On The Eve Of National Day I Spent A Day At Singapore Botanic Gardens, Alone

I have planned this Monday holiday months in advance. Because Tuesday is National Day, a public holiday. I have been wanting to have some time on my own, to reflect upon life and to simply admire nature, to be connected to the ‘bigger picture’. It seems that our souls need nourishment once in awhile especially when day in day out we are stuck in a corporate rat race.

Taken near Orchid Garden
Taken near Orchid Garden. I was told by a Chinese herbs manager that orchid stems make rather expensive Chinese herbs.

In some ways I am happy that my wife needed to work today. When both of us are on leave, we would take our time doing very little, at home mostly. Nothing is wrong with that of course. A different kind of soul nourishment. A mutual nourishment.

After dropping my wife off to work at a quarter to nine in the morning, I drove to the Botanic Gardens, a UNESCO site.

This plan of mine did not get hatched until late last night. Botanic Garden always makes me happy. Be in as in Hong Kong when I was studying or in Singapore. Today felt like a makeup session for a birthday outing that I did not have.

Armed with a camera phone, a book, and a bottle of water, I felt happy even before entering the garden. It took me some time before I could find a parking lot by the street, right at the back of the children’s garden, which is on the far end of the map.

As expected, the day was warm and the air was humid. I got a bottle of water but I forgot to bring some suntan lotion. I got a book but I forgot to bring some insect repellent.

I love my new phone. Finally I could take some photos to commemorate my days, edit and upload along the way with GPS tagging. Six hours my phone’s battery has lasted. I was tired but delightful at the end of the trip.

So where was I? Yes, the parking lot.

I am amazed that so many people hang out in the Botanic Gardens on a working day (though I must say, many must have taken leave today like me). My plan was to have a nice breakfast inside the garden upon arrival. But since I was parking so far away, I took a stroll instead as I headed towards my first destination – a restaurant that serves proper breakfast.

First thing that greeted me besides the toilet at children’s garden was a group of old folks trying to exercise. That scene actually scares me. I am motivated to start doing some exercise asap. I hope my back would bend better than them when I am at their age.

Casa Verde is right in the midsection of the garden. Quite honestly, the food is very so-so. And it is rather pricy. But the decor is rather OK. I managed to find a seat inside the airconditioned section of the restaurant. I could sit outside though. But today was a warm day. Cool air was a welcoming sight.

So I order an overpriced egg benedict that cost S$16. An additional cup of what appeared as an instant coffee that cost an extra S$4. I still enjoyed my breakfast though, because today was a happy day.

Egg Benedict always makes me happy, like I am being smiled upon.
Egg Benedict always makes me happy, like I am being smiled upon.

Over breakfast, I have started reading The Devil in the Flesh by a French author Raymond Radiguet. A book I have borrowed from the library. I don’t know how anyone can read books these days. I was so distracted by my electronic devices.

Talking about electronic devices, what’s wrong with the world today?! Here I was immersing myself into nature, listening to the sound of the insects, of the birds, and of the wind brushing against the tree leaves (of course, the sound of construction nearby can be annoying). I saw waves and waves of people glued to their electronic devices playing Pokemon Go as though they were possessed, living inside a world of augmented reality.

It is very easy to spot Pokemon Go players (more so because I was once an Ingress player).

  1. They are often in group talking to each other while interacting with their electronic devices.
  2. They have a tendency to stop in some random spots again interacting with their phones or tablets.
  3. At times, they look stressed (which is strange because no one should look stressed inside a garden).
  4. They are oblivious to all that is around them. I bet even as Taylor Swift walks by, they would still look for those virtual beings.
  5. Very often, you see them carrying a power pack to charge their phones on the go. Some would actually play with two devices (ah, good old Ingress days of mine).

Also, at times, these players (or hunters?) tend to cast me a suspicious look. As though I am there to steal their price.

Look, this is a garden. The only time I would cast a suspicious look to a fellow visitor is when he or she looks like a terrorist.

