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Thor: Ragnarok is actually the first Thor movie I’ve seen. The earlier ones told his story so it doesn’t seem necessary to watch (not that I was avoiding them, I just never had a chance to see them), but the most recent one seemed to be necessary in the tune-up to the Infinity Gauntlet.

I was pleasantly surprised at the film. It’s written in a similar style as Guardians of the Galaxy 2 – where the movie doesn’t take itself too seriously and cracks jokes throughout the dialog. But while GG2 jokes seemed to be forced, the ones in this movie didn’t seem like they were. Maybe it’s because the lines were delivered with an Asgardian accent. Similarly, the serious, character development scenes seemed to be more believable.

I quite enjoyed this movie and it wasn’t simply because I went in with no expectations; now was it because of the comedy. It just felt like it was written and acted really well. The portrays of the supporting characters were top notch, Cate Blanchett as Hela, Jeff Goldblum as the Grandmaster, even Korg of the Warbound. It knew it was a fun Blockbuster but worked within it to surprise the viewer. Between this and Wonder Woman, that’s two recent super hero films that have been great. Thor gets 4 out of 5 stars.


January passed quickly…on this blog. I actually did some work travel this month but it was on a Rouge flight (to Vegas for CES) so there were no movies/inflight entertainment.

January was a juxtaposition in terms of the weather. Half the time it was deep winter (snow and -10°C), and then the other half was mild and almost spring weather. All the snow melted away and I saw people riding their bikes. We had a respite from the winter coughing and colds over the Christmas break, but by the middle of the month, they had returned (guess it took a week to incubate after returning to school).

Katana is standing by herself now and can walk with a walker. She’s on the cusp of walking by herself. This month I spent some time watching Star Trek Discovery, and playing Hearthstone Dungeon runs. Otherwise it was a quiet and normal month.


  • The Myth of Drug Expiration Dates
    We throw out a lot of medicine and it always feels like a waste. Not sure this article is conclusive though, even if the government is doing it (not throwing stuff out)

    Gerona and Cantrell, a pharmacist and toxicologist, knew that the term “expiration date” was a misnomer. The dates on drug labels are simply the point up to which the Food and Drug Administration and pharmaceutical companies guarantee their effectiveness, typically at two or three years. But the dates don’t necessarily mean they’re ineffective immediately after they “expire” — just that there’s no incentive for drugmakers to study whether they could still be usable.

  • Inside the All-Consuming World of Paw Patrol
    Wow, Paw Patrol has hit the big time! I’m blogging about it. I thought this article would be more in depth about the business around it, but it does have some interesting information.

    In 2013, designers at Spin Master came up with a few prototype toys—one of them was a house that could transform into a truck—and took them to various preschool-TV-show creators. It was Bob the Builder’s Keith Chapman who came up with the concept for Paw Patrol. The development of original characters is much more lucrative than the licensing of other companies’ ideas. After Chapman conceived of the Paw Patrol franchise, Spin Master tapped Toronto animators at Guru Studio to produce it. By August 2013, it was on TVO in Canada and Nickelodeon in the US. I asked Ronnen Harary, Spin Master co-founder and co-CEO, which came first when they were conceiving new episodes: merchandise or storylines. He said, “Producing toys for kids is an art form, and writing and animating TV shows for kids is an art form. We’ve been able to mix those two forms together. It’s a very difficult thing to do because they’re different disciplines, but by mixing them together, you can have a potentially richer TV show.”

  • Parking for Gold
    This article reminds me of another farcical article I had read recently (although I guess it wasn’t in my pocket queue) about the Microsoft Office olympics. But this one is for valets. Because I’m less skilled a valet-ing, I don’t connect with it as much (or get all of the inside jokes); but it doesn’t make it sound less crazy.

    Next up was Precision Parking, the photogenic centerpiece of the games. Valets must sprint to a car—in this case, a black Toyota Camry—leap inside, and roar out of the parking spot. There is no speed limit. Athletes then weave through 10 orange cones, park the car, put it in reverse, and do the whole thing all over again, backwards. Before the event began, there was a small controversy: Most valets had practiced on six cones, they said, not 10. Some walked the course in open disbelief, as if faced with driving the Nürburgring.

  • Deliverance From 27,000 Feet
    Another article about dying on Mount Everest. No matter how many stories I read, I’m still amazed at the people who attempt such a feat.

    “I cannot stop thinking about the money spent to retrieve his body,” Debasish Ghosh said. “If we had spent the money earlier, if we had helped Goutam when he was alive, so that he could find a better agency, or buy more oxygen or make better preparations, could he have survived? Would he be home now, alive? Did we contribute to his death because we didn’t help him until now?”

  • The Last of the Iron Lungs
    Interesting short article about Iron Lungs, which were mostly used to help Polio victims in the 1950s. There’s still 3 in operation in the US but no company still supports them.

    Some polio survivors were only partially impaired or got better. For instance, Mia Farrow only had to spend eight months in an iron lung when she was nine, before going on to become a famous actress and polio advocate. And golfer Jack Nicklaus had symptoms for two weeks as a child, but as an adult only had sore joints.

    But many polio victims have breathing difficulties for the rest of their lives, or have issues later in life when overworked neurons burn out, a condition called post-polio syndrome. “I breathe 20 percent of what you breathe with every breath,” Lillard explained to me. “You still have the neurons that work the muscles that you breathe with.”


They warned that this winter would be snowy and they weren’t lying. The last few years we haven’t had a White Christmas, but there was a lot of snow dumped on us this December. We had a couple of snowstorms that promised 5-10cm and 15-20cm, but we saw about 5cm each time. Still, they happened during morning rush hour so it was messy. There was a couple of warm days between them so all the snow melted, but I think we’re going to have snow on the ground for the rest of the winter now. The temperatures are also quite low, reaching -10°C in the day time on several days. All in all, it feels like the middle of February instead of December.

We did our Christmas shopping in December this year, but we didn’t go into the malls at all. A lot of Amazon and other online shopping, as well as Toys R Us for the kids. It wasn’t too hectic in fact, which is great. The kids still ended up with a lot of gifts from various family and friends so I need to shift around the toys (donate some old ones). I didn’t do any Boxing Day shopping. There’s nothing I need to buy and even the clothes stores that I usually buy (online) from (e.g., BR/Gap/Old Navy, A&F, etc) I had scoped out during the Christmas shopping time frame and there wasn’t anything I wanted.

