All posts by roy

Randomly Amazed

The first thing (out of two): As not many people are aware of, I actually underwent some minor surgery last week. I’ll spare you the boring details, except for the fact that at some point I had to be given spinal anesthesia while I was fully awake. Now, if you’ve never been given spinal anesthesia before, let me give you a rundown: you’ll be asked to lie on your side and curl up into something like a C-shaped fetal position so that the anesthesiologist can inject a tiny needle into a small area between the discs of your spinal column. It’s not exactly the most fun thing in the world; and for someone like me who was a low tolerance for pain, even the tiny pinpricks would cause me to involuntarily contract my spine, giving the anesthesiologist trouble and requiring her to try another location, hence an additional pinprick and a vicious cycle that seemed to go on forever. Hence, it was not the most pleasant of experiences.

As I lie there however, I found myself thinking how in the olden days soldiers who went off to war and got wounded would have their open wounds treated and sutured without the help of any anesthesia at all with no choice but for them to grit their teeth and bear it. Me on the other hand, after taking this spinal anesthesia, the surgeon would be working on an open wound and I would lie there, fully awake not feeling a thing and wondering “what the hell is going on down there, maybe I don’t really want to know.”

My point is not that I should be damn thankful I live in the modern world and I’m taking spinal anesthesia at all (though that is probably true), but rather that it can be downright amazing how far changes in science and technology have taken us.

The second thing: If there’s anything which has changed the world so much over the past decode or two, it’s the internet. It’s weird that my first usage of the internet wasn’t in an academic setting like I would imagine it was in other more developed areas, but rather as a channel where we could get anime fanfiction. I have memories of fifteen years ago after or between classes at UP, there would be me, Mike and Art walking off to an “internet cafe” on Katipunan and hanging out there while browsing the old Anime Turnpike website or something like that (don’t visit Anipike now, it’s terrible). Young college me sharing an internet workstation with two other guys would never have imagined that more than a decade later internet usage would be so pervasive in my life that I carry around not just one but two internet-capable devices on a daily basis and that I interact with people, friends and family all over the world online on a regular basis and practically all the news and media I consume come from online sources.

Since I’m recovering from surgery, I have a lot of time to pontificate, so I found myself thinking about how social media has changed the way celebrity works. Before Twitter or Facebook, we would hear about what celebrities were up to on the news, in the papers or television or radio, but they would always seem so remote and the average person would in his lifetime never have any personal interaction with famous people. But today, you could tweet to Shaq (@THE_REAL_SHAQ) or Neil Patrick Harris (@actuallynph) or even lesser celebrities like author Neil Gaiman (@neilhimself) or even a local TV personality like Kim Atienza (@kuyakim_atienza), and there would be a reasonable chance of getting a reply. We see more into other people’s lives through social media, and that has changed the world for celebrities.

I find it all fascinating and amazing. And even more than that, within my lifetime there will probably be even more quantum leaps in the way science or technology affects our day to day to lives, things we couldn’t even imagine right now. The future beckons to us, and I can’t wait to see what it will bring.

TLDR; I’m randomly amazed at everyday things

iPad: First Impressions and Snap Judgments

So, through a complicated series of circumstances where I initiated the process but actually managed to get myself surprised, I now own an iPad Wifi+3g 64GB (yes, it’s the most expensive model, don’t worry it did not break the piggy bank). It was purchased from Singapore and brought to me by a friend last Friday. I’ve used an iPad before (during the CCS trip Baguio), but this is the first time I’ve had the chance to customize the applications and content, and have it exclusive for my own use. I’ve had it for about a day and half, here are my snap judgments and quick impressions:

General usage
  • The USB cable used to connect the iPad to a PC is also the one used to connect it to a plug for charging via an electric outlet. This is all kinds of brilliant and literally had me with my jaw open for a few seconds.
  • Charging via USB is extremely slow, around 10% per hour, and the iPad will even lie about it and say “Not Charging”. Charging via outlet is much faster.
  • Typing on the virtual keyboard is ok for short form fields or notes type of things, but I can’t imagine doing it for longer typing tasks such as blog posts (I will probably try it as some future time). I find myself typing most comfortably using one hand as it can reach across the keyboard quite easily. The lack of tactile feedback will take some getting used to. As my friend noted the virtual keyboard has touch type indicators on the F and J keys for some reason!
  • Storage: 64gb might be overkill, probably 32gb would have been enough. I don’t see myself using the video watching functions when I’m at home (there are better options for that), so I only need to load enough videos on it to be able to have something to watch when I have downtime outside of home. On the other hand, I haven’t really delved that much into downloading apps and podcasts, there’s a good chance I may be able to fill up the space eventually
  • 3G: I have not yet used the 3g. According to @Talk2Globe, the prepaid microsim will not work with an iPad (I won’t be able to reload it I guess) and I have to use their unlimited data plan microsim (P999 a month). That’s actually not so bad, but I think I’m going to check first with Smart whether their prepaid microsim can be used. @SmartCARES has not yet replied
  • There is no easy out of the box way to use the iPad’s 64gb as an external flash drive. There should be!
  • The volume when watching videos is not very good unless you are using earphones
  • For home usage, the most awesome thing is really internet usage at the bed. I have not yet started up my laptop since I came home with the iPad. I would guess that I would only use the laptop for coding or writing work from here on.
iTunes and Syncing
  • iTunes is not a very intuitive piece of software for someone who has never used an iOS device before.
  • When you add a folder or files to the media library, there seems to be no indicator if some videos are not compatible (I did not know the compatibility requirements at first)
  • The default mode is to sync the local library completely and automatically with the device contents; this seemed totally ridiculous to me as it means all the content will be duplicated on both devices. I have more than 64gb of content on my desktop!
  • In the file sharing dialog, not clear you can use the delete key to remove files shared with your apps. Actually, sharing files with apps in general feels unwieldy, especially if you plan to share a lot of files. There are no organization options like folders or whatever, and it must be done using iTunes.
  • I’ve only tried a few apps, and have not yet paid for anything on the App Store. Must resist impulse buys!
  • The best app I’ve seen so far from a visual wow-factor awesome-features point of view is Flipboard. My Mom picked up the iPad while I had Flipboard open and was like “Wow!” for maybe five to ten minutes.
  • Twitter apps: the official twitter app seems ok, but I’m using Twitterrific at the moment. I heard Tweetdeck is buggy.
  • Facebook: The facebook app on the app store is for iphone only, so I have to do the 2x size thing. It doesn’t look very good (and doesn’t seem to rotate well)
  • VLC: Supposedly the solution to the lack of supported video formats in iTunes, it is a bit immature. At first I tried loading a lot of files into it (gotta maximize the 64gb!) but then it wouldn’t launch and would just crash back to desktop. It turns out it cannot handle MKV files very well, it worked when I only loaded AVIs
  • Stanza: PDF and comic book reader. The reading mode is pretty good, but it looks like it’s going to be unwieldy if managing a large collection
  • I haven’t settled on a feed reader app yet (not sure if there are any good free ones), Google Reader via Safari seems to be fine at the moment
  • I’ve just downloaded a few free games to try them out


  • I don’t have any plans to Jailbreak the iPad at this time. I have not explored the possibility at all, but I’m not really inclined to yet. Maybe I’ll change my mind later.

That’s my iPad experience as of now. I actually also started a thread on Reddit to help me get jump started. Overall, very impressive and such an awesome toy, we’ll see how it stacks up in terms of how much I use it in the coming months.

If anyone has any tips or suggestions to help me enjoy the new toy, feel free to comment 😀

Scars of Mirrodin Prerelease Report!

I haven’t written a tournament report in a while (maybe because I’ve been playing rather poorly lately? =/), but Prereleases are always fun right? Here’s my Scars of Mirrodin prerelease report!

The first hour was spent waiting in an unbearably hot basement area for the 8th player on our table to register his sealed pool. What? yeah, he was late, and the event started early so the airconditioning was not yet on. Sad face.

The pool I registered was terrible, no money rares and felt a bit short on playables, but the pool I got passed was better (not really in terms of constructed “value” cards, but pretty good in terms of playability). I think Scars limited lends itself well to monocolor decks with vast majority of the support provided by artifacts, but I couldn’t just had dragon-class bombs in separate colors, so black-red it was. Here’s my list:

* I should have probably just maindecked the above listed sideboard cards in the first place, not sure why I didn’t, it’s not like I was drunk.

Regarding Bleak Coven Vampires – these guys are great, top-notch. Together with the Galvanic Blasts, I had to reliably trigger Metalcraft, I think the 12-14 artifact count is sufficient to provide the needed consistency.

Regarding Skithiryx, the Blight Dragon, I’m going to misspell that all the time, so from hereon, he’s called “Skittles”.

