Saturday, March 26, 2005

Public holidays are good for the dog. Yesterday we took Q-tip out for a run at Bishan Park. This place has memories for her because she went to school here. Yep, Q-tip has a certificate in Basic Obedience Training, the dog equivalent of a pre-school education. The Bishan Dog Run is operated by the Singapore Kennel Club who hold classes for owners and their dogs. It was awesome to see what the more advanced dogs could do through the obstacle course, and then we have our own dog. Hrmph.

Today, Q-tip is in danger of having her certification revoked. What do you expect? She only passed because she was so small the examiner was distracted by the misbehaviour of other bigger dogs and passed her by default. She seems to understand voice commands only in certain contexts, and obeys certain commands given only by certain people. For example, she knows the "down-stay-up" routine just before dinnertime and only when I give the command, and she will only "shake hands" with June.

Anyway, Q-tip was off her leash for most of her run. Nice to get out into the sun once in a while. We lunched at the Acacia, the park's cafe. Dogs and owners sit outside on the patio under the trees. Dogs even get served a bowl of water, though Q-tip was too excited to even notice it. I had a very mushroomy meal 'cos I wasn't thinking straight. I ordered a very creamy wild mushroom soup and followed it up with a gratined penne in mushroom and cream cheese sauce. I didn't regret my order, though. It was delish, though I thought I could have used a bit more meat and veggies to round off my meal. June obliged me by not finishing her beef stew and letting me share the remains with Q-tip. Chunky, not-overcooked, tender beef with mashed potatoes. Mmmm... Veggies... does the sprig of parsely count? The meal was just a little bit salty so next time we'll remember to request for less salt.

Drove to Chinatown to pick up a few bottles of xuan mei shui (sour plum juice) which June has grown addicted to. It's a great thirst quencher, especially when it goes down very chilled though I hesitate to say that I like it because the aftertaste seems to me to be a bit... feminine(?). Not so good for my primitive macho image. I got myself a water chestnut drink instead. If you're looking for local cold juices and teas to-go, the stall is on the ground floor of the Yangtze Building.

Took June's folks out to Changi Village for dinner. The stall selling the famous nasi lemak wasn't open when we arrived at 6pm (it opens at 6:30 and the queue is unbelievable) so I settled for a less famous stall immediately opposite it. Wow! Mdm Rozzie's nasi was already so good. Crispy chicken wing, ikan bilis, fish fillet (extra $1) quite standard, but the rice was so fluffy and so lemak I was almost halfway through scoffing the lot before June returned with her bowl of prawn noodles. She insisted on trading on the spot so I took over her full bowl and she polished off the remnants of my nasi. Then she went to get another bowl of prawn noodles for herself. We were so stuffed after that. The walk along the beach helped a bit.

Came back early and still had time to watch "Robots," which was a pretty good story, though I felt it was more "Shark Tale" than "The Incredibles" in terms of excitement. Oops, my biases are showing.

Friday, March 25, 2005

Crawled in after midnight again last night. Chew, my Mazda Sales Exec, was right. Life changes when you have a car. Options open up to the once unthinkable, i.e., going home late, when there is no need to worry about transportation and midnight taxi surcharges.

Last night was the first game of the Ministry's bowling league. Result: the Gutter Boys got their asses royally kicked in competition. Things happened too fast to make an actual count of the team's score but we're running at least 200 pinfalls behind most other teams and it's a good bet that we've started the competition at the bottom of the table. (Will post a link to the official results when it comes on-line).

It's nothing to get upset about, disappointed with our performance maybe, but we have to remember that we already knew we had to raise our game to play at this level. Here is where the P's advice about 'being a big fish in a small pond' falls flat on its face. We're not competing within our own in-house league anymore. The champs of a small-time league now have a sea to swim in and the sharks, there are a-plenty. Everyone someday will have to move up to a bigger pond, to be the small fish again, or if not will forever remain the 'frog in the well.'

Most improved bowler in the team is Vince who has indeed taken his game to a new level. Very proud of him last night for raising his average to the 120s when he is usually happy just to reach 100. My own average maintained at 140, which for me is a good start, though I still have to improve to be worthy of the competition.