I haven’t travelled in awhile (for work). The last time was in the beginning of November, so it was pretty calm this month. The usual Christmas dinners happened as well as the end of year recaps and clean ups. Here’s to another 12 months of recap blogs in 2018!


This year saw the birth of our third child, a girl named Katana. She arrived in March and has grown past most of the trying and smelly baby stuff. Now she’s crawling and can kind of defend herself and/or steal toys from her brothers. Her looks and development are similar to when Apollo was a baby but in a more girly way (might be the clothes).

The boys play with her sometimes, but they are mostly occupied with themselves as they are now best friends. They play and fight together all the time while we tend to the baby or do other household things. In the beginning of the year, it was all about Paw Patrol (carry over from the year before), but now Apollo has moved on to Pokémon while Jovian loves playing with cars (both Lightning McQueen and the general variety).

With three kids now, we are probably done family building (never say never…). Our house is packed with miscellaneous stuff that a family with kids will have (like toys, random outdoor/sports equipment, etc) and there is a never ending process of churn as the kids grow out of items (clothes, toys) that need to be donated/thrown out, and new stuff comes in (either through gifts or purchases). We can manage for another year or two at our current place without any major changes.

We had one big trip with all 3 kids this year (to Japan) and a bunch of short trips. We managed to travel light on these trips, even though there are always a bunch of items that we have to bring (baby carrier, snacks, emergency diapers, etc). Most of our trips involved museums or theme parks and vacation planning now involves finding activities for the kids, and then slotting in places to eat around that. It’s an evolution of how we travel, and I don’t mind it that much as it keeps everyone happy.

This year I played 3 different games. On mobile, I continued to play Star Trek Timelines and while it is starting to get a little boring, I don’t see myself stopping soon (also I spent about $100 in IAP on it across the year). On desktop, I still play Hearthstone. However, I’m straining under the expansion release schedule (3x a year), and so I’ve dialed back on trying to collect cards in it. In the first half of the year, I also played Heroes of the Storm frequently (a couple of times a week). But then I went on vacation and didn’t keep up with the new heroes release/changes in game play so I just dropped it.

Like Twitter in previous years, I noticed that I spent less time reading social feeds this year. This year’s casualty was Facebook. I used to check it several times a day but now I might even go through a day without opening the app. I think a big reason for this is because the News Feed has too much stuff that I don’t care about (maybe an acquaintance liked something and it showed up on my feed). Toward the end of the year, I am feeling the same thing about Instagram (especially because they inserted a big recommended photos/videos section into the feed).

I had similar amounts of work travel this year as last year, except for a big break between Feb – Jun where I hardly did any traveling due to Katana’s birth. A change this year was that I consolidated my flights and loyalty plans and used Air Canada as much as possible (previously I flew whatever was available and collected United points). Even though I missed a couple of Korea trips, I made it to Altitude 35k for the first time, so next year I will have status with Air Canada! One of the reasons for work travel was to go to a bunch of conferences. I attended 4 this year, including CES and Google I/O (first time at both). I also went to the Samsung Developer Conference (first time) and FITC (which was local in Toronto).

I don’t think I did any development this year at work, although I still did technical stuff (product-related work, management and a little housekeeping here and there). My career is also in a transition stage as this is the second year where I have been mostly removed from writing code. This year I spent time on other disciplines like design and strategy, but I guess I need to decide which direction I should go for the next rung of the career ladder soon.

Our “old” friends (e.g., pre-kid friends) have started to collect enough kids now that we are finally having kid-based gatherings. That’s good news for us since we have common topics and can hang out with them again (instead of passing on clubbing or karaoke). Still waiting and wondering on a couple of friends as to whether they will have kids now.

Every year when I write my yearly recap, I have difficulty weaving the thoughts and points into a story. Is the recap supposed to itemize the major things that happen this year? Or is it more about the mindset? The way I look at it is if I come back in 10 years and read the recap, will I have a good sense of how I was feeling in this year? That’s difficult to capture because who knows what ends up being important.

I’ve given this some thought over the last month, and I suspect that what will be important is that 2017 will be seen as an inflection point year. If we backtrack 5 years or so, I knew we were about to have kids so there was a plan on how that would work out (budgeting etc). Now we have 3 kids and, especially because the older two are school age, I believe that my life will be changing so that it is more routine (on a macro level, on a micro level it will probably be chaotic) and household oriented. So while 2016 felt like a waffling continuation of the previous stage of my life, I think 2017 is the end and 2018 will be the start of a different way of living. Interestingly enough, what this was an independent thought, it reminded me of my previous blog about age milestones. So we shall see what the next group of years will be like.


Another year, another bunch of trips:

  • Toronto, ON, Canada
  • Las Vegas, NV, USA
  • Seoul, South Korea
  • Dallas, TX, USA
  • Sunnyvale, CA, USA
  • Boston, MA, USA
  • Rochester, NY, USA
  • Manhattan, NY, USA
  • Osaka, Japan
  • Tokyo, Japan
  • San Francisco, CA, USA
  • Erie, PA, USA
  • Grove City, PA, USA

Here’s the full list: 2006 (10), 2007 (8), 2008 (13), 2009 (10), 2010 (15), 2011 (18), 2012 (8), 2013 (10), 2014 (5), 2015 (14), 2016 (11),


This year I started getting tired of KPop. The music started sounding the same so I didn’t stay up to date with it that much, nor did we listen to it much in the car. Instead, we went back to listening to top40 radio. It wasn’t as bad as it sounds, and there were some good songs in the first half the year. The last quarter of the year, surprisingly, was a clunker where most of the new songs were pretty bad.

One interesting thing about the list this year is that all the songs are pretty close together. If I had to rank them, it might go 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and then a 10 way tie for #6.

  1. Charlie Puth – Attention

    Ever since I discovered Charlie Puth, I’ve paid attention to his singles. His style of music currently lines up with the pop music I want to hear. Attention was released around April, and I’ve been waiting for his second album to be released, but apparently it won’t hit the streets till 2018! He released a second single towards the end of the year which is decent, but not as great as Attention. This song has a great hook and it is #1 because this is the style of pop I love listening to.

