With COVID-19 this year, my list of where I stayed overnight this year is of course tiny:
- Toronto, ON, Canada
- Las Vegas, NV, USA
With COVID-19 this year, my list of where I stayed overnight this year is of course tiny:
Hastily wrote a lazy Top Music of 2020 so that I would have a record beyond a Spotify playlist. Even though I didn’t spend a lot of time listening to the radio in a car, I feel like I have a good handle on the Top 40 hits of the year.
This February was pretty calm. While there was snow, winter hasn’t really been that bad (there were a lot of defrosting breaks). I didn’t have work travel again this month, but we did end up going on a short road trip to Kingston for one night.
I started getting pretty deep into Lego Legacy Heroes. That’s my primary game now. I started playing in November, during beta/soft launch, and the global launch happened at the end of Feb, so I am pretty far ahead (one reason to keep playing). I didn’t really play Hearthstone this month (although there were a lot of Battleground changes), not even keeping up with quests. Disney Heroes I am kind of on the fence on. It is a bit of a chore on most days (and difficult to make progress), but sometimes it is nice to have a lot of things to do and click. The kids continued being deep into LEGO this month, maybe not as crazy as January, but they’re still building new sets and creations.
The big news story this month was Coronavirus. It is truly an interesting time because this is a global event, where every country is on the same side. This might be the first time in history that this is happening! While still contained, there are signs at the end of this month that a pandemic is about to happen.
You might think that we have already reached Peak Bathroom. But the super-rich have other ideas. Last year, The Wall Street Journal reported on a Bel Air, California, home that listed for $49.9 million. It featured eight bedrooms—and 20 bathrooms. By any rational assessment, this is a ludicrous use of money, space, and plumbing. But the U.S. housing market is rarely restrained by rationality. Indeed, the share of houses with 10 or more bathrooms has doubled in the past decade. It would seem that the richest 0.01 percent of Americans are spending down their fortunes in an arms race for toilets.
“I would say he is very rare,” Will Shortz, the legendary crossword editor at The New York Times and director of the annual crossword tournament, wrote in an email. Shortz confirmed that, with the exception of American-born expats, and puzzlers who were born elsewhere but raised in the U.S. or Canada, no other non-North American has ever had a puzzle published in the Times.
“It is difficult for a non-American to make – or even solve – American crosswords, because they’re so full of American culture,” Shortz says. “You would have to understand American life and society and English as Americans speak it in order to master our puzzles.”
In 1980, a New Yorker called Eric Bram noticed that the price of a slice of pizza had matched the cost of a subway ride in the city for nearly 20 years. More recently, commentators have noticed that as the cost of pizza goes up, transit fares often follow. In 2014, data scientist Jared Lander investigated the principle and found that it remains in place. Why is this so? Nobody knows.
Two years ago, Philemon bought an account for $800 — about 80,000 Kenyan shillings. The account was well-established with more than 200 completed homework assignments and a high rating. The account gives Philemon a better chance at bidding on more expensive, highly rated or more rigorous homework assignments, and allows him to subcontract out the work.
From its early days, Under Armour made its mark as a tech-focused sports apparel company. It didn’t just make clothes for athletes; it made clothes that aimed to improve their performance. Beginning with its first product, a T-shirt that wicked away sweat, Under Armour redefined the category, from its HeatGear and ColdGear fabrics in the late 1990s to, more recently, sleepwear intended to help athletes recover from a big game.
We were deep in LEGO this month. Not sure why as we didn’t receive any lego kits over Christmas. I guess it was a mix of having a lot of time, having sorted the lego blocks so it was easier to make things, and me playing the LEGO Legacy Heroes game. I’ve also gotten a bit bored of the Disney game – I’ve played it for about 18 months so I guess that is the lifetime of these types of games.
We had some winter-esque snowfall through the month. I thought the snow would stay around and cover the ground until fall but we had a couple of days that was near 0°C, so the snow evaporated/melted away. In November, the weather people predicted a cold/snowy winter. In December, they updated their prediction to be a mild one. I don’t know what it ended up actually being.
