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Saturday, November 15, 2014

A Morning Intensive

It's been awhile since my last entry ... just keep getting caught up with, well, life (and Monster Monpiece *lol*) and my plan to meditate just 10 minutes a day (homework!!) has gone a bit pear shaped. But I'm determined not to let things just slide (at least I've been holding one class a week) and have booked five morning intensive classes the next fortnight (yes, getting up @ 5.30 am! Commitment!) It was nice to see some of my classmates this morning (and our moody instructor was warm and welcoming, which was also v nice). 

Wow, this was taken a few years back
The practice itself was fine (early days!) and I'm very happy that my hips seem to have opened a lot, hamstrings loosened, so Trikonasana is no longer a problem. Though I still need to work very hard getting my bending knee into 90 degrees when in Virabhadrasana 2. Urdhva Dhanurasana was tough cos I haven't been practising *head down in shame* But I'm now looking forward to the rest of the intensives as they will get harder next week ... and even the upcoming 100-hour training in January.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Yoga Teacher Training ~ Day 11

Completed the first 100-hour yesterday. Phew! It really was tough. And this is only the first half. Only yesterday morning when I was on my way to the studio (around 6am) I was contemplating on not returning for Part II in January ... to be honest, I wasn't looking forward to another "morning intensive" and, err, "test" later in the day. Like, why am I putting myself through this? Is it necessary?

Flying Pigeon

Then I got on the mat and course instructor said the morning practice was to focus on arm balance poses ... I was, like, okay cool ... I prefer these poses (most of which I can perform) than, say, parsarita padottanasana (standing wide legged forward fold)... no, my head cannot touch the floor and it's quite painful to hold this pose for, like, a min, let alone five... anyway, we went from one pose to another (a bit of a blur now) but apparently we did at least 15 arm balancing poses. For me though, the high point was when I could do the eka pada galavasana (well, kinda doing it...but I can now hook my foot onto my arm!) because I couldn't do that only a week ago. So what happened? My guess is because the regimental routine had helped build strength as well as perhaps I had a better alignment. I felt my body was so ... opened ... that, yesterday, I could do a lot of poses that I'd previously thought v challenging... it was as if I wasn't in my own body (isn't that totally weird?) But I have to say by the end of the day I was COMPLETELY exhausted (hence I didn't blog last night). The challenge ahead is definitely how I can maintain this physical and mental form until, like, next January.

Well, the programme does ensure we continue to practise in the coming three months: we have to practise at least twice a week (which is fine) in open classes, at least twice privately as well as teach at least ONCE a week. There is also a lot of reading to do.

And because course instructor was quite encouraging when we said our temporary good-byes, so I just might return to Part II next January (all depends on whether I can wholeheartedly do my homework in the next few months....

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Yoga Teacher Training ~ Day Nine

Today is less satisfying and I wonder how many of my classmates really understood what was going on in the workshop on alignment principles. I don't think my team partner knew what he was doing and to be fair to him, I didn't have a clue either. 

But first, the day started off quite poorly cos I felt physically exhausted this morning (@ 4.30 am). Whether it's accumulated fatigue I'm not sure but I do think the course is taking its toll on me physically. I cannot help but wonder whether this programme is being physically tough just for the sake of it? At times I also feel like we are being treated like a bunch of school kids when all we (most responsible, mature adults) want to do is to learn more about deepening our yoga practice and having the discipline is only one of the many aspects. Yoga IS about discipline. Fine, we get it. Yoga is about having the right alignment ... and the discipline of keeping ourselves aligned, lot of hard work. We get that too. Now can we move on? We totally get it that our instructor is a serious yogi and he himself has pushed limits to better his practice. Well, good for him, but some of us are not as uncompromising (his own term) in our approach to our practice as he is in his. If that works for him great ... but kinda thrusting that down our throat is a different thing. I'm just a bit too old for that kinda ... cit. 

I do enjoy his teachings on, and interpretations of, the several yogic philosophies, with a focus on Tantric Yoga. All the stuff about divinity residing in all of us is fascinating and we can only catch our moments of "clarity" and "grace" through an aligned practice. I think that is what it means.

Anyway, gotta start revising (yes...) cos there is a test tomorrow, the final day of the first 100-hour teacher training programme. Am I thrilled? Hardly to be honest. And I thought yoga is supposed to release stress, not piling it on!

Friday, October 17, 2014

Yoga Teacher Training ~ Day Eight

Have to admit the initial frustration I had with this training programme has mostly evaporated. Having now practised - hard - every morning for two hours over eight days, I feel my body has become a lot stronger. I can now slip into (proper) Virabhadrasansa II, Ardha Chandrasana or even Sirsasana without much problem (okay, fessing up, I have NOT been practising regularly the past 2-3 months). Though I still disagree with some of the stuff our instructor has been saying about yoga/ practice (he's for too military in my humble opinion), I think his teaching does work. This morning he showed us how to get into Urdhva Dhanurasana and I felt totally LIGHT in this pose (which I find totally incredible and amazing). 

But the real challenge is now ahead. There is a two-month gap in between now and the next 100-hour training session. So in the meantime, I will HAVE TO have much self discipline to practise every day, at home. Only then can I really stay in the same physical condition I am in now. I will also need to go over the set one-hour class sequence again and again and again until I'm super familiar with it. Only then will I be able to pass the course next January. I'm just SO worried that once work starts I'll lapse back into the state of slackness again...
Discipline and Focus!!!

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Yoga Teacher Training ~ Day Six

Laptop went into service (finally upgraded to Windows 7 from XP!) so wasn't able to blog about my yoga teacher training until today. 

So what exactly have I got myself into?

This is a 200-hour Yoga Alliance Accredited Teacher Training Programme that is billed by my local studio as a foundation course that prepares keen yoga practitioners/ students to teach. It does warn that the course "will require a strong commitment and personal sacrifice, as well as the support of the student's primary support network. We emphasise that this programme may not be for everyone." I'm taking the first 100 hours this month and will complete the entire programme next January. And I've survived 60 hours.  

Getting up every morning @ 5.30am in order to attend a two-hour morning intensive practice actually hasn't been that bad. The session itself is challenging but fun, and fellow students and I do find ourselves learning a lot about not only our own practice (we've been doing some of the poses wrong) but also ourselves. Most of my classmates are, like myself, keen to learn more about "yoga" and don't really have plans to teach (not in the immediate future anyway). But I think therein also lies the problem because I think the head of the programme does (quite rightly so) expect us to be ... more committed. It really is like going back to school. He drills us everyday that we must give our practice 200%, focus, focus, focus and that we must be really, really serious about yoga... learning to chant and all the poses in Sanskrit. 


Oh yes. So, downward facing dog is adho mukha svanasana, warrior 1 is virabhadrasana 1, and hand to big toe pose is uttitha hasta padangustasana. Like, what?!? 

Basically, yoga is about suffering (apparently) ... and without which we won't be able to savor the fruits of the ... suffering. It's very Indian (?) and how yogic...

