Snow terror…

I thought I knew what it meant to drive on snow, but I guess I was wrong, for I have experience true terror on my way back from work.

There was a big snow storm a couple years back and I drove around without any issues, but the thing was that no one was on the roads and it started snowing early in the morning. All the snow was crisp white snow and that has good traction if you have snow tires.

Thing were different today, it started snowing around 10 O’clock and the city had not had the insight to salt the road preemptively… That meant that there was a lot of people on the roads making the snow this annoying slushy dirty snow that has no traction what so ever. It was rather unnerving when my car decided to plow straight forward when I had the wheel spun all the way left! At least it is fairly easy to tell when you lose traction, the steering wheel stops to resist your input.

The traffic was predictably terrible, as a couple cars got stuck trying to go up hills. Hopefully, the plow will have done their job and have the roads cleared.

 

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A very interesting weekend…

There has been this pattern in the weather recently. It gets really cold in the first half of the week, everything freezes, then it gets really warn, almost spring like even, and everything thaws. While that means you get a nice couple day to do something outside during the weekend, it also means a lot of potholes!

Water leak into the porous road surfaces, freezes and expands, creates nasty cracks, and Baam! The roads opens like the gaping maws of a Lovecraftian horror. I swear that there are a couple ones of west bound pacific street that are at least a foot and half long, maybe 7 to 8 inches wide and  4 inches deep. Unless you are driving a Humvee, I would recommend keeping a sharp eye, especially on the curb side.

*****

There was a gun show this past weekend and I actually decided to drop by Sunday morning and see what that was about. It was a fairly low key type of deal. There was maybe just over dozen sellers and maybe maybe 50 people looking around.

War… War never changes…

With the exception of one seller who kept everything locked in a display case, everyone else let you handle the guns, which gave the chance of handling the big scary rifle that keep anti-gun people awake at night, The AR 15!

While I have never handled a real gun before, the AR definitely felt intuitive to handle. It was actual not that heavy (some of the shotguns were definitely heavier) and simple enough to operate. At a show special $500 – $600 price tag, I have to say they were very compelling products, though I had no intention of buying.

I got to handle a bunch of handgun as well, and most hand guns are denser than they appear. One of the first handgun I pick up was a Glock of some description and was quite surprised as I pick it up, those have quite a bit of heft to. There was some neat pocket pistols, though some of them were price higher than some of the AR and AK rifles…

At the end of morning, the only thing that I bought was some beef jerky and a couple raffle tickets. I was tempted by some cool metallic ammunition boxes at just $20 each but I did not have any really use for them.

OOOOooohhh, bazookas!

*****

After a nice morning at the gun show and quick lunch downtown, I took a stroll down to the convention center and took a look at what the auto show had in store. Unsurprisingly, it was mostly cars, and for some reason, there was also a stand for a martial art school.

I got seat in bunch of interesting and expensive cars, which is way less exciting than handling guns by the way. The most exciting thing that happened was that I nearly locked myself into the back of a Chevy because the child safety was on and the handles did not work. Thankfully, the window on the passenger side was open so I could reach and open the door from the outside.

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This is what happens to your car when drunk driving…

A number of the of higher end sedans started to include either a tray or a slot for smartphones in the center console, which is a really neat feature. Most slots design were too tight for my phone, though it would fit most if I removed my phone case.

Out of curiosity, I went to the Toyota booth and asked about their hydrogen car initiative. Basically, unless you live either in California or in the north east of the United States, you be seeing Hydrogen cars anytime soon. When asked if we would see them by the end of next decade, they said “maybe”. If you are an enthusiast for cutting edge technology, get a plugin electric car.

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Obviously, the best car of the show!

There were fewer pickup trucks and SUV this year compared to the last time I went but other that the Chevy Bolt, there were no all electric cars, and few hybrids (mostly Prius unsurprisingly). I suppose that it was representative of the current market in the Midwest.

It was fun going around a taking a seat in corvettes and Mustangs, but at the end of the day, I did not see anything that really tickled my fancy. I am definitely no going out to sell my car to upgrade any time soon.

Off to a cold start…

Man has it been cold outside recently. I wanted to go for quick walk to Walgreens the other day, but about after 5 minutes outside, I decided to turn around before my fingers froze solid. In the twenty or so minutes it took me to run my errant, the humidity inside my car had condensed and froze on the inside of the windows!

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It was -25°F with the windchill… 

I like winter and snow and all, but I would rather that it was not so cold. Temperatures below zero means no running outside, no running outside means treadmill which is incredibly boring. Autumn and Spring temperatures are best temperatures for running. So much for my half marathons prep…

*****

Talking about staying inside and doing nothing, let us talk about Esports. I understand the idea of competitive video games, I like watching high level players in games like Starcraft 2, but I just don’t understand why someone would look at a game like Overwatch and think “Yes, this fast paced and manic first person shooter, with 20+ charatcers with unique abilities is exactly what we need to bring Esport to the public!”. 

