Friday, December 30, 2016

What's wrong with Final Fantasy XV

I just finished up Final Fantasy XV to the level I wish to complete it (gave up on Costlemark postgame dungeon, not even going to bother with Pitioss).  While I enjoyed the game a lot, there was something subtle about the game I disliked.

As many reviews have stated, the story and characters were on the weak side compared to many Final Fantasy games.  There were just too many story elements that were either cut, skipped, or not fleshed out.  Perhaps some of these will be fleshed out in DLC, some may have been covered in the movie "Kingsglavie", but it just made the game not feel quite that fulfilling.  Here's some examples.

1) Who are the main characters?

This is obvious, but the game threw your entire team together at the very beginning of the story without much backstory.  This isn't a bad idea by itself, but it felt like the background of the characters was never fleshed out.  You get a few conversations in hotels/campsites, but it's not much.

A good counter example is Dragon Quest VIII, one of my favorite RPGs of all time.  The characters are relatively nameless at the beginning of the game, but little side adventures give you more information about them as the story advances. I think of the Mass Effect games are another a good example.  You get character side missions to help you learn more about the backstories of the characters and why they are there.  Final Fantasy XV could have had similar stories, helping your characters deal with "personal issues" in the story.  Perhaps these "side stories" will be in DLC later.

2) Aranea and Ravus, no boss battle

In many games, you meet a tough boss early in the game but get out of the fight due to some story element.  Perhaps the boss was simply distracting you for some other purpose.  You suspect you'll battle the boss later on as the boss was clearly too tough for you earlier in the game.

This is what I suspected when I first fought Aranea and encountered Ravus.  Aranea sort of becomes an ally (kinda?).  Ravus only appears in a disappointing zombie form later on.  It felt unfulfilling.

3) Ravus switches sides

For no reason at all, Ravus appears to switch sides at some point, which seemed out of place, and with little explanation in the story.

4) Prompto being an MT

Late in the game it's revealed that Prompto was a MT.  This wasn't really discussed further.

5) What about all the enemy generals?

At several points in the game enemy generals appear.  There's Verstael, the main general, which you never really see outside of a cameo.  There's the general you capture for a bit in Chapter 6 when you get back the Regalia.  He "escapes" at some point.  It could have been a good side quest to track him down and get him back and interrogate him.  Perhaps leading to another side quest, lets say a secret base you get to take out.  Nope, none of that happens.  Basically all those enemy generals you see in the beginning disappear and are never seen again.

6) What about the bad emperor?

Similarly, after having a cameo early on, he doesn't appear again.  Only in daemon form (which I learned online after defeating the daemon).

7) Universe history

The game could have fleshed out some of the world's history a bit better, for example the history of "the six".  The main characters could have had a side quest to some random memorial/place to learn about history in the universe at any point in time to flesh out the universe (Ignis could have pushed the matter, as he's the intellectual one).  It's there they learn about some mysterious history and .... tada Ardyn is the person in the story.  If such a quest would have foreshadowed the ending too much, fine.  They could have had random quests to just learn general history of the world.

Tasty Stuff I Ate in 2016

Following my tradition from 2014 and 2015, the following are dishes that I loved but didn't blog about.

1) Tea Leaf Salad from Burma Superstar, San Francisco, CA

Tea Leaf Salad
I forgot to take a "before" picture of this salad ... Oops.   You can find a good pic on Yelp here.

Anyways, this salad is pretty famous.  It's apparently a well known must have when going to Burma Superstar and was featured on Food Network at some point (according to their menu).  Fermented tea leaves, shrimp paste, all mixed into a salad with romaine, sesame, peanuts, and other stuff I can't remember. 

2) red octopus from Nishiki Market in Kyoto, Japan

Now I've had these mini octopuses many times, typically as an appetizer at Chinese banquet meals and I think I've munched on them at Korean restaurants too.  This was particularly tasty, but what made it so awesome is they stuffed (what I assume was) a hard boiled quail egg into this octopus's head before skewering it.  Together they were delicious.

3) red and black curry from Kara Kusa in Kyoto, Japan

One thing I've read about a number of times is how great food can come out of very tiny kitchens in Japan.   A restaurant concentrating on just 1-2 tiny things is something you may don't see much (if at all) in America.

My girlfriend had a curry craving, so we wandered into this place in Kyoto.  They serve three items.   Red curry with chicken, black curry with beef, or a mix of both.   That's it.   It's a one man shop with no other staff.