Round one: I lost the first game to mana screw, as if the gods of magic were punishing me for playing two colors in the format; I drew all swamps and no mountains, losing access to half the spells in my hand. I lost that match 1-2, the game three loss to an infectious Blight Mamba given intimidate by that evil green uncommon (Bellowing Tanglewurm). I kept drawing lands while it slowly bled me to death with it’s evil poison. My last-ditch blocker met a shattering end! At least I can say this was the first time I lost a tournament match to poision counters.

Round two was a breeze, and marked the first time I won a tournament match using poison counters. And I did it with Skittles, the only Infect guy in my deck. Hey, my opponent kept gaining life, luckily I had a viable alternate plan of attack. Won 2-0.

Round three, the guy was all cool and had three colors of basics, plus a bunch of mana myr, it’s like he was doing nothing exciting, then all of a sudden brings out a Liege of the Tangle on me! Luckily I had the double Galvanic Blast with metalcraft active and he groaned. I lost game two to a quick Tangle Angler with Darksteel Axe after stalling on lands due to a poor keep (True Magic Confessions episode 17: I don’t mulligan aggressively enough). In game three I drew the Flesh Allergy I boarded in for the Liege of the Tangle and just slowrolled that bad boy until he drew and played the Liege. Ha! Sacrificing Perilous Myr to Flesh Allergy is awesome when your opponent is at four life. Won 2-1.

Round four, my opponent was UR. In game one neither of had much gas and had to resort to trading blows with our 1/1 mana myrs, but I pulled out ahead after he drew too many lands and I had 3 mana myrs to clock him with. Game two, he tapped out for Saberclaw Golem and I was thinking of taking it out with a non-boosted G-Blast, but for some reason thought it would be better to do so on his turn. Of course when he untaps he already has Stoic Rebuttal ready, a card I already saw in game one and hence should have been aware of! I went on tilt a bit and subsequently blocked the Golem looking to trade creatures, but then he just smiled and paid the red mana to give it first strike. Facepalm!

I did the mental Saito faceslap and toughened up my focus for game three. I stayed in control all game, making only a minor mistake of unnecessarily untapping the Rust Tick at one point, but was well ahead in life totals anyway and finished him off with 2 [card]Galvanic Blast[card]s.

So anyway I fail to make 4-0 for the nth time in a row. I haven’t 4-0’d since Time Spiral I think. It’s fine, Prereleases should be very casual events anyway so I have a tendency to maybe play a bit looser than I would at a PTQ for example.

Prize packs did not contain anything exciting. Well, a Genesis Wave but that’s more of a fun, casual card.

TLDR; Went 3-1 at my local Scars of Mirrodin Prerelease.

Extra discussion topic: A friend and I were talking about how newbie-unfriendly Prereleases can be, even though it’s supposed to be pretty much a “casual affair”. There are always a bunch of guys who are at their first sealed event and they take a while to register, and a lot of them don’t know that the registered pool won’t necessarily be the one they’re going to play and get to take home. And where I play, most of the Prereleases will have the local “sharks” playing, they will usually play multiple flights. I try to keep a friendly atmosphere, but many of them are always dead serious even though it’s just a prerelease, making new tournament players or young kids a bit nervous. Of course it has to be that way because there are prizes on the line, right?

My friend suggested a separate type of prerelease event where entrants are guaranteed some small token prizes (maybe two packs), regardless of their win-loss record, and some trophy prize (like a t-shirt) for going undefeated. Rules enforcement might be looser – maybe no longer requiring deck registration or pool swaps. This would make it more casual and less appealing to “sharks”, but I’m not sure how popular it would be. I’m thinking maybe we need some more casual events here like gunslinging or Intro Pack duels thing that WOTC staff sometimes talk about – we don’t usually have that sort of thing in local events.

Of course, we couldn’t come up with a clear solution to make Prerelease events easier for new guys, but it’s worth a thought, right?

A Few Thoughts on Yesterday’s Hostage Drama From Yet Another Armchair Observer

August 23, 2010: A disgruntled and decorated police officer who had been dismissed on charges of extortion took hostage a bus full of tourists from Hong Kong. The hostage drama unfolded in front of the Quirino Grandstand in Manila with the expected media circus, confused cops and SWAT who didn’t know what to do and a tragic ending that involved dead hostages and a bullet to the head.

