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Hearthstone Heroic: General Drakkisath

Drakkisath’s hero power is to make every card cost 1 mana, and to cap your mana at 1 and his at 2. That means, he can play 2 cards every turn, and you can play one. I experimented with a variety of ways to increase my mana or decrease the cost of cards past 1, but they don’t work. Basically, you just try and throw down the most and biggest (legendary) minions you have. Here’s my Druid deck (for the taunts):

  • Poison Seeds
  • Big Game Hunter x 2
  • Psych-o-Tron x 2
  • Sludge Belcher x 2
  • Cairne Bloodhoof
  • Dark Arakkoa x 2
  • Illidan Stormrage
  • Moonglade Portal x 2
  • Reno Jackson
  • Sylvanas Windrunner
  • Chromaggus
  • Ironbark Protector x 2
  • Kel’Thuzad
  • Ragnaros the Firelord
  • Sneed’s Old Shredder
  • Alexstrasza
  • Arch-Tief Rafaam
  • North Sea Kraken x 2
  • Volcanic Lumberer x 2
  • C’Thun
  • Deathwing
  • N’Zoth, the Corruptor

I don’t think there is another way to win this match, it’s a bit of sheer luck. In my winning game:

  • He used Twisting Nether on a single minion on turn one (I forgot who it was, but it wasn’t a useful one)
  • He returned my Deathwing to my hand so I was able to cast it twice
  • I got a Sylvanas from my Moonglade Portal near the beginning of the game
  • He had a couple of turns where he only played a single card (spell). I guess he had multiple flame strikes or something?
  • Was able to keep my health up so I didn’t have to deal with the 9/9s

I think this boss is really about how many Legendaries you have.

Pocket Queue 71

  • What Google Learned From Its Quest to Build the Perfect Team
    What did Google find when it did research on finding the perfect that worked well together and delivered? I’ll save you the trouble of reading the article and quote the answer. However, I think creating teams that can foster these types of environment is difficult in practice.

    When Rozovsky and her Google colleagues encountered the concept of psychological safety in academic papers, it was as if everything suddenly fell into place. One engineer, for instance, had told researchers that his team leader was ‘‘direct and straightforward, which creates a safe space for you to take risks.’’ That team, researchers estimated, was among Google’s accomplished groups. By contrast, another engineer had told the researchers that his ‘‘team leader has poor emotional control.’’ He added: ‘‘He panics over small issues and keeps trying to grab control. I would hate to be driving with him being in the passenger seat, because he would keep trying to grab the steering wheel and crash the car.’’ That team, researchers presumed, did not perform well.

  • You won’t believe how Nike lost Steph
    There’s two stories in this article. How Nike lost Steph, and how Under Armor was able to convince Steph to come across to their world. Here’s a quote from the former:

    The pitch meeting, according to Steph’s father Dell, who was present, kicked off with one Nike official accidentally addressing Stephen as “Steph-on,” the moniker, of course, of Steve Urkel’s alter ego in Family Matters. “I heard some people pronounce his name wrong before,” says Dell Curry. “I wasn’t surprised. I was surprised that I didn’t get a correction.”

    It got worse from there. A PowerPoint slide featured Kevin Durant’s name, presumably left on by accident, presumably residue from repurposed materials. “I stopped paying attention after that,” Dell says. Though Dell resolved to “keep a poker face,” throughout the entirety of the pitch, the decision to leave Nike was in the works.

  • What it’s like when your Tinder date lives across the U.S.-Mexico border
    This is an interesting problem faced by people who live near borders. I guess Niagara Falls/Buffalo could have similar things. Although, in this example there are some cultural hangups as well.

    Like Daniel, Jesús can tell from a profile where a girl is from, but it isn’t about language. He says a Mexican girl typically has a profile pic that’s a selfie set in a restroom with bad resolution: “American girls, you see them doing something, like going outdoors or to the beach or going clubbing or having lunch with their friends.” The key difference: “In Mexico, it’s ‘How hot are you?’ In America it’s more ‘What do you do, what are your interests, what do you like?’”

  • World Heat Record Overturned–A Personal Account
    This is a bit esoteric, but I found this to be interesting and convincing. The world heat record used to be 58°C (136.4°F) measured on September 13, 1922 at Al Azizia, Libya. Now the record has returned back to Death Valley!

