Paladins: some stats

Here are interesting stats, with some commentary, of a few games:

Seris 1

Normally, team without at least a tank loses but the enemy team made up for it by playing so much better than our team, overall. Miraculously, we were on the verge of wining: we just needed to push the payload for like maybe 3 more seconds.

I remember I had to use my escape ability (as Seris) because was under fire. I went behind the enemies and noticed that they were focusing on keeping my team mates from advancing. Soon our tank, Torvald, died. However, there were no enemies at the payload. So I took advantage of my 5 seconds of stealth and invulnerability to push the payload to victory :)

Torvald 1

This time my team did so well that I didn't die at all hehehe. In fact, I dealt the most damage, as Torvald, and had the joint most eliminations.

Inara 1

As you can see, enemies put out stupendous amount of damage and high number of eliminations. At first, I tried to stay reasonably close to Makoa and Seris. Later, I tried to protect Seris. Didn't work so well.

Then midway through 3rd round, I decided to help our Viktor and Maeve because I noticed that enemies tend to kill them first before going after our tanks and support. I played much better from then onward. In the 3rd round, I told team that I would continue to do that.

Previously, I noticed one particular path that at least 1 enemy took to flank our Viktor and so I went on that path to deal with him. Yup, there were 2 of them. They retreated and thus our Viktor could focus on protecting our Makoa and Seris at point. I guess they too were desperate to play more often at point this time because whichever team that captured it would win.

We won though :) I was quite surprised that I had the highest eliminations and by far the highest damage too. Woot! The best Inara game so far.

Kimi-Ya & Inside Scoop

I almost forgot I had these photos and so by no I remember very little details about the food @@.

William and Derek arranged to meet Ban, Simonlover and I for dinner at Kimi-Ya chiefly because they couldn't make it for my birthday dinner.

Kimi-Ya

It was quite an expensive Japanese restaurant but the food was good. Sorry, forgot what I had haha.

Then we went next door to have ice-cream. Apparently it's established by an actuary!

Inside Scoop_1

Inside Scoop_2

Inside Scoop_3

Inside Scoop_4

Unfortunately they didn't have any sort of coffee ice-cream. I ended choosing 2 scoops of 2 different flavour, recommended by a staff there. I like them but would have preferred coffee ice-cream hehehe.

Atlas Reactor: Garrison 2

It's been nearly a year since I blogged about this freelancer. Since then, I have experimented a few combination of mods and my current favourite loadout is as follows:
(please refer to this Wikia for more details on his abilities and mods)

(1) Piston Punch - Force Capacitor (3 loadout points)

Haste on an ability with no cd! Great for FL to chase down enemies since most FLs *cough* Brynn *cough* have very short range on their primary abilities.

(2) Hand Cannon - unequipped

Unfortunately, there are no more loadout points left for this ability. Even Tracker Rounds would have been good. Also, with haste on primary, it's less of a problem to hit at least an enemy and so even though Big Shot is still a good mod, it's less important here.

(3) Missile Barrage - Double Trouble (3 loadout points)

Increased chance of hitting a few enemies. Often, I think, get more energy too.

(4) Heavy Metal - Frontline (2 loadout points)

25 shields until end of next turn is just too good to pass up. I know some players like to use Quake Slam for its root but I prefer shields for more survivability.

(5) Shockpod - Juiced up (2 loadout points)

More survivability for myself, my allies or both. I use it primarily for that purpose, rather than damage unless it can confirm kill(s). Of course as far as possible, I try to do both i.e. heal allies and damage enemies.


Here's a video of a recent gameplay. This was after I was away from the game for more than a week (was playing Paladin and trying to maximise the benefit of a booster).

Some breathing space

It's been about 9 months since the last false alarm. Yes, that's 9 months of missing rent! As briefly mentioned here, I finally have a tenant who not only signed a 2-year tenancy agreement but also at a rental rate that's slightly above the minimum rent that my agent and I agreed upon.

However, there are a few caveats:

(1) 6-month diplomatic clause
(2) Bidet spray in each of the 2 bathrooms
(3) New TV (which I've always wanted to replace anyway)
(4) One stand fan
(5) Replacement of an old single-bed mattress
(6) Tenant is required to service aircon once every 4 months, instead of once every 3 months, because they claim they won't be using much of it (there's just no easy way to check this, is there?)

Well, at least for the next 6 months, I will have rental income. I've asked my agent to continue to look for buyer though. Earning rental income is not worth it given the non-resident tax rate. In any case, all along I aim to start looking to sell it off starting from 2020 due to its age. It's a leasehold property and so I'm trying to sell before the inevitable relentless fall in price phase.

Paladins: Grohk 2

I rarely get Top Play and yet each time it happened, I almost always forgot to record it. The first time I remember was when I was playing Grohk. The next time I remember was exactly a week later when I was playing...Grohk too hahaha:



This time, however, I used a different build:
(for details on the abilities and cards, please refer to Paladins Wiki)

Build name: Gale
- main aim is to reduce cd of Healing Totem

Wraith legendary card
- for survivability because, frankly, the default Ghost Walk is not enough

Gale IV
Healing Rain IV
Outreach II
Totemic Rescue I
Haunting 1

To make up for the lack of healing (because not using Totemic Ward legendary card), I used Healing Rain IV.

Outreach II is to cover a larger area.

Haunting I is to reduce cd on Ghost Walk so that it's available again to be used to save myself as well as reduce cd of Healing Totem.

Totemic Rescue I is survivability.

Notably, I dropped Crackle because usually the increased duration does not give out as much benefit as I like to since Healing Totem's duration is naturally already 6s.

Paladins: Grohk

Grohk was either the first or second champion (mixed up with Seris hehehe) that I unlocked using in-game gold currency. He is now currently level 7.

The reason why I'm blogging about him instead of Seris (which I believed is a slightly better healer) is because I have only one video clip recorded and that's of him.

