Please send my prayers to those dying in senseless wars on the other side of the world.
Entry #043 (Mar 06 2022)
Well, it looks like the teachers at the University might have averted a strike after all, according to the update this week. Reports from mediation said that both sides reached some sort of agreement that the teaching staff’s union will bring back to its members and recommend for ratification. I believe our support staff union has now started our mediation process with the University’s administration too… not sure if that one will be resolved as cleanly, but we’ll see I suppose. I still have doubts since we’ve been without an agreement for two years and salaries are not good.
I also finished and handed in my final essay for the MLP program this week, more than a month ahead of schedule. Only have one more essay from my Haiku class hanging over me and then this semester is pretty much done. We also had our 2nd last Monday small-group pod meeting for the MLP program this week, and we finished our collaborative project as well, which was basically a scrapbook of pictures. You can see it here, though it doesn’t really make as much sense out of context (the stories told with each one were transient and verbal). The end of the semester is hurtling toward us really quickly!
Work was frustrating this week, I uncovered a fairly big bug with a chunk of our Google Groups in production to do with how they were borked because their membership was supposed to be automatically synced and Group owners weren’t supposed to be able to add or remove other people from the groups. But they can, and there’s no flag or anything to let them know that they aren’t supposed to (or possibly aren’t supposed to be able to, the system is vague). And in addition, the system that is supposed to be monitoring changes and undoing them only actually monitors an external list for new people to be added, it doesn’t actually monitor the group list to see if people have been removed and need to be readded, or if additional people have been added and need to be removed.
Anyway. it got shoved under the carpet because the former team leader of the other team that got merged into us got defensive about the bug (claiming it was the user’s fault and not a bug at all). And my current boss is too busy with the testing side of the team (they’re busy testing a software update for the system that governs that bug I found, too) to worry about us over on the operational side, to the point that tickets and issues like this that we find get put to one side because it doesn’t help his obsession with watching the test completion % go up even when (I think) it’s an important bug with the current system. And all our morning standups are about how many more % the testing side of the team has pushed the test completion percentage to. Whatever. I haven’t felt particularly motivated by work recently, due to a lack of sincere attention ever since the teams got merged, so I’ve been doing my daily work and checking out of a work mindset after that. This is probably only going to get worse during spring in a couple weeks when I resume afternoon walks around the neighbourhood again.
And talking about the support staff contract negotiations in the School section above, my supervisor noted last week that there’s been a developer posting up for our team for a couple weeks now (for the other half of the team that got merged into us) but that we’ve yet to get a single decent application for it, even in terms of having the basics like a proper cover letter, even if qualifications don’t match up. That shows if nothing else that the salaries we’re (they’re) working under are probably too low and not competitive enough.
I went down to the hospital’s outpatient clinic this week to get my blood work requisition from a couple weeks ago done, and they came back largely normal except for my Hemoglobin A1c test, which was a bit high again, which the system says “meets criteria for diagnosis of prediabetes”. Either way I have a doctor’s visit next Monday so I’ll be skipping a couple hours of work to jaunt down there. I took a couple pictures of a cute board full of well-wishes from grade schoolers (01 | 02) that I saw in the hospital while I was down there this week, and also learnt that there is apparently a nationwide shortage of butterfly needles, which apparently are used for blood collection and such and hurt less. The nurse still used one on me though.
While I was out and about, I also finally got my phone screen repaired. This was supposed to take two hours, so I left the phone at the repair place and took a walk around the area. It was located in a huge outdoor shopping mall area, South Edmonton Commons, whose existence in Edmonton I find very weird because it’s so cold here for half the year. Anyway it was a whole bunch of big box stores spread across a large area, big, drab buildings blanketed in the snow and huddled together against the Arctic wind, and it was very liberating walking in and out of various stores for a couple hours without my phone. No worrying about email or social media, no maps and GPS, and even no clock to distract me. I should walk around more often without my phone.
Anyway when I got back to the shop after two hours, I found that it had been done an hour early, so I picked it up and then went grocery shopping on the way home. It was expensive, but it was probably worth it, although I noticed that my camera’s pictures get weird stripes if I point the camera right at the kitchen light now (I don’t think it did this before..). It seems fine in 99% of cases though, though it happened one other time as well, which is how I noticed it and started looking for other triggers. It does have a three month warranty, the store is just a pain in the rear to get to in the winter.
