Roy Tang

Programmer, engineer, scientist, critic, gamer, dreamer, and kid-at-heart.

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Nov 2019

NaBloPoMo Epilogue

So NaBloPoMo complete, no big deal. It wasn’t much of a challenge since blogging every day for a month is something that I’ve done multiple times over the past couple of years. It comes out to around 15,900 words written in November, not counting this post. Definitely not as big a thing as completing nanowrimo for instance. Writing on a regular basis is great, and generally a reasonable use of your time.

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Recent Links for 11/29

I’m trying out this “recent links” series where I highlight some stuff I’ve bookmarked. I used to just share them via Pocket, which get fed into the links list on this blog, but the problem with that approach was that I don’t get to comment on each link about why I shared or bookmarked it. Writing them into a blog post gives me a chance to highlight them too. I’ve seen some other blogs where they have something like a weekly list of recent links, let’s see if that works out for me.

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Nothing in the cinema this month (going to the cinema is expensive!). I did watch a couple of animated movies this month: Dragonball Super: Broly. I have some vague recollection of watching the original Broly movie, and I believe this one is much better. DBS Broly is a slightly more nuanced character than just “random raging monster” from the previous non-canon movie. The animation was okay, you could tell the animators were having fun with some of the battle parts.

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Watching Lately: November 2019: Broly, Justice League, Arrowverse, Mandalorian
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Criticizing the logistics or implementation of an event doesn’t necessarily mean you want it to fail or you want to the organizers to be embarassed. On the contrary, pointing out flaws allows for improvements. Criticizing the organizers of a sporting event doesn’t mean you don’t support the athletes participating in the event. Criticizing your country’s leaders and politicians and government doesn’t mean you are unpatriotic. No given politician is the same as the entire government, much less the country.

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Review: The Outer Worlds

I bought the Outer Worlds earlier this month, mainly because I had been without both my graphics card and my PS4 for a bit and I kind of wanted to play a relatively new game. I got the PS4 version because I hadn’t yet replaced my video card at the time and besides, the game was not available on Steam. I guess minor spoilers follow. Summary: A reasonable Fallout-esque RPG from the makers of Fallout: New Vegas.

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Review: The Outer Worlds
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The Costs of Corruption

A quick follow-up to something I mentioned in yesterday’s post: It is a cultural problem too. Even we the citizens have little respect for rules and laws and try to skip around them when we can. This is why we have fixers, and connections, and patronage. We trade on favors to get us out of trouble. I’m not sure if needed to be said, but I wasn’t saying that literally every single person participates in fixing and patronage to get around the rules.

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Laws Not Men

In yet another example of what is wrong with this country, the PNP are planning to arrest vape users after Duterte’s directive, despite there actually being yet no law or executive order banning vaping. Thus, the arrests are meaningless and merely another form of harassment. PNP spokesman Brig. Gen. Bernard Banac explained that while violators would be apprehended, they would be released immediately after the incident is recorded in the police blotter.

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It was a bit more than a year ago that I decided to haphazardly and suddenly migrate from Wordpress to Hugo. It’s a good time to look back and reflect on that decision and consider where we are now, and how to move forward. Good: I am extremely happy with the site’s browser performance. It currently scores an insanely high 96 on Google’s Pagespeed tool, and I’m pretty sure I I know how to close the remaining 4% gap.

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New Video Card!

This is a follow up to my previous posts about my 2019 PC troubles. I was still encountering game crashes even after reinstalling the OS, so the most likely culprits now were either the video card or the power supply. I sent the video card over to my brother for him to test on his PC to see if he encountered the same symptoms. Sure enough, he couldn’t even run the 3DMARK Time Spy test without immediately crashing, which was the same when it was on my PC.

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I forgot to take a pic of the card after unboxing, so have a pic of the box instead.
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Grab Overpricing

So the Philippine Competition Commission recently fined rideshare provider Grab P23M for overcharging their customers. Apparently only P5M of that is meant to go back to the affected riders, which seems like a piddly amount considering the number of riders in the Philippines. We’ll see how of that I actually get credited back, if any. Grab pricing has been steadily increasing since Uber exited the market early last year. The other day Grab wanted to charge me a bit over P400 for a 13km ride to a commercial area, which seemed insane.

