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Sunday, December 30, 2012

Final Fantasy Type-0 (Report 1)


A couple of hours into Type-0 and I'm still fumbling with the controls and, well, everything. This game makes Disgaea 3 and Persona 4 look like child's play. There is so much going on gameplay-wise/story-wise/battle system-wise that I needed to print out a Bible-size guide just to familiarise myself with the Basics ~ and it is not even a walkthrough. There are missions, side quests, secret quests; and there are some 14 characters whose physical/magic abilities need to be learnt and upgraded... this is serious (J)RPG!!!

Like Final Fantasy Crisis Core, which was my first JRPG experience, this is all in Japanese so there is a lot of guess work going on here. Now that I've played quite a few JRPG, at least I know the basic requirements. The gameplay reminds me of 3rd Birthday ... oh yes, I can feel my neck going stiff already!!!

Rem & Machina
For thematic reasons I have decided to have Machina & Rem on my team, led by Ace. Quite fun to play with these characters right now but will explore more training ground before attempting more missions. So far, I had completed one and getting the hang of it!

Friday, December 28, 2012

Final Fantasy Type-0

So it's Goodbye Persona 4: the Golden and Hello Final Fantasy Type-0

Having done all that I'd wanted to in P4G NG+ (levelling up, getting all the skill cards and items), it's time to move on. But to what? I was looking around and there aren't that many choices. I'd started playing Final Fantasy 4 - the Complete Collection and FF3 (on the iPad) but I just didn't get into them. Despite them being "classics", well, that is exactly what they are ... Old Games. The interface is pretty basic and gameplay uninspiring. I'm sure they were great in their time (like, more than a decade ago, at least) but now they just feel dated. The fact I only have the PSVita really limits my choices.

So I checked out PSN (again) to see if there were any new titles ... no luck. A lot of the new releases are in Japanese ... then I noticed the price of FF Type-0 has dropped Significantly (from about US$62 to US$25), which is a Real bargain. Yes, it's Japanese but at least I am quite familiar with the FF gameplay (this is supposed to be quite similar to FF Crisis Core, my first ever FF experience). So quickly downloaded it and am being thrown at the deep end immediately; i.e. after the quick cinematic intro I have to start battling (totally oppose to P4G, which took forever to start...). So have to learn the controls pretty fast ... but so far so good, am still fiddling with the camera but am sure I will get used to that. The only downside IS I have no idea what's going on (other than the fact I need to beat the crap out of whoever that's in my way) ... But the premises is pretty interesting.


The story revolves around 15 students from a magic academy who are determined to fight the invaders of their kingdom. Players can have up to three students/characters on the team, each specialising in a different weapon/magic type. So I imagine there will be a lot of costumisation there ... 

There are several downsides; 1) the game is pretty dark, literally, and 2) I will need to look at a lot of walkthroughs on the Internet to actually understand what I'm doing. But thank goodness there is a quite a complete walkthrough on YouTube so I'll be following that.

Anyway, time to Type-0 .... will report later if it's a game that I can enjoy and complete...


Friday, December 21, 2012

The End of the World

OR is it? Well, the very fact I'm penning this blog does suggest the end is not quite here yet (in Asia anyway) but neither is December 21, 2012 over yet (It's late afternoon in Europe but morning in the US; though New Zealand and Australia had obviously survived the date ~ but the supposed disaster?) 

So, in the next few hours, what can still happen? Well, not being a rocket scientist myself but I assume nothing, like, BIG, is gonna hit earth; I mean, we would have known by now if, say, another planet/asteroid is gonna crash onto us (wasn't that how the dinosaur era, which lasted millions of years, ended?); neither do I think the Marsians are about to descend onto us in a surprise attack. I guess there can still be the possibility of undetected earthquakes/tsunamis (that can wipe out the whole of Japan) but let's hope not.

I'd decided to spend my "last day" at the yoga studio (naturally) and I took a "peaceful Yin" class ... of course, the teacher who gave the class is known to be a bit on the tough side so the 90-minute session was anything but peaceful. It was a hip opening class and, boy, were my hips opened after the class! We just did a series of poses that we had to hold for a LONG time and REALLY stretched the groin area ~ it was like an endurance competition. Instructor told us to concentrate on the (unpleasant) sensation of our body being stretched  but the more she said that, the more I concentrated on the (unpleasant) sensation ... but am sure the exercise was good for us since most of us spend our days sitting down and, as the result, our adductor muscles get shorter and tighter by the day ... and having tight adductor muscles means inflexibility and a lack of range of motion. 

There have been quite a number of scares over the past couple of years (remember whatever experiment that scientists were conducting at CERN was supposed to create a Black Hole and wipe the earth out? Well, that didn't happen and they discovered the Higgs Boson ... Whatever ... ) ... but the only real disasters I can think of now is the earthquake in Northeast Japan and the economic meltdown in the West. 

I think humans are forever optimistic and, yes, tomorrow is another day. 

Another day playing Persona 4: the Golden for me. Been grinding levels and farming skill cards (Absorb Wind is still missing but by fluke I got the extremely rare Absorb Physical card) and I have still to decide what to do withe the Trumpeter Persona ... compared to Alice, Yoshi, Kaguya and Tam Lin, it is still very weak and pointless ... so, more skill card farming to build it up ...

End of the World? Not yet ...

Monday, December 17, 2012

Hot Yoga

There was a time when I could only handle about 30 minutes of yoga practice inside a heated room (temperature hovers around the mid-30c). And I could never stay still during savasana because the mind kinda went bonkers when the body was hot. But these days I'm getting more used to it. Instead of feeling fidgety, I actually feel calm and relaxed despite the high temperature. I still sweat a lot though cos I'm the sweaty type (walking up a hill is enough to make me perspire profusely)... but the whole experience feels great ... after a hot class, the body feels/is detoxed and cleansed. 

But hot yoga is potentially quite dangerous also. For a start, not everyone can function in intense heat and it's not unheard of that yoga students faint right outside a studio because their body cannot adjust to the sudden change of temperature. The heart beats so much faster (for men) in the heat too so I wouldn't recommend this form of yoga to anyone who has a heart condition. Another hidden hazard is that your mind gets kinda tricked into believing that your body is more flexible in the heat. It does get more Relaxed but there are still limitations. I recently pulled some hamstrings and am quite convinced I did that during a hot yoga class because I didn't even realise it was pulled until a week or so later. Another downside to hot yoga is your body is still kinda hot almost an hour after practice and if you are not careful, you could catch a cold because  the weather outside could be cold but your body is just not feeling it. That's my theory anyway.

Okay, back to Persona 4: the Golden. I'm now at the end of my second playthru and am wondering if I should play it once more (if so, it will have to be later). I have built some decent/superb Personas now: Yoshi (for physical damages), Alice (dark magic), Kaguya (light magic), Tam Lin (tri-auto skills), Trumpeter and Jack Frost (elemental magic damages). I also have Helel and Izanagi but have yet to decide what to do with them. They can have some good skills but I already have enough dungeon crawlers and boss killers on the team. But their designs look pretty cool (esp Izanagi) so I will think of a way to build them. 

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

An Intermission

A quick break from Persona 4: the Golden (about half way second playthrough...) I returned to the mat feeling strong. The left adductor muscles still hurt a little but the strength has returned. Have come to realise two to three yoga sessions a week is, like, the optimal for me. Any more classes will only strain the body physically. We practised balancing on the block: tree pose, eagle pose and warrior 3 ... wow, that was challenging but fun!! Am addicted to twisting now ... each twist exercises parts of the body that never gets much exercise ...