I didn’t do any work travel this month, so it’s been almost three months! I was supposed to have travel at the beginning of February but that got cancelled due to Coronavirus and other reasons. The plans to travel messed up our Chinese New Year plans as I was supposed to fly out on the second Saturday. We ended up doing our CNY stuff on the last Saturday of January which was small and done with quickly.
The most curious trait of the Cosmic Crisp is the sound it produces upon taking a bite. It is the platonic ideal of a crunchy apple; Foley artists supposedly record bites of other fruits, like bell peppers and onion, to imitate an apple crunch in film, and indeed, the Cosmic Crisp’s crunch sounds ripped from a sound library.
After 15 years in development, the project’s attractions are finally lighting up one by one, connected by networks of vast, unfilled corridors. In addition to Big Snow, there is a National Hockey League-sized ice rink, a Nickelodeon Universe theme park, and a dusting of retail: a Big Snow ski shop, an IT’SUGAR candy department store and a Whoopi Goldberg-themed pop-up shop selling her collections of ugly holiday sweaters and chic tunics. Teased future reveals include a DreamWorks water park, a Legoland, a Vice-branded “Munchies” food hall, a KidZania play land featuring a full commercial airliner and a field hopping with live rabbits.
Its illustrious list of current, historical and honourary members includes Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay, who first summited Mt Everest; aviator Charles Lindbergh, who made the first solo transatlantic airplane flight in 1927; Norwegian explorer Thor Heyerdahl who sailed his hand-built balsawood raft, the Kon-Tiki, from Peru to Polynesia; famed pilot Amelia Earhart who disappeared in the Pacific; Apollo astronauts, including Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong, the first men on the Moon; record-breaking deep-sea diver Sylvia Earle; British paleoanthropologist Mary Leakey, who discovered 15 new species of animal; Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos; Titanic film director and deep-sea explorer James Cameron; and primatologist Dame Jane Goodall, considered the world’s foremost expert on chimpanzees. The list is mind-boggling.
“I used to judge Americans because I thought they were always too ecstatic, always having disproportionate reactions,” he told me years later, though now, he added, “I feel like I have two worlds in my head, one in French and one in English. I feel like the English world is a lot more fun than the French one.”
Brooklyn Burger Factory is located in the kitchen of Gerizim Cafe & Ice Cream, a small establishment on Ralph Avenue. There used to be only a couple of unspectacular burgers on the menu at Gerizim Cafe, and only about one a day sold, according to co-owner Joel Farmer.
But the data team at Uber Eats perceived a demand for gourmet burgers in the area, and they approached Farmer about the possibility of expanding the selection. Farmer liked the idea; most of the raw ingredients were already on hand. The Brooklyn Burger Factory has been such a success—it’s now selling as many as 75 burgers a day, with revenue 28 times that of Gerizim Cafe—that Farmer is changing the name of the entire operation.
I’ll be honest, the only reason I watched Exit was because I knew about it beforehand. And the only reason I knew about it was that it starred YoonA from Girls Generation. Exit is about a useless Millennial son whose hobby is climbing. Coincidentally, there is a disaster and his skill saves him. His friend from his climbing group also ends up at the same place that he is in when disaster strikes so they get to work together.
This movie is pretty bad. I guess it is either a comedy or a frank look at Korean families and their culture. Either way, there is a lot of cringe worthy moments. Both leads were also bad at portraying their roles. The only thing that saves the movie from being turned off were the climbing scenes. Even though you knew the outcome would be OK, you were still hanging on by your fingertips to see what would happen. I guess this is like the award winning Free Solo except told through a fictional story.
I would skip this one, two out of five stars.
I think The Man From U.N.C.L.E. was a show from the 70s or 80s that I was never familiar with. Nevertheless, it held the most interest to me from the other movies that were available on my flight.
The story is about a US spy who ends up working together with a Russian spy in order to save the world. Naturally, this happened during the cold war (JFK was president) and it was a case of your enemy’s enemy being your friend. Surprisingly, that concept was still fresh. I felt the movie was pretty stylish. It didn’t have any fancy gadgets like Bond. It wasn’t cheesy like Austin Powers. And each culture played up their stereotypes (US superpower was apparently charisma and Russian was brute force). Like the newish Kingsmen series, this movie had its own special style that was entertaining.
