Crusader Kings 2: game over

I finally finished the game. From the previous post, I needed 4 more rulers till the game ended in the year 1453.

Crusader Kings 2_8.bmp

Crusader Kings 2_9.bmp

I managed to increase the score by over 40k since then to a total of 88,555. Quite good considering that best dynasty (the game has a list of historical dynasties with associated individual score) has a score of 100k but then again I was playing on easy difficulty level.

By the end of the game, my ruler was Emperor of Britannia, King of Ireland, King of Wales, King of England, King of Andalusia, King of Poland and King of Anatolia.

King Gabran the Bold reigned the longest (63 years) while King Zee 1 Mau's reign was the shortest (10 months). The latter died of "Slow Fever". Poor boy.

Here was the extent of my territory at the end of the game (marked by the number 12, symbolising the number of rulers):

Crusader Kings 2_4.bmp

Crusader Kings 2_5.bmp

Crusader Kings 2_6.bmp

Crusader Kings 2_7.bmp

Some of the more significant events since the last post are as follows:

1. After capturing a few more counties in England, I managed the create the land title Empire of Brittannia.

2. As Emperor of Britannia, I then had justification ('casus belli') to declare war to capture all counties in Scotland and some counties in France but I could do it only 1 county at a time, with peace treaty lasting 10 years with the opposing ruler. I could declare war before the treaty ended but I would suffer penalty in relationship with all Christian rulers. Gah.

3. Due to marriage to a duchess in Hungary, eventually my ruler had control over some counties there.

4. I participated in another crusader called by the pope to wrest the Kingdom of Poland from the Golden Horde. Unfortunately, the Timurid had similar idea and separately declared war on the Golden Horde for the same territory and they battled fast and furious. While the crusaders were running in stacks of at most 5 digits (i.e. tens of thousands), I spotted a Timurid army of more than 200k! @_@ In the end, Timurid got most of Poland while I (the crusader who contributed the most to the crusade) was awarded, by the pope, a few counties but with the land title Kingdom of Poland.

5. Byzantine Empire, an empire that was bigger than Empire of Britannia, declared war on me for a county is Kingdom of Anatolia. Previously, when they declared war on me while I was in the midst of putting down a major revolt, I smply surrendered the county they were warring for but not this time. I was determined to put a stop to their foolishness.

Unfortunately, ironically in the midst of this war with Byzantine, some of my vassals revolted by declaring independence. The counties of these vassals were spread all over my empire in these kingdoms: England, Andalusia, Hungary and Anatolia. I knew I couldn't successfully handle both wars. Curiously, this time my ally, the Queen of Hungary (who was my wife then), was willing to help to put down the revolt whereas she wasn't interested in helping me to defend against Byzantine. It turned out to be a ruse of some sort because since my revolting counties were, at least temporarily during the revolt, independent, other rulers, with valid casus belli, could declare war on them without triggering a war with me.

In the end, Byzantine gave up (soonner than I expected, thank goodness) and I then concentrated on crushing the major revolt, which I did. However, I lost about half of my counties in Hungary due to some opportunistic rulers. I forgot to check but the culprit was likely my wife, the Queen of Hungary. Grrr.

Overall, I enjoyed playing this game but it was addictive and as such I had to be extra conscious of the time while playing it. Recently I bought the 'Ruler Designer' DLC and started a game on normal difficulty with a customised ruler. Hope that will go as well as this one.


Nuggets from Penang

During my Nov trip to Penang, I came across some really interesting stuff such as the following:

Deepavali 1

Deepavali 2

This Deepavali decoration ("Rangoli") was found at an Econsave store. What attracted me was the sheer size of it and the contrast of bright coloured rice used on a white background (also made with rice). It was unfortunate that a few days later, I saw that its side was slightly disturbed. Humph.

Lady's finger

Long bean

These vegetables (lady's finger and long beans) were found just outside a huge wealthy-looking bungalow near where my sister lives. It was my first time seeing lady's finger plant. Incidentally, that area has many huge multi-storey bungalows. So rich.

Cholesterol

In Feb this year, I had a cholesterol test and I wasn't happy with it, especially the borderline ratio of total cholesterol to HDL ("good") cholesterol. Since then, I've been taking oat every morning and exercise more regularly (at least twice a week). Although the frequency of exercise fell short of what I hope so (it's hard to motivate oneself to exercise!), the result of the latest cholesterol test this month bore fruit of my labour:

                                        Feb 2012     Dec 2012     Ref. range
Total cholesterol             5.4               5.5                < 5.2
HDL ("good")                 1.08             1.32              > 1.04
LDL ("bad")                    3.7               3.8                < 2.6
Triglycerides                   1.3               0.8                < 1.7
Total/HDL ratio              5.0               4.2                < 5.0

Although total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol level remain more or less unchanged, there is significant improvement in HDL cholesterol level, triglycerides and total/HDL ratio.

I hope to increase the frequency of exercise and to watch what food I eat more carefully.

Epicurus

Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent. Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent. Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil? Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?

- Epicurus

Update: Ron left a comment casting doubt on this quote (conventionally) attributed to Epicurus. Here's what I found from Wikipedia:

" This argument was a type favoured by the ancient Greek skeptics, and may have been wrongly attributed to Epicurus by Lactantius, who, from his Christian perspective, regarded Epicurus as an atheist.[14] It has been suggested that it may actually be the work of an early skeptic writer, possibly Carneades.[15] According to Reinhold F. Glei, it is settled that the argument of theodicy is from an academic source which is not only not epicurean, but even anti-epicurean.[16] The earliest extant version of this trilemma appears in the writings of the skeptic Sextus Empiricus.[17]
Epicurus didn’t deny the existence of gods. Instead, he stated that what gods there may be, do not concern themselves with us, and thus would not seek to punish us either in this or any other life.[18] "

Crusader Kings 2

There were many games on sale on Steam sometime during the last week of November (autumn sale), ranging from 25% to 75%. Never in my life had I bought that many computer games within a a few days! I, however, managed to stick to my buying games costing no more than USD10.

