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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.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Blue Jasmine

This film directed by Woody Allen is so far the best Oscars contender (Cate Blanchett for best actress, I think) I saw this year. Let's go through the others that I didn't find as engaging: American Hustle (I just don't get this one), Captain Phillips, 12 Years a Slave, Gravity (okay, this one not too bad), Her and August: Osage County (talk about OTT acting). I have yet to see Philomena, which I'm sure I'll like (Dame Judi!) And these movies are such downers. Do they reflect the mood of the world today?

Anyway, back to Blue Jasmine, I really like the way the protagonist is (sympathetically) portrayed in this riches to rags black comedy; Blanchett is v v v v good in this but I couldn't but keep noticing her botox-ed lips! ... Her Jasmine is kinda complex ... and real (hence she plays her role from so many different angles).  I have actually come across a few women who are like her; who totally lives in a world of their own ~ but who can blame them because that is just the way they are? Jasmine is so *minor spoiler there* delusional that even in total rage she'd still keep up appearances. Her relationship with the sister is also intriguing ~ though here is where I find things not as realistic. And one particular technical detail I thought is quite clever is whenever there is moment of deceit, we get closeups of the characters as if Allen is saying: no better how closely you look, you can never see past their lies. The film is also about vanity, hypocrisy and simple human nature. All in all, I think this is a moving story (despite the fact none of the characters are really that likable) on how we can be so caught up by desires and projected dreams that we'd do whatever to hold onto them... 

Siu Pak Pak

Just realised I haven't taken any recent photos of our property's mascot (communal cat) so might do that in the coming week. Siu Pak Pak caught a cold the other week (his face turned very gooey) and we took him to the vet. He was very, very reluctant at the beginning (being a stray) but having stayed at the clinic/care centre for five days (so he could complete the week-long antibiotics treatment) he actually didn't wanna come home (he loved the attention he was getting there as he was washed and groomed)!! Now he's pouncing around again. It's kinda odd that Siu Pak Pak is a "domesticated" stray. He realises we (our small residential development) like having him around so he comes back to our garden every night to rest. Sometimes his friends will come and visit him (yes! but they never stay). I find the animal kingdom (and animal intelligence) quite fascinating.  

Saturday, January 25, 2014

An Unlocked Nokia 8310 (Part Two)

But first, thanks to those spambots, I now have 24,000+ page views (!) which is, frankly even so, quite an achievement since this is just my personal online diary full of lame entries about gaming and mobile phones LOL (though the yoga sharing is Serious!)

Anyway, been off the mat the past week cos of a, what I believe, cold-weather-induced inflammation in my lower back. Had to take the Japanese pain relief patches + anti-inflammatory drug combo to reduce the swelling. Am feeling okay now so will take a gentle flow class tomorrow. Then, for fun, will take a "detox flow" on Tues ... hope my body will be fit enough for that class then.

Nokia 8310
The casing/fascia -- pink + yellow ~ only colours left! -- and battery for my unlocked Nokia 8310 finally arrived... It looks like a brand new phone now (though I really thought I'd bought a bricked phone when I realised it was locked ~ twice ~ by Orange in the UK). I like this old model cos it's so ... small, as opposed to the big smart phones they sell these days; they are so huge people look ridiculous talking into them (ok, ok, pink and yellow not exactly un-ridiculous but at least the phone is small and discreet). Anyway, the reception and sound quality still good, which is amazing considering the 8310 was released back in 2001 (like, 13 years ago). AND this is Made in Finland ~ home of the manufacturer. It's interesting the last owner (called Big Dave) hadn't totally erased all his data so I still have some of his numbers on the phone ... and according to the call timer, the phone has clocked up around 124 hours of call time (which is not bad), though physically, the phone looked pretty worn out when it first arrived. It looked like it's been left in an attic collecting dusts and stuff. The condition of 7820 that I bought on eBay (which I later gave away since it had no market value at all) was actually good too (Made in Germany but last owner had left a highly dodgy sms message on it...) but I think the voice quality was really bad (I could hear echoes in the earpiece). I hope I can still get some mileage out of this phone (looks kinda cool in a retro sorta way...)  The thing with second-hand phones is that you don't really know Where they have been. Imagine you bought a phone that used to belong to a gangster (someone picked his phone up after he was, like, gunned down) and sell it on eBay. I always look for sign of, like, blood on the phone! I guess it could be worse, like, the phone fell inside a loo before. EWW. Well, I've cleaned this phone up several times (with alcohol) before I put the casing on. So I hope Big Dave is a decent bloke and the phone has had a normal life so far.

