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August 2015

This August was hot! There were days that had a humidex of 37°C but luckily for me, I wasn’t affected since I didn’t have to go outside or take TTC etc. By the time we went out after dinner, the temperatures had become more reasonable. By the end of the month, temperatures were much cooler (low-mid 20s) and it started getting dark noticeably earlier (around 8pm instead of almost 9 in July).

I split this month between three games. I maxed out all my crew (300 in all stats) in Star Trek Trexels, yet was still unable to finish the last 2 set of missions. It’s going to sit idle until they patch the game (or I get a new phone). I started playing Hearthstone again – bought the Blackrock Mountain single player with excess Google Play credit and started saving gold for The Grand Tournament packs. I think I’ve been away from the game long enough, and haphazardly collecting GVG cards that I have enough to make some new interesting (to me) decks. So there’s a bit of freshness again. I also continued to play Heroes of the Storm although it’s not very fun anymore. It’s more just to farm gold.

The only travelling I did this month was to go to Rochester for a weekend with Apollo’s friends. We visited the Strong Museum of Play which is less like a museum and more of a gigantic kids play area. Jovian is much more confident at walking this month so now we have two toddlers that can walk around.

Super Boring

Recently been bemused about how couples or single people without kids wonder why their friends with kids don’t hang out with them anymore. It’s a natural divide that happens and I think a lot of the time the without-kids believe that new parents are just too busy. I guess that’s true part of the time, but I think the reason is a lot simpler than that. Kids just don’t want to do what their parents and their friends used to do!

Most of what our friends used to do tend to do revolve around a couple of things. You can have gatherings where you sit around and talk (at someone’s house, at a bar, at a restaurant). Surprisingly, kids find this super boring. Or you could appreciate some cultural event like a concert, museum, play, movie etc. Kids can’t appreciate the culture and thus finds it super boring.

Maybe you will do some sort of activity like rock climbing, bike riding, or hiking. This one is a twist because kids probably don’t find it boring, but they’re just not capable of doing those activities yet. Maybe you’ll go travelling instead (kids can walk and see sights). Unfortunately, walking around is boring as is sitting around a car/plane/bus to get to your destination (super boring).

Basically everything that an adult might enjoy doing is super boring for kids. And when kids are super bored, they will be super annoying! That’s why we no longer spend a lot of time doing the things that we used to do – we find new activities to do with the kids, and hopefully some of those are not super boring for the adults!

Android Games 25

Fallout Shelter has been hyped a lot and it certainly looks like a polished game. However, when I tried it, it just seemed like a (pretty) freemium game with a lot of room upgrading and farming. I have too much fatigue from grinding through these types of games so I couldn’t convince myself to play through it.

I played a game like Current Flow called Curvy when I first got an Android phone. It was fun and I even thought about buying it. However, by the time I decided to do that, I also decided I didn’t want an Android 2.x style app on my phone. Luckily, now I can play a similar game for free!

Like Being Stuck in a Time Travel Loop

The completionist in me has me suffering through Trexels (which I disparaged here) so that I can clear all the missions. It’s still a horrible game, but right now I don’t have another casual alternative. So on I go.

The farming isn’t even most infuriating thing – I can live with that (because that is what kills time). I can even get around the UI bugs now because I know what they are and can avoid them. It’s the poor software that is to blame (some bugs, some not). I even made a list!

  • There are rooms that give adjacent rooms a bonus. One would think if you put a room between two bonus rooms, that room should get double bonuses right? Nope!
  • Upgrading room takes time in a sequence (30 min -> 10 hours -> 24 hours). However after you move an upgraded room, every once in a while it gets reset down to level 1. Now you have to invest another 2 days into leveling it (and losing the associated farming)
  • There is a bug where if you do a holodeck simulation and gain command/research/power, those values do not reset after you are awarded the resource. Instead, each subsequent award is added to the previous (so first time you get 500, then next time you get 1000, then 1500, etc). Meaning, it is possible to get unlimited command/research/power at a much faster rate than farming
  • There is a holodeck simulation that costs 0 resources to attempt (Sector 2 – Mura Tapa away mission). Not a big deal when you have unlimited resources, but good to start out with. Later you can use Sector 7’s Arodna Prime to get a lot of resources really quickly once it is stacked.
  • There are some missions that assume you have a specific character – for example, the Lore mission assumes you have Data as a helmsman as the dialog talks from Data’s perspective. Except…Data is not free and costs a large amount of premium currency to obtain. Also, you get Sulu for free and he is a helmsman, so a lot of players will probably not invest their hard earned premium currency on Data. Why is Sulu talking like Lore is his brother??
  • In general, not a lot of attention was paid to who is speaking the dialog. Often the captain refers to him/herself in third person!
  • There are some missions that are just bugged and cannot be completed (i.e., Sector 2’s Mendel mission which many people have complained online about – yet has not been fixed!)
  • The later missions are impossibly hard even with fully leveled crew members (300 in all stats). I’ve even resorted to using character bonuses (i.e., +Combat) on top of the 300 stat in an attempt to pass them (they ask for only 240 average stats) and it doesn’t work. Basically it is now impossible for me, through skill, to pass any space or hand-to-hand combat missions. I have to wait for a fix or wait until the random number generator is in my favour.

Wow, that’s a lot of bugs!

July 2015

I started out in July by working on Canada Day but then flying out to Vancouver for the Independence day long weekend. I have family in Vancouver, and others flying in from Calgary and HK so it was sort of a family reunion. I didn’t end up taking as many pictures as I should have (I end up taking a lot more pictures on my own vacation), and we didn’t really do vacation-y stuff either. However, we had four full days with everyone as we flew back on a red-eye on Sunday.

