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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