Tag Archives: blogvember 14

Spotify Premium

all taylor swiftWhen Spotify was introduced to Australia a couple of years back, I wrote about how the music streaming service didn’t align with how I listened to music, both as a music curator and manic playlist creator.

For the most part, Spotify still feels more like a music lending service rather than a music library of your own. On the unpaid version of Spotify, you borrow music, one or two tracks at a time, and then you’re forced to listen to an ad before you can continue borrowing (or to continue the library metaphor, return the previously-borrowed tracks back before getting more).

If there’s one place where Spotify is better than my own personally-curated music library, it’s in the area of music discovery.

By all accounts, I have way too much music for any one person to listen to. Everyone does. iTunes puts my library at just under 12,000 songs with a total play time of 33 days, which means that assuming I live to the current Australian life expectancy of 80 years, I can listen to my music library 630 times in its entirety before I die. That’s quite a lot of music, when you think about it.

But even the largest music library in the world isn’t any good when you listen to a new tune and get immediately hooked. New music comes out all the time, and while I was never a huge fan of the radio, I’ll occasionally get exposed to new music via the radio or other means. Following artists I like and collecting their music is one thing, but discovering cool new tunes from artists I haven’t heard of is another thing entirely. So what’s the solution for new music discovery?

Maybe I’m a little different to you, but a lot of my new music comes from pop. I listen to many varied genres of music, but a lot of it is “pop” — or that strange genre which seems to be played mostly on the radio, encompassing everything from alternative, rap, hip-hop — you get the picture. I’ve previously experimented with trawling lists such as the Take 40 countdown to see if there was any music I was interested in, then go off and find those individual songs in order to pirate them. I used to do a similar thing with the iTunes “top tracks” list, seeing as iTunes has 90-second previews for most of its song.

A little while back, I started playing some new music with Spotify because I couldn’t be bothered pirating an individual track, and it kind of went downhill from there: I added Spotify’s top tracks in Australia to a playlist and went for the overplay, putting it on repeat. Then it dawned on me: music streaming was easier than music ownership, at least when it came to new music, stuff I didn’t already own.

So, for the month of October, I re-subscribed to Spotify Premium, giving me the ability to download high-quality versions of the music I was streaming, as well as going ad-free. I timed my subscription so it would coincide with a brief stint at work and my working holiday in Canberra, so I could have my “October hits” playlist with me wherever I was.

It’s not the first time I’ve re-upped for Spotify Premium for a month or two — I did a similar thing earlier in the year when I went overseas, all because offline play and ad-free streaming without having to lug around all of my own music is an excellent idea.

I’ve since cancelled my Spotify subscription, because as much as I like listening to new music occasionally, I remember that I still have my own music library that I love dearly. It’s uniquely mine — ludicrous playcounts, carefully-curated playlists, and all. Sure, it’s only $12 a month, but for someone who only gets so much out of streaming music, I’d rather buy an album every other month and support artists that way.

These words part of Blogvember, a thing I just made up right then about getting back into blogging. You can read more words about Blogvember right over here, but the gist is that I'll be attempting to post something up on the blog every day in November 2014. Read other Blogvember posts.


We’re now past the halfway point of Blogvember, and already I’m feeling the effects of writing semi-coherent thoughts on a variety of topics on a daily basis. Every two or three days is fine as it gives me a chance to think up something interesting and run with that, but forcing myself to write about something every day makes for complete drivel, at times.

As usual, the problem is not having enough time to do everything I want in a day and then bash out another 300+ words on a topic I feel would be interesting. Having interesting stuff to write about isn’t really the problem — I always have stuff I can write about — finding the time to do so is another thing entirely.

It was easy during my “working holiday” to just write the news, then plough straight on through to writing about an idea that I had floating around — that’s how the Nintendo 3DS and Smurfing posts came about, for example. While there’s still a few things revolving around PAX that I could potentially write about, I want to leave a little gap between the posts, to try and spread them out. That said, we’ll probably have another PAX-related post by the end of the week that I’m kind of excited to write about, so keep an eye out for that.

For now, I’m just going to contemplate which bus I’m going to catch to work in a few minutes, think about the next post I’m going to write, and look over some Shadow of Mordor screenshots and wonder what kind of a story I can tell with those.

These words, while related to Blogvember 2014, aren’t actually a part of it and don’t count towards the daily blog post. By my count, I’m now four days (including today) behind — I still need posts from Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and today. Geez. Read other Blogvember posts.

