Electronics vs. paper

Was giving the electronic boarding pass another go with my trip to montreal. Seemed like an ideal test case with free wifi at both airports. Went fine on the way over, but phone decided to hang just as I was crossing security on the Montreal side. Luckily it was pretty quiet and the security guard was understanding if a little unimpressed with the 5 minute reboot time. Still, might need a new/more reliable phone if I’m to trust it for a future run.

Mailbox Diving

Found an old backup of my e-mails.  If this is what I think it is,  it holds all the rest of my e-mails – the ones from The Time Before I Gave My Life to GMail (except for the data forever lost to a hard drive crash.  Rest in Peace, HP desktop of yore).  All the information from the time when I just started using these interwebs…

Kobo and Forgiveness

Putting down my impressions of the Kobo triggered some re-evaluation of exactly what my thoughts on the little device are – and the more I think about it,  the more the limitations and flaws of the device are apparent.

The screen refresh rate is slow.  Not only that,  the screen is unreliable – doesn’t always respond to taps, or maybe it does respond but doesn’t update the screen because if you tap again you’re ahead two pages!  That doesn’t count the times the software goes a bit haywire, and then the browsing starts going forward and backward seemingly at random, necessitating a  power-off/power-on cycle.  Browsing the store is nothing short of painful, and going backwards and forwards more than one or two pages at a time is decidedly awkward. I’ve never intentionally invoked the dictionary,  yet I’ve already got the achievement for looking up 10 words from all the times the screen touch decided I was trying to highlight and look up a word. (The life awards/achievements are pretty … weird?  silly? I guess they’re harmless, if useless)

It’s symmetric, so there’s no way to figure out which way to hold the device by looking or feeling most of the sides, except if you happen across the very slightly different power switch at the top.  The power switch is a slider,  which probably makes it difficult to accidentally press, but definitely not my favoured button style. The casing itself isn’t particularly attractive – I got a nicely coloured backing as part of my gift,  but the rubber frame around the front looks like it’ll need cleaning.  I have no idea if it’s possible, but a seamless/non-framed front would have been quite a bit more stylish.

And yet – I am now convinced e-readers are the future of reading. It is comfortable to read – maybe even more than a regular novel, since I can crank up the font. You can carry many, many books, all in the same amount of space.  And when you’re just reading continuously,  holding it in one hand,  tapping to flip to the next page,  it works.  

It works. I can carry an entire library, and I can read books, one-handed. It gets the most important features, and all the things – which I think are important things that they should fix – but in the end I would still recommend it since the important things work. I am now a believer in e-readers. They’re still expensive,  but I would still recommend it for anyone who likes reading.


Kobo Mini: Surprising New Toy

I was gifted a delightful little Kobo mini over the holidays.  At first, I wasn’t sure what to make of it – a touch less wide than a pocketbook, and almost an inch less tall, I worried it would be difficult to make work with me olde eyes. Turns out that was a non-issue – it was straightforward to enlarge the font size for reading.

The e-paper screen turns out to be quite comfortable to read. It does have an abysmally slow refresh rate, making anything moderately interactive painful – it’s technically possible to type with the onscreen keyboard,  or browse the store, or look up words while reading,  but all of these are pretty painful.  

Once you give up on using the device for anything but reading though, things go swimmingly.  The delay isn’t such a big deal when you’re just turning pages of the book when reading. Interestingly,  it seems to require a good solid press to register touch,  but it does allow interaction even with gloves on. It’s not perfect – it whatever little processor behind the scenes still seems a bit slow and overtaxed, and sometimes gets confused with flipping backwards vs forwards – but 95% of the time there’s no troubles.  Once you turn off wifi, the battery life is very good – a couple days reading a couple books brought it down to 60ish% is the furthest I’ve gone, and it’s always charged in a jiffy when I go to load more books.  

Actually,  that’s what true saving grace of the device – the screen is comfortable to read off of for substantial stretches,  and the one little device is all you need to carry.  I love being able to carry multiple books without having to deal with finding extra pockets for all of them.  Now I’ve got the opposite problem of before – rather than having to decide which book to carry and worrying about whether to take a spare if I’m nearly done,  I sometimes have to waffle over which book to start reading because they are all on the device!

Which reminds me – I’ve got an overdue paperback that is likely lost since it isn’t in my pockets…

Five minutes to awesome

Seems I’ve got a much shorter attention spanb than previously – but I think it’s for the best.  There is now so much media – games, tv shows, movies – that I need something to grab me quickly.  It’s the “five minutes to awesome” benchmark – do something incredible in the first five minutes to grab my attention.

It’s not that I can’t forgive a slow burn intro – but there had better be a good payoff.  But more and more I’m expecting something gripping at the beginning of a game.  I can remember the beginning of Mass Effect 3,  going from a rather calm start and then five minutes later it’s all gone down the drain – makes you want to be in the game, being the hero.  XCOM also sets things up well – after the brief intro sequence,  I welcomed the XCOM title screen (I actually like the cinematic effect of having the title appear when it’s done right – really hammers home that the game devs are serious about the story) right at the point where you become Commander of XCOM, off saving the world.

