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Pocket Queue 80

  • San Francisco’s Big Seismic Gamble
    The West Coast and the Big One is another one of my pet interests. Here’s another article on some information about how SF is (not) being prepared.

    Right now the code says a structure must be engineered to have a 90 percent chance of avoiding total collapse. But many experts believe that is not enough.

    “Ten percent of buildings will collapse,” said Lucy Jones, the former leader of natural hazards research at the United States Geological Survey who is leading a campaign to make building codes in California stronger. “I don’t understand why that’s acceptable.”

    The code also does not specify that a building be fit for occupancy after an earthquake. Many buildings might not collapse completely, but they could be damaged beyond repair. The interior walls, the plumbing, elevators — all could be wrecked or damaged.

    “When I tell people what the current building code gives them most people are shocked,” Dr. Jones said. “Enough buildings will be so badly damaged that people are going to find it too hard to live in L.A. or San Francisco.”

  • The Chinese Workers Who Assemble Designer Bags in Tuscany
    In order to slap a “Made In Italy” label on their bags, fashion houses are employing Chinese people in Italy to assemble their bags. Fortunately, the Chinese are getting rich from it.

    Just outside the city walls, in Prato’s Chinatown, well-to-do Chinese families were carrying their own wrapped parcels of sweets: mashed-taro buns, red-bean cakes. Suburbanites, coming into town to see relatives, drove BMWs, Audis, and Mercedeses. (In a telling remark, more than one Italian insisted to me that no Chinese person would be caught in a Fiat Panda, one of the Italian company’s most modest cars.) According to a 2015 study by a regional economic agency, Chinese residents contribute more than seven hundred million euros to Prato’s provincial economy, about eleven per cent of its total.

  • The Young and the Reckless
    Headline story in Wired about how a U of T student and a bunch of US co-conspirators operated in the XBox hacking scene.

    By 2009 the pair was using PartnerNet not only to play their modded versions of Halo 3 but also to swipe unreleased software that was still being tested. There was one Halo 3 map that Pokora snapped a picture of and then shared too liberally with friends; the screenshot wound up getting passed around among Halo fans. When Pokora and Clark next returned to PartnerNet to play Halo 3, they encountered a message on the game’s main screen that Bungie engineers had expressly left for them: “Winners Don’t Break Into PartnerNet.”

  • How to get rich quick in Silicon Valley
    A satirical article about the culture in Silicon Valley. I guess this would be more funny and illuminating if I wasn’t as close to the culture.

    Indeed, to overhear the baby-faced billionaire wannabes exchanging boastful inanities in public could be enraging. Their inevitable first question was: “What’s your space?” Not “How’s it going?” Not “Where are you from?” But: “What’s your space?”

    This was perhaps the most insufferable bit of tech jargon I heard. “What’s your space?” meant “What does your company do?” This was not quite the same as asking: “What do you do for a living?” because one’s company may well produce no living at all. A “space” had an aspirational quality a day job never would. If you were a writer, you would never say “I’m a writer”. You would say “I’m in the content space”, or, if you were more ambitious, “I’m in the media space”. But if you were really ambitious you would know that “media” was out and “platforms” were in, and that the measure – excuse me, the “metric” – that investors used to judge platform companies was attention, because this ephemeral thing, attention, could be sold to advertisers for cash. So if someone asked “What’s your space?” and you had a deeply unfashionable job like, say, writer, it behooved you to say “I deliver eyeballs like a fucking ninja”.

  • Body Con Job
    This is one of those articles that wouldn’t have made sense 3 years ago but now, seems to be quite plausible and true. It takes about an Instagram influencer who has a million followers, but is actually fake. She’s AI – not her commentary, but her looks. As in, she’s computer generated. Yet people really follow her, and not just for novelty’s sake. Then she got into a war with another AI and, people kept showing loyalty to her. I’m not quite sure whether this article is about AI being human or AI being accepted.

