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Starfield’s Promise Fizzles: A Cosmic Letdown”

I have always been fascinated by space all my life. I took courses in astronomy and at one point in time I was even enrolled in an astrophysics program in university. As the release of this game called Starfield approached, my anticipation grew.

For the first time in my life, I wrote a blog post and made a youtube video about a video game.

Before you read this article, I want to be upfront and tell you that I have played Starfield for about 10 hours and I do not intent to play any more of it. I do not like Starfield. It has been a disappointing 10 hour ordeal with short moments of bliss.

Now if you care to find out why I feel this way, please read on.

The good parts

Lets get the good parts out of the way first. I will never get to go to the moon; I can say that one can dream and be hopeful that space travel will some day become so popular and affordable that one day it might even be possible for regular folks like us to travel to the moon. But it is not going happen. Now keep my mindset in… mind when I tell you that I was on the moon in Starfield jumping around and it was glorious. This is probably the closest thing to jumping on the moon that I will ever get to experience and it was glorious! – Did I say glorious twice?

Screenshot

Because it was glorious, in fact jumping around on any low gravity planet in Starfield is amazing. And I think different planets have different gravity in Starfield and your moment is affected by that fact which I think was a neat little detail.

Speaking of details, visually, there is an astonishing amount of detail from coffee mugs to note pads and tiles on floors. But not just visually, the immersive in-game city audio, filled with bustling sounds of the city of Neon creates the sensation that this virtual city is truly alive.

Screenshot

Although, if we are comparing cyberpunk style city visuals, The Ascent really takes the cake and does it much better.

The story about how different factions in Starfield came about was interesting – it was literally a story being narrated that you had to listen through to be qualified for a job in one of the factions. But once I got going, I did not really care about which faction, I was going to work for. It was just another side mission that led to shooting someone or retrieving something. I have not gone too far into the game, so there may be things that are a lot more interesting, or so I keep hearing people say.

The bad

That’s about where the good part ends for me.

Visual

Although game assets are very detailed, the color pallet feels a bit unappealing to me in some areas. There is this general hazy look which after a few hours into the game, I realized that it can be reduced or completely turned off in the display setting. You can also turn off motion blur, but turning one or both of them started to give me headaches. I did not bother figuring out which setting was causing my headaches.

Gameplay

The gunfight, and movement are better than Fallout 4, but still nothing ground breaking. Mass Effect Andromeda, with all its flaws had superb gameplay mechanics from the way weapons fired to movement while in combat. But I understand that no on really plays Bethesda games from its gameplay. It’s good enough, and it’s satisfying.

Uninteresting story

The game begins with your character touching some artifact that gives you a vision and then you are on a quest to understand its mysteries. Sounds very much like the beginning of Mass Effect. The difference is, I was intrigued and wanted to find more about this artifact while playing Mass Effect. There was a sense of importance, a sense of urgency. I felt that my character was part of something bigger.

In Starfield, I felt none of that. The Constellation group did not do much to convince me as a player that I should even care about this artifact and what these visions could mean.

Side Missions

Just as a disclaimer, I have only played this game for 10 hours and it could very well be that the side quests that I played are in fact boring.

It is well known in the gaming community that the side quests are one of the main attractions in every Bethesda game. I have heard from many people that there are some very interesting side quests in Starfield. So taking that into account, it is quite possible that I might have just by sheer luck come across the less interesting ones, or frankly, down right boring AF.

Here are some things that I did in side quests

  • I mined some resources
  • applied of jobs
  • took tests to qualify for jobs
  • took a museum tour talking about the history how how different factions came into being
  • convinced an idiot to take a loan because his business is sinking because he opened a mining operation on a water planet
  • handed flyers to local businesses
  • brought coffee to my corporate bosses
  • picked up sensors around trees that look like little eggs around the city to help a researcher

Do any of these sound interesting to you? If I wanted a job as an intern, I would go get a job as an intern in real life. Why would I spend my money and time to do all of that in a video game? Some people may enjoy doing these things IN A VIDEO GAME – I do not!

There are other combat missions that I did too, but they did little to make up for the drudgery of the aforementioned activities.

Endless sequence of loading screens

Screenshot

Opening doors, going to your ship, landing your ship on a planet, it is all just loading screen after loading screen.

Pointless Space travel

There is no real space travel. You simply select a planet and fast travel to the orbit of that planet and then you fast travel to one of the locations on the planet. And of the few planets that I visited, there were mostly only 2 or 3 locations that you can actually travel to. Apparently, that is the case of every other planet that other people have been to.