    In any case, Randy picked up the ball and created an ad-hoc evaluation committee for the World Meteorological Organization to evaluate the record for the WMO Archive of Weather and Climate Extremes (http://wmo.asu.edu/). After this positive response from Randy, I asked El Fadli if Libya officially accepted the Azizia figure. He responded that they did not. Since records like this are, to a degree, the provenance of national interest and El Fadli responded that Libya did not officially accept the colonial-era data from Azizia (measured by Italian authorities at that time in Tripolitania), this became the catalyst to launch an official WMO investigation.

  • ‘How Much Suffering Can You Take?’
    I’m never going to do a marathon, or a triathalon, or an Ironman competetion. But these people do five consecutive Ironmans within 5 days! Is that crazy? Their bodies think they are.

    Ultra-endurance athletes appear to have an increased rate of cardiac arrhythmias, or unusual heartbeats, most likely because of scarring of the heart known as fibrosis. But what, if any, danger that poses has been hard to pin down, Hoffman said.

    “Exactly why the fibrosis occurs probably isn’t understood, but seems to be an adaptive response to this sort of exercise,” he said.

    These ultratriathletes, however, tend not to dwell on the wear and tear of their bodies, at least once the race is done.

    “I know this is not good for my body,” said Jay Lonsway, a urologist who completed the quintuple. “But it is good for my soul.”

November 2016

Typically I try and get ready for Christmas and the new year in November, that means doing all of our Christmas shopping before Black Friday (because the 2 day holiday gives us a long weekend to travel) and getting my year-end blogs ready. This year, I didn’t really get much of that accomplished in that order, but I think it’ll still be OK in the end.

We didn’t plan a trip over American Thanksgiving because Pauline is back at work now. However, I did end up travelling to NYC and staying overnight, except that happened as 2 separate trips to NYC (one overnight, and one day trip). Both were for work and because of the compressed schedule, I didn’t have much time aside from work. Surprisingly, I hadn’t been to New York for more than a year before these trips!

We ended up doing the majority of our Christmas shopping around Black Friday. There are still a couple of outliers but hopefully we can avoid the malls next month. We didn’t actually score much on Black Friday or Cyber Monday, but most of the purchases were strategic to check off our Christmas list.

We didn’t go see any Santa Claus parades this year, but we put up the Christmas tree for the first time in a few years. The kids actually understand what it means now so it’s worthwhile – plus putting it up early means it’ll be around for almost 2 months.

The kids’ fall programs have begun finishing so we’ll have to find some more things for them to do during the next month. But overall, December looks to be calm and not as hectic since we did a lot of preparations in November. Hope it actually turns out that way!

New iTunes Tuning

I’ve been using this scheme for my iTunes playlist for about 10 years now. It’s a good system – when it worked. Unfortunately, when I went through the process of re-organizing my playlists, the dates got all messed up. I’ve went about two years with my smart playlists pulling songs in a dumb manner (half my songs were “added” in the last 2 years).

I finally spent some time and put together a new system. Instead of basing it on when I added the song, I just based it on the year of the song*. So now, I have the following component playlists:

  • Songs from before 1990
  • Songs from 1990 – 1994
  • Songs from 1995 – 1999
  • Songs from 2000 – 2004
  • Songs from 2005 – 2009
  • Songs from 2010 – 2014
  • Songs from 2015 – 2019
  • Songs that I’ve added in the last year
  • Songs rated 1 or 2 stars (above playlists are only 3 stars or higher)
  • Songs that are not rated (added recently)

I have general rules on all of them where it omits songs played within the last 8-12 weeks (12 weeks for the 00s, shorter for older and newer songs) and limits to 10. From that I build a single smart playlist which should be a mix of all time periods, songs that I enjoy listening to but haven’t listened to recently, and have a stronger weighting towards new songs.

Hopefully this system will provide enough variety for another decade, at which point I think everyone will be streaming.

*I know that this is not always accurate, because greatest hits or compilations will have a year of when that CD was released, rather than each individual song

Hearthstone Heroic: Highlord Omokk

Omokk’s hero power is the ability to destroy one of your minions for 0 mana each turn. The effect is random so I thought there were a couple of ways to win:

  • Summon many minions every turn – this is difficult to do
  • Play with no minions – this is doable, but there isn’t enough damage to kill minions and knock off 45 health (plus he gains a bunch of armor through his cards
  • Gain a lot of value through Deathrattles

I tried building a deck using deathrattles but couldn’t find enough minions that had enough value. Instead, I relied on a combined strategy: Warlock damage to destroy minions, health gain, and Rivendare+N’Zoth+Dreadsteed win condition. Basically, stall long enough so that I could amass a board of Dreadsteeds. Here’s the deck list:

  • Forbidden Ritual
  • Sacrificial Pact
  • Bloodsail Corsair x 2
  • Corruption x 2
  • Power Overwhelming x 2
  • Curse of Rafaam x 2
  • Darkbomb x 2
  • Nerubian Egg x 2
  • Demonwrath
  • Drain Life x 2
  • Shadow Bolt x 2
  • Baron Rivendare
  • Dreadsteed x 2
  • Hellfire x 2
  • Antique Healbot x 2
  • Doomguard
  • Siphon Soul
  • N’Zoth, the Corruptor

I defeated Omokk on my second try with this deck. It was close, and I didn’t get my win condition out until Omokk had very few cards in his deck. I was holding onto Rivendare and 1 Dreadsteed for a long time, but couldn’t find the right time to multiply them. Once I did, I was able to play N’Zoth to fill my board. I didn’t draw my second Dreadsteed until the second last card (every card in the deck ended up being useful), but by then Omokk was out of cards and was clearly going to succumb to fatigue.

Hearthstone Heroic: Ragnaros the Firelord

Back from a hiatus of more than half a year, I faced off against Ragnaros again. I stopped previously because I couldn’t think of a good strategy to defeat this boss as he had 2 forms. The first form (Majordomo) summoned a 3/3 each turn (along with some fire-themed minions and spells) – which was manageable. The second form (Ragnaros) played the remainder of the deck/board but his hero power did 8 damage to two targets each turn! I couldn’t figure out how to handle his hero power.

I didn’t have a fresh idea on how to tackle the boss, but just wanted to play some PvE. I took one of my existing decks, which turned out to be the “Shields Up!” recipe, and tried it. It actually worked really well and I got to Ragnaros on my first try. I tweaked it a bit for the boss and won with it on my 3rd or 4th try. Here’s the deck list:

  • Argent Squire x 2
  • Hand of Protection
  • Selfless Hero x 2
  • Argent Protector x 2
  • Equality x 2
  • Huge Toad x 2
  • Loot Hoarder x 2
  • Twisted Worgen x 2
  • Argent Horserider
  • Scarlet Crusader x 2
  • Seal of Champions x 2
  • Steward of Darkshire
  • Blessing of Kings x 2
  • Consecration
  • Dragonkin Sorcerer
  • Blessed Champion
  • Stand Against Darkness
  • Ivory Knight
  • Ragnaros the Firelord (fighting himself)
  • Tirion Fordring

There is a single win condition in this deck – buff up Tirion so that he can kill Ragnaros in one or two turns. In the game I won, I had a 32/5 Tirion. I tried adding a second win condition in Dragonkin Sorcerer in the event that Tirion died, but he wasn’t effective (and in hindsight, it’s not worth it to split resources across two minions).

Divine Shields are also useful in the early game to kill the 3/3 minions and to protect Tirion against larger minions and Ragnaros. Silver Knight recruits are useful in absorbing damage; and Stand Against Darkness was added specifically for this purpose.

In my final game, I was a bit lucky (as always). I finally gained control of the board, had Tirion out, and got Majordomo down to 1HP. On the boss’ turn, he threw out 5 8/8 Molten Giants!

I had Equality in hand and luckily top decked Consecration. That saved the game for me!

Hosting is Dead

By coincidence, I was thinking that Blogging is Dead right when my hosting bill came up for renewal. I signed up for hosting on a super cheap deal (<$10 for a year) and now I’m paying “normal” price for it – about $80 a year. It’s not a lot of money, but I’m getting a lot less value from it then I did in the past. To a point where I’m thinking, should I even bother renewing?

Well what do I lose?

  1. Backups – I used to backup all my music on my host, but they put in some new policy and I was no longer able to do so. I still have all my photos backed up here but the software (Gallery2) is outdated, slow, and buggy. Now I use Google for both music and photo backups. Also my documents are on DropBox, so I don’t need my host for backups anymore!
  2. My blog – While I wouldn’t shed a tear if I lose my ability to blog in the future, I have 2500+ blogs which I don’t want to lose. I can probably import them into WordPress.com or similar service. However, what I don’t have a solution for are my web of interconnected links that point back to my blog, as well as all the media that are hosted and inline in those blogs.
  3. My email – I don’t need my host to host my email, I just need to be able to forward certain addresses to Gmail. However, I do have some catch-all email domains which I have used to sign up for many many services, and it would be impossible to re-create all of those accounts as part of a transition. I guess I can solve this problem if I find a mail service that does catch-all forwarding as well.
  4. My profile – I have my “professional” webpage, which TBH I haven’t looked at in a few years. I think I can get rid of this as everything goes through LinkedIn anyways. I’ll just keep the domain around for email or future use.
  5. Various domains and webspace – I have other random domains hanging around which don’t necessarily need which I could park somewhere. Plus, while it’s nice to have webspace to host a file, this isn’t really an issue anymore with DropBox and the like.

