Wearing dice on my head since 2008 Programmer, engineer, scientist, critic, gamer, dreamer, and kid-at-heart. Randomly amazed.

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I have a small mobile app that I wrote using React Native (henceforth RN) back in 2017, currently deployed on the Google Play Store and Apple App Store. Shortly before my US trip, I got an email from Google telling me about a required action: By August 1, 2019, all apps that use native code must provide a 64-bit version in addition to the 32-bit version in order to publish an update.

Why Travel?

travels

People travel for different reasons. My parents travel mostly for shopping purposes. Which meant when I flew back home with them during the recent trip, we came back with an additional 3 fully-packed pieces of luggage full of shoes and clothes and such. As someone who doesn’t really indulge in shopping, I can’t relate to this, and in fact it runs anathema to my philosophy of always packing as little as necessary when travelling.

The topic of the mythical “10x programmer” has been the topic of discussion recently on tech twitter, due to a thread listing out the supposed signs of being such a mythical beast. 10x engineers Founders if you ever come across this rare breed of engineers, grab them. If you have a 10x engineer as part of your first few engineers, you increase the odds of your startup success significantly. OK, here is a tough question.

I mentioned in yesterday’s post that I might take some comparison shots using the A50’s camera, so I thought I’d post those now. Note that I am terribly bad at photography, I am well-known for often posting out-of-focus shots and such. Well, I tried at least. This one is a photo of some Deceptions taken using the Samsung Galaxy A50 camera, default settings: Here’s a similar photo taken using the Asus Zenfone Max 4 camera, default settings:

Since I was going to be staying in the US for more than a month, on my first day there, I went over to Best Buy and got myself a T-Mobile sim card and plan, and the staff there helpfully offered to install the sim into my phone, then the Asus Zenfone Max 4. Upon handling my phone, she commented “you know you’re battery’s expanding, right? That’s dangerous, it could explode or such”, but I shrugged it off.

I had written about travel anxiety before, but I’m revisiting the topic because the recent US trip reminded me how much of a problem it is for me. The US trip was a new experience because I would be abroad for 40 days with multiple travel legs, it involved 4 international flights (back and forth) plus three domestic flights within the US, and on one leg and several flights I would be travelling alone.

After the Seattle part of the trip, I reunited with family for the final leg of the trip where we all be hanging around the San Francisco bay area. We were based in my uncle’s place in Vacaville, which one of my friends kindly described as “in the sticks”, i.e. basically far away from everything. Like Houston, we had to rely on the kindness of relatives who were willing and available to drive us around.

First, the spoiler-free review, then more spoilery stuff afterwards. I watched Far From Home while I was… far from home. great movie, lots of fun, and the stakes are a lot higher than the Vulture just stealing some tech off Tony Stark basically a story of Peter Parker the high school student trying to juggle his Spider-Man problems with his high school life, which was one of the best eras of comic book Spider-Man the movie gives us a look at what the world looks like post-Endgame and how weird it is for everyone if you’ve seen the trailers, you know who the “villain” is and you have certain expectations coming in.

Seattle was the riskiest part of my trip, relatively speaking, because it was my solo leg - I didn’t have any friends or relatives in the city I could turn to in case of an emergency. I had also read online that while Seattle was very much a walkable city, there was a nontrivial homeless population, and some areas may be a bit sketchy after dark. As a friend of mine said though, “sketchy” in the US is probably a lot safer than “sketchy” in Metro Manila.

Grand Prix / MagicFest Seattle Photo Dump: I wasn’t actually planning to play much competitive Magic this year, at least not on paper, but when the family planned a US trip in June, I figured I’d take a short side trip to attend and experience a US GP. I had the choices of Washington DC on the 14th-16th (Limited), Seattle on 20th-23rd (Limited), or Dallas on 28th-30th (Modern). After some wrangling with the family’s schedule, Seattle was the one most convenient to go to, and Limited meant I didn’t have to try and put together a decent deck.

Not much to say about Anaheim, it felt like the town was all about Disneyland and not much else. But then again we did spend our three days there just going to Disneyland, so what can you do? In LA we stayed in the Koreatown district, so everything felt weirdly Asian. Not Asian like living in Asia, but like Chinatown in any other city I guess? The city felt a bit dirty, I’m told the metro elevators smelled bad, and there was grafitti everywhere and a high incidence of homeless people.

I’m not a big fan of theme parks. I think for the most part they are overpriced and not worth the time, effort or money. And I’d probably never go to one by myself or without one of my nieces/nephews. I understand the impetus of bringing kids to a theme park of course, they really enjoy it. Prior to this trip, I’ve only ever been to a theme park once, and that was in Unversal Studios Singapore with my brothers back in 2015.