  2. 종현 (Jonghyun) ft 태연 (Taeyeon) – Lonely

    Taeyeon and Jonghyun had a good duet a couple of years ago, and this one is a continuation of that partnership. The song is decent and finally we get a Taeyeon ballad! It was tough ranking this song at #2, but what made it better than the rest is because this is a piano ballad and Taeyeon’s singing.

  3. 볼빨간사춘기 (Bolppalgan Puberty) – 나만 안되는 연애 (Hard To Love)

    Bolppalgan Puberty (now goes by Bolppalgan4 which is slightly easier to remember I suppose) was a chance discovery this year, and I’m glad I found them. This is the first song I heard by them and it instantly caught my attention because of the sound of the lead singer. They’re not your typical KPop (in fact I don’t even find them attractive) but the entire album is great (although not to the calibre of the two songs here or Freesia).

  4. 볼빨간사춘기 (Bolppalgan Puberty) – 우주를 줄게 (Galaxy)

    Like Taeyeon’s Why and Starlight, both this song and Hard To Love are really hard to separate in terms of greatness. They are quite different in style as Galaxy is more upbeat and Hard To Love is a ballad and more soulful; but I don’t think Galaxy will have as much longevity and impact because it is not a ballad, and yet isn’t dance-y enough. That is not to take away from how good this song is still though – this track was the 2017 song of the year at the Korean Music Awards (not fan voted).

  5. Calvin Harris, Frank Ocean, Migios – Slide

    It’s tragic that there was no video for this song but I wonder if it’s because the label didn’t want to make one or one of the artists didn’t? This song played for a little while on the radio and then went away, and it’s too bad. The beat is catchy, Frank Ocean sings well and makes me want to listen to more of his music, and Migios has a great hook. This an Passionfruit were two standout Hip Hop tracks for me this year, when I don’t enjoy listening to Hip Hop.

  6. Julia Michaels – Issues

    I have a feeling Julia Michaels is going to be a one-hit wonder, and she’ll go back to writing great songs for other artists. This song works because there is a movement in pop to a stripped down sound, and this is a great example of that style.

  7. Drake – Passionfruit

    Well, it looks like this song doesn’t have a video, and there are no performances or etc on YouTube. I guess Drake has a (not a) thing for posting things online, as the last video on his channel is Hotline Bling. So you’ll have to live with this cover. There are very few Drake songs I like because I don’t like the way he raps or the instrumentation in his songs. Passionfruit is an exception because of the driving beat and I guess because his singing is less soulful.

  8. Bruno Mars – Versace On The Dancefloor

    Bruno Mars has three great hits on his latest album, and unfortunately this is the one that didn’t get a lot of radio play. I wouldn’t say this is the best, as all three tracks had their merits. However, Versace On The Dancefloor is another recent song that channels the 80s/Michael Jackson era (see The Weeknd). If this song saw as much play as I Feel It Coming, it might be just as popular. It is a worthy ballad.

  9. 수지 (Suzy) – 취향 (Les Préférences)

    Suzy released an EP but this wasn’t the single. However, I discovered this song when I listened to her problems for that EP – and it’s actually better than everything else on the EP (or more fitting to the style of music I like).

  10. 태연 (Taeyeon) – I Got Love

    Taeyeon release an album, and then a month later released a deluxe version. Fortunately, I waited until the deluxe edition is out to buy. I’m not a fan of the genre of music that is on the album – not a lot of ballads, but a bunch of throwaway dance and easy rock songs. This song is one of singles and has a catchy and unique beat. Like Versace On The Dancefloor, the video is too distracting and takes away from the song.

  11. IU ft G-Dragon – Palette

    IU released two albums this year. One was a sequel to her remake album (more remakes) and one had original material. Palette was the single off of the latter. Both albums were OK, as I am a fan of her songs. Nothing was as super-catchy as 23. The live promo choreography of this song is unique in that it uses 80s style – the generation I grew up in is finally retro!

  12. Calvin Harris, Katy Perry, Pharrell Williams, Big Sean – Feels

    Crazy all-star cast for this song which is kind of a departure for everyone. But I guess they banked that this would be a hit single – and it certainly feels like it. Katy Perry is unrecognizable until I heard mention of her name in the credits. Pharrell sounds typical. Big Sean has a retro beat for his rap that sounds like it was C+P from a Puff Daddy era song. And Calvin Harris. I’m not sure what he gets credit for? I guess for pulling everyone together.

  13. 소녀시대 (Girls Generation) – All Night

    The last (?) Girls Generation album came out this year and it was a clunker. All of the songs were unremarkable and forgettable except for this one, which has a great stuttering hook. With 3 members not signed to a contract, everyone approaching their 30s, and basically every member having a try at a solo career. I think this is it for SNSD and it sub-units.

  14. Bruno Mars – That’s What I Like

    This song and 24K Magic are prototypical Bruno Mars songs/hits. It’s catchy, and a great pop song. Nothing much to say except the formula works for him.

  15. Niall Horan – Slow Hands

    I’m not a big fan of Niall, 1D, or any of the other members’s songs. But Niall had a good song with This Town and this one is even better. Great pop song, but probably will be forever stuck in 2017.

  16. Ed Sheeran – Shape Of You

    Song came out early in 2017 (I think it was part of last year’s Grammy’s) and I’m kind of tired of listening to it (I even blogged about it). But it should remain a top Ed Sheeran song in my books.

  17. Taylor Swift – Ready For It

    I think Taylor Swift is the top female singer in pop today but I’m not a huge fan of her. She had a couple of releases this year and the last one is the best. However, I feel like she released half of this song previously as Wildest Dream. This was the one song in the last part of the year that I liked.

  18. 윤아 (Yoona) – 바람이 불면 (When The Wind Blows)

    With SNSD breaking up on hiatus, I think Yoona’s angle is to start a solo career in China. She had a Chinese EP last year and this song was a dual Mandarin/Korean release. I think she’s an underrated singer and if she gets a decent and fitting song, then it’ll do well. This song is not a hitmaker, but it is OK and she carries it fine. In fact, this song kind of reminds me of Taeyeon’s 11:11.


