Debating On The Internet

Relevant XKCD:

Sometimes I have this inexplicable urge to argue with people. With recent events I’ve found myself getting into more discussions, debates and otherwise friendly arguments online. The quality of these interactions hasn’t always been the best, and many times I feel like I should have stopped engaging sooner or maybe not participated at all. I’ve considered some points to help me decide in the future whether to bother engaging other people online.

Personally, I’ve always been both used to and biased in favor of vibrant and open debate and discussion. And I’m happy to say many of my closest friends are of the same temperament. But one thing I’ve learned is that many people don’t like their views being criticized. For some people, posting on the internet is putting themselves out there and risking being criticized (as if receiving criticism were a bad thing in and of itself!). I do think that more people voicing their opinions can only be a good thing, so maybe we can try not to be so aggressive when we know the person doesn’t like criticism or isn’t used to an open debate. ” I understand that you believe that, although have you considered the studies that say …”

(Image cribbed from a friend)

(Image cribbed from a friend)

Accept that you are not going to “win” any debate. From experience, it is very rare to win a debate on the internet. At best you are going to agree to disagree, or maybe find common ground to agree on and move forward.

Try to phrase your replies in the form of questions, they are softer and will seem less like an attack. “Isn’t there evidence of claim X?”, “What credentials does expert Y have?”, “Don’t you think this violate the principles of Z?”

Try to see what the other person is looking for. Many people online aren’t looking for debate or discussion, they simply want to air their view for others to consider or maybe look for some validation. It can be difficult, sometimes people can pretend to be open to discussion but really just want to reinforce their own views. It’s easiest if you already know the person. For example, if the person has a history of not believing easily-verifiable facts, maybe it’s better not to engage at all.

Know what you are looking for. Typically, there’s one of three things I want out of a discussion: (a) I want to gather more information to help in my own decision-making; or (b) I want to point out misinformation or logical problems; or (c) I want to present my own point of view for others to consider. If you’ve already met your goals, you can safely consider tapping out “I just wanted to say that I think X is a better choice. Take that as you will”. Of course sometimes there’s a fourth thing I want: just to engage in a lively discussion 😀

Avoid attacking the other person, even when he/she is obviously being a bloody idiot. Bloody idiots can have opinions too after all. It should be possible to point out logical flaws or misinformation without taking things personally.

If you are aiming to convince others to change their position, you should be willing to change yours as well. Not only is it more sincere, it’s also fair. It will make your own arguments more compelling if you can show a willingness to question your own assumptions as well. That being said, you probably only need to employ this if the other people are willing to change their positions too.

Don’t take things personally, and don’t respond to criticism in anger. If someone says something like your work is cringeworthy, instead of taking offense maybe you can ask the person to elaborate “Which parts did you find problematic and why?” If the person is not willing to discuss in detail, maybe it’s no longer productive to continue.

Know when to tap out of a discussion. You have to learn to recognize when other people are (a) not willing to consider other points of view; or (b) not looking for a debate or discussion or pros and cons. It will usually become obvious once they reply one or two times (sometimes it will be bloody obvious when they say something like “I believe in X no matter what”). Unless you are really enjoying the debate (which I am sometimes wont to do!), it’s probably not productive anymore to continue discussion. In that case, it’s probably better to just agree to disagree and move on.

I’m probably still going to occasionally dive into a debate just to be a devil’s advocate or even just for fun though, but hopefully these guidelines help me (and maybe even you!) recognize when it’s unproductive to engage and just to move on.

