Saturday, June 19, 2004

Had dinner at Jen's place. Simple affair, well, relatively simple as Jen's house is a major crossroad for assorted drop-ins ranging from family to neighbours, to friends of various family members. Our party comprised me and June, Adrian and Mary (who brought her dog, Millie to see her mom, Ashley). Adrian is now obsessed with deciding which car to purchase, having test driven his latest 3 options (a BM, a Lexus and a Merc) this morning. He is now canvassing our opinions on which car we think he looks best in. I told him I think the BM, since the other 2 seem more like the type elderly gentlemen would drive, but then I could be wrong. >shrug< Don't know much about the car market 'cos I'm not in it. My cars are virtual.

June brought over the agar she made today in teddy bear and rabbit shapes. Simple pandan flavour in the first layer and a hand-squeezed coconut milk base layer. Nice, firm consistency and not too sweet. Jen's home-made guacamole starter was delicious -- so good I took some home on my t-shirt. Last time it was Ragu sauce. My t-shirts get nervous every time I take them to visit Jen.

We discussed how antisocial June and I are with our neighbours. It's true. We'd climb the stairs if we see our neighbours get in the lift before us, we quickly and quietly slip into our front door to avoid attracting attention from our neighbours who always keep their doors open whenever they're home, we check if the coast is clear from our door peephole before we leave our house. When we do these things, it doesn't seem so wierd to us, but talking about it, it really does seem that we are a pair of neurotics. Definitely not kampong-like behaviour but more consistent with city dwellers from NYC. June says she wasn't like that before she met me, and I believe her.

OK. You must think I'm totally nuts, but I make no excuses for my behaviour. My social circle is small, tight-knit and I like it that way. As I experience life, I sense that when people treat you well, it's because there is a potential in you that they think they can exploit in return. I hate being evaluated in terms of how much profit I can make for others and therefore how much they are prepared to invest in me.

It was like this when I was working in the private sector, then I got tired of providing service so that people like Ong Beng Seng and Kwek Leng Beng could get richer and richer. Actually I hardly made them a cent, but it was the principle, you see? It was so pointless helping someone already rich get richer, when I thought the right thing to do was to help those who were not yet rich create opportunities to become rich for themselves. So, among other things in my life, I decided to dump the private sector and teach instead. Great. Big philanthropist I am. Besides, it's fun and there's holidays and stuff.

Funny how your mind wanders, jumping from topic to topic like this. Oh well, this blog is supposed to be self-reflective anyway. Ended the evening watching "Along Came Polly" which was sweet and funny, light entertainment for all. A pleasant evening.
Ravenclaw! Some might see you as a bit haughty, but
that's just because they lack the intellectual
capacity to be worthy of your presence. You see
little difference between enlightenment and
entertainment; learning experiences are
tremendously enjoyable for you. And remember,
kids: just because you're brilliant doesn't
mean you're studious!

A More Unique Hogwarts Sorting Quiz
brought to you by Quizilla

Thanks 'sif!
So much for taking my time with DVC. It certainly is a page turner. The plot is like a scavenger hunt leading from one clue to the next and is full of puzzles that the reader can get caught up in and try to solve for himself. The puzzles are relatively simple -- anagrams, riddles and substitution codes -- easy enough for the reader to be intrigued with yet solvable within the scope of the reader's abilities, if he had the time and inclination to do so. DVC keeps you hooked because you have to find out if your guesses were "correct."

The material in DVC may be disturbing to the more religious of us, but there is no new information that is presented (which was mainly what I was looking for). It's essentially a mystery story enveloped in the familiar conspiracy theories of secret societies with hidden agenda, using material from already published sources. The Code itself has little to do with Da Vinci himself, but refers to the clues left behind by a murder victim for our protagonists to follow through (so don't be fooled like I was).

Some character names are literally applied, like Fache, which means "don't f**k with me or I'll tear your head off" or something like it, although the word won't translate in Babelfish. Maybe it's an outdated usage. Sauniere is a name closely related to the Grail legends, and Sophie (as in "Sophie's World") means "wisdom," which is itself a clue to one of the major puzzles presented.

The suspense is created the usual way -- hunters being hunted, needing to finish their quest before they are stopped by one force or another. Their mandatory betrayal should also come as no surprise since there are few suspects to eliminate in the first place. Brown plays the so-near-and-yet-so-far game of "pass the parcel", a childishly simplistic, yet effective means of maintaining intrigue. Each layer either reveals a reward (plot progression) or a forfeit (a setback or obstacle to overcome). Either way, you just have to keep unwrapping the parcel until you reach the central prize. Yes, Brown does provide a final payoff although he also provides enough clues for you to guess what it is one or two layers too early before the end.

The Grail theme is used in games like the Broken Sword trilogy and in "Gabriel Knight: Blood of the Sacred, Blood of the Damned." It's fun to mess around with mythology and try and tie the old legends into our own lives. I just wish I had known DVC fell under this category before I bought the book. Duh, the book's spine says "Fiction".

Thursday, June 17, 2004

Went absolutely stir crazy. Got fed up with my pasty self cooped up in my musty old room indulging my obsessions and trying to get some work done at least. Bored out of my skull, which is strange because once my idea of perfection was being solitary but now, solitary has become so booooring! Does this mean I've become more mature... or less?

Too much electronic stimulation, can sense my brain turning into total slush. Just had to get out and do something, buy something. But it's hard to be creative in your activities when you're so out of touch with what's happening in town. So I went to Kino at Bugis Junction to look for some reading material for a change. Why there? I swung by Sim Lim (again) to see what's up first. Staggered through SL Square with an armful of Xeroxed flyers advertising the best buys of the day but there's still nothing I want. It's impossible to avoid the people (I'm being charitable, they're touts actually) hanging around the escalators and escape without being handed something. While you're trying to avoid one, another will stick a flyer in your hands when you're not looking! The establishment should scatter recycling bins around the mall where we can stuff all these unwanted materials. I just folded my stack up and dumped them in the trash. A serious shopper KNOWS what he wants.