It’s been two years and a bit so it was time for a new phone. Although my OPT was showing it’s age, it wasn’t pressing that I update. The usual problems had starting occurring; most notably the beginning loss of battery life, and slowness (especially since I use my S8+ half the time while travelling). But there hasn’t been much hardware advancement that required me to upgrade.

While choosing a phone to upgrade too, I looked around a bit but settled on the 5T. While it has gotten a lot of excellent reviews (great phone for price), what made me buy it is that it is the only major phone on the market that has dual SIM support and community (if I ever need it). I think the only other option was a Huawei which is difficult to buy. I looked at a lot of flagship phones (S8, Pixel2, Essential, etc) and even if they were great, their lack of dual SIM eliminated them as choices.

One advantage of the 5T over the OPT is that both SIMs can be active – meaning you can call out or receive calls on both SIMs at once (on 3G). This was a problem I had previously so I’m glad that it is fixed. Everything else that is relatively important is good enough (camera, Android OS, hardware, etc).

One thing that irks me (although not a fault with OnePlus) is that while the new phone has a NFC, I can’t use Android Pay because I OEM unlocked the bootloader.


As I’m writing my Top Music of 2017 blog, I realize it might be interesting to see how rankings change over time. For me, top music should be an indication of longevity – how will I still like the song after a few years. So here’s the list from 2005 (12 years ago):

  1. Annie – Heartbeat
  2. Gwen Stefani – Cool
  3. Feist – Inside & Out
  4. Coldplay – Speed Of Sound
  5. Sum 41 – Pieces
  6. New Order – Krafty
  7. Franz Ferdinand – The Fallen
  8. Kelly Clarkson – Since U Been Gone
  9. Sufjan Stevens – John Wayne Gacy Jr
  10. Jimmy Eat World – Work
  11. Kathleen Edwards – Back To Me
  12. The Decemberists – Sixteen Military Wives
  13. The Bravery – An Honest Mistake
  14. Gorillaz – Feel Good Inc
  15. Imogen Heap – Hide & Seek
  16. Embrace – Gravity
  17. Tegan & Sara – Speak Slow
  18. Kylie Minogue – I Believe In You

In my re-ranking, I have an arbitrary cut-off where I don’t think a song should be on the list (kind of a 3.5 star line on iTunes). And then I just re-ranked everything based on how I like the song now. Also I didn’t add any new songs since I don’t remember what came out in 2005.

  1. Feist – Inside & Out
  2. Annie – Heartbeat
  3. Kylie Minogue – I Believe In You
  4. Kelly Clarkson – Since U Been Gone
  5. Gorillaz – Feel Good Inc
  6. Imogen Heap – Hide & Seek
  7. Gwen Stefani – Cool
  8. Sum 41 – Pieces
  9. Jimmy Eat World – Work
  10. New Order – Krafty
  11. Embrace – Gravity
  12. Tegan & Sara – Speak Slow
  13. Kathleen Edwards – Back To Me

So 5 songs have dropped of the list, and I think there’s a couple of clear tiers. Songs 1 – 4 are still great, 5 – 7 are decent, and 8+ fill out the catalogue.


I started November with a quick trip to Dallas. Dallas is a difficult destination to get to from Toronto because there’s only a couple of non-stop flights each day, and most of them don’t really fit with working hours – meaning I have to spend an extra day or night there. In any case, it was a pure work trip where I was just at the hotel or the office. That was good because it was 30°C+ there (new November record for them).

After that, the main thing on my mind was trying to get organized for Christmas seeing as December is usually full with events. We also planned to go to the US during American Thanksgiving to take advantage of Black Friday, so we had to plan that as well. We ended up driving to Pittsburgh to visit the Children’s Museum and Carnegie Science Center (both free due to reciprocal admission). We did stop for some shopping but didn’t really do a lot or take advantage of Black Friday deals.

The weather has been surprisingly cold for November. There was some snow and the kids had to wear snowpants to school for a couple of days. Aside from that, it was the usual classes and what not during the month.


Transformers: The Last Knight beings with an over-the-top sequence where the Knights of the Round Table (what? did I click the wrong movie on the flight?) are in a historical and one-sided battle against barbarians (they are losing), only to be saved at the last minute by Merlin and his (Transformer) dragon. What? #2.

That’s followed quickly and abruptly by a ludicrous storyline about some tough pre-teens who sneak into a Transformers DMZ/refugee zone only to find that there are actual robots who will kill all trespassers. I guess they don’t read the internet (What? #3). But that’s ok! Another pre-teen, who has been living on her own in this bombed out city (lots of food supplies I guess. What? #4) saves them against a couple of highly engineered, precision killing machines. Almost. Because the main star has to makes his grand appearance – Marky Mark. Having picked this movie on a whim, this was off to a terrible start and it was only 10 minutes in.

It doesn’t get any better. This is a stupid movie. The plot is a madlib of events and dialogue. It feels like there are cuts to certain dialogue scenes just to appease certain demographics. Characters do stuff but there’s no logic or reason why they are taking certain actions – and I don’t think it’s because I didn’t see the previous movies.

This movie has allusions to the very first (cartoon) Transformers movie, but even with that, Anthony Hopkins playing with a British accent, robots, or you name it; it still sucks. I didn’t get to see the last act of this movie, and I don’t feel like I missed much. I bet the heroes will win, but I’m not invested or curious in the outcome at all. I can’t understate how badly put together this movie is and given that I have very low expectations of a summer blockbusters, it should be telling that I can resoundly say that this is a one out of five movie.


I don’t remember why I got this movie, but it was the only movie that my phone could play on my flight (note to self, download an app like VLC so I can watch encoded video). I flew a lot between September and October and saw everything I wanted to watch from Air Canada’s inflight entertainment system so had a chance to work on my personal backlog (it’s been so long that I don’t remember why they exist).

Julie & Julia is actually two stories in one. There is a story about the famous cook Julia Childs (who I knew nothing about), how she got into cooking and how she ended writing her pivotal book, Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Then there is the current day story (set in 2002) where a Millennial New Yorker cooks every recipe in said book.