I bought Crusader King 2 for just below USD10 and that entitled me to the main game i.e. none of the DLCs (downloadable content) were included. I didn't purchase any of the DLCs mainly because I wasn't certain whether I would like the game enough to warrant getting its DLCs.

Well, it turned out I do like it :)

Ban, who purchased it earlier than me, did a quick research over the net and told me that one recommendation for beginner was to start playing as a character in Ireland. We later realised why: Ireland wasn't united as a kingdom then (default starting year is 1066) and thus didn't have a king. Morever, its neighbours, Scotland and England were still settling down as kingdoms (there were still powerful factions wrestling for the kingdoms) and Wales, similar to Ireland, wasn't united yet.

This grand strategy game ends in the year 1453 (approximately 400 years) or when your character no longer has an heir upon his death. Yes, you play as the heir once the existing character dies, so on and so forth. Oh, by the way, the game crawls day to day but luckily there's an option to speed the time dramatically and even pause it while you take some actions.

The game score is determined by the total amount of prestige and piety points gained by your line of rulers. At the moment, however, I would deem it a success if I manage to survive for 400 years judging from the various problems and issues the ruler has to contend with. My score currently is close to 50k.

In terms of expansion of my territory, here's what happen with 8 rulers to date (numbers correspond with those in the pictures below):

1. Started of as Earl of Dublin. Gained more duchies and eventually established the Kingdom of Ireland and later one conquered the Duchy of Ulster from Scotland to unite the entire island of Ireland.

2. Conquered most of Wales and established Kingdom of Wales. Conquered 1 more county a few centuries later. Didn't dare to do it earlier because England was very powerful then.

3. Joined a crusade and as the crusader who contributed the most to campaign, my ruler was awarded the spoils of war: Kingdom of Andalusia. Expanded by capturing 3 more counties from Castille but only with the help of some allies.

4. Joined another crusade and was awarded the Kingdom of Anatolia. Many years later, I willingly surrendered a county to Byzantine (opportunist!) as my ruler was fighting a tight civil war with his uncle, which he fortunately won with help from some allies.

5. In the latest crusade, my ruler was awarded all the counties belonging to England, which was then shockingly ruled by the Muslim kingdom of Fatimid! Oh my. I couldn't believe how far the English had fallen. From here, my ruler had the Kingdom of England, Kingdom of Brittany and some counties in the Arab peninsular.

Crusader King 2_1

Crusader King 2_2

Crusader King 2_3

Show proof

Have you met someone who refuses to believe in anything until it's scientifically proven by the relevant expert? I have and they come with varying degree of conviction. I would put myself in this category too but not to the extreme.

How extreme? Well, I know someone who seems not willing to entertain the possibility, even a small one, of truth of certain claim without scientific proof.

Now, imagine if every single person adopts such attitude. What will happen? Let's take an example. Until centuries ago, everyone believed the Earth is flat. If every person say, "I shall not believe anything contrary to that until someone scientifically prove it wrong", what will happen? No one will be bothered to find out, isn't it?

In that case, how will knowledge expand? How will mankind progress?

Mouse

This is a mouse and not rat, right? It looks too small for a rat. Frankly, I don't know how to differentiate them other than their size and that a rat looks...nastier? *shrug*


Mouse 1

Mouse 2

This mouse was found in the room I slept in at my sister's place. I guessed that it managed to squeezed between the window panels and the insect screen panels. For your information, at that time, I pushed the different panels to different sides.

I agreed with my brother-in-law that it looked quite cute but naturally we couldn't have a mouse running around the house, especially with a toddler and a dog in the house

It eventually left the room through the window after my bro-in-law pushed the insect screen panels to the right, where the window panels were. From then on, we have to make sure panels are shut.

Soup: Flower crab & bitter gourd

Flower crab n bitter gourd soup

Once upon a time, in the central region of Peninsular Malaysia, my dad boiled soup made of only flower crab with a little salt and nothing else but boy, it tasted very delicious and completely oil-less!

Right away I thought of Ban. He likes watercress soup the best but he doesn't like oil in the soup, even if the oil comes naturally from pork or chicken carcass. He also doesn't like the smell of ikan bilis (anchovy) soup although it's oil-less. See? Such a tough nut to crack, right?

So I tried replicating the crab soup. Ban couldn't stand the smell of the fresh crab and had to vacate the kitchen. He, however, did help to slice the bitter gourd.

Taking out the carapace was as easy as my parents said it would be. The harder part was chopping its body because I am not good at using a chopper. I fear chopping off my other hand should I use it to hold the food. It's not an unfounded fear because at times the part on the food where the knife connected was significantly away from the intended part. Scary.

After boiling for hours in the afternoon, I tasted the soup. It was not even close to as sweet as the soup my dad boiled. I cheated and added a little sugar. Tasted it again later. It was a little better but far from what I had hoped to achieve. Either there was too much water or too little crab meat.

Good news is that Ban doesn't mind having it again. I should clarify the recipe with my dad before trying to boil some again.

Eragon

Eragon

As I said before, the internet hadn't been set up at my sister's new place when I was in Penang helping her to move there. So one way I kept myself occupied at night when the couple and their toddler went to bed was to read book.

This book was lent to my sister by my other bro-in-law when he and my other sister were down here in Malaysia from Australia a few years ago. It is meant to be an easy reading for people who want to try reading fantasy novel and hence was recommended by my bro-in-law. However, my sister never did get started on it.

The story was enganging enough for me to want to read more about it. In fact, on some nights, I read till like 2am - 3am. The story so far promises bigger and better things to come in subsequent books and so this will determine whether I like the series or not. There are some series that disappoint me due to them not fulfilling the expectations that they have (inadvertently or not) created e.g. Tales of Alvin Maker (though apparently this series may be continued).

