Monthly Archives: March 2013

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Countdown #2 – Music

I’ll cut to the chase here – apart from school, which is practically compulsory in Singapore save for those home-schooled (which is, still, schooling) and those unfortunate enough to be in such circumstances, music was something I lived and breathed for the better part of my life.

Music has (almost) literally brought me places, mostly with great thanks to MOE’s umbrella, under which RI and SNYO were able to subsidise the overseas trips. From Bremerhaven to Koln, Vienna to Salzburg, and Florence to Milan, the competitions and festivals and concerts were both reminders and expressions of the musical line that ran through this life of mine.

Its winding journey brought me through the well-worn paths of the Yamaha electric organ group lessons, to the violin, guzheng (and ensemble-related percussion, and (finally?) viola, with a smattering of piano and guitar dabbling on the side. Multiple-personality disorder aside, it has led me to great discoveries – of meaning, of life, and of love.


Some enquiries regarding this were made – if my family was a “musical family” (whatever that means), if it was difficult (in some ways yes, in a first-world manner). Some reacted in surprise – “you don’t look like you play the ____”, “wah you learn for (so long)”. Generally, despite the slightly inner-circle nature of classical music groups (if you take away the symbolism the practice approaches benign witchcraft of the bad-cooking nature), the road ahead is paved with many good intentions and with many challenges yet unseen.

Now, in memoriam, and in prospectus, a moment of silence, and many moments of music.

Oh, pardon me…

-Fine-

Countdown #3 – Words

Admittedly, the last few posts have appeared to be more copy-pasted multimedia rather than original text – this, dear reader, is because I am not a very original writer have been saving the blessings of the writing muse for a more opportune time.

Boy, did time fly.

This blog has seen, since its conception over a year and a half ago, several local events including the AIM, CPIB, underage prostitute (and many other) sagas, the opening of Gardens by the Bay, of UTown, the closing of Bukit Brown, and the implementation of free entry to national museums. Well, technically, the last point is still in the future.

Words were the main, almost only intention of this public blog, which served as a scrawling board for undercooked prose and poetry left forgotten in a corner of the cold room. Several poems and short stories later, it is still not quite certain if I’ve gotten any closer to literary Nirvana, but it has been a great experience and whatever scant attention distributed this way was well-meaning and -formulated.

Being someone of (generally) few words in person, churning out walls of text saying everything and nothing (usually the latter) came quite naturally, although reading it would be akin to finding a needle in a plane crash. Nevertheless, this aspirant will be looking through and editing the old works with the possibility of publishing in mind, adding whatever is necessary in the process. It may be arduous and ultimately incomplete or uncompletable, but that wouldn’t matter in the long run.

This year’s New Year’s Resolution was to come up by the first draft of my first book by the end of the year. The end is not near anywhere in sight, but after consulting the gods of practicality and sanity (something that I should do more often), the hopeful product would be a collection of poems and short writings, of memories – memories of people and places, maybe more of people or of places, but more likely about an equal number of both.

Ideally, after covering the costs of publication, the rest of the proceeds will go to charity.

And with that in mind and only a slew of demons named Procrastination, Laziness, Distraction and the Z Monster in the way, I wish you, dear reader (and myself), godspeed and good night. Or morning.

Countdown #4 – Games

Prologue: This post came 1h 23m late (although readers will probably not notice my sudden obsession with deadlines) due to a gross underestimation of the number and personal meaning of games involved. Without further ado, let the games begin!

 

For what is fun without games?

My virgin experience with games started, like many of my era’s, with the handheld machines – the kind that had a grand total of 1 game per machine. Behold OPTIC BLAST:

Fairly sure it was this colour…

At that age, I only knew how to keep jumping

It was around this time when I got acquainted with the SNES that my uncle kindly loaned (to the horror of my parents)

I was once so proud of reaching the apple stage
(Click to play online)

I’ve always wondered why no matter how big I grew, my tank still died in 1 hit unlike the ph4t enemies…
(Click to play online)

 

Despite these nostalgic (and many have agreed upon the sheer nostalgia of 8- and 16-bit post-Pong console games of yesteryear) moments and faint memories of http://www.silvergames.com/street-fighter-2-ce, my true awakening (and blackhole of time) started on the PC. Not counting Chessmaster and the edutainment games (that were actually terribly difficult for a 7 year old, involving mathematical and anatomical and geological knowledge) on a once-upon-a-time 486, the very first PC game my dad bought for me was none other than the legendary

Fire… fire EVERYWHERE

Seriously… those firemen must be slacking off somewhere

oh thank heavens it’s ov-ZAPPPPPPPPPPPPP

Tell me this doesn’t give you chills.