There is also a bit of yogic philosophy and anatomy thrown into the mix. As well as an one-hour sequence that we must all learn by heart by the end of the course. And this sequence is pretty detailed ... like, step you right foot forward, place your back knee on the floor, bend your left elbow and hook that onto your right knee, hands in prayer position and twist. It's THAT detailed. For 60 mins. I guess that will come in useful should I wanna share my practice with my friends.  

Have to say there is a slight discrepancy between my and their expectations of what the course is but will try my best to learn, without stressing self out.  

Okay, bed time! 

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Yoga Training ~ the Preparation

Okay, will have to put down Sen no Kesike II for awhile.

The yoga teacher training course that I signed up for earlier this year will (finally) start in a couple of days. I feel both excited and anxious: am I physically, psychologically, intellectually and spiritually up to it?? While the course also promises to be a journey of discovery: "You will learn how to listen to the dictates of your own spirit and learn how to be amazed by who you are, what you can do, and what your potential is". Hmm, I think I need a bit of self assurance/ confidence cos at my/any workplace there are always people who undermine others (so to justify their own self importance) and the arrogance on display can be overwhelming to say the least (some don't even know that themselves). Anyway, I shall remain humble ... I actually am hoping that by the end of the first 100 hours, I will feel motivated enough to give up work!!

The course is actually quite intensive; everyday starts @ 7am with meditation, breathing and physical practice for two hours, a break, then 10am to 6pm to "study" ... that is an awfully long time to be studying!!! There are some set texts including The Bhagavad Gita and Light on Life by the late BSK Iyengar. Have to say I tried reading them and they are pretty tough going (and I'd studied Eng Lit as a student!) The Anusara Teacher Training Manual is pretty fun to read though (though this particular yoga style isn't really my thing)...

Over the next two weeks I will be blogging about my experience & basic insight, and I hope I will come out of the first half of the training being able to share what I've learnt with my friends.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

All Things New

Having a very materialistic week: Downloaded the new Sen no Kiseki II game before getting the limited edition box set too (though it's not the OST). Love this game. It has a great story, some excellent dialogue and solid (turn-based) gameplay. Though while waiting for the new release, I tried playing another game (Ao no Kiseki - Evolution) from the same (Legend of Heroes) series, cos it's in Japanese, I just couldn't get into it. Also the earlier game looks so dated now I think SnK is much better. Have been playing it for a few days and the developer has added a lot more features to the battle mechanism, which is a bit confusing at the beginning but fun once mastered. 

New game has a much better cast
Last week also saw a number of new mobile phone releases (other than iPhone 6, which is quite yummy) and the one that I'm tempted to buy is Sony's Xperia Z Compact. It's just that both my Xperia Z and Samsung Galaxy Note 3 Neo seem to be playing up BUT I really don't want to trade them in (yet) cos they are still relatively new (I bought Z April 2013 and Neo in May this year). But getting a new phone means I will have to carry two instead of three phones around ... so what to do?!? 

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Some Thoughts on Ageing

Saw this video with British actress Emma Thompson visiting the Arctic (with Green Peace) and when she was asked whether being "50s is the new 30s", she said that was just "bullocks" ~ I agree with her. So many times have I told friends that I wish I'd started practising yoga when I was younger because no matter how much you exercise, your physical form does deteriorate with time ~ though, of course, with exercising, most of us can slow down that ageing process. Like, I know this young yogi who had made so much progress the past year in his yoga practice and I put a lot of that down to his youth (hard work, too, no doubt). 

As I was lying down in a reclining hero pose (supra virasana) today, my knees and lower back were complaining and I never had that much problem with this pose before (well, maybe a couple of years ago). In fact, my knees tend to complain a lot these days mostly because despite having a regular(-ish) yoga practice, my hips/pelvis are still very tight ... and all the pressure of some poses just go directly to my knees, which is not good. And, yeah, I still can't do the lotus pose ... but I'm hoping I'll get over these hang-ups when I take my teacher training early next month.

I'm glad I'm no longer a teenager though (ha!) all that raging hormone imbalance (!!) Then the 20s was all about insecurity and (unrealistic) romanticism; the 30s desperation and obsession; and, thankfully, now that I've passed my mid-40s I'm finally quite happy with the place that I'm in. Kinda looking forward to my 50s if I live that long... 

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Sen no Kiseki I (Part Three)

Clocking up to 127 hours playing this game and have now reached the final chapter. Since the sequel is not released until end of this month I might as well take it slow. The finale, apparently, is amazing. In the meantime, just enjoying the fact I can play the characters I really like:

Rean the Protagonist

Machias, Fie, Jusis and Emma

Sunday, August 17, 2014

More Thoughts on Yin Yoga

And this is a style of yoga practice that I'd like to explore more, not least because of its healing properties.

I've been having this pain (but only when I practise) running down from around the right side of my sacrum to the knee -- all thanks to my eagerness to do the splits -- and as a result, torn my hamstrings (more than once). The last time I "did it" was on the left side, also after I forced myself to do the splits (worse, in a hot room!) So for months, I have been having this pain lingering (like a clingy ex-lover) that refuses to go away. Honestly, my advice is, do NOT injure your hamstrings cos it does take months (yes, months) to heal.

And the only way to get better is to rest and try not to pull the injured spot again. I find Yin Yoga helps a lot because of the more gentle but persistent stretch that eventually "unlock" the tightness... just came across below, which I totally agree with...

Lucas Rockwood: Most modern yoga classes tend to be very athletic. Whether you’re doing Hot Yoga or Ashtanga Yoga, or any other dynamic style, most of these practices involve a lot of muscular contraction, strength, and active movements. While you can (and will) absolutely develop flexibility in these classes, you’ll achieve much bigger gains doing passive “Gravity Yoga” or yin-style poses simply because your muscles, facia and connective tissues all stretch better when relaxed. The takeaway? If you’re working on your tight hips, supplement your athletic yoga practice with long-hold, deep stretching, passive poses at home before bed. It can make a world of difference.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Something About Typhoons

All you need to know about Typhoons in this part of the world:

Some great vids and graphics

Saturday, August 2, 2014

One Song Two Beautiful Versions

Courtesy of YouTube

中島美嘉 雪の華

朴孝信 Korean Version

Sen no Kiseki I (Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Flash)

I've been playing this game for awhile now. It got off to a very slow start, esp when compared with other RPG titles like Natural Doctrine and Final Fantasy X-2 that I'd played, in which you leap into the thick of things straightaway. But once you get used to its pace, it's totally engaging. This is fast becoming one of my favourite games this year. 

I read on forums that the Legend of Heroes series focuses as much on its storytelling, which is vast and multi-layers, as it does on its gameplay (which is also fun). Here, we follow the adventure of a group of nine students -- Rean (main/ sword), Alisa (bow), Eliot (mage), Laura (sword), Machias (gun), Emma (mage), Jusis (sword), Fie (daggers) and Gaius (lancer) -- all having a back story. Their purpose/mission is only gradually unfold, with a cliffhanger right at the end (Part Two is coming out in September, around the same time I finish this game, I guess). Story-wise it's a bit like Final Fantasy Type 0 but with characters much better fleshed out here. 