<minor spolier ahead>

So I'm looking forward to the land of the elves and the emergence of greater and varied power of the Rider in the second book, The Eldest, which was lent by my bro-in-law.

N.B: I'm quite surprised, after reading the book, to learn that the author was only 19 years old when he wrote Eragon. Wah.


Vegetarian noodle @ City Star

One of the few places we frequent quite regularly for dinner is City Star at Taman Bukit Mayang Emas. Ban normally doesn't like to have Chinese food (regardless of restaurant), including noodle, because they're usually too oily for his liking. He, however, seems to like this vegetarian noodle served there, as he orders it quite regularly (it's either this or rice with stir fried chicken with leek with a fried egg added).

Vegetarian noodle @City Star

I too like this noodle and more likely to order this if I already had meat for lunch. They use wantan noodle and has different kind of vegetables .Its price, though, is a hefty RM7! Compare that to the price of fried lou shu fun (RM6).

Moreover, the amount of leafy vegetable is usually not as much as shown in the picture above. In fact, I was pleasantly surprised at the attempt to arrange them in this manner.

Despite its price, I would recommend it to anyone to try it at least once. It's appetising.

Income Tax

Hahaha.

Income Tax

Introverted

I'm sure I'm not an introverted but neither am I an extroverted. I'm probably somewhere in the middle. Ban, however, is clearly an introverted - he couldn't last more than 3 hours interacting with people he knows (much less for strangers). I find the following guide very useful in understanding introverted. Do read it.

(If the words are too small to read, right click it and save the image to your computer/laptop and read it. It's worth it.)

PS: Please let me know if you know the original source of this guide. Thanks.


how_to_live_with_introverts_guide_printable_by_sveidt

Konlo lou shu fun

Konlo lou shu fun


This is one of the best konlo lou shu fun I had. It's also value-for-money. I've been wanting to snap a photo of it but I kept forgetting because I just digged in when it arrived :)

I like it because
  • it's not too oily;
  • it has generous amount of noodle;
  • there's generous amount and variety of meat (for such noodle) - fishcake, mince meat and fishball;
  • it has sizeable amount of vegetable (for such noodle) - lettuce and beancurd skin;
  • its soup is hardly oily; and
  • it's tasty.
It costs only RM4.50, which is typical for such noodle and yet it has much more and it's delicious.

It's served by a lady wearing spectacles, manning a 'Fishball Noodle' stall at a small open-air foodcourt just across CIMB Bank which situated at Sunwaymas Commercial Centre. It's also across the Aman Suria gated housing.

Incidentally, the stall behind hers, also operated by a lady, has one of the best char kuay teow. I hope I'll remember to take a photo of it the next time I order it :)

Return of the Jaded Jeremy

I was absent from the blog for 11 days due to a retreat to a secluded mountain where I meditated and learned about the secret of life from a revered monk. This retreat was rudely interrupted by the appearance of SBB, who told me how long I had been away. I was shocked as it sure didn't feel that long, as days meld into mere hours - very much like Palace of the Prophets in the Sword of Truth series.

Ok, enough of this nonsense hehehe. Actually I was away in Penang to help my sister to pack, move and unpack. There was internet at her old place. Typically, I checked e-mails, FB and read news just before and after lunch. After that, I would pack some stuff before packing up my laptop in preparation for dinner. Hence I didn't have time to blog.

Internet wasn't set up yet at her new place. There was no newspapers (does this sound like secluded mountain yet? :P ). Thank goodness for Astro Beyond as that allowed me to access to a few news channels. There wasn't any news about 21/12/2012. Oh well.

However, there were plenty of grave news such as Euro countries bickering over budget and debt, US politicians bickering over the fiscal cliff, more deaths in Syria, and the tit-for-tat missile strikes between Gaza and Israel.

Anyway, it was great that the move went better than I expected and so we had some time to recuperate a little bit. I enjoyed my time with my sister and her family. Next stop: Australia in January.

PS: I hope Malaysia general election will not be held when I'm in Australia!

Korean drama series: gay theme

I stumbled upon this while I was looking up a new Taiwanese series that was being advertised on Astro. It's quite a refresing kind of gay themed drama series. These 2 episodes have scenes that resonate with me:



Broken Mage Knight

Since quite some time ago, I brought up the idea of getting our own set of Mage Knight boardgame but Ban wasn't keen because a fellow boardgamer already had it and we managed to play with him maybe on average once a fortnight. I countered that if we had our own set, we could play whenever we liked, instead of relying on the availability of other people. Nevertheless, I didn't get one.

However, lately it had been difficult to arrange for a session due to the game's owner busy schedule. Hence, I decided to get a set of my own and Ban agreed to share with me :) A friend of ours is a member of Meeples and he helped us to get one with 10% discount. Yay!

The joy, however, turned a little grim as we gradually discovered defects on most of the cards, a map tile and a few tokens :( Our friend guessed that this set was part of the batch subsequent to the first batch and it was probably a rushed job because the game was high in demand. Gah.

Upon contacting the owner of Meeples, our friend helped to take photos of some of the more serious defective items and sent it to the former, who will then forward them to the game publisher. The desired outcome is to have the publisher replacing this defective set with a new one.

Let's hope for the best!

Sudoku update Oct 2012

The last update done was...3 months ago! I said exactly the same thing 3 months ago lol. Mind you, I didn't set out to update every 3 months. Maybe my biological clock is doing some extra work here :P

For Moderate (M) puzzles:

Sudoku Grade M IV

I am pleased that there's generally a downward trend (improvement!) in time taken since the last update. What's even more pleasing is that this occured despite a period where I was playing Torchlight 2.

