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(not) Android Games 20

This installment is about a couple of games that I didn’t play on Android.

Space Age: A Cosmic Adventure is a throwback to the old point-and-click adventure games. You play a couple of space explorers in the 70s who have landed on an alien planet. I bought it for $1.99 and I suppose it was worth it. The story is adequately long (I played it over a couple of sittings) but I was a bit frustrated about some of the controls. In some sections you have to click/move in time, or take part in combat; and the controls weren’t responsive enough. There’s no replay value though (I got all the bonus mission points on my first play through) so once you’re done playing it, you’re finished.

I had Card City Nights on my Android wishlist for awhile (for when I was bored enough to spend $2 on it), but it ended up being a freebie from Humble Bundle so I didn’t have to pay for it! Unfortunately, the freebie was only the desktop version. It’s a decent card game, although some of the mechanics make me have to think (not that it’s difficult, just that it’s unconventional). I also like that it’s completely offline so you can grind/play at your leisure. The problem for me is that I’m already invested (in terms of time) into Hearthstone and Solforge, so I don’t think I want to collect another set of cards.

Android Games 19

The main reason why I downloaded Crossy Road was because it had a lot of buzz on iOS. To be honest, a game that was based on Frogger would not have appealed to me even if it had isometric graphics. I played it a bit and the best thing about it is its use of reward mechanics to get you addicted:

  1. There’s lots of things to unlock
  2. Unlocking something is a static 100 coins
  3. There are free “gifts” at periodic intervals that give you coins (but not always enough for a gift)
  4. If you’re not willing to wait then you can play and collect more coins
  5. Collecting more coins is risky and counter productive to getting a high score

The game play itself is meh and not that addictive since I understand its formula. It is a good for a quick casual play though (or a quick death to get your gift and reset the counter).

On the other hand, I bought Hitman GO (for 99¢) around Christmas because it looked interesting. I didn’t care for the franchise, but the fact that they made an assassination theme into a puzzle AND put high quality visuals around it that made it look like a board game was attractive to me. That at least got me started, but I’m not sure how long I’ll actually play it for because I’m not that interested in playing a puzzle game.

MP3 Reorg Post Mortem

The actual work to convert my MP3s from genres to artist/album hierarchy didn’t end up taking too long (maybe 3 hours total). However, I still have a lot of work to do. The problem comes down to, and it’s always this, the conflict between albums and singles.

In the past, I had some loose rules about when to rip an entire album or just the couple of hit singles. In the early days, I used to primarily rip singles, but as HD space became cheaper and cheaper, it was easy to rip an entire album – but I didn’t always do that, because then there would be a lot of filler tracks polluting my library.

So moving all the “full” albums was a good start, but now I have to dig up my CDs and re-rip many of them to fill out existing albums – that’s probably going to take a few weeks if not months. And I’m not sure whether I want to re-rip all my CDs. There definitely are many CDs that I bought just for a particular single, so I don’t want to spend time re-ripping those.

I also came to realize that I have a lot of albums that I don’t recall why I bought. They don’t have any great singles, maybe a couple of 3-star tracks, but nothing noteworthy. I bet most of them were bought while I was in Seattle, but I can’t explain it much further than that.

The Page Is Turning

I haven’t watched much hockey this year because the state of the Maple Leafs depresses me. However today, I’m glad that Randy Carlyle has been fired as the coach! Hopefully the new coach that we hire will be one who is more analytical in their approach.

We’ve actually made baby steps this year, by employing better scrubs (i.e., 4th liners) and hiring some stats-oriented people for the front office. I’m not sure whether or not Shanahan coming on had much to do with it or not. Now we just need to jettison Nonis and Clarkson, the former of which should be coming and the latter is almost impossible.

I don’t think there’s any point in getting rid of Kessel (he’s actually good value for money) or Phaneuf (kind of expensive, but who would you replace him with). We’ll just have to ride it out and hopefully the new coach can better utilize their talents.

MP3 Reorg

I started a project over the Christmas break because I was a bit frustrated about how I was storing my music on my hard drive. Over the last few months, I have been slowly re-organizing some of my music. Originally I stored my music sorted by genres, which is a bit unconventional. I think typically the folder structure is Artist/Album/ but I put multiple artists & albums into one genre folder (i.e., Electronic, Pop, Ethnic, etc). I decided to follow this method because I thought it was unnecessary to have a huge amount of folders, especially since I sometimes only rip a couple of songs from an album.

That worked for many years. But recently because I have been buying my music online instead of ripping CDs, I ended up with a couple of new folders based on where I got the music (Google, Amazon, Promo/SoundCloud/Free Downloads, etc). Those were sorted separately AND was not sorted by genre. So now my mp3 organization was a hydra, but it actually wasn’t a big deal because who really cares how the music is stored on the file system when you access it through a UI?

