The Martian by Andy Weir

Back when I was really bored at work at my last job I got into a personally productive phase, getting very motivated and excited working on personal projects and reading a lot of books. At one point I was structuring myself so that I would work on something specific each work day – it was something like Monday is technical project, Tuesday is crafts project, Wednesday is reading, Thursday is playing a game, Friday is hanging out with Jack… I can’t remember exactly what it was (I swear I wrote a post about it but I can’t find it and spent some time getting teary over this old post about Jokulhaups instead).

However work at this job is very fulfilling and fun, and when I come home I either want to work some more or just lay on the couch doing nothing until I go do some more work. It’s drastically reduced the number of console games I play too (though I get sucked into mobile games easily, which in my mind somehow fall under “do nothing”).

Since it’s holiday break and pretend-you’ll-fulfill-your-resolutions time, I decided to try something different. I’ve stopped really reading books for a long time so I want to get back into it. The last few books I read a while ago I still haven’t written about and probably never will because I procrastinated too long and don’t remember them that well. I also recently got this huge iPad Pro that I’ve mostly been using for games.

I’m going to try writing about the book I’m reading as I read it. So this will end up more of a log than a single post, I guess, that’s posted all at once. This way I’ll get down more of my impressions as I read and have less risk of not actually posting about the book. Writing this up on the iPad will also be interesting, as it’s proving to be rather difficult – I type very fast and this feels like less than half my normal speed, what with not being able to use normal keyboard hand positioning and all the strange auto-correcting I have to go back and fix. Maybe it will force me to think more before I write, as I tend to ramble a lot. Though it’s so big that I almost may as well have pulled out my laptop to write this up on.

Anyway, on to The Martian…

We watched The Martian in 3D with D-BOX seats. It was the first time we’d tried D-BOX seats. It was interesting, but not something I’d feel like I was missing out on if I didn’t have. The best part was that they are reserved seats though, so you can come in later with a guaranteed seat (though you may need to kick out the non-D-BOX people sitting in your seat that don’t realize it’s reserved).

I liked the movie itself. Obviously at that point I hadn’t read the book (what with just having bought it today and all). It was a while ago, and I’m extremely terrible at remembering details about books or movies past a few days, so really my only impression of the movie now is that I liked it at the time. The only other strong impression I have is (not sure if spoiler) “China would never have helped!”

This will be interesting, to see differences with the movie.

Saturday, December 26th

I just bought the book today and only got 7 pages in before deciding to do a reading log (I specifically got the version that did not have a movie-inspired cover because I didn’t want to carry Matt Damon’s face around), so so far right now my only comment is that I like the tone of the writing. It feels very realistic and like how I imagine I may record the happenings if I was in that situation.

So yeah. I’m fucked. (page 7)

Got further and had some thoughts.

There are some details in the book that better explain some things from the movie, but are still a bit incredulous. For instance, the fact that each of the astronauts have two specialties… and his two specialties just happen to be the exact two that will keep him alive? The fact that he had vegetables he could plant that weren’t freeze-dried (not sure how spoiler-y I am being, so this is a bit hard to phrase), but it was only because of some very specific timing of when he would be on Mars?

Also, do real normal people say “edge case”? Because he just said “edge case”. I guess maybe because he is a scientist it may make sense? “Edge case” feels like a very programmer type of thing to say. Do other disciplines use that phrase?

I wonder if the way this is written as his daily logs was meant to be as if they are video logs like the movie, or written? I think if I had read this first I would imagine them as written logs.

Really? It’s oh-so-lucky these two things just happen to use the same voltage. Oh, this thing has a valve and I have no idea why it has a valve but thank god it has a valve because I really needed this valve! A lot of this is starting to feel very contrived.

Sunday, December 27th

I haven’t felt as skeptical about the circumstances in the book since I kept reading yesterday, so I’m feeling a bit better about the book. Perhaps it’s because it’s starting to get much more into what’s happening in Earth and not just his logs.

One thing I noticed yesterday that I thought was interesting was the use of “Ziploc” and “Hefty” as size references. I’ve been fascinated with brand names used as object names since I read a book a long time ago that capitalized “Dumpster”. It confused me because it’s just a dumpster, right? I looked it up and it turns out dumpster is what is called a generic trademark. These are brand names that have been used so much they’ve turned into the generic commonly used name for objects. Some other fascinating examples are heroin, escalator, dry ice, frisbee (auto-correct actually capitalized that for me at first), and popsicle (more here).