The “Overwatch League” inaugural season was last week and out of curiosity, I decided to watch some of and I honestly could not figure out what on earth was going on. Between the fast moving characters and the constant switch between points of view made things quite hard to follow. Also each match involve four separate game modes,  which meant that I got quite confused when they switched between a capture the hill type event to an escort a target event (I think they called it a payload mode?) while I went to make some tea.

The one thing that I somewhat liked was that each team had nice color coded skins for their characters. That made determining who was in which team a bit easier. The commentary team was not exactly useful but I was better than some of the commentary I have heard on some League of Legends tournaments, those are mostly gibberish unless you have master degree in that game.

I still think the best Esport game is Starcraft, because it is, in my humble opinion anyways, simple enough for someone who never played to understand. There are two players, one on each side of the map, collect minerals to create massive army and the first to destroy the other wins. Simple! Sure there is a lot more to it, but I think that you don’t need to know everything to grasp the gist of what is happening.

On a side note, after every round, all the players would grab a couple of those hand warmer pouch thing and warm their fingers. What was that about? Does it really makes that much a difference? Was it just cold in the studio where they were playing? Were they just showing off? Who knows….

*****

I am going to have a bit of a choice this week end as there are couple interesting events going on. There is the Midlands auto show downtown at the century link convention center that is always fun to visit and see what current trends there are in the car industry. They will even have a Delorean! How retro!

On the other hand, there is also a gun show happening across the river in Council Bluff. I don’t actually plan to buy or own a gun but I am curious american gun culture. Going to a gun show is on my bucket list of  all-American things to experience I want to do along with Rodeo, drag racing and Monster trucks. Might as well drop by and stroll for a few minutes…

A fresh new year!

Happy New year! Yes, I know it was six days ago, but better late than never right? Anyways, I hope you all had a great holiday.

Ah 2017, what a year. I got myself a VR headset, I went on an amazing trip through national parks in Utah, ran a half marathon under three hours, learned some new recipes, and ended breaking up my glasses in late December. Also I really started listening to podcasts on a regular basis and discovered that there is only about four brands that pay for advertisements. There is something subtly annoying in having your murder mystery podcast being interrupted by a cheerful Blue Apron ad…

Anyways, new year, new resolutions! I was going to start with a joke that my new year resolution was 4K, as I originally thought to get a 4K television for Christmas, but decided that it would mostly be a waste of money. So what about some proper resolution?

Obviously there is the usual stuff of trying to lose some weight, not get fired, meet new people. Here are some more specific ones:

  • I will continue running and training for Half marathons, hopefully this year I’ll be able to do 2 hours 45. I did sign for three this year, so it’s not like I won’t have the opportunity.
  • I have been meaning to learn C++ for the longest time, but I never really got around to sit down and do it. Code wars has a lot of nice exercises to learn the basics and I have a nice book. Just need take the time to go through them.
  • I have been thinking about making an android app. I already know quite a bit of Java but I just have no real plan as to what the app would be.

Oh and I guess it would be nice to start playing D&D or Dark Heresy again. I should look for a RPG group.

Bitcoin’s early Christmas gift…

After spending a week preventing the company from going bankrupt, and probably several other big businesses, and several boring meetings of “what can we do to prevent this happening again?” (The answer is nothing because it was not our fault), I think I could use some change of scenery.

Remember Bitcoins? It’s not like it has been making headlines for the past couple month. Anyways, a long time ago I had invested a small amount into it. I was hoping to explore where I could spend my newly earned crypto-currency and discovered that there was not much I could do at the time. I figured that I would probably hold until the price had gone up and make my investment back, which I did. Little did I know that it would be a terrible mistake.

Now, if you were to lazy to make the calculation yourself, had I not sold back then, my investment would have been worth nearly $3000!! AGGHHHHH!!! Why did I sell? How could I not have foreseen that the price would explode over a year in the future?

Joking aside, I did not sell all the bitcoin that I had. There was 0.029 bitcoins left over that I had not converted, and that was now worth $450! Nice. But what could I do what that? Well, $450 is enough to get you an Nvidia GTX 1070 TI graphics card, and turns out that Newegg accepts Bitcoins! Miracle!

So, what do you do with a nice graphics card like that? Virtual Reality of course! My current graphics card, AMD’s RX 480, is capable of VR but I figured that it was worth future proofing my computer a little bit. This upgrade was also perfectly timed with the probably the biggest VR release of all time, the most anticipated Desert Bus VR! Oh, and some game called Fallout 4 VR.

The upgrade in graphics card, despite the fact that that 1070 TI is far better than the RX 480, does not make much difference in VR. Everything feels subtly smoother but it is hard to quantify. The only game that I have ever seen lag was Space Pirate trainer when multiple drone exploded at once and that seems to have gone away with the new card.

I think the best part of this story is that effectively I only paid about $5 for a $450 graphics card. I could have had a whole new top-of-the-line computer, but what ever. Anyways, thanks bitcoin for getting me an early Christmas gift.