Okay, back to Persona ... am hoping to cruise through Aug/Sep to unlock Naoto, my favourite character, together with Kanji ... they are the perfect pair in this game...in the meantime, I don't think I will be able to unlock all the social links ... what a pain!!!

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Persona 4: the Golden (Part Seven)


This is turning into a Persona Blog! Okay, after thinking I was gonna give this game up after first playthrough (this seems to happen a lot with other games too, cue: Tactics Ogre), I had a severe bout of PSVita withdrawal and quickly returned to it for a second serving. According to game forums, best way to do/enjoy the second playthrough is to fast forward all the lengthy/boring conversation/story (there is actually a button for that function to skip scenes!) and do some of the quests that I didn't have time for the last time. PLUS, in this playthrough I can now unlock one exclusive character + secret boss battle. Sounds good to me. 


GREAT OST (thanks to uploader...)

In the meantime, am taking my time to max those "social links" (doing those Margaret's Requests sounds fun, but expensive) and I cannot wait to unlock both Kanji and Naoto so this time round I will have them as core members of my new team (Chie and Yosuke were good in the first playthrough but no point having the same team again ... though will keep Yukiko as the healer as Kuma doesn't sound as good). So, there IS something to look forward to after all ...

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Persona 4: the Golden (Part Six)







Slightly over 100 hours into the game and am reaching the end of my first playthrough (I think there is still one more super boss to handle for this particular storyline). SO SAD!!! I've actually grown quite attached to the characters (so well fleshed out!) and now levelling up the two new personas that I've acquired through a couple of lucky fusions ... they are supposed to be really good. Anyway, will have to fight the Final Boss this week ... then it's time to move onto another game ~ but what?!?!?

Friday, November 23, 2012

Persona 4: the Golden (Part Five)



Up until now, I've been leaving at least half my team (of four) to auto/AI mode (am bit lazy esp. when grinding) ... well, can't do that anymore cos Boss No. 10 is TOUGH! His attacks are extremely strong and varied, and have died twice already despite my characters are already a little bit OP. Read in the walkthrough that the best way to tackle this battle is to have reflective skills (bounce damages back), which my "personas" don't have. But I just discovered one skill that can inflict ALL kinds of elemental damages onto the enemies (so at least one will hit the bastard) ... think I might try that out. 

What I love about this game is that it's actually grind resistant ... spamming attacks only lead to Death(!!!)

PS the US release just came out (I have the Korean/Chinese/Asian version) so am expecting stats for my P4G posts to go up in the coming weeks!!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Persona 4: the Golden (Part Four)

FIFTY-plus hours in and I think my team is slightly OP-ed (they are on average Level 50+ so I've been progressing at a pace of one level per hour!!!) Have killed all the bonus bosses(!) but am still getting the hang of the persona fusion mechanics. Thanks to walkthrough tips though, I created "Black Forest", which came in handy to destroy the last story boss (he has a skill that boosts power attack x2); even then, the battle took me some 30 mins!!! Will now unlock the last playable character, which should be fun. 

(am sure she is singing in English but it sounds Japanese)

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Persona 4: the Golden (Part Three)

Now I know why I thought P4G was a fighting game ... there is another Persona 4 game (Arcade), which is exactly that and I saw that on YouTube.

But THIS version is much better ~ of course.

I'm now about 30 hours into the game. OH. MY. GOD. Was up @ 4.30am playing it! Was doing my third  dungeon *spoiler ahead so stop reading if you are getting your game, like, next week when it is released in English* and it turned out there are more than one boss (!!!) Quite a surprise since the Walkthrough doesn't mention anything about that ...

Anyway, I'm no closer to solving the murder mystery, which is totally gripping. Am also getting the hang of the gameplay, which is actually quite deep. My MC is now Level 35+ while his "persona" (like, his summon) is still around Level 20s (I made the mistake of "fusing" it to create another persona, which is kinda ugly and useless). All the other supporting characters are at Level 35+ too - and so are their personas. Anyway, managed to buy my original persona (which is called Izanagi) back (but at Level 1! Yikes) and it'd taken me, maybe a day, to level him up (with lots and lots and lots of skill cards, which are dropped after a battle...) Oh, the Grind, the Grind!!! 


(love this battle music!!)

But am almost there now and CANNOT wait to start playing with the new acquired characters (three of them) so I can level MC with them. There is one more unlockable character before NG+ ... maybe I should slow down a bit or else the fun will be over TOO SOON! Final Fantasy X is not gonnabe released on PSVita until next year. *BWAH*

Monday, November 12, 2012

Persona 4: the Golden (Part Two)

Okay, this game IS addictive.

When a friend mentioned this game, I went onto YouTube to suss it out but, for some strange reasons, I thought it was a fight game a la Tekken (or even Dissidia); but it turns out to be a JRPG (with a bit of Sims thrown in) which is just great, Great, GREAT! 


Persona 4: the Golden (or just Persona 4: Golden) is a remake (of Persona 4 for PS2/3 I think) now for PSVita. I got the Chinese/Korean version with original Japanese voice acting (Yeahh!!); though the strange thing is in order to activate the Chinese, I had to switch the PSVita language settings to Chinese altogether. Am I glad I learnt the language as a kid?!?  

The graphics, colours and animation are just Stunning. But that is just on the surface. What really appears to me is the story, that goofy humour (not unlike Disgaea 3) and depth of gameplay that lie underneath. PG4 is told through the (silent) teenage protagonist who has to move from the city to the countryside to live with his detective uncle and young niece. He also has to move to a new school but making new friends is the least of his problems when people mysteriously disappear and murdered in the small town. MC also meets a host of characters -- some fun but some really weird -- who will help him unravel the half murder/half horror mystery. 


"Persona" actually refers to our "other/darker self", which in this game, takes on a somewhat supernatural manifestation (they are a bit like monster summons in other RPG games like in the Final Fantasy series). While the physical human forms wield weapons, the personas possess all sorts of other powers to attack, buff and debuff. The gameplay/mechanics itself is turn-based but battles move really, really quickly. Unlike most RPG, levelling up doesn't so much rely on upgrading weapons and gears but MC staying intelligent, strong, sociable, determined etc. through "social links" or interaction with other characters and his environment. So he needs to attend school just like all teenagers and take classes and exams (so far, my MC is not top of the class but neither is he a dumbo).

So the idea is that the more he talks to other characters (to get their background stories), the stronger he and his various personas become. The game is, therefore, very dialogue heavy but the translation works very well and it really is just like reading a graphics novel, with battles and tough bonus bosses thrown in for good measure. The individual stories are actually quite adult with themes such as single-parenthood, sexuality/sexual preferences, self doubts/adolescence and death. 

The game has many endings apparently so I'm playing carefully not to get the Bad Ending (!!!) The cast of characters (including Kuma, a weird-looking "teddy bear" that has nothing inside its head) is really lovable ... and I'm glad the first playthrough will take about 100 hours. Then there is the NG+, which I cannot wait to unlock.  

On with the grinding!!!

Monday, November 5, 2012

Persona 4: the Golden


Here is my new game (graphic novel + jrpg) ... while I rest ... think have hurt my adductor muscles :o(

Friday, November 2, 2012

The Spine & Core

On the physical side of my yoga practice, I've recently been paying close attention to two particular anatomical areas: the spine and the core; both are essential for many basic as well as more challenging asanas.

