Yearly Archives: 2011

2011 in Review. Sort of. I guess.

Somehow the years seem to fly by more quickly nowadays. They all seem to blend in together too, at least in my memory. When I was thinking of what to write for this post I thought that this was the year I had taken my break from working. That was actually last year.

I don’t think it’s a sign that I’m growing old. Maybe more of a sign of the fact that I’ve settled in to some sort of routine that makes it difficult to tell the days or even years apart. Nothing significant changes, I guess.

Except it does. There are changes. This year, I’ve traveled to new places, met new people, engaged in new activities, worked with some new technology, enjoyed new things. But nothing really life-changing I guess. Or nothing stands out. I wonder if all humans live their lives this way and go through the same ruminations that I do.

Something’s been going on lately. I’ve received something of an offer, to try something new and exciting. But it means walking away from the familiar. Taking a risk. There was a time I would have berated myself for even considering not taking on such a new thing. Maybe that time has passed? Like I said, I’ve fallen into some sort of routine. And heavens help me, maybe I actually enjoy this routine. It’s easy, it’s stable, it’s familiar. Maybe we don’t all need to go on some wild adventure always reaching for the stars that may never reach out to us. Maybe we should just be satisfied with the way things are. And the way things are, they’re pretty good anyway. Who needs the additional stress?

Maybe changes and improvements don’t have to be some big upfront changes. Maybe they can come slowly and organically, growing out of our daily lives. Maybe change can come little by little everyday, so that you don’t even notice it and the years just pass by one after another and then you’re someone completely different again. Maybe we let go of the older things one at a time, and pick up the newer things one at a time, until one day we have a completely different set of things. And maybe that’s fine.

Well, it looks like that’s how I feel. At least for now. Who knows how I’ll wake up tomorrow.

I harbor no sentimentality for the past year. It’s just a year. An arbitrary delineation of time created only as a matter of convention. Time moves forward. We have to keep looking forward, see what the future brings.

This existential rambling madness was brought to you by the letter Q. Let’s have a good 2012 y’all.

Dear Citibank, About Your New Website…

Hi,

About this new website design/whatever. I am glad that you know have 2-factor authentication to protect me from fraudulent online transactions, but please check the following problems ( I gave up trying to post this using your messaging system, see #3 below):

1. Please fix or replace the horribly unusable custom combo box control you have. When using it to select a payee while making a payment, it’s difficult and counterintuitive to scroll up and down the list (it seems I must hover my mouse over the up and down arrows on the scrollbar). If you’re going to replace the native select control for some reason, please at least make sure you support the scroll wheel and clicking in the scroll area (it’s like you purposely chose the smallest part of the scrollbar to allow scrolling with)

2. The account summary shown to me upon logout does not include transactions made during the same login session. The old website used to be able to do this.

3. Something is wrong with your message composer, error handling and session management. I actually attempted to send this message through your in-app messaging three times before giving up. I keep getting an error about an “invalid character” in the message (kind of ridiculous if your messaging app does not support slahes or parentheses or whatever, there’s not even any indication which character has failed), and after the error page there’s no way to go back to my message to edit it AND apparently I have to login again. What’s up with that?

Thanks!

X-Men, Green Lantern and a little bit of Batman

So Metro Manila is at the peril of heavy rains, flooding and traffic again (as often happens this time of the year) and I thought I’d do some actual blogging for a change.

I didn’t want to brave the rush hour traffic last night so I finally got around to watching X-Men First Class (luckily it was still showing at Mega). I had actually seen Green Lantern first despite X1C showing two weeks before the DC movie. It’s a good time to be a comic book fan with all these comic book movies coming out; I saw Thor a couple of months ago and of course we still have Captain America to look forward to next year.

At some level though I’ve started thinking that being a big comic book fan is actually a bit of a handicap when watching these big Hollywood adaptations of our favorite spandex-clad heroes, if only because we cringe twice at much at every small fault or piece of bad writing that we find in these movies.

I may have subconsciously delayed watching X1C because one of my brothers had watched it while I was in Singapore and didn’t really give the gushing review “regular” people had given. And GL wasn’t getting such rave reviews on opening weekend either and there were rumors that even the studio was not confident in the movie. So I came into both movies with a bit of lowered expectations.

My quick reviews of the two movies first then: X1C was fun and it was nice seeing an entirely new crew of mutants (more or less). I can forgive the ridiculous recruitment and training montages (and lol’ed at the cameo). It looks they didn’t bother keeping in continuity with the first trilogy and Wolverine: Origins, which is fine since Wolverine: Origins was ridiculous anyway. The ending felt a bit contrived in the same way that the ending of Smallville and Wolverine: Origins did – mainly because they need to wrap up things to sync with whatever “continuity” they’re supposed to have. The movie feels a bit campy at times and it’s far from the “Dark Knight of X-Men” that some reviews made it out to be, but still a good watch.