On the aforementioned grocery trip, I also picked up a large bag of Thai red chillies that I love but have never bought in bulk before. It was on deep sale. Not quite sure if they can last long enough for me to use them all, but I skimmed some websites, washed and dried them all, cut off their stalks, stuffed them in sealed bags with napkins to absorb moisture, dumped them in tupperware containers, and stuffed them in the freezer. Now I can have hot chilli peppers with every meal! There were 314 pieces in all, as though they want me to make chilli pie. It should last me 5-6 months if they don’t spoil first.
The Life section of my blog is shorter than usual this week, since I don’t want to talk about world politics in here, so here’s a soothing piano instrumental video that Youtube suggested this week and that I liked, to pad this section. I really especially like the background picture that the video appropriated — it’s made up of original characters and an imaginary scene, but the foreground scene checks off a lot of cozy + best friends boxes for me, while the background is gorgeous and tranquil, and it combines into a very nice, balanced picture overall. But then I noticed certain features in the drawing, and suddenly my imagination decided that this is a really sad picture, with the standing girl having recently lost her best friend in the world, the seated girl, and she’s reminiscing on a warm memory that they shared here together in the past one last time before she moves on alone, and suddenly I’m tearing up for no good reason.
The bulk of my gaming time this week went to Atelier Ryza in the early part of the week, and Elden Ring in the latter part of the week. I haven’t actually bought the latter game yet, I’m playing it through Steam Family Share on Jahandar‘s account as he claims to be nursing a sore hand that’s left him indisposed or something like that, but I’ll probably get it for myself eventually. However, while the game is cool, one critical bug with the game for me and many others is that many mobs are invisible in game, and this seems to be more pronounced out in the open world, which is the vast majority of the game. I won’t be getting the game until they fix this bug.
While it makes the game very hard to play, it actually has to a certain extent also kept me playing because it’s a unique experience and one that I won’t be able to ever play again after they fix, so I’ve ended up putting 24 hours into the game this week just from sheer curiosity and wandering around (and killing a number of early bosses — thank goodness none of the bosses so far have been invisible).
The game has plenty of little problems outside of that though — an awful UI and poor item descriptions that create undue difficulty trying to find (new) items in the inventory sometimes, disappointing camera and targetting controls that have been a constant problem through the Souls series (so half the time it feels like I’m fighting the camera and not the boss, especially when I dodge/run through a boss and the camera suddenly swirls around back and forth behind him, and there’s no way to control camera turn speed, or when the targetting select button refuses to target an enemy behind me and instead snaps my view 180 degrees away from it, or refuses to select the enemy closest to me and instead cycles through far away ones).
Some NPCs and important mechanics are also obtusely hidden away and very much missable for a long time (I still haven’t found a mage to buy spells from), and there’s a legion of irritating fans who rush to defend FromSoftware’s games, whitewash any problems others point out, and think the company can do little wrong. I’m especially cynical about “professional” game reviewers in general as I think they’re beholden to the industry and do not give honest reviews for certain franchises. It’s still a good game though, with plenty to like about it, and it looks gorgeous, but it’s an 8/10 or so game for me at most right now even without the graphical issues, and I think if Elden Ring was released in its current state by a new game company as its first game ever, it’s Metacritic score from game review companies would probably be hovering around a 7.5 or so too due to poor performance issues and odd gameplay/design choices that people have become desensitized to over the past few Souls games and/or are afraid to criticize a media darling for.
That being said, I do like it, although I should really give it time to mature and go back to Dark Souls 3 or Sekiro for now if i want to play a similar game. It’s also really hard to enjoy a game without guilt when there’s a big war going on on the other side of the globe. And when I have a final paper due in a month. And when I’m playing it on someone else’s account.
Plushie of the Week #41 – Jinbesan
Jinbesan, which roughly translates in English to Mr/Miss Jinbe, is the titular whale character from the Jinbe-san line of toys that has been previously featured in PotW #034. My younger sister, Kellie, loves the character and has a bunch of different ones, though this one is the biggest and squishiest. He apparently hails from Singapore, specifically a bookstore named Popular Bookstore in Suntec City (a small retail centre/shopping complex area, not an actual city) in Singapore, and my sister got him late in the evening on December 20 2017 while teaching there, after volunteering for a kids’ spelling bee where she was the word pronouncer/reader. She was given coupons to that bookstore after the event, and redeemed that for Jinbesan. He also goes by Jbsan.