As a result, I tend to take note of how brand names are used. However in this book I noticed that rather than using Ziploc or Hefty to mean “bag”, they were actually used together as more familiar size references to give the reader a better sense of what Mark was doing with the bag.

One thing I have in abundance here are bags. … Some are smaller than a Ziploc, while others are as big as a Hefty lawn and leaf bag. (page 31-32)

I cut up a few Hefty-sized bags and taped them together to make a sort of tent. (page 32)

I got a Ziploc-sized sample bag and waved it around a bit. (page 36)

I’m enjoying the humor in this book. Some things are still kind of incredulous (you sent a hack half a byte at a time and he just entered it in and it just worked?) but overall enjoyable.

A career software engineer, mornings were never her forte. (page 132)

That line could be my life story.

I looked at the back cover and it says Andy Weir is a programmer – I guess that explains “edge case”.

Ah ha! They used “Popsicle” (capitalized) as a generic term! I was excited so I figured I’d stop to write a thought down.

I passed the part where China decides to help – to be honest I was a bit surprised it was in the book; I would not have been surprised if it had been added just to the movie purely for some sort of marketing purpose. In fact when we first saw the movie that was our theory on why China was in the movie at all, to appeal to Chinese audiences. The book only spends 3.5 pages talking about the Chinese space people making the decision to help. It felt kind of shallow – I still don’t believe China would ever help of its own accord, especially if no one even knew they had the ability to help.

So far it seems like the movie had stuck very closely to the book, but the scene with the Chinese space people talking actually was two men, where in the movie they had a man and a woman. I wonder if that was a ploy to get female Chinese audiences.

Monday, December 28th

I’ve continued reading, and didn’t have too much of note other than him referencing that he was typing his logs, so that answers my question of written vs. video logs.

It’s amusing to imagine all his rock morse code messages to NASA just hanging out there forever along the path he drove.

Just finished it! It was pretty good. I’m surprised how closely the movie stuck to the book (at least what I remember of the movie). I do feel like one life-threatening situation (Rover tipping over) was replaced by another (more drama when rescuing him from his makeshift rocket) though.

One thing I wish it went into more detail in was all the arguments and discussions that went into deciding to spend the time and resources on saving him. NASA is  government-funded; there would have been many arguments about the costs and benefits. I could totally see many people arguing that one life is not possibly worth the time, resources, and lost work for future missions. I could imagine it boiling down to public opinion which swayed the decision, though I’m sure many many people would disagree no matter what they did. I just wish it went into more of those practical details; it’s always the negotiations and arguments that no one plans for, even in projects at work.

Overall, it started kind of unbelievable (as in way too many lucky coincidences) then got much better. Still feel that it’s too unrealistic that China volunteered to help.

We’re going to watch the movie again tomorrow so I can compare it!

Also, not quite sure about this format of writing a log while I read. I guess this was a good book to try it on since he writes in log format. Maybe it would be easier if I had my laptop open to type it on instead of using the iPad Pro. Perhaps I’ll try it at least once more.

Tuesday, December 29th

Never mind, Jack couldn’t find a good version of the movie to download, not watching it again today.

No One Is Actually Good At Candy Crush

I recently saw a fun little article entitled No one is actually good at Candy Crush. It makes the observations that the majority of successful mobile games are based around the “illusion of skill”. These are games where the progression and pacing is controlled by the developer, rather than by the player’s ability. The author states, “tell me how many hours you’ve played, how much money you have spent, and I should be able to tell you within a good degree of certainty how far you are in Candy Crush, what level your town hall is in Clash of Clans, how many times you’ve ascended in Tap Titans”.

Now the most amusing part of this article is reading the comments, where players accuse the author of being overly simplistic or elitist. According to them, there is in fact a large amount of skill involved in some of these games. They cite examples where a player can plan ahead to make better moves in Candy Crush. Strictly speaking, they are right. There are basic players who make the first move that is suggested to them by the automatic hints and elite players who look one, two or even five moves into the future to assemble enormous combinations. Like Chess or Go, we could go so far as to write programs to analyze the board and spit out the optimal match. In fact, I had a friend back in school who did that with Bejeweled and won a bunch of money in tournaments before his account got banned. This is clearly, a skill based game.