Green Lantern was fun as well, though the writing left a bit to be desired for me. At some points the abrupt transitions and especially the poor portrayal of Carol Ferris reminded me of Smallville-quality writing at some point. It’s still a good movie to watch and the scale is definitely more epic than X1C, but it kind of left me hanging the same way Thor did: it’s like there wasn’t much that happened in the movie aside from the telling of the origin story.

Maybe I was just spoiled by Nolan, but Batman Begins set a new height for me in terms of superhero origin movies, and the latest set have yet to reach that bar.

Speaking of Batman I’ve also just finished watching the DC straight to video animated feature “Under the Red Hood” which covers the death and resurrection of Jason Todd (duh, spoilers) and to be honest I found the climactic scene more well-written than the above two movies. But then again Under the Red Hood follows the comic book story arc more closely so I guess it’s closer to the type of stories I enjoy on a regular basis. In fact I find that the DC animated film line to be pretty good; not something I’d watch in a cinema or anything but enjoyable enough.

This is just really more or less random ramblings about comic books and comic book movies so here’s something else I thought of while watching X1C: the problem with the character of Magneto or in general any character whose origin story or background is tied to a real-life historical event the same way Magneto’s is tied to the holocaust. See the problem is that comic book characters live in some sort of time-distorting reality bubble where they don’t grow old as fast as the readers do. Characters like Magneto however, have no choice but to grow old at the regular rate, since we cannot move the historical dates upon which their characters are based. In twenty to thirty years, Magneto will be a hundred years old regardless of what happens in X-Men continuity. How will they make X-Men movies then, will they have a hundred year-old Ian McKellen take the role? With the character of Magneto anchored in time, the fictional world of the X-Men remains tied to a particular era. They’ll probably come up with some handwaved solution about how his powers include not aging; or maybe they’ll take a bold leap and actually kill him off permanently (hey, they haven’t brought back Jean Grey for a while right?)

On a side note, the first character that I ever noticed had this problem was Bab from Pugad Baboy.

Anyway maybe that’s enough rambling for now. Looking forward to Captain America, Transformers 3, etc, etc. Despite my not being 100% satisfied with the current wave of superhero movies, it’s still a good time to be a comic book fan. 😀

 

Grand Prix Singapore Tournament Report

Haven’t done a tournament report in a while. Heck, I haven’t really played tournament Magic in a while, not seriously at least. For that reason it may have been a bad idea to run with a deck that requires a lot of matchup knowledge to play. The tournament was Grand Prix Singapore 2011, the format was standard and my weapon of choice was Caw Blade:

I actually ran this deck through a couple of grinders, both times losing to RUG variants, and that was practically all the playtesting time I had aside from a few random casual games the Friday before the GP. Oh well, we go with what we have.

Round 1 I played versus another Filipino who was visiting Singapore from Malaysia. Apparently he had just come in this morning via bus and was running on only a couple of hours sleep. That didn’t stop him from wrecking me game one with a Phyrexian Obliterator bearing a Lashwrithe. Yup, he was playing Monoblack control. I had actually mulliganned to five and he tore my hand apart with pinpoint discard before that Obliterator took me down in two swings. For game two I brought in Celestial Purges and Divine Offerings, taking out Mana Leaks and the Jace Beleren. I easily won game two off a Mirran Crusader that got his War and Peace on. Game three started off poorly for me as this time I mulled to four, keeping a one lander. Luckily I drew into what I needed and he was drawing mostly land. I managed to play a Hawk (refilling my hand) before he played a surprise sideboarded Torpor Orb cutting me off from my equipment. He played a couple of creatures – an Obliterator and a Vampire Nighthawk before I managed to land a Jace that eventually allowed me to stabilize. By this time however, most of my creatures were out, though I well had the game under control. So I just proceeded to fateseal him every turn and finish him off with Jace’s ultimate.

1-0 matches, 2-1 games

Round 2 My round 2 opponent was…er, I’m not sure. He was definitely Singaporean and I think he was playing either Darkblade or Cawblade. But I did win, in 3 games!

2-0 matches 4-2 games

Round 3 My round 3 opponent was definitely Caw Blade, and was another Filipino who was working in Singapore. He seemed even more inexperienced with the deck than I was though, as I saw when we had some exchanges like me blocking his Batterskull that had a Feast and Famine with my Hawk that had a Batterskull and Feast and Famine. Nevermind the fact that I had more toughness, he hadn’t even realized I had protection from his germ token. I don’t remember the other details well, but I won in 3 games again.

3-0 matches, 6-3 games

At the start of Round 4 they called the first feature match: Owen Turtenwald vs Steven Tan. I kind of did a double take when I heard the Steven Tan part.

