I’m glad COVID didn’t happen during 1997-1998, the childhoood years that I remember most fondly. For all the problems it’s brought up, I can’t imagine how it’ll affect the children growing up right now and the best formative years of their life vanishing into the quarantine. At least they have smartphones and the internet and video chat software these days. Back then we had phone modems and ICQ.
Entry #037 (Jan 23 2022)
Class this week was uneventful, though things did move on the Exchange/Study Abroad side of things, so here’s part of an email that I was forwarded from my coordinator, sent to him by his counterpart over in the National University of Singapore (NUS).
Thank you for sharing this with me. I think I have a good sense of her situation and full understand why only her grades after 2019 should be considered.
By my own sensing, the department processing the applications (Registrar’s Office) won’t be too concerned about the student’s grade. It is the departments assessing Jessica for whether or not she is suitable to read a module who might be more concerned with her grades. As with the no grade below “C” criteria, I think if Jessica has done well for the modules related to the ones that might be pre-requisites to the ones that she intends to read at NUS, she shouldn’t face an issue despite her grades prior to 2019. So with some caution, I would say it is possible for Jessica to proceed with her application to NUS.
So it’s a “it’s probably fine” yes rather than a “definitely no problem” yes that Sophia gave. Despite that, I told my coordinator that I will probably be continuing on with the Singapore application, instead of the Japan/Sophia one, not only because I want to go there but also because I kind of expect the Fall 2022 exchanges to be cancelled as well, and so even if they are, I’d at least be able to find out if they would have accepted me or not. Or to put it another way, if this fails and I don’t get accepted, at least I did it during a semester where there’s a strong likelyhood that all exchanges will get cancelled again anyway, or be cut short somehow even if I do go, so the risk of failure is itself mitigated by the risk of cancellation anyway. If I fail, I can just pretend that it got cancelled anyway (even if exchanges do go ahead), and prepare for a Sophia application the following Spring when more places are reopened.
The terminology the email uses is very weird though. Taking a module or studying a course is referred to as “reading” the module. I’ve never heard of that phrase even from my Singapore days, even though I suspect I know why — the Chinese word for study is the same as the Chinese word for read, 读.
What even happened at work this week? Both my sick teammate and supervisor came back from their spurts of Covid, one of the team members from the other team that merged with us at the start of the year is leaving for another job/team within our department, and I kind of floated along this week — it was a quiet week, and one that I appreciated as it let me catch up a bit on other things that needed doing.
The executives or finance people in our department are trying to remove a paid meal subsidy and paid meal time benefit for people who work overtime from home, with the rationale that you’re at home anyway, not physically at work, when you do overtime while WFHing. Our half of the new team (ie, my smaller group that was merged into the current larger team) doesn’t actually work overtime most of the time, and you need to work two hours to qualify for the first meal allowance bonus anyway, but the other half of our new team does regularly work overtime and after-hours, as do some other people in the department, since they manage systems and are often on-call for when things break down. People weren’t pleased overall (especially since the University has been trying to nickle and dime money and jobs and even tried to perform a retroactive salary rollback last year) and the union was contacted about it, since it’s actually in the (expired but probably still effective) Collective Bargaining Agreement.for us support staff.
There were a couple heated words exchanged between a new-but-old member of the team and the other senior person on the team besides me and my supervisor on two separate occasions this week, which was a good reminder that emotions are still a bit raw after the last year especially, even if we have more members on our team now. Heck, all you have to do is go back and see my own work blogs to see that I, too, was feeling raw a scant few months ago. I no longer feel that raw, and I do like everyone on the team at this moment, more or less.
I had my booster shot this week on Monday, bought enough soup ingredients to last me the week, and squirreled up for the rest of the week at home to brace for the after-effects of the shot. And this time I actually did have noticeable after-effects. I had my shot at 12:51 pm on Jan 17th, at the Safeway pharmacy in the mall next to my house, in a side office that I had never gone into before since it was an employee-only area. I didn’t feel the needle at all — it was like he tapped the syringe against my skin and removed it and put a cute Safeway bandage over the entry location, and that was it. It was actually to the point that I was wondering if he had actually given me a shot or he was just pretending.
The proof came that evening though, as soreness invaded my arm, and I went to bed a little early due to feeling a bit tired. Thank goodness there was no MLP group meeting for school that Monday night. Tuesday went by in a blur — I was still feeling well enough to attend work and also participated in all the usual anime and game group activities on my daily schedule, but I don’t actually remember much from the day except that I could feel my body temperature fluctuating enough to make me throw on a soft polyester jacket, and I wandered over to my bed a couple times just so I could sit/lie down on something soft and recharge under my blanket like an introvert without actually falling asleep. That was the best feeling. Wednesday morning still found me a little off, but by Wednesday afternoon everything but the sore arm had vanished, and my sore arm vanished that evening. I mean the soreness vanished, not the arm.
Ran, my Summer Connect partner from 2020, also contacted me on Line last Sunday night, and we spent bits of Sunday night and Monday afternoon/night chatting with each other and catching up. It was nice to hear from her again, and I should really text her to say hi now and then as well, but this set of messages ended with her not replying (or even marking as read) to the last thing I sent, sooo, awkward. At some point though. She’s graduating next year and worried about finding a job, especially in the current Covid climate. She was thinking of some sort of airport job but that obviously comes with problems right now.
I’ve been on-again off-again looking for a musical instrument to buy and perhaps maybe even practice with for the past couple weeks, as I mentioned a couple blog entries ago, and I finally settled on one to irritate the bedbug neighbours with — the dizi, or Chinese bamboo flute. They’re cheap enough that it’s fine if the urge never really sticks with me in the end though, I opted for a low-middle grade one that cost under $100 USD. The online store I opted for is a little shady, I had been watching it for a while and they had a Lunar New Year 10% sale going on that I noticed kept getting extended, from Jan 15 to Jan 20 and then to Jan 25 a day or two after the previous date expired, and they sent a receipt but haven’t replied to an inquiry I made post-purchase, and there are a very small number of complaints about nonexistent support and no item received (though it was made after 3 weeks, when standard shipping is stated to be 3-4 weeks..), but when balanced out with other testimonials online from people that have purchased from them, I decided it was probably fine. And if not, the purchase was made through Paypal so I can dispute from there.
