My Child Is Gay

'My child is gay: how parents react when they hear the news' is a book (edited by Bryce McDougall) consists of a "collection of letters written by parents who have first-hand experience of that moment. These letters were written to be shared - to help other parents come to terms with unfamiliar feelings. They have also proved invaluable to the concerned young person contemplating the best way to come out."

Ban's mum lend this book to me, perhaps to help me and my parents if I should choose to come out to my parents. I have read over 40 pages of it so far. Each letter is short and so it's easy to just read one or two regularly.

Recently I came across this advice to other parents, prefacing the letter, given by a mother from rural New South Wales in Australia:
Enjoy your children, straight or gay. Have fun with them - life is too short to be angry and upset because they have not fulfilled your dreams of them. They are all individuals and must be respected for this.

Tortoise. Prawn. Crabs

I was dining at Damansara Village (excellent steamboat!) when I saw these in their water tanks:

Tortoise

The biggest tortoise I've seen in any restaurant. I don't think it's food stuff. Hope not. It looked ancient. It peaked out the water to look at me. I didn't dare to wave my hand closer in case it had really long neck :P


Prawn crabs

It looked like the prawn was trying to escape from the tank full with crabs hehe.

Edited on 28 Jun 2012: Should be 'Damansara Village' and not 'Damansara Legend'.

Bread: Sponge & Dough Method

My sister commented that although the bread I baked was quite delicious, it became hard quite fast. This is consistent with my own observation. Hence, she suggested that I consider a recipe from her bread recipe book: the sponge and dough method.

A brief description of the method, as stated in the book, is as follows:

This method needs a longer preparation time, first of all a sponge dough is prepared which needs to prove for 2-4 hours or even longer. After a second mixing, it has a 15 minutes rest. Then it is divided, mould it round, then fill it with filling and shaped. This method produces a softer, bigger loaf which keeps longer.
One notable difference in recipe (as compared to the basic one I've been using) is the inclusion of egg. Also, it supposed to have butter too but since Ban doesn't take butter, I've replaced it with olive oil.

I tried it on the day I read the recipe. Due to time constraint, I shorten the proving time by about 1 - 1.5 hours and so was a little worried how it turned out. The dough was very soft and elastic. The bread was soft and delicious but a tad sweeter than I would have liked it to be.

I gave some of it to my sister to try. She loves it! In fact, to our surprise, it lasted for much longer than your typical factory-made bread. When we both finished the bread, it was already around 1.5 weeks and yet it wasn't spoilt.

So the description was very accurate: softer, bigger and last longer.

For the second loaf, I tried to follow all the timing that was stated in the recipe i.e. longer proving time than the first time but lessen the sugar content just a tad. Strangely, I personally found the bread to be not as soft as the first loaf but still far softer than the basic bread. Hmmm...I now begin to suspect that this could be due to inclusion of heavier amount of wholemeal flour compared to the first one.


2nd sponge dough 1

2nd sponge dough 2

Ironclaw: Porcupine fire mage Part 3

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Gifts

Besides the Gifts that came with Career and Species, I also got to choose 3 additional Gifts at the start.

Ban highly recommended Resolve, which allowed my character to use Will die as additional soak die. Soak dice are like pseudo-hit points i.e. every die can potentially offset a point of damage. The default soak die is only the Body die. So if the damage is, say, 2, then for certain 1 damage will get through. Hence, the more soak dice, the better!

Next, I took Secrets of Fire Magic, which allows my character to have a free refresh action for Ignite Fire (staple spell), Move Fire and Pilum of Fire, as long as the fire mage is wearing the red robe. Also, it increased the Presence skill mark by 1 i.e. from d8 to d10.

Lastly, I took Increased Trait: Will which increased chance of success for landing Fire Magic spells and also increased the bonus soak die.