Thankfully, Kino stocked the books I was looking for, Brown's "The Da Vinci Code" (DVC) and Gaiman's "Neverwhere." I didn't expect to find the latter since I've not been able to find it before on other book shopping expeditions, but there it was sitting in the Fantasy section instead of Fiction (interestingly, Kino displays all fiction titles under the Literature section, how undiscriminatory). Brown was so much harder to find. I thought there would be piles of his book around since it's such a bestseller, but it wasn't in any section I looked. Then I happened to pass a restocking trolley just about to be wheeled away by a Kino staff and there it was! I grabbed a copy before it disappeared from sight. Now, I'm not so sure about DVC. My interest perked after Broken Sword and it's allusions to Templar mythology, but Brown is starting to read like a crime mystery novel although I expected more. Well, I'm committed already and I'm determined to finish DVC before I begin on "Neverwhere." It could take weeks since I can only read while in transit. Whatever. I need the stimulation of the written word every now and then.

Tuesday, June 15, 2004

It's a great feeling knowing that when you go to sleep tonight, you don't have to wake up early if you don't want to.

Too much durian in me. Got 3 fruit stalls downstairs selling durians and a wife who cant resist. 3 days in a row we've bought durians and I've like got my fill for the year! (Easy to say now, but if June wants durian tomorrow, I'll still go for it)! There's no medical equivalent for the term, but "heatiness" is a real phenomenon. I can feel it doing nasty things to me although I can't describe the symptom exactly. I must remember to keep hydrating myself throughout the day unless I want to fall sick, which I definitely do not. Especially when an MC isn't going to do me any good at this time. Remind me to drink lots of water, ok?

Monday, June 14, 2004

Just a note to mark the mid point of our summer vacation. Piles of work left to complete (hey, it's a working vacvation) but I can proudly say I have completed 112 of 111 campaign races in NFS:U and can consider myself as having finished the game. My pearlescent green Miata made me sick to look at it so I changed it for a Nissan Skyline GTR but I finished the game switching back to my trusty Miata but this time in pearlescent yellow which looked a bit better. Over the weekend I picked up Broken Sword: The Sleeping Dragon, an adventure game published quite a while ago although I hadn't paid it much attention at the time. The story revolves around conspiracy theories involving the Knights Templar and a smattering of mythologies from different ancient cultures. Puzzles are quite easy to solve, so the game wasn't much of a challenge. I've already finished it, though I might have done so earlier if not for the game crashing once and me forgetting to save a major chunk of my progress and having to backtrack quite a way to return to where I was before the crash. Mental note: please Save often. Thank you.

OK, enough fun. Maybe it's time to look at your in-tray and appreciate the growing stack of real-life to-do things -- stuff you are paid to do, eh? Groan.
Stayed up to watch England snatch defeat from the jaws of victory from France last night! All through the match I kept telling myself that the French were playing so much better, stringing passes together, taking adventurous shots at goal, while the English were just content to pack their penalty box with men and clearing to touch without much thought to counterattack after their solitary first-half goal.

Barthez must be over the moon having saved a Beckham penalty. I thought the England captain was too casual taking the shot, and I knew he would rue his flippancy. But the French just had to keep the suspense right down to the very last couple of minutes to scramble a last gasp win from an almost certain loss. Zidane showed real class with his two dead-ball shots, cooly slotted in with no mistake, within a minute of each other to break the hearts of English fans around the world (wow, so drama). The French deserved their victory with their never-say-die fighting spirit. They have really stamped their quality on this year's European Cup championship, and they are certainly the team to beat.

After the match the camera panned over the English supporters and their faces were so shell-shocked. The French supporters were, of course, delirious. Me, I'm sleep deprived but satisfied. Who would have believed it? A Hollywood script couldn't have done better.

Sunday, June 13, 2004

Mom's gone off to, get this, Alaska and she's extended the usual tour package so she can spend more time in Vancouver to meet up with our relatives there. Mom, the social butterfly, while Dad stays home all alone, just the way he likes it! I think I take after my Dad. I don't like meeting new people, related or otherwise. I've always found people stressful to be with. That is, I don't purposely go out of my way to say "hi" to just anybody. It's like, after the initial greeting, what then, you know? Nah, I'm not good with people at all. Give me a task to work on with someone, ok, our conversation has a purpose and a meaning. On a social level with no immediate goal to achieve, "???..." It does get uncomfortable.

Samurai Jack says, "... most people talk too much without actually saying anything." I've got nothing against small talk, it's just not my kind of thing.

Sorry. Getting sidetracked. I just wanted to say that the family continued our Sunday dinner even though it was a last minute arrangement. Dad didn't have enough food for all of us at such short notice so we had a pot-luck instead. We celebrated Father's Day a week early as my sister will be out of town next weekend to visit Bath, England. Man, I'm stuck in Singapore all through this hol. Maybe I'm more like my dad than I dare think!

Tried to fix my bro's PC while he wasn't home, but it looks like it's beyond repair. I feel a little responsible because it previously belonged to me and I let him buy it over cheap when I got it upgraded last year. His keyboard registers though the keys don't function and when it shuts down Win ME, the OS shuts down but the hardware doesn't. The reset button doesn't function either. He's going to need a new PC but I'm not about to let him inherit Watson (my current PC) just yet. An upgrade is in the works, true, but again, not so soon. As I mentioned before, there's no pressing need to upgrade yet. But if he gets himself a new PC, who's going to inherit Watson when his upgrade is due? What a dilemma.