X-Men Apocalypse Review (Spoiler-Free)

“Everyone knows the third movie is always the worst” – Jean
  • still too much focus on Jennifer Lawrence/Mystique
  • some great soundtrack choices
  • Quicksilver scene maybe just a tiny bit too long. Tradition of defying the rules of physics continues (I hope someone does the math on how fast he was probably moving)
  • nice 80s wardrobe lol
  • not particularly faithful to the source material
  • plot is all over the place, a lot of WTF moments here and there. OMG that stupid arrow D:
  • lots of faults, but you’ll probably enjoy it anyway if you’re an X-men fan just for all the random easter eggs you spot (“Hey, it’s random third-string comic book character in a completely different role!”)
  • post-credits scene? YES
  • I’m kind of hoping they go for Dark Phoenix Saga next (Aliens!) but the PCS tells us they have more sinister designs in mind…
  • Will Mama like it? Probably not.
  • I’d rate it worse than DoFP, probably around the same or slightly worse than First Class

Stellaris (Review)

Or “How Did A Ceramic Pot End Up In Stellar Orbit”?

20160514022357_1Stellaris is a 4x space strategy game available on Steam. The game is created by Paradox, well-known for a number of other grand strategy games mostly with a historical basis such as Crusader Kings. I’ve owned Crusader Kings II for a while now but never got into it too deeply because (a) it’s just a bit too overwhelming; and (b) I find the combat way too obtruse. Stellaris was supposedly a simpler and friendlier version of Paradox’s other grand strategy games, which piqued my interest. Reading a few posts over on r/Stellaris was enough for me to impulse buy the game last week. Review summary: game is great and adds a lot of interesting stuff to the 4x genre, but there are some flaws that will hopefully be improved upon in succeeding patches.

The gameplay framework is basically similar to other 4x space strategy games such as Master of Orion: “eXplore, eXpand, eXploit, and eXterminate”. You’re in charge of a burgeoning galactic empire. You send out science ships to survey nearby and distant star systems. You build colonies and outposts to extend your reach. You assign scientists to research new technologies that help you improve your empire. You encounter other starfaring alien races and either build fleets of spacecraft to bludgeon them into submission or use diplomacy to make friends, form alliances and eventually a federation. You can also encounter primitive alien species who have yet to make it off-world and choose to either observe them passively or try to speed up their development or uplift them to become new allies.

Story

I’ll start with this because it’s my favorite thing about the game. It’s kind of weird to be talking about story in a 4x strategy game, they’re not really well-known for that, Civilization stories about Gandhi’s warmongering aside. It’s one of the trope inversions Stellaris has done. There are abundant special event chains to be encountered and some of them are hilarious really. These are reminiscent of Crusader Kings’ own event chains, the part of that game I found the most enjoyable. Combined with 4x strategy games penchant for emergent user stories, this means there will often be a lot of stories to tell about how your empire achieved galactic domination.

This is why you shouldn't let your officers drink on duty

This is why you shouldn’t let your officers drink on duty

Victory 

Sadly there are at the moment only two victory conditions available in game: Domination (control 40% of all habitable planets) and Conquest (be the last independent empire standing). That being said, there are a few options to achieve both goals; they need not be achieved through warfare, but can be done through diplomacy. You can ally and eventually form federations with other empires and share victory conditions with them, which means you can achieve Conquest through alliance-building.

Diplomacy

Speaking of diplomacy, you can do the usual resource trading and asking for border access and offering alliances or non-aggression pacts and such. But comparing it to their other games like Crusader Kings it’s admittedly quite shallow. Even some more complicated options that are available in simpler games like Civilization V are surprisingly unavailable. There is no way to bribe other empires for alliances or border access or maybe even declaring war on common enemies. I also wish there were special event chains or technology choices that involve diplomatic relations. Hopefully they can improve upon these things as they iterate with future patches.

I don’t know therefore aliens

There are a variety of alien races available to play, and you can customize your species at the start of the game. There are a number of customization options: you can control what type of climates your species can easily adapt to, what ethics your race follows (which can affect your diplomacy and sometimes your research options), and add other special traits that give bonuses to happiness, resource acquisition, etc. All other empires in the galaxy will feature procedurally-generated species as well. At the start, each empire is only inhabited by one species, but as you encounter more and more alien races, your planet populations can become more a mix of your native species and foreign species and maybe even robot workers.