Both stories are kind of interesting. The first story is a time piece that shows off Paris in the 50s. Originally, I thought I would find the movie really annoying because Childs has these mannerisms which are grating. However, I got used to it as the story progressed and realized that Meryl Streep was doing a great job portraying the character and personality. The current day story was also really interesting. It’s set almost 15 years ago but it’s about Millennials hitting their 30s (was the term Millennials even coined back then?), and features this new technology called blogging! It was nostalgic to take a look back at the basic HTML render of Blogger and Salon, and the issues that bloggers faced about being narcissistic. On the other hand, this movie is really dated (people were still using flip phones!). This movie might end up being a complete period piece soon!

This is more of a chick flick but surprisingly I enjoyed it. Three out of five stars.


October was a very busy but exciting month. As you might recall, I ended September with a trip to Korea for work. When October started, I flew out again along with the rest of our family to Japan for vacation. This meant that I had a ping pong trip where I was in Asia, back home for two days, then in Asia again (well I didn’t plan it that way, but when we booked vacation I didn’t know I had to goto Korea yet).

Our trip to Japan was our big family vacation for this year. Fortunately we didn’t have to take our vacation in the summer this year, and could choose a more convenient time to go. We decided to go and celebrate Apollo’s birthday abroad in addition to our vacation – and ended up at Disneyland on the actual day (we had planned to go a day earlier, but rain forced us to delay it). We also did lots of Japan-y stuff that you might expect, and introduced all 3 kids to the culture (previously, only Apollo had been there).

After we came back. I had a few more days, and then flew out to San Francisco for a conference. Counting from September, I was basically away from home for 4 weeks. After that trip, I finally had some time at home but it wasn’t very calm because we basically had to catch up and plan for everything that we couldn’t do while we were traveling. Most importantly, Hallowe’en was quickly approaching.

We missed one weekend which had a lot of Hallowe’en stuff, and was only able to do some things on the last weekend of October. We wanted to go to Camp Spooky at Wonderland, but the day we planned to go ended up being rained out, and we went to Brick Or Treat at Legoland instead (wasn’t overly decorated for Hallowe’en). That meant our Wonderland seasons pass expired with a whimper (we didn’t use it past August) but we ended up buying a Legoland pass for the next year. At the end of the month, we had five memberships going on at the same time – that seems like a bit too much!


The only reason I watched Incendies is because it was directed by Denis Villeneuve. I enjoyed Arrival and am anticipating Blade Runner 2049 (which is out, but I won’t get to watch until it appears on flights). In truth, this film is a test to see whether I think he is a cut above or just hyped and lucky on previous films.

The film is about a pair of French-speaking twins who live in Canada, who, upon their mother’s death, have to deliver letters to their (long lost) father and (previously unknown) brother. They go on a journey to the Middle East to complete their mission and to learn about their mother’s history. It turns out that her mother lived through and took part in a civil war before coming to Canada.

The story was compelling to me because I didn’t have a lot of background on middle east countries and the fighting that happened in the last half of the 20th century. The film is rated R so the events that occur are graphic and abrupt. The mystery of the father and brother is also interesting and the ending that wraps up the mother’s will is unexpected.

The problem is that I think the source material of the film is very good. The film is based off a theatre play, but on further research, Villeneuve rewrote all of the dialog. So it’s difficult for me to determine whether how much the film making makes the story better. I guess I’ll have to watch more films by Villeneuve to find out. The rating for this movie is also a bit borderline. The topic is new to me, which makes the film better, but I don’t think it’s something I would want to watch multiple times. However, I’ll be generous and give it a four out of five stars.


Oh great, yet another Spider-man movie. Even though this is based off his cameo in Captain America: Civil War, I am a bit weary of this. I never liked the character but he is just so popular that you can’t avoid his books and stories. And another reboot in his movie series, isn’t this the third time?

So this movie didn’t start off well for me. It got worse when the plot followed a teenager’s life. I’m just not interested in watching teen struggles anymore. And his wisecracking is too much. The story isn’t much better as we get to see some B-list Spider-Man villains (Vulture and Shocker). The best part are the cameos but it feels like a crutch for both Spider-Man and the movie.

I don’t think this movie advances the Marvel Universe storyline so it can easily be skipped. Two out of five stars.


When I started using a FitBit, I thought it was indispensable and really cool. Even though it only tracked steps and sometimes flights, I could have raw data on how I was moving! I didn’t have any real use for this information, but it appealed to the compulsive data nerd in me. I tried a bunch of alternatives to Fitbit but navigated back to the FitBit brand. Ostensibly, it was because the web and app interface was superior, but I think it was a whole bunch of little things that just made it easier to use.

This is a FitBit is good and FitBit is bad post. As with most things, the newness of the service wore off. I’ve been wearing a FitBit on my wrist for probably five years now. The data tracking is still there but I don’t really care for it anymore. The most useful feature is the slim profile that lets me see the time on my wrist. That’s not underselling it though, that feature really is useful.

I’ve gone through many FitBits. Started with the Force and then returned that for full credit as part of a product recall. Then I bought a first generation Flex and used it for awhile. The battery died (couldn’t hold a charge) and their support team replaced it with another Flex. Then the battery on that died the same way. Recently I bought a Charge for cheap on eBay (was new) and after three months, the band broke. Support replaced it once again, but because the product was so old, I received an Alta instead.

Their support is great but I wonder if there are just quality and design issues in their product line. When I owned the Flex, I probably bought and went through 20 different bands. They would just break after a few months of use. Luckily I bought them for cheap from China ($2-3 a pop) instead of the full retail price ($20+??). I can’t imagine the cost of ownership would be worth it otherwise. I also spent a bunch on chargers because different models had different connections.

The Alta I just received is the new hotness but I’m not sure I get enough benefit from it to deal with the accessories, charging (only 5 days of battery life) and the slow but eventual death of the hardware. Maybe I should just get a nice watch instead.


  • What Came Before the Big Bang?
    The two things that I’m always curious about space/time is whether we live in a simulation, and what happened before the Big Bang. Here are 3 ideas on the latter.

    A second major hypothesis is that the universe, and time, did not exist before the Big Bang. The universe materialized literally out of nothing, at a tiny but finite size, and expanded thereafter. There were no moments before the moment of smallest size because there was no “before.” Likewise, there was no “creation” of the universe, since that concept implies action in time. Even to say that the universe “materialized” is somewhat misleading. As Hawking describes it, the universe “would be neither created nor destroyed. It would just BE.” Such notions as existence and being in the absence of time are not fathomable within our limited human experience. We don’t even have language to describe them. Nearly every sentence we utter has some notion of “before” and “after.”

