I actually saw Cars 3 in June (and in theatres) but forgot to blog about it till now. It’s way down in my priority list because it wasn’t something I wanted to see, but something I took the kids too (I’m not sure they really wanted to see it either).
I was looking for a kids movie to watch in theatres and this was the best option. The boys like Lightning McQueen, and even though this was the third installment, it didn’t seem to get the Finding Dory treatment and get older and scarier. It was still rated G and from other reviews it seemed fairly safe. Of course, shortly into the movie, McQueen has a huge crash and freaked out the kids for the rest of the time.
Overall, the movie gets a 3 out of 5 stars from me. Being a Pixar movie, it is expected that adults will find it interesting, and the movie didn’t feel dumbed down; although it wasn’t particularly exciting or a strong story (I may have missed a lot of context as I didn’t watch the first two movies). There was another strong female heroine which, while positive, is getting a little overplayed. In turn, the male protagonists are now goofballs.
Card Thief is the “sequel” to Card Crawl. It’s a sequel in the sense that the art style is almost completely the same, but the gameplay is similar, but the story is a bit different. In this one, you play a thief and you have to solve consecutive 9×9 puzzles to get as much loot as possible (i.e., solitaire game). Again you have to play through an entire deck of cards, and ultimately the game is about optimizing the order of the cards in your deck and on the play field for the most points. In isolation, this game and its story makes it more interesting than your generic puzzle game, but it’s not compelling enough for repeat playback.
I bought Mini Metro on a whim as it was on sale ($1.29). This puzzle game is pretty abstract and really they could have made it about anything. They chose to make it about linking a city via subway lines. I like the design as it is minimalistic and the gameplay is pretty fun in the short time that I’ve played. The touch controls are pretty finicky once the play area gets complicated (it’s easy to move the wrong line, so I need to pause before making changes) and the difficulty seems to ramp up pretty quickly. Decent investment for the price.
Well the last blog I made was the recap for May, and now it is June. I guess I didn’t blog at all in June.
It wasn’t all that busy, but I didn’t do anything noteworthy like travel though (so no chance to watch movies or anything). I did play some Hearthstone so is it surprising that I didn’t blog about it this month? Maybe I got stuck on a boss and couldn’t blog my progress? Nah, it was because I wasn’t playing PvE at all. Blizzard changed its rules and you can now finish quests against “friends” so I basically spent time to complete all my quests. I’m glad there’s a new way to accumulate gold but it’s still very difficult to get Epics and Legendaries.
June saw the wrap up of existing extra curricular programs and the school year. We started transitioning to summer schedule and new programs. My mom was in Vancouver for a family reunion for two weeks and we started skating again (once summer started??). We also started planning for a couple of vacations in the summer and later this year.
There was a lot of rain in June, which was unexpected and not normal. Lots of summer thunderstorms and just general overcast and cloudy weather. The temperature was warm enough for shorts for a couple of days, but it was back to long sleeves and long pants by the end of the month!
May finished really quickly. That means that Katana is almost 3 months old! She can now “chat” with us and turn her head to look around at all sorts of interesting things. Still sleeps a lot though. May ending means that June is on us, which means summer vacation is only one month away! Where the school year go?
I traveled down to Mountain View this month for work, although it wasn’t directly for work as I went to Google I/O instead. I’ve tried to get tickets for a few years but this year I was finally picked! It was interesting to visit and hear about all the new Google stuff that’s released this year. If I didn’t go to Google I/O, I would have gone to Korea instead, but fortunately they happened on the same week so I didn’t have to travel for half the month.
California was hot the last day I was there (30°C) and so was Toronto, but the rest of the month was mostly rain. The trees have budded and most are full with leaves, yet the rain keeps on coming. The Toronto Islands and some parts inland are flooding due to the accumulation of water – I don’t think you’re allowed to go to Centre Island until July at the earliest!
While we didn’t get a lot of time to go out and walk around in the neighborhood after dinner, we’ve started doing more outdoor activities and packing the weekend. This month we went to Wonderland for the first time this year, Doors Open, and the York Region Police picnic.
After a few easy battles, Chromaggus took awhile longer. He has a solid dragon-based deck, but that in itself is not OP. He also starts with 60 health, which is a bit unfair, but there seems to be a bug where he always plays Alexstrasza when you are below 15 and actually heals you! What’s unfair is that every turn he adds a card into your hand that benefits him, either his spells/minions cost 3 less, or heals him for 6, or deals you 3 damage, or gives him double of each card he draws. These cards take 3 mana to get rid of so in essence you are always 3 mana behind against a strong deck.