 

We nearly ruined the Holidays for millions of people…

You know things have taken a very bad turn when, as you arrive at the office on a Monday morning, there is already a stack of empty pizza boxes. As a matter of facts, it was probably the worst issue we had in probably five years. This made my bug feel like a walk in the park.

As it turns out, someone from a big credit card association decided that they were above petty things like system stability and not messing up Christmas season, and proceeded to create a massive bug in their system. For nearly two and a half days, transactions did not included the information for what currency in was made in. Was it in Indian Rupee? Maybe it was in Euros? How about Mexican Pesos? Nobody knows!

I pulled three consecutive 12 hour stints to help people more knowledgeable than me make our system work. It was not fun… Things were rather bleak on Tuesday night when the decision was made to dump half the files we received that day. We also decided to dump a whole day of the test environment. There was one brief moment of levity when, while skimming through a file to check data integrity, I found a transaction for a Youtube Red subscription. That was funny.

The most perplexing thing was the way managers and executives interacted. When the executive were in their conference room, the mid managers were all optimistic and soft, telling people that they understood that we were dealing with complicated system and “take your time” and all that. Then they would leave for five minute, come back surrounded by suits and start yelling at everyone and tossing everyone in charge under the bus. I have no idea what they were trying to achieve, because all the happened was a lot of wasted time.

Last I heard, we were back on track and processed everything and only once, so good on us. Clients are going to be pissed at us for a while, especially since the card association guys told our clients that it was our fault that they were not getting paid because we could not process their garbage transactions…

A confluence of random things, late November edition…

Last week, in my Thanksgiving post, I made a passing joke at the scandal that recently plagued Star Wars Battlefront and EA surrounding the way the game had a “pay to win” microtransaction system. That jostled some memories and reminded me a of game that I played a few years ago called “Mighty Quest for Epic Loot”.

The concept was quite interesting, half the game was a dungeon crawling RPG, while the other half was a level designer, like Dungeon keeper. The idea is that you would design your own dungeon and raid other people’s creation. At the end of each dungeon you would get experience points and other resources that would allow you to upgrade your dungeon and your character. Surprisingly, this formula worked!

That is, until you reached the third tier of dungeons. At that point, the required amount of resources take massive swing upward making the game extremely slow paced. You were then left with the following choice: play levels over and over again for hours on end to slowly grind your way to the next level or pay real money.

It seemed very clear that the first five or so hours of the game where designed to get you hook and that the moment you started to get competitive, the would severely throttle you to get you to pay up. A bit of a shame really.

Anyways, I was curious to see what ever happened to that game, only to discover that it no longer existed. The servers where shut down over a year and half ago. I am not actually sure how I feel about that. I am sort of sad that they did not bother to fix it, since there was a decent idea at the core of the game, but then again it was such a blatant attempt to rob you of your hard earn money, I sort of glad that it failed.

*****

I went to Holland center this past Saturday to see Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone in Concert. The orchestra would perform the music live while the movie was playing. I do have to admit that the movie was a bit distracting from the fact that the orchestra was playing but it was a nice evening all around.

Watching the first Harry Potter film for the first time in forever made me feel nostalgic and made me want to read the books again. I figured that I could just walk into my local used book store and stumble into piles of them. Surprisingly, that did not happen, and despite searching thoroughly through all the book shelves, I couldn’t find even one of the seven books! Fine, I Thought, I guess I’ll just go to Barnes and Nobles and just buy a boxed set. Even more surprisingly, they did not have a single Harry Potter book either… To the internet then…

There is a problem however. If I am going to order them online, might as well get the proper versions and not the the botched, Americanized versions. Despite the fact that we live in the year 2017, a year where you can unlock your phone by looking at it and order things on Amazon via voice command, it is not possible to order the UK version of the books directly on Amazon.com. I had to go on Amazon.co.uk and pay $15 for international shipping and it will take three weeks to get here! Ugghhh….

*****

Talking about books, I finished reading the book that inspired “Blade Runner”, and I have to say that I am disappointed. The rule of thumb is the book is much better than the movie but it seems that this might be an exception. Now, the book and the film have very little in common other than the general plot, main character and setting. Unfortunately, the plot of the book takes a massive dive in quality toward the last third of the book where a bunch of unrelated plots all come together into a nonsensical ending.

Turns out that the android, instead of trying to increase their lifespan, where actually plants from the corporation in order improve the androids and make them undetectable to humans. Why? Who knows, it is never explained. Rachel, rather then being the conflicted android who wanted to be human, is this calculated and manipulative femme-fatale character that reports to the corporation to improve the androids. The popular philosophy that centered around empathy turns out to have been made up and no one seems to care because they are completely brainwashed by it.

The ending is the biggest joke of them all. The book ends with Deckerd having massive breakdown and hallucination after learning that Rachel had killed his goat. He ends up finding a fake toad and returns home, where everything just goes back to the same old routine… What?

The film does a far better job at making a coherent narrative and likable characters and proper villains. It is a mildly interesting book but not one that I would recommend reading.