Media I've consumed in 2018

January 15, 2018 at 08:30 PM | categories: movies, books, games | View Comments

To escape the continued crushing reality of 2017, I escaped into a world of multimedia.

Books

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As boring as it may sound, and despite reading some pretty good fiction books this year, my favorite is probably 99 Bottles of OOP by Sandy Metz. In addition to reiterating what "real" OOP is as in her Nothing is Something talk (hint: creating a Dog class that inherits from the Animal class isn't the important bit), it also has an eye-opening exercise that if you actually do at the start of the book, it shows just how seductive it is to over-engineer a solution.

Movies

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Thor was probably the most fun I had in a theater all year, but O.J. Made in America was the most enlightening. I was around ten years old when it all went down, and I was old enough to understand everything that was happening, but not why it was such a big deal. This 8 hour documentary (best watched in chunks) lays everything out in detail, from the specifics of the case itself, to O.J. Simpson's reputation as being "aracial" in contrast to other contemporary African American athletes, to the historical context of Rodney King and the LA police, and the rise of 24-hour news coverage. I highly recommend, even if you don't care about football at all, and you didn't want to hear another second of O.J. coverage during 1995.

Games

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Witcher 3 is what I was hoping for out of Fallout 4: another huge world to explore with scads of deep stories to wander between. It also looks amazing, and basically never bugged out on me, which is more than can be said for most Bethesda games. All of the quests--even the smallest side quests--told an interesting story, and the Hearts of Stone expansion told an even better story (I never did get around to finishing Blood and Wine, but I probably will at some point). I never played the previous games in the series and don't feel like I missed out, but don't be surprised if you see some of the Witcher books upon which the game is based in my list next year.

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Media I've consumed in 2016

January 14, 2017 at 04:30 PM | categories: movies, books, games | View Comments

To escape the crushing reality of 2016, I escaped into a world of multimedia.

Books

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Again I failed to even read a book a month in 2016. Most books didn't really grab my attention, so I took my sweet time getting through them. Still, there were some gems. I finally read a David Sedaris book (Let's Explore Diabetes With Owls) after years of hearing him on This American Life, and his voice comes off in print just as well. Also, Sandi Metz's Practical Object Oriented Design in Ruby is well written, full of practical advice, and something I can use as a counterpoint to people who think dynamically typed languages are bad for software quality.

Movies

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Maybe it's just because I'm a single thirtysomething, but The Lobster spoke to me. I loved Yorgos Lanthimos' Dogtooth, but I can't say it was relatable. And I definitely wouldn't recommend it to someone who doesn't know what they're getting into. The Lobster is still uniquely weird and cynical, but it still has moments of sentimentality and romance.

In between the daily hunts of single people.

Games

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I played precious few games this year, and finished fewer still. My favorite, though, was Uncharted 4. I normally gravitate towards smaller indie games, but Uncharted really shows what smart people and amazing artists can do with technology these days. The story it tells also isn't half bad, at least by video game standards.

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Media I've consumed in 2015

January 03, 2016 at 10:46 PM | categories: movies, books, games | View Comments

Someday I'll create my own art. Until then, I continue to consume.

Books

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My 2015 reading list is incredibly skimpy, due to taking on reading the entire Song of Ice and Fire series. I've been reading a chapter a night, and I'm still not all the way caught up. Still, of the few books I've read this year, I'd give the od to the original A Game of Thrones, both because it was very fresh (I had been successful in avoiding HBO series spoilers before reading the books), and because at that point I hadn't burnt out on the series. At this point, I'm kind of sick of it, but I'm on the home stretch. I'm kind of glad Martin is taking his time writing the next book.

Movies

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Whiplash does a lot of things, and it does them all well. It explores the sacrifices made to attain greatness. It makes a memorable, over-the-top scene-chewing J. K. Simmons villain who still never comes off as evil or cartoonish. It takes an incredibly dense music genre that I frankly don't have the time nor inclination to care about but made me not just appreciate it on an intellectual level, but actually enjoy it throughout the movie. Although the first bars of the titular Whiplash will probably haunt me for a long time.