For details on his abilities, please refer to this information from Paladins Wiki.

My default build is as follows:

(1) Build name: Totemic Ward
- main aim of this build is to heal

Totemic Ward legendary card
- mainly for the increased amount of healing
- the 2s cc is a bonus

Outreach IV
- totem is always placed at your feet i.e. you can't just lob it to heal an ally in a distance
- this card is useful to increase the chance of  healing as many allies as possible
- also useful when you want to move back a little away from any intense exchange at the front and shoot from a safer distance

Crackle II
- more healing via increased duration

Shamanic Might II
- since he has to move close to ally in order to heal, increased hp helps him survive better

Totemic Rescue III
- with the increased hp above, his total hp is now 2900
- at, say, 20% max hp, he'll have a total life of 20%*2900 + 600 = 1180 for 4s
- should be able to withstand at least a single shot from a primary attack (Evie's primary shot damage is 900+)

Gale I
- you use Ghost Walk because you're in trouble and so this card enables you to get back Healing Totem asap to hopefully use it on yourself and allies soon


However, if I notice there are enemies whose ultimate abilities can pretty much kill me, then I use another build:

(2) Build name: Wraith
- main aim is to use the legendary card Wraith to survive such one-shot kill ultimate ability and yet have cards that help to buff up healing in the absence of the bonus 50% heal from legendary card Totemic Ward

Wraith legendary card

Outreach IV
Crackle II
Shamanic Might II
Gale I
- same reasons as in the Totemic Ward build

Healing Rain III
- for increased healing amount per second, to compensate for the loss of bonus healing from not using Totemic Ward

Paladins, Champions of the Realm

Recently, my online friend from Atlas Reactor, TheJoker, asked me to try playing Paladins. It's a game similar to Overwatch but with cards to customise the champion's playstyle (similar to Atlas Reactor's mod feature).

It has a free-to-play version where 8 champions are unlocked at the start. They are:

Fernando (front line)
Cassie (damage)
Drogoz (damage)
Kinessa (damage)
Tyra (damage)
Viktor (damage)
Pip (support)
Skye (flank)

You can then use in-game currency (gold), earned in game, to unlock other champions. You can also buy the game and unlock all current and future champions.

Here are the official website of Paladins, a wiki website I often refer to, and a deckbuilding website.

I like the game as much as Overwatch i.e. as much as a non-fps player would like :) It then comes to no surprise that, like Overwatch, I gravitate towards champions who do not require good aiming. One such champion, which I often play, is Grohk (support).

Here's my first short recording (because I kept forgetting!) of top play highlight featuring my Grohk, where I killed a few enemies while healing our front line, Inara, and myself in a circular area:

NVIDIA GPU not detected!

One day, my laptop inexplicably had BSOD (blue screen of death). Unfortunately, by now I have forgotten what the error code was @@.

Later, when I wanted to record a gameplay with GeForce Experience, I was told that a NVIDIA graphics card was needed. I was confused, of course, because my laptop has it! So I brought up Device Manager and there was no NVIDIA card among the display adapters! What's going on @@

So I performed a stress test using Dell's Support Assist and, as expected, everything was ok. Using their website, I was told all drivers were up to date.

I tried this and this set of steps that worked for others but not for me. In fact, the BIOS could not detect any discrete graphics card.

I thought maybe the graphics card had loosen and so just needed to be pushed back in. Unfortunately, I learned that for Alienware 14, it is soldered onto the motherboard @@.

I had no choice but to ask Dell for help via e-mail.

However, I can't remember how or why, I decided to try a system restore and voila! It worked! Phew.

Share investment Apr 17 Part 2

Here are the dividend yields on cost for shares that have paid out dividends:

Share investment Apr 17 Part 1

For ease of calculation, I've changed the method of calculating its denominator and it's erring on the conservative side i.e. likely underestimated.

There are 6 share counters with dividend yield less than 5%. ST Engineering is still yielding than 4% since the last update and it was just above 4% 2 years ago. Hmmm I'll observe for one more year given the change mentioned above. Kingsmen Creative and Silverlake Axis are also put in on my red list haha. Saizen Reit will be delisted soon.

Keppel Corp is experiencing hardship due to downturn in the O&G sector. Hopefully things will pick up soon.

The overall dividend yield on cost weighted by invested amount is now 5.6% but partly affected by the change in calculation method.

Here's the breakdown of my portfolio according to percentage of amount of investment in each share counter:

Share investment Apr 17 Part 2

Compared to a year ago, I've severely reduced holdings in Sembcorp Industries due to a glitch.

Here is the average cost of each share counter compared to its then prevailing price as at 21 April 2017:

Share investment Apr 17 Part 3

The most significant change is probably the huge increase in price of Venture. Oh wow. Unfortunately, I do not know why haha. Yes, yes, that's bad of me.

Here's the breakdown of my portfolio according to market value as at 21 April 2017:

Share investment Apr 17 Part 4

This is useful as a starting point for me to look at when deciding what to sell next.

Share investment Apr 17 Part 1

Time had been hard since the last update. Good new is that recently I managed to get tenant for my condo in Singapore. Yay! I still prefer to sell it though, given the extremely unfavourable tax rate on non-resident.

Due to absence of rental income for the past 8 months and the huge additional income tax that IRAS asked me to fork out, I had no choice but to divest some shares to pay for my expenses:

(1) Sold remaining SBS Transit shares since the first tranche of bus services was awarded to a foreign company. It would appear that being the incumbent was not good enough to win the tender. Morever, its dividend yield was still low. Managed to gain profit from this.

(2) Sold some Sembcorp Industries shares simply because it was the largest component of my share portfolio then. Unfortunately, due to momentary glitch I ended selling twice the amount that I wanted and hence I have very few shares left. Sembcorp Industries is still struggling amidst the fallout effects of the low oil & gas price. Sold at a huge loss.