It’s kind of ironic that after hating recorder music classes when in primary school, I came full circle in the end and picked a flute instrument. It’s a really, really nice-sounding instrument though, like melancholic honey to my ears. That instrument moves my soul. It didn’t help that I stumbled upon a Youtube channel of a lady who apparently, if comments are to be believed, “graduated from China Conservatory of Music as the first woman to hold a PhD for the Chinese Bamboo Flute,” and she has live videos where she’s the centerpiece solo in a Chinese orchestra concert too. She’s Jae Meng, and this is her Youtube channel, where she dresses up thematically and does covers of songs from popular anime, games, and a couple western music things like what apparently is the Game of Thrones theme (don’t ask me, I haven’t watched it!), and they are pretty amazing. If I can be one-tenth as good as her someday, I’ll be deliriously happy. There are quite a few tunes I’d like to play myself. The instrument is apparently actually pretty hard to get a good sound out of technique-wise, but that’s fine. I’ll be happy if it arrives at this point. The bamboo apparently can be sensitive to temperature changes, so I’m not even sure if it’ll arrive in one piece, if it arrives at all.
Over the past half a year since I started writing this blog, we’ve had one of our hottest prolonged summer heat waves on record, and one of the coldest prolonged winter freezes on record too. Adding to this weirdness has been the wild temperature swings we’ve been having in January thus far. Compared to last January, when we had a couple 13-14 degree Celsius shifts as our largest temperature swings within one day, we’ve already had one 17°C swing, two 19-20°C swings, and a 22°C swing this month, and we’re only three weeks through it! (Note: To read that chart, the black number is the day’s high temperature, and the teal number beside/below it is the day’s low temperature.) Though the rest of the month does look good. The 17th was forecast to have a 25°C swing, but we thankfully avoided that. Calgary down south apparently gets Chinooks sometimes but we do not, here up north.
Early on in the week, I played a bit of Space Haven, largely inspired by this thread and the fact that, well, I already owned it from a previous sale. Here’s a mood piece from it.
“Y’know, things are so dark right now, us little lights have to shine that much brighter.” Nice, I like it. A cliche it might be, but I’m a big proponent of positive thinking and would like to infect some friends with it.
The game itself is slow, slooow, slooooow, which is not necessarily a bad thing, and the galaxy map that I see when I zoom out is big, so that will probably join the queue of games that I play occasionally when the mood strikes me. AI pathfinding issues in the game around corners are annoying though.
Jah, Satinel, and I played Moon Hunters on Friday night for Jah Stream Night this week, the second time that Jah and I had played the game. I was at his house for the first game in mid-November when we played it couch co-op, this time we played it online with Satinel. The game was significantly less magical this time but still mystical and somewhat interesting, and I ended up with a nice character eulogy at the end:
Even in the game they identify that I’m an archivist! I had just asked for a superpower similar to that in a Discord conversation that we had earlier in the week.
On a personal note, I played and finished a couple short Visual Novels this week. The first one was Star Melody Yumemi Dreamer, which marketed itself as a female POV magical girl/mahou shoujo game but turned out to be a typical male harem VN instead, which earned a rare negative Steam review from me due to false advertising. Otherwise it was actually a decent read, but a bit rough around the edges, especially around the “minigame” mechanics, and it was very short (it’s episodic, came with the first two chapters, and was marked as a demo with tons of voice lines and stuff missing in-game, and a warning that it would not carry over to the main game, even though it’s not stated as such on the Steam page and was supposed to be the first two completed chapters of the game.)
The other one I played was Stardander Revenant, which was also a short and sweet story about two witches at a witch school and their relationship with each other. The character story was okay, though their relationship progressed a bit too fast without suitable justification in my book. There was also a raising simulation segment similar to Long Live the Queen and games of that ilk, where you can pick what classes you want the witch girl you controlled to take that week, and thus what new abilities she would get. It’s actually similar to Academagia, an indie game I liked a lot, but would not recommend because the devs have only released the first year of that witch school and it’s been 12 years since they promised to release the second and subsequent years, so they’re obviously never coming.
Anyway the minigame combat part was a bit weird too because you could learn quite a few skills that had no practical use whatsoever in the game, since it was a very specific character arc that you were playing through that prevented some of the skills and mechanics from being used, but the reason for that is that this is basically a free demo for another game, Stardander School for Witches, coming out later this year that I have high hopes for, and so acts as more of a tech demo since all those skills assumedly will come in use there. The actual combat played out like a soft version of a roguelite card game, where you know exactly what attacks were going to be made on you in the next round by the enemy, and had to choose to either prevent it by buffing yourself, or debuffing the enemy, or else just ignoring it and trying to murder the enemy before it murdered you, and so on. It turned into a cool little mini-puzzle that wasn’t particularly difficult once I understood the mechanics.
Wordle probably deserves a shout out too because my main Discord has been doing it since late December or so, and we’ve developed a new game around it in recent weeks where we try to interpret each other’s block graphs as a Rorschadt image, and see what we can interpret each blob to represent. Mine today, for example, which looks like this:
is a king seated on a throne, or a girl slumped against a door (like at 1:32 of this scene from Vivy: Fluorite Eye’s Song), or even Mario ascending these stairs (local) at the end of a Super Mario level, depending on who in Discord you ask.
Trin, Kynji, and Milumbar are playing Conan Exiles at the moment, which I do own but declined to join them in playing this time around. I did somewhat like my experience in Age of Conan but I neither really trust that dev company (Funcom) nor was interested enough in the game right now to invest my evenings into it. I’ve been enjoying my alone-time evenings recently, and have been able to invest some time toward various other projects when my time isn’t claimed by school-related activities.