Research and Technology

Research and technology is split into three fields: physics, engineering and biology. These technologies will unlock new ship components (allowing you to design new ships Master of Orion style), improve your empire’s capabilities and provide new building and station options. Unlike Civilization’s technology trees, research options are dealt at random. You are given 3-4 alternatives to choose from every time, and sometimes you’ll be lucky enough to have a rare technology as a research option. In the late game, there are even dangerous technologies that provide significant benefit but can lead to your empire facing one of a few late-game crises.

Mid to Late Game

While the game is fun to play, it starts to get weak in the mid to late game when most of your exploration is already done. More often than not, other empires will hamper your mid to late game exploration, and your science ships will have precious little to do in the later stages except maybe analyze debris from your space battles. The game also needs more special event chains in the mid to late game as it descends into long stretches of building things interspersed by the occasional war. It’s something they’ve roadmapped for the next few patches, to add more events specifically for colony-related events, so that’s something to look forward to.

There’s also a need for more resource sinks in the late game, as your empire has caps on how many of each resource you can store. In my most advanced game, I was at the resource cap all the time despite spending as much as I could on buildings, stations and spacecraft.

But the biggest problem is a technical one. As the number of planets and spacecraft under your control increases, the game encounters noticeable slowdown. At this point, the fastest speed is only slightly faster than the normal speed near the start of the game.

I’ve owned the game for a bit less than a week and have managed to bring three different saves to the mid to late game but finished none of them. You are able to delegate most of your planets to AI sectors (in fact you have no choice as there is a limit to the number of core planets you can directly manage), but empire-building and expansion can still become tedious in the late game given the normal size of the generated galaxies.

Bugs

I also encountered a few bugs as I played. Nothing game-breaking or crash to desktop stuff, but things like quests becoming impossible to complete under certain conditions, or supposedly stone-age species owning starships, that kind of thing. Steam achievements also seem a bit buggy, I think they stopped firing after a certain point in the game. They’re planning a number of bug fixes within the next couple of months so hopefully most of these problems get addressed.

Conclusion

There’s a lot more to touch on as I’m pretty sure I’ve only scratched the surface of Stellaris, but this review is already way longer than I thought it would be. Stellaris is a fun, great game, providing a few good twists on the 4x genre, and very much like the Civilization games, there’s a strong tendency to play for much longer hours than you were planning to.

But there are still some flaws especially in the mid to late game. Paradox has a good track record of improving their games incrementally with free updates (I recently reinstalled Crusader Kings II after a couple of years and was happy to find a few features that weren’t there before), so hopefully many of these problems get ironed out in the next few months. I’ve already played way too much of this game than I expected, so I think I’m going to set it aside for a few months and come back to it later.

Elections 2016 – My Ballot

This has been one of the most divisive and shenanigan-filled election campaign seasons ever, and politics is normally crazy in this country so that’s saying something. There’s a strong use of social media this time around, and it’s led to the internet being a hotbed of opinions and propaganda and memes and lies and half-truths and threats of violence. I was hoping greater citizen involvement via social media and the debates would mean citizens have more information and thus would get to be more discerning, but it seems that things have only gotten worse. Hopefully we’ll get there someday, but it doesn’t look like that day is soon.

The presidential race has been particularly difficult, I would generally say this is the worst crop of candidates we’ve had since I started voting. I cannot find any clearly acceptable candidate, all of them have their own trade-offs. For the discerning voter, it’s a matter of which trade-offs you are willing to accept and live with. In fact, at this time, I am still unable to finalize my choice. I will probably decide who I will vote for president when I wake up in the morning on the morning of election day itself. That being said, for sure I will not vote for Binay (should be self-explanatory) or Duterte (risk of instability, too many things I disagree with, including character, foreign policy, diplomacy, etc). For both of the above choices, I feel that the worst-case scenario is significantly worse than the other three.

