I’m a fan of unpredictability and randomness, and I easily get bored with regularity, repetitiveness or consistency. I once articulated this as a life philosophy to a friend - that I preferred a life with periods of highs and lows, like a sine wave, instead of a simple and boring flat line. This is why I often enjoy games like Scrabble or MTG. Basically competitive skill-intensive games that still have a significant element of random chance, so that the games while interesting, almost never play out the same way.
I’ve been playing MTG Arena for a good while now, a little bit during the closed beta, and now I think we’re still in open beta (?) because things still keep changing around. But I figured I could put in a little commentary about how this thing is going so far. I’m coming off the POV of a long-time Magic the Gathering player of course, with a little bit of comparison to Eternal and Hearthstone, the two digital CCGs I’m most familiar with.
It can be easy to get overwhelmed by all the stimuli that the modern world provides us. There’s a seemingly endless stream of problems to be overcome, bad news to be angry about, movies to watch, tv shows to binge, games to play, books to read, pictures to share, gossip to be had, new things to learn, challenges to be faced, and so on. And with all of these comes the pressure to make the most of your time, to make sure it isn’t “wasted”.
I read this article about how Bill Gates spent 5 years not watching TV or listening to music in his twenties while building Microsoft. Now, I’m pretty sure I watch a lot of TV, unapologetically. Quite possible too much. But I can’t help but wonder if maybe I would be more productive if I had the same kind of discipline Bill Gates had, and maybe that would increase the odds that I could focus and create something of consequence?
Sorry, a bit more doom and gloom this time: David Attenborough: collapse of civilisation is on the horizon I was visiting at a friend’s house recently and our discussion turned to the impending doom threatening the world. While I hold out a tiny bit of hope that maybe somehow human society and/or science will find a way to save us, he was not so optimistic. He reads and writes a lot of speculative fiction and his view is that we are inevitably headed towards an era of land scarcity and resulting wars due to climate changes.
When another person expects something from you by a certain date, be it a meeting, or a debt to repay, or a work-related submission or something else, and you are unable to provide it by the agreed upon time, you owe it to that person to tell him you can’t make it, explain why, and provide a plan for moving forward. It’s a basic courtesy. If you made an appointment to meet at a certain time and place, and it looks you’re not going to be able to go, message the other party and tell them.
For any nontrivial software project of at least moderate team size, there can be a significant cost to onboarding a new team member, especially at later stages when you are rushing to meet deadlines. The most signifiant cost is of course the communication overhead as described in the Mythical Man Month. Fun story, the CEO of a company once told me they would add more developers to a delayed project to meet the deadline and when I pointed out the increased overhead he said to me that it wasn’t a problem because they would just assign modules to those devs that have minimal dependencies so they don’t have to communicate so much.
This might surprise you, but I tried my hand at writing fanfiction back in the day. Most of it was Final Fantasy-related (as that was what I was really into back then) and the odd Ranma ½ one (mainly because I was a member of an anime-focused fanfic collective, called the “Nikholas F Toledo Zu” for inside joke reasons, writing under the name “Vector”). Anyway, I’m not exceptionally proud of the writings, but I like having all my work available on this blog/website/whatever, so I’ve added them at this link: Fanfiction.
I only recently found out about Github pages, which allows you to serve static content out of a Github repository, with a github.io subdomain. You can also point a domain name to it if you want (I haven’t tried that yet). It’s a quick and easy way to host a static site for free. Here’s mine: roytang.github.io and the corresponding repo. There isn’t really anything there right now, I just put up some links so I’d have something.
Friends will know I’ve been wanting to get a Macbook for quite a while now. I have chat messages as far back as 2016 musing about buying a Macbook Pro. I haven’t had a serious personal laptop purchase since 2008. (Side note: Qualifier “serious” because I do have a low-spec MSI laptop I think I bought for cheap some years ago that I’m not really happy with. It’s got a dead battery now, I should probably install it with a more lightweight Linux or something and maybe use it as a torrent device or such?
I recently found a stash of old DOS games we used to play, so I thought I’d write about the early days of PC gaming. My PC gaming career (such as it is) started way back in the MS-DOS era. It was an interesting time to be a gamer, to say the least. It was a time when you had to make bootdisks and fiddle around with files like autoexec.bat and himem.
Recently, Q&A site Quora announced that they got hacked. Quora is good reading, but it seems difficult to navigate and chance upon the really well-written answers. Or maybe I dunno what i'm doing — Roy Tang (@roytang) August 18, 2012 I started reading Quora back around 2012. My impression then of the site is that it encouraged insightful, well-written, story-like answers. This was opposed to other Q&A sites like Stackoverflow which encourared concise and clinical answers.
