Back on November 2nd of last year, I went to K.H. Kim’s 14th Biannual Taekwondo Tournament (and posted about it on Google+ and my website). I went again this year for the 15th tournament, again as a coach. I had Emma, one of my students, be my assistant for this tournament. Unfortunately, she’s a little too young to actually be a real coach’s assistant, so I instead gave her my camera for the event and asked her to take photos. The quality of the photos were pretty much what you would expect from a nine-year-old girl (a lot of blurry and a lot of selfies), but she still managed to get a bunch of good shots. Unfortunately, I have chosen not to post those publicly on my website in order to protect the privacy of the underaged competitors (and if I were to have chosen to post them, there are a lot of liabilities that go along with it that I don’t want to deal with). However, I do have one shot that I can post, and that’s the full group photo of everyone competing, as well as the staff: I’m not in the photo because I went as more of a private coach rather than a staff member, even though I was associated with the school the assistant director owns. I was instead on the other side of the shot, escorting my assistant so she wouldn’t get trampled by all the people. Yes, that is indeed fake grass – apparently the main competition area had a capacity of 420 people, so they used this field as the waiting area so there wouldn’t be a fire hazard due to exceeding capacity. It was also the place where the opening ceremony happened. This is one of those tournaments where everyone is a winner – they split the competitors up into very small groups, and they award small trophies to every participant. So, the placement isn’t really that significant (at least, not very significant relative to other more legitimate tournaments), but I’m still pretty impressed at the performances from some of my academy’s students. My primary role there was to make sure the students were feeling comfortable. From what I’ve perceived, the most common reason students underperform is because of nervousness due to sudden exposure to a novel environment. By being there, chatting with them, and helping them practice their routines in the new location before they’re out to get judged, it accustoms them to the new setting and helps them relax a bit. That will reduce the chances of the students losing confidence, forgetting sequences, and/or disregarding the technicalities that may reduce their presentation score. And finally, one thing that was particularly memorable to me was a girl with a limb-control-related disability who participated in board breaking. I’m not entirely sure what handicap she had, and I’m not medically educated enough to even take a guess, but simply put, she could barely walk straight. Each round is judged relatively, meaning, students of similar age and skill level compete against each other. Obviously, this girl with the handicap had to be placed in her own division, as there was nobody else there who would be on fair judging grounds as her. She did end up missing a few attempts, but ultimately, she broke all three boards in her sequence, received a standing ovation, and got the one and only perfect score of 10.0 in the entire tournament. Some people might wonder why she deserves to be given a 10.0, but when you look at taekwondo from a traditional viewpoint as to what it’s intended to be – a martial art revolving around discipline, designed to build your character and better every aspect of your life – it’s pretty understandable why this girl deserved the score she got. It takes a lot of courage and confidence to go to a tournament and perform your art in front of hundreds of people. The fact that this girl already achieved a level of mental maturity high enough to accept her handicap and not allow it to hold her back shows that she overcame a huge hurdle in her life already – a hurdle of such a magnitude most people her age haven’t even encountered yet.
Blizzard said that they listened to our feedback regarding the original Heroes of the Storm “Heroes of the Dorm” broadcasts, and made some changes. They published a blog post stating that a lot more scenes had been added, but pretty much spent most of the time justifying why it’s not possible to include all this information on an ESPN broadcast. The tl;dr version is that TV screens come in a lot of different shapes and sizes, and they need to simplify the broadcast interface in order to make the viewing experience good for everyone. If that’s the case, then Blizzard made a mistake broadcasting eSports on national television. As League of Legends analyst Christopher “MonteCristo” Mykles said, “In some ways it feels like a step backward to be on TV.” In my opinion, there are two very easy ways to fix this. The first is to have two different live streams, one for television and one for the Internet (through an outlet like YouTube Live or Twitch). The casting would be the same, but the video would be more in-depth and have a more informative overlay for the people who elect to watch online. The second is to just broadcast the more informative overlay to the television viewers, and just add black bars to the top and bottom for those who still have 4:3 ratio televisions. Technology, especially technology relating to the Internet, is evolving way too fast to be accommodating for television viewers. A lot of new games nowadays are released only online through digital download. Game companies aren’t going to burn the game onto a DVD (or a dual-layer DVD for most new games) and ship it to your front door. If you have slow Internet, you’re just gonna have to let it run for a few days. You adapt to the game companies; they don’t adapt to you. The same should be for the Heroes of the Storm broadcast – the viewers adapt to the game companies; the game companies don’t adapt to the viewers. (Note: Yes, there are some prerequisites for this statement to be effective. The game company should research the viewers and make sure that the highest standard is set for their broadcast. But, after that, the broadcast should not have to adjust and accommodate to every obscure outlier with an old television set.) (Second note: It’s not like these outliers are being restricted from viewing. They’ll see the broadcast, it’ll just have black bars on the top and bottom, similar to how we see them on YouTube for videos that aren’t 16:9. On the other hand, a lot of gamers who really do care about Heroes of the Storm ARE being restricted from viewing because they don’t have an ESPN subscription.) Sure, my ranting here isn’t going to change much. But, in my opinion, it’s not something that can just be ignored either. And hopefully, as eSports continues to grow, better solutions can be found to broadcast problems like the ones ESPN is facing right now.