Henry Cavil played the US agent, a similar role to what he did in Mission Impossible: Fallout. Except this time he was the shorter guy. Still can’t stop thinking of Superman when I see him. I wouldn’t mind seeing a sequel but this movie was released in 2015 so that seems unlikely now. Three out of five stars.
I remember wanting to watch V for Vendetta when it came out, but somehow missed it. This was in 2006, and way before kids, so that couldn’t be an excuse. In any case, the movie’s message is still true and relevant today.
I liked how the the plot is a mix of current day Britain, a nod to 1984, and Shakespearean – I believe the source material was this way already. Even though I liked the movie, it is just an entertaining movie and didn’t really change my world outlook (I guess too much 1984 and Fahrenheit 451). What did surprise me is that Natalie Portman is ageless. She looks the same in this as she does in Vox Lux – 13 year difference! The movie though is only 3 out of 5 stars.
December was full of not-blogging. Usually I put aside some time to write my “end of year” blogs but I didn’t feel very enthusiastic about it this year – I just did the places I stayed (it was easy) and top music (I still care about this) ones. Maybe I will do the year end recap at some point in January.
We also skipped out on a lot of Christmas activities this year because we went down to Nashville over the holidays. In fact, now that I am writing this blog after our trip; I don’t really recall what happened earlier in December.
I do know that we did all of our gift buying and prep in the few weeks beforehand. Most of the gift giving is actually for the kids’ teachers. The kids themselves don’t receive that many gifts anymore. In fact this year, we made them wait until we came back from our trip to open their presents (to their chagrin).
Weather wasn’t too bad after a horrendous November. But again, my memory could be tinted from the t-shirt weather of Nashville!
Here is the annual tradition of where I spent my nights in 2019:
Shortest list since I’ve been keeping track. Mostly due to fewer vacations/road trips and less diversity in work travel.
We bought a new car! Our old car was bought in 2007, so 12 years ago, and has over 200k KM on it. That’s actually not a lot considering there were many years during its lifetime where we didn’t drive it to work. Anyways, the transmission was dying so it was time for a new one.
It started snowing early in November this year. At least I thought it was early, but the news broadcast reminded me that it actually snowed in October last year. The first snow was just a sprinkling and melted during the day. But the week after that, we had a real storm with 15cm dumped on us. We had to hurry to rake all the leaves before they were covered by the snow! Then there was a week of warmish weather, and we are back to leaves being blown around in the wind with no snow at all on the ground.
I played a lot of Hearthstone with Battlegrounds being released. Actually I played it for about 2 weeks non-stop, then just kinda stopped as there was no more variety. I also started a new LEGO gatcha game, which may take the place of the Disney game I am playing (almost finished collecting everything worthwhile).
This mother, like many others, is motivated by the fear of wan hun, meaning “late marriage,” or “delayed marriage,” describing people who aren’t married by their early twenties. To avoid wan hun, parents come to Lee, hoping that she can find someone who’s able to meet all their requirements quickly. If too much time passes, they may lower their standards for height, age, or attractiveness of a match, sometimes even settling on the last requirement they’ll give up: wealth.
The fridge draws its power from a Goal Zero battery, which runs on three pliable 100-watt solar panels that are attached to the roof. On the left side of the fridge is my propane tank, sitting on its side, which can be turned on and off quickly. I can fill it from this position, too, so it never needs to be fully removed. On the right side of the fridge is the water jug, which is sufficient for about a week or so. This back-seat build took me two long days, with a good bit of help from my dad and friends.
It wasn’t just the salacious nature of the entertainment that caused a sensation. The public was dying to know how the smart set partied when they thought no one was looking. As the trial got underway The New York Daily Tribune declared much of the testimony unprintable. The Sun had less scruples, printing full transcripts daily of the most interesting and outrageous testimony. The tale of Seeley’s dinner and Little Egypt’s dance made it far beyond New York with accounts printed in papers across the Unites States and even in Europe.
