Europe Trip 2015

My friends know how stingy I am with money, and my family knows I’m not much of a tourist, so some might have been surprised that I took the better part of two and a half weeks off from work to travel around Europe with a couple of friends. It was my first trip outside of Southeast Asia and the first time I took a long haul flight. Other than my concerns regarding the possibility of my luggage getting lost, the trip was relatively smooth and the Singapore Airlines plane had relatively decent food, service and in-flight entertainment.

The first leg of our trip was to Barcelona, Spain (aside from the layover in Singapore). My first impression of Barcelona (and hence my first impression of Europe) was that it was a very… brown city. Most of the buildings were shades of red or brown. Barcelona felt quiet, maybe even rustic. There were a lot of wide-open spaces making it very friendly for walking, with most of the city center structured in well-organised square blocks that made it easy to navigate. The first few days of the trip were very relaxed, we walked around a lot looking at ornately-decorated buildings and hitting the occasional tourist spot like Sagrada Familia and Park Guell. We even managed to do poorly at a pub quiz somewhere in between.

The second leg of the trip took us to Rome, Italy. As opposed to Barcelona, Rome felt busy, crowded and very much a tourist city, easily evidenced by the numerous souvenir stands and sellers of selfie sticks that littered the seemingly unpredictable maze of cobblestone streets interspersed with ruins and fountains and plazas and museums and churches and ornate sculptures and Egyptian obelisks. The city is pretty much an open museum – there’s always something to see around the nearest corner. Unfortunately, the famous Trevi Fountain was undergoing renovation during our visit, but we also managed to visit the Colloseum and the Palatino / Roman Forum (that place is huge).

We allocated one day of the stay in Rome to visit Vatican City. For the first and last time we hired a tour guide (and maybe overpaid) to take us through the Vatican Museum and so we could use the secret tour guide entrance to St. Peter’s Basilica. There was a lot of stuff in the museum, but the Sistine Chapel ceiling and the Basilica itself were the highlights of tour. Or maybe that’s just because I’m a Catholic.

The next leg took us to Paris, France. Paris was cold, very cold, with biting winds. Easily the coldest city I’ve been to. It felt more like a city than either Rome or Barcelona did, with long avenues and high-end shops. Not particularly tourist-friendly, given that there’s less English speakers around. Also the most expensive among the cities we’ve visited – with food costing maybe 1.5 or 2 times as much as it did in the prior two cities. The Louvre and the Eiffel Tower (especially the view from the top) were magnificent though, well worth the cost of entry.

After Paris we spent the last few days of the trip back in Barcelona, relaxing and decompressing. We walked around a bit, visited the beach and I even managed to hit a Magic prerelease the day before our flight home. I managed to get back into work immediately after almost an entire day of travelling, with minimal jet lag even.

There’s more to talk about that I won’t write about at the moment – the on-the-fly planning, the food, the hostels, the budget airline flights, etc. I signed up for the trip on a bit of a whim, but it turned out to be a pretty good trip for me. I’ve never been a culturally inclined guy, but I still found myself immersed in all the ancient sites and museums we visited. The company was good, it was nice to experience an entirely new continent, and it was a welcome break from the usual routine.

Grand Prix Manila 2015

One of my many, many loyal blog readers pointed out to me that I had yet to post about Grand Prix Manila, which took place in the first week of this year. I’ve been meaning to post about it, but it got lost in my backlog. So here we are.

Day-2-Opening_0

Yes indeed, I still play Magic, “on and off”, as it happens with most Magic players with busy lives and/or multiple other hobbies. I wouldn’t miss a chance to play a local Grand Prix of course, so I started getting back into standard as soon as Khans of Tarkir rotated in. I couldn’t stand the grindy midrange Abzan mirrors, so I’ve been playing Jeskai pretty much since the format started; Mantis Riders at first, then transitioned to tokens in December after I did poorly at a couple of GPTs.

The list I ran, largely based off Yuuya Watanabe’s Player’s Championship deck (sideboard might not be accurate…I may have taken too long to write this up :p):

This was probably the GP where I was most prepared in terms of deckbuilding – I didn’t scrimp on card availability this time although my team pool hasn’t been as large as it used to be. Playtesting wasn’t much, mostly against Abzan variants and the aforementioned GPTs where I crashed and burned.

