Saturday, October 24, 2015

Welcome to the North

It's been such a long time since the last post about my travels and road trip, but here I am, with the next segment! At first I was going to title it "New York City, New York" but that would've been mildly misleading in the sense that we only spent 24 hours in New York and that I have literally no pictures of New York. No decent ones. At all. But anyway.

We went to Washington DC and visited the National Museum of Natural History. I've been there before but it seems they keep changing it.

Random other buildings that look super cool.

Geology! Yay!

A rainbow of minerals!

Egyptian stuff!

More Egyptian stuff!

Camels!

Kanra trying to be photographic!

After visiting the museum, we went to Great Falls National Park (Virginia). There was a super long line at the park entrance and there were lots of fire trucks and ambulances going in and out. We didn't really get to see anything interesting (related to the fire trucks) considering how we were stuck in the car line for almost 45 minutes.

Great Falls, VA.


People liked climbing the rocks and cliffs and stuff and meanwhile, we were trying to get into the river and soak our feet in it. The river was dangerous though- there were pamphlets that were handed out at the park entrance that talked about the river carrying people away, therefore don't even try swimming and be super careful while fishing!


George Washington Bridge

Pakistani flag in Pennsylvania.

Dulles Airport.

First time I thoroughly checked at the airport. It was the weirdest thing ever. Okay first they're like "walk through this funny elevator thing" that had this swishing revolving doors. Then security pats you down super awkwardly and you end up feeling sorry for them like:

"Do you wanna do this out here or somewhere else?" the nice lady asks me.

"Here, so I can get over this faster"

She just has this tired smile like 'I know what you mean' and then tells me that she can't wait for the night shift to come so she could go home.

Look at how pretty New York is!

And that's how we flew from Dulles to Abu Dhabi, and then Abu Dhabi to Islamabad. It was great to be back.

Friday, October 16, 2015

BookShelf: No Rest For The Wicked (Dane Cobain)


22088645When the Angels attack, there’s NO REST FOR THE WICKED. Father Montgomery, an elderly priest with a secret past, begins to investigate after his parishioners come under attack, and with the help of Jones, a young businessman with an estranged child, Montgomery begins to track down the origin of the Angels. The Angels are naked and androgynous. They speak in a dreadful harmony with no clear leader. These aren’t biblical cherubs tasked with the protection of the righteous – these are deadly creatures of light that have the power to completely eradicate. When Jones himself is attacked, Father Montgomery knows he has to act fast. He speaks to the Angels and organises a final showdown where he’s asked to make the ultimate sacrifice. -Goodreads

This book was provided to me in return for an honest review, so without trying to spoil it, I will tell you exactly what I thought of this book.

First of all, it's a short and enjoyable book- there's no unnecessary pages and the story continues at an even pace. This is the kind of book that a busy person can read and enjoy themselves without spending too much time and especially as a medical student, I thought that was a plus point in itself. The concepts presented were also explained in simple terms and I did not find the need to re-read chapters and passages except to find my place after taking a break.

If I was to talk about the plot, I'd say it was a unique and interesting plot. I always enjoy science fiction and the added shade of religion made it much more captivating. The additional content presented in the form of articles gave the novel a bit of a journal feel coupled with the occasional flashback chapters. Everything that seemed unrelated ended up falling into place right before the finale, which in itself was not as climatic as I thought it would be but made a lot of sense in hindsight. 

All in all, this book was a pleasant read. Despite seeming like a horror novel at the start, I felt that it discussed controversies and the science religion clash more than any actual sort of violence. It was a novel story and if you are the kind of person looking for a short but entertaining book to read that contains mystery, science with a twist of religion and what it is to be human, then this is the book for you.

I give No Rest for the Wicked 7/10 stars.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Why You Should/Shouldn't Play DOTA 2

Defense of The Ancients 2- a popular game in the geek world, filled with your classic characters, the tanks, the mages, the support and the thrill of battle between the classes. I got hooked up to this game by my brother earlier this year (sometime after summer) and I'll admit, the game is enjoyable and fairly easy to conduct. However, there are a couple of downsides to this game too. 

What is DOTA2 about though? Basically, it's a game set in a closed arena. You'll have five characters on each side with a base and a couple of towers, making ten characters in play. You have creeps spawning after every few minutes. Your job is to take your creep wave into the enemy land and destroy their base (called Ancient, thus Defense of the Ancient). 

If I had read an article like the one I'm going to write- before I had started playing- I probably would have thought twice about downloading it and stopped playing without thinking twice. But that's just what I would have done and what a lot of people wouldn't do. Nevertheless, here's all you need to know about-


Let's talk about why you should play DOTA2 and what is it exactly that makes this game enjoyable and addicting? (I'd ask my brother but he's kind of busy in a match at the moment) DOTA noob Kanra is here to do some game promotion!