(3) Next largest was Venture Corp shares, where its price had shot up dramatically over the past year. Trimmed its holding. Sold with profit.

(4) Sold significant number of M1 shares ever since a 4th license was awarded to operate in Singapore. M1 is the smallest telco in Singapore and its revenue comes exclusively from Singapore. It had cut dividend too. Its future is quite bleak. However, I left some shares there as a "wait and see" strategy. Perhaps there might be a buy-out? Sold with profit.


As at 21 Apr 17, I have investment in 26 companies (I've also indicated whether their source of business is solely in Singapore only or not):

AIMS-AMP Industrial REIT (Singapore only)
Ascott REIT
Ausnet Services
Boustead Singapore Ltd
Cache Logistics Trust (Singapore only)
CapitaCommercial Trust (Singapore only)
CapitaMall Trust (Singapore only)
CapitaRetailChina REIT
First REIT
Fraser Centrepoint Trust
Keppel Corp
Kingsmen Creatives
M1 (Singapore only)
SATS
SIA Engineering
Silverlake Axis
Singapore Press Holdings
Singapore Technologies Engineering
Saizen REIT
Second Chance Properties (Singapore only)
Sembcorp Industries
Singpost
SingTel
Singapore Shipping Corp
Venture Corp
VICOM (Singapore only)

Crusader Kings 2: a new high! (Part 4)

It was only in the immediate previous campaign that I "discovered" these statistics and only in this campaign that I made use of some of them.

CK2 25Mar17_13

Yes, as shown before in map format, Catholic was the overwhelming dominant religion in this campaign, in terms of realm size. Hardly a surprise since my realm, Empire of Alba (the largest realm!), HRE and Mongol Empire were overwhelmingly Catholic.

Shocking statistics: Hindu was the next dominant religion and the only other religion with 100 moral authority. Oh yes, Shia and Sunni had fallen a lot in this campaign. In fact, the heretical Sunni religion, Yazidi, was the most powerful Islamic religion here. Orthodox Christian was almost wiped off. Instead, its heretical religion of Paulician was 3rd most dominant religion, mainly due to Byzantium Empire.

CK2 25Mar17_14

In terms of realm size, I had the most by far (1214 vs 734) :)

CK2 25Mar17_15

In terms of demense size, it was my indirect vassal, Earl of Carrick, that had the most. His predecessors had consistently directly held 10 counties, with early adoption of Primogeniture succession law. I was surprised that his liege, a duke, didn't attempt to curtail his power or that the earl himself didn't attempt to take over the duke's title.

CK2 25Mar17_16

Almost all of them were my vassals. The notable exceptions were Duke Maoilios of Nidaros (Norway) and Duke Zula the Ill-Ruler (Abyssinia).

CK2 25Mar17_17

King Edward of England ruled over the largest realm by far among my direct vassals simply because the Kingdom of England was still quite huge despite a few counties ruled by others. He himself, however, had only 1 county within the kingdom. If the game had continued, I don't think our dynasty member would be the next king (Elective Monarchy). I had this situation before and I did manage to wrest away the title from the then rebelling king but simply couldn't hold on to it long enough change the succession law that would benefit my dynasty because I was constantly suffering the effects of being over vassal limit.

CK2 25Mar17_18

At first glance, there was no difference between this and the above statistic. What was captured here, and not before, but not shown was the emergence of Earl of Carrick with realm size of 35.

I used the above 2 sets of statistics to help me decide how to give away excess counties with the aim of not creating powerful vassals. There were some situation where I was tempted to do so for convenience sake but didn't do so.

CK2 25Mar17_19

It was only within the last 50 year or so of the campaign that I had unequivocally the largest army. Curiously, the Papacy had nearly 33k army with only realm size of 15! How did that happen?

Incidentally, at this point, there was a revolt in the Empire of Carpathia. If they reunite, then a united Carpathia should be place at around the 3rd position.

CK2 25Mar17_20

In terms of ream size, the top two spots were the same as that measured by army size but there were changes to the 3rd, 4th and 5th positions.

CK2 25Mar17_21

It was in the last few decades, I managed edge ahead in terms of score.

CK2 25Mar17_22

These were the titles I held directly :)

That's it for the incredibly outstanding campaign I had. I surpassed by miles the largest empires in terms of realm size and army. A personal score that was about 70% higher than the previous high. Ruled over a very stable realm; never had major rebellion. Oh gosh, can I top this in future?

Crusader Kings 2: a new high! (Part 3)

There's a new game mechanic that was new to me: threat level.

CK2 25Mar17_7

I've reached 100% threat level a few times @@. Every now and then, especially when they wanted to arrange marriage with someone in my court, some rulers temporarily left their defensive pacts. I would quickly checked whether they were rulers that I had been wanting to declare war on as that would be the chance to do so without triggering the defensive pacts.

As often as possible, I offered to join vassals' wars to minimise increase in threat level and avoid triggering defensive pact.

CK2 25Mar17_8

The yellow coloured land is my land i.e. Empire of Alba. The light grey coloured land belongs to Christian defensive pact states while green coloured land belongs to Muslim defensive pact. At one point, when they were still around, there was also Pagan defensive pact against me @@. This significantly reduce the expansion of my empire.

CK2 25Mar17_9

This shows land of "direct vassals". My direct vassals consisted of some kings and many dukes. So in the above, for example, the land labeled "Fes" is either directly controlled by my Duke of Fes or by his vassals (earls/countesses). The land I controlled directly is labeled as "Alba".

This mode of map was very useful when I was awarding newly conquered land so as to avoid concentration of power among my vassals.

I tried to confer titles to kinsman as far as possible. Later, when I was reasonably powerful, I took note of plots discovered by my spymaster. If the plotter was someone whose title I wanted to transfer to someone else (especially a kinsman) and the chance of success at imprisoning was very low (e.g. 1%), I triggered the imprisonment attempt so that I could put down the ensuing rebellion and thereby empowering myself to legitimately revoke the rebel's title. It was only at the the end of the game, I discovered that I could legitimately revoke 2 titles!