Grace Poe, I do not like mainly due to her inexperience, she has the most variance among the remaining candidates. Difficult to predict what happens with a presidency under her, although one can assume it will be reasonably similar to Roxas. I am not actually too concerned with her having been an American citizen (I am not very nationalistic in that regard), and if the SC says she can run, fine (with reservations). I will probably vote for her if I wake up feeling like I want to try to prevent my two negative choices from winning.

Mar Roxas, for all his faults, actually has a reasonable track record (I did vote for him as VP in 2010 on the strength of that record after all). He however suffers the misfortune of working under an administration that despite it’s accomplishments, has exhibited poor judgment and poor leadership at certain points over the past six years. As a regular commuter, I am also personally very annoyed at how the administration has handled the traffic situation in Metro Manila (although as one of the other candidates has pointed out, it is a difficult problem that may not be resolved in six years). A vote for Roxas is kind of a safe bet, we can easily assume that his administration will perform similarly to how the previous administration did: some bad spots in leadership, with some accomplishments along the way. It also means living with the traditional politics of the Liberal Party. I will probably vote for Roxas if I wake up feeling neutral or positive (if I wake up with any hate or anger or annoyance, I will vote one of the other two haha)

Miriam Defensor Santiago, my main issue is her endorsement of Marcos, which for me is a non-starter. That I’m even still considering her for this slot is a testament to how shallow the pool is. She’s brilliant and has an excellent track record, and her administration would probably be the most unconventional among the three. She is however, very much a political animal, with her own history of poor political choices here and there. I will probably vote for her if I wake up feeling hipster or contrarian.

If I wake up feeling like I cannot stomach any of the above choices, I will shade in Roy Seneres on the ballot (virtual abstain)

Okay, that was the tough part. The rest of the choices are relatively easy.

For Vice President, there is no other choice but Leni Robredo. Full disclosure: My uncle is married to the sister of the late Jesse Robredo, so my family is strongly in favor of Leni anyway (last weekend one of my visiting relatives told me I should be campaigning for her more :p). That being said, I’ve never met her myself, although my parents have. My choice is based on what I see and hear about her compared to the other choices. Her track record is not as extensive as the others, but her character is unquestionable, and she has been involved in grassroots community work even before she entered public service, and she has had a productive term as congresswoman.

For the Senate, just a quick run through:

  1. Risa Hontiveros – I voted for in 2010, still voting for her now.
  2. Lorna Kapunan – a newbie, but given one of the likely winners of the presidential race, we will need more Human Rights advocates in the senate
  3. Ina Ambolodto – some representation for our Mindanao/Muslim brethren. She was recommended by Jesse Robredo to be part of his team in the DILG, a big plus for me
  4. Leila de Lima – for Justice! Not afraid to go up against influential groups
  5. Francis Pangilinan – reasonably good track record, focus on agriculture
  6. Joel Villanueva – on the strength of his TESDA track record
  7. Sherwin Gatchalian – I still associate him with some text spam ads during the previous elections, but multiple people have vouched for how he has improved things in Valenzuela, so I’ll give him a chance
  8. Rafael Alunan – reasonably good track record during the Ramos administration. As a Duterte supporter, he is also my concession to their camp; as an intelligent man I hope he can help keep the mayor’s baser instincts in check should he become president
  9. Dick Gordon – he’s not perfect, and I disagree with his stand on a number of issues, but if I was willing to vote for him as president in 2010, there’s no reason not to vote for him now as a Senator where he would have less power
  10. Roman Romulo – focus on education. He’s only here because I’m a sucker for his political ad haha. He also has a reasonable legislative record focused on education
  11. TG Guingona – filling out the slots with a couple of re-electionists. #11 and #12 are soft slots, they are more likely to change depending on my mood during election day. Both of these guys seem to have reasonable track records and I don’t mind re-electing them.
  12. Ralph Recto – see above.