All of this would be great if it weren’t for a tiny detail that the author left out of his article. Every single major mobile puzzle game, whether it be Candy Crush or Juice Jam, dynamically controls how the game plays out while you are blissfully matching three. Behind the scenes, an algorithm more complex than you can possibly imagine is secretly adjusting the difficulty of every level, even going so far as to create lucky cascades to fall on to your board. The win percentages for every level is carefully monitored, as well as how many moves you have left when you win and how much of your goal is unfinished when you lose. Candy Crush knows everything about you and if you’re significantly above or below the tuning curve they have designed, then you can bet a $0.99 bundle pack that they are going to change the game to make you fall in line.

These games are essentially super powered slot machines. Everything about the experience is tuned to keep you playing for as long as possible and make you feel good about yourself. When new mechanics are introduced, players will frequently encounter a more “difficult” level with a very low win percentage. After days of perseverance, you finally conquer this challenge and it’s an amazing feeling! You’ve mastered this new obstacle, and the next few levels you fall before your new found skill. Of course, the levels after that “difficult” level are tuned to have very high win percentages, but let’s not mention that to our players.

Now there isn’t anything wrong with slot machines. I’ve dropped $100+ into the Willy Wonka slot machine in Vegas trying to get the Grandpa Joe bonus game (I’ve got a golden ticket!). However, when you play a game you should recognize it for what it is. If you play Candy Crush because it’s a fun way to pass the time on the train, you want a way to decompress and relax after work, or you just love that creepy guy with the mustache, more power to you. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking you’ve mastered a game that is programmed to be impossible to master.

And for the rest of the people who still think Candy Crush is skill based, King would like to give you a $5.9 billion thank you hug.

Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons

I first heard of Brothers (they have a nice parallax site by the way) when I was searching for games for my new iPad Pro. With such a huuuuuge iPad I figured it would be a waste not to spend a bit on the nice graphically-impressive games. There was even a sale on it in the App Store recently, but Jack convinced me to buy it for the PS4 instead because the controls probably wouldn’t be as good on iPad – in the screenshots you can even see that they are on-screen “virtual joysticks” that end up blocking the game. The game’s been out a few years, but only came to PS4 and iOS this year.

The game is about two brothers going to get something that will somehow heal their sick dad, and each brother is controlled separately with L2/R2 and the two analog sticks. There are certain things only one brother can do – the older one is stronger, the younger one can fit through smaller spaces, etc.

I kind of had trouble getting the two brothers to walk together, but it may just be because I suck at controlling them. I kept forgetting which stick controlled which brother. In cases where they would fall off a cliff if I forgot which one was L2, I had to stop and think very carefully before I did anything. I ended up getting really tense and gripping the controller really tightly, trying to make sure I didn’t kill anyone.

They don’t speak a real language, just a gibberish language. To be honest, I had no idea what we were looking for throughout the majority of the game (actually until we got to it) – the older brother would show people a scroll of what he was looking for, but I never got to see the scroll. Maybe there was some visual clue near the beginning that I just totally missed.

It was pretty interesting, and I finished it in two plays – it was very short. The first play was relatively normal, just two boys on an adventure and a troll or two, but in the second play things started getting weird and sort of creepy – I don’t like creepy things!

I’ll use spoiler tags for this part just in case.

Spoilers here!

The second play, I started off where the wolves come after you and started seeing the dead bodies hanging from the trees. I was actually surprised that nothing jumped out at me in the graveyard. I really didn’t like the giant battlefield though – giant bloody dead… well… giants, everywhere with arrows sticking out of them. I hated pushing on the arrows stuck in their bodies to move them out of the way, especially when one of them dropped an arm holding an axe that just chopped the leg off the dead body. Why was that necessary? What does that add to the game??? Nothing even wakes up and attacks you like I kept expecting. Freaky spider lady grossed me out too.

There were parts that just made no sense to me – what was that where the younger brother was hallucinating about the giant woman? What exactly was going on there? It didn’t seem to matter to any of the storyline later.

I actually enjoyed the end, not enjoying that the older brother died but enjoying that a game allowed an ending that wasn’t an ideal happy ending. It was kind of intense and unexpected that they actually have you control the younger brother dragging the older brother into the grave he dug, and you actually go through the motions of pushing the dirt over him to bury him.

Unfortunately our experience was slightly ruined because there seemed to be some sort of bug – laying on the floor near the dead brother was the black shape of what looked like a dead bird. In fact it was right next to the grave, so it was strange to drag the brother through this random black shadow you can’t interact with.