Now last year, I started uploading my music to the cloud. The interface seems suited to the more conventional Artist/Album format so I started duplicating my MP3s and converting some of the albums I liked and storing them as albums for upload purposes. Pretty soon I had a couple GB of duplicate MP3s, and I realized that I would just have more and more as music listening started moving “to the cloud”.

So I started a project of extracting all my albums from my genre folders. I thought about scripting the work, which you can do with VB on Windows, but I figured the work wouldn’t take long enough for it to be worth it – debugging and figuring out how to do things in VB would probably just take as long (and require more thinking).

Hopefully after this, I will be able to backup and duplicate my music collection on the cloud instead of having to do it on my web hosting.

December 2014

The first half of this December was a bit weird. We had finished all our Christmas shopping (but actually had a lot of stuff to wrap because now Apollo has a lot of friends to buy for) and was able to avoid the malls, but we also ended up being really busy because I was away for work for a week and then when I got back everyone was sick.

My trip to the Bay area was rather boring. Travelling there is not like going to NYC at all because all the offices/hotels are in office parks and there’s absolutely nothing to do after work (i.e., can’t walk around). I had a rental car but was a bit constrained because there was nothing I wanted to tour, and I was there with a lot of coworkers so there’s some responsibility to hang out with them. On the plus side, I saw a couple of movies while flying to/from the west coast (plus the travel wasn’t too crazy as I had reasonable flight times and direct flights).

As the holidays came, we did our usual family dinners and social outings. We didn’t put up a Christmas tree this year because we didn’t have space (lots of toys everywhere) and even if we did, I think we would have another problem as there are too many presents to fit under the tree! I guess having kids causes that problem.

Opening presents took A LONG time. It was mostly Apollo’s effort to open his and Jovian’s presents and he would get distracted after opening each one. It basically took the entire day to open, clean up and put away all their new toys. Then more presents showed up after that day as we went to more Christmas events.

We didn’t go out for Boxing Day because it didn’t make sense with kids. We did some Boxing Day shopping online though. I had the week between Christmas and New Years off so we went to a couple of malls later in the week, and it wasn’t that bad in terms of people. But I didn’t end up buying anything due to Black Friday and buying online.

2014 Year in Review

Another year has passed and it is again difficult to itemize what has exactly changed and what I accomplished this year. Let’s start with something specific and see where it goes from there.

I started using Google AppEngine for my server development needs and it’s actually pretty easy to use (especially since you can use Java). This has made me reconsider whether I need to pay for my webhost because between AppEngine and services like DropBox, I can pretty much duplicate the functionality for free.

My primary goal this year for Android/software development was to build an app that would be as successful as Condado on Google Play. Although I haven’t worked on it for almost two years, Condado has slowly been racking up a lot of downloads and positive reviews – it has almost 35,000 downloads and over 1000 reviews (4.63/5 rating). However, the publisher for San Juan has released their own Android version on the store so my app could be suspended at any time.

I made a few significant attempts at this. My first try was actually the result of a hackathon hosted by the Canadian government. I thought A Healthier Commute was a novel idea and even though it placed second in a national hackathon with official press releases and media coverage, it didn’t actually generate any interest. The app has been out for almost a year and it *only* has 60-something downloads.

My next attempt was half-hearted and was simply a reference app for people playing Card Wars: Adventure Time. It didn’t take long to make and is steadily (but slowly) being downloaded by people who play the game (should exceed 1000 early in the new year). I wouldn’t count that a success though. I followed that up with an app I wanted to make for awhile, which is a HD photo aggregator for Taeyeon photos. I felt Always Taeyeon was a high quality app and the user growth/engagement was tracking really well; but it got suspended from Google Play and I basically had to abandon it as there’s not much recourse from that. So I’m still looking for a successor.

In my day job, I also spent a lot of time building Android apps. I started out the year working on an app called Cabin at the Samsung Accelerator and ended it by working on a [product redacted] app in Samsung proper. I made several trips to NYC this year. It wasn’t as frequent as the year before, which is actually fine for me because there isn’t a good enough balance on my trips to actually tour NYC. I went enough times to maintain my SPG gold status for next year though. I also made 2 trips to the Bay Area as part of the new work I’m doing.

In terms of travel though, that’s about it. We made a couple of road trips as a family to some usual destinations, but we didn’t take a long (plane) trip this year. The first half of the year was spent hanging out I guess – after winter we went with Apollo to some parks and other outdoor activities that his small legs could handle. Then Jovian was born in the summer and we stayed indoors for a little while he grew up, before going out more in the fall.