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Five AM

The world looks a bit different at 5 AM. In a bid to get back into the daily walking groove, I’m trying to shift back my daily walks to early in the morning, before breakfast. Recently I’ve been doing it in the afternoons or early evenings, but walking in the mornings has the distinct advantage that if for some reason I am unable to do it (maybe because I was super tired from the previous day, or the weather doesn’t cooperate, or just plain laziness), I have the rest of the day to catch up on it.

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The past few years have not been good for competitive balance in MTG. Following yesterday’s deservedly heavy-handed B&R announcement, standard is now at 14 cards banned since 2017. Before 2017, the standard bannings have been relatively sparse. Working backwards: 2011 - cawblade standard, 2 cards banned 2005 - affinity standard, 8 cards banned 2004 - skullclamp banned 1998-1999 - the infamous combo winter, 9 cards banned So this period from 2017-2019 has seen the most bannings since the affinity era, and may even be comparable to the unquestionably disaster that was Urza block in `98-99.

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A Cradle for Imperfect Thoughts

A lot of people seem to think that blogging as an activity is about writing a well-thought out first draft, revising and researching and revising again until the post is perfected, then finally hitting publish (then possibly realize you had some editing errors and upadating and republishing). I tend to think this sort of perfectionism holds one back, I prefer to publish even when thoughts are yet half-formed and maybe even incomplete, laying the groundwork for revisiting the topic in a later post.

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On Feed Readers

I don’t use Inoreader anymore, but a recent blog post of theirs recently appeared in my feeds that mentioned they implemented “sort by magic”. This was a feature that Google reader had 10 YEARS AGO! There hasn’t been much innovation in the feed reader space in the last decade it seems, which is totally understandable given they are mostly tools used by internet “power users”, and mostly by older netheads, so the target market isn’t very large.

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An Offline Walk

The other day, a family member mistakenly took my phone with them to the office so I was without a phone all day. This meant my daily walk had to be offline, which was a weird thing I hadn’t experienced in a while. I couldn’t help but note my hand’s instinctively reaching for the mobile phone that wasn’t there. Mobile phones are so ubiquitous in our daily lives, but sometimes it feels like a crutch how we can be totally dependent on them.

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Hong Kong is on fire. For months now, protests and unrests, led mainly by university students, have wracked the city. Initially in response to a controversial China-backed extradition bill, it is also believed to be fueled by political and social inequality and interference by the Chinese government. As the months went on, the stakes have escalated in the wake of widespread anger at the way the police are brutally cracking down on protests.

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Not surprisingly, the online gaming community has been more supportive, appropriating Mei from Overwatch as a symbol of the protests. (Image source: reddit)
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Tales from a P2P Bus

It’s a lot more uncommon for me to go to places like Ortigas or Makati nowadays, but when I do I almost always take the P2P bus. The P2P (Point-to-Point) buses were introduced in Metro Manila I think around late 2015/early 2016, as a pricier alternative to the usual city buses. The fares are more expensive, but the buses are also much more comfortable and they don’t make stops along their route, only at the endpoints, so their travel time is faster compared to the usual city buses.

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Is SQL a dying art?

I was helping my brother check some database issues the other week, and he mentioned how impressed he was with how quickly I was able to come up with SQL queries on the fly. I told him that SQL was one of the skills I considered myself to have mastery over. This shouldn’t be surprising given my early career path: for most of my first year working as a software developer, I was working on reports which involved lovingly handcrafted (and oftentimes quite complicated) SQL queries.

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What to do in a production crisis

Despite our best efforts as software developers, it can still happen: production goes down. Or some sort of bug introduces catastrophic data error. Hopefully you have a support/DevOps team to handle the response. If not, the dev team themselves have to step in. This usual means a mad rush to figure out what happened and how to fix it, sometimes during off hours and maybe even into the early morning, all while facing pressure from clients and higher-ups.