I got the mix above and it was delicious.   Everything was super soft and tender.  Curry was really flavorful but not too spicy.  Personally I preferred the red curry, but the black was delicious as well.

4) Bun Bo Hue from Bun Bo Hue An Nam, San Jose

I wasn't familiar with bun bo hue soup until wandering into this restaurant in 2015.  It wasn't until trying the dish at other restaurants that I realized how good this place was.  It was even name dropped by Vietnamese friends once I mentioned I liked bun bo hue.  The dish can come with pizzle (Ox penis) if you want.

5) Nam Khao from Green Champa Garden, Fremont

I've never had "Nam Khao" before but tried it at this small Thai/Laotian restaurant in Fremont.  It's basically a whole bunch of fried umami in one dish.  I can't remember all of the ingredients, but wikipedia says it's typically fried rice balls, pork, scallions, with some chilis, lime, mint, and fish sauce mixed in for good measure.   I'll be on the lookout for this dish in other places now.

6) Berry Combination from Railroad Cafe, Livermore

This is more of an ode to a restaurant now closed.  I've gotten this "berry combination" plate from Railroad Cafe for over 10 years.  I'm not sure why it's called the "berry combination" as berries are only in the fruit cup on the side, but it along with a cheese blintz, swedish pancakes, and lox on a bagel made for a delicious brunch dish.  Sorry to see Railroad Cafe now gone.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Play the lotto or have a kid?

A few years back I had a funny thought.  If you put all the money it would take into raising a child into the lotto instead, would your odds of being financially set for life be better?  My last post's thought experiment reminded me of this thought experiment I did years ago and decided to re-crunch the numbers.

Obviously, there's a set of ridiculous assumptions here.  The most ridiculous assumption is that the probability of any child becoming rich is the same across all people.  This is a horrible assumption in reality of course.  Also will a rich child actually take care of you?  Oh well, this is just a silly thought experiment.

Another assumption we need to make is how rich is rich?  Lets look at someone with a net worth of $100 million dollars.  There's never been a billion dollar Lotto payout but there have been multiple hundred million dollar payouts, so lets just go with this number.

The odds of winning the Powerball jackpot are 1 in 292,201,338.

Based on the most recent census, the U.S. population is about 309 million.  According to a recent Forbes article, there are approximately 5000 hectomillionaire households in the U.S.  Now "household" is different than "people", but we'll go with this number as it's the best one I can find.

Based on these numbers, the odds of a person becoming a hectomillionare is about 1 out of every 61,800 people.

Using the default inputs on a cost of raising a child calculator I found online, it'll cost about $191,000 dollars to raise a child and not send them to college.  If you put all that money into Powerball, you have about a 1 in 3059 chance of winning ($2 for a ticket).

So if you wanna be rich, play the lotto instead of having a kid!

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

How much food do pets eat?

I recently had a conversation about an old article on the topic of carbon emissions of pets.  For example, here's an article on the topic from Salon.  Short story, dogs consume enough resources that their carbon footprint is more than your average SUV, while cats have a carbon footprint bordering on an average compact car.

So this led to an interesting thought.  If we didn't have pets, how much more food could we produce?  The thinking was that more food means lower prices and more abundant supply of food for more people and subsequently more people wouldn't go hungry.  Of course, increased supply of food wouldn't be a guarantee that the same supply would be produced.

Other assumptions are that all pet food is human edible (almost certainly false, as some dog food contains bone meal).  But I thought it was an interesting thought experiment to just look at how much food dogs & cats eat and the basically the cost our society may put on food production for non-humans.

Since it's hard to look at all pets, I'll look at just dogs & cats.  I'm going to stick to stats in the United States since it's just easier for this thought experiment.

According to ASCPA there are 70-80 million pet dogs in the US and 74-96 million pet cats.  Lets take the low end of those numbers, 70 million dogs and 74 million cats.

The average number of calories a moderately active adult male needs according to the USDA is about 2600 and for women its about 2000.  We'll take the average of these and say the average adult needs 2300 calories of food a day.

Based on this OSU veterinary chart dogs should get the calorie count according this an advanced formula based on weight.  Unfortunately I cannot find an estimate on the average weight of a dog in the United States.  So I'm just going to go with 25 pounds as the average and hope that's a good guess (I'm likely underestimating given that the most popular dogs are labradors, german shepards, golden retrievers, and bulldogs, which all exceed 25 pounds on average).