But then again, who am I to judge? I have lived through those insane time with Ingress (the step-father of Pokemon Go?). I am still spending a lot of time at home playing video games, even at my age. To my defense though, I think what is going on behind closed doors is none of others’ business (duh, my YouTube channel has betrayed me). Roaming in public places like Botanic Gardens in a zombified state, that is weird.

Or perhaps, I am the weird one. Because if I am to count the number of people whom I have come across playing Pokemon Go versus those who were like me enjoying the scenery and the ambient, we the real lifers are definitely outnumbered.

This is called Sundial Garden. I tried to read in one of the huts but the heat and the insects were too overwhelming.
This is called Sundial Garden. I tried to read in one of the huts but the heat and the insects were too overwhelming.

I got lost a few times inside Botanic Gardens. How often when you read a map by the roadside and even though it has “You Are Here” in a font and color that cannot be missed, you just not sure which road leads to where?

If I were to design roadmaps, I would certainly go that extra mile and draw two things right at “You Are Here”. A simple line to denote where the signboard is from a top down view. And a man or an eyeball showing you where you are facing.

One great thing about getting lost is – besides the extra exercise I so need (remember the old folks at the beginning of this entry?) – I came across places that subsciously I wanted to visit but I was not really looking for them.

Like a toilet and a place for food. The gift shop was a bonus.

By the time my late lunch was served, my colleague at work has already called me for help. The good news was that it was not something unexpected. I was mentally prepared. The bad news was that I was at least two kilometers away from my car, not counting the extra miles I would need to partake once I got lost. That is a story for another day.

Or not ever.

Work.

Ugh.

On another positive note though, I really enjoy reading Devil in the Flesh. It is about a young boy in love in great details. It is about a young boy in love with a girl who is with another man. It is about a young boy infatuated with someone older than him. All three, I can relate.

At times I do wonder the what could have been, especially when I am alone.
At times I do wonder the what could have been, especially when I am alone.

Deforestation So Close To Home – The Lentor Forest Soon To Be Vanished

Earlier this month, our government has announced that 30 hectares of forest will be cleared so that more housing estates can be built in Teacher’s Estate. Believe it or not, I am someone who likes nature and I do feel rather sad hearing this news. Had this took place in Hong Kong, I would imagine a series of protest or demonstration may follow. But here is Singapore, no one seems to care enough. Does forest make money? Obviously not. So why do we care?

Singapore is a modern city. Greenery is a treasure we shall behold. Opposite my home, a highway is built. We were used to seeing a vast piece of greenland in front of our condominium. At dawn, we were used to see a beautiful layer of mist rising from the vegetation across the main road in front of us next to a reservoir. Today, this piece of greenland has been removed, made way for the construction of the highway.

This new deforestation announcement does not come as a total surprise. Near to our home, a train station is under construction, ready in 2020. As of today, it makes no sense to have a train station in our quiet estate. There are virtually nothing here except a few condominiums. Hence, I have been anticipating something big is going to happen.

The forest near our home soon to be gone
The forest near our home soon to be gone

According to the URA masterplan, new housing estates will be built. They are likely to be highrises too.

According to master plan, I am expecting highrise.
According to master plan, I am expecting highrises.

What so precious about Lentor Forest? According to a position paper by Nature Society:

URA’s summary of the wildlife records has noted the presence in the forest of the following nationally and globally threatened mammal species:

1) Sunda Pangolin: critically endangered.

2) Banded Leaf Monkey: critically endangered.

3) Sunda/Greater Slow Loris: =assumed extinct, but now regarded as rare by mammal experts.

Birds too.

The Lentor (Tagore) Forest is indeed very rich in forest birdlife. NSS has recorded 71 bird species out of which there are 31 forest species, resident as well as migratory. This comes to 41 % of the total species recorded there. Out of this, 14 are uncommon resident species, and 1 rare (the Blue-eared Kingfisher Alcedo meninting). Out of these uncommon residents, 10 are listed as nationally threatened while 5 are globally threatened.

Last but not the least, the vegetation.