According to her, Jinbesan is soft and cute but also neurotic, and he cries and complains a lot if he doesn’t get his way or doesn’t feel pampered, so he’s a little high-maintenance personality-wise. I’ve met him a couple times, but have never actually gotten to stay with him, so I have been spared the brunt of that. This plushie article and personality trait is needed for context around a future plushie’s story though, so he gets to feature this week.
Notice that little jellyfish clinging on (sewed on) to the bottom of Jinbesan too. That’s Kurage (jellyfish), we’ve seen it before in the booklet picture in PotW #034.
That says San-X, with what I believe is a leading © symbol. San-X is the company who owns this line of characters, which I only today learnt (local) is completely separate from Sanrio even though they have similar names.
Lastly, here’s a picture of him and a minion, a plushie named Boop that I don’t have any other pictures of at this time.
Song of the Week #18
Title: The Incidentals
Artist: Alisha’s Attic
Album: Illumina (1998)
I note that a lot of my favourite or featured songs are from 1997/1998, due to those being my last years in SIngapore, and this one is no different — it hails from September or so of 1998, and I don’t think it was ever released in North America, as I never heard it on the radio after coming over, but largely only in Europe and Asia. Alisha’s Attic is a pop sister duo from London, England, whose father apparently is Brian Poole from the band Brian Poole and the Tremeloes. They had a couple songs play on Singapore radio, but I didn’t care for any of the other ones besides this one.
This one really warmed the cockles of my heart though. The lyrics, the melody, the guitar work, the way the voices are layered together, they all come together to form a song I really enjoy and that gives me the warm fuzzies. This one reminds me of walking around Singapore shopping malls, particularly the ones at Tampines where we lived, around the MRT (train) station. There were two high-rise (well, 3-5 storeys high) malls there, Century Square and Tampines Mall, side by side and packed full with shops, with a bunch of little shops and walkways strewn about at their feet, and it was a huge pleasure to walk around there.
I remember a card shop at the top of the 3rd level escalator of one of the malls, I think it was Century Square, where we used to purchase our Legend of the Five Rings card. I also remember wandering around a second-hand bookstore in one of the two malls as well, as well as a food court serving amazing Hainanese Chicken Rice on the top level of Tampines Mall, I think. (It might have been the other mall, or even a mall at Pasir Ris, the neighbouring train station… but I think it was this one). The place has changed immensely from my memories though, since this walking tour video that I might have previously linked has very few familiar memories in it to me.
Outside of that, this song also reminds me of lying down in a sunbeam in our apartment in Singapore, on the warm and somewhat sticky marble floors that would require mopping later on in the day. This song is tinged with the colour of the regret of moving, like many of its peers that happened to come out and receive significant airplay right at the tail end of the Singapore part of my life, and my wistful memory of this song is of me staring quietly at the ceiling and listening to the song play on a radio in the backdrop as I felt the floor beneath me, smelt the fresh air wafting through the open window, and heard cars going by and the distant buzzing noises of renovation and development somewhere in the even more distant background. I don’t have synesthesia or anything like that but the guitar in the song strongly reminds me of an orange-brown palette of colours.
Memory Snippet of the Week #25
The memory snippet this week is of Dad bringing me to watch a soccer game in Singapore’s National Stadium, one of a very small number of soccer games that I ever attended (maybe 3-5 total, I only really remember three though). This was when Singapore was still playing as part of the Malaysia Cup, which was a local Malaysia-Singapore joint league which I followed and watched growing up, and which was how I learnt the names of many of the Malaysian states and cities. It has a somewhat interesting history, pockmarked with racism and national pride and hopelessly entwined with Singapore’s independence, and we eventually ended up leaving the league and forming our own Singapore grassroots league (with local residential towns forming teams) in 1994. But at the time of this memory, we were still part of the league.