Do not Walk, just Teleport

I tried landing somewhere else on a planet, close to my target location but not exactly there and it took a long time of walking and so I gave up and just fast travelled to the target location. From what people are saying, walking from one location to another on a planet is apparently not even possible.

Defeated

It was painful to write this blog post because I really did not want to think about Starfield anymore. There were more things that I had planned to talk about, but I just could not get myself to write it all.

A lot of people say the game starts to get better much later, but I just cannot get myself to spend any more time on this.

So at 3AM and 10 hours into the game, I decided that I could at that very moment do anything at all and still have a better time than playing Starfield.

Categories
Philosophy

No Sense

There is no sense
in making sense
of senselessness
derived from the absurdity
of understanding life
as is

Maybe because
being so consumed by
what was or what will be
distracted by decisions
of what should be

say as if
deciding had weight
on the blind hand
that wrote this

There is no sense
in making sense

With your hands
you set out to carve
or perhaps hoping to
sculpt
But that blind hand
that built this machinery
has foretold how it will be

Of billions upon billions of paths
it had to be this one
what has your deciding got to do with it
there is no sense in making sense
of why it is
just that it is

Strings that pull and tug
the butterfly flaps its wings
the machinery that churns and hums
and you believe in something absurdly
that it is you who has faculty



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Starfield’s Importance Goes Far Beyond Gamig

In the vast cosmos of the gaming industry, few upcoming titles have generated as much excitement and anticipation as “Starfield.” Developed by the legendary Bethesda Game Studios and published by Xbox Game Studios, Starfield holds the promise of a groundbreaking space-faring RPG that could redefine the gaming landscape. This blog post delves into the factors behind the massive hype surrounding Starfield and explains why its success is crucial for both Xbox and Microsoft in the gaming world.

Starfield™ Standard Edition Cover
Source: https://www.xbox.com/en-CA/games/starfield

The Hype Machine:

Bethesda: Legacy of Excellence

Bethesda Game Studios, known for the acclaimed Elder Scrolls and Fallout series, has built a reputation for delivering immersive, open-world experiences. Fans have high expectations for Starfield, anticipating a similar level of craftsmanship in a new and unexplored sci-fi setting.

Source: Screenshot taken from https://elderscrolls.bethesda.net/en/skyrim/

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim was released in 2011 and is a game which people are playing even now. I for one dipped my toes for the first time in the world of Skyrim a week ago. I just killed the first dragon, met the greybeards, and did a few side quests, which in all honesty, might even be scratching the surface of the world of Skyrim and even so I have become enchanted by its lore, its atmospheric music and expansive landscape.

A New World

Source: https://bethesda.net/en/game/starfield

Starfield is the first new IP by Bethesda Game Studios in over twenty-five years and has been described by director Todd Howard as “Skyrim in space”. It was announced in 2018, set to release in 2022, then delayed possibly due to the global pandemic. Scarce details about the game only fuelled the anticipation, leaving players eager for more information about its gameplay mechanics, story, and world. It would be a gross understatement to say that there has been great anticipation for this game.

With recent gameplay mechanics and further details about the game at Gamescom 2023, Starfield is a call to Elder Scrolls fans who have been eagerly waiting to lose themselves in a new and immersive world.

The Space Exploration Renaissance

In recent years, a remarkable surge of interest in space exploration has taken center stage, with companies like SpaceX, Virgin Galactic, and Blue Origin. NASA’s renewed commitment to lunar exploration and India’s recent successful lunar landing have all added to the momentum.

From Left to Rigt: Blue Origin logo, SpaceX logo, Virgin Galactic logo

With sci-fi entertainment, specifically space sagas experiencing a renaissance across various media, including TV shows like The Expanse, Mars, Lost in Space, Away, etc.., movies like The Martian, Ad Astra, Interstellar, The Wandering Earth, and books like The Martian, Project Hail Mary, and he Space Between Worlds, the timing could not be better for a highly anticipated sci-fi game.

All but a few will get to explore space in real life.

Starfield taps into this broader cultural trend, drawing in both avid gamers, general sci-fi enthusiasts and space lovers.

Significance for Xbox and Microsoft

The Exclusivity Wars

From Left to Right, Playstation logo, Xbox logo, Nintendo logo

In the realm of gaming exclusivity, both PlayStation and Nintendo have showcased an impressive array of titles that define the appeal of their respective platforms. PlayStation’s roster includes iconic hits like Demon’s Souls, Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart, Horizon Forbidden West, God of War Ragnarok, and Last of Us Part 1 and 2. Meanwhile, Nintendo’s acclaimed exclusives such as The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and Tears of the Kingdom, Super Mario Odyssey, and the serene Animal Crossing: New Horizons continue to captivate players worldwide.