I did pretty well on day one:

R01 2-0 WIN vs ub control
R02 2-0 WIN vs ub control
R03 2-0 WIN vs temur
R04 2-0 WIN vs temur
R05 2-0 WIN vs temur
R06 0-2 LOSS vs abzan whip
R07 2-0 WIN vs monored
R08 2-1 WIN vs jeskai tokens
R09 2-0 WIN vs abzan midrange (terry soh)
That’s 8 and 1, my best Day One performance ever. My deck was running well, I was in the zone, I had some good matchups and luck was in favor a lot; I won at least 3 games against different opponents due to their mulligans to 5 or worse. I performed well enough to warrant a mention in the coverage even:
day1coverage
Unfortunately Day Two didn’t go quite as well; apparently the luck I had during Day One had to be paid back with interest. I lost at least three games off mulligans to five, and my lack of playtesting against some archetypes such as UW Heroic cost me some suboptimal plays.
R10 0-2 LOSS vs uw heroic
R11 2-1 WIN vs abzan aggro
R12 2-0 WIN vs jeskai tempo
R13 0-2 LOSS vs mardu
R14 0-2 LOSS vs monored
R15 2-1 WIN vs abzan aggro
Going 3-3 on Day Two means I finished the GP at 11-4, which was the same record I had back in 2012. That’s good enough this year for a 37th place finish and some cash:
2015-01-04 16.12.24
Not a bad performance at all, and it was a great weekend altogether: got to see some old friends again and it feels to do well at a high-level event. What next; should I go to GP Singapore this year too?

Text spam, mobile number privacy and arguing over the internet

Globe’s Spam Reports Policy

A few days ago I got dragged into a debate over Twitter regarding Globe’s policy on handling reports sent in via Twitter about spam/scam text messages. When you send in reports of text spams via Twitter, one of Globe’s representatives will ask you to agree that in case the spammer disputes the allegation, they would have to disclose your mobile number to them. For me, the policy seems completely reasonable: if you accuse someone of a crime, they should have a right to know what exactly they are accused of and who exactly the victim was. Apparently some people aren’t okay with this; they complain that Globe disclosing your mobile number would be an additional violation of privacy and opens you up to possible harassment by the spammer. Now, I can understand the concerns, but you have to look at things from the POV of Globe and consider why such a policy exists.

Allowing people to anonymously accuse someone of being a spammer could lead to abuse. What if you had a vengeful ex who sent in one of your texts or someone faked a screenshot to accuse you of being a spammer? I’m not sure what other ways there are to abuse this, but I know that not disclosing your number is like reporting a rape attempt and then refusing to identify yourself. How can the accused defend himself? Sure there is some possibility of harassment, but that’s true whenever anyone comes forward to report a crime. And note that Globe will only reveal your number if the spammer comes forward to dispute, which exposes the spammer himself. I’ve been reporting on average maybe 3-5 spam texts to Globe per week for the past few months (although I have serious doubts on the effectiveness of this – more on that later) and no one has ever come forward to dispute. And I don’t believe any real spammers ever will; the whole reason they use disposable mobile numbers in the first place is to so that they’re hard to catch. Coming forward to dispute charges only exposes them.

Arguing over the Internet

As an aside, Twitter is literally the worst sort of format for this sort of discourse. I got dragged into the discussion by a friend who knew I often reported to Globe, and for a while I was responding via my mobile and working with less than 80 characters per post since there were a number of people (that I didn’t know) involved. Sure enough I got a barrage of replies from some people, one of whom apparently wasn’t even aware that even screenshots can be edited (welcome to the internet!). I really shouldn’t have let myself get dragged into it, but now that I was there, as XKCD so famously put it:

The problem with debating on the internet in general of course (aside from all the trolls) is that a lot of people easily get aggravated and just lash out without even considering other POVs or the reason why certain policies are in place, which makes their arguments not very constructive at all. Instead of trying to understand the situation so that they could suggest possible workarounds or solutions, they just act indignant and insist on their view. Eventually, I finally quit replying via mobile and just waited til I got home so that I could post a longer response via twitlonger. I gave my opinions (stated above) and just said thanks for the lively debate and let myself out of the discussion.

On the effectiveness of reporting spam

As I said, I don’t actually think reporting spam texts to Globe is very effective; these spammers use disposable mobile numbers that they discard as soon as possible and there are literally billions of possible numbers, so disabling their numbers one at a time wouldn’t be very useful. Spam is an age-old problem (in internet years at least) that hasn’t even been solved in the email world, even by big companies like Google. A more reasonable answer would be spam filtering, the same type Google uses for gmail (not Yahoo mail’s filtering, that seems to be much less effective). However, this filtering can’t be done on Globe’s side, since that introduces the possibility of false positives. It has to be done on the client-side, that means on your mobile phone itself. A quick search tells me there are some android apps that claim to provide sms spam filtering, but I’ve never tried any of them so I cannot speak for their effectiveness. And where does that leave people without smartphones?

Another problem is that the default SMS applications for smartphones aren’t as sophisticated as email clients are: no support for folders or automated filters, etc. that would make inbox management a lot easier. On the email side, spam hasn’t really been solved yet but has been brought to manageable levels by filtering. On the SMS side, we’ll have to wait for phone software to catch up.