It took me many battles (~50) but I finally beat him with a mill deck. It is by no means better than Chromaggus so it requires some luck to play into the right conditions to win. Here’s the decklist:
2x Mistress of Mixtures
2x Zombie Chow
2x Stubborn Gastropod
2x Youthful Brewmaster
2x Coldlight Oracle
2x Dancing Swords
2x Emperor Cobra
2x Feral Rage
2x Goblin Sapper
2x Grove Tender
2x Poison Seeds
In the early game, play the Zombie Chows, Mistresses, and Gastropods to take out the low level minions. Then start milling. Earthen Scales (with Goblin Sapper) and the Feral Rages are to heal 25 (plus whatever you get from Alex). Poison Seeds and Deathwing are the only board clears, and I found I needed all of them because I couldn’t catch up to the strong dragon board. The timing of Deathwing is also important as it allows you to get rid of all of his hero power cards in one go. In my winning game, I got it at the end (he was in fatigue) and I had been holding several double/healing cards since his hand was stuck at 10 cards – it ended up killing Alex and Ysera (Onyxia was done in by poison seeds). Finally, the one Jade Idol is to help you grow your deck and prevent milling yourself.
If you can survive his deck, then it’s an easy win!
I never heard about the movie Passengers until I saw people watching it over a few flights. It turns out that I enjoyed this movie a lot.
The main reason is because it is a classic sci-fi movie. It happens in the near future, where humans have reliable space travel and colonization. A ship with over 5000 colonists and crew are travelling 120 years in a sub-light ship to a new world. The trip is mostly on auto-pilot and everyone is in hibernation. Except, an asteroid field causes one hibernation unit to fail and awaken its inhabitant. This happens about a quarter of the way into the trip so he’s destined to not just live out his life and die of old age on the ship, but to do so alone.
The movie portrays him as he goes through a variety of stages – from denial to despair, to making the most of it, to finally trying to decide whether he should forcibly wake up another traveler (spoiler: he does!). Then the cycle happens again with the newly awaken.
I think the idea is fascinating – to have an entire self-functioning and renewable spaceship at your disposal, at the cost of being alone. I’m glad that the movie spends ample time exploring this idea and developing the characters through that. It is a thought starter and the main reason why I enjoyed this movie.
There are also some external challenges that move the movie along. I wasn’t a big fan but it’s necessary for the movie – it doesn’t detract from it at least. However, I think this movie does what scifi does best – creates an interesting and plausible situation in the future and examine how it would be handled. Because of this, I give it a 4 out of 5.
This was another fun matchup that I beat without much difficulty. In this battle, you’re basically fighting against a super-mill deck, except the boss has an advantage where his mana ramps up at double your pace. He makes you draw 4 cards per round, so you need to dump as many cards out of your hand as possible. This made combo Rogue a natural opponent. Here’s my deck:
2x Counterfeit Coin
2x Target Dummy
2x Arcane Anomaly
2x Pit Snake
2x Zombie Chow
2x Defias Ringleader
2x Gang Up
2x Jade Shuriken
2x Jade Swarmer
Beneath the Grounds
I beat him in my first or second attempt, so the deck is not optimized at all!
Although I always knew of it, I never watched Ghostbusters when I was a child. I recognize a couple of the memorable images (the station wagon, suit, green ghost guy) but don’t know the story. I guess I might have watched some Ghostbusters cartoons on TV at some point. But essentially watching the new Ghostbusters was a new franchise to me.
There was a couple of things to like about it; it had style and was unique with the gender reversed roles. The comedy had some hits and some misses but for some reason, the fact that it didn’t take itself seriously and be an action movie bothered me. Also, even though this movie calls for a high level of suspension of disbelief, I just can’t get past the how they “fought” an army of ghosts. Bring non-corporeal, the ghosts have a huge advantage. Instead, they were done in by some positive-ion lassos. Seriously??
The movie had a lot of fun and funny parts, but it just didn’t gel together into a good movie for me. Two out of five stars.
This boss was fun and not like the previous one that took me many months. Razorgore the Untamed has a bunch of 0/3 eggs and a free hero power that gives every egg one more health while spawning a new egg. If any egg reaches 5 health, it’ll turn into a 7/7 minion. The key to this match is not let those egg hatch!
This match was easy due to the poisonous mechanic, which meant that I could kill any egg with a single hit. The swap health/attack mechanic is also useful. I made two different decks for this, both with poisonous minions. The first was a Paladin deck with silver hand synergy, and the second was a Mill Rogue. I ended up playing the Mill Rogue because I never really play that hero. Here’s my deck:
2x Pit Snake
2x Zombie Chow
2x Crazed Alchemist
2x Gang Up
2x Stubborn Gastropod
2x Coldlight Oracle
2x Emperor Cobra
2x Giant Wasp
2x Kooky Chemist
2x Dark Iron Skulker
I beat the boss with this deck on the first couple of tries. I didn’t really have to hit face much, and even used some of the poisonous minions on the larger enemy minions. I didn’t mill Razorgore to death, but he did use up his entire deck by the end of the match. I hope more bosses are like this – strong, but beatable without luck.
