Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Game: Plants vs Zombies Adventures Beta

Summary: Decently fun but bored after a few levels. I still prefer the original Plants vs Zombies. There are other better tower defense games like Bloons TD.

How I started:
I enjoyed the original Plants vs Zombies on someone else's iPad. I like that it only takes a couple minutes to figure out what is going on and how to play. I took about a day or two to beat the game. I thought this Adventures game would be the same to pass a few minutes of my time, but is actually a different play-style using the same theme.

Game-play:
This is similar to a tower defense game (the original is more like a lane defense game). You plant (ie build) plants along the path. Zombies follow the path towards a house (for brains). The strategy is to plant along the path to prevent the zombies from reaching the house. So far, the game is obvious enough.

There are two modes of play within the game: the adventure and your town. The adventure is more like puzzles to solve. Each puzzle is real-time based. As you progress, you get more money, levels, and at some points new plants.

The second mode is in the town. You pre-build your town to defend against zombie attacks. There are random AI attacks which are very easy but gives you certain money to make upgrades. The other attack is from other players for the brainbowl (which you can also attack other random people's towns) to gain brains. Brainbowls last a week and top five people with the most brains in the group gain another type of money, gems, that can only be gained by paying money. The last part is not essential to playing the adventures.

You need friends who plays to move to the next level. The first 5 levels require two, the last level required three.

My status:
I have reached 6 lots. The adventure was ok but after a while is just tedious to play, especially since you have to build the plants prior to going on adventure so you can only go 2-3 levels at a time.

Brainball is an interesting concept until you have a few people with more lots or more special plants which makes it impossible for you to collect brains and easy for them to get yours.

I may continue with the adventures from time to time to see if it gets more challenging. Overall, I prefer Candy Crush Saga (which is not high on my list either).

Bug/Glitch:
My biggest complaint about this game is the amount of memory it uses. It takes at least a minute to load. For brainball, it takes several seconds to load each town. If I am streaming while playing, the streams become extremely choppy. Also because of the slowness of the game play, it makes freezing plants in brainball extremely difficult.

There are quite a few minor glitches which does not really impede game play. The fog icon on the mouse does not change back after a random zombie attack.


  • I had to play around with moving plants to figure out where they can be placed. 
  • Complete paths must be in place to plant. If the path is broken and you accidentally pick up a plant, you cannot drop the plant anywhere. 
  • If zombie debris is behind a plant, it is extremely difficult to cleanup. In most cases, moving the plant is necessary. 
  • The zombie path for paths that are next to each other is not intuitive. 
  • When attacking, lots are highlighted that have brains. There was a player that figured a way to get a brain into a home that had no paths to it.


So far all the side quests have not been worth doing. They cost more zombucks than you gain. You gain experience but there does not seem to be any use to experience in the game.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Cooking: Guacamole - Second Attempt

This is my second attempt turned out much better than the first. This time I bought avocados already ripe. It is really hard to tell the ripe from the not ripe because the shell is somewhat hard. I cheated because the label said they were already ripe. It was probably slightly softer than when it was unripe. This made it much easier to mash with a fork and a soup ladel.

Oddly, I noticed the tomatoes I bought were from Canada. How come I get cheaper tomatoes from Canada?

This recipe included cumin which I am still not sure what it tastes like. I still need to experiment with that more. I used Serrano peppers instead of jalapeno. I skipped cayenne since I did not have any. I added a little more extra cilantro since I always have a bunch leftover which does not go very well with my stir fry.

Overall, this turned out very well.

Reference:
http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/alton-brown/guacamole-recipe/index.html
http://douglastclee.blogspot.com/2013/08/cooking-guacamole.html

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Review: Dried Cantaloupe

Summary: Good

My story:
I'm going to start by apologizing as this is probably going to be a run-on blog. By that, I mean that I am just going to be typing wherever my thought process takes me so it may jump around quite a bit.

I finally got myself to the farmer's market, or rather I stumbled across it. I was looking into the mortgage process and the market was right in front of the bank. There was a bunch of fresh fruits and vegetables.

I am so used to super market and produce for the masses that I forgot how to select regular farmed fruits and vegetables. They look like the rejects that you wouldn't get from the supermarket. A bunch are slightly bruised and have small gashes in them. They also do not look shiny with whatever stuff they put on in the supermarkets.

50 cents corn is a bit pricey for me but I got a bunch anyways since it has been a while. So used the July fourth sale where I can get a dozen for a dollar. No regrets, they came out awesome. I think prefer cooking them with the husk on. They seem to come out juicier if corn could be juicy, or I guess I could also say that it comes out less dry(?). Either way, I like corn and I could eat them all day.

Also bought some plums. I saw some peaches but I've been disappointed with the local peaches this summer so I didn't get any. The plums were not much better. The texture was ok but not sweet... at least it was not sour either.

Tomatoes were super awesome. The supermarket tomatoes are all so bland. They lack that tomato sour-like flavor. But these farmer market's tomatoes, surprisingly tastes like tomatoes. These were also difficult to pick since they do not appear so perfect, but still totally worth it. Somehow I bruised a couple in transport, so I cooked those. At least, I think I bruised them because they were kind of soft in certain spots and I am pretty sure I would have noticed them when I bought them. Either way, they still turned out great. My eggs and tomatoes dish tasted so much better. I didn't even need to add vinegar.

