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The Second Winter

The Second Winter is a short Korean film (only an hour long, and could be even shorter as there was a lot of silence used for dramatic effect) about the millennial struggle between doing something you’re passionate about versus a job to survive. The story focuses on two newlyweds that are 30 (Millennials, or is it asians? Marry late) who can’t hold down a steady job. The man wants to be an actor (historically a job that is notoriously difficult to get started in) and is auditioning for Don Quixote. The woman can’t get a full time job because she has no children and companies don’t want to hire her in case she goes on maternity. The struggle is characterized through a search for a new place to live. They identify a larger apartment that is nicely decorated but seems out of their league (there’s a running joke that you have to live like “North Europeans” there) and think about what it would be like to be someone that can live there.

I’m not sure what the title refers to, nor the recurring theme of a broken heater in their current apartment. Maybe it is a plot device that justifies their apartment search. Beyond that, it is pretty clear what the movie is about. Not a great movie but not a big time investment either. Three out of five stars.

Hellboy

I saw this on inflight entertainment, and thought they just added the original Hellboy to their catalogue (as they do from time to time with older movies). But turns out there was a 3rd movie/reboot of the franchise.

I’m not sure if Hellboy #3 is a serious film. It felt like I was watching a satire of the horror film genre – but maybe that was the point. And there was so much blood. I kind of kept watching to try and understand why I thought the first Hellboy movie was worth watching.

Beyond the grotesque monsters and the overuse of blood, the movie gets a little better. It weaves in a lot of historical mythology which I am not clear whether it was made up for this movie or part of his back story. The movie also serves to build up a supporting cast of “heroes” for Hellboy in case it becomes a series. I’m not sure I want to watch anymore though as the blood is just too much. Two out of five stars.

The Wandering Earth

This was a movie I never expected to see. I had heard about how The Wandering Earth broke Chinese box office records, and was supposed to usher a new age for China sci-fi. I read about how the Chinese author toured the US and explained how a movie like this would never work in the US/be understood by a western audience. But still, I was surprised that this movie made it to the World selection in the inflight entertainment.

The Wandering Earth tells the tale of a near future where the sun will supernova in 30 years. Earth decides that the best way to save itself is to move itself (the physical planet, not the civilization) out of the solar system. That’s a ludicrous proposition if you think about it. Gravity won’t work properly for one, the Earth would freeze being so far away and well you can find a lot of thing that don’t make sense if you start thinking too hard.

The story focuses on one family, the father who works on board a space station, and the son/daughter who lives on Earth. The story is driven by the family on Earth as the planet undergoes tectonic disturbances as it approaches Jupiter’s gravimetric field. Jupiter is the main protagonist in this story as it threatens to swallow up our planet.

Through a lot of struggles, we see how the strong Chinese spirit and ingenuity prevails while all sorts of other nations turn their tails and run. There are a lot of cliched scenes that stresses family and sacrifice for the greater good. In a way, this movie is a heavy China propaganda piece, but it is also interesting to see how a China-first blockbuster would work. Great for the insight, four out of five stars.

Avengers: Endgame

Finally! After how many movies? the finale of this epoch in the Marvel Universe is finally complete. I think I also accomplished the monumental task of seeing all the relevant movies before this one came out – thanks to a lot of flights. No surprise, I saw Avengers: Engame on a flight as well.

There was a lot to like about this movie and it was a deserved ending to this epoch. While time travel is an overused mechanic, I liked how they visited their previous movies and expanded on the stories around them. I also liked how they brought basically everyone who has been involved in the universe back, even if the cameos are pretty short. The humor was light although some bits got long in the tooth (e.g., Thor’s beer belly). I liked how it paved the way for the next generation, and I did not fail to notice the one scene where all the women characters showed up at once.

This movie felt worthy, and was four out of five stars in my book. Now to see what is next for MCU.

Gravity

I received Gravity as a promo from Movies Anywhere at some point and so saw it at home on my TV. I also recall there was a VR version of this movie, and it make sense because there are amazing visuals that you want to see as large as possible (e.g., IMAX).

The movie is set in space, and about astronauts who get stranded after an international incident. Unlike the Apollo movies, the astronauts are truly alone, and do not have a team to support them. The cast is essentially George Clooney, Sandra Bullock and the view of the earth. It is an interesting take that really shows the loneliness of space.

I’d imagine that space exploration in our day and age would be similar to sailing in the olden days. Your boat (and crew) was your lifeline and if you went overboard and ended up adrift, you were in for a lonely death.

While space is the unknown and thus exciting, Gravity is a story about perseverance through adversity and human survival. That story + the amazing visuals make this a four out of five stars movie.

Pocket Queue 90

  • Inside the “largest launch of a produce item in American history”
    There’s a big Apple launch coming up, and it’s not tech. Well, not handheld tech. I mean, not something that you can use, but actually eat. It’s the Cosmic Crisp!