The next week, work decided that I had to go to Korea for meetings so there was a few days of scrambling around. Then, just as suddenly, my trip got cancelled. To be honest, it’s for the better. The last 2 months have been an endless cycle of packing and unpacking between travelling for pleasure and travelling for work. At the same time we’re still building out our deck and had some visitors in town.

Luckily the second half of the month was much calmer and we were able to get back into a routine. The deck is almost done and we started thinking about patio furniture – unfortunately we seemed to have missed the clearance sales as they happen just before Canada Day. The weather started getting too hot to go outside anyways as Toronto was hit by 2 heat waves at the end of the month with temperatures in the mid thirties after humidex.

Toronto hosted the Pan Am games this month but there wasn’t a lot of impact to us. We saw some of the events on TV and benefited from having more HOV lanes around the city (although the main stretch of 401 that we would use did not have them). Canada seemed to win an inordinate amount of medals though. I’m not sure if it’s because of home-field advantage/enthusiasm or because we deployed our best athletes but the other countries only brought ones who could fit it into their schedule.

Google Photos (but not backup)

Although I said that Google Photos was not the solution that I needed to backup my photos online, I ended up starting the process of uploading all of my photos to the service. It’s taking a long time since almost 50GB of photos so I’ve been doing them overnight. Although I’m not going to use it as backup, I think it’ll be worthwhile to have them online for future use.

I usually organize my photos by year and since I already have another way of backing up photos online, I think my online collection might tend to be a year behind (so as to not upload photos twice as they take a long time). I’m also thinking that I will upload all photos that I’ve come across, not just the ones I’ve taken. So any photos that people have sent or shared with me I’ll just upload them. Hopefully Google will have some neat algorithms (their Assistant results so far have been underwhelming) or scalable UX to navigate them in the future.

Heroes of the Storm

I started playing Heroes of the Storm this month, which is a game made by Blizzard for desktop that is based off of DOTA (which in turn was based off of Warcraft 3 so I guess this has gone full circle). DOTA really kicked of the trend of MOBA games and Blizzard wanted to get in on the action with its own free-to-play version.

The genre has evolved since I last played DOTA, which I guess was about back in 2009 or 2010. I haven’t played League of Legends or DOTA2 and the gameplay in HoTS is a bit different than DOTA. I’m not sure if they introduced those changes or if that’s the way the genre works now. In any case, HoTS makes the game a lot more accessible (no more recipes & items to build, last hit creeps, etc) but it looks like there’s still significant depth in the skills that you pick for a hero so you can play them in different ways.

I like the fact that you gain experience and game progress outside of each match (something that wasn’t possible with the way that DOTA was architected as a mod) and the addition of secondary objectives (in addition to ganking and pushing) are interesting; but after playing each map a couple of times, they get a bit tiring. I played intensely for about a week, but after awhile it feels like DOTA again and not that compelling. At least they don’t have monthly awards for ranked play like Hearthstone does so I don’t have to keep opening it up later.

Hearthstone Update

It’s almost been a year since I blogged about Hearthstone (surprisingly). A lot has changed but a lot has still stayed the same. I haven’t been actively playing, but I’ve been playing enough per month to get each new card back (you need 8 or 9 wins in ranked play a month). The game has finally been released for Android tablets and phones, but I haven’t installed it yet – I still don’t like the fact that you have to be online to play.

An expansion pack and another single-player adventure was released. I’ve been spending my gold on the new expansion’s pack but I seem to get a lot of duplicates (there just aren’t a lot of common cards I guess). I skipped buying the single-player adventure. Maybe I’ll get it in the future if it is ever cheap. I don’t play enough to justify spending $25 on a few legendaries.

Blizzard introduced a new Tavern Brawl mode. That’s the first fun I’ve had in Hearthstone for a long time. The new weekly rules add more randomness to the game so while it’s probably less a reflection of one’s skill/cards but it’s a lot more entertaining!

Still waiting to have more than 9 decks. It’s a pain but I guess there is some unknown UX or gameplay reason for Blizzard to keep this limit in place.

Kingsmen: The Secret Service

After watching Gone Girl on my flight back from SF, I had enough time for one more movie. Unfortunately the selection of recent movies on Air Canada was poor this month and I ended up picking Kingsmen: The Secret Service. As I don’t watch TV/pay attention to movies, I didn’t really know what this movie was about – nor did I know that it was based on a comic book.

It turns out that this movie is somewhat of a satire of Bond/Spy movies. But not in an Austin Powers type of way, so I enjoyed the parts that were a parody much better. I’m sure the plot will be dated in 5 or 10 years, but it was entertaining for me right now.

As the movie does not take itself too seriously, there is also a lot of liberty in the plot. As long as you approach it as a fun movie that will kill 2 hours, then I think you’ll enjoy it. I give this one 3 out of 5 stars.

June 2015

This month, I think I was away from home more than I was here. The first 2 weeks were travelling in Europe with the kids. It took a lot of planning but it went pretty well. We visited some interesting stuff and nothing disasterous happened. Portugal was pretty nice, Spain I didn’t enjoy as much though.

Jovian turned one years old this month. He grew a lot (both physically and in our minds) while we were in Europe and he feels like a toddler now, and not a baby. We didn’t do a party but had a dinner with family. He also practiced his cake eating skills.

After coming back from Europe for a few days and catching up on things (i.e., laundry), I flew out to Silicon Valley for a week for work. Nothing exciting to report there as it was just work and no opportunity for play. And while it’s not part of June, we’re also flying out for a family reunion in the beginning of July so I’ve been flying and travelling a lot in the last few weeks.

I started paying more attention to hockey near the end of the month as well. The NHL awards happened, immediately followed by the draft. There was a lot of trade speculation surrounding the Leafs so that kept my attention. We had a nice pick too but it’ll be a couple of years before we see how that plays out.