Still playing Final Fantasy X-2 on the PSVita. Pretty OP-ed since my team is now @ level 65 and I'm still in Chapter 3. Apparently you can beat the final boss in Chapter 5 @ level 50. So, I am pretty set for New Game+ ... I use Rikku as a Berserker and Paine as Dark Knight (suit them very well) and I alternate Yuna as a White Mage or Festival-goer or Black Mage and sometimes Lady Luck and Gun Mage. Still so much fun to be had with this game ... 

Monday, January 20, 2014

An Unlocked Nokia 8310

Well, not when this old model Nokia arrived. But I knew that cos the eBay seller stated very clearly that the phone (genuine and Made in Finland no less) was locked to the Orange network in the UK. What I didn't realise was that the service provider puts at least Two locks on their phones!
Anyway, I managed to find both codes on the Internet: yup, some of these "free unlocking services" online do work (so you shouldn't be paying to unlock a really old model like 8310 (around 2002)), just have to test a few sites out. If it charges, move to another one. There are some nice and helpful people out there :-)
So now am just waiting for the new casing (from Italy) to arrive, the old one is kinda gross and filthy; one problem with second hand phones is you never know Where they'd been ... Will post photos of my self refurbished 8310 later. I love this model. It's very nifty, stylish, basic and, obviously, durable. It's a shame Nokia lost out in the current phone war cos I think compared with Samsung and Post-Jobs Apple, this pre-Windows Finnish company was extremely creative and came up with many classic model.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

A New Community

Have recently created a new "group" on Line for my yogi friends ~ and it's been great! Normally we just joke about certain classes and instructors that we all know (like, I got told off by very fierce Universal Yoga teacher at our studio who, in one class, said I had it "all wrong"! How embarrassing is that?!?) but there are other times when we share our experience about certain practices ...

Last week I tackled two challenging poses: svarga dvidasana (or better known in English as "Bird of Paradise") and tittibhasana. I've been attempting Bird of Paradise for, like, aeons ... well, ever since I started practising yoga more than five years ago and it's taken me all that time to just stand on that one leg; but even then, my shoulders -- and hips -- still totally NOT open enough to allow me to realise the full pose (hence I call my pose Shrimp of Paradise). However, I'm working at it and, hopefully, one day I can at least do a modified version of this pose. Note the photo on the left and how this guy's right shoulder is all the way back while his left hip is so loose it allows him to lift up his leg; the only thing that is preventing him from straightening his left leg are probably his hamstrings. 

With tittibhasana is even more challenging because it requires Core strength. However, I've now learnt the trick -- at least to have my feet lifted off the ground. It is to push the thighs as high up on the shoulders as possible (while still standing up, in a forward bend) before attempting to "sit" on the upper arm, left the legs, and stretch. I could lift the feet off the ground (ever so slightly though, with both legs bending), so will now work and work on Core strength in order to lift the legs higher and, hopefully, one day, to stretch and straighten them too.  

Monday, January 13, 2014

A Strong Practice

Ready to take off...
Yesterday I took a level 2 (intermediate) class, which was both challenging and rewarding. Instructor began the practice, as usual, with a short meditation (which I increasingly enjoy) before moving onto the warm-up asanas. The class gradually got more and more physically demanding (more breathing required!) and we ended up doing a series of arm balances and inverted poses. The Core, the Core! It really does make a huge difference. When I'm not engaging the core, I just, like, flop onto the ground ... however, when it is activated (sounds like the Iron Man armour!) then I can do the flying pigeon with ease (left). Part of the reason why I can actually support self is 1) I'm quite skinny and light-weight, 2) I have a bit of core strength, though still not enough 3) strong arms and 4) a stiff back! (I think this is when NOT being flexible actually works to my advantage :o)

Elsewhere on game-land, I'm really enjoying playing and getting into Final Fantasy X-2 (!) It's fast becoming one of my favourite games because there are so many ways to play it and it doesn't get boring. One thing about Square Enix games (they produce all the FF titles) is that the developers really know now to create a complex world for players to immerse themselves into (I actually stayed up till 2.30am the other night/morning cos I couldn't put my PSVita down!) And as I now enter mid-game, my characters (Yuna, Rikku and Paine) are getting more and more strong, with new accessories and abilities. But I think I still need to work out how to best combine/match the right accessories with the right skills to maximise each character's full potential.


