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Belle De Jour

I used to follow a blog about an English call girl which was named this, and I wonder if this old movie was the source of the name. This movie is about a young wife in the 60s (movie was made in 1967) who moonlights (daylights?) as a call girl. It’s not really raunchy but more of a look at what French society was like back then – gender stereotypes and retro cars abound.

The movie also reminded me of how slow movies were back then. Unlike The Godfather though, Belle De Jour wasn’t able to set the mood to make the slow scenes feel immersive. The plot was also a bit weird as it pushed character development by introducing different Johns, before events force the final scene. While it made sense, the way that it was told felt disjointed. Interesting to watch but not fun, two out of five stars.

Pocket Queue 84

  • The Titanic Was On Fire For Days Before The Iceberg Hit
    Might just be a crazy theory, but a fire could have contributed to a sinking of the Titanic. What’s most fascinating about this story (and a rabbit hole in itself) is that a coal fire is almost impossible to put out (and how does burning the coal in a furnace help??)

    An example of the difficulties with a coal fire would be the coal fire in Centralia, Pennsylvania. This fire broke out in a mine in the Northeast United States and has proven impossible to put out. How impossible you ask? It’s been burning since May 27, 1962.
    Yes, I’m being totally serious, it’s been burning for 56 years.

    Despite numerous efforts to deal with the fire, nothing has been able to stop it. It’s estimated that some sections where the fire is burning are about 1000 degrees Fahrenheit and put up lethal gas clouds of carbon monoxide. Eventually, the federal government gave up trying to put out the fire and just bought all the land from the inhabitants, who moved. Centralia is now a tourist attraction, where visitors come to see the smoke and abandoned buildings.

  • How Premium Mediocre Fashion Conquered the World
    Short article but totally agree with it. Hate people wearing those Gucci shoes.

    On Lyst.com, the fashion shopping aggregator, plastic sandals by Givenchy and Gucci routinely top the most sought after product category.

    Premium mediocre in fashion is not a new phenomenon. During the ‘80s some Parisian couturiers licensed their name to mass market manufacturers. All of a sudden office workers could buy fifty-dollar Pierre Cardin button-up shirts. What followed was brand dilution and the perception that those names were no longer associated with luxury.

  • Technology, Ranked
    This, in practice, seems like a good idea. But it felt like it was written by a snarky teenager with an over emphasis on 21st century changes. Also, I don’t think a paragraph on each idea gives it enough justice, I guess we need a book about most important inventions of all time.

    57. Radar

    Radar literally won the war for the Allies in World War II. I mean, that’s the story we’re told. And it’s nearly true. So, um, thanks radar? Otherwise we might be living in an alternate reality world where a Nazi sympathizer was in the White House. What a nightmare.

  • Singapore’s ‘kiasu’ culture makes FOMO look like child’s play
    I wouldn’t say that kiasu is like FOMO, but it’s more like ‘not giving others an advantage’. Also, I think it’s more of a Chinese thing than a Singaporian thing.

    Giant, a local supermarket chain, ran a contest in 2017 to determine which neighborhood was the most kiasu. The winner, an eastern town called Tampines, impressed with a high percentages of residents admitting to excessively pressing the crosswalk button.

    They also fessed up in large numbers to reserving tables at busy coffee shops with a tissue packet or umbrella rather than more considerately ordering their food first and then finding a place to sit — a widespread practice known in Singlish as chope (You can also chope a parking space by having someone stand in it).

    Giant reportedly rewarded Tampines residents with free drinks, ice cream and more tissue packets for choping.

  • “Down The Rabbit Hole I Go”: How A Young Woman Followed Two Hackers’ Lies To Her Death
    A long story about how in today’s day and age, con men can be young and hackers. There’s more than the story here, but I guess it’s hard to distill the truth from all the crazy lies.

    As it turned out, Mir Islam posed a flight risk. Only two months after getting out of prison, he left the US in violation of the terms of his release. Islam slipped past immigration by claiming to be someone else: his younger brother, who is confusingly also named Mir Islam, and presenting that Mir Islam’s Bangladeshi passport as his own. According to Philippine government records, the older Mir Islam, posing as his younger brother, arrived in the country on July 24, 2018.