It's Anthony and Yee who, I think, have let the competition get to them. Of course, we've never had to share lanes with a team that bowls strikes and spares all the time (and our neighbours aren't even the best team) but this pressure just might be pushing Anthony and Yee into overachiever mode, which distracts them from their usual game. Instead of competing with their normal jovial, relaxed, poking fun at Vince and Amy style, they have become over-critical of themselves, which is a lot less fun than if they continued to just be critical of other people. That sounds contradictory but it's true.

5 more games left and our ass kicking last night makes us hungry to train with more determination. We may have had a poor start but we're going to end with with a hugely improved personal game and the right to swim with the sharks in a bigger pond. Da dum, da dum...

Amy and Vince's fellow Council advisors got together with us after the game and we drowned our sorrows in beverages and KTV. We had a mix of Chinese and English tunes, all from the mid-eighties and further back in history. Don't these people update their catalogues? Anthony and I lost our voices screaming projecting "You Give Love a Bad Name" and "When Love and Hate Collide" amongst other of the loudest music available for selection, well, not that there were many to choose from. There were a number of mellow ones as well, but you know our preference.

Other details, let's see... the Gent's was covered in puke and when we left at about 1am there were 2 couples left in the main lounge dancing to some Chinese techno song. One couple was an ah pek swinging his hips with his young lady friend whose hips were equally fluid. I hesitate to speculate.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Production has ground to a standstill because of block test week. Drama Night opens in a month and a week's time and we can't work on it until the tests are over. So far we've roughly blocked out about 3 acts of 8 with one act and a conclusion yet to be written. Music is beautiful but coming in in dribs and drabs, so far nothing produced that our choreographer can work with as far as major dance numbers go. The set materials have already been delivered but they still have to be worked with to see how they actually fit into the overall design of the show. Costume shopping scheduled for tomorrow and early next week.

So some things are moving but only 5 weeks left to get our act together and make a show for the college. At this time I still really miss working with Cara. Emotionally, it was good to know that someone else was equally obsessed with the production making it priority number one regardless of other um... obligations. I know my production staff and crew are doing their best, and I appreciate the contributions they've been making and will continue to be making in the coming weeks, but I still feel alone, like I'm the only one looking at the show as a major highlight of the year, and it seems to me that the others see it as just another thing on their plate (which is actually true, but still...).

In 5 weeks the show isn't likely to be 'ready.' It'll be rough and in need of serious polishing but though I've asked there isn't going to be an extension. The show will go on as is, a work-in-progress at best. And somewhere in all this, I have to wonder whether someone else playing Producer instead of me would have done a better job controlling the production in terms of planning the schedule, setting and enforcing deadlines, scolding people when they needed to be scolded, encouraging people when they're down, and a whole bunch of other things that go on behind the scenes. Probably. I'm not blind to my own strengths and weaknesses.

The next 5 weeks are going to be hell not just for me but for everyone involved in the production. But then a good show is worth killing ourselves over in making it happen. I hope the Club, staff, students will agree with me on this and pull off a knockout production like we promised ourselves at the beginning of this season. The audience deserves our best and I truly hope we can deliver.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Checked out the competition for the Ministry's bowling league based on last year's results. The opposition is TOUGH. Our team, as far as current practice goes, places us about mid-table -- IF we're bowling consistently well. Comparing individual scores, most opposing team members average 170 per game. Then there are outstanding individuals, both men and women who are scoring in the 200 range. Ouch. This contest is going to be no pushover. Hopefully our weekly training sessions will improve our game until we're scoring with the best by the end of the tourney, sometime in September. Wish us luck!

Edit 01:
There! Fixed my graphics problem with KOTOR 2. Just switch off the "Grass" option in the game setup. It may not be as pretty as watching the grass part as your party runs through it, but the graphics won't screw up now and the game is now playable in the open spaces on Dantooine, Dxun and Korriban. Hope nothing else will go wrong now.

Edit 02:
I was wrong about Dantooine. Sigh.

Monday, March 21, 2005

Official last day for the J1 CTs before the permanent posting results are released tomorrow. It's kinda' sad, kinda' nostalgic as the kids sat together in the hall not knowing if they'll see each other again when orientation begins on Wednesday. Group shots and other photo opportunities all round and so the morning passed all too quickly for them.

Meantime, a couple of graduating students asked me for letters of recommendation and to fill up forms of personal appraisal to stand them a better chance of getting the course they are applying for at the U. This sort of request is usually by students who are applying for overseas Unis, but recently the local institutes of tertiary education are adopting a similar application procedure to assess candidates from an all-round perspective rather than just by grades alone. Another indication that things here are becoming more comparable to the realities of the rest of the world. Our kids have been too protected for too long. It's good to see that we are in a way beginning to let go.

