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Hearthstone Heroic: Vaelastrasz the Corrupt

This was another fun matchup that I beat without much difficulty. In this battle, you’re basically fighting against a super-mill deck, except the boss has an advantage where his mana ramps up at double your pace. He makes you draw 4 cards per round, so you need to dump as many cards out of your hand as possible. This made combo Rogue a natural opponent. Here’s my deck:

  • 2x Backstab
  • 2x Counterfeit Coin
  • 2x Shadowstep
  • 2x Target Dummy
  • 2x Arcane Anomaly
  • 2x Pit Snake
  • 2x Zombie Chow
  • 2x Defias Ringleader
  • 2x Gang Up
  • 2x Jade Shuriken
  • 2x Jade Swarmer
  • 2x Sap
  • Beneath the Grounds
  • 2x Assassinate
  • 2x Vanish
  • Clockwork Giant

I beat him in my first or second attempt, so the deck is not optimized at all!

Ghostbusters

Although I always knew of it, I never watched Ghostbusters when I was a child. I recognize a couple of the memorable images (the station wagon, suit, green ghost guy) but don’t know the story. I guess I might have watched some Ghostbusters cartoons on TV at some point. But essentially watching the new Ghostbusters was a new franchise to me.

There was a couple of things to like about it; it had style and was unique with the gender reversed roles. The comedy had some hits and some misses but for some reason, the fact that it didn’t take itself seriously and be an action movie bothered me. Also, even though this movie calls for a high level of suspension of disbelief, I just can’t get past the how they “fought” an army of ghosts. Bring non-corporeal, the ghosts have a huge advantage. Instead, they were done in by some positive-ion lassos. Seriously??

The movie had a lot of fun and funny parts, but it just didn’t gel together into a good movie for me. Two out of five stars.

Hearthstone Heroic: Razorgore the Untamed

This boss was fun and not like the previous one that took me many months. Razorgore the Untamed has a bunch of 0/3 eggs and a free hero power that gives every egg one more health while spawning a new egg. If any egg reaches 5 health, it’ll turn into a 7/7 minion. The key to this match is not let those egg hatch!

This match was easy due to the poisonous mechanic, which meant that I could kill any egg with a single hit. The swap health/attack mechanic is also useful. I made two different decks for this, both with poisonous minions. The first was a Paladin deck with silver hand synergy, and the second was a Mill Rogue. I ended up playing the Mill Rogue because I never really play that hero. Here’s my deck:

  • 2x Shadowstep
  • 2x Pit Snake
  • 2x Zombie Chow
  • 2x Crazed Alchemist
  • 2x Gang Up
  • 2x Sap
  • 2x Stubborn Gastropod
  • 2x Coldlight Oracle
  • 2x Emperor Cobra
  • 2x Giant Wasp
  • 2x Kooky Chemist
  • 2x Assassinate
  • 2x Dark Iron Skulker
  • 2x Shadowcaster
  • 2x Vanish

I beat the boss with this deck on the first couple of tries. I didn’t really have to hit face much, and even used some of the poisonous minions on the larger enemy minions. I didn’t mill Razorgore to death, but he did use up his entire deck by the end of the match. I hope more bosses are like this – strong, but beatable without luck.

Hearthstone Heroic: Rend Blackhand

I was stuck on this heroic battle for many months before finally beating him recently. It took so long, that Blizzard released three expansions during that time (OiNK, MSG, JtU)! I found this challenging because the opponent deck was well balanced. He had a hero power that pumped out several decent (2 or 3 2/2) or one strong (5/4 or 8/8) minion per turn. He played a dragon deck that had strong synergies, utilizing dragon cards from multiple classes. And he also had strong direct damage spells.

I tried a variety of approaches – control warrior, mill rogue, beast/taunt druid, patron – but didn’t make any headway. I had the modest success with a modified freeze mage that could last 10+ turns through AOE board clears (spells, exploding sheep, abominations). The win condition in that deck was Alexstrasza, but unfortunately Rend has a kill legendary card. I tried to counter that with the Duplicate mage secret, but I never got to a point where I pulled off the combo successfully.