On the phone side of things, I tried a game called Fantasy Life Online this week, which turned out to be okay. The story is kind of simplistic and not overly interesting early on, and there are far too many free things and gacha currency things and notice updates to click on to even get into the game each time (and one irritating exclamation mark notification that will just not go away for your first week of gameplay, which is a problem I mentioned two weeks ago that Era of Chaos had as well), but there’s nonetheless a certain charm behind the game that has made me hesitate to uninstall the game right away. That and it’s an English-translated game by a Japanese studio (so although most things are unvoiced, what is voiced is Japanese, yay) and a sequel to a 3DS game of some acclaim.
It also has an excellent avatar creator that I spent far too much time in, even though I usually get annoyed by avatar creators and try not to spend too much time in them. This one roped me in because there were so many choices and they all had English names describing them. I was vastly amused by this and it contributed immensely to my enjoyment as I was scrolling through the various options for hairstyles, eyes, noses, and more. I’ve uploaded some example pictures from the creator down in the gallery below (as well as how my final character turned out to be). I really want to know the story behind some of the names they picked for the various avatar pieces.
Plushie of the Week #35 – Pink Yoshi
Plushie of the Week this week is one that has already had a cameo appearance in a previous blog entry — My Diary #027, to be precise. See his nose poking in at the top left of the first picture there. He’s a Pink Yoshi, and he was given to me by the same person that gifted me the gnome from that edition of PotW — a user named Boomboomkah on Reddit as part of Reddit Secret Santa 2015. He was an Amazon purchase, I believe, and so came to me in advance of the person’s actual gift box. He arrived Nov 26 2015, whereas the gift box arrived on Dec 10 2015, so he prides himself on being the senior plushie between the two of them.
I have never actually played a Mario game outside of casually playing a couple levels at a cousin’s house or something, so I don’t have any particular knowledge or nostalgia for the series one way or another, so Pink Yoshi (who never got a better name) just gets treated as any other plushie here in my army, without any sort of connotation tied to him. I like his big nose, and wonder about the plastic hook attached to his head.
Tigey-cam view (yay my baseboards are back):
Song of the Week #12
Artist: Lighthouse Family
Album: Postcards from Heaven (1997)
Well that was an odd music video. They took the old (low-rez) bits that I do remember, and added in some high-rez scenes here and there that I’m pretty sure weren’t in the song before. I love the vocalist’s voice though. It’s so rich and smooth.
This song used to hang out in my top 5-10 or so of my English song charts back in the late 90s all the way to the mid 00’s, when I would busily compile lists of my favourite songs to past time. For me, this song makes me nostalgic of my 1997-1998 days in Tampines, the last neighbourhood that we lived in in Singapore before we moved, and I believe this song reminds me of the endless summers of my youth (and Singapore’s weather) more so than any other song.
A lot of memories flit through my head as I watched the video and listened to the song. I remember hanging out with Huihan in Tampines Shopping Mall or Century Square (they were both shopping centers that were adjacent to each other), or occasional trips to other shopping centers around town. I remember the Kallang McDonalds that we used to hang out at as a class after school. i remember the warm and slightly sticky marbled floors of our childhood homes. Sitting at the kitchen dining table and listening to the radio. Feeling my spirit soar when I heard “Flyyyying high in the sky”. Sitting on a couch and watching MTV Asia, which would play this music video every now and then. School uniforms. The food we’d eat at home. Walking through the Tampines bus interchange. The Bengawan Solo cake store there, and the KFC with its new Zinger burger nearby. The National Library of Singapore and the checkout machines that it used to have that made a modem dialing noise when you scanned your card. A younger mom and dad and little sister and little brother and me.
Something about this song made me feel like those days would never end, though end they did, but I guess this song acts as a key that allows me to access some of those memory banks and brings forth a lot of old memories. It doesn’t remind me of any one person or place though, but rather a montage of memories from all over the place back in Singapore, some even from before it was released. However, I do notice that none of these memories are located in school. I do associate the song with hanging out with some of my classmates, and even our school uniforms hanging up in our rooms at home to some extent, but not with or in any scenes that relate to my actual schools themselves, which I found a bit strange considering the sheer number of other memories it brings up for me, and how dear I consider my (secondary) school life to have been.
Memory Snippet of the Week #19
I’m relaunching my Photo of the Week segment as something that might sometimes overlap with it and sometimes will be completely different — Memory Snippet of the Week. Ultimately, the reason for these segments is so that I can slowly generate material that will eventually go into my Shrine of Memories, and a large part of that Shrine will just be random memories and thoughts that I recall from various stages in my life. And these can ultimately encompass people, places, events, feelings, games, photos, books, items, and more.
Photos was an interesting way of starting that, but ultimately (again, I guess I love that word) it was too restricting, as there were many things I wanted to talk about, that didn’t often come with an accompanying photo. So ulti- in the end, I felt that making it a lot broader would give me a lot of more varying stuff to talk about while not being constrained to a small subset of nonetheless interesting photos.
Photos ended after entry #18 back in My Diary #032, so Memory Snippets will start with entry #19 and continue forth, as all those 18 also do fit within the purview of what I am trying to do. Some weeks it will be long and detailed, some weeks it will be a short blurb, it depends on what I feel like that week. This week’s will be very long, because it covers a number of parts that all tie in to a certain area that held extreme meaning and significance for me.
Back in My Diary #031’s School segment, I had listed the essay that I had scribbled together for our MLP midterm essay requirement, and a large part of that revolved around a McDonalds that our class used to hang out around after school. My Discord friends might be somewhat passingly familiar with this too, as I’ve talked about it briefly in there. I’m going to introduce this place in this MSotW #19 segment, partly because this place (and most of the surrounding area) no longer exists in real life as far as I can tell.
The neighbourhood that the nearest MRT (train) station to our school was located in was called Kallang, pronounced Kahh-lahhng. I’ve provided an annotated map here:
Original Google Maps link here. The public transit bus from our school, Dunman High School (which was actually a secondary school servicing grades 7-10 and not a high school the way that USA/Canada defines it), would follow the red squiggle line and deposit us at that circled bus stop. We would be walking anywhere from alone to in groups of six or so, it was rare to be leaving school with a group larger than that even on the bus, and we would walk roughly along where the purpie lines are drawn, crossing the road and either heading to the train station (bottom arrowhead) to head home, to the park (middle arrowhead), or to the aforementioned McDonalds (top arrowhead), which we affectionately gave the really creative moniker “Kallang McDonalds”.
