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Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

My flight down to Dallas didn’t have VOD on the chair in front of me (AA wanted you to use your own device) but my AC flight back did, so I waited until my return flight to watch Batman vs Superman. I wanted to see it but didn’t have high expectations with it being a DC film – Marvel (except the Spider-man franchise) is the gold standard even though I enjoyed the Nolan Batman trilogy. I also heard that the movie was a bit heavy-handed in the whole “Control of the Gods” theme.

I was pleasantly surprised and enjoyed the film a great deal – it’s at least four out of five stars. I think it was because the film was so dark. In Marvel films, the world is in despair but there is still hope and colour. In BvS, it’s like they took the feel of Gotham and applied it to the entire movie. The dystopia is inevitable so why don’t we begin acting like it.

I don’t have a good example but I also felt the plot gave the feeling of a mature world (like Ultimates vs Avengers). It was no-nonsense and trim. The fights and action were fast and crisp, just like superheroes would handle things. I didn’t feel the concept of the Gods were overblown – let’s be clear, the movie was about the three gods of the DC universe. I found Batman’s actions fitting because he is supposed to be paranoid! Luthor is supposed to scheme, Superman is supposed to do what is right, and well I guess we will see what WW does in the future (she’s more like Catwoman at the beginning than WW). I’m also glad they didn’t overemphasize Batman’s brooding or Superman’s boy scout personality.

This was an efficient and entertaining movie and I hope the future Justice League movies will be similar as I’d rather watch these than the Avengers.

Pocket Queue 66

  • This is what life would actually be like without processed food
    If you’re pedantic about not having any processed food, then this is what you’re going to get:

    The second and considerably more problematic consequence is that even the earliest form of food processing has probably contributed to obesity. When you process food, whether by cooking it or simply cutting it into smaller pieces, you tend to get more energy out of it relative to the energy expended processing and digesting it. So we now get more calories from the same amount of food than we used to, even though it’s no more satiating. Surely, Lieberman said, that helps explain why we’re eating so many more calories than we used to.

  • Handcuffed to Uber
    Here is a side you typically don’t hear about – early employees of Uber can’t leave the company because they can’t pay the tax on their options!

    In a completely hypothetical example, let’s say an early, top Uber engineer was given .5 percent of the company. Now let’s say this person was awarded options in 2011, when Uber raised $11 million in Series A funding at a reported $60 million valuation. His ownership stake at the time would have been $300,000. Yet today, that same stake (undiluted) would now be worth $300 million at Uber’s reported current post-money valuation of $60 billion. That’s a paper gain of $299,700,000.

  • A Bird’s-Eye View of Nature’s Hidden Order
    Fascinating introduction to the idea of hyperuniformity and how it appears in Nature. This is something you inherently know about, but haven’t ever formalized.

    Torquato and a colleague launched the study of hyperuniformity 13 years ago, describing it theoretically and identifying a simple yet surprising example: “You take marbles, you put them in a container, you shake them up until they jam,” Torquato said in his Princeton office this spring. “That system is hyperuniform.”

    The marbles fall into an arrangement, technically called the “maximally random jammed packing,” in which they fill 64 percent of space. (The rest is empty air.) This is less than in the densest possible arrangement of spheres — the lattice packing used to stack oranges in a crate, which fills 74 percent of space. But lattice packings aren’t always possible to achieve. You can’t easily shake a boxful of marbles into a crystalline arrangement.

  • After three weeks in China, it’s clear Beijing is Silicon Valley’s only true competitor
    I’m curious about how tech is run in China given the everything-goes business mindset and standard sweatshop conditions. Those sound like bad points for the industry, but I think that it actually means that they can compete better than western companies.

    In China, there is a company work culture at startups that’s called 9/9/6. It means that regular work hours for most employees are from 9 am to 9 pm, six days a week. If you thought Silicon Valley has intense work hours, think again.

    For founders and top executives, it’s often 9/11/6.5. That’s probably not very efficient and useful (who’s good as a leader when they’re always tired and don’t know their kids?) but totally common.

  • What Are the Odds We Are Living in a Computer Simulation?
    This is a very fascinating article about the idea that we really are in “The Matrix”. It’s fascinating because I’ve thought the idea to be really interesting ever since watching Men In Black when they zoomed out at the end and it turns out that our galaxy was just a marble in a box of some bigger being.

    Bostrom, in his original paper, envisioned a different possibility: if the computational cost of all these nested simulations is too high, he wrote, our simulators might simply click “quit.” The invention of simulation might be the end of the world.

Pokemon Go

While I was never a fan of Pokemon, I had to try playing Pokemon Go because it is the latest craze. On the surface, this game has plenty of stuff that will appeal to me: the location-based gameplay is interesting (and was the reason I tried out Ingress previously), AR is pretty cool, the UI is pretty slick, and I’m a sucker for collecting/levelling games. Plus, everyone who has a smartphone is playing it so why wouldn’t it be good?

