It’s a Beautiful Sunday

Having a hectic work in the office these days makes me treasure my weekends much more. My wife and I slept late last night catching up on a Japanese drama series on Netflix (Good Morning Call). I slept throughout the night – which is rare nowadays though my Garmin watch says that I had very little deep sleep (and that’s not good). I woke up at nine. Normally I would go back to sleep. Today, I have plans.

My not-too-cheap breakfast

We ran out of milk. Hence we could not make Nespresso in the morning. And hence, a perfect excuse for me to propose having breakfast outside. Besides, in this “early” hour, parking at the mall nearby would be much easier. I have been dreaming about this breakfast outing for months.

The cafe is along Upper Thomson Road called Pacamara Boutique Coffee Roasters. The coffee is pretty good. Food too. This place is always crowded regardless what time the day it is, for good reasons. Great ambiance. Plenty of sun from the glass panels. A bench full of very high-tech looking coffee and tea making machines. A hip place full of youngsters consuming very expensive food and drink. Among the crowd were my wife and me.

After our breakfast, grocery shopping at the mall where we parked our car was rather stressfree. Except for the unusual long queue at the fish counter. Apparently, well-to-do Singaporeans tend to wake up early on a Sunday and order a whole fresh salmon. One salmon costs around S$100. In front of me, five whole salmons were queued to be cut into filets. I have picked a red snapper and I was told that it would take fifteen minutes for it to be gutted and cleaned.

“Come back later,” said the guy who was handling all the fish orders.

“In that case, could you put some ice on my fish while I wait?” I asked.

In the end, I did not need to wait for fifteen minutes. I stood there and the guy just took my single red snapper and he jumped the queue for me – which totally made sense. In front of me, there were orders like a whole salmon or a plate full of fish. I am just a dude with one fish.

On our way back, I saw some big splash of water hitting my car’s windscreen. I did not pay much attention until when we were home, I saw a huge splash of bird poop on my car’s bonnet.

That was one mother-$%@#-huge bird!

It was great actually. I was looking for an excuse to have the car washed. And since we have spent so much money yesterday ordering food to be home delivered (I did hair henna for my wife – a very proud husband), we did not feel like paying S$8 for a car wash. Besides, I would need to drive out again.

I don’t mind car washing. It can be a rather good workout. And I love the results, always.

The car wash was good. Except, that somewhat spoilt my plan to set up my home music studio because I was exhausted after the car wash.

Time for Intenso on Ice! (Hint: Nespresso).

The biggest white elephant in our home is – actually we may have a few – a Zoom R24 Recorder. It is a multi-track recorder that can be acted as a mixer too. Right before my band No Eye Candy went into hiatus, I bought a Zoom R24 Recorder so as to replace my old USB Mixer. It was meant to be an upgrade because no longer would I need to operate the mixer with the PC (for recording).

Then, our drummer felt in love and has decided to leave Singapore. Our lead guitarist has a baby. That left my wife and me.

Fast forward to today, I have long wanted to set up my home music studio with this “new” toy that is not that new anymore. It took me a while to make it works with my electric guitar (stereo output through my VOX tube guitar effect box) and my mic. My wife has a new bass amp. For now and since I am not recording, I don’t need the bass input. For future though, I ought to think of micing her bass amp with an SM57.

And I have not got an SM57, yet.

PS. I just recall another white elephant in the house – a flat response monitor headset that I have yet to use. I shall start recording … one day.

Blood, Sweat, and Pixels by Jason Schreier – A Must-Read for Passionate Gamers

As an avid video gamer, this book has been an incredible read from start to finish. It is a collection of stories behind how videos games are made. The author – also the news editor at Kotaku.com where I visit on a daily basis – has interviewed hundreds of people. Some officially. Others unofficially. Some games are triumphant. Others not.

While each video games are created under very different circumstances, there are common themes within. It is art meets science where the scope, timeline, and cost is just as fluid. How much detail should be put into a video game? How large and how many maps should that be? How many times the storyline has to be rewritten? Is the game fun? Can the game afford another delay knowing that the extra time would help with the bug fixing but the company would miss the fiscal year financial target? And etc. Above all, I can feel the passion of the game developers within each game title. The various challenges they face.

This book features 10 games. Some are big-budget titles. One is very much a one-man show. Each has its own distinct ending. It is true blood, sweat, and pixels.

