The one thing that caught my attention with Star Trek Discovery, even from the first episode, were the credits at the start of the show. Instead of showing the universe or the ship, the credits rely on an artistic rendering. There’s also various shots of scientific models and diagrams. In a way, this is what a James Bond title credits might look like if James Bond was all about scientific discovery. I like this a lot, and it is also a stark contrast to the universe, ship, and feeling of the series.
Last time on my blog, I talked about how I felt about the other Trek series, and wondered how Star Trek Discovery compares to them.
It is difficult to compare, but as with all things I think there needs to be a frame of reference. TV has changed a lot since Enterprise (what was that, 10-15 years ago?). While I don’t follow other shows, from casual reading it sounds like current shows have much better story writing, production quality and overall drama. I haven’t watched Game of Thrones, and have only heard about the sex and death in the show. But I guess that Discovery is a lot like Star Trek of Thrones.
While there are still scifi/tech elements, and everyone is wearing a uniform. There’s a lot more death. Also I feel the camera angles are a lot more intimate (vs TNG where you see the characters in the scene, as well as a large portion of the room/starship). Discovery needs to be this way to survive, but it’s not the Trek that I grew up with.
There are also a lot of dramatic swells in the plot. Sure, all Trek episodes have moments of conflict where the protaganists have to do something heroic. But on Discovery, it seems like every episode is the climatic scene at the end of a movie. While it’s exciting now, I think it’s too much too often and sets up an expectation that they can’t possible keep up with.
February is usually the coldest month of the winter, and this year I thought it would be especially bad – the weather folks have been saying that this winter would be a tough one. Remember, winter started early and strong so it seemed like February would be extra rough.
Of course, it turned out February was pretty mild. Even the groundhog was fooled. About halfway through the month, the temperatures decided they had enough and fluttered around 0°C. It got even warmer towards the end of the month with highs in the teens (that’s the positive teens). I suspect that winter’s not done. We’ll probably get a snowstorm in April or May.
Chinese New Year synced up with Family Day this year so that was a weekend of busy-ness. It was actually like a mini-Christmas with all the family gatherings. We also did a lot of activities during that weekend to celebrate both Family Day and the New Year (Joyride, CNY at ROM, and Auto Show). CNY actually lasted 3 weeks with events the week before Family Day and some school stuff the week after. Earlier in the month, I had an almost-day trip to NYC for work. Aside from that, the month went by pretty quickly without any major events.
I’ve been doing a slow watch of the newest Star Trek series. I’ve actually been pretty exposed to the series because of the game that I play, there are a lot of product/character tie-ins to the series. However, since I don’t have a regular TV diet, I’ve been saving the episodes for plane rides (when there’s no inflight entertainment).
The first couple of episodes I watched were great. It is definitely not the same Trek as TNG, DS9, VOY or even ENT. I watched every episode of Enterprise, even though I don’t remember much from it anymore. I was lukewarm on it – I didn’t like the characters that much and the story arcs seemed a bit silly (temporal war, Xindi, etc). I also watched a lot (maybe all) of Voyager and DS9. Voyager seems to get a lot of bad reviews on the internet, but I actually have the opposite opinion of the masses. I felt like the episodes were faithful to the style of TNG and that the crew complement was decent (although not as interesting as TNG). I didn’t like the addition of 7of9 onto the show, but apparently many thought the story was a lot better after she came on board. DS9 I actually didn’t like as much, and I never really got into it until the Dominion war was in full swing. Upon reflection, it sounds like DS9 is a deep series that would be much better on a repeat watching. Finally TNG is the benchmark that I measure other Treks, so in order for me to like Discovery, it has to measure up in some ways to TNG.
But does it? To be continued…
Thor: Ragnarok is actually the first Thor movie I’ve seen. The earlier ones told his story so it doesn’t seem necessary to watch (not that I was avoiding them, I just never had a chance to see them), but the most recent one seemed to be necessary in the tune-up to the Infinity Gauntlet.
I was pleasantly surprised at the film. It’s written in a similar style as Guardians of the Galaxy 2 – where the movie doesn’t take itself too seriously and cracks jokes throughout the dialog. But while GG2 jokes seemed to be forced, the ones in this movie didn’t seem like they were. Maybe it’s because the lines were delivered with an Asgardian accent. Similarly, the serious, character development scenes seemed to be more believable.
I quite enjoyed this movie and it wasn’t simply because I went in with no expectations; now was it because of the comedy. It just felt like it was written and acted really well. The portrays of the supporting characters were top notch, Cate Blanchett as Hela, Jeff Goldblum as the Grandmaster, even Korg of the Warbound. It knew it was a fun Blockbuster but worked within it to surprise the viewer. Between this and Wonder Woman, that’s two recent super hero films that have been great. Thor gets 4 out of 5 stars.
January passed quickly…on this blog. I actually did some work travel this month but it was on a Rouge flight (to Vegas for CES) so there were no movies/inflight entertainment.