Finally I got fed up and looked on the Internet to see how others were approaching this battle. There seemed to be 2 approaches. The first was to use Hunter’s exploding trap to clear the early board, and then go face. I didn’t see how this deck would be successful since Rend would just through up more taunts and strong minions. The second was to use Deathlord and then double his health. I thought this might be easier, so tried the deck out.

After about 20 tries, I finally got into the right sequence to win the battle. Here’s my decklist:

  • 2x Binding Heal
  • 2x Inner Fire
  • 2x Light of the Naaru
  • 2x Mistress of Mixtures
  • 2x Northshire Cleric
  • 2x Power Word: Glory
  • 2x Power Word: Shield
  • 2x Zombie Chow
  • 2x Divine Spirit
  • 2x Lightwell
  • 2x Deathlord
  • 2x Shadow Word: Death
  • Velen’s Chosen
  • Cyclopian Horror
  • 2x Excavated Evil
  • 2x Holy Nova
  • Entomb

The key to this deck is to play the taunts around turn 5 or 6 so that you can play at least one Divine Spirit (and hopefully Power Word: Shield or Inner Fire). In order to be successful, you have to clear/trade the first wave so Zombie Chow, Mistress of Mixtures and Cleric are very important.

In my winning game, I ended up beefing up my Cyclopian Horror with 2x Divine Spirit, Velen’s Chosen and an Inner Fire – so he was around a 10/40. At the same time, I had a Light of the Naaru going so it was an easy win once I was able to snowball the Horror.

I think I was lucky and the battle is still severely weighted towards the boss. But at least now I can move on to the next challenge!

April 2017

We started April by celebrating Katana’s full moon at our usual restaurant with family. Katana’s first month was uneventful but she seemed to be bigger than her brothers were at their full moon. She’s continued growing well through April and has been visiting parks and shops with the family.

I also went on my first work trip since Katana was born, going down to Dallas for a few nights. Dallas is pretty boring. I also went to a conference this month – FITC (Futurists, Innovators, Technologists, Creatives). This was mostly because 1) it was held in Toronto, and 2) work was the title sponsor so I was able to get a free ticket. It wasn’t the biggest conference I’ve ever been to, nor the smallest. The talks ranged from mediocre to interesting so overall it was pretty middle of the road. I did have to commute downtown for 2 days to attend though, so that was a retro experience.

The weather is nice now and we’ve been going biking (and park) every weekend. Apollo can ride by himself, although he still can’t use the brake properly and needs some motivation to ride without stopping (i.e., someone to chase). Jovian can spin his feet, but doesn’t have enough strength to really push himself on his tricycle yet. April also saw the beginning of a new set of extracurricular classes (for Apollo). This time it’s basketball, swimming and science classes.

I unpacked the patio furniture that was stored over the winter. Winter was not kind to it. Nor is the weather warm enough to really use it (it’s nice that it’s not winter – but not nice enough to sit around outdoors). Hopefully it will be near summer weather in May.

The Arrival

I would’ve passed on this movie as just another Hollywood sci-fi flick, except that a couple of months ago I saw the trailer to Blade Runner 2049. I’m looking forward to that sequel and when I was reading about it online, the fan reception was positive because Denis Villeneuve was directing.

The Arrival was also directed by Villeneuve and it was supposed to be moody and atmospheric. I think it was quite successful at that. Even though I saw it on the plane, the sound was spectacular, especially during the scenes with the aliens. The audio made the aliens seem scary, even though I knew this was not a scary movie (and the aliens themselves weren’t scary). I guess it might have been a bit of the audio, and a bit of the “unknown” factor.