Sunday, January 5, 2014

La Belle et la bete ~ the Opera

I totally stumbled across this on YouTube:

It is Jean Cocteau's version of Beauty and the Beast but dubbed (yes!) to Philip Glass' opera. Utterly amazing (and Belle is SO beautiful in the film!!) A friend actually lent me the black and white feature on DVD but my computer is regionally locked so can't play the disc. Just as well. What a surprising and great find. Will watch it now.

Meanwhile, have bought this really old Nokia on eBay (8310!) ... hope it still works!! 

Friday, January 3, 2014

The Moment

In yoga practice, we are asked to focus on the moment, the present; not dwelling on the past and not to worry about the future. But we humans have evolved in such a way most of the time we tend not to dwell in the present (we read books, play video games, watch TV or movies etc whereas animals do tend to live the moment, like my pet dogs!) Most of time we want to escape from it (hence the above activities). The present is v real, sometimes painfully so. Today I was walking down the street and I saw this elderly lady who obviously suffers from a severe form of dementia, there and then, talking to herself. I was living in the moment and my heart sinks ... in fact, I tend to do that whenever I see someone who has lost their mind. I often wonder why have they'd gone mad and who is looking them ... their family? Some institution? Sometimes, the reality is very hard for people to accept and cope with, hence we have invented many forms of escapism.

The moment or the present, I think is a bit overrated. When you are in the moment, then what? Sure, whenever I'm in the moment, I tend see things more lucidly and clearly but what does that mean? Does it mean I can also find answers to questions? I don't think so...

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

First Entry for 2014

Just checked what I wrote on New Year's Day in previous years and, surprisingly (or rather, unsurprisingly), I talked quite a lot about the game(s) that I was playing at the time: Yu-Gi-Oh Tag Force 5 (2011, same year I went to Bali for a "reset" retreat); Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together (2012); and Final Fantasy Type 0 (2013). Oh, and it's been a year since the world supposed to have ended ... how time flies. 

The game I'm playing right now is Final Fantasy X-2 HD, which has been quite fun, though I still have to truly understand the mechanics of the "dressphere", which makes the gameplay so much more interesting (apparently it's like the predecessor of FF XIII's system). Like Type 0 though, it's in Japanese. The English (localised) version is not released until March and I can't really wait until then (desperate to get my hands on a cool game and, sadly, neither Ys or Atelier Meruru was it). The thing is, Japanese or English, I will still need to use a walkthrough to play it. One (annoying) thing about Final Fantasy titles is that there are so many missables that I won't truly enjoy a game unless I know I'm not missing out on most of the good stuff (which players would never know about unless they're using a guide. Like, I'd already missed something silly in the first chapter of X-2 so I won't be able to 100% the game now ~ just as well I'm only a semi-completion-ist. Anyway, this game is gonna keep me entertained for another couple of months before, well, maybe I will get the English version of FF X (the original and prequel to X-2) when that is released. The gameplay is not as great so will see. Maybe there will be other good games available then (there have been talks about FF XV being released on PS Vita!! but that probably won't happen until 2016 ...). Anyway, I can always return to One Piece 2, which I really enjoy in small doses.

I almost bought another phone -- the rather stylish Nokia 7260 -- yesterday but the one available in the show is second-hand (this is an old model) so decided not to get that. Guess a good part of this year I'll just be using my Blackberry Bold 9900 (at least it no longer freaks out under the sun now, with the replaced trackpad), Sony Xperia Z and Sidekick LX 2009, with Nokia N8 as spare. 

New Year's resolutions? As mentioned in yesterday's post, I definitely would like to take a yoga teacher training course this year. Mentally I'm quite ready for it but am not sure whether I am physically (!) Other than that, I'll continue to maintain my yogic calm and, oh yes, blog more this year *lol*

Here is a photo I lifted off the Guardian website on New Year celebrations in my city...

Credit: Alan Siu/EyePress/Photoshot