Random Post – Bizarre Hello Kitty & Aggretsuko Beer, Hamilton & F1 2020, Henna & Coffee and D3 Season 21

Hello my friends. I have a few random things to share.

Hamilton is Really A Class of His Own

One may say that Formula One is boring because Mercedes wins all the recent championships. I don’t see it that way. To me, it is how the team wins that makes the viewing – or these days, reading (as it is getting expensive to watch a full race) – experience memorable and magical.

Hamilton is a true racer. He enjoys wheel-to-wheel fight on track; he enjoys catching up from behind in a championship. Being a six-time F1 World Champion at the age of 34, many would expect him to equal Schumacher’s record this year.

The stars seemed to have aligned. It is still the old rule and Mercedes dominates in this era. Bottas is still his teammate and unlike Rosberg, Bottas has integrity (i.e. nothing dirty on track). Mercedes even comes up with a brand new technology called Dual-Axis Steering (DAS) this season. This allows the driver to slide the steering wheel forward and backward and alter the toe of the car during racing. This technology was heavily challenged by rival teams.

DAS deems legit this year. But with Covid-19, at one point, it was not obvious if we would have a 2020 championship.

Fortunately, we do. Not unexpectedly, Hamilton lost the first race in Austria on July 5th earning only 12 points finishing at forth compared to his teammate who won and earned 25 points. Since then, Hamilton took three poles and three wins. It was raining on the Styrian circuit and Hamilton took pole with 1.216 seconds ahead of the best of the rest. It was his home race at Silverstone and Hamilton took the win after a dramatic tyre failure at his final lap.

Some may say Hamilton is a lucky driver. I would say, you can’t be a Word Champion with bad luck all the time. But you can’t win a championship without some serious skill and talent.

To Quote Pyper in My Diablo 3 Clan: “And You Listened to StraightDope?”

For those who are not familiar with Diablo 3 (“D3”), it is an action role-playing game. In a nutshell, you hack-and-slash monsters day in and day out to be more skillful, more powerful.

For those who are not familiar with D3 seasons, it is very much like F1 championship. You start the season from scratch with zero progress. What you are given could be some redesigned items and/or mechanics, complete the season journey (a list of checkboxes), and try to push your character to as far as you can (you could compete with yourself, your clan, or the whole wide world).

D3 has a number of classes players can roll. The two weakest classes prior to season 21 in my opinion were Demon Hunter and Necromancer. This season 21 Trails of Tempests offers two new class sets for the two weakest classes in-game. The expectation was high. Most of the new class sets are great (if not, why bother?). Monk, Crusader, and Witch Doctor’s new sets are still powerful. Barbarian and Wizard new sets while so-so, they are playable and not terrible.

Demon Hunter’s new set Gears of Dreadlands (“GoD”) truly deserves the “Godly” status. When it first unveiled in Public Test Realm (“PTR”), which I participated in, it was terrible. Fans and testers provided feedback and in phase 2 of PTR, GoD has been redesigned and become godly.

Necromancer’s new set Masquerade of the Burning Carnival (“MotBC”) was also terrible when first appeared in PTR. Fans and testers including myself have also provided feedback. But there was very little to be done in PTR phase 2. And I have my theory on why: the failed season theme.

The theme of season 21 was terrible, and still is. The design is that every 90 seconds, a random elemental power would be unleashed. The visual effect is a distraction. The power vast majority of the time does nothing (and when it does – as I assume that it has to be at some point – I don’t notice any impact). There is a buff counter as mobs are killed. I doubt anyone would pay attention to it. This season mechanic is rumored to cause severe server lag and I have certainly experienced that. All in all, season 21 Trials of Tempest is a failure, a total and complete failure. The worst is that – now going back to my theory – it has taken away valuable development time as Blizzard team was trying their best to fix the season theme during PTR, valuable time that could have used to improve Necromancer’s MotBC. In Blizzard’s own words after throwing in the towel right before the start of season 21: With the adjustments coming in for a few past Necromancer sets and abilities, we will continue to evaluate the performance of the new set this season and may make additional adjustments in future seasons if we believe they are necessary.

Why investing time to fix the Demon Hunter and season theme but not Necromancer? It is simple. Everyone who plays D3 has access to Demon Hunter class and can experience the season theme. Only those who own the necromancer DLC has access to the new class set (read: not everyone). That is why.