For party-list, once again I’m voting for AGHAM. I always heavily favor science and education, because playing Civilization taught me that it’s difficult to keep up with other civs if our science % is too low haha.

For mayor and vice-mayor, I will grudgingly vote for Bautista and Belmonte, who are running virtually unopposed anyway. I’m not too happy with HB and some of his shenanigans, but Quezon City is doing fine anyway.

For congressman, I will abstain. Kit Belmonte is running unopposed, but I have no idea of his track record, might as well abstain. I do not know the candidates for councilor either, so I will not vote for any councilors either.

Things can still change between now and election day, but more or less this will probably be the slate I’m voting for. Despite the fact that I enjoy seeing the shenanigans unfold, I’m tired of this election season and looking forward to it being over just under a week’s time. I’m sure that won’t be the end of our political circus (far from it), but I expect the toxic atmosphere online to at least maybe lighten up even just a little bit. Hopefully?

Edit: I was told that I take my votes too seriously. Cannot deny haha. Here’s my 2010 post for reference: http://roytang.net/2010/05/elections-2010-my-ballot/

Sketching Daily

I’ve had a bit more free time recently, and I’ve been filling that time by starting up some hobbies (some old, some new). One of them has been sketching. I’ve been drawing things for as long as I remember – I have elementary and high school notebooks with more doodles and x-men drawings than there are notes. And even at work, I often find other meeting participants checking out the random sketches I had been absently doing while other people were speaking.

I started following this subreddit SketchDaily. What they do is they have a bot post a daily theme (submitted by other users) and users post their sketches for others’ comments. “Sketches” is a wide-ranging term here, submissions can be anything – redditors will typically post sketches with a wide range of skillsets (some are beginners and some quite advanced) and mediums (some do real-life paper sketches or inked and colored drawings, others do digital stuff drawn on tablets or with photoshop).

If you follow me on Instagram (@roytang0400, it’s funny how I got that account, but that’s a story for another day), you know I’ve been posting my sketches for a bit more than a month now. I haven’t written a blog post in a while, so I thought I’d post about this and maybe show a bit of how I do my sketches. I’m not super talented or anything, although I like to think I’m not a beginner.

For March 15th, the theme posted on r/SketchDaily was “Lots of Dinosaurs”. I usually try to relate the theme to a pop culture thing I’m familiar with – something from movies, TV or video games. Since I’m a big Transformers fan, my first instinct was to do a drawing of the Dinobots. I’m not good enough yet to do one from scratch, so I usually search online for an image to use as reference. (I find that my sketches get a bit worse when I don’t use a reference)

I found the following image via Google Images, originally hosted on http://kaiju-kingdom-hearts.wikia.com/wiki/Dinobots:

The five Dinobots (if you are ignorant) are Grimlock (center, T-Rex), Snarl (bottom left, Stegosaurus), Slag/Slug (bottom right, triceratops, he was renamed to Slug in later versions because apparently Slag had negative connotations somewhere), Sludge (top right, apatosaurus), and Swoop (top left, pteranodon)

I usually start by doing a light-pencil sketch of a rough outline and layout:

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I’m drawing on a cheap sketchpad I bought for like 50 pesos using a 2B pencil. I usually just take pictures of my submissions using my cellphone camera, which explains the shadow near the bottom. I started out placing Grimlock’s head then placing the other Dinobots around him. It turned out that I had made Grimlock’s head a bit too big which meant I didn’t have room to place the other Dinobots exactly as they were in the reference image, I had to bunch them up closer (Sludge is mostly just a neck and head now), but that’s fine. Too lazy to start over.

Once I have the initial light-pencil sketch, I draw in some heavier lines. I start with Grimlock in the center:

20160315_210755

Then Snarl and Slag on either side:

20160315_213816

Then the last two, Swoop and Sludge:

20160315_215206

Now, usually I’d stop at this stage and maybe polish a bit more (Grimlock probably needs an Autobot symbol on the chest) and just submit it to reddit already. But the problem with this sketch when I look at it, it’s hard to tell the Dinobots apart – like in the image above, it’s hard to tell where Grimlock ends and Snarl begins.