I vividly remember the score of this particular match, Singapore beat Kelantan 7-0, and although scores from back then are hard to find, the match was enough of an exclamation point that vague footage of the match does exist on YouTube (01 | 02 | 03), which allowed me to pin this event down to 1991, and this search pins it further to Saturday, Aug 03 1991, which would have made me 7 years old then. (For Jah, apropos to a conversation in Discord this week — check out this timestamp in the 2nd video, you can see a Tiger Beer ad!) Dad and I were at the stadium somewhere, likely not in any of the actual videos, though the resolution is low enough on them that even if we were, you wouldn’t really be able to see us.
I don’t remember much about the game, although the goals did bring back memories, but I do remember being pleased with the score. The actual important memory snippet comes afterwards though, once we had left the stadium and before we headed home. At the time, one of the books I was reading and enamoured by was the Tintin series of books, and there are parts of the book where Tintin talks about/drinks tonic water. We passed by or entered a roadside shop or convenience store along the way that must have had a sign that said that they were actually selling tonic water, and I insisted to Dad that I wanted to try it.
Long story short, he went in and bought me a bottle, and I hated it. Ick. Outside of its bitter taste, it was fizzy, and I didn’t do well with fizzy drinks growing up at all, I would throw up if I drank heavily carbonated drinks, and even now I avoid drinks that are more than a little carbonated, like the various Pepsis and Coca Colas. I think Dad finished it, and then told me off (though I’m sure he knew that that was going to be the outcome) for wasting money and for blindly trying to follow what other people do. That guilt put a bit of a damper on an otherwise fine night, but thanks to that I actually do remember both memories together, over 30 full years later, so that was probably worth the price of the tonic, huh.
It upsets me how feeble (body, and arguably mind sometimes) Dad is now since I still have vivid memories of him as a rock in my life and someone who helped raise me right, even if we had our disagreements over the years. That’s part of the reason I’m doing my weekly Sunday interviews with him now to capture as much as I can before it’s too late. Oddly, he also organically brought up this incident in this week’s Sunday interview, except he remembers it differently — he said it was on a family outing to some food court that we did this and that Mom was there as well. Who knows which version is true! (We did ask Mom though and she said she wasn’t there for it, so I think my version is more likely, however it’s interesting to see how different memories join up too. He doesn’t remember bringing me to any soccer matches either.)
Feb 28 2022
- I remember playing an RPG where the main character, possibly being controlled by Dad, was really weak and being chased by bandits in a Skyrim-like world, and in particular there was one at the foot of some cliffs near a tavern that aggroed on the main character and would not deaggro no matter how far away the character ran. There was a guard corpse with a good weapon near where the person was, so the person controlling the character dragged the bandit far away before being shot and killed by the bandit, and when he respawned, he quickly made a beeline for the corpse as well. The bandit was still returning to his normal position at the time, and did automatically re-aggro on the character but was suitably far away that it wasn’t a problem.
- There was also a weather counter UI in the top right of the screen that showed that a Firestorm was arriving soon. The arrival counter started at around 3% when the character first aggroed the bandit, and was 34% by the time he died, respawned, and came back to loot the guard corpse. The player rushed off toward the nearby tavern, as being indoors would keep him safe, but instead of going right in, he paused and went past the tavern to a coal pit on its left, heading inside long enough to grab a piece of coal just in case a torch was needed, before turning around and heading back to the tavern. I noted that this was dangerous because the bandit was still aggroed and coming for him, and the firestorm itself would have produced light anyway, but it proceeded without incident.
- Once the character entered the tavern, I saw two beastmasters snarling at each other in front of a stone ring just inside the door, each one with a pack of slavering dogs by his side and snarling at the other side as well. Inside the ring were two dogs, one belonging to each of them, and those two were fighting and biting each other as people around the tavern cheered and made bets. The bartender wandered by the two of them holding several beer mugs in his hand.
- As the character zoned in, I noted that we should move out of the way of this mess and upstairs to the room, as there was a balcony where we could watch for the firestorm and the bandit. I wondered what would happen when the bandit finally came in, and got a scene that showed the bandit zoning in and the two beastmasters and their dogs immediately attacking and murdering the bandit.
- Snippet: Earlier in the dream, there was a school scene where I was in a lecture theater and saw Allen and his family nearby. I waved to him and then eventually texted him a hello saying that it was nice to finally be able to meet him again. The lecture seminar was being hosted by some veteran AMQ players and was a case study about the decline of the game which had been going on for some time.