I was stuck on this heroic battle for many months before finally beating him recently. It took so long, that Blizzard released three expansions during that time (OiNK, MSG, JtU)! I found this challenging because the opponent deck was well balanced. He had a hero power that pumped out several decent (2 or 3 2/2) or one strong (5/4 or 8/8) minion per turn. He played a dragon deck that had strong synergies, utilizing dragon cards from multiple classes. And he also had strong direct damage spells.
I tried a variety of approaches – control warrior, mill rogue, beast/taunt druid, patron – but didn’t make any headway. I had the modest success with a modified freeze mage that could last 10+ turns through AOE board clears (spells, exploding sheep, abominations). The win condition in that deck was Alexstrasza, but unfortunately Rend has a kill legendary card. I tried to counter that with the Duplicate mage secret, but I never got to a point where I pulled off the combo successfully.
Finally I got fed up and looked on the Internet to see how others were approaching this battle. There seemed to be 2 approaches. The first was to use Hunter’s exploding trap to clear the early board, and then go face. I didn’t see how this deck would be successful since Rend would just through up more taunts and strong minions. The second was to use Deathlord and then double his health. I thought this might be easier, so tried the deck out.
After about 20 tries, I finally got into the right sequence to win the battle. Here’s my decklist:
2x Binding Heal
2x Inner Fire
2x Light of the Naaru
2x Mistress of Mixtures
2x Northshire Cleric
2x Power Word: Glory
2x Power Word: Shield
2x Zombie Chow
2x Divine Spirit
2x Shadow Word: Death
2x Excavated Evil
2x Holy Nova
The key to this deck is to play the taunts around turn 5 or 6 so that you can play at least one Divine Spirit (and hopefully Power Word: Shield or Inner Fire). In order to be successful, you have to clear/trade the first wave so Zombie Chow, Mistress of Mixtures and Cleric are very important.
In my winning game, I ended up beefing up my Cyclopian Horror with 2x Divine Spirit, Velen’s Chosen and an Inner Fire – so he was around a 10/40. At the same time, I had a Light of the Naaru going so it was an easy win once I was able to snowball the Horror.
I think I was lucky and the battle is still severely weighted towards the boss. But at least now I can move on to the next challenge!
We started April by celebrating Katana’s full moon at our usual restaurant with family. Katana’s first month was uneventful but she seemed to be bigger than her brothers were at their full moon. She’s continued growing well through April and has been visiting parks and shops with the family.
I also went on my first work trip since Katana was born, going down to Dallas for a few nights. Dallas is pretty boring. I also went to a conference this month – FITC (Futurists, Innovators, Technologists, Creatives). This was mostly because 1) it was held in Toronto, and 2) work was the title sponsor so I was able to get a free ticket. It wasn’t the biggest conference I’ve ever been to, nor the smallest. The talks ranged from mediocre to interesting so overall it was pretty middle of the road. I did have to commute downtown for 2 days to attend though, so that was a retro experience.
The weather is nice now and we’ve been going biking (and park) every weekend. Apollo can ride by himself, although he still can’t use the brake properly and needs some motivation to ride without stopping (i.e., someone to chase). Jovian can spin his feet, but doesn’t have enough strength to really push himself on his tricycle yet. April also saw the beginning of a new set of extracurricular classes (for Apollo). This time it’s basketball, swimming and science classes.
I unpacked the patio furniture that was stored over the winter. Winter was not kind to it. Nor is the weather warm enough to really use it (it’s nice that it’s not winter – but not nice enough to sit around outdoors). Hopefully it will be near summer weather in May.
I would’ve passed on this movie as just another Hollywood sci-fi flick, except that a couple of months ago I saw the trailer to Blade Runner 2049. I’m looking forward to that sequel and when I was reading about it online, the fan reception was positive because Denis Villeneuve was directing.
The Arrival was also directed by Villeneuve and it was supposed to be moody and atmospheric. I think it was quite successful at that. Even though I saw it on the plane, the sound was spectacular, especially during the scenes with the aliens. The audio made the aliens seem scary, even though I knew this was not a scary movie (and the aliens themselves weren’t scary). I guess it might have been a bit of the audio, and a bit of the “unknown” factor.