Equipment

The important equipment are:

Robe - essential in enabling the free refresh allowed by Secrets of Fire Magic

Leather armour - yet another bonus soak die i.e. a d6 but at the cost of being burdened simply because my character is wearing both a robe and a leather armour. This means that he cannot dash and his running distance is reduced too. So during battle, he normally has to stride or sprint.

Wooden shield - provides cover die of d8 when dodging.

Hooded lantern - not only is this needed to see better in the dark but it's also a source of fire for my character should he wants to use Move Fire.

Additional Gifts

So far, through the award for Gifts (some retrained) and experience points, I have selected the following Gifts/Skill marks:

Pilum of Fire - was awarded for the first goal. It's a significant upgrade of Ignite Fire but need the additional action of Aim.

Increased Trait: Species - increased Species die from d6 to d8, which meant that the associated Climbing, Digging (for Earth Magic spells) and Presence (for Fire Magic spells) dice were also increased to d8. This also enabled me to have the option of choosing Invulnerable Hide and Reserves of Vitality from the Atavisim section, where Species Trait of at least d8 is a prerequisite

d6 in Negotiation skill & Fast Talk gift - by then, I wanted my character to be more useful during non-combat situations. I chose Negotiation skill, complemented with the Fast Talk gift, because it also used the Will die, which is a d10 for the porcupine fire mage. Great combination I have to say.

Doctor - this was chosen so that my character could keep his end of the bargain to heal a prisoner. By now, I'm glad this happened because it is very useful in treating injured allies outside towns where one doesn't have access of service of a physician or get recuperative food, bath or lodging. In fact, even an Almoner (a.k.a. cleric) should get this because almost all Almoner's healing spells cannot be used on himself (stupid, isn't it?).

Veteran - this was the second awarded Gift that I didn't retrain. It increased the dice for Aim (an action needed to cast Pilum of Fire) and Guard action.

Sunburst - my first area effect spell that not only causes normal damage but also blinds the victims. Excellent status effect!

Mystic: Elementalism - I thought long and hard about getting this. It is basically an additional die for Academics, Gossip, Inquiry, Negotiation and Supernatural skills concerning Elementalism. I don't view it to be terribly useful. However, in the end I chose it because it is a prerequisite for Fire Clout and Fire Mnemonic.

Fire Clout - besides getting an additional skill mark in Presence (i.e. d10 to d12!), this Gift can be exhausted after casting any Fire spell to get additional 2d8 for the roll. Great, especially for casting resist spell like Sunburst.

Yamada Japanese Restaurant @ Subang Jaya

Upon William's recommendation, Ban and I went to have dinner at Yamada recently. Consistent with William's observation, there was no need to make reservation. In any case, we arrived just minutes after they were open.

My first major issue with the restaurant was the waitress' insistence that I couldn't request a change of sashimi within a set. As usual, if it is confirmed there is either squid or octopus sashimi/sushi, I would request it be changed to any other sashimi/sushi (I wouldn't even mind egg sushi!). Fortunately, a senior waitress intervened and corrected the waitress by saying that there was no squid or octopus sashimi in the set meal I was interested in.

The set (RM67 + 10% service charge) I ordered included (sorry no photos!):

(1) Salad

Shredded fresh vegetables with thousand island sauce. I usually would request without sauce but I forgot this time. It was ok, although some leafy vegetables and cherry tomatoes would make it better.

(2) Shredded lightly sauced seaweed

To my surprise, it wasn't pickled. Not bad but no wow factor there.

(3) Chawanmushi

This is my other major issue: it tasted like normal Chinese steam egg, which on its own wasn't bad but fell way below expectation of Japanese steam egg. Even chawanmushi in, say, Sakae Sushi easily beat this one. Very disappointed

(4) Grilled gindara (cod fish) with teriyaki sauce

The saving grace of the dinner. I was about to ban the restaurant after eating the chawanmushi but changed my mind immediately after eating the grilled cod fish. The fish is smooth and soft, grilled lightly with light teriyaki sauce. It even pvershadowed the sashimi. Very highly recommended.