On mobile numbers and privacy

A better question would be, how do these spammers get our numbers in the first place? There are many different types of spam, and I’m sure many of them just take advantage of unlimited text promos to spam numbers randomly by brute force. One type of text spam that’s fairly common (at least for me) is offers of some sort of loans from different banks. Aside from text spam, it’s actually happened that I received a call from someone offering cash loans from a certain bank. When I asked him how they got my number he just said it was “in their database” and wouldn’t tell me how it got there. I told him off angrily and hung up (I regret that now, I really should have tried to get more details like who his manager was and what branch he was working at so that I could complain to the bank later). What this incident tells me is that the sort of people who blindly push cash loans to people have a database of numbers they use. Some of the calls/spam text I got were from banks that I’ve never transacted with, so I suspect that these numbers are leaked/stolen by unscrupulous bank employees, since most bank account forms ask for your mobile number.  Or maybe these loan spamming operations are sanctioned by the banks themselves? It’s not out of the realm of possibility. If these banks had modern feedback channels like via Twitter or Facebook I’d definitely be asking them about it.

In conclusion?

If I don’t think Globe’s spam reporting policy isn’t effective, why do I still report spam on a regular basis? I don’t know, maybe it’s just a small token of fighting back against spammers, of fighting a war that can’t be won. Maybe every report I make reduces their address space by a teensy-tiny bit and there’s always hope we’ll get there someday. Maybe it’s just cathartic for me, I don’t know. I’ll keep doing it for the foreseeable future, and I’ll be suggesting any possible improvements to the policies where I can. I don’t want to be one of those people who rant on the internet without doing something constructive.

 

Thirty-Six

Thirty-six is a semiperfect number, meaning it is the sum of some subsets of its natural divisors.

 

Like thirty-six, life isn’t perfect either. But there’s still much to be thankful for.

I am grateful that I have a roof over my head and am able to eat at least three square meals a day (if I so choose).

I am grateful that I have wonderful parents and siblings who are always ready to support me no matter what shenanigans I get into.

I am grateful for friends who are interesting and who share my interests and are more than willing to put up with my particular insanities.

I am grateful for having a well-paying job that affords me luxuries and opportunities most people are not able to avail of.

I am grateful for the prospect of a possible brighter tomorrow.

 

For my birthday wishes:

I wish for clarity of vision.

I wish for serenity of heart.

I wish for less hatred in the world.

I wish for more honesty in the world.

I wish for less traffic in Metro Manila.

I wish for better internet in the Philippines.

I wish for good health.

I wish for more free time.

I wish for more wishes.

 

Let the future come and bring what it will.

 

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 Review!

Well, I haven’t written anything in a while, so I figured I’d write some words on the new Spider-Man movie. Spoilers abound!

Action-packed! The web-swinging is fun and looks and feels just like Spidey from the comic books. Spider-man moves and fights and banters pretty faithfully to the comic book version of our favorite wall-crawler, so that’s a definite plus. Peter’s Spider-sense is portrayed as a slow-motion bullet-time kind of deal which allows him to react quickly and save all the people while dodging everything. It doesn’t really translate exactly to the comic-book Spider-sense, but I suppose it’s better than having squiggly lines around his head.

Peter Parker, haunted by…the ghost of Dennis Leary? We get it, you’re breaking the promise you made at the end of the first movie and you’re putting Gwen in danger. What, did he become the physical embodiment of the Spider-sense? If I was Captain Stacy I’d haunt you too for stalking my daughter from the rooftops! Not even Uncle Ben haunted Peter like this!

And the deep dark secret of Peter’s parents is…what, is that it? Seriously, that was a lame reveal after all the drama at the start of the movie; it didn’t seem entirely too relevant and more like a subplot that didn’t go anywhere. The mysterious party who would’ve benefited from Oscorp experiments and was willing to hire an assassin to kill the parents on a plane was never elaborated on. Maybe it’s something they’ll explore in a future film, but for now it feels like they were just forced to create a link because of the mysterious disappearance of the parents from the first movie.

Norman Osborn, Spider-man’s greatest enemy! No? Decrepit old man on his deathbed? Dying of some weird goblinitis disease? Okay, at least Harry’s here, right?

Harry Osborn, Spider-man’s best friend turned worst enemy! Or at least we’re told they’re good friends, we just have to take their word for it. There they are joking like old pals for two minutes, surely we must be convinced they are best buds! BTW Pete, old-friend-of-mine-who-I-havent-had-contact-with-for-10-years-even-though-social-media-should-already-exist-at-this-time, can you get me some Spider-man blood? I’m dying brah

Max Dillon! Electro! Mild-mannered electrical engineer with low self-esteem who ignores safety procedures and gets bitten by radioactive electric eels! Seriously? I’m looking forward to the Sinister Six movie where Adrian Toomes gets bitten by a radioactive vulture. We get a high-power-level version of Electro here, he’s able to teleport around as electrical charges or something and he’s even able to magically generate underwear and later a bodysuit! But he’s no match for Peter Parker’s questionable movie science!

