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Pocket Queue 70


  • I don’t think my situation will be exactly the same (since I don’t work “in” the Valley), but at some point I’ll end up with the same predicament. Everyone in tech will. So it’s interesting to hear stories about how older people are coping.

    At ProMatch, a state-funded job counseling and networking program in Sunnyvale, Calif., Robert Withers advises his mostly middle-aged or older clients to cut anything on their résumés that’s more than 10 years old, to use a professional photographer for their LinkedIn headshots, and to hang out in the parking lots of places where they’ll be interviewing to see what the people there wear.

  • Is there a ceiling on what our brains can understand?
    I’ve wondered about this before and am on the side of the fence that thinks there is a ceiling. The genesis for my ideas is the Star Trek TNG episode where they encounter a 2D civilization – they couldn’t comprehend 3D. Could we ever comprehend something in 4D (and I don’t mean some trivial cases).

    Say we could create a group of chimps that could live for a million years, and we have the best human teachers spend the whole million years trying to teach the chimps to understand quantum mechanics well enough that they’d be able to, on their own, build a working particle accelerator. It wouldn’t happen. Not possible. A chimp brain is simply not capable of learning something of that complexity, because there’s a ceiling on what a chimp brain can understand.

  • Why Do Tourists Visit Ancient Ruins Everywhere Except the United States?
    I approached this article with an for finding interesting things to visit in the US (i.e., via road trip instead of flying) but this article seems to only suggest 2 places: Cahokia in St Louis and Chaco Canyon in New Mexico

    Cahokia is mysterious to historians because North America did not have writing systems, and Cahokia’s population disappeared suddenly and mysteriously in the late 1300s. By the time Europeans found the site, even Native Americans knew little about it.

    What we do know is that a village was razed in 1050 to rebuild Cahokia on a grid, with a grand plaza and ceremonial structures built on two hundred huge, earthen pyramids. The population increased so rapidly—Dr. Pauketat writes that walking from the edge of Cahokia’s territory to the city center would have taken two days at its peak—that Cahokia must have drawn thousands of immigrants inspired by its religion, culture, or politics.

  • Research suggests being lazy is a sign of high intelligence
    I’ve been using the Pocket Recommendation feed to find articles and end up with a lot of short scientific articles that have an interesting hypothesis but not much substance in the article (almost not worth spending the time to blog as I’m more interested in long reads). Here’s one example, although it has this mind twister:

    Researchers suggested the findings could lend weight to the idea that non-thinkers get bored more easily, so need to fill their time with physical activity.

    But the downside to being brainer – and lazier – warned Mr McElroy was the negative impact of a sedentary lifestyle.

  • Why Do Famous People Get Paid $250,000 to Give a Speech?
    A look at the speaking circuit, how it works, and how much money people make. It’s not that great of a gig even if you’re super famous. The story of Up In The Air comes to mind.

    “We’ve essentially had every former president since Ronald Reagan,” says Chuck Carr, the Vice President for Convention, Education & Training at the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries (ISRI), “and most of the secretaries of state.” As a professional association, ISRI not only wants to sell tickets to its annual conference. It wants good attendance from recycling professionals so they benefit from the networking opportunities. And people like Stanley McChrystal and Bill Clinton help them do that.

Nobunaga Concerto

I found this Japanese movie under “New Releases” and misunderstood the summary and ended up watching it. What I thought I would be getting into was a movie where they pluck a teenager from our era and drop him into historical Japan, where he happens to be a doppelganger of a warlord who is attempting to unite Japan. I thought the movie would be about how he adapts to historical times and convinces rival warlords to his cause.

It turns out that Nobunaga Concerto is actually based on a manga and the above plot is completed in a summary in a quick 5 minute introduction to the premise. I suppose the movie is based on some of the later books in the manga. Anyways, it turns out that this movie is about how his fellow warlords plot to kill him. That was not nearly as interesting to me.

The movie played out like a live action manga. There were lots of weird exclamations and scenes where the character would make faces with ominous music in the background. Actually, it was a lot like a Bollywood movie in that respect. Both the premise and plot are a bit crazy and intended to be a light-hearted fantasy. I was my mistake to try and watch this movie, but it still doesn’t make it any better. Two out of five stars for this concerto.

Book Of Love (Finding Mr Right 2)

Korean Air has a small movie selection so I didn’t have a lot of things I was looking forward to watching. I read through basically all the movie descriptions and Book of Love was the 2nd best choice – that’s how bad the selection was!