Because of my tight hamstrings (yep, after almost six years, they are not loosening up! I guess I still sit in front of my computer a lot, like NOW!) and hips, my lower back/spine tends to round a lot when taking any form of forward bend. The only exception will be when I'm doing the cross-legged forward bend (see pic) because this doesn't stretch my hamstrings at all (with legs crossed) and I can actually go quite deep in this pose, especially if I move one foot way forward (so basically my forehead can touch my toes).

Note the straight back

During today's two-hour practice (which was very Zen), I stopped forcing my body down in a standing forward bend/fold but instead I tried to keep my spine straight and extended (i.e. keeping it healthily lengthened); so I micro-bent my legs just to go a bit deeper without pulling my spine. Think that is important, esp to avoid potential back injuries. Also, asanas are not about how they look but what they actually DO to the body.

I've also been working my "core", which is, in very layman's terms, the tissues/muscles underneath the abs. I've been trying to build my core strength for years now and I think I'm slowly getting there (I can gauge its strength by the duration/how long I can remain upside in inversion poses such as headstand and handstand). Having a strong core simply props your entire body up, which I think is crucial for better posture. So, yes, I am trying to work my core every week so it can stay strong and I can stay upright, whether I'm standing up or sitting up or upside down!

Have been giving some more thoughts on what to do about my end-of-year/beginning-of-year yoga retreat(s) ...and have decided to skip a local workshop as well as a trip down-under to save up for a, I hope, fruitful retreat in Koh Samui ... didn't realise it was that expensive!!!

Monday, October 22, 2012

Hatsune Miku


Just realised it's been awhile since my last blog entry ... over the past month or so I'd finished Dynasty Warriors - Next (only on Easy mode but have unlocked enough of the game to lose interest) and played a bit more Dissidia Duodecim 012

I reckon DD012 is the best Final Fantasy title I'd ever played (on hindsight, Crisis Core - the prequel to FFVII - wasn't bad either) ... but that's the thing, both DD012 and CC aren't "proper" Final Fantasy games and for hardcore FF fans, the only titles that really count are the FF I-XIII (and Type-0). Yet, these real FF   games, for me, are a bit old. So, even though they are "classics", I find them a bit boring to play; i.e. bit like Pokemon and I've been through with Pokemon games for decades! To my surprise, last week I found FFIII on my iPad --  I must have bought that when it was released (God knows why) and after playing it for a couple of hours I was already bored. I'm sure the game was great at the time, when it was first released. But yes, now with better graphics and all, there are just better games out there. 

Kain from FFIV
All that made it the more sad that I think DD012 is totally bug-ridden. Ever since I bought the game a couple of years ago (on the cartridge for the old PSP), I've been having problems with it crashing. The PSN-downloaded version for my PSVita, as I found out last week, is also bugged and has already crashed a couple of times. I don't think I can pause mid-game. The problem is that game actually crashes my machine so I had to delete it completely from my console.

Now, I am slightly tempted to download FFIV - the Complete Collection, partly because, apparently, it has a really great story and, partly, it's dead cheap now. But here lies the dilemma, should I get it even though I know the gameplay isn't great (i.e. similar to FFIII)? 

Square Enix, which produces the FF series, is being unbearably slow with its remake of FFX for PSVita (not until 2015!) while we aren't even sure it will localise Type-0 (which looks amazing) ... both games I wanna get my hands on! 

So, in the meantime, I've just started playing the rhythm game Hatsune Miku: Project Diva f, which came with the limited edition bundle I bought earlier (I just wanted the console, not the game). Well, Project Diva is, err, totally not my kinda game but I have nothing else to while my time away (Assassin Creed - Liberation is not out until end of this month) so I gave it a go this morning ... and after several hours of working out how the game works, am getting quite good at it and have already unlocked all the main characters. The songs are also quite addictive but this is too Kawaii (even) for me...

(Hours later ...)

Okay, am downloading FFIV (cos it's cheap) ... I don't think I'm really that into unlock costumes for Hatsune Miku and dressing her up ... (Japanese blokes are quite into that ... apparently ...) 

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Dissidia Duodecim 012 (Revisited)


Okay, have had enough of Dynasty Warriors - Next. The Only good thing about this button smasher is its story ... cos I can learn about the Three Kingdoms period through the gameplay. That's about it. There is little strategy involved, the weapons/items are crap (just half a dozen slots for accessorising?Come On!), the characters are crap ... basically I have no incentive to unlock anything and have not much choice but to keep advancing with the story ... so, after I reached the bit when the Three Kingdoms were formed, I lost interest.





Instead, I downloaded Dissidia 012 (which I played some time ago) and rediscovering it. The strangest thing is ... I have no recollection of how far I got with this game ... all I know is I finished the main story and have unlocked Dissidia 13 (which is the original Dissidia game that I played and enjoyed a couple of years ago) and Scenario 000. I remember I didn't want to play Dissidia 13 all over again but no idea why I didn't start on Scenario 000, which kinda looks exciting (now). Probably cos I got tired just playing through Dissidia 012. There is also a whole "Report" section that I'd left out. 

Anyway, am picking up where I left off ... which feels a bit weird, it's like I picked up someone else's game and that someone else is, in fact, me (a year ago). I was checking all the equipment and item slots and the old me did a pretty decent job in unlocking many useful stuff (but just not enough ... guess I was fed up with the farming ...)

Now I have to relearn all the moves and try to farm as many exclusive weapons and items as possible. I think FFXIII-2 has definitely rekindled my love for this series! (See next post!!!)

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Dynasty Warriors Next (Part Two)

In desperation, I've returned to this button-smashing game and, surprisingly (if not strangely), it appears to be less difficult than when I first played it back in April. Perhaps because I'm picking up where I left off, when some my characters have already levelled/ranked up. 

I'm now breezing through the battles. One (stupid) problem I have with the gameplay is that I often get lost on my way to the enemy's base camp (which I most conquer to end the game). I'm sure this is NOT a major issue with most gamers but, unfortunately, I'm not most gamers and I simply don't know why if keep taking the wrong turns on the map. I think the system is a bit counter-intuitive. I've also come to realise the "conversation" that takes place in the background isn't just for sound effect but is actual hint on what I should do next. But how can one concentrate on the action AND listening to instructions simultaneously?

I have now unlocked my characters and might be playing this mindless game for awhile before the next game comes along. I have to say the graphics is stunning and the special moves are all pretty cool. Not quite the same as Final Fantasy but I will just have to settle with this for now.   

Friday, September 14, 2012

Limited Edition of Vita

Having crashed more times than I could tolerate, I'd decided to trade in my old (black) PSP Vita with a special Hatsune Miku (white) special edition. 

Not Girlie but totally Otaku!!!

The thing is, I didn't know how popular this game was (the game itself, Hatsune Miku - Project Diva f, which is a bit like Guitar Hero, I had no interest in ... I only wanted the beautiful console) so I was a little surprised when I found it was all sold out in my area. Had to quickly cab to another side of town to buy the one that I saw last weekend (it turned out that was the last one in the shop).

Phew (since I already traded the old one in ... and I didn't wannabe totally PSP-less)!!!