This film navigated the fine balance between disbelief and realism. The idea of learning the alien’s language and time travel (paradox) is actually a bit farfetched; but it was believable enough in the context of the story. Overall the film was interesting and a four out of five stars from me.
Unexpected Consequences of Self Driving Cars
An interesting post about the social changes that self driving cars may bring about. No, not the trolley problem, but other interesting ways that society might change when we have the convenience of automated drivers for our cars.
People will jump out of their car at a Starbucks to run in and pick up their order knowingly leaving it not in a legal parking spot, perhaps blocking others, but knowing that it will take care of getting out of the way if some other car needs to move or get by. That will be fine in the case there is no such need, but in the case of need it will slow everything down just a little. And perhaps the owner will be able to set the tolerance on how uncomfortable things have to get before the car moves. Expect to see lots of annoyed people. And before long grocery store parking lots, especially in a storm, will just be a sea of cars improperly parked waiting for their owners.
Gibson describes the economic impact on Chattanooga: 40 of the 120 circus employees stay at a local hotel; 24 travel in RVs that are parked in a nearby field.
Each day, truckloads of hay and produce are hauled to McKenzie Arena to feed the animals. The circus vet banned peanuts from the elephants’ diet for being too fatty but allows them an occasional loaf of unsliced bread or some marshmallows for treats. On performance days, a local caterer feeds the human employees, or they buy their meals in restaurants or grocery stores.
Queens of the Stoned Age
An interesting take at selling weed in NYC where the runners are models. This story is almost unbelievable and no doubt has some hyperbole built in (I could see it happening at a small scale) so I would chalk it up as interesting fiction.
The Green Angels average around 150 orders a day, which is about a fourth of what the busiest services handle. When a customer texts, it goes to one of the cell phones on the table in the living room. There’s a hierarchy: The phones with the pink covers are the lowest; they contain the numbers of the flakes, cheapskates, or people who live in Bed-Stuy. The purple phones contain the good, solid customers. Blue is for the VIPs. There are over a thousand customers on Honey’s master list.
To place an order, a customer is supposed to text “Can we hang out?” and a runner is sent to his apartment. No calling, no other codes or requests. Delivery is guaranteed within an hour and a half. If the customer isn’t home, he gets a strike. Three strikes and he’s 86’d. If he yells at the runner, he’s 86’d immediately.
I Was a Proud Non-Breeder. Then I Changed My Mind.
This article was piqued my interest because I was a parent so I wanted to understand why some women didn’t want to have children. It didn’t delve too deeply into that but I think it was written well so I was able to empathize with the parenting aspect of it.
Perhaps it says something about my pre-baby life that a lot of my metaphors for new motherhood were drug-related. Those endless hours we spent in bed, alternately nursing, dozing, and staring, amazed, at each other, reminded me of the time I’d smoked opium in Thailand. (And the other time I’d smoked opium in Laos.) Lugging my son around on errands brought to mind the first few times I got stoned as a teenager, when doing normal things like going to school or the drugstore became complicated, strange, and full of misadventure. The oxytocin felt like MDMA.
Why, I kept thinking, hadn’t anyone told me how great this was? It was a stupid thing to think, because in fact people tell you that all the time. In general, though, the way people describe having a baby is much like the way they describe marriage — as a sacrifice that’s worth it, as a rewarding challenge, as a step toward growing up. Nobody had told me it would be fun.
How the Internet Gave Mail-Order Brides the Power
This is another article that is more interesting for the people story, rather than the technology of what the Internet has done. When I think of mail-order brides, I think of Russia, but this one is focused on Philipines. An interesting read, but I had hoped for more stories.
Hans’s experience was far from unusual — in fact, the shift between online and offline power is one of the major dynamics at play in modern dating among foreigners and Filipinas. Before a man comes to the Philippines, the woman has the advantage, because only a fraction of Filipina women have the technological capability and English knowledge to meet men online. Video chat may seem like a rudimentary requirement, but it’s not trivial to set it up in remote parts of the Philippines, as women either have to pay for expensive computers or smartphones with fast internet connections and no bandwidth restrictions, or go to internet cafes, which are also cost-prohibitive. But the tables turn once the foreigner arrives in the country. The cost of technology is no longer an obstacle, and he suddenly has many more eligible women vying for his attention.
After I watched the latest Star Wars movie, I watched the latest Star Trek one! I’m much more of a Trekkie than a Star Wars fan so I was excited to see this.
My first thought was that this was the first time I watched a JJ Abrams Trek movie, and that the casting & dialogue of the bridge crew were pretty close to my expectation (especially McCoy, although he is a lot fatter). But then I realized that I must have watched the reboot at some point (I remember Kirk fighting in a bar) – turns out that I did almost 6 years ago! Wow, that was a long time ago (looks like I totally missed never heard about Star Trek Into Darkness).