    When Miquela first appeared on Instagram two years ago, her features were less idealized. Her skin was pale, her hair less styled. Now she looks like every other Instagram influencer. She’ll rest her unsmiling face in her hands to convey nonchalance, or look away from the camera as though she’s been caught in the act. The effect is twisted: Miquela seems more real by mimicking the body language that renders models less so.

One Night Only

The promise of this Chinese movie was good, lifelong gambler and escort need a big night to pay off debts. However, the story and acting are just bad. I felt like turning this off 10 mins in, but stuck with it out of laziness. There is a contrived story that explains why the pair were thrown together but that doesn’t redeem the film. One Night Only is a 1 out of 5 movie.

Hearthstone Solo: Monster Hunt

Compared to Kobolds & Catacombs’ Dungeon Runs, I completed Monster Hunt pretty quickly. In part, it’s because I understand the game mechanic pretty well now (lots of practice) but I also think that this solo adventure was easier. Maybe they made it easier so you would spend less time in this mode, and more playing multiplayer!

In any case, it was still fun. Mostly because each hero had unique powers that you don’t get in the normal game. I think the key to completing this adventure is to build up the various hero power skills. I completed the Houndmaster with 3/3 Wolfs, Cannoneer with 3 DMG canons. Grabbing bundles that complement those powers are also useful – although for the Cannoneer, I went all-in on canons one time (with Lowly Squire) only to find that that strategy doesn’t work against the final boss. Some of the treasures are also extremely powerful. The Time-Tinker boss fight is a mirror match, but if you have the treasure which casts the first spell twice, that can be the difference.

I beat Hagatha on my second attempt, but I think there was a lot of RNG involved. Picking strong treasures is important (+2 heal every round), and I went through my heroes pretty quickly. Tess was last, and her treasure was the half-cost/double hero power, and I just had too much value. The cards and heroes are so varied that I think it is tough to beat this one with a formula.

Well I guess I can sit around until August until the next expansion comes out (still can’t beat Lich King though!)

Single Player Rationale

Being a game centered around IAP, the new single-player modes in the last two Hearthstone expansions (Dungeon Run and Monster Hunt) don’t seem to make a lot of sense. You can play those modes indefinitely without a need to pay. So why did Blizzard add these modes to the game?

Well I had a think about it, and the reason is most likely to allow us to try all sorts of cards from the expansion that we wouldn’t otherwise be able to play (unless they came up on the weekly Tavern Brawl). Letting us play with those cards would help us discover cool and powerful cards from the set (if you’re not already aware of them), which should incite us to either buy packs to get those cards (fool’s errand) or use dust to craft them. Eventually we’ll run out of dust though, so it seems like there should be a way to buy dust (aside from packs?)

Jumanji: Welcome To The Jungle

This is a remake and modernization of the movie with the same name that I saw way back in 1995. At that time, it was a toss-up between going to watch Toy Story or Jumanji. We ended up deciding to watch Jumanji since it was less cartoon-y (not a kids movie). That one had Robin Williams and a young Kirsten Dunst as part of the 2 adult/2 kids pair that was trying to escape Jumanji.

The original was not the best movie and the thing that I remember the most about it was that it was original material (not a franchise that I was aware of). I was curious to see the remake to see what has changed. Well, the big thing is that it has been modernized into a video game! Instead of being sucked into the board, the players are digitized as avatars. As part of this, there are a bunch of role reversals, like the geeks now become the jocks.

It’s stuff like this that make it a movie targeted for teens – the role reversals serve as opportunity for character development and to learn life lessons. I must say that the avatar actors (e.g. The Rock) played believable teenagers. The action and plot in the movie are forgettable and serve as a vehicle for these discussions and presenting the world like a game.

This movie may have substance if you’re growing up but now, aside from some entertainment and time-killing value, is missable. 3 out of 5 stars.