Xbox Series X/S has…Halo Infinite? And maybe Forza Horizon and Motorsport and Gears of War?

Starfield’s exclusivity to Xbox consoles and PC is a strategic move by Microsoft to enhance the appeal of their gaming ecosystem. By offering exclusive titles, Microsoft aims to attract new players to the Xbox platform while retaining existing fans.

Game Pass: The Golden Goose

Xbox Gamepass Logo
Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Xbox_Game_Pass#/media/File:Xbox_Game_Pass_2020_logo_-alternative_version(colored).svg

Xbox Game Pass, Microsoft’s subscription-based gaming service, commonly known as the “Netflix for games”, has become a central component of their gaming strategy. The addition of Starfield to Game Pass upon release (or what is referred to say “Day One Release”) could drive more subscriptions and demonstrate the service’s value proposition to gamers.

The gaming industry is marked by fierce competition, with Microsoft vying against industry giants like Sony and Nintendo. A successful Starfield launch could tip the scales in Microsoft’s favor, bolstering their position in the ongoing console wars.

Microsoft acquired ZeniMax Media, the parent company of Bethesda Softworks and its subsidiaries, for $7.5 billion. Bethesda games are renowned for being immersive to the point where players pour in hundreds of hours into their games. The longer players spend playing their games the more justified it will be for customers to continue to be subscribed to Game Pass.

This is just one more reason why Starfield is so important; for Microsoft, Starfield must not fail.

Cultural Impact

Screenshot taken from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ek3I6_9c58E

Iconic games have the power to shape pop culture and influence broader discussions. Xbox has long been trailing behind giants like Sony and Nindendo. A successful Starfield could establish Xbox as a hub for innovative storytelling and memorable gaming experiences, elevating the brand’s cultural significance, or at least stay in the game (pun intended) to fight on.

Final words

The enthusiasm surrounding Starfield is a testament to the gaming community’s passion for immersive experiences and new horizons. As the gaming world eagerly awaits the eventual release of Starfield, the game’s success holds immense importance for both Xbox and Microsoft’s ambitions. By capitalizing on the hype and delivering a game that meets or exceeds expectations, Xbox and Microsoft could be on the cusp of a victory that reverberates throughout the industry for years to come.

Thank you for tuning in. This is my take on Starfield, what’s yours?

PS: This is just the beginning of my coverage of the gaming industry. Stay tuned as we still have to dwell into the massive power move; Microsoft’s Acquisition of Activation.

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Uncategorized

Looking Forward to Gamescom 2023

I recently came across a book titled “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing”. After reading the book, I went on a rampage. I do love minimalism, and I thought this was a great opportunity to discard a lot of random useless junk that I had accumulated over the years.

Coincidentally, while I was in the process of discarding, I also discovered one shocking thing. My monitor had streaks burned into the screen. Every evening, sunlight hits my monitor directly, and I tried to close the blinds as regular as possible, but there were days when I just forgot, especially when I was not working at my desk during those hours. Luckily, a pixel refresh fixed the issue. But to avoid this issue from happening again, I decided to relocate my desk. I have an Xbox Series X and a Plastation 4 on my desk. Both of which I had not played in months. According to my new found initiative to discard as much as possible, these consoles needed to go.

To give myself an excuse for keeping these gaming consoles, I started to play games again. Now three weeks later, I am looking for gamescom 2023. I do not think I have been this excited for a gaming convention, and I honestly do not really know why.

There are a number of games announcements and possible gameplay that I am looking forward to:

  • Starfield – possibly set out to be one of this year’s biggest games
  • Alan wake 2
  • Stalker 2

There are probably going to be some surprise announcements as well. It is a shame that Playstation is not going to be present again.

I am going to be tuning in!

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The Subscription Shift: What Final Cut Pro and Logic Pro on iPad Could Mean for the Future of Mac Software Pricing

Less than two years ago, I boldly made a prediction ahead of WWDC 21 that Final Cut Pro would make its way to iPadOS, exclusively compatible with the cutting-edge M1 iPad Pro.

You can watch the 2 year old video here where I predicted that Final Cut pro will be coming to iPad.

My reasoning? With macOS Mac now utilizing Apple Silicon’s M series, it seemed only natural for Apple to bring its renowned software to the iPad platform.

Yet, my prediction did not materialize in 2021. Nor did it come to fruition in 2022. However, just two days ago, on May 9, 2023, Apple sent shockwaves through the creative community with a long-awaited announcement: Final Cut Pro and Logic Pro are indeed coming to iPadOS.