My US trip started on the first of the month. I’ve been meaning to write more regularly about it, but one thing I had forgotten was how exhausting it would be to be a tourist, walking everywhere all of the time. Here’s how many steps my Fitbit recorded during that first week: I finished this week with a bit more than 105k steps, which I’m pretty sure is a lifetime record (though I dont have the data anymore from the Europe trip in 2015 - I suspect that it’s comparable in scale.

Damn, that was a grind. But it felt super rewarding especially as a free-to-play player since the closed beta, always struggling for wildcards to build the decks. I had never tried going for Mythic beyond the first month, when I realized what a grind it was. This standard format was also pretty dynamic, which meant the best deck changed constantly, so it was hard to be successful by sticking to one deck, which meant a lot of WCs are needed to be able to shift with the meta.

I remember when playing the original version of Civilization back in the day, the “most advanced” form of government was Democracy, with the only downside of it being you can’t declare war (because you had a senate that would stop you.) The other available forms of government were typically not very useful, but Democracy massively increased your trade output, so most often I would build the Pyramids (a wonder which allowed switching to any government immediately and without penalty), and spend the rest of the game toggling between Democracy and Despotism (for when I wanted to go to war).

The big TV thing of May 2019 was of course, the much maligned finale for Game of Thrones. I’ve written about that separately here. Most of the US TV series also ended their runs in May. Arrowverse show seasons were littered with poor writing as usual. I rank the seasons in this order: best is Legends of Tomorrow season 4. The reason Legends is the best is that they’re not afraid to be outrageous.

“We are, finally, all wanderers in search of knowledge. Most of us hold the dream of becoming something better than we are, something larger, richer, in some way more important to the world and ourselves. Too often, the way taken is the wrong way, with too much emphasis on what we want to have, rather than what we wish to become.” — Louis L’Amour via swissmiss

After a much-maligned eighth and final season, HBO’s Game of Thrones is done. Unmarked spoilers follow. The eighth season was so notoriously bad, we got petitions asking for rewrites. Here’s how I explained it to a friend after the notorious episode 5: It’s not about characters being killed, it’s about bad writing because they’re cramming. The writers were determined to finish the show in 2 smaller seasons so they’re skipping a lot of necessary character development and characters just do stupid things because the plot demands it.

The results are disappointing, but that’s only because we expected better. Historically, those who have made it into the Senate did so mostly on name recognition. What does it matter if Diokno had the best resume of all the candidates, if many of the voters did not know who he was? How could he compete against someone who appeared on a hit primetime TV series right up until the start of the campaign period?

Continuing with the Wheel of Time re-read! I devoured Eye of the World much more quickly than I expected, finishing the book in less than 3 days. It helps that I had already read it before of course, but I think there’s also a part of me that enjoys escaping into this fantasy world when the real world outlook seems dire. Anyway, the book shows a lot of Tolkien-esque plot influence, especially near the start: Some kids from a backwater village are visited by a magic user and after some troubles are forced on the run from black riders?

The PH senatorial and local elections are on Monday. I almost didn’t want to write the usual election post, mostly because I was annoyed with and tired of the electorate and the politicians and the system and all that. But we shouldn’t give in to despair. Often when choosing who to vote, it will be difficult to find candidates who align perfectly with your values. You make compromises to prioritize those issues you think are more important.

Since I was going to be taking a long trip in a month, I was looking for some books to read on the plane and in airports and whatnot while waiting. I settled on a re-read of Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series, a pretty good time for it since by next year we may have a TV series from Amazon (hopefully better than Game of Thrones). Side note: Wheel of Time is also why I’m not optimistic that GRRM can finish ASoIaF in just two more books - Jordan took forever and died before he could finish WoT and even Sanderson who took over needed an additional three books to finish the saga.

I often prefer having a randomly changing background wallpaper, even back in the day when Windows didn’t support it natively and I had to install various plugins to support it. I like the variance! The one I’ve been using recently was this set of wallpapers based on Street Fighter stage backgrounds, which I got from a reddit thread that I unfortunately can’t find anymore (I’ll update this post if I find it later).

I am, admittedly, a grammar nazi. I think it’s something that comes with being a voracious reader, especially as a child. When you have been reading (and speaking) English so much from an early age, you come to have an instinctive grasp of what is and what is not proper sentence construction. Some sentences just look right and some just look wrong. I’m not saying I have perfect mastery of the English language or anything.

