Saturday, January 07, 2012

You... monster!

While wandering Skyrim, I discovered I could have two dogs and a follower to keep me company. Barbas follows because there's an axe you have to find for him (more on that later) and Meeko follows 'cos his previous owner's recently desceased (no, I didn't kill him). One dog good, two dogs even better at keeping the bad guys occupied while I provided the artillery bombardment from afar.

Didn't last long, though. Meeko was vulnerable to friendly fire, so I guess I killed him without noticing. This normally wouldn't be such a problem since I could easily reload a previously saved game and restart the battle. However, I didn't know he'd died so I advanced through the mission with Barbas -- and didn't save at the right time. So Meeko is irrevocably lost :'(

You'd think I have learned my lesson about saving the game, but no. When I finished Barbas' quest, his owner gave me a choice of reward, but both options contingent on either returning Barbas, or killing him with the axe I retrieved for him. But again, because of not saving at the appropriate time, Barbas is also lost to me (I opted to return him rather than chop him to death). If I hadn't been so keen on finishing his quest, he could have been with me till the end. Sigh.

If Barbas' choice was untenable, the deeper you get into Skyrim, the less palatable your quest options become. Especially when completing quests for Draedic entities, it usually entails some unsavory actions. It's one thing to beat up on things intent on eviscerating you first chance they get, but these types of quests turn you into the malevolent one -- out to harm others who mean you no harm.

You have a choice, of course: neither accept nor complete the quest for no penalty; or complete the quest for the reward of a unique in-game item.

Often, these choices are like a psychological experiment. Would you torture and/or kill an innocent because 1) you have been told to 2) for the promise of a substantial reward, 3) knowing that you are "just playing a game", and therefore 4) comforting yourself that you wouldn't make such a decision in "real life"?

What does it say about me that I was willing to torture a helpless victim to death, even though I felt really bad about it while I was doing it? I could have just walked away with no real consequence... but I didn't. What was more important for me was to finish a narrative I'd started, regardless of how it was going to end. *Shudders.

What makes Skyrim a great game? That it can make you see how easy it is for someone who thought he was going to be the hero so easily slip into becoming a monster.

Friday, January 06, 2012

WD-40... found!

Thought the hardest thing to warm up would be the social engine. During term breaks, my tendency is to hibernate in my cave and keep contact with others to a minimum. Conversation reduces to terse interaction with vendors, limited to a couple of perfunctory lines of dialogue, if any at all. So one of the biggest adjustments I have to make at the new year is having to become a social participant again. After a long-ish silence, would I have the words and the wit to fit back into polite society?

Fortunately, the company I keep makes it easy to get right back in the game. It doesn't matter if we're wandering around Gardens like the Flying Dutchman looking for a decent cafe to have some tea and ending up at the Wang Cafe for kopi and kaya toast; the banter is light and the talk is good-humoured. It's great to be back among friends!

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Where's the WD-40?

Had to get back into my office cubicle to dust off the cobwebs, more mental than physical. Returned the laptop to its rightful space on the desktop. Took up stacks of papers I haven't looked at since the previous year began and trashed them in the recycling bin, staples be damned. I wouldn't say that my desk is clean, but at least the mountain range has been reduced sufficiently to be more tectonically stable.

The engines of industry are creaking back to life...

Monday, January 02, 2012

Meat at Mezza9

June acquired dining vouchers for the Grand Hyatt. We blew the lot on a mixed grill for two at the Mezza9. What you see here is sans the bratwurst and sauteed mushrooms which were yet to arrive.

With June, a dinner-for-2 splits into one-and-a-half to half. She let me have the tenderloin done the way I like, and it's good to find another restaurant that isn't coy about how rare 'rare' should be. Can you see the gorgeousness oozing out of the steak? Yums!

Sunday, January 01, 2012

Wrap-around sound

My first expense of the year went to a D.Lab DBH-501 bluetooth headset only because Challenger offered it as a membership points redemption item. The details of the offer were not well explained in the email, which I took to mean that it was available in exchange for 2500 points.

This is how the deal actually went: 2500 points is exchangeable for a $30 voucher, which coincidentally is just the amount for renewing (or opening) a membership account. As a sign-up incentive, they let you buy the headset at 50% off, i.e., $49.50 (U.P. $99).

I thought the offer over for a day before going back to put my money down on the counter. Reasons: 1) my points were expiring soon and it's unlikely that I would use them for anything else in the offer catalogue; 2) the offer price is the best I've seen for other similar items on the market; 3) I've always wanted an untethered headset 'cos I keep strangling myself with the corded earbuds on my iPod.

As for the 501 unit, it's a snug fit, so it won't easily get jostled off my ears even if I went running (which I never do), and it also functions as a hands-free phone unit if I want to pair it with my cell. I'm no audiophile, so I can't comment on sonic fidelity, but I can hear my music clearly enough. Got what I paid for, I guess.

Now all that's left is to pick up enough confidence to walk around the streets looking like a cyborg.