The Google Maps now is very different from the area back then — the shops to the north of the bus stop were not there, and several of the apartment buildings, including the one that the McDonalds was squirreled away on the ground floor of, seem to now be gone. The one that was on the north side of the park we used to sit at is also now gone, or renovated, which is kind of strange since that was a full-sized 12+ storey building.
One odd memory I have of this part took place around the rightmost purple arrowhead, when we were walking west from the bus stop toward the traffic junction. I remember walking with Zixiang and Xuanjie one day, and I believe it was Xuanjie who was slightly ahead of both of us, when suddenly bird poop spattered down from above, landing in front, to the left, and to the right of him on the pavement, all at the same time, but completely missing any of us! We laughed it off at the time, but that was very weird.
Another memory I have isn’t directly related to this area, but is my only memory of the bus ride we would take to get here. At one point I was seated next to one of the other boys who grabbed my ribs to tickle me, and I shrieked and flew out of the chair and landed in a pile on the aisle floor in the middle of the bus, causing the bus driver to look back at us annoyedly. Sorry, Uncle.
The last, and really important memory of this general area is the ice cream man who was situated on a roofed walkway that ran from around the junction to where the northern arrowhead ends, just before the east-west residential road. He was an old man who operated a small cart full of ice cream, and he sold small cones and cups with 1-3 scoops of ice cream each, for 30 or 40 cents or so a scoop, I believe. He had vanilla, strawberry, and sweetcorn (also known as jagung) flavour ice cream for sure, and I am uncertain if he also had chocolate as a fourth flavour, I don’t remember it if he did. They were in a single large chilled pot that was divided into three (or four) sections, and he used the same scoop to scoop out the flavour you wanted, so occasionally you’d get a bit of one of the other flavours as well. But it was the best ice cream in the world to me, and is why I still occasionally look for the elusive sweetcorn flavour every now and then in ice cream shops and supermarkets here in the west, trying to find a place that sells it (I have been unsuccessful thus far, but have also not gone out of my way to search for a store on Google or anything like that.) Several of my classmates also bought from him every now and then. I also remember that he was only there during sunny days — the walkway he stood at was covered, but there were still no walls, so wind and rain would blow in during Singapore’s frequent rainy days.
Oddly, when I take a look at the satellite map of the area, located here (local), I see that that diagonal walkway is now gone. You can still see a walkway parallel to that Lor 1 Geylang road connected to the train station and running through the park, but that was a different, unshaded path that was also there in the late 90s.
I attempted to roughly sketch out the McDonalds as I remember it, which roughly corresponds to that pink box on the annotated map above. My rough sketch looks like this:
Boy is that rough. Anyway, I remember the McDonalds being small and… rectangular? I guess? Divided down the middle into two sides, and with not a whole ton of seats, there was seldom anyone else there besides people from our two classes when I was occasionally there after school, from about 4pm to 5:30pm or so on various weekdays. Sometimes we’d see students from another Dunman High class there, other times it would be just whoever was there before us, whoever I came with, and whoever came after us, in groups of 1 to as many as 7 or 8. It wasn’t always the same group of people either, I’m pretty sure that everyone in class came at some point or another, and this became one of our unofficial meeting places outside of school for reasons that I talk about in my linked essay above, where we could socialize out of the reach of the teacher and the school.
The McD employees never seemed to mind — we never got chased out as far as I remember. Were they annoyed with us? Amused? Are we part of their nostalgic memories now? I seldom to never ordered a burger from them, as my usual order was french fries, sometimes with extra salt, and with tomato and tartar sauce on the side, and sometimes with a medium or large ice lemon tea. I think it cost $2-3 overall, food was cheaper back then. They’d give me a tray for my fries, with one of those tray-sized paper ads on the tray to act as a shield against minor spills. Tomato sauce would come in the little condiment packets that still exist today, and some tartar sauce would be squeezed out of a bottle behind the counter, onto the plastic lid of a large-sized drink container. I would then tear open the tomato sauce packets, pour that onto the tartar sauce, mix it well with a fry, and comsume my fries with that as my dip. Sometimes I would use the paper ad to combine the sauces instead of the plastic cover. I was proud of this condiment mix, and made a couple other people in the class try it too, though not everyone did it that way. I have a memory that at one point I saw an unrelated adult couple sitting at another table do it too, and I was happy about that as well.
The jukebox also sticks out in my memory. I seem to recall it being rather expensive, like 50 cents or a dollar per song, so we seldom played any music on it, but it would cycle through its vast number of albums and play a random song now and then anyway. This was in 1997-1998, so I remember it playing really popular songs like Lemon Tree (1996), Macarena (1996), My Heart Will Go On (1997), Frozen (1997), Truly Madly Deeply (1997), To The Moon And Back (1997), High (1997, and today’s Song of the Week), Tubthumping (1997), Have You Ever (1998), The Boy Is Mine (1998), and a few other popular songs from that era. Even Chinese songs to boot, of which I only remember one of these days, but which will probably be a Song of the Week soon as I associate it very strongly with this McDonald’s. The jukebox album display was kind of like a CD case, with four album back covers per page (two on the left side and two on the right side), and you could press a button to flip the book left or right to look at the available songs to request.
I’m not certain if those dividers were actually there, they may have just been a product of my imagination.
We seldom visited the other shops to the north of the McDonalds, but I do remember a couple of them. One, I think the one right next door, was a general goods store that sold The New Paper, one of the Singapore tabloid newspapers, for 60 cents a pop. I believe at one point it was 45 or 50 cents or so too, I remember being annoyed by a price hike since I bought the paper on many days after school, and brought it home for my parents after reading through it (particularly at the Sports, Cartoons and Puzzles sections).