Not enough villains? Let’s add the Rhino! Well, just for a quick scene at the end to lead into the Sinister Six movie, maybe? A scene that we’ve already seen in the trailers too! I suppose it’s a blessing that they didn’t try to shoehorn a Rhino subplot, there’s already too much going on as it is.

Oh no, two airplanes might collide because there’s no electricity! How was this even relevant to Spider-man’s battle? It’s not like he knew what was going on at the airport!

“You need me, I know the specs to the grid thingy!” Uh, it turns out all you needed to do was know how to pick up a key from a dead guy’s hand and unlock a panel. And I thought her field was in biochemistry or something, not electrical engineering?

I have to admit, the death at the end caught me off guard. I knew it had to happen sooner or later, but given that they cut MJ out of this movie and had a subplot of Gwen flying off to England (which she did in the comics and she managed to come back to New York before the big deal at the bridge), I assumed it would be happening in the next film. Though by the time they had her falling from the tower, I would’ve been annoyed if they didn’t go through with it after the build-up. But now I’m worried that they’re going to rush the Peter-MJ relationship in the next movie the same way they rushed the Peter-Harry friendship in this one, since they didn’t get the chance to introduce MJ while Peter and Gwen were still a thing.

Where’s the scene where the New Yorkers come together to help Spider-Man? Isn’t this a franchise staple by now?

End credits sequence teases the Sinister Six lineup. Well, that was fine.

Overall plotting and pacing felt weird, with some scene transitions feeling like they could be better handled. The whole thing at the end with how Peter deals with Gwen’s fate felt weirdly out of place. They could’ve ended the second movie on a down note, and have Peter coming back strong in TASM3 (an Empire Strikes Back sort of thing), but no, they wanted to get the grieving out of the way quickly. Well, the movie was fun and enjoyable to watch, and had quite a few recognizable names for comic books fans (I’m sure all the comic readers noted the name of Harry’s assistant and Max’s boss), but all the nitpicky problems above pull the movie down especially when we just came back from the awesomeness that was Captain America: Winter Soldier.

Next: Days of Future Past!

2013 – Books and Games

It’s the end of the year, so it feels like a good time to look back at the books and games I’ve gone through in 2013.

I guess it’s my lack of focus really but my reading rate has really gone down over the past few years, I guess in favor of TV, comics and games. (I guess comics count as reading too, but I’m talking about full-length novels.

For 2013 as far as I can tell I only finished reading the following novels:

  • Slaughterhouse Five (Kurt Vonnegut)
  • Foundation Trilogy (Isaac Asimov) – I only read up to Second Foundation, I’ll get around to the later books sometime I guess
  • A Memory of Light (Sanderson/Jordan) – been reading the Wheel of Time for years and I’m glad Sanderson was able to bring it to a decent end
  • Shadows in Flight (Orson Scott Card)

I suppose I should make it a new years resolution to read more books. I have a reading list that I have stored on Dropbox that I’m trying to work through. I think getting more paper books helps – most of my reading the past few years has been mostly e-books but having at least one paper book around that I can pick up without worrying about a charger or something is also good. I’m around halfway through a copy of Dune I picked up at a used bookstore.

As for games, this is the hobby that takes up most of my free time, however my backlog is horrendously large. Inspired by a NeoGAF thread, I’ve started tracking purchases and finishes/completes.

Here are the game purchases I made in 2013:

  • Starcraft 2 Heart of the Swarm (PC retail)
  • FTL (humble bundle)
  • Humble Weekly Sale: Telltale Games (8 games)
  • Humble Bundle 8 (9 games)
  • WB Humble Bundle (9 games)
  • Borderlands 2 + season pass + mech/psycho dlc (GMG + Steam)
  • Civilization 5: Brave New World (GMG)
  • Morrowind GOTY (Steam)
  • Oblivion GOTY (Steam)
  • Legend of Grimrock (steam)
  • Duels of the Planeswalkers 2014 (steam)
  • Tales of Graces F (PS3 retail)
  • Injustice (PS3 retail)
  • The Last of Us (PS3 retail)
  • Kingdom Hearts 1.5 HD Remix (PS3 retail)
  • Final Fantasy 13-2 (PS3 retail)
  • Tales of Xillia (PS3 retail)
  • Capcom vs SNK 2 (PS3 via PSN)
  • Ni no Kuni (PS3 via PSN)
  • Speklunky (Vita via PSN)
  • Guacamelee (PS3/Vita via PSN)
  • Marvel vs Capcom 2 (PS3 via PSN)
  • Shin Megami Tensei 4 (3ds retail)
  • The Legend of Zelda: A Link between Worlds (3ds retail)
  • Persona 4 Golden (Vita retail)
  • Disgaea 3 (Vita retail)
  • Street Fighter x Tekken (Vita retail)
  • FF9 (PSN)
  • Persona 3 Portable (PSN)

