Sunday, February 7, 2016

That Internet thing

I guess you could say that I am using the Lunar new year as a starting point; giving me a chance to sit down, think about what has happening (the good  & bad) and decide the path forward. Whatever the road I will be walking on is, I think it will involve this blog. I have said this many times here, but I believe the one truth of the matter is that I like writing (or to create more broadly). The other truth is that I need to focus and this venue might be the best place to start. To give some form to my thought.

I doubt I will create a much of an audience, practice seldom does, but if you are out there. I say thank you for your time. May you find what you are looking for here.

What is to come. I aim to put some random thoughts, board game impressions, novels read, and also some of my exploration into Big Data, which seems to be becoming a part of my future.

That's it for now. See you soon,

Tuesday, August 4, 2015


A quick one. Over the summer I have been taking a course on big data analytics. The curriculum is 1/3 business process, 1/3 stats, and 1/3 computer tech. Despite this breakdown, there is a lot of writing involved. When we handed in the last assignment, I got a lot of compliments on my writing. I know it is just an assignment, but it was an ego boost to get the praise as well as the high mark.
Might be hope for this writing racket yet.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Giving up television

I feel there are wishes that follow one through life. Not regrets but things you wish you could change; learn an instrument, complain less, speak Japanese etc. They are colours or flavors you wish to include in a recipe but the food is fine without it. That sort of thing.

The one i am thinking about is reducing the television I watch, freeing up time for other things. The reason I am thinking about it is that I just realized that I had been walking around assuming that I had greatly improved and it might not be true.

My adult me had shaken the couch potato ways of my youth. It is true that I have not been watching traditional television. This has not frees up anytime as i have replaced it with Youtube.

Unconventional television is still television and I fond myself at the halfway mark of the year with a lot of resolutions to work on and a lot of time lost. I have discovered it is been whisked away by youtuber playthroughs and reviews.

To misquote the glass menagerie. I have been watching movies instead of moving.

I need to figure something out. The problem is that I like You Tube. Although as my mom would say, this is a problem I like having.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

The Price of Admission

I was fortunate enough to enjoy with my brother gaming day this weekend. As others attendees had to cancel at the last minute, it was just the two of us. That worked out as it gave us a chance to try some two player games.

The main event was Warhammer 40K conquest. A Living Card Game (LCG) where each is in command of a huge space army fighting for control of planets in a dark gothic fantasy universe. Theme aside, it is a game simliar to Magic:the Gathering where you build your decks to play. Warhammer is different in that you are restricted to a faction when you play (e.g Space Marines, Orcs, Eldar etc.) so each faction forces you to play a certain way. The game itself involves playing out cards to create your army, give them equipment, locations, or cause event to happen during battle to tip thing in your favor. In short, it is complicated.

We played 7 games, which is rare to play a LCG that many times in a row. What was also good is that neither of us had played it much before so it was a series of learning games. By the end of it I think we both were getting the hang out it, but I was squeaking out more wins. My brother liked it, but he felt that my general card game skill was making the game hard for him (although he did concede that last games were close and could have gone either way)

This led me to wonder how any of these type of games survive. As I have menitioned before I enjoy board games (or rather have embraced it), particulary thinky ones, not neccesarily complex but ones that give you pause for thought before playing. The LCG is a very complex puzzle of building and management, They also have bluffing and luck. You would think you could sell this sort of game to anyone. The problem is the price of admission.

The LCG is a hard sell. It is complicated and very skilled heavy. There is a lot of reading and the game is not clear with a lot of repeated play. Like Chess, you have to be willing to lost a lot before you get good. I would argue that one of the reasons Chess has survived is that you pay once and the whole game is yours (like most board games), whereas LCG keep changing every month as new cards are pumped out. Finally new players are hard to convince to play as they know they are going to get schooled by more experienced players. It is always tough to be a student.

I mention this as I am currently trying to decided which one of the several LCG's I am half-collecting to focus on and although this weekend helped me understand warhammer 40K better, I wonder if my decision will ultimately be decided by what I can get people (or find people) to play with.

Odd how fun can be so complicated.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Missing Reading

There are some pieces of your life that are old tree stumps; never really gone despite your neglect, contorting the land, their prescense known depsite overgrown weeds, able to fight off any attempt to pry them free. This blog is one such stump. Even when I am not writing it, which is often, it lurks in my mind. It is that extra pound you are always trying to lose or that great novel that sits unwritten in your mind; One of those things I should be doing.

It is in the same category as reading. Which has also been a struggle for me recently. I'm not sure if it is a lack of organization, shifting priorities, sleep, or competing interests that have significantly reduced my reading. If I wanted to guess it is when I moved from commuting by train to commuting by car to get my various family members where they needed to be. I didn't realize how many books that forty minute commute can get in. Radio is a poor substitute in some ways.