But here’s the twist—it didn’t unfold quite as I had expected. In fact, I doubt anyone saw this coming. Apple has taken a new approach, introducing a subscription model for Final Cut Pro and Logic Pro on iPad.

This move signifies a significant departure from Apple’s traditional model of one-time payments for their flagship software. It’s a shift that has sparked heated discussions among creative professionals, enthusiasts, and tech aficionados alike. What does this mean for the future of Apple’s software pricing strategy? Will it spill over to the Mac versions of Final Cut Pro and Logic Pro?

Final Cut Pro Vs The Competition : Cost

To add further intrigue to the mix, let’s compare the pricing of Adobe’s counterparts. Adobe Premiere Pro, an industry-leading video editing software, and Adobe Audition, a professional audio production tool, are part of Adobe’s Creative Cloud subscription. Starting at $20.99 per month with an annual commitment, this subscription provides access to a suite of Adobe applications, including Photoshop, Illustrator, and After Effects.

Now, let’s do a little math.

  • Final Cut Pro (Mac): One-time purchase for $299.99
  • Compressor (Mac): One-time purchase for $49.99
  • Motion (Mac): One-time purchase for $49.99

Total cost for three years: $399.97

  • Adobe Creative Cloud (Premiere Pro and Audition): Subscription starting at $20.99/month (annual commitment)

Total cost for three years: $755.64

As you can see, over a three-year period, the one-time purchase option for Final Cut Pro, Compressor, and Motion on Mac offers a more cost-effective solution compared to Adobe’s subscription-based model for Premiere Pro and Audition in Adobe Creative Cloud.

As Final Cut Pro and Logic Pro make their entrance into the world of iPadOS, we can’t help but wonder if this move marks the beginning of a larger shift in Apple’s software pricing strategy. Will the subscription model become the new norm for all Apple software, including their esteemed Mac versions?

Only time will tell. Until then, creatives across the globe eagerly await the opportunity to harness the power of Final Cut Pro and Logic Pro on iPad, while keeping a watchful eye on how this subscription paradigm shift shapes the landscape of Apple’s software ecosystem.

Is the cost of owning a mac going to rise?

As creatives rejoice over the expanded possibilities of Final Cut Pro and Logic Pro on iPadOS, it’s important to consider the implications this subscription model may have on our pockets.

For years, the allure of investing in a premium-priced MacBook stemmed from the inclusion of free software like Garage band, and iMovie and onetime payment model for their older siblings Logic Pro and Final Cut Pro both of which are considered powerhouse software applications.

But if Apple continues down the subscription path for their Mac counterparts, it begs the question: Will the overall cost of owning Apple’s hardware and software ecosystem increase?

This could just be the beginning. If Apple sees a positive response this pivot to software as a Service model for these two applications, what could this mean for free apps bundled with Apple hardware like iMovie, Garageband, Pages, Keynote and Numbers? Could Apple decide to do the same for these apps as well? Or perhaps Apple could decide to include in a combined Apps subscription for a ‘small fee’ or bundled it with lower tier Apple One subscription.

What does this mean for me personally?

I do not own a mac, the last time I used a garage band or iMovie was some 8 or so years ago. So what does this even matter to me you may wonder.

I have recently been wanting to dip my toes in content creation and I currently use Linux, and as much as I love Linux, content creations on Linux specifically video editing and music production,…well…it sucks. Kdelive live is notorious for crashing randomly.

I have been also changing my priorities and I just want something simple and just works even if it means sacrificing the flexibility to customize my desktop experience.

Knowing that mac does come with great software like iMovie and Garageband and also migrating to something like final cut pro and Logic pro is a simple exported, added to that the one time payment, I was convinced that despite its other short comings, Macos might actually be a good option.

However, this subscription shift by Apples leaves me in a state hesitation.

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The Morning Rush : AeroPress recipe for Medium-Dark Roast Coffee

Although I am generalizing here, every coffee’s ‘medium’ or ‘dark’ roast will be different. This particular recipe, is my favorite one for the Tim Hortons’ Original Blend coffee. Check out my previous blog post about Tim Hortons (the good, the bad and the ugly) . I recently bought a pack just to try and I was pleasantly surprised by the results.

Since this is pre-ground coffee, you cannot control the coarseness, but you can control the temperature and brew time and technique. First I tried brewing this coffee with a Hario V60 with boiling water. Then I dialed it down to 85C, and the results were much better. The end result was a cup that had some sweetness, bitterness that was not overly harsh, and also some acidity which I was quite surprised by.

Then I tried brewing with the Aeropress and the result was even better. In my experience Aeropress performs a bit better and consistently with darker roasts than the Hario V60.