So just this once, I thought I’d try adding some colors to the sketch. I’d never done it before, but my mom was into the whole adult coloring book fad so she had some colored pencils lying around for me to use.

Again I started with Grimlock:

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And then the rest:

20160315_224636

Okay, it didn’t really improve telling the Dinobots apart by that much. Maybe only a little bit. At this point I’ve already spent way more time than I normally do on this (I was already on one and a half hours, most days it takes me less than half an hour), so the I went ahead and submitted the above image to reddit.

The above isn’t representative of what I do with all of the sketches. For one, this output is way more detailed than my usual ones. And the process varies slightly depending on what I’m drawing. I will usually always have the preliminary light-pencil sketch. Sometimes for drawing real-life people, I’ll want to do an outline trace, which means overlaying the paper over an image I want to draw (usually on the iPad) and lightly tracing the outline with pencil. It feels a bit like cheating, but real-life faces are hard enough without it. Maybe someday I won’t have to do them anymore (although I’ve only traced like 3 sketches I think). And as mentioned, I don’t usually do the coloring – and I probably won’t do it again, takes too much time.

I’m still not sure how far I’m taking this hobby. I have no ambitions of becoming a professional or anything (a friend once commented he was scrolling through his instagram feed with famous artists like Leinel Yu and one of my drawings was interspersed and surprised him LOL), but like life, I’ll just see how it goes I guess.

Comparing Singapore and PH: Apples and Oranges

 

(Originally posted on Facebook)

Heaven knows we are in need of some serious income tax reform, and the government needs to work a lot on efficient utilization of the revenue they do earn, so of course when I first saw the image below like any middle-class Filipino I found it a bit enraging. But then I thought to myself: if Singapore has such low taxes, where does the government get their operating budget from? Are they simply 20 times more efficient in using their money? I had time, so I thought I’d do a bit of research. (I’m just pulling figures off the internet and using what limited understanding I have of economics so feel free to correct me where I am probably embarassingly wrong)

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First off, 1M pesos annual salary = around 30,000 sgd (more or less, let’s just make the math easy). According to the table from the original article (https://sg.finance.yahoo.com/news/highest-income-tax-rates-world-160000035.html), that’s the second lowest tax bracket (200sgd + 3.5% of the excess over 30k sgd). While the 240,000php annual salary is in the third highest bracket for the Philippines, taxed at 20%. Obviously Singapore has a lower tax rate than we do, but it seems a bit disingenuous to be comparing one of the lowest brackets with one of the highest. The highest tax brackets are 20% for Singapore and 32% for the Philippines

The comparison was a bit exaggerated, but that’s fine. Singapore tax rates are lower. How much money do they collect? According to http://www.singaporebudget.gov.sg/budget_2015/RevenueandExpenditure.aspx, it was some 61B SGD (around 2T PHP) in 2014. For a population of 5.67M, it comes out to roughly 11K SGD (362k PHP) per capita. Roughly 36% of that was corporate and personal income tax (which I assume are the ones levied as a portion of income)

For the Philippines, revenue was at 1332B PHP in 2014 (source: http://www.bir.gov.ph/images/bir_files/annual_reports/annual_report_2014/cmtt.html) for a population of 100M, roughly 13k PHP per capita. Roughly 58% of that was for taxes on net income (which I assume includes both corporate and personal income tax)

So: Singapore has lower tax rates, but they manage to collect almost 3x as much money per citizen somehow, and less of it is from income taxes. As far as I can tell, complaining about the poor quality of service vis-a-vis the tax rate is ridiculous given the PH government has almost 20x as many people to serve and is earning only around 2/3rds the revenue). The Singapore government can afford to provide better services because their citizens earn more money and hence the government earns more money, despite the lower tax rates. Even if we were able to utilize all the govt revenue 100% (with nothing lost to corruption/inefficiency), we’d still have only 4% as much to spend on services per capita as compared to the SG government. As pointed out by a friend, SG also has a much smaller area to govern and hence much lower expected expenditures.