Monday evening bowling practice for the Gutter Boys. Me with my new ball, leaving Vince who didn't have a personal ball, a situation he quickly rectified at the pro bowl shop. Shoes, ball, bag in a package and now our whole team is fully kitted up, no need to rely any further on the availability of house equipment. You could say we're taking this game quite seriously now.

But can we bowl? A slight improvement on my average (140 over 6 games); Yee needs to find his form again but he's slowly getting there; Anthony's doing ok (156 average over 3 games); and Vince improving his game too -- good first throws because with his new ball he has to deal with the increased weight and custom grip and so he's throwing with more caution and accuracy now; but we could all still bowl with a lot more consistency. Scattering strikes and spares isn't going to put us up there with the best this tourney has to offer. Will we be good enough? We'll find out this Thursday when we play our first match of 6.

Dinner at the bak kut teh place on Balestier Road. Anthony will kill me for publicizing this secret but there is a public parking lot hidden behind the eating places on Prome Road so there is no need to fight for scarce parking along the main road or park illegally in the area. It's free parking in the evening too!

The bak kut teh is in a clear soup, lots of garlic cloves and meaty, chunky bones to gnaw on. It still doesn't compare to the one that used to be at the defunct Hill Street Food Centre (now an overgrown vacant lot), but it's still quite good.

Turned down Anthony's suggestion to have another practice game after dinner. No point overtraining. Priority set for rest and sleep tonight. So what am I doing blogging? Um...

Sunday, March 20, 2005

Ah, my poor neglected blog.

KOTOR 2 is one absorbing game that pushes its story chapter by chapter so strongly that hours of gameplay go by so quickly that the sun is up and birds are tweeting in the trees before you decide that perhaps it's time for bed.

Not that the game is a perfect one. Gamers using ATI cards (Radeon, etc.) may suffer serious graphics glitches, at times making the game almost unplayable. Lots of complaints about this if you look up the forum pages. There is a workaround: add the line, "Disable Vertex Buffer Objects=1" under the "Graphics Options" heading in the swkotor2.ini file in whatever directory you installed the game in (remember to back up first!). However, this solution still fails to prevent the screen from turning into a pixel pizza. It only allows your party to move to where you want them to go without getting stuck in a wall or mysteriously teleporting to some other part of the map where you didn't want them to go. I guess only the didicated would want to continue playing after this horror story, so Lucasarts or ATI, get it fixed! NOW!

Having finished the game (yay! no more going to bed at 6am!). I would say that the story in KOTOR 2 seems darker than the original. A lot more guilt, death, despair in the backstory, yet our avatar's redemption seems to require little more than a clearing up of a misunderstanding. Or perhaps I was just playing light-side?

The big boss characters in the sequel seem easier to kill too. Or perhaps I know what to do now, having had the benefit of experience from the original? Simple procedure: power up with all Force bonuses (speed, resistance/s, battle meditation if you must) before you open any door you might expect a hornets' nest of baddies. If the battle is going badly for you, power up with speed and run like mad away from battle. Then heal up and return. If you're lucky, the hoard would have scattered a bit pursuing you and back at full health you can pick them off one-by-one. Not very noble, I admit, but it gets the job done.

The ending came a bit abruptly, with a few loose ends unresolved, even unaddressed. That's probably because I had a few sub-plots left to complete before the final battle launched itself on me. If you want the whole story, absolutely DO NOT go into the Shyrack cave on Korriban (I think this was the point of no-return) too early. Make sure you complete all your quests before that, then proceed.

Also, DO build up the "Repair" skill so you can upgrade T3-M4 and find out its story. I didn't do this so I haven't a clue as to what happened to it, the Ebon Hawk, or Revan(?) just before the beginning of KOTOR 2. You can trade off some "Stealth" for "Repair" 'cos there's only so much Stealth you need. Later in the game, you're going in swinging your lightsabres (2 'sabres are better than 1 double-bladed one) so there's not much use for subtlety anyway.

Guess it'll be worth playing again to complete the whole picture, but maybe not until they fix the graphics glitch. Very annoyed about that. >grumble< >grumble<...