Bleeding Steel

Another movie that has been hanging on my “to watch on a flight” list, and survived until I actually had time to watch it; given its longevity, I thought that Bleeding Steel must be a masterpiece with a lot of views amongst flyers. I mean, it has to be good if the synopsis is that Jackie Chan fights a bunch of bionic bad guys, right?

As you can expect, it was a bit weird. It wasn’t a serious movie but whatever attempt at incorporating HK cinema humor got lost in translation somewhere. Instead, what they did bring was the B-level villains from Chinese period films into a production that was like The Adventurers – a Chinese film set in the Western world. The majority of the film takes place in Australia and the language was fluid – I didn’t keep track of how often they switched between Mandarin and English, but I did notice the accented English from the Chinese actors.

I’m not sure that this movie would play well with theatre-goers as the only thing it has going for it is Jackie Chan (and isn’t his brand of comedic Kung Fu fighting getting tiresome?) Two out of five stars for me

Mission: Impossible – Fallout

Wow, it’s been a long time since I’ve seen a Mission Impossible, or a Tom Cruise movie. This movie has been sitting in the inflight entertainment for awhile and there was always something a little better to watch. Finally, I ran out of movies and ended up watching Mission: Impossible – Fallout (how are you even supposed to write the name as it has two modifiers).

While there haven’t been as many MI movies, I would guess that this is the American version of the Bond movies. Where Bond has his gadgets, MI seems more gritty and athletic – the most memorable scene I have from all MI movies is the second one where Cruise is climbing a cliff. But, that difference has never made the MI movies that much more fun to me.

I was pleasantly surprised by how this film turned out. It started off pretty clichéd and I thought it was going to be a snore (give up and try another movie). And then Superman (Henry Cavil but it felt like the same characterization) showed up. But as we got into it, the story improved a lot. I forgot that one key element of the MI series is the espionage and double crosses – it’s like mini Ocean’s 11 throughout. I’m sure the scenarios don’t make sense under scrutiny but when you’re watching the movie, it’s fun. Even though it ran significantly over 2 hours, the plot felt pretty tight.

This MI also drew elements from previous movies. Seems like that is something that it shares with the Bond series. At least with Bond, there have been 10s of movies to refer to, so this is a little premature for MI. But then maybe this is the movie version of the greatest hits album, and if they don’t make a retrospective movie now, the actors will get too old.

All in all, a surprisingly good action film from a movie franchise that I’ve long forgotten. Three out of five stars.

CBC Gem

I’m a late adopter to OTT video (still no Netflix account & etc) and it has only been recently that I started using the CBC app to watch shows on my TV. And soon after I started, it went through a rebranding to be called Gem.

Now Gem is a weird name for video streaming, but I can understand why they might want to call it that. Gem makes it seem like the service is rare and valuable; plus it is quick to say. But I just can’t relate to it well.

Nevertheless, it is decent and useful. There is a lot of content and I wish there was some way to favorite so that I could build up a playlist and come back to it later. Best thing is that it’s free (although I suppose I pay taxes).

January 2019

Oops, bad start to the new year as I forgot to write my recap for January. That’s surprising as a lot of stuff happened in January and it actually felt like two months. The new year started uneventful as was the rest of Christmas vacation (Apollo had a couple of play dates). Then the next week, I few to Las Vegas for CES.

Now that I’ve been to CES a few times, I realize it’s more of a sales conference than anything else. It’s not that fun for me and it is just another place I have to do work. The travel is also very hectic because there are a ton of people who are flying down for the same things and the flights are packed, everyone has status etc.

After coming back home, we started our winter term activities on the weekends. This year, Apollo and Jovian are going to different programs so Pauline and I take them to different places on the weekends.

This month was also a “typical winter” with lots of snow. After a couple of snowfalls, the snowbanks around our driveway quickly grew taller than the kids. The snowfall was followed by extreme cold as a Polar vortex descended on most of Canada. For Toronto, temperatures during the day was in the -15°C to -20°C range (before windchill) and night times were into the -30°Cs.

In this month, I also found a way to “break” the Star Trek game that I’m playing. Usually when I’m able to figure out a way to accelerate the progress through the game like this, my enjoyment will fizzle out (apparently doing something challenging is more fun). I’m still trying to hold on to the game by not abusing my power but it might be time to move on soon.