I have a few words for Blizzard: You have failed the necromancer fans and you disappoint me.

In case you wonder, Pyper is our clan-mate from the US. StraightDope is my real life friend in Singapore, also in our clan. All four of us including my wife were supposed to roll a Demon Hunter and play GoD. But Dope wants diversity and convinced me to play the underwhelming Necromancer MotBC even though I have started my season with a Demon Hunter. When I told Pyper the story behind my choice, his first reaction was, “And you listened to StraightDope?”.

Oh yes, I embrace diversity, I welcome the challenge, and I am having fun … not!

Okay. It isn’t that bad. The struggle is real but that constant push to squeeze extra bits of performance is also real. I feel like I am piloting a Williams in F1.

I Love Hello Kitty & Aggretsuko But Vanilla & Chili Don’t Mix Well with Beer

At Cold Storage, I have stumbled upon cans of beer wrapped up with Hello Kitty and Aggretsuko artwork. The cans while somewhat looked cheap, they drew attention.

So attractive, how not to try?

I am not really a fan of Hello Kitty. But I love Aggretsuko. The former comes in apple and vanilla flavors (described as creamy). The latter comes in chili flavor (described as spicy).

I am an adventurer and I love to try new things. So I bought six cans. Three each. The price tag in the supermarket said – or so I thought it said – S$7 for any two (usual price is S$7 for one). The final bill was somewhat confusing. I ended up having 20% discount over 4 cans of beer and 1-for-1 discount for 2 cans of beer.

Huh?

Whatever.

Let’s start with the Aggretsuko beer. It does have a clean lager taste. The spice makes it tastes weird. Not the bad kind of weird. Just weird, weird. The problem I have with this Hong Kong crafted beer is that, there is a lack of gas in the beer. The beer tastes flat.

As for the Hello Kitty beer, it is a no, no. In my mind, I was thinking of cider beer. After all, we are mixing apple with beer here. But this is no cider beer. In my mind, when I think of ‘creamy’ beer, I think of stout. This is no stout either. It is vanilla mixed with apple flavor delivered in a flat lager base.

Just, no.

My Favorite Topic: My Hairdresser and I

Regular visitors of my site would know the long history of my hairdresser and I that has span decades. So I won’t go there.

These days, our favorite topic is henna. She is intrigued by the fact that I apply henna to my wife’s hair every month and the leftover, my wife applies to my hair every two weeks. She has commented that the color on my hair doesn’t seem natural. Dark red would have been good but mine is orange.

I am actually fine with partially orange colored hair. It makes me look like someone coming out from an anime. In my most recent visit, she has recommended me to try mixing henna with coffee instead of tea.

We did that. And it was strange.

The smell was weird. Tea smells good on hair. Coffee smells funny on hair. And the result? Just as orange.

Yes, it is orange!

I Smashed My Face Hard Onto the Floor (And It Could’ve Been Worse)

This is a story of David versus Goliath. It was kind of embarrassing. And no, I wasn’t under the influence of alcohol or any medication. It was just instinct, reflex. The same reflex that caused me to lose balance and at the same time, saved me from a concussion. It could have been worse.

Our home is clean. My wife and I have spent a lot of effort to keep our place hygienic. When one late evening while we were watching Mystic Pop-up Bar on Netflix with our balcony doors wide opened, a gigantic cockroach flew into our home!

Unlike other flying insects that occasionally drawn to the interior lighting and visit our home at night, I have no idea what draws a cockroach’s attention. For other insects, all we have to do is to turn off all the light inside and leave the balcony light on. They would leave shortly, chasing the next light source.

Cockroaches don’t seem to do that. As one that flew from one side of the living room to another side refused to leave, I have attempted to brush it out of our home using a duster with a very long handle (I clean ceiling beams with that). Instead of flying out, it flew towards me!

I have zero intention to kill a cockroach inside our home for good reasons. First, we didn’t have an insecticide (as we haven’t sighted a cockroach for a very long time, but now we have bought one). Second, it is messy to kill one. Third, I don’t feel like killing anything so long as it peacefully exits our home.

But no, it flew towards me! That contradicts everything I thought I knew about cockroaches – that the primal DNA has dictated them to move to the opposite direction of the imminent threat.