From the URA biodiversity report, it must be said that the forest, 30-hectares in size and contiguous to the Teachers’ Estate, is rich in biodiversity. This is very well reflected by the fact that, from NParks’ finding, at least 32 species are worth salvaging, among which are 100 specimens of the Elephant Foot’s Fern […] What is very striking from a conservation point of view is that there are 2 critically endangered species, 3 endangered and 6 vulnerable species (inclusive of the Fern mentioned above), as reported by NParks. This is simply amazing for a relatively small secondary forest in Singapore.

In the good old days when my knees were still strong, I was used to jog pass Lentor Forest all the time. I would start the 4.8km route at around 6.50am when the sky was dark and the air was crisp and fresh. As I made my return trip at 7am, the sun rose from the horizon. I would experience that magical moment when plants started the photosynthesis, as though I could hear the plants at work. That imaginary humming sound. Be one with nature. That kept me go on jogging.

I think for those who don’t live around Lentor, it is just another piece of land made available for some modern buildings. For me, it is something special.

Just how big or small is 30 hectares? The entire Singapore Sports Hub is around 35 hectares.

Singapore Sports Hub
Singapore Sports Hub

 

Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage by Haruki Murakami – A Fascinating Read Filled With Mysteries

Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage

Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage is a fascinating read. In fact, this is my third read in the span of a few years. Each pass I am able to spot more linkages between the plots. And more passages highlighted for future reference.

Like many of Murakami novels, Colorless is filled with mysteries. The main character – a 36 years old Tsukuru Tazaki – recounted one moment in his college life, that he had contemplated to commit suicide. It all started with a group of five back in school. Every one with a name associated to a color except Tsukuru.

Soon, the other four friends began to use nicknames: the boys were called Aka (red) and Ao (blue); and the girls were Shiro (white) and Kuro (black). But he just remained Tsukuru. How great it would be, he often thought, if I had a color in my name too. Then everything would be perfect.

Out of nowhere, all four friends of Tsukuru have refused to talk to and to meet with him. The shock was so intense that he had lost the will to live.

“That was the first time in my life that anyone has rejected me so completely,” Tsukuru said. “And the ones who did it were the people I trusted the most, my four best friends in the world. I was so close to them that they had been like an extension of my own body. Searching for a reason, or correcting a misunderstanding, was beyond me. I was simply, and utterly, in shock. So much so that I thought I might never recover. It felt like something inside me had snapped.”

Tsukuru recounted his story because his new girlfriend Sara wanted to know more about this emotional burden that has been hindering the relationship. More so, Sara wants Tsukuru to face his past. As Sara has once said:

You can hide memories, but you can’t erase the history that produced them.

This sets off the direction of Colorless with the ultimate rewards of Sara becoming Tsukuru’s serious girlfriend and Tsukuru getting to know exactly what went on with his four best friends abandoning him at the same time.

The good news is that this book is an entertaining read from beginning to end. The not so good news is that at the end of book, you still would not know the answers to the two ultimate questions. But here lies the brilliance of this book. We could imagine what the outcomes would be. But we may never grasp what is real. Like our main character Tsukuru once experienced. There are going to be plenty open questions.

And he couldn’t grasp the boundary between dream and imagination, between what was imaginary and what was real.

What I love most about Colorless is how well planned the plot is. Sara does not appear often in this book. But she drives the entire story. She uncovers the issues and she wants a resolution. Even as Tsukuru (and the readers too) has no clue on what to do next, Sara drops hints at the crucial moment on what is to come. She is like the prophet, always one step ahead. While many including I would debate on what Sara would do with Tsukuru when all is resolved, I am leaning towards a happy ending because Sara comes across to me as someone who knows exactly what she wants. Her moves are reliability predictable. I doubt she has any agenda except to remove this emotional burden of Tsukuru so that their relationship can move forward.

Now, the story between Sara and Tsukuru is easy to summarize. How the mystery unfolds is not. Because the subplots are subtly linked through different time lines and storyline. And how the dreams affect the imagination which in turn distort the reality adds another layer of abstract to the story.