Just recently, I did get very close to beat my personal record. Hope to beat it soon :)

Sudoku Grade T II

Unfortunately, for the Tough puzzles, I didn't do so well since the last update. The time taken has crept upward. Hmmm what was I busy with? Torchlight 2 perhaps?

Sudoku Grade G

I have enough data to show the time taken to complete the Gentle puzzles. There was a discernible improvement midway and then moribund between 10 and 15 mins.

Sudoku Grade D

The performance with respect to Diabolical puzzles is the one that causes me the most grief because I had to give up 5 times (not shown in the chart above). Each time I gave up after spending close to 2 hours without any more progress. I'm still trying to figure out a better technique to solve these puzzles.

Sudoku compare I

There is no surprise here except that the shortest time to complete Gentle puzzle is slightly longer than that for Moderate puzzle. I still can't figure out what on earth happen on that fateful day when I achieved a personal record of slightly over 9 seconds in completing that Moderate puzzle. Did time stop? Did I speed up?

Torchlight 2 Demo

After having played Torchlight a few years ago, I was eagerly anticipating Torchlight 2, especially when it comes with multiplayer feature - something that's sorely missing in Torchlight.

Similar to Torchlight, there is a demo version for Torchlight 2 as well. I was pleasantly surprised because since they had won over many fans with their maiden debut of Torchlight, I thought they wouldn't provide demo version this time.

This was fortunate because apparently my laptop's specification did not meet the minimum requirements. So, I thought why not just try out the demo and see how bad the consequence was for not meeting those requirements. Surprise, surprise. It worked quite well on single player, although there was a few lagging moments during multiplayer (especially in the zone Frosted Hills) but overall it was a minor issue.

When the demo ended, as expected, I was asked to continue by paying for the game:

Torchlight 2 demo end

I laughed when I read the part "For Percy's sake,...". Percy was the name of my character's pet. Then at the bottom left, Mernix (my character) demanded me to fight on. Bah, no one makes demand from me, especially in spending USD19.99 to buy a game.

Then I read at the bottom right: "Percy loves you.". Awww, that was so sweet! I then went ahead and purchased the game. It was for Percy's sake after all :P

Ristorante Italia

In this game, you are a chef running a Italian restaurant. The winner is the one with the most points and the way you get points are as follows:
  • Cook food with high rating
  • Have the best set of recipe, especially with matching theme
  • Have the best/2nd best dish
  • 'Encourage' VIP critics to go to your restaurant (i.e., as Ban said, bribe them lol)
  • Have the most money at the end of the game
  • Buy wine, especially those that match your food recipe
  • Buy dining tables (yah, your restaurant has no such tables to start with)
  • Buy bonus cards that give additional points
To do that, you will need to manage well your resources: money. Money is used to buy ingredients, wine, dining tables and bonus cards. Money is generated from recipe that has been revealed (and therefore the food is on your menu), wine and dining table. Some bonus cards also, effectively, give you ad hoc money.

There is a variety of bonus cards besides those that give additional points and money. One type is those that give you an advantage in getting ingredients e.g. allow you to buy straight from the crate, rather than depending on what's available in the market. My top two favourite bonus cards are the one that allows you to buy 2 ingredients instead of 1 during your shopping action and the one that allows you to restock a market when you take a non-shopping action.

Ban and I love this game. Recently, however, we discovered something amiss about it: fruits appear in far fewer recipe compared to other type of ingredients and therefore the bonus card that allows you to buy fruits straight from the fruits crate is so much weaker than that for other ingredients.

RI 161

This is where I tried playing the game focusing on accumulating dining tables and forgoing wine. Total points = 161. Can't remember whether Ban or I won this game.

RI 164

Total points = 164. Again, I forgot whether I won or not but judging from the number of recipe I revealed, dining tables bought, and that I won the best dish (evidenced by 2 golden spoons), I probably did win this game.

Ristorante Italia 190 won

I do remember winning this one. Total points = 190. I incorporate Ban's winning strategy of getting wine as soon as possible as well as getting dining tables towards the end of the game. Wow, I won a lot of stars and golden spoons too hehehe.

Recently we played again and this time Ban won with 185 points vs my 135 points. I made a mistake at the very start that proved to be too costly for me. I knew I would lose early in the game but I nevertheless tried my best to minimise the losses.

In keeping with tradition subconsciously, I don't have photo of that game where I lost :P

Penang ferry

I think the last time I took a ferry to Penang was nearly 2 decades ago @_@ I'm so old already lol.

It is still quite enjoyable taking the ferry. Although it takes sometime to cross the sea to the island, time passes by quickly when one is out of the car taking a view of the surrounding or merely just enjoying the wind. For the money-conscious people, it's also cheaper to take the ferry than the bridge.

Too bad the dolphins were spotted a few weeks later. I hope to spot some when I'm next on the ferry.

Penang ferry

Salmon sushi

This is the minimum standard I set for good salmon sushi:

Kinpachi

This salmon sushi was served by Kinpachi at Subang Jaya.

Yes, some may say that "Oh, it's at a proper Japanese restaurant. Of course you should get good sushi." Let me say that, posh or not, it's hard to get good salmon sushi in KL. It's mind-boggling.

To put into perspective, salmon sushi served by Sakae Sushi, sushi restaurant that targets the masses with relatively cheap sushi, is among the top 5 best in KL in my opinion. I can't find 5 proper Japanese restaurants, fine-dining included, that serve better sushi than Sakae.

Penang street art

One morning, I followed my sister's family to drop by a few places in Georgetown to see the famous Penang street art done by a famous artiste:

Penang street art (i)

There were quite a lot of people taking photos with these art. Interactive art in action and being good at it too.


Penang street art 3

We were pretty sure this wasn't done by the same artiste but nevertheless I think it's interesting...and disturbing at the same time.


Unusual cafe front

Incredibly lifelike, isn't it? Can you imagine drawing such lifelike impression? No? Hehehe. No-lah, this isn't a drawing. This is a cafe near one of those interactive art. Looks like it doesn't open in the morning.