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Anime Opening/Ending Themes

Had a friendly discussion last night about our favorite anime theme music, figured I’d share some of my favorites. J-Pop in general and anime theme music in particular have a kind of energy that you just don’t get from Western music. I think that generally I tend to favor those that openings for series that I had a chance to watch on TV (instead of via streaming/online channels), since back in those days I had to sit through the openings!

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Indieweb Updates and Thoughts

I mentioned before that I was looking into indieweb stuff. There’s a whole wiki of information about it if you’re into that sort of thing, but also here’s a recent post which kind of serves as an overview. I have some comments on the content of this post, more on that later. Indieweb things I’ve already implemented on this site: have a personal domain (since 2006) microformats (h-card and h-feeds and h-entrys), though I would have to be using some sort of microformats reader to make sure everything there is hunky-dory (no concrete plans for this yet) webmention support, via webmention.

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Aha! I finally managed to finish a book again! I’ve heard of Cal Newport since years ago tangentially due to his Study Hacks blog, which was pretty good at the time. I haven’t followed his career too closely, but he’s an academic at Georgetown apparently. I wasn’t looking for any career advice in particular, but I did have a recommendation for this book from somewhere so I thought I’d give it a go.

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I am envious sometimes of people who are able to narrow down their interests to a specific scope, it’s kind of like a lot of their decisions are made easier. Consider a person whose only hobby/interest is something like sports (not necessarily all sports, or just one sport, just sports in general). looking for something to do in your spare time? Sports! want to watch something on TV? Sports! picking up a newspaper, but don’t have much time to read?

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DevNotes: Python's yield

I’ve been using Python for well over 10 years, and I still don’t have an intuitive mastery of one of its keywords: yield. Everytime I see it in someone’s code I need to stop and mentally remind myself what it does. I figured I’d write a devnote to help improve my recall. Typically, yield is used in a function with a loop, like so: def some_func(lim): for i in range(0, lim): yield i yield means the function returns a “generator” that can be used as an iterable in a loop:

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A while back I found myself having to figure out how to compile/build/run a mobile application. The developers previously assigned to the project were no longer available to consult with, but they did leave behind some documentation. However, their documentation quality left a lot to be desired. The instructions they left basically amounted to: npm install ionic serve ionic codrova run android/ios Okay, first sign of trouble is that their instructions were basically commands that anyone who knew the app used Ionic would be able to Google.

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The World Can Be Suffocating

The world can be suffocating. You won’t always have enough energy. You’ll have too much to do. You’ll fall behind on your commitments. Bad things will happen at work. Your problems will pile up. Roadblocks will stand in your way. You’ll never have enough time. Other people will come to you for help. You will bear the weight of their problems as well, even a little. Then there’s the problems plaguing the world around you.

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Four Days in Bicol

Something I haven’t done in a while: travel with my parents to Bicol to pay respects to our ancestors during the undas long weekend. In fact, the last time I made this trip was back in 2004, 15 years ago! (I technically also visited Bicol about 11ish years ago, but that was via a flight to Legaspi, Albay, and not to my dad’s hometown.) My Dad’s hometown is in Daet, Camarines Norte, and that’s also where my grandparents are buried.

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Bagasbas beach
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NaBloPoMo: Just Write

Apparently, NaBloPoMo (or National Blog Posting Month) is a thing. It doesn’t quite roll off the tongue as the original Nanowrimo (which was already a tough sell), but I think it’s a worthy endeavor nonetheless. Some friends were inviting me to do Nanowrimo again this year, but due to general life and busyness and other things, I wasn’t able to prep. I could just wing it (maybe I still will!), but that likely leads to disaster!

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Inktober 2019: Director's Cut

For the uninitiated, Inktober is a drawing challenge where you have to make one drawing in ink (no digital! but you do you I guess) for each day in October, with each drawing based on a certain prompt. This year’s prompts list is: I’ve tried participating in this a few times since 2016, I think I only completed the full 31 days once before this year though. You can view my current and future entries through the inktober tag.