Putting all that aside, there are consistent references to having to make hard decisions, though seemingly unrelated during my first read. Let’s think of body and heart.

In this dream, though, he burned with desire for a woman. It wasn’t clear who she was. She was just there. And she had a special ability to separate her body and her heart. I will give you one of them, she told Tsukuru. My body or my heart. But you can’t have both. You need to choose one or the other, right now. I will give the other part to someone else, she said.

(This would make a good conversation. In real life though, which would you choose and why?)

In the context of corporate ‘brainwashing’ though executive training:

I have some good news for you, and some bad news. The bad news first. We’re going to have to rip off either your fingernails or your toenails with pliers. I’m sorry, but it’s already decided. It can’t be changed. Here’s the good news. You have the freedom to choose which it’s going to be – your fingernails, or your toenails. So, which will it be?

(That pretty much sums up what real world can be like at work.)

And finally, the resolution.

“And in order to do that, I had to cut you off. It was impossible to protect you and protect her at the same time. I had to accept one of you completely, and reject the other one entirely.”

To go back to my leaning towards a happy ending, let’s go back to the final conversation between Eri (Kuro) and Tsukuru.

“But it’s strange, isn’t it?” Eri said.

“What is?”

“That amazing time in our lives is gone, and will never return. All the beautiful possibilities we had then have been swallowed up in the flow of time.”

Tsukuru nodded silently. He thought he should say something, but no words came.

What was it that he wanted to say as he was pondering upon whether or not Sara would accept him in the very end of the book?

Not everything was lost in the flow of time. That’s what Tsukuru should have said to Eri when he said goodbye […]

What then survives the flow of time? I believe that it is hope.

We truly believed in something back then, and we knew we were the kind of people capable of believing in something – with all our hearts. And that kind of hope will never simply vanish.

While I am happy to be able to extract that much from the book, one side-plot still eludes me is on Haida (Grey).

Haida became Tsukuru’s best friend after Tsukuru has decided that dying was not the best option moving forward. Besides, to will his heart to stop was as he found out later an impossible task. Here are what I have gathered from the story of Haida.

  • Grey is a mix of black and white. The two colors that symbolize Shiro and Kuro – the two girls in the original group of five. It seems to me that Haida is a male replacement of the two.
  • The sexually insinuated dreams between Tsukuru, Shiro, and Kuro has been once replaced by a dream involving Tsukuru and Haida, also sexual in nature.
  • To me, the original group of five reminds me of a hand with five fingers. It was natural. Haida has come across as the sixth finger.
  • Haida once recounted a story of his father (also called Haida) to Tsukuru. At one point, Tsukuru thought the story came from Haida himself.
  • Haida (the father) has met a jazz pianist called Midorikawa (Green) who in possession of (1) a mysterious small bag, (2) a special ability to see aura, and (3) a deadly burden that temporarily granted him the special ability but would cost him his life unless he could pass this deadly burden to a willing party.
  • Haida (the father) did not accept. Midorikawa has then disappeared.
  • Haida (Tsukuru’s friend) all of a sudden disappeared from Tsukuru’s life.
  • The story of his father may have been the story of Haida himself.
  • One of Tsukuru’s side mission is to find out what happened to Haida in order to fully remove his emotional burden. The book does not seem to have a resolution on this side-story.
  • Years later, a formaldehyde jar containing two severed sixth fingers are found in one of Tsukuru’s train stations.
  • This jar, I presume, belongs to Midorikawa – the mysterious small bag. So the story is real. Could this be the resolution?

So many ways to interpret the story. Did Haida accept the deadly burden and hence explains his second disappearance? Did he have the special ability all along or only after his first disappearance? Is that why there were those surreal moments between him and Tsukuru? More importantly, how does this story branch relate to the main story, if at all?

Still, Tsukuru felt that Haida’s clear eyes had seen right though him that night, to what lay in his unconscious. Traces of Haida’s gaze still stung, like a mild burn. Haida had, at that time, observed Tsukuru’s secret fantasies and desires, examining and dissecting them one by one […]

One constant theme in this book is about death and disappearance, heartache and reconciliation, reborn and recover. That much I can be certain of.