  • How Big Business Got Brazil Hooked on Junk Food
    Junk food is not all bad. If it wasn’t for junk food, a lot of people in Brazil would be starving as they would not be able to buy enough food to sustain themselves. Yet is surviving on junk food any better?

    Ms. de Vasconcellos has diabetes and high blood pressure. Her 17-year-old daughter, who weighs more than 250 pounds, has hypertension and polycystic ovary syndrome, a hormonal disorder strongly linked to obesity. Many other relatives have one or more ailments often associated with poor diets: her mother and two sisters (diabetes and hypertension), and her husband (hypertension.) Her father died three years ago after losing his feet to gangrene, a complication of diabetes.

    “Every time I go to the public health clinic, the line for diabetics is out the door,” she said. “You’d be hard pressed to find a family here that doesn’t have it.”

  • The Untold Story of Kim Jong-nam’s Assassination
    The real life assassination of a North Korean leader is almost unbelievable (as with many things North Korea), but someone has done a lot of leg work to try and get a detailed story of what happened.

    The liquid that Siti rubbed on Jong-nam’s face was likely not true VX. Experts have suggested that a modified version of normal VX—VX2—was employed instead. As Vipin Narang, a professor of political science at MIT who holds two degrees in chemical engineering, explained to me, “VX2 is made by dividing VX into two nonreactive compounds. What the women were likely doing was creating active VX on Jong-nam’s face by each delivering their ingredient.”

    This complicated method of poisoning Jong-nam would have had several advantages. First, the toxin would have been safe until activated. Even then, VX2 is not very volatile compared with other chemical weapons, meaning it was less likely to affect bystanders or first responders. If VX2 was employed, it’s unlikely Siti would have been affected, as striking first she never would have been exposed to the second reactant.

  • Valve is not your friend, and Steam is not healthy for gaming
    I never liked Steam as a store or a service. The software just seemed clunky and unnecessary and I’m not even a gamer so I can imagine what people who use it every day would think. This story is biased as the author has a big beef with it, but it also lists out a bunch of things wrong with the service

    Valve themselves eagerly trumpeted that they had paid more than $57 million to Steam Workshop creators over four years — an enormously impressive figure until you realize that it’s only 25 percent of the sale price, which means Valve just made $171 million profit from … setting up an online form where you can submit finished 3D models.

  • Where are all the aliens?
    This article talks about the Fermi paradox (if there are so many stars, why can’t we find other intelligent species?) and lists a bunch of reasons why it may exist. It’s a primer article on the paradox and I felt I’ve read it somewhere else before, but it’s still interesting.

    Possibility 5) There’s only one instance of higher-intelligent life—a “superpredator” civilization (like humans are here on Earth)—who is far more advanced than everyone else and keeps it that way by exterminating any intelligent civilization once they get past a certain level. This would suck. The way it might work is that it’s an inefficient use of resources to exterminate all emerging intelligences, maybe because most die out on their own. But past a certain point, the super beings make their move—because to them, an emerging intelligent species becomes like a virus as it starts to grow and spread. This theory suggests that whoever was the first in the galaxy to reach intelligence won, and now no one else has a chance. This would explain the lack of activity out there because it would keep the number of super-intelligent civilizations to just one.


On my flight back home, I was surprised to find new movies in the inflight entertainment system! The movie I was most excited about was Wonder Woman. Ever since her introduction in Batman vs Superman, I’ve been waiting for her feature movie to come out. I’m not even a big fan of the character, I had tried reading some of her comics in the past but always ended up dropping them because the stories were boring (Amazonian stuff), or the supporting characters were lame, or the issues she had to deal with (e.g., her weaknesses) were not compelling. So I only saw her in Justice League adventures, or when there is a universe-level crisis.

But her appearance in BvS was amazing. This is a career-defining role for Gal Gadot and I don’t think I can ever envision her as any other character. I’m not sure what it is, but she is both what I imagined Wonder Woman to look like, yet also not what she looks like. What I mean is that when she is in costume, there is no one else that I can imagine as being Wonder Woman but her face is not at all what Wonder Woman would look like in my mind (I guess due to her heritage). This is more apparent when she is in plain clothes, and she doesn’t look at all like how I imagine Diana Prince would be.

Anyways, so how was the movie? I didn’t think it was as good as people said it would be. It’s nowhere near Ghost In The Shell bad, but it’s still polarizing. The story is clunky and I hate the origin story where they kept stressing her naivete and social awkwardness. The romance is unbelievable, but not as bad as sailing to London in one night (even if they got a lift). Also the motley crew of supporting characters adds nothing to the story (I only recognize Etta, are the others even from the comic?)

But once the fighting starts, it is glorious. Wonder Woman is magnificent in battle, especially the close quarters fighting (on the beach and before Act 2). Some people hate Zach Snyder slowing down the camera for certain scenes, but I like it and think it was effective. Act 2 was expected and cliché but I still thought it was a great twist. Honestly this whole movie can just be Wonder Woman jumping and fighting and it would still be three out of five stars.


The best comparison to La La Land would be Moulin Rouge – both are oscar-calibre musicals. However, I much preferred La La Land over Moulin Rouge. My problem with Moulin Rouge is that the concept is too much of a fantasy and the music just isn’t that great, but La La Land deals with real life (Millennial) issues and has a better soundtrack (mostly original music).

It often felt like a showcase of theatre and the arts. It featured instrument playing, tap dancing, plays, singing, etc. I also noticed the extensive use of theatre stage lighting (thanks to the recent Apple keynote which highlighted this). The ensemble pieces were great and the two leads performed well too (even though they probably didn’t have those specific skills of piano, singing, tapping etc). I can see how this movie could easily transition to Broadway.

As the story progressed, I got a little disappointed that there were fewer ensemble dance numbers, but I guess those were expensive to produce (I saw that Mandy Moore choreographed it?). The story was decent and believable and the ending leaves you with a decision to consider. This is a solid four out of five stars from me!


This is a giant in HK cinema which I had never watched, even though I watched the referential 2046 many years ago. I’ve heard it mentioned over and over with regards to its cinematography and after watching it, I think it lives up to its billing.