When the younger brother reaches back home and needs to cross the water, I actually thought it was a bug that he wasn’t doing anything when I used his usual R2 button. It was a nice touch that you actually have to use the older brother’s button, like he’s there helping you in spirit – I thought there would be a ghost version of him like the ghost mother.

Overall it was a pretty good game, apart from the random creepy stuff that didn’t seem to add anything to the game.

RIP Patron Warrior

Your 80% win rate vs Secret Paladin will be missed.

Patron Warrior is such an amazing deck. Not because of it’s strength, but due to the incredible challenge required to pilot it correctly. This deck is a delicate balancing act between playing your minions, saving resources for the combo, and knowing when to pull the trigger. I spent a ton of time watching pros play Patron to learn the fundamentals. I made the best spreadsheet ever of damage from hand for all combinations of Frothings, Patrons, Whirlwinds, and Inner Rage. Despite all this I constantly misplayed, miscounted lethal, and utterly threw away won games. The first time I was at rank one, five stars I executed my combo wrong, wasted 1 point of damage and lost the game with my opponent at 1 health. After 250 games of Patron I’m still not 100% confidant of the best cards to mulligan for in all match ups.

It’s very depressing that Blizzard is removing such an intricate, complex deck from the game. It’s one of the first decks that truly felt heavily skill based and not just an RNG fest. There are so many other ways to lower the power level of the deck while keeping the core game play the same. Unfortunately, they took the lazy approach and just killed it in the name of “future design space”. It’s really too bad.

Legendary

Need to stroke my e-peen.

Decklist

My Learnings

  1. Dr. Boom is imbalanced. Whether you slam him on turn 7, innervate him on turn 5, or coin-innervate-innervate him on turn 2, he is always the correct play.
  2. Sludge Belcher is not that good anymore. A turn 4 Goblin Blastmage makes a turn 5 Sludge Belcher feel like shit. Since he wasn’t helping me in the aggro matchup and he’s pretty terrible in the control matchup, I just swapped him out for Azure Drakes.
  3. BGH is now mandatory in every deck because of #1.
  4. I won ~9 straight games from rank two to Legend. I now know how Firebat felt like in the World Championship finals. Wild Growth + Innervate in every opening hand is pretty good.

Legendary Hearthstone

I finally hit legend rank.

Legend

The Deck

Deck

I grinded to 5 using miracle rogue and a weird reincarnate shaman deck. Then Mad Scientist came out and everyone started playing Hunter. At this point, I switched to priest because I had the right legendary cards and it seemed broken with Dark Cultist. It started as a cookie cutter, Amaz style priest deck but it still kept losing to hunters. For a brief period, I experimented with a weird Ancient Watcher/Silence deck. It showed some promise but was just too weak to Buzzard/Unleash the Hounds. I fluctuated between rank 2 and rank 4 for about a week. By the end, I got so frustrated that I basically said fuck it and put in 2x Acidic Swamp Ooze and 1x Shadow Madness solely to counter Hunter.

The moment I did that, my win rate shot up. I managed to get from middle of rank 3 to 5 star rank 1 in just one day. It then took me 5 attempts at 5 star rank 1 to break into legendary. Overall it took around 80 wins with priest, which put me at about a 60% win rate. However, this included about 40 games where I stalled out at rank 3-4, so I measure the current variation is probably 65-70%.

The Meta

With a hunter heavy meta, everyone plays either Hunter or the counter to Hunter (currently Control Warrior). So as long as you can break even with one of those classes while winning the other, you will surely but slowly climb. The stupid thing is that my original intention of including Ooze was to hard counter Hunter. Even with two copies of Ooze I still barely maintained a 50% win rate against them. What ended up happening was that I basically won every game I played against Warrior. Paladins were even easier, as Ooze > Truesilver Champion. Priest is already pretty strong against Zoo and nobody plays mage. Unfortunately, I lost every game I played against Reincarnate Shaman and Miracle Rogue. I don’t feel like those match ups are unusually bad for me I just couldn’t seem to draw well against them.

Deck Tech

The core of the deck is pretty similar to any standard Priest deck.

2x Acidic Swamp Ooze
Should be obvious but Ooze counters weapons.

1x Mind Control
I think playing 1x Mind Control is 100% correct when laddering. The reason I think this is that it’s literally an “I win” card whenever you are matched against another control deck that doesn’t play it. Yes, 10 mana is expensive, it’s a terrible card to draw early, and it’s useless against super aggro decks even if you survive to 10 mana. However, most of the time 1 dead card in hand isn’t going to lose you the game. Losing 1 game against an aggro because you got Mind Control instead of a Holy Nova sucks, but winning 5 matches because you Mind Control the Warrior’s Alexstraza or Ragnaros is worth it.

