Fiat Panda, one of the Italian company’s most modest cars.) According to a 2015 study by a regional economic agency, Chinese residents contribute more than seven hundred million euros to Prato’s provincial economy, about eleven per cent of its total.

  • The Young and the Reckless
    Headline story in Wired about how a U of T student and a bunch of US co-conspirators operated in the XBox hacking scene.

    By 2009 the pair was using PartnerNet not only to play their modded versions of Halo 3 but also to swipe unreleased software that was still being tested. There was one Halo 3 map that Pokora snapped a picture of and then shared too liberally with friends; the screenshot wound up getting passed around among Halo fans. When Pokora and Clark next returned to PartnerNet to play Halo 3, they encountered a message on the game’s main screen that Bungie engineers had expressly left for them: “Winners Don’t Break Into PartnerNet.”

  • How to get rich quick in Silicon Valley
    A satirical article about the culture in Silicon Valley. I guess this would be more funny and illuminating if I wasn’t as close to the culture.

    Indeed, to overhear the baby-faced billionaire wannabes exchanging boastful inanities in public could be enraging. Their inevitable first question was: “What’s your space?” Not “How’s it going?” Not “Where are you from?” But: “What’s your space?”

    This was perhaps the most insufferable bit of tech jargon I heard. “What’s your space?” meant “What does your company do?” This was not quite the same as asking: “What do you do for a living?” because one’s company may well produce no living at all. A “space” had an aspirational quality a day job never would. If you were a writer, you would never say “I’m a writer”. You would say “I’m in the content space”, or, if you were more ambitious, “I’m in the media space”. But if you were really ambitious you would know that “media” was out and “platforms” were in, and that the measure – excuse me, the “metric” – that investors used to judge platform companies was attention, because this ephemeral thing, attention, could be sold to advertisers for cash. So if someone asked “What’s your space?” and you had a deeply unfashionable job like, say, writer, it behooved you to say “I deliver eyeballs like a fucking ninja”.

  • Body Con Job
    This is one of those articles that wouldn’t have made sense 3 years ago but now, seems to be quite plausible and true. It takes about an Instagram influencer who has a million followers, but is actually fake. She’s AI – not her commentary, but her looks. As in, she’s computer generated. Yet people really follow her, and not just for novelty’s sake. Then she got into a war with another AI and, people kept showing loyalty to her. I’m not quite sure whether this article is about AI being human or AI being accepted.

    When Miquela first appeared on Instagram two years ago, her features were less idealized. Her skin was pale, her hair less styled. Now she looks like every other Instagram influencer. She’ll rest her unsmiling face in her hands to convey nonchalance, or look away from the camera as though she’s been caught in the act. The effect is twisted: Miquela seems more real by mimicking the body language that renders models less so.

One Night Only

The promise of this Chinese movie was good, lifelong gambler and escort need a big night to pay off debts. However, the story and acting are just bad. I felt like turning this off 10 mins in, but stuck with it out of laziness. There is a contrived story that explains why the pair were thrown together but that doesn’t redeem the film. One Night Only is a 1 out of 5 movie.

Hearthstone Solo: Monster Hunt

Compared to Kobolds & Catacombs’ Dungeon Runs, I completed Monster Hunt pretty quickly. In part, it’s because I understand the game mechanic pretty well now (lots of practice) but I also think that this solo adventure was easier. Maybe they made it easier so you would spend less time in this mode, and more playing multiplayer!

In any case, it was still fun. Mostly because each hero had unique powers that you don’t get in the normal game. I think the key to completing this adventure is to build up the various hero power skills. I completed the Houndmaster with 3/3 Wolfs, Cannoneer with 3 DMG canons. Grabbing bundles that complement those powers are also useful – although for the Cannoneer, I went all-in on canons one time (with Lowly Squire) only to find that that strategy doesn’t work against the final boss. Some of the treasures are also extremely powerful. The Time-Tinker boss fight is a mirror match, but if you have the treasure which casts the first spell twice, that can be the difference.

I beat Hagatha on my second attempt, but I think there was a lot of RNG involved. Picking strong treasures is important (+2 heal every round), and I went through my heroes pretty quickly. Tess was last, and her treasure was the half-cost/double hero power, and I just had too much value. The cards and heroes are so varied that I think it is tough to beat this one with a formula.

Well I guess I can sit around until August until the next expansion comes out (still can’t beat Lich King though!)

Single Player Rationale

Being a game centered around IAP, the new single-player modes in the last two Hearthstone expansions (Dungeon Run and Monster Hunt) don’t seem to make a lot of sense. You can play those modes indefinitely without a need to pay. So why did Blizzard add these modes to the game?

Well I had a think about it, and the reason is most likely to allow us to try all sorts of cards from the expansion that we wouldn’t otherwise be able to play (unless they came up on the weekly Tavern Brawl). Letting us play with those cards would help us discover cool and powerful cards from the set (if you’re not already aware of them), which should incite us to either buy packs to get those cards (fool’s errand) or use dust to craft them. Eventually we’ll run out of dust though, so it seems like there should be a way to buy dust (aside from packs?)