Anyway, the new machine is now fully charged and am playing Dynasty Warriors Next on it ... NOT my favourite game but I'm done with Tactics Ogre and Disgaea and am still waiting for a new game that might  interest me ...   



Monday, September 10, 2012

Aramis Unlocked

Being a (semi) completist gamer, I just HAD to have the last extra character in Disgaea 3: Absence of Detention unlocked. 

Pleinair

Celestial Host

Aramis

I'm actually done with the game: finished the main story and killed the final boss (which was tedious). Yes, there is still this one final, final boss in the "Land of Carnage" but that really requires hours after hours of mindless grinding (getting characters up to Level 9999) but I'm NOT that crazy. I've done enough grinding for now. Anyway, so there are three special characters that can be unlocked (without too much grinding): Pleinair, Angel/Celestial Host and Aramis. While the first two were reasonably easy, unlocking Aramis was a Nightmare.  

The challenge here is to finish TEN battles within 145 moves/commands. In my first few tries, I had, like, already 120 moves and I was only in the third battle. Anyway, after much persistence (and good luck, since some of the maps I had was REALLY easy in my final attempt), I was around 140-145 moves when I had ONE final Gatekeeper (in battle no. 10) to destroy .... but she just would NOT die!!! Then I went over 150 moves, I thought I'd wasted all that (hours of) effort and was on the verge of having a teary breakdown ... but when the gatekeeper was finally killed, I got a 20 move BONUS!!! Hurrah!!! Unlocked!!!

Now I feel ... completed.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Zadie Smith


Recently dug up British author Zadie Smith's On Beauty, which I bought some years ago (she just published her latest book NW), and started reading it. Forgot what a great writer she is. Her narrative is vivid, fluid and engrossing; her sense of humour is so natural and biting. I remember reading her debut White Teeth (and The Autograph Man) and felt this sense of contemporary London-ness oozing out of the pages, which I love. I read that NW is about the British capital too but it is written in one of those disjointed styles, which really ain't my cuppa ... so maybe I will skip that.

Love the book cover


However, back to On Beauty, which is a great book (winner of Orange Prize for Fiction 2006) that pays tribute to E.M Forster's Howards End (Forster also happened to be one of my fav writers when I was confused teenager) ... Read half the book in several days and decided to slow down ... this is one of those books I don't wanna end (Forster's A Room with a View, Donna Tartt's The Secret History ...) cos the characters created are so real and you feel like you have made new friends. 

Talk about books, recently trying to resuscitate our three-year-old Kindle, which stopped connecting with the 3G network. Called up Amazon and their costumers services are absolutely top notched and their centre in the Philippines has sent me a brand new one after having exhausted all trouble-shooting options. What a great company, huh?!?

Yoga practice has slowed down a little lately mainly cos the studio schedules really sucks right now ... and all my fav instructors had either left or moved to other time slots. Am now "stuck" with one who is a great yogi but whose teaching is still a bit raw ... but he is helping me to -- well, not exactly overcome my physical limitations but -- to feel some of the poses that my physical limitations are barring me from feeling (as simple as Child's Pose!!) ... but will continue, even though it means I only have max three sessions a week, which is still not bad as that gives the body time to adjust. Pinched nerve in right neck/shoulder is playing up again so maybe have to visit chiropractor again ... sighhh, the joy of old age!!!

On the technology front ... it's all quite boring. I'm not anticipating the iPhone 5 or the mini iPad *yawn*; not interested in any of those Samsung Nexus/Galaxy variations and I'm quite pleased with the Nokia N8 that I'm refrained from buying those old/retro/refurbished/cheap Nokias that you can buy via ebay or Amazon. I still miss the 7280, 7600, 6820, 3220 ... Nokia really knew how to have FUN with their designs ... right now, all phones look exactly the same and it's REALLY boring.

On the Game front ... am quite done with Disgaea 3 but no new games available so am just going back to it whenever I am on a bus/train to kill time. Playstation offered me this new drive game ... had a fiddle but the control totally sucks (but it could be just me being really sucky with these kinds of games ...)

Think will return to reading ...  




Friday, August 17, 2012

A Reality Called Death

MSN has a story today about this young lad who has leukemia and had recorded his last video blog hours before he died ... I won't post it here cos it's quite upsetting ... but not so long ago, a local celebrity also posted a video of herself before she died of a terminal illness. 

Death is now brought to our computer screens, courtesy of modern IT and the growth of social media. Without saying it's right or wrong (don't think it's either), what this trend does is it makes us think more about the inevitable (oh, last posting I said end of the world was October, but maybe it's December...) and how people react and deal with this. Responses to the MSN clips, mostly from the US, are deeply religious, with ample of references to God. I take a more scientific approach to death; i.e. when something dies, it dies (oops, I am actually a Roman Catholic since I was both baptised and confirmed). I tend to think it's just a "return" to the state of nothing; after all, when I didn't exist, I was, well, nothing so we all kinda "been there" before. But I have to admit it's quite a overwhelming thought to think that there is no more tomorrow, no more friends and family, no more songs and movies ... just no more. But it's the reality and, as there is a Chinese saying that goes, "there is no banquet goes on lasts forever" ... and everything, everyone will come to an end one day.

That's what I find "staying in the presence" in my yoga practice very, well, practical in that, it reminds me to just enjoy the Now ... because that makes living that bit more "meaningful", at least, to myself. So when the time comes, before the brain switches itself off and that one final breath, I'll think, Ahh, that was one wild ride and it was fun.

Talk about Fun; have switched back to my Nexus cos Everyone seems to be using a Samsung phone these days (Galaxy S III) ... I just feel I'm not using the social media apps enough (my friends' Instagram photos are SO interesting!) ... so will have to take more "Now" snaps ...

Oh, just saw this "drop test" for the iPhone and S III (I own neither) on YouTube ... poor phones, brand new one minute and dead the next ...




Monday, August 13, 2012

A Miracle Called Life

Will the world end this October? Well, not that I'm concerned about that at all but was thinking that Earth has been around for such a long time it'd probably "ended" many times before (think Dinosaurs) ... It's so true that every day IS a miracle: that all (and every) conditions are just right to make Life, like, happen. But I don't think Life will go on forever though; our civilisation is nothing but a little, tiny, little speck on Earth timeline and, yes, something will happen and something else will "replace", just as humans replaced dinosaurs. So, enjoy every day. Also, I doubt I will witness the end of this civilisation ... simply cos I will end before then (!!) 

Friday, August 10, 2012

Grind Fest 4

100+ hours into the game and I have just one final boss left in the first playthrough (this game allows players to do at least, like, a dozen playthroughs for different endings). But to defeat this final boss I think I'll need to grind for another 100+ hours. No thanks. Really. That is the major difference between Disgaea 3: Absence of Detention and Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together. Disgaea really encourages grinding whereas TO the grind is optional. I guess I can just redo some of the maps for all the characters I have unlocked ... I have to say Disgaea has much, much better graphics and that's the only reason why I am still playing it.

Well, until I get my hands on the Limited Edition of the new Vita (White)... okay, I'm still thinking about it but the Vita I have has been playing up lately (need rebooting ...) 

On the yoga front, I took a class called Universal Yoga ... the instructor was quite tough but I did walk out at the end of the session feeling "opened" -- especially in the shoulders. But I was exhausted the following day and even the Yin Yang class was a challenge (pain everywhere! Mental note: do NOT take another class for at least a couple of days). This is the only challenging class I take these days ... maybe take one every month.