First of all- the graphics of this game are amazing. From the characters, to the creeps, to the entire arena, the look of everything is amazing. You'd think such a detailed game would lag and go really slow but actually, game play is smooth and you can just sit and watch your character run here and there and be amazed. The characters (called "heroes") are produced to appear lifelike- while standing, they appear to be breathing and if you leave them alone too long, they'll probably do a tap dance to entertain themselves. (Oh and if you write LOL in chat, they actually LAUGH OUT LOUD). (I just had to say that).

The arena, or the battlefield has great graphics too. Change between day and night causes the arena to appear completely different during the respective time. Heroes running over water creates ripples and if you happened to have used a tango on a tree, you can watch it disappear and then suddenly shoot up in a rapid replay of growth several minutes later.

Developers don't make games for beauty though. They make it so that you find yourself challenged. I said, earlier, that conducting the game is fairly easy- you direct your Hero to a location with a mouse, move the camera with the keyboard, select spells and target with your cursor. It sounds easy but the game is dynamic. You have five Heroes on each side (ten players in all, including you) and each of them acts individually (whether playing against Bots or against Players). Then you have the Creeps who come out wave after wave, trying to push into enemy territory. Oh, also, remember how everyone is individual? That means they have a Hero who also has their own unique powers which they can use whenever they want and maybe end up killing you over and over and not letting your Hero do anything heroic. (see what I did there)

The game isn't that simple, we conclude. There are lots of things that compound to this fact. There is no easy way to play the game. You must fight if you want to level up and get money- but if you die, you lose a whole chunk and your respawn time increases after each death (along with the cash needed if you want to get out early). However if you manage to kill a Hero, you might get a substantial increase in cash (depends on how much the Hero was carrying) along with a boost in experience. Each character has different stats- mages are squishy, tanks are tanky and carrys love to gank. But guess what- there's a shop in the game and you can build up your character in ANY way you want. You could take the squishy Crystal Maiden and make her a tank by boosting her strength stats, increasing her health and raising her defenses (provided you manage to hoard enough money without getting killed- which would be really difficult considering how squishy she is, but okay).

Point to be noted? DOTA2 has a variety of characters and playing styles to choose from. You could turn a support based character into a carry, or a mage into a ganker or whatever, really. You take your character and you build it up the way you want. There are three major stats in each character, being strength (increases health points) agility (increases the number of attacks per second) or intelligence (increases your mana pool). Personally, I'm a big fan of agility characters- I like watching my Heroes hit rapidly and pull down someone's health points. But you could give your Hero lots of health and have them survive longer in fights (and maybe be able to get out alive, thus saving you money) or give them intelligence based items and have an enormous mana pool to spam spells from without burning out! The choice is completely yours.

Remember what I said about there being ten players in all? And each of them being individual and unique? DOTA2 is a game based on strategy and teamwork. I've seen some of the Bots of DOTA2 play really cleverly- luring a player with a loner Hero deep into enemy lanes to have the rest of the team gank on it and wipe you out (and I've been wiped like that, honestly). This is a game where, along with your own playing, you have to keep an eye out on what your team mates are doing and lend a hand in if possible. Everyone's Hero is different and has different abilities- there's definitely a time for each of them to shine- provided you know what you're doing. Also, if you've done teamwork sort of work, you'd know how hard it is to get everything just right- so it's going to be doubly hard doing that, whether it's with Bot teammates or Player teammates, adding to the challenge of the game.

What are my favorite Heroes in DOTA2? Well, I'm biased towards long range characters. I love the way I can stand outside the fight and get a few hits and run away before I get killed (which doesn't happen that much, sadly). At the same time, I like female Heroes. (I'm incredibly biased, amn't I?) Nevertheless, here are top three heroes in my list who are..
Female
Drow Ranger (Agility based Long range Hero), Legion Commander (Strength based Melee Hero), Lina (Intelligence based Long Range Hero)

Over Powered
Bloodseeker (Agility based Melee Hero), Viper (Agility+Intelligence based Long Range Hero), Sniper (Agility based Long Ranged Hero)

Personal Favorites
Legion Commander (because she's so awesome), Viper (because he poisons and how cool is that), Sniper (because running away with him sounds easy and he mega kills around level 15ish)

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

We talked about the dazzling side of DOTA2 but I promised to write why you shouldN'T play as well! And that's exactly what we're going to talk about now. The game sounds amazing and intriguing but- why shouldn't you play it?

