Wednesday, December 29, 2010

lament, watching tv

I guess Christmas wasn't that bad. I did however suffer from a most dreadful bout of the flu, or something that I thought might be the flu -- soreness, an extreme lack of energy, dizziness, chills, a runny nose. I was out for a good four days, four days of misery and woe, physically and emotionally draining. And while the worst is over, I find that my emotions are still somewhat subdued. Indeed it's hard for me to find much joy in anything, anymore. My mind continues to turn over the events of the past year, of words said and left unsaid. I remember being unhappy and yet.... and yet I yearn to return, unwisely and beyond counsel.
While ill I caught up on a few serials, namely The Office. I also started watching Justice League, mostly on a whim, and am very much enjoying it, though I admit that much of that enjoyment comes from guffawing and pointing out all the logical flaws and plot inconsistencies. Even so, more than a handful of the episodes have brought tears to my wimpy eyes, I am somewhat embarrassed to say.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Green bin waste, new video card

Ok, I wanted to quickly write up about the stuff I've been learning at those LiveGreen meetings. A couple weeks ago we talked about Toronto's waste disposal -- someone in the know explained how green bin waste is taken care of. Rather than just being cooked for a couple weeks (as some places do), it actually gets processed. First, everything's ground up into a finer mulch, to which water is added, making a slurry of guck. It is then put into a spinning tank, letting centrifugal force do the work of separating out the different parts so that heavier or lighter stuff (wood, or diaper tape, etc) is conveniently removed from the main mass. Tt this point it goes through the cooking stage (if I recall correctly, maybe not?), before it is mixed with regular soil as, by itself, it contains too much salt, etc.

I also learned that, while there are no regulations in terms of how much non-City garbage has to be recycled, private waste disposal companies are actually quite good about recycling as much as possible, as dumping (i.e. paying for space to dump on) is extremely expensive, and hence they have a strong financial motivation to recycle. Oh and City recycling is done BY HAND -- they have people on the assembly line picking out stuff, each looking for a specific kind of recyclable -- water bottles, Styrofoam, aluminum, etc. The rest is passed over and goes to the landfill. It doesn't sound like much of a job but I'd actually be willing to give up a few hours a week to help. Which in a way I guess I do when I toss out my recyclables, although mine are primarily paper flyers that I can't seem to stop from being stuffed into my mailbox -- realtors, fitness clubs, grocers, fast food places, retailers, and so on. I could make firelogs from this stuff! Although I'd imagine it'd be pretty gross smelling.

Anyway, I'll be volunteering this Saturday, at Kew Gardens, participating in an incandescent-for-LED Christmas light exchange.

Other news? I bought and installed an XFX ATI 5870 HD video card, so my machine is up and going again, though I've been fairly bound to playing casual web (Wizard's Run) and iPhone (PocketFrogs, 10PinShuffle) games. I am REALLY starting to dislike Christmas. Again. It might be better if everyone got more time off, but as it is, going to any store or mall is just nutty.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Missing the house, shopping for a video card, iPhone games

It pains me every time I think about it -- my parents have sold their house. They've done so many renovations in anticipation of it going to the market, you'd hardly recognize it now. Well, the interior anyway -- the kitchen is completely redone, upstairs is all hardwood, as are the stairs. The cobblestoned backyard patio they've had for a while but looking at it now I'm amazed anew at the result that my dad put so many hours into. I really should visit them more often.

I've just about picked out a new video card, and am aiming for either the XFX ATI Radeon HD 5850 ($280) or the XFX ATI Radeon 5870 ($380). I'd forgotten that there are so many flavours of each GPU these days. I used Ars Technica's system picks to help me get to my decision, which I've always found useful in the past. My current card, a Sapphire ATI HD 4870 x2 (2x1GB), conks out whenever I start doing anything that tasks the 3D GPU stuff, though at times (and more frequently with each boot-up) it will throw ugly vertical stripes down the screen, so that I have to resize/reposition my browser so that I can read things! And so, I'm being denied Civ 5, StarCraft 2, Dead Rising 2 and Fallout New Vegas.

Yeah, with this glut in home PC gaming, I've taken to playing more iPhone games, especially now that I am able to use my gift card money towards app purchases (and that my phone has a zippier processor). In addition to 10PinShuffle, I've taken a liking to BeastBoxing, Pocket Frogs and Spider: The Secret of Bryce Manor. With the exception of the frog game, I recommend the rest -- they make excellent use of the iPhone interface. Pocket Frogs is just this dumb bug-eating thing which I strangely get a kick out of.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Rob Ford is mayor of Toronto, banged my head

Ok, I did mean to update earlier but I've been... preoccupied of late. Well, my video card slowly dying is part of the excuse to be sure. I only realized today that it's actually over two years old! Seems like I only got it last year. Have I been playing games on it for that long?? It's a tiresome bore, I'll tell you. And I'm somewhat torn on what to "upgrade" to -- I bought my Sapphire ATI HD 4870 x2 2GB for $580, and it's now worth $300 new, which is actually about what I would like to spend, money not flowing as easily as it once did for me. I'll have to bite the bullet soon enough, there being a stack of games (Civ 5, Dead Rising 2, StarCraft 2, Fallout New Vegas) beckoning me to return.