Next I stopped by the pickled food station. I saw giardiniera so I got some of those. I miss them as I used to have them occasionally back when I was in the midwest. There were also sweet pickles which were really sweet, unfortunately, too sweet for me. There were a whole variety of dill pickles and pickled olives. I didn't know quite how to use the olives so didn't get any of those.

Finally, I stopped by the dried fruits and nuts. For some reason, I've always avoided dried fruits even though I've never tried them. I think a couple years ago, I finally tried them for the first time and was surprised that it tastes almost like candy. I always thought it bizarre why people who do that to fruits since I've always enjoyed them in the original form (i.e. uncooked, undried, un-whatever-is-done-to-them, etc.). The vendor said there lots of people enjoyed the dried cantaloupe which I've never tried before so I figured I would give it a try. I like good cantaloupe at a certain ripeness. It is one of those fruits where if it is not ripe enough, it is too hard and not sweet. If it is too ripe, then it is too mushy (which is more tolerable than crunchy) and too sweet which I prefer not sweet. Ultimately, I prefer not ripe enough over too ripe.

Back to the dried cantaloupe... it turned out really tasty. A little too sweet which I find most dried fruits to be anyways. But it does make a nice treat in the mid-afternoon or mixed with other snacks like nuts or trail-mix. It is a bit pricey for my taste, $4 per pint, $6 per quart, and $8 for some larger size (sorry, I didn't pay attention by that point). It'll probably be cheaper in the grocery store though, maybe.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Review: IE vs FF vs Chrome

Comparing Internet Explorer, FireFox, and Chrome on Browser Behavior from Generic End-User POV

I've been using IE, FF, and Chrome as my primary browsers. In recent years, Chrome has been my default browser. FF was my primary before then, and IE when I first started using the internet. I still use FF and IE occasionally to keep up with their changes and there are some sites that still work better in FF or IE.

As for the impact to my computer, I notice that FF is most effective for the long-term. By long-term, I mean keeping the browser window for a long period of time (in days). FF has not had any significant impact to my system if left open for several days. IE is similar to FF but will slow down my system in a few days. Chrome seems to slow down my system dramatically if left open for several hours.

By slowing down, I mean that everything (word processing, other browsers, games, applications) else seems to slow down dramatically. Once IE or Chrome are closed, everything else improves dramatically in performance. Chrome seem to do even worse as there are more tabs. I can even notice the difference in performance as I close each tab. I have not noticed this problem with IE.

IE seems to load the fastest with FF seemingly the slowest. I have not timed any, but I think my senses are important in that this has a direct impact when I am trying to search for information especially back in tech support days. When rushing, you will notice even fractions of second delay when a customer is breathing down your neck. I have defaulted to IE for those instances and basically the only reason it was a part of my life.

Today, I use IE the least except maybe to test Bing and for some sites still developed only for IE. To my dismay, IE8 is the only approved browser at work (tech support will only troubleshoot web applications when using IE8, web developers also only design for IE8 for in-house uses). Many Microsoft applications seem to integrate better with IE. I find that IE is the worst at handling javascript exceptions.

I primarily use Chrome because it is youngest of the browsers and still figuring the ins-and-outs of it. It seems more compatible to other sites than FF, but renders IE specific sites worse. I like that Chrome allows me to drag and drop tabs into different Chrome windows. Surprisingly, I use that a lot more than I originally thought (which was never and how silly that feature was). I really like the built-in developer tools although FF and IE have similar features as add-ons. I find the Chrome version the easiest to use. I do not like Chrome's configuration placements. It seems to take me much longer to find certain configurations and sometimes never find them. I am mixed on the logging into the browser part. There are some good features and some I prefer not to have.

I do not have much to say about FF except that it works as I expect a typical browser should do except opening slowly. It renders almost all webpages, configurations are decently logical, and I like supporting a non-corporate built application. It has some nice add-ons. It is only unfortunate that it is not more popular because it is not a default installation like IE and Chrome.



Reference:
My PC is about 4 years-old built from scratch with relatively cost-effective parts (ie not the cheapest but also not the most expensive).

Review: 18W (~75W) and 23W (~100W) Feit Electric Company Conserv Energy Light Bulbs

Surprisingly, I've never really needed light bulbs. Most places I've lived at always had sufficient lighting and never stayed long enough for a bulb to burn out. So the experience of buying light bulbs was interesting.

I bought the following from Costco:
18W (Product#238653) = 1170 lumens
23W (Product#561595) = 1600 lumens

For some strange reason, the 1600 lumens bulb has an orange-tinted glow (which I was not expecting) while the 1170 lumens bulb has a white glow. To me it almost seems like the white glow is brighter than the orange. But when put side-to-side, the 1600 lumens bulb is actually brighter. Perhaps the white glow makes things appear clearer because orange make things look duller?

The bulbs works with dimmer switches when at full power. If left at partial power but enough for the light to be on, the bulb dies very quickly within days of use if not hours.

The bulbs do get warm quickly. After leaving them on for ten-some seconds, they were too hot for me to take out.

All-in-all, they work sufficiently for me just a couple surprises and new experience.