The second thought I had was – wow, they destroyed the Enterprise in a movie again. It seems like they do that every movie! Up to that point, the movie was pretty interesting. I liked seeing how the Star Trek world was imagined vs the Star Wars world, particularly how the Starbase Yorktown was laid out. But after the crew ended up on the planet, the plot started going into lucky 777 mode just to push the story along. There was not a lot of rhyme or reason why things happened the way they did that killed the movie for me. I like my Star Trek stories to have a logical arc, and this is one movie that didn’t.
I had some expectations for this movie and since the plot was so outlandish in the second half, I’ll have to give Star Trek Beyond a two out of five.
It took me a long, long time to watch this movie. I forget why I originally picked it, but I think it was on a flight from New York. The movie is 97 mins long so I only saw 2/3rd of it, but the next flight I took (I think it was in the same month) didn’t have it playing anymore! So I haven’t been able to finish watching it until this month. Fortunately, I had to ffwd to the spot were I stopped, and was able to get a refresher.
Whenever I watch cartoons now, I evaluate whether my kids can watch the movie. Finding Dory is definitely too scary for my young boys – Dory and baby Dory are put into too many situations which would be frightening. However, if you were young and watched Finding Nemo when it came out, I think you’d be the right age for this movie now (if not too old)! Otherwise I think you need to be over 7 to really watch it.
The story deals with Dory’s issue…namely her lack of short term memory. She goes on a mission to find her parents and discover her childhood. Along the way, she encounters a bunch of other marine animals who each have sort of significant mental or physical problem. Working together, the group overcomes their individual challenges and are stronger as a whole. That’s a decent moral message.
The other moral message in this movie seems to be to “take risks!”, even against the behest of your parents. I’m not sure this should be a blanket moral message though, and I thought Finding Nemo taught it better (sometimes you need to go out of your comfort zone).
I felt Finding Nemo was more enjoyable and fun, and Finding Dory had a lot more scary or challenging situations. That might leave your child in a unhappy state. But it’s no problem for an adult – this is a 3 out of 5 star movie.
Peter Thiel, Trump’s Tech Pal, Explains Himself
Much of the tech industry is confused why Peter Thiel would back Trump. Here, he gives some concise (although not entirely descriptive) answers to some common questions. His responses are almost the antithesis of Trump in terms of being dramatic.
He recalls that he went through a lot of “meta” debates about Mr. Trump in Silicon Valley. “One of my good friends said, ‘Peter, do you realize how crazy this is, how everybody thinks this is crazy?’ I was like: ‘Well, why am I wrong? What’s substantively wrong with this?’ And it all got referred back to ‘Everybody thinks Trump’s really crazy.’ So it’s like there’s a shortcut, which is: ‘I don’t need to explain it. It’s good enough that everybody thinks something. If everybody thinks this is crazy, I don’t even have to explain to you why it’s crazy. You should just change your mind.’”
Umakanti Padhan, a moon-faced 16-year-old garment factory worker, tried to call her sister-in-law. She misdialed and found herself accidentally conversing with Bulu, a railway worker eight years her senior.
She hung up, alarmed. At home, beginning at puberty, she had been prohibited from speaking with any adult man, including her brothers and cousins.
Ten minutes later, Bulu called back and told her that he liked the sound of her voice. “When I hear your voice, it feels like someone of my own,” he said. “I feel like talking to you all the time.”
So she agreed. Every night, she slipped out to the roof of her Bangalore workers’ hostel, where she shares a room with 11 other young women, and spoke to Bulu about mundane things: how their shifts went and what they had eaten that day.
“He’s told me everything that ever happened to him from the time he was a kid,” she said. “I don’t know whether it is good or bad, but I trust him. I know he will not betray me.”
Would the Cavs Be Better off With Andrew Wiggins Over Kevin Love?
This is my occasional dive into the world of basketball, with this particular article being of interest because the Raptors may play the Cavs in the playoffs, and Wiggins being a Canadian. Nothing startling in this – Cavs made a trade for Right Now vs Potential, but provides some background on the Cavs.
Love was the guy in Minnesota, a post machine who could score and facilitate. Over the past three years, his primary role has been to space the floor, though he is occasionally force-fed post chances. He’s like a more talented Ryan Anderson — a better rebounder, interior scorer, and passer. Except, for the role Love plays and the money he gets paid (tied for 22nd most in the NBA), Cleveland could be getting more bang for its buck.