This blog post could be a case of sour grapes, but there is hope. I have been able to keep up with my book club readings. Which has kept my books read in a year above zero. My children are getting older and less disruptive of our sleep, giving the mind more energy. I even seem to be finding time to read the paper more.

In the past month I have read two novels and part one of a lenghty history of Japan's Showa era. I am also working through a book on the nature of the brain (how it organizes things). Once I have had a chance to give it some thought I will compose a post for here.

End of "I am still alive" post; more to come.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

95 Tory

If I have been preoccupied this year, and at this point in my life there is a lot to keep me occupied, the Toronto municipal election was the most emotionally stressful. It's probably the closest I have come to being a sports fan; obsessed with watching, but not actually particpating. Due to current life priorities, I don't have the time to volunteer like I did in 2003 (or 2006) , and I'm not a believer in social media campaigning. This leaves me a passive observer reading the paper/Internet and worrying.

I am not a Ford supporter. It's partially because of his politics, as I am more skeptical of the private sector then he is, but mainly because of the man himself. I often said that I disagree with Harper but I believe that he is a thoughtful man; he has a mind bent to task of running the government and truly is serving Canada first. I do not believe that is the case with Ford. Manners matter, and there is something to be said for kindness, principle and understanding the need for compromise. Ford is a reckless bully, ill suited to government where power is shared (versus the private sector where boss rule is supreme) and he didn't really understand all the neighbourhoods he was mayor for.

And so I have watched the year long campaign with the main hope that Ford would lose. Unlike most people I was happy with either Chow or Tory and believe our city would both be well by both. I leaned to Tory more for political than policy reasons. One, he is new to council, and gives the councillors a chance to show how they can cooperate and give a sense that Ford was the problem. I feel Chow would have difficulty making the council "turn the page". Two, I feel he is in a better position to neogitate with the city union and service providers, I fear Chow would have the similary problems that Miller had in 2009. These reasons are mostly rationalizing, the main reason I preferred Tory is that he is a compromise candidate. Also, he is not Ford.

I found the campaign interesting, except that the Fords kind of poisoned the debate. The election was about getting rid of Rob Ford. I feel that Chow ( whose platform I liked for the most part) did herself in. She was the aggressive anti-Ford, attacking Ford while letting Tory be the sunny "we just need to work together" candidate. I think she got tangled up in the "circus" and citizens were looking for a break. I remember reading that her campaign team actively worked on other potential progressive candidates to keep them out of the race. I wonder now if that was a mistake. The campaign was 1 Progressive and a bunch of Conservatives of different temperant. If there had been more progressive voices, there would have been more debate on issues of the left, moving beyond transit, development, and fiscal management (they are important but they are one part of the city's life). There is a sense a lot was missed in this campaign.

The final nail in the coffin was Doug Ford coming in the last month, able to spend all his campaign finances in one month whereas everyone else had been spending it over the course of a year. Doug also brought in a relentess attack on Tory. The last month of a campaign is always the worse as the desparate runners go negative hard and fast to try and create doubt about the frontrunner. It is just awful to watch.

Still, at the end of the day we have a candidate who knows the city, has been active in it most of his life, really wants council to work and get things done. It is like the first term of Mel Lastman, before the nonsense begins. I guess in a democracy that is all you can hope for.

At the end of the day, Ford is not Mayor. He is still on council, but I feel his short era is over. The populism that he used to get to power (which he wasted) will likely be taken up by a more able "Every man" rich man in 2018. But for now, we can focus on issues. The city's arguments will not be about morals and bullying but instead about highways, subways, jobs, parks, budgets, and details.

If there is one wish I have after this frustrating four years, is that people take Bill Davis' words of wisdom to heart; "Bland works". We can disagree on what should be done, but we should all agree that details matter. Knowing stuff, be it fiscal math or door to door understanding of the city, is a key strength in our city doing the right thing and moving forward. Let the Scandal and Intrigue be left to the arts, in our novels and movies. Let our government be beautifully dull. Let Policy win the day.