The New Nintendo 3DS

DSC01207At PAX Australia this year I got some hands on time with the New 3DS. We lined up to watch a short presentation about it (barely audible over the din of the Riot folks and the Wargaming booth opposite), and after that it was into the little area where we got some hands-on time with the new console.

I know a little about the New 3DS thanks to some of the work I do, but it’s not like I’m an avid Nintendo fanboy who hangs on the company’s every word. From what I know, the New 3DS is notable because Australia and New Zealand are the two countries outside of Japan that will be seeing a release this year (November 21, if memory serves) — the US is getting it sometime next year, and other countries sometime after that again. While the New 3DS was on-show at EB Expo a month or so prior to this year’s PAX, PAX Australia was the first time the New 3DS was actually playable.

As far as the portable gaming console goes, Nintendo only had the New 3DS XL on display, which is somewhat disappointing because I wanted to see the size comparison between the new 3DS and the 3DS XL. Regardless, I had a bit of play on what I think was a Monster Hunter title (I’m actually have no idea, but it was some dinosaur-battling game from a third-person perspective set in an open-ish environment), as well as a bit of Mario Kart.

The console itself was pretty cool; the head-tracking 3D produces a much better 3D effect that follows your face so you don’t have to hold your head perfectly still in a tiny “sweet spot” for the 3D effect to work at all, and the extra should buttons will come in handy for some games. The new analog stick on the right hand side was a welcome change for games that need separate camera controls, but it felt more like one of those nub mouse pointers on older laptop keyboards. I wasn’t really sure what I was expecting it to feel like, but I guess that’s just how it is.

As for whether I’ll be buying the New 3DS, I’m not quite sure. I currently own a 3DS XL that doesn’t get nearly enough airtime, thanks to multiple other screens that are constantly vying for my attention. Mostly, I just neglect it along with my Vita and numerous other gadgets. Like my Vita, I imported my 3DS XL from the US because Nintendo persist with region locking (a topic I’ve written about before), and while recent news says upper management could be going in a different direction in the future, for the moment Nintendo consoles are still region locked. I haven’t looked into the issue for a while, but I generally prefer to have a bigger library available sooner as digital downloads, rather than having to buy cartridges — at the time, the US eShop was “better” than the UK/AU one for that.

A big factor I also have to consider is whether I want to go for the New 3DS or the New 3DS XL, with the biggest difference being that while the New 3DS gets the customisable faceplates (so. many. faceplates.), the New 3DS XL doesn’t. I originally went for the 3DS XL because I thought a bigger screen would be cool, but there’s no denying the 3DS XL is on the larger side of the spectrum. At the morning, I’m leaning towards the non-XL New 3DS, but who knows what I’ll end up with.

To be honest, I’m not even sure what games I want to play on the thing. Like I said, I’ve mostly ignored much of the portable gaming scene thanks to all the other stuff that’s going on (i.e. Dota) but off the top of my head the only game I’d really want to play is Smash Bros. And Hyrule Warriors, but that’s only on the Wii U.

And I definitely sure I don’t want one of those.

Vooks has a mega FAQ on the New 3DS and New 3DS XL for everything you need to know about the new portable consoles.

These words part of Blogvember, a thing I just made up right then about getting back into blogging. You can read more words about Blogvember right over here, but the gist is that I'll be attempting to post something up on the blog every day in November 2014. Read other Blogvember posts.


I probably could have taken an actual screenshot instead of a photo of the screen, but again, not my computer.

I probably could have taken an actual screenshot instead of a photo of the screen, but again, not my computer.

Continuing the list of things I don’t understand: smurfing. Otherwise known as the act of playing on a Dota account with a visible or invisible match-making rating lower than your own, in order to see how you fare against players below your skill level (or those also playing on smurfs).

Up until last night, I didn’t really see the point of smurfing. In my mind, the only two legitimate uses of it were either to play Ranked match-making with friends with a vastly lower MMR than yourself, or creating a new account in order to re-calibrate your MMR now that you know how to play the game, thus hopefully getting a higher MMR. Apart from those two reasons, there really isn’t any other reason to smurf — most of the other games I’ve played with or against smurfs have been very similar (or perhaps slightly above) to my kind of skill level, so what’s the point? Some people expect smurfing to match them with other completely new accounts, but Dota matchmaking is smarter than that, for the most part. After stomping a few games, you’ll start to get matched with harder and harder opponents. Eventually your invisible MMR will be the same as your “true” MMR, so the point of smurfing in the first place has been completely negated.