CK2 25Mar17_10

Yes, once again the Catholic religion was the most superior of them all. I had only a few counties left to convert at the end of the game.

CK2 25Mar17_11

Naturally, I tried to convert my vassals and consequently the populace to Scottish to eliminate cultural penalties and risk of revolt. I was, however, thwarted by my Anglo-Saxon and Irish vassals a few times if I didn't check on them regularly. I needed to bribe every now and then to appoint Scottish guardians to their heirs.

Oh, on a related note, the very first crusade was for Jerusalem (it almost always is the case) and for the first time in my games, a duke won it! Yes, an Irish duke. Goodness, I don't know how they did it.

CK2 25Mar17_12

This shows territory by dynasties. Yes, House of Zee Mau was prominent :)

Now vs Later

We informed Dr D that my dad decided to undergo radiotherapy for his leg at that hospital ("MM Hospital"). The quoted fee was RM500 cheaper than that at Dr A's hospital ("Adv Hospital") i.e. RM7500 vs RM8000.

So recently, we arrived there in the morning where they took a "planning scan" of his leg as well as some blood for tumour marker tests. Surprisingly the total fee, including the tests, was just over RM3k. Much cheaper than quoted. Something about using only a "fraction", rather than a few fractions @@.

We also requested to speak with Dr D because we were not clear about why she suggested doing chemo later rather than now. Despite her busy schedule, she managed to squeeze us in, patiently explained to us till we were satisfied, and did not even charge us for that! My dad is comfortable with her because not only is her explanation is detailed, it is also clear to him.

To summarise, her points are as follows:

(1) My dad's cancer is mucinous adenocarcinoma, which is quite rare. There's also few studies on this cancer. So in terms of treatment, specialists based on what they know of adenocarcinoma pancreas. In short, efficacy of treatment is a guess.

(2) Condition of patient is usually stable initially ("flat line") for a while before it gets worse exponentially ("exponential part"). Since for the past 6 months, the only notable development is suspected cancer on his left leg and a small dot of suspected cancer in the lymph node, it's her opinion that my dad's condition still lies in the early stage i.e. the early part of the flat line. Hence, having chemo now would not improve the current condition. Moreover, it's hard to determine the success of the chemo treatment as it's only a small dot to begin with.

(3) If undergo chemo now to treat that small dot (left leg is treated with radiotherapy), the cancer cells may develop resistance to the preferred chemo drugs when chemo is really needed (the start of the exponential part).

(4) So her aim is to catch the inflexion point i.e. condition about to worsen exponentially and then recommend chemo to treat the (expected) several spots of cancer.

(5) Throughout the discussion, she regularly goes back to her aim of treating stage 4 cancer patients i.e. prolong life, quality of life and control/manage symptoms.

Some concrete steps

So we met Dr A and here's what he said:

(1) Re my dad's red eyes: nothing to do with cancer but need to seek help from an ophthalmologist immediately.

(2) Re my dad's left leg: almost certain there's cancer on the neck of the left femur. As at now, it's not endangering the bone but if left untreated, it can cause fracture of the bone and that will be catastrophic since it's a weight-bearing bone. "Strongly" suggested radiotherapy to treat it.

(3) He was worried about the spot in the lymph node near the right kidney bed. So at this stage he recommended chemotherapy that helps to control the growth of the cancer. There is usually no or only mild (and hence tolerable) side effects. He, however, did advise us to take a little time to consider whether dad wanted chemo or not.

We asked what's the expected remaining life. He asked whether we really wanted to know and which party wanted to know. My dad confirmed that he himself wanted to know as he would want make plans accordingly. Answer: 2 years. Without chemo, it's 1 year. He, however, encouraged my dad not to give up as there were patients who lived for, say, 5 years.

As we know the treatment at that hospital is expensive, Dr A was understanding when we said we wanted to check out another hospital and he recognised Dr D from that hospital ("ah yes, she's a nice lady"). Our plan was to have chemo at the nearest public hospital if there's no long waiting time. If not, it'll be at that other private hospital. Dr A is willing to write a referral letter if needed.

Since we had few hours before meeting Dr D, we quickly visited Dr W, an ophthalmologist, at Dr A's hospital. After 2 check-ups (the second time after dilating the pupils and waiting for 30 mins), Dr D concluded that it was an infection. Prescribed medicine and asked us to get Johnson Baby No-More-Tear shampoo for cleaning.

Hours later, after giving Dr D all the necessary info, she said this:

(4) Aim of treatment during stage 4 cancer is to (a) prolong life, (b) maintain quality of life, and (c) manage symptoms. So she too recommended radiotherapy for the left leg.

(5) On the other hand, she differed in opinion on the likelihood of cancer in the lymph node. Given the aim stated in (4) above, she recommended an initial 2-monthly CT scan to check for anything serious.

(6) The eventual chemotherapy programme would be the same as what Dr A recommended. We can of course to choose to start anytime we like, instead of waiting for when there's multiple metastasis.

For certain, dad wants the radiotherapy to treat his leg as it's causing him severe pain and affects his sleep significantly. As for chemotherapy, we'll wait until his leg has at least significantly improved.

On our side, we have many things to do to enable my parents to permanently move to my sister's place in Butterworth.

I'll always love you

When I'm at my younger sister's home, I volunteer to read storybooks to my nephew each night before he sleeps. Usually, he'll ask me to choose books that I haven't read. Recently, I read this book:

I'll always love you

I know that my sister chooses books that are age appropriate for her children and so, as expected, the words used in the book are of course simple to me. However, the way it is written and its content itself effectively convey powerful message about showing your love and care to your loved ones while they are still alive.

Although this is not a typical light-hearted children story, it is done in a gentle matter-of-fact manner. It's realistic too, as I'm sure many dog owners would agree :)

You can read some reviews here in Goodreads.