- Snippet: In another part of the dream, I was outside a public female washroom with a guy and a tall, orange-haired rich lady whose family actually owned the washroom. I smiled and mentioned that I should call her ojou-sama, but she didn’t reply to that. Anyway she was friendly and we chatted a bit as she stepped just inside to wash her hands and hand out some toilet paper to a girl that had done her business and wanted to leave the washroom. I also wanted to go in and use it, but the other girl said that the stalls were mostly occupied and it was difficult to find a proper toilet seat. I found one just inside the door anyway, but it was in a set of five at the side of the room and was out in the open, and was part of an area where moms were changing the diapers of their kids, so that definitely wasn’t one I actually wanted to use. However, the toilet had wheels as well, so I scooted around the bathroom while seated on the wheeled toilet in order to scout out the area while also reserving that toilet just in case I couldn’t find a free stall. The actual stalls were located near the back of the really long washroom, and were indeed all occupied — the washroom was oddly crowded with people doing their own thing or waiting around on long benches in the middle of the room for the stalls to free up — so I wheeled back toward the entrance where the other wheeled toilets were.
Mar 01 2022
- I was crossing the road behind a bunch of students at a really weird 4-way intersection, at which the four roads met at an angle that resembled a pi symbol, with two exits from the intersection forming a straight line (east and west) and the other two forming “legs” that came in to the main horizontal street at an angle (southeast and southwest) rather than the usual cardinal cross. Crossing the road also involved a traffic light that challenged us to find a 7 letter word that contained some specific letters we were given before the countdown ended, for the students from my school, rather than having the crosswalk number count down from 7 to 0.
- I was crossing from one of the bottom legs of the pi symbol toward the sidewalk on the long side of the symbol, but I was stuck behind some students from another school, so the crosswalk countdown hit 0 and time ran out. But when that happened, the next crossing signal to our right turned green, so I simply shifted a few steps to my right to get in line with that crossing signal, and finished crossing the road.
- Those other students were from a local secondary school or something that was right in front of the 4-way intersection, and I could hear morning assembly music blaring from the school’s loudspakers as I passed it, as well as see a different puzzle that they were given by a floating sign in the school. They were given a 6 or 7 letter word and had to find as many smaller words using the letters in that word as possible.
- As I passed the school, I could also look up and see into one of the classroom on the second level of the building, and I saw a metal cupboard and the silhouette of a male teacher in a classroom. I could hear him lecturing to his students as well, and a sudden wave of nostalgia hit me, as though I had seen a scene like this before way back in Singapore but had not thought of it for many years. I continued east along the road toward my own school, though.
- Snippet: I was trying out various sports at a University-type school to see which one I would like to join at some point, I remember in particular trying out the 50 or 100 metre dash.
- Snippet: At another point, I was looking through a hockey book from about 10 years ago with a friend that contained season predictions, and laughing with them at how bad some of the predictions were. I don’t remember most of them in particular, though I remember a page predicting that Eric Lindros would do very well in an upcoming season (which he didn’t, due to injuries), and another page predicting that a young rookie, who was the brother of another existing player and who was drafted very highly, was a bad pick because he was too small to play in the league and would be bullied around (he ended up topping the league that year with 49 goals). There was also something about a season with a strike and lockout and only half the games played that season.
- Snippet: I also dreamt that my mod partner in the /r/tipofmytongue Discord was suddenly going to quit, and as I wasn’t far behind and had been trying to find a replacement and leave for some time as well, but had been stymied due to the main admin person not coming on much, that potentially spelled disaster for the server. However, perhaps due to this, the admin person actually came online and we finally had a good talk about replacements.
Mar 02 2022
- I remember playing a new MMO with my main group of Discord friends, this involved our characters exploring a new continent in a world and completing quests and other things, as per a normal MMO. In particular, once a bunch of us reached max level, I noted that Seo had actually left us to raid with a group of other former Hobbitual players from Lotro who had come over for the raiding content, although he was relegated to playing a healer and I knew most of the spots were taken by their core group of players so I wasn’t sure if he was even actually getting any raiding opportunities there. I decided to reach out to him to see if he were interested in coming back to our guild and leading raids here like he had used to in Lotro instead.