So Toronto voted in Rob Ford! What rot, what rot. I'm sure most of you are by now aware of the "amalgamation gap", the stark difference in voting attitudes between downtown Toronto and the suburbs. I mean, on some subconscious level I suppose I knew of it but WOW, the mayoral voting by ward map really shows just how wide the gap is. It makes me itch to think our mayor is Rob Ford... I just... how... but why... ugh!!!

Oh right, I went to Toronto's 2010 Skepticamp event, held in the Center For Inquiry space. It was pretty good! I mean, I was entertained, learned a lot, and met a handful of skeptically-minded people. Whether I can get more involved in the skeptical community is another thing, but I'm definitely happy I went. Yeah, I mean I listen to a lot of SGU and am hopefully learning more and more each day, removing layers of irrational ideas and unfounded beliefs. I do certainly look back upon my more foolish self with a pitying eye.

What else.. I signed up for a 1-year Bixi contract, hoping that its coverage will expand to the point that I can use them daily. That would be so cool! Uhm, but speaking of cool bicycling, I took a tumble late last Friday night and got a concussion. The current theory is that I installed the seat too tightly, causing one of the bolts to snap. In any case I took a serious tumble and am frankly quite amazed that I didn't incur greater damage, hitting my head directly to the ground sans helmet. Yeah. Fixing the bicycle was a thankfully simple thing: a short trip to Bike Sauce did the trick in terms of finding a replacement bolt (definitely recommend going there for DIY repair), and a2chow helped tweak the alignment of the handlebars. We also used some plastic clip-ties to provide some additional security against a total seat-failure, as I would very much hate to go through an unplanned dismount again.

Oh and unrelatedly, I upgraded my iPhone to the 4G model. My original plan was to simply fix the screen of my much-battered 3G, and I'd even purchased a digitizer replacement kit, but a most upsetting fall cracked the LCD screen. I must say that I rather love the 4G, with its better resolution, faster processor, and HDR-supporting camera -- could my dreams of a multimedia handheld device finally be true? Sure, I'm still tethered to reality by that draconian machine known as iTunes, but there are times when I rather covet this hunk of gleaming metal.

Friday, October 15, 2010

vote pie to the face

Oh what? Rocco Rossi has pulled out of the Toronto mayoral race? How is that whenever I start warming up to a candidate they pull out and give their support to Smitherman? Is the fear of a Rob Ford-Toronto that strong? Well maybe. The scary part of course is that Ford has even gotten this far. Or am I misguided in thinking this? Apparently a disturbing number of Toronto voters think so. I just can't tell what's reasonable anymore, that's how messed up, how incognizant the voting situation.

So, I guess I'm now aiming to vote for Smitherman for Mayor and Pam McConnell for my ward, Ward 28. Unless of course you want to talk me out of it. But I'm not sure that I want to vote for Pantalone? Would he be better? Damnit why are all the candidates such losers? Argh!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

films!

Movie time again! This time, an indulgence into "guy" films, though have I ever really strayed that far from the genre? Perhaps it's the cold weather, or the mind-numbingness of work, or the feeling that my life is accelerating away, like so much sand squeezed from my hands.

  • Food, Inc. (2008). It almost turned me off meat -- chicken, pork, beef, all of the scariest meats. The film highlights well the fearsome food-making machine that is the Monsanto Company; they are wicked and everything they touch is death, carefully formulated blight.
  • Inception (2010). Indeed, I saw this only a few weeks ago in the theatre but I still feel like talking about it. Or rather, mentioning that I loved it On an unrelated note, what's up with all these YouTube comment spammers? See for yourself! I think y'all know my opinion of them; may they suffer horribly, each and every one.
  • Mutiny on the Bounty (1935). My love of the Aubrey-Maturin series led me here, to a fascinating true nautical story, in a time when trips to other continents, while explored, remained perilous adventures. I enjoyed the acting, the sheer presence of Laughton and Gable, but the music and the whole Tahiti section detracted from what was otherwise a fierce battle of personalities and revenge.
  • Pan's Labyrinth (2006). Here's the thing about this film -- its original title, El laberinto del fauno, could be translated to "The Faun's Labyrinth". But no, they decided to call it Pan's Labyrinth, and so for the first half of the film I kept thinking "When are we going to meet or learn about this Pan character?" before I made the connection. Frickin' Hollywood, eh? Visually delicious, elsewise.
  • Paprika (2006). I was actually kind of let down -- I thought it was supposed to be this super creative anime about dreams and the like, but I found that aspect to be unoriginal. Perhaps I'm spoiled by all the good anime I've ingested over the years? The soundtrack however was excellent, right up my alley.
  • Patton (1970). I remembered a friend of mine in high school who was into all things military mentioning the film as one of his favourites, and, here, only some 20 years later, do I find myself agreeing with him. George C. Scott is George S. Patton! That opening speech sets the tone very nicely (the video in the link is reversed left-right, but is otherwise of high quality).
  • Serpico (1973). Corrupt police officers and, by extension, corrupt police departments, make me uneasy. So it was with wrenching hands and wide-eyes did I enjoy Serpico. I also love the sounds of those 1970 films -- so crisp the footsteps! Trivia: When Pacino asked Serpico, "Why did you do it?" Serpico replied, "Well, Al, I don't know. I guess I would have to say it would be because... if I didn't, who would I be when I listened to a piece of music?"
  • Sherlock Holmes (2009). Guy Ritche + Robert Downey Jr. + Sherlock Holmes = you can pretty much guess the rest. I thought Rachel McAdams, though always radiant, was a poor choice for his muse; no Sherlock in any universe would choose her Irene Adler.
  • The French Connection (1971). One of the greatest, most exhilarating chase scenes in movie history (so I've read). I really warmed to Gene Hackman's Jimmy "Popeye" Doyle, a bulldog of a cop. And I mean, who doesn't like to see the French get hunted down? Nobody.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