Overview:

  • 60g:1L ratio (12g of coffee to 200g of water)
  • 85C water
  • inverted method
  • no bloom required

The winning recipe

I call this recipe “The Morning Rush” because I think it is simple enough to use even when you are in a rush in the morning, and yet can produce a consistently good cup.

  • place the Aeropress in inverted position
  • add 12g of coffee
  • Add all 200g of water
  • stir it 10 times
  • place the cap with filter (no need to rinse if in a rush)
  • wait for 2 minutes
  • press excess air out
  • invert and press coffee into your favorite cup
  • Enjoy!

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Tim Hortons – The Good, the Bad and The Ugly

Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tim_Hortons#/media/File:Tim_Hortons_(30341105726).jpg

UPDATE: After writing this post, I was challenged to look further into Tim Hortons. The original post, which mostly painted a rosey picture of the brand remains mostly unchanged, however, I have included some additional information which I uncovered during my research which shows that the beloved Canadian brand might not be all that great as it once may have been.

Tim Hortons is the quintessential Canadian coffee experience. Although, it must be noted that it is not technically Canadian owned anymore. Burger King purchased Tim Hortons in 2014 and the two chains are subsidiaries of a Canadian-American holding company Restaurant Brands International which is majority-owned by a Brazilian investment firm.

Miles GilbertTimHorton (January 12, 1930 – February 21, 1974) was a Canadian professional ice hockey defenceman who played 24 seasons in the NHL. He was also the co-founder of the Tim Hortons restaurant.

But even though that is the case, when you think about Tim Horton’s you think Canadian, and this is the same whether you are Canadian or not. Tim Horton’s is a Canadian icon. It is so Canadian that if given the choice, Canadians would much rather pledge their allegiance to the timbits and the Double Double than the Royal Family (This is a joke.)

Some facts about Tim Hortons and Coffee in Canada

  • Tim Hortons (the company) was founded in 1964 in Hamilton, Ontario, by Canadian hockey player Tim Horton (1930–1974) and Jim Charade.
  • Canadian Business magazine named Tim Hortons as the best-managed brand in Canada in 2004 and 2005.
  • In the mid-2000s, their slogan was “Always Fresh. Always Tim Hortons.” (false advertising in my opinion because their doughnuts are frozen, packed and delivered to store locations)
  • Tim Hortons is Canada’s largest quick-service restaurant chain, with 5,352 restaurants in 15 countries, as of June 30, 2022.
  • Canada is one of the top 10 highest coffee-consuming nations per Capita and the only country outside of Europe in that list
  • Canadians consume the most doughnuts per capita
  • Canada has the most doughnut stores per capita
  • In 2022, the average price of 340g (~ 12oz) of roasted or ground coffee in Canada was $6.11. The average price of specialty coffee however is around $20.

Personal Experience

Does anyone want anything from Timmie’s?
2 medium double doubles
a box of timbits

Any Canadian would know what that means:

  • Timmie’s/Tim’s is Tim Hortons
  • Double double is a coffee with 2 portions of sugar and 2 portions of milk or cream
  • Timbits are doughnut holes

I, just like many others in Canada have had moments at Timmie’s. In my teens and 20s, I remember hanging out with friends, having coffee-dates, early morning breakfast runs, sometimes even business meetings, doing assignments, studying before tests, and late night revisions before an exam. Many working folks head to Timmie’s for a quick lunch break. Also, there is always a Tim Hortons nearby that is open late for club goers to sober up, or to take hard look at their life choices.

Not only that, everyone has a favorite Timmie’s. Conversely, there is also that one Tim’s that they hate to go to. As people grow older and can afford ‘better’ coffee, they start to complain about Tim Horton’s coffee, and yet they still go there.

The usual coffee comparison is between Tim’s and Star Bucks. I do have to agree to some extent; Star Bucks does offer a better selection and their customization is unmatched. As to Star Bucks having ‘better’ tasting coffee, I think that is relative. In many cases I would tend to agree that star bucks beverages do tend to taste better than Tim Hortons, however, that is not always the case, and this has become quite apparent to me recently.

Controversies

“Always Fresh”

In the mid-2000s, their slogan was “Always Fresh. Always Tim Hortons.” Which is ironic because it was around that time that they switched from doughnuts that were made at night to be ready for the morning rush to partly cooked and then frozen and delivered to every location in Canada.

Minimum Wage Increase and the Brand Downfall

In 2018, minimum wage in Ontario was increased from $11.60 to $14 an hour. While McDonald’s, Cara Foods (Swiss Chalet, Harvey’s and The Keg), and Starbucks allowed franchisees to increase menu prices, Restaurant Brands International (parent company of Tim Hortons) did not. Tim Hortons franchisees, many of whom are small business owners, responded by cutting employee benefits and health plans. There were demonstrations held across Canada which was mostly likely the cause of the downfall of the Tim Hortons brand.