Both kids are growing well. Apollo makes cognitive leaps every once in a while – he went from making sounds, to copying a couple of single syllable sounds, to understanding the sounds spoken to him, to saying multi-syllable sounds to express his desires, to understanding sentences, and is now at a stage where he can string together a couple of words into a clause or full sentence. You can have a conversation to him and he can express his opinion. He’s a lot better at imitating sounds, and may repeat your entire sentence if he feels like it. He knows his number and alphabet, and is starting to read (via memorization). We put Apollo in daycare in preparation for Jovian’s birth and while it took a bit of adjusting, he is fine with being away from his family for a couple of hours.

Jovian is also growing and is at a stage where others can play with him. Not much here to note, because the first 3 months of a baby’s life is just sleeping & etc. Looking after two kids is not as tough as I thought it would be, but it also varies depending on the age difference between the two kids. Apollo is not old enough that he can look after himself (unless he is playing) so at times both kids need constant attention. It’s work now, but when Jovian gets just a little bit older next year, they’ll start interacting and playing together!

I didn’t play a lot of games this year, mostly because I cut back on freemium games that require a lot of attention. I played most of the talked about mobile games of the year (that weren’t freemium) either by buying them or using extra credits from Amazon or Google Play. No console this games this year, but some games on computer – mostly Hearthstone but also a couple of other card-based games. This year saw a lot of card (collectible or otherwise) games come out, it makes sense on mobile as there aren’t a lot of graphic requirements.

My spare time was spent on the usual stuff: exploratory development, games, and music. I didn’t pick up or attempt to look for any new hobbies. No reading beyond web articles via Pocket. My top music for 2014 is covered in another blog and while it was like most years – how I’m listening to music is undergoing a shift. The market has been moving to an online streaming model for awhile now and I think I was 2 steps behind – still buying CDs and listening to mp3s I ripped/bought. This year I exclusively bought online (it’s cheaper anyways) but I started thinking about moving away from iTunes. One is because there’s so much streaming now, which is a good way to find out about new music (without relying on radio). The other is because the iPod Shuffle which we’ve used in the kitchen died (as did its backup) so that’s one less way I’m using iTunes. To replace it, we’re using Spotify streaming and bluetooth enabled speakers (via a dongle). Play counts & stats are still interesting, but not as important now. And finally, I started uploading my music collection onto Google Music. I’m not sure if anything will actually change in 2015, but the possibility is there.

It’s difficult to sum up my feeling for 2014. It didn’t feel like a year – not because there wasn’t a lot of things that happened, but I think everything seems to blend in together. I guess there wasn’t a lot of really cool memories too look back on, so it’s almost like 2014 is incomplete – like it was only half a year and there’s still more to come. Maybe it comes with getting older that the years blend together.

Places I Stayed Overnight in 2014

Prediction from 2013 was that I would travel less. This year I stayed overnight in:

  • Toronto, ON, Canada
  • New York, NY, USA
  • Niagara Falls, NY, USA
  • San Jose, CA, USA
  • Erie, PA, USA

That’s only 5 different places compared to 10 in 2013! Looks like I was right.

Top Music in 2014

Like 2013, I didn’t buy any physical CDs this year. But I did end up buying a lot more music because Google Play Music started selling music in Canada and they have deep discounts on a lot of albums throughout the year. Unfortunately, most of the music I’ve been buying have been ones that I already know/enjoyed. So like last year, most of the new music from this year is KPop.

  1. John Legend – You & I
    If I wasn’t married then this would be my first dance song. It is really simple but really touching. Best on John Legend’s album.
  2. 소녀시대 (Girls’ Generation) – Goodbye
    While I probably listened to the title track from SNSD’s 4th Mini Album much more often, I think Goodbye is the better/best song on the album. It’s more rhythmic and a strong ballad from SNSD’s two most distinguished singers. Too bad Jessica is no longer part of the group to sing it!
  3. Ed Sheeran – Thinking Out Loud
    This is a late addition to the list but I found it when I was browsing around on Spotify. I didn’t like A-Team that much so haven’t been listening to him but I think this one is great and his voice timbre actually improves the song.
  4. CN Blue – Can’t Stop
    This is one of those amazing songs which seem to be unlike the band’s DNA (the other songs I know from CN Blue seems to be less pop-py) in the vein of Green Day’s Boulevard of Broken Dreams. The piano intro/verse is what makes this song.
  5. 아이유 (IU) – 너의 의미 (Meaning of You)
    Apparently this song is a remake from a 1984 Korean track, but I think this cover is much better because the melody suits IU’s voice. Also the melody will get stuck in your head
  6. 투개월 (Togeworl) – 톡투미 (Talk To Me)
    Togeworl songs are great pop songs, and while this one is not as good as Number 1, it’s still pretty catchy. The music videos are going to be dated though (or viewed as cultural snapshots?)
  7. John Legend – All Of Me
    This song received a lot of airplay and press as I heard a lot about it being a ballad *before* I actually heard the song (I didn’t hear it until I bought the album). It is OK and grew on my a little once I listened to it more. But it’s not as incredible as I thought it would be.
  8. 아이유 (IU) – 소격동
    This song is catchy but I think it might not be for the right reasons. I paid attention to this because it is completely unlike any other IU songs, it’s kind of electronic and she seems like she is just doing “vocals” rather than being her song.
  9. 소녀시대- (Girls’ Generation-TTS) – Stay
    Taetiseo’s songs are usually pretty poor because they are trying to appeal to a certain demographic (the lead single, Holler on their 2nd album is even worse than Twinkle!) and I think this might be the best song on their 2nd album. It’s a straight up pop dance track so it appeals to me more, but that is also a drawback because it will blend into all the other pop songs once it loses its newness factor.
  10. Jesse McCartney – SuperBad
    Another late addition so I’m not sure how much staying power this song has. Originally I thought it was by Justin Timberlake because it’s very funky.

