Do people like, still blog?

Pocket Queue 95

  • The Cosmic Crisp apple is not the future
    Following up on my previous post about the new technological advance in apples – an actual food review of the Cosmic Crisp. Now I wonder if I am obsessed enough to actually seek one out at a US grocery store?

    The most curious trait of the Cosmic Crisp is the sound it produces upon taking a bite. It is the platonic ideal of a crunchy apple; Foley artists supposedly record bites of other fruits, like bell peppers and onion, to imitate an apple crunch in film, and indeed, the Cosmic Crisp’s crunch sounds ripped from a sound library.

  • https://www.nytimes.com/2019/12/27/arts/american-dream-mall-opening.html
    Another aspiration article about the US, this one talks about the new American Dream mall in New Jersey. It might be a destination on a road trip in the future!

    After 15 years in development, the project’s attractions are finally lighting up one by one, connected by networks of vast, unfilled corridors. In addition to Big Snow, there is a National Hockey League-sized ice rink, a Nickelodeon Universe theme park, and a dusting of retail: a Big Snow ski shop, an IT’SUGAR candy department store and a Whoopi Goldberg-themed pop-up shop selling her collections of ugly holiday sweaters and chic tunics. Teased future reveals include a DreamWorks water park, a Legoland, a Vice-branded “Munchies” food hall, a KidZania play land featuring a full commercial airliner and a field hopping with live rabbits.

  • The Secret Travel Club That’s Been Everywhere
    All those stories about the first explorers to the North Pole or Everest, well they belonged to this club which has a clubhouse in NYC. It sounds like a place that you see in the movies (like Hellboy).

    Its illustrious list of current, historical and honourary members includes Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay, who first summited Mt Everest; aviator Charles Lindbergh, who made the first solo transatlantic airplane flight in 1927; Norwegian explorer Thor Heyerdahl who sailed his hand-built balsawood raft, the Kon-Tiki, from Peru to Polynesia; famed pilot Amelia Earhart who disappeared in the Pacific; Apollo astronauts, including Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong, the first men on the Moon; record-breaking deep-sea diver Sylvia Earle; British paleoanthropologist Mary Leakey, who discovered 15 new species of animal; Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos; Titanic film director and deep-sea explorer James Cameron; and primatologist Dame Jane Goodall, considered the world’s foremost expert on chimpanzees. The list is mind-boggling.

  • Why the French Don’t Show Excitement
    Originally I thought this story was from an American viewpoint, but now I see that it is British. I wonder if it is just a jab at both the US and the French at being too excited or too apathetic?

    “I used to judge Americans because I thought they were always too ecstatic, always having disproportionate reactions,” he told me years later, though now, he added, “I feel like I have two worlds in my head, one in French and one in English. I feel like the English world is a lot more fun than the French one.”

  • Uber’s Secret Restaurant Empire
    I’ve thought about this many times, that restaurants should just stop offering sit downs and just focus on pure food delivery. Looks like I’m late because this was already discussed in 2018.

    Brooklyn Burger Factory is located in the kitchen of Gerizim Cafe & Ice Cream, a small establishment on Ralph Avenue. There used to be only a couple of unspectacular burgers on the menu at Gerizim Cafe, and only about one a day sold, according to co-owner Joel Farmer.

    But the data team at Uber Eats perceived a demand for gourmet burgers in the area, and they approached Farmer about the possibility of expanding the selection. Farmer liked the idea; most of the raw ingredients were already on hand. The Brooklyn Burger Factory has been such a success—it’s now selling as many as 75 burgers a day, with revenue 28 times that of Gerizim Cafe—that Farmer is changing the name of the entire operation.

엑시트 (Exit)

I’ll be honest, the only reason I watched Exit was because I knew about it beforehand. And the only reason I knew about it was that it starred YoonA from Girls Generation. Exit is about a useless Millennial son whose hobby is climbing. Coincidentally, there is a disaster and his skill saves him. His friend from his climbing group also ends up at the same place that he is in when disaster strikes so they get to work together.