    Over years of testing, the new cross reliably produced round fruit with dark red skin, the color of wine. The Cosmic Crisp has flesh that’s creamy white, is so dense that the apple feels heavy in your hand, and has a flavor that is pleasant, a bit more sweet than zing. Most important, it cleaves cleanly in your mouth — a crunch that lasts a long time in controlled-atmosphere storage, all the way around the calendar and into the next harvest season. From people in the industry, I heard the phrase “excellent eating experience” so often I began to imagine it in capital letters, with its own ™. When I enlisted some regular-world people to taste the apple, one crunched into an approximately seven-month-old specimen and said, with appreciation, “I can feel the structure of its insides.”

  • Half-empty boxes of Milk Duds, underfilled Halo Top: people keep suing over “slack fill” in food
    TMI around the legal industry that exists to sue food companies because there is too much empty space within their packaging.

    Usually the plaintiff, the client, is not really somebody who came into the office one day and was upset. It happens. But usually these lawyers hire people to go out and find things for them, and they say, “Go over to the grocery store, see if you see anything that’s slack filled, or anything that has language that’s misleading.” So they actually roam the aisles of these grocery stores and other types of stores, like lions looking for zebras. There’s a bunch of lawyers I deal with and that’s all they do.

  • Why Do Canadians Say ‘Eh’?
    A great linguistic breakdown as to how ‘Eh’ is used. Seems true in my experience.

    Other dialects of English and other languages have some similar tags. “Right,” “okay,” “yes,” and “you know” are all used in some of the same ways as “eh.” In French, “hein” (pronounced “anh,” the same vowel sound in “splat”) is quite similar, as is the Japanese “ne,” the Dutch “hè,” the Yiddish “nu,” and the Spanish “¿no?” These differ in some ways from “eh,” as “eh” can be used in some ways that the other tags cannot be and vice versa, but what really makes “eh” different is less about the way it’s used and more about its place in Canadian society.

  • Why the French love to say no
    Another language/linguistics article. This one is about French people and apparently their knee-jerk reaction to saying ‘Non’ to any question.

    the French have crafted a variety of ways to say no. ‘Ça risque d’être compliqué’ (‘that may be complicated’) is likely the least confrontational way of saying that a request is unlikely to be granted. ‘Ç’est hors de question’ (‘it’s out of the question’) is perhaps the most definitive version, cutting off any hopes of arguing one’s case.

  • The Illegal Ramen Vendors of Postwar Tokyo
    Ramen is not a traditional Japanese food. It became popular due to post-WWII circumstances, which you can learn more about in the article.

    Foods rich in fat and strong flavors became known as “stamina food,” according to Professor George Solt, author of The Untold History of Ramen. Ramen was very different than the milder, seaweed-based noodle soups of traditional Japanese cuisine. Okumura Ayao, a Japanese food writer and professor of traditional Japanese food culture at Kobe Yamate University, once expressed his shock at trying ramen for the first time in 1953, imagining “himself growing bigger and stronger from eating this concoction.”

July, 2019

Usually at the beginning of July, we try and go on a road trip to take advantage of the Canada Day/Independence Day long weekend. We didn’t do that this year but I ended up having some travel in the second week of July. It started with a work trip to Korea, then I spend ~6 hours in Japan for a layover. My plan was to visit a festival in Sawara which is near the airport (although getting there via local trains took 1.5h) but like a lot of the Japanese festivals that I’ve been too; it just wasn’t that great. Probably not a great use of time but it is one of those things that if I didn’t try to go, I would never go again (had to be near Narita on a certain weekend of the year).

After that, I flew to Vancouver and spent a day there. I had a lot of relatives who were congregating there so I dropped in for a quick visit and meal. Then it was finally home. I spent a very long Saturday on an extended trip (slept two “nights” on airplanes).

Back home, the weather was hot and humid. We tried to do outdoor activities in the mornings on the weekends, because the afternoons were unbearable and had to be spent indoors. It makes it difficult to take advantage of our Wonderland season’s pass or go to farms and parks. Unfortunately, with summer half over, I don’t think it’s going to get any better in August.

Hearthstone: Lich King: Hunter

I’ve been playing a lot of dungeon run-type games in Hearthstone, but decided to take a break and go back to the traditional PVE. Still stuck on Blackrock Mountain, so decided to work on Lich King some more. The Hunter battle penalizes you if you have minions in your deck, so guess it’s time for spell hunter. Here’s my deck:

  • Arcane Shot
  • Bear Trap
  • Cat Trick
  • Explosive Trap
  • Grievous Bite x 2
  • Misdirection x 2
  • Quick Shot
  • Snipe
  • Animal Companion x 2
  • Deadly Shot x 2
  • Eaglehorn Bow
  • Powershot x 2
  • Flanking Strike x 2
  • Marked Shot x 2
  • Multi-Shot x 2
  • Wing Blast
  • Explosive Shot
  • Deathstalker Rexxar
  • Lesser Emerald Spellstone x 2
  • To My Side!
  • Unleash the Beast

Deck code: AAEBAR8MigPJBK4G7Qb+DNQR0RT4sQKG0wLq4wLc7gL5lgMJpAK1A8MIxQjOFIbDAt3SAuPSAuaWAwA=

This deck took a bit of finessing and adjustment. Most of the spells are AOE to take care of the small minions at the start of the game and then the Frostbourne phase. I had to play it through about 20 times to get the right matchup. Deathstalker Rexxar is almost mandatory for the Frostbourne phase (although the time I won, I had it in hand, but didn’t play it until right after Frostbourne was destroyed). One or two powered up spellstones are also critical as the 2/6 lost souls end up fighting your 4 3/3 wolfs instead of hitting face.