Interlude: Subway's interesting promotion

Subway 12.20

Here's the interesting bit: some of these sandwiches were priced at RM12.20 from the ala carte menu. So basically, Subway was paying customers RM0.30 to take one of these drinks.

Mispricing? Or competition was simply too strong that they had to do this?

Downturn

We followed Dr A's recommendation back in February and here's the results:

(1) This time PET/CT scan showed more findings. There were mostly "maybes" and even those that were "likely", we didn't know how serious they were. We consulted the public hospital's urologist, whose team knew we were doing this scan. Based on the report, the urologist said there was indication of cancer in the right kidney bed and the left leg, and thus the cancer had "progressed". Recall that they had all the while stuck to the notion that there was cancer somewhere in the body and chemotherapy was recommended. Incidentally, my dad started feel pain in his left leg almost a month ago but this was confounded by the fact that it occurred at an old injury site.

When we told him that we got 2nd opinion from a private oncologist (for some reasons, they didn't have record of all the information we gave them earlier!) and therefore was doing follow-up tests, he disbelieved us and said that it was us who wanted to do that. I disputed it right away. The audacity!

So the urologist team referred us to the oncology department to get an appointment there. Meanwhile, we made an appointment to consult Dr A once again.

(2) Latest tumour marker still showed nothing for pancreatic cancer and borderline elevation for colon cancer. For the latter, refer to (3) below.

(3) Specialist recommended a repeat of OGDS and colonoscopy in 3 years time (after the last one which was done in late 2016.

So our best guess now is that Dr A will also recommend chemotherapy when we see him next. Hopefully it'll all work out fine.

Crusader Kings 2: a new high! (Part 2)

Size of my realm ("Alba"):

CK2 25Mar17_4

Emperor of Alba was my primary title. When I created the Empire of Britannia, it was renamed Alba because, apparently, it's a Scottish thing. As more and more non-de jure land drifted into Scotland, my percentage holding of the de jure Empire of Brittannia grew ceteris paribus and eventually enabled me to create that title. Otherwise it would had been a slow progress because only England left unconquered within the empire.

Incidentally, I had never seen Byzantine Empire this small! They lost Kingdom Greece and Anatolia to Muslim rulers, which later triggered crusades by the Pope.

I started off as Duke of Moray and my initial thought was simply to support my king. However, I discovered that, for reasons unknown to me, I had a claim on the title King of Scotland. When I also realised that my army is slightly larger than the king's, I created a faction to install myself as king and then pressed my claim. Surprisingly, the king willingly abdicated "for the good of the realm". Well, that was easy :)

Soon after that, England declared war on me to claim a county. Despite trying hard (with several reloads), I simply couldn't win this war. Hence, I gave in almost immediately and thus the earl of the county became the English king's vassal i.e. the county became part of England. However, the funny thing was that the earl's heir was one of my dukes and vice versa. Fortunately, that earl died first and so the county reverted to Kingdom of Scotland :)

For the reason above, much later I switched to High Crown Authority the moment I risked losing vassals due to inheritance. Even much later, I discovered and remembered that even this is not foolproof because the applicable Crown law is of the de jure kingdom.

That was the only time I lost territory. The greatest test of defense was when Fatimid (Kingdom of Egypt) waged war on me. Their leader, also the Shia's caliph, held the title of King of Syria and so was claiming Syrian territories that I held. I needed to save after every battle and every few weeks, whichever came first to eventually force him to abandon the campaign (white peace, I think, in my favour).

Thus to prevent him from using that casus belli again, I usurped that title from him and granted it to a kinsman. I also usurped the titles King of Leon, England and Castille (in that order). On a slightly related note, due to a civil war in Lithuania, a courtier, who married my kinswoman, became its king, and due to some strange reasons, he became my vassal! No, he wasn't a kinsman.

I offered vassalisation to the following independent rulers (my title in bracket):
  • Earls in Ireland (King of Ireland)
  • Earls in England (King of England)
  • Dukes in England (Emperor of Alba)
  • Duke of Castille and Duke of Navarra (Emperor of Hispania)
I won all crusades that gained me territories (can't remember the chronological order): Portucale, Andalusia, Greece, Anatolia, Arabia and Egypt. I also won a few holy wars, for the sole purpose of trying to create a contiguous realm.

CK2 25Mar17_5

These were the de jure kingdoms at the end of the game. As stated before, because of Tanistry, I ensured no other titles were of equal rank to my primary title. For the longest time, my primary title of King of Scotland. As a result, there were many non-de jure counties that drifted into Kingdom of Scotland (in blue) e.g. all counties belonging to Kingdom of Portucale and counties in Kingdom of Greece. Note that I just needed Kingdom of Africa to finally joined the vast majority of my realm :)

CK2 25Mar17_6

Similarly, some non-de jure counties also drifted to Empire of Alba (in brown). The next empire that I was closest to creating was the Arabian Empire (about 69%, short of the 80% required). Yes, it was a late game objective for me that coincided nicely with my primary aim of connecting my realm as much as possible.

Crusader Kings 2: a new high! (Part 1)

I recently concluded another campaign in Crusader Kings 2 and this time I did better than my previous best score and my previous campaign with the largest realm.

CK2 25Mar17_1

CK2 25Mar17_2

CK2 25Mar17_3

With a score of 178,253, it easily beat the highest benchmark of 100,000 by the House of Capet. There were 24 rulers, all male (easily explained by choice of succession laws) with King Mernix II the Magnaminous having the longest rule (50 years) and Emperor Somerled the Great having the highest individual score (18,037).

At the end of it, I was Emperor of Alba, Emperor of Hispania, King of Scotland and King of Mauretania. There were many more kingdoms I could have created but chose not to (e.g. Wales, Ireland, Portucale, Arabia, Greece, Anatolia, Cyprus) to avoid adverse consequences emanating from succession laws. I was liege to King of Andalusia, Castille, England, Galacia, Leon, Lithuania, Syria and 20+ dukes!