1x Shadow Madness
I was really impressed with the utility of this card. It’s fantastic against aggro as it can constantly trade 2 for 1 and every now and then you get the dream scenario. In the less than impressive case it kills one of their guys and denies a deathrattle.

Matchups

Vs Hunter
Mulligan for early game plays like Ooze, Dark Cultist, and Wild Pyromancer. Shadow Madness and Holy Smite are best if you can get lucky. Never have more than two creatures in play once the Hunter gets 5 mana to play around Buzzard/Unleash. When turn 6 or 7 comes around, you need to kill Highmane as soon as it drops, with Holy Fire, SW:Death, or just running your guys in. If he plays another one after you clear the first, you’re probably dead.

Something I always do is play Northshire Cleric on turn 1. This might just be incorrect but over time I felt it was right. It works because it often denies early Webspinner and Haunted Creeper. It’s very important to do this, as it keeps the board clear of beasts for Houndmaster. It sometimes backfires and just dies for free. However, I tend to want to stall out Hunters and Northshire Cleric doesn’t matter too much.

The overall goal is to just maintain board control with 2 units on the board while stalling till turn 10. Then once it gets to that stage, hope you can Mind Control a Highmane.

Vs Warrior
Mulligan for early game plays like Ooze and Dark Cultist. Always throw away Northshire Cleric and never play it early. Dark Cultist is a great card because it tanks War Axe like a champ. Cabal Shadow Priest is an all star in this matchup as it steals Acolyte of Pain and Armorsmith for super value. Overall, this matchup is incredibly easy since Ooze denies their weapons and you can normally seize board control. This forces the Warrior to waste Shield Slam and Execute on your 3-5 drops, leaving your legendaries to get major value. If things don’t work out early, you always have Mind Control to steal their 9 drops and basically win any game

Vs Priest
Mulligan for Injured Blademaster and Dark Cultist. If you get ahead on board, it’s hard for the other Priest to regain control without committing one of their legendaries. The goal of this matchup is to make the opponent use their legendaries or Mind Control 1 turn before you do. This deck isn’t that greedy (e.g. I only play 2 Legendaries + Mind Control. I went up against people playing 4-5 Legendaries + Mind Control) so sometimes you will just lose. However, most Priests run the standard Sylvannas + Ragnaros and you will almost always beat those.

Vs Paladin
Mulligan for early drops like Ooze, Dark Cultist, and Blademaster. Northshire Cleric turn 1 is actually OK since it denies their hero power until turn 4 when they Truesilver. As I mentioned earlier, Ooze wins this matchup straight up for you. Just don’t commit too much to the board and die to a massive Equality/Consecrate. Keep 2-3 units max on the board and keep them healed up. Save Mind Control for Tirion.

Vs Shaman
Reincarnate on Cairne or Sylvannas, 2x hex and Earth Shock silence is probably too much for you to handle. Cabal Shadow Priest is probably good to deal with their deathrattles. I only played Shaman twice the entire time so I don’t have much insight into this matchup.

Vs Rogue
Mulligan for Loatheb and low drops to apply pressure or protect against aggro. Blademaster/Circle of Healing is incredibly strong, as they have to waste Sap or 2-3 cards just to remove it. Save Ooze for deadly poison or the 3/5 weapon. Hold onto Sludge Belcher until the last possible minute so you can deny the Leeroy combo and at minimum force them to Sap it first, thus reducing the total combo damage.

Vs Warlock
Assume Zoo and mulligan for 2 and 3 drops. Shadow Madness single handedly wins games here if you can grab a deathrattle guy. This deck has a lot of low cost creatures that can trade with Zoo early until your AOE board clear comes online, so it’s not the worst matchup. You will lose if they curve out, but that’s pretty much how Zoo works.

Vs Mage
I only played against two secret Mages but from what I could gather, you treat it like another aggro deck. Mulligan for low drops and try to wrestle away board control. Bait out Counterspell with low mana cost spells like HW:Shield or Circle of Healing. Not much insight here.

Vs Druid
Cabal Shadow Priest gets serious value here, as Harvest Golems and the Keeper of the Grove are great to steal. Ditto for Shadow Madness. Save your Northshires for midgame to try and draw multiple cards.

