Saturday, June 03, 2006

Heaven is waking up from a good, long sleep. The sun is bright outside, but inside the room is a shade of rose-pink-peach reflecting the colour of the walls and the curtains that diffuse the heat and glare of the outside world.

Next to me, June is still asleep, nestled amongst her cat-shaped cushions. In between us, Q-tip has just roused and is looking up expectantly, hoping for an outing soon. She offers up her tummy for a rub, her tongue hanging out appreciatively as I indulge her.

Around us, Momo and Kaiser are at play, jumping on and off the bed in pusuit of each other to avenge a bite or a scratch, though neither can remember who started it first.

And it's a Saturday, in the midst of a long vacation. No agenda, no worries.


Friday, June 02, 2006

Oh my head... I haven't slept in the last 40 hours. Every year around this time I will invariably do something stupid and make a mess of Watson's systems.

Yesterday began promisingly enough with a nice, informal remedial GP session in college. In the afternoon I decided to go check out my old haunt, Sim Lim Square. If there wasn't a game I could pick up from there, then my quest would truly be hopeless.

I picked up "Onimusha 3," a console port, though as I began reading the manual, it was almost with instant regret. The controls on the keyboard look like a nightmare to operate. Different combinations of keys held down produce different effects or movements, but what they actually do I can't qute figure out from the poorly translated instructions. For instance, under "Basic Attacks" we get "It becomes 'Care' while CTRL is being pushed. At this time, it becomes an axis movement to the enemy unit, it enjoys the enemy's back, and it can enjoy "Advanced play"...' Huh? So I haven't installed the game yet 'cos I'm still busy scratching my head over the manual.

How I messed up Watson is a different story. At Sim Lim, I also thought it would be a good idea to invest in a video-capture card so I wouldn't have to depend on the mercies of the hypertension inducing Pentium II in Com Lab 1 any longer.

Video-capture requires a lot of hard-drive space so I happily formatted an unused partition on my c: drive. "Format" instruction (usually) = disaster. My mistake was simultaneously running other applications while the drive was still in being Formatted. Windows crashed, never to be restarted again. June said she didn't know whether to pity me or whether I deserve my disasters. Thanks.

So yesterday turned out to be more expensive than I thought. I ran out to buy a new hard-drive for a fresh, clean install of Win XP. With the new drive, I was able to recover my valuable, sensitive files from the crashed drive, so thankfully I didn't lose too much this time.

From last night till now, it's been a tedious, repetitive task of loading and configuring all my programs the way I want in the new c: drive. What fun. Yay.

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

It was quite an experience returning to CSC in the afternoon for bowling with Amy. Some girls' school team occupied more than a quarter of the lanes. I couldn't tell if they were there to train their motor-skills or their vocal cords. The entire alley was bursting with their incessant cheering, sometimes coordinated and sometimes not. If this is how they are when they're just training, I feel sorry for their opponents in actual competition.

Sharing the next lane to us was a senior citizen. He was friendly enough to give Amy more tips to improve her technique, but he was a little disappointed at our stamina. We only lasted 5 straight games while he was ready to quit only after his 13th.

Wonder if that's the kind of retirement I'm looking forward to? Nothing to do but bowl the afternoon away. I like bowling, but I don't think I like it that much. And oddly enough, I really don't think I could face the prospect of living out my retirement alone. Maybe I'm not tired enough yet to appreciate being re-tired?

Actually, we quit to go watch "Over the Hedge" with HP and Vince. A very clever movie, I thought, about the conflicting drives a society has in a modern, high-tech world. Modern, urban living has its great promises of a more convenient lifestyle. Mostly, it has to do with having the ability to accumulate food without effort, to eat whatever we want, whenever we feel like it, and still be able to leave a mountain of waste behind after we're done.

To the people who actually need to work to eke out a hand-to-mouth existence, urban living promises an unimaginable paradise. But the cost of such a lifestyle is high: people become selfish, suspicious of each other, use each other for their own personal gains, and ultimately the trust that ties a society together breaks down.

Ooh, ooh... and the NE guy in me also sees in the movie a tiny little community surrounded by 1) neighbours with high fences, and 2) the need to interact with them somehow, 3) with ingenuity, innovation, adaptability, and tenacity in order to survive. And yet, in overcoming the threats and dangers we face, we must never forget that our social bonds and family ties are the only things that make our society hold any meaning for us, whether we succeed or fail.

Oh, btw, the movie was hilarious too, despite all the NE talk. Go watch!

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Saw my first (dunno if it'll also be my last) batch of PUS presenters through their presentation this morning. Of the 3 presentations in our grouping, ours by far was the most entertaining. I thought so as I was watching it, and other audience members likewise confirmed it too.

Ours was short, and though we had a serious message, we played it for the laughs anyway. What to do? Ours opened the entire series of Parallel Presentations and it had to set the right tone: lighthearted, fun and not taking ourselves too seriously.