  

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Grind Fest 3

Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together vs Disgaea 3: Absence of Detention

Okay, 80 hours in and I think I've pretty out sussed Disgaea; sure, I could grind for another 8,000 hours but there really isn't much point to that unless I just wanna OHKO everything -- which is kinda dull (why have an attack that can take out 10 billion HP while 10,000 already does the trick?) 

What I find most fun about this game is not collecting all the top weapons and unlocking all the exclusive characters (as in TO: LUCT) but just enjoying the totally zany story of Mao the Overlord and Raspberyl the Delinquent Teacher (and all the side quests). There are simply too many classes/characters to unlock in Disgaea and not all of them are that great (bad base stats and special skills). I've unlocked about 20 now and I'm, like, no more please! 

Though there are all these side missions to be completed, I'm taking my sweet time doing those. As far as the grinding goes, since I have now unlocked the two major items that are vital to win most of the battles, the major challenge here is more about solving the various puzzles (battle maps). Some completionist gamers would replay the story mode or "cycle", like, a dozen times to unlock different endings but, unlike, TO, I don't see the point of doing that unlike you want to level up all the characters to Lvl 9,999. 

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Grind Fest 2

Clocking in @ 60 hours+ playing Disgaea 3: Absence of Detention. Unlike Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together, this a much, much longer game, and like a bottomless pit, there seems to be no end to it. I'd finished the main story at around 50 hours but there is so much post-game stuff to do and unlock. And to get the top weapons you just have to grind till your PSP Vita turns into a blade. However, part of the fun of this game is actually not to be OPed and OHKO-ing everything but to enjoy working out various strategical puzzles, which is very satisfying when solved. Looks like I will be spending several hundred hours on this ... in between my yoga classes ...     

Friday, July 13, 2012

Grind Fest

Okay, lots happened the past week on all fronts (yoga, games and tech) ... but first, Disgaea 3: Absence of Detention. 

(Quite a wacky promo with bad VO, "dood"! ... I'd switched over to Japanese VO, which is Great!)

I bought this game (for PSP Vita) back in Apr/May, hoping that it would get me off my Tactics Ogre addiction (bwah!). However, having played it for several hours I was totally overwhelmed by its mechanics; there is just SO MUCH to it yet SO LITTLE is being explained (despite tutorials). I had to put it down. Unlike TO (admittedly it took me awhile to get used to THAT system too), which is quite systematic ~ you level up your team and, with that, you upgrade weapons and skills ~ with Disgaea, it has a warped logic. For instance, weapons (and probably skills) are not directly related to the characters' level, it seems. As long as you have the dosh, you can get the more powerful weapons. I think skills are unlocked as the characters level up but am not entirely sure. I read in the forums that how powerful a character is depends not on its level but weapons ... so as long as you grind (for $$$), you can become OP (over powered) pretty quickly. So, yes, I am grinding "a bit" just so I can breeze through the story mode in my first run through. But there are so many things to unlock, places to explore that I might have to spend more than 999 hours (I did close to that with TO) on this game... and consider I can level up Each character to Level 9999 ... anyway, will report back on progress here time and time again...



Secondly, I bought myself the Nokia N8 (finally!) I've been eyeing this piece of gadget since its release a couple of years ago but it was just too expensive and notoriously buggy. Also, I think "Google phone" Nexus S (Samsung) is a far more superior smartphone I was in no rush getting it. But when I saw this in a "clearance sale" (prices dropped by half) this week, I thought it was time to get it: 1) production of this model has probably stopped so if I don't get it now, I wouldn't be able to get it in the future; 2) I really like its form factor, the metallic feel and curves are aesthetically appealing; 3) great camera with Xenon flash (!) and 4) well, it's a bargain. Since its firmware's been upgraded from the initial Symbian^3 to Belle, the OS is a lot more smooth and stable (but still not as good as Nexus S) but its sound quality of calls is just Amazing!! Also, I really am such a sucker for Nokia I just must have one in my collection, which is now made up of my Blackberry Bold (9900), Docomo F-02D, Nexus S and N8. Perfect!

Finally, from the materialistic to the physical/spiritual ... my last Yin class was another revelation. I was trying to do the split, though with help of not one but two bolsters! The experience was interesting in that, when in this (extremely) challenging pose (for me), I could feel the nerves that run from my lower back, through the knee to my lower leg ... I actually felt slight twinges in the knees and lower back areas, sensations that I don't feel in other asanas. 

Finally, finally, eat your hearts out comics geek! I spoke with Stan Lee the other week; amazing 89-year-old from another era ...




Monday, July 2, 2012

Another Revelation ...

One thing I like most about my yoga practice is that it helps me understand my body better; though, I have yet to learn how not to judge it. Today, I took an inversion class and, again, I felt my tight hips, shoulders and hamstrings ... and this imbalance of my body. Now, I've known about the imbalance between the left and right side of my body for years now but in today's class, I realised just how loose my left hip is as opposed to my right hip; left hamstrings are also less tight. Which is interesting. 

Note: the lifted leg, the heel should
be facing skyward
When I was preparing for the headstand (see left), after I placed my head on the ground and cupped its back with both hands, I walked my legs towards my head, then lifted my right leg up. Now, cos of tight hip and hamstrings, the right leg didn't go very far (i.e.heels supposed to face the ceiling and not the back wall) ... and even with strong-ish core, I just couldn't quite keep my right leg straight and lift left leg off the ground. But when I tried the other side. And the experience was very different. 
This time, because of a more loose left hip and less tight hamstrings on the left leg, my left leg just shot up and I was able to keep it reasonably straight, then I lifted up my right leg with ease. The only thing that stopped me from doing the full pose I still lack Core strength and the psychological fear that I'd flip over and fall. Actually, when I am doing this pose next to a wall, I don't have any problems at all. 

So I think I need to take private classes to address the issues of tight hips/shoulders/hamstrings and build up my Core strength ... before then, I will have another crack at Clayton Horton's (intensive) Ashtanga workshop (the same one I took about a year ago that gave me a swollen knee cos it was too, well, intensive!) This time, I'm just taking one session and I will continue the progress (or the lack of which) of my body.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Mindfulness and Care

Just a very quick entry: a teacher says today that, for those who've been practising for a long time but have seen no/ v little improvement (in flexibility) (me), he recommends that we choose one pose and keeps practising it for a couple of weeks, that way, we will improve (hips more open and lower back less stiff) ... maybe I should give that a try; though in general my range of movement has improved significantly the past five years, I am still relatively inflexible, so much so that this masseur said to me the other day that she couldn't believe I practise yoga cos I was so ... like, rigid!

Friday, June 22, 2012

Yoga, Anytime, Anywhere


Was watching some YouTube videos on Nature (including a very disturbing one of the Asian Tsunami) and pondered about life. Earth is just so beautiful but most of us don't even realise that because we just spend most of our time working and working. Yoga has taught me to slow down and ... appreciate. Also, as I said in one of my tweets earlier, yoga can be practised on as well as off the mat and in many everyday life situations. Just stay (as) true to the self (as possible)... and there is nothing to fear or worry about ...




A Big Bottom Cat

Upon request, here is a photo of cat sitting on its bottom; funny, huh?

I'm actually a dog

Also good news re Siu Pak Pak!! He's getting better and has put on some weight, all thanks to a kind hearted animal lover who takes care of him every day... 

