When my Vostok Amphibia arrived, I spent a bunch of time getting it setup. I had to adjust the band and of course set the time. Luckily for me, I received an English manual right?
The watch is kind of tricky because of the mechanism on the crown. Instead of pulling the crown out, you have to unscrew it. Then you pull it out to set the time, or turn it to wind it up. The instructions came with a cryptic message on how to change the date, except it said to rotate the watch head instead of the winding head to change the date. What the heck is a watch head? Turns out what the meant is that there is no dedicated mechanism to change the date so you have to change the date by shifting rotating 24 hours at a time.
But wait, there’s a shortcut thanks to Russian engineering. If you rotate the hands until the hour hand is at midnight (not noon, so you might need to experiment a bit), and then rotate the hour hand back (clockwise) to BEFORE 9PM (so 8PM), you can increment the day by rotating the hour hand back to 12. That means you can shift a day in 1/6th the time, which was helpful as the date was set to 31 and I had to rotate it forwards to 28.
I ran into a second problem. Apparently, you can stop the second hand by rotating the crown backwards (clockwise) when you’re adjusting the time. I couldn’t get it started again. I searched and tried a lot of things but the following worked:
- Use a watchmaker’s flick on it (watch face up and then violently shake it left/right like a pendulum where your elbow is static)
- Unscrew and set the crown to position 3 and then alternate between clockwise and counterclockwise. I had a spot where the second hand would jump a bit so I rotated to there and then alternated
Then the second hand started moving on its own again. Maybe I should never take this watch off so I never have to adjust the time again.
Toronto got a lot of press in November as our mayor put us in the world’s media lens due to his notoriety. He admitted to smoking crack, and his drunken antics were replayed around the world. Not surprisingly, city business was interrupted. Rob Ford didn’t loose his job, but he was stripped of most of his power until the next election. He might win the next election still, he still has a lot of support in the city!
This month (coinciding when with I got the Nexus 5), I decided to stop, cold turkey, playing two games that I had been playing – while I had been kind of unhappy with Happy Street, it was still fun (they added more new content). I also stopped playing Cookie Clicker. I just felt it was time to stop playing those and try some new ones.
Even though it was one whole month before Christmas, it felt like retailers were gearing up for it! There were a bunch of ridiculous shopping deals. We even went down to Grove City for Black Friday (weekend!). This is probably the latest time that we’ve driven down there. We just missed a large snow storm and fortunately the weather shouldn’t be too cold (we had some real winter weather in November this year).
The by-product of randomly surfing around is that I inevitably end up buying something. That’s what caused me to buy a Vostok Amfibia (although to be fair it wasn’t an impulse buy).
I happened on this brand because I was looking at automatic watches, and the Vostok was mentioned as a cheap (but not Chinese cheap) automatic. They are an entirely Russian brand and was the official supplier of watches for the USSR defense department! You can get a new Vostok (they are still being made) for only about $50-$60 USD and it’s a pretty solid watch. It’s a diver, so waterproof up to 200m using an interesting engineering strategy; and of course it doesn’t need batteries as it is an automatic.
I ended up spending a lot of time looking at these watches. The first time I went looking at them, I didn’t buy one because while the watch cost $60 USD, shipping cost $20! At the time, I also had a lot of watches arriving so I didn’t need another one. The second time, I ended up buying one because I started getting tired of my existing watches. It still took a long time though!
The main problem was that it was hard to decide what to get. The are many permutations for the design. You could pick from 3 different types of bezels, a couple varieties of straps, a couple varieties of cases, and most importantly, an incredible amount of watch dials. Aside from the interesting history of the Amphibias, I was piqued at the Russian kitsch that most of the dials had. Certainly, this was not a watch you would wear to a formal event – it was just for fun. I was trying to decide whether I wanted a tank, airplane, or a submarine on my watch!
In the end I picked the above dial. It has an image of an anchor and a chain around the exterior. I liked the white back and the fact that the numbers were clear and distinguished – green with black outlines. Although it took a month and a half to arrive, I’m happy with my purchase!
I started playing Tiny Death Star for two reasons – I was no longer playing Happy Street and thus did not have a game that would take up a lot of time (but not a lot of attention) and because of the hype around it.