Strangely, I played for a bit and it’s just not entertaining to me. The lack of interest/fandom in the Pokemon franchise really kills it for me (especially the levelling part – I’d much rather play a franchise I’m interested in, like Star Trek). I am not out enough to go to Poke-stops or Gyms (even though there are 2 that are 1 minute from my house), and it’s difficult to hunt Pokemon with two little kids on the loose. Without walking around to catch Pokemon, the game is actually incredibly shallow (I just catch Drowzees sitting at home).

I suspect that a lot of people that play will drop it in a few weeks and this will be just another fad like Miitomo and Clash Royale of recent history.

Mr Holmes

Mr Holmes tells the story of the “true” Sherlock Holmes and his final days. The Holmes in this movie is a little different than his portrayal within the books that his partner, Mr Watson writes. It’s a couple of things here and there; but most importantly how he completed his final case.

In “real life”, Holmes retired immediately following his final case and has lived the last 30 years of his life (he’s now 93) in the country side. He also is slowly going senile but upon the urging of his housekeeper’s son, gets curious as to why he can’t remember his last case and why it caused him to retire.

The is hardly any action and adventure in this movie but it tells a story of a feeble and human Sherlock Holmes. He still has his wit and observational skill, but he doesn’t need to solve anything – he just needs to remember. That in itself is interesting because he’s a superhero (like Batman) but now that he is a shadow of himself, can he regain his dignity again?

I’m conflicted as to what I should rate this film. I don’t think it is a 4 because while it is good, it is just a story and I’m going to forget about it soon. But it is better than your typical 3 out of 5 summer blockbusters because the story is written well with multiple plotlines coming together to the conclusion. I guess it is a 3.5 out of 5 (trying to avoid half ratings though).

June 2016

June started with a trip to Korea for a couple of days for work. Like the previous trip, it was pretty uneventful and short – I did get a morning of sightseeing in before having to fly back though.

This month, we tried to eat dinner a little bit earlier and then go out for walks & stuff afterwards. We didn’t do that as often as I would like but did go a couple of times. We also finished our backyard (more or less). Deck/fence has been stained and our patio furniture is assembled. That provides a good alternative to going to the park if we don’t have a lot of time – we can just let the kids loose in there. I think the only thing we need now is an umbrella. It’s also better to let them in the backyard as the weather gets hotter and hotter in the summer, they can quickly come back in for some A/C or a drink; although the drawback is they can’t ride their bike there.

June also saw the end of all of Apollo’s extra-curricular programs and pre-school. He’s on to his summer schedule (read: no classes) so gets to spend a lot of time around us now. Jovian celebrated his second year old birthday this month! He’s now older than Apollo was when Jovian was born – therefore, supposedly an independent toddler now!

Orange

Orange is a Japanese film and I guess the title of the film is something in lost in translation. It is a story about a 16 year old girl who discovers a letter from her 26 year old self. In the letter it describes what will happen with a new boy in school and the regret that she feels.

I’m a sucker for letter-from-the-future stories because it would be awesome to know how to live your life by making the correct decisions. Unfortunately, we won’t know if our decisions are correct without hindsight; something that an older version of you can provide. What complicates this movie is that the protagonist is a teenager so even if she knows what is the right thing to do, and wants to do it; she may not have the self esteem to carry it out.

I thought the actors portrayed the awkwardness of being a teen really well. Furthermore, the plot jumps between the past and “present day” (ten years in the future) and that adds further twists to the how the events played out, and how the older girl wants them to play out.

What was odd was the title. I think they referred to orange as the color the cherry blossoms made when they fell from the trees – which was also the time the future letter appeared. Seems like a weird thing to pick on to title the film. In any case, this was an enjoyable movie to watch and it gets 3 out of 5 stars.

Zoolander 2

While I knew that it was going to be horrible, I felt obligated to watch Zoolander 2 because the first was iconic and memorable for me. I was not disappointed because it was a bad movie – I would struggle to find a reason to watch it if you hadn’t see the original.

I think the worse moments in the movie are the ones when Zoolander or Hansel are talking about themselves or each other – in contrast, those moments where they are being made fun of (such as the first Don Atari show) were the best. The plot and dialogue typically made no sense, even when Zoolander wasn’t talking but surprisingly the movie wasn’t boring. I think because of that, this movie is a 2 out of 5 stars. If anything, this prevents me from wanting to see Zoolander 3 if one ever occurs.

Movie Rating System

I’ve been watching a lot of movies (on airplanes) lately, and while in my mind it is pretty clear what constitutes each star rating, maybe it’s not clear for everyone else – so here is my system.

5 star – this movie is monumental and changes how I think or I’ve my life.
4 star – the movie is thought provoking and I’m thinking about some of the themes after watching it.
3 star – the movie was enjoyable to watch
2 star – I finished watching the movie but it was boring/not interesting. I could’ve used my time better and watched another movie instead.
1 star – I had to stop the movie in the middle because it was boring/sucked/etc

I think I’ve been fairly consistent with my movie reviews by following this system in my head.