This film navigated the fine balance between disbelief and realism. The idea of learning the alien’s language and time travel (paradox) is actually a bit farfetched; but it was believable enough in the context of the story. Overall the film was interesting and a four out of five stars from me.

Pocket Queue 74

  • Unexpected Consequences of Self Driving Cars
    An interesting post about the social changes that self driving cars may bring about. No, not the trolley problem, but other interesting ways that society might change when we have the convenience of automated drivers for our cars.

    People will jump out of their car at a Starbucks to run in and pick up their order knowingly leaving it not in a legal parking spot, perhaps blocking others, but knowing that it will take care of getting out of the way if some other car needs to move or get by. That will be fine in the case there is no such need, but in the case of need it will slow everything down just a little. And perhaps the owner will be able to set the tolerance on how uncomfortable things have to get before the car moves. Expect to see lots of annoyed people. And before long grocery store parking lots, especially in a storm, will just be a sea of cars improperly parked waiting for their owners.

  • It’s a living – Circus is a traveling city with its own economy
    A quick look at what it’s like living in a travelling circus, and what it brings to each town that it visits.

    Gibson describes the economic impact on Chattanooga: 40 of the 120 circus employees stay at a local hotel; 24 travel in RVs that are parked in a nearby field.

    Each day, truckloads of hay and produce are hauled to McKenzie Arena to feed the animals. The circus vet banned peanuts from the elephants’ diet for being too fatty but allows them an occasional loaf of unsliced bread or some marshmallows for treats. On performance days, a local caterer feeds the human employees, or they buy their meals in restaurants or grocery stores.

  • Queens of the Stoned Age
    An interesting take at selling weed in NYC where the runners are models. This story is almost unbelievable and no doubt has some hyperbole built in (I could see it happening at a small scale) so I would chalk it up as interesting fiction.

    The Green Angels average around 150 orders a day, which is about a fourth of what the busiest services handle. When a customer texts, it goes to one of the cell phones on the table in the living room. There’s a hierarchy: The phones with the pink covers are the lowest; they contain the numbers of the flakes, cheapskates, or people who live in Bed-Stuy. The purple phones contain the good, solid customers. Blue is for the VIPs. There are over a thousand customers on Honey’s master list.

    To place an order, a customer is supposed to text “Can we hang out?” and a runner is sent to his apartment. No calling, no other codes or requests. Delivery is guaranteed within an hour and a half. If the customer isn’t home, he gets a strike. Three strikes and he’s 86’d. If he yells at the runner, he’s 86’d immediately.

  • I Was a Proud Non-Breeder. Then I Changed My Mind.
    This article was piqued my interest because I was a parent so I wanted to understand why some women didn’t want to have children. It didn’t delve too deeply into that but I think it was written well so I was able to empathize with the parenting aspect of it.

    Perhaps it says something about my pre-baby life that a lot of my metaphors for new motherhood were drug-related. Those endless hours we spent in bed, alternately nursing, dozing, and staring, amazed, at each other, reminded me of the time I’d smoked opium in Thailand. (And the other time I’d smoked opium in Laos.) Lugging my son around on errands brought to mind the first few times I got stoned as a teenager, when doing normal things like going to school or the drugstore became complicated, strange, and full of misadventure. The oxytocin felt like MDMA.

    Why, I kept thinking, hadn’t anyone told me how great this was? It was a stupid thing to think, because in fact people tell you that all the time. In general, though, the way people describe having a baby is much like the way they describe marriage — as a sacrifice that’s worth it, as a rewarding challenge, as a step toward growing up. Nobody had told me it would be fun.

  • How the Internet Gave Mail-Order Brides the Power
    This is another article that is more interesting for the people story, rather than the technology of what the Internet has done. When I think of mail-order brides, I think of Russia, but this one is focused on Philipines. An interesting read, but I had hoped for more stories.