First of all, this game is highly addicting. You'll be having so much fun building up your character in each game and trying to kill other people and dying that you won't realize how much time you've spent on one game (which is an average of at least thirty minutes to a full hour- if we're talking about the shortest time span). Think about it. You need to level up your character, carry your creep wave to the enemy, destroy towers, kill Heroes, advance deeper in and then raid the base- while your enemy is doing the absolute same. It's definitely going to take quite a bit of time.

On top of that, since every game starts with all the characters at level one, it's going to add to the addiction. How about I build this character in that way now? How about I take another character? How about I play as a jungler and just farm next time? There are a variety of Heroes, build up styles, playing styles and not to mention the situation itself, making each and every game you play unique. The possibilities of game play is endless and just as engaging as the first. 

On the other hand, DOTA2 can also get extremely frustrating (doesn't that happen in every game?). It is difficult to "learn" to be a pro player- even by practice- so if you're a newbie who didn't click in to the set up, chances are you'll never click in (yeah, that's me). If you mess up in a game once, chances are that you're going to be targeted (whether by bots or players) because your mistake will make you look vulnerable. Even if you're strong, all your enemies are going to go for killing you first because you'll look easy and against a big group, you will be the first to fall. All because of that one tiny mistake.

So you frequently mess up your game and keep getting targeted and you want to improve your playing style. Let me tell you something- I've been playing for a while and I haven't figured out how to level up my own playing so I can't advise anyone on that. Also, I don't like admitting I'm a really bad player. Conclusion? More frustration while badly playing a game you're already bad at and can't improve in.

Last but not least, DOTA2 has the option of online play. Oh, let me warn you. The DOTA2 community is harsh and unforgiving. Online rules aside, I'm talking about the players. If you die, you're stamped as a noob loudly and if you repeat that mistake (even after repeatedly announcing your own noob-ness) there are high chances of being abused. Oh and you know what I do? I mute all my team mates and don't get to see what they're saying and then I do whatever I want and make the team lose. This is going to happen every single time so I just stick to bot games nowadays.

But if we decide to put aside the issues put up by players in online play, we end up with two other problems. First of all, while playing online, you cannot PAUSE the game (because there's other people playing and they're not going to like the pause) so forget playing online casually. You would really have to sit down and dedicate a solid hour to your game, playing online. Next, if you lag, you can say "Game Over" for you because not only does only YOUR game stop, but your character is going to be stranded and (1) miss out on experience and loot (2) become easy killing targets if abandoned near your area frontier. Easy solution to online play would be to just play offline with bots. Much less hassle.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

So here's why you should and shouldn't play DOTA2. I've put my reasons forward, coupled with my own experiences and now it's your turn to decide on what you're going to do. Are you going to dive into this rich world of Heroes and battle or just do the smart thing and walk past?

this is a re-post article that was originally on my previous blog. the content is solely the work of the author.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Low Battery Challenge: October 2015

I seem to have disappeared for a few days, but I am back with a new series- a joint challenge with Envy! Without further ado, I present to you-
What exactly is this challenge about?

It's about getting rid of the usual hold that technology has over us and in the process, hopefully conserve some energy by unplugging ourselves from our devices and our devices from the mains supply.

Sometimes, I go over the schedule I had for the day and notice that I could have done so much more if it wasn't for the infinite scrolling provided by Facebook, tumblr and Pinterest! As a result, I jumped at the chance of going through a 'cold turkey' to throw these habits off my back and get back to being productive! I would much rather spend an hour of solid studying rather than three hours which include amusing myself as I study...

Unfortunately, throwing technology out the window is nearly impossible, especially with academics depending so heavily on it. I need my phone to stay connected so I can be updated about classes and lectures. As a result, I too have drawn up my own set of rules to follow throughout the duration of October.

Rule#1: Delete every single social media app on my phone except Whatsapp and twitter.

Rule#2: I am not allowed to use these apps to start new conversations unless it's absolutely necessary. I am, however, allowed to update my twitter feed.

Rule#3: I am allowed to freely use other educational apps like Quizlet, Duolingo, Inkling, iBooks, Adobe etc.

Rule#4: I must shift my academic data onto my laptop instead of my phone so that my studying remains limited to the use of my laptop only.

Rule#5: I am allowed to access tumblr, Facebook, Blogger and Pinterest on my laptop but with a time restriction of 30 minutes a day.

Rule #6: I am allowed to "save" and "use" my hours. For example, if I do not utilize the 30 minutes for social networking on a weekday, I am allowed to convert it to an hour of internet on a weekend.

These rules might make the challenge sound really easy, but believe me, it's not! I spent my first day aimlessly flipping through my phone, looking for something to do but finding absolutely nothing- since I'd deleted everything! After the initial moments of feeling lost, I was forced to actually think about doing something productive! Imagine that. I'm hoping my thoughts turn into actions as October progresses!

Expect more posts to come your way as I take up my pen to write, once again!
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