I have been anticipating the release of the 23andMe service in Canada for awhile now. If you haven’t heard of it, it’s a personal genome test service which takes some of your saliva and analyzes your DNA. I was interested in submitting my DNA for testing by for a long time it was a US-only service (possibly some ways to get around that). Then the FDA cracked down on the service so you could not get the full suite of their health analysis.
The rumors was that 23andMe would launch in Canada and the service here would not be limited by the FDA decision. Finally in October, they launched and I paid the $200 to do a test. 23andMe offers 2 basic services: 1) Genetic tests to see your risk factors for certain diseases (big ones are Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s) and 2) Ancestry analysis. It turns out that they still don’t do as many genetic tests as they did prior to the FDA crackdown, and the set they do now (aside from the Big 2) are not that well known. I didn’t have a strong personal interest in the genetic tests, and had more interest in the ancestry analysis. But my main attraction in trying the service was curiosity in seeing what my DNA can reveal.
After purchase, the kit to collect my saliva came pretty fast (ordered on Friday, arrived on Monday). After spending 5 minutes spitting, I sent it off the next day. My saliva got sent to a location in Canada where it looked like it was bundled with some other kits and sent to their processing facility in the US. That took about a week (it seems like it had to go through custom clearance due to biological material?). Then another week for them to do the analysis. All told, it took about 2.5 weeks to get my results.
The results were a bit underwhelming. The don’t test as many things as I thought they would in terms of genetic characteristics (i.e., whether you are lactose tolerant or not) and the number of genetic risk factors is also small. There’s always promise that they will add more risk factors and your DNA analysis will automatically be applied to those. The ancestry result was also not too interesting, although that might be because the result lined up with what I thought my genetics would be. There’s a feature to find DNA relatives, and 23andMe found a couple – but they were all beyond 3rd cousins so we are not really related (of course this feature depends on the number of people using 23andMe).
For the price, I don’t think you get sufficient value out of it (especially if there are no surprises). However, I am interested in progressing the field and my understanding of my DNA so the $200 to become a member of this service is my investment in that.
Here’s a short essay by Issac Asimov on creativity. I like a couple of ideas
That is the crucial point that is the rare characteristic that must be found. Once the cross-connection is made, it becomes obvious. Thomas H. Huxley is supposed to have exclaimed after reading On the Origin of Species, “How stupid of me not to have thought of this.”
But why didn’t he think of it? The history of human thought would make it seem that there is difficulty in thinking of an idea even when all the facts are on the table. Making the cross-connection requires a certain daring. It must, for any cross-connection that does not require daring is performed at once by many and develops not as a “new idea,” but as a mere “corollary of an old idea.”
My feeling is that as far as creativity is concerned, isolation is required. The creative person is, in any case, continually working at it. His mind is shuffling his information at all times, even when he is not conscious of it. (The famous example of Kekule working out the structure of benzene in his sleep is well-known.)
The presence of others can only inhibit this process, since creation is embarrassing. For every new good idea you have, there are a hundred, ten thousand foolish ones, which you naturally do not care to display.
Which is one way to explain why large businesses find it difficult to be “innovative” irrespective of whether they say they are.
One of the goals I set for myself for my Always Taeyeon app is to try and grow it better than A Healthier Commute. I already had a head start because the topic had more fans and audience, but I wanted the app to be “successful”. Of course, I set the normal hobby rules for the app (e.g., not paying for any promotion).
It’s been almost 2 months since I released and I’m pretty happy with the results so far. I’m at about 1300 downloads and a 4.4 star rating with 59 reviews. Obviously I want the download count to be higher, but I think I’m doing pretty well given that the only “promotion” I’ve done is post about it on a couple of Google+ and Facebook groups.
The statistics I’m most keen about now though is Daily Active Users. My app is high quality in the sense that the photos are high quality, but also in the sense that it is maintained well. So there are frequent (photo) updates. In fact, if there are new photos I try to engage with the user every day via a status bar notification. You can’t turn those notifications off – if you want them off, then you don’t care about the photos anyways so just uninstall the app. I’m not convinced that that is affecting my uninstall rate though as my install rate is a decent 42% (~570 current installs).
But does it have an affect on my DAU? I think it does. Here is a graph over time.
It is a nice trend as it is going up and to the right. I think my DAU is pretty impressive though as it is about 71% of my current installs! It’s so good that I’m kind of skeptical that the current install number is incorrect – although I haven’t released the app on other stores, maybe users are just passing around the APK.