Mar 03 2022
- Snippet: I was in a minivan with Govinda and someone else in a part of a city with a zombie apocalypse going on. He was driving the van, and he taught me how to close the door properly so that he had one less thing to watch over. I apparently had to close the door as much as possible, which still left it ajar, and then pull the door handle latch upwards, which pulled the door tightly shut, like a vacuum.
- Snippet: Another snippet involved a side view of an aquarium that I was visiting with one other person, however I no longer remember any details about the person or the trip.
Mar 04 2022
- I dreamt that I was playing a game of Heroes 3, and I inherited an undeveloped castle with a lot of troop dwellings but no defence, from around the middle of the map. I had two heroes, whom I sent out to get ore and other mines and to explore the surrounding lands. One of my heroes had the bulk of my armies, while the other had a few stragglers and was mostly there to suicide.
- Pink player was to the south, by the edge of the map, and I stole an ore and crystal mine from him with my weaker hero before his hero came out to annihilate him. I just recruited him from my castle again the next day though.
- My main hero went south and east to pick up stat buildings, as there were several strewn around the map, exploring toward a coast to make sure that there was nothing hidden there.
- My other hero went west after revival and found a subterranean gate leading underground. He stepped in to reveal the map and saw a pile of enemies down there, with various enemy towns to the west, east, and especially to the south, where there were four towns adjacent to each other forming the shape of a waxing crescent moon. He quickly fled back upwards.
- A couple enemy heroes did come up to tangle with my main castle after that but my other hero was close enough to the base to fend off the attacks. At one point a single hero with an 800 health genie came up and destroyed another 800 health genie that I had in one of my armies, but I didn’t mind because that genie was just a recruitment bonus and didn’t really fit with the rest of my troops. At another point, my castle itself was under siege but I had a stack of dragons or behemoths or something that annihilated his griffins, which were the attacker’s most powerful threat.
- One of the new mechanics in the game was that other hero units could move a little while a battle was taking place, and my secondary hero came in to that fight with 8 champions on horseback to pincer the griffins from behind after the griffins had broken down the castle walls.
- Another new mechanic was that the obelisk map pieces could be put toward uncovering the map of the actual world treasure like in the regular game, or could be spent in order to immediately get a minor treasure for the hero that found the obelisk. I used the latter a couple of times since this was a hyge map and the underground looked like it was going to be impossible to leisurely explore.
- A third new mechanic was that there was a Threat rating bar at the bottom left of my screen, which was a green bar that represented the chances of my castle being attacked the next day based on proximity of enemy heroes and the number of troops that they had versus what I had. It was basically protection against accidentally losing my castle from being sniped by a maximum range hero hiding underground or something, and there was one instance where it triggered and asked if I was sure I was going to take an action that left my castle undefended, as I didn’t notice an enemy hero standing nearby. I said no and it let me cancel my planned move.
- I spent my turns building infrastructure, going from fort to citadel, then the money producing buildings, though I built something else that didn’t exist in the actual game on the second turn instead, which confused one of my heroes.
Mar 06 2022
- I remember a dream where we were basically an opposing resistance group and were trying to rescue or retrieve someone or something from enemy territory. I think that it was a multi-pronged attempt, so we had a group actually fighting the enemy, while another group, including me, tried to infiltrate a carnival or festival going on in the opposing country to gather more info. We were sort of discovered though, but the enemy couldn’t outright target us in front of everyone, so they made us waste time joining some contests instead.
- We were made to sign up for some contest and had to do various things — I had to answer a quiz on some AKB0048 members and then ten trivia questions from random topics (I only got 2 out of 10 on the latter part since I was basically randomly guessing), while another teammate had to install water pipes and then dig a trough to bring water from a tap to a rice field, which he did terribly and the carnival announcer made fun of him for. The person had built the trough like a road, 3 tiles wide and really bumpy all over, so it wouldn’t carry water very well, and the announcer had some assistants unfurl an alternate ramp which used the same amount of material, but was just one tile wide, and which used the extra materials to give the trough a slope that allowed the water to flow much better.
- Later, I remember at some point also having a spaceship fight against the enemy, we routed them with no casualties but one big ship that we were trying to capture managed to warp away, with the pilot screaming that she’d never let the specific person chasing her have the ship. We were still happy with the outcome though, and made plans to try to infiltrate them again. I requested that this time we avoided the day of the week that the carnival was taking place on so that we would not have a chance to get ensnared in that again.