Round 4 My opponent was Singaporean, and he lead with forest into Birds of Paradise. I thought he was some sort of RUG but turns out he was straight RG Valakut. The matchup is as easy as I had read, since he has so few creatures to help him establish control and very little in the way of spot removal. A Mirran Crusader bearing War and Peace was enough to win game one. In game two he hesitated before keeping his hand after he had mulliganned to five and I decided to be merciless and give him the Eye of the Tiger (TM). He played turn two Explore and I answered with Spell Pierce. Turn 3 Cobra and I answered with Flashfreeze. Turn 4 Explore (still stuck on three lands) and I had the second Spell Pierce. By this time I had solid control and he would never be able to recover.

4-0 matches, 8-3 games

I was feeling great at this point, but was well aware that by now I was in danger of running into pros, and my record against pros is not surprisingly quite bad.

Round 5 I actually thought I was paired against fffreak himself Brad Nelson, but it turns out it was a guy named Brandom Nelson. He was a scrawny American (reminded me somehow of Reid from Criminal Minds), so I wasn’t sure if he was related to Brad Nelson. I later found out he was actually fffreakslittlebro hence the name similarity and that they are step brothers or half brothers or something hence the difference in appearance. He was bringing Caw Blade as well, and the difference of playtesting showed up here quite easily. He played quickly; as soon as I had played a turn 2 Hawk he would ask me how many I was getting and would proceed to say, “then you’re done right” and start his turn while I was still shuffling. “No need to waste time,” he would murmur.

He got a Mystic first and went for Batterskull. My Mystic went for a Feast and Famine, I figured I would need to grind him out, treating it as a control matchup. I was probably already wrong here, but I didn’t have long to figure it out. His next creature was a Mirran Crusader and the turn after that he got a War and Peace on it (he never played the Batterskull), with Spell Pierce backup for my Into the Roil, and I died quickly.

Second game was worse for me, as I was low on lands and he kept me low with a Tectonic Edge on my sixth and seventh lands. I held him off for a while, countering a Jace and hitting a Batterskull with Divine Offering, but eventually he lands a Sun Titan and starts recurring Tectonic Edge and I have no chance. First loss down.

4-1 matches, 8-5 games

That was a bit heartbreaking, I felt like he knew the matchup inside-out (he probably did) and just crushed me at every opportunity. I went into round six a bit off…

Round 6 was against a Malaysian guy sporting RB Vampires. He led with a quick pair of Vampire Lacerators into a Kalastria Highborn. I remember going for the early Batterskull, but my notes don’t show me gaining life, instead losing it in chunks of four. I think he killed the Germ somehow.

Game two he had the same opening, but this time I had more ammunition to hold him off. I would draw Celestial Purges and Into the Roils before I eventually managed to Jace into DoJ, but it took forever and I had to chump block quite a number of Hawks before I stabilized.. During this time he had managed to Crush or Manic Vandal away the equipment I was searching with my Mystics. I looked at the clock and saw that there were less than twenty minutes left in the round so I started speeding up the pace. I already had control but was at a low five life and had to resort to attacking with a Mystic bearing a Sylvok Lifestaff to bring him down from 12 while he tried to put away the last few points of damage. I lock him down with Tectonic Edges to keep him at less than four lands, but eventually he gets a creature through and drops me to 3 as he’s at 4. I Tectonic Edge the last red source he has and swing to bring him to 2. He draws his card and sighs showing me the Lightning Bolt that would have killed me, then we shuffle up for game 3.

We barely had five minutes left as we started game three, and at that point I knew it was already pretty much a draw. He actually still managed to open with the 2 Lacerators and the Highborn, and followed up with a couple of Bloodghasts, but my hand was chock-full of condemns, celestial purges and into the roils, he had no chance to put me away in five minutes. So we ended in a draw. And in this vicious unforgiving grand prix day one, that draw might as well have been a loss and we both fell into do or die mode.

4-1-1 matches, 9-6-1 games

Interestingly, the table beside us was a Cawblade mirror between two Caucasians that fell into a draw as well, and they spent quite a few minutes talking among themselves on how they’ll handle it, as neither of them wanted to give up the win. Eventually they just got a draw as well.

Round 7 My Belgian opponent led with Island into Preordain and I had played so much Caw Blade I just assumed that was what he had. The second land however was a Mountain, followed by another Preordain and I realized I had fallen prey to the boogeyman matchup – Exarch Twin. Well I figured I just had to be careful not to tap out, and indeed I managed to be aggrressive, going Hawk into Hawk into Mystic into Batterskull. Eventually as I attacked for with 4 creatures for 7 damage he flashed in the Deceiver Exarch to tap down the germ and I kind of panicked as the only instant speed response I had in hand was an Into the Roil. I pondered whether to play it or not and at some point even tapped the four mana. If I sent it back to his hand immediately, he would just do the same thing on his next attack and then I would have nothing. So I held back and just dealt my 3 damage. Post-combat I played a Mystic to get Feast and Famine, hoping to grind out his hand, but as was pointed out to me later, it was a crucial mistake as I was left with only four mana untapped. On his turn he played the Splinter Twin and I responded with Into the Roil, but had no mana to pay for the Mana Leak. The Twin resolved and we were on to game two.

