The NHL Trade deadline came and past and it was rather uneventful (to me). That’s because I haven’t really been following the league this season. In fact I got a bit confused because I thought the deadline was March 4th. Then when I looked at the NHL headlines at the end of the day, I was confused why they were still talking about who might get traded. Turns out the deadline was March 5th. Oops.
In fact, I think this year’s trade deadline was one of the most exciting in awhile. A lot of high profile players got moved. You had 2 who wanted out (St Louis, Callahan), 2 odd ducks who didn’t really find a home this season (Vanek, Moulson), a guy who was supposed to get traded every trade deadline (Hemsky), and star goaltenders (Miller, Luongo, Thomas, Halak) all get traded. Nothing involved the Leafs (good!) so there was less talk than usual. But a lot of quality moving around.
I think the winners are the Capitals. They solidified their goaltending with Halak and got a good player in Penner. I was confused at what the Ducks (leading the NHL) were doing in trading Penner and Fasth away. But I wonder if any of these moves will make a difference as the favorites in the league (Pittsburgh, Boston, anyone from the West) are still strong.
A few weeks ago, I happened on some news that said that there was a voluntary recall on the Fitbit Force. It turns out that retailers had stopped selling the Force as well too. I have a Force so I was curious why this was happening, and it was quite easy to find out. Basically, 1.7% of people reported skin irritation (although the number might be higher as not everyone reports problems). I didn’t get the problem and was debating whether to return it.
In the end I figure I will return it (still waiting for my return kit). Although it’s an interesting toy, and it’s interesting to know my activity and sleep patterns; I am not enamoured enough with it that I desperately need it. It’s not every day that you can try out a product and then return it for a full refund, so that in itself is a solid reason (and I can put the money towards the next model).
Wearing a Fitbit also bothers me a bit because now that it is on my wrist, I can’t wear a watch! In fact I was dreaming of a better FitBit device which would latch on the frame of your glasses. It would be unobtrusive and would go where ever you go (I guess it wouldn’t track sleep that well).
I think the person who will miss my Force the most is Apollo, he loves being able to turn the OLED on and watching it animate off.
This past weekend I participated in a hackathon organized by the Government of Canada surrounding its Open Data initiative. I am enthusiastic about Open Data because it provides correct, free and consistent data that I can build upon, which is unlike most other apps I build.
I had been thinking about what sort of app I would make for awhile. I was quite positive that I wanted to do something related to Quantified Self because that is something I’m interested in right now. When the theme of solving problems and improving productivity was announced; I decided that I wanted to tackle the problem of congestion on our roadways.
I think the major contributor to congestion is just people commuting to work. Especially people by themselves in a car. My idea was to provide personalized feedback and show how much money, time, and environmental impact you cause by doing that. The Open Data was critical because I was able to get data points for specific cars that users would drive.
The UI was fun to make up. I think I discovered a clever little hack which made my life a lot easier. First, I asked the user to specify the start of their trip (probably home) and the destination (probably work). Then I made a call to Google Maps to pull up directions between those two places. It may not be the exact path they take to work, but it would be close.
From there I calculate the impact. I thought the most interesting one was the CO2 emissions. Usually you just get a number, but hearing a number is meaningless. I translated that number into a measure of garbage trucks. It alludes to the fact that you are generating garbage, and makes the result easier to comprehend.
I’ve published A Healthier Commute on Google Play so you should check it out if you haven’t yet!
We watched a lot more TV this month, because the Olympics were on. I’m actually not that interested in the events but the TV was on just because. I wonder how many viewers are like that? I did watch the hockey games though and most of them were pretty exciting (especially when you have dominant performances by a dominant Canadian team). The CBC online streaming for the Olympics were very good. I’m not sure if the feeds were provided by an offshoot of the IOC or prepared by CBC themselves, but exciting points were highlighted (if you were not watching live) and it was easy to jump to exciting parts (such as goals).
Weather still sucked. There were some warmer days and overall it didn’t feel as cold (which is great because I associate February with the coldest month of winter); but perhaps I’m just relegated to the fact that this winter is not a mild one.
I spent a lot of time thinking about the CODE hackathon this month and so didn’t make a lot of progress on my other hobby Android projects. I’m not sure which hobby project I’ll be spending more time on in the future though. I’m still interested in working on my Monopoly Deal clone, but there’s a lot of work that has to be put in before I can even do an alpha release and I’m not sure I have the patience for that.