Goodbye, Jokulhaups

A few weeks ago we had to put one of our cats, Jokulhaups, down.  He was only 3 years old, but he had developed FIP.  From what we understand through the vet and some Googling, there is a common virus that many cats get when they’re young, but all it really does is give them some diarrhea before they get over it.  However, in some cats, it then mutates into FIP, and there is no known cure for FIP at this time.  Cats usually affected by FIP are on the young end or the old end, and the vet said Jokulhaups was on the upper edge of the young end that get it.

After we put him down we had him cremated, and we got him back yesterday.  They put him in a nice wooden box and printed a shiny gold sticker with his name on it – unfortunately it was spelled wrong, but it’s on the back, and I’m considering ordering a plaque for the front.  We put the Jokulhaups Magic the Gathering card (which he was named after) next to him.

Jokulhaups was such a smart and determined kitty.  We got him along with Dragon in 2011, and from the beginning he was finding ways to rebel against us.  When we first got them we kept them shut in our bathroom so they could become more comfortable before we released them into the apartment.  Jokulhaups was always eager to explore more and kept trying to escape the bathroom, so soon we decided to expand their area.  It’s a bit hard to explain, but basically across from the bathroom door was the door to our bedroom.  Standing at the bathroom door looking at the bedroom door, there was a wall to the right, then a sort of open frame to the left that led to the rest of the apartment.  What we decided to do was take a folding table and lean it on its side against the open frame, so that the cats could travel from the bathroom to the bedroom but couldn’t get to the rest of the apartment.  It was at a height where we could just barely swing our legs over it to get back and forth when we needed to.  Jokulhaups decided that wasn’t enough – the tiny 2-month-old kitten jumped high enough to just jump over the table!  No matter how many times we put him back, he would just jump back over.  At that point we just gave up and let them explore the entire apartment.

Jokulhaups had crazy energy and loved to play.  He also got into everything, though.  He chewed through a laptop cable once, and he would chew any paper or pens he found, so we learned to keep everything shut away.  That wasn’t quite enough though – he learned to open the drawers and cabinets in our desks and in the kitchen.  We ended up velcroing them shut, but he was so strong that sometimes he was still able to pull them open, as they all had handles.  It was pretty amazing to watch – the kitchen cabinets had vertical bar handles, so he would just stand, place his left paw against the left cabinet door for stability, and use his right paw to pull on the handle just like a human.

At our second apartment, he was also able to open the kitchen cabinets – these cabinets were the kind with a little indentation at the bottom for you to pull with your fingers, and he figured those out, so we would often come home to random cabinets open.  We were able to reorganize to keep important things where he couldn’t reach though, so we left them.  At this apartment we discovered another amazing thing he could do – when we first moved to this one, we kept them in the bedroom only, to make it easier for us to unpack outside.  Again, this was not good enough for Jokulhaups.  He apparently watched us enough to figure out how to open doors – the doors at this apartment were light and the hinges were loose, so all he had to do was pull down on the handle and he was out.  It was pretty scary the first time we were in the living room and all of a sudden heard the bedroom door opening.  We ended up having to keep the bedroom door locked until we were ready to let them roam free.

As I mentioned before, the doors at this second apartment had loose hinges – the bathroom door would naturally swing almost shut.  Opposite from Jokulhaups, Dragon decided it was fun to shut doors, so she would go into the bathroom and lean a bit on the door so that it would shut completely.  The first time she did this, I watched Jokulhaups open the door for her again from the outside.  However, he wouldn’t open it for her after that all the times she decided it was fun, so after coming home to her shut in the bathroom a few times, we just had to get a door stop to keep her from shutting herself in.

When we got our condo, we actually decided our kitchen cabinet styles based on Jokulhaups – what would be the most difficult for him to open?  We settled on flat cabinets with a round knob.  He couldn’t possibly open those, right?  …Wrong.  We once again came home to random open cabinets.  Jack told me he witnessed him open one once – he actually wrapped his little paw around the round knob!  How did he know to do that?!  We also came home to some open closet doors a few times, but I guess they were too boring for him, as he eventually stopped opening them.