On a personal note, the election has inspired me to get involved, somehow, in making this city better. Now, I just need to figure out how and when. It will be more challenging than yelling at the newpaper or television on how the world is wrong, but I believe it will be more fulfilling in the end. Wish me luck.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

95 horrible weather

I am not sure if it is the fact I am getting older, spending more time outside because I have little kids, or am now paying attention, but there seems to be a lot of horrible weather lately.
The ice storm this past winter and the cold cold snap that caused it has really made me weary of bad weather (still not into using the term polar vortex. At least not until I understand the science behind it). Having a house doesn't help matters as I now seem closer to the world than I did living in a condo tower. Now extended rainfalls are concerning as I listen for my sump pump.
Apparently we are getting three days of rain which is going to be a challenge with child #2 if we can't have walks outside.
Fun times. At least it is not snowing...yet.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

96 Quick game update

Visiting family this weekend in Owen Sound and actually got to play some card games(!) instead of the usual sitting in front of the couch watching one person play a video game. I should say that I am not against video games, as I am currently working through the latest Tomb Raider on the PS3 (which I highly recommend, similar in gameplay to Batman:Arkam asylum, but more interesting characters, story, and atomsphere), I just really enjoy playing board games when with a group of people.

The first game of the night was San Juan. My brother really likes this game, partly due to the fact that he is undefeated in it. This was the first exposure to the game for my brother-in-law and he quite enjoyed it as well. Both menitioned that they liked how quickly the game rules can be picked up and that you spend most of your time playing the game. My brother took first, my brother-in-law took second. I made a gamble on the chapel early game, but it slowed my card drawing and slowing my development of a card drawing engine. The game's pace was good and didn't drag. A good solid game.

After that we brought out Mundus Novus, a game of spice trading. It is a card game of trading to get sets or sequences to acquire doubloons or special cards to make it easier to get sets or sequences. I always like this game, but it is hard to teach. Unlike San Juan, it tries to be universal with the use of symbols rather than words. This move has made the game less intuitive. Still, it is a clever game with interesting decisions and interactions between players.

Finally, we wrapped up with a game of Love letter. I have spoken of it before and I don't really want to repeat myself, but this is a good game. This is a treasure, a game that you can play with anyone. It is fun and fast with a little bit of card counting to imply strategy.

It was a fun night. Board games and friends. Good times!

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Shedding (entry 97)

I must confess that I had forgotten how sleepy, perhaps lethargic is a better word, paternal leave can be. The days do tend to blend together and one's passions and ambitions are forgotten in the volume of time that paternal leave accords. It might be more the fact that children are beings of now, particularly when they are under a year old, and despite one's best efforts you find yourself shrinking your horizon to a couple hours, a day, maybe two, as find yourself more in their world then your own.

Despite these feelings of being too passive (as I often feel when I come to this blog) I have been active to an evolutionary way, allowing small things to accumulate. The value of these changes are a matter of debate, but I will start with the easy one. I have lost weight through a combination of mostly eating at home and the long morning walks I take my son on for his nap. I didn't realize it was happening until my jeans stopped fitting. I have decided to add some upper strength (push up and chin ups) and some yogas to my week to see if I can improve further. This extra energy has been consumed by my children, but there is something satisfying to being able to carry both of them up the stairs without being winded.

I still seem to be obsessed with the Internet, particularly You Tube. A mix of board and video game reviews and playthroughs, courses on history, biology, news and event analysis, long interviews-- these fill the background of my days. I notice that I struggle with silence now, uncomfortable with being alone with my mind. I think I have eluded to the loneliness of paternal leave for men (I am not sure if it is unique to me, but I have read several newspapers essays that share my experience) and this mental tic is likely a cause of it. I believe warmer weather will help with this (if only to make the weather nicer to walk in).

I have started reading again, mostly web articles, which is an effort to rebuild my concentration, which my Internet obsession and various other activities has so greatly destroyed. I have been researching some interesting developments in improving your memory through flash cards, updated into digital forms. They appear to be thoroughly tested methods, so I am giving them a try, once I decided on what I want to memorize...French maybe?

My weekends seem very full, with most of my relaxing happening in the few hours between the kid's bedtime and mine during the week. Doing a little bit of things that will hopefully develop into something.

I think I will leave it there, my rambling shedding of winter blah, ending only with the happy thought that out my sunroom's window new shoots of grass are popping out. Spring is here with all its sunny promises.



Monday, March 10, 2014

The Long Reboot

As is our habit, my wife and I endeavored to watch all the nominees for best picture. This year was a bit of a challenge due to us having a six month old and the recent trend of Oscar nominated films not being on DVD or digital rental until after the Oscars air. Still we were able to see five of them.
The whole process made me think about reboots. The Oscars did not all impress me, but they did seem to avoid formula. They were a contrast to the superhero/sci fi movies that seemed to work within a box of convention that rarely surprise me now.
I say this with a degree of sadness. Sci fi use to ask all the question, challenge me as a reader. Now they ask the same old questions and have been stripped of their harsher political edges. The mental equivalent of comfort food.
I guess I am getting older and the superhero movies are not growing up with me. I am not sure if this is a bad thing or not.

Now just have to figure out when I can see twelve years a slave.