Why Bargain Travel Sites May No Longer Be Bargains
The travel industry is cyclic and it looks like the advantage is back in the courts of brands instead of the aggregators. My own travel planning has started at hotel brands now too, although my flight planning hasn’t shifted yet.
He’s right: The price control pendulum is swinging back toward the hoteliers. “It was really easy for the aggregators to gobble up all this business in the past because the hotels weren’t really paying any attention,” that West Coast CEO told me. But eventually, the aggregators cornered so much of the market that they jacked up their commissions high enough that everyone had to take notice. The CEO revealed that his hotels typically paid aggregators 20 percent commission—and in many cases even 30 percent.
In past two or three years the hotel industry has been fighting the aggregators by offering deals that wiggle around the contracts they originally set with them. Let’s say, for example, your hotel chain has a set rate for a room. You enter in an agreement with an aggregator that says you won’t further discount the rate that is the “lowest price” a customer can find on the internet. But you can get around it by offering a potential guest an instant membership in your “loyalty” program. You can throw in additional “amenities” (parking, spa, and so on) that would normally cost extra and you would not be violating your agreements by undercutting the base price of the room. Tricky? You bet.
No, Trump isn’t the worst president ever
While there is a lot of doom and gloom. Trump has a ways to go before becomeing the “worst president ever” (or even of the last century). Mostly the presidents in the 1800s and how they dealt with the pro-slave states made them horrible.
In December 1860 — after the Electoral College affirmed Lincoln’s election — southern states started seceding. Belatedly, Buchanan briefly considered sending some reinforcements south, but he let his Secretary of War — John Floyd of Virginia — talk him out of it. A few days later, Floyd resigned to join his home state in secession and treason.
Until he left office on March 4, 1861, Buchanan continued to appease the Rebels. In the end, he gave the Confederacy a four-month head start in the Civil War. He let the South seize federal forts, arsenals and naval vessels, which they soon used to wage war upon the very country he had solemnly sworn to protect.
There was a great selection of movies this month on Air Canada flights. I didn’t have enough flight time to see them all so I had to prioritize, and Rogue One was top on my list. I actually thought about seeing this in theatres because Apollo is interested in Star Wars; however, we decided it was probably too violent and scary for him. I’m glad we didn’t because it is definitely too scary for him.
Rogue One is like a prequel to A New Hope, and you can actually watch them back-to-back:
The story follows a rag tag team of characters who have to steal the plans for the death star and deliver it to Princess Leia & R2D2. As a story, it’s quite predictable and uses common themes (including the RPG trope of the reluctant hero). However, it is fun and enjoyable to watch, and I didn’t notice the over-two-hours run time.
The cast of characters were interesting, without a traditional white male lead character. It’s refreshing to see the diversity in this and The Force Awakens, although it’s almost like the traditional white male is underrepresented (or maybe they are being subliminally portrayed as bad guys). Also K-2SO is the characer that Jar Jar should have been!
I’m curious how Rogue One will be thought of within the entire volume of Star Wars movies (now that Disney has the franchise, I can see it being more like James Bond than Indiana Jones). It was a fun and polished movie, but it’s just too cookie cutter for it to be more than 3 stars.
I have a pair of IconX, which in theory are a great idea. A pair of earbuds only (no hardware to connect between the earbuds) that act as a bluetooth headset or an mp3 player. They’re kind of like the Apple AirPods, except they were available (and cheaper) before AirPods were released or announced.
I received my pair “for free” because I had some credit to spend as part of my employer’s year end gift. I was on the fence about spending it on this (+ some other stuff) because there were some negative reviews centered around:
Limited battery life: I think it was rated at 1-2 hours over BT and 3-4 hours on standalone
Mono sound on standalone: Some reviewers/users didn’t follow instructions and copy their music to both ear buds to enable stereo sound
In the end, I persisted and got the IconX.
I think the battery life limitation is fine, because you receive a case which doubles as a battery pack. You have to use the case anyways to store the earbuds (more on that later). The earbuds are supposed to last a few hours on standalone, which is more than enough for a commute.
Since I don’t have to commute, I haven’t been using the IconX frequently, but lately I have had some opportunity to try them out. Sadly, every time I try to use them, I hit some sort of problem.
I setup the earbuds in standalone mode and tried them out. I listened for about 10 minutes and then took them off as they kept playing the same song over and over! It turns out that you can’t organize your music in folders as it will only play music from the root folder (and I only had a single song there).
I tried controlling my music, but the control mechanism (single, double, tripe clicks, and up/down swipes) is finicky. Either the tactile pickup is laggy or the timing is off. It just doesn’t feel natural to control it, and often I go to the next track when I try and pause/resume music
I fixed my music and the next time I tried it out, there were no batteries. I guess that even though the earbuds are in the case, they are still on/consume battery. So standby mode basically drained the batteries and I couldn’t use them. I learned my lesson and now keep them on the charger until I need them.