If you’re familiar with Android, you might already know that version 5, also known as Lollipop, was released back in late 2014. I have a Samsung Galaxy S4, and every time I went to check for updates, it said that I already had the latest version, even though I had Android 4.4.4. Today, it finally updated itself to Android 5, and it’s a pretty huge change. Overall, I think I like it because it seems a bit cleaner and more organized. I’m personally big on distinct contrast because I think it makes things more crisp and easy to see. I think each individual item should be easy to separate from another, and contrast helps out in that regard quite a bit. Ironically, it seems like Android 5 has reduced variance of contrast, but for some reason I’m not having too much difficulty telling apart different on-screen elements. The first thing I noticed that I really like is the changed look of the QWERTY keyboard. Version 5 has much smaller keys than version 4.4.4, which makes it a lot easier to type. Not only is there less possibility of unintended key presses due to being off-center and accidentally touching borders between keys, but it also forces more accurate key pressing of there being less buffer space on the edges of the key. Unfortunately, not everything is amazing, and the biggest issue I have is a buggy gallery. Every time I open my gallery, all my images appear gray, and I need to wait several seconds before they start loading up. On the topic of pictures, the Picasa integration also seems to be gone. Now, the only way I can integrate with Picasa and manually backup my photos online is to either use the Photos in Google+ (which doesn’t let you pick the album to which you’re uploading), or to get a separate third-party app (which I did). Another buggy thing I noticed was the display of widgets. Not only were the widgets moved to a different location (now they appear when pressing and holding your finger on a blank space on your home screen, and I’m not sure which location I like better, the new one or the old one in the apps menu), but they don’t always pop up. Immediately upon updating, my parents’ weather and alarm widgets disappeared, and I had to manually add them back onto their corresponding pages. Mine was fine at first, but my weather app randomly disappeared after a period of time. I tried Googling why this was happening, but all I found were basic solutions (like just dragging the widget back where it used to be), rather than possible explanations as to why it was happening. In order to try and catch potential problems with the new operating system before I fell victim to them, I looked up common problems and bugs with the new operating system, but all of them seemed to be problems that couldn’t really be avoided with any preventative measures, and they were problems that I didn’t encounter even though I tried to intentionally reproduce the problem. Overall, I’m content with the new update, because the useful things are actually quite noticeably convenient, and the problematic things are either bearable or have workarounds.