Anyways, this movie is a Chinese film that tells 2 separate stories, and one meta-story. One story focuses on a addicted gambler/hostess in Macau who is in a perpetual borrow money/payback cycle and the other focuses on a real estate agent in LA trying to sell houses to overseas investors and astronaut moms. Of the two, the latter was much more interesting to me because who ever makes a movie about that?? The meta-story is that they are both single and come across a book called 84 Charing Cross which is about 2 people starting a relationship by writing letters. They start doing so and find that that is the solution to their own love problems.

I felt the meta-story was kind of weak. Until the end of the movie, it was used as a plot device to comment on each character’s love life, which occurred at the same time as their individual stories. There were too many primary stories that the watcher had to focus on and the meta-story lost since it wasn’t visualized. When the movie had time to focus on the meta-story, then it had some impact.

I felt the movie was messy because of this, but had a bunch of novel situations so I would give this a 3 out of 5 stars (but still would rather watch a summer action blockbuster instead of this one!)

Pocket Queue 69

  • These Aren’t Wireless Headphones
    A look at Apple’s new wireless earbuds – if you’re like me and don’t really pay a lot of attention to Apple news, then you might know the ins and outs about this new product. Seems like it covers a lot of interesting use cases, but I’m not prepared to drop significant money on something that is so easy to lose (and only supports Apple devices)

    One more simple feature holds perhaps the most telling clue to what Apple has in mind for the future. Tap the AirPods twice while they’re in your ear and you’ll wake Siri, much like how you wake Amazon’s Echo by saying “Alexa.” Suddenly you’ll find yourself conversing with an A.I.–powered voice assistant via a tiny earpiece in your ear.

  • Hillary Clinton’s ‘Invisible Guiding Hand’
    It was surprising when I found out that analytics was such a big factor in a transient event such as an election, but after thinking about it, it makes a lot of sense. The data and analysis that has been accumulated can be reused for subsequent campaigns. However, I think it might be a waste that all the infrastructure might have to be recreated if the people are all new each time (I assume that there is a lot of custom analysis).

    The breakdown of the buy in Texas, powered by Kriegel’s modeling, shows how Clinton’s TV ads budget hunted for delegates, not votes. Texas is the rare state that used state legislative districts to award delegates, and Clinton spent $1.2 million on broadcast and cable ads even as she won the state by 32 percentage points. Sanders spent $0. She spent more on ads in tiny Brownsville ($127,000) and Waco ($142,000), ranked as the 86th and 87th largest media markets in the country, as she did in Houston ($105,000), the 10th largest, according to ad data provided by a media tracker.

    It paid off: In Texas alone, Clinton netted 72 delegates more than Sanders — a margin that more than offset all the Sanders’ primary and caucus wins through March 1.

  • Why Are Babies So Dumb If Humans Are So Smart?
    An interesting hypothesis as to why, when Humans are born, they’re so useless compared to other animals.

    And in modern humans, a few pieces of evidence appear to suggest that smarter parents are more likely to have offspring that survive. In one limited sample—two hundred and twenty-two Serbian Roma women—maternal I.Q. and child mortality were negatively correlated (that is, higher I.Q. meant lower mortality), even controlling for education, age, and a number of other factors. In a larger sample of Californian parents, in 1978, years of education were linked to infant-mortality rates. Global epidemiological studies suggest a decrease in mortality that equals between seven and nine per cent for each year of a mother’s education.

  • We might live in a computer program, but it may not matter
    I just blogged a similar article on this topic a few weeks ago, but this subject is so fascinating that I can’t get enough of it!

    Quantum mechanics, the theory of the very small, has thrown up all sorts of odd things. For instance, both matter and energy seem to be granular. What’s more, there are limits to the resolution with which we can observe the Universe, and if we try to study anything smaller, things just look “fuzzy”.

    Smoot says these perplexing features of quantum physics are just what we would expect in a simulation. They are like the pixellation of a screen when you look too closely.

  • The new science of cute
    Not surprisingly, this article is mostly about Japan – the epicentre of cute. There’s cute though, and there’s fame. This article tries to tackle both.

    But for a mascot to be successful, being cute is not always enough. For every popular yuru-kyara, there are a hundred Harajuku Miccolos – a 5ft-tall yellow-and-brown bee, who I met standing on the pavement outside the Colombin bakery and cafe, celebrating Honey Bee Day with three hours of loitering in front of the cafe, greeting passers-by, or trying to. Most barely glanced in his direction and did not break stride, though some did come over and pose for a photo. There was no queue.