Read the full story on

I wasn’t there of course. In fact when the topic first started trending on twitter I dismissed it and went about whatever I was doing at the time and later took a nap. By the time I woke up, hostages had died and the situation had escalated, negotiations had apparently failed and the SWAT team was ready to assault the bus.

At first, like everyone else I was appalled at the incompetence of the law enforcement units handling the matter, especially with the rumors circulating that they had actually had training on this type of bus assault scenario before/recently. But when I think about it, our cops are poor and underpaid and working with substandard equipment and procedures and still they have to risk assaulting that bus and getting shot. I wouldn’t excuse them for the outcome of the event, but things can always end badly and in our case there are so many things contributing to that grisly end.

What about Captain Mendoza, the hostage taker, who claims he was unjustly dismissed from the force? It is easy to blame him as well. Of course we all agree that taking a bus full of tourists hostage is not the best way to air his grievances. But he is just another underpaid cop and was now even denied his measly pension. He could air his concerns to the media but would anyone listen? He could take it up with the courts but how long would that take? Instead of suffering through a long, arduous process of reclaiming his allegedly stolen honor, he chose to take a radical approach to get attention to his cause.

And of course it worked. The media lapped it up. The major TV stations, in their relentless quest for even more ratings kept trying to outdo each other in their coverage and in airing his side and the details of his case. It’s easy to say the media exacerbated the situation what with their broadcasting details of the police operations and of the arrest of the hostage taker’s brother. But the fact is that we the viewing public, we love this stuff, this drama. We stay glued to our TVs and radios and twitter streams, hoping to see how this unsightly assault on our country’s tourism industry would conclude. Can we blame the media for giving us what we want?

It’s easy to criticize, but it’s not like we were the ones there on the scene having to deal with the chaos and the media and the rain.

It’s easy to lay blame, but we can’t go back and change what happened. Hopefully the people in charge, and that law enforcement and media outlets and even we the people to whom these entities should be held accountable study the failures and learn the lessons and do what needs to be done to avoid another such incident staining our not-so-good-in-the-first-place international reputation.

M11 Sealed – You Make the Play

Here’s the situation: It’s game 3 of a sealed game. You know your opponent has Mind Control, Aether Adept and Plummet still in his deck, so you should finish it quickly to avoid losing to topdecks.

The field is as shown (click for larger view):

If you Stampede and swing with everyone, you win! Unless he has Condemn, in which case you will lose. You never saw Condemn in previous games. If you swing with everyone except Platinum Angel he will fall to one life and you have to find a way to push through the extra damage later.

What’s the correct play?

What Am I Doing Now?

I get asked this a lot since I’m not currently working. I never get to answer clearly, so here’s an attempt.

The short answer is: Whatever I want

The long answer:

1. Yes, I spend a lot of time goofing around – watching TV series, movies and playing video games. In fact I think for most of the first two months of my hiatus, this was what I did. Now there’s a lot less of that – I’ve caught up with all the series I wanted to catch up with, and I don’t have any significant video games I want to finish. (That may change next week with the release of Starcraft 2 :p). I don’t actually watch stuff on television unless I’m having a meal though.

2. I read a lot. Mostly online reading (so having an IPad would be nice, hah!). A lot of articles about a variety of topics such as entrepreneurship, new technologies, mobile application development, casual gaming development. Hacker News is a fair approximation of my usual reading material. I probably spend 2-3 hours each day on reading.

3. I’m working on some small projects. Not work stuff, not freelancing or anything like that. Just some tools/apps, many of them for my own usage (‘to scratch an itch”, as the saying goes). Often I will start building an app just to try out a certain API or technology. In the past 2 weeks I’ve looked at: Scala, Ruby, the Android SDK, Google App Engine, the Facebook Graph API, the Twitter API, the Plurk API, Git and Mercurial. It’s only recently that I’m getting back into the swing of coding (and seeing my own terrible bugs :p), and I hope to scale that up in the coming months. I want to write more apps that I can release for public consumption.

4. Something people who’ve been employed all the time don’t realize: even if I have a lot of free time, I’m still lazy. :p So there are a lot of backlog tasks I’ve been meaning to do since forever that I need to get around to. Mostly involves organizing stuff, getting rid of unneeded stuff, returning stuff. Stuff has a maintenance cost, so we should have a lot less of it!