This month Apollo started talking more. At least he is able to verbally imitate some sounds (although the success varies). He has some confidence issues though because he imitates softly, but as he gets better at a particular sound he will be more vocal about saying it. Good progress though!
I was looking for a game like Diablo to play and although I found a couple I decided to try out Heros Call. It was fun for awhile because there’s a lot of loot to grab and it doesn’t seem cripped in any way even though there are IAPs. However, the game got repetitive quickly and the plot is not very good so I’ll save it for a rainy day (which probably means I’ll never come back to it)
I never played Mini Ninjas on XBOX so I don’t know what it’s about, but the mobile version is an infinite runner. It’s basically the same game as Jetpack Joyride except it’s about ninjas and a lot harder. The raison d’etre and IAP work the same way. I guess I haven’t played games like this in awhile so I put some time into this one.
As you probably know, money runs the world. But what I didn’t know is that when you have sufficient money, you can basically immigrate into any country in the world. Legally. And it’s not even a lot of money either, it’s about $500,000 per person (I’m unclear, but you actually might get most of it back after awhile).
- €500,000 for Portugal
- €250,000 for Greece
- $5,000,000 for Australia (local currency)
- $250,000 for St Kitts
- $800,000 for Canada
- $500,000 for US
I think that’s a bit unfair to have this mechanism available. If I had that amount of money lying around, I think I would be clever or resourceful enough to manage my money in such a way that would prevent me from paying a sufficient amount of tax to offset the resources I would use in a country. Maybe there is some intangible reason to have rich people as citizens of your country? I don’t know, but it seems like a big loophole.
I’m glad Canada closed theirs.
I don’t care for watch most of the Olympics, but the hockey is definitely something I’m interested in watching – because most of the teams are All-Star teams! The hockey is faster with more electrifying plays (although this might also be because the Olympic rink size is larger).
Canada is always strong, but I think the “traditional” rivalry is no longer Canada vs Russia. Russia has a good team, but they seem to have no defense (and have a stubborn desire to have strong representation from the KHL, even if they are sub-par). Sweden has always been strong, and I think they are better than Russia. A lot of the “pushover” teams have a couple of NHLers now and can compete (Slovakia, Switzerland, etc). But I think the strongest team next to Canada is USA.
Canada is still a superpower, and it’s sometimes a bit funny watching them play weaker teams. They spend the entire game in the offensive zone due to their superior puck possession capability; and their players (especially defensemen) seem to be giants and tower over the other players.
I don’t know if Canada will win gold, but at least it will be entertaining to watch.
- “How can they be so good?”: The strange story of Skype
The story of Skype and how a couple of people made a lot of money before Ebay and Microsoft “ruined it”.
- Container shipping: the secretive industry crucial to our existence
An extract from a book about this shipping industry. I find it fascinating how shipping just works and we get our goods from overseas. I wish there was an entire article on the economics of shipping.
There are 20 million containers crossing the world now, quiet blank boxes. Before containers, transport costs ate as much as 25 per cent of the value of whatever was being shipped. With the extreme efficiencies that intermodality brought, costs were reduced to a pittance. A sweater can now travel 3,000 miles for 2.5 cents; it costs a cent to send a can of beer. Shipping is so cheap that it makes more financial sense for Scottish cod to be sent 10,000 miles to China to be filleted.
- The Social Life of Genes
Although your genes describe who you are, apparently your environment can cause your genes to express themselves differently. It’s no longer a question of nature vs nuture, but how your social environment affects your nature.
“We typically think of stress as being a risk factor for disease,” said Cole. “And it is, somewhat. But if you actually measure stress, using our best available instruments, it can’t hold a candle to social isolation. Social isolation is the best-established, most robust social or psychological risk factor for disease out there. Nothing can compete.”
This helps explain, for instance, why many people who work in high-stress but rewarding jobs don’t seem to suffer ill effects, while others, particularly those isolated and in poverty, wind up accruing lists of stress-related diagnoses—obesity, Type 2 diabetes, hypertension, atherosclerosis, heart failure, stroke.
- The Pleasure and Pain of Speed
The brain likes speed, and technology is glad to oblige. So is increasing the speed of our lives actually bad for us?