(5) Salmon, tuna and white tuna sashimi

The quality of sashimi was better than average. I am sensitive to the fishy smell and taste of tuna (due to 2 bad experience in Singapore) but this one was thick, juicy and had no fishy smell/taste. Likewise for the white tuna. The salmon sashimi was quite good but strangely it was smaller than the tuna. In fact, I believed it was one of the smallest salmon sashimi I ever had in a fine-dining Japanese restaurant. Mildly disappointing.

(6) Udon in soup

It was the first time I had flat udon. Tasted vaguely similar to the flat thick pan mee. Nevertheless, the noodle and the soup combination was good. It had much more fried garnishing than the usual udon soup.

(7) Rice

No comment.

(8) Fruits

No comment.

I couldn't resist but to order 1 piece of salmon sushi (RM4+ per piece), which I usually consider as a benchmark for comparison. I am so glad I ordered it because it is by far the best salmon sushi I had in Malaysia.

Before I left, I did give my compliment with regard to the cod fish and salmon sushi.

I am still a little unhappy about not able to request not having squid/octopus sashimi/sushi in a set (if it's present) but since the salmon sushi is very good and reasonably priced for a fine-dining restaurant, I can always order ala carte sushi. In any case, the set was a little too much for me and it was one of the smaller sets.

For certain, I will go back there again to at least have salmon sushi!

Ironclaw: Porcupine fire mage Part 2

(continue from this post)

Skill marks

Aside from dice provided by Career (d8 for Academics, Observation and Supernatural) and by Species (d6 for Climbing, Digging and Presence), there were 13 skill marks to allocate to any Skills I wanted. Initially, I spread the marks across a variety of Skills but later I followed Ban's advice to (once again) focus on as few Skills as possible that would enchance my character. Note that the maximum skill marks is 3 (a d8 die) per Skill.

A key skill that Ban strongly advised me to invest in was the Dodge skill. In dodging attacks, by default a character has only Speed die. So extra die from Dodge skill is very useful.

The rest of the skill marks were allocated to the Skills associated with Career and Species i.e. 3 marks each in
  • Academics
  • Presence
and 2 marks each in
  • Digging
  • Supernatural
On hindsight, I should have allocated marks to Observation rather than Supernatural because the former is more widely used than the latter and also complements the Keen Nose Gift (discussed later).

Gifts

Porcupine comes with the following Gifts:
  • Coward
  • Keen nose
  • Quills
I view Coward favourably as it can be used as a means to run away hehe but thankfully I didn't need to use it yet. Keen nose had been useful on a few occasions but only if my Observation skill check was successful, which was why I mentioned earlier that I wished I had allocated some skill marks to Observation. Quills could be useful if for some reasons my character had to perform brawling attack, especially since I could use quills on the arms or head and thus negate the need to put away the wand or shield.

Elementalist comes with the following Gifts:
  • Elementalist's Trappings: Red
  • Elemental Apprentice
  • Literacy
The first two Gifts are needed to access Fire Magic spells. The trappings also comes with a wand, among other things, which is very useful because it has no range penalty.

Literacy's usefulness is quite subtle. In any party, there should be at least one person with this Gift so that the party can read anything they come across. It is also a keystone Gift that opens up other Gifts.

Ironclaw: Porcupine fire mage Part 1

When I first started to generate my character, I willingly accept Ban's guidance in this matter. The sequence outlined in the book is as follows:
  • Traits
  • Species
  • Career
  • Personality
  • Skill marks
  • Gifts
  • Name
  • Motto
  • Equipment
  • Goal
Career

Instead of following the book, Ban suggested that I look at Career first. In the end I picked Elementalist and so the next step was to choose which elemental to specialist in. It's not a must but it's better to specialist so as to focus on the Trait and Skills that matter.

I chose to specialise in Fire Magic because of one key feature of some of its spells: the ability to set people On Fire - a feature that is available even for its basic spell. The victim will suffer ongoing damage for as long as this status is in effect.