I think a comparable to this movie is The Godfather. The pacing is slow but not boring, and there are so many music and scenery shots. I can’t imagine them making a movie that can convey mood in the same way nowadays. Not only that, the dialogue is smart and complements the camera. Not everything is mentioned but the careful watcher can see the subtle hints in the story.

I also enjoyed the look at 60s Hong Kong which is near my parents’ era. Watching the film now, it doesn’t feel dated but more like a period piece.

I came with high expectations, and have probably seen Wong Kar-Wai’s influence in countless movies but was still impressed by In The Mood For Love. This deserves four out of five stars.


Ghost in the Shell was all around me when I was in my teens. I was never interested in anime, but this was one of the names I recognized. I might have even watched an anime movie version of it. And I definitely read an entire comic book series about it. Yet I don’t remember any details, the back story, or the potential psychological conflict of being part human-part machine.

This recognition is part of the reason why I watched the movie. Another is because I read some complaints when it was released about being white-washed (specifically Scarlett Jo instead of a Japanese lead). I don’t think the lead was the issue, but rather than a lot of it just wasn’t Japanese. The robotics company was completely staffed by Caucasians, the local police was a conglomerate of mixed cultures, and the entire thing was filmed in Hong Kong! I recognized Mong Kok in the beginning and it just became more and more obvious as I watched. I guess filming in HK made sense since a lot of the production companies at the beginning of the movie were Chinese.

The other issue with this movie is that it sucked. The decisions characters made made no sense and the dialogue was horrible. I hope Scarlett Johansson made a lot of money on this one because it is an embarrassment to have on your resume. It’s like Black Widow had a feature film and dyed her hair black.

A lot of the times the movie is just there to show off action sequences or body shots or the futuristic environment. I guess that is slightly cool and elevates this movie to 2 out of 5 stars.


  • The highly unusual company behind Sriracha, the world’s coolest hot sauce

    Reading this story, it either means that Sriracha is really secretive about its numbers, or maybe it just doesn’t keep track so they can’t tell you!

    Most commercially distributed hot sauces are made with dried chilies to make it easier to harvest, process and bottle the product at scale. McIlhenny, the maker of Tabasco, for example, buys its chilies from producers around the globe. But Sriracha is—and always always has been—made with fresh chilies. It’s what separates it from the competition, says Tran.

  • My Family’s Slave
    The author of this article had a domestic slave in their household as they were growing up, and this was in the 20th century. He talks about how and why she stayed with the family until she died.

    We couldn’t identify a parallel anywhere except in slave characters on TV and in the movies. I remember watching a Western called The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance. John Wayne plays Tom Doniphon, a gunslinging rancher who barks orders at his servant, Pompey, whom he calls his “boy.” Pick him up, Pompey. Pompey, go find the doctor. Get on back to work, Pompey! Docile and obedient, Pompey calls his master “Mistah Tom.” They have a complex relationship. Tom forbids Pompey from attending school but opens the way for Pompey to drink in a whites-only saloon. Near the end, Pompey saves his master from a fire. It’s clear Pompey both fears and loves Tom, and he mourns when Tom dies. All of this is peripheral to the main story of Tom’s showdown with bad guy Liberty Valance, but I couldn’t take my eyes off Pompey. I remember thinking: Lola is Pompey, Pompey is Lola.

  • In Sync We Trust: Pop Music’s History of Lip-Syncing (and Lying About It)
    A look at the history and slow acceptance of lip syncing. I don’t think you can detail like this in a Wikipedia article so it’s nice to have a historical report collected. Especially now that lip syncing is not that big of a deal and people aren’t worried too much about it.

    An even more egregious example of this kind of pop-music bait-and-switch came via the Italian dance act Black Box, which released an album, Dreamland, in 1990 that was almost entirely sung by a woman named Martha Wash and with no credit to her. Instead, a model named Katrin Quinol lip-synced Wash’s vocals in videos for the group’s global hits “Everybody, Everybody,” “Strike It Up,” and “I Don’t Know Anybody Else,” and appeared on the covers of Black Box’s records. What’s galling about this particular case is Wash was already well known among dance-music fans—she was one half of the Weather Girls, whose 1982 single “It’s Raining Men” was a hit that time made an anthem, and before that she was known for her work with legendary disco diva Sylvester. Martha Wash’s soprano is as singular as it is titanic and it’s amazing that anyone ever tried to pretend that it belonged to someone else after it had already fallen on the listening public’s ears.

  • Will China Save the American Economy?
    China wants to move money out of their country and they are doing so by investing in America. Some are investing money into companies, but this article suggests that Chinese companies building/repurposing manufacturing plants in the US will save the American economy. I don’t see what or how Chinese management can bring to manufacturing jobs in American, when they left the US for a reason (high cost of labour, low efficiency, etc).

    In 2004, factory workers in China made $4.35 an hour, compared to $17.54 that the average factory worker made in the U.S., according to the Boston Consulting Group.

    But labor expenses are rising in China. According to the Chinese Business Climate Survey, put out by the American Chamber of Commerce in China and the consulting firm Bain & Company, businesses there cite rising labor costs as their top problem. That’s in part because worker organizations are gaining strength, and strikes and labor disputes are becoming more common. Today, Chinese manufacturing wages adjusted for productivity are $12.47 an hour, compared to $22.32 in the United States, according to the Boston Consulting Group.

  • Exposed: How maulvis take money for one-night stand with divorced women trying to save marriage

    Under Islam law, it’s not possible to remarry your original husband unless you marry someone else. So clerics have taken it upon themselves to do one-night marriages in order to get around this rule.

    At Delhi’s Jamia Nagar, the team met Zubair Qasmi, a qualified maulana married with two wives. He nominated himself up for a third at the prospect of nikah halala, in exchange for money.

    “I spend many nights out. It’s much easier to manage this with two (wives). One would think I am with the second. And the second would think I am with the other. It’s not at all difficult with two (wives),” he bragged.


We started this month by taking one last road trip in the summer, and across the border to Rochester to visit the Museum of Play and some shopping. This is the third time/year that we’ve went so we also decided to spring for a membership. It takes 3 visits (days) to make the pass worth it, and we already did two days on this trip. So one more visit and we’ll be in the black! By going “later” in the year, it gives us a lot of time to plan a trip next spring or summer.

