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Star Trek Discovery Episode 1

I’ve been doing a slow watch of the newest Star Trek series. I’ve actually been pretty exposed to the series because of the game that I play, there are a lot of product/character tie-ins to the series. However, since I don’t have a regular TV diet, I’ve been saving the episodes for plane rides (when there’s no inflight entertainment).

The first couple of episodes I watched were great. It is definitely not the same Trek as TNG, DS9, VOY or even ENT. I watched every episode of Enterprise, even though I don’t remember much from it anymore. I was lukewarm on it – I didn’t like the characters that much and the story arcs seemed a bit silly (temporal war, Xindi, etc). I also watched a lot (maybe all) of Voyager and DS9. Voyager seems to get a lot of bad reviews on the internet, but I actually have the opposite opinion of the masses. I felt like the episodes were faithful to the style of TNG and that the crew complement was decent (although not as interesting as TNG). I didn’t like the addition of 7of9 onto the show, but apparently many thought the story was a lot better after she came on board. DS9 I actually didn’t like as much, and I never really got into it until the Dominion war was in full swing. Upon reflection, it sounds like DS9 is a deep series that would be much better on a repeat watching. Finally TNG is the benchmark that I measure other Treks, so in order for me to like Discovery, it has to measure up in some ways to TNG.

But does it? To be continued…

Thor: Ragnarok

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

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

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

January 2018

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

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

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

Pocket Queue 78

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

December 2017

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

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

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

2017 Year In Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Places I Stayed Overnight in 2017

Another year, another bunch of trips:

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

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

Top Music of 2017

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

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

  1. Charlie Puth – Attention

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  5. Calvin Harris, Frank Ocean, Migios – Slide

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

  6. Julia Michaels – Issues

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

  7. Drake – Passionfruit

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

  8. Bruno Mars – Versace On The Dancefloor

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

  9. 수지 (Suzy) – 취향 (Les Préférences)

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

  10. 태연 (Taeyeon) – I Got Love

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

  11. IU ft G-Dragon – Palette

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

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

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

  13. 소녀시대 (Girls Generation) – All Night

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

  14. Bruno Mars – That’s What I Like

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

  15. Niall Horan – Slow Hands

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

  16. Ed Sheeran – Shape Of You

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

  17. Taylor Swift – Ready For It

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

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

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

OnePlus 5T

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

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

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

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

Reviewing Top Music

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

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

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

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

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