It was incidentally my first real-time strategy (RTS) game, which paved the way for many others to come after; some closer to the heart, and some just mere acquaintances. Red Alert may have been the first (RTS) love, but there were many other more traditional games that I partook in, if only to just fit in.

Hey, I beat GIRLS at this. I mean these. Oh no... my life...

Hey, I beat GIRLS at this. I mean these.
Oh no… my life…

Worms2

Back to manliness… um… quirky manliness

 

Heading into secondary school, I finally touched base with the games that would later define my gaming habits, my social (virtual and IRL) circles, some of which include long-time friends and many newly-made ones as well.

Counterstike: The Original… Mod.
I did play the original Half-Life in the middle of the night and it scared the panties off my prepubescent, underdeveloped hypothalamus.

Hell knows how many lonely and friendly days and nights and midnights I’d spent in LAN shops and in school (the boys in my class were supposed to teach the girls how to play Counterstrike in JC for a day) watching the pixels zoom by at near-blinding speed (which would give my sister a headache). Quakes 1 to 3, Red Faction, Half-Lifes (Lives?) 1 & 2, Unreal Tournament, Alien vs Predator, Jedi Academy, Team Fortress(es) 1 & 2 later,  none could rival the dedication I gave to this easy-to-learn, hard-to-master game, whether in the LAN centre or as a spectator in WCG in person and on online streams.

It’s funny how a simple, repeated, design can hold so many memories – the first time leafing through the Duelist, the first time seeing a real Black Lotus, downloading decks with a 28.8kpbs connection, reading about Jon Finkel, Kai Budde, Junk and Jank and Orb and Trix and Tog and Wake.

It’s funny how my irateness about Kamigawa (which led to a short argument online) resulted in meeting a new, similarly-humoured friend.

What do MvC2 and The-Reincarnation (once known as ArchMage) have in common? Nothing much, except that I met the same guys who played MvC2 in SG in a TR guild I randomly managed to join during the best run (top 20-30 rank) of my life.

 

AO is still installed in my hard drive, but will now only be double-clicked on if time and will permits, its excellent, endearing community and the real life friends were all worth the endless (unearthly) hours spent.

 

As all good things come to an end, it is with a certain degree of sadness and a slight measure of looking forward that I present to you the current vices this author is indulged in:

After the disappointment that was (my first ever pre-ordered game) Diablo 3, Path of Exile has its special place in my heart despite the lag spikes and bugs (of which I’ve had little trouble with).

Ingress

Looks a bit like the moon now…

Despite my prophesising the conglomerate taking over the world, I’m still a mindless drone working for the greater Google.

Finally, if the reader isn’t dead yet (here’s an extra life), I present to you the King and Queen of my virtual alter ego.

Give or take a few

Cleave is your friend

Originally not even a game per se, DotA became a worldwide phenomenon, and  despite great efforts not to jump onto bandwagons  it became a staple of JC life, NS and Uni. Its Valve offspring:

Blood is thicker than water / Blowing hot and cold

is something to look out for.

 

Tying the two with a red string of fate is the long-lived and hopefully eternal Teamliquid, which is incidentally linked all over my blog and blogroll. She (or he) is none other than

I could write entire blogposts about it so I’ll just let a few moments speak for themselves:


5:58


Flash


Especially FBH


and of course, the most classic triple bunker rush.

Years of tears, laughter, joy, sadness, rushing home to watch the OSL finals live, cursing the school network for lagging when the finals ran right after(, before or during lessons), all rode on the legend that is Brood War.