April 2018

There was a lot of travel this month. It actually started in March with a trip to the west coast. Then, the first week of April, I flew down to Dallas for a few days. After that, we were planning to head over to Rochester for a long weekend (work had a politically correct “Good Friday” holiday in the middle of the month, 2 weeks after the actual thing), but didn’t end up going as the boys had a Chinese art competition that weekend. But the next week, I was off to Korea for a week and then the last week in April, I was in NYC for a couple of days. Essentially this month turned into a rotation of travel and laundry. Plus some activities on the weekend.

A lot happened in the news. The Leafs made the playoffs, went down 3-1, tied it up but lost to Boston in the 7th game. The Raptors made it through their first round series. The Royals had another baby boy, and Toronto had a van attack that made headlines around the world. Although, the impact was much more local since it happened right in our neighborhood. And of this was just in the last week of the month!

In the middle of the month we had an ice storm followed by freezing rain. This caused ice to stay on the ground for a week and caused havoc on the roads (the city didn’t clear it, citing concerns that the melt will overwhelm the storm drains and cause flooding – I guess because it would block the drains). A lot of drivers had already switched out their winter tires so it was a bit hairy. Other than that, the weather has been rainy and warmer.

Man Of Steel

With almost as many remakes and reboots as Batman, and a less interesting catalogue of stories, I wondered if Man Of Steel was going to be good. Even the name is weird, imagine going to see a movie called Web Slinger.

Anyways, the movie focused on some lesser seen aspects of the backstory – an extended sequence of what it was like on Krypton and how the new “fortress of solitude” was discovered. I liked that because we had seen the rest of his childhood many times before. I felt the “superhero discovery moment” (when they discover or use their powers for the first time) was weak. Superman learning to fly is just not as fun to watch as Spider-man’s excitement when web slinging.

The arrival of General Zod and ensuing battles were not that interesting. It was actually unbelievable because, as Zod himself said, a farm boy was fighting a team of trained combat veterans that had the same powers he did. Furthermore, they basically levelled Metropolis (which is a precursor to Batman v Superman), but I think those buildings need to be stronger against human-sized bullets.

I didn’t think it was a terrible movie, which I was afraid of based on how press and reviews shun DC movies. It’s not a movie I’m interested in seeing again though, so that gives it a 3 out of 5.

Cook Up A Storm

Another Chinese movie, but unfortunately not a Cantonese one. Coincidently though, it features 2 of the same supporting actors as the previous Cantonese one I saw. Cook Up A Storm is not a direct sequel, but I guess it is somewhat related to the God of Cookery series. Which meant, a lot of food shots and probably a bad idea to watch when the time zones are messed up and you’re on a plane where they are not serving food yet.

This movie is a little different than the usual God of Cookery series in that instead of focusing on the final competition (there still is one), it’s positioned as multiple battles between different styles. West vs East, gastronomy vs tradition, Michelin vs street, New civilization vs the village, etc. There is also the unique element of having a Korean actor play the antagonist (which is why the movie is in Mandarin). Also, there’s the concept of growing up in the shadow of their father. Man, this film just barfed out themes.

But overall, it’s a fun an entertaining film. There’s no magic and all the cooking is “real”, but boy does thinking and watching this movie make me hungry – although not in a 4 star sense. This movie is just a 3 out of 5 star.

Pocket Queue 79

  • The Improbable Origins of Powerpoint
    Jump back many years and learn how Powerpoint started.

    In April 1987, Forethought introduced its new presentation program to the market very much as it had been conceived, but with a different name. Presenter was now PowerPoint 1.0—there are conflicting accounts of the name change—and it was a proverbial overnight success with Macintosh users. In the first month, Forethought booked $1 million in sales of PowerPoint, at a net profit of $400,000, which was about what the company had spent developing it. And just over three months after PowerPoint’s introduction, Microsoft purchased Forethought outright for $14 million in cash.

  • Don’t worry, self-driving cars are likely to be better at ethics than we are
    This article argues that the philosophical Trolley problem is just a theoretical argument, and that the real life implementation won’t need someone to code a rule about which path to take. Wishful or prescient thinking? Who knows.