I must admit being a bit unconcerned with online privacy tracking by the large vendoers (Google, Facebook, etc). I mean, I do tend to use my real name as username after all, so most everything I do online can be traced back to me. I assume that anything I do on the internet can be figured out by other parties, so if something is important enough to me that it should be kept private, it shouldn’t go on the internet at all.
Via a blog post by Dave Martin, I read about Steven Pressfield’s quotes on “The Resistance” that keeps us from doing our work: The danger is greatest when the finish line is in sight. At this point, Resistance knows that we’re about to beat it. It hits the panic button. It marshals one last assault and slams us with everything it’s got. (Side note: I’ve put his books on an Amazon wishlist.
Last week I looked into sentiment analysis, basically it means analyzing text to find out whether it’s “feel good” or “feel bad”. My idea was to use this to analyze my public posts (specifically, on Twitter), to see whether I was trending towards being more positive or more negative. Unfortunately, when I tabulated the data, it was unexciting. No discernable trend of any kind, no plateaus signalling times of stability. Just wild swinging ups and downs as you’d expect from a normal, well-adjusted person.
China is setting up some kind of large-scale “social credit system” to rank and monitor the behavior of their citizens. Citizens with low scores can get penalized in various ways like being denied travel or access to top-tier schools and so on. It’s quite creepy, and the mere idea evokes the dystopian Black Mirror episode “Nosedive” where people use an app to rate other people. China’s social credit system might be even worse than the Black Mirror one because:
Looking at my archives, I was blogging regularly from 2005-2009, mostly because I was really active in competitive MTG during that time. Starting 2010, my blogging activity started to taper off, with less than 60 posts until 2015. I tried to revive the habit around mid-2016, posting at least once a week, but the writing slowed down again around April this year (coinciding with one of the more busy periods for me work-wise).
The other day I wrote about how I’ve been walking on a regular basis recently. While the regularity and the tracking are fairly recent, I’m actually not that much of a stranger to walking as an activity. Even back when I was in high school I would often walk all the way home instead of taking the bus-and-jeep commute route I was supposed to take. It didn’t take that much longer, and I often enjoyed the solace (and I got to save a bit of money, even as a child I was quite frugal~).
It’s December the 1st, there’s this image I often share on this day: It’s a really stupid pun that I won’t explain (but it maybe only works in a Filipino accent.) I love puns! The best puns are so terrible and so great at the same time. Puns are like a tiny puzzle that your brain has to solve and when you do solve them, your brain has that tiny flash of “A-ha!
Some things I’ve been watching lately, aside from the usual TV shows I follow: For some reason, I watched two biopics this month. The first one is Hidden Figures, about three black women who were instrumental during the early days of NASA leading up to the Friendship 7 mission piloted by John Glenn. The movie is fairly interesting if you are even remotely interested in either the challenges faced in black history or math and science or the early days of the space program competition between the USA and Russia.
I mentioned in yesterday’s post about my daily walks that my brother got me a Fitbit Charge 2 mid last year, I thought I’d write a quick review. (Actually, this is mainly an excuse to write down a story about how stupid I am.) Anyway, yeah my bro got me a Fitbit. Or maybe I paid for it. I don’t really recall. The point is, I had it and I’ve been using it regularly for the past year and a half.
These days the only real exercise I get comes in the form of daily walks. When I took a work hiatus in 2016, it was one of the daily habits I promised myself I would pick up. During that time, I wanted to hit the often-recommended daily target of 10,000 steps per day. (Tangent: I found out while writing this post that this number may have no scientific basis after all)
The aforementioned quote is attributed to Theodore Roosevelt. I’ve been thinking about this lately as I try to plan for what’s ahead and what I want. I think one has to be able to decide what one wants independently of what other people are doing. As a concrete example, it’s easy to fall into the trap of “Oh, this other person in my field did X and now they are making so much money, should I take that path as well?
During the past few years, I’ve started following more artists (mostly comic-book related) on social media. Seeing the occasional art post wander across my feeds is often a welcome respite from the terrible news in the world today. I thought I’d share some of my favorites! Jim Lee is a comic book icon and for me his very detailed and elaborate pencils epitomize 90s comic art and his style still heavily influences many newer artists today.
I said in my previous Duelyst review that Eternal didn’t really hook me. That was in Feb 2017. I stopped playing Duelyst after around six months. I started playing Eternal regularly July of that year, and have been playing regularly ever since. What changed my mind? I’m not sure, but once I got around to playing Eternal regularly, I found myself enjoying it. I think one of the main factors is that out of all the online ccgs I’ve tried, Eternal is the one that’s closest to Magic the Gathering.
Looking back on 8 years of apple tablets. I got my first iPad (1st generation!) back in 2010 with 64gb storage. This version was purchased for me by a friend in Singapore. I got the 3g model back then, but I never got around to using that feature. Future purchases would be wifi only. My main usage for the iPad back then was for reading ebooks/comics and playing some games. I spent a lot of time on Tilt to Live on that bad boy.