As soon as I could affect the succession law, I switched to Tanistry. From the outset, I had been grooming all dynasty members in Diplomacy so that it didn't matter much who had the highest number of votes. Of course that meant the rulers' Stewardship was not great and so I tried to get spouses that were great in that trait and sometimes I had to seek divorce to do that. This problem mostly disappeared the moment I became an emperor and much less so when holding 2 emperor titles.

Tanistry works very well as long as there is no secondary title of the same rank as the primary title e.g. the highest rank is King and all other titles are below that rank. This succession law ensures that your dynasty is always in control of your realm and thus greatly increases the chance of the game not ending (unless you are completely swept away by rebellion or foreign powers).

However, once there are titles that are of equal rank to your primary title, then there is a high chance of your realm splitting because, from my experience, the electors tend to nominate different heirs for these titles. So either you then switch to another succession law or make sure your primary title is the only highest ranked title by not creating equally ranked titles or destroying them.

For example, I created Kingdom of Ireland just to vassalise all independent earls within my de jure realm and then destroyed the title immediately after vassalisation so that I was king of only 1 realm i.e. Scotland. Yes, I suffered a penalty of -40 in relationship to all vassals within that de jure realm for 10 years (or until my death. whichever earlier) but this was partially negated by high diplomacy and Noble Custom technology. It also helped that vassals like Tanistry succession law.

Incidentally, in terms of technology, I prioritised Military Organisation, Castle, Improved Keep, Legalism (just enough to get max centralisation) and Noble Custom. The last one was super useful to substantially offset the penalty of high crown authority. In addition, most vassals also liked Tanistry (and Elective Monarchy).

However, once I decided to hold 2 empire titles (Alba and Hispania), I switched to Elective Monarchy to prevent the realm from splitting. One thing that I should had done earlier was to actively seek opportunities to replace my vassals with my kinsman so to increase the chance of a dynasty member elected as heir. "Gifts" were sometimes needed to sway electors to my choice and once a while I created new dukes to increase the votes for my chosen heir. Diplomatic skills of the nominee and my ruler greatly affected the votes.

I usually sent away kinsman without specialisation in diplomacy trait. Initially, I married them off to faraway kingdoms. Later, I married them off with most powerful female rulers available.

Damn OneDrive

OneDrive is a Microsoft software that allows you to backup files to their cloud server. It was pre-installed in my laptop and I left it as it was because I thought it was a good idea to have backup.

However, recently I realised that it had its own Documents folder i.e. it wasn't backing up files from my the user's Documents folder where my important files are.

A quick search on the internet revealed that, stupidly, OneDrive doesn't allow you to select which folders you want it to backup. Then I found a workaround here given by Matthew Broady:

" A Workaround easiest, although it would be a useful feature.
Find the Address of the folder you want to be synced. (ie. C:\Games\). Copy it.

Find the OneDrive location you wish for it to sync to. Hold shift and right click. On the context menu, click open command window here. In it type "mklink /j "YourCustomFolderName" "Address of Location(i.e. C:\Games\)"", without the outer punctuation marks.

This is like a shortcut that tells any programs that look there to look at another directory.
This will sync anything inside the address you tell it to the folder created in a onedrive directory. "

It worked well but I was a little perturbed that the user's Documents folder was no longer (visibly) shown in Desktop/Username directory. It still existed in the C:\Users\Username directory. I thought I would just give it a try and adjust around it.

However, things came to a head when I discovered that there was simply not enough space to backup all files in Documents folder. Oh well.

Since I do manually backup a select few personal files to Dropbox and all work files to Google Drive, I decided to make do without One Drive. Problem is that, unlike normal programme, it's not straightforward to uninstall One Drive. In the end, I followed this set of instructions from this website and removed One Drive (and its remnants, as it was still trying to back up files even though it couldn't).

Next problem was to make the user's Document visible again in Desktop/Username directory. I know it was there because when I attempted to create a new folder named Documents, a message popped up telling me there was already a folder there.

Again, I searched (thank you internet!) and found this website. I tried the "restore default location" method but didn't work. So I used BAT file downloaded from the website to help me. It worked! I repeated the process for the Pictures folder too.

Phew!

Food trucks in KL

This is my first time seeing so many food trucks in one place:

Food truck 1

Food truck 2

Food truck 3

Know which is truck was the most popular? The one that sold chips.

I've always though that food trucks are a foreign concept but then again we all along have those in Malaysia that sell chendol, rojak and burgers, right? I know they started off as stalls decades ago but more and more have switched to trucks.

Atlas Reactor: all frontliners

Someone in my group wanted to play Phaedra to complete a mission. I wanted to play Rampart (also a frontliner) for the same reason. So I asked the group whether they are ok with that or they prefer me playing another role.

Someone told me to play what I wanted but immediately followed by someone else's suggestion for all members to player frontliners. That got spontaneous approval from the other 2 who promptly changed to that role, leaving me still trying to lock in my choice lol. At their urging, I did choose Rampart and here's the resulting crazy match:


I don't usually play Rampart. In fact, I believed he is my least played freelancer.

The current set of mods I'm using are (loadout points in bracket):

(1) Radamantium flurry: Battle rush (1)

Because of the mods I chose for ability 2, 4 and 5, it's either this mod or Area Suppression (simply due to leftover loadout point). I don't like the latter. Decently skilled enemies wouldn't be surrounding a Rampart and so this mod is almost useless (but bear in mind I'm not a Rampart player haha). Battle Rush is my first choice because it gives me more energy to gain the ultimate ability, which is the only dash ability that Rampart has.

(2) Bullwark: Bunker (2)

It's a toss-up between this and Defensive Posture. On one hand, Bunker gives you actual healing but only if enemies hit the shield. On the other hand, Defensive Posture gives 25 shield unconditionally and useful against attack that bypasses the shield e.g. Gremolitions' mine, Zuki's Big One. So I'm not sure which one gives more "effective healing".