Pocket Queue 51

  • My evil dad: Life as a serial killer’s daughter
    You always hear about serial killers in the news, but you don’t always hear about how their families cope with the fact that their loved one is in fact a serial killer. Here’s the story of a serial killer’s daughter.

    When I was 13, we were driving along the Columbia River, a beautiful wide river that separates Washington State and Oregon. We were just getting close to the Multnomah Falls area when my Dad announced: “I know how to kill someone and get away with it.” Then he just started to tell me how he would cut off the victim’s buttons, so that there wouldn’t be any fingerprints left, and he would wear cycling shoes that didn’t leave a distinctive print in the mud.

    At the time, I put this down to my father’s penchant for detective fiction, but years later I realised we had been driving through the area where he had disposed of Taunja Bennett’s body three years earlier. I think he wanted to relive it and enjoy the moment again. My dad felt compelled to share his crimes, as he did in the messages that he left at truck stops, or sent in letters to the media. They were always signed with a smiley face, leading the media to dub him the “Happy Face Killer”.

  • The Programmer’s Price
    An article about an agency that’s taking a Hollywood approach to programmers by being a programmer’s agent and helping them find work for the best pay possible.

    Solomon leaned back in his chair and flipped through a mental Rolodex of his clients. “I definitely have some ideas,” he said, after a minute. “The first person who comes to mind, he’s also a bioinformatician.” He rattled off a dazzling list of accomplishments: the developer does work for the Scripps Research Institute, in La Jolla, where he is attempting to attack complicated biological problems using crowdsourcing, and had created Twitter tools capable of influencing elections. Solomon thought that he might be interested in AuthorBee’s use of Twitter. “He knows the Twitter A.P.I. in his sleep.”

  • When Mommy and Daddy took the Toys Away
    Kids have a lot of toys today because consumer goods are so cheap. This article talks about a couple of parents who are trying to limit the amount of toys their kids have.

    Moreover, Becker says that the value of minimalism comes with the lifelong lessons they are able to teach through it. When his children become envious of another child who has a lot of toys, Becker and his wife try to help them “deal with that emotion as opposed to thinking that they’ll overcome it by getting more stuff.”

    “We don’t overcome envy in our lives by getting what another person has,” Becker says. “We overcome envy by being content with what we have and being grateful for what we have.”

  • The Cutthroat world of Elite Public Schools
    I think its a good idea but meritocratic public schools are coming under fire because poorer candidates are not being admitted as much as they should be (one reaspn being that you actually need to put in effort to apply)

    “The idea was that, if you wanted to provide an excellent, gifted, and talented education for public school students, one could do a better job of that if in large cities there were specialized schools that would bring academically talented students together,” said Kahlenberg, who opposes test-only admissions policies such as those in New York City. Secondly, selective-enrollment schools “are very sought after by upper-middle class people who might not consider using public schools if it weren’t for the selective-enrollment institutions. Essentially, it’s a way of ensuring greater participation from wealthier families who might otherwise move to the suburbs.”

  • The secret Hollywood procedure that has fooled us for years
    We know all about photoshopping magazine covers and so enhancing celebrities in movies is not a stretch. But this article has some juicy gossip about who might have had it done.

    A recent comedy hit featured a top actress in her 40s who required beauty work on every single shot she was in — some 600 total. With artists working around the clock, seven days a week, the beauty work alone took close to three months.

    The payoff? Nearly everything written about the film remarked at how fit and young the actress looked. No one suspected it was anything but good genes and clean livin’.