Little Egypt was called to testify on the fourth day of the trial. As she entered the courtroom “[t]he degenerates sighed with disappointment,” reported The Sun. “In the place of the beautiful young woman they had conjured up in their minds, there appeared – but it wouldn’t be a proper thing to criticize the lady’s personal appearance; that is, the part of it for which she is not to blame.” The New York Journal estimated that four hundred spectators filled the courtroom to hear her story. She and her maid were the only women in the room. Days earlier two women “who looked old enough to know better,” according to The Sun, had tried to attend and were ultimately pressured to leave.
“The first day back from the trip, I found the company put out a recruitment notice online with the same title and job description as mine. My health was unstable during my pregnancy, so I applied for sick leave. The company agreed, but then the human resources supervisor asked me to submit previous medical records for sick leaves, including those that I already took. I didn’t keep the records, as that was the first time they brought up such demands. Days later they sent an email informing me they would suspend my salary because I failed to provide the required documents.
“By that time, I was roughly three months pregnant. It was so hard to believe a company that I worked so diligently for would treat me this way, so I filed an arbitration suit seeking compensation for my overtime work since joining the company. Right after that, the company shut me out, suspending my work email and removing me from a work communication group, but they never dismissed me officially. By the time I wanted to quit the job, human resources refused to proceed unless I agreed not to ‘claim any fees or hurt the company’s reputation.’ I refused, so they wouldn’t let me take my belongings and refused to issue a resignation certificate, a required document in China’s job market.
When I call my mom now, I’m surprised to hear her say: “If I had to do it all again, I’d keep my name.” All the women in Tony’s family seem to have changed their names, including his little sister and his little brother’s wife. His best friends are planning their wedding and they have already arranged to switch their dog’s name. He was her dog first, but the pup is going to take his last name when his mother does. Apparently, that’s a thing.
I respond to my own ambivalence by surveying my friends. The married ones have all kept their own names, except for my friend Kate. Kate is a writer, and she was also my first friend to have kids. Like our original plan, she uses her maiden name in her bylines and her married name in her professional life.
“Isn’t it confusing to have two identities?” I asked her.
“No, it’s actually kind of nice,” she said. “It’s almost like an easy way to keep two distinct parts of my life separate.”
Hearthstone announced a new mode of gameplay at Blizzconn this year called Battlegrounds. I’m glad they announced something new, because while dungeon runs are still challenging and good for time killing, it wasn’t novel or interesting – you can only go so crazy in the powerlevel of the treasures.
Battlegrounds is an autochess clone. From a business perspective, it makes sense for Hearthstone to add a mode that is the same as the game that they are losing players too. I’ve tried playing autochess before, but the learning curve investment was just to steep. However, I watched a bunch of people stream Battlegrounds (trying to get an early access drop for it) and it seems pretty straightforward. In fact, I’ve watched so much Battlegrounds that I feel bored with the mode already. I’ll see what happens when the mode is launched live today, maybe it is different when you’re actually playing.
“What’s more interesting,” Daniel muses, “is the ‘philosophical’ revenue the song has generated. A-ha is still big all over the world. I saw them play an arena in Chile three years ago. If not for that song, they wouldn’t have sold any albums, and there’s no 30 years of touring. That one song has probably generated hundreds of millions of dollars.”
The winding saga of “Take on Me” illustrates both the randomness of having a hit and the degree to which it requires timing and calculation. “‘Take on Me’ is a proven flop, three times over,” says Harket. “It’s also a proven hit. There’s a lot to learn from that.”
At the peak of a-ha’s ambivalence toward “Take on Me” (Harket can’t recall precisely when), they stopped playing it live.
Jansen goes even further: If fakes are as good as the real thing, aren’t they worth celebrating? “When a musician reproduces a sonata of Bach, one applauds him. Me, I reproduce a sonata of Picasso and I am placed under arrest,” he lamented to the CBC in 2008.
“If I was on a [network show like] Community, I would have been paid as a series regular,” Becker says. “But they didn’t make me a series regular, they made me a recurring guest star and paid me a daily rate. If I’d been number five on an NBC show, I’d be making $30,000 a week, but I was making $980 a week [at Netflix]. By the time you pay out taxes, your manager, agent, and lawyer, I was walking away with like $200.”