Also cover image of the game guide,
which I ordered directly from Japan <3 td="">
Okay, the game did kick off with a quick battle that takes place in the future before rewinding back to the present. Playing the game is like reading a graphic, you can't just skip and get to the parts that you like. For instance, NPCs are there to talk to, not to be ignored as some of them hold important background information to the story, or side quests. Then there is the battle system, which is turn-based (my favourite), very traditional and challenging. It is never just about attacking but buffing and debuffing, as well as positioning of characters on the grid. So the opening battle isn't a problem for anyone who played this series before ... I dabbled briefly with Ao  no Kiseki, part two of the "Crossbell Arc", that directly precedes Sen no Kiseki. and the roughly the same. There are no elements such as "links" to the mechanism (think Persona 4 Golden) but it is easy to grasp. The slightly over-the-top animation of super attacks reminds me of the Disgaea games.

Sen no Kiseki is the first in the series that is presented with 3D graphic representation like in Persona 4 Golden ~ not that you need special glasses to play it but you are looking at the world at the character's eye level as opposed to looking from above. That I really like. Also the anime and music is just superb! So I'm now in the middle of Chapter 3, kinda half way through the game, and there are surprises at every turn as we learn more about each character's background and history. More and more characters are also introduced and not all of them are what they first appeared to be.

Unlike some tactics RPGs, weapons and accessories are not a major concern (like, weapons are automatically upgraded for protagonist's classmates) and accessories/ items/ skills seem quite easy to obtain (just open all the treasure chests). What is tough though is that skill points (for magic and special attacks) are easily exhausted and I'm still working out the strategy for saving them (sometimes attacks can be free!)

I'm gonna grind/farm a bit cos I really like the battle system as most characters can use both magic and physical attacks well there's always a bit of strategy involved. At the moment fav characters are Rean, Jusis, Fie, Gaius, Machias and Alisa cos of their 3D personality.  

Sunday, July 20, 2014

An Interesting Alien Film

Just saw this intriguing sci-fi flick starring Scarlett Johansson as an alien that feeds on men with strong, thick Scottish accents. It's an artsy movie is both beautiful and stomach-churning and features a haunting soundtrack that matches the (v dark) mood of the film. What I like most about Under the Skin, which tells a rather simple story and has very few dialogues, is that it looks at us/humanity through the eyes of an outsider. It evokes reactions (I immediately felt bad eating meat, of instance) and I thought humans are such easy preys since most of us are pretty stupid, right? I mean, look at those horny men being lured into the alien's den ... Interestingly, the film (and the alien) then decides to take pity on us, most ordinary people just wanna get on with our lives, before things turn nasty in the end. Looking at the state of the world today, with so many countries in conflict, what will eventually bring the end to it won't be any meteor or alien invasion but ourselves...

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Another Pervy (?) Japanese PS Vita Game...


What's it with these Japanese video game developers? First it was that hidden "shower scene" in The 3rd Birthday. Then came "sexy time" in Valhalla Knights 3 when players have to "pleasure" the nightclub hostesses (i.e. "rubbing" various "hot spots" on the PS Vita screen) in order to have them join their team. Now, Monster Monpiece truly takes abusing your Vita to a new height:

Only the Japanese...
I like the way reviewers (mostly outside of Japan) boil this sort of gameplay down to "cultural differences" but what this really is is ... I dunno, Japanese gamers are quite pervy. But that is the thing, they also seem to like the sort of genre that I like (yes, what does THAT say about ME)!! So yes, I've downloaded MM mainly because this is one of the very, very few card battle games available on the Vita market and now I will have to "play" this, like, in the loo or something ... cos I CANNOT imagine me doing this to my Vita in public ... I mean, pleasuring the hostesses during my work commute was bad enough ...

Sunday, June 29, 2014

The Transformers

I took my old man to catch the latest Transformers movie ("Age of Extinction") yesterday (3D IMAX version) and he kinda nodded off after just 10 mins in .. though, admittedly, that has more to do with his age than, say, the Robots-smashing-everything-in-their-way CGI fest. For what it is (err, it IS a franchise based on a toy...), I thoroughly enjoyed the 180-min of action, bar a few annoying things, like, product placement. It really was pretty blatant. 

I'm surprised they actually try to squeeze a bit of drama into this fiction tale of alien-invasion (dad-daughter relationship) and it kinda worked and it didn't; the dialogues aren't that great but this is no Shakespeare, but Mark Wahlberg (in his more physically deflated than pumped up form) plays the dad who looks far too young to have a 17-year-old daughter whose boyfriend doesn't look that much older than he is, the father... a bit confusing there. Even more confusing though are the various kinds of Transformers featured in this latest instalment. To say this is mindless entertainment is a bit unfair since I did have to think -- and think hard -- about who's who doing what, when, how and why.

Mark Wahlberg is pretty cool
in Transformers 4

SO (and I'm looking at Wiki for help here) Optimus Prime is the Good Robot (you see, I kinda forgot about that ... since he is so mean looking I mistaken him as Megatron, which is the Bad Robot that led the Decepticons); and Optimus Prime and his pals are all Autobots who are nice to humans (and ultimately betrayed by them). I kinda figured this out, like, half way through the movie (at the beginning I was like, why are these baddies on the run? Oh, never mind). Then there is Lockdown (a Transformer bounty hunter I learnt later reading Wiki). Like, who the hell is this thing? And there is also the upgraded version of Megatron called Galvatron (created by a human scientist) ... by the time he appears, my brain was, like, okay, just focus and keep this really simple: Optimus Prime and his mates are all GOOD, the others are all BAD. Once over that hurdle, the rest is kinda fun: the scenes in HK are fabulous, I thought (esp when Li Bingbing's trying to borrow a motorbike from Ray Lui using her cute Cantonese); I didn't realise Stanley Tucci is also in this movie so another pleasant surprise. You can kinda tell the director Michael Bay and the crew didn't take things too seriously (and were able to take the piss out of themselves) but just seriously enough to keep the movie from descending into some horrid farce. 

I'd recommend this movie to anyone who are suckers for sci-fi CGI action flicks like me. But tickets for good seats are all but gone for the next week or so. Oh, my dad did manage to stay awake to watch his home city being totally smashed up by alien robots... the Convention Centre getting sucked up and then spat out by a spaceship is just Too Awesome to be missed!!! 

New Games

Gone a bit crazy buying new video games lately ... and am thankful I'm bilingual cos more and more of these (Japanese) games are localised into Chinese than English. Well, I guess Greater China/Asia is a much bigger market than, say, US and Europe combined (?) 

Anyway, here are the new titles I bought in the past couple of months or so: Natural Doctrine, Danganronpa 2, Sword Art Online Hollow Fragment, Legend of Heroes: Ao No Kiseki Evolution, Legend of Heroes: Sen No Kiseki (Trails in the Flash) and Nobunaga's Ambition: Souzou.