The Three Investigators

On my trip to Penang last month, I managed to read this book:

3 investigators

It jolted vague memories of me reading books from the series many decades ago and yet I don't recall Alfred Hitchcock's "guest-starring" character in any of them. Is he in every single Three Investigators book?

Yoko Kanno "Ghost in the Shell Stand Alone Complex: Inner Universe"



This type of song is not my usual cup of tea but I absolutely love this particular song.

I'd Really Love To See You Tonight


Lyrics | Dan Seals lyrics - I'd Really Love To See You Tonight lyrics

Guns in US

Writer Peter Boyer (1999) describes how similar misperceptions of risk are fostered by the gun lobby in the United States, which tries to keep the public focused on vivid cases of "intruders" coming through the doors of households. The not-so-subtle subtext here is that you lower your risk by having a gun to protect yourself. Boyer (1999) points to the irony that the gun industry tries to focus attention on "guns in the hands of bad people" when the actual statistics show that the real problem is "guns in the hands of good people". Criminals do not account for most gun deaths in this country. There are actually more suicides with guns than there are homicides with guns. Most gun deaths are unintentional shooting and suicides - which is why research indicates that bringing a gun into a home actually increases family risk (Miller, Azrael, & Hemenway, 2002).

- How To Think Straight About Psychology by Keith E. Stanovich


Penang food in Penang

It had been years since I ate in Penang. In fact, if I discount that one plate of char kuay teow ("CKT") I had few years back when I was in transit, then the last time I had proper multiple food dishes in Penang was nearly a decade ago!

Kimberly St corner coffeeshop

Unfortunately, I do not know the name of the coffeeshop that served this delicious plate of chee cheong fan and aromatic thick coffee. It was a corner shop along Kimberly Street. The chee cheong fan, unlike the ones I had so far in my life, had prawn paste (used in rojak) as well as the normal sweet sauce.

Food and drink were great but what really made my morning was the people working at the shop. They were polite, humble and very helpful. I definitely want to be its regular customer :)


Penang famous CKT

This is the famous CKT that my family, especially my sister, rave about. We were asked whether we could wait for an hour for it @_@. It came after 45 mins. It is expensive, costing RM7.50 for the small plate. The plate above was RM9, I think, and it came with 5 big yummy prawns. Unfortunately, I did not share my family's enthusiasm for it. It was a little salty and oily for my liking. I can name 2 places in PJ/KL that serve better ones. Perhaps it was cooked by the lady's assistant? She has an assistant who doubled as chef as well.

The only variations you can have with your order is size and spicy/non-spicy. If you want to vary anything else (e.g. no beansprout), you will be asked to leave. Really, seriously. In fact, my father overheard the lady telling her worker to get rid of people asking for non-standard CKT.

I will give it a try again next time but hopefully will not need to wait that long.


Penang roti bakar_kukus

This small elongated coffeeshop in an alley is famous for its roti bakar. What I find interesting was that unlike other toasted bread served elsewhere, this one was lightly toasted and it was still soft within. However, I prefer its steam bread, which was even softer. Its half-boiled egg was so-so but it was the first time I had it in a cup, rather than in a saucer.

Total waiting time? Nearly an hour! I wouldn't do that again, especially since it's quite expensive.

Oh, do look at the device they use to toast and steam bread (on the right side of the photo above): at the bottom is where they toast the bread (someone is usually there, I supposed, to make sure it's lightly toasted) and the top half is where they steam bread inside (the other top half is hot water for coffee).


Penang Teochew chendol

What astounds me nowadays is that chendol almost everywhere has rough ice. It's difficult to get smoothly shaven ice chendol. Fortunately, it is not the same case for these Teochew chendol. I still don't know why it's called Teochew chendol and couldn't ascertain its distinctive feature. It had the right texture and taste.

My only complain is its inconsitent QC. In the above photo, the chendol at the top was served first while the bottom one was served later. Vast difference.

Case studies & testimonials

Instead, what is important is to understand the fact that Piaget's case studies did not prove anything but, rather, suggested incredibly fruitful areas for developmental psychologists to investigate.
......
The goal of experimental design is to structure events so that support of one particular explanation simultoneously disconfims other explanations.
......
Case studies and testimonials stand as isolated phenomena. They lack the comparative information necessary to prove that a particular theory or therapy is superior. It is, thus, wrong to cite a testimonial or a case study as support for a particular theory or therapy. Those who do so mislead the public if they do not point out that such evidence is open to a wide range of alternative explanations (emphasis mine). In short, the isolated demonstration of a phenomenon may be higly misleading. This point can be illustrated more specifically by the example of placebo effects.


- 'How To Think Straight About Psychology' by Keith E. Stanovich

Mage Knight

I have played this game many times especially during the week where our friend left the game with Ban and I.

This benefited us a lot as we spent time discussing rules and strategies. Ban went further and read other people's view online. In fact, he has gotten so good at the game that I dub him the Mage Knight ("MK") God hehe. He's been winning almost every single MK game.


Mage Knight 5

This was one of the earlier games we played, I believed, where I won playing Goldyx :) Ban was at 2nd place.


Mage Knight 6

Thereafter, Ban has been winning almost every single game, be it just playing with me or with our friends. The above was one of the rare exceptions where I won playing Goldyx again. My score (as indicated by the green token at the top left) was off the chart, so to speak hehe.

Below were the units I had.

Mage Knight 8


Funny how I don't have photos of the games where I didn't win, eh? ;)

A Ban moment

Recently, after spending nearly a week in Penang, I arrived at One Utama. Ban was already there to get me but as agreed beforehand, at my request, we had some food at Ichiro Sushi Bar @ Eat Paradise.