North of that shop were a couple other shops I remember. One sold Chinese herbs and had a counter out front where they had brewed herbal tea in large glass cups with ornate handles ready for sale to any thirsty passerby. You had to return the cup after drinking, of course. Another store around here did photocopies, I remember getting them to do a full, binded photocopy of an Advanced Dungeons and Dragons 2nd Edition Player’s Handbook that i still have in a box somewhere. We did that because one of the people in class, Paul, did run some D&D games for a couple of us that were interested.
I call it a park, but really it was just a single cement walkway connecting the paths on the east to the canals on the west, and in the middle was a rectangular cemented area, a paved open-air yard, shrouded by a couple of tall trees to the south and a residential building to the north. We sat down in that paved rectangle and chilled the afternoon away when the weather permitted us to.
Hopping onto Google Maps, I took another annotated screenshot (original) of the general area:
The purple arrows were the path in the first diagram that we took on a near-daily basis, our daily after-school pilgrimage to the McDonalds, which was in that northern red rectangle, and the park, which was one of the two yellow rectangles, I’m not exactly sure which one from this angle. The other red rectangle was the building in front of the cemented yard, but that’s now gone and replaced by a road that wasn’t there before. On the flip side, the teal road that was there is now gone, and there’s a new wavy building with a little greenery park on the roof (???) that wasn’t there before. I don’t think the 25+ storey HDB flats (a.k.a. apartments, see this Wikipedia link for more info) surrounding it were there before either, but I can’t be sure of that. So much else has changed though. The ice cream man used to be where that star was, more or less, at the intersection of the paths.
Under the trees in that yard, we would sit on the concrete ground and while the time away chatting each other’s ears off, doing homework together, or playing cards, particularly Big Two (Dai Di), or the Legend of the Five Rings CCG, which several people in our class, including me, were into. We were also into Chinese Chess, and would have rounds of that under the tree at times, while our Tigeys sat on or in our bags, lying forgotten on the ground beside us, as the warm wind blew a mini-tornado of fallen leaves by us. This was heaven!
The nice thing about this place was also that it was visible from the walkway/ice cream man area, and vice versa, so people on the way to McD would be able to see the people at the park, and vice versa. Sometimes we’d split up across the two locations anyway and eventually one group would finish what they were doing and wander off to meet the other group. I have this vivid mental picture of Huihan and Kaiting coming over with drinks in their hands, to where Zixiang and I sat under the tree, playing some game or other, late one afternoon.
But boys, girls, prefects, regular students, K-class, L-class, many of the 34-ish people or so in both our GEP classes (we were 1K/1L in 1997 and 2K/2L in 1998) came by at some point or another each week. And I’d like to think that for many of us, this was a very meaningful location where many connections, lifelong friendships, and pacts were made with each other. It’s probably part of the reason our Whatsapp group chat still exists even today with the large majority of us still in it. I probably came by about 3 times a week on average. On a couple occasions I would even take the train to elsewhere in the country with a friend after school, then come back to this place to catch a bite and to see if anyone else was still around, even if I couldn’t be there for more than 10 or 15 minutes before I had to leave.
And as mentioned in my essay, all this happened in a time period where smartphones didn’t exist, and even mobile phones/cellphones were not common. No one in class had one, and our family didn’t have one either, we just had a pager that Dad carried around (and lent to me sometimes when they needed to send me a signal of some sort). There was no good way of keeping in touch with friends after school until we all got home and got online on our dialup modems to chat with each other on ICQ, or could call each other on our family’s landlines.
This location also holds a somewhat melancholic undertone for me though, because I was usually one of the last to leave, around the 5:15 or so pm mark, in order to get home for my 6pm curfew. There was thus occasionally a short bit of time at the end of the day where everyone else had gone home and I was alone, and I would just kind of be by myself there, waiting alone, watching to see if anyone else would come. The river and canals to the west harboured a rather lonely feeling for me too, although for some reason I don’t think I ever went west to the riverside in the two years that I patronized this area, even though it was right there.
In a nod to my archivist roots, I actually used to keep a few pages in a notebook (or sheets of paper in a file) with the date as well as the people whom I saw come by that day to either Kallang McDonalds or the park. I actually still have this notebook (or pad) somewhere, I’ve seen it within the last year, but my boxes are too messed up right now for me to locate it. It will be scanned and uploaded someday, though. Maybe in a future Memory Segment of the Week!
Jan 18 2022
- I was friends with a man who could use electric magic, and also had a regenerative ability that made it almost impossible for him to be killed. He, I, and a couple other people were tasked to guard a princess who was hiding in an abandoned castle. He was also an instructor and we were his students.
- The princess was initially protected in a room made out of a crackly electric forcefield, with two teleporters that led in and out of the room, one on each end. But it also doubled as an online space, perhaps so the princess wouldn’t get bored, and so there were a steady stream of people unknowingly wandering in and out of the virtual room, and it eventually even got hacked.
- Due to security issues, he eventually figured out how to lock down the teleporters so that only he could use them, and this also ended the room being used as a virtual space. The princess was hidden elsewhere and he used this as a sort of personal room and honeypot, as he knew that others still thought that the princess was being safeguarded in there.
- At one point, four invaders burst into a room nearer the front of the castle that I was in, as I was still recovering from being at low health from some other event. I was seated on the floor and raised my hands to show that I didn’t want to fight. It turned out that they didn’t plan on killing me either, but they did try to interrogate me, and I told them that the person they needed to defeat to save the princess had a secret, which is that he could teleport using his electric skills. They thanked me and continued onwards into the castle.
- I followed behind them to watch and saw that one of the four party members was a dancer who remained behind in the previous room whenever the other three entered a new one, and she would put down a cassette player radio on the ground, play some dance music on it, and do a dance to buff her teammates from afar. She was actually someone that I had heard of from online before and that I had admired, so I watched her for a bit before wandering off.
- Later on, the party was defeated, and I was summoned to the room by the electric mage, who was seated on a one person sofa. I noted to myself that he looked like Justin from my secondary school days. I apologized and asked if he wanted to know why I had “betrayed” him by telling them that he could teleport, and he said both no and yes at once. I blinked and realized that he had actually physically said no, but had mentally said yes, and I had somehow heard both. I asked him if he could try to mentally talk to me again (by mentally repeating the word “yes”), and he seemed to try but couldn’t do it.