To me, the only thing holding me to a host is my blog. Once I’m comfortable of kill it and its history, I can move on. On the other hand, $80/yr is not a lot, and it will cost money to do advanced email forwarding somewhere else, so maybe getting rid of my host is not that much of a savings.

Android Games 32

Coup is a quick game where you need to bluff your way to victory. You have 2 cards in your hand that you can use to backup your bluff(s), and those cards don’t replenish. Once you have no cards in your hand, you are eliminated so you need to bluff carefully. I think this game would be great if the UI was simpler and the rounds were faster, but there’s just too much graphic detail in the game to make it enjoyable. Oh and the ads. They make the game too annoying to outweigh the marginal enjoyment I get out of playing this, so unfortunately it is an uninstall.

I bought Sentinels of the Multiverse on sale (99¢ I think?) based on what I read from the listing. It seemed interesting as it is a board/card game (later discovered that it originated on Kickstarter) where you play cooperatively as a superhero team to defeat a villain. Or in my case, you play 4 heroes by yourself. I liked the style as it is done as if it were a comic book (the universe was created just for this game, but the heroes fit DC stereotypes). The game itself is very complex. There are a lot of mechanics, and even after several plays, I spend most of the game reading and understanding the cards (which is difficult on phone resolution). That is both a benefit and a curse. It’s good in that in makes the game more of a puzzle than a board game, but it’s bad in that it is not something you can play on automatic. You have to devote concentration and 30-60mins for a game. I’m still on the fence as to whether this is a game I will revisit or not.

Blogging is Dead

This blog post resonated with me recently – blogging is basically dead. Well I don’t mean completely dead, but it’s thought of in the same league as news media or journals – specialized mediums for certain people. Your average joe no longer blogs (or cares about blogs), they post on Facebook (even Twitter is dying). The same thing has happened on my blog for many years now – my blog is being carried by “monthly recaps”.

I used to blog more for a couple of reasons:

  1. I have a place to write down and share my thoughts
  2. I have a record of things so I can look things up later, whether they be photos or reviews or experiences

Reason #1 is not that important to me anymore. Like everyone else, I have Facebook or Twitter for quips, reactions or thoughts. But even then, I’m not really posting those there either. Maybe it’s because I’m older so I feel less of a need to express myself or maybe there’s just too many voices out there that whatever I say is drowned out.

Reason #2 has been replaced by the cloud. Yes I know, when something is on the cloud, it is at the mercy of the provider disappearing and then you’ve lost all your content. But everyone is in the same boat – if Google goes down, you lose all your photos and email. Can you imagine that happening for the entire western world? To me, photos were always the most important in remembering experiences, more so than my recollections or reviews, so once that is backed up, blogging loses its importance.

Miniature Warfare Tavern Brawl

This week’s Hearthstone Tavern Brawl is “Miniature Warfare” which means that all minions are 1/1 and cost only 1 mana. This isn’t the first time this brawl has occurred, but I put together a deck to satisfy some quests and it turned out to be pretty fun (and decently successful). Here’s the Shaman deck list:

  • Runic Egg
  • Spirit Claws
  • Tentacle of N’Zoth
  • Loot Hoarder
  • Maelstrom Portal x 2
  • Unstable Ghoul x 2
  • Hex
  • Ironbeak Owl
  • Lightning Storm x 2
  • Mana Tide Totem
  • Cult Master
  • Elise Starseeker
  • Bloodlust
  • Loatheb
  • Prince Malchezaar
  • Psych-o-Tron
  • Sludge Belcher
  • Stormpike Commando x 2
  • Illidan Stormrage
  • Sylvanas Windrunner
  • Stormwind Champion
  • Chromaggus
  • Kel’Thuzad
  • Ragnaros the Firelord
  • Alexstrasza
  • N’Zoth, the Corruptor

I think this deck works because it has a little bit of everything. Card draw, defense (AOE, Loatheb, taunts, removals like Hex and Ironbeak, and one-offs like Stormpike Commando and Sylvanas), snowballing win conditions (Illidan, Bloodlust), and lots of high value cards (legendaries + Prince Malchezaar).

Too bad I have to get rid of this deck and build a Warrior+Battlecry deck for some new quests.