I played tiny tower a bit before (again because of hype) but didn’t find the game that fun. I was also playing Happy Street at the time too, so maybe it was because I didn’t want to play to time intensive games at the same time? Well now that I’m playing Tiny Death Star by itself, it’s clear to me that Happy Street is a better game.
The problem with Tiny Death Star is that there isn’t a lot to work towards. You build money making floors to make money, staff it with people from your residential floors, and then pay increasingly higher costs for higher floors. You can try and collect all the floors, which I’m sure most people will after awhile. So your only rewards are additional floors and more money. There is an in-game currency (Imperial Bux) which seems to me to be worthless. If you have patience you will unlock everything that you can use the premium currency for. The only thing you can’t get are faster elevators, but the game is generous in giving out the premium currency so I’m sure you can save up for it.
Happy Street is better because there are many more things to unlock and build towards. Having played that, it’s hard to really enjoy playing Tiny Death Star. Even if there are cute pixelated Star Wars characters.
- There’s no good, free app for Instapaper on Android. I tried Everpaper when I first moved to Android and the UI/design just didn’t appeal to me. And I don’t want to spend a couple of bucks buying the official app. Pocket has a free app.
- Pocket has Kobo integration so I can push my saved articles onto my Kobo (looks like it doesn’t support my Touch though). I tried doing this with my Kindle and Instapaper and I didn’t like how it was formatted (a bunch of articles in a PDF). Hopefully once I get my Aura, this integration will be better
I haven’t blogged about any games for awhile, but here’s a couple I played recently:
This version of Catan for Android costs $3.99 and there are IAP for Seafarers and Cities & Knights. Some of the reviews make it seem like you HAVE to buy at least one of the expansions in order to play, but that’s plainly not true. If you just buy the base game, you can play the normal version of Catan for free (against bots). There are a bunch of scenarios and a campaign mode (which is feature prominently perhaps causing the confusion) that require the expansions, but it’s not mandatory. It is a decent port of the game, although I like the XBOX360 version better. I think the AI in this game is a bit weak – sometimes I can really run away with a game. I also thought that the game wouldn’t work well on a handheld (it looks like it needs a tablet), but it is quite playable on my phone.
This is one of those games that when you start it up, you’re thinking – Wow! I only paid $1 for this (on sale), what a steal! The theme song and opening video is great (tribute to ’80s rock videos) and the main character is funny. He’s an interesting balance of witty but also corny comebacks. Even though they’re comebacks are corny, they kind of make sense because he is trashy himself! You’re playing a lawyer who represents stupid criminals and you’re goal is to get them off scot-free.
After I played for awhile though, the gameplay started getting repetitive. You take turns with the prosecution by trying to destroy each other’s case. I thought it would be in the vein of Ace Attorney, but you just use a set of actions against your opponents. It’s actually a lot like a card game with pretty graphics. I suppose if you played it on hard, you would need to plan the correct sequence of actions to win your case, but I’m not interested in that challenge.
I came across another incredible shopping deal that I took advantage of – because there was actually something I wanted to buy! I saw a Kobo Aura at the airport one time and was attracted to it because it was smaller than my existing Kobo and the screen was flush (not indented like other Kobo and Kindle models). Also it had a backlight which is useful, but not necessary. I was waiting for a deal on it, perhaps on Boxing Day because it was a little expensive at $149.99 ($169.49 after tax).
I had also seen that Shop.ca was having a lot of (stackable) promos recently, and looked on their site for the Aura. They didn’t have it, but suddenly one day, they did. I ended up buying it there and stacked A LOT of promos into a single purchase. Here is how I made out.
|-$10.00||Applied a coupon (ebates)|
|-$25.00||Shop.ca new member rewards|
|-$25.00||Paypal/Shop.ca special offer|
So I only ended up paying $108.19 for an item that would have cost me $169.49. Pretty good eh? That’s a 36% discount.
BUT WAIT, I also get some money back for various reasons as part of this purchase
|-$26.64||20% Ebates cash back on $133.19|
|-$10.00||Ebates cash back for first purchase|
|-$6.66||5% cash back Paypal promo|
After all the cash back (assuming I get everything back in my Paypal account), the Kobo Aura would have cost me $64.89, which is a discount of 71%! What an incredible deal!