    Hans’s experience was far from unusual — in fact, the shift between online and offline power is one of the major dynamics at play in modern dating among foreigners and Filipinas. Before a man comes to the Philippines, the woman has the advantage, because only a fraction of Filipina women have the technological capability and English knowledge to meet men online. Video chat may seem like a rudimentary requirement, but it’s not trivial to set it up in remote parts of the Philippines, as women either have to pay for expensive computers or smartphones with fast internet connections and no bandwidth restrictions, or go to internet cafes, which are also cost-prohibitive. But the tables turn once the foreigner arrives in the country. The cost of technology is no longer an obstacle, and he suddenly has many more eligible women vying for his attention.

Star Trek Beyond

After I watched the latest Star Wars movie, I watched the latest Star Trek one! I’m much more of a Trekkie than a Star Wars fan so I was excited to see this.

My first thought was that this was the first time I watched a JJ Abrams Trek movie, and that the casting & dialogue of the bridge crew were pretty close to my expectation (especially McCoy, although he is a lot fatter). But then I realized that I must have watched the reboot at some point (I remember Kirk fighting in a bar) – turns out that I did almost 6 years ago! Wow, that was a long time ago (looks like I totally missed never heard about Star Trek Into Darkness).

The second thought I had was – wow, they destroyed the Enterprise in a movie again. It seems like they do that every movie! Up to that point, the movie was pretty interesting. I liked seeing how the Star Trek world was imagined vs the Star Wars world, particularly how the Starbase Yorktown was laid out. But after the crew ended up on the planet, the plot started going into lucky 777 mode just to push the story along. There was not a lot of rhyme or reason why things happened the way they did that killed the movie for me. I like my Star Trek stories to have a logical arc, and this is one movie that didn’t.

I had some expectations for this movie and since the plot was so outlandish in the second half, I’ll have to give Star Trek Beyond a two out of five.

Finding Dory

It took me a long, long time to watch this movie. I forget why I originally picked it, but I think it was on a flight from New York. The movie is 97 mins long so I only saw 2/3rd of it, but the next flight I took (I think it was in the same month) didn’t have it playing anymore! So I haven’t been able to finish watching it until this month. Fortunately, I had to ffwd to the spot were I stopped, and was able to get a refresher.

Whenever I watch cartoons now, I evaluate whether my kids can watch the movie. Finding Dory is definitely too scary for my young boys – Dory and baby Dory are put into too many situations which would be frightening. However, if you were young and watched Finding Nemo when it came out, I think you’d be the right age for this movie now (if not too old)! Otherwise I think you need to be over 7 to really watch it.

The story deals with Dory’s issue…namely her lack of short term memory. She goes on a mission to find her parents and discover her childhood. Along the way, she encounters a bunch of other marine animals who each have sort of significant mental or physical problem. Working together, the group overcomes their individual challenges and are stronger as a whole. That’s a decent moral message.

The other moral message in this movie seems to be to “take risks!”, even against the behest of your parents. I’m not sure this should be a blanket moral message though, and I thought Finding Nemo taught it better (sometimes you need to go out of your comfort zone).

I felt Finding Nemo was more enjoyable and fun, and Finding Dory had a lot more scary or challenging situations. That might leave your child in a unhappy state. But it’s no problem for an adult – this is a 3 out of 5 star movie.

Pocket Queue 73

  • Peter Thiel, Trump’s Tech Pal, Explains Himself
    Much of the tech industry is confused why Peter Thiel would back Trump. Here, he gives some concise (although not entirely descriptive) answers to some common questions. His responses are almost the antithesis of Trump in terms of being dramatic.

    He recalls that he went through a lot of “meta” debates about Mr. Trump in Silicon Valley. “One of my good friends said, ‘Peter, do you realize how crazy this is, how everybody thinks this is crazy?’ I was like: ‘Well, why am I wrong? What’s substantively wrong with this?’ And it all got referred back to ‘Everybody thinks Trump’s really crazy.’ So it’s like there’s a shortcut, which is: ‘I don’t need to explain it. It’s good enough that everybody thinks something. If everybody thinks this is crazy, I don’t even have to explain to you why it’s crazy. You should just change your mind.’”