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

A Funny Little Video

Here it is ... came across this awhile ago and thought it quite an (internet) classic...

Monday, June 18, 2012

A Crave for a New Phone

Oh, it's been awhile since I made a phone purchase (I only sold a few the other month) ... and, though I think  my Blackberry Bold and Nexus S are pretty solid and functional, I am just, you know, a bit bored by them. So, have been checking out some Japanese phones online (visually, they are far more interesting than all those smartphones on the market right now)... and the Fujitsu F-02D looks totally yummy:



I dunno, I just love those lights!!! I think I will get the White version since the colours probably comes through better. 

And, I know, this is totally materialistic but I guess I'm human after all and I just wanna be entertained sometimes (life is too short, right?!) and mobile phones just SO press my buttons!!!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Delayed Entry

Just now I saw a very frail old man being lifted into a van, with tubes sticking into his nostrils ... life is all so fragile. What is the meaning of it all before we disappear from this world forever???

The Asia Yoga Conference came and went and I took four anatomy classes with Roger Cole, a yoga instructor/scientist from San Diego in the US. The class on yoga injuries was particularly interesting because, as I said in my previous posts, it's very easy to hurt yourself in yoga if you don't practise mindfully and carefully. I know. I have pulled my hamstrings quite a few times before! Cole identifies several areas where injuries are most likely to take place -- neck, lower back, knees, shoulders and, yes, hamstrings -- and we practised a few asanas to suss out our alignment ... which was very enlightening. Now I know my warrior 2 pose is not incorrect: to keep the knee straight and upright, the hips will naturally turn and will not be squared. And I'd always thought I had to square my hips (!!!) Cole also did a demo that shows how to relieve sacroiliac joints pain (left) ... apparently don't try that if you don't have any sacroiliac joint problems because it might have the reverse effect!


Tuesday, May 29, 2012

A Touch of Sadness

Siu Pak Pak

Strays are supposed to be tough, right? So it came as a surprise that Siu Pak Pak, our block's feline mascot, is very sick. He's lost so much weight the past couple of months I don't think he will survive this Summer. Which is kinda sad. Of all the strays (and there are many around where we live, some are real pests) why has it got to be the one we really like that gets struck down by serious illness? So unfair...

PS Just found out that he has feline aids ... *sob*


Friday, May 25, 2012

Deep Breathing

Sometimes, when Life takes an unexpected swerve, you are left wondering whether you could handle it in a calm, rational manner anymore. Last night I managed to work myself into such a (terrifying) state over some major changes in work that left me paralysed (emotionally/intellectually). There was this huge fear/sense of failure and helplessness that swept over me, even though much of which was just perceived and imagined. But  the fact that all this could turn into reality is absolutely frightening. Now I know how people in desperate situations must feel. But how to combat that? Is there a way to fight this (esp I'm currently in such a negative state of mind that I find my jaws constantly locked?)

I've been thinking how maybe my yoga practice can come into this. Other than practising asanas, yoga is also about reflection and acceptance. Maybe I should come up with a mantra that helps to calm the mind and nerves. Then breathe, breathe and breathe ... Also, at the end of the day, there is always a way out so why not just experience those sensations (unpleasant they may be) and see if they could be turned into positive energy?

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Disgaea 3: Absence of Detention


I may finally have found a game that will help me move on from Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together (!) The Disgaea series is, in a way very similar to TO; that it's Japanese, also a turn-based strategy role play game and (I've read) pretty harcore/grindy. However, judging from the couple of hours I've spent on it already, the game system/ gameplay is very different from TO. The story is not as strong (there is a lot of tongue in cheek humour) and there is A LOT to do/fiddle around with before going into, and during, a battle. It kinda reminds me of the trading card games; i.e. even the way you position your characters has an effect on the battle. The animation/graphics is great/ stunning (esp on Vita). The only thing that puts me off slightly is the English voice acting, which I had to turn off in favour for the original Japanese (which is fine cos there is English subtitling).

I'll see how this goes but so far it's promising and fun: there is NO hacking and slashing and there is so much to explore. 

Saturday, May 5, 2012

La Vita Loca

Those following this blog -- me -- would have noticed that I've tweeting about my PSP Vita lately. Though I actually bought the latest handheld console awhile ago, it wasn't until this weekend when I realised I could migrate games from my old PSP to Vita. Yes, I can now play Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together (or The 3rd Birthday) on a bigger screen!!! You can imagine the excitement that shot through my entire system. However, for some reason, the file transfer process is a bit user-unfriendly and I reckon you probably need a PhD (which I don't have) to understand how to move files around using its "Content Manger Assistant". Don't be fooled by the name, it does NOT assist in any way, at all. 

You see, the (flash) memory card for the Vita is apparently so new that there is no card reader for it; meaning, you cannot just cut and paste files onto the memory card. Instead, you need to link the console up with the PC via a USB, using CMA,  in order to move files around between computer and Vita. Great. NOT. To make matter worse, the memory card that came with the machine is only 4GB and I have so many games I need a 16GB card (which costs a bomb, btw ... don't even think about getting the 32GB). So, in order to move games from old PSP to Vita, I had to go through this rather elaborate process of:

1) buying a 16GB card (dent in the wallet);
2) downloading all the SAVEDATA files from old PSP onto computer;
3) downloading GAME files from the 4GB memory card (in Vita) onto computer using CMA;
4) copying/transferring SAVEDATA files AND GAME files (now all in my computer) onto 16GB (in Vita) card using CMA;
5) re-downloading Vita-compatible PSP games that I bought via PSN onto the Vita.

Steps 3 and 4 were rather tricky because CMA is so user-unfriendly it took me awhile to figure out how to use it ... even after I successfully made all the file transfers, I still didn't quite understand how it works, cos I managed to accidentally DELETE a whole lot of game files on the Vita and I had to REPEAT steps 4 and 5 ... It was crazy.

Anyway, ALL is fine now and the only consolation is that it was WORTH all the trouble. The 3rd Birthday (Aya Brea) simply looks STUNNING on the Vita screen. Think will replay it ...very soon.

Meanwhile, I did manage to squeeze in another yoga (teaching) class today amid all this file transferring, and it was great. I've decided to go down the Yin Yang than just Yin path. I think it's good to inject a bit of energy into these sessions.

OMG! I'm seeing double!!!

And finally, Animal is here ... as Hysterical (and Pink) as ever ... 



 

Sunday, April 29, 2012

A Hip Opening Practice


Despite -- and because -- I've been practising yoga for five years, I attended a beginners' class today so I could: 1) remind myself of the basics and 2) get some tips on teaching. While I was sharing my practice with some friends yesterday, I noticed how poses that I thought were simple and straightforward could, in fact, be quite challenging for beginners. That's the thing, after I've been practising for awhile, I begin to go auto pilot and forget that my body today is very different from that, say, five years ago. I think to be a good teacher, one has to approach the practice from the beginner's pov, or else s/he won't be able to relate to their students.In fact, after the workshop I realised how long the yoga journey is ... there are poses that I thought I had mastered but I hadn't ... my hips can still open up a lot more ... am now wondering whether I should take another Ashtanga intensive...