Referring to the theorist Walter Benjamin, Rosa argues that the greater the number of “lived events per unit of time,” the less likely it is these are to transform into “experiences.” Benjamin argued that we tried to capture these moments with physical souvenirs, including photographs, which could later be accessed in an attempt to reinvoke memories. Of course, this process has accelerated, and the physical souvenir is now as quaint as the physical photograph. In Instagram, we have even developed a kind of souvenir of the present: An endless photography of moments suggests that we do not trust that they will actually become moments, as if we were photographing not to know that the event happened, but that it is happening.
- In the Name Of Love
A goal of many people is to “Do What You Love” (DWYL), but it turns out that that advice is actually bad for the human race!
One consequence of this isolation is the division that DWYL creates among workers, largely along class lines. Work becomes divided into two opposing classes: that which is lovable (creative, intellectual, socially prestigious) and that which is not (repetitive, unintellectual, undistinguished). Those in the lovable work camp are vastly more privileged in terms of wealth, social status, education, society’s racial biases, and political clout, while comprising a small minority of the workforce.
For those forced into unlovable work, it’s a different story. Under the DWYL credo, labor that is done out of motives or needs other than love (which is, in fact, most labor) is not only demeaned but erased. As in Jobs’ Stanford speech, unlovable but socially necessary work is banished from the spectrum of consciousness altogether.
After seeing Chicago: The Musical, I thought it would be interesting to see how the film adaption would compare. The musical had an simplistic design to its set and costumes, but on the movie screen that wouldn’t fly – viewers want an immersive experience. Also, I remember that Chicago was well thought of as a film, in fact doing some research reveals that it won the Oscar for best movie in 2002!
After seeing the film, I would give the movie a two out of five rating. I don’t actually understand why voters thought it deserved an Oscar! I think if they took the plot of Chicago and made it into an actual movie, it would have been more interesting; but I didn’t like the fact that they interspersed the plot with cabaret pieces. It felt disjointed and artificial to have the action cut to song & dance on a stage.
Secondly, I felt the characters of Roxie Hart, and Billy Flynn were better portrayed on stage than in the movie. Richard Gere won a Golden Globe for his role, but I didn’t think he was that strong after seeing the stage version. On stage, Billy Flynn was larger than life and a caricature of a lawyer (reminds of Leisure Suit Larry). I think that was a more effective foil to Amos. I felt Amos and Velma Kelly were no better or worse.
They changed the movie slightly near the end when the prosecutor introduced his final evidence and I thought that was added to give the movie more tension. Also I think they skipped a couple of musical pieces. Finally, I felt the comedic parts just weren’t that funny when they happened in the movie, although that might be due to a decibel/environment thing.
Usually when I make my work trips down to the US, I just stay over for one night and that night is usually taken up buy a team dinner. This time, I stayed for two nights and caught some theatre with my free night. Avenue Q was one of my alternates if I wasn’t able to get tickets to Chicago, but I was able to get tickets so I didn’t have to worry about that.
On the next day, it turned out that my team dinner was cancelled so after getting off work at 7PM I had a free night. I remembered that Avenue Q had a late start – most shows started at 7 or 7:30 but Avenue Q started at 8. I walked briskly up to the theatre hoping to get rush tickets and arrived at 7:20PM. The box office said there were no more rush tickets, but they were still doing their 20 for $20 promotion – where they would sell all their unsold seats for $20, 20 minutes before curtains.
I was able to get a great seat for $20 all-in. I sat in the fourth row, near the centre. There were a lot of seats empty – the theatre has a capacity for 581 but I figure there were only 100 people there.
I heard about Avenue Q several years ago but missed it in Toronto when they were touring. From what I remember, it was a play with Muppets that was an older version of Sesame Street and dealt with gay issues. I guess I remembered kind of right. It’s a Sesame
Street targeted to post-college students who are struggling to find their way in life. One of the story lines is about a gay character, but there were several other story lines that were just as prominent. Basically it discussed a wide range of issues.
My first impression was that I liked this musical more than Chicago. The songs were catchy (i.e., more in a pop manner). The humor was sharper (especially when it was offensive) and it’s just amazing to see the Muppets in action. I figure I spent the first few musical numbers just marveling at the actors. Muppets basically have 2 mouth motions – open and closed, so all the emotion and expression was done by the actual muppeteers.
However, after awhile the novelty wore off. Beneath the veneer of humor, funny songs, and Sesame Street allusions; the story itself was not that interesting. I felt that it was too much like Sesame Street and they beat you over the head with the story and their morality. I would have liked it if it was faster paced. But for $20 it was well worth it and quite enjoyable.