Usually placing in the top 10 of the Leger research poll for the top 10 companies or brands in Canada, Tim Hortons dropped from 4th place in 2017 to 50th in 2018. In the same year, the Reputation Institute reported that Tim Hortons had fallen from 13th to 67th in its study of Canada’s most reputable companies.

Plastic Pollutants

Tim Hortons was one of the top 5 plastic polluters in Canada in 2018, and 2019. Tim Hortons accounted for about 11% of branded plastic waste collected by Greenpeace Canada from rivers and beaches.

Tim Hortons still uses plastic lining in their cups which makes them non-compostable.

Tim Hortons App and Privacy Violations

In 2022, Tim Hortons violated Canadian privacy laws by tracking highly personal information including users location even when they were not using the app.

The company knew when and where users went. This means they know where you live, where you work, where you buy your groceries from, where and when you go for your coffee or how often you go out for walk. Knowing the location and time tells them if you were jogging or walking.

Is Tim Hortons Better now?

Yes,… and no

I had not been to Tim Hortons since the beginning of the covid-19 pandemic. In fact before the world went to sh!t, I drank coffee once every couple of months. With nothing better to do and being locked up inside, I took up coffee as my new hobby and for better or for worse, I am hooked. During the lock-down, I got super into it; as in weird nerd level into it. Eventually, I found myself in the world of specialty coffee for which I am glad. I went from hating coffee to loving it.

In autumn of 2022, I decided to give Tim Hortons another try. I had been drinking Star Bucks coffee from time to time, but mostly brewing specialty coffee at home. But this was the first in my recent history that I went to Tim Hortons.

To my surprise, Tim Hortons’ menu has changed dramatically. They now have a huge variety of things. They offer hot or cold espresso beverages like lattes, cappuccinos, americanos.

Screenshot of Tims Hortons’ menu for Toronto locations taken from timhortons.ca

Their lunch and dinner menu has expanded with various wraps, salad bowls, burgers, grilled sandwiches and potato wedges. My favorite so far is the Veggie Cilantro Lime wrap and their potato wedges.

Not only has their lunch and dinner menu expanded, but Tim Hortons now provides non-diary/vegan options like almond, soy and oat milk.

I do not know if I am imagining it, but I believe their coffee has also improved. I cannot get myself to like their store brewed coffee because even their original blend is just way too roasted for my palate. However, their hot chocolate which once tasted like a blend of cardboard and rubber now actually tastes better; even better than Star Bucks! In fact most Tim Hortons’ vegan options taste better than Star Bucks offering!

Also, their packaged coffee tastes even better! I assume it is the same coffee that they brew in stores. However, in their stores, coffee is probably brewed at a very high temperature, and what I have noticed is that I can get dramatically better tasting cup at home, if I reduce the brewing temperature to somewhere between 85C to 90C. I thought I was imagining things because everyone in my circle tells me that Tim Hortons coffee sucks.

James Hoffman, the self proclaimed ‘weird coffee person’, reacts to Tim Hortons coffee being his number 2 pick in a blend taste of grocery store coffees.
Original video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pfqvTCgglYA

But then one of my coffee idols, James Hoffman, the self proclaimed ‘weird coffee person’ did a blind taste of grocery store coffees in which Tim Hortons coffee came out to be his number 2 pick! I was shocked and so was James. That confirms my suspicion. Tim Hortons is doing something different with their coffee – they have some how managed to improve it.

… and no

Although Tim Hortons may have improved their lunch and dinner menu, and perhaps even improved their quality, there are still outstanding controversies. The recent mobile app privacy scandal, and their continued use for non-compostable cups leaves a deeper bitter taste than their dark roast blend.

Conclusion

My original post painted a very favorable picture. Although my most recent experience at my local Tim Hortons restaurant was much more pleasurable than my previous experience in recent years, my research on the controversies surrounding this beloved Canadian brand has left me in a dilemma.

Their lunch and dinner items taste good and fresh for a change. Their in-store coffee still tastes burnt and wood to me; but that may be because I am a weakling that cannot stomach bitter taste. Their packaged coffee surprisingly tastes great (with a roast level that, to me, feels dark even though they mark it as medium). If you brew it the ‘right way’. You can find my favorite medium-dark roasted coffee recipe here.

I will finish that one packet of Tim Hortons Original Blend that I current have, but I would have to see more positive changes towards their environmental responsibilities before I drink more of their coffee. I might still be tempted to buy their lunch menu items because frankly I like it.