 

Honorable mentions:

Countdown #5 – Fun

In case the dear reader(s) have been eagerly and dutifully keeping track of my personal countdown, I’ll leave the leading-to topic to another time.

In this short week that will pass in the blink of an eye, much will be said and tasted, discarded and cherished, observed and questioned. Life is made that much more bearable by that which makes us laugh. Look around and you’ll see.

Most of those who know me in person (and many of those who wished they didn’t know of me at all) would know that the odds of my passing up the chance for a pun would be tantamount to cheating fate. On hindsight, that may have caused some problems.

This might have warranted many an extreme reaction,


or even burned some bridges…

but ultimately, I knew they still loved me.

On that note, our time, for now is up, but some legacies never die.

Countdown #6 – Home

At a point in life when all your friends, classmates, and otherwise contemporaries are planning and flailing over planning for or buying a residence (at this point in the local and global) economy, home is probably as close to heart as the toy that one grew up with – the one which has just gone into the spring cleaning trash.

Sunrise

I was able to enjoy this view – this and the ruddy redness of sunset seeping in everyday (that visual cue that meant Art Attack was on TV), thanks to the east-west facing of the windows and main door. This has been my home for the last almost-25 years, and, possible loss-of-creativity notwithstanding, it’s familiar portals that let in the greater natural cycles has given me the stability so taken for granted when possessed but yearned for when missed.

Home Clear

Incidentally, the fates have also been kind. At least 3 blocks of flats would have been in this frame if they were not demolished since about 20-odd and 10-odd years ago (different housing boards). My block is the figurative highlander – still alive, and yet close to the famed Old Airport Road Hawker Centre.

Afternoon Sun

Life has been kind – from the vines of morning glory flowers (the wire-link fences have since been taken down) along the canal, to the fresh-ground coffee that was sold in the wet-markets, to the sound of the karang-guni man calling and honking his toy tooting-horn every incense-and-breakfast-riddled dawn (the early mornings have since taken on a new meaning).

Leak

 

 

Naps were (and still are) a dangerous affair – my brain has as much respect for time and the average alarm clock as a hot knife does for butter. My groggy consciousness usually first registered the pit-pattering of several elastic collisions of basketballs, spotted with shrieks of laughter (score!) and disappointment (augh!) and the ringing of bicycle bells.

Sometimes, especially when the atmosphere was dusty, the aforementioned liquid sunset would flow through the grating of the main gate when the door was opened for fresh air. Sometimes, depending on the season (the sun’s path was one of the few other seasonal-significant phenomena) the sun would appear through the glass of my corridor-facing windows and slowly trace a distorted yellow path down each individual pane.

Set

Change is but a passerby, in the home that stays lodged in the mind. Following the demolition of several neighbouring blocks, the yearly-to-bimonthly auctions and sporadic kite-flying and GE rallies that marked the calendars of some and the fields surrounding my apartment block, the construction and reconstruction of several adjunct and currently open roads, and the Circle Line that warranted the previous road developments, I have been privy to the turmoil that surrounds my home and had the privilege of being the eye in the storm.

Yet, a home is but a concept – a concept that requires people to give it meaning, in both abstraction and reality.

(To be continued…)

 

7 Day Countdown #7

With just under a week to go to my 25th birthday, and an idiosyncratic urge to do something different (and less costly) from all the other charitable movements my friends have made, I’ve decided to write about something to be thankful for everyday for the next few days.

Here’s to fulfiling this tiny project =)

Hear the INFP Roar – Mini-post

In a very odd response to a student run initiative Just Lunch NUS (which was followed by Just Lunch NTU), dating agency It’s Just Lunch served it’s pioneers with a lawyer’s letter, and their Facebook page was abruptly taken down.

 

Quoted from the first source:

“Mr Hakeem was taken aback by the service’s sudden closure, even though he had been aware that JustLunch.nus could be infringing on trademarks.

But he believed it would not be an issue as his lunch meet-up service caters to a different group. ‘We are a non-commercial and student-run group. Dating was not one of our aims, compared to It’s Just Lunch,’ he said.