Jobs

I had to take an Air Canada Route flight. Since it is a low cost carrier, they don’t have inflight entertainment and I had to bring my own tablet. Of course, their wifi entertainment didn’t work so I resorted to watching some stuff from my own devices. I didn’t have a selection, so I settled on Jobs – the biography of Steve Jobs from 2013.

Although I have a passing interest in watching his bio, I wasn’t enthusiastic about it. I guess that tainted my perception of the film a bit. Secondly, I felt they tried to summarize his life and pack it into a movie by weaving a bunch of key points into a short narrative. Especially in the beginning, every scene had some important element or aspect of his life, in addition to the main plot that was unfolding. The rhythm just felt off.

As the film progressed in to Apple being successful, I started to wonder how authentic this story was. In researching on IMDB, there were a lot of liberties taken to make it “Hollywood” but I think it was still fairly true to the spirit. I also found out that there was another Jobs bio released 2 years later called Steve Jobs! That feels a little wasteful.

I think Ashton Kutcher did a great job portraying Jobs – I even liked how he practiced a specific walk (which I didn’t know he had until the movie). However, it was still not that interesting movie for me – 2 out of 5 stars.

December 2018

Unlike years past, we didn’t make a lot of progress on Christmas shopping before December this year because we were busy with the house. That meant we had to fit it all into December. The gifts for teachers & etc were easy since it’s pretty much the same every year (and we can plan for it) but everyone else was a lot harder. Eventually we got it done, but lots of gift cards and Amazon for most things. One thing I noticed this year was a distinct lack of Christmas cards. I guess everyone finally made the shift (sorry Hallmark).

I made one last trip to Korea in December, and had to fly around in a circuitous fashion, so luckily that gave me enough miles to bump into the 75k threshold. There’s not much change between the previous tier and this one though.

To give everyone a change to visit our new house, we hosted a few times over the holidays. Necessary evil but it’s all done now!

We didn’t do much Boxing Day shopping as there wasn’t anything we needed (closets are full). There are still a couple of things we need to fill out our house but they aren’t a rush. We did end up buying an aquarium and some fish, so those our the first pets in our new house.

2018 In Review

Welcome to my 2018 year in review, aka a winding tour of 20 thoughts about this year. Here we go!

(1) It’s been 10 years since I got married and six years since we’ve had our first child. We’re on our third place to live now. That’s pretty solid into adult life and adult responsibilities. I’m technically in the leading edge of Millennials and still feel I connect with that generation. But do I really?

(2) It’s been 13 years since I graduated from undergrad. Most of my peers have been in industry for that long too. While I think there is title inflation, a lot of us are at senior levels at companies – not just senior engineer/developer (which you seemed to jump up to with only a few years of experience) but management level. That’s another change that just creeps up on you.

(3) Like last year, I haven’t been using my core skills at work. I guess building new skills is important, and there’s still a lot of that this year. The most fun and useful one though is deal making – I wouldn’t want to do the front line negotiations, but it’s challenging to theorize.

(4) I applied that skill this year as we bought a new house a moved. (5) The deal making wasn’t bad, but it was a tough experiences to move. You know, I used to move every 4 months, from school back home or to a Coop placement. I never liked it, but it was manageable. Now there’s just a lot of stuff and it’s hard to go through the process. Just like when we moved into our old townhouse, there are a bunch of empty rooms and the house feels empty. However, as with the townhouse, I think it’s going to fill out as a matter of time.

(6) I hardly ever chat with other people (friends). It’s something most people do, and it’s so easy now with our phones. It’s just not something I want to do. I guess you could say it’s a hobby (people chatting with others) and it’s not one of mine. (7) I don’t have a lot of hobbies, but I always wanted to have one esoteric one. Everyone is interested in the same thing (photography, travel, etc). Well I found a unique one (and it’s something that I’m truly interested in, and not just saying it) – genealogy. I spent a lot of time this year researching my family tree and trying to map it out. It’s hard because eventually it leads into China and I don’t have the ability to search there. But I’ve made good progress in the US.

(8) When I was younger, I had a hobby of watching movies. But ever since we had kids, I have hardly watched any movies. There’s no chance to go to the movie theatre, and we don’t subscribe to Netflix. It’s not something I miss though – from the expensive tickets/concessions to chasing the new media rabbit. Except, this is not true anymore. I actually have watched a lot of movies this year (~30) and while most of them are on the plane, they still count.