thinking of going green; found a wasp; Risto's wedding

Yo. I shall try to quickly summarize things, for those wondering what's up with the Hwan: This past weekend, I did the Thanksgiving thing Monday with family at my aunt's new house in North York. The kids (my sister, her boyfriend and me) got a demonstration from my uncle of some of the products that his business is offering, throwing in some entertaining (though tragic from a business sense) stories of the difficulties he's faced in getting sales off the ground. Saturday I hung out with Loopy, visiting a magic shop, playing with an RC helicopter and playing 10PinShuffle, one of the nicer iPad apps out there -- it's one of those games that works so well on the device. I may even drop the $4 and get it, it's that good!

I also joined Live Green Toronto, and hope to take part in, uh, something soon! It sounds like you mostly just stand around being helpful and give information to people about the programs available, pointing out ones relevant to them. I mean I guess it's something, and something to get me out of the house.

And speaking of the house, I found a wasp in my office! I was using the computer, as I am wont to do, when I heard a tiny buzzing coming from the desk lamp. To my dismay I saw that it was a large wasp (about the length of my thumb), somewhat dazed and unwilling (or unable) to fly. I covered it up with a transparent plastic dome (one of those bins that pre-mixed salad comes in), and, after observing it for a while in fascination, placed inside a spoon with some honey on it. The wasp did seem to take to it at first, but I could see that it was still fairly disturbed and despite my intermittent blowing into the dome and sheer force of will, it became more and more sluggish and dazed until it became rather inanimate after two days. Perhaps it died of dehydration? I am saddened by the idea that it died slowly, thirsting for water, unable to adequately swallow (digest?) the honey.

Last Sunday I attended Risto's wedding in Fergus, a small but beautiful wedding, with lots of handmade crafts and personal touches. The ceremony was performed outside, under a tree, with the reception held in a nearby converted barn -- picturesque, serene, unpretentious. It was good to see the old crew together, though the number of small children served well to remind me of the passage of time!

Monday, September 20, 2010

bought StarCraft 2, video card trouble, MULE

Of course, the Friday night I pick up StarCraft 2, Battle.net decides to go down for a few hours of maintenance/upgrades. Which means that I couldn't log in, preventing me from playing the game I just bought. Oh technology, why must you be so ugly?

But I haven't come to you to write about the annoyances of StarCraft 2, have I? No wait, I have one more complaint -- my video card is prone to overheating! Indeed, after being off for so long (20 or so days, while I was away on vacation), my computer started overheating at the mere hint of doing something GPU intensive. I also coincidentally upgraded my ATI (now AMD) drivers, so that may also have played a part in this near disaster. With some careful rebooting (as my machine would also freeze randomly), I was able to install a handy tweaker application, ATI Tray Tools for my Radeon HD4870 X2, mercifully allowing me to manually control the card's powerful fan, which I now leave blowing at a much higher speed than was previously required, in order to keep the GPU temperature between 40 and 60 degrees C, as the card appears to die (and pull the system down with it) with anything much higher than 70 C.

Ok, but I was here to talk about StarCraft 2, the game, and what can I say that you weren't already expecting? The single player campaign is a blast with the choose-your-path missions, customizing of your army, and hefty array of achievements. Definitely hours of fun, with lots of replay value. Well, maybe once I get tired of multiplayer... ah yes, the multiplayer. I've only played a handful of games, though I did practice a bit to get familiar with the new maps. I haven't much to comment on, although I'm trying to concentrate on maintaining the basics -- lots of drones, constant spawning of larvae, with Roaches and Hydras comprising the core of my army, 'lings at scout points. I'm doing okay with a record of slightly higher than 50%, but it's well too early to tell what my plateau ranking will be.

I caught a bad cold this weekend, the likes of which knocked me out for much of Saturday and all of Sunday. Today was better but I plan on sleeping early-ish. Well, maybe just a few more rounds of SC2.

Actually, I've also finally gotten around to fiddling with Planet MULE, which is a faithful reproduction of the classic Ozark (EA published) M.U.L.E., a game I'd struggled with as a young boy, never quite understanding the economics involved. I've only played against the computer (a tough, merciless opponent if there ever was one), being the friendless, introverted type.... ah well, some things never change!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Back from an east coast trip

So I am back from my 20 days driving with the girlfriend through Maine, Massachusetts and Vermont. A different route from last time in March, Maine exposing us to Mount Desert Island and the gorgeous Acadia National Park. We spent six days on the island, with many of those hours shopping or strolling in Bar Harbor's many shops and cafes and restaurants. The star of course was the park proper, an immaculate fairy-tale of a park, verdant with vivid greens and blues, breathtaking views from the mountain and the surrounds.