(3) Fusion lance: Radamantium tipped blade (3)

The idea behind this mod is to combo with Bullwark: pull 2 targets towards me and then next turn use Bullwark to protect myself, hopefully gain some heals and to attack plus slow these targets. Sounds good on paper but so far, multiple targets don't appear often. Rocket Lance may be a better mod because of its range but I loathe not utilising all loadout points. So I'll monitor this further.

(4) Unstoppable force: Invincible (2)

15 shield is too good to pass over because of sustain.

(5) Aegis protocol: Rocket boosters (2)

Since it's Rampart's only dash ability, it's good to have the option to dash further to either get away, attack enemies who are further away or to protect allies. Engine Of War is another possibility if Rocket Lance mod is used for Fusion lance (thereby freeing 1 loadout point).

Rare treat

My mum rarely cooked these years because of chronic illnesses. So it's always a treat when she feels up to it.

During the recent CNY celebration at my sister's place, my mum cooked this:

Mum's nasi lemak 1

Mum's nasi lemak 2

It is nasi lemak with yellow curry chicken. She even made the sambal. The banana leaves were obtained from neighbour.

It was delicious, as usual with all her cooking, but in truth I would prefer spicier chicken dish. I do understand though the chicken was cooked this way so that my young nephew and niece could have them too and, yes, they enjoyed it too :)

It was a resounding success since the young and old loved it :)

Thanks mum!

Undisclosed information

Due to logistic issue, I suggested to my parents come over to KL to have an early lunch celebration of my dad's birthday. After going through a few options, we settled on Fish & Co. The last time they dined at an outlet was decades ago in Singapore with one of my close friends (the first friend I made there :) ). In any case, my parents had long forgotten the food there and in fact, my dad couldn't even recall dining there at all hehehe.

So we met Ban (I drove my parents) at the restaurant's outlet at Paradigm Mall. I guessed, and turned out to be correct, that my dad would enjoy sharing with me a seafood platter because of its variety of food. My mum chose creamy mushroom and chicken pasta (she's allergic to seafood...currently) while Ban had grilled fish with coriander. We shared a garden salad. The order consisted of 2 lunch sets and 2 ala carte food. Bear in mind that the cost of the ala carte food was about twice of that of the lunch sets. This is quite relevant later.

As Ban and I dined there before, before entering the restaurant, I checked and confirmed that the CIMB credit card promotion was still on i.e. 10% on ala carte food. It is quite common for promotion to exclude lunch sets or any other food that's already subjected to other ongoing promotion.

The food was delicious and more importantly my dad enjoyed it very much.

However, when we were presented with the bill and we wanted to use a CIMB credit card for the discount, we were told that it was not possible because all items were in one bill. So I requested 2 separate bills i.e. ala carte food that qualified for the discount and the lunch sets. Astoundingly, the waiter said it wasn't possible to void the current bill. I stood my ground.

While the waiter went off to check with (presumably) his senior colleague, I checked the board advertising the promotion. There was no such requirement as "applies to bill with only ala carte food" or anything similiar to that.

The senior staff approached and basically repeated the same message the waiter said. I pointed that there was no such requirement in the advertisement board and asked, "Is it our fault that you didn't put it in?" I didn't allow him to say anything else until he answered my question, which was "No, of course it isn't your fault." No worries, no voices were raised :)

Upon my insistence, he went back to the cashier to "fix it". Boy, it took him, and one other staff quite a long time to go about it. Ban and I were surprised that they couldn't void the current bill and issue new ones. Surely such action is needed to, say, correct mistakes (e.g. wrong order was keyed in) or to compensate irate customers by not charging them for certain food that they ordered?

In the end, they did this: they charged the card the original bill; then reversed it; and then charged the 2 new bills (one for ala carte food, one for the lunch sets). Weird, isn't it?

I told the senior staff that I liked the food and service at that outlet and I wanted them to succeed. Hence they needed to do something about this as I was sure I wouldn't be the last customer to complain about this. Either they insert another criterion on the board or have their waiters informing customers upon seating. He thanked me and explained that they were short of staff and things were hectic. In my mind, I was thinking, "Yes, that's bad but it's no excuse for this." but I merely acknowledged his predicament and advised them to fix this soon. I wished them good luck before we left.

Within

About a year after I straightened out, I came back to America and wound up writing a couple of books with a novelist named Peter Straub. These were called Koko and Mystery, and maybe you read them. It's okay if you didn't.

- "The Throat" by Peter Straub.

N.B: Peter is the author of Koko and Mystery haha.

Atlas Reactor: first 5 again

I am the first 5 players to level up Grey to 20. I tried to do the same for Gremolition and Orion but couldn't make it.

Subsequently, I wasn't interested in playing much of the new freelancers until Khita came along. She's the latest support freelancer and after trying her out in vs AI bots and PvP, I decided that I liked her enough (and still do) for me to try being the first 5 players to level her up to 20.

When the 3rd player was announced, I went "Nooooooooooooooooooooo" in the chat hahaha. I believed my Khita was level 16 or 17 then. The problem is that the list I used to refer to is no longer updated and so it was hard to know who had done so already. The "3rd player" announcement was the latest indication. The first one was someone on Atlas Reactor's Discord complaining about not being able to unlock a Mastery skin despite leveling up Khita to 20 (and it is still a bug currently).

Finally, just past 3am on Friday, 3 March, I made it :)

Khita level 20_1

(Incorrect grammar. It should be "is the fourth player" because that is still true at that point and forever into the future)

Khita level 20_2

Khita level 20_3

Atlas Reactor: Grey

Grey is the first freelancer I leveled to 20 after launch and I am the 4th person to do so :) It is still my highest level freelancer (level 23) at present.