(9) Time shifting movies like that is an evolution of my new life. This year I have felt that my time management has changed. I’ve always prided myself in preparation and having enough time to do things properly, but this year there were numerous times (daily or weekly) where I felt rushed. I guess one reason is because I am trying to hold onto priorities that shouldn’t be that important anymore (stuff from days before we had kids), and the other reason is just that there is more stuff going on at once now.

(10) Another thing that continues to be missing is having time to myself, to reflect and think. Not having a commute really affects this, and shower time is just not long enough. However, all the flight time is helpful because it gives me time to do this. For example, every year I have difficulty writing this year end blog, because I sit in front of my computer and can’t think of all the changes in the year. However, for this year’s blog, I actually conceived all the ideas and points on the plane (trying to sleep) and then edit it/fleshed it out on the computer. I need to find more cases where I can time shift like this.

(11) Flying has also changed for me. I have status on Air Canada now so I always get to board early. Sometimes I don’t even have to deal with the riff-raff so flying isn’t a hectic experience. There’s also this feeling of luxury in our new home now because there is a lot more space. However, it’s this strange balance between being the same that we always were (still the same clothes, furniture, cars, etc) and suddenly having luxury things in a few target areas. Not sure if this is faux-luxury, or upbringing holding us back.

(12) I’m a single child so my parents are my responsibility. As I get older my parents do too, and every cold or sickness becomes a worry. I know they don’t want to be a burden for me but that doesn’t alleviate the actual burden.

(13) On the flip side is our children. When I look over the pictures of this year, I see that Katana grew a lot. She’s almost 2 now, can romp about, and kind of express what she wants. That also means that she’s on the cusp of being a little kid like her brothers, and losing the baby cuteness. That is an inevitable outcome that I was struggling with all year – that this is going to be the last baby until we’re grandparents.

(14) Jovian is always the younger brother, but he has grown and is a big boy himself. Sometimes I see him and think he is Apollo due to his size. This year, I also became more familiar with his friends & etc, which means he is finally exuding some of himself into the family (instead of just piggy backing on Apollo’s friends).

(15) Strangely though, I don’t feel that Apollo has grown. He definitely has, especially when I look at his class pictures and all those kids are no longer your cute little kids. But in my mind, he’s still a little boy.

(16) Another year worth of gaming under my belt. This year, I continued to play Star Trek Timelines, started Disney Heroes in the summer, and stopped playing Hearthstone as much. Spending a little of money, but not a lot (maybe $100 total). Gaming is not a emphasis but it is ever-present.

(17) Another thing I’ve prided myself on is eating healthy when at home, so that I can eat crappy (fast food, etc) when I’m out (both in the city or traveling). I don’t think this is true anymore, I end up eating lots of junk food at home too.

(18) I found various instances throughout the year where I wished that I would revive my Twitter account. I just had one liners that I wanted to shout out at the world. In the end, I always ended up holding back because I didn’t want those random musing tied to my digital identity. I toyed with the idea of only tweeting hockey stuff, but even then didn’t end up going through with the idea

(19) This year’s Maple Leafs are good. Not promising, but actually good. They should challenge for the Cup in the playoffs (and if they flame out, it will be disappointing). I watched a bunch of games on TV and for some reason, Apollo is really interested in hockey this year too.

(20) This year ended optimistically because of our move. We needed to move, a bit because we were running out of space, and a bit because it was necessary for our plan in the next few years. The plan of when to move wasn’t concrete, but now that it is done, I am glad. The newness (to us) of the place means life is fresh and exciting (rather than being extremely challenging if everything had changed).

Being in a larger, detached house also helps validate the inflection point of 2017. Now it is about the home and family, rather than starting a family – something we’ll continue in 2019.

Places I Stayed Overnight in 2018

Spent nights in fewer places this year than the previous ones (only 9). Somehow never ended up going to Dallas for work this year, and didn’t head out to Erie/Grove City for shopping (moving during that time).

  • Toronto, ON, Canada
  • Las Vegas, NV, USA
  • Manhattan, NY, USA
  • Seoul, South Korea
  • Carlsbad, CA, USA
  • Los Angeles, CA, USA
  • Ottawa, ON, Canada
  • Rochester, NY, USA
  • San Francisco, CA, USA

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),