Jordan Pond, with "The Bubbles"
Provincetown and Cape Cod, well, we saw more of the same as last time, only under a much warmer sun. The water remained chilling however and my swims were brief, shoulder-shakingly, teeth-chatteringly cold. We managed to see Yarmouth and Wood's Hole but mistakingly assumed we could just drive to the ferry dock to go to Martha's Vineyard (apparently one has to take a shuttle from Yarmouth) so instead we visited the aquarium and the WHOI Science Exhibit Center. Our stay in Cape Cod was cut short a day by Hurricane Earl, the beach-side motel resort being evacuated due to fears of flooding.

Taking refuge inland, we still saw plenty of wind and rain in Cambridge, as I had to navigate to the Sheraton Commander hotel, our only lodging option on a
Friday night of a Labour Day weekend, booked minutes before we arrived. It was our most expensive but also yards nicer sleep, the bed a luxurious heap of threads and soft pillows and billowy sheets. I would have given a greater resistance than normal against getting out of bed in the morning but I was anxious to see Cambridge, which we'd missed doing last time we were in Boston. The town and much of Harvard's grounds can be walked in a day, which is what we did, taking many photos. Speaking of which, we took over 2000 photos combined over the whole trip but I've yet to get through uploading them to flickr. Soon enough, soon enough.
Atop Cadillac Mountain

I haven't much else to add. Vermont was warmer and greener, and my likening Burlington to a more scenic Guelph still applies: a quiet university town with lots of greenery and concentrated niches of culture, Burlington having the advantage of mountains and Lake Champlain. Distance from friends and family aside, I could see myself living there... although I do love Toronto so.

So I am back, and, a week after my return I think I am finally all here. Of course, much of that return has gone into the recent acquisition of StarCraft 2, but I'll save that talk for another day.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

breaking up

Numb, emotionally numb, as if all my body were frozen; every beat, held in time. I fought the long fight but in the end I succumbed and I feel the end is very near. The future now lays before me like an empty road, desolate, unknown, I stare at it through dry, blinking eyes. I commited relationship suicide, for lack of a better term. I'd always imagined myself to be brave and strong but I see more clearly now, clearly do I see the coward and weakling I inhabit. However, now that I've stepped on this path I must see it through to the end; going back is to return to a larger abyss.

Who knew love could be so painful, so terrible? I'd not believed it until now, now that I've experienced the strange and the unexpected, the impossible to otherwise know without passing through it, a scathing and burning. In the end, was it me that I ran from, from my own crimes of heated passion, my inability to maintain full control of my faculties at all times? I feel changed, to be sure, but did I learn the lessons that mattered most? How will I handle the next such hazard? Or am I too old, too set in my ways, to change and adapt? That, my friends, is the greatest fear of all; to be the dinosaur, the relic, the stone that lies dead.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

physical check-up

So I underwent a physical examination a few weeks ago (June 17th) and received the results today. Overall my health seems pretty good:
  • Glucose plasma fasting 4.8 mmol/L (3.6-6.0 is normal, 6.1-6.9 is impaired, >6.9 is "provisional diagnosis of diabetes mellitus")
  • Creatinine (a measure of kidney function) is 83 mmol/L, which I believe is normal.
  • Bilirubin total: 11 umol/L (normal < 23)
  • Urate: 371 umol/L (200-440)
  • Cholesterol: 4.33 (desired: < 5.2)
  • Triglycerides: 1.38 mmol/L (< 2.3)
  • HDL cholesterol: 1.31 mmol/L
  • LDL cholesterol calc.: 2.39 mmol/L
  • Vitamin B12: 337 pmol/L (possibly deficient if < 150, probably if < 110)
  • Ferritin: 165 ug/L (80-300 is normal, Iron deficient if <12)
  • Sodium: 141 mmol/L (135 - 145)
  • Potassium: 4.6 mmol/L (3.3 - 5.1)
  • Chloride: 100 mmol/L (95-108)
  • Alkaline phosphatase: 46 U/L (40-129)
  • AST (Aspartate transaminase): 29 U/L (<37)
  • ALT (Alanine transaminase): 1.55 mIU/L (0.35 - 5.00)
  • Hemoglobin: 143 g/L (135-170)
  • Hematocrit: 0.43 l/l (0.38 - 0.49)
  • RBC: 4.17 x 10E12/L (4.2 - 5.7)
  • RBC indices MCV, MCH, MCHC: 104 fl (80-97), 34 pg (27-32), 330 g/L (320-360)
  • RDW: 14.1 (11.5-15.5)
  • WBC: 3.5 x 10E9/L (4 - 11)
  • Platelets: 226 x 10E9/L (145-400)
  • MPV: 8.1 fl (7.4 - 11.3)
  • Smear: "Platelets appear adequate, red cells appear normochromic, macrocytosis - mild"
  • Blood group: O positive
  • 25 hydroxy vitamin D: 63 nmol/L (sufficency is 76-250, <25 is a deficiency).
Macrocytosis -- possibly due to excessive drinking in my past. Possibly. In any case I've reduced considerably my alcohol intake in the past several months -- frankly, since I've started dating again. The vitamin D and white blood cell count issues are likely due to the colitis medication I take. Even so, I will bring this up when next I see my specialist. The original reason for having the examination done was to see if it would give me any insight on why my energy levels seem rather low of late. I mean, apart for the lack of exercise, poor diet and irregular sleeping habits. Oh well, I guess it's back to the basics -- I'm not a spring pup no more!