But last night, I played Dota on an account with one game played (plus a whole bunch of lobby/bot games), and it was, in a word, glorious.

I wasn’t really sure what to expect. It could have gone one of two ways: either I’d get matched with other people smurfing and subsequently get wrecked, or I’d be matched up against players who had a similar number of games played (i.e. they were just starting out) and completely steamroll them. It’s fairly safe to say I felt more than a little trepidation as I hit the queue button for All Pick.

Of course, there was no other hero to play other than PA, my current favourite carry. I wasn’t sure how the laning stage was going to go at this totally-unknown MMR, but I told myself I’d just play my own game, farm up as best I could, and then try and carry as hard as possible. Like other carry games, basically.

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This morning, I caught the bus. Not exactly unusual or out of the ordinary, as it’s something that’s happened many times before. Specifically, I caught the route 75 to Hobart, a bus and route I’ve caught many times before, either for getting to work, or for getting to Uni. And like many times before, an adult with Down’s syndrome got on the bus, and like he usually does, started singing.

Sometimes it’s just a few mumbled lines here and there. Other times, it’s the chorus, and if he particularly likes the song, entire verses

I’m not sure if he knows he’s doing it. But it’s fairly unusual for someone to be singing aloud in public, let alone on a bus carrying commuters to their daily grind.

Most of the time, he gets mostly ignored from his fellow passengers. They’ll usually smirk to themselves and continue reading the newspaper — the newspaper, would you believe it.

But this morning was different. He was belting out something I couldn’t quite make out for reasons I’ll get into later, and when he had finished, the entire bus applauded. Well, almost the entire bus — I didn’t, but the front half of the bus around where he was sitting did, as the the two schoolgirls sitting in front of me.

The reason I didn’t was because I had no idea he was singing. My in-ears were, uh, in, Taylor Swift was playing, and I was elsewhere. I only noticed after a smattering of applause, after which I paused Taylor and realised he was doing his thing again.

It was kind of nice. I’ve had a friend who used to catch the same bus tell me “he must be really into his music”, but mostly, everyone just ignores him, perhaps because they realise he has Down’s syndrome and give him a free pass. It’s not like he’s the best vocalist around — tone deaf only begins the scratch the surface of his tonal capabilities, and I say that in the nicest possible way — so seeing him recognised for his efforts by the public was kind of nice, and restored a little of my faith in humanity.

Remember what I said when I started this Blogvember thing? I said it would be kind of like the personal memoirs of Benny Ling, a way for me to record what I was doing during November 2014. And it’s been like that for the most part. Looking over the archives, and it turns out I’ve written about the same bus trip once before. The time I wrote about how I was glad my in-ear headphones shielded me from the ignorance of others — a harsh title, regardless of how true it may have been at the time — was actually during Blogtober in October 2009, more than five years ago.

Today, my in-ears shielded me from hearing a poor rendition of some song I probably wouldn’t have recognised anyway. But they didn’t stop me from feeling the impact of a little humanity, eve if it was just a smattering of applause for someone with Down’s syndrome singing on the bus.

These words part of Blogvember, a thing I just made up right then about getting back into blogging. You can read more words about Blogvember right over here, but the gist is that I'll be attempting to post something up on the blog every day in November 2014. Read other Blogvember posts.

I do not understand League of Legends

DSC01115Riot was in attendance at PAX Australia this year, and they were back with an even bigger presence than last year. Throughout the weekend, they ran their Oceanic Regional Finals tournament as well as casual games between PAX attendees, and let me tell you, their area was packed all the time — unlike last year, this time they came prepared with seating as well as ample standing room for spectators.

They tell me League of Legends is similar to Dota in that it’s a massive online battle area or action real-time strategy game, whichever acronym you want to use. The only real differences I know between the two off the top of my head is that there’s no “denies” in League, and the laning setup is a little weird — I saw people being referred to by their lanes, as opposed to the roles they played during the game. People played “top” or “jungle” instead of “carry” or “support”, for example, but that’s about all I know about League. I like to think I have a fairly good understanding of Dota at this point, but taking a few minutes to sit down and watch a game being played, I had no idea what I was watching. Subjectively, it also looks worse than Dota does, but that’s neither here nor there.