This meme appeared on my timelines again and so I thought I’d talk about DLCs for a bit. Spoiler: I largely disagree with the sentiment that the state of DLC in gaming is pretty bad. I’ve commented quite a few times on Reddit threads regarding this over the years, here’s my favorite one: What if they didn’t bundle DLC separately and just straight-up sold the game for a higher price (and with a slightly later release date), would you prefer it?
With the rise of social media, we get to see a lot of things our friends are doing or buying or places they’re going to, and this has led to the rise of the phenomenon called FOMO or Fear of Missing Out. It’s a type of envy of other people’s lives and as a type of envy it’s also a form of regret for our own life choices. FOMO is rightly called a fear, and like all irrational fears, it should be dismissed as soon as one recognizes it.
Aside from my hobbyist readings (keeping up with gaming and comics news, etc), my usual reading diet used to consist of current events and tech news, primarily through apps like Flipboard and Feedly, secondarily through social media like Reddit and Twitter. Recently though I’ve started following more sources and blogs that are focused on more… “cultural” affairs. When I started doing #sketchdaily a couple of years ago, I started following more artists.
“The price for being the best is always… having to be the best.” Terry Pratchet, Lords and Ladies This is one of my favorite quotes. For context: in the story, one of the characters has a special talent that he can shoe anything anyone gives him (like when you put horseshoes on a horse). And Granny Weatherwax tells him that the price he pays for that talent is that when someone brings him something to shoe, no matter how wild or ridiculous the request, he has to do it.
I remember a conversation I often had with a friend, the first team lead I ever worked with. Many times she would be putting in extra hours for days at a time and I would say to her “Put that off until tomorrow, it’s time to go home.” and she would reply along the lines of “But I still have so much work to do.” and my usual rejoinder would be “Are you expecting to finish all of that work tonight?
Finally had the time to play Marvel’s Spider-Man for PS4. Took just a little under two weeks from start to Platinum. Maybe mild, unmarked spoilers somewhere in this review, be warned! Overall: the game was amazing and spectacular and fun, especially for a big comic book fan like me, well worth the buy. Mechanics: Combat felt a bit weird to me at first, mainly because I was expecting it to be closer to Arkham-style combat, and I kept trying to use Spider-Man’s Circle Dodge the same way I use Batman’s Triangle counter, and that got me clocked by the first boss of the game (Kingpin) a few times.
When making difficult or life-changing decisions, there are two levels of decision making we go through. One level is the rational, conscious mind. The mind is the part that considers all the options, weighs the pros and cons, and compares the metrics against your personal goals. The second level is subconscious and instinctive, sometimes called the human heart (not to be confused with the organ that pumps blood). The heart makes decisions using instincts and biases honed from your own life experiences and baser needs such as fear, anger, or self-preservation.
The most efficient way to find something you like is to identify it, figure out where to find it, then go find it. This is why we have search engines and indexes and maps. This is why bookstores and groceries and department stores try to sort their wares into logical arrangements, to facilitate this efficient search. Not everything needs to be efficient however. There’s something to be said for exploration - browsing, meandering, walking down new paths, and so on.
It’s been a while since I took one of those internet quizzes that categorize you and try to describe your personality. I ran into this one called Sparketypes recently. Here’s my result: Your Primary Sparketype reveals the essential nature or “driver” of the work you’re here to do (whether it’s the work you get paid to do, or not). When you do the work of your Primary Sparketype, you come alive with purpose and, fully-expressed in a healthy way, deepen into meaning, flow, connection and joy.
Leaving Wordpress I’ve been using Wordpress for this blog since circa 2006 I believe, but as I mentioned in an earlier blog post that I was not 100% happy with using Wordpress for this blog. I have a few issues with Wordpress, none of them a major dealbreaker, but collectively enough to make me consider something else: the new Gutenberg editor set to become standard in 5.0 was in my experience, very clunky and kinda annoying the code structure of Wordpress is very deep and complex, sometimes making it difficult for me to make changes I want.
The larger the audience, the more careful you have to be with your words. When you’re hanging out with a small group of close friends, you can say anything ridiculous and irresponsible and it’s fine, your friends can call you out on it. When you’re a commencement speaker you need to be more careful with what you say, even jokingly. Since you’re talking to a large number of impressionable youths, there’s a good chance someone will misinterpret what you say.
Had a slightly confusing conversation a couple of weeks ago with my mom which went something like: Me: “Oh, the bar exam starts next weekend, <my cousin> is in Manila a week early.” Ma: “No, it’s this weekend.” Me: “That’s what I said, next weekend.” Ma: “No, this weekend, on the 4th.” Me: “That’s what next weekend means!” Ma: “No, next weekend is the 11th.” “Next weekend” is definitely confusing, so I should avoid using it in the future for the much clearer and more definitive “this weekend” which is unambiguous when used on a weekday.