Earlier today, my parents, relatives from California, and I went to the Golden Corral buffet in Algonquin, Illinois. Apparently some other relatives from New Jersey had gone here while they were visiting Illinois, and recommended the restaurant to us. We sat over in this corner, away from most of the other people. It wasn’t actually as dark as it seems in the photo; my phone’s camera just happened to have a bit of trouble adjusting to the bright outdoors, and compensated the lighting in the wrong direction. The first thing to mention is that they have a senior discount and an “after 1 PM” discount. We didn’t actually realize this time-based discount until we were leaving the restaurant, and I was a little upset because we had arrived at about 12:56 PM. But, when we checked the receipt, we noticed that the cashier had given us the post-1:00 price without us having to request it, even though the payment was made before the eligible discount time. It’s always nice to see businesses be flexible and value the happiness of their customers, rather than stick hard to the rules in order to make more money. As for the buffet itself, it wasn’t really my preferred style of restaurant, but from a neutral perspective, it’s a pretty decent restaurant. It has a lot of different American food, so if you’re a fan of American, this might be the place for you. I personally prefer to get American food from fast food restaurants where you just get a large serving of one item, rather than tiny bits of a variety of foods. This is important to keep in mind when I say I wasn’t that thrilled at this restaurant – it’s more of a conflicting preference thing, rather than the restaurant doing anything wrong. While I was getting food, I didn’t notice any strange odors, but when I went back to my table to sit down, there was a strange smell in our corner. It’s difficult to describe, but the best I can do is the smell of undried clothing mixed with the sweat of someone who eats a lot of fatty foods. So, if you plan on going to this particular restaurant at this particular location, you might want to avoid that corner. My favorite part of the trip was the dessert. They have a massive variety of desserts, including cakes, chocolate fountains for strawberries, cotton candy, and an ice cream dispenser. This was actually the first time I had ever had cotton candy on a stick since I was a tiny child. We had an older male as our server, and he seemed a little bit too nice. He made sure that we had everything we needed, and came (almost excessively) often to refill drinks. One peculiar thing I tend to do at buffets is to reuse my old plate for my second serving in order to help them cut down on dishwashing costs. At the Golden Corral, I didn’t even have a chance to do that because my old plates were taken away so quickly. Overall, from my own personal perspective (which means taking my own preferences into consideration), I would rate this restaurant 5/10. From a non-biased perspective, I would rate this restaurant 7/10. I would say it’s a solid restaurant, but there was nothing that made me say “wow,” which is generally needed for me to give anything a 9-10/10 rating.
I was pretty excited today to watch Heroes of the Dorm, a Heroes of the Storm tournament hosted by Blizzard. I was a little bit confused when, part-way through the day, I saw a tweet that said Heroes of the Storm was now live … on ESPN3. I figured they were trying something new, and were moving on to a broadcast station instead of just streaming it on Twitch and YouTube like normal eSports. I heard that ESPN had streamed DotA2, so I assumed that it wouldn’t be that bad. When I expanded the tweet, the first thing I noticed was that there were a bunch of people tweeting at Blizzard about how they weren’t able to access ESPN from their country. I was a little disappointed that Blizzard had selected a streaming platform that wasn’t open to everyone in the world. Regardless, I opened up the stream and waited a little bit for it to load up. I tuned in during the middle of the game, and noticed that the stream felt incomplete. Upon further scrutiny, I realized that ESPN had essentially removed a lot of the user interface from the broadcast. More specifically, there was no mini-map, no detailed information about heroes and their health, and no map-specific mechanic counters. Some of this information was somewhat present, but it was oversimplified and unintuitive. At this time, I tweeted:
I kept watching and it felt as if the casters weren’t allowed to get excited. They were spending a lot of time trying to make the gameplay as easy to understand as possible, and ended up going down as low as to say things that would’ve been obvious, even to someone who had never played Heroes of the Storm before.
To expand on why it’s so bad not to include the mini-map in the broadcast, ESPN basically treated Heroes of the Storm like a physical sport. Physical sports are fine to broadcast like that because there is only one ball, and the camera just follows the ball around.
Using the ball analogy, there are basically four balls in Heroes of the Storm at the same time. Of course, you can’t follow all four balls around at the same time, and doing a split-screen type of broadcast wouldn’t be the best because the individual quarters would be too small and unpleasant to observe.
Instead, the mini-map needs to be broadcasted so viewers can get a feel as to where the other “balls” are on the map, and how the “balls” are being played. If this information isn’t provided, the game feels suffocating and the viewer feels as if they can’t see the big picture of the game.
As for the lack of detailed information, I understand that someone who has never watched eSports before tuning into ESPN would get overwhelmed by all the information on the screen. But, eSports relies heavily on small calculations that aren’t present in physical sports (for example, it’s very likely and common for eSports fights to go down to the last several hit points, and for that to change the outcome of the game, but in physical sports, taking a step two inches too far will pretty much never make any difference).
Overall, I’m pretty upset that Blizzard passed on the Heroes of the Dorm broadcast to ESPN, rather than running it themselves (or with a professional eSports broadcasting company) who actually know how to cater to an eSports audience.
The bright side to this is that this is the first day of the first ever “official” Heroes of the Storm tournament. I trust Blizzard enough that they have quality assurance analysts who are able to identify these problems, and hopefully they’ll be quick enough to make enough improvements before the next broadcast.
Why is this even on @ESPN3? Apparently they also restrict viewership based on location. They're clearly not ready to broadcast eSports.