- Anyway since I knew his true answer was yes, I said that I did so in exchange for my life, but that I had withheld both the secrets of the princess’s hiding place as well as the fact that he could regenerate, so I had set them up for failure anyway — because I was so forthcoming about telling them about the one secret, they thought that that was the only trick that he had, and only prepared for that, and thus lost.
- There was also a reason about helping him test his new defences since we had so few visitors these days since he shut off online access to that electric room.
- Snippet: At some point much later on, I remember going shopping in a weird mall. On the way back, I hopped onto a train at East 9 station because the tickets were free, planning to head to East 11 (Tampines) or East 12, but once the train started, we were told that the East 10-12 stations were actually closed and the next stop for the train was some city an hour or so east of the East 12 station. The city claimed they had put signs at the East 9 station stating this, but this obviously wasn’t true or at least unclear as a lot of other people on the train were also now stuck on a train going out of town and were mad about it. I wasn’t too mad as I had brought along a textbook and some homework anyway, so I took a seat and pulled that out to work on it.
Jan 19 2022
- A motherly figure that I and a boy were living together with had a black boyfriend who neither of us liked as he was a deadbeat. He knew some sort of magic, however, and one of his tricks was that he could come and go by melding himself into the woman’s form and then stepping into/out of her from afar, basically using her as a gate or portal, I think. One time we interrupted the ritual as he was leaving, so she had back most of her body but one of her middle fingers belonged to him, and he was stuck that way for a while due to spell cooldown. He could still hear because he was part of her, but couldn’t speak since he didn’t have control over the mouth.
- The boy and I found that he had set up a secret shooting range by our clothesline in the backyard, which was illegal. There were little holes in the fence covered by the laundry where one could stick a gun and take pot shots at the forest behind our house and the deer there. We proceeded to dismantle the shooting range despite him flipping the bird at us.
- In a separate dream later on, I was in a University building and went to see my professor about some English Literature analysis questions at the back of a book which I didn’t fully understand. It was also our homework and I said that I had already handed it in but wanted to find out what it actually meant.
- I ended up leaving the textbook with the teacher for some reason and headed off to another building, located in a train station, to talk to a different professor about some science or computer science question in a book as well, where I did basically the same thing.
- While I was elsewhere on University, I then realized that evening was drawing near and it was nearly 7pm, when both buildings would close. I had to pick up the two textbooks before I left, and the English building was nearer where I had to go to get home, so I decided to first teleport to the Science building and run upstairs to retrieve my book. On my way back down, one of the railings had been removed from the second story staircase and so I almost stepped out over open space, expecting there to be stairs there, though I caught myself in time. I thought that that was really dangerous to leave unattended.
- Once I reached the bottom of the stairs and stepped out of the building, I teleported again to the other building and ran up the stairs, although I didn’t bother phasing into my body this time to save time, so this second run was done on an overhead map instead of in first-person view. I made it to the staff room at 6:58 or so and found the instructor at the back of the room.
- Snippet: At one point I had completed a weekly entry in my online blog, and then told either Satinel or Kellie about it, but after doing so I realized that I had skipped a couple sections due to using an old template for my post, and was missing Plushie of the Week, as well as the date header and one or two other sections. So I went to go squeeze in a section on one of the plushies I had already noted down in my sheet but had less information on (because it was paired with a previous entry), hopefully before anyone else read the post.
Jan 20 2022
- I was involved in a game of some kind that took place in an open world city on some alternate world, separate from the main world, that felt like the moon. I don’t remember the exact detail of the game but it involved travelling around in cars and trains, many characters in fancy and colourful costumes, and possibly looking for things. It was also MMOish with quests to do, monsters of some sort to defeat, and a guild system.
- I owned a guild in this world that consisted of Discordia friends (I remember Eralain being online) as well as other people. I was also part of a guild in the home world made up of what felt like people from work, or perhaps from my Scouts days or something, though I didn’t specifically know anyone in it. That guild was oppressive, and we occasionally helped people escape from it to join the guild on the moon.
- One of the people we helped in this manner was a butler whom we liked, and who ended up helping us quite a bit in the game in the other world. However, he followed me back to the home guild in one of my visits after he finished a main quest, and got himself captured when I visited my room in the guild house, which was a large hotel building.
- My own room was a ground-floor room in a separate wing of the hotel, connected by a covered walkway, lit with fluorescent bar lights at night, that led to the main building. The room officially housed 3 people and had large windows and a slightly lonely feel to it, but I talked with a friend while I stayed there that night, and he noted that he had semi-unofficially moved in with two other friends and was using it as a base of operations to sleep in every night to keep it occupied, which kept my possession of the room valid. I approved of this setup as long as I was gone.
- He also wondered why I hadn’t contacted them in so long. I told him jokingly that I had seen so many people on the other world that if he wanted to grab my attention, he needed to dress up in cosplay when contacting me. Everyone laughed.
- The butler got himself captured because he left the room and went back to the main building to try to grab some books from his own hotel room, which was on the third floor or something. They were books that he was almost done reading before he had defected to us. He got caught on the way out of the building by the security guard, however, and was dragged off to face the guild master.
- While searching for the butler the next day, I came across a corrupt government official that had aided in his post-capture processing, and cast a spell that collapsed his family’s home. He apparently had a wife and three kids who came out to meekly apologize, they told me that he had been fired late yesterday after some corruptions were exposed by a co-worker and tried to give me 30 gold or a letter worth 5 gold in compensation. I told them they could keep the money, but I took the letter as it was likely some sort of clue to help me find my compatriot.
- In the end, we couldn’t rescue him but found him listed on an auction site, which had a UI that reminded me of Eve Online. I found buy/sell/bid buttons while browsing his profile, and found that his opening bid price, which was also his current bid price placed by some other random player, was 14 lumias. I figured bidding 15-18 lumias would win us the auction and allow us to buy him back, this time for good as it came with ownership rights. There was also an option to buy him for just 1 quest, which cost 3 lumias, but no one ever really used that option in auctions.