The salmon sushi was quite nice but pricey given its portion (but definitely better than the miserable ones at Dontaku!) while the amaebi was the best I had so far in Malaysia. The edamame was fresh and sweet.

We took our time eating and chatting, while drinking green tea. Later, we had some gelato elsewhere. It then struck me that it we accidentally went on a date haha :) It was very nice, taking things slowly and chatting.

Once at his place, I took a nap shortly as I didn't have a good sleep the night before in Penang. When I woke up and went to the kitchen to get some water, I noticed both rubbish bins were full. I then did my usual complaining to Ban (n.b. this happens nearly each time I come back after being away for a few days).

Ban, who was doing some work on his laptop, laughed a little and said, "Welcome home, dear."

Hehe :)

Who needs gaydar...

...when you have this parenting guide on how to spot gays and lesbians:

For gays:
  • Muscular body and a fondness for showing off the body by wearing clothing, such as by wearing V-necks and sleeveless tops
  • A preference for tight and bright coloured clothes
  • An inclination to be attracted to men
  • A tendency to carry big handbags, similar to the kinds used by women
For lesbians:
  • Showing attraction to women
  • Distancing themselves from women other than their girlfriends
  • A preference for hanging out, sleeping and dining with women
  • Absence of feelings for men

These guidelines were introduced during a seminar in Malaysia, on 12 September 2012, on “Parenting in addressing the issue of LGBTs (lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgenders)” organised by Yayasan Guru Malaysia Bhd and Putrajaya Consultative Council of Parents and Teachers Association and allegedly endorsed by Malaysia Education of Ministry. At the very least, the seminar was officiated by Deputy Education Minister.

I guess I do not need to train my gaydar any more, thanks to this guide :P

P.S: In case anyone thought I was serious, no I'm not! This guide is ridiculous!


3rd anniversary

Dearest Ban,

Happy 3rd anniversary! It has been 3 wonderful years and yet it seems we have been together only for a short while. There have been many ups and downs but definitely more ups than downs. Thanks for loving me and making me laugh every single day when I'm with you.

I love you. Muack!

Interlocking sudoku

This was published in the June edition of The Actuary magazine. It was my first time seeing such sudoku puzzle. So interesting. It was easier to complete it than I thought. I wish I had done it earlier and submitted my solution for a chance to win a prize hehe.

Multisudoku

The return of Everquest

Couple of weeks ago, Ban told me about Guild Wars 2. A few friends we know were planning to get it (one just did). I even watched a video of a review about it, together with Ban. It seems to be a very promising MMORPG (Ban and I are always on a lookout for games we can play together) and yet it's subscription-free!

Unfortunately my laptop's specification does not meet the minimum system requirement. Incidentally, my laptop doesn't meet minimum or recommended requirement for Diablo 3, Skyrim and Batman: Arkham City. Lol. Oh well. I sure not going to purposely buy new laptop just to play games. Besides, I'm focusing on accumulating money after spending tonnes on renovating the house my parents are staying in and also repair of the apartment in Singapore.

With the advent of subscription-free MMORPG, there's murmuring about the death of subscription-based MMORPG. Out of curiousity, I checked Everquest to see. To my great surprise, it is still alive! In addition, in conjuction with its 13th birthday and the release of its 18th expansion, it was made free!

Ok, it is not as great as it sounds because there are 3 tiers: Free-to-Play ("F2P"), Silver and Gold. It takes only a one-time payment of USD5 to upgrade from F2P to Silver but the difference is quite great, notably: bag slot increases from 4 to 6 and in-game money limit increases from 100 platinum pieces ("pp") to 500pp per level. Gold gives full access at a subscription fee of nearly USD15 per month. I sure am not going that route.

Both F2P and Silver allow players to choose from only 4 races and 4 classes. However, for former subscriber like me, my account (my characters are still there!) is automatically upgraded to Silver and I get to use my old characters :)

The great news is that my laptop's system easily meets the recommended requirement. After much thinking, I decided to give it a try again, more out of nostalgia than anything. Ban gamely decided to join me as well. I'll be playing my level 25 druid and am now waiting for Ban to finish his newbie quest before he 'graduates' and joins me in the world outside.

As to whether I'll stay long this time, only time will tell. Hey, it's free. So if I get bored, I can leave it and maybe get back in again...in another 8 years again? Hehehe.

New venue

For the pen & paper games that Ban and I are in (Ironclaw and Dungeons & Dragons (D&D)), they were used to be held at Mage Cafe. However, the owner of the shop decided to take back the shop and the operator (a very nice lady) just wanted to concentrate on her catering and soap business.

So the hunt was on for alternative venue for the D&D games (Ironclaw had concluded few months ago). For the games that we're in, Ban offered his apartment as a venue. Our initial concern was the number of people but the first try went rather well in my opinion.

In addition, we have also been playing Mage Knight (incidentally, we do not own that game; a friend's friend does) with some friends at Ban's place as well.

As a beneficial side effect, I have been sweeping and cleaning most parts of the apartment each time before guests arrive as it can get really dusty here. I know I could just do it on a smaller area e.g. the kitchen and the dining table where the game is held but once I start, I usually will go on to other area hehe.

So, not only do these games improve our cognitive function by geting us to socialise, strategise and learning new stuff, they also induce exercise (sweep and mop) that results in a cleaner home :)

Different wavelength


a cat-and-dog life

One day, while Ban and I were playing Mage Knight with a friend...

Me: Can I do this, this and that so that I can have such and such effects?
Ban: If you do that, then that and that will happen.
Me: Huh? So I can lah.
Ban: Yes, but then ruff ruff ruff ruff.
Me: Oh, I understand. So meow meow meow meow lah.
Ban: No, you don't understand. Ruff ruff ruff ruff!
Me: Comes to the same thing mah. Meow meow meow meow, right?
Ban: Gah, nevermind.
Me: Meow?
Friend: You guys are on different wavelength lah.
Ban: Yah, it's like dog talking with a cat. *did puppetry with his hands conjuring imaginary conversation between a dog and a cat*
Me: *LOL*

Longest boardgame

Which boardgame did you take the longest time to complete?