Type-0? No, this is more kawaii
Danganronpa 2 was a disappointment not least cos it is quite an expensive but I just didn't get the game (which was, apparently, voted by Japanese gamers as the best PS Vita game of 2013). Investigating into murders of fellow students just isn't my thing. And it's "trial system" is just very, very lengthy and hard to grasp. So having played one chapter I'm giving up. Natural Doctrine I really enjoyed/loved -- it is so challenging I rage quit quite a few times *lol* and the voice acting is really cool -- but have reached end of second playthrough so am pretty done with this game/title.  SAO and Evolution I bought cos of the beautiful graphics (and cos I was desperate to play some new games after Natural Doctrine) but SAO is a bit like Ys - hack and slash - which isn't really my cuppa; while Evolution, though is turn-based (my favourite genre), it's in Japanese and looks a bit dated compared with Sen No Kiseki. So I'm playing its sequel Sen No Kiseki right now -- beautiful anime though difficulty-wise it's child's play compared with Natural Doctrine. What I like about this latest (localised) LoH title is it's a bit like Persona 4 Golden and Final Fantasy Type-0 rolled into one (both my all-time fav games). It's set in a school and has a turned based battle system (P4G) and the story revolves around this group of nine specially hand-picked students who are gonna, like, save the world (Type-0). Actually, Type-0 is experiencing a re-surge of interest cos its fan-made English patch is finally released. It's nice to see gamers discussing and sharing tips on their favourite characters and strategies etc. on forums. I, unfortunately, didn't have that during my three playthroughs cos the game still isn't officially localised and I enjoy a game a lot more if I could discuss it with other online gamers. Anyway, I think this game deserves to be widely played and recognised! I'm still annoyed that the Vita system doesn't support the demo of this game hence I won't be able to get the summer uniforms to unlock the "what if" ending, which I kinda want, being a completionist ... boo-hoo.

And there is Nobunaga's Ambition: Souzou which I downloaded just yesterday. It reminds me of  Sangokushi 12 (Romance of the Three Kingdoms XII), which I really enjoyed fiddling ~ "fiddling" as I didn't know how to play it properly -- it's in Japanese. It's a strategy game so involves a lot of micro-management, which I love in this genre. 

So much to play and so little time -- it's tough to relive one's teenage years ... LOL

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Yogic Breathing

Rainy and thunderous this morning best to practise at home than trekking all the way to the studio. So decided to try out the Ashtanga sequence in David Swenson's The Practice Manual. I chose the 45-minute version (with slightly extended Surya Namaskara A and B). Even this shortened sequence is quite challenging as it has a number of hip opening poses (e.g. Upavishta Konasana or wide-leg forward fold, holding both feet..), quite impossible for me as my hips are extremely narrow.

What I find equally challenging is how to match the breaths with the movement; sometimes I find myself breathing in while doing the cobra/up dog pose, other times breathing out (it should be the former). So I can a little confused when doing the sun salutation. I'm hoping the more I practise (I should really practise a lot more at home), the more I will be in tune with my breathing. 

Including a short meditation, my session was around 45 mins though I think I rushed through a few poses cos I was sweating so much! It really is amazing how a few Surya Namaskara can heat the body up.  

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Back Bending

This is one partner pose that really works the back ... we did that yesterday and I FEEL the effects as I type. Feels great. Nice ~

The guy can actually recline all the way down
into Hero Pose (our instructor did that yesterday)

Natural Doctrine (Part Three)

Half the Natural Doctrine crew
Jeff (silly name), Vasilisa, Anca, Zekelinde and Mel
Just gotta show, with a bit (or should that be plenty in this case?) of patience, even the harshest game is enjoyable. Finally finished my first playthrough of Natural Doctrine and I've already jumped right into my second playthrough. It is a surprise hit (for me) because I really hated it at the beginning but I soon realised this is the sort of turn-based, strategy game that I just cannot have enough of! I love it when you really have to think before you make a move (bit like playing chess, really) and the game sure is not a walk in the park. As said before, it is the most unforgiving game I've played but that also makes it one of the best! 

It took me days to figure out how to beat the final boss battle, with full ending. And it really was worth it. Apparently there was a way to snipe the Queen Bug down before her hp reaches, like, 8,000+; so the trick is to kill its first form (only around 1,000 hp), then its second form (around 2,500 hp) and final form (around 5,000 hp) before the spewing bugs begin to spew... once that happens it's guaranteed Game Over ... or at least with part of the team dying. Boy, it took me awhile to work this out since there is NO walkthrough for this game (most gamers give up after the first chapter I think).

Elsewhere, kinda given up on Final Fantasy X-2 (for now, Natural Doctrine is more challenging), have tried Danganronpa 2, which I couldn't get into... the gameplay (and the whole murdering your classmates to survive) is too weird for me; Sword Art Online Hollow Fragment I find a bit childish; and Legend of Heroes VII I bought only cos I made the wrong order but I'm looking forward to the local release of Legend of Heroes - Trails in the Flash, which looks kinda fun (Persona meets Natural Doctrine lol) OH, and am playing, on and off, Final Fantasy IV (the complete collection) ... think this one I will get back into eventually (the soundtrack is beautiful) ...

Monday, June 9, 2014

The 8th Asia Yoga Conference

Once again, I'd decided not to take any classes during this year's AYC because the year before last, I found practising inside a carpeted hall (which, in turn, is inside this city's convention and exhibition centre) a bit weird, especially I wasn't entirely sure when the mouldy-looking carpet was last vacuumed and cleaned. @.@

Nonetheless, I've always enjoyed going to the annual event because I can pick up yoga CDs or books that are otherwise not available in local bookstores, and certainly not at a discounted price. So this year has been great because I could truly take advantage of that by buying all these set texts for the teacher training programme. The first day it was buy two books get one free and the second buy one get one free. Fantastic. So on Day Uno I bought The Bhagavad Gita (a "spiritual work that forms the cornerstone of the Hindu faith"); B.K.S Iyengar's Light on Life; and Anusara Yoga Teacher Training Manual (cos, I guess, the teacher training course instructor, Patrick Creelman, is Anusara trained). Next day, I bought the remaining set text Anatomy on Movement and, for free, David Swenson's Ashtanga Yoga ~ The Practice Manual. I really like the last book because it shows you all the modifications to "standard" Ashtanga poses (some of which are extremely difficult) so to avoid injuries. So Swenson really encourages a mindful practice, which I think is vital. 

Though the teacher training -- a 200-hour foundation course -- isn't until October, I think I will start reading the set texts now ... and maybe blog about my thoughts ... I think my doing so I may be able to remember more (and perhaps properly digest) what I'd read. Will probably start The Bhagavad Gita first before moving onto Light on Life ... it's like going back to college and it's a good thing I like reading, especially classics. 