If you didn’t play DK Rexxar in the 2nd phase, you’ll need it in the third. The ability to create lifestealing zom-beasts is necessary to overcome the Lich King’s hero power. In my winning game, he ended up doing 10+ damage per turn! Here’s a screenshot as I was winning the game:

I’m not sure how you’re supposed to beat the Lich King as Hunter without the DK or the spellstones!

Pocket Queue 89

  • What Really Happened to Malaysia’s Missing Airplane
    It’s been 5 years since MH370 disappeared and we haven’t heard it on the news cycle lately. The mystery of what happened is more or less solved, even if the exact details are missing.

    Of all the profiles extracted from the simulator, the one that matched MH370’s path was the only one that Zaharie did not run as a continuous flight—in other words, taking off on the simulator and letting the flight play out, hour after hour, until it reached the destination airport. Instead he advanced the flight manually in multiple stages, repeatedly jumping the flight forward and subtracting the fuel as necessary until it was gone.

  • Inside the shadow world of scooter chargers
    What’s it like to make money from charging scooters? I always wanted to know, and now I do.

    I was finally able to retrieve three, and charged them in my kitchen. At 5 a.m., I awoke to release them to the nearest available “nest,” Bird’s term for its sanctioned drop-off locations, but had troubles with the app. No matter how many times I refreshed it, no nests showed up.

    Paranoid I’d be accused of hoarding if I didn’t dump the scooters before 7 a.m., I awkwardly walked them down the street and placed them in a nest outside someone’s house, making sure to copiously document the process in order to receive my $14 bounty (I charged two Birds for $5 and one for $4). It was windy that morning; the scooters kept falling over on unstable dirt. Walking away, light just breaking, I heard them clatter into a pile.

  • Why Weather Forecasting Keeps Getting Better
    Interesting article about why predicting weather is so important (particularly for war). I also found it illuminating how weather is predicted now.

    At weather-prediction centers around the world, Bjerknes’s equations have been tweaked and Richardson’s methods refined (the chess squares can now be as small as a couple of kilometres across), but the fundamental ideas are essentially the same. Blum describes the process of prediction as though there were two parallel worlds running in sequence: the real one, our own blue marble, and the simulated one, which lives inside the machine. Model Earth adjusts itself to match real Earth, to take into account all the observations fed in by “flying satellites, buoys and balloons,” and then it races ahead in fast-forward. Periodically, it pauses for real Earth to catch up, checks its answers, corrects anything it got wrong, makes adjustments, and then gallops off into the future again.

  • Watch Your Step
    The 10,000 step goal is the threshold for being active, but turns out that number is kind of arbitrary. Well at least we can all agree that increasing fitness is an improvement in lifestyle regardless of what the step goal actually is.

    This is all despite the fact that 10,000 steps is a completely arbitrary figure, one that originates from a successful Japanese marketing campaign in the mid-60s. In an attempt to capitalise on the immense popularity of the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, the company Yamasa designed the world’s first wearable step-counter, a device called a manpo-kei, which translates as “10,000-step meter”.

  • Why is airport food so expensive?
    I’ve noticed the prices have gone down, at least in Toronto where Tim Horton’s has opened, but it is still a problem.

    When a retail spot opens up in an airport, the city puts out a Request for Proposal (RFP) and opens it up for bids. An aspiring restaurant or storefront must declare a Minimum Annual Guarantee (MAG), or a base amount it pledges to pay the airport each year, based on set percentages of projected sales.

    For example, the airport might specify that it wants 10% of all sales up to $1m, and 12% on anything over $1m. If you estimate your sales at $1m, your MAG would be $100k per year; if you end up doing $1.5m in sales, you’ll pay $160k.

    A 2018 RFP for 9 retail openings at SFO lists MAG fees of between $365k and $630k per year and requires a 10-year commitment — a hefty cost for any small business, even one in a highly trafficked location.

The Leakers

The Leakers is the name of a group of journalists who want to expose the truth about nefarious corporations. Their first leak is the obvious-to-the-watcher news that a pharmaceutical corporation has both created an outbreak and its cure. But their attempt to actually share this information and the evidence is convoluted and ends up involving a bunch of people in both Malaysia and Hong Kong. This is like the bad guys spending too much time explaining their scheme, causing them to get caught. If the Leakers just uploaded their leak to the internet, they would have saved a movie!

In any case, an interesting set of characters show up to try and solve the puzzle. Maybe it was the couple of previous movies that I saw, but I felt this movie had potential – and I wanted to see how the players would develop. The plot didn’t give them a lot of opportunity to do that though. But at least, it was able to earn The Leakers a three out of five stars.