And the games I finished in 2013:

  • Starcraft 2 Heart of the Swarm campaign
  • Duels of the Planeswalkers 2014
  • Borderlands 2
  • Injustice story mode
  • Mass Effect 3
  • The Last of Us
  • Tales of Graces F
  • Tales of Xillia (Milla side only)
  • The Legend of Zelda: A Link between Worlds
  • Persona 4 Golden
  • Disgaea 3 main story
  • Civ5 BNW (I’m going to go ahead and count this since I’m sure I got more than a full game’s worth of it already)

So the count is at -41 or such. It’s pretty bad, but also around what I expected lol. I’m fairly close to finishing a number of those games (I’m at the SMT4 final dungeon and the last chapter of FF 13-2 right now). A lot of the backlog is due to me randomly picking up Humble Bundles which increase the count significantly. Hopefully I’ll be able to have a much smaller backlog in 2014 – but there are already a number of release I’m looking forward to, not to mention the possibility of picking up a PS4 early next year.

 

Movie Review: Man of Steel (Spoilers!)

Few people are really Superman fans, because let’s face it, Superman is boring compared to say, Batman. I wouldn’t claim to be a fan either, though I follow the history because of being generally a comic book guy (I got less than 50% of the answers in a recent Superman round in one of the local quiz nights =/) That being said, I did re-watch the first 2 Donner Superman movies and re-read All-Star Superman and Superman: For Tomorrow ahead of watching the movie. So, I look at the movie from the point of view of someone familiar with the lore, but not all the history of the character.

First the hype: before the release, there were people claiming that Man of Steel was the best superhero movie, with one reviewer even claiming it to be better than The Dark Knight. Now that I’ve seen it, I’m going to have to disagree; The Dark Knight was a clever movie with a terrific villain built upon a solid universe established by Batman Begins; Man of Steel is by no means a bad movie, but it’s pretty much just a straightforward action flick.

Second, the action scenes: probably the most entertaining part of the movie for me would be the fight scenes between Kal and the other Kryptonians. It probably helped that I had just watched Superman 2 the week before which featured laughable (by modern standards) fight scenes between Superman and Zod and his two henchmen. Compared to the older movie, the battles here are much more grand in scale and effect, with the final showdown between Kal and Zod taking down a whole lot of buildings in Metropolis (more on that later), giving the battle a Dragonball-like feel (I like Dragonball, so that’s fine). The opening sequence on Krypton was okay too, with kind of a Star Wars vibe going for it. (I noted that first Superman movie took 20 minutes before Kal was shot off Krypton, I think Man of Steel takes even longer.)

Now, the story. Like I said, very straightforward. Bad guy comes threatening people, Superman punches them around until we figure out a magical way to get rid of them. Then some more punching. Okay. Specific points:

1. Changes to Krypton’s back story and Superman’s origin? Ok, I’m fine with that, although it’s never really explained why the Kryptonians abandoned space travel or why the colonies couldn’t survive alone. I’m not even sure they have a canon explanation in the comics as to why there weren’t a bunch of other Kryptonians who jumped into rockets to escape. No Kryptonite? Okay, that’s fine – the simulated Kryptonian atmosphere probably has trace elements from Krypton that could be hand-waved into some sort of Kryptonite later if needed.

2. Pa Kent dying to a tornado and Clark doing nothing to save him? Ugh, I remember whispering “that’s terrible” to my brother who was watching with me. In most continuities where Pa Kent dies, it’s almost always due to a heart attack – where the idea is that Clark learns how his powers won’t let him save everyone no matter how hard he tries. In this movie, Pa Kent’s death was entirely preventable even if you assume that his protectiveness of Clark’s powers was so strong as to override his own survival instinct and Clark’s instinct not to save his adoptive father. It’s not like the townsfolk didn’t know about Clark’s powers either, at least two kids and one parent knew, and that pretty much meant he grew up with rumors of his powers all around town. And the most ridiculous part is that he died trying to rescue a dog. A dog. A dog! Order of priorities: Save dog > Don’t let Clark use powers > Stay alive.

3. Apparently it only takes Clark two tries to learn how to fly. And he instinctively knows how to fight while flying too! In Donner’s Superman, Clark took a long hiatus from the world to learn the history of Krypton and how to use his powers, here it only took him overnight on an ancient Kryptonian scouting ship. Okay, this isn’t really a problem, for all we know there was some magic Kryptonian mind meld device in the ship to explain this away.