X-Men: Apocalypse

This was another film that I had no expectations about, but I was interested in seeing because I read so many X-Men comics when I was younger. I think there were a couple of X-Men movies that I missed but luckily this was like a reboot.

The movie was set in the 80s (whenever Return of the Jedi came out) and was quite charming because of it. No doubt it helps the movie appeal to target an older demographic with disposable income. One of the best parts in the movie was set to the Eurythmics’ Sweet Dreams Are Made Of These.

I liked the movie overall because there were a lot of characters, cameos and quirky things from the Marvel universe, but from a plot perspective I think it was very fragmented. There were a ton of characters introduced which meant the story wasn’t very deep or long. Apocalypse didn’t even get to do much aside from recruit, stand around and order his minions. Kind of a boring villain.

The were a lot of grand scenes a la Batman vs Superman, but overall I found the fights not very interesting. It was kind of like trying to punch through each other by unleashing your mutant powers all at once – the exception were the Nightcrawler fights.

Before writing this review, I was thinking of giving this movie 4 out of 5 stars because i really did enjoy it. But I think that I was just marvelled about the surroundings and didn’t pay too much attention to the story. I think I’ll give X-Men: Apocalypse 3 out of 5 stars.

Pocket Queue 68

  • They Promised Us Jet Packs. They Promised the Bosses Profit.
    A quick look at how Google X operates – did you know they get bonuses for purposely failing a project? In a way, it makes sense…

    The idea of celebrating failure is a Silicon Valley cliché, but Mr. Teller talks about it in the practical terms of a management consultant. Say you have a team of 20 people working on a project that is not going anywhere, he said in a recent interview. In a year those 20 people will be 30 people. The company has to pay their salaries and health insurance, and the team will inevitably hire a few consultants. Worse, they will have wasted a year.

    How much money could the company save if you could get them to cut bait a year earlier?

  • I have found a new way to watch TV, and it changes everything
    After hearing about this approach, I want to use it when I watch videos (is there a button that I can do toggle this on YouTube yet?). Although one area where this wouldn’t work is if you’re watching music videos (is almost half of the videos that I would watch).

    In the 1960s, a blind psychologist named Emerson Foulke began experimenting with this technique to accelerate speech. A professor at the University of Louisville, Foulke was frustrated with the slowness of recorded books for the blind, so he tried speeding them up. The sampling method proved surprisingly effective. In Foulke’s experiments, speech could be accelerated to 250-275 wpm without affecting people’s scores on a listening comprehension test.

    These limits were suspiciously close to the average college reading rate. Foulke suspected that beyond 300 wpm, deeper processes in the brain were getting overloaded. Experiments showed that at 300-400 wpm, individual words were still clear enough to understand; except at that rate, many listeners couldn’t keep up with rapid stream of words, likely because their short-term memories were overtaxed.

  • Everything we love to eat is a scam
    On the one hand, I suspect that the findings in this article are true (I’ve experienced a wide range of quality in salmon sushi), but as an avid food eater (which I hope you are too), it really sucks.

    Farmed Cambodian ponga poses as grouper, catfish, sole, flounder and cod. Wild-caught salmon is often farmed and pumped up with pink coloring to look fresher. Sometimes it’s actually trout.

    Ever wonder why it’s so hard to properly sear scallops? It’s because they’ve been soaked in water and chemicals to up their weight, so vendors can up the price. Even “dry” scallops contain 18 percent more water and chemicals.

  • The brilliant mechanics of Pokémon Go
    This Pokemon Go article is about how it is a great freemium game and some reasons why it is so addictive. Of course, now we have confirmation that it is a fad and doesn’t have dominant staying power.

    In Pokémon Go, there’s no feature that allows you to extend the life of your playing session by inviting or reaching out to friends. In fact, the social graph is almost non-existent in Pokémon Go. Instead, your in-game social graph is an extension of a supplemented version of your real-world social graph. A smartphone owner sees someone playing the game, becomes curious, downloads the game and plays it — both interacting with other players and inspiring curiosity in other potential new players. And the rest of the time you’re looking at screenshots of what’s happening in the game in your Facebook feed, or texting friends when you managed to catch that rare Pokémon.

  • How Chromebooks Are About to Totally Transform Laptop Design
    Just because Chromebooks run Android apps, doesn’t make it that attractive to me – I guess I’m not bought into the hype yet and I have a lot of use cases which seem like they will need local storage. Maybe if I wasn’t very OCD about my data I could live with one. In any case, here is a short history of the Chromebook and where we are right now.