Games

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The game I kept coming back to in 2015 was Cook, Serve, Delicious!. Something about that game just puts me into a Zen-like trance that I probably haven't felt since playing through the higher levels of Super Hexagon or beating "Freebird" on hard in Guitar Hero (I never could crack expert, though). The light sim and progression elements provide a nice wrapper, but really the mechanics of hammering on your keyboard to make hamburgers, sushi, and spaghetti are incredibly satisfying, especially after serving the last customer on a perfect day. If there's a reason to get the loudest possible mechanical keyboard, it's this game.

Also, a shout-out to Gathering Sky for best art and soundtrack, although full discosure, the artist on that game is a coworker, so take the recommendation with a grain of salt. Still, cool game.

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Media I've consumed in 2014

January 01, 2015 at 04:30 PM | categories: movies, books, games | View Comments

When the opportunity for self-improvement in 2014 knocked, I consumed all this media instead.

Books

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Michael Lewis did it again in Flash Boys and made an entertaining page-turner about boring economics, all while exposing various injustices in the American economic system. I knew about the arms race among traders for getting faster connections to marketplaces to facilitate high speed trading, but I had no idea about the shenanigans the various marketplace owners themselves were taking part in. If you read that, you'll probably also want to read The Big Short.

Games

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Again, I want to say my favorite is The Stanley Parable or Jazzpunk, but if I'm honest the latest Diablo III expansion Reaper of Souls is just a perfect Skinner Box, fixing pretty much all the issues from the initial Diablo III release. Even if it's all just a carefully concocted science experiment providing intermittent positive reinforcement, it tickled just the right parts of my lizard brain to give me the sensation of fun.

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I Just Played Zombies Run! 5k Training

April 27, 2014 at 08:00 PM | categories: games | View Comments

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I know, I know. The internet has already jumped on the whole "zombies" meme, sucked it dry, and deemed it over. Still, as cheesy as the concept is, Six to Start's Zombies, Run! 5K Training app is one of the few purchases I've made that not only turned into a habit, but a healthy one at that. The basic concept is that you run the app while jogging, and short clips of an ongoing audioplay fire off in between the music you listen to as you run. There's some light progression and base-building aspects, but the main attraction is the audioplay.

The app comes in two basic packages: the couch-to-5k training app that is structured to get your endurance up to running a 5k in 8 weeks (it took me 10, given our freakishly snowy winter), and the full app, which has a lot more features, but assumes you can run for 30 minutes at a time (at least, if you want to "play along" with the audioplay). Because I'm a sedentary computer programmer, I started with the 5K trainer. Prior to the trainer, I kind of enjoyed jogging, but I didn't do it regularly, and was pretty much spent after about a mile. The trainer both got me out jogging regularly, and had me doing increasingly longer intervals to get my endurance up to go a full 5k without walking. Still, if you can run a 5k today, you'll find the trainer pretty mind-numbing and you'll probably want to go straight to the "full" app as the trainer assumes you've never jogged in your life, and not much happens story-wise. The "full" app is much more featureful, and the storylines have been more interesting since I've graduated to the full app.

I can't say the app will work for you, but for me the episodic story nature got me in the regular habit, and once the health benefits start kicking in (starting with better times on runs, and progressing to weight loss and better sleep patterns), the app has made running a habit that I'd find hard to kick. I highly recommend giving it a shot if you think it could work for you. Also, I respect a mobile game that has the guts to fairly price its content and not hammer me with ads or in-your-face upsells. The trainer is only $2, and after going through that, I've purchased all the content from the full app mainly out of appreciation, since it'll be months before I get to it all.

One final note, even though the app can track distances and has a pretty nice web component to track various aspects of your runs (I've just passed 200km total), and the full app even has some missions that are based on distance, all of the 5k trainer missions are strictly timing-based. By the end of training, I could do a 5k in under 30 minutes, but the final mission is nearly an hour to give everyone a chance to finish. I could not run for an hour, so I'd recommend you map out exactly how long 5km is before the last run, and spend the rest of the time celebrating.

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