Monday, July 19, 2010

wine country for old men

Well, it certainly has been a while. Am I still passing through a cleansing fire? I certainly feel my mind is not entirely there. This past weekend my girlfriend and I went to Niagara-on-the-Lake, a short drive from Toronto, though it's made much longer by traffic. We stopped in St. Catherines, which I liken to a somewhat less classy Waterloo. Oh, of course, we drove through the fields of wine country, which, if you skip actually going inside the wineries, can be done in nearly a day. The stretching verdant fields of grapes is much like you'd imagine, and a rewarding sight.

The next day we walked about the downtown proper, the sidewalks teeming with tourists. All of the eateries we tried were overpriced and staffed by disinterested teenagers serving uninspired, bland dishes; thankfully we brought some sandwiches for picnicking so not all of our meals were complete disappointments. We saw Chekhov's The Cherry Orchard, which was billed (seemingly to me) as a comedy, but it feels far more like a black one, or even a tragedy. It was playing at the Shawfest's Courthouse theatre, but the inside is much more like a schoolhouse -- uncomfortable folding chairs, a decidedly cramped environment. I decided that it was far too expensive for the experience you get, the theatre ruining much of the ambience.

The weekend before we were in Bala, staying at her parent's cottage for the 4th time this summer. The weather was finally good enough to allow us to swim, which we did in a secluded lake, the blue water dark and warm, floating on my back and the sky filling my vision.

Hmmm... the weekend before... oh that's right I missed Magnus' cross-Canada tour, though I was able to catch him and his parental units later that week, at a very late hour indeed. I am heartily glad for my friends, but also saddened to think of how infrequently I see them.

And I am sorry, to you, my dear friends, for having neglected you these past months. I missed you all and my days never quite felt complete. I hope to change this soon. But, heh, speaking of idling away one's life, I have been playing Team Fortress 2 and StarCraft beta, although the latter has just ended today! I got very little practice in, and am not quite sure how I now measure up. I suppose I will find out soon enough.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

My StarCraft 2 beta tips

I went to Buffalo on the May 2-4 weekend. Victoria Day. The same. Anyway, I left the photos at home so I don't have anything to link to. I haven't much in terms of a story to tell anyway, other than why would anyone go to Buffalo? Shopping? Sure. Some historical buildings, of which we saw a few. The most upsetting bit was that the swimming pool of the Holiday Inn was closed for the weekend! Much grumbling ensued.

Ok, whatever. I've been playing Starcraft 2 regularly since I got it a couple weeks ago, and I'm slowly polishing my Zerg play. Here are a few mental notes I've developed in that time.

Practice:
  • Concentrate on one race, one map, one match up (although these last two are not directly supported by the Quick Match system).
  • Often not that easy to hold an early expansion -- scouting is very key here.

As Zerg:
  • Use Overlords to lay down Creep highways to expansion, on important corridors.
  • Consider using a few burrowed Roaches to sneak behind their front lines.
  • Sneak Nydus Networks behind enemy lines, or ideally in a dark patch of their main.
  • Use Mutas for harass, map control.
  • Remember to pull back, hide or protect scouting Overlords.
  • Don't be afraid to build Spine Crawlers if you sense early rushes.

Zerg versus Terran:
  • Burrowed Banelings to stifle large groups of Marines.
  • Mutas to prevent drops, deny Siege-Tank placements, punish Terrans who don't have anti-air in their bases.
  • Watch for Reaper early harassment.
  • Large groups of Marines with Medivacs and Siege Tanks can ruin your day, but they are slow to move; set up burrowed-unit traps to get better angles of attack.
  • This is actually my weakest match-up; I'll often steal a win by busting their wall-in early on.

Zerg versus Zerg:
  • 10 Overlord, 13 Pool, scout with Drone, Extractor.
  • If they're going mass ling, build Spine Crawlers, Baneling Nest, lings.
  • If they're going Roach, go mass ling and hurry to Mutas.
  • If they're going Mutas, go Hydras. In such a case I usually also build a Spore Crawler at each Hatchery, depending.
  • I often build 6 lings regardless of what the opponent is doing, for scouting/harass/protection.

Zerg versus Protoss:
  • I've found that a mix of Roach/Hydra or Ling/Roach/Hydra works best.
  • If they're going 2 Gateway, early expansion will be hard to hold.. if more than 2 Gate, stay on defence and tech to counter.
  • If they're going Robotics Facility, go speed/crack lings with Hydra. Build another Queen or Hatchery if you're too money-heavy and unable to spend it on units.
  • If they expand early, you can probably safely expand twice or take a farther gold expansion.

I played a few games last night, not really enough time for more than that. I'm currently in the top ten of my league, Gold Something-Or-Other, but I'm not sure how accurate the standings are. The game that sticks out in my mind is one where I thought I was playing Zerg and so scouted very late, at which point I realized I was actually up against Protoss, and that he'd two-Gated me outside my ramp. How embarrassing!

Friday, May 21, 2010

Discussing StarCraft 2 beta, on the way to Buffalo

Hola amigos!! Summer has finally come around the bend and I now find myself trying to find the optimal balance between cooling the condo and dealing with the noise of the heat pump. That is to say, if I choose too low a temperature the heat pump is on frequently and it's loud enough that it can wake me. Of course, if I use it less then I'm sweating uncomfortably. Such was the battle fought last night, a three hour battle I might add. The thought of sleeping downstairs occurs to me now.