As far as coffee goes, I will continue to support local specialty coffee shops because of traceability and the variety of interesting flavors.

I hope you liked this post, and if you did please feel free to leave a comment and share it with your friends.

Categories
Holiday Celebrations

The Best Espresso with an AeroPress

It is Christmas eve and I just made (in my humble opinion) the best espresso with an Aeropress.

If your in the mood for some espresso or a latte, try this recipe out. It’s great for cold winter days and for the holiday season. Enjoy!

Disclaimer: Although this is not ‘true espresso’, this will get you is a very delicious cup of espresso-like result which you can have straight, or add water to dilute it to have something like an americano or make a milk drink like a cafe latte.

Overview

It is best to use freshly ground darker roast coffee for this recipe, preferably a coffee that is meant to be used for espresso. My personal favorite is Turbo Espresso from Propeller Coffee in Toronto.

  • dark roast coffee
  • ratio of 1:5 coffee to water (e.g. 10g coffee to 50g of water)
  • grind settings slightly courser than espresso (14 clicks on Comandante c40)
  • 93C filtered water
  • Aeropress in inverted position
  • 2 Aeropress filters rinsed

Recipe

  • add coffee to the Aeropress
  • add water 2 to 3 times the amount of coffee (20g to 30g in this case)
  • stir to soak all the coffee grounds
  • let it bloom for 30 seconds
  • quickly add remaining water (total of 50g)
  • stir 10 times
  • start timer
  • add cap
  • press excess air out
  • at 30 seconds flip it over a cup
  • gently swirl the aeropress
  • press hard and fast
  • Enjoy

You can now enjoy this as is, or dilute it with some water to get an americano or add milk to make something like a cafe latte.

Categories
Uncategorized

Leaning in

Ten years ago I sent a video message to my future self. For the past 10 years, I have lived precariously close to jumping off with my whims, but I held onto the ladder. But of what use is climbing on a ladder if it is leaning against the wrong wall?

So I have decided to lean into rather than away from my whims. It may not be for the next ten years, it may be for the next two, or for a life time, but what I do is that I do not want to keep living this way. If I go back further in time then this is not the life my seventeen year old self would have chosen. Listening to a seventeen year old for life advice may not be the most adult like thing to do, but then who said that the adult thing to do is the right thing to do anyway. That seventeen year old self was the no nonsense, fearless, careless and naive young man who had more to look forward to in life than his future self. I have shut him up and imposed rules and restrictions on him long enough.

I quit! I am done! Imagine having a harpoon stuck between your ribs. That is what it has felt like. It is time for me to let go of a life which I never wanted.

I am closing my business, Okinara Consulting Services for good. It started as a ‘for the time being project while I figure things out” after a failed start up. This side quest has lasted over 10 years. A side quest that in all honestly has had at best moments of “I guess this is okay”. If you spent too much time on side quests, your main story line remains incomplete.

It is safer to remain in your comfort zone goes the feeling for most people. Your job, your business, your career becomes a means to an end. Have-tos and need-tos govern most of our lives. Ironically staying in my ‘comfort zone’ has been the most unbaringly uncomfortable thing that I have ever done and I have been doing it a large portion of my life; time that I will never and can never get back.

As for what my ten-years-younger-self said to me, most of the things that he thought would have happened, never did. But I also realize how different my priorities were. I no longer want some of those things. There are still things that I do want. To quote myself.

No matter what you have achieved up until now in 2022, know that you must keep going on. You get only one chance to live so live it fully. Over the years you may have lost touch with yourself. I hope you have not. But if you have, you can reconnect to yourself, with your true nature again. Remember you are here to help others. You have a purpose to be fulfilled. I hope you are fulfilling your purpose. There is so much you have to do. Keep on going. Just keep swimming. Keep on going. I hope you have lived your life with passion and honestly. Satyameva jayate.

This abstract concept of purpose is something I no longer believe in. We are a product of cause and effect and other random events. There is no purpose in life. There is no purpose of life. It is a lie that we tell ourselves because that is what gives us meaning. Purpose of life would mean an intention. No one intended life to begin. It happened because a random series of events occurred in that specific order.

I do believe that there are true natures to people. What you decide to do with that nature becomes your purpose. Purpose is decision, not destiny.

So here I go, leaning into my every whims.



Categories
Software Web

Why do I Recommend using Firefox? (2021)

I like to try different things when it comes to technology, but I do have a sweet spot for certain things. For example I like trying different operating systems and I use them according to my needs, but I will always have a sweet spot of Linux and specifically Ubuntu. Same goes for browsers. I have tried different browsers and over the years my primary browser has changed multiple times.