Lawyer Bryan Tan, who specialises in intellectual property, confirmed that trademark infringement rules may not apply when the purpose is non-commercial…”

It seems odd as well that a quick Google search showed a blogspot blogpost on the dating service. Despite the blog‘s generally negative slant and the difficulty of verification due to the nature of weblogs in the first place, this does not reflect well on the dating agency on yet another (customer service) front.

 

It’s not that It’s Just Lunch has a bad track record:

“Today It’s Just Lunch boasts over 20 years of successful matchmaking! We have matched tens of thousands of single professionals and arranged over 2 million first dates. You can find It’s Just Lunch worldwide from New York to Los Angeles and from Singapore to Ireland.”

(Quoted from It’s Just Lunch ‘s website)

It’s just that the bad rep that Singaporean service has garnered locally over the years may not promise good prospects in the near future if incidences like the above continue to occur.

 

In a “progressive” age during which student-run initiatives like Rag and Flag, charity expeditions, health checkups and counselling etc. are promoted and encouraged, it seems ill-fitting that such a clearly socially beneficial idea that was implemented non-profit and legally was shut down so very rudely, appearing to be an act akin to sheer muscling-aside.

Perhaps some just want to have their cake and eat it, and take their neighbours’ too.

 

Sources include: AsiaOne, Straits Times, It’s Just Lunch, NUS, NTU, PSS

 

 

Update:

The initiative has been renamed to uniluncher.sg –

Facebook Page
NUS Signup Page
NTU Signup Page

Google is Taking over the World (Post #65534 aka Ingress)

Years and years of harbinger-talk about Google being the next Dr Evil should have worn out even its worst critics online, but Google itself has not been resting on it’s laurels (or even it’s search engine). This blogpost will barely scratch the surface of its grand plan by looking at Google Glass (augmented reality glasses) and Ingress (an augmented reality game by Niantic@Google).

 

Google Glass aka Project Glassposted here on Google+ (as possibly a backdoor advertisement to the less successful, to Facebook, latter product) basically aims to fit the works of a smartphone (which in turn tries to fit the workings of a laptop and telephone and camera) into a pair of glasses.

Behold:

Let’s ignore the obvious dangers of talkie-walking or scrambling on roads and being able to record questionable scenes and sounds. Google Glass, by virtue of hitching a ride onto a more essential product – glasses (and potentially lenses for die-hard contact-lens wearers), will soon take the place of the smartphone (depending on the quality and processing power of the former). The immediate benefits for the consumers are apparent:

  • minimal carrying burden
  • hands-free convenience
  • look-and-speak photography/videography/videoconferencing
  • no more searching for discount coupons (digital or hardcopy
  • lower risk of loss/damage
  • safety (at least a measure of it)
  • a bionic transformation for users unfortunate enough to be physically incapable of using a computer/phone – eye tracking technology is something comparable to the muscle/eye-twitch tracker that Stephen Hawking uses
  • biometric scanning

The potential business benefits for Google could be colossal:

Talk about brand extension.

 

The crucial link between Glass and Ingress would Google Maps – Ingress will serve to augment (no pun intended) the strengths of Google Maps (simplicity and features) as well as collectively boost the popularity and update the prowess of each related product.

 

Ingress, also featured on Google+, In a rapidly increasing market of games, from free-to-play models with optional purchases for some (Farmville, Path of Exile, Dota 2) to subscription (WoW) to one-time payment (everything else) examples, the influences on society caused by games can range from environmentalism to becoming a case study for bio-terrorism.

Gameplay-wise, Ingress encourages small-team play on foot in urbanised, population-dense areas like cities, and vehicle-powered play in larger, rural areas. In game “portals”, points of contention, can only be accessed (“hacked”) once every 5 minutes, for a maximum of 4 times every ~4 hours. Items can be thus gained from friendly portals, while enemy portals yield items and a bit of Experience (“AP”) in return for getting zapped. Portals can be captured using “resonators” (that degrade over time and can be “recharged”) and protected with “shields”. Nearby portals can be further linked (for even more AP) if the player holds the “portal keys” of the other linking portal.  Player actions are determined by a resource (“XM”) that is found abundantly near portals and sporadically otherwise.