ISBN 978-4-16-382110-8

The Lifecycle Of Software Objects by Ted Chiang – Tons of Potential, Tons of Missed Opportunities

Lifecycle of Software Object

This novella has tons of potential. Imagine being able to log onto a virtual world – very much like how massively multiplayer online games work these days – and interact with digital organisms (or digients). In addition, you get to train your digients and see how they grow. Like raising a digital baby in a digital world.

Wait a minute. Doesn’t this remind you of The Sim or many of the Facebook games?

Fundamentally, the concept is very similar. The difference is that you can interact with your digients using natural language, very much like how you would interact with another being. Each digient comes with a unique set of genome and different company approaches how the genome is implemented in a different way. We are talking about AI (artificial intelligence), which none of the games today offers.

A number of interesting topics are explored in The Lifecycle Of Software Objects. Are these merely fanciful pets in a game or can they become companions for the human trainers? Can mutual affection be developed? What is the purpose of the grown up digients? As workers such as personal assistants? To possess the right level of artificial intelligence to solve real life problems? As mere entertainers? To push the sexual frontier for those who are interested in non-human sex? What about having these digients to have fun without thinking too much about operating at one’s full potential?

One major breakthrough of this novella is to have these digients ‘logging into’ our world by taking over a robotic body. Instead of human entering the virtual world using an avatar, we have these virtual beings entering our world using a machine, experiencing the real world. The idea is breathtaking. As in, these digients are able to get in and out of our world as we like (note: I would much preferred to be as they like – more on it in the missed opportunity section of this book summary).

Another great concept is that digients could be mature and intelligent enough to form their own corporations and hence, being solely responsible for themselves legally speaking, freeing themselves from their trainers or owners.

While The Lifecycle Of Software Objects has tons of potential, the novella also has tons of missed opportunities.

First and foremost, the story telling is not very interesting. We have Ana Alvarado as the protagonist who passionately trains and protects her digient Jax. The focus is confusing. Had the story revolved around Jax with some quality character development, I would have bought into the idea of digients. That every digient matters. Having Jax out of nowhere giving Marco a blowjob (page 52) due to some bad influence is not quite my kind of character development. It is okay to explore same sex intimacy. Just stay with it throughout. Besides that one single mishap, Jax’s life is not very interesting or lively either.

The story seems to revolve around Ana. But she doesn’t seem to have an interesting life. Her potential love interest Derek Brooks whom also shares the very same interest in raising digients is a wimp. Though he makes a rather grand gesture of sacrifice in the end, nothing materializes from it, very much like everything in this book.

The entire journey is filled with down turns with nothing much that looks up. First comes more superior digients that make our Jax looks dated and not as smart or useful. Then comes the various threats like hackers and exploits that would have been the villains but the issues are resolved all too fast, almost unceremoniously so. Soon, the game or the platform is losing customers (note: business model is basically selling virtual pet food to keep the digients going, which is kind of meh to me). The company closes down and the platform goes open source (sort of). Then more threats from all sorts of uninspiring ideas. Platform merger. And finally, being the only platform that is not ported to the next big thing, poor Jax, he is void of his new friends whom have been migrated to the new platform.

The rest of the story is on how Ana and Derek raise funds to port this old platform, even considering to partner with a company that sells sex toys.

Lastly, it wouldn’t make a good story to keep forwarding time line by months and years. After a while, I have lost in time. Was it 10 years have passed since Jax was born towards the end of the book? I have no idea. I wouldn’t manually add months and years as I read a book. Certainly I wouldn’t read this book again.

Alas. What a wasted opportunity.

If I were the author, I would sell fantasy and futurism rather than shallow realism based on today’s world. A lot of the tech stuffs are neither interesting nor insightful. I would make AI digients a success rather than comparing some of them with children that have Down syndrome. I would make them able to enter our world as and when they like. Learn our strengths and weaknesses first hand. These digients should rewrite their legal status. They should have free will and make us reflect upon our humanity. They could be a threat. Or a peacemaker. Affection between human and digients should be convincing.