1.6 * 70 * (25 pounds / 2.2 (pounds / kg) )^0.75 = 693 calories needed by dog per day

For cats I found this random page saying cats need 20 calories per pound, with Google saying the average cat is 7.9 to 9.9 pounds.  We'll just assume 8 as the average.

20 * 8 = 160 calories needed by cat per day

So under the (likely bad) assumption that all food production for cats & dogs could be converted to human food and assuming all cats and dogs are fed properly, cats & dogs in the US eat enough to feed:

70 million dogs * 693 (calories / dog) / 2300 (calories / person) ~ 21 million people

74 million cats * 160 (calories / cat) / 2300 (calories / person) ~ 5.1 million people

Total ~ 26 million people that could be fed everyday if we didn't have pet dogs & cats

That's a lot of people!  Way more than I thought.  Many of the assumptions above are probably not good ones.  But even general "off by" factors, we could perhaps safely assume it's still enough to feed atleast 10 million people.  Any rounding errors could probably be handled via statistics on other pets not discussed here, the likely larger average weight of dogs, or the low bar I selected on many of the estimates.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Shelby Miller trade vs. Chris Sale trade

Last year the Atlanta Braves traded Shelby Miller to the Arizona Diamondbacks for Dansby Swanson, Aaron Blair, and Ender Inciarte.  The trade was widely panned that the Diamondbacks overpaid for Miller.  Miller was considered a very good pitcher, perhaps at peak a #2 starter, but nothing near an elite pitcher.  Miller had just come off an All-Star season for the Braves in 2016 and had 4 years of team control left.  If Miller could improve, he'd be an incredible asset under budgeted team control for quite some time.

The haul the Braves got for Miller was Blair, the pre-2016 #56 prospect in baseball, Swanson the pre-2016 #8 overall prospect, and a MLB starter Ender Inciarte.  Inciarte was a relatively light hitting outfielder, but with elite defense.  He posted an incredible 5.3 WAR in 2015 with a 2.6 defensive WAR.

The 2016 results was about as horrific for the Diamondbacks as one could have ever imagined.  Miller struggled with his mechanics and was even demoted to the minor leagues at one point.  He finished the year 3-12, with a 6.15 ERA, and -0.7 WAR.

On the other hand Swanson continued to impress in the minors and got a small callup, Blair made it to the majors in 2016 (although struggled), and Inciarte produced a solid 3.8 WAR and ended up winning a Gold Glove.

Some rumors point to the Diamondbacks looking to move Miller, as a change of scenery might be the best thing for him.  In other words, the trade is just looking absolutely horrific for them.

Just a few weeks ago, the Boston Red Sox pulled off a blockbuster deal, trading for the White Sox's Chris Sale.  Sale is a five time All-Star and has placed in the top 6 of Cy Young voting 5 years in a row.  His past five years he's posted WARs of 5.9, 6.9, 6.6, 3.3, 4.9.  He's a completely different beast compared to Miller.   In addition, Chris Sale is under control for three more years at a very team friendly salary.

So while Chris Sale is a far superior pitcher, has 3 years of team control at a good (although more costly than Miller) price, one probably would have thought the Red Sox would have had to give up a much bigger haul for Sale.

But as I thought about it, I felt like the Red Sox got Chris Sale for about the same price the Diamondbacks paid for Shelby Miller.  Lets take a look.

For Sale, the White Sox got Yoan Moncada the pre-2016 #3 prospect in baseball and pre-2017 #1 prospect in baseball, Michael Kopech the pre-2016 #98 prospect and pre-2017 #30 prospect, Luis Alexander Basabe, and Victor Diaz.  The latter two prospects aren't on any top 100 rankings but were considered top 20 prospects in the Red Sox organization.

While the pre-2017 #1 prospect in baseball is better than the pre-2016 #8 prospect in baseball, and the pre-2017 #30 prospect is better than the pre-2016 #56 prospect, it's not that different.  Both of the top two prospects traded were high value middle infield prospects and RHP prospects.

The difference of course is the two other minor leaguers vs Ender Inciarte.  Inciarte was an established major league starter with 5 years of control.  By most people's estimation, that's better than the two lower end prospects the White Sox received.  One can make an argument that the Braves haul was better than the White Sox one solely based on the fact that Inciarte was already a solid major league starter.

So the Diamondbacks appeared to pay an elite #1 starter price for Shelby Miller.  Making the trade look even worse than it already did.