4. Okay, here’s the big one: heroism and killing Zod, this is where we see a major departure from the Superman mythos. Before the Kryptonian invasion, we see Kal doing heroic things exactly twice: on the ocean platform at the start of the movie and saving his classmates in the school bus. And in the school bus incident he says to Pa Kent “what was I supposed to do, let them die?” and Pa Kent answers, “maybe”. That conversation was in one of the trailers too and at the time I knew it was off. One of the big things about the Superman mythos is that he grows up to become a hero because of how the Kents raised him, that they instilled in him a way of thinking that prioritized doing the right thing regardless of the sacrifices you had to make. The idea being that being raised by the Kents contributes to his being Superman as much as his alien heritage does. Comparing Superman to Batman, the comparison is often made that for Batman, Bruce Wayne is his disguise and Batman is who he really sees himself to be, while for Clark it’s the opposite: Superman is his disguise and Clark Kent, the person raised by the Kents, is who he really is. Man of Steel has none of that, Man of Steel is all about the alien heritage. Not to say that he’s selfish or not heroic, after all he does decide to turn himself in during the Invasion, but I feel like the comic-book Superman wouldn’t have needed to talk to a priest first. (I feel like that scene randomly wanted to reference For Tomorrow)

In the final scene when Kal is forced to kill Zod to save civilians, why does he have such anguish afterwards? The movie had made no earlier indication that this Superman had a distaste for killing; heck millions of lives were probably lost due to Kal and Zod tearing each other apart across Metropolis (I feel like comic-book Superman would have at least tried to bring the battle to a less-populated area). Because I’m a comic-book fan I know that he made that scream of anguish because he didn’t want to have to kill since that’s a standard part of the Superman mythos (heavily emphasized in the What’s So Funny About Truth, Justice & the American Way? story arc and later in Superman vs the Elite), but for the normal moviegoers I feel like they might have gone “huh”?

5. There’s almost no characterization for the side characters here – Lana is barely relevant (though of course she had to appear for lore reasons), and they could have dropped Steve Lombard without consequence and that whole scene with the Daily Planet girl stuck under rubble wasn’t even needed. I’m really annoyed about Perry White not wanting to run the alien story because people might not take it well. He’s a journalist – his first concern should be the truth! I’m not sure why they needed Emil Hamilton here either. Bah, they’ll probably get more play time in the sequel.

Those are the major nitpicks I have with the movie, the rest are just minor details (although there are a lot of them.) Many of the problems are due to expectations of Superman based on what I know from the comics. I guess we can forgive some of them, since movie Superman doesn’t need to be the same as comic book Superman, in the same way that Nolan’s Batman wasn’t exactly comic book Batman either.

All of that being said, I still enjoyed the movie, it was entertaining enough for a first movie in the franchise (and it’s way better than Superman Returns). I’d rank it close to or below Amazing Spider-Man I think. A sequel is already being planned and hopefully we get a better, more clever movie the second time around. If it were up to me, the second movie villian(s) would be Luthor and Metallo (With Nolan and Snyder, I think we can look forward to a more interesting take on Lex Luthor compared to Hackman’s self-declared “greatest criminal mind in history” at least.), with a third movie either for Braniac or Doomsday (Braniac would probably be better). It probably depends on their plans for a shared universe and a Justice League movie though. Let’s see how it all pans out; in any case, it’s a good time to be a comic book fan!

 

Handheld Gaming 2013: Playstation Vita vs Nintendo 3DS

I wrote some stuff about Vita vs 3DS in a Reddit post, I thought I’d expand on it here.

I have access to both a first-generation 3DS with ambassador status (this is actually my brother’s but he doesn’t use it much) and a PS Vita which is only a couple of months old. I use the Vita a lot more because reasons:

  1. The screen is very very nice, especially compared to the 3DS screens. My eyes hurt a bit after a while of using the 3DS (even with 3D off). The Vita games also look a lot better compared to 3DS ones. The visuals are more crisp and colorful, especially for games like Persona 4 Golden or Disgaea 3.
  2. I’m a Playstation Plus subscriber (and I have a PS3), which means my available Vita library gets bigger every month without me spending additional money. And with the PS4 support coming, it’s even better.
  3. No online account for the 3DS means I’m not going to make digital purchases off the eShop, which limits my available library. I’m not interested in making eShop purchases that are tied to the machine; I’m worried about losing or breaking the system and losing access to all my purchases. This is a severe limitation of the 3DS in this age of digital downloads.
  4. I just find that I like more games on the Vita. I like Mario and Zelda on the 3DS (I’ve finished NSMB, Mario 3D Land and Ocarina of Time; the new Legend of Zelda will probably be the next game I play on 3DS), but aside from that most of the library is meh for me. I played Tales of the Abyss and Paper Mario Sticker Star on the 3ds but both got boring for me after a while (I’m probably at around 80% of ToA and gave up on Sticker Star at the first boss). I might try out Fire Emblem, and if there’s a new Advance Wars I’d jump on that. Etrian Odyssey looks interesting but there are dungeon crawlers on the Vita too. On the Vita so far I’ve been playing P4G, Disgaea 3 and Gravity Rush, with some Street Fighter x Tekken thrown in every so often. As soon as I get a bigger memory card, I’m going to get into Blazblue Continuum Shift;  then there’s Uncharted and Final Fantasy Tactics and I heard Zero Escape was good, and I want to try Guacamelee, and one of these days I’m going to give in to impulse buying urges and get Xenogears off the store, oh and if LBP Vita went on sale I’d get that, etc. People who say the Vita doesn’t have games might just be uninformed; in terms of the number of games I’m interested the Vita is slightly ahead, and that whole PS1 classic back library puts it leagues ahead.
  5. Achievements/Trophies. I realize a lot of people don’t care for them and don’t “get” people who like them and that’s fine, more power to you. But I do like them, though I’m not like a platinum hunter or anything like that.

The only real downside of the Vita as far as I can tell is that the memory cards are helluva expensive; but maybe that will change this week.

And…that’s it. Just thought I’d write some gaming stuff since E3 is happening in a few hours. :D

PHVote: Choosing your 2013 Senators and Party List

Resources

The content of this post is regarding my own opinion and who I plan to vote for. If you want to do your own research (I highly recommend it), here are some links to get you started:

Here’s a link to a Google doc of my own notes on each candidate, which I used as basis for recommendations below. (I didn’t want to clutter up the blog post with details)

 

Recommendations

A number of people have asked me to recommend who they should vote; while I prefer that they do their own research I don’t mind giving suggestions. Here are my recommendations:

Strongly recommended: Jun Magsaysay, Risa Hontiveros, Teddy Casino

It’s okay to vote for: Legarda, Escudero, Pimentel, Madrigal, Zubiri, Hagedorn, Poe

It’s okay to vote for the following if you don’t mind them being members of or associated with political dynasties: Cayetano, Gordon, Angara, Ejercito, Aquino

It’s okay to vote for the following if you don’t mind their strong association with religious groups: Delos Reyes, Villanueva

Definitely DO NOT VOTE: Honasan, Trillianes, Maceda, Mitos Magsaysay, Villar, Enrile, Binay, Cojuangco

For the “it’s okay to vote for” groups, just use your own preferences, i.e. if you don’t like Erap you probably won’t vote for JV Ejercito.

 

My Ticket

The following will most likely be the 12 I will vote on Monday (barring something ridiculous happening):

  1. Jun Magsaysay (Team PNoy)
  2. Risa Hontiveros (Team PNoy)
  3. Teddy Casino (Independent)
  4. Legarda (Team PNoy)
  5. Escudero (Team PNoy)
  6. Pimentel (Team PNoy)
  7. Madrigal (Team PNoy)
  8. Zubiri (UNA)
  9. Hagedorn (Independent)
  10. Gordon (UNA)
  11. Angara (Team PNoy)
  12. Aquino (Team PNoy)

I understand that the choices aren’t perfect (I’m not too fond of some of them…), but we have a limited selection of viable candidates and I’d rather fill up all 12 slots to at least have an infinitesimally small chance that the candidates I don’t want don’t get in.

 

What about the Party List? There are really too many Party Lists to evaluate. Just don’t vote for some ridiculous group; look for a group with a strong advocacy and track record. My personal preference is for #95 AGHAM Party List, because SCIENCE! Here’s a list of legislation they’ve supported if you’re interested.

 

That’s the last post from me before the elections on Monday (I’ll probably be ranting more on Twitter). If you have a chance to vote go out and do so, but be sure to do so wisely; it’s your privilege and an expression of what you want for this country. Let’s hope that the surveys are wrong and the voting public miraculously smartens up.

 

Edit: The original recommendations list missed out Grace Poe. Also added a short note on imperfect choices.