Looking back, I could have stayed still. Let it smashed onto my body, crawled around me perhaps. But no, I retreated. One step backward at a time, till I …

… tripped over the sofa. And at that very instance, I lost my balance, head down to the floor. The very instinct that caused me to lose balance now kicked in to save me. As I fell, I was thinking, if I was to fall on my back, it would be a pretty heavy hit on my head. Perhaps, concussion.

So, at the split second, I managed to turn my body and attempted to land on my hands and avoid the head injury.

But alas. I have grown weight due to the Covid-19 lock-down. I have become heavier. Gravity is a bitch. And I fell faster than I had anticipated thanks to my heavier body. What this means is that I have landed hard on my right shoulder. My head smashed onto the ground. My wrist was twisted.

As I got up, instinctively covered my face, I smelled iron. I smelled of blood. There was blood on my face, blood on my hands, blood on my shirt, and blood on the floor. My pair of glasses laid flat onto the floor, twisted, not wearable.

There was a sharp pain, especially on my face. I managed to open my eyes. At least, my eyes are okay. I then went to the mirror in the living room. There were two cuts on my right brow. One cut more severe than another. Blood streaming from my wound. From my past experience, I needed to lie down and press against the wound in order to slow down the bleeding.

I did not know if I required to be stitched up. But I must say, my first reaction was: man, I looked mean. I looked like a gangster, a bad boy. That’s nice. That was one cool look. I am a tough guy!

My wife dressed the wound. I have got a swollen cheek, a sore shoulder, and wrist. And I didn’t sleep well (nor did my wife as she was worried). Other than that, I am fine. It could have been worse. Much worse.

An artistic view of my two cuts at my brow and a swollen cheek

A Good Night’s Sleep is So Rare for Light Sleepers Like Me But Once in a While …

If I could design my own DNA like an RPG video game, I would want to be a heavy sleeper. Being a light sleeper sucks. It is an arcane gene passed down from the caveman era so that my ancestors don’t get easily eaten by wildlife. Or get robbed and/or murdered in the middle of the night. Other than that, I don’t see why anyone would want to be a light sleeper.

Last night’s sleep was good. It has all the elements of a good sleep. It was uninterrupted and I have slept a full 8 hours. As a bonus, it came with a really good dream.

I dreamed that I was a girl, being framed for something I did not do in a large social gathering, embarrassed and humiliated. My home was harassed. Then, one good friend turned up (also a girl) and she went through a great length to clear my name. I felt vindicated. And then I woke up.

Days like these are hard to come by. It could be the wine. It could be the vegetarian dinner. It could be the lessen of work stress, the K-drama I watched before going to bed. It could be that I didn’t drink that much water before going to bed (oh, I love drinking water in the evening, not sure why), the terrible sleep I had the night before.

Or just a mix of everything.

The Thin Line Between Colleagues and Friends

Looking back at my two-plus decades of working life, I can recount three periods of my career when I am truly happy. All involve me having a phenomenon rapport with my team. All involve me being able to operate at the peak of my performance. There must be a correlation between the two. Or three, if counting opportunity or luck as well. At one point in my career, I have stopped socializing with people from work. Because corporate life can be brutal. It is not unlike a playbook written by Shakespeare. Full of tragedies and treacheries. At one point, I have decided that the best way not to get affected by the transient work entity is to detach myself from the people within. In retrospect, life is about taking risks and accepting the consequences of the decisions made. To the least, I have lived. And not just zombied my way through life.

I Was The Architect

Rising up the ranks from a new recruit a.k.a. fresh graduate to a lead architect of enterprise-level trade finance software was quite a feat. Started off my career with Accenture as a support consultant on a job that no one wanted (read: maintenance), I managed to learn everything I needed to know about trade finance. From accounting to interest and commission calculation, from letters of credit to banker guarantee, from front end user interface to batch programs, reporting (back then, it was line printer) and invoicing, from visual C++ to C to PLSQL to Oracle Report Writer and many more. I was so good with version 4 of this proprietary Accenture / Deutsche Bank joint venture that I was enlisted to implement version 5, which was an object-oriented design by the same partnership.