— Adam (@Parkzer) April 12, 2015
I thought simulation games, like Sim City, were easy. My experience today with Cities: Skylines made sure it was absolutely clear that they are not at all easy – at least not for beginners who have no idea what they’re doing. I decided to try out Cities: Skylines because I’ve literally never played any simulation games before, and I wanted to try it out. I expected my experience to be very relaxed and easy – just build some roads, construct some buildings, and watch my city grow. … I had to completely destroy and restart my city three times before finally managing to figure out how not to immediately go bankrupt. Cities: Skylines really puts your city management skills to the test. It starts you off easy, only having you manage a few utilities, but as your city grows, you need to keep track of everything that you would need to survive in real life. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to stream my first experience with Cities: Skylines because my streaming software appeared to have some conflicts capturing the game. (When I did a window capture instead, I lagged so much that I think I had about 6 FPS. I already have pretty low FPS when playing Cities: Skylines without streaming, on minimum graphics settings.) Steam says I have about four hours of game time on Cities: Skylines so far, and in those four hours, I built five cities (three of which no longer exist due to bankruptcy). The first city I built that managed to stay alive reached almost 2.5k population. The second city I built was with the infinite money mod, and served the purpose of easing my curiosity as to what the mid-game was. I stopped playing when I realized I was getting overwhelmed and needed to take a break. I feel like Cities: Skylines is a much more stimulating game than I originally thought it was, but I think I need to read up on it and do a lot of research on the intricate workings of the city before being able to fully enjoy the entire simulation experience. This game received quite a bit of hype when it first came out because a lot of people said it was the better version of Sim City that everyone wanted. I haven’t been completely captivated by the game yet, but I do feel like my first experience with it was positive, and I did have some fun. Although it won’t be a game that I will play on a regular basis, it’s definitely something I’ll boot up once in a while when I have some spare time.
I spent the day at home today. Before my mom left this morning to tend to the family business, she left some food for me in the refrigerator. It was tteokbokki, which is Korean-style rice cake with seasoning. A lot of different stuff can be added in with the seasoning; my mom decided to put in some garlic, other boiled vegetables, and hard-boiled eggs. I decided to eat this tteokbokki for lunch. I mindlessly removed it from the refrigerator and put it in the microwave for two minutes. A minute and a half later, I hear an explosion. I realize that a hard-boiled egg had blown up. Remembering too late that hard-boiled eggs explode in the microwave, I grudgingly get some paper towels and wipe down the inside of the microwave, dabbing at the remains of the splattered egg yolk. I yank out the rotating tray and wipe it down with a wet rag. After a handful of minutes, everything is cleaned up and ready to be used to continue heating my food. But I’m not as retarded as you might think. I carefully inspect the food and find another hard-boiled egg. I furiously hack at it with my chopsticks until it’s in 12 different pieces. If there’s no albumen encasing the yolk, there obviously is nothing there to hold in the pressure and explode. I put everything back in the microwave and set it for another two minutes. A minute later the hacked up eGG EXPLODES ANYWAY HOW IS THAT EVEN PHYSICALLY POSSIBLE I spend another five minutes re-cleaning the inside of the microwave. Before putting the food back in the microwave for a third time, I just completely remove all the egg from the bowl and furiously let it fall in the trash. … There was a third egg hiding under the tteok. I cleaned my microwave three times today.
In case you’ve been wondering why I’ve been out of action for a little bit, it’s because I’ve been sick since yesterday. Apparently, something I ate on Wednesday night wasn’t safe – possibly some reheated pasta or some old bacon – and it upset my stomach. Enough that I randomly woke up in the middle of the night and vomited for the first time in literally about four years. It appears like I got a stomach virus that is preventing me from digesting food, because, ever since I ate this morning, I’ve felt full all day, and the liquids I’ve been drinking seem to be sitting inside of me and sloshing around whenever I move. So, I’ve been laying at home since yesterday, busily being sick. I start feeling a bit better when I go outside and get some fresh air, but then I rapidly become dizzy again and return to my bed. I’ve been spending most of my time on my phone, browsing through Twitter, Instagram, reddit, and other sources of interesting content. I’ll probably be spending most of the weekend watching the North American League Championship Series (assuming I’ll be un-dizzy enough by that point to be able to look at my laptop screen for extended periods of time). I’m hoping I’ll be better enough by at least Monday so I can start posting some more content and get back to my regular daily routine, but that’s not really a guarantee, so expect me to be missing for a little while longer while I recover.