I've been watching StarCraft 2 beta videos for the past while and although the game is a lot different from the original, there seems to be enough carried over that older SC1 skills still apply in the new game. I like that they've cleaned up much of the micro, allowing players (like carpel tunnel-sufferers like me) to concentrate more on strategy. It does seem that many newer players still have problems with their macro game, something I (and perhaps many others) consider the ability to multi-task under pressure. Incidentally this is what I enjoy most -- building stuff is fun! Also, I'm greedy so it definitely feeds the desire to vacuum up the region's resources.

Regarding the new units.. eh... I'm happy they kept the Ultralisk, that they gave it extra damage against buildings, and bestowed it with the Burrow ability -- pop-up RAGE! I don't like that they got rid of Vultures, probably my favorite Terran unit. Does Terran no longer have mines? Zergs kind of do now with Banelings, though they drain on gas and require micro so it's not nearly the same. Also, having to convert Overlords to Overseers is a big change since that was Zerg's thing -- they were much less prone to getting surprised by cloaked units. Now you have to create these gas-hungry, non-food-supplying units, giving Zerg a very different feel. Queens, ah, now there's a bonny unit with lots of abilities and doesn't cost gas -- a sweet deal for an early caster with ground and air attacks.

I find Protoss to appear to be very similar to its SC1 form. Sentries are interesting tier 1 casters with an attack, and give Protoss much more variety in its early game. Immortals seem to overlap the Colossi in terms of place in the army as a heavy-damage inflicting unit, but I suppose that remains to be seen.

Before that I was playing Team Fortress 2 on No Heroes, in anticipation of the new Engineer patch. However, with SC2 around the corner I've been pulled away from that for a while.

I am getting fatter. In order to combat this I have re-introduced sit-ups into my workout regime. Also, I've modified my workouts to include a bit more cardio i.e. to be more than just push-ups. I'd like to blame my weight on rich eating but in truth I've been fairly good with sticking to healthy foods, though perhaps not always in the ideal proportions. I have stopped having sugar in my coffee, unless it's instant, a surreptitious vice of mine -- I hate the stuff but some mornings I can't wait the 4 minutes for the grinds to steep.

Did I mention that I sometimes get a pain in my liver region? I've cut down on my drinking since I've started dating again and of late (not sure when exactly) I've noticed a slight discomfort on my right side. Yes, I have been meaning to speak to a doctor about it but I do, somewhat tentatively, conject on what it might be.

Well, I'll be in Buffalo, NY this weekend which looks to be cloudy with showers. No matter; some rest and time away from computers can only be a good thing. I shall be reading The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Ta!

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

remembering 14 films, A Natural History of Love

Indeed, this Hwan is losing the energy to update hwan.com.

I have watched a few films of late, though recalling them is not all that easy.
  1. Kick-Ass. I enjoyed the fighting and the daughter/father team, but the rest of the film was mostly unpalatable. The obvious Toronto landmarks mercifully distracted me from some of the more painful bits.
  2. Disgrace, 2009. Shakes up everything without closure; some things can't be fixed even when they obviously need to be. Uncomfortable to watch. Malkovich is excellent.
  3. Battle in Heaven. Yikes, just yikes. Another film difficult to, ahem, swallow. Leaves a lasting visual impression, even if the plot is otherwise non-existent.
  4. Broken Embraces. Well-acted enough but predictable, obvious.
  5. Departures. I thought it was rather enjoyable. Quirky. Right up my alley.
  6. 3 Extremes, 2005. Not for the faint of heart: bloody gristly crunchy goodness. Fruit Chan, Takashi Miike, Chan Wook Park. In truth I only saw two of the three stories.
  7. Avatar. Technically impressive, needs to be watched on a big screen. I saw the 3D version and was entertained from start to finish, without a minute of feeling restless, which is a feat in a 5 hour, 24 minute film.
  8. Crazy Heart. Really liked it. Is it wrong that Bad Blake reminds me of me?
  9. Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans. Wow, just excellent. A role entirely suited to Nicolas Cage's wildman personna. Unpredictable, delightful, powerful.
  10. An Education. Good performances from a deep, talented cast. Not a film that's normally up my alley but gains my approval nonetheless.
  11. Up in the Air. I really enjoyed this one, lots of nice touches, I was pleasantly surprised.
  12. The Brothers Bloom. Seemed to have the ingredients for a great film but comes up short. As such the first half is promising, the second, disappointing.
  13. Elegy, 2008. Smart and at times engaging, I eventually lost interest in the characters. Maybe I just don't like Penelope Cruz? I would definitely choose Patricia Clarkson over her, anyday.
  14. Fugitive Pieces, 2008. Holocaust films tend to be on the emotionally draining side, but this one manages to work through that, with the characters developing to a natural conclusion. I did find some of the scene transitions confusing.
I haven't much else to talk about, or that I can talk about easily here. I suppose I could rant about my joining the newly-poor, but that's incredibly boring I find. Videogame-wise, I haven't done anything new. On my third run through The Spirit Engine 2, been playing a bit more StarCraft and updated my Steam to play Team Fortress 2. Watching more of The Big Bang Theory. Worked through yet another cold, this one plaguing me for but a day. Oh, I'm currently reading Diane Ackerman's A Natural History of Love, an entertaining and informative book. Seems like I can only stomach female writers if they stick to the facts. Uhm, I've re-introduced milk into my diet? And speaking of stomachs, mine has certainly grown softer and pudgier. Yes, my stomach has, not me.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Bracebridge weekend, playing The Spirit Engine 2

How was your Easter weekend? I spent mine in the Muskoka area, enjoying a strangely quiet long weekend with good weather; nary a mosquito to be seen. Some rain but mostly mild, sometimes even hot, weather.
Falls near Bracebridge
The relative emptiness was due to the earliness of the season, as I'm told that people wait until May before making the drive up. As such the roads and towns were open to stress-free exploration; my favourite kind of roadtrip!