Technology evolved. Accenture has decided to create her own trade finance product using the latest technology from Microsoft. Since I had been persistent enough to survive through version 4 and version 5, I had landed the job to be the lead architect in designing and building version 6 with a large team of people working with me. Looking back, while I seriously do not recall implementing the final product, I had fun building it. My team from diverse gender, social, and academic background was fantastic. I really connected with my team. Many have become my friends and some, I still keep in touch with. Many crazy, crazy things we have done. There were happy times; there were sad times. Memorable nonetheless.

I Was The Trainer, Facilitator

Good things don’t last. That’s a universal rule. After Accenture went public, it wasn’t the same organization I have grown up with. There was an office move. And I left.

For a long time, I was detached from the people in the workplace. Because eventually, the organization will disappoint (that could go both ways too, I suppose).

Then I met a group of the younger crowd at Ernst & Young Associate whom I enjoyed coaching them (perhaps that’s my calling?). We got close, almost like a family. There were peers too, whom I still keep in touch with today. The peers, we formed a band. I remember the days when I shared my recorded music in the car with my juniors. Oh yes, we were that close. I was the trainer and the facilitator as I moved to the defense industry. Absolute freedom. We could be in one military camp in the morning, had lunch at Sentosa (as I drove), and headed to another military camp in the afternoon. We were seldom in the office. The clients loved us. But the people at the office didn’t.

Politics.

Project Management Was Born During Egyptian Era When Pyramids Were Built

Good things don’t last. That’s a universal rule. Office politics doesn’t exist when it is working for you. Office politics becomes prominent when it is working against you. There was an office move. And I left.

After EY, I joined Standard Chartered Bank. For a long time in my career, I have stopped caring for the people at work. There is a line clearly drawn between colleagues and friends. There were nine to five. And I detested socializing with my colleagues after working hours. When you live through the countless disappointments at work, the natural defensive thing you could do is to have a clear mindset on what is work versus what is life.

And then something magical happens. I am gifted and blessed with a team of good people with a team size surpassing anything I have had in the past.

I guess, looking back, putting your heart out there can be risky. It doesn’t always pay off. But when it does, it is memorable; it is magical.

My beloved team sent me a bunch of gifts and written messages for my birthday, in the time of Covid-19.

The Legend of White Snake (2019) Ending Analysis & Afterthoughts (Spoiler Alert)

I have just finished watching 36 episodes of The Legend of White Snake (2019) that totaled up to 27 hours of TV entertainment. The first post is a review, with no spoiler. If you are interested to read my thoughts on its ending, read on. Spoiler alert!

Rating: 9/10.

White Snake 2019 has a complex event that leads to an interesting ending. Now, is it a happy ending? If I could borrow a repeated response from Fahai the Buddhist Monk, that would be a Yes and No (which my boss at work would have hated it).

It is a sad ending in the sense that Suzhen the White Snake gets locked up inside Leifeng Pagoda for what could have been at least 20 years. To Suzhen the 1,000 years old white snake spirit, 20 years seems fleeting. But she can’t see her husband Xu Xian during that time, also missing out on her child’s upbringing. That punishment of her seems pretty harsh, though still better than being executed by the gods.

More so for Xu Xian the Physician and his mortal and short life, not able to see his wife for two decades, also missing out on his son’s upbringing while busy curing people for free in order to seek redemption for his wife’s sin.

But in the spirit of reincarnation – which is the theme of White Snake 2019 – two decades or more may well be a sand inside an hour glass. Because there is the next life to look forward to. When these people believe in eternity and especially eternal love, missing out two decades in this lifetime doesn’t seem that bad.

Let’s not forget that Suzhen who was so close to immortality through 1,000 years of ‘cultivation’ with progress unknown even as the credit rolls.

The happy ending though, is that the family gets to reunite after two decades or so, which is possibly the best ending given the pretty terrible circumstances as Xu Xian was so close to be toasted together with Mind Demon inside the temple.

Before we agree that this is possibly be the best ending, let’s look at some of the alternatives.

Alternative Ending #1 – Just Walk Away

Upon receiving the elixir that trapped the Mind Demon, Xu Xian the Physician could have just passed that to Fahai the Buddhist Monk and walked away. Let the guys with supernatural power deal with the problem. And if Mind Demon is going to turn into a Prime Evil (like in Diablo games), let the gods deal with the situation. After all, did it not take the god of lightning one single strike to take out Mind Demon without killing the host in the actual ending?