Ever since I returned my Fitbit Force, I kind of missed having it. Sure it enabled me to wear a watch again, but I never really did. So I’ve been thinking about getting another fitness tracker for awhile.
I ended up buying a new Fitbit Flex, which is the old model prior to the Force. I debated awhile, because I was also very keen on getting the Xiaomi fitness band that was announced in August. It retails (in China) for only $13 – shipped to Canada would cost about $30 total, which is still less than a third of the cost of a Flex.
In the end, I decided on the Fitbit. 2 reasons:
- I was able to buy it on double sale. From a regular price of $99, there was a 25% F&F sale at SportChek, and then another 10% newsletter signup coupon. It ended up costing $67 instead of $100.
- Since I already had a Force, I already had data in the FitBit system and getting another FitBit device would contribute to that (instead of starting over)
One thing that weighed on my mind though, was that FitBit had already announced that they would replace the Force with something better! Should I wait for that? I decided no, and I think I did the right thing. Now, the rumors are that FitBit will release the Charge and Charge HR. I’m kind of interested in having a heart rate monitor in my fitness band, but certainly not at a cost of $220!
Satis-Factory (get it?) is inspired by the board game Pandemic where plays have to cooperatively save the world from diseases. It’s less complicated to play, but has functionality to play locally on the same LAN (sounds interesting but I haven’t tried it yet). Although like the Catan Dice Game (which is no longer available on Google Play), the gameplay seems rather boring.
I know I have a project (on the backburner) to make a Monopoly Deal clone, but it looks like I might not have to do it anymore as there is one on Google Play called Monopoly Deal mini. Sure it plays the game, and there are AI opponents, but the UI and UX sucks. Although, I’ve moved on to other projects so this might be the closest one can get to playing Monopoly Deal on your phone.
Nimble Quest is basically a glorified game of Snake with IAP requirements (mostly because it’s by the same makers as Tiny Tower). Strangely though, I find this less of a grind and more interesting than the Tiny Tower variants that I’ve played as I’m more willing to go through the mundane and repetitive gameplay to level. Perhaps it’s because it doesn’t require me to come back to the game every x minutes/hours.
Apollo has finally reached an age where he can play with his train set (and not simply try and smash the tracks together to make noise)! We received a base Thomas the Tank engine set as a gift and while that is a fun starter kit, there isn’t enough variation after awhile.
Buying wooden Thomas sets (or one of the other name-brand brands like Brio) is super, super expensive. I suppose you’re would consider them family heirlooms since they don’t really break or age (although the paint is starting to rub off of Thomas), and technological advances (i.e., motorized/compact versions) just don’t feel the same.
In any case, instead of buying some more Thomas sets, we went the cheap route and bought 2 IKEA additions which were relatively affordable (under $20 each), had a nice variety of cars and tracks, and more or less fit the Thomas tracks. The train gauge is the same, the majority of the pieces fit together (although the connections are not exactly the same so some types will not fit together and often you have to work to fit them in) but the polarity of the car magnets are reversed. Not a big deal as the savings in price is significant.
The best part about the train set is not moving the cars around, but coming up with interesting configurations for the tracks. Here are a couple I setup. Apollo doesn’t understand or appreciate the intricacies of making novel tracks yet as he’s more interested in connecting cars into a long chain, and sliding them down hills into the station but at some point hopefully he will!
Even though I learned the scientific principle behind it as part of my university education, being able to wirelessly charge a device still feels like magic. So I have been pretty excited that the last few Nexus devices support the Qi standard and can be charged wirelessly. I had considered buying the official Google Qi charger because of the magic, but when I thought about it more, it really is spending $50 for the convenience of not plugging in your phone every night.
So I waited until Qi chargers started appearing cheap on the Chinese sites. They have had them for awhile, but it was only in the last few months that they’ve fallen to around the $10 mark. So far I’ve bought 4 Qi chargers and my experience has not been that great.
The first one I bought was on a slant, so that it could work like a dock for your phone when it was charging. I thought it might make my phone more useful as a clock (or at least use the daydream mode). I knew that it would not magnetically hold my phone (like the official charger), but use some sort of anti-slip material. It turns out that anti-slip material was a form of glue/tape that eventually loses its grip. Since the position really matters (and affects energy transfer), this ended up in the garbage quickly.