  1. Pillars of Eternity – I have recently discovered that I have a copy in my Steam account!
  2. Unchartered 4 – Heard about it. But I don’t have a next-gen console.
  3. Stardew Valley – Never heard of before reading this game. I have added this to my Steam wishlist.
  4. Diablo III – One of my favorite games of all time. I am still playing it. I have read this chapter twice.
  5. Halo Wars – Heard about it. But I don’t have a XBox.
  6. Dragon Age: Inquisition – I have played Dragon Age: Origin. Love it. But I read that Dragon Age 2 is a disappointment. So I have avoided Inquisition. Or BioWare in general.
  7. Shovel Knight – I have seen it featured in Steam often. Still not really into its concept.
  8. Destiny – Very interesting read. Mainly because I have planned to pre-purchase Destiny 2 (PC).
  9. The Witcher 3 – Also a very interesting read. I have purchased the first two installments but still yet to find the time to play. Who knows? One day I may play The Witcher 3.
  10. Star Wars 1313 – Never heard of. Because it was meant for consoles.

The Game Of Love

You know how it is like when you live through a certain stage of your life or pass a certain age, you don’t experience certain things in life anymore. Like the frustration of finding love, the thrill of falling in love, the insecurity of being in love, the worry of falling out of love, and the heartache and the path of self-destruction in the name of love. Thereafter, the road to recovery, trying so very hard not to think of the one, hardly any effort to forget someone until it has turned into a story of melancholy. You begin to forget the face, the scent, the touch, even the tone of the voice. It is as though all that you have gone through is relegated into nothingness.

So what’s the point?

I guess, it is the love experience and the journey that counts.

So for someone like me who has lived through a certain stage of my life, passed a certain age, I don’t get to experience the game of love anymore.

Except of course, when in a dream.

I had a dream last night. A vivid one. One that I can remember most of the story and especially from beginning to end.

There was this girl. Petit and fair. Not the pretty type. Certainly charming with her eccentric attitude. My dream character (a.k.a me) and she had become close. Since she was popular, she had many admirers. Now, I was rather casual as I did not think I had a shot. She has this aura that made me felt that she was into me. For all I knew, she could have this aura turned on for all the guys around her. Or to the least, the guys she wanted to attract.

We hang out. In parties. And in a casual setting. Most of the time, we were not alone. There were others. But she or rather we often found ways to have moments of light intimacy. Like the brushing of our hands. The occasional locking of eyes. That exchange of a secret smile. At one stage, I vividly remembered that I was in love. I looked forward to seeing her. I felt happy when we were together. Down when we were not.

Somewhere somehow like how most love stories unfold, the relationship had gone down south. Perhaps she was tired of me. Perhaps she was toying with my feeling. I had no idea. It was the classic case of a crash and burn. The sadness was overwhelming. The heartache was so intense that I must have woken up in the middle of the night.

Because there was a cut scene to the time I was supposed to have healed. Years later it must have been. There was this very old car that I drove. The same car that we were used to having when the girl and I were together. In my dream, I have revisited the places we have been to. I must have tried to regain some of the lost memories. No one wants to lose the entire journey experience just because of a bad heartbreak.

It was a school. Perhaps. And I met the new students there. A canteen. A large roundabout at the lobby. It was at night. I observed the sky with the new students. Such peace. The open sky. I could not help but wonder, where was the girl and how had she been? She had faded in my mind, a great deal.

The night was late and I was lying comfortably on a mat with three other students. Two guys and two girls. And we were chatting casually. The girls were in skimpy dresses. All of a sudden, one of the girls had started to … and I gasped …

I guess that was the time when things got erotic in my dream. In real life though, my wife has woken me up asking me what’s for breakfast.

My wife has impeccable timing.

This Year’s Easter Weekend

When people ask me what my plan is for the Easter long weekend, I can’t help but think that they are expecting some sort of exotic answers. Like getting out of town, hiking, movies, parties and more parties. While my wife and I have indeed watched a movie – The Fast and the Furious 8 – as Catholics, we spend time going to Church over the weekend.

Good Friday, it rained heavily. Our car barely made it out of estate when my wife Cynthia cringing in pain. So we made a U-turn and headed back to our condo. I dropped her off at our lobby and drove to Church after knowing that it was not a matter of emergency.

By the time I have reached the Church – pretty early in normal circumstances but Good Friday is by no means normal – it was packed. I managed to find a seat in the front row. This Mass participation was for me and for my wife. I can always pray for my wife too.

Station of the Cross

Easter Sunday, we have made it to the evening Mass. Father Mike was not the celebrant. Another Indian Priest instead. This Priest is good. He speaks with conviction and clarity. During the homily, he spoke of the presence of the Rising Christ. Since almost none of us have met Jesus in real life, it is really all down to faith. Having said that, where can we sense the presence of Jesus?