This movie is pretty bad. I guess it is either a comedy or a frank look at Korean families and their culture. Either way, there is a lot of cringe worthy moments. Both leads were also bad at portraying their roles. The only thing that saves the movie from being turned off were the climbing scenes. Even though you knew the outcome would be OK, you were still hanging on by your fingertips to see what would happen. I guess this is like the award winning Free Solo except told through a fictional story.

I would skip this one, two out of five stars.

The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

I think The Man From U.N.C.L.E. was a show from the 70s or 80s that I was never familiar with. Nevertheless, it held the most interest to me from the other movies that were available on my flight.

The story is about a US spy who ends up working together with a Russian spy in order to save the world. Naturally, this happened during the cold war (JFK was president) and it was a case of your enemy’s enemy being your friend. Surprisingly, that concept was still fresh. I felt the movie was pretty stylish. It didn’t have any fancy gadgets like Bond. It wasn’t cheesy like Austin Powers. And each culture played up their stereotypes (US superpower was apparently charisma and Russian was brute force). Like the newish Kingsmen series, this movie had its own special style that was entertaining.

Henry Cavil played the US agent, a similar role to what he did in Mission Impossible: Fallout. Except this time he was the shorter guy. Still can’t stop thinking of Superman when I see him. I wouldn’t mind seeing a sequel but this movie was released in 2015 so that seems unlikely now. Three out of five stars.

V for Vendetta

I remember wanting to watch V for Vendetta when it came out, but somehow missed it. This was in 2006, and way before kids, so that couldn’t be an excuse. In any case, the movie’s message is still true and relevant today.

I liked how the the plot is a mix of current day Britain, a nod to 1984, and Shakespearean – I believe the source material was this way already. Even though I liked the movie, it is just an entertaining movie and didn’t really change my world outlook (I guess too much 1984 and Fahrenheit 451). What did surprise me is that Natalie Portman is ageless. She looks the same in this as she does in Vox Lux – 13 year difference! The movie though is only 3 out of 5 stars.

December 2019

December was full of not-blogging. Usually I put aside some time to write my “end of year” blogs but I didn’t feel very enthusiastic about it this year – I just did the places I stayed (it was easy) and top music (I still care about this) ones. Maybe I will do the year end recap at some point in January.

We also skipped out on a lot of Christmas activities this year because we went down to Nashville over the holidays. In fact, now that I am writing this blog after our trip; I don’t really recall what happened earlier in December.

I do know that we did all of our gift buying and prep in the few weeks beforehand. Most of the gift giving is actually for the kids’ teachers. The kids themselves don’t receive that many gifts anymore. In fact this year, we made them wait until we came back from our trip to open their presents (to their chagrin).

Weather wasn’t too bad after a horrendous November. But again, my memory could be tinted from the t-shirt weather of Nashville!

Top Music of 2019

  1. 사계 (Four Seasons) – 태연 (Taeyeon)
    Usually, the Taeyeon song is at the top of my list because of her singing, but this song is catchy by itself!

  2. Boyfriend – Ariana Grande & Social House
    Not an Ariana Grande fan, but this song is the best duet of the year, with interesting melodies and singing.

  3. Blinding Lights – The Weeknd
    I started watching Stranger Things and this song seems like it should be part of that soundtrack. The Weeknd moves from his Michael Jackson-inspired 80s sound to New Wave-esque electronic. I like it! and I don’t think it’s just because it’s a late entry in the year.

  4. Higher Love – Kygo & Whitney Houston
    I guess how you should think of this song is that it is a remix of an old Whitney Houston song. I’ve never been interested in Kygo’s other music, so it’s really the sample that gets the attention from me.

  5. Memories – Maroon 5
    This year, I really tried to like artists like Lauv and Troye Sivan, and I can just say that I don’t really like their style of music. This song seems to be in the same style but sung by Adam Levine. Maybe I just don’t like the sound of the other artists.