Meanwhile, I'd recorded a demonstration by a group of students who practise at my local yoga studio, and they are quite amazing (above). They move so beautifully that, watching them makes me feel like jumping on the mat straightaway! Very inspiring. Enjoy...

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Yoga Teacher Training

Have signed up for a 200-hour 24-Day Yoga Alliance accredited teacher training programme @ my local studio this week. Very exciting and excited. It will be held, thankfully, in two parts: October and January 2015. My yoga instructor friend told me that if it was a month-long intensive, students would get injured towards the end because, understandably, the course is physically very demanding. Mentally too, I'm told. Hmm, that sounds a bit scary.

Anyway, I think after 6+ years of practice I'm ready to take it a bit further and deeper. Though the longer I practise the more "issues" I discover I have with my physical body: hips, knee joints, shoulders and my spine ... am hoping through the training I will learn how to deal with these issues as I'm pretty much stuck with this body the rest of my life LOL. I'd also like to meditate more. At the moment, I can sit down for about 30 mins without fretting ... think am still a LONG way off before I can sit down and meditate, say, for an entire afternoon (without falling asleep). Ironic that this may sound but it can be quite exhausting just sitting down and not moving (!)

To prepare for the course, I will have to read up on quite a number of set texts... probably need to start learning Sanskrit *gulp* and write a couple of essays (which is fine, since I blog about my practice anyway). For this particular training programme there are four compulsory texts: Bhagavad Gita, Light on Life, John Friend's Anusara Teacher Training Manual (since the trainer Patrick Creelman is Anusara-trained I guess) and a book on anatomy, which should be interesting. I think I will get these books as soon as I can from the studio. 

But before I do all that, I think I will need to think hard on the reasons why I want to do this course (other than the 50-word sentence I sent to the studio for the application). Is it for personal advancement? Is it to satisfy a curiosity? Is it to do with achieving a life goal, is it about learning a new skill etc etc. I'm glad I've started this blog since I can put my thoughts down in writing in the coming months ... it does help to focus the mind. 

A Miscellaneous Posting

Have reached the final boss in Natural Doctrine but think will play some other games now. Apparently with ND, the end of first playthrough will take me straight to New Game, with nothing being carried over (yikes!), there is no way I will grind for those accessories and weapons again. I've done quite well in unlocking some goodies so I think I will pause right here. Have the say the game design is a bit naff ... why give us these accessories and weapons so late in the game while you can't really use them? And why can't we carry them to NG+? Anyway, can either return to Final Fantasy X-2 HD, which I still haven't finished, or continue with Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair, which is extremely slow moving (am still at the stage when all FIFTEEN characters are being introduced (before they get bumped off one by one). Weird game but it was one of the top games (in Japan) in 2013 ... so maybe will just keep playing it ... for the rest of this year LOL... am sure once the action starts it'll be interesting and gripping (like with Persona 4: the Golden, I hope).

Almost forgot, a friend has asked to help post this link, so here it is below ... sounds like a very interesting and meaningful project:

#Myanmar # Burma

I want to share our Myanmar project on the country’s ties to China (Patrick Boehler wrote and I filmed) with you as well as a little anecdote about our time there on assignment. 

It’s still unclear how dangerous it was but sometimes you have to insist on doing things when you are covering a story. This was a calculated risk.

Patrick and I wanted to go see the site on the Irrawaddy River where China was building Myanmar’s largest dam before construction was halted. Standing at the edge of the river across from the empty construction encampment, we asked around to see if anyone would take us. But, no one would responding that the area was off limits to non-locals.  And, they didn’t want to be seen with us if caught. With my darker skin tone, I could fit in, but I was holding a camera, filming. Patrick, on the other hand, would stick out no matter what so the locals offered him a hat.  Now, in a country like Myanmar, where the military ruled with an iron fist for decades until recently, you don’t argue too much when you’re told something is off-limits. But, we were in the middle of nowhere, and we just wanted to go just a little downstream to see what they had built so far. What could possibly go wrong? 

Eventually, we did find someone who would take us downriver, and as you can see in the link(s) below, the reporting trip was well worth it. You can watch it on any mobile and desktop device, and if you’re watching on Internet Explorer make sure it is about version 9. 

Direct link to project:

Shortlink for Twitter: 

Sunday, May 18, 2014

A Couple of Reviews

Just posted this on a game forum re: my experience with Natural Doctrine:

Okay, now that I've spent some time on this game, I can say I belong to the fraction who enjoys it v much. Yes, I seldom make it through a battle without Game Over-ing at least once but what is a game without any challenges, right? I'm now in this battle in which there seems to be an endless reinforcement of enemy gunners (so I need to keep everyone alive) while at the same time trying not to accidentally kill certain key characters on the battlefield AND to get to a couple of goodies chest guarded by these lizardmen...

I think I'm getting the hang of the link/chaining system but a good part of this game is also about strategising (getting as many turns as you can and physical deployment of team members). I agree with the criticism that, in some battles, you MUST do it the way developers want you to do it or else it's sayonara. That is a bit frustrating cos it might take several attempts (and many hours!) just to work out what the "correct" strategy is.

EDIT: I'm still trying to learn how to chain more than a dozen moves in one turn (which apparently is possible)... one skill also enables chaining of members scattered around the map...

I actually am enjoying this game. It is certainly much, much harder than Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together because there is no second chance. If you blew it, you blew it. You cannot reverse your move (as in the "chariot system" in TO) or revive any dead party member. Once someone on your team is killed, it's Game Over. I mean, just how unforgiving is that?! Just read on a strategy site how the "chaining" system work in this game and it is very complicated... Am surprised I got this far without fully understanding how the mechanism works. But I think I've reached a point in the game I must learn how to get as many moves as I can in one turn. 

JJH with her pink Samsung Note 3
On Tech-land, I just renewed my (two-year) contract with my mobile service provider -- and got a "free" Samsung Note 3 Neo out of it. I got this phone mainly because the brand was featured (prominently) in a super popular K-drama called He Who Comes from the Stars and, let me tell you, product placement totally works for someone susceptible like me *LOL* The one I got is green in colour (yeah!) and I've costumised it so it looks like a Stars phone. But compared with my Sony Xperia Z, I think this phone is less solid and it's WAY to sensitive to touches; i.e. in Instagram, before I hit the snap button it'd already snapped! Which can be extremely annoying. And it really has far more fancy little functions than I'd care for. Still, it didn't cost me anything so I'll just stick with it. But it does mean I now have to carry to big phones PLUS my Blackberry cos I don't wanna centralise all functions onto one phone (so Xperia Z has Whatsapp while Neo has Line) ... all very cumbersome but what is a phone geek to do?  

