Saturday, December 14, 2013

ho ho hum

What better way to welcome the winter snow than with a viewing of Fargo, that study in tense moments. My first full viewing, as a matter of fact; I'd somehow caught the ending a couple times, which I found depressing. How extreme a situation, a series of situations, that would cause someone to think that they were doing right by hiring thugs! I don't mean to judge, only to contemplate. I enjoyed the characters, their speech, their peculiarities.

December, and winter, and the end of 2013. A time for reflection, and in so doing, I feel less than pleased with my efforts. Health-wise, I haven't put much time into the gym or into karate, which shows. But I am off my colitis medication and am fairing well enough. I put time into The Dave and Hwan Show. I worked on a board game. I suppose I went to a couple marches and rallies. And I did do a fair bit of donating to things this year.

MJ and I have been going to couples therapy, which I feel is making some difference. And I had a few sessions of cognitive behavioral therapy, enough to give me a taste of what it's like to train one's own responses to situations. To shape my own personality, through exercise.

I am the first to admit that I've spent a whole lot of time playing video games. At least of late, since I picked up a PS3. Over the past week however I've been playing Hearthstone, Blizzard's take on Magic: The Gathering. It's been a long while since I've had any interest in collectible card games, but the price (free) of the beta was too enticing to not try and now I am quite addicted to it. The fact that you slowly build a collection of cards with play helps -- I doubt I'd feel the same draw if I already had access to the full library. Another positive spin is that one's rate of card accumulation drops off sharply after playing more than thirty minutes or so a day. Still, I often find my mind lingering there.

Perhaps my current funk is due to MJ being away, and who will be away for the next 16 days. Or maybe it's because I spent the entire day inside, unwilling to face the snowstorm and its upsetting -12 windchill. Or that I feel old and fat and something something lethargy.

Monday, November 25, 2013

it's cold, i'm down, played some browser games

It's been a month and how have I been? Not miserable, but not boomingly good either. Winter has cast its shocking gaze, and I find myself little prepared for it. Drained, I find myself.

I just got back from visiting my parents, who are well enough. My father had a mild heart attack a couple months ago, and seems to be relatively good now, though he still suffers from high blood pressure. We're all getting old, very old. I feel new aches and pains all the time and find the value in stretching throughout the day.

I went to the AGO with the aim of seeing the David Bowie exhibit but the thing had sold out, such is its popularity. I took in a couple of other things, eager to avoid the crowds. A quiet gallery is a blessed thing. Some coffee, some sweets, some escape.

Saturday MJ and I picked up groceries from the St. Lawrence Market, some of which made its way into a simple meal. We started in on the third season of The Walking Dead -- such violence, such gore! They really took the gloves off for the opener. I do like the show, no doubt, and its attention to detail is admirable. It's just a bit draining to visit that bleak, desperate world.

We also watched Indie Game: The Movie, which came highly recommended to us by a friend. I recall seeing its KickStarter and not thinking much of it or the games it touted to document but it was actually a well done, thoughtful film that I quite enjoyed. I don't know that it actually inspires me to build games -- at least, not any more so than I am already enthused about doing. To take that leap into squeezing out all the creative and programming ability out of me... ah, such a thing to contemplate! Perhaps, perhaps....

Speaking of games, I spent a fair amount of time playing these "stuff-happens-while-you-wait" browser games. Half the fun is figuring out what you're supposed to do, and then how best to do it. The CandyBox ones are fun experimental-type games, but A Dark Room is the crème de la crème, a memorable gaming experience.

CandyBox -- The original “while-you-wait” game.  Hint: The max lollipops you can get from farming 100/s.
http://candies.aniwey.net/

CandyBox 2 – Prettier ASCII! A map! Action-packed battles!
http://candybox2.net/

A Dark Room -- Definitely my favorite, worth playing even if the genre doesn't appeal.
http://adarkroom.doublespeakgames.com/

I suggest playing a couple (all?) concurrently.

Monday, October 21, 2013

lazy Sunday

Today I put a couple hours into Ziggurat, the board game my friend and I came up with earlier this year. But mostly I played GTA V and slept, not getting much in the name of chores done. Indeed this entire weekend has revolved around playing video games and procrastinating. I did get to hang out with a couple friends, so that's something.

Went to Malabar Saturday, a madhouse of people hunting for costumes. Not for me though, nay, I think I've had quite enough of putting effort into Hallowe'en. I suppose that's a decision made for me by the company I keep, which in turn is shaped by my age.