- Anyway, there were a lot of lumias on the auction house screen that I popped open, but they were expensive, but I was the guild leader and he was well-liked, so I considered putting out a call to the guild for donations to help rescue him, and I was fairly sure the others would contribute enough to buy the lumias needed to rescue him, as we were a pretty good small-medium sized guild. I had 6 lumias of my own and a cheap auction of 12 lumias cost about 31 million gold or so, so that was the amount I planned to raise (and could probably get most of myself even with minimal donations, I figured).
- But before that, I needed to confirm that I’d actually get ownership because the auction conditions were a little vague. I went to the auctioneer, who was a woman sitting behind some anti-magic protective glass, and she was really rude to me and didn’t consider me a real bidder and tried to ignore me. I cast some magic that was strong enough to penetrate through the anti-magic glass, and she hastily tried to cancel my spell but also failed, and started to get strangled by my magic hand. She gave up trying to ignore me, rudely apologized, and finally affirmatively answered my question before shooing me away, although I still felt like not all my doubts were assuaged at this point as I didn’t fully trust her.
Jan 21 2022
- I played a Legend of the Five Rings-like card game with Neichus and Light, except multiple copies of a regular deck of playing cards were involved, since I remember the object of the game was to collect and play sets, and I remember having eight queens and eight kings at points in the game. The object of the game was to get rid of all your cards first. Both Light and I built our decks from the big pile of cards that I owned, whereas Neichus used a brand new, sealed deck that we had just bought.
- I hadn’t played the game in forever, and barely remembered the rules. Neichus beat the both of us handily, and was a bit smug about his victory, but helped me sort back the deck cards into my big pile of cards afterwards.
- While doing so, he found a cassette tape of rule recitals, which were the game’s rules read out by a woman doing a Chihayafuru-style poetry recital, and he tried to put it into a cassette player to listen to it. But the tape wasn’t tuned for use in cassette players, so while it could be played, all the different tracks blended together and played at the same time and sounded off, even when we turned off parallel playback mode on the cassette player.
- I was following some friends who were in a race that involved running along streets and through or around “buildings” like a sort of obstacle course, in a really low-detailed world where the walls and ground were often just a single colour. There wre lots of doors, several chests, and even some locked doors that only one person could pick at a time.
- I knew and was friends with the top two runners who were running, but I wasn’t participating myself, so I zipped along in a car of some kind as I watched them race. The race came down in the end to picking the right branch in the final room from a split in the path. The first girl picked the right branch, which ended at a large locked door that she tried to pick. The second girl had no choice but to pick the left path, which led to another room with a chest and another locked door. She actually got her door open first, but it was a fake door with nothing else behind it, so she stomped her feet as she knew that she had lost. Going back to the first door, she arrived just in time to see the first girl finally unlock the door and escape through to the victory portal just beyond it.
- The second girl was a bit annoyed, so I went over as she collapsed down onto a nearby couch in frustration. I wanted to be better friends with her and started chatting to her, finding out among other things that she looked like a tanned Chinese girl but had actually lived most of her life in India, and had just come back to Canada recently. We chatted for a long time before I noted that she should go tag the victory portal and then come back just in case any other runners came by. She did so, and the announcer said that a second person had completed the race, 25 minutes behind the first person. She rolled her eyes at that.
- At some point before or after the race, I was preparing to drive the car and Jon was boarding the car with me as well. The car had an inventory and a weight limit but we weren’t near it yet, so he popped back into the house before we left it and brought along a bolster as well. We also swung by a bus stop where Kellie was and told her that we were going off on an adventure and for her to give us a call when she was done whatever she was doing so we could pick her up and take her along too, and she said okay. There were lots of buses and lots of people trying to board them at that bus stop, so we couldn’t tarry along too long or we would cause an accident.
Jan 22 2022
- There was a girl that was part of a male sports team that was constantly being teased by the other boys because she was so bad compared to the rest of them. In the story, she hadn’t revealed that she was a girl, but she a somewhat feminine physique, so that was the target the boys latched onto when they poked fun at her.
- One day, before a game of soccer or something against a team of aliens from outer space that was going to be broadcast on national TV, one of the members of the team even got hold of a photo album consisting of old sports team photographs of her, and flipped them open to point out that she was always quite obviously posing in the front row of those teams too but they were female teams.
- At this point, she finally burst out at them with an indignant “Yes, I’m female, so what?”, to which there were sudden cheers from some onlookers, a group of girls who were probably the female team counterpart of that male team. They mobbed her as though to welcome her to their side.
- However, she gently pushed them away, and got into a car, driving off herself to follow the male team that was taking off toward the stadium, all of them also in cars carrying one or two players each.
- At another point, I was on my way home from an apartment that my mom owned, but stopped at a void deck of a building just before the bus stop I needed to catch a bus home from, because I had heard that she was also coming along to take the bus and I wanted to wait for her to chat with her a little bit more. However, after waiting for some time, I realized that something was wrong and rushed off to the bus stop, where I saw her in line and about to board a bus that had just arrived. Apparently she had taken another route there that wasn’t the straight line route between her apartment and the bus stop, without realizing that I was waiting for her. I quickly joined her and we boarded the bus together.
- Later on, we alighted from the bus and waited for a transfer in front of a small mom-and-pops style Indian sundries shop, and she had a phone app that told her that the bus transfer would arrive in about 20 minutes, so we browsed the store’s goods to pass some time. Among other things, I remember being surprised when I saw the Chinese “Army Chess” board game, but in a box labelled with English and Indian words on it instead of the usual Chinese. I pointed it out to her, saying that I liked playing that game.
- We eventually parted when the second bus arrived at a train station on the old Singapore MRT line, where she was headed north from the southern split in the line to do some shopping, and I was headed east, back toward my home.
- Snippet: There was another snippet where I was looking at a large panel owned by some shopkeeper or guild owner that had a description and progress bar of a skill that needed powering up by various other people before it could be used. The owner of the skill panel also had access to a skill that he could activate, which would play the iconic five notes from the classical Waltz of the Flowers tune, and then the sound of a bird tweeting twice, and then it would give exact information on how many more people’s contributions were needed to actually activate the skill.