  6. 블루밍 (Blueming) – 아이유 (IU)
    This title track from her EP is much different than all of the other tracks. It is straight up Pop, and feels like a stylistic successor to last year’s single Bbi Bbi (although it won’t be as long lasting). Also, what is a “Blueming”?

  7. 챈슬러 (Angel) – Chancellor ft 태연 (Taeyeon)
    This year, I was a lot less interested in KPop. I guess the phase is over. In any other year, if I found this song, I would say that it is a niceslow jam, but this year I only listened to it because of the feature.

  8. Senorita – Shawn Mendes & Camilla Cabello
    This is probably my kids’ favorite song of the year. It’s not bad of a duet, but is not as great as Ariana Grande’s.

  9. Don’t Start Now – Dua Lipa
    Between this and her Calvin Harris track from a few years back, looks like Dua Lipa’s niche are dance tracks. I’m fine with that. This is a solid hit but nothing that can elevate it to a higher tier.

  10. 춘천가는 기차 (A Train to Chuncheon) – 태연 (Taeyeon)
    New remake of an old song I never heard of, with some electronic tinges. Another notch in Taeyeon’s discography but nothing to get too excited about.

  11. Sucker – Jonas Brothers
    At the beginning of the year, there weren’t a lot of songs so this was the top pick for its catchy hook. But the song is really just the hook and once you’ve heard it enough times, it…sucks.

Places I Stayed Overnight in 2019

Here is the annual tradition of where I spent my nights in 2019:

  • Toronto, ON, Canada
  • Las Vegas, NV, USA
  • San Jose, CA, USA
  • Seoul, South Korea
  • Orlando, FL, USA
  • Somewhere in the oceans around The Bahamas
  • Nashville, TN, USA

Shortest list since I’ve been keeping track. Mostly due to fewer vacations/road trips and less diversity in work travel.

Here’s the full list: 2006 (10), 2007 (8), 2008 (13), 2009 (10), 2010 (15), 2011 (18), 2012 (8), 2013 (10), 2014 (5), 2015 (14), 2016 (11), 2017 (13), 2018 (9)

November, 2019

We bought a new car! Our old car was bought in 2007, so 12 years ago, and has over 200k KM on it. That’s actually not a lot considering there were many years during its lifetime where we didn’t drive it to work. Anyways, the transmission was dying so it was time for a new one.

It started snowing early in November this year. At least I thought it was early, but the news broadcast reminded me that it actually snowed in October last year. The first snow was just a sprinkling and melted during the day. But the week after that, we had a real storm with 15cm dumped on us. We had to hurry to rake all the leaves before they were covered by the snow! Then there was a week of warmish weather, and we are back to leaves being blown around in the wind with no snow at all on the ground.

I played a lot of Hearthstone with Battlegrounds being released. Actually I played it for about 2 weeks non-stop, then just kinda stopped as there was no more variety. I also started a new LEGO gatcha game, which may take the place of the Disney game I am playing (almost finished collecting everything worthwhile).

Pocket Queue 94

  • Meet the Chinatown Matchmaker Whose Memory Puts Your Dating Algorithm to Shame
    The title is hyperbole but the link is an interesting story of how human matchmaking is still alive and well nowadays in America.

    This mother, like many others, is motivated by the fear of wan hun, meaning “late marriage,” or “delayed marriage,” describing people who aren’t married by their early twenties. To avoid wan hun, parents come to Lee, hoping that she can find someone who’s able to meet all their requirements quickly. If too much time passes, they may lower their standards for height, age, or attractiveness of a match, sometimes even settling on the last requirement they’ll give up: wealth.

  • Living Full-Time in a Toyota Tacoma
    Not something I would do, but interesting to hear how you can convert a truck into a home.

    The fridge draws its power from a Goal Zero battery, which runs on three pliable 100-watt solar panels that are attached to the roof. On the left side of the fridge is my propane tank, sitting on its side, which can be turned on and off quickly. I can fill it from this position, too, so it never needs to be fully removed. On the right side of the fridge is the water jug, which is sufficient for about a week or so. This back-seat build took me two long days, with a good bit of help from my dad and friends.