Tinkerers

Someone once described me as a tinkerer, i.e. someone who likes taking stuff apart or putting them together or otherwise experimenting to figure out how they work. This is not entirely inaccurate, though I prefer not to tinker with real world stuff because of my poor dexterity. My tinkering is usually limited to software and tech devices. I’m always willing to try different things to figure out how to get software to work.

From a friend’s Facebook post: Less than 2 weeks to the elections, I want to share a hard lesson I learned from the previous one. Especially given that I’ve had formal lessons in rhetoric and logic. Do not believe that logical fallacies are fallacies. Or rather–understand that they are logical fallacies, but that the world does not run on logic and so any classroom lessons on what arguments are fallacious have no relevance.

I follow a lot of strangers over on Twitter, each one usually for a different reason that I find interesting. Sometimes they follow me back for one reason or another, and it gives me a little bit of anxiety. The anxiety is because here is this person whose content I like, who followed me back probably because of an interaction we had, and she is expecting that my tweets will be more of the same kind of content.

Now that I’m playing MTG again regularly on MTG Arena, maybe I’ll start writing a bit more Magic stuff. With War of the Spark now out and the metagame not yet established, I thought I’d be foolish and waste my wildcards on some brewing. As a reminder, I’m still an F2P player on Arena, so wildcards are precious and few lol. I did have some 50k in gold and a few gems saved up when War of the Spark hit, so i have already played a few sealeds (only 1 got to 7 wins) and opened quite a few packs.

“Never give in, never, never, never–never, in nothing, great or small, large or petty. Never give in except to convictions of honor and good sense.” - Churchill Persistence is a virtue, except when it isn’t - there is some amount of good sense necessary to discern when one should just give in. As in most things, a balance is required. Unfortunately, good sense is not always in abundance in today’s world.

I’ve already written extensively about Avengers Endgame, but there are other things I watched this month too. Shazam came out early this month, and while it was unfortunately sandwiched between MCU blockbusters, it was a fun adventure romp and surprised me in a few ways. I wrote a short spoiler-free review over on Tumblr. TV-wise, I’ve been on a rewatch binge of 30 Rock that unfortunately started with season 4 due to Amazon Prime’s weird way of presenting things.

I already wrote about Avengers Endgame a bit in yesterday’s post, but that was a bit rushed and I had more thoughts, so here we are. I figured I might as well get everything out. There will be unmarked spoilers for Avengers Endgame and Agents of SHIELD. Before even going into the movie that was seemingly sold out everywhere despite being on almost every cinema screen in the Metro, I was thinking to myself what a phenomenon.

Two endgames to discuss in one post! MTG War of the Spark and Avengers Endgame spoilers ahoy! Endgame #1: War of the Spark The latest Magic set has been a home run in terms of lore and flavor and storytelling, bringing the last three years worth of MTG lore to its conclusion as the villainous dragon planeswalker Nicol Bolas aims to complete his plan to achieve omnipotence over the multiverse. The set is packed with planeswalkers summoned to Ravnica by Bolas’s schemes, which means mechanically that a lot of new planeswalker design space is being explored.

I was struggling to remember the term - I knew there was one - for the type of stories where it’s long-winded and the narrator is generally trying to keep the audience hanging and eventually ending in an anticlimax. These are called Shaggy Dog Stories, there’s even a subreddit for them. The ones I heard the most growing up were from my high school crowd, and I remember two of them:

A Ghurka rifleman escaped from a Japanese prison in south Burma and walked six hundred miles alone through the jungles to freedom. The journey took him five months, but he never asked the way and he never lost the way. For one thing he could not speak Burmese and for another he regarded all Burmese as traitors. He used a map and when he reached India he showed it to the Intelligence officers, who wanted to know all about his odyssey.

Last Monday, a magnitude 6.1 earthquake hit northern Luzon. The rocking was felt strongly in Metro Manila; I normally don’t feel any earthquakes and only learn of them after the fact via friends or social media. But this time I was on a bed and I could feel it physically shaking, which was impressive given I was only on a second story. Imagine what it must have been like to be in a high-rise condo.

A friend messaged me a while back asking for advice as he was going to be a first time project manager. I don’t identify as a project manager (even though I have done quite a bit of project management work), so I didn’t really have much to say. But I did meet up with a project manager friend later on and asked her if she had any tips. And she told me that one of the best tips she could give was one that I myself told her a long time ago:

Since I’m easily distracted, I often tumble down rabbit holes way too easily. You know the kind of rabbit holes I’m talking about: you just want to lookup the name of that actor who appeared in that movie and suddenly you find yourself forty minutes into a Wikipedia dive with three different tabs open, none of them remotely related to what you were originally searching for. (Wikipedia could also be IMDB, Reddit, or TV Tropes).