Along with those trip photos, I also posted the housewarming pictures, which, if you haven't been to my place yet, should give you a better idea of what my place looks like. The party itself went well enough -- lots of people showed up, but less than I'd accounted for. Certainly my fears of running out of food were unrealized. And I was disappointed that only two of my coworkers made an appearance. Anyway, thanks to y'all who showed up!

Oddly enough I thought that I'd have a lot to write about but, sitting here, faced with the actual task of typing it out, I find little enters my mind. Money? I've gotten used to its constant whine, like a background radiation I've accounted for in my calculations (although unlike the background radiation, its effect is noticeable). I did go through another blasted cold, for which I missed three days of work and thence emerged relatively well and fit, at least by my standards.

Oh! I played and finished The Spirit Engine 2, an excellent side-scrolling RPG, programmed and designed entirely by one guy! The music and sound effects were done by another fellow, and they are also quite good. I am actually in the middle of replaying the game now with a different cast of characters -- the main storyline is the same but the conversations (and some quests) are different. In any case, the combat is fun enough to bring me back; very strategic, almost puzzle-like, with that winning combination of simple rules and complex behavior. Admittedly, it was its price (free) that first drew me towards it, but it's a nice, polished product with obviously many hours put into its quality.

Else? I tuned up my bike, as much as my limited tools and skills would let me. I noticed that my tires have some astonishing cuts in them, which means I can expect a flat or two not too long from now. Yargh.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

passing the sick time

Miserable would adequately describe how I feel right now, for yet again I am trapped in the clutches of a cold, that awkward beast. I would really appreciate science figuring out a sure-fire way to lessen its symptoms for I could use some real relief right now. I have been taking Tylenol to reduce the fever but my liver (or something in that area) gave me some pains the other night so I'm avoiding it right now.

With this unforeseen time at home I started watching The Big Bang Theory, which is growing on me, a light fare perfect for occupying my cold-numbed mind, distracting me temporarily from my ails. One particularly pleasing scene is where Sheldon admonishes Penny at the supermarket: "Well, there's some value in taking a multi-vitamin but the human body can only absorb so much. What you're buying here are the ingredients for very expensive urine." Whoo, take that pseudoscience!

I've also been reading Bobwhite Comics, a webcomic about art students in Providence, Rhode Island. The drawings are pretty impeccable if you ask me, and the characters are mostly entertaining. And they get along, you know? Even though they have their hang-ups and are kind of losers they stick together and I enjoy their antics. Am I defending my feelings for this comic? Could be the meds talking!

Well, it looks like LOLCAT Crunch is slated not to do too well. Which is total bulldung. I mean, I do feel that the music choice is awful (it sounded a lot better on a laptop), but the editing is some million times better than the other entries. It just took far too long for the judges to accept our entry, which is crucial in a contest based on hits and popularity. Finally, should I be bothered that the winning video is so damned racist? I guess taking the "New Moon" angle would've been a savvier thing to do.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

First US east coast trip

Cape Cod
Got back from my Vermont, Boston, Cape Cod trip Sunday night; some 3000 km of driving! Lots of walking too, so I'm somewhat still recovering. In actual fact, I stayed at home today with a fever and stuffy nose. Nicest day in March and I slept much of it away. We did have some pretty good days weather-wise in Boston and Cape Cod, but it was snowy and/or rainy while in Vermont, my first trip to any of these places.
Ok, so the itinerary went something like:
  1. Drive from Toronto to Burlington, VT. Enjoy the Vermont countryside, stop in a couple tiny towns. Check into the wrong Holiday Inn, drive to right one.
  2. Burlington reminds me a lot of Guelph; laid back, quiet university town with lots of pro-environment sentiments, hippies. Ripped off by the parking meters. Lunched at a Skinny Pancake. Small drive down the highway through the mountains. Dinner at an Olive Garden where a friendly couple struck up a conversation.
  3. Visit Montpelier before heading down the scenic 100, past national parks of mountains and trees and snow. Get caught in a nasty rainstorm, trickle our way to Boston. Can't find the hotel, stop at a McDonald's but they're of no help, nearly an hour of driving around where we want to be but unable to get there. Yes, a GPS would have been helpful.
  4. Still lousy weather so we visit an outlet mall, so many temptations for my ever-thinning wallet. I caved in and bought myself some Penguin clothing, but I could've easily spent many times more, so dangerous were the specials.
  5. Boston
  6. Boston Common! Sun! Freedom Trail! Faneuil Hall!
  7. Went to the Boston Public Library but it was closed for Evacuation Day, so instead we saw Chinatown and Little Italy (North Boston). Avoiding the St. Patrick's Day revelers.
  8. Boston Public Library, the wharfs/docks.
  9. Quick trip to Target then drive down to Cape Cod's beaches and winding roads. Check into a B&B, dinner and a walk.
  10. Hearty breakfast, then walking along P-town's main street, taking in the locals and shops. Drive from Provincetown to Burlington.
  11. Wake up to snow! Take some shots of icy lakes before crossing the border and the long drive from Cornwall to Toronto.
Next time: Bring GPS, to save on time and anguish. Use transit to save on money. Definitely could've spent more time in Cape Cod but we didn't know how the weather would be. The hotel we got in Boston was nice enough, but I'd definitely consider going with a cheaper one or at least one that was closer to late night eats!

