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Tag Archives: 2015

Now, here at the end of 2015; it felt as though this year was noticeable longer than previous years. Instead of having high memory peaks like years past (i.e. kids birth) along with long lull/waiting times (i.e., waiting for kids to born), there were a variety of activities that resulted in more positive and memorable moments.

This year I still spent a significant amount of time building personal Android apps, but I don’t have a lot to show for it. The Android marketplace is too saturated now and it’s too difficult to make something great and popular. It’s not the time, but the user acquisition and differentiating your product from everything else that is out there that is tough. I no longer have the patience or the enthusiasm to build a polished product that I’m happy with, and try and make it successful. Because of that, I ended up making a couple of things that ended up on Google Play (Always Taeyeon, Simmering), and some that never made it public (Android port of the card game Love Letter, Hearthstone collection tracker, a location sharing app).

It was a good travel year for us. In 2014, we didn’t travel much because Jovian was born in the middle of the year (so couldn’t travel before or after). However he was 6 months by the time 2015 started, so we he was fully able to travel with us. Our “one year old” trip with Jovian was to Spain & Portugal and it was different adventure than we normally do as we drove around instead of taking public transit. After that, we had a couple of short (at least overnight) trips here and there in North America, some by plane and some by car. In the end, I’m quite happy with my Places I Stayed recap for 2015. The one thing we didn’t do was travel during the Christmas break, due to work commitments, but we plan to do some more traveling in January to make up for that.

On the other hand, travel for work was lower in 2015 than it was in 2014. I’ve been working remotely for almost 3 years now so there’s not much need for me to show up at my NY office anymore. It’s almost 6 months between trips there now (which is a bit excessive, that might be a bit closer next year). Another reason is that I’ve been traveling to our Silicon Valley office in place of some of the NY trips, but again that is less frequent than it could be. Due to the lack of work travel, I wasn’t able to attain my SPG Gold status for next year (I’ve had it for 2 years in a row). This year, I also started collecting Marriott reward points. The impetus was because I ended up staying at Marriott’s when I went to California, and I ended up collecting more because I started using a credit card that rewarded Marriott points. Starwood and Marriott combined this year so it might be moot (they haven’t combined their rewards programs yet though).

I’m still desperately trying to use my phone as my camera. I know a lot of people do it, but I just can’t make the switch. I started out the year using my Nexus 5’s camera, but it was just too horrible (slow, can’t focus). I tried using the Note4’s camera but I found it performed poorly in low light and the file size was way too huge. By the end of the year, I’ve been using my One Plus Two’s camera which is slightly better than Nexus 5 in a lot of respects, but also slightly worse (file size too large, hangs if phone is locked). Above all, I still haven’t found a good burst mode app (although haven’t been trying hard) so I still have to carry around the dSLR.

I did take a lot of photos this year (most in past 4 years), although that might be because we went on a couple of vacations. I have more photos of Jovian than Apollo this year, which I attribute to Jovian still being in the midst of growing up. There were often times this year where I felt that taking a photo is meaningless if no person (read: kids) are in it. I don’t take photos for a hobby anymore (never going to be an Instagram celebrity) so scenic shots are no longer valuable to me. At the same time, it’s frustrating to have to carry around a SLR while chasing kids.

I didn’t have a lot of techlust this year. I still don’t have an Android watch (actually no new watches for me this year) and my Fitbit is a couple of generations old by now. I kind of do want the coolest new gadgets, but at the same time I’m already surrounded by too many phones, tablets, and other electronic gear so what’s one more? Having a great phone (and data plan) is still very important, but it’s impossible to find the perfect phone anymore, even if you’re willing to pay flagship prices.

The kids are growing up. Apollo is fluent in Cantonese (as well as you could expect a little boy to be) and his English is slowly catching up. Although he’s only 3, he feels like he could be a kindergarten-er or early primary school kid. I have no frame of reference as to what kids at those ages should know, so it’s difficult for me to place Apollo at a certain age. It’s because he still needs parental supervision and guidance, but he can do (or learn to do) a lot of things by himself (obviously bigger kids have more experience and practice). I still envision Jovian as being a baby, but he’s now almost as old as Apollo was when Jovian was born. He can do a lot of things by himself (like eat, walk in the mall), and understand other human beings; but my benchmark (i.e., Apollo) keeps advancing so it feels like he is still a baby.

Jovian is old enough that he can interact with Apollo, asking for help or just playing (and negotiating or fighting). This is a bit of a conundrum for me because I’m not sure how to treat them as siblings. With Apollo, it was easier because I was an only child; but I’m not sure what goes through Apollo or Jovian’s head when they have to interact with their sibling and parents.

There was a continuing shift this year where our group of friends shifted. As our young kids get older (i.e., no longer babies), there’s less desire to spend time with our kid-less friends because conversation topics are just too different. We spent much more time with Apollo’s friends’ parents and did activities with them – common interests and conversation topics are much higher there. It’s not a surprise, but this year is where it’s much more noticeable. However, we had numerous friends with end-of-the-year babies so that might change next year. Just like a few years ago when everyone was getting married, it’s time for my cohort to have kids.

Looking back, I think the key memories from this year will be 1) being there in Jovian’s 12-18 month old “cuteness” phase, 2) being able to drive around Portugal and Spain on our summer vacation and 3) having the freedom to take the kids around if we wanted to do different activities (not just travel). I’ll miss the flexibility that we have while both kids are young and not in school – we weren’t beholden to a strict schedule. I think next year will be a transition year similar to our schedule starting this past September; but in 2017 Apollo will be in JK so I expect there will be a lot less freedom.

Surprisingly, I stayed in a lot of different places this year.