Then we both looked at the various spells to determine the Trait and Skill they are dependent on. It turns out that all Fire Magic spells depend on only two things: Will (Trait) and Presence (Skill). On hindsight, this is great compared to, say, the Green & Purple Magic where its spells depend on different Skills and thus makes it much harder to allocate skill marks later.

Species
From the above, it was then a matter of selecting a Species that maximised the Skill needed i.e. Presence. There are a few species that have Presence but I chose porcupine because it has also Digging skill, which is needed to cast Body Magic spells. I thought it was good to have a secondary set of spells in case of, say, resistance to Fire Magic spells.

Traits
Next is the allocation of 2 d8s, 3 d6s and 1 d4 to the various Traits. First d8 naturally went to Will as it is used in all the Fire Magic spells. Second d8 went to Career as its associated Skills - Academics, Observation and Supernatural - looked useful. I could have given the second d8 to Species with the associated skills Climbing, Digging and Presence to maximise the dice for Presence (needed to cast Fire Magic spells) but on hindsight, the Career associated skills were more useful in non-combat situations while Climbing and Digging were virtually useless.

Then Ban asked me to determine the 'dump' statistic i.e. allocation of the solitary d4. Only Traits left by then were Species, Body, Speed and Mind. d4 is almost useless. It's physically difficult to roll a d4 dice and also in many situations, the hurdle to beat is 3. So d4 in Species was a waste because I did need decent dice for its associated Presence skill. Body determines soaking capability (pseudo health points in Ironclaw) while Speed determines dodging capability - both important features. Mind was not useful for this character and thus this became the dump statistic. Thus the 3 d6s went to Species, Body and Speed.

Household of sickness

Recently, I had a terrible bout of sickness: phlegmy cough and fever. Took some time to recover. Unfortunately, I infected Ban with it too :(

Here was his attempt to cheer me up (when he was still healthy):


Household of sickness

Made me laughed when he got me to look at it. Hehehe. Thanks honey!

A Darkness at Sethanon

Darkness at Sethanon

I recently finished reading the 4th and final instalment in the Riftwar saga. The ending was rather unsatisfying. Nobody in the story knew how they survived at the end or what saved them. It was hinted that this would be investigated later. Really? In which series?

Rebuke

One night, after Ban's Ironclaw session, one of the players, Kevin, asked some of us whether we could join a "one-shot" Ironclaw game hosted by him for his friends, whom he said that had never played the game. Kevin also asked us to help him with the rules. Ban and I agreed as we were keen (and still are) to get as many people play this game as possible. We were expecting that some time would be needed for character generation.

Later, it turned out that although they had never played it, they had read the book and even sort of created their characters. They then focused on writing this on a proper character sheet, while Kevin, Ban and I stood ready to help anyone. In fact, Ban was quite active in doing that :)

Wayne: Now, let's see. For my Almoner/Thaumatuge, I get bonus d12 for parrying with my rod.
Me: Hmmm hey, are you using a rod instead of a wand?
Wayne: Yup.
Me: Are you aware that a rod has penalty range whereas a wand has unlimited range?
Wayne: Yup, but I'm trying out this way.
Me: Oh, ok.
Chi: We have our own way of playing. Don't tell us how to play (and went off rambling about something in incomplete sentence).
Me: (whhh..at?)

I didn't bother to respond. So should I? I didn't because
  • I didn't want to create a scene and make it awkward for everyone there
  • I wanted to keep my word to help Kevin
  • Chi wasn't someone who mattered to me
On hindsight, he could also had misheard my conversation with Wayne and thus reacted that way. *shrug*

To Ban's and my surprise, it turned out that the "one-shot" hosting would be over 2 or 3 sessions. We politely declined to join them again as usually on that day we have another game to attend but was free that day because our game master was overseas.

Privately, Ban and I agreed that Kevin's friends' style of playing is not suitable for us. The amount of chaos they caused during non-combat situation was more than we would like. It's a pity because tactically they were good during the combat encounter.