So yeah, GTA V. I bought a used PS3 off of Dave, and played (and finished) The Last Of Us, a survival-horror game. I quite enjoyed it, impressed by the story, graphics, voice acting, atmosphere, maps: One of the best games I've had the pleasure of playing, and certainly it set my console gaming bar quite high. Without a doubt GTA V is up there, with a dauntingly large world to muck about in; mindbogglingly detailed, with a wide assortment of vehicles, characters and activities to give a fairly immersive experience. I just recently unlocked the third character, a psychopathic individual with whom playing I find slightly upsetting, even for a game mostly about killing and stealing and getting away with it.

Fall has finally cast her gaze upon us, with rain in the forecast for the coming week. Myself I find I nurse a sneeze and runny nose, irritating me regularly throughout the day. Lack of sleep? Allergies? Being alive is wonderful and all but these little things do take away from the experience!


Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Friendsgiving, Columbus was a jerk

Like most holiday weekends, this one crept up on me, unaware was I of its approach. So it was with few plans did I spend the days, though they filled themselves easily enough. MJ and an out-of-town friend stayed at my place. I met up with them Friday night for a meal at Sukho Thai, that esteemed house of noodles and curry. I let our guest pick the dishes, and though they were not my favourites I enjoyed them greatly. Picking away at the last of the plates, MJ and I got into a heated discussion on "bio-medicine" (a term I found problematic), and its ability, or lack thereof, to meet the needs of a rapidly evolving market.

After grabbing some stuff from MJ's temporary apartment out in Mimico, we met up with some of her friends for a couple drinks before heading to Unlovable, where my sister was spinning some tunes. We talked of travel, global warming, the Congress shutdown, recreational drug use.

Saturday morning found us shaking sleep from our heads as we cycled to the Brick Works farmers' market. We managed to pick up a couple items and sampling some brunch fare before rushing back to the Distillery District. We caught a sleight-of-hand street artist act; I'd seen him before, by the harbourfront, but his performance, especially the finale, remained delightful to observe. We also tried to get some clothes-shopping in, but it proved fruitless.

Dinner was at Café Polonez, an excellent Polish restaurant that I can recommend without reservation. I managed to find it within myself to get cabbage rolls, instead of a schnitzel or some other large meat dish, and they served well to sate my appetite. Dessert was a cup of frozen yogourt from Gurts, another fine establishment -- Roncesvalles seems to have matured in a very good way since I left, it seems.

We gathered the energy to catch a late showing of Gravity, and each of us was awed by its depiction of a disaster in space, of the fragility of life high above earth, of the helplessness, the fumbling, tumbling helplessness of someone in zero g. Highly wholly recommended.

Sunday saw us getting ready for a Thanksgiving dinner with some of MJ's friends. I also got some reading done: am about halfway through The Happiness Hypothesis by Jonathan Haidt. It's a good book, though I keep getting the feeling that I've read much of it before in various forms. I do hope to get some true wisdom out of it. The dinner went well enough. Certainly the food was tasty, and there was lots to be had -- many gorged to gluttonous levels, myself included. Indeed, this weekend has been a mighty caloric victory, amid other wins.

And today, well today was far easier, far quieter. Our friend left town, and MJ and I made a simple enough dinner -- steamed corn, a carrots and parsnips dish, and some chips and salsa. I checked in on my parents' house, who are currently enjoying a tour of China. It's a small chore, made easier by listening to a podcast on the drive.

So that was my weekend. See you again soon, dear reader!

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Pause if it whim

Pacific Rim sucked. It blew hard chunks of stinky fetid space cheese. I admit that it was loud and brash and visually a spectacle to behold.. but the characters were boring, the plot didn't make sense and the fights were just plain silly.

The good: I enjoyed the rendering of the futuristic shiny robots; they felt like giant machines, with incredible heft and weight behind every stomp. The aliens, the "Kaiju", were pretty cool too, harking to Godzilla-esque monsters. I liked the banter between the two scientists, who, along with the black market dealer, were the only creatures that displayed any life in the film.

The bad: I didn't care for the main character. I didn't feel the love story, or much of his sense of loss over his brother. It's fairly safe to say that the characters were about as one-dimensional as a Saturday morning cartoon, which perhaps is what they were going after but that doesn't excuse them -- they geared the movie towards the adults, they better be able to handle adults thinking about it. I didn't mind the "neuro handshake" the two pilots had to make to drive the Jaegers (though the film's explanation of the science was laughable), but wish they had used that to drive the character development. A lost opportunity, really.