I'm still using the same build today, unchanged since pre-launch (loadout points in bracket):
(Please refer to Atlas Reactor official website for description and video of the abilities)

(1) Tracer bolt: Hunt them down (2)
(2) Hawk drone: Infrared enhancement (2)
(3) Tranquilizer dart: Overdose (2)
(4) Slip away: Agile escape (2)
(5) Voltaic cage: Zapper (2)

As stated before, I generally aim for consistency and survivability.

So first off, I addressed her greatest weakness i.e. her dash (4). By default and with all mods except for one, she can only dash to a 3x3 area within her drone and thus making her susceptible to area effect attack such as Aurora's Ion Cloud. Agile Escape increases this area by 1 i.e. 4x4. With some judicious positioning of the drone, you have more choices of safe spot to dash to.

Next is Infrared Enhancement mod: it allows drone to attack invisible enemies. Great for consistency as it will target enemies in camouflage tiles and those using invisibility abilities or catalyst.

Overdose mod slows the target too and so can be used defensively (weakens and slows pursuer while trying to shake him off) or aggressively (causing target to move halfway to the next cover and therefore out in the open).

Hunt Them Down mod increases damage to tracked target. This is chosen after a process of elimination:
(a) Energy gain is not good because her ultimate ability is underwhelming
(b) Cooldown reduction for the drone is bad because the cooldown is naturally a short duration of 2
(c) I never like piercing because it's situational (and hence much less consistent) and the mod doesn't even do damage to second target but merely track both targets. To get mileage out of this, the secondary target must be within drone range the next turn, which again is situational.

Lastly, Voltaic Cage mod increases damage of the ultimate ability. Problem with the ultimate ability is that it requires enemies to move through its cage to trigger the damage. The other mod I considered the extra range mod but it increases range by only 1. If it's by 2, I would likely take that instead.

Below is a video of the last ranked match I played. It was quite stressful at the start because I was at around 12hp by turn 4! Yet, I did the highest damage (thanks to Helio for keeping me alive!) right up to turn 10 before I needed to take a breather to heal up. At the end of the match, our Elle did the highest damage followed by me.

Incidentally, although the video shows "Defeat" at the end, my team won. For whatever reason, the replay videos always put my team in the Red team and the outcome of the match is always from the point of view of the Blue team. So "Defeat" means the Red team (my team) wins.

If We Hold On Together




Don't lose your way
with each passing day
You've come so far
Don't throw it away
Live believing
Dreams are for weaving
Wonders are waiting to start
Live your story
Faith, hope and glory
Hold to the truth in your heart

If we hold on together
I know our dreams will never die
Dreams see us through to forever
Where clouds roll by, for you and I

Souls in the wind
Must learn how to bend
Seek out a star
Hold on to the end

Valley...Mountain
There is a fountain
Washes our tears all away
Words are swaying
Someone is praying
Please let us come home to stay

If we hold on together
I know our dreams will never die
Dreams see us through to forever
Where clouds roll by
For you and I

When we are out there in the dark
We'll dream about the sun
In the dark we'll feel the light
Warm our hearts...everyone

If we hold on together
I know our dreams will never die
Dreams see us through to forever
As high as souls can fly
The clouds roll by
For you and I

Sparkles once again

Haven't played these for ages...

CNY17 sparkles 1

CNY17 sparkles 2

...until the recent CNY celebration at my sister's place :)

I remember when I was young, I played this with my cousins at my grandfather's shophouse (upstairs was the living quarters), in the middle section of the building. I have fond memories of these. Been decades. Faded but fond :)

Atlas Reactor: Ranked game score

Here are some ranked matches where, in my opinion, I did pretty well. Problem with ranked games is that I cannot play more than 2 games in a row. My heart rate shoots up high haha.

Ranked Zuki Finn 579 BB 299

Contribution:
Finn - 579 (highest)
Blackburn - 299 (lowest)

I (using Zuki) did particularly well here with highest damage, about 100 more than the second highest (by enemy's Titus!). However, Finn has the highest contribution. Thanks to his large amount of heals, his death was the only one in the team.

Ranked Grey 539 Aurora 556 Nix 306

Contribution:
Grey (me) - 539
Aurora - 556 (highest)
Nix - 306 (lowest)

This game was closer than the score suggests. The weakest link in enemy's team was, if I recall correctly, Pup. He took some rather dubious actions.

Our team started on a bad note during the draft phase. Garrison's player was the last to pick and we urged him to pick support. Asana's player offered to swap with him and later told us that he noted that Garrison's player had the Saviour title (Mastery title for leveling Asana to 20). Yet, the last player selected Garrison. Naturally this caused angst and anger among some of us. Throughout the gameplay, Garrison was quiet. Fortunately, there were no thrash-talking and we did well to win the match.

Incidentally, poket is a tournament player.

Ranked Grey 409 Helio 466 Kaigin 280

Contribution:
Grey (me) - 409
Helio - 556 (highest)
Kaigin - 280 (lowest)

This is the last ranked game I played. I'm not sure I'll play more or not. The only tangible benefit is gaining prestige points to buy golden vfx.

Our Helio did very well in saving our team hehehe. I know he saved me twice early in the game where by turn 4, my hp was below 20 and that continued for another 2 more turns or so. Yet, right up to about turn 10, I did the most damage. Eventually, I had to rest and heal up. It was good that Elle took over and eventually outdamaged everyone significantly.

Incidentally, Night is a tournament player.

Ranked Aurora 737 Ramp 359 Quark 373

Contribution:
Aurora (me) - 737 (highest)
Rampart - 359 (lowest)
Quark - 373

This was the last duo ranked game I played in season 1. I was partnering Beric, who now appears to focus almost exclusively on ranked games...I think. As you can see, I did very well here, even out-healed Quark. I was the only death in my team.

Although Rampart's contribution is the lowest, I usually discount frontliners because the contribution score doesn't adequately account for a frontliner's contribution. The next lowest was enemy's Quark.