Xu Xian could have followed his wife Suzhen the White Snake and retire happily in Emei Mountain raising their son Xu Shilin. He probably wouldn’t be able to play as a hero for a brief moment, nor his wife as a villain for a brief moment.

But alas! Since Xu Xian is a dude with big heart (and a pure heart according to the show), he wouldn’t have been able to walk away from saving the city, which ironically as his wife tried to save him, wiped out the city.

Alternative Ending #2 – Xu Xian Gets Toasted with Mind Demon

This could be rather tragic, though Xu Xian could have died a hero for those who know his true intention (read: just a handful). It would also be rather painful for us to watch Suzhen witnessing her husband getting toasted by some holy fire from Emei Mountain with her power being restrained by the Monk her “own good” (what could have been a few more days to immortality).

And since Suzhen the White Snake was pregnant with a deity reincarnate, let’s skip the alternative ending of her getting sacrificed instead.

Alternative Ending #3 – Mind Demon Gets Defeated by Snakes and Monk Combo Plus the Heavenly Army

That would have been my favorite ending. Suzhen the White Snake manages to overcome the influence of Mind Demon just before the flood hits the city. Heaven and Earth join forces to defeat Mind Demon a.k.a. Prime Evil. And a truly happy ending.

I guess this ending would have displeased the purists as it deviates from the original story too much without mentioning Leifeng Pagoda. I honestly don’t care. Maybe Guanyin can reward the two snake spirits to study at the pagoda and accelerate their path to enlightenment.

In the End, Almost Everyone is At Fault But One Takes the Punishment

From Suzhen the White Snake’s perspective, after going through so much to save her husband so many times, the final act is a no-brainer. Just that this time around, it is a bit hard to justify, when innocent lives are lost (and restored by the goddess). Hence, all down to the flood. Let’s break that down.

The idea comes from Jingsong the Golden Mouse, who by the way gives up yet another mysterious heavenly relic to restore Xiaoqing the Green Snake’s 500 years of cultivation, which she lost during a fight with Fahai the Monk. Jingsong’s plan was to threaten Fahai with the flood so that Fahai would give up toasting Xu Xian the Physician.

Xiaoqing the Green Snake is the one who steals the water token from the dragon god of the eastern sea, passes it to Suzhen, and strongly encourages her to use the token to call forth the flood. For lack of a better word, she is the accomplice.

Fahai the Monk does not give up toasting White Snake’s husband knowing very well that innocent lives will be lost. He has stopped in the past given similar situations. Why does he not this time around? The Monk has decided that sacrificing the city is justified when he could have stopped the ritual. I still don’t get why Fahai has to restain White Snake’s power when Mind Demon is at large and White Snake has demonstrated time and time again her power has proven to be useful. This Monk makes bad decisions.

Xu Xian the Physician should have shared his plan with his wife, especially when time and time again his wife the White Snake has managed to think of a solution of saving people, even saving the same person multiple times. But he goes ahead with his plan with full knowledge that his wife will certainly intervene.

Let’s not forget Suzhen the White Snake angered by the crowd’s lack of empathy is under the influence of Mind Demon when calling forth the flood. In the end, almost everyone is at fault but one takes the punishment.

To close off these ending afterthoughts with a bit of lightheartedness, I would just blame the Mind Demon, which by the way, has been vanquished by the god of lightning (Thor!) all thanks to the White Snake calling in the flood.

That One Question Unanswered

With this type of fantasy story genre, I am often flexible when it comes to whether or not a plot is believable. So long as it is consistent with reasonable support by Chinese culture or beliefs. For example, Suzhen does not participate in Jin Ruyi’s funeral nor visit Ruyi’s gravestone. It is because according to Chinese culture, pregnant women should avoid such events.

There is however one question unanswered. Ruyi towards the end of her own story line was alone, with no friend nor servant. Let’s just be a bit open minded and accept the part about her being able to throw her body into the furnace that is smaller than her. I mean, she was possessed. She could do ‘stuffs’.

But who then delivered the elixir from the furnace inside a cave that very few knew when no one even knew the existence of such elixir in the first place to Xu Xian’s home? Together with Ryui’s dress gifted by Xu Xian at the mid autumn festival?

It can only be supernatural.