Some games can be very long if followed traditionally e.g. Monopoly and Risk where the standard way of completing the game is to have one single winner. Others can be completed in a short time especially if players are experienced e.g. Blokus.

I don't usually time the boardgames I play. If I ever play games such as Monopoly or Risk, I would only play them with some house rules so as to speed things up e.g. the game ends when 1 player goes bankrupt in Monopoly.

That was until I played Eclipse recently. That took around 3 hours, 4 hours? I couldn't remember because that quickly was overtaken by the next game: Mage Knight. Three of us took a glorious 8 hours to complete the full conquest scenario @_@

Ok, ok. To be fair, we were all fairly new players to that. It was only our 4th time for Ban and I and the 3rd time for a friend of ours. But still...

Mage Knight is a game where you play as a conqueror in a fantasy world. You start of with a deck of 16 basic action cards (1 of them is unique to that character) and then you build your deck subsequently with addion of advanced action cards and spells through leveling, purchase and conquest. Along the way, you can also purchase units to help you with your battles in most areas.

Regardless of the scenario selected for play, there is always an end to the game in spite of the progress made by each player i.e. the game will still end even if players fail to achieve the scenario's objective. So what really determines the length of the game is the time taken for players to plan and execute their actions.

In our opinion (Ban's and mine), the rules could be simplified a lot more and yet still retain its richness. Some rules are just unnecessarily complicated.

Despite this, we enjoy playing this game thoroughly.


Mage Knight 1

Mage Knight 2

Mage Knight 4

Mage Knight 5

Protection against mozzies

At the beginning
Mozzies were common unwelcome visitors at Ban's place. At first, we this this electrical device that supposedly could repel insects (or, at higher setting, rats). Failed miserably. Made in China.

Partial victory
Next, we tried using Repel MOS from Causway i.e. a repellant made of lemongrass, I believed. It worked 50% of the time during the day but it was no match fo night time mozzies. We had to close all doors at dusk. This made his place a little stuffy and hot. Since I didn't like using aircon (not good for my sinus and throat), we used a standing fan, which incidentally also helped to repel mozzies.

Juncture
When both of us were infected with dengue fever one after another (about 2 months apart), Ban resolved to get insect screens installed in his place. Meanwhile, we closed doors even earlier i.e. at 4pm and would be earlier if it was raining. I notice mozzies love coming indoor when it rains. After much procrastination that ended with a show of frustration on my part regarding the importance of our health, he managed to hire some people to install the screen within a week of making an appointment.

Great victory
Since then, life was so much better. We could leave our doors, including the balcony's, open to allow air circulation and enjoy whatever breeze there was. We didn't need to use any repellant.

Intrusion again
However, this peaceful life was broken when we discovered that mozzies were waiting at the front door to take every opportunity to come indoor whenever someone walked in or out. Goodness! One would think they were intelligent or something.

Fixed
At first, we tried to tell everyone to go in/out as quickly as possible but darn mozzies were very quick. Ban then had a brillian idea: use Repel MOS just outside the front door. It worked marvellously :)

We also recently discovered that they were also waiting at the balcony, ready to pounce in the moment the screen door was open. We hardly open that door and so it is not a big issue.

?!
What's up with these mozzies and their die-hard attitude to get in here? With some sort of strategy too!

Planners

Introduction
I dub my sisters and I "Planners". People may mistaken us as control freaks but they are misguided. Our actions are a result of us being Planners.

Who are Planners? We plan for the future. Not only for the next 1 or 2 steps but several steps ahead, at the very least. Sometimes we plan for decades ahead. We not only plan to achieve goals that are beneficial for our loved ones and us but also plan for actions to be taken should adverse incidents happen to thwart those goals. I'm not alluding to incidents with small probability ala earthquake in Malaysia but incidents with significant probabilities and mostly those with at least 50% chance of happening.

Mind you, when presented with evidence that our goal is no longer desirable, we do not hesitate to change it or dump it. We are not that stubborn.

Example
A simple example: if I know I'll be out for at least 1.5 hours, I will bring a small backpack containing the following (with their reasons written in brackets): a lightweight jacket (in case it's cold; I get sick easily when it's cold), a bottle of water (I get thirsty easily and water is the best quencher), umbrella (in case it rains, which is quite common in Malaysia/Singapore) and a "pharmacy kit" containing various medication for illness I have from time to time.

More often than not, people laugh at the content of my backpack ("Are there gold bars in your bag?"). I've learned long ago to ignore such ridicule because I know it's just logical to bring those items. It is a result of years of experiement and experience. You know what's ironic? When these people are sick, guess who provide them with medication? Oh, how about when it's raining? Who lend them umbrella? Half of the time, they automatically ask me.

Loved ones
A more complicated example would be one that involved other people. As we have loved ones, we have shared goals with them but not necessarily both parties take the same (number of) steps to achieve the goals. Planners could envisage probable pitfalls and take steps to avoid them but then are dismayed by their loved ones nonchalant attitude. Sometimes we give in but when those pitfalls occur (I assure it they occur about 50% of the time), we generally do not shout in triumph and say, "Told you so!". Instead, we despair and sometimes feel guilty because we have already forseen them and yet couldn't persuade our loved ones to follow our recommended steps. This is even worse for life and death situation where the "death" part can reasonably occur years ahead if small little steps are not taken now and yet our loved ones ignore such "little steps".

Thus the alternating emotion of frustraion and despair/guilt. It's exhausting.

Compromise
We come to a point where we acknowledge that people around us are simply not ready to be Planners too or to even consider cooperating with Planners. On a side note, usually these steps are explained and even agreed by others to be logical but for various reasons they simply do not take those steps. Mind-boggling.