    Say you’re standing there, watching the trolley car approach, pondering whether to throw the switch and divert it (and kill someone). Then you notice, peeking out from underneath a nearby pile of junk, an old, discarded flagpole, and realize you could put it on the track to slow or stop the trolley car entirely before it kills anyone. Your perceptiveness has reframed the decision at hand; you’re now answering a different moral question, weighing different options.

    In philosophy class, that kind of thing is ruled out. The trolley problem contains no such details to notice. The situation is transparent; we know exactly what the choices are and what the consequences of our decisions will be.

  • Worst Roommate Ever
    It is probably hyperbole but this story about a horrible & manipulative roommate is just that, an interesting story.

    Often, the first signs of trouble were easy to downplay: In many cases, roommates came home to find a chandelier removed, a bookshelf filled with unfamiliar books, a couch or potted plant shifted slightly this way or that. These incursions, almost imperceptible, seemed calculated to unsettle. Suspecting Bachman was entering her room while she was at work, Acevedo once placed an empty wine bottle behind her bedroom door, so anyone going in would knock it over; when she returned, she opened the door without thinking and then braced herself, but the bottle did not fall, having been moved several inches away.

  • Welcome to Powder Mountain – a utopian club for the millennial elite
    Not sure if this is a nouveau cult, elitist clique, scam or a real movement. Some of it reads as if it came out from the Onion though.

    He tells me he’s open to the suggestion that his community is elitist – “these criticisms, there’s a truth to them” – and insists that he strives to make authentic connections with people from all walks of life. For example, he says, earlier in the day he met a worker at the ski resort who was taking guests on a tour. “I literally could have said, ‘All right, have an awesome tour,’ and instead I was like, ‘So, you’re here all year?’ And he goes, ‘No, I’m actually from New Orleans.’ And I’m like, ‘Really?’” Bisnow says he behaves the same way with servers in restaurants. “[When] you start to engage with these people you realise the humanity in everyone and how unbelievable they are.” Then he explains how he always sits in the front seat of Uber taxis, talking to dozens of drivers a week, hearing “the most remarkable stories”. He ends up hanging out “with a significant number” of his drivers. I ask how many Uber drivers he’s invited to Summit. He doesn’t say, but instead tells me an anecdote about a chef he invited to Summit after meeting him “at this dilapidated castle in England”.

  • Why Arsenal Star Per Mertesacker Is Happy to Leave Football
    A look at the emotional toil of a professional sports star. This is stuff that they never show as part of the “player story”.

    Then there’s the diarrhea he gets on the mornings of matches — looking back, he says it happened on more than 500 days of his life. Mertesacker looks down at his long fingers as he goes through the list. “I have to go to the bathroom right after getting up, right after breakfast, again after lunch and again at the stadium.” Everything he eats just passes right on through.

    For a while, all his body could handle was noodles with a bit of olive oil. He couldn’t eat any later than four hours before a game to ensure that his stomach was guaranteed to be totally empty when the nausea started. “As if everything that then happened, symbolically speaking, just made me want to puke.”

77 Heartbreaks

Taking an international flight is my chance to catch up on Cantonese or HK movies that I otherwise don’t have an opportunity to watch. The first one I saw was 77 Heartbreaks, which is about a female divorce lawyer who endures 77 lies/wrongs by her BF before she finally decides to break up with him. The breakup happens early on in the film, and the rest of the time is spent on a choice selection of vignettes of those 77 moments of heartbreaks.

This is a cultural-focused millennial film. The boyfriend is clearly someone trying to “find their path”. He graduated with a law degree but has floated around and is now a kickboxing teacher. Parts of the story are told using Facebook, with the through-the-Facebook-screen filter technique. And of course, being a romantic drama, there are the clichés – including the grandiose gesture by the BF near the end of the film.

This type of movie is not what I am used to watching, but it was interesting to see how HK millennials live their life. The movie wasn’t bad and was enjoyable to watch so it gets a 3 out of 5 from me.