Between video clip and 'live' action on stage we went for seamless transitions, props that actually had a purpose for being, and clear characterization without having to resort to labeling (literally), and without cynical, snide, self-deprecatory asides as if to say, "this is just a piece of theatrical posturing; we're embarrassed to be showing you this." We -- unlike everyone else -- were proud to embarrass ourselves in front of our audience and we got our points across succinctly and got some laughs as well.

Before y'all think I'm looking at the whole thing through rose-tinted glasses, let me say that while we put in a lot of time and effort over the presentation, we could have prepared Mich and Yogs better for the Q&A. They were so tense and uncomfortable trying to field their questions, but clearly their stage fright got the better of them in this totally unrehearsed section. They're good at impov comedy but improv serious takes bit more preparation.

But well done to our team on the whole, video and 'live' presenters alike, for being not boring; for being yourselves on-stage and off; and for all the silly, mad ideas that didn't need a lot of discussion over but just freely offered to anyone who would run with them and see them though to their logical end. Your presentation should be a memorable one for your audience :)

Late afternoon returned to ECP to cycle with Amy and HP. Didn't stay long 'cos I abandoned them to fetch June for our dinner appointment. It was at the Delhi Restaurant, a tandoori place on Race Course Road. Organized by Jo and Aggie, our dinner company also included Lucy, Vince, NBS and Ron. Food was cheap and plentiful and tasty though not spicy (though the tandoori mixed-grill flambe was spectacular); the service was attentive; and the company was stimulating. A nice, agenda-less evening.

Took our drinks at the prata place at Rosyth.

So much to do despite the vacation. Yay!

Monday, May 29, 2006

Finally, the 1st day of PUS arrives. Our motley crew prepares to invade PGP residences. Posted by Picasa

Awaiting processing in AC comfort Posted by Picasa

The check-in counter, where Mel and I bid our children farewell and assured them they were in good hands. They grow up so fast...! Posted by Picasa

Having abandoned our charges, Mel introduced me to Edward, the Western Food operator at the Business canteen. Y'all at Kent Ridge should know what I'm talking about, ya? We ordered 2 lemon fish with pasta/mash and split a cheese-pork wurst. Lunchtime must have been over for quite a while, judging by the empty tables and how cold the fusilli was. But Edward's brownie was excellent, warm and fluffy from the microwave with hot Hershey's chocolate sauce on top. Dying to try his apple pie next time.

Perfect summer weather in the afternoon. Went 'blading on ECP like I've wanted to for so long. Tried adding on my newly discovered track to my existing one. That would have taken me from the East Coast SAFRA Resort to Fort Road and back.

Cannot make it. Nearly died, not from lack of CV endurance but from lactic acid poisoning. My legs were so badly cramped by the time I got past the McD's I had to take frequent rest stops to get my legs responsive again. Then they'd carry me another short distance before I had to stop for another break. It didn't help that when I tried stretching one muscle to relieve the pain, another would immediately cramp up, so it was just a string of agonized cries and curses while I sat and tried to get my legs in working order again and again and again.

Gave up by the time I hit the lifeguard tower west of the McD's and doubled back stiff-legged back to M2. I had parked at the lot just east of the food centre. It was a long and painful journey back.

Well, we can always try for cycling tomorrow.
I was complaining to June about the lack of PC games available in the stores these days. Or rather, the lack of titles I was interested in. It's funny that back when I didn't have any money, I wanted to buy the whole shelf. Today, with some measure of spending power, I'm just staring at the shelf, eyes glazed.

What's on the shelf these days? Let's see... shoot-em-ups and wargames in 1st person and 3rd; the Sims and its myriad expansion packs; driving games (some allowing shootouts between cars); Myst spinoffs and knockoffs; and some budget puzzlers and re-releases for the nostalgic. Been there done that.

Wonder if my tastes have changed, or if there really isn't anything new out there any more?

Disappointed, I did some surfing and found a couple of things that managed to amuse me for a while. Zuma from Shockwave, a match-the-coloured-balls-and-make-them-disappear-before-they-overwhelm-you game with an Aztec theme can be played for free online. It offers some quick-thinking action, though the online version tends to be limited and repetitve after a while.

I also found a little treasure (subjectively speaking). AGD Interactive appears to have taken over the license of the original "King's Quest" series. They've remade this antique -- no make that "pioneering" -- graphic adventure game and re-released KQ1 and KQ2 in VGA format. For you whippersnappers out there, that means moving sprites on flat background only and no system-sucking 3D polygonal whizz-bang-crash nonsense. They've even added in a music track and a speech pack to make the games more up-to-date, say c.1995.

I'm not saying games of the past were "better" than they are now. Graham, our avatar, is seriously lacking in intelligence and pathfinding ability. He walks off ledges, cliffs, beanstalks; drowns and gets crushed by falling rocks all too easily, which means we have to baby-step him through the more dangerous environments to prevent a reload scenario. I was clicking and yawning my way through KQ1 yesterday and I'm still only about halfway thorough. But if I was going to be bored anyway, I might as well be bored for free.

... I'm getting old.