So we have to compromise by lowering down our standard and expectation although that makes us feel uneasy. Yet, it turns out that that is still not enough! It is simply not low enough. We get frustrated because if we lower it any further, we might as well throw it out of the window and be damned with the adverse consequences - even if it's early death (I'm not exaggerating here; early death is a real possibility with a loved one of mine).

Status update
I don't know about my sisters but for me, I accept the fact that people around me are simply not ready. I'll still be a Planner for things that are well within my control. For other things, I'll do my best, explain the logic and pray that my loved ones understand and do their best. Pray fervently.

Perspective from loss

His death taught me that if I had an residual feelings of discomfort that he was gay, they didn't matter two hoots compared with losing him. I'd like people to think about that. Death sure puts things into context for you.

- Anne Gregory, writing about her gay son who died about 8 years after he came out to her.

GM-ing & playing

After having hosted a few sessions of DnD and played many sessions of games hosted by other GMs, I conclude that it is very useful for every player to try hosting a game, even for a short while. This would enable them to see from a GM's point of view and hopefully helps the games go smoother too.

A GM prepares the following
(1) The main and minor storylines that then provide 'quests'
(2) The various encounters, both combat and off-combat
(3) Setting scenes e.g. the environment, village, NPCs, sound, smell
(4) Enemies of the PCs
(5) Appropriate maps
(6) Alternate/backup plans (this probably causes the most grief)

A GM also has to manage players to ensure the game goes as smoothly as possible. The most ostentatious behaviour is the disruptive one e.g. player arguing over rules, questioning his team mates actions all the time, making his character doing very disruptive actions in-game.

The player may meant well (likely trying to get his party to have highest chance of success) but may not realise how disruptive his behaviour his. Perhaps he would be enlightened after hosting a game himself.

Not only that, players who have hosted games may appreciate better the effort the GM puts in into prepraring the game and could also provide feedback and suggestions to the GM on how to improve his game.

In any case, the best thing to do is to have both parties provide feedback to each other and constructively. Obviously that requires both parties to be open to feedback. I personally would ask the following feedback after every session of my game:
  • What should I continue doing?
  • What should I stop doing? 
  • What should I start doing?

LGBT in Russia needs help

Recently, I received an e-mail from AllOut.org:

Russian leader Vladimir Putin is on a rampage against human rights.

Friday morning we learned that Putin's courts formally banned Pride marches for 100 years in Moscow. Then the news broke that anti-gay activists are using the government's gay gag laws to sue Madonna for $10,000,000 in "moral damages" because she spoke up for gay Russians in a concert this week. If that wasn't enough, punk band Pussy Riot was sentenced just this morning to two years in prison for speaking out against the government. The judge cited "homosexual propaganda" as one reason to bring the hammer down on the three young women - two of them moms.
Enough is enough. In days Putin is going to be face to face with all the leaders of the world at a high profile, media packed United Nations Meeting in New York.  If we move fast, we can ignite a global media firestorm that embarrasses Putin's government and gets his allies and corporate backers to push him to change course - freeing Pussy Riot and ending the crackdown against LGBT Russians. 

Will you take just one minute to stand up with our friends in Russia? Every voice counts and it will take a tidal wave of support to force leaders around the world to act:
www.allout.org/RussianRiot

It's like Putin's government is trying to make enemies. When the first bill to shut up lesbian, gay, bi and trans activists was passed in St. Petersburg, many thought it would never be enforced. To date, there's been over 75 arrests under the gay gag rule - and now the members of feminist punk band Pussy Riot are among its most famous accused.

Putin's Russia is a silenced dome - the one remaining pressure point is to publicly shame him and the actions of his government in front of the leaders of every country around the world.  With Pride officially banned, gays formally silenced in St. Petersburg and Pussy Riot shipped off to prison, Putin is counting on his critic's voices to fade away.  He is counting on us to shut up.  Our first petition against St. Petersburg's gay gag rule reached over 272,000 people - but we think we can double that.

This goes way beyond Russia. Once the first gay gag rule passed in St. Petersburg, more were passed in regions around Russia with another proposed at the national level. Then it spread. In partnership with Ukrainian activists, we've already shelved a similar law in Ukraine, for now. And there are even more proposed in Hungary, Moldova and Lithuania.

President Putin doesn't want to be on the "world's most hated" list while he's attending cocktail parties at the UN - let's make sure he can't avoid the riot. With your voice, we can build the largest petition ever delivered to a world leader at the UN - will you sign now?
www.allout.org/RussianRiot

Thanks for going All Out.
 
Best,
Andre, Hayley, Pablo, Sara, Tile and the rest of the team at All Out.
 
SOURCES:
Russian band given 2-year term for stunt deriding Putin
www.nytimes.com/2012/08/18/world/europe/suspense-ahead-of-verdict-for-jailed-russian-punk-band.html?_r=1
Madonna sued for gay rights stance by Russian campaigners
www.guardian.co.uk/music/2012/aug/17/madonna-sued-gay-rights-russia?newsfeed=true

Gay parades banned in Moscow for 100 years
www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-19293465

 

All Out is bringing people together in every corner of the planet and of every identity - lesbian, gay, straight, bisexual, transgender and all that’s between and beyond - to build a world in which everyone can live freely and be embraced for who they are.
Our mailing address is:
Purpose Foundation
224 Centre St
New York, NY 10013
Copyright © 2012 AllOut.org, All rights reserved.


I've read the sources and they appear to be genuine. Please support them by signing the petition.


Unsolved sudoku #3


Unsolved sudoku 3

This is the 3rd sudoku puzzle I couldn't solve and, understandably, they are all from the Diabolical category. I gave up after 1hr 15 mins, especially it was already lunch time.

I'm not satisfied with how I solved most of the Diabolical puzzles because it usually involved guessing, rather than strategy. Humph!