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Natural Doctrine (Part Two)

Wow, this is a very unforgiving game! Just rage-quit ... needs to take a break. I'm already on Easy mode (I think) and am going through one dungeon that is extremely tricky and annoying. The worst part is the challenging part comes at the end -- so Game Over after already spent 15-20 minutes on clearing the earlier enemies is very %$%^$. Really need to think more carefully how to tackle this one ... and I hope to beat this dungeon relies not on luck but strategy! I'm still trying to grasp how the turn-chain works ... like, if the enemies chain together 10 attacks, then it's highly unfair on the player who only has five characters >:    

Monday, April 21, 2014

Natural Doctrine

Though this game won't be localised until this autumn (boo-hoo), Natural Doctrine is just too good a SRPG to pass up right now! Released this month in Japan, this turn-based strategy game is like Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together (one of my all-time fav games) and Valhalla Knights 3 only its battle mechanism (esp its chain of turns) is more complex. I've already spent some time grinding levels and farming accessories and am totally loving it. This is not hack and slash and a lot of thoughts go into each move so one game can last about 30 mins! The only downside is, unlike TO -- when you kinda know whose turn it is next (the "lightest" characters always move first) -- here I never quite know who will take the next turn and sometimes I stare in horror when the enemies chain up to a dozen attacks (this basically spells Game Over). But I certainly will be spending much time on this game this week.

I finally bought the disc set of this year's super popular K drama called You Who Came From the Stars, which stars one of my fav Korean actresses Jun Ji-hyun. It's totally predicable and totally addictive. So when I'm not gaming this week I will be watching/finishing this 20-episode series (am on Episode 12 now!)

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Some Romancing

So I've made another crack at playing Sangokushi 12 (or Romance of Three Kingdoms 12) this weekend and I think I'll have to give up playing it (for now). It's just too complicated a game to play in Japanese. So far I've been building up my cities (just acquired a third one without entering a battle) but I'm not sure I'm playing it right (it looks far too simple). The game requires players to invest a lot of time fiddling with the tiniest details (like, are ensuring soldiers are getting fed and pay rises...) The thing is I accidentally pressed the wrong button last night and the game decided to go on auto mode and have a life of its own -- various battles were entered and played out with laborious details though I had no idea of what's going on ... well, I think it just showed how different warlords were trying to conquer China and it went on and on and on (one long battle after another). The only good thing is now I have a better idea on how these battles are fought and the strategies used.  

This game has been slammed by those who'd played this series before, notably criticising it for not being as good as its previous instalment (RoTK 11); but since this is my first RoTK strategy game, I find it quite interesting though I wish it was either in Chinese or English so I can understand it better. 

Think I'm ready to move on from Final Fantasy X-2 is well ... but the question is: which game shall I play next? New titles like Soul Sacrifice Delta and Deception IV: Blood Ties are just not really my thing (way way too bloody) and I much prefer strategic games than hack and slash. Will keep looking ... 

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Hip Opening Poses

Just a quick note before going to bed. Took a stretch class this evening and all the poses were targeted at hip opening. To test how open your hips are; sit down, open up your legs and see how far your knees can go. If your knees can be pushed all the way back they form one straight line with your hips, Congrats, your hips are extraordinarily open. My knees open up at an angle (90 degrees), hence, very tight hips!

Sunday, March 23, 2014

More on Final Fantasy X-2 HD (Part Four)

Just posted below onto a game forum. Yes, still playing the game (endless fun; grinding APs not as bad as I thought) ... and also bought the Chinese edition of Final Fantasy X (with original Japanese voices). Will save that for later. I find the battle mechanism of X-2 v diverse and the difficulty of the game (esp towards the end) pushes players to make use of this mechanism to come up with strategies to defeat the tougher bosses.

Okay, my primary character/party (thematic) setup is:

Yuna, primarily healer and magic wielder
DS: Moogle, Gun Mage and Songstress (Festival goer I still like)
GG: Valiant Lustre
ACC: Ragnarok + stat boosting (or Lore)

Rikku, attacker, secondary healer
DS: Berserker, Alchemist and Thief
GG: Highroad Winds (be good to get Mounted Assault) or Ray of Hope
ACC: Rabite's Foot + stat boosting

Paine, sole attacker
DS: Samurai, Dark Knight and Warrior
GG: Undying Storm or Valiant Luster
ACC: stat boosting + stat boosting

With strategy, the above should be fun to play. I wish I didn't miss the Invincible accessory :o( now I will have to unlock GG that has break damage limit...

Over on tech land, I bought an old Samsung ... now I have FOUR obsolete (but I think still v stylish) phones: Sidekick LX 2009, Nokia 8310 & N8, and Samsung SGH-P940. 

Saturday, February 15, 2014

More on Final Fantasy X-2 HD (Part Three)

I really am an extremely patient game player. Very few would have bought a game in another language and tried to play it through using various walkthroughs (without any patches). It is, trust me, an elaborate process. But I've now done it with Final Fantasy VII: Crisis Core (okay, I played it blind with this one), Final Fantasy Type-0 and, now, Final Fantasy X-2 the remark. These Japanese games just look so good to be missed! 

So I've now reached the fifth and final chapter of FF X-2 and I AM enjoying it a lot. As said before, I love the job system ... the thing is cos it's in Japanese I just have to memorise the positions of useful attacks. Admittedly, some fun is lost there, somewhere, but the whole (turn-based) experience is still sufficiently engaging to keep me interested. And touch wood, I think I've managed to do all the necessary steps (meet all the necessary requirements) to get my hands on the "ultimate" weapons/accessories. 

Yuna as Festival goer
I  have so far found accs like Ribbon and Minerva's Plate (yumm!) In fact, I'm obsessed with getting the unique stuff in games (god, the time and effort I spent on Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together!). But this is only a small part of the game. I think I'm only scratching the surface of the overall gameplay. Playing the story, I'm simply trying to get all necessary weapons (in the form of "dresspheres", "garment grinds" and accs in this game) before I attempt the hard bosses: the Mega Tonberry is just indestructible! So, the completion of the storyline is mere one part of this vast game; after that (perhaps in New Game +) I will be using all the stuff I unlocked to, well, strategically apply them in the more challenging battles (which is the part I think I will enjoy the most). To be honest, I am not getting much out of the storyline anyway cos I have no idea what the characters are saying (in Japanese) ... using the various walkthroughs, I'm just following other players and experiencing what they experienced -- which is fine, at least I know I'm not missing the missables(!) Besides, FF X-2 is NOT known for its fantastic story (unlike, Final Fantasy IV, which I have - in English - but haven't completed yet ... it is far more difficult and unforgiving game than FF X-2!!) 

I found below from "Brain Weasel" ( and I totally agree with him/her: "Is the game good? I didn't really think so the first time I completed the game, one eye on the screen, a 100% completion FAQ up on my laptop, a LEGO sculpture holding controller buttons down for me while my AP slowly earned themselves. But while I had some unflattering things to say about the game in the course of this LP, I also discovered that I was playing it wrong. I'm starting to realize that this question is as dependent on the player as it is on the game design. Having a secret ending with bullshit completion requirements was a poor choice on the developer's side, but insisting on seeing that ending was a choice I made and stuck with even though I wasn't having any fun doing it. I lost sight of the journey while focused on the destination.