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Actually watched something in the cinema this month: Joker. I wasn’t originally sure if I wanted to see it, I wasn’t hyped for it at all in the months prior. But as the showing date came nearer, there was a lot of buzz around it so I decided to go anyway. I don’t feel like it lived up to the hype and the warnings about promoting incel stuff, but at least it’s one of the higher-grossing DC movies, so maybe we’ll have more to come in that vein.

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Oct 2019

Archiving Yahoo Groups

So a couple of days ago, Yahoo announced that it was shutting down Yahoo Groups. I was a big user of Yahoo Groups back in the day. I was a member of several active mailing lists in the early 2000s, including some fandom groups (see: The Rise and Fall of the Final Fantasy Forum) and a few alumni groups and some MTG-related ones. Now all of that content is vanishing!

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This is Metro Manila

(Note: This post discusses the traffic situation in Metro Manila. I’ve had this post in the works for a while, and it kept getting longer and longer (possibly my longest post to date). I also had my friend David review it first to make sure I wasn’t saying anything too ridiculous, and he and I discussed some of the things and some of his points made it into the final post.

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While you slept, the world changed. I haven’t reviewed any comics on this blog for a while, so today we’ll talk about Jonathan Hickman’s triumphant (so far) return to Marvel: House of X/Powers of X and the upcoming Dawn of X wave of books. Spoilers abound so be aware. Also while writing this I realized how absurd comic books must seem to nonreaders, but really that’s what makes it all fun!

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An Archive of My Own

A post about making a guy making an archive of his twitter data made the rounds lately, so I figured I should make my own post about my ongoing efforts in this regard. I mentioned in an earlier post that I like being able to use social media to dig through my own history. But as the first link above says, these social media sites can go away since nothing lasts forever.

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The Second Set of Legends Block

I like Wikis (probably because a previous employer used them a lot) so in 2005, I got an account at PBWiki (now PBWorks) which let you set up your own Wiki. Unfortunately, I never did end up using it for anything significant, and every couple of years they have to warn me they’re going to delete it, so I figured I’d just get the content off of it and let it die.

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Sep 2019

I finally got around to watching X-Men Dark Phoenix which I skipped when it came out mainly because (a) poor reviews, and while normally I’d have watched it anyway since I have not missed any of the X-Men movies in the cinema, not even the horrendous Wolverine Origins, there was also to consider that (b) I was in the US at the time and was only willing to spend my precious dollars on one expensive American cinema and Spider-man Far From Home won out.

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The Climate Strikes Back

This past weekend was supposedly some global climate strike, led by young activists. I don’t actually know if there was a local counterpart to these activities, as obviously I did not participate. Good for the young though. Between the climate activists and HK protesters, the modern youth still give me some hope for humanity. Anyway, I’m gonna step into the melee here and start rambling about things I may or may not be fully informed about, feel free to correct me or tell me I’m being an idiot or whatever.

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2019 Windows Installation List

So I recently reinstalled Windows 10. This reminded me that there used to be a time that I reinstalled Windows so often that I would maintain a standard “installation list” of software that I would install afterwards. (I’m sure I have at least one of those old lists somewhere in my backups, too lazy to look for them now.). I thought I’d post an updated 2019 version, based on the recent episode.

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A Tale of Two Backups

Despite my desktop PC being generally more stable after the events of the Great Memory Scare of 2019, I was still encountering occasionally crashes when playing games. And by crash I mean the displays dying although the PC continues to run for a short while thereafter and after which they proceed to apparently stop operating completely. It only happens when playing games, and most often when playing Magic Arena and sometimes (rarely) when playing Starcraft 2 or Borderlands 2.

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The following article made the rounds recently: I Quit Social Media for a Year and Nothing Magical Happened. It’s interesting enough not only on its own, but also for the discussion generated around any piece about qutting social media. I will admit I’ve been flirting with the idea myself, but that’s a topic for another day. Of particular interest to me at the moment is this comment about the article on Hacker News:

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MTG: Trying out pauper

I am aware of the existence of Pauper as a format in MTG, but I never paid too much attention to it before. A couple of weeks ago, a friend pointed out that I might enjoy playing the recent Jeskai Nuneca decks that had become popular recently. I checked out a sample decklist, and you bet I jumped at the chance to play Mulldrifters again lol. We set about to gather the cards.