January was a juxtaposition in terms of the weather. Half the time it was deep winter (snow and -10°C), and then the other half was mild and almost spring weather. All the snow melted away and I saw people riding their bikes. We had a respite from the winter coughing and colds over the Christmas break, but by the middle of the month, they had returned (guess it took a week to incubate after returning to school).
Katana is standing by herself now and can walk with a walker. She’s on the cusp of walking by herself. This month I spent some time watching Star Trek Discovery, and playing Hearthstone Dungeon runs. Otherwise it was a quiet and normal month.
- The Myth of Drug Expiration Dates
We throw out a lot of medicine and it always feels like a waste. Not sure this article is conclusive though, even if the government is doing it (not throwing stuff out)
Gerona and Cantrell, a pharmacist and toxicologist, knew that the term “expiration date” was a misnomer. The dates on drug labels are simply the point up to which the Food and Drug Administration and pharmaceutical companies guarantee their effectiveness, typically at two or three years. But the dates don’t necessarily mean they’re ineffective immediately after they “expire” — just that there’s no incentive for drugmakers to study whether they could still be usable.
- Inside the All-Consuming World of Paw Patrol
Wow, Paw Patrol has hit the big time! I’m blogging about it. I thought this article would be more in depth about the business around it, but it does have some interesting information.
In 2013, designers at Spin Master came up with a few prototype toys—one of them was a house that could transform into a truck—and took them to various preschool-TV-show creators. It was Bob the Builder’s Keith Chapman who came up with the concept for Paw Patrol. The development of original characters is much more lucrative than the licensing of other companies’ ideas. After Chapman conceived of the Paw Patrol franchise, Spin Master tapped Toronto animators at Guru Studio to produce it. By August 2013, it was on TVO in Canada and Nickelodeon in the US. I asked Ronnen Harary, Spin Master co-founder and co-CEO, which came first when they were conceiving new episodes: merchandise or storylines. He said, “Producing toys for kids is an art form, and writing and animating TV shows for kids is an art form. We’ve been able to mix those two forms together. It’s a very difficult thing to do because they’re different disciplines, but by mixing them together, you can have a potentially richer TV show.”
- Parking for Gold
This article reminds me of another farcical article I had read recently (although I guess it wasn’t in my pocket queue) about the Microsoft Office olympics. But this one is for valets. Because I’m less skilled a valet-ing, I don’t connect with it as much (or get all of the inside jokes); but it doesn’t make it sound less crazy.
Next up was Precision Parking, the photogenic centerpiece of the games. Valets must sprint to a car—in this case, a black Toyota Camry—leap inside, and roar out of the parking spot. There is no speed limit. Athletes then weave through 10 orange cones, park the car, put it in reverse, and do the whole thing all over again, backwards. Before the event began, there was a small controversy: Most valets had practiced on six cones, they said, not 10. Some walked the course in open disbelief, as if faced with driving the Nürburgring.
- Deliverance From 27,000 Feet
Another article about dying on Mount Everest. No matter how many stories I read, I’m still amazed at the people who attempt such a feat.
“I cannot stop thinking about the money spent to retrieve his body,” Debasish Ghosh said. “If we had spent the money earlier, if we had helped Goutam when he was alive, so that he could find a better agency, or buy more oxygen or make better preparations, could he have survived? Would he be home now, alive? Did we contribute to his death because we didn’t help him until now?”
- The Last of the Iron Lungs
Interesting short article about Iron Lungs, which were mostly used to help Polio victims in the 1950s. There’s still 3 in operation in the US but no company still supports them.
Some polio survivors were only partially impaired or got better. For instance, Mia Farrow only had to spend eight months in an iron lung when she was nine, before going on to become a famous actress and polio advocate. And golfer Jack Nicklaus had symptoms for two weeks as a child, but as an adult only had sore joints.
But many polio victims have breathing difficulties for the rest of their lives, or have issues later in life when overworked neurons burn out, a condition called post-polio syndrome. “I breathe 20 percent of what you breathe with every breath,” Lillard explained to me. “You still have the neurons that work the muscles that you breathe with.”
They warned that this winter would be snowy and they weren’t lying. The last few years we haven’t had a White Christmas, but there was a lot of snow dumped on us this December. We had a couple of snowstorms that promised 5-10cm and 15-20cm, but we saw about 5cm each time. Still, they happened during morning rush hour so it was messy. There was a couple of warm days between them so all the snow melted, but I think we’re going to have snow on the ground for the rest of the winter now. The temperatures are also quite low, reaching -10°C in the day time on several days. All in all, it feels like the middle of February instead of December.
We did our Christmas shopping in December this year, but we didn’t go into the malls at all. A lot of Amazon and other online shopping, as well as Toys R Us for the kids. It wasn’t too hectic in fact, which is great. The kids still ended up with a lot of gifts from various family and friends so I need to shift around the toys (donate some old ones). I didn’t do any Boxing Day shopping. There’s nothing I need to buy and even the clothes stores that I usually buy (online) from (e.g., BR/Gap/Old Navy, A&F, etc) I had scoped out during the Christmas shopping time frame and there wasn’t anything I wanted.