Jokulhaups grew up to be a very large healthy kitty, ending up around 16 pounds as a 3-year-old.  Dragon is only around 9 pounds.  When we first got them Jokulhaups would be pretty aggressive, and would win any play-fights.  Over time though it seemed that he would let her win – we would watch as he would lay on his back with his belly wide open, and allow Dragon to just pounce at him.  He loved to play and didn’t use his weight as an advantage.  He was also so very friendly – a friend brought her cat over once and that cat and Dragon were terrified, but he just wanted to play!  He excitedly went right up to that cat to investigate, and tried to play.  We also brought them over to another friend’s place that had two cats, and Dragon and those cats were terrified, but Jokulhaups just kind of took the entire apartment over, investigating everything.  He loved to say hello whenever anyone would come over.

When we moved to our condo in January, we noticed that he became a little more reserved – we figured he was growing up and maturing.  We no longer needed to keep our pens and papers hidden away, and he did not open the cabinets as often as at the last apartment.  However, a few months after that we noticed that he slowly stopped eating.  We couldn’t figure out why, as we didn’t change anything around that time, but after a while he started eating again, so we didn’t think much of it after that.  A few months later we noticed that he seemed to be losing his balance.  When he was on the couch, he was very unsteady, and he quickly got worse – he didn’t have the strength to jump up onto the couch when he wanted to snuggle, and would fall back down and give up.  We took him to the vet and they could see he was unsteady and that he had lost 6 pounds, but couldn’t find anything obviously wrong with him, so they took some blood for testing and let us know they would get back to us.

When they did get back to us, we found out that he had FIP.  It was uncertain how long he had.  At the vet appointment they had injected him with some fluids, and we got some liquid medicine to give him that would make him a bit more comfortable, but not cure him.  He wasn’t happy with the medicine though; the first day he took it fine, but the next few days after that he would throw up the morning dosage.  We went back to the vet and they gave him some long-term antibiotic shots (long-term meaning a few weeks) so we could stop giving him the liquid medicine.  They also showed us how to inject fluids into him, so that if the fluids helped and he felt better, we could give him fluids weekly on our own.  It kind of freaked me out – I don’t do well with needles, and the fluids also cause a hump under his skin when injected that also freaked me out, so I couldn’t really watch and Jack had to take the responsibility of learning how to do it.

The shots and fluids seemed to help him a bit – he was much more awake and aware, and was hungrily eating the liquidy food they gave us for him (he was too weak to eat the chunky food we usually give them, so we mixed the liquidy food with some water, heated it in the microwave, and spoon-fed it to him multiple times a day).  However he was still very weak.  We had to go out of town for a wedding and had my brother watch the cats, but by the time we came back he could no longer stand.  We found him laying under the couch in our second bedroom, and we didn’t want to disturb him so we didn’t move him, but we became very concerned that night.  Every night since we’ve had the cats they always join us for bed – Dragon always sleeps on my pillow and eventually migrates to snuggle with Jack, while Jokulhaups would often sleep on different spots on the bed.  Even if he didn’t sleep on the bed, he would always be in the room.  However that night he did not join us, and was still in the exact same position under the couch the next day.  It seemed that his legs were slowly becoming paralyzed; his little feet got colder and colder.

At that point we knew we didn’t have much time left.  He could not get up to eat or go to the bathroom.  We put a towel under him, and spent the next few nights next to him on an air mattress in that second bedroom.  He’s always squeaked rather than meowed, and whenever he squeaked at us we would lay him in the litter box in case he needed to pee.  During the day, the sun shines directly into that room, so we placed him in front of the window so he could enjoy it while we were at work.

The day before we were scheduled to put him down, we bought some rattly mice.  They have always been his favorite toy, but he would always lose them under things when he played with them.  I figured I would give him one more.  However, I couldn’t get just one, in case Dragon took it from him because she didn’t have one.  So, we gave Dragon one of them outside in the living room where he couldn’t see, hoping that it would make him less upset that he couldn’t play.  We gave him his in the second bedroom – I thought that it would make him feel better but it was so heart-breaking.  He immediately grabbed it in this mouth and tried with all his strength to get up and play with it.  When he couldn’t, it just dropped it and lay there.

The day of, we took the day off work to spend time with him in the sunny second bedroom.  Dragon joined us, and we spent a lazy family day in the sun.  When we put him down, they let us leave that rattly mouse with him.

We’ve tried to keep an eye on Dragon since then to make sure she is okay.  Thinking back on it, she did become very clingy a little while before Jokulhaups got really bad, perhaps because he stopped playing with her.  She started following our schedule very closely – when we went to get ready for bed, she would follow us and sit on the edge of the tub waiting.  Then, once we were done, she would follow us to bed and fall asleep with us as usual.  She was always there when we woke up – and she still does all that now.  She was never that close with Jokulhaups; the very few times I caught them snuggling, I could tell it was Jokulhaups that snuggled up with her, and she never really paid much attention to him even at the very end, other than some play-fighting.  She seems okay now, but I think she still misses him, and she had never been home alone before that day.  Now she is all alone by herself all day when we are at work.  After a few more months, I think we may get another kitty to keep her company.