Separately, am back Tactics Ogre-ing ... I'm just very curious as to what the Neutral route is like (I've done the Chaos and, especially, Law routes many times) and have started a new game. If I play Neutral in my old file, I will lose Arycelle (my fav archer) because of Loyalty issues. Anyway, starting from scratch has been both interesting and frustrating. Interesting because I now know the system inside out and that, all in all, enriches the gaming experience. Frustrating because everything is back at Level 1 and gameplay is kinda dull without all the super duper weapons that I can OHKO enemies with. The rescue missions are by far the toughest and call for some strategic planning; all that goes out of the window once you are over-powered of course. Some gamers have criticised the game's AI but I think it's not bad.


I'm enjoying the latest one and am debating whether I should play beyond Chapter 3 (when the Neutral route ends) ... but I really cannot BEAR going down Palace of the Dead again, or farming for Wicce Deneb; those almost killed me in my last playthru! 

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Intense Button Smashing

We are all talented in one way or another -- I just wish my talent lies in video gaming. Itching for some prime/quality time with my PSP Vita this weekend, I dug up Gravity Rush, Ultimate Marvel vs Capcom and Dynasty Warriors Next, all of which I'd put aside for awhile. Why? Well, as I found out, once again this morning, I am just not very good at it. Yes, I actually CAN beat the game, I just don't ENJOY the process, which kinda defeats the point of playing video games. With Gravity Rush, I really love the amazing graphics and flying/anti-gravity game feature but when it comes to beating the bosses, it's just horrible because it requires a lot of button smashing; same with Marvel vs Capcom, only this is worse cos it's simply a combat/fight game and has no story line. Zzzzz. I like the "Edit Mode" in Dynasty Warriors Next as you can create your own character and take him/her to battle but, again, the emphasis here is hack and slash. All of this makes me totally tense up and I don't wanna end up with a pinch nerve again (the last one I had one was cos I spent too many hours playing The 3rd Birthday.

This is kinda sad cos it may mean I have to sell my PSP Vita cos I simply cannot play games that are gonna give me a heart attack. Now, I understand why I like Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together so much because it's a strategy game and there is no need to button smash. So, back to that it is. This time will play through with just the three protagonists Denam, Vyce and Catiua.

Oh, went to a hot yoga class today ... sweated out all the toxins. Feeling great on this beautiful day.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Web Freedom Being Threatened (?)


Here is an interesting piece from the Guardian today regarding Web freedom -- and many other issues including piracy. Some will see this as Google's attempt to take a swipe at their rival(s) but I tend to support its argument (since this blog is a facebook free zone)... Also, people who say Google being critical of FB is like pot calling kettle black must remember, from day one, Google NEVER asked users to log on to use its search engine, which is their fundamental/primary/core service, just like Wiki, and I'm FINE with them asking for log on details for additional services such as Gmail and Google+ (which ARE value added services) ... why shouldn't they? And they are still free...


By Ian Katz


The principles of openness and universal access that underpinned the creation of the internet three decades ago are under greater threat than ever, according to Google co-founder Sergey Brin.
  In an interview with the Guardian, Brin warned there were "very powerful forces that have lined up against the open internet on all sides and around the world". "I am more worried than I have been in the past," he said. "It's scary."
  The threat to the freedom of the internet comes, he claims, from a combination of governments increasingly trying to control access and communication by their citizens, the entertainment industry's attempts to crack down on piracy, and the rise of "restrictive" walled gardens such as Facebook and Apple, which tightly control what software can be released on their platforms.
  The 38-year-old billionaire, whose family fled antisemitism in the Soviet Union, was widely regarded as having been the driving force behind Google's partial pullout from China in 2010 over concerns about censorship and cyber-attacks. He said five years ago he did not believe China or any country could effectively restrict the internet for long, but now says he has been proven wrong. "I thought there was no way to put the genie back in the bottle, but now it seems in certain areas the genie has been put back in the bottle," he said.
  He said he was most concerned by the efforts of countries such as China, Saudi Arabia and Iran to censor and restrict use of the internet, but warned that the rise of Facebook and Apple, which have their own proprietary platforms and control access to their users, risked stifling innovation and balkanising the web.
  "There's a lot to be lost," he said. "For example, all the information in apps – that data is not crawlable by web crawlers. You can't search it."
  Brin's criticism of Facebook is likely to be controversial, with the social network approaching an estimated $100bn (£64bn) flotation. Google's upstart rival has seen explosive growth: it has signed up half of Americans with computer access and more than 800 million members worldwide.
  Brin said he and co-founder Larry Page would not have been able to create Google if the internet was dominated by Facebook. "You have to play by their rules, which are really restrictive," he said. "The kind of environment that we developed Google in, the reason that we were able to develop a search engine, is the web was so open. Once you get too many rules, that will stifle innovation."
  He criticised Facebook for not making it easy for users to switch their data to other services. "Facebook has been sucking down Gmail contacts for many years," he said.
  Brin's comments come on the first day of a week-long Guardian investigation of the intensifying battle for control of the internet being fought across the globe between governments, companies, military strategists, activists and hackers.
  From the attempts made by Hollywood to push through legislation allowing pirate websites to be shut down, to the British government's plans to monitor social media and web use, the ethos of openness championed by the pioneers of the internet and worldwide web is being challenged on a number of fronts.
  In China, which now has more internet users than any other country, the government recently introduced new "real identity" rules in a bid to tame the boisterous microblogging scene. In Russia, there are powerful calls to rein in a blogosphere blamed for fomenting a wave of anti-Vladimir Putin protests. It has been reported that Iran is planning to introduce a sealed "national internet" from this summer.
  Ricken Patel, co-founder of Avaaz, the 14 million-strong online activist network which has been providing communication equipment and training to Syrian activists, echoed Brin's warning: "We've seen a massive attack on the freedom of the web. Governments are realising the power of this medium to organise people and they are trying to clamp down across the world, not just in places like China and North Korea; we're seeing bills in the United States, in Italy, all across the world."
  Writing in the Guardian on Monday (Apr 16), outspoken Chinese artist and activist Ai Weiwei says the Chinese government's attempts to control the internet will ultimately be doomed to failure. "In the long run," he says, "they must understand it's not possible for them to control the internet unless they shut it off – and they can't live with the consequences of that."
  Amid mounting concern over the militarisation of the internet and claims – denied by Beijing – that China has mounted numerous cyber-attacks on US military and corporate targets, he said it would be hugely difficult for any government to defend its online "territory".
  "If you compare the internet to the physical world, there really aren't any walls between countries," he said. "If Canada wanted to send tanks into the US there is nothing stopping them and it's the same on the internet. It's hopeless to try to control the internet."
  He reserved his harshest words for the entertainment industry, which he said was "shooting itself in the foot, or maybe worse than in the foot" by lobbying for legislation to block sites offering pirate material.
  He said the Sopa and Pipa bills championed by the film and music industries would have led to the US using the same technology and approach it criticised China and Iran for using. The entertainment industry failed to appreciate people would continue to download pirated content as long as it was easier to acquire and use than legitimately obtained material, he said.
  "I haven't tried it for many years but when you go on a pirate website, you choose what you like; it downloads to the device of your choice and it will just work – and then when you have to jump through all these hoops [to buy legitimate content], the walls created are disincentives for people to buy," he said.
  Brin acknowledged that some people were anxious about the amount of their data that was now in the reach of US authorities because it sits on Google's servers. He said the company was periodically forced to hand over data and sometimes prevented by legal restrictions from even notifying users that it had done so.
  He said: "We push back a lot; we are able to turn down a lot of these requests. We do everything possible to protect the data. If we could wave a magic wand and not be subject to US law, that would be great. If we could be in some magical jurisdiction that everyone in the world trusted, that would be great … We're doing it as well as can be done."