But not only do I not get League on a gameplay or mechanics level, I don’t understand it on a popularity scale, either. I read articles saying League makes more money than Dota and Hearthstone combined, but then I’ve also heard it’s the most popular title in terms of player base. That seems wrong for all kinds of reasons, but I’ll list just one: the biggest Dota 2 tournament in the world, The International 4, had a total prize pool of $10.9 million, with the winners taking home over $5 million. That ludicrous sum of money made headlines in traditional sports, not just e-sports, and so for a game like League to come in and say they’re bigger than Dota is pretty crazy.

I mean, I guess the numbers are by total revenue and not prize pools for tournaments (two of which at the moment have prize pools of over $200,000), but still.

Just about the only thing that makes sense is the acronym formed by the title of the game: LoL.

These words part of Blogvember, a thing I just made up right then about getting back into blogging. You can read more words about Blogvember right over here, but the gist is that I'll be attempting to post something up on the blog every day in November 2014. Read other Blogvember posts.


I always feel apprehensive about getting a haircut. I’m not really sure why — it’s not like I was horribly disfigured by a hairdresser as a child (that I know of, anyway), but for some reason, I always feel a certain anxiety that comes with getting a haircut.

Maybe it’s the questions they ask you when you sit in the chair. As a guy, there aren’t many possible answers to the question “what would you like done today”, so I usually mumble something along the lines of “the thing with the scissors”. Other times, it’s “just a haircut, thanks”. I’m not really sure what other things happen at hairdressers. Do they make coffee? Perhaps they can fix my computer, while they’re at it?

But now that I think about, my nervousness probably has something to do with the fact I don’t “do” anything to my hair. I usually just leave it alone — sometimes I’ll run a comb through it, but that’s about it. I don’t use any product, and while spiking your hair was all the rage in primary school, doing it when you’re twenty-something is kinda weird, in my opinion. So I just let my hair do its thing.

I’ve never dyed my hair or done anything else to it. I wanted blonde tips so badly back in primary school because all the cool kids were doing it, but my parents never let me, no matter how much I begged them. I think that’s when I started doing nothing to my hair, just brushing it straight down or sometimes a little to the side.

Doing nothing to style my hair in any way has earned me something of a reputation at work, where I’m now known as the guy who has the same hairstyle, day in, day out. And to be honest, I’m not sure what the big fuss is — some people use some kind of product in their hair, others don’t. Obviously if you’re a girl you have a few options, as far as hair goes, but things are a little different if you’re a guy.

Whatever. I’m not really fussed — which, turns out to my reaction to whatever kind of haircut I get. I mean, it’ll all grow out in a few weeks anyway, right?

This complete drivel is part of Blogvember 14, a thing I made up where I attempt to publish a thing on ye olde blog every day in November 2014. Read other Blogvember posts.

Pyramid Scheme

This is actually one I’ve been saving up for a while now, only as part of another post. I’m splitting it out and re-publishing it here as part of Blogvember 14 because why the hell not. Enjoy!

Did I tell you about the time I was approached to join what I would later know to be as a pyramid scheme? One day an acquaintance approached me and thought I’d be a good fit for a business proposition he had. I was curious, so I said yes and we ended up meeting with this acquaintance’s business partner. At first we just talked about this guy’s work, and he made a point of emphasising how he travelled a lot and spent lots of time overseas, etc, etc. Then we got to the nitty gritty of it, and he told me that if I joined his business, I’d eventually be making money without lifting a finger.

I don’t remember much of the details of how it all worked, but as with all pyramid schemes, this one involved some sort of partnership with a manufacturing/distribution company where you would buy products, and then get rewarded based on how much you spent. Those rewards were how you were paid — the idea was that you could recruit other people to buy things from you, thus earning you rewards (money) without you having to spend a single cent. Those people could then recruit other people, who could then recruit other people. Profits were then kicked back up the chain; to their recruiter, to you, to your recruiter, and so on.

The way it was positioned all sounded pretty lucrative. The guy I met up with said I’d be earning money even when I wasn’t explicitly recruiting people, and the more people I recruited, the more I would be earning (because those recruits would eventually recruit people of their own, and continue the trend). But in reality, it would have been pretty hard work to get to that stage — not only would I have to have my own little network of recruits, but then they’d all have to have their own little network of recruits, and so on. I think you get the picture.