I would take more risk with the plot. Definitely a lot tighter with the time line as the story is told. Also, would it not be a real good twist towards the end if Ana was an AI who was trying to create AI only get to know more about her own existence eh? 

ISBN 978-1-59606-317-4

My Marvelous YouTube Journey

A good friend of mine whom I have not met for a long time asked if I am still updating this website. Now, why haven’t my friend and I met for so long, let’s talk about that first.

His priority has always been work, then friends. With new found love, I am bumped into category 3. It may well be lower because since we have not talked for that long, he may have new found passion in life. That’s why.

As in why have I not updated this website for what seems like an eternity, it is a rather long story. But stories are something I always happy to share.

In a way, blogging is sharing one’s passion in life. That’s how I see it. To share, there are many ways. Ever since I cut ties with Facebook and dived into Google+, I have been more active over in that platform than in here. Because the level of engagement was fantastic. I could write here all nights, attending blogger events all over the island, and promote my website in all sorts of ways, with Google+, I could reach out to a much wider audience globally. If Google+ had a timeline like Facebook – do they still have that? – that could have been my website version 2.

But Google+ doesn’t have it. And to be honest, I don’t think the platform is doing that well lately. So how do I dish out my random thoughts onto innocent audience all over the world?

YouTube.

Why have I not discovered YouTube sooner? It is a great platform because we are into visual stuffs these days. Who reads book when we can watch TV the whole day (OK, I know some do read and believe it or not, I have just finished reading a book)? In fact, my wife Cynthia and I have just finished watching Jessica Jones season one. It is a-m-a-z-i-n-g!

My journey with YouTube started off as an experiment. One day I was playing a video game and I thought, why not record a clip with commentary? Soon, I was putting in effort into creating guides for my favorite online game called Marvel Heroes with only 2 subscribers in YouTube: my wife and my buddy Mark who is also into video games among other things we have in common.

Over time, I create better guides and clips and soon, subscription number picks up. Now, even looking at where I am today, it is far from being a successful or a popular channel. My view count per video is at best in thousands, not in millions. But I am happy. Because quite a few do appreciate my work and actively seek me out in YouTube and in game. I have made friends from all over the world. The latest is from Bulgaria. Granted, people do move on from one game to another. It is a nice feeling nonetheless. I am not that alone in this digital world.

If you were to ask what contributes to where I am today in YouTube, I think it is a combination of luck and good timing. Marvel is a good brand. There are fans out there all over the world. Marvel Heroes the game is not that popular. It is a niche product. But the fans are loyal. That makes my channel a niche channel. And my subscribers also seems loyal. The good news is that this game is likely to last for quite some time. Gazillions the developer has secured a 10 years licence from Marvel.

Do I enjoy what I am doing? I am happy to share. And I love to reach out to make new friends. As someone who is comfortable in front of a microphone and in front of the public – thanks for all the years of training in a band and as a consultant – YouTube is a great creative outlet for me, at least for now.

Click here for my YouTube channel.

Ant-Man, It’s Fun!

I am a fan of all things Marvel. People around me though, have various reaction to my choice of movies. Like one day, inside an office lift, my colleague and I were chatting about the one topic worth chatting in less than a minute, on a Friday – what’s your plan for weekend? I told him Guardians of the Galaxy. He went huh? I skipped Star-Lord (and avoided who?) and replied Rocket Raccoon? He went … a raccoon?! He clearly doesn’t know his stuff and I had an invisible eye rolling moment.

Anyhow, this time round, inside the lift, I replied Ant-Man. My female colleague went, “Huh? It must be a guy thing.” I said solemnly, “Yes, it is a guy thing.”

Ant-Man, a movie.

The fun doesn’t stop here. When I asked my wife out for an Ant-Man movie, her first reaction was, “Will we be able to see the character?” It was her polite way to decline my date invitation. Too bad. Once you are married, any right to say no to a date has been revoked. As before, I have booked the tickets weeks in advance. Due to some technical glitches, only one theater was available for online booking. And the screen was very tiny and I would prefer a large one. When I told that to Dave and Zep – our two Marvel movie buddies – they had a good laugh on that (ants and small screen, yes?). They still do.