I was excited when I heard about Star Command. I missed (both of) their Kickstarter campaigns, but I might have invested in them if I hadn’t! A pixelated version of Star Trek where you can explore the galaxy seemed right up my alley. I was disappointed that it came out first on iOS, but it was promised that it would eventually make it to Android. I was again disappointed that it was first released as part of a Humble Bundle (but not this one), and I figured I would just wait until I bought it on Google Play (for an easier time with updates). I finally bought it with some Google Play credit.
I finished the first run through (there is a New Game+) in about 5 hours. That seems pretty short for a $2.99 “premium” game (as they call it). In fact, in the 5 hours, I played all of the side missions and I grinded my ship for a long time too! In fact, I think grinded too much because when I started playing the storyline, it was super easy!
Star Command has an uphill battle because it needs to construct the universe lore without being in the Star Trek universe (of course there are a lot of illusions to Star Trek allies & enemies). Part of what makes the game interesting is to see what will happen next. That’s slightly different than the plot, because the plot is pretty sub-par. But you want to see what parts of next scene will be like Star Trek. Also it’s kind of disappointing that you can pick replies but the dialog remains the same (for the most part).
After all the hype, I was disappointed in the gameplay. The initial few levels are fun as you get used to the mechanics (and having your red shirts die in battle) but after a few levels (especially after grinding), it becomes formulaic. Your ship has an incredible advantage in that the shields regenerate, while you just keep shooting at your enemies who can hardly repair their ship. The RTS becomes:
- Wait for weapons to charge
- Play weapons mini games
- Press shield boost button when available
The in game fighting is fun for awhile. Then you realize it’s too hard to click and control your redshirts. It seems like it would make more sense when you can group your crew into security teams and order them around (with waypoints).
Perhaps this is because I was able to fully upgrade my ship before starting the main storyline. It is too easy to grind the tutorial missions and get tokens to upgrade your ship. Although, I’m not actually sure how much benefit the upgrades are (increases damage by x%, decrease wait time by y%) as the enemies don’t really get any harder, and no new gameplay elements are added. Similarly, the crew RPG elements don’t seem that useful. At higher levels, you get a single special ability button. You can’t choose what it is, and half the time I don’t understand what the icon does.
Overall, the game is neat to play, but there doesn’t seem to be much to keep your attention if you’re not fascinated by the concept. In addition, the $2.99 price tag is pretty steep – there are many better free or $1 games. Perhaps my review will change once I play New Game+ as there are still a bunch of locations which I am prevented from flying to.
Speaking of board games and playing them on mobile devices, here’s my list of games that I’ve played/seen and find fun. It’s not so much a complete list, but rather ones that I’ve played which don’t have a crappy UI/AI. Maybe I’ll remember to keep this list updated when I find more
- Androminion (clone of Dominion) [Android]
- 7 Wonders (someone created a unauthorized version and was C&D’d) [Android]
- Neuroshima Hex [Android/iOS]
- Condado (clone of San Juan) [Android]
- Ascension [iOS]
- Bang! The Spaghetti Western [iOS]
- Catan Dice Game [Android]
- Catan [Android/iOS]
I also play the following on my desktop
- JCloisterZone (clone of Carcassonne).
- Ticket To Ride
- Puerto Rico
I know of the following, but I don’t play them
- Carcassonne [Android/iOS different publishers] (I don’t play this because JClositer is better/free and the game is not that fun)
- Greed Corp [Android] (I played this on XBOX360 already)
I’ve tried a lot to like Quora – it sounds like a great idea, where smart people can provide answers to some interesting questions, but in practice I don’t get much value out of it. I’ve had an account for awhile and subscribed to their weekly email blast where they send out interesting answers to interesting questions. That is mildly entertaining for me. But the site on a whole seems rather boring.
Maybe it’s a time commitment thing and I don’t spend enough time browsing around Quora. So I gave Quora another chance and installed their app on my new phone. I tried it for a bit but am still not enjoying the experience. I think the problem for me is that the interesting to not-so-interesting ratio is low. I installed the app as “reading material” and there are only so many interesting answers (and they are hard to find in the stream of updates).
I guess I will have to find another “reading material” app!