After charging the batteries, I used it again in standalone mode. It worked well for awhile, but then complained and ran out of batteries after half an hour! It turns out that even though they are operating in standalone mode; if your paired BT device is nearby, it will maintain an active connection to it. Whoops
Next time, I removed the pairing from my phone and used the earbuds in standalone mode again. My phone kept popping up a message saying that the earbuds wanted to pair – every time you dismiss it, it comes back after a few seconds. It turns out that the earbuds will try and pair for 3 minutes after they are removed from the case. I don’ think there’s a fix for this so it’s just annoying
Finally, I was able to use it for awhile, but then in some instances, the earbuds get out of sync and the audio is off by a few 100 microseconds! I guess there’s an easy fix – you just remove the earbud from your ear and put it back in.
Oh and pause/resume doesn’t work correctly. After you resume playback, it always starts at the beginning of the song rather than where you stopped. That’s also annoying
I’m disappointed that there are a lot of fundamental problems that make this frustrating to use. It’s too bad, because I like the idea. I guess I will have to go back to carrying an mp3 player and wired headphones.
March was exciting because we welcomed a new addition to our family – no not a pet or a new car, but a sister for our two boys! Katana was a little late but she was born healthy and everyone is happy. As you might expect, most of the month was spent taking care of our new baby and everyone getting used to her being around the house now. The brothers seemed to have adjusted well and we’re starting to get into a routine again.
Last month was warm and March was pretty warm to start. But Winter reared its ugly head for one more week – ironically during March Break – and everyone was back in snowboots and sweaters. By the end of the month though, the weather was solidly in the positives. There were even some long days of rain, so Spring is here!
No travel this month due to the baby being born so it was relatively calm. I also tried out a lot of games on mobile since, for a large part of the month, I was just holding Katana while she was asleep.
Super Mario Run was much hyped release that I tried out after its exclusive on iOS finished. I didn’t like it very much and I don’t think the hype was deserved. It is kind of like Mario mixed with Angry Birds mixed with Miitomo. You play a Mario level (and it auto runs so you only need one hand) repeatedly so you can get a high(er) score and get all the special coins. You can then use your total coin total to outfit your little town. There’s a PvP part as well where you race another player’s ghost to see if you can get the most coins. I didn’t enjoy the game because 1) I don’t enjoy the repetitive nature and frustration of completing a level perfectly in order to “3 star” a level, 2) the PvP doesn’t interest me, 3) I’m too old for town personalization and showing it off to friends. I also don’t like the general UI design (I guess that is DeNA’s style). The game doesn’t get the $10 from me to unlock it (the free part is really just a trial).
Mechcom was a thrown-in in a Humble Bundle that I bought, but it excels as a bare-bones RTS game. The game is straightforward, but the controls are pretty tight, and it is well suited for play even on mobile phone. I haven’t played it much but it seems to satisfy any RTS itch I might have. There’s a sequel to this game, which I also received. I’m not sure I will like that as much though because it adds more bells and whistles. This isn’t a game that I want to be heavily invested into.
Two games I received from a Humble Bundle this time – the first is Galaxy Trucker which is a board game where you compete with other players to make money trucking things around the galaxy. The game is in two phases – first you compete with other players to construct a truck from a communal pile of random parts, then you use the truck you created on a route to earn money. The route has random mishaps and events that affect your ship and your cashflow depending on how you’ve constructed your truck. The concept is neat and I only have a few games under my belt so I don’t fully understand the mechanics yet, however I think there is a potential for fun here. One criticism is that the second phase (using your ship) seems pretty short given that you spent so much effort constructing your truck – it takes 10 mins to construct your ship, and 5 minutes for it to travel your route. Although, the AI I’ve been playing against is pretty forgiving in letting you spend your time to build an optimal truck. Another aspect of the game I like is that there is a single player campaign mode, so you can advance at your own leisure. I’m not sure it’s worth $6, but I paid $5 and received a number of other board games as well in my bundle.
Hero Generations is a game that also has an interesting mechanic. You get a hero, but it is expected that your hero will die (probably from old age). Instead, a main and necessary goal is to find a mate, and then your child will continue the game. It’s like an evolutionary process where each generation is supposed to get stronger until at the end…well I don’t know because I never played it that far. While the concept is interesting, it requires a lot of comprehension of the mechanics (there are a lot of things that can be upgraded over generations) and planning to be successful. It’s just too complex to play for 5 minutes so I got rid of it.