  • Meet the Kim Kardashian of the 1890s
    A historical story (who knows the accuracy) of someone who cashed in on a scandel to fame and fortune.

    It wasn’t just the salacious nature of the entertainment that caused a sensation. The public was dying to know how the smart set partied when they thought no one was looking. As the trial got underway The New York Daily Tribune declared much of the testimony unprintable. The Sun had less scruples, printing full transcripts daily of the most interesting and outrageous testimony. The tale of Seeley’s dinner and Little Egypt’s dance made it far beyond New York with accounts printed in papers across the Unites States and even in Europe.

    Little Egypt was called to testify on the fourth day of the trial. As she entered the courtroom “[t]he degenerates sighed with disappointment,” reported The Sun. “In the place of the beautiful young woman they had conjured up in their minds, there appeared – but it wouldn’t be a proper thing to criticize the lady’s personal appearance; that is, the part of it for which she is not to blame.” The New York Journal estimated that four hundred spectators filled the courtroom to hear her story. She and her maid were the only women in the room. Days earlier two women “who looked old enough to know better,” according to The Sun, had tried to attend and were ultimately pressured to leave.

  • The Global Fertility Crash
    Birth rates are low on average, and Bloomberg asks four different women around the world why their society is not having more kids.

    “The first day back from the trip, I found the company put out a recruitment notice online with the same title and job description as mine. My health was unstable during my pregnancy, so I applied for sick leave. The company agreed, but then the human resources supervisor asked me to submit previous medical records for sick leaves, including those that I already took. I didn’t keep the records, as that was the first time they brought up such demands. Days later they sent an email informing me they would suspend my salary because I failed to provide the required documents.

    “By that time, I was roughly three months pregnant. It was so hard to believe a company that I worked so diligently for would treat me this way, so I filed an arbitration suit seeking compensation for my overtime work since joining the company. Right after that, the company shut me out, suspending my work email and removing me from a work communication group, but they never dismissed me officially. By the time I wanted to quit the job, human resources refused to proceed unless I agreed not to ‘claim any fees or hurt the company’s reputation.’ I refused, so they wouldn’t let me take my belongings and refused to issue a resignation certificate, a required document in China’s job market.

  • The Name Change Dilemma
    A story about the thoughtprocess for whether this writer should change her name or not upon marriage.

    When I call my mom now, I’m surprised to hear her say: “If I had to do it all again, I’d keep my name.” All the women in Tony’s family seem to have changed their names, including his little sister and his little brother’s wife. His best friends are planning their wedding and they have already arranged to switch their dog’s name. He was her dog first, but the pup is going to take his last name when his mother does. Apparently, that’s a thing.

    I respond to my own ambivalence by surveying my friends. The married ones have all kept their own names, except for my friend Kate. Kate is a writer, and she was also my first friend to have kids. Like our original plan, she uses her maiden name in her bylines and her married name in her professional life.

    “Isn’t it confusing to have two identities?” I asked her.

    “No, it’s actually kind of nice,” she said. “It’s almost like an easy way to keep two distinct parts of my life separate.”

Hearthstone Battlegrounds

Hearthstone announced a new mode of gameplay at Blizzconn this year called Battlegrounds. I’m glad they announced something new, because while dungeon runs are still challenging and good for time killing, it wasn’t novel or interesting – you can only go so crazy in the powerlevel of the treasures.

Battlegrounds is an autochess clone. From a business perspective, it makes sense for Hearthstone to add a mode that is the same as the game that they are losing players too. I’ve tried playing autochess before, but the learning curve investment was just to steep. However, I watched a bunch of people stream Battlegrounds (trying to get an early access drop for it) and it seems pretty straightforward. In fact, I’ve watched so much Battlegrounds that I feel bored with the mode already. I’ll see what happens when the mode is launched live today, maybe it is different when you’re actually playing.