The ugly: Now the plot... oh God the plot! Ugh, why do they bother saying that the Kaiju killed the dinosaurs? Why do the Jaegers fight with kicks and punches when they have swords? Or not even swords: Missiles and beams and HELLO nuclear weapons?? Why would the aliens send their forces piecemeal, in weakest-to-strongest order? How in the world would the Kaiju fly? Are there really only 8 helicopters carrying that Jaeger? Why would the earth's governing forces decide building a wall would in any way be good enough to stop the Kaiju? Why would a genetically engineered monster, brewed up in some kind of monster lab, become pregnant? Why would the pilot have to shout instructions to each other when they're linked mentally to each other? ARGH so many things that distract from the lovely mecha!

I was particularly annoyed with the EMP pulse not knocking out the "analog" Gipsy Danger. Urk. And of course, if the aliens could build such a creature, why not do it earlier?!

Sigh. Well, here's a little graph I made to give an idea of my ratings of some of the films I've seen recently: Red are action/adventure, green is comedy, blue is drama/documentary.


(I also recently saw Elysium -- it would sit just to the right of Oblivion.)

So yeah: Pacific Rim was silly enough to keep taking me out of the film, which otherwise featured a good opening, a long and boring middle, and just so many baffling questions by the end.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

i'm a title and that's ok

And here is the long awaited Next Entry™. Not the entry I was hoping to write, mind you, but the entry you deserve. I've been meaning to write up on Bayes' Theorem (again), Pacific Rim (an awful hot mess), and maybe something about power plants. But, as is often the case with these things, I just haven't put enough time together, in a strong enough sprint, to get something post-able done. So instead you get this, me summarizing the goings-on of the last couple of months.

I had my biennial colonoscopy, and I'm sure you're thrilled to hear that my specialist said everything's looking great in there! So great in fact that he's suggested, and I've agreed, that I cease tak
ing my Azathioprine (Imuran) medication, an immunosuppressant that I've been taking for... what, eight straight years? I'll be keeping a close eye on my progress, to be sure. Could I handle a relapse, to return to that spinning abyss? I'd like to think no.

I saw Man of Steel. I enjoyed the rendering of Krypton, and the care taken in the action sequences. But it's still the same story, with some implausible strategies taken by both sides: things that detracted from my experience. A not regrettable, probably forgettable film.

I also saw This Is The End and got quite a few laughs out of it. I saw it at Yorkdale, of all places, and that place is run, and is filled with, the most idle, indifferent, negligent teenagers known to man. Back there I will not go. I probably won't see this one again either; it's in the same league as Pineapple Express.

Jenning and I got around to building and painting the Ziggurat game pieces. We submitted this instructional video into the Cards Against Humanity game design contest. Unfortunately we never heard back from them -- but that's o.k., we still have creative momentum and I'm going to try have a more modest version of the game ready soon.


I went to Las Vegas with David for The Amazing Meeting! 2013. Having gone before, I was prepared, mentally, for the full days of convention-ing. I also gave myself extra time for some extracurricular activities, including visiting the Neon Museum (photos) and trying my hand at a gun range. I played a little bit of poker but did very poorly, losing $100 at the cash tables and dropping out pretty early in the celebrity game. Still, overall I enjoyed myself, despite my general distaste for the city, its glitz contrasted with the knowledge, and constant reminders, of the workers who toil to make this oasis into something worth visiting.

Mary Jean is moving in. I guess that's news too.

Friday, June 07, 2013

eagle vs shark

Finally getting around to seeing Eagle vs. Shark.

Not sure what to do with Facebook any more; it's like my every post is judged and scrutinized, no note unwatched. So much work to present and organize my thoughts in a clear and concise light. Often I find myself nearly ready to post a link with a comment before I take it down, unready or unwilling to exhibit, censoring myself in fear of echoing what's already out there. I've tried to extend myself of late, to be more open with my thoughts, but I seem to retreating, back to my hermit ways.

Stop-motion has an endearing quality, does it not? Whimsical to think of time as staccato moments, our minds filling in the frames between.

Germaine is a good choice for a nerd, but this actress is just too attractive to be believed as his mousey admirer. Or it just me, who finds beauty in any woman on the screen? No, the others do not compare, simply do not compare.

