Saturday, November 14, 2009

A grand set

I don't mind adding my endorsement of Flamingg Mangos' set lunch deal. Prices range from $11.90 to $16.90 per set. For the $16.90 set, the starter is either a salad or sup du jour and a complementary chunk of garlic bread per set ordered.

June ordered the half-slab pork back ribs and I had the mixed grill comprising lamb, grilled dory coated over with a thick layer of Hollandaise sauce and two chix franks. Both plates were generously loaded with nice, big portions of meat and side salad. Since the main dish already comes with its own salad, it makes sense to order the soup to start.

Dessert was a large brownie square, soft and moist, packed with walnuts, topped with warm fudge AND served a la mode -- choice of choc, vanilla or strawberry.

Free-flow ice-cold water was on the house. Service, as always, was attentive and friendly.

And one more plus point: no discrimination against Q-tip or her species. :)

That was brunch. It's way past dinner time now, but we're still so full I think the next time we see food will be breakfast tomorrow morning.

Oh, in case MDA is reading, I paid in full for both sets. Happy?

Friday, November 13, 2009

Hall monitor elite

Going from one week non-stop talking to kids in consults to talking with nobody while on hall monitor duty (and nobody after) is quite a shock to the system. Before: brain furiously active, improvising responses to difficult questions on the spot without skipping a beat. After: Almost total brain shut down, performing the highly essential task of making one's presence felt in the exam hall, while in reality merely functioning as a dispenser of paper and watching the digital clock counting life away. The idle mind is a philosophical mind.

Or keeping tabs on toilet breaks. It's amazing how popular the toilet is during a three-hour paper. There's a constant flow of kids (mostly boys, oddly enough) who need to "get up and go", more this year than in any other I've ever encountered. Guess we'll be instituting some kind of bladder training as an essential exam skill when word gets around.

Anyway, I may be a disgruntled hall monitor this year because I think the rotations could be more even. Yes, I'm sympathetic to the headache that comes with scheduling monitors with papers with venues, and it's a nightmare and all, but sticking one 'elite' group with all the big papers is a little too convenient and presumes that we don't notice -- and even if we did, we don't mind. As one of the 'elite', though I can't speak for the others, I will say for the record, I do and I do.

Two... more... weeks...!

Monday, November 09, 2009

"Dragon Age: Origins" first impressions

Traded up from RPG-lite to full blown RPG with "Dragon Age: Origins". Bioware has put in a massive storyline including different beginning stories to play through depending on which species (human, elf or dwarf) has been picked as the main character.

Did I mention the game is huge? As it is, so much detail and melodrama has gone into the prologue which, as all good RPGs should, is a tutorial of the game mechanics such as inventory-keeping, party combat, and character equipping and building.

No auto-builds here -- each party member is individually customizable to suit the player's preferred play style. A mix of ranged, magic and melee attacks and defences are needed to build a team that can survive the enemy hoards, and though it's necessary to micromanage everything, the multiplicity of decisions you have to make at every level-up can be tedious and frustrating when you realize you've chosen badly with no take-backs.

Combat is tough, especially since I have yet to master tactical control over the party. People tend to get killed off-screen while I'm busy with a swarm of nasties on my end; so now I've gone back to my tried-and-tested technique: position ranged attackers, then draw small groups of enemy into the kill-zone, chipping away at them bit by bit until victory. Wading into the crowd like a tank is suicide, but the game would go a lot faster if that were possible.

My rig is, however, giving a lot of serious lag problems, with the game playing like a slide-show when there's lots of movement on-screen. I have better than recommended specs, so there's something obviously wrong with my config. It's still a problem even on the lowest graphics settings, so how to fix? Grumble, grumble...

Anyway, only played through the prologue and ventured some ways into the main story so far. So interesting to eavesdrop on side-conversations between party members as we run across the map. Depending on their attitudes towards each other, they bicker, gripe or whine at each other on the hoof (yeah, my team has teamwork issues). That's the level of detail I've uncovered so far. And that's not including the downloadable content (DLC) yet. Did I mention this game is huge? And with DLC, it'll just keep growing.

Game bugs? I think I encountered one the first time I encountered an ogre. He was killing my team with ease, until he must have got bored. On my last reload, he just stood there and took all the puny punishment my team could dish out without retaliating, then finally worn out, he keeled over and obligingly died. Was that a bug? Or is there a built-in in-game fail-safe for players who are pathetic losers like me? Must keep playing to see if it happens again.

Edit 01:
Oops... there is indeed an auto-build function for lazy gamers. It's in the Character Records screen.

Edit 02:
I seem to have fixed the lag problem. Updated drivers for my RealTek audio. Should have guessed 'cos the dialogue was stuttery at times. Game works brilliantly, now. :)

Sunday, November 08, 2009

3D magic in Coraline

Watched "Coraline" in 3D. I'd already read the book, so there weren't that many surprises in the movie. Coraline's dad is slightly more fleshed out, perhaps, and there's the addition of Wybie, to whom Coraline can dialogue with otherwise she'll spend most of her on-screen time soliloquizing -- which would be practically the whole movie.

Yes, Coraline is lonely. Nobody pays much attention to her 'cos they're busy with work. Or they're partway off their rockers already. No one listens to her, much less get her name right (it's "Coraline," not "Caroline!"). She's left her friends behind to settle in a house isolated from civilization, and quickly falls prey to ennui. When she discovers an alternate reality in which all her wishes come true, where everything and everyone seems to exist for her pleasure alone, it's almost too good to be true.

I'm no book purist, so it's wonderful to see Gaiman's text come to life in 3D stop-motion animation. The story I already know. What I marvel at is the storytelling technique which is intricate in detail and so painstaking to put together. The 3D effects are a costly extravagance, but it does add to the magic of the experience.

If there's a moral to this story, I suppose it's that Coraline learns to accept people the way they are in reality, flawed as they may be. She realizes that if they simply conformed to her idealized version of how they "should" be, she might as well be wearing buttons in place of her eyes. And if everyone and everything revolved around just her alone, what a small world it would be to live in.