Star Trek Timeline Levelling Order

After playing Star Trek Timelines for a little bit, it became apparent that levelling (maxing) out characters would be a good approach. By maxing your characters, you do better at shuttle missions, which allow you to level your other characters faster. So I proceeded to pick certain characters to max as follows (based on fading recollections):

  • February: Wesley Crusher, Security Chief Tuvok
  • March: Captain Janeway, Commando Crusher, Cretak (stalled at level 80)
  • April: Captain Proton (progressed very slow due to equipment requirements), Rifle Janeway, Miles ‘Smiley’ O’Brien, 1701 Dax, Prisoner ‘Bones’ McCoy
  • May: Fencing Sulu, Sela, Worf (stalled at 90), Reyga, Khan, Mobile Doctor (stalled at 80)
  • June: Khan, Tuvix, Mirror Uhura, Worf (2-star & stalled at 90), Picard (2-star), Garek, Ensign Seska

I guess I want to get to a point where all my characters are max level – I’m not buying premium packs, so I can only get new characters from portal pulls (daily rewards/events), credits (although they give two stars which are easier to level, and I’m throwing out ones that aren’t needed for Cadet Challenges), or events. I’m also not level any 3 star character that is not fully fused. Hopefully I’m over the hump and can level characters faster than I attain them.

Pocket Queue 65

  • Not All Practice Makes Perfect
    Malcolm Gladwell’s written about Deliberate Practice, and he derived that term from work that this author has done. This author goes on to coin “Purposeful Practice”, which is kind of the same thing.

    We have especially strong evidence of this phenomenon as it applies to physicians. Research on many specialties shows that doctors who have been in practice for 20 or 30 years do worse on certain objective measures of performance than those who are just two or three years out of medical school. It turns out that most of what doctors do in their day-to-day practice does nothing to improve or even maintain their abilities; little of it challenges them or pushes them out of their comfort zones. For that reason, I participated in a consensus conference in 2015 to identify new types of continuing medical education that will challenge doctors and help them maintain and improve their skills.

  • One Swede Will Kill Cash Forever—Unless His Foe Saves It From Extinction
    It seems like a no-brainer to move towards a cash-less economy – we’re most of the way there anyways. But this article talks about a compelling reason that a member of ABBA raised to push us towards that goal.

    In 2010, 40 percent of Swedish retail transactions were made using cash; by 2014 that amount had fallen to about 20 percent. More than half of bank offices no longer deal in cash. To his claim that going cashless is the “biggest crime-preventing scheme ever,” Ulvaeus now has some statistics to back it up. The Swedish National Council for Crime Prevention counted only 23 bank robberies in 2014, down 70 percent from a decade earlier. In the same period, muggings dropped 10 percent. While it’s unclear the extent to which the transition to cashless has affected the rate of street crime, police point out that there’s a lot less incentive to rob a bus driver, cabbie, or shopkeeper if they don’t accept cash.

  • How game theory can help you do a better job of parenting
    This is an interesting idea for an article, but unfortunately the article is too short – giving only 3 examples of how game theory could be applied. Here’s one of them:

    Now let’s make it a bit more difficult. The cake is half chocolate and half vanilla. Your son loves chocolate; your daughter prefers vanilla. If your daughter cuts the cake in a way that gives each of them half of the chocolate and half of the vanilla, the cut is fair. Each piece is the same size. But neither child is entirely happy, because each got some cake they didn’t want. Turn the cut the other way – and divide it into a chocolate half for your son and a vanilla half for your daughter, and both are far happier. Both cuts were fair, but the cut into chocolate and vanilla halves demonstrated what’s called Pareto optimality. Each was not only fairly treated, but also got the best possible outcome.

  • How Uber conquered London
    Yet another article about Uber, but this one covers a lot of things including how Uber started in London, and how drivers are paid.

    Driver No 1 was Darren Thomas. Before he joined Uber, most of his work came from Spearmint Rhino, the lap dancing club. Thomas had drifted back into chauffeuring after working for seven years as a salesman in the tiling industry. He signed up for as many hours as he could bear. “I absolutely caned it,” he told me. Soon he was earning £2,500 a week. On Uber’s first day in London, in the middle of June 2012, Howard had around 50 drivers on the platform. They did only 30 trips in 24 hours, but there was a single, glorious moment when seven rides were under way simultaneously and Kalanick happened to log in from San Francisco. “Travis was just blown away,” said Howard. “He was like, ‘Guys, look at London! This is unbelievable!’ It was just kismet, I guess.”

  • No one ever says it, but in many ways global warming will be a good thing
    Interesting article about the benefits of global warming – the press always talks about the negative effects, but it turns out that the global warming will actually help the human race significantly as well.

    Similarly, we know that many more people die from cold than from heat. The biggest study on heat and cold deaths, published last year in Lancet, examined more than 74 million deaths from 384 locations in 13 countries from cold Sweden to hot Thailand. The researchers found that heat causes almost one-half of one percent of all deaths, while more than 7 percent are caused by cold.

    As global warming pushes temperatures up, more people will die in heat waves; a point emphasized by campaigners like UN climate chief, Christiana Figueres. What we don’t hear from her is that fewer people will die from cold. One study for England and Wales shows that heat kills 1,500 annually and cold kills 32,000. By the 2080s, increased heat-waves will kill nearly 5,000 in a comparable population. But ‘cold deaths’ will have dropped by 10,000, meaning 6,500 fewer die altogether.