"She's a lesbian, she went to a lesbian party."

Ha, "Fight Man" is hilarious! Wilhelm scream, a Ryu lookalike, over-the-top characters -- one of the best in-film videogames I've ever seen. That I could ever gain the affection of someone who was better than me at a game, hah.

"Here's a bit of her leg, that's all that's left."

A sweet film with a few laughs, but it doesn't make sense that she would fall for Germaine's character, who's been nothing but a sullen jerk pretty much the whole film without a whiff of a redeeming quality.

Well, that's enough for tonight.

Thursday, May 09, 2013

i have no idea

Why do I deny myself sleep? It's a funny thing, that I should act so. When that time in the night approaches, my procrastination increases. A routine, what I need is a routine! Not tonight, perhaps, but some time soon I'll find one. Seems like I am always sleeping too little or too much; never am I feeling rested and ready in the morning. True, my addiction to caffeine plays some part but there are good and bad days, regardless of my access to coffee.

Movies! I've seen a few:
I got around to seeing Drive and immediately loved it. Quiet hero gets involved with a young mother, is forced into a difficult situation, chooses to do what it takes to save her. Composure and blood is lost. Great soundtrack.

Oblivion, while visually beautiful, was full of dumb ideas. The premise and reveal didn't make sense, horrific and profound as they may have been. It was just too too much. The film would be much improved if they cut out the voice-over, though even then there's the problem of the core plot. And the ending was awful, just awfully done. Am I being too harsh? No.

Iron Man 3 was delightful, though marred by silliness. True, it's a comic book story but even so some level of  internal logic is expected. The physics of the baddies was nonsensical. The ending battle was one forehead slap after another. I liked that they play a little into the morality of terrorism and arms manufacturing, but it is mostly washed away by the middle of the film. Still, the action sequences were excellent, and I enjoyed myself, I'll give them that.

And speaking of movies, and though this news is late now, Roger Ebert died! I shall miss his wit, writing, and ratings so. Indeed, he was the film critic whose opinion I could always trust, knowing where he was coming from, so familiar am I with his views, long have I heeded his words. Lost now, only RottenTomatoes can provide a useful guide, and even then so fickle and unreliable. Ebert, goodnight sweet prince, you shall be missed.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

better late than never

I'm beginning to believe that I may, in my old age, actually welcome death, to make room for the next generation; too stuck in my ways, my mind replaying golden memories, unable to accept the changes brought before me. I mean, that's a while from now I hope but I can sense its faint approach. Even now, as in years of late, I am haunted by the ills and trespasses of my younger self; it is an ever-growing mountain, diminished only through the dimness of forgetting. I shall fall to the wind of a thousand inward sighs.

But ha, no, I am not nearly so melancholy for most of my day. I'll play a little catch-up, while I wait for my phone to charge. Several nights back MJ and I enjoyed Word Wars, a documentary about Scrabble players. The documentary wasn't particularly compelling, but the characters are fascinating enough, in their fringe-of-society way, to have kept our interest up. We saw a much crappier documentary a couple weeks before, My Brilliant Brain: Make Me A Genius, which discussed the raising of chess prodigy Susan Polgar. The "method" was a real letdown -- it boiled down to "encourage your child in whatever pursuit they show interest in, and take it to their limit".

I got myself a quadcopter, which is disappointingly difficult to control, and the connection between the battery and the motors is slightly wonky, so that about half the time I have to jiggle the wires in order for all the motors to spin. But it is fun when it gets going, and it certainly serves its purpose of scaring the willies out of my cats.

The weather was cold and frightful for a while there -- global warming does indeed increase the severity, or extremity, of the weather, what with its heating of air, causing winds to flow all the more, and with them the arctic cold. They say it's spring, but it has been shy, very shy, of late. Only now does the smile of the sun really begin to grace us.

I joined a book club! Well, that is to say, I went to one meeting with a quarter of a book read (The Blind Watchmaker, by Richard Dawkins), then I almost showed up at a second meeting before realizing that I had been reading the wrong book. By happy coincidence however the one I did read was excellent: The Righteous Mind, by Jonathan Haidt. I believe it is my latest great read (the previous being Travis' Mistakes Were Made (But Not By Me)) -- chock full of interesting ideas, results, theories. Laid out for easy digestion,  with lots of summaries and driving of points home; the meat is quite rich and I found myself agreeing with each insight, now made clear and provocative. If you've a curiosity as to why there is such a strong divide between the political left and right, look no further than The Righteous Mind. New York Times review: "Workers who vote Republican aren’t fools. In Haidt’s words, they’re “voting for their moral interests.”"