  • Toronto, ON, Canada
  • Manhattan, NY, USA
  • Niagara Falls, NY, USA
  • Sunnyvale, CA, USA
  • Lisbon, Portugal
  • Albufeira, Portugal
  • Seville, Andalusia, Spain
  • Jaén, Andalusia, Spain
  • Alarcón, Cuenca, Spain
  • Madrid, Spain
  • Richmond, BC, Canada
  • Rochester, NY, USA
  • Arlington, VA, USA
  • National Harbor, MD, USA

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

This year I had to actively seek out new music because all my music is curated by myself. The majority of my listening is either from my own library (still iTunes, although all my music is on Google Music now) or from a custom playlist on Spotify. I don’t have any passive music sources for Top40 or others so there’s not a lot of new music coming in.

In terms of buying, I actually bought a couple of CDs this year (a couple of discs to complete collections)! I also bought a bunch of singles and albums from iTunes and Google Music. Not a lot of money spent though as I waited for sales or credits.

Here’s my top tracks for this year:

  1. 태연 (Taeyeon) – 사랑 그 한마디 (Love, That Only Word)
    Taeyeon released a solo album this year, and while I was excited – I was also disappointed that it didn’t have any great ballad singles to showcase her singing (I don’t think U R is that great). I think she is much more suited to singing an OST like this one. I don’t think the song is as great (emotional/touching) as IU’s When Would It Be but it’s more enjoyable for me to listen to the timbre of Taeyeon’s voice and the vibrato on her phrasing. I actually heard this song first in 2014, but started listening to it more in 2015 after I bought it from iTunes.
  2. 윤현상 (Yoon Hyun Sang) & 아이유 (IU) – 언제쯤이면 (When Would It Be)
    I think this is more of Yoon Hyun Sang’s song with IU being featured on it. Even without IU, it would be very good because the singing and piano is haunting. IU’s voice adds a lot of color to it while at the same time capturing the sadness in the song. I think IU sings too many up-tempo songs when she can really excel at ballads such as time one; but I guess she needs to differentiate herself from other singers.
  3. 나윤권 – If Only
    Best male solo ballad of the year. Starts off unassuming but I like the harmonies that come in. I had this on a CD for a long time but didn’t know who sang it until I was coming up with this list.
  4. Amber – Beautiful
    I came across this song because it was on Amber’s solo debut album. I wouldn’t have paid attention to her album had it not for Taeyeon being featured on the title track (Shake That Brass – which is ridiculous and unnecessary for Taeyeon to be featured on it). This song is a nice acoustic slow jam unlike Shake That Brass though. I thought Amber was a rapper but she sings pretty well on this one.
  5. 소녀시대 (Girls’ Generation) – Lion Heart
    When SNSD’s 5th album was announced/teased, I thought I would like You Think more because Lion Heart was too retro/swing (I didn’t like Dancing Queen that much, although maybe because it was a remake of Duffy’s Mercy). However, Lion Heart is clearly much catchier than You Think and an overall better song even if the choreography is odd.
  6. Sam Smith – I’m Not The Only One
    I bought Sam Smith’s album on sale via Google Play and really wanted to enjoy the album. However, the only track that really stuck with me was this one (and the reason I bought the album).
  7. 소녀시대 (Girls’ Generation) – Party
    I’ve complained about Girls’ Generation getting poor songs given that they are such an influential & popular group. However, their 5th album has 2 really great singles. Party is not as good as Lion Heart, but it’s still a very fitting song for summer.
  8. Coldplay – Adventure Of A Lifetime
    This song (and Coldplay’s new album) came out right around I wrote this blog, so while I think this song sounds pretty good, it’s still fresh to me. It doesn’t actually sound like a Coldplay song, and it reminds me more of Cut Copy. I’ve streamed their new album and I think this is the best track by a wide margin.
  9. 임재범 (Yim Jae Bum) & 태연 (Taeyeon) – 사랑보다 깊은 상처 (Scars Deeper Than Love)
    This verse starts off well with Taeyeon’s solo but the chorus isn’t that interesting. This is a remake of what I assume was a pretty successful song in the past. Taeyeon sounds like a little girl in this song though, I guess it’s a higher than she usually sings.
  10. 아이유 (IU) – 스물셋 (23)
    Lots of IU singles on the list this year, although I didn’t pay as much attention to her releases as I did SNSD’s. I actually skipped through this song on her Chat-Shire album (I wonder if she knows chat is cat in French) when I listened to it the first time, but once I realized it was a single, I listened to it again. The verse is not catchy which is why it didn’t register with me, but the chorus has great hooks.
  11. Meghan Trainor – All About That Bass
    My kids love dancing to this song because it has a strong…bass line. I think that’s why I like it too as I don’t generally like Trainor’s retro sound.
  12. Pentatonix – Can’t Sleep Love
    Stumbled upon this group billed as an Acapella group and thought that that was weird. How can Acapella be so popular? Well it turns out that it was false advertising as it is basically electropop (think Boyz II Men + 10s Pop). The album was only 99¢ on Google Play so I took a chance on this just because their setup was so weird. This is their single which is pretty catchy (and a late addition).
  13. Selena Gomez – Same Old Love
    A late addition since I’m not up to date on Top 40. It sounds pretty catchy but not a good as Love You Like A Love Song.
  14. 아이유 (IU) & 장이정 – 금요일에 만나요 (Friday)
    A couple of IU songs ahead of this one this year, but this is still catchy. It’s acoustic which is a bonus.
  15. M&D – 하고 싶어 (I Wish)
    I wouldn’t normally pay attention to a song by Super Junior members, but this song got featured in Superstar SMTOWN (and the game is reciprocally featured in the music video). The song is pretty catch so it stuck with me. I listened to the entire album and it’s actually surprisingly good. Each song is basically a different genre – I guess they were trying to grab all demographics. The video is also hilarious.