Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Picked up "Marvel Ultimate Alliance", an RPG-lite. Actually, it's more like a team beat-'em-up. There are 4 Marvel superheroes in a team. Including unlockable characters, there're up to 20 Marvel favourites to mix and match. The default team is already pretty strong: Cap Am, Spidey, Thor and Wolvie.

Each character has his or her special moves, and there are several ways to customize their attributes, powers and costumes. Levelling up is automatic, but there is also the option to spend points accumulated through missions as well as unique item upgrades to collect. The opportunity to create so many different permutations of heroes and experiment with which powers complement others the best is a fanboy's dream.

Not a lot of brainwork needed. Just mash buttons until all enemy characters have had the stuffing kicked out of them. Problem is, there're so many buttons to try out that a qwerty keyboard is not ideally suited to put all controls within easy reach of wildly flailing fingers. Customizing keyboard controls to your preference is definitely a priority before the action gets hot and heavy.

Storyline's basic. A mass consortium of evil-doers band together for some nefarious scheme necessitating an equivalent alliance of do-gooders to stop them. There is an element of distrust thrown into the hero camp as SHIELD, the sponsor of the alliance, seems to have a hidden agenda in the midst of all this chaos.

Lots of background info on the heroes, villains and locations to gather as well through interacting with numerous NPCs, and, boy, do they have a lot to yak about. The game's almost like a playable encyclopaedia of Marvel trivia, so even players who have no knowledge of the Marvel Universe won't feel left out in the cold -- if they have the patience to sit through every conversation.

Gameplay-wise, I would have prefered it to be more turn-based, like KOTOR, so there's a bit more strategizing involved in battles. But it's a lot more visceral this way, mindlessly bashing at enemies until they pop in a shower of points and power-ups.

It's going to be a long campaign...

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

There's a certain young person by the name of Lee, a permanent resident happy to go home to America, never to set foot on S'pore soil again. He's so proud to be American, so different from the rest of us, and yet, the nature of his complaints are so Singaporean, I think we brainwashed him better than he thought. It's pitiful.

His first anecdote about life in S'pore is about his trauma at being forced to sing our National Anthem. Like the rest of our students don't go through this experience? Getting them to sing early in the morning is like pulling teeth but we go through the ritual anyway. So what does he do to cope? He opens his mouth but doesn't say the words.

His response tells us a lot about his discomfort living here. He sings the anthem, but not really. He doesn't believe in it, he doesn't engage in it, he doesn't live it, and guess what? The consequence is, he feels left out, apart, alone. No wonder he's not happy. It's like what he's doing in his blog entry: mouthing off, but the words aren't actually coming out.

So he's pissed off at having to serve NS. What? Just because he's American born means he's exempt from serving community time for the community he's living in? After all, he admits he has a S'porean IC, so regardless of whatever has been written as his "Place of Birth", what matters more is, what's his current address?

The rest of his complaints are so familiar to us. We hear them in taxis, kopitiams and mahjong tables until they've become almost a part of our (apparently) non-existant culture. He complains about our govt, the poor standard of the Opposition in politics, the poor standard of spoken Mandarin... he's so at home with us whether he wants to admit it or not.

Ironically, he signs off as being from the "land of the free and the home of the brave." That's a bit of an insult to the US Marines actually facing life and death situations in Afghanistan and Iraq, and elsewhere around the world. It smacks George Washington in the face, whose citizen militia won American freedom. How brave can he be if he can't even take our NS training?

And he knows nothing about what being free means. According to John F Kennedy, "The cost of freedom is always high, but Americans have always paid it. And one path we shall never choose, and that is the path of surrender, or submission." With his eyes always on the escape hatch -- going home to America -- our friend, Lee, looks like he can't wait to wave the white flag and retreat to what he thinks his home is.

Honestly, I'm no big patriot. I just think that with his attitude, Lee will never be able to call any place "home", whether here, or the US of A.

Oh, btw, his blog:

Monday, November 13, 2006

In today's Life! section, Suzanne Sng muses, "I do not understand why men who show the slightest affinity to children are instantly desirable. When a guy professes to liking children, most women look at them through different eyes. They somehow suddenly appear more endearing, more evolved, more nurturing, more stable, more marriageable... "

Perhaps there is a bio-chemical reason for this phenomenon. Jennifer Barone reports in my December copy of Discover that:
"after comparing the brains of [marmoset] males with offspring with brains of childless males in mating pairs, [Princeton neuroscientists] Kozorovitskiy and Gould found that fathers not only had more connections between neurons in their prefrontal cortex, a region involved in anticipating consequences and attaining goals, but they also had more receptors for vassopressin, a neurohormone linked to social interaction and bonding."

Although they haven't tested to see if male human brains develop in the same way after fatherhood, Sng's casual observation suggests that the premise is probably true. That sort of means that childless human males in a couple relationship are basically slackers and have poorer social skills.

Heyyyy...! Whatchu talkin' 'bout, Willis?
Still feeling lousy. Best to remain in isolation for today. No point risking infecting anyone else unnecessarily. Hope 1 more day's rest will do the job 'cos the rest of the week I have places to see, things to go and people to do. Um... something like that.

The past week's been terrible. With Q-tip down, and now me, we've kept the air-conditioning off and because it's so hot at night, we haven't been able to sleep properly since the whole thing started. The past couple of nights we've taken to sleeping in the living room where the ceiling fan is, but that is also a trade-off.

"Wonder how much we'll save on our power bill this month?" he speculates, all panda-eyed.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Experimenting with the new Blogger Beta version. Everything looks more or less the same, but I'm having trouble integrating Haloscan comments. Bother!

Edit 01:
There, Haloscan works again! Thanks to LP!