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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" (http://lparchive.org/Final-Fantasy-X-2/) 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 www.theguardian.com (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 atrednoseday.com

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."