  • India’s ‘Phone Romeos’ Look for Ms. Right via Wrong Numbers
    Interesting story about how India doesn’t use Tindr and that sort, but just dial (or hold on to) wrong numbers to try and meet potential mates.

    Umakanti Padhan, a moon-faced 16-year-old garment factory worker, tried to call her sister-in-law. She misdialed and found herself accidentally conversing with Bulu, a railway worker eight years her senior.

    She hung up, alarmed. At home, beginning at puberty, she had been prohibited from speaking with any adult man, including her brothers and cousins.

    Ten minutes later, Bulu called back and told her that he liked the sound of her voice. “When I hear your voice, it feels like someone of my own,” he said. “I feel like talking to you all the time.”

    So she agreed. Every night, she slipped out to the roof of her Bangalore workers’ hostel, where she shares a room with 11 other young women, and spoke to Bulu about mundane things: how their shifts went and what they had eaten that day.

    “He’s told me everything that ever happened to him from the time he was a kid,” she said. “I don’t know whether it is good or bad, but I trust him. I know he will not betray me.”

  • Would the Cavs Be Better off With Andrew Wiggins Over Kevin Love?
    This is my occasional dive into the world of basketball, with this particular article being of interest because the Raptors may play the Cavs in the playoffs, and Wiggins being a Canadian. Nothing startling in this – Cavs made a trade for Right Now vs Potential, but provides some background on the Cavs.

    Love was the guy in Minnesota, a post machine who could score and facilitate. Over the past three years, his primary role has been to space the floor, though he is occasionally force-fed post chances. He’s like a more talented Ryan Anderson — a better rebounder, interior scorer, and passer. Except, for the role Love plays and the money he gets paid (tied for 22nd most in the NBA), Cleveland could be getting more bang for its buck.

  • Why Bargain Travel Sites May No Longer Be Bargains
    The travel industry is cyclic and it looks like the advantage is back in the courts of brands instead of the aggregators. My own travel planning has started at hotel brands now too, although my flight planning hasn’t shifted yet.

    He’s right: The price control pendulum is swinging back toward the hoteliers. “It was really easy for the aggregators to gobble up all this business in the past because the hotels weren’t really paying any attention,” that West Coast CEO told me. But eventually, the aggregators cornered so much of the market that they jacked up their commissions high enough that everyone had to take notice. The CEO revealed that his hotels typically paid aggregators 20 percent commission—and in many cases even 30 percent.
    In past two or three years the hotel industry has been fighting the aggregators by offering deals that wiggle around the contracts they originally set with them. Let’s say, for example, your hotel chain has a set rate for a room. You enter in an agreement with an aggregator that says you won’t further discount the rate that is the “lowest price” a customer can find on the internet. But you can get around it by offering a potential guest an instant membership in your “loyalty” program. You can throw in additional “amenities” (parking, spa, and so on) that would normally cost extra and you would not be violating your agreements by undercutting the base price of the room. Tricky? You bet.

  • No, Trump isn’t the worst president ever
    While there is a lot of doom and gloom. Trump has a ways to go before becomeing the “worst president ever” (or even of the last century). Mostly the presidents in the 1800s and how they dealt with the pro-slave states made them horrible.

    In December 1860 — after the Electoral College affirmed Lincoln’s election — southern states started seceding. Belatedly, Buchanan briefly considered sending some reinforcements south, but he let his Secretary of War — John Floyd of Virginia — talk him out of it. A few days later, Floyd resigned to join his home state in secession and treason.

    Until he left office on March 4, 1861, Buchanan continued to appease the Rebels. In the end, he gave the Confederacy a four-month head start in the Civil War. He let the South seize federal forts, arsenals and naval vessels, which they soon used to wage war upon the very country he had solemnly sworn to protect.