Gameplay aside, Google seeks a strategic foothold, intentional or not, as illustrated in list-form below:

1) The Grand Plan: The Cloud is Greater than the Office

From beta-testing to open-source software to forums, the new age brings a new source of labour, time and energy – the Cloud aka the Crowd (as in crowd-funding).  Ingress leverages the appeal of a game and pools the real efforts in a virtual world to the possible fruits including constant updates to Google Maps (it requires photographs of landmarks, on which portals are created by the game admins), and travel data ranging from population density to travel time to obstructions and wifi/GPS/deadspots.

Integrated with Google Glass, there is potential to view a live videoclip directing a search-user from Point A to Point B between landmarks, or coordinate meeting points with friends, or organise events that make the Amazing Race seem like child’s play. If Google does something right, it is recognising that data is king.

Furthermore, Ingress allows for…

2) Advertising without Advertisements, or, Partnerships without (visible) Partners

Portals are located “on” landmarks. Landmarks are (currently) player-submitted. Portals are maximised when players either pass by (negligible time for 1 hack) or stay for 20-minute blocks (maximum hacks). It doesn’t take knowledge of rocket science to see where this is going.

Would you like some coffee with your 20-minute hackfest? How about cake? Are you waiting for your newbie friend(s) to show up? Have a seat in our nice little cafe while you surf the net and charge your phone and advance world domination in the name of your faction. Furthermore, since linking and recapturing portals requires a significant amount of walking back and forth (or virtual tag with your faction mates), shrewd collaboration amongst and within shopping centres, museums, cultural centres, tourist attractions (and amongst tour guides) etc. could yield portal dense areas. XM, the respawning resource in the game, could also be scattered along trails or concentrated in certain areas on event days to accompany and illustrate the hype and real-world crowding.

Hey, maybe gamers will be nerdy enough not to buy anything, but even if a low % of them make a purchase, driving traffic to a physical area (digitally) would yield a significant increase in interest if not revenue.

Currently, as a beta, Google has not yet offered any cash input or payout from the game itself, although it is anyone’s guess as to which companies relying on physical shops and locations for events would ride on this platform.  This brings us to…

3) The City (and Country) that Never Sleeps

The game server is up 24/7 (even though stability is not perfect yet), serving a player base suitably distributed across celestial and biological time-zones. This opens up a couple of interesting possibilities all by itself.

Health-wise (amidst most other video games that are sedentary in nature), Ingress has been meme-ified simply as such:

In terms of travel, it could well prove to (in conjunction with point #1 & #2) model and remodel the way people travel. Following the collection of travel data gleaned from players, government agencies could re-plot travel routes as well as litter incentives (both in-game and out) along areas that would encourage greater use of public transport if so desired. Ridiculous as it may sound, cross-island and cross-country links between portals have been created, which logically leads to even possible consequences on ferry trips and plane flights should Ingress become as widely played as Farmville or Bejeweled.

4) Virtual or Reality

Last but not least, video gaming to date seems yet to find a portal through the glass door (or ceiling if you may) that separates the real world from the physical. Many games have in-game shops that use real money, or capitalise on team-chat or social interactions, but few if any (please comment if you know of examples) require players to both require (and favour) travelling in groups as well as possess a device capable of accessing the internet and GPS services.

Blurring the line between the “real” physical world and the digital “virtual” one might reconcile concepts including the growing dichotomy of physical versus blog stores, and remove the stigma of the unfit, nerdy and socially-handicapped gamer (it helps if almost everyone can play it). This might just hasten the progression to a new age in which space, economy and the network that connects humans (like the synapses that connect neurons) may be revolutionised.

Oh, did I mention this (as well as games and subsequent software of this genre) might just help to drive sales of connectivity-capable devices?

 

Google’s work doesn’t simply stop at this sweet couple made in cyberspace. A wide range of digital and hardware strategies currently being developed includes search monopoly/bias, establishing a free wi-fi zone, digital coupons (read: retail partnerships), apps (even on other platforms),  and even partnering law enforcement agency FBI. It is working on self-driving cars as well (the inspiration of one of my short stories).

TL;DR, expansion into retail, telecommunications and even law enforcement is not beyond the juggernaut that is Google – and things are going to get very, very real.