5. I’m currently not earning any money and am still considering future plans. It’s fine, I can still survive for a while. There are a lot of options, and getting back into a regular employment scenario is only one of them. The more conventional options are getting a job again and/or working abroad (probably Singapore). My brothers and I talk constantly about starting our own company: consulting/software dev (need to find clients), or product development (IPhone/Android…but we’re still balking on the high price of entry to the IPhone market, i.e. need a macbook!). A friend of mine keeps telling me we should start working on a casual game, our own Plants vs Zombies as it were. I’m inclined to look into some sort of product development myself, in fact I already have a few design ideas for a casual/social MMO (similar to Castle Age…I like to claim I’m doing research when I play it).

So that’s the current status. I’m still not sure exactly the direction I should be going – it’s always been one of my weaknesses that when there are a lot of options available I have difficulty making a decision promptly. Getting a job again is the safe yet boring choice; at the same time I’m not sure if I’m equipped with the necessary discipline to handle the more challenging options such as starting my own company.

In any case I’m not really in a hurry. The whole point of the hiatus was figuring out what I want to be doing. I’m not sure yet, so hiatus is not yet over. 😀

Weekend Project: Stack Bragger

Stack Bragger lets you brag to your Facebook friends whenever you ask new questions or earn new badges at StackOverflow, SuperUser or ServerFault.

I was looking for a weekend project and found out that stackoverflow api was released so I thought I’d make a small facebook app. I originally just wanted to post to FB whenever I got a badge, something like how PSN accounts automatically post Trophies to FB. It also posts questions you ask so that any friends you have on facebook not already using stackoverflow might want to help answer 😀

It turned out to take a bit more than a weekend (mostly because my weekend was busy), but at least it gave me a chance to try out a few things:

1. Facebook’s Graph API
2. Google App Engine

I’ve toyed around with Google App Engine before, but now was the first time I got to use it for something more useful than following tutorials or writing random “Hello World”. I pretty much got to try all of the relevant services: cron jobs, tasks, memcache, GQL, etc. Everything was well-documented and easy to follow.

Facebook on the other hand…this whole thing with their Graph API that they want to release the old REST API with makes things a bit confusing when searching for tutorials, as most of them will be referring to the old REST API, including the python facebook wrapper libraries available. It took me a while to get the authentication and setting up permissions thing going. The great thing is I don’t need to go through that again for future facebook apps!

This project also gave me a chance to create a bitbucket account and use a DVCS. I picked bitbucket over github because I prefered to have a private repository and mercurial just seemed a lot easier to use than git.

Here’s the StackApps entry. Originally, I wanted to win their contest, but to be honest that seems a bit far-fetched now. My app comes in late to the game and there was already a facebook app listed there before but it’s not ranked too high. Besides, we all know @codinghorror isn’t a fan of Facebook haha.

Am I releasing the source? I dunno yet. I’d have to create a public repo on Github, decide on a license, scrub out my API keys from the code and other stuff, so maybe later.

Rise of Eldrazi Draft – Kiln Fiend

Pack 1 2 3 Pick 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15

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Here’s the final deck:

I easily won rounds one and two of the draft, but lost the finals to an RG deck that had great draws while I didn’t have any Kiln Fiend blowouts.

Rise of Eldrazi – Limited Impressions

Just a quick dump of my impressions of RoE limited from the prerelease. I’ll probably post a more detailed analysis later.

The RoE limited format is fun and it is slower than Zendikar, but you still need to keep an eye on your curve (even though that curve may now end with 7-8-9-and up instead of 5-6…). Lots of ground stalls, so guys with evasion are much more valuable.

I think a good limited deck would revolve around a number of good leveler creatures, as these guys are basically must-kill before they get to the long game. Excellently designed and easy to underrate, you should probably play all the common levelers. Except possibly the common guys that have Level Up 4, they take forever to grow up. Good instant-speed removal is also pretty scarce, and a lot of it is sorcery speed, making levelers pretty good. (Hint: I don’t consider Smite to be “good”)

Totem Armor is pretty sweet too, and you need to note that only blue, white and black have common ways to get rid of guys with Totem Armors on. (Blue bounce, Oust, Induce Despair). I find Snake Umbra particularly annoying. I never want to give him extra cards!

Rebound is…well, extra spells are good I guess, and I actually saw someone get like 18 soldiers off Nomads Assembly, but the rebound cards are so few and far between and a lot of them have marginal effects. As a mechanic, it feels unnecessary and it doesn’t seem to fit any of Zendikar’s themes even. Maybe it’ll be better in constructed? (Only Consuming Vapors seems promising to me though.)