Now, onto the movie, I honestly have no idea what or who Ant-Man was had I not played Marvel Heroes the online game. On that note alone, I would think that it could be a pretty tall order for Marvel Studios to pull this off. Let’s first talk about character development, because it is important for a less well known hero.

We have the comedian Paul Rudd as the main character, the soon-to-be Ant-Man. A likeable actor that suits the overall mood of this movie – fun. Then Michael Douglas, whom I presume is the star power behind this movie, as Hank Pym. It is a bit odd to see him on the good side, although in the realm of Marvel Universe, the line between good and evil is often blurred out. Lastly, the charming Evangeline Lilly from Lost who plays Hope, the daughter of Hank Pym. They have done a good job in unfolding the story, just about.

This trio is definitely not your everyday heroes running around on the street of Manhattan saving civilians. Ant-Man is not one of those superhero movies. If the scriptwriters were to stick to the original comic book plot, this movie would have looked something like this as taken from Marvel Heroes the online game website (this also explained one of the ending scenes in the movie).

Though a brilliant electronics expert, Scott Lang had made his share of bad decisions. Having served time in prison for burglary, Scott would return to his life of crime in order to save his terminally ill daughter, Cassie. Stealing the Ant-Man suit from Hank Pym, Scott would use the suit to save Dr. Erica Sondheim, the only doctor capable of saving Cassie from her heart condition. Once he realized that Scott was only trying to do the right thing, Hank Pym not only let Scott keep the suit, but gave him his blessing as the brand new Ant-Man!

So here lies the real challenge with Ant-Man the movie. Stealing a suit to save one’s daughter doesn’t seem as big as a deal comparing to saving the world. How faithful should the script sticks to the original story? Some fans may be even rooting for Hank Pym as the Ant-Man. Fear not. I reckon there will be a Ant-Man Original one day. Another era, another reboot.

Meanwhile, did we enjoy watching Ant-Man? We do. It is fun and entertaining. Just when the scene becomes serious, one actor would crack some jokes and we laughed, in between tears and what not. The visual effect of Ant-Man shrinking and collaborating with his troop of ants is well made. The fight scene that takes place around children toys is hilarious. Just don’t expect Ant-Man as your usual save-the-world kind of superhero movie.

This Is Why Everyone Needs A Tech Support Buddy

I don’t envy the tech support folks. Everyone has a tech support friend on speed dial. I have a few too. My buddy JP is a cool dude. His girlfriend though, being in the same department as mine, one day gave me a strange look and said to me, “because of you, my boyfriend dropped whatever he was doing with me and texted with you!”

Nah. Just kidding. She is cool too, though I was being threatened to be on her black-list time and time again.

Lots of fans!

As you know, technical issues seldom happen in isolation. Domino effect is part of the game. AMD has recently update Catalyst Center to version 15.20, getting ready for Window 10 – which I care less. My in-game video recorder Action! fails to launch. I read up on the forum and it is due to this new driver. So I downgraded my video driver with an old installation and all of a sudden, my screen would turn black while the computer (and my game) would still be running.

Oops. My graphic card Sapphire R9 270X 4GB is still brand new. I quickly updated my video driver back to the latest version (after making a video on Venom). Problem persisted! That’s no good. Once the screen goes black, I have to cold start my machine. Ugh.

This went on for quite some time. Could it be the game Marvel Heroes I am playing? Not compatible with the latest AMD video driver? I switched to Tera Online. Everything seemed fine. I returned to Marvel Heroes, turned all setting to low and it worked. The moment I turned a knot up, black screen came to visit.

Could it be my graphic card then? Running out of options and opinions, I texted my tech support buddy JP. His first response was, “check if anything is loose”.

After 3 hours of going back and forth, testing for all scenarios, it turns out that one of the two power cables has come loose. I secured the connection and everything works beautifully like before.