Holy Week

My earliest memories of Holy Week are my grandmother telling us about how solemn the days off were supposed to be and that we kids were supposed to be quiet and not make so much noise and not be playing around so much. That, and the only thing being available on TV being The Ten Commandments starring Charlton Heston and Yul Brenner. In the early 2000s, what we often watched were the marathon episodes of Seventh Heaven shown on Studio 23 (the actor for the dad/pastor in that show later on confessed to being involved in a child molestation scandal, ironically.

Rami Ismail of Vlambeer points out some of the problems with the mobile app ecosystem: platform SDKs update so often, so older mobile games often break, such that the reasonable option is to make freemium games that you update continuously rather than single purchase games that won’t work a year later unless you burn capital on them: ”… I’m just a little wary of the smartphone market right now. I don’t currently feel at ease developing for those platforms because the SDKs change, their hardware specs change and when you don’t update the game just breaks.

Shredder!

No, not the TMNT villain or the kitchen utensil. Some years back I jokingly put “a shredder” on a Secret Santa wishlist, which I knew was way outside the roughly $10 range that locals usually set for Secret Santa gifts. I put a lot of other options on (usually food stuff like quezo de bola or Spam), so I wasn’t expecting to actually get a shredder. But I did! It might be a bit weird to have a shredder at home, but I find it useful (occasionally).

Starcraft 2

gaming

It’s been nine years since Starcraft 2: Wings of Liberty came out, and the last expansion Legacy of the Void came out four years ago in 2015. I bought all three releases as soon as they came out and recently found the boxes while spring cleaning. Despite the game’s age surprisingly people are still playing it, including me. Not for the ranked ladder - whenever I go into the competitive multiplayer mode I find myself stressing out and feel like my blood pressure is going up and I can’t manage more than one or two games at a time.

Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts. – Winston Churchill I already typed the above quote into the post, then realized I had already used it before. Whatever, just goes to show, I’m no stranger to failure. I was reminded of this quote because recently I prepared a demo for a project that didn’t push through. At first I was annoyed at the wasted effort, but I realized that I had wisely taken the demo project as an opportunity to learn/sharpen some skills.

Tasks you enjoy

There are two kinds of tasks you get done: there are the tasks that you just want to get over with, the ones you only do because you basically have to do or face more dire consequences later. An example going to the dentist. (Nobody enjoys going to the dentist right?) You can’t just put it off forever, so you just want to get it done as fast as possible.

Forgetfulness

I’ve been diagnosed as hypertensive for fourteen years now, so I’ve been taking these maintenance meds every morning. I’m terrible at it, mostly due to forgetfulness, so I often miss some days. Just this morning, I was watching a Parks and Recreation 10th Anniversary Reunion panel after coming back upstairs from breakfast, and I saw the meds on my desk and I was like “I should take my meds now. Wait, have I already taken my meds?

I found myself poring over the Wikipedia entry for the Ship of Theseus the other day. If you’re not familiar, it’s basically a thought experiment along the lines of “if a given ship’s parts are replaced at every port it visits, and eventually none of the parts are from the original ship, is it still the same ship?” The thought experiment questions the meaning of identity of a whole composed of many individual parts, such as a ship, or even a human.

“It is necessary to be lost. There is a simple logic to this. You cannot find yourself without first being lost. You cannot catch what you do not drop. You have to open your fist and let what you are clenching fall.” — Cary Tennis @ Salon via karigee

I usually log links to interesting articles that I read over on Pocket, which get fed into the links list on this blog, but that page only shows the most recent ones, so I thought I’d highlight some in a post as well. Recent science news: scientists have managed to image the event horizon of a black hole! Here’s a nice article about why that’s a big deal and some interesting science stuff behind it.

Many of the manga series I used to follow from long ago have since ended, the only ones still running now are One Piece and Hajime no Ippo. So I thought I’d follow some newer ones. Here are some short reviews: The Promised Neverland I picked up this one due to a strong recommendation from someone I follow on social media. The premise starts out with some super smart kids who grew up in an orphanage without any knowledge of an outside world.

I read a recent blog post from a friend about the large page sizes on initial load of a web page. From there, I got to a link which said that the average page size nowadays is at least 3MB. This led me to check the performance of this very blog/site. Initial load of the home page clocks in with 13 requests weighing around 140KB total. This is not bad, in fact it would be a significant improvmenet since I migrated to a static site using Hugo.