"Suppose I had played through the game without a FAQ. It's a weird concept for a modern RPG, but it's how games used to be played, right? I probably would have seen the standard ending, and deemed it to be a perfectly reasonable and serviceable one. After a while, I probably would have picked the game up again and done some more exploring, and eventually went to a guide for the last few things I never would have found on my own. That, I think, I would have called a good game experience. But it's not what I thought to do, and so the game and I were a poor match. But I also don't have the twitch gaming reflexes to play, say, Painkiller, and it's wouldn't be fair to call it a bad game for that reason. Badness is objective, but goodness is subjective, I guess is what I'm getting at. And Final Fantasy X-2 is nothing if not subjective."

Thursday, February 6, 2014

That Monkey in My Head

The monkey in my head
is not unlike Albert

I used to tell people that I have a monkey mind: that I have so many inner thoughts bouncing and leaping around, from one tree to another, the traffic in my head makes the LA highways look like a snail racetrack. Well, yes. It used to be very hard for me to meditate cos the minute I sit down I started to fidget ... ouch my bum hurts, ouch my right knee hurts, ouch my left foot is feeling numb ... but over time, this little monkey in my head started to behave and, as I said in a previous post, I caught and tamed it when I was at the Koh Samui yoga retreat, when I was meditating on the beach. Last night, I was at a yin class and it was amazing that I just sat through 10 mins of meditation without even thinking about it ... I could have sat there forever I reckon. Will try to do that this weekend. I think the reason for that calmness is partly cos my lower back is now more flexible so sitting down cross-legged for a long period of time is no longer as challenging as before. There is simply less discomfort. Even more amazing was that fact that when I stepped on the mat, I had many negative thoughts on my mind. I felt ... wronged. But as soon as I closed my eyes, those thoughts just melted away and all I could "see" was this monkey standing beside me, blinking its big eyes and all was fine again. I realised then that we would be together for the rest of my life. And only when I go will it be free to roam around again.

(oh, spambots seem to have gone!!!)

Got up this morning and saw this article by Russell Brand (druggie turned yogi) ... it is so moving I'm posting it here. Fruit for thoughts...

Below is taken from The Guardian website (by Russell Brand)

The last time I thought about taking heroin was yesterday. I had received "an inconvenient truth" from a beautiful woman. It wasn't about climate change – I'm not that ecologically switched on – she told me she was pregnant and it wasn't mine.
I had to take immediate action. I put Morrissey on in my car as an external conduit for the surging melancholy, and as I wound my way through the neurotic Hollywood hills, the narrow lanes and tight bends were a material echo of the synaptic tangle where my thoughts stalled and jammed.
Morrissey, as ever, conducted a symphony, within and without and the tidal misery burgeoned. I am becoming possessed. The part of me that experienced the negative data, the self, is becoming overwhelmed, I can no longer see where I end and the pain begins. So now I have a choice.
I cannot accurately convey to you the efficiency of heroin in neutralising pain. It transforms a tight, white fist into a gentle, brown wave. From my first inhalation 15 years ago, it fumigated my private hell and lay me down in its hazy pastures and a bathroom floor in Hackney embraced me like a womb.
This shadow is darkly cast on the retina of my soul and whenever I am dislodged from comfort my focus falls there.
It is 10 years since I used drugs or drank alcohol and my life has improved immeasurably. I have a job, a house, a cat, good friendships and generally a bright outlook.
The price of this is constant vigilance because the disease of addiction is not rational. Recently for the purposes of a documentary on this subject I reviewed some footage of myself smoking heroin that my friend had shot as part of a typically exhibitionist attempt of mine to get clean.
I sit wasted and slumped with an unacceptable haircut against a wall in another Hackney flat (Hackney is starting to seem like part of the problem) inhaling fizzy, black snakes of smack off a scrap of crumpled foil. When I saw the tape a month or so ago, what is surprising is that my reaction is not one of gratitude for the positive changes I've experienced but envy at witnessing an earlier version of myself unencumbered by the burden of abstinence. I sat in a suite at the Savoy hotel, in privilege, resenting the woeful ratbag I once was, who, for all his problems, had drugs. That is obviously irrational.
The mentality and behaviour of drug addicts and alcoholics is wholly irrational until you understand that they are completely powerless over their addiction and unless they have structured help they have no hope.
This is the reason I have started a fund within Comic Relief, Give It Up. I want to raise awareness of, and money for, abstinence-based recovery. It was Kevin Cahill's idea, he is the bloke who runs Comic Relief. He called me when he read an article I wrote after Amy Winehouse died. Her death had a powerful impact on me I suppose because it was such an obvious shock, like watching someone for hours through a telescope, seeing them advance towards you, fist extended with the intention of punching you in the face. Even though I saw it coming, it still hurt when it eventually hit me.
What was so painful about Amy's death is that I know that there is something I could have done. I could have passed on to her the solution that was freely given to me. Don't pick up a drink or drug, one day at a time. It sounds so simple. It actually is simple but it isn't easy: it requires incredible support and fastidious structuring. Not to mention that the whole infrastructure of abstinence based recovery is shrouded in necessary secrecy. There are support fellowships that are easy to find and open to anyone who needs them but they eschew promotion of any kind in order to preserve the purity of their purpose, which is for people with alcoholism and addiction to help one another stay clean and sober.
Without these fellowships I would take drugs. Because, even now, the condition persists. Drugs and alcohol are not my problem, reality is my problem, drugs and alcohol are my solution.
If this seems odd to you it is because you are not an alcoholic or a drug addict. You are likely one of the 90% of people who can drink and use drugs safely. I have friends who can smoke weed, swill gin, even do crack and then merrily get on with their lives. For me, this is not an option. I will relinquish all else to ride that buzz to oblivion. Even if it began as a timid glass of chardonnay on a ponce's yacht, it would end with me necking the bottle, swimming to shore and sprinting to Bethnal Green in search of a crack house. I look to drugs and booze to fill up a hole in me; unchecked, the call of the wild is too strong. I still survey streets for signs of the subterranean escapes that used to provide my sanctuary. I still eye the shuffling subclass of junkies and dealers, invisibly gliding between doorways through the gutters. I see that dereliction can survive in opulence; the abundantly wealthy with destitution in their stare.
Spurred by Amy's death, I've tried to salvage unwilling victims from the mayhem of the internal storm and I am always, always, just pulled inside myself. I have a friend so beautiful, so haunted by talent that you can barely look away from her, whose smile is such a treasure that I have often squandered my sanity for a moment in its glow. Her story is so galling that no one would condemn her for her dependency on illegal anesthesia, but now, even though her life is trying to turn around despite her, even though she has genuine opportunities for a new start, the gutter will not release its prey. The gutter is within. It is frustrating to watch. It is frustrating to love someone with this disease.
A friend of mine's brother cannot stop drinking. He gets a few months of sobriety and his inner beauty, with the obstacles of his horrible drunken behaviour pushed aside by the presence of a programme, begins to radiate. His family bask relieved, in the joy of their returned loved one, his life gathers momentum but then he somehow forgets the price of this freedom, returns to his old way of thinking, picks up a drink and Mr Hyde is back in the saddle. Once more his brother's face is gaunt and hopeless. His family blame themselves and wonder what they could have done differently, racking their minds for a perfect sentiment; wrapped up in the perfect sentence, a magic bullet to sear right through the toxic fortress that has incarcerated the person they love and restore them to sanity. The fact is, though, that they can't, the sufferer must, of course, be a willing participant in their own recovery. They must not pick up a drink or drug, one day at a time. Just don't pick up, that's all.
It is difficult to feel sympathy for these people. It is difficult to regard some bawdy drunk and see them as sick and powerless. It is difficult to suffer the selfishness of a drug addict who will lie to you and steal from you and forgive them and offer them help. Can there be any other disease that renders its victims so unappealing? Would Great Ormond Street be so attractive a cause if its beds were riddled with obnoxious little criminals that had "brought it on themselves"?
Peter Hitchens is a vocal adversary of mine on this matter. He sees this condition as a matter of choice and the culprits as criminals who should go to prison. I know how he feels. I bet I have to deal with a lot more drug addicts than he does, let's face it. I share my brain with one, and I can tell you firsthand, they are total fucking wankers. Where I differ from Peter is in my belief that if you regard alcoholics and drug addicts not as bad people but as sick people then we can help them to get better. By we, I mean other people who have the same problem but have found a way to live drug-and-alcohol-free lives. Guided by principles and traditions a programme has been founded that has worked miracles in millions of lives. Not just the alcoholics and addicts themselves but their families, their friends and of course society as a whole.
What we want to do with Give It Up is popularise a compassionate perception of drunks and addicts, and provide funding for places at treatment centres where they can get clean using these principles. Then, once they are drug-and-alcohol-free, to make sure they retain contact with the support that is available to keep them clean. I know that as you read this you either identify with it yourself or are reminded of someone who you love who cannot exercise control over substances. I want you to know that the help that was available to me, the help upon which my recovery still depends is available.
I wound down the hill in an alien land, Morrissey chanted lonely mantras, the pain quickly accumulated incalculably, and I began to weave the familiar tapestry that tells an old, old story. I think of places I could score. Off Santa Monica there's a homeless man who I know uses gear. I could find him, buy him a bag if he takes me to score.
I leave him on the corner, a couple of rocks, a couple of $20 bags pressed into my sweaty palm. I get home, I pull out the foil, neatly torn. I break the bottom off a Martell miniature. I have cigarettes, using makes me need fags. I make a pipe for the rocks with the bottle. I lay a strip of foil on the counter to chase the brown. I pause to reflect and regret that I don't know how to fix, only smoke, feeling inferior even in the manner of my using. I see the foil scorch. I hear the crackle from which crack gets it's name. I feel the plastic fog hit the back of my yawning throat. Eyes up. Back relaxing, the bottle drops and the greedy bliss eats my pain. There is no girl, there is no tomorrow, there is nothing but the bilious kiss of the greedy bliss.
Even as I spin this beautifully dreaded web, I am reaching for my phone. I call someone: not a doctor or a sage, not a mystic or a physician, just a bloke like me, another alcoholic, who I know knows how I feel. The phone rings and I half hope he'll just let it ring out. It's 4am in London. He's asleep, he can't hear the phone, he won't pick up. I indicate left, heading to Santa Monica. The ringing stops, then the dry mouthed nocturnal mumble: "Hello. You all right mate?"
He picks up.
And for another day, thank God, I don't have to.
• Red Nose Day is on Friday 15 March. Join the Fun Raisers