JP’s girlfriend must be really hating me right now. I am so ready to face her wrath this coming Monday in office.

 

Visiting Singapore River Safari, Again

Recently, my parents from Hong Kong visited my wife and I in Singapore. And I took them to River Safari. I had no idea what the visit would be like and did not want to risk bringing my DSLR camera with me (river safari sounds wet to me).

My wife loves red panda.
My wife loves red panda.

As it turns out, I should have brought along my 70-200mm lens. The pair of red pandas are overwhelming cute. My wife loves them. Next to the red pandas is an area for the pair of giant pandas. To be frank, both of us are more of a red panda fan.

This time round, knowing that my mother-in-law is visiting us, I bought 3 tickets to River Safari using corporate discount. The great thing about River Safari is that there isn’t much walking. While the entire area is pretty compact, it does pack with fish and animals. The presentation is good. The park brings awareness on some of the species of the world that we seldom think of in this urban jungle. I think more people should pay a visit.

These are squirrel monkeys. They move fast!
These are squirrel monkeys. They move fast!

In my last visit, we did not get to drop by the squirrel monkey area. My wife Cynthia is not a big fan of monkeys. In contrary, I am. As I took pictures of these monkeys, through my telescopic lens, I saw these monkeys constantly peeing and pooping. We ought to watch out for where we stand.

Also in my last visit, we were unable to take the boat ride – River Quest – due to raining condition. Prior to today’s visit, I have checked the weather forecast and it is hazy all the way. That’s good news. Without much thinking, we spent S$5 per person for the ride. Today is a working day so the queue was empty. Three of us had the boat for our own. We didn’t get to see many animals. And the ride was a bit too fast, a bit too short. The only good photo we have taken was a selfie using my wife’s wireless phone. Having said that, my mother-in-law said that it was an experience of a lifetime. Good for her!

All in all, a delightful day, visiting Singapore River Safari on my birthday. 24 photos of the day can be seen via this link.

Last attraction, the otters.
Last attraction, the otters.

The Avengers Age of Ultron – More Than Action

My wife and I always look forward to a Marvel movie and catch up with our friends who also play the online game Marvel Heroes. This time round, Dave and Zep showed up. I booked the tickets way before the show, when the duo were still holidaying in Australia.

Avenger Age of Ultron

I must admit, since I am not actually a comic book reader, having played a Marvel game helps a lot in my understanding or rather a glimpse of what Marvel universe is all about. In that sense, this movie makes perfect sense to me. For those who may not have any background on Marvel, I would imagine that the storyline could be slightly confusing at times.

Here is a screenshot taken from the game’s login screen. Those who have watched the movie would immediately be able to relate this to the opening scene. This shows the effort Marvel has put in to promote their movies from all possible channels, including video games.

Age of Ultron login screen from Marvel Heroes

Back to the movie, it is a great follow-up to the first Avenger. Captain America, Ironman, Thor, and Hulk together with Black Widow and Hawkeye forms the Team Avengers. Ultron, the artificial intelligence is the villain. Then, enter the mutant twins Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver. I like the black humor Ultron has. What I like most though is the side of vulnerability from all these heroes. Some sort of depth to the movie, and not just action and special effects.

This movie is long. 141 minutes. Each hero has given enough airtime to shine. Never a dull moment. I enjoy watching this thoroughly.

My Marvel Heroes Videos

Marvel Heroes 2016

One of my all time passion is video gaming. I have a wonderful dad who back in the early eighties bought a personal computer for me, played video games with me, and wrote computer programs (more like copy and paste from magazines) with me.

One of the games I often play recently is Marvel Heroes. Here is my playlist. It is a fun game and I have started populating my YouTube channel with content from Marvel Heroes. Now, YouTube does not seem to be that great when it comes to organizing videos. Hence, what I wish to do is to list down my major videos by category. And I will update this page as and when I publish videos. Click a button below to begin.

New Player GuideGame GuideHero GuideMisc

New Player Guide

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Game Guide

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Hero & Team-up Guide

Team-Ups

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Misc