Apollo started his fourth new school in as many years this year and with that a new route/timetable for dropoff. His school starts earlier than last year so we’ve moved up his sleep schedule to accommodate, and surprisingly the night and morning adjustments have been pretty straightforward. Jovian also started a new school, and it actually feels like a regression because he’s only in his nursery school three days in a week! Fall programs had the first two weeks off (I guess to give everyone time to adjust to the day school routine first) but they kicked off in the latter half of the month.

After an August that felt like fall, we had nice weather (including a couple of days of Indian Summer) during September. Most days were t-shirts and pants, with an optional coat in the morning. Leaves are starting to turn yellow, which feels a bit early, but we’ve already gone Apple picking and farm season is most likely finished for us this year (unless we have a pumpkin trip in October, but I doubt it).

To cap off the month, I went over to Korea for a week. It’s only my second visit this year due to Katana being born and some other weird scheduling/cancellations.


  • At Tampa Bay farm-to-table restaurants, you’re being fed fiction
    A lot of restaurants now use ingredients that are “locally sourced” or “from the farm”, but how true is that really? You usually just trust whatever is on the menu, but this food critic actually followed through and did some investigating. Not surprisingly, a lot of places lie.

    Dorsey said he buys pork from a small Tallahassee farm through food supplier Master Purveyors. But Master Purveyors said it doesn’t sell pork from Tallahassee. Dorsey said he uses quail from Magnolia Farms in Lake City. Master Purveyors said the quail is from Wyoming. Dorsey said he buys dairy from Dakin Dairy Farms in Myakka through Weyand Food Distributors. Weyand said it doesn’t distribute Dakin. Dorsey said he gets local produce from Suncoast Food Alliance and Local Roots. Both said they have not sold to The Mill. He named three seafood suppliers. Two checked out, but a third, Whitney and Son, said they had not sold to The Mill yet. They hope to in the future.

  • The Weird Economics Of Ikea
    This article talks about how Ikea handles its pricing for some of its most popular items, including two that I had around when I was a child – the lack table and the poang which I used as “computer chair” since it was more comfortable than a swivel chair.

    Indeed, the products have evolved. In 1992, part of the Poäng was changed from steel to wood, allowing the chair to ship more densely and efficiently in the company’s flat packs. (“Shipping air is very expensive,” Marston said.) And the Lack table was changed from solid wood to a honeycomb “board on frame” construction, decreasing production costs and increasing shipping efficiency. Baxter theorizes, though, that if a product is finicky — requiring design in Sweden, manufacture in China and intricate pieces from Switzerland, say — it may eventually be abandoned.

  • ‘I thought I was smarter than almost everybody’: my double life as a KGB agent
    A real life story from a former KGB spy where he discusses a bit about his training to become a spy. There are also some bits about being undercover, but frankly, that is pretty boring!

    Barsky, as he now was, moved to New York, carrying his new birth certificate. With that, he got a membership card at the Natural History Museum. And, with that, he got a library card and then a driver’s licence. He covered his hands and face with grime and did not wash for days before applying for a social security card; he had always worked as a farmhand, he told them, and never needed one. It worked.

  • ‘London Bridge is down’: the secret plan for the days after the Queen’s death
    This is a long article that serves as proof that various agencies within the UK have thought about and planned for the Queen’s inevitable death. Like much of the monarchy, this future event will be micromanaged to handle the press and reaction.

    The first plans for London Bridge date back to the 1960s, before being refined in detail at the turn of the century. Since then, there have been meetings two or three times a year for the various actors involved (around a dozen government departments, the police, army, broadcasters and the Royal Parks) in Church House, Westminster, the Palace, or elsewhere in Whitehall. Participants described them to me as deeply civil and methodical. “Everyone around the world is looking to us to do this again perfectly,” said one, “and we will.” Plans are updated and old versions are destroyed. Arcane and highly specific knowledge is shared. It takes 28 minutes at a slow march from the doors of St James’s to the entrance of Westminster Hall. The coffin must have a false lid, to hold the crown jewels, with a rim at least three inches high.

  • How Lego Became The Apple Of Toys
    This article raises the parallel that Lego is the Apple of toys because they are looking for innovative ways to get their products in the hands of children. I don’t really buy it though, particular because their goal is “that Lego continue to create innovative play experiences and reach more children every year”. Except then they go to great lengths to talk about how their products are appealing to adults.

    Eight years ago, a Chicago architect named Adam Reed Tucker, who had been building impressive Lego models of iconic buildings, reached out to Lego, suggesting that the company might be interested in making official kits similar to his homemade creations. “Doing anything that wasn’t for the target group, which was boys between, say, 5 and 11, used to be almost a complete no-go,” says David Gram, Future Lab’s head of marketing and business development. But a free-thinking Norwegian Lego exec named Paal Smith-Meyer—Holm admiringly describes him as “a true rebel”—saw value in AFOLs (Adult Fans of Lego) and came up with a stealthy, shoestring plan to prove their worth to the company. It came in the form of a counteroffer—which would help usher in the current era of innovation at Lego.


Marvel seems to have their movies spread out over the year and this one ended up as the one that was on my flight to Korea. I think I saw the original Guardians of the Galaxy on a plane too (as it was released after we had kids). Not a must watch, but I was curious because I thought I read that they were gearing up for Infinity Gems and a showdown with Thanos.

But this movie wasn’t it, it was just another adventure featuring these guys, a couple of old friends from the original movie, and the early 80s music, fashion and styles.

There have been so many movies in the Marvel universe that you can just pick a random one up and watch it to pass the time. They don’t feel like tent pole releases or must-watch titles anymore. I guess that makes it perfect for flights.

GG2 has a specific conversational style, lots of wisecracks and insults (but not to an extent as say Deadpool). I don’t find that particularly entertaining though. They also have Drax playing the straight man, until they find a new character who is even straighter! I find the former funny because Drax seems to know that he is being funny. The latter feels like they’re making fun of Autistic people.

Lots of explosions, some laughs, and a megalomaniac to defeat. Also, another movie about father issues (see Star Wars & etc). Three out of five stars from me.