Monday, February 3, 2014

A Pain in the ... Sacroiliac Joints

Actually, they ARE where the arse is *lol*

So I took a couple of therapeutic yoga classes over the weekend but, ironically, I'd managed to (albeit mildly) injure myself. Thinking back, I think there was one particular "pose" that set off my lower back pain. The instructors asked us to place a block on either side of the spine/lower back (above the sacrum) before lying on top of them, the gap between the two blocks is where the spine was. It felt great at the time but after awhile my legs started to shake for some reasons. Then after the class, my lower back just felt kinda sore. Later on still, I felt there was slight swelling in my left sacroiliac joint area. Coupled with all the twisting, I think I'd somehow over stretched the SI joints. Anyway, I did some research and discovered many articles written about them ~ and how these joints can become hyper-mobilised (like, not good). Below is what I found on one web site: 

"The SI joints are unique in the body in that they are stabilised only by ligaments. If you have a look at the triangular shaped sacrum you can see that gravity is trying to drive this bone into the hip bones and drive them apart.Very strong ligaments usually keep this movement in check but in the event of an injury, or wear and tear over time, these ligaments can begin to fail and become inflamed. When ligaments fail, they take far longer than muscles to repair due to their relatively poor blood supply. It is not unusual for a serious SI joint injury to take up-to 6 weeks to settle down."

Note where the red bits are and ask yourself: how many times have you felt pain in that region??? I also found another article that explains why some yoga poses might trigger the discomfort and that we should be mindful about our practice...

Dr. Robin Armstrong wrote: "There are a few ways you can diminish the shearing force across the SI in standing poses. The first is to take a slightly wider stance, opening your feet to hip width (rather than heel to arch or heel to heel). This enables your pelvis to comfortably square forward. Another option is to keep the feet as they are and simply allow your pelvis to be slightly open to the side of your mat. That's right, let go of the desire to perfectly square your pelvis forward. Instead, imagine the hip bone in its socket, outwardly rotating. Keeping that rotation, tuck the tailbone under slightly, creating room in the front of the hip. You may find that this provides more freedom of movement and may naturally square your hips further. In standing and seated twists, be sure to engage the muscles of the pelvic floor (mula bandha) to support the SI joint before twisting.
  "When we step back for a moment and acknowledge the true purpose of our yoga practice, suddenly trying to make our bodies fit a mold doesn't make much sense. Being more forgiving and accepting of our bodies limitations enables us to go much deeper into our yoga practice and experience the joy of yoga safely."

Friday, January 31, 2014

Year of the Horse

Happy Lunar New Year! Cos it's a public holiday where I am today feels more like Saturday than Friday. And what better way to usher in and welcome the new year than to start a new video game (have booked two yoga classes tomorrow morning). Yeah, Final Fantasy X-2 HD is getting a little ... confusing and complicated. As with all other FF games, if you want to unlock some cool gears, you have to fulfil a bunch of prerequisites and conditions, which can get extremely tedious (especially when it involves playing a string of not-so-fun mini-games). So I've decided to give that a break and, last night, downloaded Romance of the Three Kingdoms 12, which is a turn-based strategy game, a genre which I really like. This is a bit like Age of Empire + Risk. The game apparently didn't go down too well with ROTK fans but I just wanna give this a go, even though it's ~ yes ~ in Japanese. But they use enough han characters for me to understand the very basic.