There was a time when I was primarily a Firefox user, and then Google Chrome, even Edge( the old edge) – most people do not give credit to Microsoft, but I thought it was a very good browser that brought things that other browsers did not have. I had short lived enthusiasm for Opera and Vivaldi and even Safari…LOL just kidding; Safari is the browser that you use to download other browsers. The last time I used Safari was more than 5 years ago, so things may have improved over the years, but the last time I used it, there was nothing likeable about that browser.

I had tried Brave browser before, but then stopped using it because of the company’s business model. Couple of months ago, I decided to give it a try again because Firefox was constantly a memory hog and Brave now includes a synchronization feature which is quite unique. You do not have to open an accounts or provide an email address. The synchronization happens only between Brave browsers or rather different user profiles on Brave browsers on different devices. I thought that was pretty cool and also Brave in my experience has been the most stable and the fastest browser on Windows, Linux and even on Android.

I switched (temporarily) to brave because I was getting frustrated with Firefox’s slow speed and memory usage. But after about two months of using Brave, I am moving back to Firefox because in my view pros clearly outweigh the cons. So here is why I am recommending Firefox in 2021:

Add-ons

There are plenty of add-ons and themes available on Firefox. You want a dark theme, sure. You want a Marvel superhero theme, yup, there is one. You want dark mode, there is an add-on for that. Ad blocker, Multi-account containers, YouTube downloaders, you name it and there is an add-on for it.

Privacy and Security

With Firefox, you can share as much or as little as you want to the developers and with websites that you visit. By default Firefox blocks third party tracking cookies, cryptomining scrips and social trackers. In addition, there are plenty of add-ons available to increase your privacy and security.

You can even set a master password to protect your local Firefox data such as bookmarks, history, password etc. This can be helpful if you share your computer with other people.

Firefox Monitor alerts you in case your email address has been a part of any online data breach.

Trust

I have been using Mozilla products for a very long time. For the majority of my adult life, I have used Thunderbird, even when Mozilla had announced that they were going to stop new development for it. Sure, I did use other email clients from time to time, like Apple Mail or Windows Mail. I am currently using mutt/neomutt – more on that in a later post.

I have used Firefox on and off for a very long time too.The Mozilla Foundation is a non-profit organization that I trust. Their products and services are focused on creating a good balance between privacy and functionality and user satisfaction.

I was using Google Chrome as my primary browser for several years until an update automatically logged me in to google services when signing in to the browser to sync my browsing data. That was the last time I used Chrome. Not to mention incognito mode was not really incognito. Now, I am aware of the concept of “I got nothing to hide”. But the point is not about having or not having anything to hide, the point is about trust. This point is something that I recently realized after reading about view points on privacy practices of tech giants when it comes to handling user data.

Brave browser is a very private and secure browser, but its business model essentially takes ad revenue from other ad networks and pushes its own ad network.(Things are a bit more complicated than that but this is the gist). There are some positives to its business model too, mainly that users can support individual content creators and websites. I will get into this in a later post.

Not based on Chromium

Firefox is one of the very few browsers available today that do not use the Chromium code base. There is nothing wrong with Chromium. In fact it is open source and it is a great open source software project that has pushed internet browsers into the ‘future’. However, if you want to use something other than Chromium, for whatever reason that you may have, the only truly viable option is Firefox.

Features for Power Users

Search

If you are a power user, Firefox has some truly powerful features built into its core. The browser has a default search engine just like every other browser, which you can of course change. However, you can also quickly switch between search engines on the fly directly from the address bar by selecting one of the search engines under “This time, search with:”

If that is not enough there are shortcuts for search engines. For example if you want to search with Google, just type @google ‘search phrase’, or @amazon ‘product name’ etc..

If you do not like the default shortcuts, you can even customize it with something like @g ‘search phrase’. If that is still not enough, you can even easily add websites like IMDB to search engine list.

keyboard only browsing

If reaching for your mouse to click on a link is beneath you, you can even do a quick search with ‘/’ and then hit enter when you reach your target link and Firefox will take you do that linked page.

and even more add-ons

Yes, I know that I have already talked about add-ons, but if you are not satisfied with the default features of Firefox, there are plenty of add-ons to increase your productivity.

wait… one more thing about add-ons

So far, I have been all for add-ons, but I in fact use very few add-ons. And a word of warning when it comes to add-ons is that you should be careful about what you install on your browser. Do your due diligence before adding any add-on.

So, this are the reasons why I wold recommend that you use, if not at least give Firefox a try. You will be pleasantly surprised.