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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.

Ender’s Game

I enjoyed this book and am glad I finally read it. Like some of the other novels I have read recently, it was engaging and I wanted to keep reading to find out what happened.

The plot is about a child, the human race, and how the child is trained to save the human race from an interstellar enemy. There is a movie version, and I saw a bit of the ending previously. Like most stories, the good guys win – but it was interesting to see how it got to that point. The majority of the book covers the time when Ender (the child) is going through primary school. Of course, instead of primary school with kids – it’s the military…with kids. The battle simulations that he played were fun to read.

The second half of the story, where he actually grows up and embarks on his mission in life was rather short. After the author spent all that time writing about Ender’s “childhood”, I thought there might be more about the actual war. It’s almost like he had a page limit and had to tell the story within the allocated length.

Although this was a fiction novel, I think it was really interesting how authority (and later Ender) engineered situations and brought out leadership capabilities in talented individuals. I’m sure it wouldn’t work in all situations (i.e., non military ones), but reading techniques with a story is definitely much more interesting than a self help book.

I also found it interesting that while the book was written in 1985 and is science fiction, the idea of the Internet and social networks were fairly accurate!

Time for Kessel To Run

In years past, I considered buying a Leafs jersey. The player I would have picked on the back would be Kessel, because I thought he would be a Leaf the longest – maybe not his entire career, but like Iginla, he would be on the team for a significant amount of time that his career would be identified as being with the Toronto Maple Leafs. When Kessel signed his 8-year contract extension, even amidst worries and criticisms about his defense and training regime, it seemed like this would happen.

Alas, I never bought a jersey, and that actually might be good news. Kessel is on the trading block, not because of his ability or his contract (which while large is worthy of his talents), but because his prime hockey years don’t align with Toronto’s rebuilding process.

I think our rebuild is important, overdue, and should be done right. Unfortunately it looks like Kessel’s career with Toronto might be a casualty. It’s sad, but hopefully we will get some picks & prospects for him. Let’s see what happens in the next week or so!

Gone Girl

I watched Gone Girl because it received Oscar press and indeed it is a pretty good movie; but, I have mixed feelings about it. It started off as a mystery movie and I was actually a bit shocked that it had such good press because the dialog in the flashback scene was over the top/too smooth. However the movie got better and better as it progressed (and the issues I had with the dialog finally made sense).

I wouldn’t say that the plot twists are crazy (like Sixth Sense), but there were many layers to this film that starts to mess with your understanding of the world that the characters reside in. In a way, it’s like Inception. It is an interesting look at society, and aside from the media angle, something I would want to read or watch more about. The ending is so jarring and unconventional that it almost begs for a sequel, although I bet a sequel wouldn’t really satisfy the audience.

This movie wasn’t as much of a mind warper as Inception or Memento, but it was the best movie I’ve seen in awhile. I give it 4 out of 5 stars.

Android Games 24

I bought The Firm on a whim because it was pretty cheap ($1 USD) and it seemed like it would be fun. Like Flappy Bird/Crossy Road, it’s an easy game to play but difficult to master – at least the difficulty starts ramping up pretty quickly. The concept however, is not as good as something like Ridiculous Fishing. I don’t think it was a bad purchase (especially with no IAP) but it’s not a game where I am itching to play.

Trexels is an official Star Trek game whose sole reason to exist seems to be so that you can collect the entire bridge crew of TOS or TNG. Like Happy Street, you collect resources and build buildings (rooms in your ship) in the hopes that they will aid you to get the premium currency (Dilithium). Once you have a large number of dilithium, you can buy one bridge crew. There are also away missions that attempt to give it some variety, but all missions play the same way (irrespective of the lame dialog) so the game is rather boring. I played it for a week, but even the appeal of playing a Star Trek game wears thing when are you’re doing is farming.

But Always

But Always is a tragic love story in Mandarin that is set in Beijing and New York City. It’s about a pair of people who have been close to each other for many short periods over a span of 30 years; from when they were in primary school til the present day. Their fates are intertwined even if they are together or apart on purpose or by chance.

I picked out this movie to watch on a flight back from SFO but ran out of time to finish it. Luckily, it is a popular selection under world cinema so I was able to finish it over my flight to Amsterdam.

While the feeling of the movie is strong (good or bad depending where the story is), the plot feels contrived – as if there are a couple of set pieces that the director wanted to film, but he wasn’t sure how to get the characters into place. Because of that, I’m going to give this film a 2 out of 5 stars.