    “The first people who bought Chromebooks were people who were computer folks,” he says. “They looked at the Chromebook and said, ‘This is not a real computer, it doesn’t have very many settings!’” They hated that you couldn’t find your files, or change the time setting. But why in the world, Sengupta argues, would any rational person want to manually change the time on their computer? It should just know. “The amount of work it took to eliminate all the settings,” he says, “so that you didn’t have to care and feed for your computer, was the thing that really made it successful.”

August 2016

I had a really long birthDAY as I was in Korea for the week on business. My flight back was later in the day on my birthday, and because of the International Date Line, I arrived back in Toronto a few minutes before my flight departed – so my birthday ended up being about 36 hours! Seoul was really hot and humid so I didn’t do too much. Walking around side caused my arms to get all wet from the humidity and staying inside was a bit too cold (they like to set their ACs to 18°C).

Other than that, we did our usual August stuff, which was to start going to farms and orchards to pick fruit and vegetables. Both kids are now in daycare/summer camp so they have their own activities during the weekday. We used this month as a practice/transition month so that the kids are used to waking up early (and sleeping a little earlier) as well as being away from their parents for most of the day. Luckily, the transition seems to have gone pretty well.

The weather has been hot (basically everywhere in the world) so we didn’t spend too much time outdoors – unfortunately that means we didn’t use our backyard either. The summer Olympics in Rio occurred and there were no disasters so I didn’t pay a lot of attention. Hearthstone released a new adventure so I played that for a bit, but mostly concentrated on Star Trek Timelines in terms of game-playing.

Android Games 30

Mystic Miracles is a clone of the board game 7 Wonders. It has the same mechanics but all the names are different. I have been looking for a 7 Wonders game to play on my phone for awhile – there were a couple of amateur projects but they didn’t get very far, and I stumbled this one while following links from another game (I think it was Dominion). Now that I’ve found this, I 1) forgot the rules and had to learn them again, and 2) don’t find the game very fun any more. However, if you are looking for a good port of 7 Wonders, this is very good (not sure about the AI since I’m not a good player).

Continent Conquest is a game that plays like Civilization or Age of Empires, but doesn’t look nearly as pretty. I played it through a little but didn’t end up finishing the tutorial. There’s nothing really wrong with this game, just that I don’t have the patience to invest in a game like this on mobile when there are other games or faster games to play.

The Illusionist

I like movies about magic but was hesitant to watch The Illusionist because I thought that it would pale in comparison to The Prestige, which I liked a lot. However, due to a lack of selection, I ended up watching it.

Magic films are inherently fun because there is the expectation that there is going to be a con – much in the same vein as Ocean’s 11 series. However, the setup is a bit different and more subtle because sleight of hand (sometimes at the macro level) is needed. In The Illusionist, the goal of the con is pretty obvious but for some reason I didn’t realize the con was happening while I watched it (it was obvious afterwards). I guess that’s the sign of an engaging story.

In fact the story is pretty straightforward, a love story between people of two castes, but Edward Norton’s character has a lot of mystery to it (after spending 15 years in the Orient). That helped me enjoy the movie a lot more, and while it is not near the quality of The Prestige, it’s a solid 3 out of 5 stars.

From Vegas To Macau III

I watched this movie because it is in the “God of Gamblers” franchise which I had enjoyed when I was a kid. Some quick researching seems to indicate that this is the 7th movie in the franchise (even though it has a 3 in the name). Since I wasn’t an avid follower of the series, I wouldn’t be surprised if I didn’t know or understand a lot of the backstory.

I was surprised that this movie is completely wack. It is no surprise that the gamblers have some sort of supernatural powers (i.e., they are super heroes and villains) but I was expecting something more in the vein of the swordplay in olden day Chinese films.

As an aside, on my flight to Korea, I also (re-)watched Hero. I wasn’t sure whether I had watched it completely or not even while I was watching it – some of it was familiar but I had to check after I got back and noticed that I blogged about it previously. The sword play there is unnatural and unreal but it feels like a choreographed dance between the opponents. Similarly, I expect the gamblers to channel some sort power to change cards on the table or whatnot.

Instead, the protagonists have completely crazy powers that make this movie more satirical than anything else. It’s not even a parody of action films like Austin Powers, it’s just completely made up. Maybe the plot is grounded in some sort of story if you watch the previous ones but watching this objectively is somewhat pointless.

I guess one redeeming feature is that the plot keeps moving (because who knows what crazy thing is going to happen next) so it’s not boring. However, it’s subpar even when compared to the plots of summer blockbusters. I’ll give this movie a 2 out of 5.