While functionally, paper and plastic straws might have seemed the same, to the keen observer who is the narrator of Nicholson Baker’s dazzling 1988 novel, The Mezzanine, the plastic and paper straw were not interchangeable. Paper did not float. Plastic did: “How could the straw engineers have made so elementary a mistake, designing a straw that weighed less than the sugar-water in which it was intended to stand? Madness!”
Baker’s narrator wonders why the big fast-food chains like McDonald’s didn’t pressure the straw engineers into fixing this weighting mistake. “[The chains] must have had whole departments dedicated to exacting concessions from Sweetheart and Marcal,” Baker writes.
But there was a problem: lids, which had come into vogue. Plastic straws could push through the little + slits in the cap. Paper ones could not. The restaurant chains committed fully to plastic straws.
Recently, the luxury French department store Galeries Lafayette opened in a shopping mall that features stylish air-conditioning grates in the broad cobblestone walkways outside. Each of the vents, about 1 by 6 feet, has a decorative design. Many of them hug the outside of buildings, cooling off window shoppers looking at expensive fashions. Though nearly deserted in the heat, by 5 p.m. some people begin to emerge to sit outside places like Cafe Pouchkine.
October saw several events:
Fall arrived this month. The leaves were a nice variety of colors throughout the month, and our backyard is pretty full of them now (gotta rake next month).
Hockey season started and the Leafs are pretty mediocre. I started playing a gatcha hockey game, but it wasn’t very deep so stopped that as well.
Another Godzilla movie, I thought I had seen the previous ones, but a quick read on Wikipedia indicated I hadn’t. Anyways, no prior knowledge was needed. Godzilla: King Of The Monsters is about big giant monsters fighting (kind of like the Pacific Rim series).
In this one, all of the old Titans are awakened but it turns out their leader is an alien. It is up to Godzilla to fix the problem. Humans are confused, but eventually they realize Godzilla is on their side. For once, the bad guy story is interesting and complex; although ultimately the true villain is Godzilla’s nemesis rather than humans.
Like the previous movie I saw, the ending of this seemed to be setting up for continuation of the series, seemingly King Kong vs Godzilla. Unfortunately only a three out of five stars film.
Kingdom is a movie about historic China, but the strange thing is that it is a Japanese movie. They speak Japanese thoughout the movie, and all the actors are Japanese. I’m used to historical films from China so I was curious what the Japanese take will be like , and also why they would make a movie about Chinese history without mentioning Japan at all.
The story is set in the Qin dynasty, and is about two slave boys who dream of being the greatest general in the world. They spend their time swordfighting after they’ve done their chores, and eventually become quite proficient. A chance encounter causes (only) one of them to enter the royal court, but his death causes the other to go on the journey that this movie is about.
Apparently, the story is from a manga, so a lot of the fighting and rhythm of the action feels like it came out of a comic (e.g., it is not real at all). And I had a real feeling that this movie was a setup for a video game/movie series. Each of the generals and other main characters felt like they were being introduced; and each had a single, unique ultimate move. There are factions, each with different attributes, and a grand quest to set out on. I’ve never read about the “Romance of the Three Kingdoms” series, and I’ll do that later when I have more time; but I can’t help but wonder whether this is the first chapter of that.
There was a distinct non-Chinese flavour about the movie, but it was enjoyable and I want to see more in this style, within the same universe. Four out of five stars.
Last Spider-Man movie in the MCU! Well, we shall see. Far From Home happens after Endgame and it starts off with some reflection on the events (no real spoilers though, I think this movie may have come out before Endgame?). In any case, there are no more Avengers and Spider-man is one of the higher profile heroes left.
But this movie feels like a teenage movie. It follows Peter Parker on a high school trip to Europe. In practice, it is a lot better written and appropriate for adults than Detective Pikachu. I am not even biased towards Spider-Man like I am the X-Men. The first half of the movie was pretty good and fun. In fact, it felt like it was parodying itself. Nick Fury was delivering canned lines and everyone was riffing off that. The circumstances around the school trip was ridiculous. But I thought all of this was in good taste.