Having said that, I am still uncertain of the validity of group selection, which Haidt uses in the latter half of his book. It seems to be denounced by some prominent minds, including Dawkins and Steven Pinker, two of my modern heroes! I shall have to look into this.


Wednesday, March 06, 2013

No Apologies

Oh hello. No, I didn't forget about you. At least, there were periods when I had you in mind; it's just that, whenever I found myself sitting at the computer, I was distracted by other things...

Work: It is what it is. Coming on eight years, and I float along, letting the waves pull me in and push me out. The company has recently released a product for the Windows 8 platform, that poor, deformed monster. We'll see how it works out, as it's but a couple weeks old.

M.J.: Things are going well, really well. Went swing dancing a couple times. More than that, we'll see.

Board Games: I went to Board Game Jam this past weekend, that was fun. Jenning and I came up with a relatively simple yet engaging tile-placing game. Laughably simple, it's a wonder it hasn't been invented yet. We're hoping to do something with it in the coming months. Oh, we playtested Automa Arena a bit too, but it's clear that there are lots of balancing issues already -- we were able to generate a scenario where two players were stuck at an impasse, unable to seriously damage the other! A definite measure against shields is called for. Most of the excitement of having built a version of the thing has died down.

Video Games: I very recently got my pass for DOTA2, so that's been occupying the rare video game time I have at home for the past couple days. Of course, I am decidedly average at it but am working my way up against the bots -- I'm able to beat Hard about 50% of the time. I suspect that I need to switch my tactics mid-game more often, to better adapt against the enemy heroes.

Before that, I tried my hand again at Torchlight. And before that, I gave Chivalry Medieval Warfare a go -- lots of visceral fun, though I am incredibly bad at it. I tend to lose my head, to put it plainly. I also finished the XCOM Enemy Unknown reboot, which I enjoyed enough to consider replaying it. It has much of the same spirit of the amazing original, but the enemy A.I. was disappointing.

Still playing Hero Academy, that grueling daily chess session. It is quite simply one of the best mobile games I've ever played.

Health: I've joined a gym, and have been a few times. It's nice to work out during office hours -- a few push-ups, a few punches, a few sit-ups. For a month or so I gave the No Excuse Workout a go, but I just... well, I don't have a good excuse.

Movies: Lots of films.. Life of Pi (good), Zero Dark Thirty (good, not great), Django Unchained (good, but I hated the ending), Frida (ok, fascinated story), Looper (very good), Movie 43 (hilarious, if you keep your standards low).

O.K., hope that's enough for now. I'll write again soon, I promise -- you are much on my mind, I assure you.

Thursday, January 03, 2013

An unexpected viewing

While apparently it's not everyone cup of tea, I have to say that The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey absolutely blew me away. There was not one moment during those 169 minutes that I was not delighted, awed, or dazzled. Indeed, the richness of detail flowed in waves over me, each frame etched ever so sharply. It was an experience I do not recall having had elsewhere; shades of it, perhaps, when I saw my first IMAX film, or my first HD viewing. But this was a muchness of a muchness. To pass this up is folly, to deny is to be left behind in the murk of 24fps. The future is here, now, for the seeing!

Oh, and the film itself was great! Dwarves and orcs and giants and trolls and racing rabbits and all manner of creatures from Middle Earth, great and mostly not so great. Plenty of action to take in, and at 48 frames per second, you can take it in to its fullest; gone are the days of blurry fights. See the exact thrust of the sword, the precise swing of an axe, the glory of a brandished blade! I have to admit that as a child I didn't care for the Dwarves -- they seemed a bumbly, gruff lot with a foolish stubbornness. But here I see them alive, in the surest flesh, and I know that they are a kinder, more deserving folk than I judged them for, years ago.

I had meant to write up a review of some of the video games I've been playing over the past month (happy belated holidays, eh?), but man I just got back from the movie and I'm still reeking from the joy. I am well, recovering from the flu. There was a short time where hwan.com was in limbo, severed and squatted upon. But that should all be cleared up now. 2013! I have some yet to say on 2012, I guarantee you that.