I resolved to play tighter as I boarded in Spellskites and Dismembers, but it was for naught as I was stuck at 3 islands and a plains for most of the game, with him keeping me off a fifth land via Tectonic Edges. He played a Manic Vandal for the first equipment my Mystic flashed in, and I dared not tap out after that since I could die at any time, which meant I was restricted to playing one two mana spell a turn so that I could keep up a Mana Leak available. Eventually I got nothing and that Manic Vandal actually went all the way (I drew a Dismember with too few life to kill him).

Sigh.

4-2-1 matches, 9-7-1 games, and that’s it for me.

Really, the losses were due to the general lack of practice and playtesting which made them a bit frustrating. But that’s life I guess, and a consequence of putting things together at the last minute. At least I have more experience when I go to play in the upcoming Nationals Qualifiers.

I’ll probably skip Shanghai, despite it being a limited GP, as I’d like to limit the damage to international GP a year. I’m still not willing nor able to commit the amount of playtesting and practice time to compete at the international level apparently, but at least I’m already doing better than the 0-3 starts I got the last 2 GPs I attended. We’ll see where I go with Magic from here.

 

Singapore

I was in Singapore from June 2 – June 6, mostly to visit friends who are getting married and compete in the MTG Grand Prix held there last weekend. I like bullet points, so here’s a summary of my trip:

Props:

  • public transportation. One thing Singapore and Hong Kong have in common: well-defined, convenient and tourist-friendly public transportation systems, namely trains and buses. It makes our local buses and trains here pale by comparison. The trains are well-maintained and more or less go everywhere including to and from the airport (there’s really no need to take an airport taxi unless you arrive some time after the trains close), and there are maps everywhere and machines that dispense tickets and such. The buses can get crowded but still well-organized. There are numerous bus stops and they identify the bus numbers that pass by that stop and many stops will also have maps and routes shown; buses are tracked via GPS so some stops will tell you how long until the bus arrives. They even have an iPhone app that helps you find your bus. Oh, and of course you can buy one of those reloadable cards that you can use to pay for buses and trains. Okay, I really liked the public transpo system. 😀
  • Mike and Tin (congrats again guys :D) and the rest of the Singapore guys who put up with the visiting team, especially since they let me crash at their place on my last night there.
  • 12 mbps internet at Mike and Tin’s place, which meant we were able to spend a couple of hours one night just watching stupid youtube videos continuously and letting me get my ass kicked at SSF4 online without any lag. Arr, makes me wish ISPs on our side weren’t so terrible
  • anime. Well, just the fact that I probably watched more anime over the weekend stay than I have over the past year or so. At least I now have some idea who these Fate/Stay Night people are.
  • air travel. In general, my Cebu Pacific flights went smoothly (I even slept well on the flight back) and I breezed through customs and immigrations both ways without much concern. I’m always a bit worried about some unexpected problems like baggage getting lost (so I never check in baggage) or some problem with the bookings or my travel documents or whatever.

Slops:

  • very muggy weather, making it very uncomfortable to travel outside (to be fair, now that I’m back in Manila it feels almost the same here). It felt good to take a shower back at the hotel everyday
  • Oxford hotel for not having free internet and serving basically the same breakfast everyday. Oh and aircon unit that dripped on the couch; I actually woke up with water all over my iPad’s case (luckily not broken)
  • the Grand Prix Singapore venue, for being so far from the train station
  • me for trying to get into the driver’s side of the taxi

Somewhere in between:

  • I guess I’m fairly satisfied with how I fared in the Grand Prix, despite my sloppy misplays at some point. At least I broke my curse of going 0-3 all the time in Grand Prix tournaments. I’ll write up a tournament report in a couple of days
  • getting off at the wrong bus stop in Telok Blangah, causing me to wander amongst the apartment building while carrying my huge bag and there was a slight drizzle. It’s not completely a bad thing, as I kind of enjoy wandering around by myself on foot. It’s something I’ve done in other countries I visited (usually at night), but didn’t really get the chance in Singapore because once I got back to the airconditioned room in the hotel, I didn’t really want to go out 😀

As per usual in my travels to other countries, I did not spend much time shopping or sight-seeing or any touristy stuff like that. I’m not really a tourist kind of person. Overall the trip was ok it was great to be able to visit and meet up with friends, compete in the Grand Prix and see how daily life is in Singapore (still not inclined to work there though :p)