First is the Bible, which is a no-brainer. Second, is the Communion – one of the reasons why we have to go to Church at least every Sunday. Third, is the community because when two or more gather in His name, He is with us.

In the theme of Easter, the Priest talked about the three P’s too. First is Peace, the single most important tool to counter life’s ongoing challenges. Second, is not punishment – ha! – but power. The power of mercy so as to forgive. Third, is to proclaim Christ.

So there you have it. This is how my wife and I have spent the long weekend. At least the more significant bits.

 

Different Types Of Friends As You Leave Your Workplace To Another

When you are young in your career, it is easy to make work becomes you. As though consciously or subconsciously, work is the single most important thing in life. Over time, you may find your balance. And recognize that workplace is just an entity. Your boss doesn’t own you a living. Neither do you own him or her your life.

With the amount of time we spend at work, inevitably we make friends. Or at least be friendly to others. We talk about our weekends, our overseas families that visit us, the joy – wedding, childbirth, or promotion – and the sadness – aging parents, a sick child, or health issues. We talk about our “friends” at work. We talk about our “enemies” at work. Enemies become friends (less likely). Friends become enemies (more likely). A workplace can be fun (less likely). Or it can be toxic (more likely). Most of us could probably write a book about work than writing about what happens after work, though I sincerely hope not.

Eventually, one leaves from one workplace to another. This is where I have come to the realization that besides those whom I don’t care about and those who likewise don’t care about me in my day-to-day work and beyond, there are different types of friends as I leave one workplace to another.

Type I. Friends who no longer talk and are turning into strangers.

People can be nice to each other thanks to the work environment. We find topics to talk about that are largely work related. We need each other at work. We have common goals. Outside of this environment, there really isn’t anything worth catching up on. So when separated, there is hardly any reason to be friends.

I suppose most of my colleagues at work would fall under this category.

Type II. Friends who continue talking with me most likely they still need something from me in near future.

While no one is indispensable at work, when one leaves, someone else would need to take over. It is hard to say whether or not that someone would continue befriending me when I am of no value to him or her in near future.

Pessimistically or realistically, type II can become type I. Or it can become type III.

Type III. Friends who become friends for real.

I have worked for more than two decades. I can say with conviction that I do come across people whom I have got to know at a workplace and we keep in touch after we parted. In fact, many of my best friends in life were once upon a time my colleagues.

When you come across type III friends, count your blessing. Hold onto them and stay in touch. Time works both ways. It can grow friendship; it can also kill friendship.

Photographs from Our Holiday in Taipei (2017)

So I did it! I have managed to processed all the photographs taken during our trip to Taipei within three days of return. That is a feat of discipline. I still have years old albums unprocessed, waiting to see the day of light. With more and more different shapes and forms of distraction we have in our daily life, it is getting harder to focus on to something and get it done. This change of mine is so positive that I am feeling the energy. Next, I would like to memorize some quotes from Romeo & Juliet so that I can pen down something artistically intelligent in public without referring to the Internet. It is a long story for another day.

This is me in Shifen, Taipei - a photo taken by my wife Cynthia.

My wife and I have spent six nights in Taipei. We stayed in Mandarin Oriental for three nights. Then we stayed in Our Home 187 in Jiufen for two nights. Finally, stayed in Mandarin Oriental for another night. I brought along my Nikon D700 as well as my two lenses – Nikkor 24-70mm f2.4 and Nikkor 70-200mm f2.4. Pretty heavy stuff but it was worth it. Especially the long lens for photographing the animals in Taipei Zoo. I always love the results from my Nikkor 70-200mm anyway, even for the portrait. Photo albums as follows.

In addition, I have also taken some pictures using my Nexus 5x. The quality is not as good. But at times, the phone camera serves its purpose to add context to short journals. Links to the entries as follows.

A Sense Of Surrealism When Life Seems To Have Bottomed Out

The past one month or so was terrible. Early last month, it was on the 10th when I had planned to spend the Friday shopping for a Valentine’s Day gift for my wife. Something suddenly struck my life’s trajectory like a meteor hits a planet. Instead, I ended up eating one of the saddest lunches ever in a food court at VivoCity and did not have the mood to do anything else. The Vietnam beef noodle was horrible. No spice nor fragrance . Just salt and water with some tasteless slices of overcooked or reheated beef. As for dinner, I thought nothing could go wrong with my comfort food at Asia Square. That burrito was one of the saddest burritos I have ever tasted. The guacamole that was supposed to be inside was unceremoniously squeezed out from the wrap in the process of being wrapped up with the aluminum foil. I really wanted to ask the girl to make another one. Why didn’t I?