This got really really long, but I wanted to remember Jokulhaups.  Goodbye, Jokulhaups – we love you.

Wedding site part 1: Getting started

Now that we have a date and venue, I can start really working on our wedding site!

As of now there’s still nothing on it, just some piggies and a coming soon message.  However, we’ve decided to do a one-page site with fancy parallax effects.  I’ve never done anything like that before, so this will be fun.  The goal is to have it done by August 15th, so it will be ready when we send save the dates the next week.  (Assumed in that goal is that we’ll have save the dates designed and printed by then – we’ll see…)

I found some pretty neat one-page parallax wedding sites as inspiration:

  • Judy and Z – I like the way the navigation bar works in this one.  It starts at the bottom of the main section, then sticks to the top as you scroll down.  It also changes the color of the link to the section you’re currently looking at, so you know where you are.  Something I’m kind of iffy about is that in some sections, you have to click something to see more – if it’s one big page, I’d rather it’s consistently one big page you can scroll smoothly through, without needing to stop to get information.  I am going to do that for a photo section though – although it will at least give you a preview of some photos, and you can interact if you want to see more.  In the case of the Judy and Z site, there is no information in, for example, the “About Us” section unless you click.
  • Casper en Danel – I can’t read anything in this one, but I thought the the timeline section was neat, with the text and photos coming in from the sides as you scroll.  I feel there’s a little too much movement though; it takes half of my screen height for the text to finish moving from the edge of the screen to its final position, so my eyes have to move a lot to try to read.
  • Vince and Mars – This one is cute!  I like the parallax clouds/stars and change with your mouse.  I also like the cute header with the navigation under it; however once you scroll it kind of gets in the way.  On my screen, that header takes up half the height, so as I scroll I can only use the other half to see the content.  I think I would like to do something like this with a cute header and navigation underneath, except that instead of having the entire header + navigation stick to the top, only have the header stick to the top – kind of like the first site above (Judy and Z).
  • Julia and Artem – This one is also so cute!  I love the hot air balloon idea, and that it lands when you get to the bottom.  This one, like the Casper en Danel site, also has text fly in from the side when you scroll.  However, it’s much easier to read because when it comes in, it very quickly reaches its final destination while it’s still near the bottom of my screen, so my eyes don’t need to move as far (only up and down!).  I just also love that at the bottom, it says “Design by the bride, programming by the groom”.
  • Helen and Josh – So unique!  It’s kind of the opposite of the hot air balloon landing – you start at the base of a tree, and scroll up to “climb” it.  This one doesn’t seem as practical though, as it doesn’t have any actual wedding information.
  • Jess and Russ – The text was kind of small and hard to read, but I really like the keyboard and moves into place as you scroll.  I also like the letter that slides out of the envelope at the bottom for guests to enter and RSVP.  Something about the art made it a little creepy though…

So now we’re sketching out ideas of what we want things to look like, and I’m also putting together a skeleton.  I’m going to keep everything on GitHub; I’m also going to take this opportunity to try using watson (apparently not capitalized)!  I found it a while ago and wanted to try it out but wasn’t working on any personal projects – you can add tags to your code, and it will pull them out and even add them as issues on GitHub!  I had a bunch of issues trying to get it working – I tried both the ruby and perl versions, and had a bunch of missing dependencies, things that weren’t high enough version, etc.  I finally got it to work though, and am trying it out now.

It’s kind of irritating for HTML because it takes the ending “–>” as part of the description of the tag.  It does specifically list that it supports HTML though, so maybe I’m just doing something wrong?  I’m also having trouble getting it to connect to GitHub, hopefully I can get that sorted out soon.

…and never mind.  Apparently the version I installed as a RubyGem was not the latest version.  Grabbed the latest version from GitHub and everything is awesome now.  I realized it when I tried to set my own tag format as described on GitHub, but my version said it was an unknown setting.  It successfully added my 4 todos to GitHub as issues!  Hooray!  This is neat.

watson

watson

Bonus: In the course of looking up parallax examples, I found Flat vs Realism.  I don’t know what to feel about it.