(“Late Game Review” because I’m trying to play through games on my ridiculously old backlog, so these games are pretty old) The Elder Scrolls V Skyrim came out on 11/11/2011. I remember I bought the game for Steam on launch day. I finally “finished” it after 350 hours of gameplay and seven years real-time. “Finished” in this case means “achievement complete”, not just “main quest complete”, because as any Bethesda gamer knows, that’s not how their RPGs roll.
Text editors (and by extension IDEs) are a programmer’s best friend. I thought I’d look back at a number of text editors I’ve used over the years. (I grew up with Windows, so I won’t list vim/emacs/nano here, even though I’m at least a bit proficient with vim by now. That is, I know how to exit vim.) Notepad – of course, the default editor in Windows. The one we turn to when all else fails.
According to Malcolm Gladwell’s book Outliers, you need 10,000 hours of continuous sustained practice to become an expert. There are 168 hours in a week. If you never sleep and you eat as you practice, you can become an expert in 60 weeks. (Around 14 months) If you sleep 8 hours a day, you only have 112 hours in a week. If you eat as you practice, you can become an expert in 90 weeks.
When I was young, I was a fan of Voltaire’s famous quote “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”. Today, in the face of a world where hatemongers and the intolerant are able to use modern communication technologies to more easily spread their views, I realize that things may not be so black and white. Like so many beliefs I held when I was young, I now find myself of the opinion that instead of absolute tolerance (which may not even be possible), there is some semblance of intolerance that may be needed to keep to the ideal.
SCM (Software Configuration Management) doesn’t just refer to version control for the software you’re building. It also means controlling the versions of software you depend on. This includes operating system and programming runtimes. Sometimes even minor version differences can cause issues in running your software. I have two example stories to share: One of our clients asked us for help with an upgrade their production servers from CentOS 6.4 to 6.
I used to play a lot of JRPGs, especially back during they heyday of the Playstation Era. These days, I only get to play a few, but I still enjoy a lot of the music tracks from this game, often the battle music since I prefer more upbeat tracks. Here are some of my favorite JRPG tracks from recent years: Rivers in the Desert (Persona 5) – easily the best song in the OST for me, and the rest of this OST is amazing so that’s saying a lot.
I had always considered my responsiveness to emails and IMs a point of pride – I liked to keep an empty inbox so I replied to emails and IMs as soon as I became aware of them. This of course turned out a bit bad in the short run. I was easily distracted from whatever work I was doing – although I did take pride in being pretty good at multitasking (Yes I know, no one is *really* good at multitasking, I’m just less bad at it than other people).
Apparently, Youtube’s algorithms tend to promote extremist content. This is an unsurprising (yet unforeseen) consequence of the “free” advertising-driven internet. Social media algorithms optimize for engagement (eyeballs, views, likes, whatever, etc). Meanwhile, humans are more likely to engage with controversial content. Everyday status quo content is boring by comparison. Hence, controversial or extremist content will tend to bubble to the top. It’s the same reason politics has made social media divisive – promoting divisive content has turned out to be profitable in terms of engagement.
There’s a lot of doom and gloom and bad news in the world these days, giving us ordinary folk little reason to be optimistic. Examples include: we are almost certainly too late to prevent climate change at all and social collapse is now an actual possibility Trump has begun taking steps to walk back a nuclear arms control treaty increasing trends of nationalism and populism threatening to walk back the gains of globalisation (i.
I’ll probably never be an entrepreneur. It’s funny. There’s a lot of these “Anyone can be an entrepreneur!” “You too can be an entrepreneur!” articles that go around. But I don’t think it’s true. I don’t think entrepreneurship is for everybody. Laziness is probably the main factor. Becoming an entrepreneur is hard work. That’s something all the entrepreneurship articles aren’t shy about telling you. “Anyone can do it, as long as you are willing to work hard!
Shogun was the first novel I ever read outside of required school readings and it remains one of favorites to this day after many rereadings. It had it all – the age of exploration, religious conflict, language barriers, duty, honor, love, betrayal, war, sacrifice, samurai, ninjas, guns, cannons, etc and it still influences my thinking to this day. One of my favorite quotes from this book: Toranaga: “Tsukku-san says that the Netherlands were vassals of the Spanish king until just a few years ago.
Systemic change is difficult. I’m talking about software projects/systems, but there are a lot of parallels with societal systems too, like governments or states. I’ve been in large projects with hundreds of thousands of LOC where a lot of the code was painful to read and full of code smells and so on. It happens over time as projects get maintained by different developers and teams or different enhancements or changes are made.