Taken from 9th floor of MBFC

Looking back, it has been a really tough year. In fact, this rather challenging time has lasted for a good few years. Issues with my neighbors. Massive lack of sleep. Some really personal matters that are family related. On top of all these, there is work.

Good news is that last Friday something has struck my life like the first cells first created in a barren planet.

Like all things in my life, everything is so last minute but yet the timing is so good. Great stuff. Time to evolve, once again.

When People Around You Keep On Killing Your Passion And Dream

Peter is twelve years old. He enjoys playing basketball. In fact, he is pretty good at it. A star no less. Peter loves the sport partly due to his passion, partly due to a wonderful coach he has that recognizes his talent, knows his weaknesses, and has a good gauge of his potential. Peter likes his teammates too. When all the positive ingredients come together, Peter has a dream. To play leagues and who knows, one day Peter may represent his country in an international arena doing what he loves to do the most, with people whom he enjoys hanging out with, and with people who believe in him.

All these set to change when a new coach comes on board together with new teammates. The chemistry is not quite there. Instead of being guided to where he excels, Peter’s weaknesses get amplified. It is suffocating. Everywhere he goes, Peter meets with obstacles. Every challenge unconquered dims his passion a little bit. Soon, Peter has become a liability to his basketball team. There is only that much Peter can do to keep himself motivated, to practice day after day. But basketball is a team sport. Ultimately, the entire ordeal kills his dream. It is time to move on.

Does this sound familiar to you? In life, be blessed when you are surrounded by people who are willing to groom you to be better. People who are supportive of your passion and dream. People who believe in you. We can’t change the world. And when we fail to influence the people around us to work with our passion and dream – no fault of either party – moving on could be a good option. In fact, in life, it could well be the only option.

Logan – Well Exceeded My Expectation

I am a fan of all things Marvel. For some strange reasons, I have not watched the previous installments of the Wolverine standalone movie series. But when I saw the poster, with Wolverine carrying a young girl against a sunset backdrop – how poetic by the way – I have got to watch this. My wife asked, “Who’s that girl?”. “She could be Laura,” I answered and then added, “X-23?”

Logan

Those who have read the Marvel’s X-Men series must have heard of X-23. She is Wolverine’s clone, with some subtle differences. An awesome character on her own. She is also the All-New-Wolverine. So yes. Being able to see her early years on screen is a big deal.

Unlike other Marvel movies I have watched, Logan doesn’t have those big budget explosion and city-wide / worldwide / galaxy-wide destruction. It isn’t drowned with special effects (sure, those claws ain’t real but you get what I mean). In fact, Logan doesn’t even wear his costume. I don’t recall anyone does. I get to see the characters’ expression all the time.

There is plenty of raw emotion. One could even shed a tear or two towards the end. It is good to be reminded that while special effects don’t usually leave a lasting impression, emotion and good acting often does. I am glad that my wife and I got a chance to watch this in a theater.

Fifty Shades Darker – Here We Go Again

Two years have passed since I have written my thoughts on Fifty Shades of Grey. How time flies. It is funny that whenever I talk about Fifty Shades in public, people either not that comfortable talking about it or some give me that weird look.

Fifty Shades Darker

Truth be told, as comfortable as Dakota Johnson going naked in the show, I have no problem talking about it in public.

I think First Shades Darker is artistically done. Think on this. This show could have gone wrong in so many different ways. It could have been so awkward to watch. Even if it was as “good” as the previous installation – whereby good or bad is totally subjective of course – it would have been acceptable for me.

Fortunately, this one is better.

  • The character Christian Grey played by Jamie Dornan is more relatable this time around. More human. Less weird. Indeed, Anna Steele played by Dakota Johnson is changing him for the better. Thank goodness.
  • Jamie is more buffed up this time. Wow, his muscle. I am inspired to work out. With the beard and all, he looks like a real man! I always thought that he was kind of vampire-ish in the last movie.
  • I don’t think Dakota is the prettiest actress in Hollywood. But her being so comfortable with her body … there is something very empowering about it. As though she has developed this aura of command.
  • The chemistry between the two has become much better than before, which is understandably so from a storytelling perspective.

In short, I love Fifty Shades Darker, though I still have no clue as in what gets darker in this installment. I am looking forward to Fifty Shades Free.