So it’s not a straightforward “we should be getting better services because we have a higher tax rate!”. We still need to build up our economy so that we can support lower tax rates without giving up too much in social services. At the very least, comparing ourselves with Singapore is an apples and oranges type of deal

Travel anxiety

As I write this I am at the airport, trying to kill time. As per usual, I am more than an hour early before the check-in time for my flight. It’s a thing I do, no matter where I’m travelling, that I put in lots of buffer time so I will more often than not arrive way too early and need to wait. It’s not just for flights either – I have a tendency to arrive early for any sort of time sensitive appointment. (Except work of course, where I often take what I call “tactical lates”, but that’s a story for another time)
The buffer time and arriving early is a form of risk management I suppose. Since flights are costly to miss, you have to manage the risks involved. It’s also a form of anxiety I guess, something I’ve been prone to lately – worrying about all the things that could go wrong. I’m especially familiar with travel anxiety given how much I’ve travelled this year – this is now my fourth time flying out of the country for a while. I plan to go easy on the air travel next year, I’m kind of burned out a bit by it. Not that I don’t like visiting new places, but as I mentioned above there’s a lot of anxiety around it. Some sources of anxiety are:
1. Traffic. Metro Manila right now is one of the worst (if not outright the worst) city in the world with regards to traffic. On a normal day, you’re pretty much rolling the dice on any estimate of travel time as the traffic will randomly grind to a halt unexpectedly. And I just happened to be travelling during the week that we are hosting the APEC summit, which means random road closures and traffic congestion in the southern part of the metro where the city lies. Granted, I’m targetting to arrive at the airport a bit after midnight so the risk of a traffic jam is very low, but I’d prefer not to roll the dice
2. Flight cancellations; this is pretty much a unique risk during APEC week as a number of flights have been cancelled due to visiting dignitaries and security and whot not. There is supposedly a no-fly zone on the airport until the last day of the conference, and I’m flying out on the last day. My flight wasn’t on the cancellation list, but I couldn’t get a straight answer from any of the official channels whether the no fly zone would affect me. The airline’s helpline just kept me on hold for a while, not enough to hold my patience when I just wanted to confirm my flight eill push throu. Given it’s an early morning flight, the risk is again low, but still someing to think about.
3. Scams. Before APEC and the Paris terrorist attacks took over the local news cycle, one of the big causes of worry for travellers was the so-called “laglag bala” scam where unscrupulous airport staff would plant bullets in your luggage and proceed to extort you when they are detected at the xray machine. I don’t seem to be the target audience, but I plan to check in my luggage to minimize the odds of such problems occuring. It’s a shameful issue but the good news is that it has brought to light the sheer incompetence of officials in the transport department.
4. Forgetfulness. There’s always a risk that you arrive at the airport and realise you forgot something important and have to go back. My mom likes to tell the story of hpw she once almost left for the airport to travel to Vietnam and had to go back home because she forgot her passport of all things. Or even worse, what if you travel to a foreign country and realise you forgot to pack any socks? Or underwear? (Not a true story). Nowadays I always prepare a checklist ahead of time of what I plan to bring, to minimise the risk of forgetting things. Of course, you need to remember to check the list again on the way back home – during my last trip home I left my phone charger at the flat we were staying at and had to double back for it
5. Accommodations/getting lost. This is more of a problem when you’ve already arrived at your destination and there’s some problem with the accommodations you’ve planned out. Maybe there was a problem with the booking or you got lost on the way there. For the first night on this particular trip, I’m staying alone at an airbnb in a country that isn’t primarily English-speaking. It’s also my first time using airbnb. So I have a number of things to worry about: will I be able to find the place? Will I be able to communicate well with the owner? Will he murder me in my sleep? (Ok I guess the risk of that last one is probably pretty low)
6. Flight problems. Well, I don’t have a fear of flying per se, but I can imagine some people might, especially given how there’s a lot more incidents of flight problems, crashes or even disappearances happening latly. I would guess it’s pretty much a product of the information age
Well, worrying too much about all of these things isn’t helpful of course. It’s a habit I have to rid myself of – I need to learn the right amount of worrying that’s appropriate enough to manage the risks, but not enough to drive myself crazy. After all, one of the reasons for travelling is a sense of adventure and to anxiety so I should learn to let go of my worries and enjoy being out of my comfort zone for a while