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Dynasty Warriors -- Next

Okay, am picking up this game again since I couldn't really get into Gravity Rush (all the flying around just makes me feel very dizzy). Did some (serious) hacking and slashing and have, so far, completed the first chapter and now need to study its 51-page menu before progressing. I can see this being an interesting and addictive game. The only problem is, as I mentioned before in another blog entry, the controls are extremely tricky and hard to master.


Dynasty Warriors -- Next (well, the entire DW franchise) is based on the story of Romance of the Three Kingdoms and, in the main game mode, I become one of the three protagonists -- Liu Bei, Guan Yu and Zhang Fei -- (or any of the 60+ unlockable characters later, I guess) and  hack and slash my way to, I dunno, a new dynasty or something. The gameplay is a bit like Final Fantasy Dissidia, and the fact I can keep upgrading my characters' skills and weapons reminds me of Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together (yeah!!). But there is simply too much going on on the battlefield the whole experience kinda get overwhelming. While I'm out attacking the enemies (which is basically mindless button-smashing), I also have to keep an eye on my own base camp (somewhere else) so to keep it from being invaded (still have no idea how I should go about doing that). And there are all these messages flashing across the screen all the time that completely freaks me out. The voice acting (in English) is pretty bad too. 

Anyway, will keep playing it and see if I can finally put away Tactics Ogre (after close to 900 hours of gameplay)...  

Sunday, April 8, 2012

More Thoughts on Yin Yoga

I love sharing this practice with friends though I can never explain exactly what Yin Yoga is (I don't think it Has an "official" definition). To me, it's a very calm and static form of yoga practice. You stay in a pose for five to ten minutes in order to "go deep" into the body, whether it's a deep stretch or twist or bend. The interesting part is to seek relaxation and calmness amid intensity. There are times when we find it hard to hold still or stay balanced; when there is much traffic going through the mind and too many physical sensations shooting through the body. On days when I'm "thinking too much", I just keep, literally, falling out of even simple poses like the tree pose. Yin Yoga can slow the mind and body down, offering peace in our lives, albeit even for just 60 to 90 mins.

I'm now planning my new sharing sessions. I think I will start with the traditional format first: deep breathing before going through some of the basic Yin poses. However, I think after a few weeks, I'll start to introduce a little bit more movement, or flow, into the practice because, after all, yoga is all about being balanced and it'll be interesting to see how a mix of Yin and Yang yoga can help both calm the mind while staying active and interested.  

Sunday, April 1, 2012

A Sprained Ankle

Ooooooouch! $%^$^$#^@$!

That was what went through my head when I mis-stepped and sprained my ankle on my way down to the underground yesterday afternoon. It was really quite painful (and no, I am not about to say how that happened but my PSP really has more than a pinched nerve to answer for!) but I had to catch the Dame Edna concert (she was Divine) so I limped all my way to the venue. I, of course, sprained my (left and right) ankle many times before, sometimes under dubious circumstances, e.g. after buying a large bottle of beer but before actually consuming the content, or after falling off a bike but before rolling down the hill ... 

The second thing that went though my mind after the sprain was that I had to cancel today's yoga class ~ which is a REAL bummer. 

Anyway, by the time I got home last night, it was interesting to observe that the bruise and swelling started on the outer edge of the foot before the pain worked its way across, inward. By this morning, it has shifted to the centre of my ankle. Now, some 20 hours after the incident, the pain concentrates around the medial ligament section while the swelling on the outer foot has already gone down (what would we do without Advil?) Apparently, one effective treatment for swelling in the foot is to keep the foot elevated ... well, here is when years of yoga practice comes in handle, because, my foot is actually rested on my desk as I type, just realised how flexible I've become! :o0  

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Some Quiet Thoughts

The yoga studio I go to celebrated its 10th anniversary yesterday. I was supposed to attend a special hot class at around noon but I was late; so I decided to stay behind for the small party they organised for their members, some have been with the studio since its opening in 2002. I normally wouldn't attend this kinda celebratory functions -- hanging around (esp) with a bunch of strangers really isn't my thing -- but I thought whadda hell, I didn't wanna head home and back to the studio again for another class later on in the afternoon. I'm glad I stayed. It was fun and the studio did well to have created a community. There's this old English guy who's been with the studio from day one and he was given a little award for being a long-term member. What a nice gesture. He happens to celebrate his 87th birthday this week and he said he probably wouldn't have lived this long had he not practised yoga. 


Then the teachers and staff gave a fun little performance (above) that tells the story (I'm over simplifying it here) of a series of reincarnations that started with a fish and supposed to end with this figure -- the Indian equivalent to the Messiah -- that will purge all evils on earth and ends this evolutionary/reincarnation chain. (There was a beautiful intro to this performance but I missed it cos I didn't know how to work the camera on my phone ~ DOH!)

Every now and then we need to calm the mind and think about where life is going and yoga (in meditation or asana practice) does provide that space. This afternoon's practice was especially liberating, now that my right leg hamstrings are almost healed. 



Wednesday, March 14, 2012

The Weird and Wonderful

Yoga instructor Simon Low is known for his slightly unconventional approach to the practice. While he says he had learnt from the different schools -- Ashtanga, Iyengar, Anusara, Bikram and so on -- he doesn't belong to any. What he teaches now is known as Yin Yoga, a particular style that I am interested in (see my earlier entries on Paul Grilley), with restorative yoga integrated into his teaching/practice. 

I'm currently taking a four-day workshop with him and the man is good. And I can't tell you exactly why/how he is good (other than the fact he comes across as very intelligent and is very good at articulating his ideas), you just have to practise in one of his classes to understand what I mean. Yesterday afternoon, he led a flow (yang yoga) class in which we kept moving from one pose to another, one sequence of poses to another, for over two hours. And the strangest thing was, instead of getting tired, after about 90 mins, we got more and more energetic and I could (okay weird yoga talk time) feel energy whirling around the studio; so when I lifted my arms, I could FEEL the power of the lift and the extension of my arms ... when instructors described this energy to me before, I was, like, Uh? What are you talking about? Now I know. And by the end of the class, I just felt Great. Positive. Confident.

Then after a quick early dinner, we had a restorative yoga session. This part of Yin yoga that Simon teaches is totally new to me and it is kinda ... "elaborate" in its setup/execution ... see photos below:

Seriously ... this is Yoga Therapy
It requires A LOT of use of props: blankets, towels, bolsters, eye bags, sand bags (!) ... basically anything you can get your hands on to support a pose that sets out to relax the body for a long period of time (15-20 mins) ... it's therapeutic I'm sure but I just can't see myself doing this on a regular basis.

Supported spinal twist
Simon did solve one riddle for me in this session: the Spinal Twist.Basically my spine doesn't twist well so whenever I get myself into this pose, if I push my bent knees onto the floor, my shoulder would come up off the floor on the other side, and if I push my shoulder down, the knees will come up (a bit like a see-saw). So the solution to this "problem" is to put a couple of blocks under my knees to give them enough of an elevation to allow my shoulder to rest on the floor. Voila! I get a twist as well as not straining the part that is off the floor (see demo left). Simon says the fact that some of us need that support doesn't mean that we are "bad" at yoga, but just cos we have very different body/anatomical type/built/makeup -- something that Yin practitioners are particularly aware of.