It’s almost odd when I think about it that so many games insist having you grind through ages of being a piddly sad subhuman…I don’t mind a big disparity in power levels between the start and end of the game, but if I’m getting too old to spend hours having trouble killing rats in cellars.

Sherlock and Netflix

I have to take a moment and gush about Sherlock, the British mini-series. Netflix just got the second season episodes so I took a moment and got caught up.

The first episode was an easy favorite, but all the whole two seasons are impressive. S2E1 though had action, romance and twists galore. Had me hanging all the way to the last moment of the last scene. It gets the focus right, just like how Mass Effect forgets – sure it’s cool to unravel a mystery, but it’s the people, the motivations that make us care and in the end that’s the real story. The setting can be delicious fluff, but in the end we want to know and taste a bit more of Sherlock’s head, not the minutiae of the crimes.

Food: Foe.

Sometimes, I too get caught up in the illusion of “wholesome, natural food”.  I’m not particularly for or against genetic engineering in plants – I consider most plants as being engineered into their current state by long, arduous human selection.  Going in and directly tinkering with the genome is definitely a big step further along,  so I consider it mostly a “great power, great responsibility” situation,  and the power can definitely be abused. Recently I’ve further developed this stance though, looking at the plants themselves and realising that no living creature wants to be eaten – not just animals, but fruits and vegetables and nuts as well.  Sure,  they may have adapted to exploit the fact that they get eaten by other creatures, but by and large most organisms would rather not be eaten (well, there are pollinators…). Food has to tolerate it – not having a choice if they are further down the food chain – and maybe they try to “make the best of a bad situation”. The only reason that most of the food is edible and nutritious is not because they want to be nutritious – we’ve evolved to be able to eat them, and through domestication we’ve manipulated the food to better suit us. Really, the domestication of plants and animals is really the story of systematic oppression of these life forms, where we’ve culled (mass execution) the dissenters, leaving only the “defectors”.

Kinda reminds me a bit of the Reapers from Mass Effect,  although the “advanced races” are more like pretty butterflies for the collection rather than food…Not so much domesticating either.  Not quite the same thing at all…although it made me realise the agriculture theme of Mass Effect, what with Reaping on one side and Shepherding on the other.

End of the Shepard

Well, made it to the end if the saga of commander Shepard. It was a pretty great run, although I’m not sure whether having braced myself for an unsatisfying ending helped dampen the final blow. Always tough to say goodbye to a character. In the end, I was okay with the ending.

As always, I felt like there could have been more content – a lot of the side characters only got cameos this time around. Actually, when I start thinking about it, it seems like all the Mass Effect 2 characters got a bit of the short end of the stick.  It’s a bit contrived which characters end up being potential party members vs. which end up only having a couple token appearances – I do agree that the cast is big, so I guess in the end it was too much work to make everyone playable. Still,  the plot goes to ridiculous ends to make all the ME1 characters end up on your ship, and some pretty lame excuses why the ME2 characters can’t make it.  Smells more like ME2 was done by a different group than the ME1 folks, and it’s the ME1 folks who got to make this ME3 installment.

Depending on who you were most attached to (the ME1 characters or the ME2 characters), ME3 might be fine, or might seem like it’s giving your favorites the shaft. Makes recommending how to approach the series as a whole a bit tricky – story-wise,  Mass Effect 1 and 3 could almost stand alone,  whereas 2 is almost “side stories of Commander Shepard”. But the gameplay was a good deal stronger in Mass Effect 2, whereas 1 might be getting a bit long in the tooth as it were.  Still, you can’t import a file from ME1 into ME3, and playing Mass Effect 3 without the first two would lose a lot of flavour, since all these “old friends” that keep turning up wouldn’t be familiar.

Anyways,  looks like it’s likely goodbye to this universe, or at least till ME4 🙂

Busy saving the galaxy…

Usually I manage to resist, but there was a sale for Mass Effect 3 on greenmangaming.com that put it under $10. I also managed to work up the 15 minute effort to salvage the old save game from the HD of the last computer – turns out there’s no free slot in this computer for it though, so I ended up pulling the DVD drive. And now Shepard is back. And the galaxy needs a lot more saving.
Actually, while it was installing, I played a bit of  Star Wars: the old republic. Also epic galaxy saving tale, but the key difference is that it’s got the quiet farm boy/untrained youth thing going on. I played a good couple hours and other than the intro movie and the off reference, the great galactic war is somewhere out in the hypothetical. Mass effect, on the other, goes into exploding action movie mode pretty much in the first five minutes. It’s now in the slower ‘ do a million quests’ interlude filler, but they do spice it up with world changing plot points. I hear your choices might actually change things, but we shall see…

Categories of the Dance

Ran into a discussion on the Facebooks about how to describe types of dance. My initial reaction split the dances into solo dance, partner dance and group dances. Interestingly though, someone else described dance in terms of who the “primary target”(my paraphrase) is – audience or partner. For me, this is closer to divisions based on the structure of the dance – choreographed or improvised (and perhaps also called). Then again, perhaps this is more specifying professional versus social.
The problem with all these different classes, like any classification system, most real things are messy overlapping combinations of these categories. I consider most of my dancing to be social, improvised partner dance. Then again, solo jazz dancing has shades of performance aspects. And partner lindy hop also stops being purely about your partner when you consider jams.