Next I bought one that was like a hockey puck. This worked fairly well for awhile and I used it as a bedside charger. But the positioning of the phone started making a difference after awhile. Some mornings I would wake up and my phone would only have been charged slightly (annoying) or not at all (useless). Most nights it would be ok – but because it is possibly unreliable, I can’t trust it. I suppose I should have just spent the money on the magnetic one, but I didn’t because I wanted a couple of chargers.
I got a rectangular pad with a larger footprint (similar size to a phablet) for my desk and that has worked fairly well. I find it more useful than plugging my phone in, not because I’m too lazy to plug my phone in there, but because it prevents my phone from being recognized in ADB when I don’t want to deploy apps to it. This has been my most successful use of a Qi adapter.
Finally, I got another puck shaped one and put it in the living room in case I needed to charge my phone there. This again worked for awhile (although I didn’t use it too much) until it decided to burn out or otherwise not function any more. Again it became useless.
I won’t even get in the fact that Qi charging is not 100% efficient and is thus slower than actually plugging the phone in. But ignoring that, my experience with Qi has been much less than magical.
There are always arguments about whether we’re in a real estate bubble or not, but I suppose it doesn’t matter to me much since I’m invested in the market – i.e., if the market goes up then when I sell I’ll make more money, but it’ll cost me more to buy the next house.
That philosophy is kind of fine, except that the rate that property values are increasing seems to be much higher than the rate of salary increases. In a recent Globe and Mail article, the Toronto neighborhood with the highest property value increases is my neighborhood, Willowdale. From July 2009 to July 2014, the average house value increased 90% from $667k to $1,270k. That’s a yearly growth of 14.1%, and I don’t think most salaries increase that fast (and every year).
The second highest neighborhood is Newtonbrook (just to the west of us) and the third highest is my old stomping grounds Agincourt. They are all above 10% year upon year.
Those numbers seem crazy to me! For perspective, in 2013 the average Canadian salary is under $50k. Looks like Toronto is going to become a SF or NYC.
I had Spellwood on my Google Play wishlist for a long time until I finally realized that I had a bunch of Amazon coins that would expire in under a year so maybe I should just buy it! It seemed like a more interesting take on traditional Scrabble type games but when I started playing it, I ended up with the same problem I had with most of these games – I suck at them. Eventually, both the computer and I end up resorting to BS “fake” words like aa in certain circumstances and that just sucked the fun out of the game. A lot of the reviews talked about having to buy an IAP in order to continue, but I never even got to that stage because I got stuck on one level where the difficult ramped up suddenly. There’s a XP/equipment system but you can’t seem to grind XP (or equipment) by replaying levels – so rather than improving your character, it’s just a means to introduce new gameplay mechanics (which is lame). I wish I had known about the demo version before so I wouldn’t have to waste my (free) coins.
I also came across another game called Wordiest which builds from the same Scrabble foundation – except this one is a lot more fun. The gameplay is more constrained, you’re given 14 letters and you have to create 2 words from the letters. You’re scored based on the words (same letter-to-points mechanic as Scrabble) and then ranked within a random pool of 100 other players. I like this much better because it doesn’t reward words like aa and you actually have to think within the constraints. It’s also nice for a quick round, but might require internet in order to play. I also wonder how long one would play if you’re ranking is less than 50%
This September we did some travelling but it was probably not what you would think. For Labour day we went down to the US since we haven’t been in a long time – that trip was pretty typical, although the highlight of the trip was to reproduce some photos with our newborn.
Later in the month, I went down to NYC for work; but instead of going during the week, I went down on the weekend. The main purpose was to attend Droidcon. It was better & bigger than the last Android conference I attended but unfortunately only had similar swag (there were a lot of opportunities to get t-shirts, but I didn’t bother trying to maximize the swag). I also saw a bunch of people walking around with Google Glass, and almost 50% of the people had Android Wear devices.
While I was down in NYC, Pauline took the kids to visit her sister in Ottawa which was the first time they went on a trip without me. It turned out ok without any disasters so that was great too.
Meanwhile in the city, this month we went to a bunch of places to pick fruits and vegetables. We don’t have a cold cellar so can’t really store any of what we gather, so we basically have to eat or share it. Apollo also started his first music class, although it’s more like listening to music/singing and dancing. Not an actual class where he will learn to play instruments (not even percussion ones). We also went to the zoo, which was actually a lot less fun than you would think (even though Apollo can recognize some of the animals)
This month I also got my second set of wisdom teeth removed. It was an easier process because they were both out anyways – I didn’t even need stiches.