Grand Prix London 2015

I was sent to London for work for a few months, which meant an opportunity to play a third GP for the year after Manila back in January and Singapore back in June. This will be the most GP events I’ve played in a one year period. I didn’t have time to practice, so I went with an updated version of the Jeskai tempo deck I was playing at the start of Khans rotation.

I was really hoping to run into a lot of monored or UR Artifacts – basically the PT Origins metagame. Unfortunately the metagame had already reacted the week before. Here’s how my day 1 shook out:

R1 0-2 LOSS vs Abzan Control (mull to 6 and mull to 5)
R2 2-0 WIN vs RG Monsters (mull to 6 in game 1)
R3 2-1 WIN vs Abzan Control
R4 2-1 WIN vs Abzan Megamorph (mull to 6 in game 2)
R5 0-2 LOSS vs Abzan Megamorph
R6 0-2 LOSS vs Temur Dragons
DROP

I was expecting to be slightly ahead on Abzan decks in general, but my lack of practice turned that into a 50-50 proposition instead. I made a lot of sequencing errors and play mistakes (and felt like I had too many mulligans). I lost the Temur match due to being too aggressive (and not understanding how Thunderbreak Regent worked lol).

The thing about competitive Magic is that both proper deck selection and practice both matter. For all three of the GPs I played in, my deck was a good choice – unlike previous years where I basically slapped together whatever I could based on card availability. My best performance this year was in Manila back in January since I had a lot of practice for that. I played in a number of trials beforehand and had regular playtest sessions with a small group. For Singapore in June, I had a bit less preparation; I only played two trials and a shorter playtest period, and I almost made day 2, dropping the last 2 rounds. For London, it was week 2 of the season and I was in a foreign land so I didn’t have any chance for any sort of preparation.

Losing at competitive Magic is a downer. Well, competitive anything really. It’s a problem with being a spike haha. It makes me question whether I’m going to keep doing it – you get a high from competing and winning and eking out close victories, but losing makes you question whether all the prep effort is worth it. I guess it’s a matter of finding the fun in it again, and the drive to keep playing. We’ll see.

I played a sealed after dropping out of the main event, but only managed to win 4 boosters. I also played the SSS on Sunday, but scrubbed out again. I quit the weekend after that, since it felt like I was on tilt and was dead tired. So the GP was a bust, but at least there was swag!

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Thirty-Seven

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I like to be optimistic, or at least to try to. And to believe the best of people, or at least try to. It’s not always easy. Sometimes people disappoint you. Sometimes you feel lost. Or stressed. Or stuck in a rut. And you don’t know what to do.

You have to be able to look within yourself to find your own drive, to find the ability to move forward in spite of the tough times. And to be able to appreciate the good things in your life.

Despite some bad spots, I’ve still had a pretty good twelve months though. I’ve traveled a lot, and plan to travel more before the year ends. I’m still learning new things. I’m still blessed with good family and friends and a means to sustain myself and my wants.

My birthday always feels like a good opportunity to step back and take a breather and find some perspective. And to re-affirm the choice to keep moving forward – one step at a time…