And, to be totally honest with you, I was pretty tempted by the idea. The potential was there to make a bunch of cash for little to no work, but there were pitfalls to the scheme, as I had learned a few years before.

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xkcd: Photos

via xkcd: Photos.

Remember when I used to be heaps into photography? Yeah, me neither.

I still kind of am, but not as much as I used to be. I don’t know about you, but photography was always a “make an effort” thing for me, for the kind of photography I wanted to do (i.e. mostly street photography). I still want to take photos of random people or things on the street in order to tell a particular story, but that involves actually leaving the house — something that doesn’t happen every day because I’m a hermit used to the comforts of working from home most days.

Take today, for example. There was an elderly couple standing outside my work today, looking up at the construction across the road. I glanced up, and the way our glass sliding doors framed them, just gazing up at the construction work going on, was kind of nice. For a brief moment I considered taking a photo, but decided not to because it would have been a little strange.

I’m drawn to couple photography particularly, which probably says plenty about me personally. There’s stories to be told for inanimate objects and individuals, but couple photography fascinates me. One of the best shots I’ve ever taken was a quick spur of the moment thing, like most street photography, depicting a young girl in a school uniform sitting with a guy, also in school uniform, on a bench in the Hobart mall. You don’t know what they’re talking about, or why they’re sitting there, and you kind of feel like an intruder on their private time, but it’s a nice photo. At least, I think so.

It reminded me of the times when I carried my film rangefinder as an every day carry kind of thing. Some people lug around DSLRs, but my Bessa R2A is compact enough to not get completely in the way or be too much of a burden. I mean, sure, I always have my iPhone 6 with me and that takes some seriously good photos, but digital photography has always felt kind of cheap, like it’s too easy to achieve good results without even trying. I’m not saying that’s a bad thing, but when you can fire off a single-shot HDR photo just by tapping a button, it kind of cheapens the experience a little.

On the above XKCD: I’ve never understood people who criticise other people for taking photos of things that mean something to them. Why does it matter how other people choose to enjoy a particular sunset, or a bunch of fireworks going off? Just looking is nice, but there are some that want to capture the moment so they can come back to it later and then there are some who recognise the technical challenges of capturing multi-coloured explosions in the sky. Either way, that’s their prerogative. Who are you to say otherwise?

These words part of Blogvember, a thing I just made up right then about getting back into blogging. You can read more words about Blogvember right over here, but the gist is that I'll be attempting to post something up on the blog every day in November 2014. Read other Blogvember posts.

Gone Home

Thanks to the tweet above, there’s been a bit of discussion on the internet about whether Gone Home is a game or not. For the life of me, I can’t seem to figure out why that’s even a valid question, as the major premise of a game is an interactive narrative with playable character(s), and Gone Home is exactly that.

Contrary to what my Steam stats would have you believe, I have played other games besides Dota 2 in the past year. I’ve clocked 92 minutes on Gone Home, all of which was played in one sitting in early January (which is definitely the best way to play the game). It was so long ago that I barely remember the minor details about what happens in the game, but the one thing I do remember is that it’s an insanely great title that everyone should be playing.

This is the point where I tell you that’s about as much as I can say without spoiling the game, because the game itself is about discovery — so go out, grab it on Steam, and start discovering for yourself why it’s been so widely lauded as one of the best titles of recent times. I was sitting in Good Game’s Q&A panel at PAX last weekend, and I don’t even remember what question they were asked (it might have been something to do with experiences in games and/or how they impacted the panelists), but Hex brought up Gone Home as one of the best games she’s played. As someone who’s played Gone Home, it’s hard not to agree with her, despite how little “game” there is to Gone Home itself.

Undoubtedly, Gone Home is a game. It leans towards the “interactive narrative” side of the spectrum, but it’s definitely a game. It’s kind of like The Walking Dead, only with less characters and less zombies, and without a massively popular TV series to back it up, but it’s definitely a game. There’s no action, per se, but the game makes up for that in spades with one of the most poignant stories I’ve ever had the pleasure of experiencing — and coming from the guy who plays the single-player campaign of mass-market multiplayer FPS titles for the story, you know that’s kind of a big deal.

So, yeah, definitely a game, and you should definitely play it.

These words part of Blogvember, a thing I just made up right then about getting back into blogging. You can read more words about Blogvember right over here, but the gist is that I'll be attempting to post something up on the blog every day in November 2014. Read other Blogvember posts.