I haven’t travelled in awhile (for work). The last time was in the beginning of November, so it was pretty calm this month. The usual Christmas dinners happened as well as the end of year recaps and clean ups. Here’s to another 12 months of recap blogs in 2018!
This year saw the birth of our third child, a girl named Katana. She arrived in March and has grown past most of the trying and smelly baby stuff. Now she’s crawling and can kind of defend herself and/or steal toys from her brothers. Her looks and development are similar to when Apollo was a baby but in a more girly way (might be the clothes).
The boys play with her sometimes, but they are mostly occupied with themselves as they are now best friends. They play and fight together all the time while we tend to the baby or do other household things. In the beginning of the year, it was all about Paw Patrol (carry over from the year before), but now Apollo has moved on to Pokémon while Jovian loves playing with cars (both Lightning McQueen and the general variety).
With three kids now, we are probably done family building (never say never…). Our house is packed with miscellaneous stuff that a family with kids will have (like toys, random outdoor/sports equipment, etc) and there is a never ending process of churn as the kids grow out of items (clothes, toys) that need to be donated/thrown out, and new stuff comes in (either through gifts or purchases). We can manage for another year or two at our current place without any major changes.
We had one big trip with all 3 kids this year (to Japan) and a bunch of short trips. We managed to travel light on these trips, even though there are always a bunch of items that we have to bring (baby carrier, snacks, emergency diapers, etc). Most of our trips involved museums or theme parks and vacation planning now involves finding activities for the kids, and then slotting in places to eat around that. It’s an evolution of how we travel, and I don’t mind it that much as it keeps everyone happy.
This year I played 3 different games. On mobile, I continued to play Star Trek Timelines and while it is starting to get a little boring, I don’t see myself stopping soon (also I spent about $100 in IAP on it across the year). On desktop, I still play Hearthstone. However, I’m straining under the expansion release schedule (3x a year), and so I’ve dialed back on trying to collect cards in it. In the first half of the year, I also played Heroes of the Storm frequently (a couple of times a week). But then I went on vacation and didn’t keep up with the new heroes release/changes in game play so I just dropped it.
Like Twitter in previous years, I noticed that I spent less time reading social feeds this year. This year’s casualty was Facebook. I used to check it several times a day but now I might even go through a day without opening the app. I think a big reason for this is because the News Feed has too much stuff that I don’t care about (maybe an acquaintance liked something and it showed up on my feed). Toward the end of the year, I am feeling the same thing about Instagram (especially because they inserted a big recommended photos/videos section into the feed).
I had similar amounts of work travel this year as last year, except for a big break between Feb – Jun where I hardly did any traveling due to Katana’s birth. A change this year was that I consolidated my flights and loyalty plans and used Air Canada as much as possible (previously I flew whatever was available and collected United points). Even though I missed a couple of Korea trips, I made it to Altitude 35k for the first time, so next year I will have status with Air Canada! One of the reasons for work travel was to go to a bunch of conferences. I attended 4 this year, including CES and Google I/O (first time at both). I also went to the Samsung Developer Conference (first time) and FITC (which was local in Toronto).
I don’t think I did any development this year at work, although I still did technical stuff (product-related work, management and a little housekeeping here and there). My career is also in a transition stage as this is the second year where I have been mostly removed from writing code. This year I spent time on other disciplines like design and strategy, but I guess I need to decide which direction I should go for the next rung of the career ladder soon.
Our “old” friends (e.g., pre-kid friends) have started to collect enough kids now that we are finally having kid-based gatherings. That’s good news for us since we have common topics and can hang out with them again (instead of passing on clubbing or karaoke). Still waiting and wondering on a couple of friends as to whether they will have kids now.
Every year when I write my yearly recap, I have difficulty weaving the thoughts and points into a story. Is the recap supposed to itemize the major things that happen this year? Or is it more about the mindset? The way I look at it is if I come back in 10 years and read the recap, will I have a good sense of how I was feeling in this year? That’s difficult to capture because who knows what ends up being important.
I’ve given this some thought over the last month, and I suspect that what will be important is that 2017 will be seen as an inflection point year. If we backtrack 5 years or so, I knew we were about to have kids so there was a plan on how that would work out (budgeting etc). Now we have 3 kids and, especially because the older two are school age, I believe that my life will be changing so that it is more routine (on a macro level, on a micro level it will probably be chaotic) and household oriented. So while 2016 felt like a waffling continuation of the previous stage of my life, I think 2017 is the end and 2018 will be the start of a different way of living. Interestingly enough, what this was an independent thought, it reminded me of my previous blog about age milestones. So we shall see what the next group of years will be like.
Another year, another bunch of trips:
- Toronto, ON, Canada
- Las Vegas, NV, USA
- Seoul, South Korea
- Dallas, TX, USA
- Sunnyvale, CA, USA
- Boston, MA, USA
- Rochester, NY, USA
- Manhattan, NY, USA
- Osaka, Japan
- Tokyo, Japan
- San Francisco, CA, USA
- Erie, PA, USA
- Grove City, PA, USA