- Editor: When I say the iconic five notes from Waltz of the Flowers, I mean this part of the song, and with the trill at the end of the five notes replaced by the bird tweeting twice. Also, the Army Chess game referred to is this game, which I played when young and had owned and lost a couple times over the years in the past and thus is something I often used to look for in random shops that looked like they might sell it.
Jan 23 2022
- There was a top-down view mining game tied into classes at school, it was played by many students across different classes and different techniques were taught by different instructors. We would go to class, sit in a small lecture theatre with the instructor, and greet each other before starting to play. The game involved a miner starting on the outer ring of a small arena, next to an ore cart and a stack of 3 resources. Two of the stacks were identical and a third one was a different resource, and for every level you completed, which involved getting to the middle of the map and mining something in particular, you would start with 1 additional resource in each of the 3 stacks in future maps.
- The catch was that the middle of the map, which was a cylinder of voxel blocks, was separated from the outer ring that you started on by a ring of nothingness, just a bottomless pit that surrounded the inner cylinder of blocks that made it so the miner had to first gather materials (if necessary) and build a bridge over it, connecting the outer ring and the center cylinder, so that he could cross over and do the mining. The ore cart itself could not cross the bridge.
- In between games and classes, there was another game that involved pushing trolleys around the school, collecting more trolleys to form a trolley chain, kind of like a shopping cart train in a supermarket, as well as collecting money (I had a wad of $20 bills), and a third resource of some sort, while exploring the school. There was a current leaderboard table that was accessible, but people generally lost their spot when they went off to class, so when it came time for my next class, I gave my trolley to someone who was pushing a chain of 10 trolleys already, and gave my resources to another person who was nearby and pushing two or three trolleys himself, as we had greeted each other politely a few minutes prior. The second person tried to return me my $20 bills as I sat down and logged out, leaving the wad of bills standing up on their sides and forming a bent V-shape on a table next to me, and I noticed that they flickered as my avatar flickered as well during the logout process, which implied that they actually might follow me over to my next login.
- Snippet: I knew and managed a group of girls that could transform into magical girls, but I couldn’t understand their language once they transformed. However, I knew their abilities and they all involved renewable energy — not producing it directly, but they could individually produce things that could be combined with each other in various combinations to unlock different sources of energy for an area, that would remain even after they had transformed back.
- I was on a bus with a group of people and we would stop on many different occasions for things. The earlier interactions are now lost to time but involved some sort of game or quest objective, and involved slowly collecting people who would join us from various stops.
- At one point, war broke out, people on the bus disembarked by a town near a mountain pass that many of them were from and that bordered the country that was invading us. They went to help set up explosives and other traps to slow down the approaching army. The invading army suffered a lot of casualties but eventually overwhelmed the defences and took the town anyway. I and three other girls that I had befriended were captured and put into some room full of guys in the enemy-held town to sexually entertain them (offscreen). Apparently I could occasionally escape, but always ended up returning since the other girls couldn’t escape. Eventually the war ended and we were rescued, though I got separated from them at first and rejoined the bus first. I asked the bus driver to stop by his home village, where the other three were from, so we could pick them up and I could meet them again. The bus driver smiled and nodded, so I knew that the others were safe.
- During the war, I got into a spaceship on one of my escapades, which could aim for distant stars and constellations and fly off toward them. The ship could not change direction once fired, until it reached a star system, so the pilot’s initial aim had to be very pinpoint precise, as it was easy to miss the target and end up flying forever in empty space. I wondered how many lost humans were pilots in ships that were forever stranded in the empty void of space. But I was special, I could reset the ship to its launchpad and restart if anything went wrong. Anyway, I visited the Pleiades constellation before flying home again. I was pretty happy about this but found that the actual constellation was literally just a few blue balls in the sky like we could see from Earth, just slightly bigger in person. They were like giant cerulean marbles, but were still smaller than my spaceship.
- One of the guys on the bus had a poor pre-war first impression with me, after the war he was still around and looked more grown up. Seemed like he had gone through some sort of redemption arc and he looked warily and apologetically in my direction as he paid for the bus fare by the driver’s front seat, but didn’t approach me.
- We had other normal stops post-war that I remember. At one stop, two different types of tiny baby birds, about the size of a clenched fist, were given away. There was one thinner breed and one fatter breed. No cages were provided, but short branches with cotton balls stuck onto them were given away with them, apparently the birds liked them enough to remain obediently perched on them, more or less. A motherly matron person on the bus, who was our cook, said that they’d eat any random beetles that happen to fly around, and would also fly over toward her when she was cooking in the bus kitchen. I declined to take a bird in the end because I said it would be a lot of trouble trying to get it through the airport and plane and back to Canada when I went home eventually.
- At another stop, we had a post-war party with many party games and toys. For example one person was playing around with a large, dome-shaped toy which sat on the floor, and when you compressed the rubbery dome portion, and then let go of it, the dome would re-inflate with such strength and speed that the entire toy would jump up and hit the ceiling. The toy was the size of a cowboy hat. Another toy was a set of round paper drums with Hatsune Miku’s image on one side and another character on the other side. They came folded up/compressed into a thin circle and were meant to be unfolded and then rolled, so a woman was standing on one side of the room and rolling them one by one at high speed toward the other side. But I noticed she was doing it wrong, as she did not realize they could actually be unfolded before rolling, so I went to the other side of the room, caught one that she rolled my way, cracked open one of the sides to separate/loosen the drum a little, and then rolled it back toward her. This caused the drum to expand out as it rolled along, so by the time it reached her it had fully expanded out into what was basically a giant paper tree log. She was surprised at this.
- The bus also went by a side road at one point that sloped upwards toward a military camp, and it was lined with rows of soldiers, five per line, facing the main street, as though defending the military camp. A thought came unbidden into my mind about a bus plowing into them as part of an enemy attack, and how far they would get before the soldiers with their weapons (and bodies) could blunt the inertial force of the bus.