Even more ramblings about the elections

It’s easy to blame the poor, the masses for voting into power devious politicians, the corrupt, those with no track record, political dynasties based on money, survey results, name recognition or who has the most giveaways. But take a look at the number of decisions that have to be made when you go vote in an election (let’s say it’s also a presidential election so that we have a complete view):

  • You need to choose a president out of maybe 6-8 candidates
  • You need to choose a vice president out of maybe 6-8 candidates
  • You need to choose 12 senators from a pool of 20-30 or more candidates
  • You need to choose a congressman from maybe 4-6 candidates
  • You need to choose a governor (I’m from Metro Manila, we don’t have a guvnor so I’m just guessing here) from maybe 3-5 candidates
  • You need to choose a mayor from maybe 3-5 candidates
  • You need to choose a vice mayor from maybe 3-5 candidates
  • You need to choose god knows how many councilors (I seriously have no idea, is it 6?) from who knows how many candidates
  • You need to choose a party-list from over a hundred choices

In order to “vote wisely”, for each of those choices, you’d need to have some idea of who they are, what their background is, what their advocacies are, what their stand is on the issues, what bills they have pushed/sponsored/passed (if they had previous legislative experience), etc. For all of those candidates! I live a comfortable life and have a reasonable amount of free time and even I don’t want to do that! Not to mention that unlike me, a very, very large percentage of the voting population don’t have easily available internet access so that they can do their own research on candidates’ backgrounds. They’re not on Facebook all the time reading about Nancy’s shenanigans or how Jack Enrile doesn’t want you to look closely at a murder rap in his history. They’re too busy with more mundane everyday concerns like how to earn money, where they’re going to get food to feed their large families, etc. They just don’t have the time, inclination or opportunity to soak up all the relevant information that would let them make an informed choice.

So what do they do, they do what any regular, sane person does when faced with an overwhelming amount of information, they use filters. But their filters are silly things like survey results (“Other people think this candidate is okay, so I guess I can vote for him”), celebrity endorsements (it’s sad that former Sen. Jun Magsaysay only got a bump in survey results when he got Sir Chief to endorse him) or worse things like bribery, vote buying through giveaways, etc.

What am I saying, what am I talking about? All this time I’ve been harping about how voter education is important, but how it’s delivered needs to be thought about. We can’t just flood people with information, they’re just going to be overwhelmed and the silly yet simpler things like inane political ads are going to win out. We need to, I dunno, find a way to provide better, easier filters for people. I don’t know how, I’m not that smart. Not yet.

“But Roy,” I can hear you objecting already, “elections are serious business deciding the future of our country! It’s important, and they should take it seriously and think very hard about their choices!” You’re absolutely right that it’s important, but the problem is that for a vast majority of poor people, they have a lot of other more important, more urgent things to worry about. Elections affect what happens to our country three, five, ten years down the road, but a lot of people have trouble figuring out how they’re going to get through the next day. The feedback loop for getting results from elections is just too long for people to take it seriously. Now, we can suggest that maybe, just maybe, we can just ask those people not to vote if they’re not going to take it seriously? Maybe, but that’s hardly enforceable in any reasonable way. And you’re going to get accused of being anti-democracy or whatever.

“It has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all the others that have been tried.” – William Churchill.

I don’t have a solution, I’m just rambling. Maybe this is really how it’s supposed to work, democracy? We live with what the people choose, even if they’re bad choices. Democracy is very effective at a small scale (“Guys let’s vote on where we should have dinner!”) but I feel like the logistics of it all gets way way more difficult as we scale up to the level of an entire country. Maybe smarter people than me have proposed solutions, I dunno, comment and give me links if you know of them. Who are the best democracies in the world and how do they get away with it? Certainly not the United States with their two-party system and their lobbyists and what not.

Although now that I think about it, it might help if we reduce the number of choices that would need to be made. The simplest changes are to have president/VP be voted in together, same for mayor/vice mayor, and to have regional senators instead of national so that each person only needs to choose one senator (this has the pleasant side effect of reducing the amount of money needed to win a senate seat). I have no solution for party-list, I’d rather have it be removed if no solution can be found

And we need to start thinking about these things even outside of the electoral cycle (probably a bit hypocritical of me, I only post about election stuff during the election season). Going about ways to improve the next elections need to start as soon as the last elections end. Sometimes I feel like the Comelec has crammed a lot of stuff into the past year or so (registration, source code audits, rulings on party-lists, etc.) Why can’t we ask candidates to register 3 years before the election? That way voters have a lot more time to become familiar with them and the candidates are forced to flesh out long-term plans instead of making excuses that they don’t have time for debates.

Okay, I complain a lot, but I’m still going to vote. I’m not one of those people who complains but won’t vote. We should vote because (a) it’s our responsibility and (b) it’s an expression of what we as individuals desire to have in leaders of our country. And it’s probably our responsibility to vote wisely too, though I’m not sure that’s a rule encoded somewhere, the Comelec certainly doesn’t emphasize it.

To be honest, I’m still not sure of which senators I’ll be voting for, most of my slots are up in the air (although there are many candidates I’m surely NOT voting for). I’ll probably finalize my choices the weekend before the elections, and as has been my tradition, I will post my choices in this space. I’m registered in a different district than where I’m currently residing so I don’t vote for congressman and councilors, so my only choices this time around are the 12 senators and mayor/vice mayor of QC.