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My Personal Reading List

I recently imported my old reviews from Goodreads into this blog as posts. These days I generally prefer just writing my book reviews here anyway, so I will likely stop using Goodreads as a service completely. To facilitate tracking of my read/unread books (and perhaps to inspire me to read more, as I really should), I’ve published an old file which I’ve been using as a sort of “to-read” list since 2010.

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MTG Arena: Thoughts on Historic

Magic Arena’s community was in an uproar this past weekend over the latest state of the beta, mostly over the announced plans for Arena’s eternal Historic format that will become relevant with the coming rotation. It’s likely that Wizards will backpedal in some way in response to the community, but here are my thoughts for now: Historic cards to cost double wildcards to craft This is the universally-reviled bit and has been the target of much outrage, accursing Wizards of being greedy etc.

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Aug 2019

Hmm, surprisingly I haven’t watched too much stuff this month. Eigasai I watched a Japanese film at Eigasai in UP Diliman for the first time ever, upon the invite of some friends. We saw One Cut of the Dead a comedy zombie film. It was great and it was hilarious, although you must make sure not to lose patience with the first thirty minutes. I went in blind not knowing anything about it other than “Japanese comedy zombie movie”, so you should too!

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Ephemeral social media

I read this post: Why I’m automatically deleting my old tweets using AWS Lambda where the justification for regularly deleting your old social media content is that they are no longer representative of the current version of you and thus can be misleading. This has certainly been the case when famous people’s older tweets resurface (James Gunn comes to mind). To each his own and I kind of understand the intent, but this kind of thinking is a bit anathema to me.

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Python: Markov Chains

Back when I was still learning Python in 2008, one of the first “fun” scripts I wrote was a text generator using Markov chains. I’d run it against all the chat logs I had with people at work and serve the results from a webserver on my computer. THe results were often amusing and sometimes hilarious. Since I’ve been going through my old scripts lately, I thought I’d update that script to Python 3 (read: add parentheses around print params and use pathlib) and run it against all the posts on this here site.

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Devnotes: Python Pathlib

Ever since I started learning Python back in 2008ish, I’ve been using it as my primary scripting language for various tasks such as processing log files, organizing my own file system, processing stuff on this blog, and so on. A lot of it is basically moving files around. In the days of Python 2, that involved a lot of imports of different libraries like os, shutil and glob. It can become a bit messy with so many imports, and I often can’t remember which import I need for a particular case and end up having to search for the documentation (or stackoverflow, let’s not kid ourselves here).

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Marketplace Ethics

I brought up among one of my friend groups this Reddit thread where the poster says they were able to buy hundreds of dollars worth of Magic cards from a garage sale for around $70. (Not gonna link to the original thread because it might seem like I’m shaming the OP.) Not that there’s anything bad with such “garage sale finds”, as it were. These things are posted every so often on subreddits especially those dedicated to some sort of collectible.

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Three Hearts

Shogun There’s a quote I like from James Clavell’s novel Shogun: “It’s a saying they have, that a man has a false heart in his mouth for the world to see, another in his breast to show to his special friends and his family, and the real one, the true one, the secret one, which is never known to anyone except to himself alone, hidden only God knows where.

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Big news in online repositories this week is that Bitbucket is sunsetting support for Mercurial! This might be the death knell for Mercurial, although Git was already the super popular choice before. Back when I started using online source control for my personal coding projects I started out with Bitbucket over Github because they offered unlimited private repos and Mercurial (which I had already tried out before at work, so at first I preferred it over git).

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Roy Tang is a: is a personal site, an E/N site, and kind of a commonplace book; I post about a random assortment of topics that interest me including software development, Magic the Gathering, pop culture, gaming, and tech life. This site is perpetually under renovation.