It started getting a bit slow after the plot twist but still enjoyable. Strangely, I think the biggest appeal of this movie is the development of the characters and relationships; the action is just eye candy. Also, I felt it was a bit forced to visit so many European cities. But nonetheless I think this was a quality movie, four out of five stars.
Living in Canada, I think we’re pretty lucky to take Air Canada. Recently I had to fly on United metal and the experience is not great.
First, I was a bit confused by how their inflight entertainment system worked. They have a partnership with DIRECTV and everything was organized into channels rather than a VOD service. If you missed the start of a movie, well it’s like catching a movie playing on TV. Not having the control to watch when you want seems backwards in this day and age.
The flight attendants also seem different. They say the same courtesy words but there’s a hint of haughty attitude. AC agents are not all great, but they seem to be more laid back.
AC also spends money in a better way in their lounge. I don’t drink but I notice the magazines. AC has a wide selection of Canadian magazines that you can take with you. The United lounge only has copies of their own magazine.
Also, the AC Signature Lounge dining service at YYZ is amazing. I’ve never been to a Polaris lounge but the Signature Lounge seems without peer at least in North America.
I don’t have a strong desire to see Detective Pikachu but I thought it would be interesting to leverage all the knowledge I learned from my kids in understanding this movie. Even from the previews, it was amazing to see Pokemon in the real world! Also, unlike Dark Phoenix, the CG was done well and made it feel like the Pokemon belonged in the world (maybe we’re just used to what they look like).
Much like Zootopia, the best thing about this movie is how they created the world. I like the idea where all the animals have been replaced by pokemon (although the balance is wrong as you don’t see that many animals in the city normally). And this idea isn’t a stretch because we live in the world of Pokemon Go where pokemon coexist in the world as long as you look through a screen.
The story itself is not that great. I had a little bit of struggle trying to decide whether the film is for kids, or adults who were kids when pokemon came out. I guess the right audience is a young teen. I hope this movie spawns a series where we can explore the world more, but hope that future movies are written for older audiences. Four out of five stars due to establishing the world and the promise of seeing more pokemon in movies
Well it’s been a long time since MIB was in theaters. I guess they brought it back for the retro crowd. The original was an action comedy with Will Smith’s banter and Tommy Lee Jones being the straight man. MIB International doesn’t fall very far from the original. It has the same setup but updated to the new century – Tessa Thompson plays the straight woman to Chris Hemsworth. Side note: I can’t picture him as anyone but Thor, so it felt like Thor joined the MIB.
The same futuristic view of the world and aliens blending in is still there. Kind of how all Star Wars movies feel like the same movie with different characters and setup, this is how this movie felt like. Not a terrible thing since I haven’t seen MIB in many, many years. A fun three out of five movie.
The school year started early this year, with Labour day on the 2nd of September. The school routine is actually easier this year as all three kids are at the same school, but it was still something that I had to get used to because the timing is different now (as Katana is in daycare and not actual school).
We have a good routine now, and I tried avoid travel this month to prevent further complications. It didn’t work out as I had a last minute trip to the Bay area at the end of the month. It was a short trip though, so served as practice/trial for the drop off routine when I am away.
Extracurriculars eventually started this month. This year, we tried to put them in more year-long programs so we didn’t have to change schedules every term.
Hockey also came back (preseasons at least). To celebrate, I started playing some more hockey-based video games.
This movie was supposed to be a clunker based on reviews, but I didn’t think Dark Phoenix was that bad. The film delivered a lot of fan service where you got to see a lot of the characters do their trademark talents. And really, that’s all I expected out of this movie. I saw past all the stuff that doesn’t make sense, like how they can run around in space (and I think they were self aware, including a scene where they duct tape a helmet on). There was also a lot of CG which could’ve been a reason why reviewers disliked it. Hard to film a phoenix in real life though.
I did have a little problem because I saw the films out of order. When Jean and the team appeared for the first time, I thought back to my recent viewings and didn’t remember how they got together. They definitely were not the First Class. Jean was also familiar (not Famke Janssen) and I guess I remember from her cameo in Days of Future Past or Age of Apocalypse.
The story was a little different from the Dark Phoenix origin that I remembered so that was a little fresh. But I think my X-Men bias pushes this to a three star out of five.