I’ve been playing a game called The Trail that is a lot like Oregon Trail. You play a settler (no family here) and you set off along a trail to eventually settle in Eden Falls. The trail itself is actually rather short, and you reach Eden Falls fairly quickly (no fording required, and no dysentery); in fact the game ends up being more of a collecting & crafting game rather than settling, but I don’t mind – it’s the crafting and levelling that I enjoy (I learn that these are called “incremental game”s). When you arrive at Eden Falls, you get a house which you can also improve via collecting and crafting. There is also a social aspect as you work together with the other inhabitants of your farm towards communal (and competitive) goals.
What actually attracted my attention to this game was that it is by Peter Molyneux, the creator of Fable. It is not as flexible a world as Fable, but there are some nicely designed aspects (who knows if there was direct Molyneux influence though). One feature that I think is great is the trading that you can do at trail camps. It’s useful because it provides an avenue for you to get rid of all the supplies and items that you’ve accumulated. It’s social because you are trading with other players at your camp, and finally it’s a game because there is a finite time limit for trading, and you compete to get the highest trading score to win an additional prize. This is just one aspect of the game that just works and is win-win-win.
Another part of the game that I like is trying to re-arrange everything in your backpack. The backpack is a limiting mechanism so you can’t carry everything at once, but instead of using slots like a normal game would, you actually have to try and arrange things in your backpack so they will fit. Often times you end up with an overflowing backpack while you try and balance that last item that you picked up on the very top!
As I played the game more, I realize that a lot of the social interaction (along the trail and in the camps) is done by NPCs and not genuine. It’s not completely NPCs, but most of it is. Once I saw through that illusion, I was a bit disappointed; although I understand why they chose that route for performance and design reasons. It’s not a game that I have to play everyday, but it’s good if you have an extended stretch of time.
While perusing the store, I noticed Postknight. TBH, what attracted to me to this game was that it was “Unreleased”. What does that mean? I still don’t know but the game is decent enough that I play it every once in awhile. You basically do bite-sized auto-runner type quests to gain XP and items. You can trade items for better gear or use them to gain favor with the ladies (i.e., dating in Harvest Moon style). I just play it for the RPG elements because the dating aspect requires you to play too often. It’s a quick enough time killer and you can slowly improve your character so that’s why it’s staying on my phone.
There are a lot of DC and Marvel games around, but I downloaded Justice League Action Run because the art is reminiscent of the animated series. I actually think this game might be for younger kids based on the art and the simplicity. It’s an infinite runner with a couple of modes – collect items, break targets, fight the boss, etc; but the draw is the theme and the art. Unfortunately, the game seems to be recently released, and not polished yet. The interface and gameplay is laggy on my phone, and there are only 5 heroes to choose from! Hopefully it will get better in time, but by then, I think I will have moved on to something else.
I’ve only seen the music video for Ed Sheeran’s Shape Of You once, but it left an impression and I think about it on occasion.
I think the story in the video is well done. Usually MVs just have a random guy and girl in some sort of relationship, and this video portrays something similar, but there was also a lot of depth. In the video, the relationship is between a male and female boxer, so there is a parallel between the “shape” of your partner and how the two are both active. It’s not all thematic though as there are times where the video gets purely literal and follows the lyrics (it actually shows doing having AYCE and “getting in a cab” as Sheeran sings it).
The ending was a bit weird though, and required a think. Ed Sheeran’s character trains to be a boxer and shows up at his match. But he ends up fighting a … sumo wrestler? Not surprisingly, he loses because that’s not what he’s ready for. So why was there this plot twist? Well I figured that the video is a metaphor for 2 people planning and tackling a challenge, but when they encounter it, the challenge is completely different than what they expected. The story has a happy ending when Sheeran’s partner comes in and ninja kicks the sumo wrestler, presumably overcoming the metaphoric challenge and confirming the power of Two!
I also think about the video to Justin Bieber’s Love Yourself on occasion, although this isn’t because the video is deep – it’s because I like the artistic dancing.
Nothing much happened in February except that it became…Spring? Well that is strange. About halfway through the month, the weather got warm – several days in the teens, all the snow melted, and then it stayed that way until the end of the month. Will it last into March or will we see a return of winter? Who knows! Except maybe the groundhog who predicted that Spring would come early this year.
This month we also organized and signed up for what the kids have to do for March break and the summer. Summer seems really far away, but at least it is all done.
I played a lot of Hearthstone this month because they had a week and a half where you could complete quests while playing against a “friend”. I ended up playing a lot against my alt account and earned a lot of gold. That was very helpful because the next expansion was just announced and I don’t have nearly enough of the cards from the current expansion yet!