Friday, March 12, 2010

The Hales Group does something

A couple weeks ago a couple friends and I worked on a submission to an "Internet viral video" contest put on by Doritos (the corned chip people). After throwing around a bunch of ideas, we agreed upon the one that took as little effort as possible and still be technically better than the other submissions. We came up with LOLCAT CRUNCH, which, viewing it again now, is not really all that great or entertaining (though you'd be doing me a big favor by rating us, indeed, possibly financially). It's strange -- the night we edited it, the thing that came out of that session was so amazing and awesome and we were sure we'd do well. However, when we submitted it we were given a message stating it would take 48 hours before the video went online. Two days, three days, then the weekend passed and still our video didn't show up. We created a new account and submitted again and long story short, it took over a week before the video was accepted and went online. And it's not even that great!
On the other hand, at least we did something and tried and, for a short while, it gave us hope of a better life.
Now I'm back on earth, feet firmly planted. One could even say I have a foot already in the grave, looking at all these new and unsightly bills. Why the hell should I have to pay a deposit on my electricity bill? I'm certainly nowhere near using up $400 dollars in hydro a month! Nutty, it's really nutty.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Settling in

So how about those Olympics?? Actually no, I haven't much to say. I've been proudly telling everyone how I've been using the CTV website to watch the games at my leisure, skipping and replaying as I see fit, how ALL television should be. I cheered for the Canadians and the South Koreans, happy to see both doing really well this year. There were plenty of hiccups (luge/bobsled course) and dramas (Ohno, Lysacek vs Plushenko) so one could hardly call it a flawless hosting but has there ever been a perfect games?

I was originally going to write about all the minor nuisances and things that I'm having to endure with this condo -- leaky taps, the low humidity (causing havoc on my respiratory until I realized what was happening), the sounds from the street, the streetlamps outside my windows. That was until I encountered a MAJOR nuisance: water leaking from the unit above! Between that happening at 2AM last night and construction starting at a vigorous 7AM today, I did not sleep much or well, haunted by various disaster scenarios.

I will update soon!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

the move

Well, the move was a disaster -- I was ill-prepared for the moving day and severely underestimated the amount of work left to do. So much so that I pretty much moved on the Saturday, Sunday and a bit of the Monday. My lesson to take away? Never turn down help to move when it's offered because even if there are too many people you have yourself a gathering of friends at the very worst. I shudder at the nightmare that was the move, but am thankful for the Herculean efforts from a2chow and pops, whose patience in my dire time of need made the improbable possible. Kudos to qyv and his gf for making Sunday much more bearable.

So yes, I am now more or less comfortably in my new place. Am I happy and excited? It appears.. not. The place is great, don't get me wrong. I am however dogged by the constant weight of financial concerns. Turbulent times at work and a recent, shocking iPhone bill from Rogers have proven to be a dizzying knockout combo. A far from ideal start to this mortgage, although on the flip side I suppose this could be interpreted as evolutionary pressure for change!

Pictures, yeah, sorry, I don't have these yet. I keep forgetting, frankly. Perhaps tomorrow. Oh right, yes, as you may have guessed, I didn't have internet for a while there because I switched to dry DSL and had to wait for the Bell technician, who conveniently only gives 8-hour ranges of when he'll be in. And, if you miss his call like I did, you have to wait 4 business days to schedule another appointment. Anyway, in that time I used the "Network Tethering" functionality of my iPhone to get online while at home -- I sure hope that this doesn't translate into yet more jawdropping Rogers fees.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

preparing for the move

Is there nothing more disruptive yet appallingly belittled as the common cold? I speak of course as a current sufferer, and in fact have been suffering for nearly a week now. Seven days of coughing, sneezing and flipping between periods of chills and sweats; what a bother! But I do feel its end to be near, and thence to freedom! Freedom, yay, and more, for I shall be, as of January 29th, moving to the King East area of Toronto, known for its high end furniture stores, the St. Lawrence market and, uh, proximity to the Distillery district. I drove past my building Saturday to be met by the soul-crushing, jaw-dropping scene of a condo highrise being constructed across the street, perfectly set up to obstruct my view of the city's sunset. I do not condone senseless violence; which is why I entirely condone myself blasting that monstrosity to smithereens, weekly if need be. I haven't the technology, the skill, nor the materiel, but surely my cause is righteous.

Until that time, in between sniffs I have been packing and dismantling furniture. My place is more than usually unkempt. Not many hours until I move so this is definitely the time for upheaval.

Other news? I have been dating rather heavily. More than that I shan't elaborate, though I will say that my wallet has never been lighter.